In this chapter I present the theoretical frameworks that form the basis of the book, namely ontological penumbras, presencing and ontonic semiotics, and give an overview of Bebelibe ontology in light of these. Current semiotics do not adequately explain phenomena resulting from spiritual-material non-differentiation. Consequently, they cannot account for how the Bebelibe relate to the different entities that populate their world when their material and immaterial components cannot be separated into representation and represented.

Presencing enhances semiotic thinking by explaining how people make present and engage in and with the world around them. Conventional semiotics largely draws on Peircean’s three sign types: the symbol, icon and index. To account for spiritual material non-differentiation and the resulting inter-ontonic engagement between entities, Johannes Merz calls for ontonic semiotics that requires a fourth entity, the onton. Ontons result from presencing processes and are experiential, agentive and relational entities that are simultaneously the representation and the represented. Ontological penumbras, meanwhile, are the shadowy spaces of limbo that people need to negotiate as part of making sense of their engagement with the world.