Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Facts of Life, Raw and Unedited

Once again I find myself exinspirated by reader Copithorne, who mocks the need for metaphysics by asking,

--Do you have an explicit or implicit metaphysical framework when you are not talking?

--Do you have one when you are sleeping?

--Do you need one to shoot a gun?

--Does a plant require an implicit metaphysic to grow towards the sun?

--Does a dog require an implicit metaphysic to make puppies?

--Do you have one when you are talking about cooking or chores? Or is it just when you are making non-trivial statements about reality?

--At what age or developmental level do humans require an explicit or implicit metaphysical framework? And before that, it isn't necessary?

Copithorne was responding to my statement that “It is not actually possible to make any nontrivial statement about reality without an implicit or explicit metaphysical framework." If nothing else, Copithorne proves the corollary of this, that in the absence of sound metaphysics, one can only make trivial and/or incoherent statements about reality.

Religion often involves implicit metaphysics without explicit knowledge. What I mean by that is that embedded in any religious tradition are all sorts of metaphysical insights that are expressed in an obscure, ambiguous, symbolic, or mythological way. Thus, they have to be unpacked and understood.

Metaphysics, according to Schuon, is the science of the Absolute and of the true nature of things. It is that which allows us to discriminate between the Real and the apparent, between Atma and Maya. Metaphysics transcends philosophy because it transcends mere reason. Rather, metaphysics proceeds directly from the divine intellect, the part of us that may know absolute truth absolutely. For if we can know anything at all, we can potentially know everything. Once we acknowledge that it is possible to know truth, any limit we set on that capacity is entirely arbitrary.

In what follows, I attempted to bring together some fragments of past posts that touch on metaphysical questions. However, I ended up not having enough time this morning to truly bring them together into a coherent unity, so there is some repetition and some awkward editing. It would have been shorter and snappier if I had had more time. Oh well. I’ll let you figure it out.


When we say that something is "real," are we talking about the atoms and molecules of which it is composed? Or the physical forms that we perceive with the senses? Or the thought that is able to register and comprehend the perception? If only the subatomic or the physical are ultimately real, then there is no valid knowledge at all, for knowledge would be purely epiphenomenal.

"Exist" is not the right word for higher realities known by the intellect. "In-sist," perhaps. That is, higher and more subtle realities do not "stand out" except to those who "stand in" them. How do you stand in a higher world? It has no physical existence, and yet, it can only manifest in the physical. Furthermore, it can only do so with your coupperation--if you act as midwife and give birth to it. Which is difficult to do if you are a hyper-rational soul in a midwife crisis.


All exteriors have an interior, however attenuated. Consciousness is the interior of the cosmos. It has been co-evolving along with the exterior for the past 13.7 billion years. Our self-consciousness lives in the dialectical, generative space between the nonlocal, noumenal ground of consciousness-as-such and our evolved nervous system.

In the West, it is said that God operates through the Word. In the East, they say that the world is God's play, or lila. Thus, reality from God's perspective is a lot of extraordinarily clever wordplay. The world is actually made of language, but the language is not of this world. Nor is our ability to comprehend language. Both arise from the nonlocal Word--the world is intelligible because we are an image of the linguistic process that made it so.


The deeper meaning of the "fall" involves our entrance into the dimension of time. Time is not actually possible without eternity, but evolution is not possible without time. Therefore, we need to be saved from our apparent separation from the eternal, as we engage in our evolutionary sprint from monkey mind to divine mind.

For example, it is quite easy to fit Jesus into this paradigm. Adam's fall is the fall from timeless communion with God into the separative consciousness of duality and strife. Jesus represents the Universal Principle--the abstract absolute outside time and space--taking on particular form, the "concrete absolute." Thus, Jesus is the Ultimate made Particular, or word made flesh.

However, the Bible clearly teaches that we may share in this process--that it didn't just happen once upin a timeless to one person. Rather, it perennially occurs in the eternal ground in which we participate at the deepest level. We may be sons of God "through adoption," and thereby be saved from the ravages of time, here and now. We may make the eternal present in us. But it must be "realized," because it is anterior to our surface being.

The Upanishads discuss the problem in a slightly different way, but I think it's the same idea: to disidentify with the local personality and see that Atman and Brahman are not-two.

