Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fly by Night Theology (12.21.10)

When Jesus is given the news that Lazarus is sick (John 11:3), he responds in that typically confident but paradoxable way of his, to the effect that Lazarus' illness is "not a sickness unto death" but "for the glory of God." Jesus then stays put for a couple of days and forgets all about Lazarus, putting him on the back-burning bush.

After that, Jesus makes another curious comment about how easy it is to walk around by daylight without stumbling, but "if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."

Hmmm. Okay.

Note that immediately after this cryptic comment about stumbling at night, Jesus abruptly decides to pick up and visit Lazarus, "who sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." Then there is some confusion among the disciples about the meaning of Jesus' statement. Finally, Jesus says words to the effect of, "Get a clue, people. Don't be so literal. When I said 'asleep' I meant 'dead.'"

Day, night, sleeping, waking, forgetting, darkness, stumbling, light, sickness. What's going on here?

Tomberg gnotes that in the case of the healing of the nobleman's son, Jesus' actual presence was not required. Rather, it was accomplished through the intermediary of the father's faith. But in this instance, the pattern is entirely different. That is, rather than healing Lazarus, he lets him go -- literally. He "forgets" about him for two days, banishing him from consciousness. Lazarus is not only gone but forgotten. Or is he gone because forgotten?

Then another curious statement, this one by Thomas, a fascinating character in his own right, who says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." The "him" is ambiguous, but Tomberg feels that it is actually in reference to Lazarus, not Jesus; that is, "Let us share the fate of Lazarus, since it is the will of the Master -- that which can only intend the highest good."

Now, is Thomas suggesting that they all commit suicide? No, that makes no sense. Rather, he is talking about committing cluelesscide, i.e., "let us put put ourselves into the inner situation of Lazarus, identify ourselves with his path of destiny, so that we also may die."

Death represents the end of horizontal existence. As such, Lazarus represents pure verticality, detached from the world of sickness, suffering, and toil. In Buddhism, there is a concept that is similar to divine incarnation, that is, the bodhisattva principle. A bodhisattva voluntarily renounces his verticality for horizontality, willingly taking on the suffering of existence until all beings have achieved enlightenment.

Christianity takes this concept to its logical extreme, in that Jesus may be thought of as the ultimate bodhisattva, giving up a bach's seat in the front row of the heavenly choir to take his place with the struggling creatures below. If death is the foreclosing of the horizontal for the vertical, this is the opposite, the renunciation of the vertical for the horizontal. And as Tomberg says, "there is no greater love than that of the sacrifice of eternity for the limitations of existence in the transient moment" -- and which is why in the ainsoferable Godspiel of Bob, we are grateful for this undertaking of mortality, for our daily lessons in evanescence, for this manifestivus for the rest of us.

"Christian yoga," if we may call it such, is a strict balance between verticality and horizontality. One does not renounce the horizontal world. But nor does one cling to it as if it were the ultimate reality. Rather, one must always be in the horizontal but not of the horizontal. Excessive entanglement in the horizontal entails one kind of death; giving it up entirely for the vertical represents another kind of sleep, forgetting, and death: Lazarus' kind.

The immortal Shankara refers to horizontal men -- those who are "dead" to the vertical -- as “suicides” who “clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. What greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth... and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good? Know that the deluded man who walks the dreadful path of sense-craving moves nearer to his ruin with every step.”

Similarly, the Upanishads say that “Rare is he who, looking for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self. Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death.... Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.”

In other words, pure horizontality entails not just the end of verticality, but the death of the Self, or banishment to a world without sun, "covered in darkness." Let's refer back to Jesus' cryptic words in John 11:10, that "if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." Note that one does not stumble because of an absence of external light, but because there is no interior light: the light is not in him.

I find it very interesting that Thomas is the disciple who supposedly evangelized India. Naturally, this would have been known when the gospels were written. But when Thomas says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Lazarus," he is saying something rather suggestive. Let's dispense with literalism for the moment, and interpret it to mean something like, "let's all die to the world and go entirely vertical, like one of those Upanishadic seers -- like Lazarus -- so that we too may be reborn 'for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through our rebirth' (referring again to John 11:4). Let's be bodhisattvas!"

Now, since we are dealing with timeless truth, it is no cooncidence that the Isha Upanishad warns that "To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.” Rather, “Those who combine action and meditation cross the sea of death through action and enter immortality,” that is, through the sacred union of soul and body, spirit and matter, vertical and horizontal, male and female, mamamaya and papurusha (for those who know their punskrit).

I don't mean to get sidetracked, but I am reminded of a post from over a year ago, about those coal miners in West Virginia who were buried alive. Since I had no readers back then, I think I'll reproduce some of it here, because it seems oddly fitting to our theme.

*****

Facing death, one of the miners left us with these beautiful, haunting words:

Tell all --
I see them on the other side
It wasn't bad
I just went to sleep
I love you

It wasn't bad. I just went to sleep.

