Thursday, October 16, 2008

Religion: It's Alive!!! (10.11.11)

Look, I know I'm not as "eloquent" as Gagdad. Or as coherent. Or linear. But all that stuff's overrated. Like I mentioned the other day, I'm like evolution herself, which is much more like a disorderly bush than a flowing river. In other words, everything just sort of cascades out of a central explosion, whether of life, matter, or spirit. The explosive center is everywhere.

We left off yesterday talking about that book in the Priestess's lap, which represents the descent of spirit, from the spiritual touch of mysticism down to the Hermetic-philosophical sense, which results in "writing one's book," so to speak. Two things come to mind. First of all, the vast majority of books are not even worthless. So why do people write them? As Bob mentioned in OCUG, there are already far too many books in the world, so if you're going to throw another one on the pile, you'd better have a damn good excuse. But mainly, it will come down to 1) money, and 2) narcissism. Being that #1 is a pipe dream for 90% of authors, we are left with #2 as the principle cause of the ever growing tide of drivel.

It is appalling that so many religious books in particular are void of content, at least as far as I am concerned. As Bob would say, they are all (k) and no (n). But unlike science, where it is perfectly appropriate to communicate in terms of (k), religious (k) that is not backed by the full faith and credit of (n) is ultimately worthless and even harmful, as it leaves the impression that religion is essentially void of vertical content -- which is the very content of religion.

This is what UF is referring to on p. 43, where he writes that "Gnosis without mystical experience is sterility itself. It is just a religious ghost, without life or movement. It is the corpse of religion, animated intellectually by means of scraps fallen from the table of the past history of humanity." So much contemporary religion is characterized by this problem, that it's easy to see why people reject it. It's not that they want to be irreligious. It just doesn't speak to them, because it is dead.

But by the same token, people can be put off by living religion, because its practitioners will appear more or less insane to the uninitiated. Most liberals for example, have no problem with religion, so long as you don't actually believe it. None of them think Obama actually believes that crap, or they'd never vote for him. They are banking on his insincerity and cynicism. But Bob is genuinely unsane. He's not faking it.

I don't mean to keep using the same metaphor, but it really is analogous to modern jazz, which to me is the quintessence of real music making, but which few people want to actually listen to. For one thing, it requires qualifications in order to do so. It's not like musical wallpaper. It's alive, meaning that it is spontaneous, unpredictable, harmonically challenging, and intrinsically adventurous, even while staying within certain bounds.

Here again, listen to what UF says: a mysticism that does not give birth to gnosis "must, sooner or later, necessarily degenerate into 'spiritual enjoyment' or 'intoxication.' The mystic who wants only the experience of mystical states without understanding them, without drawing practical conclusions from them for life, and without wanting to be useful to others, who forgets everyone and everything in order to enjoy the mystical experience, can be compared to a spiritual drunkard."

So many spiritual drunkards! This pretty much summarizes the New Age movement, which is utterly devoid of sobriety. Again, I hate to keep bringing up the man, but have you read Deepak Chopra's deranged blog entries at huffingandpissed? He truly writes as if he is brain damaged. Just incoherent ranting. Suffice it to say that this is a grave offense against the Holy Spirit. One cannot make God look foolish with impunity. Who knows, perhaps his writing is already evidence of the punishment. I can't even imagine how painful it would be to have to be him.

Now, speaking of the bush vs. the river. UF makes a critically important point. We know it's important, because like all important points, it will utterly elude our scientistic jester. The point is this: true coontemplation picks up where discursive reason leaves off. You will note that we get the occasional moron who accuses Bob of being "anti-science." He's hardly anti-science. It's just that what represents the "end" for the tenured, is precisely the starting point for the Raccoon. For as UF writes,

"Discursive thought is satisfied when it arrives at a well-founded conclusion. Now, this conclusion is the point of departure for contemplation. It fathoms the profundity of this conclusion at which discursive thought arrives."

Obviously, this contemplation of depth can never be accounted for by the thing being contemplated, whatever it is. Contemplation is always at a "right angle" to material existence. Truly, it is the miraculous vertical rabbit hole that leads all the way up -- or down depending on the case. But the point is, "contemplation discovers a world within that which discursive thought simply verifies as 'true.'" Say it again: no, don't bother. I think you get the point.

