Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Say, What's God Like, Anyway?

From a couple years ago...

What kind of God is God? What's he like, anyway? I suppose that's an easy enough question to answer in 45 minutes.

But I think I'll evade the question head on, because one can only unswer it by questing indirectly. In this regard, it is very much analogous to psychoanalytic therapy. If you ask, "what is the unconscious like?," the question cannot be answered except in a theoretical way.

Rather, you must begin by free associating in the presence of another person called a "psychoanalyst," and the answer will gradually emerge in the space in between. In other words, you attempt to bypass the ego by saying whatever comes to mind in an uncensored way, through which the ghostly contours of your own unconscious will become apparent. In short, this hidden dimension will not stand out until you stand in it.

And you can never know it in its essence, only in its energies, as a gregory palamine might say. It is never revealed by speech, only reveiled. It's a little strange, because you can see by the shape of the veil what's underneath, but if you strip away the veil, it vanishes.

This is why Bion stopped using the word "unconscious," because it fooled us into believing we knew what it was just because we had a word for it. Rather, he called it "O," standing for the ultimate unknowable reality. In my book, I simply extended this idea to religion and spirituality, since the plain fact of the matter is that we have no idea what existence, life, or consciousness "are" in their essence. If you ask "what is life?," the only real answer is the life you are living. Likewise, if you ask "what is consciousness?," there is no answer outside consciousness itself. Nothing less than consciousness can explain consciousness, just as nothing less than your life can describe it.

In a way, each of my posts is a free association in O. Therefore, if you ask me "what's God like?," you would have to go back and read all of my posts, and who would want to do that? But now that I'm thinking about it, the analogy with psychoanalysis holds up, since I acknowledge up front that I am no theologian or any kind of special person with special knowledge.

Rather, I simply rise each morning and undergo the task of focusing a beam of intense darkness on O -- or, as Joyce put it, to shed a little obscurity on ultimate reality. It's almost like trying to paint an invisible subject, and in fact, I suppose I feel some kinship with the original abstract expressionists such as Kandinsky, who attempted to depict the implicate reality beneath reality -- or out of which -- explicate reality emerges, like the pulse beneath the rhythm.

Meister Eckhart, whom we were discussing yesterday, is among those bifocal visionaries who comes closest to myOpia. Bear in mind that much of what he wrote sounds shocking (it certainly was to the religious authorities of the time), but he is playing with language in a very modern way, trying to provoke an experience in O through such techniques as paradox, oxymoron, hyperbole, word games, puns, and negation.

As McGinn writes [BTW, I see that that book has become rather expensive; much of the same material is summarized here], Eckhart was attempting to use language to overcome language -- or "to confuse in order to enlighten" -- an idea Bion would have endorsed. He saw "the very act of preaching as creation of the word to be heard by others so that they too may find the source from whence the word is formed mirrors the 'event character' of the God-world relation." In short, Eckhart's sermons and writings are the essence of O-->(n), not for the purposes of conveying mere information (k) to the reader, but to simulate the same experience in oneself. [This is also the essence of Orthodox theology as laid down by the thrice great Gregory Palamas, which we will soon be discussing.]

McGinn continues: "But the preacher cannot really convey the message that lies hidden behind all words, and even beyond the Divine Word himself in the hidden depth of deity, unless he himself has participated in this inner speaking, that is, unless he speaks 'out of the ground' of God.... Eckhart invites his audience to hear what he has heard and to become one with him in the one ground -- 'If you could perceive things with my heart,' he once said, 'you would well understand what I say; for it is true and the Truth itself speaks it.'" Eckhart does not appeal to his own authority, but "out of the oneness of Divine Truth": "I will tell you how I think of people: I try to forget myself and everyone and to merge myself, for them, in Unity."

Again I cannot help but notice the analogy with psychoanalysis, which you might say is the study of the "lower vertical," whereas Eckhart's mystical theology is the study of the upper vertical: "[A] person must penetrate and transcend everything created and temporal and all being and go into the ground that has no ground.... If anyone wishes to come into God's ground and his innermost, he must first come into his own ground and his innermost, for no one can know God who does not first know himself."

