Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Wanderer

Woke up with Dion DiMucci on the brain. Why? Who knows. It's Music Saturday, so maybe I'm supposed to write a post about him. But this is an open threat, so feel free to run away from it and comment on any other subject.

Now 71, he's the only one of the first wave of 1950s rock stars still breathing (the hard part), still performing (the easy part, especially when it's pledge drive time and PBS needs to shake down the Boomers), and still artistically growing (the hardest part). He recently released an album of blues covers, and proved himself to be an entirely credible bluesman:

A couple of early favorites, but there are many. The only song that rhymes "Donna" with "Donna" (maybe because Roy Orbison had dibs on Lana), but it swings nonetheless:

He thought he had a friend once, but the bastard kicked out his teeth:

Anyway, he's had a rather interesting spiritual journey, having started out a nominal Catholic in an ethnic Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, converted to mainline heroin in the 1960s, moved on to evangelical Christianity in the 1970s, and finally full circle and back home again:

"... [M]y biggest moment was to come. On December 14, 1979, I went out jogging, like I did every morning. It was a time when I could be alone with my thoughts.... There was a lot going on in me then, a mid-life crisis, or something. My emotions were everywhere . In the middle of that confusion, all I could pray was 'God, it would be nice to be closer to you.' That’s all it took.

"I was flooded with white light. It was everywhere, inside me, outside me — everywhere. At that moment, things were different between me and God. He’d broken down the wall. Ahead of me, I saw a man with His arms outstretched. 'I love you,' He said. 'Don’t you know that? I’m your friend. I laid down My life for you. I’m here for you now.' I looked behind me, because I knew I’d left something behind on that road. Some part of me that I no longer wanted. Let the road have it; I didn’t need it anymore.

"God changed my life that morning, and things have never been the same. I started writing and recording these wonderful gospel songs in the 1980s and started touring again.... But in some circles, I started hearing attacks on the Catholic Church and anti-Catholic teachings which confused me.... Sometimes, as we’d sit in the pew at our latest evangelical church, [Susan would] lean over and whisper in my ear, 'I wonder what this church is going to look like in 2,000 years'....

"[W]ith a new church opening every week with a little different doctrine, it became increasingly difficult and confusing to know what the truth really was....

"Little by little, God helped break through my defiance and ignorance. My misconceptions about the Church were falling away fast. All the questions I had as a Protestant were being answered, as I finally felt those deep parts of me satisfied.

"And so I went back to Mount Carmel Catholic Church — where it all began. I went to confession and let it out to Father Frank. I told him where I’d been and what I’d done. When I finished, he stood up, stretched his arms out and said, 'Dion, welcome home.' I tried to be a man, I tried to stifle myself, but I couldn’t do it. I broke down right there. At last, I met the God who is a Father — a Father who is strong, but loving; tough but gentle. I met a Father who took this wanderer in His mighty arms, and led him home."

Don't care for the video, but this is a post-conversion meditation on Fathers, Sons, and the Truth between:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Christian Yoga: Different Yokes for Different Folks

Yesterday we spoke of the mystery of comm-unication, which is actually a reflection of the even deeper mystery of comm-union. I don't want to rehearse the whole argument here (see previous 1500 posts for details), but in our opinion "ultimate reality" is communion, and communion is another way of saying love -- not in some vulgar sentimental manner, but quite objectively and "scientifically."

Nature always transcends itself; or, we might say that the transnatural cannot but spill over the boundaries of the natural. Man is nature transcended, while religion is man transcending himself. And truth of any kind, whether sacred or "profane," rests on a foundation of love and communion.

Objects can know nothing of one another -- or of themselves, for that matter. Only the subject may know, and the subject may only know via participation in the being of another (whether object or subject). Either this participation is real, or it is not. If it is not real, then science is impossible. And if it is real, then science is intrinsically rooted in something that transcends itself.

