Saturday, March 01, 2008

Out Through the In Door (3.05.10)

Beauty is a crystallization of a certain aspect of universal joy; it is a limitlessness expressed by a limit. --F. Schuon

Ever since the scientific revolution, we have tended to divide the world into a public sphere of objective, measurable reality and a private sphere of ephemeral, subjective perceptions. In this view, the external world is considered the fundamental reality, while consciousness is reduced to an epiphenomenon, so that all our perceptions of the world -- its vivid colors, sounds, and textures -- are rendered meaningless, revealing nothing intrinsic to the cosmos. All subjective qualities are reduced to quantities -- for example, our perception of the redness of an apple is reduced to a particular frequency of light, or music is reduced to vibrating air molecules striking against our ear drums.

As I wrote in One Cosmos Under God, "science begins with the one world we experience with our senses (where else could it begin?), but quickly saws off that familiar limb by 'excluding everything that can be imagined or conceived, except in abstract mathematical terms,' consequently relegating everything outside mathematical description -- the very world it started with -- to 'an ontological limbo.'" Only this second, abstract world is considered to disclose valid information about the universe, whereas all of our initial impressions of color, sound, texture, beauty, and meaning supposedly reveal nothing real about the universe, only about our own nervous systems.

But one of the fundamental tenets of esoterism is that the universe not only has a within that is uniquely accessible to humans, but that the very cosmos is the "exteriorization" or crystallization of this same within. In other words, the universe is not simply an exterior made up of discrete parts that are external to one another. Rather, by looking at the parts in a certain way, we may intuit a wholeness in the world that in turn reveals its interior dimension. Parts show us only the exterior of the cosmos, while wholeness lures us toward the Great Within.

I recently wrote to a reader about the experience of mountain biking in the open space around our house. One day I brought along the camera so I could bring back some photos for Mrs. Gagdad, who doesn't bike. Just by virtue of having the camera, I found myself regarding reality in an entirely different, more consciously aesthetic way. It reminded me of the young videographer in the film American Beauty, who would simply record seemingly banal things, such as a paper bag blowing in the wind, which elevated them to a transcendent level just by looking at them in this aesthetic way.

It seems that we originally gain access to the Great Within through the human face. As infants, our whole world is oriented toward the mother's face. Obviously, in looking at a face, we don't first attend to a nose here, an eye there, a mouth there, and then inductively leap to the conclusion that faces exist. Rather, without even knowing it, we attend to the face as a whole, and can instantaneously distinguish one face from another and one expression from another.

In attending to the mother's face, the baby knows that the mother has a living interior, and through her changing expressions, begins to discover his own interior. Severely autistic children, for example, do not see whole "faces," but only a collection of parts, so that they are never fully ushered into the intersubjective Withinness of the cosmos. Instead, they can be left isolated in the bizarre and frightening existence of a living death -- immersed in a sea of things that move and have independent existence, but reveal no intrinsic meaning. Adhering to the strict scientific view -- which regards the "within" as mere subjective "noise" -- one would have to say that people with autism are more in touch with reality than anyone else, which is absurd.

Just as the face allows us to see the within of the person "behind" it, the wholeness of the cosmos invites us to see beyond its surface. (One of the central points of my book is that modern physics reveals the cosmos to be an internally related whole, not just a collection of exterior parts.) Paradoxically, we can know the interior only by focusing on the exterior. Just as the face is the meaning of its features, the meaning of existence can be discovered by dwelling in its features. Poets, for example, have always understood that by indwelling in nature we can intuit what dwells within nature -- we are floating atop a sea of clues that point beyond themselves to a hidden reality, which in turn throws out clues like sparks from a central fire. By attending to things and events in a certain "actively passive" way, we allow them to "speak" to us, and this in turn in-forms us about their nature.

The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term "inscape" to refer to this more intense experience of observing things in such a way that their intrinsic qualities emerge. He believed that by allowing one's attention to be drawn to a bird in flight, a tree, or a landscape, we allow their character to act upon us through a union of the inner and outer worlds. Similarly, Goethe argued that we discover the true nature of things through a contemplative kind of looking he called "seeing with exactitude." By doing this, we can open ourselves to what the cosmos is telling us about itself (and by extension, ourselves).

