Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seeing Through Atheism and Other Idols

As we mentioned a few posts back, an icon is the opposite of an idol: we look at the latter but through the former. Thus, we should never an idolator be, but always through an icon see.

See what?

"[O]ur quest," writes Cheetham, "is to recover the interior speech, the language of our deep self." Therefore, the last thing we want to do is turn words into idols and speech into idolatry.

Rather, language must remain transparent to its true object, so as to avoid ending in a brightly endarkened null-de-slack of unambiguous meaning.

When language becomes unambiguous, it is time to reach for your revolver. Among other enormities, you are about to be deprived of your vertical freedom, which is to say, your freedom to be who you are, which is freedom lived (or incarnated; freedom is the incarnation of the true self, just as the true self is the incarnation of freedom).

There are some exceptions to this rule, as in pure math or metaphysics, but even then math is transparent to beauty, while metaphysics is ultimately transparent to God; neither is simply an end in itself.

In his famous Apology, the mathematician G.H Hardy writes that "A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns," patterns made of ideas. These patterns "must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics."

Note the surprising use (in a discussion of mathematics) of that word must: the patterns must be beautiful. Normally we think of mathematics as the Land of Must, of pure necessity (if not tautology).

But here Hardy is situating mathematics in the Higher Musticism of transcendent beauty. As such, he is not idolizing numbers, but properly icon-ilizing them. He sees right through their tricks.

All language is symbolic, meaning that it is a bridge between worlds. But the world itself is made of language, so one might say that religion as such is the symbolic link between heaven and earth, celestial and terrestrial, God and man, vertical and horizontal.

And if this pre-existing Logos actually becomes man, it means -- in a manner of speaking -- that God is "symbolizing" himself in man (just as we symbolize God via the man Jesus).

Or to paraphrase Schuon, Jesus is at once God's icon of man and our icon of God. In between is the space through which symbolic forms are tossed back and forth, or rather, clothe and channel the up-and-down energies.

"[T]he text of the world, and the soul itself" are "metaphors for the reality from which they derive. Meta-phor means to 'carry over,' and the metaphoric vision of reality sees through the literal appearance of things to the ever-shifting and mysterious Presence that lies behind the daylight Face of things" (Cheetham).

A face is a window on the soul; it is itself a manner of expression, the first symbolic evidence (in the form of the mothers's smile) of the interiority of the world.

Thus, the First Face is also a bridge between worlds, interior to interior and soul to soul. It ushers us into a "mode of perception" that is simultaneously a "mode of being," "a way of living that refuses the literal. It is how we can live the refusal of idolatry" and transform idols into icons.

The idol is a prison. For example, I mentioned a few months ago that when I first studied psychoanalysis, it was as if I were imprisoned or contained in an idol. It was depressing, because it was one of those confining null-de-slacks alluded to above.

One could say the same of Darwinism, or feminism, or any other modern intellectual pathology. Each one traps you in its idolatry and restricts vertical movement.

Cheetham links this problem to the widespread acquisition of literacy and its access to the text -- which is no doubt why the tenured are the biggest idolaters of all.

The text contributes to the illusion of a static, cutandry meaning, for which reason scientism and a certain type of Protestantism are mirror images of one another. Bibliolatry is no more or less literal than any scientistic idolatry (or any other ideology, which are really masturbatory idea-olatries).

This is not a new problem, only more widespread. For example, "Plato worried about what would happen when people started to read his words fixed on a page rather than think along with him in dialogue -- he feared that they would take his words 'literally.'"

There are Christians who believe in sola scriptura, which leads one to wonder how the first Christians learned about Christianity before the Bible was canonized 300 years after the death of Jesus. The New Testament is the deposit of their faith, not its first cause or ground source.

The good news about the Good News? The Book "recognize[s] this danger in various ways and provides hermeneutic techniques for keeping the mystery of the words alive" (ibid.). Which we will get into tomorrow.

16 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

But here Hardy is situating mathematics in the Higher Musticism of transcendent beauty. As such, he is not idolizing numbers, but properly icon-ilizing them. He sees right through their tricks.