This would be consistent with Abhishiktananda's experience, through which Christianity and Vedanta are reconciled in love. For him, the Trinity reveals Being as "essentially a koinonia of love" (SA, in (Oldmeadow). (Koinonia means "communion by intimate participation.")

Thomas Aquinas said that "the thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower." Thus, if we change the knower, then a different reality comes into view -- not, it should go without saying, a reality "invented" by the knower, but disclosed to him.

This disclosure -- or unveiling, ooh la la -- is a result of deeper communion and "in-timacy" (fr. L intimus innermost). Thus, truth is the innermost perception of the Real. Given these intimate circumstances, it should not be surprising that this disclosure is often accompanied by tears of joy and gratitude. Looked at impersonally, Truth is a very personal thing.

Now, yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of "Hinduism" (which I place in quotes, because there really is no such doctrine as "Hinduism"). The classic formulation of yoga was given by Patanjali, and for those who don't know, the Bhagavad Gita is a fictional account in the form of a conversation between Arjuna and the godman Krishna about the different types of yoga.

Now, the idea of yoga has some overlap with what we said above about communion, since the ultimate purpose of yoga is to obtain "unitive knowledge of the Godhead," not through ordinary learning, but through experience.

In fact, the word yoga is often translated as to "unite" with or "yoke" oneself to the Divine -- which immediately brings to mind Jesus' remark that "my yoke is easy" -- which it is, by the way, in the sense that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for us. This is very much in contrast to religions which require us to do most of the work, without the indispensable assistance of grace.

Thus, Christianity is often interpreted as a bhakti yoga. That is to say, yoga as such is an all-purpose pneumatechnology that takes into consideration individual differences. Because each of us has a different gift, a unique personality, a particular style of learning, and a different hat size, a one-size-fits-allah type religiosity will not do.

To take some obvious examples, there are emotional types and thinking types; extroverts and introverts; sensualists and intuitives; doers and be-ers, or men of action and men of contemplation; warriors and priests; sages and administrators; merchants and laborers; respectable people and Raiders fans; loons and Coons. So if you have just one religious message delivered in one narrow manner, it will inevitably be addressed to a particular "type," and thereby exclude and marginalize the others. There will be no testavus for the rest of us.

This is especially problematic for the tiny minority of Raccoons, who are "outsiders" but surely not "rebels." But one can well appreciate the chaos that would ensue if the religious message were addressed to the Raccoon population instead of the average mentality, for if that were to occur, there would be no Raccoons, precisely. Religion, in order to survive, must at the very least be addressed to man as it finds him, not the man already transformed by religion, for "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

I am reminded of something Schuon said, which is no doubt autobiographical but nonetheless true and not the least bit self-aggrandizing: "The pneumatic is in a way the 'incarnation' of a spiritual archetype, which means that he is born with a state of knowledge which, for others, would be precisely the end and not the point of departure; the pneumatic does not 'progress' to something 'other than himself,' he remains in place so as to become fully himself -- namely his archetype -- by progressively eliminating veils or husks, impediments contracted from the ambience [e.g., mind parasites] and possibly also from heredity."

This is a potentially dangerous and destructive doctrine, and one can well understand why wholesale religion could never express itself in this manner, for if the message is assimilated by the wrong type -- especially disreputable ones -- soon enough he will be deepakin' the chopra in the most egregious and self-serving ways imaginable.

So to even say "Christian yoga" in the wrong company is to invite either suspicion (from the fundamentalist type) or absurd self-flattery (from the new age type). Nevertheless, it is clear that the Christian message may be tailored to different psychic types, who in turn will practice it in different ways, e.g., bhakti, raja, tantra, gnana, karma yoga -- or the yogas of devotion and prayer, meditation and contemplation, virtue and good works, etc. In truth, each yoga not only contains the others, but the practice of one form should nourish and bring the others forward.

