Saturday, May 02, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Realizing

I'm glad that most of you seem to have appreciated the spirit of yesterday's post, because I think it discloses a more universal spiritual problem that seems unavoidable. That is, how does one affirm and embrace truth without saturating and smothering it in the process? It really comes back to the necessary relationship between letter and spirit, the latter of which gives life, the former of which kills.

But it's not so simple, because one could say the same of oxygen, or sunlight, or bacon. That is, we need oxygen to live, even while oxygen is toxic and eventually kills us due to oxidation. Metabolism is a kind of "controlled fire" that inevitably burns us up in the process. Thus, living is a kind of "slow motion dying." But it beats the alternative, which is not living at all.

So it seems that we must seek a proper balance between letter and spirit. Many people reject religion because of an early experience of too much letter, not enough spirit. But then they might get involved in some new age nonsense, which is all spirit and no letter. However, spirit itself, like any other energy, is neutral; if it isn't guided by a nonlocal structure of unchanging truth, it can just as easily lead down as up. You can find yourself on a slippery slope that leads all the way down to a slippery dope such as Deepak Chopra, who embodies the paradox of pure "slime without substance."

Put this way, organized religion itself is a "necessary evil," as it were. While necessary, we must not confuse it with that to which it points, or else we are simply engaging in idolatry by another name.

This reflects a more general principle in the cosmos. As HvB explains, our images of reality "must not be confused with the reality itself." They "must not be treated any differently from the letters in a book: you see them, you read them, and yet you are conscious, not of the written image, but of the sense that comes to expression in it." For any of you who have read the Polanyi books in the sidebar, you will appreciate the obvious parallels with his work, i.e., the "tacit knowledge" that evolves in the space between the exterior and interior worlds.

It's such a subtle balance that I find it difficult to describe. Like many complex skills, it's easier to demonstrate than elucidate. It reminds me of a story about Yogi Berra, who was trying to explain something to a young hitter, and finally in frustration grabbed the bat and said "ah hell, let me just show you."

Here is what makes it so subtle: "the signs in which being reveals itself must be simultaneously read and overlooked" (HvB; emphasis mine). Thus, we're talking about a subtle movement that leads us -- I would say pulls us -- through the word and toward the thing it embodies, a thing that we can never actually reach without killing it (and being killed).

I'm trying to keep this as "phenomenologically true" as possible, in other words, "experience near." This shouldn't be at all abstract, but quite concrete, even if this is a kind of concrete that can never dry. Rather, it's always being poured. But you could no more fill the transitional space with it than you could fill a hole at the beach with water.

That's a good analogy, because the space is obviously finite, and yet, infinite -- as space must be. But you wouldn't even know about space unless it had boundaries. In fact, the discovery of the boundary is the simultaneous discovery of space. Without the boundary, there is only nameless dread.

So images always "point beyond themselves to the mystery they harbor" (HvB). On the one hand, being moves in the direction of "inside out," while our understanding moves in the direction of "outside in," or re-collection. Again, movement. It can never be static, even though the static images are required for the movement -- just as we could not jump without a counterforce, i.e., gravity, holding us down to the earth.

Come to think of it, this is a fine way to think about the importance of being embodied. Among other inconveniences, without material bodies, we could not vertically "leap" into spirit. This is why it is said that angels cannot evolve, for they are like unchanging essences. It is also why we must spiritually keep busy now, for the night is coming when no man can work.

So, images "invite the spirit to a searching movement" (HvB). This is quintessentially true of religion, which, if it's not facilitating this movement, is just "wrong," no matter how right. < insert relevant scriptural passage from Nomo here >

Yesterday I came across a pithy passage in the Theo-Drama to the effect that -- now think about this -- from the perspective of man, Jesus serves as the "icon of God." But from the perspective of God, i.e., the Father, Jesus serves as the icon of Man.

Now, think about icons, i.e., sacred images: "they allow no simple rest in their significant content but stir up an unrest and levy a demand. It is not enough merely to acknowledge the mystery of which they are the external sign and to leave it undisturbed."

Rather -- and here is the key point -- "The truth is in motion, it presses upon the mind and calls the conscience to decision," which is an ontological scission, or cutting in two. Today we see the world being cut in two as never before. "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword," etc., etc. < insert Will comment here >

This, I believe, is the kind of surgical decision -- for it can only be elective surgery -- Magnus was talking about yesterpost, when he commented that,

"The thing is, once in my much younger years, I was sitting in a Christian meeting half listening to some doctrine. Then God said to me: 'Choose now. You can get the truth, even if you cannot handle it. Or you can forget that which is too much for you, so you can have a good conscience." (This was many years before the Matrix, btw.) Of course I replied "Give me the truth!' because that's the kind of guy I am. The overconfident kind. 'I thought you would say that,' replied God. And since then I have been this worm, a stranger in Paradise, completely inadequate to what I see all around me, a small dirty porcupine scuttling around in your beautiful cathedral. But just you try to get me out of there."

