Monday, September 26, 2011

The Original Synergy: Nobody Ever Got Spiritually Rich On His Own

Matus writes that "All Christians are, or should be, in some sense, mystics," in that "their faith ought to give them a new vision" and "a different consciousness of themselves, of other persons, and of God." It should gradually penetrate "to the deepest levels of consciousness," slowly and sometimes imperceptibly transforming "their motives, thought patterns, and emotional reflexes." I say "imperceptibly" because it is difficult to remember the assoul we might have become absent the transformation.

Now, Schuon writes that "a metaphysical doctrine is the incarnation in the mind of a universal truth."

Thus, what was said in the first paragraph about the transformative power of faith is a result of the gradual "incarnation of truth," so to speak. Before it is a "cognitive truth" it is an ontological truth, i.e., truth of being.

For example, Symeon didn't understand what was happening when it was happening, since it occurs on a vertical plane that is ontologically prior to thought. When first granted a vision of the Light, he "was at a loss to tell what was happenning; who or what the light was did not emerge at the level of conceptual understanding," of the "conscious psyche" or ego (Matus).

For this reason, in the obscure "One Cosmos" book mentioned in last Thursday's post, the enigmatic author uses the symbol (?!) to categorize the spontaneous mystical experience without thereby limiting it with some superficial manmode cognitive definition.

In these matters -- no different than in a neurosis -- thought can be and often is a defense against experience.

Indeed, this is the self-imposed barrier faced by the gorgon-variety ovary-tower intellectual, who cannot climb in from the comfortable little cage she has fashioned for herself at our expense.

In a passage ripped from the One Cosmos praybook, Matus writes of how for Symeon the vision was "an 'unexpected wonder' which left him filled with 'amazement' but with little understanding."

Rarely does an individual pass their whole life before their I experiences one of these metaphysical freebies.

But many people -- especially the cagebound intellectuals mentioned above -- treat these peek experiences (in which we are granted a peek behind the veil) as mere anomalies to be unexplained away. They exercise a pathological foreclosure of curiosity (-o), ensuring that this experience, so fraught with potential meaning, is just "meaningless."

The (?!) is the ingression of a grace that tells us, among others, that there are more things in heaven and earth than these intellectual whoratios dream up in their philosophy departments and law schools.

Thus, the last thing we should do is close ourselves to the experience. After all, if everyone had done that, we'd still be indistinguishable from apes and liberals. Truth, beauty, virtue, art, music, poetry -- anythink that requires contact with the Subject beyond (and before and behind) would be off limits.

So Symeon did not reject the gift of (?!), but set out in pursuit of its source, of what it meant: "His life thereafter became a progressive initiation into the meaning of his visions" (Matus). This is indeed the Way of the Raccoon: to follow the sparks back upsdream to that big whole in the ground of being.

For Symeon, this upward and inword journey is at the same time "a restoration and reintegration of our original condition." The journey is not from a "here" to a "there" in any Euclidian sense.

Rather, it is via a kind of transpersonal membrane, so to speak, through which energies flow back and forth. Thus, the key practical principle is "openness," or what the tri-curious One Cosmos author symbolizes (o).

From another angle, Schuon describes our spiritual membrain as follows: "[H]uman intelligence makes itself similar to its own universal Essence, thanks to a sort of reciprocity between thought and Reality."

Or in other words, thought makes itself similar to truth, not vice versa. We do not begin with an axiom but an experience, for no axiom can wholly contain the experience. The attempt to do so is like "a man trying to draw the geometrical point by setting out to make it as small as possible" (ibid.).

But just as there is in physics Planck's Constant, which is the smallest unit of energy, there is on our being a constant plank we walk between I, Thou, and the Love and Truth that freely pass between. Truth embraces us, not vice versa.

It is preferable to use these empty symbols because we again don't want to assume too much about what they symbolize. For one thing, as Symeon suggests, it is not actually "possible to distinguish divine activity (or energy) within us from our own," or what is "'infused' from what is 'acquired.'"

One might say that it is always a trynergy, or a case of "yours, mine, and ours," unmixed and inseparable. There can be no sharp "division of labor" between Creator and creature, for nobody gets spiritually rich on his own, only impoverished, both spiritually and, as a consequence, intellectually and politically.

We might say that the above-noted membrane is a kind of light-transducer, no different from any other sense. For example, our eyes transduce photons into the experience we call "light," just as our ears transduce air vibrations into "sound." What the One Cosmos author calls (¶) tranduces (↓) into (n).

You don't even have to know what this means to know that it is true. Not only is it the equation of your birth, but we might say that it is the "Christmas presence" or "Christ principle," in that 〇 (↓) (¶) so that (¶) might (↑) 〇. If we succeed, we are ʘ, so not to speak. (And I do hope that was sufficiently unclear).

