Being Human: Transcendent Soul
Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon
Connecting with the Transcendental
At the moment of conception, two modes of existing--the finite and the infinite--are brought together in one human being. From that moment on, both the physical brain/mind and the transcendental soul are entangled; every shift in one is immediately and instantaneously writ upon the other. Every human being is both human and divine, even though the human side--conditioned as it is by the products of the brain--has an early advantage. So it is that the animal side, including the transitional stage of mind, has to develop and mature before the soul itself can strengthen and mature. It is a matter of the control mediator: in youth and middle age it tends to rest with the human side; in elder years, it shifts to the transcendental soul. It is this ontological shift that truly defines what it means to be human.
The finite side builds its reality--both its mediated world of the brain and the world mediated by meaning of the mind--from the experience of scarcity, loss, and death; the infinite side cares little for such mundane matters, stressing both love and a reality of fullness of being. It is on the soul's side that this transition starts, a shift in whom the person is that over time sublates both the world mediated by meaning created and maintained by the mind, and the mediated world generated by the non-conscious recurring schemes of operation of the brain.
This can clearly be observed in the human preoccupation with status. The brain's mediated world of scarcity and limitations means that acquiring and keeping sufficient resources to flourish in a zero sum game must be played out in a competition that takes place at the level of the good of order. For males, this takes the form of acquiring wealth through the status conferred by holding an important position in the institutional structure. Hence males tend toward a solitary existence as actor whose bond with other males becomes the interplay of a hierarchy of power. With females, competition is over the ability to acquire access to the wealth of males. But the female need to control males in order to assure themselves of a continued stream of wealth emerges as a strategy that requires females to automatically bond with each other as females. In a sense, male preoccupations over wealth are driven by female needs to find a source of funding necessary for bearing and raising children, while the female preoccupation in turn drives a male quest for power and influence. But socio-economic status has little meaning at the transcendental level.
The self is in its essence a network of recurring schemes of operations that are self-constructing and self-maintaining according to an initial set of instructions, a self that resembles to some degree the deep learning strategies of advanced AI research. Like any audio recording, the same patterns can be embedded in different media. In this case there are two: the electro-chemical-brain/mind and the transcendental. Although changes in the recording medium results in certain changes in signal quality, the essence is still the same individual pattern. But it is by joining in the hypostatic union of Christ, by becoming part of the mystical body of Christ, that the individual Christian truly brings together the two media as one self in a unity of signal. Christ lays out the work, the Spirit makes it happen, and the Father powers it all.
The Divine Mystery holds only one desire: to unite Himself with the human creature of His creation. Conceived both as human and divine, the individual's soul is at first unmarked and unstressed. In order to take the strain of joining with the Divine Mystery it must be strengthened, and this is done through the Spirit's infusion of the soul with a series of transcendental gifts. Part of this maturing of the soul so that it can act as the control mediator requires the individual to face the reality of the transcendental injunctions, seek to meet these innate transcendent requirements to be open to experience, intelligent in understanding, reasonable in judging, and responsible in deciding. It is in striving to meet these transcendental canons that the individual faces his or her own limits and thus, in repentance, seek the help and support of the Divine Mystery in all their affairs. Or the person could reject all such gifts. Pride replaces humility; dominance replaces obedience; and gas-lighting rules all.
Redemption involves an internal shift in who the person is, one in which the individual experiences themselves as both human and divine, and as it is sometimes expressed, "humans are spiritual beings having human experiences." This creates up a radical tension within the person, for the pattern networks of both brain and mind construct a reality of scarcity, loss, and death while the transcendental level of pure existence maintains that all is well, all is exactly as it should be. It is Christ that enables us to bridge the two worlds to create a world mediated by meaning that is founded in the reality of divine love and self-sacrifice rather than a reality of strife and terror.
The First Stage: Embedded in Revelation
Human beings would not know of this Divine Mystery's without being informed. This message of love, of commitment, is revealed through the divinely inspired words and deeds of those humans who have been deeply touched. These contact events have been laid out in the Tanakh and the New Testament as well as the oral traditions and practices that ground both religions in a good of order carried down through generations of Jews and then Christians. It is each generations encounter with both the words, rituals, and modes of being that carried down the tradition and lay the ground for the personal transformations brought about by the Spirit that grounds it all.
The task here is to provide organizations and institutions that provide a steady stream of spiritual reminders of the existence of a Divine Mystery to people whose primary focus is not necessarily religious. Or to provide resources to people who have an interest in religion as an important component of their live but not professionally. Such people require meaning to their lives beyond that of making a living or raising a family. In some ways, these services provide an entry point into the transcendental realm in much the same way that local sports team provide a source of professional players. Also, such institutions provide a framework for the general populace by providing symbolic transitions over a person's life-cycle such as bar or bat mitzvah for a coming of age among Jewish populations, or baptism, confirmation, or first communion for Christians. Then there are basic biological events given religious significance in a world mediated by meaning by reframing marriage and death in ways quite different from a pagan existence.
By their very existence, such institutions affirm a reality of a god whose presence is noted by its very absence. Unlike pagan religions that embody natural forces as god-like figures that resemble or embody an elevated form of human living. Ancestor worship, Shinto, Greek pantheons--all embody mysterious forces in human figures that ordinary people can understand and to which they can respond. The Hashem of Jewish faith is a God who has no physical presence, is totally unknowable, and is all-powerful. Christianity takes this same unknowable and unknown God and brings in a pagan element of Jesus as someone who is both human and divine, thereby providing an important personal component while retaining the ultimate power of the Father. But in both cases, synagogues and churches provide a visible reminder of a force greater than any human being or institution or civilization--a message that only grows in strength as the centuries pass.
