Friday, February 22, 2013

It Takes a Cosmos to Raise a Smile

While on the subject of I, AM, and the link between the two, I'd like to discuss Scruton's The Face of God. It's a short book, containing the published version of his Gifford Lectures of 2010.

If you're not familiar with them, the Gifford Lectures were the deathwish brainchild of the Scottish Lord Gifford (1820-1887), established and endowed for the purpose of promoting and propagating "the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term -- in other words, the knowledge of God." The quality of these lectures is often quite high, and draws big brains from many disciplines, and thus comports well with our own multi-undisciplinary approach.

Among others, I've read those by Royce, Gilson, James, Eddington, Heisenberg, Dawson, Toynbee, Barbour, Dyson, Eccles, Polkinghorne, Rolston, Taylor, and, of course Jaki, Polanyi and Whitehead, all of whom are recurring characters on the One Cosmos blog. Again, these are folks who are attempting to think across disciplines, so many of them are pione'er-do-well Raccoons.

I haven't read a lot of the more recent ones, but one can't help thinking the quality has declined in recent years, what with dubious choices such as Said, Chomsky, Dawkins, and Carl Sagan. I mean, Edward Said? Makes one wonder what you have to do to not be invited.

Anyway, Scruton's meditation on the human face touches on a number of our pet bobsessions, including how the I comes to BE. In Psychogenesis we put forth an anthropological fairy tale that attempts to account for the sudden and unexpected ingression of the I AM into our biosphere -- i.e., how Mind emerges from Life -- and in my opinion, it must have occurred the same way then (say, 100,000 years ago) that it does today.

That is to say, we cannot begin with the fully formed adult, because by then it's too late. Rather, self-conscious subjectivity must be teased from the Stone Age infant in the intersubjective space between an incomplete, plastic, and "open" neurology and its loving caretakers. We are only individuals because we are members of one another. There is no other way. We are trinitarian right down to the Ground.

When we speak of the "knowability" of the cosmos, we must begin with the Face, for it is the first thing we know (and which knows us, for the one perspective depends upon its complementary other). Upon leaving the cozy confines of the womb, we are greeted by "one great blooming, buzzing confusion," in William James' famous description. The mother's face truly stands out like a lighthouse amidst the confusion, and we come into the world ready to be oriented to it.

Now, there was a time, not too long ago, when the world was regarded by philosophers as an orderly cosmos overseen by God. By way of analogy, we are all infants in this blooming, buzzing confusion we call life. But man could make sense of it with reference to a transcendent and benevolent Face looking down on -- and from within -- the proceedings.

Although nothing has occurred with the scientific revolution to cause us to doubt the deep order of being, it has nevertheless been accompanied by a kind of adolescent rebellion against the Orderer. This occurs at predictable points in human development, in particular, during the separation-individuation of early childhood, and then again with adolescence. But in reality, it is a recurring motif -- and temptation -- that shadows us as long as we live, because of our irreducible intersubjectivity. No one is ever alone and human, but some people want to be.

Now, what is a face? The key point is that it is a whole -- an integration of particulars that discloses an interior/subjective horizon. There are actually two important principles at work here, wholeness and interiority, but I believe these are necessary consequences of each other.

For example, no one "assembles" a face from its parts -- eyes, nose, lips, etc. -- and concludes that this is indeed a face we're dealing with. Rather, we always first see the whole.

Moreover, this whole always has something "behind" or "inside" it: the animating subject. The expressions of the face have a transcendent cause, and "science cannot, in the nature of things, trace an empirical event to a transcendent cause" (Scruton).

Thus, when we say we look "into" a face, this is precisely what we mean. The face is our first clue that the world does not consist of appearances only, but that there is a mysterious depth beneath the surface of things.

Autism, in whatever form it takes (e.g., intellectual, emotional, religious, moral, or aesthetic) is precisely the inability to apprehend the subjective depth in things. Just as there are people who are colorblind or tone deaf, there are prosopagnosiacs who cannot see faces. And yet, they obviously see the exact same thing anyone else is seeing. Rather, they just can't put it all together and see the inside.

