Saturday, January 14, 2006

Weekend Sermon: What's Before the Beginning & After the End?

If, before beginning serious investigations, we were jestingly to say that all beings are striving after contemplation--not merely those endowed with reason but unreasoning animals as well, even plants and the earth that begets them--and that they all, in their degree, attain to contemplation of reality here below, who would listen to such nonsense? --Plotinus

I'm guessing that a majority of readers will not fully understand why my book begins in the unconventional, "jesting" way it does--in the middle of the sentence it ended with, and with the word nothing, followed by a few pages of possibly indecipherable puns, neologisms, and homologues. A fair point. Allow me to explain.

In beginning and ending the book this way, One Cosmos is very loosely based on the circular structure of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Indeed, I found that this was the only way to illogically begend the book, since the big bang seems to have evolved out of a nothing that vastly transcends the horizon of dualistic knowability, while the highest state of consciousness returns us to the “nothing” of pure emptiness (which at the same time is the unmanifest plenum containing the potential for everything).

Despite the best efforts of science, we remain engulfed in a Mystery--the mystery of our origins, of our present being, and of our final destiny. Science searches outward, toward the periphery, looking at the data of the senses and the mathematically projected past to find the answers. Mysticism reverses our gaze from the periphery to the center, looking for our source and origin in the mysterious withinness of the cosmos--by following that withinness all the way back "upstream" to its non-dual source.

An esoteric cosmology--including Genesis--is only secondarily about the creation of the physical world. It is primarily about the mysterious manifestation of reality from the darkness of nonexistence to the light of conscious experience. Out of the Great Unborn, the timeless womb of eternity, forms and beings are ceaselessly given birth. As I hint at in the book, we are all beneficiaries of this voidgin birth.

This timeless ground, or "divine nothing," is the one place in the cosmos where we may truly gain first hand knowledge of the source of All, since the cosmos is psychic through and through, and we share that psychic life (or so we have heard from Petey). I like to use the analogy of a lampshade with millions of pinprick holes in it. Looking at the shade from the outside, it will appear is if there are a multitude of little lights. But in reality--looking within--there is but one source of light, the luminous source at the center.

Consider this statement from one of the greatest Christian mystics, Meister Eckhart: "If anyone wishes to come into God's ground and his innermost, he must first come into his own ground and his innermost, for no one can know God who does not first know himself." Here, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye by which he sees me."

This is the real meaning of esoteric cosmologies--that, on the one hand, they tell the story of the outward manifestation of the cosmos. But at the same time, they convey "hidden" knowledge of the inward procession of phenomena from the noumenal within, from a zero point of infinity at the heart of our own being. It is a matter of listening to and "hearing" this timeless wisdom that is perpetually sounding in our own depths.

Consider it this way: the big bang did not just happen once upon a timeless, some 14 billion years ago. Rather, a cosmos mysteriously explodes into being every moment, in every individual's consciousness. Likewise, an entire cosmos comes into being with each new birth, and a whole unrepeatable world fades into oblivion with each death. And it's all happening now.

In this view, the vexing duality of mind and matter are resolved in the only way they can be--by showing how both poles of the dialectic arise from a single, nonlocal source, outside space and time. Every moment--that is, the ineffable now--represents a ceaseless flowing out of eternity into time, accompanied by a simultaneous "flowing in" of time back to eternity.

The beginning of my book--through page seventeen--attempts to convey in poetic language the "flowing out" of the Infinite One into the dynamic many--for example, "The molten infinite pours forth a blazen torrent of incandescent finitude, as light plunges an undying fire into its own shadow," or "He expectorated a mirrorcle, now you're the spittin' image." On the one hand, these statements could be about the big bang. On the other, they could be about our own consciousness.

The end of the book--pages 252-266--simply reverses the process, taking us on the ascent from the many back to the One. Again, the reality of the situation is that this is occurring on a moment-by-moment basis. You might even say that this perpetual process represents the "interior life" of the Godhead (with certain modifications introduced by the Christian trinity or Jewish Sefirot that I won't get into here; both, in their own ways, are trying to describe this "interior life" of God.)

