Sunday, December 27, 2009

Geistatory Adventures and Laughty Revelations

At his trial for tact evasion, Eckhart said that some of the more "rare and subtle" passages in his works "had to be explained in light of his good intentions and within the context of the preaching genre" (McGinn): "The whole of what was said is false and absurd according to the imagination of opponents, but it is true according to true understanding."

Of another controversial blog post, he commented that "It must be said that this is false and an error, as it sounds. But it is true, devout, and moral of the just person, insofar as he is just..." In other words, for creatures, right being is a prerequisite for right understanding. This is indeed a rare and subtle point, because it means that if you ain't right in the head -- and heart -- you ain't gonna be right in your understanding, either. Is it any wonder that our trolls are not even wrong?

Again, if God exists because he understands, it means that trolls who don't understand these truths don't even properly exist. Or, alternatively, they only exist. And existence without truth is.... well, first of all it's an absurdity, but more to the point, it is hell.

But please note that what can be unambiguously "known" of the Truth is only a very small portion of it. But this shouldn't deter one in its assimilation. Consider, for example, how little science actually knows in comparison to what there is to be known, which is more or less infinite. Or consider even your own being! Every night your Dreamer escorts you to places within yourself that you've never even dreamt of in your wildest dreams.

Now, appreciating the great realm of the unThought known is one of the most vital organs for the detection of God. It's analogous to, say, a "sense of humor," which is not itself funny, but rather, is the ability to know what is funny ahead of time. In itself it is not necessarily "funny," but is an empty category, or a "preconceptual readiness" to appreciate humor in whatever form it arises.

You will have noticed that the gifted comedian is able to see the humor in some everyday situation that goes unnoticed by most people. The humor is already in us, but we don't explicitly think about it until the comedian "reminds" us of it, which then causes us to laugh with re-cognition. So in a very real sense, humor is merely recollection of the humorous.

I would say that Raccoon theology is somewhat, if not entirely, like this. It's not as if the B'ob tells you anything you don't already know, I mean, right? Rather, he mainly gives voice to preconceptual airy-tales you may not have consciously thought about. Hence, the sacred "guffah-HA!" experience when he punches you right in the nous or throws a pie in the face before you were born.

But this is true of all real theology, which is aimed at vertical re-collection. Whenever Bob's or anyone else's key fits perfectly into your unThought known, you will notice a little "tickle." You should try to be aware of this and eventually transform it into more of a real chortle or belly laugh. Ho!

It's also somewhat like being a good cook. We think of someone having a good visual, verbal, or musical imagination, but having a good gustatory imagination is a thing apart -- like having a good "tactile imagination," which I suppose blind people possess. A good and adventurous cook can presumably combine ingredients in unexpected ways, because he has a sort of highly developed "foretaste" of potentially tasty combinations.

Frankly, I think this is how advances take place in any field, which was one of Polanyi's core points -- the idea that the researcher is guided by tacit foreknowledge of, say, an as yet undiscovered recipe for potato salad. It would also explain the addiction that Darwinians and other materialists have for bunk food, not to mention the severe truth decay that results.

It's a tricky balance of flavors, because if your mind is saturated with too much foreknowledge, then it closes off the possibility of tasting new discoveries. And this may smell blasfumy, but who said that all the great theological discoveries have already been made? At the very least, I know for sure that they haven't been made by Bob. I mean, I could take someone else's word for it, but I'm not much interested in dei-old liftovers unless they specifically help me digest my own unThought known. Theology's the ultimate adventure, baby. There's more than one way to cook the cosmic egg.

But first you have to come out of your shell and be born. This was one of Eckhart's key psimiles -- that the birth of the Word is eternally recapitulated in the ground of the soul. Jesus reconciles creation with Creator on a macro scale, but we must nevertheless engage in the same activity in a microwave, i.e., "the imitation of Christ." You might say that he is the pilot light, but that doesn't mean that we don't have to journey to the kitchen and fire up the burner.

Also, you definitely have to appreciate Eckhart's inrageous sense of humor, which, unfortunately, the religiously correct authorities of the time -- just like the politically correct left wing inquisitors of the present day -- did not. He uses humor in a zen sort of way, in order to jolt you out of your habitual way of seeing things. He is the True GagDaddy of them all.

