What's especially weird is how a bomb in this book sets off one in another book, in a kind of nonlocal chain reaction. Then a bomb goes off in my dreamworld, followed by another on a TV program I was watching (The Journey Home on EWTN). Is someone trying to tell me something? And how do I put all of these explosions together? It's hard enough to deal with one.
The image comes to mind of young Helen Keller. By way of analogy, imagine we are to the divine world as she was to the human world in her sound-, sight-, and speechless (non)existence. Then she has that one "little" explosion, in which she realizes that all her disparate experiences of wetness may be organized under one abstract and transcendent heading: water!
That is the ultimate WTF -- AKA (?!) -- and it never stops. Compared to it, the Big Bang and biogenesis are just distant echoes or foreshadows of greater detonations to come.
Irrespective of whether the story is apocryphal, it nevertheless conveys a profound truth, maybe even the Greatest Truth Ever Told, since it is the very ground and basis of the possibility of truth: that this is that, and vice versa.
Or in other words, that our cosmos is a web of symbolic exchange, such that transcendent meaning everywhere courses through its nonlocal veins, arteries, and capillaries. It is only for us to tap into this interior process and participate in the flow of truth-love-beauty.
Yesterday someone mentioned Polanyi in a comment. In another cosmic coincidence, he is mentioned in a footnote of the very page I am now looking at. As it so happens, his last book -- and the final summation of his thought -- is called Meaning. I haven't looked at it in a number of years, but I don't really have to, since I long ago absorbed anything worth plagiarizing.
Speaking of explosions, the book looks like something exploded inside of it. There are notes scrawled everywhere, which is the pneuma-archeological evidence of so many Helen Keller moments, as Polanyi's ideas collided with my brain. Toots Mondello referred to these as cooncussions.
Examples: "The act of understanding is more important than what is understood." "Only the wise ones see beyond the limitations." "Wisdom has always been non-literal, i.e., 'not meaning what we said.'" "Whatever is undetermined on a lower level is conditioned by the next." "Fusion of incompatibles in the time before time. God as integrative AND limiting factor."
This makes me want to go back in time and buy some pot from this guy.
In the preface, Polanyi's collaborator, Harry Prosch, describes how "the modern mind has destroyed meaning," but how Polanyi's "work on the reformation of epistemology and the philosophy of science has prepared the way for a possible restoration of meaning through the development of the notion of personal knowledge" -- the latter a term of art for how the mind always "sees through" the data to the meaning toward which it points. (Speaking of Helen Keller, one of Polanyi's favorite examples was how the blind man, by unconsciously attending to the sensory input from stick to hand, is able to construct and "perceive" a three-dimensional space.)
Today we are deep into the wayback machine, because when I first read this book I was more or less an atheist and certainly anti-Christian. If I was ever going to come back from the outskirts of the cosmos, the only way would have been through someone like Polanyi, who follows a purely logical line of thought, only to arrive at the threshold of mystery and Mister O.
In the Journey Home episode mentioned above -- here it is, right on youtube -- the guest, a former atheist, has great praise for real atheists who genuinely Don't Know and won't rest until they find out, as opposed to the fashionable strident atheists who presume to know and won't shut up until they have forced the rest of us to accept their narrow, flat, and shallow reality.
The guest's experience exactly parallels mine, because his impersonal pursuit of truth lead him right back to the Person -- which must happen, given sufficient time and honesty. Either it happens or you just die stupid.
Back to Polanyi. Writing in the 1950s, he described precisely the state of contemporary liberalism: "freedom of thought destroyed itself when thought pursued to its ultimate conclusions a self-contradictory conception of its own freedom." This is why the more liberalism, the less freedom of thought, the quintessential case being acadummia.
Imagine a place set aside and devoted to the unfettered pursuit of truth, becoming the one place where this is forbidden. What comes after irony? But this is the power of the Adversary: to transform something into its opposite with no effort at all.
To be sure, Polanyi was confused about some things. After all, he wasn't really a "philosopher" per se, rather, just a very curious scientist who refused to mind his own business and stay within the confines of his own department. But we forgive him his blind spots for the light he shed on so much tenured darkness. Like everything else, he must be "raised up" into a higher, total truth.
About this "total truth." In order to reach it, one must follow the circuitous and soph-bewildering Raccoon path, and be a rank multi-undisciplinarian. In order to know a lot about the One Thing, you need to know a little about every thing, and vice versa.
This goes directly against the Conspiracy, which, as Schindler describes it, "presupposes an extrinsic or external relation among the contents of the disciplines." Thus, physics, for example, has nothing to do with anthropology, which has even less to do with theology.
Tertullian famously asked "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" Quite a lot, actually, so long as we put things in their proper order and don't try to trump God with our manmode philosophy.
Schindler points out that this division of disciplines "is already the expression of a mechanistic worldview, whose hallmark is [an] 'atomism' which assumes unrelated (or primitively externally related) parts." Therefore, no unifying worldview is possible, because you have uncritically denied it at the outset. Once again the Adversary doesn't even have to get up off the couch to accomplish this.
But guess what? Not even atoms behave like this, let alone minds! In other words, a metaphysic of logical atomism may in fact be ruled out from the get go.
I'm out of time, so I'll just conclude with a comment by Schindler that goes to how our task is to take the inverted cosmos bequeathed to us by liberal vulgarians and put it back on its feet: "physics and biology therefore, to be pursued intelligently ('critically'), must... remain intrinsically open to explanation on levels above them, indeed, to explanation all the way to the level of ultimacy (metaphysics, theology)."
Amen for a child's job. Because someone's gotta do it.