Friday, September 30, 2016

Wandering through God's Dreamscape

What I was driving at yesterday is that perhaps more real than God or man alone is the relationship between them. This would be consistent with theologians such as Norris Clarke and John Zizioulas, who speak of Being as being in relation; there is no "substance" that is not substance-in-relation (which is in turn reducible to "self-communicating love").

We've discussed this idea extensively in the past, but Corbin comes at it from a slightly different angel, speaking of "the revelation of God to man" as a theophany that is not only mirrored in man's conversion toward God, but is ultimately the same thing.

Or in other words, as hinted at in yesterday's post, a "religious conversion" takes place in the space where man turns toward God and God toward man, in a single embrace.

Which is why Corbin says that God appears in the form of our ability to comprehend him, even though God is still God and man still man. God is always "the same," and yet, necessarily different for each man, because God's sameness is a sameness-in-relationality, not substance.

Let me say that I am not necessarily advocoting this idea, just spontaneously interacting with the text. We shall see where it all leads as we proceed.

Corbin speaks of a "divine passion for man... motivating the 'conversion' of the divine being toward man," complementing a corresponding "sympathetic state in man, a state in which the divine pathos is revealed." You could say that we cannot know God except in the form of our response to God.

Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. For even straight-up scripture requires a response on our part; it is not soph-evident. Animals, for example, don't respond to it. Which implies that scripture is already God's response to man, in that it is in a form man can comprehend and assimilate. You know what they say: if English was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us.

The response on our end "depends on the degree to which man renders himself 'capable of God,' for it is this capacity which defines and measures sympathy as the necessary medium of all religious experience."

Incidentally, I symbolize this sympathy with the wavy equal sign, (≈). However, up to now, I had only considered the resonance from our end; but apparently, (≈) is as much God as man. Which again makes a lot of sense; I'm thinking of an aphorism to the effect that The Bible is not the voice of God, but of the man who encounters Him (Dávila). It is neither God nor man, but man and God in eternal communion.

While looking up that one I found another: The history of Christianity would be suspiciously human if it were not the adventure of an incarnate god. Christianity assumes the misery of history, as Christ assumes the misery of man.

By entering history, God transforms it to salvation history -- it is no longer just "the actions of man," so to speak, but of the man who encounters God, and the God who encounters man, in history. History is the residue of this transaction (or of its refusal).

Which is why Radical sin relegates the sinner to a silent, gray universe, drifting on the surface of the water, a lifeless shipwreck, toward inexorable insignificance (ibid.).

About this trans-action, I was thinking of this as I walked through the Departed's house yesterday. Every object in it -- not excepting the house itself -- was chosen by a particular soul for a particular reason; it had a personal meaning and significance that only he would know. As such, it is a little like walking through someone else's dreamscape -- through all the little "meanings" that illuminated and guided his life, but also revealed himself to himself -- and to others. It is like one big text.

I suppose you could say that I was struck by a vision of intimate communication. The communication is still occurring, even though the Communicant is no longer with us. Which is no doubt why we are spontaneously reverent toward the Stuff of the Dead. To the Dead it wasn't just stuff, but a cartography of their inner horizon. Which is why the final scene of Citizen Kane is so unsettling, when the workmen are carelessly chucking his stuff into the furnace.

I remember reading of some writer who donated his papers to a university, and they included everything from shopping lists to toenail clippings. That's taking it a little too far. But why? I would say because it doesn't imply any divine encounter -- or any externalization of the soul -- just an absurd and indiscriminate inflation of the mundane, like Hillary Clinton's campaign manifesto.

Orthoparadox: "I was a hidden Treasure and I yearned to be known. Then I created creatures in order to be known by them." The divine passion is the "desire to reveal Himself and to know Himself in beings through being known by them."

If we are in the image of the Creator, then our tendency to exteriorize our soul via objects and relationships is much like God's tendency to do so. For just as Uncle Jack's house is a kind of self-communicating dreamscape, so too is existence as such. Jesus is God walking through and interacting with his own exteriorized pneumatosphere. Salvation history is its residue.

