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Sylvest manuscript 2011
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  • 1. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011INTRODUCTIONAfter they had both heard the Gospel preached by the missionary bishop Paulinus, anadvisor of King Edwin of Northumberland said to him:The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which isunknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit atsupper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst,whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at onedoor, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm;but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into thedark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space,but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, thisnew doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.1Like King Edwin and his council of elders, who among us has not been warmed by life‘sgoodness, fed by its truth, inspired by its beauty? Even then, who has not also poignantlyexperienced the wintry storms of life‘s poverty in so many different forms, the hungerpangs of our ignorance regarding life‘s ultimate concerns and the always swift flight oflife‘s beauty from our sight? Prompting all of us to ask whether there might be more?To the extent that human life has always been an ongoing quest in pursuit of suchvalue-realizations as truth, beauty, goodness, unity and mercy, life‘s unavoidablevalue-frustrations have given rise to many questions with clear existential imperatives.What is that? Describe it. What is that to us? Evaluate it. How might we best acquire (oravoid) that? Norm it. Might there be more? Interpret all of that!Thus it is that humanity‘s perennial value-pursuits have given rise to life‘s many differentmethods --- descriptive sciences, evaluative cultures, normative philosophies andinterpretive religions --- each autonomous, all necessary, none alone sufficient, for everyvalue-realization. The value-pursuits of truth, beauty and goodness, in a context offreedom, comprise an essential axiology, or interpretive axis, presupposed even by anevolutionary epistemology.2Beyond this essential axiology, humankind has embarked on many different religiousquests. That is also to say, we have adopted many different interpretive stances toward1 Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, L.C. Janes 1903 TempleClassics translation, introduction by Vida D. Scudder, (London: J.M. Dent; New YorkE.P. Dutton, 1910)2 For a compelling example of such an account, see Goodenough, Ursula and TerrenceW. Deacon. 2003. "From Biology to Consciousness to Morality." Zygon: Journal ofReligion and Science 38 (December): 801-819.
  • 2. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011reality. The primary religious quest pursues truth, beauty and goodness, in a context offreedom, through a basic cosmology via a participatory imagination, which isrespectively engaged with historical, socio-cultural and economic concerns in a politicalcontext (freedom presenting in degrees). Beyond this cosmology, though certainly notwithout its perspective, a theological imagination then respectively engages these sameconcerns through creed, cult-community and code, in a context open to transcendence(what we might call an ―outside assist‖). A more distinctly pneumatological imaginationdivines, again respectively, more precisely how it is that we are thus oriented,empowered-sanctified and healed, in a context of being saved. The Christologicalimagination then breaks open these categories of human concern and divine interactivityelaborating various approaches to eschatology, ecclesiology-theological anthropologyand sacramentology within a context of soteriology-political theology. In no waynecessarily mutually exclusive, these various imaginative engagements of reality reflectthe urgency of our existential concerns with their forced and vital natures as eachinterrogates reality, once again, with that question born of our most insistent longings ---might there be more?While we will aspire to describe here some significant measure of the sought after unitybetween traditions through this account of humanity‘s common methods and sharedvalues, at the same time, this should in no way be mistaken for any facile syncretism,false irenicism or insidious indifferentism, for we will not be at all suggesting that everysuch engagement of humanity‘s forced and vital concerns is also, necessarily, a liveoption.3Still, what we may discover in this excursus is that, while many of our great and evenindigenous traditions can not in the final analysis be fully live options, theoretically, inthat they appeal to putative descriptions and norms that are on their face incompatible,they otherwise will have to be considered so, nonetheless, for all practical purposes,because it is just too early on humankind‘s journey to imagine that we can successfullyadjudicate between all such disparate approaches. This is also to suggest that not allaffirmations of religious plurality will be grounded the same way, methodologically,which is to say that some approaches may remain live options only because we remainignorant, while others may be live options, indeed, because they reflect merely alegitimate plurality of aesthetical expression, which is otherwise ordered toward the sametruth and goodness, and a bona fide diversity of ministry, though otherwise enjoying agreat unity of mission. Finally, in none of this will we be saying that it is too early onhumankind‘s journey to successfully adjudicate between at least some disparateapproaches, especially where it is patently obvious that a growth in human authenticity isbeing either wondrously fostered or miserably thwarted by this or that religious cohort.Of course, many approaches will lie between these extremes and will thus serve us,because they are, as they say, good enough, even if not optimal. The quest thus perdures!What we hope to offer in this collaborative exercise is an axiological vision of the whole3 Cf. The Will to Believe by William James. An Address to the Philosophical Clubs ofYale and Brown Universities. Published in the New World, June, 1896.
  • 3. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011of reality that will assist all those who aspire to foster a growth in human authenticity inthe members of their faith community. This vision, we hope, will also offer a meaningfulcontextualization of the Good News of Jesus Christ, one that answers humankind‘s quest--- not only for more, but --- for superabundance, pressed down, shaken together, runningover, poured into our laps.About Our Triads and TetradsFrom whence and whither the Fourthness of our tetradic arrangement of phenomenology,axiology, epistemology and theology, as well as the tetrads nested within them (i.e. thetriad within each immanent frame plus a fourth element of transcendence) ? Is it aPlatonic artifact? Certainly it makes no a priori claim on our metaphysics? Perhaps itsimply mirrors the functions of the human brain quadrants as inventoried by our Jungianintuitions? Clearly, in semiotics, it reduces to the irreducible Thirdness of Peirces modalontology of the possible, actual and necessary, as inspired by an axiology of truth, beautyand goodness, as modeled by an epistemology of icon, index and symbol?We have presented a tetradic architectonic within which we have framed our triadicphenomenology, trialectical axiology, trialogical epistemology and trinitarian theology,each situated in both immanent and transcendent frames. In one sense, perhaps implicit inour transcendent frames, we are simply recognizing realitys depth dimensions as realityconfronts us, respectively, with ontological vagueness, axiological frustration, epistemicindeterminacy and hermeneutical interpretation. In another sense, our radical finitude andfallibility leave us perennially wanting, always probing for something more. But is therenecessarily more?We have characterized our descriptive sciences, evaluative cultures and normativephilosophies as interrogations of reality, respectively asking: What is that? What is that tous? How can we, therefore, best acquire (or avoid) that? And we have recognizedinterpretive religion as a quest asking: Is there more where that came from? And suchultimate concerns, correspond to, in the case of what we would like to acquire, ourfondest existential hopes, and in the case of what we would like to avoid, our worstexistential fears. As they say, we thus hope vaguely and dread precisely. Mertondescribes these existential crises in terms of continuity (not mincing words, here, we allfear death in its many forms) and creativity (we all want to somehow matter and make adifference).In our view, it is precisely continuity and creativity that hold the key as we try to breakopen the portal of Fourthness to transcendentally gaze beyond our immanent frame. Ifreality is in any manner either pervasively triadic or tetradic, this does not necessarilyentail our eschewal of such dyadic conceptions as we use to describe such polar realities,for example, as true and false (principle of noncontradiction), either- or (principle ofexcluded middle), this not that (haecceity, Peirces nondescriptive reference), faith anddoubt, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, right and wrong. But we will discuss later howsuch First Principles as noncontradiction and excluded middle will either hold or fold ineach modal category of the possible, actual and necessary, particularly noting how
  • 4. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011metaphysical necessity often yields to probability in the Peircean category of Thirdness(which relates to laws, axioms, regularities and such). It is especially in this category ofThirdness that we can bring into sharp relief the tensions between pattern and paradox,symmetry and asymmetry, order and chaos, random and systematic, chance andnecessity, vague and specific, determinate and indeterminate, and, finally, Mertonsconcerns with continuity and discontinuity, creativity and insignificance.Might there be a root metaphor that would best capture Thirdness, Fourthness and all ofthe above-described polarities, dynamisms and tensions? And that might also unitivelyreframe the dichotomy of immanence and transcendence, presenting a single polar realityto be realized in measures of degrees?The best such metaphor, in our view, would be that of freedom, the deprivation of whichwe often describe as coercion, the dynamism of which we recognize as the political4,broadly conceived.In our triadic phenomenology, determinate reality issues forth (ex nihilo) precisely asnecessity kenotically prescinds to probability as the Creator shrinks to "free" newactualities from the realm of possibility. In our trialectical teleology, we grow in humanauthenticity (humanization is divinization is our theosis) precisely through a progressiverealization of freedom via ongoing intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical andreligious conversions. Lord Acton has clarified our confusion regarding this authentichuman freedom, which, per his counsel, we should not misinterpret as a license todo what we merely want, but as the liberty, rather, to do what we simply must. Freedomrealized down a path toward necessity? How dramatically ironic!Again, we encounter the utterly paradoxical but clearly efficacious kenotic dynamic ofself-emptying as we co-creatively participate in our own shrinking (imago Dei) to free upnovel realities from the realm of possibility in a reality framed by an aesthetic teleology,which realizes value precisely through the shedding of monotony and appropriation ofnovelty as our will is surrendered only to be transformed into a will that is free, indeed.The paradox lies in our striving to participate in the perichoretic dance of the EnsNecessarium, Who, necessarily, only loves, but with a love that issues forth from an utterfullness of freedom.In becoming a prisoner of love, paradoxically, we are thus transformed and realizeauthentic freedom. Perhaps this is what Maritain5 recognized as la dialectique immanentedu premier acte de liberté (the immanent dialectic of the first act of freedom).In our trialogical epistemology, we amplify the epistemic risks weve already taken in ourdescriptive sciences, evaluative cultures and normative philosophies in order to augmentour human value-realizations through an interpretive surrender that expands our horizons4 See Yong‘s In the Days of Caesar – Pentecostalism and Political Theology, Wm. B.Eeerdmans Piublishing Co. 2010.5 Jacques Maritain, Raisons et raisons 1947
  • 5. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011of concern thus freeing us up to realize new possibilities. Our trinitarian theologyprecisely addresses our most insistent human longings and most urgent existentialconcerns, again, inviting a paradoxical surrender to manifold assists coming to us frombeyond (Patrology) , beside (Christology) and within (Pneumatology) and promising tothereby set us free, indeed, in a word, saving us. In another irony, perhaps few understandthis as well as those who are marginalized socially, economically, culturally, politicallyand even religiously, or who are otherwise radically in touch with our radical poverty inour dependence on God. As Richard Rohr suggests, there are generally two routes totransformation – suffering and mysticism.In other words, we don‘t enter the monastery or undertake a life of prayer to make usbetter human beings — rather, we urgently and in crisis and seriously and radicallyplace the utter dependency and abject poverty of our selves (which are neverthelessgood) at God‘s disposal in order to be dramatically rescued. Thomas MertonPericean Thirdness, now conceived as necessity, next conceived as probability, might bereconceived in terms of realitys realization of various degrees of freedom, alwaysparadoxically gifted through surrender. As a single polar reality, both our immanent andtranscendent frames recognize it, even if in unfathomably different measures, as weparticipate in freedom in a way that is, at once, indeterminately transcendent, vaguelyimmanent, proleptically realized and always mediated, whether theologically,axiologically or semiotically. Fourthness thus conceptually reduces to that aspectof Thirdness which we experience as horizon, thirdness itself corresponding to variousdegrees of freedom in a reality that sometimes appears nearly wholly determined, whileat other times very much free, at least within what we might otherwise imagine to bereality‘s initial, boundary and limit conditions.It is further interesting to note that emergence, itself, relies on information loss (mistakeseven) in each introduction of novelty, in a teleodynamic process of alternating forgettingand remembering (anamnesis) that we‘ll explore later. It is no accident, then, thatstrategic sacrifice and surrender recur as a central motif in so many of our world‘sphenomenologies and theologies.About Our PathwaysIn the East, a distinction is drawn between the ―way of the baby monkey‖ and the ―way ofthe kitten,‖ the first way describing that of the ascetics in pursuit of Enlightenment,Knowledge and Wisdom, the second that of Devotion. The metaphorical implications arethat there is more effort on the part of the baby monkey, which must actively cling tightlyto its parent in getting transported around, while, as we are all aware, the kitten ispassively transported by the nape of its neck in its mother‘s teeth. I offer anotherdistinction, which is the ―way of the baby goose,‖ implying an imprinted following of theparent or an imitation of Action. Finally, we might consider the ―way of the babymartin,‖ which is familiar to any who‘ve observed the parents knocking a fledgling off ofthe Purple Martin House that it might thereby learn to fly, the implication here describing
  • 6. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011the Way of the Cross via formative, reformative and transformative suffering.If these are different path-ways, perhaps roughly corresponding to creed, cult, code andcommunity in our great traditions, where do they ultimately lead?We will explore, herein, how they are all ordered toward a unitive Life in the Spirit andare animated via Lonergan‘s conversions (intellectual, affective, moral, social andreligious) by the very same Spirit.One of the richest reflections on the contemplative life is in Merton‘s __New Seeds ofContemplation__, especially in the preface and first three chapters, which reflect on whatcontemplation is and is not and what the true self and false self are.We will engage Merton‘s formative spirituality at some length, but concise summarywould be that, 1) for our true self, our joy is found in God‘s glory; 2) our will is oriented to God‘s love; 3) the work of our journey is to co-create with God our identity through and withand in God; 4) that we may become wholly in His image, holy in His image; 5) when we do have our memory, understanding and will integrated andholisticallyoperative, we experience our true self but 6) this co-creation of our identity and this surrender of our memory,understanding and willto faith, hope and love are effected through theological virtue gifted by the Spirit by anelevation of nature through grace and transmutation of experience through grace and notby a perfection of the natural order by our natural efforts, which is to say 7) we are in need of salvation to overcome both death and sin and the mostfundamental vocational call we answer is 8 ) to be saved and then 9) transformed.An Ecumenical Pneumatological EcclesiologyA new generation of pentecostal scholars has entered into a credible dialogue withmodern science, modern philosophy and modern theology. These approaches haveprofound implications for ecclesiology. What is emerging is nothing less than anecumenical pneumatological ecclesiology.6 It criticizes our Western approach, which islargely discursive theology. It emphasizes that Life in the Spirit is also an experience.6 The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh by Amos Yong (2005 Baker Academic).
  • 7. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011They believe that our coming Christendom will be radically pluralistic, centered not inRome or Canterbury but variously in Seoul, Beijing, Singapore, Bombay, Lagos, Rio,Sao Paulo and Mexico City. The emphases in dialogue will be: 1) postmodern theologythat hears the voices of the marginalized 2) postpatriarchal theology 3)postfoundationalist theology that values methodological pluralism 4) postcolonialtheology that privileges local traditions, languages and practices 5) posthierarchical thatembraces dialogical and democratic processes 6) post-Cartesian theology that givesrecognition to the inductive, lived, existential and nondual character of reflectionalongside deductive, propositional, more abstract and dualistic forms of theologizing 7)post-Western and post-European theology open to engaging the multiple religious,cultural and philosophical voices of Asian traditions and spiritualities.A pneumatological approach to revelation will then be 1) transcendental – Spiritbreaks thru human condition from beyond ourselves 2) historical 3) contextual,concerned with real lives, real histories, real societies 4) personal, both interpersonal andintersubjective 5) transformational 6) communal 7) a verb not just a noun 8 )progressive & dynamic Spirit calls us to interpret, respond and act 9) marked by love,an unmistakable criterion for discernment 10) received by humble faith seekingunderstanding 11) propositional and resisting our fallen interpretations 12)eschatological.Getting from Is to OughtOur descriptive sciences and normative philosophies, in many ways, respectively, grapplewith the "is" and "ought" of reality. Beyond the most general of norms (that is also to saywithin the constraints of the initial, boundary and limit conditions of realitys givens), ourevaluative cultures will then otherwise enjoy and employ (co-creatively) the freedomweve been given, which we celebrate through a wonderful diversity of ministry andbeautiful plurality of expression, historically, socially, economically and politically.Historical tensions forever push and pull us between an uncertain future and unforgivingpast. But we continuously manage to get oriented and reoriented nonetheless.Social tensions have human dignity always precariously perched between individualautonomy and institutional necessity. But subsidiarity principles, when in play, will oftenenlighten and empower such decisions.Cultural tensions result from choices we must make between competing values. But weusually imagine that we and our choices can, perhaps, be sanctioned, maybe evensanctified.
  • 8. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We inevitably experience economic tensions as we fail in our willingness to distinguishbetween wants and needs and our ability to match needs with goods and services. Buthealing, in all sorts of ways, keeps coming our way.We experience political tensions (broadly conceived) precisely because reality presentsus with both coercion and freedom. But we always imagine that we can be saved,somehow, from realitys manifold and multiform coercions.How is it that humanity continues to be oriented, empowered – sanctified, healed andsaved albeit in ways that are variously (more and less) efficacious?Might these be tantalizingly proleptic (value-)realizations of realitys enticingly telicdimensions, which gently coax (and sometimes impolitically cajole) us along on whatseems to be a journey, on what undeniably is an adventure?7One compelling hypothesis is that, in many of our Great Traditions our interpretivereligions have gifted us with a pneumatological imagination, which discerns a Spiritactive in every aspect of our lives, broadening our horizons of concern beyond --- the starkly historical to the remarkably eschatological (orienting us); the simply social to the robustly ecclesiological (empowering us); a merely cultural to a fully theological anthropology (sanctifying us); the mercilessly economic to the mercifully sacramental (healing us). and the nakedly political to the compassionately soteriological (saving us);This Spirit, Who is holy, has broken open our philosophies with the novel questionsposed (although not answered) by our natural theologies and enlivened our sciences withan evocative poetry inspired by our theologies of nature.The reality of the Incarnation, Jesus, then further reveals how we are being: 1) oriented, as the historical tension between past and future has been transcended by One Who broke into our now from eternity --- not to transfix our gaze on the utterly beyond, but --- to infinitely transvalue the significance of our fragile, temporal existence (cf. the Lukan gospel narrative); 2) empowered, as the social tension between individuals and institutions has been transcended by One Who promised to be present where two or more are gathered7 Our essential axiology and basic cosmology already recognize a minimalist telos atplay in reality, prior to the more robustly telic dimension suggested by ourpneumatological imagination. Modern semiotic science has room for both the formal andfinal causations as analogs to those of a classical aristotelian metaphysics. Obviously, anemergentist perspective, which would admit such causations and telos, need not violatephysical causal closure. But neither would a more robustly telic dimension that isoperative at the level of primal reality in its initial, boundary and limit conditions.Scientific methods, which are empirical and probabilistic, relying on falsification, wouldnot, in principle, measure such improbable proleptic realizations, which otherwise getrecorded as inexplicable anomalies.
  • 9. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 in His Name and affirmed an even more radical solidarity in establishing --- not an earthly realm, but --- a Kingdom wherein belonging (community) and desiring (cult-ivation) enjoy a clear primacy over (even if not a complete autonomy from) behaving (code) and believing (creed) (cf. Sylvest & Yongs Contemplative Phenomenology, 2010 ); 3) sanctified, as the cultural tension between competing (and extrinsic) values has been transcended by One Who invites us to savor the intrinsically valuable approaches of faith, hope and love in the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness (cf. the Lukan narrative, Acts); 4) healed, as the economic tension between our needs and our means has been transcended by One Who, by initiating us all into a grand solidarity, has ushered in a compassion (that inevitably ensues from any awareness of our oneness) whereby a love begun in the Kingdom, now, will get perfected as it more fully comes to realization, eternally (cf. the Our Father); and 5) saved, as the political tension between realitys coercions and freedoms has been transcended by One Who deemed even equality with God as nothing at which one should grasp (cf. also the Magnificat); saved, as the political tension between realitys coercions and freedoms has been transcended by One Who deemed even equality with God as nothing at which one should grasp (cf. also the Magnificat);The tensions we experience present in many ways and are not confined to thoseinventoried and fleshed out above regarding our evaluative and interpretive methods. Ourdescriptive sciences and normative philosophies have their own tensions and paradoxes,some which we are able to dissolve such as through perspectival and paradigm shifts,some which we can successfully resolve dialectically such as through an Hegelian-likeapproach, some which we simply evade by ignoring, at least, for all practical purposes,and some which we discover can be maintained in a creative tension to our utmostedification. We cannot know a priori which paradoxes will thus submit to which strategy.Neither can we a priori know when it is that our knowledge is being thwarted onlytemporarily due to methodological constraints or permanently due to some type ofin-principle ontological occulting.What we do know is that reality presents us with values, affords us methods and providesus perspectives. It is a story of rewards, risks and relationships. Many of ourvalue-augmentations precisely derive from strategic risk-amplifications. But rewards donot come from risk, alone; rather, they result from properly managed risk. Riskmanagement involves a knowledge of reality‘s relationships, both its functional(objective) and personal (subjective) relationships. To the extent that much of reality isindeterminate and that certain of its relationships are not specifiable, it suggests thatmany of reality‘s relationships are interobjective, whereby we somehow recognize thatthere are various effects proper to no known causes even though we can in no way get athow this might be so due to an interobjective indeterminacy, which hints at some type ofduality or degree of ontological discontinuity . However, a great deal of reality is indeeddeterminate and specifiable, even if sometimes in varying degrees of epistemicdeterminacy and ontological vagueness, and we have been able to establish both thatthere are certain effects as well as how they are caused because such relationships derivefrom a type of intraobjective identity, affirming a nondual aspect to many of reality‘s
  • 10. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011functional relationships. Humankind‘s greatest value-realizations are intersubjective,relationships between persons. And the quality of these relationships, often measured indegrees of intersubjective intimacy, is very much determined by one‘s relationship to selfor one‘s intrasubjective integrity.The histories of philosophy and religion are littered with one school after another thatover- or under-emphasized some method, value or perspective (or some risk, reward orrelationship) in a fetish-like manner. This includes many of philosophy‘s so-called turnsand many of religion‘s schisms as well as all manner of insidious –isms, which weneedn‘t inventory here. We can affirm this – that methods precede systems. And we doaccept that epistemology models ontology. However, to the extent we affirm only afallibilist epistemology, any ontology will therefore be more than a tad tentative and anymodeling power will be, shall we say, weak. Our deontologies, then, should be as modestas our ontologies are tentative. We are not at all suggesting that one should not takeepistemic risks for these risk-amplifications are indispensable to ourvalue-augmentations. We do, however, aspire to properly adjudicate between thoseoptions that are indeed live vis a vis epistemic virtue and those that fall prey to either anexcess hubris or humility, respectively, the excesses of modernity (e.g. bothEnlightenment and religious fundamentalisms) or of any radically deconstructivepostmodernism (e.g. vulgar Rortyism).Any God-concept, suitably predicated apophatically, will take into account thisinterobjective indeterminacy. God‘s determinate nature, revealed in creation andamplified in special revelation, presents in a creative tension between some type ofintraobjective identity, for our autonomy can only be quasi-, and some type ofintersubjective intimacy, for this love has been revealed. Our own relationships to God,others and creation require a proper relationship to self or intraobjective integrity. All ofthese relationships can be cultivated through various ascetic displines and spiritualpractices. These are addressed more fully, below, under Formative Spirituality.What does it mean to express faith, hope, and love in the 21st Century (orPost-postmodern world)?We should amplify the risks we took when we moved from our exclusivisticecclesiocentrisms to a more inclusivistic Christocentricism by exploring a robustpneumatological inclusivism in our interreligious dialogue. Put simply, we should takemore risks in our faith outlook by being more open regarding where we expect to find theSpirit at work in our world, for example, among other peoples, in both sacred and secularsettings, thereby augmenting the value to be realized from a broader ecumenism.We should amplify the risks we‘ve already taken liturgically being more open to how it isthe Spirit can form our desires, recognizing that we can fruitfully adopt the spiritualtechnology of other religions, such as certain asceticisms, disciplines and practices,without necessarily adopting their conclusions, thus augmenting the value to be minedfrom desiring the Kingdom above all else and being sensitive to its less visible
  • 11. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011manifestations.We should amplify the risks involved in our dualistic, problem-solving mind, with itsempirical, rational, practical and moral approach to reality to engage reality moreholistically and integrally with our nondual mind and its contemplative stance thusaugmenting the value of relationship to God, others, the environment and even self.We should amplify the risks involved in our moral ventures by moving beyond ourlegalistic approach to moral realities in society to a more social justice orientedapproach, striving less for a theocratic and coercive moral statism and more for theestablishment of the Kingdom via our successful institutionalization of the corporalworks of mercy, thus augmenting the value to be mined on behalf of those who‘ve beenmarginalized.We should amplify the risks involved in conducting a more scientifically rigorousBiblical exegesis, unafraid of historical-critical methods, literary criticism and honestJesus scholarship, thus augmenting the value of the Good News for all people of theworld through enhanced reliability, credibility and authoritativeness.We should amplify the risks involved in ministering to the world throughnoninstitutional vehicles, affirming them as partners and mining the value they create inthe ecclesiological models they afford us, egalitarian models that are free of clericalism,paternalism, hierarchicalism, colonialism, parochialism, sexism, institutionalism and soon, thereby augmenting the value to be realized from a more dutiful engagement of theSensus Fidelium.The Risk-based Approach to Value-RealizationFaith, hope and love are adventures in that they involve risk or what Pascal called awager. And it is a grand cosmic adventure in which we are invited to participate as weunconditionally assent to the proposition that the pursuits of truth, beauty and goodnessare their own reward. This quest, itself, becomes our grail. This journey becomes ourdestination.As we observe this 13.7 billion year old universe, notwithstanding humankind‘scumulative advances in science, philosophy, culture and religion, questions still begregarding the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos. There is, however, anoverarching narrative that begins to address these questions. It is the story of Emergence.Emergence gifts the universe with an increasing complexity as its novel structures andproperties present the beauty that surrounds us. It is a complexity, however, that iswilling to run the risk of disintegration. The greater the number of bifurcations andpermutations involved in any given system, the more fragile. And, the more fragile, themore beautiful. Put most simply, an emergent cosmos amplifies risk and thus augmentsbeauty.
  • 12. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011These are realities we can understand without the benefit of special divine revelation. Wehave explored how: A descriptive human science queries reality asking: What is that?Our evaluative human culture inquires: What‘s that to us? And our normative humanphilosophy then aspires to answer the ensuing question: How do we best acquire or avoidthat?The answers we have derived for these perennial questions take the form of truth, beautyand goodness.And while each individual asks these questions everyday, as radically social animals,these values are realized in community. Because we are radically finite, henceneedy, we form communities of value-realizers. Thus we talk about the scientificcommunity, philosophic community, cultural community and so on. Each suchcommunity, in its pursuit of value, in its own way, embarks on a risk-taking adventure,amplifying risks in order to augment our human value-realizations of truth, beauty andgoodness.The scientist, for her part, ventures forth with hypotheses that are inherently falsifiable bydesign. The philosopher, for his part, articulates a provisional closure, which isrepresented as this school or that. Human culture has been a veritable laboratory, whereinour falsifiable sciences and provisional philosophies have played out as anthropologicalexplorations, as we know, sometimes to humankind‘s utmost benefit but, all to often, tohumanity‘s everlasting dismay.Before we introduce competing meta-narratives, or axes of interpretation of reality, wealready observe our communities of value-realization in pursuit of the intrinsicallyrewarding values of truth, beauty and goodness. And we observe science, philosophy andculture harvesting these values in abundance in what is an inherently spiritual quest.Before our interpretive narratives (religions) are introduced, our descriptive, evaluativeand normative narratives are in place, as a cosmology, amplifying risks and therebyaugmenting our value-realizations. In this regard, they might very well be consideredboth necessary and sufficient.Still, as the ultimate value-realizer, our species might naturally wonder: Is there,perhaps, more?In our distinctly human way, most of us not only wonder but also pursue more truth,more beauty and more goodness, than is already realizable by science, culture andphilosophy. In so doing, we ask: How does all of that tie-together? And this re-ligationquery is a distinctly religious question. It is, then, the interpretive aspect of our axiology.Now, if science, culture and philosophy, each in their own way, comprise a risk-venturein pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness, amplifying our epistemic, normative andevaluative risks toward the end of augmenting these intrinsically rewarding values, thenwhat inheres in the very fabric of the religious quest is a further amplification of risks.These amplified risks are nothing less, then, than faith, hope and love.
  • 13. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011It is no accident, then, that the world‘s literature has ubiquitously employed the journey,the quest, the adventure as its root metaphor for the religious quest and that its preferredallegory has been an erotic love that risks all for the sake of all.We‘ve come a long way in this presentation without addressing the postmodern influenceon our 21st Century expressions of faith, hope and love. And if you‘ve hung in here withme thus far, know that we‘re now on the threshold of describing the postmodernprescription for what has ailed our modernistic religious quest.The chief problem with the modernistic approach to the religious quest is that it losttouch with the essential risk-taking nature of faith, hope and love. Perhaps due to ournatural human anxiety to banish all mystery, perhaps due to our rather feeble ability totolerate ambiguity, and perhaps due to our insatiable need to either resolve, dissolve orevade all paradox, humanity has largely surrendered to a neurotically-induced hubris thatimagines that all mystery has thus been comprehended, all ambiguity has thus beeneliminated and all paradox is subject to either synthetic resolution, perspectivaldissolution or practical evasion.The practical upshot of such hubris is that we begin to imagine that there are no risks toundertake, much less amplify, no further values to pursue, much less augment, no queststo launch, no journeys on which to embark. Life, then, is no longer an adventure.The chief malady of such a malaise is that an insidious ennui settles over us. It‘s not somuch that we think we have all the right answers, which is bad enough, but that weimagine that we even have all the right questions. Our science devolves into scientism.Our culture caves into a practical nihilism. Our philosophies decay into a sterilerationalism. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether our planet will go out witha silent ecological whimper or a fiery nuclear holocaust.Our religion, for its part, gets hyper-eschatological with heavenly notions that are of littleearthly use. A once enchanted world becomes inhabited with terribly disenchanteddenizens.Modernism, in its pretense, bottled up the elixir of risk and offered us instead a vileconcoction that it mistook for some type of truth serum, a formula with all the answers,which diluted any risk. It‘s ingredients included a fideism, which walled itself in to ahouse of language game mirrors claiming immunity for religion to cultural critique. Italso mixed in an inordinate amount of theological nonrealism due to a hyper-activedialectical imagination that approached God as not only wholly incomprehensible (whichHe is), but as not even partly intelligible (which She is). It suggested that no reasonscould be given for religious belief as if all reasons necessarily derived from empirical andrational argumentation with their informative propositions and epistemic warrants, when,so much of human reasoning, instead, is prudential and moral with performativesignificance and normative justification.
  • 14. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Put much more simply, modernism overemphasized reasons of the head and relegatedreasons of the heart to history‘s propositional dustbin.A radically deconstructive postmodernism, in one of philosophy‘s most tragic ironies,ends up being nothing more than a hypermodernistic outlook, with great hubris putting apriori limits on human knowledge … except, well, for one singular exception, whichwould be the limits they refuse to place on their own anthropology. In their caricature ofall human communication as language games, the Wittgensteinian fideists misappropriateWittgenstein as they saw off the epistemological limbs wherein their own ontologicaleggs are nested. In their anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, both the social constructiontheorists and the scientistic cabal do away with the very analogia that fuel both highlytheoretical science and speculative cosmology. This is just as insidious as the tautologiesthat were inhabited by those who bought into Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche andothers, whose anthropological conclusions were buried in their reductionistic premisesand hidden in their cynical definitions.None of this is to deny that we do not all inhabit elaborate tautologies with their variouscircular references, causal disjunctions, infinite regressions and question begging. It is tosuggest that not all tautologies are equally taut and that we can and should attempt toadjudicate between them based on such anthropological metrics as provided byLonergan‘s conversions (expanded by Gelpi): intellectual, affective, moral, sociopoliticaland religious.And this is not to claim that such sociologic metrics are readily available or easilyinterpretable but, come on folks, some religious cohorts are rather transparentlydysfunctional, wouldn‘t you say? And judging different approaches to faith by employingsuch pragmatic criteria is admittedly not robustly truth-conducive but it is certainlyreasonable to imagine that it is truth-indicative. Our inability to finally discriminatebetween all religious approaches, some which end up being quite equiplausible, even ifnot equiprobable, does not make our approach moot; rather, it makes it problematical. Itdoes not mean that we do not have reasons (and very good reasons, at that) to embraceone faith approach and to eschew another; it only means that those reasons will not beuniversally compelling.Faith, hope and love in the 21st Century will look like an adventure. It will look like arisk-filled adventure where believers run the cosmic risk of disintegration inself-emptying kenotic love. Like Pip in Great Expectations, we will embark on a searchfor our Benefactor. Like Mark Twain‘s Huckleberry Finn, we will be a people of hope,always looking in expectant anticipation for what‘s around the river‘s bend. Like thecosmos, itself, and with the grand Cosmic Adventurer, we will actively participate, notwithout some moaning and groaning, in the great act of giving birth.Faith, hope and love in the 21st Century will look a lot more like that time ofenchantment in the early days of Christianity, when the apostles and disciples and closestconfidants of Jesus, Himself, took great risks in following Him. It will look a lot less likethat self-righteous certitude of fundamentalistic religion, scientistic philosophy or even,
  • 15. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011ironically, a social constructionist nonrealism. These are, in the end, very pessimisticanthropologies whether gnostic or agnostic. We simply cannot a priori know howknowable or unknowable reality will turn out to be.It makes a lot more sense to believe that, as we progressively enhance our modelingpower of reality, albeit in a very fallibilist way, our concepts and constructs andcategories are making some of our tautologies much more taut vis a vis reality writ large.And this includes our God-concepts, which, in-principle, must be inherently vague. Ifthere is a grand telic design and we actively participate in same, there is every goodreason to hypothesize that the inexorable advance of human knowledge gifts us with amore coherent outlook on both proximate and ultimate reality. To the extent weunderstand reality better, the analogs we apply to ultimate reality will improve. This isnot to deny that such analogs will invoke an infinite number of dissimilarities overagainst the similarities they will reveal. It is to affirm that those similarities, howevermeager, have profound existential import because they pertain to a VERY BIG reality,indeed.Over against any radically positive theology (kataphasis) of the gnostics, fundamentalistsand rationalists, and over against any radically negative theology (apophasis) of theagnostics, nonrealists and fideists, a postmodern theology eschews both an epistemichubris and an excessive epistemic humility in favor of a Goldilocks approach that is justright, an epistemic holism with an integral approach to reality.In our postmodern milieu, science, culture, philosophy and religion are intertwined.When one advances, they all advance. When one regresses, they all regress. This is not tosay that they are not otherwise autonomous methodologies. A postmodern theologyrecognizes and affirms this autonomy. It is to say that these approaches to reality areintegrally-related in every human value-realization. They are, then,methodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral.Enhanced modeling power of reality, whether in science, culture, philosophy or religion,translates into an enhanced modeling power of reality writ large. We best not set thesevalue-pursuits over against or in competition.A modernist rationalism is a failed risk-management technique, attempting todomesticate this risk and ameliorate its adventuresome nature. A modernist fideism is afailed risk-elimination technique, attempting to immunize faith from critique by reducingit to mere expression. Only a constructive postmodern approach can successfullyretrieve, revive and renew our sense of adventure, enchantment and risk-taking, invitingus anew to journey on a quest for a grail worthy of our ineradicable human aspirations formore, a LOT more!Thus we amplify our risk in our pursuit of truth into a faith, often articulated in creed; inour pursuit of beauty into a hope, often celebrated in the cultivation of liturgy and ritual;in our pursuit of goodness in love, often preserved in our codes and laws; in our pursuitof community, often enjoyed in our fellowship and unity of believers. Thus humankind
  • 16. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011augments truth, beauty, goodness and unity in creed, cult, code and community. Thuswe participate in the grand cosmic adventure, amplifying risks and thereby augmentingvalues, courageously running the risk of disintegration as God‘s fragile, but beautifulcreatures.Retrieval, Revival and Renewal DynamicsWhile propositional or theoretical or creedal aspects of a movement are not unimportant,there seems to be a much greater emphasis on the primacy of the participatory andpractical and experiential aspects. Thus questions of ecclesiology and pneumatology, orhow to be church and respond in the Spirit, are being answered existentially in the waywe live and move and have our being. One could not better describe our 20th Centurychurch-emergent.To the extent theological breakthroughs occur, there are no new discoveries inanthropology, soteriology, Christology and eschatology, providing new propositionsabout what it means to be human, what is wrong with humanity and how to fix it, WhoJesus is and why our hopes are fixed on Him.Rather, there are rediscoveries of the truths long articulated in our creeds, of the beautieswell cultivated in our celebrations of liturgy and ritual, of the goodness well preserved inGod‘s laws and of the fellowship long enjoyed in our communities. There are correctionsin various over- and under-emphases as we then eschew any decay (seemingly inevitable& recurring) of dogma into dogmatism, ritual into ritualism, law into legalism &moralism, and institution into institutionalism. The latest iteration of our church-emergentprecisely emulates such retrieval, revival and renewal dynamics.And there is a reawakened nurturance of creative tensions as we re-cognize that life‘sdeepest paradoxes remain ours to exploit, transformatively, and will not otherwise yieldto our attempts to resolve (dialectically thru synthesis), dissolve (perspectivally thruparadigm shifts) or evade (practically by ignoring) them, reductively, as happens withlife‘s lesser paradoxes of science, philosophy and metaphysics. Our world remainsenchanted and needs re-enchantment, on an ongoing basis it seems, but only in our stancetoward reality and not in Nature, Herself, which is enchanted through and through!When it comes to life‘s most important questions, then, the church-emergent du jourprecisely resists the fundamentalistic, rationalistic, reductionistic strategies of dualisticproblem-solving and nurtures a robustly nondual contemplative stance toward ourultimate concerns.The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls areexposed to passions it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes,which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo. … … Take away paradoxfrom the thinker and you have a professor. ~ Soren KierkegaardTo the extent our anthropologies, soteriologies, Christologies and eschatologies do get
  • 17. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011rearticulated propositionally, there does seem to be an ongoing and ever-growinguniversalizing tendency (an ecumenical and inclusivistic catholicity) to affirm theradically egalitarian nature of the Good News as we better come to realize — overagainst our own marginalizations, hierarchicalisms, colonialisms, patriarchicalisms,clericalisms, sexisms, ecclesiocentrisms, exclusivisms, traditionalisms, institutionalisms,gnosticisms and, finally, even movementisms — that, sooner or later, the Gospel‘spreferential option for the poor will be consolation for every last one of us. To paraphrasePogo: ―We have met the poor and they are us.‖So, as the Spirit moves when He wills, where She wills, how They will, may the Spirit ofGod‘s love, now, move within me and you and all. That‘s the fugal movement thatperdures even as other movements, most assuredly, do come and go. When we lookcarefully at what is going on, what we call emergent, in one sense, might be there-emergence of a reality that, inevitably, gets submerged, time and again. It‘s areignition and conflagration of a Fire lit long ago.Emergence also has a more generic sense and, in that sense, is inextricably associatedwith novelty, a reality that will not go away for those of us who buy into telos, aninexorable movement built into the very fabric of creation. What seems radically new ishumankind‘s conscious appropriation of emergentist dynamics and how they possess anautopoietic (self organizing, for better or worse) trait, which is to say that we now knowwe can harness some evolutionary impulses and possibly kedge forward8 with a moreconsciously competent emergence, shaping and forming9, as co-creators10 the unfoldingof the Kingdom that we desire (Ps. 37:4). Conversely, we ignore this dynamic andforsake this movement at our own peril.The Nature of Our Theological ConvergencesTo the extent our discussion often primarily involves a consideration of methods,practices and experiences and not, rather, belief systems, conclusions and propositions,and given our conversation‘s postfoundational orientation, what emerges will not alwaysbe in the form of arguments in the strict sense. Instead, we are discovering a convergencethat is more so of nonpropositional nature.This is to say that this convergence does not articulate, for example, a new narrative archof a distinctly descriptive, normative or speculative nature, which would be acosmological enterprise. Rather, this convergence has an axiological trajectory, which isto say that it fosters a harmonic resonance of an evaluative, interpretive or existentialnature.Interpretively, we are coming away with a deepened sense of solidarity. Evaluatively, weshare a profound sense of compassion. We share, then, a great unity of mission even as8 cf Mike Morrell & Frank Spencer‘s website – need url9 cf. Jamie Smith‘s ―Desiring the Kingdom‖) need citation10 cf. Phil Hefner
  • 18. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011we recognize our diversity of ministry and acknowledge our plurality of belief systems.What emerges, then, is not so much a convergence of metanarratives but, instead, ofmeta-perspectives. It is a convergence of perspectives that conditions HOW we will firstsee and experience reality, so to speak, desiring the Kingdom, and not of narrativessetting forth WHAT we will eventually think about reality in order to somehow argueand prove the Kingdom.A lot of people, who remain immersed in dualistic mindsets with their problem-solvingorientation to all of reality, have a difficult time evaluating such conversations. For somany, apologetics is primarily evidential, rational and presuppositional, proceeding withempirical, logical, practical and moral reasoning. And, by all means, this approach toreality is indispensable and necessary. When it comes to life‘s deepest mysteries, moreultimate concerns and most significant value-realizations, however, we must go beyondthis dualistic approach and engage reality with a more nondual, contemplative stance.So, when we speak of a convergence in our conversation, we are not suggesting a novelset of concepts and categories. Neither should one look for a specific political agenda. Itis not a convergence of moral reasoning, such that emergent folk will all necessarilyshare the same positions on one moral reality or another. Even regarding cosmologicalmatters, we are not suggesting a convergence of views regarding such things asphilosophy of mind, theological anthropology, divine interactions and so on.A distinctly nonpropositional convergence of shared practice and shared experience, of adeepened sense of solidarity and heightened sense of compassion, will very muchcondition our approach to environmental & social justice, ecclesiology, worship andJesus. Notice how these are not primarily propositional realities but are, first andforemost, relational realities. We are not first preoccupied with getting answers right as ifwe were mostly dealing with ideas. This convergence is not about getting the correctrelationships between ideas, whether through a harmony of reasons or even intuitions.This is about realizing the right relationships between humankind and God,ourselves and one another, ourselves and nature and even our relationship to ourown self.This harmonic convergence, then, is like a symphony of many instruments, each with itsown sound and timbre, all playing together in the same key, in harmony and to therhythm of the same Drum. This is not to deny, however, that to the extent that we areconditioned, shaped and formed by a convergence of nonpropositional influences, that itwill not eventually transvalue our more propositional approaches, effecting theirconvergence also. It will. But that requires a great deal of patience.Beyond socialization, we are opening ourselves up to ongoing transformation and a deepdesiring of the Kingdom. We experience a deep desiring for environmental and socialjustice in solidarity with and compassion for humankind and our cosmos. Ever moreidentified with Jesus and His deep desiring of communion with the Father, we long forthe coming of the Cosmic Christ. Our ecclesiology is more ecumenical and egalitarian as
  • 19. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011we go beyond institutional structures (and not necessarily without them) seekingauthentic community in manifold and multiform ways, wherever two or more can gatherin His Name. Our worship becomes the practice of the Presence of God as we seek anabiding relationship with Him – not Whom we possess, but – Who possesses us.In solidarity and sharing this same deep desiring, we may otherwise differ in HOW wesee justice playing out morally, practically and politically, in HOW we see the Kingdomunfolding eschatologically and metaphysically. And we can abide with these differencesbecause of our deep humility and deep love for one another, encouraging and forgivingone another, sharing a vision THAT in the Kingdom all may be well, all will be well, allshall be well and we will know that all manner of things shall be well.Our conversation, then, is less about positions and more about dispositions, about beingdisposed to a Deep Awareness, Deep Solidarity, Deep Compassion, Deep Humility, DeepWorship, Deep Justice, Deep Ecology and Deep Community. That these realities will playout in our lives we are confidently assured. How they will play out is something weexplore in humility and civility with all people of goodwill. Ours is foremost a sharedaxiology, interpretively and evaluatively, of what we deeply desire and deeply value.We share practices that shape, form, cultivate and celebrate these desires and values. Webelieve that, one day, this will lead also to a shared cosmology, descriptively andnormatively, consistent with the best science and best philosophy.―Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what youdesire.‖ Thomas MertonTriadic Phenomenology – Relationships: Word, Community & Spirit Economic Trinity & Immanent Ontological Frame Intraobjective Identity as Word Science – the physicalScience vs Natural Theology vs Theology of NatureWe should aspire to be clear regarding this project or the other regarding whether or notone is doing science, philosophy or theology. And we mustn‘t forget religion! And if oneis talking about ALL of these spheres of human concern, in which sphere do they begintheir conversation? and, in which do they end up?Except for the classical ―proofs‖ by Aquinas and Anselm, and CS Peirce‘s ―NeglectedArgument for the Reality of God,‖ and the Modal Ontological Arguments as crafted byGodel and Hartshorne only to be lately and greatly improved by Christopher McHugh,we wouldnt consider much of what is going on, nowadays, to be natural theology or anatural philosophy of God. There is just not THAT much that one can say, in our view,
  • 20. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011about God, using philosophy as a starting point, at least not when methodologicallyrestricting one‘s musings to the rubrics of formal argumentation. The same is true for anyother notions regarding ―ultimate‖ or ―primal‖ reality, using either philosophy or scienceas a starting point. All anyone thus establishes is a modicum of epistemological paritywith alternate worldviews, i.e. elaborate tautologies.Don‘t get us wrong. We are not at all dismissive of these enterprises, which demonstratethe reasonableness of faith (or, for those of you who consider this too strong, that it is notunreasonable or is, for what it‘s worth, as reasonable as other interpretive stances vis avis their Scottish verdicts). For some, they have been indispensable parts of our journeys.For most, though, we‘ve been told they don‘t matter very much. And we trust what theyreport. Still, some say that they‘ve enjoyed many fruitful dialogues with manynonbelievers who do seek such apologetics and have thereby grown in mutual respect andunderstanding and self-understanding.Worldviews, thankfully, are not mere formal arguments. They represent deeply andprofoundly experienced existential orientations and ultimate concerns. And, if they areauthentically re-ligious, they ―tie life‘s experiences back together‖ and heal us that wemay survive and grow us that we may thrive. If we are not experiencing both healing andgrowth, both broadly conceived, well, that‘s what the Prophets are for! They remind usthat we are to be about the actualization of value.The interface between science and theology is not terribly interesting, philosophically,unless our project is to disambiguate their definitions. If it remains interesting, even earlyin the 21st century, it is only because so many scientistic and fideistic apologists arearguing past each other, precisely because they‘ve neglected the work of philosophicaldisambiguation, which understandably can be difficult subject matter.Unlike philosophy (natural theology) and science, wherein we bracket, best we can, ourtheology, in a theology of nature we start with God and see His presence in all thingsand hear Her siren song from all places! From a different explanatory stance, we breakout in analogy and metaphor, poetry and song, allegory and parable, joke and koan, storyand dance, ritual and sacrament! And we speak of trail dust and stardust, quarks andsupernovae, maidens and sailors, the Cosmic Adventure (John Haught) and the DivineMatrix (Joseph Bracken), leaping whitetails and creeping lizards, bright indwellingpresence and luminous dark nights,hope and love and faith …The Implications of a Semiotic Theological Anthropology for the InteractionBetween Science and ReligionSome Traditional DistinctionsThe human mind has been described in many different ways over the years bypsychologists, philosophers, theologians and others. In psychology, it has been describedin both structural and functional terms, both by its parts and by their activities.
  • 21. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Psychology coursework typically combines sensation with perception, emotion withmotivation, learning with memory, personality with development. There are Jungianterms like sensing, intuiting, thinking, feeling, perceiving and judging and Freudian termslike ego, id and superego. Philosophers have drawn a distinction between the brain andthe mind. Most recognize distinctions like conscious, subconscious and unconscious.Neuroscientists describe a neuronal network that is distributed throughout the body.Theologians speak of memory, understanding and will. A host of other terms come tomind, like cognitive, affective, instinctual, inferential, noninferential, empirical, logical,practical and relational. One might also find the categories normative, descriptive,interpretive and evaluative helpful.In philosophy, there is a branch of study called epistemology, which is concerned withhow it is that we know what we know and just what it is that we might know, when wesay we know something. In theology, belief has been justified as evidential, when basedon evidence, rational, when based on reason, presuppositional, when based oninescapable suppositions, and existential, when based on ultimate concerns. Inpsychology, different developmental theorists have studied human growth. The bestknown are probably Piaget (cognitive), Erikson (personality), Kohlberg (moral) andFowler (faith). Lonergan, as a systematic theologian, described growth in terms ofintellectual, moral and religious conversions to which Gelpi has added affective andsocial conversions. Normatively, Lonergan gave us the famous transcendentalimperatives: Be attentive! Be intelligent! Be reasonable! Be responsible! Be in love!For every distinction listed above, there are further distinctions. We need not treat all ofthese nuances; however, just for example, let‘s further examine human inference. Peirce,the founder of American pragmatism, described three types of inference, all whichpresuppose the others, from the strongest form to the weakest, as deductive, inductive andabductive inference. Generally speaking, one might think of deductive inference inassociation with formal logical argumentation. Inductive inference is most oftenassociated with the scientific method. Abductive inference might best be thought of ashypothesizing. Abduction is, then, informal argumentation and its ―methods‖ are quiteoften what might otherwise be known as logical fallacies in formal argumentation. Thisdoes not mean that it should be readily dismissed for this is how we do most of ourcritical thinking, which is to say, fallibilistically. For example, so often, with only verylimited information, we necessarily find ourselves reasoning backwards (retro-ductively)from known predicates (or properties) of a reality to unknown subjects (of variousclasses, sets or subsets). We find ourselves venturing guesses as to what reality or type ofreality we may have encountered and employing analogies in our references to anddescriptions of such realities, when we otherwise cannot determine (epistemically) orspecify (ontologically) this reality versus another. Sometimes, we wonder if this or thatreality is novel, even? It is through such alternating conjecture and criticism, then, orwhat Popper called falsification, that much of human knowledge has advanced. This isnot to say that knowledge has not also advanced, on occasion, through various leaps andbounds, or what Kuhn called paradigm shifts.Another pivotal distinction is that between a theory of truth and a test of truth. For our
  • 22. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011purposes, a conventional understanding of truth will suffice in place of any otherwiseelaborately nuanced theory. A test of truth is a process that helps us navigate toward thetruth while not otherwise constituting the truth in and of itself. A truth-conducive process,like deductive inference and formal argumentation, navigates us more or less directlytoward the truth. A truth-indicative process, like abductive inference, navigates usindirectly by, at least, raising the probability that we are approaching the truth. As theweakest form of inference, abduction needs to be bolstered by repeated testing, which isto say, inductively. Beyond these rather simple, straightforward rubrics for humanknowledge-advances, there are long histories and many competing schools in philosophyand theology and their interactions have not always been dialogical and irenic. At the riskof oversimplifying all things epistemological, we suggest that much of the confusion hasbeen rooted in dualistic thinking which has viewed reality rather facilely in either-or andall or nothing terms, too often viewing what are mere distinctions as full blowndichotomies, too often mistaking partial truths for the whole truth, and too oftenabsolutizing perspectives that are indeed relative to one‘s frame of reference. In theology,there is a word for such thinking, heresy. In philosophy, there is an adjectival suffix,-istic.Some Additional DistinctionsSociologically and linguistically, we would like to introduce some additionaldistinctions11 that are based on whether or not our concepts have been negotiated(accepted into general use, more or less) by the wider pluralistic community. Those thathave been thus negotiated have theoretic status. Those still-in-negotiation are heuristicdevices or conceptual placeholders. Dogmatic concepts are employed withincommunities of belief but have not been negotiated by the wider pluralistic community,more broadly conceived. Semiotic concepts are those presuppositional notions withoutwhich meaning and communication would not even be possible.Toward a Philosophical AnthropologyOur purpose, thus far, has been to introduce enough categories and distinctions to provideeach different member of what might be a rather diverse audience some handles withwhich to grasp our meaning and intent as it relates to our philosophical anthropology.Foundational to any theological proposal, one must have a philosophical anthropology, aperspective on humankind‘s psychological make-up that is grounded in good biologicalscience and sound evolutionary epistemology. The history of philosophy has beencharacterized by one overemphasis after another, which is to say one – istic perspectiveafter another, whether the empiricistic, rationalistic, positivistic, idealistic or pragmatistic.Its history might best be summed up as the struggle between the more static essentialisticand substantialistic approaches and the more dynamical nominalistic and process-likeapproaches, which are but the obverse sides of the same coin of an otherwiseepistemically and ontologically bankrupt dualistic realm, which transacts in aphilosophical currency that has no practical cash value for most of us who get along quite11 Sylvest & Yong 2010
  • 23. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011well with good old common sense. The history of theology, which takes philosophy as itshandmaiden, necessarily fares no better as its approaches can alternately be similarlydescribed as evidentialistic, rationalistic, fideistic and pietistic. One might justifiablywonder if, down through the centuries, an epistemic fetish is all one could be expected tocome away with after a formal academic engagement of these disciplines.Perhaps that‘s what those in the modern scientistic cabal must think? No doubt, that‘swhat the radically deconstructive postmodernists must imagine with their nihilistic bent?Do the arationally gnostic mysterians have the only mindset that can transcend theseotherwise mutually unintelligible epistemic stances and totally incommensurableontological approaches?Because of their overly facile dyadic approaches, neither an essentialism nor anominalism, neither a substance nor a process approach, can account for the novelty weencounter in reality. Our known categories of givens include the primitives (like space,time, mass & energy), forces (like electromagnetism, gravity, strong & weak nuclear) andaxioms (like the laws of thermodynamics & quantum mechanics). While it may be tooearly on humankind‘s journey for us to epistemically determine with any ontologicalprecision the exact nature of such novelty in terms of our known theoretic givens, ourinability to robustly describe this novelty does not mean that we can not otherwisesuccessfully refer to it with good heuristic devices. To be clear, the novelties we aredealing with include those involved in the Big Bang and its earliest moments, the originof life and the dawn of human consciousness.The question that should be begging for our readers, now, is just what is the mostsuccessful way to refer to reality, phenomenologically, even if we cannot otherwiserobustly describe it, metaphysically? What concepts and categories can we mostprofitably employ and what rubrics for relating them would be most fruitful in theirapplication?What can we reasonably aspire to say about reality without saying more than we knowabout such realities as the origins of life or human consciousness or even the cosmos,itself?It is beyond the scope of this consideration to set forth the details of our ownphilosophical journeys through these questions to our present provisional closures, butwith a great deal of enthusiasm we can recommend the approach of the Americanpragmatist, Charles Sanders Peirce, as it has been employed and articulated by thebiological anthropologist, Terrence Deacon12, and the systematic theologian, DonaldGelpi, S.J.. While we will not unfold the arguments of these scholars in any detail, neitherwould we want our enthusiasm to be mistaken for an academic pretension to either a fullunderstanding of their work or a comprehensive grasp of its implications.Deacon, for his part, employs an emergentist heuristic, which has also been well12 Deacon‘s Symbolic Species
  • 24. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011articulated by, and on several occasions even co-authored with, Ursula Goodenough, aprominent cell biologist and popular author at the interface of science and religion.Deacon and Goodenough are very circumspect in not telling what are otherwiseuntellable tales, as they comprehensively refer to many different natural phenomenawithout exhaustively describing them. In their popular writings, they take one on acosmic journey where properties, even reality‘s laws, are seen to emerge, firstthermodynamically, as mere shape interactions, then morphodynamically, as shapeinteractions playing out over time, and finally teleodynamically, as a consequence ofshape, time and information. These orders of emergence refer to progressively higherorders of regularities, which are causal configurations. For all science can tell,teleodynamics, or 3rd order emergence, as Deacon and Goodenough say, define the onsetof telos on this planet and, for all we now know, the universe. They go on to develop acorrespondence between the human virtues of compassion, fair-mindedness, care andreverence with the inherited pro-social capacities of empathy, strategic reciprocity,nurturance and hierarchy, suggesting various symbolic accessions and syntheses wherebyour otherwise innate groundings are complexified and transfigured into uniquely humancapacities. In our view, this is hypothetically consonant with Gelpi‘s Peircean-nuanceddefinitions of selves as autonomous functioning tendencies (think higher orderregularities and telos) and of human persons as selves capable of conversion (think ofGelpi‘s Lonerganian account of conversion).In any case, the human capacities for virtue can be realized both intuitively andimaginatively as well as rationally and inferentially. Because humans are finite and learnfallibilistically, each human value-realization attempt leads to an uncertain outcome,which is to recognize that it requires a wager or risk. As such, the augmentation ofhuman value-realizations must be successfully managed through various riskamplification and risk attenuation strategies, which is to further recognize that we mustbe able to cash out the practical value of our concepts and risk amplification-attenuationstrategies in what is our perennial pursuit of goodness, radically finite as we are. Thus itis that many fallacies of formal argumentation are employed in everyday common senseleading us fallibly but probabilistically toward value-realizations.For example, if it is true, we believe that it is also beautiful and useful, leading us tovarious attraction or avoidance strategies in our value-realization pursuits. While theconverse, if it is beautiful or useful, then it is also true, is not necessarily true, still, we doraise the probability of something being true in our recognition that it is either beautifulor useful because if something is neither beautiful nor useful then the possibility of itbeing true is nil. Thus it is in science that we employ Occam‘s Razor and othertruth-indicative criteria like simplicity, elegance, parsimony and symmetry. Thus it is intheology that orthopraxis grounds orthodoxy. Our existential orientations toward truth,beauty and goodness, which are innately grounded in our inherited pro-social capacities,get transfigured into the theological imperatives of faith, hope and love as a humanvalue-augmentation strategy requiring the amplification of the epistemic risks alreadyentailed in the normative sciences of logic, aesthetics and ethics. In our religiouscommunities, truth is thus articulated in creed, beauty celebrated in cult or ritual, andgoodness preserved in code. Such is the nature of the Kierkegaardian leap and of the
  • 25. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Pascalian wager.Questions That Beg – Toward a Theological AnthropologyOur emergentist account, appropriately modest in its description of thermodynamics,morphodynamics and teleodynamics, leaves profound existential questions begging,questions which leave all in wonder and awe, many in reverential silence, and many moremusing imaginatively about what we would refer to as the proto-dynamics that gave riseto and the eschato-dynamics that might ensue from this emergent reality we haveencountered. Some employ a root metaphor, like being or experience, to elaborate aspeculative metaphysic. Others dwell in analogical imaginations, inchoately relating toultimate reality through robust metaphors and sweeping metanarratives. While our ownPeircean-informed sensibilities do not ambition a metaphysic (and we feel there is noattempt better than Gelpi‘s own triadic construct of experience), they are suggestive of apneumatologically informed theology of nature, precisely derived from an analogy thatone might draw between the Peircean telos, as minimalistically conceived in Deacon‘steleodynamics, and the work of the Spirit, as broadly conceived in all of humankind‘sgreat traditions and most native religions, also.Our proposal is that what humankind relates to as an ineluctably unobtrusive but utterlyefficacious tacit dimension comprised of a matrix of dynamical formal causal relationswould, from an hierarchical perspective, correspond to a divine telic dimension, muchlike the interpenetrating causative fields of John Haught‘s process approach and aestheticteleology, much like Joseph Bracken‘s Divine Matrix. We would point out that thisconception is not an attempt to facilely blend otherwise incommensurate approaches, forexample the Whiteheadian process versus Gelpi‘s Peircean account, and we do recognizeand endorse the efficacies of the triadic over the classically dyadic (even di-polar)accounts. Rather, from a phenomenological perspective, we are invoking vaguelyreferential analogs as heuristic devices or conceptual placeholders, recognizing thatmetaphors and analogies are not, in and of themselves, system-bound. In other words, ourrobustly pneumatological imaginations are relating our triadic and social humanexperiences of phenomenal reality, with all of its many different patterns and regularities,to what we consider putative divine supremacies. We are not otherwise attempting, in theleast, to account for manifold and multiform continuities and discontinuities betweendifferent orders of reality. We do believe that any who ambition a metaphysic must bothaccount for divine alterity as well as differentiate the moral status of the human fromother selves and creatures. All of this is to suggest that, because of the pervasive ubiquityin the use of the concept of Spirit down through the ages and still across the face of theEarth, arguably it meets the criterion of enjoying theoretic status contrasted with thedogmatic status of so many other theological concepts. In this regard, we might affirmwith Radical Orthodoxy that, over against any notion that there exists a secular societywrit large, as abstracted and reified by a militant but not truly regnant nihilism, our planetis inhabited, rather, by a pneumatologically-informed but broadly pluralistic community.With the Reformed epistemologists, we might affirm that being-in-love in the Spirit is anecessary and sufficient epistemic risk amplification for any who‘d aspire to mostrobustly (superabundantly) augment human value-realizations beyond those inherited as
  • 26. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011pro-social biases and transfigured (abundantly, to be sure) into our authentically humanmoral virtues.The Relations of Science and ReligionWhat are the implications of this theological anthropology for the interaction betweenscience and religion, viewing reality pansemioentheistically, employing the epistemiccategories of the normative, descriptive, interpretive and evaluative and characterizingour concepts as semiotic, theoretic, heuristic and dogmatic?To the extent that we map science as a descriptive enterprise and religion as aninterpretive enterprise and affirm them as autonomous methodologies but stillintegrally-related in every human value-realization, there can be no talk of conflict, asreigns in the scientism of the Enlightenment fundamentalists and the literalism of thevarious religious fundamentalists. Our axiological perspectivalism with its explicitintegralism speaks of a model of interaction that coincides with Ian Barbour‘sIntegration, John Polkinghorne‘s Assimilation, John Haught‘s Confirmation and TedPeter‘s Hypothetical Consonance (and Ethical Overlap).In some sense, the very basis of a semiotic approach is grounded in the need forinformational interpretation, a need that derives from the radical finitude of creatures, aneed that plays out in our fallibilistic methodologies and heavy reliance on the weakerforms of inference, both abduction and induction, such as in the back-door philosophy ofPopperian falsification and the informal argumentation that predominates, even mostlycomprises, our common sense. The implication is, then, that absent this finitude andgiven a virtual omniscience, descriptively, and omnipotence, evaluatively, the normativesciences would consist of only aesthetics and ethics, logic would be obviated and thedescriptive and interpretive would be a distinction without a difference, which mightdescribe, in fact, an idealized eschatological epistemology whereby humankind as acommunity of inquiry has attained to the truth. At any rate, to be sure, that is manifestlynot the case, presently.One practical upshot of this situation is that there need be no Two-Language Theory asdiscussed by Peters or Two-Language System as described by Peacocke, at least from ouridealized theoretical perspective; however, from a practical perspective, science andreligion will seemingly traffic in two languages because, if for no other reason, the latteris dominated by dogmatic and heuristic conceptions, the former by semiotic and theoreticconceptions. These need not be conceived as two languages, from a strictly linguisticperspective, but might better be conceived as two vocabularies that are slowly merging.There is another reason for religion‘s expanded vocabulary, though, but that derives fromthe fact that it has additional concerns (e.g. interpersonal) that are of no special interest toa purely scientific quest or merely descriptive enterprise. It is in that vein that one mightinvoke what Barbour and Polkinghorne have called Independence and Haught hasdescribed as Contrast. Willem Drees has developed a schema that more explicitly
  • 27. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011recognizes that religion has additional elements than the merely cognitive-propositionalas much of religion‘s content rests on both religious experience and tradition.At this point, one might recognize that the various categories that have been employedfor the interaction between science and religion are not all mutually exclusive. Thecategories we employ in our axiological perspectivalism are methodologically-autonomous but epistemically related and this noetic reality is affirmed whenever ascientist normatively invokes Occam ‘s razor, parsimony, symmetry, elegance or otheraesthetic criteria to adjudicate between competing hypotheses. Thus it is that, wheneverany methodologically autonomous realms do not fully overlap, but only partially overlap,and are placed in what Haught calls Contact, we would urge what Barbour andPolkinghorne suggest as Dialogue.AnticipationsFrom the standpoint of interreligious dialogue, this hermeneutical circle of the normative,descriptive, interpretive and evaluative might be interpreted in terms of orthopathy,orthodoxy, orthopraxis, orthocommunio, each as an aspect of a religious interpretationwhich presupposes the other aspects. From a practical perspective, these distinctions arecritical because they imply, for example, that the orthopathic aspects of our spiritual―technologies‖ – by which we refer to the various spiritual disciplines, practices,asceticisms and devotions, for example – are not (necessarily) inextricably bound to anygiven doctrinal insights. Thus we would expect continued fruitful interreligiousengagements such as have already been realized between Christianity and Zen, forexample, and would encourage further orthopathic dialogue and exchange. Mosttheologians already recognize this dynamic, prudentially speaking, in their willingness toabstract orthopraxes – or moral and practical aspects – out of their doctrinal contexts inother traditions. Also, metaphorical and analogical language (ananoetic knowledge) is notsystem-bound, so our depth encounters of reality can be enriched by our interreligiousananoetic interchanges, which can provide common ground to explore together ourtheologies of nature, especially from a pneumatological perspective. We believe thisapproach can help prepare an ever more fertile ground for interreligious dialogue as ourorthopathic, orthopraxic and ananoetic exchanges prepare the way to a much sought afterunity even as we continue our search to discursively identify the commonalities in ourotherwise diverse and pluralistic belief systems.We can discuss the philosophic focus of human concern in terms of the normativesciences. These sciences, in their mediation of our interpretive and descriptive foci will,in the final analysis, always come up short in rationally demonstrating and empiricallyproving our competing worldviews and metaphysics. We do want to ensure, normatively,that any of our competing systems at least minimalistically gift us with sufficientmodeling power of reality such that we can establish an epistemic parity with othersystems. Once we have established a modicum of equiplausibility or equiprobability, wemight then invoke a type of equiplausibility principle to guide us in our existentialchoices. And such a principle can (should) adhere to normative guidelines for informal
  • 28. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011reasoning based on our abductive and retroductive inferential modes, which arepresupposed in our triadic inferential dynamism along with induction and deduction.Here we reason from predicates and properties back to subjects and essences (nonstrictidentities) in order to gain a probabilistic edge over otherwise arbitrary decision-makingand prudential judgment. Thus we invoke parsimony, simplicity, elegance, beauty,symmetry, utility, goodness and other aesthetical and ethical and logical existentialorientations, advancing notions like Pascals Wager, for example, and taking courage toleap with Kierkegaard. And it is here that we would propose that these philosophic normstransist into theological virtue, which we propose might be understood in terms of theamplification of risks toward the augmentation of value. As we gather from HaughtsCosmic Adventure and aesthetic teleology, the more fragile the more beautiful. And, aswe know from nonequilibrium thermodynamics, the greater the number of bifurcationsand permutations in a structures composition, the more fragile ---because it runs a greaterrisk of disintegration--- hence, the more beautiful. So, the leap, the wager, from aphilosophic epistemic virtue to a theological virtue, from logic and aesthetics and ethicsto faith and hope and love, is an amplification of risk (kenosis as risk of disintegration)toward the augmentation of value, an increase in truth, beauty and goodness, mediated bycreed, cult and code in community, both a philosophical community of inquiry and atheological community of lovers.We are not, in any manner, suggesting that we believe that this is what many, or evenmost, people are doing consciously. This is how we conceive the underlyingdynamism for common sense as practiced by humanity, whether consciously or not,competently or not.Our affinity for Peirce comes from our appreciation of his pragmatic logic and theory ofmeaning and affirmation of metaphysics as a valid but fallible enterprise. Beyond that,we otherwise sympathize with the analytical approaches and the advocates of commonsense and any other approaches that incorporate some type of fallibilism or criticalrealism. And beyond that, we really are not looking for additional epistemological ormethodological rigor other than that practiced by conventional science and that enjoyedin colloquial usage (including the "leap" of faith) and subject to linguistic analysis.It is our simple thesis that most people are competent in their interactions with realitybecause we have evolved that way. That is a tautology, to be sure. But it is a taut one,empirically. Peirce is exactly right in his use of the analogy of a cable with many strandsor filaments to explain human knowledge. The reason most people are competent is thatthey have enough strands. We are also fallible, because no one has them all.Epistemology searches for an eschatological ideal that would account for every strandand epistemologists argue about the attributes of differently-stranded cables. Good forthem. But these arguments, in my view, reach a point of diminishing returns where, forall practical purposes, the differences in their positions become so nuanced as not to berelevant to me vis a vis my value-realization pursuits.Ontologists, for their part, argue about how high they have rope-climbed these cables and
  • 29. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011what vista they have taken in, cosmologically, or how low they have descended into thedeepest structures of matter to discern realitys microstructures. Their arguments, too,reach a point of diminishing returns vis a vis my value-realizations.Although there is no theoretical constraint on how high or low humankind can travel,hoisting itself on its epistemic cables, for all practical purposes, our radical finitude limitsour horizons vis a vis humanitys ultimate concerns. And this, then, places us in deepsympathy with Wittgenstein, Pascal, James, Kierkegaard et al with my qualifying provisobeing that faith takes us beyond but not without reason, which is to recognize that we doneed different strands to construct our cables and that some cables are indeed better thanothers. Which strands are necessary and how many of them are sufficient isProblematical. What would make for the ideal cable is highly problematical. We think itis fair, then, to talk in terms of adequacy, abundance and superabundance (or degrees ofparticipation, if you will) when it comes to epistemic cables vis a vis value-realizations.We might think, for example, of Lonergans transcendental imperatives: Be attentive,empirically. Be intelligent, semantically, such as in our naming exercises, criticallyexamining our referents, concepts and terms as they variously describe or refer torealities. Be reasonable, logically, whether in formal or informal argumentation,especially employing common sense. Be responsible, prudentially, in our practical andmoral deliberations and judgments and in our analyses of actionable norms, guided byequiplausibility principles. Be in love, affectively, relationally interacting with realityguided, orthopathically, by authentic aesthetic sensibilities and a grammar of trust, properassent, dutiful fidelity, a felt sense of solidarity expressed in compassion and bybeing-in-love (storge, philia, eros and agape).Now, one of our central contentions is that a philosophical anthropology that does notrecognize and affirm a human exceptionalism is not empirically demonstrable andtherefore not philosophically defensible. Further we contend that such a philosophicalanthropology does not necessarily derive from a Peircean-informed perspective, neitherfrom a religious nor a secular outlook. For example, we largely resonate with UrsulaGoodenough and Terry Deacon, who have set forth what we interpret as a naturalisticaccount of human exceptionalism. However one defines the epistemic filaments thatcomprise the human cable of knowledge per the Peircean metaphor, epistemology is thestudy of which of the filaments are necessary and how many of them are sufficient.Beyond the necessary and sufficient, epistemologists also want to know what mix mightbe epistemically optimal.Presumably, because of our finitude, we are all operating suboptimally, some merelysatisficing, minimalistically, others variously enjoying epistemic abundance andsuperabundance. One doesnt have to be a self-aware, consciously-competentepistemologist to realize human values because human common sense evolved as fastand frugal heuristics that probabilistically guide us toward knowledge, sometimesunawares. People with the requisite common sense are enjoying epistemic efficacies fromthese probabilistic heuristics. The normative and evaluative mediation of humanknowledge-advances and value-realizations are grounded in these probabilistic heuristicsand can be rendered, in fact, in terms of informal argumentation based on retroductive
