Monday, September 20, 2010

This Post is Literally Out of this World!

Let's continue our ride-along into the night of O with Swami Abhishiktananda (SA), the Catholo-vedantin priestmonk and honorary Raccoon. Please keep your head and heart inside the post until it has come to a complete flop.

We left off with a comment about the function of the guru, which is essentially to arouse (≈) in order to awaken (¶). I realize this sounds... whatever, but it's true.

Or, if it's not true, I need to see a neurologist. But in any cerebrovascular event, this formulation has the virtue of eliminating reams of unnecessary pneumababble and logorrhea, and getting straight to the point of it all -- a point that cannot be communicated per se, only awakened.

But what is (≈)? And what is (¶)?

That's for << insert chosen saint or sage here >> to know and you to find out.

Here it is critical to point out that words are undoubtedly capable of arousing (≈), but not through any conventional linguistic understanding. In other words, with everyday profane language, there is a signifier and a signified, i.e., the arbitrary mouth-noise and the thing or concept to which it is attached.

But spiritual language does not point to a concept or thing. Or, to be precise, not only a concept or thing. Why, just yesterday I was reading of how Thomas Aquinas tried to make this clear some seven or eight centuries ago. It's distressing that people still quarrel over it, more distressing still that so many religious mythofolkers do.

Here is how the Angelic Docta' expresses it: "So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science [theology, the divine science] has the property that the things signified by words have themselves also a signification."

Did you catch his meaning, the jive he was signifyin'? Instead of a one way signifier --> signified, or word --> object relationship, it is a two-way signifier <--> signifier relationship -- very much similar to Matte Blanco's description of the symmetrical logic that prevails in the unconscious -- and we say supraconscious -- mind (i.e., the upper and lower vertical).

Thomas says that it is our "spiritual sense" (¶) that allows us to penetrate and unpack the deeper layers of scripture, which he (and others before him) calls the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical. In no way does this devalue the first sense (the literal) since the latter prevents the other senses "from becoming uncontrolled and irresponsible" (Kreeft) -- or prevents the disciplined man from just deepakin' the chopra in some floridly unhinged but lucrative manner.

In other words, thanks to the literal, revelation can't mean just anything. Rather, it places "a sober and strong control on this imaginative aspect of interpretation, like putting a strong rider on a strong horse" (Kreeft).

The literal is analogous to a strong foundation, but we do not limit ourselves to the foundation, do we? Rather, the purpose of the foundation is to build, is it not?

So we want the pillars of this foundation to be plunged far into the depths of the Real, so that we can build something truly grand -- a mansion fit for the human soul, intellect, and spirit. No disrespect, but we have no use for the one-storey ranch-style house of the flatlanders, but nor do we want some elaborate castle built on a swamp of newage sewage. We want some real estate, baby.

At the very minimum, this is a four-storey cosmos consisting of matter, life, mind and spirit. Just as no discerning person would rely on materialism to explain and govern his life, we shouldn't rely on it to exhaustively disclose the meaning of scripture.

Another way of looking at it and listening to it is to say that revelation consists of words about the Word. Scripture is not the word of God, but word about God.

But again, God can in no way be signified -- which is to say, contained -- by language. Rather, he bursts out of any attempt to capture him in our little nets, whether it is language, history, or even the human form (cf. how the body could in no way contain Jesus, whether one is speaking of the Transfiguration or Resurrection). This explains how God can "become man" without in any way being limited by it, for he is always both immanent and transcendent.

In an analogy I have used before, think of a three-dimensional object -- say, your hand -- passing through a two-dimensional space. Place your fingers on a sheet of paper. The inhabitants of flatland will know nothing of the hand. Rather, they will see only five distinct and unconnected points. But then the points will change into circles, and then disappear altogether as they join at the hand and wrist.

Now just imagine a hyperdimensional subject-object passing through four-dimensional spacetime, and you get the picture which can't be drawn. We only see what is on our neurological screen -- Christ "passing" through a particular body at a particular point in history. We cannot see everything that is going on behind the veil of manifestation, i.e., the whole hand. The hand -- which we might call the Cosmic Christ -- is vastly larger then the individual finger -- or the "historical Jesus."

Now, what does this have to do with Abhishiktananda? I would say that his whole life consisted of a sustained effort to know the Hand of God. But not just know. Rather, to be. In order to do this, he himself had to stop identifying with his little finger, and to instead colonize and inhabit a much wider consciousness.

