Tuesday, 21 April 2020

A Grand Metaphysical Experiment, Part the Last? Absolutely!

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

Monday, 13 April 2020

A Grand Metaphysical Experiment, Part the Last? Almost!

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Amid all the fun and excitement of social distancing, lockdown, wondering whether my family and friends will still be alive next month, and drinking in the afternoon, I quite forgot that yesterday was Sunday.
Nevertheless, for your edification and entertainment, we have the next and nearly the last part of our epic cosmological experiment; and only a mere 24 hours later than intended, give or take an hour or two.

3.1 The Grand Metaphysical Experiment Continues!
Conscious participation in willing the will of an Ideal Other aligns the self with its own ideals.  Only then can it fulfil its potential humanity.  Interaction; and the projection of mutual projects; even the form of mutual address: these provide a religious consciousness with direct experience of the divine Will in action.  What, after all, could be more divine, Farrer asked, ‘than… the fire of genius, the steadfastness of virtue, the unselfishness of love?’ This is the realisation of first “being” in and as personal doing.  ‘These things are not merely the masterpieces of God’s hand, they are the sole revealers of his nature.’  Without the aspiration to imitate and embody them, we have no concept of the divine; for ‘if the highest, most voluntary part of human behaviour is not the act of God, then nowhere in the universe do we directly meet the divine love.’
That love is reflected in the conscious re-appropriation of a dialectic which inspirits us.  By reconstructing the dialectic in which it first becomes, consciousness uncouples itself from self-limitation, re-enacting itself as self-conscious transaction with transcendent ideas and ideals.  Simply put, participate in the becoming of another and we participate in the divine mode.
Clearly, then, consciousness can’t be constrained to determinate patterns of physical operation.  ‘[O]ur voluntary powers’ are not, Farrer reminds us, ‘fixed to a single level of performance, or a set range of concerns.’  Feuerbach’s point in a nutshell.  If the cosmos is, as Huxley maintains, full partner in consciousness then the mythico-religious mind shall countenance no constraint on personal participations.  For a ‘limited consciousness,’ Feuerbach declared, ‘is no consciousness’ at all; no consciousness of the cosmos or its interpersonal affirmations, that is.  ‘Consciousness, in the strict or proper sense, is identical with the consciousness of the infinite’. The infinite nature of consciousness lies in conscious appropriation of and by the dialectic.  In such transcendent ideals we see our own reflection; the image of consciousness cognising and re-cognising, thereby realising, itself as an expression of infinite creativity.  That means ‘nothing else than the consciousness of the infinity of the consciousness; or, in the consciousness of the infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity of his own nature’.
So consciousness coincides with religious consciousness.  Recognising its own “infinitude”, the “self” re-conceives itself as essentially transcendent or transactional. As the sciences have ably shown, consciousness of the infinite finds its apotheosis in our active exploration of the world. 
By the 19th Century, when Feuerbach was writing, the sciences had already made a bid for omniscience. Through telescope and microscope, he observed, we had begun to count ‘the stars in the sky, the ova in the spawn of fish and butterflies, and the colour spots on the wings of insects’. And while one has her gaze fixed on Venus, or the intestines of a caterpillar, someone somewhere is looking at Uranus.
Such “objective” explorations, of course, reflect another more primal, more personal one: the participation in the other, which constitutes my own self-construction. In plain, Feuerbachian, speech, limitation lies in isolation; in combination and participation, we strive for the infinite.  In participation, the infinite supplies the conditions for becoming as overcoming.  As consciousness extends itself indefinitely, overcoming and appropriating the impersonal obstacles presented by a physical universe, so religious consciousness extends itself infinitely, overcoming the separation of “self” and other.  The “self” is literally embodied in the acts of the other.  Oriented towards the open horizon of its own realisation, consciousness transcends its self. 
That’s why Feuerbach saw the reflection of divinity enacted in the transactions of consciousness. It’s also why human ideals are not ‘merely theoretical, inert conception[s];’ they are essentially practical, ‘calling me to action, to imitation.’ Constructed in the image of the other, Susan Langer notes, projections of “perfectibility” reflect actual aspirations: modes of action worthy of replication.  Hence, those of us who strive to embody them, follow by the light of their divinity. Grounding aspirations and ideals in the vitality of concrete relation, Farrer remind us that the wellspring of all physical and personal being is no ‘shy secret hidden somewhere under the root of our mind….  God’s will is written across the face of the world.’ God is the ‘participated life.’ Invited to imitate this divine Imago, our cosmological projects reclaim the psychology from which they are born.
In an amplificatory move which allowed Feuerbach to deny the charge of reductivism and stake his claim to ‘exalt anthropology into theology’ the process of imitation and investment drive the dialectics of consciousness “upwards”. In doing so, they initiate the anthropological reconstruction of our cosmological projects; they complete the ‘anthropotheistic’ drive of consciousness embodied in both science and religion.
Anthropologising cosmology and metaphysics like this is, of course, no mere anthropomorphic projection. At best, such an obscure notion sees ‘the transposition of the internal contents of consciousness into [or onto] the external world.’ But that just constrains creative agency with the analogies used to conceive it, condemning the conception – along with the relation it connotes – to be ‘what our thought never quite overtakes.’ Such literal projections limit our idealised conceptions, first by the range of immediate interactions predicable of personal agents, and second, by the analogies we use to overcome that immediacy. 
But even a child wouldn’t be taken in by such an ontology.  Neither modern physics nor modern metaphysics imagines, in their innocence, that the creative action of the cosmos is a person; no more, says Langer, than our primitive ancestors imagined celestial bodies were. Where they once saw the moon as a ‘round fire, a shining disk’, we now recognise the universe as a ‘free-for-all of elemental forces’. We recognise this but, like those mythical and metaphysically minded ancestors, we see personhood in it; and, like them, what interests us are the ‘acts and relationships… which carry out that significance.’ How else, she asks, should mere empirical facts acquire importance and obviousness [but] from their analogy to human relations and activities.
Anthropic images are more than literal projection because our images and symbols don’t just represent, they present, the primal connections in which we become. This is not a personification of the cosmos, it’s a cosmologising of consciousness.

