Human Progress and the Metabolism of God
True, we can take the easy way out and say that a human is someone who can mate with another human and produce human offspring, but that's both circular and meaningless, in that we share that characteristic with every other mammal and reptile. We could take the liberal approach, and say that a human is someone whose mother doesn't want to abort him, but that is way too subjective, not to mention bereft of even rudimentary logic.
For Purcell -- following Voegelin -- there are three major pulse points in history, when humanness dramatically emerges like the big bang it is: "in the Hebrew Bible, in classic Greek philosophy, and in the New Testament."
This troubles me right away, because in my book I trace the big bang of human consciousness to around 50,000 years ago, as evidenced by the sudden florescence of all that beautiful art in those early mancaves.
Obviously we must be operating with a different definition of humanness. I would agree that something quite unusual occurred to the ancient Greek and Hebrew peoples, but I regard it as somewhat analogous to a celestial "solar flare" that was picked up and assimilated in different ways by different cultures. Furthermore, man had to already be there in order to receive the transmission, as opposed to the transmission "creating" him.
I'm thinking of Karl Jaspers' axial age, which saw the downloading of various revelations and realizations, from Plato to the Upanishads to Lao Tzu, Buddha, and the Jewish prophets. This diverse logogenetic activity culminates in the logos actually taking on human form. In other words, it is first dispersed more widely into cultures before being narrowly focused in a particular person.
I notice that the wiki article also references Voegelin, pointing out that he "referred to this age as The Great Leap of Being, constituting a new spiritual awakening and a shift of perception from societal to individual values. Thinkers and teachers like the Buddha, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Anaxagoras contributed to such awakenings which Plato would later call anamnesis, or a remembering of things forgotten."
Remembering of things forgotten. This is another way of saying "vertical recollection," which, in the Raccoon view, is simply the inverse of psychoanalysis. In other words, just as there is a lower vertical -- the unconscious -- there is a higher vertical -- the supraconscious -- which it is man's vocation to colonize. Hence, the more being we colonize, the more humanness we manifest or actualize. The psyche is a kind of hyperdimensional space, but it is up to us to explore as much of it as possible, for its horizons are endless.
To put it another way if God is, as Thomas suggests, "pure act," then by the law of inverse correspondence in the herebelow, man would be something like "pure potency." This would account for Man's relative infinitude which must be actualized in time, whereas God's "infinite infinitude" is present all at once in an atemporal (i.e., eternal) mode.
This also makes sense of one of the favorite wisecracks of the early fathers, that "God became man so that man might become God." Or, more simply, we can just say O (↓) so that (¶) (↑), culminating in ʘ. ʘ is when your divine adoption papers become final.
As we have discussed on many occasions, man is an open system, both horizontally (obvious) and vertically (evidently not as obvious, at least to the tenured). With respect to the axial age outburst -- or perhaps inburst -- alluded to above, Bergson called these "the opening of the soul" (in Purcell). Purcell adds that this was "the period when human beings first reflected explicitly on their own nature and origins, breaking more or less decisively" with myth (emphasis mine).
This is another useful way of looking at it, one touched upon in my book. That is to say, Life Itself emerged when that first molecular entity "wrapped around itself," so to speak, in a time-binding defiance of entropy. Likewise, humanness is clearly characterized by consciousness -- which animals obviously possess -- wrapping around itself in a recursive manner, which one might say is the basis of our self-consciousness, and with it, the possibility of a progressive mental metabolism.
The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion called this mental recursiveness "alpha (α-) function," in the absence of which we cannot metabolize experience. In fact, one could say that when a person enters psychotherapy, it is almost always because of some failure in α-function. The patient is "suffering" some sort of experience that cannot be metabolized, converted to linguistic meaning, and deposited in the memory bank.
Thus, instead of the recursive and soul-building spiral, the soul is trapped in the body's neural circuitry. At the extreme this becomes obsessive compulsive disorder, but we are all prone to the occasional "neural eddy," if only in the form of an earworm from a song we can't get out of our heads.
My most recent obsessive-compulsive patient is a case in point vis-a-vis the failure to metabolize experience. For example, before leaving her apartment she had to kiss her cat repeatedly -- I'm talking dozens of times -- and even then had to simply tear herself away in order to get out of the house.
Exploration revealed that this ritual revolved around unresolved feelings of abandonment and separation. Because she could not face -- and metabolize -- the latter, she lived it out symbolically at the expense of her cat. Kissing the cat would temporarily diminish the anxiety, but it would always return.
Interestingly, the patient was deeply ambivalent about taking medication to resolve the problem, because she was afraid it would cause her to become insensate to the feelings. This demonstrates how the OCD concealed something "vital" to her being, which she was not prepared to give up.
I want to add something about α-function and the apprehension of the metaphysical/theological One. Among other things, α-function is able to resolve a mass of data into a higher unity. Thus, the move from mythic polytheism to strict monotheism represents a psychic achievement and purification of the first rank (not without backsliding, of course), and sets the stage for the later emergence of science, which assumes the oneness of creation.
In any event, at around the same time, expressed in different ways, we see the "discovery of the One" -- or Absolute -- among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Upanishadic sages.
But there is nevertheless this -- what to call it? -- abyss between the One and the many, God and man. In my opinion the gradual "closure" of this abyss is man's vocation, precisely, and is the very measure of our earthly quest. It is why we are here, you might say, for it seems that most everyone, whether atheist, agnostic, or theist, wishes to be in conformity to Truth, and we all have a deep intuition that this Truth is ultimately One, whether we call it O, or God, or the physicist's chimerical TOE (theory of everything).
Must stop. Running out of time. To be continued....