Man and His Endless Jnani Quest
You see, occasionally English lacks the mot juste -- mot juste being another -- to describe certain things, including spiritual realities. And even if we did have such a word, it would probably be saturated by now, which is where our sacred wordplay, or punnishantics, come in, so as to remystify the language. In short, it helps us keep the good news new and our nous to the groundstone.
According to Purcell, there is a universal Quest "that summons all true human beings to the heart of the human mystery." Are "quest" and "question" etymologically related? I don't know, but Purcell says that we are not the answers, nor is "the source of the summons even... clear to us." In short, there is no self-sufficient explanation for the mystery of man and his wonderlust about the Mystery.
To back up a bit, if you don't recognize that man -- i.e., your existence -- is a mystery, then you are dismissed. You are way beyond -- or before -- my capacity to help you aggravate the mystery or shed any further obscurity on matters.
In a letter, Dostoyevsky wrote that "Man is a mystery. One must solve it.... I occupy myself with this mystery because I want to be a man" (in Purcell).
Isn't that a bit t-t-tautologous? Man is a mystery, but the pursuit of this mystery is somehow intrinsic to what it means to be a man. You're a mystery, Mister O! And the worst thing you can do is perform a mysterectomy on yourself. Rather, leave it to the experts: the tenured.
Now, you might suppose that a standard autobiography is a kind of transparent plunge into the mystery, but that approach usually leads nowhere if it fails to link up with the Source. In other words, the individual self is literally a kind of inexhaustible mystery, but this "inexhaustibility" provides a clue to the Big Mystery, since man is a kind of "finite infinitude" which mirrors the infinite infinitude of O.
Therefore, if you imagine that your bullshit will ever run dry, you're only fooling yourself. You'll never find God that way, because you're already in the ocean searching for water.
Now that it is understood that man is embedded in a cosmic drama extending back no less than 13.85 billion years -- that History is much longer than anyone ever supposed -- it is frankly impossible to write a comprehensive autobiography without taking into consideration, say, the big bang, the evolution of life, and the emergence of human consciousness; and on a more micro level, one's prelinguistic development (before the age of five), which is itself a vast undiscovered country, an infinite ground in its own way.
By which I mean that if we are deprived of certain ground-floor experiences during this sensitive period, our quest for the Ground will be compromised later in life. The psychoanalyst Michael Balint wrote of the "basic fault" (as in "fault line"), which can even be seen as one way in which man perpetuates his ancestral Fall from generation to generation. A person haunted by the Basic Fault often spends his life in pursuit of what might be called "dark mysteries," or thrilling perversions and secret compulsions of various kinds.
Pardon the abrupt transition, but I am glad to see another writer tackling the "discontinuity problem" of human beings. In fact, Purcell makes a useful distinction between the fact of evolution and the ideology of "evolutionism," which is analogous to the critical distinction between science and scientism, of which every educated person should be aware.
The dogma of evolutionism maintains that there is no ontological distinction between man and animal, an absurd metaphysic that immediately runs aground for reasons Darwin himself intuited:
"With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"
The answer is no, of course not. That being the case, where is the line in nature at which point monkey convictions become reliable and trustworthy? The ideology answers -- and disproves -- itself if one is honest.
Recall that in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, the individual chapters are so arranged as to be both discontinuous -- i.e., discrete and numbered, just like any other book -- but also continuous and flowing, apparently unlike any other book. This complementarity signifies a number of things, including the ontological discontinuity -- the evolutionary leap, which evolution supposedly cannot do -- of man.
Yes, we are aware of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, but that is merely another attempt at a natural explanation to "save the appearances" of what is clearly a transnatural phenomenon.
One of the themes that runs through From Big Bang to Big Mystery is that human beings "are both continuous with the evolutionary process and discontinuous with it." I for one know exactly what he means when he references Walker Percy's observation that there is "more difference between a human and an animal -- let's say an orangutan -- than between the animal and the planet Saturn."
Everything thus far has been introductory. Details will be filled in as we proceed down this mysterious rabbit hole.