Aletheia (Ancient Greek: ἀλήθεια)
The Wiki definition: “It is a Greek word variously translated as “unclosedness”, “unconcealedness”, “disclosure” or “truth“. The literal meaning of the word ἀ–λήθεια is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” It also means factuality or reality.“
An archaic word made useful by one German philosopher named Martin Heidegger. Let’s dig deeper.
In his work, Heidegger made extensive use of a concept called the Clearing (die Lichtung). The German root is Licht: light. The appropriate mental image is a forest clearing where rays of sun shine in, illuminating the objects which lie there. These objects are being “disclosed”; when the light falls on them it reveals these them to us. The Clearing is conceptual, not physical. Yet the physical objects and beings of the world intersect with it. The Clearing is where we enter into conceptual relationships with worldly things.
But Aletheia plays a trick on us, hiding in the very word: lethe, which means concealment or forgetting. When the light illuminates one part of the Clearing, it casts shadows across the rest. Feel the object at your fingertips. Chemicals, oil, minerals, rocks. Dug up from the ground, geological common ancestors shared with the stones outside. But let us not be reductionists! This usefulness in this relationship matters. This form, and not another, has been disclosed. And each object in the clearing can be illuminated in a multitude of ways, the process of Aletheia presenting us with new forms even as others fade back into the shadows.
A dog wanders into the Clearing. What is revealed to us? An American suburbanite looks into the clearing and sees a loving housepet and protector of the home. A Muslim from the Middle East looks into the clearing and sees a beast which will make him ritually unclean. Finally, a child walks by and sees a terrifying monster making awful noises and runs away as fast as he can. The animal itself never changed, of course. But to each person, a different aspect of the animal was made apparent. Likewise, the other forms of conception lay hidden away in shadow.
Heidegger is not engaging in science or even empirical philosophy in any normal sense. He is attempting to fracture and restructure our relationship with the world around us and how we conceive of objective reality.
All societal narratives are in a sense a mass exercise in Aletheia. The Narrative seeks to reveal certain aspects of the world to us and keep others in shadow. A truth-focused narrative claims to disclose a fuller and truer picture of the world to us than its rivals. What is the narrative surrounding us?
These images have appeared in the Clearing. What is being disclosed? The Western mind sees these as archaic, primitive, embarrassing black marks of a regressive age best forgotten. Yet those families, those soldiers, and those men look into the Clearing and see something very different. Something worth embracing. We of the modern West can scarcely imagine condemning ourselves to such a model of family life. We cannot fathom that the priest’s blessing is anything other than superstition, that the gang initiation is anything other than mass insanity. Yet this is proof that our own narrative – the narrative of Social Progress – has put blinders on us.
Our narratives determine what Aletheia reveals to us. It also determines what remains hidden. Look at those images again: what has been hidden from you?