Monday, November 08, 2010

Purchasing Eternity With the Gift of Time

... God, freedom, unity. Three things which are one, for you cannot realize freedom and unity unless you realize God... --Sri Aurobindo

The question of whether mankind is degenerating or progressing inevitably touches on other fundamental complementarities such as evolution/creation, authority/personal experience, tradition/modernity, science/religion, and ultimately time/eternity. In my view there is a dialectical and generative space between the two poles, where what Mead calls "dynamic religion" may take place.

The central point, I think, is the question of the importance of time. Ironically, both science and a certain kind of religiosity devalue and even dismiss time as illusory and even pointless -- which it must in fact be if, on the one hand, there is only nature, or, on the other, only God.

But I believe time not only serves a metacosmic purpose, but that there can be no eternity in the absence of time, and vice versa. That being the case, there can also be no creation without evolution, no authority without personal experience, and no science without religion (and vice versa).

Put it thisaway: the One breaks out of eternity into two (i.e., duality), but this duality is resolved (and progress occurs) within a dynamic and transitional trinity. Thus, history can be seen as a sort of rolling catastrophe (as in catastrophe theory) in hyperspace, as the many make their winding way back to the One. History is ultimately the straight book that God tries to write with crooked liars.

Let us stipulate that history either has a direction -- and therefore a purpose -- or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then there's no point to anything, including religion. It would be like an endless baseball season with no World Series. Instead of a 162 game season that only seems endless, the season would actually be endless, with a new game every day, day in, day out.

Eventually, players would stop scratching their crotches and begin scratching their heads and ask themselves, "why are we doing this? Why are we playing all these stupid games?"

So the founding gods of baseball bifurcated the teams into a duality which we call the American and National leagues, and then invented this third thing called the World Series in order to create a sense of purpose and finality. Thus, when you win the World Series, you have reached the highest pinnacle, the "absolute," the baseball equivalent of enlightenment, or the toppermost of the poppermost.

But just as in religion, there is apparently more than one Absolute, since there is a new champion each year, and it is not as if the new champion surpasses all the previous ones. The 2010 Giants are not better then the 1954 Giants. Baseballically speaking, both went as high as it is possible to go in this world. Sure, you could argue over which team is better, but that's like arguing over whether Plato or Eckhart was a better hitter.

But in the case of the World Series, deep down some of us realize that it is something we merely invented for the purposes of finality. We simply superimpose it on the individual games, in order to give them a higher meaning, so to speak. Since there is this finality to an otherwise endless season, it creates intensity and drama, very much as does death (the playoffs are exciting because teams are always facing "sudden death").

If you knew you weren't going to die, it would be analogous to an endless baseball season. No, worse than that. Like an endless soccer season. No, worse. An endless soccer game. Just a bunch of people running around in circles ending in a 0-0 tie.

If history has no purpose, then it is bound to get worse, i.e., to degenerate. This is for the same reason that the quality of professional baseball would degenerate in the absence of a World Series. No one would bother acquiring a player to improve their team at the trading deadline, since there would be no deadline. Standings wouldn't matter, since there would be no point to them. Wins and losses would be just like Monopoly money, a symbol of nothing.

To the extent that things are getting worse in the world, could it be linked to the widespread belief among our elite that history has no purpose, no direction, no telos? Interestingly, this is where the secular far left and traditionalist far right converge. As an anonymous commenter mentioned, given his 'druthers, Schuon, the hardcore traditionalist,

"considered a 'totalitarian' [in the traditional religious sense] society preferable to a secular society. Religion, culture, science, art, and soccer, should all be under one heading, if you will. He was obviously opposed to secular totalitarian regimes, like the Nazis or the Soviets, but not religious totalitarian regimes. One can also see this in the leaders he writes positively about -- Charlemagne, Napolean, Franco, and even Lincoln (Lincoln's temporary measures during the Civil War are clearly those of a monarch)."

