Sunday, June 07, 2009

Knowledge vs. Realization: Follow the Depth

A post from two years ago, with some further reflections.... I apologize for the length, but I got carried away for a minute. If you only want to read the new parts, they more or less end with the asterisks.

Magnus left a comment yesterday: "Bob, you write about how you recognized Schuon as a vehicle of grace, but you don't agree with everything he says, and he sure wouldn't have agreed with everything of what you say. It mildly amuses me that this sums up how I relate to you. I see some things quite differently, but that never held me back from riding your spiritual coat tails. I am not in a position to only buy lamp oil from people I agree with in all things."

Yesterday a re-quest popped into my head -- or was it an order? -- follow the depth. That's pretty much what I try to do, irrespective of the discipline or source, in that each post is simply a spontaneously rewordgitated murmurandom from the deep space of vertical understanding. I assume it's the same way with you, in that there's something in us that is not only able to distinguish truth from falsehood on the horizontal axis in the cØnventional way, but also on the vertical axis in the cʘʘnvisional way.

For me, everything revolves around this thing called "understanding." This is true for everyone, theist and atheist alike. Humans "understand" stuff, and then pass along that understanding to others. However, it's not just that human beings understand different things, but that understanding itself takes place at differing levels of depth. It is axiomatic that something can be true on a shallow level but false on a deeper level. Therefore, if you want to prevent people from knowing about that deeper truth, you don't have to even argue. Rather, all you have to do is erect a barrier to depth. We call this barrier "public education," and we call the trolls who man the barriers "the tenured."

A few moments ago I was searching through the June 2007 arkive for a repost, but didn't find much that moved me. Which is odd when you think about it, because I'm the one who wrote the stuff, so why should I be moved by my own writing? The problem is, I found most of it to be "too understandable." It was like "blah blah blah, bob bob bob." As I mentioned last Sunday, I was experiencing some sort of disturbance in the force that month, which was making it difficult to blog. I mean, I could still do it, but not at the level of depth to which I am accustomed. I could not "surpass myself," so to speak. Rather, I could only "achieve myself," which isn't saying much.

Here is what I mean. I'm trying to shed some obscurity on that transient moment when this delightful thing called "understanding" takes place, as understanding is the gateway to depth. Back when I was in school, I rarely had this feeling. If anything, school was a systematic way to bypass the whole magical world of understanding.

Perhaps I should clarify. When I talk about "understanding," I am actually talking about realization, not a mere transfer of information from mind to mind. It takes no intelligence or skill to transmit facts, nor does it require a realization on the part of the receiver.

But most everything I write about is intended to transmit a kind of living realization that takes place in the moment -- not just for you, but for me as well. This is why it cannot be planned ahead of time, because if it were, it would tend to become fact-based instead of realization-based.

Here again, I am totally indebted to Bion for showing me the way in this regard. One of his central points was that undergoing psychotherapy was not an educative process. It's not as if the analyst is the teacher and the patient is the student, and all the analyst has to do is reeducate the patient. If that were true, you could just read a book and be "cured."

Rather, the trick is that the patient must realize the truths of psychoanalysis as they pertain to him specifically. This is why Bion conceptualized the overall therapeutic situation as O. To even say that there is a patient and a doctor is to pretend to know what O is, and to defensively prevent it from emerging in a spontaneous way.

Are you following me? Do you understand so far?

So if you were in therapy with Bion, he would not see a "patient." Rather, there would only be this field of O that is co-created by the participants and which undergoes transformations and disturbances of various kinds. The therapist comments on the disturbances, the patient comments on the comments, etc. It's all spontaneously unfolding and evolving now. Very jazz-like, come to think of it.

As I have mentioned before, in my book, I simply applied the same idea to the realm of Spirit. Last week I quoted Gurdjieff, who said that I have very good leather to sell to those who wish to make shoes. Do you see the point? He doesn't sell shoes. Rather, he only sells the good leather for you to make your own shoes, which is to say, to have a realization. Paradoxically, if he gives you the shoes, you cannot have the leather!

But it is absolutely no different with religion: if someone gives you the answer, you can't have it. It will be like a museum piece, or like a couch covered with plastic, or like a toe with no body attached. You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, people. You don't wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o'clock this afternoon... with nail polish.

But so what? What are you going to do with it? Keep it on your mantle?

Oh, you want a fossil of the "missing link," is that it? Hell, I can get you one of those too. But what good is a fossil if you don't even realize what a human being is? LGF. Fuckin' amateurs....

***Back to the post as it appeared two years ago:

On the horizontal axis, things are either true or false in the unambiguous scientific sense. But only on the vertical axis can you get into "profound truths," some of which might even superficially contradict one another. This, of course, is one of the fundamental errors of atheism and other misosophies. One of the reasons the vast majority of normal people reject atheism is that it's so trite and shallow. Our vertical truth detector knows that nothing can be that simplistic, let alone everything.

