Friday, January 01, 2010

On Talking Pure Nonsense About Nothing

Too late for a new post, so this is a rerun. It was the first one I grabbed, but it kept my attention, so here it is.

Sometimes I think I should actually republish things from the arkive more often. First, they're generally new to me, since I write them in such a blur. Re-reading them in a different mode of consciousness allows me to critique and edit them, plus I have the added benefit of whatever growth has taken place since the post was written, so I can subtly correct "errors" that might cause people to question Petey's omniscience.

We begin with a couple of orthoparadoxical observations. If you're at all hangedover, you may not want to think about them too hard:

God is distinguished by his indistinction from any other distinct things... --Meister Eckhart

"Eckhart was obviously fascinated by the question of what we think we are doing when we attempt to speak about God. In one sense, his whole surviving corpus is an exploration of this issue. Why is speech necessary when silence is more fitting?" (McGinn).

You might say that Eckhart packs up where Thomas "the Strawman" Aquinas lifted off, in the abysmal silence at the beginning and end of all verbalization; which is why the MeistrO could say that "the Word which is in the silence of the fatherly Intellect is a Word without word, or rather a Word above every word." In the beginning -- or at the Origin, to be precise -- is the wordless Word, or pure spirit-breath hovering over the face of the deep.

Now, is this true? No, not really. It just removes some of the barriers to falsehood. It just cleans some of the grime from your mirror.

I was reading some Balthasar again yesterday, and he was essentially emphasizing a point also made by Schuon, to the effect that if you do not first appreciate the infinite chasm between you and God, you cannot possibly appreciate the unity; for the difference is a fact, while the similarities are merely analogical.

In other words, there is always an "as if" component to our divine likeness. To deny this is to engage in a monstrous breach of spiritual etiquette, to say the least. It's analogous to affirming that "all men are created equal," and then using this as a pretext to suggest that there is no difference between a good man and an Olbermann. In other words, it can drag God down just as easily as pull man up. ("Although in our Father's house are many mansions, they are not all on the same floor..." --Russell Kirk.)

Here again, the metaphysical implication of this is a kind of irreducible dualism that exists for a reason, as argued by Bolton in Self and Spirit: "Arguably the duality of soul and God could be an ultimate reality.... There are in fact profound reasons for the duality of God in relation to the soul, which are only ignored because of prevailing habits of thought."

I always chuckle when someone expresses the cliche that we only believe in dualism because of what some philosopher said 400 years ago. It's like arguing that we only believe in, say, the reality of time, because Hegel said it was a mode of the infinite. That's giving waaaay too much credit to the tenured.

But that's what intellectuals do: confer much more importance to themselves and their little stock of perishable ideas than is warranted. For example, as I have argued in the past, liberty had to first be "lived" before it could be discovered and developed as an abstract value. Here you see an important point, that incarnation precedes cogitation. Intellectuals tend to live in abstractions that are not only unworkable in practice, but create tyranny and oppression, e.g., socialized medicine.

Bolton agrees that "when we attribute the influence of Dualism to Descartes, we are implicitly attributing to him the power of imposing his peculiar way of thinking on a whole civilization for three centuries.... In reality, this kind of power is so rare that it is usually considered an attribute of the founders of religions, not of philosophers." In short, we are putting Descartes before d'horse.

In fact, Descartes simply identified "a certain element in the way in which human minds have always worked, and create[d] a system around it." After all, consciousness and matter are so profoundly different, that no one has to press the point. The trick is in trying to understand how they relate, without simply subsuming (or supra-suming) the one into the other.

This reminds me of something Richard Weaver wrote, to the effect that the denial of religion always conceals a denial of mind; thus, the ineradicable anti-intellectualism of the secular left. Here again, Bolton agrees that "the denial of Dualism means in practice a denial of consciousness itself, and the modern philosophers who argue for this are arguing for something which not only most people do not believe, but which they themselves do not believe except, perhaps, in the lecture room."

In reality, as it pertains to the manner in which we actually live, consciousness is quite literally everything, for "it is the container and basis of phenomena as such." No strictly naturalistic "theory of everything" (or TOE) will ever account for the person who understands it, why he wants to tell others about it, or how it is even possible to cause "understanding" in another subject -- whatever that is. The moment you understand the theory, you've breached the unity. And "understanding" is not simply a meaningless epiphenomenon, like some annoying fungus on your great TOE.

If we are going to ditch dualism, then we had better come up with a more adequate substitute, not merely a philosophy that unexplains everything dualism explained. After all, we only know that there are objects of consciousness because there are objects and there is consciousness. Therefore, any denial of dualism necessarily begins in dualism, or else there is no knower and no possibility of knowledge, as if the grin could be separate from the Cheshire Cat, or Obama's fluency from the TOTUS.

Still, there is a way out of this dualistic coonundrum. In my view, there are certain irreducible dualities in the cosmos. Furthermore, I have always suspected that they are all somehow related, or perhaps reflections of some primordial meta-duality. I am thinking of the One and the many, time and eternity, absolute and infinite, male and female, wave and particle, part and whole, form and substance, individual and group, subject and object, conscious and unconscious, boxers and briefs, and a few others.

Some might suggest that the brain is therefore a kind of "duality generator," but Bolton argues that the brain evolved long before we had anything to say about it, "under cosmic conditions which had the power to determine the form of the brain in accordance with their own nature." In short, the objective structure of the brain reveals something objectively true about the subjective nature of reality -- or about the inner nature of the ultimate Subject.

It all has to do with the meaning of within.

To be continued, if tomorrow can ever know....

19 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Thanks for the post -- and may it be a great Year for you and your familia!

