Just Passin' Through: Coordinates and Gaps in the Hyperdimensional Godhead
I don't know. I'm thinking about it.
Let's see. Perhaps we can compare the situation to dogs and people. Obviously, a human being has many "dimensions," so to speak, that a dog doesn't. So how is a dog supposed to understand a human? He can't. Not really. Or just a very narrow "frequency" out of the totality. I remember about 15 years ago, when we were training our first dog. The big breakthrough occurred when the trainer explained that we might think of the dog as a dog, but she doesn't think of us as human. In order to get into her world, you have to think like a dog. Dogs have an elaborate nonverbal language that you have to tap into. Basically, you want them to consider you the alpha dog.
But that analogy can't be quite right, because although dogs aren't made in the image of man, nine out of ten sages agree that man is made in the image of God. If this is correct, then a certain kind of applied introspection can lead to accurate intuitions about God, just as knowledge of God can lead to wisdom and self-understanding.
Interestingly, Orthodox Christianity emphasizes this two-way movement, with Athanasius of Alexandria's formula that "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." Therefore, only God's kenosis, or self-emptying, makes possible theosis, or union with God. As such -- since we are the image and likeness -- our own self-emptying would apparently be a prerequisite for theosis. And this is indeed what all mystical paths emphasize in one form or another, the three part process of purgation/purification, illumination, and union -- which has certain shared points of reference to the aspiration-rejection-surrender theme we discussed a couple of weeks ago.
Last week I mentioned that a photograph, painting, or any perception at all is actually a geometrical transformation that maintains certain coordinates and dimensions while distorting others. For example, this is why we can all recognize the simple "have a nice day" smiley face as a smiling face. You can transform a human face with just a couple of dots and a semi-circle and still recognize a face (even infants can do this). It is also why we can view a two-dimensional movie and experience it as three-dimensional. We subconsciously employ certain coordinates, or "invariants," to project the missing dimension.
In linguistics -- I think I'm more or less right about this, but I could be making this up -- a declension occurs when a more general term is modified to become a particular case. In a certain sense, it means that potentiality is reduced to actuality. I believe we can see that scripture operates in the same way, in that the Absolute in itself can have no interlocutor, no mediator, no middle term, not even a "here" and "there" -- "for no man shall see me and live" (Rabbi Mo).
To a certain extent, this accounts for the inevitable "incoherence" of religion, which cannot not be. The reason is that scripture is a description -- a declension -- expressed in our terms of something that vastly exceeds the terms of expression. For example, imagine a flat sheet of paper, where two-dimensional beings live. None of them knows anything about the third dimension. Now imagine your hand moving through the sheet of paper. What would that look like to the two-dimensional beings? First of all, they wouldn't see a hand. First they might see a point -- the tip of a finger -- expanding into a circle. Eventually they would see five points expanding into separate circles. But then those circles would merge and blend into one larger oval (the palm), followed by a smaller circle at the wrist. And then everything would disappear as the arm moved through.
Now, if God is a hyperdimensional object (or subject-object), perhaps we need to take a lesson from this. Supposing that for the flatlanders, the Mysterious Arm is God. But their description of the arm would be very distorted. In fact, they would experience what is actually a singular object in space as a series of events playing out in time. Could it be therefore that we experience God in the same way -- as the "playing out in time" of what is unified and whole on a higher dimension?
"I am Alpha and Omega." "Before the world was, I AM." "When He prepared the heavens, I was there." "Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end." "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being" (Gospel of Thomas), "Lucky is the blind man who can feel a woman's wrist and learn everything he needs to know about the rest of her" (Gospel of Ray Charles).
Bearing in mind what we said above about transformation, perception, coordinates, and invariance, Schuon writes that "Religious formulations limit themselves to enunciating points of reference without being too concerned with outward coherence, although from another point of view, the mythic and symbolic image always evokes a profound and lived reality" [i.e., something higher than that which maps it]. For example, "the history of Adam and Eve may clash with a certain need for logic, but we bear it deeply within ourselves, and it is this inherence of the sacred image which on the one hand justifies it and on the other explains a relatively easy adherence to it."
Thus, "it is precisely the surface contradictions, the fissures so to speak which, by a crowning paradox, offer the decisive points of reference for the discovery of the metaphysical homogeneity of doctrines or symbols that are at first sight disparate."
What is Schuon saying? That the gaps and fissures in scripure are more like points of entry which testify to its higher dimensional reality -- just as the five fingers passing through flatland testify to the existence of the hand. But in Flatland, there would undoubtedly be philosophers and skeptics who would look at the same data and conclude that the gaps were evidence of incoherence, not coherence. They literally could not "see the big pitcher," which is to say, Randy Johnson's left arm passing through Flatbush on the way to Manhattan.
The point is this. Being that we are in the image of God, "the sacred truth is part of our soul." Therefore, to begin to comprehend it, you must see how the truths embedded in scripture are a transformation of your own self. Or, you might say that revelation is a memo from your higher (dimensional) self to your lower self. And this is why it is such a -- I won't say "sin," but a shame -- to seek only a literal understanding of scripture, thereby interpreting it in terms of the lowest human way of knowing it. In other words, in doing this, you eliminate all of the higher dimensions and deeper connections. And we're back to dogs, Beethoven, and tone-deaf atheists.
For example, take one of the many works of Bach which stand as an eternal monument to the transdimensional God. Even an atheist can appreciate this music on his own level. But what will specifically be denied him -- or what he denies himself -- is the Real Presence from which the music flows and to which it stands as testimony. But can a single work of Back possibly encapsulate that object? Yes and no. If he were alive today, he would still be cranking out his aural monuments to divinity, since a higher dimension cannot be exhausted in a lower one. There is literally no end to the forms which a higher dimension can take in a lower one. And yet, they are all one. And who has the musical vision to "integrate" all of the musical gaps between Bach's indivdual works, and apprehend the higher dimensional unity from which they flow?
I'm guessing that there's some mystico-musically gifted person out there who has done it. In a way, this is again what Joyce was attempting in Finnegans Wake: to describe the single hyperdimensional object as it passes through our world as the experience of "history." Joyce simply took seriously the idea that "time is the moving image of eternity." And if that's true, then every passing moment is a unique and priceless snapshot of the eternal Magic Mountain.
And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that could be written. --John 21:25