Ep. 20 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Death of the Universe
(Sectioning and transcripts made by MeaningCrisis.co)
A Kind Donation
Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. So last time we took a look at how Augustine drew all of this development, this very complex, sophisticated articulation of the Axial Revolution, drew it all together into a Nomological Order that brought with it the best of Aristotelian science, a Normative Order that brought with it the best of Platonic spirituality, a Narrative Order that brought with it the best of the Christian process of moving through history. And of course along for the ride come some of the best psychotherapeutic techniques available from the ancient world. All of this was integrated together. These three orders that articulate the space of how we're connected to ourselves, to each other and to the world. The normal logical, the normative and the narrative (Illustrated on the board in 3D with each label emphasising the 3 axis; x, y & z). We saw, however, that while this does address the fundamental axes of meaning, even as it's understood by our best current cognitive science, this historical legacy starts to come under threat. Initially it comes under threat in, again, a way that doesn't seem very threatening. People are just changing how they're using the psycho-technology of reading. They're going from a Lexio Divina - a participatory perspectival transformative form of recitation - into a silent consumptive model where I'm trying to consume information. And what knowledge [becomes] is an inner coherence between my propositions rather than a transformative conformity to the world.
And that of course is born out of a, slowly at first, but an accelerating rediscovery of the Aristotelian Corpus and the best science of the ancient world. And there's the threat of ‘how do we incorporate this authoritative figure into the world view that was bequeath to us by Augustine?’, and that challenge is taken up by Aquinas. And Aquinas does this, and it's hard to see how else it could have been done, by returning to the fundamental grammar of the Axial Revolution - the Two Worlds Mythology - and reconfiguring it into two real worlds: A Natural World, understood by reason, and a Supernatural World understood by faith. And faith is now understood as how Love transforms the Will, and the Will is primarily how I assert certain propositions to be true. And as I mentioned, that separation, while it solves the problem at the time brings with it the threat that as the supernatural world becomes non-viable to us, we will lose the axial revolution’s heritage, we will separate Love from Reason, and Spirituality from Science in a particularly pernicious and dangerous fashion.
I want to keep going. And if, for those of you who want to pursue this in more depth, I can recommend to you the book “After God” by Mark Taylor; a tremendous influence on my thinking, and I think it articulates a lot of what I'm going to be talking about in a very clear and perspicacious manner. But some things are happening, there's immediate consequences, people [are] picking up on Aquinas and responding to it, and we can see it in two figures, deeply influenced by Aquinas and they represent two particular lines of development that are going to influence each other. One is Meister Eckhart (written on the board), and the other is William of Ockham (also written on the board), which is where we get “Ockham's Razor” from, a thing that is often invoked by various Skeptards (!?) without a full understanding of what Ockham meant by it. Ockham certainly didn't mean it to be used how it's often used by people, in a dismissive fashion. So Eckhart represents a pivotal exemplary, maybe even a culminating figure of a group of people within Germany - and Germany is going to be central to all of this from now on, and that is of course going to be a dangerous precedent to set for Germany! But Eckhart represents a group that are called the Rhineland Mystics (written on the board) and others who bring about a transformation in the understanding of human spirituality. They bring about a change in the Normative Order.
So Aquinas basically changes the Nomological order. He separates it into these two worlds, and now there's a chasm between them (draws the schematic of the two worlds on the board, one above the other). There's a chasm between these worlds. You can't lift reason up to here (draws an arrow from the lower box to the upper box) . Reason has no home here (circles upper box). So a different meaning of spirituality now tends to be emphasised in the Rhineland mystics. Now, they're deeply influenced by Neoplatonism! Eckhart, I think is, influenced in some way by the whole Neoplatonic undercurrent within Christianity. There's of course the background history! it's still there of the Gnostics. There has been a… the last crusade is actually not against the Arabs in the middle East. It is against the Cathars in Southern France and the Cathars are, well, I would say it - some people would argue, but many people would agree with me - the catheters are a Gnostic revival, a huge revival of Gnosticism. So there's a huge Gnostic revival. And of course there's a Neoplatonic tradition. Eckhart picks this up and others, the other Rhineland mystics, and what they do is they bring about a re-understanding of the normative order. And it changes from being the Neoplatonic Anagoge, and it changes from being that whole conformity, that whole ascent in self-transcendence. Self-transcendence disappears from spirituality as does the connection between spirituality and wisdom, where wisdom is understood as your capacity for educating yourself in self-transcendence to improve your meaning in life.