  • 30. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011abductions that reason (backwards) from predicates to subjects, or, we might say, fromvarious properties to various modal realities. (If it is elegant, it is true. If it is useful, it istrue.) That is why Occams Razor works, sometimes. Thats how and why parsimony,symmetry, elegance, simplicity and utility work, sometimes.The epistemic efficacies, or gnosiological significance, of the logical and aesthetical andethical sciences, or of truth and beauty and goodness, derive from the fast and frugalheuristics of an ecological rationality gifted by natural selection. When these heuristicsare modeled like informal arguments, their fallibile and probabilistic nature is plain tosee. Because we are fallible, our value-realizations involve risk-ventures. Risk venturesinvolve risk-management. The amplification of risks, within reasonable norms,augments human value-realizations. Like all other epistemic risk-taking,risk-amplification toward the end of value-augmentation is normed probabilistically andcan be guided by equiplausibility (or even equiprobability) principles, which mightsuggest, for example, that one is acting within ones epistemic rights, only when onesrisk-ventures are life-giving and relationship-enhancing.The concepts and terms employed in our various belief systems can be categorized assemiotic (if nonnegotiable, cross-culturally), theoretic (if negotiated), heuristic (ifstill-in-negotiation) and dogmatic (if non-negotiated). Ones belief system, even whenarticulated with dogmatic and heuristic concepts and terms (in addition to the requisitesemiotic and theoretic ones), enjoys epistemic parity with competing perspectives aslong as one is acting within ones epistemic rights as guided by the actionable normsderived from acceptable equiplausibility principles, which have been established in a,more or less, pluralistic community. Ones beliefs enjoy epistemic warrant in acommunity of value-realizers when one establishes epistemic parity with competingsystems, acts within ones epistemic rights and articulates those beliefs using onlysemiotic and theoretic concepts and terms. A communitys acceptance of actionablenorms and establishment of semiotic and theoretic terms and concepts is, itself, atruth-indicative, probabilitistic (hence, still fallible) guide to optimal value-realization.The creeds, cults and codes of religious communities thus represent existentialrisk-ventures, Pascalian wagers and Kierkegaardian leaps, that go beyond (but certainlymust not go without) the philosophic risk-taking of the normative sciences of the widerpluralistic community in a risk-amplification ordered toward optimal augmentation ofhuman value-realizations of truth, beauty, goodness and unity. Which communities enjoyepistemic parity with competing interpretive systems and meet the criteria of actingwithin their epistemic rights? Which do not? Those are sociologic transactions, thecurrency of which is the pragmatic cashing out of values, not as a theory of truth(truth-conducively, as they say) per se but as a darned good test of truth(truth-indicatively).We consider ourselves minimalist realists, fallibilists. We draw our inspiration fromPeirces pragmatism (or pragmaticism). Theologically, then, the only thing we need in ourepistemic suite to do the God-encounter is our common sense and a receptive heart. Theexistentialists and reformed epistemologists think all we need is that receptive heart. The
  • 31. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011classical rationalists think all we need is deductive inference. The presuppositionaliststhink the God-idea is axiomatic, as indispensable as other unprovable notions like beliefin other minds, first principles and the intelligibility of reality. The evidentialists think allwe need is inductive inference. The cumulative case folks think all we need is abductiveinference.Peirce teaches us that inferential thought is irreducibly triadic and each inferential processpresupposes the others and that, when our inferential processes end in a stalemate orScottish verdict, we then necessarily fallback on our noninferential approaches to reality,like our receptive hearts, in order to adjudicate between competing actionable norms. So,as in theology, it is our view that in epistemology, heresy consists of our making a partialtruth into an absolute. So, just like in theological apologetics, some folks adopt aperspectivalism that gives each of our epistemic witnesses to revelation a voice, ourappropriation of the Peircean triadic logic is a nonfoundational perspectivalism that isholistic. Unlike those theological perspectivalists, however, who turn to Scripture as thenormative perspective, we have somewhat of a positivist bent, which is to say that, forepistemology, broadly conceived, we do not consciously get into fallback modenoninferentially until the stronger types of inference have failed us, which theynecessarily will vis a vis our ultimate concerns. Even then, where the heart comes in --whether via beauty or goodness, we interpret as a type of informal reasoning, aprobabilistic, truth-indicative sign.This is synthetic thinking, not systematic (which is for philosophers and theologians).This book sets forth an exploratory heuristic as a meta-critique of religiousepistemologies and theologies of nature, hence, a nonfoundational perspectivalismnormed by common sense and a receptive heart (inspired by Peirces pragmatic logic) anda pneumatological theology of nature, a pansemioentheism, suggested by vagueanalogical references but not otherwise aspiring to robustly systematic descriptions.In terms of Lonergans imperatives, the descriptive is a focus of concern that requires theepistemic virtue of being attentive. The normative requires being reasonable and beingresponsible. The interpretive requires being intelligent in our naming exercises. Theevaluative requires being-in-love, broadly conceived. Peirces pragmatic logic guides usin properly relating these epistemic foci and virtues such that our existential orientationscorrespond to transcendental imperatives. Our distinctions between the dogmatic,heuristic, theoretic and semiotic draw inspiration from and are a concrete application ofthe pragmatic maxim coupled with Peirces eschatological definition of truth and is alsoan affirmation of pneumatological realities that are at play in the sensus fidelium andconsensus gentium.Our nonfoundational perspectivalism is very much like John Frames perspectivalism (hisreligious epistemology) which integrally relates the evidential, rational, presuppositionaland existential methods of apologetics, except for the fact that his normative perspectiveis Biblical, while ours is Peircean vis a vis the normative sciences. While we deeplysympathize with the existentialist, fideist, presuppositionalist and reformedepistemologies, it is our rather mundane contention that beauty and usefulness guide us to
  • 32. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011truth and goodness because they are retroductive abductions with probabilisticsignificance that gift us, truth-indicatively, with a higher probability of realizing the truththan other more arbitrary criteria based on chance, alone. The same is true for thetruth-indicative criterion of community consensus. Beauty, pragmatic utility andcommunity consensus are informal arguments but fallacies of formal logic; whenintertwined together as individual filaments in our epistemic cables they gain epistemicstrength, even if fallibilistically. We are not wholly disagreeing with other epistemologiesin the belief THAT orthopathic and orthopraxic dynamisms are efficacious but offeringmy philosophic defense of HOW and WHY they work, as well as suggesting that whilethey may even enjoy a certain methodological primacy and even autonomy in matters ofultimate concern, this is true only after they have established epistemic parity withcompeting worldviews and only when operating within their epistemic rights vis a visequiplausibility principles (life-giving and relationship-enhancing). They are nototherwise autonomous systematically vis a vis the other perspectives required for allhuman value-realizations.Using a paradigm of risk-amplification/attentuation for value augmentation, weappropriate Haughts aesthetic teleology, ontologically, and we relate the theologicalvirtues to other epistemic virtues, epistemologically. Normatively, the implications arethat, in our search for a root metaphor to articulate a speculative metaphysics, we mustemploy an emergentist heuristic in order to robustly account for the novelty that we willencounter in reality, a novelty that corresponds, hypothetically, to various degrees ofparticipation in the divine matrix, ergo, also accounting for meaningful differences in themoral status of emergent modal realities, meta-ethically, and affirming a divine alterity,theologically.Beyond these minimalist formulations of theological virtue --It may be that Spirit, broadly conceived, is a theoretic concept, crossculturally?It may be that this is an empirically defensible sociologic datum? This would beconsistent with the suggestion that the term secular society is a reification, that our worldcommunity is, rather, a pneumatologically-informed pluralistic community andoverwhelmingly so, demographically. Radical Orthodoxy may thus have some validpoints regarding same?It may be, too, that, all things otherwise being equal theoretically and essentially vis a vishumanitys ultimate concerns, belief in Spirit is indeed epistemically warranted (beyondmere epistemic parity) practically and existentially, consistent with the Reformedperspective?Even if the Spirit is not nonnegotiable for human values, broadly conceived, it mightcertainly approach nonnegotiability for any whod choose the path of normativerisk-amplification in pursuit of such value-augmentations as would be fueled byhumanitys ultimate concerns? So, to the extent that humanitys existential orientations toultimate concerns are in play (and in whom are they not?) and to the extent that the Spirit
  • 33. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011would thereby be a semiotic concept, then this would be consistent with thepresuppositionalist perspective?These are stronger positions to defend philosophically than what we have argued withinthese pages, but it is our belief that our exploratory heuristic provides the categories andthe empirical thrust by which these epistemic hypotheses can be evaluated as sociologicdata. It may be that narrowly conceived dogmatic formulations of religion, as strawgods,are deservedly in retreat, but belief in Pneuma writ large remains compelling and vital inour new age and, arguably, as indispensable as ever to any truly robust augmentations ofhuman value-realizations.Let the half-gods depart that God may appear (borrowing phraseology fromEmerson)!If we, as created co-creators, indeed participate in and are indwelled by our Creator in adynamic Creator-creature relationship, then all dualistic conceptions of this relationshipmust give way to nondual approaches. There is a great deal of value that has beenrevealed by and that can be realized through our cosmology via its triadic constellation ofdescriptive science, evaluative culture and normative philosophy. Many report that thereis even more value to be had if one allows this constellation to then spin around theinterpretive axis of religion.If there is one thing that the great traditions and even many indigenous religions seem tohave in common, then it would seem to be the notion that this Creator-creaturerelationship involves a Lover, a beloved and the love dynamic, itself, most often calledthe Spirit. Whatever else may be going on with onto-theologies and theo-ontologies andsuch root metaphors as being, substance, process or experience, we must recognize ourcreaturely autonomy as quasi (not inconsistent with the formal modal distinction ofScotus). So, too, it must be with this dynamic love triangle, wherein we recognize ourotherness as also quasi. If we are not wholly autonomous in the intraobjective dimensionof our experience, wherein we interact in realitys dynamic unfolding, however thatactivity might be conceived, neither are we wholly other in the intersubjective dimensionof our experience, wherein we interact, hopefully, as lovers do.That we are never wholly autonomous or wholly other in any dimension of ourexperience is precisely due to our constitutedness as spirit in a perduring intrinsicrelationship to the Spirit, a relationship that, for better and worse, is vectoral(characterized by both magnitude and direction). This is all to recognize that, like allparticipatory dynamics, theres an implied range of motion whereby one can participate ornot and in varying degrees. The Spirit, we might suggest, is never timid (always present)but always coy (ever unobtrusive), a gentlemanly suitor, Whod not force His way in, buta seductive siren, Wholl not stop singing from around the bend.As in any relationship, the Creator-creature dynamic is characterized by elements ofvulnerability and risk, sacrifices, even, of that which is good for that which might bebetter. Theres a divine kenosis, in fact, in the act of creation, itself. This self-emptying ordelimitation is like a fugue playing in every dimension of our co-creative reality as weshed monotony and appropriate novelty, augmenting value-realizations through allmanner of risk-amplifications, running even the risk of disintegration in the pursuit of
  • 34. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011more truth, beauty, goodness and unity.The quasi-autonomy of creation is a "managed" risk, reminiscent of my old banking tropethat profits do not come from risk-taking but from superior skills at managing risks.However one might conceive of such boundaries and limits, or laws and axioms, in adivine kenotic act of self-delimitation, the Ens Necessarium "relaxed" its boundary andlimit conditions in devising the initital conditions of creatures and creation thus processedforth with regularities, habits, tendencies, capacities, or an agapic Spirit, if you will,coaxing it along in a dance of discovery toward a divine romance.The cosmos, for its part, gave itself over to emergence dynamics as it surrendered to astate far from equilibrium, where novelty could be teased forth from the bifurcations andpermutations that were compounded in the formation of each dissipative structure,structures that, in running the risk of disintegration, experienced increases in fragility thatwere only to be exceeded by their increases in beauty.Animals emerged whose behavior became increasingly plastic only because their brainprocesses became decreasingly algorithmic, which is to say more capable of error. Butthe animals exploited these errors, where different parts of otherwise discrete memoriesbecame dissociated from each other only to be recombined in novel (mistaken) ways.Their brains became open-ended rather than close-ended processors as mere icons andindexes gave way to symbols (mistakes) that presented models (more and less perfect) ofreality that could compete with reality, itself, for the animals attention and responses.This is to say that predicates could now be stripped from their subjects, properties fromtheir objects, accidents from their essences, and combined in novel ways (even biggermistakes) to tell stories and make myths, some which, lo and behold, evoked novel butappropriate (adaptive) responses to reality. Mistakes were being exploited by creatures astheir algorithmic, rule-governed behavior became progressively de-limited, moreopen-ended, an imago Dei dynamic, to be sure.Homo sapiens thus emerged as the symbolic species, modeling reality throughstory-telling and myth-making. This modeling abilty was very rudimentary and was,ironically, a tad too rule-governed and dualistic in its conceptions. This is to recognizethat humankinds epistemology was not modeling realitys ontology very well. For aparticipatory reality which was governed much more so by probability and much less soby necessity, which had initial, boundary and limit conditions that were much morerelaxed and much less fixed, which was profoundly relational, triadic and semiotic andmuch less empirical, logical and dualistic --- well, when it came to 1) logic, there wasway too much emphasis on the deductive and inductive and not enough attention given toabduction; 2) reason, there was way too much emphasis on conceptual map-making andnot nearly enough on participatory imagination; 3) aesthetics, there was way to muchemphasis on art as imitation & mimesis, as essentialism and formalism, and not enoughon art as expressivism and instrumentalism; 4) ethics, there was way too much emphasison the deontological and contractarian and not enough on the teleological(consequentialistic) and aretaic (virtue); 5) paradox, there was way too much emphasis onits resolution through dialectic, dissolution through paradigm shifts and evasion throughpragmatics and not nearly enough on the exploitation of its creative tensions; 6) firstprinciples, there was way too much emphasis on the excluded middle andnoncontradiction of actualities & necessities (radical empiricism and logical positivism)and the folding of noncontradiction in possibilities (metaphysics run amok) and way too
  • 35. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011little emphasis on the folding of either-or thinking (excluded middle) in probabilities; 7)causations, there was way too much emphasis on efficient causation, while materialcausation was taken for granted, and not nearly enough attention paid to the emergentrealities of formal and final causation (essential to the study of semiotics); 8) and so onand so forth.The practical take-away is that a participatory ontology can gift us with an enhancedmodeling power for reality. And this does not really challenge the notion that methodsprecede systems because a participatory ontology is not really a system but is a practice,which is to say, a method, an approach to reality, an interpretive axis, a confessionaltheological stance that is moreso practical and not so much speculative. It inspires a turnto community because it invites one to love and be-loved via the Spirit. It allows us toleverage up our cosmological approaches of descriptive science, evaluative culture andnormative philosophy through the orthodoxic, orthopathic and orthopraxic riskamplifications known as faith, hope and love, which augment our value-realizations oftruth, beauty and goodness. Think Eucharist. Do Eucharist.Next time you encounter a mistake, an imperfection, a blemish, an uncomfortable arousalfrom a serene equilibrium --- welcome that Cross with open arms. Its the paschalmystery come to call and great things are about to happen --- if you hold on loosely butdont let go. Thats the divine fugue and your co-creative calling to bring an even greaterharmony into a love relationship. What does this mean in terms of esse? or the immanenttrinity? Heaven if I know. And its increasingly hard to care less these days.Ontology – the metaphysicalIs Metaphysics Moonshine?Look at some of the words and phrases associated with studies of consciousness:... the explanatory gap, the hard and easy problems, functionalism, eliminativism,epiphenomenalism, interactionism, panpsychism, intrinsic monism, representationalism,nonreductive materialism, nonreductive physicalism, property dualism, substancedualism,dual aspect monism, cartesian dualism, eliminative materialism, mentalism,weak supervenience, strong supervenience, logical supervenience, ontologicalsupervenience, higher order theory, multiple drafts theory, neutral monism, aristotelianhylomorphism, quantum theory of consciousness ...And think about some of the ideas associated with theoretical physics:... indeterminacy, superluminality, nonlocality, superpositioning, complementarity ...It is enough to make anyone feel a little tipsy.Whether we are studying speculative cosmology or speculative cognitive science, fromthat end of the Great Chain of Being, where consciousness emerges, to that end near theearliest moments after the Big Bang, where we encounter the deepest structures of matter,
  • 36. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011ineluctable paradox confronts us.Despite the incredible complexity these realities present, our attempts to eliminate theparadoxes they generate are rather simple. They essentially boil down to four basiccategories: 1) revisions of our logic; 2) revisions of our descriptions of causality; 3)propositions of incompleteness or hidden variables; and 4) submission to reductioarguments.Revised Hermeneutics?Proposed revisions to our logic and our understanding of causality, respectively, dealwith epistemology and ontology, while propositions regarding hidden variables involvecosmology. Whether we attempt to resolve paradox with epistemological, ontological orcosmological revisions, we soon learn that the descriptive problems we are faced with areintractable and that every time we open a new interpretive window, reality shuts anotherhermeneutical door. Often, our last resort is a reductio argument, demonstrating themanifest absurdity of a given revision, but science, in its inexorable advance over thecenturies, has justified the issuance of a caveat emptor on any casual rejection of thecounterintuitive.How, then, are we to revise our logic? What epistemological tool do we abandon first?Excluded middle? Noncontradiction? Bivalence?And what about causality? What ontological determinations are we to give up? the Real?the Possible? the Actual? the Necessary?Which of our cosmological descriptions should we change? the Primitives? the Axioms?Perhaps we should not only break with our bivalent logic constructions,epistemologically, but also our realist conception of inquiry, ontologically?ProblemsEpistemologically confronted by godelian incompleteness, ontologically faced withfriesian undecidability and cosmologically challenged by peircean unlimited semeiosis,are we the servants of our own formal symbol systems, unable to transcend them to seethe reality that our language and thought are supposed to represent? Is there any way,rather, that language could be our servant, a calculus always subject to reinterpretation aswe employ it in our progressive attempts to model reality? Whatever the case may be,one thing is certain: a priorism is clearly untenable.Let‘s back up.Does philosophy have to be confronted with the challenges of modern speculativecosmology and speculative cognitive science in order to recognize humancognitive limitations? And what precisely is at stake? The status of various truth
  • 37. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011propositions or merely the establishment of these limitations? Can we escape theepistemological, ontological, cosmological, and even axiological and teleological,cartesian dilemmas?SolutionsIt is our thesis that, prior to any confrontation by modern cosmology or cognitive science,we can prescind from our metaphysical perspectives to positions of both ontological andcosmological agnosticism, gaining virtual meta-ontological and meta-cosmologicalvantage points. Such a retreat might be energized by an essential pragmatism that availsitself of both well-known human cognitive limitations as well as well-founded humancognitive aspirations.Truth be known, epistemologically, our logic does apparently need some tweaking butcertainly not a major overhaul? Ontologically, navigating from the possible to the actual,even employing the rigors of scientific method, is very problematical using the necessaryat either helm or stern, wheel or rudder. Cosmologically, our descriptions of reality interms of givens (or primitives), such as space, time, mass and energy, and of axioms,such as of the various forces (weak, strong, electromagnetic and gravity) and physicallaws, are still incomplete, inviting propositions that consider manifold and multiformhidden variables.Epistemologically, then, we needn‘t abandon noncontradiction or excluded middle, butwe might retreat to a contrite fallibilism, which recognizes the frame-dependent andcontextual-relational aspect of our perspectives.Ontologically, we needn‘t give up our conceptions of possible and actual, but we mightretreat to a modal logic that nuances necessity as conditional, the necessary yielding,instead, to the probable.Cosmologically, faced with the eternal fugue of pattern and paradox, order and chaos,chance and necessity, the random and systematic, we might minimally opt for a primereality that is symmetric over against asymmetric, driven by the same exigencies thatdrove our modal logic revisions, compelled by humankind‘s long successful experiencewith knowledge advances as invariably driven, historically, by our incessant search forsymmetry, such a search as may yet introduce new primitives or propose new axioms.Are there efficacies to be realized as we thus prescind to the functional and phenomenalfrom the ontological and cosmological? Can this be done in the modern day scientificcultural milieu where ontologies wage a battle royale in the philosophy of mindinterdisciplines, where cosmologies collide in their implications for both our origin andour destiny?EmergenceThere is one unifying metanarrative and that appears to be that of emergence.
  • 38. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011In the great chain of being there are levels stretching from the quantum to thesociological. There are levels of being within levels of being. There are theories thatgovern interactions within levels and sometimes between levels, sharing concepts. Theconcepts concern 1) parts and wholes; 2) properties and 3) natural laws.There are three ways to look at the possible relationships between these levels. If a lowerlevel completely explains a higher level, then we have reductionism and thestrongest relation possible. When speaking in terms of parts & wholes, properties & laws,it is possible that reductionism will not explain a higher level, but we can still maintainsupervenience, which is to say that any differences in parts, wholes, properties and lawsat a higher level must have corresponding differences at the lower level (covariancewithout reduction). If a theory explaining higher level properties & laws is, in principle,unpredictable from a theory at a more fundamental level, then we have emergence, whichis to say, novelty.Emergence is sometimes considered to correlate with supervenience, such that strongsupervenience correlates with weak emergence and weak supervenience with strongemergence. Systems have also been characterized as closed emergent and open emergentsystems. Closed emergent systems are epistemologically closed insofar as all of thesystem parameters for parts & wholes, properties & laws, are known; as such, closedsystems are relatively deterministic at their lowest levels, even if indeterministic at theirhigher levels. Open emergent systems are epistemologically open, characterized byepistemic uncertainty. They may be either ontologically open or closed, which is to saythey may or may not require new physical laws in their naturalistic explanations.Basically, if our current understanding of an emergent system is lacking, it isepistemologically open and if new physical principles are invoked, it is ontologicallyopen.These distinctions speak directly to our evolutionary psychology as we climb thephylogenetic ladder adding sensation, perception, emotion, motivation, computationalcognition, language, semiotics (syntactical & semantic) and nonalgorithmic cognition. Ithink the general consensus, among cognitive scientists, is that all of the systemparameters for the parts & wholes, properties & laws of human consciousness are notknown. In fact, they are extremely overdetermined. Presently, then, any understanding ofthe emergent system of human consciousness is epistemologically open, marked bysubstantial epistemic uncertainty. Until there is a more robust understanding of theproperties and laws governing consciousness, we risk reification of both the structuraland the functional concepts that describe our mental states and their interactivity with thephysical.The putatively ontologically open systems of human consciousness would includeAvery‘s dimensional structure of consciouness, Penrose‘s new physical laws, Ayn Rand‘sobjectivist epistemology and several other systems that amount to a naturalistic dualism,describing consciousness as primitive, as a fundamental property like space, time, massor charge. Such systems are advanced by those who insist that the distinction between
  • 39. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011syntax and semantics in semiotic science are critical, that the distinction betweencomputational and nonalgorithmic cognition is pivotal. Those who propose ontologicallyclosed systems include the psychoneural identity theorists and others with various viewsregarding the Turing Test, Artificial Intelligence, eliminativism, epiphenomenalism,functionalism and such as Dennett over against Chalmers on qualia.The categories that distinguish between the open and closed systems, epistemologicallyand ontologically, are philosophical categories. Discussions of supervenience andemergence in the study of human consciousness, such as we set forth above, for thereasons we set forth above, presently are moreso subsumed under the philosophy ofmind, not so much the science of mind. This notwithstanding, there is nothing discussedabove that is not naturalistic, though a few approaches were nonphysicalistic.Regarding the mind-body problem, William James wrote: We are thrown back thereforeupon the crude evidences of introspection on the one hand, with all its liabilities todeception, and, on the other hand, upon a priori postulates and probabilities. He wholoves to balance nice doubts need be in no hurry to decide the point. Like Mephistophelesto Faust, he can say to himself, "dazu hast du noch eine lange Frist" [for that youve gota long wait], for from generation to generation the reasons adduced on both sides willgrow more voluminous, and the discussion more refined.Im more optimistic than James. Is the current explanatory gap epistemic? Perhaps weleventually close it, but only asymptotically approaching godelian boundaries. Is itontological? Even then, I think our abductions will guide us toward an accumulation ofindirect evidence, such evidence subjected to ever more rigorous statistical analyses andresulting in increasingly compelling inferences about the nature of consciousness, againconstrained by godelian dynamics. As such, it will never be exhaustive of the competingontological and cosmological approaches but will remain congruent with many of themthrough the highly refined nuancing suggested by James. Still, if we continue our searchfor the most comprehensive, and at the same time discriminating, synthesis of whatever isbest in rival systems, then we think well get closest to the truth.Semiotic EmergenceA very fruitful way of engaging a most comprehensive, yet very discriminating,perspective on emergence dynamics is through the hermeneutic of semiotic emergence.From the purely phenomenal perspective, prior to describing reality, ontologically, interms of absolute necessity, cosmologically, in terms of primitives and their attendantaxioms, or epistemologically, in terms of absolute logic, we can more tentatively andfallibilistically approach reality using an interpretive scheme of semiotic emergence, withmeaning essentially defined as the establishment of information loops.In semiotic emergence, from a: 1) meta-epistemological perspective, the establishment ofmeaning is frame-dependent, contextual-relational, the laws of logic still holding;2)meta-ontological perspective, semiotic realities are designated as real per a modal logicdesignating ontological status as possible, actual or probable, rather than necessary; and
  • 40. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 20113) meta-cosmological perspective, semiotic realities transcend classical metaphysicaldescriptions of primitives and their governing axioms for the nature of the universe, suchas in substance metaphysics with respect to being or materiality, such as in processmetaphysics with respect to experience, or even such as in participative metaphysics withrespect to entities.In approaching a semiotic reality epistemologically, we have prescinded from such as theexcluded middle, not to take permanent refuge from the bivalent in the multivalent,rather, only retreating to a contextual-relational vantage with the clear intent of returningto perform our conventional logical operations. In approaching a semiotic realityontologically, we have prescinded from such a modal logic as governed by necessityhaving observed in the crucible of experience that reality is apparently more so governedby probability. In approaching a semiotic reality cosmologically, we have prescindedfrom such an account of the nature of the universe as a priori relies on an invariable setof primitives and governing axioms, while nevertheless holding to a meta-cosmologicalbias toward symmetry.As with our epistemological circumspection, we can then return to the ontologies andcosmologies of our Weltanschauung and, having viewed reality through the interpretivelens of semiotic emergence, can better avoid confusing our maps for our territories,earnestly critiquing them, whether substance, process, participative or some other variety.(They will all, nevertheless, still be encumbered by this or that paradox of infiniteregress, circular reasoning, ipse dixit, etc Oh, bother!)The semiotic emergence paradigm [SEP] can serve as an indispensable hermeneuticalhygiene insofar as it clarifies our thinking about reality, enabling us to rise above theinsidious cartesian dualisms, which breed the mutually unintelligible distinctions such asbetween essentialism and nominalism, realism and idealism, empiricism and rationalism,reductionism and holism, phenomenal and noumenal, foundational and nonfoundational,correspondence and coherence, deontological and teleological ethics, contingency andteleology, etc This hermeneutic is no more immune to paradox than any other, sufferingas it does from an infinite regress of semiotic realities, but that is a small price to pay forthe enhanced modeling power it provides us for reality, especially once considering themanifold and multiform efficacies than ensue from its transcendence of cartesianspectres.Efficacies of the SEPWith respect to an anthropocentric, human exceptionalism, the SEP gives impetus to ourattempts to jettison the cartesian baggage that weighs down our existential cargo holdsand overloads our hermeneutical overhead bins. What baggage? The cartesian dualismsthat prevent us from taking anthropological flight and attaining ecological altitude insofaras we allow them to: a) estrange us from our cosmic origin and cosmic support as they are mediated bynos environs;
  • 41. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 b) uproot us from our epistemological ground as we get trapped in infinite looperrors inside our own heads; c) alienate us from our own bodies as a result of our narrowly conceivedsubstance ontologies that pit mind against matter; d) conflict us through inadequate theodicies as we struggle with the polynomialand bivalent nature of our values, lost on the path from the given to the normative,axiologically blind to any oughts that might inhere in the is; and e) set us aimlessly adrift without the benefit of a coherent teleonomy and amorally compelling eschatological vision that teleologically connects to our presentmilieu giving impetus to our interventions now, conveying a sense of urgency in ourdire need to awaken to our solidarity that compassion might more quickly ensue,everything belonging (Rohr).The SEP counters any paradigm wherein biology is considered both necessary andsufficient in explaining human behavior. It also takes issue with any paradigm whereinthe biological continuum and human instinct are excessively downplayed with culturalconditioning otherwise considered both necessary and sufficient in describing humanbehavior.Elements of an SEPThere are many problems, solutions and efficacies addressed in the hereinabove-proposedhermeneutical revisions to classical metaphysics. What specific ingredients might bestcomprise an acceptable Semiotic Emergence Paradigm? My guess is aPolanyian-Peircean approach to biosemiotics, which incorporates the aristotelianinsight:We have our virtues neither by nor contrary to our natures. We are fitted by our naturesto receive them. If brains are amazing, the human brain is flat-out astonishing. .... Nodoubt about it: Our symbolic minds allow us to access mental experiences, likemathematics, aesthetics and spiritual intuitions, that we have every reason to believe arenovel, unique to the human. ...But we suggest that it is also of utmost importance that wenot lose track of our mental evolutionary antecedents. ... Any perspective on the humancondition that brushes this fact aside is an incomplete perspective, --indeed, we wouldsay that it is an impoverished perspective. ... Given that we have evolved from anintensely social lineage, we are uniquely aware of what it feels like to be pro-social, andit is this awareness of what it feels like to be moral -- this moral experience -- thatundergirds and motivates the actions of a moral person.? by Ursula Goodenough andTerrence Deacon13Proving Too MuchPeople like Teilhard, Polanyi and Aurobindo have, in our view, thought deeply and in the13 From Biology to Consciousness to Morality by Ursula Goodenough and TerrenceDeacon, Zygon D 03; 38(4): 801-819
  • 42. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011right direction, but otherwise "prove too much" with their metaphysics. This is still farbetter than those who "prove too much" with their science and metaphysics in whatseems to me to be the wrong direction!That Fr. Bede and Merton and other spiritual technologists engaged the East seriouslyand recognized gifts for all of humankind in the Eastern traditions is important. It makesus want to pay attention, to take them seriously but not necessarily literally (speaking ofsuch as Aurobindos evolutionary ideas). In other words, however much their spiritualpractices are integrally related to their ontologies and doctrines, it is curious that wecan borrow their practices (again, for example, Aurobindos accounts of Yoga) and havethem work very well for us even if we do not buy into their ontologies and doctrines. It isespecially curious if one buys into the maxim --- orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy.We see all major traditions, not just Christianity, in search of a metaphysic. We thinkthose (all) ontologies represent rather fallible and awkward attempts to articulate whathumankind had ALREADY discovered to be the truth (or an approximation, at least)phenomenologically, which is to say that we know THAT such realities presentthemselves and THAT such practices work even as we do not always know HOW andWHY. This is to suggest that folks like Aurobindo were paying incredible and excellentattention to reality, especially human reality (like the Sufi mystics and the Enneagram,for example). The same is true for kundalini, just for another example. That weexperience this reality, phenomenally, is not in dispute for those of us who haveexperienced such energies. The WHAT and HOW is of less importance. That we submitall to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the counsel and discernment of community iswhat we are called to do.If we dug into these seemingly disparate doctrines and ontologies (East vs West) andtheir attendant language games and cultural embeddedness, then we just might find, atleast, some minimalistic grounds for a syncretistic approach that is not heterodox afterall; a true mystical core shared by the great traditions. (We think of John Hick, here.) Oursuspicion is that those grounds would be pneumatological, which is to suggest theinvolvement of the Holy Spirit. Interreligious dialogue could proceed with our[Christology] in brackets and the Spirit out front and center.We wonder if our perspectives diverge at the point where we either search or do notsearch for, and if we search, whether we find or do not find, what some refer to asfoundations and justifications? Or, perhaps, following Hans Kung, whether or not weeven care to explain such a fundamental trust in uncertain reality as it seems we mustall share, in some degree, in order to have these discussions in the first place?Kung talks about a justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality, which is to say thatsome folks do bother to tell others why they trust uncertain reality. He also talks about anowhere anchored and paradoxical trust in uncertain reality. However, might we notfurther distinguish between the process of dropping anchor and the actual realization ofanchoring, which is to ask: How would we know we are not, rather, merely dragginganchor?
  • 43. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Whitehead suggested that all metaphysics are fatally flawed. Considering the sourceand knowing the value he invested in that very pursuit, perhaps hed suggest that we cancash out some value in our anchoring attempts and that this value would be denominatedin terms of realizing the least morbid system, the one least infected with paradox ---veridical, falsidical, antinomial, conditional, or the system that is most consistent whileleast incomplete (Godel). Perhaps dragging an anchor is better than being blownhaphazardly and willy nilly about.Still, we can build systems (the great traditions and ideologies). We can remain arespectful silence re: systems (phenomenology and some Buddhist approaches). We cangainsay and critique systems and need no system of our own in order to efficaciously doso (radically deconstructive postmodernism and practical nihilism). None of theseapproaches requires Ontology, this notwithstanding the fact that many adherents of theseabove-listed stances have attempted such metaphysical articulations. It was alsoWhitehead who said that Christianity was a religion in search of a metaphysic; and hewas exactly right; just look at the many different types of thomism, for example,including aristotelian, analytical, existential, transcendental and more.What we are suggesting is that, at some level, given where humankind is on its journey,that all of the above stances, which might be variously categorized regarding their stancetoward system building: system building affirmation/ontology, meta-systemphenomenology, system agnosticism, and nonsystematic gainsaying and critique ... thatall of these stances are still what William James might call live options. And we supposethe best way to adjudicate between them, to cash out their value, is in terms of modelingpower of reality and with such a "power" oriented toward human value realizations andthe bolstering of authentic human aspirations. Somehow, true dialogue might require usto at least be able to stand in one anothers existential moccasins and to get in touch withwhy our otherwise disparate hermeneutics might truly remain live options. And then wecan get on with the project of doing ethics, of seeking a more universally compellingmorality and the articulation of a truly global ethic. And we had better not wait for anontological consensus. We dont have time. We must come to the dialogue table with ourontologies bracketed and build on the common ground we already share vis a vis generalprecepts, human dignity, common good, universal declarations of human rights and so onand so forth with a premium placed on THAT we share them and a discount issuedregarding WHY we share them (vis a vis our justification attempts). This is not tosuggest that, at the same time, we should not otherwise still be seeking the most nearlyperfect articulation of truth, beauty, goodness and unity attainable (and then urging it onothers only with a great deal of circumspection and good sense of propriety).Emergence – the phenomenological Intersubjective Intimacy in Community Intrasubjective Integrity of Spirit
  • 44. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 Lonerganian Conversions Formative SpiritualityThe Road to CompletionWe might consider giving up the old spiritual paradigm, which frames OUR journey interms of perfection, and embrace another, which suggests we‘re on a road, rather, tocompletion.We will experience lacking and painfully and poignantly so. And, as Richard Rohremphasizes, that pain which we do not allow to somehow transform us we will continueto transmit to others. Allowing pain to do its transformative work is precisely a journeyinto intimacy because intimacy is what will complete us. So this pain impels us tolonging and yearning.Consider these beautiful Gerald May14 quotes:We are conscious not just because our hearts are beating but because they are yearning(1).The only way to own and claim love as our identity is: to fall in love with love itself, tofeel affection for our longing, to value our yearning, treasure our wanting, embrace ourincompleteness, be overwhelmed by the beauty of our need (2).Love is present in any desire … in all feelings of attraction, in all caring andconnectedness. It embraces us in precious moments of immediate presence. It is alsopresent when we experience loneliness, loss, grief and rejection. We may say suchfeelings come from the absence of love, but in fact they are signs of our loving; theyexpress how much we care. We grieve according to how much of ourselves we havealready given; we yearn according to how much we would give, if only we could (3).So, our choices play out in terms of whether our responses will be existential, which is tosay life-giving and relationship-enhancing, or neurotic, which is to say life-detractingand relationship-destroying. And these are the choices whether we experience guilt,anger, lust, greed, envy, jealousy, pride or any other passion, whether somewhat bridledor not. We sit in the front row of a crowded theater and, on the big screen, a train islurching toward us, picking up speed, getting ever larger and ever louder. Oursympathetic nervous system kicks in, adrenaline is released, our liver glycogen convertsto glucose, our muscles tense and our heart starts pumping furiously as we enter fight orflight mode. To run out of the theater would be neurotic. On the other hand, should we bestrolling down the railroad tracks, leisurely tossing stones into the adjacent stream, and atrain rushes toward us, to jump off of the tracks into the stream would be existential. So,with Gerald May, let us value our feelings as they give us information about both our14 Gerald May – need citation – probably from Will & Spirit
  • 45. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011external environment and internal milieu. And let us enjoy the ways we squirm,cringe, and avoid life and relationships, existentially rather than neurotically.Nondual AwarenessEVERYBODY has contemplative, nondual moments. The only reason for the fuss is thattoo often we squander them or allow them to be taken from us.A nondual stance toward a reality is that moment of pure raw awareness prior to anyproblem-solving processing. If that reality is another person, for example, if ourencounter of that person places us immediately in a problem-solving mode, whether fromour perspective or their‘s, whether of a moral or a practical nature, then we are using ourdualistic mind, which is empirical (measuring), rational (logical), practical (making useor meeting a need of either person) or moral (evaluating right and wrong, good and evil)and so on.Sometimes this functional mode is absolutely what is called for. On the other hand, if ourencounter of that other person is sheer enjoyment of presence and wholly relational andinvolving verbs like trust, love, forgive and such, and if we are engaging in what is morelike pure play and growing intimacy and self-forgetful ecstasy, then we are using ournondual mode.One can think in terms of paradox, too. In our problem-solving mode, we can resolveparadox (dialectical synthesis), dissolve paradox (thru paradigm and perspectival shifts)or evade paradox, practically (for example by ignoring it). Life‘s biggest paradoxes, itscosmic ironies and deepest mysteries (like theodicy questions), it seems, do not lendthemselves very readily to problem-solving resolutions, dissolutions or evasions butrequire, instead, what I like to call exploitation, whereby we take a tension and exploit ittransformatively by maintaining the tension as a creative tension.In a nutshell, if you read the Old Testament and make a list of all of the complaints issuedby the Psalmists and questions raised in Job, or even look in the New Testament, younotice that the age-old time-honored philosophical questions regarding life‘s deepestmysteries like 1) what about creation, how and when did that take place 2) suffering andwhy THAT? and 3) other questions put directly to Jesus — are not answered inphilosophical or scientific or empirical or rational terms.God did not answer our night terrors from our beds with explanations and ideas. Heanswered by showing up, hugging us, telling us everything will be alright. He answeredin a relational way but not a problem-solving way. He doesn‘t deconstruct ourboogeymans. He holds us and sings us a lullaby. And we forget how scared and lonelywe were.The nondual is robustly RELATIONAL.The problem is that people think religion is mostly about what is right and wrong,
  • 46. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011morally, or what we can do to earn God‘s love; or religion is about how to have ourpractical needs met, our pocketbooks and health and prosperity Gospel garbage; or thatreligion answers our empirical questions about creation; or that religion shows us how tothink logically to solve philosophical puzzles.If you listen to fundamentalistic evangelists, whether Protestant or Catholic, if they arepreoccupied with empirical, rational, practical and moral questions, which are NOTunimportant or irrelevant, but spend very little time on RELATIONAL questions, likegrowing in trust, intimacy, forgiveness and love, then they are reinforcing the dualisticmindset and human socialization processes but neglecting the nondual stance and humantransformational processes.We do not need special divine revelation to know what is true empirically, logically,rationally, practically or morally for that is all transparent to human reason (generalrevelation). The value-added aspect of special divine revelation is the GOOD NEWS ofJesus that God is not the deistic watchmaker but the lover, the Daddy. That‘s where theemphasis needs to be placed — on the Good News and less on the old news that anyonecould figure out (like how to be good), even without Jesus.Nondual awareness is what one does when they are being loved, being love, belovedone.Thomas Merton – contemplative prayer―there must be a renewal of communion between the traditional, contemplativedisciplines and those of science, between the poet and the physicist, the priest andthe depth psychologist, the monk and the politician.‖ MertonWhile Merton affirms that our symbols can bring us into closer contact with reality, hecautions against identifying them with reality. In a sense, he was saying, with RalphWaldo Emerson : ―Heartily know, When half-gods go, The gods arrive.‖.―What is this (contemplative prayer) in relation to action? Simply this. He (andshe) who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without thisdeepening of his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love,will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing butthe contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his egocenteredambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices andideas.‖ Thomas Merton,‖ The Climate of Monastic Prayer‖Merton – the False Self (properly understood)The concept of False Self is unfortunate. Why unfortunate? Because the False Self is notbad. We might better to draw such distinctions as early on our journey versus later on
  • 47. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011our journey thus and such happens. (This is not to deny that many unduly put off thejourney to such things as transformation and even adulthood.) The early stages offormation and transformation are good. So are the later. And nothing that takes place onour early journey is abandoned. The false self represents our socialization, moving fromlittle animals to humans. It represents our humanization. And our humanization anddivinization are inextricably intertwined, not really distinguishable really. The more fullyhuman we become, the more we reflect the Divine Image, the imago Dei. So, we don‘tabandon the false self. Not at all. Rather, we take full possession of it in order tosurrender it to crucifixion. (And one cannot surrender what one does not form andpossess.) We give it up in order to be radically saved (from sin and death); it is no merepious gesture. Thus the seed falls to the ground and dies … Thus every other metaphorfor the Paschal Mystery … This is my False Self. I give it up for you.Teresa of Avila did say that we must desire and occupy ourselves in prayer not so muchso as to receive consolations but so as to gain the strength to serve. Still, a careful readingand parsing will note that she didn‘t negate or eliminate our desire for consolations butonly added to them. I like the simple distinction between eros or what‘s in it for me? andagape or what‘s in it for God & others?Agape, however, does not extinguish or negate eros, but, rather, transvalues it andrecontextualizes it. Thus we do not let go of what‘s in it for me? even as we strive totranscend it with agapic love.Merton – It was Him! He done it!Another distinction from Merton.Merton discusses two of the types of confessio, of confession. One was laude or praise.The other was re: the more familiar ―It was me. I done it.‖ that we know from the Rite ofReconciliation and from police shakedowns, or parental busts regarding hands in cookiejars. This distinction makes for rich reflection and meditation but our focus here is on thetransformative process.The confession of praise is the converse: ―It was God. He done it.‖The psalms are about 50:50 penitential supplication taking the form of ―I done it‖ and ofpraise taking the form of adoration of ―He done it.‖Merton – insoluble problems?Merton has touched upon a dynamic, when he speaks of existential crisis, which is verymuch related to the Cross for Christians although it happens with all people, even inscience.The dynamic, more specifically, involves our confrontation with a problem. We initiallyperceive the problem as soluble and we work mightily to solve it. It matters not whether
  • 48. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011it is a philosophical conundrum or some scientific hypothesis or some existentialcrisis/spiritual emergency. We exhaust all of our resources and then arrive at the pointwhere we pretty much conclude that this particular issue is insoluble. At this point, weresolve to leave it alone, give it a rest, to forget about it altogether.So, we do.Then, when you least expect it, whether in a dream or while playing or working orchopping wood and carrying water, the solution comes to us in a flash, totallygratuitously and unmerited as pure grace, so to speak.Now, this dynamic is very natural and involves the workings of the human mind at asubconscious level, intuitions bubbling up to the surface, to be sure, not unaided by theHoly Spirit.Our Need for God per Merton"there must be a renewal of communion between the traditional, contemplativedisciplines and those of science, between the poet and the physicist, the priest and thedepth psychologist, the monk and the politician." MertonWhile Merton affirms that our symbols can bring us into closer contact with reality, hecautions against identifying them with reality. In a sense, he was saying, with RalphWaldo Emerson : "Heartily know. When half-gods go, The gods arrive.".Well begin with the partial retelling of a Merton story from earlier. Merton discusses twoof the types of confessio, of confession. One was laude or praise. The other was re: themore familiar "It was me. I done it." that we know from the Rite of Reconciliation andfrom police shakedowns, or parental busts regading hands in cookie jars. The confessionof praise is the converse: "It was God. He done it."The psalms are about 50:50 penitential supplication taking the form of "I done it" and ofpraise taking the form of adoration of "He done it."Now, there comes a point where we pass through existential crisis or a series of crisesand recognize that there is little meritorious effort on our behalf other than cooperationwith grace and that all else is pure unmerited Grace. This is part of recognizing ourradical dependence on God, Whom we can trust because,well, look around at What He Done!Prior to getting to that place of praise and He Done It, we must get both to the place of IDone It regarding our abject sinfulness as well as It Isnt/Wasnt Me! regarding ourmanifold blessings and very existence.Part of the nondual experience, then, is the existential realization of It Isnt Me --- not thiscreation, not these feelings, not these thoughts, not any rule-following or goodness, iow,It Isnt Me cognitively, affectively or morally, thats responsible for starting all of this,
  • 49. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011holding it all together and taking it anywhere.This can be quite liberating.The famous singer-songwriter, James Taylor, once made a wisecrack about AA, sayingthat half of the people that are in it are trying to come to the realization that they are notGod, while the other half had the job once and are desperately busy trying to tender theirresignation.Well, it isnt enough to stop with It Isnt Me, and that is where an existential experience ofthe no-self can leave us. But this apophatic realization must be dialecticallyrelated to HE DID IT! ITS HER! and this is the positive, kataphatic content that is trulyfitting and proper, coming from a tongue that cannot confess same without the initiativeof the Spirits prompting.So, the loss of the affective ego can occur, in any of the many ways we have conceived itand experienced and particularly in a manner that Merton wisely discernedwas apophatic, impersonal, existential, but needing completion in the kataphatic, personaland theological, these processes nurturing and mutually enriching and entailing oneanother.Point is, the confession of Its Not Me is necessary but not sufficient.What comes to mind with respect to adulterers and murderers like both King Herod andKing David, is what, ultimately, makes the difference between our going Herods route orthat of David?To a certain extent, all that society asks by way of reformation is that we be rehabilitatedinto a good social persona, that we function well in our interpersonal dealings --politically, economically, socially and culturally. IOW, society asks that we follow therules, that we obey the law. Adherence to the Law is what was required of these OldTestament persons, in accordance with the Old Covenant. David became a good man anda great king by meeting these standards. He became his true self, the psalmist, when hewent deeper in his relationship to God.So, in its very essence, the Old Covenant very much corresponds to that second level ofdevelopment, that which pertains to our socialization, and, although there were certainprophecies and foreshadowings, the crosses borne by these peoples were not the same asTHE CROSS.Certainly, there must have always been some opportunity for humans on earth to partakeof the transformative process effected by Jesus for once and for all through his birth, life,passion, death and resurrection. Indeed, many did undergo such radical transformation,especially, one might suspect, someone like David, the Psalmist, who points the way toJesus, to the Father, in the Spirit.
  • 50. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011At the same time, the explicit announcement of the New Testament, the proclamation ofthe Good News, the living out of the Gospel, of the Kerygma, through the Cross, markedan existential crisis at a global level for ALL PEOPLES, and played itself out as, not atotal renunciation but, as a total surpassing of the old way. This is directly analogous tothe death to self that is called for on the journey of each individual but involved a type ofdeath for the People of God as a whole, who were being called to a new level of intimacy.Again, we invoke, as individuals, because we have been convoked, as an entire People ofGod. We are called as a People and respond, radically alone (in many respects), asindividuals.Another lesson that is taught about David by Louis Evely is That Man Is You , which isto say: what is wrong with the world is ME. What happens as we make the turn and dropthe persona, which, again, was formatively necessary, is that we seek enlightenment outof compassion for the world, which constantly suffers our unenlightened selves.No longer are we in search of consolation or sensible positive affect because Perfect Loveis its own reward, is totally unconditional, entirely kenotic. We lay down our false selves,not for our own benefit, not because we are tired of the pain it causes us, but because ofthe pain we are transmitting to our loved ones, to the world. Any pain that is not thuslytransformed, however neurotic or psychotic or emotional or idiopathic, we transmit toothers. We seek to be rid of this pain that we may desist from transmitting it to others.Perfect Love and Perfect Contrition are inextricably bound up. It is sufficient to enter theKingdom, through the law, through the old gate, of following the rules and being sorryfor the consequences to ourselves when we dont. That was the old way and it still works.BUT, if we take up our cross, go through the existential crisis, and come to thatbreakthrough where we are moreso sorry for our sin because of the consequences toothers and to God, then we crucify the Old Man and rise as a New Creation, seeking thecontemplative gaze, as Teresa says, not so much for the consolations but, rather, in orderto gain the strength to serve. We become Christs. We allow God to be God-in-us, ourtruest selves. This isnt a requirement, but it is an invitation. The most important one thatany of us will RSVP or not.Let us insert this here. Losing something like fear does not mean that we have come toany pollyannish conclusion that all of the bad things that could happen to us are not goingto happen --- rather, it means that, we know full well they are even likely to happen butare nothing, ultimately, to fear. So, too, with guilt, anger ... We give up the neuroticversion in exchange for the existential version, which is quite THE CROSS to arrive atthe resurrected version, which is ALL IS WELL.This, too, is dialectical, like the Kingdom. It is on its way. It has already arrived. Paradiseis ours to inherit. It is already in our hearts. All is decidely NOT well, temporally, in thisearthly tent wherein we dwell, BUT, in reality, ours is a robe of resplendent glory and,eternally (not at the end of time or for a long time,but outside of time where we have both origin and destiny), ALL is, indeed, well.
  • 51. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011St. Thomas described how our love of God increases in proportion to our knowledge ofGod. And this is true.St. Bernard described how our knowledge of God increases in proportion to our love ofGod. This, too, is true.The knowledge of God that St. Bernard describes, however, surpasses that which St.Thomas was speaking and writing about. St. Thomas was talking about that knowledge ofGod that comes from both general and special revelation, a discursive knowing thatincreases through our study of philosophy, metaphysics, theology and such, such aknowing as could never attain to Gods essential nature even as it might infinitelyadvance toward same.The love of which both Thomas and Bernard spoke of, however, can indeedcommunicate with Gods essential nature, leading one to a mysterious type of knowledgethat certainly informs our normative sciences (of logic, aesthetics and ethics) anddescriptive sciences (for instance, natural science) but which also far surpasses them, aknowledge difficult to describe or articulate. Such a love is experienced on the thresholdof contemplation. Such is the love which casts out all fear. The perfect love that casts outall fear is a love that has grown in dependency on God, has learned to trust God, thatknows that, however bad the situation or dire the circumstances, in the final analysis, allwill be well. It is the mystical love of Julian that sings all may, can, will and shall be welland is the realization of the promise that you will know that all manner of things will bewell.Here, then, is the distinction we draw between existential fear and neurotic fear,existential guilt and neurotic guilt, existential anger and neurotic anger, the existentialalways in service of life and love and relationship, the neurotic invariably life-detracting,love-detracting, relationship-destroying. We are not dealing only with neuroses that areovercome in the process of individuation but also those sinful resistances to conversionthat are overcome on our journey of transformation, distinct but intertwined realities.So, we might describe the loss of the affective ego as an energy inversion whereby theemotions and feelings and affective life dont so much energize our behaviors byinitiating them but rather energize our behaviors by reinforcing them. It seems that thisstate could be effected all of a sudden through some precipitating event or could arisethrough time and a habit of virtue.Love, eminently reasonable, needs no reason, inasmuch as it is sufficient unto itself.Happiness, finally, cannot be pursued but must ensue. So, too, with good feelings. Theyarent needed but will often ensue, which is to say, follow, love. Merton noted that often,when we are in pain and conflict and contradiction, we incorrectly associate same withold wounds, with old injuries that truly have been resolved and healed already. Duringsuch times, Merton encourages us to consider the very real possibility that we are, rather,being invited to open ourselves to a new level of being through such pain and conflict and
  • 52. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011contradiction. In other words, if we are not properly attentive, then we run the risk ofstagnation, desolation and aridity, sometimes for months or years, dwelling on the wrongintegrative and transformative issues, missing the invitation to move to another level, alevel that could be attained in a day even.One of the chief obstacles to advancing in the spiritual life, then, is to gain a certainclarity of vision regarding the route to sanctity or to psychological integration (routes thatare much intertwined) and then acting as if the vision itself is the attainment when, infact, it is not the mapping of the journey that marks our growth but the walking of theroad, which is to say that, if you are on the illuminative or unitive way, then get on withit, and so on. Further, the mapping never involves the entire journey but entails, rather,our next good step, a step which is the spiritual equivalent of taking the entire journey.Thus it is that the entire road is traversed, one step at a time in faith with the trust that thatstep is truly what is required for now, for today. We can get caught up with seeing theroad and then fail to walk it, is our constant peril.Two lessons here: Sometimes one has to quit beating ones head against the wall justbecause it feels good when you stop. Sometimes one has to quit circling the samedevelopmental block on the journey just because some of the signs look the same, whichis to say that emotional memories can get in the way by misleading us into thinking thatour pain is rooted in old unresolved issues when it is moreso about leading us in a newdirection entirely (with a genesis in new issues), inviting us to another level entirely.Then, once we see this new direction, it is of the essence to WALK it and not merelycontent ourselves in the consolation of SEEING it!Well, this remains a very loose rendering of the meaning we have gathered from Mertonand any misconstructions are our own. The point is that old emotional memories can getimproperly associated with new spiritual emergence issues and that we can misdiagnosethe reason for our present pain, conflict and contradiction.Merton noted that the spiritual path and the path of scientific breakthroughs is analogous.Specifically, the steps are: 1) We find an issue, sort through it and set about to solve it. 2)We grapple and grapple with it until we realize that it is virtually irresolute, unsolvable,beyond us, too difficult. 3) We let go and move on. 4) Sometimes, years later, thesolution comes to us in an instant, in a flash.Nothing very profound here.Weve all used this approach in balancing our checkbooks,eh? But the point is that that is how our human natures are constructed and that that ishow our unconscious and conscious minds and spirits seem to interface. Seeing after notbefore is axiomatic for the spiritual mapping of the journey. Others journeys, even thoseof the great mystical doctors, lets say the Carmelites like John of the Cross and Teresa ofJesus, can give us touchpoints for the journey, indications that we are on the road, butthey have no predictive value. The same is true with Ignatian and sanjuanian discernmentsuch as regarding: consolation and desolation, maybe even such as regarding loss ofaffect, depression, acedia, beginnings of contemplation -- where we are moresodiscerning retrospectively and not so much being guided prospectively.
  • 53. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011The contemplative gaze in love transcends our cognitive and discursive faculties andpenetrates through to the Divine Essence, actually communicating and relating to Godsessential nature, a nature that is, in principle, incomprehensible. We must be careful,however, in confusing incomprehensible with unintelligible. If these experiences wereunintelligible and God was unintelligible, this discussion wouldnt be possible?Another Mertonesque thought: We are moving toward an existential realization of howcritical to our spiritual survival prayer really is. This realization is attained when we feelour need for prayer as acutely as we would feel the need for a breath when underwater.This has something to say to us all whether we are called to discursive mediation, lectio,meditatio, oratio, contemplatio, operatio or what have you. Whatever our prayer gift asled by the Spirit, it is to be engaged with the sense of critical and acute and urgent needthat affirms our radical dependence and perennial state of existential crisis.Now, dont get Merton wrong. This is all dialectical. One moves into crisis to lose crisis.One loses self to gain self. First, there is a mountain. Then, there is no mountain. Then,there is. One recognzies ones radical dependency to move to place of radical trust. Oneexperiences ones emptiness and abject poverty to realize ones utter fullness. One movesinto paradox and pain and contradiction to realize that, what do you know, all is well.This is something re: the loss of self that is affirmed by the Sufi (Islamic)and the Hasidic(Jewish) mystics and that Merton, building on Buber as well as the Sufis, so wellunderstood. So, too, with human affects and desires. John of the Cross speaks ofdisordered appetites and Ignatius speaks of inordinate desires. It is not the appetite ordesire we seek to eradicate, ultimately, but through proper asceticism and renunciation,we lose our emotional energy that intitiates so many of our behaviors (both virtue andvice) only to regain it to reinforce our virtues. Think of Ignatian discernment regardingconsolation and desolation, for example, and of how the different spirits console or afflictus, variously, as we either cooperate with Grace or backslide.This dialectic is working, likely, with the affective ego. Now, there may be somethingvery deeply analogous going on with spiritual consolations and desolations andpsychological affects that is not completely identical. This could account for howpsychologically developmentally deformative influences might intefere/interact withspiritually transformative processes. This is no easy nut to crack and might profoundlyinfluence with what facility one moves through an existential crisis to the experience ofnocrisisafter-all. In other words, a spiritual emergence issue that gets foisted uponsomeone may not achieve its dialectical goal of teaching one to breathe underwater butcould, for all practical purposes, drown a person.When He knew for certain only drowning men could see Him, He said all men shall besailors, then, until the sea shall free them. Leonard CohenMerton speaks of a Sufi scholar, who draws many parallels to psychoanalysis, which is tosay who sees the therapy process as analogous to the spiritual journey. If in therapy our
  • 54. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011primary concern is the resolution of unresolved subconscious conflicts, then Sufismmight be thought of in the same way, only on a deeper level. In therapy and normalindividuation, we are resolving certain conflicts, the resolutions of which 1) take us froman infantile level, take us from the merely instinctual animal to a human type of beingwhere our cognitive and affective development is concerned 2) then further take us andadapt us to successful social and cultural beings. Many struggle at the first level, such aswith an Oedipus complex, by way of example, staying Mommas boys their entire life,but most get through it to the second level of struggle, some falling prey to escapes fromthe difficult realities of social-cultural life. AA is an example of a good way to deal withsuch evasions, helping primarily by providing motives to change, wise to the fact that onehas to want to change in order to change and no one can do it for us. This is pretty muchwhere conventional therapy stops, helping one deal with ones neurotic evasions of socialresponsibility.This, however, is insufficient for bringing about the general honesty required to godeeper and to become an authentic human who has faced lifes fundamental challenges,lifes BIGGER problems, gaining lifes existential awareness.What are these BIG PROBLEMS? 1) continuity vs discontinuity - death 2) creativity -having a life that is meaningful, a presence that makes a difference.What are the mistakes that even analysts/therapists make here? What mistakes are madeby us as individuals at this level? We treat these issues as if they were problems of socialadaptation (that second level we talked about). In other words, if you are esteemed byyour society or in a particular cultural milieu, then youve conquered these problems,your presence not only has made a difference but lives on, in a manner of speaking.WRONG! This "solution" leads people into a further evasion from a truly meaningfullife. This blueprint is wrong and must be torn up and thrown away. Think here of ouraffective reward system and not only what vices are reinforced by certain emotions butalso by what so-called virtues are being reinforced by our range of emotions. There needsto be a rewiring.What is called for, rather, is a BREAKTHROUGH into existential awareness. In otherwords, we recognize that this social esteem and instinctual control we have gained isMEANINGLESS, not meaningless, to be sure, for our functioning in ordinary life, butcertainly in terms of lifes ultimate meaning. (Here Merton recommends Viktor Frankl.)So, from this deeper level, our social success is meaningless. On one hand, though, it isgreat and necessary, but, on the other, it is TOTALLY NUTS!How do we get in touch with what is needed on the deeper level?Through the Psalmist is one way, for the deeper level whether praying the mad, glad orsad psalms is always GOD.The CROSS is the demonstration of this struggle, the realization of this conflict in Jesus,
  • 55. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011a conflict between the establishment of the religion, such as in society, on one hand, andthe realization of authentic religion, such as in ones heart, otoh. It REJECTS the sillynotion of "Keep the rules and there youve got all the answers," which Merton calls awooden nickel. It similarly rejects: "Dont keep the rules," which is a stupid form of thesame silly game.The ultimate solution to our biggest subconscious unresolved conflicts, our existentialquestions, is experiencing our rootedness in God, God in our very hearts. Deathloses its significance as an end because we are already finalities, already ends untoourselves because of our being-in-God, being-in-love, which is sufficient unto itself withno further reason or justification. Our creativity is found in our issuing forth from theCreator and not in anything we do to gain social approval or cultural amenities. Theobligational has become aspirational. One then studies and prays, fastening and bindingones spirit to God, clinging to God, after the manner we wrote about previously, needingprayer as badly as one who is under water needs a breath. Then, in all we see andexperience, God is present, and we dont at all take seriously the self we have to be tooperate in society, the role playing, the best things in life not being demanded by us butreceived a pure gift from God FOR ME, who lets God be Himself in me, when my falseself has vanished.The old emotional programming, that was even formative and not deformative, must bere-wired, in order to move on to the deeper level of a human being-in-love-with-God.Hence the dark Nights. Hence, the transformation of the affective ego as we move from afalse to a true self. Hence, what Merton is describing is our social persona, which mustdie. True enough, our formation from the animal-instinctual to the social-cultural self isrequired, is necessary for the journey. In fact, we cannot surrender this self to the Cross,which is to say, to the existential crisis, until we have fully come into possession of same.The existential crisis, then, involves a confrontation of the I with the not I , of the trueself with the false self, and, when it is upon us, everything we see and observe and relateto in our existence is then seen through the lens of this crisis, of this Cross. Forsociety-at-large, then, the Gospel is this lens. The problem is that we have talked aboutthe Cross so much, about the Gospel so much, that we have, in some sense, trivialized itand robbed it of its profound and radical significance for our individual lives and ourlives in community. While in this crisis, however, we come to realize that the reason theworld has so many huge problems -- socially, culturally, politically, economically -- isbecause of people, people like us who are living on a phony, superficial level ofexistence, out of contact with our true source, Who is God, alone.The ultimate idolatry, then, is our self. So, we take this socially-formed self and crucify itand it is not like going to a movie or coming into an Internet discussion forum but is,rather, much more like walking into a fire.The reward system, the reinforcement mechanisms, the old emotional programs, whichworked so well for those of us who made it through our formative years with moreformation, reformation and information than deformation, must be transformed. This
  • 56. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011mirrors, in fact, how our loving knowledge of God no longer comes through our senses,no longer is accompanied by sensible consolations, but is a direct communication withthe Divine Essence that is beyond our discursive faculties. All of this is a massiveupheaval of the way things have been for us --- cognitively, affectively, morally even, forit is no longer a mere following of the rules that brings one closer to God, although thatpart of our formation was absolutely necessary. This is a huge project and undertaking,multilayered and multitextured and quite unique for each individual, although we havediscussed the touchpoints and the mapping of this journey.The soul now approaches the God, Who neednt approach, Who dwells within, and theheart remains restless that has not made God its all. Rooted in God in radical trust andsurrender, a new reward and reinforcement system gets set in place, where Love of selffor sake of self has been transcended by love of God for sake of self, which has beentranscended by love of God for sake of God, til, finally, our true self emerges and welove that self for the sake of God. The dialectic takes us back into self-possession,paradoxically, by self-surrender. This has cognitive, affective and moral aspects. This iswhy we are here.The care and nurturance of a soul is a most awesome task! You will appreciate this, onceagain, from C.S. Lewis:"It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to rememberthat the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creaturewhich, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror anda corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, insome degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light ofthese overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper tothem, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves,all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a meremortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours asthe life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub andexploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are tobe perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, infact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, takeneach other seriously -- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charitymust be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love thesinner -- no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodiesmerriment." From __The Weight of Glory__Spirituality Integrally Conceived as Life‘s Value PursuitsIf we take life as a journey made up of individual steps, which we might consider to be value-pursuits,and we measure the distance we travel in terms of milestones, which we might consider to bevalue-realizations, then we might consider each complete movement to require, minimally, threeseparate motions, optimally four. Those motions would be 1) the descriptive motion, where we ask: Isthat a fact? 2) the evaluative motion, where we ask: Whats it to us? and 3) the normative motion –
  • 57. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011normative sciences per Peirce being the logical (symbolic), aesthetical and ethical – where we inquire:How do I best obtain (or avoid) it?There is no value-realization movement that does not consist of these three integrally-related motions.We wont specify, here, how this differentiates us from other animals as Homo sapiens, but will note thatthese distinctly human motions and movements are the very essence of spirituality. And we may,through the vagaries of formation, deformation and reformation, be variously competent or incompetent,spiritually. Also, even if competent, we may be either consciously or unconsciously competent, which iswhere the fourth motion comes in, 4) the interpretive, which asks: How does all of this tie together?This interpretive motion, coupled with our evaluative attitudes, comprise the very essence of religion,which may variously be institutionalized (organized) or not, which may even be theistic, nontheistic,atheistic or agnostic. Thus it is that many can say they are spiritual but not religious, or that they arereligious but not "believers."Growth, Development & ConversionA fulfilling spiritual journey thus requires our ongoing development and growth intellectually,affectively, morally and socially. Optimally, it will also be religious, which, as an interpretive andevaluative motion, necessarily entails much more than mere propositional assent, descriptively, but alsothe celebrations of the beauty we have encountered, evaluatively, the preservation of the goodness wehave discovered, normatively, and the enjoyment of the community we have realized, unitively.Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Fowler and other developmental theorists have described such growthdynamics psychologically. Gelpi, building on Lonergan, describes them in terms of conversion, whichleads to progressive human authenticity.There is much that humanity shares spiritually, and even religiously, of a nonpropositional nature. Thisallows us to endeavor together to celebrate the beauty, advance the goodness and enjoy the communitywe have already realized and can foster our engagement in ever more authentic dialogue that we mighttogether construct a much morecompelling metanarrative.A Merton-inspired Reflection of the JourneyIn Thomas Merton‘s writings and recorded lectures, he generally describes our human journey in termsof humanization, socialization and transformation. Early on, formatively, we become less like littleanimals and more human. Primary school teachers report that parents turn in mixed results in this regard,speaking of the little animals that often occupy our primary schools. After some success withhumanization, next we are socialized in all sorts of ways by all sorts of institutions like marriage,religion, government and schools. Through socialization, we learn how to function in society and we getour needs met through mutual give and take. This is mostly a pragmatic dynamic governed by extrinsicreward systems. We think in terms, hopefully, of enlightened self-interest as we buy into such notions oftruth, beauty, goodness and unity. At some point, we might attempt to describe their origins, which,minimalistically and reductionistically might be partly explained in terms of evolutionary adaptivesignificance and sociobiology. These existential orientations might also be explained as transcendental
  • 58. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011imperatives.This is about as far as much of humanity ever goes. And, to be sure, it is nevertheless a beauty andwonder to behold. Sometimes, due to exceptionally good formation, but maybe most often throughcrisis, as Merton would say --- usually a crisis of continuity (death in all its forms) or of creativity (theneed to matter or make a difference) --- some journey further, which is to say beyond merehumanization and socialization to transformation.Transformation has many descriptions, which vary from tradition to tradition, but its essence, in ourview, is marked by the move beyond extrinsic reward systems to intrinsic reward systems, which is torecognize that some pursue truth, beauty, goodness and unity as ends in themselves, or, as we might say,as their own reward. By definition, one needs no apologetic or defense or explanation of such a path.And, it sometimes can make little sense to invite anyone to take such a path because there is no way toexplain such a reward system to the uninitiated. For one thing, it may not be developmentallyappropriate. Also, it can only be self-realized. At any rate, this type of approach is more often "caught"than taught.Another hallmark of transformation is the gifting of a new interpretive lens and evaluative disposition,which views reality not just empirically, logically and practically but also relationally. Merton oftenspoke of Bernardian love which progresses from 1) love of self for sake of self to 2) love of God forsake of self to 3) love of God for sake of God to 4) love of self for sake of God. Richard Rohr has oftenspoken of this same transformative dynamic by contrasting the dualistic mind, which is preoccupiedwith its practical and functional concerns using its problem-solving mindset, with the nondual approach,which is a loving gaze at reality, a trusting stance, a wholly different consciousness. Hans Kungdescribes a justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality. What seems to be equally compelling tomany people, if I have properly interpreted their religious naturalist stance is this transformativedynamic, which progresses from 1) love of self for sake of self to 2) love of cosmos for sake of self to 3)love of cosmos for sake of cosmos to 4) love of self for sake of cosmos, where the cosmos is broadlyconceived to include us all in ineffable solidarity with depthful compassion.Transformational DynamicsMost of the great traditions very much affirm what we would call the erotic aspect of our relationship toreality, or, in other words, the "whats in it for me" dynamic. This is a good thing and quite natural. Thiseros is, in fact, both necessary and sufficient, spiritually and religiously, for all reality really requires ofus, at bottom, is an enlightened self-interest. This is, in fact, the exoteric aspect of most traditions. Thecessation of suffering in Buddhism would be such an example. The mystics of all traditions, however,also give witness to a more esoteric aspect, which is the agapic dynamic, which is the realization of thesuperabundance to be found in the intrinsically rewarding parts of our journey. This goes beyonddoctrines and metaphysics and belief systems, though not necessarily without them. Similarly, agapegoes beyond eros although not without it. This goes beyond the empirical and rational and practical tothe robustly relational, to the "just-because-ish-ness" of reality.This theme also resonates in the writings of many humanists and very poetically so in the writings of ourearly American transcendentalists and universalists. In the spirituality practiced by all of the greattraditions, we do encounter many utterly transformed people and can reasonably attribute this to their
  • 59. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011esoteric teachings and mystical practices (and we broadly conceive mysticism to include both existentialand theological varieties). And that is quite the essence. They otherwise differ, then, in the exoteric andsocialization aspects of the human journey. And we do not want to say that getting those aspects as rightas we possibly can is not important because optimal humanization and socialization and indoctrinationcan best foster transformation and better form people for transformation. Adjudicating which paths bestlead to authenticity, following the aphorism that orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy, is another task foranother consideration. What we want to emphasize is that it is important to pay attention to the worldstransformed people and to listen to their reflections on how it is their transformations may have comeabout because each such story contributes, along with many others reflections regarding their paths, topart of the blueprint for the human journey. Also, it is great to recognize what we have in common withothers even as we grapple with those aspects of the journey that are different. If all had transformation incommon, wed collectively figure out the norms of humanization and socialization much faster!The Contemplative StanceFor those who cultivate a habitual contemplative approach, as commended by Merton and reinforced byRohr and many romantic humanists, it can be difficult to discuss reality at a level that is one or tworemoves from experience. As one dwells habitually in a relationship to reality with an approach thatgoes beyond words and without prejudgment, with an approach that is robustly relational and not solelyanalytical, the ineffability that inheres in the process does not readily lend itself to a lingua franca ofmysticism precisely because we are being led into an experience beyond words. We must rely, rather, onstories and myths and songs and koans and poetic narratives and metanarratives. And it seems to me thatthis presents special challenges for contemplative dialogue, whether interreligious or with coreligionists,or existentialist or humanist. How do we, then, otherwise profitably discourse with others about suchexperiences? Does contemplative experience lend itself to philosophical parsing andtheological anthropology? Yes, but with caveats.In our view, any dialogical segue back into the world of words and analysis, in order to remainconsonant with our contemplative approach, must simply and foremost proceed, similarly, withoutprejudgment and with a simple loving gaze. It also proceeds more profitably from an enhancedself-awareness of our own descriptive, evaluative, normative and interpretive stances as this awareness,in turn, heightens our awareness that others wont always share our descriptions and interpretations orour norms and values and that they wont always use our concepts and categories when making variousclaims about their experiences. Contemplative dialogue, then, perhaps more than many other types ofdialogue, especially lends itself to idiosyncratic use of vocabulary and especially leads to situationswhere people can easily talk past one another. There is another type of dialogue where this happensoften, metaphysical talk. And there is yet another, perhaps the most challenging of all and, as youguessed, it is the metaphysics of contemplative experience.Perhaps this is why so many contemplative critiques seem rather facile and also fraught withmisunderstanding as people try to fit one another with hermeneutical straightjackets. The difficult spadework of philosophical disambiguation of categories and concepts is indispensable if the garden ofdialogue is to bear good fruit. Even within faith traditions, which share vocabularies, dialogue ischallenging because there is so much disagreement regarding what is essential vs accidental, core vsperipheral, regarding those traditions and their teachings and practices.
