In Defence of Theology

#43
Ahh, that's the thing. You can't be taught the true meaning of symbols, otherwise the symbols would be redundant.
I agree. The question for me is whether those symbols are culturally specified, or beyond culture. I'm still not certain but lean towards the latter. Language is the poor relation of the symbol, grasping at things that are necessarily beyond words (like this post), and failing. This deficiency is the reason for all kinds of misunderstandings, including the materialist project which is grounded in the binary signal. The symbol is pure, and speaks directly to mind. The function of symbols is at the limit of what it is possible to speak of, because their meaning is both specific and proliferating. It's impossible to say whether there is a language of symbols, the fundamental langue of consciousness, but their recurrence suggests it might be a sort of lexicon. The symbol is defined by being figurative (pictorial), insistent (it cannot be shut out of consciousness) and motivated (the symbol has power and direction).

I believe symbols are connected to the way free will is structured, but that's a different conversation. I look forward to reading your conclusions Bernardo.
 
#44
I agree. The question for me is whether those symbols are culturally specified, or beyond culture. I'm still not certain but lean towards the latter. Language is the poor relation of the symbol, grasping at things that are necessarily beyond words (like this post), and failing. This deficiency is the reason for all kinds of misunderstandings, including the materialist project which is grounded in the binary signal. The symbol is pure, and speaks directly to mind. The function of symbols is at the limit of what it is possible to speak of, because their meaning is both specific and proliferating. It's impossible to say whether there is a language of symbols, the fundamental langue of consciousness, but their recurrence suggests it might be a sort of lexicon. The symbol is defined by being figurative (pictorial), insistent (it cannot be shut out of consciousness) and motivated (the symbol has power and direction).

I believe symbols are connected to the way free will is structured, but that's a different conversation. I look forward to reading your conclusions Bernardo.
Gabriel, may I ask what your background is?
 
#45
I agree. The question for me is whether those symbols are culturally specified, or beyond culture. I'm still not certain but lean towards the latter. Language is the poor relation of the symbol, grasping at things that are necessarily beyond words (like this post), and failing. This deficiency is the reason for all kinds of misunderstandings, including the materialist project which is grounded in the binary signal. The symbol is pure, and speaks directly to mind. The function of symbols is at the limit of what it is possible to speak of, because their meaning is both specific and proliferating. It's impossible to say whether there is a language of symbols, the fundamental langue of consciousness, but their recurrence suggests it might be a sort of lexicon. The symbol is defined by being figurative (pictorial), insistent (it cannot be shut out of consciousness) and motivated (the symbol has power and direction).

I believe symbols are connected to the way free will is structured, but that's a different conversation. I look forward to reading your conclusions Bernardo.
I don't know why you would imbue 'symbols' with greater 'meaning' than other man-made spatial patterns of sensory input which pass information through 'time' within 'space'. Other than the more unique the pattern, and the longer it has existed, the harder it seems to be to alter it's meaning.

But alter any patterns meaning you definitely can. Any spatial pattern can have it's meaning altered, that is one of the strengths and weaknesses of such a mechanism for moving information through time.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#47
I do see where you're coming from, and the tricky aspects you're sensing. I don't think any writing should be seen as a priori more connected to deeper layers of the psyche than any other. Whether that is the case or not becomes a test of time and 'resonance' with people and cultures. The best known religious scriptures have passed that test, which doesn't preclude anything else from passing that test too, or even from being deeper than religious scripture one second after being created (after all, scripture was also what it was one second after it was created); we may just not know it for sure for a thousand years. That's all I am saying, essentially.
I recall someone once saying, "God has written Herself into the world, and through the Arts we can come to know Her". The author stressed the "Word" was not any particular scripture, but our participation in the varied arts.

At the risk of being accused of being a "woo enabler" I'd still say the final understanding is more akin to the realization of how much someone loves you than it is the comprehension of a particular argument. Perhaps it's somewhat like the seeing of why a proof is beautiful/elegant, which I think falls somewhere between the two kinds of knowing I mentioned.

