Friday, December 07, 2012

Mystery and How it Gets that Way

"Our minds remain finite," writes Sheed, "and so can never wholly contain the infinite."

But this hardly means the infinite is completely unthinkable. Rather, the interpenetration of finite and infinite "accounts for the existence of what we call Mysteries in religion." Mystery is a term of art, not an evasion, much less an unseemly case of furiously deepaking one's chopra in public.

The Raccoon Glishary defines mystery as an orthoparadox, which, translated literally, means "straight-up freaky."

It is analogous to the complementarity principle in quantum physics. When the human mind attempts to visualize the quantum world, an irreducible paradox results in the form of a wave of vacuous new age books that nevertheless sell much better than mine.

Now, just because the quantum world is paradoxical, it doesn't mean you can't know anything about it. To put it inversely, if there is no Absolute, then man's stupidity is infinite, and I couldn't have sold even one copy.

A Mystery is not like "a high wall that we can neither see over nor get around," but rather, more like "a gallery into which we can progress deeper and deeper, though we can never reach the end -- yet every step of our progress is immeasurably satisfying."

Can we get an I-witness?

A Mystery is not a Keep Out! sign but "an invitation to the mind." There is an intrinsic attraction to them -- a subjective correlate to our being in the presence of the Great Attractor -- signaling our proximity to "an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind may drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind's thirst."

(This goes directly to the transfinite and hyperdimensional "religious sense" we will soon be discussing, I'll bet.)

You know the wise crack, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink," and then "out of your heart will flow rivers of living water." Can we get a wetness? You bet! Especially those of you in the first few rows.

Again, as with the complementarity principle -- which is much more generalized than the average person realizes -- "any given Mystery resolves itself (for our minds, of course, not in its own reality) into two truths which which we cannot see how to reconcile."

Example?

Oh, I can think of any number of orthoparadoxes that arise just from the human condition, in which we are material animals with immaterial spirits.

Well, which one is it then? Animal or spirit? Christianity has always insisted that it is both. Indeed, this may be traced all the way back to Genesis, in which man is a lump of clay in-spired by the Breath of Life.

Any attempt to resolve this orthoparadox -- say, by insisting that man is fundamentally no different from any other animal -- results in a spiritual catastrophe.

At the other extreme is the attempt to "be as God," but the result is the same because the one reduces to the other. In other words, if there is no God, then man is Him, and vice versa.

Or think of how we have an essence that is nevertheless deployed in time, so that our being paradoxically "becomes," and the point of life is to become who you already are.

More generally, I think a bonedry conundrum can be elevated to a thirst-quenching Mystery if we merely invert the cosmos, and put it back right-side up.

If we truly understand that the cosmos is a tree with its nonlocal roots aloft and convenient local branches down below, we suddenly find ourselves "inside" the mystery, instead of being on the outside looking in, or just another prick in the wall.

Sheed mentions several religious mysteries, such as how it is that One can be Three, and vice versa; how Christ can have two natures in one person, or be all God and all man; or how we can possess free will in the face of divine omniscience. One could cite countless others.

I remember a discussion with a distant family member when I was working on my book. Now that I think about it, this was almost exactly eleven years ago, in early 2001. Seems like another lifetome!

Although he was a good-natured, rank-and-file flatlander with no religious instruction, he surprised me, in that he immediately "got" some of the more esoteric and orthoparadoxical elements of the book, and why they had to be that way -- for example, the continuity/discontinuity of the chapters, the inspiraling circularity, and most especially the inability of normal cutandry & wideawake language to contain the Mystery.

I remember explaining to him that the "ultimate answer" was analogous to pi, which he again fully appreciated (probably because he was unburdened by preconceptions, whether scientistic or religious).

Pi is quite definitely and unambiguously the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. And yet, it is irreducibly ambiguous and "transmeasurable," so to speak. It's not that you can't measure it, rather, that you can measure it forever without ever reaching

the end

(all quoted material from Theology and Sanity)

19 Comments:

Blogger Van Harvey said...

" It is analogous to the complementarity principle in quantum physics. When the human mind attempts to visualize the quantum world, an irreducible paradox results in the form of a stream of vacuous new age books that nevertheless sell much better than mine."

;-) Baffling indeed.

12/07/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You know the wise crack, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink," and then "out of your heart will flow rivers of living water." Can we get a wetness? You bet! Especially those of you in the first few rows.

Like a Gallagher concert.

Some seem to recoil from the Mystery as if they had gotten too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Others dive right in.

12/07/2012 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of religious sense, thanks for the raccoomendation. The place I'm at now strikes me as something Walt would enjoy. Anybody heard from him lately?

Also, thanks for the movie recommendation from last night. I watched it this afternoon; it really is gorgeous.

12/07/2012 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

[OT silvousplait] Gotta love a quote like this:
"Maybe one day soon, everyone — gay, straight or bi, male, female or trans — will be given equal opportunity to beat the crap out of one another."
UFC signs its 1st mixed martial arts girlfight for Feb.: straight & cute Olympic jiujitsu winner Ronda Rousey [who is expert at armbars/elbow-breaking] vs a lesbian ex-Marine Liz Carmouche!
OW!

12/07/2012 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

File under Days of Miracles and Wonders.

Are you familiar with all this new research suggesting that exercise cuts two ways, and that it is possible to get too much of a good thing? One of the most provocative findings is that if you just walk the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day, you get all of the benefits of any amount of exercise.