Now, what happens is instead of an ascent upward, there's more [a] ‘God's descent downward into you’ and there's important precedents for this in the ancient world. There's the theurgy, precedent within the ancient world, but that being said, nevertheless, there's a fundamental difference here. Aquinas had talked about ‘Love driving the Will’ in faith, and the Rhineland Mystics, they're going to replace this ascent spirituality with a descent spirituality. And what they're going to do is they're going to say, “look, what Love is… it's not that ‘love moves the will’, ‘love is a way in which the will moves’”. That's an important change! It's not that love moves the will. It’s that the way the will moves, Is love! Specifically when the will negates itself. That's love. So they pick up on - and that's why I emphasised it earlier on in this series - they pick up on the sacrificial aspect of love. That to love is to sacrifice yourself. So how is the Will moving in order to be loving? Well, the Will is negating itself.
You see, when my will is self-centred and it's egocentric, that of course is the opposite of Agape. I have to sacrifice this - and we talked about this - I have to sacrifice (gestures from within himself, out), I have to negate my wilful self-assertion in order to become a conduit for Agape. Or as Eckhart would say, “to make a space so that God can come to dwell within me” (Gestures out to within himself). The idea is that what spirituality is about is it’s about the Will negating its own self-assertion and making a space in which God's will, is not being resisted. So here's the idea (proceeds to gesticulate opposing inward and outward forces): God's Will is this Agapic love and we are resisting that! And what we need to do is we have to stop resisting; we have to negate our own self-assertion, the way we're expressing ourselves, to press outward, and we have to make a space so that God can flow in. Now, what this does is, it makes self negotiation and inner conflict central to spirituality.
So, what had been incidental and contingent in Paul and Augustine, the fact that they have inner conflict, it becomes much more valorised in this new spirituality! I have to be in perpetual conflict with myself. I have to be negating the self so that eventually I empty myself. Now, there are [and] I don't want to misrepresent - Eckhart is one of my favourite authors! There's beautiful wisdom about how to overcome one's attachment to one's thinking and one’s self image that are drawn from the Neoplatonic heritage and of great value in Eckhart - but nevertheless, this model of spirituality being, ultimately, a battle of wills - your will against itself - and so it's not against God's will becomes a central idea for what's going on in the spirituality of the time. Now that's overlapping with a new, emerging, worldview (draws an arrow down, out of Ockham). So Ockham come sees God’s will as his primary faculty. Now some of you may be saying, "well, why do we have to talk all this ‘God’ talk?”! Look, you have to understand how this ‘God grammar’ developed and how it has woven its way into the very grammar of our culture and our cognition. Whether or not you believe in a God or not is actually quite irrelevant to what I'm talking about right now. The fact is people have, and they have sewn in ways of thinking and being into your heritage.
