Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It Takes Two to Lingo: Word Became Flesh So that Flesh Might Become Word

I wouldn't say I'm burned out. However, I'm not really fired up about anything in particular, and where there's no fire, there's no smoke to blow up anyone's behind. So I dipped down into the arkive and pulled out a three-year old post for the basis of a new one. However, I never just repost something without using it as an occasion to rethink it for the first time and to extensively revise. Or vise, I guess.

Well then, it all comes down to consciousness, doesn't it? What is it? What's it doing here? If consciousness is just a fluke, a total cosmic accident, what makes us think that it can truly know anything, much less the truth about itself?

Schuon wrote that "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and of our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing. Among all the intelligences of this world the human spirit alone is capable of objectivity, and this implies – or proves – that what confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish, and what makes it wholly what it is, is the Absolute alone."

Along these lines, he quotes Dante: “I perceive that our intellect is never satisfied, if the True does not enlighten it, outside which no truth is possible." In other words, we can only know truth because we are grounded in Truth.

Consciousness is constituted of awareness; intelligence; will; and sentiment. Am I forgetting anything? As mentioned yesterday in the brief discussion of Schopenhauer, human beings have an automatic bias toward concretizing the explicate aspect of their own consciousness, which we call the ego. But the ego is only the local constellation of a much more encompassing, nonlocal "implicate" consciousness, which includes the lower and higher vertical. The totality of human consciousness is unconscious-conscious-supraconscious.

Analogously, the ego is like a discrete cloud appearing against a clear blue sky. We focus on the cloud, but do not see that it is simply the end result of a global weather pattern -- a small "ripple" against a vast and unbroken substrate of nonlinear meteorological processes.

Or better yet, compare it to an ocean current. Imagine reifying the current, and thinking that it is somehow separate from the ocean that produced it. This goes not just for the ego-island atop our own little pond of consciousness, but the presence of human beings within the cosmic ocean that tossed them up like a tangle of seaweed upon the shore.

But exactly where do we draw the line with regard to consciousness? Presumably there is an absolute barrier between the consciousness of one person and another. Therefore, we invented language in order to link minds to other minds. But that is not exactly how language works. Rather, language is very much like consciousness itself, in that it has an implicate/explicate order -- in other words, its particular meanings rest upon a much deeper kind of holographic field that unifies us within language as such. We are all "members of language," which is what makes deep and resonant communication possible. It is "in" us, even while we are in it.

I see this vividly in my two year old son, who is in the midst of "language acquisition." He has always been extremely talkative, even though his speech had no discernible content. While it had pitch, modulation, emphasis, dramatic pauses, musicality, and even humor, he seemed to be using a private language. Some days it sounded like Chinese, other days German, but it was nevertheless possible to have lengthy, animated conversations with him merely by mimicking his speech patterns.

In my opinion, what the boy was doing was laying down the implicate order of language, in which he first links up directly with other minds. Only afterwards are actual words superimposed upon this deep connectedness. So on the one hand, language "divides" the world into units of meaning, but it rests upon a sea of primordial, holistic interconnectedness. Language doesn't "invent" the interconnectedness so much as take advantage of it and ride piggyback on top of it.

The oneness is our prior condition, which is why it is possible to say "I love you" in a way that actually bridges the separation between two people. Recall our recent discussions of the ultimate reality of communion; better yet, think of how this is predicated on a logoistic cosmos in which the word has become flesh, so that to communicate is to reverse this process, and transform flesh into word: word became flesh so that flesh might become word.

This is what makes humans so different from computers, which also "talk" to one another, but not in this intensely holographic manner that unifies the communicants on an implicate level. In fact, there are many people and trolls with various cognitive, emotional, or spiritual disorders who use language more like a computer than a human being. We might call them "autistic," "schizoid," or just a little "off," but what they lack is a feel for the music that exists beneath the words.

Furthermore, this is one of the primary barriers to accessing the world of meaning present in religion. The obligatory atheist or doctrinaire materialist is, for whatever reason, unable to "read out" what is being conveyed through religious language and imagery. Instead, they reduce it to its explicate form, which immediately forecloses the implicate and renders it nonsense. It's so easy, even a caveman can do it.