Such a simple declaration of unwavering faith, calm courage, and even elegant beauty in the face of the abrupt end of horizontal existence. I've memorized those words. They are worth thousands, even millions of pages of secular fundamentalist drivel. I hope I can remember them in my final moments:

It wasn't bad. I just went to sleep.

Getting back to the subject of our post, it isn't that easy for most of us callous sophisticates to know God. It takes real effort, commitment, and discipline to begin to reliably cure ourselves of the materialitis and reductionosis that pervade contemporary life. It is really a moment-by-moment project of reorienting ourselves and turning things upside down and inside out -- back to the way they're supposed to be. When we do that, we can begin to experience the truth of the Upanishads -- that the universe is like a tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below.

In our embodied state, we struggle with overcoming our default orientation to the surface, to the 'outside' of things. Both religious and non-religious fundamentalists are still unwavering materialists, living in deadening servitude to matter. Our higher faculties are easily hijacked and enslaved by the lower, and the problem is only worse in a society as abundant as ours, with so many seductive distractions everywhere. The 'I' that is pulled this way and that by these tempting distractions cannot remain the same and know God. Rather, we must close one I and open another, or transpose the melody of our life to a higher key, an octave or two above.

Intellectuals struggle with this, for one does not comprehend religious truth; rather, it comprehends us. The intellect must be 'raised up' to the realm from which religion emanates. Again, this is something the typical secularist utterly fails to understand. You must work to intensify your mental power and then transcend it, like building a very sturdy ship, and then launching it into the Ocean-- two very different things.

For you cannot know religious truth. You cannot even really understand it. Rather, you must undergo it. Secular fundamentalists know all about religion. But you can be sure that they understand nothing of it, for, as Blake wrote, truth cannot be told so as to be understood and not believed.

To understand is to apprehend an intelligible truth, and it is not possible to deeply understand something that isn't true. Thus, 'understanding God' -- or to be perfectly precise, 'being understood' by him, or 'undergoing spiritual truth' -- is the sufficient proof of God's existence. As one undergoes spirituality and this thing called understanding deepens, we move from line to plane and plane to sphere, from seeing to envisioning, from thinking about God to being comprehended by God, to where the interior horizon of the imploding universe flows within itself. The negation of negation!

Achieving this new depth of vision is not a matter of merely piling on additional surfaces and calling it depth, as the intellectual does. It is changing the nature of the knower, so that a new light-infused known may be won from the Wild Godhead. In turn, this divine light further elevates the mind so that we may better see divine things, the uncreated world from which the created world is a reflection dimly perceived through mirror and enigma.

Is it really possible to speak from the Ground, where we are unborn again and can know the youth of eternal spring within our hearts? It depends. As Meister Eckhart said, these things 'are false and absurd according to the imagination of opponents, but true according to true understanding.'

True understanding is the death of the conventional self. But don't worry.

It isn't bad. You just go to sleep.

Then you wake up. And remember. And live.

Lazarus, come forth!

54 Comments:

Blogger Lisa said...

Hmmm, what a full plate today or maybe I am just extra hungry. I started reading the post while Goodbye Blue Sky by Pink Floyd was playing, midway through the post Country Roads by James Taylor came on, rounding out the post and comment time is Without A Song (Parts 1 & 2) by Ray Charles. Does anyone else really like having a soundtrack playing for their life? Music,at least for me, seems to be that special place in the roots of the tree of life/death, above/below, conscious/subconcious, etc. that occupies space in both sets of roots which are only one in the end anyhow. That perfect point where vertical and horizontal coincide. Okay enough rambling, When The Music's Over by the Doors just came on and I will take it as a cue...Hope everyone has a fabulous day and night!

3/20/2007 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

This post helped me a lot. I immediately forwarded to my list of spiritually inclined, but worldly friends and family.

I very much appreciate that Bob revisits themes again and again. In this case it was understanding what divine knowledge is. I especially liked the part about religious knowledge comprehending us rahter than vice versa. The logical/rational/reductionist habit is very hard to break. It takes years of reflection for someone like me. That is why I hope Bob continues to return again and again to the core issues surrounding God, knowledge, faith, Beauty and Truth. Each post offers subtly different shading and nuance. Over time things begin to coalesce. I'm not sure if there is a point at which an inner light is "switched on", or whether it simply grows gradually brighter over time. No matter. The path is what counts for me right now. I am here to absorb.

3/20/2007 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous the drive-by film critic said...

Thank you Bob, for the double feature! The (re)viewers are raving in five-star delight. I'm quite sure it'll be nominated for a 'Lazzie' award come Easter for Best Coon-e-torial. You get my vote for sure.

3/20/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

...the universe is like a tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below." Nice picture of being "born from above".

3/20/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous the drive-by philm (k)riti(k) said...

Oops, typo. The above should read, of course, 'Best Coon-O-torial'. Excuse my horizontal hiccup, and take my wife, please!