Now, what is more real, the face or the parts that compose it? Or, who is more "in touch" with reality, the person who is able to see faces, or the prosopagnosiac?

Scruton asks what he calls a "strange question," but it is precisely this question that has motivated our blogplay these past eight years: just "what kind of world contains a thing like me -- a thing with freedom and self-knowledge?"

It turns out that it is impossible to answer this question without recourse to everything. In other words, it cannot be reduced to personal psychology, but touches on everything from cosmology to neurology to anthropology. For truly, it takes a cosmos to raise a person (and vice versa, bearing in mind what was said last Tuesday about the I and the One).

If you scan a face looking for the person, you will not find him. The person is "in" the face, but obviously cannot be reduced to the face. The person is not identical with his face, just as the meaning of a text is not identical to its letters, or a melody to the notes of which it is composed.

Scruton suggests that it is the same with God: look for God on the surface, and you will find nothing, for that is not where he is to be found. Rather, "He is present in our world in the same sense that we are: as a subject."

So anyway, blah blah yada yada, in this context, the idea that the metacosmic I AM should decide to reveil itself by putting on a face is quite understandable, for what better way could there be?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rule of Vertical Law

As discussed in yesterday's post, we begin with the principle of the unity of the world, which is the necessary condition for knowledge of any kind. The cosmos "is not a mosaic," but rather, "an organism -- all of whose parts are governed by the same principle," the principle of unity or wholeness (Tomberg).

Now, this unity means that things can be connected in surprising ways. We know about the obvious ones that apply to the horizontal world, e.g., gravity.

However, there is another principle that links things in this world, the law of analogy. This law "is the first conclusion drawn from the tenet of universal unity" (ibid.), because it is our guarantee that beneath the diversity of phenomena we will always find something that unites it on an interior level.

In fact, we no longer even need metaphysics per se to understand this principle, since physics alone has arrived there, i.e., at nonlocality. Then again, the research that proved the reality of nonlocality has been called "experimental metaphysics," but really, no one needs to prove in a laboratory that nonlocality must be the case around these parts, since the parts make no sense without it.

Science can never actually prove the wholeness of the world (since it can never get outside the world), but it can never doubt it for even an instant. Science is only able to understand the contingent because it is rooted in certain principles that are necessary -- i.e., metaphysical -- which is to say, trans-material, trans-spatial, trans-temporal, and transpersonal.

Not to go all Deepak on you, but if this weren't the case, then we couldn't even be having this conversation, in which particles in my bean are causing particles in your bean to resonate at the same truth-frequency. In other words, human communication is founded upon the nonlocality of the world.

Now, we all know about the four types of causality that rule the material world: material, efficient, formal, and final. Science tries to do without the latter two, which works well enough for practical purposes, even if it is metaphysically incoherent.

But as it pertains to the vertical world, we cannot do without formal and final causation, since they operate from the top down, and enlist material and efficient causation to achieve their ends. This is seen in a self-evident way in the most simple execution of free will.

For example, I can conceive the idea of taking a sip of coffee, and actualize it by reaching over with my left hand and grabbing the cup.

Science (or scientism) has no idea how this is possible -- and never will qua science -- for science literally "doesn't go there." In order to explain the same action, it has recourse only to material and efficient causation -- as if sipping the coffee causes the idea of doing so.

Peter Kreeft touches on some of these issues in his Summa Philosophica. Of the four causes, he notes that two are intrinsic, two extrinsic.

Formal and material causes are intrinsic, having to do with what something essentially is and what it is made of, respectively. But final and efficient causes seem to come from "outside," and are therefore extrinsic.

Thus, as it pertains to human beings, we could say that our soul -- which is the form of the body -- is a formal cause that is actualized through free will.

However, in the overall scheme of things, the soul is oriented to its final cause, i.e., the Great Attractor beam of O. I suppose one could say that God, or O, is explicitly extrinsic but intrinsically implicit, i.e., transcendent and immanent. Nevertheless, his transcendence always takes priority, and he is only immanent because transcendent. In other words, immanence is a necessary consequence of transcendence, as Infinite is to Absolute.