It seems to me that we have only three choices. One can go along with Schuon and other traditionalists who affirm that timeless and total truth has already been revealed to us, and that it is only for us to conform to it. Alternatively, one can be a member of the psychospiritual left, and maintain that history has no meaning except that which we impose upon it (which is no meaning at all, just self-deception).

Or, you can be one of our pneumacosmic coonfolk and maintain that timeless truth does exist. However, for our purposes, it exists in the future, not the past. Primordial man does indeed gambol above the clouds in the sacred garden atop the cosmic mountain. However, this is not just situated in the longago but the heretocome.

Our intimations of paradise are just that -- they are what Bion called memoirs of the future. Being so, they are the vector that guides history and confers its real meaning: the arc of salvolution through which we are given the uppertunity of a lifetome to dwell in time but to aim our eros at the heart of eternity. Our days are measured, guided, and given meaning by a sense of growing proximity to this sacred, nonlocal ground.

If this dimension is in the "past," then each day that passes is simply a measure of how far we have fallen from the ideal -- a meaning, to be sure, but a kind of "anti-meaning." Again, what's the point except to wait to die?

Conversely, for a member of the psychospiritual left, what's the point except to deny death and lose oneself in the senses? In this view, a Bill Maher or Hugh Hefner are the wisest men on earth.

Now obviously, various Christian theologians emphasize different sides this dialectic, hence the argument between faith and works. If eternity is all that counts, then faith is all that matters. But if history has a purpose, then works take on much more significance.

Long story short, faith and works just have to do with the practical applications of time and eternity.

Manifestly, the unrestrained use of individual illumination or judgment without either any outer standard or any generally recognizable source of truth is a perilous experiment for our imperfect race.... [T]he whole tendency of development of an individualistic age of mankind [goes] back to the one dominant need of rediscovering the substantial truths of life, thought and action which have been overlaid by the falsehood of conventional standards no longer alive to the truth of the ideas from which their conventions started.... [M]an has to circle back towards the recovery of his deeper self and a new upward line or a new revolving cycle of civilization. --Sri Aurobindo

18 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"So the founding gods of baseball bifurcated the teams into a duality which we call the American and National leagues, and then invented this third thing called the World Series in order to create a sense of purpose and finality. Thus, when you win the World Series, you have reached the highest pinnacle, the "absolute," the baseball equivalent of enlightenment, or the toppermost of the poppermost. "

There we have it, proof positive that soccer is a silly, and metaphysically irrelevant 'game'.

(Yes Ximeze, that was for you, wherever you are!)

11/08/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D
Not especially driven. Good post, nonetheless!

If this dimension is in the "past," then each day that passes is simply a measure of how far we have fallen from the ideal -- a meaning, to be sure, but a kind of "anti-meaning." Again, what's the point except to wait to die?

If that were the case then taking any measures to prolong life or even to reproduce would be counter productive. The "voluntary human extinction" people would be the sane ones.

11/08/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

This is a superb meditation on eternity and how one's orientation to time shapes one's beliefs regarding the meaning of life.

You delineate the three possible views on progress:

We were given a great truth but are fallen and becoming more fallen;

We create our own greatness by force of will as we go along;

We are moving towards an existent future greatness.

You subscribe to the last view, and so do I. It gives the greatest possible sweetness and meaning to life.

Convincing others of its correctness is of course a slippery thing but I for one think I have enough evidence to suffice me.

What saith all? Quo Vadis?

11/08/2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

I forget to mention special problems regarding Christianity and progress in time:

Christianity has a split view that some of humanity is progressing to future greatness (heaven under the rule of Jesus and the Angels) and others are fallen and will become more so (non-belivers, unrepenant sinners).

The doctrine lacks an essential unity and that I think is something for Christian theologians to work on resolving.

Boo, hiss.

11/08/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Great post. I've been following along while on the travelling dog and pony show.

Van, you mentioned something about how it sucks to be Canadian the other day (well, technically I'm both American and Canadian, but what the hey). Canada is not America, to be sure, and America is truly the light of the world, at least on the plane of political ideas.

