Assertions for Reflection
Nature is “a prophetic language whose hieroglyphics are beings and forms…revealing herself as a world of materialized dream.” Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert (1780-1860), scientist and philosopher. Germany.
“Man, it has been said, is a symbolizing animal; it is evident at no stage in the development of civilization has man been able to dispense with symbols.” Herbert Read (1893- 1968) poet, literary critic, art historian. United Kingdom.
“[Symbols] like stone engravings, there is little room for the non-essential.” www.symbolreader.com, Part 5, C. G. Jung’s “Red Book”, Chapter 4
“…the world of symbols, [is] an intermediate realm between the conceptual and the physical” Juan Eduardo Cirlot, (1916-1973) poet, mythologist, musician. Spain
How to prove any of these assertions? A great deal of human subjectivity is beyond the reach of proof. No laboratory of our inventing is able to isolate the human imagination, the urge to compassion, the archetype, or how one visualizes the sacred. These artifacts of human awareness comprise a region of lived experience off limits to science; this region of our awareness, the subjective, often alludes the descriptive reach of language itself–let alone the deconstruction and reproducibility rigors of the laboratory.
What then explains our apparent devotion to the subjective? If we consult the Western Mystery Tradition, the answer to this question emerges: more than mathematics or logic, our subjective experience as love and curiosity is the portal of choice to access the psyche.
Welcome to the Astrologers’ Folio—a digital venue for exploring the Western Mystery Tradition and its associated wisdom studies.
Love and Curiosity
Love and curiosity are powerful forces in the world of human endeavoring and becoming. Neither love nor curiosity, let alone psyche, however, are “provable”. This may be all annoyance for the agnostic and all affirmation for the believer–but neither agnostic nor believer doubts the power and authority of love or curiosity.
The agnostic appears to crave the capitulation of the believer even as it disdains the believer’s legendary intractability. For the the agnostic, the believer is forbidden fruit.
Believers, on the other hand, seem quite “comfortable in their own skin”. Winning over the agnostic–whose stock and trade is disbelief–is less interesting than aligning oneself with a culture and community of faith with its signature panoply of symbols and terms to carry the narrative.
Meanwhile, the agnostic attempts to set the facts of experience in order by reason (think: peer review) –a brain uncontaminated by faith. The believer’s organizing principle of Mind is faith informed by love and revelation (think: individual testimony or witness). In a previous post we describe ways to appreciate the different contributions of brain v Mind.
It would be helpful if agnostic and believer, alike, acknowledged how these two mysteries, brain and Mind always and only co-exist. In the West, should we consider belief an executive capacity of Mind and reason the more ministerial capacity of brain? Probably. Let the Mind be the first among equals.
While our focus at the AF is on Western methods and traditions, the West also sits respectfully at the feet of its Eastern sisters and brothers. The East teaches only in death are Yin and Yang separable; as animated beings one holds the other, our breathing confirms this to be so.
The East also teaches matters taken to extreme turn into their opposite. C. G. Jung named this condition—Enantiodromia. The agnostic who protests too much against the irrational subjectivity of the believer begins to exhibit the intractability of a believer. A believer who does not actively practice wisdom studies, a catechism, a chavura or Islamiyat, is at risk of losing the language of his faith–a language unacknowledged by the agnostic.
Consider observers René Descartes (1596-1650 CE) and Bucky Fuller (1895-1983 CE):
René [brain] “I think therefore I am.”
Bucky [Mind] “[I define love as] omni-inclusive, progressively exquisite, understanding and compassionately attuned to other than self.”
Descartes’ claim asserts an existential fact, I am, as reasonable (if not provable). Bucky’s metaphysics represents a different perspective–resting, as it does, upon all the lived experience including all the questions, asked, answered and pending– of all people everywhere across all Time.
Fuller’s discernment and Descartes’ logic—exist on a continuum of human discovery. In Bucky’s instance–where there is “Mind”, “Heart” cannot be far behind. In Descartes’ universe—the I am “brain” suffers alone–its only company a mild (or not so mild) case of hubris.
“Facts are the Enemy of Truth”
Speaking with the authority of a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates making a new product announcement, the author of the first published novel in the West, “El Quixote” 1605 CE–by Miguel de Cervantes– declares for all to read: “Facts are the enemy of Truth.” How could Cervantes know, some four hundred years hence, on a bad day, his words could be construed to mean–“[my truth] doesn’t require [your] facts”? Unintended consequences are nothing new.
The agnostic is faced with a difficult task: how to contend with believers armed with everyday language who who can riff with a straight face, “I don’t believe in the G-d* you don’t believe in.” What’s an agnostic to do?
* [Omitting the letter “o” to complete the spelling of “God” was deemed an act of hubris and thereby to be avoided. The humbler abbreviation, “G-d”, for millenia–has been the convention.]
