Monday, September 26, 2016

You are the Problem

The problem with the gap between Friday and Monday isn't so much the gap itself but the frame of mind -- the state more than the content. Recovering the content is easy enough, but more important is figuring out where -- or who -- I was when I wrote it. Now, where was I? And who?

Right. Recipherment and decipherment (bearing in mind that a cipher is nothing). So we're halfway there, being that I feel completely re-ciphered, or freshly enzilched, this morning. As usual, lost in the bewilderness and searching for questions.

In the ultimate sense, it would appear that mysticism is to philosophy as form is to content. Corbin writes that "a philosophy that does not culminate in a metaphysic of ecstasy is vain speculation," while "a mystical experience that is not grounded on a sound philosophical education is in danger of degenerating and going astray."

This truism finds perhaps its quintessential expression in St. Thomas, who, toward the end of his life, had a mystical experience compared to which all the prior philosophizing was nothing; no man has ever deciphered more than Thomas, and it seems that his re-cipherment was on the same scale.

But this is a cross-religious experience. Think, for example, of the Buddha, who, in realizing the poverty of speech in conveying the experience, simply held up a flower.

Now, if man is in the image of God, each man's image of God must be at least "relatively unique," being that each man is himself unique.

Imagine invisible light passing through a prism, only in this case, the prism reveals an infinite number of colors (which I suppose it does anyway, for it is we who place the boundaries between violet and blue or yellow and green). Bearing in mind what was said above, this implies that each man must not only know his God but realize him. In his own living color.

In short, God is revealed -- or reveals himself -- in a form to which each man is individually capable of seeing. To add biofuel to the living paradox, God is at each end of the enterprise, such that -- in the words of Meister Eckhart -- "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which he sees me."

What I've written so far probably seems either stupid or pointless. But I say: why can't it be both?

Buddhists also say something to the effect that another man's dharma -- AKA path -- is a grave danger. Or in other words, you can't take the journey for someone else, nor can they take it for you. Rather, you have to simultaneously find and forge your own path; and also imagine and discover where it leads.

Which does not devolve to a hopeless subjectivism, because the finding is no less important than the forging. It's an orthoparadox. Deal with it.

"Imagine" and "discover" would appear to exclude one another, but if so, then Corbin pretty much wasted his life in trying to explain how and why each necessitates the other.

Think of the relationship between DNA and environment. Even if DNA is the "code of life," it isn't Life Itself. It also codes for the environment, or better, for a kind of dialectic between the organism and the expected environment. The code for wings obviously anticipates the atmosphere in which they are operative. Likewise, the code for human intelligence anticipates truth, as the code for religiosity anticipates God.

There is empirical reality and there is intelligible reality; but there is also spiritual reality. Furthermore, our standard equipment includes the apparatus for knowing each, i.e., senses, reason, and... what? In other words, we can sense the physical world and reason about the intelligible. What is the equivalent activity vis-a-vis the spiritual?

"Imagination" is apparently the best word we have, although Corbin draws a sharp distinction between the imaginary and imaginal. Referring back to the forge/find dialectic, the imaginal takes place in the space in between, whereas the imaginary would imply no real discovery (or discovery of the Real).

In order to imagine the imaginal, think of the analogy of "historical imagination." Obviously, history is only something that can be imagined, but that hardly means it didn't occur.

Rather, too much occurred for any man to ever fully imagine. So, history is always one man's representation of what occurred. And there are capacious historical imaginations, just as there are narrow or shallow ones. There are inevitable scotomas, not to mention perspectives and dimensions.

For example, one could write a history from the perspective of economics, of religion, of science, of liberty; or from the standpoint of women, or slaves, or children. No one could possibly see everything from all possible perspectives.

The other day I was explaining to the boy the difference between history and memoir. To back up a bit, I'm trying to find a way to get him interested in history. I read quite a bit about World War II, but I was thinking that perhaps an eye-witness memoir of a soldier on the ground might better capture his imagination.

Odd, isn't it, that being an eye-witness to history is not the same as history? But nor is being an eye-witness to "religious facts" the same as religion.

Corbin cites the example of the Burning Bush, which "is only a brushwood fire if it is merely perceived by the sensory organs." Likewise, in the absence of a "trans-sensory" organ, the Crucifixion is just some rabble rouser getting the death penalty. Nothing about religion makes a great deal of sense if not transmuted by this organ of perception.

