Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sniffing Out God

We're still trying to figure out why religion, which once spoke to everyone in a direct and intimate way, no longer does so, at least in the *advanced* world. But in what ways are we advanced? I'm not someone who denies progress, but it seems that advances in one area are often accompanied by declines in another.

I know. Brilliant observation.

Part of this may have to do with limitations on human bandwidth. For example, our olfactory capabilities, which were once presumably as acute as any other average mammal, have been displaced by other modalities. More generally, it seems that the advanced shoves aside the primitive -- although the pattern can be reversed, as indicated, for example, by sightless people who compensate with touch.

But if psychoanalysis teaches us anything, it shows that man is always one in body and mind, or unconscious and conscious. Should these two become too divided, so that communication between them is stifled, then pathology arises, because the left brain has no idea what the right brain is doing, or the neocortex is out of the limbic loop.

This same wholeness is emphasized in orthodox Christianity, what with the intrinsic unity of body, mind, and soul -- or soma, psyche, and pneuma. To lose contact with any one of these is to live an impoverished life.

We all know about horizontal amputations, but to live without awareness of soul and spirit is to exist in a state of vertical amputation. There are millions of near-people who have been victimized by pneumectomies. They are the legions of walking dead -- of psychic zombies and spiritually autistic flatlanders.

The infrahumans like to flatter themselves with the cliche that Christians despise and reject the soma, but this could never be the orthodox view, unless the Incarnation means nothing to you. Indeed, I think this is why, for example, Catholics have better sex. It makes perfect sense in a context that emphasizes the unity of body, mind, and spirit. You might say there's more to love.

(The inverse mirror of this would be the attempt to elevate sex itself to some sort of liberating spiritual principle, which apparently ends in Miley Cyrus, or maybe I just can't imagine anything lower.)

Marriage itself is a higher spiritual unity, so it is no surprise whatsoever that the left is and always will be anti-marriage and anti-family. First of all, they don't want anything getting between their spiritual eunuchs and the state. The left has always understood that loyalty to other human beings -- both local and nonlocal -- poses a fundamental threat to its power. Thus, Obama's archetypal "Julia" and her lifetime commitment to Mr. Perfect, Leviathan.

Back to our original question, which touches on the inept marketing of religion. For Voegelin, much of the problem revolves around the loss of experience -- or even the loss of capacity for experience, similar to how most of us have lost our ability to smell a wild boar from a mile away.

Thus, in some way, this alienation from oursoph needs to be reversed, so we may recover experience "as against doctrine." Along these lines, Voegelin speaks of the need for a "restoration of mystical experience and its reality."

This modality quintessentially involves participation. There is no mysticism by proxy, no second-hand unity with God. Fundamentally it is no different than the truism that it is impossible to imagine the consciousness of a bat.

Likewise, it is not possible for the atheist to understand a mystic without reducing the experience to something it is not. Me? I mostly just enjoy the crumbs. But I don't deny that there's a cake.

There are many vivid accounts of mystical experience, but some of my favorites are from Henri LeSaux/Abhishiktananda, the priest-swami highbrid. In one of his letters, he observes that:

"It is fantastic, this Light which empties, annihilates, fulfills you; and how true the Upanishads are! But to discover them is a mortal blow, because you only discover them in yourself, on the other side of death!"

So, how is the be-nighted atheist supposed to confirm or refute such a statement about the light of be-ing? He doesn't. He just insists that the bat's -- or b'atman's -- consciousness is no different from his own consciousness, and reveals nothing inaccessible to it.

"The mystery of Christ and of the Father is beyond words, more even than that of the atman, the Spirit. You can only speak of it in parables, and the meaning of the parable is beyond the words used. No word [can give] you the experience of the word of the not-born."

More orthoparadox: "[W]hat is important are these 'flashes,' the lightning, the bursts of light, the break-throughs which open the abyss -- not a gulf which would separate, but the abyss of yourself.... The saving name of Christ is I AM. And the deep confession of faith is no longer the external 'Christ is Lord,' but I am he. The Father in relation to the Son -- to me -- to all.... everything is a mystery of the face-to-face and the within" (emphasis mine).

And "The blazing fire of this experience leaves nothing behind; the awakening is a total explosion."

That would be the fourth big bang, after matter, life, and mind.


Blogger julie said...

Along these lines, Voegelin speaks of the need for a "restoration of mystical experience and its reality."

Yes, I think he's right. Just as you can't learn to swim if you've never entered - or even seen - a body of water bigger than, say, a paddling pool.

In that, I think, the science of the mind (both in the biological and psychological senses) has done the experience of mysticism a grave disservice. Too many people believe that the mind can be explained in concrete terms, and that because it can be explained, there is no longer any such thing as mysticism.

8/27/2013 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bold post for a one-armed Gag Dad.

8/27/2013 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Fill your chainsaw, you son of a photonia!

