Friday, February 02, 2007

tiers upon tiers

Teilhard said the human being is the universe aware of itself (thinking).

I would add feeling to thinking--the universe conscious of itself, loving as it itself perhaps is better.

But that statement is only true from a certain position in the Kosmic cascade. Otherwise it is at best metaphor and worst metaphysics. The human being only from the indigo-violet worldspace (and within) is the universe aware of itself.

The identity is the authentic self, soul, psychic being, whatever term one prefers.

And really the human awake to that current is only a slice of the Universe, but the feeling is of being non-separable from that larger whole for sure. At this point, we can not know beyond perspectives, so the question of whether the feeling is the same as the "thing itself" is a non-starter.

Outside of its proper address it gets translated "downward" and becomes a platitude or perhaps benignly a projection/goal/dream. It is for example an oft-quoted line in counter-cultural holistic, new paradigm circles. But however true that may be--and there is no need to list the litany of its fault here, I don't want to be overly dismissive of this tendency, honestly the world (in my view) is very dark and spiritually pathetic and as wrong/partial as I know that position to be, it's better than nothing or the nothingness of most of the Western world's insanity--it can solve the world's ills. That much is clear.

The major issue, for me, is the non-accountability, the fixed egoic spectator position that congeals of this perspective, because it is metaphysical, assumed to free of perspective and choice, and non-dialogical. There is no dialogue with the Earth in this view often; rather we are just supposed to listen. Because of that one-way street we never criticize ourselves, dialoguee with our thoughts/feelings, and project onto the "blank" slate of Nature what we will and desire.

Accountability is a prime thread for me. Accountability to each other, to the evolution of consciousness, to the Ground/Divine, to the broken.

Vancouver, the West Coast in general, is an unchurched place. Accountability is immediately taken to be fascist, authoritarian cultural homogenity power dramas. I'm not talking in some puritanical fashion, but a fellowship freely entered into, out of the freedom of our hearts being touched and moved to be able to do no other (Augustine's great paradox of grace & freedom).

I just don't see it both secularly and in religious circles. I don't live it myself. I'm no different and only noticed it because I desire it which means I'm admitting I need it (hence I don't have it, am not doing it).

Those desires, holy and/or naive as they are, are met in the Teilhardian experience--they dissolve as desires and leave the space of actually having to do and no longer think about, mediate upon, or wish for, its realization. It ends, in my experience, that form of searching (certainly not searching altogether).

But it does give, however ill-formed, a movement, a pattern, an identity, a structure to which to gauge, respond, react & conform to, etc.

There is an even stranger, often scarier place, I have not allowed myself to be drawn to/experience in a long time. A place even beyond all this evolutionary authenticity or whatever.

The only words I know to begin to describe it are: living the love wound and out-shining the world. Both from Adi Da. In the traditional language it is bhava samadhi. Bhava samadhi is the bliss/meditation of fire.

In the authentic self there is a descent energy--evolution, accountability, a new sanity and morality, intersubjectivity. With bhava all bets--from that point of view--are off. It is painful Descent and borders on insanity. Ultraviolet in range. Hence the out-shine.

I really have nothing to say about any of it. If there are measly words that don't align well for authentic self. Total silence and tears alone suffice for the bhava wound. Bhava that is as a structure stabilized in the Kosmos. As a stage humans (predominantly) lived within.

What would flying on an airplane, riding the bus, school, politics, or work be in a world of bhava. Again there is no knowing and any thoughts are just that thoughts. Projections and eventually degrading (I assume) into New Agey sounding nonsense.

Hopefully just opening up the vista, however unimaginatively, creates enough space for some small change in the "comedown."

Only when I get even the possibility of the faintest inkling of that Love Wound, projected wildly as a possibility for human experience collectively, do I understand Da's comment that this world is a hell realm.

When I feel the distance and the dissonance stage-wise, what word could else describe it?

But hell....I think of St. Teresa of Lisieux, whom I consider to be the greatest Christian mystic ever. She said, that even being sent to hell would be such a great gift because that is where she could worship her God. In Nonduality, the essence of hell is Godhead. It is hell and yet it is free. Just as this life.

16 Comments:

At 3:51 PM, Blogger bonsta looga said...

Each person’s spiritual journey is inherently different. There are many spiritual pathways leading to the same destination.

 
At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

small tangential comment:

"Otherwise it is at best metaphor and worst metaphysics..."

So now "metaphysics" is a term of dispargement.

Poo towards Wilber for adding "metaphysics" to the list of terms that he's attempted to bastardize. That list includes "quadrant" and "quadrivium", and like "metaphysics" have important classical meanings.

Not only historically, as with Aristotle, but in the general understanding of metaphysics as "a body of first principles of causes of things" -- how it is not valuable to cherish and preserve their meanings?

In a non-technical, non-hair-splitting way, how it is not completely useful to have, as a kind of template of the kosmos, the physical world, and the metaphysical world? That certainly is a less-headache inducing template; and it is sympathetic with, for example, the useful definition of philosophy by R.G. Collingwood and, to a lesser by still important extent, that of Mortimer Adler -- namely that "philosophy" is the study of both the world as well as what we think about the world.

