Monday, September 24, 2012

High Frequency God Whistles

No time for a new post and hardly enough time for an old one, bearing in mind that I can never simply exhumine my precogitated bloggerel without substantial editing and revising. Indeed, I have second thoughts and third words about most everything I've ever written, since anything can be expressed more lucidly or even airbrushed from history.

Not sure if I pulled this one off, but here it is anyway. If it's missing something, it's up to you to complete it.

We begin with a question: do tonedeaf atheists have a point when they say there is no evidence of God, and that if there were such evidence, then they would be believers?

By "evidence," they usually mean something you or I would call magic. That is, they want to see something that is utterly inexplicable and defies all logic and reason -- you know, pink fairies under the bed. A talking cloud. A miracle.

Let's look at it from the Creator's point of view. Is he just being coy? Or does he wish to be known? Does he want people to know of his who- and whereabouts? Yes he does -- or so we have heard from the wise.

But how does one reveal evidence of personhood, especially if said person abides in a higher dimension than the being with whom one wishes to share the revelation?

For example, how could I prove to my dog that I as a person exist? It's not as easy as it sounds, because dogs only experience human beings in dog categories. They might see you as the alpha dog, and respond accordingly. But they cannot conceive of your interior personhood. It is a dimension they cannot enter, know, or assimilate. I suppose they can apprehend some of its "energies," so to speak, but never its essence. In other words, they can be in awe of your mighty powers, but not understand them.

Analogously, Balthasar asks how it is possible for us to "speak of the 'form of Christ' when most things about him -- the essential: his divinity and all the mysteries connected with it -- remain hidden and unfathomable in their internal depths of meaning?"

He suggests that we begin with the principle -- and all first principles must be accepted with a degree of faith -- that "the first and pre-eminent intention of the self-revealing God is, precisely, really to reveal himself, really to become comprehensible to the world as far as possible."

In other words, we have to assume that God truly is "putting himself out there" in good faith, in a manner he feels best suits our needs, or comports with our ability to comprehend.

Again, compare yourself to a dog trying to understand its master. A lot of what the master does is going to be incomprehensible, even though that is never the point. If I get to pee in the house but she doesn't, I'm not trying to confuse her. It also reminds me of my son, who has more questions about God than he does about Santa Claus, I think because the latter "speaks his language," if you know what I mean.

Likewise, if God's intention were simply "to make those who believe in him assent to a number of impenetrable truths, this would surely be unworthy of God and it would contradict the very concept of revelation" (Balthasar).

In other words, we can't really call it "revelation" if it doesn't reveal something essential of of God's interior, something we are capable of fathoming. In fact, a non-revealing God would actually reveal something about him, just as, say, a guarded and defensive individual reveals how fearful he is of intimacy.

However, at the same time, we cannot pretend that we could ever fully comprehend God, any more than we could ever comprehend even another human being. Thus, "a necessary part of this manifestation is his eternal incomprehensibility."

But here again, this incomprehensibility by no means redounds to sheer ignorance on our part. Rather, it is to apprehend the divine from within the mode of mystery; as such, it is more like a direct transmission of the celestial myster-er to a terrestrial myster-ee, or the divine contained into the human container. Note that the latter is not the measure of the former. Rather, it only contains what it is capable of containing, and no more. Like IQ, only on the spiritual plane.

Thus, as Balthasar observes, this paradoxical communication is not "a negative determination of what one does not know, but rather a positive and almost 'seen' and understood property of him whom one knows."

And once you begin to familiarize yourself with this property, you begin to realize that it is an enduring characteristic of the "divine object," similar to the unique "vibe" one instantaneously experiences in the presence of another person. A person cannot help radiating his interior soulstench, no matter how hard he may try to conceal it.

The same holds for a great artist. The totality of an artist's work will transmit a sort of consistent vibration. It reminds me of the book This is Your Brain on Music, in which the author points out that every great rock artist has a certain distinct and unique timbre that lets you know in an instant that you are listening to them and no one else.

Think about it for a moment. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Beach Boys, Byrds, Zombies, Animals, Creedence, Roy Orbison, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin -- each has a quite distinct "sound signature" that exists over and above the music itself. You know it's them from the first note.

