Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where the Buoys Are

I feel as if I'm starting to repeat myself. Which I guess shouldn't be surprising, since Balthasar spends volume one of The Glory of the Lord laying out the argument in great detail, then the subsequent six volumes supporting it in even greater detail. But at some point you have to let it go. I mean, what comes after ad nauseam?

The problem is especially pertinent to the dialectical jazz metaphysician and improvisational pneumanaut, who never likes to play the Cosmic Suite the same way twice. So I might pick up the tempo a bit, and see if we can't at least get our TOE tapping (Theory of Everything).

There is the cosmos. And then there is the cosmos of revelation. Both are worlds, the former exterior, the latter interior. The exterior cosmos is obviously dependent upon the interior, which is why a total knowledge of the exterior cosmos would reveal nothing of its interior dimension.

Indeed, the mere fact that the cosmos may possess knowledge of itself is far more interesting -- shocking, really -- than any of the knowledge itself. Those blunted souls who are unable to appreciate the miracle of subjectivity are analogous to someone who jumps over a quarter to save a nickel.

In fact, James touches on this very issue this morning. That is, he essentially asks us to meditate on the absurdity of exterior revelation being completely identical to interior revelation. If this were the case, then to know the science would be to know the Creator. But so what?

"This way of proceeding, while initially impressive and useful, is ultimately ridiculous. God goes to all the trouble to reveal himself and he ends up saying that? It would be like someone handing you DVD saying 'this is what God himself has revealed about your life', which, when you watched it, was a short documentary narrating all the basic facts of your life. With revelation like that, who needs revelation? If that were all God did, who needs God?"

When we say "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," I'm pretty sure this is what we're talking about -- about the gulf between the two worlds. Science can only reveal how things are on the surface, not how they are supposed to be deep down. The same with any discipline, really.

For example, a historian can only tell you what happened, not what was supposed to happen (although every historian, no matter how secular, always sneaks in his implicit idea of what was supposed to happen, but without ever justifying it. The next time one of them glibly suggests that Bush was an awful president because x number of people died in Iraq, calmly ask him how many lives will have been saved -- let alone made meaningful -- in the next 100 years because of the liberation of Iraq).

So with the aid of the interior revelation, we discern the meaning and trajectory (which amount to the same thing) of history, and therefore see how, in fulfilling itself, it is transcended. In other words, to say that history has any meaning whatsoever is to immediately lift the raw facts of history beyond themselves to a plane higher than history. The problem is, the secular historian has no rational basis for doing this, no defensible grounds for saying that history is anything other than one damn thing after another.

Again, consider James' analogy of a complete DVD of someone's life. You could sit through the whole production and not understand a single thing about the meaning of the life in question, because meaning is always an interior phenomenon. Ultimately it is the organizing principle, the lens through which we can understand all the "parts" of one's life. Thus, to say "meaning" is to say "interior."

In my case, as I sit here typing, I am "effortlessly straining," so to speak, to make out the contours of a nonlocal object that is just beyond the subjective horizon. It is my "meaning," my north star, except that this star is in the invisible firmament of the celestial realm. I know when I am in its orbit, because it confers a kind of spontaneous interior coherence that must then be deployed in a linear fashion, which I call O-->(n). This is how Balthasar describes the world of revelation, through which

"meanings come together to build but one faultless and yet effortless equilibrium: they had all been harmonized into a sovereign unity before we ever perceived them. The strange aprioristic certainty dawns on us that in this cosmos of revelation we can always press forward with our investigations and discover new connections and proportions...."

In other words, this is a kind of truth that is simultaneously "created" and "discovered" -- in fact, not discovered unless it is created. Otherwise, we fall into the danger of regarding revelation in the same way we do scientific knowledge, which again can be passed from mind to mind like an object, with no loss of information.

But to pass along religious truth in this manner is to miss its most important dimension. The externality of religion is analogous to a system of buoys over the sea. You might say that the buoys tell us where to dive in. But mere knowledge of the whereabouts of the buoys tells one nothing about the depths below.

