Saturday, February 15, 2020

The World Wide Cosmic Web

1. The unrestricted scope of the mind toward being; 2. Existence as the act of presence (and God as the act of being itself); 3. Participation and interiority; and now our fourth theme, Action.

By which Clarke means a kind of endlessly communicative universe in which the parts "pour over into self-expression and self-communication with each other." We've discussed this in many posts of yore, but the only reason a "part" can exist is because it constitutes its own "whole" in miniature.

For example, how can we look at a tree or dog or star, and instantly recognize its wholeness? I think because any recognizable thing partakes of the very wholeness that characterizes the cosmos itself. No one ever has or ever will perceive the cosmos -- obviously -- and yet, we all intuit its oneness, wholeness, and uniformity across space and time. Nah, it's stronger than "intuit," since the wholeness cannot not be.

In order to be a whole, the cosmos must be in contact with itself -- whole to part, part to whole, and part to part. And indeed, according to trinitarian metaphysics, even the whole is in communication with itself, without descending into partness! Rather, the trans-whole is a single substance of three eternally related and expressive persons.

At the bottom of the page I have a note to myself: "Does Jesus not bring a certain correction to the Jewish conception of God?" To say "correction" is to prejudge the case, but he certainly respects the radical oneness of the Jewish God while tweaking it in a wholly unexpected and seemingly paradoxical manner.

Chesterton wrote of how the former (oneness) was a prerequisite for the latter (threesomeness), in that the pagan cosmos had first to be cleansed of polytheism in order to properly approach the Trinity.

In other words, if the Trinity had been introduced in an extra-Jewish context, pagans would have undoubtedly understood it as tritheism rather than a deeper elaboration of strict monotheism. Moreover, they would have no doubt used it to explain how Jewish monotheism is all wrong.

Back to Clarke. As we've suggested on many occasions, going all the way back to the urtext itself, there is a big difference between a pile and a unity. We can recognize a pile of laundry as "one thing," and yet, it's really just a bunch of externally related but contiguous articles.

In contrast, a real unity -- such as an organism -- consists of internally related parts. My heart and lungs, for example, aren't analogous to billiard balls, but share a higher unity of relation and function. Thus, without this communicative interiority,

all we would have would be a collection of isolated beings, each a center of existential energy similar to all others, but totally bound up within itself, with no connection or communication with others, and hence no way of knowing them.

Each being would be plunged in total silence and darkness as far as the rest of the universe is concerned, a total "black whole," so to speak, except that it would not even exert any gravitational pull on the rest, as black holes do in our world.

Clarke's description is slightly misleading, in that there is literally nothing that could be said of any reality that weren't grounded in self-communicative interiority. There would be no "collection," no "beings," no "centers," no cosmos at all and no knowledge in, of, beyond, or before it; no darkness, light, isolation, unity -- just an inconceivable nothingness. You could say that this is either one cosmos under God or no cosmos under nothing. It's that stark a choice: God or tenure.

The vertical oneness of reality

enables beings to come out of their isolation, connect with each other, influence each other, and communicate with each other.... [It] truly allows there to be a universe, that is, a turning of all towards oneness, togetherness.

When anytwo are gethered in his name, there are -- boo! -- three. And this calls to mind a slightly cryptic aphorism: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion.

Get it? So simple and yet so fundamental. If not for this everyday miracle, we'd not only have no God, we'd have nothing (and no we to have it).

The Sovereign Good, because it is good, is radically self-diffusive, self-giving, and self-communicative. It is at bottom a radiant gift, so to speak. After all, it is free. And it does shine. And so do we. John Lennon was on to something:

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void / It is shining, it is shining

That you may see the meaning of within / It is being, it is being

That love is all and love is everyone / It is knowing, it is knowing

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Come Together Over Me Under I AM

We're up to number three of Clarke's six main themes of metaphysical reflection, participation, by which he means "the basic ontological structure of sharing in the universe." Each thing is participating in the All, as part is to whole; or, as Whitehead put it,

We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from an environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature.

