Thursday, October 04, 2012

Banging the Boards with Your Cosmic Big Man

As children develop, it is as if certain neurological windows open for the purpose of imprinting various things, e.g., speech, attachment, basic trust, etc.

For example, when the language window is open, children learn to speak with the greatest of ease. After it closes, it becomes much more of a challenge. My kid picks up Mandarin as easily as I forget what happened yesterday.

I wonder if something similar occurs with the collective? I was thinking about the so-called axial age, when so many of the world's major revelations were downloaded. Was there something analogous to a historo-developmental window that made such divine-human communication more fluid and "present"? It would certainly explain a lot.

Voegelin notes that the Pentateuch starts to be assembled and organized by the sixth century "and is substantially completed in the first half of the fourth century B.C." Additional scripture is downloaded later, and debates about what to include and exclude are wrapped up by the second century A.D. You might say that the revelational window has closed.

How do we know when revelation is occurring, how long it is going on, and when it ends? Whatever the case may be, "By a remarkable feat of mythical imagination," a testament is assembled "against the pressure of competing wisdoms," with the purpose of revealing "once and for all the mystery of divine creativity in the cosmos as well as man's existence in society and history" (Voegelin). Well played!

It seems to me that this is something one couldn't do if one were "trying," and perhaps that provides an insight into why such a thing couldn't occur today.

As alluded to at the top, who but a child is able to be so empty and fluid as to effortlessly download language? Who but a child can listen so well, without even trying? Perhaps it's the same with premodern man, whose mind must have been so uncluttered compared to ours.

It reminds me of something the great Chick Hearn once said about a certain beast of a power forward, maybe Karl Malone: "He's got muscles in places I don't even have places!"

Similarly, modern man has thoughts and ideas and concepts and lies and trivia in places premodern men didn't even have places. The mind must have been like a beautiful and expansive clear blue sky (so long as the person wasn't overrun by mind parasites).

Become as children. Interesting word, become. It means to come into being. You wouldn't say be a child, much less regress to childhood. To become implies bringing something new into existence, not reverting to a previous stage. A child is a person to whom one gives birth.

Back to scripture. Again, it is impossible to believe that anyone -- and certainly no committee! -- could be creative enough to pull it off. Indeed, it reminds me of dreaming, which we all surely do, but which none of us can consciously produce. Sure, we can be creative, but imagine being able to close your eyes and enter a world as vivid and seemingly real as dreams are. Can't do it. Although I do wonder about someone like Shakespeare, or someone like Mozart vis-a-vis musical worlds.

At any rate, Voegelin agrees that this business of scripture can't simply be "dismissed as clever invention," because no one is that clever. Indeed think of someone like L. Ron Hubbard, who thought he was clever enough to invent a religion. The best he can manage is bad but very expensive science fiction.

Nor could a manmade invention "remain historically effective for two thousand years," much less "mobilize the experience of the comprehensive, prepersonal reality breaking forth into self-illuminating truth." Who can do that? I would say that truly great works of art do something similar, but only by way of pale analogy.

Note the fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity. The former revolves around laws which are disclosed to the collective. The collective attempts to discern and comport with the law in order to become "divinized," so to speak. In other words, by following God's will, the group will manifest some of the sanctity and holiness that emanate from the divine reality.

With Christianity the accent shifts to the individual, or in my opinion to an individuality that could only have been incubated in the prior Judaic matrix (which means womb). It is fair to say that subsequent to the appearance of Christ, the Church stands for both the Virgin and for Israel, as a kind of saint-making -- or sanctity enabling -- thingummy. A womb, as it were... So yes, do vote with your lady parts.

What I mean is that the earthly measure of a revelation and tradition is its saint-making capacity. With reference again to L. Ron, we know Scientology isn't a real religion because it never has and never will product a saint, and the only sanctity in it is transparently phony. It's a womb alright -- for idiots and psychopaths.

So with the appearance of Christ we have this new insight of "the universal presence of divine reality as the source of illumination in every man." In other words, the shift is from law to light, and collective to individual. (And of course, the same shift may be seen in esoteric Judaism, i.e., Kabbalah, if I am not mishuggen.)

Recall what was said above about the divinization of the community. In Christ we have the full instantiation, the maximal presence, of divinity in the individual, in a way that man can never achieve on his own, irrespective of how much effort he puts into it, or how hard he pulls on his own buddhastraps. So the appearance of Christ is good news / bad news.

The bad news? He has muscles in places you don't have places.

The good news? "by responding to this maximal fullness through faith," men may "achieve the fullness of their own existence" (Voegelin).

Out of time. As always, I apologize in advance to our Jewish friends for misunderstanding / misrepresenting / misconscrewing up anything. I'm just winging it, in case no one's noticed.

11 Comments:

Blogger JP said...

"I wonder if something similar occurs with the collective? I was thinking about the so-called axial age, when so many of the world's major revelations were downloaded. Was there something analogous to a historo-developmental window that made such divine-human communication more fluid and "present"? It would certainly explain a lot."

