Monday, January 16, 2012

Readings: Don't You Just Know It?

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In my last post, I linked to some comment threads where I had been arguing about, among other things, the nature of Truth, as contrasted to that of “belief.” My basic point was that capital “T” Truth cannot be known through the exercise of reason. Reason can help a thinker eliminate that which logically cannot be true. But reason alone can never provide even a glimpse of the Transcendent. That comes only via direct revelation, through divine providence. It follows from this that belief is as close as most of us can approach the Truth. But, have stalled-out, so to speak, at the level of belief, we have no way to prove to others (or even to ourselves) that what we believe actually partakes of Truth.


That which I have been reading recently, I have been reading with such thoughts on my mind.

One of my primary reads, since shortly before Christmas, has been The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. This book consists of Dick’s attempts to make formal sense of a pair of experiences he had on two separate occasions in 1974, and which he understood to have been direct revelations of the transcendent. In the course of his subsequent intellectual meanderings, Dick refers quite often to several of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Because of this, I decided that it would be advantageous to my reading of Dick if I undertook a brief review of the pre-Socratics. In a little book entitled, A Presocratics Reader, I came across a citation of this fragment from Xenophanes:

No man has seen nor will anyone know the truth about the gods and all the things I speak of. For even if a person should in fact say what is absolutely the case, nevertheless he himself does not know, but belief is fashioned over all things [or, in the case of all persons].

Thank you, Xenophanes! A couple of pages further into this book, I came across a report that Heraclitus believed, “Of all those whose accounts (logoi) I have heard, no one reaches the point of recognizing that that which is wise is set apart from all.” And then, “Much learning (“polymathy”) does not teach insight.”

Right-on, Heraclitus.

I have also, for several months, been making my way through A Course in Miracles (ACIM)--both the text and the workbook. This teaching--which like The Exegesis purports to be a report of direct revelation--was brought to my attention by my Facebook friend, Janette Tingle. Although I was skeptical at the outset that it would consist of New Age psycho-babble, I have found nothing in it which does not ring true. Just yesterday I noted the following--from Lesson 43: “God is my Source. I cannot see apart from Him.”:

Perception is not an attribute of God. His is the realm of knowledge. Yet He has created the Holy Spirit as the Mediator between perception and knowledge. Without this link with God, perception would have replaced knowledge forever in your mind. With this link with God, perception will become so changed and purified that it will lead to knowledge. That is its function as the Holy Spirit sees it. Therefore, that is its function in truth.

So, there it is again, stated in a slightly different way.

In reading The Exegesis, I have been amazed at the correlations I’ve found there to both the teachings of ACIM, and the philosophical formulations in the book, The Bridge to Nothingness (BTN) by Sholomo Giora Shoham, of which I’ve written before.

The following, [from Folder 14:84] on page 326 of The Exegesis is very much in keeping with BTN. Dick writes:

My system states, “The Godhead is in difficulty. Evil is not the manifestation of an evil deity nor a sign of God’s vengeance, etc., but an analog in the lower or microcosm of the difficulty in the macrocosm or pleroma. The yin aspect has exceeded its proper limits, perhaps as an oscillation of a great supratemporal cycle, and rectification is already in progress.” [emphasis Dick’s]

In Folder 15:44, Dick writes:

Our very mechanisms have been taken advantage of. It was not intended that we discriminate false info from true. There was not supposed to be any false info in the first place. Strange that I, who believe everything I’m told, doubt the entire empirical world and stigmatize it as a product (in the form of spurious data) of evil. It is not an evil world; there is no real world at all! But there is something there, though: a vast bank of lights and sounds and colors flashing at us from all sides, to which we must react. We are enclosed by it -- it is what the ancients called ananke or fate, and it was the power of this that the savior broke.

This post is already quite lengthy. I had another fairly large excerpt from The Exegesis noted for inclusion here, but I think I’ll hold that one back for later. I hope that anybody reading this can see the correlations between the ideas expressed in the various works I’ve cited and begin to make the connections that I’m trying to highlight.

Addendum:  Here is a post from the archives which may shed addition light on the above.
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29 comments:

Ron King said...

Gurdjieff(sp) asks the question can evil exist if humans are self aware instead of mechanistic? He developed a theory called the ray of creation. Have you heard of that? I don't have time right now to explain.

Rodak said...

Yes. I've read Ouspensky. It was long ago, but it greatly affected my search for reality.

Ron King said...

A long time ago is right. Penn State in 1972 I read The Fourth Way and In Search of The Miraculous through the influence of a woman who thought I needed a different perspective and who I was attempting to impress. No luck with impressing her, but this did jump start my journey towards self awareness. Fear is a huge influence in the mechanistic human and the intellect becomes subject to this primitive mechanistic response thus leaving us in a low frequency state of being and separating us from the higher frequencies of spiritual awakening. Krishnamurti came into my life in '74. Belief creates conflict and truth is possible when there is no division between the observer and the observed. Belief creates division. Some of these thoughts that come to mind. Whenever I would feel caught in conflict and self doubt I would pull out Krishnamurti and begin reading to get my bearings again.