The beautiful cathedral is built with words and images in the space between us and God. But cathedrals are built for movement, which is the purpose of their great weight and stature. They "cannot move," so that you can.

I'm a hick. I never been to Urip. But I have seen the pictures, and when you sit in one of those magnificent "houses of God," you can feel how they lift you up and out. < insert purdy pitcher here > The movement is neither one of "compression," nor of "dispersal," but of radiation. In this context, images

are a sign pointing to the sphere of spirit. They point by means of their evident changefulness and transience, for in this... they are like the single words of a sentence or the notes of a piece of music, which must successively fade away in order that the coherent totality of an intellectual harmony can emerge. --Balthasar

Can't climb into space without a structure; or as Petey says, "no gravity, no levity":


Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's weird. I thought it was Friday. Otherwise I wouldn't have written a new post.

5/02/2009 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I was wondering why we had the unexpected pleasure of a whole new post on a Saturday :D

Is Leslie trying to teach FL to be a goalie?

5/02/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great riff Bob!

My blog this day is full O'purdy pictures:)

Shall I be coy and not mention this night was "very active" in the sphere of exploding crown chakra and such? oops too late!


5/02/2009 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger jwm said...

Exploding crown shakra? Sounds like my morning. One cure for that- vicodin. Straightens it out every time.

Actually, I was going to pick up on yesterday's topic, re- Chritianity. The qustion seems to become- How does one define Christian?
The oft quoted John 3:16 suggests a pretty wide gate: "All who believe in him..."
Others believe that there is no salvation outside a particular church.
Many of us have made significant change as the result of finding OC. We meet here every day. What consitutes a church? Is there a difference between being a believer in Christ, and being a Christian?


5/02/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . without material bodies, we could not vertically "leap" into spirit<<

Material bodies probably arrested the fall, too - no telling how low we would have tumbled, maybe past the point of redemption.

I do tend to think that we will always have bodies of some substance or another. Perhaps the ultimate goal is to have the entire universe as a body.

>> . . we must spiritually keep busy now, for the night is coming when no man can work<<

There will come a time, perhaps soon, when we will become magnetized to whatever pole we have willingly gravitated to in this earthly life (hey, you gotta serve somebody), after which we will exist and rest, so to speak, in our chosen element. I have to wonder, though - to be "spiritually busy", to work, is to be creative. Does creativity have an end-point? Or do we eventually move on into an infinitely vast, infinitely layered universe in which our personal creativity is infinitely utilized?

First things first, though. Let us keep spiritually busy in the here and now. Me, I have to go buy some goggles.

5/02/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jwm, I never even heard the word "vicodin" but can assume it's a pain killer?

Not at all talking about hangovers or head pain. I don't get those ahem:) I could have, but didn't mention other things/phenomena etc., but didn't.

In the past (here) I riffed about my "JOB" and its purpose etc., how it effects me, and my "I already have a 24/7 job."

Jes' sayin' not want to convince you to belive me or, wotever.


5/02/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Is there a difference between being a believer in Christ, and being a Christian?

I don't think so, unless you mean it in the sense that Christianity is most familiar these days (which I think Bob clarified pretty well yesterday). When I was a kid, my family was Catholic/ Episcopal. I'll never forget being informed by another kid in third grade or so that Catholics weren't Christians (!), when we had just learned about how a Christian was anybody who believed in Christ in Sunday school, and by that point I seemed to have absorbed more about Jesus than the kid I was talking to. I knew the other kid was just flat out wrong. That conversation was awfully effective, though; it illuminated for me that Christianity is in the heart, not the church. It's not the outward trappings of worship services (though they are a vital means of orienting oneself to God) that matter, it's the deustination to which you're traveling. Ultimately, does it make a difference if you get there by ocean liner, sailboat or rowboat, or even by swimming, so long as you reach the father shore?

(Apparently, Will has chosen the "swimming" option ;)

5/02/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Does this seem like a Friday?

Since I "changed", I have a totally different perception of weekends. In the Before Era, weekends were sunny, unicorn-filled vistas. In the After Era, weekends, Saturdays anyway, seem boundary-less and a bit filled with the nameless dread. And there is all that Dionysian passion unleashed (I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit), which unsettles the atmosphere.

I'm sure that if I were stranded on the proverbial island and I lost all track of the days of the week, I still would be able to tell when Saturday rolled around.

On the other hand, I recently mistook a Wednesday for a Friday.