There are real insights lost or trampled over when, especially in the case of quadrivium and metaphysics, Wilber acts in this self-serving, seemingly-ignorant way. It is semantic theft for the purposes of his self-referential model. It is arrogance, and it is disappointing, Chris, that you buy into it.

Especially because I know that you know what the original definitions are, and how they have operated in history.

We already have a word for what Wilber wants his basterdized "metaphysical" to mean, the whole "assertions w/o kosmic address" ya ya schlamoodle -- it is called "unpersuasive".

And for this reader, it applies more to him than to any of the lines of thought he disparages as "metaphysics".

md

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

md,

metaphysics can mean different things and I use it differently--this case was negative. But I have used it positively before but I tend to use the word metaphor for what is the positive heritage of metaphysics.

It seems to me your whole commenting mo is to simply take one sentence, one paragraph and thought and just rip it apart, showing (to me) no real sense of having considered it part of a thread of experimenting with my thoughts.

this latest salvo is a perfect example of that tendency.

by metaphor metaphysical spiritual descriptions can open up people's minds to a different way of being, of perceiving life and the place within it.

But it still comes down from above to be placed upon an individual by someone else. For me I no longer find any heart in that. I think negatively it is dis-empowering.

your beef with Wilber is your beef with Wilber. I'm influenced by his writings no doubt, but these are my reflections. He is only one of a series of influences on me.

I mean you might as well be blaming Habermas while your at it, since the notion of post-metaphysics originates with him (and not Wilber). For Habermas, post-metaphysics is about reclaiming reason and the modern tradition through dialogical reason not as with classical modernism monological reason. He takes seriously the criticisms of postmodernity but doesn't want to fall into the relativist swamp.

Habermas doesn't believe in spiritual realities, so the Wilber addition is that basic insight (dialogical reason) plus acceptance of spiritual truths.

And there is, for what it is worth, metaphysics in post-metaphysics (so-called). Notions of Eros, Kosmic memory, and the open-endedness of future evolution. That's simply and straightforward and I find more meaningful than the view of say the Perennial Philosophy.

Nobody can get away without some metaphysics, I just think most of what has passed for what we know about the world spiritually and philosophically is outmoded.

That doesn't mean it is unworthy of my time to read (the arrogance charge) or anybody else's, I just think it should be taken as metaphor. Hell, I could be wrong.

anyway, this is a major point of disagreement between us. According to my own construct, views that I find now in my life to be partially outmoded, at one time in my life were very powerful to me. I'm not cutting the legs off of people. If people want those writings, find truth and meaning in those teachings, by all means seek and find.

But I'm also going to be honest as to my own subsequent movements.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

and per quadrivium, I don't think I really get your point.

Why can't quadrivium mean both the traditional educational system you've written so much about AND looking at a non individual holon through a quadrant?

They could be related--the latter could be taught as a piece of the former.

It means both to me, whether or not your assertion that Wilber has stolen the world is valid.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger jwood said...

God it would be nice to see Dallman just once engage in a dialectic, rather than strictly polemics. (go ahead you shit, tear that apart). I'm all for creative tension, but just tension? In all the writings I've read from you, the location of your heart is still an utter mystery to me.

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

oops that was "word"--whether Wilber has stolen the word--not world.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "case" was negative? I don't know about that, Chris. That's a little weasly.

Let me be clear -- it wasn't you, Chris, that I charged with arrogance. It is Wilber. I apologize if it came off the former. I'm just disappointed that you bought into his usage of metaphysics, as a term of disparagement. But nor am I crying in my cereal bowl about all this either, don't misunderstand.

And, fine, if Habermas has made metaphysics a term of disparagement, poo on him, as well. My readings of his work are paltry, so I wouldn't know. But it doesn't matter what Habermas has said, in this regard. My criticism is of Wilber and what he did.

You said:

It seems to me your whole commenting mo is to simply take one sentence, one paragraph and thought and just rip it apart, showing (to me) no real sense of having considered it part of a thread of experimenting with my thoughts.

I sort of did that here, although "rip it apart" strikes me as an obtuse exaggeration. What I did was make a comment, period, and an admittedly tangential one at that, as I advertised up front. And it was a comment about an assumption of yours about metaphysics, which you've expressed in posts before. And I am experimenting along with you -- here, my role is to say, "this isn't working".

Metaphor as the positive aspect of metaphysics, you say. Hmm. Not persuasive. Because we already have words for what you want to make new words for.

If something is in your view "outmoded", then there, it is outmoded, at least for you. That's one of several words you can use, and use to your heart's content, that don't commit to be what I see as the error of then calling this outmoded things "metaphysics". I suggested "unpersuasive" before, and that's another. "The ranting of infantile idiocy", if you like a bit of spice. You can accomplish what you want to do, and Wilber as well, without this brute and frankly cheap theft of terms already taken, thank you very much.

Frankly, this theft, this appropriation, is a very "postmodern" thing to do. It is unearned.

Words mean something. They have geneologies. They can (and should) be traced. In the case of "metaphysics", the meanings number in the enormous, when taken historically.