  • 60. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Ecstatic, Enstatic & Epektasis – we bear the future Oneness nowEven as we accept the view of atonement as a teleological striving, we still affirm aneschatological dynamic (even if not apocalyptic), a mark toward which we press vis avis the epektasis of Philippians 3:13 and in our prayer for the coming of the Kingdom,as taught by the Master. And insofar as it is indeed your and my inheritance as membersof the Mystical Body (and not just some esoteric privilege of the so-called initiated) toboth see the Oneness, ecstatically, and to see from Oneness, enstatically , we enjoy — inthis very present moment, in this very Presence — a real participation in this Oneness aswe proleptically bear the future consummation, now!We accept our incompleteness and through kenosis self-empty in order to be filled withthe utter fullness of God. Paradoxically, we are not promised any cessation of the satietyof our desire, according to Gregory of Nyssa (the one who looks up to God never ceasesin that desire). Hence, through contemplation we see with the Dionysian ray of darkness.Thus the ecstatic yields to the enstatic. Thus Merton says that we do not have anexperience but become an experience.Merton explains:And here all adjectives fall to pieces.Words become stupid. Everything yousay is misleading – unless you listevery possible experience and say:That is not what it is. Metaphor has nowbecome hopeless altogether.Talk about the darkness if you must: but thethought of darkness is too dense and too coarse. Ascetic Disciplines & Spiritual PracticesWhat practices and disciplines might best support the value-realizations associated withour phenomenal experiences of interobjective indeterminacy, intraobjective identity,intersubjective intimacy and intrasubjective integrity?Philip St. Romain has described different possible relationships between God, Self andEgo15, and the disciplines to support these. St. Romain has also examined these practicesand disciplines in greater detail16. A quick sorting of practices & disciplines per thecategories I have set forth above might look like this, below, even though it is a veryrough mapping, again, just a heuristic & mnemonic device to foster reflection & help ourmemory.15 Philip St. Romain God, Self & Ego - Discerning Whos Who on the Spiritual Journey(self-published 2010)16 Philip Romain Handbook for Spiritual Directees (self-published 2010)
  • 61. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Intrasubjective Integrity (e.g. humanization, Ego-Self, individuation) Johari Window Writing a Faith History Studying the Nature of Attachments Learning How to Drop an Attachment/Addiction Disposing Oneself to Transformative Gifts Becoming Aware of One‘s Type and Temperament Discovering the Manifold Spiritual PathwaysFunctional Intersubjective Interactions (e.g. socialization, functional relationships,extrinsic rewards, moral - consequences to self & eros and practical considerations) Daily Review The Way of Service Understanding the Origin of the False Self System Being Aware of Characteristics of the False Self System Pursuing the Way of Knowledge Employing the Via Negativa (when the interobjective is indeterminate) Engaging in Jesuit and llay spirituality. Karma yoga Studying the Ethics implicit in the demands of service and daily work Studying the Ethics implicit in the order of the universe.Personal Intersubjective Intimacy (e.g. transformation, God-Ego, Other-Ego, personalrelationships, intrinsic rewards, moral -consequences to others & agape) Methods of Prayer Awareness Examen (Consciousness Examen) Examen of Relationships Guidelines for Discernment Learning Spiritual Theology Charismatic Gifts Transformative Gifts Pursuing the Way of Loving Devotion Devotional Christianity Bhakti yoga Studying the Ethics implicit in the demands of relationship.Intuitions of Intraobjective Identity Clarifying Your Images of God and Creation Pursuing the Way of Insight Raja yoga impersonal mysticism
  • 62. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011A key theme that is implicit in these ascetical disciplines and spiritual practices evenacross traditions is that --- Orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy and is first mediated by orthopathy inorthocommunio.Alternatively --- Belonging precedes desiring which precedes behaving which precedesbelieving.These are descriptive observations regarding human developmental trajectories and notnormative epistemological suggestions. A good norm might recognize, for example, thatone may begin in media res within any such hermeneutical spiral and then mustsuccessfully complete the spiral in order to optimally realize the associated humanvalues. This is all to be pragmatically cashed out in terms of a growth in humanauthenticity. That is to say that they will result in conversion, growth, and development inour intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical, and religious spheres of existence.The categories below may seem rather facilely mapped but they are not presentedsystematically, as if to advance an argument, only as a heuristic device to fosterreflection. Belonging | to an interpretive community | mediated by religious conversion | viaparticipatory imagination | presuppositionally being super-rational | realizing intrinsicallyrewarding unitive values | of intersubjective relationships (e.g. God-ego and other-egowith their phenomenal experience of intersubjective intimacy) | trans-valuing theextrinsically rewarding into the intrinsically rewarding for all other relationships | asbounded realities interact personally Desiring | per certain evaluative posits | mediated by affective conversion | viacultural methods | existentially being reasonable | realizing extrinsically rewardingaesthetical values | of intrasubjective relationships (e.g. ego-self, individuation processeswith their phenomenal experience of intrasubjective integrity)| as bounded realitiesrealize optimal integrity and freedom Behaving | following a normative framework | mediated by sociopolitical & moralconversions | via philosophical methods | rationally being intelligent & responsible |realizing extrinsically rewarding logical, pragmatic & ethical values | of interobjectiverelationships (although constrained by the phenomenal experience of interobjectiveindeterminacy as some realities remain either epistemically indeterminate orontologically vague, for whatever reason, e.g. Gods indeterminate nature or even theinitial, boundary & limit conditions of various primal realities or any other realities thatpresent with what we might refer to as unfathomable depth dimensions)| as boundedrealities interact functionally
  • 63. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 Believing | a descriptive account | mediated by intellectual conversion | viascientific methods | evidentially & empirically being attentive | realizing extrinsicallyrewarding truth values | of intraobjective relationships (e.g. God & self, nature & self,God & nature with their phenomenal experience of intraobjective identity)| as boundedrealities experience mutually interpenetrating immanence via boundary transcendence(even apparent dissolution)A Few Words on Practices & Energy Paradigms regarding Ki, Qi, Chi, Prana &Kundalini (& Reiki)Rather than treat these so-called energies, specifically, for there is much writtenelsewhere, let us raise another issue from a wider perspective. Much of the thrust of theepistemological approach advocated throughout this book has been directed at the need toprescind from robustly metaphysical accounts of reality to more vaguelyphenomenological perspectives, precisely to avoid saying more than we know, to refrainfrom telling untellable stories — or, quite simply, to avoid certain dogmatisms andgnosticisms (as well as a host of other insidious -isms or epistemic vices).Generically, then, to assert any type of energy paradigm apart from science wouldinvolve gnosticism or superstition. In our view, it is not helpful to interpret our lifeexperiences in such paradigms while asserting metaphysical reality to such phenomena.The wider perspective asks whether or not various Eastern techniques — practices, ritualsand exercises — might not be abstracted from their classical metaphysical (or even,sometimes, robustly theological) accounts and interpreted from a more vaguephenomenological perspective, especially when they are associated with certaintherapeutic efficacies realized in genuine life experiences, some of these efficacies yet tobe fully described scientifically regarding their precise mechanisms of action, in whichcase it is best left to such entities as the National Institute of Health17 to sort out.In our view, when we reappropriate such ―technologies‖ to situate them in a Christianperspective, while they will no longer be classically metaphysical and, just perhaps, noteven authentically Eastern, there should be no a priori dismissal of their efficacies,especially when legitimate research remains underway due to the global ubiquity of thisor that technology; such a dismissal would, itself, be gnostic!In any case, practitioners should be more clear, in their employment of relatedterminology, like chakras and ki and kundalini, that these words are being employed asgeneral concepts corresponding to real life experiences (various constellations ofexperiences and symptoms in association with specific practices that recur in noticablepatterns that merit investigation) of millions of people that are to best be understood asvague phenomena, which are still being researched by science, and not rather as specificterms, which are heavily invested in gnostic metaphysics. Such a distinction is easy17 http://nccam.nih.gov/
  • 64. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011enough to make and quite valid. References to energy paradigms should not be takenliterally but claims regarding these patterns of experience deserve to be taken seriously.Gosh knows, Christianity‘s had its own problems with gnostic metaphysics, for example,interpreting life, gender and sexual realities in rationalistic categories little resembling,and thus not well corresponding to, the lived experiences of the faithful. Some of itsteachers would do well to take their own counsel and guidelines18.All of our deontologies should be as modest as our ontologies are tentative, both East andWest. And, if one‘s ontology is not tentative, then, one is way out in front of science,themselves.The way we like to approach this is to say that we can appropriate reiki, like so manyother wonderful spiritual technologies of the East, as a practice, as an exercise, as aritual. This is true of other meditative practices, yogic exercises and so on, all of whichare being actively researched by the NIH-CAM precisely because of the efficaciesreported by MILLIONS. Science does not have to fully understand what is going on with,for example, acupuncture, in order for it to be efficacious. Gosh knows, this is true formost psychoactive pharmaceuticals where we can only speculate about the precisemechanisms of action. So, our position is to continue to prayerfully minister and practiceall of these time-honored Eastern technologies and to situate them within one‘s Christianworldview while refraining from characterizing them in precise physical and/ormetaphysical terms. We do not need to know HOW something works in order to discoverTHAT it works. It is enough to say that science does not fully understand; we do not needto offer any physical or metaphysical hypotheses along with our treatments; only ourloving intentionality.When we speak of kundalini or reiki (both of which Sylvest has experienced), weconsider them realities yet to be explained. When we experience phenomena associatedwith certain ―practices,‖ we neednt feel a need to label these metaphysically even as wecannot account for them scientifically. So, we actually agree with the bishops that itwould be gnostic or superstitious to make definitive metaphysical assertions about theputative reality of chakras, life forces or subtle energies. We adamantly disagree and amsaddened that they do not avail themselves of such distinctions as we‘ve proposed,whereby we can successfully abstract spiritual technologies — useful rituals, devotionals,practices and exercises — from their classical metaphysical accounts and enjoy the manyefficacies that flow therefrom, as attested by so many other people of large intelligenceand profound goodwill and actual experience, which they ignored.Immanent Trinity & Transcendent Ontological Frame Interobjective Indeterminacy & Ens Necessarium18 http://www.usccb.org/dpp/Evaluation_Guidelines_finaltext_2009-03.pdf
  • 65. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Trialectical Teleology – Values: Truth, Beauty & Goodness Immanent Axiological Frame Cosmological Axiology Historical Social & Cultural Anthropology Economic Transcendent Axiological Frame PoliticalTrialogical Epistemology – Methods: Science, Culture & Philosophy Immanent Epistemic Frame Descriptive Sciences Evaluative Cultures Normative PhilosophiesWhy PostmodernISM & ModernISM are Both SillyHuman knowledge advances incrementally, building on what we learned in and from thepast. We see how this plays out in our word usage as we add various prefixes and suffixesand come up with new words (neologisms). Three prefixes come especially to mind: 1)post-, 2) trans- and 3) meta-. In the way I most often use these prefixes, 1) post- meansafter, 2) trans- means beyond or through and 3) meta- means more comprehensive. Noneof these prefixes necessarily also means without (which is most often indicated by theprefix a-). Not even the prefix nonnecessarily means without; it primarily means we aretalking about something else.The postmodern critique remains a critical assessment of modernism. It suggests, forexample, that modern methods should not be considered systems, modern practicesshould not be confused with conclusions and philosophical approaches should notmisconstrued into schools of philosophy. It recognizes that the best methods, practicesand approaches are fallible but self-subverting, self-critical, self-correcting and guidedprobabilistically (in other words, neither absolutely, infallibly nor apodictically). Ourclosures are then provisional.Ironically and tragically, there has been a perversion of this critique from a method into asystem, a practice into a conclusion, an approach into a school of thought. This tragedy,
  • 66. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011postmodernism, mimics the failed school of modernism in its over-reaching. Modernism,for its part, was guilty of epistemic hubris. Postmodernism, a tonic turned toxic, proceedswith an excessive epistemic humility, which is manifestly unwarranted.Silliness thus abounds.Modernity gone awry with its conflation of methods into systems gave us scientism, anarrogation of science into a full-blown philosophical school, as well as fideism, asubjugation of faith via its divorce from reason. A metaphysic, misconstrued, imagines itcan decouple from physics and many claim to be transrational whose approach is, in fact,arational. All manner of insidious -isms abounded as the approaches of modernity wereinflated into such schools as logical positivism and radical empiricism. Religiousapproaches were perverted into encratism, pietism, rationalism, quietism and everyvariety of absolutist fundamentalism, including both sola scriptura and solummagisterium approaches of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.As a therapeutic critique, the postmodern perspective would have us go beyond themodern not without it. We go beyond science but not without it. Faith, narrowlyconceived as an epistemic leap beyond such nonrational presuppositions as nihilism,solipsism and relativism, is an indispensable prerequisite to knowledge. More broadlyconceived, faith is a super-reasonable and existential response to reality that can beconsidered a forced (not to choose is to choose), vital (pertains to our ultimate concerns,most urgent and insistent longings, and most deeply cherished values) and live (neitherempirically measurable nor logically demonstrable but still rationally equiplausible andpractically defensible) option.Our great traditions, with their interpretive approaches to ultimate reality, and our scienceand philosophy, with their descriptive and normative approaches to more proximaterealities, are all ordered, evaluatively, toward human value-realizations, which can be inturn assessed for how well they institutionalize our ongoing conversion andtransformation, intellectually, affectively, morally, socio-politically and religiously (whatGelpi building on Lonergan might equate with a growth in human authenticity).What is the way forward?If it is indeed going to be posthierarchical, in addition to being more dialogical anddemocratic, will it necessarily be ahierarchical? or even necessarily noninstitutional? Orwill some hierarchical and institutional apparatus inevitably emerge as a necessary evil,at least where it is, so to speak, developmentally appropriate? For that matter, ifauthentically post-Western, post-European and postcolonial, won‘t we much morenarrowly conceive the meaning of developmentally-appropriate, especially vis a vislanguage, practices and cultural traditions? Under any other circumstances, it positivelymust be postpatriarchal and postpaternalistic? Certainly, it will be postfoundational,recognizing a plurality of methodologies and the primacy of narrative in all humanknowing, but will it also acknowledge certain indispensable propositions and essentialmetanarratives? Certainly metaphysical and moral realisms are indispensable
  • 67. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011presuppositions? It will affirm that science, philosophy, culture and religion aremethodologically-autonomous but will it acknowledge that they are alsoaxiologically-integral? Will it eschew evidentialism, rationalism, presuppositionalism andexistentialism in favor of a more holistic perspectivalism but without defining holism interms of a facile moderation or simple balancing act, acknowledging that certainapproaches will sometimes enjoy at least a primacy if not an autonomy? This is to ask,then, if the dual and nondual approaches to reality might better be described as thetransdual, which necessarily goes beyond, but not without, our dualistic,problem-solving mind in approaching life‘s most important values, primarily, from anondual approach?Whatever we do, let‘s not be silly. Let‘s avoid modernism and postmodernism as weembrace the best of the modern and postmodern, as we embrace reality, one another,ourselves and our God.When we encounter a seemingly insoluble conundrum or deep mystery, we will not apriori know whether such a paradox might resolve dialectically (in an Hegelian-likesynthesis), dissolve perspectivally (from a simple paradigm shift, changing how weapproach the problem or overcoming a category error), best be maintained in a creativetension between competing aspects in a both-and manner or might present in a trulyantinomial fashion (such that a reductio ad absurdum cannot be overcome withoutsacrificing the basic presuppositions of reason, itself). For life‘s most important questionsand most pressing concerns, don‘t expect easy problem resolutions and dissolutions. Onebest learn to nurture creative tensions and to live with absurdity. All of the great wisdomtraditions are in agreement about this reality; in Christianity, it‘s called the Cross. In theend, our trust in this process must go beyond our rational problem-solving andapologetics to be grounded in a relationship, which believes and hopes for the sake oflove, alone, and loves for the sake of love, itself; in Christianity, this relationship isgrounded in Jesus.Sillier Yet? The New Atheism - a wimpy caricature of the oldThe New Atheism is a superficial conflation of descriptive science, normative philosophyand interpretive metaphysics, which amounts to an Enlightenment fundamentalism orscientism. It is the obverse side of the epistemic coin of the same philosophicallybankrupt realm as religious fundamentalism or fideism, which similarly conflates theseapproaches to reality.This wimpy atheism is but a caricature of the kind we encounter in the history ofphilosophy placing us in jeopardy of engaging what would be tantamount to a straw-manargument in bothering to refute it at length. For their part, however, the new atheists don‘thesitate to engage only those religious fundamentalisms that are but a caricature ofmodern theology.As for any suggestion by David Bentley Hart that an authentic Christianity nurtures itsown nihilism insofar as it‘s our supposed view that what we‘re given by nature and
  • 68. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011tradition is nothing if not transformed or unredeemed, that is poppycock! At least thereare those of us with a radically incarnational outlook, who do not view at-one-ment as aresponse to some ontological rupture located in the past but instead as a teleologicalstriving oriented toward the future, who, with Scotus and the Franciscans, hold that theincarnation was not occasioned by some felix culpa but was otherwise in the cosmic cardsfrom the get-go. Even among those who take a more classical approach to atonement, notall buy into a notion of total depravity, anyway. And this leads into my next point, whichis that we do not believe that special revelation is or was necessary in order forhumankind to discern right from wrong, to distinguish good from evil. At the same time,we would not deny that the Good News helps us to journey more swiftly and with lesshindrance through all of Lonergan‘s ongoing conversions (intellectual, affective, moral,social and religious, as expanded by Don Gelpi).As a radically social animal and story-teller, humankind is inescapably liturgical,although the liturgy will be either doxologic or nihilistic. Among the doxologicapproaches, in addition to such as the Eucharistic stance (of thanksgiving), there is theexistentialistic, which even if not explicitly theistic need not be necessarily considerednihilistic, whereby people of large intelligence and profound goodwill realize such valuesas truth, beauty, goodness and unity, as they care deeply, are concerned with ultimatesand celebrate whole-heartedly. How such people were formed and how many are whereare historical and sociologic data, which are beyond us. That we should expect toencounter them, however, is our own theological anthropology grounded in apneumatological (or even Christocentric) inclusivity?It does seem that the Enlightenment project ran amok on the Continent in itsmarginalization of religion but that the US approach properly integrated and evenstrengthened the influence of religion through its separation and non-establishmentprovisions. Still, while we needn‘t bracket our metaphysical and religious views in themarketplace, we must translate them in a pluralistic society.The Epistemological Limb where our Ontological Eggs are NestedAny postmodernISM, which aspires to the status of a philosophical system, inexorably,gets radically deconstructive, tending toward a litany of epistemic perjoratives: practicalnihilism, moral relativism, essential pragmatism, facile syncretism, insidiousindifferentism, false irenicism, ad nauseum and self-subversively sawing off theepistemological limb where its ontological eggs were nested.The postmodern CRITIQUE, on the other hand, was serious and deserving of a responseby an excessively rationalistic and a prioristic foundationalism, which aspired toapodictic certainties, whether via the empirical demonstrability of a scientism informedby an Enlightenment fundamentalism or via the medieval metaphysical proofs argued bya sterile scholasticism.There has been some tendency 1) in evangelical & Arminian traditions to overemphasizethe evidential (evidence that demands a verdict) 2) in reformed & Calvinist traditions -
  • 69. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011the presuppositional (belief as philosophically basic) 3) in fideist, Lutheran &neoevangelical traditions - the existential (faith as experience) and 4) in Catholic, bothRoman & Anglican, the rational (logical argument). In all of these traditions, a moreholistic approach is EMERGING.This approach is best articulated, in our view, by the American Pragmatist Tradition,particularly the pragmaticism of Charles Sanders Peirce, wherein pragmatic criteria aretruth-indicative, which is to say pragmatism is a TEST of truth & not a THEORY oftruth. In this sense, then, we still affirm a metaphysical realism, even a moral realism,even as we embrace a contrite fallibilism, recognizing our apprehension of values issomewhat problematical. This nonfoundational approach is not too different, for allpractical purposes, from those critical realists who still embrace a weakenedfoundationalism.Peirces approach combined with that of Bernard Lonergan makes for a very integralperspective. It is not too very different from Wilbers AQAL (all quadrants, all levels)with the notable exception being that AQAL must be better nuanced as AQALST, wherethe ST = same time, otherwise what is being affirmed as transrational becomes, instead,an arational gnosticism. Lonergans protege, Daniel Helminiak, takes Wilber to task onthis, but their differences might resolve with more nuance.Finally, all value realizations involve both propositional knowledge (epistemic duality) &participatory understanding (epistemic nonduality), involve the empirical, logical,practical & moral aspects of our descriptive & normative approaches to reality,cosmologically, as well as the relational & social imaginary aspects of our interpretive &evaluative approaches to reality, axiologically. The medievals have a name for this typeof AQALST openness, contemplation. This contemplative stance, goes beyond but notwithout the dualistic mind.The most succinct statement of this position is that the normative mediates between thedescriptive & interpretive to effect the evaluative. We derived this from Don Gelpi, SJ‘sPeircean take: The normative sciences (logic, aesthetics, ethics) mediate betweenphenomenology & metaphysics. This left the question begging: Toward what end? Andwe added the evaluative aspect based on the work of Robert Cummings Neville. Theeditor of Zygon (Institute on Religion in an Age of Science), Wim Drees, draws adistinction between the cosmological and axiological, which overlays nicely on ourPeircean-Nevillean derived scheme.We recognize familiar distinctions such as between doing and being, propositionalknowledge & participatory understanding, conceptual map-making and the socialimaginary, and, following Jacques Maritain: We distinguish in order to unite, which is tosay that we needn‘t introduce false dichotomies or to place these value-realizations in anover against/versus dynamism (necessarily). Rather, we can affirm how all of thesedifferent aspects of human rationality (incl pre-, non- and trans-) are integrally-related.This is not some wimpy perspectivalism, however. When we say that none of these
  • 70. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011human rationalities is AUTONOMOUS, this is NOT to suggest that we are, at the sametime, denying that any given aspect of human rationality may not be enjoying a certainPRIMACY, or ―its moment,‖ so to speak, during this or that human value-realization.These various aspects tend to wax and wane, to now come in to sharper relief and to nowfade into a background context. For example, life‘s lesser goods, which we tend to enjoyonly in moderation and as extrinsic rewards of a dualistic mindset, are most oftenPURSUED via our propositional, problem-solving knowledge. Life‘s greater goods, suchtranscendentals as truth, beauty, goodness and unity, which are intrinsically-rewardingand can be enjoyed without measure, most often seem to ENSUE from our relational,participatory understanding.During our empirical and logical and moral and practical value-realizations, then, ourproblem-solving mind is enjoying a certain primacy, even though noticably transvaluedand conditioned by our participatory understandings (including evaluative dispositions).These value-pursuits mostly involve getting the answers right.When we are pursuing the intrinsically rewarding existential orientations of ourtranscendental imperatives to relationship with others and God/de, in truth, beauty,goodness & unity, our participatory understanding is enjoying its moment, a certainprimacy, even though noticably transvalued and conditioned by our propositionalknowledge.In each case, we go BEYOND but not WITHOUT.It does seem, then, that in the life of one who‘s adopted a contemplative stance, who‘sgiven the nondual perspective its moment, habitually, that orthoPATHOS will enjoy acertain primacy, even if not autonomously, as it mediates between orthodoxy andorthopraxy to effect orthocommunio. This is an acknowledgement that the existentialenjoys a certain primacy over the evidential & rational & presuppositional even as it inno way can be considered autonomous.Balance and moderation, then, in such a perspectivalism, is not achieved by alwaysgiving equal place and equal time to each perspective --- descriptive, normative,interpretive and evaluative ---, as through some a priori rational schema, but is somethingthat requires a posteriori empirical discernment in community as orthopraxisauthenticates orthodoxy. In other words, this is problematical, as one might expect ourrichly textured existence to require. The most important value-pursuits in life more soinvolve, then, less so getting the answers right as in getting the right questions, whichwill retain, if truly wise, an element of mystagogia.When we say descriptive, it is jargon mostly for science, falsification, positivism andsuch, which, in the simplest of terms, asks: What is THAT? Or, Is that a FACT? Whenwe say normative, it stands for philosophy, mostly, especially logic, aesthetics and ethics& epistemology (How do we know what we know?) and asks: How can I bestacquire/avoid IT (or THAT)? Taken together, this is what Wim Drees seems to be calling
  • 71. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011cosmology. In our view, this is Everybody‘s Story and we should not go around wily-nilyjust making this stuff up. It is mostly given. And this includes morality (is to ought, giventonormative), which we hold is something anyone can figure out without the benefit ofany special revelation.When I say evaluative (Drees‘ axiological), we are talking about our posits regardingvalues, or in the simplest terms, asking the question: What‘s IT to me? What does THATmean to me? as it relates to the interpretive, which refers to the question: How does all ofthis TIE-BACK-TOGETHER? = religate = religious.Lonergan-Gelpi talk about conversions – intellectual, moral & social and affective &religious. One might think of these in terms of developmental stages (think Piaget,Kohlberg, Fowler et al – the stage theorists in psychology). It so happens that theaxiological concerns are our deepest and most insistent and that, in large measure, whenit comes to life‘s most important concerns (our ultimate concerns), well, from acosmological perspective, we‘re totally thwarted. There is a certain amount of epistemicparity here, which is to say, even after our best empirical investigations and rationaldemonstrations, the best verdict we can offer, cosmologically, is the Scottish verdict =unproven. So, while we cannot go around fashioning a cosmology to suit our tastes, wedo have a great deal of freedom in choosing our axiological stance = What‘s it to me? andHow does this all hold together? As William James noted, such a choice is vital (itmatters a lot), forced (we pretty much have to choose & not choosing is a choice) and alive option (follow your heart but don‘t betray your head).So, while we do not accept that there are competing cosmologies, we do recognizecompeting axiologies and we do believe we can successfully adjudicate between thosethat are good, better and best, within many constraints, by looking at how well any giventradition or religion or denomination or cohort has institutionalized conversion(Lonergan-Gelpi not Evangelical-style), which is to ask how its people have developedintellectually, morally and socially (cosmologically, propositional knowledge) and alsoaffectively and religiously (axiologically, participatory understanding).Remember, we are talking about epistemology here. Our references to both cosmologyand axiology address methods not systems, questions not conclusions. It is our view thatmethods precede systems, fallibilistic systems at that. Metaphysically, then, we areagnostic on such ―ontological‖ matters as philosophy of mind, the essential nature ofreality, various root metaphors such as substance, process or semiotic approaches and soon. If someone put a gun to our heads, on philosophy of mind, we‘d probably choose anonreductive physicalism but without losing sleep over the possibility of some type ofspooky, ghost-in-the-machine, Cartesian dualism. We thus affirm metaphysics as aproject but feel that it is WAY too early on humankind‘s journey to come to even a goodprovisional closure, ERGO, we had best move along without a definitive view vis a visour other human value-realizations.While some emphasize the existential approach to our ultimate concerns and dismissevidential, rational and presuppositional arguments, we say not so fast. Our religious
  • 72. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011interpretive approaches are constrained by the best that scientific-descriptive andnormative-philosophic approaches have to offer, such knowledge as has advanced slowlybut inexorably. A good interpretive approach, or religion, when it is busy TYING ITALL together, cannot fabricate its own scientific facts and philosophic norms but mustincorporate same within its perspective. A religion, like Christianity, may not be able toempirically investigate or logically demonstrate in a conclusive manner its entire stancetoward reality, but any evidence it does muster must be historically accurate and anyarguments it does fashion must be, at least, valid if not otherwise demonstrably sound perextant scientific methods and coherent philosophical norms. It must be reasonable and itmust be as reasonable as other competing stances, which is to say that it must, minimally,not be disproved even if not proved. Any faith is going to require some epistemic risk andany such risk demands some type of reward in terms of human value-realizations. Weamplify such risks to augment values but these risks must be dutifully ―managed.‖In Phyllis Tickle‘s writings, she employed a cable metaphor, a cable of meaning withvarious strands. It is interesting that Charles Sanders Peirce employed a cable metaphor,also, in a not wholly unrelated way, epistemologically. Peirce‘s pragmatism, moreappropriately pragmaticism, employs a nonfoundational approach, to be sure, but it is aconstructive postmodernism, a semiotic realism, which affirms metaphysical and moralrealisms along with its contrite fallibilism.There are many things in life we cannot empirically investigate or rationally demonstrate:1) belief in other minds over against solipsism 2) belief in reality‘s intelligibility overagainst nihilism 3) belief in first principles like identity, excluded middle andnoncontradiction. We take risks and are rewarded when we believe in realities like truth,beauty, goodness and unity. Hopefully, when we amplify these risks into creed, cult, codeand community, we augment such value-realizations.The strands of the Peircean cable could be said to include the descriptive, normative,interpretive and evaluative, as well as abduction (hypothesizing), induction (empiricaltesting) and deduction (logical argument). It is nonfoundational epistemologically, onlyquestioning the nature of our grasp of reality, which is not the same thing as denyingeither reality, itself, or the fact that we can apprehend reality, partially, even if we do notcomprehend it, wholly. It recognizes that our systems are tautological but it alsorecognizes that just because something is a tautology does not mean it is not true. Further,it suggests that not all systems are equally taut and we can devise tests to see which bestcomport with reality, fostering authentic value-realizations like intellectual, affective,social, moral and religious development. It eschews the epistemic hubris of modernismand the excessive epistemic humility of postmodernism, embracing an epistemic holismthat is more akin to weakened foundationalisms than wimpy postmodernisms.The consensus view in science employs an emergentist heuristic, which does not aspire toan exhaustive explanatory adequacy but does provide some very helpful conceptualplaceholders. As Ursula Goodenough says, emergence means we get "something morefrom nothing but."
  • 73. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We recognize that in this far from equilibrium environment in which we live, novel (butdissipative) structures arise. Some semiotic (info-conveying & meaning-making) realitiesarise which, apparently, transcend but do not violate physical causal closure. Thetake-away is that even realitys laws are dynamic and emergent, with some continuity tobe sure but also some undeniable discontinuities (one could call them ontological andvaguely refer to them even when unable to robustly describe them).There is, then, a certain danger in extrapolating universal laws from a reality that, for alltheoretical & practical purposes vis a vis Primal Reality, might be as local (and recent) asthe by-laws of your neighborhood condominium association. Approaches like string &quantum theory interest us more so because any enhanced modeling power of reality willprovide us with richer metaphors that will last longer before collapsing and more tauttautologies from which we can better navigate our ways from IS to OUGHT, but muchless so because they might somehow better facilitate our so-called metaphysical grasp ofrealitys essential nature or (much less) improve our God-concepts. This is why we havesome misgivings about any temporal critical realism & various (speculative,propositional) cosmological positions as related to theology and emphasize, instead, our(participatory) axiological dispositions.When it comes to humanitys ultimate concerns, our evidential, rational andpresuppositional apologetics are not unimportant. They are, in our view, necessary butnot sufficient because they cannot, whether alone or together, coerce a belief, or maybebetter a stance,whether of nihilism or panentheism. We all end up falling back on ourexistential orientations with an attitude of gratitude & what Kung calls a justifiedfundamental trust in uncertain reality or with any number of other dispositions peopleindulge from time to time and in the course of a lifetime (sometimes even a day). So,even as we go BEYOND the evidential, rational & presuppositional apologetics ofyesteryear, we do not want, in our view, to go wholly WITHOUT them and we certainlyneed to temper our reliance on them (BIG TIME).Below is a quote regarding Wim Drees19:"Critical realists such as Barbour, Peacocke and Polkinghorne have been careful toavoid theological speculations about t=0, recognizing that its status is controversial andsubject to the shift in theories. However, they have not been equally attentive to thechallenge to temporality per se by special relativity and general relativity, let alone byquantum cosmology and quantum gravity. Moreover, Drees claims the latter ought not bedismissed merely because they are speculative. Such a strategy to insulate temporalcritical realism is ad hoc, since temporal critical realists are already committedepistemologically to a hierarchical unity of the sciences, and thus changes - even if onlypotential ones - at the fundamental level of the hierarchy carry enormous epistemicleverage. For its part, the timeless character of physics and cosmology leads us to viewGod in more Platonic terms. Drees explores this option in some detail, including theproblem of divine action, the arguments for viewing God as an explanation of the19 http://www.counterbalance.org/ctns-vo/drees2-body.html
  • 74. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011universe, and the constructivist view of science as myth. He concludes by suggesting thataxiology may be a more apt focus for theology than cosmology, and this in turn wouldlessen the impact science has on theology."Nonfoundational Epistemology & Normativity?There is often resistance to nonfoundational approaches because, apparently, many have a difficult timeimagining how a compelling metaethic could be grounded by anything other than the epistemologicalbuilding blocks of a classic foundationalism with its self-evident, a priori and apodictic access totranscendentals and absolutes. All other approaches seem to capitulate, in their view, to a radicallydeconstructive postmodernism with its corrupting relativistic outlook and nihilistic bent. To be moral,however, one needn‘t resolve the debates between opposing epistemological stances and come down,finally, on the side of correspondence, coherence, foundherentism, pragmatism or any other theory oftruth or justification. However it is finally determined that we are grounded and justified, there can be nodenying that, due to our radical finitude and invincible fallibility, our access to putative absolutes ishighly problematical.Resultantly, our approach to truth is a lot more like the strenuous climbing of an epistemic rope, whichgains its strength from the intertwining of separate strands --- descriptive, evaluative, normative andinterpretive ---, which makes for an ecological rationality that is inescapably fallible but slowly andinexorably progressive as each successive series of alternating hand, arm and leg value-pursuit motionseffects a value-realization hoist, though not without the occasional slip or ropeburn. It is a lot less likethe stacking of epistemic building blocks on a foundation of absolutes, always in jeopardy of crumblingshould a bad brick be placed in the wall or, worse, should our site be discovered on shifting sands.To whichever realism we subscribe, it must be self-critical. It must also respond to critiques, which neednot come from competing systems to be effective, for one cannot credibly claim that the postmoderncritique was of no moment. At the same time, deconstructionism, which cannot coherently hold itself outas a system, was nothing but an epistemic thief who‘s come in a philosophical backdoor, co-optinganother‘s tautology and turning its inconsistent concepts, categories and claims on itself like a knifefound in a dwelling and placed to the occupant‘s throat. This thief did not slay deontology but,admittedly, weakened it.Whatever metanarrative one employs, it would necessarily contain within it, in the interest of descriptiveaccuracy, the manifold and multiform shared values that emerge from our somewhat universal humancondition. To the extent our evaluative posits are attributes of a universal human condition, then, eventhough they may be relative, which one needn‘t concede, still, they would avoid much of the difficultynormally associated with such relativity by virtue of being remarkably consistent, despite their relativity.These posits thus would remain relative from a theoretic perspective but not so much so from apragmatic perspective. When you think about it, this, and not some foundational, authoritativedeontology, accounts for the resonance and shared respect we do enjoy for such as the UN Declarationon Human Rights, the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and such. Is it not evident thatall of humankind does not share the same metaphysical conceptions, that all foundationalists dontappeal to the same foundations, and that all authoritarians dont point to the same authorities?
  • 75. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We need to be mindful of the proportional mix of dogmatic, heuristic, theoretic and semiotic terms thatare employed in any given metaphysical affirmation. It is not enough, I maintain, to issue forth withmetaphysical claims that do not conflict with positivist data; rather, in our formulations and affirmations,we must keep as favorable a ratio as possible of semiotic and theoretic terms to heuristic and dogmaticterms; thus we can better avoid idle tautologies (rationalisms) that bear little resemblance and have littlerelevance to peoples daily lives and lived experiences.What about Philosophy of Mind?Preliminarily, our particular account, above, is somewhat derived from Terry Deaconswork. Such hypotheses remain highly speculative and not at all uncontroversial.Phenomenologically, we think it is fair to suggest that we can refer to these distinctbiosemiotic realities in terms of function but that our understanding is woefullyinadequate in terms of structure and evolution, too, especially once considering howdistributed linguistic functions seem to be in the brain. We must not confuse successfulreferencing of these biosemiotic functions with successful description of their distributedstructures and pretend that we have thereby attained explanatory adequacy for the hardproblem.So, let us be very clear, our project of describing this biosemiotic heuristic is AGNOSTICto philosophy of mind issues and neurophysiology, too, for that matter. Our emergentistperspective and biosemiotic perspective and peircean perspective provide a combinedheuristic that can help us keep our categories tidy and enhance our ability to makesuccessful references to biosemiotic realities. This should enhance our modeling powerfor reality. It does not matter whether one otherwise prefers the approach of theChurchlands, Chalmers, Dennett, Deacon, Penrose, Ayn Rand, Searle or anyone else. Weuse Deacon to explicate my heuristic, not to propagandize our provisional closures re:philosophy of mind. Still, Deacon impresses us greatly.So, what might be going on?This may be something of a peircean minding of matter and mattering of mind. As aheuristic, its somewhat agnostic to prevailing philosophy of mind perspectives. If we hadto offer my sneaking suspicions, well ... lets see where that goes ...It is not always easy to specify the relationships between the concepts we employ to referto our biosemiotic heuristic propositions and our biosemiotic algorithmic phenomena, theformer being language-dependent and public, the latter referring to ineffable andprivate experiences. It is even difficult to clearly specify which of our heuristicpractices, all propositional, are doxastic versus subdoxastic. There is something thatphenomenal knowledge and subdoxastic propositional knowledge have in common;where both are concerned: We know more than we can say. But they should nototherwise be confused for one is highly symbolic and language-dependent and the otherlanguage-independent. The language-dependent, subdoxastic propositional knowledgecan come into conscious awareness and we can learn to speak about such and moreclearly specify it.
  • 76. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011What type of mutation-generated changes in nondoxastic practices and structures,common to humans and animals, encountered what kind of selection pressures to produceadaptively significant quasi-doxastic and subdoxastic and doxastic structures andpractices unique to Homo sapiens? To the extent language function is associated withanatomically new areas of the brain, phylogenetically speaking, we can implicate somebrain structure changes (remembering that language function is distributed). Whatpractices, like imitation or aping, for example, involving animal signals andcommunication, could have been available to selection pressures and both culturally andadaptively significant? By what quantum leap did evolution take the apes from thephenomenal to the propositional and inferential?Our inferential and propositional and symbolic biosemiotic heuristics allow us to modelreality.The Mode of Discovery?There are a lot of ways to define the different "modes" of discovery. We are sometimestempted to suggest that there is only one mode of discovery.And we are tempted to then call what we most often consider to be modes, instead,something else. In fact we have called them aspects, or better yet, "moments" in thesingular and integral act of knowing (or "the" mode of discovery). In this sense,philosophically, we would be saying that epistemology is epistemology is epistemology.And these "moments" in the singular and integral act of knowing, then, precisely gaintheir sympathetic potential from the fact that each moment actually presupposes the othermoments, none getting the job of discovery done alone, all getting the job of discoverydone together. These moments are autonomous only in the sense that they are askingdistinctly different questions of reality and cannot, therefore, conflict with oneanother, in principle. And this is why they are, necessarily, in some sense, mutuallylimiting. These moments are otherwise, in a word, entangled (hierarchically-relatedperhaps being too strong a concept to defend).In the heuristic we have under consideration, we might think of these moments in termsof the interpretive, descriptive, prescriptive, normative and evaluative. Or, we might thinkin terms of the paradigmatic, positivistic, prudential and philosophic (all above-defined).So, too, we might think in more classical terms like apophatic and kataphatic, likecognitive and affective. The history of philosophy is littered with systems thatwrenched some of these moments from their context in the whole of the integral act ofknowing, or from their place in the singular mode of discovery, and then let them swell tomadness in their isolation (to borrow phraseology from CS Lewis re: Scriptural exegesis).Without the mutual limitation of one moment versus another, and without theentanglement of these otherwise autonomous probes of reality, various so-called modesof discovery, powered by all too vivid human imaginations, get, improperly andvariously, overemphasized and/or underemphasized.
  • 77. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011To wit: An overemphasis of the kataphatic and cognitive = rationalism. An overemphasis of the kataphatic and the affective = pietism. An overemphasis of the apophatic and the cognitive = encratism. An overemphasis of the apophatic and affective = quietism. Various overemphases of the positivistic, descriptive and/or of science =positivism, empiricism and scientism. Various overemphases of the paradigmatic, interpretive and/or of theology (oreven atheology) = fideism, on one hand, Enlightenmentfundamentalism, on the other, or dogmatism. An overemphasis of the prescriptive and normative, or on the law and code =legalism. An overemphasis on the evaluative = moral relativism and an embrace of theso-called fact-value dichotomy. And when combined with the rubricsof religion = ritualism. For a modern example, Ken Wilber claims an integral approach and anaffirmation of the transrational. His approach is NOT integral just by the merefact that he claims to holistically embrace objective, subjective, interobjective andintersubjective "modes" of knowledge (and these roughly correspond to our positivistic,philosophic, paradigmatic and prudential spheres of concern). It is not the affirmation ofall such "moments" that makes ones approach integral; rather, it is the properinter-relating of such moments that gifts them with their integral nature; it is their holonicinseparability that makes them holistic. What happens here? Ken allows unfettered reign(no mutual limitation) to the intersubjective and transrational moment of what shouldotherwise properly be considered but one moment, presupposing all the other moments,in an integrally related mode of discovery. Mysticism, then, goes wherever it wants,probes reality, comes back with reports that are unassailable. What we end up with is anunmitigated 1) arational 2) gnostic 3) radical apophaticism.The remedy, again: the philosophic mediates between the positivistic and theparadigmatic to effect the prudential. Or, put another way: the normative and evaluativemediate between the descriptive (science) and the paradigmatic (theology) to effect theprudential (moral and practical judgment). Each moment presupposes the others. Eachmoment has its moment, whether implicitly or explicitly, in the integral act of knowing,the singular mode of discovery. This is reinforced by Charles Sanders Peircesobservation that the three forms of inference all presuppose the others; induction(reasoning from the specific to the general), deduction (reasoning from the general to thespecific) and abduction (the act of spontaneously hypothesizing or quickly coming upwith an If-Then statement) all presuppose the others, none even making sense without theothers.Transcendent Epistemic Frame Interpretive Religions & Natural TheologyIntelligent Design – a poorly designed inference
  • 78. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011There are many different issues in play in a consideration of intelligent design. Threecome quickly to mind. The first concerns biblical hermeneutics, which we won‘t address.The others involve the design inference and demarcation criteria for science.Advocates of the design inference confuse complexity and improbability. When they saya structure is irreducibly complex or suggest a specified complexity, they describe it aseither an inordinately high improbability or virtually zero probability and they furtherconfuse improbability (chance) and coincidence.Coincidence is something that pertains to the present or past. Chance has meaning onlywhen information is lacking. So, we distinguish the two in temporal terms. If we areconsidering an event a priori, chance is in play. If we consider it a posteriori, we havecoincidence (something which, however, over the course of a lifetime — even of amultiverse — might otherwise be considered likely).So, the concept of probability has no validity vis a vis a coincidence and statisticalscience thus pertains to chance and not coincidence. Probability deals with theepistemically unavailable, is an empirical notion subject to empirical methods and isassigned to arguments with premises and conclusions (and not rather to events, states ortypes of same).Specified complexity and the strong anthropic principle thus deal with the past and withcoincidence. It is not that one could not imaginatively walk oneself backwards in timeand thereby properly invoke chance or probability. However, we do not know enoughabout the initial conditions of life‘s origins much less that of the universe to inform ourgrasp of what should or should not be expected of this reality.A Radically Orthodox Epistemological Architectonic – an exploratory heuristicreintroducing enchantment or what G. K. Chesterton called the thrilling romance of orthodoxyPrecisthe normative mediates between the descriptive and interpretive toeffect the evaluativeEpistemological Posture – a nonfoundational perspectivalism situated in a fallibilistic, triadic semioticrealismEpistemic RubricsSemiotic Aspectsnormativedescriptive
  • 79. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011interpretiveevaluativeEPISTEMOLOGY AS VALUE-REALIZATIONWe can think about human activities in terms of value-realizations. Each value-realization seems toconsist of several other value-realizations. Each of these, while distinct , is indispensable andintegrally-related to the others. What makes them distinct are their unique goals along with their distinctstrategies and tactics for achieving those goals. To put it another way, we could say that they eachemploy different methods or rules or logics. So, we can say that they are intellectually-related even ifnot strictly logically-related. For example: 1) One value we could pursue is to get the answer to suchquestions as Is that a fact? Is that what I think it is? What is that? 2) These questions are different fromsuch concerns as Whats it to me? What do I care? Do I want that? 3) And those questions are differentfrom such inquiries as How can I get some of that? Whats the best way to get that?That first category involves descriptive value-realizations with methods like empirical observation andmeasurement, falsification, logical demonstration and hypothetico-deductive reasoning and it providesour descriptive premises. The second category reveals our evaluative posits. The third category involvesnormative things like best practices and provides us prescriptive premises. There is a fourth categorywhich involves our interpretive concerns and which answers the question How do we tie all of thistogether? It provides the framework for the methods we will choose and the justifications we willemploy in support of our evaluative and normative goals. Without resolving all of the interpretivequestions left begging, we can observe that our normative pursuits mediate between our descriptive andinterpretive endeavors to effect our evaluative concerns. And this is to recognize that once we knowwhat something is and whether or not we care about it and want it, then we turn to our best practices,hopefully, to see how to optimally obtain it. At this point, what we have done, formally, is to havecoupled a prescriptive premise --- that is either self- evident (so called) or agreed upon by socialconvention as a valid premise --- to a descriptive premise and then we have syllogistically reasoned ourway to a valid normative conclusion, which, if also sound, will allow us to realize our evaluative goal.What we are engaging is an exploratory heuristic that combines insights that we gleaned from Don Gelpiregarding Charles Sanders Peirce and also from Robert Cummings Neville. Gelpi describes one Peirceanrubric this way: The normative sciences mediate between phenomenology and metaphysics. Nevillesaxiology is heavily informed by human value pursuits. These insights are combined, herein, into thisepistemic rubric: the normative mediates between the descriptive and interpretive to effect theevaluative.These are very broad categories. The normative sciences include logic, aesthetics and ethics, forexample. If we wanted to narrow these conceptions, for any particular application of the rubric, wecould say, for example, that the prudential mediates between the empirical and metarational to effect thisor that value-realization. It could be further narrowed to describe the prudential in terms of either thepractical or moral. What we are doing is providing an exploratory heuristic or metatechnica to help ustalk about such problems as are being discussed here, or to talk about such things as the putativefact-value dichotomy or even the hard problem of consciousness. Such a heuristic provides placeholdersfor patterns that most can recognize and many can use, no matter what interpretive stance they bring tothe conversation. By referring to the different logics of these categories, we are of course recognizing
  • 80. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011distinctly different value commitments as well as the axioms we employ in their pursuits but also amobserving that there is a mix of propositional and nonpropositional, rational and nonrational, inferentialand noninferential approaches in play.One way to look at it is that, while these categories involve distinctly different value commitments,employ radically different axioms and engage both our rational and nonrational faculties, each categorynecessarily presupposes the others; each is methodologically autonomous but all are inextricablyintertwined, triadically, in the same way that abductive, inductive and deductive inferences presupposeeach other, in the same way that the modal categories of possible, actual and necessary/probable implyeach other.Conceptual DispositionssemiotictheoreticheuristicdogmaticThe Language We Use and the Ideas We Have – a classification schemeHumankind, as a community of inquiry, a community of value-realizers, articulates its descriptive,evaluative, normative and interpretive claims and stances with categories and concepts that are variouslysemiotic, theoretic, heuristic or dogmatic. These categories and concepts can be classed, broadlyspeaking, according to whether or not any given assembly of value realizers has negotiated theirmeaning.Negotiated terms are thus considered theoretic. Those still-innegotiation are heuristic, acting asplaceholders. Non-negotiated terms, not shared by the community-at-large or held only by a restrictedassembly of value realizers, are dogmatic. Semiotic terms are non-negotiable because they include suchas First Principles and self-evident values on which meaningful communication, itself, depends.The proper integration of the various aspects and perspectives of human value-realization, as measuredby the appropriate emphases to be placed on each in relation to the others, can best be discerned in thelanguage employed by humankind‘s different communities of value-realization, as it reveals eachcommunity‘s collective assessment of its various, relevant conceptualizations by virtue of any givenconcept‘s expressive status as semiotic, theoretic, heuristic or dogmatic. This is because, presumably,such epistemic status will reveal the amount of value that the community has been able to cash out forany given concept per that community‘s established evaluative criteria, corresponding, roughly, to theold scholastic notations of possible, plausible, probable, certain, uncertain, improbable, implausible andimpossible.Conceptual Categoriesqui (who)quid (what)quando (when)
  • 81. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011quo (where)quam (how)quare (why)quantus (how much)quotiens (how often)quia (because)quale (what kind)quod (that)haec (this)This Scotistic perspective resonates with Jack Haught‘s aesthetic teleology and von Balthasaar‘s notionthat truth and goodness are imperiled in a culture that loses its sense of beauty. It seems to me that if,with Scotus, we do not take the Incarnation to be a response to some felix culpa but a cosmogenicinevitability, we might reimagine our felix culpa to otherwise reside in our radical finitude. Because weare finite, we experience an epistemic-ontic divide, which is to recognize that ours is an ecologicalrationality that is inescapably value-driven, which is to further suggest that we must go beyond theempirical and logical aspects of our intellect to heed our evaluative aspects --- not only to thrive, but ---to survive. In Scotistic terms, then, the descriptive, normative, interpretive and evaluative aspects of ourecological rationality are formal distinctions of an otherwise singular human reality, which is thevalue-realization. Such a value-realization for a finite being requires a harmonic balancing of theperspectives, which we will prescribe below in terms of a fallibilistic, nonfoundational perspectivalism.The pursuit of such harmony is also normed by our deeply-felt aesthetic sensibilities.Scotus gifts us with other insights. Going beyond qui (who), quid (what), quando (when), quo (where),quam (how) and quare (why), and even quantus (how much) and quotiens (how often), in our search forthe ever-elusive quia (because), Scotus especially invites us to also consider the significance of quale(what kind) and quod (that) and maybe most especially of haec (this). Because of his quid-qualedistinction, we learn that we can divorce our semantics from our ontology and affirm, for example, aunivocity of being. Because of his concept of haecceity, or thisness, we learn that, as Peirce would latertake it, we can make nondescriptive references like quod, for example Wittgenstein‘s THAT things are,which is the mystical. This opens the door to engage in a robust phenomenology even as we prescindfrom any particular metaphysics as we recognize that it is one thing to successfully describe or explain areality and quite another to successfully reference and model a reality. We can talk intelligibly aboutrealities that lie beyond our full comprehension by at least apprehending them, in part.Evaluatively, haecceity opens us to the reality of individual significance, which affirms the preciousvalue to be realized in each otherwise inimitable creature and moment, which then especially affirms thedignity of each human, and this all has tremendous normative impetus. If in our competing accounts ofprimal reality we reach a Scottish verdict, establishing, at best, an empirical and logical epistemic parity,then, as a result of this radical finitude, normatively, applying the equiplausibility principle, we mightchoose to be guided by beauty and goodness rather than caving in to a practical nihilism, and this felixculpa of ours will require of us a radical kenosis, a self-emptying of memory, understanding and will insurrender to hope, faith and love, the greatest of these being love. And this is to recognize that, if wemust move beyond our best truth-conducive aspirations and operations and theories of truth to rely onour best truth-indicative approaches, both aesthetical and moral, as the Fab Four said: All youneed is love. And that is as true for John, Paul, George and Ringo as it was for Matthew, Mark, Luke
  • 82. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011and John.Conceptual Distinctionsepistemic indeterminacy – methodological constraintsepistemic a priori and a posterioriontological vagueness – modalontological necessity and contingencysemantical vagueness – excluded middle and noncontradictionsemantical analytic (explicative) and synthetic (ampliative)Elements of Actionable Normstruth-conducive and truth-indicative argumentsepistemic warrant and epistemic parityphilosophical methods and philosophical systemsequiplausibility principle and Pascal‘s wagerProcessesInformal LogicArgumentation might be examined from three different perspectives: the logical perspective,regarding its product; the rhetorical perspective, regarding natural persuasion; and the dialecticalperspective, regarding the processes of argumentation. Our specific focus is on the logical perspectiveand the establishment of probative weight and epistemic warrant. What are the criteria for assigningthese scholastic notations: possible, plausible, probable, certain, uncertain,improbable, implausible andimpossible?To be clear, then, we are not discussing formal logic, which is indefeasible, monotonic and deductive,the assertions of which must be surrendered if not proven. Rather, we are dealing with informal logic,again, as employed in everyday common sense, scientific hypotheses and legal argumentation. It isprovisional, defeasible and nonmonotonic and can be classed as either inductive inference, such as thestatistical syllogism, or presumptive inference, which is known by its reversals of the obligation toprove (presumption must be given up if disproved). The 1) inductive inference is weaker than 2)deductive inference (strong inference) and probability is employed to help us gauge the frequency withwhich the argument will hold true. 3) Presumptive inference is weaker still, made up of both a)abductive inference, which employs probability values in its minor premises, such as an inference tothe best explanation, and of b) plausible inference, the weakest of all, which employs confidence valuesand is normed by the equiplausibility principle20, for example. For our purposes, the equiplausibilityprinciple norms our provisional closures and actions by placing before us the decision to choose thatwhich is the most lifegiving and relationship-enhancing, amplifying beauty, goodness and unity in our20 See Douglas Walton‘s Argument from Appearance: A New Argumentation Scheme in Logique etAnalyse, 195, 2006, 319-340, which is available here:http://io.uwinnipeg.ca/~walton/papersinpdf/06arg_from_appearance.pdf
  • 83. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011ongoing pursuit of truth. For example, given the equiplausible notions that there is, in the dim light,either a snake or a rope on our parlor floor, we shall treat the thing as a snake. Given the equiplausiblenotions that this uncertain reality is a glorious contingency or a grand design, we shall respondeucharistically, with profound thanksgiving to Our Benefactor, and like Pip, in GreatExpectations, set off in search.Robert Cummings Neville21 writes: I think rather that the question is how we respond to the ground of being that creates the naturalworld with such indifference, and here Corrington and I are not together. He says that sadness has thelast word and that the proper response is lamentation. So his philosophy is a brilliant naturalistic theorythat laments the fact that the mother who ejects us is cold indifferent effulgence. My response was forgedin the grief of the death in infancy of our first daughter, which occurred a few short weeks before I hadto deal with the copy editing of God the Creator. There was a passage toward the end of that bookwhere I originally had quoted with approval the line from Job: "The Lord gives and the Lord takesaway; blessed be the name of the Lord." My wife and I had loved our daughter with a love whose limitshad not been reached, and she was taken away. Could I leave that line in? The result of muchsoul-searching was to leave it in as the mark of my response to the Giver and Taker. What it meant wasthat I could still adore the creator of a world whose forces of disease are blind to the purposes andpassions of the human economy. The Dao is simply like that. That was in 1966, and nearly everything Ihave written since then has aimed to search out the ways, hows, and whys of that world, and theloveliness of its creator whose ways are not our own. Eternity and Times Flow is my most explicittreatment of the shortness of life and other kinds of sadness. Its looking into the abyss no matter howyou cut it. The issue is whether to rage like an abandoned orphan or melt in bliss at the loveliness of thatpower.Methods"there must be a renewal of communion between the traditional, contemplative disciplines and those ofscience, between the poet and the physicist, the priest and the depth psychologist, the monk and thepolitician." MertonOur overall thrust is geared toward the search for enhanced modeling power of reality, toward trying tobetter define and attain epistemic virtue, toward a reconsideration of the "best practices" to be employedin our normative sciences of logic, aesthetics and ethics. It is a search for a Goldilocks epistemology,which is to say, one that has neither too much hubris nor an excessive humility. When it comes tohumankinds descriptive enterprises, which are inherently normative, when we encounter paradox, wesort through different scenarios and try our best to determine its origins. To the extent we cannotdetermine whether any given knowledge advance is being thwarted by, on one hand, methodologicalconstraints, or on the other, some type of in-principle occulting, the proper bias is to assume the formerand eschew the latter. This is simply a pragmatic approach wherein methods will generally precedesystems. Our methods will necessarily assume such things as common sense notions of causation,realitys intelligibility, certain first principles like identity, noncontradiction and excluded middle, such21 Robert Cummings Neville in AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHY Vol. 18NO.3 September 1997
  • 84. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011principles alternately holding or folding in a semantical vagueness that flows naturally from theontological vagueness and epistemic indeterminacy we ordinarily encounter in reality. Ontologicalvagueness means we change our modal ontology from the possible, actual and necessary to the possible,actual and probable. Epistemic indeterminacy is when we dont know if we are constrainedmethodologically or ontologically (the in-principle occulting I mentioned above). Epistemically, we candraw distinctions between the a priori and a posteriori. Ontologically, we can draw modal distinctionsbetween the necessary and the contingent. Semantically, we draw distinctions between the analytic(explicative) and synthetic (ampliative). While the knowable and unknowable might be valid categories,this distinction is problematical and invites yet another between the provable and the knowable. Forexample, with Godel we might accept that we cannot prove the truth of the axioms of our systems, intheory, but this does not imply that we might not otherwise be able to see their truth, for all practicalpurposes.So, while the postmodern critique deserved a response, the proper response, in our view, was the movefrom a naive realism to a critical realism or even a pragmatic fallibilism. Even if reality writ largeremains wholly incomprehensible, it is also still partly apprehensible, which is to say intelligible,lending itself to varying degrees of modeling power. Anyone who wants to enhance this modeling powermust accept the onus of cashing out their novel methods in practical value-realizations. The mostsuccinct summary of the difference between the pragmatists and the traditionalists of other schools, inour view, would be that the pragmatists agenda would generally seek to replace the philosophizing ofsociology with the sociologizing of philosophy. Below is a list of how we conceive the pragmatistsagenda in a conversation with the other schools of philosophy. If we honor a pneumatologicalhermeneutic, we will seek truth, beauty, goodness and unity wherever they may be found, which willalways be in pilgrim churches and fallible, finite individuals. We must not make fetishes out of our ownperspectives but should engage other perspectives recognizing the traces of the Holy Spirit‘s creativework in all others, of course realized in varying degrees.The history of philosophy, unlike other sciences (Kuhn notwithstanding), has been marked less by thestanding on others‘ shoulders from preceding generations and more by the successive generationsstanding on their ancestor‘s necks (McInerny), with overly pejorative rhetoric and often even incivildiscourse. Going forward, striking a more irenic pose, let us endeavor, instead, to employ others‘perspectives moreso as an assist and less so as a foil.To wit:With foundationalism, remain realist but fallibilistWith rationalism, seek internal coherence and logical consistency but with provisional closuresAvoid confusion between necessity, an analytic concept, and probability, a synthetic concept, which isgrounded in psychological expectationsWith the insights of both essentialism and nominalism, employ descriptions using vague heuristicdevicesWith the insights of naive realism, enjoy a second naivete with a truly critical realism
  • 85. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Honor today‘s time-honored, standard practices by updating them with always revisable methodsHonor today‘s time-honored, standard systems by updating them with always revisable theoriesHonor the notion of objectivity by fearlessly committing one‘s concepts to a broader community ofinquiry & social practiceAugment the insights gleaned from the epistemological problems of representation, mirroring andcorrespondence with those to be gained from our grappling with such problems as are related to humanvalue-realizations via perpetually enhanced modeling power of realityConsider what might happen if we repaired the Cartesian split, disavowed the Platonic myth, subvertedthe Kantian paradigm, worked an end-around the Humean critique, chastised the confidence of theTraditionalists and pragmatized Analytic philosophy or not. Can we a priori dismiss all of the insightsof old systems, even if they are otherwise seemingly mutually incommensurate or unintelligible? Howcan we a priori know which paradoxes are veridical, falsidical, conditional, antinomial? And whether orignorance is grounded in temporary methodological constraints or some permanent ontologicalocculting?Honor philosophy by distinguishing it from science, not by its a priori character, not by suggesting thatacademic disciplines are divided (horizontally) by nature‘s carvable joints, but with the realization thatsuch borders are drawn, rather, according to levels of abstraction (vertically)22.With Dionysius, we might recognize the apophatic character of all literal predications of God.With the Medievals, we might recognize the very weakly analogical, which is to say, metaphorical,nature of all kataphatic predications of God.With the Skeptics, we must recognize that even the most rigorously formulated god-concepts cannotcompel assent in as much as they, at most, demonstrate the reasonableness of some faith formulations(which is not insignificant), at best, yield a Scottish verdict --- not proven, when subjected to the rigorsof philosophical scrutiny.With Lombard, we can leverage our fundamental trust and radicalize it into an unapologetic andunqualified commitment to truth, beauty, goodness and unity, desisting, however, from any notion thatwe can absolutize our access to same as we convert our existential orientations toward these self-evidentand intrinsically rewarding values into robustly, even if inchoate, theological imperatives.With Scotus, we can recognize our limitations in articulating any truly coherent principles that mightdemonstrably foreclose on all of our philosophical problems of beginning, whether of infinite regress,causal disjunctions, tautological self-reference and circularity; rather, we can only employ philosophy inthe elucidation of our concepts, such as, for example, in Peirce‘s abduction of the Ens Necessarium and22 See Rorty, Putnam, and the Pragmatist View of Epistemology and Metaphysics by Teed Rockwell athttp://users.sfo.com/~mcmf/rorty.html
  • 86. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Occam‘s association of necessity with the divine order.This pansemioentheist stance positively resonates with Franciscan sensibilities andcreation-sensitivities, especially with the radically incarnational perspective that took God‘sinvolvement with the cosmos as an eternally preordained given notwithstanding the popular andclassical felix culpa theories. The soteriological efficacies remain, in any case.With Erasmus, we can affirm a minimalist deontology, following Adler‘s explication of Aristotle‘sethics.With Locke, we can affirm the probabilistic elements of any assent, such as those involved in thepreambles of faith, which establish, at least, epistemic parity with other interpretive systems vis a visprimal conditions, providing some epistemic virtue as must necessarily precede other normativejustifications of assent, however strong orweak.With Hume, we can recognize the problems that inhere in our informal logic and inference.With Kant, we might gain an appreciation of the putative immanentist and transcendentalist natures ofdivine interactivity, but we best temper any overly optimistic theological anthropology with therecognition that, as radically social animals, optimal realization of human values requires the successfulinstitutionalization of Lonerganian conversions.With Hegel, we can form an inchoate panentheistic vision.With Freud, Marx, Feuerbach and Nietzsche, we gain an invaluable assist in our efforts to dispatch, asper Emerson, the half-gods, that God might then arrive.With Kierkegaard, we can better recognize the radical nature of our trust.With Newman, we can recognize, in our grammars of assent, the cumulative nature of otherwiseindependent probabilities, reminiscent of Peirce‘s description of a rather strong cable made fromotherwise intertwined weak strands, or filaments of belief, all consistent with a nonfoundational,fallibilistic approach.With James, then, we‘ll assert our will to believe (however firmly or tentatively) or assent (howeverstrongly or weakly) based on those concerns that are vital and ultimate (Tillich) and existentially forcedupon us.With Dewey, we will sociologize philosophy rather than merely philosophize sociology.With Peirce, we will cash out the value of our conceptions considering only such options as areepistemically and normatively live (James) and dutifully ordered toward such human value-realizations(Neville) as best foster human authenticity (Lonergan) as measured in terms of intellectual, affective,moral, sociopolitical and religious conversions(Gelpi‘s Lonerganian account).
