Friday, March 23, 2018

Rambling in the Wild Godhead

The usual Friday ramble, only worse. Or better, depending on I don't know what. If I knew that, I'd have more readers. Or fewer, depending.

For those of you reading along at home, I'm trying to digest an essay by Schuon called Structure and Universality of the Conditions of Existence.

First of all, like anyone could know that. And yet, he pulls it off with such confidence and authority, one can't help thinking he's on -- or in -- to something. I'm often reminded of Blake's gag that Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed. As far as I know, Blake never explained what he meant, but it seems to me that it goes to the intrinsic authority of Truth: if you get it, you got it.

Come to think of it, there are all sorts of things I believe because Truth told me so. Sometimes you hear something, and it is like a key fitting into a lock. It totally settles the question, such that it now becomes part of oneself as opposed to being something sought after. How to put it... It's a little like knowing in the biblical sense, in that it is more intimate than mere logic or sensation.

And now I'm thinking of communion, or theophagy more generally, in which Truth is not merely heard or thought, but devoured and converted to one's own substance (or is it the other way around?). Sounds strange -- a hard saying -- and yet, it is without question an analogue of what we're dealing with. Tasting is believing. And vice versa.

Let's say you want to create a cosmos with conscious beings. What needs to go into it? Lets see: matter, form, and number. Space and time.

Starting with the first, matter is "the sensible manifestation of existence itself." This is a subtle point, because it situates matter equally outside and in, on the plane where it is experienced and in the experience itself. Matter is object-sensation, as it were, not just one or the other.

But nothing is experienced or known without a form, which is its very principle of intelligibly. In other words, to know something is to know a form, precisely.

Conversely, to be ignorant of something is to not know its form. So, material objects don't just present themselves to our senses; rather, we simultaneously know or extract their form. If we can't extract the form, it's annoying, or frustrating, or frightening, or intriguing. Or just nothing -- nothing because it doesn't actually exist, or because you are actually an idiot.

Think of science, which is nothing but the pursuit of form from depth to depth. But then, so too is any discipline, all the way up to theology -- for what is theology but formal intellection of the intelligible form of God?

Or perhaps we should distinguish between theology and (lowercase) theosophy, the former applying to the forms of revelation, the latter more to the nonlocal form of God-as-such, AKA pure intellection: descent and ascent, respectively.

You might say that revelation is a form of the formless. In deep verticality, God is the being-ness of beyond-being. Or, if you prefer, the Son-Logos is the firstform of the Father.

At any rate, forms are like rungs on the ladder of ascent back to form as such. Which is just a way of saying that the intelligibility of the world isn't absurdly ungrounded (an impossibility), but rather, goes all the way up (even if people tend to stop at an arbitrary whystation along the way).

Moving on to the principle of number, it "manifests the unlimitedness of cosmic possibility, and in the final analysis, the infinitude of the Possible as such." All numbers are multiples of one -- and therefore manifestations of oneness -- "and unity in turn reflects the Principle charged with its innumerable potentialities."

This explains why everything is different but the same -- from people to sunsets to baseball games. Everything is a variation on a theme, so to speak. On the one hand, "there is nothing new under the sun"; on the other, each moment is a radical novelty. Orthoparadox. Deal with it.

Back to matter: don't think of it as the material world only. Rather, materiality is a form of matter, of what Aristotle calls "prime matter." Thus, matter has a vertical span "from extreme subtlety to extreme solidity"; in the end, it is the "divine Substance," or "the final point of the descent of the objective pole" of existence. It represents the farther shore of spirit, or perhaps its epidermis. Think of water, which appears in various modes, from ice to steam.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

All of this is situated in space and time, the former going "from the ungraspable point to limitless extension," the latter "from the instant to perpetuity." These are not infinite and eternal as such, but manifestations, or representations, or prolongations of them. For time is still the moving image of eternity, as space is the static image of infinity. And you are there.


Anonymous said...

This thoughtful post will require some reflection; some of the ideas about matter presented are pretty radical.

My mind is so set on intentions, I read it into everything. Here is the set up; it is very precisely set up. Now why would Anybody do such a thing? The question is just riveting. If one can get just a clue it would be a revelation. Here it is, the Intention behind this wild Godhead.

"Your will be done, Lord." The only prayer that is 100% likely to come true. Once the believer is convinced, it becomes the only prayer in town. The Lord's prayer. An entire religion unto itself.

"Get comfortable with being uncomfortable," I think I hear Him say.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

And our life is not a desultory journey but as the post explained is filled with purpose from its forms,number or any other manifestations. Ibn Arabi said, do not drown yourself in the endless multiplicity of the one. Faith in the oneness is a saver, that is why the absolute unknown being-ness can not be reduced to any being. The limitless flow that keeps the human imagination on the run, that it may capture a glimpse of the unbounded divine. It is more beautiful to leave him unknown without trying to besiege him in form, no matter how precious that form is because his preciousness is so high it defies any description. Let us enjoy his limitlessness that beyond time and space that are part of his endless manifestations. The divine call to the human to be true without explanation means that the humans are endowed with the understanding that does not need too much explanation. The story of Adam shows that, it did not come with the pro and con of the tree, but it was so programmed as to let the temptation took place to put Adam on a new journey of knowledge and understanding, a journey that can not accomplished without the devil and the divine guidance. It is a game under the watch of god filled with ups and downs that need alertness and mindfulness without pointing fingers on others.

ted said...

Lost my pet cat of 14 years this weekend. Since I'm not married nor have children, he was a significant companion for me. Feeling the heart break open in ways it hadn't for quite some time. Makes me realize how suffering is such graceful grist for the journey.

Gagdad Bob said...

Sorry to hear about your pal. I well know the feeling -- we had to put down one of our dogs last November, and it was very sudden, as she hadn't been ill at all.

But then we adopted a new Dane from a shelter a month later, and she is the Best Dog Ever. This has been the pattern over the last 35 years, during which time we've had to put down something like six dogs and four cats. It sounds callous, but pets are replaceable in a way that humans could never be.

So, my advice is to adopt a new kitten right away! They are so full of life and give so much joy, that they're the most powerful antidote to the feelings of loss.

ted said...

Thank you Bob!

Gagdad Bob said...

Some clever aphorisms here to console the coonosphere while awaiting tomorrow's post.

Van Harvey said...


julie said...

Heinlein was wrong about a lot of things, but he did have his moments.

Way too sentimental about women, though. I wonder if he were alive today, if the ravages of feminism would have changed his thinking?