Please note that this is of necessity a neverending -- which is to say, alwaysbeginning -- process. Symeon, writing of himself in the third person, says that "If he would wish to write down his experiences, he would run out of paper and ink -- I don't think there would be enough time for him to describe them all in detail."

This, of course, brings to mind the Apostle's dilemma described in the last paragraph of John. Who has the necessary timelessness?! Mine just ran out.

19 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I say "imperceptibly" because it is difficult to remember the assoul we might have become absent the transformation.

Yes, both in the sense that it's hard to put oneself back in that space, and also because remembering where one was really heading can be) rather a painful experience...

9/26/2011 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Thank you for the intro to St. Symeon, I hadn't heard of him before.

"Thought as a barrier to experience" is a nice formulation, but I think it is important to link experience with the element of intimate spiritual guidance that you mention further on. The (!?) is certainly real, but we must not underestimate our human capacity for misunderstanding, for self-elevation, the desire to make it all about me. A mentor to guard against this is vital, and that's something the Eastern church has in its tradition that the Western doesn't do as well (maybe I just think that because I am Catholic and do not have a mentor, but it seems to be consistent with the emphases of both traditions).

Most of what little I know about the Schism I was led to by Dr. Bruce Charlton's writings about it, and it has been very fruitful thinking. The West seems to emphasize the importance of trust in the Magisterium in matters pertaining to the direct experience of the Almighty (using direct with a slightly non-standard meaning there, I guess), while the East considered seeking experiential knowledge of God to be a duty for all believers, to the extent they were able, always under guidance. The West allowed this sort of seeking in a more rational setting, with hierarchical supervision.

The Great Schism was undoubtedly a great victory by the Evil One, and looking at the divergent paths that were taken I can't help but wonder what would have happened in theology if the two branches had remained on speaking terms. But one also looks for the hidden plans of God in tragedy, and the ways He turns all things to His purpose. If the West had not had it's heavyweight intellects doing battle on grounds of rationality, how much harder would it be to hold that the Faith is not just a new superstition, made unnecessary by reason? And as the East was steamrolled by totalitarianism, deep spiritual roots were needed to keep the connection to the wisdom of tradition, and an over-reliance on reason (an accusation that could be made against the West) could become a liability.

This is sort of thinking out loud, criticism or correction is welcome.

9/26/2011 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gabe:

You are quite correct regarding the guiderails of tradition, which provide a time-tested way to think about these otherwise unthinkable things. The point is, there should always be a dialectic or complementarity between the two. You might say that, to paraphrase Einstein, experience without magisterium is blind, while magisterium without experience is lame.

The Great Schism was and is undoubtedly a great victory by the Evil One, but it follows in the wake of an enlightenment rationalism that has severed knowledge and experience.

9/26/2011 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Gabe - I can't add much, but I hereby deeply apologize for my erroneous first impression.

...we must not underestimate our human capacity for misunderstanding, for self-elevation, the desire to make it all about me.

Oh, indeed. This is why humility is so vitally important. It's too bad you weren't here a few years back when Bob was discussing Meditations on the Tarot, you might have enjoyed those posts & conversations. I'd link it for you, but can never remember how to google one particular blog for content.

(Bob - any possibility of adding a "search" box?)

9/26/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Julie, don't sweat it.

Bob, could you elaborate on the severing of knowledge and experience? Are you talking about scholastic theology?

I have not read enough to be very confident about this, but it seems to me that the experiential was obvious to people at that time, there was no question about the unity of our existence. The scholastics were mainly trying to formalize the understanding gained from the history of the church's experience. Now, I think this gets at the heart of what you are talking about. You can't describe the experience of God in words, you must seek Him. But I think that's what they were shooting for, and though they probably tried to build higher on human reason and logic than was wise, they did lay a pretty impressive foundation that still holds value. So I think severing isn't quite fair, maybe allowing half the dialectic to atrophy? And the other half of the schism did not do that, but they looked down on not just the flights of fancy but on the foundation. And now the religion of man is ascendant, and it tells itself it is, above all, rational. In the face of its limitations it doubles down on itself, while every new revelation brings more mystery, driving the rationalist to ultimately deny all but himself. The East cannot get its foot in that door, for the rationalist knows he cannot trust the brain because perception can be deceiving. And so his religion must destroy itself on its own alter, because even Reason knows it is not the ultimate, and will not worship the creation.

9/26/2011 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Almost any Christian teacher of any stripe will acknowledge that truth should change us and that there is a difference between "head" knowledge and "heart" knowledge. But much of Christianity is suspicious of ritual, of mysticism, and of gnosis. Lame and exoteric feels safer.

