Ep. 33 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - The Spirituality of RR: Wonder/Awe/Mystery/Sacredness | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 33 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - The Spirituality of RR: Wonder/Awe/Mystery/Sacredness".

1970-01-01T11:18:57.000Z

Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Introduction

Intro (00:00)

Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. Last time, I suppose I probably touched your attention quite a bit because we tried to keep it as accessible as possible, as jargon free as possible, but we got into some of the nitty-gritty of how we could potentially give a naturalistic explanation of relevance, realization, and see it potentially in being implemented in terms of self-organizing criticality and small world network formation in the brain. And that in turn could help us to understand general intelligence, insight, and a lot of the functionality, and I was even arguing a lot of the phenomenological aspects of consciousness. And that gives us reason to believe that we may be able to use this machinery to elegantly explain a lot of the central features of human spirituality. We've already seen that this relevance realization is transjective, it's about our fundamental connectedness, connectedness to the world, connectedness of mind, body, together. We'll have to come back to connectedness to other people that relevance realization is always deeply effective that at the core of relevance realization is a caring that is integral to your cognitive commitment of your precious cognitive metabolic and temporal resources that we can see a lot of the stuff that Heidegger was talking about when he was trying to get us back to this primordial sense of meaning in the transjectivity of relevance realization and that that interpretation of Heidegger comes via the word "dreyfus" and are being in the world. I want to pick up on that now, instead of just being suggestive, I want to now try and carefully unpack what I want to call the phenomenology of relevance realization in terms of meaning making, the kind of meaning making that ultimately we have gathered together by the term spirituality. So let's gather what we've done.


Concepts Of Relevance Realization

The Transjctional Organizing Feature of Relevance-Realization (03:00)

So we had problem solving, right, and we went over this again in more detail last time, we have insight, categorization, all of these things seem to be, right, the demonstrative reference, that's the Finsting, and we put that within, right, the salience landscaping, consciousness, and closely tied to it working memory, and then of course tied to that, of course, is G, right, got inference, that was the stuff with Churniak, we got communication, all of this, right, is feeding into relevance realization. We could give a naturalistic, structural, functional organization of it in terms of self-organizing criticality and small world networks where these are understood to mean families of processes, right, and these are deeply related together. And as I've said, we've already got that this is inherently transjective, we've got this is an ongoing evolving, sorry, evolving, involving, that's what I'm trying to get with caring and participation, and how, right, you know, the know-how is grounded in the situational awareness, the perspectival knowing that's grounded in the participatory, transjective coupling to the world, right, this is evolving, evolving optimization process of your connectedness, your fittedness to yourself, to the world, to other people in communication, for example. All right, I've already given you an argument about how via complexification, right, this gives us an account of our capacity for self-transcendence, our capacity to produce emergent functions, and we saw that even connected with insight, and we can see that at work directly out of this now. Well, why self-transcendence, the capacity for self-transcendence to overcoming self-deception is actually endemic to your meaning-making machinery. Okay, in connection with that, of course, this would also explain these two are related, your tremendous capacity for self-deception, for bullshitting yourself, right, because this has to do with ultimately your, right, your salience landscaping, et cetera. And as I mentioned, and that's part of here, that the connectedness that's so central to people's sense of meaning in life, being connected to something that, right, is in some sense, greater than them, other than them, in an important way, but to whom their identity is never the last couple. I've tried to show you how it gives us a nice account of perspectival knowing and participatory knowing. And then how these two can come together in procedural knowing. We'll talk a bit more about that. But the creating of affordances, we've talked multiple times how affordances are the aviation of a transjective relationship within which my skills, my capacity to solve problems can be reliably trained and developed. Okay. So, we talked about, again, like I said, that this has an aspect of deep caring in it. So you're going to find the sense of significance here. This is something you care about, you bind yourself to, you commit yourself to in a very important way. I already suggested, and I try to give you that with the account last time of insight, how this can help explain what's going on an altered state of consciousness while you're getting both a change in your salience, landscaping, the change in your relevance, realization, machinery, how it can be altering your optimal grip. Optimal gripping is also a case of optimization that fits within this, helped explain our higher states of consciousness. All right. Now, I want to start pointing out some other aspects of it that I think contribute to it being, how do I want to say this, represented, understood, grasped as spiritual, spiritual, and spiritual. Let's take a look at some of the features of relevance, realization, that have come out of this argument. So, these are all going to be ways in which we experience this as our fundamental framing of reality. But, and again, that's good, but it has a sense of us standing outside. We're inside the framing. We are participating in it. It has to do with, right, the framing is, right, at the level of the agent arena.


