Friday, July 06, 2018

In, Of, and Out of the Cosmos

Lately I've been thinking of shuttering the blog. Are we just going around in circles? Am I just shouting at myself? Maybe I should review the sprawling 3,199 and try to synthesize them into One, before things get any more out of hand...

Here's an important point: human intelligence "is either separative or unitive," depending upon "whether it is applied to the Absolute or the contingent," the latter two reducing to -- in the ultimate sense -- "the Real or the illusory" (Schuon).

This is why in the past I have called religion the science of the ultimate subject (or Real), and science the religion of the ultimate object (the contingent or illusory).

It is also why folks like Thomas Aquinas call theology the "queen of the sciences," because it deals with a more fundamental, enduring, and unchanging reality than does mere science; indeed, profane science, in order to even be itself, must be situated in a more unitive "meta-science." Science analyzes, but only because there is first something to be analyzed: the whole is obviously prior to the parts.

This is not in any sense to devalue science. Rather, there is a reason why science developed in the Christian west and no place else: because we situated it in the correct metaphysic (from which it flows).

Speaking of which, yesterday an elliptical thought occurred to me while on the elliptical. For man there are exactly four possibilities: 1) in the world and of the world; 2) of the world but not in it; 3) neither of nor in the world; and 4) in the world but not of the world.

#4 is of course the Christian way: very much in, but definitely not of.

#1 would be the materialist/atheist way, involving a total denial of transcendence: solely of the world and inescapably in it.

#2 would be like Buddhism, at least for the awakened person who is of this absurd world but has found the escape hatch and is liberated from it.

#3 -- neither of nor in -- is the neoplatonist or Gnostic (in the naughty sense) for whom the world is just a big mistake, so get out now! Or rather, eliminate the illusions of "in" and "of," and you're free. Minus you.

The world is surely an illusion but it is not a mistake. We know it is an illusion because otherwise we wouldn't need science. To take an everyday example, it looks like the sun revolves around the earth, but science reveals this to be an illusion. One could obviously cite thousands of similar cases, but the point again is that an illusion is not a mistake, often just a matter of perspective.

Back to our original point of departure: unitive knowledge (to paraphrase Schuon) assimilates while separative knowledge eliminates. This relationship between separation and assimilation forms a continuous, dynamic complementarity. You could even say that it is the deep structure of the metabolism of thinking, or even the metabolism of being.

Gosh. I would go even further and suggest that it reveals something of what goes on inside the Godhead -- in other words, that this complementary relation is an analogue of the eternal Divine Activity.

Otherwise, why go to all the trouble of positing a dynamic Trinity as the source and ground of all reality? If it's just an impenetrable mystery that teaches us nothing fundamental, then who needs it? For my money, Norris Clarke is the most clear and compelling on this subject, e.g., in Person and Being or The One and the Many.

In the former, for example, he writes that the Trinity is "the very inner nature of the Supreme Being itself -- even before its overflow into creation." It "is an ecstatic process... of self-communicating love." The only distinction between Father and Son "is the distinction of two complementary but opposed relations, Giver and Receiver." Surely this means something. We're not supposed to believe it Just Because.

As Clarke alludes to, this self-communicative love subsequently -- in the vertical sense -- "flows over freely in the finite self-communication that is creation." So "no wonder, then, that self-communication is written into the very heart of all things." In short, no wonder the world is such a wonder!

This goes precisely to what was said in the previous post. To quote ourselves,

finitude proclaims infinitude. But the converse is also true (and ontologically prior): infinitude proclaims finitude, via none other than the Logos. Creation, you might say, is the proclamation of finitude (by infinitude).

And only in such a world -- in a world suchly understood -- is science possible. For example, go back to #1 above, of a being who is both in and of the world. This would be a world of pure immanence, devoid of transcendence (as if these two aren't eternal complementarities). Knowledge and personhood would be strictly impossible:

There would be no way for anything else to know that it exists; it would make no difference at all to the rest of reality; practically speaking, it might just as well not be at all -- it would in fact be indistinguishable from non-being.

Do you see why? Each being "would be locked off in total isolation from every other. There would not be a connected universe..."

For any universe is a connected universe, but "where" is this connectedness? It cannot be seen, only assumed. To be clear: no one has ever seen the universe, and no one ever will. Rather, it is a metaphysical assumption, but not just any old assumption. It can only be understood if we are in the cosmos but not of the cosmos. If we were strictly of the cosmos, we could never know it. And if we are fundamentally out of it, then knowledge of it is superfluous and science is a big waste of time.