3/20/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Dr Bob says:
“For you cannot know religious truth. You cannot even really understand it. Rather, you must undergo it. Secular fundamentalists know all about religion. But you can be sure that they understand nothing of it, for, as Blake wrote, truth cannot be told so as to be understood and not believed.”

Reminds me of the first time I went skiing…

You think you know the mountain while standing on the bottom looking up at it – but until you ‘take in’ the view from the top, you realize, as you can only realize from that lofty place, and look around, you see an entirely different and splendid view surrounding the mountain…and of course the other mountains that you can see from this vantage point.

3/20/2007 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"For you cannot know religious truth. You cannot even really understand it. Rather, you must undergo it." What some refer to as "heart knowledge" vs "head knowledge"?

wv: shjit (excuse me?)

3/20/2007 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"Let's refer back to Jesus' cryptic words in John 11:10, that "if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." Note that one does not stumble because of an absence of external light, but because there is no interior light: the light is not in him."

Not to stir up controversy, but I'm curious as to general coon views on how one comes to have this interior light.

wv: exxqawi (I may have my answer)

3/20/2007 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Turn off the darkness?

3/20/2007 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous homing pigeon said...

Having entered solidly into the company of God, with material things put into the background, the next task of the raccoon is to move all areas of her life into congruence with God.

The raccoon must overhaul, examine, inspect and sift through all relationships, possessions, career choices and activities, food preferences and time priorities, weeding out and eliminating "dark" elements, which are always there.

This will inevitably put the raccoon into conflict with persons and things who want things to remain the same. Legitimately, for instance, a spouse may want sex long after the raccoon has left it behind, or a child may need counsel on ordinary things of the world in an ordinary way; to change dramatically would stun and harm the inner circle of intimates.

Then compromise, tact, and prudence enter into the picture. One may live one's light to the point where it is not scorching another person, I would say.

Finally, a level of complication is often reached where the raccoon throws up the hands and says "I cannot unravel it, Lord. Help me. I give it to you."

This stage, surrender, is crucial to the raccoon's progess. All vertical people will eventually butt heads with the horizontal and find this vexing wall impossible to negotiate unaided. Then the raccoon hands the life, its direction and its pains and pleasures, over to God, and it is done.

Then the raccoon may scamper freely into the vertical and let God take the horizontal, working through the clever coon paws that are His creation.

3/20/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

I figured as much. Now, to find the switch.

3/20/2007 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

My wife and I sat with my grandfather as he died years ago. Of all the people I knew, I loved him the most. Instead of my parents, he was my spiritual role model - calm, patient, and quietly wise. To this day, he is the one I most strive to emulate.

In the hours before he passed, we were blessed to witness him slowly stepping from one world to the next. He narrated for us what he was seeing along the way. He began by climbing a mountain before him, describing it in great detail. As he reached the summit, his best friend (killed beside my grandfather in WW1 and whose middle name I carry) was waiting for him. Within a short time, he grew silent and was gone, with joy on his face.

That was holy ground right there, awash with angel wings.

I hadn't thought about him in awhile, so a big thanks is in order for the reminder of how close we really are to the crux, when I choose to have eyes to see.

3/20/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

I found this on a forum today - maybe it will help get our herd (?) back:

*******************

Blogger or Blogger Forum won't let me post.

This can be caused by your firewall blocking HTTP_REFERER requests. It is in place to ensure posts only come from pages within this site (and not from some external script or site).

The short version is either 1) disable the firewall while posting or 2) change your settings to allow bloggerforum.com or blogger.com to pass as a referer.

****************

I wonder if one of the weekly Microsoft "updates" has silently changed firewall settings for some posters? It may explain why no Mac user appears to have a problem.

The same advice may apply to some antivirus, adware, or spyware blockers as well. Not too likely, but probably worth playing around with their settings to find out.

3/20/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous bulletproof monk said...

NoMo said...
"I figured as much. Now, to find the switch."

The switch is within your heart, but it is not you who does the switching. Your role is to get thy-self out of the way, which is easier said than done. What this usually means (well, at least in my case) is coming to a full realization of just how far from God one really is, because only in this realization can true humility find a place in the heart. True humility is a state where you have given up all pretense of standing in judgment of God or of God's work. It is a condition of radical acceptance, a complete openness to God as Other, in communion with His Presence. In such a state one is usually overwhelmed and awed by that real Presence at the center of your Being.

Unfortunately words alone cannot express the encounter with God, except to say that it is both incredibly intimate and incredibly...beyond. It leaves you knowing you have met someone who loves you and cares for you deeply in a way no one could possibly do on earth. It is to feel like the Prodigal Son coming home to the Father's welcoming embrace after years of guilty absence and wasted time. And with such a reception how could one not return love with love?

A common response at first is tears and a sense of brokenness, which is a cathartic gift that begins the process of loving healing and restoration of wholeness. It is in that encounter with God that one can finally understand the true nature and benefit of repentance, and why Lord Jesus calls for repentance more than anything else in the four Gospels. The ultimate goal for the Christian is continual repentance at every moment of waking and sleeping life, for in that state one is in continual communion. But obviously the path to that state takes a lifetime of dying a little to oneself each day and picking up one's cross, with God's grace.

