Time continues to fly as days smudge and blur into one another like streetlamps in autumn rain. And while we sit gazing wistfully out of the window, pondering the implications of this global shutdown and how many Americans will survive their defiance of it, at least we may be comforted by the shining sun. I, for one, never imagined that the Mad Max-style, post-apocalyptic wastelands would be so pleasant and balmy.
However, before we don our big hair and big shoulder pads and head to the nearest Thunderdome, we have some philosophical business to conclude. Kindly maintain a medically advisable distance, for here is the very final (no, honestly) part of my first pass at a Grand Metaphysical Experiment.
3.2 A Grand Metaphysical Experiment: The Finale!
Personally fortified and interpersonally redoubled or returned, Creative Agency responds by adopting the mode of expression most natural to us. In theistical terms, God comes as social outreach. This is no ontological transformation from Being to “being”, or vice versa. It is an epistemological and, more importantly, psychological transposition via a divine act of self-disclosure.
Epistemology first: Adopting a human mode of being places the emphasis on human modes of knowing. Anthropology thereby supplies the logical conditions for, and constraints upon, cosmological speculation. In this way our anthropo-theological projects, our myths and metaphors, privilege the ordo cognoscendi over the classical ordo essendi. “Being” categories are subordinated to, and ultimately displaced by, the mythico-religious consciousness which charters them as an explanation. So, for Feuerbach, anthropology first discloses and then elevates ontology as both a co-efficient and function of consciousness. That resolves the oscillation between the personal and brute physical which haunts all our attempts to find a place for natural minds, human and divine, in a physical universe.
Psychologically, the enactment of God in Creation is reflected in our commitment to others “high” and “low” because (in Conti’s terms) our investment in those objects and others cannot but remind us, ‘crypto-theistically, of the Divine Investment in us.’ Commissioned by the presence of another, we ‘live under the shadow of an “ought” and in the presence of a holy “Thou”. Defining the co-operative nature of the project, Farrer reminds us that we are limited not only by what we are, but more importantly by what we are called to be. What we are called to be is the reflection of our ideals. Consciousness, in other words, is conditioned by the practical demands of a divine Will which, significantly, Farrer found in the “claimingness” of others.
To turn towards our humanity, our ‘species being’, ‘is to look for what the believer calls the divine image in us’. As Farrer explained, the ‘particular content of that notion may be given, not by awareness that man is made in God’s image, but by the functioning of that image in man.’ ‘Functioning’ here means the reflection of divinity in a life that is fully human; that is, given for and invested in humanity.
In Feuerbach’s words: ‘[t]he image of God is…the “mirror of man”.’ Farrer would use these same terms to describe the transformative capacity of a consciousness ‘gazing into the glass of God.’
The glass shows us no face of ours; it shows us the face of our glorious Lord. And the relation of looking-glass to gazer is reversed: instead of the mirror-image taking form from the gazer’s face, the gazer’s face takes form from the image (Farrer, ‘Soul-Making’ in A Celebration of Faith, 160).
Again, the “mirror” of this ideal is no literal self-reflection. Inert “self-certainty” offers no motive for self-(re)construction. Strictly no reflection, then, our ideals offer refractions; a pluri-focal collision of images, framed by the projection of an Ideal Other: the goal at which participation and transformation aim.
That’s why there’s no risk of all this succumbing to speculative idealism. Like Feuerbach, I’m looking for a concrete, morally enlivened, and transcending archetype. It is a projection of the self, passed through the filter of its own personal becoming. In becoming, consciousness thinks, or rather enacts, itself in relation to that image. By entering into those shared modes of self-conscious construction, consciousness replicates the teleological structure of its projection, the self emplots itself in the narrative of its own ideal.
Speaking theologically, Farrer put it like this: we construct ourselves in relation to a double object: ‘God in our neighbour and our neighbour in God.’ The person-concepts bodied forth by modern metaphysics and the speculative cosmology to which it responds, reflect this through their own diagrammatisations, mythopoeic ideations. Conceptions of our ‘double object’ unfold to embrace the whole wide sweep of creation. Now we can construct ourselves in relation to the cosmos and the Creative Agency that inspirits it: in more traditional parlance, God in Creation and Creation in God. Here is an Ideal reflected in, and embodied by, concrete relation to the other. I become by participating in the becoming of that other, thereby enacting the relation of my “self” to the Ideal. The Infinite is mediated by the other who is, in turn, mediated by the Infinite.
This places the weight on the immediate reality of interpersonal relations. As creative agency, is reflected in the conjunctions of an I and a Thou, we become in and as the agents of divine disclosure, so birth the cosmos into consciousness, in every possible sense. That is the truth of our metaphysics and our astrophysics, the story behind the myths that map our great cosmological adventures. The mythopoeic mind, chartered by One who both presents and represents its own progenesis; our birth into and out of ‘a life that ceaselessly mirrors himself in the face of all creation.’ The mirror shows us the essence of our humanity: that exploratory, explanatory, “upwardly” oriented modality of consciousness those adventures simultaneously manifest and pursue. Gazing into the glass, we live our belief in those myths and adventures, so participate in their becoming, a becoming which is, in turn, reinvested in our own transformations, infinite extensions. That, in the end, is why Huxley called such a consciousness ‘the jumping-off place for infinity.’ And to leap from there is surely to undertake the grandest of metaphysical experiments.
And that is where the story really starts