One could cite many aphorisms, but I'll leave you with these to ponder:

The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality.

Appearance is not the veil, but the vehicle, of reality.

We are saved from daily tedium only by the impalpable, the invisible, and the ineffable.

Science cannot do more than draw up the inventory of our prison (Dávila).

25 comments:

julie said...

Back to our original point of departure: unitive knowledge (to paraphrase Schuon) assimilates while separative knowledge eliminates. This relationship between separation and assimilation forms a continuous, dynamic complementarity. You could even say that it is the deep structure of the metabolism of thinking, or even the metabolism of being.

Reminds me of the video someone made showing how dna strands replicate; zipping and unzipping to create two where once there was one.

ted said...

Lately I've been thinking of shuttering the blog.

I don't support that. It would make me be in the world, and missing something that often re-cognized I'm not of it.

Olden Ears said...

Shutter the blog? I would miss it. Perhaps there is a different way to blog. Just like your early readings gave way to your book and the book gave way to the blog, the blog can give way to...?

I think there are some sub-topics you've touched on that could probably be addressed as stand alone subjects for a limited period of time. Homosexuality & transgenderism, politics, parenthood, sports all come to mind. Each of these - and others - could benefit from being explored more in depth and from a "One Cosmos" perspective. But whatever you do, pray about it.

julie said...

Lest it need saying, I'm with Ted and Olden Ears. This exercise in self-communication may not be as lively in the comments as it was back when we had a regular stream of trolls to battle, but that doesn't mean you aren't providing vital sustenance to hungry raccoons. If it seems quiet, that may well simply mean, "Can't talk now, eating!"

Even so, do pray on it...

ted said...

That's right Julie. I metabolize much better with my mouth shut.

Hale Adams said...

"Shutter the blog"? I'm with Julie and the others. I very seldom comment, but your blog is a near-daily stop for me.

Take a vacation if you want (and why shouldn't you? You're not a public utility), but *please* come back!

Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

Bill said...

I've been reading this blog for years and have never commented, something I now regret. I hope very much that you will continue your efforts. You have a unique ability to combine, in a coherent way, a broad range of thinkers and thoughts into an integrated worldview. The combination of orthodox Christianity, unitive metaphysics, and conservatism which is found here, along with the thoughts of your very interesting commenters, is very important and I hope that you will seriously consider keeping this all alive.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Godwin, your treatment of the four possible perspectives a being can adopt during their tenure on Earth is very insightful. #4 is the best in terms of outcome. Outcome being peace of mind, I take it. What other outcomes could one add?

Another factor is what God has in store for you, and how He positions himself spatially in your awareness.

When God is in front of a person, the person follows onward, reaching out, and so moves forward, being pulled by their desire for Unity.

Should God decide to get around behind a person, then all the person can see in front of them is the world, and they feel they have lost God. However, God now pushes the person, propelling them through life never seen, but always there.

Any decision to continue or suspend blogging is entirely out of your hands, I assure you. You will obey the Lord, as you always have. You are a faithful servant, much loved by God and your peers.


ZenGolfer said...

Dr. Bob - the selfish side of me says NO - Ok, I only have one side... But to say there are very few places one can go to gain insight into the liberal mind from someone with the perspective and credentials you bring to the discussion, is to simply point out the obvious...

And while I do still enjoy each and every post - I can understand the "done that, been there" feeling... What I would like to see, and something I would be more than willing to pay for - is a book that is more like a survivor's guide to navigating the liberal world from a conservative perspective - it is what I use your blog for, but imagine if it were all summarized in an orderly fashion!!!

I would think much of the "material" has already been written - in the form of your blog posts, etc. - it's the tying them altogether into a coherent flow that would be invaluable to someone like me...

I'd hate to see you stop writing - that's like asking you to stop thinking - or breathing, etc. - but I can understand how change can be a good thing - it might even be something spectacular - as I believe the world is starting to wake up a bit and realize that the war has been going on for some time - and we're way behind in terms of the weapons we have at our disposal... Logic and reason are our tools - but using them to convince the mindless is a difficult task at best... We need the insights you provide, to arm and protect ourselves and hopefully be able to reach others before it's too late...

Sincerely,

ZenGolfer

Van Harvey said...

"Lately I've been thinking of shuttering the blog"

Oh, I hope not. As is typical, Julie put my thoughts on that before I could, in her comment. Especially the last,
"If it seems quiet, that may well simply mean, "Can't talk now, eating!""

The change from daily posts to a few a week, has been... convenient... for my schedule, and even then I'm typically a day or two behind in reading. But they are as appreciated as ever, and more important.