So for Ockham, unlike for Augustine and I would say the whole Neoplatonic tradition, it's not god’s reason, his intelligibility that is the source of his being, for Ockham it's his will. And you can see how this lines up, these two sides! Because Aquinas has made Will the faculty of access to the supernatural, the faculty of Will becomes central to your spirituality and to God here. Now, what does that mean? Why does that matter? Why would he say that? Because he sees… See, again, here's the change: It's not God Agapic love that is his creativity, God's Will is the source of his ability. God speaks the world into existence. This is an act of assertion. God asserts the world when he creates it. And you say, “okay, so what!”. So remember, your model of God - whether or not you believe in God's irrelevant - your model of God has a tremendous influence on how you understand yourself and reality. God's will supersede his reason. Now that's very, very important. It means that God is not bound by rationality. He's not bound by how things cohere in a rational fashion. Reason is not in any way central to God. That's why the rational… the ascent (gestures up through the normative order diagram) through reason is gone. That means that any order that we find in existence is arbitrarily imposed on it by God's will. God speaks it. It's an act of will. He's not bound by any rational principles of organization. It is just raw power and fiat on his part. You say, “okay. So what, what does that have to do…?”. Well, as I forewarned, your model of how God is, is a paradigmatic model of how you understand yourself to be. Again, this is regardless of whether or not you believe in God right now.
So Ockham concludes that we are like God! We don't find an order in the [universe]! Look, you look at… here's my desk, here's a book, here's a book, here's a book, here's a book. These are all books. They all belong to the category of ‘books’, Right? That's part of what they are. They're books! And Ockham says, “no, they're not!”. Whatever order or pattern you find in there you’re making it by how you're speaking about it! This is called Nominalism. The way God speaks and wills whatever order there is, we're making whatever patterns we find by how we're speaking about them. They're not actually there. This isn't really a book! There's nothing in reality that groups these together. It is only in my mind, by using the term, that groups them together. Now, because it's automatic for me, I can't help but see this as a book, but the problem is: there is no universal “book-ness”, forgive the language! I'm Speaking, and by using language, language gathers things together and the mind forms these patterns in the order, but all that's really out there are raw individuals. All that's really there are raw individuals and perhaps causal relations between them.
So notice what's happening: I'm reading and I'm now reading inside my head. Knowledge is just how all the different signs of language cohere together and whatever order there is is only in here (gestures to inside his head). It's in here, it's in how I'm using the language. It's all inside the language. There's nothing out there in the world. The world is now, in a very real sense, absurd! It is not in itself inherently intelligible. It's only intelligible in so far as I speak about it, or in so far as God speaks it into existence. Now notice what this is doing! This is creating a radical… The supernatural world… It's now not a source of reason and rational order! Now all of this is slowly unfolding (gestures to the board and the breakdown from Aquinas). Spirituality is being changed, the self negation of will! The world is being changed! It's the Nominal World in which what's out there are raw individuals and whatever pattern or order comes from how we speak about them.
The forced changes brought on by the Black Death
While all of that is taking shape something disastrous happens. Ockham is just, I think, just dead! Overlapping with some of the later Rhineland Mystics. But what happens is, well most people think it is, but what happens is the Black Death, we think it's the bubonic plague. Most people think it is. And this is a disaster! It lays waste to a third of Europe's population. So in the Bible, the end of the world is predicted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: death, war, pestilence, famine. All these things start happening! There's the Bubonic plague: Massive pestilence. There's famine because the there's an extended wet period and the crops are dying. There's huge war: a hundred year war; the crusades; there's the battle against the Cathars, as I mentioned, and what happens is the church creates the first secret police! The church creates the Holy Inquisition to try and root out the last of the Cathars! So there's Gnostic revival and the Holy Inquisition is created to find the Cathars that have escaped, to find the heretics and bring them to trial. Imagine how this feels! [It’s] analogous to the Hellenistic Domecide! People are dying. Villages are going out of existence. Social order is being radically disrupted. There's war. And then the church is not helping you. It's actually sending out people to try and find if you're a heretic.