You wrote:
In my view, there are certain irreducible dualities in the cosmos. Furthermore, I have always suspected that they are all somehow related, or perhaps reflections of some primordial meta-duality. I am thinking of the One and the many, time and eternity, absolute and infinite, male and female, wave and particle, part and whole, form and substance, individual and group, subject and object, conscious and unconscious, boxers and briefs, and a few others.

This has been a suspicion of mine as well. I ran across a book, just recently back in print, by an English architect, that is an in-depth exploration of that subject. I thought it was interesting because the author approached it as an architect, someone working with forms and design qualities and engineering, and not coming straight at it from a metaphysical perspective. He includes a lot of diagrams and illustrations.

Long title: Crystal and Dragon: The Cosmic Dance of Symmetry and Chaos in Nature, Art and Consciousness

Thanks again!

1/01/2010 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Happy New Year Bob, Mrs. G, FL and all Raccoons. Whatever 2010 will bring, may we each find ourselves closer to O and farther from our mind parasites.

Re. duality, thank God that's the way it is. The idea of everything being one in the nondualistic sense strikes me as being not only wrong, but cosmically unjust. For instance, it means that there is no difference between a mass murderer and his tortured victims.

1/01/2010 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

B-but the Avatar of Asininity says that "this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be."

1/01/2010 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Even if the universe was as it should be, it no longer was the moment Deepak opened his piehole.

1/01/2010 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Why is speech necessary when silence is more fitting?

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music"

Happy New Year!

1/01/2010 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

I have long found it an annoying aspect of dealing with the nondual/pomo type...they seem to use hurl the accusation of "dualism" as if it were a philosophical checkmate from which no response is even possible. Never having to explain why, exactly, that is the case...

1/01/2010 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Petey - every time Deepak speaks, there is a disturbance in the force.

Speaking of silence, did anyone catch the post-midnight concerts last night? Seriously, Alan Thicke's son Robin should maybe consider that, because the inexpressible he was expressing seemed to suggest traumatic gonadal injury. Though I will grant that he provided many moments of outright hilarity...

1/01/2010 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Gradus said...

After all, consciousness and matter are so profoundly different, that no one has to press the point. The trick is in trying to understand how they relate, without simply subsuming (or supra-suming) the one into the other.

I think Wallace Stevens, an American poet, was interested in this.

1/01/2010 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Nigel said...

Looking for some good jazz recommendations in the organized chaos vein. Some have referred me to Charlie Mingus, but I have yet to hear the chaos. Any ideas anyone? Artists or particular songs would be great.

1/01/2010 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read extensively in the Chopra and found his doctrine to be similar to Bob's. If you don't believe me, try it yourself.

Tolle, Chopra, Dyer, et al, are all a pack of God-lovers just like Bob.

Bob hates them because of their political views, their power and money relative to him, etc.

To prove me wrong, go to the enemy literature and bring me back a trophy that would contradict Bob's broad assertion that God exists.

There's the heart of the matter; they all agree on it.

That's why you can't find it.

All of the other "points" these pundits make are superflous to the main game.

So all the puffery and posturing about Chopra's pie-hole is a load of anguished egoism.

The whole lot of them should be either listened too as a bloc or run out of town, depending on your orientation to the matter.

1/01/2010 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There's a fine line between organized chaos and plain chaos, but when they stay just on our side, it's a glorious experience.

Mingus is actually pretty structured, but with sections of freedom.

Some of my first recommendations would be Live and You've Got to Have Freedom, both of which are amazing, by Pharoah Sanders; Fuscia Swing Song and Extensions and Dimensions, by Sam Rivers; Let Freedom Ring, by Jackie McLean; Spring, by Anthony Williams; Dialogue, by Bobby Hutcherson; and for more advanced and abstract freebop, you'll want the complete Miles Davis Quinted 1965-1968, along with the complete In a Silent Way Sessions; and of course, eventually lots of Sun Ra, but that's a whole world unto itself.

1/01/2010 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, for some fantastic free jazz with a Latin accent, try Gato Barbieri. Start with Latino America. Great used prices for a 2CD set....

1/01/2010 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But if you want some great Mingus, start with Live at Antibes, featuring the immortal Eric Dolphy on alto AND Booker Ervin on tenor.

1/01/2010 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> Mingus is actually pretty structured, but with sections of freedom.

Yup. Highly recommend "Let My Children Hear Music", which may be my favorite album ever cut by anybody, in any genre. Some of the longer cuts have sections of controlled chaos, especially "Hobo Ho", which I think you could use to heat your house in the winter.... Other cuts are thoroughly composed a la classical music. A great mix of styles.

Then there's John Coltrane. "Ascension" is definitely on the more chaotic end of the spectrum.

1/01/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I definitely wouldn't start with Ascension! To my ears, that's completely on the chaotic side of the border (I think I read that he was on LSD during the session). A good place to start for the neophyte would be Live at the Vanguard, Live at Birdland, or Live at Newport (which has his best version of My Favorite Things).

1/01/2010 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And Alice Coltrane was certainly no slouch. Where else can you hear free jazz harp, this side of heaven? Start with Journey in Satchidananda.

1/01/2010 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Nigel said...

Thanks for the recommendations. Will check them out and let you know how it goes...

1/01/2010 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Nigel said...

So far, really digging the Gato Barbieri one, Alice Coltrane, and John Coltrane's Ascension... will have to give them all better listens tomorrow. Thanks again, Bob and Warren.

1/01/2010 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Gradus said...

John Zorn? Lounge Lizards?

1/02/2010 05:43:00 AM  

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