And please do note that even the average man, the vulgar tenured man, spills out everywhere from his human form. Imagine if we actually were limited to sensual knowledge, like an animal! The most important thing to remember about man is that our mind conforms to reality in all its modes and degrees, not just to the material world. But extremists meet, so that the scientific and religious literalist have more in common with each other than they do with a Raccoon.

In Coonspeak, we say that (•) is an adequation to "the world," while (¶) is an adequation to reality. This is hardly to say that (•) is unnecessary, for it is every bit as necessary as the literal aspect of scripture. It is that firm foundation, or better yet, the horse upon which we ride up, in, and out -- to infinity, and beyond!

Yeeeee haw!

29 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

Bob!
How did you stay atop this galloping horse!?
You must have one serious kung-fu grip.
Deadly serious.

9/20/2010 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I dunno. Just grab the reins and say giddy-UP!, I guess.

9/20/2010 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The literal is analogous to a strong foundation

I like that image. It could also be seen as a boundary, a fence or a wall. I think of the walls of Jerusalem that Nehemiah had to rebuild. Until the walls are rebuilt, all kinds of bad stuff can run through unchecked. (Deepak is defenceless.) The Bible has an admonition against moving landmarks, that is , stones marking property lines -- or as the hillbillies say "witness" trees or stones

9/20/2010 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Alan McCann said...

Hi Bob:

Can you help clarify the allegorical, moral, and anagogical methods of interpretation in the case of scripture pointing to the pysche-spiritual levels of our being. Is it only the anagogical that points there or does each level weave its way through in providing a full picture?

I am trying to get a better sense of the application of these methods to the inner experience.

9/20/2010 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Or, if it's not true, I need to see a neurologist.

Heh - you wouldn't be the only one. Then again, pretending it could be reduced to neurology I think I'd rather go undiagnosed.

Yeee haw, indeed.

9/20/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Only out on the O'range can you find yourself.

"But in any cerebrovascular event, this formulation has the virtue of eliminating reams of unnecessary pneumababble and logorrhea, and getting straight to the point of it all -- a point that cannot be communicated per se, only awakened.

This liddle buckaroo's been bobed and
tozered on the same day!

9/20/2010 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

wv reminds: colton

When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’.

9/20/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

wv: GAZELL, like hell.

Ifn your horse aint wanting to go there, neither should you.

9/20/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Saddle your own horse or sit in the truck.

9/20/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"But spiritual language does not point to a concept or thing. Or, to be precise, not only a concept or thing. Why, just yesterday I was reading of how Thomas Aquinas tried to make this clear some seven or eight centuries ago. It's distressing that people still quarrel over it, more distressing still that so many religious mythofolkers do."

Dante too (see #7)... but what can you do about those who won't look up?! Arghhh... 'dos Dante MythoFolkers!


"In other words, thanks to the literal, revelation can't mean just anything. Rather, it places "a sober and strong control on this imaginative aspect of interpretation, like putting a strong rider on a strong horse" (Kreeft).

The literal is analogous to a strong foundation, but we do not limit ourselves to the foundation, do we? Rather, the purpose of the foundation is to build, is it not?"

O... I like that a lot.

9/20/2010 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Completey OT -- a variation on the Twinkie defense in Kentucky. If he had said it was because he didn't get enough coffee, I could almost sympathize. As it is, he a liar, a murderer, and a wuss.

9/20/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow, that's messed up. Those poor kids.

9/20/2010 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

But extremists meet, so that the scientific and religious literalist have more in common with each other than they do with a Raccoon.

I've met a lot of "bible-thumpers" over the years (lived in KY for a while in the early 90's). Almost all of 'em were kind and decent folks. I'm with Magnus who said the other day that even though I could never be like these folks, they'll probably get to heaven before I do.

The "religious literalists" that turn my stomach are the people who somehow derive from the Bible that one should hole up with a arsenal of assault weapons and a few thousand rounds of ammo. Those people seem to reading from the same playbook as the Islamists.

9/20/2010 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Another stomach-churning brand of "Christianity" which is peculiarly American (though there are other types of twisted sects almost everywhere): the sects that preach that God wants you to have that second yacht because He loves you so much, while the poor and the sick have brought His wrath upon themselves and deserve their fate. Designated parking adjacent the Seventh Level for these assouls, is my guess.

9/20/2010 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Be that as it may, my five year old is already having issues with literalism. It's easy to understand how so many people have to either shrink their head or abandon religion altogether.

