Thursday, March 01, 2012

Cosmoanalysis: The More We Change, the More We Become the Same

Disclaimer: this post veered off in an unexpectedly self-indulgent direction. It was interesting for me, however, because it again reminded me of how little and much I've changed. Or, one might say that the essence is the same. Only the contingencies have been eliminated...

I remember back in graduate school when it dawned on me that I wasn't studying "knowledge," but rather, being.

This came as a shock to a would-be intellectual, because it meant that no amount of memorization -- of conforming the mind to the body of knowledge called "psychology" -- would render me superior to the uncredentialed, the un-overeducated, the untenured rabble. Rather, I was just like everyone else, except that my particular form of knowledge was useless.

Where's the point? I mean, if one doesn't have what it takes to become wealthy, a person of average intelligence can at least console himself by pretending to be smarter than everyone else. But now that rug was pulled out from under me as well. All your wisdom is folly to the unconscious!

The point about being taking priority over knowing is especially true of my racket, clinical psychology. In fact, I can't think of a field in which it is more true, with the possible exception of theology. But even there, we have dogma and revelation, which are given, not anything we come up with on our own.

I suppose mystical theology would be the closest approximation, because that too is a reality inaccessible to mere knowledge (k). Rather, it is experiential, so that real knowledge of it must proceed from experience, knowing from being.

In contrast, an experimental psychologist can spend his entire career designing various moronic studies and convince even himself that this constitutes real knowledge of man. Or, one can be a neuropsychologist and administer tests showing a correlation between this deficit over here and that part of the brain over there. Or, one can be an evolutionary psychologist and make up Darwinian fairy tales to account for this or that human trait or ability. Music? Poetry? Art? All just genetic booty-calls. Now, where's my Ph.D.?!

In the words of J. Winston Lennon, one thing you can't hide is when you're crippled inside. You cannot fake being, because doing so is the very quintessence of fakery. To not be who you are -- to pretend to be someone or something else -- immediately exiles one from being. It seems that most people (for reasons we will get into) cannot tolerate being, so it is preferable to be something else. But then you're not being, are you? You've just rendered yourself null and void. D'oh!

Now that I'm in this wistful and reminiscent frame of mind, I'm flipping through my dissertation, which was completed in 1988 and unread since. In it I see that there is a section entitled I Think Therefore I Am: Knowing Separated From Being. Let's see if it contains anything relevant to our present endeavors, shall we?

"Philosophy and science -- that is, mind and matter -- were not always in the incommensurable position they find themselves in today."

Okay. Tell me more.

Well, this oldBob -- who was quite the intellectual romantic -- goes on about the "mystical and transforming power" of real knowledge. But in a world in which knowledge is excised from being, it inevitably devolves to a function of desire" (which I would now say includes power, not to mention control).

Blah blah yada yada, this Descartes fellow, with his "I think therefore I am" business, helped usher in "the erroneous belief that knowledge can be totally separated from being, and furthermore, that 'being' is the inferior side of the equation."

As it applies to psychoanalysis, it resulted in the implicit idea that the "cure" is "the result of gaining proper knowledge about the workings of the unconscious mind." But this only ends up trying to "contain" what cannot be contained by mere knowledge, for the drop cannot contain the ocean.

"It took some time for psychoanalysts to realize that the true reality of psychic life had to do with intimate emotional experiences, and that knowledge could never be made separate from this underlying matrix.

"[T]he mystery of the mind must be tolerated, and one must not eliminate the pain of 'not knowing' by formulating doctrines and explanations which claim a final understanding.

"When knowledge becomes a completely rigid or closed cycle, it leads to alienation from the generative ground of reality: enchantment and wonder are bartered away for security and safety," contributing profoundly to what oldBob calls "the demystification of being."

What we call "treatment" actually revolves around explicating the patient's relationship to truth. This "must be investigated freely, as freely as the patient's associations, only at a higher level of abstraction.... only by arresting habitual thought patterns can one sever the threads that bind one to the explicate order."

Wait, there's more!