  • 87. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011With Peirce, we might recognize the distinction between philosophical argumentation (discursive anddialectical analyses, both inductive and deductive) and the philosophical argument, itself (the product ofabduction).With Wittgenstein, we can gain a self-awareness of our language games and how they implicitly entailnormative criteria for justification of beliefs, our everyday beliefs as well as distinctly religious beliefs,again, our informal logic, if you will.With Haldane, we can recognize that religious faith resembles the unprovable but incorrigible firstprinciples, which make science possible, which establishes a modicum of epistemic parity betweenscientific descriptions and religious interpretations, while also recognizing that philosophical naturalismis not entailed by methodological naturalism.With Haack, we might recognize that while philosophy and science are not distinguishable, horizontally,by carvable joints in reality, they do, nonetheless differ in their approach, vertically, by levels ofabstraction.And so, with Murphy, we might recognize the differences between science and theology in terms ofdegrees and not in kind, hence affirming our assertion that one epistemological shoe fits allphilosophical feet.We have now demonstrated that the history of philosophy23 can be viewed in terms of various over- andunder-emphases that result in various fetishes or absolutizations. Different aspects of the singular,integral act of value-realization --- descriptive, normative, interpretive and evaluative --- have beentreated as autonomous modes of value-realization.Let us issue a cautionary note here. When we say beyond rationality and speak of the transrational, weare recognizing that, in addition to the empirical, logical, practical and prudential, there are alsononrational and relational aspects to human value-realizations; and it is only because we are finite andfallible that we must necessarily fallback on what are weaker truth-indicative signs (like defeasibleinference, symmetry, parsimony and usefulness, for example) and cannot otherwise rely solely on themore robustly truth-conducive operations like empirical observation and logical demonstration. We mustfirst exhaust our best truth-conducive efforts before relying on truth-indicative signs (as fallibletie-breakers); and we must keep all of these modeling power attempts very integrally related even as werespect the autonomy of their different methodologies. In summary, we must distinguish between ourtheories of truth and our tests of truth.Norming Actionable KnowledgeOne practical upshot of this consideration, in our view, seems to be that epistemology is epistemology isepistemology. There need not be one epistemological scheme for one human value-realization and yet23 The historical basis for this biographical excursus was drawn from an article by James Swindal ofDuquesne University, which is entitled, Faith and Reason, as accessible in the Internet Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy at http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/faith-re.htm
  • 88. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011other schemes for other value-realizations. This is not to deny different integrally-related yet otherwiseautonomous methodologies with their specific axioms suited for distinct value-commitments. This is tosuggest that the different strategies for norming actionable knowledge, belief or assent should notinvolve the raising and lowering of some mythical epistemic bar, one suitable to the evidentialists,another for different fideists and yet another for so-called reformed epistemologies.A committed fallibilist doesn‘t shorten or lengthen the field of epistemic play, does not move theepistemic goal posts for this type of human endeavor but not another, does not variously place high andlow hurdles, or even none at all, around the epistemic track basing such maneuvers on the type of valuebeing pursued. Rather, one runs as far as one can, jumps whatever hurdles are there, high or low,pursuing one‘s value-realization goals with singular purpose, taking from reality what it offers today andreturning tomorrow to see what it may hold. If one gains knowledge, wonderful, forms a firm belief,great, or can only develop a weak assent, oh well. One simply must act and one simply must norm suchaction and justify it based on one‘s fundamental trust in uncertain reality (Kung), one‘s recognition ofcertain incorrigible first principles and one‘s legitimate aspirations to realize the best and the most ofhumankind‘s entire evaluative continuum, which is to say, robustly employing all manner of aesthetic,pragmatic and prudential criteria.Whatever attitude of trust or assent, whatever act of will or commitment, one might recognize that,while all integrally-related value-pursuits have rational and irrational aspects, out of fidelity to and trustof uncertain reality, itself, human intellectual pursuits must be transrational, which is to say, always andnecessarily, going beyond mere rationality but never without it.Hermeneutical Approaches – epistemically indeterminate and semantically and ontologically vaguephenomenological approachesintersubjectiveintraobjectiveintrasubjectiveinterobjectiveWhile the respective methodologies of these different aspects of value-realization are indeedautonomous, they are otherwise relativized by being intellectually-related even if not strictlylogically-related. The same thing has happened with our different hermeneutical approaches ---intrasubjective, interobjective, intraobjective and intersubjective --- as they have alternately beenprivileged, one over the next, rather than integrally-related as complementary vantage points, allcontributing to each human value-pursuit.Anthropological Outlook –existential orientations and humanistic imperatives as Lonergan‘s conversions; minimalistic realisms:semiotic, aesthetical, moral and metaphysical; Kung‘s nowhere anchored and paradoxical trust inuncertain reality; practical nihilism of strong and weak agnosticisms, nontheisms and speculativeatheismNatural Theology – abduction of the Ens Necessarium; weak realisms: semiotic, aesthetical, moral and
  • 89. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011metaphysical; Kung‘s justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality; deism, theismscommunitycreedcultcodeThe Semantical Perspective of Natural TheologyOur methods precede our systems. We can successfully reference realities we have not yet successfullydescribed. We can model realities we have not yet fully explained. We can partially apprehend(intelligibly) realities we have not yet fully comprehended. We can thus apprehend, reference and modela reality, even if we cannot otherwise comprehend, describe or explain that reality. However, we cannota priori know whether our lack of comprehension, description or explanation drives from temporarymethodological constraints, from a permanent ontological occulting, or some combination of same.Faced with such epistemic indeterminacy and ontological vagueness, we must retreat into a semanticalvagueness. This semantical strategy thus prescinds from any robustly metaphysical approach to a moremodest and tentative phenomenological perspective. Our modal ontological categories of the possible,actual and necessary change to possible, actual and probable. Our application of first principles thenvaries from one modal category to the next such that 1) both noncontradiction and excluded middle holdfor actualities, while, 2) for possibilities, noncontradiction folds and excluded middle holds, and 3) forprobabilities, noncontradiction holds and excluded middle folds. Possibilities thus differ fromprobabilities in that the former are overdetermined and the latter are underdetermined.The necessary, or necessity, is an analytic concept, while the other categories refer to synthetic conceptsderived from human experience and psychological expectations. The practical upshot of all this is thatwhen an overdetermined, epistemic indeterminacy, as epistemology, models an underdetermined,ontological vagueness, as ontology, we cannot aspire to a robustly metaphysical comprehension of sucha reality and can neither successfully describe nor explain such a reality using robustly theoreticconcepts. Rather, we can only reference and model such a reality using indeterminate and vagueheuristic concepts. One might consider our theoretic concepts as those that have already been negotiatedby a community of inquiry, while our heuristic concepts are those still-in-negotiation.This consideration is methodological and semantical, an analytic and not a synthetic account of humansignification, a semiotic of Charles Sanders Peirce, which Scotus, and maybe even Pseudo-Dionysius,anticipated, inchoately, such as with Scotus univocity of being and formal distinction and Dionysiusneoplatonic logic? In this order of knowing and signifying (designating), we might say, withWittgenstein, that we can distinguish our discourse about THAT things are from our discourse aboutHOW things are, such that we not confuse a successful reference with a successful description, asuccessful model with a successful explanation. This approximates the Scotistic quid-quale distinctionalthough the quid is yet to be described. .One might refer to the reality of God, for example, byreferencing God as a vague cause, a cause proper to such effects, a substance proper to such accidents,as could not be predicated of any other known causes. Thus we would have an existential statementinvolving universals, a meaningful statement because its predicates (effects and accidents) have areferent. Univocity of thatness, like necessity, is a logical or analytic concept. Apophasis is involved
  • 90. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011here to the extent we are literally saying, for example, not this cause and not that one and not any othercause known to us vis a vis primal realities. These semantical rubrics apply for all speculative sciences,for example, both metaphysics and theoretical physics, as well as natural theology.As ones investigation proceeds, turning from a semantical perspective to an ontological consideration,which requires the equivocity of howness, we invoke the subset of equivocity --- analogy, and thedifferent subsets of analogy, like metaphor (weak analogues), in our God-talk, and also in metaphysicsand the speculative sciences. Kataphasis and apophasis are involved here, both sharing the positiveepistemic valence of increasing our descriptive accuracy (beyond mere successful reference), describingwhat something is or is not like. Apophasis can also serve in our devising of coherent concepts forformal argumentation, such as in modal ontological arguments, where negative predications can serve toguarantee conceptual compatibility of concepts used in an argument and also to avoid parody of anargument. Kataphasis may also, of course, aspire to robust literal explanations, and maybe even fulltheoretic comprehension, for those realities that are more epistemically determinable and moreontologically precise.At any rate, the divorce of our semantics from our ontologies is thrust upon us by different encounterswith different realities insofar as they are variously overdetermined and underdetermined, epistemicallyindeterminate or ontologically vague. Not having normalized our accounts of gravity and quantummechanics, much less primal reality, itself, Christianity remains in search of a metaphysic (Whitehead)but, happily, has thrived and will continue to thrive, enjoying a more or less phenomenologicalperspective. An ontological question still begs regarding Gods transcendence and the analogy of being,metaphysically speaking, and it is that of causal disjunction. How can any reality enjoy a causal efficacyupon another reality if related only as a weak analogue or metaphor? Must there not be a matrix ofinterrelated causes and effects holding reality together?And might that be a Divine Matrix (JoeBracken)? Might the neoplatonists have an insight into this vast intraobjective identity of all realitiesfrom which emerges our grand intersubjective intimacies with one another and Reality in a vagueparticipatory way?Might this support, if not a more epistemically determinate and ontologically precise panentheism, amore phenomenologically indeterminate and imprecise panSEMIOentheism, to which we cansuccessfully refer even if not robustly describe?We neednt reject analogy within the order of being itself, for it is necessary to increase our descriptiveaccuracy of realities, both determinate and indeterminate, both vague and precise. But is mere analogyalso sufficient?Robert Cummings Neville24 writes: I maintain the controversial view that although we are responsible for our own actions insofaras they result from our decisions our decisions are also part of the overall singular creative act of God,and thus God and we are both authors of those actions in appropriately different senses." Issues ofconsistency and coherence aside, how does the experience of God bear upon this? Surely God is24 Confer Robert Cummings Neville in AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHYVol. 18 NO.3 September 1997 REPLY TO SERIOUS CRITICS 281: 16 See Soldier. Sage. Saint (NewYork: Fordham University Press, 1978), chapter 5.
  • 91. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011sometimes experienced as external, and we sometimes experience the perversity of our hearts, if not ourmoral successes, as being both non-divine and in opposition to God. But surely also we sometimesexperience the loss of self, its evaporation, in the singular act of God, with the consequence thatpersonal identity, including negative (or positive) moral identity, is trivialized and all is appreciated asa divine movement beyond good, evil, or personal significance. The constant fight againstantinomianism in nearly all religions testifies to the latter kind of experience. I dont know which is mostbasic of the two experiences, but my theory allows for both and the process theory for only the first.Process theology in the long run is hostile to mysticism.A Peircean pansemioentheism, relying on Peirce‘s concept of thirdness (habits, regularities, axiologicalrealities), would take a firm pneumatological stance in accord with a neoplatonic participatory schema.In the final analysis though, one cannot mend the causal disjunction problem onto-theologically,because, to the extent reality presents as an ongoing fugue between pattern and paradox, order andchaos, the random and systematic, we cannot a priori know and do not a posteriori yet know whetherreality‘s regularities emerged from chaos and contingency or from order and consistency insofar asprobabilities occupy something of a middle ground leaving us to wonder about their primal origin andwhether or not we inhabit a glorious contingency or grand probability. In the end, our hermeneuticalturn, metaphysically, is a theo-ontology, an account of primal reality that enjoys epistemic parity withcompeting accounts and which then invokes the equiplausibility principle, which leverages ourminimalist realisms into more robust but still critical realisms going beyond mere satisficing andsurvival values to ultimate concerns and meanings.In addition to the semantical, univocal predication of being between Creator and creatures, alsoontologically, in order for there to be any meaningful interactivity between the Uncreated and created,we can only suspect that there is some metaphysical reality that could, in principle, be univocallypredicated of both Creator and creatures, even as we concede that, for all practical purposes, theepistemically determinate and ontologically precise nature of such a reality could be grasped onlythrough special revelation. Our guess is that it would be described semiotically and would involve anotherwise ineluctably unobtrusive but still utterly efficacious tacit dimension, which invites us,kenotically, per ardu ad astra, ad veritatem per caritatem. For our God is a gentlemanly suitor, Whowould not force His way; neither timid nor coy, She seductively and patiently pursues us.Abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium & Its Modal Ontological ProofPeirces rejection of the notion that firstness and secondness could robustly account forthe world as we know it, in my view, marks his retreat into ontological and semanticalvagueness. To describe reality in terms of alternating pattern and paradox, chance andnecessity, order and chaos, random and systematic, does seem rather question begging.It is also true that, nowhere, do we observe necessity in reality; necessity everywhereeludes us. It is equally true that human kind cannot avoid the inference of the necessary;necessity everywhere suggests itself. Like Polanyis tacit dimension, necessity may becloser to us than we are to ourselves.It is at this juncture that humankinds Abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium
  • 92. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011emerges and that the Peircean triadic semiotic straddles the unable to model in terms of―knowing more than we can say,‖ which, as we noted, consists of both phenomenalknowledge and subdoxastic propositional knowledge. We might ask how we make theleap between the subdoxastic and the doxastic, learning how to talk about what wepreviously experienced in less than full conscious awareness, learning how to model atleast one part of our internal milieu, which had previously eluded our symbolic grasp.We‘d suppose the simple answer is that we likely gather more symbols and learn fromserious self-reflection and self-critique (employing our inferential triad) and fromexposure to others‘ ideas regarding same, whether in dialogue or through reading andstudy.But this does not speak at all to why it is we cannot seem to successfully model ourphenomenal knowledge and cannot successfully communicate it to others,language-independent as it is. We can make the analytical observation and voice thereason tautologically: We cannot talk about it because it is language-independent. Wecannot model it because it is symbol-independent. But neuroscience can gift us withenough synthetic knowledge to infer that the more phylogenetically primitive brain areasare not involved in the distributive language function. That information is just notpresented to our propositional biosemiotic heuristic.Still, what do the apes lack, even in part, regarding their internal and external milieus andwhat do we possess regarding our internal milieu, which allows us to successfully relateour symbolic manipulations to one another through language, gifting one another withour inferential output, for better and worse, forming and deforming and reforming andtransforming our paradigms, socially and culturally?Obviously, the apes must lack symbols for both their internal and external milieus. And,as we mentioned previously, they also lack our new brain areas.When it comes to that part of our own internal milieu that is language-independent, itseems that we lack more than symbols. We cannot model our own non-symbolic internalmilieu because our model would lack the stomach that does the aching is all. We‘d needto rig up another stomach in vitro and attach it to our brain stem in order to fully model astomachache, even if we did have symbolic facilities and connections to and from ourmore phylogenetically primitive brain areas.The question still begs as to how selection pressures interacted with which specificbehaviors, however rudimentary. We got something new, propositional, biosemioticheuristics, from nothing but phenomenal, biosemiotic algorithms.Maybe a Siamese Twinned ape developed two pairs of furrowed brows every time it gota stomach ache and two pairs of furrowed brows and a couple of winces every time it gotconstipated and symbolic communication was born as the two ape heads gazedknowingly into one another‘s eyes, thus bridging the phenomenal-propositional chasm,crossing the epistemological Rubicon. And although this bridge was not subject toselection pressure regarding the internal milieu of animals, the symbolic communication
  • 93. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011regarding the external milieu (re: each other‘s facial expressions) was the rudimentaryprototype of inferential facility and, once it was aped throughout their society, languageborn as constipated apes not only furrowed their brows and winced, but alsolet out loud moans. (Levity intended; this should have heuristic value even if no humor.)In all seriousness, if brain structure differences (between us and higher primates, but seeCaveat below) are pretty darned clear, how big a leap is it to think behavioral differences(necessarily or probably) were not far behind, adaptively significant to this day, perhaps,assuming we don‘t use the phylogenetically new-found facility toward the end ofeffecting a nuclear holocaust, prior to the near-inevitable ecological whimper. No needfor ghosts. No talk of machines.Emergent processes involve remembering. But all novelty requires some type offorgetting. What is lost is information. What is gained is complexity, that is if and whenselection pressures thus foster rather than eliminate same. This is true in 1st, 2nd & 3rdorder emergence - thermodynamics, morphodynamics & teleodynamics and especiallysemiotic processes.Think of instincts as very strict algorithmic feedback-loops and learning & memory asclosed electro-chemical circuits, neuronal structures where sensations & perceptions arephysically stored. A genetically-induced disruption or short-circuiting of these loopsduring development could have resulted in physical dis-locations of these storedsensations, which could have produced a phenomenal experience wherein properties of agiven perceived reality were dissociated from that entity in memory such that, forexample, the redness of an apple became a physical memory distinct from the apple,itself. Dissociate enough properties from different entities and, sooner than later,phenomenal experience presented the individual not only with what were mostly accuratesensations, perceptions & memories but also with manifestly inaccurate impressions ofreality, which became "models" of reality that competed with actual reality & memorieswhen it came to eliciting behavioral responses, on which selection pressures wereexerted. These models of reality became constellations of icons, indexes and symbols ---or imag-ination, which hosted possibilities in addition to actualities and which alsore-cognized the relative regularity with which such possibilities and actualities werepaired or not. The individuals behavioral repertoire became much more plastic, versatileand adaptive. Mistakes were thus opportunistically parlayed into survival advantages.Those mistakes now have many names In addition to grunts and groans and winces):predicates, subjects, analogies, metaphors, models and so on (hallucinations, delusions,dreams, etc). Its difficult to imagine a world without them. But they also make it easier toimagine worlds that are not real.Baldwinian evolution suggests an account where downward causation can be effectivebut without violating physical causal closure. We think the Peircean semiotic realism is amuch more robust account and that nuance matters greatly.We have come, full circle:Biosemiotic heuristics X (Environment X Biosemiotic Algorithms) --> Behavior
  • 94. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Propositional Knowledge X (Environment X Phenomenal Knowledge) --> BehaviorThe philosophic mediates between the paradigmatic and positivistic to inform praxis.Some Caveats:Per Deacon: Surface morphology and underlying brain functions are not directlycorrelated in most cases. If we project at least minimal symbolic capacityback to more recent, phylogenetically-related primates, increased brain size and languageacquisition may be as much effects of language-acquisition asits causes.Grene & Depew address the complex interaction and mutual feedback among a wholevariety of factors in the relatively sudden emergence of language.Complexity is good to keep in mind re: genes, memes, symbols, language, coevolution.They must not be wrenched from their context in the whole and swollen to madness intheir isolation (to reapply CS Lewis). Or, from Wittgenstein: One might almost say thatthese foundation-walls are carried by the whole house. (So much for skyhooks. So muchfor cranes.)To equate cognition only with algorithmic or rule-governed computation is thecomputational fallacy. It is what it is in humans only in relationship to pragmatic andsemiotic realities.To characterize genes as active agents or selfish or purposeful is an unhelpful shorthand.They gain their significance only in the context of the same dynamical semiotic andpragmatic realities. (Dawkins didn‘t literally misconceive this, himself).To equate memes only with replicators, as if they were analogous to parasites, is toisolate them outside of the dynamical semiotic and pragmatic realities that they shouldpresuppose and is the memetic fallacy25. (Dawkins did commit this fallacy.)The same is true for human inferential heuristics. They are irreducibly triadic --abduction, induction and deduction, each presupposing the other in the overall context ofthe same dynamical semiotic and pragmatic realities.None of these considerations conclude anything ―ontological‖ about ―the mind.‖However, the inference to the best explanation is probably naturalistic and wouldn‘trequire the introduction of new primitives to space, time, matter and energy (likeconsciousness, for instance). But we could be wrong. And that is okay. We are fallibilists.25 See: The trouble with memes (and what to do about it) by Deacon on Arisbe.
  • 95. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011If this heuristic has as its goal, the successful referencing of a reality even as successfuldescriptions of same elude us, then, we know that our project, from its outset, does notambition a robust explanatory adequacy. In order to successfully refer to the modalcategory of the necessary, we must turn to modal logic, itself. As we turn to modal logic,we begin to straddle ontological vagueness and metaphysics, or ontology with a capital"O."Many caveats and qualifiers will thus pertain to the framing of the argument, taking thePeircean concept and abduction from argument into formal argumentation. As westraddle ontological vagueness and ontology, semantical vagueness will begin to giveway to careful parsing and rigorous disambiguation.Thus the argument must:1) employ suitable predication (equivocal, univocal or analogical);2) employ concepts that reflect the guaranteed conceptual compatibility of the differentproperties that they describe using only apophaticpredication (increase of descriptive accuracy sought through negation, i.e. literally, whata reality is not like, analogically, or is NOT, literally);3) employ concepts that reflect the guaranteed conceptual compatibilities of differentproperties via the logical impossibility of their coinstantiation;4) employ a grammar of the modal category of the actual (where noncontradiction andexcluded middle both must hold); and5) not lend itself to parody yielding the absurd.None of this is to suggest that that which has been essentially defined employing onlynegative properties would not also be compatible, accidentally, with some positiveproperties. It is to claim logical consistency for our essential definition/concept of areality when that reality has been essentially defined using only negative properties, thenmeeting another criterion, which is that it is not logically impossible to coinstantiate theseproperties.Using this logic of positive and negative terms, it follows that our definition cannot entailany conceptually incompatible attributes. Such an argument is not only valid but itsreasoning is immune to parody using positive properties. Parody using additionalnegative properties can succeed but not against a concept with positive predicates that areanalogical.Heideggers question: "Why is there not rather nothing?" has been rendered apseudo-question by those whod employ an eliminativist strategy of considering"nothing" a conceptual reification, accusing all, who take existence to be a predicate ofbeing, of a meaningless tautology. Indeed, not even Aquinas thought that naturalphilosophy could determine, absent positive revelation, whether or not nature itself waseternal. The tautology may, nevertheless, be sound; it simply does not add newinformation to any of our systems.Heideggers existential question is better framed in terms of cosmological and ontological
  • 96. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011speculation: "Why is there not rather something else?"In this sense, clearly the reframed question does not refer to emergent realities per se butwhat might be described, rather, as the aegis of their initial conditions and boundaryconditions, which, derivatively, even if analytically and tautologically, ground all of the"something elses" that have emerged from these "nothing buts" of a primal aegis and itsinitial conditions, aegis and initial being rather loaded terms, at best, otherwise totallyquestion begging, to say the least. This Primal Nothing But, if taken as brute fact, has anocculted ad intra nature to it and is just a given. The initial conditions and boundaryconditions ensuing under its aegis would have an ad extra nature discernible as theensuing Something Else of emergent realities.Any such Ens Necessarium should, at a minimum, then, possess at least the followingconceptually compatible properties26 (all meeting the above-listed criteria). It should benon-contingent and non-dependent. The proof of a suitably predicated aegis with initialconditions and boundaries might be thus: 1) Either the putative reality of the modallynecessary, i.e. the non-contingent and non-dependent, is logically necessary or logicallyimpossible. 2) It is not the case that this putative reality of the modally necessary, i.e. thenon-contingent and non-dependent, is logically impossible. 3) The reality of anon-contingent and non-dependent aegis of initial conditions and boundary conditions islogically necessary.Now, pursuant to this assertion: This Primal Nothing But, if taken as brute fact, has anocculted ad intra nature to it and is just a given. The initial conditions and boundaryconditions ensuing under its aegis would have an ad extra nature discernible as theensuing Something Else of emergent realities.Given the Ens Necessarium, however occulted its inner nature of non-contingency andnon-dependency, one might properly infer something of its ad extra nature from itsensuing emergent realities. The properties of any such nature would have to be arguedwith the same modal logic and they must be guaranteed as conceptually compatible in thesame way as those of the Ens Necessarium. What has been proven, thus far, is the realityof a) a demiurge b) deism c) creatio continua d) a panentheism lacking nuance or somesuch reality with a capital ―R.‖Now, mind you, Peirce considers argumentation for God (such as our syllogism) a fetishand would have us desist from same, stopping with our abduction, our argument(distinguished from argumentation per CSP). But, taking heart from both Godel andHartshorne, and inspiration from Christopher McHugh, we simply could not desist.Alas, our project is undertaken as poetry and not really prose. Who would write proselike this?26 To go beyond that, see Christopher McHughs modal ontological formulation, whichwe relied on, above, athttp://www.infidels.org/library/modern/doug_krueger/krueger-mchugh/mchugh1.shtml
  • 97. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011No, what is going on, introspectively, is well characterized by Chris Southgate whowrites: “David Daiches suggests five strategies for the religious poet. He/she may:address God, tell the reader about God, recount a visionary experience, find Godthrough the workings of nature, or lastly agonize about God‟s existence. The DivinaCommedia in his opinion alternates „in a most remarkable way between the visionaryand the almost pedantically explanatory‟. And so too Four Quartets, though beingwritten in the age of Russell and Wittgenstein rather than that of Aquinas, Eliot‟ssequence approaches its religious task in a profoundly oblique way.”Somewhere in these pages, one will find all of that, we hope.More About This Ens NecessariumLike Daniel Dennett, who wrote Consciousness Explained, but who, otherwisecontrastingly, has a militantly atheistic stance, many unwittingly conflate ones ability tosuccessfully refer to certain realities with ones ability to describe them (which requiresa measurable degree of explanatory adequacy). In a nutshell, then, one must avoid"proving too much." One diagnosis for this illicit move is this: In ones arguments, onewill substitute "the necessary" in place of "the probable." And fallibility then getssacrificed on the altar of epistemological hubris.One thing has been impressed upon us, lately, as we systematically work through themodal categories of possible, actual and probable with their underlying grammars; therecan be no ontology with a capital "O" until we abduct the reality of the necessary.Without the modal category of the necessary, our metaphysics cannot transcendmere phenomenology and our systems cannot transcend mere heuristic devices.There is an inescapably ineffable quality, though, to such a reality as would be necessaryand it would have, in principle, an occulted ad intra nature (for nowhere in observablereality does the necessary present, insofar as all appears radically contingent). Its adextra nature presents everywhere in observable reality as the deepest and most persistenthuman abduction of the reality of the necessary, which grounds our common senseunderstandings of causation and all other (sub)doxastic realities, i.e. first principles andother unjustified foundational presuppositions. This abduction is the foundation of thepneumatological imagination and ones first encounter with the Creator Spirit. Properlyformed and nurtured, well, lets just say that, all manner of efficacious orthopraxis willensue as reality is then perceived as an arena of pervasive intentionality.The economic Trinity is indeed the immanent Trinity (but maybe not vice versa). To doOntology is to do Theology because there can be no successful reference to the reality ofthe necessary that is not predicated using the same modal ontological arguments asGodel, Hartshorne and Christopher McHugh. (And we see this realization dawning onStephen Hawking in an inchoate fashion.) This is to maintain that, when scientists speak
  • 98. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011of initial conditions and boundary conditions in terms of brute facts, they have implicitlyargued for the modal category of the necessary, which is inescapably an argument for thereality of the Ens Necessarium, which can be predicated as, at least, nothing less than anun-nuanced deism, which prepares the philosophical soil for positive theology.There can be no criticism of this minimalist theism from a systems perspective. Likeradically deconstructive postmodernism, which was a critique but could not comprise asystem, the atheistic critique must either come from a practical nihilism, which is naughtbut a manner of living and which articulates no system, or from a systematic monism,whether materialist or idealist, which can only be atheistic or pantheistic. Such accounts,however, in aspiring to system status, must abduct, at least implicitly, the reality of thenecessary. This is required, even if only, to successfully refer to those systems boundaryconditions, such as, for example, for an eternally oscillating multiverse. Otherwise, thoseaccounts must flounder in incoherency. An oscillating multiverse, from a pantheisticperspective, cannot coherently be described solely in terms of probabilities andcontingencies but must invoke the radically other, ens necessarium, if only tosuccessfully refer to the reality asserted as "the oscillating." This is all to suggest thatatheism and pantheism, as systems, are incoherent, or, at least, ignorant of their ownimplicit presuppositions. (They are unconsciously competent pan-en-theists.)Thus, there are only three options: 1) remain a respectful ontological silence like someBuddhists and inhabit merely phenomenological perspectives employing merely heuristicdevices 2) abduct the reality of the ens necessarium like most major traditions or 3) liveout the consequences of an unmitigated nihilism with Kungs nowhere anchored andparadoxical trust in uncertain reality, unequipped with a system (because a materialistmonism, of any stripe, cannot coherently do ontology with a capital "O" without, inprinciple, expanding sciences modal categories of possible, actual and probable toinclude the necessary).There you go. We just "proved" God. Actually, we have just suggested that all coherentsystematic accounts must be either deistic, theistic or panentheistic. The other alternativeis to bark at all metaphysical passersby and to nihilistically howl at the moon, resorting toepistemological and ontological realisms only when it is time for supper and one islooking for ones bowl. McHugh‘s proof, cited above, is a grand exercise in apophatictheology and formal argument (even formal symbolic logic). It is compelling andsucceeds for those who buy into modal logic and its grammars. There is a SupremeReality, an intentional reality. But is our love for Her unrequited? Will He love us inreturn? Theodicy issues emerge (but do not perdure, philosophically or theologically,only existentially.)McHugh notes that ―there are two ‗problems‘ of evil: 1) There is the theological problem,which is ‗Why does a good God allow evil?‘ 2) There is the philosophical problem,which is ‗Can the existence of evil be used as evidence against the existence of a goodGod?‘ ."If one can at all buy into our distinctions between methodological and philosophical
  • 99. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011naturalisms and between epistemological and ontological emergentist stances, which maybe either open or closed, then let us suggest a way forward. Our own methodologicalnaturalism and epistemological emergentism represent provisional closures toward such ametaphysical realism as can only be supported, via strict empirical observation, by such aphenomenological stance as is characterized by my heuristic of ontological, semanticaland epistemic vagueness. We described ontological and semantical vaguenesshereinabove. Epistemic vagueness presents either through methodological constraints orthrough such a putative natural occulting as might occur, for example, as we approachT=0 of the Big Bang or peer into the deepest structures of matter.Bias for Methodological Naturalism?We do well to look for our lost keys underneath the lamp post, for there is little hope offinding them in the dark. For some of us, that does not, at the same time, suggest that wehave a priori decided where those keys may or may not be.The required steps forward, from a metatechnica to metaphysics, in our view, would takeone from phenomenology to ontology and from a heuristic device to a system. One wayof making this move would be to adopt some type of root metaphor to describe reality.But there is an intermediate step and it is not that complicated on paper. All one has to dois to change ones modal ontological categories from possible, actual and probable topossible, actual and necessary.Is such a move warranted? Nowhere do we observe necessity in reality; necessityeverywhere eludes us (as contingency apparently rules observable reality). It is also true,however, that humankind cannot seem to avoid the inference of the necessary; necessityeverywhere suggests itself.What about what some have referred to as the aegis of initial conditions and boundaryconditions? Could these conditions, non-contingent and nondependent, and by sometaken to be brute facts, be logically necessary? What question might they answer?Heideggers question: "Why is there not rather nothing?" has been rendered apseudo-question by those whod employ an eliminativist strategy of considering"nothing" a conceptual reification, accusing all, who take existence to be a predicate ofbeing, of a meaningless tautology. Indeed, not even Aquinas thought that naturalphilosophy could determine, absent positive revelation, whether or not nature itself waseternal. The tautology may, nevertheless, be sound; it simply does not add newinformation to any of our systems.Heideggers existential question is better framed in terms of cosmological and ontologicalspeculation: "Why is there not rather something else?"And this is the question that, perhaps, begs for a modal ontological argument of thenecessary, which would be non-contingent and non-dependent.
  • 100. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Sound or not, the argument would, in my view, articulate a valid philosophical inference.One would not have a TOE, at this point. One would not even have a strict ontology butwould have the validation of metaphysics as a project, ontology as a respectableambition. The modal category of the necessary would be logically necessary.This describes a move forward beyond the categories of the merely phenomenologicaland the merely heuristic to the more robustly ontological and robustly systematic. Itaffirms that there are many metaphysical blanks to be filled in. It acknowledges thatmany have already been filled in and that there is great promise for even more to be filledin. It also recognizes that many blanks remain blank and will likely remain so for quitesome time.This rejects the excessive epistemological humility of a radically deconstructivepostmodernism and the excessive epistemological hubris of Enlightenmentfundamentalism. It is a Goldilocks epistemology . It is a tentative and falliblemetaphysical approach that doesnt prove too much and doesnt exert unwarrantednormative and prescriptive impetus on humankinds fallible but inexorable attempts tofind its way forward.Now, mind you, we have not successfully described this putative reality, the necessary,but would only claim to have successfully referenced same.Analogically speaking, we might venture to say that it would in some ways be like ourdictionary definition or be like our geometric concept, for example. It might even be likePolanyis tacit dimension or Bohms implicate order or what have you. We might thusspeak of this realitys intelligibility even as we acknowledge its regnantincomprehensibility.Trinitarian Theology – Christology, Patrology & Pneumatology Special Revelation – Transcendent Incarnational Christological Axiology Transcendence of Historical Tensions (past & future) Transcendence of Social & Cultural Tensions (individuals &institutions and competing, extrinsic values) Transcendence of Economic Tensions (needs & means) Transcendence of Political Tensions (coercion & freedom) Patrological Axiology Eschatology Ecclesiology & Theological Anthropology
  • 101. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Institutionalized ChristianityAll of the great traditions and even indigenous religions are Spirit-animated humanattempts to articulate truth in creed, celebrate beauty in cult or ritual, preserve goodnessin code or law, and celebrate fellowship in community. They engage us, participatively,in myth, story-telling, song and symbol, addressing our most insistent longings andultimate concerns. They all suffer tendencies for dogma to decay into dogmatism, ritualinto ritualism, law into legalism and community into institutionalism, but all have alsogifted humankind with authentically transformed individuals.Orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy such that the efficacies of a religious approachwould be reflected in how well it institutionalizes Lonergan‘s conversions (as expandedby Gelpi): intellectual, affective, moral, social-political and religious. At the same time,this is not to suggest that we can very easily gather and interpret such sociologic data inorder to adjudicate which path(s) work(s) best.For its part:1) Christianity has a robustly self-critical, self-correcting prophetic tradition.2) Christianity has elements of a true myth.3) Even if other traditions or denominations enjoy a salvific efficacy via our own belief ina pneumatological inclusivity and even if one could live a life of abundance via animplicit faith, we might legitimately aspire, nonetheless, to a life of superabundance, tothe most nearly perfect articulation, celebration, preservation & enjoyment of truth,beauty, goodness and unity available even if it is terribly problematic figuring out whatthat might be.4) Being on one path vs another might result in our moving more swiftly and with lesshindrance on our ongoing journeys of conversion and transformation and we want to getthis right out of genuine compassion for all.5) There may well be a dynamic in play of what is or is not developmentally-appropriatefor one individual or another, even one culture or another, or even for humankind as awhole, different pages for different stages, so to speak.6) Christianity reveals a God inviting us into an ever more intimate and personalrelationship.7) Jesus did not answer the philosophical and metaphysical questions of old or provide awell-worked out theodicy in response to Job and the psalmists or fully address ourpropositional concerns but responded to our deepest needs with Presence, both modelingand warranting a trust relationship with the Father and encouraging, even now, the samethru a Helper, the Spirit.
  • 102. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 20118 ) The Resurrection Event may be hard to describe in historical detail or a metaphysicalaccount of HOW but has an overwhelming impetus and significance for us insofar as wecan be confidently assured THAT something happened and it is responsible for our beinghere together, now, in love.Regarding any notion of ―piping in God‖ or mediated God-experiences, in anincarnational view, we might see God coming to us and at us from many different anglesand perspectives, using His creatures, indirectly, sometimes overwhelming us with HerBeauty more directly. It seems that we can recognize and affirm a sacramentaleconomy that mediates presence, thanksgiving, reconciliation, healing and other gifts ofGod, while at the same time acknowledging that these very same gifts areavailable, variously directly and indirectly, sometimes more versus less mediated. Ascocreators in a participatory unfolding, we are witnesses to and participants in a DivineLargesse that bowls us over from every angle.That said, we do want to avoid clericalism, institutionalism and other insidious -isms.There will likely be increasing numbers who will mindfully eschew and purposefullyavoid institutional vehicles, as did Simone Weil. Many of these folks are authentic voicesof prophetic protest, who don‘t just critique by walking away but who then articulate andlive an alternative approach on its own terms and in a positive manner, which is to saynot in solely an over against manner.At the same time, institutionalization is a natural response for humankind as radicallysocial animals, a necessary evil in our temporal juridical realm of social, economic,political and cultural realities, which must employ civic coercion toward the end offostering the common good. Even then, such coercion only legitimately extends to themaintenance of that aspect of the common good known as the public order.Our religious institutions are not ordered toward the juridical temporal realm, however,but are ordered to trans-temporal realities, which admit of no coercion. If, in our earlyreligious formation, things are presented in an obligational mode, they are thus geared ina developmentally-appropriate way and religion will have, hopefully minimalistically,juridical functions and a somewhat coercive tone and tenor. If, later on our journey, wehave not realized that religious realities, instead, belong to a much more aspirationalmode of life and relationship, then we will have very much missed the whole point,which is that the essential nature of love, beyond earlyformation, knows nothing of coercion.In other words, when you came to your parents‘ table as a child, it may be that you wererequired and also that you would not have otherwise been fed. Coercion thus served afunction and met your extrinsic needs. Hopefully, as you return to your parents‘ andgrandparents‘ tables for Thanksgiving, it will be for personal not functional reasons, forthe intrinsic rewards of being together and not because you were coerced or wouldotherwise not be fed! Sacramentology
  • 103. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Liturgical Spirituality serves an erotic loveThe ―Collected Works of St. John of the Cross‖ translated by Kavanaugh & Rodriguez(ICS) has a Scriptural Index which reveals that Juan cited almost every book of the Old &New Testaments in his writings and the citations number somewhere between 800-1,000bible references (we didn‘t count precisely, but that is a fair estimate)!It is easy to understand how new students of contemplative spirituality focus on, what isto them, the novelty of Juan‘s via negativa. One could err, however, by failing to takeinto account Juan‘s fidelity to Scripture, Sacraments, Liturgy and almost-Ignatianemphasis on ―God in All Things‖ and almost-Franciscan emphasis on creation. (How‘sthat for a litany of kataphatic modalities?)Denis Read OCD, an ICS member, calls Juan the ―liturgical mystic‖ and sanjuanistspirituality ―liturgical spirituality‖. In addition to Juan‘s love and fidelity to Scripture, tothe Eucharist (one of greatest personal trials in prison in Toledo was not being able tocelebrate Eucharist) and to the other sacraments (strong emphasis on reconciliation), Juanquoted the Church‘s liturgical books liberally, including hymns, antiphons of the Liturgyof the Hours – Divine Office, Roman Ritual, etc!Richard Hardy, PhD in ―Embodied Love in John of the Cross‖ states: “The question wemust answer is whether John is espousing the goal of an ethereal, “purely spiritual”love, or rather an embodied love replete with sensuality and delight.”Juan‘s emphasis on nature, the imagery of his poetry, his relational imagery reveal a manoverflowing with sensuality and delight! He is selling us on nothing less than Divine Erosand as Hardy says: “in the light of this erotic love challenges today‟s Christian toembrace a lifestyle that risks all for the sake of all.”The apophatic-kataphatic remains in a highly creative tension with Juan and getsresolved, not by emphasis on one mode versus the other, but rather by a rhythmicity, byJuan‘s recognition of God‘s every ―spiration‖ and by Juan‘s ―re‖-spiring in accordancewith same. Juan does NOT move us away from sensory delight but to purified sensorydelight. Juan does not negate the kataphatic devotion but moves us to transformeddevotion.Sanjuanist liturgical mysticism is ―mysticism par excellence.‖In ―Open Mind, Open Heart,‖ Thomas Keating writes about aprophatic/kataphaticcontemplation that there has sometimes been a misleading distinction suggestingopposition between the two, when, in fact, a proper preparation of the faculties(kataphatic practice) leads to apophatic contemplation, which in turn is sustained throughappropriate kataphatic practices.
  • 104. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011To risk all for the sake of all … now that‟s something worth considering!Map-making & Story-telling – the twain shall meetClosely related to our liturgical reflections is story-telling.Oliver Sacks‟ book and movie, ―Awakenings‖, describes how brain-damagedindividuals can be roused out of stupor by music and art when nothing else can reachthem.Tony deMello spent his life teaching the importance of awareness versus analysis, ofinsight versus information, perhaps patterned after the founder of his order, St. Ignatius,who emphasized the need to ―taste‖ the truth versus merely ―knowing‖ the truth.From Amos Wilder: ―Imagination is a necessary component of all profound knowingand celebration … It is at the level of imagination that any fullengagement with life takes place.‖From Morton Kelsey: ―God knew that human beings learn more by story and music, byart, symbols, and images than by logical reasoning, theorems, and equations, so God‘sdeepest revelations have always been expressed in images and stories.‖Jamie Smith recently published Desiring the Kingdom, which a publisher‘s reviewdescribes as a focus on the themes of liturgy and desire: ‖Malls, stadiums, anduniversities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts andaffections. Humans–as Augustine noted–are ―desiring agents,‖ full of longings andpassions; in brief, we are what we love.‖The lesson we take away, here, is that not only is our relationship with God shaped andinfluenced through story-telling, the manner in which we live, move andhave our being in the world is also.Charles A. Coulombe writes of one of Catholicism‘s greatest story-tellers, J.R.R.Tolkien:―It‘s been said that the dominant note of the traditional Catholic liturgy was intenselonging. This is also true of her art, her literature, her whole life. It is a longing forthings that cannot be in this world: unearthly truth, unearthly purity, unearthly justice,unearthly beauty. By all these earmarks, Lord of the Rings is indeed a Catholic work, asits author believed: But it is more. It is this age‘s great Catholic epic, fit to stand besidethe Grail legends, Le Morte d‘Arthur and The Canterbury Tales. It is at once a greatcomfort to the individual Catholic, and a tribute to the enduring power and greatness ofthe Catholic tradition, that JRRT created this work. In an age which has seen an almosttotal rejection of the faith on the part of the Civilization she created . . . Lord of the Ringsassures us, both by its existence and its message, that the darkness cannot triumphforever.‖
  • 105. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Story-telling thus engages our concrete, imaginative & practical mind through our socialimaginary, which can be thought of as the equivalent of hometown knowledge.Hometown knowledge is our experience of understanding how to get from home toschool to the grocer‘s and back home. This nondiscursive participatory understanding isquite different from our propositional knowledge, which engages our abstract, conceptual& theoretical mind through our discursive map-making approach to reality.The difference between these complementary approaches to reality might best beappreciated as we think back on occasions in our lives when newcomers or strangers toour hometown stopped and asked us for directions. Have you ever had the uncomfortableexperience of being asked for directions only to bumble and fumble and stumble andmumble your way to a helpful response? That‘s your story-telling ability trying totranslate its understanding of into knowledge about using your map-making ability. It‘snot that we are never asked for directions by someone who otherwise shares ourhometown knowledge, who shares our understanding of our local community. When theydo, however, we experience the ease and facility of remaining in our story-telling modewithout having to rely on our map-making skills (The new grocer‘s is behind the school).While most of us rely most heavily on our story-telling mode as we navigate realitytogether with others, whether in the classroom, living room or boardroom, all of us, atsome time or another, must fall-back on our map-making and map-using mode ofprocessing reality. Furthermore, it is a great curiosity to many that there are a few of uswho, by temperament, are natural born map-makers. In fact, that is their default approachto reality. In other words, they primarily engage reality through their abstract, conceptual,theoretical mind employing mostly our propositional knowledge and map-making ability.If you ask them a question, they‘ll hand you a map (rest assured it‘s already been drawn)and it may even be a map of your hometown or your own backyard. And you will look atit with total fascination but utter bewilderment, unable to recognize the intricaterepresentation of reality you‘ve been handed. And they‘ll look at you, gazing proudly attheir marvelous creation, waiting for that aha moment of recognition on your face, amoment that, disappointingly and unfortunately, seldom seems to materialize.Now, were using the image of a map, metaphorically, of course, to illustrate themap-maker‘s abstract, conceptual, theoretical approach to processing reality, whichpervades both their spoken and written word, leaving others scratching their heads andtalking about them behind their backs (if they‘re lucky). And this is being contrasted withstory-telling, which has the ability to frustrate the map-makers as much as they frustrateothers. You‘ve heard the old joke: I asked her for the time and she told me how to make awatch. Well, that pretty much summarizes how most map-makers experience moststory-tellers. Soteriology Pneumatological Axiology
  • 106. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 Orienting Empowering & Sanctifying Healing Saving General Revelation – Immanent Indwelling Theology of NatureYet Another Design Inference – telos properly conceivedWhile we have seen a design inference regarding any particular reality that, in our view,makes for good science or good philosophy, at the same time, we very muchaffirm a design inference regarding reality as a whole. While the various ―proofs‖ of thereality of God are not empirically demonstrable or logically coercive, they raise validquestions that are left begging and they frame answers that, vis a vis other interpretivestances toward reality, are equiplausible.Modern semiotic science has reinvigorated notions of formal and final causation, which,for quite awhile, had been abandoned by science, which restricted its ambit to efficientcausation. Notions of formal, final, efficient, material and instrumental causation havevariously given rise to such ―proofs‖ of God as we might call, respectively,epistemological, teleological, cosmological, ontological and axiological.Whichever ―root metaphor‖ one chooses for one‘s metaphysics, any account aspiring toboth completeness and consistency eventually collapses due to question begging, circularreferentiality, infinite regress, causal disjunction and so on. Still, just because an accountis tautological doesn‘t mean it isn‘t true; it only means we have not added any new infoto our system.At any rate, from a semiotic approach to reality, we know that certain tacit dimensions ofreality can be ineluctably unobtrusive while utterly efficacious. We also know that suchsemiotic realities can effect a downward causation without violating physical causalclosure. It is perhaps beyond the scope of this consideration to explore this in more depthbut we bring this up in the context of recognizing the role of telos in ordinary physicalreality. By analogy, one would not unreasonably extrapolate this minimalist telos into amore robustly conceived telic dimension. This is exactly what John Haught does in hiswritings such as regarding the Cosmic Adventure (or even The New Atheists) and whatJoe Bracken does in what he describes as The Divine Matrix.These approaches begin within the faith and are theologies of nature, which proceed viaanalogy and metaphor and sheer poetry, and they go beyond the proofs of God of such asnatural theology as begins within philosophy but ends with the Scottish verdict,unproven.
  • 107. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011In one sense, we can recognize that generic faith is epistemologically prior to science,which could not otherwise proceed without our belief in reality‘s intelligibility, a beliefwhich, itself, cannot be proved (just like our belief in other minds over against solipsism).This hermeneutical moment or basic interpretive stance toward reality is thus analogousto our belief in a Primal Design, Primal Cause, Primal Meaning, Primal Being, PrimalSupport, Primal Ground and so on. Primal Reality would not, in principle, lend itself toempirical measurement or logical demonstrability or rational proof, but the inference ofsuch a Cause as would be proper to the effect we know as reality-as-a-whole is in no wayunreasonable and remains eminently compelling to most of humankind. This inference,epistemologically, precedes both descriptive science and normative philosophy, andadmits of no apologetic, whether evidential, presuppositional, rational or existential. It iswhat Hans Kung describes as a justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality overagainst a nowhere anchored and paradoxical trust in uncertain reality.Faith‘s chief foil is nihilism, a practical interpretive stance toward reality that isessentially an evaluative posit, having no way to articulate propositional cognitions. Weeither fundamentally trust uncertain reality or we do not because we are presented withoptions in faith and nihilism that are forced and vital. And make no mistake,both of these options are ―live‖ in that most of us choose between them every moment ofour waking life, living a life of vibrant faith but lapsing, too often, into what adispassionate observer might otherwise conclude is a practical nihilism.A Theology of Nature - PansemioentheismTo the extent that we recognize, with science, that telos, as far as we now know, firstemerged at that juncture in cosmic evolution that Deacon has described as 3rd orderemergence or teleodynamics, and to the extent we next venture forth with Haught,theologically, guided by his aesthetic teleology, we are perhaps de facto suggesting thatreality is pansemiotic. For those whose theological sensibilities do not resonate with anypantheist perspective, as ours do not, it would follow that our theological vision mightotherwise be considered a pansemioentheism.To be clear, we offer this as a vague reference and not a robust description, which is tosay that we are suggesting this as an analog that recognizes and affirms the Peirceancategories phenomenologically without intending to imply any particular root metaphor,as would necessarily be required in the articulation of either a speculative metaphysic or anatural theology. This pansemioentheism is, instead, offered as a theology of nature,which originates not from natural philosophy but from our distinctly Christianperspective. While we affirm, in principle, the possibility of a speculative metaphysic,and we strongly encourage the search for the next most taut metaphysical tautology,which will employ the next most robust root metaphor for reality, we might, at the sametime, recognize that humanity‘s metaphysical quest remains somewhat quixotic. Shouldwe not gauge the practical efficacies of any of our root metaphors by attempting to cashout their value in such an exercise as, just for example, reconciling and renormalizinggravity and quantum mechanics?
  • 108. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Theology of Nature & the Holy SpiritThe Holy Spirit is so ineluctably unobtrusive while so utterly efficacious, a tacit telicdimension of a pansemioentheistic matrix of interrelated causes and effects, apansemiotic Peircean thirdness breathing fire into Stephen Hawkings equations, a sacredreality we relate to impersonally until we awaken to the absolutely personal and intimatecalling of all of creation forth to participate together in the eternal movement of divinekenotic delimitation in a community of ever-creative love. This divine urge is so tangiblypresent, so palpably real, so amenable to our successful references while ever-elusive toany successful descriptions.The Spirit, active in all of the great traditions, in all human endeavor, thus has manynames and many analogs and it is not always clear when it is we are relating to the Spiritmodally, which is to say literally, or when it is we are invoking the Spirit analogically.Surely, not all of our God-talk need be, in principle, merely apophatic or metaphorical?Still, this is not to say that whatever it is that could be univocally predicated of bothcreature and Creator is yet conceivable by humankind, even as a root metaphor. If wehave come close, then our guess is that we share a creative, self-emptying love.In addition to many ontological and metaphysical considerations, we have also describedan axiological epistemological outlook, a value-driven, fallibilistic perspectivalism. Allthings being equal, this perspectivalism honors the positivist agenda that definesepistemic virtue in terms of empirical rigor and logical consistency but takes heed of ourradical finitude, which requires us to look beyond such truth-conducive virtue, when ityields only equiplausible accounts of reality, to pay heed to the normative guidanceavailable in the truth-indicative virtues of aesthetics, ethics and pragmatics.This is not to say that we do not aspire to the epistemic warrant but only to recognizethat, sometimes, all we can attain is epistemic parity. This is not to privilege thetruth-indicative over the truth-conducive, for this perspectivalism is holistic and notholonic, which is to say that all of the integrally-related epistemic perspectives arenecessary in each human value-realization, none sufficient. Thus we avoidepistemological vices like positivism, rationalism, empiricism, fideism, arationalism,gnosticism, pietism, encratism and other insidious -isms that comprise a long litany ofepistemic pejoratives that have historically been tossed back and forth betweencompeting philosophical schools.For all practical purposes, then, when it comes to humankinds most insistent longingsand most passionate urges, we necessarily look beyond the mere evidential, rational andpresuppositional to the existential and we recognize that the descriptive and interpretiveperspectives would form an identity but for the fact of our radical finitude, which is torecognize our profound value-neediness. If the normative must then mediate between thedescriptive and interpretive to effect the evaluative, then we can face this humancondition in either existential despair and epistemic resignation or we can, instead,embrace our situation in recognition of the radical plenitude that putatively correspondsto our radical finitude. And we can be on the lookout for this abundance precisely
  • 109. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011because creation has gifted us with a down payment, an earnest, a guarantee, or, inother words, first fruits.We can take the mere fact of existence as brute and to be expected or we can remainever-surprised and forever-befuddled by a glory that is surely not merely contingent.Realitys contingencies and possibilities indeed seem to be poised precariously betweenthe random and systematic, between chance and necessity, between order and chaos,between pattern and paradox, but only to a mind immersed in modernist dualisms that areresolved by many postmodernists into different nihilistic urges, by many foundationalistsinto philosophical certitudes, whether the positivistic or fideistic variety, respectively, ofEnlightenment or religious fundamentalism.If realitys possibilities and actualities do not point solely to chance, chaos, andrandomness, neither can we discern sheer necessity and clear order. Reality is, rather,probabilistic, which is to recognize that possibilities and actualities are mediated byprobabilities. The practical upshot of this reality is that our value-realizations cannot beguided solely by mathematical certainties and empirical verities but are also normed bybeauty and goodness. That humankind must fallback on resources like beauty and love,otherwise lacking omniscience and omnipotence, one might receive as either poignantlyglorious or positively scandalous, which is to recognize that we can rebel against ourhuman condition and assert either our foundational, fundamentalistic certitudes orexpress our nihilistic despair, or we can embrace this cross, not taking equality with Godas something at which we would grasp.We have moved swiftly and cursorily through the philosophical, epistemological,ontological and metaphysical considerations, which we have treated elsewhere at length,to arrive at a more theoretical theological perspective and a more practical spiritualoutlook. What we wish to affirm is a radically incarnational perspective, which implies amoderately optimistic theological anthropology that affirms the Spirits role in every traceof human goodness, at every point in human formation, reformation and transformation,in all human conversions (Gelpis Lonerganian inventory), in both Mertons humanizationand socialization and both his false self and True Self, in the gentle telic invitations ofevery unfoldment of the Cosmos.We can affirm a sacramental economy that consciously and efficaciously effects,explicitly, what it liturgically and ritualistically brings to mind together with anincarnational economy of the Spirit that effects the very same value-realizations albeitunconsciously and implicitly in all people of goodwill, who cooperate with the Spiritscreative urges whether knowingly or unknowingly. In our every encounter of truth,beauty, goodness and unity, we cooperate with Grace.Let us consider imperfections, whether embodied in our humanity, in particular, orplaying out in creation, in general. Might we not take these imperfections and receivethem with gratitude as icons of the One, Who alone, is perfect, as constant reminderslifting our hearts and minds in praise? At what level of imperfection would we otherwisebe more or less satisfied with our "distance" from God, such that our lack of so much
  • 110. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011omniscience and omnipotence would ameliorate our misery and fulfill our incessantdesire? Could creation have been more perfect, just a little less uncomfortable? Need wereally account for some Fall, some felix culpa, to apologize for our finitude? Might wenot rather recognize that we have been gifted, already, beyond any account of merit ordemerit, with more than we could have ever imagined or conceived, just to have openedour eyes on the sky even if only to suddenly perish? Yet so many human lives are furthergifted with many more days, even years.That we should exist at all is incredible. That we should then ever experience more than arock might experience is not just brute fact but incredibly miraculous. How are we all notrather stuck at the fact of existence? struck by the glory of it all even as we are immersedin such finitude, some assuredly more painfully than others?Human imperfection, beyond the mere physical, shows forth in all manner ofidiosyncrasies and personality foibles, less often as character flaws, rooted in who knowswhat vis a vis deformative influences, illness or failures to otherwise cooperate withgrace.Although we can easily enough recognize failures to cooperate with grace, to walk in theSpirit, it is not our privilege to ever know which such failures result from willfulrejections (sin) and which come from lack of formation or deformative influences, fromdifferently-abledness or illness, or, even, plain and simple, human mistakes. Interestingly,there is a poignant beauty in so many human foibles and idiosyncrasies, even those thatmost often "get on our nerves." Older people know, from a longer experience and manyfuneral eulogies, that a loving gaze on our imperfect humanness turns these peccadilloesinto endearments, into unique signatures of a glorious existence that, in the end, seems alltoo ephemeral. How we would long to be graced by such faultiness, finitude andfussbudgets again? Why did we not better recognize the beauty and the goodness and theglory in this imago Dei, whose presence we would so willingly now suffer, whoseimperfections wed so easily look past, if only we could hear their silliness, see theirstruggles, and hold them close again?Such longsuffering and forbearance does not just apply to our loved ones but should beextended to all humans, whom we tend to alternately deify or demonize based on ourwholly unrealistic expectations of them, along with our typically dualistic all or nothingand either/or perspectives of reality, in general, other people, in particular. That ourworld leaders, national politicians and religious leaders, among others, are less thanperfect, should come less as a surprise and more as par for the course. There is a lot lessroom for criticism of those who hold different views when we realize with Merton thatwe are so often morally fantasizing in a vacuum, which is to recognize that the world is alot more complex socially, politically, economically and culturally than our facilepolitical and moral prescriptions admit. In fact, too often, practical differences inproblem solving get mischaracterized as moral differences in problem solvers, in acyncial effort to manipulate the passions of the electorate. There is a lot less room forincivil discourse and the invocations of moral superiority than most political and religious"dialogue" would seem to display. All people deserve our compassion and our benefit of
  • 111. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011the doubt, even those whose behavior we must otherwise interdict, from time to time.Humanity, in our brokenness, is a wonder to behold, is made to be held, in solidarity andcompassion. These are phenomenal truths that transcend our categories like natural andsupernatural, nature and grace, physical and metaphysical.If creative advance, as per Whitehead, indeed takes place only on the borders of chaos,might this not be true both epistemologically and ontologically? Might creation not haveadvanced by divine self-delimitation? Might our own cooperation with grace as createdco-creators (Phil Hefner) follow this pattern of kenotic self-emptying, as all creation yetgroans in one act of giving birth? Is a world --- where all knowing and all-power eludesus thus requiring us to yield, normatively, to beauty, goodness and love in order to realizeits values --- really somehow less perfect than some reality we otherwise imagine in ourfacile theodicies? Or is a reality wherein the more we need God and recognize our radicalneediness the more we will see of Him, as per the universal testimony of the mystics,"good enough"?This is the poverty of St. Francis, the perfect joy, and not some otherwise misguidedsevere asceticism. This is the preferential option for the poor and marginalized, whom weeventually recognize, in genuine humility, as our very selves in full communion with allothers whove been cast out of some idol-festooned eden.Our leprosy is okay.We are all lepers; this much is certain.Those of us who truly "know" this will not be scandalized but will go, in our radical nakedness, to bebathed, as a prelude to then being wed by the Beauty, Who sees our beauty, the Goodness, Who knowsour goodness, the Love, Who desires our love.divine liminoid as formative playchaos theorycomplexity theoryevolution and emergencephysical anomalies & paranormalAspects of Thirdness - LogosDefinition of Delimitation: creativityDefinition of Relimitation: helpDefinition of Liminal: transformatively helpful creativty and creativehelp; limit exploitationDefinition of Liminoid: formatively creative play; limit explorationThirdness as Limits: pneumatological delimitation, relimitation &liminalityKenosis as Divine Delimitation both Pneumatological and Christological
  • 112. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Divine Liminal Threshold (neoplatonic proodos)Firstness - modal ontology of the possibleReality of the Ens NecessariumLiminal Space (neoplatonic mone)ontology of quasi-autonomy referenced by Process approach of divine matrixThirdness - modal ontology of probablegenerally unobtrusive but utterly efficacious and tacit dimensionalityincarnational reality as pneumatological relimitation and human divinizationdivine relimiting prerogativeshesychastic theoriasigns and wonderscharismsTheosis as Human DelimitationHuman Liminal Threshold or Limen (neoplatonic epistrophe)ontology of intimacy described by Thomistic analogy of beingontology of identity described by Scotistic univocity of beingSecondness - modal ontology of the actualincarnational reality as Christological relimitationdivine humanizationJesus of NazarethMystical BodyCosmic ChristHuman Liminoid ExperienceIn a more comprehensive consideration, we would survey a hermeneutical progression fromepistemology through the philosophies of science, mind and religion to a theology of nature, describinga putative fugue of Peircean thirdness as it resonates in each of these foci of human concern (hence, atetradic fugue). Epistemologically, we would propose an exploratory heuristic to facilitate the discoveryof this Peircean dynamic as it consistently and coherently informs the philosophic methods that willultimately frame our theology of nature. Our epistemology, while nonfoundational, is manifestly realist,albeit in a minimalist sense. This particular fallibilist and critical realism also commits to bothmetaphysical and moral realisms. Peircean thirdness plays out in a triadic dynamic wherein thenormative mediates between the descriptive and interpretive to effect the evaluative.In our philosophy of science, we consider the emergentist paradigm and consider thirdness in lifeforms, especially associating it with the characteristics of third order emergence, whereby spatialproperties playing out over time begin to replicate, thus providing a substrate for selection dynamics,which involve an intricate interplay of initial conditions, boundary conditions and limit conditions.These conditions and characteristics of thirdness come into sharper focus with the teleodynamicinteractions we consider in our philosophy of mind heuristics, whereby biosemiotic realities effect aminimalist telos, or downward causation, on other biosemiotic realities through an ineluctablyunobtrusive but utterly efficacious implicate ordering or tacit dimensionality.
  • 113. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011In our philosophy of religion and natural theology, our analogical imaginations engage this thirdness inour abduction of the Ens Necessarium, a putative mediating reality intuited from our inescapably vaguemodal ontology, where we prescind from the necessary to the probable, for, even as it ubiquitouslyseems to suggest itself, always and everywhere, the necessary invariably eludes us.Thus the stage has been set for our Pansemioentheism as our pneumatological imaginations engage thispervasive thirdness in a Creator Spirit in our theology of nature.The fundamental argument that we would set forth is that a robust pneumatological imagination that isexternally congruent, logically consistent, internally coherent, hypothetically consonant andinterdisciplinarily consilient with both a Peircean metatechnica and the rubrics of modern empiricalscience is the 21st Century Rosetta Stone for unlocking an enhanced modeling power of reality asdescribed by science, normed by philosophy, interpreted by theology and evaluatively realized byhumankind in all of its prudential (both practical and moral) and aesthetical value realizations.Hereinabove, we already addressed some practical aspects of this systematic theology for formativespirituality, in particular, the life of faith, in general. Improperly considered, faith aspires to establishepistemic warrant in order to attain foundational interpretations of primal reality and articulate absolutenorms for categorical imperatives, which can be a priori and objectively validated, privately even,through various noncontradictory abstractions. Properly considered, faith, propositionally, aspires toepistemic parity with other equiplausible interpretations of primal reality, and, evaluatively, radicalizesour fundamental trust in reality, transforming our existential orientations and temporal value-pursuitsinto the actionable norms of our transcendental imperatives and ultimate concerns, the transcendentnature and universal validity of which must be 1) communally discerned (orthocommunio); 2) testedargumentatively through rational discourse (orthodoxy); 3) authenticated pragmatically (orthopraxis)and 4) ritualistically cultivated (orthopathos). These norms are thus communally, or intersubjectively,actionable, which is to recognize that we invoke because we have first been convoked (ecclesially). Andthe action, then, is pneumatological, which is to say, divine.Theology as Open-Sourced and Per to Peer (P2P), Non-hierarchical?When Reuther uses the phrase ―intrinsic aspect of the mission of the church,‖ one mightsense in that a subversion of some of the logic employed by many in her church‘steaching office. There is an old, sterile scholasticism that employs a substancemetaphysic as an ontology from which a deontology then issues forth with all manner ofdescriptions that specify the intrinsic nature of this reality or that. Where sex and genderissues are involved, such an approach is sterile because it is too rationalistic, a prioristic,biologistic and physicalistic and therefore divorced from the concrete lived experience ofthe faithful. It‘s all abstractions, like the sentences above, which leave us scratching ourheads and asking: say what?Put differently, such an approach takes too narrow a view of the way things are(ontology) and then reasons to how things ought to be (deontology) from their verynature (intrinsically). A male is created like this and a female like that, therefore a malemust do this and a female must do that and neither must do otherwise because that would
  • 114. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011go against one‘s intrinsic nature. This then pervades one‘s views of church polity, moraldoctrine, sacramental theology and church disciplines.Now, were all for deontology- is it right? (complemented by consequentialist- is ithelpful?, contractarian- is it fair? and aretaic - is it virtuous?, approaches), but it ispremised on starting with a good ontology, which, when we‘re talking about people,means a good anthropology. We can ask the question, what if we as created co-creators,rather than being passive observers and characters playing out an author‘s script, havebeen gifted with a participatory role in creation such that we have something to contributeto how things are supposed to unfold (teleologically)?What if this whole notion of original sin as some ontological rupture rooted in the past isbass-ackwards and our experience of a most radical finitude is due, instead, toSomebody‘s unfinished business, which we experience as a teleological striving orientedtoward the future? (cf. Jack Haught‘s aesthetic teleology.) In that case, we as createdco-creators, while still partially determined and bounded (by our genetic inheritance &environmental parameters), would also be autopoietic (self-organizing) and free(quasi-autonomous in the divine matrix). (cf. Phil Hefner‘s theological anthropology andJoe Bracken‘s Divine Matrix)From an axiological (value-oriented) perspective, as semiotic (meaning-making) animals,we would not just discover meaning and values, but, without in any way disvaluing thosewe have discovered, or violating them, we would create new meanings and new values,which is to say that they would be novel, emergent realities. (combining Robert C.Neville‘s axiology and Charles Sanders Peirce‘s triadic semeiotic)If we thus change our perspective on the nature of our finitude, then we must change ourunderstanding of the nature of atonement. This is to say that, if we change our assessmenton what we think is wrong with reality (original sin and the Fall), this changes our viewof how reality is to be fixed (soteriologically), which changes our view of the incarnation,itself (why God became man and why the Spirit so profusely permeates our reality,panentheistically). This would suggest that the incarnation, rather than being some grandcosmic repair job of some ontological rupture located in the past (―the‖ Fall), was a grandtelic design built into the plan from the cosmic get-go, teleologically (cf. Teilhard andScotus & Jack Haught‘s Cosmic Adventure27).This would all then change our perspective on 1) where things might be headed in thefuture (eschatologically) 2) Who the Cosmic Christ is (Christologically), and 3) how theSpirit empowers us (pneumatologically), all which then bear directly on 4) how we willexperience one another in community (ecclesiologically).And we think the answers to these questions will have to take into account a radicallyincarnational and profusely pneumatological reality, which is then ―intrinsically‖participatory, profoundly inclusive and wonderfully universalist in its indelible27 John F. Haught Cosmic Adventure available online
  • 115. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011catholicity. This need not, in the least, call into question the salvific efficacy of theincarnation and its indispensable role in effecting our at-one-ment. Rather, it broadensour conception of how deep is the love of the Trinity for creation and how we are calledto a relationship of unspeakable intimacy in response to this divine eros, which thenimpels our agape‘ toward self, toward other, toward our cosmos and toward our God, allin right relationship, shall we say, intrinsically. (cf. Thomas Merton re: these 4 vectors oflove)A servant-leader‘s role becomes that of a host, patterned after this grand cosmichospitality that we just described. As such, this role more so resembles that of a scribe ornote-taker, asking each Participant where they‘ve been, what they‘ve been up to andwhere they‘ve witnessed the Spirit at work and inviting each to give voice in hymn,psalm, story-telling, ritual-sharing and fellowship-enjoying community, as they say, lexorandi lex credendi, our worship birthing our creeds.There is nothing exclusively top-down about this. It‘s all peer to peer (p2p), in essence.Do we institutionalize sacrament? Sure we do, as the radically social animals we are. Isthere a clerical role? Sure there is, but we needn‘t be clericalistic. Neither do we need tobe institutionalistic, over-identifying the Mystical Body with one aspect of an institutionor another, denying the salvific efficacies of other traditions, institutions or even whatare, ostensibly, noninstitutional vehicles.We might ask what the role of a hierarchy is in a p2p environment and whether that needbe an intrinsic feature of its architecture. Emergence, itself, is intrinsically hierarchical,which is to recognize that a system‘s novel emergent properties can indeed effect atop-down causation. But we must also recognize that it is also in the nature of thiscausation to not violate the structures and properties from which it emerged. Complexemergence is a rich reality with both bottom-up and top-down causations. The essentialelement of the systems approach is that the value added to the system comes from therelationships between the parts and not from the parts per se, which is to suggest that thehierarchy doesn‘t impart value per se but that the value derives from the feedback loop asthe hierarchy channels the information it has received from other system structures andprocesses, all for the good of the system as a whole. Anything else devolves into adegenerate hierarchicalism.In robustly semiotic systems, we must also pay heed to Walker Percy‘s distinctionbetween information and news, or what Benedict XVI calls the informative andperformative, the latter which can be of profound existential import and eminentlyactionable. We might call such: Good News.What the hierarchy is to pass along, then, for example, is only that information firstheralded by a shepherd who asked: Do you see what I see? Do you hear what Ihear? Do you know what I know?It is only then that the king has any authority to say:
  • 116. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Listen to what I say!That‘s what an epiphany is per dictionary.com: a sudden, intuitive perception of orinsight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by somesimple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.If it isn‘t simple, homely or commonplace in origin, well… our advice is to leave it alone.David Foster Wallace said it well:It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do withknowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so realand essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keepreminding ourselves over and over:―This is water.‖―This is water.‖Charles Sanders Peirce drew a helpful distinction between the theoretic and the practical,suggesting that we should speculate boldly in our theoretical endeavors but move moretentatively in our practical affairs. One way of interpreting his approach might be to saythat we should employ a progressive bias in our academic, propositional disciplines and aconservative or traditionalist bias in our practical and pastoral approaches. This strikes usas right-headed in that, while in the first instance, we are dealing with relationshipsbetween ideas, in the latter case we are dealing with relationships between people. Thisaphorism seems easy enough to apply when we are drawing a distinction such as betweenour theoretic sciences and our practical politics. It gets more complicated, however, whenwe adopt the view that theology, itself, is very much more a practical science, not somuch a theoretical endeavor.What are the implications?For starters, this means that theology advances as a science much more inductively viaempirical observation than deductively via rational considerations (ahem, or at least itshould). It also means that when theology gets descriptive and normative, what itdescribes and norms are interpretive and evaluative realities, like religions and cultures,and not physical, metaphysical, practical and moral realities, like sciences andphilosophies. More concretely, then, theology does not gift us with cosmological insights,such as taking positions on the philosophies of mind, the origins of species or the putativereconciliations of gravity & quantum mechanics. Theology gifts us with axiologicalinsights, observing and reporting how it is that humankind interprets cosmologicalrealities and what it is about these realities that humans value most.One needn‘t be a distinctly Christian theologian to recognize that humankind, by andlarge, has interpreted reality pneumatologically, which is to say that it interprets realitywith Spirit as a rather basic and universal category, and also participatively, which is to
  • 117. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011recognize that we all have co-creative roles. As we move from the vague to the morespecific, our interpretations begin to diverge. Where we enjoy the strongest convergence,though, is evaluatively vis a vis what it is we most treasure or desire and, by and large,humankind desires the Kingdom of a God, Who is love. Again, as we move from thevague to the specific, there‘s some divergence in value-realization strategies, what wecall spiritual practices and disciplines, but, increasingly, we are eagerly exploring andprofitably exchanging them.If human religious realities are pretty much universally conceived, then, as thoroughlypneumatological, robustly participatory and profitably pluralistic, then theology as adiscipline, it would seem, is going to be incredibly open-sourced. Those whose giftsinclude teaching and leadership charisms will exercise those roles, primarily by hosting,listening and observing those who are participating and profiting from manifold andmultiform interpretations and practices and then exchanging that information with therest of us.This is how Scripture itself came about, as a collation of hymns, psalmody, prayers,meditative practices, myths, parables, wisdom sayings, narratives, stories, rituals andother traditions. This is how my own tradition‘s magisterium is conceived as listening toand observing the faithful and then promulgating these hearings and observations to allvia the articulation of truth in dogma, celebration of beauty in the cultivation of ritual &liturgy, preservation of goodness in code & law and enjoyment of fellowship incommunity. This is to say that what we promulgate is the sensus fidelium or sense of thefaithful, which is an inherently bottom-up, grass roots activity and not a trickle-downreality, whatsoever. And no hierarchy goes around wily nilly making changes based onivory tower theological abstractions and constructions. Instead, it involves anindispensable active listening and observing process. Caveat: Note we said that this ishow a magisterium is conceived and did not represent that this is how it always works inpractice.What‘s the practical upshot of all of this? Well, as our communication vehicles becomeincreasingly peer to peer (p2p), the exchange of interpretations and practices willaccelerate and will less and less require institutional channels.What is so very curious about all of this open-sourcing is that, perhaps counterintuitively,from a practical and pastoral perspective, rather than anarchically and indiscriminatelyjettisoning the old and embracing the wholly novel, what seems to be emerging is,instead, a radical orthodoxy, a returning to our roots, a retrieval, revival and renewal ofour ancient interpretations and practices, an ardent appreciation for all that has been truein our creeds, beautiful in our cults, good in our codes and unitive in our communities. Ifjoy is the infallible sign of the presence of God (Madeline L‘Engle), then truth, beauty,goodness and unity are assuredly an indelible sign of the presence of the Spirit.Although humankind has often lacked much in the way of cosmological knowledge, ithas more than compensated for this deficit with an abundance of axiological wisdom.That we move forward rather tentatively in our practical (most vital) affairs suggests that
  • 118. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Peirce was more so making an observation rather than a suggestion. That‘s why thisopen-source theology doesn‘t scare me at all. If all the academic tongues were still, thenoise would still continue; we rocks and stones, ourselves, will start to sing: Hosanna,heysanna, sanna, sanna, ho, sanny he, sanny ho, sanna!To Place This Project in Context a Quote from Walker Percy:This chapter, as well as other parts of the book, owes a good deal to Carl Saganssplendid picture book, Cosmos. I hope he will not take offense at some fancifulextrapolations therefrom. Sagans book gave me much pleasure, a pleasure which wasnot diminished by Sagans unmalicious, even innocent, scientism, the likes of which Ihave not encountered since the standard bull sessions of high school and college—up tobut not past the sophomore year. The argument could be resumed with Sagan, I suppose,but the issue would be as inconclusive as it was between sophomores. For me it was morediverting than otherwise to see someone sketch the history of Western scientific thoughtand leave out Judaism and Christianity.Everything is downhill after the Ionians and until the rise of modern science. There is ahuge gap between the destruction of the library at Alexandria and the appearance ofCopernicus and Galileo. So much for six thousand years of Judaism and fifteen hundredyears of Christianity. So much for the likes of Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Aquinas,Roger Bacon, Grosseteste. So much for the science historian A.C. Crombie, who wrote:"The natural philosophers of Latin Christendom in the thirteenth and fourteenthcenturies created the experimental science characteristic of modern times."So much, indeed, for the relationship between Christianity and science and the fact that,as Whitehead pointed out, it is no coincidence that science sprang, not from Ionianmetaphysics, not from the Brahmin-Buddhist-Taoist East, not from he Egyptian-Mayanastrological South, but from the heart of the Christian West, that although Galileo fell outwith the Church, he would hardly have taken so much trouble studying Jupiter anddropping objects from towers if the reality and value and order of things had not firstbeen conferred by belief in the Incarnation.Yet one is not offended by Sagan. There is too little malice and too much ignorance. It isenough to take pleasure in the pleasant style, the knack for popularizing science, and thebeautiful pictures of Saturn and the Ring nebula. Indeed, more often than not, I foundmyself on Sagans side, especially in his admiration for science and the scientific method,which is what he says it is—a noble, elegant, and self-correcting method of attaining akind of truth—and when he attacks the current superstitions, astrology, UFOs,parapsychology, and such, which seem to engage the Western mind now more thanever—more perhaps than either science or Christianity. What is to be deplored is notSagans sophomoric scientism—which I think I like better than its counterpart, asophomoric theism which attributes the wonders of the Cosmos to a God who created itlike a child with a cookie cutter—no, what is deplorable is that these serious issuesinvolving God and the nature of man should be co-opted by these particular disputants,a popularizer like Sagan and fundamentalists who believe God created the world sixthousand years ago. Its enough to give both science and Christianity a bad name. Really,it is a case of an ancient and still honorable argument going to pot. Even arguments in a
  • 119. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011college dormitory are, or were, conducted at a higher level. It is for this very reason thatwe can enjoy Cosmos so much, for the frivolity of Sagans vulgar scientism and for thereason that science is, as Sagan says, self-correcting. One wonders, in fact, whetherSagan himself has not been corrected, e.g., by Hubbles discovery of the red shift and thepresent growing consensus of the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Cosmos, whichsurely comes closer than Sagan would like to the Genesis account of creatio ex nihilo. 28An Emergentist Account of the Biosemiotic Categories of Religion from a panentheisticperspective"Awakening to beauty, truth, and goodness is to waken to the unfoldment of Divine Lifewithin us." -Thomas Keating―In philosophy classes we were told that there were three things that especially openedus to the Transcendent: the good, the true, and the beautiful.Come join us as we again put together what was never really apart!‖ – Richard RohrPrologueSomething tells us Keating and Rohr are right. Maritain said that we distinguish in orderto unite. Our Peircean heuristic draws distinctions between evaluative, normative,descriptive, interpretive and prescriptive stances but eschews any dichotomization ofthese identifiable moments in the otherwise integral act of human value realization. Eachmoment, necessarily, presupposes each other moment, as we harvest truth, beauty,goodness and unity. Of course, my framing of this heuristic in terms of value realizationrecognizes humanitys radical finitude. If we are in search of value, then this is areflection of that inescapable reality of our vast neediness, our utterly contingent nature.All that said, this is not to suggest that we, as humans, do not enjoy the first fruits ofwhat, anagogically, we hope will be an eventual eschatological harvest of all value, thatwe have not received, through the Holy Spirit, an earnest, a down payment, a foretaste ofvalue realization.This heuristic thus defines epistemic virtue in terms of such value realization and cashesout its own value in terms of the successful institutionalization of this value realizationwhereby intellectual conversion harvests those contemplative moments we encounter astruth, affective conversion harvests those encountered as beauty, moral conversion thoseof goodness and sociopolitical conversion those of unity. Thus all contemplation leads topolitics, which are most efficaciously articulated when we integrally tie all of thesemoments back together, religiously, transvaluing them through ongoing religiousconversion.The aspect of institutionalization honors our biological, i.e. biosemiotic, heritage as28 Lost in the Cosmos: the Last Self-Help Book (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1983), 201-202.
