What is Life? Life is What?!
As we were discussing yesterday, it is very unlikely -- impossible, really -- that the cosmos could be a machine. Rather, it is much more like an organism -- or even a mind -- than it is a machine. And once we understand this, it makes the so-called "emergence" of life and mind much less problematic, based upon the Principle of principles, as above, so below.
Conversely, if we begin with the scientistic quaxiom "as below, so above," we really can't ever leave the bottom floor, or barking structure, of the cosmic telovator. It is a world intrinsically devoid of values, progress, hierarchy, or even evolution (as opposed to mere change).
Based upon a proper meta-understanding of reason, it is the work of a moment to arrive at the logical necessity of God. To put it another way, I have never heard any version of atheism that isn't shot through with unjustified premises, illogical conclusions, and metaphysical nul-de-slacks.
However, to merely posit the existence of a creator tells us nothing about what this creator is like, for example, whether he is even good or worthy of worship. Indeed, how did this idea of "worship" slip in, anyway? Suppose physicists eventually discover a mathematical "theory of everything." It is highly unlikely that they will spontaneously bow down and worship it, even if it is their ultimate icon of scientistic gnosis. So why should we worship our Ultimate Principle? We'll get to that later.
If the Creator exists, it necessarily follows that he is "like us," without being limited to being like us. This is true of any level in the cosmic hierarchy. For example, life is "like matter," without being limited to it. Likewise, human beings are "like primates" without being limited to that. Or, to put it another way, if we turn the cosmos right side up, and begin at the top, we can see that each level of reality is a diminution, until we reach the realm of dense matter.
And in fact, all esoteric cosmologies continue down beyond matter, which makes perfect sense, since the "ray of creation" proceeds from the cosmic center (or top, if you like), and continues on "forever," so to speak, to the threshold of nihilism, or blind nothingness. In this regard, we can see that matter is actually superior and has more nobility than, say, the nihilists of dailykos, even though we must never treat them as such, out of respect for their still human potential.
I realize that some readers think Schuon is difficult or obscure, but really, the following cannot be said with any more adamantine precision. The difficulty probably results from trying to read what he is saying while sitting upside down. Basically you're out of your tree. Once you properly orient yourself to reality, feet firmly in the air -- roots aloft, branches down below -- it makes perfect sense:
"The diverse manifestations of the Good in the world clearly have their source in a principial and archetypal diversity, whose root is situated in the Supreme Principle itself, and which pertains not only to the Divine Qualities, from which our virtues are derived, but also -- in another respect -- to aspects of the Divine Personality, from which our faculties are derived" (emphasis mine).
Recall Jesus' ironic and extraordinarily soph-aware remark, "Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." What this means is that if we begin "at the top" -- which is to say, with the Absolute -- then we must conclude that only it is absolutely good: "He alone possesses, for example, the quality of beauty; compared to the divine Beauty, the beauty of a creature is nothing, just as existence itself is nothing next to the Divine Being" (Schuon).
But God, being absolute, is necessarily infinite. As such, his absolute transcendence is matched by his infinite immanence which extends everywhere and into every thing -- and which ultimately is another form of transcendence! It is why, for example, God is intuited in the very large -- e.g., Mount Everest or the Grand Canyon -- and the very small -- e.g., an infantile or even infinitesimal quantum of life or energy.
Because of the immanence of the Absolute, it can be said that "the beauty of a creature -- being beauty and not its contrary -- is necessarily that of God, since there is no other; and the same is true for all the other qualities, without forgetting, at their basis, the miracle of existence" (ibid).
Yesterday we were discussing how these principles may be applied to life, not just biological life, but to Life as such, of which biological organisms are a trans-lucent revelation and reflection. For clearly, as I mentioned in the Coonifesto, God is obviously alive; but just as obviously, not a biological organism. In fact, if animals could speak to biologists, they might say something like, "Why do you call me alive? There is none alive but one, that is, God." Then again, animals say this all the time. But in order to gnosis it, you must be an animal lover, for love is the "link" or "channel" for such pneumatic information. That or beauty.
Rosen -- who was a "hard" scientist, and, to my knowledge, not a religious man -- wanted to know "what it is about organisms that confers upon them their magical characteristics, what it is that sets life apart from all other material phenomena in the universe. That is indeed the question of questions: What is life? What is it that enables living things, apparently so moist, fragile, and evanescent, to persist while towering mountains dissolve into dust, and the very continents and oceans dance into oblivion and back?"
Of course, he looked for (and found) a scientific answer, but it is an answer that ultimately "must be," for the very same reason that the Creator must be. Rosen foreshadows this Reason in the Prolegomena of the book, where he observes that, "Ironically, the idea that life requires an explanation is a relatively new one. To the ancients, life simply was; it was a given; a first principle, in terms of which other things were explained."
But life "vanished as an explanatory principle with the rise of mechanics," even though machines -- which are created for a purpose -- are much more "like life" than life is "like a machine." It is as if scientists abstracted some quality from life, and then re-projected the abstraction onto the concrete reality, thus conflating the two. Frankly, scientists do this all the time, which is why one must make a conscious effort to escape the influence of the cramped and banal models of reality proffered to us by scientism.
One thing atheists and other materialists habitually do is to naively take their abstractions for real reality. However, the cosmos is not a machine, the genome is not a map, the brain is not a computer, mountains are not triangles, and love is not a baseball game. But I am a Raccoon, a foolblooded schlepson of Toots Mondello, a mystery for you to ponder until I continue this thread later.
Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. --John 15:4