A Brunton passage Don Salmon shared gets into this:

"With these words we have reached the limit of what can be explained about this aspect of the ultimate reality. The truth about it is silent and scriptureless. Both reader and writer must now go into a strange wide ethereal silence if they would move a step further. Silence is the finest method of mystical perceptive worship. What the student has to grasp is that where there is seemingly nothing at all but static Silence, the Real abides; where his individual perception fails to register either form or entity, there the Overself IS. When he can put the littleness of self aside for a moment and think of that Infinite Element within which he dwells, he will be overwhelmed with a sense of the wonder and mystery that surround the daily movements of mortal men."
-Paul Brunton, A Meditation on the Serpent’s Path
 
#48
One of the things it's important to recognise, is feeling prefigures the word. Words are our attempt to acknowledge what we know but they do not give substance to it. As we grow into the world we search for new words that we hope will communicate knowing, but they fall short of it. Because this deficiency is so pressing, we have developed ways of navigating the shortcoming as though it were never there. We imagine`the word gives birth to the feeling, and conjure our proofs with this hierarchy in mind. It is a world of suggestion, prompts and hints that take on a form of their own, mannequins of the idea we hope will stand in for it. The true language of feeling is of a different order, one more closely related to symbols. These ideoplasts act as gateways and boundary markers to fundamental reality. Symbols are both idea and thing, subject and object. Symbols reciprocate, they have permanence and the capacity for renewal. They are monolithic and organic. When we identify symbols, we identify separateness*, particularly of ourselves. I feel we can only negotiate the symbolic with symbols, which is why the above description reaches for likeness and indices. As communication it must fall short, but it might evoke identification beyond its meagre components.

* Meaning separateness from our authentic condition, not from universal mind
 
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#49
One of the things it's important to recognise, is feeling prefigures the word. Words are our attempt to acknowledge what we know but they do not give substance to it. As we grow into the world we search for new words that we hope will communicate knowing, but they fall short of it. Because this deficiency is so pressing, we have developed ways of navigating the shortcoming as though it were never there. We imagine`the word gives birth to the feeling, and conjure our proofs with this hierarchy in mind. It is a world of suggestion, prompts and hints that take on a form of their own, mannequins of the idea we hope will stand in for it. The true language of feeling is of a different order, one more closely related to symbols. These ideoplasts act as gateways and boundary markers to fundamental reality. Symbols are both idea and thing, subject and object. Symbols reciprocate, they have permanence and the capacity for renewal. They are monolithic and organic. When we identify symbols, we identify separateness, particularly of ourselves. I feel we can only negotiate the symbolic with symbols, which is why the above description reaches for likeness and indices. As communication it must fall short, but it might evoke identification beyond itself.
Yups.
 
#50
I do see where you're coming from, and the tricky aspects you're sensing. I don't think any writing should be seen as a priori more connected to deeper layers of the psyche than any other. Whether that is the case or not becomes a test of time and 'resonance' with people and cultures. The best known religious scriptures have passed that test, which doesn't preclude anything else from passing that test too, or even from being deeper than religious scripture one second after being created (after all, scripture was also what it was one second after it was created); we may just not know it for sure for a thousand years. That's all I am saying, essentially.
While @malf has a good point, to the degree where one may wonder if he is a closet-Idealist ;-) I can't help but think it's not quite the whole story, in that perhaps some writings may not necessarily be more "connected to the deeper layers of the psyche", but rather they help us better connect to the deeper layers of the psyche. I think some literature better "reflects" the ocean into the whirlpool better than others and that's what makes scripture scripture and what makes the Hardy Boys, well, not so much! Conversely, there is the idea in India where one can be labeled an "Incarnation of God" if they manifest God in the visible world to such a degree, for example Sri Ramakrishna. Likewise, in the Christian tradition, the goal is to "glorify Christ" in the world, i.e. manifest Him through us. In the speak of Idealism, some whirlpools are more "finely tuned" to manifest/channel the stream/river/ocean through themselves. As another Biblical example, this is why we're above the birds, etc. and will "reach" the Kingdom of Heaven first, i.e. become consciously aware of the "Kingdom of Heaven spread out upon the Earth". It's talking about a level of consciousness our whirlpools are capable of achieving (in a special way, i.e, through the seat of the ego, or "The I AM"), little bird whirlpools currently don't have the same potential.

