Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From Un-Cosmoed to One Cosmoed

Just as there are people we call uncultured, there are folks we would call un-cosmoed. Ironically, more often than not, it is the most cultured person who is the least cosmoed.

Likewise, uncultured people often retain their cosmic perspective, which is one of the reasons why so many middle- and working class folks are repelled by contemporary liberalism; which, you might say, is "worldly," but at the expense of universality.

Contemporary liberalism is provincial, ahistorical, and unphilosophical in the extreme, which is why there is usually so much more wisdom in a simple person of faith than there is in the tenured herd and the media mob.

An uncultured person is what? Related words include countrified, unlearned, unrefined, unsophisticated, roughhewn, raw, -- but also, in a wholly positive sense, natural, unartificial, guileless, pristine, unsullied. Likewise, we know the positive connotations of cultured, but the latter can also veer into sophistry, intellectualism, artifice, decadence, and, in these latter days, mere conformity to intellectual fashion.

So much of contemporary debate can be cast in these terms of cultured-uncultured. It is a major source of the left's toxic arrogance, and why they simply cannot conceal their contempt for those they wish to court.

Now, what is an uncosmoed person? I would think that first and foremost it is someone who imagines he can enclose the cosmos in some little manmade ideology -- who imagines he has demystified the cosmos just because he has memorized a few words and concepts such as "big bang," or "DNA," or "natural selection," or who simply fails to draw out the implications of everyday words such as "person," or "love," or "truth," or "beauty," or "universe."

Each of the latter is an irreducible mystery, in the sense that we only imagine we have banished the mystery by saturating them with some readymade ideological content.

But mystery itself is a mystery, in that it is a mode of knowledge, not a problem to be solved. Indeed, life without mystery would be unendurable. Even if I had all the answers, I would immediately forget them just for the joy of searching after them. Much of spiritual development involves a kind of movement from the mystery of childhood, to the demystification of adolescence, to the proper remystification of real adulthood (or from uncosmoed to One Cosmoed).

Here is how Schuon defines mystery. See if you don't agree:

"By ‘mystery’ we do not mean something incomprehensible in principle -- unless it be on the purely rational level -- but something which opens on to the Infinite, or which is envisaged in this respect, so that intelligibility becomes limitless and humanly inexhaustible. A mystery is always ‘something of God’" (Gnosis: Divine Wisdom).

Again: mystery is a mode of intellection, but not a mode the typical intellectual will endorse, since it is an affront to the narcissistic co-opting of the intellect for purely egoic -- or defensive -- purposes.

In the past I have discussed how, just as there are psychological defense mechanisms that apply to the lower vertical, there are what we might call "pneumatological defense mechanisms" that apply to the upper vertical, e.g., pride and envy. I'm a little surprised that I was the first to discover, or at least articulate, this idea, but it is no doubt implicit in various folk psychologies of the uncultured.

In any event, "intellectualization" is one defense mechanism that is deployed in both directions, the upper and lower vertical. Wiki defines it as "a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress, by 'using excessive and abstract ideation to avoid difficult feelings'. It involves removing one's self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization may accompany, but 'differs from rationalization, which is justification of irrational behavior through cliches, stories, and pat explanation.'"

One can glean at a glance how both intellectualization and rationalization would apply to the upper vertical, in particular, vis-a-vis the New Atheists armed with their rationalistic "cliches, stories, and pat explanations." Behind this is the attempt to flee from the stress and conflict associated with confronting -- or being confronted by -- one's nonlocal conscience, and then following where -- or to whom -- this might lead. Better just to cut it off at the knees. Then kneeling is impossible.

Which leads us back to where we were on April 3, before we got sidetracked down one of those compelling cosmic arteries. You may recall that we were discussing Brendan Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution, which then veered into an extended Voegelinapalooza.

