Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bring Out Your Dead!

The tricky thing about being alive is that it's a perpetual balancing act between catastrophe and doom. Being alive rests upon any number of cycles, processes, and rhythms at every level of our existence, including the mental and spiritual levels. Death occurs when any of these levels becomes a closed system. Thus, it is possible to be mentally or spiritually dead even while the body lives. Obviously.

I've never been that interested in biology per se. However, I've always been fascinated by the philosophical and cosmological implications of biology -- of the fact that we just happen to find oursophs in a cosmos in which Life is possible. Biology itself is a closed system that can only tell us about already living things, which is why these doctrinaire Darwinians are so grandiose and presumptuous in belowviating on matters above and beyond the narrow limits of their competence. Biology assumes the existence of living things, and attempts to describe their workings.

But biology cannot step outside itself and pronounce on the cosmic significance of Life Itself. Only a Raccoon can do that, bearing in mind the quasi-eternal semi-mystery that That which is called the Fraternal Order of Raccoons existed among the ancients, and never did not exist, from the planting of the human race until Toots Mondello arrived in the flesh, and the Lodge he founded with Herman Hildebrand in Bensonhurst, which already existed, came to be called the Raccoons.

A long time ago, back when I wanted to be an actual scholar instead of a guerilla ontologist, I published a paper called Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure. It had to do with analyzing the mind as an open system, and trying to understand the underlying structures and mechanisms that made its evolution possible. It was based upon Ilya Prigogine's revolutionary ideas about the dynamics of dissipative structures, which are open systems that operate in far-from-equilibrium conditions and exchange matter, energy, or information with the environment. I'd show you the paper, but I don't know how to upload a PDF file from my desktop to the blog.

Yesterday I was thinking about this in the context of our genes. Our genes don't really account for much that happens to us beyond the age of 20 or so. Or, to put it another way, they more or less determine everything that happens & unhappyns, unless we actively intervene with a different, non-genetic agenda. I say this because in the "archaic environment" in which our genes were selected, most people barely survived childhood, and you were very lucky if you made it to the age of 30 -- by which time you would be an old and crippled geezer because of the extraordinarily harsh conditions of the time.

So when you think about some of the troubling aspects of human behavior, they become more comprehensible if you understand that our genes are only really designed to get us to the age of reproduction. After that, we're on our own. For example, take the type of male aggression we were discussing yesterday. It is partly fueled by testosterone, which is also one of the main reasons women outlive men.

In other words, the same hormone that causes a man to fight other men for the privilege of getting his genes into the next generation, also causes him to die significantly younger once the job is done. Really, when we talk about any genetically caused disease that occurs after the age of 30 or so, we're dealing with something that didn't have much relevance in the archaic environment. For example, my diabetes -- which is completely genetic, as far as anyone knows -- didn't strike until I was 48. In the archaic environment it wouldn't have mattered, because I would have been dead by that age anyway.

But the whole point of human existence is that, unlike other animals, we don't merely live at the biological level. Rather, we mainly live on the psychological and spiritual levels, which are no less ontologically real than the biological level. In fact, as it so happens, they are more real, as they are closer to the source of existence, the Absolute Real.

That is, in order to have a cosmos -- any cosmos -- there must be order, and if there is order, there must be hierarchy. The realms of matter, life, mind and spirit (and there are additional degrees within each of these levels) are all reflections of this ordered hierarchy. It is not as if we begin with dead matter, to which life and mind are somehow magically added. This is an absurd proposition which denies the other half of evolution -- which indeed makes it possible -- which is involution. Involution is ontologically prior to evolution, and both sets its limits and determines its possibilities. This idea is captured in the ancient Christian formula that God became man so that man might become [or attain to] God. Another way of saying it is that the Absolute became the relative so that the relative might become the Absolute, or Brahman became maya so that maya might become Brahman. It is the underlying metaphysical principle that matters, not its exact formulation.

In such a cosmos, life and mind are not the impossible riddles of science, but inevitable mysteries rooted in "the nature of things." Yes, it's exceedingly weird that we are alive, but only if you detach yourself -- as modern people have increasingly tended to do for the past couple hundred years -- from the rest of the existentialada.