So again, although all the "layers" are "connected" (or One?), I think some elements of the world (like certain pieces of literature) allow a "peek" into the deeper layers of the psyche better than others, or allow the whirlpools to realize the greater part of reality they are indeed an aspect of. As a crude analogy scripture would be the "right tool for the job" here, while the Hardy Boys might be like using a hammer to remove a Philips head screw.
 
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#51
Yes, Star Wars tapped powerful archetypes, but not the deepest archetype (which Jung called the Self), despite there being a tenuous, rather caricatural link through the idea of the 'Force.' The Self (mind-at-large) is the subject of religious symbolism. Star Wars was pretty good at tapping the archetypal Hero's journey (the whirlpool's little journey), the old-wise-man archetype, the shadow, etc. And Lucas did it on the cheap: he just read Joseph Campbell's books and used them as a template. Campbell had already mapped out the key elements from his study of ancient mythology, including religious mythology. Star Wars was just a re-clothing of ancient 'scripture.' No wonder it was such immediate success.

Will Star Wars still be popular a thousand years from now, you think?
I wonder to what extent Christian scripture isn't itself a re-clothing of prior tradition that was passed on orally or in writing? It has obvious connections with Judaism, but then Judaism didn't arise in a vacuum either. Themes like the hero, sacrificer and rescuer/redeemer can unfold in ordinary life, and exemplars may be celebrated in religion, politics, art and literature, albeit that their stories may be distorted, exaggerated or embellished upon. Complete rogues may strive to project such images of themselves, and it's a standard ploy to sell (or buy) conformance with archetypical themes; we seem hard-wired as a species to respond to, sometimes be manipulated by, these.

It's not about the literal truth of narratives so much as how meaningful the messages. I long ago rejected orthodox Christianity, and am an atheist when it comes to the Abrahamic notion of God. That said, the message of the New Testament deeply resonates with me.

Jesus as a heroic sacrificer and rescuer/redeemer provides a template for living a spiritual life because of the emphasis upon love and forgiveness, as well as poverty in the sense of non-attachment. Thomas à Kempis' Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ) is, some say, the most read Christian tome after the Bible itself. However, is the theme entirely novel? One can find echoes e.g. in Buddhism, Vedanta, and Jainism, all of which antedate Christianity, and there is a school of thought that Jesus may have been taught in the far East and have had the mission of redirecting the Judaic tradition.

Whether or not spiritual adepts have consciously harnessed the power of archetypical themes in shaping human evolution is an interesting discussion: one gets the impression that groups like the Sufis think it's so. Films like The Matrix, Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, and so on may consciously adopt archetypical themes and appreciate their power (if only in generating box office profits), but I doubt there's much of a conscious agenda there.

Scientology seems to me to be the most conscious effort, but it's had very limited influence and the vast majority of people see it for the incoherent idiocy it is. I doubt it'll be around as something serious for very long; nonetheless, in a thousand years, we may still have access to today's films and regard them in the same way we do ancient artifacts today. There's literature like the Epic of Gilamesh that dates back to 1800 BC which could still provide rich pickings for film makers, not to mention Greek classics like The Iliad which have already influenced films like Troy and been partially re-presented in modern poetic form: particularly War Music and Kings, by Christopher Logue. I happen to have MP3 recordings of those as read by Alan Howard on BBC radio and they're quite wonderful.

I opined earlier that modernity, with its seeming emphasis on the factually verifiable, is probably as much steeped in mythology as ever, and though that may not be all bad, a lot of it probably is, particularly when it isn't rooted in perennial archetypes that are what have really stood the test of time. We live a lot of our lives according to myths, be we theists or atheists, and really, the myths are used in both cases to justify living meaningfully. Atheists/materialists may deny the reality of consciousness and ultimate purpose, but they still seem to value temporary meaning. They aren't complete nihilists or anarchists, and morality appears important to them even though I can't fathom why.
 
#52
So again, although all the "layers" are "connected" (or One?), I think some elements of the world (like certain pieces of literature) allow a "peek" into the deeper layers of the psyche better than others, or allow the whirlpools to realize the greater part of reality they are indeed an aspect of. As a crude analogy scripture would be the "right tool for the job" here, while the Hardy Boys might be like using a hammer to remove a Philips head screw.
One of the tools of identification is allusion, the knowledge that looking at a fundamental truth at one remove is the best we can aspire to. The finest literature avoids telling "what it is about", and encounters itself occasionally and hesitantly. Scripture is a mix of the declarative ("this is truth") and the allusive (parables, lists, poetics, etc) that offers plural readings while always being grounded in an over-arching meta-narrative.
 
