Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lovely Yoke at the Center of the Cosmic Egg (10.10.11)

Next up: Letter II, the High Priestess. But before moving on to her, is there anything else I'd like to say about the Magician?

Yes, a couple of points. UF makes the critically important point that, with regard to the spiritual world under investigation, everything hinges on the depth of experience. This is not analogous to scientific knowledge, which has no "depth" per se, and may be passed from mind to mind like any other object. The dominance of this latter modality is precisely what leads naive minds to conclude that the world is fundamentally "like an object," which of course is nonsense. If that were true, it could never be known.

We'll leave to one side for the moment Polanyi's argument that the scientific enterprise is actually much closer to spiritual epistemology -- and vice versa -- than scientists realize. The point is, the arcana of which UF writes are like preconceptions, or "empty categories," which must be filled in by experience in order to become genuine knowledge. As he writes, "all superficial, incomplete or false experience is bound to give rise to superficial, incomplete and false conclusions." Therefore, the "effectiveness and value depend on the fullness and exactitude of the experience upon which it is based."

For you callous sophisticates out there who imagine there is something stupid about religion, always consider the source, as there will always be an abundance of stupid people, especially as more of them are spiritually maimed by the privilege of a higher education. This is axiomatic. It is not like your scientific religion, which any idiot can understand. Are there dangers in this approach? Well, duh. Life is dangerous. Qualifications count in any knowledge that is embodied and not just theoretical. I am not impressed if my brain surgeon has merely been to medical school. I want to know if he has assimilated the knowledge and successfully put it into action. I don't want him merely to "know stuff." I want him to physically be the knowledge, to incarnate it in action.

Here again, there is something paradoxically analogous to being childlike, something I especially notice now with my 3.5 year old, who loves his work, which is to play. You can see that he's always hard at work, except that it is in the mode of play. As UF writes, "The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e., concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still, complete and undivided, whereas with one who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again entire and undivided.... The Master did not want us to become puerile; what he wanted is that we attain the geniality of intelligence and heart which is analogous -- not identical -- to the attitude of the child...."

It is in this mode of relaxed work-play that we may regain the unity of consciousness, or the union of conscious and unconscious minds; or, if you like, left and right brain, or heart and mind. The Magician embodies the higher synthesis "of the conscious and unconscious -- of creative spontaneity and deliberately executed activity." Here again, these verticalisthenics require serious play, which is why it would be a serious error, or a very unfunny joke, to dismiss Bob as a genial metaphysical entertainer merely because he clothes his bobservations in jehovial witticisms, pithylogical gnosissism, laughty revelations, and the like.

Bob looks at it this way: "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Children -- well, my child, anyway -- are always laughing. Humor and human are of the same essence. Therefore, the journey to hyperborea calls for some seriously deep yucks. In turn, one can see how the empyrean is unreachable for a comedian such as Bill Maher, who is only capable of humor so low, cheap, and broad, that even Larry King gets it.

Now, on to the High Priestess. Here again we have a somewhat chaorderly chapter that I will do my best to summarize.

There is a reason the Priestess follows the Magician, and this has to do with the distinction between the pure light of knowledge -- which is analogous to the sun -- and its reflection in the book -- which is analogous to the moon (the moon is always female). (Note the book on her lap.)

UF then veers into an important aside; here again, his constant asides can be disorienting, but speaking as Bob's Unconscious, I am completely sympathetic. The Unconscious is not "linear"; but this is hardly to say that it is not logical. Rather, it simply follows its own logic. You might call it "night logic," or the logic of the Dream. This logic is rich, holographic, fractal, non-linear, and pregnant with implications. Rather than A leading to B leading to C, it's more like....

Well, frankly, unconscious logic is also intrinsically imagistic, and the image that comes to mind is a lung, an upside down tree, or a burning bush that is never consumed by the Fire. Think of how oxygen enters through a single passage, but then fractally branches off into innumerable byways, until it literally touches the blood. That is how religious in-spiration works as well. It is how one touches the divine -- or rather, vice versa.

