Meanings are intentional (desirous)
The third aspect of meaning to be explored here is that meaning — which is intention and purpose itself — has what we would call a wish. That is to say, meaning does not sit there like a rock and do nothing. Meanings of themselves have the desire, and impulse and an agency — to form an ever greater scope of relationship with other meanings, and to incorporate the results of that relationship within themselves. Meaning, put in other terms, cares about itself and what is happening to it. Once meaning exists, it is inquisitive, acquisitive, and relational. There is nothing passive about meaning; it exists outside of the entropic tendencies of the universe, because it is born of that same intelligence which gives us an emergent universe in the first place.
This desirous or intentional nature of meaning is perhaps the most obvious result of the aggregation of matter and its interaction; and our bafflement about why it exists at all lies at the root of all the questions human beings have about why the universe exists, what intelligence is, whether or not there is a God, and so on and so forth. Yet before we come to all of these questions, the desirous nature of meaning — its wish to propagate itself — needs to be dealt with, because there is an inherently alien nature here when one compares the mechanical interaction of matter to what meaning does, and how life aggregates as a series of agencies. I say alien, because it has an action that mechanistic rationalism is absolutely unable to explain. The idea that all of it is purely accidental represents an absurdity; law and meaning cannot exist by accident. The very nature of physical law is such that it cannot be altered; it represents something fundamental. As such, all the speculations that an endless series of physicists have gone through as to how “the universe could be different” in one way or another, are sophistry and idle speculation.
The universe can’t be different; it isn’t different; and no amount of wiseacring will change that. The universe would be different, for example, if pigs could fly.
Once we step outside attempts to understand the universe as it is, along with its inherent law, organic integration of intelligence and emergence, we are daydreaming. The evidence for intelligence and intention as fundamental properties of the universe is right in front of us, and we participate in it. We could not even have these discussions if those things did not exist, so trying to argue them away by invoking mechanistic rationalism and mindless accident is sheer foolishness. Metaphysical humanism, on the other hand, understands that the human nature is a direct reflection of something fundamental about the universe itself — otherwise, human beings, like everything else, would not exist. All of material reality participates in and is in relationship to this reflection of the fundamental nature of the universe.
This, of course, bears a strong and intentional relationship to Swedenborg’s arguments about human beings and their nature – as well as their physical structure and everything else — being a direct reflection of God’s own being. His principal of reciprocity, whereby everything in the material universe is a reflection of one aspect or another of heaven and, ultimately, God, is strictly operational here, and it is worth bearing in mind as we go forward.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.