Analogously, you could say that the Christian timbre is quite distinct from the Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist timbre. Here again, this timbre exists apart from any specific content. Balthasar observes that God "has offered himself to the gaze of mankind from every possible angle, and this gesture of self-disclosure... was part of his fundamental mission to manifest and explain God to man."

In other words, the transformal form of God is a kind of totality that cannot be contained by man.

But within the perception of revelation we may be vouchsafed a kind of lower dimensional analogue of the totality.

First there is "the apprehension of a wholly unique quality, to be ascribed particularly to the supernatural origin of the light of faith"; and second, "the apprehension of an interior rightness," in which there is an "objective, demonstrable beauty of all proportions," so that "one aspect of the form always points to and supports the others." Or in other words, radiance and harmony, or Light and Love, or intelligence and heart, or words and music.

And this is why it is perverse for us to mix revelations "from below." One can hardly imagine the monstrosity of, say, Pink Floyd performing Twist and Shout, or the Beach Boys singing Communication Breakdown, or Led Zeppelin doing Yellow Submarine. It might sound something like this:

26 Comments:

Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Indeed, I have second thoughts and third words about most everything I've ever written, since anything can be expressed more lucidly or even airbrushed from history. "

...and yet without the meat and potatoes of the content of your works, people like me would nothing to doodle with as a side note, nor the flourish to decorate (in colour) your words. I'm merely a Monk transcribing the contents of your works, Bob (along with a bit of input from my own experience) - hopefully I leave none of the profane the age old monks would do out of mischief. :)

"We begin with a question: do tonedeaf atheists have a point when they say there is no evidence of God, and that if there were such evidence, then they would be believers? "

In Chemistry, we can have two reactive materials in a solution. Reaction occurs at different rates (or not at all) - depending on the buffering solution. Likewise, we all have thoughts that we believe and yet are contradictory to each other. All it takes is the 'buffering solution' to become saturated (or we have a catalyzing chemical introduced) and the reaction occurs. The reaction may be slow and gradual or lightning fast like it did with the Apostle Paul - depending on the temperment and qualities of character of the person.

I am constantly amused when So called atheists (more like Atheists) use qualitative terms like 'soul' and 'love' and 'honor'. its like they have all these Deist elements swimming around in their Atheist minds' "solution" and all it takes is something to happen (lord knows), and poof! Reaction and change.

We all are filled with contradictory thoughts that can react in ways that only that the individual soul would know. After all, we are unique.

9/24/2012 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Thesauros said...

I like it. Re post or not it was worth the read. thanks

9/24/2012 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

"soulstench" - good one.

9/24/2012 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Great post!

My apologies for beating this horse:

In other words, the transformal form of God is a kind of totality that cannot be contained by men."

I think that this is concordant with the Perennialist view that pure metaphysics informs revelation and not the other way around. But, I think this is a real sticky point- especially for Christianity. The theological doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation would have to be "subordinated" to the level of the relative Absolute. As I alluded to my other post, does this make doctrine a "means to an end."

9/24/2012 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Why, I'd thrash him from top to bottomus!

9/24/2012 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That's funny, Cond0011 - I was going to start with both of those snippets from the post as well.

On the first, I was simply going to give a Crabapple-esque "Ha!" re. the airbrushing.

To the second, it occurs to me that to an Atheist, even the most magical miraculous display must ultimately fail to persuade of the existence of god, for one can endlessly rationalize away the miraculous as being simply a combination of "coincidence" and that which is unexplained for now. To the steadfast disbeliever, anything which can be explained must not be miraculous (as though dissecting reality and concretizing it in words is sufficient to remove its mystery).

Conversely, it takes the eyes of faith to perceive the miraculous, and then once one truly sees it one realizes that all existence is miracle, and that the proof of O permeates and overflows all that is.

9/24/2012 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ooo, timbre! That's one of my favorite words.

9/24/2012 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

A lot of Christians talk about the Incarnation as if God had to put on flesh to understand us, and that always seems somehow wrong.

But if I wanted my dog to understand me better, one way to do it might be to become a dog and understand dog categories from the inside. Then I could, as a dog, more adequately communicate the nature of man to other dogs. That makes sense.