As we discussed a couple of days ago, it is not so much that there are two realms -- conscious/unconscious, implicate/explicate, or phenomenal/noumenal -- but different ways of looking at the same thing. For example, while the purpose of psychotherapy is to "make the unconscious conscious," it is not as if one can ever know the unconscious directly. Rather, one merely begins to look at oneself -- ones actions, beliefs, and feelings -- from a different "angle," so to speak, which in turn reveals a world of hidden meaning. But it's the same world. There are no bright lines in the mind. There is a degree of unconsciousness in every act.

Likewise, to enter the realm mapped by religion is not, strictly speaking, to enter another world, but to regard the same world from a different perspective. There is only one world. However, it can feel like another world, simply because the focus has shifted from the explicate to the implicate side of things; to put it another way, everything about religion bears upon the complementarities that create the possibility of the empirical ego to begin with: whole vs. part, eternity vs. time, One vs. many, Absolute vs. relative, wave vs. particle, consciousness vs. matter, etc. The ego always exists "in between" these various complementarities. To default to one side or the other is to deplete one's life.

Now, another way of looking at this is that we must discern between the created and uncreated aspects of our own consciousness, or between the Intellect (the nous, not the lower mind) vs. the ego. As Schuon writes:

"The Intellect, in a certain sense, is ‘divine’ for the mind [i.e., ego] and ‘created’ or ‘manifested’ for God: it is nonetheless necessary to distinguish between a ‘created Intellect’ and an ‘uncreated Intellect,’ the latter being the divine Light and the former the reflection of this Light at the center of Existence; ‘essentially,’ they are One, but ‘existentially,’ they are distinct, so that we could say, in Hindu style, that the Intellect is ‘neither divine nor non-divine,’ an elliptical expression which doubtless is repugnant to the Latin and Western mentality, but which transmits an essential shade of meaning. However that may be, when we speak of the Heart-Intellect, we mean the universal faculty which has the human heart for its symbolical seat, but which, while being ‘crystallised’ according to different planes of reflection, is none the less ‘divine’ in its single essence."

Now the heart is an interesting organ, for it has always been the symbol of man's implicate consciousness -- that which joins as opposed to the brain, which separates, distinguishes and analyzes. Do you remember your first broken heart? Exactly what was broken? I don't know about you, but for me it was the entire unity of being. Suddenly I was a cosmic orphan, disconnected from the very source of Life and Love.

But subsequent therapy revealed that this broken heart was superimposed upon an earlier brokenness, or primordial disconnection, and that it was simply the "occasion" to realize it. In fact, the "falling in love" itself was an attempt to recapture the broken unity, which was one of the reasons why it was charged with an intensity well beyond what was healthy or appropriate.

It reminds me of something one of my psychoanalytic mentors once said about relationships. Unhealthy people always want to go from twoness to oneness. But a healthy relationship involves going from solitary oneness to shared twoness. If you try to use the other person to complete yourself, you are headed for trouble of one kind or another. The idea is to complement a self that is already reasonably whole, and then to create a higher wholeness -- or communion -- of two.

But there is horizontal wholeness and vertical wholeness, and no human being can achieve the latter in the absence of some kind of active spiritual life. In this respect, we do want to go from being two to being -- or realizing -- One. But here again, it is the illumination of Oneness, not merely the elimination of twoness.

37 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

If consciousness is just a fluke, a total cosmic accident, what makes us think that it can truly know anything, much less the truth about itself

Indeed, the materialist has a label for this argument but no valid counter argument. It boils down to a form of pragmatism, or a pragmatic belief: I believe the irrational, unconscious interaction of particles can give rise to laws that are rational and understandable by a lifeform that evolved a really big brain for no particular reason.

7/27/2010 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, you must have pulled this otta your greatest hits.

This has been on my mind: is there, in a sense, an equivalent good mind parasite? A built in foe to the mind parasite, say, that lives on top of the consciousness and is sort of doing it's dirty work? (in a healthy, balanced person) I'm not sure "your conscience" is the same thing, or the best term for it, or even used in psychological study. I mean, is there even such a thing referred to in psychology?

7/27/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick -- Yes indeed. In object relations theory, there are also good objects, which are roughly the opposite of bad objects/mind parasites.

7/27/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I might add that there is one prominent theorist, Fairbairn, who felt that only bad objects were internalized, not good objects, but he is in the minority. The two do operate along different lines, however, since the child has an innate preconceptual readiness to relate to a good object. In other words, the good object is already there inside the infant, but needs to be activated through attachment.