So first of all, people’s confidence in the Worldview that they had been born into is being radically undermined. They literally think it's the end of the world! Most of the institutions and social structures are broken or at least put under significant strain. Something else happens that's really important. Of course, there's a disruption in social order, people move around and, more importantly, there's a labor shortage. So many people die, there's a labor shortage! And because some of the order has broken down, people are free to move around more than they were; [to] leave the land. It's a bit like the bronze age collapse at the end of the Roman empire, people can now engage in some experimentation. And what does this mean? Well, it means that there's a labor shortage and there's more freedom of geographical (gestures laterally) motion and social change (gestures vertically). People start to be able to sell their labor for more money, and even to sell their labor!! They start to be able to change their status through their own efforts. Before, you were locked into quite a rigid social structure, a feudal structure. But now you, because of the chaos around you, you can actually make a difference to your own life through your own effort. And strangely enough, all of this is forms a weird kind of consistency. The world actually isn't fundamentally ordered (points at Black Death on the board)! The order is just given by God and it could just be removed! And then the true chaos of things is revealed. We impose an order like God does, and by my willpower, I can change my status. I can make myself into something different. So what's happening here is a new view in which reality is primarily being seen as a chaotic backdrop against which a battle of wills is occurring. And God is starting to less and less be a source of rational order and more and more to be a source of arbitrary power.
Now many historians are u[nited] - of course, some disagree - that the Black Plague also opens up new social experimentation. People start to, as I say, sell their labor, start to become more entrepreneurial, are willing to move around more, and you get a rise of commercialism. Commercialism starts to ascend. Now commercialism is really, really powerful. You can make use of disparity in demand to accrue wealth. So I've got a lot of wool here. "How much do you want for my wool?" "Not very much. I got a lot of world too."! I'm going to go sail, or travel over here (moves to the other side of the stage)… "Do you have any wool?" "No!" "What will you give me for this wool?” "Lots of gold!!!" "Oh, okay. Wow!!"... I go back here. You know what I can buy with this gold? More wool! I can go back here and I can get wealthy and look what's happening here (gestures a trade cycle in the air between buying and selling wool). I'm doing it through my own effort. [It] has nothing to do with the church. [It] has nothing to do with the aristocracy, [it] has nothing to do with raising grain, farming the land, NOTHING!!!!! This is like magic!!!
Now there's problems, of course, with that! One of the problems is political: the aristocracy is in the way and so this emerging middle class is going to more and more challenged the aristocracy. But also the problem with trade, especially by sea is your ship sinks! So, what do you do? Well, first of all, you're going to create some new institutions. You're going to create banks, money to lend you so you can finance such expeditions. You're going to create insurance companies in case your ship sinks. Now you're going to do something really important. What are you going to do is say, "look, I'm not going to take all the individual risks..."! What I'm going to do is I'm going to get a bunch of my, a bunch of friends or people together. And like the way the church is the body of Christ, the body, "Corpus", I'm going to make one body out of all these people. I'm going to "incorporate", I'm going to create a "corporation". And what we're going to do is we're going to have "shares in the risk". We'll "share" the risk. We'll have "shares" in the corporation. And when we get a profit, we will "divide the profit in the end", we will have "dividends". We'll create corporations and financial institutions. And then what we'll start to do is put pressure on the government, the State, to not just be working for the church and for the aristocracy. One of the things the State is going to start doing is it's going to start protecting contracts and enforcing rules on these social institutions. And you get the emergence of Corporate Capitalism and the Corporate State. Now that's important because it means that now people have a place in which they can look for power - the ability to change their life - and for norms to govern their behaviour that have nothing to do with the church or the aristocracy. Now that's very important already, because what that means is people are creating a Secular alternative. Now they're not setting out to do that, but that's what they're doing! They're creating a Secular alternative, a Secular source of power and wealth and prestige. And they're beginning to secularise the state in order to safeguard those secular endeavours! And think about it: The Supernatural World is largely irrelevant to all of these Secular projects.
