Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The place of the Name" a critical essay

This is an essay continuing my work on “engines” and “internalizations,” expanding it to theology.



The Place of “The Name” in the mind’s architecture

art - solitude.jpg

                It is wrong to believe there is a unified “superego” standing above the ego, telling it what it should not do. Yes, we internalize our parents, our friends, society in general, and again, what we take to be God, Justice, the voice of Truth – all these are fictions even though we can plug them into external realities. Each has its own role, internalizations do not all run together.

            They are fictions because they are made up, though they are often inspired by extenal realities. A dead spouse continues to live in our heart. Poetical or not, there are no more direct words than this to describe the situation. She may also live in the possessions she once owned, and in the collective memories we hold of her, in the things she created, in the words she wrote. Are these merely reminders, or is there any of her living reality in them? Scientific materialism might argue that her personal consciousness is extinct, but panpsychic materialism opens up the possibility that she may really think through some material her living body left behind.

            This at least has been the prejudice of nearly every religion yet to be created, and that at least indicates how fulfilling the idea appears to be. Should we assume that the extinction of an autonomous personality is more fulfilling, because it is really true? Is the truth more fulfilling than delusion and self-deceit. Yes, we must respect the truth enough to regard her as ultimately more fulfilling than deceit, yet though the belief in the survival of the person after physical death acts like a self-deception (comfort is its justification, not observable facts nor argued philosophy – at least for the majority of people), it may yet be found to be grounded in reality, for the idea is in itself neither absurd nor self-contradictory.

            Yet even if her personality dies with her body, the collective memories we have of her take on a persona of themselves, and move through what we say and what we do not say, and in this way, even characters in plays and religions, such as God and angels, hold agency to act in the world, though prior to our creating them they existed not at all.

            “The Name” is a term for what we already have many terms for: the highest, the most important, the highest meaning. It stands for what each of us believe to be most important to believe in, and though we may believe it to be one of many things, it must at least be something – and so we need to value something in our life as important.

            Reductively, it would be best to need needs themselves, as highest, as most important; or to argue like Anselm that the greatest being conceivable to the human mind with be the unity of All things, since nothing greater could be conceived without also becoming part of the All by mere conception.

            It is useful for the Name to be externally nonexistent, because in this way, it is truly limitless in its functions, whereas an externally existing being would have limited use, being restricted to its nature, and not our own needs. God for instance, as an internalized fiction, can be infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, can do anything we want a God to do: we can pray to him and find comfort, we can hide from him and enjoy our sins more than an atheist could, we can do acts of kindness for others, and yet not really care for them and thus be hurt by them, we can be hypocrites or we can be saints – insofar as He doesn’t exist. We could be none of these things if God really existed, for his reality would negate our own desires of what he should be. Insofar as God is autonomous, real, and existent, history makes no sense, the various religions make no sense, there can be no heaven, no hell, no universal salvation, nothing to hope in. The greatest proof that He doesn’t exist is in the religions that believe in him, their style of worship, their manner of character, the quality of their holy books, and the very history they claim he works through.

            Thus we can say that true believers are in fact atheists – they do not believe in an external God, but they believe in fictions they at some level know they don’t really believe in; whereas nonbelievers are in fact theists, what they believe that the Truth of what God should be doesn’t exist, and so they do not believe in lies, and are faithful to what they believe as Truth.

            True-believers in God rationalize the facts to fit their faith. This willingness to perjure themselves at all costs is another name for “Faith” – as Mark Twain defined it “believing what you know ain’t true.” Thus, in the history of the Jews, if the question as to how God acts in history were made into a historical system, we would have to admit that God allows his Chosen People to be enslaved, dislocated, and killed outright in large numbers – and this is called punishment for the supposed sins of the people – we would have to admit of a God who let the Ark of the Covenant, his throne in the world, be taken by foreigners and destroyed, a God who lets his temple be overtaken by Romans, and at his holy alter, a pig sacrificed to a foreign God, that allows various holocausts against his people throughout history, and a World War involving the torturous deaths of women, men, and children. If we are asked what this proves about their God, when the Gods, Taos, Brahmas, and True Principles of other peoples, some more ancient, did not all suffer similar things, but some were notably blessed throughout history, then we can only use one method of thought to reconcile the contradictions: interpretive rationalization.

