Thursday, August 11, 2016

Scratch Pad


The Buddha would have to say there is no abiding truth, reality, and yes, our very Soul. Consider! Please! The Real, the Truth, owe their existence to our belief (in them).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

More on R. G. Collingwood

Collingwood says that knowledge is achieved by a dialectical process of question and answer.  Question and answer, he further says, corresponds to imagination and assertion.  He points out that these moments in dialectic, moments of imagination and of assertion, are ideal divisions and that they are really, if properly understood, indistinct in that each presupposes the other.

Art is not a judgement or assertion of the truth of the world, he says.  The aesthetic experience, or art, is therefore unaware of itself as knowledge because it is unaware of the ideal division that can be made in knowledge, i.e. between the moments of imagining and assertion.  Without this distinction art is pure imagination says Collingwood, and pure imagination is not a perfect expression of the Truth, though it does not miss completely.

In religion the imaginings of art are asserted.  Therefore religion is a dialectical development of art.  However religion does not distinguish between its assertion, which is embodied in symbol, i.e., God is the religious for absolute Reality, and what the symbol symbolizes.  The symbol, to religion IS what it conveys.  It is the Real, says Collingwood.  Because this distinction is not made religion is mythological.  When the distinction is made religion looses its mythological character; but it also ceases to be religious and becomes philosophical.  Why is this, according to Collingwood?

Religion is thought constantly going toward an object that is other than the thinker*;  God is other than man or he is not God.  When thought recognizes that the symbol of the Truth is not the Truth, but A way to the Truth, the Real, then the Real, as the object of thought, ceases to be other than the thinker.  So Collingwood says that philosophical thought is thought returning to itself.  To say, then, that God is only a symbol of the absolute is to reduce him to the level of all symbols, while, at the same time, it is to boost religion to the level of philosophy.

In my own thinking I agree with most of what Collingwood says.  The truth, the Real, being that by virtue of which all things are, is necessarily not fully exhausted by one symbol, i.e., God.  So religion is mythological.  Truth is embodied, rather, in every possible concept or symbol, which is precisely why philosophy can speak of it in so many different ways.  (e.g. the "divided line" of Plato; the "One" of Parmenides, etc.)  If a religious person comes to realize, then, the distinction between God as symbol and God as the Real, he is moving into the realm of philosophy where the Real is spoken of in perhaps as many ways as it manifests. It is a quality not a quantify. Many manifestations might participate in 'red' besides a blessed Rose.

If I approach someone, a mystic, say, and ask what is Truth?, he will, perhaps, give me many answers, all of which are true; he may even keep silent.  And if I understand the Truth, I understand.  But I understand just a little more than what he says, too.  That is, I understand that thing which he is talking about, the meaning behind the words, the meaning as separate from the symbols. His sayings are a new beginning.


*As stated previously in this blog Science and History are likewise dialectical developments of art and religion. As Kierkegaard would have it they are Stages on Life's Way. For Collingwood they are thought constantly going toward an object that is other than the thinker. Science will ultimately give us a 'grand unifying theory'; History will ultimately culminate in a cultural utopia; Religion will finally take us to heaven - all are absolute others.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ethics, Nirvana & Sundry Items


Professor Desani delivered a talk in old Bombay in the late 1960s titled Ethics, Nirvana, and Sundry Items.  Todd Katz has today edited and published (.pdf) this here.  It is the item at the top of the list of other "samples".
Some excerpts:
 "These things by themselves do not lead us to the ideal. They help us approach the ideal. A person who keeps his conduct Good – as defined so far – is the one who qualifies. It is quite in order to ask what it is for which one should qualify.
"To know this, to experience this.....is to attain excellence, freedom, mukti, Nirvana. But to attain it, one needs bala or balāni; power, or powers.
     "You need to have in your favor, prārabdha; a fate, a destiny, a beginning in the past. To be possessed of a good ‘past’ is a bala (a power). By ‘past’ is meant the infinite or a ‘history’ of a Consciousness. An individual born with an enormous bank balance, any prince or princess of a ruling house, with a few or no obligations or responsibilities, has to his or her credit a ‘past’. An individual born with an infirmity, an incurable disease, robbing him of the freedom of action, has a ‘past’. Both he, and an individual born with gifts, experience the advantages, and the disadvantages, of their situations, and regardless of their Will. Faith is a bala. A person without faith is the one who has his palm formed into a fist. You cannot give him anything. He cannot receive it. If a person exerts, practices, he has bala, or power. If a person has samādhi – he has concentration of mind, has calmness, as opposed to the restlessness of Lobha [that] I mentioned, he has real bala, power."
.........
"Methods vary. Some look at and contemplate an image – a pratimā. Some visualize – ‘see’ mentally, direct attention to – a thought, a notion, a concept, a quality. (To contemplate one’s God as supreme, as good, as true, as merciful, as just, as love, as wisdom, is to contemplate the qualities of supremacy or power, goodness, truth, mercy, justice, love and wisdom. To venerate in a contemplation Gautama, the Buddha, or any other Buddha, as omniscient, as enlightened, as virtuous, free from Lobha, Dosa, Moha – regardless of its value as a prayer or a communication – would be a contemplation of his qualities.) It does not matter what means are employed so long as those lead to success in controlling that operation of Consciousness called ‘attention’. The Buddha recommends that we contemplate maître – lovingkindness for all beings whatsoever, human, infra-human, supra-human; and karunā – compassion for all beings, the good, the evil, all; muditā – altruistic joy in the happiness of all; upeksha – equanimity, the quality that enables us to accept, with calmness, and dignity, both joy and sorrow. The contemplation of these – with method and technique – can lead us to high samādhi, to the bala, power, of a concentrated mind. And to develop these qualities, as character traits, is as high an ethical aim as one can conceive."
 ...................
      "...it is possible, citing an experience, just to ‘see’ a tree. It is possible, by controlling the mind, by freeing it, freeing it of all concepts – through the techniques the Buddha has taught us, by developing Sati and Samādhi – to ‘barely’ ‘see’ a tree, for a millionth-millionth part of a second. And to declare that it does not exist: or to say – from lacking the means to communicate exactly an experience – that the tree ‘exists’ only in the ‘mind’, in your C, in your particular scheme of knowing and understanding. At any rate, such a judgment would be as ‘true’ or as ‘false’, or more ‘true’ and less ‘false’, than the summary assertion “I saw a tree.” The Buddha has asked us to barely see. He has asked us to barely see (and not involve mana, the mind, in reactions, responses). That is true ‘seeing’. The ethical implications of such an appraisal of the world – both external and internal – are enormous." 
...................
"The nearest conceivable lakṣaṇa – mark or feature – of Nirvana – according to Gautama, the Buddha, is peace. Bhagwan was careful to point out that the peace – the śanti lakhana of Nirvana – is not the ‘peace’ experienced by creatures in the world of phenomena."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How does intuition relate to transcendence

Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach (c. 1867)

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.


Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

How does intuition relate to transcendence?

Faith must be freely chosen.

If God can't be parsed from the whole of the Real there can be no transcendence except in the sense that arriving where you started you know the place for the first time.

The world of things is available to us through our senses alone yet there is a transcendent aspect of "things-in-themselves".  But it is not a separate realm.  What is perceived in phenomenal reality is not entirely factual. "Plato himself esteemed beauty as the particular form of value that actually can be seen in things. To make this consistent with the rest of his theory, however, he had to say that beautiful objects were only "shadows" of the higher reality, "participating" in the Form of Beauty. Although Kant's own aesthetics were subjectivist ...., his metaphysics could allow for a more literal rendering of Plato's own claim about beauty: Since transcendence is in phenomenal objects, the beauty that we see in things is in fact a perception right through factual reality to Beauty Itself." (Kelly Ross)

Now, turn that a little further and you might get: Since transcendence is in phenomenal objects, the sacred that we see in things is in fact a perception right through factual reality to the Divine itself. 

Intuition is this "perception right through factual reality" and as such is the faculty of transcendence, such as it is.  Arriving where you began and knowing the place for the first time is thus explained.  It is a real transcendence without the baggage of requiring a separate realm or level of reality.  Faith is active intuition. When freely selected it can blossom into a full mode of existence, a way of life, a path to everlasting transcendence; a dwelling in the numinous.  It is nothing short of a prolonged and everlasting Noesis.  The only way you have faith is if you choose faith.  It is the very essence of the affirmation of the Real. Faith and intuition are evidence of things unseen.  They are inclusive; they are constant affirmation continuing across the entire spectrum of experience.  In a sense they are the opposite of Science as a mode of being in the world which demands of the Real convincing proofs before the suspension of doubt.

False and fanciful notions of transcendence whether as a project of History, as in cultural Marxism, or, similarly, exoteric Religion, secular or otherwise, with its idea of a separate and perfect realm called Heaven, or Nirvana, or a perfect state of cultural utopia however defined by the social justice warriors, denizens of the Cult of Modern Liberalism,  are root causes of a discarnate longing, insensate and  boundless, a force of nature, a passion to finally arrive at a state of completion always just the other side of every day reality.  The reason people are so miserable is they insist on making the world conform to their notion of transcendence.  They say they have the answer to life's problems and intend to force their ideas on everyone else - because they, unlike the rest of us, really do own the truth, have a direct path to the one true source, "God", whether it is religious or secular.  So, until everyone thinks "right thoughts" we will be mired in misery and it is their mission to make certain this misery is shared equally.  The Progressive of the Cult hurries in a perpetual vanishing and has no reflexivity.  He is discarnate longing for his Utopian dreams, wholly owned by the daemonic.  This evil is the state of being insatiable, forever seeking fulfillment in an ever receding underivable future condition.

You can thank Christianity and its offshoots for this.  As a force of nature, the boundless, insensate and discarnate passion, longing, to finally own completion in a final act of transcendence is Christianity's gift to the world.  Christianity posited the daemonic spirit in the world and is responsible for the modern malaise wherein western man has evolved into a spiritless self, a self filled with despair and self-loathing, utterly lost and confused and yet increasingly certain that they alone have the prescription for society's ills.  They are the "insensate prison of an alien and restless power in quest of a 'hidden' divinity" or surrogate thereof.  (William Poteat)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

fly on by

fly on by so many means
where on stands up and down be seems
a foot in the sky and the earth
no one is one to many dearth
or two so few as you eyes
your sky held earth tempest cries
and as death searching nights keep
what deep reach is schizoid leap
from mirror reality's broken sleep
surrenders fragment rendered reflection
dark saying dieing light cast conception
a shadow reach without grasp within
this selfless self where we have been
like a hole in a hole this

John Hinds
Feb. 1972

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thoughts on Performance "Art"

There is this thread over at American Digest.