Which is why we can say, for example, that the highest knowledge is love, something that the bhakta already knows intuitively. But Raccoons are just a little slow. Oh well, bhakta the drawing board...

to be continued....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pneumatic Bleat

I should start calling this the Pneumatic Bleat or something, but I wouldn't want to pee on another man's spot. Things proceed much more smoothly if I write as if it's just an informal diary, not a term paper -- maybe call it a "web log," or even "blog" for short. Then I don't put any pressure on myself, but more importantly, it helps to assure a kind of schuontaneous discovery -- or the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding that Bion called "faith."

That was no joke, because if you look at Schuon's corpus, you will see that his primary mode of expression was the brief and luminous Blast from the depths of O. He never sustained this for the course of an entire book, because no man could. Rather, his books are (almost) all collections of these simultaneously epic and miniature Depth Charges, which is one reason why they don't sell particularly well, for I have been told that books of essays never do.

But to call them "essays" is like calling... something... a something, or something (coffee hasn't kicked in yet). Really, it's a new spiritual form of expression. Well, maybe not new. The prophets obviously didn't write any books, nor did Jesus, Buddha, or even Bob Dobbs.

In fact, nor did Aurobindo write any books, the 35 volumes of the complete works notwithstanding. Come to think of it, this was one of the first things that intrigued me about him, in that he produced all of this material in a relatively brief period of time by merely downloading it from beyond, so to speak, with no real plan or preconceptions, and certainly no eye on the book-buying public.

Rather, he just sat there in his little room and banged it out. I don't think he had any idea what "he" thought -- or he "thought" -- about this or that or all this is That! until it came out of him. They say that jazz is "the sound of surprise." I guess this mode of writing is the... something of surprise (what, is this decaf?!).

Let me look it up and see if I can find some more explicit details about the process, as this post meanders along and tries to implicitly demonstrate it.

Says here that "in the four years of his stay in Pondicherry, he had filled many notebooks with brief annotations and essays on the Vedas and Upanishads, comparative linguistics and a lot of other subjects -- all the while involved in the intensive yoga which he was practicing constantly." (I've seen these notebooks, and they're legible but indecipherable.)

Someone came up with the idea of publishing a periodical, and almost all of his important works were serialized during the seven years of its existence. Van Vrekhem says that they "were not destined for the general public, but for the few for whom the world, as it is, is no longer livable and who, from the bottom of their heart, long for something else, something more worthwhile."

Everything was based on, and rooted in, experience. Thus, it would be incorrect to call it "theology" in the western sense of the term. Again, it is more like a spiritual diary, or an ongoing record of O --> (n), as we call it in the book:

"I was never satisfied till experience came and it was on this experience that later on I founded my philosophy, not on ideas by themselves. I owed nothing in my philosophy to intellectual abstractions, ratiocination or dialectics; when I have used these means it was simply to explain my philosophy and justify it to the intellect of others.

"The other source of my philosophy was the knowledge that flowed from above when I sat in meditation, especially from the plane of the Higher Mind when I reached that level. They [the ideas of the Higher Mind] came down in a mighty flood which swelled into a sea of direct Knowledge always translating itself into experience, or they were intuitions starting from an experience and leading to other intuitions and a corresponding experience" (Aurobindo, in a letter to a sadhak).

I don't know about you, but I'm relating to this description. Let's continue: "This source was exceedingly catholic and many-sided and all sorts of ideas came in which might have belonged to conflicting philosophies but they were here reconciled in a large synthetic whole."

Thus, it would also be an error to refer to this as "philosophy" in the modern sense. In fact, "there is very little argument in my philosophy.... What is there is a harmonizing of the different parts of a many-sided knowledge so that all is united logically together. But it is not by force of logical argument that it is done, but by a clear vision of the relations and sequences of Knowledge."

A little more. Van Vrekhem says that "this enormous 'mental' activity" actually "used as its instruments a completely inactive brain and fingers that typed directly on a prehistoric Remington what was inspired into them, including the corrections" (with no coffee, either). It might be 110 degrees in the summer with, of course, no air conditioning, but there he would be, "concentrated in his work, though according to eye witnesses he was perspiring so much that his sweat dripped on the floor."