For this reason, modern sophisticates look down, say, on Christianity as an atavistic sort of fairy tale, which I suppose it is if you are only living at the biological level. For it is addressed to the Spiritual Man, not the animal man. In its own way, it is just as "scientific" as science, only with a science appropriate to the spiritual level. Not only can reductionistic science not ascend to this level (obviously), but it denies its existence. This is no less absurd than a physicist denying the existence of life just because it is impossible to derive biology from physics. It's true that you cannot get from physics to biology. Nevertheless life lives.

You also cannot get from biology to Truth, Wisdom, Beauty, or Virtue. Nevertheless, these transcendent ideals are real, in fact, among the "first fruits" of the involution of the Real. No truly human life -- either individually or collectively -- is possible without living in their light. Which is why scientism, materialism and atheism are such childishly monstrous philosophies.

Now, I have no idea where I'm going with this. Once again, the boy was up last night with a fever, and now he's starting to wake up. Therefore, to the extent that any of this has a point, we might have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it is. But at least I know I'm alive, since I'm sitting here amidst uncertainty and doubt, wating for a handout from Petey.

I guess these thoughts were provoked by reading a chapter in Kallistos Ware's The Inner Kingdom called Go Joyfully: The Mystery of Death and Resurrection. With respect to the spiritual level of our existence, Ware writes that "there exists, hidden within each one of us, a secret treasure house, an inner Kingdom, that is amazing in its depth and variety. It is a place of wonder and joy, a place of glory, a place of encounter and dialogue. If we will only 'dive' into ourself, then we shall each discover eternity within our own heart. Jacob's ladder starts from the point where I am at this very moment; the gate of heaven is everywhere. And this inner Kingdom, present within me here and now, is at the same time the Kingdom of the Age to come..."

But what makes things so confusing is that the Kingdom exists amidst such squalor, so to speak. Or at least human beings have made it so. It needn't be this way, but then again, I suppose it must. For just as Life cannot exist except as a perpetual balancing act that spans physics and biology, our spiritual life can only exist on a sort of uptightrope between man and God, relative and absolute, transcendence and immanence, O and (¶) (the latter symbol referring to the psychic being, the intellect properly so-called).

"You will be dead so long as you refuse to die," says Ware (quoting George MacDonald). "It is precisely the death of the old that makes possible the emergence of the fresh growth within ourselves, and without death there would be no new life."

Therefore, in a very important sense, death is in the service of life, and certainly did not exist prior to life (i.e., it is not real but a deprivation). We can certainly see how this is true of nature at large, which, if it were to become static, would be dead. It is only because it can constantly change and perish that it can be alive at all.

We can also see how the principle of death works on the psychological level. In order to become who you were meant to be, you must essentially kill off those parts of you that are interfering with the process and stand in the way between you and You. I see this especially vividly in my 28 month old, who is always at the boundary between past and future, between dependence and independence, between mastery of one phase and then leaving it behind in order to face a new unknown challenge. Therefore, Life itself is actually a life/death dialectic, or, you might say, death and resurrection.

Returning to the spiritual level, Ware points out how Christ's dying is a "life-creating death." In fact, this appears to have been the "take away message" of his mission. But it works on many levels. Last week we discussed Otis's spiritual impasse, which is a sort of death-in-life, not because he cannot live, but because he won't die. Or at least that's another way of looking at it. In order for us to grow psychologically and to mature spiritually, we must necessarily die, not just once, but repeatedly. As Petey quipped in One Cosmos, in order to become an extreme seeker, some disassembly is required. But only for the rest of your lifedeathlife.

Or as Ware writes, "True faith is a constant dialogue with doubt, for God is incomparably greater than all our preconceptions about Him; our mental concepts are idols that need to be shattered. So to be fully alive, our faith needs to continually die."

36 Comments:

Blogger E6B said...

Bob,

You should be able to convert the PDF file by going to "file" and selecting "save as text..."

HTH

Pat

9/04/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Thanks. I'll give it a try when I get home later.

9/04/2007 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger laketrout said...

"Thus, it is possible to be mentally or spiritually dead even while the body lives."

An interesting subject. Recommendations for further research?

Thanks

9/04/2007 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...the Fraternal Order of Raccoons existed among the ancients, and never did not exist, from the planting of the human race until..."