The Fundamentality of Relevance Realization (09:16)

It's not just looking out. It's the inclusive relationship. Okay. But I want to point out to the fundamentality of this. What I would argue, this is a way of interpreting what Heidegger means by the primordiality of what he was talking about. I'll criticize Heidegger later. I have criticisms of him, but I'm also trying to point out how this work, which seems so technical in some sense, can be connected to some very, well, deeply existential and phenomenological philosophy. Okay. So, first of all, the fundamentality of this.


Preconceptuality (09:56)

Okay. So, notice that this is ultimately preconsexual in nature. It has to be, right, because it's at the level, it's below your level of propositional processing. In order to have concepts you have to categorize, in order to categorize, you have to have relevance realization. Also, in order to categorize, you have to first have demonstrative reference, which is pure, preconceptual relevance realization. So, this is ultimately preconceptual in a deep way. Okay. And in that important sense, right, it's ultimately pre-propositional. Pre-propositional. If what we mean by belief, and it's often what we mean by belief, is the assertion of propositions and their implications, then relevance realization is taking place at a level fundamentally deeper than the level of belief. Now, you understand that I'm not proposing that this is just a bottom-up process. Of course, how we conceptualize things, and how we have beliefs about things, feeds back down. That's why all those diagrams have feedback down arrows in them. But, we're talking about belief ultimately as an effect. It feeds back an effect, but it is ultimately of an effect of relevance realization. Because, of course, this fundamental framing is pre-inferential in a deep way. Because, inference, it's pre-communication. That means you can, well, I learn this from other people. Well, no, you can't, there's a sense in which you can refine it from other people, but you can't ultimately learn it from other people because learning presupposes it. Being able to pay attention to your mother and pick up on how she's communicating with you and make inferences from that so that you start to categorize the world and figure out that this is a bottle presupposes this. And that points to something else. This is pre-experiential, not in the sense that it's happening to you before you have, like, in some previous life. What I mean is that your meaningfully structured experience, the level of common sense obviousness, is a result of it. It does not generate it by the level of common sense obvious meaningful world. It is generated, that world is generated out of relevance realization being coupled to the environment. So, it is pre-experiential. It is pre-egoic. I think in some important ways it's also post-egoic, but I'll come back to that. Because your agency and the world as an arena in which you have a narratively structured, reliably acting ego emerges, these co-emerge out of relevance realization. That's why they are primarily connected together in participatory knowing. So, relevance realization is pre-egoic. By the time you have you in a common sensically obviated world of meaningful objects and situations, relevance realization has already done a tremendous, tremendous amount of work. So, it's pre-egoic. It's pre-normative. And that's going to, oh, some people are not going to like that. I'm going to qualify that. It's pre-normative in the sense that it's your primordial normativity. Before you can assess truth, things have to be meaningful to you. Before you can assess beauty, they have to be aspectualized for you.


Normativity (14:22)

Before you can assess goodness, you have to have agency and arena. This makes possible your normative judgments as to what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. I'm not saying those judgments are reducible. That's ridiculous. But I'm saying this is primordial to them. That was part of what I think Heidegger was going on about. So, what I want to talk about now is doing a little bit more of filling out putting all of this together. Notice how much this points to aspects of human spirituality. You have self-transcendence, but you also have foolishness. You have the connectedness. You have the perspectival and participatory knowing. You have the co-creation, the co-emergence, the co-determination of the agent or really arena. You have the core binding together of your agency, your caring, and your cognition. Think about Plato. It helps to explain the association of altered states of consciousness and especially higher states of consciousness with human spirituality.