Anyway, UF goes into the difference between Christian yoga and yoga-yoga, in that the former aspires to a unity of two rather then the dissolution of twoness into an acosmic and impersonal Oneness. (And don't be put off by the word "yoga," as it simply means the same thing as "religion"; both have to do with "yoking" or "binding" (from the Latin religare, "to bind"). Thus, "my yoga is easy."

Christian yoga is founded on the principle that there is something higher than oneness, and that is the yoke of love. And clearly, love is not possible -- or, it is merely an illusion -- if all is actually one. But Christianity teaches that love is not an illusion, but the essence of God. Thus, the recognition of a trinitarian God, which you might say is "one in love" as opposed to one in.... what? I don't know. That was for all those Councils to figure out 1000 or 1500 years ago, and I don't want to rehash it here.

The point is, this does not mean to imply that this is a dualistic cosmos; but it also isn't a monistic one. Duality, as UF suggests, is always pernicious, as it posits two rival "ultimates" which battle it out until the end of time -- which never ends. But it is absurd to think that there could be two ultimates.

You could claim that one of the ultimates is merely an illusion, which is what materialists do. That is, there is a mind-matter duality that is ultimately reducible to matter. This, of course, is a non-starter, as it represents the worst kind of metaphysical nonsense.

UF asks, "Does there not exist a legitimate twofoldness?... a twofoldness which does not signify the diminution of unity, but rather its qualitative enrichment?

Hmmm, let's see.... I'm thinking of marriage, which strikes me as a legitimate twofoldness that enriches unity. Is there such a thing as a metaphysical marriage? Isn't this why nuns wear wedding rings? More to the point, isn't this what Petey was referring to when he wrote, A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion?

As Three Dog Night taught us, "one is the loneliest number." And as Petey taught us, It was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo. Now God had a lila Word to play with and keep him company! The point is, eternity would be intolerably dull and monotheotonous without sometwo to love in threeness: Lover, Loved, and the Love that passes between them. Truly, duality's a crowd, but trinity's company.

And God's love would not be particularly admirable if he were merely loving himself by proxy. No, God's love is completely unnarcissary. As UF writes, "If God were only One and if he had not created the World, he would not be the God revealed by the Master, the God of whom St. John says: God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

I suppose I would venture to branch this out a bit, and say that God is also Truth, or Knower, Known, and the Knowledge in between; or Beauty, in the same essential formulation.

The point is, as UF says, mere Being deprived of love "would be the most appalling torment -- the Inferno itself!" Love -- and Truth and Beauty -- is what imbues being with worth, with value and meaning. What is the Resurrection if not the triumph of love over broken being? Being itself is morally indifferent, perhaps even vaguely sinister, in the absence of the divine light of love.

But if we posit love as a a fundamental principle, then we may understand existence to be a "moral process."

Well, we've only touched the surface of the High Priestess card. To be continued tomorrow....


julie said...

See also here.

Anonymous said...

A dual unity- a twofoldedness-a central quality of the Master? Perhaps so.

Maybe positing that God needs the cosmos for entertainment, companionship, lila, etc. is unecessary.

Maybe twofoldedness is an essential and irreducible quality of some sort.

That would certainly solve the central mystery of "why?" bother to have a cosmos at all.

Cosmos would appear then to be an involuntary effusion from the Source and a completely unavoidable happenstance.

Not bad. I can live with that.

christopher said...

Love's Long Lake

I wish I knew you
Like I know the stones I pick,
The sidearm skimmers
That dance across the water
In the play of light and waves,
Then happy to sink
At last into the deeper
Heart of love's long lake.

cousin dupree said...

Maher's backward religious humor: innocent as a serpent, clever as a pigeon.

River Cocytus said...

Involuntary? Hardly.

Love is a whole different category of voluntary.

Petey said...

Yes, love without freedom is not love.

Anonymous said...

Ex Uno plures. E pluribus unum.

Petey said...

i.e., love not freely given is not love, just as truth not freely discovered becomes something else.

River Cocytus said...

