Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Touching God

The book we've been focusing on for the past few weeks -- Cosmic Liturgy -- is 400 pages long, and we're only up to page 80. I'd like to move things along if possible. Then again, what's the rush? After all, if it took Christianity 600 years to arrive at this synthesis, surely we can spend 600 posts on it.

I don't know if we need to dwell too long on Maximus' apophaticism, because this is something the average 'Coon already understands so well. He sounds very much like Schuon when he points out that God's "immanent name" is Being, while his "transcendent name" -- which, of course, can only be unSaid -- is Not-being (Schuon would say beyond being). The latter is a kind of "ray of darkness," not because of the absence of light, but because of the surfeit. It's too much light for us to see, so it can look like darkness until one's I adapts.

Put another way, we can know of God's existence but not his essence. And we know his existence by his energies, energies that we know could not have arisen from "nature."

Maximus writes that "as a consequence of his existence beyond being, he is more properly spoken of in terms of not-being." I don't know about you, but since human beings are in the image of the creator, I think of this in the same way I think of another human being.

That is, no matter how close you get to another human being, they nevertheless remain completely inaccessible in terms of a first hand knowledge of their essence. Rather, all you can know of them is their energies -- speech, movement, facial expressions. The latter all accompany the essence but are only analogues, not the real thing.

The miracle, really, is how unproblematic it is (for the healthy person, anyway) to "know" the essence of the other. What I mean is that human beings are able to share their essence with each other in such a way that they don't even know they're completely alone and trapped inside their neurology.

And it is a miracle, which I define as anything that comes about as a result of vertical causation. When two human beings are "together," it's not like a couple of objects brushing up against one another. Rather, we are intrinsically intersubjective -- in my opinion because God is. Again, the Trinity is the very essence of intersubjectivity, and cannot really be understood in any other way.

This is how we might understand certain paradoxical statements, such as "God goes forth out of himself and remains within himself." I mean, this is what I am doing at this very moment. With this post, I am "going out of myself," propagating my energies out into the world. And yet, I obviously haven't left my own head. I haven't actually moved at all. The really weird part is that so many of you are able to intuit my essence through these energies. For others, such as goddinpotty, the energies merely bounce off of them.

One of the most important psychoanalytic theorists was a fellow named R. D. Fairbairn, a brilliant man who helped psychoanalysis move from a one person inter-objective model to a two person intersubjective one. I don't want to get too pedantic here, but for Fairbairn, the essence of psychopathology lies in how well the person can manage their intersubjectivity. The project is intrinsically hazardous, because we obviously cannot do so without the assistance of other human beings, especially the Mother.

Think of our consciousness as a kind of infinite abyss. We are born into this abyss with no points of reference, nothing to hold on to, no way to convert it to "thought." In order to be a successful parent, you must be able to reach way down into the infinite subjectivity of your baby and help them form a map of reality. Conversely, it is easy enough to deny their subjective depth by treating them as an object.

Over the past four years, I've been able to spend a fair amount of time around parents who do this to their children, and it always makes me wince, because they are laying down barriers for the child's self-exploration and self-knowing. Yes, it can be regained later, but usually it is not (Fairbairn called it the "schizoid position"). I believe this is why so many people are so boring. Seriously, how many real live wires do you meet in a year? You know, people around whom you feel more alive, more free, more creative. Most people have the opposite effect.

This is something I noticed even -- or perhaps especially -- as a child. Why did so many grown-ups appear so dead, while others were so full of life? This is one of the reasons why I instinctively recoil from most leftists, as they are every bit as tedious as our current troll. What is political correctness but a kind of soul-crushing parental wet blanket that forecloses various avenues of thought, and therefore being?

Fairbairn pointed out that for the infant, the non-responsive parent cannot be understood in terms of an "absence." Rather, it is understood as the presence of something bad, i.e., a "bad object." This object is unconsciously internalized by the child, and forms the basis of what I call mind parasites.

A mind parasite is actually an "object relation" that consists of three parts: the subject, the object, and the affective link between them. Furthermore, because of the symmetrical logic of the unconscious, the person can at different times identify with either pole of the relation. This is something I see virtually every day in my practice. I could give examples, but I think you get the picture. It is why the liberal victim is always a bully, and vice versa.