No can be. Metaphysically speaking. Indeed,

Science is taking on a new aspect which is neither purely physical, nor purely biological. It is becoming the study of organisms. Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.

To which I would add -- not in any woo woo way, but literally -- the cosmos is the largest organism. And yet, it cannot be ultimate, because organicism is a function of personhood, not vice versa. We'll no doubt come back this principle, if not in this post, then in themes four, five, or six. But "participation" already hints at personhood, since it is an entailment of persons, and persons are by definition irreducibly intersubjective.

Whitehead blows up both biology and physics, at least the orthodox but incoherent view that ether subordinates the former to the latter, or that places a sharp line between them. For, example, the doctrine of evolution "cries aloud for a conception of organism as fundamental for nature." In other words, if organism is fundamental and not just epiphenomenal, then neither biology nor physics are what we (they) think they are.

Can't get more participatory than this: "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world" (ibid.).

By the way, I don't bring in Whitehead as some kind of appeal to authority. Rather, to common sense.

I suppose we could say that human beings are woven of the limitless and limited; or finitude and infinitude; or absolute and relative. Or, we could say that humans have the privilege of being finite and yet conformed to the infinite, which is what makes knowledge of totality possible but totality of knowledge impossible.

As Clarke describes it, "the immanent One in many is also a many from a transcendent One." This is a key, because what is knowledge -- of anything -- but a kind of participatory oneness-to-oneness in Oneness?

Is that obscure enough for you? If so, put it this way: knowledge of anything presupposes the existence of that single thing under investigation. But the investigation presupposes a single mind capable of knowing this one thing it has selected or abstracted from the whole. And the unification of these two -- intelligible object and intelligent subject -- presupposes a higher unity that is the source of these two, i.e., the unity of the object (that which makes it one) and the unicity (i.e., interior oneness) of the subject.

If things weren't structured in this way, then 1 + 1 would always = a pair of ones instead of a synthetic twoness, to say nothing of transcendent threeness (and all genuine creativity participates in a generative threeness).

The following sounds very much like Whitehead, and not just because it's a run-on sentence. The participatory cosmos

must be seen as a synoptic vision of the universe, in which all beings, from the lowest to the highest, come together to form a single great community, where each holds the common identification card of the act of existence, or active presence, plus its own individual signature as a distinct member of this ultimate club of real being, where everything has secret affinities with everything else from highest to lowest, where nothing real can ever be objectively alienated in any ultimate way (Clarke).

In short, "To be is to be together." And in the end, "psyche mirrors nature and nature mirrors psyche, each in its own way" (ibid.). This isn't a metaphor; rather it is why we have metaphor, or even language itself.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

It's All Too Much

For me, anyway. The more I learn, the less I know. At this rate, we'll know nothing by the end of this post, if not before.

Number two of Clarke's six main themes of metaphysical reflection is existence as the act of presence. This involves a shift of perspective from the Whatness of things to their sheer Isnsess; from the form of existents to existence itself,

seen as the radical underlying act of presence in each real being by which all beings are real -- i.e., actually present in the universe and actively present to all other beings.

This is the most general category we may conceive, surpassed only by the God whom we can never conceive; I like to think of God the Father as Beyond-Being, and Being as eternally conceived and begotten in his matrix/womb. I'm not saying this is correct, only that it helps me to think the unthinkable. Ignore the names and just think of an eternally generative perichoretical dance between....

Come to think of it, this gnotion can be fruitfully applied to any number of ultimate categories, from Beyond-Being <--> Being on down, e.g., eternity/time, whole/part, absolute/relative, personal/interpersonal, wave/particle, subject/object, etc. We can never finally come down on one side or the other without either denying half of reality, or illicitly smuggling properties of one complementarity into the other.

