Monday, May 12, 2008

Atheism and the Demystification of Being

Now, where did we leave off? Something about intelligent design, no?

Yesterday I finished David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, and it is recommended to anyone who wants to have a good laugh at the expense of bonehead atheists.

As I mentioned in last Thursday's post, Berlinski is an important voice, being that he is a secular scholar who is one of the most articulate critics of reductionistic Darwinism, atheism, and scientism in general. Like me, he rejects these things because they are absurd and illogical, not because he is religious. In a way, the book reminds me of Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism, as it is like a mental disinfectant that pulls out these pathological ideas root and branch.

The book is somewhat relentlessly sarcastic and scornful in tone, which normally doesn't appeal to me. I usually reserve my scorn for outright evil rather than philosophical stupidity. Then again, I do believe that atheism becomes an evil when it is transformed from a solitary affliction to a mass movement, as advanced by such voices from the abyss as Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and the especially dim Sam Harris.

None of the philosophical arguments put forth by these people could appeal to a remotely sophisticated mind, let alone spirit. As such, to the extent that they are widely embraced, it can only reduce mankind to something it was never intended be, and effectively deny our cosmic station and destiny in the hierarchy of being. Truly, it is the end of mankind and of true humanism. This cannot be over-emphasized.

The main problem with Berlinski's book -- similar to Explaining Postmodernism -- is that it has no "positive" philosophy to erect in the place of the feeble scientism it reduces to ruins. Therefore, in its own way, it ends up coming across as somewhat unavoidably nihilistic. I would put it this way: there are lower and higher forms of nihilism, so to speak.

The higher form may essentially be thought of as any form of apophatic theology, which honors the irreducible mystery in which we find ourselves. In light of this Supreme Mystery, the scientistic buzzing of misbeehiving intellectual worker bees is analogous to a spiritual sting that kills the host. Was that clear, honey? Again, if atheism succeeds it fails, for it kills man as such. This will become more evident as we bumble along, if not in today's post, then tomorrow and later in the week.

I'll spare you all of the details and just provide enough background to move the post along, but back when I was in graduate school, one of the dissertation topics I considered was something along the lines of "Psychoanalysis and the Remystification of the Mind." It had to do with a certain "arc" in the style of human thought which reached its zenith in the 19th century, when Freud began his writing.

Freud was a child of the times, and the late 19th century (ironically) represented the pinnacle of the kind of unsophisticated reductionism we see being replayed in the contemporary movement of bonehead atheism. Contemporary atheists are embracing a kind of naive positivism that was discredited and rejected so long ago that it is completely irrelevant for any serious thinker. It's as if the 20th century passed them by, and they're picking up where the 19th left off.

To make a long story short, Freud was convinced he had unlocked the mystery of the mind. Not only that, but he firmly believed that his own theories would eventually be further reduced to neurology. The problem is, as psychoanalysts ventured further into the mind with the techniques developed by Freud, instead of demystifying it, they ended up remystifying it.

Here again, when I use the word "mystery," I mean it in the higher sense of a sophisticated mode of knowing, a "negative capability" that roughly corresponds to what I call in the book O-->(k). To dwell in O-->(k) is to live one's life on the very shoreline where eternity breaks into time, or where the Mystery becomes manifest. To employ the terminology of quantum physics, it is to be the collapse of the wave vector, where the nonlocal wave becomes a local particle as a result of a human observer. We are like the Cosmic Umpire, in that there are no balls or strikes until we say so. Or electrons, for that matter.

Here again, this can be confused with sloppy solipsism when it is anything but. Rather, it alerts us to the *obvious* participatory nature of all human knowing below a certain level. In fact, even the highest levels of knowledge -- and this would be metaphysics and its instantiation in revelation -- are never free of a human knower, and are therefore only "relatively absolute." Only the Absolute itself is absolute, i.e., there is none good but the One.

Anyway, I noticed that, especially in Bion, psychoanalysis had come full circle from a reductionistic and therefore "demystifying" form of (k)-->O (and therefore (-k) or Ø) to a genuine re-mystification of the mind, or what you might call "apophatic psychoanalysis." A good psychoanalyst should be much more humble in approaching the mystery of the unconscious mind, which simply cannot be contained and never will be, since it exists in a higher dimensional space than does the four-dimensional ego, the ego being an adaptation to the conditions of "the world" (in both its physical and cultural aspects). As a matter of fact, I discussed this in the very first paper I published back in 1991. Here, let me look it up....