9/20/2010 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Nobody begged them better than Mark Twin.

"___________, a solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg that looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity."

9/20/2010 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

. . pegged . .

9/20/2010 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

BTW, Rabbi Steinsaltz says that children are much more sophisticated than we realize, and that we shouldn't patronize them but let them know the truth as we understand it. I'll let you know how it turns out!

9/20/2010 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That would be interesting to hear. I don't know how I'm even going to begin talking with L about matters religious. Not that I have to worry about that for a while yet, but it's always good to consider in advance.

9/20/2010 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tristan talk about God constantly.

9/20/2010 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Good point. In my experience, a lot of kids do, especially when they're small.

9/20/2010 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of saints, some interesting observations about how secularists see them here.

"The secularist cannot see that the appreciation of a saint is not about a careful weighing of the plusses and minuses in his life. It is about the window into the transcendent that the saint reveals"

9/20/2010 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Literalism is quite dangerous when combined with ambition. That is when you latch on to some phrase and start brandishing it, causing a lot of trouble for those around you. That way lies madness, sometimes quite literally. At least read the whole book repeatedly first. Get some balance and humility.

It is true that many of the Christians that have most impressed me were very simple in their faith. But it is also true that none of them were "specialists" with a narrow agenda. I can't offhand remember there ever coming anything good of that.

There is a story about how Satan tempted Jesus using snippets from the Scripture, but Jesus bested him at every turn using Scripture as well. It makes sense that the Adversary has better luck with some people - after all, not everyone is Jesus - and so they run off doing his bidding with zeal, shouting "It's IN THE SCRIPTURE!" all the way.

9/21/2010 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Excellent point. Literalism usually ends in some heresy, because it diminishes the wholeness and harmony of revelation. But so long as it's a private thing, it hardly matters. It's generally only when error is systematically taught to, or forced upon, others that it becomes problematic.

9/21/2010 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Two problematic examples:

On the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, an interfaith service was held at a Catholic Cathedral in Sacramento, California to bless the Koran.

and

Moratorium on Muslim immigrants?
Radical solution to homeland insecurity stirs controversy at conference

9/21/2010 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Literalism also seems to leave no escape from an almost comic grandiosity which is a big powersource of the Jesus-Willies. Listening to the A.M. holy roller channels, you constantly hear tidbits like 'I prayed on this and God told me I should...'.

Literalism cuts them off from being able to say something like 'Through reflection and contemplation of this issue through these principles in the Bible, it seems apparent to me that...'

By making the printed word fixed and supreme, the literalist is almost forced to not say "I think..." and 'for these reasons...', which leaves them with no recourse but to say that all ideas present in their noggin's are direct missives from God.

Not to denigrate all the good things and people who are fundies... and the holyroller channels are THE only place you can hear moral issues discussed, there being no Philosophy Radio, and NPR (Hoot!) lost its feeble claim to anything resembling that years ago, but I mean... seriously... (shiver).

9/21/2010 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Good points, Van. But sometimes, no matter how shiver-inducing, there is indeed that still small voice (or however it sounds to the listener). Usually, it's giving advice you're not at all sure you want to take, though. Also, if you "prayed on" something and God told you you should, there's a good chance the rest of that sentence ought to be "keep it to yourself and act accordingly."

So when the radio fundies are proclaiming God's blessing upon their latest material acquisition gained through the generous donations of their listeners, it's a pretty safe bet they're full of crap.

9/21/2010 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie,
I do know what you mean about the small voice, and I don't mean to discount or deride those. And I really don't bother even pausing on the real audience pumper shows - IMHO there's no moral substance being discussed on or by them, only schlock.

But there are plenty of sincere folk on the radio who do this... and there really seems to be a reluctance to say "I thought that...", even among many of the people I know face to face, it seems everything is a product of divine revelation and engineering to the point you'd think they consider themselves nothing more than robots for Jesus.

It seems to work for them, and that's fine, good luck, but I'd just like to suggest the possibility that when "I prayed on the party invitation list" just perhaps, possibly, deciding to invite Peter, rather than Paul, might not have been a Deicision... just maybe you decided that all on your own.

(shiver)

;-)

9/21/2010 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yeesh, I'm with you on that one. Whatever happened to good old common sense? And of course the danger is not merely that they are robots for Jesus, it's that they can then claim Authority for everything they do. See Jim & Tammy for details...

9/21/2010 08:37:00 AM  

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