Saturday, 1 January 2011

On belief

The diversification of human consciousness in the modern era carries a concomitant risk of over-specialisation and under-intensification. The possible options for belief and value system are now so wide that unless one can learn to penetrate beyond the vacillating furies, the hyperborean images of illusion, the encircling dragons of superficiality and sentimentality – in short the quixotic attempts at reframing all mysticism under the artificial gravity of the excessive preponderance on rationality and reason – one will end up wandering lost in a vast postmodernist landscape of ultimately rootless emptiness. One will no longer know thyself, and everything will be reduced to a hapless relativistic blur of subjective “qualia”, all equated to be equal in value with all meaning reduced to a mere interpretive act, a mere piece of superficial art. In short, all value must be then imputed, because all inherent value has been stripped. In other words, we become the logical corollary of a computer, unable to determine value except what has been explicitly programmed in.

This is what happens when all a priori has been replaced by all a posteriori. If everything occurs merely through induction, then there is only nature and no nurture, until eventually the subjective observer disappears because they have become nothing except a lens. However, we know this to be not the case on numerous levels.

On the a posteriori level itself, eventually the Scientific program started to come full circle with the development of Quantum Physics where it started to realise that the observer, the subject, in fact does have a direct effect on reality itself. The mere subjective act of observing causes a state change at a subatomic level. The mathematics of this knowledge is present in commonplace technology – everyday consumer electronics. Quantum Physics works; and ironically it represents the first of many incidences where modern science starts to mirror ancient knowledge. Language is not content; the content is in what the language implies. In this respect the mere difference is in the veneer of language – the content start to look more and more alike.

What has been buried ever deeper, however, is the higher initiatory wisdom that lies deep within the human nexus. Today it is largely tapped, often unwittingly, by artists. When an artist is in the “flow” they often describe the experience in terms of a sense of being-for-oneself and one-ness: there is no individuated separate ego, the higher I has been integrated. When asked where the inspiration came from, the response is typically vague or only a ambiguous connection: no wonder, because they have in fact become a conduit or channel for higher energies that are supersensible in origin. The fact that they cannot be delimited by modern scientific materialist tendencies does not mean they are fictitious or non-existent: I do not need a laboratory measurement to confirm my inner experience and microcosmos, and a Dawkins-esque explanation purely in terms of neurobiology, chemical receptors and neural networks in my physical brain does not capture the full immanent – emergent – effect that results from all these factors and more. It is the more that is the key point. The more is not mutually exclusive from the empirically determined factors – such factors have granted us the powers of modern technology; the very computer I type this on, the Internet across which you read this – but is simply integrated with it across other planes. What Dawkins might classify as a delusional belief in my case, I would classify as a higher order of knowledge based on even more direct evidence than any empirical study could replicate.

The classic metaphysical question of the modern sensibility is simply "Do you believe in God?”. The general absurdity of this question is the implication that the term God is something clearly understood by both parties. Again, the content is not in the language, but in what lies beneath the language - specifically the universal. By god do we mean God, gods, Gods, Ain Soph, SPACE, Nirvana, the existential I, the void, the One, Logos, Mind, Demiurge, Good, Monad, Brahma, Zeus, Elohim, Osiris, Odin… a creative principle, a generative force, the “laws of nature"… a supreme universal, the Idea… consciousness itself, an ordering logic…

For the purist Atheist – and by purist I mean someone who not only actively denies the existence of any deity or deities, but indeed of all concepts or beliefs in any higher principle, order or meaning – the only actual logical conclusion from that position is to terminate oneself. The very act of continuing to live serves no function whatsoever and in fact is merely an obstruction from death which is now not only both the start and end point, but the very process itself; to the extent that the process itself (i.e. of not being dead; living) is an irrelevance and indeed, far worse, a serious logical incongruity to their argument!

However, in reality, fortunately there very few people who actually hold this position (at least among those who are not mentally ill), though there are many who might superficially claim such a position (presumably for convenience or lack of intellectual rigour). Their very ability to attempt to defend their position is (intellectually and physically, in terms of survival), in itself, entirely a refutation of such a position. Without realising it, they have already imprinted their own metaphysical stamp on reality by their imputation of will.

