Monday, August 04, 2014

Stay Thirsty My, Friends. Better Yet, Just Stay on Fire and the Thirst will Take Care of Itself.

"The Bible is not the voice of God but that of the man who encounters him" (by the way, this is one of the places from which I compiled my own list of favorites). This aphorism may be taken the wrong way, of course, but it is nevertheless true that the Bible is obviously not God, but rather, a compilation of living encounters with the living God, reduced to written form.

Early Christians -- obviously -- did not have a "New Testament" except insofar as it consisted of new beliefs, new oral traditions, and a new liturgy. I read somewhere that under the best of circumstances, even someone like Augustine might have had some of the individual books in codex form, but I don't believe he would had the single book we know of as The Bible, all right there between two covers.

Remember too that each chapter is its own imaginative "book," and that it requires a work of collective meta-imagination to apprehend their inner unity and to bring them all together. Just because the book is a solid material object in space, it doesn't mean you have perceived its interior meta-unity! I mean, who has?

I think this is an important consideration, because the real action doesn't occur "in" scripture, but rather, in the imaginative space of the one who encounters and dwells in it. Unlike routine secular knowledge, it cannot be a one-way vector from book to head. Rather, it is always relational, transactional, intersubjective, alive.

This goes to the next aphorism that metaphorically leaps out at me, "Metaphor supposes a universe in which each object mysteriously contains the others."

I have discussed this idea in a number of posts, and it is indeed one of those things that earthlings simply take for granted, believer and infidel alike. How is it, say, that we can affirm -- accurately, I might add -- that the universe is a tree with its roots aloft, its branches down below?

This is a metaphor, but only because everything contains or refers to everything else; and the latter is true because of a trinitarian Godhead in whom persons are both distinct and yet interior to one another. It is why communication of any kind is possible, including metaphor (and really, virtually all communication is metaphorical, in the sense that one thing must stand for another).

The following aphorism also goes to the present discussion: "Serious books do not instruct, but interrogate." This relates to what was said above about the relationality of the Bible, and also about metaphor. A serious book doesn't literally interrogate us. But it might as well.

Another metaphorical truth: "We only dig the channels for a momentary torrent." It is up to us to clean out the rain gutters and flood channels for the orderly flow of (↓). Similarly, "We call abstract truths the dry channels through which the waters of any rain flow." The abstract truth is empty in order to be filled by experience, as we were discussing a few weeks back.

Note also that the point is not so much to be a lake or reservoir as a river. The flow never stops, so we can never be "filled" in this life. I mean, if self-emptying is good enough for God...

So, if there is no end to the flow, then "One philosophy surpasses others only when it defines more precisely the same insoluble mystery."

Normally we think of "precision" and "mystery" as being at opposite extremes, but in point of fact they are a dialectic -- perhaps the dialectic, to which I have assigned the "ultimate" abstraction of O <--> (¶). I don't see how there can be anything "beyond" this dialectic in this life, short of becoming God, which is not going to happen. But we can perpetually dig those channels and clean those gutters for the Flow.

The above dialectic could be encapsulated: "The soul is the task of man."

And -- if you're not careful -- "Thirst runs out before the water does." So stay thirsty, my friends.

Now, this I like: "Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems but a new dimension of the universe." This is precisely what I believe: you might say that it is to psychology or neurology what biology is to physics. Biology is not just statistically unlikely physics, but rather, an entirely new dimension of existence irreducible to physics, the biosphere. It is at a right angle, so to speak, to everything that came before.

So too is revelation, bearing in mind that I count no less than four Revelations, or dimensions of Revelation, 1) the miracle of creation, 2) the miracle of intelligibility, 3) the miracle of the human subject, and 4) the miracle of the divine murmurandoms known as revelation proper. Each of these can only be understood in reference to the verticality that is woven into the nature of things: reality is always pointing beyond itself in a bidirectional manner, toward its inspiraling goround and its perichoretic deustiny.