5/02/2009 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One problem is that if the early believers had only been a loose affiliation of misfits, the doctrine would not have survived down through the centuries. The Theo-Drama would have closed after a short run of just a generation or two.

5/02/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Well, not exactly swimming, Julie.

Had eye-surgery and now need eye-protection for TaeKwon Do practice. Thus, GOGGLES.

And yeah, I'm with the ever-swelling crowd who would like to see a recent photo of you. Get with it, please.

5/02/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Since you asked, Will, how can I refuse?

This is from February, about as recent as it gets. I'm generally behind the lens, not in front of it.

I had forgotten about the eye surgery - I hope you are recovering well!

5/02/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Gagdad Bob said: "One problem is that if the early believers had only been a loose affiliation of misfits, the doctrine would not have survived down through the centuries. The Theo-Drama would have closed after a short run of just a generation or two."Exactly.

The Impossible Faith Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion


"...Christianity, as we can see, had every possible disadvantage as a faith. As I have recently noted, some religions thrive by being vague (Rastafarianism) or by having only philosophical demands, or demands beyond verification (Buddhism, Hinduism). Others staked a claim to survival by isolation (Mormonism) or by the sword (Islam). Christianity did none of these things and had none of these benefits, other than a late flirtation with the sword when it was already a secure faith and it was being used for political purposes, as indeed any religion could be -- not as a means of spreading the Gospel. Every disadvantage, and none of the advantages.

We have seen that ignorance and apathy will not serve as adequate explanations. The claims of Christianity were not that difficult to figure intellectually, and anyway, what Christianity had to offer would not appeal to the ignorant -- or else would be balanced out by the many things that would have made the ignorant suspicious and mistrustful. Apathy where social matters were concerned is a product of our times, not the ancient world. Skeptics cannot smugly appeal to these as explanations.

I have been told that one critic has made the desperate suggestion that one or more of these factors may not have applied to all people at all times in this context. This is an absurd response -- the factors are centered on values and judgments inherent to the period, social mores that don't just turn on and off like a light switch. The critic would have to prove that there was a temporary lull in a sufficient number of factors (for even one of two of these are more than enough to have put people off the new faith) for Christianity to catch converts -- and then document and explain the lull, and why it apparently reversed itself yet again. Bottom line is that such an explanation is a counsel of despair.

Finally, the critic is confounded by the fact that ..... " [snip] Continued at link.

5/02/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"So images always "point beyond themselves to the mystery they harbor"

Ooh... that rung my bell so hard it knocked me far enough forward in reading time to realize "Come to think of it, this is a fine way to think about the importance of being embodied." before I'd even seen that you'd already written it.

5/02/2009 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Gagdad Bob wrote: "Yesterday I came across a pithy passage in the Theo-Drama to the effect that -- now think about this -- from the perspective of man, Jesus serves as the "icon of God." But from the perspective of God, i.e., the Father, Jesus serves as the icon of Man."

Interesting. As an aside, I think this thread is also interesting:

"Image _FOR_ God" (Proper translation of Gen 1:26)

Scott N. Morschauser, a Presbyterian Theologian, has recently used the evidence from the Ancient Near East to argue that Gen 1:26 should be more properly understood as, "Image _for_ God." In this way, many theological stumbling blocks can be diverted since man isn't really in the image _of_ God.

S.N. Morschauser, "Created in the Image of God: The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Imago Dei," Theology Matters, Vol 3 No.6 Nov/Dec 1997.

This is where I originally found the quote: Created in the Tselem of God: A reply

J.P. Holding: "The idea makes sense, since "for" is implied indeed in the meaning." [snip]

pdf version:

5/02/2009 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Yesterday I came across a pithy passage in the Theo-Drama to the effect that -- now think about this -- from the perspective of man, Jesus serves as the "icon of God." But from the perspective of God, i.e., the Father, Jesus serves as the icon of Man."

Now that's a thought I haven't thunk before, quite a perspective shifter. An odd image comes to mind, that of Janus with the two faces, but instead of their facing outwards in different directions, turned inwards towards eachother, seeing the world through eachothers eyes....

5/02/2009 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie, thanks for the updated picture... the other looks spookily like the girl who poked me in the arm with a flaming marshmellow last night.

5/02/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

There's something I haven't done in a while.

(Mmmmm.... flaming marshmallows...)

Interesting Janus visualization, Van. I like it.

5/02/2009 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh, "seen" and "thunk" ?? now Van is trying to speak like me or something lol:)

Will, you ask an interesting question the one about ".. do we eventually move on into vast, infinitely layered universe in which our personal creativity is infinitely utilized?"

In next post you muse on being filled with a namless dread of the boundry-less vista whose athmosphere seems somewhat unsettling.