  • 120. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011radically social animals. The epistemic goal of human value realization is thus fostered ina community of inquiry writ large. It may have been Merton who recognized that truthoften comes flying in on the wings of beauty. This is an implicit recognition, in my view,that, in our more robustly contemplative moments, we are likely to realize truth, beauty,goodness and unity together, and, also, that our individual invocations of same grow outof our first being convoked as a community of value-realization.In trying to draw out the implications of this heuristic for a theological anthropology,which we are framing in terms of value realization strategies, we cannot help thinking ofSartres description of the ―universal human condition‖ as the reason for our sharedvalues and sensibilities. Still, one must suspect that any such sharing of sensibilities andvalues is not rooted in the value realization moment we might call inference. Tom Shortthus contextualizes Peirce: "if the faculty of reasoning were of the first importance tosuccess in life, then natural selection would [have] operate[d] to breed the race forvigorous reasoning powers, whereas, comparatively few persons are originallypossessed of any but the feeblest modicum of this talent."Instead, in Shorts words, drawing on Peirces distinction between theoretical andpractical reasoning, "the one requires radical thinking and reliance on one‘s own powersof ratiocination, the other best relies on instinct, sentiment, and tradition, or, in short, theaccumulated experience of countless generations."In our own description of human biosemiotic heuristics, there emerges, through theputative coevolution of language and brain, a novel capacity for intersubjectivity, whichcorresponds to Joseph Campbells "transpersonal identity." We cannot help but recognizethis emergent novelty in our species and it warrants a characterization of "exceptionality"vis a vis other biosemiotic other biosemiotic realities. One might ask whether such anexceptionality warrants further description in ontological terms and, given the receivedopinion of the philosophy of mind community, that answer must be an emphatic "Nyet!".For that matter, although most would consider the so-called hard problem ofconsciousness "epistemologically open," and while many nevertheless consider it"ontologically closed," still, even in that cohort that considers it "ontologically open,"most of those philosophers hold to naturalistic, even if not physicalistic, positions.Biosemiotically, then, all life is apparently cut from the same fabric.Furthermore, and anyhow, the semiotic perspective does a conceptual end-around theclassical realism-idealism conundrum and avoids the philosophical cul-de-sac of themutually unintelligible essentialism-nominalism dichotomy. It may be too strong aposition to defend, to a priori characterize such paradoxes using Quines categories ofveridical, falsidical and antinomial, but most of the synthetic and a posteriori money ison the antinomial view, which is to say that someone is asking the wrong questions ofreality if they are still arguing within such Scholastic categories and coming awayconfounded.The practical upshot of this is that, because of our intersubjective and transpersonalhuman evaluations, decisions and tendencies, our species is gifted with a heightened
  • 121. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011awareness, not only of our radical finitude and contingent nature, but also, of ourunfathomable solidarity with one another and the cosmos. As we have alwaysmaintained, "when we awaken to our solidarity, compassion will ensue." And thisorthopathos has evaluative relevance and normative impetus and, hence, per ourPeircean-derived heuristic, mediates between our ortho-communio (as a community ofinquiry) and our ortho-doxy (value-realization paradigms) to effect ortho-praxis (ourprudential judgments, both moral and practical). If orthopraxis thus authenticatesorthodoxy, then our hypothesis is that one will most assuredly find them flying in on thewings of orthopathos and orthocommunio. If this has normative impetus, it preciselycomes from its descriptive accuracy as a theological anthropology. We will discuss ourepistemic, aesthetic and ethical sensibilities in more detail, later, as they respectivelyinspire assent, awe and reverence for Reality. If we have learned anything from theGodelian-like constraints on human ratiocinations, then it is that, with both Ignatius andthe Psalmist, we are to "taste and see" the truth, beauty, goodness and unity of Reality,and, however necessary syllogisms are, they are not sufficient.There is a certain resonance, then, between the Scotistic notion that the Incarnation was acosmic inevitability (almost Teilhardian) and not rather occasioned by a felix culpa, andthe approach of Irenaeus, who sees creation as a place for soul-making, whichcorresponds to Scott Pecks metaphor of "life as a cosmic boot camp." In classical terms,then, we might view reality moreso through Haughts aesthetic teleology, orientedtoward the future, creation crossing a vast teleological expanse toward the Eschaton, andnot so much as an ontological rupture located in the past. Whatever metaphysical aspectof the nature of Jesus remains occulted, His moral nature is utterly transparent, eminentlybiosemiotic, setting always before us the way, the truth and the life as, meanwhile, allcreation groans, hopefully, in one great act of giving birth.Our theological anthropologies have practical implications for our meta-ethicalenterprises, which is to say, considerable normative impetus for the politics that governrelations between societies. In an apparently pervasively semiotic ecology, we onlydistinguish between humankind and the cosmos in order to unite. As a Eucharisticcommunity, how well we "bust that move" called "The Dismissal," or Ite, missa est, willbe revealed in our aspirations to realize our evaluations by making decisions with atendency we might call Transignification, which, with the Jesuits, sees God in allthings. There can be no dichotomizing, no compartmentalization, for our lives are acontinuous extension of Eucharist in an ongoing hermeneutical cycle of value realization,or, are going to be fragmented and in peril of an otherwise regnant practical nihilism,which isnt difficult to see, not rewarding at all to taste.For those who do not buy into the notion of any so-called naturalistic fallacy, thistheological anthropology of "who we are" will speak directly to the question of "whatmust we do," both morally and practically. If the Kantian interrogatories are irreduciblytriadic in realizing values in terms of what we can know, what we must do and what wecan hope for, then the Peircean triadic semiotic is also irreducibly triadic incorrespondingly recognizing those tendencies that will most efficaciously mediatebetween our evaluations and decisions vis a vis society and the cosmos, which is to
  • 122. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011recognize that it is incoherent to reductionistically turn such distinctions as individualhuman beings, society and the cosmos into dichotomies as if they did not necessarilypresuppose each other. Derivatively, it is also incoherent, then, to talk in terms ofdominion and autonomy, for this is to take a de facto over against stance in relationshipto our very selves. This is also to overemphasize the dialectical imagination and toexplicitly disavow the immanence of the deity, one of humankinds longest and strongestevaluative sensibilities.If we are to articulate a consilient and coherent ecotheology, we have to recover that"instinct, sentiment, and tradition, or, in short, the accumulated experience of countlessgenerations" that best preserved the seamless garment of human value realization, thatbest articulated the irreducible relationships between all (transkin) biosemiotic realities,that best articulated the eco-nomic or laws of eco-logical exchange, that best articulatedthe sociopolitical realization of reciprocal solidarity and compassion, and that bestarticulated such an Ens Necessarium as implicately orders all pansemiotic possibilities,actualities and probabilities and utterly unobtrusively, yet eminently efficaciously, coaxesthem forward toward .... .... .... ....That recovery effort, then, might best take us back to that hermeneutical place that someof humankind inhabited prior to infection by Hellenistic rationalism and prior to theschizoid fractures brought on by cartesian dualisms.For Starters: What Do These Words Mean to us?Emergentist Account:In the great chain of being there are levels stretching from the quantum to thesociological. There are levels of being within levels of being. There aretheories that govern interactions within levels and sometimes between levels, sharingconcepts. The concepts concern 1) parts and wholes; 2) properties and 3) natural laws.There are three ways to look at the possible relationships between these levels. If a lowerlevel completely explains a higher level, then we have reductionism and the strongestrelation possible. When speaking in terms of parts & wholes, properties & laws, it ispossible that reductionism will not explain a higher level, but we can still maintainsupervenience, which is to say that any differences in parts, wholes, properties and lawsat a higher level must have corresponding differences at the lower level (covariancewithout reduction). If a theory explaining higher level properties & laws is, in principle,unpredictable from a theory at a more fundamental level, then we have emergence, whichis to say, novelty.Bio-semiotic: refers to life (bio) and significance or signs & symbols (semiotic). Inhumans, some biosemiotic capacities (the way we use information one might say) arelanguage-dependent and public (shared between people) and some are ineffable andprivate experiences (and language-independent). They might be thought of aspropositional (dealing with propositions like the logical categories of deduction and
  • 123. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011induction and inference), in the first case, and phenomenal, in the latter (feelings anddispositions).The first category refers to capacities that are innate (hardwired into our brains) butwhich are very open-ended and flexible (some say plastic). These we call heuristicsbecause a heuristic just provides general guidelines and leaves the thinker or experiencerwith wide latitude in proposing solutions and drawing conclusions. The second categoryis also innate but is fixed, inflexible, and so we call it algorithmic because there is nolatitude as it drives human responses to "conclusions" and solutions quite directly (thinkof the immune system reacting to "information" automatically). One might also think interms of fuzzy logic and formal logic for these categories. What is most important is thatone understand that all animals are bio-semiotic, all life, in fact, but that only humans usesuch biosemiotic heuristics as would involve language.Categories of Religion:This involves a naturalistic account from an evolutionary perspective on thephilosophical categories of most religious traditions. The four categories of religiouspractice that we will attempt to describe are Cult, Community, Creed and Code. Othersmight think of these in other terms such as Ritual or Liturgy, Fellowship or Church,Dogma or Doctrine, and Law or Rubrics.Religion: comes from root concepts that we interpret to mean "to tie lifes experiencesback together" so as to heal us that we may survive and grow us that we may thrive. It isabout the actualization of the values to which we would aspire.Panentheistic: can be interpreted two ways. Some speak of a panen-theism, wherecreation and God are conceived in such a relationship that creation is part of God butwhere God is the Whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not our take. Ourtake is pan-entheism, where God and creation are in a very intimate relationship, Godindwelling in creation, implicately ordering it and gently coaxing it forward.A Word About CategoriesRecall the old scholastic notations: im/possible, im/plausible, im/probable and un/certain.Think, too, of the modal categories of possible, actual, probable and necessary.We want to draw a distinction between what we might call a positivist stance, or science,or the empirical, or the descriptive, on one hand, and, on the other hand, what we mightcall a paradigmatic stance, or metaphysics, or the analytical, or the interpretive. It seemsto us that the positivist focus traffics in categories like im/plausible, im/probable,uncertain and also the possible, actual & probable. We like to call these categories modalphenomenology. Science deals with these modes of reality. At least empiricalobservations, thus far, reveal realitys pervasive contingency.It seems to me that the paradigmatic focus employs categories like im/possible,
  • 124. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011un/certain, and also the un/necessary. We like to call these categories modal ontology.In our view, both modal phenomenology and modal ontology are legitimate enterprises.What would make them both viable is an approach that eschews a priori modalassumptions and embraces, instead, only fallibilist hypotheses, which are verifiableand/or falsifiable, a posteriori. It seems that we can ask different questions – normative,evaluative, descriptive, interpretive or prescriptive; or, put another way, philosophic,preferential, positivist, paradigmatic or prudential (moral/practical) --- about thesame reality and cannot a priori suggest that any given answer to any given question will,so to speak, in principle and eventually, be un/answerable.Some additional comments re: modal phenomenology and modal ontology ---Both often employ metaphors, analogies and models, not just pedagogically (asteaching tools) but epistemologically (in empirical methodology). Both proposehypotheses, some more highly speculative than others, some more readily falsifiable orverifiable than others. Both can involve naturalistic speculation about realitys givens interms of space, time, matter and energy (primitives), forces (4 forces, so far) and axioms(laws like thermodynamics and quantum mechanics); about the advent of consciousness,the origin of life and other apparently emergent realities; about reductive andnonreductive physicalism; and such.Various Theories of Everything (TOEs) and various God Hypotheses are modalontologies.It is difficult to draw a line of distinction between highly speculative cosmology andtheoretical physics, on one hand, and what has traditionally been called metaphysics, onthe other. However nuanced ones distinctions, those enterprises cannot really be facilelydichotomized. Some proposefalsifiability as a criterion to separate science andmetaphysics, but propositions can be framed up that are falsifiable or verifiable, we mightsay, eschatologically. Others might suggest that any time we tweak, amend, addend ormodify realitys givens, as presently received by most scientists, then we are goingbeyond physics to metaphysics. Maybe defining metaphysics is not as important or asmeaningful as keeping track of our categories and their associated grammars and rubricsand looking over our shoulders at our various leaps of faith.Some thinkers, who have an apparent antipathy toward metaphysics, and a palpableanimus toward theology, in their anxiety to annihilate those spheres of human concernfrom the realm of the cognitively meaningful, end up, inadvertently, trashing theepistemological methods that humanity has long employed at the frontiers of science (andthose frontiers have of course changed greatly through time).Metaphysics, however broadly or narrowly conceived, is here to stay, and for at least aslong as science and faith. It is an integral aspect of human value realization and in adynamical relationship with the positivist, and all other, horizons of human concern.
  • 125. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Adjudicating Competing Tautologies (or how Christian Culture Helped Birth Science)In any my tautology is tauter than your tautology dispute, there must be a cashing out ofepistemic value in one approach over against the other. Why does this approach gift uswith enhanced modeling power re: reality?If the topic under consideration could be adjudicated solely in terms of logicalconsistency, internal coherence, hypothetical consonance, interdisciplinary consilience,and conceptual consistency, then one interpretive framework would trump the other as itbetter interprets and predicts certain empirical observations or factual realities. Failingadjudication by those criteria and failing to provide a distinctly more robustly explanatoryaccount in terms of predictability of phenomena, actionability of an ontology (albeitfallibilist), normative impetus (hopefully tentative), etc, then, with a more formallystructured adjudication beyond our reach, we then fall back on such aesthetic criteria aselegance, parsimony, symmetry, facility of abduction and simplicity, and on suchpragmatic criteria as usefulness, e.g. hypothetical fecundity.Regarding hypothetical fecundity, then, we might ask what happens to our researchprograms and what happens to falsifiable hypothesis-generation if one adopts thistautology versus that? Restated, in addition to organizing existing knowledge, does thistautology generate new hypotheses? Might it contribute to a new cognitive regime orparadigm shift or cast light on why this or that approach seems pregnant with paradox?Thus, once all other epistemic virtues have been taken into consideration for an issue, thata significant part of the philosophical and/or scientific community considersunresolved, i.e. under-explained, there is a certain inefficacy in approaches that areignostic, noncognitivist and eliminativist, that try to a priori reframe this or that problemas a pseudo-problem, insofar as they discourage research or support the illusion that it isunnecessary. There is a certain irony in that a priori claims to the occulted nature of agiven reality, or mysterian-like positions, are similarly inefficacious.Assuming all other epistemic criteria are equal (just for arguments sake), we then ask,how does this versus that alternate view measure up vis a vis hypothesis-generation?Epistemic VirtueOne aspires to epistemic virtue insofar as one wants to be clear regarding what it is thatone can reasonably say one knows. And, one wants to be clear in distinguishing belieffrom knowledge.At some level, one must wonder how this above-described epistemological exercise,itself, can be inherently normative insofar as one is going from an is, which is describedas a distinction between knowledge and belief, to an ought, which one might prescribe(or proscribe ) as a prohibition against any argument regarding norms for belief inrelation to metaphysical concepts.In some sense, one will have already busted that move insofar as one has, albeit
  • 126. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011minimalistically, set forth a meta-ethic for arguments regarding metaphysical concepts.How does one justify one‘s belief in one‘s own knowledge of the distinction betweenknowledge and belief?How does one justify one‘s belief in realitys intelligibility (over against an unmitigatednihilism)?How does one justify one‘s belief in such first principles as noncontradiction andexcluded middle?How does one justify one‘s belief in common sense notions of causality?How does one justify one‘s belief in the existence of other minds (over against solipsism)such that one could argue with those minds regarding one‘s theory of knowledge andrefrain from arguing with them regarding their metaphysical beliefs?These foundational presuppositions are not really propositional are they? One thusbelieves in order to know.There are some beliefs that must require no justification insofar as their negation wouldnegate what we are calling knowledge, itself. Some beliefs demonstrably enhance ourmodeling power of reality. We do not demonstrate them, however, through formalargumentation. They are otherwise warranted by practical judgment. And this is whyhuman knowledge is not strictly empirical in the first place; it has empirical,logical/rational and practical aspects, among others. If one accepts this approach, then,one might see fit to move beyond any agnosticism regarding some so-called metaphysicalconcepts and develop some epistemic criteria for when such beliefs are warranted.So, human knowledge is not strictly empirical, over against the radical empiricists andlogical positivists; not strictly rational, over against the rationalists; not strictlyevaluative, over against the noncognitivists; not strictly practical, over against anunnuanced pragmatism. It derives from aspects of value realization that areintellectually-related even though not robustly logically-related: normative, evaluative,descriptive, interpretive and prescriptive.At the same time, these aspects of value-realization need not be thought of as some typeof metaphysical transcendental imperatives: truth, beauty, goodness and unity, forexample. Rather, they can be thought of as an ecological rationality for an animal tryingto make it in a particular niche.Human knowledge and beliefs, taken together, and thus conceived through theperspective of an evolutionary psychology, is really just a set of fast & frugal heuristicsthat have tremendous adaptive significance and were gifted our species via the courtesyof natural selection. As such, we need not hold, a priori, that these heuristics must obtainto transcendentals; rather, these fast and frugal heuristics can be thought of as existential
  • 127. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011orientations of a bounded rationality that are satisficing and not maximizing, which is tosay that they are good enough for this or that end.This may all beg the question of how we might do ethics and politics without coming toclosure on an ontology.Perhaps our solution requires what we might call a minimalist de-ontology, where ourontology is not a full blown metaphysic that accounts for so called transcendentalimperatives, but is, instead, a modest account of distinctly human value-realizationstrategies. Such strategies, through nature and nurture, adapt us to reality with a goodenough modeling power, which enables us to get along relatively well in the world,settling for optimal value realizations even as maximal realizations elude us. In thissense, then, we can maintain that epistemology models ontology (Polkinghorne) even aswe have no need to a priori accept or reject the Kantian disjunction between phenomenaand noumena. Then, we can still do politics even as the philosophical onto-policy wonkscontinue to work their way, fallibly but inexorably, toward a (meta)physical consensus inour community of inquiry.To Do or Not To Do – OntologyWe once looked at Peirces semiotic and tried to describe his different sign categories inpsychological terms vis a vis the different ways that humans might experience differentmodal realities. We made a matrix to ensure that we didnt inadvertently leave out anycategories, but our matrix had more categories than Peirce had signs. We proceeded withour exercise anyway and then examined my leftover categories. They included what,psychologically, we would call delusion, hallucination, psychosis, mistakes,misinterpretation, etcSuccessful reference and description of reality takes place through ongoing, even infinite,semiosis, as we progressively but fallibly tighten our grasp on reality. And I have justdescribed some of the reasons why we are fallible, why we need disambiguation andreinterpretation. Thus, an indispensable part of sign theory is the fact that we areerror-prone at the same time that we are semiotic realists. So, in our attempts to modelreality with an ever enhanced modeling power, we can, semantically, deal withsomething analogous to what the Kantian disjunction is trying to deal with in itsdistinction between phenomena and noumena. We say analogously because, in order toenhance our modeling power, semiotically, we do not need to a priori accept or reject theKantian disjunction. We can, at the same time, then, affirm a theoretical role for ontologyand be very circumspect in defining the conditions for when it can most efficaciouslycontribute to our enhanced modeling power, while also recognizing that, from a practicalperspective, when it is facilely applied and casually employs such modal categories ascertain, impossible and necessary, it most inefficaciously detracts from our modelingpower and gets tied up in essentialistic-nominalistic knots.If we stick to a description like epistemology models ontology, then maybe we bettercapture how tentative and provisional our ontological projects are and how any ensuing
  • 128. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011normative impetus must be significantly curtailed, especially if our ontologies are nototherwise robustly actionable due to limited predictive accuracy and hypotheticalfecundity, or are otherwise deficient vis a vis some foundherentist (just for example)criteria of epistemic virtue.As we see it, many metaphysicians have made their fallibilist move, which makes theirontologizing more benign and efficacious. And semioticians have acknowledged a rolefor ontology, in theory. The divide that remains seems to then focus on our practicaljudgment regarding ontologizing and just how practicable and actionable mostontological projects have been, are or will be.Note:This project is inherently difficult because we are trying to build an architectonic thatincludes physical and biological sciences, psychology, philosophy, religion and theology,each with its own jargon. The conceptual-bridging project gets even harder as one thentries to inhabit rather unique perspectives within those major disciplines, perspectiveswith their own specialized jargon, too. The Peircean perspective might have the mostjargonistic stance one can possibly encounter in philosophy inasmuch as it is replete withCSPs own idiosyncratic neologisms. But we are trying to genericize it and make it moreaccessible. We hope any exchanges this project generates will make what we areproposing more accessible to others and my heuristic a tad less dense. We are not marriedto the vocabulary as much as we are to the categories and their associated grammars. Wewish this could be fleshed out with no jargon whatsoever, while not abandoning thenuances.A Trinitarian Theology of Nature: pansemio-entheisticPeirces rejection of the notion that firstness and secondness could robustly account forthe world as we know it, in our view, marks his retreat into ontological and semanticalvagueness. To describe reality in terms of alternating pattern and paradox, chance andnecessity, order and chaos, random and systematic, does seem rather questionbegging. It is true that, nowhere, do we observe necessity in reality; necessity everywhereeludes us. It is equally true that human kind cannot avoid the inference of the necessary;necessity everywhere suggests itself. Like Polanyis tacit dimension, necessity may becloser to us than we are to ourselves. Here we may encounter that type of biosemioticreality that informs what we call our subdoxastic routines, or our biosemiotic heuristicsubroutines. Thus, we draw yet another distinction between biosemiotic heuristicdynamics: the subdoxastic and doxastic. To some extent, they may be thought of in termsof unconscious competence and conscious competence, the first corresponding,somewhat, to common sense.In our schema, firstness corresponds to the epistemic field (where abduction has itsmoment); secondness corresponds to the ontic field (where induction has its moment) andthirdness corresponds to the semiotic field (all fields presupposing the others). Followingthe Franciscan Duns Scotus, the Incarnation, in our view, was a semiotic inevitability,part and parcel of an aesthetic teleology (Jack Haught), and any experience of a rupture
  • 129. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011between our essentialistic idealizations and their existential realizations is not someontological rupture located in the past, occasioning a felix culpa and atonement, but,rather, results from a teleological chasm that we are crossing and oriented toward afuture, an eschaton. Jesus is the eminently ontic, then, mediating between the immanentand the transcendent. With respect to thirdness, morally, He is transparent, the Trinity‘simmanent nature revealed in splendor; metaphysically, with respect to firstness, Hisnature is occulted, the Trinitys transcendent nature presenting to reality. Equivocally, Heis True God and True Man. The Father, is eminently epistemic and utterly transcendent,characterized by the ungraspable, incomprehensible richness of the qualities of firstness.And so, the immanent Trinity mediates between the transcendent Trinity and theincarnational Trinity to effect the economic (semiotic and pragmatic)Trinity, whichimplies theosis.Again, where we wrote that: It is true that, nowhere, do we observe necessity in reality;necessity everywhere eludes us - it is equally true that humankind cannot avoid theinference of the necessary; necessity everywhere suggests itself. Like Polanyis tacitdimension, necessity may be closer to us than we are to ourselves. Here we mayencounter that type of biosemiotic reality that informs what we call our subdoxasticroutines, or our biosemiotic heuristic subroutines. And here we have the abduction of theens necessarium, the robustly telic field of reality, which mutually interpenetrates theepistemic, ontic and semiotic fields of reality, and which, as the immanent Trinity, alsomediates between the transcendent Trinity and incarnational Trinity. Analogous toBaldwinian evolution, which in the coevolution of language and brain, operates viadownward causation without the violation of physical causal closure, the telic field of theimmanent Trinity operates via omnidirectional causation, eminently semiotically, withoutany violation of observable physical causation. It is thus unobtrusively yet utterlyefficacious. All may be well. (Dame Julian) Dont you know its gonna be alright.(John Lennon)The Holy Spirit is precisely how wed refer to the eminently telic and eminently semioticReality, which accomplishes theosis through Homo sapiens, biosemiotically mediated,and which accomplishes any other natural mediations through implicate ordering (socalled upward causation, impelling emergent reality forward) or through downward, oreven, omnidirectional causation, ordering and re-ordering pansemiotic fields. As we seeit, once we invoke downward causation in reality via Baldwinian evolution, as possiblyeven through Bohms quantum interpretation and Sheldrakes morphic resonance, then, itis a valid move to infer a Trinitarian analogue, as long as our conception of same cancash out some value (pragmatic maxim) for human theosis and/or cosmic aestheticteleology.We have wanted to preserved the patristic, dionysian logic in such a way that themedieval conceptions of the Scotistic univocity of being and the Thomistic analogy ofbeing can be reconciled by employing proper predication - equivocal, univocal andanalogical. To wit: 1) to speak of Firstness, the Father, the transcendent Trinity, theeminently epistemic, one must employ an analogy of semiosis; 2) to speak ofSecondness, the Son, the incarnational Trinity, the eminently ontic, one must employ
  • 130. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011equivocal predication, or equivocity of semiosis, such that morally, the Godhead is madetransparent, metaphysically, remains occulted; and 3) to speak of Thirdness, the Spirit,the immanent Trinity, the eminently telic, one must employ univocal predication, aunivocity of semiosis. Thus, there is a place for ones dialectical imagination, onesanalogical imagination and ones pneumatological imagination, which we refer to interms of one‘s imaginative take on reality as an arena of pervasive intentionality via aweb of infinite semiosis in the community of inquiry.Following the notion that whether or not creation is eternal, our treatment holds that thiscannot be known from natural philosophy (and we understand that the discussion isframed from a theology of nature instead). At any rate, if one does not take existence tobe a predicate of being, rendering Heideggers "Why is there not rather nothing?" areification of "nothing," then one still encounters a creatio continua, and the questionthen begs: "Why is there not rather something else?" and modal ontology pursues thiswith vigor, but so can the semiotic perspective. Rationalists attempt fail also because themetaphysical is a moving and sometimes hidden target. Process theologies (e.g.Whiteheadian projects) often fail because they have traded essentialism for nominalism,in abandoning their substantialism. Only the Peircean take maintains a robustepistemological realism (and does not justify, a priori, leaps to idealist and materialistconceptions of mind).29Regarding Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox, we appreciate their perspective and do notsee it over against any part of our tetradic heuristic. It actually makes pretty good sensevis a vis our omnidirectional semiotic causation. Their take on energies, however, maynot be helpful other than to affirm some theotic epiphenomena, (such as John of theCross, for instance, might have us ignore, anyway).Lets begin with how physical causation operates in the natural world. From anemergentist perspective, as we observe emergent properties, the pattern seems to be thatthey represent something more than their constituent parts but are clearly nothing but thecombination of those parts. Hence, we have Ursula Goodenoughs something more fromnothing but, or some prefer something else from nothing but.Sometimes emergent realities present in a very straightforward manner and ourreductionistic accounts are easy to come by. Sometimes they present in a veryproblematical manner and explanatory adequacy eludes us.We can acknowledge the centrality of emergence without claiming to have acquired fullexplanatory adequacy for the entire spectrum of emergentistic phenomena, including allthat might be involved in human neurophysiology. Thusly, our emergentist account does29 These thoughts were also developed in dialogue with this publication: ROBINSON,Andrew J. (2004). Continuity, Naturalism and Contingency: A Theology of Evolutiondrawing on the Semiotics of C.S. Peirce and Trinitarian Thought. Zygon: Journal ofReligion and Science 39 (1): 111-136 Visit: http://www.andrew-robinson.info/
  • 131. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011not ambition explanatory adequacy and is only a heuristic device.Accordingly, while we prescind from an ontological perspective, bracketingmetaphysics, we are not, a priori, suggesting that anyone should therefore jettisontheir metaphysic. We are am simply suggesting that, if one keeps our Peircean categoriesand grammars in mind, then 1) their decision to do ontology or not, for this aspect ofreality or not, will be more coherent 2) their metaphysic, if pursued, will model realitywith measurably enhanced modeling power. The pragmatic maxim suggests that onemust precisely demonstrate the enhancement of ones modeling power when one sees fitto multiply ontologies, cashing out the values of ones conceptions precisely in terms ofsuch a significance as would be geared toward the realization of human values.Regarding the computational fallacy, we are simply saying that algorithmic orrule-governed computational accounts are necessary but not sufficient when referring tohuman cognition. Those biosemiotic algorithms are innate and hardwired, relativelyclosed-ended and inflexible, and language-independent. Their logic is, in a word, fixed.Whatwe are calling biosemiotic heuristics are also innate and hardwired, but areopen-ended and flexible, or plastic, and language-dependent. Their logic is, in a word,fuzzy.One can observe and successfully refer to these biosemiotic realities and make note oftheir emergent properties, without claiming to have, in the same instant, described samewith any degree of explanatory adequacy. So, no, we are not describing anyphilosophical fallacies that arise from competing ontological claims regarding humanvalue-realizations. We would imagine that any number of ontological descriptions couldfit quite comfortably underneath my heuristic umbrella. Our emergentistic heuristic is notrobust enough to adjudicate between all of the really good hypotheses re: consciousness.It‘s value is cashed out solely in terms of making successful references to reality andnot, yet, in terms of successful descriptions.Level 1The probable mediates between the possible and the actual to effect the novel dissipativestructures of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. The quasi-telic mediates between thequasi-epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect the pan-semiotic. Quasi-telic because, whiledownward causation is clearly operative, violations of physical causal closure are not.Quasi-epistemic because only phenomenal experience is processed as knowledge.Quasi-ontic because emergent and novel, bounded and limited, autopoietic realities aredynamical and dissipative, probabilistic and modal. Pansemiotic because, inenvironments far from equilibrium, symmetries and other temporal patterns are preservedthrough successive bifurcations and permutations in increasing levels of complexity,presenting as first and second order (Deacon) emergent properties.Level 2The quasi-telic mediates between the quasi-epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect the
  • 132. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011biosemiotic. Biosemiotic because emergent properties are somehow progressivelyencoded, constraining the temporal patterns of second order systems, novelty replaced byreplication, presenting a dynamic of adaptive significance and selection pressurewhenever novelty re-presents.Level 3The quasi-telic mediates between the epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect thebiosemiotic. Epistemic because propositional knowledge interacts with phenomenalknowledge as symbols are added to icons and indexes, knowledge not only syntactic butsemantic. Boundaries mediate between limits and the autopoietic (self-organizing) toeffect freedom (open-ended processor).To contextualize the dynamic in Hefner‘s lexicon: The philosophic mediates between thepositivistic and the paradigmatic to effect the pragmatic.Our articulation of the Peircean maxim is that the normative sciences mediate betweenphenomenology and metaphysics. The necessary (Peirce‘s ens necessarium) mediatesbetween the probable and the actual to effect the pansemio-entheistic.Our articulation of the argument in Peirce‘s Neglected Argument for the Reality of God:The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the theistic to effect the theotic(Peirce‘s pragmatic maxim).Our articulation of Helminiak‘s horizons of human concern, the theotic, in Peircean termsrepresenting the cashing out of value of the meaning of the conception, ensnecessarium, as it must consist of the practical effects the conception would have onhuman behavior, orthopraxis authenticating orthodoxy.The Pan-entheistic Perspective – brief introductionFrom a pan-entheistic perspective, the necessary mediates between the probable and theactual to effect Reality. The necessary entails the eminently telic, epistemic, ontic andsemiotic. In observable reality, nowhere do we encounter such intentionality as would beeminently telic, which I‘d define as acting on reality in violation of physical causalclosure. Nowhere do we encounter the eminently epistemic, human knowledge beingnecessarily fallible. Neither does the eminently ontic present insofar as emergent realitiesare all contingent, bounded and limited, dynamical and ephemeral, modal butprobabilistic and dissipative even if self-replicating. Finally, the eminently semiotic doesnot present in observable reality, the practical upshot of which is that metaphysics as aproject is seriously constrained; we must frequently prescind from metaphysicalhypotheses to ontological vagueness and semantical vagueness, employing thePeircean grammars of modal ontology and triadic semiotic logic, reassessing theepistemic vagueness that constrains us, sometimes, methodologically, andsometimes through that which may be naturally occulted as we near T = 0 approachingthe Big Bang, or, perhaps, in the deepest structures of matter. At bottom, nowhere in
  • 133. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011observable reality do we encounter the ens necessarium, although it is a validphilosophical inference. This is why many folks eschew metaphysics and ontologyaltogether.In what we are calling the pan-semio-entheistic heuristic, rather than reality presenting asthree mutually interpenetrating fields of epistemic, quasi-ontic and semiotic influence,which are irreducibly triadic, a fourth modal category is introduced, the necessary, withits telic influence, efficaciously and unobtrusively coaxing reality toward the attainmentof the maximum aesthetic value (Haught‘s aesthetical teleology). The fourinterpenetrating fields form a tetradic matrix, which corresponds analogously, in verymany ways, to the tetradic heuristic we describe below. The eminently epistemic andtruly ontic axes represent panentheistic transcendence. The axis representing thenecessary and telic represents the panentheistic field of influence that is immanent andtelic, implicately ordering the semiotic field of influence, all fields still mutuallyinterpenetrating, hence, pansemio-entheistic. Even as we speak of ―fields,‖ we only referto same as conceptual placeholders, as heuristic categories, and do not offer them asontological realities, for example, some type of substance-process dynamic. What isimportant is THAT such categories seem to present, phenomenologically, even as HOWsuch categories might interact remains an open question for science. Science can offer ussome compelling inferences and analogies though, for example, vis a vis downwardcausation.But let‘s back up and unpack the concepts of this heuristic.Biosemiotic Categories of Religion #1Below, we venture a naturalistic account from an evolutionary perspective on thephilosophical categories of most religious traditions. The four categories ofreligious practice that we will attempt to describe are Cult, Community, Creed and Code.Others might think of these in other terms such as Ritual or Liturgy, Fellowship orChurch, Dogma or Doctrine, and Law or Rubrics.This account will be written from a biosemiotic and pragmatic perspective. We intend todescribe the origin and development of religious categories in terms of doxastic practices.We will draw a distinction between propositional heuristics and phenomenal experiencebut will focus on the normative aspects of the former. Insofar as religions attempt tomodel reality, we will describe their value-realization strategies in terms employed bytraditional philosophical perspectives. Simply put, we will ask what philosophy makes ofbeauty, unity, truth and goodness and suggest that religion does something similar. Wewill briefly touch on what humans make of these values at the primary level ofexperience. We will describe the biosemiotic heuristic in some length and providean example.In a nutshell, we will travel from biology to religion at warp speed, but this is moreso aheuristic than an hypothesis. Some hypothetical implications will be clear. This isntgoing to sound very religious but will have an epistemological slant. After all, were
  • 134. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011sketching religions undergirdings from biology through evolutionary psychology tophilosophy. We wont discuss this in that order, though, because it would be morehelpful, we think, to describe how propositional heuristics work, starting in media res,where we find ourselves now.Biosemiotic Heuristics are characterized by simplicity & facility, are fast & frugal.Biosemiotic Heuristics include induction, abduction & inference to the best explanation.Biosemiotic Heuristics evaluate novelty, newly observed effects.Abduction reasons from a presently observed, novel effect to propose a set of probablecauses.My hard drive won‘t spin up. Either that outside transformer is still defective, lightninggot me again or we need to put this outlet on a different amp fuse.Induction reasons from an actual cause present to propose a set of probable effects.This power strip is off. The computer, monitor and printer will not work.Induction immediately critiques abduction, and if the set of probable effects contains thepresently observed effect, the cause associated with that particular inductive inferencecould be tested, possibly explaining the novel effect (and falsifying the abductiveinferences), possibly falsifying the inductive inference and possibly leaving the noveleffect unexplained.The power strip is now on. The computer hard drive is spinning up.The power strip is now on, but this strip had other things plugged into it, not the PC.The power strip is now on and the monitor and printer are working but not the computer.If the process continues, induction further critiques abduction, limiting the set of probablecauses to the set of actual causes present.If the sets of probable and actual causes do not overlap, abduction continues, conjecturingmore probable causes.There were thunderstorms; the power company replaced the transformer last week andthere are no fuses because there‘s a panel of circuit breakers, none tripped. Let‘s openthe computer up and try a new power supply.If the sets of probable and actual causes do overlap, a search for more effects commencesin order to further reduce this overlap, successive searches possibly winnowing downsuch set overlap, eventually, to a set with a single cause.There were thunderstorms but there have been no brown outs, and circuit breakers are
  • 135. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011used, not fuses. Check the clock radio and TV.If the search for more effects introduces additional novel effects, the process ofalternating conjecture and criticism could be either compounded or simplified.The clock radio works but the TV doesn‘t.Deduction is presupposed in the irreducibly triadic logic of inference. It determines thelogical consequences of hypotheses (abductive inferences) as they are tested inductivelyvia actualities.The deductive inferences may be valid, only.There were storms? Lightning took out both the TV and computer.They may also be sound.Someone else unplugged the TV from its nearby outlet and unplugged the computer fromthe power strip, because a thunderstorm was on the way.The exhilaration one experiences from turning on the TV and computer (after havingever-so-briefly imagined that they‘d both been destroyed) upon hearing the whirr of thehard drive against the background of the Seinfeld theme ―song,‖ is not part of the triadicinferential logic, and neither are the sounds of the whirring or the song. Thoseexperiences are part of the Phenomenal Knowledge of Biosemiotic Algorithms, whilethe computer troubleshooting is part of the Propositional Knowledge of the BiosemioticHeuristics. The latter depends on the former, but only the propositional islanguage-dependent. The analysis would be more complicated if, when the TV wasturned on, we heard, instead, Becker yelling at Bob and Linda. (Actually, it is alreadyWAY more complicated but just grasp that there are real distinctions.) Their innateneurophysiological processes are distinct, both innate but only the BiosemioticAlgorithms are hard-wired, accomplished in finite steps, even if repetitive,accomplishing some biological end. We use the word algorithm analogically, not becausewe‘re talking math problems but because the system is inflexible while the BiosemioticHeuristics are very plastic, and open-ended. The recursive interplay, in BiosemioticHeuristics, of abduction, retroduction, inference to the best explanation, induction,deduction and other layers of symbolism, is distinctly human.Primary Level Experiences & Meta-Level Evaluations #2Propositional Knowledge X (Environment X Phenomenal Knowledge) --> BehaviorHow does this correspond to our maxim that the philosophic mediates between thepositivistic and the paradigmatic to inform the practical?The philosophic gifts us with heuristics to guide our propositional applications of
  • 136. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011phenomenal knowledge.Our normative rationality, then, mediates between the analytical and empirical to informthe practical. Let us unpack this. It is clear enough, perhaps, how the rational isassociated with the philosophic and inferential and the empirical with phenomenalknowledge and our senses. The practical relates to our actions, our behavior, orderedtoward biological and socio-cultural imperatives of the species. The association betweenthe environment and the analytical honors the fact that we are radically social animalsand our environment is largely linguistic, comprised of other people and theirpropositional knowledge. Interestingly, that environment also includes our own internalmilieu with its own propositional input and output. As we propositionally process ourown propositions, our abstractions progress to second and third orders andmeta-levels. Thus, the environment corresponds to the paradigmatic (but is not exhaustedby same).Starting at the primary level of experience:Our experiences of beauty (symmetry, elegance, simplicity, facility, novelty), at theprimary level of experience, are linguistically, semantically and neurologically processedand meaning is imparted at this meta-level and corresponds to what we call ouraesthetical values. Our primary experiences of goodness (the practical fulfillment ofbiological and socio-cultural imperatives) thus become ethical and moral values. Ourevaluations of the successes and failures of our alternating conjectures and criticismsprovide us the rubrics and formalization (to the limited extent our inferential facilities areformalizable) of our noetical values, the axioms of different abstract logics, again, at thismeta-level. Our primary experiences of the social and communal, in terms ofreinforcement or reward, are reflectively abstracted into unitive values.At the meta-level, then, the aesthetical, practical, noetical & unitive aspects ofnormative rationality mediate between the analytical and empirical to inform thepractical. I said, previously, that the philosophic gifts us with heuristics to guide ourpropositional applications of phenomenal knowledge. So, we are also saying that thephilosophic resides at this meta-level, even comprises it. This philosophic perspective isnot exactly the same as what we call the study of philosophy.Second order abstractions and propositions, as a meta-level structure, do notnecessarily derive in full conscious awareness but are imparted through theacquisition of cultural symbolism (already layered) and through our own innatebiosemiotic heuristic processes and neurocircuitry. These propositional facilities,albeit meta-level, because they are not fully conscious, might function as subdoxasticroutines and consist of such as our foundational presuppositions and first principles.Most philosophical schools seem to address, in some way or another, what we are herecalling subdoxastic routines or heuristic subroutines. This is not to at all suggest thatconceptual mapping across various philosophical hermeneutics can be done facilely.Nevertheless, for example, we have Maritains connaturality, Polanyis tacitdimension, Newmans illative sense, Fries nonintuitive immediate knowledge and
  • 137. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Peirces abduction. These are described, in our view, as innate existential orientations.Other subdoxastic routines are smuggled in as implicit presuppositions of culturallyimparted paradigms.Heuristic Subroutines or Subdoxastic Routines #3So, again, how might this correspond to the maxim that the philosophic mediates betweenthe positivistic and the paradigmatic to inform the practical? In other words, what aresome concrete examples of what might be considered subdoxastic routines or heuristicsubroutines, which are not in full conscious awareness, this notwithstanding they areclearly second order or meta-level structures? We will characterize them as beliefs, butthey are usually tacit or implicit beliefs.We label these beliefs as a literary device to lure people into awareness. How many ofthese heuristics do you accept without proof? Some of this is jargonistic but enough isaccessible to gather our main thrust.Philosophic Horizon, Normative Sciences: a) belief in human intelligence over againstradical skepticism; b) belief in other minds over against solipsism; c) belief in therecursive interplay of the inferences: deductive, inductive, abductive, retroductive,inference to the best explanation [IBE]; and in abstract, formal logic; d) belief inaesthetic-heuristic maxims of elegance, simplicity, parsimony, facility; e) belief in firstprinciples: noncontradiction, excluded middle; f) belief in epistemic vagueness, howmuch ignorance is due to invincible methodological constraint versus ontologicalocculting; g) belief in fast and frugal heuristics of ecological rationality; h) Kungsfundamental trust in uncertain reality; i) eschewal of overworked distinctions (as if theywere dichotomies), underworked dichotomies (as if they were mere distinctions),overworked analogies (where metaphors yield causal disjunctions) and traffic intrivialities, regressions, circularities & tautologies; j) embrace of distinction betweennecessary & sufficient; comprehensive & exhaustive; k) embrace distinction betweenveridical, falsidical and antinomial paradox2) Positivistic Horizon, Empirical Science: a) belief in realitys intelligibility overagainst an unmitigated nihilism; b) belief in common sense notions of causality; c) beliefin alternating conjecture & criticism, falsifiability3) Heuristic Horizon, Paradigms: a) belief in Godels Theorem; b) belief in modalontology and ontological vagueness, the necessary and the probable; c) belief in semioticrealism and semantical vagueness, conditional use of noncontradiction and excludedmiddle; d) belief in renormalizability of incommensurable systems; e) belief inemergentist heuristic of something more from nothing but (or something else)4) Pragmatic Horizon, Praxis: a) belief in pragmatic maxim; b) belief in cashing outones paradigm in terms of what and how much difference they make.Most people seem unaware of these implicit presuppositions. When they become aware,
  • 138. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011they then struggle with justification. How do you justify any of these that you recognizeas operative in your own hermeneutic?Doing philosophy; from subdoxastic to doxastic #4What happens when we consciously reflect on these subdoxastic routines and dophilosophy?How might these heuristics correspond to various schools of thought?The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and paradigmatic to informpraxis.This tetradic heuristic unfolds into four value-realization holons whereby subjective,intersubjective, objective and interobjective horizons of human concern each realizeaesthetical, unitive, noetical and ethical values.The aesthetical thus mediates between the unitive and noetical to inform the ethical. Or,why truth often comes flying in on the wings of beauty and goodness.The subjective, intersubjective, objective and interobjective horizons correspond,respectively, to Jungian thinking, feeling (harmony between people), sensing andintuiting (harmony between ideas) functions, which further correspond, respectively, toleft frontal, right posterior, left posterior and right frontal, cortical brain quadrants.Philosophically, these horizons generally correspond to rational, analytical, empirical andpractical normative sciences.We approach aesthetical value realization 1) intrasubjectively, through formalism oressentialism in art; 2) intersubjectively, through expressivism or emotionalism in art; 3)intraobjectively, through mimesis and imitationalism in art; and 4) interobjectively,through art as instrumentalism.We approach unitive value realization 1) intrasubjectively, through possibilities andobjective (conceptual) reality; 2) intersubjectively, through probabilities and semioticreality; 3) intraobjectively, through actualities and physical reality; and 4)interobjectively, through ultimate (telic) reality.We approach noetical value realization 1) intrasubjectively, through virtue epistemology;2) intersubjectively, through a semiotic, community of inquiry; 3) intraobjectively,through correspondence; and 4) interobjectively, through coherence.We approach ethical value realization 1) intrasubjectively, through aretaic or virtueethics; 2) intersubjectively, through contractarian ethics; 3) intraobjectively,through deontological ethics; and 4) interobjectively, through teleological orconsequentialistic ethics.
  • 139. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Folks that raise any of these elements to an exclusive perspective or school of thought aresimply indulging an epistemic fetish (except for the Peircean pragmatism, of course).What Else Is Going On in this Matrix of 16 Philosophical Categories?Our employment of the Peircean take on reality pretty much drives one directly to whereUrsula Goodenough & Terry Deacon ended up in From Biology to Consciousness toMorality. Now, take Morality, for example, it has always seemed to us that, whenapproached philosophically, philosophers have elaborated theories that we couldtaxonomically characterize under four major categories and that those categories could beassociated with the four major brain quadrants, which are variously dominant in differenttemperament types. And one could take Aesthetics and Epistemology and Social theoriesand see a similar type of association. That provided us 16 sets of jargon above, which wedid not bother to unpack, YET, incorporating, as they do, the entire history of philosophy.Now, we are certain that one might recognize that our primary level encounters withreality generate different evaluative stances in terms of moral, aesthetic, epistemic andsocial sensibilities/inclinations. And one may be surprised to hear us assert that, for themost part, as human beings, we get along quite well in our encounters with reality,especially with one another, without bothering to elaborate major theories about thesesensibilities, at least not beyond our naturalistic accounts of their origins. And this is tosay that not many of us take the concepts we employ, when we are sharing andexchanging such sensibilities with one another, and then manipulate them into second oreven third order, meta-level abstractions. So, this might also seem to suggest that, it is notthe process of abstracting we must constrain as much as it is the process of, willy-nilly,drawing new inferences regarding those abstractions, so to speak, in a vacuum, isolatedfrom sensible reality. The reason for constraint is that Peirces pragmatic maxim is in playfor those abstractions that are both helpful and harmful because, as semiotic creatures, weWILL cash out the value of such conceptualizations, for better and worse, by puttingthem into practice one way or another, either to our everlasting glory or by acceleratingour inevitable demise.Nevertheless, all these caveats notwithstanding, humankind HAS elaborated suchtheories as have arisen from our moral, aesthetical, epistemic and social sensibilities andtheir meta-level, inferential structures. At one level, which appears to be mostlysubconscious, these structures are hardwired, even if otherwise plastic and open-ended.They are not articulated beliefs but do comprise what most of us would recognize ascommon sense, and what the philosophers might call first principles, or unspokenpresuppositions. This isnt to suggest that some cultural overlays, nurture adding on tonature, do not variously help or hinder common sense; it is only to recognize that, evenwhen they do, they, too, remain rather tacit or implicit, most folks never bothering toarticulate what, to some extent, must generally seem to be self-evident and thusrather trivial observations, which is to say, relevant but too much of a grasp of theobvious. The practical upshot is that we have taxonomically laid out 16 majorphilosophical approaches, which, in our view, can be characterized in association withbrain quadrants, this notwithstanding the notion that our symbolic-linguistic function is
  • 140. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011rather distributed. So, in a nutshell, we have naturalized philosophy, itself, much lessreligion. (And, we do believe glucose metabolism in the brain can be measured todemonstrate what areas are "burning hotter" when --- in relationship to Myers-Briggstemperament typologies.)Stepwise, then, as Goodenough and Deacon take us from biology to consciousness tomorality, our departure point is to then take morality and further reduce it to four majorapproaches; and to then recognize that their account applies to other evaluativesensibilities, too, and to then reduce them, each, to four major approaches. We do not seeit as a facile mapping exercise.Now, the real shame is this. So many folks have, in their metalevel abstractions andinferences, moved from the realm of unconscious competence to unconsciousincompetence. By doing philosophy, they have made themselves STUPIDER. ForgetJupiter, in medieval times, when a rather sterile scholasticism began its reign: Boys wentto college to get more stupider. It has been said that, using logic, one of humankindsmost efficient tools, an intelligent person, with a false premise and/or ambiguousconcepts, can get further from the truth, faster and more efficiently, than anyimbecile could ever aspire. And that is what goes on as folks inhabit their metalevelcastles. It takes rigor and discipline and self-critique and self-reflexive awareness to "dometalevels" right. The cure for this is a move from unconscious competence to consciouscompetence, making what we call our unconscious subdoxastic beliefs more robustlyconscious doxastic beliefs. Most of the trouble ensues when folks get busy trying tojustify that which calls for no justification. One must not go overboard, though, throwingout the justification baby with the dirty metalevel bathwater because 1) so much of realitystill begs questions and 2) there is a right way to do metalevels, which we wont prescribepresently (except to suggest that Peirce is our guide).We derived a heuristic from Peirce who said that the normative sciences mediate betweenphenomenology and metaphysics. This can be derived in simpler terms. We can say thatprobabilities mediate between possibilities and actualities. It may not be a stretch to evensay that the aegis of initial conditions and boundary conditions and emergent hierarchiesof biases mediate between possible novel emergent properties and actual emergententities. This is a modal grammar. It has specific rules for how certain so-called firstprinciples work in each category, but well desist from describing those now. We wontunpack what Peirce means by normative sciences, phenomenology and metaphysicseither except to say that, if you are one who suffers an immediate negative visceralreaction to the word, metaphysics, fret not. This isn‘t what Peirce is doing (necessarily).The simple way to diagnose this supposed malady of the mind is to watch and see if onespeaks in terms of possibilities, actualities and necessities --- and not rather probabilities.Mapping theTetradic Heuristic onto Ursula Goodenough‘s Categories for ReligiousNaturalism & Daniel Helminiak‘s Lonerganian Approach:Again, our heuristic is this: The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and theparadigmatic to effect the pragmatic.
  • 141. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Our mapping of this heuristic onto Goodenough‘s project is this: The spiritual mediatesbetween the emergentist perspective and the interpretive to effect the moral.The philosophic describes our ethical, aesthetical and epistemic sensibilities and includesthe concepts that we might symbolically abstract from our primary level encounters withreality via our cognitive-affective juxtapositions. An inward personal response to 1) adeeply felt ethical sensibility might be that of reverence; 2) an aesthetical sensibilitymight be that of awe; and 3) an epistemic sensibility might be that of assent.To be philosophic is not the same as to do philosophy. Philosophy tries to change thesesensibilities into standards and employs the language of norms. If the philosophicdescribes our evaluative sensibilities, then philosophy describes standards (norms) to helpus realize their corresponding values. The philosophic answers the question: "Whats itto ya?" and philosophy answers the question: "Where can I get some of that?" Thephilosophic is thus evaluative, while philosophy is normative. The philosophic isspiritual and thus deals with the prioritizing of values, describing not only what it is wevalue but what it is we value most and the order in which we place our often-competingvalues (ordinacy). We associate the normative with the Jungian category of Thinking,located in the left frontal cortex of the human brain, because our ethical, aesthetical andethical sensibilities, here, give impetus to our rational attempts at normative justification.These rational attempts are meta-level processes that consciously reflect on the answersto the question "Where can I get some of that?" and then attempt to answer this question:"Why should I trust your, my or anyone elses answer to that question?" or, to useKantian interrogatories, they attempt to navigate us, regulatively, to the answers to: Whatcan I know? What can I hope for? What must I do?The positivistic describes our scientific endeavors and answers the question: "Is that afact?" and is thus descriptive (associated with the Jungian category of Sensing, locatedin the left posterior convexity of the human brain). It aspires to successful referencethrough heuristics and explanatory adequacy through theory. It includes our emergentistperspective. Classically, it answers: “What can I know?”The pragmatic and moral describe our prudential judgments, hence informing ouroutward communal responses, answering the question: "What must I do?" and is thusprescriptive, aspiring to harmony between people (associated with the Jungian categoryof Feeling, located in the right posterior convexity of the human brain). Pragmatically,the question is: “Is it useful?” Morally: “Is it good?”The paradigmatic describes our overall orientations, including our positivisticunderstandings of nature, our philosophic and spiritual evaluations arising from thesensibilities that ensue from our primary level encounters of reality, and our pragmaticand moral responses to one another as radically social animals, as a symbolic species.The paradigmatic is interpretive, aspiring to harmony between ideas (associated with theJungian category of Intuiting, located in the right frontal cortex of the human brain). It isan attempt to answer the question: “What‟s it all about, Alfie?” or put in more
  • 142. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011anagogical terms: “What can I hope for?”How new is any of this? In some sense, we internalized these distinctions frompatristic and medieval mystics, like Origen, pseudo-Dionysius and Duns Scotus.Origen„s senses of scripture 1) moral 2) allegorical/spiritual 3) anagogical and 4)literal/historical, correspond to moral, spiritual, interpretive and positivisticunderstandings set forth above. The dionysian logic and predications,alternately analogical, anagogical, mystagogical, apophatic, kataphatic, univocaland equivocal are precisely what is at work in these present considerations usingdifferent concepts. And Scotus and Peirce resonate semiotically (such as between thescotistic formal distinction and the peircean distinction between objective andphysical realities).References to brain quadrants are over-simplified but the functional categories oftemperament type are meaningful.At this point, we have only mapped the categories of Religious Naturalism to ourPeircean categories. We want to now describe the practical implications of ourPeirceanesque tetradic heuristic: The philosophic mediates between the positivistic andthe paradigmatic to effect the pragmatic.Daniel Helminiak, building on Lonergan, describes four progressively expandinghorizons of human concern, the determinations of each successive horizon constrainingthose of the previous horizons. He describes the 1) positivistic 2) philosophic 3) theisticand 4) theotic. These correspond to my genericized categories of the 1) positivistic 2)philosophic 3) paradigmatic and 4) pragmatic. These correspond to the RN categories of1) emergentist perspective 2) spiritual 3) interpretive and 4) moral. As Phil St. Romaininterprets Helminiak: "Spirituality, as a uniquely human phenomenon, is grounded in thephilosophic level" and grounded in authenticity. Helminiak describes it thus: "ForLonergan, authenticity implies on-going personal commitment to openness, questioning,honesty, and good will across the board. In this sense, commitment to authenticity isexactly what characterizes the philosophic viewpoint."Now, the most immediately obvious practical upshot of this heuristic is that, while one isentitled to ones own overall interpretive orientation, or paradigm, one is notentitled to ones own positivistic determinations. It was Senator Moynihan whoadmonished: "One is entitled to ones own opinion, but one is NOT entitled to ones ownfacts." In fact, Helminiaks hierarchy of human foci of concern, placing the philosophicbetween the positivistic and theistic, is an implicit recognition of our peirceanesqueheuristic, which would treat his concepts thusly: The philosophic mediates between thepositivistic and theistic to inform the theotic, which is nothing less than the journey toauthenticity via intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversion (think:development e.g. Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Fowler et al).How, then, might the philosophic or spiritual, constrained by the positivistic, then beconsidered to, in any way, constrain the paradigmatic?
  • 143. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Helminiak might suggest that Lonergan has described such spiritual constraints in termsof an "on-going personal commitment to openness, questioning, honesty, and good willacross the board." Religious Naturalism might amplify this with such epistemic values ashumility and reverence and assent toward reality.What anchors morality? How might we articulate a more compelling morality in apluralistic society and on global venues? What we have just described, above, is humanrationality. This rationality is emergent, bounded, autopoietic, normative, spiritual,positivistic and ecologically evaluative, the last criterion suggesting that, together in thesame cosmic niche, our ethical, aesthetical and epistemic sensibilities will largelyconverge. The succinct way of putting this is that human prudential judgment, both moraland practical, is transparent to human reason. The practical upshot is that one is entitledto ones own interpretive paradigms and evaluative dispositions, but one is not entitled toones own moral positions, which must be reasoned out in the community of inquiry writlarge. After all, to quote a wise friend: "Life is not about survival of the fittest; its aboutfitting in."Changing gears entirely. Heideggers question: "Why is there not rather nothing?" hasbeen rendered a pseudo-question by those whod employ an eliminativist strategy ofconsidering "nothing" a conceptual reification, accusing all, who take existence to be apredicate of being, of a meaningless tautology. Indeed, not even Aquinas thought thatnatural philosophy could determine, absent positive revelation, whether or not natureitself was eternal. The tautology may, nevertheless, be sound; it simply does not add newinformation to any of our systems. Heideggers existential question is better framed interms of cosmological and ontological speculation: "Why is there not rather somethingelse?"The implicit answer, as if brute fact, might be proffered as "the aegis of initial conditionsand boundary conditions." It is clearly not for everyone.The Grammar That Operates in This Peirceanesque Tetradic HeuristicIf one buys into this mapping exercise whereby we have related my heuristic to that ofGoodenough and Helminiak, then one may be interested in the grammar that governs theinterplay of these categories: The evaluative-normative mediates between the descriptiveand interpretive to effect the prudential (moral and practical).There is a modal logic of ontological vagueness that has us prescind from any schemewhere the necessary mediates between the possible and the actual. This is because we areimmersed in contingency as dissipative structures and finite entities, alternatelyemerging and perishing. And, as a brief aside, this has everything to do with aestheticsensibility. Beauty, itself, is being birthed as the greater the number of bifurcationsand permutations that are at play in the novel dissipative structures of reality, the greaterthe threat to system stability in terms of fragility and the greater, most folks seem toreport, the beauty. The aesthetical axiom seems to be: the more fragile, the more
  • 144. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011beautiful.What gives these categories the type of hierarchical relationship invoked by Peirce anddescribed by Helminiak, captured in our own tetradic heuristic? It is the interplay of thefirst principles of noncontradiction (these cannot both be true) and excluded middle(either this or that is true). Most people do not pay heed to first principles. Rather, wetake them for granted as foundational presuppositions of common sense. It is theinterplay of noncontradiction and excluded middle that comprises the semanticalvagueness that is an integral logic of this heuristic.In the category of the probable, including the evaluative-normative, noncontradictionholds but excluded middle folds. This is to say that our conceptualizations must beconceptually compatible and their logic consistent. The concepts in play cannot negateeach other and make any sense. They have a certain self-evident character. This isnoncontradiction coming to bear. At the same time, we are in a probabilistic mode, soexcluded middle folds, which is to suggest that we cannot know, a priori, which of thisrange of conceptualizations (lets say, frequencies, types and degrees of emergentproperties) will present in reality.In the category of the actual, including the descriptive, both noncontradiction andexcluded middle hold. This is the arena of reality where we encounter brute facts and theone most intuitive to most people, who have not, ordinarily, prescinded from the modalcategory of necessary to probable.In the category of the possible, including the interpretive, noncontradiction folds butexcluded middle holds. This is the arena of reality that lies a tad beyond our grasp andmutually exclusive propositions, which are conceptually incompatible and logicallymutually exclusive, remain live options. This is the folding of noncontradiction. At thesame time, excluded middle holds as we know that one or the other paradigms must betrue; they cannot both be true. An aesthetic teleology, for example, such a paradigm asexperiences reality as an arena of pervasive intentionality, as takes an intentional stancewrit large and not as a minimalist heuristic device (Dennett), is a live option, but it and aso-called self-evident nihilism cannot both be true. One or the other may be falsified orverified, as Hick might say, eschatologically.What is operating beneath the surface of both our ontological and semantical vaguenessis precisely the biosemiotic heuristic we have described elsewhere, which can be thoughtof as the interplay between deduction (re: the probable and necessary), induction (re: theactual) and abduction (re: the possible). What undergirds our strategy of semanticalvagueness is the triadic semiotic logic. It is a dynamical system. Implicit in thevagueness, both ontological and semantical, is the open-ended, plastic nature of ourbiosemiotic heuristics, which are easily contrasted with our closed-ended, fixed,biosemiotic algorithms. Strict logic has yielded to fuzzy logic, the latter being adaptivelysignificant for a symbolic species operating in an arena of pervasive contingency.Human knowledge thus advances inexorably but ever so fallibly. But there can be no
  • 145. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011question that our grasps of reality are getting tighter and tighter and that our competingtautologies are getting ever more taut as they alternate between conjecture and criticismthrough both self- and mutual critique. All of this is to suggest that epistemology isepistemology is epistemology and that the reason there is no regnant moral relativismis that, at some level, we are all reading off the same sheet of music even as we seem tobe singing in different keys. Some choir voices, however different, sound harmonious,others rather discordant. Through time, though, humanity will get progressively moresymphonic, or, will go the way of the dinosaurs.Hermeneutics in DialogueOur Dialogue Conceived as PrayerThis dialogue doesn‘t really lend itself to categories used to describe systems, products,conclusions or movements; rather, it is more so about methods, processes, practices orconversations. This dialogue, then, is best conceived as prayer, as people interacting withGod and one another. It is an ongoing exchange of Do You Hear What I Hear? as theSpirit moves among the People of God as always.Sometimes, the Spirit moves and we respond competently even if not wholly consciously.We respond implicitly even if not with an explicit awareness. At different times in churchhistory, our response becomes a tad more self-reflective, explicitly-aware, self-criticaland consciously competent. That‘s what the postmodern conversation is to me – not anovel move of the Spirit per se or a response of the church, but – another moment in timewhere many are simply paying more attention and appropriating a new awareness ofwhat our gracious God has always been about. Certainly, efficacies will always flowwhen implicit faith is made explicit, when unconscious competence is made conscious,when we pause, from time to time, to reflect and resource and retrieve and revive andrenew.Because we view every theological conversation as dialogue and prayer, the fruits ofwhich are quite unpredictable as they flow from the hand of a sovereign God, Who seemsto have quite the sense of humor, we find it helpful to view the conversation through thelens of Lectio Divina, our prayer. If there is a ―movement,‖ then it is really no more andno less than prayer, itself, which does not lend itself to specific programs and definiteagenda but yields itself to transformation, solidarity and compassion. These are realitiesthat come about quite spontaneously and outside of our preconceived channels.While in creation, novelty arises that transcends but does not violate the order fromwhich it emerged, still we cannot really look behind to get a sense of where we‘reheaded. Rather, we can look back and realize that others have been in places like thisbefore and have been superabundantly rewarded in unpredictable, novel ways when theyhave trustfully surrendered. Joy remains a surprise. What emerges from this conversationwill inspire joy but will be no less a surprise. The Spirit is like that is all I can observe.Seldom do we know how God‘s designs will be worked even as we look forward with a
  • 146. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011confident assurance that all will be well.Below, we will describe 6 moments in prayer and 6 dynamics at play during thesemoments. They capture, for us, 6 dialogues going on in our postmodern conversation.6 moments in prayer1 ) Creation reveals God in a moment of Creatio. In the beginning was The Word.2 ) The Word is received in a moment of Lectio by the Witnesses to Revelation.3 ) The Word is pondered in a moment of Meditatio as the Witnesses meditate togetheron Revelation.4 ) As the Word is accepted and spoken in a moment of Oratio, Revelation transforms itsWitnesses.5 ) As transformed Witnesses in a moment of Contemplatio, we respire the Word inevery contemplative breath as the Word becomes life, itself.6 ) We act on the Word in a moment of Operatio as the Word is integrated into everyaspect of our lives.6 dynamics at play1 ) In Creatio, Revelation pours forth in Truth, Beauty, Goodness & Unity in aTeleological Dynamic which speaks to the transcendental imperatives and divineattributes that we experience in our existential orientations. This includes a robustlyrelational dynamic with four vectors as each value is realized in the self, the other, theenvironment and God, trajectories emphasized by Merton and further explicated by hisdescription of Bernardian love – of self for sake of self, of God for sake of self, of Godfor sake of God, of self for sake of God.This is what some have called Beginning with the End in mind. It‘s articulated in thequestion What‘s It All About Alfie? All of the great traditions have in their own wayarticulated truth, celebrated beauty, preserved goodness and fostered unity.2 ) In Lectio, we encounter the witnesses to Revelation in a Perspectival Dynamic whichlistens to the voices of these witnesses from intraobjective, intersubjective, interobjectiveand intrasubjective perspectives that mutually critique each other. For example,Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. Or, in apologetics, the evidential,presuppositional, rational and existential approaches.We might think here of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, the Anglican Three-Legged Stool,Fides et Ratio.