When any kind of mystic element is embraced, i.e., Pentecostalism, there is a tendency to confuse, mingle, or substitute human emotion for spiritual reality. It is understandable, and a real encounter may produce a strong emotional response. But strong emotional responses are not that hard to produce in most humans apart from a spiritual event.

9/26/2011 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"The (?!) is the ingression of a grace that tells us, among others, that there are more things in heaven and earth than these intellectual whoratios dream up in their philosophy departments and law schools."

Heh, I like that a lot, perfectly put.

9/26/2011 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thus, the last thing we should do is close ourselves to the experience. After all, if everyone had done that, we'd still be indistinguishable from apes and liberals. Truth, beauty, virtue, art, music, poetry -- anythink that requires contact with the Subject beyond (and before and behind) would be off limits."

Yep. The Truth, beauty, virtue, art, music, poetry... cannot be fully appreciated without being experienced along with being comprehended. To try and elevate one above the other, is like trying to lift the 'Heads' off from the 'Tails' (or 'tales'?) side of the coin.

9/26/2011 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Please note that this is of necessity a neverending -- which is to say, alwaysbeginning -- process."


;-)

9/26/2011 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gabe said "... an over-reliance on reason (an accusation that could be made against the West) could become a liability."

An over-reliance upon the appearance of reason, perhaps. But it's important to differentiate between a metaphysically rooted Reason, as Aquinas knew it, and the rationalistic process that's posed as reason throughout the later half of modernity.

Without that essential root, it's just word games, no longer used to discover what is true, and instead a tool to force submission through argument by whatever fallacious means prove possible.

9/26/2011 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"In these matters -- no different than in a neurosis -- thought can be and often is a defense against experience."

Not necessarily a bad thing always, I think. As in, phobias (sorry, again); hanging on to the rational "thought" before entering the irrational "experience" is a way to "survive" the experience.
Or perhaps even faith (prayer) through the temptation experience may be our only reliable defence.
Frankl comes to mind, too.

9/26/2011 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

I might of had one of those experiences in 1979. Was filled with great joy and peace and a feeling that all was proceeding as it should. Lasted only a few seconds. Good thing it wasn't a vision since I was driving my pickup on the Beltway at the time. Never felt that before or since. Never forgot it though. Didn't change me though, I was still crappy me after that. I dunno, might have just been a neural fart.

9/26/2011 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gabe said “But I think that's what they were shooting for, and though they probably tried to build higher on human reason and logic than was wise, they did lay a pretty impressive foundation that still holds value.”

Agreed. Although at the end of the Founders era here in America, many of them were pushing for a more ‘scientific’ appearing education, they themselves were the products of an education that was very much a Scholastically derived education. Disputation was central to it, verbally arguing a point, and far from the much caricatured ‘how many angels can stand on the head of a pin’, it demanded a deep familiarity and integration of the students knowledge, and an ability to apply it to what they knew, and consequently enabled a person to better perceive what they didn’t yet know.

There’s an excellent book, most of which is available on GoogleBooks, “Education of the Founding Fathers of the Republic: Scholasticism in the Colonial Colleges” by James J. Walsh, 1933 which digs into this, and contains some of the original theses too.

Sadly there is little or no resemblance between the form of Education they knew, and were formed by, and what passes for an education today.

9/26/2011 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"For one thing, as Symeon suggests, it is not actually "possible to distinguish divine activity (or energy) within us from our own," or what is "'infused' from what is 'acquired.'" "

Yea. Do not try to. That leads to vanity and the crux of the Spiritual Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: By trying to clearly discern divine from mundane, the focus on truth, is lost.

Divinity is not static - its a dynamic. A derivative (Think math). Love, which is Divine by nature, is an act of the will (sometimes its a gift, most of the time, its labor) - and a derivative (action, dynamic) of intent. Discerning the Divine from the mundane within intent is very difficult - if not impossible. Was it self interest? Was is due to psychological flaws? A 'Hungry Ghost'?

Who knows?

But its best to not even attempt to parse ones intent lest you stray from the proper mindset.

9/27/2011 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"Bob, could you elaborate on the severing of knowledge and experience? "

Gabe - I'll take a swing at this and we will see if I am close to what Bob is driving at.

Bob's statement in question:

'...it follows in the wake of an enlightenment rationalism that has severed knowledge and experience.'

Knowledge, by Bob's usage, is to take the given data and experience (Lore) and give the correct meaning (or why) to it.

This is what it means to 'Know' a given concept. In other words... the true definition of a PhD - by its purest definition. Speaking in "Bob Tongue", it is both the Horizontal and the Vertical.

