Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Big Man & Little Cosmos

If we ask ourselves what reality is "like," it is more like an economy or the weather than it is, say, the laws of physics, or chemistry, or electromagnetism. And when I say "like," this is because we can only use analogies in describing reality.

After all, reality is what it is, and there is only one. Moreover, we are in it, not outside it. Therefore, the best we can do is arrive at a more or less useful analogy, for we cannot know the thing itself. Only God can do that. In fact, that would be a good working definition of God: the being who knows the totality because he transcends it while being immanent in every part so ptee.

Once you realize that analogy is the only way to approach reality as such, then religion suddenly doesn't seem so cognitively unsophisticated -- except to the cognitively unsophisticated. What is especially unsophisticated is the naive belief that scientific truth is fungible with reality. If this were so, then the tenured could use the laws of physics to create their own universe. While they do dwell in their own private ego- and idahos, this is not how they manage that trick.

The laws of physics are just models, and a model is just an analogy. Thus, when physicists say that light is a wave or particle, depending upon how one looks at it, this is a function of the observer and his theory. It does not mean light is literally a particle or wave. Rather, light is what it is, while "particle" or "wave" are what we can say about it.

But no one can say what light actually is. Again, except God. In fact, man cannot say what a single thing is, not even himself. That being the case, why pretend to understand what things outside the self are?

It brings to mind the story of a person who asked a famous scientist for an explanation of electricity. After a demonstration of some of the many things electricity does, he "expressed his wish to be informed as to what electricity [is]." The scientist "patted his back and said: 'No matter, that is the only thing about electricity which you and I do not know'" (in Jaki).

So, we know everything about electricity except for what it actually is. But far from being an exception, this turns out the be the ironyclad rule: as we have expressed it in the past, we can only have (partial) knowledge of things because they are (ultimately) unknowable (by us).

That might sound a little cute, but it is a rockbottom ruling orthoparadox. For there are only two other possibilities, one or the other of which are probably believed by the majority of postmodern schlock mobsters.

That is, there is the credulous scientistic belief that we can actually know everything about something, perhaps even about everything, thus the equally ingenuous quest for the Theory of Everything; then there is the antipodal postmodern belief that we really don't know anything about anything, but are simply trapped in a circle of signifying jive where Power gets to define what reality is.

Or to paraphrase the song, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the far left. Or, Kant to the south of us, Derrida in hell.

One thing I learned -- or at least cannot unlearn -- from the late great Robert Rosen is that while physics is a fine and noble discipline, there is absolutely no reason to assume that it should be our paradigmatic science, the King of Epistemology, such that all other disciplines are its more or less distant subjects.

In this highly constricted and ultimately anti-human view, we start with physics, upon which chemistry is parasitic, followed by biology, psychology, and everything in between. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there are no gaps or spaces in this picture; rather, your last thought above is just a kind of emanation of the physics down below, like a breaking of existential wind.

Which it often is, but let's leave the left's behind for the moment.

The point is, if your world is organized by one of the above paradigms, the conspiracy has its teeth in your spiritual vitals, thus foreclosing the divine imagination, contracting time, and dimming the Spark. Or just say you are more or less bereft of space, time, and light.

Never forget that the main tool of the Conspiracy is existential shrinkage. The infertile eggheads of academia are just extreme cases of a more general phenomenon; likewise ovary tower feminists, credentialed sodomites, and dumb-as-a-postgraduate doctators.

So, analogy: what is the world like?

There is a whole school of thought that inverts the cosmos and regards it as a Big Man and man as the Little Cosmos. Is there something fundamentally wrong with this premise? For even the naive scientistian implicitly believes that the exterior world is somehow reflected in his head. This is what he calls "truth."

But how is this different from any other animal? In other words, if truth is just the correspondence between our mind and the world, that is a tautology. Besides, Gödel rendered that kind of rustic philosophizing inoperative. This is because any model we have of the world will contain assumptions or principles that cannot be explained by the model. How did they get there? And what reason do we have to believe them?

Let's go back to the idea that man is the microcosm and the cosmos the macro-anthropos. The question is not so much whether this is true as whether it is fruitful: does it get us anywhere, vertically speaking?

