Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Mystery and Presence, Truth and Person

Continuing with the theme of yesterday's post, I want to begin by highlighting some additional passages indicative of Tallis' highly unusual hafraccoon ethnicity -- i.e., how he is a passionate advocate of human transcendence and uniqueness, but without grounding this in anything beyond itself. He is quick to acknowledge that the question of consciousness is "more than a problem," and even "more than 'a hard problem.'" Rather, "It is a mystery."

Well, yes. Except that a mystery is not just a riddle or conundrum but a mode; not an absence but a presence; not a rupture but a link. Just yesterday I was re-re-re-reading (at least) a book by Schuon in which he makes the following observation:

By "mystery" we do not mean something incomprehensible in principle -- unless on the purely rational level -- but something that opens on to the Infinite or is envisaged in this respect, so that intelligibility becomes limitless and humanly inexhaustible. A mystery is always "something of God."

Precisely. Understood this way, a mystery is not a problem but a portal; not a wall but a window. Not to say there aren't walls and problems! Just don't conflate them with mysteries.

Example. If one adopts a materialist metaphysic, then consciousness -- and life, for that matter -- is indeed a problem. An absolutely insoluble one. And look what you've done in the process! You've boarded up the window, nailed the door shut, and painted over the mirror. Now, why would you want to do that? Intellectual consistency? Yes, that's a fine thing, so long as it doesn't result in intellecticide.

But this is just what virtually every modern and postmodern ideology results in, from Darwinitis to Deconstruction. In fact, the death of the intellect is just collateral damage resulting from the death of the person: abort the person, and you knock out the intellect with it.

Unlike most atheists, Tallis realizes this and doesn't like it one bit. Indeed, he clearly deplores it as much if not more than your typical believer who isn't intellectually sophisticated enough to appreciate what the tenured are up to.

Here is a passage by Tallis that is indistinguishable from something you might find at One Cosmos: some 50,000 years ago -- or whenever it was -- merely genetic Homo sapiens crossed an invisible line and

woke up from being organisms to being something quite different: embodied subjects, self-aware and other-aware [THAT LAST ONE IS KEY -- God] in a manner and to a degree not approached by other animals. Out of this, a new kind of realm was gradually formed. This, the human world, is materially rooted in the natural world but is quite different from it.

That is correct as far as it goes, but one must be quite precise in these matters. It certainly helps to be a fine wordsmith, as Tallis clearly is, but then one must avoid the problem of language getting ahead of itself. Rather, it must be purely objective and descriptive, while not excluding poetic expression, in the manner of Schuon or Dávila.

In my case, it's probably a good thing that I was able to intuit these things before I was able to express them. Truly, I can't even say that I was once a "terrible writer." Rather, I wasn't a writer at all. I like to think I'm still not, in that the Idea is always the primary thing. Over the years I think I'm getting better at clothing the thing in more felicitous language, but as Dávila says in so many ways with so few words,

Wordiness is not an excess of words, but a dearth of ideas. Indeed, perhaps you've noticed that The deluded are prolix. (Ever watch Rachel Maddow?)

Moreover, Only ideas save us from adjectives. Save, as in salvation, more on which as we proceed.

For Words do not communicate, they remind. It's called vertical recollection, which is the cure for spiritual I-amnesia.

And The idea that does not win over in twenty lines does not win over in two thousand pages.

And how appropriate and timely: Words do not decipher the mystery, but they do illuminate it.

And if you do want to mix in a little poetry, just remember that Poetry is God’s fingerprint in human clay, not just humans magically transforming our clay into spirit, or flesh into Word.

Which of course goes to the idea and principle -- the mystery! -- of Incarnation. And this I think is where Tallis goes off the rails, because it is as if he is a champion of the notion of incarnation without the Principle to explain and back it up.

Look, nothing comes from nothing, however much you wish it were otherwise. Nor can the greater come from the lesser, let alone the infinitely greater. How can the Infinite come from the finite, the Absolute from the relative?

