By Brian George
The objective world presents us with a wealth of information. There are clues to follow, patterns to trace, enigmas to wrestle to the ground, keys to discover, signs in foreign languages to obey, labyrinths of interconnection—through which a string may be rewound into a ball. An acupuncture manikin is waiting at the exit; she is the beloved—who transforms.
“Immortal mortals, and mortal immortals, each living the other’s death and dying the other’s life,” as Heraclitus said. After study, we may more fully understand how the part relates to the whole. What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Is the self the shadow of a nonexistent sun? How does our consciousness interface with the sex-life of the world?
One approach is to regard the human body as a microcosm, in which each detail of anatomy corresponds to some macrocosmic coordinate. It is possible that space is actually no bigger than an ovum, in relation to which each life is a kind of kamikaze spermatozoon. If we say that nature is made up of “laws,” does this not imply that we have chosen to obey them, and that, with a fluctuation in our mood, we might just as easily choose to disobey?
But whatever the method we may choose to follow—esoteric or empirical—we may find ourselves no closer to answering the key questions we have asked. The whole problem may be in the method of our asking. We are too polite, and should not ask teachers for help. We must locate by blind reckoning the beginning of each circle.
In his “Oration on the Dignity of Man”—a kind of shotgun marriage of Kabbalah and Neoplatonism—Pico della Mirandola argues that human beings and not angels are the true messengers of creation. I had originally written, “Human beings and not angels ATE the true messengers of creation.” My wife pointed out the problem. But the accident was perhaps correct. And so, to paraphrase Pico della Mirandolla:
To all other species one nature was assigned; each had a single job to do. Beasts are less contemptible than we are. The damned feel glory over us. It is the very lack of a fixed role that defines our position in the hierarchy. We are many—and one self embodies the diverse powers of the spheres. In being nowhere we are able to be everywhere. In being nothing we are able to create and then interpret our own project as we go.
The Human Consciousness Project predates the disjunction worked by the Deluge. Age by age, in a series of slow, catastrophic steps, we forgot that the sum of knowledge was contained within one volume. We forgot, as well, that the human body was a star map and an atlas. Today, we write things down. Decadence makes meaning necessary.
(Illustration: Rene Magritte, The Philosopher's Lamp)