A profound truth is one that qualitatively ties together and organizes a greater quantity of phenomena on both the inner and outer planes. Thus, the more shallow the level, the more truths multiply; whereas the deeper one ventures, the more all-encompassing the truth, until one finally arrives at the One Truth: "to know much, you must know little" (and vice versa).

But even then it's not that simple, because on the vertical axis truths can be expressed in such a way that they "carry their own depth." Or, you might say that they simultaneously elucidate and demonstrate. The sayings of Jesus are quintessential in this regard. When he speaks, he is not just talking about the vertical, but at the same time showing it to you, tying together the interior and exterior dimensions of reality. After all, he is the vertical made horizontal, so to speak.

This is more or less what I meant about Schuon being a vehicle of grace, in that he too has the power to "make present" that of which he is speaking, which is always more or less O, approached from a multitude of vectors. As he put it in the preface to one of his books, "Metaphysics aims in the first place at the comprehension of the whole Universe, which extends from the Divine Order to terrestrial contingencies." Further, this order offers "humanly crucial openings, which is all the more important in a world wherein the abuse of intelligence replaces wisdom." In my book, I compare these openings to the vertical springs that dot the horizontal landscape. Once your cʘʘnvision is operative, these inscapes are hidden in plain sight every where and eventually -- one hopes -- when.

As Schuon wrote -- and which I could add as a disclaimer to each of my posts -- "Everything has already been said, and well said; but one must always recall it anew, and in recalling it one must do what has already been done: to actualize in thought certitudes contained, not in the thinking ego, but in the transpersonal substance of human intelligence."

This is why Schuon's writings -- like the cosmos itself -- never merely contain what they contain. Rather, they are activated in unpredictable ways upon contact with them (indeed, as mentioned yesterday, ways to which he might even object!) by one's own gnosis. This is why he can say in the preface of another work that "there is the order of principles, which is immutable, and the order of information -- traditional or otherwise -- of which one can say that it is inexhaustible."

Orthoparadoxically, although O is immutable, it flows with the ceaseless novelty of its intrinsic Threeness. Conversely, the infinite number of facts on the horizontal plane never adds up to the Infinite, only to the many, or the false infinite. The facts of our existence -- of Being -- are only tied together in depth by virtue of the deeper reality explicated through traditional metaphysics, but which must be realized anew by each person.

Which does not mean that you must be a metaphysician to appreciate this deep unity. Rather it is our prior condition, and available to anyone -- it is man's birthright, and part of what makes him man -- but "extended" and given voice and body through providential religious doctrine and practice. Religion is always fundamentally about deep unity, which is another way of saying deep meaning -- or the depth of meaning and the meaning of depth, both of which completely elude materialistic reduction: the secret protects itself, especially from the cold and greedy hands of the flatlanders, who can only "know" but not understand.

And in fact, this is why Schuon is never a syncretist, as he is always writing from the standpoint of primordial unity: "it is one thing to manufacture a doctrine by assembling scattered ideas as best one can, and quite another to recognize the single Truth contained in various doctrines on the basis of what we willingly call the sophia perennis." If he sometimes draws from this or that tradition, it is not a result of mixture, but generally for the purposes of illuminating an underemphasized doctrine in one tradition by way of another -- which in turn underscores the totality of each tradition and ultimately reinforces one's faith in their divine origin.

Human beings are mental beings, and to the extent that religion cannot offer a deep and satisfying vision to man's intellect, then it has failed in its saving mission. A religion should not only illuminate your mind, but save it -- and not just from "the world," but from yourself. Can I get a witness? Thank you. Left to his own devices and voices, there is obviously no end to the nonsense man will come up with. But one of the reasons he attempts to come up with these harebrained schemes is that faith and gnosis have become severed from one another in modern times. It is analogous to trying to illuminate what is off the road by following your headlight beams, which is a sure way to miss the splendor of the True, subtly illuminating itself off to the side in the dark woods.

The sapiential dimension of religion has generally been lost, and one of Schuon's central missions was to restore this element, so that religion may once again speak to intellectually gifted men. Religious doctrines "provide a comprehensive and qualitative knowledge of the cosmos," even though it seems that the majority of modern men have lost their ability to grasp "the compatibility between the symbolic expressions of tradition and the material discoveries established by science." (Obviously, my book was an attempt to demonstrate this deep and even necessary compatibility.)