The more you repent, the cleaner your image becomes and the more the light can shine forth from within in peace, wholeness of spirit, and equanimity (Gk. apatheia or dispassion). Where God is, all is light, and so you will have become transformed and transfigured into a true temple of the Lord, as Jesus showed himself with Moses and Elijah on the mountain (Matthew 17). Pray continually, until prayer to the Lord is what you are, and the Lord will truly make you an instrument of His will. I hope these poor words of mine help even a little.

I pray all this for myself as well, since I am still but a sinner and prodigal who knows how far from the Lord I am. Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

3/20/2007 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

pigeon wrote:

a spouse may want sex long after the raccoon has left it behind

Left it behind? Not fargin' likely!

3/20/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous bulletproof monk said...

cosanostradamus said...
"That was holy ground right there, awash with angel wings."

Your story reminds me of the episode in M.A.S.H. where Major Winchester almost gets killed by a sniper bullet and becomes obsessed with finding out what happens when we die, to the point of quizzing a terminal soldier at the aid station in his final moments...

"Please, I have to know, What is happening to you?"

Charles never got his answer but you did...a great gift indeed from your grandfather. Thank you for sharing a wonderful glimpse of the reunion that awaits.

3/20/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Thanks Bob.

3/20/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous walt said...

Is it just me, or did this whole blog get turned-up several notches today?

3/20/2007 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Ahem.
I must agree with Smoov here. It seems to me that aligning oneself with God should not, within the bounds of marriage and between healthy and willing spouses, exclude sex. In fact, it seems to me that God is very much in favor of sex under such circumstances, and quite frankly I would also offer that the myriad of positive health benefits of an active sex life within marriage bear the Truth of this matter out.

Certainly, when trying to align one's life with God there will be conflict, and as Homing Pigeon noted

"The raccoon must overhaul, examine, inspect and sift through all relationships, possessions, career choices and activities, food preferences and time priorities, weeding out and eliminating "dark" elements, which are always there."

Indeed, if one is truly aligning oneself with O it seems impossible to do otherwise.

However, as Bob has also often and I think quite rightly pointed out, we must be in the world but not of it. Perhaps I am misreading Homing Pigeon, and if so I apologize, but it seems to me you advocate a withdrawal from the world in aligning with God. If so, I think you're making a mistake. Most human beings, and I include raccoons here, are meant to be very much in the world; if we were all driven to be hermits and celibate ascetics, humanity would have died out long ago (or God would have made us capable of asexual reproduction).

3/20/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

(or God would have made us capable of asexual reproduction).

... body schism?

Seems like it would hurt WAAAY more than childbirth....

3/20/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

A soul ringer Gagdad.

"To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.”

What Smoov said. On each comment.

ok, seriously, this is wv: joygavst
Wordverif gives the last word!

3/20/2007 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

There's a reason why we've got both Horizontal and Vertical in life and on the TV. Too much one way or the other, and the picture starts spazing out of control.

Just the right balance is critical.

3/20/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Wax on, Wax off.

3/20/2007 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous chucky cheese said...

I like this from the bullet-proof monk:

"Pray continually, until prayer to the Lord is what you ARE, and the Lord will truly make you an instrument of His will."

Now there's a clear path if I ever heard of one--nothing complicated or ambiguous about it.

The unspoken assumption is that the prayers are selfless and sincere. You can't ask for Rosebud and get the same result.

Anyway, thank you for that, monk.

3/20/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous homing pigeon said...

To be in the world but not of the world is the whole art of the raccoon.

I agree with those who say that sex is sanctioned by God. I also note that devoted God-seekers past the age of fifty tend to experience the finding of an "off" switch for the sex drive, and seem to want to use it.

The reason being that the eggs and sperm are no longer needed for the work of creating new bodies, so the motive of simple pleasure and couples bonding is all that is left.

These tasks becomes replaceable by subtler and less disturbing methods. Sex is a fairly horizontal undertaking and those who immerse themselves deeply in it often wander far from God, distracted and awash in unsavory energies.

All elements of raccoon life have to be moderated; excess of any kind is the enemy of the soul.

3/20/2007 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Homing Pigeon,

Being rather younger than 50 and of an age to procreate, I can't speak to the accuracy of your assertion. It makes sense, but then again I'm sure there are many, perhaps even some here, who would disagree to some extent.

You're right about moderation, though.

3/20/2007 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous GeorgeD said...

"Isha Upanishad warns that "To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.”

My problem with esotericism is just that. It seems to never deal with this:

http://Mark 12:31

3/20/2007 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Pigeon --

I strongly suggest that you limit yourself to doctrinal dispensations on behalf of the Flock of Celibate Pigeons rather than presuming to speak for the Transdimensional Order of Raccoons. Such Osurpation is inappropriate, to say the least.

