Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Middle Earth and the Cosmic Palace

It just popped into my head that "middle earth" would be a good name for the imaginal world discussed yesterday.

Again, there is the empirical/material world we encounter via sensation, and the intelligible world we negotiate via math and reason. In between is the imaginal world where vision, gnosis, theophanies, and other *interesting* phenomena take place. Just as the physical world is disclosed by (and clothed in) our senses, the imaginal world comes to us in the form or our religious sensibilities (in image, myth, archetype, etc).

This is really quite similar in structure to how Polanyi envisions science. One of the points of his philosophy is to demonstrate that the ideal of strict objectivity is an unrealizable abstraction, and that we can only know that from which we are not detached.

Rather, the object of knowledge emerges "only through our actual dwelling in its particulars," i.e., its subsidiary clues. There is no mechanical operation that can accomplish this. Rather, it requires a subject in order to dwell in and integrate the clues.

Yesterday I cited a few aphorisms that reflect this same approach, thus making for a surprising Polanyi-Dávila-Ibn Arabi nexus. Indeed, we might even surmise that if we dwell in all three long enough, perhaps a new reality will emerge from their joint integration, a la Polanyi.

Let's first dwell in a few more aphorisms. From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. Or in other words, it is as if one has "touched" (or been touched by) the noumenal, which is clothed, as it were, in the art form. This is identical to how the imaginal works, in that, just as no one "sees" the realm of art as such, likewise no one sees God face-to-face. Rather, in both cases we have access to the forms which testify to the Formless.

Allusion is the only way to express what is intimate without distorting it. Allusion has a from-to structure, in that dwelling in the from gives access to an implicit and unstated to. This is precisely the structure of poetry, and why poetry reduced to prose generally becomes banal.

Ah, Nothing is more superficial than intelligences that comprehend everything. Such an intelligence consists of explicit knowledge only. It points to nothing and nowhere; it is enclosed within itself, or rather, it is the precipitate or crystallization of a mind that has closed itself to reality. Consequentially it is both dead and endeadening. It is experience reduced to a dogma -- or scientism elevated to religion.

Related: Man believes he is lost among facts, when he is only caught in the web of his own definitions. Has this ever happened to you? It happens to stupid people, but may become aggravated in bright people like yourselves who are more capable of abstraction. They are perhaps capable of building a bigger prison, but it's a prison nonetheless.

There's a gag by Kierkegaard to the effect that the philosopher builds a beautiful palace but is condemned to live in the shack next door. This goes to the essential grandiosity of such factsimians, whose imaginative eyes are always bigger than their existential stomachs. There is a palace, but you can't reside there without God's Moving Company.

Speaking of which, Christianity does not solve "problems"; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level. Or in a bigger house, as it were.

Nor does Christianity deny the splendor of the world, but rather invites us to search for its origin, to climb towards its pure snow.

That is straight-up Ibn Arabi, for it is "the world to which the ancient Sages alluded when they affirmed that beyond the sensory world there exists another universe with a contour and dimensions and extension in space, although this is not comparable with the shape and spatiality as we perceive them in the world of physical bodies."

It is not that this higher world is "in" the lower, rather, the converse. The ontological direction -- involution you might say -- runs from imaginal, to rational, to empirical.

And that is all we have time for this morning.


Rick said...

Speaking of middle space and clothing and such, this recalls the visions of Juan Diego and the shroud of Turin. I mean, if people are changed (including physically) by experiences in middle space, why not inanimate things which were in the muddle too? The more time I spends searching the meaning of things (scripture certainly counts) these kinds of experience/events and their artIfacts seem less and less strange.

Gagdad Bob said...

That would go to all rituals, which "embody" or "enact" the space.

julie said...

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.
Allusion is the only way to express what is intimate without distorting it.

On first reading this today, I was reminded of how our culture pushes the very opposite of this - for instance, with pornography, which shows far too many of the facts while providing nothing whatsoever to do with pro-creation.

Then I read this little offering of "facts," "intimacy," and "aesthetic" appeal (of some sort, though I couldn't say what) being provided to incoming Freshmen at an unnamed but apparently expensive liberal arts college. Truly, an experience that does leave footprints, but diabolical ones rather than numinous. Anyone with kids entering college should pay careful attention.

Having seen what her kid is in for, I don't know how Bookworm could actually bring herself to leave her daughter there. What course of study could possibly make the rest of the experience worthwhile?

mushroom said...

One of the points of his philosophy is to demonstrate that the ideal of strict objectivity is an unrealizable abstraction, and that we can only know that from which we are not detached.

This reminds me of what I saw trying to study psychology in the '70s -- looking under the lamppost for the car keys. The whole point of psychology seemed to me to find out how my mind was working and how that differed from how it was supposed to work. Instead, the only research that could be done involved denying that any thing like a mind existed.

Alternatively, we could sit in a circle with Mr. (Carl) Rogers and talk about our feelings and whether or not we were congruent.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

The imaginal tool is the most important tool that helps the human to bring harmony to the inter-functioning of both the sensual sphere and the intellectual sphere, at the same time it curbs and curtails the excesses of these spheres and brings them to work in collaboration to serve the spiritual errand of the human on this earth, the catch however is that this in between sphere can not be activated without the help of the spiritual world and this is the whole message of religion.
I hope I am clear in what I want to say.

ted said...

Interesting blog post by Bishop Barron, and confirms why blogs like this are so important. Looks like scientism is winning with the youth, and "for every one person who joins the Catholic Church today, six are leaving", because lack of intellectual rigor and understanding.