Thursday, March 02, 2006

Doing Your Part to Keep the Cosmos Healthy

Someday it will be common understanding that we inhabit an evolutionary cosmos that is fundamentally spiritual in nature. Until then, we have to satisfy ourselves with being at the leading edge of this cosmic evolution, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. We must be voices crying in the bewilderness of a spiritually blind scientific materialism on the one side, a religiously bland materialism on the other.

The two great forerunners of evolutionary cosmology were Hegel in the West and Sri Aurobindo on the East. The former is widely mis-or disunderstood, while the latter is simply not understood, or not widely known, anyway. However, I also believe that Christian metaphysics, properly understood, is evolutionary to the core, and entirely compatible with a philosophy of cosmic evolution. It could hardly be otherwise.

In fact, that gives me an idea for something I should post about--Jesus as the divine emissary who brings the "good news" of cosmic evolution. Teilhard de Chardin certainly recognized this, seeing Jesus as the "omega point" or fulfillment of the cosmic drama. This omega point--which lies outside space and time and is already complete in itself--operates like a telos that draws us toward our own spiritual completion. In Jesus, "alpha and omega"--the completed whole--meet in the middle of history, and he comes to telos all about it. It is accomplished. So relax already. Better yet, relux and call it a deity.

Hegel's philosophy is so difficult and so capacious that it has been used by mystagogues and demagogues of both the left and right to prop up their own sorry philosophies. For example, it is well understood that Marxism was largely a recasting of Hegel's philosophy in materialistic terms. But whenever we adopt a materialistic view, we are turning reality on its head. Materialism is deceptively and seductively simple, but it is an insidious metaphysic that does great violence to our humanness. Frankly, it posits a cosmos that is not worthy of our being in it.

Hegel was obviously ahead of his time, in that contemporary physics now requires us to regard the cosmos as a seamless and indivisible whole in which every part is internally related to every other part. Wholeness in both space and time is the prior condition of reality, not something we arrive at inductively by somehow adding all of the parts of reality together. Physics forces us to take seriously the idea that the Truth is the whole and that the whole is the Truth; it is not a static truth, but a dynamic, unfolding truth--or more accurately, an ongoing revelation of truth as it discloses more of itself in the fullness of time.

Hegel's central lesson is that the Whole--what he called the concrete universal--is not an amorphous blob--"the night in which all cows are black"--but that it has an internal, trinitarian logic all its own, the infamous "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" that subtends all evolutionary progress. The whole is an infinitely complex system, and human beings are self-aware images of that system. We are conscious Spirit because the absolute is conscious Spirit, and conscious Sprit is immanent in the cosmos. Likewise, we have an underlying subjective wholeness because we partake of the prior wholeness of reality. Neuroses and mind parasites disrupt this wholeness and create all sorts of irreconcilable divisions in the psyche.

This is the reason why your billions of individual brain cells--which are involved in trillions of constantly changing connections with each other--so simply and elegantly resolve themselves into the atemporal experience of a unitary "I." Your I AM is a mirror of the fundamental unity of the cosmos. It is not the result of this brain activity, but the prior condition of a nervous system that can sponsor such holistic consciousness to begin with.

What we call nature is only the outward aspect of the world--a partial and misleading view of things given by our senses. Only consciousness can know of the interior horizon of the cosmos. But it takes a higher consciousness still to comprehend the inner dialectic that unifies spirit and matter, which is why Hegel was not shy about regarding himself as the greatest philosopher who had ever lived. In his mind, he had realized Absolute Spirit, insofar as it is possible to do so on our plane.

That is, the Absolute Spirit is ceaselessly restless and dynamic. It is constantly synthesizing and resolving partial expressions of itself into higher unities. But each higher unity is itself another partial expression of the absolute, so the activity is endless. I believe this is what personal growth or evolution is all about.

In the past, I have written about living one's life on the shoreline between the time and eternity, the finite and the infinite. Hegel's system is another way of talking about this. To be "rational" in Hegel's sense of the term is to constantly press forward, to seize the tiller of cosmic evolution by striving to overcome all of the dualities and contradictions that surround us. Remember what I said the other day: the deeper person is the one who can comfortably synthesize and harmonize the most points of view.

Now bear in mind that this is not "multiculturalism" or relativism but its opposite. It is to experience the deeper unity beneath the partial expressions of reality, not to elevate those partial expressions to the ultimate. This latter fallacy is committed by all relativists.

