Friday, May 09, 2008

Sorry Darkling, It's a Light Thing... You Wouldn't Understand

A little philosophy, as Francis Bacon observed, "inclineth a man's mind toward atheism." A very little philosophy is often all that is needed. --David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion

As I've mentioned before, to a certain extent, the structure of my book mirrors the journey from postmodern skeptic to believer-and-then-some. I'm almost tempted to say from post-religious to post-religiously religious (thus the circular structure of the book), but that's a topic for another post. The point is, I started with the world as it is, and ended up realizing that the world is not at all what it appears to be to our natural reason. To paraphrase someone in The Spiritual Ascent, at first I saw the hills in the painting, now I see the painting in the hills -- and therefore the artist.

Again, there are three forms of revelation available to human beings, each of which is necessary to the "full activation" of the others. These are 1) the world, 2) the intellect (the nous or buddhi, not the ego), and 3) scripture. I suppose you could even say that in this formulation, intellect is Father, world is Son, and scripture is Holy Spirit.

My point is that I do not believe in "intelligent design" because I am religious. Rather, the self-evident existence of intelligent design -- or, let us just say cosmic intelligence -- permitted my own intelligence to go the whole hog and embrace a religious view, which soon enough confirmed Augustine's statement that no creature, howsoever rational and intellectual, is lighted of itself, but is lighted by participation of eternal Truth.

That is, once this happened, it was as if the whole of creation lit up from the inside out, in part because I added the third peg of revelation into the mix, which served as a sort of "catalyst" or enzyme that constantly fertilizes the mind. And of course, everything must be infused by grace, the one truly necessary condition; in the words of Thomas Traherne, "These principles are like seed in the ground, they must be continually visited with heavenly influences, or else your life will be a barren field." Or, as Eckhart put it, "It is one flash, the being-ready and the pouring-in. Nature reaching her summit, God dispenses his grace; the instant the spirit is ready God enters without hesitation or delay.... Grace makes the soul deiform. God, the ground of the soul, and grace go together."

This came as a total -- and ongoing -- shock to me. It is truly a combustible combination, and the only way I am able to greet each morning with a fresh post from the wild godhead. The combustion takes place in heart, where the world is like a perpetually burning bush, an immaculate fire that gives off no smoke to get in your I. It is the end that is a perpetual beginning, and that which draws all of creation in its wake, thereby "making all things new." In this way of looking at things, the desire for God is God, and by cherishing and nurturing that desire, it impels us toward its fulfillment. Truly, man is the eros shot into the heart of the world.

As Schuon accurately describes it, "When the heart is opened to the divine influx, the ego finds itself inundated with beauty and glory.... Everything related to the order of metaphysics has, in itself, the power of opening up boundless horizons to anyone who has a true conception of it; this is not a hyperbole or a figure of speech, but it must be understood quite literally, as an immediate outcome of the principles." This is because "the things in question are the most tremendous that exist, and compared with them everything else is child's play.... Everything accomplished in this domain brings into play powers that the ordinary man has no inkling of..."

Among other things, I saw that the intellect had to be anterior to creation, or we couldn't understand the creation so easily and so deeply. No mere created intellect -- that is, created by random accidents and copying errors -- could result in something so sublime and luminous as the human mind, any more than your computer upgrades itself when corrupted by viruses. It is absurd to think otherwise, if for no other reason than it is to render oneself absurd. Consciousness is over, above, behind, below, and within the created order, otherwise we couldn't understand a single truth; in its deiformity, the intellect is both immanent and transcendent. This is not just the religious view, but it is obviously implicit in science as well, as all scientists presume that the world -- if not today, then eventually -- can be "contained" by the mind, however narrowly and perversely conscrewed.

Even if you reduce the world to a set of mathematical equations, you will see that intelligence has already been there, as it is reflected in the tracks of the equations. The more deeply we peer into the cosmos, the more "deep intelligence" is revealed. No quantum cosmologist expects to look beneath the flux of the world and discover equations that are timelessly ugly and stupid. Rather, they will always be beautiful, beauty being the splendor of the true. And this is only a step away from the shocking realization that thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, an the Glory, forever. Very humbling, to say the least.