That's when the Tibetan Book Of The Dead / Liberation Through Understanding In The Between comes in handy.
I have Robert Thurman translated copy, which once upon named for me - after the fact -what that was about. . . My directly being plugged or plunged into the Vast Infinity itself.

And it's not' but black radiance . . . One can name it as the Womb of Creation itself, witnessing through the human faculty itself.

I read somwhere one must cross this "abyss" in order to reach the other shore.
One must experience this to appreciate its AWESOMNESS.
Yes, it was shocking to be suddenly face to face with our 'Cosmic face' (the one) before our parents were born.

But so what? Flinch not and it will be the most wondrous thing ever! It can't hurt you. It won't swallow you up. Nope. . .

In the book's chart discribing
the 8 stages of death, the seventh in its "Dissolution" phaze is called "radiance to imminence", it's where one experiences "Clear pitch-darkness."

(I talked to Mom when she called my name in this 'space' before her death and posted on it here and on my blog.)

Further he writes: "In the seventh dissolution, the stage of imminence, the two drops meet at the heart and enclose the consciousness; one perceives the sky full of bright dark-light, or pure darkness, and then one looses consciousness. Finally, one passes into the realm of clear light translucency, gaining an unaccustomed kind of nondualistic consciousness."

Hope that helps?


5/02/2009 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must add when I talked to Mom in that 'space' in 02' was after my first-initial experience. It's something I experience from time to time. Matter of fact this night's am hour I 'clicked' in and out of it as well.


5/02/2009 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Thanks, Julie -

Mine eye, blood-dimmed with years, is much soothed, yea, healed by thine visage.

5/02/2009 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Theologorrhea - (I joke!)

Well, one can trek through the purgatorial process (same as Tibetan Book of the Dead Bardo state) for quite some time before the unsettled-ness completely goes away.

I get your drift, though, and thanks.

5/02/2009 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Gazriel said...

"And since then I have been this worm, a stranger in Paradise, completely inadequate to what I see all around me, a small dirty porcupine scuttling around in your beautiful cathedral. But just you try to get me out of there."

I can relate to this. Sometimes the feelings of unworthiness overwhelm me, as I contemplate how easily I could not have been. I mean, here I am, this limited, finite, and fairly ignorant human being who has been blessed with the Knowledge of Infinity (that it exists, not of its particular workings). Really? For serious?

Sometimes the impulse is so strong that I just want to beg forgiveness and at the same time devote every second of my life saying "Thank you, Creator. Thank you for this love, for this moment, for this understading that You exist, for my temporary existence."

Then it dawns on me that I am like a child. Regradless of how much knowledge I 'attain' or how many accomplishments I perform, it is all from a state of ignorance, if not exactly pure or absolute ignorance. No matter how expansive my limited mind becomes, it is still very narrow compared to the Miracle of God the Father.

This also brings up the idea of extra-planar entities that may have a waayyy more expansive understanding of the Mystery. When I visualize Adam Kadmon, for instance, I know that His experience of the Totality far exceeds mine, but that we are both still floored that there is anything at all, and that connects us, binds us as brothers and equals even if His intellect and purity isn't nearly as worldly as mine.

We are all Sons and Daughters of a Loving Presence that is beyond all conceptions.

5/02/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Nothing to do with today's post, somehow it seems a fit for Raccoons & Kits

Ever since then I’ve been thinking about eating my lawn. When I saw the recipe for dandelion muffins and my niecelets came over yesterday to play for the day, I decided to put my plan in action. I told the girls we were going to go on a dandelion hunt.

They were so excited. Fairies eat flowers, they told me. We were going to collect fairy food.

Dandy bread looks good too - FL might go for this one, what with fat bugs possibly being involved < insert guy joke here >

5/02/2009 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger sehoy said...

Dr. Bob,

Alan Bloom and Hans Urs Von Balthasar!

I just remembered why those two men are so significant to me and why I bought the book, "Theo-Drama" a few years back.

It had to do with this quote from this article:

" “It is recorded that the most erudite theologian of this century, Hans Urs von Balthasar, stalked out of a seminar of dull divines muttering that ‘all the eros has gone out of theology’. Eros, the youthful demi-god, symbolises the ecstatic desirous love, both human and divine. Hans is probably right”.1 "

Both of those men knew about eros.

5/02/2009 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Erotic theology. I can see why that would attract some attention.

5/03/2009 04:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erotic theology - soooYES!

The Beguines living in Medival Europe such as Hadewijch and Beatrijs wrote about this.
Something I will sooner or later blog on.
Here, I left hints here and there about mmmmmmBeloved.


5/03/2009 08:25:00 AM  

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