The corresponding term for speciology (15:56)

Notice a lot of the features that are spirit is somehow deeper. We have all these deepness metaphors and profundity metaphors. Look what I'm showing you. It's deeper than your ego. It's deeper than your judgments of truth, goodness, and beauty. It's deeper than your propositional thinking. It's deeper than your conceptualization. The way that can be spoken of is not the way. It is pre-inferential. It is pre-communication. It is pre-experiential. It is a fundamental grounding of your being and your being connected because I'm arguing that those are one and the same. A lot of what is captured by your spirituality is captured by this. The way this machinery unfolds phenomenologically, perspectival-y in a participatory fashion. There are deep aspects of this, therefore in a fundamental sense, unconscious, but there are deep aspects of this in our consciousness. There are deep aspects in this in how our cognition and our consciousness are connected to the world. I want to use a term here and then I'm going to develop it for the whole right hand side. I want a term for all of this so that I don't have to keep gesturing and flinging my arms in a semi-organized fashion at the board. I'm going to use a term here.


Religio (17:52)

I'm going to use the term "religio" and I'm using it deliberately. Let me explain why. First of all, as soon as you see that, many of you are hearing religion, but I'm not using the word religion. I'm using the word "religio," but I want the associations with religion nevertheless to be there. "Religio" is one of the purported etymological origins of the word religion, "religare," which means to read back, which is importantly similar. This means to bind together, to bind together, to connect. I'm obviously pointing to this, but it carries with it many of these aspects, the primordiality, the fundamental framing of relevance realization and all of this machinery. When I invoke "religio," I am basically invoking the right hand of this diagram. "Religio" is in that sense. I'm using it in a spiritual sense. The thing here, Paul Vanderklay would probably say that this is a word that fudges, spiritual, and I don't want to be fudging. I am trying to specify how I'm using this word in detail and in organization. "Religio" is a, I'm using it in a spiritual sense as the sense of a preagoic, ultimately to postagoic binding, that simultaneously grounds the self and its world. Now, I want to pick up on that and pick up on the evolving, involvement, caring, participation, like all of this. And I want to read you a couple of quotes from an article by Paul Acosta in a book called "The Joys of Secularism." He has a fantastic article there called "A Secular Wonder." And he wants to try and explain what's going on in "Wonder" and think about "Wonder." Think about how it's pointing towards the insight, the sense of opening up, but also the connectedness, how perspectival and participatory, how it involves your caring, how it often can merge with all and altered states and potentially higher states. So "Wonder" is central, right? But notice how he, how the machinery he uses to explain "Wonder."


Paul Acosta (20:38)

This is a quote. "The very ordinary fact that things always matter." Right, he puts it in quotes. "In some way or other to us. And that we cannot help but be affected by things as if we were immersed in a sort of bubble of meaningfulness." Notice it's the relevance realization, how things matter to us. And he uses the word "matter" because it's that importance, that constitutive kind of relevance realization. And we're immersed in it. We're immersed in sort of a bubble of meaningfulness or better in an atmosphere of significance. An atmosphere of significance. And import, notice the word import is already here. That we do not create from scratch, we do not create it, but are absorbed by. The metaphor of the atmospheric that's not only the image of a global container, but also of a rhythm of breathing. Breathing, the compression and particularization, the generalization and the particular, the specialization, the assimilation and the accommodation, the breathing, are the lifeblood of our spirit. The metaphor of the atmosphere should success not only the image of a global container, but also that of a rhythm of breathing and of a light refraction. It's doing relevance realization, it's refracting the light, structuring the intelligibility to which a living being must, listen to this word, must attune or adjust herself. All the participatory. This is from somebody who's commenting on secularism. He goes on to point out there's a central consequence of what he calls a bubble of significance. This is another quote. The experience of having a world, here the Heidegger in here, has its roots not in the head on and focused relationship with a clear-cut object. It is not something that we have as a focal object, something that we can objectify with an eye-it conceptualization. The experience of having a world has its roots not in the head on and focused relationship with a clear-cut object, but in the emergence of a bubble of significance that for a sentient being plays the same role that is played by the atmosphere with regard to the earth. You participate in the atmosphere, you contribute to it, but you emerge from it and you did not make it. It creates that is special conditions of life where existential crucial distinctions between inside and outside are drawn. That primordial ground makes all the distinctions between the inner and the outer possible for us. The transjectivity is deeper than our subjectivity and our objectivity because the constitution of subjectivity and objectivity require all of this machinery. Then goes on to argue that because we are not aware of the atmosphere in a focal objectified way, as a perceptually focalized object, I do not mean as an object of thought. Then goes on to argue that the atmospheric nature of the bubble of significance means that we do not experience it as a focal object, but through non-focal states such as, and here is the point of this article, wonder and awe. Or I would add their opposites, which we will talk about later, absurdity and horror. So wonder is that state in which we become aware in a participatory and perspectival way, not in a focal way, but in a perspectival and participatory way of the significance and our involvement and our indebtedness to and our participation from and our committedness to the atmosphere of relevance, realization. One is tempted here and I am worried here about being sacrilegious.


