Thursday, March 19, 2015

Points of Reverence for Mapping God

I have long contended that, just as there is an unconscious below, there is an unconscious above. It is not as if our ego-island merely floats on a sea of primordial unconsciousness, but rather, that it is like a bead situated on a vertical string, pulled in both directions. Nor is either direction "un" conscious; rather, the non-conscious just operates in the shadows, outside the spotlight of the the conscious self.

Moreover, like the Trinity, we cannot actually make cutandry divisions between the "parts" of our consciousness; while there are distinctions, ultimately we are one, an organismic whole. In fact, every conscious thought partakes of unconsciousness, and vice versa. Conscious / unconscious are complementary, not antagonistic. You can't have one without the other.

In health, anyway. You could say that psychological illness results when they are antagonistic, when, say, the unconscious is forcefully repressed, denied, or projected. This results in an overall diminution of consciousness, because you can't just toss out the bongwater without losing some of your bamba (again, since the mind cannot be divided that way).

So, one thing that makes me a very lonely psychologist is this idea that, just as we may have unconscious pain and conflict from below, we may have unconscious pain and conflict from above. Just as we may repress the "id," we may repress God. For Freud, the superego -- the conscience -- is ultimately just a transformation of id-aggression directed toward the ego. It is wholly learned, not innate. For example, if I regard rape as a bad thing, it is just because my own aggressive desire to rape has been turned toward myself. For Freud, this is the origin of guilt, i.e., self-rebuke.

Anyway, there is much in Poetic Knowledge that goes to vertical repression of the Above. In fact, spontaneous poetic knowing would be evidence of a smoothly functioning and integrated "supraconscious," for lack of a better term.

For example, Aquinas writes of how knowledge of God, since it cannot possibly be directly proportioned to the reason, must make use of "the symbolic poetic mode" in order to communicate its truth. Likewise, Schuon speaks of how revelation and theology contain "points of reference":

"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" (emphasis mine).

This is a very helpful way of looking at things, because it takes us from the abstract to the experiential, and avoids pointless arguments about the literalness of scripture. Literal or not, scripture is of no use if it fails to resonate with the supraconscious, i.e., to provide points of reference necessary for thinking higher thoughts, or for transposing thought into a higher key.

Which is why the Raccoon calls them points of reverence.

The points of reverence are not the thing itself, but rather, point to the thing itself. They always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express.

This is quintessentially true of the points of reverence we call revelation. One might say that revelation is not God, but God is revelation, at least in terms human beings can comprehend. The bibliolatrous doctrine of sola scriptura comes very close to denying this distinction, and thus the purpose of revelation.

Now, science too provides us with points of reference. And these are obviously legitimate so long as they are confined to their appropriate bounds. 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. Or just say Gödel.

Think about it: if God is a hyper-dimensional object, how would one go about mapping him in 3D? Isn't there a branch of mathematics that goes to this? There are relatively straightforward transformations, as in how a three-dimensional city may be plotted on a two-dimensional map. But God is of infinite dimensionality. Therefore, we could never map him on our own. Rather, he must provide the map, i.e., the points of reverence.

Which reminds me of a story E.F. Schumacher tells in Small is Beautiful. He was visiting the Soviet Union, standing outside an Orthodox church, looking at a map and trying to figure out where he was. But the church was nowhere to be seen on the map, because the God-denying authorities had removed it.

Now, how exactly is this different from public education, or academia? Let's say I'm on the university campus looking at God, but God is nowhere to be found in the syllabus. This is bound to be disorienting.

When I say "looking at God," I am of course referring to an experience of poetic knowledge. Maritain (in Taylor) speaks of a "musical unconscious" which is essentially identical to the poetic mode of knowing, in that it is "a way of seeing the world, seeing the significance of the superficial, what most would dismiss, ignore, or never notice." Through it, we open ourselves to the points of reverence that "[sound] a note from the external senses and [resonate] throughout the interior faculties..." This receptive act "effortlessly assembles impressions and spontaneously gives a spiritual knowledge of being, a kind of song of reality" (Taylor).

Just because God is unglishable, translogical, and mythsemantical, it hardly means there is "nothing there" for us to receive.

Rather, as Voegelin writes, "The truth of reality 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." These symbolic coordinates "give direction to the quest of truth," which is simultaneously inward, outward, upward, and onward.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The points of reverence are not the thing itself, but rather, point to the thing itself. They always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express."

I love that term, points of reverance. Sort of like an Ompass.

julie said...

So, one thing that makes me a very lonely psychologist is this idea that, just as we may have unconscious pain and conflict from below, we may have unconscious pain and conflict from above.

And the opposite as well, yes? Not pain and conflict, but rather an unconscious well of wholeness and calm. Something like grace, but from within oneself, as it were.

julie said...

Oh, nevermind. I should have just kept reading. This is why I didn't pipe up sooner. It's a great post, but my brain seems to be on strike...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I see that Hillary has come up with another anti-reveration...Adult Fun Camps.

Nothing says fun like govt. fun-ded adult fun camps.

Lefties do not gno what fun is, apparently.

Van Harvey said...

Wow. Hillary would make an awesome addition to the cast of Gotham. She'd fit in so well.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Leftist humor:

No wonder they are so funny people forget to laugh.
Although it is funny to see them attempt to figure out how to be funny and insist they have a sense of humor.