And so we reach another ill-timed and ill-judged cliff-hanger. If you survive another week, however, remember to come back next week for the final finale! Probably!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

A Grand Metaphysical Experiment, Part the Last! Nearly!

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Ladies and germs – well, maybe not germs. But welcome all the rest, assuming that you’re still alive and haven’t coughed your last all over granny and finally corked it. I’m talking about you, America – or as you’ll come to be known in the future, Plague Island #1 (finally, that whole “build that wall” thing begins to make sense).
Nevertheless, welcome one and all to the nearly final part of my adventures in psycho-cosmology. Nearly final? Nearly final. This “last chapter” ran a bit longer than expected and there’s only so much of this stuff that I’m willing to foist upon the innocent reader at anyone time. Besides, hanging it out like this buys me another week before I have to start thinking of something else to say.
So, as I say: welcome! Welcome! Welcome, to this, the nearly final chapter of…

3. A Grand Metaphysical Experiment
This is the story so far: a cosmos of concrete connections; the analogy of action by which they are known and understood; and a philosophical psychology which grounds that analogy in the dialectics of consciousness, the concrete connections by which we come to be. Here’s the final chapter (nearly). And this is where the story really starts.
Those interpersonal transactions aren’t exclusive to philosophical psychology. ‘Otherness’ belongs as much to cosmological schematics as it does to social semantics.  Reductive minds dub them fairy-tales and fantasies, insisting we abandon them; and yet, images of ‘otherness’ do keep bursting forth in cosmic metaphor.  This is because the cosmos is not built of ontological independents.  It’s primitively interpersonal; not just there but given to us.  Being given, it wears the mantle of living process, so becomes a manifold energised by the quickening of a consciousness that constructs itself by passing itself through such images.
Even the unity, wrought by science from the constant collision of forces, which is our universe, can’t belong to the universe per se any more than it belongs to consciousness in se.  Scientific laws, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. So Huxley reminds us: ‘their generation requires the participation of human minds and their interactions with objects.’ “Coherence” and “unity” are, likewise, transactions wherein the universe and consciousness are actualised.  Hence, the processes and activities which constitute consciousness and the cosmos aren’t just physical; they’re also projective: in short, personal. 
This is a manifold to which consciousness most assuredly belongs.  If that cosmological revolution which transformed inert matter into participative agency is correct, as both modern physics and modern metaphysics insist, then we who explore it must also belong to it.  We are, as Einstein avowed, ‘part of the whole, called by us “Universe”.’ Huxley agreed, insisting that ‘[h]uman intellectual constructions, together with machines and societies, birds and plants, and minerals and suns and nebulae, are all part of the one cosmic process’. Our exploratory activities are an integral feature in the nexus of process and pattern which is the universe we explore.  Those activities make what we call “The Universe” a uni-verse, a whole. 
Transacted between consciousness and its “objects”, these mythopoeic projects are inter-constitutive of the agencies enacted there.  In the prescient words of the great Carl Sagan, ‘[t]he cosmos is… within us,’ in every sense; ‘we are made of star-stuff.’
It’s in these unifying projects, in the coalescing of consciousness, ‘including all [its] spiritual properties and achievements, with the rest of the universe’, that the downgraded analogue of our agency is fully upgraded. So Goethe, in theological mode, saw that same unity as a divine reflection of our ‘own inner unity’; a unity which, Cassirer adds, only reveals itself in the concrete structures of language and myth that embody it. What began as projection returns as self-reflection, an image of longed-for harmony and wholeness, of completion or perfection, of infinite Otherness. 
