The Cosmic No: Truth and its Oppositional Opponents
A bare acquaintance with the history of philosophy proves this beyond doubt. Philosophers cannot even agree on the questions, let alone the answers, so it becomes the proverbial "journey of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing." In the absence of religion, there is simply no way to exit this closed circle of thought, for religion is nothing more or less than a leap through the hole that has been conveniently planted in the (vertical) center, or "heart" of the cosmos. To be perfectly inaccurate, there is an upside-down Tree of Life that grows from this hole, its roots aloft, its branches and leaves down here below.
In fact, for the most part, philosophers have given up asking the big questions as unanswerable, the result being that contemporary philosophy has become analogous to the drunken Dupree who looks for his keys under the street lamp because that's where the light is. People ask why I gave Dupree a miner's helmet for his last birthday, and this is why. Now, when he's stumbling around looking for something in the middle of the night, he can pass beyond the horizon of the dim little 60-watt out in the garage.
Is there something comparable to a miner's helmet for the human mind, so that we may carry our own headlight with which to examine truth, instead of restricting truth to the narrow area that is lit up by the scientific method? Few scientists even think about metaphysics, but science is implicitly rooted in what is called ontological monism. As such, it begins with an a priori faith in the idea that the world is materially and logically self-sufficient, and that no outside causes need be evoked to explain or account for anything. Therefore, the materialistic scientist necessarily believes in a closed system from which it is impossible to escape:
"Any scientific inquiry is carried out under the rubric of rational thinking, which has a limited domain of application (an epistemological horizon) that predetermines its ontology [emphasis mine]. It is always difficult for science to transcend this horizon and to judge its ontological statements from the outside, from the epistemological frame that transcends the world (into the realm of existence not embraced by science), because this 'outside' is not identified by science as a comprehensible, objective reality" (Nesteruk).
Yesterday we spoke of Jim Morrison, and the postfabricated romantic mythology surrounding him. In fact, as the Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement properly pointed out, there is an aspect of Morrison's life that had some truth to it. That is, his frenzied Dionysian attempt to break on through to the other side by any means necessary was simply his struggle to sever those darn surly bonds of ontological monism and blast off into inner space. Does it work? Yes and no. This is precisely what I was referring to on page 216 of the Coonifesto, where I wrote that
"Although it would be misleading and sanctimonious to dismiss this approach as fruitless, it doesn't present itself as a sustainable lifestyle, nor may it be consistent with the relatively long life required to achieve a stable (¶) [i.e., vertically oriented nous, or psychic being]. For other, more sober types, these tantalizing flashes of an alternate reality may become the initial motivation for a more methodical spiritual practice that attempts to follow (?!) back upstream to their source in O. Only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something that is felt as a continuous presence."
I know this is true because I went through my own dionysian phase, as does most any young man who passes through the bacchanalia sometimes known as academia. But as the cliche goes, "if you remember the '60s, you weren't there." Indeed, that is the problem: how to transform altered states -- which are available to anyone -- into altered traits.
Here again, Christopher Hitchens' acknowledged immoderate consumption of spiritual lubricants to escape the implications of his own dead metaphysics comes to mind. In reality, he cannot tolerate the infrahuman, crimped little world he has created, so he must secretly escape it. If he were to be completely honest, he would say that this is his truth and his metaphysics: that there is an escape! You just call it God, I call it booze! Likewise, I think we can agree on what would constitute "hell" for Hitchens. It may or may not be hot, but it would certainly be dry.
At any rat, a proper human liver must metabolize Truth, which in turn requires a leap of faith. Conversely, the vain cynic who is intoxicated with his ability to say "no" is like a spiritual anorexic, in more ways than none. For beneath the anorexic's rejection of food are issues of trust, control, and fear of dependency. Food is imbued with all of the ambivalence felt toward the original love object, so the control of food is ultimately a strategy for controlling this unconscious Other.
I'm not an expert on anorexia, but back when I was in graduate school, there was a book entitled Starving to Death in a Sea of Objects. I have no idea whether it is still considered valid, but the author's point was that the anorexic gains a sense of power and control through what she can reject, as opposed to what she can assimilate. It is the power of No.
When I saw Hitchens flogging his new anti-theistic puerilemic on the Daily Show the other day, it occurred to me that I was seeing the intoxicating power of the cosmic No in all its nakedly cynical glory. I know this feeling, because I used to be that way. I remember the sense of exhilaration, the self-satisfied "aren't I clever!," that accompanied the intellectual thrashing of a feeble man of faith.
But although I always won the argument, only now, in hindsight, is it obvious to me that I never won the Argument. Rather, winning was just another form of losing, for it was simply the cosmic No imagining that it had vanquished the cosmic Yes, just because this particular Yes came across as an unsophisticated yahoo. Even the most dense sort of No can do this. It requires no skill, just a rudimentary grasp of reason detached from Reason.
And if you don't know what I mean by the "dense No," just try perusing Dailykos or Huffpo. Anything they say about science, God, or philosophy is the most bovine sort of No you could imagine. A two year-old could do it. And as a matter of fact, as you parents out there know, this is the age that the cosmic No enters the human lexicon. Furthermore, the No is all about control, not about truth. The developing child begins to build a sense of mastery, boundaries, and control by saying "No!" But I am reminded of something Bobby Knight once said about sportswriters: "All of us learn to write by the 4th grade. Most of us move on."
As Nesteruk writes, "Science never questions how to free itself from the necessity of [ontological monism].... It is simply an impossibility, because science cannot make an ecstatic exit from its own monistic boundaries in order to evaluate itself from a broader epistemological perspective -- that is, science is not able to develop an awareness that the world has no grounds of its being in this being. If this were to happen, science would cease to be just an exploration of the outward world; it would transform into a metascientific enterprise conducting a quest for general principles of the knowledge and foundations of the world."
And as the Lizard King himself might have mumbled through the beerlight, "As soon as philosophical scientists realize that science cannot overcome the monistic ontological necessity in its epistemology and ontology on its own, they will become prepared to start thinking of the breakthrough beyond its boundaries by appealing to open epistemology" (Nesteruk, emphasis mine).
In short, one patriculates to ontological dualism, or the open system of Father and Son, or the abbasolute and his adopted relativity. And one does this by responding with a Yes! to this source and ground, and by opening his presence of the miner's helmet of divine revelation.
And what do I see with my fleshlight? Well, for one thing, I see dead people.
In Finnegans Wake, Anna Livia Plurabelle is the carrier of the Eternal Yes.... To Anna, fittingly, is given the last word of the dissolving dream. Seemingly, this last word loops back to join immediately with the first. But in that suspended tick of time... a brave renewal has taken place.... The dream and the strange book that celebrates it will have more to say the second time, inflecting more exquisitely and abundantly the timeless story of that slow combustion which ever consumes and sustains itself in the interior of the spinning atom, in the living world, and in the soul of man. --Joseph Campbell, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake