Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Spherical Jumps and Circular Chumps

Two big assumption, 1) that this is a cosmos, i.e., a structured and self-consistent whole, and 2) that it is closed and self-sufficient as opposed to being open to another reality which entails and acts upon it.

As to the first, no one has ever seen the cosmos or ever will see it. Rather, it is an abstraction that follows from the Christian idea of a rational Creator. While it is true, science could never prove it is true, rather, can only assume it to be true.

As to the second, the cosmos is either open or closed. But if it is closed, this leads to a host of absurdities, including the strict impossibility of knowing it is closed. For knowledge of the material cosmos presupposes an immaterial transcendence of it.

By way of analogy, suppose you live in two-dimensional Flatland. First, how would you know that all of reality is a consistent two-dimensional plane? 

Second, how would you ever know whether Flatland is closed and self-sufficient, or whether it is in contact with a third dimension? Note also that the third dimension doesn’t have to move in order to be in constant contact with the lower two. A single sphere incorporates an infinite number of circles without ever changing.

Of course we live in a 3D world, 4D if we throw in time. But even then, although we are in 4D, we cannot be of 4D, or we couldn’t be having this conversation. 

Rather, we are open to higher dimensions, although not in a perfectly clear manner, for the very reason that we are still very much in those lower ones. We're not animals, but nor are we angels either.

There was a time when the notion of a thoroughly rational cosmos had to be taken on faith. Nowadays it is such a background assumption that people forget about the daring leap of faith this required at the outset of the scientific revolution. There are still a lot of places where occasionalism prevails, as in the Muslim world, or where nothing is permanent, as in Buddhism. 

Perhaps someday people will speak of those daring Raccoons who first poked their heads above the rationalistic matrix of 4D scientism and began colonizing hyperspace. But this has been going on for a long time, and we’d be nowhere without those countless pioneers. It’s a never-ending task, but what fun!

For some reason I was rereading Kallistos Ware’s classic The Orthodox Way yesterday, perhaps in anticipation of this post. It begins with a passage by a Fr. Georges Florovsky: "The Church gives us not a system, but a key.” Oh? A key to what? 

Well, first of all, it’s a key, not to be confused with the world opened up by the key -- any more than we should confuse eyeglasses with what they permit us to see through them. Also, it’s a contact sport, so you can’t be an armchair metaphysician or Sunday morning theologian:
No one can be a Christian at second hand. God has children but he has no grandchildren (Ware).
I would say that this is for the same reason why the sphere is always present to the circle without having to posit a Grandsphere or Great-grandsphere. One is enough to cover all occasions. For this reason, we can say that God is both infinitely distant -- in that higher dimension -- but infinitely close -- right here in these ones as well. Without moving.

Now, what is interiority as such but another dimension? The question is, is it just an inexplicable bump on the surface of 2D, or is it more like a descent from -- and in contact with -- something above?  Confined to 2D, this is not something Flatlanders could ever know. Nor can we 4D folkers know this is a self-consistent Cosmos, but it is a fruitful assumption just the same.

So, let’s assume our interiority is not just a bump on the surface of 4D, but rather, a descent from O. What’s the harm? Conversely, think of the great harm that follows from assuming human beings are nothing but eternally ignorant bumpkins in a 4D semi-flatland, fully reducible to those lower dimensions.

Everyone knows what they know. The real trick is to know what we don’t know. Of course, that is something we can never know, but knowing we can’t know it is nevertheless a good start, because it leaves us open to this background ocean of infinite Truth. Only God can know how ignorant we are, but this doesn’t mean our knowledge is nothing. Again, circles exist, even if the sphere contains an infinitude of circles.

Back to De Koninck. He writes that “It is only in human understanding that the cosmos becomes a universe in the full sense.” Likewise, it is only in human understanding that our little circle can be seen as a declension from the sphere. Unless you enclose yourself in absurcularity, which is diametrically opposed to the Christian way, AKA the way of tenure.

Much more, but the crock has run out.

7 comments:

John Venlet said...

Everyone knows what they know. The real trick is to know what we don’t know. Of course, that is something we can never know, but knowing we can’t know it is nevertheless a good start...

Did you lift that from Rumsfield?

In regards to the interiority you touch on, I read this last night in Lynn Harold Hough's The Christian Criticism of Life:

Then with the Christian religion coms the divine invasion of human life. God is no more the infinitely far. He is now the infinitely near. He looks upon us with human eyes. He speaks to us with a human voice. He serves us with human hands. He makes a human body the instrument of His purposes for the good of man. He makes human nature the vehicle of His revelation of Himself to the children of men. And he does this because He has made man with a relative intelligence which requires more knowledge, a relative freedom which demands a larger and more widely disciplined liberty, a human will which can come to fulfillment only as is becomes one with the will of God. Looking at human life, God has seen a little lake where He could behold the reflection of His own face. Seeing man in action, God beholds something which reminds Him of Himself. That in man which is like God claims the potency of that in God which can transform the life of man. Man's very nature is an inarticulate cry that once for all God will enter it and make clear what that nature was meant to be, can be, will be by the divine grace."

How uplifting (vertical) and enriching that thought is!

Gagdad Bob said...

A vertical coincidence, which is to say, God making a pun.

julie said...

think of the great harm that follows from assuming human beings are nothing but eternally ignorant bumpkins in a 4D semi-flatland, fully reducible to those lower dimensions.

In that instance, pretty much anything becomes justifiable, as we see playing out daily wherever the flatlanders run amok. Though ironically, whether they know it or not, they aren't truly flatlanders at all, but rather inverse-landers, because a man who fails to rise above himself always ends up lower than the beasts...

Gagdad Bob said...

Georgie Fame:

About 10 years ago, when I was listening to the sound of the 60s due to the influence of the surrounding MOD, I was worried about a sweet voice, such as a stuffed nose. I did not like too much, but I heard it after a long time and nostalgia full. The work that rolls the organ to sing cool in is not necessary for cooling. The gap between sound and sound makes you feel "adult.”

julie said...

This one understands the importance of the space between the notes. I think.

ted said...

"The gap between sound and sound makes you feel "adult"." Folks, we have a new Aphorist!

Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe Zen koans are just bad translations that sound paradoxical.