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#53
Ahh, that's the thing. You can't be taught the true meaning of symbols, otherwise the symbols would be redundant. But that's a very difficult point... I'm trying to write about it now. Will share more in a few months.
Are you aware of Immanuel Velikovki's hypothesis that many "symbols" found e.g. in ancient rock carvings are actually pretty accurate representations of plasma phenomena that occurred in the skies? Some of these symbols may have been incorporated into Greek myth: e.g. Neptune's trident or the thunderbolt of Zeus. The idea is that the planets haven't always been in the orbits we find them today and that electrical exchanges occurred between them: something which isn't entirely implausible according to Electric Universe theory, which some think makes more sense than standard cosmological theory.

I won't take that much further: one can easily research it on the Web. But if it's true, then the interesting prospect arises that many mythological themes as investigated by Campbell et al. are secondary phenomena, originating in actual cosmological events, and elaborated upon by human story tellers.

I look forward to what you'll share, but if there's a significant element of myth arising in secondary narration, it may somewhat undermine the idea of certain themes being inherent in the human "collective unconscious". Of course, one could argue that, even if the initial stimulus comprised real-world events, human beings and their psyches are what shaped the narratives, and that there was therefore a preexistent tendency to fit observed phenomena within their ambit.
 
#54
One of the things it's important to recognise, is feeling prefigures the word. Words are our attempt to acknowledge what we know but they do not give substance to it. As we grow into the world we search for new words that we hope will communicate knowing, but they fall short of it. Because this deficiency is so pressing, we have developed ways of navigating the shortcoming as though it were never there. We imagine`the word gives birth to the feeling, and conjure our proofs with this hierarchy in mind. It is a world of suggestion, prompts and hints that take on a form of their own, mannequins of the idea we hope will stand in for it. The true language of feeling is of a different order, one more closely related to symbols. These ideoplasts act as gateways and boundary markers to fundamental reality. Symbols are both idea and thing, subject and object. Symbols reciprocate, they have permanence and the capacity for renewal. They are monolithic and organic. When we identify symbols, we identify separateness*, particularly of ourselves. I feel we can only negotiate the symbolic with symbols, which is why the above description reaches for likeness and indices. As communication it must fall short, but it might evoke identification beyond its meagre components.

* Meaning separateness from our authentic condition, not from universal mind
Spatial patterns (written words, or any other pattern) passes information through time. I think it's difficult to talk about what comes first, 'pattern', or 'meaning', for all intents and purposes they are one thing to me, as they seem to form a feedback loop.

Without spatial pattern at all, I can't see how there can be any thoughts, emotions or feelings - whether the spatial pattern is located in the external world, or the body. Trying to give some extra special significance to a certain type of spatial pattern doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
 
#55
We should say what we mean by the symbolic. A symbol can be something that represents the thing by reason of its association (a rose for love), or it can be an object or person that proliferates meaning beyond its apparent capacity to do so. The second is more interesting for the purposes of this conversation. I would suggest the cross has this capability, being an instrument of torture and death, an object of rebirth, a totem of the human figure in thirds, an object of desire (jewellery and statuary) to the most allusive extremes of psalms and odes ("sailing on the cross to distant shores"). Beyond the conscious symbol is the unconscious totem, the sign posts of dreams (though not only dreams), or what Jung called the archetypal. These resonate with a purposefulness that is immediate and unequivocal, but may be at many removes from the iconic. In the dreamscape a cat might be simultaneously a table or a door, occupying the cat-table typology unproblematically. An aircraft opens into an orchid, and a common object, a bucket, say, becomes the repository for absolute evil. Symbolic sense is unequivocal, asymmetrical and immediate - it has no signifiers worth the mention - but explodes with meaning from which there is no evasion.

What I believe Bernardo is suggesting is some symbols take on a folk significance (folk not to be read pejoratively), they stand the test of time and become embedded across conscious and unconscious symbology, speaking to the manifest and the occluded world of fundamental typology.
 
