Monday, June 1, 2015

The Personhood of the Divine, part III



The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, left panel- Christ the Lord
 the Prado, Madrid

One of the greatest misconceptions mankind has adopted over the centuries is the idea that something impersonal can exist.  The great esoteric philosophies at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — the core values of Western civilization — all carry an understanding that the manifestation of reality is supremely personal — it can never be experienced in any other way than a personal one, and all of the ideas connected to it are personal, since they arise in people.

Despite this, secular society, beginning with the Renaissance and carrying through to the Enlightenment, presumed some outward objectivity that exists independent of man. As Swedenborg so often pointed out, this misconception is founded on the idea that that outward objectivity is a naturalistic one, that is, it arises from nature and from physical and chemical laws; that it is very nearly mathematical in nature, and has nothing to do with people or personhood.

In fact, the idea itself is fundamentally corrupt and ultimately worthless, because it comes from people and personhood; in attempting to deny that people and personhood are at the heart of all experienced reality, it discounts the fact that in itself it arises from this fundamental ground of people and personhood. That is the nature of consciousness and experience; our awareness is grounded in personhood.

This misinterpretation carries us away from the understanding that all things are a manifestation of the Divine, expressed in personhood because the divine consists of personhood. One of the reasons that so many religions — including Buddhism (think of the statues of Avalokitsehvara)—have embodied so much of their imagery and understanding in that of human beings and personhood is because of this connection.  Trying to conjure an impersonal world is like trying to pretend that the Divine and the Transcendental do not exist, and that they do not manifest in this world, as this world. Of course atheists will discount this, but it is pointless to discuss such matters with ignorance based on misunderstandings so profound.

One can't, in other words, meditate one's way to an oblivion where personhood ceases to exist; one can't find an objective ground where one transcends Being and personhood, because all paths out of individual Being and individual personhood lead into ever greater levels of that same Being and that same personhood, which expands infinitely, and does not contract, dissolve, or disappear. It grows ever greater; and the incomprehensibility that is described as the void is a positive void, a void of expanding personhood, not a negative one in which personhood ceases to exist.

 Anyone who has had actual contact with higher forces that are truly conscious will understand what I mean by this. Mary is a person. Christ is a person. God is a person. The fact that we are unable to conceive of personhood on the scale and of the kind that is being discussed here stymies us, perhaps; it can't be like that, we think. Yet to the last individual, contacts between Saints and Beings of higher levels and human beings have always been personal — not impersonal — ones. Although Zen and other flavors of Buddhism may seem to imply an impersonal state of consciousness in "enlightenment" (which actually, more or less, doesn't exist in Buddhism, even though it is supposedly the central concept) any extensive reading of Dogen's Eihei Koroku or Shobogenzo reveals an intimate, and highly personal, text. There can be no other experience of consciousness other than through the personal.

 I believe the mistake here lies between the failure to distinguish between personhood and ego, which are not at all the same thing. The word person derives from Latin persona, or actor's mask — character in the play — explaining that personhood represents the taking on of roles, the display of characteristics and aspects.

Because personhood belongs to an actor, there is an inherent understanding that behind the action — in the largest sense, the manifestation of material reality —  there is an actor, a higher consciousness with a greater view, that expresses this particular facet of the way things are. Ego is that part of this activity which forgets that it belongs to an actor; and although, in order to be effective, an actor must fully immerse himself in his role, the actor ultimately fails if he forgets himself — forgets that this facet he is playing a role to express is just a tiny fraction of his much greater whole understanding which drives the expression in the first place.

Hosanna.


1 comment:

  1. You wrote:
    'Although Zen and other flavors of Buddhism may seem to imply an impersonal state of consciousness in "enlightenment" (which actually, more or less, doesn't exist in Buddhism, even though it is supposedly the central concept) any extensive reading {cute] of Dogen's Eihei Koroku or Shobogenzo reveals an intimate, and highly personal, text. There can be no other experience of consciousness other than through the personal.'
    Of course most of us will not be doing an extensive reading of Dogen or Shobogenzo ....we are just average 'householders' But we are glad of of your findings!
    'First, this unoriginated portion of reality is not an entity (because, as Heidegger stressed, one could not explain everything, which are entities, upon another entity: the notion is often called “the ancient-India lesson,” as piling up entities, such as mighty elephants, turtles and oceans or any more modern and powerful cosmological keystone, is now clearly seen as starting never-ending series) and second it is a person, in other words the non-entitative, unoriginated portion of reality takes decisions in a way analogous to that which one uses for moving a finger or forming a thought (because it cannot be a non-person, that is to say a network of distinctions or necessary Fate, since distinctions do not suffice to confer actuality to the being of realities). Now imagine that you, the unoriginated portion of reality, decide to generate free entities. How do you do it?' (Mario Crocco, Palindrome).

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