Monday, October 29, 2007

Unknowing What You Know in Order to Know What You unKnow

Now that I no longer post on weekends, it's a little difficult to get back into the flow on Monday. It seems that on Saturday and Sunday I revert to my pre-blogging self, for whom daily blogging would have been impossible to begin with. I suppose the same thing must have more or less happened to the Colorado Rockies. Under normal circumstances rest is good, but in their case, it broke the spell they had been under for the previous month.

There's a being mode and a doing mode, and this weekend I was trying to get into the being mode in order to accomplish some doing. The doing has to do with coming up with an idea for a sequel to One Cosmos. Obviously I have plenty of ideas, but what I'm looking for is an organizing principle that will harmonize them and bring them all together, and that's not the kind of thing you can try to come up with.

Rather, in my experience, you have to clear a space in your mind in order to allow the Overmind to spontaneously come up with something on its own. It's like pattern recognition, which must be intuited, not imposed. If you try to impose order on your mind, it's not going to have the kind of robust stability that arises spontaneously. No one knows how we can recognize a face -- including the face of God -- but it's certainly not through induction.

It seems that you can't fool the Overmind, any more than you can fool nature. For example, growing a potato takes as long as it takes to grow one. True, you can fiddle around at the margins a bit, but only up to a point. It's a human conceit to think that we think our thoughts anyway. No one knows what a thought is, where they come from, where they go, how they develop, what their boundaries are, how they combine with other thoughts, how they can be "true," or exactly how long it takes to grow a deep one.

But I suppose it's the rule rather than the exception to impose some kind of artificial order, not just on the mind, but on the world. And this problem afflicts intellectuals more than normal people, since the intellectual is much more prone to conflating his abstractions with reality. Plus, intellectuals are often narcissistically invested in their intellect, no different than a physically attractive narcissist might be invested in their looks. If politics is "show business for the unattractive," academia is politics for the downright ugly. The ugliest ideas in the world are openly embraced in academia, ideas fundamentally lacking in wholeness, harmony, and radiance.

Real thought -- the kind of thought a Raccoon cares about -- is much closer to perception than it is to cogitation. It is seen, not deduced. This dovetails with what Mrs. G. was saying yesterday about her experience in church. In order to comprehend religious truths, it is generally necessary to disable what most people call the "mind," which is in reality just a noisy "thought factory." This factory should be closed on Sunday.

Christianity, with its vivid iconography, is able to cut through a lot of "sophisticated" mental knots. In other wordlessness, it is a very visual religion, providing images that can speak directly to the heart -- or to the nonverbal right brain, if you like (which is directly connected to the cardiac center). These images work like seeds planted in the "unconscious" mind (which, of course, isn't "un" conscious at all, any more than soil is unconscious; fertile soil -- which is full of micro-organisms, enzymes, insects, and other beings -- knows exactly what to do with a seed, and vice versa). It is no wonder that Jesus used so many agrarian metaphors. God is not like a building made bricks, but a tree planted in the sky. And your mind is the sky.

Just yesterday I read the following by Schuon, which directly addresses the difference between O and (k), or Reality and our thoughts about it: "Metaphysical knowledge is one thing and its actualization in the mind quite another. All the knowledge (k) the brain can hold is nothing in light of the Truth (O) even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view. Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it" (emphasis mine).

This is why the relationship between revelation and philosophy is approximately that of organic food to artificial food (while its relationship to new age spirituality is like food to junk food). As someone mentioned in a comment the other day, no matter how hard science tries, it will never be able to invent food more nutritious than that which spontaneously grows from the earth. For one thing, science -- which only knows what it knows, but not what it doesn't -- can only extract abstract quantities (e.g., vitamins) from food, and then try to reproduce them.

But more and more research is demonstrating that there are properties in natural foods that just can't be quantified -- even the colors, e.g. green tea, blueberries, red wine, etc. (As someone once said, why should we trust the government on global climate change if they can't even get the "Food Pyramid" right? Ten or twenty years ago, unrestricted carbohydrates were good for you; now we have a nation of diabetics.)

