Saturday, September 06, 2008

Evolution and Creation: Is this Really the Best God Can Do?

Yes, it's a serious question, and one that separates traditionalists such as Frithjof Schuon from evolutionary thinkers such as Sri Aurobindo or Teilhard de Chardin. The former believe in a static or deteriorating cosmos, while the latter believe in an evolving one. Not just Darwinian evolution, mind you. Rather, biological evolution would simply be an inevitable artifact, or side effect, of a cosmos that has in fact been evolving for 13.7 billion years, or ever since it banged into being.

Now, when I completed the first draft of my book perhaps a decade ago, I was absolutely convinced of this view. Perhaps "convinced" is the wrong word, any more than one is convinced that the sun rises in the east. Rather, science tells us that there was a time that the cosmos did not exist. Then, suddenly it did. Not gradually. Suddenly. It did not exist. Then it did.

Same with Life (I capitalize it when I am speaking of "Life as such"). The last time I checked with Petey, this was a supposedly dead -- or, to be precise, non-living -- universe until March 4, 3.85 billion years ago, when Life suddenly appeared, or moved from the implicate to the explicate order. Which is another way of saying that the universe revealed itself to be a living one after all.

In other words, from our vantage point, 10 billion years may seem like a long time, but from the Creator's point of view, we know that one day is an eternity and all of eternity is but a single day. If you cease anthropomorphizing the situation, then perhaps the emergence of Life was an overnight sensation.

Same with the emergence of humanness. No one knows with certainty when human beings arrived on the scene, but let's say that genetically complete humans appeared approximately 200,000 years ago, give or take. As I explained in the Coonifesto, our genetic endowment doesn't explain much in light of the fact that "humanness" doesn't appear until much later, only around 40,000 years ago. And I would go even further, and say that real humanness didn't emerge until the axial age, with the simultaneous downloading of all the great revelations. In the absence of these revelations, man isn't really man at all, just a cosmic freak, an animal-human hybrid like Bill Maher, Deepak Chopra, or Keith Olbermann.

Of course, you can argue against these facts in the name of "faith," but I do not believe that is the purpose of faith -- i.e., to help us disbelieve what is before our eyes. Rather, it is to help us understand that which is not before our eyes. And in the entire scenario I have just laid out, there is much that is not before our eyes, and which cannot be understood or illuminated in the absence of faith.

To take just the most obvious examples, how could a perfectly ordered universe suddenly appear out of nowhere? Why is it ordered at all? And why is it so ordered that it allows not just for the emergence of living things -- as we know, if you mess with just one of the knobs on the Creator's cosmic console, and change one of the mathematical parameters that undergird the physical cosmos, biological life would be impossible -- but also for the emergence of minds capable of understanding the truth of the cosmos and of their own origins? To express it as succinctly as possible, what kind of cosmos permits Truth, Love, and Beauty? To say that science cannot answer that question is a banality of the first rank.

Only after the first draft of my book was written, did I really immerse myself in the works of the traditionalists, e.g., Schuon, Guenon, Cutsinger, Nasr, and others. While I had encountered them before, I basically rejected them on a priori grounds, since I thought it absurd to suggest that the cosmos was not evolving.

However, in the mean time, a lot of spiritual growth had taken place, so, for the first time, I was actually able to penetrate and understand where the traditionalists were coming from. Or, perhaps I should say that they were finally able to penetrate my density. So for the past four or five years, as you may have noticed, I have been very much under their influence. Frankly, I can never repay Schuon for what he has given me. It's as if he put the finishing touch on my ability to think about spiritual things -- i.e., to engage in intellection and think vertically.

Nevertheless. I still feel as if Aurobindo and Schuon are talking about apples and oranges. Schuon has an absolutely vertical and static orientation -- like the Catholic church on stilts -- whereas Aurobindo is quite the opposite, and not only values the evolving world, but sees it as the very stage upon which the cosmic-spiritual adventure takes place. The world is here for a reason, and it's not just to wait for our death. But Schuon comes very close to saying that -- as do some Orthodox thinkers, for that matter.

