What Cosmos are You Living in? (10.05.10)
Humans imagine there is a cosmos, but what do we really mean by the word? Is the universe the sum of things, or the whole of things? -- for these are two very different ideas. If it is merely the sum of things, there’s really no way to understand it, because each part is more or less independent of the other parts. But if it is the whole of things, that must mean that there is an underlying wholeness that somehow transcends and yet participates in each of the parts. Thus, to say "cosmos" is to say "unity" -- which is to say "the One," no matter how you say it.
Insofar as the universe is a whole, science cannot speak of it consistently. In other words, science, in order to be science, must treat the universe as a collection of objects, and simply assume their underlying unity -- if only to separate the scientific observer from what he observes. Like the mind itself, wholeness cannot be observed, only inferred. This leads me to believe that there is some hidden relationship between the mysteries of consciousness and wholeness. In short, the one cannot exist without the other -- they are somehow reflections of each other.
Every sense perception is an act of division within prior wholeness. Only the particular is ever observed, and there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. But every mental act is an act of synthesis and integration -- of bringing particulars together into a wholeness that reveals their meaning. Thus “the cosmos” is the ultimate scientific act of mental synthesis, very much the material equivalent of conceiving of God -- who also represents an absolute integrity and cohesion that we can never perceive in its a priori fulness with our senses.
For this reason, we can say that the cosmos is the exterior of God, while God is the interior of the cosmos (while not limiting God to that). Conceiving of either is only possible because human beings are able to intuit both the wholeness and withinness of things. We are able to conceive the Absolute not because it is a fanciful wish, but because it is the inner reality that subtends everything; in other words, the Absolute is the necessary condition for conceiving it.
All bad philosophies -- which is to say, almost all philosophies -- take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events (much less how we can know that it exists).
The religionist doesn’t have this problem. Judeo-Christian traditions affirm that “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, there is a prior unity called “God” underlying the apparent division between the celestial and earthly realms -- the vertical and the horizontal, consciousness and matter, whole and part, knower and known, yin and yang, guys and dolls. Religion teaches: where there is apparent duality there is wholeness and unity, whatever the duality. Even life/death. Woo hoo!
The Mundaka Upanishad takes the story of existence back even further than Genesis, affirming that “Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.” In other words, the creator God -- Yahweh, Brahma, the Father -- is himself an aspect of an even deeper unity, called Brahman, the Ground (by Meister Eckhart) or the Ain Sof (in Judaism), for even God (like the youman beastlings that mirror him) must possess a relative outside but an infinite inside.
In the absence of revelation -- either “given” or “intuited” -- there is no way to know about either the cosmos or its "parent," or source. Reduced to natural reason, human beings are like spiders spinning concepts out of their own substance and then living in and crawling about on them, catching the occasional meal. In fact, if the secular black window spider is going to be honest, he will have to admit that all he can ever know is his own web, which was Kant’s point. Kant took profane philosophy as far as it could go, which is why most philosophy since has merely been a footnote on Kant.
For you have a choice that you must make at the outset: either we live our lives in an illusory, phenomenal universe, cut off from the noumenal reality. Or, because we are made in the image of the Creator, we can know the absolute in both its material and immaterial, supernatural aspects. The former aspect of the absolute subtends science, while the latter makes it possible to know transcendentrialities such as love, truth and beauty, being-conscousness-bliss, father-son-holy spirit, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, kether-hokmah-binah, or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.
Thus, secular philosophies create a problem where there is none. First, they exile us from the cosmos, and then complain that we can’t get back in. True, we are exiled in maya. But religion goes to great lengths to explain that as well, including how to cure us of that particular metaphysical illness. Scripture fully anticipated Kant and all of his followers in the allegory of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, you have free will, so you are therefore free to nourish yourself from that particular tree. But just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of spiritual malnutrition.
Of course, this doesn’t stop scientists from talking about the universe and making all sorts of absolute claims about it. In fact, science has hijacked the universe concept, and will permit no one else to make statements about it on pain of ridicule, ostracism, and ACLU lawsuits. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki writes, it is as if all of the central banks had been taken over by counterfeiters. So much of scientific epistemology and ontology is based on intellectual “funny money” that is not fungible into any underlying reality.
Like leftists who are only concerned with the distribution of wealth rather than its creation, secularists are only concerned with the propagation of "truth" rather than the specific metaphysical principles that make Truth itself knowable.
For example, science assures us that their model of the cosmos truly accounts for the strict totality of interacting objects and events. But how can the model contain the proof of its own claim, since it is part of that totality, not outside of it? The question is, can we take a scientific dollar bill and cash it in for real Truth? We can, but only if we realize that there is indeed a central bank that ensures the value of each of those scientific bank gnotes.
Yes, there is a cosmos. For the same reason there is a God: you kant half one without the under One. As a matter of fact, the same thing holds true of biology. Say what you want about natural selection, but it presupposes something that its theory cannot account for: the wholeness of the genome and the organism, which is a reflection of the primordial wholeness of Being. Natural selection operates on entities that are living benefactories of a prior wholeness, without which Life itself could not be.
Knowledge is simply adequacy between subject and object. We can know the Absolute because our intelligence is mirroculously proportioned to it.
The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature capable of conceiving the starry heavens is more than the space and the stars so conceived.... It is precisely in virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and therefore the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine. --F. Schuon