Now, "a synthetic, non-linear way of thinking or seeing is very complex and difficult to formulate in language," especially when "one wants to express oneself adequately and completely throughout... " (Van Vrekhem). Note also how the following description of Aurobindo's writing by Satprem accords with our own recent discussions of how language may be a vehicle of (≈): "it contains the vibration of the experience, almost the quality of light of the particular world it touches, and through the words... one can come into contact with the experience."

This may sound mysterious, which it is, but actually no less mysterious than the human capacity to transmit any thought between two minds. Sertillanges discusses this in The Intellectual Life, where he writes that....

Wait, before getting to that, I just found another passage, in which Sertallanges describes (≈): "Contact with writers of genius procures us the immediate advantage of lifting us to a higher plane," which confers "benefit on us even before teaching us anything. They set the tone for us; they accustom us to the air of the mountaintops. We were moving in a lower region; they bring us at one stroke into their own atmosphere," or atmasphere.

Also, "he gives us claim to the domains that he has conquered and cleared, sowed and tilled. He invites us to share at the hour of harvest." He gives access to "an unsuspected light, in the heart of a connected system which is a sort of new creation -- that reality which was there, obvious, and which we did not see." For this reason it's probably safe to say that you learn more from the errors of a genius than the "truths" of an idiot.

Back to that quote about the mystery of communication: "strictly speaking, thought is incommunicable from man to man." "The idea does not reach us from without." Rather, "it is necessarily within us that it must come to birth." Thus the orthoparadox that we must read with the soul in order to awaken the soul.

In any event, all we're really trying to do here is have a genuine encounter with O and then memorialize it in language. That's it. But that becomes inherently stressful if you begin making demands on it, or, more to the point, when the process is turned "outward," toward an audience.

Come to think of it, I'll bet that's one reason why Van Morrison has such an ambivalent relationship to his audience. In a way, he's trying to produce something for an audience that won't happen if he "tries" or if he is too focussed on the audience. So to criticize my writing is kind of beside the point, because all you're really saying is that it failed to awaken the Idea in you. All comments are inadvertent autobiography, or pneumatic bleat.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ghostchords From the Cosmic Frontier

Back to the Catholic yogi, Swami Abhishiktananda (SA). What follows will be rather free-form unless and until something specific comes into focus.

Here's a cooncise way of putting IT: "diversity harmonized in love, multiplicity transcended in union." I like this because it expresses another clear but orthoparadox, for instead of saying that diversity and multiplicity are just maya, or forever separated from the Principle, it emphasizes that they are consecrated in love and union.

Thus, reality is not One, or a monad, but nor is it two. You could say that it's "not-two," but why not just say love? For love can only exist where there is an Other. This invests a new value in both the world and the person, because we are not just more or less distant emanations of the One, but intimately connected to it.

This reminds me of a plausible explanation I once read for the filioque dispute that still divides eastern and western forms of Christianity. In the east, they say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, whereas in the west they say that it proceeds from the Father and Son. I believe it was Balthasar who said that the eastern version implied a kind of linear emanationist metaphysic, in which "All things are derived from the first reality or perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine."

But to say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son implies a more Trinitarian outlook, in which the Persons are co-equal, and again, unified in love. If emanationism is correct, then the world-denying mysticism of a Plotinus (or Buddha) would be our only hope of "salvation," in that it revolves around reversing this situation and ascending up and out. For Plotinus there is still a trinity -- the One, the Intellect, and the Soul -- but the relationship is strictly linear and descending.

But if the world is Creation -- and recall our post from yesterday, about how Creation is the Master Key -- then salvation is a very different matter, because it includes the cosmos. And us. Which is nice.

I'm sure there's an Orthodox rejoinder to what I've just laid out, but I'm going to move on. I'm humble enough to say that we're not going to resolve a 1,500 year old argument in a blog post.

