Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Morning Metaphysical Quarterbacking

We are in the midst of a discussion of Christology, which essentially comes down to that age old question: Who do you say that I am?

Well, obviously I am Bob. Even the least of you knows that. Nevertheless, just because one knows that I am Bob -- and some days even I have my doubts -- it doesn't mean one knows what it is like to be Bob, hence the need for a more systematic Bobology, not to mention all those years of psychotherapy.

In the case of Jesus -- as mentioned in the antepost -- it is one thing to say that he is "two natures in one person," but this serves the purpose more of defining what he is not as opposed to providing any kind of understanding of what it is like to be him.

For if someone is truly sui generis, one-of-a-kind and kind-of-a-One, isn't it a little like trying to understand the consciousness of a different species? And yet, it is insisted: true man. That being the case, there must be some way to relate to this true man despite the fact that he also happens to be true God.

Returning to Schönborn's discussion of Rahner's stab at it, recall that the latter begins with a proper description of human consciousness, which exists on a vertical spectrum, to which our conscious mind -- which is only a small part of consciousness as such -- does not and cannot have total access.

For practical reasons alone, if we were bombarded every moment with everything we "know," we would immediately become paralyzed.

For example, the average human knows tens of thousands of words, and yet, at the moment, they are pouring out of me without any conscious awareness of this reservoir, nor any agonizing decisions over which ones to use... er, deploy... no, wield... toss out there... press into service. It is not as if I rifle through this word-dump and and consider the infinite possibilities buried there. And in a pinch, I just make up a new one anyway.

The point is that for any "true man," one of the most striking things about him will be this dialectic -- or complementarity -- between what is implicit and explicit -- between tacit and focal awareness, between what we know and all we know. Does the jazz musician plot out his solo before he delivers it?

And this isn't even getting into the issue of the neurotic person, who unconsciously knows all sorts of troubling things he consciously denies, or who consciously knows things that just ain't so.

Presumably, this would be one of the human foibles to which Jesus was not heir. He was of course tempted by it, but did not fall into it. For the "first temptation" is always the invitation to be someone you're not.

Regarding our tacit knowledge, I once read something about the extremely sophisticated knowledge of physics and gravity that the successful NFL quarterback must possess. I mean, some nerd could work out on paper the timing, velocity, and trajectory required to dispatch a 15 ounce object to its moving target, but by the time he arrived at the answer he'd be sacked.

When we say we "know ourselves," what kind of knowledge is this? It certainly is not, and cannot be, scientific knowledge, since it is entirely private knowledge, which no one else can ever know on a firsthand basis.

But more troublingly, science does not regard it as ontologically real anyway. This means, perversely, that in order to be an "orthodox scientist" -- i.e., to embrace scientism -- the rallying cry must be do not know thyself! For to believe there is a "self" to be known is to fall into the trap of essentialism, which science dismisses as pure illusion.

For the record, I do not believe that such scientists exist, but that they are analogous to the neurotic referenced above. That is to say, they deny consciously -- and rationalistically -- what they unconsciously know full well. No one could actually live their absurd metaphysic and remain human. I'm not sure "what" they would be, but whatever it is, it would not be human. Ayn Rand, maybe.

So clearly, when we say that Jesus is "true man," it cannot mean that he is analogous to, say, Spock, a creature of pure reason; or omniscient in the manner, say, of a computer, which has immediate access to "all it knows." For a computer, there are no "hard" questions and "easy" ones. No computer says, "Hmm, that's a provocative question. Hadn't considered that angle. Mind if I sleep on it?"

Speaking of which, we learn from the gospels that Jesus spends a lot of his spare time "praying to his father." What's that all about? More to the point, what does it say about his -- and our -- humanness? For clearly, it implies a simultaneous continuity and discontinuity between one aspect and another -- or one person and another, to be precise.

I'm just free associating here as usual, but it just occurred to me that (in my opinion) a breakthrough occurred in psychoanalytic theory when it was discovered that the unconscious is not full of static "objects," so to speak, but relationships. This is why modern psychoanalysis is referred to as Object Relations theory.

But even that is a misnomer, because a more accurate name would be Subject Relations. The unconscious mind is really a kook depository of troubling relationships which most people end up acting out in relationships with other people. "Acting out" is the opposite of "insight," which we might term "thinking-in." Thinking-in prevents acting-out, while acting-out substitutes for thinking-in. To put it another way, neurotic action is exteriorized thought.

And as it so happens, many of Jesus' parables and actions can be seen as counsels to stop acting out and to start thinking about one's emotions and impulses, e.g., turn the other cheek, pull that beam out of your eye, stop stoning that sinner, don't be so quick to judge, etc. The only way to "know thyself" is to first create a space between thought or emotion and impulse or action.

Back to the question of what self-knowledge is. Rahner calls it "an a priori nonobjective knowledge of oneself.... This basic mode of being is not objective knowledge, and normally we do not deal with it; reflection never adequately catches up with this basic mode of being, even when it is explicitly directed toward it."

This essential "selfhood" is indeed a problem. Again, scientists just make it disappear via denial, whereas eastern religions do so via a radical disengagement and subsequent impersonal identification with its ground (even though they do not and cannot really rid themselves -- much less, us! -- of themselves, but rather, generally become new-age Salesmen).

I'm pressed for time this morning. I'll have to pick up the thread tomorrow.

6 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

"Acting out" is the opposite of "insight," which we might term "thinking-in." Thinking-in prevents acting-out, while acting-out substitutes for thinking-in. To put it another way, neurotic action is exteriorized thought.

Interesting. This, then, is why one's interior dialog is so important. I'm reminded of the scenes in Lord of the Rings where Gollum argues with himself, first in a way the brings him closer to wholeness, but ultimately being won over by his neuroses.

8/08/2011 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Typical liberal self-awareness: "You enrage me, therefore you are enraged."

8/08/2011 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

""Acting out" is the opposite of "insight," which we might term "thinking-in."

I tried searching our Gagdatabanks for it but I can't find something you've said a few time. Something along the thought-lines of how trouble arises when a person allows his thoughts to think him, rather than the other way around.

I like this post, BTW. And your in-thinked twist on Subject Relations. Funny how somethings can be right there under everyone's knows and yet unsuddenly no one can see it.

Back to the "thoughts thinking the person", did you inthink that thought originally or was it someone else? Bion maybe?

8/08/2011 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

You referenced:
"...human consciousness, which exists on a vertical spectrum..."

Personally, before I could even think about Christianity, I had to reconcile the man/God paradox, into something that was not so ... paradoxical. By thinking along the lines you've explored repeatedly over the years, i.e., the vertical dimension, or spectrum, or continuum, the concept rather opened up for me -- and explained much else besides.

Still a big, open Question, of course. "Mystery upon mystery..."

Whether I got it correctly is less certain, but at least I wasn't stumbling over that big piece of the Puzzle.

8/08/2011 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"For the "first temptation" is always the invitation to be someone you're not."

Well said, Bob!

Also pegs out my coontemplation meter.

8/08/2011 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Presumably, this would be one of the human foibles to which Jesus was not heir. He was of course tempted by it, but did not fall into it. For the "first temptation" is always the invitation to be someone you're not."

Sssounds about right.

8/08/2011 09:15:00 PM  

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