Here, the transformative potential that such evocative constructs hold for human development and for the universe of which it is a part, become clear.  These images reveal the uni-verse as it is known and the mind that knows it. Echoing Huxley’s earlier remarks, Sagan reminds us of the real import of Delphi’s Oracle: ‘[w]e are a way for the cosmos to know itself.’
In images of cosmic consciousness the analogical upgrade soars far beyond its origin, towards a ‘transcending archetype’. Farrer called it a ‘“crypto-apprehension” of Infinite Act’, where ‘Infinite Act’ is itself a divinely inspired metaphor; providential embrace interpenetrating (pro)creative acts. This empowers our own infinite extensions, psychologically informed metaphysics reminds us, because it is essentially dialectical, interpersonal.  It reflects both what we are and what we might be: consciousness engaged in its own cosmological extensions.  “Crypto-apprehensions” and reflections of perfection invite consciousness to re-conceive itself; no chastened distillate of thought nor meaningless mechanism, but as creative participation in its own projects.
It works like this: in downgrading the analogy of action, the scientific mind “externalises” or “objectifies” it. This is a mirror image of the classical onto-theological project, which idealises and objectifies the concept of consciousness, stripping away all personal predication in search of Absolute Being, Necessary Being, Being-just-being-itself. But this is where scientific ideals get the better of both theological and philosophical realism.  The scientist’s “objectivist” pose takes us out of the picture of natural forces; not to provide a description of a world of independent “reals”; what practical purpose could that possibly serve? No, the scientist adopts the pose because, as Farrer puts it, ‘by taking ourselves out of…[the picture of physical agencies] and studying the lines of it objectively, we put ourselves in the position to re-enter it with better effect.’ Our scientist does just that: puts us in a position to exercise control over the forces diagrammatised.
Now this is where the scientifically and psychologically enlightened metaphysician doubles-down on both the scientific objectivist and the onto-theologian. Bringing these analogical extensions and abstractive acts to self-consciousness puts us in a position to re-enter them to vastly greater effect. It puts us in a position to exercise control over the diagrammatising forces and, consequently, of the development of consciousness that goes with them. In so doing, it returns us to the primal dialogue in which that development takes place.
Self-consciously re-entering the matrix of interpersonal connections, I enact myself as a genuine other, as Thou to some other. That other – whatever it may be – is addressed as a reality in its own right, a being with a distinct ‘charter of existence’. By participating in this ‘charter’, I transcend the limitations of my own.  Overcoming the limits of determinate existence, I re-enact the dialogue my recognition reflects.  I recognise the other as a reflection of myself, one, like me, in need of othering.  Recognition re-establishes the connection allowing me to reclaim what Feuerbach called my ‘relinquished self’, my ‘species being’. In short, I reinvest myself in my own projections. 
In that reinvestment, cosmic speculations coincide with psychologically informed theology, Feuerbach’s anthropo-theology. Returning to our projects as self-consciousness participating in cosmological constructs, embodying such images in acts of othering, we find both the clue to, and instantiation of, Prime Creative Will. More, in the mutual transactions of consciousness, we put ourselves in the way of that Will. 

And here we are at another classic cliff-hanger ending! Will consciousness mutually transact itself? Will the Prime Creative Will have washed his or her massive hands? Can we participate in Creation while maintaining a safe social distance? Have you seen Ludwig Feuerbach’s beard? Will Jessica find out about Chester’s mistress? Will Burt and Mary ever make up? All this and more, in the next episode of…