Nonetheless for me the individual is vastly more important than any national origin or ethos. "America" is great, but Bill Maher and Keith Olberman are not. Canada has serious problems (although economically is far stronger than, say, California, which is about the same size economy) yet people like David Warren are true raccoons despite living in Canuckistan.

As I've said before, I think "Euro-weenie" Magnus is a more evolved spirit than at least 50% of Americans.

The individual soul counts, not the cv.

11/08/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Julie says:

"If that were the case then taking any measures to prolong life or even to reproduce would be counter productive. The "voluntary human extinction" people would be the sane ones."

The voluntary human extinction people are infatuated with some bizarre nature religion as far as I can tell. Earth is Gaia! We must free Gaia from us!

I don't think they're the "truth conforming" track. They're more on the "philosophical insantiy track".

11/08/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "an, you mentioned something about how it sucks to be Canadian the other day..."

NB, please re-read that comment. Seriously. I was pointing out that Canada had pulled off a near miraculous turn around of their economy, which was nearly in 3rd world status, within... 5yrs?

It was an astounding achievement, and btw NOT by the conservative party, but the labor party.

The "sucks to be Canadian" was meant very much tongue in cheek, and mainly pointed to us Americans who find it difficult to praise their Norther Neighbor.

If I didn't pull off the humor, sorry, but seriously, Canada in this case is THE MODEL for what we need to be doing here and now... NOW.

BTW, Canada also avoided the bank failures of the 1930's, because they were smart enough not to follow our financial regulatory mantra.

11/08/2010 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "The individual soul counts, not the cv."

Just caught that... did you seriously direct that towards me? Are you drinking?

11/08/2010 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Van buddy!

I wasn't implying anything! I know you didnt mean anything as an insult. My poorly composed observations were a result of too little time plus typing on a phone.

Same deal now. I'll clam up for a bit until this trip is over and I can think a bit.

Re-read the post today again and like many OC posts it was much better second time. Need to do that more often.

11/08/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In this view, a Bill Maher or Hugh Hefner are the wisest men on earth.

That would be the view from hell. Maher and Hefner are already in hell with, as Lewis said, the door locked from the inside.

I think, too, that a lot of our conceptions of eternity are really about a timelessness that has more in common with hell than heaven.

Aside to BH: You know when you think about it, you and I are pretty much made for one another.

11/08/2010 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Plagues of the Mind -- I don't know if the book is any good, but the review is quite humorous.

11/09/2010 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

As existentialist Camus wrote, the only really significant question is: "Should I commit suicide?"

The existentialists are a brave set of lads and lasses--but they are lost, truly.

11/09/2010 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Mushroom says:

"I think, too, that a lot of our conceptions of eternity are really about a timelessness that has more in common with hell than heaven."

Especially if equate timelessness with boredom.

BH says:

"As existentialist Camus wrote, the only really significant question is: "Should I commit suicide?"

That's why I dislike Buddhism. If the purpose in life is nothingness, then why not just stop doing anything and simply die? Isn't that the underlying metaphysic of Buddhism?

Hence, Buddhism is a problem and needs to be eliminated.

11/09/2010 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

11/09/2010 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

NB, sorry... rough day following an even rougher weekend (family dog dying and your anniversary are not two things you want happening in the same weekend).

11/09/2010 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van, so sorry to hear about the dog. Virtual hugs to you and yours.

11/09/2010 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

JP,
I think you have misunderstood Buddhism. The part that has to die in Buddhism is basically the same part that has to die in Christianity.

Of course, most people don't understand Christianity either, so this may not be very informative. When Paul says: "I no longer live myself, but Christ lives in me", is that depressing or encouraging to read?

11/09/2010 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

There is no problem with Buddhism. If you read into it closely, you'll discover it is a progressive spiritual path designed to procure the spiritualization of mankind.

Just like all the other paths.

The nomenclature is confusing, I'll give it that.

11/09/2010 09:28:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home