Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Eye is the Sun it Sees, and the Sun a Shining I

In Yoga and the Jesus Prayer, Matus repeats an old wise crack of Gregory Nazianzen, to the effect that What the sun is for the visible world, God is for the intelligible world. For Symeon, the sun is his "favorite model for the inner illumination."

In the visible world, the sun is "everything." Not only is it the light with which we see, but we also directly assimilate it every time we eat. The mystery of photosynthesis converts photons to the plants that nourish us one way or the other, either directly or indirectly.

Likewise, vision is a subtle form of touch (as are all the senses), in that it involves photons striking the retina, which converts these to signals sent to the visual cortex.

Now, psychopneumatic vision is also a form of touch, even more subtle than biopsychic vision. You might say that (↓) is analogous to physical light, while (¶) is the spiritual eye that sees and transmutes (↓) into intelligible thought, i.e., logosynthesis.

Just as this world would be dark and silent in the absence of the central sun, (¶) too is "empty," so to speak, until illuminated by (↓). In this way, "God's energies... shine in the human spirit," ultimately revealing how "the two spirits, human [↑] and divine [↓], are drawn into union." Only an intelligent world can be an intelligible world, or kosmos neotikos.

Again, (↓) and (↑) are not actually "two," but different sides of the same procession. Maximus Confessor called this the "exitus-reditus," but one could also call it "involution-evolution," or inevotability for short.

For Eckhart, it was a kind of "boiling over" or "flowing forth" in God, followed by a "breaking through" and "flowing back" on the human end. Thus, "God's going-out is his going-in" (Eckhart) -- or, in the words of Marx, "hello I must be going."

Indeed, Eckhart conceived of this absurcular flow "as the fundamental law of reality taught by the Bible," e.g., The rivers return to the place from whence they flowed, so that they may flow again. "The pulse of this universal circle of activity" (McGinn) is what we call "Raccoon central," or O. The enigmatic author of the Lowly Bobble clumsily describes it thus:

Here, prior to thought, by the headwaters of the eternal, the fountain of innocence, the mind shoreless vast and still, absoloved & absorbed in what is always the case, face to face in a sacred space.

Again, for Symeon this neverending deustiny is the alwaysbeginning ground:

The beginning of the race is its end,
and the end its beginning.
Endless is its ending, for
the beginning is already the end.

No, not a koan but an ortho(para)dox, or simultaneously "right speech" and beyond it.

Back to the central sun, the planetary "absolute" around which we revolve. On the biopsychic level it corresponds to the eye, while in the psychopneumatic it corresponds to the intellect.

When you think about the other senses -- hearing, touch, taste, and smell -- they are much more "local," so to speak, and in a way, more "gross." Conversely, vision takes in an infinitely larger field. For example, you can't hear anything beyond a few miles, and you can't touch anything that isn't right next to you (and even then you might get sued).

But (assisted) vision can actually see, for example, the residue of the big bang, i.e., the cosmic background radiation, while unassisted vision can see whole galaxies, not to mention take in light from events that occurred millions of years ago; when you look at a star, you are looking at something from the distant past. In other words,

"Sight alone communicates to us the existence of immeasurably remote heavenly bodies that are perfectly foreign to our vital interests" (Schuon). Thus, vision includes a kind of dispassionate "objectivity" or "disinterestedness" that corresponds to truth.

Analogously, intellect can "see" much more than the local ego, which generally cannot see beyond its self-interested little paradigm, its cultural assumptions, its mind parasites.

As described by Schuon, the latter is always limited by at least four factors: first, we are "creature, not Creator, manifestation and not Principle." Second, we are not angels; we are neither at the top nor the bottom of the vertical hierarchy, but somewhere in the middle, suspended halfway between our better and worse selves. Third, we have essential differences that are not accidental or contingent. This is not a matter of ego but of essential self. And fourth, we are inhabited by "accidental" infirmities or limitations in the form of internalized mind parasites (both individual and collective).

In short, you are 1) creature, 2) a mid-level one, 3) you and not someone else, and 4) a little weird, unlike Bob, who is totally normal.

So "the eye becomes the metaphysical center of the world of which it is at the same time the sun and the heart" (Schuon).

I suppose one could say that intellect sees the light, while the heart feels the warmth (although it is the same divine ray).

But just as the plant metabolizes the sun's rays, "God is at once the Subject and Object, the Knower and Known," and the cosmsos itself "is merely vision or knowledge, in whatever mode it may be realized..., Knowledge and Reality being two complementary aspects of the same divine Cause" (ibid.).

I am the things that are, and those things that are to be, and those that have been.... the fruit which I bore was the sun. --Proclus

My, what big eyes yʘʘ have!


Van Harvey said...

"Analogously, intellect can "see" much more than the local ego, which generally cannot see beyond its self-interested little paradigm, its cultural assumptions, its mind parasites. "

If you can resist letting go of what you no.

Rick said...

"Third, we have essential differences that are not accidental or contingent. This is not a matter of ego but of essential self."

This may be the "Vertical DNA" that I was untalking around a while ago..

ge said...

