What Man Really Wants: An Ecstatic Adventure
Okay, but exactly "where" are we going on this adventure? In general, I would suggest we are venturing beyond ourselves in order to discover ourselves; or, sometimes we venture inside ourselves in order to move beyond ourselves, as in psychotherapy (or any other form of disciplined introspection).
Both movements are necessary in order to avoid a certain circularity in one's movements. In other words, if you don't know what's going on inside, you're liable to just discover it outside, via projection. And if you don't know what's going on outside, you are vulnerable to remaining in a pseudo-omniscient fantasy world. You know, a liberal.
As to where the movement leads, Hart writes that "all knowledge involves an adventure of the mind beyond itself."
Thus, we could say that knowledge involves an adventure in truth. The same applies to other transcendentals, e.g., love, beauty, creativity, unity, virtue, etc. Orient yourself toward any one of these, and you are in for a lifetime adventure. But orienting to one is orienting to all, so these ultimately represent different paths on the same adventure.
Small-r rationalists can't help wondering what the payoff is in religion. It is this sense of adventure, which is in turn wrapped up with the ananda-bliss described by Hart. Our transcendent desire (↑) is teleologically oriented "toward an end, real or imagined, that draws it on." This draw is quite real (and universally recognized), and it is impossible to understand religious phenomena in its absence.
As we said yesterday, even the atheist is involved in the same passionate pursuit of nonlocal truth, except his end is imaginary, not real. One quick way to know it isn't real is if it is possible to reach it, for if God doesn't exist, it follows that you aren't him.
In order to avoid saturation and to facilitate experience, I like to call this divine draw, or lure, O, i.e., the Great Attractor. O is the answer to the following series of questions posed by Hart:
"What is it that the mind desires, then, or even that the mind loves, when it is moved to seek the ideality of things, the intelligibility of experience as a whole? What continues to compel thought onward, whether or not the mind happens at any given moment to have some attachment to the immediate objects of experience? What is the horizon of that limitless directedness of consciousness that allows the mind to define the limits of the world it knows?"
Shut your mouth!
But I'm talkin' about O!
Then we can dig it!
One little area where I might deviate from Hart is where he says that this represents a "longing for an ultimate abstraction." I think rather that this is a longing for the ultimate concretion, a la Whitehead and Hartshorne. As with subject-object, we may think of abstract and concrete as ultimate complementarities. But of the two, which is the more inclusive? One might be tempted to say the abstract, but for Hartshorne it is the concrete.
It seems to me that this follows Aristotle's tweaking of Platonism, whereby there is no abstract and disembodied realm of ideal forms or archetypes. Rather, form and substance are always found together.
Just so, everywhere we look, the abstract is in the concrete, hence the total intelligibility of the world. And I should think that Jesus represents the Last Word of this point of view, i.e., the ultimate abstract within the concrete.
Furthermore, to say that God is "concrete" is to say he is found in us. If not us, then where? Is not the whole point of the Adventure to "concretize" more of the Creator in the creation? Or is it to just to be aware that there exists this ultimate abstract concept?
In any event, Hart identifies man's flight beyond himself with ecstasy. If we consider the literal meaning of the word, it essentially means to be outside oneself -- or, to put it colloquially, to be "beside oneself" with joy, or bliss, or enthusiasm, or exaltation. Thus, in a way, experience as such is always "ecstatic," because it carries us outside ourselves:
"in all experience there is a movement of the self beyond the self, an ecstasy -- a 'standing forth' -- of the mind, directed toward an end that resides nowhere within physical nature as a closed system of causes and effects. All rational experience and all knowledge is a kind of rapture, prompted by a longing that cannot be exhausted by any finite object" (ibid.).
I ask you: what would life be in the absence of this ecstasy?
Matter, that's what, for Life is already an audacious movement of matter beyond itself, is it not?
And what is Mind but the movement of life beyond the closed circle of biology, into a "new" transcendent world of meaning, truth, love, beauty, etc.? Thus, just as there is a biosphere, there is a psychosphere and a pneumosphere.
Which goes to the "third thing" I never got to in yesterday's post. The third occasion for wonder is that these latter two realms (Mind and Spirit) should exist at all. In other words, it is one thing for an animal to be naturally selected based upon its adaptation to the physical world.
But in human beings, we have a creature who is adapted to higher, nonlocal, transcendent worlds. The most shocking thing is that these worlds are not "empty" or devoid of content. It very much reminds me of how the physical eye was "discovered" via a number of separate biological lines -- as if lured there by some nonlocal end.
Just so, once man entered this nonlocal space -- well, for one thing, this is precisely when man becomes man (in the vertical sense), for humanness is the state of being in contact with the transcendent object. I attempted to depict this reality in pp. 86-93 of the Coonifesto, as in
The boundary of life did not end with its own precarious little dance along the precipice of non-being.... Crossing that radiant upper threshold, we are witness to another startling explosion -- or perhaps implosion -- this time into a subjective space that was somehow awaiting the primate brains that had to learn to navigate, colonize, and eventually master it.... This third singularity was was an implosion into a transdimensional subjective space refracted through the unlikely lens of a primate brain.
Or, just say the flesh became -- or becomes -- word, and that this becoming is the essence of the Adventure.
To be continued...