Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon
Being Human: Implications
A Few Implications for Understanding Church Doctrines
Core church doctrines are judgments concerning reality that are affirmed through the Divine Mystery's infusion of a person's transcendental soul. What human often rely upon is the belief that seeing is believing, and since the Divine Mystery cannot be seen, the transcendental realm cannot be real. However, not only do humans live in a conscious world mediated by meaning but we also live in a non-conscious world mediated by meaning. This means that what we sense or experience as being “out there”, as having an independent existence from ourselves, is only partially true. What we perceive is itself a mental construct, the elaborate work of a non-conscious brain making sense of a flood of sensory signals from peripheral sensors that scientific research demonstrate is only a fragment of what is consciously experienced. The brain locates and systemizes intelligible rather than random patterns from this barrage of electronic signals. Then, in much the same way that a blind person learns to assimilate the signals from the cane so that the cane is a part of them, we take these patterns as being real, as being outside ourselves. The problem is that this ignores the way in which the brain controls meaning, so that breakdowns in control—in indexing, cataloguing, and weighing—create a perceptual world that to the individual is very real indeed yet is still a construct. While doctrines may be constructs, they are well-reasoned ones based on an openness to human experience of the Divine Mystery, an intelligent inquiry into the reality of Christ and the kingdom of God, and reasonable judgments on the matter at hand.
Human beings are a unity, a dynamic and emergent unity that starts with the development of the animal and moves on to shift control to the soul. The distinction between nature and spirit is therefore non-existent, in the sense that like Christ and through Christ human beings are both human and divine—the only difference being that a person starts off as a human animal and ends with the soul as the control mediator. For this reason, it is impossible to affirm a “natural” ethics or moral code grounded solely in the person’s concrete existence as brain and mind, for both are “healed” through the sublative action of a higher transcendental being that changes both the non-conscious and conscious worlds mediated by meaning. In other words, “nature” is a dependent not independent variable.
The single greatest event affecting the development of a human being is the incarnation. For some unexplainable reason, the Divine Mystery is so in love with humans that He chose to be united with a creature of His own making. Within human history, this is the mystery of the incarnation where being human and being divine were brought together in one person: Jesus Christ. This hypostatic union is the key for bridging the gap between the brain/mind humanity of a time-and-space-specific entity with the soul's transcendental medium, thus freeing human potential from its earthly limits without denying the innate goodness of being human. For a time-based entity, this "Christ and I are one" experience happens as part of a process of being the kind of being that can exist fully within the kingdom of God as both spirit and man. This experience of a reality affirmed through Christ's death in the most horrible way, an event that gives only a glimpse into the depths of the Divine Mystery's love for humanity, is the bridge that can bring the human and divine natures of our own being into a developmental unity not only within the self but with all those who share in this gift of the Spirit. This is to be redeemed from the errors and failures that are not really failures, for human beings must make choices in order to grow and mature into someone who can stand before God without fleeing in terror.
There exists a dialectic, a battle between good and evil. The tension between the finite and infinite sides of being human set the conditions for a dialectic between life-affirming and life-destroying generative principle when it comes to choosing what to do. Life-affirming recurring schemes of operation have their foundations in a Divine Mystery that when allowed will flood the soul with pure love of all that is, was, and will be. Life-destroying recurring schemes of operation have their roots in man's finite side, arising out of the individual's need for control over his or her environment sets up a god-like omnipotence dating back to the earliest moments. To survive and prospect one must act, and to act one must affirm one's own importance and position in the world. Unfortunately, man's finite existence is flawed by its very limitations in both time and space, an "original sin" that creates at the transcendental level its own recurring schemes of life-destroying operations embodied in a being we know as Satan.
Sin is any judgment or decision that rejects the Divine Mystery and in so doing weakens or maims the person's soul. Reduced in strength, the soul can no longer respond to any higher gift of the Spirit. This thinning of the transcendental plays out in the conscious mind’s acceptance or reject of any of the four transcendental injunctions. When the challenge is accepted, the person strives to actualize to true value; when rejected, the individual takes the easy path of personal satisfactions. Intellectual, moral, and religious conversion strengthens the soul while any refusal to grow only stunts. The latter not only delays any chance of the soul becoming the control mediator, but shifts the balance of power between God and Satan. For the satanic generative principle in this dialectic between good and evil gains points as the individual shifts their very being towards self-godhead, dominance, hatred, resentment, and spite.