God describes himself to himself -- and to us -- through ourselves in communion with him. Thus, "by knowing Him I give Him being." And vice versa, because it is the same inspiraling movement.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Conversion, and God's

Consider this an open thread with a bit of Bonus Material tacked onto the end. Insufficient time to actually complete our line of thought. Attending a funeral this morning for... is there a word for your wife's step-uncle?

No, it is not what you would call a tragic situation, being that he lived an extremely full 92+ years and was high functioning until the very end -- just a slow fade over a few weeks and a peaceful death at home and in bed. No one wants to go, but if you have to go, well...

You'll notice that he was a war hero who managed to repeatedly cheat death during WW2, with 27 missions in the Pacific theater. Says here that "In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe."

I don't know what the equivalent stat was for the Pacific, but the men surely knew with each mission that they were flying straight into the jaws of death. Surviving that must have made one feel literally bulletproof. Either that or wracked with survivor guilt.

Speaking of full lives, there is a haunting statement in the third volume of Manchester's Churchill biography. If you add it all together, Churchill is arguably the most accomplished man who ever lived.

Indeed, it seems impossible that one man could have been granted so many diverse gifts and exercised them all to the full. And yet, in 1954, when one of his daughters "expressed wonderment of all that he had seen and done in his life," he thought for a moment before responding, "I have achieved a great deal to achieve nothing in the end." (I believe he was especially thinking of how the Cold War was simply an extension of WWII, which was an extension of WWI, ad infinitum.)

Dude. I don't know that that was his considered opinion, but still. It is as if he had cheated death on so many occasions -- nor did Churchill have any conventional fear of death -- that Death simply adopted a different tactic by eroding meaning.

How do we get around that one? Unless *we* do something to transform death itself, it seems that it is indeed the Last Word in meaninglessness. Death, where is thy sting? That's where, pal, in its pretensions to absolute nihilism. It is the anti-Word.

Obviously, getting around Death isn't something we could ever do. We can try, but then we simply end up looking like Cher, or Kenny Rogers. Entropy gets us all in the end.

However, what -- or who -- is God but the Great Negentropic Attractor?

If man has a "spiritual" conversion, you might say that God has an "anthropic" one. That is, as man turns to God, God apparently turns to man: "God becomes man that man might become God." So, not only does God die, but he must die in order to undo Death.

Put it this way: physics mathsplains to us that order is parasitic on entropy. But Christian metaphysics tells us it's the other way around -- that entropy is parasitic on order.

Life becomes death that death might become Life. One hopes...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Churchill, God, and Baseball

We have an early appointment tomorrow (Wednesday), so there shall be no post. But this is today. Get on with it!

We left off with the idea that we are the measure of what we can understand; and that our understanding includes a nonlocal organ "which perceives, and at the same time confers existence upon, a reality of its own" (Corbin).

We compared this latter to the historical imagination. Coincidentally, for several months now I've been immersing myself in WinstonWorld, a remarkably expansive and imaginative place. Churchill wrote four volumes on the History of the English Speaking Peoples, ending at the threshold of WWI. He carried the story forward by writing five volumes on that little dispute, and then six more on its continuation in WWII.

My point is that he essentially imagined all of history and situated himself within it. Contrast this with the average lofo voter, whose historical horizons scarcely extend past the last meal and beyond the next. Or maybe you've never seen Watter's World.

Not only did he imagine history, but he assimilated it, such that it was woven into his very substance. Manchester says something to the effect that for Churchill, English history was more akin to what childhood memories are for you and I, or lunch for the lofo.

Here is the exact passage. I include it because I think it parallels what Corbin says about God and the imaginal space (emphases mine):

"Memorizing dates and place-names has always been the bane of schoolchildren." But "for a few," including Churchill, "history, by way of imagination and discipline, becomes part of personal memory, no less than childhood recollections of the first swim in the ocean or the first day of school."