Let me be among the first to say it:

"I believe!"

9/04/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Gorilla ontology rocks.

9/04/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Laketrout,
"...spiritually dead even while the body lives." An interesting subject. Recommendations for further research?

Let me escort you to an observation post abutting our local mega-university...

9/04/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

New Creation Starting Now
staring at the sun
life after life after death
made for each other

9/04/2007 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> we must necessarily die, not just once, but repeatedly<<

Re: Zimmie's famous line "he not busy being born is a'busy dying" - I think, yeah, but what's the difference? (and yeah, I know what he meant)

In any event, the Z line hasn't been the same for me ever since Jimmy Carter quoted it.

9/04/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

"It is partly fueled by testosterone, which is also one of the main reasons women outlive men."

Women outlive men because they are not married to women.---Robert Kline

9/04/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Van said...

No time at the moment, but had to pass this one on, given today's title.

The Germans are ready to collect your dead, Germans Plan Colossal New Great Pyramid

Move to Germany and get your womb to tomb healthcare PLUS a Tomb with a view!

9/04/2007 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

I had the good fortune to have a copy of The Inner Kingdom, so I could double my pleasure, so to speak, reading the post and then re-reading the chapter in Ware's book.

The idea you quoted, "You will be dead so long as you refuse to die," does seem relevant to our discussion of Otis' dilemmas -- and perhaps Stu's??

Ware refers to "The long series of deaths and resurrections that we have been experiencing ever since the day we were born" -- and yet, it seems we never really welcome this "dying"!

Elsewhere, in an example I personally can dig, Ware mentions "The seed is 'buried' in the earth and there it undergoes 'death'; and then out of this 'death' comes new life. The plant that shoots up out of the ground is not identical with the seed that had died, but it is directly derived from it."

9/04/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Walt,
in spiritual practice, would not the rule of "interment first, then death" correspond to acting in faith as if one is dead to the former life and alive to the new, even when feeling the opposite?

9/04/2007 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Sounds right, Magnus. Of course, it's one thing to discuss it, and quite another when it's our own 'burial', and the "new life" is still unmanifest. It's a very personal experience, after the theories are all finished.

9/04/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Biology itself is a closed system that can only tell us about already living things, which is why these doctrinaire Darwinians are so grandiose and presumptuous in belowviating on matters above and beyond the narrow limits of their competence."

Heh! Belowviating...sounds like that last C. Hitchens debacle.
Come to think of it, it sounds like every Hitchens debacle.

9/04/2007 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

debass said...
"It is partly fueled by testosterone, which is also one of the main reasons women outlive men."

Women outlive men because they are not married to women.---Robert Kline"

Ooo! Good one, Debass!

9/04/2007 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van said:
"The Germans are ready to collect your dead, Germans Plan Colossal New Great Pyramid."

I believe this is what Alan Parsons was talkin' about with his
Pyramania project.

Or was that Def Leppard and Pyromania?

9/04/2007 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Bob, looking forward to reading: Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure
(is it gonna make my brain hurt?)

Several things lept out from today's post:

Being alive rests upon any number of cycles, processes, and rhythms at every level of our existence, including the mental and spiritual levels. Death occurs when any of these levels becomes a closed system.

In order for us to grow psychologically and to mature spiritually, we must necessarily die, not just once, but repeatedly. As Petey quipped in One Cosmos, in order to become an extreme seeker, some disassembly is required. But only for the rest of your lifedeathlife.

Quoting Ware:
there exists, hidden within each one of us, a secret treasure house, an inner Kingdom, that is amazing in its depth and variety.

It is precisely the death of the old that makes possible the emergence of the fresh growth within ourselves, and without death there would be no new life

You will be dead so long as you refuse to die

Went back & reread the Otis post "Lord Don't Move My Mountain..."
Got to musing on the Dark Nights stuff in relation to this dying/lifedeathlife & the similarity of content in comments.

As Walt said "and yet, it seems we never really welcome this "dying"!

The above & below, in no particular order, are what I'm trying organize & wonder whether other's experience is similar in any way.