Anyway, it is because of the wholeness of the world that the Law of Analogy operates throughout & in. And it goes a little like this: That which is above is like to that which is below and that which is below is like that to which is above, to accomplish the miracles of (the) one thing.

Our favorite application of this principle is spoken by the Trinity in Genesis 1:26, when they say to himsoph, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."

Among other things, this is the most profoundly humanistic principle one could possibly imagine, endless in its implications. At the same time, if not for it, we wouldn't even have the word "God," much less know anything about him. But because of this reciprocal principle, the essence of humanness will reveal certain truths of the Absolute, just as the Absolute reveals certain truths about us.

For our purposes, probably the most important fact about God is that he is a person, which is why he can say -- and what it means to say -- I AM. Only a person can say I AM, and anyone who can say I AM is a person.

So there is the prototype or archetype above, and the maninfestation below. How to express and develop this correspondance? You see, the problem here -- THE human problem, as it were -- is that we are in time, while God is not. This means that the analogy fails here, in the sense that parts of us exist in potential, but not so for God, who is "pure act," as they say.

Therefore, we have to actualize our essence -- or "become the Likeness" -- in time and in history. In other words, we are subject to change, but because of the Law of Analogy, we are not only subject to the "bad change" of entropy, but to the "good change" of growing toward our archetype.

Which just means that the orthoparadoxical point of Raccoon Life is to "become oneself," even while knowing that this is an endless process in the herebelow. Indeed, this is precisely what it means to be a "progressive" in the real world, in contrast to pretending to be one in the ideological spaces of various second realities of the left. For Marx's house contains only a few mansions for the vanguard of the proletariat, but many dilapidated shacks and hovels for the rest of us.

Tomberg provides a helpful little map of our cosmic situation. It consists of a horizontal line between past and future, bisected by a vertical line that runs from the prototype above to the space below. In between are myths, which are recurring motifs that recycle both individually and collectively. Sometimes these are rooted in the above, while other times they can be little more than reified collective mind parasites, and therefore "pseudo-archetypes," so to speak.

For example, forcing women to live in black bags has nothing to do with any real archetype. Rather, this is the transparent expression of a deep hatred and fear of women, leant a patina of pseudo-sanctity by an appeal to some twisted religious darketype.

Real myth has a timeless validity, even if it doesn't partake of the principial order per se. Rather, it applies to human individuals and groups as we find them here on the ground, in time and in history. Presumably they no longer apply in the celestial sphere, in "heaven."

Tomberg cites the example of brother-on-brother hatred, as exemplified in the myth of Cain and Abel. There can be no such hate "above," even though it seems inevitable herebelow.

Likewise, the Fall of A & E cannot be an analogue of something within the godhead, but is something that human beings did (and do) to themselves wheneveateapple. Rather, the Fall is a contingent, even if nastily persistent, pattern, and therefore doesn't negate the divine archetype. Which is why we are wounded, but not mortally.

What this means is that we have to be cautious in applying the "as below, so above," because we don't want to attribute human flaws and failings to the Creator.

Indeed, probably the only way to finally prevent this is to come down and show us how it's supposed to work. I believe Schuon said something to the effect that Jesus is the icon of God, just as God is the icon of Jesus -- in other words, we are dealing with the full implications of the reciprocity between image and likeness. Presumably this should inoculate us from using anything short of the real deal to "compare" God and man, or to confuse the two.

Speaking of which, Jesus overwhelmingly relies upon the Law of Analogy in order to disclose higher truths through the use of parables. Everything in the parable is an item or concept taken from below -- shepherd, vine, door, marriage, harvest, fruit, soil, etc. -- deiployed in order to illuminate the above.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

You Must Be One Before You Can Be Someone

Continuing with our discussion of Letter I of MOTT, it is fair to say that the approach to Christianity espoused by Tomberg is essentially a science of everything and the art of assimilating it.