Finally, such institutions keep alive a number of modes of religious formation. Specialized religious communities such as the Benedictines or Jesuits or Dominicans or Franciscans, etc. all provide tested modes of religious formation that allow for and promote a shift to the second stage of recurring schemes of operation involving individual religious conversion. So the initial set of recurring schemes of operation for the individual's shift into the transcendental realm is the existence of a number of institutions that provide a culture that allows for the Divine Mystery to begin infusing the person's soul.
Second Emergent Stage: Taking up the Challenge
Prior to this point, the individual has been exposed to a set of values, a way of living that is diametrically opposed to his or her experienced reality of scarcity, loss, and death. While a token effort may be made to meet basic Christian traditions--baptisms, weddings, funerals, plus Easter and Christmas services--there is none of the interior shifts that would indicate an actual change in horizon and intentions from that of a secular individual. Traditionally, faith, hope, and charity are the key indicators of a life led in grace. But faith is still in men, hope is little more that attaining more personal satisfactions, and charity becomes a matter of value-signaling. A gnostic view of the world may take hold, where special knowledge--the wisdom of "Sofia"--dominates human affairs.
Ultimately, this is a dialectic between two generative principles. On one hand there's a life-affirming and life-enhancing position of the Divine Mystery, whose revealing of Himself stands for all that is good and of value in this world. One the other, there's a set of recurring schemes of operations distilled from tens of thousands years of human self-aggrandizement, a coherent scheme based on dominating others based on lies and deceit now embedded in the transcendental level of meaning and conceived by humans as "Satan", a fallen angel whose name once meant light. Over the course of a human life, a multitude of decisions drawing from one or the other generative principle brings the individual closer to the transcendent or away from it. To those drawing close to the Divine Mystery, the harsh rebukes are little more than gentle caresses; to those seeking to escape, the lightest touch of the Spirit is experienced as a thousand lashes.
But the Divine Mystery as the author of all; Satan is nothing but a created being. In the end, the divine will win out--provided that the individual is at first willing to be purified. In this case, purification means nothing more than allowing the Spirit to infuse one's soul (an adjustment) and when allow the soul to sublate both the conscious mind and the non-conscious brain to the point that the individual becomes one with the divine. This requires the person to take up the reality of salvation in a direct and personal way. The challenge is to replace the mind as the control mediator in favor of an infused soul whose actions transforms the individual to the point where the person realizes as experienced reality that he or she is not the one who heals the souls of other but only a channel for Christ to work through them.
Such a radical transition in one's world mediated by meaning puts the individual on a new foundation. Such remedial action requires the knowledge of an excellent surgeon, one who not only knows what needs to be accomplished but knows also the proper path to bring the person to that point. For that we have Christ, an "elder brother" who has experienced exactly what it means to be human yet shares in the universal perspective of the Divine Mystery. Christ lays out the course, the Spirit energizes it, and the Father powers it all. In the end, the individual finds a wholeness, a unity, for such a infused person knows what to do simply by experiencing the world through the eyes of Christ.
Death and Resurrection: Finality Attained
The third and final emergent reality is reached when the person fully accepts the reality of the Divine Mystery without reservation. This involves a taking up of the same cross born by Jesus, for as Jesus suffered for the human's He cherished so too does the individual. It involves the realization of one's own limited nature and the gift of pure love than redeems it. It involves a letting go of earthly things though not the rejection of them; only such things are temporary, of no permanent value, but only something that can easily be discarded when its usefulness is gone. Such is the nature of freedom.
When death occurs, when the brain and mind no longer exist in time and space, the individual goes through another major transition point. At that stage in the person's life-cycle, all that is left is the individual's transcendent soul. It is only the soul that embodies the kind of person he or she has made of themselves over the course of their life. Since the soul belongs to the Divine realm, it fully encounters for the first time the reality of the Divine Mystery. The judgment that takes place is not the judgment of Christ as such, but the judgment of the person now infused with the direct understanding of the meaning and purpose of their own life. At this point, the individual is fully awake, fully aware, not with any proportionate human understanding but with the complete non-controversial understanding from the creator Himself.
When this happens, there is only one of two responses. A lifetime of following the satanic generative patterns will leave the individual in a state of utter hatred of the divine, for to acknowledge this transcendent source of all love and goodness lies beyond a creature that has chosen to dominate rather than be dominated. Such a person casts themselves into a hell of their own making, joining all the other souls that have chosen this path into an eternity of pain. There's no time involved, so this eternity is both an instant and forever. One the other hand, those who have been willing to live the life suggested by the Divine Mystery will kneel in awe, fully aware of their own limitations and unworthiness yet welcomed all the same.
Such an acceptance is to be resurrected. For the self does not disappear like a raindrop in an ocean, but is fully purified and brought to a state of goodness and wholeness where their human self is at one with their transcendental side. The only difference is that such a person lives within the transcendental realm that stands outside of all time and space and not the physical world of time and space. This is the resurrection, where the human and transcendental are again made one, given a new transformed body within the divine community of Father, Son, and Spirit. Humans are not pure spirit; humans like Christ are both human and divine, a unity that cannot be broken if the person is to remain. Only now, he or she is give a new resurrected body fitting the new conditions within which he or she is to live.
© Russell C. Baker, 2017