The Freudian Critique of Spirituality (25:12)

So I am using this analogously, please. But the analogy is meant to be a strong one also. This atmosphere, you see what Kosta is doing here, he is invoking what Saint Paul said, in whom we live and move and have our being. I am not claiming that relevance, realization is God, that is ridiculous, I am not doing that. But what I am saying is, wonder and awe, which are often directed towards things like God, and our ways that Kosta is arguing, in which we disclose the relevance, realization, and its spiritual significance to us, the way in which we live and move and have our being. Again, this is from a person who is trying to articulate a secular sense of spirituality.


Robert Fuller & Wonder (26:21)

Now somebody who is aligned with this, but I don't think is, I am secular, is the masterful work by Robert Fuller on wonder. His book on wonder is just a fantastic book and he also argues how central wonder is. Now what is interesting, he does two things, aligned with this so well, and I highly recommend this book. He argues, because it is a book from a motion to spirituality, and what Fuller argues is that, of course, wonder is responsible for some of our deepest spiritual experiences, our deepest experiences of what I am calling religio, but he does that by precisely explaining the fundamental functionality of things like wonder.


Curiosity Vs Prowess, on Wonder (26:56)

See, wonder is basically in the being mode, where curiosity is in the having mode. In curiosity, right now I am using these terms in their prototypical senses, we use these terms in very slippery fashions. So I am not claiming that every time we use the word wonder or every time we use the word curiosity, but I am talking about the kind of wonder that can overlap very readily and prototypically with awe, and I am talking about the kind of curiosity that overlaps prototypically with our solving our problems and are manipulating the world in a way that we find powerful and efficacious. See, and again, remember what I said, it is not that one mode is good and the other mode is bad, but you have got curiosity within the having mode and that is great, right, because curiosity is problem solving. It is focus, it has a focal object, curiosity is directed, what is that, what does that do, how does that work? Wonder is, it is not focal, it is the opening up, it is the awe, it is the sense of the atmosphere, it is the perspectival and participatory sense of awe, awe, awe, awe, right. And what Fuller argues is, and it makes use of work like people like Frederick and others, this emotion, like the point of wonder is, right, if curiosity gets you to focus in on specific features of the world, specific objects, wonder tries to get you to participate in the Gestalt, the whole, how does it all fit together? awe pushes you towards an opening, an ongoing accommodation, a sense of the inexhaustableness, the combinatorially explosive nature of reality, and the ongoing evolving adaptability of your relevance realization to that explosive potential within reality itself. That is what wonder does, wonder isn't about solving a problem, wonder is about remembering sati, your being, by putting you deeply in touch, notice the language, in touch with religio. Okay, now, that brings me to another aspect that overlaps with the primordiality, or what I am calling the fundamentality, the fundamental framing. Think about how wonder gives you something like the auth again. It gives you the sense of participating, emerging from co-creating with the ongoing course of your world, not as a story, though. But something you can talk about with the story, like we talk about evolution as a story, but it isn't a self, it isn't itself a story, it's grounded in something deeper. So wonder awe, not about solving problems. Remember, the having mode is about solving problems, the being mode is about confronting a mystery. Okay, I'm going to take it that this has been now etched into your brain, and I am going to just, like I said, I'm going to rely on the word religio to invoke all of the right side and the fact that is dependent on the argument that came from the left side as well. Okay, so think about wonder, think about awe, and what we've been talking about, and this remembering of the being mode, which is so central to spirituality. All right, so that's another aspect of this. Okay, so think about this as accommodation, that opening up, having to go, right, this is you, when I accommodate, I come to know something by how I am transformed in order to come into contact with it, and in my own, my self-knowing of how I've changed and my disclosure, my realization of what that is are bound together, like prototypically when you're in love with somebody, the off. Okay, so this is accommodation, and it's in the being mode. Being mode, you're remembering sati, and in the mean mode you're confronting a mystery. Do you remember, talked about, Marcel's idea about how a mystery, right, and notice the machinery, we got, here's how I framed my problem, and then I realized there's a kind of insight that, so initially there's an insight that, oh, that framing is, it's all problematic, and I moved to a more encompassing frame, and oh no, and then what starts to happen is, ah, I'm opening up, ah, right, I'm opening up, and my insight goes from a reframing to a trans framing, because I stop having insights about my focal problem, I start getting an insight not about just the problem or the world, I also, member, member of the sensibility transcendence, I'm also getting an insight into the inadequacies of my style of framing, my way of framing, I'm getting a trans framing happening. You get this trajectory of trans framing.