If premodern men were as stupid as postmodern cynics imagine them to have been, they never could have resulted in minds as "brilliant" as Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. In reality, these low and laughty men represent precipitous declensions from the lofty ones who preceded them. But it was ever thus: When the inferior scholar is told of Tao / He laughs aloud at it / If it were not laughed at, it would not be sufficient to be Tao. So a Sam Harris can say with a straight face that "Judaism is intrinsically divisive," "ridiculous in its literalism," and "at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity."

But vulgar men such as Harris and Dawkins are actually mediocrities by their own -- and only -- standard, since no one will read their words in the space of a generation, but men -- so long as they remain men -- will always be reading the words of the Torah, or Plato, or Augustine, or Eckhart, or Lau-tzu, or Denys, or Steinsaltz, or Schuon, or so many other men of religious genius -- Men with insight / Men in granite / Knights in armor intent on chivalry (Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey).

Scripture itself should be given the ultimate seal of approval by Darwinians, since it survives, while endless secular philosophies come and go. If history is any guide, most of the things believed by postmodern sophisticates will no more survive than phrenology or a Bill Maher monologue.

The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation -- for it survives the longest periods of skepticism and returns after every banishment -- is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of the Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last -- God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. --Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine

The last end is the first mover. --Peter Sterry


bob f. said...

"The combustion takes place in heart, where the world is like a perpetually burning bush, an immaculate fire that gives off no smoke to get in your I."

I've wondered if we are not always within the beam of that light; when we face it we experience it as illumination; when we turn away from it the light becomes heat; we may experience it as hell, but that is because we've turned away, and we can always turn around and experience it as light.
Like the story of the samuri who asked a master to explain to him about heaven and hell. The master said, "Why should I bother with an oaf like you?" The samuri became enraged and lifted his sword to kill the master, who pointed to the samuri and said, "That is hell." As a look of understanding came over his face, the master then said, "And that is heaven."

And where the hell is everyone, anyway?

Scatter said...

Personally, I'm not ignoring the post, I'm just speechless. But I'm a monkey, so I have an excuse.

Anonymous said...

Do know that though the comments may not be many many read.

Always excellent.

julie said...

This ties in with a few thoughts I've been mulling over the last few days, partially congealed thanks to Walt's Monday post; since everyone's so quiet, I'm just gonna ramble a bit.

As I said at Walt's on Monday, I realized over the weekend that while I've made some progress opening my mind to O, the heart is another matter entirely, so his post resonated in a rather gong-like fashion. Which got me wondering why people are so hard-hearted - why we have this protective shell that almost nObody can penetrate?

The coonclusion I reached is that the spiritual heart of man is like a seed, or maybe more particularly like an unfertilized egg (which actually explains a lot about the metaphysical importance of virginity, which I've also pondered - if you open that part of yourself to anything besides O, there will be dire consequences). The hardness perhaps protects us from some dangerous influences, but it also means that, if we can't find a way to crack the shell, we remain spiritually sterile. But if we just get cracked enough for the Holy Spirit to enter, that's when real growth can take place.

Thoughts, anyone?

julie said...

If I'm totally off base, feel free to say so - it's better to get a course correction early on than to be completely astray and find out too late, after all.

Ricky Raccoon said...

If it is a shell, we crack it from the inside. And we don’t live very well in here without going out for more of what got us going in the first place. We get a start, but the rest is up to us. I think you have to admit to yourself you don’t care how long it takes.

Ricky Raccoon said...

This is one of your most beautiful posts. I only had a few minutes to read it earlier today but its essence is still not finished with me.

Last night I was poking around looking for clips of the once upon a time TV show Northern Exposure. I found this one and when I did was wondering if one of your posts would come along that fit with it and I could share it here. Or it would just be a nice Friday clip to watch and enjoy. Didn't take long...

More Light

Ricky Raccoon said...

Try it again...

More Light

julie said...

From the inside with an assist from the outside, maybe...

