Merleau ponty: subjectivity as the field of being within beings. Awareness as existingness

Автор: Rudolph Bauer

Журнал: Revista Científica Arbitrada de la Fundación MenteClara @fundacionmenteclara

Статья в выпуске: 1, Vol. 4, 2019 года.

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In his later life Maurice Merleau Ponty changed his understanding of how human beings know Being and how human beings know phenomena. His mature understanding went far beyond the early phenomenology of Husserl. His understanding and intellectual position about the subjectivity of mind alone with its corresponding subject object duality dissolved into a experience of non duality within appearance. His dualistic understanding about Being changed to the vast nondual awareness of Being as the source of both subjectivity and objectivity.

Merleau Ponty, duality, non-duality, awareness, existence, tantra, Vajrayana Buddhism

Короткий адрес:

IDR: 170163652   |   DOI: 10.32351/rca.v4.1.61

Фрагмент статьи Merleau ponty: subjectivity as the field of being within beings. Awareness as existingness


Before his work on the Visible and the Invisible Merleau Ponty’s thought was contained by equating subjectivity with mind alone and with object alone. His view was dualistic and the source of knowing was located in mind alone. Mind means the functions of thinking, feeling, sensation, memory and fantasy.

The unfinished text phenomenology of the Visible and the Invisible (Merleau-Ponty, 1968) presents his experiential non dualistic understanding. As his understanding unfolds, his awareness becomes clear that there is only one source of subjectivity and the objectivity. There is once source of awareness and circumstances. There is one source of awareness as subjectivity and awareness as phenomena as world. This one source is primordial awareness as Being. Being manifesting awareness as the world.

In his earlier works such as the Structure of Behavior and the Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty, 2013) he made the intellectual equation of subjectivity with mind alone. In this reflective phenomenology his view was limited to reading ciphers about the nature of awareness. He used phenomenological reflection and language to conceptualize and represent the source of knowningness of self and world.

As his own experience of meditative awareness expanded, his direct perception as intuition became more pervasive and stable. His meditative awareness also opened up for him Heideggers deepened understanding of awareness as a field phenomena (Heidegger, 1988). Through the experience of field phenomena Merleau Ponty was able to go beyond duality into the realm of nonduality. He was able to move beyond the duality of self other and experience and articulate the indivisibility of Being and beings, the indivisibility of awareness and phenomena, and the indivisibility of emptiness and phenomena.

It is of great interest to know that The dzogchen thinkers do not limit knowningness to mind alone. Merleau Ponty’s study of unpublished text of Husserl at the University of Louvain assisted him in going beyond the contained the mind of the noetic and noematic frame where knowningnnness is contained in the subjectivity as mind alone (Zahavi, 2002). Merleau Ponty began to experience that beyond his mind as thinking, feeling, remembering, sensing, and fantasying there was this foundational vast subjectivity of primordial awareness.

As a person shifted or suspended their mind via the epoché (Schutz, 1970), awareness remained. And with the second reduction a person could become aware of awareness itself. In this action primordial awareness becomes visible or experience able. Merleau Ponty experienced and understood that this primordial awareness in its pervasiveness was source of both subjectivity and otherness. Merleau Ponty began to both understand and experience the meanings of Heidegger’s da sein both as being in the world and as the openness of awareness and the openness of the world. Merleau Ponty was confirmed in this understanding that awareness is ultimately a field vast and multidimensional (Christensen & Brumfield, 2010).

Our own awareness is an opening within this field of space and energy and light. Such understanding takes awareness beyond the solipsism of mind alone. In this dramatic praxis awareness and the ground of Being can be understood to be in oneness.

Tantric Buddhism: phenomenology of non-duality

It is of greatest interest that the phenomenology of dzogchen within the great Ati yoga tradition of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the Kasmir Shavistic tradition within Hinduism presents similar views of mind being differentiated from awareness. Awareness is vast field, and there is oneness of awareness and ground of Being. There is the indivisibility of phenomena and spaceousness as primoridal awareness (Wallace, 2011). And so both in dzogchen, kasmir shavism there is the manifestion of duality within non duality and non duality within duality. Or as the Dakini said to Dudjom Lingpa you and I are indivisible (Bauer, 2018).