Rodak said...

Ron --
Your comment suggests that you might find this poem, written about my life around 1969-70, to be of some interest:

SELF-REMEMBERING

I was working
In a vast infernal mill bequeathed
By Mr. Ford in a place
Called Saline,
Reading Ouspensky
On my breaks

[the evening light in the factory window]

I’d been coached by reading Gurdjieff
To be always conscious, to stay awake

I directed my attention
To the dying rectangle of light
In the window atop the factory wall
To the pull chain that set it ajar
Vowing to remember

More than forty years later
As you see, I have

Yet she who taught me the name
Gurdjieff does not
Remember me

Rodak said...

NOTE: the poem is about how I was living around 1969-70, the year before I left Ann Arbor for New York City. The woman who introduced me to Ouspensky was a classmate at U. of Michigan, for one year. The poem was written, I think, in late 2008, after another friend updated me on where this woman is today. He told me she had no memory of me from those days.

Ron King said...

I think if she had that poem availabe then she would have remembered you.

Ron King said...

In '69 and '70 I was in the air force and stationed in Taiwan. I met some beautiful people there who introduced me to the smiling Buddha. Of course I was also introduced to Thai stick and could not tolerate being around "juicers" after that. We would go and talk to God quite a bit over there and then stray away for the carnal knowledge which seemed to have a strong pull on me. However, the women I met in this education are the beautiful people I mention above. God Bless Them. Sorry, I got off track a little

Rodak said...

Ron--
The reason I wrote the poem was my disbelief that this woman claimed to not remember me. She may, for whatever reason, be lying about that. But, if we choose to believe her, the irony of the situation is almost amazing. It could only mean that during the whole time we knew each other (and we knew each other quite well)-- she was sound asleep! I was a figment of a waking dream that is not available to her long-term memory. This is so illustrative of what Gurdjieff taught.

brian martin said...

HMM, Rodak, for some reason I was under the impression that you were a stitch younger than you are...really not sure why. I was born about the time (1969) that you wrote that poem.

If I may be impertinent, the picture...is that you?
If it is recent, I might be compelled to comment on timelessness or some such thing.

by the way, any thoughts on Wendell Berry?
I particularly enjoy his essays. Pardon the off topic post.

Rodak said...

Brian--
The picture is me, about a year ago.
I've never gotten into Wendell Berry, though I know the name.
The poem was written about my life in 1969--written as a remembrance--in 2008 (as noted in a comment above.)
Let's just say that I'm "young-at-heart."

brian martin said...

ok..off topic again...
Pardon the quote from Alanis Morrisette, but

"Isn't it ironic...don't you think?"
We live in a country where a fetus with a heartbeat isn't an individual, and a corporation is?
"A little too ironic"

ok, i'm having fun, that is just how my brain works after a long day of therapy.

Rodak said...

It isn't the heartbeat that makes it human. And it isn't a question of individuality, either. It's a question of personhood, in a legal sense. If it were as easy as a heartbeat, there would be no controversy and life would be much simpler.

brian martin said...

yeah well, i'm just a simple country boy, so you will pardon me if I oversimplify at times.

I would like you to explain the corporation as having "personhood" if you can...because try as I might (oh wait, i don't try)...I can't

Rodak said...

Apparently there are ways that a corporation is treated under the law in the same way that an individual person would be treated. But I'll be damned if I know how or why that is the case.

Ron King said...

May I intrude? A corporation is composed of people, therefore it would seem to be viewed in the physical sense as a person due to the sense of sight in that it can be observed and has ability to think and communicate.
Now the fetus generally cannot be seen and cannot think and communicate ideas and is more of an abstract or an object, positive or negative, depending on how it effects the lives of those who are responsible for its conception. It seems to be a belief system that is developed unconsciously through the significant interpersonal attachments in one's life which influence this person or these persons to sense that they are valued or not. In my way of thinking the more a person senses that they are valued and validated then that person is more likely to see the fetus as a human being. On the other hand...

Rodak said...

Ron --

What you say may be very valid, but I'm not sure that it addresses the legal issue. To the extent that it does, the law would be seen to affirm the woman's personal worth, rather than that of the fetus. A corporation is, needless to say, a "person" only in a legal sense. Which is precisely what a fetus is not.

Ron King said...

Rodak, I see what you are saying. That is where my head starts spinning with memories of my youth and how I would hear "You kids are making me sick" or "You kids will be the death of me" So, it seems that if children are seen as a burden and an unwanted intrusion that inhibits the freedom of the one who brings them into the world then the strategy would be to prevent them from getting into the world and therefore, not seen and therefore not real. So a law that intended to help women gain freedom from the oppression of male dominence had to give them power to choose in legally. When we are dealing with human relationships that are basically object relationships then power becomes the means by which we are oppressed or free. This goes back to Gurdjieff's view of us as being mechanistic and asleep instead of awake. After roe v wade women became free objects to pursue the path of power that male objects were pursuing for their validation as successful and good objects--still mechanistic and asleep. So it seems that personhood would be given to a corporation as a result of this state of mechanistic object relations. The only thing that occurs in this relationship is those in power determine what is productive for their purposes and what isn't and they legislate to include or exclude objects based on the value or lack of value these objects represent. Just thoughts off the top of my head this morning. Hope you have a good morning Rodak and Brian.

