Thursday, June 29, 2017

To the Unknown-Known, and Beyond!

I suppose we could say that the materialist (or any ideologue) naively reduces the world to the known-known, or conflates what is known with what is. For the flatlander, what is obvious obscures what is subtle, thus rendering him oblivious to the great unKnown that both surrounds and transcends him.

A real scientist -- e.g., not the AGW kind -- always bears in mind the known-unknown. In other words, he understands that science is never -- and can never be -- complete, but is surrounded on all sides by Mystery. (This Mystery is up, down, inside, and out.)

From Gödel we learn that any system of thought contains assumptions unprovable by the system, while from Hayek we learn that in a complex system such as the economy, information is widely dispersed and far beyond the scope of any single actor.

From psychology -- my kind, anyway -- we also appreciate a mysterious realm of the unknown-known, AKA The Unthought Known. I won't spend a great deal of time on this one... although maybe I should, because it also has profound religious implications, going to objects that awaken our vertical recollection.

For example, a few weeks ago we mentioned the experience of Kallistos Ware when he first entered an Orthodox Church. On the one hand it was completely unfamiliar, and yet, there was a shock of recognition. BANG!: the unknown (but somehow) known. Specifically, the "bang" occurs when the implicitly known becomes explicitly so.

According to Frank, something similar happens between two human beings: How little we know / How much to discover / What chemical forces flow / From lover to lover.

Then there is the biggest realm of them all, the unknown-unknown. That would be God -- or ultimate reality -- as he is in himself. Whereas cataphatic theology speaks to the unknown-known God, apophatic theology (un)speaks to the unknown-unknown God.

As it so happens, I'm reading what amounts to a little primer in apophatic theology by Henri LeSaux (Swami Abhishiktananda), called Prayer. There are better examples, but this one will do fine for our purposes. Here he speaks of the distinction between unknown-knowns and the unknown-unknown:

[M]ental images and ideas of God which we form when we study or meditate.... are signs pointing to the Reality they represent, but they are forever unable to comprehend that reality, which stands in its aloneness far beyond the reach of any conception or imagination of man.

Furthermore, to reduce the unknown-unknown to the unknown-known is to engage in idolatry: "The day in which we attempt to identify them with with the Reality they become simply idols." A proper approach to the unknown-known "tends always towards the Beyond where alone Reality abides in the unfathomable silence of the Godhead."

Orthoparadox: on the one hand, "there is nothing in the universe, or indeed in the whole of creation which is not itself a revelation, a manifestation of God." On the other, "He is beyond every form.... Nothing 'comprehends' him, but he shines through everything and makes himself known in everything." Truly, O is the great Nothing-Everything, or as Meister Eckhart expresses it,

"There is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing; rather unnamed than named; unknown than known," yada yada. Only like can know like, and God is like nothing.

These two attitudes or stances -- the cataphatic and apophatic -- are complementary and not antagonistic. But as in all complementarities one is prior, in this case, apophasis, for

If God is present in the tiniest portion of what manifests him, he is at the same time beyond anything in which he manifests his presence, beyond the whole universe and beyond every part of it, beyond everything mental and beyond everything material.

Again, ideologies such as rationalism completely forget what they don't (and can't) know. As Schuon puts it,

The danger of pride intervenes with rationalism, that is, with the prejudice of relying on a simply reasoning intelligence, and even in defiance of indispensable data, the absence of which is not even suspected.

7 comments:

mushroom said...

How little we know / How much to discover / What chemical forces flow / From lover to lover.

That has gotten to be one of my favorite songs.

mushroom said...

Every bush burns.

Gagdad Bob said...

Mushroom @ 12:51: Slightly more clever and elevated than You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals / So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

Johnny Mercer didn't write How Little We Know, but it sounds like one of his. He might be my favorite among the great American songbook lyricists....

julie said...

Mushroom, re. "Every bush burns", I like that. True, if only we take the time to see it.

mushroom said...

The lyrical quality of so much of the stuff Sinatra did in the '50s and early '60s is astounding.

Gagdad Bob said...

They way he delivers the lyric is very much like an actor, in that he inhabits the words.

julie said...

Heh - conversely, the guy from the Bloodhound Gang usually drones on in a monotone with as little emotion as possible. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the latter doesn't really qualify as music, but it does pretty well represent what America has become...