And speaking of trees and branches, "Religion is the tremor that the shaking of our roots transmits to our branches." Maybe we can't see the root, but we can certainly tell when the branches are atremble.

Now, assuming our roots are aloft, this makes absolutely perfect nonsense. It's a metaphor, but a realmetaphor -- just as the early fathers saw Jesus as the "true myth," or the primordial myth -- dimly apprehended or pre-viewed by earlier generations -- incarnate.

Because "'Intuition' is the perception of the invisible, just as 'perception' is the intuition of the visible." And "When imagination and perception coincide, the soul is burned."

Ouch!

(yoinked from the bowels of Happy Acres)

20 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Whoa - So that's how he stays so interesting...

...the real action doesn't occur "in" scripture, but rather, in the imaginative space of the one who encounters and dwells in it. Unlike routine secular knowledge, it cannot be a one-way vector from book to head. Rather, it is always relational, transactional, intersubjective, alive.

Importantly, I think a distinction needs to be made between this kind of living scripture and the idea of, say, a "living" Constitution. That is, scripture is alive not because it changes with the times, but rather because it refers to that which always happens. Or rather, it's like the nourishing soil without which nothing can grow. Or again, like the seed which contains within itself the clueprint for the entire tree. In other words, it lives, because its essence is unchanging; it always Is What It Is, if that makes any sense.

For that matter, the Constitution only truly lives when it is allowed to stand as it was written, as opposed to having its meaning change at the whim of the zeitgeist.

8/04/2014 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh - and just in general, once again this post is full of Yes. Looks like you've been slurping from the firehose again.

8/04/2014 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Living Constitution is a just a two-legs way of saying evolving Constitution to the lofourleggers.

NowthatIthinkofit, why didn't they call it Pro-choice constitution.

8/04/2014 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...


"Note also that the point is not so much to be a lake or reservoir as a river. The flow never stops, so we can never be "filled" in this life. I mean, if self-emptying is good enough for God...

So, if there is no end to the flow, then "One philosophy surpasses others only when it defines more precisely the same insoluble mystery.""

Yep. I got to have a bit of back 'n forth with one of my kids friends this weekend, who's been venturing into philosophy and poking into some of its popular shadowy corners (Keynes, Chomsky, etc). He asked an economic question and I pointed him to Bastiat's The Law and What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen. He read them and was stunned at how much sense Bastiat made and how simple he made it seem.

I think it was all the more surprising for him because what he would not and never will encounter in those shadowy corners of philosophy, are Principles, and principles are like those rivers - they can channel and carry every bit as much flow as the formless flash floods the left worship, but Truth is naturally attractive to truth and forms into ever deeper truths; principles don't confine truth, their banks enable an unending depth and power that a formless and shallow flash flood could never approach, and with a calm surface they could not even exist with.

I wonder if principles can even be perceived without imagination - only imagination wonders to look beneath the surface, and that's where its depths are discovered. Is imagination even possible if truth isn't its aim? I doubt it. Reasoning either, and it takes both to reveal the principles behind the particulars and the ever deepening living source is only found by going deeper.

As Julie points out, that's something very different from the 'living constitution'. Such a thing not only has no channels, it cannot have them, and would prevent them from being able to unleash the power they want, at random, like a flash flood, in any direction they desire. But that's less living than undead, flat assertions that can brook no hint of depth or form, no depth, no truth, no integrative imagination is possible in their rush, it's power may be able to sweep you aside, but quickly disappears and leaves you high and dry.

And with any luck, thirsty.

8/04/2014 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

This is a metaphor, but only because everything contains or refers to everything else; and the latter is true because of a trinitarian Godhead in whom persons are both distinct and yet interior to one another. It is why communication of any kind is possible, including metaphor (and really, virtually all communication is metaphorical, in the sense that one thing must stand for another).

I'm not quite understanding this fully but I sense, to quote our illustrious VP, this is a Big F'n Deal.