            Ditto this for the Christians who for two-thousand years, have been sneering at their opponents who couldn’t read “the signs of the times,” who were so dumb they couldn’t predict rain by the red sunrise, as Jesus sneered at the Pharisees; and we hear this continually, because in the imagination of the believers, the fantasy of the “end of the world” must be true – or really, what’s to live for? The character of Jesus in the Gospels believed in the end of the world, Paul believed in it, the writer of the Apocalypse believed in it; and throughout history, the religious, from the paranoid schizophrenic to the most sane of pastors, have interpreted historical events to prove that they are living in the “last generation.” During the black plague in Europe, we had the proof that God was destroying the world; in the year 999 we had proofs that the world was going to end; seventh day Adventists predicted the end of the world to the day, as did Jehovah witnesses, but even the historical failure of these predictions did not end the cults, but intensified them. It seems that one believes God acts in history, not because history proves it, but because any history at all can be used to prove it, and prove it not only for Christians or Jews, but any religion that cares to think about history in light of its own faith.

            Islam also lay a claim to a historical God, and the rapid advancement of Islam in its militant beginning was taken as the greatest proof that Islam would conquer the entire world. When Islam was a higher culture than Europe, this also was taken as proof that Islam was the one true religion, but when Islam declined, and Europe expanded, this was not taken as counterevidence, that Islam was in fact false. At least not consciously, but only implicitly and unconsciously; and this resurfaced as cultural struggle, fanaticism, violence, and anger. Violence against the nonbeliever is the external expression of doubt of God.

            Mormonism, our fourth Abrahamic religion, arose because of historical problems. Why didn’t the Bible predict America? Where is our story? Who were the Indians, and what if they never heard of Christ before us? These doubts, which didn’t consciously trouble most Christians, nevertheless did trouble them unconsciously, and this collective doubt turned into inspiration for the writers of the book of Mormon (here I am assuming that Joseph Smith had read the already written fictions about the Indians being a lost tribe). But though Mormonism claimed to explain history, the facts it posited, as to geographical locations of lost tribes, their technology, and so forth, have never been verified, and seemingly never will be – and it is precisely because of this falsehood, and the absurdity of the book (no more absurd than the gospels of course, but much more immediate), allows the Mormons to believe all the more fervently, and to live lives more pious and holy than most Christians – by their fruits you will know them! – and, despite the lack of beauty of their scriptures, they make more conversions than all religions, except perhaps Pentacostal Christianity.

            The rhetorical trick is clear: faith is proved by evidence, which will not seem so to any but the eyes of faith. And those eyes are usually implanted in childhood, when any absurdity will be loved as the highest truth, on trust of mom and dad.

            The Name must be a fiction in order to be flexible. Since God doesn’t exist, preachers can claim whatever they want for him, they have full creative license. Like novelists, they must speak plausibly. Yet though the law in the bible says not to take God’s name in vain, historically, the most outrageous, loathsome, despicable things have been claimed to come from God’s mouth, as well a the most subtle, beautiful, and delightful – and no external God ever spoke up to correct this audacity. Hitler spoke for God at times, as did Joseph Smith, Muhammad, Paul – and televangelists quote live conversations they’ve had with him, and historically, God has never spoken up to correct them.

            Thus God is like a mistress. The greatest virtue of a mistress is her distance from the home. Such a necessary distance allows certain intimacies impossible with the wife of your children, and yet, without the immediate wife, the mistress would have no use. A widower does not marry the mistress, or if he does, he soon regrets it. Therefore, the mistress becomes the shadow of the wife: she is chosen because she balances the wife out, gives the man what the wife won’t or can’t give, and more so, she is programmed to be what the wife isn’t, more affectionate, more supportive, less critical, more sexual – things impossible even the most willing of wives, because a wife is one woman, situatiated in a family, and held too close to give her freedom. As in Greek Myth, life on earth could only exist when heaven was separate from earth – to provide a place for life to exist – and so the faithful can only be happy because God is the farthest mistress, the fully fictional one.

            Thus we come to the use of the Name. Since everybody who exists must necessarily hold values, and a basis for his values, we all refer to a name of some sort: God, Reason, Science, Tao, Spirit, Life, the Good. What a name allows is a consolidation of values under one banner. For the mind can only focus on four independent objects at a time: what an efficacious shortcut to make an engine that refers all values to one name. And that name can be inflated infinitely.

            Infinity itself is a negation (“not finite”) and negations do not exist in reality. We can imagine infinity, we can experience infinity, we can do math with infinity, and we can have religious experiences with infinity – though all these functions are themselves finite, and describable, and the infinite itself is unthinkable and nonexistent. Like the idea of “Nothing” which is also a negation (“no thing”), infinity has no positive existence, and therefore is not agent, it can do nothing, it can mean nothing, it is useless, except as a placeholder for real things. I may call my hand “empty” though literally, there is no emptiness anywhere, but as a word it expresses a meaning. Thus, words like nothing, infinity, God, spirit, etc. refer to no existing objects at all; they are nothing more than Prepositional Phrases. They exist only to orient us in reality, not to orient us to themselves.

