Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What Is Amanesis?

Amanesis is a process of learning truths that are
present within us but which have been forgotten
or veiled through the exigencies of life. Amanesis
involves a struggle to remember an essential,
sacred wisdom about human identity, purpose,
meaning, potential, and Self-realization. Amanesis
is a path, way, or methodology which assists one
to work toward renewing, restoring, reviving, and
recollecting fundamental principles concerning the
nature of life. Amanesis alludes to a mystical or
spiritual science which is intended to re-create or
reflect an understanding within us which manifests
our Divine origins - not in the sense of our being God,
but in a sense which helps to realize that although in
essence we are Divine, we are not Divinity in Essence.

To the extent a person has encountered the term
"amanesis" at all, this is most likely to have occurred
while reading Plato's account of Socrates' teachings
in the
Meno on the issue of how we learn. Whether
Socrates actually subscribed to some form of the
idea of amanesis, or whether Plato just used Socrates
as a character within the aforementioned Dialogue
in order to give expression to Plato's own theory
of learning, is hard to ascertain.

However, irrespective of which may be the case
(and, it could be some combination of the two
foregoing possibilities), amanesis entails a set of
activities that are designed to reawaken, restore,
revitalize, re-create, recall, or bring to the surface,
certain principles of truth, wisdom, understanding,
value, and justice which go to the heart of informing
us who we are and why we are, as well as where and
how we ought to be traveling on the journey of life.

In a sense, one might think of different academic
disciplines as attempts to discover or re-discover
first principles which constitute universal themes
governing the structural character and dynamics
of the universe - both on the level of microcosm
(the individual) as well as the macrocosm (Being
as a whole). Unfortunately, due to the intervention
of various forces - ranging from: the ego, to: economic,
political, cultural, and social forms of destruction and
dissolution - a great deal of academia has become
corrupted over the years, and, consequently, much
of the universal realm has been relativized and

Plato tied amanesis to his Theory of Forms. For
example, Plato used the 'allegory of the cave' to
try to describe certain facets of the relationship
between human experience and reality.

More specifically, but somewhat briefly, Plato
likened normal human existence to the plight
of a group of prisoners within a darkened cave
who lived their lives facing a wall on which were
projected the shadowy forms of their being -
forms that were created by the light given off
by a fire which was behind the prisoners and
toward which the inmates of the cave could
not turn.

If ever any of the residents of the cave could
escape their predicament and be brought into
the full illumination of the sun and the realities
existing outside the cave, then, such individuals
could be brought in touch with the actual nature
of existence, rather than being restricted to the
shadowy, limited, flat projections which they
took to be reality when imprisioned within the
cave. One way of establishing such contact and,
in the process, enabling a person to escape the
world of shadowy, illusory forms, was through
the phenomenon of amanesis - that is, through a
special kind of recollection, remembrance,
restoration, revival, or realization concerning
first principles of a universal metaphysics ... of
that which lies beyond the physical world even
while such a metaphysical dimension makes the
world of physics, chemistry, and biology possible.

For Plato, and, possibly Socrates, the purpose of
education was to assist people to be brought into
contact with - i.e., learn about - the reality of the
Forms within them. Platonic Forms were the idealized,
universal, absolute essences of the 'things' which
populate the universe. These things were but
shadowy projections of the realities inherent in
the Forms which made such things have a
determinate structure of a limited, physical
character, just as the fire in the cave had
created the light which made the projected
shadows on the wall possible.

One's journey toward amanesis starts with
the shadowy realm of worldly forms. Through
critically engaging and questioning the character
of experiences arising in conjunction with worldly
forms, one begins to intuit the possibility of a
Reality beyond the shadowy illusions which,
heretofore, we have taken to be all that is.

By rigorously and relentlessly pursuing an
interrogation of experience, and, as well, by
receiving assistance during this process from
someone who is well-versed in the art of asking
questions, one begins to loosen the conceptual
chains which bind one to the illusions which we
call truth and reality. One begins to develop
degrees of freedom through which the light of
Reality begins to shine.

It is not necessary to subscribe to some
theory of innate ideas in order to accept the
possibility of amanesis. Ultimately, and in
the language of the medieval Church, amanesis
is a dynamic expression of Intellectus - that is,
the universal, Divine principle of intelligence
which, alone, is capable of grasping essential,
first principles concerning issues such as: truth,
the nature of reality, identity, purpose, meaning,
justice, and value.

Ratio - that is, rational, logical analysis - is to
Intellectus, as the shadows on the cave wall
are not only to the light which makes such
shadows possible, but, even more transcendently,
to the realities or Forms beyond the confines of the
cave about which the residents of the cave can only
theorize and speculate. One may start with reason,
but amanesis transcends rational processes, and,
as such, is not irrational but trans-rational.

