Friday, September 23, 2016

Deciphering and Re-ciphering the Mystery

Back to Polanyi for a moment, who was a critic of the notion that "true knowledge must be something detached and utterly objective," and that science alone is capable of meeting these criteria" (Prosch).

Rather -- as we've been discussing vis-a-vis al-'Arabi -- "World views are imaginative projections" and "are not products themselves of scientific investigations" (ibid.).

Indeed, a world view implies both perspective -- and therefore lack of objectivity -- and participation. Imagine trying to see the room where you are sitting from all possible perspectives. Then throw in all possible subjects, including the ant now crawling up my leg. Now consider something larger -- history, or the cosmos, or God. As I mentioned the other day, such things can only be imaginatively envisioned.

I believe I've mentioned before that when I read a good history book, it is as if a previously unnoticed scotoma is filled in. A scotoma is a blind spot where, for example, the optic nerve connects to the eyeball. This produces a "hole" in the field of vision of each eye, which our brains don't notice. But if you stare straight ahead while moving an object at the periphery, there is a point at which it disappears.

I see that the wiki article includes a section on neuropsychological, psychological, and intellectual scotomas. To which we might add historical and spiritual:

"The common theme of all the figurative senses is of a gap... in the mind's perception, cognition, or world view." And "in psychology, scotoma can refer to a person's inability to perceive personality traits in themselves that are obvious to others.... [A]t the highest abstraction level are what have been called intellectual scotomas, in which a person cannot perceive distortions in their world view that are obvious to others."

This concept of psycho-pneumatic scotomas is full of implications. The most important scotoma of all, as we've been saying in recent posts, is God. How is that? Well, recall what was said a couple of posts back about how "Incapacity to attain comprehension is itself comprehension." I would say that this High Incomprehension is actually an accurate perception of the ontological scotoma at the heart of existence -- or in other words, of our radical incompleteness.

And yet, reality itself cannot be "incomplete." That would be an absurdity. Therefore, our ontological scʘtʘma is, as it were, a "placeholder" we fill with God. Conversely, you might say that the atheist simply papers over the hole, filling it with "matter" or "math" or "natural selection," or whatever. But thank God for that hole in the ground of being, without which we would be sadly complete.

Come to think of it, Gödel's theorems certainly go to this. For example, if you imagine that your scientific theory is somehow "complete," it is only because you are overlooking the Gödelian hole at its center -- i.e., the metaphysical assumption(s) for which the theory cannot account.

It is simply a truism that knowledge of God begins and ends in Not Knowing, if only because the finite can never contain the infinite. Yes, the finite can represent the infinite, but we must never forget the scotomatous abyss between the two.

Analogously, what is the "space" between a circle and a sphere? Think of the old gag to the effect that God is as close to you as your jugular vein. Likewise, from the perspective of the circle, the sphere couldn't be any closer, since the latter contains an infinite number of circles. And yet, there is nevertheless an unquantifiable abyss between circle and sphere -- a dimensional scotoma, so to speak.

To change if not grind our gears for a moment, this also applies to our politics. Our founders, for example, were quite careful to create a system of negative liberties, and what is a negative liberty but a kind of empty space free from government intrusion? Thankfully there is a big nothing at the very heart of the American ideal.

Unless you are a liberal, in which case you wish to eliminate the Nothing with an infinite number of laws, regulations, speech codes, and political correctness, right down to the most intimate behavior. And I use the term "infinite" advisedly, because there is no limiting principle to the ever-growing regulatory state cherished by liberals.

It is vital to understand that "negative liberty" is inconceivable -- or at least unworkable -- in the absence of "positive obligations." As we've said before, only a person who is a priori responsible is fit for liberty. One thing -- the most important thing -- an American education should do is help form responsible citizens who are fit for -- i.e., can tolerate -- negative liberty.

How's that working out? You will have noticed that the whole catastrophe comes down to those who can tolerate the scotoma of responsible negative liberty vs. those who want to empower the state to make it go away.

Think of "scientific Marxism." No scotomas there! It only explains everything, with no gaps or mysteries. Likewise scientism, metaphysical Darwinism, or any other ideology. To paraphrase Arthur Koestler, these are men without umbilical cords grounding them to the Womb of Being.

This is all by way of a meandering prelude to a discussion of Henry Corbin, who writes of "a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is the 'cipher' of a mystery, the only means of saying something that cannot be apprehended in any other way." (Cipher: a zero; a figure O.)

You might compare it to the circle and sphere alluded to above. The symbol is to God as circle is to sphere: it is "never 'explained' once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution."

So, you might say that the metabolism of God involves a never-ending re-cipherment for the purposes of de-cipherment. Because again, no number of circles will ever fill up the sphere, let alone that Sphere.


julie said...

Re. historical and spiritual scotomas, there are implications in the other direction as well. Clearly, much of the work of the left is to creating a culture incapable of seeing certain elements of history and reality deemed. Back when Fukuyama declared the "end of history," who knew that instead of "... the end point of mankind's ideological evolution" we'd actually reach the point where a genuine knowledge and comprehension of history as such would be at an end, to the point where we have a couple generations now who essentially believe that history started yesterday.

Gagdad Bob said...

Latest microaggression: mispronouncing a student's name.

They need a new term, because "micro" isn't small enough. I suggest "subatomicaggression," or "quantumaggression."

julie said...

I weep for the future.

Almost makes me glad some people have a hard time pronouncing my daughter's name; God willing, it'll help her build character.

Gagdad Bob said...

The further descent of psychology. Instead of confronting these wimps, they normalize and enable them.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Fear of a Trump presidency is a normal human reaction, of course, not a clinical condition."

Of course.

julie said...

Remember Bush derangement syndrome? I bet that'll be a walk in the park on a breezy spring day by comparison.

That said, it's not entirely ridiculous to be concerned about what will happen after the election. If Hillary wins, there are real implications that will affect lives and livelihoods. We think education is bad now, how much worse will it become? And how long will homeschooling remain an option? I'm not fearful of what it might be like with a president Clinton II; more like resigned.

On the plus side, if she wins perhaps Soros will stop funding riots, having gotten what he wants for the time being.

julie said...

Re. names, what do you think the reaction is going to be when someone miss pronounces Ya'Hyness?

julie said...


Gagdad Bob said...

True about the implications, but there is a difference between rational concern and a clinical condition. Indeed, if the concern is realistic, psychology can't really help. Rather, psychology can only help with the unrealistic aspects.

Rick said...

This seems very related, but only skimmed it and have to scoot:
What If Evolution Bred Reality Out Of Us?

Gagdad Bob said...

"an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness."

I'll assume he has no children.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

Yes spiritual scotoma is the worst disease facing our humanity in this dark time where people of so-called intelligent, knowingly deviate from the path of the truth and insist that the purpose of life is for example, fitness and not understanding reality forgetting that death does not fit with his line of fitness. When we are unaware that god is nearer to us than our jugular vein as the quran states, we simply fall in a region of reduced information,reduced illumination and reduced imagination our spiritual door to the unseen. Our feeling of gap or lack is a blessing that help us to move to overcome such feelings. I am really grateful to god for pushing people like you to address the most urgent topics of our time in an integral fashion bringing the spiritual alike together to have a better vision in moving toward the Light .

Allena said...

I'm thankful to God for paragraphs and brevity.

Van Harvey said...

Julie said "We think education is bad now, how much worse will it become?"

You can get a glimpse of an answer to that, by considering that where we are now, is the point they've been eagerly pro-regressing towards, where they'll finally be able to do what they've been longing to do, now that those silly Founders and Good stuff is outta the way.