Though sometimes the slope can feel very steep. Well, that's just a way of saying that for us, the freedom is not absolute: Not all of the things that I can will can I accomplish.

God on the other hand...

christopher said...


This tree grows right here,
Nowhere else, but others grow
All around the world.

If I were to tell you this,
Try to make you say so too,
I would start to fade
Despite my true driving
Dream of unity.

Ray Ingles said...

It is not like your scientific religion, which any idiot can understand.

Is it possible that science can be as misunderstood as, say, Bill Maher does religion? I mean, when he talks about 'people drinking the blood of sky gods', is he materially different from this guy who says of evolution, "Random mutation + environmental selection. Got it. Where's my BA in biology?"

Simple ideas can have non-obvious, even (dare I say it? - yes, I dare!) profound and non-intuitive implications. But any idea can be expressed in uninformed and mocking terms. E.g. "there is a mind-matter duality that is ultimately reducible to matter".

Niggardly Phil said...

Peter: Alliteration aside, I think I'll take my chances on the court.
White Goodman: Yeah, you will take your chances.
Peter: I know. I just said that.
White Goodman: I know you just said that.
Peter: I'm not sure where you're going with this.
White Goodman: I'm not sure where you are going with this.
Peter: That's what I said.
White Goodman: That's what I'm saying to you.
Peter: Okay.
White Goodman: Touché.

walt said...

"Qualifications count in any knowledge that is embodied and not just theoretical."

Another of those sentences you write that is worthy of a whole post, or a book, or a lifetime's work!

River Cocytus said...

Embodied knowledge... I can't help but think that the appeal of games which feature set 'classes' of characters against those that have mostly generic characters is that the classes are icons of embodied knowledge.

christopher said...

Eating Prayers

Embodied knowledge-
Never less than two wide views,
Colored vistas, skew.

I swim very well
Among the rocks, wade the bars
Seeking shells of life.

Then I return home,
Brush away the gritty sand
And eat my prayers.

ge said...

= author Nilsson's 'ONE';
he 'is' a gemini, ruled by lungs-arms-hands, mr tambourine man
--all of which are [like the eyes] kinda good representatives of oneness from twonesses? teeth also!: uppers & bottoms gotta be there to chew...

Gagdad Bob said...

I'd love to see the Nilsson documentary if it ever comes out on DVD. I'm a big fan.

jp said...

You know Ray, I was right about you.

You really are here for the duration.

Amazing, really.

jp said...

Ray, my new theory is that it is only possible for you to remain here because you are a weak atheist.

QP said...

Big fan of Nilsson too. I wore out my tape of
A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night . The session was filmed, and was broadcast as a television special by the BBC in the UK but has yet to be released on for home video.

Not Nilsson. Now available on DVD.

christopher said...

Re The Singing Revolution

I had the honor and good fortune to be directed a couple years ago by Hirvo Surva, who is featured in The Singing Revolution. He was interviewed and he led the huge choir shown in that film.

He had been invited (with his colleague Veljo Tormis, one of the foremost composers of Estonian choral music) to Eugene and Portland to share the music with the Universities there. He came to our rehearsal room with Veljo and worked with us personally and later we sang for him with several other choirs. I have never had a better director even with the language challenges.

The group I was with, Unistus, was actually singing in that huge choir shown in the film, having been invited and travelling to Estonia for that purpose. However that was a few years before my time.

I no longer sing with Unistus, retiring from it this year. It was kind of forced by my age and health and I am in regret.

By the way, Unistus, pronounced OO-nees-toos, is actually Eesti (the Estonian language) for "dream" even though it looks like "unity". I feel that is a cool "coincidence".

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ray that Bob's sniping at science and scientists is superficially similar to Maher's panning of God-lovers.

Both men are entrenched and committed to certain viewpoints.

Bob, it should be noted, never retracts or modifies any assertion that he makes (or gives an inch in an argument), but rather sends in his alter egos to overween and confuse the opponent by changing the rules of the engagment suddenly; see how Dupree and Petey function this way. Rather than conceding any error, whenever he encounters a sticky point he wipes the slate clean like a petulant boy.

