Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Irreducible We of The Cosmos

The human vocation is to become in fact what we are in principle. Which is another way of expressing the old wise crack of the early Fathers, to the effect that God becomes man that man might become God.

As we've discussed in the past, religion embodies or incarnates certain metaphysical principles -- certain necessary truths -- often clothed in mythopoetic language. Particularly vivid examples of this occur, for example, in Genesis, vis-a-vis the origins of man and cosmos. (I might add that some of the highest truths are not necessary, hence the need for revelation; moreover, God is a person, not a computer program or system of logical entailment, nor is there a formula for the miraculous.)

In Genesis we learn that man is (the present tense is important), among other things, created in the image of God. Man is the last creation of the Creator, but this particular creature is unlike the others, since he partakes of the essence of the Creator in some mysterious way. (Note also that the final cause is the cause of causes; thus, the appearance of man tells us something critical about everything that has come before, and indeed, the reason for the whole He-bang.)

Please note that the text is rather unsaturated -- which is as it should be, so as to facilitate higher thought -- plus we don't yet know all that much about this Creator of whom we are said to be the image. But interestingly, the text goes out of its way to depict God in the plural: Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.

Since anything other than strict monotheism is ruled out -- not only because of the Jewish context but also because there cannot be two ultimate principles -- this seeming plurality cannot imply polytheism.

Rather, it must mean that ultimate reality is not an I but a We; or, more to the point, there can be no I in the absence of the We. This is certainly true of human beings; in fact, we might say that it is quintessentially true, in that an isolated human being, cut off from intimate communion with others, is literally inconceivable.

And we do mean literally. In fact, if you wanted to create a hell and populate it with monsters, that would be the way to do it: to create a bunch of radical monads with no intersubjective links to one another. In that case, sociopathy would be the norm rather than the exception. (The proclamation of our autonomy is the founding act of Hell. --NGD)

To say that man is in the image of the Creator is another way of saying that the manifestation is in the image of the Principle.

That being the case, real knowledge of this particular manifestation -- i.e., man -- should yield knowledge of ultimate reality. Bear in mind that we are not yet referring to any particular intellectual content, but rather, to the mere presence of man as such, to the container.

This is something I attempted to convey in the book -- that if we take a truly disinterested view, man is without question the most astonishing fact of the cosmos. Frankly, nothing else comes close, for whatever else we can think of is obviously being thought of by a human being. The soul is all it knows, and there is nothing in existence that cannot in principle be known by man (for to exist is to be intelligible).

The point is, if a human being is at bottom an irreducible We, then -- if the metaphysics of Genesis is correct -- then ultimate reality -- or whatever you wish to call it -- must also be a We.

Naturally, aphorisms come to mind, for there is more than one for every important occasion, i.e., for every transcendent fact or principle:

God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.

The existence of God is indemonstrable, because with a person the only thing we can do is bump into him.

If we believe in God we should not say, “I believe in God,” but rather, “God believes in me.”

If God were not a person, He would have died some time ago.

For God there are only individuals.

For the Christian, history does not have a direction, but rather a center.

You might say that man is the center of the microcosm, so long as we don't forget that this microcosm is at the periphery of the infinitely larger divine macrocosm. Also, the microcosm is necessarily deployed in time; where the macrocosm is a timeless plenum, it is as if the microcosm is a temporal plenitude. Thus, "History is less the evolution of humanity than the unfolding of facets of human nature" (NGD).

Although the I surely exists, it must be posterior to the We. In fact, you can't really get from the I to the We, not in the human sense of the term. For example, there is no We in a pile of rocks, even though they are "together." Which is probably what Dávila is alluding to when he says Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion: no we no I no God.

And yet, on another level, there is a We in that pile of rocks. We call this We being. Obviously, anything that exists has at the very least this ontological substrate of We-dom, which is again why it is knowable, precisely. Anything that is knowable -- i.e., anything that exists -- possesses, or rather, "radiates," potential knowability to a subject.

Thus, to exist is to exist in and for -- at least in potential -- an Other. Put simply, there is no intelligence in the absence of intelligibility, the latter a kind of "giving over" from inhere to in here.

Our own existence isn't "potentiated," so to speak, unless and until it is seen and confirmed by the Other, or more precisely, the m-other (either real or symbolic, but really always both). We come into being in the infinite space between infantile neurology and this nurturing other. Only after the We is established do we discover the I. Otherwise, it's just not safe to come out.

Of course, results may vary, depending upon the quality of nurturing. For some, the We is so maimed by the exigencies of infancy -- abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc. -- that a secure and stable I fails to emerge, and this enfeebled I compulsively seeks communion in a pathological We (or in an isolated, schizoid I).

Even here -- i.e., in psychopathology -- the creature seeks out its creator, only in this case, it is a strange demigod of the nursery, i.e., an exteriorized and projected mind parasite.

