Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Space, Time, Matter, Desire, and Other Unavoidable Nuisances

 I like this passage: according to Schuon, exoterism 

is comparable to a skylight, which gives the sky a certain form, round or square perhaps; through this the view of the sky is fragmentary, though it certainly does not prevent the sky from filling the room with light and life. 

A reminder, I suppose, that humanly speaking there is no such thing as a "view from nowhere": a view is a perspective, and a perspective partakes of subjectivity. 

One of the metaphysical blunders of scientism -- or of any ism, for that matter -- is the supposition that it is a uniquely privileged view from nowhere, when its view is very much from somewhere and someone. Every Ism pretends it is a disinterested and universal view from nowhere, when it is not only particular, but often particularly crazy (cf. Marx, Freud, Dawkins, >insert irritating ideologue< here, yada yada).

At the very least, an ideological view is always from (in order) a contingent creature, from Homo sapiens, from an individual, and from a quite possibly nutty individual to boot. History is strewn with the wreckage of discarded perspectives that were eventually shown to be as unhinged as the NY Times editorial page.

Now, there is actually a view from nowhere, and this is the Godseye perspective. Obviously we cannot see from this perspective -- only God can -- but we can know of its existence, since it is none other than Necessary Existence.  

To say contingent is to say necessary, and this antinomy reveals quite a bit about ourselves and our dodgy situation. First, we are creatures and therefore not Creator -- or contingent and therefore not necessary, accident and therefore not substance, temporal and therefore not eternal, etc.

Second, we are human beings and therefore not beings below (e.g., mammals, reptiles, progressives, etc), nor Being As Such. 

And yet, we are uniquely ordered to Being, or in other words, the object of the intellect is That Which Is. This latter is Necessary Being, so while we aren't God, we're in a pretty sweet situation, cosmically speaking. 

Third, I am I and so are you (!?), which means that, in addition to sharing our biological humanness, we share something deeper than this, a mysterious right to say I AM without impinging on anyone else's right to say the same thing. 

The weirdness of this is insufficiently appreciated by pretty much everyone I meet on a day-to-day basis, hence the blog. The blog is a "cry for help" -- or perhaps a try to help. No, come to think of it, it's a good old American mutual assistance society. Every man is his own species, but the folks who realize this form their own meta-species, or herd of individuals.

For real, man! No joke! And the implications are truly cosmic.

Let's complete our quaternity of unavoidable perspectives by dragging up an old post from a few years back:

Lastly, there are human differences that are indeed contingent and not essential or providential. These include negative things such as mind parasites that result from the exigencies of genes and childhood environment, but also the accidental aspects of culture, language, and history. In order to exist at all, we must surely exist in a particular time and a particular place.

Elsewhere Schuon summarizes the accidents of existence as world, life, body, and soul; or more abstractly, "space, time, matter, desire." Cosmos, bios, soma, psyche. 

The purpose of metaphysics is to get beneath these accidents, precisely, and hence to a realm of true objectivity and therefore perennial truth (even though, at the same time, existence, life, and especially intelligence represent a continuous reminder, or breakthrough, of the miraculous). 

So anyway, back to the Skylight mentioned at the top. Now, the best skylight is nevertheless distinct from the Light flowing through it -- and is indeed its raison d'être -- which brings to mind another old post from way back last Saturday. 

In it we were not speculating about the preposterous gnotion of this Light actually joining us down here in history -- or in other words, the one-and-only View From Nowhere becoming a particular someone somewhere. This is without a doubt the weirdest idea we can imagine, if not weirder. 

From the new translation of John we've been reading:

"Isn't this fellow Jesus, the son of Joseph?" they were saying, "Don't we know his father and his mother? How is it that now he is saying, 'I have descended from heaven?'"

"This is offensive language. Who can stand to listen to it?"

What, you are from Galilee as well?!" they said to him in reply. "Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."

The more ancient of the two old posts continues:

So, Incarnation solves all of these "problems." In short, the Creator, via Incarnation, takes on world, life, body, and soul; or space, time, matter, and desire.

