Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blinded by the Light & Dreaming by Day (7.28.10)

In his book From the Divine to the Human, Schuon has a chapter entitled To Refuse or Accept Revelation that is pertinent to some of our recent transatlandish disgustings. He points out that the reason people freely accept revelation is obviously not on empirical or (merely) rational grounds, but because man is a form of Truth, and therefore disposed to comprehend the divine message in spite of the objections of his own ego. In a way, the fact that we may comprehend revelation so deeply, proves the deiform nature of man and the divine object of which he is a distant reflection.

Schuon points out that in all orthodox religions there are two domains, one which "must be," and one which "may or may not be," and therefore doesn't necessarily have to exist. The former is that of dogma, the latter interpretation and elaboration. For example, just yesterday I was reading in Steinsaltz's In the Beginning about the distinction between the written Torah and the oral Torah.

In kabbalistic terms, the written Torah corresponds to wisdom, the oral Torah to understanding. The former is a numinous flash, a "nucleus" of all knowing, but only in potential. "Only afterwards does Understanding clothe this insight with the length and breadth of reason and make it comprehensible and communicable."

Steinsaltz writes that "the process is not unlike conception and giving birth: the original fertilized cell contains all, but it has to be lodged in the womb and developed." Similarly, Schuon thinks of revelation as a vertical ingression into time, while tradition is its horizontal extension or prolongation within the womb of time.

This is why, while dogma must be preserved, it must also be interpreted. Otherwise, it would be analogous to trying to take the fertilized cell and grow a full-sized human being in a petri dish, which would be meshuginah. As Steinsaltz writes, "Written Torah needs endless amplification, study, and clarification. There are infinite layers of meaning, depthless beauty," and new modes of experiential comprehension to be revealed: O-->(n).

While one receives the written revelation passively, so to speak, the oral revelation "proceeds to act on it, engaging in critical thinking" and "deep experiencing." And unlike the written Torah, which is fixed and not given to change, the oral Torah "can be altered and improved and is constantly being enlarged, added to, re-created, and enhanced by ever higher levels of experience."

This is precisely what I meant when I made reference to the transitional, generative space that exists between revelation and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study has the identical structure of science, which you might say has a "written revelation" and an "oral revelation."

The "written revelation" is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the "oral tradition" -- takes place in the space between the fixed Object and our own Subject, which mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels, as if the one were a deep reflection of the other. Which of course it is.

Now, the written revelation may be thought of as "day," the oral as "night." The wisdom of revelation manifests itself in the light of day, but may only be understood in the darkness of consciousness. In short, there is "daytime" knowledge and there is "nighttime" knowledge, and one must understand the distinction.

As Steinsaltz says, "the day is the time for receiving the light, and the night is the time for creating. There is a time to perceive, to look out and absorb things, and there is a time to develop what has been absorbed and even to fashion new things out of this knowledge." Steinsaltz compares it to a photograph, in which the film of the camera absorbs a bit of the light. But then you must enter your dark room in order to "develop" it.

It is no different with the pneumagraph of our indvidual lives. For genuine knowledge can only be gestated in the nighttime womb of the soul. Our Swedish visitor clearly has a bit of daytime knowledge (k) of Spirit, but his night vision is severely lacking, to say the least. Sounds like a serious case of slackular degeneration.

For the Raccoon is a gnocturnal creature, don't you know. For us, the daytime light is so intense, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We actually "see" the light better in the dark. Conversely, many anal-type materialists reject religion because they are simply night-blind or afraid of the dark. They may have understanding, but in the absence of wisdom.

The day and night also correspond to "outer" and "inner," part and whole, letter and spirit. Paradoxically, wholeness can only be seen by night, when all of the apparent, well-defined parts blend together and interpenetrate. By day, we see only fragments, but by night we are able to intuit the whole and dream the metaphysical dream by which the day may be creatively illuminated by the higher darkness.

Here is the essential difference. The spiritually attuned person, the poet, the true artist, all live by night and communicate their vision by the light of an intense beam of darkness. Coonversely, the atheist, the materialist, the radical secularist -- all live by day and are blinded by the light. And being that they cannot think by night, they dream by day -- which is to say, sleepwake -- through their lives.