Eckhart reveled in "word games that are meant to be both playful and serious insofar as they 'play' a role in the practice of deconstructing the self and freeing it from all that pertains to the created world. Identity in the ground [of being] is a 'wandering' and 'playful' identity.... Speaking to a restricted group of learned God-seekers, he also feels free to indulge... in paradox, oxymoron, and hyperbole," the "rare and subtle" forms of speech "that comprise the 'shock treatment' of a mystical discourse designed to awaken by challenging traditional modes of speaking and understanding" (McGinn).

Like the unThought known, "the ground is transcendentally real as 'pure possibility,'" and "is the 'place' from which the mystic must learn to live, act, and know" (McGinn). It is also flowing and spontaneous, like jazz: "Many of Eckhart's sermons have an improvisational character, appearing as a series of virtuoso variations on oft-repeated themes."

Eckart was quite clearly describing the unThought known when he said that "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" (Eckhart). McGinn says that "this incommunicable knowledge keeps the mystic ever on the inward path, not turned outside."

Now, this "inward path" is the path back to God. Just yesterday Bob was comparing it to a sort of vertical mindshaft, in which we must all work in darkness, administrying one blow after another, occasionally pulling out a nugget of gold and getting a little closer each day to the Fatherlode, or Sierra Padre. It's there. We can sense it with our charcoal activated cʘʘnvision, like old Walter Huston smells the gold in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Here's how Eckhart describes the cʘʘnvision: "Though it may be called an unknowing, an uncomprehending, it still has more within it than all knowing and comprehending outside it, for this unknowing lures and draws you from all that is known, and also from yourself."

So remumble under your breath: last rung in's a written gag, so your seenil grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for my laughty revelations!

29 Comments:

Anonymous Clifford said...

Wonderful post.

Reminded me of this passage:

"...let go this 'everywhere' and this 'everything' in exchange for this 'nowhere' and this 'nothing'. Never mind if you cannot fathom this nothing, for I love it surely so much the better. It is so worthwhile in itself that no thinking about it will do it justice. One can feel this nothing more easily than see it, for it is completely dark and hidden to those who have only just begun to look at it. Yet, to speak more accurately, it is overwhelming spiritual light that blinds the soul that is experiencing it, rather than actual darkness or the absence of physical light. Who is it then who is calling it 'nothing'? Our outer self, to be sure, not our inner. Our inner self calls it 'All', for through it he is learning the secret of all things, physical and spiritual alike, without having to consider every single one separately on its own."

- The Cloud of Unknowing (excerpt Chap. 68)

12/27/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Yes, two's complementary but three's a cloud.

12/27/2009 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Of another controversial blog post, he commented that "It must be said that this is false and an error, as it sounds. But it is true, devout, and moral of the just person, insofar as he is just..." In other words, for creatures, right being is a prerequisite for right understanding. This is indeed a rare and subtle point, because it means that if you ain't right in the head -- and heart -- you ain't gonna be right in your understanding, either. Is it any wonder that our trolls are not even wrong? "

Like lining up perspectives... if you aren't standing in just the right spot, you aren't able to see the image. There's a spot somewhere in the Colorado Utah area, that if you stand in just the right spot, seeing both one pile of rocks 100 yards in front of you, and another pile of rocks 150 yards ahead of you, together at just the right angle, they align to look just like a man wearing a sombrero.

Except with the unthought known, it's not just a chance image... more like not seeing the actual image, is a mischance of not standing in the right position and looking in the right direction... more like a 3-D (or 4-D) game of connect the dots... it is all there already... within the inwardly outward space... but we don't know it until we identify it, connect and integrate the dots, it's still the same, still the whole it was before, but now we know it... and the tickle awaits us.

12/27/2009 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"This not-knowing draws [the soul] into amazement and keeps her on the hunt..."

Sometimes I stop, and look around, and say, "Well, I sure as heck can't go back ... too late for that!" And so, into that vertical mindshaft again....

...who said that all the great theological discoveries have already been made?

You once recommended a book that contained some of the writings of Madhava Ashish. He wrote:
We hear of a path, even of many paths that lead to the same goal. Yet no one who has blazed a trail through the jungle of his mind has thereby left a trail in ours. We cannot follow in his footsteps. No one but ourselves has ever trodden or can ever tread our private jungles.