And this is the bumbling block of the mere natural man, who is not just exterior to the cosmos, but exterior to himself. All he can legitimately say of religion is that "I know something is happening here, but I don't know what it is, do I, Mr. Jones?"

"Reason cannot contemplate the phenomenon as it were from the outside and the inside at the same time. To want to see the stained-glass window from the inside is already to believe." For it is to be drawn into the realm of the thing itself, the Divine Attractor at the end of history, which Balthasar describes as "an ontological gravitational pull like that of the part for the whole or the finite for the infinite." Importantly, this longing for the infinite whole preserves the finite part, since it is an intrinsic and "beloved" reflection of the Divine Beauty, even unto death. For

"this supratemporal beauty is able both to contain and to vindicate the death of the beautiful, because death, too, belongs to the form in which immortal beauty becomes manifest, and it is dying which in the end truly impresses immortal beauty upon the spirit that contemplates it."

Dialectic jazz?

41 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"although every historian, no matter how secular, always sneaks in his implicit idea of what was supposed to happen, but without ever justifying it."

Well this argument is terrible, especially if it was supposed to support your position. Firstly as an example it goes counter to your claim. If a discipline has this problem, then theism is the discipline that has it the worst.

And secondly, "The next time one of them glibly suggests that Bush was an awful president because x number of people died in Iraq, calmly ask him how many lives will have been saved -- let alone made meaningful -- in the next 100 years because of the liberation of Iraq."

To which I would calmly ask in return, how many lives will have been bettered if we had open borders? Of course, you would probably say that we would suffer in some way, but that's still no different than the suffering people have gone through losing loved ones in Iraq. But somehow politics is the only thing that can take something as important as ideals and turn them into hypocrisies.

2/19/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Your bony assumption is showing.

2/19/2009 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

You might say that the buoys tell us where to dive in. But mere knowledge of the whereabouts of the buoys tells one nothing about the depths below.

This ties in with a thoughtlet that's popped up in my mind the last couple days, as I've been reading the (Spiritual Ascent) chapters on Realization and Identity and Universal Man. Which is to say, I'm starting to comprehend these things, but only as much as anyone can without actually experiencing it. It's analogous to saying I understand being pregnant and giving birth. From an external point of view, maybe; there are a lot of things I can think of that are like that experience in the most minor way, and I understand (perhaps slightly more than the average human if vastly less than a doctor) the mechanics, the science of it all. But unless and until I actually experience it, I don't have the faintest idea what it is, not really. Not even remotely.

The funny thing is, I keep trying to form opinions about the process of holiness and unity and identity. But it's easy to be on the sidelines and think "this is appealing, that's not," when the truth is I have no idea what really is or isn't. Not even remotely.

2/19/2009 08:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said,
"To which I would calmly ask in return, how many lives will have been bettered if we had open borders?"

Typical "progressive", loses the arguement, changes the subject.
Without even a clue as to how bad upsetting a balance with open borders would be to a country, I might add.
Get a nick and stop giving the rest of us a bad name.

2/19/2009 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

That darned Gong is causing me to fumble with words -- "meaning"...interior,..."organizing principle"...oh! the reverbs!

So, if I can't add anything from myself, I'll just point out that you are a pretty fair country writer:

I am "effortlessly straining," so to speak, to make out the contours of a nonlocal object that is just beyond the subjective horizon. It is my "meaning," my north star, except that this star is in the invisible firmament of the celestial realm. I know when I am in its orbit, because it confers a kind of spontaneous interior coherence that must then be deployed in a linear fashion, which I call O-->(n).

2/19/2009 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

This caught my eye:
Science can only reveal how things are on the surface, not how they are supposed to be deep down. The same with any discipline, really.

Yesterday I was commenting on Julie's painting project, and I mentioned an old saying, "There is what the artist gives to the craft, and what the craft gives to the artist."

I think any true discipline or craft, pursued and practiced sincerely, provides "inside data" to the practitioner in response to his or her efforts. This is data that can only be perceived internally, and is difficult to express. A feedback loop is established that is entirely invisible to the onlooker. And real progress in that pursuit consists in following the revealed data.