"Quadrant" -- how many in Wilberland actually know what a quadrant is? Hands? Well, you should, there are entire floors of museums in Italy dedicated to them.

With regard to quadrivium, you are really stretching things, Chris, to suggest that its classical meaning, in education, can reasonably connect with Wilber's bastardized one. (Which, I might add, he could just use "quadrant" for -- because the conceit that sentient holons "possess" quadrants is idiotic. His quadrants are an interpretive lens no matter whether they are used to look at people, or inanimate objects. How people have swallowed this line from him, that sentient H's "possess" quadrants is beyond me.)

For, first of all, what good comes of connecting the classical and Wilberian definition of quadrivium? Name one thing.

Secondly, logically, to say that astronomy, music, arithmetic, and geometry are amount to an equivalence with Wilber's quadrivium would mean that one would have to locate these in a particular quadrant (of the quadrivium). That's absurd on its face.

Thirdly, Wilber has never talked earnestly about education, or the history of education (in which the trivium and quadrivium play an enormous role). So, he hasn't earned any right to be 1) taken seriously on education, and 2) change the meanings of important terms.

md

 
At 9:40 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

Matthew,

I don't even know what we are discussing or not discussing anymore.

I also don't understand what the point is.

Peace bro.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger MD said...

It really isn't that hard, Chris. The painfully short version can be summed up thusly: 1) You have agreed with Wilber's choice of defining 'metaphysics' as assertions without 'kosmic address', and thus as a term of disparagement, and I expressed my disappointment in you doing so, and presented counter-arguments against doing so; 2) This is not the first time Wilber has tried to redefine a well-established term (I point to his doing so with the terms 'quadrant' and 'quadrivium'), and I answered your question about quadrivium specifically, and 3) you think my "m.o." is to rip apart single sentences and I think you are wrong.

md

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

MD,

Thank you for clarifying but I think again you have one-sidedly focused on that which supports your arguments.

At least vis a vis metaphysics.

For me, it is more a question of multiple perspectives. The term is post-metaphysics which in Wilberian (if that is what is to be discussed) means in its own language transcend and include.

It is not disparage altogether. The analogy used is that of Einstenian to Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics still works perfectly well in describing a great number of physical events in a mostly flat space-time matrix. Similarly traditional metaphysics does a wonderful job of opening up people's minds and hearts.

But there are matrices in which Newtonian physics no longer functions. Just so, I would say metaphysics reaches a limit beyond which it can not function or work as an explanatory-interpretive frame.

I said within that context, I think it can still function as metaphor-poetry.

The question then would be what are the space-time constructs, as it were, that are being discussed. If they are Newtonian, then metaphysics is the result.

I don't really feel like going into a whole other discussion at the moment of what are the spiritual-philosophical parallels to Newtonian versus Einstenian physics.

And even within the so-named post-metaphysics, there are still metaphysical elements.

So there is true and partial I argue. The "disparagement", issues about asertions without addresses, is only of the partial. And all of this is interpretive--the criticisms are not of the experiences of the master's themselves but their interpretations.

It is true in this post I only referenced the piece of criticism, but what I was saying earlier in my comments was that read other posts and you will get the other sides.

My frustration with what your (from my pov) single-issue deconstruct is just that. We do disagree from the Einsteinian point on. Or whether there is such a space, I guess. Prior to that there is not disagreement I believe.

In terms of re-definitions by Wilber, my take on them is true but partial. He is "re-defining" in the sense of a claim to transcend and your right on some of the terms you mention he has not made evident the include. But I for example have said positive things about your reminding people of the original contexts of quadrivium. I don't see the terms at odds. You do. Fair enough.

But there is a backdrop to this that I think you are forgetting. I mentioned this in relation to Habermas, but it really goes back philosophically I would argue to Heidegger.

Heidegger criticized what he called onto-theology. Heidegger interestingly returned to the pre-Socratics as support for his undertaking. I think it not coincidental that you come from a classicist model. I generally side with Heidegger in moving from onto-theologies which I find non-participatory to being-in-the-world, language, worldspaces, evolutionary cosmologies, and now vis a vis Wilber addresses and hierarchies.

Where I disagree with Heidegger in his inability to distinguish between in say Plato his mysticism and his onto-theological structure. This is what Wilber's post-metaphysics is about for me.

Now of course, mysticism is only one thread of the classical view no doubt. And what I'm doing leaves out other pieces--say Aristotlean ethics. I'm upfront about that. Those could be brought in I think, but it is generally not my passion and interest so to do.

But either way, Heidegger I think is a fundamental divide. Not that he was right about everything, cetainly neither in his thought nor his life, but that in terms of metaphysics, theology, ontologies, I find his criticism profound and right.

There are arguments I think to be made about what to do since that divide. Generally I lean towards apophatic theology as the only future. To say what God is not. Leaving open the possibility to experience a new revelation--a G/god to come as Heidegger said. Or metaphoric language which I think has its place but suffers from the flaws I mentioned.

Or assertoric language, as Wilber says. Which to me then leads in some form or another to the notion of addresses and more importantly injunctive, participatory language.

