Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cosmic Containment and the Logotomy of the West (11.23.10)

With modernity and especially postmodernity, Western civilization underwent a spiritual logotomy that divorced consciousness from the world. Up to that point, no one was really "religious" or "chose" religion in the way that we consciously must. Rather, it mostly chose them. It was simply the context in which humans lived, and one thing modern psychoanalysis has discovered over the past 40-50 years is the priority of the mind's container over and above its content. Or, at the very least, one must always regard container and contained dialectically, for you can never have one without the other.

True, truth is truth; nevertheless, it makes all the difference in the world what sort of receptacle or "matrix" contains that truth. If the container is false -- i.e., built upon the Lie -- then it will "color" all of its content in ways that may be imperceptible to the individual except in the form of "symptoms," i.e., emotional or cognitive pain or dysfunction.

To take a simple example, consider the truth of justice. Human beings are born with a pre-cognitive, archetypal understanding of justice -- a "preconception" or empty category that will be "filled out" by experience. But leftist thought is essentially a deformation of this pre-existing truth, as it enforces its idea of justice in fundamentally unjust ways -- i.e., racial quotas, income redistribution, attacks on private property, class warfare, etc. All forms of modern leftism -- which trace their genealogy from Marx -- are essentially dishonest appeals to eternal truths such as justice, compassion, equality, fraternity, etc.

This is why we can say that someone like John Edwards is not only wrong, he's not even wrong, since the container of his ideas is so fundamentally perverse. As is true of many trial lawyers, he can turn any truth into a lie, and vice versa. Yes, it's cynical, but it's much deeper than that, a kind of egomaniacal superiority to Truth itself. It is satanic, to be precise.

There was a time that "the Church," broadly speaking, was generally able to "contain" the human spirit. For some 1,000 years, the vast majority of people in the West lived, thought, felt, worked, and died within this meaning-generating container. Now, a container must not only be "capacious" enough to hold the human spirit -- which tends toward the infinite -- but it must also paradoxically provide a sort of "friction" against which we may think.

In other words, "thinking spiritually" in a truly creative way means that there must be an interaction between container and contained that produces new thoughts. Indeed, if religion could not do this, it would not only be entirely "static," but it would provide no satisfaction for the soul's intrinsic desire to grow with knowledge. The Bible really would be the end of theology instead of the beginning, and the importance of the great saints, doctors and mystics would be rendered meaningless. And history would have no point at all.

This specifically human form of knowing is what distinguishes us from the beasts, since it is not only analogous to play, it is play. It is well understood that certain young animals play -- i.e., puppies and kittens -- but that virtually all adult animals lose this capacity as they "grow into" their mature archetype, which is essentially fixed and final.

But man only fulfills his destiny by preserving this neoteny to the end of his days. Not only is man born "immature," but he must always remain so on pain of ending the growing process. Now obviously, there are mature and immature ways to preserve our immaturity. When Jesus says that we must be as children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he surely doesn't mean that we must stamp our feet and throw a temper tantrum until God lets us in. Rather, he's talking about things like openness, spontaneity, creativity, timelessness, and trust (or faith).

Now, "openness," "spontaneity," "timelessness," etc., all apply to the container, not the content. In other words, "spontaneity" is not a content or specific idea that you can hold in your mind like an object and be done with it. A -- perhaps the -- major task of parenting is to raise your child in such a way that he will have a happy, healthy, and productive "container" for the rest of his life, irrespective of the specific content.

This was an idea that was probably first worked out by the developmental psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, who wrote about how, for example, one's lifelong capacity for "basic trust" is forged in the first 18 months of life, largely depending upon the quality of care one receives. No one talks much about Erikson anymore, as his ideas have been extended, elaborated, and fine-tuned by others, but his basic conception is correct. Note how each of his stages has primarily to do with the container, i.e., trust, autonomy, identity, generativity, etc.

A trusting person sees the world very differently than a non-trusting, which is to say, paranoid, person. Surely it is no coincidence that the Muslim Middle East has the lowest quality of parenting and the highest degree of paranoia, along with an almost total lack of creativity and autonomy. This is obviously worrisome, since democracy and the free market can only flourish in a high-trust environment. To put it another way, trust is huge enabler of market efficiency, removing all kinds of obstacles to "doing business" with one another. Almost any American can do business with any other American, whereas in tribal cultures, the circle of trust is greatly narrowed.

But I want to return to the topic of religion as the container of an explosive force, or content. Call it the "spiritual drive," or the "pneumaphilic instinct," but whatever it is, just like any other human capacity, it requires a container to guide and channel it -- just as, say, music requires a system of musical notation to structure and give it depth. Bach, for example, was born with a "musical drive," but what if he had been born at a time prior to the western system of musical notation, which allows one to "think" with such complexity within the chordal space of vertical musicality? The point is again that an adequate container is critical for one to achieve one's potential in any given area.