Commercialism driven psycho-technology update
Now this commercialism in trade also means something else really important: I’ve got to get better at my psycho-technologies because I need to process information a lot better. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to import a new psycho-technology! Always the new cycle of technologies - look for it! What happens is people are replacing Roman numerals with the Hindu-Arabic numerals. You know these! You take (draws a circle with with two lines vertically and horizontally through it and illustrates Hindu-Arabic numerals), like, “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, zero”, right? The Hindu-Arabic numerals! Have you ever done calculations with Roman numerals? It's cumbersome and long and slow and stupid! This (Hindu-Arabic system) speeds [things] up, it empowers you, it's a psycho-technology that makes your ability to process and calculate information way faster. And of course [it] comes through the Arab world because of increased trade, but also because of the crusades, et cetera... What also comes in his algebra: the use of letters to represent variables rather than numbers. What comes in is this “Zero”. And with that, almost immediately, the ability to use negative numbers, because sometime when you're running your business, you're running in a deficit, you're running in debt. Notice what's happening: you're getting a powerful upsurge in the kind of mathematical psycho-technology that is available for people.
What else are people going to do? Well, they're going to improve their celestial navigation because if I can sail the waters faster and better, there's less chance I will lose all of my profits when my ship sinks! Well, how can I [do that]? Well, I'm going to more carefully observe the stars and I'm going to apply this new way of thinking, this Aristotelian, logical, coherent, propositional way of thinking, and I'm going to use the new math and the new algebra… So I've got this new way of thinking, I've got the new psycho-technology. I'm going to put them together and observe the heaven's way more carefully. And something that had been known for a while [is] going to become much more prominent: The heavens don't behave in this nice orderly fashion, the way Aristotle and Ptolemy said they do. For example, if you look at Mars in the heavens, Mars will do this over time. It goes (draws a loop-the-loop line on the board “weeeeeeee-ooop”!). it's called the Retrograde of Mars. It's because of where the Martian and Terran orbits intersect and don’t! Like… They don't intersect, but like when the Earth passes by Mars, that's what I meant. And as you get this way more careful observation, this Aristotelian, propositional, inferential way of thinking - trying to get clear definitions - and that's allied to this new math - mathematical psycho-technology - people start to discover how chaotic the heavens actually are!
And of course, what they try to do is they start trying to fiddle with the system! So the Earth's at the centre (draws a solar system diagram) and stuff's going around it, but on these spheres, there's other things spinning in opposite directions (adds moon orbits to the diagram) and you get all [these] epicycles and it gets convoluted and complex. And then Copernicus comes along and says - and this is really crucial what he act[ually says], the way he actually says it - he says, “the math is better if you put the sun at the centre”. Now notice, we talked about this before! Aristarchus had said the Sun could be at the centre and there was all these arguments against it. And Copernicus doesn't have any answer to any of those arguments. But he doesn't need them now because people are committed to this new way of thinking. They're committed to this new mathematical psycho-technology. They're committed to this new Aristotelian way of thinking. And if it makes the math better, that's good enough! …and we all talk about this, “So yes, the Copernican revolution! Haa haa haa”, we titter over our coffee and tea…. Look, you have to understand what this means. You have to really get it.
Let's go back. You're using this Aristotelian way of thinking, right? Remember, what was Aristotle's marks of how you determined if things were real? Is the organ, [the] relevant organ functioning? Yes. Is the medium not distorting the information? Yes. Do other people after rational discussion agree with you? Yes. Remember? We did the example [about] If you hear somebody, or somebody says, “Oh, I heard that Susan said she loved you at the party!”. This is how you determine if things are real. Watch this: it's morning. We are all stone cold, sober, [we] all have perfect. 20, 20 vision - I don't, but let's say we all do. We all watch the sun rise in the East, pass over-head and sink in the West. We all agree that that's what we all see. We talk about it. We argue about it. We come to an agreement and we're all wrong! The air is clear. We're stone, cold, sober. Our eyes are working perfectly. We rationally discuss it. We all agree and we're all wrong. It's an illusion. Now, here's the thing that should immediately occur - put yourself back there: If that's an illusion, what else isn't an illusion? How do you know any of this is real? Because all you have - be honest - all you have is, "Oh, well, my mind and my senses are working normally. Everything seems clear. There's no distorting fog or no... and people agree with me. That's what they see!” That's what most of your sense of realness is based on! That's why Aristotle's view was so powerful. And yet what Copernicus is saying is "that can all be satisfied and it's still not real, because the math says it isn't real". And that also, all of a sudden, means all of this (gestures around the room), all of this experience, all of it, isn't real! Remember we had the theory that we were in touch with the world, we're in conformity with the world? That's gone!