7/27/2010 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Ahh. I could swear there was something missing in the equation but a distinct something there.
Sal's link to "Who goes Nazi?" reminded me of it too, I think.

7/27/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Really, it's almost as if bad objects are the "demons" inside us, and good objects are the "angels." I wouldn't want to reduce it entirely to that, but it's a big part of it.

7/27/2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, if you watch your child closely, you can see them internalizing good objects all the time, especially around my son's age, 5. This is why it's so important to provide them with "heroes" and other good objects for them to internalize.

7/27/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I wanted to say angel.
I can't tell you how much my mental image of what an angel is has changed over the last few years.
Person is a very close word for it.

Let's just say I used to have the Angel Willies.

7/27/2010 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Think of how the ancients personified the muse, or Sophia.... or how Socrates spoke of his daimon....

7/27/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

A daimon/angel/demon really is pretty analogous to a Unix daemon -- i.e., a background process that runs without user input.

7/27/2010 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

"Consciousness is constituted of awareness; intelligence; will; and sentiment. Am I forgetting anything?"

maybe not if going for a western psychology type definition

but a richer more verbose definition maybe? You mention Schopenhauer-- he & i might question will's & sentiments inclusion as elements of C'sness/representation

i'd add that C'sness may be 'God', the world, everything [you or I or anyone has ever experienced of any world they occupy, is ultimately just something Thought]
C'sness is something allright! it is surely at least what makes humans the cat's pyjamas

7/27/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

People are kind of wary about mentioning the mind symbiotes, since the idea that these live in your mindspace may cause one to believe that there are not objectively angels, guiding spirits, gnomes of revelation and so on. That is a bit hasty though. It is kind of like saying that if your browser resides in your computer, the Internet does not really exist.

Of course not every mind symbiote is necessarily an inlet for a specific High Spirit or anything. You probably have one that wakes you in the morning if your alarm doesn't go off as expected. But in any case, these are pretty useful, if not outright vital, for a normal mind to stay in some manner of balance.

Or that's what the voices in my head tell me...

7/27/2010 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of consciousness, I picked up Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth the other day (on sale for $7.98 at Barnes & Noble), and just came across this little passage:

Moyers: How do we transform our consciousness?

Campbell: That's a matter of what you are disposed to think about. And that's what meditation is for. All of life is a meditation, most of it unintentional. A lot of people spend most of life in meditating on where their money is going to go. If you have a family to bring up, you're concerned for the family. These are all very important concerns, but they have to do with physical conditions, mostly. But how are you going to communicate spiritual consciousness to the children if you don't have it yourself? How do you get that? What the myths are for is to bring us to a level of consciousness that is spiritual.

Just for example: I walk off Fifty-first Street and Fifth Avenue and into St. Patrick's Cathedral. I've left a very busy city and one of the most economically inspired cities on the planet. I walk into that cathedral, and everything around me speaks of spiritual mysteries. The mystery of the cross, what's that all about there? The stained glass windows, which bring another atmosphere in. My consciousness has been brought up onto another level altogether, and I am on a different platform. And then I walk out, and I'm back on the level of the street again.


Interesting book. I don't agree with Campbell completely so far, but there appears to be a lot of food for thought.

7/27/2010 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Magnus -- Absolutely. One must draw a sharp distinction between the two phenomena, as per p. 285, footnote 104 of the Coonifesto. Having said that, it is a little difficult to specify exactly where Jung's archetypes fit into the picture, since they are not exactly horizontal or vertical, and archetypes seem to form the bases for good and bad objects of various kinds.

7/27/2010 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"So on the one hand, language "divides" the world into units of meaning, but it rests upon a sea of primordial, holistic interconnectedness. Language doesn't "invent" the interconnectedness so much as take advantage of it and ride piggyback on top of it. "

Yes, there is a 'ISness' there first, which language then allows us to make more precise identifications, differentiations, and wider integrations, of.

"We might call them "autistic," "schizoid," or just a little "off," but what they lack is a feel for the music that exists beneath the words."

I think that's very key, if you don't begin from that sense of a whole image... it's just flashy chaff floating about, truly meaningless.