Now, how would one characterize the nature of a healthy We? Well, for starters, we would say that it is imbued with Love. True, but that's insufficient to describe the phenomenology of what occurs. That is to say, there is a "flowing presence" that is somehow generated by the We, and yet, contains its two terms. Love is the act that transforms its object from a thing into a person; it is the organ with which we perceive the unmistakable individuality of beings (NGD).

The "healthy We" is also characterized by knowledge, beauty, and creativity. For example, recall what was said above, about how anything that exists is intelligible "for" a subject. Thus, to know a truth -- any truth -- is to commune with reality in an intimate manner. For you can't get more intimate than reality giving itself to your head in this manner.

Likewise beauty, where the connection is even more obvious and intimate. For to be touched by beauty is, well, to be touched, isn't it?

And creativity clearly results from a happy and productive internal couple working in harmony. Take what I'm doing at the moment. I don't assume you're having the same experience I am, but this thing I'm creating is very much emerging in the space between me and -- and what?

I don't think we need to define it, but it is clearly a close encounter of some kind, a We, which is a common experience in any form of creativity. "How'd you write that song?" "I don't know. It was just given to me, I guess." Something like that.

Further confirmation of our metaphysical we-dom is found in Proverbs, for example,

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the depths were broken up....

When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep..., then I was beside him, as a master craftsman; and I was his daily delight.

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you....

Say to wisdom, "You are my sister."

They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge.... they shall eat the fruit of their own way and be filled to the full with their own fancies.

And all those who hate me love death.

10 comments:

julie said...

In fact, if you wanted to create a hell and populate it with monsters, that would be the way to do it: to create a bunch of radical monads with no intersubjective links to one another.

And what better way to bring about hell on earth than to abolish the family?

Interesting that in this mindset, capitalism = family. Hm...

julie said...

then I was beside him, as a master craftsman; and I was his daily delight.

This lovely image takes on an added dimension when we become parents, and find ourselves continually surprised by the creativity of our children. They are indeed a daily delight.

Not liberal said...

I don't stop in so often. I am a simple man with simple expressions of my faith but your wisdom is full of life. I know you are touched by the Light of the World.

Gagdad Bob said...

A simple man with simple expressions of faith. Lucky bastard.

Van Harvey said...

"Thus, to exist is to exist in and for -- at least in potential -- an Other. Put simply, there is no intelligence in the absence of intelligibility, the latter a kind of "giving over" from inhere to in here."

Kind of goes with,

"Say to wisdom, "You are my sister."

They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge.... they shall eat the fruit of their own way and be filled to the full with their own fancies.

And all those who hate me love death."

A man identifying as a woman, or as one or more of the Heinz 57 Genders, sounds like a description of what it must be like to "...be filled to the full with their own fancies...", and what could such a 'one' luv but death?

Daniel T said...

Great post as usual, Bob. Are you familiar with Jim Slagle? I just came across this Youtube interview he did which touches determinism/materialism and more. At a few points he makes some very coon-ish statements, particularly re mind coming first, before matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou_25j2v0po

Anonymous said...

So our god-artist has made this version of his universe one of the free will ones.

Just as colliding galaxies don’t cause much damage until the supermassive black holes merge, colliding humans don’t cause much damage until the supermassive brains merge.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy is a dynamic far more powerful than conservatism, communism, or Milton Friedmans little profit aphorism. And it seems to be proving to be more powerful than Christianity as well. I was hoping that divine inspiration would cause conservative Christians to know better.

The atheist Chinese are currently better at managing the energies behind mixed economies than America is. America has been there before. After all, we taught the Chinese how it’s done.

(in my attempt to paraphrase our very own Julie) This too shall pass since all good things inevitably become corrupted. The Chinese economic miracle will devolve into a self serving elite sociopathy just like it is in America, where most currently mandated laws and enforcements are benefiting the few at the expense of the many. Hopefully those people won’t revolt to demand libertarianism.

Corporate propagandists and their dogmatic ideologues and are stalling our own American process of renewal (not to socialism, but the more functional capitalism, as it once was). With so much tribal misdirection there is little political will to enforce the last half of Milton Friedmans profit doctrine. This is making Christian apologetics more difficult. Hopefully our own people won’t revolt to demand socialism.

But it would be amusing if China and America flip-flopped sides.

ted said...

Bob: Ever read Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos? I just came across it, and it's brilliantly hilarious. Very JR Dobbs-like.

Gagdad Bob said...

I have it but I haven't yet read it. I may have devalued it because I got it for 50¢ at a library sale.

Anonymous said...

Has China officially embraced freedom, capitalism and Christianity?

Decide for yourself:
https://palladiummag.com/2019/05/31/xi-jinping-in-translation-chinas-guiding-ideology/

So why are we still giving away our jobs and technology? Surely, Jesus has a plan.