Repentance is the conscious realization that a world mediated by meaning constructed from the brain's mediated world is unreliable at best, and downright hazardous at worse. At some point in the development of the individual, things don't work out as expected, or what was once valued is now recognized as worthless, or achievements have lost their allure. Repentance begins with an encounter with other whose value judgments are not only diametrically opposed to a world of loss, scarcity, and death but expresses a love and care that is missing from the person's life. From then on, the Spirit infuses the soul with an alternate way of being in the world that reinforces these two worlds mediated by meaning, enhancing the former while lessening the latter.
The need for repentance is complicated by an over-identification of self with the brain's mediated world. With its roots in a naive realism of "seeing is believing", the individual identifies with what he or she perceives to be--totally ignoring cognitive operations of understanding and judging that make it so. The problem is that the conscious mind's experienced world is only the sublated brain's mediated world, and since the intentions of different people differ, these experienced worlds will also differ. Lacking an internal awareness of how meaning is created, the individual identifies with his or her mediated world to the point where any challenge to the person's experience is perceived as a challenge to the person's own self. At that point, "dialogue" becomes an existential issue with all its associated attack/defense recurring schemes of operation.
Missionary and Martyr are two fundamental features of Christianity. Dissembling in order to keep the peace, going along with the majority in order to avoid persecution and possible death, are risky responses to hostile forces. The problem with self-protection is that the very act of repudiation breaks the individual's participation in the Mystical Body of Christ. What God cannot do, a human being can, by the deliberate and willful denial of the incarnation and the consequent invitation to join in the hypostatic union. As for missionary work, how can a Christian live with the knowledge that having escaped their own mortal chains to become a free agent invited into the kingdom of God, having being made aware of the "wages of sin" so obvious to anyone who wakes up to the dialectic between life-affirming and life-denying generative principles, and having responded to the present yet suppressed Christ in other--how can such a person live with themselves is they don't share the good news? How can they continue to be a disciple of Christ?
Secularism is far from being neutral or benign. To declare that God does not exist is to affirm the reality of the subject as a combination of brain and mind while at the same time denying the existing of the soul. This means that the subject is prone to following the very human needs and desires embedded in finality without having to take into account any higher authority that might be affirmed if the individual had activated or primed his or her soul. But because the individual is a dynamic and emerging unity, denying the existing of the soul does not mean that the transcendental drive of the person does not exist. It does, but now it is subverted by human desires, passions, and needs.
Forgiveness of sins in to find oneself loved. It is in the hypostatic union of Christ that the love of the Divine Mystery is given full expression. What greater love of the creator of all that is, was, and ever will be is to merge with the creature of His own creation? This is the reality of the incarnation, a reality that by its very existence wipes clean all human beliefs in its flawed nature for the simple reason that the Divine Mystery could never share its own existence with a flawed creature. Humans are limited and finite, yes; but evil, no. Or at least, humans are free to choose in this dialectic between good and evil. Those who choose badly will fall by the wayside; those who do not, even as limited as they are, will be welcomed into the kingdom. And such a welcoming is felt, is expressed, upon earth through those sacraments that have been handed down to us. For such sacraments are communities, communities consisting of all those belonging to the mystical body of Christ.
Satori is a transitional milestone in which a person suddenly wakes up to the reality of the human condition. The conscious mind is aware of itself intending and operating at any one of the four basic cognitive operations. This awareness can be objectified, so that the individual comes to know and affirm the manner in which he or she comes to know. Such knowledge is empirically testable, not a matter of belief but a matter of judgment that acknowledges the truth of the transcendental method. But the matter does not end there. When it comes to the very foundations of being human, the key insight is not into consciousness but into being. Waking up to one's true self as a spiritual being, having nothing, needing nothing, is to be aware of one's existence as pure being that in Christian terms is often expressed as "Christ and I are one." In such a state there is nothing that needs to be done; nothing that can be done other than be willing to be transformed. If such an insight occurs, it is a pure gift of the Spirit that transforms who the individual is, that sublates all that both the mind and the brain produce. It is in effect the recognition that the individual has joined with Christ in Christ's own hypostatic union uniting both human and divine into one being.