Anyway, I think we can see the implicit relationship between creation, multiplicity, love, harmony, and transcendence. In fact, harmony is another critical notion. Think of how a harmony is composed of individual notes, so there is no harmony in the absence of the notes. But thanks to harmony, notes aren't only notes, but get to participate -- i.e., transcend themselves -- in the harmony. Please note: there is not something "higher" than harmony -- as if playing every note simultaneously in a single blob of sound would be more musical. No: if ultimate reality is Trinity, then Trinity is "harmonious love," so to speak.

This is all another way of saying part/whole, but again emphasizing that this is not an emanationist metaphysic -- as if the notes are only a distant and degraded residue of the chord.

Note also the irreconcilable difference between this and the Muslim view. The first and last principle of Islam is that "there is no God but God." Sounds like a tautology, but the purpose is to emphasize the absolute distance between God and man (which is why Trinity would be unthinkable in Islam, much less Incarnation). Instead of being a unity in love, man and God are only "unified" to the extent that the former utterly abases himself before the latter by surrendering to the Law (Islam, of course, means "surrender"). There is obedience, but not what we would call love. You can say that you prefer one over the other, but please do not pretend that the metaphysic doesn't embody values that lead to vastly different cultures. (It certainly implies very different conceptions of parenting and therefore governing.)

The Koran charmingly puts it as follows: "They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them." Stay classy!

SA expressed a Coonism when he wrote that spiritual experience "is the meeting-place of the known and the not-known, the seen and the not-seen, the relative and the absolute." I should hope that a spiritual practice results in, and revolves around, "spiritual experience," or experience of the spiritual.

How do we know whether the experience we are having is spiritual? SA implies that we shall know it by its fruits, one of which will be a kind of literal "living on the edge" -- the edge of an expanding circle, as it were, where the circumference shades off into the not-known, the not-seen, and the Absolute.

But another orthoparadox enters here, for in this case, the edge is simultaneously the center. This actually makes perfect nonsense, so long as one understands that alpha and omega, origin and destiny, source and goal, are one, -- or simply the ancient Christian formulation that God became man so that man might become God.

The latter can only occur if man lives at the edge of himself, which is again simultaneously the center (or movement toward it). Or, as I have expressed it before, we acquire a new and higher psychic "center of gravity" (or levity). The essence of repentance, or metanoia, is simply this shift to a new center of gravity which is death and birth all in One. For to say the first shall be last is to say that birth shall be death.

So to say that the Raccoon prefers to live at the edge of the Cosmos is simply a truism. This cosmic edge is located in each man, however far he can push into it and colonize the space. As I've mentioned before -- probably in the book -- man left Africa, colonized Europe, crossed the sea, landed in the New World, and then pushed west until there was no more space to colonize by the conclusion of the 19th century.

But that was only the end of horizontal frontier. The exploration of the vertical frontier continues inward and upward, as it always will, for if it didn't, there could be no frontier. In other words, this evolution is only endless because there is an end (see yesterday's post for details).

Once we push into the frontier, we notice paths, footprints, and other signs of human life. It's not as if the area is as populated as a major urban center. However, it soon becomes obvious that other people have preceded us and cut through some of the major obstacles. It's still not easy to climb Mount Everest, but at least you know that it's possible because some people have done it already.

Now, as SA says, To go beyond the sign is not to reject the sign, but to reach the thing signified. Someone said that the purpose of crutches is to not need crutches, which is a nice way of expressing it.

One final thought from SA. He discusses grace in terms of "the Presence of the Absolute, the Eternal, the Unborn, existing in the heart of the realm of becoming, of time, of death and life." This is what we call (↓), which ultimately facilitates "the irresistible drawing of the entire universe and its fullness towards the ultimate Awakening to the Absolute...." It is "the raft by which man passes over to the 'other shore.'"