3/20/2007 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacob C. said...

Now, since we are dealing with timeless truth, it is no cooncidence that the Isha Upanishad warns that "To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.” Rather, “Those who combine action and meditation cross the sea of death through action and enter immortality,” that is, through the sacred union of soul and body, spirit and matter, vertical and horizontal, male and female, mamamaya and papurusha (for those who know their punskrit).

Bob: That's why all those monasteries started breweries. If you need to experience some kind of connection to the physical world, I figure that beer's as good as anything else.

3/20/2007 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Saw Patti Griffin tonight...pretty amazing. Sun...sun...sun...sun.

Recommended by NoMo.

Oh, and JulieC - count me as one of those who "disagree to some extent".

wv: hisooye (oh yeah!)

3/20/2007 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

As one well over the bright 50 line, and very happily married for nigh 30 of those years, I can say with full certainty that pigeon, you are deceived concerning the making of whoopee with one's beloved.

Besides, you picked a bad time to post, as March and April are the peak of raccoon mating season.

Come to think of it, that may explain their conspicuous absence for the past couple weeks (yes, we know who you are, nudge nudge wink wink).

3/20/2007 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Petey said...
Turn off the darkness?

4 words of wisdom happiness!

3/21/2007 01:49:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sex is horizontal?
Partially yes.
Sex is also vertical.

What the? You may say.

Yes, sex is vertical and horizontal.

Hence the mystery of One Flesh between a married man and woman.

3/21/2007 02:02:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob said:
"To understand is to apprehend an intelligible truth, and it is not possible to deeply understand something that isn't true. Thus, 'understanding God' -- or to be perfectly precise, 'being understood' by him, or 'undergoing spiritual truth' -- is the sufficient proof of God's existence. As one undergoes spirituality and this thing called understanding deepens, we move from line to plane and plane to sphere, from seeing to envisioning, from thinking about God to being comprehended by God, to where the interior horizon of the imploding universe flows within itself. The negation of negation!"

Wow! That resonates loudly within my spirit.
An explosive confirmation!

Thanks Bob!

3/21/2007 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Facing death, one of the miners left us with these beautiful, haunting words:

Tell all --
I see them on the other side
It wasn't bad
I just went to sleep
I love you

It wasn't bad. I just went to sleep.

Such a simple declaration of unwavering faith, calm courage, and even elegant beauty in the face of the abrupt end of horizontal existence. I've memorized those words. They are worth thousands, even millions of pages of secular fundamentalist drivel. I hope I can remember them in my final moments:

Indeed, so do I.
Those words were Holy and Eternal.

3/21/2007 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Walt said...
Is it just me, or did this whole blog get turned-up several notches today?

It certainly has!

3/21/2007 03:07:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Hmm, been reading the Islam section in 'In The Face of The Absolute' by F. Schoun, and it is very enlightening.

Regarding the radical, parasitic form of Islam that is spreading like fire these days? Based on what he's saying its better than I had hoped, but also worse than I had imagined...

I would say, there is a great potential for a esoteric Islam and intellectuality and real virtue. But also, all of the trouble we are seeing is more or less prefigured into its view of God. To put it this way:

Allah -> The Absolute & The Inifnite
According to Schoun (gonna hafta re-read this part) this dyad of properties leads to the following two things:

Absolute certainty and absolute peace (submission of the will, 'Islam'.)

Trouble is, as they become more materialistic, these two properties become fanaticism and fatalism in turn.

Thus the suicide bombers and emotionally twisted mujahadeen. The jihad is not something that can be done physically without it becoming a force of destruction. One would have thought that the original Salafists would have grasped that, possibly being scholars of their religion.

But maybe they grasped it all too clearly...

(Schoun says the key flaw in Islam is their insistence on the Absolute Unity of God - thus even though the characteristics (Spirit, Son) may be present in the abstract, they are not realised and moreover sublimated in the willful unification of God.)

I would highly recommend In The Face of The Absolute, next to of course, One Cosmos, for any brainy comment-reader who enjoys fruitful mental exercise and thinks they're more clever than most...

3/21/2007 04:11:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

... Behold, the Power of Ellipses!

(Sorry, just had to.)

3/21/2007 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

george: Esoterism, properly understood, should enable one to do precisely that with full sincerity. The idea being, just the commandment itself in the literal is unfulfillable; there must be something deeper present for us to fulfill it.

Oddly, when Schoun describes what he though ideally Christianity may have become, I recognized it as what I had conceived - more or less - earlier.

Of course, Schoun is more vertically oriented. I think, and I haven't read him yet, that Auribindo is more horizontally oriented.

In this sense anyhow, recall that these three commandments (two or three if you will) 'Love God', 'Love your neighbor as yourself' and 'Love all as I have loved you' are not actually commanments in the sense that God can will them (for by definition of Love he limits himself) to be so. Instead, they represent the ultimate divine plea. Not as though God has to plead with us, but rather (foul limitations of language...) he pleads with us for or own sake and not his.

