Friday, May 26, 2017

Growing With the Flow Between Reality and Thought

As a deus-praying Raccoon in good standing, I am bound to agree with Kierkegaard that the deepest -- or highest -- truths do not reveal their "innermost significance when directly communicated" (Watts). But... what I just said right there is among the deepest and highest truths. So, how do I get away with communicating it so nakedly? Is there some kind of exemption for meta-truths?

Why, yes. There must be such an exemption, or we can't think at all. The point is, you have to define your exemption up front and be prepared to live with it. In faith.

For example, there is a widespread faith in contemporary philosophy that metaphysics is impossible. But that's a metaphysical belief -- similar to how the positivist claim that only empirically or logically verifiable statements are true cannot itself be empirically or logically verified. Checkmate.

I often go back to St. Francis Assisi's gag about how we ought to preach the gospel at all times, and even use words if necessary. Thus, words are a kind of poor substitute for experience, which puts the whole notion of "sola scriptura" in an interesting light: for only scripture would equate to no experience and therefore no gospel.

It goes back again to Gödel, doesn't it? I don't mean to namedrop him so often, but what could be more important than knowing up front that what you know can never contain reality? With that in mind you will no longer be fooled or taken in by manmade ideologies, for Gödel has opened an escape hatch that can never be closed.

The same cannot be said for God-given ideologies, assuming they exist. Do they? Let's stipulate that either they do or don't. But if the latter, that falls under Gödel's hammer, because it attempts to contain the uncontainable. The truth is, you can't know a priori if God-given ideologies do not exist. Rather, you have to keep an open mind. Forever.

Which means that, in order to be intellectually honest and consistent, you have to be open to God. But wait. The word "God" has an awful lot of baggage -- cultural, historical, and personal (and the latter both conscious and unconscious). In other words, we are forever trying to get around Gödel by containing what is by definition uncontainable.

Which is why I often apply the unsaturated symbol O to the reality in question. We must always be "open to O" because we cannot not be -- not in reality. That is, unless we arbitrarily close ourselves to O, which is psychic death by asphyxiation or auto-endarkenment. In order to thrive, the psyche needs nonlocal air and light.

In my morning rounds, I bumped into a provocative piece called This is Your Brain on Ideology. The author's name was unfamiliar to me, but a look at his twitter feed finds him to be a bit of an atheistic twit. Or in other words, a closed-minded ideologue.

For example, he pompously claims that "A curious mind is fatally toxic to religions," so "Keep asking questions." I don't know which religion he's talking about... oh wait. I do. However, for us, the whole point of religion-as-such is to maintain an open relationship to the ground of all questions. A curious mind is indeed fatal to ideologies, but if you don't have a permanent and unquenchable curiosity about O, then you're doing it -- not just religion, but Life -- wrong.

I'm hardly suggesting that people don't reduce religion to ideology and even ideolatry. Of course they do -- just as they expand ideology to religion. It has gotten to the point that the whole "religious vs. irreligious" distinction is of no use at all. Rather, man is either religious or pretending not to be.

What we call "faith" does not properly begin prior to thought, although there are people who do deploy faith in that manner. Rather, for us, it begins where thought -- manmade thought, precisely -- ends.

In other words, there is always a gap between thought and reality. But in reality, if you're doing it correctly, there is a kind of circular flow from reality to thought and then back again. It is tempting to crystalize the flow into an ideology, but it can't be done. You just have to grow with the flow.

Really, it comes down to a simple acknowledgement of the infinite, doesn't it? What makes you imagine you can ever contain the infinite within finitude? The same restriction, of course, doesn't apply to God, who does it all the time.

Literally. For what is time but the moving image of eternity? Likewise, what is space but the radiant image of the infinite? O is immanent because transcendent, and transcendent because immanent. There is no way of getting "outside" or "beyond" this statement, because reality is what it is despite the banal rewordgitations of infertile eggheads.

Our Father who art in heaven.

In other words, not "contained" here, but Absolute, Infinite, Transcendent.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Yesterday it occurred to me that it is as if this is a picture of verticality. Of note, it obviously implies that God's will is not always done down here. Which is why we pray that it be done; which is to say, the point seems to be to align our will with God's will, which I visualize as being open to, and in alignment with, O. It is simultaneously the best we can do and all we can do.

So it would seem that in order to open the doors of consciousness to the dimension of 'infinite reality' with its 'infinite possibilities,' one first needs to renounce one's total trust in, and attachment to, the rational mind... (Watts).


julie said...

I often go back to St. Francis Assisi's gag about how we ought to preach the gospel at all times, and even use words if necessary.

Amen; done properly, it is extremely beneficial for both preacher and observer.

Gagdad Bob said...

Blatantly silly attempt to get around Gödel:

"The faith of our age is faith in the digital computer.... It avers that all mental states -- such as your conscious experience of a god-awful toothache or the love you feel for your partner -- are computational states.... In this view, there is nothing more to consciousness than the instantiation of the relevant computational states."

Paul Griffin said...

"A curious mind is fatally toxic to religions," so "Keep asking questions."

Our culture is like a person who wants to learn to play the piano. They have heard that there are masters who have dedicated their life to the art and say that the notes don't matter and you can play anything you want. So they use that to rationalize not practicing their scales and just bang on the keys, declaring themselves masters. Others agree with them, realizing that they too could escape the drudgery of practicing their scales. Soon, the entire culture has lost the ability to play, or even the knowledge of what the piano was for in the first place. Why do we have these useless pianos anyway?

Gagdad Bob said...

We're there. One can easily obtain a degree in English literature from a major university without ever hearing the name "Shakespeare," except perhaps in a dismissing way.

I wonder what the principle is behind your fable? For Schuon, it is the inevitable decline as we become increasingly distant from the Principle. I don't buy it, although it certainly seems to fit the data. Maybe it's analogous to Newtonion physics, which is also adequate to the phenomena, although there is a deeper explanation in terms of quantum physics.

So, what is the deeper principle? Probably just our inevitable fallenness, which in turn falls into various deadly sins such as sloth....

Gagdad Bob said...

But we can't minimize that ontological wild card, Satan... He's always finding new ways to exert his influence.

Paul Griffin said...

The principle seems to be that we want to be the ones who have the knowledge of, and therefore determine what is, good and evil, so as to live like gods, in submission to no one. That's not just sloth, it's the cosmic coup d'etat that says, "No, I am! Me! Not you!"

Gagdad Bob said...

Just read that very sentiment expressed in this excellent book on Reagan and John Paul. Whittaker Chambers called communism "the second oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation, 'Ye shall be as Gods.'"

The more things change, the more they stay insane...

Anonymous said...

After considering the question of Satan for some time, a question came up which is a tough nut to crack. It is hard to reconcile Satan with hard-core Unity, which allows for no thing, idea, or action to be beyond the purview and bounds of the One Thing that Is. If one cleaves to strict unity, Satan must therefore be some kind of project or department of God Himself. There's really no way to negotiate a sovereign Satan under that restriction.

Could it be that Satan is a mental trick, a scapegoat for that which is wrought by God, but that we don't approve of? Because disapproving of God puts us in an awkward position, such as that of small child standing in judgment of her parents.

It is anxiety provoking to love God, and yet admit some of what is made existent by same is very, very odious. So a soveriegn malefactor becomes useful. Satan, now him we can blow off and resist by the power of virtue. But resisting what, or Whom, really?

Oh well....does the left hand know what the right hand doeth?