Now what's happened is the following: here's the world out here (draws a circle on the right) and here's our mind (writes Mind on the left) and in between is this barrier, experience (draws two vertical lines wider than the circle’s diameter). Your sense experience isn't you being in-touch with the world - notice I'm using a sense term (in Touch) - it's not putting me in-touch with the world. It's actually a vail between me and the world! The only thing that cuts through all of this illusion, this is very narrow channel of math (draws a tiny channel through the barrier and writes Math in it). Everything else is il[lusion]… All of a sudden, you are mostly out of touch with the world. This is terrifying. It's terrifying. So you've got all this chaos going on around you, and then you've got this view that suddenly says to you, “well, how do you know this isn't an illusion? How do you know that this table is here? How do you know that your mother actually loved you?”. You really have to go back... you see, this is... we're protected! We're protected by our loss of Participatory Knowing and Perspectival Knowing. We assert merrily in our minds, the proposition, “Yes. Yes. The earth is not at the centre, blah, blah, blah…” But we don't actually translate that existentially into “what does that mean, prospectively?”! What does that mean about your participation in reality? Put yourself back into what would be happening for you to just learn this for the first time and you can see the terror! We're becoming radically disconnected from the world. You can see the influence of Ockham here (indicates the barrier). We're trapped behind our experiences. [Our experience is] now just something that we're talking about, but it's not what really is the case.
Galileo's abstractions kill the universe
Now, Galileo comes along and says, "ah, but I've got an answer to Ockham." This is what Copernicus is showing, that this is what this new scientific way where I put Aristotelian logic and I put the new math together and I put careful observation together… What it's telling me is that the math - yes, Spoken language and sense experience? can't trust those! - the math? Mathematics is the language of the Universe. He's very influenced by that old Platonic view about abstract mathematical things being what's real. Now what Galileo does is he starts to put that new way of thinking about math, that new way of observing, that new way of reasoning, into practice. He does something really unusual. So of course math up until that time had been, and still primarily was, understood via geometry. So the quintessential math text is Euclid's Elements. Math and geometry are pretty much synonymous. Now there's arithmetic and calculation, and we already talked about those new mathematical tools, but Galileo does something really, really interesting. He starts using the geometry in a completely abstract fashion, because look: my sense experiences can't be trusted! The way I'm thinking of things doesn't have to in any way look like what it's representing. There doesn't have to be any sensual, no sensual, no experiential similarity between my thoughts and the world.
Let me show you what I mean. Here's a triangle (draws a right-angle triangle); I'm going to use geometry. And he's using it to represent the relationship between, [for example], distance (writes d on the y axis) and time (writes t on the x axis), and that gives me speed (writes s on the hypotenuse). Now there's nothing “triangular” about speed! He's using the geometry to represent abstract mathematical relations. These have nothing to do with how I'm actually experiencing the world. There's no conformity between this and the way the world is in my experience. So he starts to use math in a purely abstract, symbolic way. So he starts to observe things, like he sees a chandelier swinging in a church and he measures it by tracking with his pulse, he's rolling balls down inclined planes... and what does he… what comes out of all of this? Well, Galileo kills the universe because what Galileo realises, is inertial motion. Things don't move because there's an inner drive and they're trying to get where they belong. That's a purposeful, Narrative way of understanding the world. Things don't move for that reason. Things move because they've been hit by a purely random, arbitrary, external force. And they will continue moving like that until another random external force [influences them]. Before Galileo, everything is alive. Everything is driving, trying to get where it belongs, to make the universal a more beautiful and ordered place. After Galileo, everything is dead! There is no inner life to matter. Nothing is moving on purpose at all. Now that is really important because before Galileo you were like everything else because you act on purpose and so does everything else! When Galileo kills the universe, you're now a little Island of purpose in a vast desert of purposelessness. You're alone. You're an ontological cast away, all by yourself. You're weird and strange and you don't belong. And the universe is an indifferent machine.