2/19/2009 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Bob, you've done it again. Your discussion of meaning today is the key to the conundrum that I've been experiencing for the last few days. I've been doing reasonably well these last few weeks. I've had no more withdraw symptoms, and my thinking has improved. But lately, I've been in a funk. These types of moods make me want to smoke. I don't get much done, but at least if I was high I would feel better. Your post today helped me realize the source of this mood. I'm not satisfied with anything or myself. It's so easy to get caught up in the surface of things. I see the buoys and think that's all there is. I'm not taking the time and effort, and it does take time and effort, to jump in and explore the depths. I want to find the meaning of things rather then doing them because it's my job, or it has to be done. My dissatisfaction with life is not because there is a problem with me or life I just haven't taken the time to read the instructions properly.
Okay that, I think, is as clear as mud. Thanks to everyone at the OC for my daily bread.

2/19/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"...Balthasar spends volume one of The Glory of the Lord laying out the argument in great detail, then the subsequent six volumes supporting it in even greater detail."

Since glorifying the Lord is creation's highest purpose, discovering and exploring His Glory is a neverending undertaking. Six volumes? That's nothing.

Now, back to reading the B'ob's volumes.

wv: prons (Hmmm, it IS almost lunchtime)

2/19/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. -John 21:25

Thanks to Balthazar for at least taking a run at it.

wv: That's Mista Balthazar to you!

2/19/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Van Morrison says that "If you go through all this, what I end up with is energy, and I can't name it, and no one can really say what this energy is. So the healing thing is tapping into that energy, because I can't find a name for it, and I can't find it in any books. There was a time when I read everything I could get my hands on because I was looking to find out what this is — is anybody writing about this energy? And not really."

Oh?

2/19/2009 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"— is anybody writing about this energy? And not really."

Hm. With all due respect to Van Morrison, maybe he just wasn't looking in the right places?

Re transcendental jazz, this cracked me up:
"You may apply rosin to my bow."

By the way, the video played once for me, but now claims to be unavailable. Wonder if I pushed its button the wrong way? ;)

2/19/2009 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To expand on what James wrote:

A holy man noted for his unshakeable peace and contentment was speaking to a crowd one day. When asked what his secret was, he replied:

"I don't mind what happens."

That was the sum total of his method.

Food for thought there.

2/19/2009 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Raccoons - Just in case you haven't already discovered it, here's a rich vein. Get your pickaxe ready!

2/19/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Seems sometimes I'm trying to dive while tied to the buoy or at least while wearing my life preserver.

"He that loses his personal flotation device for My sake ..."

wv: lanfinon -- Beware of what the land fin is on, especially if it says, "Candy-gram!"

2/19/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Bob, what do you mean by... "In other words, this is a kind of truth that is simultaneously "created" and "discovered" -- in fact, not discovered unless it is created. Otherwise, we fall into the danger of regarding revelation in the same way we do scientific knowledge, which again can be passed from mind to mind like an object, with no loss of information." ? In the same sense as our being a "new creation"? NoMo THANKS! I'm finally reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy!

2/19/2009 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thanks, NoMo. I used to have that site bookmarked and lost it in one of my crashes (there's a reason Dell rhymes with hell), and couldn't remember the name.

2/19/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Susannah:

What I mean is that only the "outer shell" of revelation can be communicated verbally, not the depth, which must be discovered independently. In other words, we must have a "creative response" to it, at risk of rendering it a kind of dead letter. Or, you could say that something magical takes place in the transitional space between revelation and us -- a third thing which is not wholly one or the other.

2/19/2009 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos James' observation this morning, the life of a star in six minutes. It's fascinating and lovely, yet meaningless in the absence of a) a knower and b) mystery and wonder.

(Also, watching the video I can't help wondering how planets manage to form if it's essentially a bunch of rocks colliding; wouldn't the transfer of energy between masses be greater than their gravitational attraction, thus bouncing them back apart? How do they stick together? Questions, questions; I have to quit procrastinating now...)