You do not go down that road. What else is there to say? If I'm even remotely right about Heidegger being such a divide, then we are on two very different sides of them.

If I'm wrong, then we are equally on such a divide, though it would be a creation of my illusion. For better or worse, I'm fully convinced of that illusion, if illusion it be. So no back and forth arguments are really going to do it. And I suspect it is the same--in terms of commitment--with you.

Peace.

Chris

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger MD said...

Slow down, Chris. The main point of rupture between us here is that I'm doing grammar (from the point of view of dialetic), and you are doing rhetoric (from the point of view of dialetic). Historically, they hate each other. Don't worry, I don't hate you.

So, in other words, what I do is pick on words (because these are profound, wildly complex carriers of divine meanings). Whereas, to you, words are often cheap (else you wouldn't so easily say "at worst metaphysics" and "It is not disparage altogether" without blushing.)

But it is the more pernicious thing, implicit in your treatment of metaphysics (and Wilber's) that bothers me more. It rears its head here, when you write:

Similarly traditional metaphysics does a wonderful job of opening up people's minds and hearts.

This gets to my criticism of your premises. Again with the lumping thing. Metaphysics as if it means something monolithic. Metaphysics as an "it". That "does" something singular. You make a thing (falsely) so as to be able to neatly categorize it, push it away, and pretend evolution.

Same as you did, I might add, back in our Derrida back-and-forth, whereby you turned the subject of the Humanities canon into an object, for the purposes of your ill-fated Derrida 'injunction'.

Well, different topic, same method. 'Metaphysics' isn't an object. Rather, metaphysics is an enormous subject. Myriad accounts of fantastically varying plausibility, persuasiveness, allegorical truths, all bending every which way, sharing intersubjectivity, all refusing easy anything. Rather than doing the hard work of sorting through the thicket in a responsible way, Wilber thought he could just fly at 50,000 ft above the real world and dish out stuff applicable at 0 ft.

So, my advice Chris, is to come down to earth, man. You can Derrida-, Heidegger-, and Habermas-me-to-death, but all that is a distraction from the main point. Which is that you can't make an object out of what is by definition a subject. Ironically, here and elsewhere, you are committing gross category errors. Between, fundamentally, how the material world behaves and how the interior world behaves.

As a vast subject, metaphysics is perhaps best framed as one of the "Great Ideas", of the 103 such ideas listed in Mortimer Adler's seminal "Syntopicon" (see here.)

So, my friend, you are thinking you are decorating an ornate skyscraper. But to engage my point, which you have not, you have to return to the foundation, the cassions, the undergirding. To, in short, etymology.

Doing so would keep you from thinking that statements such as "I generally side with Heidegger in moving from onto-theologies which I find non-participatory to being-in-the-world, language, worldspaces, evolutionary cosmologies, and now vis a vis Wilber addresses and hierarchies." hold actual relevance to my criticism.

md

 
At 1:56 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

Matthew,

I think you have again criticized a position I do not hold.

Regarding the subject, object distinction in your words.

What I have said, both in the humanities/canon and metaphysics discussion is that I agree with you: start with a close individual reading of the text(s).

I think that is only the first step.

To take a concrete example, the Bible which you mentioned you are reading parts of in your class.

Read the text closely, trying as strongly as possibly to get away from what you have been told about the text.

Wrestle with it, enter it sympathetically, fight it.

But then I also think you have to read from other (often scholarly) traditions.

What was the historical context of the piece?

--What political-social-class system does it uphold? Consciously or otherwise?
--What form? How does the form shape the content?
--What is the theological agenda of the text?
--How many layers of editions, over what time periods did the text go through?
--Are there different textual transmissions, errors in the manuscripts?

You won't get these by just close reading.

And then read someone else's commentary/intepretation from an entirely different social, cultural vantage point: how do Nigerian tribal women read Genesis?

This practice helps in distinguishing how our readings are shaped by our own life conditions and experiences.

The "object" piece you described is not metaphysics nor humanities per se can be objectified but that parts of them can be studied so.

I said then and I say now it is for me both. Not subject nor object but both--and that as part of a conversation that others have started, I am entering, will leave at some point, and will have its history of effects, as Gadamer called them.

Almost always, and certainly in this post, when I use metaphysics I mean traditional spiritual cosmological interpretations of Reality, capital R. Like Plotinus' Enneads, Aurobindo's Divine Life, the Great Chain, etc.

Fair point you made on metaphysics-es: although there certainly is difference in these systems, they are in essentials the same. At least according to Huston Smith & Co., which I would agree with.

Either way, I did not objectify those--they can already as such.

You are using metaphysics differently. Again I tend to use the language of hermeneutics and structuralism for what you are describing as subject/object.

It is true that I'm not generally in classical humanist ways describing it from the inside--except on occassion the Bible. But that is not the same as saying it is not valid or not encouraging others to pick the practice up for themselves.

The difference in our positions is whether or not there is more to do beyond the close reading--as I see it.

I won't resopnd to other issues you raised because I think they are red herrings.

Peace.

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger MD said...

Wow. Red herrings, you say. That's a cop out. And this: "The difference in our positions is whether or not there is more to do beyond the close reading--as I see it." Quite a reduction.