The whole point about Aurobindo's philosophy is that the world is not only worthy of our being here, but that we are required to do the urgent spiritual work of uniting the above and below, in order to create the "life divine" on earth. This is obviously not in some pie-in-the-sky, youdopian leftist sense, but more in the Christian sense of bringing God's light into the world ("Thy will be done"), or in the Jewish sense of Tikkun, or helping to complete God's creation. Frankly, I see Aurobindo's philosophy as being quite compatible with Christian theology, but also with Americanism, which is optimistic and progressive, values the individual, and sees itself as engaging in a spiritual mission. Americans are idealists, in ways that the sophisticates of the international left simply cannot grasp because of their lazy cynicism.

(By the way, for anycoon who is put off by Aurobindo's metaphysics, please be patient, as I will eventually explain how all this comports with Judeo-Christian metaphysics.)

Schuon would say that the world is inevitably winding down through time, as it falls increasingly far from its timeless source. But I say, so long as single infant can grow up and know the Godhead, it is winding up. Schuon would say that human beings are well into the "beginning of the end," i.e., the "Kali yuga." Aurobindo might say that we are only just now approaching the end of the beginning, as mankind learns to colonize and expand its own psychic space, which converges upon the Divine mind. For example, in his own case, he wrote (in 1914, by which time he had realized all that could be realized from the standpoint of traditional yoga) that "what I thought were results are nothing more than a preparation. I feel as though I have done nothing yet, as though I have not lived the spiritual life, only entered the path that leads to it."

Aurobindo begins with the principle -- as indeed you must -- that all is one, and that that One is God, or Brahman. In other words, Reality is not a "sum" but a unity; all multiplicity, all differences and variations, exist within that prior oneness: "From that all variations begin, in that all variations consist, to that all variations return." God is the "Alpha and Omega," the "One besides whom there is nothing else existent." Only it is ultimately Real. To the extent that we really exist, it is only because we partake of that Being.

As such, it is an artificial distinction to radically separate being from becoming, as I believe Schuon does. For if God is one, then becoming partakes of being as well. True, there is a "dark and silent" aspect of God, that is, the Godhead that may only be unKnown in the luminous darkness of mystical union. But there is another side -- literally -- to the story, and that is the "active" aspect of God, part of which is this Creation. As Aurobindo writes, "The fundamental truth of Being must necessarily be the fundamental truth of Becoming. All is a manifestation of That."

This is simply another way of saying that the "becoming" represented by cosmic evolution is nothing but a necessary consequence of God's Being, as it is deployed in time, so to speak. Again, Schuon would say that the world of "becoming" is only becoming less and less as time goes by. Could this possibly be true? We really only have three choices: either it is becoming less, becoming more, or staying the same. The latter cannot be the case, since only God by definition "stays the same," being that he is eternal. But his eternity participates in time -- indeed, time is simply the moving image of eternity, or God in Motion, so to speak. And I just cannot accept the idea that time represents God's "deterioration." Rather, the specific reason why time is anti-entropic is because its substance is God. It's the reason why dust comes to life and monkeys compose symphonies.

Now, there are evolutionary worlds and non-evolutionary worlds, and it is critical to maintain their distinction. For example, the world of revelation is a non-evolutionary world. It is intended to help us understand the timeless truths of our evolutionary world, but that can hardly mean that the world itself is not evolving. Rather, that's the whole point. Precisely because the phenomenal world is changing, we need a way to understand its deeper truth, whether it is scientific truth or moral and theological truth. Again, the whole point, say, of Genesis, is not that it describes things that happened long ago and once and for all, but that it describes what happens every time, over and over. Likewise, creation didn't just happen 13.7 billion years ago or 6,000 years ago, but continuously.

Let us think of the Creation as a "bridge" between becoming and divine Being. Naturally, the bridge must be built in time. Furthermore, it goes without saying that this bridge could never be built "from the bottom up," like a Tower of Babel. Rather, the only reason it can be built at all is again because God is the material, the ladder, the rungs, and the destination. Looked at in this way, ours is not a "God of the gaps." Rather, precisely the opposite: God is a God of the gaplessness, specifically, the lack of any real gap between matter and life, life and mind, mind and spirit, and spirit and God. In the absence of God, this is indeed a gap-filled universe, with no way to account for the ontological discontinuities. In other words, the only way you can get from matter to life or ape to man is because of the very gaplessness of God.