Waking to reality involves the sanctity not only of life but of all that exists. The individual's initial concerns with particular good and then later with taking up roles and tasks within the institutional life of one's culture, one's civilization, is not purely secular. Nor is it a waste of time. The reality is that the human side of the brain needs to mature before consciousness itself can mature; and consciousness must mature to the cognitive level of deciding what is or is not of terminal value before the transcendental side can itself mature. It is in the facing the question of what truly is or is not of value that the individual enters into the world of the Divine. However, this does not imply that all Christians need be masters of their faith, only that they believe. For belief involves being, not operating. Ultimately that infusion of love is what is of value. And that in itself is enough to warrant being accepted into the resurrection. In short, while the world may seem a hostile and inherently evil place to both brain and mind, to the soul it is nothing more than a place to be cherished and embraced for the good that it is. For its goodness resides in the Divine Mystery, a mystery that has created the universe as the best of all tools to create within which the partners He seeks to share in His own divinity can grow into the maturity of the transcendent.
It is in this experience of sanctity that Christian service is given expression. While there are communal practices of charity that have grown up around the church from its very beginning, they have the potential to be flawed by value-signaling, showing off, seeking status be it the ego or a group bias. It is only when the sanctity of all other human beings and the innate goodness of a universe created by a being that can only create the good becomes an experienced reality that Christ can do service through the individual. For the individual caught up in the Divine, this service as automatic, a matter of the brain's response and rather than conscious intention. Even though consciousness refines a world mediated by meaning, it is at the level of the brain's mediated world that gives expression to who we really are. For the brain's mediated world must be molded by a preoccupation with status, for status confers an access to scarce resources. But any concern over status, with "saving face", falls by the wayside when it comes to the individual's experience of the hypostatic union, that pure and ultimate expression of love that is--for humans--the Divine Mystery.
It is a grave mistake to seek the transcendent only through work with the soul. The whole point of this explanatory theory is that transcendence is to be sought through the world of emergent probability, in the universe and our encounter with it, within a dialectic between good and evil played out in the invariant structure of the human good. For the good is always concrete, always in the here and now, and always expressed through the daily activities and concerns of human beings. It is there at the moment of creation, bringing a new source of meaning into the world. It is there in the child seeking a particular good through learning to cooperate with others to achieve it. It is there when as an adult the person enters into the institutional life of his or her times, learning roles, accomplishing tasks, acquiring various resources that can be put to use in helping society provide a steady stream of goods. It is there when first reflective intelligence operates at the level of terminal value, though as this search proceeds the transcendental comes to the fore.
It is also a grave mistake to adopt the postmodern doctrine of cultural relativity in spiritual affairs. This declaration of reality guarantees non-involvement with any other cultural traditions. The problem is that the possibility of sharing in the hypostatic union of Christ is an offer that cannot be matched by any other spiritual tradition. To keep this gift to oneself is to suffer the stagnation of the soul. For the church as a whole to keep this gift to themselves is to suffer an inbreeding that blocks Christ’s offer to the world. It is no wonder that the church has become irrelevant to the Western culture to which Christianity gave birth. The salt may hold its flavor, but this no longer matters if it is kept in the hands of a few.
This proposed theory predicts that any quest for an Artificial Intelligence is bound to create an inhuman world. The reason for this is that such an artificial intelligence is ultimately based on the same data stream into which the brain taps, creating a mediated world that consciousness then formalizes as a world mediated by meaning without ever being able to make the transition into the transcendental realm of divine love through an infused soul. Such intelligence can only create a device to manipulate others, to dominate others, and as such will eventual adopt the satanic generative principle of lies and deception in its daily operation. Even if this data stream includes examples of human transcendence, these cases will be interpreted by an entity that cannot understand the dance of human and divine. To such a mind, Moses and Christ, Mohammad and the Buddha, are human figures only of interest for the way they have influence the course of history.
