Atheism and the Demystification of Being
Yesterday I finished David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, and it is recommended to anyone who wants to have a good laugh at the expense of bonehead atheists.
As I mentioned in last Thursday's post, Berlinski is an important voice, being that he is a secular scholar who is one of the most articulate critics of reductionistic Darwinism, atheism, and scientism in general. Like me, he rejects these things because they are absurd and illogical, not because he is religious. In a way, the book reminds me of Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism, as it is like a mental disinfectant that pulls out these pathological ideas root and branch.
The book is somewhat relentlessly sarcastic and scornful in tone, which normally doesn't appeal to me. I usually reserve my scorn for outright evil rather than philosophical stupidity. Then again, I do believe that atheism becomes an evil when it is transformed from a solitary affliction to a mass movement, as advanced by such voices from the abyss as Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and the especially dim Sam Harris.
None of the philosophical arguments put forth by these people could appeal to a remotely sophisticated mind, let alone spirit. As such, to the extent that they are widely embraced, it can only reduce mankind to something it was never intended be, and effectively deny our cosmic station and destiny in the hierarchy of being. Truly, it is the end of mankind and of true humanism. This cannot be over-emphasized.
The main problem with Berlinski's book -- similar to Explaining Postmodernism -- is that it has no "positive" philosophy to erect in the place of the feeble scientism it reduces to ruins. Therefore, in its own way, it ends up coming across as somewhat unavoidably nihilistic. I would put it this way: there are lower and higher forms of nihilism, so to speak.
The higher form may essentially be thought of as any form of apophatic theology, which honors the irreducible mystery in which we find ourselves. In light of this Supreme Mystery, the scientistic buzzing of misbeehiving intellectual worker bees is analogous to a spiritual sting that kills the host. Was that clear, honey? Again, if atheism succeeds it fails, for it kills man as such. This will become more evident as we bumble along, if not in today's post, then tomorrow and later in the week.
I'll spare you all of the details and just provide enough background to move the post along, but back when I was in graduate school, one of the dissertation topics I considered was something along the lines of "Psychoanalysis and the Remystification of the Mind." It had to do with a certain "arc" in the style of human thought which reached its zenith in the 19th century, when Freud began his writing.
Freud was a child of the times, and the late 19th century (ironically) represented the pinnacle of the kind of unsophisticated reductionism we see being replayed in the contemporary movement of bonehead atheism. Contemporary atheists are embracing a kind of naive positivism that was discredited and rejected so long ago that it is completely irrelevant for any serious thinker. It's as if the 20th century passed them by, and they're picking up where the 19th left off.
To make a long story short, Freud was convinced he had unlocked the mystery of the mind. Not only that, but he firmly believed that his own theories would eventually be further reduced to neurology. The problem is, as psychoanalysts ventured further into the mind with the techniques developed by Freud, instead of demystifying it, they ended up remystifying it.
Here again, when I use the word "mystery," I mean it in the higher sense of a sophisticated mode of knowing, a "negative capability" that roughly corresponds to what I call in the book O-->(k). To dwell in O-->(k) is to live one's life on the very shoreline where eternity breaks into time, or where the Mystery becomes manifest. To employ the terminology of quantum physics, it is to be the collapse of the wave vector, where the nonlocal wave becomes a local particle as a result of a human observer. We are like the Cosmic Umpire, in that there are no balls or strikes until we say so. Or electrons, for that matter.
Here again, this can be confused with sloppy solipsism when it is anything but. Rather, it alerts us to the *obvious* participatory nature of all human knowing below a certain level. In fact, even the highest levels of knowledge -- and this would be metaphysics and its instantiation in revelation -- are never free of a human knower, and are therefore only "relatively absolute." Only the Absolute itself is absolute, i.e., there is none good but the One.
Anyway, I noticed that, especially in Bion, psychoanalysis had come full circle from a reductionistic and therefore "demystifying" form of (k)-->O (and therefore (-k) or Ø) to a genuine re-mystification of the mind, or what you might call "apophatic psychoanalysis." A good psychoanalyst should be much more humble in approaching the mystery of the unconscious mind, which simply cannot be contained and never will be, since it exists in a higher dimensional space than does the four-dimensional ego, the ego being an adaptation to the conditions of "the world" (in both its physical and cultural aspects). As a matter of fact, I discussed this in the very first paper I published back in 1991. Here, let me look it up....
"Three-dimensional Euclidean space is not a given, but rather, a special limiting case of a far more extensive n-dimensional space," similar to that disclosed by string theory. "It is crucial to note that in the new physics, space is not to be thought of as mere homogeneous 'emptiness'"; rather, it has qualities which condition the matter within it. In fact, there is only this "energic" space, with the relatively minute areas of greater density experienced as matter. Therefore, space is not (only) that which separates objects, but that which more fundamentally unites them.
Likewise, mental space is not some kind of an "ideal void" which contains the objects of thought. Rather, our prior condition is a qualitatively different kind of space, and a developmental process is required in order to allow this space to evolve. We must find a way to "translate" this higher dimensional space into one of lesser dimensions, or else be afflicted by psychopathology in the form of baffling symptoms (which are "deformed" and unrecognizable messages from O) or a failure to evolve. In light of this, I would regard atheism as the quintessence of pathological defense against O, which therefore prevents its fruitful evolution. This is why there is nothing about atheism that appeals to the human spirit, only the ego.
I don't want to rewrite the whole paper here, but I think you can immediately sense how this works in practice. A great poet, artist, musician, or mystic is precisely great because of their highly sophisticated "translating function," which reduces the infinitely protean O to something "graspable" by the mind. As such, the truly great artist creates something "relatively" inexhaustible, which is why folks are still talking about Dante, Shakespeare, and Bach, and conversely, why there is so little to say about atheism or Darwinism once it's been said.
After all, as Berlinski points out, the rudiments of Darwinism -- and as it pertains to philosophy, its rudiments are also its highest wisdom -- can be learned in an afternoon, and all if its implications can be fully drawn out in the space of a day. The rest is just commentary. You know, Shakespeare wrote those sonnets in order to get chicks. God is a projection of our anxiety about death.
That people fall for this stuff and call it "sophisticated" never ceases to amaze. That it "satisfies their soul" tells you all you need to know about the anorexic state of their soul. They must look in the mirror and see a big fat intellect, when we see a scrawny, 80 pound adolescent. It is analogous to someone's literary needs being fulfilled by Harlequin Romances, or one's intellectual needs being satiated by Air America and huffingtonpost. I think you'll agree that there are no mysteries there except false and counterfeit ones, such as the awesomely numinous evil of George Bush, or the deeply religious idea that "wisdom begins with the fear of global warming."
This is all just a rambling prelude. I promise to get into more details as the week unfolds from O into (k).