Friday, January 18, 2008

Inner Space: The Final Frontier

The pupil of the eye performs a function on the physical level which aptly symbolizes that of the self, inasmuch as the latter is the nexus through which all experience and all kinds of knowledge must pass. None of the contents of experience can be unaffected by this relation, since things received always take on the qualities of the receiver.... For this reason, misunderstandings of the self lead to misunderstandings of everything else. --Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit

The first thing we must understand is that the cosmos is always refracted through a modified primate brain -- that the world comes into being in the transitional space between subject and object. The world is not experienced directly, but is always a form of our sensibility, and is therefore limited by our ability to comprehend it. This is why our understanding of the world can evolve and deepen, unlike any other animal, for whom the world is just "given" in an inalterable way. Only humans can "see beneath the surface" in an inexhaustible way, since they are not limited to their physical senses.

Now, the same thing applies ipso facto to the transcendent planes. We are able to see of them what we can, but quite obviously, not everyone sees as much or as deeply or as far, any more than all men are Wayne Gretzky. This is why two people can read the Bible and arrive at such radically different interpretations -- which will not just differ "horizontally," but vertically.

But as I was saying a couple of days ago, this is where metaphysics can be helpful, as it eliminates interpretations that just cannot be -- what Schuon called intrinsic heresies, those conclusions that are "contrary not only to a particular perspective or a particular formulation, but to the very nature of things, for [they] result, not from a perspective legitimate by nature and therefore 'providential,' but from the arbitrary judgment of a mind left to its own resources and obliged to 'create' what the intellect when paralyzed -- fundamentally or accidentally -- cannot transmit to it."

This is why I say that religious fundamentalism is analogous to scientism, in that both severely restrict O to their own narrow manmade judgments, which they then naively absolutize. Neither one recognizes that their image of the Real is restricted to their ability to know it. If one wishes to penetrate more deeply into reality, "it is essential that it be 'upwards' and not 'downwards': dogmatic form is transcended by fathoming its depths and contemplating its universal content, and not by denying it in the name of a pretentious and iconoclastic ideal of 'pure truth.'" In other words, more often than not -- in science, in psychotherapy, and in religion -- "truth" is the greatest barrier to the evolution of Truth, or O-->(n).

Bolton makes an important point that serves as a good segue back to our discussion of Taylor, which is that "Exoteric religion, however sincere, allows people to go on believing themselves to be solely what they appear to be to other people. Deeper insights into the self lead outside the exoteric, and are usually resisted in a mistaken belief that this must be a danger to orthodoxy." This often results in a situation directly antithetical to the purposes of religion, in that the most conventionally devout can have the least insight into the nature of the self. These are the grinning robots who give us the Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or Ken Willies.

Jesus famously asked, "who do you say that I am?" The answer partly depends upon what we mean by "I" as applied to Jesus and to ourselves. There is always going to be a gap between the I AM and what we can say about it, which is true of the relation between any two subjectivities, or I AMs. The better you know someone, the more you can say about them, but there is always a limit to what you can say, since you are not them. Nor are you even fully yourself, as that relationship is subject to evolution as well. When you were a child, you understood as a child, but even today, you are hopefully a child in relation to the man you'll someday be. Who, with luck, will also be as a little child in relation to its own manchildish future.

In A Secular Age, Taylor goes into great detail about the contextual limits to the imagination of the self, limits which have changed drastically over the centuries (I just don't have time to cite 700 pages of documentation). A few readers keep insisting in the teeth of this evidence that "folks is folks, everywhere the same." To the extent that they truly believe this, even after examining the evidence, then it's just a statement about themselves, not about reality.

For example, people who live in the modern West just take the idea of the individual as a given -- as if it has always existed, or as if it exists for everyone, say, in the Muslim Middle East, instead of being an exceptional deviation from all mentalities that came before. But in its own way, the difference between reflective individual minds and the unreflective group mind is as striking and unexpected as the difference between man and animals (and no, I am obviously not equating primitive groups with animals, or diminishing their humanity -- I'm explaining the phenomenon instead of explaining it away in the manner of cultural relativists).

In the West, we first experience ourselves as individuals (i.e., "all men are created equal"), and only then "become aware of others, and of forms of sociality" (Taylor). But in all human groups until quite recently, this formulation was literally unthinkable. So much was your identity embedded in the group, that you wouldn't know who you were in its absence. You would be utterly lost, a nothing and a nobody. Banishment from the group was existential death. It's somewhat like trying to imagine if you were the opposite sex. For example, so much does the normal male identify with his sex, that he can't imagine what it would be like to be John Edwards.