  • 147. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 20113 ) In Meditatio, we employ a Methodological Dynamic which has four moments, thedescriptive and normative moments of our cosmological methods and the evaluative andinterpretive moments of our axiological methods. For example, we employ descriptivescience and normative philosophy and evaluative culture and interpretive religion, eachwhich is methodologically autonomous but axiologically-integral, which is to say allnecessary but none sufficient, all intellectually-related though not strictlylogically-related, in every human value-realization.Here we are reminded of the Science & Religion Dialogue, of Postmodern epistemologyand other such discussions.4 ) In Oratio, we speak the word as a first moment of accepting it and allowing it to worktoward our transformation in a Developmental Dynamic, whereby we move towardauthenticity in ongoing intellectual, affective, moral, socio-political and religiousconversion.We especially think of Bernard Lonergan‘s conversions as expanded and explicated byDonald Gelpi.5 ) In Contemplatio, we live out of a Paradoxical Dynamic which takes us beyond butnot without our dualistic, problem-solving mind to engage reality with a nondualapproach that is more robustly relational. In our dualistic mind we have grappled withsome success in dealing with paradoxical tensions, resolving some dialectically insynthesis, dissolving some perspectivally through paradigm shifts that introduce newconcepts and categories, and evading others practically, although they are otherwise trueantinomies, which reveal the limits of our formal approaches (as they would require ourforsaking of some aspects of reason, itself, in order to eliminate certain apparentabsurdities).These strategies of resolving, dissolving and evading paradox are somewhat successfulas we grapple with life‘s cosmological questions in science and philosophy, where wedeal with how to describe and norm reality. When it comes to life‘s most importantquestions, our most ultimate concerns and most significant value-realizations, as wegrapple with life‘s axiological questions in human culture and religion, our strategy shiftsfrom getting the right answers through problem-solving to getting the questions right, inother words, to embarking on the right quest. This is about getting relationships right.Axiological paradox, which deals with how we value and interpret reality, does not yieldto cosmological speculation with its empirical, rational and practical resolutions,dissolutions and evasions of paradox. Its paradoxical tensions are, instead, nurtured andmaintained creatively. Creative tensions are the stuff of life‘s deepest mysteries andmost profound meanings and yield its most cherished value-realizations. One might say,then, when it comes to life‘s deepest paradoxes, we exploit them transformatively.There is no better treatment of paradox and the nondual approach than that of FranciscanRichard Rohr.
  • 148. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 20116 ) In Operatio, where we act on the Word and integrate it into every aspect of our lives,we employ an Integral Dynamic, which fosters integrity and authenticity through anongoing process of boundary establishment, boundary defense, boundary negotiation andboundary transcendence. These boundary dynamics can be healthy or unhealthy, henceefficacious or counterproductive, if not maintained in a creative tension. Dogma candecay into dogmatism, cult into ritualism, code into legalism and community intoinstitutionalism.Creed can otherwise articulate truth. Ritual can otherwise celebrate beauty. Code canotherwise preserve goodness. Community can otherwise enjoy fellowship.6 dialogues in our Conversation1 ) The exploration of teleological dynamics is quite straightforward in that it reflects acollective voice of prophetic protest that is coming from the margins of institutionalizedChristianity and calling us to snap back into awareness in order to quit mistaking thefinger pointing at the moon for the moon itself. It‘s nothing less than the age oldclarification of means and ends.2 ) The exploration of perspectival dynamics reflects the wisdom of mutual critique andthe avoidance of various over- and under-emphases, whether sola scriptura or solummagisterium, whether a rationalistic foundationalism or a radically deconstructivepostmodernism.3 ) The consideration of methodological dynamics looks at the methods that areemployed from within all of the perspectives and affirms their autonomy as eachconstrains and mutually critiques the others. Thus we avoid the conflation of science andreligion and philosophy and respect what each contributes to every humanvalue-realization. We therefore eschew scientism as well as fideism, for example.4 ) The dialogue about developmental dynamics respects the human growth trajectoryand recognizes that we are being transformed both as individuals and as a people. Wethink here of Bernard Lonergan‘s conversions, Clare Graves Spiral Dynamics and so on.5 ) Our interest in paradoxical dynamics draws its impetus from life‘s inescapablemystery and inexhaustible depth dimensions. Here we explore the wisdom of uncertainty,the reality of doubt even in the midst of faith, the nondual nature of the contemplativestance.6 ) Our exploration of integral dynamics is an exploration of boundary realities and howwe are to establish, defend, negotiate and transcend this boundary or that, whilemaintaining our integrity and growing our authenticity.Gospel – differentiating its brand in the marketplace
  • 149. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Right & wrong. Good & evil. Merits & demerits. Debits & credits. Reward &punishment. Responsibility & accountability. These are the obligational aspects ofhuman socialization, a process of formation & reformation that helps us function insociety. Every society already ―gets‖ this without the benefit of special revelation. TheOld Testament revealed that a personal, faithful God was active & involved withhumanity, establishing covenants, making promises.In the New Testament, the Gospel, the Good News, Jesus revealed the aspirationalaspects of human transformation, a process that brings us into an intimate Daddy-likerelationship with a tender, loving God. This differentiates the Gospel in the marketplace,so the aspirational should be emphasized at least as much as the obligational. Maybemore?So, the obligational aspect of our growth is about things like enlightened self-interest,imperfect contrition (sorrow for consequences to ourselves), extrinsic rewards and eros(what‘s in it for me?).The aspirational is about the intrinsic rewards of truth, beauty, goodness & unity, thepursuit of which is its own reward. It‘s about agape (what‘s in it for others) and perfectcontrition (sorrow for consequences that others suffer). It‘s about growing in intimacy.The Old Covenant still works and the meeting of our basic obligations is still sufficient toenter the Kingdom (& to enjoy abundance). It‘s just that, in the Gospel, the NewCovenant, we are called to so much more, to superabundance! God, like any good fatheror mother, wants more for us than we want for ourselves. When we see anyone settle forless, it is natural to grieve, but we should be gentle & accepting of where they are andrespectful of their choices. Our invitation to come along to the New Creation shouldreflect our own faith & hope & love & joy & courage & peace! Interreligious DialogueAbout [Bracketing] as opposed to ―Jettisoning‖ Our OntologiesWe cannot have authentic dialogue if people arrive at the table and "jettison" some oftheir core positions. The [bracketing] of certain positions is only a dialogical tool (andnot rather an epistemic maneuver) which challenges us to rearticulate our truth in a moreuniversally compelling way that is more transparent to human reason. For example andconcretely, then, we cannot urge others in a pluralistic political forum to join our side onthe basis that the Bible or Koran "tells me so," even if, at bottom, that may be whatformed our moral position. We must dig deeper and come to grips with WHY the "Bibletold me so" and then offer that explanation with the logic and reasoning tools all humansshare. And this logic must be tested against reality, too, because, without this inductive,positivistic or scientific grounding, logic can take us further from the truth, and more
  • 150. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011quickly, too.Evangelizing & Catechizing(& Proselytizing)It has been said that those who‘ve done the best at evangelizing have not always done aswell at catechizing and vice versa. While there is danger in overgeneralization, there isoften some insight we can gain. To the extent catechesis fosters re-cognition,evangelization fosters real-ization. The first movement is propositional, evidential,rational, presuppositional, moral and practical and the next is existential, experiential androbustly relational. The distinction is between seeing the path and walking it, betweenconceptual mapmaking and participatory imagination.Both the emerging church conversation and pentecostalism do seem, in my view,responses to a modernist rationalism.Interestingly, my own reflections on these matters have not so much dealt with theemergent and pentecostal as recent phenomena via a vis the postmodern critique, buthave employed a postmodern (postfoundational) approach to bring together emergence asa useful heuristic device as has been appropriated in the hard and human sciences, ingeneral, and a pentecostal perspective as gathered from the Biblical narrative regardingthe implications of the Incarnation & Pentecost. So, there are two contexts that might beof special interest, one being an overarching narrative and the other a specific historicalevent.Regarding the recent phenomena, to some extent, pentecostalism has better instilled firstfervor and a fully realized first naivete. Emergence has perhaps better served as a vehiclefor 2nd naivete. This works much like the Zen formulation of first, there is a mountain(precritically), then there is no mountain (critically), then there is (post-critical). It mightbe rendered: first there is a premodernist essentialism (naive realism & enchantment),then there is a modernist nominalism (nonrealism & disenchantment), then there is aconstructive postmodernism (critical realism & re-enchantment).Emergent and pentecostal perspectives, held together in a creative tension, provide ananswer to modernist excesses that have led to a/theological nonrealism, moral relativismand practical nihilism, as well as sterile scholastic rationalisms and Wittgensteinianfideisms. Taken together, we get a more holistic theological anthropology that mines allof the value to be realized from our pre-modern, modern and postmodern experienceswithout the need to cut out and invalidate large swaths of our Christian tradition.We do not want to lose our ―First, there is a mountain‖-encounter of Pentecost and thefire of first fervor gifted by our participatory, analogical imagination, nor do we want tolose the ―Then there is no mountain-recognition‖ provided by our conceptualmap-making and dialectical imagination, as we move into the reappropriation of ―Thenthere is‖ and we realize through our 2nd naivete and pneumatological imagination thateverything that‘s old is new again, as we see the original realities come alive ininculturated forms that reveal that the Good News is as fresh and vibrant and relevant to
  • 151. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011humankind as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.We have seen some in their Pentecostal experience get rather stuck in a pre-critical firstnaivete. We have encountered some who, from an Emergent stance, have gotten stuck ina radically deconstructive nonrealism, what some have called Evangellyfish, washed upon postmodern shores, unable to get fully back into the swim. Those who severelycritique both movements are generally describing these elements of Pentecostalism andemergence, which are mere caricatures of what these movements are and can become asthey exploit the creative tension that they offer each other in ongoing and ever-fruitfulmutual critique.We have enjoyed the fruits, in interreligious dialogue, as our rather exclusivisticecclesiocentrisms have slowly yielded on the ecumenical front to a more inclusivisticChristocentrism. Without forsaking our own Christocentric stances, we might foster aneven more fruitful interreligious dialogue by opening same with a pneumatologicalinclusivism.Pentecostals & Charismatics have led the way on such mutual understanding withinChristianity, sharing our experience of Spirit. Might this be the model for advancingdialogue and understanding between the Great Traditions, too? Pentecostals might havesome suggestions for a way forward.Religion‘s Core CompetencyOur disparate faiths, including many indigenous religions as well as the great traditions,have a certain core competency. From that core competency derives the nature of theirdistinct value-added contribution, their unique role, in our lives. This role is not todescribe reality scientifically, not to prescribe reality morally or ethically, not to normreality philosophically, not to manipulate reality practically, and not to govern realitypolitically. These functions belong, rather, to the cosmological story told by science andphilosophy, what some have called Everybody‘s Story, and rightly so, because ittranscends cultures. And it does include our rather rudimentary, vague understanding of aCreator Spirit, one could say, pneumatologically.There are other stories to be told by religions and cultures, which are axiological. Theirrole is to help us interpret reality evaluatively. More plainly, their distinct contribution isto help us celebrate and value reality.The opposite of good religion is neither bad science nor bad morality, although manywould leave us with that impression. The opposite of religion is indifference andnihilism, an attitude that reality offers nothing of enduring value to celebrate. We cannottalk people out of such an attitude with empirical evidence, logical reasoning or moralpersuasion because these basic attitudes are not constructed of formal arguments. Instead,good religion forms people through exchanges of stories about lives well-lived, andthrough moments of celebration, and through the handing down of formative andtransformative practices and through the comfort and enjoyment of fellowship in
  • 152. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011community.Inter-religious dialogue, then, is much more an exchange of practices and has very littleto do with conclusions. It has a lot more to do with celebratory methods andtransformative processes and very little to do with philosophical systems and products ofmoral reasoning. Religion is more so a participatory engagement and much less apropositional exchange.Much of the strife on our planet comes from religion masquerading as cosmology,attempting but failing to co-opt the prerogatives of good science and goodphilosophy with pseudo-religion. Creationism isn‘t bad religion; it‘s bad science.Theocratic rule isn‘t bad religion; it‘s bad political science. Misogyny and homophobiaaren‘t bad religion; they‘re grounded in bad anthropology and are bad morality. Suchdysfunctional approaches to reality inevitably result when religion departs from its corecompetency, strays from its distinct role and fails to attend to its own unique contribution,which Merton emphasized was transformation not socialization.A lot of strife also comes from various insidious –isms. Many words that end in -ism and-ist are merely descriptive and only get pejorative when morphed into -istic. There aresome, however, that describe realities precisely in terms of their normative implications,typically involving over- and under-emphases of various epistemic perspectives, e.g.empiricism, scientism, rationalism, positivism. In the realm of faith, for example, anoveremphasis on the 1) kataphatic and affective is pietism, sometimes fideism 2)kataphatic and speculative is rationalism 3) apophatic and speculative is encratism and 4)apophatic and affective is quietism.There are many terms that otherwise describe what we might consider in terms ofgiftedness vis a vis the roles one might play in community, for example, as a settler orpioneer, conservative or progressive. Following St. Augustine‘s aphorism – in essentials,unity; in accidentals, liberty or diversity; in all things, charity – those with a conservativeor traditionalist charism help preserve and celebrate the essentials of the faith, while thosewith a liberal or progressive charism help explore and celebrate the plurality of our faithexpressions.In this vein, then, it seems there have always been some who are traditionalistic orfundamentalistic in their tendency to treat faith‘s accidentals as if they were essentialsand no too few who are, conversely, liberalistic or progressivistic in that they tend totreat essentials as if they were accidentals. (Which elements of the Christian faith are theessentials and which are the accidentals is not the focus, here.) Such considerations willoften involve different epistemological schools and various theories of truth andjustification vis a vis modernism and postmodernism and various non/foundationalistapproaches.Religion in the Public SquareIn the old thomist tradition, distinctions were drawn between an essentialist or idealist
  • 153. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011interpretation and application of Gospel norms and an existentialist or realistinterpretation and application of them. This distinction is necessary because we live in atension where we are undeniably realizing the Kingdom now even as we, as createdco-creators, join all of creation in the labor and groaning of the act of giving birth to anever more full Kingdom realization.The essentialist understanding seizes upon the efficacies of the Spirit‘s help and theWord, itself, proclaimed and lived by faithful witnesses. The existentialist understandingrecognizes our human frailty due to our radical finitude and sinfulness and so makesallowances knowing humankind will yet fall short of Gospel ideals. One would not wantto say that the essentialist approach is theoretical and the existentialist practical, becauseone would not want to discourage any courageous persons from living out the Gospel,radically, as prophetic witnesses and lovers of God and all. We can say that theexistentialist approach is pastoral, however, looking with compassion and understandingon us in our human condition, helping us to do the best we can.Concretely, then, for example, this tradition affirms both pacifism and just war principlesas legitimate expressions of Gospel ideals.Even those who are not themselves pacifists can be in deep solidarity with and very muchsupportive of their pacifist sisters and brothers. We would not want to live in a worldwithout their voice of prophetic protest and without the witness of their lives.With respect to the law, the same distinctions apply. Those who eschew any active andcoercive legal and political engagements can also serve as authentic voices of propheticprotest and witnesses to the reality of the Kingdom, now among us and yet to come morefully. From a pastoral perspective, consistent with an incarnational outlook, we can alsolegitimately seek to permeate and improve the temporal order. We can be thankful thatour US founders integrated religion into the public square, strengthening its influencethrough nonestablishment and free exercise provisions. This was a healthy response toEnlightenment principles, healthier than the Enlightenment fundamentalism of theContinental experience, where religion was marginalized by secularistic forces.So, theres nothing wrong with a robust engagement of religious and metaphysicalperspectives in the public square. That‘s not what‘s wrong per se with the approach ofmany today. Where they go wrong is twofold: 1) They too often fail to translate theirmoral stances into a language that would give their moral intuitions a normative impetusfor other groups of believers and even unbelievers. 2) They too often give jurisprudentialconsiderations short shrift, emphasizing form over substance, paying too little heed towhether a law will, in actuality, be efficacious and bring about its desired aim, especiallyin a pluralistic society where demographics may reveal that a proposed law will not onlybe unenforceable but possibly even counterproductive. There is a related problem, whichis that the failure to successfully translate some religiously-derived moral intuitionsotherwise results from the fact that certain of those intuitions are philosophically andanthropologically indefensible.
  • 154. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Bearing the Pain of Cultural DividesFirst, we acknowledge our grief and then naturally grieve all of this pain andmisunderstanding. And we allow this pain to somehow transform us that we will notcontinue to somehow transmit it. How can MY response change is my first responsibility.Where others are concerned, we must recognize that such deeply held convictions,whether wholly or partly erroneous, are a very complex combination of irrational,pre-rational, nonrational, rational and supra-rational dispositions. As such, they do notyield in the face of superior logical argumentation, debates about religious epistemology,scriptural prooftexting, pragmatic appeals, enlightened self-interest, meta-ethicalreformulations or natural law syllogisms. Such approaches only serve to further hardenhearts and close minds.To reach people holistically, with a full body-soul-spirit and heart-mind ―blow,‖ we needparables, stories, poems, songs, plays, movies and other musical & dramatic artspresentations. And, even more than that, primarily, we need to tell our relevantpersonal stories, share and exchange our personal, real life experiences, reinforcing ourcompassionate outlooks and forming and reforming our desires in prayer and liturgy.And we need to recognize that, such seeds that we plant, we may not be around to seesprout but others will assuredly reap the benefits. We must be willing to plant trees, theshade of which will not be ours to enjoy.Ministers of Reconciliation and Story-tellers are the most important people in the world(on average, about two generations after they‘re dead.)Natural Mysticism & EnlightenmentTo the extent that natural mysticism and enlightenment seem to gift humans with whatare authentic insights and intuitions about cosmotheandric unity and human solidarity andDivine immanence, then they foster human authenticity in the fullest lonerganian sense.They contribute to Lonergan‘s secular conversions: intellectually, affectively, morallyand socially. So it is with anything that truly humanizes a human being: good diet, goodhygiene, good discipline, good awareness, good asceticism, good habits, etcEven the construction of the false self, the social persona, is part of the humanizationprocess of this animal, Homo sapiens. So, this drives at the question of whether or nothumanization and divinization are the same thing, perhaps. And we can answer in theaffirmative.However, complete humanization, into the Imago Dei, seems to require the Lonerganianreligious conversion, too, and seems to require Helminiak‘s theotic focus or realm ofconcern. Humanization and divinization go hand in hand but the process can be frustratedbefore one undergoes religious conversion and before one‘s realm of concern opens upbeyond the positivistic, philosophic and theistic into the theotic.
  • 155. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011So, yes, there is something dynamically ordered about Zen and TM and naturalmysticism, that moves one toward humanization and authenticity and which can improveon human nature in such a way that grace can build on a better foundation. That is whatthe Holy Spirit does n‘est pas? Grace builds on nature. So, anything that helps us morefully realize our humanity and authentic human nature can help dispose us to gifts of theSpirit. We can say this especially since enlightenment seems to gift one with docility,openness, quietness, stillness, solitude, solidarity, compassion, good asceticisms andhabits that transmute into true virtue, all related to the life of love and prayer.The Spirit, however, as with anyone who progresses in the prayer life on throughadvanced stages of meditation to the simplest forms of active prayer, remains sovereignlyin control of contemplative grace.Further, it does seem that one must have habitually nurtured kataphatic devotion andloving intentionality in a fully relational approach, in addition to any apophaticexperience of nonduality or void, if one is to then expand their focus of concern toinclude the theotic, if one is to have their secular conversions transvalued by a distinctlyreligious conversion, which is clearly explicit and kataphatic, devotional and intentionaland relational. In other words, for example, ditching one‘s mythic-membershipconsciousness (credally) is NOT the way to go, for that would entail the negation of astage and not rather its transvaluation.East Meets West interreligiously – but how?―Awakening to beauty, truth, and goodness is to waken to the unfoldment of Divine Lifewithin us.‖ Thomas Keating―In philosophy classes we were told that there were three things that especially openedus to the Transcendent: the good, the true, and the beautiful. Come join us as we againput together what was never really apart!‖ Richard Rohr―The philosophers are wrong, he [Scotus] argues; ordered love, not knowledge, definesand perfects human rationality. Human dignity has it foundation in rational freedom. Incontrast to the philosophical, intellectualist model of human nature and destiny, theFranciscan offers and strengthens the Christian alternative, centered not merely onknowledge but on rational love. Throughout his brief career, Scotus works to put togethera more overtly Christian perspective on the world, the person, and salvation that mightstand up to this philosophical intellectual/speculative model and, by using the best of itsresources, transcend it. The Franciscan tradition consistently defends a position whereinthe fullest perfection of the human person as rational involves loving in the way Godloves, rather than knowing in the way God knows. His position in this overall project canbe best understood within Franciscan spirituality, which emphasizes the will and itsattraction to beauty, love, and simplicity.‖ Ingham and Mechthild‟s The PhilosophicalVision of John Duns Scotus
  • 156. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We do well to learn from India‘s very long history of reflection on God and gods,Goddess and goddesses, if we are to speak intelligently of the God in whom we believeand to whom we pray. Faith ought to be single-minded, but theology has a duty to bebroad and ever more open to new learning.Francis X. Clooney, S.J. America Blog, Teaching God at Harvard, Spring 2009Fr. Richard Rohr OFM describes much of Buddhism as gifting one with ―practices‖ andnot ―conclusions.‖ In this consideration, well break open the gift of this succinct insightand offer one interpretation of what this might mean for Christianity.The Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti schools of Hinduism, and the Mahayana school ofBuddhism, are now the major (larger) schools of these great living traditions and all haveprominent devotional elements. While the dualist and modified nondualist Vedanticschools are primarily associated with Bhakti thought, even the Advaitic school can beassociated with devotional elements through its founder, Shankara. Even in ZenBuddhism (Mahayanan), both Chinese (Chan) and Korean (Soen) schools integratedevotional elements. What about the ―reform‖ movement of the Japanese (Soto) school,which, by many accounts, does not so readily accommodate devotional elements? Somesay this movement was rooted in the late 19th-early 20th Century Japanese nationalisttendencies, which both sought to differentiate itself from other schools in Asia and tosupport the country‘s militaristic approach. Others say the reform was a response to Zen‘scommercialization in Japan. Whatever the case may be, for manifold and varied historicalreasons, the Japanese school lineages predominate in North America. To the extent thatJapanese Zen lacks a governing body and a per se orthodoxy, unlike other Asian schools,it naturally lends itself to what would otherwise be considered heterodox adaptations,such as the emergent Christian Zen lineage.Our purpose in providing this background is to dispel any facile misconception thatEastern spiritual practices writ large, even when otherwise associated with variousnondualities, necessarily lack a robust relationality or are otherwise incompatible withdevotional elements. This is also to suggest that Americans, who have been primarilyexposed to the Soto school, may especially fall prey to caricaturizing what are in fact thelargest and most predominant living traditions of the East based on what for them hasotherwise been a very narrow exposure to a ―reform‖ element that turns out to otherwisebe somewhat aberrant. We say this to affirm that, in my view, relationality is essential inall aspects of the life of the radically social animal known as Homo sapiens. We wouldargue that it is considered essential by most people in most all sects and denominations ofthe great traditions.It therefore seems likely that there is no, so to speak, ―essential‖ Enlightenmentexperience for most people, neither East nor West, which is to suggest that most people,who undertake the ascetic disciplines and nondiscursive and/or apophatic meditativepractices that can lead to experiences of absolute unitary being, cosmic awareness or evenvarious energy arousals and awakenings, are already both formatively prepared andkataphatically situated in a devotional environs that is, more or less, conducive to anorderly unfolding of the psychic energies often associated with spiritual emergence such
  • 157. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011that they will not otherwise fall prey to what can be some very unsettling spiritualemergencies.This has profound implications for our inter-religious dialogue, especially as it pertains toour mutually enriching exchanges of spiritual technologies (ascetic and meditativepractices), which might be a lot more adaptable (abstracted from doctrinal elements)between Eastern and Western traditions than one might first suspect, especially if onlyfamiliar with Japanese Zen as is the case with most Americans .Normatively speaking, this is to suggest that our emergent Christian Zen lineages neednot feel compelled to turn away from devotional practices and may indeed want to moreactively engage the many other schools of Hinduism and Buddhism precisely in search oftheir devotional modalities. Another problem in the West is the fact that there is anemergent pop-Advaitan and/or neo-Advaitan lineage that facilely engages Shankara‘silluminative teachings while ignoring the founder‘s devotional practices. This can onlyexacerbate the misconceptions, hence misapplications, that arise from the already narrowand misguided view of the Eastern traditions. Thankfully, many Western and ChristianZen lineages do offer caveats regarding any such over-conceptualizations of Zen.At the same time, as Robert Sharf30 points out: ―… there is a world of difference betweenissuing such warnings in a monastic environment where ritual and doctrinal study are derigueur, and issuing such warnings to laypersons with little or no competence in suchareas. In short, the Sanbokyodan has taken the antinomian and iconoclastic rhetoric ofZen literally, doing away with much of the disciplined ceremonial, liturgical, andintellectual culture of the monastery in favor of the single-minded emphasis on zazen anda simplified form of koan study.‖Whatever the divergent ontological views of our many traditions, for the most part, in theEast, there is a subtle distinction that is drawn between ultimate or absolute reality andphenomenal or practical reality, such that it is lost on many Westerners that variouswords/cognates, in fact, retain their conventional or pragmatic usefulness in a movementthat, first, suspends our naive affirmations, then, subjects them to philosophical scrutinyand, finally, returns them back to their conventional understanding with deeper insightsand with maybe a hygienic hermeneutic of suspicion. This insight and hermeneutic doesnot cast suspicion with the skeptics on all matters unseen but instead invites us to gobeyond (not without) our senses and reason to penetrate reality more depthfully.In Christianity, Richard of St. Victor thus informs the Franciscan tradition thruBonaventure about the occulus carnis (eye of the senses), the occulus rationis (eye ofreason), and the occulus fidei (eye of faith). This ―eye of faith‖ is what Rohr refers to asthe ―third eye‖ and, consistent with Merton, it integrally takes us beyond our senses andreason but not without them. This conceptually maps fairly well, but not completely, oversuch as Jewish and Tibetan concepts of Third Eye seeing.30 Robert Sharf Sanbokyodan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions p. 427-428
  • 158. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Rohr often refers to knowledge through connaturality, which, per Maritain is knowledgethrough union or inclination, connaturality or congeniality, where the intellect is at playnot alone, but together with affective inclinations and the dispositions of the will, and isguided and directed by them. It is not rational knowledge, knowledge through theconceptual, logical and discursive exercise of Reason. But it is really and genuinelyknowledge, though obscure and perhaps incapable of giving account of itself, or of beingtranslated into words.Rohr writes: ―Contemplation is also saying how you see is what you will see, and wemust clean our own lens of seeing. I call it knowing by ―connaturality‖ (Aquinas), orknowing by affinity or kinship, it is the participative knowing by which the IndwellingSpirit in us knows God, Love, Truth, and Eternity. LIKE KNOWS LIKE, and that is veryimportant to know. There definitely is a communion between the seer and the seen, theknower and the known Hatred cannot nor will not know God, fear cannot nor will notrecognize love. Because this deep contemplative wisdom has not been taught in recentCatholic centuries, and hardly at all among Protestants, it is a great big lack andabsence in our God given ability to know spiritual things spiritually, as Paul would say(1 Cor.2:13).‖Clearly, then, Rohr advocates nonduality and not nondualism. The latter is ametaphysical proposition; the former is an epistemic method. In philosophy, we haverecognized that methods can be successfully extricated from systems. In our East-Westdialogue, we have recognized that some practices can be successfully extricated fromtheir doctrinal contexts.Nonduality is a practice, a method, that can be successfully extricated from nondualism(as system or doctrine). In fact, it has a philosophical meaning vis a vis the falsedichotomy fallacy that is quite independent of any Eastern traditions. That‘s the meaningemployed by Rohr.Here‘s a quote on the same theme from Pseudo-Dionysius: ―Do thou, in the intentpractice of mystic contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operations of theintellect, and all things that the senses or the intellect can perceive, and all things whichare not and things which are, and strain upwards in unknowing as far as may be towardsthe union with Him who is above all being and knowledge. For by unceasing andabsolute withdrawal from thyself and all things in purity, abandoning all and set freefrom all, thou wilt be borne up to the ray of the Divine Darkness that surpasses allbeing.‖Christianity is recovering its mystical core via a neoplatonic-influenced dionysian logic.The classical emphasis has been on the dialectic between the apophatic and kataphatic,the former referring literally to what God is not, the latter an affirmation of what God islike, analogically. This has reduced all God-talk to metaphor and leaves a questionbegging as to how there can be any causal efficacy between Creator and creatures withsuch a causal disjunction as is necessarily implied by such a weak analogy.
  • 159. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011The classical logic31 looks like this:1) God is | x | is true analogically and kataphatically.2) God is | not x | is true literally and apophatically.Dionysian logic breaks out of this dualistic dyad, going beyond it but not without it:3) God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true unitively.This triadic perspective resolves the tension between the classical neoplatonic henosis,which refers to the dance between intersubjectivity and identity with ultimate reality, anddinonysian theosis, which refers to the growth in intimacy with ultimate reality, byaffirming both an intraobjective identity between creature and Creator, in a panentheisticdivine matrix of interrelated causes and effects, as well as an intersubjective intimacybetween creature and Creator, the creature thus being quasi-autonomous. (auto = self)The practical upshot, then, which might be quite the essence (pun intended), of such anondual perspective is that all may be well and that all are radically interrelated and thisis true whether one is indeed an absolute monist, qualified monist, panentheist orclassical theist. The theoretical rub would be ontological but all traditions, in fidelity toright speech, had better remain in search of a metaphysic at this stage on humankind‘sjourney?For Rohr, I‘d say the nondual refers mostly to an epistemic process, such as in Zen‘sdethroning of the conceptualizing ego in order to otherwise relate to some seemingcontradictions, instead, as paradoxes, which might perdure as mystery, resolvedialectically, or even dissolve from a stepping out of an inadequate framework of logic orany other dispositions (or lack thereof) known to this paradox or another. This maps wellwith the broad conceptions of nonduality such as at Nonduality Salon and Wikipedia.Predominantly, though, Rohr affirms nondual thinking in an over against fashion asrelated to either-or thinking, i.e. false dichotomies, and as related to a failure toself-critique one‘s own systems and logical frameworks, as a failure, too, to affirm therays of truth in other perspectives and traditions. It is a failure to move beyond the Lawthru the Prophets to the Wisdom tradition, not to do away with them but to properlyfulfill them.We can draw a distinction between Rohr‘s philosophical treatment or method ofnonduality or nondual consciousness and the practice of contemplative prayer forms. Theformer is at the service of the latter, to be sure, but it is also at the service of all othervalue-realizations, as one should expect from a whole brain approach. Here we come fullcircle back to our consideration of the devotional elements that can be fruitfullyemployed in conjunction with any nondual approach, whether conceived from anepistemic and/or ontological stance.31 [need to footnote Samuel Brainard‘s work here if possible]
  • 160. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Rohr32 thus goes beyond any Mertonesque Zen-like formulations when he says thatcontemplation is a long, loving look at what really is. He writes: ―Contemplation meansreturning to this deep source. Each one of us tries to find the spiritual exercise that helpsus come to this source. If reading the Bible helps you, then read the Bible. If theEucharist helps, then celebrate the Eucharist. If praying the rosary helps, pray therosary. If sitting in silence helps, just sit there and keep silence. But we must find a wayto get to the place where everything is. We have to take this long, loving look at reality,where we don‘t judge and we simply receive. Of course, emptiness in and of itself isn‘tenough. The point of emptiness is toget ourselves out of the way so that Christ can fill usup. As soon as we‘re empty, there‘s a place for Christ, because only then are we in anysense ready to recognize and accept Christ as the totally other, who is not me.‖In a nutshell, the general thrust of this whole brain approach is that, in order to have arelationship with your spouse in marriage, as was intended in creation, one has toapproach one‘s spouse with more than words, logic, science, math, analytical skills andpragmatic considerations. One has to go beyond (NOT WITHOUT) these ways ofknowing (Aquinas-like approach) to a knowledge that comes from love (Bonaventure‘sapproach). One must enter a relational realm, in addition to the logical, empirical andpractical realm. One must move beyond the language of math, philosophy, business &commerce, engineering and so on to learn the language of relationship, the grammar ofassent, loyalty, fidelity, trust, faith, hope, love. We tend to eventually ―get this‖ inmarriage, or it dissolves (and half of all marriages do). There is reason to suspect, then,that ―getting this‖ in our relationship with God is similarly problematical for most people.In the story of Malunkyaputta33, who queried the Buddha on the fundamental nature ofreality by asking whether the cosmos was eternal or not, infinite or not, whether the bodyand soul are the same, whether the Buddha lived on after death, and so on, the Buddharesponded that Malunkyaputta was like the man who, when shot with an arrow, wouldnot let another pull it out without first telling him who shot the arrow, how the arrow wasmade and so on. Thus the Buddha turns our attention to the elimination of suffering, apractical concern, and away from the speculative metaphysical concerns.This story of Malunkyaputta might thus help us to reframe some of our concerns, bothregarding Buddhism, in particular, and metaphysics, in general. For example, perhaps wehave wondered whether, here or there, the Buddha was ever 1) ―doing‖ metaphysics or 2)anti-metaphysical or 3) metaphysically-neutral. In fact, we might have wondered if thesoteriological aspects of any of the great traditions were necessarily intertwined with anyspecific ontological commitments. In some sense, now, we certainly want to say that allof the great traditions are committed to both metaphysical and moral realisms. However,at the same time, we might like to think that, out of fidelity to the truth, none of ourtraditions would ever have us telling untellable stories, saying more than we know orproving too much.32 Richard Rohr, Simplicity revised from 1991, Crossroad Publishing 200333 Jeryy Katz, One – Readings in Nonduality, 2009 need citation, see my review at hissite online
  • 161. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011One interpretation of Malunkyaputta‘s story, then, might suggest that it is not that theBuddha eschewed metaphysics or was even ontologically neutral; rather, it may be thatthe Buddha just positively eschewed category errors. This would imply that the Buddhawould neither countenance the categorical verve of yesteryear‘s scholastics nor theontological vigor of our modern fundamentalists (neither the Enlightenmentfundamentalists of the scientistic cabal nor the radical religious fundamentalists, whetherof Islam, Christianity, Zen or any other tradition). Thus we might come to recognize thatour deontologies should be as modest as our ontologies are tentative, that we should be asepistemically determinate as we can but as indeterminate as we must, that we should beas ontologically specific as we can but as vague as we must and that our semantics shouldreflect the dynamical nature of both reality and our apprehension of same, whichadvances inexorably but fallibly. The Buddha seemed to at least inchoately anticipate thisfallibilism and, in some ways, to explicitly preach and practice it.To the Buddha‘s point, then, regarding the no-self — humankind, as a community ofearnest inquiry, has no better grasp now than we did then of the ultimate nature of thecosmos or the soul. The Mahayanan Buddhists, and many in other traditions and schools,apparently have no problem dealing with the self in conventional, hence practical terms,whether in the temporal or celestial sphere, and have a lively devotional practice,affirming a robust interrelationality vis a vis their pantheon of goddesses and gods, whomthey worship, and all sentient beings, whom they offer karuna. They would thus seem tohave no more trouble, practically speaking, in relating to ―self‖ or ―other‖ as aphenomenal experience than Westerners would have. Where they would have trouble iswhen, theoretically speaking, it comes to defining self using ontological categories,whether substantialist or process, essentialist or nominalist, in ways that would pretend toexhaustively comprehend primal reality. This, one might observe, is the type of troublemore Westerners should have. We are otherwise inclined, then, having some exposures tocertain phenomenal experiences ourselves, not to interpret the no-self experience,ontologically, and instead associate the experience with what Jim Arraj calls the loss ofthe affective ego.As Arraj34 writes and we agree: ―It would probably by wrong, as well, to imagine thatZen Buddhism, or even the advaitan Vedanta is making any kind of ontologicalnondualist claims. Rather, they are trying to take into account a nondual experience, andsometimes their post-experience reflections can leave the impression that they arecreating a nondual ontology. But they are not interested in philosophy in the Westernsense, but rather, leading people to the experience, itself. The real question, which wewill pursue later, is whether enlightenment is nondual in itself, or is presented in anondual way because of the very means by which the enlightenment experience isattained. There should be no rush to judgment on the part of Christians as if they need toexpress Christianity in some nondual ontological fashion. This is not precisely what ZenBuddhists, and advaitan Hindus are doing.‖34 James & Tyra Arraj, Christianity in the Crucible of East-West Dialogue,innerexplorations.com
  • 162. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011It would be considered comical, if it were not otherwise so distressing, the way Advaitanaccounts of absolute reality are manipulated in cyberforums and some popular literature,drawing the most absurd conclusions as they are misapplied to the practicalconsiderations of our phenomenal experience, when conventional usage would otherwiseindeed be the prescribed approach even for orthodox nonduality.Arguably, even Shankara‘s philosophy need not be interpreted as an absolute monism,especially once taking into consideration its account of causation in phenomenal reality,which at least resembles Aristotle‘s vis a vis its teleological dimension, even if otherwiseapproaching Plato‘s idealist conceptions. The Advaitan ontology addresses causes andeffects in sufficiently vague references and its epistemology is most notably triadic,wherein the pramana (sources of knowledge, Sanskrit) each form one part of a triputi(trio), which include the subject and object mediated by the cause or means ofknowledge.There are thus inchoate traces of the ontological vagueness, epistemic indeterminacy andsemantical versatility that have made their way through the West vis a vis such as theDionysian logic of the Neoplatonists, Meister Eckhart‘s apophatic predications, Scotus‘formal distinction, Peirce‘s triadic semeiotic and some postmodern criticisms. One mightproperly wonder if Hindu‘s Rita successfully refers to, even if it does not robustlydescribe, such regularities as Peircean Thirdness, deontological accounts of right andwrong, liturgical celebrations of ritual or other analogs, maybe even modalities, of theeternal Logos and Spirit at the mystical core of all of our traditions? Thus we might thinkof Hindu‘s Dharma and Rita, Taoism‘s Tao, Buddhism‘s Dhamma, Judaism‘s Torah andChristianity‘s Pneuma & Logos.Toshihiko Izutsu35 poetically describes certain regularities that, in my view, demonstratea tacit dimensionality that, like the Spirit, is ineluctably unobstrusive but utterlyefficacious: ―Listen! Do you not hear the trailing sound of the wind as it comes blowingfrom afar? The trees in the mountain forests begin to rustle, stir, and sway, and then allthe hollows and holes of huge trees measuring a hundred arms‘ lengths around begin togive forth different sounds. There are holes like noses, like mouths, like ears; some are(square) like crosspieces upon pillars; some are (round) as cups, some are like mortars.Some are like deep ponds; some are like shallow basins… However, once the raging galehas passed on, all these hollows and holes are empty and soundless. You see only theboughs swaying silently, and the tender twigs gentle moving.‖Father Rohr spent five weeks, during Lent 2008, in a hermitage, in solitude. He spent thistime reflecting and writing a new book, The Third Eye36. On Easter Monday, he made apresentation of an outline of these thoughts. Fr. Rohr defines his conception of the ThirdEye as derived from two 11th Century monks, Hugh and Richard of the Monastery of St.35 Toshihiko Izutsu , Sufism and Taoism, p. 368-36936 This was eventually published as Seeing as the Mystics See. Need citation. This wascompiled from an audio recording regarding Third Eye Seeing.
  • 163. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Victor in Paris. The flowering of this thinking in his Franciscan tradition, he tells us, tookplace in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although the metaphor is similar to the sameconcept of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, it is apparently independent of those in thatthere was no contact between those and this Christian conceptualization, which is talkingabout the eyes of 1) sense, 2) reason and 3) faith. Basically, Fr. Rohr is amplifying histeaching on contemplative living, which, best we can discern, continues to be heavilyinformed by his love of Thomas Merton. He makes frequent references to Merton, FalseSelf and True Self and compares and contrasts them in many different ways, using manydifferent adjectives and metaphors.Fr. Rohr likes the word ―realization‖ and sees it as being richer than the word―experience‖ for he describes the robust encounter of God as a ―total body blow,‖ wherenot only head and heart are engaged but the body, too. Unfortunately, he says, we―localize knowing‖ and too often try to access God only in the top 3 inches of the bodyand only on the left side at that. This dualistic, binary or dyadic thinking, which weemploy in math, science and engineering, or when we are driving a car, is of course goodand necessary. It is the mind that ―divides the field‖ Rohr says into classes and categoriesand then applies labels through compare and contrast exercises. It is the egoic mind thatis looking for control and order, but, unfortunately, also superiority. It can lead to bothintellectual and spiritual laziness, however, to an egoic operating system (CynthiaBourgeault), which views all through a lens of ―How does it affect me?‖The contemplative mind goes beyond the tasks of the dualistic mind to deal with conceptslike love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. It doesn‘t need to ―divide the field‖ forsuch tasks. The contemplative mind is practicing heaven in that it sees the Divine imageas being ―equally distributed‖ and present in all others. We see that presence, honor it andknow it. The contemplative mind starts each moment with ―yes.‖ It is vulnerable beforethe moment, opening ―heart space.‖ It is present to people and does not put them in a box.So, in our primary level encounter with others, we do not prejudge. At the secondary andtertiary level, a ―no‖ may be absolutely necessary. Once you know you can say ―yes,‖then it is important to be able to say ―no,‖ when appropriate. Rohr makes clear, in hiswords, that we ―include previous categories‖ and ―retain what we learn in early stages.‖Our goal, in his words, is to master both dualistic and nondualistic thinking. This matchesmy interpretation of the different perspectives engaged in the East, both the absolute andphenomenal.We must go beyond (not without) that part of our tradition that was informed mostly byGreek logic in order to be more open to paradox and mystery. Rohr described some of theearly apophatic and nondual elements of the Christian tradition, especially in the firstthree centuries with the Desert Mothers and Fathers, especially in the Orthodox andeastern Christian churches, and describing John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as thelast supernovae. The apophatic and unknowing tradition has not been constant. For 400years after these Carmelites there has been no real tradition. He credits Merton withalmost single-handedly retrieving authentic contemplative teaching that has not beentaught for almost 500 years. This type of mysticism, he, like Merton says, is available toall but it takes a type of humility to ―let go of our control tower.‖
  • 164. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We and others are living tabernacles, even given the contrary evidence. That God dwellsin us is the foundation of human dignity. Fr. Rohr discusses the Gift of Tongues in thiscontemplative vein and notes that when it died out, prayer-based beads emerged. He wenton to discuss prayer beads in other traditions. Fr. Rohr notes that the East and West differin that more emphasis is placed on discipline, practice and asceticism in the East, while,in the West, we emphasize surrender and trust. Both East and West have elements of allof these approaches, of course. Our Christian path is more one of letting go and yieldingof self. He believes that most of us, a very high percentage, have enjoyed unitivemoments, but that there was no one there to say ―that‘s it.‖ He thinks that it would beuseful to retrieve our contemplative tradition because we apparently need some degree ofdiscipline or practice to keep seeing and trusting our unitive moments, our union, ourcommunion. The Spirit will thus teach us all things and re-mind you that you are in unionwith God, that you are select; you are chosen; you are beloved. We need to learn how tolive in communion, now, for that is what we‘ll enjoy in heaven.Fr. Rohr then describes practices that open up this contemplative mind: silence, stillness,solitude, patience about needing to know everything, poetry, art, body movement, music,humility and redemptive listening. He describes how we need to stand back andcompassionately and calmly observe reality, without initial regard for how it affects us,but to see persons and events nakedly, seeing our drama almost as if it wasn‘t us. If wecannot thus detach, then we are over-identified. Whenever we‘re defensive, it is usuallyour false self. What characterizes an addict is typically all or nothing thinking. We do nothate the False Self. We must simply see it. It is not our ―bad‖ self, just not our ―true‖ self.We need to better learn to hold together opposites and contradictions. A modern retrievalof our ancient practices of contemplative seeing can foster this type of non-judgingawareness.Rohr says that a master of nondual thinking needs to also be a master of dualisticthinking. The Catholic tradition has great wisdom in retaining icon and art and symbolsand music. The primary teachers of this approach to God and others and all of reality aregreat love and great suffering. Our primary paths have been suffering and prayer. Whenhead and heart and body are all connected, that is prayer. This, says Fr. Rohr, is notesoteric teaching. Everybody has the Holy Spirit!What appears to be the new theme emerging from Fr. Rohr‘s latest thought is that ofsupplementing and complementing our traditional approach to belief-based religion withmore practice-based religion. In particular, he sees great wisdom in retrieving thosepractices which have been lost or deemphasized that we can better cultivate acontemplative outlook. In prayer, we are like ―tuning forks‖ that come in to God‘spresence and seek to abide inside of a resonance with God. We need to set aside whateverblocks our reception, especially a lack of love or lack of forgiveness. And we need toembrace the gifts of the East, which, as Rohr properly recognizes, are ―practices‖ and not―conclusions.‖ I see the Buddha smiling.May namaste, then, become more than a greeting but a way of life, as we look always
  • 165. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011and everywhere and in everyone for the pneumatological realities we profess herein. Mayour inter-religious stance be more irenic as we acknowledge the Spirit in one another withtrue reverence, in authentic solidarity and utmost compassion. A most fundamental aspectof the unqualified affirmation of human dignity would seem to be our nurturance of theattitude that all other humans come bearing an irreplaceable gift for us, that we are tomaintain a stance of receptivity toward them, open to receive what it is they offer usthrough, with and in the Spirit. Whether the Magi were occidental or oriental, Jesus wasreceptive. When John offered baptism, Jesus was receptive. When Mary anointed his feet,Jesus was receptive. When invited to dine with tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus wasreceptive.A critical gaze not first turned on oneself and one‘s ways of looking at reality will havevery little efficacy when it is otherwise habitually and arrogantly turned first on others.All of this is to observe that, beyond whatever it is that we offer to the world as ourunique gift, rather than always approaching our sisters and brothers as fix-it-upperprojects in need of our counsel and ministry, sometimes the Spirit may be inviting us tolisten, observe and learn from them in a posture of authentic humility and from a stanceof genuine affirmation of their infinite value and unique giftedness. While our encountersof the Spirit may be manifold and varied from one phenomenal experience to the next,especially when situated in one major tradition versus another, we may be saying morethan we know if we attempt to describe such experiences with more ontologicalspecificity than can be reasonably claimed metaphysically or theologically, suggesting,for example, that such experiences necessarily differ in either origin or degree even ifthey otherwise differ, as might be expected, in other cognitive, affective, moral, social orreligious aspects.More than semantics is at stake, here. We are not merely saying the same thing usingdifferent words when we draw such distinctions as between nature and grace, natural andsupernatural, acquired and infused, existential and theological, immanent andtranscendent; such explicit denotations also have strong connotative implications thatmight betray attitudes of epistemic hubris, pneumatological exclusivity or religioushegemony, which are clearly unwarranted once we understand that our faith outlooks areeffectively evaluative. We say this because, in our view, our belief systems are otherwise,at best, normatively justified existentially after essentially attaining, minimally, anepistemic parity with other hermeneutics vis a vis our best evidential, rational andpresuppositional approaches. While there are rubrics for discernment of where the Spiritis active and where humans are cooperative, they do not lend themselves to facile andcursory a priori assessments, neither by an academic theology with its rationalisticcategorizing nor by a popular fideistic piety with its supernaturalistic religiosity,predispositions that tend to divide and not unite, to arrogate and not serve, with their vaincomparisons and spiritual pretensions.―It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to rememberthat the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creaturewhich, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and
  • 166. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, insome degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light ofthese overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper tothem, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves,all play, all politics. There are no ‗ordinary‘ people. You have never talked to a meremortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to oursas the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub andexploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are tobe perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, infact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, takeneach other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity mustbe a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love thesinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodiesmerriment.‖ C.S. Lewis__The Weight of Glory__Nonduality must be approached with great circumspection, which is to say, with bothappropriate epistemic imprecision and ontological vagueness, as necessarily inheres inthe matter at hand. There is a real tendency for Western minds, in general, Christianminds, in particular, to engage the thought of the East from an ontological ormetaphysical perspective. Now, we are not going to deny that there might even be someheavy metaphysical lifting going on in much of Eastern thought, for that denial, in and ofitself, would entail falling into the trap that we are trying to help you avoid. So, justimagine, if you will, as we discuss nonduality that we are not so much trying to gift youwith another way of interpreting or processing reality as we are trying to invite you toanother way of seeing or experiencing reality.Put another way, a proper engagement of nonduality is not so much an exercise indiscursive analysis as it is a cultivation of a more authentic awareness. It does notpromote cognitive insight as much as it promotes conceptual clarity with a concommitantaffective cleansing, which will result from ensuing detachments (broadly conceived).When engaging the literature on nonduality, in general, it might be helpful to receivewhat seem to be metaphysical assertions as epistemic stances or what seem to beontological descriptions as more so a relating of phenomenal experiences. After all, thereis no room to presume that folks — who, self-described, would kill the Buddha — arereturning from ineffable experiences only to clearly effable about reality, or that they aretelling us tales about, what they claim to hold in-principle as, untellable stories.Something else is going on, which is an invitation into an experience and not an initiationinto a philosophical system.Many people with profound existential longings (comparing favorably to your own)enjoy authentic phenomenal experiences that point to a deep interconnectedness of allReality. This interrelatedness is ineluctably unobstrusive, which is why so few see it, bututterly efficacious, which is why all experience it, even unawares.Because we are dealing with phenomenal experiences and existential realizations and
  • 167. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011not, rather, philosophical arguments, category errors and confusion will abound for anycritic who chooses to analyze these experiences through dualistic Cartesian lenses ratherthan, instead, engaging the wisdom that is there to be had, even in, maybe especially in,paradox and uncertainty. As Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM observes regarding so much ofBuddhism, we are being gifted with practices and not conclusions. I would add that weare being gifted with stories of experiences of unitary reality and not ontologies.One recurring theme, for example, is the triadic movement from 1) phenomenalappearances (illusions) through 2) interpretive critique (broadly conceived, such aslingustically, psychologically, etc) and back to 3) a new awareness (often an awarenessof self and other that is so conventional and common sensical as to, ironically, beunconventional and uncommon, given so many of us succumb to the fogging of ourlenses, save for occasional contemplative glimpses).From Nicholas of Cusa:"I have found the place where one can find Thee undisguised. It issurrounded by the coincidence of opposites. This is the wall of Paradisein which Thou dwellest. Its gate is guarded by the ―highest spirit ofreason‖. Unless one overcomes it, the entrance will not open. On theother side of the wall of the coincidence of opposites one can see Thee,on this side never."The coincidence of opposites is a certain kind of unity perceived ascoincidence, a unity of contrarieties overcoming opposition byconvergence without destroying or merely blending the constituentelements. Although in once sense not obliterated, in another theconstituent elements shed their multiple, differentiated status.Examples would include the coincidence of rest and motion, past andfuture, diversity and identity, inequality and equality, and divisibilityand simplicity.... coincidence does not really describe God. Rather it sets forth the wayGod works, the order of things in relation to God and to each other,and the manner by which humans may approach and abide in God.God is beyond the realm of contradictories. God ... preceded opposites,is undifferentiated, not other, incomparable, and without opposite,precedes distinctions, opposition, contrariety, and contradiction.[need the citation – likely Rohr]What Nicholas of Cusa describes regarding the coincidentia oppositorum is veryreminiscent of the type of nuance we find in semiotic theory vis a vis the principles ofexcluded middle and noncontradiction and when they hold and when they fold. It is alsofound in all approaches to the univocity and equivocity and analogy of being, whether ofScotus or Aquinas. It is found in early Dionysian logic, in Meister Eckhart, in the modernAmerican Pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce and the teachings of Richard Rohr. It
  • 168. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011resonates our own Franciscan sensibilities, incarnational imaginations and appreciationfor Scotus.Fr. Rohr says here: "The Secret" which is now gaining popularity in the USA, is probablya classic example of something that is partially true, and even good, being made into theonly lens through which you read reality, and then it becomes untrue. Heresy could bedefined as when we absolutize a partial truth, and I believe that is what is happeninghere. But I would also love for Christians to learn the partial truth, and that is why weteach the contemplative mind here.And he says this in the context of speaking against Gnosticism and for Incarnationalism,which is our portal to the Divine via the particular, the concrete, the physical ... even thesad and painful. Thats what wed expect from a good Franciscan, nest pas?Fr. Rohr also wrote: "The Secret" which is now gaining popularity in the USA, isprobably a classic example of something that is partially true, and even good, beingmade into the only lens through which you read reality, and then it becomes untrue.Heresy could be defined as when we absolutize a partial truth, and I believe that is whatis happening here. But I would also love for Christians to learn the partial truth, and thatis why we teach the contemplative mind here.We think he is right on in what he is saying here. At the same time, we must take greatcare, semiotically and semantically, to make sure that the terms, categories and logicemployed by any vocabulary of choice in our dialogue are referencing and describing thesame realities, hence our ongoing emphasis on the need for deliberate disambiguation,careful parsing, high nuance, rigorous definition and suitable logic or grammar.From THE PARADOX OF NON-DUALITY by Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSOThe state of non-duality is addressed in most of the advanced spiritual traditions of theworld religions. It is sometimes referred to as No Self or Emptiness, as in Buddhism. Itrefers to the death of the false self or ego and the diminishment or extinction of theseparate self sense, along with the abiding sense of unity with Ultimate Reality.One reading of Keating might suggest that he is facilely mapping one set of experiencesover another without much rigor, disambiguation or parsing. Looking more closely, wefeel safe in attributing an epistemic stance to him rather than an ontological perspectivebecause we can glean that from within the context of other things he wrote in that samearticle and other things hes written over the years.It is not just a distinction between an epistemic stance and an ontological perspective,which is crucial, it is also a matter of distinguishing between states, structures and stagesthat, on one hand, ordinarily correlate (which we think it is fair to say) or, on the otherhand, necessarily indicate (which would be patently absurd) one transformative or unitivelevel or another.
  • 169. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We conceive of the False Self as the persona, which is a good and necessary thing, justnot a sufficient thing for completing the transformative journey. We go beyond it but notwithout it. The No Self is not, then, the True Self that follows the development of thepersona on our journey of individuation and transformation. The No Self is, rather, anexperience of nondual awareness, of absolute unitary being. It may be, though, that thisNo Self experience is correlated with the journey to True Self. We find them together,often.Keating: Non-duality is clearly a state beyond what is called in the Christiancontemplative tradition ―Transforming Union.‖ The Cistercians, Franciscans,Carmelites, and other religious groups have described this state as ―bridal mysticism.‖Nondual awareness is a metaphysical intuition, not a state of virtue or level oftransformation. It is, rather, value-neutral, in fact. Now, again, it may be that it iswell-correlated with this state of virtue.Keating: The unifying force of divine love draws and unites the soul into ineffableexperiences of union with the Beloved and forgetfulness of self. They remain twohowever.This seems quite alright vis a vis a spousal or bridal mysticism, in and of itself, whichshould not otherwise be equated with nondual states of awareness but might well behighly correlated with experiences of same. It is preferable to other formulations of NoSelf, which annihilate the ego, self or even personhood.Keating: St. John of the Cross in the ―Living Flame of Love‖ hints at higher states ofunion, but is not explicit. Some of the Beguines of the 12th and 13th centuries wroteexplicitly of the Transforming Union as initiating a further journey into states of unityconsciousness that parallel the descriptions of no self or enlightenment found inBuddhism, Advaitic Vedanta, or Sufi literature. Here there is no self at all.We must be clear as to whether or not we are talking about a fleeting epistemicexperience or an ontological reality. Keating properly speaks in epistemic terms is ourtake.Keating: Perhaps it might be useful to orient practitioners to the paradox of living a lifethat is neither dual nor non-dual, just as some spiritual traditions affirm that the Absoluteis not this, not that—or similar to the statement, not one, not two. These paradoxes pointto the fact that God is beyond all that exists and beyond all categories of being andnon-being, as well as in all that exists.We rather like that.It seems clear that Fr. Keating talks in terms of awareness or a sense of this or that, whichis to say in epistemic terms, but does not commit the metaphysical category errors of
  • 170. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011others who make sweeping ontological & metaphysical claims. He affirms the dialecticbetween apophatic and kataphatic, nondual and dual (and transdual).Bernard of Clairvaux On the Song of SongsBut notice that in spiritual marriage there are two kinds of birth, and thus two kinds ofoffspring, though not opposite. For spiritual persons, like holy mothers, may bring soulsto birth by preaching, or may give birth to spiritual insights by meditation. In this latterkind of birth the soul leaves even its bodily senses and is separated from them, so that inher awareness of the Word she is not aware of herself. This happens when the mind isenraptured by the unutterable sweetness of the Word, so that it withdraws, or rather istransported, and escapes from itself to enjoy the Word. The soul is affected in one waywhen it is made fruitful by the Word, in another when it enjoys the Word: in the one it isconsidering the needs of its neighbor; in the other it is allured by the sweetness of theWord. A mother is happy in her child; a bride is even happier in her bridegroomsembrace. The children are dear, they are the pledge of his love, but his kisses give hergreater pleasure. It is good to save many souls, but there is far more pleasure in goingaside to be with the Word. But when does this happen and for how long? It is sweetintercourse, but lasts a short time and is experienced rarely! This is what I spoke ofbefore, when I said that the final reason for the soul to seek the Word was to enjoy him inbliss.So, for all the talk of stages and levels and ways regarding the transformative journey, itis good counsel to give up the need to know where we are or where others are on thisjourney for there is no way to accurately judge such things. It is important, in our view,to draw a distinction between phenomenal states and psychic structures, on one hand,and transformative stages and levels of virtue, on the other hand. It is enough to knowthat they can often be highly correlated but important to know that they are notnecessarily otherwise truly indicative one of the other. Some are given glimpses. Someexperiences are fleeting and transitory. Others are more perduring. All is unmerited andfreely given by God for reasons known to Him alone. This is how we would conceive anystate beyond transforming union. This is clearly, in St. Bernards view, a matter ofexperience, a type of awareness, an affective moment, an epistemic value-realization andnot, rather, a perduring ontological reality.The following is an excerpt from an introduction to St. Bernards Sermons on the Song ofSongs by Prof. Katherine Gill for her courses at Yale Divinity School and BostonCollege: Sermon 52 illustrates Bernards conviction that contemplation is a foretaste ofheaven and a mystical (bridal) sleep that vivifies the mystical senses. But he also viewedit as a type of ecstatic dying to the world and as an apophatic, imageless-therefore,"angelic"contemplation of God. For St. John of the Cross, bridal sleep is the mostapostolic work a person can do for the Church, because therein a person does what he orshe was created for: to love and to be loved. The selected text from Sermon 74 is one ofthe most stunning attempts in the entire Christian mystical tradition to describe themystical experience. When the Word invades the soul, he cannot be perceived by thesenses. However, the heart, or the persons deepest center, suddenly becomes alive and
  • 171. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011its most secret faults are disclosed. When the Word leaves, it is like a boiling pot removedfrom the stove. The Life of the souls life seems to have disappeared. Sermons 83 and 85describe spiritual marriage and spiritual fecundity. The Word actually takes the soul ashis bride, and two become one in spirit, yet remain two. Spousal mysticism emphasizes adifferentiated unity. In other words, love actually makes two one, but also enhancespersonal identity. Love makes the soul equal to God, God by participation, but not simplyGod. Also, Bernard emphasizes that bridal love loves God for his own sake. Although asbride, the soul desires the Bridegrooms embrace, as mother she loves her children, thatis, her neighbor.We must honor the distinction between a mystical experience, on one hand, and a level ordegree or stage or state of sanctity or virtue or perfect charity, on the other. Sure, thereare manifold and multiform phenomenal states, psychic phenomena or experiences thatcan be correlated with whether or not one is on the purgative or illuminative way,whether one is in this or that interior mansion, whether one is at base camp or the summitof Mt. Carmel.When speaking epistemically, especially of nonduality, a state would be temporary, anepistemological structure, or if you prefer stage, would be more permanent, which is torecognize a type of nondual consciousness that is not so much an experience per se as itis, instead, a way of perceiving reality.Of course, there is another notion of nondual realization, not of an experience orperception or type of awareness, in which case the state of ones consciousness doesntmatter: nonduality is just there to see. And it does seem that a good panentheist mightfigure this out through philosophical contemplation, someone else through an intuition ofbeing, still another through a kundalini experience, yet another through enlightenment.At any rate, there is more to this stage paradigm than just the experiential aspect; whenspeaking of the transforming union we are talking not just about phenomenal experiencesbut habitual virtue, increased charity & sanctifying grace, preservation from serious sinand general avoidance of venial sin and so on. Mystical ecstasy is a type of nonduality,but does not exhaust that reality. Keating speaks of the transient nature of such ecstasy asis associated with bridal mysticism. We do not interpret him to be suggesting that this iswhat becomes permanent. Rather, at this point, wed suspect he thinks in terms ofnondual realization, an epistemological structure, whether one thinks of that in terms of aperduring unitive consciousness (or way of perceiving reality), or, as Wilber would (andKeating leans on Wilber), nondual realization, which doesnt require any form ofconsciousness per se.Now, this may all seem to leave a question begging ... of why, when it comes tononduality, so many go the pantheistic route, or, worse, the materialist monist route, ormaybe not as bad, the idealist monist route, rather than the panentheist route. And werejust going to leave this here as a footnote. The reason is, in our view, that they have notseen the wisdom of Dionysian logic, as has a modern counterpart in the semioticapproach of Charles Sanders Peirce; or they have not been exposed to a dialogue between
  • 172. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011the univocity and analogy of being, of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. Or, they justdont know how to get around the seeming inviolability of the principle ofnoncontradiction. The answer lies in the coincidentia oppositorum of Nicholas of Cusa.When it comes to a theism properly conceived, which excludes atheism, pantheism andother nontheistic traditions, we think the big divide, theologically, precisely has to dowith defining our relationship to ultimate reality. It often seems that, when talking aboutGod, some people equate our unitive striving in terms of a journey toward intimacy, oreven more plainly put, as a transformation from what might start out as a merelyfunctional relationship into a purely personal relationship. It has to do, then, withgetting closer. Others conceive of this unitive striving as a dance between relationshipand identity, as a journey from intersubjectivity into absolute subjectivity. Some affirmthis intersubjectivity and then strive to transform it into absolute subjectivity; others seethis intersubjectivity as an illusion. There is nothing in the Christian tradition thatcorresponds to this second type of unitive striving. Anyone who suggests this isnt somuch being a heretic as they are just plain being silly.Now, it is possible to conceive of God, philosophically, as mostly in a functionalrelationship with creation, so there are other ways to be theistic without relating to theCreator as Abba or as in bridal mysticism. This isnt an option for the Christian. If Jesusrevealed anything, then He revealed an actively involved and deeply caring God, buildingon the Hebrew experience. (Of course, lets not forget the Song of Songs, either). Thus,He taught us to pray, Our Father ...Aside from these distinctly theological concerns, nondual has different meanings thatpertain to 1) psychological states: altered states of consciousness, ecstasy 2)epistemological states and structures: nondiscursive, preconceptual andtransconceptual awareness; avoidance of subject-object cleavage; epistemic vagueness;nominalism & essentialism 3) linguistic and semiotic approaches: Dionysian logic,semantical vagueness, triadic semiotic grammar; deconstruction strategies 4)metaphysical & ontological theories: idealist and materialist monisms; aristotelianhylomorphism; ontological vagueness; modal ontology 5) philosophical: falsedichotomies; binary logic; dualistic conceptions 6) ascetical practices & spiritualdisciplines of all sorts, what we might call spiritual technology.When evaluating phenomenal states, psychic structures, psychological stages, Lonergansconversions and ontological and theological degrees of perfection, we must carefullydefine their essential nature, inventory the graces that might accompany them andidentify their fruits. In other words, we need to draw distinctions, but as Maritain said, inorder to unite.We need to employ Dionysian logic, to embrace the coincidentia oppositorum. Wemust distinguish between univocal and equivocal predications of God. We generallycannot employ univocity when speaking of God and creatures, which is to recognize thatthe words we use to describe humans, like person, for example, cannot be literallypredicated of God. There is an equivocity in play in any words we use to describe both
  • 173. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011God and humans. The way we bridge these distinct realities is to employ, then,analogical predications, which is to affirm that the Trinity is in a relationship LIKE thatenjoyed by us a persons. When we speak of the Mystical Body of Christ or the CosmicChrist, we speak of an eternal reality and employ such words as body and cosmic, notliterally, but analogically. Even when we speak of Jesus in His life on earth, the precisenature of His humanity remains shrouded in mystery and these rules of predication wouldapply metaphysically. Revelation, though, has literal and historical dimensions (whatcan I know?), anagogical dimensions (what can I hope for? Last Things?), mystagogicaldimensions (how does this all relate? and initiate into mystery), allegorical sense (how isthis metaphor sustained?) and the tropological sense (morally and theotically, what mustI do?). So, while we cannot say literally and metaphysically how Jesus essential naturewas realized, we can say that spiritually and morally He revealed the fullness of GodsTrinitarian Life to us, as well as how we are to respond and what is in store for us.We think it is fair enough to say that our relationship with God is, in some sense,undeniably personal. As we conceive of the Mystical Body of Christ, there is obviouslysomething transpersonal, that goes beyond our understanding of the personal, which isnot employed univocally of God and creatures in the first place. And there is absolutelynothing wrong with also recognizing that the Reality of God cannot be robustly describedusing any of our human categories for, apophatically, the only literal descriptions we canpredicate of God are those statements of what God is not.What we have, then, in Dionysian logic, is a trialectical (tetradalectical?) interplaybetween the both/and of apophatic/univocal predications and the kataphatic/equivocalpredications, as well as the neither/nor of the unitive subversion of binary logic, hence,dichotomous thinking. Temporally speaking, we also have a tension between what wecan experience now vs eschatologically versus proleptically (as though the future werepresent).An elucidation of Buddhism by Dumoulin with an assist from Peirce, Polanyi andLonerganIn Heinrich Dumoulin‘s Understanding Buddhism37 one might discover possibleresonances between our own Peircean-Nevillean inspired axiological epistemology,which opens to a Neo-Platonic, participatory ontology, and certain understandings ofBuddhism as explicated by Dumoulin.First, on the question of metaphysics, Dumoulin‘s observations seem to concur with thoseof our late friend Jim Arraj38, whom we quoted above but will repeat here for emphasis:―It would probably by wrong, as well, to imagine that Zen Buddhism, or even theadvaitan Vedanta is making any kind of ontological nondualist claims. Rather, they aretrying to take into account a nondual experience, and sometimes their post-experience37 Heinrich Dumoulin‘s Understanding Buddhism (Weatherhill, NY & Tokoyo, 1994)as translated and adapted from the German by Joseph S. O‘Leary38 James and Tyra Arraj, Christianity in the Crucible of East-West Dialogue at innerexplorations.com
  • 174. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011reflections can leave the impression that they are creating a nondual ontology. But theyare not interested in philosophy in the Western sense, but rather, leading people to theexperience, itself. The real question, which we will pursue later, is whetherenlightenmentis nondual in itself, or is presented in a nondual way because of the very means by whichthe enlightenment experience is attained. There should be no rush to judgment on thepart of Christians as if they need to express Christianity in some nondual ontologicalfashion. This is not precisely what Zen Buddhists, and advaitan Hindus are doing.‖Dumoulin writes: ―Turning to the question of God, I shall dwell on the enigmatic silencewith which the Buddha responded to metaphysical questions, and show that this can beseen as one of the several ways in which Buddhism gives witness to divinetranscendence.‖ (pg 2) He continues in the same vein: "Worldviews described aspessimistic are of three kinds: ontological, existential and theological. Pessimisticphilosophies of the first kind — nihilism or Manicheanism — declare the being as such isempty of value and meaning, that the foundations of the universe are askew. The Buddhistdiagnosis does not entail anything of this sort, for it either refrains from raising questionsof metaphysical ontology, or it does so only in a soteriological context, and then answersthem in a way that cannot be called pessimistic.‖We have conceived of epistemology in terms of four autonomous methodologies that areotherwise integrally related axiologically: descriptive, normative, interpretive andevaluative. Preliminarily, it seems that these roughly correlate to Wim Drees‘ definitionof theology as a cosmology plus an axiology, where our descriptive and normativecategories correspond to Drees‘ cosmological category and our interpretive andevaluative roughly correspond to his axiological. These categories also roughly correlatewith the traditional categories of theological apologetics: evidential, rational,presuppositional (all cosmological) and existential (axiological). We need to dutifullyemploy such categories as these when parsing texts in interreligious dialogue in order toavoid facilely reductive interpretations of different traditions.In our realist approaches to reality, we can draw a further distinction, that between amethodological and pragmatic realism and a theoretical and metaphysical realism.Even our metaphysical realisms can be further distinguished as weak, moderate andstrong, or as robustly descriptive versus vaguely referential. These realisms are primarilydistinguished from a nominalism, which reduces all meaningful discourse to issues ofnomenclature. Polanyi critiques nominalism by advancing his notion of a tacit dimension,which we might describe as an ineluctably unobtrusive but utterly efficacious type ofcausation, such a causation as complements the efficient causation of the natural scienceswith the minimalistically conceived formal and final causations of modern semioticscience.Lonergan critiques nominalism, which he calls conceptualism, by drawing a distinctionbetween our naming exercises, which correspond to his imperative to be intelligent, andour judging exercises, which follow his imperative to be reasonable.