Please note that what UF is saying does not only apply to the world of scientific truth, but to religious truth as well. Again, there are spiritual books that are deep, and many more that are shallow. Both disclose "truth," but what a difference! It's like a great artist and a Sunday painter drawing the same landscape. Who knows, the latter might even be more technically "accurate," so what explains the depth of the former? Here again, it is that sense of mystical touch, which the gifted artist is then able to convey on canvas, which is his "Hermetic" book.

There is something much deeper than the simple binary question, "is it true or false?" Think of a great film. Was it true or false? Did the events really happen as described?

What foolish questions! As UF writes, contemplation "perceives more the significance of the truth discovered by discursive thought," and then tries to trace this depth back to its ultimate source. How does one do this? "By listening in silence. It is as if one wanted to recall something forgotten."

You might say that the Divine is analogous to the "tip of the tongue" phenomenon, in which you know it's there, but have to relax into it -- perhaps even forget in order to remember. Or, perhaps it's like the distant stars which disappear when you stare directly at them, but reappear in your peripheral vision. There is an infinite amount of light that will elude you if you attempt to stare it down with scientism!

No, this is the realm of vertical recollection, or what Plato called anamnesis. As UF points out, horizontal memory renders the past present, while vertical memory "renders that which is above as present below." This is perhaps the key to understanding scripture, which, if reduced to mere horizontality, becomes functionally useless. No, that's an exaggeration. The point is, it will still operate vertically, even if you imagine that it is horizontal. It can still work its magic, but if you insist too much on the horizontality, it can diminish the verticality.

As the mystical sense is analogous to spiritual touch, the gnostic sense is analogous to hearing. Obviously, it is this that Jesus is attempting to highlight when he speaks of having ears but being unable to hear, for true hearing takes place on the level of vertical depth. Do you hear what I'm saying? Good. This kind of deep hearing can only take place in an environment of expectant silence or passive openness, i.e., (---) and (o).

You will notice that we listen to a great artist in a different way than we do to the typical hack. One of the reasons for this is that the true artist has earned our respect, as we know from experience that there will be an added dimension of depth to his work if we only give it time. Conversely, one could listen to a mediocre "artist" (a contradiction in terms) forever, and discover no hidden depths.

Back to the jazz analogy for a moment. I first became attracted to it by reading some of the famous critics, who wrote about its incredible depths, and I said to myself, "this is for me!" But in some cases, it took years of "expectant silence" to finally understand what was going on. The analogy with religion is exact.

In fact, I see that UF next goes into a little riff on the nature of art, which he compares to the magical sense of projection: "The talent of the artist consists in this: that he can render objective -- or project -- his ideas and feelings so as to obtain a more profound effect on others than that of the expression of ideas and feelings by a person who is not an artist. A work of art is endowed with a life of its own," very similar to the process of birth itself.

Religion is either a living and breathing reality, or it is dead, just like any other philosophy.

28 Comments:

Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Since we’re still riffing-off, UF (thank, Bobness), one more thing about the fortification mentioned earlier. Our beloved Raccoon dwelling, if you will. The fort is open at the top. Anyone can operate a ladder if they give it half a chance. I’m living proof. Once inside, admission is freedom.

10/16/2008 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous UF said...

I’ve been riffed-off!

10/16/2008 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Polanyi may say, Tip of the Tacit to you.

10/16/2008 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>A work of art is endowed with a life of its own<<

I think this why a genuine work of art becomes an archetype of a sort, one that continues to give birth via its inspiring qualities.

Also, I think that as an archetype a genuine work of art exists "in the air", so to speak - it joins the pantheon of noble archetypes. Can one be positively influenced by a book or music that one has never read or heard? Yes, I think so, if the book/music truly serves as an archetype. Perhaps an artist - or anybody for that matter - can unconsciously link with that artistic archetype and be inspired, spiritually elevated by it.

I might add that not every being who reads or listens or simply beholds a work of art is necessarily corporeal. Word travels the invisible grapevine.

Sorry about the Dodgers, I was rooting for 'em. Now, however, I have to root for the Phillies because ex-Philly John Kruk is simply one of the coolest human beings alive.