You might say that evolution "presses upward," but that it could never arrive anywhere in the absence of God "pressing downward," so to speak. A quintessential example of this is Christ, or even the Christ principle, if you prefer. No matter how hard man "pushed against the sky," he could not have produced a messiah on his own. Rather, the ascending pressure must be met by a descending response, which creates a kind of "whirlpool" where spiritual activity takes place. This is why, in your own life, as you press upward, God pushes downward.

Looked at in this way, there are "avatars" at every stage of evolution. For example, that first living being was an "avatar of matter," a divine descent. Life is already Divinity. It is sacred. And it is One.

To be continued....

44 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"And I just cannot accept the idea that time represents God's "deterioration." Rather, the specific reason why time is anti-entropic is because its substance is God. It's the reason why dust comes to life and monkeys compose symphonies. "


Exacattackaly!

(ahem. sorry. back to the post)

9/06/2008 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Again, the whole point, say, of Genesis, is not that it describes things that happened long ago and once and for all, but that it describes what happens every time, over and over. Likewise, creation didn't just happen 13.7 billion years ago or 6,000 years ago, but continuously."

Yes. What truly annoys me about literalists, is not only that they attempt to take the 3D from on high, and press it out into the flat 2D somewhere in the past, but that in so doing, they remove it from your life, our life, from Life itself. Genesis is not a 'was', it is an IS!

9/06/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Rather, the ascending pressure must be met by a descending response, which creates a kind of "whirlpool" where spiritual activity takes place. This is why, in your own life, as you press upward, God pushes downward."

The two Trees, the two Streams... or the two Genders for that matter, who take matter and swirl it into a living Child... the whirling motion of Becoming....

Heady stuff.

9/06/2008 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Looked at in this way, there are "avatars" at every stage of evolution. For example, that first living being was an "avatar of matter," a divine descent. Life is already Divinity. It is sacred. And it is One."



This place.


O my.

9/06/2008 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin dupree said...

I guess I'd be bitter too if I were a humorless rat-faced homunculus.

9/06/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

I was going to comment, but after following your link, I think I'll shower first.

9/06/2008 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Did I mention here I went to the same Virginia boar[d]ing school as John McC?...about a dozen years later.
Not coed til after I'd left = boring part.
As frosh, the neoBritish 'Rat' system was in place: Old boys were encouraged to inculcate school spirit into newbies in borderline-harassing ways, + you had to memorize many school cheers and Team Captains, their jersey #s etc in the first week! It is certain to me that Poor John in Hanoi would be likely to think of or remember the school gang shouting those cheers, recalled to this day, when in the depths of gruesome pain... i remember the English master Mr Ravenel, who wore those half-spec's; and who died while I was there. I recall him He arbiting a bet as to whether a wordplay joke that I thought was a pun was indeed one: 'Not really...' Crud, I lost 2 weeks' desserts, which John & us called 'boss', to 'noxious Pete C.
He was this man:
Who Mentored Senator John McCain?
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/chc/wmy2008/Celebrities/john_mccain.html

9/06/2008 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

...as we know, if you mess with just one of the knobs on the Creator's cosmic console, and change one of the mathematical parameters that undergird the physical cosmos, biological life would be impossible...

Well, actually, that's not quite so well-established as you might think.

Oh, and Van, I have been perusing some of your "reading list". For example, here you accuse Sam Harris of, essentially, being as bad for being an anti-literalist as the literalists you decry today. You may even be right about Harris, but people like Dawkins and Dennett are accused of hypocrisy for not ignoring the meta-meanings of myths and legends.

You don't take the Iliad as literal history, but you draw morals, even inspiration, from it. You don't take Genesis as literal history, but you draw morals, even inspiration, from it.

Why can't someone not take the New Testament as literal history, but still draw morals or even inspiration from it?

