Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#18 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (intuition)


Something that is known or understood without proof or evidence…..the Merriam-Webster definition of intuition. We have all heard ourselves, and possibly others, say things that we dismissed as merely intuitive, only to learn later that the event conformed precisely to the earlier intuitive insight.

We live in a world in which “facts” are under threat, from the highest offices in government, exaggeratedly especially from the Oval Office. “Alternative facts,” a phrase coined by White House advisor, Kelly-Anne Conway, has “fallen” into the ether of political discourse, in her hollow defence of her boss. And we must be very cautious, even scrupulous, in distinguishing intuition from “alternative facts.” We live when every thing, including every word, symbol and every visual image is being weaponized. It may well have been thus for a long time, although most of us  grew up with the notion that only enemies trafficked in the weaponizing of words, ideas, images for the purposes of propaganda, manipulating the views and attitudes of a populace.

The political “messaging adage” that anything repeated often enough results in some or many people believing it to be true is one of the guidance systems for the president’s minions, including but not restricted to Fox News. Bouncing off what has been deemed to be the current left-wing “talking points,” the alt-right adopts the most extreme “facts” in opposition, likely on the premise that the trump cult will swallow the kool-aid. The over 90% support of trump in the Republican Party testifies to their premise. Political discourse, consequently, devolves into a shouting match of opposing pictures of the same “Rorschach” of whatever issue file is under the microscope.

The good-evil, Manichean absolute duality, has so entranced the political discourse, and political system, especially in the U.S. that we are all left potentially drowning in the undertow of innuendo “cananonading”  (thank you, Danny Gallivan) off our ear drums, echoing in our conversations and prompting millions to seek alternative ways of spending time, merely to survive. Nevertheless, our intuition is not euthanized, nor is it temporarily on “pause.” Like the flow of all of the rivers on all of the continents, intuition in each of us continues to “function” as an integral component of our personhood. And the degree to which our intuition has served as an early warning system, or a foreshadowing, or a visionary lightning bolt not only underscores our conscious awareness of something other than the literal, verifiable, empirical facts in our personal universe, it also echoes, resonates and amplifies the “intuitive” movement encircling the planet.

Not susceptible to anatomizing, a strait-jacket into which we attempt to imprison every single element in our contemporary vocabulary, intuition, like imagination, flows outside of, beyond, and around our shared planetary atmosphere. As Viktor Frankl writes, in The Unconscious God, (previously referenced in this space):

“Conscience is essentially intuitive. To anticipate what is not yet, but is to be made real, conscience must be based on intuition. And it is in this sense that conscience may be called irrational. But is not conscience in this respect analogous to love? Is not love just as irrational, just as intuitive? In fact, love does intuit, for it also envisions something that is not yet real. What love anticipates, however, is not an ethical necessity but, rather a personal possibility. Love reveals potentialities dormant in the love person, which he still has to make real. However, concern with mere possibilities rather than actualities is not the only common denominator of love and conscience, It is one reason why both must operate on an intuitive level’ a second reason is to be seen in the fact that both love and conscience have to do with something, or someone, absolutely unique. It is the task to conscience to disclose to man the unum necesse, the one thing that is required. This one thing, however, is absolutely unique inasmuch as it is the unique possibility a concrete person has to actualize in a specific situation. What matters is the unique ‘ought to be’ which cannot be comprehended by any universal law.( Frankl, op., cit., p.34-35)

For many of us reared in the twentieth century, this essential uniqueness, not reducible to any valid law, has been juxtaposed with what in the history of ethics is known as Kant’s categorical imperative: “a moral law that is unconditional or absolute for all agents, the validity or claim of which does not depend on any ulterior motive or end.” (britannica.com) And, we hear every day pontifications about the absolute ethical/moral imperative of specific issues like abortion, for example. The fact that “right-to-life” activists resort to killing pro-choice professional nurses and doctors providing therapeutic abortions to women seeking them seems not to impair their adherence to the categorical imperative.