It is no different with religion. The other day, I was reading of how Dawson felt that different historical eras were literally different "worlds" which we could not really understand by projecting our own world onto them. This makes total sense to a psychoanalytically informed psychologist, again, because true empathy of a patient involves not just understanding their content, but their container. Furthermore, real change generally doesn't involve the patient obtaining this or that piece of missing information. Rather, it involves a slow alteration and repair of their container within the context of the therapeutic alliance. Truly, therapy is just something you do to distract the patient while his mind is healing itself, mainly as a result of an intimate relationship with another.

So anyway, my point is that modernity -- e.g., the scientific revolution and the birth of the individual self -- essentially "exploded" the religious container that had contained the mind and spirit up to that point, and there is no going back to that world. You cannot unwrong that bull or put that truthpaste back into the tube. Different world.

They tell me that modern physics displaced earth from the center of the universe, just as natural selection displaced man from the center of the biosphere, thus rendering the religion of Christianity hopelessly quaint, what with its cognitively reassuring firmament above, and a God who just happens to be in the form of a man.

Whatever. The point is not to argue over facts, which is to say, the content, but to understand the cosmic, and even metacosmic, nature of Christianity, so that it may serve as a container for the historical middle world we happen to inhobbit. I suppose that's the point of my book and blog, which is why I never argue with the other guy's content when his container is so messed up. One Cosmos "Under" God is another way of saying One Cosmos Contained by God. Come to think if it, it would make a nice Christmas present for someone who thinks he's outgrown Christmas past.

43 Comments:

Anonymous dloye said...

WF: wibruy OneCosmos is a wibruy of found connections. The post today sent sparks flying off like striking an anvil.

The church as the context of lives...yes, that almost explains something I keep wrestling with while slogging through Runciman's History of the Crusades. I keep reading thinking this history would read as the hand of the Almighty working through history much as the Old Testament if someone who would read and rewrite "from that container."

But there were so many ideas/friction points in todays blog! Thanks for not taking Sunday off. I couldn't get to church today, but this may have to serve. I hope I can catch one of those sparks and put it to tinder here.

Thanks Bob, and coons... the sparks keep flying.

12/16/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

JC
morning has broken
bread into an inner hymn
be thou my vision

12/16/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Limited time musical offering for Raccoons:

Mavis Staples & Lucky Peterson: Spirituals, Gospel

12/16/2007 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Thanks Smoov - sweet.

12/16/2007 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Bob, Thanks for tying in Erikson.
Chronologically, mentally and spiritually, I am in Erikson's 8th stage and can testify to the usefulness and validity of his description, i.e. older adults who major in home cosmography keep developing. We are not in decline!

12/16/2007 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

The sheer number of useful concepts one encouters at OC is staggering. I'm not exaggerating! The "container" metaphor is simply brilliant, and it is critical for those of us who came to Christianity via a tortuous and very worldly path. Bob hits the nail on the head when he talks about the fact that the old Christian memes just are not going to cut it as far as bringing more people to God -- at least jaded horizontals like I was a mere 10 years ago. Once or twice in my youth I ended up at a Christian gathering of one sort or another. I was positively repelled by what to me was unbearable naivete coupled with retarded child-like stupidity. I could not imagine a greater waste of time in 1994 than to spend any more than a few seconds around a Christian. Now I can go to the corniest Christian events and still enjoy myself. Not because I'm particularly into corny Christian events, but because most of the time I can feel and partake in the very genuine Love that suffuses those places.

I couldn't have arrived here without One Cosmos (and a number of prior intermediary influences and sources) to illuminate the way forward -- up through the mists -- the way to Christ which involves surrendering not one iota of one's intellectual abilities or integrity (just the opposite, both are magnificently enhanced).

12/16/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Boston Tea Party!
Go Ron Paul!

12/16/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Yes, L. Ron Paul and the Church of Libertology.

12/16/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Smoov,
You really summed up an aspect of how I've been feeling about going to church so perfectly!

I was a little worried that even though I felt a pull toward the church, I'd still feel uncomfortable with the actual people at church. I don't at all. It is the highlight of my week and I feel so uplifted by the whole experience, and a big part of it is seeing others worshipping. I'm already at a loss for words, but you hit it on the head.

I may try to post something about it later, but couldn't have said that better!
Leslie

12/16/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Leslie:

My feelings on that pretty much came from the gut. I was at an evangelical function with an elderly Aunt in Massachsetts recently. Formerly the idea of doing anything with an elderly aunt -- much less attend such an event -- would have pretty much anathema. These days when I look upon her frail, wizened friends I see people with souls in their beaming smiles and still-bright eyes. When they lift those thin arms and shaking palms up to Heaven - yeah, I feel it pretty deeply.