For example, you can't just eliminate truth or free will from the cosmos and then proceed as if nothing has happened. Because if there is no truth or freedom, there is no thinking, period. Conversely, if you are actually thinking, and your thoughts are conformed to reality -- i.e., disclose truth -- this alone implies a great deal, to put it mildly.

Truth and Presence. Can't have one without the other: for

the Absolute is either Truth or Presence, but it is not one or the other in an exclusive fashion, for as Truth It comprises Presence, and as Presence It comprises Truth.

Such is the twofold nature of all theophanies; thus Christ is essentially a manifestation of Divine Presence, but he is thereby also Truth: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No one enters into the saving proximity of the Absolute except through a manifestation of the Absolute, be it a priori Presence or Truth (Schuon).

In other words, we must know the truth, and the truth shall se us free, not as a horizontal "consequence" but because these are two sides of the same coin-cidence. Truth coincides with freedom and presence; not to mention love and beauty.

But let's not put words or thoughts into Clarke's mouth or head. What does he say?

The principle of existence is not a form or structure in things, a "what," but rather an inner dynamic act of presence that makes all forms of structures actually present as diverse modes of the radical "energy" of existence.

In short: existence is an inner dynamic Act of Presence.

It's difficult to put these things into words without sounding like one is high, or even Heidegger. But there it is, right here and right now: an interior dynamism presently acting as active presence of interiority-truth-freedom. Or something. Let's try to find some clarity here. We are fumbling around in the dark, but let us grope for the damn light switch!


every real being, in virtue of its in-dwelling act of existence, has the power to express itself, relate itself to the rest of the universe, communicate its own existential energy to other beings.

In other words, because the existence of the Cosmos is an Act of Presence, it is present before us as precisely that communicative Act. If this weren't the case, then the created world wouldn't speak to us so coherently and intelligibly, and to the extent that we "understood" it, we would be understanding nothing.

Bob, you are really on a roll this morning -- a roll of obscurity. You sound positively tenured. Another stab? I guess we're not alone:

this deep-lying act of existence at the core of every being, as the ultimate bond of union between all real things, does not come easily to a common-sense vision of the world, more concerned with what things are and how they act than that they are.

Mere common sense must be supplemented with uncommon nonsense. This requires a kind of "metaphysical conversion." I would say we must be born again, or undergo a metanoia, a "turning around" from existence to being; we have to get out of the tired rutness of Whatness and into the spirited business of Isness.

This latter is truly the business of God, or of God's first business: first and foremost he is busy with Isness.

Clarke quotes Shelley, who said that The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being. Note the irony: clarity can impose its own special kind of fog, which is surely the case vis-a-vis any ideology, from Marxism to Darwinism to atheism and All the Rest.

Indeed, there is a power of negative thinking, or better, a complementarity between apophatic (+) and cataphatic (-) theologies. Can't get more mainstream than Thomas Aquinas, whose "anti-doctrine" of God

never tells us what God is, only what God is not. His entire approach is to undermine all our idolatrous attempts to turn God into something understandable or controllable....

Well, if that's the way he feels about it, I'll just shut-up.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

The Marriage of Mind and Being

We're in the process of reviewing the six main themes that dominated Clarke's seven decades or so (he died at age 93 in 2008) of metaphysical reflection -- themes "that are central in my philosophical vision of the universe." These are irreducible, in that he couldn't boil them down any further without losing something vital.

Oh, and the reasons we're doing this are purely narcissistic, in that his whole approach is so similar to mine, even though mine has been going on for, I don't know, three and a half decades, but I didn't run into Clarke until -- let's make it official -- until May 30,2012. Which means that he plundered my ideas for over half a century before I even had the opportunity to think them. If this isn't a temporal injustice, I don't know what is.

The first theme, discussed in the previous post, is The Unrestricted Dynamism of the Mind Toward Being. Let's say a few more things about this before moving on the the second.

