On Talking Pure Nonsense About Nothing
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....