That is, the finite, atomistic logic of the common intellectual holds opposites and limited perspectives in rigid and fixed categories, which is the end of evolutionary thought. The "common sense" of the typical contemporary left wing intellectual confuses the contingent with the essential. The realm of the essential is foreclosed to them, because intuition of it requires a higher form of cognition called faith, a patient unknowing that clears the way for the operation of the synthetic function that allows us to see into the deep within of things.

When it is said that "faith can move mountains," it is a poetic way of noting how this special mode of thought does indeed have remarkable powers to evolve our understanding of the material world--for example, to reconcile matter and spirit, reason and revelation, life and death. Faith is a much higher form of reason, for only it allows access to the Reason--the concrete universal.

Of course, "health" is etymologically linked to the word "wholeness," and the reason is obvious. Physical health, psychological health, and spiritual health all involve wholeness in different ways. For what is physical illness but a "part"--a bacteria, an organ system, a cancer--that has split off from the whole, so that the harmonious unity of the organism is disrupted? Again, what is a mind parasite but a part of the personality that has gone its own way and has its own subversive agenda that is not in the best interests of oneSelf? And what is spiritual pathology but the exaltation of a graven image--some partial expression of the whole Truth, elevated to the ultimate?

Indeed, what is political pathology but the the great reversal of e pluribus unum into its perverse reflection, e unum pluribus? Out of One, Many might as well be the secular mantra that underlies the projects of multiculturalism, "diversity," moral relativism, identity politics, victimology--virtually all of the pneumapathologies of the Left. The leftist cure is even worse than the spiritual sickness it represents, because the cure involves attempting to recover their lost wholeness by rigidly imposing it from on high, a false god if ever there was one.

Today's post has been a tiny, partial expression of the whole. However, now that we are hovering around the penumbra of the concrete universal, I think we will spend a few more days here, synthesizing some further insights as they apply to Christianity and perhaps even getting into some Aurobindo. As I have mentioned before, this East-West synthesis will be the way of the mankind's spiritual future, so we might as well get to working on it now. Sure, it's inevitable anyway. But it's always a good idea to bow before the inevitable.


Petey said...

I told you not to mention that bloviating charlatan Hegel. Clears the room every time.

John Hinds said...

Could I respond? I need to be quick in order to have an impact. So here goes.

"The greater the readiness to subordinate purely personal interests, the higher rises the ability to establish comprehensive communities.... This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise of every truly human culture."

Adolf Hilter, Mein Kampf, Chapter 11, Ralph Manheim translation

Hegel's philosophy is the basis for this and similar remarks in support of statism. I refer your readers to this quote from

"Hegel rejects things-in-themselves. With their disappearence, something must be done about the existence of consciousness, and Hegel's move is to have it exist independently and inter-subjectively in its own right. Consciousness transcends individual consciousness; it becomes "meta-consciousness," which is essentially what was the case in Neoplatonism. Traditionally this sort of doctrine has been known as "idealism," with Hegel's variety distinguished as "absolute idealism" to differentiate it from the "subjective idealism" of individual souls in someone like Berkeley. While Kant's views are sometimes associated with Berkeley, I have never heard of anyone ever making such a connection for Hegel.

The comfort of this view to modern trendy anti-individualism, whose dark purposes are moral and political more than metaphysical, is considerable. It is now common for people to say that individuality as such was "socially constructed" by people like Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke, for their own evil purposes of racism, sexism, capitalism, etc. The "natural," or at least previous, state of things, then, was communal, public, collective, and external. Since collectivism and the heteronomy of external authority are what the politically correct crowd wants, as did Hegel, their purposes and his again coincide in the ontological abolition of Kantian individual consciousness."

And this too is pertinent to your line of exposition (same source):

"To see the fundamental mechanics of Hegel's method, what he calls letting "the thought-forms follow the impulse of their own organic life" [Hegel's Logic, William Wallace, op. cit., §24, p. 51], another example is in order. The very first inference in the whole Dialectical system is from the concept of Being to that of Nothing, as we see here:

§87] But this mere Being, as it is mere abstraction, is therefore the absolutely negative; which, in a similarly immediate aspect, is just Nothing.