You've probably heard the old joke about the traveler who asks the local for directions to some town. He thinks for a second and responds with words to the effect of "I wouldn't start from here." A variant is that "you can't get there from here." Analogously, you can ask a Darwinitic for directions from animal to man, but truly, you can't get here from there. Rather, you can only drag here to there, and with it I (truly) Am to it (merely) is.

And I use that little word "here" advisedly, because it is loaded with (ultimately personal) significance. Do animals know about here? In other words, are they conscious of the here and now? No. We know they're here and now, but they don't.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was reading a book by Schuon called Form and Substance in the Religions. The first chapter is called Truth and Presence. In it he highlights the relationship between these two, noting that "The saving manifestation of the Absolute is either Truth or Presence," although not necessarily exclusively, being that truth is a presence and presence comprises truth.

We might say that the truth of presence is the presence of truth, and that this goes to the Incarnation of the Mystery of Personhood, right here and right now. To be continued....


julie said...

The idea that does not win over in twenty lines does not win over in two thousand pages.

The truth of the Bible, in a nutshell. God Is: Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Love God; love thy neighbor as thyself. The rest of it flows from there.

Gagdad Bob said...

Quantity doesn't somehow become quality by piling it higher.

ted said...

The dearth of ideas are all over the media. Yet, there's more chattering heads than ever before. Imagine, all that time and content wasted on nonsense. If anyone had any integrity or honor, they would stare at the camera with their mouth shut.

Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly: constant bloviating, to the point of creating and inhabiting alternate linguistic realities: the logos made flesh, only from below.

julie said...

Don't speak too soon, Ted - it is apparently possible to Deepak the Chopra without saying a word.

That's a pretty sweet gig, if you can get it.

The hard part would be not bursting out laughing at an inopportune point.

ted said...

Braco may have to be my new guru. Can't screw up things too bad by a stare.

julie said...

True. And there probably is some benefit to having prolonged eye contact with someone (even if it's just an illusion). I wonder how many people are starving for it these days, especially the generation who gaze at their computer screen more than anything else. Seeing and being seen go to the very heart of our own being.

ted said...

I saw this documentary years ago about the artist Marina Abramovic. She's a typical unhinged postmodernist. But apparently she had this successful MOMA show where she just stared at people across a table for a few minutes. All these hip NY'ers felt it was the most authentic experience they ever had. Sad statement in some ways, but points to the idea that people want to be seen.

julie said...

That's right, I forgot she did that, too. The thought of locking eyes with that monster is literally nauseating. It would be like staring into the nether regions of hell.

Gagdad Bob said...

Having said all that, there is the perfectly valid modality of darshan and its equivalent in all religions. It's why I keep this icon of Jesus right there in front of me, not to mention this penetrating visage warning me not to screw up. No doubt one aspect of the Transfiguration was the giving of darshan. Counterfeit darshan exists because of the real thing.

julie said...

Oh, indeed! That's why the thought of locking eyes with the queen of spirit cooking is so abhorrent; there really is something to it. Pick your staring partner with caution!

julie said...

As to Braco, who knows? People are willing to pay a lot of money to see him live or even just watch a video of him staring. The fact that he's monetized it so heavily is what gives me pause.

Gagdad Bob said...

The Transfiguration must have been the last word in the presence of truth and truth of presence.

Gagdad Bob said...

Sri Aurobindo used to conduct an annual darshan for all and sundry, but free of charge.

This whole subject leads to a wider discussion of the spiritual significance of "seeing." My son is becoming quite the photographer, which involves the transformation of seeing.

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know if his photo site is private.

julie said...

Does not appear to be; how cool! He has a really good eye for lighting. And posing.

Gagdad Bob said...

He already knows more about aesthetics than I did until I was in my 20s. At his age I knew precisely nothing -- and as Davila says, When religion and aesthetics are divorced from each other, we do not know which is corrupted sooner.

Van Harvey said...

"Wordiness is not an excess of words, but a dearth of ideas."

Ooh. That's good. And, of course, true.