In fact, expanding the argument, even an inanimate rock achieves this resolution by simply being existent. If I could discard it, it would simply cease to be. But I cannot discard it, because it is necessary. It is necessary because it is existent. This argument is deliberately circular because everything in life operates in actuality, in a circular fashion (hence the preponderance of circular logos, images, and mythological reifications (i.e. the serpent biting its tail). [One does not fully become conscious in the modern era until you can read, write, and “think”; yet you cannot learn how to read, write, and “think” unless you possess the generative force that enables you to undertake this process. You cannot think unless you can learn; but you cannot learn unless you can think. A circular emergence.] When you stand beside me and also confirm that self-same rock, we have thereby already ontologically grounded both ourselves and our nascent reality. We exist, as it were, at the very least, in a Kantian purposive purposelessness. Through the process of life, we can purposively direct ourselves towards a purpose as directed by our supersensible intuition.

Dualism vs. monism – The dualistic philosophy reigned supreme in Europe, dominating the development of Western science. But with the advent of atomic physics, findings based on demonstrable experiment were seen to negate the dualistic theory, and the trend of thought since then has been back towards the monistic conception of ancient Taoists. 

Bruce Lee, “Striking Thoughts”.

I agree with his assertion, from the same book, that “I am, therefore I think”, his direct inversion of Descartes's famous formula. Although in the modern era we are now generally beginning to see the limitations and error of “I think, therefore I am”, this dogma still colours the Western lens of perception as this formula is taken as the starting point for cognition even when the object for consideration is the very nature of this formula (viz. “consciousness”). You cannot induce “consciousness”, and still less, being, from the starting point of the thinker, since thinking itself presupposes that there is an active principle available to do this thinking – i.e. being, I am. Rather, we should instead recognise that a human being is conscious not because they self-think in self-awareness and therefore become characteristically human, but that they are instead human, and as a result of this being-toward-oneself, they are conscious, and thereby subsequently and consequently develop the capacity for thought. You could equate this with Heidegger’s Dasein.

Hence why I dispute all claims to artificial intelligence gaining consciousness in any meaningful sense of the term. It cannot become conscious because it has no being and is therefore rootless, if we can use the Taoist sense of the term. It can however develop extremely useful intelligence in the limited scope of a factual re-presentation of pre-programmed data, or structured methods of acquiring data.

So thank God/Zeus/Monad/<void> for Google!

In any case, we can, on one account, neatly source all of the metaphysical dread of modernity and our present mess to the blind acceptance (acknowledged or not) of the calamity that is “I think, therefore I am”.

Invert this, live your life according to the resultant contrary principle, and everything becomes very different in an entirely beneficial manner.

So, back to that original question about God. Do I believe in God?

My answer to this should hopefully be starting to become somewhat clear from the above discussions. Asked in the modern context, my answer would be the frustratingly obscurantist (to them) response “Yes and no”.

No, I do not believe in the external monotheistic creator figure (already coloured with materialism in the modern era).

No, I do not believe in a wishy-washy New Age polytheism/pantheism or animalism that is highly fashionable (and fills many shrewd pockets with the sale of endless “mind, body, spirit” trinkets!).

Yes, I do believe in something closer to Neo-Platonism, gnosis, and “mysticism” (a word which has acquired derogatory tones due to the discoloration of Western consciousness towards such Knowledge).

Yes, I do believe in principles at the heart of “esoteric” and ancient Mystery religions, Vedic/Taoist/Eastern literature, and on theosophical lines.

Yes, I do believe in a sense closer to the Heathen conception of reality – as far as I can determine, from this historical distance - of the Gods of Northern Europe, before Roman Christianity came along and swept into all aside and collapsed everything into a Church/State sponsored oligarchy of belief (which, in a somewhat distorted form, is still the dominant belief system of the West today – even among the “atheists/agnostics” who likewise align themselves in terms of a differentiation or negation of this self-same belief system, or indeed of entire political systems that are derivative negations from this i.e. communism, totalitarianism (totalitarianism ultimately revolves around the principle of replacing the spiritual leader – i.e. in a monarchy – with a leader on instead purely materialised terms – i.e. a Führer).

So I can say I believe in “God” only if you understand by that I mean that I account for existence with a deism very radically different from the typical Western understanding of the term, and that it encompasses a complex syncretism that operates on many different levels – hence there are Gods and there is God, and that there is no contradiction is this, and there is the One and the Many, the great Monad, and all of this is perfectly logically congruent with an existentialist conception of being.

Perhaps in another life I was a Sufi whirling mystic!

Amen Smile

“’Do What Thou Wilt’ shall be the whole of the law”, which far from decrying all morality, instead inserts us as the primary agents – and legislators - in our causation of reality. An active causation of which, we are not alone in the universe, but operate in participation with higher powers.