Rodak said...

Ron --

Yes, but you present the worst case scenario in terms of selfishness. A woman may be making a heart-wrenching decision based on economic considerations and what she sees as the well-being of a number of children already being supported by scant resources. Everytime I hear pro-lifers discussing abortion, the discussion always assumes selfishness and egotism and proceeds with that posited. Speaking strictly from a socio-political perspective, it can also be said that it's selfish for a family to have 12 children attending schools, etc. supported by the taxation of community members; or globally, that it's irresponsible and selfish for one family to be putting five or six cars on the road, for instance, in the First World, and otherwise buying up resources, thereby increasing demand, and raising prices on staple goods. These things are not simple, unless viewed strictly as a matter of Good v. Evil, which is not how the law looks at them.
The mechanistic choice is to do that which your social/ethnic group would have you do, heaving a sigh of relief that you don't need to consider the pros and cons--it's the flip of a switch: on/off.

Ron King said...

I am sorry you got the idea of selfishness out of that. I was referring to a woman's victimization and powerlessness in the face of oppressive authoritarians. Yet now she must compete within the framework that males have created and though successful for some I do not believe that their true identity as with males will be discovered and developed through this system. I totally agree with what you have written. When God stated to be fruitful and multiply I am certain he wasn't telling them to be like rabbits.

Rodak said...

I think I got the idea of selfishness in my head from this:

"it seems that if children are seen as a burden and an unwanted intrusion that inhibits the freedom of the one who brings them into the world then the strategy would be to prevent them from getting into the world and therefore, not seen and therefore not real."

That said, I wasn't really taking selfishness to be the essential point of your comment. It's just that selfishness is often the pejorative thrust of the pro-life argument. I should have made that clear. My bad.

Ron King said...

Sorry, I also should have made the referenced statement clearer. In my work with couples where the wife does not feel validated or understood by the husband it sets up a persistent level of distress. When the wife expresses this distress the husband will usually escalate this into a fight or withdraw due to him being flooded with unwanted emotions. If this is a chronic condition it actually will cause physiological problems for both and an underlying assortment of negative affective states. Within this environment resentment turns into contempt which is extremely difficult to overcome. I've seen this a lot through the years and Gottman's research at the U of WA over 25 years confirms this. In essence, children in this environment feel angry and powerless and they feel as though they are a burden to their parents. This is the basic dynamic of transgenerational dysfunction in human development and relationships along with a world composed of violence will influence the choice for abortion. Sorry for the length. Being at home by myself during the day influences me to write what I usually speak.

Rodak said...

Thanks for the learned and succinct clarification, Ron.

brian martin said...

say Ron, might I ask what capacity you worked with couples in...were/are you a therapist?
I am not paticularly fluent in Gottman's research, but he researched and did marriage therapy right?

Ron King said...

Hi Brian, If you look up the Gottman Institute in Seattle you will find it there. The attachment theory comes from the attachment theorists, not Gottman. Interpersonal neurobiology can be found at the Mindsight Institute and that is with Daniel Siegel, M.D.who is also co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. I had worked as an individual and family therapist for 30 years and had a private practice from '91 to 2010 when I had to close the practice because of esophageal cancer and the effects of treatment to cure me. I have to go clean the kitchen now. My wife just got home and the instructions are to clean my mess which I let go today because I did not feel like doing it.

brian martin said...

Ron,
I am a new therapist (MSW) 2 years, following 11 years as a case manager and doing outreach to homeless families. I am more familiar with the work of Daniel Siegel, Jonn Kabat-Zinn etc and the Mindfulness work, as well as Bessell Van der Kolk's work. It is very interesting.
I also am interested in spirituality/religious belief as it relates to mental health and healing, and as of late I am taking a hands on crash course in trauma work with refugees from Iraq, mostly Khurdish and Iraqi Muslim, but also Iraqi Alawites. A crash course out of necessity, because we have a small but growing population of refugees from Iraq, and it seems that for whatever reason, I have earned the respect and trust of members of the community. I didn't set out to work with them, but working in a community mental health center, we don't choose our populations, and I have been blessed to have had this population literally fall in my lap. As a therapist, I would love to talk more about your experience, pick your brain etc. I am orry to hear about your cancer, and hope you are doing well. (sorry Rodak, for hijacking this thread, if you would like we can take this discussion elsewhere)

Ron King said...

Rodak, Is it ok with you to give Brian my email address? It's ok with me.

Rodak said...

Sure.

brian martin said...

ron,
i sent rodak my email

Rodak said...

Forwarded to Ron.