Notice what this does!! Look at this. And we talked about it again - pay attention to the words you're using - “Oh yes. inertial motion…”. What's at the heart of inertia? “Inert”! Inert: dead, lifeless, not capable of moving itself! And what happens is Galileo starts to understand matter differently. In the old world view, matter was the potential for information. But now matter goes to being that which resists. Matter resists my will. It's defined in terms of my resistance. Why is that so important? Why do I want matter to be inert and resisting me? Look, it's actually a beneficial thing If the world is resisting me, because what everybody is telling me is,” Oh, it's all chaos…” and I'm deceiving myself, I'm creating all these illusions. The only hope I have is if the world pushes back on me, if the world resists my will. Everything is defined in terms of will and the resistance to will. So now what you have is you have this lifeless universe and a battle between isolated wills, largely creating illusions and this vast, inert, will-less, but nevertheless resistant, machinery of the universe.
The metaphysical disappearance of evil
It has another function: By making matter an actual substance, rather than the potential for information, Galileo removes there being any basis for evil. Before, we had a cosmological explanation for evil. Evil was a hole in being, pure potential, pure chaos. There is no such thing now. Matter is just this resistant, inert stuff which means we've lost something, and it's telling to us; we don't really have a way, really, of talking about evil! We don't have a metaphysics of what evil is. We think of evil as just excessive immorality, but what is evil? Well, people used to have a very coherent and sophisticated answer to that. Now they either say, “well, ultimately there is no such thing”, or “I don't know”, or “it's just a way of talking about, great immorality”. Now Galileo gives us the scientific method. Notice how it's a legacy from the Axial Revolution. The scientific method is a way for overcoming our wilful generation of illusion and self deception. The whole point of the scientific method is to get the resistance of the world, the inert purposeless world to resist our purposes and our will to show us how we are deceiving ourselves. Now that means that you're going to give huge priority to the scientific method and to the math.
Objectivity and Subjectivity
So what Galileo is going to say is, “look, the mathematical properties are the real properties of the thing”. The length of this (indicates the desk), and it's mass, anything that I can measure mathematically about this is going to be real. It's going to be ‘in’ the object, as we will come to say; it's going to be objective (writes Objective on the board). The mathematical properties are objective. Those are real. So, where are all these other properties? What about all the things I can't measure mathematically? What about how sweet the honey is? How beautiful the sunset is, how meaningful these words are, where is all that meaning? Where's all that meaning? Well, that's non mathematical, so it's not in the world. It must be inside that "Mind"! Remember, we've developed the mind as this internal chamber that manipulates language and propositions. Inside there, inside, trapped inside your mind: that's where all the meaning is! That's where all the value is! That's where all the beauty is! All of that non-mathematical stuff: That's subjective (writes Subjective on the board). Only in the mind. It's an [illusion]. You experience the illusion of it being in the world. The world is not meaningful. The world is not purposeful. The world is not filled with beauty. The world is not filled with truth. The world is not filled with goodness. The world is not even filled with chairs, cups, tables… because those are not mathematical entities! Those are all illusions created by your meaning making mind in its wilful self deception: the way it asserts itself on the world.
Notice what's happening: The orders are breaking down. See, one of the great strengths of the Aristotelian worldview was that your view of knowledge and your view of the world mutually supported each other. But the great weakness of that [as] a worldview is as one starts to unravel, so does the other! And the unraveling accelerates: as the Aristotelian world breaks down, the Aristotelian theory of knowing breaks down (illustrates on the board as a cycle). And as that breaks down the Aristotelian model of the [World breaks down], and then this (cycle) starts to spin very fast and in an accelerating fashion.