Again, Taylor traces this unprecedented change from immersion in the group-mind to the ability to conceive of ourselves as free individuals and "to have our own opinions, to attain our own relation to God, our own conversion experience." But ironically, Taylor believes that this was actually a sort of "delayed reaction" to the implicit metaphysics hidden in plain sight in scripture. For example, in the New Testament there are numerous calls "to leave or relativize solidarities of family, clan, society, and be a part of the Kingdom." This is actually a mind-blowing idea, especially in the context of the times (not to mention a culture- and state-blowing idea, as you are called to solidarity with a higher mind, i.e., the "body of Christ"; nothing could be more radical and subversive to the "powers that be").

In fact, it would be hard to imagine a more radical idea, because this "new inwardness" was going against the grain of all human and religious organization prior to that time. No wonder individualism only arose in the West, and that it took another 1600 or 1700 years for it to begin happening on a widespread scale! It was literally like trying to evolve a third eye or some other new organ. Because that's what the Self is: a new immaterial organ (to be perfectly accurate, it's a subtle material) for navigating around the hyperspace of human subjectivity, which is infinite at its outer inner reaches. You might say that religion tracks the outer reaches of inner space, while science tracks the inner reaches of outer space, whereas my book shows how the two meet in the muddle of the mount, if you'll just be an accomplice to my literary climb.

That's what I meant when I wrote in the introduction, "The aim of this book is to bore through the cosmic mountain from both sides: from the inside out, where science explores a world of diverse material objects and forces to which we are subject, and from the outside in, where the teeming multiplicity of the world is synthesized in the transcendental human subject. Is there a center where these two shafts could possibly meet?"

Well, yes. But only if you understand the mystery of who I AM.

For the more one discovers of God, the more one finds one has to learn. Every step in advance is a return to the beginning, and we shall not really know him as he is, until we have returned to our beginning, and learned how to know him both as the beginning and end of the journey. --Fr. Bede Griffiths, The Golden String

39 Comments:

Anonymous njcommuter said...

Congratulations on being noticed on the Kos. You can judge a man by his enemies.

1/18/2008 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

"nothing could be more radical and subversive to the "powers that be").

The left has been trying to destroy individualism for years. THis is just one example.
"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."
[Hillary Clinton, 1993]

1/18/2008 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Brilliant post.

And this before I forget, it’s Friday after all:

“This is why our understanding of the world can evolve and deepen, unlike any other animal, for whom the world is just "given" in an inalterable way. Only humans can "see beneath the surface" in an inexhaustible way, since they are not limited to their physical senses.”

Our friends sent our dog a birthday card. I showed it to him. He bit it.
I showed it to him because I knew he would bite it. I thought it was alright to let him do this because it was his card after all. He loves tearing large pieces of paper into smaller pieces. Or rather he looks like he loves it. I don’t know why he does this…but it’s fun to watch and he doesn’t do this to any other things.

For the same reason “the dog ate my homework”…will not bite a picture of a bone.
Except my dog will...

1/18/2008 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

“But ironically, Taylor believes that this was actually a sort of "delayed reaction" to the implicit metaphysics hidden in plain sight in scripture. For example, in the New Testament there are numerous calls "to leave or relativize solidarities of family, clan, society, and be a part of the Kingdom." This is actually a mind-blowing idea, especially in the context of the times (not to mention a culture- and state-blowing idea, as you are called to solidarity with a higher mind, i.e., the "body of Christ"; nothing could be more radical and subversive to the "powers that be").”

Yes, but not to forget the balance, and here, etc.

“…religious fundamentalism is analogous to scientism, in that both severely restrict O to their own narrow manmade judgments, which they then naively absolutize.”

Yes. Let God be God.

“upwards and not downwards”
“…only if you understand the mystery of who I AM.”

Godword is Godward.

1/18/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous njcommuter said...

Maybe your dog tears the paper up because he can't understand it. There are parallels to the sociology of the left here, if someone can disentangle them

1/18/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

For the dysluxic left, their gods eat their omwork.

1/18/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

I will be characteristically brief:

BIG Decryptogram today Bob!

1/18/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous at in la said...

This may or may not apply to the post today, and is addressed to no one in particular...

The burden to understand and know God is not solely on our end. It is God that does the work in the individual soul. And it is how we cooperate with God that the journey steers. To form our will to His.

Sin cuts us off from the life of grace. Yes, you can gain much from the inward search -- seek and you will find --but understanding truths, and living a grace filled life through which we abide with the Truth don't always coincide. Do the will of God, and He will provide the understanding.

When it comes to God or O, we are not just talking about discovery and adventure here folks. We are talking about the way to salvation in a fallen world. It's not all about bliss and awe just yet. There is evil and sin in this world of which we are not immune unless we have God's grace in us.

Am I partisan? We are all partisan. And all have a doctrinal system whether we know it or not. The Christian knows it. Do you?


With that, I will step back and say no more.

Back into the silence.

1/18/2008 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous coonified said...

"Jesus famously asked, "who do you say that I am?" The answer partly depends upon what we mean by "I" as applied to Jesus and to ourselves. There is always going to be a gap between the I AM and what we can say about it, which is true of the relation between any two subjectivities, or I AMs."

So, in relation to the social sphere of "group hypnosis," it would seem that the degree to which a person is become "I am"--excuse the weird wording--is directly related to the extent to which they can drive the "I"s encountered within the social sphere into double-bind and contradiction.

The transitional space present in this type of person would constantly work towards creating 'imbalance' within people, so that that the crisis of the circumstance might prompt an upward movement. Crises in the horizontal precipitates a possible shift in the vertical, in other words.

This--in relation to the false self, the so called ego--double-bind would be experienced as extreme alienation, even a type of death, to which the typical response would be the conversion of this "death responsibility" into a "death denial," which would then be projected back onto the world of "I"s and egos, perpetuating the group hypnosis. Luckily some do take up responsibility for death and grow out of it, or transcend it.

1/18/2008 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous coonified said...

AT:

"We are talking about the way to salvation in a fallen world."

There is no salvation in 'a fallen world." He "was not of this world," something which Gagdad explained today: "The "world" is not experienced directly, but is always a form of 'our sensibility', and is therefore limited by our ability to comprehend it. This is why our understanding of the world can evolve and deepen..." Translation: salvation is a psychic state that's gained by a lifetime of hard inner work; so is hell a psychic state too.

"we are not just talking about discovery and adventure here folks."

I would say that faith is placated and satisfied by discovery, which is the attainment of new gnowledge. (Well, that's why I have faith in the unknown; and I'll always have faith due to the inexhaustibly of the unknown.)

1/18/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous rabid racoon said...

"With that, I will step back and say no more.

Back into the silence."

And there you should sit in silence until O can be heard through the clamorous verberations of yourself.

Partisan!

1/18/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Thing is Bob, you have vastly more readers than commenters. Most people are simply blown away and have nothing to add.

1/18/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Is this remotely true, readers, or is Smoov just blowing smoke up our tailwing, hoping for an indulgence over that peccadillo involving the twin coeds? Are there really more readers than the original 12 Opostles who keep commenting?

1/18/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Hey Smoov, have ya seen that Amy has gone blond?

Ditto the blown away part: the squall that passed thru has disrupted the familiar placement of the furniture & the wall-art is all hanging askew.

Gonna have to tread lightly & no doubt fall over large unseen objects while rearranging this space.

1/18/2008 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's true, petey.

Some of us are here to learn,
not to chit-chat.

1/18/2008 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

AT, Walt has an excellent post up today which you might find interesting.

As to whether people today are better or more evolved than people of the past, well, how can they not be? From a purely genetic point of view, probably not much has changed. But when you factor in all the conditions faced by humans throughout most of history, starting even before a baby is born, people today in modern countries are different. If you were to take identical twins, raise one as an average American of today and raise the other in conditions that were standard in the 1200s, it would be extremely surprising if the second twin were not smaller, less intelligent (developing brains need a lot of nutrients), and vastly more likely to die young. Conversely, if we were to whisk an infant from the 1200s to be raised today, I doubt anyone would be the wiser by the time the child reached adulthood.

Were they less human? Of course not, nor are we more human. But we are more healthy, and we have the time and the luxury, if we so choose, to look at ourselves more clearly and armed with more knowledge than people have ever been able to do before. It does make a difference.

1/18/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

"There is always going to be a gap between the I AM and what we can say about it, which is true of the relation between any two subjectivities, or I AMs"
&
"the contextual limits to the imagination of the self, limits which have changed drastically over the centuries"

For those of us here & now, is it even possible to 'understand' the interior space of a human circa 1200?

1/18/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Petey,

I'm a reader who has nothing to add , but a lot to think about.

1/18/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"George Clooney famously asks, "who do you say that I am?"...

Look out your window, baby, there's a scene you'd like to catch,
The band is playing "Dixie," a man got his hand outstretched.
Could be the Fuhrer
Could be the local priest.
You know sometimes
Satan comes as a man of peace.

He got a sweet gift of gab, he got a harmonious tongue,
He knows every song of love that ever has been sung.
Good intentions can be evil,
Both hands can be full of grease.
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.

He's a great humanitarian, he's a great philanthropist,
He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed.

He'll put both his arms around you,
You can feel the tender touch of the beast.
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.

--Dylan, Infidels

1/18/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Hal Lindsey is not necessarily my cup of tea, but he sure has some fascinating insights related to some of yesterday's OC discussion -

"Historically, wherever the Jews were welcomed, that nation flourished and prospered. Where the Jews were persecuted, those nations floundered.

It is more than just coincidence; it is an identifiable historical pattern that has continued, without deviation, since the days of the Babylonian captivity."

The rest of the story...

1/18/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Robin - So...George Clooney is the antichrist and Bob Dylan is a prophet. I'll buy that.

8^/

1/18/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Petey -

Tell Bob that there never has been a post yet that didn't provoke thought, enhance understanding, entertain, as well as generate "opinions." That is one part of it.

Another part is asking myself, "What can I add?"

I know a few things, but OC brings order into my knowledge; I've collected data, but OC has helped me systematize it for myself. Still, I cannot claim to have yet made it my own.

Bob's the lead guitar. I'm in the corner plucking my Zhu. When the Club Cosmos starts rockin', and the lead guy starts improvising, sometimes all you can do is watch.

Ehhh, reading is the easy part. Actually adding something is the hard part!

1/18/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous sehoy said...

I'm still here, reading. So's my husband.

1/18/2008 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"Actually adding something is the hard part!"

yep - exactly. It's not in the nature of raccoons to be dittoheads, after all :)

1/18/2008 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob:
Been reading since Nov 2005, felt on the few times you were about to retire that I wished there was something I could do or say that would keep you going-blogging (I am quite sure you will go on even if you are not blogging!) I feel privileged, blessed even, to have found your ongoing work here because I have learned so much and had so many laughs doing it. Of course, the reading and musical recommendations are great, too. I am in a sort of dire financial situation so haven't hit the Amazon donation button, but, really, I would happily pay, say a dollar a day ($365) on a subscription basis to help keep you going for as long as you continue. Wednesdays "Follow the Depth" post is a great example of your amazing ability to articulate what I sort of intuit but can't yet articulate because I haven't done the time. To me it was not blasfumy at all, it was all true. Anyway, I would guess that alot of other folks would coontribute in subscription fashion too. You could do "just" five days a week and I think we would all still be happy. Might help with eventually retiring from the psychology gig. Anyway, I am with that Smoov character, I bet there are lots of other non-posters out there. (Twin coeds?!!) Calling all coons, support the B'ob! What say you? LNH

1/18/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous caliban said...

Well, Petey, I'm not here to learn. I'm here to smear my frustration and shame all over like fingerpainting with poop. I am nowhere near God and I know it and if feels like @#$%.

I don't think clearly and I don't act clearly and I am not a nice person and that really eats me up inside.

I am ugliness that despairs at it's own ugliness.

So that's why I'm here. I could use some help but knowing me I wouldn't know how to use it if I got it.

1/18/2008 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Thus Spake Kosiban?

1/18/2008 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading you for over a year. Bought your book too, and am working my way through your old posts. I haven't commented till now. Guess it's just not my style. But I never miss a day.Absolutely fascinating stuff.Mind-expansion without the need for drugs. -Peter

1/18/2008 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Petey, I'm still here -wouldn't miss a day -just don't have the ability to add ANYTHING to the discussion.

Mary

1/18/2008 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jwm here:
Is tonight the night for lurkers to uncloak? Cool!
Funny. When I first came over here from LGF I had a vaguely defined belief in God, and a bad case of the Jesus willies. Then I felt like I had a whole lot to say, and I seldom hesitated before saying it. Now, after much reading, much growing, some hard times and huge (huge) changes- well, now it's different. Then, approaching religion was like shoving two similar magnetic poles together; the resistace was palpable. Now my polarity has shifted, and I am drawn into the field. I am now a Believer. Yet now I'm reticent to speak about it. The words that once came readily to hand now fly right out of grasp, and hang somewhere right off the horizon of my ability to articulate. It's frustrating. The Religious Question has now taken residence at the forefront of my headspace. It is the default setting of my interior dialogue. But as soon as I try to write or speak about it I draw a blank. This post, for example, is damn hard work. It was easier when I knew less. This is all your fault, Bob. (and Will, and Dilys, and Ben, and Van, and River, and Robin, Smoov, Walt, Ximeze..
Did I leave anyone out? Petey?)
Thanks, y'all. I just love this place.

JWM

1/18/2008 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Bob,
Thanks for hangin' in there.

1/18/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Petey

I'm here everyday, just not very good at expressing myself in print, much better in person, verbally. I’ve written a lot of comments that I never posted because the coons and Fearless Leader are so much better at that stuff than I it is somewhat embarrassing.

1/18/2008 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . in the New Testament there are numerous calls "to leave or relativize solidarities of family, clan, society, and be a part of the Kingdom." <<

The one that leaps immediately to my fevered brain is JC's (I paraphrase)"To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one must first hate his family", which has been confounding theologians for centuries. For me, this saying has long been proof positive that JC inserted profound esotericisms into his short ministry on earth.

The question is - will there ever come a day in which the "masses" do evolve, so to speak, into the higher consciousness required to fully comprehend the profoundly esoteric? Or will that always be a matter of individual breakaway?

My view is that of the latter, although humankind's general spiritual evolution over the past couple of millennia has made it easier to achieve escape velocity.

1/18/2008 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Must recommend a great little Irish film that the NoMos watched tonight - "Once".

1/18/2008 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous looptloop said...

I've also been a daily reader now for about 2 years. I just read too late at night on my BlackBerry to get into the commenting fray.

1/18/2008 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger phil g said...

I'm here everyday but always a day late and a comment short as I'm on the Right coast and like to incorporate Bob's daily bread into my early morning reading/meditation. I would comment more, but everyone has already moved on.

1/19/2008 05:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(dilys here)

Re:
the most conventionally devout can have the least insight into the nature of the self,
I think there are several things to be said about anyone's finding insight into that deep matter.

The conventionally non-devout are not necessarily distinguished in their traction on "insight", especially layered with conventional superiority to the devout ...

Yet the conventionally devout do IMO suffer a special handicap, related to Taylor's note about fears for "danger to orthodoxy." Overrepresented in the realms of conventional devotion is a geometrically multiplied cohort with personal tendencies toward unacknowledged emotional identification with the tribe, convenient blind-allegiance authoritarianism, and anti-individualism masked as meekness.

The hazard of a real & necessary attempt at religion, exoteric and esoteric, is what Byron Katie calls "pushing your evolution." That includes pretense, calling ginned-up wana-be certainty "faith," and a refusal to name the frayed couture of the emperor. The orthodox (sometimes Orthodox) bear a superhuman vocation to mark adequate boundaries against true psychological-death heresy. Yet these boundaries must accommodate the accurate internal calibration of what is only the seed of faith, based on glimmerings of proper identification and a spark of relationship with a sensed Divine. Meanwhile, there is always the dilemma of initially and inevitably embracing high-quality well-endorsed rumor as confirmed fact. True religion in the exoteric demands a truly superhuman razor's edge between "what ever" soppy "pastoral" relativism, and a rigid culture of certainty. Given this near-impossibility, an awareness cultivated by OC, Bolton, and Taylor seems just about the only solution to not throwing out the Baby with the baptismal water.

And, as to: know him both as the beginning and end of the journey, taking things to the absolute root --

'There is nothing in me that preceded all his gifts and that could have served as a vessel to receive them. The first of his gifts, the basis of all the others, is that which I call my own "I": God has given me this "I"; I owe him not merely everything I have but also everything I am.... Everything is a gift, and he who receives the gifts is himself first of all a gift received.'

François Fénélon, cited by von Balthasar, cited by Gil Bailie in The Vine and Branches Discourse: The Gospel's Psychological Apocalypse

1/19/2008 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger wired216 said...

I'm another one here daily to soak it in... I usually don't have much to add but every once in awhile there's a thread that needs another *Me too* (like this one) and I pipe in.

I'm a secretary that just lost all of her slack time. My receptionist got laid off and I'm missing OC contemplation time... I almost have to skim the posts. Yuck. Liberal Michigan government is so much not fun...

1/19/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for lumping Joseph Smith with Jesus but no thank you for including Ken Wilbur.

You and Joseph Smith would have gotten along very well. He was very esoteric and very unorthodox. You'll find out just how by reactions to this post. The rabid fervor he excites in his enemies is a result of his esotericism.

1/20/2008 05:50:00 AM  

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