Language and the pursuit of proof
In our last post we reported there are more than 4,300 religions with adherents in the world today and more than 7,000 languages to describe religious experience. Science is a different matter—English is the lingua franca of modern era science. In Norway, for example, for every scientific paper published in Norwegian—40 papers, all written by Norwegian scientists, are published in English. “All of the top 50 [science] journals are published in English and originate in the UK or the United States.” Source: The Atlantic, 15 September 2015, “The Hidden Bias of Science’s Universal Language”.
Meanwhile, the visual arts flourish and are not dominated by English, neither are sports or literature–or religion for that matter. How’s your Hindi, Hebrew or Farsi?
Think about the following ratio—- 1 : 7,000 1 language of science to describe facts and the experimental methods to confirm them; 7,000 languages relegated to all other categories of human endeavoring including the sacred. Are we describing the linguistic equivalent of deforestation? The formal term for it–-language death—is happening at an alarming rate. Language death takes place when the last known speaker of a language dies. To extend the deforestation comparison— languages under pressure are “old growth”—if they can be replaced they cannot be replaced in kind. It may not be possible to re-imagine the aboriginal forest (or language) once gone. Unimagined–there is nothing to prove.
Language as Identity
Identity and language are linked: ask the Hebrew speaking world–whose language was lost to common parlance between 200-400 CE and not revived (credit Eliezer Ben Yehuda) until the mid-19th century! Or the Poles–who held onto their native language despite every attempt by invading forces to forbid its practice. In Eastern Europe similar challenges faced speakers of Lithuanian, Belarussian, Ukranian, Bulgarian and Serbian. Do we mention the centuries long repression of indigenous language use among Native communities in the Americas?
It may not be apparent, but the English reliance upon a Roman Latin alphabet of 26 letters has not inspired a lot of imitation. Witness 22, 28, 30, 32 and 33—these numbers define alphabet totals for Hebrew, Arabic, Serbian, Lithuanian and Ukranian languages respectively. As recently as 1011 CE, even Old English, our modern English precursor, consisted of 24 Latin letters plus the following five symbols: ⁊ Ƿ Þ Ð Æ, pronounced “long S, Eth, Thorn, Wynn and Ash”.
Have you had the pleasure of studying all 44 letters of the Magyar (Hungarian) alphabet? Isn’t it a wonder how a Euro-centered culture adapted an alphabet so unlike nearby neighbors? We understand Hungarian is even difficult for native speakers to master! If reason is all about setting the facts of direct lived experience in order–did the Magyar language demi-gods get the memo?
If you are a native English speaker–your “confirmation bias” may tell you, relying upon one language source for scientific documentation purposes is likely good for science. Today the language du jour is English. For a long while it was Latin. Newton’s Principia was published in Latin in 1687 CE; by 1704 CE his Opticks were published in English. The Latin translation of Opticks appeared two years following in 1706 CE.
If English speaks for science [reason], what linguistic motif speaks for the sacred [belief]? Answer: the psyche relies upon a syntax comprised of archetypes and symbols and their relationships one to the other. This may be intuitive. At a waking level, however, we are “forgetful animals”. This may explain the Western Mystery Tradition emphasis on study and practice to nurture memory (akashic memory). Loss of memory represents an insidious form of cultural and spiritual “deforestation”.
Meanwhile, students of the Kabbalah study Hebrew and the sefirot; students of the Tarot, the major arcanum and Western occult history; students of Astrology, a mandala of houses, planets, and zodiacal signs; students of spiritual Alchemy, a formulary dating to antiquity–whereby synergetic combinations, unpredicted by considering individual elements in isolation, are possible.
Each person is a composite of waking and non-waking experience. When the Lord’s prayer extols, “give us this day our daily bread”—we are in full waking awareness mode—a state of being governed by the bright light of the Sun. When we whisper,“thy will be done”–we are inviting the rich tableau of our non-waking world to take over; only a Mind-Heart with “eyes closed” has the bandwidth, the faith and the modesty, for “believing” [trusting] a “thy will be done” covenant is even possible. It is a covenant governed by a reflected light–the Moon–as memory, womb, mother. Think: Neptune.
We close today with praise for the agnostic—dear shepherd of sheep, count them all. And gratitude for the believer who knows, at a deep level, “G-d is too big to comprehend and small enough to occupy the human heart.” [Sufi wisdom].
Meanwhile, no one knows, agnostic or believer, which drop of water turns the water to wine [John 2:1-11]. And we all could know, when you engage the stranger “sometimes we entertain angels unaware” [Hebrews 13:2].
Believer to Agnostic: “Don’t speak to me. I want to be with you.” [quoting Antonio Porchia]
Agnostic to Believer “Look to the future. Correct your mistakes.” [quoting Admiral Chester W. Nimitz]
We bid you peace,
Last thought today—we are introducing a means for communicating questions and/ or feedback to the Astrologers’ Folio. Simply write to us at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your communication will remain confidential. We will do our best to answer questions directly—or by reference to other sources when we are empty handed. We look forward to hearing from you. Frater A.