The way we are able to recognize and appreciate beauty is such a wonderful mystery. How strange to simply see (or hear, taste, touch, or smell) something and have it resonate within ourselves and invoke a powerful response!

5/26/2015 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"The New Testament is the deposit of their faith, not its first cause or ground source."

What an excellent Bobservation!

'course, it brings to mind (and ties together) that other one you made long ago that went something like: "Jesus wrote nothing down."

5/26/2015 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

David Warren, yesterday:

"Now, let us take 5760 of these feet to make a mile, and we are very close to the nautical mile, still used in navigation, for it corresponds to the surviving ancient division of our home planet, by increments of 360 Babylonian degrees, of 60 miles each, then 60ths of those; as too, the 24 hours, then 60th minutes, then 60th seconds, at which that world turns (a mile takes the sun four seconds). For hexagesimals are so beautiful, and so apt, to the wheels-in-wheels turning, nonny, nonny. … O, how the wheel becomes it!"

5/26/2015 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Jesus is at once God's icon of man and our icon of God

Wow.

Mirror; mirror.

5/26/2015 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The text contributes to the illusion of a static, cutandry meaning, for which reason scientism and a certain type of Protestantism are mirror images of one another

Speaking of cutandry: if it is castrated, it will steer us wrong.

5/26/2015 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus wrote in the dirt. Labyrinth. Just swirly stuff with a cross. Mostly old stuff spread out on the rocks that have not gone their way, yet.
Of course, that is the old emergence geometry. Not really discussed much, these days. Probably because assigning parameters of time and space is ongoing dynamics.

Stars fall to respond. Looks like War. There is math for that, but that would mean that the looking is as alive as the broadcast.

Of course, that is paint by number. Not so different from sound and light as is usually constructed. Probably lands somewhere.

5/26/2015 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Cheetham links this problem to the widespread acquisition of literacy and its access to the text -- which is no doubt why the tenured are the biggest idolaters of all. The text contributes to the illusion of a static, cutandry meaning, for which reason scientism and a certain type of Protestantism are mirror images of one another.

That's interesting.

All you modern kids with your fancy pants literacy! Get off my hay field!

Mush, heh heh.

5/26/2015 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/26/2015 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Cheetham isn't the only person to have thought that. I've heard it said (by someone back in the 1800s; Nietzsche, maybe?) that if everyone can read and write, thinking (or philosophy, maybe it was) would be destroyed. At the time I first came across the idea, it seemed like a particularly misanthropic sentiment. With the rise of social media, I have to wonder...

5/26/2015 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This is not a new problem, only more widespread. For example, "Plato worried about what would happen when people started to read his words fixed on a page rather than think along with him in dialogue -- he feared that they would take his words 'literally.'"

Aye. Jest look at all the fools that believe the truth can be replaced by facts.

5/27/2015 02:34:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Speaking of cutandry: if it is castrated, it will steer us wrong."

Ha! And who needs a bum steer?

5/27/2015 02:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Skully said...

A bum steer sounds like somthin' the USDA would subsidize,

5/27/2015 02:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"There are some exceptions to this rule, as in pure math or metaphysics, but even then math is transparent to beauty, while metaphysics is ultimately transparent to God; neither is simply an end in itself."

Can you imagine poetry without ambiguity? The words might be made to rhyme, I suppose, but they wouldn't carry you anywhere further than that. Another problem area for ambiguity though, is logic, where it is The tool for masking ugliness and carrying, hijacking you, downwards.

So there's the test for ambiguity, it opens roads and portals to you, but you need to check your virtueall Gps to see which direction it is proposing to take you in.

5/27/2015 03:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad: "Jesus is at once God's icon of man and our icon of God"

Mushroom: "Wow.

Mirror; mirror."

The ambiguous window. 'Zactly so.

5/27/2015 04:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's our choice: through the glass darkly, or through the glass sparkly.

5/27/2015 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. literacy, there are those who are claiming that the era of writing is at its end.

5/27/2015 07:34:00 AM  

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