"Three-dimensional Euclidean space is not a given, but rather, a special limiting case of a far more extensive n-dimensional space," similar to that disclosed by string theory. "It is crucial to note that in the new physics, space is not to be thought of as mere homogeneous 'emptiness'"; rather, it has qualities which condition the matter within it. In fact, there is only this "energic" space, with the relatively minute areas of greater density experienced as matter. Therefore, space is not (only) that which separates objects, but that which more fundamentally unites them.

Likewise, mental space is not some kind of an "ideal void" which contains the objects of thought. Rather, our prior condition is a qualitatively different kind of space, and a developmental process is required in order to allow this space to evolve. We must find a way to "translate" this higher dimensional space into one of lesser dimensions, or else be afflicted by psychopathology in the form of baffling symptoms (which are "deformed" and unrecognizable messages from O) or a failure to evolve. In light of this, I would regard atheism as the quintessence of pathological defense against O, which therefore prevents its fruitful evolution. This is why there is nothing about atheism that appeals to the human spirit, only the ego.

I don't want to rewrite the whole paper here, but I think you can immediately sense how this works in practice. A great poet, artist, musician, or mystic is precisely great because of their highly sophisticated "translating function," which reduces the infinitely protean O to something "graspable" by the mind. As such, the truly great artist creates something "relatively" inexhaustible, which is why folks are still talking about Dante, Shakespeare, and Bach, and conversely, why there is so little to say about atheism or Darwinism once it's been said.

After all, as Berlinski points out, the rudiments of Darwinism -- and as it pertains to philosophy, its rudiments are also its highest wisdom -- can be learned in an afternoon, and all if its implications can be fully drawn out in the space of a day. The rest is just commentary. You know, Shakespeare wrote those sonnets in order to get chicks. God is a projection of our anxiety about death.

That people fall for this stuff and call it "sophisticated" never ceases to amaze. That it "satisfies their soul" tells you all you need to know about the anorexic state of their soul. They must look in the mirror and see a big fat intellect, when we see a scrawny, 80 pound adolescent. It is analogous to someone's literary needs being fulfilled by Harlequin Romances, or one's intellectual needs being satiated by Air America and huffingtonpost. I think you'll agree that there are no mysteries there except false and counterfeit ones, such as the awesomely numinous evil of George Bush, or the deeply religious idea that "wisdom begins with the fear of global warming."

This is all just a rambling prelude. I promise to get into more details as the week unfolds from O into (k).


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in reading your paper if you were interested in sending it out.

Question. So I was talking yesterday to this duder doing his doctorate on Maimonides and he reminded me of something that I had forgotten - that in the Biblical account of creation, prior to "let there be light" God was hovering over the water. He said this was used as evidence of the universe preexisting creation. Bracketing that, are you familiar with anybody who discusses the genesis creation as a story specific to language? Language defined in this sense as a universalist consciousness unique to humans - ie, I am curious about whether the creation story is an account of early consciousness, or something to that effect, if you see what I'm getting at.

Gagdad Bob said...

It is both/and, being that it is the quintessence of O-->(n); it is about the creation of the world and of consciousness, which are simply two sides of the same thing.

Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, I have the paper in a PDF file.

Mike Watkins said...

Bob, I just stumbled upon your blog and look forward to doing a little grazing in your field. Your writing style tickles my funny bone and your ideas are fresh.

jwm said...

It's nice to be addressing an 'anon' who has a point and a question, rather than a bone to pick. Welcome.
I got a sort of vision about Genesis. Imagine a man given a Divine vision, a lucid dream the likes of which few people experience. Imagine being taken outside of time, and allowed to stand next to God to watch the whole Creation unfold from "Let there be Light" all the way to the prototypical Adam birthing self awareness, and the pure unbroken link to the vertical but also free will, and with it the nacsent potential to disobey that God who willed the whole thing into being.
Imagine that vision condensed into a few thousand words, and you have the early chapters of Genesis. I suppose you could ask for a Darwin correct verion of the story, one that would detail the whole process like the entire list of begats for every creature that ever appeared on the planet, but the book would get a little lengthy. Probably a rather dull read.


River Cocytus said...

anony: The Genesis account in greek looks like:

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν.

2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος

'udatos' the last word is 'water/waters'. (This is from the LXX - Septuagint) [epano too udatos is 'face of the waters']

'pneuma theoo' = Spirit of God

If I recall, 'akataskeuastos' means nothingingness; so he's saying that the creation was void and non-existence, and yet there was some 'face of the waters' over which the Spirit of God hovered.

Maybe someone should go through each verse and translate and look up Patristics and Talmud on it.

