The Genesis of Metaphor




The New Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘metaphor’ as:


‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally* applicable’,

* … for literally read: actually = factually


or: a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract. (Note: the last part should read: something less abstract. See below)


The word is derived from the Greek metaphora, from metapherien ‘to transfer’, possibly (my addition) akin to meta’morph, meaning: ‘beyond’ or ‘trans-form’.



A metaphor is a user-friendly representation (i.e. into a useful fiction) of a user-unfriendly instruction bit (or information bite). A metaphor acts as an imaginary abstraction (i.e. like a computer icon) that re-presents, actually ‘trans-presents’ a package of information stored (or active) on a file or folder (in machine language).

A metaphor (hence an imaginary abstracted transformation) is not the same as the instructions bits (or information bite) it represents, much as ‘the map is not (the same as) the territory’. It is not possible to recover the actual (hence real) information of which the metaphor is an imaginary representation from the metaphor (i.e. icon).


The reason metaphors = icons (= abstracted, imaginary, user friendly information momentary systems’ status reports) are used (indeed invented by the brain, and the brain functions as metaphor simulator) is that they speed up response to vast amounts of instructions (for instance, photon swarms striking the eye or acoustic pressure packets striking the ear) which are both irrelevant and obstructive to @best (read: instant, hence life-saving) response by the user in his actual world.


The actual (or f’actual), hence pre-metaphor instructions base. A vast number of non-conscious instructions (= transmissions, i.e. transmitter strikes, possibly digital) are condensed and combined to generate (i.e. transform) as a level 1 ‘formation’.

Example: The sunset metaphor. The pre-metaphor level registering, condensing and ordering – the former are all system’s related - of vast numbers of instruction bits; for instance, responding to the impact (or impression) of data bits, for instance, the photon strikes and their variations generated by the earth turning anti-clockwise.


The level 1 metaphor. A level 1 metaphor is a human’s (conscious) experience of the end-state of pre-metaphor level instruction condensation and its impact/impression response. The brain invents a quantum of experience, often called a figure of the mind, and which is a personal fiction, i.e. a virtual representation, albeit experienced as real by the observer,* to represent the quantised, i.e. sliced by the observer output of a vast instruction impact/impression. The fictional experience quantum (i.e. the virtual impact whole) is not the actual source of the instructions (= transmitters, or their source!) or the actual condensation of the instructions or the actual instruction impact. The experience quantum happens as personally ‘emerged’ formation bite wholly different from the actual impact bite. That (in-)formation bite is created to permit its creator instant response to contact in his world, hence is self-user-friendly.

E.g. seeing (i.e. experiencing) the sun disappearing over the horizon. (The underlined words are 2nd level metaphors).


The level 2 metaphor. All internal expressions of pre-metaphor transmitter strike (i.e. instructions) impressions, hence imaginary transformations of an experience (for instance as concept, thought or feeling) are 2nd level metaphors. In other words, they are invented as actual, information reduced (i.e. abstracted and fictionalised), self -user-friendly output (i.e. expression, hence transmission) icons.

E.g. naming the sun’s disappearance a ‘sunset’. (The sun does not actually set. Hence the word ‘sunset’ is an imaginary figure = fiction of speech that represents (with an arbitrary sound bite) an imaginary figure/fiction of the mind).


The level 3 metaphor. All external expressions of an internal virtual image, i.e. a level 2 metaphor, experienced as a real fact.* Such expressions are spoken (i.e. communicable sound bites) or written (i.e. communicable) drawings, to wit, as figures (read: fictions) of verbal interaction. Such verbal expressions served as general, low specificity, hence high currency level 2nd metaphor communications devices.

E.g. the word ‘sunset(i.e. a virtual reality) is invented.


The level 4 metaphor (i.e. the NOD’s definition). This is a highly specific, low general currency 3rd metaphor level representation designed to achieve maximum impression/impact. In short, the 4th level metaphor is designed for (or adapted from) a particular user (within a particular sub-culture) to increase the probability of acceptance/response by that user and to speed up that user’s response to his world.

E.g. ‘sunset’ is represented to a toddler as ‘the sandman is coming’.


If one understands the metaphor sequence derived from the actual initial experience, then ‘the sandman is coming’ makes perfect sense (allows for a real sensory reaction activated via memory) when used to explain oncoming darkness to a toddler. However, if the sequence is unknown, then its origin, namely the original non-conscious instructions package, remains unknown, that is to say, it is not possible to recover the original impressions/impacts (upon the eye) about the earth turning anti-clockwise against the sun.


The Buddhist term nirvana functions as a 4th level metaphor. The problem with this metaphor is that at least 15 3rd level metaphors, derived from 15 2nd level metaphors, have been proposed as its derivation. The result is that there is no certainty as to precisely what the word ‘nirvana’ means at either the 2nd or the 1st metaphor levels and at the originating instructions (indeed, self-instructions) package level.


During his 40+ years wandering around Northern India as an itinerant beggar (= wisdom busker) the Buddha did not once produce either an unambiguous 1st metaphor level definition (i.e. a 3rd level description of his actual experience) or pre-metaphor level description of the term nirvana. It is generally assumed that his failure to produce a meaningful (hence wholly compelling) definition of the term was intentional in that he, playing the Zero Game (i.e. no position = sunya, like Nagarjuna centuries later), grasped the creative possibilities of strategic ambiguity and which prevents closure.


 Turning fiction into fact