The fully realized person has reversed the fall, or turned figure and ground inside out. He has reversed the vector flow that misleadingly draws consciousness downstream to the objects of the senses. In short, he has realized that the cosmos is tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below. It's a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.


Let's begin with two stipulations, treating them not as religious statements per se but metaphysical ones:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,


In the beginning was the the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

In the spirit of multiculturalism, and in the effort to increase our depth of vision with an extra I, let's toss another bon mot into the mix, this from the opening of the Isha Upanishad: In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.

What does it mean, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? As I have mentioned before, I believe that it has to do with the creation of the most fundamental duality of the cosmos. This duality can be viewed from many angles, but it can be summarized by saying that "in the beginning God created the vertical and the horizontal," for this duality subsumes the irreducible (irreducible in terms that can be thought about) categories of quality and quantity, interior and exterior, eternity and time, whole and part, implicate and explicate, subject and object. In each instance we are dealing with a "limit case" beyond which thought cannot traverse. In fact, the one side of the dualism necessitates the other and represents the conditions of thought. Nothing "mental" can be made without the vertical/horizontal duality as a precondition.

With the second statement we introduce an unexpected twist: In the beginning was the Word, or Logos. Moreover, this Word was with God, implying that it was there "before the beginning," before the great dualistic creative activity of the first statement. Indeed, if the Word is God, this can be the only logical conclusion.

This then apparently raises language to a most exalted status. But clearly not if we merely look at it in the usual way. It's so easy to take language for granted, when in reality we are dealing with something that is frankly magic. In fact, the very same Biblical passage cautions us about this, pointing out that the light of the Word "shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Or, to put it in the slightly saltier terms expressed in the Book of Petey, "the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't get it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos."

One additional point would appear relevant. From Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read "Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." We are particularly interested in how our capacity for creativity might mirror the primordial creative activity of the Divine Mind.

So, what is language, anyway? What is a word? As a matter of fact, a word is a very special thing, because only it has the capacity of bridging the dualistic worlds introduced by primordial creation. Apparently words can do this because they are somehow prior to the great duality and therefore partake of both heaven and earth, above and below, vertical and horizontal.

The literal meaning of the word "symbol" is to "throw together" or across, as if words are exterior agents that join together two disparate things. But the Biblical view would suggest that language actually has this "throwing together" capacity because it somehow subtends the world on an interior level: language is what the world is made of, so it shouldn't surprise us that with it we can see all kinds of deep unities in the cosmos. The unities are there just waiting to be discovered, and language is our tool for doing that.

"In the beginning" of human consciousness there is also a fundamental duality--or dialectic--between the conscious (horizontal) and unconscious (vertical) minds. It is incorrect to visualize the mind in spatial terms as a sort of unconscious space below, with a line separating it from the conscious mind above. In reality, each moment of consciousness involves a generative, ceaselessly flowing "translation," or unfolding, of multidimensional, nonlocal mental space that cannot be thought about, into a local, linear, and particularized expression that can be thought about.

Again, in a healthy person there is a fluid and generative dialectic between these two realms. But many things can go wrong with that process--in fact, most forms of psychopathology have to do with the person being caught up and entangled on one end or the other. There are some people--let's call them the obsessive-compulsives--who live their lives wading in the shallow, rocky shoreline of the conscious side, while others--let's call them hysterics and borderlines--get lost in the storm-tossed sea of the unconscious side. Again, the key is a dialectical rapport between the two dimensions. That's where you are really "alive." And much of that aliveness has to do with language, that secret key to the universe.

For what is a word? What is so special about language? Again, a word easily serves as an emissary between the two worlds. On the one hand, a word refers to something particular in space and time--a cup, a tree, a dog. On the other hand, a word is by definition an abstraction with no localized or localizable being: we only recognize cup or tree or dog because they are a function of cupness, treeness or dogginess. Therefore, words are the local tools of the translating function of vertical into horizontal being, of infinite into finite, of eternity into time and back again--if we know how to use them. If we do not live in the dark.


There are objects and there is motion. Religions are like intellectual cathedrals that endeavor to mirror the father shore of the vertical hierarchy on this side of mamafestation--they are "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement--an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.

In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant.


The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed.

So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual blankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.

For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no--we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.

Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths--catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.

Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and setting up shop in the vertical.

In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host--you--and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.

The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.

However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?