2/19/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Two people can look at the same thing, and one sees "the quotidian, the physical thing itself," while the other "is shaken to the very core by the God-saturated reality brimming in the deepest self. And these ways of seeing come to make all the difference in one's life, one's thoughts, even in the way one comes to taste words." (From this new bio of Gerard Manley Hopkins I'm working on.)

2/19/2009 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

B'ob wrote:

"What I mean is that only the "outer shell" of revelation can be communicated verbally, not the depth, which must be discovered independently. In other words, we must have a "creative response" to it, at risk of rendering it a kind of dead letter. Or, you could say that something magical takes place in the transitional space between revelation and us -- a third thing which is not wholly one or the other."

Indeed.

This recalls your prior discussions on science and faith as "probes in the dark." What I (and many other souls) have found is that scientific probing is indeed fruitful and worthwhile, but not sufficient unto itself to enlighten the totality, as there are spaces those probing methods can't reach (i.e., the interior horizon).

We are all cosmonauts sending out probes of discovery in various directions, up and out and down and in. Many of our probes send back the message, "Nothing to see here, just more darkness," while a few flood us with fruitful and enlightening observations (on this blog termed B'observations). Those few productive probes give us at least a clear outline of the boundaries of the true worldview, which 10 out of 10 cosmonauts affirm is Good, True, Beautiful, Real, and when discovered quite surprising. The surprise factor is a particularly important clue that one is on to something I think, and many scientists, explorers, and saints would agree.

As always, thanks Bob for sharing the results of your probes and encouraging each of us to continue our explorations of the interior cosmos to person-ally confirm. Beam me up Scotty! And to the various Anons that hang out here, continue probing! There really is something there, and it ain't Kool-Aid.

With love in Christ to all.

2/19/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

Quick follow-up:

In keeping with today's nautical theme I offer this wish to all as we enter the Lenten season:

May all your soundings of the deep become lighted buoys that guide you on the safe channel to your deustination, and deliver you from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity.

With love in Christ.

2/19/2009 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

(GB to Sus) "Or, you could say that something magical takes place in the transitional space between revelation and us -- a third thing which is not wholly one or the other." It is what some refer to as the work of the Holy Spirit. He literally enables and enlivens our comprehension of revelation.

wv: nothin' like a little "mozing" with your slacking.

2/19/2009 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

...while the other "is shaken to the very core by the God-saturated reality brimming in the deepest self. And these ways of seeing come to make all the difference in one's life, one's thoughts, even in the way one comes to taste words.

Speaking of tasty words, I still have timbre rolling around, in my brain and on my tongue (well, not literally, since I don't actually talk to myself, but I can still feel it there); it has so many delightful resonances.

And wv suggests the judicious use of dowfu to help the economy.

2/19/2009 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Dialectic jazz? OK, someone help me wipe this stupid grin off my face.

wv: reptu

2/19/2009 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

"(Also, watching the video I can't help wondering how planets manage to form if it's essentially a bunch of rocks colliding; wouldn't the transfer of energy between masses be greater than their gravitational attraction, thus bouncing them back apart? How do they stick together?"

Duct tape. Universal strength.

2/19/2009 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Ah, the economy. I think of a different kind... A much older kind. Walt's recent post - about the language of the stones, sparked a little reverie:

Adam

I want to be like the old ones
Walking long endless days
Among the grasses and sighs of summer
Where there cities of stone
And among the cairns and high places
The depths of lakes and seas
Call out in response to light steps
And deep, far places loom
Breathing with unseen life

I want to be like the ancient ones
Who climbed the rope to heaven
And came down again to sit
For days over days and nights
On the grotesque cliffs
And breathe the morning dews
Sleeping mildly under moons
To awake and continue always
Unceasing in thought

I want to be like the elders
Who of old were unknowable
Singing the first tones
To that unceasing song
So that man joined
Who plucked the strings
Of the first bows and harps
Whose hands spoke to the stones
And moved them, Whose hands
Knew what the earth was.

I want to be like those
Whom I have for but names
Singular, but never alone
With no need for pining
Or fearing or despairing
Whose lights were flames
And minds were mirrors
Who wrote the first word
And erased it
Because the world was too young.