I was hoping that we'd reached the end of the line of you using Wilberian tropes (such as "true but partial" blech). But with this new comment from you, it is clear the end is not near. But I will wait it out. Ism-free thought is, after all, something to be earned. It comes precisely when fatigue sets in. I've seen it time and time again. The trick is to be fatigued, but still keep your mind activated.

Maybe I should not longer be so surprised that you are forcing the multitudes that are "metaphysics" into the monolithic lump to make your leap into "post-metaphysics" which you just don't seem to care isn't "post" anything.

Because the kind of thinking required to think that "close-reading" is a logical point to make regarding what we are talking about is just about as off-the-wall non-sequitor as I could hope for from a normally sane person as yourself.

Let me state things in the strongest possible terms: it is impossible for any one thing to be "at worst metaphysics". For it would require the "thing" at hand to simultaneously be all of the body of thought called "metaphysics".

Do you have a proof otherwise? Hmmmm?

I'll give you credit for this: "Almost always, and certainly in this post, when I use metaphysics I mean traditional spiritual cosmological interpretations of Reality, capital R. Like Plotinus' Enneads, Aurobindo's Divine Life, the Great Chain, etc."

Good, good. Yet this still is begging questions. So your "at worst" means these works? Yikes, this is getting bizarre. I'm actually wondering if you even interested in whether your words mean anything beyond what they mean to you, in the moment of writing them. Which means I'm hoping you haven't been too biten by the postmodern rattlesnake. Though, there are antidotes.

Frankly, you give away the farm here:

"What was the historical context of the piece?

--What political-social-class system does it uphold? Consciously or otherwise?
--What form? How does the form shape the content?
--What is the theological agenda of the text?
--How many layers of editions, over what time periods did the text go through?
--Are there different textual transmissions, errors in the manuscripts?

You won't get these by just close reading."

Right, yet none of the above constitute metaphysics, either. So, my friend, the Red Herring is all yours. None of the above would ever be anything that anyone would attempt to classify in the "at worst metaphysics" group of stuff you surely have in mind (you do, don't you? You aren't just forwarding content-free signifiers, are you?).

So your hermeneutics/structuralism yadda is basically another of attempt to change the subject.

Sigh. Ok, in your langauge: the problem is that you are not seeing that, from the point of view of actual, honest to god utility, metaphysics is entirely of the hermeneutic realm. It must be read, and continually interpreted for a such work to work "metaphysically". Structural analyses of metaphysical accounts are NEVER actual metaphysics themselves. They don't play that game. They play another game. Yet they must what they aren't (namely, they must actually function as metaphysics) for anything of what you are really saying to make sense.

You are papering over the differences of thought realms, Chris. Irresponsibly, I might add.

Concretely: Doing your Derrida dance means one is no longer reading the works. Doing your interpretive schools Bible dance (what I quoted above) means you are no longer reading the work. In both cases, you are doing something else. And you are papering over the differences.

It is only by meditating on the Bible and other great works over many years, and through the many periods of maturation in one's life, that one gets anything out of them. And that is all one must do to get everything out of them. I know this is boring-sounding. I know this won't win points in philosopher's circles. I know that people won't found universities around that insight. But, dammit, so what.

There are several games; only one on the terms of the works themselves. Which is the only one that really counts from the point of view of actual paideia.

I've given close read to the book of Genesis in basically all of the four decades of my life. It is a different book each time. If I were ever to adopt the "at worst" or "Derrida" dance you so love to sing about, the book ceases to be about what the book is about. Whatever it then becomes about, it is necessarily of great distance away from the book itself.

Which leads if applied in other areas of life to, basically, a deracinated life. AKA the position of loneliness amidst a world that has so much comfort to offer.

Your dances may yield truths. I'm not debating that. But the truths are necessarily removed from those that the book yields by reading it, repeatedly. Far, far removed.

The larger problem: Your "at worst metaphysics" and the Derrida dance encourage, at its core, slip-shod reading. This is what you don't acknowledge. The "well, I've DONE that!" impulse, never to be "done" again. It springs entirely from these dances. And, on the slippery slope, precisely to where we are at this current moment in our culture: in far too many cases, our citizens are ignorant of the great works. Have lost the heritage that says "reading these on their own terms are very important!"

And this infection means that people face a nearly insurmountable task to be able to overcome the infection and actually read the works for what they are.

Which is all another way of saying that there is no more bigger or more patronizing lie than the entire school of thought (Wilberism inclusive) that believes that "naive realism" is a fair charge.

The more I read your continued line on this, the more I think you are somehow more interested in winning points with whatever philosophers might be reading your blog, and less about preserving sustainably the 'effin reasons we are talking about works like the Bible, the Enneads, etc. in the first goddurn place.

And frankly, Chris, that is a shame, that you are ultimately contributing to the trashing of these works than to sustainably preserving them. I'm not saying you are trying to do this. But I am saying, you are doing this.

But, then again, Wilber has been doing that for, what 30 years. And he's done far more damage than anyone ever could (outside of the continental French dudes I've previously criticized). So don't misunderstand. I'm just trying to make you aware that what you may think you are saying, isn't what you are saying.

Again, just because grammarians and rhetoricians have hated each other through the epochs doesn't mean I must play into type. Or that you must, either.

I'm all about love, which I why I read your blog everyday.

md

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

there's one thing we agree on--the structuralist readings does in fact take one away from the text. and i think sometimes that is necessary. i think it can force us to try to uncover unconscious habits of reading.

i don't think any text, any so-called great idea ever exists separate from social, political, cultural agendas, and the like. They are not reducible in my book to those, but they never exist outside of such influnces either.

Take Aristotle's dictum that man (and he meant men) is by nature political. That is a member a polis animal....that is quite the social-political statement given that 95%+ of his own day's population were therefore by his measure not men.

He may still be right, but I think it important to remember that when taking his words into account.

I never said a close reading, a metaphysical reading, a hermeneutical reading, whatever term is preferred is ever done.

I think it is one round, if you like, of such a reading, then other readings of the kind I mentioned, and then renewed close readings.

Of such a pattern never ends and no one ever completes it fully. But there are moments, I think, to take other views.

I never said the other types of readings were metaphysics--not in the way you use the term. I see it as perspectives, from within adn without, each giving important views that can not be gained by the other. Which is again why I'm in favor of both. How many more times can I say why the fake dualism?

And regarding (yet again)the metaphysics issue. I never said something like the Enneads is only to be reduced to Plotinus' kosmic structure. There are deep moving passages of his own experiences, criticisms of false systems, just plain "old" deep reflection.

The reason I criticize the architectonic elements is only then to say, I still read the work find great truth in it but whenever I find such an architectonic system, in my head I re-translate it into so-called post metaphysics.

The at worst metaphysics line is not in reference to the way you are using metaphysics. Like I said in the last post, I prefer using different terms.

But to your language--the at worst metaphysics is not about whether or not what is said contains deep truth or not.

It is to paraphrase a philosopher: it was as if humans were looking out the window and only recently decided to ask about the window itself.

When I say at worst metaphysics I am saying the window, to my mind, is left undescribed, unquestioned, unexamined.

The view out from the window may still be deeply profound, worth listening to (your metaphysics, great ideas, canon), but there is for me still the problem that the window is assumed. There does not seem to me to be sufficient (not that there isn't any) wondernig as to whether the window is shaping what is seen.

Again, to a metaphysical example, someone like Guenon or F. Schuon. Profound reflection, so profound.

And at the same time, the notion that there is one universal primordial revelation of which the religions are just colors flowing out of a spectrum and if we could transcend the spectrum of any and all religion we would return to the one light.

That notion is not disconnected from Schuon for example being a Muslim. Bahai for example arises out of Shia Islam. Islam was the final great world religion and therefore say itself as the culmination/apex of revelation. That view is behind the supposedly metaphysical view i his writings.

Not to mention that the religious traditions cited by those writers did not arise until the advent of agrarian domestication allowing imperial movements. Roughly only 3-5,000 years out of 100,000+ years of modern homo sapiens. How primordial is that?

Now knowing that, I argue you can still read those writers (and I do) and be deeply moved by their writings, but when I come to passages that promote that view, I re-translate it in my head.

The at worst metaphysics then is meant specifically in the context of an outdated kosmic architecture. Where the world outside the window is just to be described and all others can and should see it.

That is not the world I live in. My reading style has to reflect my cosmology. As does I think my political views.

I think that traditional view for all its manifold beauty and wisdom--and I'm not denying it has a near infinite amount--still has flaws. In light of later information not available to them.

I don't think that view is particulary bizzare. The flaw is that it has to be dropped on someone, as it were, from above. It is already set and I think ethically it is ambiguous what the point of being human is after mystical awakening.

Whereas I think the view that evolution, as per form, itself evolves, brings greater ethical import and responsibility to the human task of spiritual awakening. Ethics and mutual accountability is a key piece for me.

It is all "metaphor"--nothing we can say about anything, particularly the Divine ever is the reality--so I'm just saying I think (I don't know 100% for sure) that the post-metaphysics is a better metaphor.

Others do not share this Kosmic view I do. I argue for it strongly, I invite people to consider the position. I still think with or without that view, individuals could gain from taking more and more perspectives.

That is all I am saying. Period. To suggest as you do that I'm out to submarine ideas, debate, reading, study is sad.

This is a blog. Not my considered, polished thoughts on any and all subjects. I say people should investigate those other writings themselves---I am not writing on all manner of discourse.

The obvious question is since you are doing such a good job of sustainbly preserving these works and I've told readers they should consult your blog on that topic, then why should I reinvent the wheel?

Why can't I just write on other topics say those are not the issues I am dealing with, I'm aware of them, I point people in the direction(s) for those interested.

How did you decide anything else is to be so slammed?

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger MD said...

Let me respond to chunks of your last comment.

#1:

there's one thing we agree on--the structuralist readings does in fact take one away from the text. and i think sometimes that is necessary. i think it can force us to try to uncover unconscious habits of reading.

i don't think any text, any so-called great idea ever exists separate from social, political, cultural agendas, and the like. They are not reducible in my book to those, but they never exist outside of such influnces either.