I don't comment as often, or at length, as back in the day, partly because trolls have become boring, and partly because the concepts, and their back story, are more familiar... I no longer need to pull them into the ol' noggin, or to run my fingers textually over them as if reading them in braille. But that doesn't mean it's any less nourishing when you serve them up.

Yum.

And now, done eating, I'm ready to go kick over some trashcans, and other such raccoonish amusements.

:-)

Allena Conrad said...

“For any universe is a connected universe, but "where" is this connectedness? It cannot be seen, only assumed. To be clear: no one has ever seen the universe, and no one ever will. Rather, it is a metaphysical assumption, but not just any old assumption. It can only be understood if we are in the cosmos but not of the cosmos. If we were strictly of the cosmos, we could never know it. And if we are fundamentally out of it, then knowledge of it is superfluous and science is a big waste of time.”

Well, I must say I prefer your metaphysical assumptions to “scientific” facts.

common sense bob said...

Dear Bob,

Here is one vote for you not to shutter the blog.

Once upon a time in India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I listened as an English woman asked a revered yogi, "Do you sleep?" He answered, "if I slept, what would happen to the universe?"--to great hilarity from the Hindus present.

And so I ask, if you shutter the blog, what will happen to the universe?

Wishing you all the best,

bc

BZ said...

Hi Bob. On my new job, I have to adjust to understanding lots of computer network schemas or, different ways to look at them, which got me thinking of schemas in general.

In high school, a pernicious schema was the liberal-left and conservative-right, and the naughty little part of this lie was "way over there on the right, next to the Conservatives, see the Nazis?" The lie seems a sort of Hegelian relativization of political thought.

Though I cannot say I fully understand all the details of your blog to my satisfaction , I have ingested one axis of your schema of Infinite<->Nullity (I don't have your special characters you use), which is a better way of sorting things out beyond right-left, or the horizontal. I am saying your schemata has been a valuable tool.

I would miss your blog, but if you are not inspired, you have a huge backlog I could sift through. You seem inspired when you read a book and post about it; I would like to see your thoughts on any book you read, germane or not to your blog's main theme, as well as a list of books you found worthwhile. There are times I would like to hear your takes on thinkers such as Nietzsche or Kierkegaad or whoever.

I still enjoy reading my fave posts, especially "Meditations on the Tarot".

Happy Trails!

BZ said...

Oh, yeah, lest I forget, thank you also Don Colacho!

Gagdad Bob said...

Mr. ZenGolfer, you have identified the issue:

"a survivor's guide to navigating the liberal world from a conservative perspective," "summarized in an orderly fashion," tying it all together "into a coherent flow."

As I just now mentioned to a couple of concerned citizens, the general idea is to reduce the Whole Mess (or existentialada) to an obnoxious 300 page missile of aphoristic depth charges. But unlike Davila, there needs to be a central organizing principle. Impossible? Probably, but as our leftist friends might say: what does impossibility have to do with it?

Gagdad Bob said...

I've even thought of the first pargraph, although nothing beyond that: Riverrun.

Gagdad Bob said...

Looks like Summa Cosmologica isn't taken. So that's the new working title.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think I may have a last word as well:

O!

julie said...

Perfect! Now all you need to do is fill in the middle. Going with Riverrun, you just need to start at the source and follow to the mouth. Or go the hard way from mouth to source, as the salmon do...

Gagdad Bob said...

This is all very Eckhartian.

"God is a great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop."

"Being is God's circle, and in this circle all creatures exist."

"God's exit is his entrance."

"In my flowing-out I entered creation. In my breakthrough I re-enter God."

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "I think I may have a last word as well:

O!"

LOL!

ted said...

Well Bob, if you're going to present the cosmos with another condensed modern-day parchment as a follow up to your last masterful missive, then you are excused from some weekly riverruns out here.

Tony said...

If you shutter this one, open another. The next blog could be predicated on the insights of this one. You certainly read a lot, so perhaps type out short passages for comment or criticism.

I sure hope you don't depart from the blogosphere entirely!

julie said...

In amidst Vanderleun's links today is a list of 45 things learned in the gulag; lessons one hopes never to have to learn. At the end, though, is this Davilesque gem:

"45: I understood that a writer has to be a foreigner in the questions he is dealing with, and if he knows his material well, he will write in such a way that nobody will understand him."

Daniel T said...

Your blog is indispensable to my truth seeking endeavors, and I must admit I prefer taking it living rather than fossilized. But to echo the above chorus, there's always other directions you could go. Another book? A Coon forum? Keep us in the loop Bob!