'the god in the sun is the i in me'
i think was the line of Brunton's

julie said...

You are... a little weird, unlike Bob, who is totally normal.

Hah - totally normal? Now that would be weird!

Van Harvey said...

But... if that Intellect thing has got you down, patience, something in your hat size maybe coming soon:

"Brain implants promise a lot of things, from combatting mental degradation caused by age and disease, to boosting the output of some already healthy gray matter. Far fetched as it sounds, researchers and Israel just took a step toward that glorious cyborg-filled future with the successful installation of a synthetic cerebellum in a rat."

julie said...

Van - yikes, this technology is moving faster than I thought. I don't know why, but I hadn't thought of the implications of computerized remote control. Hmmmm....

mushroom said...

If there's going to be a singularity, it will most likely be found on the cyborg path. I'll stick with original equipment. Don't tell my wife about the remote control.

Van Harvey said...

Julie said "I hadn't thought of the implications of computerized remote control."

Yep. Prosthetics for limbs that are reading, and sending, nerve impulses, visual, auditory for humans, and the ability that has rapidly been developing to read, and send, info to an animal and mammalian brain... we really do need to figure out who we are before we figure out how to operate us.

Who's the futurist guy, spiritual machines... (hold on), Ray Kurzweil, the 'Coming Singularity' where he thinks we'll be able to merge with machines, and then by gradually replacing our grey matter with silicon matter and 'step out' of our bodies and into the machine, and so continue on 'living' indefinitely.

Scary stuff. Not the technology, the people.

I've no doubt we'll be able to 'install' extended memory chips... maybe a terabyte or two, under our scalp, which will give us immediate, unmediated access to all the books, music, video, etc, that we can imagine, plugging directly to our visual, auditory & kinesthetic nerves... and probably even more with direct mental access to the web.

That presents some worrisome scenarios, but that really doesn't scare me.

Since I first figured out how to get a computer to accomplish a task, I've been pretty confident that eventually we'll be able to create a computer that will be able to duplicate the appearance of human thought and responses, and much more, we will be able to create computers, and eventually mobile ones, probably human in appearance, that will, in everyday tasks, be indistinguishable from people.

Again, that isn't really frightening to me.

The fact that there are people who don't understand the difference between the appearance of human thought and action, and actual human thought and action, who don't realize the internal difference that represents an infinite distance between the two - that scares me.

Not machines that can duplicate human behavior, but people who don't know what is Human.

Very scary.

julie said...

Van - oh, indeed, to all of that. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm actually working on some ideas along those lines, here.

I often wonder, when people talk of downloading their minds and uploading them into some sort of robotic or cybernetic system, what exactly is really going to be transferred? Sensory data, of course - but the actual person, the ghost in the machine, I don't think it's transferable.

Also, I have to wonder what will happen to brain cells when their primary functions are outsourced to silicon. Will brain systems that are being "helped" actually atrophy? In which case, what happens if the power goes out? And what about emotion and human relations? Again, if people are relying on synthetics to do all their primary thinking, isn't it possible that could create a sort of artificially-induced autism?

And then there's the remote control aspect, which has potential applications ranging from medicine to advanced torture techniques to widespread population control: prisoners could be fitted with collars that shut down motor function if they misbehave, for instance. Or small children, for that matter (which brings to mind all sorts of new horrors in child-development), and once it becomes common enough, how easy will it be for governments or even communications businesses to quell dissent with a simple wifi broadcast? And if you think a computer virus is problematic, now, just wait until hackers can be hit with felonious assault charges for creating viruses that mess with other peoples cybernetics...

I think over time, people will largely find that the benefits of augmented humanity will be kept in check by the fact that, no matter how much we fiddle, people are people and technology only makes us more so, not less. But the learning curve will be steep, and I think you're right - those who believe in the singularity, who don't comprehend what it is to be human (and truly, what a gift it is) will have a lot to answer for.

It's always the folks with the best intentions for mankind you have to watch out for...

JP said...

"I often wonder, when people talk of downloading their minds and uploading them into some sort of robotic or cybernetic system, what exactly is really going to be transferred? Sensory data, of course - but the actual person, the ghost in the machine, I don't think it's transferable."

Well, rumor is that if you can disconnect yourself from you body, you can enter and see internal electrical systems. There was a post-NDEer who said she could do this.

That being said, I'm more interested in body-switching. Heard rumors of that one, too. Hard one to fix, than one is.

JP said...

The Singularists are millenialists.

Anyway, I expect that we will start to kick in the reversal of the industrial revolution somewhat soon, depending on the energy flows. I'll have to track this over the next decade.

Van Harvey said...

Julie said "to quell dissent with a simple wifi broadcast?"

Imagine, if a mental www.borg hookup were created, the flip side of being able to 'see' material downloaded, would be that your own vision could be accessed, and more... it might be noted whether or not that you are acceptably watching dear leaders speech, but your emotional reactions to it.


And the hacking possibilities go through the roof.

"And what about emotion and human relations? Again, if people are relying on synthetics to do all their primary thinking, isn't it possible that could create a sort of artificially-induced autism?"