Take Aristotle's dictum that man (and he meant men) is by nature political. That is a member a polis animal....that is quite the social-political statement given that 95%+ of his own day's population were therefore by his measure not men.

He may still be right, but I think it important to remember that when taking his words into account.


First of all, that's a narrow reading of Aristotle. His definition of "politics" is far broader than what you attribute to him. The claim by Aristotle is that man is, essentially, a social animal; within the concern of a social animal are matters of political policy by the state, but not limited by those whatsoever.

So, you are wrong.

Close-reading, you see, involves close attention to words, including their etymologies, translations, and meanings. That is not "structuralist" as you have attempted to paint.

Your point about great ideas contributes nothing, since I or no one else has argued otherwise.

And if what you get out of structuralist readings is "uncover unconscious habits of reading," congratulations. I'm glad it works for you. Of course, but now the strategy is about you, and not the text. Which is precisely the problem.

I'll note here that in the Basic Program, all of that is accomplished without need of silly theory, but rather from simply having a good discussion about the works. Everyone brings so many different perspectives to the works, that simply listening to people's responses serves to encourage inquiry into one's own perspectives.

So, again, your dances aren't needed. And you really need to understand how poor of a substitute your dances are for close-reading, Socratic-style group inquiry. Thin soup is a term that comes to me right now.

To understand a work's ideas, such as the book of Genesis, only the book of Genesis is needed (and, ok, other people to talk with about it, who are also reading it, or have read it). Within this work of metaphysics reside innumerable ideas, shades of ideas, plausible and less plausible. In other words, this work of metaphysics has a range of value, depending on the person.

But for your "at worst metaphysics" to mean anything, this range of metaphysical value present in the Bible must be homogenized and compressed into a single kind of value, a monolithic value that not only applies to the entire book, but to ALL such works of metaphysics. That literally is impossible. Because metaphysics isn't an object. Genesis has a range of colors that, according to your view, are necessarily compressed into a single hue.

That is something that is harmful, if believed.

#2:
I never said the other types of readings were metaphysics--not in the way you use the term. I see it as perspectives, from within adn without, each giving important views that can not be gained by the other. Which is again why I'm in favor of both. How many more times can I say why the fake dualism?

Chris, the point is that the term "metaphysics" is not open to redefinition, any more than the term "Italian" is. It already means something concrete, settled, tangible, and commonly accepted.

If you understand that, then you understand why you can't employ the Wilberian use of "metaphysics" in an intellectually honest way.

#3:

The at worst metaphysics then is meant specifically in the context of an outdated kosmic architecture. Where the world outside the window is just to be described and all others can and should see it.

There! All you have to do to accomplish what you want to do is instead of the word "metaphysics", use "outdated" -- as in, "at worst outdated". And we have none of the problems and none of the intellectual violations that you otherwise commit. You show yourself how unnecessary it is to attempt to redefine the already accepted.

#4:
I think that traditional view for all its manifold beauty and wisdom--and I'm not denying it has a near infinite amount--still has flaws. In light of later information not available to them.

What "traditional view"? I've read and re-read several of the greatest hits of Western Civilization, and I've never encountered this. Could it be that, as is the case with so many temptations (including your dances) these are never suggested by the works themselves, but rather from (in my view) poor readings of those works?

You cannot invent this "traditional view" notion as a mean of criticism of, say, the Bible. The only meaningful criticisms of the ideas in the Bible must be according to the terms used by the Bible. Else one literally is not talking about the Bible anymore.

That is an extremely subtle point, but it makes all the difference as far as actually getting something out of the often arduous task of reading this often difficult-ass books.

#5:
To suggest as you do that I'm out to submarine ideas, debate, reading, study is sad.

I didn't suggest that whatsoever. I choose my words far more carefully than such brute fumbling that you falsely attribute to me. I said merely that, while I don't doubt you aren't intending on doing this, nonetheless the effect of your dances is to trash the great works. Because that is the effect of both the Derrida two-step, and less directly, of the "at worst metaphysics".

It is very much akin to a silent meditation. We both understand that if there is an object of meditation, then each and every thought besides that which comes from the object itself is a distraction of the highest order. and while these distractions could be investigated under different circumstances to see if they offer some kind of merit, whatever merits there might be necessarily will have nothing to do with the object meditated upon, but rather the actual meditator.

To think that those spaces are usefully related is profoundly muddle-headed; and does the most damage to whatever insights the object might offer, if given the proper time and conditions on the part of the meditator.

So, yes Chris, for the purposes of object meditation (of which reading great works is one kind), all that is mostly needed is the object. Your suggested dances are just distractions in this sense.

Lastly, #6:

This is a blog. Not my considered, polished thoughts on any and all subjects. I say people should investigate those other writings themselves---I am not writing on all manner of discourse.

The obvious question is since you are doing such a good job of sustainbly preserving these works and I've told readers they should consult your blog on that topic, then why should I reinvent the wheel?

Why can't I just write on other topics say those are not the issues I am dealing with, I'm aware of them, I point people in the direction(s) for those interested.

How did you decide anything else is to be so slammed?