Amanesis - when fully developed - is a modality of
intuition, direct apperception, insight, and/or unveiling
in which an individual is brought into a condition or
station of sacred remembrance, recollection, or
Self-realization, such that essential, human potential
is activated or revived from its state of quiescence,
and, as a result, normal modes of understanding are
transcended. This process is sometimes referred to
as a mystical way or path due to the manner in which
mysteries concerning life, truth, and reality are said
to be disclosed to the purified mind, heart, and soul
of an individual who has been transported to such a

Someone (da Vinci, I believe) once said that sculpture
is a process in which one sees the form within a given
medium - say, marble - and one takes away everything
which does not belong. Discovering truths about the
purpose and meaning of life or the nature of identity is
like this, and amanesis is the metaphysical counterpart
to doing sculpture with physical objects.

Metaphysically speaking, when one takes away
everything which does not belong - that is, when
one removes one's biases, assumptions,
presuppositions, prejudices, and other distorting,
corrupting influences - one stands face to face
with truth. And, although the richness of truth is
such that it resists and transcends all individual
and collective efforts to circumscribe it, nonetheless,
amanesis is rooted in a principle which holds that a
human being, each according to his or her capacity,
can have limited access to reality or truth ... but in
a direct fashion.

Amanesis is the process of struggling toward a
cross between an asymptote and a tangent - that
is, a cross between a point which approaches
touching a surface as a limit, without ever touching
that surface, and a tangent which constitutes that
point where one surface or line touches another
surface without extending beyond the point of contact.
Points in geometry are said to be either dimensionless
(according to Euclid) or to have a micro-structure
(according to Riemann), but in either case, amanesis
involves engaging reality in a way in which there is
some form of transcendent 'touching' which occurs
that permits truth, in some manner, to be realized
concerning the nature of the relationship between
the 'one' who touches, and 'that' which is touched.

The transition from pre-amanesis to actual amanesis
is a very tricky, difficult process, for, it entails a shift
from largely rational activity to a condition of trans-
rational activity. If one is not very careful, such a
transition has the potential to become corrupted
and diverted into all manner of delusion and illusion.

Neither Plato nor Socrates ever really explained how
the transformation from the outward to the essential
... from shadows to Forms ... took place. All that was
indicated was the journey to wisdom starts with a
process of Socratic questioning, and, apparently,
somehow, at some point, one comes to grasp the
Platonic forms which stand beyond and behind the
shadowy realities of everyday life.

The material on this blog site all gives expression
to an attempt to initiate the struggle toward
amanesis. The focus of the aforementioned
material necessarily involves rational discourse,
but all along the horizons of such discourse are
allusions to the 'realities' which lie beyond and
underlie the different themes of critical exploration
that are taking place and being given expression
through this web site.

The Sufi Amanesis blog site does not purport to
succeed where Plato, Socrates and so many others
failed. In fact, the purpose of this blog site is much
more modest - namely, to explore different ways of
trying to clear various kinds of conceptual debris from
the phenomenological landscape so that one might
be in a better position to be open and receptive to
the more demanding and subtle process of amanesis.
In a sense this blog site is a prologue to the deeper,
spiritual work of a full-blown amanesis project which
is usually conducted with the assistance of a
mystical guide or teacher.

Moreover, in the light of the reality of spiritual abuse,
the path to finding an authentic mystical teacher is
not necessarily straightforward. Unfortunately, there
are all too many terrorists of the soul, just as there
are all too many terrorists of the more plebeian kind.

Terrorism can assume many forms: physical, economic,
ecological, political, cultural, and educational. However,
none of these forms of terrorism can take place without
some form of terrorism having been perpetrated upon a
terrorist-to-be through a spiritual or religious medium,
and, in the process, the soul having become corrupted
due to excessive exposure to a rigid, problematic,
theological world view which blocks a person off from
the real work of amanesis ... a process which, God
willing, helps to protect an individual against the
entreaties of terrorism as a way of solving human
difficulties - worldly or spiritual.

Different postings to the Sufi Amanesis blog site will, if
God wishes, explore an array of topics, ranging from:
spiritual abuse, to: ecology, education, evolution,
mysticism, psychology, philosophy, jurisprudence,
poetry, political science, quantum physics, Cassiopaean
hermenutics, terrorism, mythology, and essays on
spirituality. All of these future postings contain
material which is intended to critically engage the
experiential data which flows through our being,
both individually and collectively.

In a sense, the Sufi Amanesis blog site is intended
to serve
as a series of hermeneutical exercises
intended to suggest
possibilities for struggling to
escape at least that part of
the prison of the cave
of life which is maintained by the
forces - both
within and without - that shackle one to
ways of understanding which tend to keep
asleep and facing the wall of the cave of our
where only shadows can be
perceived, and where one often is
prevented from
looking beyond into the actual possibilities

of human potential.

It is not necessary to agree with, or accept, anything
is said through the Sufi Amanesis blog site.
everything that is given expression
within the blog should provide
visitors and participants
with an opportunity to reflect,
meditate, contemplate,
analyze, and critically question
the nature of one's
understanding concerning: truth, reality,
meaning, identity, potential, and Self-realization.