By the very title, one can appreciate that the author is a deeply cosmoed man coming from a cosmic perspective. I just opened the book to page 98, where we seem to have left off in our discussion, and Purcell (borrowing from Lonergan) is discussing what he calls the "scotosis" of scientism, which is to say, its wee ontological blind spot, i.e., "the non-occurance of relevant insights for whatever reason," and "the reality eclipsed because not questioned."

In short, in any form of scientism, there is a hole where reality should be, but which is filled with ideology -- similar to the scotoma we all have in our field of vision, where the optic nerve connects to the eyeball. Without even being consciously aware of it, our brains just paper over the hole and create the illusion of continuity.

Think of the scotosis that results from any attempt to reduce the cosmos to its mathematical elements; to do so is to reduce quality to quantity, semantics to syntax, and ultimately subject to object. But then there's no subject left to understand and appreciate the mysterious and beautiful math. Nor taste the delicious irony. (Note also that the scotoma of scientism can fashion a prison or serve as an escape hatch, once the hole is recognized.)

A more balanced and reasonable -- not to say nuanced -- view would be closer to the one enunciated by Pope John Paul II in 1991 (quoted by Purcell):

"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and from false absolutes. Each can help the other to enter into a more complete world, where both can prosper."

Here it is not just a matter of rejoining left and right brains and east and west hemispheres, although that's no doubt part of it. Rather, the real action is vertical and hierarchical, and lies in keeping things in perspective. The uncosmoed person always lacks perspective, since the cosmic is the ultimate perspective (excluding the perspective of God, since we can't see from that particular vertex).

Or in oscar words -- but turned bright-side up -- we are all of the stars, but some of us are looking from the gutter.

To be continued...

9 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

Good post again. I can relate to how prevalent "intellectualization" is in the Integral communities. Spirit gets overly-rationalized; unless the person gets their heads out of the maps and in to some deep practice, along with cultivating moral integrity, charity, and humility.

Also, I see you are on an Erik Larson kick. How was his latest read?

5/29/2012 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Even if I had all the answers, I would immediately forget them just for the joy of searching after them.

That sounds a lot like Somebody else I know.

5/29/2012 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted -- All of them are worms-eye views of larger epics and historical forces. Not at all challenging, but they definitely hold my attention. Good night time reading...

5/29/2012 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

The worm-eye views of larger epics are always the best way to feel your way through them. Even Stalin got it right when he said "a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Or when Anonymous friend in MOTT points out that "the part can be greater than the whole."

5/29/2012 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No, you truly cannot surpass the tragedy of one. Multiples of one often just obscure the infinite value of the loss.

5/29/2012 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

drudge:
'WRITTEN IN THE STARS? Astrologers say celestial charts favor Obama over Romney...'

-what! the stars are political tambien?
recall i ran into a leftoid newager whose class had determined
the first tues in nov was mitt's day!
no facts just interps as the man said

5/29/2012 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

An uncultured person is what? Related words include countrified, unlearned, unrefined, unsophisticated, roughhewn, raw, -- but also, in a wholly positive sense, natural, unartificial, guileless, pristine, unsullied.

Along those lines, Sowell:

"The lack of realism among many highly educated people has been demonstrated in many ways.

When I saw signs in Yellowstone National Park warning visitors not to get too close to a buffalo, I realized that this was a warning that no illiterate farmer of a bygone century would have needed. No one would have had to tell him not to mess with a huge animal that literally weighs a ton, and can charge at you at 30 miles an hour."

5/29/2012 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

" But mystery itself is a mystery, in that it is a mode of knowledge, not a problem to be solved. Indeed, life without mystery would be unendurable. Even if I had all the answers, I would immediately forget them just for the joy of searching after them."

Hear here! Luckily though, all the best answers strengthen your foundations and open your eyes to even more questions. The pursuit of Truth is a self fulfilling mystery...

5/30/2012 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie, perfect Sowell quote. Not only does an intelligent person not need such a warning, but issuing such a warning is a confession of using words to hide and obfuscate, rather than to reveal and clarify.

5/30/2012 09:12:00 AM  

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