I think this is a misunderstanding, for God wills us to be able to choose to or not to obey; because this liberty itself is of such critical importance. That is, like Bob was saying, our liberty is 'relatively absolute' as the Son, who brings the Law of Liberty, is. Without this we would not be 'deiform' or 'made in God's image' in any reasonable respect. It can be seen to be similar to how a machine is given 'liberty' within the confines of its operations. That is, thinking machines-- pure mechanical machines are like animals (more or less plainly, since they often directly replace labor animals.) Because thinking machines cannot know but what is in their code, they have no concept of being limited - or, at least, no feasible way to transcend their state. Likewise, we humans can grasp that we have limitations to what we can do, but simply by merit of what we are cannot transcend them.

For instance, I cannot grow wings and fly.

In a rough sense, my computer cannot divide by zero and get a meaningful or useful answer. It gets an answer which is de facto beyond that scope of its existence, that is, an idea.

Machines are only as human as their creator, and no more than that.

Which would explain all of the bugs in my code...

3/21/2007 04:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bob,

You're 50, aren't you?

3/21/2007 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

River Cocytus,

For the illustration you're making, the use of 'thinking machine' is probably fine... (the power!), but keep in mind that the computer makes no mistakes. Nada. None whatsoever. Never ever does a computer make an error.

It only and always produces results in accordance with the laws of physics applied to the code and hardware and conditions present. The result may not be what the poor programmer intended, but the only error is between what the programmer intended, and the result that had to occur as determined by the actual laws of physics applied through the code and hardware and conditions present.

"thinking machine" is a convenience we use to describe result we interpret as seemingly intuitive & smart, but what we see are only those effects resulting from physics, code and hardware designed and organized by a thinking person (coders perspective, not pointy haired mgr's), to do 'pleasing' things for the user.
In substance the computer is no more intelligent than a light switch, and no matter how elaborate the programming, fuzzy logic & brilliantly foresightful coding of us coders, it will only ever produce results, not thinking, in just the same way as a light switch being flipped, or a rubber ball being dropped.

Those pursuing Aritficial Intelligence with the actual intent of producing not more useful results, but Intelligence, would do far better to pursue artificial error than intelligence, because until a 'creature' can recognize error, whatever it may be doing, it will not be engaging in thought.

But again, before error or truth can be used in relation to a 'thinking machine', it first has to have consciousness, and that is not just an elaborate flipping of switches - it is that mysterious non-local something that inhabits the central juncture of all the biological or mechanical switches... and VB, C#, C++, Pascal... whatever, I don't think is ever going to reduce it to a codebase.

3/21/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Well, again, what I simply meant is that an AI has a 'relatively absolute' freedom within the constraints of what it is programmed to do. Since we (as humans) are imperfect, our little images (machines) have errors that result in our own imperfect 'logos'. It does 'follow' the physics precisely, but that is like saying we as humans 'follow' the physics precisely: of course we do! When we eat, if there is HCl in our stomachs, it digests in the way it should... etc.

The machine's liberty is limited by our liberty; or our ability to confer it; just as our own liberty is limited by God. In this way a truly 'thinking' machine will be 'free' in the same way we are 'free' to God. Which is to say, not really at all. Now, since we are not omniscient or perfect, we cannot foresee all of the potential actions resulting from what we 'programmed'. Whereas it would seem, God (being infinite and whatnot) knows and allows error.

The intuition I have on this point is, that the machine can only inhabit a 'dimension' one lower than its creator or maintainer/user. It is in this same way that animals tend to absorb the characteristics of their owners.

Which is to say; I don't think machines CAN have (real) intelligence. Because to confer intelligence requires transcending IT entirely; which is not something a human can do. (Rather for humans our intelligence is something we are sealed into like a vessel; it is something that allows us to transcend all else, but we cannot transcend it with breaking ourselves.)

Which is to say, in another way, I think Schoun had a bit too much Luddite in him when he describes machines.

If we think of Machines instead as 'Constructs', then it generalizes them; then compare 'Constructs' (created by man) to 'Creatures' (created by God). Thus a machine is analogous beneath the man to potentially any created thing beneath God. And in the same fashion, Machines are both outside of us- necessarily having to have emanated (been constructed) and within us (they are also an idea- their function requires us to have something within us that tells us what they do or how to use them.)

The highest goal then for a machine is, to be 'maniform', which is to say, as a man will never BECOME a God or God himself, nonetheless he will be drawn up into him; just as the most perfect and well designed machine will not become Human but will be indistiguishable from its user -- in that the machine itself becomes fully 'maniform' -- not taking away from the humanity of its builder but (in the same sense that we cannot take away from God or remove from Him) fulfills his purpose.

