The Creal Nature of the Philosopher’s Stone


Drawing of the Big Bang by my daughter Svea, 7.

In my practice as a philosophical counselor, I often encourage the counselee to start with a tabula rasa within the cosy security of my parlour. The empty table is a process by which we authorise us to think as if all our certainties should be questioned, as if we were starting anew, as if new-born. This was done for example by Descartes when he supposed for the sake of truth-searching that everything was an illusion. In my view a philosophically healthy person is capable of connecting to a meta-reality that I call Creal, which is the real of absolute creation, radical alterity, novelty, the ex nihilo = ex toto without which creation would be a mere remixing of existing realities.

It is philosophically healthy to see creation not as mere fabrication, construction, but as a process that can be independent from human engineering and yet one that we can connect to in order to co-create. We are capable of the idea of radical alterity, radical novelty, infinite possibility, infinite abundance of potentialities. Connecting with this idea generates an emotion that opens the path to a deeper form of well-being. But of course it is also challenging our comfort. It is not without danger and risk. It is preferable not to be alone in this journey. Philosophy is also about friendship and love.

Now why would someone do this? Descartes was searching for the truth, for something certain, as certain as mathematics. He found, paradoxically, the cogito, which is an anti-mathematical experience. Is philosophical health about truth? This is the kind of question that might not have a universal answer, but rather needs to be elaborated singularly in a specific embodied dialogue.

Perhaps philosophical health is about living a blissful and thoughtful life, while overcoming human finitude, human suffering, contradictions, pain, conflicts, frustrations, dull routines, alienation, exploitation, etc. In the latter case, we are talking about a transmutation of the human (even Marx wanted a transmutation of the human). Is philosophical health a form of self-alchemy? Yes. But beware the new-age fuzzy uses of the notion of alchemy.

Let’s take the analogy of writing a book. Creating a book. To create a book you need: letters, inspiration, paper or a computer, a way of transposing creal-inspiration into sentences, and you need a reader, without whom there is no book (even if you are your own reader at first). Eventually you also need some form of material production of the book as object. Where does the inspiration come from? Here we could discuss the Infinite Monkey Theorem. Randomness versus intentionality. Of course no book is written randomly. It would be boring and too chaotic. Same thing regarding your life. It is probably not infinite, so why would you live randomly like an infinite monkey, hoping for meaning to emerge without intention, without determination, without the deep involvement of your crealectical self.

How can health be a process of creation? How can creation be a process of health? This connects to the idea of regeneration, transmutation but also finality. This needs to be addressed in a singular dialogue, since a universal answer might be self-contradictory by imposing a normative stance. That is the way I practice philosophical couseling (after having been a professional independent publisher for so many years, helping others write meaningful books, and after having written many books myself): I help each person write the alchemical and embodied book of their life, as their own masterpiece. The philosopher’s stone is a charcoal pencil.

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