Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wisdom and Magic at the Edge of the Expressible

I want to begin with an arresting comment by Schuon, who, after saying just about all that can be said about the essential structure of things -- about universal metaphysics -- has this to say:

"We are here at the limit of the expressible; it is the fault of no one if within every enunciation of this kind there remain unanswerable questions.... [I]t is all too evident that wisdom cannot start from the intention of expressing the ineffable; but it intends to furnish points of reference which permit us to open ourselves to the ineffable to the extent possible, and according to what is foreseen by the Will of God."

Thus, universal metaphysics, despite being the closest we can come to an essential description of reality, is obviously not the thing itself; it is still the map and not the territory, the menu and not the meal, even if it is a gourmet one. Indeed, this is in accord with wisdom itself, which knows -- or should know -- the unavoidable distinction between creator and creature. Only an atheist could believe himself to be God.

Despite their limitations, we shouldn't devalue these precious "points of reference," firstly for their own intrinsic value, but secondly because if properly understood, they always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express. This is quintessentially true of the points of reference we call revelation. One might say that revelation is not God, but God is revelation, at least in terms human beings can comprehend (which indeed is its raison d'être).

Now, science too provides us with points of reference. And these are obviously legitimate so long as they are confined to their appropriate bounds and do not transgress what was said above about the dictates of wisdom. For clearly, even in the most perfect scientific theory imaginable there will still remain "unanswerable questions" that lay at the foot of the inexpressible and cannot breach the walls of the ineffable.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we cannot know of the ineffable, for it surely communicates its effing reality from its end of things. "Ineffable" hardly means "non-existent." It just means unglishable, translogical, or mythsematical. O by its nature "radiates," and this radiation can be translighted to cutandry speech up to a point.

This is the point where faith begins -- where we leave language below and plunge heartlong into the Mystery. Or, just call it keeping an open soul (o). Doing so will still provoke language, but the language will necessarily be of a more poetical nature and therefore make perfect nonsense in spite of myself. Or so one hopes.

A brief aside: the above considerations shed some additional darkness on the phenomenon of evil. What is consistently striking about evil is its utter incomprehensibility. When we think about, for example, the Holocaust, the Gulag, or the enormities of Mao, our minds go blank, so to speak. This is not just because of Stalin's adage to the effect that a million deaths is just a statistic, but because even a single murder is a tragedy of unsurpassable proportions. It is truly "unspeakable" because incomprehensible. We can never "wrap our minds around it."

But the incomprehensibility of evil is very different from the ineffable, again, because the latter radiates itself into a receptive part of ourselves. The same is not true of evil, which is more like a black hole, or dense wall, or thick miasma of darkness. It is dead, not living.

Today, for example, is the anniversary of the Islamist attack on America. Can anyone really claim to understand what motivates such beasts? Whatever you -- or the terrorists, for that matter -- can come up with is just a pretext, not a reason. As the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of, the heartlessness of Evil has a lack of reason which only the unreasonable "understand."

"The truth of reality," writes Voegelin, "is not an ultimate piece of information given to an outside observer but reality itself becoming luminous in the events of experience and imaginative symbolization." Evil and systematic falsehood represent the opposite of this process of reality-become-luminous to itself.

How do we know we're facing the right way? Which way is up? In other words, how do we know when our quest is oriented to truth and not something less?

Voegelin: "the human intentionality of the quest is surrounded by the divine mystery of the reality in which it occurs. The mystery is the horizon that draws us to advance toward it but withdraws as we advance; it can give direction to the quest of truth but it cannot be reached; and the beyond of the horizon can fascinate as the 'extreme' of truth but it cannot be possessed as truth face to face or within this life." What Moses said.

Evil also draws us, doesn't it? Yes, but the difference is that it can be reached in this life, especially by the dead. Conversely, truth is characterized by its radiance-within-mystery. This living radiance reveals but never exhausts the Mystery -- like an alluring veil that simultaneously hides and reveals. Evil, like pornography, shows everything while revealing nothing.

Voegelin speaks of a necessary "balance of consciousness" that we symbolize (↑↓). These two "are experienced as the moving forces of consciousness." Thus, "the process of reality becoming luminous" is structured by "the tension between them" as well as "the responsibility to keep their movements in such a balance that the image resulting from their interaction will not distort the truth of reality."

