Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!

So, Schopenhauer realized that Kant had made several serious boo-boos in his analysis. For one thing, Kant regarded the noumenal as consisting of things (plural) in themselves, uncolored by our perceptions of them. But in order for anything to be different from anything else, it must occupy a different space or be in a different time. If it occupies the same time and space, then it is the same thing. In fact, "the very concept of number would be impossible without the concept of succession, and the concept of succession presupposes either spatial or temporal concepts, or both" (Magee). So everything from mathematics to music to evolution can only occur in a universe in which there is differentiation and succession.

But -- as Kant pointed out, space and time are forms of human sensibility. Remove the human subject, and they vanish. For as I pointed out on page 55 of the Coonifesto -- which, thanks to the many supporters of this blog, continues to bubble under the top 300,000 sellers on amazon -- the cosmos actually has no qualities at all in the absence of a subject in space and time. I won't repeat my reasoning here, since I know you already have the book and can look it up yourself.

Schopenhauer concluded from this that whatever it is that abides outside experience must be undifferentiated. He didn't say "one," because even that presupposes its opposite, i.e., "many." Furthermore, being that knowledge implies differentiation between a subject and an object, a knower and something known, there can only be knowledge within the phenomenal world. We can know about the noumenal, in the same sense that I can know many things about another person and still never know what it is actually like to be him. There is a kind of absolute barrier that exists between the noumenal subject of any two people.

Schopenhauer's conclusion -- which seems to me unassailable, as far as it goes -- is that "there is an immaterial, undifferentiated, timeless, spaceless something of which we can never have direct knowledge but which manifests itself to us as this differentiated phenomenal world of material objects (including us) in space and time."

In my book, I used the symbol O to stand for this reality. Interestingly, Schopenhauer arrived at this conclusion using pure metaphysics alone. Only much later in life did one of the first copies of the Upanishads available in the West fall into his hands -- a Latin translation of a Persian translation. He would read a few pages before going to bed each night, and wrote of them that they were "the consolation of my life and will be that of my death."

But little did Schopenhauer know that there was actually no conflict between the Upanishads and the religious traditions of the West. Showing this to be so was one of the elephantine tusks I set before myself in writing One Cosmos, even if you think the book a pachydermented trunk full of junk. Again, it is not as if Christianity is in need of yoga, only that the latter -- at least for me -- helps to illuminate many hidden or underemphasized dimensions in the former. This is all I mean by "Christian yoga."

Getting back to Schopenhauer for a moment, although like all Raccoons he recognized that science was one of the glories of man, he was also fully aware of its sharp limitations with regard to metaphysics. As Magee writes, science can never be complete or exhaustive because "it explains things in terms that are themselves left unexplained," and is therefore inevitably circular. If you want to know what the world is as such, it is not in the nature of science to provide it: "Ultimate explanations, then, are not to be looked for in science. The insistence that they are is not a scientific belief but a belief in science, a metaphysical belief, an act of faith whose inadequacy [is] fairly easy to demonstrate. At its crudest it takes the form of materialism," which Schopenhauer described as "the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself." In fact, nothing that is mere knowledge can ever be ultimate, by definition.

Again, Schopenhauer's battle cry was that "the solution to the riddle of the world is only possible through the proper connection of outer with inner experience." "This being so," according to Magee, "it would seem that the royal road to a deeper understanding of the nature of things must pass through the investigation of inner as well as outer experience, and if anything, more the former than the latter." In fact, Schopenhauer was of the belief that "philosophy has so long been in vain because it was sought by way of the sciences instead of by way of the arts."

And exactly what did he mean by this? Of all the arts, he especially felt that music was the most adequate expression of the way in which the noumenal passes into the phenomenal, or the manner in which we may trace the phenomenal back to the noumenal. This is discussed on pp. 106-107 of the Coonifesto, so I won't rebeat myhorse here.

Rather, I would like to go down a tangent that I don't think I ever explicitly considered before. In a certain sense, Shopenhauer was a precursor of Freud's discoveries of the unconscious, in that he recognized that our own interior structure mirrored that of the cosmos. That is to say, we have an outward "phenomenal" ego that floats atop, so to speak, "an underlying reality that remains hidden from us and can never be met with in experience." Not only is this realm "unconscious," but it is incapable of being conscious (to us, not for itself, a key point). For ultimately it is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream, the ineffable background subject of human experience.

This being so, I wonder if it proves the existence of our own immortality -- not of the ego, which, of course, is phenomenal and therefore of the passing moment, but of its source and ground, which necessarily transcends space and time. My favorite Christian yogi, Meister Eckhart, certainly thought so, for

There is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing; rather unnamed than named; unknown than known.... higher than knowledge, higher than love, higher than grace, for in all these there is still a distinction.


NoMo said...

"Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!" OK Bob, I think that's my cue. You perhaps should give a little shout out to Firesign Theater for that one.

Just sayin'.

bgalbreath said...

Why say of the noumenon, the ground of our personal experience, that it is immortal? Wouldn't it be more nearly accurate to say that we couldn't say anything at all about it?

Also, has the Knowa's Arkive been made inaccessible deliberately, or by an accident. I was reading through old postings and would like to continue that. Thanks.

Gagdad Bob said...


Re the noumenon -- for reasons I don't have time to explain, I identify it with the Brahman, which is to say, eternity, which is to say, immortality. What Schopenhauer conceptualized rationally, others have experienced directly, as he apparently recognized in stumbling upon the Upanishads.

The arkive will not be available while I am in the process of organizing and editing it for a possible book which I may or may not write if I ever have the timelessness.

James said...

