Friday, April 30, 2010

I AM, Therefore I Think

A few more random thoughts on ontic and epistemic closure. I say "random" because in arriving at them, I am attempting to abandon ego-control -- handing off the ball to Bob's Unconscious, as it were -- but there is usually another hidden order beneath the randomness, organizing the search party. Indeed, I'm counting on it -- on there being another neural net somewhere above me when I work without one.

Which reminds me. On a purely psychological level, the final net is the Mother, or M-Other (see comments beginning about halfway down for further belaboration of the point). In order to understand and appreciate this, you must go much deeper than the usual associations of the word "mother." Rather, you have to think like an infant, which is of course difficult to do, since, in order to do it, you must abandon speech, logic, memory, and boundaries. Yes, sort of like Howard Dean.

But what's left, you ask, when one does that? That's a good question, and one that people such as Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and D.W. Winnicott set out to answer. Freud took psychological investigation back to the oedipal stage (ages 3 to 5), but regarded the period prior to that as a sort of dark and impenetrable jungle. In order to go there, it required a kind of inspired visionary lunacy, which is where Melanie Klein comes in. For in order to see into that dark world, one must be "broken" -- either willingly or unwillingly -- along one of its fault lines, so to speak, permitting one to either enter into it, or, more likely, to be flooded by its primitive material. Then it's a case of sink or swim.

I won't go into all of the details, which would be impossible anyway. The point is that human beings are ontologically open at both ends, the "above" and the "below." Only the most naive sort of rationalist could believe that his ego is a thing unto itself, unconnected to any other realities and requiring no further explanation. But a rationalist begins with reason, which is his whole problem.

The more someone is identified with his empirical ego, the more closed off he will be to the unconscious on the one hand, but the transcendent on the other. Either way, once you get over (or under) yourself and realize that your ego is a kind of floating condensation on a roiling sea of consciousness, then it's not any kind of stretch to believe in the thing called God, but which I prefer to call O, in order to avoid tainting God with egoic associations. We want to know O as it is, not as the ego thinks it is.

In a discussion of the differences between philosophy, theology, and gnosis (or intellection, if that word makes you uncomfortable), Schuon correctly points out that in one sense, the differences are relative, but in another sense, absolute. In the contemporary world, the differences tend to be quite stark, since philosophy is usually reduced to some variety of rationalism, while theology is reduced to dogmatic pneumababble about things no one can prove, but which must be taken on faith (the same way the rationalist must take his egoic reason on faith).

And intellection doesn't even enter the picture -- and not only for the profane thinker, which goes without saying, but for the "religious thinker" as well. Which is why he is not really a thinker; either that, or only a thinker. In other words, when the ego thinks about spiritual realities, it tends to generate stupidity, since the ego is of a "worldly substance" and not well adapted to celestial realities that have their source above the world.

But as Schuon points out, the differences between these modes are "only relative when one understands by 'philosophy' the fact of thinking, by 'theology' the fact of speaking dogmatically about God and religious things, and by gnosis the fact of presenting pure metaphysics..."

I think I would modify -- or expand upon -- this slightly, in that I would define theology as speaking "about God," whereas gnosis is speaking in God (or the Holy Spirit), so to speak.

Better yet, in order to avoid any misleading associations (and as fully explained in my book), I would designate theology O-->(k), and gnosis O-->(n), for we're really talking about two very different types of knowledge, and two very different means of accessing them. For example, anyone can acquire dogmatic (k) about O. This is not to put it down, only to draw a distinction between it and (n), which must be "undergone" as opposed to "acquired."

We've talked about theology and gnosis. Where does this leave garden-variety philosophy? That depends. If it comes from the ontically closed ego, then it amounts to what I call in my book (k)-->ø. That is, instead of beginning with "reality" -- a reality that clearly transcends, even dwarfs, the ego, it begins with the empirical ego and its little reasoning faculty. It then applies its reason to "the world," but it's not really the world -- i.e., O -- just a little egoic representation of it.

This is why the ego necessarily reduces O to ø, irrespective of how intelligent the person is. If one imagines that one can map reality with reason, one has rendered oneself stupid, for one is simply engaging in one of the numberless varieties of (k)-->ø. Get in line.

Schuon makes another critical point about the difference between profane philosophy, or (k)-->ø, and gnosis, or O-->(n). That is, -- ironically -- the former can't really know anything with certainty. Except for one thing: that it doesn't know, or is not sure.

In this regard, Descartes was absolutely correct. If we limit ourselves to the ego, we can only begin with the radical skepticism of doubting that we even exist. But since we can doubt, then we exist. As a result, the rationalist is always fighting against nagging doubts about his own real existence, and certainly about his significance. This is what happens when you put Descartes before the Force.