But you're right, though - if what's inside refuses to come out (and put in some effort at making it so), nothing outside can reach it.

Ricky Raccoon said...

I believe it has to be both ways. If it were just up to me, or just up to Him, what would be the point?

I’ve had some low times since waking up early last year. One of them lasted a long time. Before it was through I was left with admitting to myself that I would wait as long as the Light would take to “come back”. It did and I was thankful.

The hard part may be not forgetting I did admit. And who knows what is around the corner. Admitting may also mean you will take whatever comes as a result of admitting. Maybe that’s the hardest part. But it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with so far.

beth elliott said...

One of the best, Bob! "Cosmic intelligence" ... who says a designer must be found outside the universe for there to be intelligence at play and not just random chance? Personally, I think the "participation of Eternal Truth" is happening everywhere, every moment, in every thing. And if you're not going "Wow!" you're not paying attention. Some people are dead set on not saying "Wow!", ever, or letting other people say "Wow!", ever.

QP said...

Julie, We all have degrees of armoring around our hearts and the first step, a very brave step, is asking for guidance. Our merciful Father is always willing to forgive our hardheartedness.

I've also found healing meditation of enormous benefit for softening the armored places.

QP said...

Chesterton also went the whole hog on Science in his book, Eugenics and Other Evils.

"The thing that is really trying to tyrannize through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that is really levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen--that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established church; for the Government will really help it to persecute the heretics."

julie said...

Hm, perhaps I should clarify a bit. When I came to that realization this weekend, it was a bit of a surprise (since I've been hiding that fact from myself) but it isn't something I'm worrying about, since now that I am aware, I have indeed been steadily chipping away from the inside. I know that the cracks will open in their own good time, and while I must do my part I'm not concerned about how much progress I'm making or how long it will take, I'm just glad that I know now it's something I need to work on.

It simply got me to wondering why it generally is so. The amount of hard-heartedness we experience has to do with the Fall, I'm sure, but I also think there may be a higher purpose to it, since it's a near-universal feature of Mankind. The mental picture that came to mind this week was not the hardness of stone, but rather something resembling a peach pit.

ximeze said...

Wow! of a post Bob: Luminous exploration of Light

Julie & Ricky, I'm with you on the inshelled heart, cracks & light. Also that it's got to be both-ways.

At times, when the heart is un-lit within, light must penetrate thru the cracks from the O side-in. Other times, the light with-in almost blasts-out thru any cracks. The cOOlest is when ya get cOOnvection currents going, moving both directions cOOncurrently. OO baby!

It would seem all three are needed, & must swap-around, so we can actually discern the difference between them. Like how a thunderbolt of Grace, flashing in an unlit heart, can change everything after that moment. The light & spark may not stay, but the memory of it does, making one acutely aware of the lack-there-of.

It may actually be as simple as:
Just Follow The Light.

Suddenly flashed on that great photo of Future Leader's delightful expression, snapped when he was having his face painted by a Princess. I wonder if we're not actually just trying to open our hearts to be able to reach-back to that kind of Joy, albeit an adult-version.

Today's post got me reaching-back to other Lumin-nous-filled, participatory, convection current 'events'. Both can be described as 'visual', but a heck of alot more was going on than just passive 'seeing'.

First was watching 'Vincent' back in '88s on a theater screen, the Paul Cox extra-ordinary film. Mouth-agape, a whole new world opened with that viewing - brand-new neural-pathways, or just rediscovered ones. Most likely both.

Is was sure I read somewhere that Cox used lighting-behind enhancement technology to get the luminous effect, but I might be cross-hatching the Kurosawa's Dreams sequence 'Crows' in my memory (great Coonish visuals in 'Dreams' for those who have not seen it)

Here's what I found from Paul Cox:
"If I think about it logically it's perhaps a little insane but I didn't consciously select Vincent van Gogh, it sort of chose me. I remember going to the museum in Holland with my mother and she stood looking at a self-portrait of Vincent. She spoke about the grief in his eyes and then my dear mother began to weep looking at this painting. This was enough for me to decide that I would make this film in homage to my mother's reaction to the painting. It was so powerful."