I wonder if they grasp what Art is.  Certainly its not self-loathing. Art is a question put to being itself.  The first question.  It doesn't expect an answer, is blind to an answer.  That is the purview of Religion which is the first fractalisation of Art as a modality of sentient life. Religion acknowledges Art's question and claims possession of the answer which it posits in an absolute other. This parsing of the truth from the whole of being is failure.  But I digress.

What gets my attention is the assertion at the link that performance art mistakes pain for meaning.  I'm thinking if it mistakes pain for meaning then it is a form of self-loathing, which expresses some deep seated guilt, which is an off-shoot of fear.  Well, fear is a mode of idea which in turn is a mode of thought.  Thought is a mode of consciousness, which is a mode of being.  And, Being Is, or, The Real Is.

The self-loathing subjects are far from - many stages deep - into the descending levels of these modalities of The Real.  They Own - are bound up in Having - not in Being.  You can see it in their decidedly care worn faces.

Yes, even a pile of excrement might in a certain light have a bit of shine to it.  But that doesn't make it beautiful.  It just makes it a participant of beauty of the very lowest order.

It used to be that the cream rose to the top.  Nowadays its the opposite and the piece in question puts that on full display.  A shiny thing gets your attention but if it has to give you a jolting shock to do so then its no more than the shine on the excreta.

There is a recurring theme in our culture.  I've thought for a long time that its rooted in Christianity, and Islam too, and farther back in ancient Bronze age belief, this discarnate longing, the Daemonic in nature, an insatiable desire, also known as Don Juanism.  The Religiously posited absolute other is nothing but an expression of Aristotelian geocentric cosmology.  Perfection is "above", "beyond" the ken of fallen man. The source of guilt is man's station, below the perfection of the Heavens - his estrangement; the parsing of Truth from the whole of Being, Reality, and fixing it in the "Heavens".  Guilt is the source of fear, self-loathing, a "sickness unto death". The infinite regress of dystopian dreams in which we are embedded is nothing but a fractalisation of that old Aristotle model of The Real. If nothing else we are eternally bound to this wheel whose spokes we hug and kiss, truly, a sickness unto death.


Monday, May 18, 2015

"I Believe" - G. V. Desani

Friend Todd Katz has posted a .pdf of Professor Desani's paper "An Indian View of God, Cosmos, Love, Marriage, Sex, et cetera".  It is linked on the samples page at Desani.org.  Click here for that page.  There are several other papers linked there.  A direct link to the "I Believe" .pdf is here.  I quote from the paper:

"In the late ‘60s The Illustrated Weekly of India published articles by “an especially selected panel of Indian religious leaders, artists, writers, philosophers, scientists and politicians,” under the broad title “I Believe”. Each contributor was encouraged to described his or her personal philosophy by answering the same set of questions. G.V. Desani’s response (below) was published Dec. 7, 1967.

"Desani later adapted his article plus his edited summaries of the responses of other participants into an academic paper for the University of Texas Philosophy Department and the UT Center for Asian Studies. The title was "An Indian View of God, Cosmos, Love, Marriage, Sex, et cetera."

And, I consider this next excerpt particularly germane to me personally:

"People who go about asking questions about “God” and demanding satisfaction – without realizing it – request answers to all these questions [see above] and more. To put them off with, “… ‘God’ is a word, a symbol, a concept, a construction by the consciousness, a creation of the mind of man,” or “ … is a cipher, something intuited, a ‘no, no!’” could be an evasion, a subterfuge, and “no! no!” would be an item quoted from an Upanishad. Some pious folk, on the other hand, are satisfied with the authoritative answers given by the founders of religions. By accepting personal testimony, such people are said to have “faith”.  Folk so blessed should not ask anybody questions about “God”. They should look up their scriptures.

"I happen to presume, however, that everybody at all believes in “God”: if the word means the highest value. It is by one’s highest value that one weighs and measures the worth of anything at all. So – bringing this abstruse term within the compass of empirical knowledge, hence discussion – money is “God” for most people I know.  Power is “God” for some: ego, assertion, conquest, possession – including possessing people, their “love” is covered by the term."


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eroticism, Music and Madness - annotated

He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them with presumption.”

Blaise Pascal



Prof. William Poteat passed in 2000. This is in honor to his memory. I knew him briefly at the University of Texas, Austin philosophy department in 1970/71 where he was guest lecturer from Duke University. His course was Eroticism, Music and Madness.

Another of my benefactors instructed that if you bring something to mind again and again it tends to take on a life of its own and that in fact, if you are following others who have pursued similar meditations you eventually tap into that stream of consciousness, as it were, and benefit from the work of those in whose steps you follow. I have done that all these years with the knowledge imparted to me by Bill Poteat. That endeavor has increasingly come to occupy my mental activities and has been a source of inspiration and discovery. I was blessed to have the great fortune to have known this wonderful man. I am, of course, not an academic and am anything but an expert in these things but they bring me joy and more importantly, peace. It helps me to write this down in a more formal way than it exists in the books and papers scattered around my study and in the thought patterns, modifications, of my mind.

Bill Poteat used this course in part to convey his thoughts about modern man’s malaise. His thinking is that a large segment of western man has evolved into a spiritless self, a self filled with despair and self-loathing, that this personal tendency has roots in a fundamental philosophical conflict between Greek and Hebrew world views. Hebrew thought, being the basis for Christianity, is a primary underpinning of the western experience. It is this influence that creates, or posits, as Kierkegaard (Author A) wrote, the daemonic in nature, the sensuous genius, the erotic. This daemonic spirit is expressed most eloquently in the classic work of Mozart's Don Giovanni but its ramifications are much more than musical. This spirit informs every aspect of modern life. Poteat thought that it was the foundation for a madness that permeates modern civilization. He particularly thought that the development of atomic weapons were the most egregious manifestation with the accompanying policy of “mutual assured destruction”. He put together a tape that he played for the class that combined among other things the sounds of exploding atomic bombs with the music of Mozart’s Don Juan. At this juncture in my life, I am not so sure that it would not be more accurate to attribute war like activities to a more primitive impulse in the human animal than the sensuous in nature as posited by Hebrew shortcomings that flowered in Christianity. This is not to say that these attributes have no bearing whatsoever on the tendency of mankind to make war. It is an ephemera that we pursue here. Trying to pin down such cause/effect relationships is an extremely daunting intellectual exercise to which people, like Bill Poteat, dedicate their entire lives. My efforts pale in comparison.
Having said all that it is important to point out that Prof. Poteat was a practicing Christian. So was Kierkegaard, though he was at odds with the established religion of his time. The ESOTERIC teachings of Christianity do not carry the same negative baggage as that written of here. It is but one scenario that might shed some light on western history, on western man in particular, and how he has evolved as a sentient being in a world. I happen to believe that Christianity on the whole has been a positive influence. Take particular note that I, and not Poteat, focus attention on so called evangelicals. However, it goes without saying that I find a limited common cause with them in certain ways, particularly in the political realm. I think we share a common love of liberty and an attendant rugged individualism. This is an infinitely complex issue and any attempt to quantify all of the nuances involved will necessarily fall short. I would note in passing the parallels, I think obvious, between the activities of intoxicated youth (and yes, adults too) at rock concerts and those in attendance at an “old fashioned” revival meeting. As well, it is worth noting that highly successful political figures, e.g., Adolph Hitler, used the spoken word in the musical sense herein described and were able thereby to not just engender a longing in the sense of the sensuous but to make it into a power base, to use it to hold a whole population in thrall and set them on a suicidal course of action.

This post is as true a copy of the syllabus as I could make. Here I presume to insert my personal comments. I also appended Pascal’s fragments 72, 205, and 427 as well as the below referenced excerpt from Kierkegaard’s (Author “A”) Either/Or Vol. I.

In memory of William H. Poteat

"Eroticism Music and Madness"
Course Syllabus
I. "Eroticism, Music and Madness"
As principle, as power, as self-contained system, sensuousness is first posited in Christianity; and in that sense it is true that Christianity brought [the] sensuous into the world.
1. Arche' as Cosmos, logos, psyche.
Arche', first principle, beginning of the world {as cosmos, i.e., order, ornament, opposite of chaos; as logos, i.e., fundamental order of the cosmos, divine word or reason (believed) incarnate in Jesus; as psyche, i.e., human soul, mind, spirit, universal consciousness}
2. Arche' as davar.

Arche’ (Greek) as davar (Hebrew), word or thing, action of God in space/time. From root word “dibur” meaning “to speak”. Every davar expresses a dibur—a spoken message. Every physical object or phenomenon, in addition to its physical reality, conveys a spiritual comment on existence.

3. The ordinacy of Cosmos arche' –
Orderly arrangement, disposition of order as first principle.
4. The different ordinacy of davar arche'
Orderly arrangement, disposition of word or thing, action of God as first principle, beginning of the world.
     a. Logos is being, is reality, is divine. (Reality does "hide" itself, must be sought behind "appearances".)
      b. The relation of "appearances" to logos. Being and nothingness relation.
      c. Yet: Being is finite and fully knowable.
      d. Davar is not reality, is not being, is not divine.
      e. The paradigmatic act -- speech
  •   Speech and speaker: former manifests latter, but not fully.
  •   Act and actor: former manifests latter, but not exhaustively.
  •   The person cannot be known exhaustively -- by another, by himself.
  •   The Person is fully disclosed only to God.
5. What is the ordinacy of the Davar arche'?
      a. Keeping promises -- God's model.
      b. Is retaining one's identity
  •   Cf. Israel vs. Yahweh: "I will be as I will be" -- "absolute relation to the absolute, relative relation to the relative."
  •   Edward Chamberlain, Bendrix.


II. So -- whether you have the ordinacy of a finite Cosmos, or that of a providential divine will -- faithful Yahweh -- as alternative principles, you still do not have "restlessness and tumult, infinity."
A. How then does Xianity posit that spiritually (pneumatically) qualified sensuousness expressed in the musical Don Giovanni in Mozart's opera?
B. Xianity destroyed the finite, harmonious and fully intelligible cosmos of Grk. thought by substituting davar (the speaking and heard word) for logos (the word as written and read).
The book of Mark, 16:15 “Go into the world and PREACH the gospel…!” Proselytize, evangelize, stand in a pulpit and exhort the congregation. Passion is key to success of evangelizing. I would further note that, to my knowledge Jesus never wrote. Any reference to his teaching always follows the form “Jesus said so and so.” I think this simple fact goes a long way towards verifying the thought of Kierkegaard and Poteat.
C. This made the relation between medium and its content more equivocal and contingent.
  • Reality does not hide behind appearances -- logos behind aesheta.
  • Reality is equivocally manifest as a person is always equivocally manifest in his speech.
  • Reality of man is contingently manifest inasmuch as he cannot fully indwell his own speech.
D. But the medium of speech becomes radically distinct from all cyclical and organismic forms of ordinacy; and becomes paradigmatic medium to reality.
E. Let us remember:
  • Language has its element in time.
  • It passes away in time in an essential sense.
     a. Because of verbs with 3 tenses
     b. Reflexive first personal pronouns -- thereby making a constant reference to the world as radically experienced by each of us in our bodies.
     c. That inasmuch as speech has its element in time:
  • The sensuous element is negatived
  • Therefore: as a medium, speech frees us from ordinate nature, thereby giving us spirit --while restoring ordinacy at a higher level. (We "hear" the meaning not the "sounds")
F. Yet -- the very equivocalness and contingency of the relation between this medium and its content has consequences:
  • Emphasizes the importance of fidelity to the spoken word -- the promise -- with Yahweh as model. Our words are forever in danger of becoming "musical".
  • Thereby suggests an antithesis to itself.
  • The loss of identity in passion finds a perfect expression in another medium which has its element in time, viz., music.
Evangelism aims to create a sense of passion as an instrumentality of loss of identity to a separate reality, abode of the divine. Intense emotional response and so called speaking in tongues is outward appearance of this. The speech of the evangelist is more music than word. One goes beyond listening for the meaning and listens for the “beyond” and in a sense goes there to the point of being in trance like state even at times, fainting.
     a. Sensuousness is pneumaticized, i.e., freed from ordinate nature, by music because it hurries in a perpetual vanishing and has no reflexivity.
Pneuma, the vital spirit, the soul, or the spirit of God as holy ghost. Sensuousness comes to be filled with soul, i.e., soul is transfigured as sensuousness, the erotic in nature, and thus assumes characteristic of the daemonic. Evil is state of being insatiable, forever seeking fulfillment through sensual gratification.
     b. We hear the "restlessness, tumult and infinity," not the sounds.
     c. Eroticism thus becomes a power in itself.
     d. It is inordinate, discarnate, spiritual, infinite, erotic longing.
It is a chaotic, disembodied spirit totally given over to infinite, erotic longing. This is the seusuous genius of Don Juanism.
     e. Cf. E/O. p. 88 -- "The Middle Ages..."**
E/O is Soren Kierkeegard's "Either/Or, Vol. I"
     f. Don Giovanni is "pure, discarnate erotic spirit..."
4. With neither the ordinacy of finite cosmos nor that of an unfailingly faithful will, the world is neither eternal (as a Cosmos) nor contingent (as a creature which might have not been) and becomes "contingent" in the sense that it is underivable, as a meaningless surd.
5. Pascal's Pensee's: Fragments* 72, 205, 427.
6. If psyche (Cosmos) is no longer the locus of numinal power; and, if pneuma no longer corresponds to the Yahwist speech, then psyche (Cosmos) becomes heimarmene, the insensate prison of an alien and restless power in quest of a 'hidden' divinity.

Heimarmene, divine providence or fate in the sense of God’s justice-dealing activity. I think Poteat meant something other than this here.

Now -- both the ancient Cosmos metaphor and the Yahwist metaphor gave alternative accounts of the background of order and meaning in the world; they both saw this background as “holy"; and in different ways commensurate with human existence. When both of these metaphors are fragmented -- we are left with an impersonal cosmos and a homeless voice whose questions evoke no (Yahwist) answers. This fragmentation is, of course, what we are trying to understand.

Pascal advises the wise thing to do is just “contemplate in silence” the mystery of being. I agree that the default state is silence, peace. But absent any evidence to the contrary it is as likely as anything that God is a child with an ant farm and that there is no purpose outside that parameter. The cynicism of this view is astounding suggesting as it does that to see what we will do he invents trouble to throw at us, stirs us up with a stick for the pleasure of watching whether we overcome or succumb. This is as far as skepticism can take us, I suppose. I am personally more comfortable with less extreme approaches to achieving an understanding of being in the world. Coming out of that infinite silence of Pascal one can make a way to an infinity of destinies. The main problem with some views is they are just too simple and I think the purely skeptical, cynical view clearly falls into this category. One can mold life around the kernel that we live in an “impersonal cosmos” but it is wrong to do so. At the same time we can evolve unconsciously into a modality of living that means necessarily that ours is “a homeless voice whose questions evoke no (Yahwist) answers.” I think this is the obvious outcome of living a merely materialistic existence. One can consciously choose to believe that the universe is impersonal but those that follow the paths of Don Juanism, of the sensuous, the daemonic spirit that is materialism, make that choice unconsciously. It is made for them by their nihilistic solipsism. In the complete service of evil, as a majority of society seems to be, we all suffer from the combined madness and flounder in a tumultuous malaise of dread, fear, and anxiety from which there is “no exit.” I think there are good reasons to take different paths.

Plato, in the Timaeus, defines out of the divine, out of God, an aspect or facet he names the Demiurge. In Gnosticism this Demiurge is a divinity that is more builder of the material world than creator of the universe. He is the Archon, stands between man and God proper, and is capable only of endowing man with a sensuous soul whereas a rational aspect to the soul is an additive of the greater God. The Hebrew Jehovah God was identified as Archon by the Gnostics.

Speaking from personal experience, ritual activities of evangelical Christians involve dissipation of self identity in passion. A confused amalgam of feelings of not just joy, but guilt, anxiety, dread, fear, sorrow, and awe characterize the passages into these trances. I would point out that joy is not necessarily peace and also note Kierkegaard thought that dread was the opposite of faith. I wonder whether Christian faith, for many, is not also based on feeling? They try the impossible, to “know” with their body rather than their soul. They intend to “love” God, but is it not something less than God that they truly love? Is the trance itself a surrogate for the divine and thus is it not true that they in reality worship evil? God, thus, eludes them and their embrace sadly closes merely on the abyss. We are warned that there are serious pitfalls on the spiritual path, that evil is devious in the extreme and can appear as the greatest good, as the brightest truth. Tread carefully the path to God.