It is as if modern man wishes for the deeper truth that reveals the unity of the vertical and horizontal to be of the same character as profane horizontal knowledge, which it can never be. With this benighted approach, man forecloses in advance that which he wishes to know. Today, few so-called intellectuals are even capable of comprehending the arguments of a Meister Eckhart or Denys the Areopagite, for they aren't even in contact with the plane from which they speak and to which their writings apply.

Proofs of God are not linear equations, as in 2 + 2 = 4. Rather, their proof is contained in their formulation, very much in the manner that the "proof" of a great work of art is not separable from the work itself. The genuine work of art is its own proof, its own certificate of authenticity. It is vertically self-confirming, is it not? And although a particular instance, it is proof of the existence of art in general -- as well as of the artist. When we say that "the word became flesh," this is by virtue of the principle that the Divine takes on qualities that are accessible to man, and which speak to him through their very substance. They demonstrate both that the cosmos does not contain itself, nor that man contains himself -- that he is only man by dint of his self-transcendence.

Thankfully, man's mind is not closed but open; it is open both horizontally and vertically. It opens out to the infinite -- or, to be perfectly accurate, the infinite opens into us: O--> (n). Praise God! And pass the I AM notion!

Although Schuon's writings are the essence of humanism -- being that they not only speak to the deepest level of our humanness, but attempt to preserve and resurrect it -- "humanism" has come to take on its opposite meaning in our disordered times. Thus, so-called humanists are actually profoundly anti-human, and specifically present us with a doctrine that cannot speak to the total man -- and therefore participate in genocide, both literal and symbolic -- or should we say, both vertically and horizontally. This de facto subhumanism can only speak to the fragmentary husk of man, not to the kernel (of which it naturally denies the existence) and embodies "the will to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible."

Which is why Schuon's humanism is so useless to most people, whose own uselessness precedes them in advance of any encounter with the Real. For, to paraphrase Schuon, they blame the truth for their own refusal to admit it.

Follow the depth. And avoid the deeply shallow false lucidity of the terrible simplifiers.

14 Comments:

Blogger Dougman said...

I feel the macrocosm is in for a See change.

To Bethel or bust.

"There is no marriage after the resurrection"

My married age has reached it's un emotional end.

wv=anick
What's in a nick or a name?

6/07/2009 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I compare these openings to the vertical springs that dot the horizontal landscape. Once your cʘʘnvision is operative, these inscapes are hidden in plain sight every where and eventually -- one hopes -- when.

6/07/2009 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thus, so-called humanists are actually profoundly anti-human, and specifically present us with a doctrine that cannot speak to the total man -- and therefore participate in genocide

Unfortunately, there's an example today to go with that, as well. Being the other Dr. Bob, it is well worth your time, though.

6/07/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

By the way, Bob, we love it when you get carried away.

As far as realization and understanding go, we know that low gong when we hear it. Shhh... there it goes again...

6/07/2009 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

The genuine work of art is its own proof, its own certificate of authenticity. It is vertically self-confirming, is it not? And although a particular instance, it is proof of the existence of art in general -- as well as of the artist. When we say that "the word became flesh," this is by virtue of the principle that the Divine takes on qualities that are accessible to man, and which speak to him through their very substance. They demonstrate both that the cosmos does not contain itself, nor that man contains himself -- that he is only man by dint of his self-transcendence.


What an excellent analogy, Bob.

6/07/2009 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>When I talk about "understanding," I am actually talking about realization<<

I think the best one can do is simply to prepare for realization, for a genuine expansion of consciousness. "'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'

While we should pray, meditate, change our lives in accordance to what we perceive as spiritually vital, realization is ultimately a grace from Above. It would appear from our finite vantage point that there is a certain arbitrary-ness on the Creator's part re: the handing out of this grace. I'm not saying that it is arbitrary or random, only that we terrestrials see through a glass darkly - and so we wait patiently and do our best to resist the temptations to quit our search.

But - I do believe this day and age marks a time for the pouring out of graces from Above. If one has prepared for grace and one does not receive it, well, that's all right, I think the window will be open again soon. The real crime and soul tragedy would be if one lost a grace because one had not prepared for it.

6/07/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I've just tripped over another Balthasarian fractal bit (on the Trinity):

It is evident that such an accreditation can of necessity take place only within itself. For the aesthetically blind three stars in their tourist guide may witness to the fact that here there is something to be seen; for the aesthetically deaf, the recommendation of an (accredited) opera guide can help them to recognize the Cosi fan tutte as a magnificent opera. But who is authorized to accredit the 'authenticity' of a work such as Mantegna's or Mozart's? Not even another great artist would be, since, as artist, he would at best be on the same level as they. Only the work itself can attest its own claim to validity.

6/07/2009 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

I'm trying to shed some obscurity on that transient moment when this delightful thing called "understanding" takes place, as understanding is the gateway to depth. Back when I was in school, I rarely had this feeling. If anything, school was a systematic way to bypass the whole magical world of understanding.