10/16/2008 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

One of the great things about MOTT is the way that UF develops and expands on these ideas throughout the book. It's like a 4D fractal that folds back upon itself, with a branch from one chapter grazing against a frond from another. Thus this:

"Discursive thought is satisfied when it arrives at a well-founded conclusion. Now, this conclusion is the point of departure for contemplation. It fathoms the profundity of this conclusion at which discursive thought arrives."

Resonates with this, from Letter XIII:

"...so is every mechanical explanation of whatever it may be in no way an explanation of the whole, but rather it reduces questions to silence by shifting the subject of the questions from the domain of comprehensibility to that of incomprehensibility - from the light of consciousness to the darkness of the unconscious."

Deeper and deeper up the rabbit whole we go. You're only partially right today, Walt - Raccoons are all adventurers, it's just that some of us keep our travels mostly inside our heads ;-). Which would make Robin an Adventurer's adventurer. Or something...

10/16/2008 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Will, that's a good point. Some works of art are accessible to most anyone, though if it's Art it will have different levels of meaning depending upon the sight of the bewholder. Other works of Art, for instance truly great abstract art (it's not an oxymoron, there really is some that is great, if you know how to see it) might be meaningless and incomprehensible to most people. And of course, there's an entire industry that capitalizes on the apparent meaninglessness, producing true gibberish that they can easily pass off as greatness because most people really can't tell the difference - but they'd rather pretend to see greatness where it might not exist than admit that they don't get it.

10/16/2008 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie -

>>It's (MOTT) like a 4D fractal that folds back upon itself, with a branch from one chapter grazing against a frond from another<<

I like that very much.

I believe the Bible and all great scriptures and spiritually-inspired works of various sorts have that holistic quality.

I'm constantly amazed at the ways in which modern tech, computer tech have come to mirror higher, vertical truths.

10/16/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I was going to write a piece on how the "credit bubble" is analogous to the spiritual credit that the secular world lives on -- and abuses -- without realizing it. But if that spiritual credit were to ever actually dry up... well, the survivors will envy the dead.

10/16/2008 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

"be afraid for those who are with child in that day..."

10/16/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie, I agree re: levels and meanings of art.

I was thinking, however, that even if no living human being, aside from the artist, of course, beholds the art work, the art work, by virtue of its becoming a sort of archetype, still serves a Divine purpose, still has an influence on those who might be open to such an influence.

10/16/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason I keep thinking of Akhenaton. I too feel little hands in the rays of the sun and sense something dwelling behind the solar disk.

The slanting autumnal sunlight seems somehow alive. Anyone else get that sensation?

10/16/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Urg. I think you're right about that, Bob. These recent generations have been borrowing against an inheritance that had been saved up for a couple hundred years (in this country alone). And instead of honoring it and maintaining it, we've been cashing it in for parties and taking loans from New Age, inc., artificially inflating our own self worth with "value" that doesn't exist anywhere but in the minds of the borrowers. The traders, they know it's all bogus, they just pass it around like hot potatoes, hoping not to be the ones stuck with it when the time runs out.

And of course, not everyone has been so squandering and foolish - but we're all in this house together, and if the foundation craps out due to overbuilding and improper maintenance, we all must suffer the consequences.

In the horizontal, DH and I will probably do pretty well, given that his job is basically emergency service for businesses, but I don't know if that'll be a blessing or a curse in the long run.

In the vertical, well - all we can do is make sure our own foundations are secure an the structures are properly retrofitted, so that if the Big One hits, we can take shelter in a solid doorframe.

10/16/2008 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Sorry…OT again…
Want some good news?
Google: “Senator Government”

10/16/2008 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Another grim one (I'll find something funny later to make up for it; in the meantime, there's always Herb), but via the Diplomad:

"Just imagine for a second the global outcry if the occupants of this ship were killing whales or baby seals..."

We are given the power to work everyday miracles and bring modern medicine to those who would otherwise be without hope, and this is what we (that is, the collective "we" of modern Western civilization;" obviously it's not everyone, or there'd be no outcry, and this wouldn't be news) do with it. Bit by bit, life by life, the foundation gets chipped away.

10/16/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Not funny, but Joe the Plumber is my new hero. As long as there are still folks like this, and like all of you Raccoons, there is hope for us yet.

10/16/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"horizontal memory renders the past present, while vertical memory "renders that which is above as present below." This is perhaps the key to understanding scripture, which, if reduced to mere horizontality, becomes functionally useless. No, that's an exaggeration. The point is, it will still operate vertically, even if you imagine that it is horizontal. It can still work its magic, but if you insist too much on the horizontality, it can diminish the verticality."
......