Thus, a sample from the end of my book reads as follows: "Reverse worldward descent and cross the bridge of darkness to the father shore; on your left is the dazzling abode of immortality, on your right is the shimmering gate of infinity." Here is another example, as we approach the singularity at the bigending of cosmic history: "Returning to the Oneself, borne again to the mysterious mamamatrix of our birthdeath, our winding binding river empties to the sea." Here we are "cured of plurality" and we experience "the blissful wave of the immortal now rising forth from the effulgent sea of existence." We are back before the beginning, the "Unborn body of the bodiless one, dark rays shining from a midnight sun, your phase before you were bearthed and begailed, empty tomb of a deathless child."

Traditional cosmologies--like any other spiritual truth--will not yield their meanings to the cognitively greedy accustomed only to linear, scientific ways of knowing; one cannot simply grasp at them, but must approach the endeavor with open hands (and more importantly, open heart and mind). And whatever you do, don't be serious. Sincere, absolutely. Serious, never. For,

Could it be true that in jesting we are contemplating? Yes. As do all who jest, in jesting we contemplate. --Plotinus


primal_john said...

"If anyone wishes to come into God's ground and his innermost, he must first come into his own ground and his innermost, for no one can know God who does not first know himself. Here, the eye with which I see God is the same eye by which he sees me."
-- Meister Eckhart
Profound yes, but be we all pantheistic heretics?

Gagdad Bob said...

Meister Eckhart has been accused of pantheism, but this would be a misunderstanding of his teaching. For Eckhart, God is the reality of all things, but also infinitely surpasses all things. In short, God is both immanent and transcendent. Although Eckhart goes beyond customary Christian understanding, his ideas are grounded in biblical texts such as Jesus' prayer "that all might be one, as you, Father, in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us." (John 17:21)

primal_john said...

For Eckhart, then if not pantheistic, this "knowing" experience was the beginnings of the unitive experience with all creation and that it must begin with the experiencer?


was Eckhart referring to the insightful knowing about our personal "mind parasites" which you describe so well in your book which understanding will ultimately predispose us or propel us into knowing HIM?

What I really want to ask is about the relationship between mystical knowledge of God and insightful knowledge of the origin and construction of our own personalities. Is that perhaps what Eckhart might have been hinting about when he wrote ". . . no one can know God who does not first know himself."?

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, to a certain extent. I only recently discovered that Eckhart's conceptual schema is very close to my own. Much of his language is designed to jolt the hearer out of his familiar conceptions, in recognition of the fact that God is beyond the limits of language.

Like me, Eckhart believed that we had the equivalent of a "horizontal" or "frontal" personality that is more or less the product of its enviornment and conditioning. In order to advancxe spiritually ("vertically"), we must free ourselves of all that is "accidental" in us, including internalized mind parasites. When we leave behind these contingent aspects of ourselves. we are "separated from nothing," and only God remains.

A typical statement by Eckhart in this regard is "You must know that to be empty of all created things is to be full of God, and to be full of created things is to be empty of God." Do not take this completely literally--again, Eckhart is using language to try to jolt you. When he talks about "created things," he's essentailly talking about the parts of ourselves that are not really US at all--about what I call "mind parasites." What mainly separates us from God is the local not-me. What unites us with God is the nonlocal Self that is behind and above the not-me.

Bro. Bartleby said...

"Could it be that the human mind is a membrane through which the infinite passes through the finite, the meeting place of time and eternity, the interior of the cosmos contemplating its outward aspect? Is divinity so thoroughly entangled in the cosmos that the outside is in and the inside is out?"

In the realm of particle physics we come to a point where matter dissolves and the best the physicist can come up with is 'point' without matter. Yet in this infinitely tiny world of which all that we know of is composed, we can pluck one of the super-tiny guys, the quark, and attempt to grasp that inside our very cells, inside the atoms that compose those very cells, are the little guys, the quarks. And stars are composed of quarks, air is composed of quarks, you and I are composed of quarks, rocks and mountains and bears and wolves and whales and turnips and windshield wipers are all composed of quarks. So I think it is at this level of the tiny guys that we begin to understand the oneness of all that God created.