Why does religion always come pouring back in, despite the best efforts of secularists to do away with it? It seems that religion is just like nature, which, as we know, can be driven out with a pitchfork, and yet will always hurry back. It will return for the same reason that the unconscious will always return in a neurotic individual who tries to repress it. You cannot cut off a part of yourself and pretend it doesn't exist. This is the source of a great deal of comedy--the tension involved in pretending to be hyper-rational while the unconscious is leaking in everywhere--like George Costanza or Basil Fawlty.

Science, as we have mentioned in the past, deals with a particular aspect of reality, the quantitative, the outwardly extended universe. Religion, on the other hand, deals precisely with other aspects of reality that are excluded by science--the qualitative and internally extended universe, those inscapes known as the soul.

Traditional cosmologies posit a three-tiered cosmos of matter, life and spirit. Science studies the lowest order, matter, and concludes that only it is ultimately real, a self-negating philosophy that appeals only to the intellectually uncurious and metaphysically blind. Instead of "in the beginning was the word," secular science has its own creation myth that says, "in the beginning was a single blind substance, mighty matter, mother of all, both visible and invisible. All things were made through it, and without it nothing was made. Out of it comes life and the light of the mind. But the material darkness fully comprehends the light, which is just an illusory side effect of whirling matter."

It is said that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. What does Petey say about materialism and positivism? "If you believe that, you'll believe anything." Which is it? Do we comprehend matter? Or does matter comprehend us? Or does matter comprehend itself? If so, how? That's pretty impressive for mere matter.

In order to study the physical universe, western science drew the distinction between res cogitans and res extensa--between matter and mind. So successful was the enterprise that it eventually reified this methodological distinction into a metaphysical absolute, and then concluded that only the material side was ultimately real. This has led to a host of unnecessary philosophical conundrums since then. To paraphrase Whitehead, the universe was reduced on one side to conjecture, the other side to a dream.

But if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a pitchfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floor boards, and down from the ceiling. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it. In fact, it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that knows itself in the act of knowledge.

When science sets its compass on the face of the deep, the depth disappears. Science tries to confine the universe to its own derivative categories of space, time and motion, but the real uncontainable universe always returns. Life--much less consciousness--will never be reduced to physics. In fact, physics will never be reduced to physics either. This is the real lesson of the quantum world, which leaks like water through any attempt describe what occurs there with the porous equations of linear reason.

Although I am sympathetic to the efforts of intelligent design theorists, ultimately they are looking for God in all the wrong places. Of course the universe is intelligently designed. God has always been self-evident to uncorrupted natural reason. Everywhere you look you will find irreducible information, complexity, and beauty betraying the light of the divine mind. So what? You can study a human brain, but it will tell you nothing about the consciousness of the person to whom the brain belongs--it is not as if you can "know" someone by looking at a CT scan of their skull. You will know a brain, not a person. Knowledge of a person is "inside information"--as is knowledge of God. But you have to be an insider to know that.

There is another kind of truth in the universe that can only be known from the inside, from the within. This within operates along very different lines from the without, and cannot be comprehended by applying the same principles used by science. Religions are very special languages that we employ in order to talk about, understand, and deepen our experience of the greater within of the cosmos.

If we try to talk about this within using the methods and language of science, we will get nowhere. For example, eternity cannot be discussed by reducing it to something within time. If we are going to discuss eternity at all--one of the prime characteristics of God--then we will have to use language in a very special way so as to convey the feeling without reducing it to something merely rational and temporal.

Look at it this way. We live on the shoreline between two worlds, one extending infinitely within, the other extending infinitely without. But actually, we are more like an island surrounded on all sides by the watery deep. Science, you might say, studies the island. The non-dual mystic dives into the ocean and disappears into oneness. But metaphysics plays along the shoreline where waves of the infinite are constantly lapping onto the conscious shore. Religions are ways of talking about what it is like to live on that shoreline between the finite and infinite--which is where we live anyway, crucified, so to speak, on the cross of vertical and horizontal energies.

It is here that we find the meta-cosmic and trans-historical source of time, being and self. As best as I can describe it visually, the cosmos is somewhat like a Klein bottle, which has an inside and an outside but only one surface. However, this Klein bottle is in the shape of a toroid, similar to a donut, except that the hole in the middle is our solid world, while the donut is a whirling process that tosses up temporary forms that arise and pass away, like so many grains of sand on the shore. As such, the conventional world of the senses looks real and solid, but it really is an empty hole. The real action is taking place where the hole meets the Whole and partakes something of its abiding reality.