The point is, what we call "reality" is actually a vast intersubjective space. And your ability to think deeply about it will partly depend upon the depth of your own intersubjective space. This space has no limits. Rather, any limits are only in your head. Thus, for example, to say that "God doesn't exist," is not a statement about God, but about one's own intersubjective space, which is unable to breach the walls of its own self-imposed limits.

But it's not just a religious problem. Many people are unable to truly love. Why? Because they are closed off from the intersubjective ground without which love could not exist.

Most of us have experienced this state, for example, if you have ever been truly depressed. "Sadness" is only an effect of depression. In my opinion, the real basis of it is a kind of exile into a hellish domain that loses its intersubjective depth. One can neither reach "in" nor "out." Nor can anyone else reach in. A friend of mine is going through this at the moment, and I'm doing what I can to help her through it, because one of the most bewildering aspects of depression is that one loses all of the familiar signposts that only exist in intersubjective space -- passions, hobbies, interests, etc. Without this passionate engagement with the world, there is only a kind of dis-oriented living death.

Hmm, how did we get here?

Oh yes, the intersubjective nature of God. How can one person have a vivid, passionate and life-affirming relationship with God, while for another, God doesn't even exist?

I guess at this point that's kind of a rhetorical question. I know that my four year-old already has a passionate relationship with God, even though I do nothing to impose any kind of top-down dogma on him. Rather, I help him name and explore his own spontaneous awareness of God. And as you parents out there know, it's just about the sweetest, purest thing you can possibly imagine. It cannot fail to render one misty with the old unshed, as my man Jeeves would say.

Why is that? Because, to paraphrase UnKnown Friend, tears signify "contact" between one plane of consciousness and another. It's literally touching.

18 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

The book we've been focusing on for the past few weeks -- Cosmic Liturgy -- is 400 pages long, and we're only up to page 80.

Oh good - at least I'm not too far behind, then. Now to read the post...

8/11/2009 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Abdul said...

Is already really one, of that you its boy with those of four years with its idiot of the faith and is obsolete doctrine. That you foretell the end to say that the thunderclap is God papers? And it did that they are its functions of the birth, position where God touched? Lest you cut to the hunting--Their lecturers of, in this small circus, that the term of the work is paying to him, but in the engine. Feet of deflections of the cord I now, wonder does near the person of me. It would want to him and it would catch outside, Abdul

8/11/2009 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I'm kind of surprised you're still playing the game, Abdul - Van caught on to your gimmick last week.

Ah, well - if you can't think of anything interesting to say, regurgitated gibberish will suffice.

Not that I have much of interest to add, either - this is just one of those posts to which the only response is "yes, exactly."

8/11/2009 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“And yet, I obviously haven't left my own head. I haven't actually moved at all.”

I know this is not exactly what you are getting at at the moment, but it reminds of Bion’s term, was it, dual control? He gave the example of a blind man using his walking stick – how his mind transports itself into the tip of the stick in a way.

I remember watching this documentary about, maybe it was the Titanic. They were using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) – mini unmanned subs while the pilots of the ROVs sat in another larger submarine on the seafloor. It’s too dark down there to see anything so the pilots maneuver the ROVs around by looking through the video cameras on the ROVs that feed the video back into the larger submarine on to video monitors. In other worlds, they look at the video monitors to direct where the ROVs are going. One of the pilots remarked about sort of a out of body re-enter shock when he inadvertently turned the ROV’s view back at the larger sub and saw a strange man in the porthole looking back at him– it was himself.

8/11/2009 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“What is political correctness but a kind of soul-crushing parental wet blanket that forecloses various avenues of thought, and therefore being?”

Speaking of children, I think this fits well within the term of “stumbling blocks”. And that kinda bad ranks pretty much right up there with the Lord.

Incidentally, Bob, the little fella on the cover of the Philosophical Baby bareass a striking resemblance to FL.

8/11/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm with Seinfeld. When I look at most other children, I want to whisper to my wife, "hey, what's with the shape of that kid's head?"

8/11/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob wrote:

"That is, no matter how close you get to another human being, they nevertheless remain completely inaccessible in terms of a first hand knowledge of their essence. Rather, all you can know of them is their energies -- speech, movement, facial expressions."