It is the RIP tide that pulls us into the Great Attractor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Post is Only Knowable to the Extent that it Isn't

Some or perhaps all readers say or think to themselves, "why the made up words? It just makes it more difficult to understand what you're going on about."

Well, let's take an example: orthoparadoxical. Do you know of an existing word for something that is entirely orthodox and yet weirdly paradoxical? I can't think of one.

Here are some examples of orthoparadoxical statements. Each one is 100% true, and cannot be expressed in any less paradoxical way. After listing them, I will explain how and why they are true:

--There is only a Way because we cannot get there. If we could, there would be no Way to get there.
--Things are only knowable to the extent that they aren't.
--It is only possible to affirm the non-existence of God in a cosmos which he created.
--If we could completely know God, then he couldn't exist, but if God didn't completely know us, then we couldn't.
--We can know things because they exist, but they can only exist because they are known.

Each of these was inspired by Josef Pieper's The Silence of St. Thomas, which I read a few months ago and have been meaning to discuss.

Pieper begins with the subtle point that "what is self-evident is not discussed." Why should it be, when it is taken for granted? In the past, we have poked fun at atheists for naively harboring implicit assumptions that undermine their whole argument -- for example, the intelligibility of the world and man's ability to comprehend its truth. First they need to explain how these properties are possible before they can say anything else. You can't just assume such monumental principles and then forget about them, on pain of explaining away precisely what is most in need of explanation.

All arguments are either to or from first principles. As I've said before, if you want to trip up an atheist, leftist, or radical secularist, just ask them to explain their first principles. You'll usually find that they are either absurd or impossible to take seriously.

As Pieper says, our task is "to grasp those basic assumptions which, remaining unexpressed, nevertheless permeate all that is actually stated; to discover, so to speak, the hidden keynote that dominates whatever has been explicitly said."

The major way liberals get around this problem is by making their hidden assumptions sacred, inviolable and even "un-examineable" through the mechanism political correctness. As you know, you can never make a liberal squeal more loudly than when you have pulled the veil away from one of these squalid assumptions and shown it in the light of day.

For example, Glenn Beck recently violated one of these implicit assumptions by suggesting that liberals do not own black Americans. To even assemble where Martin Luther King once did was worse -- much worse -- than Muslims building a giant mosque for the purpose of exploiting 9-11.

There are two reasons why this is such a threat to liberals, one personal, the other political. First, it undermines their sanctimonious self-image of being the noble patrons of black Americans who would be helpless without them. And second, if they fail to garner some 90% of the black vote, liberals would be unelectable in most states. Obviously, they pretend that blacks need them in order to conceal the deeper truth that liberals desperately need blacks (just not the independent and successful ones).

We're getting a little sidetracked. Here is the paradox: "that the doctrine of a thinker is precisely the unexpressed in what is expressed." If we limit ourselves to understanding only what is explicitly expressed, we will very likely miss the whole point.

For example, there would be no way to understand what I'm writing about by reading only a few essays. Rather, by constant exposure to them, I'm guessing that another reality begins to come into view -- the reality from which the essays flow, i.e., O. Obviously I don't want people to be like dogs, and sniff my finger instead of looking at the moonbat to which it is pointing.

Note therefore a paradox: that is it quite possible to completely understand what is said at the cost of misunderstanding what is unsaid.

Conversely, it is quite possible to understand what is unsaid by ignoring the superficialities of what is said. The former is the position of our trolls, who never understand what I'm talking about, even when they do. The latter is the meat and potatoes of my racket, in which the therapist tries to discern the unconscious meaning -- and even author -- of what is said in the session.

This is all prelude to Peiper's examination of what is left unsaid in virtually everything said by Thomas, without which the rest won't make sense -- or, more problematically, will only make sense.

This fundamental idea, or master key, is creation -- "or more precisely, the notion that nothing exists which is not creatura, except the Creator Himself, and in addition, that this createdness determines entirely and all-pervasively the inner structure of the creature."

