An Unspeakable Cosmic Mythunderstanding
I had intended to say something about symbolism and metaphor in Sunday's post, before it was hijacked down an unanticipated byway. Symbolism is one of the modalities of the unconscious mind, along with eternity, placelesness, non-contradiction, and conflation of imagination and reality. Humans are so immersed in symbols that it's hard for us to think about them, since doing so will only result in more symbols. Until today. Today I'm going to use my advanced cOOnVision to pry myself free of symbols and find out what's going on underneath them.
Freud used the terms "displacement" and "condensation" for the unconscious mind's ability to "identify things with a certain similarity and transfer attributes of one thing to another" (Bomford). If these two properties are extended to their furthest generalization, then it means that anything is identical to the class to which it belongs, and that the class is identical to any of its members. For example, in the unconscious mind, Hillary isn't just like a witch, she is a witch; furthermore, she is both a particular instance of witchhood and the class of all witches. In 2008, the country will essentially decide whether she is a good witch or a bad witch, and whether we will live in a sheliocentric lunar sistem.
The conscious use of metaphor (e.g., Hillary is like a witch) invites the reader to "consider a term as one of a set with which it perhaps might not otherwise be classified, and then to draw characteristics from other members of that set" (Bomford). Political advertising, which is to say, MSM reporting, relies heavily upon injecting various metaphors into our discourse, and then letting the unconscious mind take care of the rest. People who see through the ruse are called "conservatives."
For example, for certain benighted boomers, you have only to suggest that "Iraq is like Vietnam," and the leftist mind proceeds to do its dirty work under cover of unconscious darkness. Because of symmetrical logic, the mind can draw all sorts of fallacious conclusions, such as "the Vietnam war was bad; war is bad; therefore the Iraq war is bad."
The purpose of metaphor "is to both cast up and organize a network of associations." While the conscious mind associates in a linear manner, the unconscious mind associates in what you might call a densely holographic manner. Instead of picturing a chain of linear deductions, imagine a central concept, a sort of spherical object that extends out in all directions at once.
Again, archetypal religious metaphors operate in this manner, and are intended to provoke rich associations that link the conscious mind with the upper vertical unconscious mind -- or ego with ground, if you prefer. To the extent that they fail to do this, or are taken too literally (except where they are intended to be), then they cannot do the "work," or verticalestnenics, they were deisigned to. For example, Holy Communion is not just a way to gnaw God.
When religious language becomes "saturated," it essentially means that the conscious mind has vanquished the richness of the unconscious mind by reducing its intrinsic polysemy to a single dead metaphor. Paradoxically -- but not really -- if you reduce the One to one, you end up with none. You kill God. This is the way of the inferior man, who imagines that "only what is contingent is real," and "seeks by his method to lower principles to the level of contingencies when he does not deny them purely and simply" (Schuon).
For example, let's turn to the first page of Genesis: The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. To say that this is metaphor is not to say that it is "false." For one thing, no mere linear description could ever be sufficient to describe or exhaust the infinite fecundity of the Divine Mind, which is also like a sort of spherical object that extends out in all directions at once.
You might say that scripture is scripture because of this very property of provoking rich associations in the manner O-->(n). If it is reduced to mere (k), then it becomes no different than science, with which it cannot compete in that sense. In other words, if you take Genesis as a discussion of the same reality in the same manner as the equations of quantum cosmology, you are very confused. The former is dealing with "vertical genesis," the latter with "horizontal genesis." It's the difference between cosmogenesis and pneumagenesis, bearing in mind, of course, that the eternal activity of pneumagenesis is ontologically prior to that of cosmogenesis. The former takes place outside of time, while the latter takes place within time.
This is what I was attempting to convey in the unspeakable overchore of the Coonifesto, where words "strain, crack and sometimes break" under the eliotic burden of describing O:
"The creation to which it refers did not happen just 'once upon a time' some 13.7 billion years ago, but occurs continuously, in the timeless ground anterior to each moment."
Er, how's that?
"Put it this way: neither the cosmos nor this book have a proper 'beginning,' but both have a center, a center that starts where science ends and must therefore be described in mythological terms. The purpose of myth is to help us re-collect what we have forgotten about our timeless source, our eternal nature, and our ultimate destiny. The metamyth that follows is no different, as it attempts to lift the veil and peer back 'before' creation -- it is a Word from our eternal Sponsor, and should not be evaluated from the standpoint of time."
The true theologian, such as Eckhart or Schuon, writes "from O," so to speak, something that Schuon touches on in the preface to his Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. Religion, on the one hand, "veils" O -- which no one can see in its unveiled form -- but on the other hand, allows it to shine forth. Thus, seeing the veil is seeing the essence; or seeing the form is seeing the substance. To put it in the form of a laughty paradoxable, religion reveils the hidden God.
Regarding his own lifelong effort to translate O into (n), Schuon writes that "we believe we have given a homogeneous and sufficient exposition of this primordial and universal Sophia, in spite of our discontinuous and sporadic manner of referring to it. But the Sophia perennis is quite evidently inexhaustible and has no natural limits." And it is inexhaustible because of the conscious-unconscious dynamic discussed at the outset of this post, which is to say that
"Metaphysical Truth is both expressible and inexpressible: inexpressible, it is not however unknowable, for the Intellect opens onto the Divine Order and therefore encompasses all that is; and expressible, it becomes crystallized in formulations which are all they ought to be since they communicate all that is necessary or useful to our mind. Forms are doors to the essences, in thought and in language as well as in all other symbolisms" (Schuon).
So, just as the particle cannot contain the wave, nor the circle the sphere, (k) can never circumnavelgaze O. But O is always within (k) like the cream within the milk, or our existence would be caffiendishly blacker than black coffee at mudnight:
The Absolute, in Its overflowing fullness, projects contingency and mirrors Itself therein, in a play of reciprocity from which It will emerge as victor, as That which alone is. --Schuon