Background, definition, and use

noema (plural noemata) - noun
From Ancient Greek νόημα (nóēma, “concept”, “idea”, “perception”, “thought”).

1. (philosophy) The perceived as it is perceived
2. (philosophy) That which is perceived in the noesis/noema duality
3. (rhetoric) An obscure speech or a speech that only yields meaning upon detailed reflection⁽¹⁾
4. (otherkin community slang) Knowledge about oneself, one's kintype, or the life of one's kintype

Almost from the moment I joined the community I lacked a word to describe the distinct images, knowledge, and 'memories' that would pop into my head in relation to my psychological kintypes. I was (and still am) very adamant that these kintypes were not past lives, and yet I had many experiences that were similar enough that I, at the time, begrudgingly referred to them as my "kin memories". Upon sharing my reluctance around using this terminology, I found that many others – both psychological, spiritual, both, and neither – were experiencing the same lexical gap. So when I set out to find a word to bridge that gap, my intentions were to make it as broad and inclusive as physically possible.

It took a day or two of intense googling, before I found the word 'noema', which is a very rare word in daily speech, and is almost exclusively reserved for one specific branch of philosophy. It has several overlapping definitions (the three main ones listed above, followed by the community's use), but the one that particularly caught my attention was: "The perceived as it is perceived."

Now, fair warning, I took a philosophy class in high school that I haven't been able to shut up about since, so when I saw that rather cryptic definition, it was of course love at first sight. How I've come to interpret "the perceived as perceived" after reading a some analyses of Husserl's philosophy, on which it is based, is as a subjective truth - a noema is something that is real, not because we can prove its existence by scientific measurements, but which is simply real because a person experiences it as such. When discussing noemata in the context of memory-like experiences in the otherkin community, it is thus irrelevant if they're "real" in any objective way, and the only thing that matters is that the individual experiences them as real.

To define is to limit, so with the purpose of the word in mind (to be useful for everyone who felt the lexical gap) I had to be very careful with my phrasing. In my very first attempt at a definition I described a noema as "something in between a memory and an intuition, knowledge that is inherent but has been forgotten/has to be recalled."⁽²⁾ This is not a definition that I stand by now as I find it too limiting and too focused on memory-like noemata.

In my next post⁽³⁾ about the topic, I didn't attempt to define it so much as clarify a few things: A noema is not a "kin memory with a psychological explanation", nor does it have to have any of the qualia of a memory. Any knowledge that has been gained about one's kintype can be called a noema, including detailed episodic memories and knowledge as simply as your kintype's eye color or the layout of their house.

In my final attempt to define it, when prompted to because Kiera wanted to add it to their dictionary, I described it as "inherent knowledge you have about your kintype. This may include memories, things you experience as memories but likely aren't, or general knowledge about your looks, life, habits, or surroundings. Noemata may have a psychological or spiritual basis, may be a mix of the two, or may have unknown origins."⁽⁴⁾ This is a definition I stand by to this day, though it still prompts some further questions and discussions.

For starters, why did I include the word 'inherent' in that definition? It's a word I'm very fond of, and you'll often see it mentioned in my long-form writings. I use it to mean 'essential', 'core', and sometimes 'permanent' or 'natural'/'instinctual'. In other words, for something to qualify as a noema it has to be ingrained with your kintype, one way or another - so things you only know because it was taught to you (for example, statistical facts about an animal species) would not count as noemata, but things you discovered on your own would. Howver, even here we run into grey areas – if a piece of knowledge was revealed to you in, say, a dream, would that count as a teaching or a discovery? Or would knowledge you didn't discover through introspection, but instead felt compelled to seek out and study, count? I can't say, and I think it's up to the individual to decide if they want to call something like that a noema or not.

Next, I feel it important to mention that the examples listed in that definition ("memories, things you experience as memories but likely aren't, or general knowledge about your looks, life, habits, or surroundings") are only examples. There are other ways to experience noemata, for example (again, only examples and not the be-all-end-all of the word's coverage) as precognition, visions of a parallel life, feelings about certain things or characters, and confabulations. However, there is one tentative exception: I have not created the word with consciously created scenarios in mind. If you intentionally decide that your kintype has red hair (instead of going off a gut feeling that they have red hair), I would not count that as a noema. Again, with room for grey areas such as OCkin, who have created a character and later come to realize that that character is their kintype.

Though the word has mostly found use as a stand-in for 'memory' among psychological otherkin, that by no means covers all the ways in which it can be used, and in the past year I have seen it used more and more frequently by nonhumans and alterhumans regardless of the cause of their identity. My intention with introducing the word to the community was always to fix the lexical gap, and as such everyone who feels that gap can use the words 'noema' and 'noemata'.

1. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/noema#English
2. https://aestherians.tumblr.com/post/181836451574/
3. https://aestherians.tumblr.com/post/190929635719/
4. https://www.beyondhumanity.net/alterhuman-dictionary/dictionary-n

Last updated: June 2021

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