In any event, what Schuon is saying is that revelation embodies deep metaphysical truths that may be actualized in the mind by "dwelling" within them, so to speak. And these truths will be much deeper than what science or philosophy can come up with. This is not to knock the latter, because (k) is important and certainly has its place. But we are talking about something fundamentally beyond the reach of science, that is, growth -- and salvation -- of the soul.

To cite another example by Schuon, he points out that "A proof is not convincing because it is absolute -- for this could never be -- but because it actualizes something self-evident to the mind" (emphasis mine). In short, proof -- even scientific proof -- is only possible on the basis of prior knowledge. In other words, there is nothing deterministic in this or that proof that compels us to accept it. Rather, our acceptance of this or that proof is an act of judgment that can never be captured by any logical operation (echoes of Gödel again). Once you have accepted a proof, you have left the closed circle of mechanical reason, and are in the realm of faith. Or as Schuon beautifully puts it,

Correlative to every proof is an element eluding the determinism of mere logic and consisting of either an intuition or a grace; now this element is everything. In the intellectual order logical proof is no more than a thoroughly provisional crystalization of intuition, the modes of which are incalculable because of the complexity of the real.

Go ahead, read it again, slowly. I'll wait.

Now surely, based upon this, it is far easier to prove the existence of God than it is to prove the existence, say, of manmade global warming. The latter is expressed with all the trappings of science, but in the end, the science is only accepted if one has already done so -- because it actualizes something self-evident to the mind.

And this, of course, is the secret of our liberal MSMistry of Truth, which only covers things it already knows to be true, for example, that we have lost the war in Iraq, or that lower tax rates cause deficits, or that women are an oppressed minority, or that America is a racist country. I'm sure you can think of dozens of others. I can't because I have to get to work....

22 Comments:

Blogger gumshoe said...

hoya el bob -

great read here by the estimable
Theo Dalrymple(he covers many similar thoughts to your several convos regarding
Dawkins,Harris,Dennett,et al,and their recent 'Atheist Book Sale' event):


City Journal.org
Autumn 2007
"What the New Atheists Don’t See"
Theodore Dalrymple

http://www.city-journal.org/
html/17_4_oh_to_be.html

10/29/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

i especially enjoyed this excerpt:

"In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes with approval a new set of Ten Commandments for atheists, which he obtained from an atheist website, without considering odd the idea that atheists require commandments at all, let alone precisely ten of them; nor does their metaphysical status seem to worry him. The last of the atheist’s Ten Commandments ends with the following: “Question everything.” Everything? Including the need to question everything, and so on ad infinitum?

Not to belabor the point, but if I questioned whether George Washington died in 1799, I could spend a lifetime trying to prove it and find myself still, at the end of my efforts, having to make a leap, or perhaps several leaps, of faith in order to believe the rather banal fact that I had set out to prove. Metaphysics is like nature: though you throw it out with a pitchfork, yet it always returns. What is confounded here is surely the abstract right to question everything with the actual exercise of that right on all possible occasions. Anyone who did exercise his right on all possible occasions would wind up a short-lived fool."

10/29/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

You wrote,
"No one knows what a thought is, where they come from, where they go, how they develop, what their boundaries are, how they combine with other thoughts, how they can be "true," or exactly how long it takes to grow a deep one."
And,
"...fertile soil ... knows exactly what to do with a seed, and vice versa."

Good analogies, and, as The Who once sang,

"It's alarmin' how charmin'
It is to be a farmer...."

10/29/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Just yesterday I read the following by Schuon, which directly addresses the difference between O and (k), or Reality and our thoughts about it: "Metaphysical knowledge is one thing and its actualization in the mind quite another. All the knowledge (k) the brain can hold is nothing in light of the Truth (O) even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view. Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it.""

