Thursday, June 12, 2008

Memos to Mysoph on Knowledge and Being

I finally finished The Spiritual Ascent last weekend, at which time I planted the Raccoon colors and am now just enjoying the view. In my opinion, it really picks up steam in the latter two thirds of the book, which is understandable, since the first third of the book deals more with the hard work of purification -- including a guided tour of the various dimensions of hell -- while the remainder deals with the big prayoff of illumination and union. This post is more for my benefit, as I'd like to just free associate on some of the themes and quotations in order to better deepen and assimilate them. Just remember, free association is free, so you get what you pay for.

As an aside, it is remarkable to me how much of the book is highlighted. As I look back through it, I rarely highlighted things that were new to me -- like a historical fact of which I was unaware. Rather, in nearly every case, it was simply the recognition of something I already knew. What makes this remarkable is that, in the spiritual realm, we are obviously dealing with a supposedly "subjective" and totally non-empirical space. And yet, this space turns out to be as reliably objective as the lower orders of reality -- in fact, more so, since scientific theories come and go and undergo constant changes, whereas the perennial wisdom, by definition, never changes.

The weirdness of this is insufficiently grasped by human beings, in large part due to the fact that the average contemporary human is so alienated from this hyper-real reality. And the foolish people who have no contact with this realm are ironically the ones with the most confidence that they are grounded in "reality," as our trolls never stop proving. As a fired up Philo -- the "Jewish Plato" -- said, they are "laden with vanity and gross stupidity and vast pretense, you that are wise in your own conceit!" Yes, you who "spin your airy fables" about existence! Why, I orta!

In my book, I made reference to the "subjectively objective" nature of this realm, although I managed to convey it in a page or two instead of 1,100. Wait a minute, let me look it up.... Here it is -- page 192: "While it may seem presumptuous to refer to spiritual 'facts,' all esoteric traditions -- from the early desert fathers, to the Vedic seers, to Tibetan Buddhist monks -- speak of a trans-empirical realm [n] corresponding to our inner spiritual intuition [¶] that is as real as the empirical realm that answers to our five outward senses.... While there are, of course, different scriptures and theologies, these must be understood as multiple views of a hyper-dimensional, trans-human manifold irreducible to a single exterior formula." Yeah, boy!

Or page 203: "Truth, if it is actually Truth, is beyond any single expression of it, and yet, present in each of its expressions. If something is true, it is universal and compels our assent.... In point of fact, Truth is inexhaustible, flowing as it does from the direction of the Absolute (which is beyond image and form) into the relativity of formal language." In turn, this is why "absolute Truth is ultimately concrete and not symbolic, in fact, the most concrete experience available to mortals." The symbols merely point the way to what is clearly beyond them (which is true of all symbols). Boo-yah!

I then go on to quote a number of authorities -- and had I been aware of The Spiritual Ascent at the time, I could have cited thousands more! -- but Aurobindo summarizes it as well as anyone: "It is a fact that yogic experience runs everywhere on the same lines.... admittedly, we are dealing with a many-sided Infinite to which there are and must be many ways of approach; but yet the broad lines are the same everywhere and the intuitions, experiences, phenomena are the same in ages and countries far apart from each other and systems practiced quite independently from each other.... That would seem to show that there is something there identical, universal and presumably true -- however the colour of the translation may differ because of the difference of mental language." Ho!

If The Spiritual Ascent doesn't prove Aurobindo's point -- over and over and over again, with extraordinary specificity -- then there is no proof (at least for you, pal). For example, the reality of this "many-sided Infinite" is far more certain than the metaphysically rootless and intellectually sterile speculations of reductionistic Darwinism. Truly, only a deeply anti-intellectual person could possibly believe such nonsense, bearing in mind, as always, that we are referring to the intellect properly-so-called (i.e., the illuminated nous), not to the contemporary caricature of mere intellectualism, i.e., those whose lack of wisdom is only matched by their pomposity and bovine absence of curiosity.

Indeed, here is a fine quote by Plato that describes the essential problem with such people: "I must first know myself; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous." This is manifestly true of the higher realms: "I say, no man knows God who knows not himself first" (Eckhart). "The high peak of knowledge is perfect self-knowledge" (Richard of Saint-Victor). "If a man knows himself, he shall know God" (Clement of Alexandria). "No one can be saved without self-knowledge" (St. Bernard). "Woof!" (another St. Bernard).

