Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale...

The Church of Peter is visible, and continuous like water; that of John... invisible, and discontinuous like fire. John became “brother” of Christ and “Son” of the Virgin, and, further, he is the prophet of the Apocalypse; Peter is charged to “feed my sheep,” but his Church seems to have inherited also his denials... however, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” John “tarries till I come,” and this mystery remains closed to Peter.

In the perspective of gnosis, Christ, “Light of the world,” is the Universal Intellect, as the Word is the “Wisdom of the Father.” Christ is the Intellect of microcosms as well as that of the macrocosm. He is then the Intellect in us as well as the Intellect in the Universe and
a fortiori in God; in this sense, it can be said that there is no truth nor wisdom that does not come from Christ, and this is evidently independent of all consideration of time and place. --Frithjof Schuon

This is probably going to be a fruitless discussion, but I’ll try it anyway. It’s an important one, because it gets to the very heart of what the mind can and cannot know about God. And it touches on the very purpose of this blog.

As I have emphasized before, a merely mental understanding of God is entirely insufficient in my view. Yes, I am an esoterist, but this does not connote “elitism.” While there is a hierarchy involved, the hierarchy does not inhere in the esoterist but in the nature of things, for the nous, or intellect properly so-called, is higher than the mind.

To the extent that anyone understands God with the nous and not the mind, he is de facto an esoterist and therefore “higher,” not in the sense of moral superiority--as if he is a better person--but in the same way that algebra is “higher” than math. Likewise, anyone who reduces religion to a mere literalism has given the game away to the rationalism of the ego. For esoterism is both folly to the rationalist geeks and a stumbling block in the pews.

In the past, I have attempted to discuss this dilemma in terms of the bi-modal logic of the mind. Our little surface ego moves and has its being in the bright and well-lit world of classical or Aristotelian logic. I will be the first to acknowledge that the world accessed by the ego represents a world. But by no means does it represent the world. Rather, the ego gives access to one plane of being. I won’t say that it’s a “low” flying plane, because, as a psychologist, I am fully aware of how many people fail to get off the ground and reliably enter it due to various developmental issues and fixations. But it is an “intermediate” world, with degrees of being both above and below.

In the esoterist view, the planes above the ego are developmentally later but ontologically prior, and therefore more real. Every below in the cosmos is “contained” within an above, while, at the same time, the above is uncontainable and is necessarily present “within” the below. To animals, the ego is clearly both “higher” and more inward.

But we must never forget that the epic story of cosmic evolution does not end with the ego’s exteriorization of its limited understanding--its colonization of a small portion of consciousness. Think of the ego as analogous to a bright flood light in the dark. Wherever the light turns, there is an area of bright illumination. But we must not be fooled into believing that the foreground of illumination--the little spot lit up by the ego--is all there is to reality.

As Kant properly noted, the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies. This is what it means to be a fallen ego in a fallen world. The fall is both literal (i.e., vertical) and metaphorical.

With the scientific revolution in full force, Kant saw what was coming and was actually trying to rescue the realm of religion from the predations of a cognitively greedy scientific rationalism. Since the ego ultimately has access only to its own phenomena, this left the infinitely greater reality of the noumena untouched, unknown and unknowable. This is precisely where Kant erred, because in saying that the noumena was unknowable, he essentially reduced religion to a mere sentimental fideism. It would simply be a matter of time before it became wholly irrelevant to “sophisticated” moderns.

Again, either religion embodies real knowledge that surpasses our egoic understanding, or it is simply an absurdity that is defiantly embraced in the teeth of reason and logic. But if it does embody real knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? Is it mere information, occupying the same horizontal plane as factual scientific information, like saying “water freezes at 32 degrees and Jesus walked on it,” or “the ribs enclose the chest cavity and women are made of one”? In my way of looking at things, this is a gross confusion that simply invites people not to take religion seriously.

Let us imagine that the totality of reality constitutes a vast field of consciousness. In navigating its dimensions and coordinates, there are two principle dangers. One involves being shipwrecked on the rocks of a rational but fixed and “frozen” mental conception that ultimately forecloses spiritual evolution. The ego stakes out its little piece of territory. It knows what it knows, and that’s all it wants to know. The vast majority of cultural and religious beliefs are of this variety. Some belief systems stake out a slightly wider area, but each, to one degree or another, places an arbitrary boundary around reality.