You know, until this moment I never thought I'd have any use for this book I bought a few decades ago, but this must be why I brought it home. It is The Secret Teachings of All Ages, and I have the now ridiculously expensive hardcover edition which is smaller still than the original. It's a beautiful book, but...

But nothing! Let's pry open the cosmic secret!

Hmm... I guess this would be closest, chapter LXXIII, THE HUMAN BODY IN SYMBOLISM, although there are a couple of good images from other chapters here and here.

Let's see what we have here. "The oldest, the most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body." Indeed, various ancient schools "considered a philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an indispensable part of ethical and religious training," such that "the laws, elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution; that everything that existed outside of man had its analogue within man" (emphasis mine).

As said at the top of this post, "The universe, being immeasurable in its immensity and inconceivable in its profundity, was beyond mortal estimation." That being the case, we might as well start with the close-at-hand; thus, "the early philosophers turned their attention from the inconceivable Divinity to man himself, within the narrow confines of whose nature they found manifested all the mysteries of the existential spheres."

With this in mind, perhaps we can see how Christ crucified becomes the last word in this way of looking at the world, or that that these ancient visions were stumbling and bumbling preminotions of the Incarnotion:

Is this idolatry? I don't think so, unless we confuse image with likeness and set about worshiping the former. Rather, the point is to see through them to what they represent.

"The philosophers of antiquity realized that man himself was the key to the riddle of life, for he was the living image of the Divine Plan," as fully realized in the Incarnation.

This too is helpful: "Both God and man have a twofold constitution, of which the superior part is invisible and the inferior visible" -- thus Paul's gag about the visible things of this world showing forth the invisible realities of God.

It's the same with man: when we say we know someone, it doesn't mean we've seen his physical form. Spirit is "anterior to form," which brings us back to the principle that we cannot begin with the mathematical forms of physics, for Spirit is before all that.

This notion of the microcosmic person is all over Finnegans Wake. Finnegan is indeed the Cosmic Person who lives in the broadest way immarginable in his rushlit toofarback for messuages before joshuan judges had given us numbers or Helviticus committed deuteronomy...

11 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

I am overwhelmed. What a day for you to write this one. I will be back.

Meanwhile, I can understand why physics is "real science". It's the discipline that is most amenable to study via mathematics and the scientific method. Physics and chemistry, in many ways, for a long time have yielded the most bang for the buck, so to speak.

Like the guy looking for his keys under the lamppost when he lost them in the alley. The light is better.

7/22/2015 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

that everything that existed outside of man had its analogue within man

I'm reminded how a human embryo, during the course of its early development, goes through a variety of stages where it has features like those of other animals - gills, for instance, and a tail.

Those are lovely illustrations. Do they even make books like that anymore?

7/22/2015 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

...when we say we know someone, it doesn't mean we've seen his physical form.

Indeed; in fact, all too often we are blinded to the person by the form which they inhabit. Even though it necessarily holds clues as to the interior.

7/22/2015 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good ol' Manly Palmer Hall. Here's an interesting piece about his life and works; the man was one of the great esoteric scholars of the modern world.

7/22/2015 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For fun I ought to check out the Philosophical Research Society library next time I'm passing through. More seriously, I should start wearing a cape.

7/22/2015 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

No capes!

7/22/2015 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I wasn't thinking of an ordinary cape. More like this.

7/22/2015 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

lol

7/22/2015 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Once you realize that analogy is the only way to approach reality as such, then religion suddenly doesn't seem so cognitively unsophisticated -- except to the cognitively unsophisticated. What is especially unsophisticated is the naive belief that scientific truth is fungible with reality...."

That's a, er, Really good way of putting it.

The tone deaf still won't catch the melody, but, maybe the pictures will help.

Cool pics btw.

7/22/2015 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Never forget that the main tool of the Conspiracy is existential shrinkage. The infertile eggheads of academia are just extreme cases of a more general phenomenon; likewise ovary tower feminists, credentialed sodomites, and dumb-as-a-postgraduate doctators"

Funny thing about the materialist "theory of everything" is: it can't even explain existential shrinkage.

7/22/2015 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Personally, I like that artist's depiction of the incarnotion. Excellent word, Bob.

7/22/2015 09:57:00 PM  

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