"Churchill did not simply observe the historical continuum; he made himself part of it." The distant past, extending to Greco-Roman times, "informed his identity in much the same way" as did memories of his childhood home.

Even so, "He did not live in the past." Rather, "the past lived on in him." He had a "mystical relationship" with it, such that the present resonated with the past in a deeply personal way. You could say that this is how and why he recognized Hitler the moment he saw him: same play, new actor.

Yesterday we spoke of the distinction between history and memoir; a memoir, although "in" history, isn't history, in that the latter involves a more transcendental, comprehensive, and disinterested view. However, in a fascinating twist, it is as if Churchill transforms history into memoir -- as if it all happened to him personally.

Now, how might this help inform what we've been saying about the imaginal space?

Somewhere our Unknown Friend writes of the importance of imagining various events of the Bible -- is if intimately participating in them.

On a more banal level, I'm thinking of the great announcer of the Dodgers, Vin Scully, who will be retiring this week after 67 years with the team. I've been listening to him since 1965, and it is difficult if not impossible to describe his magical ability to facilitate one's imaginative participation in the game.

Through the '60s and '70s in particular, few games were televised, so radio was the only option. But he made the games so vivid, that most everyone attending them held transistor radios to their heads, listening to Vin describe what they were seeing with their own eyes. In fact, you didn't even need a radio. There were so many, that you could hear his voice in the stands without one -- even on the field.

Again, this may strike one as a trivial example, but think of the implications: Scully's imaginative description of the game was somehow more real than the game itself; or, it revealed a deeper dimension of reality via one's personal participation in the imaginal.

By the way, the wife discovered a download of Vin reading the rosary. I am informed by an 11 year old witness that it made her cry -- just as he made me cry in 1966, when the Dodgers lost to the Orioles in the World Series, even though the eyes tell us it's just a bunch of grown men playing a child's game.

There is something similar going on with scripture. For example, "the story of Adam in Genesis" reflects "the invisible history of the 'celestial' and spiritual man, enacted in a time of its own and always 'in the present'" (Corbin). As with Churchill, the stage is the same, and even the roles; only the actors change.

We're almost out of time. Let's conclude by suggesting that "mere reality" is lacking a dimension or two, which can only be perceived via the imaginal. "Is it possible to to see without being in the place where one sees?" Imaginal visions "are in themselves penetrations into the world they see."

It's little like how a magnifying glass gathers the sun's rays into a focal point which burns through the surface.

Monday, September 26, 2016

You are the Problem

The problem with the gap between Friday and Monday isn't so much the gap itself but the frame of mind -- the state more than the content. Recovering the content is easy enough, but more important is figuring out where -- or who -- I was when I wrote it. Now, where was I? And who?

Right. Recipherment and decipherment (bearing in mind that a cipher is nothing). So we're halfway there, being that I feel completely re-ciphered, or freshly enzilched, this morning. As usual, lost in the bewilderness and searching for questions.

In the ultimate sense, it would appear that mysticism is to philosophy as form is to content. Corbin writes that "a philosophy that does not culminate in a metaphysic of ecstasy is vain speculation," while "a mystical experience that is not grounded on a sound philosophical education is in danger of degenerating and going astray."

This truism finds perhaps its quintessential expression in St. Thomas, who, toward the end of his life, had a mystical experience compared to which all the prior philosophizing was nothing; no man has ever deciphered more than Thomas, and it seems that his re-cipherment was on the same scale.

But this is a cross-religious experience. Think, for example, of the Buddha, who, in realizing the poverty of speech in conveying the experience, simply held up a flower.

Now, if man is in the image of God, each man's image of God must be at least "relatively unique," being that each man is himself unique.

Imagine invisible light passing through a prism, only in this case, the prism reveals an infinite number of colors (which I suppose it does anyway, for it is we who place the boundaries between violet and blue or yellow and green). Bearing in mind what was said above, this implies that each man must not only know his God but realize him. In his own living color.