Yep. We have this idea, especially since Descartes, that your thinking is you... this body is just an elaborate mobile device for carting our noggin about... the extent to which it is invalid to even say 'our body is part of us' I think we'll be doing some waking up to in the not so distant future.

And, if your sensory & memory & behavioral 'algorithm' has been downloaded into a bot... how would a world that has a materialistic view, distinguish, or bother to distinguish, between the two?

No, the bot wouldn't have free will, but we programmers can be pretty cutesy, as long as there's a power source and environmental stimuli, and a behavioral pattern to work from... your bot could dup you, for most purposes... I can just imagine Kurzweil, frozen into his 'old' body, watching as his bot stooped to pull the plug on the old model.

BTW, this article on him is sad and telling, picking up on his expectation of being able to live forever,

"Meanwhile, he tries to safeguard his well-being. As a driver he is cautious. He frequently bicycles through the Boston suburbs, which is good for physical conditioning but also puts his immortality on the line. For most people, such risks blend into the background of life, concealed by a cheerful fatalism that under ordinary conditions we take as a sign of mental health. But of course Kurzweil objects to this fatalism. He wants us to try harder to survive.

His plea is often ignored. Kurzweil has written about the loneliness of being a singularitarian. This may seem an odd complaint, given his large following, but there is something to it. A dozen of his fans may show up in Denver every month to initiate longevity treatments, but many of them, like Matt Philips, are simply hedging their bets. Most health fanatics remain agnostic, at best, on the question of immortality.

Kurzweil predicts that by the early 2030s, most of our fallible internal organs will have been replaced by tiny robots. We'll have "eliminated the heart, lungs, red and white blood cells, platelets, pancreas, thyroid and all the hormone-producing organs, kidneys, bladder, liver, lower esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and bowel. What we have left at this point is the skeleton, skin, sex organs, sensory organs, mouth and upper esophagus, and brain."

In outlining these developments, Kurzweil's tone is so calm and confident that he seems to be describing the world as it is today, rather than some distant, barely imaginable future. This is because his prediction falls out cleanly from the equations he's proposed. Knowledge doubles every year, Kurzweil says. He has estimated the number of computations necessary to simulate a human brain. The rest is simple math.

Speaking of autism....

scory said...

I can see how such a purely materialistic world view would result in a horror of death. But what a tiny universe these people inhabit. In that place your parameters are set by the dimensions of your skull and almost everything is contacted at second or third hand (and likely a whole lot more "hands" than that).

But, as pointed out, the opportunities to manipulate and finagle with input is almost limitless. And because humans are doing this a sizable amount of it will be done for "entertainment" (as in watching an elaborate puppet show) or out of malice.

Almost 40 years ago I read a piece where the author stated that with medicince advancing as rapidly is it was there was no reason why people couldn't live 100,000 years. The first thing that popped into my mind was "I wonder what a fellow celebrating his 99,999th birthday will be thinking about over the next year?".

Rick said...

"Almost 40 years ago I read a piece where the author stated that with medicince advancing as rapidly is it was there was no reason why people couldn't live 100,000 years."

I believe him. No reason that he knows of.

Rick said...

Perhaps the "essential self" has a schedule all its own no matter what condition its body happens to be in.
As in, the souls ages and the body can age right along with it, or the body is left behind. I don't know what "holds my body together" on a cellular level, but I know it's not the cells idea.
And not that the essential self determines it's schedule any more than the earth could add a fifth season to the four.

Rick said...

"Nice theory, wrong species" applies here, I think.

julie said...

Yep. The root of the problem is still and always the foolish notion that man is somehow "perfectible" by man.

Open Trench said...

The main problem with the mechanical body will be how to handle the sex.

It doesn't seem like it would be good without the moisture component.

Plus, would the arificial mind be able to make good use of ethanol and cannabis?

There are some obstacles to be overcome that seem tricky to me.

julie said...

Oh, hell - where's the brain bleach when you need it?

Rick said...

Open Trench, don't worry about that yet. You still have that first obstacle of kissing a girl...

Matthew C Smallwood said...

"Concentration without effort, which means there is nothing to suppress and where contemplation becomes as natural as breathing and the beating of the heart, is the state of consciousness — of the intellect, the imagination, the feelings, and the will — a state of perfect calm, accompanied by the complete relaxation of the nerves and muscles of the body. It is the deep silence of desires, concerns, imagination, memory, and discursive thought. We would say that the entire being has become like the surface of calm waters reflecting the immense presence of the starry sky and its inexpressible harmony. And the waters are deep, oh how deep! And the silence increases, always increasing, what SILENCE! Its growth takes place in regular waves which pass, one after the other, through your being: one wave of silence followed by another wave of deeper silence, then yet another wave of even deeper silence … Have you ever drunk the silence. If so, you know what concentration without effort it."
Valentin Tomberg

John Lien said...

Easy for Tomberg to say. Whenever I tried it, it was a constant battle against sleep. And I tried it, various forms, for 20 years.

Oh well, we are all made differently.

Maybe I should try again...

Matthew C Smallwood said...

I have the same problem.