Yes, my wife has long since ceased to be impressed by my knack for identifying a Grateful Dead song on the first note. There is a difference between "they have a unique sound" and "they all sound the same".

9/24/2012 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

MAY WE SUGGEST AN IQ QUIZ BEFORE GRANTING YOU A BALLOT, SIR?
http://realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/09/24/howard_stern_interviews_obama_supporters_2012.html

9/24/2012 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Egads - I just watched that video you threw in at the end, Bob. I really ought to know better than to watch videos on (what amounts to) a dare...

9/24/2012 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

She was actually a big deal for a few months in 1966. Wiki says her first album sold 250,000 copies in three weeks...

9/24/2012 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

'Miller was apparently unaware at first that her musical ability was being ridiculed, but eventually realized it and decided to go along with the joke. She attributed her break with Capitol to her wanting to sing correctly and record ballads, while Capitol wanted to continue the "so bad it's good" style.'

9/24/2012 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ah, so she was the original William Hung...

9/24/2012 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I had a male coworker who could do a fairly spot-on Mrs. Miller imitation. It rarely failed to make me laugh to the point of being unable to speak, and simultaneously annoy everyone else.

I am not sure what that says about me.

9/24/2012 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Of course, the REAL Mrs. Miller is the real deal. Such joy she brings.

GB once posted her version of "Downtown" and I reposted it on Facebook and nearly everyone was either greatly confused by it or thought it horrid.

feh.

9/24/2012 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good point about William Hung. The whole "so bad it's good" mentality couldn't have started prior to the 1960s, due to insufficient irony. Now it's an industry, cf. the Golden Throats series.

9/24/2012 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Obama supporters. Be careful. They're out there.

9/24/2012 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

1) At around 2:00 there is a break and then a key change, which she obviously didn't know was coming. Oh my, what brilliance!

2) The whistling! Oh, dear lord, the whistling!

9/24/2012 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Great (re)post Bob.

"Analogously, you could say that the Christian timbre is quite distinct from the Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist timbre."

Ding! Oh, it isn't just me. I tried being a Hindu and dabbled in Zen but never felt at home. I'll concede it could be cultural. But maybe I was born into this culture (nurture) because of my nature.

Which Balthasar work are these quotes from?

9/24/2012 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I decided to give Mrs. Miller a second try, with the boy in my lap. He gave it until she started in with the singing, then said, "Uh, Whoops!"

9/24/2012 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I am so far out of the pop-culture loop, man, I had no idea who William Hung was. Now I know why I am out out of the pop-culture loop.

9/24/2012 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"... points out that every great rock artist has a certain distinct and unique timbre that lets you know in an instant that you are listening to them and no one else.”

(whack... Whack... Whack) "Timbre!!!"

A sound is definitely heard in the forest.

9/24/2012 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

"..do tonedeaf atheists have a point when they say there is no evidence of God,.."
No. Testimony is received as evidence in court, yet most won't except it.

"and that if there were such evidence, then they would be believers?"

Extraordinary evidence is what they usually ask for.
I believe I could bear witness to the word made flesh, but am clueless how to present it.

Or, maybe I'm crazy

9/25/2012 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

I wish Mrs miller did
this!
MB's words rule...
he was the greatest
since Blake

i partied highly one weekend with the backup singers = maje claimtofame

9/25/2012 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"...and yet without the meat and potatoes of the content of your works, people like me would nothing to doodle with as a side note, nor the flourish to decorate (in colour) your words. I'm merely a Monk transcribing the contents of your works, Bob (along with a bit of input from my own experience) - hopefully I leave none of the profane the age old monks would do out of mischief. :)"

I prefer UF to Bob, but Bob's still blogging

Although without significant amount of prior observation and thought, UF would have been worse than useless.

I'm more Christian than I am anything else.

Although I stared out as a scientific materialist, which means that stardard atheist arguments don't impact me at all.

I don't even engage them because they don't matter. They are completely irrelevant to me.

They've already failed, experimentally, for me.

9/25/2012 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

MB's words rule...
he was the greatest
since Blake


Some of those drugs we did back in the Day were really, really good. ;)

9/25/2012 08:45:00 AM  

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