This being so, we can also see that exploration of the Great Within will yield valid insights about the cosmos. As Schuon writes, certain gifted metaphysical or mystical poets such as Dante are able to express "spiritual realities with the help of the beauty of their souls." In this regard, "it is a matter of endowment far more than of method, for not every man has the gift of sincerely expressing truths that go beyond ordinary humanity." One secret denied the leftist is that the world is as beautiful as the soul's capacity to see it.

This has obvious theological implications. For example, what is scripture but an exterior narrative that tells us of the within of God? Just as it is a mistake to view nature as an object, one makes the same mistake in viewing scripture only as a historical narrative of external events. Rather, those events have a within which is their true teaching. As Meister Eckhart wrote, "If you would have the kernel, you must break the shell."

It can also be argued that the figure of Jesus answers the deepest human longing to "see the face of God," and thereby know his Within most intimately. Again, the whole point of the gospels, if you are a Christian, is that their external narrative reveals the interior God. You cannot dismantle or deconstruct the gospel stories, for this would be like disassembling a human face to try to understand its expression. We see by a sort of interior light when we dwell in faith, for faith is actually foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths -- knowledge of approaching discoveries on the interior plane of things.

As the poet Novalis put it, "The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet." If you are feeling boxed in by the materialistic paradigm of modernity, know that you may escape it any time through any of the infinite inscapes that both surround and abide within us. For being mirrorcles of the Absolute, we may penetrate nature only because it penetrates us in a higher realm of transcendent union.

The sacred mountain, seat of the Gods, is not to be found in space even though it is visible and tangible....

For the man of the golden age to climb a mountain was in truth to approach the Principle; to watch a stream was to see universal Possibility at the same time as the flow of forms.

In our day to climb a mountain -- and there is no longer a mountain that is the "center of the world" -- is to "conquer" its summit; the ascent is no longer a spiritual act but a profanation. Man, in his aspect of human animal, makes himself God. The gates of Heaven, mysteriously present in nature, close before him
. --F. Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts


julie said...

Yes, exactly :)

will said...

>>. . . by looking at the parts in a certain way, we may intuit a wholeness in the world that in turn reveals its interior dimension<<

I think, too, that we begin to see our own lives, even in their most (so-called) pedestrian aspects, as being enacted rituals, ceremonies, initiations into mystery. Then even the minor events in our lives have symbolic meaning for us. And those periods in which we are dragged through darkness, when we have no creative vision and all seems without meaning - even in these periods, we are detached, understanding them to be necessary desert experiences. Thus such times have their own beauty as well.

jwm said...

I'll drop in later, but for now I had to pass along this little gem from LGF member Artiste:

I have seen a few comments about pets on this forum, and it strikes me that my cat is an American Democrat.

He lives in luxury, yet does nothing but demand attention and complain about his plight.

He has a very high opinion of himself.

He complains that I unreasonably constrain him, as if the real and legitimate threats of coyotes and horned owls did not exist.

He presents himself as an affectionate and loving creature to anyone with an available lap, but if he encounters any creature smaller than himself, he eats it.

He leaves fur all over the place, but he wants everyone else to be spotlessly clean.

Whenever he gets on a computer keyboard, he produces nonsense.

He is neutered.


ximeze said...

How true!

However, Cats are beautiful & a pleasure to watch in action, unlike them others.


fergus the cat said...

Pretty good, JWM, but here's some things about cats that distinguish us as being far and above liberals -

We are strikingly individualistic,fiercely independent, we don't run in packs, unlike, oh say, dogs. (and liberals)

We partake of mystery, we are poised halfway between heaven and earth, we are sensuous yet divine, we are furry myths, we inspire tons of poetry - unlike, oh say, dogs. (and liberals)

When we are finally forced to fight, we fight to kill- unlike, oh say, dogs who really are all bark and no bite. (and liberals, who are also no bark)

Got a rodent pest problem? Try calling a dog, hippie.