Believe it or not, this knowledge is "deeply and mythologically rooted in the firmament of the sacred," the latter of which "cannot in any way be detached from being.... Psychoanalytic change proceeds first from being what one is, and then knowing one's experience."

Tell us more about this ultimate knowledge rooted in being, oldBob.

Okay. This knowledge "binds one to the whole of things, 'the primordial ground, the ever-present starting point of all creation.'" Suffering in this view "is indeed conceived as ignorance, but not in the same sense of being ignorant of mere information. It is a much greater kind of ignorance, which has to do with alienation from the ground of being."

Bottom line:

"Human beings have the capacity to participate in a perpetually open cycle of creativity arising from a timeless, implicate order. This is the realm from which spring not only creativity and art, but genuine in-sight."

The common core of the sacred is "the experience of a completely ineffable and transcendent, and yet immanent and and prehensible, fact. The nature of this fact relates to the 'cosmic dimension' of human beings."

Yeah, I guess I pretty much invented cosmoanalysis, so I got that going for me.

Plus le Bob change...

15 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

It seems that most people (for reasons we will get into) cannot tolerate being, so it is preferable to be something else. But then you're not being, are you? You've just rendered yourself null and void. D'oh!

It occurs to me, after this past weekend, that a great many people not only cannot tolerate their own being, they can't tolerate the being of others - especially when others are genuinely being, if you know what I mean. Presumably because the being of others reminds the first group that they have rendered themselves nada.

3/01/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...an experimental psychologist can spend his entire career designing various moronic studies and convince even himself that this constitutes real knowledge of man ,,,

They called them worm-runners for a reason.

3/01/2012 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

When knowledge becomes a completely rigid or closed cycle, it leads to alienation from the generative ground of reality: enchantment and wonder are bartered away for security and safety

This goes with something I've been thinking recently in regards to the phrase, "unraveling the mystery." In some ways, it's easy enough to do, but once the mystery is unraveled or the veil is taken apart, all that's left is the unseeable space the mystery reveiled, along with a big pile of thread.

3/01/2012 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I was talking to a Christian counselor once who said her school focused on "cognitive" psychology. She used the quote from Proverbs 23:7 in the King James that says, "as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he".

The KJV translators were very good, but whether they messed up there or whether we have twisted their language since, we can miss the point.

What the proverb is really addressing is deception, perhaps especially self-deception. Oddly, I just had a conversation about that with a manager a couple of hours ago.

We are what we are, regardless of what we might say, or how we try to deceive others or ourselves.

3/01/2012 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

OT or possibly related:

Sadly, Hitchens stabbed at Chesterton from the heart of his personal Hell.

3/01/2012 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, as I'm rediscovering in reading this volume of Maritain, thinking in the Christian tradition is always posterior to being. You know, "judge them by their fruits," not their words.

3/01/2012 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In some ways, it's easy enough to do, but once the mystery is unraveled or the veil is taken apart, all that's left is the unseeable space the mystery reveiled, along with a big pile of thread.

Good point. I think the trick is to unravel it while your back is turned, so to speak, and become the veil.

Anybody can play "Louie, Louie". But it only counts if you can play it behind your back.

3/01/2012 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

scary how all these young minds
'think'
...
andrew was once 'one of them'

3/01/2012 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

I've always thought the ending of J. M. Coetzee's novel, _Foe_, is an intuition that the experience of sheer presence as the fundamental ground of knowledge. The conceptual and verbal fail as mediums for knowledge. In a shipwreck, underwater, there is this encounter:

"I tug his woolly hair, finger the chain about his throat. 'Friday,' I say, I try to say, kneeling over him, sinking hands and knees into the ooze, 'what is this ship?' But this is not a place of words. Each syllable, as it comes out, is caughtand filled with water and diffused. This is a place where bodies are their own signs. It is the home of Friday. He turns and turns till he lies at full length, his face to my face. The skin is tight across his bones, his lips are drawn back. I pass a fingernail across his teeth, trying to find a way in. His mouth opens. From inside him comes a slow stream, without breath, without interruption. It flows up through his body and out upon me; it passes through the cabin, through the wreck; washing the cliffs and shores of the island,it runs northward and southward to the ends of the earth. Soft and cold, dark and unending, it beats against my eyelids, against the skin of my face."