Yes.

This is how culture works.

In fact, Mike Alexander (he's at least Catholic) did a review on "spiritual events" and noted that they do seem to cluster around the 80 year points, although this was from the point of view of the long wave.

When you have the standard once a century ones, you get an "Awakening". See the Great Awakenings for details.

When you have a really big one of these, you get the birth of High Culture.

I can't tell you anything beyond about 1,300 year periods because we simply haven't had enough of them.

And the reason that it feels like we haven't had one in a while, and why UF says that we are becoming more ridgid it's precisely because we *are* temporarily far from them.

He's absolutely right.

However, I expect another one.

The bad news is that I'll probably be long dead when it happens.

Now, what Mike Alexander *didn't* find was a cluster of Saints.

Which means that Sainthood is an individual pursuit.

The Awakenings are collective.

10/04/2012 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

With Christianity the accent shifts to the individual, or in my opinion to an individuality that could only have been incubated in the prior Judaic matrix (which means womb). It is fair to say that subsequent to the appearance of Christ, the Church stands for both the Virgin and for Israel, as a kind of saint-making -- or sanctity enabling -- thingummy.

Yes, this is a powerful insight. Israel is depicted as God's bride often in the Prophets. Mary is the individual manifestation of this, the business end of the history funnel from which God comes forth.

And I also agree that it makes sense to see development stages in a religion. Islam is having a little trouble with potty training.

10/04/2012 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes -- as we used to tell our three year-old: use your words!

10/04/2012 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of toddlers and words, ours is going through a verbal growth spurt. It's amazing, but as a parent it also makes me a little sad because once he figures out the right way to say something, he won't go back to the old way. For instance, "shap-po," which was a catchall word for football, baseball, basketball, or any game involving a ball, has abruptly been replaced by the correct words (which also means he's broadening his understanding from categories to specifics). Anyway, at present listening to him talk is like listening to a Japanese game show - mostly unintelligible, but peppered with recognizable sounds. All too quickly, the categories are being filled in...

10/04/2012 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That's true. I don't remember it with the kids so much but with my oldest granddaughter, I wrote down a lot of the oddball things she said.

"Keylosher" meant leash and/or collar for her dog.

You don't want them to stay little, but you wish there was a better way to hang onto who they are.

10/04/2012 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

SInce you so kindly asked:

"Note the fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity. The former revolves around laws which are disclosed to the collective. The collective attempts to discern and comport with the law in order to become "divinized," so to speak. In other words, by following God's will, the group will manifest some of the sanctity and holiness that emanate from the divine reality."

I think that your point is bit overstated (and I understand that you are winging it, but not "just" winging it as you modestly claim).

The grammatical form of the majority of the enjoinments is 2nd person singular; some of them certainly require the participation of an entire nation, but most of them are intended for individual performance. The enjoinments are a manifestation of the dyadic "Ich und Du" communication between an individual human being and an Infinite Creator Who also has individuality, and in fact Who is understood to be a Unique One-ness.

The disclosure of the enjoinments to the entire group is however of great importance. Note that even details of the Priests' performances in the Tabernacle/Temple are publicly disclosed.

This public expression of enjoinments to the individual allows for accountability. The individual cannot claim that the Creator has given him a unique and idiosyncratic set of commandments, even though the commandments are certainly unique in the context of the Creator's unique relationship with each unique individual.

Moreover, many of the enjoinments condition behavior between individuals, side by side and facing the Creator.

There are two parallel creation stories in the beginning chapters of the Bible - the second version makes it clear that all potential human consciousness, and all potential humanity, was created in a single Individual (the Kabbalists' Adam Kadmon). There is a lesson there about the importance of each and every individual.

And that includes individuals of every nation. In this season in which sacrifices were offered in the Temple for each and every one of the 70 primordial nations.

10/04/2012 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Julie the kid was saying:
chapeau
hat!

10/04/2012 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

:)

Mushroom, exactly. We've tried to get video of him talking, but he tends to get too distracted by the camera. As soon as he spots it, he wants to see what's on it.

10/04/2012 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Off topic, holy cow! That Wodehouse book is selling new for $100. Does it come with its own Jeeves?

10/04/2012 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gandalin:

If I understand myself correctly, I was mainly referring to the idea of the covenant with a group as opposed to the individual. But more generally, I was thinking of the gradual emergence of individuality from the group matrix, which I believe occurs in both Christianity and Judaism. This may be oversimplifying, but it seems to me that Christianity -- or let's say the appeal of Christianity, since we're talking anthropology -- was one iteration of this trend, while rabbinic Judaism was another. Each speaks in its own way to the person rather than the group.

10/05/2012 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your response. No dissent from the notion that both the Jewish tradition and Christianity experience in somewhat different ways both the individual and the group, and the experiences of individuals and of groups.

Good Shabbos and a blessed Sunday to you.

G.

10/05/2012 07:21:00 AM  

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