Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adrift in Time with No Vertical Compass

This is the best kind of repost: an old one that not only provoked few comments, but that even I don't remember writing.

In his book From the Divine to the Human, Schuon has a chapter entitled To Refuse or Accept Revelation. In it, he points out that the reason people freely accept revelation is obviously not on empirical or (merely) rational grounds, but because man is a form of Truth, and therefore disposed to comprehend the divine message in spite of the objections of his own ego. In a way, the fact that we may comprehend revelation so deeply, proves the deiform nature of man and the divine object of which he is a distant reflection.

Schuon points out that in all orthodox religions there are two domains, one which "must be," and one which "may or may not be," and therefore doesn't necessarily have to exist. The former is that of dogma, the latter interpretation and elaboration. For example, just yesterday I was reading in Steinsaltz's In the Beginning about the distinction between the written Torah and the oral Torah.

In kabbalistic terms, the written Torah corresponds to wisdom, the oral Torah to understanding. The former is a numinous flash, a "nucleus" of all knowing, but only in potential. "Only afterwards does Understanding clothe this insight with the length and breadth of reason and make it comprehensible and communicable."

Steinsaltz writes that "the process is not unlike conception and giving birth: the original fertilized cell contains all, but it has to be lodged in the womb and developed." Similarly, Schuon thinks of revelation as a vertical ingression into time, while tradition is its horizontal extension or prolongation within the womb of time. There is (↓) and there is (→), and they shouldn't be conflated. Both are necessary, but in different ways.

This is why, while revelation must be preserved, it must also be interpreted and elaborated. Otherwise, it would be analogous to removing the fertilized cell from its nurturing environment and expecting it to be self-sufficient. As Steinsaltz writes, "Written Torah needs endless amplification, study, and clarification. There are infinite layers of meaning, depthless beauty," and new modes of experiential comprehension to be revealed, which is to say, O → (n).

While one receives the written revelation passively, so to speak, the oral revelation "proceeds to act on it, engaging in critical thinking" and "deep experiencing." And unlike the written Torah, which is fixed and not given to change, the oral Torah "can be altered and improved and is constantly being enlarged, added to, re-created, and enhanced by ever higher levels of experience."

Again, (↓) is unchanged, but it is continuously being refracted through (→). Indeed, this is one of the central tasks of theology, to show how (↓) is still relevant (to say the least) despite the inevitable changes brought about in (→). If one's theology doesn't keep up with (→), then soon enough, people will conclude that (↓) is outdated and of no possible relevance to them, at which point they will transfer their allegiance to (→). Game over. The secular clock jockeys and Marxist time zombies have won.

This is precisely what I meant when I made reference to the transitional, generative space that exists between revelation and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study has the identical pneuma-cognitive structure of science, the latter of which you might also say has a "written revelation" and an "oral revelation."

The "written revelation" of science is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the "oral tradition" -- takes place in the space between this fixed Object and our own evolving Subject, which mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels, as if the one were a deep reflection of the other. Which of course it is. The world was made to be known, or it couldn't be.

Now, the written revelation may be thought of as "day," the oral as "night." The wisdom of revelation manifests itself in the light of day, but may only be understood in the darkness of unknowing. In short, there is "daytime" knowledge and there is "nighttime" knowledge, and one must understand the distinction.

As Steinsaltz says, "the day is the time for receiving the light, and the night is the time for creating. There is a time to perceive, to look out and absorb things, and there is a time to develop what has been absorbed and even to fashion new things out of this knowledge." Steinsaltz compares it to a photograph, in which the film of the camera absorbs a bit of the light. But then you must enter your dark room in order to "develop" it.

It is no different with the pneumagraph of our indvidual lives. For genuine knowledge can only be gestated in the nighttime womb of the soul. Irrespective of how much daytime knowledge (k) one possesses, without the night vision to complement it, one will not "see." This latter condition is what we call slackular degeneration.

For the Raccoon is a gnocturnal creature, don't you know. For us, the daytime light is so intense, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We actually "see" the light better in the dark. Conversely, many anal-type materialists reject religion because they are either night-blind or afraid of the dark. But our spiritual essence is exactly analogous to the flash of (↓) or the fertilized cell. Our life is the elaboration of this (↓) in (→). God help the man who has become detached from the ombilical cord of (↓) and is adrift in the mayaplicity of (→). I don't pretend that I can.

The day and night also correspond to "outer" and "inner," part and whole, letter and spirit, geometry and music. Paradoxically, wholeness can only be seen by night, when all of the apparent, well-defined parts blend together and interpenetrate. By day, we see only fragments, but by night we are able to intuit the whole and dream the metaphysical dream by which the day may be creatively illuminated by the higher darkness.

Here is the essential difference. The spiritually attuned person, the poet, the true artist, all live and breath by night and communicate their vision by the light of an intense beam of darkness. Conversely, the atheist, the materialist, the radical secularist -- all live by day and are blinded by the true light of darkness. And being that they cannot think by night, they dream by day -- which is to say, sleepwake -- through their lives.