Lot's of stuff changing for me now. The Ferrari brochures have migrated from top of desk to bottom drawer. (Not yet into waste basket - we'll see - 599 Fiorano GTB is just so... bello).

Reading about Future Leader here has got that impulse reving even higher than an Italian V12. Back to wife-hunting...

12/16/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul is actually a Baptist. He's not a libertarian. He's prolife, and oddly enough, pro-constitution, unlike some people, who think it is just a damn piece of paper.

12/16/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob,

Your distinction between "container" and "contained" was perfectly stated.

Made my head buzz all day!

12/16/2007 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

He's also an insane clown.

12/16/2007 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

L. Ron, not Walt.

12/16/2007 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying someone is insane doesn't make them insane. Ronald Reagan did not think so.

12/16/2007 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

That's true. You're insane, and yet I didn't make you so.

12/16/2007 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

How on earth did Bob attract a Ron Paul loon to this site?

12/16/2007 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's some fast psychology.
I'll bet the readers of this blog might disagree about your views of Paul. I am of no consequence.

12/16/2007 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Not fast psychology, just a very slow target.

12/16/2007 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous bible thumper said...

Welcome to the fold Smoov.

12/16/2007 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous shantisha said...

"Back to wife-hunting..."

Yo Baby, you'd best not be throwin' me out like yesterdays trash. ;^)

12/16/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Anon said,
"I'll bet the readers of this blog might disagree about your views of Paul."

I've tried to understand what all the fuss is about with this guy. I see his supporters on the street corners and hear of his internet fundraising prowess but when I actually hear him and his ideas I come away underwhelmed.
I guess I aint' gettin' the Constitution as I should.
Perhaps you can expand upon and enlighten us anon on the subtle nuances of your saviour candidate. Some of us here, such as myself, are a little slow and would appreciate your help in bringing us around. The little sound bytes you've been giving here could easily have come from the Clinton or Obama campaign.
What I see happening is Ron Paul, when he doesn't win the Repub. nomination, will go third party because of his hubris and we will end up with Ms. Rodham AND Bubba or Oprah and Obama thanks to all the "purists" out there. God help us if that happens.

12/16/2007 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul has said he won't run for a third party.
His message is liberty and a government based on the constitution.
I would recommend his book, which is a collection of his speeches before the house.
He is by no means my "savior candidate", however. No more than Goldwater or Reagan were savior candidates. He is simply for a very limited federal government. Obama and so on are not for that.

12/16/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The point is not to argue over facts, which is to say, the content, but to understand the cosmic, and even metacosmic, nature of Christianity, so that it may serve as a container for the historical middle world we happen to inhobbit. I suppose that's the point of my book and blog, which is why I never argue with the other guy's content when his container is so messed up."

Amazing! Todays post is superb, Bob!
I have noticed, thanks to todays post, that I have lost much of my previous desire to argue "facts" with those who use the cluelesside container habitually.

I mean, it's generally pointless, unless one is seeking innertainment, as Cousin Dupree and Hoarhey so easily did with the Ron Paulianite.
Raccoons do love to play, afterall. Besides, it's very funny, and that's good for our containers. :^)

But I have no doubt that I could debate the batsh*t crazy loonyticks because the aren't, as Bob so elegantly put, "even wrong."
Therefore there is literally no way to drag them to Truth, or to drop Truth on them.
Because Truth isn't a part of their container.

That's why so many intelligent yet insane clowns, and their posse's, fail Self Evident Truth's 101.
They superimpose the dumbsh*t matrix over their "natural" matrix (container).
If, or when they destroy their natural, God-given container...well, that's where the darkest evil takes hold.

12/16/2007 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater and Russell Kirk were all batshit insane.
Only George Bush is correct, politically speaking.

12/16/2007 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Smoov,
Do you want to borrow FL? Terms could be arranged ;)

Seriously, something about him has made you want to become a father? I'd love to know more about that. Not sure if today is the day to do it, with all of the wacky Ron Paul stuff taking up much of the comments. Or feel free to email.

Leslie
ps-I'm sorry if I missed a whole explanation of this. I don't always get to read anything that requires the slightest bit of brainpower, so I do sometimes miss some of the best posts here, unfortunately.

12/16/2007 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a quote on Dr. Paul's website from a supporter,"I was already highly dedicated to donate to the campaign because of Dr. Paul's message of respect for the Constitution, government restraint, and individual liberty. But the hostile behavior of the debate moderators and the derision of the corporate media pundits motivated me to give as much as I could."
Dupree, I had no idea you were a media pundit!

12/16/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Container, contained. Container, contained. Container, contained.

12/16/2007 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous ron paul said...

Anon,

I don't need weak arguements and second hand quotes from you, I need cash and I need it NOW!
Get out that checkbook!