8/04/2014 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I think that seeing Scripture as the result of a "living encounter" and as being the report of someone who has stuck his finger in the light socket is dangerous, but it's a danger we have to face. We have the safety net of traditions and doctrinal structure, but everybody needs to walk the tightrope if they are going to do anything other than talk about how great it is on the other side.

8/04/2014 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

John: I guess you could say that in an atomistic universe, communication and communion would be impossible, because everything would be a monad unto itself. But since we live in a cosmos of interior relations, in which everything is inside everything else, communication is possible -- likewise analogy, metaphor, symbolism, etc.

8/04/2014 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

An atomistic universe would consist of surfaces rubbing against one another.

8/04/2014 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I know how that kid Van is talking about feels. You read Bastiat and you wonder why this is even a discussion any more. If you have ever wondered what a extra-biblical inspired revelation ought to sound like, it sounds like Bastiat.

8/04/2014 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Thanks Bob. That helps. I think I'm getting it, but these things take time to percolate through my skull.

Funny thing about your atomistic metaphor, as I study electromagnetism, I've learned the electric fields of atoms permeate the space around them so even atoms aren't atomistic. Good thing we we have the inverse square law. If not, I'd scratch my ass and the dog would jump.

8/04/2014 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly. Physics is the way it is because God is the way he is.

8/04/2014 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Barney said...

I know you, you know me
Intersubjectivity
With a written word,
Thoughts transmit from me to you...
Yadda, yadda, yadda

8/04/2014 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Each of these can only be understood in reference to the verticality that is woven into the nature of things: reality is always pointing beyond itself in a bidirectional manner, toward its inspiraling goround and its perichoretic deustiny."

"The noun first appears in the writings of Maximus Confessor (d. 662) but the related verb perichoreo is found earlier in Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389/90).[3] Gregory used it to describe the relationship between the divine and human natures of Christ as did John of Damascus (d. 749) but he also extended it to the "interpenetration" of the three persons of the Trinity and it became a technical term for the latter."

Excellent post to drink in, Bob!
A fine Perichoretic pilsner you have brewed up.

8/04/2014 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I like how Gregory extended the word to the interpenetration on the three persons of the trinity.
And also an interpenetration between the Divine and the human.

8/04/2014 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Unlike allah, our God has a good, true and beautiful relationship with us that permeates throughout and throughin our soul.

8/04/2014 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sane schools would make Bastiat required reading and have discussions about what he said.

8/04/2014 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of Bastiat:
"Please understand that I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law — by force — and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.

I do not insist that the supporters of these various social schools of thought — the Proudhonists, the Cabetists, the Fourierists, the Universitarists, and the Protectionists — renounce their various ideas. I insist only that they renounce this one idea that they have in common: They need only to give up the idea of forcing us to acquiesce to their groups and series, their socialized projects, their free-credit banks, their Graeco-Roman concept of morality, and their commercial regulations. I ask only that we be permitted to decide upon these plans for ourselves; that we not be forced to accept them, directly or indirectly, if we find them to be contrary to our best interests or repugnant to our consciences.

But these organizers desire access to the tax funds and to the power of the law in order to carry out their plans. In addition to being oppressive and unjust, this desire also implies the fatal supposition that the organizer is infallible and mankind is incompetent. But, again, if persons are incompetent to judge for themselves, then why all this talk about universal suffrage?"

8/04/2014 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

This is good reading, several times, and it's free:
http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

8/04/2014 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Nicolás Gómez Dávila is such a mysterious enigma to me. How did this quiet Columbian writer in the midst of a Latin country with socialistic and liberal theological dispositions come to be? He pithy aphorisms are truly a work of art.

8/05/2014 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

They are. I only hope I'm not violating their spirit by dilating on them. But Raccoons are everywhere. I've even seen Iran in my site meter.

8/05/2014 07:07:00 AM  

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