Friday, January 11, 2008

Providence, Destiny, and Fate, Oh My! (1.14.11)

I have to admit, I've never given much serious consideration to the idea of predestination, because it isn't really due any. It strikes me as intrinsically heretical and antiCoonetical, in that it takes certain truths and pushes them beyond the breaking point. In a way, it's like slipping astrology in through the back door -- the idea that our fate is determined by cosmic forces beyond our control. Even a real astrologer doesn't believe that. Rather, genuine astrology deals with archetypes, patterns, and inclinations, and an inclination is not in the realm of what must be, but what may be. We still have freedom over our inclinations. The cosmos is not a machine, but a.... a cosmos.

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.

23 Comments:

Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Country Music
staves in four four time
our days metered out in bars
improvisation

1/11/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Destiny! Destiny!
No escaping, that's for me!

Oops, sorry - that was someone else's bad dream :)

On a different note, but one that raccoonish minds might appreciate, I had an interesting experience last night that I posted here. (It's a bit long for a comment, and I didn't want to hijack anyone's thread.)

And on a third note entirely, if you happen to be in the East Valley this afternoon, my choir is giving a free concert, details also at the above link.

And now, back to our regularly unscheduled program...

1/11/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"and they both smell as sweet as a Rosie or Roseanne. "

ewhohhh... That didn't go well with lunch.

1/11/2008 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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)."
Yes, and I suspect that those who Gno Themselves well, people like Churchil and Washington come to mind, sense that destiny more clearer than most.

"Yes, you need a blueprint to create an airplane capable of crashing, but that is not the purpose of non-Muslim airplanes."

Lol.

"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?"

Clicked from here to there and put my super saver shipment through (for Boltons and Goldbergs 'Liberal Fascism') earlier this week.

Cha-ching!

wv:uzazu - no, I'm not, that's not my destiny.

1/11/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous CO said...

Bob,

Are you familiar with the book "Abandonment to Divine Providence"? It's one of my personal favorites. It has some deep thoughts on abandonment and speaks on what you write about today. Take care.

1/11/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous at in cognito said...

"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."

Bob, could you elaborate a bit on the process you do to achieve that? It seems like a battle just to be able to abandon those things to get beyond them. Was it a process long in practice to get to where you are now, and do you now let the information you absorb simply come through you as it will?

It's something that I believe is beginning to occur in my own life. Giving up ambition and desire, not out of some practice to attain enlightenment, but rather it got to a point with many things where I had had enough. Not sure if that makes sense, but once that started happening, I then noticed movement and a degree of fluidity in my life that I didn't expect. But the balance now seems to not get bogged down once things go well, to try and grasp those things again and to try and control it. Anyway, could you elaborate on how you were to do that for yourself?

Thank you.

1/11/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

co -- yes, I'm familiar with the book, but haven't read the whole thing yet.

at -- I'm not sure that my situation would be instructive to anyone else. It's partly why I stopped doing psychotherapy, since I could hardly use myself as any kind of frame of reference for normality. Put it this way: compared to me, 999 people out of 1000 are very abnormal. Either that, or....

1/11/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous at in cognito said...

Granted. But not even for instuctive purposes but perhaps to luminate or illustrate some similar sign posts for those of us out there...but if not, that's cool.

1/11/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Freedom’s Dictators
History shows liberalism shares much with fascism.
by Bruce Thornton
Private Papers

A review of Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism. The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods

http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/
thornton011008.html

1/11/2008 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Is God Omniscient?

1/11/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

Nomo - The mind boiler question. Do His actions remain back from His knowledge, ie gives the distance in action for us to choose, even if He knows what it will be. He knows but lets us cause things?

This is hypothesis only.

His thoughts (in the end) after all are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways. I believe that is how it is put in His Word.

1/11/2008 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

I am sure Bob may have insight on the matter. ... I thought I'd just add some of my question texture to the question.

1/11/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

But, then He causes all things to for the good for those who are in Him.
Hmmmmm...

But yes, I believe He is omniscient because He is omnipotent.

1/11/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Haikoon said...

I know of a God
who once knew it all, but who
gave it up for love

1/11/2008 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

if you're not dancing, you're wrong.

Not to mention hopelessly square...

:o)

1/11/2008 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

BTW, I've done a bit of "letting go" by not hitting the "preview" option on commenting.

It keeps me out of the 9th level of word-veri hell; and it really is a bit edgy and loose, to just hit "publish". Yeh.

1/11/2008 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

joan of argghh! -

What is this "Preview" you speak of? I was unaware of such an option. I gather though, you don't recommend it...some kind of adventure in Dante-esque inferno?

I just glanced down and I do see it now. Thus far it has eluded me.

Though I do remember once (or a few times) using it to post on a Blogger blog about a year ago. Funny that I missed it with this blog!

Today I realized that I had tapped the wrong tab and was gleefully writing about a crush* on this comment area instead of an inbox reply area!!! Now THAT would have been juicy! Maybe I should use the preview option!!!

*...unrequited, however. I was quiet and kept the crush on the down-low, and then he decided to date someone else. I don't think he knew of my attentions. I was preoccupied with other things so maybe it was just not the right time. :)

Wow, now I'm frightened to hit the orange button rather than the blue.
Ah, it's alright.

1/11/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

For anyone who doesn't keep up with him, Dennis Prager interviewed Jonah Goldberg on his "Liberal Fascism" yeterday.

1/11/2008 09:07:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

I mean yesterday--typo.

1/11/2008 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous hipster said...

Square?..... Square?
Talk about square. ;*)

1/11/2008 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

LOL! Gene Wilder said it best.
Well, funniest anyway.
Good reference Julie.

1/12/2008 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"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."

This is very deep and fascinating!
So we "diss" fate.
Or, to put it so the young kits will grok it: We "punk" fate.
Trick my fate. :^)

1/12/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

ximeze-

That's why I refer to her as Hitlery Clinton. I've been correcting people for years about conservatives being fascists. Doesn't seem to sink in. Same as trying to make them understand we don't live in a democracy.

1/12/2008 07:45:00 PM  

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