Whiteheads, Blockheads, and Rising Up Out of the Old Grooveyard
What presents itself to us as appearance undergoes a transformation within the human person, a you-turn back in the direction of essence. In other words, being appears as appearance, which is all the senses can apprehend. However, that is hardly the end of knowledge, for there can be no knowledge at the level of the senses. Therefore, appearance is only the beginning of knowledge. Knowledge is the journey from appearance back to essence. You could even say that "essence became appearance so that appearance might become essence."
As HvB explains, what is given to us in the senses is always individual and particular. And yet, it always "points beyond itself to something that is more than it but does not lie outside it." This mysterious "something beyond" is the concept, or universal. This is obviously a precondition of knowledge. We don't just see red, but redness. When we see a beautiful woman, we are also aware of seeing an instance of beauty itself. When we listen to President Obama, we aren't just hearing lies, but the Lie as such.
HvB describes the essential two-way movement of the very possibility of knowledge: "the universal contains the particular just as much as the particular contains the universal. There is no single man who does not embody and possess what it means to be man, that is, the full, undiminished nature of man." (Bear this last point in mind for when we later discuss the ontological consequences of God taking on not just "a" man, but human nature. The answer may surprise you!)
Here again, this is a delicate balance. Go too far in one direction and you can end end up a materialist or bonehead atheist or metaphysical Darwinian. But venture too far in the other direction, and you unbecome a vaporous idealist or cavedwelling mystic with the lights on but nobody OM. Neither option is a satisfactory way to resolve the Enigma of Man. At least as far as we are cooncerned.
As Dupree says -- you will pardon his French, but it has a certain "tang" -- if I'm going to save my ass, I want my ass to be part of the package.
In other words made flesh, it hardly does us much good if only the universal is subject to salvation -- i.e., the atman -- but not the particular -- i.e., me. And as far as I am aware, Christianity is the only religion that actually saves the person. And this follows from the recognition that God is a person; and a person can only exist in relationship, which means that God must intrinsically be "in relationship." That being the case, then he would have to be three-in-one and one-in-three, for a static dualism cannot be a real relationship, just two poles of a monad.
Now, relationship is intrinsically superior to non-relationship for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which being that it makes love the highest ideal, or "first fruit" of God's interior relations. If you want to know where all the love came from, this is where. It is also where all the truth came from, for truth is always a relationship as well. Mathematics is always relational. Organisms would be impossible in a non-relational creation. Likewise, quantum physics reveals a cosmos not of ultimate "parts," but of internal relations.
If there is only a non-dual ground, then even truth is just illusion by another name, the only "truth" being the complete emptiness of the eternal void. Of course, the Buddhists could be correct about that, but I don't think so, for it renders the cosmos into a radically bi-polar entity with a dream at one end and a vacuum at the other. And if reality is just dirtbag that really sucks, Deepak is God.
In truth, there can be no void in the absence of its overflowing fulness. I'm an optimist. I see through the glass darkly half full. How did Whitehead put it? For the identical confusion plagues postmodern scientism of the Queeg variety. Let me see if I can dig it out.... Boy, lotta good stuff in here.... I could really get sidetracked....
Can't find the passage I'm looking for, but this one about modern materialism will do: "Clear-sighted men, of the sort who are clearly wrong, now proclaimed that the secrets of the physical universe were finally disclosed. If only you ignored everything which refused to come into line, your powers of explanation were unlimited."
Science and the Modern World is still one of the most thorough and unassailable debunkings of silly Queegism, which I did my best to playgiarize for you in chapter one of my book. Here is a good zinger about what this kind of malevolent fantasy can do to a mind: "It fixes attention on a definite group of abstractions, neglects everything else, and elicits every scrap of information and theory which is relevant to what it has retained."
The process itself is formally identical to paranoid cognition, and leads to the ever-tightening spiral that Queeg finds himself in, in that more and more reality must be kept at bay in order to stay safe in one's familiar mental groove (which, ironically, is a mirror of natural selection, except that the person creates the mental environment to which he then adapts):
"Now to be mentally in a groove [read: cognitive environment] is to live in contemplating a given set of abstractions. The groove prevents straying across country, and the abstraction abstracts from something to which no further attention is paid. But there is no groove of abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension of human life."
Duh. Either you understand this, or you are a fool. You may be a highly intelligent fool, but a fool nonetheless. For you have never given a thought to thought and to how it gets that way.
Truly, Whitehead saw the coming of Queegism, the scientistic barbarians at the gates of civilization, almost a century ago. This is not personal. Queeg himself is simply a well-known stock character whose naive belief in a metaphysics-free knowledge is "a figment of the imagination. The belief in it can only occur to minds steeped in provinciality -- the provinciality of an epoch, of a race, of a school of learning, of a trend of interest -- minds unable to divine their own unspoken limitations" (and assumptions, I might add).
No. It is simply a truism that "no science can be more secure than the unconscious metaphysics which it tacitly presupposes.... We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from the environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature."
And what is the necessary cosmic environment for a true thought?
(The answer may surprise you.)