Look again at Don Giovanni, the sensuous genius as expressed in Mozart’s opera. This mode of worship of which we speak is not unlike Don Juanism, not unlike the tumultuous musical experience. Meaning is lost to feeling; feeling IS the whole of the Real, assumes a spirit of its own, a forever discarnate spirit, disappearing on its appearance, ephemeral and perpetually vanishing, seeking everywhere anihilation. It can’t be held and therefore is impossible to truly affirm. It is essentially empty, a meaningless, purposeless surd. Evil is that. Void of meaning and purpose is that longing for rapture, union with the divine in a “separate” realm, a heaven, to be carried away there to permanent bliss, joy, and release from the bonds of the flesh in order to join with eternal spirit. It is an impossible dream and those who truly find the essential truth of reality find that “the end of all our exploring/ will be to arrive where we started/ and know the place for the first time.”

So, for the simple person, is there a true path to the divine? Yes, and it is essentially characterized by humility. Fundamentalist Christians, and others too (secular humanists?), egotistically claim they have the secret to truth. This is not so, for, in a sense, the secret to the truth is bound up with doubt. One can never ever hold the truth, hold God, as his own for how can one hold what he always already has? “Salvation” is a process and I assure you the more you cling to certainty the more salvation will slip away.

* Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662)
Fragment 72
Man's disproportion. - [This is where our innate knowledge leads us. If it be not true, there is no truth in man; and if it be true, he finds therein great cause for humiliation, being compelled to abase himself in one way or another. And since he cannot exist without this knowledge, I wish that, before entering on deeper researches into nature, he would consider her both seriously and at leisure, that he would reflect upon himself also, and knowing what proportion there is ....] Let man then contemplate the whole of nature in her full and grand majesty, and turn his vision from the low objects which surround him. Let him gaze on that brilliant light, set like an eternal lamp to illumine the universe; let the earth appear to him a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun; and let him wonder at the fact that this vast circle is itself but a very fine point in comparison with that described by the stars in their revolution round the firmament. But if our view be arrested there, let our imagination pass beyond; it will sooner exhaust the power of conception than nature that of supplying material for conception. The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought.
Returning to himself, let man consider what he is in comparison with all existence; let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner of nature; and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him estimate at their true value the earth, kingdoms, cities, and himself. What is a man in the Infinite?

But to show him another prodigy equally astonishing, let him examine the most delicate things he knows. Let a mite be given him, with its minute body and parts incomparably more minute, limbs with their joints, veins in the limbs, blood in the veins, humours in the blood, drops in the humours, vapours in the drops. Dividing these last things again, let him exhaust his powers of conception, and let the last object at which he can arrive be now that of our discourse. Perhaps he will think that here is the smallest point in nature. I will let him see therein a new abyss. I will paint for him not only the visible universe, but all that he can conceive of nature's immensity in the womb of this abridged atom. Let him see therein an infinity of universes, each of which has its firmament, its planets, its earth, in the same proportion as in the visible world; in each earth animals, and in the last mites, in which he will find again all that the first had, finding still in these others the same thing without end and without cessation. Let him lose himself in wonders as amazing in their littleness as the others in their vastness. For who will not be astounded at the fact that our body, which a little ago was imperceptible, in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them with presumption.

For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up.

What will he do then, but perceive the appearance of the middle of things, in an eternal despair of knowing either their beginning or their end. All things proceed from the Nothing, and are borne towards the Infinite. Who will follow these marvelous processes? The Author of these wonders understands them. None other can do so.

Through failure to contemplate these Infinites, men have rashly rushed into the examination of nature, as though they bore some proportion to her. It is strange that they have wished to understand the beginnings of things, and thence to arrive at the knowledge of the whole, with a presumption as infinite as their object. For surely this design cannot be formed without presumption or without a capacity infinite like nature.
If we are well-informed, we understand that, as nature has graven her image and that of her Author on all things, they almost all partake of her double infinity. Thus we see that all the sciences are infinite in the extent of their researches. For who doubts that geometry, for instance, has an infinite infinity of problems to solve? They are also infinite in the multitude and fineness of their premises; for it is clear that those which are put forward as ultimate are not self-supporting, but are based on others which, again having others for their support, do not permit of finality. But we represent some as ultimate for reason, in the same way as in regard to material objects we call that an indivisible point beyond which our senses can no longer perceive anything, although by its nature it is infinitely divisible.

Of these two Infinites of science, that of greatness is the most palpable, and hence a few persons have pretended to know all things. "I will speak of the whole," said Democritus. But the infinitely little is the least obvious. Philosophers have much oftener claimed to have reached it, and it is here they have all stumbled. This has given rise to such common titles as First Principles, Principles of Philosophy, and the like, as ostentatious in fact, though not in appearance, as that one which blinds us, De omni scibili. 3

We naturally believe ourselves far more capable of reaching the centre of things than of embracing their circumference. The visible extent of the world visibly exceeds us, but as we exceed little things, we think ourselves more capable of knowing them. And yet we need no less capacity for attaining the Nothing than the All. Infinite capacity is required for both, and it seems to me that whoever shall have understood the ultimate principles of being might also attain to the knowledge of the Infinite. The one depends on the other, and one leads to the other. These extremes meet and reunite by force of distance, and find each other in God, and in God alone.

Let us then take our compass; we are something, and we are not everything. The nature of our existence hides from us the knowledge of first beginnings which are born of the Nothing; and the littleness of our being conceals from us the sight of the Infinite. Our intellect holds the same position in the world of thought as our body occupies in the expanse of nature. Limited as we are in every way, this state which holds the mean between two extremes is present in all our impotence. Our senses perceive no extreme. Too much sound deafens us; too much light dazzles us; too great distance or proximity hinders our view. Too great length and too great brevity of discourse tend to obscurity; too much truth is paralyzing (I know some who cannot understand that to take four from nothing leaves nothing). First principles are too self-evident for us; too much pleasure disagrees with us. Too many concords are annoying in music; too many benefits irritate us; we wish to have the wherewithal to over-pay our debts. Beneficia eo usque laeta sunt dum videntur exsolvi posse; ubi multum antevenere, pro gratia odium redditur. 4 We feel neither extreme heat nor extreme cold. Excessive qualities are prejudicial to us and not perceptible by the senses; we do not feel but suffer them. Extreme youth and extreme age hinder the mind, as also too much and too little education. In short, extremes are for us as though they were not, and we are not within their notice. The escape us, or we them.

This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to build a tower reaching to the Infinite. But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses.

Let us therefore not look for certainty and stability. Our reason is always deceived by fickle shadows; nothing can fix the finite between the two Infinites, which both enclose and fly from it.
If this be well understood, I think that we shall remain at rest, each in the state wherein nature has placed him. As this sphere which has fallen to us as our lot is always distant from either extreme, what matters it that man should have a little more knowledge of the universe? If he has it, he but gets a little higher. Is he not always infinitely removed from the end, and is not the duration of our life equally removed from eternity, even if it lasts ten years longer?

In comparison with these Infinites all finites are equal and I see no reason for fixing our imagination on one more than on another. The only comparison which we make of ourselves to the finite is painful to us.
If man made himself the first object of study, he would see how incapable he is of going further. How can a part know the whole? But he may perhaps aspire to know at least the parts to which he bears some proportion. But the parts of the world are all so related and linked to one another, that I believe it impossible to know one without the other and without the whole.

Man, for instance, is related to all he knows. He needs a place wherein to abide, time through which to live, motion in order to live, elements to compose him, warmth and food to nourish him, air to breathe. He sees light; he feels bodies; in short, he is in a dependant alliance with everything. To know man, then, it is necessary to know how it happens that he needs air to live, and, to know the air, we must know how it is thus related to the life of man, etc. Flame cannot exist without air; therefore to understand the one, we must understand the other.

Since everything then is cause and effect, dependant and supporting, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural though imperceptible chain, which binds together things most distant and most different, I hold it equally impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, and to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail. [The eternity of things in itself or in God must also astonish our brief duration. The fixed and constant immobility of nature, in comparison with the continual change which goes on within us, must have the same effect.]

And what completes our incapability of knowing things, is the fact that they are simple, and that we are composed of two opposite natures, different in kind, soul and body. For it is impossible that our rational part should be other than spiritual; and if any one maintain that we are simply corporeal, this would far more exclude us from the knowledge of things, there being nothing so inconceivable as to say that matter knows itself. It is impossible to imagine how it should know itself.

So if we are simply material, we can know nothing at all; and if we are composed of mind and matter, we cannot know perfectly things which are simple, whether spiritual or corporeal. Hence it comes that almost all philosophers have confused ideas of things, and speak of material things in spiritual terms, and of spiritual things in material terms. For they say boldly that bodies have a tendency to fall, that they seek after their centre, that they fly from destruction, that they fear the void, that they have inclinations, sympathies, antipathies, all of which attributes pertain only to mind. And in speaking of minds, they consider them as in a place, and attribute to them movement from one place to another; and these are qualities which belong only to bodies. Instead of receiving the ideas of these things in their purity, we colour them with our own qualities, and stamp with our composite being all the simple things which we contemplate. Who would not think, seeing us compose all things of mind and body, but that this mixture would be quite intelligible to us? Yet it is the very thing we least understand. Man is to himself the most wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and yet it is his very being. Modus quo corporibus adhaerent spiritus comprehendi ab hominibus non potest, et hoc tamen homo est. 5 Finally, to complete the proof of our weakness, I shall conclude with these two considerations . . .

When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been alloted to me? Memoria hospitis unius diei praetereuntis. 7

Man does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone astray, and fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable darkness.
** The Middle Ages had much to say about a mountain, not found on any map, which is called the mountain of Venus. There the sensuous has its home, there it has its own wild pleasure, for it is a kingdom, a state. In this kingdom language has no place, nor sober-minded thought, nor the toilsome business of reflection. There sound only the voice of elemental passion, the play of appetites, the wild shouts of intoxication; it exists solely for pleasure in eternal tumult. The first-born of this kingdom is Don Juan. That it is the kingdom of sin is not yet affirmed, for we confine ourselves to the moment at which this kingdom appears in aesthetic indifference. Not until reflection enters does it appear as the kingdom of sin….

[Footnote 3: "Concerning everything knowable" - the title under which Pico della Mirandola announced the 900 propositions which he undertook to defend in 1486.]

[Footnote 4: "Benefits are pleasant while it seems possible to requite them; when they become much greater, they produce hatred rather than gratitude.