8/27/2013 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Crud, I misspelled photinia.

8/27/2013 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Speaking of Miley Cyrus, I was thinking about her while I was running the trimmer last night. You guys know my wife makes me trim out under the front fence which is just shy of a quarter mile, not counting around the pond and the berms. I get to think about a lot of stuff. Anyway, I decided that every time I saw or heard her name, I would pray for her. She's not my granddaughter, but she's a little like my granddaughters might be if their parents were mulleted idiots.

8/27/2013 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thus, Obama's archetypal "Julia" and her lifetime commitment to Mr. Perfect, Leviathan.

That reminds me of the "Sweet Lorraine" video vanderleun put up. The devotion of a man like Fred is what these so-called feminists trade for Mr. Left and Leviathan. I wonder if they think it's really worth it.

8/27/2013 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good piece by Taranto on the left's three-pronged addiction to racism. In a way, their unholy trinity of political, emotional, and ideological needs is a perverse echo of body, mind, and spirit.

8/27/2013 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, re. Billy Ray, lol. And agreed about Miley; I found myself praying for her last night, too. If that performance wasn't a cry for help, I don't know what is. Listening to the lyrics of her song, I was both saddened and unsurprised to learn that what amounts to the rantings of a spoiled toddler ("I do what I want!!") is apparently a number one hit, though yesterday was the first time I have heard it. Signing your kid up to be the next big Disney star ought to be grounds for charges of child abuse.

Re. "Sweet Lorraine," that was so beautiful it hurt the heart.

8/27/2013 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Along these lines, Voegelin speaks of the need for a "restoration of mystical experience and its reality." This modality quintessentially involves participation. There is no mysticism by proxy, no second-hand unity with God.

Yeah, that.

I'd be happy just to get to smell the cake.

8/27/2013 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Progress = Emotiva Audio Products
Accompanied Decline = Listening to Miley Cyrus on it.

8/27/2013 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm a little bummed that I bought an XPA-2 just before they introduced the second generation version. Nevertheless, I love the one I have.

8/27/2013 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of mind, this is kind of interesting. I knew of course that there's a strong connection between the gut and the brain, but I had no idea there are actually neurons in there.

8/27/2013 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of the mystical experiences, at Ace's tonight there's a link to an apropos article about CS Lewis:

"C.S. Lewis often talks about the 'longing' attached to this joy. If you’ve felt it, you know what he’s talking about… that ache that is both sweet and painful, that homesickness for a place you can’t remember; that desire for a relationship you don’t recall; a yearning that responds to a call you can’t hear, but which nevertheless vibrates within you with a realness and vividness that trumps all of your other so called 'logical' experiences. Sometimes you get it at the end of a particularly vivid dream; or when a sudden pang of happy grief hits you that makes you want to cry in the middle of a crowd; or when you encounter an inexplicably beautiful song, or painting, or passage of literature that speaks to the most soulful part of you."

8/27/2013 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

"But to discover them is a mortal blow, because you only discover them in yourself, on the other side of death!" "The blazing fire of this experience leaves nothing behind; the awakening is a total explosion."

wellsir that's as passable a defintion of Gnosis as one might aks for, and a Gnostic would thus be one so bless-quainted

8/27/2013 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This piece, linked at Ace of Spades, is a fine illustration of Bad Gnosis. Can't think of any element it leaves out.

8/28/2013 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - I saw that headline in Ace's sidebar, and assumed it was an Onion piece "written" by Obama...

8/28/2013 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

But reading it, yeah... You can just picture the author rocking himself and muttering, "The Matrix was a documentary!"

8/28/2013 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Julie, thank you for the link. I completely relate to that feeling. It's still very mysterious but deeply compelling. So glad you posted it.

8/28/2013 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Leslie, I'm glad you enjoyed that. I'm still very slowly making my way through Schuon's letters, and just now came across a poem of his that is also relevant here. It begins:

1. I am ready, I am ready! O my secret, and my trust! I am ready, I am ready! O my goal, and my meaning!
2. I call Thee, but it is Thou Who callest me to Thee! How could I have invoked “it is Thou” (Koran 1,4), hadst Thou not whispered to me “t’is I”?
3. O essence of the essence of my existence, O final end of my intention, O Thou my elocution, and my enunciations, and my stammerings!
4. O all of my all, O my hearing and my sight, O my totality, my composition and my parts!
5. O all of my all, but the all of an all is an enigma, and it is the all of Thy all that I becloud in wishing to express it!
6. O Thou to whom my spirit clung, already dying of ecstasy, Thou art become its trust in my distress!
7. I weep in sorrow, severed from my homeland, out of obedience, and my enemies facilitate my lamentations!
8. If I come close, may my fear preserve the distance, and I tremble with a yearning that grips my innermost core.

8/28/2013 08:04:00 PM  

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