This image has always haunted me. The only knowable contact here is the liquid medium. And yet it is real. Is this an image of philosophical realism, or idealism? Or both? It's ambiguous.

At stake is the extent to which we can say we "know" each other.

3/01/2012 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

From Joan's link to the Atlantic:

Chesterton became part of a forgettable rear-guard operation against the age of uncertainty, which has now definitively become our age. It seems that there are no rules, golden or otherwise, even natural or otherwise, by which we can define our place in the universe or the cosmos. Those who claim to know the most are convicted of claiming to know the unknowable. There is a paradox, if you like.

What's paradoxical is that Hitchens could write that and still be an atheist.

3/01/2012 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

RIP Andrew Breitbart

The reaction of the Left is disgusting. You'd think a guy like him would get some anti-establishment props from the Left, but nah, they aren't anti-establishment at all.

Tribal and totalitarian to the core.

Like adolescents everywhere.

3/01/2012 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - speaking of people who cannot tolerate being, Ace on Frum on Breitbart.

3/01/2012 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Frum Bum Dumb Scum

3/01/2012 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"To not be who you are -- to pretend to be someone or something else -- immediately exiles one from being. "

If you put up a facade, if you pretend to be something you are not, if you do not take responsibility for your actions, you will never know who you are. You will never grow. True, there is vulnerability from being on open and unadulterated self, but the rewards are as big as the world itself. Your World.

Each of us has our own nature, a subset of all the natures of humanity. This nature is our tendencies to choose one direction over another.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msw3yvcRQ34#t=25s (Egor, Why do you torment that thing so? "Its what I do".)

Each of our adventures are a byroduct of our nature reacting to the external reality. We are 'flawed by nature'. How do we transcend this tendency? By Knowing yourself and Knowing the nature of man.

That requires that you be yourself - and open, unadulterated self.

It requires that you always be truthful - for telling a lie goes both ways: it deceives the listener, but also it travels within and distorts your vision of reality.

It requires that you take responsiblitiy for your actions. Yes, this is just another way to lie (like I said earlier), but it bears repeating a second time considering how I have witnessed its destructive power in the lives around me.

Lastly (and the crowning piece that requires the above two (or 3 depending on how you count things) mentioned points, it is important to witness, listen and be open to other peoples truths and to weigh the true from the false. This crowning piece is vital for Knowing the nature of other men - other than yourself. Even then, you may still not 'get it' (that requires Grace). Knowing will come in its own time. Maybe.

3/02/2012 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

..and to what end would the benefit be for someone to take these actions upon yourself?

Well, for me, its to be a better person, I supoose. To change, and grow, towards the light (Hey! Thats what plants do!)

Growing is forever
http://vimeo.com/18305022

My personal nature is a subset of the Nature of Mankind. To know yourself is step one. But to what end if you do not know others? Thats where the Oaths, Vows and rules that we press upon ourselves _never_ work - that it is merely a dike to hold back the inevitable of your very own Nature (and wear yourself out psychically). Fine examples of these dikes we all have within ourselves are peoples coping to reduce weight, stop drinking, & stop smoking. It works for a while, but as soon as a crisis of great proprtions occurs, the dike goes down and your life is flooded with a whole lot of fail.

But if you Know the nature of other men (the why, not the how), you may be able to shift and change yourself:

"Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost... I am hopeless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in this same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in... it's a habit... but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5: I walk down another street. "

http://www.lemonaidcounseling.com/html/once_upon_a_time.html

...and sometimes, someone shows you out of the hole your in:

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.
"A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
"Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
"Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"

http://westwing.bewarne.com/queries/story.html

But many times nobody has the answer.

Remember, its not the 'how', but the 'why'.

3/02/2012 08:07:00 AM  

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