24 Comments:

Blogger sehoy said...

Hi all!

Thought you might enjoy this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qySx8tSs8BQ&feature=player_embedded

7/28/2010 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

There is Baseball for Dummies and then there is baseball of players.

7/28/2010 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Sehoy - awesome.

7/28/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

While one receives the written revelation passively, so to speak, the oral revelation "proceeds to act on it, engaging in critical thinking" and "deep experiencing." And unlike the written Torah, which is fixed and not given to change, the oral Torah "can be altered and improved and is constantly being enlarged, added to, re-created, and enhanced by ever higher levels of experience."

That's true in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and it's why we can move through a period like the pharisaism that opposed the Incarnate Christ and the various dark periods of Church history. The understanding of the revelation is an evolutionary process, always moving toward the "fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ".

I suppose it remains to be seen if Islam can do the same.

7/28/2010 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I would have made the symbol for (→) move both ways, like a double horizontal arrow.

In any event a complete allegiance to (→) by a society would be a fundamentally catabolic society, by definition, wouldn't it?

7/28/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I suppose it would be progressive, but in a cosmos with no possible basis for objective progress. Like progressives. Therefore, it is more dissipative than catabolic. With no vertical center, it simply cannot hold together. Or, as with contemporary progressives, it can only be held together by hatred and lies.

7/28/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

And being that they cannot think by night, they dream by day -- which is to say, sleepwake -- through their lives.

Which, who would care what they dream by day except that they willpass laws to make their mad daydream an oppressive nightmare.

7/28/2010 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

there's magic in the darkness of every CD player
where the beam hits the disk

there's magic in the darkness of every warm womb
where the seed explores-explodes the egg

there's magic in the darkness of a skilled skulled brain
that Hallelujah! & Eureka! can't contain...

= some lyrics

7/28/2010 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(It's a quiet thread, so I hope nobody minds if I blather on about what I've been reading that seems at least a little tangential.)

Indeed, this is one of the central tasks of theology, to show how (↓) is still relevant (to say the least) despite the inevitable changes brought about in (→). If one's theology doesn't keep up with (→), then soon enough, people will conclude that (↓) is outdated and of no possible relevance to them, at which point they will transfer their allegiance to (→). Game over. The secular clock jockeys and Marxist time zombies have won.

I mentioned yesterday that I was reading this. There's some real wheat in there but it's mixed in with some hefty amounts of chaff. One of the first big chunks of, well, outright stupendous idiocy (but it did take 15 pages to get to it) was exactly along those lines, where Campbell made the ridiculous claim that "The virtues of the past are the vices of today," and that "The old-time religion belongs to another age, another people, another set of human values, another universe." This immediately after noting that growing up with a Catholic mythos was profoundly beneficial for him.

I'd never come across Campbell before. Thus far, he appears to be the very embodiment of the man who has become detached from the ombilical cord of (↓) and is adrift in the mayaplicity of (→). That is, he encouraged people to study, understand and follow the Myth, with little to no regard for the Truth of its revelatory source.

7/28/2010 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is the best kind of repost: an old one that not only provoked few comments, but that even I don't remember writing."

Interesting... I very much like this post, but I can't quite find the point to comment upon... these two passages particularly resonate,

" As Steinsaltz writes, "Written Torah needs endless amplification, study, and clarification. There are infinite layers of meaning, depthless beauty," and new modes of experiential comprehension to be revealed, which is to say, O → (n). "

, and,

"Now, the written revelation may be thought of as "day," the oral as "night." The wisdom of revelation manifests itself in the light of day, but may only be understood in the darkness of unknowing. In short, there is "daytime" knowledge and there is "nighttime" knowledge, and one must understand the distinction. "

It all bangs the gong, I can feel the frontal lobe swirl... but I can't quite peg it to a comment... maybe it's so much in the zone between night and day that it doesn't allow enough horizontal purchase for a shadow to be cast? I don't know - but don't take the lack of comments for lack of interest, I've actually read it back over more than I do with most posts... it just doesn't seem to translate into a comment, best I could do is comment about my inability to find a comment.

Weird.

Anyone else?

7/28/2010 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Van,
Yep - in fact, this morning I was going to say something to the effect that the reason the post didn't generate comments or stick in bob's mind the first time was that it could only be properly comprehended in the dark. Then I thought it looked like I was being facetious, so I scrapped it. Then popped in with something inane later ;)

7/28/2010 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

...And hours later, it seems I was right. Revelation is the cosmic depth charge whose payload may be known, but whose rippling effects can only be experienced in full as it acts from within. Hence it isn't enough to simply know that there was this guy named Jesus who did us all a favor a couple thousand years ago. Rather, the journey begins with that knowledge, and the deustination, the hope and the goal, is to internalize and metabolize it, for when we take and eat we know and are known from the inside out. But there is no Communion without Oui (thanks, Van ;) and Whee! Also whoa and ?! but it's all part of the wave effect, and up and down we go...