We clean ourselves and look to our own environment, we don't ask you to do it - unlike, oh say, dogs. (and many liberals)

You don't have to follow a cat around with a pooper scooper like you do with, oh say, dogs (and liberals)

fergus the cat said...

o yes, I forgot . . .

*text by CatSmart

Robin Starfish said...

To borrow from a visit to Walt's place...

inside the tea room
things come into existence
outside the tea room

Elephant said...

by Christopher Smart

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.

For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

For he rolls upon prank to work it in.

For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.

For this he performs in ten degrees.

For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

For fifthly he washes himself.

For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.

For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

For every family had one cat at least in the bag.

For the English Cats are the best in Europe.

For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For he knows that God is his Saviour.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.

For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.

For he is docile and can learn certain things.

For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.

For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.

For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.

For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.

For he can catch the cork and toss it again.

For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.

For the former is afraid of detection.

For the latter refuses the charge.

For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.

For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.

For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.

For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.

For his ears are so acute that they sting again.

For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.

For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.

For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.

Christopher Smart , 1722 - 1771

jwm said...

Will said:
Then even the minor events in our lives have symbolic meaning for us.

So I finally get back here, and as I'm chuckling over Fergus the Cat's commentary, my cantankerous Manx, Booger the Cat is stretched out in her ususal place at my left elbow. She rolled on her arched, and fully extended back, all four paws in the air, and in a moment of pure feline grace rolled right off the edge of the desk. This would be good for a belly laugh except that she tried to arrest her fall by planting one claw deeply in the flesh of my left middle finger. One claw however deeply inserted will not twelve pounds of cat support. So I'm typing with three of my ususal four fingers, considerably lees blood than I began the day with, and trying (without much success) to see the humor in all this.

And those periods in which we are dragged through darkness, when we have no creative vision and all seems without meaning -

That just seems to be the case right now, it really does.


dilys said...

Loved Robin's haiku. "Tea room," "tea house," literary wabi-sabi!

Gecko said...

Hah, jwm, thanks for posting that.
Clearly your cat is an American Dem
while Fergus is a fine furry cool conservative cat. I couldn't resist posting it.

jwm said...

That's OK, Gecko, just rub it in why don'cha.


walmart shopper said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading about Sir Joeffrey the cat!

"The smallest feline is a masterpiece"
-Leonardo da Vinci

"A house without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect house, perhaps -- but how can it prove its title?"
-Mark Twain

will said...

MY CAT (song lyrics)

My cat is like a drifting cloud,
He stands alone, but he’s a crowd,
He sees some things that are not there,
Or if they are, I’m not aware,
My cat is wont to disappear,
Then suddenly he’s standing near,
I think my cat’s a part of me,
The part that’s deepening mystery,
Sometimes his eyes take on a glaze
As if recalling ancient days
When his shadow swooped and slid
Across a gleaming pyramid,
My cat is sometimes like a mist,
A mist that’s exhibitionist,
He sleeps and dreams upon my knee,
Sometimes I think he’s dreaming me –

My cat is like a violin,
A subtle brew of yang and yin,
Something ancient, something new,
A watercolor fur haiku,
His essence is both earth and sky,
My little furry samurai,
Electric voltage in the night,
Tiger, tiger burning bright,
So like a marble Roman vase,
Bits of Venus, bits of Mars,
See him there in candle light,
He is his own archetype,
He’s something honest, something sly,
He can love and terrify,
He is straight, yet so contrary,
Another world’s emissary –

As to why I wrote this song,
Well, I will miss him when he’s gone,
He may leave and yet he stays,
A part of me throughout my days –

c. wm 2008

walt said...

Earth as you've never seen it.

Elephant said...

Does anyone have any thoughts on the newly opened monolith near the north pole/Norway? It is supposed to be some kind of seed vault with eventually every kind of seed. It has a maximum level of security and it seems creepy. Supposedly it will take generations to get all the seeds, which is a consolation, but what of the idea? It is being funded by Bill Gates.

From a rational perspective, it could be merely a library/storehouse but it has a darker side of possibility. Most technologies have both so I don't want to read into this as only ominous.

Elephant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elephant said...

Attempt number three.

Elephant said...

Full article, NYT:

will said...