To turn this formulation around, what it means ipso facto is that the atheist does not know himself -- which is why, baseballically speaking, it is such an inadequate "stance," being that it starts on second base with no explanation of how it got -- or how human beings could possibly ever get -- to first. Any "philosopher" who tries to inform you about the nature of reality without first explaining the nature of the mind that may supposedly disclose the nature of reality, is simply talking through his ass. We know it. They never will.

In this regard, the naively reductionistic and self-refuting Darwinists probably bottom out the scale. For they have inverted the cosmic situation, precisely: "Thou believest thyself to be nothing, and yet it is in thee that the world resides" (Avicenna). To them, we say "Woof!"; for they are barking up the right tree, except that it is upside-down, so that they are howling at the wind-blown leaves and branches instead of the stable root. The cosmic caravan shall pass them by!

Lao Tse: "He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened."

Yea, let us bobnoxiously add: he who knows neither is an idiot, properly-so-called (idiot being related to the Latin, "without possession of oneself").

And again, this is a special kind of knowledge, very much unlike the knowledge of mere material reality. For as Eckhart wrote, "In the case of God, being and knowing are identical." But on this point, Christianity converges with the Upanishads: "If there were no elements of being, there would be no elements of intelligence. Verily, if there were no elements of intelligence, there would be no elements of being." Sat-chit-ananda, or being-knowledge-bliss. That's what it's all about, baby.

Obviously, the cold-dead hand of abstract scientific knowledge extracts knowing from being (and life from Truth), which is precisely why it is always one or more steps removed from reality, or at least half-dead. Religion is about the "recovery of being" -- or of O -- and of real "knowledge of being," or what a Raccoon calls O-->(n). In this context, the following statement by Schuon is quite lucid: "If our 'being' must become 'knowing,'... our 'knowing' must become 'being'; if in place of 'existing' it is necessary to 'discern,' it is necessary, in place of 'thinking,' to 'realize.'"

Which is why a famous Jewish scholar approached the sage "not to learn Torah from him but to watch him tie his boot-laces." Why? Because the sage has become the Torah, so to speak, and radiates it from every pore. He is indeed "word made flesh," if one may put it thus. Petey, of course, wears no shoes. But if he did, know that they would be both fashionable and comfortable, sensible and stylish.

Perry makes an important point, that "Realization itself is not within reach of the volitive faculties, it being rather a matter of ripeness and maturity -- volition of course being presupposed." In other words you must give it all your effort -- body, mind, and soul -- while knowing full well that the discontinuous alchemical transformation cannot take place in the absence of grace, and that there is simply no common measure between the preluminary effort put forth and the light-filled gifts received. You might even say that the effort is one of the "first fruits" of the grace!

However, what is realized must then be integrated and assimilated. This is the ongoing conversion of knowledge to being, and vice versa, until the two are One. Might as well save that for tomorrow.


julie said...

Hm. And again, over here.

Gagdad Bob said...

Twin brothers of different mOthers.

NoMo said...

Know thyself...and don't forget it!

mushroom said...

GB says, Truth, if it is actually Truth, is beyond any single expression of it, and yet, present in each of its expressions.

Which is why Christians should refrain from burning books or witches and stick to roasting Democrats.

Any "philosopher" who tries to inform you about the nature of reality without first explaining the nature of the mind that may supposedly disclose the nature of reality, is simply talking through his ass. We know it. They never will.

He's preachin' better than we're amenin'! Can the man get some help up in here?

"For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, ..." (Romans 1:21,22)

NoMo said...

Hey, sometimes it takes a talking ass...

Van said...

NoMo said " Hey, sometimes it takes a talking ass..."

Or this, "Shrek, You're so wrapped up in layers, onion boy, you're afraid of your own feelings!”
"That'll do Donkey, that'll do."

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Van said...

"In this context, the following statement by Schuon is quite lucid: "If our 'being' must become 'knowing,'... our 'knowing' must become 'being'; if in place of 'existing' it is necessary to 'discern,' it is necessary, in place of 'thinking,' to 'realize.'"
However, what is realized must then be integrated and assimilated. This is the ongoing conversion of knowledge to being, and vice versa, until the two are One. Might as well save that for tomorrow. "

ohhhhwohhhh... frontal lobe has hit the spin cycle....

Alan said...

shoeless petey? - pity.

aside re knowing/being - Dallas Willard, noteable christian scholar, says that to know something is to have an interactive relationship with it.