"The truth is that God is drawn to us by love, that He has forcefully thrown in His lot with us, to the point of becoming one of us" (Reardon).

That post ends with this passage from a book called Reclaiming the Atonement, Volume 1: The Incarnate Word, by Patrick Reardon: 

The moment of the Incarnation was not static.... [for] to be a living human being is not a static thing. A human being -- any human being -- is a work in progress.... Strictly speaking, therefore, the doctrine of the Incarnation does not refer simply to a human state, but to a full human life.... [God makes] himself a subjective participant in human history, someone whose existence and experience were circumscribed by the limiting conditions of time and space.

Which seems like a good place to end. Again. 


John Venlet said...

...so while we aren't God, we're in a pretty sweet situation,...

True, and often we forget how true it is.

This is without a doubt the weirdest idea we can imagine, if not weirder.

Though The Incarnation may seem an exceptionally weird idea to us, possibly resulting from our mere human intelligence/thinking that we are searching for God, in fact, in The Incarnation, God walked right in on us triumphantly and full of love. We have no need to search for God, we must only allow him to renew our minds. Just ask Him to help.

julie said...

When I was young and more or less lost, I went to a youth summer camp where at the end of the week, kids were standing up and testifying about how they had found Jesus. I said the opposite - which was perfectly true, as I certainly hadn't at the time been looking for Jesus, that rather, He had found me.

Eventually, I wandered off again for a dark while, but even more eventually, He called me back. And yes, the whole thing has been extremely weird, indeed.

julie said...

Although I suppose the truly weirdest thing about it all is that so many contingent people either have no idea about their creator, or they actively, passionately hate him.

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of time, space, desire, and particularity -- true story -- no joke -- the very next passage I read after writing this post quotes Newman on the subject of Christ's mercy, of "its dependence on time and place, person and circumstance."

It regards and consults for each individual as he comes before it. It is called forth by some as it is not by others, it cannot manifest itself to every object alike; it has its particular shade and mode of feeling for each; and on some men it so bestows itself, as if He depended for His own happiness on their well-being."


ted said...

Bob, I love that Newman quote!

On another matter, RIP Norm MacDonald. He was one of my favorite comedians, but what a lot of people don't know is he was a deep thinker and was devout in his faith in God.

julie said...



Reminds me of how I ended up here way back when, on my way in from the dark. I wanted to understand the Trinity, partly due to a random comment by an old "Wiccan" friend who said she believed in the Trinity. Along with whatever Wiccan stuff she believed. (Insert side-eye puppet meme) At the time it just so happened you were posting about the Trinitarian nature of the cosmos. Which never gets any less weird or less interesting, so...

@Ted, sad news about Norm MacDonald. He really did seem like one of the good ones. RIS, Norm.

Gagdad Bob said...

Ace of Spades has a bunch of links to Norm MacDonald videos. One less actually funny person in the world, but a surplus of comedians.

Gagdad Bob said...

Brilliant joke teller -- has anyone ever heard the one about the moth? It must be 15 minutes long. Who else could hold your attention for that long while waiting for the punch line?

Gagdad Bob said...

Correction: four and a half minutes. Still, who goes on that long before the punch line?

julie said...

Ha - that was great. I like when Conan breaks in and says, "How long of a drive was this?"

Considering LA traffic, it's not the distance, it's the extended rush hours.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed the cover of bobs book is the polar configuration and the divine counsel. The unconscious has such irony built in.

Divine Counsel

Full Explanation

--Just some dumb anonamouse.

julie said...

Shifting gears, I read this via Ace's ONT and made the same face as the friar in the sidebar:

"Science and religion have often been at odds. But if we remove the theology—views about the nature of God, the creation of the universe, and the like—from the day-to-day practice of religious faith, the animosity in the debate evaporates."

Oh, so science and religion are a perfect fit if you just take all that God nonsense. Then you can use all those useful religious techniques to manipulate people into doing whatever you want them to!

Just, wow. Also, what planet has he been on? The left has been doing this for over a century.

julie said...

Speaking of scientists who think they are gods, now there's a plan to cool the earth by making clouds whiter. What could possib-lie go wrong?