Mizz E said...

For the Raccoon is a nocturnal creature, don't you know. For us, the daytime light is so intense, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We actually "see" the light better in the dark.

[It's one of my favorite fotos - just posted earlier this morning]

CrypticLife said...

So, out of curiosity -- what are the boundaries? You say the talking snake is plainly silly, but don't really give any criteria for what else you might seriously consider.

Ghosts? Angels/demons? Magic? Telepathy? Are any of these simply "silly"? If you do reject them, is it based on this suprasensory perception as well?

Although I'm not particularly fond of analogies the recent one of the atheist looking at the pool of water and seeing only a flat, slightly shiny disk interested me. The atheist might turn that around and say a theist looking down at the surface of a puddle would say there's a person in there who just happens to look a bit similar to themselves. You may feel you're seeing "deeper" -- but that doesn't mean you're seeing truth.

Robin Starfish said...

Steinsaltz compares it to a photograph, in which the film of the camera absorbs a bit of the light. But then you must enter your dark room in order to "develop" it.


Van said...

cryptlife said "The atheist might turn that around and say a theist looking down at the surface of a puddle would say there's a person in there who just happens to look a bit similar to themselves."

Psst! If you think they look like you... try moving - if they don't, they're not you.

Van said...

cryptlife said "So, out of curiosity -- what are the boundaries? "

Your questions seem to make up the back 40....

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Van said...

This just in! Norwegian Moose emit as much global warming gasses as a 1,300 kilometer car journey!

Magnus! Run!!!

River Cocytus said...

Here is the essential difference. The spiritually developed person, the poet, the true artist, all live by night and communicate their vision by the light of an intense beam of darkness.

How very apophatic of you!

CL: Talking snakes ridiculous? Of course - everything is a bit ridiculous until you've seen it.

Is your real name Thomas?

Petey said...

Above my head, beyond my ken. Thy wilber done. I'm unqualified. Lost my aperture. Just apophatic nonentity.

Magnus Itland said...

Global warming moose, from the moose's own mouth, so to speak.

Who did you think has held off the impending ice age for all those chilly years?


Anonymous said...

God's Gonna Cut You Down


ximeze said...

"Shoot a moose and save yourself a climate quota" & "pigs and chickens are more environmentally considerate"

Bwaa ha ha ha ha

Poor algore

juliec said...


the whole point is that, from a certain (and rational, not necessarily false, but decidedly incomplete) perspective, it's all silly, or just outright bizarre. From a deeper perspective, however, it makes perfect sense.

Let's go back to that analogy, but instead of a pool of water it's a window. Take a look. What do you see? In the play of light, there are many contradictory truths all in the same place. It took not two but three "eyes" to even show them all in the same virtual space. There is a flat surface, the window. But behind it, in the darkness, there is an entire space, which throws up tantalizing glimpses if you look just so. And in front of it, though you can't see it in reality, there is clearly a place of vivid light, about which we can learn quite a lot by seeing the reflection. It's backwards, though, and the backwardness may cause that place to look strange and absurd. In the rest of the image, there is a tracery of three girls who are one, and a rainbow which could only properly be seen by combining three images.

Anybody who is accustomed to looking at and interpreting photographs can comprehend what they are seeing and know that there are many dimensions represented, but in fact this comprehension is something learned. If I were to print it out and show it to my dog, for instance, she would not see the images at all - she would see a flat piece of paper with colors (or shades of gray) on it. If she tried to comprehend it, she would lick and sniff at it, using those senses which serve her best. In doing so, she would most certainly learn truths about the paper and the ink, but the message of the image would be completely lost upon her. The same is true for small children, who will most likely stick the paper in their mouths, or tear it up into pieces.

Have you ever, as an adult, looked at something which your brain could not immediately comprehend, something entirely new to your visual experience? I have. It's a strange experience - the mind will try several tactics before the truth clicks into place, some of which are funny, some of which are disorienting, and some of which may be downright frightening. Until you learn what it is you are looking at, though, one thing is certain - it will not make sense.

