Wednesday, October 24, 2007

O You're Vine, Mr. Finn! (10.08.10)

Just as today's armies are equipped only to win yesterday's wars, we cannot expect contemporary physics to successfully cope with problems other than those with which it has already coped. --Robert Rosen, Life Itself

As we were discussing yesterday, it is very unlikely -- impossible, really -- that the cosmos is analogous to a machine. Rather, it is much more like an organism or even a mind than it is a machine. And once we understand this, it makes the appearances of life and mind much less problematic, based upon the principle "as above, so below."

Coonversely, if we begin with the scientistic principle "as below, so above," we really can't ever leave the cosmic eschatolator. It is a world intrinsically devoid of values, progress, hierarchy, or even evolution (as opposed to mere change).

Based upon the proper application of reason, it is easy to understand how someone could arrive at the logical necessity of God. To put it another way, I have never heard any version of atheism that isn't shot through with unjustified premises, illogical conclusions, and metaphysical cul-de-sacs.

However, to merely prove the existence of a creator tells us nothing about what this creator is like, for example, whether he is even good or worthy of worship. Indeed, how did this idea of "worship" slip in, anyway? Supposing physicists eventually discover a mathematical "theory of everything." It is highly unlikely that they will worship it, even if it is their ultimate scientific icon. So why should we worship our Ultimate Principle? We'll get to that later.

If the Creator exists, it necessarily follows that he is "like us," without being limited to being like us. This is true of any level in the cosmic hierarchy. For example, life is "like matter," without being limited to it. Likewise, human beings are "like primates" without being limited to that. Or, to put it another way, if we turn the cosmos right side up, and begin at the top, we can see that each level of reality is a diminution, until we reach the realm of dense matter.

And in fact, all esoteric cosmologies continue down beyond matter, which makes perfect sense, since the "ray of creation" proceeds from the cosmic center (or top, if you like), and continues on "forever," so to speak, to the threshold of nihilism, or nothingness. In this regard, we can see that matter is superior, say, to the nihilists of dailykos, even though we cannot treat them as such, out of respect for their still human potential.

I realize that some readers think Schuon is difficult or obscure, but really, the following cannot be said with any more adamantine precision. The difficulty probably results from trying to read what he is saying while standing upside down. Basically you're out of your tree. Once you properly orient yourself to reality, feet firmly in the air -- roots aloft, branches down below -- it makes perfect sense:

"The diverse manifestations of the Good in the world clearly have their source in a principial and archetypal diversity, whose root is situated in the Supreme Principle itself, and which pertains not only to the Divine Qualities, from which our virtues are derived, but also -- in another respect -- to aspects of the Divine Personality, from which our faculties are derived" (emphasis mine).

Recall Jesus' ironic and amazingly soph-aware remark, "Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." What this means is that if we begin "at the top" -- which is to say, with the Absoluteness of God -- then we must conclude that only God is absolutely good: "He alone possesses, for example, the quality of beauty; compared to the divine Beauty, the beauty of a creature is nothing, just as existence itself is nothing next to the Divine Being" (Schuon).

But God, being absolute, is necessarily infinite. As such, his absolute transcendence is matched by his infinite immanence that extends everywhere and into every thing -- and which ultimately is another form of transcendence! It is why, for example, God is intuited in the very large, i.e., infinite, and the very small, i.e., the infinitesimal. And it is why "every hair on your head is counted," more on which later.

Because of the immanence of the Absolute, it can be said that "the beauty of a creature -- being beauty and not its contrary -- is necessarily that of God, since there is no other; and the same is true for all the other qualities, without forgetting, at their basis, the miracle of existence." Therefore, if we turn Jesus' statement around and consider it from the standpoint of immanence instead of transcendence, it would be something like "You folks call me good because there is none good but one, that is, God, and we are necessarily not-two."

Yesterday we were discussing how these principles may be applied to life, not just biological life, but to life as such, of which biological organisms are a reflection. For clearly, as I mentioned in the Coonifesto, God is obviously alive; but just as obviously, not a biological organism. In fact, if animals could speak to biologists, they might say something like, "Why do you call me alive? There is none alive but one, that is, God." Then again, animals say this all the time. But in order to gnotice it, you must be an animal lover, for love is the "link" or "channel" for such information. That or beauty.

Rosen -- who was a "hard" scientist, and, to my knowledge, not a religious man -- wanted to know "what it is about organisms that confers upon them their magical characteristics, what it is that sets life apart from all other material phenomena in the universe. That is indeed the question of questions: What is life? What is it that enables living things, apparently so moist, fragile, and evanescent, to persist while towering mountains dissolve into dust, and the very continents and oceans dance into oblivion and back?"

Of course, he looked for (and found) a scientific answer, but it is an answer that ultimately "must be," for the very same reason that the Creator must be. Rosen provides a hint of the reason for this in the Prolegomena of the book, where he observes that, "Ironically, the idea that life requires an explanation is a relatively new one. To the ancients, life simply was; it was a given; a first principle, in terms of which other things were explained."

But life "vanished as an explanatory principle with the rise of mechanics," even though machines -- which are created for a purpose -- are much more "like life" than life is "like a machine." It is as if scientists abstracted some quality from life, and then re-projected the abstraction onto the concrete reality, thus conflating the two. Frankly, they do this all the time, which is why one must make a conscious effort to escape the influence of the crimped models of reality proffered to us by science.