12/27/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So true. Being that we are individuals, we are each a "unique problem of God," to speak. Which of course is not an argument against universals, any more than the law of gravity is inconsistent with uniqueness.

12/27/2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yesterday I read a quote by Russell Kirk that his mission was "to lead the waters of novelty into the canals of custom." I would say that mine is to lead the canals of tradition into the waters of novelty -- without in any way damaging or polluting the canals.

12/27/2009 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I think, translated into evangelical-ese, this would be along the same lines as...theology/scripture provide us with the menu; it's up to US to taste and see! "In other words, for creatures, right being is a prerequisite for right understanding. This is indeed a rare and subtle point, because it means that if you ain't right in the head -- and heart -- you ain't gonna be right in your understanding, either." Or, be transformed by the renewing of your mind! Without the mind renewed by God, we can't grasp the truths of God. They will appear foolish to those who are wise in their own eyes. And what a perfect description of humor!

12/27/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

"be transformed by the renewing of your mind"

Exactly. That's the New Man, we're just putting him on (p. 254).

12/27/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Aquila said...

Odd how both you and Matthew Fox find so much wisdom in Eckhart, yet draw out such radically different conclusions from him as to how to apply his thoughts.

12/27/2009 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not really odd. Reality provokes all sorts of reactions, not excepting denial of it.

12/27/2009 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But seriously, re-interpreting him as a non-normative Christian is intellectually and spiritually dishonest, not to mention disrespectful of Eckhart.

12/27/2009 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I was subjected to Matthew Fox in a college course titled Quest for Wholeness. Wasn't impressed. Sounded like a whole lot of new agey hogwash to me. OTOH, I liked Langdon Gilkey.

12/27/2009 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Aquila said...

Agree with your take on Fox re Eckhart. He's just another PoMo leftist in clerical garb who sees all things spiritual through the dark glass of feminist/socialist/Green narrative.

Ever heard of his "Techno-Cosmic Mass"? I attended one, years ago, and later described it to a friend thusly: "Mass? It wasn't a 'mass' in any sense of the word. It was a Pagan circle without the boobies! Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass is far closer to the meaning of the word, and that ceremony has boobies!"

12/27/2009 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Bob, you sound as giddy as Eckhart today.
And what's not to be giddy about?
The "good news" can do that to a guy.

12/27/2009 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Giddyup!, as Cosmo would say.

12/27/2009 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Bob,
Did you catch the 6 part video series that Gil linked to? They are by this philosopher Roger Scrunton, and the series is on beauty in art...on not.
Great series, plus he cracks a good joke over an ugly art defender's head.
Rick

12/27/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

Still catching up with yesterday's post (sorry about that):

>> I suppose this is one of the ways in which I part company with the mainstream, which, it seems to me, tries to derive metaphysical truth solely from history...

By "the mainstream", do you mean the Christian (ie, Catholic / Orthodox) mainstream? If so, then I would have to disagree with this statement.

It is an official teaching of the Catholic Church that the existence of God can be known with absolute certainty by reason alone. Neither revelation nor history nor faith (except faith in reason, I guess) is required. Aquinas' metaphysics starts from simple observations of the world around us. Using nothing but common-sense reasoning, he gets from there to the necessary existence of one God who is all-powerful, all-good, all-truth, as well as to the existence of an immortal soul in humans, etc. It is only after all of this is established that he even begins to talk about divine revelation, which involves historical matters.

>> ... whereas I would say that it is the other way around -- that what we call "salvation history" must be the instantiation of certain meta-cosmic principles.

This statement sounds completely orthodox and mainstream to me, assuming that I understand you correctly.

See, I think the problem may be that many (most?) Christians tend to fall into the same error that all atheists fall into - that is, imagining God as though He were subject to time (and therefore history). Thus, they tend to think of the Incarnation, Resurrection, etc, as things that God did in time as a response to certain historical events, rather than as divine actions that occurred "before the foundation of the world" (ie, in eternity) which intersected our plane of space-time in one particular spot (Palestine about 2000 years ago). The latter interpretation is closer to mainstream Christian thought than the former, in my opinion.

12/27/2009 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Warren:

I was thinking of this book, which argues that the world of principles has been forgotten in favor of the historically revealed God only. Apparently, orthodoxy has become controversial in contemporary Christian circles.