River Cocytus said...

Hold on. Sorry, ἐπάνω is to be above, ride on, or hover over (not certain which use is intended, but from that most Bibles use 'hover' I think that may be correct.)

River Cocytus said...

"Language defined in this sense as a universalist consciousness unique to humans" ... like the Logos? Dunno, the concepts run together in the estuaries of my mind...

Samuel Skinner said...

If the man is such a critic, why isn't he a theist? That is... well, the oddest part for me.

Antitheism is the mass movement. Atheism is the belief that backs antitheism.

Wow... you just declared that 600 million people are unsophisticated... including a good many noble prize winnners.

You then go worse. You see, things are true based on a concept known as "actually existing/working in reality". Just because something seems neat or makes you feel good doesn't make it true. I mean, can someone say communism?

So... only religion gives you meaning? Only obedience gives you purpose? You would have made a good slave.

And then you complain that naturalism is easy to understand. That is because you are an idiot. You do not truely understand the TRUE meaning of Christmas... err, naturalism.

You see, the core point of science is knowledge, not sophistication. Science is about what is true- not what makes you feel like an intellectual. Those "details" you dismiss are the most important things in the universe. How does the brain function? Can we change it? How do systems self organize? Can we build x (where x is a boat, a pyramid, a city, a skyscraper, a spaceship, a star elevator or an orbital habitat)? How does this work?

In short (and we all know this bears repeating) you are an idiot. You value style over substance, flashy colors and high sounding answers over the concrete and real. You'd be a person trying to understands lifes "meaning" while your partner is shaping rocks. "It doesn't have meaing- now make those spear points, or do you want to starve?".

Thanks to the science you mock, we now have enough resources so that you can philosophize without regard to all that is required to support you. Heck- you do one better than the pampered aristocrats- the people who provide the labor for you are safely out of sight!

mushroom said...

Freud loves us cold because we are Jung at heart.

Also, in Genesis, God brings all the other creatures before man to see what he will name them. God did not name the creatures, Adam did. In doing so, he became very much a co-creator.

Cousin Dupree said...

Thank you, Samuel. That was most edifying. We can almost visualize your mouth moving as your fingers shamble across the keyboard.

Gagdad Bob said...


Or as Joyce said, "we grisly old Sykos have done our unsmiling bit on alices when they were yung and easily freudened."

Jehu said...

I have been watching the atrocious debate about ID and Darwinism on LGF. How amazing is the inability for a Darwinist to actually think Darwinism is the most ruinous philosophy ever perpetrated on man.

Regarding Genesis, a very good book is G.H. Pember Earth's Earliest Ages.

Pember is a Hebrew scholar and notes that the first and second verse are unique and Rabbinical scholars through the ages noted that the first verse In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.

This first verse is argued to represent the creation of the entire universe, i.e., the "Big Bang." And this hundreds of years before Evolution, or the Big Bang were known.

The second verse, "And the earth was formless and void, and the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the deep."

The words that are translated into formless and void in the Hebrew are only used in context of Divine Judgment. In other words a picture emerges of a Universe created, eventually an earth forms, then for some reason that earth is subjected to a Divine Judgment...we see the earth reeling through space, enshrouded in darkness, perhaps a great interstellar cloud, blocking the light of the sun and stars.

But the spirit of God is "brooding," over the surface of the deep. Now it is physically true, I believe, but it is also an allegory of the creation of humanity, more particularly those that will take on a, or rather THE, divine nature.

As human beings , as a race and as individuals we suffer a divine judgment, but it is for the purpose of God to brood and travail at the deepest level to bring forth the greatest creation from the midst of deep darkness...from a destroyed race.

No wonder God subjected himself to the deepest of suffering on our behalf, this is His greatest act of creation (so far) us. Maybe it also parallels the agony of God to bring forth the universe in the beginning, I don't think this creation stuff is so easily done.

I resent how Darwin reduced the elegance and complexity of life to a heroic fairy tale of slime mold arising to consciousness, yet evolution itself places no premium on that hard won consciousness...we are just another animal.

It is appalling the stupid minds that prattle to one another about this, smugly convinced of their superior intellect. Like wanderers that found a ray gun built by an advanced race, they all exclaim about this ray gun, maybe they even learn to shoot the gun, eventually they begin to lie to each other and pretend it is just the latest model from Colt Manufacturing.

ximeze said...

Sammie slime mold arising to consciousness hath spoken

Bow down ye slaves of O

The mass movement of Flatlanders is nigh

lance said...