2/19/2009 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In other words, to say that history has any meaning whatsoever is to immediately lift the raw facts of history beyond themselves to a plane higher than history. The problem is, the secular historian has no rational basis for doing this, no defensible grounds for saying that history is anything other than one damn thing after another.

You gno, I can't imagine why anyonee would be an Historian or interested in history, if there is no meaning, or significance to it.
My love for history has increased since I have been at the OC. :^)

Thanks, Bob! Outstanding post!

2/19/2009 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I love your poem, River!
It is steeped in nous. :^)

2/19/2009 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie said-
"I have no idea what really is or isn't. Not even remotely."

Perhaps not remotely, but directly, or rather, trirectly you do. :^)

Your comments have been very helpful to me. As are every Raccoon's. Gnoing we gno so little, but also gnoing we will gno more...AND TRANSCEND!

2/19/2009 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

James said-
"My dissatisfaction with life is not because there is a problem with me or life I just haven't taken the time to read the instructions properly."

"Some" assembly required. :^)

2/19/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"...It would be like someone handing you DVD saying 'this is what God himself has revealed about your life', which, when you watched it, was a short documentary narrating all the basic facts of your life. With revelation like that, who needs revelation? If that were all God did, who needs God?"

Lol! Well said! Just think how, not only useless, but dispiriting, a clear and fact-packed 'revelation' would be to your life!

2/19/2009 08:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Am I the only one old enough to remember Dolores Hart?

She was so beautiful and so popular, a big star in the making.
She had everything going for her that I could never have hoped for in my wildest dreams.
(Hey! She kissed Elvis!)

I think I was in 6th grade when she left it all to become a Benedictine nun. It made a very deep impression on me, one of those fingerprints on the soul that you don't really recognize until much later in life.

2/19/2009 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I hadn't known about her. That's a pretty remarkable story.

2/19/2009 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"In other words, this is a kind of truth that is simultaneously "created" and "discovered" -- in fact, not discovered unless it is created. Otherwise, we fall into the danger of regarding revelation in the same way we do scientific knowledge, which again can be passed from mind to mind like an object, with no loss of information. "

And that isn't a trait of it, simple flat descriptive fact I mean, that doesn't begin to cover the sense of understanding felt when grasping a deeper truth. It is knowledge that is... yours, unique to your understanding. Viewed inwardly, contemplating Truth, it has holographic dimension, glistening transparent lighting, but when trying to explain it descriptively, all you can do is transmit a two dimensional snapshot of it.

It might even be that the closest you can come to conveying the fullness of what you see within, is by verbal holograms such as poetry (or notes with music, etc), where the sound and rhythm, the integrated conceptual timbre (it is a good word) describes a series of dots in your interior air so that you can form them, recreate them, as an armature within your understanding... and as you join the dots together through contemplation, suddenly the image takes shape, you gno what they form, just as when connecting the dots on a page suddenly you 'see' the rose, where one half a lines instant before they were merely dots and lines, then bam the image is there in your minds eye, and upon that poetical armature, you are creatively able to fill in the blanks from within your own soul (good example of that above, River).


wv:myosea
Indeed

2/19/2009 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"And this is the bumbling block of the mere natural man, who is not just exterior to the cosmos, but exterior to himself. "

Nailed it.

2/19/2009 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Cassandra, that is indeed remarkable. There's a good article about her here.

Skully - makes sense to me :D

2/19/2009 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

river - http://chollywell.blogspot.com

2/19/2009 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

Floating on a gin cloud through the oldest places on earth.

2/20/2009 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/20/2009 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

That was just too grim. Sorry if you saw it.

2/20/2009 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

NoMo:

My deep dark secret is that I've never read the Bible. I've cracked it, savored bits (I think) but have always listened to others when it comes to the actual experience.

Maybe that's not so bad after all. Could've been a 'Coon,, or could've been a rabbi, a priest-- hell a tour guide.

I will tell you one thing:

After reading Bob for a couple years I am now infinitely (literally) better prepared for the Book. And yeah, Bob, I know the paper is just a book. Here in Istanbul the bibliophilic energy is smeared into the Host.

2/20/2009 08:11:00 AM  

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