Second was the 'Rivers & Tides' the
documentary about the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy - A Raccoon if ever there was one: threads, spirals, trails,luminous ice, water, time, color, recurring shapes of O everywhere (pun intended).

Watch this clip to see:

I suppose the above is an overlong way to say it's possible to enhance luminous convection currents: find what speaks to you & just follow the Light.

mushroom said...

the desire for God is God, and by cherishing and nurturing that desire, it impels us toward its fulfillment.

That statement pegged the truth-0-meter for me.

It reminds me a little of "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled."

Good quote from G.K., QP. Some men have a rapier wit. Chesterton was a .50 BMG.

coonified said...

"The mental picture that came to mind this week was not the hardness of stone, but rather something resembling a peach pit."

Here's my take before bed, Julie.

Superimposed on the substratum of spirit as we think it are three general layers in the body: ectomorphic, which has to do with contacting the external environment and setting up boundaries with between inside and outside; the middle or mesomorphic layer, which contains the muscular-support; and the deepest layer--the endomorphic layer, which includes the inner body wall, and the cavities and organ systems.

Working anterior to all of this is, as we all know, a substratum of spirit that is already free from any kind of constrictions that might have, or rather, certainly have become crystallized as boundaries of self, and therefore, heart, feeling, compassion, etc. (I know you know this, I'll keep going anyway) Really, I think, when we talk about the heart, we are really talking about how free eros--passion and emotion--is in being able to express itself, that is reach out to "other," as well as , and in general, contain others in a sort of economy of the heart, where mutual, bi-directional exchanges of love (the analogy of pseudopodia to libido comes to mind) can take place without delay, inhibition, etc.

(Lets see. Where am I going with this?)

Well, Just as mind has defense mechanisms protecting it from O, so does heart too; and the layer, all of them starting with the deepest in child hood (endomorphic) and extending outward, are all constricted for the reason of protecting the core that the core of our hearts. Hmmmmm. Don't know if I'm spot on, but doubts aside for now.

I have a good feeling that the sheaths in Vedanta--physical, vital, mental, ect--correspond in an intimate way with the different layers of the body. That is each layer of body is hardened, literally, and the only way to to loosen it all up is to practice, or at least explore whatever methods that are out there that correspond to the layer that needs work at the moment in life.

To give a personal example of the heart and it's hardness, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a state where sleep and waking consciousness kind of merge together. At times, there occurs this vortex, or what feels like a vortex, in the heart that begins to suck my external being inward. It's really scary, because I don't know what's down there. Any way, what I notice when the internal being starts to open up--besides that there's more chaos beyond it I'm sure--is that my vital organs sort of loosen up for a moment, as if there were a soft spot developing on a part of the vital-heart area, like a membrane that allows for temporary osmosis (exchange between inside and outside.)

I will say, though, I think that mind, that is the cerebrum--from throat up--has to least above average health for the inner layers to start to loosen up. I think it has something to do with the brain being like a circuit board that allows for somatic flexibility--the brain, which I'm almost sure is damaged in most people, has to be able to circulate breath (prana) freely, so that the potential cerebral space is present for the reformation to occur...quickly.

Ok. that's enough. Good luck breaking though the seed. The fleshy part of the peach taste the best.

Robin Starfish said...

Yep, full candlepower post today.

Julie, good stuff. Sometimes those little cracks that take so much time and effort (and only partially on our part) to nick open turn into a sudden gusher.

A year ago today my great friend Steve died unexpectedly. I grieved a long time and begged God to let me know he's ok. Nothing came, until this past couple days. The 'signs' and messages are coming in spades from the oddest sources, and every one is way outside the probability of coincidence.

It is a light thing, and there's plenty of it.

Magnus Itland said...

This reinforces my recent vision of the vertical universe as gradually more dense or solid the higher up we come. When we descend to lower realms such as a daydream, things are malleable but transient. If we go the other way, things become more real, uncompromising and enduring, whereas we and our ordinary world become more like a daydream in comparison, ephemeral and easily scattered.

Gecko said...


NoMo said...

What Gecko said.