Thus a good car -- you do not become 'one with it', but rather, it must become 'one with you'. Then, four wheels become like your legs, the engine like an extension of your pulse, and the hull like a new skin. This is the way it is for the most skilled racers. But-- on the same token it cannot become 'personal', because it is a material thing. But then again, it is just like the body which while we value, is material and must pass away.

That's my 'ethos machina'.

3/21/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Also, yes-- artificial error. I think it is a key to 'artificial creativity', Van, and probably the door to real 'artificial intelligence' as opposed to 'advanced searching and goal-seeking' which is what passes for AI nowadays.

Also, this is important; while they say, "RTFM", which is a way of saying, "I'm too lazy to answer your technical question" which is, knowing programmers, perfectly understandable, we also know with perfect certitude that while there is indeed an entry for 'man rock' and possibly 'man "how to rock"' it is never, ever used: Thoroughly proving there exists a clear exception for the rule of 'Read the Freakin' Manual'. Or, rather, I don't need no instructions to know how to rock.

Whichever you prefer.

3/21/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

RC said "...Well, again, what I simply meant is that an AI has a 'relatively absolute' freedom within the constraints of what it is programmed to do."

I know I'm being picky on this, but I think it's one of those BIG little things that are important to pick to death.

Freedom and machine go together as well as freedom and pebble. I wouldn't say that a pebble's freedom was limited within the constraints of the rock it was created from, I'd say it's properties might be essentially those of what it was created from, but in a metaphysical discussion it isn't appropriate for inanimate matter to receive animate properties, and freedom is pretty much exclusive to the animated.

You could say that machines are 'limited' to those properties we are able to design and build for them, but they are still only inanimate stuff. If we ever figure out how to make a machine somehow... I don't know, 'hospitable'?... able to 'house' consciousness? The consciousness will not be a product of the machinery or code, and while the consciousness housed within the machine may be limited in the scope of it's actions to those which the code and machinery are designed to perform, they will be separate - and 'freedom' in the metaphysical sense will never apply to the machine 'body'; and the machines body isn't really analagous to our material body, because ours (or cats or racoons, etc) is made of animate, living material - infinitely distant and separated from that of inanimate machinery.

3/21/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Well, again, I'm not suggesting that a machine can be, 'living'. Nor what we regard as 'animate' or 'intelligent'.

But a Machine is a Construct, generally referring to anything from a rake to a Cray supercomputer, and thus we impart on a machine (instead for instance, a pebble.) part of ourselves, an 'image' if you will; this is part of how we are deiform.

Constructs are infinitely separated from say, God, in an uncountable order; but they are in no ways the same as a rock, a drop of water, or a body of air. It might be said that because of human limitation, we are limited as to what we can impart on a machine; but they are not inanimate in the same sense 'substance' or 'substance made form' as matter is.

Thus people always seek to make machines like humans; they will never succeed in making an actual human machine; if we as souls and spirits are like drops of water from God's ocean; Machines cannot be the same drops as they come from us and not created by God (though in a sense we are still part of him, so in a sense they are, but that is something else entirely.) God imparts soulishness and spirit because he is transcendent, entire and complete as spirit; we are not; but it is said that our intellect is total, which is to say, able to comprehend anything intelligible. Thus we impart a 'partial' intelligence or a drop if you will, upon machines. So as we are 'container' in the spirit and God becomes what fills us, constructs including houses, tools, vehicles, and so on, become 'containers' in the world of the mind, and we become what fills them and gives them purpose. In that sense, the distinction between soulless (closed to or not imaged from God) and soulish (informed or entered of God) holds between inanimate objects and Constructs. The inanimate object becomes a construct perhaps when it becomes a container for an idea or a purpose. In the world of the soul/mind it changes 'infinitely'. Part of what, for instance, a sculptor does is take the stone and transform it in his mind first, or the truly great sculptor lets God do the transforming, and his hands just do the physical work.

But again, I guess you disagree on this point, but I see it extremely important to ethics in regards to machines.

3/21/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

How about this?
If the Human is the transcendent animal, then the Machine is the transcendent object.

3/21/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

RC said "ethics in regards to machines",
Oh... uhm, what? Have you looked up the definition of 'Ethics' lately? Been reading 'I, Robot' recently?

"Thus we impart a 'partial' intelligence or a drop if you will, upon machines. So as we are 'container' in the spirit and God becomes what fills us, constructs including houses, tools, vehicles, and so on, become 'containers' in the world of the mind, and we become what fills them and gives them purpose."

To my mind, Machines, by dint of our internal mental associations, can take on characteristics and become icons or focal points for our projections, but the source and soul substance is within consiousness - not the machine. The machine is but an object, any trancendance occurs within our sphere.

I think I see where you're driving at with this, but looks to me like the offramp is full of potholes. Guess I'll have to pass on going further with you on this, still it is a nice day for a drive, enjoy... (the power!)

3/21/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Yes, I agree Van, I have the concept but I'm having difficulty putting it into a good, clear, comprehensible form. Alas!