Which, of course, works well for a worldview that denies meaning, but then they can’t very well come back and be annoyed with us for talking about meaningless meaning... what’s their beef?!

7/27/2010 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said “since the child has an innate preconceptual readiness to relate to a good object. In other words, the good object is already there inside the infant, but needs to be activated through attachment....In fact, if you watch your child closely, you can see them internalizing good objects all the time, especially around my son's age, 5. This is why it's so important to provide them with "heroes" and other good objects for them to internalize.”

Isn’t that a bit of a bridge between an internal and external ‘good object’? When we identify something ‘out there’, and successfully integrate it with the wordless “Isness’ within, via the words which tag and link them, and allow them to be further... fleshed out... as it were... isn’t a Good Object then created? from what is real and true, within you and without you?

(‘Angel willies’... heh-heh)

wv:tiablue
Not sure, but I like it....

7/27/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

"angel willies" :)

Re: children and the assimilation of "good objects".

One of the things that I most despise about the Left, et al., is that due to them I don't feel that I can simply enjoy my grandkids.

I'm so convinced that they will have to be so much stronger, and so much more in love with Truth, Beauty and Goodness than the previous generation, that I mustn't lose any opportunity to implant the Big 3.
I hate being the GrandPedant, but I feel I don't have an alternative.
Don't misunderstand- I'm not grim,
and we do have fun together, but I didn't plan to spend their childhoods teaching them to defend Western Civ.
My thanks to Bob, Van, MizzE-all of you, really, for ways to express this.

Did not become a Nazi: E. H. Gombrich, who wrote A Little History of the World. Excellent short world history for children. I got my copy at B&N and almost can't bear to give it to O, I'm enjoying it so much.

7/27/2010 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing. Among all the intelligences of this world the human spirit alone is capable of objectivity, and this implies – or proves – that what confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish, and what makes it wholly what it is, is the Absolute alone."

Absolutely!

Rick- Good question! I don't know how many times I wanted to ask that only to forget when it came time to ask.

Thanks for answering that, Bob.
I sense there is more to it. For instance, how do Guardian angels interact with the good mindburger helpers (I wouldn't think that "parasite" would apply to the good ones since they add their own strength rather than consuming).

Of course they are also a part of our self...the detached self, is that correct?
While mind parasites are attached primarily to ego?

7/27/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's a good subject to try to tackle. People tend to look at the phenomena either naturally or supernaturally, but there is this in-between space where both occur. Perhaps demons hijack bad objects, so to speak, whereas angels, or angelic energies, come through good objects....

To my my mind, the only person who has attempted to seriously tackle this subject and differentiate the two is A H. Almaas, in his Pearl Beyond Price: Integration of Personality into Being, an Object Relations Approach and The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization. He has an excellent grasp of psychoanalytic theory, but his spiritual techniques are suspect. Also, I think a kind of cult has formed around him.

7/27/2010 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That would make for a great post, or several...

7/27/2010 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

Angel Willies? Check out Yazatas. Think you will enjoy.

7/27/2010 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

"I'm not really fired up about anything in particular"

That Gagdad, always acedia-ing around.

Do object relations thinkers talk about the movement from contemplating good objects to acting as good objects?

We have truckloads of bad models these days. Part of their badness comes from their being reductive. What is reductive seems simple. Simple is easy to imitate. Hence a downward drift. This is a problem.

7/27/2010 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

Van

I think the common argument is that it's just fruitless to talk about 'meaning' as if it were independent of a perceiving consciousness or a symbolic system. Meaning is always mediated. It is always either being articulated or received. There is no 'meaning' apart from those who make things meaningful. Meaning is a phenomenon of understanding, not a metaphysical widget.

Their "beef" then is with any attempt to articulate and reinforce a particular meaning by obscuring its origin in a particular consciousness and/or state of affairs. They feel they're doing a service by showing how a particular meaning is really just a function of those two things. This they believe to be liberating, or at least to provide some of the conditions for liberty. Critique is thus their raison-d'etre, and they never aspire to anything else.

We know the irony of their absolutism. We also observe their willingness to ram it down everyone's throat. Preferably by force so they don't have to engage in a debate.