CrypticLife said...


Ah, very cute. I hadn't really intended to argue that way, but if I could accept a deity accepting the idea of talking snakes would be a snap. I was just curious where the line is drawn, or if all these other things are things you'd accept by default.

No, my real name's not Thomas, but I'll admit to a skeptical nature. I recall in third grade considering quite seriously whether foreign countries might not actually exist, and instead be a scam perpetrated by adults. I eventually rejected the idea that foreign countries do not exist for reasons of parsimony, but wasn't entirely satisfied.

ximeze said...

You might consider what you reject by default

cosanostradamus said...

How many carbon offsets for shootin' a moose?

cousin dupree said...

The credo of radical environmentalists: "We love life. It's the living we can't stand."

CrypticLife said...

ximeze: Thank you -- I have considered it, but I shall again. Does your response mean you reject none of the possibilities I mentioned? I would not blame you if you did accept them, it would be consistent. If you rejected them I'd be interested in why you would reject them.

juliec: I'll want to consider your comment a while before I respond. I'd be curious what sort of thing you'd looked upon that you didn't immediately comprehend, whether it was just a strange angle or something more involved.

Ricky Raccoon said...

“Although I'm not particularly fond of analogies the recent one of the atheist looking at the pool of water and seeing only a flat, slightly shiny disk interested me.”

The analogy or the shiny disk?

ximeze said...

Are we talking: Ghost, Angels/demons, Magic, Telepathy, Talking Snakes?

Anything else?

By the way, I could smell that photo of Nippon on your site, along with feeling the air, mist included. Used to cut language class there to walk the hills surrounding Kyoto. Value-wise, a slam-dunk compared to grammer drills.

The Grand Inquisitor said...

Exoteric religion, which is the only kind of religion that exists in the USA and the West, achieves physically effective mind-control over human individuals and collectives by means of invariably conspicuous social and political moral performances, power alliances with social and political institutions, the public proliferation of sacred enclosures such as temple architecture, and the broad scale persistent propagandizing of sacred artifices, such as religious myths,irreducibly objectified beliefs, symbolic ceremonials, ritual re-enactments, religious art, and the authoritarian assertion of such ideas as objective certainty, moral absolutes, the inherent integrity and reliability of tradition, happiness by means of religious institutions, blessedness by means of sacramentally authorized heirarchies of religious officials, faith as an exercise superior to all other human efforts, the necessary immortality of the ego or soul, and both the authority and the ultimate sufficiency of religion itself.

What is more all, of that is also a collective effort to control the Divine my reducing the Divine to the scale of the ego, both individual and collective. It also re-creates the Divine into the image of the ego, both individual and collective.

It is also a collective effort to claim sole proprietary ownership of the Divine. The one true god. Such claims to owbership also inevitably brings it into inevitable conflict with other collectives who also claim sole proprietary ownership of the Divine.

cousin dupree said...

Not very inquisitive. Much less grand.

NoMo said...

Crypticlife - What if you are meant to be a lot more than you could ever make of yourself? It is the Christian proposition that everyone who enters this mortal coil has a missing piece that only the Creator can supply. Many seem to live out their lives never heeding the sense that something is missing. In fact, they fill the space with all manner of earthly things. Many others come to acknowledge that they are formed incompletely and are compelled to find the missing piece. Do you think you nicknamed yourself crypticlife, or continue visiting the raccoon den by accident? There is definitely something inside you that compels you to unravel the mystery. Like a black hole inevitably draws in everything around it.