Ray Ingles said...

Sometimes you need to work your way out from the center... and loop back again. "To understand recursion, you must first understand recursion."

Sometimes it's easier to understand the figure by looking at the ground. And sometimes by going back and forth between them you increase your understanding of both.

Ron said...

Hey Bob. You sound like a Zen Master today (in a good way). :-)

Gagdad Bob said...


Ron said...

Thank you, sir, may I please have another!

mushroom said...

Cakes have layers.

Parfait! Everybody likes parfait.

Van said...

Alan said... "Dallas Willard, noteable christian scholar, says that to know something is to have an interactive relationship with it."

(Aristotle beat him to it. No real point in sayin'... just sayin')

Van said...

That'll do Donkey, that'll do!


Alan said...

van - thanks for the improvement/correction.

Van said...

Alan, no problem. It was more than a touch picky of me, but my bud's the Greeks get hammered alot, so I stick up for them here and there.


christopher said...

How come we are so outnumbered? Knowing this truth, this perennial ongoing in every culture truth, why then cannot we reach back and bring the trolls along? Mahayana claims ultimately they will come and he who helps this, refusing to depart until we all do, Bodhisattva! My hero!

The Universalist side of Unitarian Universalists claim that we ultimately all go to God because God insists on it. God is Bodhisattva. This would be Aristotle's Final Cause, and in Jardin's thinking the Omega point.

As an old hippie (who quit every psychedelic in 1972 and even booze in 1983) I have been yanking on the come along for a while now, not long in the cosmic scheme, but most of my life nonetheless.

However I am buried among the philistines, at work and in my service, my service not unlike being a Forensic Psychologist. In my service I am a "self employed substance abuse counselor" as I heard it described of a partner in service who died recently. This gave me quite a laugh.

This is why I am enjoying the ride here. I feel like many of you KNOW some stuff here.

When I am among the others, I don't even try for gnosis. Love is far more effective there. Thus we begin with resentment and the antidote, forgiveness. Compassion compassion compassion. You can't teach a drunk sober. Sometimes you can love him sober, so long as love is ironclad stable and constantly flexible. Then they might possibly become civilized or at least quit being soul criminals.

After 25 years of this experience I have begun to realize how deep the hole actually is! So the idea of God's Saving Grace is essential, so long as I remember it is the whole of creation and not just Man singled out. We are just other bozos on the bus...

julie said...

Christopher, I was just reading this passage today (courtesy of our Unknown Friend):

"...Origen himself knew with certain knowledge that there would be no "damned" at the end of the world and that the devil, also, would be saved. And whoever meditates on the sweat of of blood in Gethsemane and on the words "It is I" (or "I am he"), announcing the eternal victory over the eternal hell, also will know with certain knowledge that eternal hell exists as a reality, but that it will be empty at the end of time."

Or, more succinctly put in the Coonifesto,

"Sheol is out, summa vacation in the pneumatosphere."

For there to be a summa vacation, we must first do our time in the school room; but ultimately, all that is O's will return to O. Personally, I take great comfort in that fact.

Petey said...

Quoting the Cosmobliteration without even being told. One indulgence for you!

Anonymous said...

For VDH fans on Booktv this weekend:

In Defense of Liberty
Victor Davis Hanson

Saturday, June 14, at 9:00 PM
Sunday, June 15, at 3:00 PM Monday, June 16, at 7:00 AM Sunday, June 22, at 5:00 AM Friday, July 4, at 9:45 AM

Victor Davis Hanson argues that the U.S. is in danger of losing the ideals of the Enlightenment due to our own lack of willingness to fight for them. The lecture was hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

mushroom said...

Chris said: The Universalist side of Unitarian Universalists

"For just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive," so it is written and so it shall be.

"so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow -- of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth -- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"

I don't know about unitarian but I am very sympathetic to Univeralism -- too much George MacDonald and Hannah Whitehall Smith in my sadly misspent youth.

NoMo said...

Julie - Sadly, there is lot of scripture you have to cast to the wind to go down that road. Who gets to decide what to throw out and what to keep?

Not me.

julie said...


There was a lot more to the MotT quote that I didn't include (and I'm in no state at the moment to look it up). The gist of it included the fact that hell is real, and eternal. And horrible beyond comprehension. Personally, I hope and pray that I never have to find out.