So rationalism is founded upon the principle of doubting that we exist, which is a pretty paltry thing to hold onto. In contrast, theology is founded upon the a priori certainty of dogma, which for many people is enough: God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Nothing wrong with skiing between the lines as opposed to extreme seeking in the ungroomed areas of the Sacred Mountain.

But gnosis or intellection begins with another kind of certainty, the certainty of metaphysical truths that cannot not be, but which must again be "undergone" and assimilated. Indeed, Truth must be suffered, or as Petey prefers to say, sophered. Why is that? Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego. But once the ego is out of the way, it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, it kind of tickles.

43 Comments:

Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

For in order to see into that dark world, one must be "broken" -- either willingly or unwillingly -- along one of its fault lines, so to speak, permitting one to either enter into it, or, more likely, to be flooded by its primitive material. Then it's a case of sink or swim."

Broken is the key. Yeah, it hurts but it's a Good kind of hurt. :^)

I would also venture to say that one must be broken before one can be truly thank-full.

4/30/2010 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, that's the ultimate message of Jesus, isn't it? The power of powerlessness.

4/30/2010 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Indeed, Truth must be suffered, or as Petey prefers to say, sophered. Why is that? Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego. But once the ego is out of the way, it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, it kind of tickles."

Well said, Bob's Unconcious!!

Suffering, properly understood, or really actualized (actually realized) leads to sacrifice.

And what do we sacrifice?
The ego (old man) of course.
And this sacrifice must always be NOW.

Sometimes it feels like dyin', which can be terrifying, 'cause you may think (as I do at times) your identity is bein' lost (broken, suffering, death) but in reality, or Truth, your True soph is found.

You must lose yer (ego) to find yer O.
Kinda like surrendering to be free.
I like to look at it as surrendering to Truth, Liberty, Love, Honor, Justice, Mercy, etc..

'Cause when yer a slave to O the chains fall off and you can fly free.

4/30/2010 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
"Well, that's the ultimate message of Jesus, isn't it? The power of powerlessness."

That's a big Aye! And that's where grace abounds.

I hesitate to call that a "place" however. It's no time to pitch a tent, so to speak.

"The power of powerlessness" must be followed, I have found.

4/30/2010 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Alan McCann said...

Somewhat related, I heard a talk by Heiromonk Damascene where said a more senior monk had suggested that "I Love, therefore I am" is a more theologically (in the Orthodox sense) correct statement.

4/30/2010 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Difficult to say. Knowledge is always communion, and is generated out of the loving couple of knower and known. Perhaps it's a matter of love taking priority for the bhakti, truth for the jnani. But love is surely a kind of truth, and truth a kind of love. It's almost a male-female thing: love/truth, infinite/absolute, container/contained.

4/30/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I looked up "undergone" (undergo), and the word means more than I remember.

Undergo [ˌʌndəˈgəʊ]
vb -goes, -going, -went, -gone
(tr) to experience, endure, or sustain to undergo a dramatic change of feelings
[Old English: earlier meanings were more closely linked with the senses of under and go]
undergoer n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Thesaurus Legend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms

Verb 1. undergo - pass through; "The chemical undergoes a sudden change"; "The fluid undergoes shear"; "undergo a strange sensation"
respire - undergo the biomedical and metabolic processes of respiration by taking up oxygen and producing carbon monoxide
labor, labour - undergo the efforts of childbirth
change - undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature; "She changed completely as she grew older"; "The weather changed last night"
submit, take - accept or undergo, often unwillingly; "We took a pay cut"
experience, have, receive, get - go through (mental or physical states or experiences); "get an idea"; "experience vertigo"; "get nauseous"; "receive injuries"; "have a feeling"
experience, go through, see - go or live through; "We had many trials to go through"; "he saw action in Viet Nam"

----------------------------undergo
verb experience, go through, be subjected to, stand, suffer, bear, weather, sustain, endure, withstand, submit to New recruits have been undergoing training in recent weeks.

4/30/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Are there ways to enlarge, expand, or enhance the experience of Gnosis?

How do we get beyond what we experience now to something deeper and more profound?

Is an ego necessary for functioning in the day-to-day? How much ego should be retained, versus how much expunged?

These are questions arising from today's post.

4/30/2010 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"For example, anyone can acquire dogmatic (k) about O."

One of the downfalls of seminary, we've observed. Knowing *about* O does not a shepherd make.

Of course, even those who "ski between the lines" recognize the distinction between knowing about him, and knowing him. At least, on an intellectual level (there's the rub!).

That's not to say that education and knowledge have to be detrimental to "walking in...." Hubby likes to quote one of his mentors in the faith. "It's good to be highly educated. It's better to be educated from on high. It's best to have both."