12/16/2007 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous napolean dynamite said...

anon, i wish you'd get out my life and shut up!

12/17/2007 12:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Mate advisor to Smoov said...

"Back to wife hunting."

The fact is, almost any women who is single and willing to get hitched will make a decent spouse-- IF you negotiate the deal correctly.


The basic spouse contract is for monogamous sex and conversation. Those are the essentials. You can write in a child-bearing agreement, financial agreement, and plans for housing, employment, and all the details. If you're both still on the same page, you have to delineate the "deal-breakers."

Infidelity
Physical abuse
Verbal abuse
Abandonment
Financial misconduct

If all points are in agreement, the couple has game. Proceed to matrimony, but be prepared for the big "D" if things go south, which they are less likely to do if you get expectations worked out ahead of time.

Probably a full 50 percent of women any given age group will make fine wives if negotiated with properly. Wife candidates are EASY to locate. Your expectations can't be unreasonable, however.

One last thing, you must like the way she looks and smells because thats going to be with you a long time.

12/17/2007 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

One last thing, you must like the way she looks and smells/ tastes and sounds because thats going to be with you a long time.

There that's better.

12/17/2007 05:44:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Hmm. I love the talking points disguised as real messages (from the RP supporter.) This is usually what I hear. I prefer Thompson, who actually talks the talk and walks the walk (albeit in a relaxed manner.)

RE: the Church; I think one of the big issues was that the church basically got itself absorbed into the fabric of various traditional cultures. So instead of being 'the thing which the gates of hell shall not prevail against' it became 'where we go to chat, sing and talk about the old time religion.'

A curious thing, when I asked my Orthodox friend what the Church was he replied (more or less) 'The Lives of the Saints.' In other words, the lives of individual Christians who did extraordinary things ... kind of like real live comic book heroes or something.

I suppose in this sense it has always been about individuals, though most will stand against individualism. What they're really against is egoism, which in many cases is hard to distinguish. 'Egoism' is a condition which makes the container unwilling to change shape, I would guess. A permanent damper on growth.

The whole of it is still a mystery to me. Walt told me that Christianity was kind of a mystery to him earlier. It's a mystery to me too...

12/17/2007 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

River -

To be precise: it used to be a big mystery; now it is a Big Mystery!

12/17/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Scripture describes "the church" a mystery, but also a in a practical sense:

The church is the bride of Christ. It is a living temple of the True God. It is not the building, the meeting place, an organization, or a denomination. The church is the totality of all true believers regardless of denominational affiliation. The entire body of believers is the church and as such, it is the dwelling place of the Holy and Infinite God.

12/17/2007 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Self Evident Truth's 101"

It would be somewhat incongruous to have a course in it. Moreover, there seems to be a lot of disagreement over what you raccoons think is self-evident.

"Self-evident" really seems to mean "Without evidence".

12/17/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Nomo - that reminds me of something Ricky said once.

12/17/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

anonymous:

No one said anything was self evident to you and your container. That's the point.

12/17/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Smoov,
You haven't been married before, have you?

I met your criteria in our marriage, but I'll be the first to admit that I was a pain in the tush much of the beginning of our marriage.

I think it's great that you're not one of those super picky, no one is good enough because there is always someone who could be even better/prettier/younger out there, kind of guys. But you might want some minimum mental stability standards LOL!

And it can be very tricky to marry someone who has different values and sometimes a different religion (the latter is more about parenting for the most part) is a bit challenging, too.

I didn't mean to turn this into a lecture about finding a wife! But I did enjoy your comments :)
Leslie

12/17/2007 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Geez, you mean the key to finding a husband is showering? Huh, I'm always amazed at the helpful tips from OC. I can't believe I didn't think of it on my own plus I'm starting to stink....

12/17/2007 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Indeed, if religion could not do this, it would not only be entirely "static," but it would provide no satisfaction for the soul's intrinsic desire to grow with knowledge. The Bible really would be the end of theology instead of the beginning...

Like the Koran?

...and the importance of the great saints, doctors and mystics would be rendered meaningless.

Like all Muslims except Mohammed?

And history would have no point at all.

Like when the Koran becomes not only the only history book, but the only book, period?

12/18/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Indeed, if religion could not do this, it would not only be entirely "static," but it would provide no satisfaction for the soul's intrinsic desire to grow with knowledge. The Bible really would be the end of theology instead of the beginning...

Like the Koran?

...and the importance of the great saints, doctors and mystics would be rendered meaningless.

Like all Muslims except Mohammed?

And history would have no point at all.

Like when the Koran becomes not only the only history book, but the only book, period?

12/18/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

You create more questions and cerebral tensions then you resolve, but I find the controversy and mental gymnastics highly entertaining. To quote FT "if you dig a hole deep enough, everyone will jump in it." Keep on shoveling.

1/06/2009 03:56:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home