In short, God is revealed -- or reveals himself -- in a form to which each man is individually capable of seeing. To add biofuel to the living paradox, God is at each end of the enterprise, such that -- in the words of Meister Eckhart -- "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which he sees me."

What I've written so far probably seems either stupid or pointless. But I say: why can't it be both?

Buddhists also say something to the effect that another man's dharma -- AKA path -- is a grave danger. Or in other words, you can't take the journey for someone else, nor can they take it for you. Rather, you have to simultaneously find and forge your own path; and also imagine and discover where it leads.

Which does not devolve to a hopeless subjectivism, because the finding is no less important than the forging. It's an orthoparadox. Deal with it.

"Imagine" and "discover" would appear to exclude one another, but if so, then Corbin pretty much wasted his life in trying to explain how and why each necessitates the other.

Think of the relationship between DNA and environment. Even if DNA is the "code of life," it isn't Life Itself. It also codes for the environment, or better, for a kind of dialectic between the organism and the expected environment. The code for wings obviously anticipates the atmosphere in which they are operative. Likewise, the code for human intelligence anticipates truth, as the code for religiosity anticipates God.

There is empirical reality and there is intelligible reality; but there is also spiritual reality. Furthermore, our standard equipment includes the apparatus for knowing each, i.e., senses, reason, and... what? In other words, we can sense the physical world and reason about the intelligible. What is the equivalent activity vis-a-vis the spiritual?

"Imagination" is apparently the best word we have, although Corbin draws a sharp distinction between the imaginary and imaginal. Referring back to the forge/find dialectic, the imaginal takes place in the space in between, whereas the imaginary would imply no real discovery (or discovery of the Real).

In order to imagine the imaginal, think of the analogy of "historical imagination." Obviously, history is only something that can be imagined, but that hardly means it didn't occur.

Rather, too much occurred for any man to ever fully imagine. So, history is always one man's representation of what occurred. And there are capacious historical imaginations, just as there are narrow or shallow ones. There are inevitable scotomas, not to mention perspectives and dimensions.

For example, one could write a history from the perspective of economics, of religion, of science, of liberty; or from the standpoint of women, or slaves, or children. No one could possibly see everything from all possible perspectives.

The other day I was explaining to the boy the difference between history and memoir. To back up a bit, I'm trying to find a way to get him interested in history. I read quite a bit about World War II, but I was thinking that perhaps an eye-witness memoir of a soldier on the ground might better capture his imagination.

Odd, isn't it, that being an eye-witness to history is not the same as history? But nor is being an eye-witness to "religious facts" the same as religion.

Corbin cites the example of the Burning Bush, which "is only a brushwood fire if it is merely perceived by the sensory organs." Likewise, in the absence of a "trans-sensory" organ, the Crucifixion is just some rabble rouser getting the death penalty. Nothing about religion makes a great deal of sense if not transmuted by this organ of perception.

I read somewhere yesterday that Trump's detractors take him literally but not seriously, whereas his followers take him seriously but not literally. Scott Adams said something similar this morning, that Trump

always takes the extreme position on matters of safety and security for the country, even if those positions are unconstitutional, impractical, evil, or something that the military would refuse to do. Normal people see this as a dangerous situation. Trained persuaders like me see this as something called pacing and leading.

This reminds me of some of Jesus's more extremist statements about selling all one has and giving it to the poor, or hating one's parents, or returning love for hate. I don't know about you, but I take such statements deadly seriously if not always literally.

Let's say Jesus is the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. The senses would say "I don't see it," while logic might respond, "so what?" You might say that the whole thing is a stumbling block to the senses and folly to our reason.

"Abstract monotheism and literalist religion do not suffice to permit an effective divine encounter." Rather, we need something like "active imagination," which is "that organ of prophetic inspiration which perceives, and at the same time confers existence upon, a reality of its own" (Corbin).

Moreover, "each man is the measure of what he can understand" (ibid.). Or, each of us is an imaginal space for God's self-understanding -- where the divine light is refracted through a unique problem which you call I and others call You.