In my opinion, this is actually a two-way proposition, so that one could equally affirm that because existence both is and is intelligible, there must be a Creator, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Suffice it to say that there is a principial division between Creator and created, and which literally illuminates everything (for it is the only Light that is).

For Thomas, existence and truth are synonymous terms. Thus, only what is real may be known, but also, only what is known (or knowable) is real. This is a somewhat subtle point, but once you get it, it should become obvious and then impossible to not know: "Only what is thought can be called in the strict sense 'true,' but real things are something thought.... Further, because things are themselves thoughts and have the 'character of a word,' they may be called 'true,'" in the same way as one would call a thought "true."

It comes down to this: is reality true? Of course! What is truth if not reality, and vice versa? But what are the conditions that permit us to say that reality is intelligible and that we may know it?

It is because "a natural thing is placed between two knowing subjects." If we were to trace it schematically, it would be something like O --> Existence <--> Intellect. This is the minimum condition for real knowledge, or knowledge that is both real and true, or conforms to reality.

How is it possible for things to be true? How is it that there is truth in them, and that we are able to unpack it? In both cases we are dealing with truth, but from different ends. That is to say, we can know the truth of things because truth is known by someOne. Thus, "Do not think that it is possible to do both," to dispense with "the idea that things have been creatively thought by God," and then insist that they can still be known by the human intellect. We know because God knows (or, God is that which knows reality).

This is where much of the paradox enters the picture. First, as Thomas said, "Knowledge is a certain effect of truth." Thus, because things are real they are true, and we can have valid knowledge of them.

However, there is no possibility of us exhausting the truth of reality, "for it is part of the very nature of things that their knowability cannot be wholly exhausted by any finite intellect because these things are creatures, which means that the very same element which makes them capable of being known must necessarily be at the same time the reason why things are unfathomable" (emphasis mine).

Now you understand one of the orthoparadoxical statements at the top of this post, that "Things are only knowable to the extent that they are not." It is simply a truism that man cannot fully comprehend the essence of single fly, and yet, there is no end -- literally -- to what we may know about one.

And this cannot mean that the fly has no essence, or we wouldn't be able to know so much about them. Indeed, we couldn't even recognize or name them, again, because what is real is true, and vice versa. Anything that exists is knowable, and what is fundamentally unknowable cannot exist.

We might say that knowledge therefore begins and ends in God, from infinity to finitude and back. But can we ever arrive at the final deustination? Of course not! Thus the orthoparadox that "There is only a way because we cannot get there. If we could get there, there would be no way."

Indeed, "It is only possible to affirm the non-existence of God in a cosmos which he created," since we couldn't know anything of a non-created one, not even error (for error presupposes truth). And "If we could completely know God, then he couldn't exist, but if God didn't completely know us, then we couldn't." By now that can pretty much be left unsaid, and silence goes without saying.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This Post is Literally Out of this World!

Let's continue our ride-along into the night of O with Swami Abhishiktananda (SA), the Catholo-vedantin priestmonk and honorary Raccoon. Please keep your head and heart inside the post until it has come to a complete flop.

We left off with a comment about the function of the guru, which is essentially to arouse (≈) in order to awaken (¶). I realize this sounds... whatever, but it's true.

Or, if it's not true, I need to see a neurologist. But in any cerebrovascular event, this formulation has the virtue of eliminating reams of unnecessary pneumababble and logorrhea, and getting straight to the point of it all -- a point that cannot be communicated per se, only awakened.

But what is (≈)? And what is (¶)?

That's for << insert chosen saint or sage here >> to know and you to find out.

Here it is critical to point out that words are undoubtedly capable of arousing (≈), but not through any conventional linguistic understanding. In other words, with everyday profane language, there is a signifier and a signified, i.e., the arbitrary mouth-noise and the thing or concept to which it is attached.

But spiritual language does not point to a concept or thing. Or, to be precise, not only a concept or thing. Why, just yesterday I was reading of how Thomas Aquinas tried to make this clear some seven or eight centuries ago. It's distressing that people still quarrel over it, more distressing still that so many religious mythofolkers do.