9/06/2008 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Seems to me 'winding down' or 'winding up' make sense from human time-line context, in support of, and logical extension of(to?) a given metaphysic, but isn't the or question a false dilemma?

Doesn't "I Am the Alpha and Omega" by definition include/mean both winding-up & winding-down at/in the same 'time'/ same 'space'? Akin to Escher's Relativity and Ascending and Descending.

What is my pea-brain missing?

9/06/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Kepler Sings said...

Yes, all of this first the physical, then life, then man looks like preparation for each proceeding step. Something the shouting of Queeg will not allow is the subtle distinctions about evolution, about the differences between pure evolutionary processes, especially the physical evolution of the universe from pure energy, to coalescing into matter, then stars, then first generation stars blowing up to produce the heavier elements, then stars with planets, which can now come about because the guts of the first stars are now available to form those planets, then planets with oceans, then planets with oxygen atmospheres, then planets with life, then diversifying of life etc.

The stupid Darwinist applies physical stepwise progression (it was all preset the way the universe would look like in the first second of the big bang) to the evolution of life.

The stupid creationist applies the immediate creative power of God to everything. Both obscure reality and produce a shouting across the aisle argument when IMO the truth is both of these things take place, but careful where you assign one process when the other has/is taking place.

Going with the evidence, which neither fundamentalist creationists, nor Darwinists do; it appears species do NOT evolve, they just appear, complete, unchanging in the fossil record.

But some processes do evolve, such as oil creation, or the formation of diamonds. And then the biggest mystery of all:

Manlike beings on the earth that do nothing for thousands of years but make hand axes, endless hand axes for thousands of years, then suddenly, overnight, you have cave drawings (art), language, agriculture, city building. It is much more like the Bible puts it; that there is a slow dawning of light from east to west...the rising of the sun. But during that steadily increasing light there is lighting flashes...instant stuff, the insertion of the spiritual, or spiritual power, directly into the material world, then later with man, the insertion of spiritual creates a soulish man, then later still the insertion of the spiritual into a "soulish," man creates a man of spirit (In the image of Christ)

The creation of the universe (big bang) is the unfolding canvas of God, it unfolds in an exacting predictable manner, many unattended processes just go on, God is not really IN the processes, sort of revisiting the Newtonian clockwork idea.

But then God is splashing different colored paint onto that canvas (starts life in the oceans, starts life on land, designates species through time etc) But he is also painting a picture, and that face, that portrait is a self portrait, strangely it looks like man..or better spiritual man.

Evolutionists are stupid because they just want to figure out the ingredients of the paint, they are set to become "paint," experts. They never step back to behold the actual painting, indeed they do not even understand a painting is happening, they do not even see a painter, the just assume paint is a result of, an outcome of the universe.

And why their dead philosophy is so unappealing to anyone that still has a living mind, imagine the stupendous futility of a universe that exists to simply manufacture paint, no real reason really, it just wants to make paint.

9/06/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

*WARNING* Extreme stupidity below!

(I mean even more stupid than me)

From the One dot org blog:
Mallika Chopra Says:
August 29th, 2008 at 1:58 pm
"In choosing 1st term Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his VP pick, McCain and his advisors have demonstrated how thick headed they are when it comes to women. Do they honestly believe women are so stupid to vote purely for a woman? I supported Hillary because she was a smart, experienced woman who supported and has spent her life fighting for the issues I believe in, and I felt confident she would be a great American President.

Apparently, Republicans were desperate to choose a woman, not actually caring about experience or judgment, but solely focused on changing the dialogue and showing how bold they can be. Also, she is staunchly pro-life - an effort to attract the Republican conservative base. Is that going to attract the women voters who believe in their own right to choose?
The Obama/Biden ticket represents change, but also wise judgment, experience, hope and a new direction at its core. It is a choice that is the right one for America, not made just for a news headline
.

Please Lord, grant me the will to want to have patience with your pestilence.

9/06/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Kepler Sings said...