Or as one wag put it:

In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo


Lisa said...

My husband had a nightmare that jolted him from bed this morning. He dreamed that we allowed homeless people to live with us in our house. They were smelly and wouldn't leave. The weirdest part about this dream is that one of them was Ronald Reagan!

Anyone good at interpreting dreams?

BTW Good post today, Bob! Be careful what you wish/pray for, such as more readers, looks like the trolls have come out from under the bridge! Or are they just dark sides of you provoking the Bobbleheads into action!?

Amanda said...

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will said...

Lisa -

Tell your hubs that nightmares are in the air. I had a spectacular one last night, so did a couple of my colleagues. Overall, the theme is "chaos", which is what a nightmare, any nightmare, is all about. Wholeness unravelled, Creation undone.

In a way, it doesn't even matter what scenario plays out in the nightmare, though your hub's dream obviously speaks to an invading chaos. RR as homeless guy - there's an absurdity, which is the point of a nightmare.

What's called the "lower astral" - ie., hell - might be gathering in the atmosphere and breaking through the airwaves.

This is merely my take, of course.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and beautiful post Bob--one of the reasons I come back often.

"There is another kind of truth in the universe that can only be known from the inside, from the within. This within operates along very different lines from the without, and cannot be comprehended by applying the same principles used by science. Religions are very special languages that we employ in order to talk about, understand, and deepen our experience of the greater within of the cosmos."

This is why I say one should read Ibn Arabi or Jalal ad-din Rumi, as opposed to whacko fundamentalists. Or Meister Eckhart and Jacob Boehme as opposed to oh--how about David Koresh. Religion can only be known or studied, from the inside, or at least from those who truly made it to the other shore, from the inside. All others are just so many opinions without true merit. Bob's mind parasite picture explains, for me, anyway, how much of Islam, even most, has come to be what it is--not that it is evil as such, but has been more or less taken over by mind parasites. Practically speaking, it amounts to the same thing, but it is quite different in principle.

JMW, you are so speedy to accuse me of proclaiming moral equivalences between things that I do not. I simply ask, when did God proclaim America to be the highest? He often told, even Israel, that they were the lowest of low, because they, having been given so much, chose to seek after false gods. Lincoln's attitude during the Civil War, I think, should typify our attitude. He always prayed that God would be on his side, but never assumed that God was.

jwm said...

Lisa, Will:
Yikes! Me, too! Way too strange.
And talk about nightmares- no time to throw in two cents worth as I'm off to a close encounter of the dental kind. >:(


Jenny said...

Great post, Bob. I enjoyed William James' essays on religion as well, as kind of being another instinct we are born with. Have you read any of his stuff?

copithorne said...

Well, I'm pushing you to try to work this out, and I think it is helpful for you to try to stretch to make something coherent out of it. My questions, and your inability to answer them do signal that you are trying to use language in a strange way. It is good for you to acknowledge the strangeness of how you are speaking and try to work out how you are using language, try to develop a theory of it all. If you know Wittgenstein, you'd know that those theories will never withstand analysis.

The philosophy you present here falls in the tradition of neo-Platonism. Thoughts are real, substantial, vivid. They are in contact with a realm of ultimate forms. Life as it is actually lived is, in your word, "trivial" -- a pallid reflection. In the Christian faith, this was rejected as a Gnostic heresy. Neo-Platonism was bypassed in the Vedic tradition as well.

There IS a special way in which religion uses language. That way is the language of faith. You hear it in a church or a temple. But you are not using the language of faith, are you? You are hoping to translate the language of faith into metaphysics. Many people would like to do that because faith can be difficult. It can be hard to control. It might come and go, whereas philosophical thoughts can always be brought to mind. So, people substitute piety for faith because it feels more secure. But it's a dead end, it's confusing your own thoughts with the grace of God. That temple will only have to be destroyed.

Gagdad Bob said...

Copithorne, you are as confused as ever. You are confusing gnosis, which is the intellectual substance of faith, with gnosticism, a heresy.

Faith extends gnosis and vice versa. It allows you to penetrate to the inner meaning of scripture, something that has been acknowledged by all great biblical exegetes.