Outline S-EP10(Perpetual Youth) (33:06)

It doesn't stabilize, and that's the point, it can't land on a focal object, all that's disclosing, all that's disclosing in the trajectory of trans framing is the machinery of religio, and yet you find that, like flow, you find that deeply meaningful to a point, if it's pushed too far, it becomes deeply meaningful in a negative sense of horror. Now, think about this, okay? Think about how, right, and here's what we have to be really careful here. I want to talk about the mystery of religio, but I need to make a distinction here, and it's a distinction I've discussed before, but let's go very very carefully. There's a distinction between something being a phenomenological mystery, and it being something that I cannot theoretically explain. To equate them is to equivocate between propositional and perspectival knowing, for example, and we should not equivocate between them because they're not identical. So, for example, it is phenomenologically impossible for me to perspectivaly know what it is like to be dead, because whenever I try to conjure up a frame, oh, I'm in a dark room, but wait, I'm still there in the dark room, there's the hereness and the now to, oh, well, then I'm nowhere, well, then I'm just an empty, no matter what I do, I can't get a framing that has within it my own non-existence, perspectivaly. But that is not proof that I'm immortal, it is not proof that I've existed for all time. Of course not, that's ridiculous, that's a mistake, that's an equivocation. So, when I'm talking about mystery, I'm not talking automatically, you need an additional argument, you need an additional argument to go from phenomenological mystery to the claim of theoretical inexplicability. They do not follow because they are not identical for the deep reason that propositional and perspectival knowing are not identical, that is an equivocation. So, I'm talking about a phenomenological mystery here.


The exception proves the rule (36:08)

Well, what's at the core of religion? Well, the death example actually points to something more primordial, right? It points to the fact that I can never make a focal object of my framing, my capacity for relevance realization. I mean perspectivaly. What I mean by that is I, whenever I am thinking, right, or doing anything, I'm always framed. Because if I'm unframed, I'm facing combinatorial explosion which is non-intelligible to me. So, whatever I'm thinking of is inside the frame. But what is precisely not inside the frame is the framing process. So, here's the frame, or here's the frame even better, right? And here's the framing. And what's not in there is the framing. Oh, you say, "Oh, what I'll do is I'll do this." Ha ha, that was easy. John, ha ha, John, I got you. That was easy. No, you didn't get me because what's outside here still is what is framing that. You cannot have this in a part, right? You can't have it as a focal object. It is mysterious. It is phenomenologically mysterious. James pointed to this in a wonderful distinction between the "I" and the "me." These are the aspects of you that you can bring into view. Well, who am I? Well, I'm John Verveki and this is what I look like. Here's an image in my mind. And what's not there is whatever it is that's generating that name and that image. And then I go deeper and say, "Ah, but here's the part of my, right, that was generating the part that was..." And then I can never, and the pun again, right? I can never see the "I." I'm always seeing by means of the "I." It is phenomenologically mysterious, too. But it doesn't mean that I'm unaware of it. I always have, to use older language from the course I mean, I always have a subsidiary awareness. I'm always aware through my "I" of my "me." I'm always aware through my framing of my framed. I'm not completely out of touch with it. It is not inaccessible to me, but I cannot focalize it. I cannot make it a focal object. I cannot frame it, right? The machinery of relevance realization is in that sense deeply phenomenologically mysterious to me. It doesn't mean I can't talk about it theoretically. I've just been doing it. But it has a deep phenomenological mystery to me. The fact that it grounds, it makes possible my subjectivity and the objectivity where that, where what I mean by that is things constellated into objects that we can make inferences about, et cetera, right? I can't use the grammar of subjects and objects, subjects and predicates, conceptual categories to talk about this. In the sense of exemplifying it, I can use words to talk about it in the sense of pointing to it. But I can't produce it in subjective and objective categories precisely because the whole argument points towards its transjective nature. Again, that only, that only, that only makes it phenomenologically mysterious. It doesn't make it a theoretical inexplicability.