Van

Yes. What truly annoys me about literalists, is not only that they attempt to take the 3D from on high, and press it out into the flat 2D somewhere in the past, but that in so doing, they remove it from your life, our life, from Life itself. Genesis is not a 'was', it is an IS!

Exactly!

9/06/2008 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

We really only have three choices: either it is becoming less, becoming more, or staying the same...
...Rather, the specific reason why time is anti-entropic is because its substance is God.


Taking some liberties with this premise, might Ecclesiastes 3 appear to suggest all three choices are in lila, in rhythm around the central organ of time?

"A time to keep and a time to throw away."

"A time to tear apart and a time to sew together."

"I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has {so} worked that men should fear Him."

And the masterstroke:

"He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end."

This humbling bit of information is key to my understanding of spiritual ambition - it is at the same time an explanation of the drive to exploration of the timeless and a warning not to think it's been grasped. Timeless, creative, and evolving.

This is why, in your own life, as you press upward, God pushes downward.

Amen, that.

9/06/2008 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

"Genesis is not a 'was', it is an IS!"

See The Cipher of Genesis where "Carlo Suares presents a vision of the Qabala accessible to minds that are free from superstition and supernatural dogma. His midrash of Genesis frees the Qabala from the archaic myths surrounding it, allowing it to resurrect in glory and splendour. His translation of Genesis transcends rigid, canonical boundaries, revelaing the very essence of the Qabala as the perception of the mystery of existence. The Qabala is revealed as the explosive core at the heart of scripture - a focus of intense life that destroys obselete structures, dying and resurrecting, burying its past as it fulfills it, resurrecting in splendour, eluding the grasp of consciousness."

9/06/2008 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

ray attempted to say "For example, here you accuse Sam Harris "

Ray... there's no there in you 'link', repost please, I've no idea what you're talking about. Not that there's likely to be any more sense in what you say, but if want someone to follow a link, you have to put the address in it.

9/06/2008 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

BTW Ray, if you have a comment on one of the posts on my site, it might be more appropriate to post your comment on my post, on my post, on my site... ya know?

9/06/2008 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

And Ray, my argument with Harris, Dennet, etc, is not that they are, or are not literalists (though I do put Literalists and Atheists as two sides of the same coin, though with the literalists being heads up), it is that Harris & Co are fundamentally anti-Reason, they are in their philosophical principles every bit as mystical as those they deride, and more damaging since their errors sabotage the foundations of Reason itself, whereas the proper Religionist is not likely to make that error.

For an Atheists opinion of why the 'New Atheists" of Harris & Co are fundamentally undermining Reason with their brand of unwitting mysticism (and yes, that means you to Ray), check this one out, currently free from The Objective Standard The Mystical Ethics of the New Atheists. (Caution to other readers - not a Religion friendly article or site)

"Although Hitchens may be adept at pointing out religious absurdities, he not only fails spectacularly when it comes to providing a valid secular alternative to the moral guidance provided by religion—he endorses essentially the same ethics as do religionists (altruism) and he arrives at this ethics by essentially the same means (mysticism). If this is the best the New Atheists have to offer in their efforts to lure people away from religion, they should not be surprised to find religionists ignoring them."

9/06/2008 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "Why can't someone not take the New Testament as literal history, but still draw morals or even inspiration from it?"

I don't know, you tell me? I could hand someone a copy of Tacitus's "The Histories" and tell them it is a fictional tale(alas, all too easily) of political intrigue and civil war inspired from the results of our current Kos-type reactionary thinking, and they would still be able to glean much wisdom from it all the same.

What the heck is your point? That someone doesn't have to believe the New or Old Testament in order to gain from it?

I suppose the would be the most appropriate point to say,

Duh!

9/06/2008 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Sorry for the typo, Van, try this link, it'll probably work. I didn't post there 'cause it's from almost a year ago. Should I comment there and email you with a link, or do you check your logs or something?

I'm not too impressed with the "Objective Standard" article you linked to... he makes a big mistake about Dennett, for example, when he takes the statement that “no factual investigation” could answer “questions about ultimate values” to mean that "because we cannot derive moral principles from facts (the old “is–ought dichotomy”), we should survey existing ethical views and accept those that are most popular". I've already made the point elsewhere that values plus facts give rise to morals. And given the facts of the universe, a lot of different values end up implying very similar morals.