So...there is still a glimmer of hope. :^)

10/29/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Rather, our acceptance of this or that proof is an act of judgment that can never be captured by any logical operation (echoes of Gödel again). Once you have accepted a proof, you have left the closed circle of mechanical reason, and are in the realm of faith. Or as Schuon beautifully puts it,

Correlative to every proof is an element eluding the determinism of mere logic and consisting of either an intuition or a grace; now this element is everything. In the intellectual order logical proof is no more than a thoroughly provisional crystalization of intuition, the modes of which are incalculable because of the complexity of the real."

That is spectacular, Bob!
This element is indeed everything.
It should be judgement day everyday.
For without it we would never see Beautiful words (overflowing with O) such as these.

10/29/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gumshoe said-
"The last of the atheist’s Ten Commandments ends with the following: “Question everything.” Everything? Including the need to question everything, and so on ad infinitum?"

Ha ha! Thanks Gumshoe, for the link.
I know it's serious, but it is also so comically absurd, as the words and ideas of those "intellectual" moron's demonstrate, and as Mr. Dalrymple so easily takes apart.

No a-theist would stand a chance "debating" him or Bob.

10/29/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger vogz said...

The last part of Dalrymple's article, using the writings of a long gone Anglican priest, struck me as an extended meditation on O-->(n). Another quote on flies attracted to a dead horse gave me a nasty visualization of mind parasites.

Great article.

10/29/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous feminisma said...

Well Bob, you get your sequel idea. But then again, you may not. You may be a one-hit wonder.

Your chances are no better than 50%.

God may have other plans for you; something unglamorous like relationship problems or an unexpected change in your health. Your new challenges may feel like a blow to the head. Ya never know.

But still in all, it will be exactly what you need. That's the miracle.

10/29/2007 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Vogz-
Aye. Kinda makes me wonder why Dalrymple is still an atheist (or, most likely, a troubled agnostic).
Surely he understands that Religious hypocritics are not a basis for disproving God.
Although I understand his emotional response in that regard.

He does all but admit that God exists, and it appears that this is the only area where his emotions cloud his judgement so thoroughly.
Be that as it may, "atheists" like him we can at least debate on topic, and, ironically, atheists like him (damn rare) are the militant a-theists nightmare, and is no threat whatsoever to believers.

I would venture to say that he does believe, on some level, but he doesn't fully realize it...yet.

Much like a certain Pataphysical Science Officer (Van) used to be. :^)

For what's the coonclusion, once one realizes the existance of Beauty, Goodness and Truth?

Aye! There is only One coonclusion.
As all Raccoons well gno!

10/29/2007 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Feminawhatever said-
"Your chances are no better than 50%."

What are you, a feminabookie or somethin'?

What's the opposite of miracle?
That's what I think of when I read drivel like yours.
You wear your envy on your beastly arm.

Woof!

10/29/2007 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Fumingmiasma said "Your chances are no better than 50%"

Having wisely invested all his fabulous royalties and riches from his One hit in a highly prophetable Racoon ranching venture, whether or not book #2 is as successful is probably as irrelevant as whether #1 was (see Sunday's post for a clue as to how Bob's true sequel is coming).

"God may have other plans for you"

Yes, and just imagine what thrills and chills are ripening now for you out of your cheerful thoughts.

I'm sure they will be exactly what you need.

10/29/2007 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ben!

10/29/2007 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Rather, our acceptance of this or that proof is an act of judgment that can never be captured by any logical operation (echoes of Gödel again)."

What the literalists of science and scipture don't get, is that it not only takes two to tango, you need the music too... and a rose... and great legs in a thigh high slit gown... but I digress (sorry, started channeling Skully for a moment).

Relying souly on either the rules of strict logic, or the strict dictates of chapter and verse, realy comes down to an attempt to escape the responsibility of putting You into your own judgment, never engaging your mind and soul with Life, letting others live for you.

10/29/2007 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous feminasshole said...