Exploration Of Sacredness In Religion

Phenomenology (39:52)

I can, look, you cannot confuse properties of your theory with properties of what your theory is about. If I have a theory of light, it itself, right, isn't light. If I have a theory of war, my theory isn't itself an instance of war. If I have a theory of gravity, my theory isn't itself generating gravity. My theory of vagueness doesn't itself have to be vague. In fact, my theory of vagueness should be clear. My theory doesn't have to exemplify what it's talking about. And there are cases where it cannot exemplify what it is talking about. But that doesn't mean I can't talk about what I'm talking about. It has to be that I have to understand the limitations that are given by the differences between the kinds of knowing. And also the ways in which I can and cannot bridge between these kinds of knowing. So there's something deeply phenomenologically mysterious. And in that mystery, the mystery opens up an affordance of a trajectory of transframing that allows us to participate in. Respectively, the kind of wonder and awe of religio.


The objection: religious experience (41:35)

We can get into something very much like a transjective trajectory flow state. In which we are basically celebrating in flow, our participation in religio. And we do this, I would argue, for the very good reason that to make significant, to reflect upon, to celebrate and enact religio is to fundamentally enhance our agency, the disclosure of the world, and our connectedness to it. And what else could be more valuable to us? What else could be more valuable to us? So, I think there is now a major objection that could be leveled against the argument that I am building. And I take this objection very seriously. This is the argument that, yes, John, I will grant you with Costa, there's all kinds of wonderful, spiritual, meaningful things on this side. And you are capturing a lot about mystery and self-transcendence and also the negative capacity of, you know, bullshitting ourselves and reciprocal narrowing and falling into despair and addiction. You are capturing all of that, I will grant you all of that. Perhaps you are not, but I am just going to say the argument. I am granting you all of that. But there is still something missing that I think is central to how I use the word spirituality and what I would, what's missing from religio that is found in religion is to confront the sacred. I am trying to use the term as neutral as possible here because it is unclear, I think, if we should apply the term divinity, for example, to the Buddhist notion that we should apply the term divinity. For example, to the Buddhist notion of sannyata or the Taoist notion of the Tao, I don't think calling it divine is a plausible interpretation. Whereas God is divine, I don't think you should call the Tao divine, but the Tao is clearly sacred in an important way. And I think for many versions of Buddhism, the sannyata has a kind of important kind of sacredness.


Sacredness (44:13)

So, the thing here is, there is two things we have to talk about. And we have to talk about them carefully, but we keep them distinct, but also show how they are connected. So, the sacred is typically when we want some account of the metaphysics of what grounds are experienced of sacredness. So, this is basically a metaphysical proposal. A standard Western proposal, although I have already given you an indication that it is not universal, it is not in things like Buddhism or Taoism, is that the sacredness is grounded, the metaphysical proposal is grounded in being supernatural. And of course, that is again a very loaded term. I am going to use it in the way I have argued for in this video series, something that is historically constructed running through people like Aquinas and beyond. So, this is the metaphysical proposal, and then you ultimately have a psycho existential proposal over here, which is proposal, which is what it is like to experience sacredness.


