Saturday, June 25, 2016
F: 5 a.m. All right, friend, ready if you are. More theology today?
TGU: You surely don’t think we have been presenting theology? Cosmology, maybe, but not that either, really. We’re teaching see-ology, we’re trying to help you see straight.
F: I know.
TGU: And we take your point; it does look something like theology, but sometimes like psychology, or sociology, and it can touch on many other aspects of reality that are being studied as so many independent bits rather than as parts of one interrelating whole. We aren’t going to go off on a critique of your educational systems, nor of your lack of a central defining set of principles, but these are all parts of the existing situation that we have to bear in mind.
F: The equivalent that comes to mind is that at one time any educated person in the West read and wrote Latin, and no small number wrote Greek, and so to that extent they could all understand each other. Swedenborg wrote in Latin, and so could be read in the original all over the continent and in educated America. But the growth of the vernacular languages led to the splintering of what had been a community, and today we either learn several languages or we read each other in English as the modern lingua franca, or we read each other in translation. It leads to a lot of slippage.
TGU: Not a bad analogy in another way. The existence of Latin as a common tongue among the educated West no doubt led them (with many other factors encouraging them) to entirely disregard those who did not read Latin, as irrelevant, as nearly non-existent, or existent only as a nuisance. In your day, the very fact that the previously linguistically unified community has been splintered has led you to realize, at least a little, that many are not included. When you see something written in Farsi, say, or any of the Indian or other Eastern languages, you cannot but notice that, although it is not in Latin (or English) it cannot be disregarded as irrelevant.
F: You are saying, I think, that the fact that a system decays also opens up new possibilities.
TGU: Well, let us say, everything changes, and change brings loss and it brings gain, and like most things, which is which is a matter of discernment.
F: The analogy being, our view of the world.
TGU: To be sure, but let’s look at that.
F: Soap bubbles coming into existence and popping. That’s the image that comes to mind.
TGU: Yes. You could regard – we would wish you to regard – each culture that arises, as a soap bubble. Fragile, transient, definite, perhaps beautiful to the eye. Not immortal in the sense of something continuing forever in 3D time. Not universal in the sense of encompassing every good or even for that matter every bad possibility. A bubble forms, and while you are within it, you have certain kinds of possibilities (which implies, certain kinds of not-possibilities). While the bubble lasts, it produces, or perhaps we might say shelters, certain kinds of – whatever a soap bubble might produce; no need to strain ourselves trying to complete what is only an analogy.
[Typing this up, it occurred to me to think, what it produced and sheltered was an environment.]
F: I get the point. Not much sense in mourning the fact that any given soap bubble is going to burst; it would be like treating death as a tragedy per se.
TGU: Precisely. Of course, people do, but not the wisest of them.
F: The sense I have had – for many decades now – is that we are groping for a new way of making sense of the world – and by “the world” I mean 3D, non-3D, all of it. And I have always felt, we’re a long way from seeing it. We’re like people in 1500 trying to intuit the civilization that would succeed the middle ages.
TGU: You might refine that view a bit. Rather than think of it, a la Toynbee, as a series of civilizations succeeding each other, like a stack of pancakes on a plate, you might think of it more as a process, in which smooth and rough (speaking relatively) succeed each other but as part of a smooth flow, not as a series of cataclysmic shifts.
F: Chaos theory.
TGU: That’s a pretty good analogy. Proceed with it.
F: Chaos theory shows that orderly systems contain chaos within them, and chaotic processes nonetheless contain and even embody the principles of order. Like so much else in life, it is a case of what appear to be opposites actually being relative opposites within a polarity.
TGU: There is no need for your readers to study chaos theory even to the extent you did – which, I realize, was only to the point of being inspired poetically – but yes, it is the same old story of personal opposites depending upon each other in a stable way that nonetheless appears invisible [that is, the stability appears invisible] to anyone looking at it from the level at which the conflict plays out. So your own civilization into which you were born quietly passed away, in little bits and pieces and occasional major chunks, so that what you live today would be unrecognizable from the view of someone mature at the time you were born. Yet that is only one lifetime. Add several such lifetimes and you see the entire replacement of thought, manner, belief, perception, hope, gain, despair, loss—
F: Yes, it’s like being in a rapids, like tubing down the Colorado River.
TGU: So don’t expect –
Let’s rephrase that. So don’t think that we are in the process of explain to you “the way things really are.” We aren’t, because it can’t be done. What we are doing is helping you to see “the way things are, as best they can be understood from where you happen to be at the moment.” That’s a very different thing. The latter is not less valuable than the former, but more so, because the former (being impossible) is an illusion, and the latter is as close to real as we are able to get.
F: Our current understanding – no matter how far you can bring us – is only our best understanding within the limit of our soap-bubble.
TGU: Surely it is too much to expect to obtain the real, absolutely universally applicable understanding of anything, let alone everything?
F: Henry Thoreau said, more or less, “I’ve never met anybody who was entirely awake. How could I have looked him in the face?”
TGU: Exactly. You can’t put a quart’s worth of meaning into a pint container.
F: This is our day for metaphors, I see.
TGU: And they are all inadequate in and of themselves, useful only in what they suggest. In fact, useful only in what those who hear the analogy do with it. The reader – we continually remind you – is as essential to any communication as anything that can be written.
F: So our take-away for today?
TGU: Remember that what you are doing is good work, and not only for those of you who participate in it (writing or reading, or both, we mean) but for those who may come into contact with your altered mind. And that, you will see, is an incalculably large impact. What was the impact, finally, of an Emerson? What was the impact of a Thoreau, who was inspired by Emerson? What of Tolstoi, who was inspired by Thoreau who had been inspired by Emerson? What of Martin Luther King, inspired by Tolstoi who was inspired by Thoreau who was inspired by Emerson? And Emerson had had his own inspirations, of course – Wordsworth, Carlyle, Swedenborg, Coleridge – you know.
TGU: No point in making a list. The point should be clear. You, reader, being altered by recognizing a truer way of seeing things, will affect others who interact with you, regardless if you recognize it while it is happening (for you too are being used as an aid to waking people up to things that will resonate within them), regardless whether you ever hear about who they in turn affect, regardless how many years down the chain your little ripple affects things. That is one point, your influence on others, sought or unsought, recognized or not, merely and inevitably because you change.
A second point, very closely connected to the first and not to be decoupled from it – you do not and will not have “the truth,” any more than you will or can move into “the future” (rather than a future). You will have as much of the truth as you are willing to grasp, and able to grasp, which is a very different thing. Your individual makeup, your cultural makeup (that is, the cultural bounds unsuspected by you and therefore all the stronger) will limit your possibilities, but the fact that limits exist does not mean that you will expand even to reach those limits; that’s a matter of your own will and effort. In practice, you will find that your possibilities always expand to the extent that you live those you already recognized.
F: That’s what Thoreau said at the end of Walden.
TGU: He knew a thing or two. But so do each of you. He knew things you don’t. You know things he didn’t. Plus – after all, communication is always a two-way street. You can always get someone on the telephone provided you aren’t all obsessed with proving it to yourself (or others) and you don’t let your egotism persuade you that you are special just because you discovered that telephones exist.
And that’s enough for today.
F: As always, very interesting. Thank you.