To imply that I think you must do this or that with your blog is to profoundly misunderstand both what I'm saying, as well as to misunderstand me, as a person. Of course yours is a blog; mine are mere blog comments. We are both riffing here. So, please...I'm not asking you, or expecting you, to do anything except consider whether your advocacy of the Derrida dance, of the "at worst metaphysics" dance is helpful or hurtful to the task of grasping the ideas that lie waiting for us in the great works.

And I'm doing so repeatedly because yours is one of the brightest lights on the internet, yet whenever you opine under the presumption that your dances constitute truth, the assumptions of (I imagine) the great majority of your readers are, instead of being challenged, rather are confirmed.

Deconstruction has a seriously strong hold in the Humanities right now, and while I appreciate your compliments to my work, quite sincerely, me and the rest of my colleagues at POLYSEMY need all the help we can get to overcome this infection, restore the Humanities to their central place in common imagination -- on their own terms, not those of the deconstructionists -- and bringing about the conditions whereby people, for themselves, see as clear as day the imperative of meditative contemplation of these works, both individually but, more importantly, in small groups of mature adults, seeking nothing more than what the works themselves provide, as primary source not just of knowledge, but of nothing short of enlightenment.

md

 
At 10:38 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

You wrote:

To understand a work's ideas, such as the book of Genesis, only the book of Genesis is needed (and, ok, other people to talk with about it, who are also reading it, or have read it). Within this work of metaphysics reside innumerable ideas, shades of ideas, plausible and less plausible. In other words, this work of metaphysics has a range of value, depending on the person.

I don't agree with that. I think more is needed. Take the Book of Exodus. I just learned the other day that the Form in which the Covenant between God and the Israelites is written is an Assyrian vassal legal code. Given the Judaeans were under Assyrian control when that passage was created, that blows my mind to think of why they would conceive of a liberating God a God who overthrows the oppressors and yet use the language of the oppressors to mediate their claim.

Does that make God an Assyrian warlord?

Unless somebody in your group is a Near Eastern historian, you aren't going to learn that piece of info. from close reading/conversation alone.

The Aristotle example--I said specifically that the reading offered in no way reduced all meanings of the text to that alone but should not be absent either.

And then you go on about how I am trying to compress all meanings into one hue. What?

Also to your point about metaphysics being redefined...it is just a more nuanced version of the Myth of the Given. If you would prefer me to say the Myth of the Given or to announce when I use the word metaphysics people should re-translate as myth of the given, maybe that works.

Or outdated as you suggest.

But to suggest metaphysics as you understand is the commonly accepted version is not I think quite accurate. Because there is this tradition through Heidegger, Habermas, and Wilber. Not to mention a whole host of others who use their views in some way or another. Not exactly one man here for you to just knock down.

The traditional view, as I mentioned previous comment, is the perennial philosophy (philosophies): vedanta, great chain, aurobindo, plotinus. The cosmological architectonic.

You find that in the Bible because it isn't in there. Or many of the other great hits of the Western world. That is how something can be post-metaphysics. Post the great chain of being. Not post subjects, reflection, wrestling with ideas, poetry, or imagination from ancient texts.

I hardly invented this traditional view. I read Schuon and Smith. I in fact think they did "invent" it--that was my criticism.

I certainly didn't invent or quote their invention to trash the Bible. Don't know how you got to that point.

The Bible's cosmology is that of Near Eastern ancient agrarian societies. There is a Divine Realm peopled by a High God (El) who rules over a court of heavnely being (Yahweh the Lord of Hosts). The Divine Realm is mediated to the earthly realm by the King--who is either the Messiah (King David), the Son of God (Pharaoh). The other mediator would be a prophet--that is a messenger. "Whom shall I send" asks the Lord of Hosts to Isaiah. Or the priest.

Hence Jesus, in the NT is refered to as priest, prophet, and king.

I also don't happen to share that cosmology so I have to re-translate what are for me those truths--e.g. the ones concerning Jesus--into a different view of the universe.

The traditional view I described does however exist in Kabbalah for example. The aspirant ascends via the Sefirot (the emanations from the Divine) back to the First Cause God (Keter) and even then to the unmoved Godhead (Ayn Sof).

But again the point is that social, linguistic, political, evolutionary biological constructions of the journey are left out. The whole building is already finished. You just walk through the floors and maybe at best rearrange some of the furniture.

Saying I'm post-that does not mean that it is not worth the time to study and wrestle with the Bible, Aristotle.

I'm not disagreeing with you--if the text is to be approached as a meditation, then it must be alone. I completely agree with that.

I just think meditation isn't everything. Not in religion and certainly not beyond religious, philosophical musings.

And if done exclusively, meditation to me can continue to support the status quo.

That is why practices such as what you call my dance are actually part of my religious praxis. Liberation theology would be a prime example. So no they are not all about me. The personal is in part political. They are about questioning aspects of myself that are themselves (partly) products of society's scripts.

So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am arguing for text, context, and community of interpretation all the time in the large arc though of course in specific moments, specific angles to be engaged.

Context, for me, for better or worse has to include and deal with--though not be enslaved to--postmodernism.

 

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