  • 175. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Peirce critiques nominalism with his category of thirdness, which recognizes the realityof law-like generalities (probabilities and necessities) beyond the mere categories offirstness (possibilities as predicates) and secondness (actualities as subjects). These arethe types of distinctions that we sense are very much coming into play as we parse thetext and disambiguate the concepts of Buddhism in order to properly engage them incomparative theology and contemplative dialogue.If Buddhism is not doing ontology, then what exactly is it claiming, soteriologically,when invoking such ideas as nirvana and the no-self?Dumoulin addresses both realities:He writes of nirvana: ―Such reductive interpretations [of nirvana] cannot explain thelanguage in which nirvana is evoked in radiant images of bliss, peace, security andfreedom. The literal meaning of the word nirvana is extinction, but this can give amisleading impression. When the Buddha was asked about the state of the Perfected Oneafter death, he pointed out that even in this life his state is ―deep, immeasurable,unfathomable as is the great ocean. When the fire is quenched, one does not ask in whichdirection it has gone, east, west, north or south. This is not because the fire no longerexists, but because, as an Indian audience would have gathered, the fire has returned to anon-manifested state as latent heat. Likewise, the nirvanic state is beyond our grasp, butit is not nothingness.‖ (pg 29)He continues regarding selfhood: ―Modern Theravada Buddhism adopts no single clearstance towards the question of non-self and selfhood, and the complicated development ofthe Abhidharma philosophies impedes an unambiguous formulation. One both finds thedenial of any kind of self, and the acceptance of a self. The position attributed to theBuddha himself rejects both nihilism (uccheda-ditthi) and substantialism (sassata-ditthi).The radical deniers of any kind of self can with difficulty avoid being found in a nihilisticposition in the end, while the acceptance of a self leads easily to a substantialistmetaphysics of being. The Buddha avoids both by his silence.‖ (pg 37)There is certainly a minimalist ontology of vague references, a phenomenology, whichthe Buddha employs in these soteriological and pragmatic contexts. This does not, in ourview, entail a denial of the self, existentially, only a deliberate prescinding from a robustdescription of the essential nature of the self, metaphysically. Not even a root metaphorlike being can exhaust the reality of a human being, much less God. Cosmologically, ordescriptively and normatively, the Buddha desists from saying more than one can know,from proving too much, from telling an untellable story. Axiologically, or interpretivelyand evaluatively, there is an inchoate opening to transcendence and a conditioning andprioritization of one‘s values as ordered toward both personal transformation and aprofound compassion, which ensues from one‘s radical awakening to a deep solidaritywith reality writ large.To wit, per Dumoulin:―The true self, as my act of existence, is trans-categorical, notgraspable in concepts, ineffable.To actualize the true self, one must undergo a dying of
  • 176. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011one‘s ego. Such an experience of self is an experience of transcendence, an opening toabsolute reality, though the transcendence is represented in an impersonal, cosmologicallanguage rather than a personal theologicalone.‖ (pg 43)―This down-to-earth faith is far removed from the abstract pessimism which Westernersoften associate with Buddhism. Thus the basic human experience, whereby one breaksthrough the bounds of the ego to open oneself to an all-embracing, protecting, andhelping Power, works itself out in Buddhism in a distinctive style. Knowledge andnescience, transcendent faith and this-worldly confirmation, blend here in a rich varioetyof forms.‖ (pg.63)―This defining ideal of Buddhism [compassion] is embodied in the Buddha, thebodhisattvas, and the Buddhist saints. The philosophical systems developed in MahaynaBuddhism were unable to provide a satisfactory philosophical illumination of this topic.Christian love, which has also found a convincing embodiment in countless lives, cannotbe explained in philosophical terms either, though its foundations in divinetranscendence are clear.‖ (pg 86)Is Buddhism, then, transcending nominalist tendencies or reinforcing them?In our view, Buddhism, transcends nominalism pragmatically. First, there is a mountain,in its Peircean secondness, in actuality, in Lonergan‘s imperative to be attentive. Then,there is no mountain, as Lonergan‘s imperative to be intelligent critiques our conceptualformulations and choice of predicates as referenced in Peircean firstness or possibilities.Then, there is, once again, a mountain, pragmatically and phenomenologically, as weenjoy our second naivete‘ following Lonergan‘s imperative to be reasonable in ourjudgments of fact, as we affirm the Peircean thirdness in what Lonergan has calledemergent probabilities. This reasonableness moves forward with the recognition that wedo not have to have the essential nature of reality fleshed out in robustly metaphysicalterms in order to navigate through reality realizing its manifold and multiform values, butcan enjoy our value-realization pursuits with provisional closures and a contritefallibilism.Buddhism honors Polanyi‘s tacit dimensionality in its affirmation of an ineffabletranscendent reality. Perhaps no word better captures the Buddhist conception of ourhuman relationship to transcendent reality than participatory? While there can be norobust description of either the self or of transcendent reality in an unambiguousontological language or system, both per Buddhism and my own take on metaphysics,neither can there be any doubt that the self is caught up in a universal relationality,extending beyond the empirical ego to the dimensions of the cosmos (pg 38).Dumoulin writes: ―Interpreted thus [Great Self as no-self], the sense of being one withthe cosmos is an acceptance of one‘s relative place in the totalweb of things.‖ (pg 39)This participatory realization, however, does not grow out of a Buddhist cosmology,
  • 177. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011descriptively and normatively. It is, rather, an interpretive stance toward an experience,which conditions one‘s outlook on reality, evaluatively. Existentially and axiologically,then, one opens oneself to one‘s place in the web of existence and approaches reality witha radical acceptance, a deep okayness, a willingness to participate on reality‘s terms inorder to further realize one‘s solidarity with the One and to express the profoundcompassion that necessarily ensues from this experience.Dumoulin discusses an East-West convergence of apophatic mysticism. It raises our ownsuspicions about a possible convergence of these participatory ontologies, both conceivedvaguely: ‖Speaking of Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostum:These great theologians provided a solid basis for the thought of Psuedo-Dionysius, whoalso drew heavily on the thought of the Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus. Are thesimilarities between Eastern and Western mysticism due exclusively to a convergence onthe level of spiritual experience, or was Christian negative theology prompted by anencounter with Asia? There has been much discussion of possible Indian influences onthe Middle Platonic and Neo-Platonic ideas which these theologians had absorbed,particularly in connection with Plotinus‘s mysticism of the One. Emile Brehier spoke ofthe orientalism of Plotinus and of deep affinities between certain aspects of Plotiniandoctrine and the Upanishads. It is hard to dismiss the belief that the stream of negativetheology, preserved and expanded in Christian mystical thought down to the present time,has one of its sources in that distant encounter with a form of Indian spirituality closelyrelated to Buddhism. Though the channels of interactions remain obscure, these earlyinteractions between Eastern and Western spirituality are a haunting theme in the historyof religions and loom in the background of the present encounter between Buddhism andChristianity.‖ (pp. 5-6)Dumoulin closes: The Christian sees ultimate reality revealed in the personal love of Godas shown in Christ, the Buddhist in the silence of the Buddha. Yet, they agree on twothings: that the ultimate mystery is ineffable, and that it should be manifest to humanbeings. The inscription on a Chinese stone figure of the Buddha, dated 746, reads: The highest truth is without image. If there were no image at all, however, there would be no way for truth to bemanifested. The highest principle is without words. But if there were not words at all, how could principle possibly be revealed?As our own sacramentology thus affirms - our symbols reveal what they conceal &conceal what they reveal.Other Kindred VoicesAffirming Multiculturalism & An Ancient-Future AproachWe do not want to too narrowly conceive when and where it is that value is to be mined,and not just liturgically speaking, but broadly speaking, philosophically, culturally,scientifically and religiously. The primary value to be realized from an Ancient-Future
  • 178. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011approach, as I conceive it, is the retrieval, revival and renewal of a harmony that existedbetween science, culture, philosophy and religion. This is not to ignore the fact that eachof these human endeavors was being conducted at a much earlier stage of developmentthan the stage we enjoy now. However, it is to suggest that the relationship between thesehuman values was more holistic and integral. This is to recognize and affirm thattheology must always be contextual, which is to say, related to our concrete livedexperiences, where we can recognize how the Gospel speaks to the problems weencounter, here and now. A contextual approach requires, then, an inculturated theology,which involves much more than worship forms.To the extent our outlook is radically incarnational and robustly pneumatological, we willbe on the lookout for the treasures of different cultures, whether across time orgeography, because the Spirit has helped place them there. And we will want to preservetheir diversity, form, expression and integrity. Such cultural realities not only includesong, dance, meditative practices, story-telling and worship forms. They also includesocial realities like conceptions of marriage and family life, community interactions,pastoral approaches, philosophical norms and scientific-technological adaptations. Suchcultural values are to be integrated into Christianity, which in turn is to be inserted intoeach culture.Ancient-Future covers only a temporal dimension, which needs to be complemented by ageographic dimension, North-South and East-West, vis a vis inculturation. We do nothave to choose between the old and new or East & West; we get to have it all! Weespecially don‘t want to cloak the Gospel in exclusively European garments for others toput on. We risk not only the renewal of an authoritarian approach but a terriblyparochialistic, colonialistic, paternalistic and hierarchicalistic approach.The most salient issue is making the Gospel relevant in this place, in this time, to thisperson, to these people. And we are called to pay attention to that truth, beauty, goodnessand unity that have already emerged within a given culture, because the forms thosevalues have taken are gifts from created co-creators, who‘ve responded to the sameSpirit.The harmony to be rediscovered, retrieved, revived and renewed is the holistic, integralrelationship between the distinct value-endeavors of science, philosophy, culture &religion, whereby our descriptive, normative, evaluative and interpretive methodologiesare affirmed as methodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral. This DOESseem to more so characterize our premodern situation, wherein we affirmed approachesto reality that were robustly participatory and common sensical. It is a harmony that canheal the Cartesian split of modernism and bridge the nihilistic abyss of a radicallydeconstructive postmodernism. It is nothing less than an affirmation of the mind, spirit,heart and soul in proper relationship to one another within each person and each people.We don‘t want to too narrowly conceive how this harmony can be nurtured andsustained, not temporally, not geographically.These are cute lyrics:
  • 179. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Call me a relic call me what you willSay I‘m old fashioned say I‘m over the hillToday‘s music don‘t have the same soulJust give me old time rock and rollBut the fact of the matter is that today‘s music DOES have soul, just like yesterday‘s.And African drums and Indian sitars do, also. Who wants a world without Ravi Shankarand the cultural intermingling he fostered in more ways than one? We‘d have noNorwegian Wood! Worse yet, we‘d have no Norah Jones! We shudder to think about it.A Trust Relationship with Reality?We can back up and look at the overall thrust of Jesus‘ life, and that of other traditionseven, from a more vague perspective, and we can reasonably come away with the ideathat the saints and mystics and authentic practitioners of these traditions are testifying toprofound experiences of a reality that is ultimately unitive and love-filled, that awakensus to solidarity and inspires in us compassion, and that inspires a trust-relationship withand toward reality, itself. This, then, is a rather universal testimony to the idea THATreality is, at bottom, friendly, even as we might be left to wonder exactly HOW this maybe so, because the evidence, of course, is ambiguous. Once we situate Christianity and itsspecific message in the context of the other great traditions, its specific hopes – that allmay be well – do not appear wholly unreasonable.I think the novelist Walker Percy was very faithful in his articulation of the humanpredicament, as informed by his appreciation of the French existentialists and folks likeDostoevsky and Kierkegaard. Sartre and Camus et al and their perspectives on the humancondition are not to be facilely engaged and then casually dismissed. Tillich was spot onin recognizing that faith was a polar reality with doubt an indispensable element, a stateof being ultimately concerned and not, rather, propositionally certain.Walker said: ―I suppose my typical protagonist or hero or anti-hero is a fellow to whoma great deal has happened, who sees all the dark things that we are talking about, who‘smore or less dislocated like a Sartrean or a Camus character, but who, nevertheless,despite everything, sees a certain hopefulness, but has a certain resilience and reserve,and a feeling that there is something around the bend, like Huckleberry Finn.‖Now, that Walker quote strikes me as a distinctly axiological take on reality. It interpretsand evaluates reality and speaks to the forming of our desires and the nurturance of ourhopes. It‘s an interpretive-evaluative posit that has neither denied nor ignored theambiguous and often brutal cosmological evidence. It‘s a practical existential responsethat goes beyond but not without the evidential and rational perspectives.To some extent, until we move beyond the extrinsic reward and punishment paradigm —driven by the what‘s in it for me approach of our early moral and affective development— in order to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the pursuit of truth, beauty, goodness and
  • 180. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011unity for their own sakes, an approach associated with a more advanced affective andmoral development, our religion has only socialized us and not really transformed us.Transformed folks have stared into the abyss, in one way or another, and notunflinchingly, and have nevertheless said: ―Let‘s see what‘s around the bend!‖and then go on loving, creating beauty and searching for truth. The journey becomes theirdestination. The quest becomes their grail.Our questions and concerns, hopes and desires, unite us far more than any metaphysicalpropositions and theological answers ever will.Is Reality Arbitrary?As we affirm the ancient-future approach we consider, also, both ―the now‖ & ―thefuture‖ aspects of the Kingdom. There are fruits we enjoy now even as we orient to amore complete realization in the future.The question of God being arbitrary involves all of the philosophical issues surroundinghow we apply predicates to God via kataphasis, where we attempt an increase in ourdescriptive accuracy of a reality by employing positive affirmations via analogy andmetaphor, and apophasis, where we increase such accuracy through negative descriptionsof what God is not (literally) or is not like (metaphorically). For example, God is true,good and beautiful. God is like a parent. God is not indifferent. God is not uninvolved.So, one might go back and notice how each theologian must first deal with thedisambiguation of the concept, arbitrary, and then must grapple with its application as adivine attribute through alternating kataphatic and apophatic descriptions. On the surface,one may come away with the initial impression that there has been some disagreementbetween these theologians. Upon further review, this is not really the case, whatsoever,because not everyone, when disambiguating and clarifying the concept, defined it & thenemployed it in the same way.Some were more so kataphatic in tenor, others more apophatic. Some were grappling viaa propositional approach to the question, metaphysically. Others addressed the questionin a more relational way, de-emphasizing conceptual map-making and more so engagingour participatory imaginations and how they engage God nonpropositionally via ourexistential & trans-rational orientations with their evaluative posits and affectivedispositions. Put another way, we can answer that question with our mind, our spirit, ourheart or our soul, but best answer it, holistically, with Ignatius engaging and thensurrendering, our memory, understanding, our entire will, seeking only love.This is not unrelated to our postmodern giftedness, whereby our ontological modalcategories changed from the possible, actual and necessary, to the possible, actual andprobable. No longer is ours a philosophical or existential tug of war between patternor paradox, order or chaos, chance or necessity, symmetry or asymmetry, or therandom or systematic. These are false dichotomies, just like arbitrary or nonarbitrary.
  • 181. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Reality is, instead, probabilistic.On one hand, it appears to have initial, boundary and limit conditions, while, on the otherhand, it seems to be coaxing us forward toward a somewhatopen future.We might suggest that Einstein was wrong in that it does look very much like God doesindeed play dice; but the nihilists are manifestly wrong insofar as those dice very clearlyappear to be loaded. Everywhere in reality, especially in mathematics and logic, themodal category of the necessary seems to suggest itself. But nowhere in reality have weever encountered its physical instantiation!God may very well be the Ens Necessarium, but this doesn‘t leave us with a choicebetween determinism and indeterminism, ontologically. Instead, it leaves us in a fallibleposition, epistemologically, where our takes on reality are variously over- andunder-determined.If we take the word arbitrary as a mathematical conception related to chance andnecessity, then it cannot be predicated of God, metaphorically, because nowhere in realitycan we find their physical analog, for reality is, instead, probabilistic.If we take the word arbitrary as an interpersonal reality related to the whimsical, then weare dealing with an affective disposition and we would find it very difficult to suggestthat reality, from a human perspective, does not appear somewhat ambiguous for us andclearly ambivalent toward us. What we choose to imagine is that, should reality be lessambiguous for us and ambivalent toward us, it would somehow limit our freedom andcoerce our relationship to God, Who, in spite of the apparent ambiguity and ambivalence,already seems true enough, beautiful enough and good enough to encourage our trust,inspire our awe and abide with our doubt and fear. But even when we cannot evenimagine that inchoate theodicy, we believe, anyway, hope, anyway, love, anyway andtrust, anyway. To Whom else can we go?As Hans Kung notes, we all have a fundamental trust in uncertain reality. For some, thistrust is paradoxical and nowhere anchored. Others anchor this trust in God. Anchor is toostrong an analogy to describe our trust. A sailing metaphor would seem more apt. We‘veseen so many of our sisters and brothers throughout history, time and time again, whocatch the winds of both incredible fortune and outrageous misfortune, alike, in the fragilebut resilient sails of their human spirits.And then we‘ve watched them courageously tack and jibe their way back to the shores offaith, hope and love. We want to be like them. We can trust these winds, and use them,even when we cannot predict or understand their variable nature. And even when they areheadwinds and not rather tailwinds.
  • 182. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Nurturing the Creative Tensions of ParadoxThe dialectical imagination (think Barth and apophasis) and analogical imagination (thinkcatholic and kataphasis) are best held in a creative tension where neither drowns theother.Wittgenstein correctly affirmed the methodological autonomy of science, philosophy andreligion, but a Wittgensteinian fideism fails to recognize that these different horizons ofhuman concern are axiologically integral, which is to suggest that they mutuallyinfluence each other. Whether we employ a language game paradigm or an ontology witha chosen root metaphor, these human endeavors, while not logically-related, are verymuch intellectually-related. And this is to further suggest that religion is not merelyexpressive but also interpretive and to further recognize that it is not immune to culturalcriticism employing prudential, pragmatic and practical criteria, which in themselves areat least weakly inferential or truth-indicative even if not robustly inferential andtruth-conducive.The dialectical imagination enjoys a certain primacy in God-talk and it critiques theanalogical imagination in that, where God is concerned, we employ the weakest ofanalogies in metaphor, which express dissimilarities that differ infinitely vis a vis anysimilarities they may otherwise invoke. The analogical imagination critiques thedialectical insofar as the exclusively dialectical would so distance God in a radicalapophaticism as would render all God-talk incomprehensible and suggests that, howevermeager our metaphorical knowledge, it is precisely because we are grappling with areality on the order of an infinitude that such knowledge becomes increasingly significantto us who, as radically finite creatures, greet such knowledge recognizing that it hasprofound existential import to us in our human condition.This is to say, then, while our dialectical approach properly invokes God‘s utterincomprehensibility, our analogical approach affirms His infinite intelligibility. Goddwells in ineluctable mystery and it would drown us if we tried to drink it all in, but wecan taste and see His goodness in drops because He is not wholly unintelligible. It is afalse dichotomy, indeed, that juxtaposes a choice between incomprehensibility and a finaltheory of everything. Rather, we move slowly but inexorably in our partial apprehensionsand with our fallibilist provisional closures regarding ultimate reality, closures that do notaspire to the level of robust theory but, instead, to the presentation of a rather vagueheuristic.A radical apophaticism and hyper-active dialectical imagination quickly devolve intosuch a theological nonrealism as will cut large swaths out of our Christian tradition,leading finally to insidious metaphysical and moral nonrealisms, too, which supportnothing, in the end, but a practical nihilism and sad cynicism. This is existentialism, to besure, but not of the Christian variety. It is Sartre and Camus and not Dostoevsky andKierkegaard.In science and philosophy, we evaluate paradox and attempt to resolve it dialectically in
  • 183. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011synthesis, or to dissolve it perspectivally via paradigm shift, or to even evade itpractically, such as by ignoring it. When it comes to life‘s most ultimate concerns anddeepest mysteries, any attempts to resolve, dissolve or evade paradox are futile. What wedo rather, such as where God-talk is involved, is we exploit paradox, transformatively,nurturing the creative tensions that present in the mutual critique, for example, betweenour dialectical and analogical imaginations.While it is certainly true that our existential move into faith involves an unconditionalassent, quite often it will be pragmatic arguments that lead us to the ocean‘s edge andprudential criteria that will inspire our leap, where we discover the buoyancy of faith.And we will be thus tempted by the psalmist to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.And sometimes our human predicament will make us feel as if we‘re about to drown. Butwhen Jesus knew for certain, only drowning men could see Him, he said all men shall besailors, then, until the sea shall free them (Leonard Cohen). So, our life of faith will verymuch require us to many times praise the Lord, anyway.And so we believe with a certain resiliency despite life‘s tragedies. And we nurture God‘sanalogical goodness in a creative tension with His infinitely dissimilar dialecticalgoodness, exploiting the paradox transformatively, neither banishing the mystery withour ill-conceived aspirations to an exhaustive theodicy nor refraining from our frailtheodicies, which, in the end, must properly retain the element of mystery.Love is not a syllogism. God is not an argument.But incomprehensibility and unintelligibility are two radically different semiotic realities.A deeply compassionate pastoral sensitivity will help us to hold our God-analogs looselywithout letting go of our apophatic dialectic and to nurture the creative tension in theparadox presented by natural evil in a world created by, yes, a good God, as we sufferwith God and transform our suffering co-creatively. Only a puerile iconoclasm inspiredby a seriously misguided theological nonrealism would try to snatch these consolingGod-analogs, however simplistic, out of a suffering world‘s hands. Cajoling people withthe distinctions of theo-esoterica in an attempt to dispossess them of the exotericapprehensions of their God is at best an exercise in pedantry and at worst may leaveothers feeling not edified but bullied. Finally, it‘s just plain philosophically indefensibleto resolve such paradox in a wholly dialectical manner.Note: In applying scholastic notations like possible, plausible, probable, certain,uncertain, improbable, implausible and impossible to arguments and propositionsregarding our ultimate concerns, while it may be true that we are at most dealing withequiplausible or equiprobable propositions and while it may also be true that the lexdubia non obligat axiom applies, meaning one has no obligation in conscience, it ismanifestly not true that one can find no reasons to assent to one proposition rather thananother, especially employing pragmatic criteria and prudential & relational (trust)arguments, which also happen to have normative epistemic force as truth-indicativecriteria. Such existential moves might be transrational or suprarational or
  • 184. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011super-reasonable, but they need not be irrational or arational or without reason.A More Authentically Integralist ApproachIn some sense, the great traditions have always been about the articulation of truth increed, preservation of goodness in code, celebration of beauty in cult (or ritual) andenjoyment of fellowship in community.An authentically integralist approach, then, will recognize Wilber‘s quadrants such thatthe intraobjective enjoys its moment of primacy in our pursuit of truth, the interobjectivein our pursuit of goodness, the intrasubjective in our pursuit of beauty and theintersubjective in our pursuit of community.Where we are headed, ecclesiologically is toward a model of church that is 1)pneumatological, which is to say that it will primarily engage in interreligious dialoguefrom the perspective of the Spirit, this over against any ecclesiocentric approach andperhaps even bracketing our various Christological approaches 2) servant, which is toactively grapple with the questions of social justice & peace 3) herald, which is torecognize the orthopathic efficacies of the contemplative, nondual stance, inviting othersto transformation via a shared social imaginary as cultivated by authenticallytransformative liturgical approaches, this participatory approach emphasized over (whilecomplementing) the sterile and stale propositional apologetics of yesteryear and 4)mystical body, a visible manifestation of an invisible reality, to be sure, but dropping ourold and insidious overemphases on the manifold and varied institutional structures. (cf.Dulles‘ models of church)Wim Drees defines theology as a cosmology plus an axiology. Drees notes that, andserious emergentists might pay special attention, the discontinuity in emergent realitythreatens the unity of the sciences. Because laws, themselves, emerge, we are on thintheoretical ice when speculating metaphysically regarding the nature of primal reality,causal joints for divine prerogatives, and so on.While cosmological and axiological approaches are integrally-related, they aremethodologically autonomous. Cosmology answers the questions 1) Is that a fact?(descriptively) and 2) How do I best acquire/avoid that? (normatively). DanielHelminiak, a Lonergan protege, would describe these as positivist and philosophicactivities and rightly affirms, in my view, the philosophic as spiritual quest.Even if one concedes, for argument‘s sake, our ability to travel from the descriptive to theprescriptive, given to normative, is to ought (and Mortimer Adler well-demonstrates thatwe can get from an is to an ought) still, due to our universal human condition, whereinwe are all, for the most part, similarly situated, even if our reasoning differs for certainprecepts and would be theoretically relativistic, still, from a practical perspective ourprecepts are going to be remarkably consistent.The practical upshot of all of this is that cosmology, thus narrowly conceived, is truly
  • 185. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Everybody‘s Story, which is to say we really shouldn‘t go around wily-nily just makingthis stuff up because it isn‘t really negotiable but is given.The reason we even have such a category as interpretation results from our radical humanfinitude. It is not that we don‘t affirm such a metaphysical realism as recognizes thevalidity and soundness of a putative best interpretative ―vision of the whole,‖ but that, atthis stage of humankind‘s journey, it is exceedingly problematical to fallibly discern andadjudicate between competing interpretations, especially as they fit into elaboratetautologies, all which are variously taut in their grasp of reality.In some sense, our cosmology comprises the propositional aspect of our metanarratives(aspiring to successful and robust descriptions with indications of correspondence) andour axiology comprises the narrative aspect (aspiring to vague but successful referenceswith invitations to particpate). The postmodern critique does not instill incredulitytoward our metanarratives per se; rather, it takes note of how every narrative aspect ofour metanarratives is rooted in myth (yes, including scientism no less than fideism).Analogous to Gödel‘s incompleteness theorems, we cannot prove our system‘s axiomswithin the system (evidentially, rationally, presuppositionally or propositionally), itself,but this does not mean that we cannot taste and see (existentially, as recommended byIgnatius, the Psalmist & enlightened speculative cosmologists …) the truth of thoseaxioms, which we would necessarily express – not formally, but – through narrative,story, myth.This framework establishes a certain amount of epistemic parity between worldviews andreligions, which then get authenticated by how well they institutionalize conversions:intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious and adjudicated with an equiplausibilityprinciple, which looks for life-giving and relationship-enhancing criteria when choosingbetween otherwise ambiguous courses of action. We can also remain on the lookout forGospel norms like a language of descent or ―downward mobility‖ and a propheticelement (self-criticism). So, we do draw distinctions between a theory of truth and a testof truth and we do recognize that some aspects of reality are best grasped throughcorrespondence while other aspects grasp us through participation.One lesson we take away is that our reliance on myth reveals that reality overflows ourability to process it, that creation, Creator and people present unfathomable depthdimensions that no encounter can capture or exhaust. If in our cosmologies, with theirempirical, logical and practical foci, it is very much our intent to get the right answers,when it comes to our axiologies, with their relational foci, then, our quest is to get theright questions (Whom does the grail serve?).Our fundamental trust in uncertain reality requires no apologetic, then, and fashioningone is as futile as explaining why we love our Beloved in empirical, logical and practicalterms (as if only extrinsically rewarding). Embodiments of truth, beauty, goodness andunity are their own rewards (intrinsically); they grasp us and possess us as we participatein these values with our existential orientations to these transcendental imperatives. Aswe distinguish between wants and needs, real and acquired desires, lesser and higher
  • 186. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011goods, our axiologies orient and dispose us to the higher goods, which we can enjoywithout measure, and properly dispose us to the created goods that we really need inmoderation and not in a disordered (John of the Cross) or inordinate (Ignatius) way.Our cosmology, which is scientific and philosophic, descriptive and normative, alsoincludes our essentially spiritual quest, which is shaped by the positivist and normativesciences and addresses the orthopraxes of our ethical and moral strivings as well as thoseascetical practices and disciplines that enhance awareness, including certain meditativepractices, many which come from the East and are not inextricably bound to any religionor worldview (hence some are indeed spiritual without being religious, explicitlyanyway). In our cosmology, we better come to grips with our empirical, logical andpractical foci of concern and foster intellectual, moral and social conversions. Ouraxiology, which is interpretive and evaluative, goes beyond but not without ourcosmology and is shaped by our religious myths and liturgical celebrations, whichaddress the orthopathos of our prayer and worship, public and private, forming andreinforcing our aspirations and hopes, answering the question ―What‘s it to me?‖ in amanner that is properly ordered, truly fitting and proper, which is to say, Eucharistically.There is no worldview or metanarrative without either an implicit or explicit axiologythat is integrally related to one‘s cosmology (so we‘d best tend to an explicit axiology ina consciously-competent manner). In fact, in addition to their methodological autonomy,our axiologies enjoy a primacy in relation to our cosmologies, although otherwiseaxiologically-integrated. It is our orthopathos that mediates between our orthodoxy andorthopraxis to effect an authentic orthocommunio. If our unitive strivings come up short,whether geopolitically or in our primary communities and families, we might look at ourprayer lives for, if we invoke, it is only because we have been convoked. In our axiology,we better come to grips with our relational foci of concern, where our value-realizationsare trust, assent, fidelity, loyalty, faith, hope, love, eros, philia, agape and so on and webetter foster affective and religious conversions.We do our best to discern where Lonergan‘s conversions have been institutionalized,looking to see which interpretive approach best fosters ongoing intellectual, affective,moral and social growth and development, leading to human authenticity. But we‘reclearly in more negotiable territory here with discourse dominated more by dogmatic(non-negotiated) and heuristic (still-in-negotiation) concepts, this contrasted tocosmological discourse, which has more theoretic (negotiated in community) conceptsand semiotic concepts (non-negotiable becausec meaning, itself, is invested in them).What would intentional evolution address? Nothing less than creed, cult, code andcommunity (institutionalized), which are deconstructible, as semiotic realities orderedtoward truth, beauty, goodness and unity, which are not deconstructible. How would itaddress them? Through the amplification of epistemic risks as ordered toward theaugmentation of human value-realizations.Less abstractly and more concretely, how does one amplify epistemic risks?
  • 187. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Understanding yields to faith, memory to hope, will to love and alienation to community.There are rather clear archetypal themes playing out in our cosmologies and axiologies,likely related to brain development and individuation processes.A cosmology engages mostly our left-brain (thinking function of the left frontal cortex &sensing function of the left posterior convexity) as the normative and descriptive aspectsof value-realization alternately establish and defend boundaries; we encounter theKing-Queen and Warrior-Maiden with their light and dark (shadow) attributes asexpressed in the journeys of the spirit and the body, primarily through a language ofascent.An axiology engages mostly our right-brain (intuiting function of the right frontal cortex& feeling function of the right posterior convexity) as the interpretive and evaluativeaspects of value-realization alternately negotiate (e.g. reconciliation of opposites,harnessing the power of paradox) and transcend boundaries; we encounter theCrone-Magician and Mother-Lover with their light and dark attributes as expressed in thejourneys of the soul and the other (Thou), primarily through a language of descent.Our propositional cosmologies and participatory axiologies seem to best fostertransformation when, beyond our passive reception of them as stories about others, weactively engage the archetypal energies of their mythic dimensions with a contemplationordered toward action, and also, when in addition to our rather natural expectations, theyinclude 1) a priestly voice that sings of the intrinsic beauty to be celebrated in seeminglyrepugnant realities 2) a prophetic voice that is robustly self-critical when speaking thetruth 3) a kingly voice that articulates a bias for the bottom, expressing both a privilegingof the marginalized and a principle of subsidiarity when preserving goodness 4) amotherly voice that, seeing and calling all as her children, draws every person into hercircle of compassion and mercy with no trace of exclusion, only a vision of unity.Over-Against Theological NonrealismsWhat if we say that Everybody‘s Story, which is what we all know (from descriptivescience), is both necessary and sufficient to provide humankind with morality, ethics,logic, aesthetics and such (our normative understandings) and with what we value, liketruth, beauty, goodness & unity (our evaluative posits), which are intrinsically rewarding(the pursuit of same is its own reward)? These descriptive, normative & evaluativestances would form one‘s core cosmology. It‘s a cosmology that can really work foreveryone and speaks of abundance, even given life‘s tragic aspects. Were thus relyingonly on what we see and hear and know to discern a cosmology, something we feel likewe all share as spiritual quest.Our interpretive axis of interpretation, or axiology, while not essential for morality &value-realization, would be theistic, something we pursue as a religious quest, hoping &believing (not without warrant) there might be MORE!
  • 188. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011The Everybody‘s Story narrative and the typical Religious Naturalist response wouldboth well articulate what we call our cosmology, which is something we feel like weKNOW (without getting rigorously philosophic about what ―know‖ might mean). Whatwe call our axiology, our axis of interpretion, is oriented to a putative reality for whichwe feel like we can (not without reason) HOPE and in which we feel like we canTRUST, and not without a great deal of difficulty at times, faith and doubt being a singlepolar reality.For those of a more philosophic bent, we might say that we feel like our cosmologyenjoys an epistemic justification, which means that we look at competing cosmologiesand feel like they are not equally probable, and we feel morally compelled to go with themost probable account, even if it is a provisional closure. Now, when it comes to ouraxiology, or our interpretive stance toward reality‘s putative initial, boundary & limitconditions, competing stances do seem rather equiprobable, more so equiplausible. Anormative justification, pragmatic criteria, then govern this wager (cf. Wm. James).Whether one employs good old common sense or a rigorous philosophy, we canreasonably say that questions beg. And it seems that – not only do we not have all theanswers – we don‘t even have all the questions. And of all the possible questions, it ishighly problematic knowing which questions successfully refer to reality.Emergence, itself, is a powerful heuristic device that provides us some conceptualplaceholders. It does not aspire to explanatory adequacy. Along with novel structures andproperties, new laws emerge. In some attempts to probe the depths of nature, folks willoften extrapolate these emergent laws into putative descriptions of a primal reality. Butsome of these laws, for all practical purposes, may be as local as the by-laws of ourneighborhood bridge club.We often see such terms juxtaposed as chance or necessity? pattern or paradox? order orchaos? random or systematic? But nowhere in reality have we seen a physicalinstantiation of a so-called necessity. And reality is clearly not wholly described bychance or randomness. We do see nature presenting us with probability. But probabilityis premised on a temporal reality, which also emerged. Metaphysics? Caveat emptor.This all speaks to our wonder regarding reality‘s intelligibility. Haldane said reality wasnot only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we CAN imagine. Chesterton, on theother hand, cautions that we do not know enough about reality to say that it isunknowable. Clearly, we cannot say, a priori, when it is that our knowledge advance isbeing thwarted due to methodological constraints, epistemologically, or due, instead, tosome type of in-principle ontological occulting. As far as final theories of everything,Gödel instructs us that we cannot prove a formal symbol system‘s axioms within thatsystem, itself. But human knowledge does not advance solely thru formal argument. Fewneed to proceed halfway thru the Principia with Whitehead and Russell where the axiomsfor 2+2=4 are proved, but can taste and see the truth of those axioms. Perhaps someday aTheory of Everything will be put forth, the axioms of which we‘ll find variouslynon/trivial, or un/interesting, or whatever?
  • 189. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Pragmatically, when thwarted, we assume temporary methodological constraints & notontological occulting, which would be an epistemic cul-de-sac. This is to say that aformal Theory of Everything will always be coupled with an informal narrative. Anutterly incomprehensible reality just might be infinitely intelligible?As we examine criteria for adjudicating between competing worldviews, weacknowledge that they are problematical. But this is not the same thing as being moot.Let us play John Lennon here. Imagine.Imagine that what is right and wrong, good and evil, is transparent to human reason.Imagine, too, that we can distinguish between apparent and real goods and lesser andhigher goods and then reason our way from an is to an ought without religion. Imaginethat, except for a few very complex moral realities, we mostly enjoy a consensus aboutlife‘s deepest values and have already articulated them in such documents as the MagnaCarta, Declaration of Independence and codified them in such documents as The USConstitution & the Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Imagine that,with such a moral consensus, politics was the art of the possible and dealt more so withpractical solutions and prudential judgment, even on matters of war and peace, butespecially with regard to keeping everyone healthy, optimally educating everyone andstriving for full employment.Imagine, too, that rather than having Republicans and Democrats, with such practicalbiases as so often morph into ideological absolutes, we would have, instead, the Tendersof the Golden Goose (because they are experts in keeping geese healthy, geese likebusiness & industry & individual taxpayers) and Distributors of the Golden Eggs(because they were experts in delivery of essential products and services). Imagine, too,that all the Goose Tenders & Egg Distributors were all astute enough to know not tostress the Goose and fairminded enough to optimally distribute the eggs.Imagine, too, that rather than having Conservatives and Liberals, we would have Settlersand Pioneers, folks that were gifted with such charisms as, on one hand, boundaryestablishment & defense, on the other hand, boundary negotiation and transcendence.Now, what in the world would religion have to do if it were not otherwise preoccupiedwith moral and practical realities, much less encroaching on such empirical realities asfall under the purview of science?There is no question that as one‘s axis of interpretation, or axiology, an interpretivereligion would transvalue our cosmological pursuits, those being descriptive science,normative philosophy and evaluative culture. Our cosmology serves the end ofsocializing humans, making us able to function in society, meeting one another‘s needs. Itdeals with empirical, rational, moral and practical realities, as Merton would say, firsttaking us through the process of humanization, then through socialization. The problem isthat our religious institutions have become more so instruments of socialization and less
  • 190. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011so of transformation.Religion gains its traction, then, not primarily or directly through the means ofsocialization and political institutionalization of services and political coercion. Religiongains its traction by fostering transformation, or Merton‘s True-Self-realization, or theIgnatian contemplation to attain love, or the Buddhist awakening to our solidarity thatcompassion might naturally ensue.Religion is a risk-taking adventure whereby we amplify the risks involved in ourcosmological pursuits of truth, beauty & goodness into the axiological pursuits of faith,hope and love toward the end of augmenting all human value-realizations.But religion has been domesticated into one more social institution alongside others. Thesense of adventure has been lost and the risk-taking aspects have been tamed. It‘s becomea vehicle of respectability and social amenity when it should be, instead, instillingpassion and shaping of desires. We need to honestly ask ourselves: What if science,morality and politics were already in good hands, then what value-added contributionwould religion be expected to make? And we need to get on with THAT!The question then becomes, what if I told you that reality, at bottom, was friendly andthat Someone loves you and has dreams for you beyond your own wildest imaginings?How would you respond to that Good News? That you are BE-LOVED! And what if wedid all we could to sacrifice ourselves in kenotic, self-emptying for this person, thesepeople, with whom we are sharing this Good News?There ain‘t no Religious Right and Religious Left. Those are nominal socio-politicalrealities cloaked in the garment of so-called religion. We need to emulate Ghandi andMartin Luther King and do an end-around all of these institutions with their sick identitystructures trying to suck us into some machine on their own terms. In the end, it canchange who‘s in Congress and so on, but that would be a by-product not the designedend-product.The Spirit moves when He wills, where She wills, how they will — and is ineluctablyunobtrusive even if utterly efficacious, subtle but powerful, triumphing without coercion.Non-violent civil disobedience and other tools of the trade are out of vogue. WHY?We‘ve got viral memes and blogs to publish treatises. Why not?A worldview, in my view, is an axiology, or an axis of interpretation, around which ourcosmology spins. This distinction between an axiology and cosmology is explicated in anarticle previously cited by Wim Drees39.Such interpretive stances lend themselves to three verdicts: proved, disproved andunproven.39 Drees. Willem B. ―A Case Against Temporal Critical Realism? Consequences ofQuantum Cosmology for Theology‖ at counterbalance.com
  • 191. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Some worldviews can be disproved, but only to the extent they‘ve committed categoryerrors that place them at cross-purposes with other autonomous methods, like science andphilosophy (e.g. epistemology). For example, an anti-evolution creationism is untenable.Equally untenable would be an epistemic nihilism, solipsism and stances that abandonedcommon sense understandings of causation. Of course, we can not prove such principlesas noncontradiction, common sense notions of causation or even a critical realist stance,itself, or disprove such stances as nihilism and solipsism through formal argumentation orsyllogistic reasoning. We proceed, instead, with an informal reductio ad absurdum or theessentially pragmatic criterion that going there just doesn‘t work, while going here does.The foundation remains bare and we are immersed in irony long before we start bustinga/theological moves, which, if they cohere with our cosmology, are rendered, at best, theScottish verdict unproven.Our point is that a metaphysical realism and natural theology are necessary to at least getus to this Scottish verdict while avoiding the disproved verdict. This is what Peirce woulddistinguish as an argument, a coherent framing of the question, as distinct fromargumentation, which, when it pertained to the putative reality of God, he considered afetish.When it comes to coherence, some adopt it as a theory of truth. As semiotic realists, westill hold the correspondence theory of truth but employ coherence, along with a host ofother truth-indicative criteria, as a test of truth. Now, we do not vacillate betweensolipsism, nihilism and critical realism based on whether we had Cheerios or bacon &eggs for breakfast, even if the irony of our situation is ineradicable. Others might, butthere is no sense in arguing with them. While we recognize and appreciate that, in atheological move, one will have to further amplify the risk that one‘s already taken(already taken to get past a more fundamental absurdity), our point is that any ironyarrived on the scene long before one busts that move.As to whether or not one is open to such charges as have been leveled by Marx,Feuerbach, Freud or even the sociobiologists, those are impoverished anthropologies,which fall prey to what many semiotic scientists, nontheists included, call theadaptationist fallacy. It engages but a caricature of the life of faith. But that‘s not acontroversy we feel called to settle or even further address.Our point is that ALL of our moves are essentially pragmatic and that ironist assumptionsapply to ALL of our encounters of reality. (But we are not employingpragmatism as a theory of truth. There is a difference between what Peirce was doingversus Dewey, James and others in that lineage, much less Rorty.) We are suggesting thatour essentially pragmatic moves, whether applying to common sense, or metaphysics, ortheology, differ in degrees and not in kind. And that the same might be said of irony.In conversations with our nontheistic religious naturalist friends over the years, afondness for Rorty surfaces from time to time. In exploring their minimalist religiosity,we found that we shared a cosmology (e.g. science, epistemology & values) and we‘ve
  • 192. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011actively explored and have been trying to tease out the differences between ourinterpretive stances or axiologies. And we have resisted attempts to categorically dismissRorty, feeling there was something there to be exploited. The phenomenon of faith is areality thatneeds to be more broadly conceived. If we too narrowly conceive it, we doviolence to the depth dimension (or immense complexity) of human beings. If we get toovague, it means nothing. But there is more than the conventional understandings andmore than even our nuanced Peircean understanding that can count for what we call faith.For some, it is not a Kierkegaardian leap but more like a single Petrine step out of theboat. In other words, a Rortian Ironism could be appropriated as a type of faith and mightwell describe, in fact, the type of faith that untold numbers practice and have practiced.This is all to recognize that in science we advance hypotheses that are inherentlyfalsifiable and call them ―working hypotheses.‖ In philosophy we adopt what we call―provisional‖ closures. In metaphysics our speculation is inescapably fallible. In theologyour faith can proceed moment by moment with a response that is ―right enough.‖Faith, by definition, has never proceeded with the premise that we have captured God asShe ―really‖ is but, still, even our apophatic (via negativa) predications are clear attemptsto increase our descriptive accuracy and differ from our kataphatic (via positiva)predications only insofar as they can be both literal and analogical. In other words, ourpositive affirmations are metaphors and have always only been metaphors. None of this,necessarily, entails a nonrealist approach. It might get the ironist out of the predicamentof imagining she‘s not getting closer to reality or feeling that he‘s not able to take himselfseriously? At any rate, we see a Rortian Ironism as eminently reasonable as either asecular or religious response to reality, all of these positions, again, describing variousdegrees of pragmatism and irony. We appreciate that Rorty might‘ve found such anappropriation repugnant. But we wonder if we have discovered a position where manystand? Our own Peircean pragmatism is vague enough to include a quasi-Rortian,religious ironism within a minimalist realism.This does not mean that we are not deeply sympathetic to the idea that some stuff issocially constructed. And we affirm metaphysics as an enterprise that helps us clarifyhelpful categories, disambiguate vague concepts (not specific terms), frame-up coherentarguments and validate meaningful questions. To that extent, we can at least adjudicatebetween those provisional interpretations of reality that are totally out to lunch and thosethat are at least asking meaningful questions.The approaches that are most coherent, in our view, will acknowledge irony, abide withparadox and will not proceed to advance their arguments through some type of syllogisticargumentation, as if life‘s deepest questions can be thus answered.But some suggest there is a threshold (e.g. God-concepts) where nonrealism kicks in andall things epistemological just arent that tidy. It‘s too neat, too facile, too arbitrary, to saynow I‘m a realist and now I ain‘t. Our grasps of reality, instead, admit of degrees andthese differing degrees require increasing amounts of risk. And faith, hope and love arerisk maneuvers and these risks are not just epistemic but existential. That‘s the type ofcandor one might reasonably expect of believers.
  • 193. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011But one goes too far with one‘s iconoclasm, in our view, to suggest that believers are justmaking stuff up. How people frame issues invites parsing? For example, what might onemean by ―reason‖ or even ―sufficient‖, when writing: "I‘m not denying that believers areable to trust that their God is benevolent and has some sort of plan that will redeem along, senseless history of random human suffering. I‘m just saying that there isn‘tsufficient reason to believe in such a God.‖Well, it is one thing to say that the case for God cannot be conclusively adjudicatedthrough evidence. It would be quite another to suggest there is no evidence.It is one thing to say that the rational arguments for God cannot coerce belief. It would bequite another to suggest that belief in God is wholly nonrational much less irrational.It is one thing to say that there are no empirical and scientific reasons to believe in God.It would be quite another to suggest that there are no coherent philosophic and pragmaticreasons for belief in God.It is one thing to say that our approach to God and reality does not proceed fromindubitable foundations. It would be quite another to suggest that post-foundationalepistemology and theology must be necessarily, then, nonrealist.It is one thing to recognize life‘s irony and paradox and to affirm, even, an essentialpragmatism. It would be quite another to suggest that Rorty‘s vulgar pragmatism isdefinitive.It is one thing to suggest that our belief in God takes us BEYOND the evidential, rationaland presuppositional. It would be quite another to suggest that we make such anexistential move WITHOUT them.It is one thing to lament that there are many who remain stuck in a naive realism with anunnerving certitude and dangerous fundamentalism. It would be quite another to suggestthat there can be no coherent cumulative case approach to the reality of God, mitigatingagainst the distance one must leap, or, in some cases, perhaps, step (as a Rortian ironist),with a rather confident assurance in what one might ―reasonably‖ hope for, with no smallconviction regarding certain things unseen.Alas, Rorty‘s neo-pragmatism resembles Peirce only superficially. Susan Haack40, aneoclassical pragmatist, wrote an enjoyable play that demonstrates their otherwiseprofound disagreements. She explains: The point of my ―conversation‖ between Peirceand Rorty was, of course, to bring out how utterly different Rorty‘s literary-political,anti-metaphysical ―pragmatism,‖ with its disdain for logic and repudiation ofepistemology, is from Peirce‘s pragmaticist philosophy. And Rorty‘s neo-‖pragmatism‖is not only very different from Peirce‘s; it is also quite distant from James‘s, and even40 Susan Haack ,―We Pragmatists‖ Peirce and Rorty in Conversation
  • 194. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011from Dewey‘s. The old pragmatist whom Rorty most resembles is F.C.S. Schiller — theBritish philosopher whose radically relativist position James once described as ―thebuttend foremost‖ version of pragmatism.A philosophical goal to which we might reasonably aspire is to frame up our questionsregarding our ultimate concerns in a manner that is congruent with reality (doesn‘tcontradict established scientific theory), logically consistent (employing concepts andarguments that reflect good critical thinking) and internally coherent (don‘t have usworking at cross-purposes with our own approaches to reality).If a ball comes flying over our fence into our yard and breaks a sliding glass door, it isnot unreasonable to inquire of its origins. While we may never be able to ascertain itsunknown cause, we may, from the nature of its effects, determine whether or not they areconsistent with any other known causes, like kids playing ball, like lawn mowers hurlingtrajectories, like pitching machines in batting cages, like homemade potato guns and soon. And we may reasonably rule out any of the above possibilities by inference based onsuch properties as the nature of the damage inflicted on the door, the condition of the ball,the ball‘s putative trajectory & velocity & acceleration as well as its mass & materialcomposition. All such inferences will actually increase our descriptive accuracy of thecause even if only through negation, apophatically ruling out all known probable causesby saying it couldn‘t be this or that or anything like them, either. And we may increaseour descriptive accuracy of the origin of the projectile through kataphatic affirmation byanalogically describing what the cause must have been like, asserting far moredissimilarities than similarities.This globe we live on is hurtling through a space-time, mass-energy plenum leaving usperplexed and often frightened out of our minds. Our inquiry into its origins leaves usspeculating, not idly, regarding its putative cause. And it is the most natural thing in theworld for humankind to inquire after same. And I think we at least want to get ourquestions right and to avoid category errors as we continue our quest. We would not betreating this topic if we did not presuppose that some approaches to the problem arebetter than others, some more helpful, others downright hurtful. Some approachesdeserve to be placed in baby strollers without bonnets and brought to a nearby hilltop andlet go in a Monty Python skit. Others have the makings of a fairly good grail quest.But we dissent from any notion that philosophy cannot hold court on what‘s beyond.Some notions of what‘s beyond are incongruent with science, inconsistent with logic,incoherent with our shared norms and unacceptable vis a vis the moral and practicalcourses of action they inspire, on which humans then embark. Good philosophy holdscourt on things beyond and, although it has not yet, at this point of humankind‘s journey,rendered a proved verdict for any given worldview, it has competently and within itsjurisdiction adjudicated both disproved and unproved (Scottish) verdicts. While there isno room for epistemic hubris, we need not surrender to an excessive epistemic humilityor radical apophaticism.We understand and appreciate, then, that a nuanced agnosticism, nontheism or even
  • 195. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011nonmilitant atheism might have the same epistemic status as our own nuanced theism.Good philosophy helps us adjudicate an unproved verdict, which is not unimportant overagainst competing worldviews, including fundamentalistic theisms, scientistic atheismsand unmitigated practical nihilisms, which can be disproved. These competingworldviews all exert an incredible amount of normative impetus affecting the moral andpractical approaches of the people who hold them, suggesting descriptions of what mightail them and insidious prescriptions for what might cure those ails. We don‘t just makecoughing noises regarding their bullcorn. We enter the courtroom and argue our case,suggesting interdiction of these very real dangers.We affirm a fallibilist, metaphysical realism and a semiotic pragmatism and stand withWittgenstein‘s student, Anscombe, when it comes to such arguments as have beenadvanced, for example, by CS Lewis, on occasion. But we do not buy into aKierkegaardian fideism, which seems to us to be an over-correction to an Hegelianscientism. Neither do we buy into a Kantian transcendentalism, which should haveconfronted the Humean critique practically. We see much value in what William Jamesand Pascal had to say, but correct them with Peirce.Might philosophy hold court on things beyond? Might we expect philosophy to havesomething definitive to say on the matter in the future?Were with GK Chesterton in that it is too early on humankind‘s journey to say thatreality is unknowable. Our knowledge advance is slow but inexorable. Weve made clearthat nothing is being proved. Our findings are epistemological critiques of scientism,fideism and nihilism, also essentialism and nominalism. And both a vulgar Rortypragmatism and theological nonrealism.Some have suggested that philosophy and science both converge here to tell us that thequestion of the origin of space and time is a confused question, precisely because wecannot know what ―rules‖ govern ―nothing.‖It was Wittgenstein who said that it is not HOW things are but THAT things are which isthe mystical. That sounds a lot like Heidegger‘s query: Why is there not rather nothing?Sounds to us like the Thomists, Wittgenstein, Heidegger et al might be reifying thisconception called ―nothing‖ and we have no a priori reason to know whether or not itsuccessfully refers.One might, instead, more profitably invoke Godel and our inability to prove a system‘saxioms within the same formal system. Alas, that is not satisfying either because wehumans do not advance our knowledge solely through formal symbol systems.Sometimes we can see the truth of our axioms even though we cannot prove them, whichis to admit, for example, that one needn‘t work halfway through the Principia withWhitehead and Russell in order to see the truth in the axioms used to prove 2 + 2 =4.A better question might be: Why is there not rather something else?
  • 196. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011At any rate, we think others are confused if they equate quantum vacuum fluctuationswith nothing.We do not buy into the dualistic distinctions between essentialism and nominalism,substance and process approaches, the noumenal and phenomenal and such but prescindto a more phenomenologial stance with a semiotic realism. Our conceptions have valueinsofar as we can cash same out pragmatically (as a test of truth, not a theory of truth).For example, whatever our conception of good is vis a vis the predicates and attributeswe want to apply, that conception and those predicates don‘t lose intelligibility justbecause they get employed in a metaphor. Perhaps we might concede that somemetaphors invoke analogies that are so very weak as to provide us very little informationabout the concept we are trying to describe? That is certainly true. However, when we aretalking about a reality as BIG as God, a little bit of info goes a long way. Most peoplewill say that God is good despite outstanding theodicy issues, despite the fact that Hisgoodness differs from anything with which were familiar. We know that, in our attemptsto enhance our modeling power of reality, we will all inhabit somewhat elaboratetautologies. But just because a statement is tautological doesn‘t mean it is not otherwisetrue. It only means that we have not added any new info to our systems. But sometautologies are more taut than others and some metaphors are more resilient than others,even if all eventually collapse due to circular references, causal disjunctions, questionbegging or infinite regressions.The postmodern critique, properly considered per our view, did not dispossess us of ourtheory of truth, which remains a nuanced correspondence. It properly changed ourtheories of knowledge from a naive realism to different types of critical realism (somenonfoundational, others a weakened foundationalism). There are a host of criteria we canapply to working hypotheses like external congruence, internal coherence, logicalconsistency, inferential fecundity, interdisciplinary consilience, hypothetical consonance,symmetry, parsimony, elegance, abductive facility, pragmatic utility and on and on. Eachsuch criterion, applied alone, amounts to a formal fallacy. Taken together, weve gotsomething like common sense. But it would amount to a caricature of human knowledgeto suggest that only the stronger forms of inference, like deduction and induction, lead usto what we call knowledge, as if we only advance same in formal, truth- conduciveargumentation. Rather, reasoning our way retro-ductively back from such predicates asusefulness, elegance, parsimony and so on, most human knowledge advances fallibly aswe reason our way informally, employing truth-indicative criteria. Not everything that isuseful is true, indeed; that would be an insidious pragmatism. But we can say that what isuseful, what works, has a higher probability of being true or real.And thus theologians have coined the aphorism that orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy.And so we establish criteria for cashing out the value of our various theologicalconceptions in terms of their ability to foster (rather than stifle), for example, intellectual,affective, moral, social and religious development.We do not want to defend a position that suggests that metaphysical claims are not
  • 197. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011fantastic, which is likely why we don‘t subscribe to any given ontology. But we dodefend the project. We do not know, a priori, when it is that our knowledge advanceswill be thwarted by methodological constraints, epistemically, or will be otherwise haltedby some in-principle occulting, ontologically. But we generally eschew the latterassumption because it inevitably leads us down an epistemic cul-de-sac and assume theformer, because it fuels our search in hope. The chief problem with any anxiety toannihilate metaphysics, though, is that we do away with speculative theoreticalscience along with it.All philosophical theology has ever done is to clarify the nature of our questions and todemonstrate that some of our putative answers are not unreasonable even if not provable.So, there is no denying the series of leaps we take, for example, over against solipsismand nihilism and the humean critique of our common sense notions of causality, and forsome, also the leap called faith.But we need to examine the nature of these leaps and we find that those that go beyonddescriptive science and normative philosophy but not without them will much betterfoster human development. And we can measure same, not without difficulty,empirically. In which civilizations did science eventually flourish and where was itstillborn? Which cultural cohorts are turning out radical fundamentalists, militarism,moral statism and creationism?Reality is no longer carved into discernible ontological joints or disciplines, but humanknowledge still relies on different orders of abstraction and we need to govern thisprocess, best we can. Getting radically apophatic and mysterian is self-defeating and notdefensible, a priori. For all practical purposes, the deeper we get into the structures ofmatter and the closer we get to the earliest moments after the Big Bang, the moreintractable are our problems. And we further acknowledge that, from what we observe inemergent processes, there is even novelty in the laws governing properties; ergo, there isa danger in extrapolating such laws as might, for all practical purposes, be as local,cosmologically, as the by-laws of our neighborhood Bridge Clubs. This might compel usto focus our analogia also on Christocentric realities and what Jesus reveals about God‘snature, in particular, and not just on the metaphors that He employed in His parables anddiscourses employing Mother Nature, in general.Were very sympathetic to radical orthodoxy and some of our ideas, originating withLonergan, very much resonate with Hauerwas, Milbank, even Lindbeck. BUT, aside fromsome very general observations, sociologic metrics that would help us figure out whichecclesiologies have been delivering the goods are difficult to come by and hard tointerpret. All of the great traditions have turned out mixed results, each with its own setof problems. And if ―we‖ truly believe in a radically incarnational reality with aprofusely pneumatological presence, then we must recognize and affirm the efficacies ofthe Spirit in all peoples and places, wherever the fruits are manifest, including nontheisticsources. Sanity and sanctity appear to run horizontally across the denominations andtraditions rather than within this one or that. We would thus mightily resist any newtriumphalism, colonialism, paternalism, hierarchicalism, ecclesiocentrisms, elitism and so
  • 198. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011on. So, we don‘t want to trade one fundamentalism for another.We know that analogy and metaphor are indispensable in our attempts to describeunknown causes even in science, where we do not really need a root metaphor in order toproceed profitably. And we know that we employ apophatic and kataphatic modes toincrease descriptive accuracy in our ordinary speech, kataphasis proceeding viaaffirmation and apophasis by negation. So, we recognize and affirm these modalities, ingeneral. A problem arises, however. Not all analogies are equally direct or strong oruseful. In God-talk, we employ only the weakest of analogy, metaphor. Most of thismetaphor takes place from a stance within the faith as a theology of nature. As for thetype that takes place prior to the faith, a natural philosophy or theology, it can provenothing, syllogistically.What we are attempting to do with our method is to preserve analogy, in general, asuseful speech, while at the same time providing a rubric for different degrees ofusefulness. For example, we need it to advance particle physics as we infer new particlesfrom novel effects of heretofore unknown causes. But it has also been applied to cosmicorigins, such as when we employ imaginary numbers using the square root of negativeone to devise an hypothesis that the universe is finite but unbounded. And it has beenapplied to putative primal realities, such as when arguments have been advanced forprimal origin, primal being, primal cause, primal goals, primal order, primal meaning andthe classical so-called proofs – ontological, cosmological, teleological, axiological,epistemological and so on.Peirce drew a distinction between the initial abduction of an hypothesis or theformulation of an argument, itself, and what he called argumentation or the process ofreasoning through to a conclusion, syllogistically. We recognize the possibility that theremight be a particular question begging and that our attempts to frame up somemeaningful categories and heuristics in order to attack it is an eminently reasonableexercise. This formulation of the argument is telltale of the reasonableness of our quest. Itvalidates our wonder. It says: Very good question. So far, so good. But the situation canquickly devolve into an argumentation that, for various reasons, like a lack of sufficientinformation regarding initial, boundary and limit conditions of a system, Peirce wouldconsider to be, in his words, a fetish.So, here‘s the problem. We need criteria, a method, a rubric, to distinguish between suchanalogical reasoning as pushes backs the frontiers of knowledge and advances scienceand such reasoning as manipulates abstractions of varying degrees and truly indicates afetish of sorts. So, we can ask, for example, what is the pragmatic value that can becashed out of this conception versus the next, of this analogy vs another. In this way, wecan avoid the tu quoque comeback that I‘m merely reasoning analogically and speakingmetaphorically, which is the same thing you are doing, so, where‘s the rub?And the rub is this. Humankind, as a broad community of inquiry (or value-realization),and various of its smaller cohorts or communities, do not just go around wily nillyemploying abstractions just for the hell of it (of course we do, but that‘s a discussion for
  • 199. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011another day) but, instead, our employment of signs and symbols are oriented tovalue-realization and, in that vein, have been negotiated by the community (you know,language convention). So, without delving very deeply into semiotic theory or linguisticanalysis or anything, we proposed a heuristic of four broad categories consisting of thoseconcepts that 1) have been negotiated, the theoretic 2) remain still-in-negotiation, theheuristic 3) are nonnegotiable, required for meaning itself, the semiotic and 4) have notbeen negotiated between persons or across communities, the dogmatic.In a nutshell, then, the difference in one form of analogical argumentation and another visa vis one that meets a host of informal, truth-indicative epistemic criteria (pragmaticutility, elegance, parsimony, fecundity, coherence, consistency and so on) and one thatamounts to, well, a pure fetish, distills down to the relative mix of theoretic, heuristic,semiotic and dogmatic concepts employed in the argumentation. The higher theproportion of concepts previously negotiated, the better our chances for cashing out somevalue in practical terms. Yes, we all take leaps, such as the nonnegotiable semiotic leapswe take over against solipsism, nihilism & the humean critique of common sense notionsof causality, such as the ones we take in favor of such first principles as noncontradictionand excluded middle, none of the semiotic leaps provable via syllogistic reasoning butpresuppositions of reasoning, itself, both formal and informal. It‘s the number and thenature of the other leaps, as gauged by our employment of too many non-negotiateddogmatic conceptions and too few theoretic ones that then sets apart meaningfuldiscourse from a fetish.Much of what passes for natural theology is a fetish. The argument formulation is fineand can demonstrate the reasonableness of our questions, recognizing that we are at theend of our epistemic cable of intertwined truth-indicative criteria. The argumentationbeyond that gets us nowhere.This is why we cannot argue against the view that metaphysical claims are fantastic. Thisis why we draw distinctions, though, between incomprehensible and unintelligible. Weeschew absolute dichotomies when it comes to knowledge and prefer to deal with them inmatters of degree per our rubric.This brings us to our assignment of God attributes and the nature of the analogies andmetaphors applied in our putative god-concepts when we are reasoning philosophicallyprior to any leap of faith. How dialectical and how analogical are such? One mightemploy a descriptor vis a vis the attribute of goodness, for example, the nth degree. Thatmatches our own, which is of an infinite order. Simplistic kataphatic affirmations ofprimal reality are not philosophically defensible. They are highly problematical. Ourrubric allows us to provide some rigor and provides us some tools to adjudicatecompeting claims for who is the most out to lunch epistemically. Not all leaps of faith areequally warranted. When we leave behind science, we have forsaken the descriptive,positivist and theoretic concepts from which humankind has cashed out a great deal ofpragmatic value. When we leave behind philosophy, we have forsaken the normative,logical, aesthetical, ethical and semiotic concepts, which are also indispensable.
  • 200. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We proceed beyond them but not without them or we proceed at our own peril. These arethe grounds by which we can reject creationism and such a moral statism as claims to beadvocating philosophical deontologies when, in reality, because of an inordinate degreeof dogmatic concepts are putting forward what are essentially religious positions. This ishow we avoid the charges of absolute fideism and radical fundamentalism or even aradically deconstructive postmodernism. These are also the grounds upon which we standto advance the charges of positivism, empiricism, scientism and an Enlightenmentfundamentalism, which imagine that the only meaningful discourse is scientific orphilosophic, as if the natural progression of human knowledge has never employedheuristic devices with our concepts proceeding through ongoing negotiation andrenegotiation, as if our semiotic concepts were not, themselves, resistant, in principle, tothe filters of hypothetical falsification and empirical verification, and as if they were notperduring as nonnegotiables only via an otherwise resilient reductio ad absurdum.But, again, when one says "I‘m not denying that believers are able to trust that their Godis benevolent and has some sort of plan that will redeem a long, senseless history ofrandom human suffering. I‘m just saying that there isn‘t sufficient reason to believe insuch a God." ---When they speak of reason, here, are we including both epistemic/theoretic andprudential/practical reason?And in what sense do they mean believe?In tradition we pretty much mean an unconditional assent that does not depend oninference, or we mean an acceptance disposing one to trust, or even willfully acceptingand acting in a way to inculcate trust, all implying that there is no seeing of the completetruth of the matter. We would suppose this also implies that there is going to be morethan one interpretation of a reality that is possible, plausible (maybe even variouslyprobable?) but manifestly not demonstrable or provable. In some sense, then, the verydefinition of belief vis a vis the faith life will preclude, in principle, epistemic reasons inthat we are dealing with an unconditional assent? And to the extent such belief willinvolve our unconditional assent, hence willfully accepting and acting in a way that mightfurther inculcate trust, then it would seem that a suitably nuanced pragmatic appeal mightat least provide us some prudential reasons to go on and accept one interpretation ratherthan another and then act on it (think a nuanced Pascal & James here).In our view, in theory, we could conceive of a host of criteria that might be indicators ofthe relative practical efficacies and inefficacies of different interpretive stances towardreality, in general, and a vague god concept, in particular. The present constraints wouldseem to be methodological vis a vis properly gauging various sociologic metrics. Ourprovisional closures regarding same may not be universally compelling, but this approachdoes not seem to me to be unreasonable or unhelpful. The truth claims in question are notonly a/theological but also often cosmological and anthropological, and the latter areaccessible to scientific and philosophic critique.