One thing that sets the human mind apart from the animal is our natural drive "to lay hold of intellectually and understand as far as possible the entire order of being, all there is to know about all there is" (Clarke).

More more more: this drive applies to "the entire life of inquiry of the human mind in any field," even though it is only properly realized in metaphysics (to which I would add the theology without which it can never be complete).

For example, consider my racket, psychology. As I've discussed before, I never intended to become a "psychologist." Rather, my curiosity simply got the better of me. But being crowned with a PhD hardly extinguished my curiosity! If that were the case, I'd be a poor excuse for a human being, let alone psychologist.

For a psychologist who is only a psychologist isn't even that. Which I mean 100% literally. If you fail to situate psychology in a hierarchical nest of diverse disciplines, you're just an ideologue, and your ideology is simply the disease that has killed your curiosity -- which is properly unlimited by anything short of God.

And even then, God can never be a human limit, since he is the Limitless, precisely. He is the sufficient reason of our own unlimited curiosity, which is the whole point of this first theme: "Mind is for being, and reciprocally being is for mind":

This absolutely fundamental mutual correlation of mind and being, mind for being and being for mind [is] a "nuptial relation," a natural marriage made in heaven, so to speak, where each partner completes the other (ibid.).

Yes, exactly. Not to get all political right away, but notice that ideology always results from an unnatural (or perhaps merely natural) redefinition of cosmic marriage, such that knowing can only be betrothed to knowing rather than being.

Is this clear? Kant presided over the official divorce of knowledge from being, and this was no amicable parting of the whys, since knowledge constantly stalks being while pretending to abide by its own self-imposed restraining order limiting it to visiting rights with childish phenomena. The noumena is supposed to be off limits.

Moreover, the marriage of knowing and knowing -- like the deconstructionist's marriage of language to language -- is literally a homotextual union. For

notice the appropriate roles in this marriage [of knowing to being]: the human mind is analogously like the female, or mother; reality is like the father. To know truly a reality that it has not itself made [i.e., the infertile union of knowledge with knowledge], the mind must make itself open to receive this reality, to be actively informed by it.

The mind, informed by realty, then actively responds, pours its own spiritual life into what it receives, gestates, then gives birth to the mental "word" or concept, which in turn flows over into the verbal word expressed to others.

Like right now. This is a family blog, so I don't want the be too graphic, but we symbolize the openness (o), and the reality to which it is open (↓). There is the even deeper mystery of (↓) proceeding from the womb of O, but we'll return to that later. Suffice it to say that Ultimate Reality is an eternal complementarity -- a relation -- of Father <---> Mother, of giving, receiving and giving back.

Not to be-labor the pain, but a con-cept is a con-ception. And guess what. Now that I'm plummeting down this rabbit hole, this notion was first born in me way back in 1985, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Clarke or even religion. Rather, the following -- written by a psychoanalyst -- rang a deep bell:

"Conception is that which results when a pre-conception mates with the appropriate sense impressions" (Bion). There is an inherent expectation of a union of two objects to make a third which is more than a sum of its two parts (Hinshelwood).

The interior union -- of preconception or archetype with reality -- gives birth to the baby concept. Of course it never ends there, because the concept then becomes preconception for a new generation of concepts. This is how science -- or any discipline -- proceeds.

But if it's just knowledge giving birth to more knowledge -- but with no intimate contact with father reality -- then it is again completely sterile. Indeed, this is what it means to be an Infertile Egghead, a subject about which I am reading at this very moment.

Well, I guess the second theme will have to wait until Tuesday. We'll leave off with this:

to know is for the mind to conceive and give birth to an inner mental word expressing the real that has informed it, and bearing the features of both parents -- reality and the mind. Thus theoretical intelligence (knowing the world as it already is) is more like a she; practical intelligence, on the other hand... is more like a he... (Clarke).

However, please bear in mind that these categories aren't naive and primitive psychological projections of human gender; rather, the reverse: we are gendered because reality is.