Oh, and my point was that you essentially tar all atheists with the same brush, that they can't or won't recognize wisdom in literature like the Iliad or the Bible, because they emphasize that they are not to be taken literally. And that doesn't follow. As I said, I'm half-convinced you're right about Harris, but Dennett and Dawkins are counterexamples. For a "duh" point, you don't seem to consider the ramifications.

9/06/2008 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"I didn't post there 'cause it's from almost a year ago. Should I comment there and email you with a link, or do you check your logs or something?"

No, it's my blogger site, if you make a comment, I'll be emailed a notification. Computers. Cool.

"I'm not too impressed with the "Objective Standard" article you linked to... he makes a big mistake about Dennett..."

Not surprising, since he knows what he's talking about, on the other hand, you said this,

"I've already made the point elsewhere that values plus facts give rise to morals."

Which is just the same error Denett makes. You see no ultimate integration, only efficient arrangements. Existence gives rise to facts, as well as Life, and our need to act in order to sustain our lives, gives rise to Values (that which we act to gain or keep), and a Reason applied through a long term perspective gives (or at least can give - however rarely) rise to Morals.

"Oh, and my point was that you essentially tar all atheists with the same brush, that they can't or won't recognize wisdom in literature like the Iliad or the Bible, because they emphasize that they are not to be taken literally..."

Are you high? I've never made that statement, and I'll remind you that untill just a year or two ago, I was an atheist - though it always seemed stupid to term it that way, putting the emphasis on something you don't think exists - I was incidentally a non-theist, as are the Objectivists, though some of them get too caught up in the fight.

There is nothing whatsoever preventing a non-believer from recognizing wisdom in literature of any stripe, religious or otherwise.

You tar all atheists with the assumption that they have to not believe in One Truth, in order to be an atheist.

I now believe that they miss something more and deeper by dismissing Religion, but they are in no way barred from wisdom or morality.

And no, Dennett and Dawkins are not counterexamples, Harris is the most rational of the bunch, but that's only to say that he hides his error less near the surface than they do.

9/06/2008 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Hmm... quick correction before mowing the lawn,

"and a Reason applied "
should be "and Reason applied "

And having to mow the lawn, and not being able to put it off any longer, I think is where the "Are you high?" came from. (sorry)

Argghh. You can never find a teenager when you need one.

9/06/2008 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
This is a wonderful post. Beautifully fluid. Curious if it felt different than usual when writing it.

9/06/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. Felt like something was pushing down on my head, and I couldn't type fast enough.

9/06/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Keep on pushing.

9/06/2008 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

'Til you Move on Up.

9/06/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

All this talk of the axial age brought to mind the Coonifesto and how you spoke about the beautiful cave paintings at Lascaux. Until your book I hadn’t thought about those paintings since I was a boy in maybe the 3rd grade. Understandably, back then (my then) the story was more about the kids who discovered them rather than, really, the historical implications – they were the first “recorded history” that we know of, correct? And if so, the first time (there had to be one) man recognized there was such a thing as time or history before he had names for the concept. I mean, the first caveman who drew one, if he wasn’t drawing it for his cave buddy, was drawing it from his past, for his future self. He escaped "now" – which is what an animal can’t do.

Also, the first one to do this, if he was drawing it for his buddy, and his buddy understood it(keeping in mind his buddy never saw a drawing before) doesn’t this mean the capacity for the understanding of the meaning of the drawing pre-existed in the buddy? I’ve shown drawings to Fido many times and he still cannot do this.

9/06/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, those paintings are as clear an example of a divine descent in response to man's "pushing" as you could imagine.

9/06/2008 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Can you recommend a book from your library that “looks at” the cave paintings from a more meta-history type perspective or cosmological one?

