To perceive or to experience, a question of distance

Where will I turn to experience what is calling me?

To perceive or to experience, a question of distance

A distance that is not a distance

If there were no space, we could neither observe nor perceive. The thing, or the object, is in the great majority of cases situated outside the person-subject. However, in focusing on the self or on an Other-in-itself, with which a relationship can be maintained, what is said to be “outside” is, in this particular case, an inner reality quite different from the person-subject being able to say “I”. In the case of the Other-in-itself, the distance is of an even more difficult content to grasp.

The most disconcerting thing about the Other-in-us is that our usual consciousness has to relax in order to let the relationship with this Other become stronger. And if an intimate relationship is maintained with Him, this can be accompanied by a perception, but here of a quite different kind from that of physics. Rather than perception, we will thus speak of experience or of something experienced, since it is lived.

In physics, in matter therefore, because of the distance between the observer and the observed, the consciousness of the observer is obliged to travel, to move, to go back and forth to visit, to probe, to verify. There is nothing like this with the Other-in-us, who is by nature a faithful presence in a relationship of thoughtfulness and love. This is on condition that all sorts of contingencies do not hinder the link that is established, like the clouds that allow little or no sunlight to pass through.

The ground where everything is played

In a world where division, duality, competition, etc. are omnipresent, the one who reigns is the Devil, that is to say, that which maintains the state of things. It is almost always to distract us from what is at the same time interior to us and of another order. Georges Bernanos had distinctly perceived it: “One understands nothing of modern civilization if one does not first admit that it is a universal conspiracy against any kind of interior life. Denis de Rougement goes into more detail on the subject in his book La Part du Diable (The Devil’s Share): “The proof that the Devil exists, acts and succeeds, is precisely that we no longer believe in him.” But what is the nature of consciousness in this case when it is apparently absent?

We breathe in and out all the time, forgetting that we exist thanks to oxygen; we do it unconsciously. Thus, for a lot of things, we do not ask ourselves any more questions. For example, nowadays there is a single thought that claims that viruses are everywhere and threaten us. To function in this belief, which finds fertile ground in general ignorance and indolence, is to go against the foundation of homeopathy, which claims that “the terrain is everything”. For some, the danger always comes from outside and we must arm ourselves against it; others believe that if we take care of the quality of our terrain, evil cannot prosper there. The state of consciousness of the former is passive, it denotes a fear and marks a resignation in relation to a presence to oneself.

Generally speaking, the collective terrain mentioned above is the world, civilization. Does this terrain help us to “experience that we are eternal”, as Spinoza says? Not at all, and this explains why so few subscribe to Spinoza’s thought. What is it that this small number seeks? To be collectively eternal beings between whom there is no distance and where the relationship is one of soulful thoughtfulness and love. In this state of unity perceived and experienced internally, what is called consciousness is still the means of relationship. However, in this case, all subjects have the same goal of pure Consciousness which is the eternal magnetization of all creatures and the entire creation. To speak of an object for this spiritual quest is not the right word. No, in fact, awakening involves seeing that it is all of us who constitute the collective object of a single Subject who is all Love. In this consists the accomplishment of the whole humanity, in this state of oneness with the unique Object which is the Whole.

A semiotic illumination

As it is often advocated, it is good to meditate, to stop thinking, to be in a state of openness, to observe an inner silence. Achieving this is not easy for anyone. To achieve this, a non-linguistic semiotics can also help us.

A. J. Greimas (1917-1992), one of the fathers of semiotics, tried to demonstrate that experiencing is infinitely more extensive than perceiving. The object of this article is to make this clear. The Other-in-us cannot be perceived, it can only be experienced. This means that there is no distance, that there is no sense, no direction in which to go as for a researcher or an observer in search of something new. To travel within oneself is a notion that is not appropriate when it comes to experiencing the Other. To experience or to have the inner experience of anything is in itself already an experience at the limit of the timeless. From a spatial point of view, the experience of interiority is like a bridge to the unknown over an immaterial distance that often takes the name of “meaning”.

The search for meaning is proper to the type of relationship that living beings need for their ontological development and security. It is as much a part of existence as being hungry, needing air or movement. This Other-in-us makes us feel that, in relation to Him, everything is different. This difference supposes that we have understood that interiority is a universe that is foreign to the conventional mode of functioning of the current consciousness. It is a universally accepted fact, and dissected by semiotics, that there is always a third element at play for communication to pass, to find meaning, to get from one point to another. The object of semiotics can be summed up in the question: how does meaning come about? What ‘happens’ to make things happen as they do, in society as everywhere? Here is a typically semiotic answer:

“What if it were the substances that made the relationships? Energy cannot be localized in one or more poles: it acts in the interval between the poles. By recognizing the being of this interval and giving it priority over the poles, we bring substance back to its rank of “accident”, of place of meeting and interaction of interstantial energies. A caesura between intervallic passages, substance is a joint, simultaneously binding and isolating, for a multitude of interstances. Thus, the world, the self, and the us appear perpetually generated by an infinitely variable interval.” ❋

The field of the vacuum.

Today, we would speak in terms of interfaces, instruments that allow communication, transfers or compatibility between electronic devices. By notional extension, innumerable material and non-material arrangements are interfaces (or “interstances”) to inform us, direct us, control us, etc. For example, when I see a red light or hear an alarm, it speaks to me and forces me to behave in a certain way. If we come across a place where there are stands and banners, we will know that something festive is going on. When you hear a religious song, it informs you about a context, about a cultic or cultural framework.

In fact, it can be said that there is no such thing as empty space. The substance of space often escapes us. The world is constructed of the substances that our mind often generates collectively. Nothing exists outside of fields that are spaces but not necessarily material and perceptible.

To sell one’s soul to the devil means to allow another to create a field concerning us to which he would give the meaning that suits him. Nothing and nobody can introduce such “substances” into us without violating a part of our being. That said, it is up to each one to discover or build a bridge between oneself and the world to find a field of blooming. On the other hand, for a few there is nothing better to do in this world than to “ex-ist”, to leave the duality of this field of discovery and experience. And this until I can experience the Presence in the depths of what is silence and emptiness in me. Then I can see the world as alien to me now that I turn to the Other-in-me. The soul emptied of all the distractions that separated it from the eternal Present experiences the ineffable presence of the Other, and the unspeakable Field all other within. Of the blow, she abandons all her efforts to arrive at perceiving something which exceeds her. These become superfluous because, coming back to life, the soul participates in the miracle of the appearance of the mystery; it experiences it as a new life linked to the eternal source.



  • Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) – France against the robots – ed. Committee of Free France of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, 1947.
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) – The Ethics – (1677)
  • Jean-Yves Leloup – The Philosopher and the Jihadist – 2016, Presses du Châtelet
  • Denis de Rougement (1906-1985) – The Devil’s Share – (1942)
  • Algirdas Julien Greimas, founder of the Paris School of linguistic semiotics
  • ❋ Louis Darms, Jean Laloup – Interstances – 1983, Louvain-la-Neuve, Cabay
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Date: January 19, 2022
Author: Gabriel Tonnerre (Belgium)
Photo: John Simitopoulos on Unsplash CCO

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