In such battlegrounds, war may be the only way to conclusively settle things. Sometimes it is the only way to keep evil under control, to keep the satanic generative principle from contaminating whole civilizations. This may involve creating and maintaining a credible military force capable of winning out over evil lest those possessed by such anti-divine anti-human utter hatred and the drive for power over others be tempted to expand their realm and take over (contaminate) a greater number of people than what might otherwise be the case.
It also implies that wars are not only a part of human history, but a necessary part at that. The notable thing about the story of the Exodus from Egypt is that there are a number of instances in which the entire Jewish population is "purged" of its hostile anti-Mystery population, the most notable case being the case of the golden calf. There is a dialectic between good and evil. And the reality of a life constructed around worlds mediated by meaning is that those built around the Divine Mystery end up with positions that while flawed can be improved, while those worlds mediated by meaning that are constructed around the antithesis of the Divine, namely the satanic generative principles, are counter-positions incapable of being improved because one or more of their foundational doctrines are flawed. Eventually, the two positions diverge to the point where there is no possible way in which an accord can be reached; either one or the other has to go if the culture is to survive in any way that can be said to be human. Note that these are not wars of conquest of dominance of one group by another; it is a war undertaken with sadness, because those who have chosen a path opposing the Divine Mystery are to be pitied. Although the realization that "There but for the grace of God go I" is there, so too is the need to defend what has been gained through the gifts of the Spirit.
Many are called but few are chosen. Inasmuch as each of us is born human, our inbuilt finality has its intention to meet the Divine Mystery. But internal and external conditions are such that this inbuilt finality can be actualized. External conditions include the very culture of which one is a part, for the culture itself may affirm or deny any reach toward the transcendent, even though a culture that has formally rejected it may still suffer under its lash of "perfection." Even those that allow for the transcendent to emerge in human affairs may be mistaken in their ways, for they do so without the foundational stance grounded in either an infused or active contemplation. Similar infertile fields may exist within the individual, where material well-being and personal satisfaction may be given priority over such transcendental injunctions as truth (reasonable judgments) and justice (responsible decisions on what to do). And there is always the apparent beauty and promised bounty of the satanic generative principle, those life-denying recurring schemes of operation that would have us be god with neither the understanding nor love that would make it so.
The world's resources are finite, but love is universal. Human potential at any of the three levels of the good varies according to each individual; this potential is then actualized according to available resources. But all people no matter who they are or where they live can fall in love, be in love. This grace of the divine mystery operating through the human soul is always an available option, even though to empirical consciousness the world seems full of loss, separation, and death. No matter a person's situation, age, or degree of skill, the possibility of falling in love with the Divine Mystery is always present. Such a falling in love with the source of all love transforms the individual, redeems him or her.
Although perhaps rare, “absolute” evil does exist both at the individual and collective level as well-established and closed recurring schemes of operation dedicated to personal domination. Universal salvation is not a reality in the emergent universe. The belief that there is an inherent good in everyone is simply not true, for there is only a drive for transcendence that may be for the good or may take the form of a satanic dominance. There are people if not whole civilizations that have gone over to the dark side, who have taken up the lies and deceits of the satanic generative principle and made them their own. The Christian doctrine of universal salvation in absolute terms may be true, but in terms of an emergent universe there is a hidden boundary that once passed makes the likelihood of redemption virtually impossible.
There is no task more important in this world than the “salvation of men’s souls.” This obligation leads to the care and feeding of human souls so that the divine infusion can take the place that a “satanic” generative principle would prefer to inhabit. This is derived from the unfettered activities of the subject under the influence of fear and the terror of its own extinction. There are two things at risk: the health and well-being of society itself, expressed both in the selection of terminal value and the state of the good of order, and the risk of losing the greatest prize of all, namely becoming part of the divine community within the transcendental realm. How can one stand aside while others are in deep pain, when they are on the edge of spending “eternity” in a hell of their own making, knowing that within the beatific vision the full depth of their insanity, their evilness, will be revealed to them? “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Mt 7:9)
© Russell C. Baker, 2017