One thing atheists and other materialists habitually do is to naively take their abstractions for the reality. The genome is not a map, the brain is not a computer, mountains are not triangles, and love is not a baseball game. But I am a Raccoon, a true son of Herman Hildebrand, a mystery for you to ponder until I pick up this thread tomorrow.

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. --John 15:4

12 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

One Cosmos Cliffhanger(TM):

"So why should we worship our Ultimate Principle? We'll get to that later."

"And it is why "every hair on your head is counted," more on which later."

"...a mystery for you to ponder until I pick up this thread tomorrow."

10/24/2007 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This is tangential, but I'm sharing it anyway.

"The diverse manifestations of the Good in the world clearly have their source in a principial and archetypal diversity..."

It's been so long since I've seen the word "diversity" used in anything but a pc context, I decided to Google it. I wanted to see the etymology, the better to savor the flavor in this context (thinking that perhaps "diverse" shares a root with "divine," and wondering whether it originally meant "to split in two" or did it always mean "from one to many?" And what other hidden meanings does/ did it contain?).

Oversaturated? This word is like a sponge that's done hard time in an industrial kitchen. These days, it appears to have no definition outside of multiculturalism and race.

Back to being on topic,

"...the genome is not a map..."

It's amazing how frequently it is described as such, or as a set of blueprints, as though it's there to be read by tiny construction workers who will follow the directions and put the cell together. The genome could more accurately be described as a mechanism, inasmuch as it doesn't just sit there, waiting to be read, it actually does something, does it not? In point of fact, isn't the genome its own tiny construction worker, The Word in action, not a passive signal waiting to be read but rather the driving force behind all biology? A teeny tiny and yet unimaginably immense chain of molecules (matter) that inexplicably act in concert, the end result being awareness, of self, of the cosmos and of O.

Wow.

10/24/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"If the Creator exists, it necessarily follows that he is "like us," without being limited to being like us. This is true of any level in the cosmic hierarchy. For example, life is "like matter," without being limited to it."

What a great mystery this is! If the Creator is not personal, how could we be?

And I am reminded of a CS Lewis quote - I don't remember which Narnia book - in which he describes the world of further up and further in as being more real and dense than this one, where even the grass is like diamonds.

Now I'll have to go look that up to see how badly I butchered it. ;-)

1089
one combination
guarding your heart from rustlers
two coordinates

10/24/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger vogz said...

E pluribus Raccoon!

10/24/2007 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob F. said...

"It is as if scientists abstracted some quality from life, and then re-projected the abstraction onto the concrete reality, thus conflating the two."

Maybe not just scientists; look at how education seems to focus almost exclusively on abstraction. "Help, I'm trapped inside my head and don't know how to get out."

Not to mention the scientistic notion that if it can't be measured, tagged and pigeonholed into some pre-existing category, then it really doesn't exist. Abstraction isn't just the main thing, it is the only thing.

Contrast to Paul's Letter to the Romans in which he points out that even for the wise men of old the existence of God is proven by the existence of the world, the latter necessarily pointing to the former.

Modern science is the prodigal son who hasn't yet figured out his mistake and come home to Daddy.

10/24/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Off Topic: Thanks to Nick for the link yesterday. And for keeping my project in mind.

Mrs. G

10/24/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Your point about "how to read Schuon" will be helpful, I believe. His writing is so "loaded" that I've yet to have the umph to take on one of his books; I resist because I feel it will take more time/energy than I have for it.

I recall you once included a one-sentence passage from him in a post, and when I finally unpacked it, found that the sentence had ten key words in it, any one of which could have been the subject of another of your posts! That's heavy!

But you are right today: it's not just grappling with the "weight" of what he says, but the orientation of the reader that makes it easier! Reading from the top down, as you say, was a great suggestion. You've emphasized the "roots up" perspective many times, but I'd not applied it to reading Schuon.

10/24/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

And to expand just a bit – “Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.

It’s a beautiful and amazing REALITY.

10/24/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

"It is as if scientists abstracted some quality from life, and then re-projected the abstraction onto the concrete reality, thus conflating the two."

Just like Real-food vs Faux-food, as any Foodie worth their salt can tell you.

Those energy-bars or what-have-you, when analyzed (broken down for consideration of constituent parts) contain 'nutrients' & 'should' be equivalent to the body. But they're not.

That stuff may be full of 'vitamins' & 'protein' but the body gnos that it's faux-fuel & eventually rebels in illness.

What's missing? Food's Life-force: enzymes. Faux-food is 'dead' & the body gnos the difference, even when 'scientist' insist, based upon what they can measure, Real & Faux are equivalent.

Bulgarians are famously healthy & gosh! their diet is local stuff in season & a predominance of items packed with enzymes. They eat Live food & the body gnos.

Daily visits to OC are a great source of enzymes. Thanks Bob.

10/24/2007 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nomo,
Wow!
“Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Indeed what an amazing reality. It makes me think about how we must abide in the God for this is the source, the ultimate seed of reality. The analogy just makes it vivid enough for my weak intellect to grasp.

Off Topic: Mrs. Goodwin you are most welcome for the link. It really saddened me when I realized that I had not yet even heard the heroic story of Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy until I stumbled across Micheal Yon's page. I hope your project goes well.

Nick

10/24/2007 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous c s lewis fan said...

Robin you may be thinking of The Great Divorce

10/24/2007 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Webutante said...

Yes, Robin, I too believe it's The Great Divorce, a dazzling, very short book by C.S. Lewis.

10/25/2007 01:23:00 AM  

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