Incidentally, just as I was about to unleash that little ramble, I heard a loud thump outside as though something largish had just jumped the backyard fence. Naturally, I was concerned, so went on the alert, listening for hooligans lurking around the premises. Then I heard a noise by the front door, and saw a hint of motion so I proceeded with caution to take a look out the front window. There in the tree three feet from the window, a family of bobcats were climbing, a mother and two kits. The kits were house cat sized, the mama easily twice that. All kinds of mysteries emerge when we stop and listen in the dark. Still, I'm very glad they were only bobcats and not cougars. Or hooligans. And with that, I have about an hour to try and sleep before someone needs food. Sweet dreams, amigos!

7/28/2010 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Sorry, Van.

It actually inspired me to comment, whereas recently I have been not commenting.

See my prior comment for details. If I didn't have a lot of work to do, I would comment more.

7/29/2010 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

I love this post & I love this phrase: "slackular degeneration"

wv sez "sharen", so that's what I'll be doin' now:

Rabbi Simcha writes:

"The movie Inception “works” on many levels, as a philosophical puzzle and as sheer glossy entertainment.

As a rabbi, I couldn’t help thinking of the Kabbalist teaching that while we sleep, our souls leave our bodies and ascend to their heavenly source in order to replenish energy.



The Kabbalistic commentary called The Zohar explains that when we sleep 59 out of 60 parts of our soul have now left the body, leaving only that 1/60 to sustain us physically.

In this disembodied state, the soul encounters visions usually off limits to within our everyday world..."

7/29/2010 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Bob: "Or, as with contemporary progressives, it can only be held together by hatred and lies."

Julie: "The virtues of the past are the vices of today."

And there is the negative center of those with no vertical center.

7/29/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks, MizzE.
My son has seen the movie twice and it's been difficult for him to not tell me all about it.
(I didn't read your article yet..but I will :-) I'll send it to him now, though.)

7/29/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Inception is the only movie that I've wanted to see since the The Lord of the Rings.

Of course, that's because I'm trying to take up lucid dreaming as a hobby since about August of last year.

I finally generated a dream with mirrors that I could actually remember about four days ago. That was another one of my goals. Generate mirrors in my dreams.

My reflection was distorted, which was what I was expecting.

Kind of neat. Only took me about seven months to actually get a couple looks into a mirror in my dreams.

7/29/2010 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said " take up lucid dreaming as a hobby since about August of last year"

I used to do a lot of that when I was younger - absolutely amazing stuff. My thing was flying... and just marveling at the 'reality' of the world in the dreams, the 'hardness' of things like marble floors... which would get me laughing, and then I'd wake out of them.

I really should work on getting the skill back... do you plan before sleep, to realize you're dreaming when you see a particular object in the dream, or what?

7/29/2010 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I haven't been able to actually become lucid yet.

The only thing I've accomplished was getting mirrors into my dreams so far, looking into them, and then waking up. No lucidity involved, just post-waking memory of the dream.

How did you do it? By trying to look for an object in your dream and then waking up in the dream?

7/29/2010 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Yep, I'd take a few moments before sleep, imagining that when I saw a hind in my dream, I'd become aware I was dreaming, but would remain calm, not wake up, and take conscious control of my dream. Took a while before I had any success, and then when I did, I'd immediately wake up, but after a while I began to be able to consciously controll my actions, and even the surroundings within the dream. Quite an experience.

Band life more and more interferred with my ability to do it, or even remember to try to do it, and I've just never gotten back to it.

Really should though.

7/29/2010 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

eh... a 'hind' miht work also, might be too distracting though... actually what I looked for was a 'Hand'.

7/29/2010 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I heard a digital watch also worked, if you wore it on your hand on a regular basis.

That way you could be certain you were dreaming because when you looked at a watch.

I recently had a discsussion with lucid dreaming (naturally Inception related) with someone who apparently does it involuntarily, hates it, and has no control over the dream.

It sounded like a lack of experience to me.

So, when you saw any hand in your dream, you would wake up? Hands sound like a good thing to use. Everybody has them.

Is it easier to remember dreams when you are awake in them?

7/29/2010 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Should have been:

"when you looked at the watch, the numbers would be a gibberish time rathern than an actual time."

I certainly got a distorted view of myself when I looked into the dream mirrors recently. That was odd.

Of course, I had just had a large chunk of my cheekbone pulled out when the tooth was pulled out (in the dream) so I expected myself to have a strange appearance.

Ever dream about holding a large chunk of your own bone structure in your hand? That's one of the stranger things I've done in my dreams. No pain, of course.

I spent some time running around the hospital though.

I suppsose that's to be expected when you read medical and surgical records all day.

7/29/2010 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Oh, and I successfully stuffed the cheekbone back into my face.

No harm, no foul.

7/29/2010 04:25:00 PM  

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