4/30/2010 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

This is not to put it down, only to draw a distinction between it and (n), which must be "undergone" as opposed to "acquired."

Exactly!

4/30/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

This is what happens when you put Descartes before the Force.

No matter how busy your day, there's always time for a Fresh Gag.

4/30/2010 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Reminds of the quote from Lewis, "Every idea of Him we form, He must in mercy shatter."

4/30/2010 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"No matter how busy your day, there's always time for a Fresh Gag."

That's why we love this place. :)

4/30/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

See how this author's definition of gnosis sits:

“But gnosis (which we designate as inborn knowledge concerning the “secret of becoming”) cannot be formulated; it must be realized. Obviously, an Opus [Oeuvre] is involved here, and not philosophical dialectics, an Opus, moreover, whose phases of realization reveal the subtle composition of man as well as the phases of human and suprahuman becoming.”
-Schwaller de Lubicz

4/30/2010 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

What about Goldman Sachs? Shouldn't bloated money interests be checked?

If leftists can't do it, shouldn't we?

What about Schwarzenegger? Should he be allowed to run for POTUS?

He is a good leader, yet was born in Austria. We'd have to fine tool the constitution a little.

Let us egolessly and with gnostic intent scry into these questions and propose courses of action.

4/30/2010 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

One more question, please:

If a person is unamarried, is it or is it not an egoism to engage in the marital act?

What basis would there be for the behavior in the abscence of an actual reproductive opportunity?

It is vexing. It is hard to divert certain energies; I'm getting worn out.

4/30/2010 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

"Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego."

This statement follows on from what you wrote yesterday about the need to live in conformity with the truth, and which I referred to as "honesty." Whereas a lot of so-called spiritual strategies only feed the false self, honesty actually trends toward truth, and serves it, which degrades the ego.

And phew! I had to leave early today, and only skimmed the post, and thought you said several things I really disagreed with -- unusual!

My bad:
E-r-r-o-r

I spent the day wondering, "How could he say that?" but upon re-reading, I'm tickled to see that I had mis-read your statements.

A second reading always helps anyway. (I knew that.)

4/30/2010 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is what happens when you put Descartes before the Force."

Hoot!

4/30/2010 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"But gnosis or intellection begins with another kind of certainty, the certainty of metaphysical truths that cannot not be, but which must again be "undergone" and assimilated."

And thankfully the task is never complete, each time you go back to the well, it's even deeper than before.

"Indeed, Truth must be suffered, or as Petey prefers to say, sophered. Why is that? Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego."

Speaking of Descartes... and moreso of Rousseau... "I want it to beee!!! Therefore it must be sooo!!! "

"But once the ego is out of the way, it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, it kind of tickles. "

Once you get over the anxiety of the universe not being created as you were sure it should have been... it's amazing how interesting and delightful it becomes!

4/30/2010 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

grant: "...Are there ways to enlarge, expand, or enha...get beyon... nd more pr... ow much ego sh... "

bh: "What about Goldman Sachs? Shouldn't bloated money int... e allowed to ru..."

Have you two noticed how little your comments have to do with either the post or the comments of the Raccoons?

You show lots and lots of concern over quantity, very little interest in undergoing Quality.

You want to change? Stop putting Descartes before the Force.

Sheesh.

4/30/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Van, methinks those two are one and the same. At least, they may as well be - they have the same mo, and lack the same jo...

4/30/2010 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

Van, Julie:

One concern is linking raccoon philosophy with behavior and choices.

This means politics, sexual activity, etc, is done in accordance with O.

There is very little work done in this area; this lacuna is a fertile area to focus on.

It is incumbent to follow upon the "faith without works is dead" caveat and flesh it out.

This is the very front lines of human evolution; go there. Don't hang back.

5/01/2010 01:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

There is no lacuna. Once again, you aren't looking for the truth, you are looking for validation for behaviors which you wish to engage in, but which aligning oneself to truth requires you to forgo. We aren't here to provide you excuses. We aren't your conscience-by-proxy.

5/01/2010 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"On a purely psychological level, the final net is the Mother, or M-Other. In order to understand and appreciate this, you must go much deeper than the usual associations of the word "mother." Rather, you have to think like an infant, which is of course difficult to do, since, in order to do it, you must abandon speech, logic, memory, and boundaries."

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And [the Word] was hovering over the face of the waters.

5/01/2010 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Psychoanalysts naturally jump on "waters" as being an archetypal reference to the intrauterine state and to birth. Looked at this way, who is the "face" of the waters, if not the M(O)ther? Elsewhere in the Bible -- in Proverbs 8:22-36 -- there is more reference to She who was there before the Beginning.

5/01/2010 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Grotstein calls it the "background Presence of Primary Identification." It is that from which we all emerge, and which undergirds our separate selves. He says that it is "our organizing messianic genius that gives us the free associations descending from a greater Truth than we can possibly have access to, other than through the oracular ambiguities it chooses to offer us."