I read somewhere yesterday that Trump's detractors take him literally but not seriously, whereas his followers take him seriously but not literally. Scott Adams said something similar this morning, that Trump

always takes the extreme position on matters of safety and security for the country, even if those positions are unconstitutional, impractical, evil, or something that the military would refuse to do. Normal people see this as a dangerous situation. Trained persuaders like me see this as something called pacing and leading.

This reminds me of some of Jesus's more extremist statements about selling all one has and giving it to the poor, or hating one's parents, or returning love for hate. I don't know about you, but I take such statements deadly seriously if not always literally.

Let's say Jesus is the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. The senses would say "I don't see it," while logic might respond, "so what?" You might say that the whole thing is a stumbling block to the senses and folly to our reason.

"Abstract monotheism and literalist religion do not suffice to permit an effective divine encounter." Rather, we need something like "active imagination," which is "that organ of prophetic inspiration which perceives, and at the same time confers existence upon, a reality of its own" (Corbin).

Moreover, "each man is the measure of what he can understand" (ibid.). Or, each of us is an imaginal space for God's self-understanding -- where the divine light is refracted through a unique problem which you call I and others call You.


julie said...

Recovering the content is easy enough, but more important is figuring out where -- or who -- I was when I wrote it. Now, where was I? And who?

Trying to recover a computer after a weekend of crashes seems much the same way. The content is all there, but how to go about unpacking it with a different operating system? It's not really the same computer anymore, even if technically it is.

Kurt said...

It seems to me that we are each a unique reflection/expression of God's Infinite Perfection, and therefore each of us has access to a unique and foundationally intimate experience of His Presence. The conscious man is, in essence, a religion of one but only to the extent that he is conscious. And why is that? Because no one else can have my exact experience of God, nor your exact experience of God, etc., ad infinitum.

And yet at the same time each of our unique 'religions' - flowing as they do from a common source - must have a basic compatibility, must share a common foundation, framework, spirit, essence which seems to be Love, as God embodies that word, and keeping in mind that our definitions of which are only a pale shadow of that Reality.

On a separate but probably related note, I am learning, finally, how to read your words, Bob. You write like a jazz musician plays - it's just one big riff. I keep looking for structure, layered arguments, a-b-c progression, the weight of logic and reason, etc. But this ain't Bach, it's Coltrane. Now I just need to learn to read jazz...

julie said...

Ha - yes, he plays all the notes. The structure is in the books.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yeah, pretty much stream of consciousness. Might be similar to Ornette Coleman's concept of harmolodics, whereby the melody creates its own harmony and vice versa, unfolding its own implicit structure as it goes along. Or something like that. All I know is I have to write the post to find out what's in it.

Kurt said...

My difficulty is that I try to digest everything that you write in a post. Like a non-jazz piece of music I look for the beginning-middle-end and I know what to look for in each section. When it's over I tell myself that I heard the piece and that I recognize it, like I understand its totality. It's as if I am consuming and digesting it in a way. And let me tell you, most of what you write is 'too big to eat', at least in one sitting!

Is it coincidence that Snatam Kaur's 'Ong Namo' (live version) just came on the radio? No, probably not, or at least it is a fortunate gift of chance. 'Oh my Beloved, Kindness of the Heart, Breath of Life, I bow to You...' Who else could that be except Jesus Christ?

In any case, I need to read and not consume. I need to hold what is written with an open hand. I need to listen and stop narrating, explaining to myself. Difficult tasks for a very limited man...

Gagdad Bob said...

I think it's more like drilling down into something, as opposed to a discursive approach, from A to B to C. That's what it feels like to me -- like I'm trying to gather my attention and use it to penetrate beneath the surface, straight down -- or up -- as opposed to horizontal movement.

Gagdad Bob said...

That is no doubt what Schuon does -- he focuses pure thought like a laser on whatever the subject.

Joan of Argghh! said...

This was epic. Every word of it. Nothing like having one's child in mind to free up the imagination, to open it up exponentially to myriad new perspectives.

Razzbuddy said...

Yeah, pretty much what Kurt said. Thanks, Kurt for doing my thinking for me!