Samuel, You were doing pretty well tell you started with the name calling. I hope that made you feel better.

walmart shopper said...

Hey look -- a pile of carbon molecules that calls itself sam skinner has written a testy reply to Bob's post! Isn't its anger fascinating?

And just think -- if we had we known the precise positions, velocities, and forces acting on all its constituent particles beforehand, we could have predicted with certainty every word that it would write. Like we could have known it would accuse the B'ob of making a good slave. After all, matter must obey the laws of physics.

Right, Mr. skinner?

Ricky Raccoon said...

Great post. Not many comments…but it’s a “to be continued”. So maybe this is just the innermission.

Couple things though before you restart:

RE Dr. Berlinski, it may be just me but I get the vibe that he’s right on the cusp of believing. But it is the cusp that is the last stronghold. Just get the vibe reading between the verbs. As you’ve said before some people’s main obstacle to religion is their intellect. He’s not anti-religion but it might almost be better for him if he was. To send him over the edge. What works for him now is that religion is irrelevant to his arguments. That’s hard to beat by single sell Darwinians. So I love him just the way he is, don’t get me wrong :-)

Which brings to mind this. If true science is your "religion", then you force to remain agnostic. Hard to get out of that one. But there’s infinite empirical data about God that anyone can point to, it just operates on a different plane. Unless you never step on that plane. But I don’t know much about Berlinski admittedly. Not judging, just flipping through his words quickly.

Which brings to mind this. The topic around the picnic table this weekend was persistently about the skyrocketing price of gasoline. Needless to say(?) I was making perfect nosense to them. Here’s a question. What tells your average “peak oil” person (I’m talking about the average guy walking down the street complaining about the price of gasoline) that there will be an alternative energy source better than oil?...which we have plenty of, by the way. Why doesn’t he consider “peak technology”. My point isn’t that I believe we have reached the limit of our technology, necessarily. I’m asking, what tells “peak oil man” we will find something “else”?…if just given enough federal funding and chimps on typewriters. What tells him this? I’m asking this because many are paying to the temple of state for cheaper gasoline and the natives are getting restless. The jig may be up.

QP said...

Ricky, At our roundtable discussion this weekend, I wondered aloud: "Will our grandchildren's children ever fly in a plane"?

"The jig may be up."

Anonymous said...

I have a slightly off-topic question, but you guys seem to be a good group to ask. Is suicide ever an option for a person?

I am often extremely depressed and/or angry. Suicide often crosses my mind since my life just does not seem worth living. I don't see much reason for continuing to face the pain of existence. About the only reason I haven't bailed out yet is because I do not want to hurt my friends and family. I don't want them to feel like they failed me. It really has nothing to do with them. I just look around and see no good reason to put up with all the crap of going on.

Could this be one of those be mind parasites you mention?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"As I mentioned in last Thursday's post, Berlinski is an important voice, being that he is a secular scholar who is one of the most articulate critics of reductionistic Darwinism, atheism, and scientism in general. Like me, he rejects these things because they are absurd and illogical, not because he is religious."

Does Berlinski mention his belief's other than secularism?
IOW's, does he believe in spirit, transcendence, and a Creator(s)?
Or is he an agnostic or maybe a non-reductionist atheist?

Because it seems to me that he must believe more, in some sense (even if he doesn't gno it) based on what he's written.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Anonymous said...
"I have a slightly off-topic question, but you guys seem to be a good group to ask. Is suicide ever an option for a person?

I am often extremely depressed and/or angry. Suicide often crosses my mind since my life just does not seem worth living. I don't see much reason for continuing to face the pain of existence. About the only reason I haven't bailed out yet is because I do not want to hurt my friends and family. I don't want them to feel like they failed me. It really has nothing to do with them. I just look around and see no good reason to put up with all the crap of going on.

Could this be one of those be mind parasites you mention?"

5/13/2008 07:30:00 AM

Well, you found one good reason already: you don't wanna hurt your family and friends. That's a start.

It's easy to lose sight of what is important, sometimes, and pain can cause a deep depression, making it difficult to see that life is indeed worth living.

And certainly, mind parasites can play a part in that as well.

As someone who has experienced pain pretty much all the time, often excrutiating, I can say it is possible to see that life is worth it, including gratefullness, and thankfullness for all that is Good, True and Beautiful.

Suicide, as away to escape suffering is an illusion and a lie.
Obviously you care about your loved ones, so you can find the courage to seek out more reasons to live and that abundantly.
To find your purpose(s).

First and foremost that means never, ever giving up.