(1) Hence was derived the second definition of the Absolute; the Absolute is Nought. In fact this definition is implied in saying that the thing-in-itself is the indeterminate, utterly without form and so without content, -- or in saying that God is only the supreme Being and nothing more; for this is really declaring Him to be the same negativity as above. The Nothing which the Buddhists make the universal principle, as well as the final aim and goal of everything, is the same abstraction. [ibid. p.161]

Here the argument is that, because the concept of Being is very abstract and so without much content (a privation), it is rather like the concept of Not Being, also without much content, which means that it implies Not Being, so that things of which Being is predicated, like the Absolute, must also be predicated with Not Being. This is like an argument that because fire engines are red, and red is rather like pink, therefore fire engines are pink.
This cited passage shows something else. As well noted by Schopenhauer, but ignored by recent Hegelians, Hegel's metaphysics is about God. This is not the God of Abraham and Isaac, or even Kant's God, but it is comparable to a theology like Spinoza's. At the same time, Hegel likes the idea that the Absolute as Nothing sounds like Buddhism. Unfortunately, Hegel, and even Schopenhauer, who was rather more sympathetic to Buddhism, have made an elementary mistake in interpreting Buddhist doctrine, where "Emptiness" is not simply nothing -- it is neither existence nor non-existence nor both nor neither. This is an Antinomy, the Four-Fold Negation, which imposes a limitation on knowledge, the kind of thing the Hegel forcefully rejects, as itself conformable to the heritage of Kant, whose limitations on knowledge Hegel dismisses. "

So? I am not so sure you agree that the "Absolute is Nought". This brief analysis of Hegel by Prof. Ross would tend to indicate that Hegel's thought is not really conducive to the idea of cosmic evolution of which your exposition is so elegantly architected.

I think your line of thinking is the best I have come across in that it aims and comes oh so close to accounting for everything that is but at the same time there are those, also smarter than me, who have serious reservations about Hegel and Prof. Ross is only one.

John Hinds

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, as I mentioned, Hegel has certainly been accused of fathering communist totalitarianism and Nazi authoritarianism, usually based on a loose interpretation of something he wrote, even though he most certainly would have condoned neither.

Many emminent writers have come to Hegel's defense much more adequately than I could. In any event, he can't be blamed for what followers such as Marx did with him. In fact, Hegel was a Christian and thought his philosophy was compatible with Christianity.

As for me, I simply take what I need and leave the rest. I am not a Hegelian, but I find many of his ideas extremely illuminating and helpful. As with most great philosophers, one can benefit from immersing oneself in his intellectual world even if one does not agree with all his conclusions. I simply offer him up as someone who understood the sweeping, cosmic nature of history, and its underlying spiritual basis.

Mark said...

Chardin may have had some interesting ideas on the evolution of human consciousness but Jesus as omega point wasn't one of them.

There is nothing in the New Testament to support it unless you say that Jesus considered himself the new Adam (which He did not, but Paul did).

Jesus doesn't believe in the evolution of consciousness at all. Why would he? He has no idea about any such thing.

Bob, you have a lot of speculating thoughts about reality ultimate or otherwise, but what I find sadly lacking is a direct personal experience of God as He is. Until you meet God, you have hardly begun to put things into perspective. The All is not what you imagine or try to unimagine.

Gagdad Bob said...


"Chardin may have had some interesting ideas on the evolution of human consciousness but Jesus as omega point wasn't one of them."

--Actually that idea was lifted from Jesus: "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, The First and the Last." Sounds pretty clear to me.

"There is nothing in the New Testament to support it unless you say that Jesus considered himself the new Adam (which He did not, but Paul did)."

--You'll have to be a little more clear. If you are reducing the wealth of Christianity to what is contained in the pages of the New Testament, then we simply have a very different understanding of Christianity.

"Jesus doesn't believe in the evolution of consciousness at all. Why would he? He has no idea about any such thing.

--Simply untrue. To put it midly, he has a highly sophisticated view of consciousness and spiritual evolution.

"Bob, you have a lot of speculating thoughts about reality ultimate or otherwise, but what I find sadly lacking is a direct personal experience of God as He is. Until you meet God, you have hardly begun to put things into perspective. The All is not what you imagine or try to unimagine."

--Well, one thing I cannot provide you with is a direct personal experience of my direct personal experience. In any event, there is no purpose in debating someone like yourself who "knows God as He is." You have evolved far beyond the fallen creatures who enjoy writing and reading this blog.

Hoarhey said...

It seems God draws us out one individual at a time as volunteers with the free will not to be drawn out.
Add a megalomaniac who can see visions of how much better he/she would feel if that drawing out process were speeded up a bit by the State and all sorts of nasty things happen.
In the latest incarnation, Hillary Rodham comes to mind.

gumshoe1 said...

Hoarhey said...
"In the latest incarnation, Hillary Rodham comes to mind."

behind every GREAT woman
there's a bumbling,good-time Charlie
who just wants to be loved?