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#56
I wonder to what extent Christian scripture isn't itself a re-clothing of prior tradition that was passed on orally or in writing? It has obvious connections with Judaism, but then Judaism didn't arise in a vacuum either.
I touched on this in another thread, which I quoted above here. One could argue, from comparative mythology, that there is hardly a unique story, or symbol, in both Judaism and Christianity. I think the one thing we can claim as unique is the degree of emphasis on the historicity of Jesus. But, much of Judaism/Christianity has adopted symbolism and stories already told. To borrow what Gabriel said above, perhaps one could say it was just another culturally different way of looking at the same "overarching meta-narrative". Or, as some would say, Jesus was a physical manifestation and fulfillment of ALL that came before him, not just the traditions of Judaism, but all mythic traditions. Campbell talks about one painting where a follower of Mithra is bowing down to the baby Jesus in recognition that all the truths of his religion (and pagan religions, in general) were now physically manifest in the new-born savior/"king". In other words, Jesus is IT. And, as Alan Watts points out, this wasn't something that was meant to be unique to Jesus (as much organized Christianity seems to portray!) - we're IT too, Jesus just showed us the way, or established the pattern. Under Idealism, I guess we could say the pattern our whirlpools should take to reflect/acheive the divine.

Obviously, if other traditions, especially esoteric traditions, contain any truth, then others have already found the "way to the divine" well before Jesus came along. The point has been made that for a species that has lost its connection to the divine to such a degree as we have (especially in the West), esoteric teachings alone aren't enough to get most back on track to the Divine. It was going to take the incarnation of Jesus, a visible manifestation of the Divine, to "get in our faces", so to speak, in order for us all to get back in line This is where much of the power of Christianity and it's symbolism lies, especially in Western cultures. Without realizing all this deeper esoteric stuff, which it does contain, it still resonates immediately and simply. The historicity element would obviously resonate with a "materialistic" society to a much greater degree than any number of pages of abstract Indian philosophy ever would, in general. (And, I mean "materialistic" in the sense of a greater detachment from the divine, with "technology worhsip" being just one symptom of that)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#58
"Very early in his early career, Pauli had followed the road of skepticism based on rationalism right to the end, to a skepticism about skepticism, and he tried to trace out those elements of the cognitive process that precede a rational understanding in depth."
-Heisenberg on Wolfgang Pauli

‘I do not believe in the possible future of mysticism in the old form. However, I do believe that the natural sciences will out of themselves bring forth a counter pole in their adherents, which connects to the old mystic elements.’
-Pauli on Pauli
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#59
I'd mentioned Dante taking his ability to signify the Numinous to his limits - in case anyone's interested here's the final lines of the Comedy from Paradiso:

'Like a geometer, who sets himself to measure, in radii, the exact circumference of the circle, and who cannot find, by thought, the principle he lacks, so was I, at this new sight: I wished to see how the image fitted the circle, and how it was set in place, but my true wings had not been made for this, if it were not that my mind was struck by lightning, from which its will emerged.

Power, here, failed the deep imagining: but already my desire and will were rolled, like a wheel that is turned, equally, by the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.'
-Paradiso
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#60
Some quotes from Mike Carey & Peter Gross's comic Unwritten:


"You've got to touch something. Some kind of -- tap root. You're aiming to tell a story that people don't have to *consciously* buy into.

because they feel like they're already a part of it."

"Radio. And newspapers. Movies. Paperbacks...Whatever you call them, Miri. They're the future, is what I'm saying."

"Actually...the future is the audience who reads and watches those things, isn't it? A million people, all dreaming the same dreams.

Dreams that will still be there when they wake up. That's what I want to do, I think. Reach into people's minds, and paint dreams there."

"That's...inspiring."

=-=-=

"It's brilliant. You're telling stories with real resonance, now. Real depth."

"I'm making myths. For an age that doesn't have any of its own yet."

=-=-=

"...I'm a cuckoo. I incubate my young in other people's brains."

"Ontogenesis."

"On to where?"

"It means coming into being. The start of a life. An entity. A unique individual."

"Is that so?"

"Are we still talking about cuckoos?"

"We're talking about kids. And stories. It's a parallel process. The two are exactly comparable."

"How do you figure that, Mr. Tallis?"

"First thing we do for a kid is make a story for him. Who he is. Who he's gonna be. What is he before that story hits him...The story
is what makes him human."
 
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