VDH has a great piece up, The Reckoning wherein he tells a wonderful realization story about leaving academia at 26 to work the family farm. It ends with:
A sojourn at an elite university, you see, can sometimes become a very dangerous thing indeed.

6/07/2009 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Follow the depth. And avoid the deeply shallow false lucidity of the terrible simplifiers."

Just wanted to see it again. If that ever becomes son ingrained in people as to draw a "Well... duh!", the battle will have been long won.

6/07/2009 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

From Julie's quote:

But who is authorized to accredit the 'authenticity' of a work such as Mantegna's or Mozart's? Not even another great artist would be, since, as artist, he would at best be on the same level as they. Only the work itself can attest its own claim to validity.

6/07/2009 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Earlier I was reading a review of a biography of the Southern, Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor. After digesting this post a couple of times I went back to it and grabbed this quote; it seems to blend right in.

Mary McCarthy’s apartment, where McCarthy conceded that the communion wafer was a symbol of the Holy Ghost and a pretty good one, whereupon Flannery made her famous reply, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”

6/07/2009 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

QP - interesting article. In a way, it's kind of a sad statement that the work isn't being held up as something beautiful and worthy of attention on its own merits. Its only value to those who would display it is as a product of its (supposed) creator. Given the subject, there is a truly deep amount of both irony and symbolism in the whole situation.

Going back to HvB, within the next couple of pages after my earlier quote was much that was relevant to today's post:

Bob: It is axiomatic that something can be true on a shallow level but false on a deeper level.

HvB: For the Son it is absolutely the same thing to hear God's Word, to hear God's truth, and himself to be this Word and this Truth. No word or truth can be more authentic than this. This authenticity can be seen in the manner in which Jesus represents himself. For this reason it is not dialectical and invisible, and the paradoxical statements he utters concerning this are mutually contradictory only when considered very superficially...

Bob: You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me.

HvB: False interpretations will come and go, but the form remains. And the art is to remain with, to abide in the form.

6/07/2009 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"When I talk about "understanding," I am actually talking about realization, not a mere transfer of information from mind to mind. It takes no intelligence or skill to transmit facts, nor does it require a realization on the part of the receiver. "

The understanding realization... that spark of a moment, when you in your active choice, touch the strands and fiber of what you'd thought was a single thought, and the idea it is, plugs into the sockets of others - electricity surges through where you are, and that thought has expanded into untold others... every filament afire with three other connections...(ever touch a hot wire to steel wool?) you are for a moment not only the open switch of a single choice, but the blazing network of twinkling connective lights....

So different from merely pluging in bulb A, flicking switch B, and so on.


"Human beings are mental beings, and to the extent that religion cannot offer a deep and satisfying vision to man's intellect, then it has failed in its saving mission. A religion should not only illuminate your mind, but save it -- and not just from "the world," but from yourself. Can I get a witness?"

Yes indeedy. Yes in deed.

"Religion is always fundamentally about deep unity, which is another way of saying deep meaning -- or the depth of meaning and the meaning of depth, both of which completely elude materialistic reduction: the secret protects itself, especially from the cold and greedy hands of the flatlanders, who can only "know" but not understand."

Yes it does... and isn't it painful, when you are trying to explain what you see... right there in 3-D High Def...! and... the person sees only a crayon sketch, and looking at you as if you are the whacko....

"Further, this order offers "humanly crucial openings, which is all the more important in a world wherein the abuse of intelligence replaces wisdom." In my book, I compare these openings to the vertical springs that dot the horizontal landscape."

But still... they are there....

"For, to paraphrase Schuon, they blame the truth for their own refusal to admit it. "

gulp. ahhh....

6/07/2009 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

G.Bob wrote: "It is axiomatic that something can be true on a shallow level but false on a deeper level. Therefore, if you want to prevent people from knowing about that deeper truth, you don't have to even argue. Rather, all you have to do is erect a barrier to depth. We call this barrier 'public education,' and we call the trolls who man the barriers ' the tenured.' "

We may also identify other 'barriers to depth', such as the New York Times:


"....It is also possible, however, to present a lie by constructing a discussion with nothing but hard, provable facts. The New York Times demonstrated that fact today (Sunday) with a frontpage, above the fold article comparing Sonia Sotomayor, nominee to be a Justice on the Supreme Court, with Clarence Thomas, who has been a Justice since 1991. The title of that article is, 'For Sotomayor and Thomas, Paths Fork at Race and Identity.' .....” ~ John Armor

About the Author: John Armor practiced law in the Supreme Court for 33 years. He now lives on the Eastern Continental Divide in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu

6/08/2009 03:46:00 AM  

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