As McGinn explains, "God unbecomes when the mystic is not content to return to the 'God' who acts, but effects a 'breaking through' to the silent unmoving Godhead, one that brings all creatures back into the hidden source through their union in the deconstructed 'intellect.'" Or, in the words of Eckhart, "When I enter the ground, the bottom, the flood and the source of the Godhead, no one asks me where I come from or where I have been. There no one misses me, and there God 'unbecomes.'"

I would never claim to know God. Nor can anyone know God, for this would imply human containment of what by definition transcends man. Rather, as Eckhart said, the knowing is in the trying, and the trying involves a continuous sort of unknowing, non-doodling, or rank coonfusion: "This not-knowing draws [the soul] into amazement and keeps her on the hunt, for she clearly recognizes 'that he is,' but she does not know 'what' or 'how' he is.... Therefore, the unknown-knowing keeps the soul constant and still on the hunt.... [T]his unknowing lures and draws you from all that is known, and also from yourself." McGinn calls it a "simultaneous eating and hungering after God."

Eckhart distinguishes between "mere ignorance and learned ignorance," or what Raccoons call the Higher Bewilderness: "One must here come to a transformed knowing, and this unknowing must not come from ignorance; rather from knowing one must come into an unknowing. Then, we will become knowing with divine knowing and then our unknowing will be ennobled and clothed with supernatural knowing. And here, in that we are in a state of receiving, we are more perfect than if we were active."

Perfect nonsense!

Eckhart said that we are held back or "estranged" from God by three primary conditions, time, multiplicity and matter. As a result, one again cannot "know" God per se. Rather, one can only undergo him. Or, in Raccoon terms, one must sopher God. Bion would have oppreciated this observation, for he recognized that if one cannot suffer pain, one cannot suffer pleasure, and knowledge is rooted in the pain of separation -- separation from O. Unknowing this separation is the highest form of knowledge, but it can only happen if you exert enough passivity or strive with all the effortlessness you can meister.

Me? I've obviously given up completely, as this post proves.

14 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Eckhart unknows ...

Bob gives up completely ...

Hungry Raccoons find sustenance ...

Thanks!

7/08/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Elephant said...

This is random.
wv: unall

Now to read the post.

But first...

Without thoroughly reading through the comments on AI (yet) one thing that comes to mind is, what would be worth knowing via AI? If intelligence is a reflection of a world, then what kind of world does AI reflect? Maybe the flatland seems knowable via AI because it is almost circumscribable within the filter of what AI can "know". Distractions now from across the room... Well, also, it is interesting that the first word after "intelligence" in Anonymous' comment (after "is") is "defined". That signaled to me an effort to reflect finitude, or to bring intelligence to its standard, or to even preemptively reduce it. I realize defining something doesn't really mean to reduce it, but the sharp turn to that word was a red flag. Also, when Anonymous writes that intelligence is awareness, isn't that rather, consciousness? Is Anon talking about AC? (Artificial Consciousness) Artificial being is a contradiction. How can you artificially be? So man is trying to make a being that can "be"?

7/08/2009 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Elephant said...

i.e. like God did. (Make a being that can be...)

7/08/2009 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Oh No, the nonsense makes perfect sense. So much for being normal.

7/08/2009 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"And you can never know it in its essence, only in its energies, as a gregory palamine might say. It is never revealed by speech, only reveiled. It's a little strange, because you can see by the shape of the veil what's underneath, but if you strip away the veil, it vanishes."

That's probably as good an attempt at looking under the veil (makes me think of a reverse of the old bit of the kid trying to whip open the refridgerator door to catch the light being off), that is the exact feeling. That interiority we can see, like our face in the mirror, but no way to see it with our own two eyes (I's ? Aye.).

Just one of the reasons why A.I. is so foolish... it isn't the shape of the veil you've got to artificially replicate, but what gives it that shape.

(Elephant, I added a reply to the ninny last night)

wv:scouse
well!

7/08/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Tablature

aerial music
in summary notation
spellbound sight readers

7/08/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger The Slackosopher said...

