A response to Padraig McGrath’s “God, Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and the Metaphysics of The Big Lie”, By Ronald Thomas West
How we learn is relevant to how we perceive. What tools we have to learn with are integral to evolving our understanding. Underlying Western culture’s tools are a polemical or morality based right versus wrong, whereas underlying certain non-Western cultures’ tools are a non-polemical or ethics based ‘what works versus what doesn’t work.’ Tending to the latter ‘what works versus what doesn’t work‘, when perusing Padraig McGrath’s “God, Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and the Metaphysics of The Big Lie”, I’d been unimpressed with his argument:
“As undeniably necessary as reason is to the task of living a good life, it cannot escape being ultimately grounded in something pre-rational. For example, Kant demolished all of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, showing each in its turn to be inadequate, and yet he still argued that the existence of God was a “practical postulate” on which reason itself could be grounded.
“Most present-day zealots within the vulgarized Church of Reason overlook this point, a point which most of the deeper thinkers of the enlightenment were perfectly cognizant.
“Namely, if pursued to the end, reason must ultimately culminate in its own self-critique, and in the epistemologically humble admission that it must be normatively grounded in the pre-rational, that reason cannot ultimately be self-justifying or self-mandating.
“Perhaps that pre-rational grounding is something purely aesthetic, or something emotional, or a set of first principles which seem intuitively appealing, but which cannot be logically demonstrated”
Following on the preceding, which impressed as misapprehension of the phenomenon McGrath attempts to explain, I’d then encountered an eye-opening paragraph in his article that explained for myself a key piece of the puzzle in exploring Western Civilization’s effect on psychology in the Western people it has been a struggle for myself and certainly not only myself to understand:
“In discussing Hegel’s religious typologies, Taylor opines that the development of Judaism, or of a “religion of sublimity” analogous to Judaism, was a necessary pre-condition to the development of what we call “science.” Before we could begin to investigate the natural world solely within its own terms, it was first necessary to demystify the world – that is to say, before we could begin to investigate the whys and wherefores of the natural world in exclusively naturalistic terms, first we had to take God out of the natural world, and put him somewhere else. Therefore, the transcendentalization of God, which historically occurs first in Judaism, was a precursor to the demystification of the world, which was in turn a precursor to the development of science”
‘For the sake of argument’, because this author must enter ‘the polemical’ to make points in Western culture, there is admission the preceding quote is a brilliant insight, but, all brilliant insights do not necessarily lead to positive outcomes. Let’s get away from McGrath’s ‘pre-rational’ and substitute ‘precognitive’ and by precognitive I do not mean that cognitive thought had not yet come to exist, but rather that precognitive is a precondition to cognitive understanding (rational AND otherwise) or a place of awareness where people simply ‘know’ and are able to act on ‘feeling’ in an intelligent, comprehensible and common sense way that rationality cannot bear upon – it simply cannot or does not easily explain it.
Quoting MJ Zimmerman’s Being in Nature’s Mind:
“the Diné are just as capable of thinking objectively as Western people and of using their language to make objective statements. However, they are also always aware of “an intrinsic subjective relationship which is not nullified by an objective statement”. The capacity of intra-subjective knowing is not done unconsciously or automatically, and it does not preclude Western ways of knowing. It is an added capacity of awareness, not a primitive one”
And then we have:
“The [Cartesian-Platonic] doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment” – theoretical physicist Bernard d’Espagnat
I would propose, based not only on the preceding but also having ‘emerged’ from place of pre-Western or aboriginal thought, taking god out of nature actually took Man out of a place of well-organized precognitive awareness, and dramatically reduced his intelligence. One has no capacity to measure this in a place practically removed, that is compartmentalized away, from the origins of that very intelligence. In other words, nature in and of its own organization enables a practical communication, a precognitive awareness, that is sentient and intelligent in and of itself and that avenue is become largely, if not entirely, inaccessible to modern Man for the very fact of ‘taking god out of the natural world.’ It follows, applying a ‘Gestalt’ principle, if a major component of what had been necessarily an ‘intrinsic’ intelligence of humankind is by what ever means abandoned or lost, the intelligence which remains is likely to be, in some great sense, handicapped.