The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey.

Religions are indeed fixed, and must be so. But they are not fixed in order to reduce reality, but in order to navigate through it and ultimately to colonize more of it. They are not the destination, but the means of arriving there--at one’s deustination.

Therefore, the question is not, strictly speaking, whether or not this or that dogma is true or false, in a narrow, purely egoic way. I believe dogma is critical. Critical for the same reason that a ship is--not merely for the purpose of floating statically on the water, but moving through it.

So all you cosmic castaways,
we're here such a brief, short time.
We have to make the best of things,
thanks to Adam's crime.
But Petey and old Gagdad Bob,
will do their very best,
to make your journey vertical,
in this horizontal mess.
No angry trolls, no leftist loons,
no doctrinaire moonbats,
Like Dailykos and Huffington,
and other gynocrats.
So join us here each day my friends,
we'll sail right through the fog.
Obnoxious Bobservations,
here on Gag-a-dad's blog.


dilys said...

I always wanted to be Mary Anne, but fear I am rapidly morphing in my real life into a pudgy Lovey Howell in wrinkled linen.

Overtones too of a parable with roots in gnostic Christianity, resembling the Patient Griselda -- innocents shipwrecked, off course, longing for home. Gilligan as the Holy Fool, the hierarchial Skipper dim but essential ballast, the handsome chaste professor as the resident Gagdad. But not as big a heart.

Beats the heck out of Dobie Gillis where Maynard was born.

jwm said...

(sigh)... and I still have a crush on Zelda Gilroy.

will said...

Bob and the Heads -

>> " . . . but his Church seems to have inherited also his denials... however, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” " <<

Yes. For me, the Church as well as the state of Israel are floating archetypes, both representing the spiritual state of humankind. Both are ocean liners in the deep blue and there is general chaos on board each ship. Yet (and boy, is this one ungainly analogy), those ships stay afloat because, whether the passengers know it or not, the hulls were built to last.

The sacred flame burns in humanity, fallen as it may be - this is what the Church with its denials (most recently and literally, of the pedestry issues) represents. Thus "hell shall not prevail against it".

John is still in the Church; the gulf between him and Peter is something of an illusion but it's an illusion with teeth. But John is there, waiting his time. There are people in the Church who *know* and they know well enough to know that a palace coup would be out of the question and completely beside the point.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think you mean "mutiny" is out of the question, matey.

JohnR said...

As I like to say, if Immanuel Kant,
then Khubla Khan.

Dan Spomer said...

There is is again: obnoxious. Is that the Word Of The Week?

Gagdad Bob said...

You're right. Let's change it to "bobnoxious."

will said...

>>I think you mean "mutiny" is out of the question, matey. <<

aye,captain. Love to mix them metaphors.

will said...

Dilys -

Gilligan might have been the Holy Goof, but sheesh, even Holy Goofs ought to be put to sleep for screwing up their chances for escape as many times as he did.

Lisa said...

Speaking of shipwrecks, Does anyone watch Lost? Is the island they crashed on actually purgatory?

P.S. Hey Will, Don't rock the boat, baby! I think you may have hurt LLH's feelings yesterday. I am sure that you are well aware that God speaks to each of us in our own appropriate way. Our lesson (I think?)is to be tolerant of other ways to the True Light. BTW, Islam does not qualify because it is not a religion, but a death cult, unless they can radically modify their written word.

JWM- who is Zelda Gilroy?

Finding Fair Hope said...

Shades of Dobie Gillis! Is anyone going to enlighten those who didn't watch black and white tv in the 50's? I'd love it if somebody here could connect Dobie, Maynard and Zelda to some parable or symbol.

jwm said...

Hmmm. Some of these posts make me think things; others make me see things. This one is a see things post. Our eyes perceive light in only a very narrow slice of the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared and ultra violet are invisible. So are radio waves, and microwaves invisible even though they are also part of the spectrum. Similarly there are sonic ranges that are above and below our ability to hear. Even though we can't perceive these enrgies with our senses, (ego) we know they exist, the proof being that we have been able to harness them to our use. This strikes me as being roughly analagous to harnessing the 'unknowable' knowledge of esoteric truths.