Great Post Bob. This is the first metaphysics which makes sense to me through and through. I have always felt that Kant, Locke, and the other greats only had part of the whole. They had some good ideas but never really took the time (timelessness) to grasp the whole. Therefore they treated their part, more or less, like it is the whole. Some philosophers did a better job then other of realizing the limitations of their ideas. Their is something seductive about a good idea. Intellectuals are especially prone to confuse their ideas for the true, the good, and the beautiful.

rfosteresq@yahoo.com said...

I've also been browsing the Arkives; any way you could make it available part of the week? or allow access to a portion of it? (and are we there yet?)

Bob F.

Robin Starfish said...

Caddis Emerger
night owl in the sun
breeze breaks mirrors on a lake
dojo thinks of fish

looptloop said...


Your recent posts that touch on christianity and yoga give much to mull over. I've often wondered how you reconciled the truth of the christian west with messages from the east (e.g., your recurrent Upanishad references) without getting mucked up in the new age pick-n-choose religio-smorgasbord.

I once thought I could be devoted to Christ, but never a christian, couldn't get it, especially the Americanized forms. Seems like a silly ego position that’s pointless to get uppity about now; but the friction was there nonetheless. In the end, christianity does feel like a far more natural home, and these divine flashlights from the east definitely help bring it all to life. I’m all for Christian Yoga.

Dougman said...

I once thought I could be devoted to Christ, but never a christian,..

That is the way,in my opinion.
To knock at the Gate [without getting stuck worshipping the "Gate"] of Christ.
Receive the word in your heart, as the soil receives the seed &
water it daily.
Then walk on the straight path of the Golden Rule ,right up to the Judgement Seat with Christ as your counsel, as a Brother and Friend.
Then turn your back on the light.
Not as to turn away from it in fear but in complete acceptance of the Truth.
Letting G_d watch your rearward and illuminate what is in front of you, or what was previously behind you/your motivations.
Or in other words, Face your Fears.

Something else.

Your place with G_d can be guaged by your relationship with the Truth.
Would everyone agree?

River Cocytus said...

Ah, good point Dougman.

God for Computer Scientists:

The Creation:
World = God( void );

The Fall:
void = Us( stuff );

The Incarnation:
Us* = God( world );

The Redemption:
God* = Us( God );

The Resurrection:
Us(God) === God(Us);

Also, God's function prototype:
World God(void) {
return World;

And ours:
void * Us(World stuff) {
return void;
And so on.

Jacob C. said...

Christ is a manifestation of O. Christianity is the map he drew us in order to take us higher and closer to O. The danger is that we mistake the map for the destination.

ximeze said...

I'm with you on the above.

The error is to confuse the Symbol for the Referent. Quite common, & not just about religious subjects.

Mark said...

In your first paragraph you stated (or perhaps quoted from another source), "But in anything to be different from anything else, it must occupy a different space or be in a different time. If it occupies the same time and space, then it is the same thing."

The current theory in particle physics postulates that there exist a group of particles called Bosons as opposed to fermions. The thing about bosons is that they can occupy the same quantum state as other Bosons, which means they can effectively be in the same space and time.

I don't really understand all of this but my best guess is that would be like many light photons occupying the same space and time. Does this necessarily mean that we can no longer differentiate these particles? Or does it mean that qualities we normally use to differentiate things are not applicable in this case? Perhaps there is another quality that does differentiate these particles that while it exists escapes our conscious ability to describe or even completely understand?

Magnus Itland said...

It is hard not to speculate when it comes to immortality. And perhaps it is no big loss if we do, as long as we realize that our speculations are not revelations.

In contrast, experience shows that there does seem to be a kind of symmetry between the inner and outer cosmos. The ego seems to lie on the membrane between them. In either direction there is more to learn than can ever be learned, so that we will never reach totality by amassing facts.

I conclude that knowing the Ground of Being within is impossible by study of the phenomena within. It can only be known - so far as it can - by latching onto its incursions. Techniques such as meditation do not directly and in a predictable time and way take us to the Ground of Being within, as some descriptions may infer. Rather they enable us to be aware of these incursions of Eternity into Time.

Once we have latched onto one of these roots that grow up from below, we can spend a lifetime following it toward its Source, and it grows ever thicker as we do. But if we never come across such a tendril of Eternity, I don't think any amount of digging will help.

There is a disturbing lack of correlation between having an elaborate theory about these things and having experience. In a way it may be like traveling to a faraway country was in the distant past, where no photographies were available, only rumors from travellers long gone. The images we made from what we heard may have been vivid, but they were also way off.

...a friend from afar said...


Have you ever visited the website of Joel Morwood at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon? The express purpose of his work is to ``explor[e] the mystical traditions, their universal principles, and their compatibility with modern science.'' He draws quite heavily from Meister Eckhart (among others) from the gnostic traditions on the one hand and quantum physics and other scientific areas on the other.

His book Naked Through the Gate is the account of his experience following Gnosis. An excerpt along with many other free articles are available at his site.

However, most enjoyable to me are his free audio teachings. I particularly like The Root of Delusion, In the Beginning was the Word, and The Five Fundamentals (a five part series which summarizes his teachings). I've got all of his mp3's stored on my iPod, and I find them quite spiritually uplifting.

All of these free materials can be found here.

There's just something about Joel that makes me think you'd like him.

Van said...

"In fact, Schopenhauer was of the belief that "philosophy has so long been in vain because it was sought by way of the sciences instead of by way of the arts.""

There is much to that, very much indeed.

Van said...

Magnus Itland said... "It is hard not to speculate when it comes to immortality. And perhaps it is no big loss if we do, as long as we realize that our speculations are not revelations."

(I'm working on my long-windedness)

NoMo said...

I believe that God and man, although infinitely different in essence, can occupy the same space and time and still be distinct - and I accept the mystery.