GB-

Have you happened to have read "Wandering Joy: Meister Eckhart's Mystical Philosophy" By Reiner Schurmann?

I just found a used copy in a local bookstore...wondering if you had any thoughts.

7/08/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I tried, but couldn't get through it. Too academic instead of slackademic. In short, he reduces a lot of the theology to philosophy -- or (n) to (k).

7/08/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elephant:

Your parsing of my drift of yesterday is correct. Intelligence is unimportant. Awareness of being is what's on the table here.

My theorem is an artificial brain will spontaneously come "alive" much as we are because consciousness is all around us and only needs adequate instruments for expression.

Whether the instrument is wet and proteinacous and evolved over millenia, or siliconaceous and evolved with an assist from another species, is immaterial.

"O" will be there in the machine. Why should it not be? Soul will be there in the machine. Why should it not be? There is no stopping these entities. They will invest in whatever advances their purposes.

The objections to AI voiced on yesterday's post were diversions like getting into the definition of intelligence, or flatly dismissive without citing evidence.

Petey in yesterday's reply apparently used the verbal abuse tactic of "You wouldn't understand it anyway." An oblique insult. Other's were insulting as well.

Abusive comments will suffice to drive me away, and I'm guessing that is what they were for.

Or you can all just stop it and we can have some dialogue here. Your choice.

7/08/2009 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Geppetto said...

Abracadabra!

Nuthin.

7/08/2009 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Why would a soul want to spend any time in an artificial brain if it had the freewill and capability? For kicks? For another's entertainment? This is what should be done with a soul? With the body, inevitably?

"consciousness... only needs adequate instruments"
As proven by the merely adequate human body. It's irrelavent, an afterthought really.

7/08/2009 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

aninnymouse said "Your parsing of my drift of yesterday is correct. Intelligence is unimportant. Awareness of being is what's on the table here."

Translation "Yeah... that was dumb. Maybe this'll work...."

Nope. Case in point:
"My theorem is an artificial bra..."
I'll assume you meant 'thesis', more proof of intelligence I suppose... the ability to make mistakes, I mean.

"My theorem is an artificial brain will spontaneously come "alive" much as we are because consciousness is all around us and only needs adequate instruments for expression.
Whether the instrument is wet and proteinacous and evolved over millenia, or siliconaceous and evolved with an assist from another species, is immaterial."

Ok... so awareness is now the goal, I assume you haven't backtracked on the superpowers of 'complexity', so complexity and adequate instruments for expression are all that is needed... my friend has built a self contained robot (these are surprisingly easy to assemble and program through kits), it has capability to receive and process visual, auditory and 'senses' about it's position and balance, and has a 'brain' more complex than the Apollo spaceships... well ahead of rudimentary creatures... why has it not spontaneously come alive? My friend has provided much in the way of 'assist from another species'... what gives?

"While I appreciate replies to my comments, some of them were verbally abusive and therefore unacceptable.
One can only hope you mates are not on the recieving end of similar."

Oh... there was MUCH belly laughter from that, thank you... I'll let Ximeze's response stand.

Hoot!

7/08/2009 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

I just got out my mop set I got for Christmas...


Wait, Mr./Mrs./Miss Anon... My point is that AI seems to be an attempt to make a being with consciousness. While the attempt has some fascinating intrigues, it is probably more of a cloaked probe at the (compelling puzzle of the) true essence of being a human, and the fact that (so far, or it seems, at least) a human is not able to make a being with consciousness.

There is a reason for this fact. Humans have their root in God's own breath - that's what makes a human a human. Human life is identified with its purpose. For humans to make something like that, we would have to imbue our "creation" with some kind of breath from ourselves, which we do not have the power to do. So in other words, humans can *birth* humans, but other than that, it's God's thing. Mimicking that is rather futile since glorifying and magnifying God is integral to our essence as humans, if that makes sense. [The Fine Print: This is related to my understanding of the nature and identity of humanness, which may or may not be entirely in accord with everyone here, but I think some of the general principles apply (around here.)]



btw, wv: molded

7/10/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

ugh... Writing at work, bad grammar. "Nature and identity of humanity," rather.

7/10/2009 02:24:00 PM  

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