On Harmonizing Oursophs with the Vespered Strains of the Song Supreme
Let's compare it to music. By definition, music makes no literal sense. This is a tautological statement, since music is not semantic but pure sound. In fact, it is the only form of communication that is made of pure sound. And yet, people can be moved to tears by music.
Van Morrison is one of the few popular musicians who performs music with the specific intention of evoking a spiritual response. Especially between about 1979 and 1991, he entered a deeply spiritual period when he attempted to convey and facilitate spiritual experience through music. And yet, you can be sure that few people who heard the music responded to it in the intended way. For them it was just an oldies show or an exercise in nostalgia, like seeing the Strolling Bones at the Super Bowl.
I only subscribe to a few magazines. One of them is Stereophile, which is sort of the bible of hi fi enthusiasts. One of the enduring debates in the hi fi world parallels our frequent discussions of overmental language, translogic, and the vertical dimension of being. You could say that it's between the objectivists and subjectivists, engineers and enginees, ears and equations, scientists and mystics. This is the topic of the lead essay of a recent edition of Stereophile, entitled The Mystery of Music, by Jason Serinus.
I remember when I purchased my first CD player in early 1990's. I was a holdout in the digital revolution, and continued listening to vinyl exclusively long after CDs were available. I eventually purchased a good CD player, and yet, when I brought it home I was very disappointed with the sound. To my ears the music sounded superficially accurate, but it was flat, dull, lifeless, and lacking in warmth. It had a palpably hollow and somewhat shrill metallic edge and was missing a certain dimension of depth or presence that analogue brings out. (Just try listening to one of the first generation unremastered CDs that came out in 1985 or 1987, and you'll hear what I mean. They sound horrible.)
To try to address the problem, I purchased a pair of decent aftermarket cables to connect the CD player to my amp and replace the cheap ones that came with the unit. Voila! Suddenly there was an added dimension of warmth and presence -- of life -- that was lacking before.
Now, number-crunching engineers will assure you that this is impossible, that a cable is a cable is a cable. In fact, it is the official policy of magazines like Consumer Reports that there is essentially no difference in sound quality between one CD player and another. It's scientifically impossible, you see. You may think that you're hearing something different, but science says you can't be. If it cannot be measured by an objective test, then it doesn't exist. You are fooling yourself.
Sound familiar? This is a perennial debate in psychology as well. For example, science knows that the unconscious cannot possibly exist, and that Freud's ideas about it have been thoroughly debunked. But if you lie (in both senses of the term) on ShrinkWrapped's threadbare couch and aimlessly ramble for a few moments about this and that, he claims the ability to peer into your very soul and understand all sorts of secrets that you've been keeping from yourself. Just like the music lover, he will experience another dimension to your communications which entirely escapes the methods of science. Unless, like me and my expensive aftermarket cables, he's just pulling the wool over his own ears and charging his sheep for the fleece.
Back to religion. In Serinus' essay, he asks, "Is it possible that those who claim that some of us cannot possibly hear what we are hearing themselves lack the facility to comprehend what we're hearing in the first place?" For many listeners, music apparently registers only as rhythm and sensation assaulting the monkey brain, whereas others, for example, hear subtle shadings of color, emotion, and spirit. How can something made of sound contain colors or shades of light and dark?
Similarly, is it possible that those who claim to comprehend religion are experiencing an entirely real dimension that communicates its properties to those who know how to experience it, but doesn't exist for those "without ears to hear?"
Let's go back to the Freudian unconscious. Strictly speaking it does not "exist," if we take the word exist in its literal sense of "standing out from" (ex-ist), like an object in space. Nor does God ex-ist. But this doesn't mean that God or the unconscious aren't real.
For one thing, God is not found in space, because space is in God. Likewise, the unconscious -- or O -- is not strictly speaking in us -- ultimately, we are in it (more on this later in the week).
When we say that something is "real," are we talking about the atoms and molecules of which it is composed? Or the physical form that we perceive with the senses? Or the thought that is able to register and comprehend the perception? If only the subatomic or the physical are real, then there is no valid knowledge at all, for there is no knowledge at the level of the senses.
God is not that which "stands out," but That from which things stand out. Thus, "exist" is not the right word for God or for the unconscious. "In-sist," perhaps. That is, higher and more subtle realities do not stand out except to those who stand in them. How do you stand in a higher world? It has no physical existence, and yet, it can only manifest in the physical.
But only if you co-upperate. If you help bring it into being. If you make it present. If you act as midwife and give birth to the Word and the Melody. Which most people can do unless they unhappyn to be a hyper-rational soul in a midwife crisis.
Robert Frost once commented that the purpose of poetry was to help the reader "trip headlong into the boundless." Somehow, poetry jolts us out of the horizontal and into a vertical inscape. What can I say? I'm not a leuny poet. So you don't have to remand me. But I do my loveall best to be a hummin' being, and trip heartlong into the rhythm of the infinite. I prefer it to standing headwrong in the finite.