Quick: get behind the curtain! They might hear you!
Such talk can get you dismissed rapidly. Even I must admit that I’m starting from the presumption that “this person might be too much of a flake to have a meaningful conversation with.” Just using vocabulary like “soul” and “resonance” and “energy fusion” and “vibes” is like advertising that you may have dropped too much acid to be allowed to operate machinery.
And yet…. if someone dismisses you for that kind of language, you have a right to appeal. Certainly in those moments of great clarity and meaning in life, the language that we’ll pick to express ourselves is likely to load up on resonance and soul, and lighten up on logic and firm definition of terms. But why?
I explain this problem in terms of two “modes of meaning.” One mode is representational, and is characterized by the desire to precisely define and model reality. Representational thinking (a.k.a. ‘discriminative thinking’) is when you’re asking “what’s the difference between X and Y”, and you’re drilling down into the details of that semantic boundary. The mind wants a clear meaning for each concept, so that it can trust the concepts for generalized use: e.g. if you split along the line clearly and completely, then you can re-use a concept in other contexts with greater trust — something that gives thought much of its power.
The trouble with representational thinking is that it “chops up the whole and loses unity.” At the beginning, you had a grey, undistinguished mass of reality — unified because it was amorphous and blob-like. But you found a difference in the gray — you found that it was really black and white mixed, and that if you zoom in you could see the pixels. So you split the two and defined the difference and then the grey blob lost its unity — it became “two things mixed together” rather than “one thing.”
There’s a sense of power associated with discriminative/representational thinking: you’re “wrapping your head around the facts of life”, becoming more competent and describing and defining what you know. “Music” splits into classical vs. pop, pop splits into “folk” vs. “modern”, “folk” splits into “country” vs. “bluegrass”, and so on. The category tree gets bushier, and in the process it becomes harder and harder to sense the unity between different kinds of music. But you feel proud that you know all the distinctions. You’ve taken your knife of meaning and chopped it all up and now you’re the master of the knowledge. But that lost unity is a problem. Where did the wholeness go? Where did the soul leak out, when you set up all the walls between the meanings?
Sometimes you’ll see humans try to solve this problem by undoing the splits: trying to wash out the difference between this-and-that, acting as if it isn’t real. “Men and women are just the same!” — or take your pick of boundary-erasure episodes. But that’s not the answer. You don’t recover unity by undoing division.
In order to recover unity, you have to make some new unity. You must be the source of a unifying meaning — you need a new whole which can contain your old parts. And that’s where the other kind of thinking comes in: transcendent or expressive thinking. That’s another kind of meaning, which doesn’t work by chopping wholes into parts… it works by making wholes expand so that they embrace and unify parts.
Transcendent meaning is where vocabulary like ‘soul’ and ‘resonance’ and ‘fusion’ and ‘vibes’ lives. Transcendent meaning puts those kinds of words to work on something useful, because it is always looking for where to fit parts into a greater whole, and that means it needs to establish connections that span the divisions inherent in the parts’ definitions.
If I take a tuning fork and strike it on a chair, and then hold it against a guitar body, I’ll hear the strings. The tuning fork isn’t part of the guitar, but a greater whole comes into being by the action… a “soul resonance” between chair and instrument and tuning fork and musician that lasts until the energy of the fork dies away.
This kind of stuff is human beings making meaning: we make meaning by splitting up the old whole into elements, and we make meaning by devising new wholes and treating the elements as resources for the fulfillment and expression of our new wholes. If you understand both aspects there, you can get away with using words like “soul” and “resonance” without getting kicked back into the opium den by the hard-headed critical thinkers. These two kinds of thinking must work together.