It is an excellent method to protect one's interests; everyone uses it occasionally. It is a twist on the "devil made me do it" pardigm, but spun towards "God made me do it."

But, the tactic doesn't lead to Truth very well, and indicates a strong element of fixity or inflexibility somewhere in the mind.

I doubt if anyone can discern a quality like this in themselves; it is hard to see certain things from inside the construction.

Does anyone else in the field of readers feel an uncomfortable twinge when Bob disparages science in an indiscriminate and shotgun fashion? Because we revere him and when he goes off the rails, even slightly, it shakes the faith a tad?

Or is it just me?

popemobile said...


You're absolutely right. The similarity between Bob and Maher is superficial.

Bob never disparages science. He merely disparages the usurpation of religion through the use of science. It's like an English teacher objecting to being subjected to a "standardized" test. You can't quantify quality.

Now, if Bob REALLY wanted to attack science, he could bring up the fact that there is no rational justification for induction, and hence that the totality of science is based on entrenced preconceptions that it is impossible to know are true.

Bob did not send me; do not attribute my comments to him.

cousin dupree said...

Anonymous, get a clue. There is an infinite difference between science and scientism. Bob will never stop disparaging the latter, because it is an intrinsically stupid and soul-destroying metaphysic.

If you are that fundamentally dense, you have no business reading this blog.

Anonymous said...

"Is it possible that science can be as misunderstood as, say, Bill Maher does religion?"


Say you want to be a physicist and study quantum mechanics. All you have to do is learn the math.

Say you want to be a saint.

Van said...

jp said... "Ray, my new theory is that it is only possible for you to remain here because you are a weak atheist."

Actually, Ray is determined atheist because he is a weak scientist, being that he and other scientifismists buy into, to one degree or another (which ultimately means completely) what Popemobile said,

"...that there is no rational justification for induction, and hence that the totality of science is based on entrenched preconceptions that it is impossible to know are true."

That's not science, but the scientifismic article of faith which follows from misophers such as skeptics, determinists, post-modernists, darweenieian fundamentalists and other dehumanists.

If I ever am able to finish up my next post, which was going to be done in a day or two, two or three weeks ago, I'll give the long winded version of that.

Van said...

Anonymous said "Say you want to be a physicist and study quantum mechanics. All you have to do is learn the math.

Say you want to be a saint."


NoMo said...

I'm a saint...and that's no yolk!

Magnus Itland said...

I believe the appeal of classes is that they act as containers. We have the same to some extent in real life. For instance, being a monk is very much a single-class way to play your life. It sets secure limits on what you can do and not do, and both you and others have a pretty good idea of them.

Today most people are at least dual-class, with a job and a marriage. Both of these act as containers far beyond the basic rules that you have to show up and do some work and you have to not sleep around with strangers.

And of course there is organized religion, or quasi-religions for those so inclined, available for further containment or structure in your life.

To live a chaotic life requires an integrity unimaginable to most.

ge said...

Kesey was asked a definition of 'grace' at some college; he'd jest received a cuppa coffee and turned to Babbs a few seats down: "I need some cream here!" Babbs pitched the little pitcher of cream to him and Kesey caught spilling nary a drop.

Next question?...

austracoon said...

"I don't want him merely to "know stuff." I want him to physically be the knowledge, to incarnate it in action."

Exo 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

Ray Ingles said...

Say you want to be a physicist and study quantum mechanics. All you have to do is learn the math.

Say you want to be a saint.

All you have to do is learn the holy texts, right?


Van said...

Ray said "All you have to do is learn the holy texts, right?

Right? "

You're... not really...that dumb... right?


River Cocytus said...

Ah, but how can a narrow vial contain an ocean of truth, Ray? You must first become one who can embody that truth before you can truly learn it.

So yeah, all you have to do is learn the holy texts.

Magnus Itland said...

All you have to do is become the holy texts, right?

Ray Ingles said...

Van - Are you dumb enough to think that just learning math is all it takes to practice science?

Just asking...

River Cocytus said...