I never looked into that Lascaux cave beyond the few (instantly recognizable) paintings I remember seeing back in the 3rd grade. I just found this site:

The Cave of Lascaux

The place is enormous. So many paintings and some incredibly skillful and detailed. There are even strange geometric pictures. Walking around in there and thinking of the axial age (similar revolutionary thinking taking place all over the world independently) the place suddenly looks like a large interior space opened up from the outside. The human who painted them discovered the space at the same time. There is one painting of a man in there surrounded by animals. Talk about a downloading deluge from above – the place is a story of the Great Flood, or a Noah’s arc opened up and sealed off for the future.

9/06/2008 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick:

Good question. There was a period of time during the course of writing the book, that all I thought about was those paintings, trying to make sense of them -- just as there was another lengthy period of time that I thought of nothing but human sacrifice. I read everything I could of the latter, but there just weren't that many books on the former, except by either art or anthropology pinheads, who were clueless as to the meta-meaning.

I suppose that Joseph Campbell came the closest to getting it, in his beautiful The Way of the Animal Powers, but he spends only about 10 pages on that explicit subject.

I'm guessing that it's probably better to get one of those large format art books and just contemplate the paintings and try to imagine what those first humans are trying to tell us down through the centuries... In some sense, they're like the first revelation -- which reveals man and therefore God.

9/06/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky, also if you've ever been deep in and down within a cave, there is an experience, especially when the flashlights are off, and all you've got is flickering firelight... that adds another dimension to whatever is before and around you.

There used to be a place outside Vegas (now it's probably under a subdivision) where we teens' would go 'party' the Caves... when all others were gone, even spray painted images and graffiti took on something more than mere image and narrative.

Anything I experienced there, in that setting, had to be fairly flat and minimal compared to what they were doing and experiencing... no doubt they were pushing and pulling from deep within the inwardly outwards...

9/06/2008 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(Sorry to step in again and ask for attention, but for those who are watching/ playing along at home, there's a new post up in the slacketeria. This'll probably be the last time I mention it.)

9/06/2008 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the cave paintings must be seen in darkness, with only candle light illuminating them, to get the full effect. The artists were very aware of using the contours of the cave walls to add dimensionality to the paintings, so that the flickering candlelight makes them appear to be alive and moving. Undoubtedly they were like the first movies -- watching a lit up screen in total darkness.

Not to mention the fact that these caves were deep beneath the earth, with some of the tunnels barely as wide as a human body, so it was very much like going back up the birth canal into "mother earth."

Reminds me. I was just asking my son today if he remembered when he was in mommy's tummy. He said he did. I asked what he was doing in there. He said, "hitting mommy." Which was absolutely true.

9/06/2008 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Thanks Bob, Van. Yes I think you have to put yourself in there. And when I do I notice it must have been a long busy day and they found time somehow for this difficult activity they couldn’t completely understand – just as we still haven’t “solved” art in a way – but they couldn’t keep it in. Their days were as long and full, and full of experience as ours…and it’s easy for us to look back at history all at once and forget time moved at the same pace as it does for us. How can a whole life be equal to one painting? It can’t because it isn’t.

Now I’m thinking about when music was separated from earthly sounds. Which was recognized first and then created? Which came first the song or the painting? I get the feeling about the same time.

9/06/2008 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

didnt the insurmountable [Virgo] Georges Bataille write one of those Lascaux livres?
"What is sensible in Lascaux, what is touching us, is what is moving. A feeling of spirit' dance lifts us up before these artworks in which, without routine, beauty is radiated by feverish movements: in front of them, what is essential for us is the free communication of the being and the world around him. Man get relief from it to get on with this world whose he is discovering the richness. This movement of intoxicated dance had always the strength to raise art above subordinated tasks that it accepted, that religion or magic dictated to it."

-The prehistoric Painting, Lascaux or the birth of art, 1955

9/06/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

Doc,

Inspired post, and I am in sympathy (at least) with much of it. But I think you have somewhat misrepresented Schuon and the Traditionalists with regard to the decaying universe. What you say of their position is true as far as it goes, but (unless I missed it) you fail to point out their cyclic theory, which they took from Hindu cosmology. So after the current dark age ends, there is a vertical infusion or remaking (a "new heaven and new Earth") - a new golden age begins, and the entire process repeats itself. (Note that I am not necessarily endorsing this view over Aurobindo's, just pointing it out so that the two views may be contrasted fairly.)

