Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Evolution of History

Some thoughts provoked by Daniel Boorstin*, his chapter on evolution of history.

I am rather inclined to think that there is only one absolute truth, the conditio sine qua non, though infinite approaches to that truth are possible. These approaches are mere artifacts, and this is Boorstin, "shards" of mental pottery, transient vessels of aspiration for the "Truth". Therefore, knowledge is not constant or immutable, but ephemeral, as dew on the rose. Knowledge is a mere contemporary of its zeitgeist. It paints the way, yes, but soon along that way, there will be newer signs appropriate to new contemporaries.


When there are no clouds
the sun shines-

Is that drinking tea from an empty cup?

All historians, indeed, all artists, theologians, and scientists, sate themselves on the contents of an empty vessel. I agree with R. G. Collingwood that only philosophy, of all man's endeavors, categories of being, Stages on Life's Way**, provides the framework wherein its practitioners can come to see that true understanding springs from the consciousness that returns on itself. Release the dichotomies! One simply cannot be brought out of darkness into light because darkness and light are in an interesting way the same thing.

So! Jews were never brought out of Egyptian slavery into the promised land. This historical/mythological paradigm of Christian salvation, coming out of the evils of the flesh into the salvation of the spirit, is one dichotomy. Christians are never "saved" from their sins by virtue of one defining moment in history. Similarly workers never free themselves, by whatever device, be it collective bargaining or revolution, from bondage to the controllers of the machine apparatus of production. And don't fail to note the "self similarity" of the two historical trends of Christianity and Marxism touched on here. (One is a fractal of the other.) Freedom, individuality, independence are a simple turn of the mind away for one and all. A gymnastic juggernaut is not required. Living through a hellish history based on false myths of original sin is not requisite. See that art, religion, science, history are mere preparations of the mind for philosophy. Philosophy is the culmination of the journey past or through these signposts. Their modes of consciousness are directed out from itself. Philosophy is man's consciousness turned back on its origin. That turn of the mind is a requisite of true understanding.

Collingwood's Speculum Mentis lays out this idea that the first signpost, Art, is expressive of the aspiration for beauty and is a search for, a longing for, the "other", that which is lacking. But is it really? In what respect would we lose our identity in blissful union? Isn't annihilation already and always there in that empty cup? Religion posits absolute reality in an absolute other. History posits its goal in a distant future to be achieved through evolution. The faith of science is that measurement of infinity is achievable and mistakenly conflates knowledge with understanding. All are instances of the attempt of the soul to go beyond itself, of the urge to see reality as greater than it is.

There are, of course, many other considerations some of which I have addressed previously in this space. Beauty, truth, liberty, love, and similar attributes of consciousness are, besides what I say here, I believe, facets of a divine being and are in a sense also spirits in themselves in that "their" being is added to, enhanced somehow by participation in them of sentient life. The principles grow by being called on and their luminescence increases through this use. It also bears repeating that existential mass embodies these principles as potentialities that emerge, so to speak, in the presence of sentient life. Our consciousness directed in these categories is fertile soil for the growth of these spirits. Thus it is that God has commerce with creation. Thus it is that God has self experience. For what other purpose could there be for making this being? I am here at the cusp of projecting, I see, my human nature on the cosmos. This is a conundrum that recurs throughout history. My answer is that I am the cosmos in a sense, so this projection is of the cosmos onto itself. Keeping all the caveats mentioned here and elsewhere in mind, that is how I am able to be confident in my appraisal.

*The Discoverers
**Soren Kierkegaard

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