            Therefore, there is a difference between what a man regards as “the most important being,” – God or Reason, or whatever – and what in his personal life really is most important. This shifts, so perhaps the apparatus for choosing among shifting things, the mind itself should be taken as vital. Yet the pragmatic passion of a man’s life should be regarded as his real “highest importance,” such as being a doctor, or the loving of his family, or his creating art, and this even when officially he believes in God – and for the clergy to call the man an “idolater” is the greatest crime I can charge against religion. The words “Love God with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your body, and with all your soul” are the most evil words ever spoken.

            For they ask a man to betray what he loves for the sake of an idol – and here the God being unable to stir deep passion proves the real idol – is to commit what Dante was right to call the worst sin: betrayal of the beloved. Idolatry, so called, was what ancient Hebrews condemned, the use of art to connect with the divine. A statue, used to connect with God, was considered the greatest sin – and this in the same spirit as most the laws in the Old Testament, as a reaction against the other religions of the area. “Don’t boil a calf in its mother’s milk” it also says, not an admonition against cruelty, but to avoid the use of magic, as others in the area practiced. And this is the true logic of many of the hundreds of laws in the Old Testament, which to the historically naïve, seem perplexing and arbitrary (don’t wear shirts made out of mixed materials, don’t eat swine, etc.).

            The great distinction of Judaism, then, its reviling of idolatry, taken over with violent fervor by the iconoclastic Muslims, begins, therefore, with an evil eye on one’s neighbors, hate of the neighbor, and the need that we all have of distinguishing ourselves from other groups. But the idea that God is “more present” in a temple, or that he prefers one holy book to another, that a Quran is in itself Divine, that God has a name, any name, that God has holidays, that certain activities bring God’s presence – praying, singing, dancing, sacrifices, etc. – all objectify God, and are equally as “idolatrous” as worshipping God through a statue.

            The latest interpretation, that loving anything intently, your wife, your children, your job, money, friends, yourself, is idolatry, is to misunderstand a misunderstanding. I call it the great curse on life, and is the worst crime of religion. The very guilt this causes, conscious and unconscious, of the many believers becomes the platform that the pious believers with their humble arrogance stand upon. “Because it is our job to love God most, we will step on your bent backs, who pay our bills.”

            The Tao de Jing gets the closest to the true nature of the Divine when it calls her “the emptiness.” By being an infinite nothing, God is completely owned, understand, comprehended, and his divinity fully spent and used, to put in place the true Beloved, who can be fully loved, because she is real and can be touched, and therefore, comes with risks, and brings her as close as possible. An atheist may regard Reason as the greatest reality in the world, but often his beloved is in something more intimate, immediate, and tangible. For love is about intimacy, and ot the kind of intimacy that lacks an external relationship. The relationship to the divine, made out of old myths and theological abstractions, might be the most important thing in a worldview, but it ought never be the most important reality to the heart.

            Inspiration is the God of the artists. Creating is itself is the ultimate reality for the poet, the writer, the singer, but the object of inspiration, God, or a woman, any muse, is merely an excuse to do that one real thing we love best to do. And so the greatest reality of any person is what he loves best to do, whatever ideal Name he uses to excuse his indulgence.

            The focus itself is the ultimate agent of the man, his greatest aspect, consciousness itself, and the style by which it leads the mind is the best of a man’s reality. Concepts, abstractions, and memories are structured like a great architecture of mind. The rooms of the mind hold ornaments of memory, holds conceptual furniture that make every mindset a sort of work station for what the external time and place call for.

            When too much emotion floods the mind, thinking becomes delusional. The intensity of a mood itself can drive a person psychotic. Management of the passion is still the key to mental health, just as the ancient Greeks believed. The mental hygiene of balancing the passions is central to Aristotelian ethics. There is something true in Aristotle’s idea that tragedies exhausted pity and terror. The fantasy space of art fulfills us in ways that even our private fantasies cannot, for they are shared by the community, and thus are not our fault. Tragedy began as a religious performance, and yet all religions are a sort of play acting, in which people pray, give, sing, bow, and don’t mean it, shouldn’t mean it, for the more the individual fully experiences the rite, and makes it personal, the more “real,” the less “hypocritical,” the less he is part of the community, the less he belongs. Even the “holy-rollers” who shake and scream and vomit, who speak in tongues and writhe upon the floor, are still play-acting, they are doing what they see, and that is why it fulfills them, is why all groups fulfill their members, for they are all actors, they all play roles, and this alone let’s one be part of a group. By plugging into a group, and especially by not fully meaning what he says, a man can get rid of his excess emotions, and avoid personal delusions.