9/06/2008 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Warren:

I'm pretty sure they would say that this cycle winds down with dissolution and judgment, followed by an entirely new cycle, which is not an extension of the previous cycle, but I'll double check. Obviously, this view is entirely at odds with Christianity, which is not cyclical. Which is one of the reasons I believe that true
Christianity is more compatible with the Aurobindian view.

9/06/2008 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A quick google search yielded the following:

"The four ages represent a continual decline, extending from the creation to “the end of the world”. The decline is not even, but gradually accelerates... Both René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon take the view that humanity is now in the last phase of the Kali-Yuga, the “Dark Age”. A Hindu prophecy regarding the “last days”, taken from the Vishnu Purana (3rd century A.D). is as follows:

Riches and piety will diminish daily, until the world will be completely corrupted. In those days it will be wealth that confers distinction, passion will be the sole reason for union between the sexes, lies will be the only method for success in business, and women will be the objects merely of sensual gratification. The earth will be valued only for its mineral treasures, dishonesty will be the universal
means of subsistence, a simple ablution will be regarded as sufficient purification...

The observance of castes, laws, and institutions will no longer be in force in the Dark Age, and the ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas will be neglected. Women will obey only their whims and will be infatuated with pleasure...Men of all kinds will presumptuously regard themselves as the equals of brahmins.... The vaishyas will abandon agriculture and commerce and will earn their living by servitude or by the exercise of mechanical professions.... The path of the Vedas having been abandoned, and man having been led astray.

Remembering in a World of Forgetting from orthodoxy, iniquity will prevail and the length of human life will diminish in consequence.... Then men will cease worshiping Vishnu, the Lord of sacrifice, Creator and Lord of all things, and they will say: “Of what authority are the Vedas? Who are the Gods and the brahmins? What use is purification with water?” The dominant caste will be that of shûdras.... Men, deprived of reason and
subject to every infirmity of body and mind, will daily commit sins: everything which is impure, vicious, and calculated to afflict the human race will make its appearance in the Dark Age.

9/06/2008 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

How do the New Heaven and New Earth fit in? (Rev. 21)

9/06/2008 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember closing my eyes as a child, and trying to imagine nothingness. Just black void for ever. Not even forever cause there would be no forever for it to go into.

I knew then something sublimely incredible was going on, because i was experiencing this somethingness. And it was directly challenging me and my attitude toward it all.

9/07/2008 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Susannah:

Good point. The conclusion of Revelations is not consistent with a cyclical view, but instead tells of an age when God will again dwell with men (21:3) and "will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying," etc. In short, it speaks of some sort of evolutionary transformation, which I will now proceed to delve further into in today's post, assuming the boy doesn't wake up early. Otherwise, it's re-run time.

9/07/2008 06:01:00 AM  
Anonymous matthew said...

One logical gap I see in our wrestling with evolution / creation is that it should somehow make sense to US. It need not: God and the universe may have a purpose for us humans, it may be part of our reason for being here to understand all or a part of the process-- our our role(s) may be something else entirely. Our gasping and grasping forward towards unfolding life and development may indeed be headed towards a messiah or kingdom come or big rock candy mountain or something else we can't foresee at all.

BTW This of course needs to be linked here:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/evolutionists_flock_to_darwin

9/07/2008 06:31:00 AM  
Anonymous matthew said...

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/evolutionists_flock_to_darwin

9/07/2008 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Guenon was clear that the "elite" he conceived of, and it was for this elite that he was motivated to write, would constitute the seeds of the new "golden" age.
As for whether this view is compatible with theories of the Yugas and, particularly, the Kali-Yuga, I do not know.
Basically, he conceived of a righteous remnant of an intellectual elite that would carry the torch to a new golden age.
I just hope they all have watched Seinfeld and listen to Van Morrison.

9/08/2008 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

Schuon wrote almost nothing in regard to this elite.

9/08/2008 10:53:00 AM  

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