The church, however, continues to attempt to implement/impose a categorical imperative on its members, clergy and to justify this rigidity as offering a model of hope and new life for the world. Let’s continue rummaging through Frankl’s mind:
“Just as conscience aims at the uniqueness of possibilities dormant in each life situation, so love aims at the equally unique potentialities dormant in a loved person. Even more, love alone enables the loving person to grasp the uniqueness of the lover person. In this sense love has a significant cognitive function, and certainly this was appreciated by the ancient Hebrews when they used the same word for the act of love and the act of knowledge.” (Frankl, op. cit. p. 36-7)

Then capacity/intuition to look/imagine/speculate/envision/and anticipate into the future, as Frankl teaches, is the balancing force, however unconscious, to the force and energy of religious dogma, history, tradition, ethics and morality. A faith, whether personal or institutional, that is fixated “in the rear-view-mirror” as opposed to the prospect of the future, negates or at least minimizes human intuition. It is in the envisioning/anticipation/imagining the possibilities inherent in the unum necesse, and/or in the other person that intuition plays its significant part.

Not surprisingly, it follows that “not only love and moral conscience are root in the emotional and intuitive, nonrational depths of the spiritual unconscious. Thus, ethics and aesthetics as well have their foundation and basis within the spiritual unconscious. In fact, in his creative work, the artist is dependent on sources and resources deriving from the spiritual unconscious. The nonrational intuition of conscience is paralleled by the inspiration of the artist. Artistic creation emerges out of recesses in a realm that can never be fully illuminated.” (Frankl, op,. cit. p. 37)

Here we can see the potential of the combined energy of the artist and at least one significant twentieth century theologian. Jurgen Moltmann, in The Future of Creation, posits very cogent and penetrating insights:

“The information ‘in the beginning God created’ establishes time together with creation. But if time begins simultaneously with ‘creation in the beginning,’ then creation must be subject to change from the beginning, for time is only perceived from alteration. But if creation is subject to change and is open to time from the beginning, then it cannot be a closed system; it must be an open one. Consequently the time that begins with creation does not have a symmetrical structure either, in which future and past, goal and origin correspond to one another, like the two halves of a circle. Time’s structure is a-symmetrical. It is open for a future which does not have to be the return of what was at the beginning, in the form of restitutio in integrum…      
‘Creation’ as the quintessence of God’s creative activity comprehends creation at the beginning, the creation of history and the creation of the End-times. It embraces the initial creative activity, creative activity in history and the eschatological consummation….Creation is then not a factum but a fieri  ( a becoming)…Having called creation in the beginning a system open for time and potentiality, we can understand sin and slavery as the self-closing of open systems against their own time and their own potentialities. If a person closes himself against his potentialities, then he is fixing himself on his present realilty8 and trying to uphold what is present, and to maintain the present against possible changes. By doing this he turns into homo incurvatus* in se.

A society of this kind will project its own present into the future and will merely repeat the form it has already acquired. For this society the future ceases to offer scope for possible change; and in this way the society also surrenders its freedom…Natural history demonstrates from other living things as well that closing up against the future, self-immunization against change, and the breaking off of communication with other living things leads to self-destruction and death….Closed systems bar themselves against suffering and self-transformation. They grow rigid and condemn themselves to death. The opening of closed systems and the breaking down of their isolation and immunization will have to come about through the acceptance of suffering. But the only living beings that are capable of doing this are the ones which display a high degree of vulnerability an capacity for change. They are not merely alive; they make other things live as well.” (Jurgen Moltmann, The Future of Creation, SCM, London, 1979, p.118-123)

Intuition, in ethics, love, aesthetics and eschatology** can be considered integral to the healthy individual life, as well as to the ultimate destiny of the people inhabiting the planet. It is not confined to an ideology, a gender, a geography, an ethnicity, a language, or a religion. Nor can it be encapsulated by a single or even multiple laws. Nor can it be examined by a graduate course in philosophy. It, like the fog that lies in the valleys in autumn, not only gauzes over the pine and the oak trees on the surrounding hill but also enhances the mystery and the majesty, the artistry and the eternity of the landscape itself. Our attempts to dissipate, to dissolve, and to fight the ubiquitous ethereal nature of our inherent intuition only belie our very existence, making us self-sabotaging victims of our own blindness.

And men, placed in front of their computer screen, or their fork-lift, or their semi-trailer, or their scalpel, or their case law books, or their classrooms, focused on the immediate, literal, practical, empirical information at hand, are likely to let our energies, talents, imaginations and universes become imprisoned in that cell.

Opening to a less constricted view and attitude of his own potential and the potential of the universe can and will only enliven not only his literal breathing and the potential for freedom for all of his ancestors and his legacy.



 *(Latin for turned/curved inward on oneself, a life lived inward for oneself rather than outward for God and others.
**The part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

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