Wednesday, August 15, 2007

From Russell's Mysticism and Logic

"""""The possibility of this universal love and joy in all
that exists is of supreme importance for the conduct and
happiness of life, and gives inestimable value to the
mystic emotion, apart from any creeds which may be
built upon it. But if we are not to be led into false
beliefs, it is necessary to realise exactly what the mystic
emotion reveals. It reveals a possibility of human nature--
a possibility of a nobler, happier, freer life than any
that can be otherwise achieved. But it does not reveal
anything about the non-human, or about the nature of
the universe in general. Good and bad, and even the
higher good that mysticism finds everywhere, are the
reflections of our own emotions on other things, not part
of the substance of things as they are in themselves.
And therefore an impartial contemplation, freed from all
pre-occupation with Self, will not judge things good or
bad, although it is very easily combined with that feeling
of universal love which leads the mystic to say that the
whole world is good. """""

As Russell notes the Mystic (or his unsavory cousin, the occultist) in effect imposes his own narcissistic, "pre-occupation with Self" onto reality, and thus mistakes his own perceptions of Reality for the ding-an-sich: he continually fails to realize that "the reflections of our own emotions on other things [are not] part
of the substance of things as they are in themselves". The individual mind (i.e. the "mind" as a product of biochemical, neural processes in the brain) does not interpenetrate nature; McMoondoggie has no special, hidden connection to the granite or pines or other natural phenomena that he gazes at in wonder--indeed, as anyone who ever bothered to read Melville's Moby Dick realizes, any such nature mysticism would be far more horrorific and terrifying than the pastoral dreams of any Wordsworth-like New Agers, even ones who memorized their "Quantum physics for Bad Poets" 101 texts (we here at Contingencies generally prefer Russellian like skepticism to literary visions, but make exceptions for Melville--Mel. was spinning Road Songs 100 years before the Beats. Ishmael hisself resembles a Kantian skeptic to some degree). Queequeg's shark-demon pantheism, or Ahab's rage against the Whale, puts most Lovecraft pulp to shame (and Lovecraft's occultic stories--eloquent at times--- generally function as a type of sublimated racism--).

Nature mysticism is a rather typical affliction of lapsed-protestant do-gooders, or of aging college party boys (nazis of course were rather fond of nature mysticism as well, and occultism--"mysticism" then being a sort of pretense for, most likely, some Goering-like decadence). What's more the specific supernatural claims associated with mysticism are hogwash: the Amazing Randi (however quaint and rustic he seems, Randi debunks countless frauds) still offers 1 million dollars to any occultist or mystic or "psychic" who can demonstrate some paranormal event to a crowd of witnesses in an objective setting.

No comments:

Custom Search

Blog Archive