People are kind of wary about mentioning the mind symbiotes, since the idea that these live in your mindspace may cause one to believe that there are not objectively angels, guiding spirits, gnomes of revelation and so on. That is a bit hasty though. It is kind of like saying that if your browser resides in your computer, the Internet does not really exist. -- Magnus

This is a striking analogy, by the way, and it leads onward to the thought that it's one thing to admit that meaning is a subjective and social phenomenon -- it's quite another to say that, for that very reason, "the universe has no meaning." Sure it does. It has, for starters, the sum total of all human constructions of meaning, some of which are obviously congruent with how the universe actually operates. The building-up of testable, durable, useful meanings is my atheist brother's whole project.

Against him, I say it's certainly also plausible that reality was created by God, who meant it to mean something -- in which case, reality has a meaning truly apart from our own. There are trustworthy witnesses to this God. This is my faith, and I have always found it conducive to good things, among them: patience, charity, expanding knowledge, and skill.

We will all find out who is right. Inevitably.

7/27/2010 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Skully has been pestering me to provide this breaking news:

Finger In Butt Crack Sparks Knife Fight

There's a strong probability that there was no wisecracks involved.

7/27/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The victim claimed the clenching caused the bed she was sitting on to break

Oh... my...

What kind of ass has that kind of power?!?!? It's probably too great and terrible to behold...

7/27/2010 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Film at eleven.

7/27/2010 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mr. Jealous, the head of the NAALCP:

"We were bumboozled."

7/27/2010 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie- LOL!

Obama should call a buttcrack summit.

7/27/2010 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Miss Manners:

"Using a butcher knife is a major faux pas. The correct weapon should be a BUTTer knife."

7/27/2010 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

An anonymous police source says:

"We believe that crack may have been involved."

7/27/2010 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ben, the story just begs so many questions that it is, like Alanis Morissette, proof (as if any were needed ;) that there is a god, and it isn't me.

7/27/2010 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Verdiales "I think the common argument is that it's just fruitless to talk about 'meaning' as if it were independent of a perceiving consciousness or a symbolic system."

Check. There is no meaning without man, which however doesn't in any way imply relativism - reality exists and our consciousness perceives, identifies, integrates and derives ever higher meaning through that (OMG - I think that's the first time I've ever said that in less than three paragraphs! A breakthrough in brevity! uh-oh... I just doubled it's length... phooey).

My comment about meaningless meaning was just a morsel for our trolls.

wv:tinge...
Ok, Julie, Ben, no more cracks

7/27/2010 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Hey, y'all. Way OT, but just had to share - It's a dad life.

He, he.

7/27/2010 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

oops

7/27/2010 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Verdiales said "Their "beef" then is with any attempt to articulate and reinforce a particular meaning by obscuring its origin in a particular consciousness and/or state of affairs."

Yes, but it's not just an outward tactic, at root their beef is with identity and reality per se, the rest flows from that. Modern philosophy starts with the twin notions that reality can be what you say it is, the other that our minds can't know anything about it.

Descartes & Hume laid out the basics, and Rousseau & Kant & co. ran with them, and we've been falling faster and faster ever since.

"They feel they're doing a service by showing how a particular meaning is really just a function of those two things. This they believe to be liberating, or at least to provide some of the conditions for liberty. Critique is thus their raison-d'etre, and they never aspire to anything else."

They are doing what they have no choice but to do. The immediate implications of modernity are that there is no free will, and nothing has 'credibility' beyond what the collective agrees it is. Skepticism, cynicism and relativism follow, along with the absurd claims that they know for a fact that no one can know anything at all.

The grotesque spectacle of people denying Truth, Free Will and Principles in pursuit of 'liberty' is all around us, and any expression of the Good, the Beautiful and the True, draws their immediate and angry efforts to deconstruct them.

Truth threatens and burns them... way down deep.

Poor dears.

7/27/2010 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo... what's so funny about that?

;-)

Awesome, passed the link along to a friend who's about to become a Dad... had to rub it in, especially the fashion statements - I resemble those remarks!

7/27/2010 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

If the natural were not suffused by the "supernatural", we would not be able to imagine higher worlds in the first place. If there was a void or insulation between the spirit world and the physical world, then we would not be incarnate at all, but simply spirits helplessly watching bodies go about their business.

Rather than different planes of reality stacked one above the others, we may think of dimensions that are always crossing each other at an angle, so that there is a slice of one in the other, but not the fullness.

7/28/2010 12:49:00 AM  

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