Emerging from my most recent DN was like parts of Me coming back on-line, piece by piece, akin to mechanical parts spinning up to speed, with layers of cognitive function being 'available' once more. As tho Interest/Concentration/Discernment etc were not really gone, just occupied 'elsewhere'.

The new me is more Me than the before-me, tho the latter-me, each time, is hard to recollect since it was some-other-me. Sort of a reverse Dr Who situation: new-Me-in-prior-body. It's kinda weird, but has happened often enough to be sort of familiar. Repetition seems to have engendered enough 'awareness' to now feed clarity rather than confusion, as did the first several rounds.

Do the voices of the Chorus/beasties/mind parasites get loud during DNs because we don't have the where-with-all to combat them? Are they shouting because their cover is being blown? How much of the anxiety that goes with DNs is from stirring up their hornet's nest?

My own experience is that the new-Me 'sees' them & their possible root better than the before-me ever did, or was capable of. Is some part of the about-to-become-Me poking them with Prepare to Die Vermin, or at least Be Neutralized You Pests?

Each successive revamp seems to hone cognitive & spiritual 'skills': that somewhere 'in there' better/faster/stronger 'connections' got built, and everything now runs more 'smoothly' than before.

"our mental concepts are idols that need to be shattered" Ware's treatment for Hardening of the Categories?

wv:iqusv
(just asking)

9/04/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I'm reminded of something one of my art teachers said once (paraphrasing):

You must be willing to kill your "darlings" (meaning the parts of your work that you particularly like).

The point being, sometimes it is necessary to completely obliterate what you started with in order to create something that can honestly be called art. Often, we become enamored with some little piece - a patch of color, a line that gives us joy, a happy accident, or even a preliminary sketch - but this little bit perhaps doesn't work with or even have a place in the final product. It must be changed, added to, or covered over for the piece to properly grow, and until that happens the work is often at an impasse. It is so very hard to excise those parts we like best, but done correctly, the whole is usually the better for it.

9/04/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

2 points:
1) As far as genetics not reaching past the age of reproduction, that's pretty much indefinitely long for men, and as for women, the "grandmother effect", which is the enhanced survival of young when granny is around to assist and advise, is relevant (also to longer female lifespans);
2) You want/fear death? Disprove the following:
Every night when you lose consciousness in sleep, your self/identity dies. Then, awakening consists of the construction by the brain of a new identity -- with access to the previous one's memories, and hence with the illusion that it is the same "person". The only way to stave off your immanent death, tonight, is to stay awake; or in the long term, with scientific biochemical tools that eliminate the need for sleep.

Gives a whole new meaning to the adage, "Make hay while the sun shines!", doesn't it?

;)
:-p

9/04/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

"imminent", of course.

9/04/2007 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

BrianFH,

Best not to assume Bob is talking about the literal, precise role of genetic information throughout life. He is using this in a general way to illustrate a much deeper principle. Bob could no doubt "talk shop" about genetics all day long, but that's not what this blog is about.

As for the sleep/death analogy: clever word play.

Hope you'll stick around and read some of the past posts to get some context.

9/04/2007 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

ximeze:

I've dealt with a number of people with substance abuse problems, including one tragic case just a few weeks ago who was hospitalized with a blown liver at age 51 (a junior executive who hid it very well). Anyhow in the course of my reading up on the recovery "movement" (for lack of a better term) I've come across concepts which are not that different from mind parasites. One California-based group (Rational Recovery perhaps?) believes that these "creatures" have a life of their own--almost a literal biological entity--and that they will do anything to keep themselves alive, up to and including "sacrificing" the host. Put this way the behavior of addicts and drunks begins to make a bit of sense. Maybe this paradigm applies to less egregious parasites as well: they strive to survive, and will hoodwink you into thinking they're banished when they've simply gone to ground for a while.

9/04/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Walt,
indeed. Back when I listened to my Christian mystic teachers talk about being crucified with Christ, I knew all the relevant Bible verses, all the terminology and nothing of the life.

The voices in our head will try to randomly move the border stones between the seed death and hypocricy, so that each side looks like the other.

9/04/2007 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Raccoons:

Here is a link to Bob's paper:

Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure

Bob, here is the raw link if you want to use it elsewhere. That server should be up 99.9% of the time.

http://24.222.29.58/misc/BionChaos.pdf


wv: yeaennzk - Gesundheit!