Enlightenment Rationalism is the Deists (or Secular Humanists) attempt at doing the same thing - minus the theological component (the most lofty elements of the vertical) and focusing solely on experience & observation of incarnate aspects of nature to form their Hypothesis and Theories. Though the 'horizontal' understanding is identical, it is bereft of the 'vertical' that outside of the quantifiable Scientific Hypothesis and Theories. The highest tiers of the 'Vertical' they can never attain. They essentially get an apprentices 'PhD' considering the fact that it barely scratches the 'qualifiable', though I must say it does slightly penetrate these qualitative mysteries at its shallow end when dealing with computer program logic errors and the whole concept of hardware 'memory' in computer chips.

Thus, they may 'Understand' a given subject, but they will never 'Know' it.

9/27/2011 01:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

addendum:

The Secular Humanists' Scientific Theories DO have a slight 'vertical' component and that is their use of hypothesis and theory: Both logic concepts use data and experimentation (experience) to solidify each premise, yet they do have some of the Humans capability with the vertical as each requires an act of Faith (or for the Atheist types out there: a calculated guess).

This is something a machine cannot do.

9/27/2011 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Cond,
Your addendum is too generous to the materialists. Denying vertical evidence requires constant vigilance on their part, and it becomes second nature. It is no credit to them that it smacks them in the face repeatedly, only to be rationalized away. They are using their God-given abilities because there is nothing else. Machines can reproduce their assumptions quite well, but as they say, GIGO.

While I agree that the severing being discussed was pursued ambitiously during the Enlightenment, the Schism came first, which is why I am confused about his meaning.

I should also acknowledge that you could argue that, far from being a glimpse of the divine plan as I suggested before, maybe the particular theological directions that the West and East took could be blamed for the pathologies that followed historically (rationalism and totalitarianism).

Van,
Give me one fallacy and I can prove anything. The rationalists use reason quite well, but they only acknowledge axioms that are convenient to their preconceptions. It's not crazy for them to do that though. There is no shame in saying we don't understand how or why it works, but we're working on it. Their problem is when they are led back to the Truth, they fudge it rather than opening their minds.

The desire to communicate about the divine was the cause of the Scholastics. As discussed, experience cannot be meaningfully communicated, but reason can be apprehended by anyone. But if you start to think that the reasoning was the point, and that this was the same as knowledge from experience, you get the Enlightenment. And if you have corruption in holy places, combined with opportunists, you give reason to doubt revelation, and the Enlightenment says "We must start over! Cogito ergo sum..."

9/27/2011 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gabe--

The schism didn't originally have to do with epistemological questions. The seeds were planted much earlier than the emergence of rationalism, and I think have more to do with culture, language, and politics. I think the theological differences were almost a pretext for these deeper non-theological trends (similar to the later religious wars of Europe). Once the schism was formalized, the two underwent very different histories and encountered different sorts of problems.

9/27/2011 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gabe said "Give me one fallacy and I can prove anything."

Yep. To knowingly accept the use of even one fallacy, is to discard all of the rules of logic in principle, and any requirement that your thoughts be bound to reality - which is the whole point of the rules of logic.

"The rationalists use reason quite well, but they only acknowledge axioms that are convenient to their preconceptions. "

They cease to be axioms of Reason, and become tools and weapons for forcing your desires upon others. If and when someone calls them on a particular axiom, it'll be discovered to 'not apply' in their unique circumstance. Shift, pivot, swing again.

"It's not crazy for them to do that though. There is no shame in saying we don't understand how or why it works, but we're working on it. Their problem is when they are led back to the Truth, they fudge it rather than opening their minds.'

Knowingly is the keyword. If you knowingly, willingly, purposefully, violate the rules of logic (and of course, that means within the proper context), you have burned the bridge to Truth. You no longer have a way of going back to it. You can of course cite it, access and manipulate the facts of what is true, but while you accept that there are no rules, you have no access to that which the rules follow from.

"But if you start to think that the reasoning was the point, and that this was the same as knowledge from experience, you get the Enlightenment."

Yep. If you think that the rules are rules for rules sake, or worse, for your sake (which amounts to the same), you no longer have capital "R" Reason, only a thin rationalistic aping of it.

"...you give reason to doubt revelation, and the Enlightenment says "We must start over! Cogito ergo sum..."

And Descartes was the guy (and much as I dislike him, I'm not convinced that he understood "knowingly" the implications of what he was doing. Unlike, say, Rousseau.) who introduced and legitimized the arbitrary into 'Reasoning', and by doing so 'Doubt' is all you can 'have' or hope for, and we are where we are today, because of that.

At that point the Enlightenment split, between the Frenchified form of it, and the English form of the enlightenment, which America was the beneficiary of. The breach didn't last of course, Hume, Godwin, Bentham, etc, helped to 'bridge' the gap and sink the island.

9/27/2011 08:01:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home