He had me at the title: spiritual anthropology. For if there is a theme that connects everydot about this blog, that would be it: what is man? What is his real order?
It's how I ended up with a PhD in psychology. It certainly wasn't the result of any settled career aspirations, but rather, an inevitable consequence of my unhinged curiosity. Was my curiosity satisfied by what I learned in grad school? What do you think?
Speaking of which, somehow I was lucky enough to encounter the writings of W.R. Bion in my second year, who launched my entire enterprise into a meta level. From that point onward I was in essence studying metapsychology, not just psychology; or, any truth I learned from psychology had to be harmoniously situated within a larger metapsychology: a psycho-spiritual cosmic anthropology, if you like.
Let me see if I can dig out some statements by Bion to exemplify what I'm talking about. As a matter of fact, he published a book called Second Thoughts, which is actually a collection of previously published essays on which he essentially goes meta on himself; in other words, the current Bion considers the past Bion from a higher perspective. (BTW, I don't recommend that anyone run out and purchase his books, since none are aimed at a lay audience.)
Interesting. The book has a single review on amazon, but the reviewer, like me, describes a breathless Can I buy some pot from you? moment on encountering Bion:
Bion is my guru. Fighting my way out of the barren landscapes of modern psychiatry. There is more to man than chemicals looking for a chat. There is more to illness than screwed up chemistry. Bion gives so many answers. He leaves behind awe. An awe of the vistas in front of you. Of the new horizons yet to be explored. There are so many directions to take. It's as if you leave behind a modernistic constrictive complex concrete jungle. Simply step into a delicate vibrant countryside.... Visit and discover places in your own experience and understanding. And yet so much more.
I know exactly what he means, for it is indeed the sensation of being lifted into a higher and more expansive perspective. Of course, I think that happens on any encounter with True Philosophy. For me, it also happened with Michael Polanyi and then later with Schuon, MOTT, Dávila, and others.
Come to think of it, that is the experience I want to transmit via my own writing. It was certainly the point of the book. If and when I assemble another book, it will be 100% about this experience -- a nonstop combination of (n) and (!?). I have no interest in mere information, except insofar as it serves as a launching pad.
Here is Bion commenting on one of his essays:
I am not unappreciative of the account; I think if it were some other psychoanalyst's report I would think it quite good. But as it is, I do not recognize the patient or myself.
This is key, because it demonstrates how easy it is to write plausibly and even convincingly about the mind, but in a way that more or less lacks truth. Only Bion -- the one who wrote it -- can appreciate the absence of truth. Others who read the essay may be convinced of its truth. We can say the same of higher dimensions: how easy it is to write of spirit! Anyone can do it. But is it true? And by what standard?
So much of Exodus is a reminder to the Israelites that they are to follow God's standard, not their own. However, God's standard is universal, which is the point of the whole exercise. If Jews aren't messengers of universal morality, then they were chosen for nothing. What a pointless hassle!
Prager even suggests that this is how and why Jews have in the past gone off the rails in pursuit of non-Jewish universal systems such as Marxism. In other words, Jews are predisposed to think in terms of universality, even if it is a false universality of the left:
Ever since the Jews were emancipated in the nineteenth century, they have been disproportionately involved in universalist movements; but, in their embrace of humanity, they often abandoned the Torah and Jewish identity. They did not wish to acknowledge that it is specifically because of the Torah's teachings that humanity came to view all people, including, of course, strangers, as created in God's image, and therefore -- in the words of the American Declaration of Independence -- "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."
When Jews abandoned the Torah and ethical monotheism, these very values affirming the sanctity of all human life have often been abandoned as well -- as was the case with Jews who embraced communism (which made war on religion and God-based values) and ended up supporting the tyrannical and murderous Soviet Union and other communist regimes.
Again, it is the same with contemporary Jewish leftists, who abandon the meta- for the infra-, or transcendence for immanence. The former is always open, the latter closed. The closed system will still allow "realizations," but only of what is permitted or conditioned by the system. Thus, they are "pseudo-realizations" that have the contours of truth without the content. Applied to psychology for example,
It becomes fatal to good analysis if premature application of a theory becomes a habit which places a screen between the psychoanalyst and the exercise of his intuition on fresh and therefore unknown material (Bion).
As it pertains to past bOb, this meant that all the fine theories I was learning were at once doors and walls -- or better, ceilings. Horizontally they are doors, but vertically they are ceilings. The former are essentially linear and mechanistic, the latter organismic and evolutionary, a "coming together, by a sudden precipitating intuition, of a mass of apparently unrelated incoherent phenomena which are thereby given coherence and meaning not previously possessed" (ibid.). This is (n), in contrast to mere (k).
"The verbal expression can be so formalized, so rigid, so filled with already existing ideas that the idea I want to express can have all the life squeezed out of it" (ibid.). I would say that all writing that presumes to be about spirit must be mindful of this minefield of (k). (This is, of course, a major reason why Jesus so often speaks in parables that require a realization on the part of the listener.)
To be continued...