9/04/2007 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

You will of course require the Adobe Reader to read Bob's paper.

Most people already have it. You'll know when you click on the link for the paper.

9/04/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous petey said...

I disavow all responsibility for this "scholarly paper." It was neither conceived nor composed with my input.

9/04/2007 07:45:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Perhaps that's the reason that so many Raccoons have are intimate with the concept of borrowed time.
Still had some dyin' yet to do...
Maybe too, that's why it gives you the willies to think about readin' the Bible because, on some level you recognize that if you do it'll kill you...

/stream of thought

JWM

9/04/2007 09:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps that's the reason that so many Raccoons are intimate with the concept of borrowed time.
Still have some dyin' yet to do...
Maybe too, that's why it gives you the willies to think about readin' the Bible because, on some level you recognize that if you do it'll kill you...

/stream of thought
and a belated proof read.
:P

JWM

9/04/2007 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

So there was no "Petey Principle"
in the paper?

That must be why Chaos entered the fray.

9/04/2007 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

I'm not dead yet...but I'm gettin' there.

9/04/2007 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ximeze said-
"The new me is more Me than the before-me, tho the latter-me, each time, is hard to recollect since it was some-other-me."

I can relate to that. Whenever I look at my older comments, or when I take the Dr. Who-mobile even further into the past, I think: "Man, I was a real retard."

Then I am even more grateful to the O nukin' the crap outta me.

9/04/2007 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Voltron said...

You know, I have to give thanks to you guys. You're on a level beyond me at the present, but as a troll (read that - thorn in the side/pain in the arse) of a liberal board or two you've given me much inspiration.

The previous post and the accompanying review of their hero Gandhi gave me much ammunition...LOL
(and I actually learn things too!)

9/04/2007 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Smoov said: "that these "creatures" have a life of their own--almost a literal biological entity--and that they will do anything to keep themselves alive, up to and including "sacrificing" the host."

Altho 'the chorus' has been present as long as I can remember(standard family joke is that 'the chorus made me do it') Bob's Testavus OCUG explained them in a way that really made sense, why they were so persistent, ducking just out of reach when pursued, & so hard to eradicate.

Bob's insights about how they get passed thru family members & spread around like viruses to large groups where members share the same 'infection' was what I had observed, but could not put my finger on. And how they replicate & morph, indeed 'alive' & sometimes running the show, hidden behind a curtain.

PS: thanks for the link to DL's paper

9/04/2007 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Voltron:
Way to go! Fun isn't it?

Have you seen "Death of a Phony" by Thomas Lifson on American Thinker?

He demolishes another Libo-Icon: playwright Arthur Miller. Plenty of ammo there. Check it out.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/09/
death_of_a_phony_moralist.html

9/04/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Voltron,

Go forth and SLAY!

Ximeze,
Hadn't known much of the political philosophy of Authur Miller. One thing I do know is that I went to see 'Death of a Salesman' starring Hal Holbrooke in Denver about a decade ago with a friend. We got up and left about halfway through because it was obvious we were wasting precious moments of our lives. Man, what a redundant downer that play was.

9/05/2007 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Fixin' to Die Blues

(First release—Booker T. Washington a.k.a. Bukka White)

Feeling funny in my mind, Lord,
I believe I'm fixing to die
Feeling funny in my mind, Lord
I believe I'm fixing to die
Well, I don't mind dying
But I hate to leave my children crying
Well, I look over yonder to that burying ground
Look over yonder to that burying ground
Sure seems lonesome, Lord, when the sun goes down

Feeling funny in my eyes, Lord,
I believe I'm fixing to die, fixing to die
Feeling funny in my eyes, Lord
I believe I'm fixing to die
Well, I don't mind dying but
I hate to leave my children crying
There's a black smoke rising, Lord
It's rising up above my head, up above my head
It's rising up above my head, up above my head
And tell Jesus make up my dying bed.

I'm walking kind of funny, Lord
I believe I'm fixing to die, fixing to die
Yes I'm walking kind of funny, Lord
I believe I'm fixing to die
Fixing to die, fixing to die
Well, I don't mind dying
But I hate to leave my children crying.

9/05/2007 08:15:00 AM  

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