Come to think of it, this is probably something I should do more often. I'm starting to think that all the good posts have already been written, and that I'm now just repeating myself. It's as if the new stuff is old but the old stuff is new, since I don't recall writing it; no doubt I was in my right mind at the time. And since none of it has been properly edited, I can finally get around to it. But there are also some new things sprinkled in.
The mystery of time. When I say "mystery," I mean it in a particular way. First, it is a distinct mode of understanding through which we may know an absent presence and present absence. In other words, mystery has an epistemological sense and an ontological sense; it is both a form of knowing and a form of being.
God, for example, is encountered through, or in, mystery. The more you heighten your sense of mystery, the more you are open to the transcendent. In my book, I symbolize this open be-attitude as (o).
But there is also the implicit ontological sense of the term. As I have mentioned before, I have long suspected that the various fundamental mysteries that confront man are somehow interconnected; you might say that they are diverse manifestations of O.
What I mean is that there are certain things that are fundamentally beyond the horizon of knowability -- at least in the profane or rationalistic sense. No amount of cogitation will ever resolve these riddles, which include Time, Life, People, Self, Liberty, Reason, O, and other magazines.
My apologies. That was a gag that couldn't help writing itself.
No joke: these mysteries include Time (in all its modes, but especially the Now), Consciousness, Life, Freedom, and Being (this last being our little window into eternity that can truly say -- and share in -- I AM).
In the past I have used the analogy of a three-dimensional hand passing through a two-dimensional plane. As the fingers break through the plane, they will initially appear as one, then two, eventually five, circles. But then the circles will blend together and become one at the wrist.
Think about the "place" where three dimensions appear as two. Is there such a place? Humanly speaking, it must be where free will takes place, not to mention the passage of time, which cannot be perceived absent a stationary or timeless "point." For example, prior to making a choice, we are confronted with a multitude of possibilities. Making the choice collapses the multidimensional field.
It reminds me of No Country For Old Men, which I recently read. Recall the scene in the gas station, where the proprietor's fate hinges on a coin flip. "I don't know what it is I stand to win." "You stand to win everything. Everything."
Nothing or everything, based on a coin toss. I think McCarthy is trying to say, That's Life. In fact, Chigurh says something in the book that isn't in the film:
Anything can be an instrument.... Small things. Things you wouldn't even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People dont pay attention. And then one day there's an accounting. And after that nothing is the same. Well, you say. It's just a coin. For instance. Nothing special there. What could that be an instrument of? You see the problem. To separate the act from the thing. As if the parts of some moment in history might be interchangeable with the parts of some other moment. How could that be? Well, it's just a coin. Yes. That's true. Is it?
So, you never really know when Everything is on the line, or what may by its instrument. Maybe it always is on the line -- or at least we ought to act as if it always is. We never really know what's coming. We can only pretend to know, which gets back to Hayek and the epistemological problem: we just don't know what we cannot know, and yet, we must choose.
With the gas station proprietor a coin is the instrument. With Moss, it's the leather document case filled with cash:
He sat there looking at it and then closed the flap with his head down. His whole life was sitting there in front of him. Day after day from dawn till dark until he was dead. All of it cooked down into forty pounds of paper in a satchel.
What does he do? He sees two lives before him, one already over, the other full of possibilities. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't even be right. Just call it!
He latched the case and fastened the straps and buckled them and rose and shouldered the rifle and then picked up the case and machinepistol and took his bearings by his shadow and set out.
Now, that is a provocative line: He took his bearings by his shadow. I could spend the rest of the post on that one, but I think I'll move on. Judas comes to mind. All this, for thirty pieces of silver!
Back to the subject of transition from one dimension to another... not that we ever left it. This is also the only "place" where the I AM could be. On one side, you might say, is the Dreamer who dreams the dream, on the other the dream-ee who recalls it. But life is a tapestry of Dreamer and Dream-ee, isn't it? Everything opens out to the infinite on one end, and the finite on the other. Subject and object.
I think on the Subject side is "religion as such," while on the object side is such-and-such a religion. Schuon writes that the perennial philosophy or religion
is quite evidently inexhaustible and has no natural limits.... As it is impossible to exhaust all that lends itself to being expressed, and as repetition in metaphysical matters cannot be a mistake -- it being better to be too clear than not clear enough -- we believe that we could return to our usual theses, either to offer things we have not yet said, or to explain in a usefully new way things we have said before.
So if this post is tediously repetitive, that's my excuse.
Later Schuon expands upon this in a useful way:
It is indispensable to know at the outset that there are truths inherent in the human spirit that are as if buried in the 'depths of the heart,' which means that they are contained as potentialities or virtualities in the pure Intellect: these are the principial or archetypal truths, those which prefigure and determine all others....
The intelligence of animals is partial, that of man is total; and this totality is explained only by a transcendent reality to which the intelligence is proportioned. Thus, the decisive error of materialism and of agnosticism is to be blind to the fact that material things and the common experiences of our life are immensely beneath the scope of our intelligence.... without the Absolute, the capacity of our conceiving it would have no cause.
As we've said before, profane thinking, or (k), can only arrive at O in the exterior sense; it can conceive it, but being in it is a different matter. Real ontonoetic thinking is a declension from O, i.e., that "transcendent reality to which the intelligence is proportioned."
Now, if we were fully "in O," then time stops and we simply enjoy the divine Slack. There is duration, but no time per se. Augustine talks about being "taken up into heaven"; likewise, one thinks of Plotinus and so many other mystics down through the ages. Or, as reader Johan reminds us, it is like when Homer talks about the paradox of the beer being "in us," that we may be "in the beer."
Is any of this actually helpful or even interesting or at least amusing to anyone? Or am I deluding myself? I honestly don't know. Well, amusing, maybe, in a weird kind of way.