If you're some kind of quantum physics mystic maybe, Ray. But to just do it requires just learnin' the math. That's what we call a 'technical skill'.

Useful? yes! Transformative? Not... necessarily. The point of it is so that anyone who can speak and write can learn to do it provided they've got enough mental horsepower.

Religion is quite different than that.

Magnus Itland said...

Transformative quantum physics would make for awesome science fiction though.

River Cocytus said...

Archbishop Lazar Pulaho recently spoke at our OCF, and he used to chill with the quantum physicists (being that's what he did before he became a bishop). He asked Stephen Hawking once about a particular theoretical particle. Hawking responded, "You're Eastern Orthodox - you know the meaning of mystery."

Van said...

Ray said "Van - Are you dumb enough to think that just learning math is all it takes to practice science?"

Ok, glad to see you aren't that out of it.

But the statement made "Say you want to be a physicist and study quantum mechanics. All you have to do is learn the math. ", is not the same as saying someone would be practicing science, physics and quantum theory can be learned and studied through the classroom alone. But let’s grant that you’re saying someone can't become a physicist without becoming a scientist and practicing Science. Someone can, and indeed many, most today, have, learned materials and practiced the intellectual methods in their labs... and in little or no way, applied those same rational rules (I could of course open up what those 'rational rules' actually are, and the alleged rationality of the principles that most see them as being founded upon wide open, but I'll leave that for an actual post... soon) to the conduct of their lives.

Someone can be a practicing Scientist and be, on a scale of 1 to 10, a Dennett or a Feynman, and still be said " to practice science". There is nothing in the practice and understanding of science in and of itself, that prevents the scientist in question from being an irresponsible, lying, lout in his personal life.

Not so with the Saint. A Saint might know as much, less, or more than your average parish priest, but what the Saint Knows, he also gno's, it is embodied in his every action, and cannot be attained through mere intellectual pursuits, the principles of his philosophy must be understood, absorbed, and not just applied, but embodied.

A big difference from just "All you have to do is learn the holy texts, right?", right?.

Ray Ingles said...

How many people here have actually done any science?

Bill Maher hasn't practiced any religion, and confidently dismisses it as merely delusion and wishful thinking. Apparently quite a few people here haven't done any science, and confidently dismiss it as a simple 'mechanical' skill requiring no particular thought or imagination.

As Heinlein put it, "Most 'scientists' are bottle washer and button sorters."

A "koan" for you. What's the difference between a nominal Christian and a saint? What's the difference between a bottle washer and a scientist?

River Cocytus said...

I do science whenever I hypothesize, experiment, observe, and try again. Like when I make Lemonade or fried chicken. Control variables; chicken quality, spice volume and application method, ingredients, heat. Try different methods to see if the result is better, or something different entirely.

Science is simply an explicit codification of trial and error.

son of a preacher man said...

What's the difference between acquiring knowledge and understanding knowledge?

NoMo said...

Ray - None and none. It's the heart of the matter.

Ray Ingles said...

River - "Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house." - Jules Henri Poincare

"Engineering does not require science. Science helps a lot but people built perfectly good brick walls long before they knew why cement works." - Alan Cox

River Cocytus said...

Your ignorance is invincible Ray... but you should know you can't kill a dead man.

Van said...

Ray... I don't think I'll be eating your chicken

Van said...

And sorry Ray, it's slipped my mind, and I don't see it on your page, what were your certified professional Scientist credentials again?

Ray Ingles said...

Van - Oh, actually, I'm a pretty competent engineer. My chicken's all right, but you'd really enjoy my pancakes.

Of course, my culinary skills haven't developed much since I got married. My wife's a phenomenon there.

Ray Ingles said...

Van - The same place as your theology degree. :->

Van said...

Good to hear about your culinary talents, but actually I’m just trying to fit your comments and the quotes you’ve selected with your scientific credentials, and that’s about what I thought I recalled, particularly about bottle washing & engineering….

Actually I’ve not claimed a degree in theology, and I try not to make theological pronouncements, preferring to keep more to the philosophical side of the issues.

Got my philosophy degree from the same place Socrates did.