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