Notice where we are already! We're disconnected from the world. We're trapped inside our heads. We've lost Perspectival and Participatory Knowing. Self-transcendence. All the meaning. All the beauty. All that that was out in the world. That's all gone. It's all trapped inside of our heads. All that's out there is a purposeless, inert, chaotic absurdity! And all that's here within me is inner conflict and a battle of wills with other human beings. It's no wonder that many people were experiencing this as a trauma. Now here's the thing: none of us are immune to this trauma. We just don't think about it anymore. Or what we do is we'll wake up at 3:00 AM in the morning, laying on our bed, and think these thoughts and realise how disconnected we are from reality, how we believe in a scientific worldview in which our meaning and purpose, our Self and the objects we interact with - the tables and chairs and cars and everything of that ilk - is all ultimately not real. And all the purposes we're striving for are not real. All the meaning we're making is not real. And then fundamentally I'm not real. You are not real. I mean, do you ever wake at three and think, “I’m just a very complex pattern of atoms. That's all that's really there. Everything else is just an illusion and everything that I'm doing, I'm doing for things that aren't real for a self that isn't real in a universe that doesn't give a damn about me, is completely indifferent!”? It's not that it hates me. It's completely inert and indifferent to me.
There are individuals who are going to be affected by Ockham and the Rhineland Mystics and the rise of the new science, and [who] are going to try and reconfigure Christianity to deal with this crisis that is emerging. And so as the scientific revolution is picking up steam, as the commercial and corporate revolutions are picking up steam, as the secularisation of the state is picking up steam, the Protestant Reformation occurs. And of course it occurs in Germany, because that's where everything is occurring. That's going to keep occurring! So what I want to investigate with you next time is the Protestant reformation and how it furthers the dissolution of the Nomological order, the Normative order and the Narrative order. Notice how they're already all under significant stress: [In] this new scientific worldview, the Nomological Order is one that I don't fit into; the Normative order of ascent and self-transcendence, that's gone; the Narrative Order of there being a story and a life and a purpose to things, that's gone.
Luther is going to come and he's going to bring about a Protestant Reformation that is going to exacerbate this collapse of the Axes of meaning and the ways in which we are connected to ourself, each other and the World. We'll take a look at that next time we're together. Thank you very much for your time and attention.
Episode 20 notes
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Mark C. Taylor is a postmodern religious and cultural critic. He has published more than twenty books on theology, metaphysics, art and architecture, media, technology, economics, and postmodernity.
Book mentioned- After God - Buy here
Eckhart von Hochheim OP, commonly known as Meister Eckhart or Eckehart, was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born near Gotha in the Landgraviate of Thuringia in the Holy Roman Empire.
William of Ockham
William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher, and theologian, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey.
Occam's razor, also spelled Ockham's razor, also called law of economy or law of parsimony, principle stated by the Scholastic philosopher William of Ockham (1285–1347/49) that pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, “plurality should not be posited without necessity.”
The Cathars (also known as Cathari from the Greek Katharoi for “pure ones”) were a dualist medieval religious sect of Southern France which flourished in the 12th century CE and challenged the authority of the Catholic Church.
Catharism was a Christian dualist or Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries which thrived in Southern Europe, particularly what is now northern Italy and southern France.
Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more deities, especially with the goal of achieving henosis and perfecting oneself.
In metaphysics, nominalism is a philosophical view which denies the existence of universals and abstract objects, but affirms the existence of general or abstract terms and predicates. There are at least two main versions of nominalism.
Aristarchus of Samos was an ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician who presented the first known heliocentric model that placed the Sun at the centre of the known universe with the Earth revolving around it.
The Elements is a mathematical treatise consisting of 13 books attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt c. 300 BC. It is a collection of definitions, postulates, propositions, and mathematical proofs of the propositions.
Other helpful resources about this episode:
Notes on Bevry
Summary and Transcript on awakeningfromthemeaningcrisis.com