The highest flight of thinking is of the metaphorical variety. Metaphorical thinking is thinking that is free from itself, and free therefore from its own inbuilt (or inherent) limitations.
Everything that has form has inbuilt limitations – that’s what ‘having a form means’, it means being limited. An unlimited form is not a form – it is ‘formlessness’.
The metaphorical images we use are of necessity always limited, being nothing more than crude forms, but because they are free from themselves they are not held back by their own necessary limitations – they are marvellously free from their own gravitational pull.
Metaphorical thinking is free to move beyond the deadly pull, the heavy drag of its own immense gravitational force-field – it is free to go beyond itself therefore, it is free to move in the direction of the ‘Radical Other’. It is free to fly away.
The lowest and most trapped form of thinking is literal (or concrete) thinking. Literal thinking is thinking that is stuck to itself – it adheres like a limpet to itself and will not ever let go. It has no intention of letting go.
Because it is not free from itself literal thinking never escapes its own inbuilt limitations, it can never move beyond them – but, rather – it drags these limitations painfully along with itself wherever it goes, like a convict with a ball-and-chain…
Literal thinking never escapes from its own gravitational pit, its own gravitational well, and so it skates around and around inside this pit, within this well. Rather than flying free it orbits – its movement is trapped within a fixed domain. It orbits ceaselessly but despite this ceaseless activity it never gets any further away from its point of departure…
Literal thinking never approaches the Radical Other, therefore – and instead, it sticks with grim persistence to what is already known, to what is already established. It makes a virtue of sticking with what is already established…
Not sticking with what is already established is the greatest crime possible as far as literal thought is concerned. It is ‘wrong-doing’ of the most serious type. It is heresy.
Literal thought can never approach (nor does it have the slightest interest in approaching) the Radical Other, but at the same time it has a type of unconscious horror of it.
Literal thought obliquely refers to the Radical Other as mere ‘error’ or ‘deviation’ or ‘chance,’ or perhaps ‘chaos’. Its response to any encroachment of the Radical Other is to instantly dismiss it as being simply ‘incorrect’, or as being ‘irrational’ or ‘illogical’ or ‘unreal’. It neither knows not cares what the Radical Other is, but it secretly fears it because the Radical Other is not subject to the same restrictions that it is, and is not predictable in the way it is. It fears what it does not know, and cannot know. It fears what it cannot control.
Literal or concrete thinking is therefore fearful thinking – it is ‘thinking that will not let go of itself’. It is thinking that is afraid of the Radical Other. The Radical Other is the ‘error’ that it wishes to eliminate at all costs from the equation.
But what is ‘the Radical Other’?
We cannot say what the Radical Other ‘is’, because the only way to say what things ‘are’ is to use literal language, and this gets us nowhere. We can however still manage to say something about it.
We can say that the Radical Other is where the gravity of rational thought holds no sway, and all descriptions (or explanations) are equally meaningless.
We can say that the Radical Other is where literal thinking has no authority.
We can say that the Radical Other is the world we glimpse when we at last manage to escape from the dismal cellar-like confines of our own minds.
We can say that the Radical Other is freedom, or ‘unmanipulated reality’.
We can say that the Radical Other is who we would know ourselves to be, if we were not trapped in our literal descriptions of ourselves.
We can say that the Radical Other is what we fear above all else, when we believe ourselves to be what the fearful literal mind untruthfully portrays us as being…
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.