This lesser intelligence is reflected in Aristotle’s ‘petitio principii’ or where “assume the conclusion” is too often the larger reality of this ‘state of sin’, this separation from god in nature, wherein resultant lies (misapprehension of reality in the non-polemical view) become trapped within lies (further misapprehension of reality) from which there is no emancipation for the Western civilization. Example given, Solzhenitsyn’s ‘misapprehension’ of the Gulag numbers, a lie as proposed by McGrath, leaves open possibility of accusation an argument has been made Stalin was not an evil person (how many peasants died on account of collectivization?), no differently when the same method (polemical) compares Holocaust numbers ‘officially’ (but very quietly) slashed in half from 6 million to 3 million, this cannot create a ‘kinder, gentler’ Nazi. In the Western morality based right/wrong polemics, there is seldom ‘effective’ (read ‘intelligent’ in the non-polemical) result or, settlement on a consensus reality, as in nearly every case there will be found avenue of attack where argument (polemic) is cultural habit.
For the reader who can pull their head out of the polemical (be still and listen without urge to revolt), when returning to McGrath’s quite astute pointing out the origin of Western method of compartmentalizing; however monotheism might well have jelled the ability of ‘civilized’ people to advance science, previous to this it were abandoning the hunter-gatherer model of subsistence lifestyle had initiated severance of precognition genius integral to human intelligence. This would bring us to the cognitive dissonance aspect of McGrath’s article; wherein it is maintained:
“My contention here is that what we call “cognitive dissonance” is usually best explained by a person’s fear of being suddenly flung into a state of existential crisis, of being suddenly flung into an ontological abyss wherein they find themselves unable to hold or to formulate any beliefs about anything whatsoever. The core-issue is simultaneously metaphysical and epistemological, and therefore existential”
Let us suppose (pre-Western view) our brains are transceivers designed to integrate to nature but in the Western Civilization’s experiment this integration is disabled by construction of what amounts to a faraday cage, that is civilization, having taken people out of communication with the nature that had shaped them. Such an event, a sort of lobotomy where the modern (lowered) intelligence senses it should be working in tandem with elements it cannot locate, could actually be the underlying cause of cognitive dissonance where no matter the many ontological constructions attempted at innumerable levels, ‘metaphysical and epistemological, and therefore existential’ foundation can always be brought to a place of perceived threat; for the fact the foundation must (but necessarily cannot cognitively) ‘know’ it is actually separated from meta-reality or nature’s greater interactive means of communication. As a metaphor, we could look at this as the modern or ‘compartmentalized’ Man constructing perception of our surroundings from self-illustrations or still images (from his imagination, not dissimilar to early animation technique) whereas the ancient intelligence had access to something more akin to a natural interactive live streaming pointing to a superior meta-grasp of reality.
If this were the case, where do we stand, as ‘civilized’ people, for all of our glorying in ‘science’, other than in a place of arrogance (stupidity) that is separation from omnipresent god? Or was it actually intended the greater portion of the human understanding, the ability to interact in intelligent communication with the natural surroundings that sustain us, must be euthanized in a state of ‘domestication’ little different to cattle? Myself, I cannot believe we were meant to desecrate the very life-force we spring from, let alone jerk it around to point of our species fatality. Where we should actually reorient to is a space of reintegration where nature is allowed to reassert itself; and ours is a niche contributing to the greater social environment’s health or the pre-Western view where all of nature is social environment to which we should be peer integrated, not overlords-separated.
Meanwhile, with modern culture retreated to an ‘isolated ego’ or compartmentalized place of psychological complications manifesting as combative mechanisms (morality based polemical arguments) consequently injected into problem solving, it follows, for every problem solved, Western Civilization creates more problems, greater problems, that is its’ unresolvable problem.
Nature was never so socially ignorant.