Who gets to decide what to throw out and what to keep? Simple - He who is the rules. I think, if you were to see the rest of the quote in context, you might find that it in no way casts the scripture to the wind; certainly not as I read it.

NoMo said...

It is GOOD that HE is in control.

That is my comfort.

Gagdad Bob said...

Here is a debate between Richard Dawkins and a decent theologian on "The God Delusion." I genuinely had no idea of the extent of Dawkins' intellectual shallowness. Is he just dishonest, or really that ignorant?

NoMo said...

Julie - I suspected as much. Just needed to make a statement about universalism (which I, like everyone, WISH were true).

NoMo said...

GB - Wouldn't he have to be both?

Alan said...

Van: Pickiness doesn't have the negative feel for those aspiring.

Smoov said...

Either I did something wrong, or else blogsot just ate several of my posts...


Smoov said...

Gagdad bob,

He's passionate which works in his favor. Think about youself in 1980.

Anthony Flew has come around belatedly.

Van said...

I think you posted them on "And God Said, "Let There be Atheists!"

Umm... not to skip over the substance of what you said, but... "$45,000 for 6 billable days for the guy that did Visa-level security for us last week -- 27 years old"...
so your saying... when that guy told me in '98... you ought to focus on security, that'll be big... I made a boo-boo sticking with web?


Chloe Cumming said...

Since you mention that Dawkins thing, there was a debate on science and religion on BBC radio 4 which I found teeth-grindingly frustrating. Thought I might share it here. The BBC are often frustrating in the way they handle these things. It's often more about the jolly game of 'impartially' and dumbly antagonizing interviewees than it is about truth, because they're secular and multicultural enough to not really believe in truth. There's a Dawkins-like atheist scientist on it as the first witness, just so bent over and shrivelled up with contempt for the 'mad' beleivers. Slightly comical. We can smash up reality into tiny parts and put them in tubes then science can explain everything.

christopher said...

I had a friend who claimed his whole theology was, "We're either all going to heaven or we ain't!" Which I took to mean there is so little difference between the best and worst of us in the cosmic scheme that there is NO ploy, sacred or profane which changes the picture. I suspect he is right, and so forgiveness and grace trump faith and works.

My mother was a Unity Minister (not Unitarian/Universalist) and she agreed with me that the best possible arrangement for justice on Planet Earth is Reincarnation. A just God would have to include it the way the world works. Some Gnostics agreed on this point. But far from Revealed Truth, this is just a matter of preference. From this point of view we all EVENTUALLY do arrive.

But then, "Can't I go NOW, Dad?" The answer..."Soon. The change comes like a thief in the knight!"

Storm-Rider said...

"To turn this formulation around, what it means ipso facto is that the atheist does not know himself"

I would say the atheist may not know his entire self. Also, I believe there are two kinds of atheists. There are, I believe, some atheists who deny God's existence yet paradoxically have Gods Spirit living within. Then there are atheists who don't just deny God's existence - they hate God - they are theophobic.

Igor Shafarevich had a good insight into this, and to the political consequences of theophobia.

“it is certainly true that socialism is hostile to religion. But is it possible to understand it as a consequence of atheism? Hardly, at least if we understand atheism as it is usually defined: as the loss of religious feeling. It is not clear just how such a negative concept can become the stimulus for an active attitude toward the world (its destruction or alteration) or how it can be the source of the infectiousness of socialist doctrines. Furthermore, socialism's attitude toward religion does not at all resemble the indifferent and skeptical position of someone who has lost interest in religion. The term "atheism" is inappropriate for the description of people in the grip of socialist doctrines. It would be more correct to speak here not of "atheists" but of "God-haters," not of "atheism" but of "theophobia."" Igor Shafarevich

Van said...

Storm-Rider said "Also, I believe there are two kinds of atheists..."

Agreed. I usually put them down to Atheists by conviction, and incidental atheists. The first is usually driven by some past real or perceived wrong and/or a denial of any such thing as good and evil, right and wrong - of the existence of Truth.

The incidental atheist, grasps and understands the existence of and importance of Truth and of aligning yourself with it, but has been put off by a surface level presentation of 'talking snake stories' which he sees as obviously false, and dismisses any need for further investigation. That's where I came from.

The first is aTruth and so atheist, the later grasps and values what is at the heart of Theism, and is only 'atheist' due to an incidental, or poetically challenged, misreading of its portal.

There can of course be mixtures of the two, but I think that defines them.