Welcome to the Pons Asinorum

There is no easy fix

Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon

Facing the Reality of a Lack of Moral Courage

Joyous Insurgency & the Long Game?

A Strategy for People Celebrating Life


What follows is a working hypothesis for human development that covers the entire span of a human existence from the moment of creation to death and resurrection. We identify three distinct emergent levels of meaning: the non-conscious intentionalities of the physical brain, the conscious intentionalities of the mind, and the transcendental intentionalities of the Divine Mystery. These three operational realms of meaning are defined in terms of things rather than observable entities known as bodies. In other words, the “brain” refers to the recurring schemes of operations characteristic of the non-conscious physical reality of the individual, “mind” refers to the equally characteristic recurring schemes of operations of cognitive operations of Lonergan’s transcendental method, and “soul” refers to the transcendental realm of meaning with its own characteristic recurring schemes of operations. The relationship between them is such that lower levels condition higher while higher operational capabilities ­sublate lower. Two specific concepts are introduced: “entanglement”, where the self is simultaneously mapped onto two distinct mediums—the physical and the transcendental—in such a way that a change in one is immediately reflected in the other, and “infusion”, where the Divine Mystery indirectly affects the individual’s self at the transcendental level of being. This hypothesis accounts for the radical shift in consciousness between those early stages of purely animal existence to later mature levels where the individual’s control mediator is fixed within the person’s now heavily ­infused soul.­ This work falls within Lonergan's functional specialty of systematics.

Human Life-Cycles 

How is it that creative and dynamic human beings bringing order out of chaos when their first claim to existence is a cluster a barely distinguishable cells tucked away in a womb. Or the various stages of development in the prolonged attempt to become a fully functional human being not as conceived of by the institutional order of the day but as understood by the Divine Mystery, the creator of human beings in the first place. Is there an invariant structure of the human life-cycle that applies to all human beings no matter when or when they live out their lives. Is there a common path from the moment of conception to the final act of resurrection following the death of the subject?

While there are many answers recorded down through history, they all are incomplete for the simple reason that Lonergan's approach did not exist at that time. What is it about Lonergan's work that applies to creating such a working hypothesis of human life-cycles?

The first is that none of them fully take advantage of what there is to be learned from Lonergan's world view of emergent probability, with its schemes of recurrence, inbuilt "drive" toward higher order intelligibilities through the emergence of higher viewpoints, and the conditioning/sublating effects operative between different such levels. Second, Lonergan's transcendental method shifts the focus of attention away from functions to intentions, hence opening up the dynamic, creative, and directed activities of the conscious mind in four distinct "selves" of experiencer, detective, judge, and decider. Third, Lonergan's invariant structure of the human good provides a structural outline of all features of the human good, ranging from concrete goods to the good of order to terminal value. 

The question then is this: how do these three innovations of Lonergan enhance our understanding of human life-cycles? The general answer is that each stage of human development marks a shift from a lower to a higher intelligibility in what it means to be human; each stage is to be understood in terms of the questions posed by that level, that is by the questions asked or not asked; and finally each set of questions involves some aspect of the human good, hence each higher viewpoint in being human stresses a different level of the human good. So it is that we have the early non-conscious stage of development, the emergence of consciousness, and finally the shift to a transcendental level of being. Each defines things, not bodies, and as such belong to the theoretical realm of meaning. But for common reference we can name the first as non-consciousness, the second as consciousness, and the third as soul. The first two constitute the human as animal; the latter the human as transcendental or divine. The human as animal and human as divine are said to be entangled, i.e., are one being expressed to two different natures. The "soul" or transcendental level is said to be infused by the Divine Mystery to the extent allowed by the subject as animal.

The following paper lays out the specifics of this hypothesis, a theory that belongs to the functional specialty of systematics where the emphasis is not on foundations or doctrines but on the way in which theories can provide meaning to Christian doctrines. When completed we will have preliminary answers to such questions as:

-- Why do we start off as animals and only after many years take up the question of the Divine Mystery?

-- Are we animals or spirits or some combination of the two?

-- What are the stages that must be completed in order for an individual to become a truly human and humane being?

-- Where are the crises points, the nexus points, in the development of a human being?

Russell C. Baker

January 29, 2017

I have pointed . . . to the root difficulty, to [the] neglect of the subject and the vast labor involved in knowing him.

— Lonergan, The Subject

Being Human

Why this focus on Life-Cycles?

We are a symbol using species. The single greatest dynamic, ongoing, and creative act of any individual lies in their choice of not only who they are but what kind of universe within which they live. The former defines their incarnate meaning; the latter their world mediated by meaning. If chosen well, situations improve; if not, situations deteriorate to the point they may totally collapse. How these choices are made, how various influences come to bear, lies at the heart of any study of human life-cycles.