Lisa- I was goofing on Dilys' referrence to Dobie Gillis. The Adventures of Dobie Gillis was an early 60's sit-com starring Dwayne Hickman as Dobie, and Bob Denver as his beatnik pal Maynard G Krebs. Dobie was always chasing after unattainable babes, and Zelda Gilroy, the 'girl next door' character was always chasing after Dobie.

jwm said...

Synchronicity at work here. Just as I post on Dobie and (my hero and first role model) Maynard I see Finding Fair Hope beat me to it.


Lisa said...

OK, thanks for those explanations. I never got around to watching Dobie Gillis on nick at night, yes I know I am showing my age in the opposite way! It's all relative, right?

I do have one personal story related to Gilligan/Dobie that I will share. I went to boarding school with his daughter for one year. We were not close or friends. She appeared to be a little snooty, but she was probably just shy and self-conscious, looking back with more mature eyes. Anyhow, unfortunately for her, this was the same year that McDonalds ran a cross promotion with Gilligan's Island. Her father's face was plastered all over McDonalds tray mats! He probably just had to find a way to pay for her expensive tuition! So, some smart ass brought the tray liner and posted it in our cafeteria. We all thought it was hilarious considering it was not our father's face as the object of ridicule. She got really pissed and tore it down. Looking back, I do feel slightly ashamed that I derived my amusement from another person's humiliation but I guess that is what high school is all about. She never returned to school after that year. Is there a moral to this story? You be the judge!

Gagdad Bob said...

And Bob Denver, who played both Gilligan and Maynard G. Krebs, died last year. Which is sad, because now who's supposed to play Cindy Sheehan in the move?

Sal said...

"You rang?"
To me, 'Dobie Gillis' is inextricably linked with meatloaf -it's what my mom made for dinner Wed. nights.

Bob - don't worry. We get's all a matter of caste and spiritual wiring. It's your job to put it out there and ours to extract what's useful from your metaphysical buffet.

Sometimes some of us may want to say "Guys - it really doesn't have to be that complicated." But in the case of most people here - it *does* have to be. That's the whole point of why they're here and not somewhere else.

The Gagboy is getting some babyfood donated to the food bank in his birthday honor. Thought that would be appropriate, as he seems to REALLY like the stuff.

will said...

>>who's supposed to play Cindy Sheehan in the move?<<

Get me Harry Dean Stanton!! While he's still above room temp!!

With Dom DeLouise as Hugo Chavez.

Chicago's Adler Planetarium as Michael Moore.

Mrs. G said...

Dear Sal,
We're so touched by your donation in the GB's name. We'll be sure to tell him to pass it on when he's old enough.

If you would email me your mailing address, I'd like to send a thank you note.

Mrs G.

jwm said...

Which is sad, because now who's supposed to play Cindy Sheehan in the move?

Francis the mule is coming out of retirement. Bonzo the chimp said it was beneath his dignity.


Lisa said...

How bout Droopy Dog ?

rorschach said...

As CS Lewis said (via much allegory) in THE LAST BATTLE: Every good deed, no matter who does it, is a gift to God. Every evil deed, even if committed in His name, is rejected.

micrdick said...

Wow - great - truth - humor - joy - freedom

"the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies."

I still say you are missing a lot by not looking into Christian Science. The quoted thoughts above ARE 99% of Christian Science, but the recognition of the illusory nature of material reality must be followed by the knowledge that the actual existence of man is spiritual and perfect, and this true and perfect spiritual existence of man can be brought into this material experience by silent prayer from the proper basis, and is the key to instant healing.

Gagdad Bob said...

As a matter of fact, with the exception of my health, I am generally a Christian Scientist. That is, I just ignore problems until they go away.

Helene said...

With all due respect ( and certainly not presuming to be anything but your humble student}, Christian Science does not ignore poblems until they go away, they actually work mentally to demonstrate Truth, Principle, Spirit, Soul,Life Spirit and last but not least Love their synonyms for God. Sort of working vertically, or alligning vertically and demonstrating
the attributes of the above in one's life. Or something like that. And thanks for such great work you are doing.

mhlzmx said...