In coming days and months, God willing, new
material will be
added to the Sufi Amanesis blog
site. So, I hope you will come back frequently ...
and participate, or not, as you like.

Anab Whitehouse


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see this blog here!


Anonymous said...

I believe the correctly transliterated term is "anamnesis".

Anab said...

Actually, I have seen both the term: "anamnesis" as well as the term "amanesis" used in conjunction with the process of remembering or re-calling the truth which is inherent within each of us. I chose the latter term over the former because it is somewhat easier to pronouce, and, therefore, probably easier for most people to remember.

One of the nice things about a living language is that one is free to do almost anything one likes when coining a term for a particular purpose. I was less interested in etymology and transliteration than I was with coming up with a word which had some resonance with the original while serving other purposes at the same time.

child of iris said...

Dear Anab,

What exactly is pre-eternity?

Prayers, Manijhé

Richard said...

If the purpose is to invent a new word, why not just invent any word?

If the purpose is to translate and refer to a greek term used in philosophy, theology and religion, the word must need to be correctly transliterated to be easily recognised and understood.

This is preferable to inventing a word with ulterior motives, misleading us at the same time, to think that such a word exists.

The deception is to say "amanesis" is a greek word that means "anamnesis".

The fact is "amanesis" is not the correct transliteration of the greek word, nor is it even used except by people insistent on "coining a new term"

The actual word is *ANAMNESIS*
the prefix "an-" + "amnes" (as in "amnesia" relating to the minds ability to recall knowledge or memory) = "an-amnes-is"

Richard said...

I spent nearly an hour tracing this word and trying to understand the reference correctly, using online resources used for such reference.

Anab Whitehouse said...

Dear Richard,

I have seen both terms used on the Internet -- that is, the word : 'anamnesis' (your choice) and 'amanesis' (my choice) -- and both are used to refer to exactly the same idea. You may be correct that the proper etymology and transliteration from the original Greek with respect to the idea in question is 'anamnesis', but, for my purposes, this is really irrelevant since I do not feel duty bound to follow either the transliteration or etymology which you consider -- and, possibly, quite correctly -- to be the "proper" one.

Words are used to give expression to ideas and words only have value with respect to the hermeneutical themes to which they allude and for which the words stand in as symbolic representations. The meaning is not in the word but rather the word is a vehicle for referring to, or standing as a place-holder for a given meaning. Meaning precedes the symbolic representation -- and, in many ways, the symbolic representation is entirely arbitrary and, to a large degree, a matter of conventions which people are free to accept or reject.

I have tried to make the meaning of that to which my choice of word -- 'amanesis' -- refers fairly clear during the course of the essay in relation to which you are making comment, and since for me, at least, what is most important is the structural character of the understanding that is being constructed in conjunction with the word which has been arbitrarily selected by me to give expression to such an understanding, then, whatever the 'proper' etymology or transliteration of the original Greek term which was used to refer to the idea in question is, for me at least, largely irrelevant.

Your comments to the contrary, there was no attempt on my part to use "deception", nor was their any "ulterior motive" employed in proceeding in the way in which I have. There may have been a mistake on my part in supposing that, perhaps, the different ways in which I saw the word spelled on the Internet might have been merely a matter of how the original Greek may have been conjugated and/or the differences in linguistic form in various syntactical contexts, but the fact of the matter is, I made my choice based on the way one spelling was easier on my ears and tongue than was the other, and I coined my usage accordingly.

Whatever the incorrectness of my choice may have been from your perspective, there was enough of a resonance associated with that choice to lead you to comment on what you believe -- and possibly quite correctly -- to be the proper transliteration and etymology of the word in question. If you have read the comments preceding your own contribution, then, you will have noted that someone else already has made your point and that I already have responded to that issue -- and, indeed, as you can see from the dates involved, the earlier comments on this issue were made a number of years ago. If I thought the matter was that important, I have had lots of time in which to change my terminology, but I have not because I don't really feel the matter to be that important.

I appreciate the time you have taken to correct what you believe to be the error in the way I have approached things. Your comments have been retained so that anybody may read them and take into account what you have said on the matter, but really, for my purposes -- which have been outlined in the essay to which your comments refer -- it is the underlying idea which is of significance and not the particular noun or verb form, Greek or otherwise, through which the idea is being expressed.

If people believe that it is absolutely essential that one must follow the protocol of specific etymologies and transliterations in order to convey an idea, then, the more power to them and let them proceed through life in that fashion. I believe that as long as one has clarified as much as possible the ideas and understanding to which a given term refers, then, one has exercised due diligence with respect to letting the reader know how one is proposing to proceed with respect to using the term in question.

Anab Whitehouse

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...


Thanks for your reply, I respect your considerations and accept your answer, whilst still retaining my view, on the grounds of maintaining full integrity, when conveying such ideas to others less familiar with them.

However, you are right in saying that we are all entitled to make whatever decisions we make and if there was no bad intentions, I take back any comments implying ulterior motives. I offer my gratitude and respect.

with regards,