The distinction between sacred and religious (45:54)

So, this distinction comes to the fore, for example, historically, and there are so many people, right? I wish I could talk about more. I need three more series, but if I tried to run this for 150 episodes, my crew would kill me, and then there would be a tragedy, they would end up in jail, it would just be a mess. So, I am going to stick to the 50. So, if you use a part, you find this, of course, prototypically in the work of Schlemermacher, where he sort of puts aside this proposal because it is coming into serious disrepute because of the advent of the scientific revolution, and he shifts towards, but what is the psychological existential experience of sacredness because of his proposal that it is the experience of absolute dependence, coupled, I would argue with things like wonder and awe, but that distinction came to the fore in work by Schlemermacher. You can see a lot of theological debate, I would argue, I can't do the argument here, but you can see a lot of theological debate as the debate between a side that wants to emphasize sacredness and a side that wants to emphasize the sacred. So, I want to talk about this, but I want to talk about this in a way that reflects back on that. Why do I start here? I start here because, of course, I have argued that religio is exactly a psycho existential. Very powerfully read this though. This has to do with modal, right, with the being mode, it has to do with your modal existence, it has to do with transjectivity, it has to do with primordiality, you have to read this in a deeply high-degrarian sense, right? But that's what I mean. It's a psycho meaning, right, having to do with your cognitive processing, all the kinds of knowing, right, your embodiment, your embeddedness, so reading psycho psychological in also a very comprehensive way. But I'm clearly arguing that religio is on here. So first of all, I should start here because that's where I'm starting from. And I want to talk about sacredness within a psycho existential sense, and then if I can, if I've already done this, right, ground this in R.R., relevance, realization, then I'm going to make proposals about what this tells us about the kinds of constraints that are available to us in our metaphysical proposal. And I'm going to propose an alternative to this, which I imagine will be controversial, but I hope that the controversy will be constructive rather than merely adversarial. All right, so let's, I'm going to start here. I'm trying to be honest with you. I'm trying to be clear about what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying, I don't want to be shuffling any cards from the bottom of the deck here, right? I'm trying to be as upfront as I possibly can be. Of course, I'm not unbiased or any kind of magical claim like that, but I'm trying my best to put the machinery that I'm aware of using and that I'm deliberately putting into play out front so that we can talk about this as clearly and as honestly as possible. Okay, so let's talk about sacredness as a psycho existential thing. And where I want to start, right, is in the machinery of the agent arena relationship.


The sacred as homing us against horror (49:07)