For a number of reasons I won't get into, this makes a lot of sense to me. I've never missed a daily workout since 1977, but I've probably been doing more than necessary. SLACK being the Law of the Cosmos, I naturally want the minimum effective dose of exercise.

So I bought me a digital pedometer, which I've been using for the last week, and it's really fun. You'd be amazed how many steps you take during the day just from being alive. Also, just being conscious of wearing the thing, you probably add a couple thousand steps a day. So I've been logging 12,000/day. Make a great little stocking-stuffer for the exercise-averse person in your life...

(BTW, that particular model has more features then the most popular one, but is somehow less expensive on Amazon. Any time you can beat the System, you've added to your slack.)

12/08/2012 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That looks interesting. I wouldn't call myself "exercise averse," but having two little ones makes it tough to stick to any formal routine. On the other hand, of course, chasing them around all day has to count for something; it would be nice to know how much...

12/08/2012 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm at 2,000 by the time Tristan leaves for school, so I'll bet you're close to 10,000 just by existing.

12/08/2012 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The other thing I want to get is a stand-up desk. Another part of the new research is that sitting is a killer.

12/08/2012 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

... so if I get a weighted vest, I can do calisthenics and verticalisthenics at the same time.

12/08/2012 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

yeah bob that standing desk action seems hip...i even took to try book reading while standing or strolling a bit.
scrunched scrote and unflexed glutes over long stretches do seem pretty darn un-natch ---& screw long car-sits = much of the reason i loved carless walkaround NYC

12/08/2012 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

A Mystery is not like "a high wall that we can neither see over nor get around," but rather, more like "a gallery into which we can progress deeper and deeper, though we can never reach the end -- yet every step of our progress is immeasurably satisfying."

Can we get an I-witness?"

Aye I!
It's like all you can eat baby back ribs, smoked to perfection.
Sure, you can't possibly eat them all, or drink all the beer in the cosmos, but it's immeasurably satisfying to try.

Thanks for the odometer recommendation. Looks good.


12/08/2012 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, is it possible to be OT around here?
Thusly:

Watched Cool Hand Luke last night. Boy said they studied it in Lord Nelson's class (aka Mr Nelson's English class) in High School. Boy said it was packed with symbolism (ata Boy).
Well, he was right. It is based on a book that was written after the book OFOTCN, but the movie Cool Hand Luke came out before the movie OFOTCN. They are remarkably similar. Have we mentioned that here? A quick blooger search of OC says no.

12/09/2012 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I've never actually seen it all the way through, just bits & pieces while flipping.

12/09/2012 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

After the mirrorcle of the fifty eggs:

no accident

12/09/2012 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

Benedict was on topic (i.e., the Mystery)in this recent audience:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20121121_en.html

12/09/2012 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The complementarity principle is not the only quantum mechanical idea that has metaphorical punch. I've always been enamored of quantum tunneling as a metaphor for how the horizontal and vertical worlds might interact. In quantum tunneling a particle can occasionally appear on the other side of a barrier that would be impossible to cross in the classical world-view.

12/10/2012 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

Of course the real mystery is how anyone could possibly subscribe to Christianity in this time and place. Especially if they have really done their homework. Which is to say that anyone who seriously studies the modern Western intellectual, philosophical, and more importantly Spiritually informed critiques of conventional religion, will inevitably find (if they are at all honest) that there is no basis in Reality for any of the conventional religious presumptions and ideas.

At last, and inevitably, the ancient exoteric rulerships have failed, and "official" exoteric Christianity, along with all the other "great" world-religions of merely exoteric religion-power, is now reduced to all the impenetrable illusions and decadent exercises that everywhere characterize previously privileged aristocracies in their decline from worldly power. Now exoteric Christianity has been self-reduced to a chaos of market share seeking corporate cults of Barnumesque propagandists that rule nothing more than chaotic herds of self deluded consumerist religionists in the market-place of whats-in-it-for-me consumerist religion.

The pope is of course the most obvious Barnumesque propagandist. And everyone is involved in whats-in-it-for-me self-serving religiosity, without exception.

Therefore, the myth of the cultural superiority of "offioial" Christianity has now come full circle. The religious mythologies of the Semitic "great" world-religions are not only now waging global wars with one another (like so many psychotic inmates of asylums for the mad, each confronting the other with exclusive claims of personal absoluteness), but the public masses of religion-bound people - who, all over the world, for even thousands of yeras, have been manipulated and controlled in body and mind by ancient institutions of religiously propagandized worldly power - are now in a globalized state of grossly-bound religious delusion and social psychosis.

12/10/2012 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Which is to say that anyone who seriously studies the modern Western intellectual, philosophical, and more importantly Spiritually informed critiques of conventional religion, will inevitably find (if they are at all honest) that there is no basis in Reality for any of the conventional religious presumptions and ideas.


Oh? Do go on. Who have you seriously studied? Sources, please. These are grave charges; you're saying that all of the holy minds that have been studied here are flat-out wrong, and that's the sort of indictment that requires a heavy amount of analysis.

If there is no basis in reality for any conventional religious presumptions and ideas, how would we know?

And lastly, who is your dealer, and didn't he tell you it's a good idea to exhale on occasion?

12/10/2012 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

Good questions! Enough Frothing, Frederick! Where's the Beer???

12/11/2012 08:23:00 AM  

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