It also "guarantees the continuity of space and containment through all transformations of dimension and relationships. It is the principle of continuity, which in religious terms can be called God.... In Taoism, it can be seen as the unifying, hovering spirit of Oneness that binds all existence."

It can also be identified with "the Demiurge, the active aspect of God that created the universe." It "constitutes the 'Other,' our 'alter ego' or 'second self.'" In its absence, serenity and continuity are absent, and in its place "is a series of fearful discontinuities forever isolated and estranged from each other." It is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream, and with whom we are in a constant dialectical relationship.

5/01/2010 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's very similar to what Eckhart refers to as the "Ground"...

5/01/2010 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This Subject undoubtedly deserves a post of her own... perhaps on M-Other's Day.

5/01/2010 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I notice you're reading about the symbolism of the Ark. I thought Matt's Zohar had some interesting things to say about that, speaking of things that symbolize the M(O)ther. While he didn't go there, it seemed to me that as the dwelling place of Shekhinah the Ark and the Temple were in a sense the house (womb?) of the Marian spirit.

5/01/2010 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I haven't started it yet, but I believe he gets into the idea of the ark as "container" of God...

5/01/2010 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wildly off topic, George.

5/01/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I just started reading Mark Steyn's "America Alone". I don't think I've been so disturbed by a book in a LONG time...and I'm only on page 18!!! If he's right...and it is a very plausible argument, then there needs to be a fundamental change in how I live my life. That is, if what I value--in a nutshell the achievements of Western Civilization--are to survive.

Am I being alarmist?

Any other Raccoons have thoughts on his book?

5/01/2010 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No, you're not being alarmist. It's either Islamism or Americanism (i.e.. classical liberalism), since leftism is suicide.

5/01/2010 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I guess when the pc campus crowd chanted "hey hey ho ho...western civ has got to go" all those years ago...they weren't speaking metaphorically!

5/01/2010 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Jack said "Am I being alarmist?"

I haven't read the book, but I did read his talk at Hillsdale which ref'd it... and that was plenty clear to me... if you're being alarmist, then make room for another hand on the bell!

5/01/2010 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Jack said "they weren't speaking metaphorically!"

No, they weren't... the left does metaphor about as well as Alanis Morissette does irony.

5/01/2010 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Speaking of alarmist... I've got a housefull of 11 yr old girls... partying (internalizing candy by hand, fork and glass)... IOW...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wv:boyers
at least with the boys I could establish control without quivering lips and tears... Girls are so... so... what's the word I'm looking for, oh yes,
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5/01/2010 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Aw, it can't be that bad...
Maybe a little nasal spray will make the screechiness comprehensible.

(Re. the spray, good grief - talk about chemical castration. I see before me a generation of men just like this guy. Yes, Jack you should be alarmed. Very alarmed.)

5/01/2010 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

GB-

I asked you a while back for some recommends on the Islamic militancy and you recommended "The Looming Tower" and "Power, Faith, and Fantasy"...you recommended a third book, which I can't recall and am unable to find where I wrote it down.

I don't know if you might recall what that third book might be?

Sorry, I had it written down here somewhere!

5/01/2010 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

I have heard a perhaps apocryphal story. Back in the 50's Ford does a survey asking potential customers what they wanted in a car the end result was the Edsel. Years later Ford does another survey asking what customers thought their *neighbors* would want in a car and the end result was the mustang.

Whether the story is true or not I believe it applies to what has happened to men over the past few generations (boommers, x'ers, gen y etc) is that if many women are asked what they want we all end up with feminized men who are the equivalent of an Edsel and yet what women really want is a mustang.

I was a child in he 70's and 80's and I have to say it was a strange time. Old school notions of manhood were still strong but being chipped away by "liberal" notions. By the time I got to college even uttering the phrase "manhood" invoked laughter if not downright disgust. Manhood was definitely a bad thing equivalent to being an admitted rapist or callous destroyer peaceful native villages (avatar anyone?). If only we could only eliminate manhood, then all would be peace and light.

We are paying the price for that choice now.

5/01/2010 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Jack--

I don't remember a third one, but those two really cover the wahhabberfront. One covers the whole history of US-Muslim relations, while the other focuses on modern Islamism from 1948 on. They're both page-turners.

5/01/2010 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Julie, re: your link...oxytocin??? Like, the hormone that causes you to bond with your baby while nursing?

I am SO glad I got myself one of the real men before they totally disappeared.

5/02/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep, the very same. So in high enough doses it's either turning men into girls or infants. Or girly infants. Sign of the apocalypse, indeed...

5/02/2010 07:45:00 PM  

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