"a little riff on the nature of art, which he compares to the magical sense of projection: "The talent of the artist consists in this: that he can render objective -- or project -- his ideas and feelings so as to obtain a more profound effect on others than that of the expression of ideas and feelings by a person who is not an artist. A work of art is endowed with a life of its own,"..

Our Constitution,a true work of art by vertically embued artists,has to be horizontalized by those who would set themselves up as God. The long, patient Marxist assault, however, cannot diminish the actual work itself. Even tho the crowds flatline the artwork itself calls out to those with the eyes and ears open to the Good, True and the Beautiful!

10/16/2008 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, when the left talks about a "living Constitution," they're really talking about killing it, for it's already alive.

10/16/2008 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

"I was thinking, however, that even if no living human being, aside from the artist, of course, beholds the art work, the art work, by virtue of its becoming a sort of archetype, still serves a Divine purpose, still has an influence on those who might be open to such an influence."

This is a theology of Mercy. That God is the ultimate witness, rendering all the good works visible despite the smoke, sound, fury that smears and fogs them. It is also a theology of Judgment because the private acts of evil are equally visible.

To say that the creation of great art does not require a public viewing to be great is a deep extension of these ideas.

As for the artist viewing his own great work, it is highly doubtful that an artist capable of producing such a work is ever really in the position of knowing his or her work is great. Instead the greatness is more like the prayer behind the work and resides in the hope rather than the knowledge. The artist can however know that his craft is competent and his subject deep, and that he has invited God to shine His light through the work. However, it takes that extra light to make a work great.

10/16/2008 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I can bear witness that the audience of one, even if one doesn't know who, is often enough. At the very least when a tree falls in the forest, there is someOne to hear it.

10/16/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

By the way, River, thanks for your comments yesterday on the poem. I changed the second verse and reminded myself that preaching or philosophy almost never works in poesy if it is directly expressed.

10/16/2008 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Re Deepak: Suffice it to say that this is a grave offense against the Holy Spirit. One cannot make God look foolish with impunity.

Talk about punishment. I note that he has been removed from the latest round of Microsoft commercials.

10/16/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Christopher: This is a theology of Mercy. That God is the ultimate witness, rendering all the good works visible despite the smoke, sound, fury that smears and fogs them. It is also a theology of Judgment because the private acts of evil are equally visible.

You have summed up true religion nicely.

"But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matt. 6:6)

10/16/2008 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Clarity:

"I was just calm as can be, and I don't know why."

10/16/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Ron said...

Yes, I agree that many liberals are okay with Obama (or any politician) because they don't actually think that he "believes that crap or they'd never vote for him." But, this is different than whether Obama (or, again, any politician) does in fact so "believe." This brings to mind the whole Wilber "pre/trans" distinction. For the mystically-challenged, extreme-flatland liberal, there is only one type of religion, and for them is is all magic/mythic BS. This does not mean, necessarily, that the politician does not indeed "believe."

By the way, re all this talk lately of the great harm that will be caused by an Obama win--please. Take heart Coons--whoever wins or whatever happens, we are all pretty much doomed. So, cheer up!

10/16/2008 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

we could deal with 'doom' ron, but if they win: no rightwing talk radio? =Arrrggghhh!!
http://www.heritage.org/
Research/Regulation/EM368.cfm

10/16/2008 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous austracoon said...

"The mystic who wants only the experience of mystical states without understanding them, without drawing practical conclusions from them for life, and without wanting to be useful to others, who forgets everyone and everything in order to enjoy the mystical experience, can be compared to a spiritual drunkard."

Hos 5:7 They are unfaithful to the LORD;
they give birth to illegitimate children.
Now their New Moon festivals
will devour them and their fields.

10/17/2008 04:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Austracoon, I like your style. Keep it up.

10/17/2008 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Niggardly Phil said...

Ron, the thing that gets me and that will stay with us is the SCOTUS appointments, as Bob pointed out the other day. That's the crux of this election.

All the other stuff - abortion, healthcare reform, social security reform, tax reform, etc is not something the president can lead on until the shit hits the fan. Until then, we're just changing the hood ornament.

10/17/2008 07:45:00 AM  

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