Thus, it is neither science nor religion per se, but bothand (and with bothbrains working over time). To put it another way, it is not in competition with religion or science, but accepts the truth of each (in its proper place in the proper scheme of things, of course).

All of this is predicated on the Oneness that IS; or which infuses all that is. Every itty in the universe, regardless of how bitty, is a lil' one (similar to how all numbers are just multiples of one, or of unity).

Indeed, one might say that ONE is the most important discovery of man, and is a prerequisite for all that follows. Conversely, the insistence on radical manyness -- i.e., nominalism -- is his most impotent discovery, for it leads nowhere.

However, ONE can only be discovered in THREE. In other words, if there is only ONE, then there is nothing to discover and no one else to discover it. And TWO is either an irreconcilable dualism or an imaginary one, for as Wittgenstein said, "to draw a limit to thought, thought must think both sides of that limit."

Scientism always engages in a version of this fallacy, in which it draws a line between two realms (say, mind and matter) and covertly floods one zone with content from the other.

Science itself is none other than the reduction of multiplicity to unity, and it is the ability to discern this unity in every dimension that characterizes the human. For example, although a dog is subject to gravity, it can have no conscious knowledge of this unifying force that appears under so many guises.

More generally, no animal can discern the abstract in the particular, i.e., have conscious knowledge of universals. But human beings do it "without thinking," even though doing so is the essence of thought.

Which is why we live in neither a universe nor multiverse, but uni-multiverse, in which the oneness is perpetually flowing down into manyness and then back up to oneness, in the old (↓↑) spiral. (Tomberg prefers the LOOP d' LʘʘP infinity symbol, ∞, which works just as well.)

Bearing this in mind, Tomberg proposes the following rule: "it is necessary to be one in oneself (concentration without effort) and one with the spiritual world (to have a zone of silence in the soul) in order for a revelatory or spiritual experience to be able to take place."

It is only IN oneness that we may discern the oneness: "the tenet of the basic unity of the world" redounds to "the basic unity of the natural world, the human world, and the divine world." Without this unity, "no knowledge" -- of any kind -- "is conceivable."

Thus, a truly brilliant scientist (not the mere wanker bee kind) is really a mystic of matter, no matter how much he denies it, for he has peered into the deep unity of whatever realm he is looking into. Some, like Einstein and all the others, are fully aware of this, but it is by no means similar to being a religious mystic, for the latter involves oneness with the divine, not just with the epidermis of being.

Clearly, the unity of which we are speaking must be prior to any act of knowledge, of any kind. If it weren't, then there would be no way to gain any knowledge at all. We would first have to build a ladder between the known and the unKnown, but, like animals, we wouldn't even know of the latter, so it's a moot point. No one needs a ladder when there's no up.

This is why, although dogs have co-evolved right alongside human beings, I frankly don't see any progress in them at all. Rather, like liberals, they perpetually chase their tails and sniff each others butts, and then call it "progress."

What our Magician is really concerned with is vertical unity. Along these lines, Tomberg notes that unity -- or the vector of truth leading toward it -- proceeds from facts, to laws, to principles, to essence or being.

And when we say that reality is knowable, we are really affirming faith in a promise that it is so, based upon the prior gift, or presence, of unity -- ultimately, of knowing and being. If knowing and being weren't so linked, then knowledge would be just a dream, and truth wouldn't deserve the name.

Thanks to this unity, everything that exists is knowable; in fact, these two categories reduce to one: to the Logos that bifurcates into intelligence and intelligibility. To exist is to be known in potential in man but actually in O.

Which, by the way, is why you are one, i.e., a specific person (although the qualifier "specific" is really unnecessary). Indeed, to say "person" is really to simultaneously utter the most profound mystery of the cosmos, along with its "solution" (hint: three letters, starts with an I).

I guess you could say that "AM" accounts for oneness, but only "I" accounts for someoneness, the particularity in the universal.

(Interesting that I and 1 look so similar, and that we're playing with Letter 1 -- or is it number I?)

That's all I have time for this morning. Our leisurely climb up Mount Oneness will resume tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stop Writing the Mechanical Bull, and Don't Leave Any Sacred Cowpies!