[Footnote 5: "The manner in which spirits are united to bodies cannot be understood by men, yet such is man." - St. Augustine.]

[Footnote 7: "The remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day." - Wisdom, v. 14.]

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Eternal Chaotic Inflationary Theory

This theory holds the Universe doesn't begin in a hot state but more interesting to me is that it holds that it is a fractal and universes (multiverse) are infinitely created.  And, the reason "our" universe seems anthropic is simply because it is the one in which we are able to thrive.

Events might be mere flecks of foam in the surf, foam flowers, whereas the real movers are the tides and the swells.  The swell of the wave, the cresting and curling, makes the ephemeral bubbles.  These are conditions along the boundaries.  We humbly seek from our vantage point in the flecks of foam to embrace the swell, the wave, the tide.

Here, discussing Aristotle, I wrote:  "... I have an idea that the Universe is infinitely malleable, which idea, I think, has its roots in the principles stated here. My notion that the Real is akin to a fractal, I think, is also bound up in these concepts. It is infinitely self-inventing, and every instantiation increases and enriches the pregnancy for ensuing evolution. All that will ever be is already actual in the "beginning" even though all that will ever be is an elaboration on the infinite stream of prior instances. Every new instance is a new beginning and a new boundary for the new. Every new instantiation is an elaboration of its predecessor. And, our heavens are self made as are our hells..."

Then a few days ago I found this from theoretical physicist, father of the theory of eternal chaotic inflation, Andrei Linde:

"Think about it this way: previously we thought that our universe was like a spherical balloon. In the new picture, it's like a balloon producing balloons, producing balloons. This is a big fractal. The Greeks were thinking about our universe as an ideal sphere, because this was the best image they had at their disposal. The 20th century idea is a fractal, the beauty of a fractal. Now, you have these fractals. We ask, how many different types of these elements of fractals are there, which are irreducible to each other? And the number will be exponentially large, and in the simplest models it is about 10 to the degree 10, to the degree 10, to the degree 7. It actually may be much more than that, even though nobody can see all of these universes at once.

"Soon after Alan Guth proposed his version of the inflationary theory, he famously exclaimed that the universe is an ultimate free lunch. Indeed, in inflationary theory the whole universe emerges from almost nothing. A year later, in the proceedings of the first conference on inflation in Cambridge, I expanded his statement by saying that the universe is not just a free lunch; it is an eternal feast where all possible dishes are served. But at that time I could not even imagine that the menu of all possible universes could be so incredibly large."

I would also submit for consideration something I've noted before from Michael Hanlon.  On the multiverse:

"The ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum physics was first proposed in 1957 by Hugh Everett III... It states that all quantum possibilities are, in fact, real. When we roll the dice of quantum mechanics, each possible result comes true in its own parallel timeline. If this sounds mad, consider its main rival: the idea that ‘reality’ results from the conscious gaze. Things only happen, quantum states only resolve themselves, because we look at them. As Einstein is said to have asked, with some sarcasm, ‘would a sidelong glance by a mouse suffice?’ Given the alternative, the prospect of innumerable branching versions of history doesn’t seem like such a terrible bullet to bite."

Marcel Proust wrote in Remembrance of Things Past that "Reality takes shape in memory alone."  I agree.  This comports nicely with the notion that " ‘reality’ results from the conscious gaze."  Whether this is true, I don't know.  What if the whole thing is self aware, or some permutation thereof?

"It is infinitely self inventing" has the same sentiment, I think, as the Linde postulate.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Snowy Range Pass



It was July and a getaway was needed.  At 10,847 feet this was literally the high point of the trip.  The mountain is Medicine Bow Peak towering over the pass at an elevation of 12,013.  The last time I was up here was in June a few years back.  I traveled that day from Cheyenne west through Laramie and then took Wyoming 130 over the pass.   There were walls of snow piled on either side of the road eight feet or more high.  It was like riding through an ice hallway.  And, there were snow flurries on interstate 80 as I approached Laramie.  I had to wear my most serious cold weather gear that day and was still cold.  Medicine Bow Peak was completely covered with snow.  Having come up through the western mountain ranges of Colorado this time and seeing absolutely zero snow I expected Medicine Bow Peak to also be dried out; and it almost was, compared to the previous ride.

This time I came up through Walden, Colorado and traversed the Medicine Bow from the West.  Colorado was teeming with tourists but by the time I got past Walden, way in north Colorado, past all the main attractions like Breckenridge and Vale, the traffic thinned to a trickle.

I don't know how many miles I rode on this trip.  A direct route from my house to my destination, Gillette, Wyoming, is 1200 miles.  So at least 2400.  The first day I did over 500 and the second and third and fourth about 400.  Spending the third night in Laramie I arrived the next day in Gillette where I stayed about a week and then took two more nights to get back home; Limon, Colorado, Amarillo, Texas.  It was a hard ride particularly since because of other activities I haven't been far afield on the bikes in three years but I'm glad I went.

The 1993 BMW K1100LT has close to 112,000 showing on the odometer now.  I think next time I'll take my 1976 R90/6 which has only about 145,000 miles on it.  At 600 pounds its 300 lighter than the K bike and doesn't have a fairing so it's more fun to ride, in my opinion.  They both, however, have an insatiable appetite for asphalt.  I sure wish I could spring for a new K1600 but I just don't like some of the nanny features though I am sorely tempted by the 160 horse power six cylinder engine and the mere 708 pound weight in spite of that.

We are a moving picture: