Providence, Destiny, and Fate, Oh My! (1.14.11)
Nor, by the way, is the cosmos synonymous with what scientists call "the universe." The universe is an abstract construct employed by scientists to help explain and frame their data. It doesn't actually exist, except as an abstraction. You might say that it is the intellectual residue of the living cosmos, the latter of which is the ordered totality of being, as reflected on both the macro and micro scales ("as above, so below"). In turn, the cosmos is not synonymous with the Creator, but is, however, incomprehensible in his absence.
Now, each of us is born with certain invariants which constitute our true self. However, these categories remain empty potential unless they are actualized in life. We are all "driven" to achieve this unique potential, something the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas calls our "destiny drive." The word "drive" is probably misleading, because this doesn't operate like other drives, which are more mechanistic and past-to-future in their orientation. Rather, the destiny drive is clearly teleological, operating in a future-to-present, or top-down manner. Sensing one's destiny feels very different than discharging an urge. Furthermore, it's not a repetitive or one-time-only sort of thing, as in "What did you do last weekend?" "Oh, I gratified my destiny drive. I think I'll do it again next Saturday."
Rather, the destiny drive mysteriously applies to the whole of one's life, not just to an isolated part of it (in fact, analogous to the cosmos, you could say that it is the implicit totality of one's being, which naturally must be disclosed in time). It is the ultimate organizing principle on the subjective-micro scale, and another one of those things that, if you think about it deeply -- or even superficially -- defies any materialistic explanation. Obviously it is not coterminous with the ego, which is an anonymous function that most everyone has. The ego is more like hands or teeth -- which is to say, a tool for negotiating internal and external reality. Think of the ego as an immaterial organ.
True, everyone's fingerprints are unique, but so what? The ego is unique in the way that a snowflake is unique. Yes, every snowflake is distinct, but it's a distinction without difference. Furthermore, no snowflake surpasses "snowflakiness." Like the egos of Hollywood, everyone is different, but they're all the same flake. Sean Penn is just as flakey as Tim Robbins, and they both smell as sweet as a Rosie or Roseanne.
Bolton discusses this question of uniqueness in Keys of Gnosis, but I would use slightly different terminology. That is, I would say that each snowflake is an individual, but they are not individuated. Only a human being can individuate, which is to say, achieve a destiny which is unique to him. So yes, there is a kind of "predestination," but it's very different from the materialistic predestination of a snowflake. Human beings alone can become something they're not, and thus arrive at the wrong destination. No one has to tell a pig to be one, but you can never stop telling a liberal to be a Man.
In fact, there can be a fine line between destiny and fate. Only destiny is within the realm of providence, whereas fate implies its opposite (although in an ultimate sense that humans can scarcely grasp, fate must still somehow operate within the providential system; I would just say with Schuon that it is simply one of the necessary conditions for an existence separate from the Creator, or from the Good -- to paraphrase a pretty goodfella, "Why do you call me good? There is none good but God allOne.").
Now, a universe of pure providence would be indistinguishable from a universe of pure fate, and therefore, devoid of destiny. Under a system of pure providence, only the whole system has a destiny, which is no destiny at all. This is a monist metaphysic, like Buddhism, and therefore obliterates the value of the unique individual. And you all know about my passion for buddhaflaw correcting.
In a Christian context, predestination reduces you to a plaything of God, whereas in an Eastern context, you are just a plaything of maya. But the whole point of Christian metaphysics is that time is both real and irreversible, so that true and eternally valuable novelty occurs within it. "For this reason," as Bolton explains, "supposedly spiritual teachings for which the total system is the only real agent [i.e., monism] are only disguised expressions of Fate," and fate is not providence, let alone destiny. Predestination explains precisely nothing, but unexplains everything.
Rather, providence and destiny work with the freedom left over by fate, and are manifest "in the ordering of things by a benign intelligence which leads souls to a good which seems to have been pre-ordained for them, or for which they seem to have been made" (Bolton). Interestingly, we are able to recognize fate as fate, because it is a "constraining force" that can never totally contain us, and which we could not recognize "unless there were something in us which did not belong to it."
But at the same time, providence could have no meaning unless it existed over and against the "unfreedom" of fate: "[T]he Catholic idea of co-operating with Providence is linked to the idea of realizing one's individual Form or Exemplar." Thus, it is not so much that "God is my co-pilot." Rather, I am God's co-pilot, a formulation that uber-Coon Meister Eckhart would have appreciated, had he known about airplanes, which he might have used to flee from the authoritarian forces of fate in religious garb.
By the way, although airplanes crash, that is not what they were designed to do. Yes, you need a blueprint to create an airplane capable of crashing, but that is not the purpose of non-Muslim airplanes. As such, as Bolton says, there is no grounds for a "negative predestination," since creating something to fail is a contradiction of terms.
Fate has to do with those things over which we have little power, "a kind of order manifest as necessity, constraint, and coercive causality, which includes purely random events" (Bolton). For example, we are fated to die, or to live with sexual tension, or to toil for our daily bread, or to endure dopey comments from trolls. This is very different from our destiny. Fate generally interferes with our destiny, but even then one must be careful, for our lives can often look like a trail of fate which led to our destiny. Here I think that fate can serve approximately the same purpose as entropy, discussed in yesterday's post. An organism can never eliminate entropy; rather, it uses entropy by dissipating it in order to maintain its dynamic equilibrium.
Likewise, we can "dissipate" fate to achieve our destiny. In this regard, fate has a way of underminding the "best laid plans of mice and men," plans that likely came from the ego, not the Self. Thus, fate can often serve the purpose of eroding the ego's pretensions of control. This may sound a bit abstract, but it's not. For example, I have a sense that this blog has to do with my destiny -- who knows, maybe even yours, but that's a separate issue.
But I could never do this with my ego in the way. Rather, I can only achieve "control" of my destiny by giving up control. I could never do this with effort. Quite the opposite. Each morning I abandon memory, desire, and understanding, in order to make a little raid on the wild godhead. So, even if I'm wrong, let it never be said that I wasn't truly, uniquely, and unprecedentedly wrong in a way only Bob could be. I may be wrong, but never in an unBobbish way. Cut these posts with a knife, and they bleed real blood, type O.
How did Petey express it in the Coonifesto? Oh, in a multitude of unique or bizarre ways, depending upon your taste or destiny:
Leave our alter egos on the ego altar and surrender three forms of identification: I me mine.
Yes we accept ego death, so vacate your premises, abandon your conclusions, and cash in your chimps.
Don't worry, it's just aphasia go through before the noesis in your head becomes real.
Unknowculate your brain, make your resurrections in advance, and don't forget your peaceport.
Return your soul to its upright position and extinguish all memories, we're in for a promised landing.
And perhaps most preposterously,
Do the monkey bone, do the shingaling, get your slack back & take a trip, slip, lose your grip & turn a backover flip and say: not the god of the philosophers, not the god of the scholars!
In other words, forget "understanding." Rather, if you're not dancing, you're wrong. Until the music ends.
By the way, can we give a big hand to Bolton's Keys of Gnosis, which has unlocked so many fruitful non-linear O-ssociations? As I mentioned, I've put it in the sidebar list of foundational Raccoomendations.