This is a continuation of whenever it was that we were discussing MotT and the Magician:

Now, the magician is the master archetype for our journey into the rest of the symbols -- the symbols themselves representing a kind of mirror of the totality of the Great Interior situated just over the egoic horizon.

Why is the magician the would-be spiritual knowa's archetype? Because he is the symbol of what we must become if we are to have a fruitful journey through the rest of this symbolically resonant world. We must become this magician. And what does this magician represent?

Well, among other things, he embodies the principle of Slack, in that we must leave the field of profane time behind, and become attuned to a more subtle music that has its own rhythms and harmelodies. Here is how UF formulates it:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

The first of these prescriptions has to do with what we call the principle of Higher Non-doodling, which in turn is similar to the wu wei of Taoism. It also shares psimilarities with what Sri Aurobindo calls the attainment of the "silent mind," which is well explained in chapter 4 of The Adventure of Consciousness.

In fact, we may discern a convergence of the Christian and neo-Vedantic approaches, as Satprem writes that "the major task that opens the door to many realizations is to silence the mind.... Clearly, if we want to discover a new country within us, we must leave the old one behind -- everything depends on our determination to take this first step."

Part of this is in order to excape our existing container (♀) in order to assimilate the new content (♂) of the inscape. In other words, we need to somehow get beyond or behind or above or before our surface ego, or local self (•).

And why is that? Because "In a certain sense," writes Aurobindo, "we are nothing but a complex mass of mental, nervous and physical habits held together [read: contained, ♀] by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small, self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations."


This outward and external container becomes thicker and more dense, until we are "confined in a construction," which becomes a kind of pseudo-center by virtue of its rigidity and predictability. No more (♂). Your fortress against reality -- against the flow of interior novelty -- is complete.

This is why -- in a manner of speaking -- we might say that the first half of life involves learning, while the second half involves unLearning; or, we must be reborn as little children, who are so full of uncontainable and irrepressible (♂).

This requires not only a leap of but into faith (o), which Aurobindo describes as "an intuition not only waiting for experience to justify it, but leading toward experience." In other words, faith isn't just content but a mode of spiritual cognition, which brings new content into view. This content cannot be directly perceived by the ego.

Here again, UF agrees that we must achieve calm (---) and silence (o) "at the expense of the automatism of thought and imagination" (the bad kind -- more on which later). Only in so doing are we capable of authoritatively "speaking" of these matters, instead of merely being our own auto-copilot.

A Raccoon must never speak of spiritual matters in the predictable manner of writing the mechanical bull, for doing so results in the sacred cowpies of a Deepak. I suppose doing so has its place, but such familiar pneumababble is ultimately "by the dead and for the tenured," not for us.

One reason why silence is so critical -- shut up while I'm speaking! -- is that it is only in silence that we become "one" (anxiety always fragments and dissipates). And as UF writes, we must first become one in ourselves if we are to become one with the spiritual world. Unity is as unity does.

It's just common nonsense, isn't it? Without unity, there can be no knowledge of any kind. For example, the only reason we may possess scientific knowledge is because a primordial unity subtends the division of subject and object, knower and known.

However, that is the world of horizontal quantities, whereas the spiritual world is one of vertical qualities. Thus, the next step, according to UF, is to understand the Law of Analogy that governs the qualitative world of the vertical. This, of course, is why Jesus spoke in parables that are full of richly resonant symbolism with which we must "play" again as little children.

Well, playtime is almost over, but I'd like to conclude with some observations by Peter Kreeft from his highly effective mental disinfectant, Summa Philosophica. Chapter VIII article 3 considers Whether leisure is as necessary for man as work?

It IS, because allows us to BE: it "is not a practical means to a further end but exists for its own sake, like play. And since the end is of higher value and more necessary than the means, leisure is of higher value and more necessary than work....

"[L]eisure is not merely the absence of work but the presence of the higher ends which work makes possible, such as the understanding of truth, the love of goodness, and the enjoyment of beauty."

So if you're not playing, you're wrong