'phant, re the seed vault in the north pole:

Well, practically any scenario with the north pole as a backdrop is kinda spooky. Along with the north pole conclusion of the novel Frankenstein, you've also got a host of hollow earth, ufo, escaping nazi refuge myths and legends.

Then again, we have the super-rich involved, so the question arises - what are they really up to? What do they know that we don't? etc. Good conspiracy material.

And then there is the "bomb shelter" resonance of the seed project - naturally one wonders if this could be some sort of preparation in advance of a planetary holocaust.

However, this is Bill Gates we're talking about, a guy with new age sensibilities - guys like Gates lean toward the science fiction approach, thinking it the essence of spirituality. They miss the point that even if there is a planetary holocaust, the rebirth of earth will not come from a seed vault at the north pole or any material resource, for that matter.

Meanwhile, you want something I think genuinely spooky, google the Large Hadron SuperCollider - the articles are numerous. The folks running this project are literally going to tear a hole in the fabric of space/time, punch right through to other dimensions. Naturally, these folks don't really have much of an idea of what the results are going to be.

Elephant said...

Woah. Thanks Will.

I guess the conspiracy theory that raced through my head was grain control or even manipulation. But I temper it with the other points you mentioned. The pace of the project is slow like I said anyway...
I get your drift about Bill Gates.

Shall check out the link you dropped off. Thanks!

Elephant said...

err...I meant, subject title you dropped off...

julie said...

Elephant, I read the article earlier this week. It doesn't strike me as particularly ominous; I see it as more of a "hope for the best, plan for the worst" kind of idea. If, for instance, the earth were to enter another ice age, it would be nice to have that resource available.

Of course, it might be better to have a few of these vaults planned, and run by different groups; should the store ever be needed, it would be very easy for one person with all the goods to take unscrupulous control.

Gecko said...

Where is your music now that your website has disappeared? :)

will said...

Gecko, it's everywhere where the sun is shining brightly, where the wind is woughing through the leaves of the stately trees, in a child's heart and in the hopes and dreams of those who are lost and trying to find their way in a world that doesn't understand them . .

But seriously, it's all on hard disc. I'm checking out ways to slap it all up on the net that will be easy to access and more listen-able than the previous site. New stuff,too,and improved, I'm hoping.

Thanks for asking!

ximeze said...

Elephant -
Don't panic: seedbanks have a long history. Altho this one seems to by tied to Climate Alarmism, it's not a bad idea & many botanical 'classes' maintain their own repositories (ie: lumber, seed-oils, horticulture, food crops, fruit trees, etc)

Many crops are bred for maximum yield per acre, so tend toward monoculture, with 'unpopular' varieties not being gown much. However, for 'breeding' purposes, heirloom & other varieties are stored & grown again for a new batch seed to keep them viable. The idea is to have back-up varieties with various properties/traits for further dinking around.

Wiki "seedbank" for info & check this out:

"Seeds may be viable for hundreds and even thousands of years. The oldest carbon-14-dated seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great's palace in Israel."

Pretty damn kewl if you ask me.

Van said...

Gecko said..."Will, Where is your music now that your website has disappeared? :)"

Playing on my PocketPC..."Nightbird..."

(shushing now)

Anonymous said...

I'm in a bad space; I left my girlfriend of 12 years and took up with another woman. My former girlfriend is now in a tailspin, weeping and begging me to return to her. (I left her because she wouldn't marry me). Now she says she will. I feel like I want to give her another chance.

Meanwhile, the new girlfriend has built up huge expectations of marriage with me, which I foolishly encouraged, and I'm just realizing I don't care so much for the new girlfriend. I feel loathe to leave her, because then she'll suffer.

Then part of me thinks what an asshole I'm being and how much misery I'm spreading around with my attempts to find a mate.

The chaos around my love life has left me spiritually wounded. I keep causing pain to women, but I don't think I can do without a woman.

How does this relate to today's post? Well, I can't find peace. My inscape is overshadowed and corrupted by guilt, craving for sex, need for attention and affection, and the need to feel completed by another person. Where and how in all this can I relax into the arms of Jesus?