PS- to my knowledge, ethics refers to how a moral state ought to be (whereas morality refers to things as they are...) in regards to good/evil.

So in this sense, I'm referring to the 'moral state' for which I think machines ought to occupy. Now, I'm trying to apply concepts (hopefully well so) that I have been learning lately.

3/21/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

River,
A fairly standard definition of Ethics is "The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.", assumed to be applied to conduct between people, or of a person towards their self - which is why I'm not seeing the position of a machine in the equation.

You might be able to describe healthy human actions towards machines, reflective of the persons psychology (getting out of my pay-grade here), you know, screaming at the water cooler not being a real healthy indication of the persons mental state; but I don't see ethics coming into the equation between men & machines on its own....

3/21/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"referring to the 'moral state' for which I think machines ought to occupy"... how can something with no free will be said to occupy any kind of a moral state? Again, as above, an indication of the persons moral/mental state might be surmised from their actions towards any object, animate or inanimate, but the moral state of a machine?
... I'm not getting it.

3/21/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Hmm, well, it is apparent that I will need to secure a reasoning for the idea of 'ethics between men and machines'. Or, 'ethics regarding machines'. Typically, I think this is limited to just how your machines interact with other humans, basically meaning its just another way to say regular ethics.

By Moral State, one can only mean 'within man', as I see the only philosophical distinction between a tool/construct/machine and an ordinary inanimate object as lying in the mind. In other words, machines are inanimate objects, but what makes them more than that is how we conceive of them - and how that leads us to shape, use and treat them. That's kind of straightforward, I think.

However, in my mind, one can't treat a machine (or any other construct) in the same way one treats firstly simple inanimate objects, and secondly, other machines (necessarily.) Or, for that matter, thirdly, as one treats an animal, or another human being.

What I'm expressing is not 'ethical treatment' in the sense of say, PETA, (God forbid.) But rather in the sense that we make machines what they are, and what we make them stems from how we conceive of them in our minds. I think there is a misunderstanding that goes, "Machines dehumanize." My aim is to firstly dispel this as a general principle, and secondly to explain or determine when it is true and when it is not.

My idea is that a machine (or construct) ought to be humanizing, not human, and ought to be whatever it is supposed to be unapologetically-- for instance I see no need for cars to be tiny econoboxes-- if you want to haul rocks, you need something that can haul rocks. In their misunderstanding, I think, of what machines are, some people strangle them, defame them and in the end cause them to be dehumanizing. Econoboxes are dehumanizing. They're all very similar, standardized, not very fun, mostly ugly, and so on.

Computers are the same way. It is only when we impose particular inhuman ideologies on the development and usage of machines that I think, do they serve to dehumanize us. In other words, its not the machines dehumanizing us, but we ourselves. Thus, the ethics with which we regard machines (if one can say such a thing is possible) is ethics in the sense that it determines how our machines effect others.

Again, this is just an idea I've been tossing around-- as you are well aware, most of my ideas are a bit out there, and perhaps should never have left my fingers...

Perhaps it would be better to say, "The Ethics of the effects of Machines on Man, or Ethos Machina." What I'm saying is, machines are an extension of man and only as human and humanizing as their creator(s) and user(s).

And important point number two: Machines made by man (which all known machines are) cannot become man. It is inadvisable to make them seem literally human, truly intelligent, having absolute liberty, or other such things which make man, man. In my later musings, I considered that if God's liberty is Absolutely absolute, and man's is relatively absolute, then the machine's is at best relatively relative.

Regardless of the rosy pictures painted by many science fiction writers and others, I do not think it possible for a machine to have a soul.

Eh, anyway. Thanks for the help, Van.

3/22/2007 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

PS - this would explain why the preponderance (not ALL) of machines are invented and built by men.

3/22/2007 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

River Cocytus said "I think there is a misunderstanding that goes, "Machines dehumanize." My aim is to firstly dispel this as a general principle... My idea is that a machine (or construct) ought to be humanizing"

I think you're on to something there.

People do tend to scapegoat (oh... there's a bunch a ways that term can take us) machines. They do tend to become something which people use as an excuse for their mistakes and failures. They take out (project?) on machines frustrations and misbehavior as an easy way to avoid resolving their own shortcomings. As a techy, I'm sure you've heard variations of "Stupid computer! Messed up all my work!", when it was their failure to do their work properly that caused their problems. The machine becomes a way to beat up "the cause of" their errors without harming themselves (they think), and that does draw down from their own store of... (crud, gotta run can't find the right word, try this) Verticality.

I still think ethics is the wrong term here... it's almost a behavior towards self, while using a convenient defenseless standin for their inadequacies.

Hmm.

3/22/2007 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Vanopolis (if I may use the handle) I'm actually writing this stuff out on my home page, so if you ever feel like dropping a word in here or there, feel free. I have my first post up, and again, 'Ethos' may be a stretch, but until we can come up with a term that describes it (brilliant wordsmiths, come to my aid...!) it may have to do.

3/22/2007 10:10:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home