            An individual as well as a group requires an Assimilator. This engine, or the person who acts for this engine, takes all stories, all facts, all realities, and reduces it to the language of the group. There may remain Christians, Muslims, Freudians, Scientologists for thousands of years, if only the Assimilators know how to take the problems of history and science, the novelties of the world, and reduce it back to the terms of the group. The Assimilator, is a part of the interpretive apparatus that changes words. Just as the metaphorical mind shows how unlike things explain each other, the assimilator reduces all things to the same language, a language with a logic and grammar that allows no exceptions.

            In a nation-body, assimilation is essential for the integrity of the system. A shared childhood education, reading the same books, learning the same facts, alone can unify a nation. A shared language, a shared set of values, these alone can unify a nation. Master morality must subordinate the entire nation to one purpose: what else can unify contradictions? And so in any body, there must by the master class, the few controlling members, and the instated language system that gives them control over the others.

            Within each of us, the same apparatus works. The mind is a mansion of many rooms, full of conceptual furniture; the master room accomplishes the most work, and must be separate from the internalization of the sacred place, where the engine of God is housed and fondled in privacy. A man’s most powerful tool is not the place of the Name, but that place acts like a drain for excessive emotion. God can be fed guilt, adoration, loneliness, lust, each in their own prescribed holy manner, just as for a poet all the excess emotions can be tightly and beautifully bound into poems.

            Memories are part of this architecture. The having done something can act as an emotional outlet as well. Having slept with ten women, a man may be true to his wife, having “got it out of his system.” Those memories stand for a fact, and that fact lets the remaining lusts and desires have a new meaning. In this way, a great accomplishment not only teaches us the habits to accomplish great things, but can also relieve us from having to accomplish anything, since we’ve done our work. Thus memories become concepts and habits that redirect emotional energy.

            Achievements become abbreviated as concepts, ultimately, as a personal language, and thus it is rightly said that though language is universal (whoever learns it may speak it), it is also private, so that all words have a personal meaning as well. Thus a man may mouth that he pledges allegiance to the flag, that he loves God above all, that he loves his parents, his wife, his children, he can really say all things and anything that are expected of him, and still know “words for words! My heart loves what my heart must love, so let it be lost in translation.”

            And so what a man really loves in his life, what he really cares about, what he spends his passion doing, the language of passionate activity, this is his true religion, his true love, his true greatest thing, and the rest is a tax paid to local traditions to keep them alive.

            Meditation, prayer, charity, are often not the things themselves. A man does them in order to buy the freedom to do what he really loves. If heaven were a Sunday service drawn out forever, who would want it? If you wish the vista of what man truly wants, look upon the world as it is: we make our own reality. We want something, and we want to complain about it. We want peace and we declare war. The deepest truth a man may realize is that there are no contradictions, that everything is true when it is properly understood. Wisdom is to see the necessity behind world systems, the inevitability of them; for in realizing these inevitabilities, he is able to add to them. “When you know, you will be known,” as the Gnostics said; use the system or the system will use you.

            Zealous believers fill a function, as do the more sincere believers who make religion their highest purpose in life. They believe for us. If they didn’t exist, the passionate disbelievers would have to take their place. The social body as a whole needs them, puts them in place, uses their creative energies for this cause or that – what matters the cause, so long as creativity is used, and the world progresses? Only in the outermost and the innermost do all contradictions become unified: from the middle place of the world we live in, nothing seems certain, things seem chaotic, injustice seems common; but wise men everywhere have felt that this middle perspective is not complete in itself.

            Heretics and blasphemers exist to make the faithful more faithful. Without some external person doubting God for us – taking on the blame and criticism for us – we couldn’t be so faithful on our own. For the group body uses its parts to balance each other out. In the case of witchcraft, a fantasy problem projected on the mentally ill for centuries, backed up by honest and exacting legal procedures,  with psychology and mythology, the innocent albeit eccentric victims were even convinced themselves they had made a contract with the devil, and would honestly confess it, though in fact, there is no devil, there are no pacts, the entire thing was a fabrication of the pious from the beginning. This is how the social body balanced itself out, in light of the scriptures it held sacred.

            The ultimate tools of the mind are the most versatile. For many, religion is the ultimate work station, and the persona-of God is used for many different things. But for those who could not be fully monotheistic, they had to invent a Satan to do the things God couldn’t do: be blamed and hated. Even though only an “angel,” Satan works as the opposite of God – and we could call those who need this sort dualism, weaker of believers than those we can see only God in all things.  The Christian theologians are dualistic in that they think Satan and hell are as eternal as heaven and God, whereas we, with our Material Monism, take the universe as a growing thing, in which evils are not eternal, but can be outgrown. The idea of progress is better than the idea of segregation.

            All these mythic geographies of heaven and hell are part of the same intellectual architecture as the memories of our childhood, and the fictions from our novels and movies: the ultimate reality is the internal one. And if consciousness were to persist after the body was extinguished, perhaps such internalized realities would be our eternal abode.


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