I need help. I need God to come into me and help me sort this out. I am just working myself deeper into a mess. What must God think of me now? How is it that his servant is harming other beings?

Oh, Lord. The new girlfriend is a piece of work. She needs money again, says she'll pay me back. I know she won't. Her life is a train-wreck. What am going to do with her?

will said...

Anonymous -

Well, you certainly emphasize the embarassment in the phrase "an embarassment of riches". Hmm, some of us might wish for your kind of problem . . .

But anyway . . . you're halfway to problem's solution: you recognize that you do have a problem and that it is essentially a spiritual problem. Give yourself some credit.

Let's review: By your own perhaps unwilling admission, you have lousy taste in sig others, lets be honest. Yes, you have behaved harmfully, but those two femmes sound dizzy beyond belief and probably do more harm to themselves in a day than you or anybody else could in a decade. I might add that your association with them is, in a nutshell, you doing harm to yourself. In spades.

So why do you do it? Again, by your own admission, you feel like you need the attention, the comfort, etc., etc. That's simple enough. You're face to face with the same ancient enemy we're all confronting: ego. Join the club, pay the dues. So what to do?

First, recognize that it's not your responsibility to heal/cure/solve the Weird Twins's problems. Your responsibility is to YOU, and once you deal with that honestly, then you will avoid problems such as your current one. (you will be encountering new problems, of course, they just won't be as . . . umm . . . grunge "tabloid" as your current one is)

There is a magic solution, you will be glad to hear. It's called "willpower". If I were you, I would lose the Weird Twins, both of 'em, because, sir, they are obviously playing you like a kazoo. They may be self-absorbed asshats, but they're not idiots - they know a needy patsy when they see one.

SUCK IT UP! Walk like a man, willya? Ya think a little self-denial is going to kill you? Look, a little wailing and whining is OK . . at first. Now take the energy you expend in self-pity and invest it in becoming a mature, spirit-minded adult. WILLPOWER, dammit. APPLY IT.

You do this and at some point you will attract a real woman. That's because you will be a real man.

Anonymous said...

dilys here.

Anon, for God's sake (unless you've posted a put-on), step back, do without (it's Lent!), meet yourself. Use this problem as traction. Eventually, they'll even be competing to buy you lunch!

julie said...

Anonymous, I think Will's on the right track here.

First, you need to be honest with the current girlfriend. Apologize to her for wasting her time, but drawing it out any longer is only likely to make things worse, not better. Truth - sometimes, it hurt like hell, but it's almost always better than the alternative.

Second, you might be better served by staying away from the first girlfriend for a while. Take a little time to sort yourself out - learn to be whole without someone else; then you will be much more able to be whole with someone else. And it sounds like maybe she needs to do the same thing. In fact, if it's taken her this long to figure out whether she wants to marry you, she might be the kind of girl who's always looking for something better, and when she thinks she's found it she'll be gone again - but next time, perhaps with half your money and property to boot.

Either way, give it time. I know it feels like time is slipping through your fingers (while simultaneously stretching on forever, until you can find that elusive happiness in someone's warm embrace), but if you rush into anything at this point, odds are you'll regret it - deeply and bitterly - in years to come.

What must God think of you? Simple - that you're human. That you'll make mistakes, just like every other human.

You are loved.

Now learn how to accept that love. Eventually, the rest will follow.

Joseph said...

Leave it to Will to suggest "Willpower" as a solution.


Will is right. Man up, if you will. You have to attain the power and strength to not "need" a woman to fulfill you, either in terms of attention or your addiction to sex. Until you can do that, you will never be with a woman from the standpoint of complete freedom and devotion to your mission. At that point, perhaps, the right woman will appear, one that will be attracted to your deeper purpose. Until then, you will be utterly amazed at the beauty and peace that can fill this new vacuum.

Gecko said...

Sorry you're going through this ...
take to heart what Will said and meanwhile go here:

Magnus Itland said...

Attention is milk. I should probably say more about that somewhere. But attention is the first nourishment for our soul, back when we were tiny and could not process other sources of nourishment. It is not meant to be our only diet our whole life. Truth, beauty, virtue... there is unlimited nourishment for the soul once we get attuned to it.