In the Visible and the Invisible as well as the text Eye and Mind Merleau Ponty (1961) overcomes and goes beyond his earlier phenomenological idealistic philosophy of being mind alone wherein the very intentionality of mind creates the co constitution of meaning. Merleau Ponty also makes the great step of going beyond conceptual, and reflective representational thinking into non conceptual dimension of prereflective awareness. This prereflective awareness becomes apparent when one is able to suspend the mind, and focus awareness within awareness itself. The differentiation of mind from awareness, opens awareness to become aware of awareness as subjectivity that is not bound by the mind alone and is the self expression of Being itself. To say this another way the subjectivity of awareness is an opening of Being into time and space. Subjectivity is the opening of Being itself within the mind body continuum. The continiuum Merleau Ponty calls the medium of the flesh.

And so the opening of personal awareness is the manifestation of primordial awareness itself. To use the language of subjectivity, primordial subjectivity is embodied in person as their own unfolding experience of primordial subjectivity manifesting within personal subjectivity.

I will use some selections of his wording from the Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty, 2013).

«There is an anonymous life an amorphous existence which precedes my own history. I am an embodied being. I am borne into a personal existence by a time that I do not constitute. My personal life must be the resumption of a prepersonal tradition. There is therefore, another subject beneath me, for whom the world exist before I am here, and who marks out my place in it. This captive or natural spirit is my body. Beneath the personal is a prepersonal dimension, an anonymous and generalized existence. This way of being in the world that is not yet structured according to the conditions of subject and object, a preobject level of existence».

The praxis of becoming aware of awareness opens the person to direct perception of appearance of phenomena. This direct vision of appearance of phenomena allows the person to experience the indivisibility between phenomena and awareness. This direct vision goes beyond subjectivity as mind. The experience of the nonduality of Being within both subjectivity and otherness as phenomena allows Merleau Ponty to go beyond the extremes of realism and idealism. For Merleau Ponty realism is a mechanical concrete operation view of both subjectivity as object and indeed all phenomena as concrete objects. Realism is the experience of the world as mechanical object in a vaccum. The experience of non duality of awareness and appearance of phenomena allows him to go beyond idealism. In idealism both subjectivity and otherness as phenomena are simply the ideation of the mind. Subjectivity as idea and the world as idea.

Like Heidegger Merleau Ponty creates a topoplogy of being as place. For Merleau Ponty The Being in beings is glimpsed through the manifestation of appearance. This manifestation of appearance takes place within the place of our being. You and I are a place of Being manifesting as awareness. In the Visible and the Invisible Merleau Ponty expresses that being and phenomena are indivisible. He expresses that being and appearing are indivisible. And he expresses being and the world is indivisible. Phenomena is not simply the effect of Being but the manifestation of Being itself. Being for Mereau- Ponty is both the source and the manifestation of the Being of beings. Being is both the manifesting and manifested.

His experience of the multidimensionality of Being is at times limited when compared to the eastern phenomenology. The mahayana and vajrayana tradition’s opens the three dimensions of awareness as Being’s manifestation of multidimensionality. Merleau Ponty does describe the multidimensionally of being in terms of latency, depth and breath. He does not think Being as pure being. He is preoccupied with the meaning of the worlds being or to use the language of dzogchen the nirmanakaya dimension. His work is much less focused on the apparitional dimension of sambogakaya realm and the pure formless dimension of pure being as dharmakaya.

In the earlier Phenomenology of Perception Merleau Ponty defined the world as a correlate of the existential bodily projects of the subject. In the Visible and the Invisible the subject is defined or understood in relation to the world of which the subject is the self realization of the world. The Being of the world manifest itself as beings. The world is no longer the visible world of the phenomenology but nature itself, cosmos itself. The Being of the Invisible/Visible is not the same as being of the phenomenology of perception. Being is neither limited to subject nor object but is the source of subjectivity as well unfolding world of circumstance and situation.

The flesh

This Being is the single flesh from which and in which everything is the one flesh, the single fabric of which they are differentiations. These differentiations within being bring forth the duality differentiation manifest. Through differentiation singularity happens. Through differentiation duality happens. A me and a you takes place from within the non dual field. Duality is as necessary as non duality. Duality arises out of the creativity of nondual wholeness. In dzogchen this dimension of differentiation is called nirmanakaya dimension. There are three dimensions or kayas of primordial awareness.


Список литературы Merleau ponty: subjectivity as the field of being within beings. Awareness as existingness

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