Well Bob, you may get your sequel idea. But then again, you may not. You may be a one-hit wonder. This coming from a no hit wonder

Since my chances of getting even one hit are nil, I can't imagine yours being better than 50%.

God may have other plans for you; something unglamorous like my life of relationship problems and unexpected changes in health. Though because of my extreme negativity, I guess I can't pretend that I don't have anything to do with it anymore.
Your new challenges may feel like a blow to the head. I was severely traumatized by a blow to the head at a young age. Ya never know.

But still in all, it will be exactly what you need. That's my twisted perception of a miracle.

10/29/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Ha ha! That was beeyoutiful, Van!
Er, in a manly way of course!
Kinda like settin' course for uncharted waters that you somehow gno.

10/29/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"This dovetails with what Mrs. G. was saying yesterday about her experience in church. In order to comprehend religious truths, it is generally necessary to disable what most people call the "mind," which is in reality just a noisy "thought factory." This factory should be closed on Sunday."

Clang!

10/29/2007 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Femdog-
Yer just obsessed with numbers aren't you?
Here's a bit of Sailor Wisdom(TM) fer ya:
Yer missin' the entire point!

Irony...don't leave home without it.

10/29/2007 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger vogz said...

Ben,

I've noticed that some of the more poignant criticisms of the recent atheist rants have actually come from apparent unbelievers. One of them is especially prominent: a short book written by Alister McGrath has a quote on the top of the cover from atheist Michael Ruse mentioning how embarrassed he was by The God Delusion.

Perhaps we can find a psychologist to elaborate on this phenomenon.

10/30/2007 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Big Black Steinway said...

Man, ain't no music in them words, feminista. Only a bitter soul speaks curses on someone with one side'a they's mouth while spittin' compliments with the other.

Them atheists just haven't heard the music yet. It'll make you really ring, ya know? Call it morning driving through the sound and in and out the valley. But the rod n' staff comfort you, and there's a table at the end.

Play us another tune, Bob. The band is ready!

10/30/2007 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

(Van) “Relying solely on either the rules of strict logic, or the strict dictates of chapter and verse, really comes down to an attempt to escape the responsibility of putting you into your own judgment, never engaging your mind and soul with Life, letting others live for you.” Aren’t the laws of logic transcendent? Aren’t we actually thinking God’s thoughts after Him? Revelation is something revealed to us that we did not already know – as in scripture (inspired or “God-breathed”). Although I know what you mean, your use of the word “strict” in association with logic and scripture might lead to thinking that one needs neither in order to know Truth – which, I believe, would be a grave error. Would there be Christianity and all the benefits it has brought to the world without the Bible? For me, anything that might discourage one from searching out the scriptures on one’s own is unfortunate. That is how one discovers the mystery of how the Bible interprets itself. I believe it is careful and prayerful reverence for and attention to God’s words as presented in the Bible is central to spiritual growth – not exclusive, but central.

10/30/2007 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo said "Although I know what you mean, your use of the word “strict” in association with logic and scripture might lead to thinking that one needs neither in order to know Truth – which, I believe, would be a grave error."

Good call Nomo... as I'm arguing in my current posts, logic and revelation (or the broader poetics I refer to) MUST be used as compliments in order to properly Reason, and a lack or faulty grasp of either would leave you unbalanced, lost and adrift.

What I had in mind with 'strict logic' was the sort that would assert:
all men are moral,
socrates is a man,
therefore socrates is moral

while the logic chopper will say this follows the strict rules of a sylogism, its premises don't reflect reality.

and regarding 'strict scripture', I meant the type that could read Ecclesiastes 7:4 “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”, and begin googling for their street addresses - and they are out there, on both the Sam Harris and Elmer Gantry ends of the spectrum.

I probably should have used logic chopper and literalist, rather than just strict. Still working on that brevity thing....

10/30/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

sheesh... 'complement', not 'compliment'. Compliments are nice and all, but...

10/30/2007 02:43:00 PM  

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