Bob, I would say this statement is incomplete to the point of being misleading.

There are other forces operant besides those cited. There are mental/vital energies that radiate from us and interpenetrate other people, and vice versa.

We are all marinating in the thought/vital formations coming from other people and additionally from beings on the vital and mental planes.

These formations influence us subliminally but also sometimes consciously, as when you and your companion utter the same thing at the same time. This common phenomenon is sometimes coincidence but other times the statements are too unlikely to be ascribed to chance. These are contagious thoughts and there are many more that pass unoticed by the waking consciousness but are active in other areas of the mind.

Vital formations like lust can be transmitted/recieved. Psychic formations can be percieved (these are beneficial). Formations from small vital beings on the vital plane are harmful or playfull. Larger, more malignant vital beings (the real 'trolls') can be a major annoyance sometimes.

So, we can percieve another person on a very essential level, and all too often it is not a good thing. We all can identify people who vamipize our emotional energy or otherwise harm us, but are hard pressed to say how exactly. Now you know; there is an unequal exchange--they suck more vital energy from you than they give back, creating an imbalance.

It is because the brain/body is both a sender and reciever of mental and vital energy. Believe you intuitions.

This is all well described by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother among others.

But, as Bob notes and I do not contest, for the surface consciousness there is the appearance that one cannot know the essence of another person.

Howevever, by going within and suspended doubt, one can see what is really going on, and from this position of knowledge comes protection and power.

8/11/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No doubt human beings are "open systems" on the spiritual plane, just as they are on the psychological and material planes. However, in order to directly know the essence of another, we would have to be them, and therefore no longer us.

8/11/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yep

8/11/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops! my "yep" was for Anon

8/11/2009 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thus, for example, to say that "God doesn't exist," is not a statement about God, but about one's own intersubjective space, which is unable to breach the walls of its own self-imposed limits."

Ooh...

"But it's not just a religious problem. Many people are unable to truly love. Why? Because they are closed off from the intersubjective ground without which love could not exist. "

Click!

8/11/2009 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger tater said...

In error i made my comment on yesterdays post. It's for today... beautiful post, Bob

8/11/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

To Love God is to touch God.

John wrote:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

We love, because He first loved us.

(I Jn 4)

8/11/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, NoMo - that's just beautiful.

Now I almost feel guilty for posting this complete non-sequiter. Almost.

8/11/2009 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

But to get back to the topic at hand, this quote (in Cosmic Liturgy, pg.90, but I can't tell who wrote it) on the divine mystery is a nice follow-up to NoMo's:

God is the one who scatters the seeds of agape (charity) and eros (yearning), for he has brought these things that were within him outside himself in the act of creation. That is why we read, "God is love", and in the Song of Songs he is called agape, and also "sweetness" and "desire", which are what eros means. For he is the one who is truly loveable and desirable. Because this loving desire has flowed out of him, he - its creator - is said to be himself in love; but insofar as he is himself the one who is truly loveable and desirable, he moves everything that looks toward him and that possesses, in its own way, the power of yearning.

8/11/2009 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Unlike Bob my oldest Child is 19 years old. My other two are 16 and 11. 19 years ago I was just getting serious about evaluating my subconscious belief systems or mind parasites as I have come to see them.
The major joy that I experience with my children comes from the fact that when I eliminate my parasites the mirror effect disappears and they no longer seem to have that issue.

It is my gift to them and myself and perhaps someday they will appreciate the effort involved. Or not.
It's never too late to skin this particular cat.

8/11/2009 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Think of our consciousness as a kind of infinite abyss. "

As opposed to infinitely abysmal?
:^)

Outstanding post, Bob!

8/12/2009 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Most of us have experienced this state, for example, if you have ever been truly depressed. "Sadness" is only an effect of depression. In my opinion, the real basis of it is a kind of exile into a hellish domain that loses its intersubjective depth. One can neither reach "in" nor "out." Nor can anyone else reach in."

That's one of the best descriptions of the effects of depression I have read, Bob.

It's literally paralyzing, which brings about despair, which is worse than sadness, I think.
In extreme depression it's easy to lose hope.
Or rather, lose our grasp of Hope.

8/12/2009 05:48:00 AM  

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