Monday, May 22, 2017

Finitude and Infini-Dude

If you didn't make it to the end of the previous post, we left off with a hint or suggestion that it is as if our two cerebral hemispheres reflect -- or are the reflection of -- two "ultimates," one finite, the other infinite. Each maps a different terrain, one having more to do with physical survival, the other with spiritual awareness and perception.

It is difficult to have a spiritual life without a robustly functioning right cerebral hemisphere -- just as, for example, it would be a challenge to breathe or maintain one's heartbeat without a medulla, or to have an emotional life without a hippocampus.

Now, not only can finitude never contain infinitude, it won't even admit it really exists, except maybe as a word -- a placeholder, like "zero." It never really ponders the ineluctable fact of infinitude.

Conversely, finitude fits easily into a tiny corner of infinitude, with room left over for every philosophy ever devised by man. But reality is under no obligation to fit into the schemes of the tenured, or Gödel was just deepakin' the chopra, bigtime.

Religions are finite expressions of the infinite, or forms of the formless. Christianity goes one step further, and claims that a particular person is an expression of the infinite; and not only an expression, but its very incarnation.

Or in other words, Jesus contains the uncontainable. Which perhaps "explains" -- in a manner of speaking -- the Resurrection, which is a reflection of the fact that Death -- which is finite -- could not contain him.

Death is finite. Whew! That's a relief. But life is infinite, which means that, in order to properly understand it, we must invert the cosmos and look at it bright-side up. As the Fathers said, God became man so that man might become God; in so doing, Life takes on Death so that Death might become Life.

Not biological life, of course, biology as such being merely a "downward projection," so to speak, of the Life Divine (the bio-Logos). If the universe were fundamentally dead, you couldn't squeeze life out of it in... 13.7 billion years, no matter how hard you tried.

Analysis true: "Kierkegaard wants us to realize that, ultimately, we can rationally understand neither the world we live in nor our true nature or purpose in life" (Watts). So stop trying!

Or rather, always situate reason within Reason. In short, in order to be a true Christian Dudeist, you must abide in the dynamic space of complementarity -- the pneumatic third -- between these two: ultimately "between" finitude and infinitude. Animals are finite. God is infinite. You are the monkey in the middle.

For finitude is a mode of the Infinite. Just as creation reflects the Creator, immanence always points to transcendence. Frankly, nothing is merely "natural," full stop. Nature itself is supernatural, everywhere spilling out of itself and flowing back to its nonlocal source.

This is precisely what is happening when you view a landscape of primordial beauty: you are participating in this return -- so long as you are looking through the right brain. Otherwise it's just another blandscape.

Looking through. That reminds me of a comment by William Blake (in Upton): "I question not the doctrines and practices of my religion any more than I would question a window concerning sight; I look through them, not with them."

I'm also thinking of how the synapses of the brain work via electrical polarity. No polarity, no action. For us, what is the ultimate polarity? It is by definition "God and man" -- or Creator and creation, and therefore Infinite and finite, Absolute and relative, Eternal and temporal, Whole and part, etc.

So: in order to cultivate a vibrant spiritual life, one must maintain the polarity between self and God, AKA (¶) and O. This is what prayer is all about; or humility, which is a sine qua non.

Note that humility has nothing to do with "humiliation," but rather, is simply an objective appreciation of our finitude. Awareness of finitude makes a man humble. Or should, anyway.

A kind of "energy" is potentiated with the polarization of God and man. If we fail to polarize, then "we dissipate our energy and squander our lives in a variety of meaningless ways" (Watts). This is where "desire" comes in to fill the void.

Obviously, a kind of polarity is created by what we Want and Don't Have. So we fill our lives accumulating the latter and then re-potentiating until the next purchase. I'm obviously not some anti-capitalist imbecile, but you have to use it, rather than vice versa. We've all been there.

For Kierkegaard, Abraham represents a kind of cosmic hinge. Think about it: he -- the father of us all -- allows himself to be completely polarized vis-a-vis Yahweh (similar to Mary's later submission and polarization). He "represents the first man in the Bible to devote himself in complete faith, and through free choice, to One God -- an act that represented a radically new understanding that formed the foundation of Western civilization" (Watts).

Foundation! I say (!) because this foundation is.... empty, so to speak. It is not an assertion, but a listening, an "active passivity." Go. Go where? To the land I will show you. B-... Just go, alright?

Here is how Rabbi Kushner describes it in one of our favorite little mystical tracts:

Abraham, our father,

Was simply told to leave....

This is the setting out.

The leaving of everything behind.

Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions.

The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations....

To be, in a word: Open.

AKA the receptive state of (o).


If you think you know what you will find,

Then you will find nothing.

If you expect nothing,

Then you will always be surprised.



julie said...

Surprised? Every day.

Re. books on the sidebar, surprisingly our priest during his homily yesterday went into a discussion of just that very Pope & President and their effect on the spread of communism. Interesting stuff.

Gagdad Bob said...

My copy just arrived in the mail today. It goes all the way back to 1917, so it's not just about the 1980s. I like the title of chapter 2: The Devils Take Over. Obviously, the author Gets It.

Gagdad Bob said...

I was waiting for it to come down in price, and snapped up a like new used copy for only 15 bucks. The Thrill of the Bargain.

Gagdad Bob said...

I also recently found a bargain copy of the Schuon DVD. Well worth seeing for the Presence he radiates.

Anonymous said...

This is a great spiritual post. A vibrant spiritual life is within the reach of all; ready for the taking.

I would add the spiritual life does have a point of diminishing returns. After one has done the work of inner and outer inquiry, and the chaff of doubt and disbelief is cleared, and one is fully aligned with grace, then further spiritual inquiry begins to steal from the reserve of time available for conventional pursuits. Because at some point there is no higher one can ascend.

And these pursuits (work, relationships, tribulations, accomplishments, setbacks, vacation travel, etc) are the work at hand. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have a certain number of tasks to perform and experiences to have. So in that respect, a life of monastic deep contemplation before the age of 70 or so might not be advisable.

Whether God lover, agnostic, or atheist, all human beings must confront life and run through their allotted checklist of stuff to do before the curtain falls. Otherwise Earth will have been created in vain. Heaven is teeming with accomplished mystics; are more needed on here? I don't know, but I expect demand is limited.

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