Without gnosis to illuminate scripture, we wouldn't even know what most of it meant, or be able to discern the difference between a shallow interpretation and a deep one. What does "I am the true vine" mean, or "in the beginning was the word," or, "it is accomplished?" In order to make any sense of these and hundreds of other biblical statements, it requires gnosis, which is simply the activity of the faith-infused intellect. It is completely normative.

will said...

Copithorn, you condescending ass, what Bob says and the way he says it is PERFECTLY COHERENT.

If you weren't blind and ignorant, you'd see the truth of it. But you are. Do yourself a favor. Do everybody a favor. Get lost.

Petey said...

"By 'gnosis,' Clement of Alexandria understood the perfect knowledge of all that relates to God, His nature, his dispensations. He speaks of twofold knowledge, one, common to all men, and born of sense; the other, the genine gnosis. This latter is not born with men, but must be gained and by practice formed into a habit."

"The perfect Christian has an insight into the great mysteries of man, of nature, of virtue -- which the ordinary Christian accepts without clear insight. Clement praises not mere sterile knowledge, but transformative knowledge which turns to love. In gnosis, it is Christian perfection that he extols."

copithorne said...

Intellectual substance of faith which is required to understand scripture? This is like the "requirement" of implicit metaphysics isn't it? You won't be able to make sense of these "requirements." You won't be able to put your finger on them. When you try to look for the operation of this requiring, you'll find you are just playing with words, doing your bebop scat routine, manipulating yourself.

In a tradition of faith we might talk about the Holy Spirit here and we might be able to say something meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Someone once directed me to THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET for what they called the 'definitive' definition of faith:

*Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.*

My reaction: Not only does it sound like it was ripped off Mark Twain, it sounds like a hopelessly naive method of seeing the world.

Anonymous said...

AND BOB + HEADS : Don't be so eager to confuse gnosis with gnosticism. Copi's assessment of your beliefs as heretical is quite accurate. This world is a pale imitation of what is Real? Knowledge is the ONLY pathway back from this illusion into reality? That IS Gnosticism and all the word games you play with what comes after "gnos-" only serve to muddy the water around Copithorne's argument.

Or perhaps that's your point.

Gagdad Bob said...


Respectfully, you don't know what you are talking about. Of course there are degrees of reality, otherwise you wouldn't be able to make such foolish statements about levels above yours. For example, God is more real than the world.

I never said "This world is a pale imitation of what is Real." I specifically maintain that the world is logoistic. Nor would I ever say that "Knowledge is the only pathway back from this illusion into reality." You're making that up.

Anonymous said...

If I may interject here a bit...I think I understand your meaning. Are you suggesting that within a given tradition, one can only use the revealed scriptural language of that tradition? If so, I would ask how, you do you plan to get back there? Traditions have positive developments, the expansion and enlarging the understanding of revelation being chief among them, as they adapt to new conditions and mentalities. The use of rational language, or Platonic or even neo-Platonic dialectic, or today, in this blog, Bobalectic, simply is an intellectual tool perfectly at our disposal, in the same way as the supernaturally natural use of the planets, the moon, animals, etc. are made use of in the language of scripture. Heaven wants us, and is happy to have us make use of all things above and below for us to get there, or Here. In the end, you make no sense at all.

Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, if the comments from Copithorne get any more stupid and frivolous, I'm just going to have to delete them.

Michael Andreyakovich said...


Why not start now? Hell, he all but accused you of intellectual masturbation in his last post...

Lisa said...

Bob, you gnow you are going to be using that delete button a few times to today!

From our guy,Schuon, "Metaphysical truth cannot be regarded as having, by definition, solely a character of complexity, even of difficulty; everything depends on our "visual capacity" and the angle from which we approach the transcendent realities. Things apparently most complex and difficult are from a certain point of view simple and easy, because the Essence is simple, provided one's intelligence goes beyond the resources of the discursive mind and has the ability to grasp the real depth. If truth is accessible, it is has an aspect of facility; if it is inaccessible, it is useless to speak of it; truth would not then be a human notion."

It really isn't Copi or Anon's fault, they just don't understand and unfortunately probably never will. They are also just not smart enough to keep their mouth shut and try to learn from you, so they end up embarrassing themselves with gibberish! They are probably professors at some uselessversity!

copithorne said...

Bob, if I could just ask your indulgence to answer anonymous, I can leave afterwards. It's your place and if you don't want me here you have the right to ask me to leave.