Too much (↑) is promethean, and soon degenerates to the "desire to know the mystery of the horizon and its beyond, as if it were an object on this side of the horizon."

Conversely, an excess of (↓) may "thwart the desire to know by assuming objects this side of the horizon to belong to the sphere of the mystery" -- e.g., pantheism, paganism, and deepaking the chopra more generally.

No, "a thinker must remain aware of his consciousness as permanently engaged in balancing the structuring forces" of (↑) and (↓). Anything less is magic, propaganda, and dreaming.

For which reason we would be wise to heed the words of Shakespeare, who wrote of the fortitude necessary To shun the heaven that leads men to hell (quoted in Voegelin).


Cond0011 said...

"This is the point where faith begins -- where we leave language below and plunge heartlong into the Mystery. Or, just call it keeping an open soul (o). Doing so will still provoke language, but the language will necessarily be of a more poetical nature and therefore make perfect nonsense in spite of myself. Or so one hopes. "

This is my understanding of 'Speaking in Tongues'. Thus it is not the gibberish nonesense of the pentecostals - unless your a Bhakti, I suppose... hmmm...

ge said...


Gagdad Bob said...

No, just delivering the Times.

mushroom said...

What Moses said.

That's good. We know we are going the right direction not when we are facing God but when we are facing the same way.

mushroom said...

Apparently they were TPing their own meeting. This was one of two planes doing an airshow over Moscow. It seems a standard stunt is to drop a roll of TP and see how many times the plane can cut through it or something.

The pilot probably stalled trying to turn sharply at too low an altitude.

It could be a metaphor.

Van Harvey said...

Mushroom said"It could be a metaphor."

Shit out of luck?


julie said...

For some reason, "not a square to spare" comes to mind...

julie said...

Having said that, I feel for the pilot and his family, now that it occurs to me to look up the story. Stunt flying is inherently dangerous, but still that's an awful way to lose someone.

ge said...

not to mess...with the God of
the Throne

mushroom said...

You know what's sad, ge? I remember that from college. Must have been in an underground comic or a Lampoon

EbonyRaptor said...

Stop the sorrowful-go-round, I want to get off.

As a conservative, it seems the best I can hope for is that somehow we held back the inevitable tidal wave today. Tomorrow we'll try to hold it back for another day.

Whereas, the leftists run headlong every which way without the burden of conscience, always advancing their agenda convinced they're on the right side of history until it's actually history, at which time they'll ignore it.

A war can not be won always playing defense. At some point, before it's too late, the good guys better go on offense and start retaking the cultural ground that's been lost. If that isn't done, the decay in our civil society will pass the tipping point and our once great country will go the way of every other great society that came before us.

Cond0011 said...

"What is consistently striking about evil is its utter incomprehensibility."

Here's a thought, Bob-

If you can blind yourself to the soul that resides within the body then evil is comprehensible: The 'human' you see is merely the opposition, the enemy, a pawn, a rook, a bishop, a symbol that consumes x amount of foodstuffs and has various qualities (in quantifiable packets) that can be used to further whatever purpose you have in store. A tool.

When I was young, I loved war. I dreamed it in my sleep. I thought about it constantly during the day. I enhanced it with the tools of education (math, history, geography, etc...). Back then I had thought to myself if I had a choice between love and war, I chose war. Be it chess, Game boards, debate, etc...

But one saving grace for me was my awareness of the humanity of others: I dared not (!!!) invoke this passion - fully - upon another in Real-Space (outside the gameboard or topic) (though people did get glancing blows - of which I suffered for - in my lust to compete).

Through out my years I was astonished at the matter of fact cruelty that I would see day to day (in Real-Space) coming from various people and wondered how possibly someone could do it. I do now: they cannot percieve the soul that resides within (or perhaps do not honor the soul) and those people are not seen as equals - but as pawns, and symbols, and tools.

Now that I perceive that competition (with another human being) has a touch of murder to it (even in the conceptual arena), I no longer compete out of pleasure (and only see it as a job that needs to be done - if I have to).

But there are those who do...

EbonyRaptor said...

A nice takedown of leftism in this AmericanThinker article: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/the_tedium_of_leftism.html