And I want to bring back the work of Geertz and we talked about the work of Brian Walsh and we talked about this when we talked about Domicide and Domicide as the loss of something. And this points to an, an, an, a very central feature of sacredness that is so, so central that we can, it's so background that we can, I think, inappropriately trivialize it. But remember what Domicide, remember how disastrous Domicide is. Remember what happens if you actually experience Domicide if I, if I, if I fling you into another culture and you experience deep culture shock or I isolate you in solitary confinement. Okay, so that deep loneliness, that deep homesickness, that deep cultural shock, that's Domicide. And so part of sacredness, Geertz argues, right, part of sacredness is to home the world. That's, I mean, I understand why he puts it, but it's not homing the world, it's homing us and the world together, right, the world, we are homed into the world and the world homes around us, very much like costas, misferic bubble. So this is the idea that one of the functions of sacredness is what Geertz calls a meta meaning function. Now he talks about this in his work on religion, but he's definitely in the schleer marker side of things. So this is not appropriate for me to do it this way. And this is something that fits in with our argument very well. Geertz argues, and be careful here because people jump, he argues that religion isn't a system of meaning. Oh, no, no, wait, wait, he thinks it's a system of meta meaning. Right, so whatever distinct meaning systems we make, here's a legal system, here's a moral system, here's a fashion system, right, here's an entertainment system, we have all these meaning systems. But notice the argument that we've already made, those are all dependent on the primordiality of the transjective relationship between the agents of the arena. If that relationship doesn't hold, none of those other systems can work, which is why if you go to another culture and you don't go through the participatory transformation, right, if you don't, and you're just experiencing culture shock, domicide, the agent arena relationship isn't in place. The none of those other meaning systems can work for you. They'll be absurd, they won't make sense. That's what he means by being a meta meaning system. What it does, he argues, he argued that religion, I would argue what the experience of sacredness is because, again, the word religion fudges between, are we talking about the schleermockian sense, or are we talking about sort of the metaphysical referent? Okay, so remember, I'm pulling these apart to try and avoid that confusion. But what Guirta's talking about here is, right, that if you don't have that, that none of your individual meaning systems work, and religion in the sense of the experience, the cultural and individual experience of sacredness is what gives us the meta meaning system that protects us from domicide. It protects us from the horrors and the absurdities of domicide. So one of the functions of sacredness, right, is this, the meta meaning process of homing us against horror, where horror would be to be overwhelmed by loneliness, it would be overwhelmed by homesickness, cultural shock, and a tremendous sense of alienation, absurdity, and anxiety. Okay? Now that's important. I think that's a very important function of sacredness. What we do when we go into a sacred setting is we play with meta, we have psycho technologies, and I'll come back and give a definition of a clear definition as we work that out of a psycho technology. But we have psycho technologies that allow us to do the serious play, right, with sacredness so that we are constantly being homeed against horror. And of course, many of you are aware of all the research showing that people that belong to religious communities or spiritual pathways are much more resilient in the face of the tragedies and horrors of life. That's a reliable finding. One of the ways in which, I mean, you have to seriously consider the other costs, but one of the ways in which you can improve your capacity to make your way through the world is to be committed to a spiritual community and a spiritual path. And presumably it also has a history behind it, it has institutions, etc. And that would make it more prototypically like a religion. Again, you know me by now. I'm not advocating for a nostalgic return to religion. I'm trying to point out the functionality. So, world view attunement, homing us against horror. Remember, cost even used the word attune in there. That's definitely a function of the sacred. Now, here's where I want to criticize gears. I think that while this is definitely an important part of, sorry, I slipped, I should have said, a function of sacredness. I made a mistake. This is definitely a function of sacredness. But I think that there is a mistake if we think that sacredness can be reduced to or identified solely with the machinery of world view attunement and homing us against horror. And it's very plausible to me that this is a necessary feature of sacredness, but I do not think it is a sufficient feature. So, if we go back to Hellenistic Domicide, if you remember we talked about the different kinds of responses. There was syncretism and then there was things like stoicism and the remembering of the being mode. But there was also Gnosticism. And Gnosticism keeps reverberating, right? It keeps reverberating through everything we're doing here. And Gnosticism, of course, is a way of trying to awaken us to the primordiality of, and the mystery in some important sense of religio. That's definitely what's going on. But there's something interesting about the Gnostics.


Discussion On Gnosticism

Gnosticism and auto (56:34)

And that's the element that the Kona emphasized, that the trajectory of transframing is ultimately understood as transgressive. It's trying to overturn the grammar of a world view. It is transgressive in a deep sense. And I think that that points towards something else that the sacred does for us. And this goes towards the work of auto, deeply influenced by Kant. I hope you see how in a way my work is deeply influenced by Kant. Also by Hegel. But auto in his book, which is translated the idea of the holy, very bad translation. Many people argue a better translation would be something like the experience of the numinous. Because auto's argument is precisely this notion has become very clouded for us. It is plausibly related to notions of wholeness and completeness. There's probably connections to words like health, which people wouldn't automatically think of. But we know that people typically think about this connected now in terms of a moral term or righteousness. This association says what something else is going on here. Again, the etymologies are contested. We know that this is also weirdly associated with this. And I mentioned this before. Glory. The glory of God, which is the predicate most often applied to him in the Old Testament. That's not a moral term. So what we've got to get to is what's going on here in this experience of the holy. And auto created this term, the numinous picked up, of course, by Jung to describe what the original, the primordial experience of the numinous is before all of these. But what this is most pointed towards, a little bit of this, not so much this. What the numinous is is the fundamental experience. And here's what I'm going to talk about next time. That the experience of the numinous is ultimately to experience the transgressive side of the sacredness. How it opens us up in wonder and awe and even takes us to the horizon of horror. Thank you very much for your time and attention.


Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.