12/27/2009 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'll bite: what exactly is the difference between what Matthew Fox is peddling and the metaphysical wares on sale here? Seems more or less the same to me.

12/27/2009 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

From where you sit, there is no difference.

12/27/2009 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick--

Gerard has also linked to it. Highly raccoomended.

12/27/2009 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

I just ordered some of Scruton's books on Beauty and Music. It's amazing how long it can take to get the disease out of my system and I will take all the help I can find.

Even though I considered myself a "musical Platonist" when in college and the Music school was fairly conservative I still was somewhat infected by pomo art theory. Thankfully not nearly as much as my friends in the Humanities and the Visual Arts.

I think that most of my friends will never really see beyond it ...but even with my limited exposure to it I still have to keep digging out the rot in my soul. Not fun, but necessary.

Man, you make some dumb choice to be "cool" when you're 20 and you live with it for a long time. But thank you Rick for pointing out Scruton's piece on Beauty. Many a-ha! moments. Like remembering something I had forgotten long ago.

I think this ties into my love for Arvo Part. His music is so obviously transcendentally Beautiful and is exactly that intersection between the Real and the Ideal.

12/27/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Jack:

You might want to follow up with Schuon's Art From the Sacred to the Profane, a compendium of his peerless writings on the subject.

12/27/2009 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

and then I find this!

"That is my goal: time and timelessness are connected.
This instant and eternity are struggling within us.
And this is the cause of all our contradictions...."
- Arvo Pärt

12/27/2009 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For sheer beauty, I also recommend the early singles of Bo Diddley.

12/27/2009 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, I think it's fair to say that with his 1950s Atlantic material, Ray Charles solved the mind-body problem once and for all.

12/27/2009 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And for the intersection of spirit and matter, time and eternity, I am always re-shocked when I hear prime Aretha, c. '66-'74. She was truly coming from some other dimension.

12/27/2009 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

I may have raccoomentioned it to Gerard.

RR

12/28/2009 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Thanks for the Scruton videos!

He nailed it with this one, from part 2,

"Maybe people have lost their faith in beauty, because they've lost their belief in ideals, all there is, they tend to think, is the world of appetite, there are no values, but utilitarian ones, nothing has a value unless it has a use, and what is the use of beauty?"

Btw, his essay Beauty and Desecration, makes similar themes and points.

Pardon a loud tooting of my own horn, but it is a day old post after all, from one of my Justice series, after Googling "Beauty" in Google Images (NOT recommended), "Forgotten Beauty and lost Justice",

"Here's another another question worth asking, how do we go through an examination of Justice, without an examination of Beauty? And if the connection between the two is not readily apparent to you... why not?

Let me put that this way. What kind of Justice can you expect from a society where the normal expectation of results through a casual search for Beauty, is an intellectual claptrap of assertions about how all things are equally worthy and valuable depending on your perspective or that it is determined by your genes, cash for eye candy, fake people, and the degradation and de-spiritualization and de-intellectualization of beauty which is porn?

Answer me that?

The same answer will be received, the very same answer, by walking yourself through Glaucon's tale of the Ring of Gyges (Plato's Republic, bookII), that if you had a ring that made you invisible so that you could be assured of complete anonymity, of never being identified or caught or the target of praise or retribution, no matter the virtue or vice engaged in, no matter the crime committed - what would you do?

What would be the value of Justice to you? That is a whopper of a question, not often appreciated as people dig into the details of the myth. Equally relevant will be, and perhaps an even more revealing answer to be had by asking, what is, and what is the value, of Art? To you?
"

What the guiding darks of the left, creatures like Antonio Gramsci knew, they "..., took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover...", they have always known, that a people who've lost appreciation and respect for beauty and manners, will be happy to overlook any injustice, as long as there's 'something in it for them'. Those in charge of 'educating' us, just bristle at the thought that Beauty is important... why is that do you suppose? People can be made to prefer ugliness over beauty, all it costs is your soul, and then, as then as Dostoevsky said of a world without God, anything goes... well... maybe that's how it's sold, but what he said, and which any leftie apparatchik would be quick to correct it to, is that "everything is permitted"... beauty they'll be happy to slight, but Power? Not on your nellie.

12/28/2009 09:16:00 AM  

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