Here is how the Angelic Docta' expresses it: "So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science [theology, the divine science] has the property that the things signified by words have themselves also a signification."

Did you catch his meaning, the jive he was signifyin'? Instead of a one way signifier --> signified, or word --> object relationship, it is a two-way signifier <--> signifier relationship -- very much similar to Matte Blanco's description of the symmetrical logic that prevails in the unconscious -- and we say supraconscious -- mind (i.e., the upper and lower vertical).

Thomas says that it is our "spiritual sense" (¶) that allows us to penetrate and unpack the deeper layers of scripture, which he (and others before him) calls the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical. In no way does this devalue the first sense (the literal) since the latter prevents the other senses "from becoming uncontrolled and irresponsible" (Kreeft) -- or prevents the disciplined man from just deepakin' the chopra in some floridly unhinged but lucrative manner.

In other words, thanks to the literal, revelation can't mean just anything. Rather, it places "a sober and strong control on this imaginative aspect of interpretation, like putting a strong rider on a strong horse" (Kreeft).

The literal is analogous to a strong foundation, but we do not limit ourselves to the foundation, do we? Rather, the purpose of the foundation is to build, is it not?

So we want the pillars of this foundation to be plunged far into the depths of the Real, so that we can build something truly grand -- a mansion fit for the human soul, intellect, and spirit. No disrespect, but we have no use for the one-storey ranch-style house of the flatlanders, but nor do we want some elaborate castle built on a swamp of newage sewage. We want some real estate, baby.

At the very minimum, this is a four-storey cosmos consisting of matter, life, mind and spirit. Just as no discerning person would rely on materialism to explain and govern his life, we shouldn't rely on it to exhaustively disclose the meaning of scripture.

Another way of looking at it and listening to it is to say that revelation consists of words about the Word. Scripture is not the word of God, but word about God.

But again, God can in no way be signified -- which is to say, contained -- by language. Rather, he bursts out of any attempt to capture him in our little nets, whether it is language, history, or even the human form (cf. how the body could in no way contain Jesus, whether one is speaking of the Transfiguration or Resurrection). This explains how God can "become man" without in any way being limited by it, for he is always both immanent and transcendent.

In an analogy I have used before, think of a three-dimensional object -- say, your hand -- passing through a two-dimensional space. Place your fingers on a sheet of paper. The inhabitants of flatland will know nothing of the hand. Rather, they will see only five distinct and unconnected points. But then the points will change into circles, and then disappear altogether as they join at the hand and wrist.

Now just imagine a hyperdimensional subject-object passing through four-dimensional spacetime, and you get the picture which can't be drawn. We only see what is on our neurological screen -- Christ "passing" through a particular body at a particular point in history. We cannot see everything that is going on behind the veil of manifestation, i.e., the whole hand. The hand -- which we might call the Cosmic Christ -- is vastly larger then the individual finger -- or the "historical Jesus."

Now, what does this have to do with Abhishiktananda? I would say that his whole life consisted of a sustained effort to know the Hand of God. But not just know. Rather, to be. In order to do this, he himself had to stop identifying with his little finger, and to instead colonize and inhabit a much wider consciousness.

And please do note that even the average man, the vulgar tenured man, spills out everywhere from his human form. Imagine if we actually were limited to sensual knowledge, like an animal! The most important thing to remember about man is that our mind conforms to reality in all its modes and degrees, not just to the material world. But extremists meet, so that the scientific and religious literalist have more in common with each other than they do with a Raccoon.

In Coonspeak, we say that (•) is an adequation to "the world," while (¶) is an adequation to reality. This is hardly to say that (•) is unnecessary, for it is every bit as necessary as the literal aspect of scripture. It is that firm foundation, or better yet, the horse upon which we ride up, in, and out -- to infinity, and beyond!

Yeeeee haw!

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