Opps, demonstrating horizonally is what I meant to say. Now I see that preview button.

Gagdad Bob said...


Sorry--just being a wise guy instead of man. As a matter of fact, my mother and grandmother were Christian Scientists. Of course, they died anyway...

But I actually did attend Christian Science Sunday school until the age of 10 or 11, until I had my secular bar mitzvah and became a committed atheist.

Anonymous said...

I really don't get the dicotomy between Peter and John- are you highlighting the fact that Peter was concerned with John's mission and purpose at a time when he should have been fully enthralled by Christ's revelation of his own mission and purpose, or are you trying to make some other point?
Peter was an older man, a hard head with a thick skull who showed flashes of brillance and displayed the full spiritual/carnal spectrum from fear and trembling to bold in your face faith.Peter's denials were rooted in the weakness in his flesh, and grounded in his desire to save his neck at the expense of what he knew to be true.It is somewhat ironic that he would be criticized here, especially in light of the lengths Christ went to in order to show him that he was accepted despite his failings. John was a much younger man who was fully committed to Christ.But how did they suddenly find themselves at odds with one another? These men, though vastly different in the "horizontal" shared a commonality in the "vertical" that bound them spiritually as brothers. So where is the dicotomy that you are alluding to?

I would argue that the mainstream church's weakness is not found in it's allegiance to dogma but in its departure from dogma. Truth is found in its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ and only through faith in Him does one regain communion with the Father God.

Anonymous said...

rorschach- the interesting thing is that Lewis also rejected the pantheistic philosophy found in much of Bob's writing in that very same book, The Last Battle.

Anonymous said...

finding- The nice thing is that Zelda was able to revive her career with her very own video game, The Adventures of Zelda!Since the 50's she's come a long way baby!

will said...

anony -

>>I really don't get the dicotomy between Peter and John-<<

A dicotomy maybe but I didn't see any sniping criticism of Peter in Bob's posting. I sure didn't intend any.

It's just that Peter has come to represent the more exoteric, outward face perspective of the Church, while John represents the more esoteric, mystical, more sub rosa angle.

Both obviously had the sanction of Christ, just as both perspectives have their role to play in any seeker's pathway to salvation/enlightenment

Rorschach said...


Pantheists say that God is in everything. Bob prefers to say, if I have it right, that everything is in God. Which is hardly the same thing.

Sal said...

I, too, got that impression. Not that you were criticizing, exactly, but suggesting that the Church would "grow into" the more esoteric. My comment would be that the two co-exist at all times, though one may seem more to the fore sometimes.

Anonymous said...

>> Pantheists say that God is in everything. Bob prefers to say, if I have it right, that everything is in God. Which is hardly the same thing. <<

Well, yes. The view that "God is in everything" - ie, that God is simultaneously immanent and transcendent - is called not pantheism, but panentheism (note the extra syllable). It has a very strong Biblical basis and is actually the position of both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, as I understand it, as well as of esoterists such as Schuon and Huston Smith. Ironically, it has also been adopted by liberal Protestants (those who still actually believe in God, that is) - see the works of Marcus Borg. Panentheism thus should be a point of common agreement between believers who differ on much else - it seems to be anathema only to fundamentalists and secularists.

Anonymous said...

>> The view that "God is in everything" - ie, that God is simultaneously immanent and transcendent - is called not pantheism, but panentheism (note the extra syllable). <<

Sorry - my bad. That should have read "everything is in God".

Anonymous said...

1)The subtle difference between panthiesm and panetheism as portrayed in this blog is really only a matter of semantics.Neither concept is found in Christianity.

2) The dicotomy drawn between Peter and John is a false dicotomy- I am sure that neither Peter nor John would embrace it. While the Revelation of John is difficult to understand The Gosple of John, and John 1 and John 2 are hardly esoteric in nature.

3) The gospel of Christ is not meant to be esoteric, it is available for all who choose to hear.

4) There may not have been a sniping criticism of Peter in the blog but the implication was that (the symbolic) John is somehow better than ( the symbolic) Peter.
I am willing to bet that most people, including those who frequent this board, are more like Peter than they are like ( the symbolic) John.