Anonymous, I'm not sure if I quite have a handle on your question. When we go to Mass, we don't have a problem. We talk about the Holy Spirit. We don't talk about gnosis. Religious language is a particular way of speaking that takes place within a community.

Kierkegaard and others have demonstrated very well that the language of faith cannot be translated into the language of knowledge without falsifying the faith. This falsification will show up as theological errors. This will show up a philosophical errors. This will show up as impediments on the spiritual path. This will show up as violence.

When the philosophical function works in religion, it plays a deconstructive role. That would be like apophatic theism. It would be like the theology of St. Paul. Or it would be like prasangika madhyamika tradition in Buddhism in which philosophical analysis is used to demonstrate the emptiness of every thesis. The alternative to this is that you are making an idol out of your own thoughts.

Anonymous said...


I think we got your point--that there is no such thing as spiritual knowledge and that you are living proof. Now go away. Your attempt to propagate your solipsistic theology is logically self-refuting.

Anonymous said...

I would be happy to answer, though my last comment, which I thought was appropriate, was evidently deleted.

The only solution that I know of to your question is to be found in the philosophia perennis. The reason there is a properly spiritual dialectic available to man, is because God brought forth jnanins, or those whose primary spiritual motivation can be found in knowledge and not faith alone. He "created" them, so ask Him why. As I said before, Heaven wishes for all to be found in Beulah Land (I love that John Hurt song), and so It created a language that would bring those jnanins it implanted here back to that distant shore. The reason, for example, that the early eastern Christian mystics were able to make use of Neoplatonic language is because Neoplatonism was firmly in line with the self-same truth from which the Christian revelation emerged. In doing so, it is possible that they cast those pearls of gnosis before swine, but they were attempting to bring the noetics to a life divine. That's how I sees it anyway.

Dan Spomer said...


This was a horrible day and night. Period. In fact, this week has been an unrelenting torment.

I was plagued by nightmares the last few nights, then plagued with real-time horrors in the life of a friend today. This evening finds me so off-kilter I'm not even sure where to begin the re-balancing act.

For the first time in many, many years, I literally got on my knees today and prayed for mercy for myself and those for whom I care, my eyes bawling.

Unlike your regular commenters, I can offer you no philosophical gems or mind-numbing arguments. But I can pass along a very sincere "thank you" for your post today. It gave me more strength than you would possibly imagine. Thank you. Great timing.

And thanks for keeping it simple for us simple folks.

jwm said...

Thank you for posting that. Very strange stuff is going on. Will and Lisa both mentioned the nightmares, and I've had my share of them as well. I'm not going to get nosy, but I hope things work out for you and for your friend.
But there seems to be something going on. I remember being awakened from a bad one on the first or second of the month, and as I came to, the voice said, "If I just make it through the next six weeks..." (three to go)I know the moment you described tonight; I've had a few of them.
I've had a trying week, myself- one of those where the best I could do was to be grateful that the news was not as bad as it could have been. And it's not over. I tried to read a little in the study site I've been looking at, but I started glazing over pretty quick. I went over to Psalms, and then went over to Corinthians... And I read the post here today a couple of times as well. I was in no mood to post anything myself until I caught your note.
Keeping it simple. It just occurred to me that that that was the message in the passage in Corinthians. And maybe that's the the hardest middle ground to tread- walking the line between being simplistic, and diving off the deep end into incomprehensible noodling. It strikes me that most sincere prayer is simple:
"Help me through this; I can't do it alone."
And when I've heard The Voice it likewise has been simple: "Stay here." or "It's time to leave."
But simple isn't easy. It only sounds easy. Got trouble? Pray. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. Nothing of value is easy. Anyway, it's late, and I'm burning out, and the wife just got home. Take care, Dan.


Tusar N Mohapatra said...

Has copithorne read THE LIFE DIVINE by Sri Aurobindo?

Sal said...

Dan - special prayers for you and your intention, as well as for all of the commentors, for whom I pray daily.

On dreams: had one this week that turned into the classic "falling" nightmare. I mistook a turn and went over a cliff in a strange car, a convertible. What was curious was that in between the realization of "Well, damn - this is it" and starting in on the Act of Contrition, I was struck by how beautiful the landscape below was, like an intricate shining mosaic of blue, green, white and gold.

I've been puzzling this one out for several days, but am unable to get a handle on it.