“Cryptic” comes from the Greek work kruptein (to hide) and is used in various forms many times throughout the oldest greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Perhaps an exploration of where and why it was used might be enlightening to you. Why would things be hidden? Jesus meaning was often hidden even from those closest to him at the time he spoke. Why? There is indeed much that is cryptic in this life, but not forever. Meaning and deeper meaning - is there any greater goal to pursue?

juliec said...

the most memorable occasion was the cgi screen of the motion ride at the Luxor, back in the 90s. The scenario was something about flying through space, I think, but at one point about halfway through my brain simply could not make sense of what it was seeing for what seemed a long time (probably only ten seconds or so). Suddenly, I was staring at a random collection of colors moving on a screen. It completely broke the illusion of three dimensional travel (which was frankly not all that powerful to begin with), and suddenly I was simply staring at a flat screen while the seat below me moved for no obvious reason. When my brain sorted it out, I was able to experience the illusion again. There have been other occasions, but it does not happen often (which is why it's so memorable, I suppose).

On lesser occasions, my brain frequently will make assumptions based on partial information, such as glimpsing a part of a written sign and "seeing" it as a completely different message than it actually is. Usually, the words that get inserted are rather funny, to me at least.

walt said...

"...wholeness can only be seen by night, when all of the apparent, well-defined parts blend together and interpenetrate."

Yes, and they do so in quiet, another quality of the "night" you describe.

Bob, your use of metaphors and analogies in this post - light/dark, night/day, etc etc - framed your points very clearly. It is an approach to the divine that inspires so many connections within the reader.


Susannah said...

Bob, I'm just swirlin' in your wake here. The darkroom analogy, though--all the analogies--are clear as crystal.

Part of my slowness might be that I have to read with my ears plugged in this house. Between "Cap'n Jack Sparrow" in the background and the kids playing down the hall.


There's that word again. Can you believe I had to look it up again?

I'm with Dupree on G.I. Proprietary ownership of the Divine? Bwahahahaha!

Cryptic, personally I have no problem with the talking snake. As for the pool of water, there *is* depth beneath the reflection, all human misapprehension aside. That's just a simple fact.

Although one would do well to heed Van's advice. :)

ximeze said...

Grand Inquisidope more like.

Yet another tin-foil-hatter. Lordy be.

juliec said...

I had to look that one up again today, too :) It's been a while since Bob's popped that one out there.

Anonymous said...

talking snake said - What?

snakey said...

Eat! EAT!

maineman said...

I'm kind of interested in CL's question. From my own standpoint, I have no problem with the existence of the immaterial and/or the unknowable. The items on his/her list, ghosts, angels, etc., don't have a place in my cosmology right now because they suggest to me a projection of our own desires and an effort to render the immaterial concrete. But I'm open to arguments for the existence of angels, and telepathy seems like less of a stretch since communication is an obvious phenomenon that we know takes place on many levels, not all of which we may have nailed down yet.

As for the existence of countries that we can't see, that kind of narcissism is normal for an 8 year old, but we're supposed to develop beyond it by the time we get into adolescence.

Smoov said...

This person Allotetraploid from yesterday was obviously an erudite and intelligent dissenter. He didn't introduce anything that hasn't been dealt with by Bob before, however I would like to see Bob deal with him/her directly since this was one of the more forceful challenges in the comments section in some time.

Also, in my humble opinion all of the name-calling and curt dismissal of someone like Allotetraploid does not reflect well on raccoons. He did a good job of raising the standard objections to spiritual belief (especially to religious dogma). I believe Bob could deal with each of his points if he so chose, but I do feel he deserves to be taken seriously as he has advanced serious, non-trivial and not overtly trollish arguments.

He is certainly far more articulate and learned than the hapless Swede seems to be. Like I said, there's nothing new or compelling in Allotetraploid's contribution, however it would worthwhile to endeavour to explain again why he simply does not get it. This may be asking too much, I don't know. Maybe it would be better for Allotetraploid to read OCUG and then come back. In any case I hope raccoons can avoid the temptation to hurl epithets so freely. Just my 2 cents.

Smoov said...

Don't get me wrong, I love the humor on OC! Dupree almost always cracks me up, as do most of the raccoon mots juste. It's the more reactionary forms of negative commentary (well, you're just an idiot!) that leave me cringing...

ximeze said...

Smoov my dear, wake up. Allotetraploid IS the 'hapless Swede'. Yesterday's comment redirects to his new Blogger account. Go back to Bob's first post about him, click that link & you'll see.