The Spiritual World and the Animal Environment
So, what does it all mean, anyway? Alfred North Whitehead defined philosophy as the pursuit of that question. As I have mentioned before, I'm not a bitter person, but I do still mildly resent what leftism has done to our educational system, because it took me half my life to unlearn all the leftst brain-washing and soul-dirtying and rearrive at where my philosophical endeavors should have started to begin with. I wasted so much time learning things that are not only wrong but harmful to the soul and incompatible with true happiness or fulfillment.
I hate to say this, because it sounds immodest or presumptuous, but these outwardly unpleasant little transitional phases I go through always have an implicit lesson, in that they 1) teach me not to take my (ab?)normal state of mind for granted, and 2) reacquaint me with the flatland world in order to better comprehend those souls who are stuck there permanently and have never been lifted above it. I don't know how anyone can stand to live there. It's just so... cramped... and ill-furnished.
What in the world is the world? Or, to put it another way, what kind of world is the world of man, and is it the same as the world? These questions are addressed in an enjoyable book I'm currently reading, For Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, by Josef Pieper. One of the themes Pieper develops is the idea that all other animals merely live in a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world.
For example, many people assume that all animals with eyes see the same object, when this is patently untrue. Pieper cites the example of a certain bird that preys on grasshoppers, but is incapable of seeing the grasshopper if it isn't moving. Only in leaping does the grasshopper become distinct from the background -- which is why many insects "play dead." In their resting form, not only are they "dead," but they are literally invisible. It is as if they drop into a hole and no longer exist in the world of the predator. Even if the bird were starving, it could search and search, and yet, never find the unmoving grasshopper right under its beak. In short, the animal cannot transcend its biological boundaries, even with an organ -- the eye -- seemingly equipped for the task.
Pieper quotes the biologist Uexküll, who distinguishes the animal's environment from the actual world. As he writes, "The environments of animals are comparable in no way to open nature, but rather to a cramped, ill-furnished apartment." Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally did not come into exstence until human beings happened upon the scene.
But given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible. Like the bird looking for the immobile grasshopper, we could find neither "the world" nor "God," despite diligent searching. But if science is possible, then God is necessary. Or, to put it another way, since God exists, science is possible.
Pieper writes that the human spirit is not so much defined by the property of immateriality as it is "by the ability to enter into relations with Being as a totality," in a way that clearly transcends our mere animal-environmental boundaries. (Interesting, isn't it, that the cult of global warming mostly appeals to those flatlanders who elevate the environment to the world? It is very much a religion for the folks mired down in 2D.)
Now, as Schuon always emphasized, the intellect properly so-called (i.e., nous) is not restricted to an environment. Rather, it is "relatively absolute" and therefore able to know the world. As Pieper writes, "it belongs to the very nature of a spiritual being to rise above the environment and so transcend adaptation and confinement," which in turn explains "the at once liberating and imperiling character with which the nature of spirit is immediatly associated."
This is what I was driving at on p. 92 of my book:
"Just as first singularity was an explosion into (and simultaneous creation of) material space-time, and the second singularity a discontinuous 'big bang' into the morphic space of biological possibility, the third singularity was an implosion into a trans-dimensional subjective space refracted through the unlikely lens of a primate brain. Up to the threshold of the third singularity, biology was firmly in control of the hominids, and for most of evolution, mind (such as it was) existed to serve the needs of the primate body. Natural selection did not, and could not have, 'programmed' us to know reality, only to survive in a narrow 'reality tunnel' constructed within the dialectical space between the world and our evolved senses."
But then suddenly Darwin was cast aside and "mind crossed a boundary into a realm wholly its own, a multidimensional landscape unmappable by science and unexplainable by natural selection"; humans ventured out of biological necessity and "into a realm with a vastly greater degree of freedom, well beyond the confining prison walls of the senses."
I suppose natural selection can explain our adaptation to an environment, but it cannot explain our discovery and comprehension of the world. Pieper quotes Aristotle, who wrote that "the soul is in a way all existing things." What did he mean by this? What he meant was that the soul is able to put itself in relation to the totality of Being. While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to grasp Being as a whole.
Thus -- running out of time here, but thus -- to be in Spirit is "to exist amid reality as a whole, in the face of the totality of Being." Spirit is not a world, but the world. Or, to be precise, "spirit" and "world" are reciprocal concepts, the one being impossible in the absence of the other. Science itself is a completely spiritual world, or it is no world at all, only an environment. Usually an academic environment.