  • 201. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011The pragmatic criteria proposed in tradition – orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy–employs Lonerganian ―conversions‖ (developmental processes akin to Piaget, Kohlberg,Fowler, Erikson et al) as criteria asking how well institutionalized practices fosterintellectual, affective, moral, social and religious development. These are cross-culturalanthropological criteria and difficult to gauge but these are legitimate questions. Ofcourse, it only works if one accepts, at least, semiotic and moral realisms (e.g. w/suchdistinctions as real and apparent needs, lesser and higher goods & some coherentapproach that pays homage to aretaic/virtue ethics, deontological, consequentialist &contractarian ethics and so on; or at least a Sartrean view of our shared human conditionleading us to devise similar prescriptions for what ails humankind despite our differences,such as we encoded in the UN Declaration of Human Rights). We can thus discernwhere it is that science flourished and where it was, rather, stillborn. We can discern whois cranking out the most fundamentalists, creationists, militarists. The caveat isDistinguishing between, for example, Christendom and Christianity, between whereBuddhism has failed and where it may not have even been tried.We do not know enough about reality to say what will remain unknowable. But let us saythis in Wittgensteinian terms that others might better grasp our meaning: “To draw alimit to thought you must think both sides of that limit.”And that is where many have grievously erred in their defense of nonrealism, bothmetaphysical and theological. One may wish to consult the life‘s work of Wittgenstein‘sliterary executor, Elizabeth Anscombe, for a more universally compelling appropriationof his thought.FAITHHaving faith, for us, has meant placing our trust, whether in this reality or that, or in Reality writ large,and then willingly living out the consequences of this or that trust relationship. We describe my faithlife, then, in terms that apply to relationships, like fidelity, loyalty, love, trust and not so much in termsthat describe my stance toward various propositions or, in other words, that involve any particularfixation of belief. Our faith does not ignore the empirical and logical, for that would be unfaithful, abetrayal of our trust relationship with Reality. Our faith goes beyond the empirical and logical,super-reasonably you might say, to the robustly practical and relational, acting as an interpretive lensthrough which we evaluate descriptive and normative realities. Faith defines what we care about andshapes our responses to Reality with such a trust in and fidelity to and love of Reality as will generallyallow for a steadfastness of those responses even in the face of a seeming rejection of us and our caresby Reality. Through faith we choose to relate to Reality like any other beloved of ours, going waybeyond (but certainly not without) mere propositional knowledge of who or what we care about to arobustly relational dynamic marked by such a faith, hope and love as requires no justifications andmakes no apologies. We can no more tell you why we love and trust Reality than I can tell you why welove our spouses and children, but wed have to imagine that having known such love and beauty wehave been rendered forever unable to fix our gaze, or place my trust, elsewhere.A (Moderately) Radical Orthodoxy
  • 202. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Philosophically, in this Peircean metatechnica, the classical approaches (rational or internally coherent)mediate between the evidential approaches (empirical or externally congruent) and existentialapproaches (relational or subjective) to effect human valuerealizations.Theologically, in this Radical Orthodoxy, the rational (Catholic, BOTH Roman & Anglican) orpresuppositional (reformed, Calvinist) mediates between the evidential (evangelical, Arminian) andexistential (fideist, Lutheran, neoevanaglical) to effect human value-realizations41.The reformed approach cannot truly aspire to an epistemology per se because philosophy is anautonomous methodology and it is a category error to call it ―Christian.‖ Frame‘s reformedepistemology, however, might be well situated in our own epistemological architectonic, resonating, asit explicitly does, with our own robustly integral approach, only departing from our essentiallyphilosophical treatment by uncritically substituting presuppositional scriptural norms in place of ourown Peircean normative sciences of logic, aesthetics and ethics. Frame‘s move is thus theological and,ergo, philosophically illicit, although our Peircean hermeneutic precisely takes one to the threshold ofthe abduction of the Ens Necessarium, thus leading into our pansemioentheist theology of nature, whichvalues the reformed epistemology as a theology.Sure, there are those who fideistically conflate existential outlooks with evidential methodologies, whoare rightfully charged with placing God in gaps, but there is no discernable increase in philosophicalrigor by those who commit the inverse category error, scientistically suggesting that we must allnecessarily conflate our descriptive and normative methods with our interpretive systems and then rushwith them to metaphysical closure as philosophical naturalists.With Emerson, we believe that God arrives when the half-gods depart, and thus offer a re-enchanted(through and through) worldview over against any notion that either modernism‘s incessant chant ofsecularistic God of the gaps pejoratives, or postmodernism‘s nihilistic sensibilities, have ushered ineither a philosophical naturalism, or an insidious relativism, as the default paradigm for primal reality,where our God of the ... gasp! still reigns.We question the classical patterns of dichotomous thinking, or at least suggest an overworking of same,as they necessarily divide reality into such categories as natural or supernatural, chance or necessity,existential or propositional, subjective or objective, reason or revelation, material or spiritual, nature orgrace, acquired or infused, rationalist or empiricist or existentialist, evidentialist or fideist, secular orsacred, fact or value, and so on. We must discern which of these dyads are mere phenomenal distinctionsand which are indeed ontological dichotomies without a default bias to either dualistic or nondualisticaccounts. Instead, we affirm a holistic and integrative approach that, over against any sterilemetaphysical compartmentalizations or epistemic absolutisms, and engaged by a robustlypneumatological imagination, sees creation thoroughly permeated by and wholly shot-through with theglory and splendor of our indwelling God-with-us. Our world is thus wholly, wholly holy (yes,theodicies notwithstanding).41 For an explication of these philosophical correlations with these theological categories, see Faith Has Its Reasons byKenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Jr. http://www.bible.org/series.php?series_id=190 wherein John Frame‘spresuppositional perspectivalism inchoately articulates our own nonfoundational perspectivalism).
  • 203. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011If, with Lonergan (and Gelpi), we believe that orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy, then our political,economic, cultural and social metrics of success will be gauged in terms of intellectual, affective, moral,sociopolitical and religious development of our citizens, a much more holistic and expansive set of goalsthan can otherwise be measured by stock, bond and commodity indices, labor statistics, gross domesticproducts, monetary and fiscal measures, median incomes, cost and price indices and other measures ofso called wealth. For, if wealth is not that which we possess but that which possesses us (Disraeli?), wemay be otherwise seriously impoverished.As contemplation attains to politics, we must only emphasize that the political will only efficaciouslymediate between the economic and the cultural to effect the social if it originates from an authenticallycontemplative stance, which is to suggest that, in the public square, we should not ever secularisticallybracket our [religious] perspectives but should strive, rather, to semiotically translate them intowhatever lingua franca is most accessible in this or that dialogical arena, which is to say with a suitablyinculturated theology, which is what we aspire to offer to the American public as grounded in aPeircean-inspired nonfoundational epistemology. Most importantly, though, it is through our vibrantcommunities of creed, cult and code, that such conversion will be most efficaciously effected and notthrough state power or market forces.Human creativity and flourishing are so much more than can be gauged by marketplace metrics and areinextricably intertwined with the Holy Spirit, the source of all creative help and all helpful creativity.May we thus engage the Spirit both consciously and competently!Religious NaturalismIn Goodenough‘s Sacred Depths of Nature (2000 Oxford Univ Press), page xvi, conceptslike a) culture-independent, globally accepted consensus and b) our scientific account, tome, do not seem to refer. They sound more like legitimate aspirations than laudableachievements. Further, there is a mix of theoretical (evolution and Big Bang) andhypothetical (origin of life & advent of human consciousness) concepts that do refer butdiffer radically in their degrees of explanatory adequacy. We do not, therefore, in myview, seem to be to the point of attainment of the story, the one story, that could get us toa shared worldview with a global tradition.Even the emergentist perspective remains only a heuristic device, not robustlyexplanatory; it provides us with more successful referents, is how its value is cashed out,even as successful descriptions continue to elude us. Finally, MANY of us DO agree onthe high probabilities of certain accounts (regarding both the origin of life and the adventof human consciousness) but are not otherwise in agreement, paradigmatically orinterpretively, regarding realitys brute facts. The emergentist perspective, itself, does notrefer to one set of brute facts versus another. In fact, it would seem to implicitly give onepause in any rush to closure regarding the nature of initial conditions and boundaryconditions insofar as novelty abounds and even laws themselves seem to evolve makingreductionistic accounts problematic, almost in principle, vis a vis emergentism. Thus, wemight bracket [initial] and characterize our references to same as provisional andcontextual. For instance, one might say, as we near T=0, or might say, in the deepeststructures of matter, to distinguish between contexts. One might refer to the Copenhagen
  • 204. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011or Bohm interpretation to describe ones provisional closure. So, too, with philosophy ofmind issues and approaches to the so-called hard problem.In many of their joint writings, Goodenough & Deacon consider the emergentistperspective and the shared moral sensibilities of humankind. Thats a story outline we allcan share even as many pages are left to be written. Those emergent sensibilities(aesthetical, ethical and epistemic) are necessary for one to be fully human, whateverones interpretive stance. As their associated cognitive-affective juxtapositions ripple overour soma, flooding our synapses, the neurotransmitter fluid levels are sufficient to drownsome in ecstasy. Emergentism thus describes what is necessary for all, necessary andsufficient for a few, but doesnt quite get to sufficient for most, it seems.As we employ our strategies of ontological and semantical vagueness and triadic semioticlogic, inviting the robust interplay of abductive, inductive and deductive inference,accounting for the possible, actual and probable, we can aspire to consensus on theanswer: "What must I do?", but it is too early on humankinds journey to foreclose on theinterpretive possibilities regarding the answer: "What can I hope for?". For most, it isclear, that nature is not enough. And that is a descriptive not a prescriptive statement.There are competing accounts (variously conflicting and overlapping) that proffer ananswer to "What can I hope for?" and they are variously compelling and have someprobabilistic status. Reasonable people of large intelligence and profound goodwill canreasonably differ in their interpretations of reality. In this sense, then, the nontheisticcohort of religious naturalism would not be characterized by such as a militant atheismbut would more resemble the reverent silence of some types of Buddhism regardingcertain aspects of reality and any theistic cohort would be characterized by more subtleconceptualizations of deity, for example, a highly nuanced and rigorously predicatedpanentheism, and not at all by the more fundamentalistic and fideistic approaches that areall too regnant in many parts of world (including the US).Socially & Culturally, then - or secularlyOrthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy through the successful institutionalization ofaffective (beauty & aesthetical), sociopolitical (community & unitive), intellectual (truthand noetical), and moral (goodness and ethical) conversions (secular). People celebratebeauty through the arts and humanities endeavors, enjoy community through civic &social organizations and political & governmental institutions, articulate truth throughacademic institutions and media communications and preserve goodness through legal &justice systems and military institutions.Religious Conversion - reality as an arena of pervasive intentionalityReligious conversion, another second/third order or meta-level evaluative heuristic,transvalues these secular conversions such that orthopathos mediates betweenorthocommunio and orthodoxy to inform orthopraxis. The great traditions reinforceand realize these values through cult, community, creed and code, which,respectively, celebrate beauty, enjoy unity, articulate truth and preserve goodness.
  • 205. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Religious CritiqueSome nontheistic naturalists, called religious naturalists, affirm a deep overlap betweentheir moral sensibilities and evaluative impulses and those of existing ethical andreligious traditions (Ursula Goodenough42). Some prefer an irenic engagement of liberalreligion, while working actively against fundamentalists (Michael Ruse). Othersrecognize the need for myth, aesthetically pleasing deceptions and noble lies to fend off aresurgent and self-evident nihilism (Loyal Rue). Some are active and outspoken againstreligion (Dawkins & Dennett).Bias for Methodological Naturalism?We do well to look for our lost keys underneath the lamp post, for there is little hope offinding them in the dark. For some of us, that does not, at the same time, suggest that wehave a priori decided where those keys may or may not be.Theism, Nontheism & Atheism and AgnosticismWe can frame up this question regarding belief systems, or interpretive stances, inessentially pragmatic terms, such as with the thought of the American pragmatists, i.e.Peirce and James, and also of Pascal.Peirce would distinguish between belief and knowledge. Sometimes a/gnosticism anda/theism refer, respectively, to totally different questions, on one hand, knowledge anddescription, on the other hand, belief and interpretation.The belief-knowledge distinction is not a dichotomy, however, as they are in a dynamicalrelationship insofar as humankinds knowledge advances fallibly but inexorably, insofaras our different types of beliefs can, in fact, have a role in advancing knowledge (orthwarting it, for that matter).Peirce relates these approaches by saying that the normative sciences mediate betweenphenomenology and metaphysics. We employ a derived formula which suggests that ourevaluative & normative stances mediate between our descriptive and interpretive stancesto effect our prescriptive stances. Restated, our philosophic (spiritual) stance mediatesbetween the positivistic (like science) and paradigmatic (like a/theology or a/gnosticism)stances to effect the prudential (moral and practical) stances.Implicit in this approach, human knowledge enterprises are inextricably intertwined with42 Ursula likes to quote Jerry Fodor: Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could beconscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea how anything materialcould be conscious.
  • 206. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011human value realizations, which is to recognize that our rationality is an ecologicalrationality (has adaptive significance). Also, we can see how these different stances aremoreso intellectually related and not strictly logically related, which is to recognize, forexample, that nonformal and quasi-formal stances often have a role in navigating us,however fallibly, to the truth. I am talking, for example, about such epistemic criteria ascoherence, symmetry, elegance, beauty, simplicity, Occams Razor, Pascals Wager andreductio arguments (from ignorance). This is to also recognize that human cognition isnot merely computational or algorithmic or syntactical but is also nonalgorithmic andsemantical, again, dealing with meaning or value.And these stances resonate with William James criteria for the Will To Believe: a) livechoice b) forced choice and c) momentous choice.G. K. Chesterton said that we do not know enough about reality to say that it isunknowable. And it does seem too early on humankinds journey to make such a claim.Whitehead said that all metaphysics were fatally flawed but did not desist from theenterprise himself. When confronting the unknown, we cannot a priori know which ofQuines paradoxes (veridical, falsidical or antinomial) afflict us, or which type ofvagueness --- epistemic, ontological or semantical --- we are dealing with, respectively:1) Are we methodologically constrained? 2) Is there some type of in-principle occultingdue to the emergentist nature of the reality in question? or due to its so-called "brute fact"status? 3) Does the problem stem from issues surrounding the predication and, hence,disambiguation of our concepts, themselves?The theological noncognitivism argument is interesting. Someone has paid close attentionto the high nuance and rigorous predication of certain God-concepts insofar as they aspireto an increase in descriptive accuracy 1) thru negation, which is to say through theemployment of negatively defined attributes (apophasis); and 2) thru affirmation, butonly in a relational sense and only through the employment of analogical andmetaphorical statements (kataphasis).There is a real problem, however, in that this noncognitivist critique, in its anxiety toan-nihilate (yes, the seemingly nihilistic choice) theology and metaphysics, would alsodestroy speculative cosmology and theoretical physics, too (in other words, science). Thisproblem stems mostly from the failure to draw a distinction between the successfuldescription of a reality and the successful reference of a reality, the latter not gifted with arobust explanatory adequacy, to be sure, but not at all necessarily devoid of this so-called"concrete meaning." This distinction has always been in play at the frontiers of science,such as when modern genetics and natural selection were merging into our now receivedneodarwinian understandings, as our mostly phenomenological references to genesyielded to robust biochemical and biological descriptions, or such as in our ongoingattempts to merge quantum mechanics and gravity, where our theories and terms do notonly not mutually describe but do not even mutually refer.Now, we do not, at the same time, therefore, countenance giving peoples imaginationsfree reign in hypothesizing, as if logical consistency and deductive validity were the only
  • 207. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011criteria of epistemic virtue, for we also saddle them with the responsibility of articulatinginductive inferences, which is to require, empirical falsifiability. And because certainrealities, by their very nature, tend to be only eschatologically falsifiable or verifiable,leaving us with a Scottish verdict (theism, atheism, nontheism), we are left adjudicatingthese competing claims with essentially pragmatic criteria and evaluative sensibilities.This, alone, does not make them noncognitive, unless ones apologetic is "grounded"fideistically or scientistically, which is to say by an unjustified and a priori pre- orpost-Enlightenment fundamentalism. The proper grounding is described, in part, above,in the heuristic setting forth the interplay of our different stances toward reality, and, also,insofar as Peirces approach entails a theory of knowledge, which presupposes anontology even as it employs a pragmatic maxim, which requires us to cash out our beliefsin terms of value realization.Finally, people provisionally close, all the time, on all things philosophic, positivistic,paradigmatic and prudential, without, at the same time, necessarily, laying claim to anyapodictic certainty. And they do so with varying degrees of confident assurance in whatthey hope for, discerning best they can what is possible, plausible, probable, certain,uncertain, improbable, implausible or impossible, variously well warranted or not.Therefore, agnosticism remains a live option. It is not a self-refuting belief --- neither inscience nor metaphysics nor speculative, theoretical a/theology. For most of us, though,theology is a practical science. And that is exactly why the faith-based outlook, theemergentist perspective, some Buddhist stances and agnosticism, writ large andsufficiently nuanced, can all be correct insofar as they suggest, regarding this or thataspect of reality, that, sometimes, the most appropriate response is a reverent silence.Footnote Regarding PositivismProblems with ignosticism, such as theological noncognitivism, run much deeper thanmany recognize insofar as its core commitment to the principle of verification is the sameemployed by logical positivism, which is thoroughly undermined by its very ownhumean stance toward reality. Falsification has been extremely useful, but it is not, itself,falsifiable. Weve been in a post-positivist era for some time? Verificationism is adead-end, incoherent. At best, we have heuristic devices in verification, falsification,parsimony and other criteria and not self-evident foundations or indubitablestarting-points for our otherwise commonly received methodological naturalism.Also, epistemology is inherently normative, so false dichotomies between cognitive andnoncognitive aspects of the human intellect are not meaningful in our theory ofknowledge insofar as normative/evaluative, descriptive/referential,interpretive/paradigmatic and prescriptive/pragmatic modes of value realization areintellectually related even if not logically related.However, even if one did not raise these objections of incoherence and igno-ignosticismand conceded a definition of so-called "concrete meaning," which allows only positivedefinitions for primary characteristics before applying secondary attributes and relationalattributes, such an approach can be parodied to do away with science, itself.
  • 208. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011To wit:When we observe effects from unknown causes, sometimes, all we can do is to refer tothose causes using models, analogies and metaphors, which is to acknowledge that theprimary attribute is defined negatively, in other words, as being not literally this or that,and the secondary attributes are defined as being like this or that. And the thing is alsoassigned a relative characteristic, which is to say, as a cause relative to an effect. Dowe really want to defend a definition of science that eschews analogies and models?Descriptive accuracy can be increased through either negation or affirmation. Whyarbitrarily rule out negative definitions? Successful referencing is not robustlyexplanatory, but why must meaning be limited to successful description? Some realitiesare not wholly comprehensible but are certainly partly apprehensible, so, why limit onesdefinition of intelligibility and insight to full comprehensibility?When realitys givens are defined in terms of primitives like space, time, mass andenergy, in other words, presupposing a space-time plenum, our use of terms likenonlocal, nonspatial and nontemporal are references to primary characteristics of putativerealities as we near T=0. After all, time came into existence with the Big Bang. Whendescribing the putative initial conditions and boundary conditions of the universe, orhypothesizing singularities, why a priori eliminate the meaningfulness of imaginarynumbers? Without the use of analogy, we would lose M-Theory, string theory,multiverses and parallel universes, many-worlds & Bohm & Copenhagen interpretations.Furthermore, quite often, our equations refer to our models and not to nature, herself.And physical theories are mathematical models, which are subject to Godelian-likeconstraints, hence are intrinsically incomplete (or otherwise inconsistent).In Dialogue With Ken WilberThe most important take-away from what we are trying to say is that our differentperspectives (subjective, intersubjective, intraobjective & objective) and methods(descriptive, normative, evaluative & interpretive) or disciplines (science, philosophy,culture & religion or even empirical, rational, moral-practical, relational) aremethodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral. In some sense, this seems todiffer from what Wilber has said at times about, for example, the trans-rational. His workis very highly nuanced and he does, after all, say AQAL. However, what seems to comeacross, for all practical purposes, is that Wilber is saying that these perspectives are bothmethodologically-autonomous and axiologically-autonomous.The difference in what we are saying boils down to our suggesting that each of theseperspectives (methods, disciplines or approaches) is necessary but none, alone, sufficientin every human value-realization. Wilber seems to be saying that each perspective is bothnecessary and sufficient, now for this value-realization, now for that. That said, were notsuggesting that ours is a devastating critique. We do think there are important differencesthat deserve high nuance and that have great import, for example, in our religion and
  • 209. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011science dialogue.We suppose we could say that, when we are using the word integral, we mean allquadrants, all levels, all the time (time not in a strictly temporal sense but meaning inevery value-realization spiral). This is to say, then, that the trans-rational does well to gobeyond the rational but has nothing to say to us when it goes without it. What we want tovery much affirm is the value in listening to, during every human value-realization (thinktruth, beauty, goodness and unity), our pre-rational, non-rational, rational, trans-rational(maybe even irrational) voices, allowing them to mutually critique each other. What wepositively want to avoid is giving any one of these voices the last word, which would notbe an authentic trans-rational approach, but would be, instead, arational.In other words, authentic integrality does not come from our willingness to give eachperspective its say about reality, now this voice for that value-realization, now that voicefor another value-realization. Integrality employs a harmonic symphony of voices inevery value-realization, all quadrants, all levels, all the time (AQALAT).Of course, this requires nuance because we do recognize that, as we move from onevalue-realization to the next, certain of our perspectives or voices will enjoy a certainprimacy as it steps up to the microphone and others take their place in the chorus waitingfor the conductor to to signal a pause or crescendo or what have you. For example, inapophatic, contemplative silence, other voices may be muted but any value-realizationfrom that nondual moment will necessarily ensue from its place in the choral arrangementin relationship to other voices or moments, even if they occupy, in that instant, a rathertacit dimension. Tacit dimensionality plays a prominent role in semiotic science, as welike to say, ineluctably unobtrusive but utterly efficacious. A person formed in an Easterntradition may be present to a moment of apophasis with an interiority that will receive itsflow like a cliff receives water in a cascading waterfall while a westerner may experiencethe same moment with an interiority shaped like a winding riverbed. Different efficaciesmight thus ensue from these different semiotic sea-scapes (however otherwise tacit).On one hand, we have never worried much about having a general audience because mostof what we have written is a defense of common sense and a subversion from within ofsterile philosophies and metaphysics. In other words, we think your average Joe andMary are at least mostly unconsciously competent, which is sometimes more poignantlybeautiful than the self-inflated conscious-competents. On the other hand, the averageperson is thus susceptible to being radicalized precisely because they depart fromcommon sense to inhabit these elaborate tautologies which they then cannot escape,unable to JOTS [jump outside their systems] of apodictic certainty. They do not need aLOT of hermeneutical help, only to be encouraged that their original native state of doubteven in faith is their salvation, that their ability to tolerate ambiguity and live withparadox is their true glory (ortho-doxy). It‘s the only thing that can save our species:Healthy doubt, Therapeutic uncertainty.In Dialogue With Gadamer
  • 210. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Cynthia R. Nielsen, at Per Caritatem writes:―In a sense, the C major triad is both a one and a many-it is a C major triad and thus hasan integral unity of meaning; yet, it is a many because of its intimate connection to andfunction within the symphony itself-that place where it lives and moves and has its being.The dialectical self-cancelling movement occurs due to the fact that as the C major triademerges from the background of the whole, it must ―cancel‖ part of itself (the whole) inorder to do so. (This sounds very Heideggerian, which is no surprise given the latter‘sinfluence on Gadamer). Yet, to avoid mis-interpretation, it must not become completelysevered from the whole, lest in a very real sense it die. If this is a correct understanding ofGadamer on this point, there are some interesting Christian connections to be made.‖In Dialogue With Walker Percy1 ) We suppose all we‘ve really done in saying that the descriptive, interpretive andnormative are methodologically autonomous but axiologically integral is that we haveaffirmed, with Peirce, that a descriptive, inductive science and an interpretive, abductivemetaphysic and a normative, deductive philosophy are irreducibly triadic (WalkerPercy‘s Delta Factor). This is not unrelated to Walker Percy‘s consideration of thevarious antinomies of science and philosophy vis a vis culture in that the source ofantinomy lies in the limitations of the methods, themselves. Thus the need for mutualcritique and meta-critique. Thus our recognition of manifold and multiform dynamics:teleological, perspectival, methodological, developmental, paradoxical and integral.Think here, too, of Percy‘s treatment of the irreducible character of intersubjectivity.2 ) And, perhaps, with Neville, our affirmation of the evaluative (culture) is but theapplication of Peirce‘s pragmatic maxim, a recognition of the end to which the triad isordered, teleologically.3 ) Our distinctions between the theoretic, heuristic, semiotic (Walker Percy‘s protocolstatements) and dogmatic thus recognize degrees of pragmatic realization in the cashingout of values from our various conceptualizations.4 ) Our distinctions between semantical, ontological and epistemic vagueness arerecognitions of the fallible nature of semiosis.5 ) Our suggestion that usefulness, beauty, goodness, elegance, parsimony, symmetry,facility and other aesthetic, pragmatic and ethical sensibilities (including, then, variouspre-rational, nonrational and supra-or trans-rational approaches) can serve astruth-indicative signs is but a recognition of the probabilistic nature of semiosis as wereason, retroductively, from predicates back to putative subjects, for example, very oftenfrom effects to causes (and such known, or even unknown, subjects or causes to whichonly those predicates or effects could be proper). This is also to recognize that deductive,inductive and abductive inferences get progressively weaker even as we recognize thatthey‘re all we‘ve got to work with.
  • 211. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 20116 ) Our equiplausibility principle recognizes this probabilistic nature of semiosis andaffirms such distinctions as between information and news (Walker Percy‘s Message in aBottle) or informative and performative knowledge, affirming that our solutions to manyof life‘s paradoxes, ironies and questions are not so much theoretical as they are practicalin that they provide us with existentially actionable knowledge, employing more so ourparticipatory imagination than our propositional (conceptual map-making) cognition.7 ) Finally, we step back from metaphysics, with Percy prescinding entirely from finalontological constructions as befits an empirical science, and approaching existentialrealities solely in light of an empirical finding – the uniquely human symbolictransformation (Symbol as Hermeneutic in Existentialism).Walker Percy43 spoke of Kierkegaard ‘s On the Difference Between a Genius and anApostle :Like the readings that mean most to you, what it did was confirm something I suspectedbut that it took Søren Kierkegaard to put into words: that what the greatest geniuses inscience, literature, art and philosophy utter are sentences which convey truths sub specieaeternitatis , that is to say, sentences which can be confirmed by appropriate methodsand by anyone, anywhere, any time. But only the apostle can utter sentences which canbe accepted on the authority of the apostle, that is , his credentials, sobriety,trustworthiness as a newsbearer. These sentences convey not knowledge sub specieaeternitatis but news .This reiterates the distinction between our cosmology as knowledge sub specieaeternitatis and our axiology as Good News .In Dialogue With Reformed Epistemology & Radical OrthodoxyOf course we have rejected foundationalism but we are also rejecting the ―solution‖offered by Reformed epistemology. We are deeply sympathetic to Radical Orthodoxy andits aim to mediate between faith and reason but are offering what we think is anindispensable corrective.Too many in RO seem to be saying that philosophy, metaphysics and theology areintegrally-related methodologically and thereby overcome any insidious dualisms withtheir claim that all approaches are at bottom confessional. Their intuition that all of theseapproaches to reality have confessional elements is spot on but these approaches toreality remain, indeed and nevertheless, methodologically autonomous. If theseapproaches stay out of each others‘ way, it is not because they‘ve been methodologicallyconflated, it‘s because they are asking distinctly different questions, employing distinctlydifferent commitments, all as explicated in our own heuristic. RO is correct in that these43 Zoltan AbadiNagi, The Art of Fiction XCVII: Walker Percy by 1986.
  • 212. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011approaches are integrally-related. Our corrective is that this integral relationship isaxiological and not methodological.All put another way, we do want to affirm faith and reason while avoiding fideism andrationalism. The Reformed strategy reclassifies faith as a basic presupposition,immunizing it from an autonomous philosophy. RO‘s strategy reclassifies faith ASreason so fideism and rationalism dissolve in a categorial disappearing act.If, in the first instance, a belief in God is basic (and supposedly properly so, at that) and,in the next, all presuppositional beliefs are confessional (and unapologetically so, at that),both fideism and rationalism indeed disappear and, along with them, so do philosophyand metaphysics and, along with them, any lingua franca for conducting interreligiousdialogue and, further, any autonomous methodology for adjudicating between competingtruth claims.Our axiological epistemology employs another strategy to overcome both fideism andrationalism a) affirming the confessional nature of our methods via a contrite fallibilismand b) integrally-relating the distinct approaches to reality axiologically but c)maintaining the methodological autonomy of those approaches. Unlike the Reformedstrategy, we do not redefine the essential nature of different types of belief but dootherwise distinguish them vis a vis epistemic risks. Unlike the RO strategy, we do notinvoke epistemic parity between different types of belief vis a vis their different riskprofiles but we do recognize and affirm an epistemic parity vis a vis their sharedepistemic virtues. Faith remains. Reason remains. Philosophy remains. Metaphysicsremains. Because all play an indispensable role in every human value-realization, fides etratio are preserved and fideism and rationalism are thus avoided. (Essay for another day:John Duns Scotus is the wrong theological whipping boy for RO!)Theology of Nature – pansemioentheism, a pneumatological theology of natureApologetics – theological perspectives, a theological perspectivalism;robust realismsrational and presuppositionalevidentialexistentialtrans-evaluativeAnthropological Outlook – existential orientations as theological imperatives (theosis)community as orthocommuniocreed as orthodoxycult as orthopathos
  • 213. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011code as orthopraxisTHE THEOLOGICAL INTERFACETurning our attention, now, from a mostly philosophical consideration, let us treat the interface betweenthis architectonic and a more theological stance. Authenticity, in our view, grows as our faith transistsfrom the clear but tentative to the vague but certain (a paraphrase of Benedict Groeshel). And this sohappens to track our spiritual movement beyond (but not without) the discursive and kataphatic to thenondiscursive and apophatic, beyond (but not without) the merely rational and practical(as well as storge and eros) to the robustly transrational and relational (as well as agape and philia),which is the essence of the contemplative gaze.Merton grappled with such distinctions as between immanent and transcendent, impersonal andpersonal, apophatic and kataphatic, existential and theological, natural and supernatural, implicit andexplicit, acquired and infused, as did Rahner, in an effort to reconcile East and West. Many of thesetheological conundrums were rooted, perhaps, in philosophical error, as the essentials of the Christianmessage became needlessly entangled with arcane and archaic metaphysics.What if, for example, Transcendental Thomism was ultimately derived from Kant who, instead ofresponding to Hume, should have ignored him? What if Rahners thematic grace was, instead, arealization of transmuted experience (Gelpi)? What if we viewed original sin not so much, or at least notsolely, in terms of an ontological rupture located in the past but as a teleological striving oriented towardthe future (Haught)? What if the Incarnation was not a response to some felix culpa but a panentheisticreality featured in the cosmic cards and loaded in the probabilistic quantum dice from the eternal get-go(Scotus), metaphorically-speaking? Might the dichotomy between the natural and supernatural resolveinto the ontological possibility that "its all supernatural" and that all experience is thus graced anddiffers, thusly - not necessarily in kind but, instead - in degree? Might addiction psychology betterexplain at least some cases of so-called demonic oppression and possession? If with Scotus, we take theIncarnation as an eternal inevitability, and with Phil Hefner, we take humanity as created-cocreators,might our theodicy questions change in focus from why it is that we suffer to what it is we will do aboutit? Rather than the Rube Goldbergesque theological machinations of this or that Thomism(transcendental, existential, analytical, aristotelian and so on), for example, could we not, rather,prescind from our specific metaphysical ontological approaches to a more vague phenomenologicalperspective that affirms the robustly relational and personal, still conforming to humankinds vagueintuitions regarding "intimacy" with the Divine, while recognizing that our autonomy from Bracken‘sDivine Matrix of interrelated causes and effects is, necessarily, only "quasi," thus also conforming tohumankinds vague intuitions regarding "identity" with the Divine?Perhaps some of Mertons dualistic conceptions are mere distinctions and not, necessarily, truedichotomies, at least from the standpoint of salvific efficacy, which was the real conundrum with whichMerton and Rahner were, in essence and at bottom, grappling --- that over against a somewhat prevalentexclusivistic ecclesiocentrism. If all reality is graced and not bifurcated out into natural and supernatural,the very questions change even as the Incarnation remains the Answer, for it has never been an ideologyor merely another set of affirmations, but, instead is an initiation into an intimate relationship. If grace istransmuted experience and all experience is graced, from the standpoint of salvific efficacy andLonerganian conversion, then, we (humankind) have all been abundantly gifted with what is necessary
  • 214. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011and sufficient (lets say, at least, minimalistically speaking). Implicit faith might thus be viewed as atype of unconscious competence. What is at stake, then, via explicit faith (amplified in sacrament andliturgy, for example) is the further transmutation of our human experience into a conscious competence,which leads, in turn, to a superabundance.In this context, certain questions will not arise, for example, such as those that require such distinctionsas acquired and infused contemplation, natural and supernatural, immanent and transcendent, whileothers take on a new significance, such as between the impersonal and personal, apophatic andkataphatic, existential and theological, implicit and explicit, for example. Our experiences of God willthus differ not necessarily in kind but in degree and not necessarily in ontological terms of eithersubstance or process but in those of fullness of realization. Our vague intuition of "identity" can re-giftus with the realization of our unitive destiny, we believe, reinforcing just how close God is to us via theDivine Matrix of interrelated causes and effects (without leading us into quarrels over monisms andpantheisms). It can serve to moderate our dialectical imaginations, which, in some parts of Christianity,have redistanced God in a manner tantamount to a de facto Deism, which is clearly at odds with a realityJesus conveyed by calling Yahweh "Abba.". At the same time, and ironically, our analogicalimaginations have overemphasized the analogical and metaphorical and this has raised questions ofrelevance via causal disjunction, for how can a reality described only via analog interact causally withanything else? The "identity," which we like to describe as "intra-objective," we believe reinforces anddoes not detract from but, rather, enhances the "intersubjective intimacy" in a reality that is radicallygraced, pervasively incarnational.We are perhaps guided more so by Beauty and Goodness to hold these types of beliefs as Truth and notso much by metaphysical proofs, which, while they indeed hint at the reasonableness of our beliefs,cannot compel one to recognize their veracity or soundness. They can be normatively justified andevaluatively relevant, enjoying epistemic parity with other explanatory attempts, even if not otherwiseepistemically warranted. This is also to say that being in proper relationship to Love is intrinsicallyrewarding, an end unto itself beyond any apologetic or theodicy. Some of our experiences of God, Eastversus West, for example, thus may or may not differ with respect to their origin, natural versussupernatural (as we might attempt to describe same metaphysically, for example in ontological terms ofsubstance or process approaches), but rather with respect to degrees vis a vis the fullness of ourrealization of the God encounter. This simply recognizes that theres a lot of room for discussion in thisregard, to wit: Rahner vs de Lubac vs Gelpi vs other modernists and postmodernists vs the old dualisticextrinsicism of scholasticism.Insofar as it does help tremendously to know what youre doing, we think we must recognize thedistinction between conscious and unconscious competence vis a vis explicit and implicit faith. We verymuch affirm that our God encounters differ "in kind" from this perspective. What we do resist, however,is any temptation to suggest that this versus that experience is necessarily natural or supernatural or thatthe Holy Spirit is necessarily here but not there (pneumatological exclusivity). Still, we would not denyanyones experiences or even their own interpretation of those experiences even as we think we mightproperly question how much normative impetus such interpretations could and/or should exert for othersin the broader community of human value-realizers.Because there are metaphysical implications which flow from revelation, we prefer to think of humanvalue-realization in terms of a recursive feedback loop such that the normative mediates between the
  • 215. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011descriptive and interpretive to effect the evaluative. Each of these human value-realizations presupposesthe others. This is not a strictly truth-conducive algorithm (or strong type of inference) but a fallibleprocess that is also, maybe even moreso, truth-indicative (a much weaker form of inference). We cannoteven give a complete theoretic account of how knowledge works but can attest, pragmatically, that itindeed works, slowly and falteringly but inexorably advancing such human value-realizations as truth,beauty, goodness and unity (through such as creed, cult, code and community). The categories, conceptsand claims associated with each aspect of this feedback loop are communicated, unavoidably, by amixture of dogmatic, heuristic, theoretic and semiotic terms, which we can describe, respectively, asnon-negotiated, still-in-negotiation, negotiated and nonnegotiable vis or vis this or that community ofinquiry or value-realizers.Here are the practical implications of this schema. First, clearly, our dogmatic interpretive positionshave clear metaphysical implications, especially implicit in our affirmation of God. This leads to apositivist-like descriptive claim, to be sure, but it tends not to get in the way of other positivist endeavorsbecause, as far as our metaphysical enterprise is concerned, it is a claim regarding primal and/or ultimateorigins, boundaries, limits and initial conditions, (and, analogously, the tacit dimension of the HolySpirit via a Peircean thirdness) or what we might consider to be ontological paperwork that resides inthe bottom drawer of the last desk in the back corner of the basement of our metaphysical library.Again, we do not want to say, for example, that all hypotheses (lets say, this time, theologicalanthropologies) are equally worthy of acting as working hypotheses (lets say, spiritualities), as if itwere sufficient that our logical arguments be merely valid but not also sound. But what epistemiccriteria are at our disposal when it comes to speculative systematic theology, for example? or natural lawinterpretations vis a vis a practical moral theology? such that we can differentiate levels of externalcongruence with reality in addition to other criteria like logical validity and internal coherence? Or, toput it another way, how do we determine which tautology has the most taut grasp of reality?Well, there are a host of considerations such as inventoried in the work of Stanley Jaki, and other criteriawe previously listed such as hypothetical fecundity and such, as well as being mindful of theproportional mix of dogmatic, heuristic, theoretic and semiotic terms that are employed in any givenmetaphysical affirmation. It is not enough that we engage our fanciful imaginations vis a vis what mighthave happened to humanity (i.e. death) regarding original sin in light of evolution. It is not enough toclaim that our natural law interpretations are philosophical and not theological in order to compel amoral vision. We must be mindful of our terms and definitions and employ as manynonnegotiable (semiotic) and negotiated (theoretic) concepts and categories as possible, and as fewnon-negotiated (dogmatic) ones as necessary, employing those that are still-in-negotiation (heuristic)mindfully and respectfully. Otherwise, our moral and political discourse will only be heard and heededin ideological and dogmatic echo chambers. Otherwise, we are "proving too much." Otherwise, we willexperience major disconnects from other people and their lived experiences, thus missing out on othercredible and important witnesses to revelation.PANSEMIOENTHEISM – a pneumatological theology of naturegrounded in a minimalist realisma charismatic Franciscan contemplative perspective
  • 216. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011By pansemio- we are not specifying an ontology but are recognizing a phenomenological pattern thatmight include the proto- and quasisemiotic, such as in thermo- and morpho-dynamics (or first andsecond order emergence), in addition to the biosemiotic and teleodynamic (third order emergence).Reality may present, for instance, with proto- (or primal) dynamics, thermodynamics, morphodynamics,teleodynamics and eschato- (or final) dynamics, similar to a neoplatonic procession. First, second andthird order emergence44, or thermo-, morpho- and teleo- dynamics may thus represent proleptic realities.Both the formal causation (a Polanyian tacit dimension) and final causation (downward causation) ofbiosemiotic realities, however minimalistically conceived and without violations of physical causalclosure, would proleptically present both back and front doors for a radically interconnected matrix(Divine per Bracken) of causes and effects in reality. Such interactivity can be utterly efficacious whilestill ineluctably unobtrusive acting pervasively through primal reality‘s initial, boundary and limitconditions, whether temporally, atemporally or trans-temporally.This is a hermeneutic for a thoroughly enchanted nature, recognizing no necessary distinctions betweennatural and supernatural, or hierarchical orders of grace, or privileged levels of revelation, emphasizing,rather, the degrees of realization, levels of awareness and growth in the Spirit over any dualisticdichotomies and exclusivities. Most postmodern Christian theologies of nature seem to be in the throesof metaphysical angst, as if other hermeneutical rushes to closure now require us to place ourontological cards on the dialogical table. Christianity was once said to be in search of a metaphysic(Whitehead) and that sounds very right-headed to us, still. Why should we join the rush to declare ourposition and specify our ontological claims just because everyone else is busy committing categoryerrors, conflating their methods and systems? When has the Kerygma ever competed with positivisticand philosophic, descriptive and normative, methodologies? Do our theological anthropologies requirethe successful resolution of initial, boundary and limit conditions of the universe or multiverse, or even adecision in favor of one philosophy of mind or another --- eliminativist, epiphenomenalist, nonreductivephysicalist, emergent monist or even a radically Cartesian dualist account? Haven‘t we always survivedand thrived, even, with our phenomenological accounts and subjective and intersubjective experiences?The final methodological descriptions of our cosmic origins and epistemic faculties, however they turnout, will not change the essential thrust of our interpretive stances, whether of an aesthetic teleology or apneumatological theology. We know from our empirical observations that biosemiotic realities requireboth a minimalist formal and final causation in addition to efficient causation. We can affirm,methodologically, top-down and bottom-up causations? There can be no denying of the possibility of aDivine Matrix of interrelated causes and effects even as we prescind from any robust descriptions ofeither the causal joints or the divine prerogatives. Whatever one‘s ontic account of our putative cosmicor epistemic boundaries, we haven‘t yet an account of primal reality, herself. All competinginterpretations, if methodologically faithful to prevailing positivistic and philosophic norms, at best, areequiplausible accounts that, ontologically, enjoy epistemic parity but certainly not the epistemic warrantwe might otherwise properly ascribe to our various ontic disciplines. All competing interpretationsshould not pretend to have discovered the perfect root metaphor, the complete consistent system44 See Terrence W. Deacon, Emergence: The Hole at the Wheels Hub, __Chapter 5, TheRe-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion__(Hardcover) by Philip Clayton (Editor), Paul Davies (Editor) Oxford University Press,USA (August 24, 2006)
  • 217. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011(Godel), or metaphysical Mecca. For gosh sakes, we haven‘t yet reconciled gravity and quantummechanics. And this isn‘t a capitulation to the notion that theology only rushes in to fill gaps left by thepositivistic sciences. This isn‘t to deny that some theologians once did such a thing, and many still do;rather, it is to recognize that, when they do, they are simply being bad scientists. And vice versa; somany scientists are awful philosophers and god-awful theologians.However integrally related our methods and findings are, they still represent autonomous aspects ofinquiry about distinctly different value-pursuits. Interpretations of primal reality, as equiplausibleaccounts of primal reality, while descriptive enterprises, theoretically, are essentially evaluative posits,practically speaking, precisely because their propositional elements have left us with Scottish verdictsand in search of other actionable norms, which, then necessarily, go beyond the inferential to themanifold and multiform other aspects of human value-realization.The strategy we put forward for competing with other metaphysical accounts is not to compete; theirquestions are wrong. Thus it is that phenomenology remains both necessary and sufficient for doingtheology, which ends up being a practical and not a speculative science, for the most part. To the extent,then, that epistemology models ontology, and our ontology is a phenomenology, which is to say vague,then our epistemology is going to be, quite simply, fallibilistic. Hereinabove, then, we described whatwe like to call a Peircean metatechnica, which does not ambition metaphysical specificity but does relyon, provisionally, some patterns one can discern phenomenologically in nature. While we think it isimportant to affirm metaphysical realism, in general, we do not think it is otherwise important to engageany particular and robust metaphysic, in particular.Saint Bonaventure taught us Franciscans that when you stop seeing the divine presence in one of theseven links of the Great Chain of Being, the whole thing will fall apart. When you cannot recognize thedivine indwelling in the earth itself and the waters upon the earth and the plants and trees that growupon the earth and the animals, you will not see it in the human. And that‘s what has happened. Wefinally don‘t see that presence in the angels, saints or the divine itself. from Richard Rohrs Great Chainof BeingApplications – philosophies of science, mind and religion; theologies of nature; formative spiritualitiesWHAT IS METAPHYSICS THAT WE SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF IT?In our view, following Whitehead, Christianity indeed remains in search of a metaphysic, but so does allother human endeavor. So, we have a very open mind about "how" it is that all manner of things may,can, will and shall be well. And we have to be similarly open regarding just what ―well‖ means. Exactly"how" this may be so is, for me, a positivist or descriptive endeavor (e.g. scientific, falsifiable), whicharticulates its claims with categories and concepts that are, in a word, theoretic, in other words, scientificor positivist.Those claims and concepts and categories are negotiated by those in humanity who participate in ourfallible but earnest community of inquiry. As previously set forth, many claims and concepts andcategories are still-in-negotiation (heuristic) in this community of inquiry that we call humankind.Humanity, as a community of value-realizers, also engages in interpretive and evaluative endeavors,
  • 218. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011staking various claims regarding whether or not --- "that" --- all manner of things may, can, will andshall be well and articulating them with categories and concepts that are religious or ideological and,generally, not negotiated (dogmatic).Human spirituality more fully comes into play as a philosophic or normative endeavor, which might bethought of in terms of "best practices" that serve to mediate between our descriptive-positivist andinterpretive endeavors to effect our evaluative goals in all types of human value-realizations. Ultimately,what is "best" is not negotiable; it is, then, in a word, semiotic, making meaning and intelligibilitypossible, in the first place, like various "first" principles; it simply is what it is, although discovering it issomewhat problematical. The normative, then, mediates between the descriptive and interpretive toeffect the evaluative. Or, we could say that the philosophic mediates between the positivist andideological-theological to effect human value-realizations.The practical upshot of this hermeneutic is that our interpretive and evaluative stances make someclaims on our normative approaches, which, in turn, will certainly bolster our descriptive endeavorsthrough enhanced modeling power of reality without, at the same time, making any specific descriptiveor positivist claims. These various stances, approaches and endeavors are integrally related,intellectually, but not strictly related, logically, which is to recognize that human value-realizations, suchas knowledge, for example, are not merely formally derived or driven by strict computationalalgorithms, instead being open-ended or plastic and dynamic. What we are suggesting is thatmetaphysics is mostly a descriptive and positivist endeavor and that we do not look to religious orexistential mystical traditions for direct metaphysical insights. Our religious and ideological traditionsexert their influence over positivist endeavors, instead, indirectly, through their shaping of our normativeor philosophic outlooks, thereby, hopefully, enhancing our modeling power of reality.All of this is to say, then, that, for example, we do not look to any religion or ideology to determine thenature of human consciousness, to determine whether or not what we call the human soul is intrinsicallyimmortal, to determine whether or not the universe is eternal, or how to resolve the many paradoxes thatresult from the classical tensions between essentialism and nominalism, substance and processapproaches, or all manner of dual and nondual claims, categories and concepts. We do affirmmetaphysics as a viable enterprise and say let a thousand metaphysical blossoms bloom, but let us judgethem empirically, rationally and practically in the crucible of human experience by how well they fosterLonergans conversions.Metaphysics, at this stage of humankinds journey, in our view, remains a great way to "probe" realitybut not a reliable way to "prove" reality. Our deontological claims, then, should be as modest as ourontologies are tentative. However, they have been anything but modest as the general tendency amongthe great traditions, religious and ideological, has been, as we see it, to attempt to "prove too much."Perhaps we reflexively recoil from Mystery and thus try to banish the vague by anxiously pursuing thespecific? There is a certain irony in that it is in our encounter with the concrete and particular that wemost encounter the vague and mysterious, in the depth dimension of reality and other persons, while theabstract and conceptual only provides a "seeming" escape into the clear and certain.Still, we would not deny anyones experiences or even their own interpretation of those experiences evenas we think we might properly question how much normative impetus such interpretations could and/orshould exert for others in the broader community of human value-realizers.
  • 219. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Summary: an Epistemological Architectonic as Exploratory HeuristicThink of human value-realization in terms of a recursive feedback loop such that the normative mediatesbetween the descriptive and interpretive to effect the evaluative. Each of these human value-realizationspresupposes the others. This is not a strictly truth-conducive algorithm (or strong type of inference) but afallible process that is also, maybe even moreso, truth-indicative (a much weaker form of inference). Wecannot even give a complete theoretic account of how knowledge works but can attest, pragmatically,that it indeed works, slowly and falteringly but inexorably advancing such human value-realizations astruth, beauty, goodness and unity. The categories, concepts and claims associated with each aspect ofthis feedback loop are communicated, unavoidably, by a mixture of dogmatic, heuristic, theoretic andsemiotic terms, which we have described, respectively, as non-negotiated, still-in-negotiation, negotiatedand nonnegotiable vis or vis this or that community of inquiry or value-realizers.Even if we concede our inability to reason from the given to the normative (which we do not, followingAdler), we caricaturize human reasoning if we describe it strictly in terms of formal argumentation orlogic. This is all just to recognize that the hermeneutical, philosophic, positivist hierarchy is not wholly aone-way street and that, while our distinctly different value-commitments for our different humanendeavors do involve autonomous methodologies, no value-realization, in and of itself, is otherwisefully autonomous but results from the fruits of this integrally-related feedback loop. They are, rather,indispensable separate motions required for any movement (as previously explicated).AFTERWARD --- NORMATIVE IMPLICATIONS:May namaste, then, become more than a greeting but a way of life, as we look always and everywhereand in everyone for the pneumatological realities we profess herein. May our inter-religious stance bemore irenic as we acknowledge the Spirit in one another with true reverence, in authentic solidarity andutmost compassion. A most fundamental aspect of the unqualified affirmation of human dignity wouldseem to be our nurturance of the attitude that all other humans come bearing an irreplaceable gift for us,that we are to maintain a stance of receptivity toward them, open to receive what it is they offer usthrough, with and in the Spirit. Whether the Magi were occidental or oriental, Jesus was receptive. WhenJohn offered baptism, Jesus was receptive. When Mary anointed his feet, Jesus was receptive. Wheninvited to dine with tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus was receptive.A critical gaze not first turned on oneself and one‘s ways of looking at reality will have very littleefficacy when it is otherwise habitually and arrogantly turned first on others. All of this is to observethat, beyond whatever it is that we offer to the world as our unique gift, rather than always approachingour sisters and brothers as fix-it-upper projects in need of our counsel and ministry, sometimes the Spiritmay be inviting us to listen, observe and learn from them in a posture of authentic humility and from astance of genuine affirmation of their infinite value and unique giftedness. While our encounters of theSpirit may be manifold and varied from one phenomenal experience to the next, especially whensituated in one major tradition versus another, we may be saying more than we know if we attempt todescribe such experiences with more ontological specificity than can be reasonably claimedmetaphysically or theologically, suggesting, for example, that such experiences necessarily differ in
  • 220. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011either origin or degree even if they otherwise differ, as might be expected, in other cognitive, affective,moral, social or religious aspects.More than semantics is at stake, here. We are not merely saying the same thing using different wordswhen we draw such distinctions as between nature and grace, natural and supernatural, existential andtheological, immanent and transcendent; such explicit denotations also have strong connotativeimplications that might betray attitudes of epistemic hubris, pneumatological exclusivity or religioushegemony, which are clearly unwarranted once we understand that our faith outlooks are effectivelyevaluative. We say this because, in our view, our belief systems are otherwise, at best, normativelyjustified existentially after essentially attaining, minimally, an epistemic parity with other hermeneuticsvis a vis our best evidential, rational and presuppositional approaches. While there are rubrics fordiscernment of where the Spirit is active and where humans are cooperative, they do not lend themselvesto facile and cursory a priori assessments, neither by an academic theology with its rationalisticcategorizing nor by a popular fideistic piety with its supernaturalistic religiosity, predispositions thattend to divide and not unite, to arrogate and not serve, with their vain comparisons and spiritualpretensions.Indeed, we have been admonished not to be seduced by any false irenicism, insidious indifferentism orfacile syncretism. And this seems fair enough --- to the extent that we are thereby trying to affirm therole of epistemic virtue in our approach to fides et ratio, in general. However, to the extent one mightotherwise be suggesting that any given faith approach, in particular, is necessarily privileged and thatother approaches do not enjoy epistemic parity (by virtue of their own normative justifications) vis a visones own given approach, that would be too strong a position to defend, philosophically? While itwould be illicit to a priori claim that primal reality is in-principle knowable (scientism) or unknowable(agnosticism), still, it is clearly too early on humankinds journey to imagine we have successfullydescribed or explained primal reality. Clearly, we do not know where it is on our knowledge journeysthat we will be methodologically thwarted or otherwise ontologically occulted, although thephilosophical naturalists rush to closure with the former conclusion and urge their god of the gapspejoratives on the fideistic mysterians, who hold out for the latter position, not altogether certain wherethat final gap will irreducibly present itself. Even given Godelian constraints on completeness andconsistency, there is no a priori reason to believe that we may not one day be able to see the truths of theaxioms we will otherwise be unable to prove.And those aspects of reality that we are unable to successfully describe and explain, we may very wellbe able to successfully refer to and model. I suppose that all of this is to suggest that we can aspire to therudiments of an onto-theology, modestly extrapolating a phenomenological pneumatology from ourabduction of the Ens Necessarium as it emerges from our nonfoundational perspectivalism. This movedoesnt require any robustly metaphysical commitments such as to necessarian or regularisticperspectives on natural laws, which is also to say that it does not require any final epistemic determinacyor ontological specificity but can abide with the same semantical vagueness employed by the earlyChurch Fathers, Pseudo- Dionysius, the Neoplatonists and the Medievals like Scotus.This is to say, then, that Christianity, properly conceived, still remains in search of a metaphysic even if,epistemologically, it commits to metaphysical realism. Even the Peircean Thirdness, with its minding ofmatter and mattering of mind, when combined with other emergentist accounts, can be appropriated asbut a fallibilistic exploratory epistemological heuristic and not a metaphysical commitment to any
  • 221. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011realist, idealist, monist or dualist categories, for example. It does not seem like this minimalistpneumatology need offend anyones epistemic sensibilities or theological imaginations. It does seem likeit could pave the way to a much more irenic engagement in interreligious dialogue. For those of uswhose theological anthropologies were a tad too optimistic vis a vis our transcendental thomisticperspectives and felt the Kantian foundations of same crumbling beneath our Gospel-ready shoes, thispneumatological hermeneutic can reinstill an optimism even if a more chastised and modest optimism.For those who affirmed a Perennial Philosophy or even a mystical core of organized religions, ourapproach can situate same philosophically. To the extent we affirm a mystical core, why should ourapproaches not be a lot more irenic? why could we not affirm some modicum of syncretistic sensibility?Perhaps we could legitimately engage others perspectives less so as a foil (to understand them betterwhile deepening our own self-understanding) but more so with the aim of looking to them for an assist?And this includes not just their theological imaginations but also their manifold and varied philosophicalruminations, all which (presumptively) glimpse some aspects of reality as led by the Spirit according tothe mode of the receivers vis a vis different stages of Lonerganian conversions of individuals and theirsocieties, cultures and institutions.Most of all, we suppose this is an invitation to come on a philosophical journey that involves less hubrisbut not too much humility, that engages others looking for an assist and not a foil, that does not try toprove too much, that does not immodestly claim excessive normative impetus for (what can only be)tentatively held ontological conclusions, that emphasizes what we have in common while respectingwhy it is we differ, that doesnt enforce our own language and categories on others unique experiences,that doesnt smack of pneumatological exclusivity, that doesnt claim normative superiority and reinforcetheological one-upmanship on other hermeneutics that truly enjoy epistemic parity with our own havingbeen, in the final analysis, "chosen" on what are - all things being equal after other more basic empirical(evidential) and normative (rational & practical) justifications - essentially evaluative (existential)"grounds."All this considered, then, one might see very little legitimacy in any competing claims fordenominational superiority within Christianity or even between the major traditions, for example,especially once considering that there are no a priori grounds for making such claims and that any aposteriori evidence would be of a sociologic nature and nothing our sciences could, presently,successfully adjudicate given the complex social and institutional realities in play (and nothing ourdenominations, as perennially pilgrim churches, would want to submit to given their often pervasivelydysfunctional status, for example, vis a vis their successful institutionalization of Lonergan‘sconversions). This is to also suggest that, just because one is not religiously jingoistic does not mean sheis also, then, an indifferentist.The essential teachings of Christianity certainly rely on a metaphysical realism, which is anepistemological outlook, but do not require the types of ontological specificities or metaphysical schoolsas many would seem to explicitly suggest or implicitly imply. It is enough to speak,phenomenologically, of our general phenomenal experiences and expectations when, for example,discoursing about deontological morality or contemplative spirituality, for the living of a good moral lifeand the growing of a good spiritual life do not require robustly metaphysical accounts regarding allmanner of putative ontological continuities and discontinuities. At this stage of humankind‘s journey,we are saying more than we can presently know if we insist on one metaphysical account or another inour interreligious dialogue or our moral deliberations. Such ontological claims are highly speculative
  • 222. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011and our derived de-ontological claims, regarding such as how we should behave or even pray, forexample, should, therefore, be commensurately tentative. Any specific teachings and traditions heavilyinvested in such claims, specifying, for example, all sorts of dual versus nondual realities, wouldnecessarily be accidentals of the faith, not essentials.Clearly, some aspects of our creaturely reality, even if presently unknown, would be ontologicallycontinuous with the Creator and univocally predicable of both creatures and Creator, otherwisequestions would be left begging regarding how one reality could efficaciously effect another reality ifrelated only by the weakest of analogies, i.e. metaphor? The East has something to say about this insightand how it leads to authentic solidarity and compassion. Clearly, the intersubjective aspect of ourrelationships between one another and our Creator affirm an aspect that is ontologically discontinuous?Clearly, we are then, in the broadest of phenomenological terms, quasi-autonomous and suspended insomething like Bracken‘s divine matrix of interrelated causes and effects, participating in a realitysomething like the Neo-Platonist conceptions of participation, perhaps unfolding in accord withHaught‘s aesthetic teleology as per Hartshorne‘s notions of nonstrict identity. The West has somethingto say about this insight and how it leads to authentic solidarity and compassion. It is silly to argue aboutwhich insight is the most profound or important. Which realization comes first or last likely has more todo with whether one was raised with Eastern or Western sensibilities and ways of engaging reality andmuch less to do with which insight is the loftiest, whether spiritually, theologically or epistemically.(And such arguments DO take place!)One practical upshot of this, below, is that we are somewhat reticent when it comes to a priori grantingmany distinctions full status as ontological dichotomies, while not at all denying that such distinctionsmight otherwise spring, quite authentically, from our collective phenomenal experiences. This is not tosay that we a priori affirm or deny this or that dichotomy, dualism or nondualism; we are onlysuggesting that obtaining such ontological specificity is highly problematical. More plainly, we arehesitant in applying such labels as natural and supernatural, secular and sacred, profane and holy,acquired and infused, material and spiritual, evidentialist or fideist, existential or propositional, objectiveor subjective, nature or grace, chance or necessity, reason or revelation, and so on. Phenomenally, ofcourse, we simply must recognize the undeniable differences in the degrees of our realization of variousrelationships and values even as we prescind, ontologically, from any facile ascriptions of differences inorigins vis a vis the above-listed distinctions and/or dichotomies. This applies, for example, to ourrelationship to the Holy Spirit. If something is lifegiving and relationship-enhancing and fostersintellectual, affective, moral, social and religious growth, my hermeneutical presupposition attributessame to a pneumatological dynamic. This is a fallibilistic default bias, an optimistic theologicalanthropology, always open to the possibility of being wrong.None of our thoughts seem to me to be novel, in the least, although our syntheses mightbe novel (and a tad idosyncratic). We may not have fully followed others thoughts ontheir own terms but may have had a tendency to appropriate them and modify them tosuit our own philosophical and theological agenda. Still, we are pleased to have engagedthem because they guide our life of worship, which is our life in community withhumankind and the cosmos, and we value accountability to this community, whom welove with all our being. We hope this becomes a genuine assist to somewhat of anongoing movement from 1) an ecclesiocentric exclusivism to 2) a Christologicalinclusivism to 3) a pneumatological inclusivism that is Christologically normed. The
  • 223. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011pneumatological inclusivism recognizes that the Spirit active in creation has giftedhumankind with all that is necessary and sufficient to live a life of abundance. The 4)Christological norming, then, explicitly recognizes the otherwise implicit soteriologicalefficacies and incarnational realities that, when progressively appropriated into an evermore consciously competent awareness of said realities, leads the community,proleptically and eschatologically, into a life of superabundance (vis a visvalue-realizations). 5) Any ecclesiocentric norming would then aspire to the most nearlyperfect a) articulation of such truth through creed or dogma, b) celebration of such beautythru cult or ritual, c) preservation of goodness through code and d) enjoyment offellowship through communion, over against any facile syncretisms, insidiousindifferentisms or false irenicisms. Of course, the Christological and ecclesiocentricelements can be bracketed for authentic dialogue, where there is so much that can bedone on the pneumatological level.AN ACCESSIBLE SUMMARY OF OUR HERMENEUTICWhat about religion? Is it necessary?A religion is an axis of interpretation, an interpretive stance or axiology , around whichour cosmology spins. Our cosmology is necessary to realize truth, beauty and goodnessand, in that regard, it is also sufficient. Religion, then, is not necessary. One can live anabundant life without it. One can realize truth, beauty and goodness without religion. Forexample, many say they are spiritual but not religious ; they are not being disingenuous.What do you mean by “our ” cosmology? I thought there were as many cosmologiesas there were religions?Cosmology represents the relationship between science, culture and philosophy. Scienceis a descriptive method that asks: What is that ? Culture, an evaluative stance, asks: Whatis that to us ? Philosophy is a normative method that asks: How do we best acquire oravoid that ?Now, humankind celebrates this cosmological reality in many diverse and beautiful ways.But this story of the cosmos and our place in it is not really up for grabs. It‘s Everybody‘s Story. We are stardust. We are golden. But we ‘re not necessarily making our way backto the garden (although that ‘s a rather popular interpretive stance). Our cosmologicalknowledge has advanced slowly but it does advance inexorably. It includes both cosmicand biological evolution, for example, and the paradigm of emergence .How does religion fit in? If an abundant life of truth, beauty and goodness alreadyavailable to us, what ‟s left for religion to do?Religion looks at cosmological reality and asks: How does all of this tie back together orreligate?Put more simply, it looks at life‘s truth, beauty and goodness and asks: Is there, perhaps,
  • 224. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011more ?Religion, then, is our pursuit of superabundance .To the extent that life is a journey, we aspire to travel even more swiftly and with lesshindrance toward truth, beauty and goodness. Religion seeks to augment these valuerealizations by amplifying the risks we have already taken in science, culture andphilosophy. Religion amplifies these risks through faith, hope and love and realizes theseaugmented values in creed, cult and code. In creed , we articulate truth in doctrine anddogma. In cult , we cultivate beauty in liturgy, ritual and practices. In code , we preservegoodness in law and disciplines. And this new law, by the way, is love . And its justice isknown as mercy .And its methods are not coercive; they ‘re nonviolent . Where nonviolence is concerned,think of Polanyi ‘s tacit dimension or of how in semiotic science and Baldwinianevolution there can be a downward causation without any violation of physical causalclosure. Such forms of non-energetic or formal causation can be ineluctably unobtrusivewhile, at the same time, utterly efficacious. This provides a great analog for the gentle,yet powerful, influence of the Spirit on all of creation, always coaxing but never coercive.If it‘s any consolation to our human passions, Jesus suggests that our nonviolentresponses are experienced by our detractors like the heaping of burning coals upon theirheads. Above all, we enjoy our unitive fellowship in community . A community(koinonia) of peace or grand shalom , where we find – not perfection – but wholeness .If all religions are about the task of aspiring to superabundance, then why all thefuss about, for example, an insidious indifferentism, a facile syncretism or falseirenicism regarding different religions?Well, we are not indifferent in that we want to give God the greatest possible glory, admajorem Dei gloriam . So, while it is one great image to conceive of us all there togetherin Eternity, lighting up the firmament to our fullest capacity, fired up by the very glory ofGod, it might otherwise be a somewhat sobering thought to also imagine that many of uswill have escaped as through a fire with our little 40 watt bulbs while folks like MotherTeresa shine forth as a blazing helios . We can believe, in my view, that every trace ofhuman goodness, every beginning of a smile, will be eternalized. Each moment of ourlives is ripe for eternalization or will be burned off as ever to be forgotten chaff.But, far more than any fanciful contemplation of our eternal state, we are not indifferentbecause not all are equally able to enjoy and realize life ‘s truth, beauty and goodness, life‘s intrinsically good and potentially abundant nature. And, yes, we affirm life ‘s beautyand goodness and abundance, unconditionally, very much aware of some rathersignificant cosmic irony, not indifferent to the immensity of human pain, the enormity ofhuman suffering. And, while we haven‘t ignored some of those French existentialists(Camus and Sartre), we have paid more attention to their Russian counterparts(Dostoevsky).
  • 225. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We do believe that it is when we awaken to our solidarity that compassion will ensue. So,it seems like we would want to aspire to practice such a religion as would best fosterhuman development and growth: intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical andreligious. We want to get religion as right as we can in order to help as many as possibleto run life ‘s race more swiftly and with less hindrance, sharing and enjoying life ‘sabundance. We seek enlightenment for ourselves, even, out of compassion for our fellowwo/men who would otherwise have to suffer our unenlightened selves.It may be too early on humankind ‘s journey to successfully discern which religions arebest fostering such growth and conversion, but these are criteria about which we shouldcare very deeply. We need to dialogue deeply and with great humility. Religions that getaway from Everybody‘s Story and tinker wily nilly with cosmology are indeed out tolunch. Cosmology is not something one can just make up; it‘s comprised of autonomousmethodologies, like science and philosophy.Where, then, does the Incarnation fit in?Well, it is about atONEment but not, necessarily, in our view (or that of Scotus and theFranciscans), a penal, substitutionary atonement. In other words, it may not have beenoccasioned by some felix culpa (happy fault) as if in response to some grand ontologicalrupture located in the past. Rather, it may have been in the divine cards from the cosmicget go, this, God-is-with-us, Emmanuel . It may have more to do with a Teilhardian liketeleological striving oriented toward the future. Most concretely, it‘s all about a profoundintimacy with a deeply caring Lover. It‘s a dance, perichoresis.What, then, about soteriology and eschatology?Well, were with all the existentialists in recognizing that we are in a predicament ofsorts. But were also with those who affirm a radically incarnational view, which sees usas co creators in an unfinished universe, hence the moaning and groaning in this grandact of giving birth. We suppose we could join the theodicists and suggests that, surely,there must ‘ve been a better way! But we‘ve finally quit beating our heads against thatwall just because it felt good when I stopped and have decided to just put our shoulders tothe plow and plant a few seeds for the Kingdom.Eternity is not something that happens before or after time. It is an atemporal andthoroughly NOW thing! As has been said, it‘s heaven all the way to heaven, hell all theway to hell. Heavenly thoughts that are of no earthly significance will not be realized ineternity because by not being now here they‘ll end up being nowhere. The truth ofreligion is found in a soteriology that measures its success in terms of how well we arefostering an eschatological realism grounded in conversion (Lonergan ‘s) and compassion(leading to diakonia , service), NOW.What about God talk, metaphysics and such?There is a type of God talk that begins with cosmology. We could call that philosophical
  • 226. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011or natural theology . We are metaphysical realists, even regarding God concepts. Here weclarify categories, disambiguate vague concepts, frame up questions and formulatearguments. Here we affirm the reasonableness of our questions. This is not unimportant.But it is woefully insufficient for a number of reasons, like the excess of meaningwe are dealing with, for example and to say the least. With Peirce, however, afterforming the argument and asking the question, we then stop! We don ‘t pretend to haveanswered the questions and we don ‘t proceed with God proofs via syllogisticargumentation, which Peirce considered a fetish (and we agree).There is another type of God talk that proceeds from within the faith. We call that atheology of nature . Here we wax metaphorical with our analogical imaginations. Allmetaphors eventually collapse of course, but it is our belief that those drawn in fidelity toour cosmology are going to be the most resilient because our analogs will be better, ourtautologies more taut.Of course, there are other descriptors for God talk, such as kataphatic and apophatic ,both aspiring to increase our descriptive accuracy of God, the former through positiveaffirmations and the latter through negations. These categories apply to both naturaltheology and a theology of nature. Most Godtalk is going to come from our theology ofnature. We can exhaust what can be known from the perspective of natural theology in asingle afternoon ‘s parlor sitting. The currency of natural theology is the affirmation:Good question! This does not mean, however, that the lingua franca of a theology ofnature is going to therefore be: Good answer! A theology of nature traffics, instead, iniconography. It brings us to value realizations via a more nondual, contemplative stancetoward reality. The chief caveat emptor where icons are concerned is their elevation intoidols . In this regard, our 21st Century religion could use a huge therapeutic dose ofancient apophatic mysticism to ensure that our icons do not become idols.Another good distinction between natural theology and a theology of nature is that theformer is philosophical and engages our problem-solving dualistic mindset while thelatter is robustly relational and nondual. Even some of the best theologies of nature, likeJack Haught‘s aesthetic teleology and Joe Bracken ‘s divine matrix , with all of theirsophisticated references to the biological and cosmological sciences, are poetic ventures,metaphorical adventures, much more akin to St. Francis ‘ hymns to nature than, forexample, Gödel‘s modal ontological argument.What do you make of institutional religion and such approaches as involve clericaland hierarchical models?Well, for starters, we shouldn ‘t confuse means and ends . And, once we ‘ve identified themeans, we shouldn ‘t so quickly insist that they are the only means. The Spirit, it seems,is well capable of work arounds? Even the hierarchical structures were familiar with areconceived in a way that gives primacy to bottom up dynamics. In other words, in theory,the top down dynamic is a dissemination of what ‘s been received from below, not a denovo fabrication emanating from above. When a hierarchy, on occasion, loses thisintegral relationship or integrity, it is in a state of excommunication,a reality that travels a
  • 227. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011two way street.What about interreligious dialogue?We have made progress in moving from our exclusivistic ecclesiocentrisms to a moreinclusivistic Christocentrism. We think our next good step is a pneumatologicalinclusivism , which needn ‘t bracket our Christology but should lead, at least, with theSpirit. Those of us with a radically incarnational view of reality can affirm the Spirit atwork in science, philosophy and culture and can recognize the truth, beauty and goodnessrealized on the human journey, which is pervasively graced. And we can recognize thevalue realizations that have been augmented by our great religious traditions, affirmingthe efficacies and recognizing the inefficacies in their attempts to foster intellectual,affective, moral, sociopolitical and religious growth, development and conversion. Weneed to dialogue regarding what we ‘re getting right and what we ‘re getting wrong —not preoccupied with heavenly destinations, but — in order to give God the greatestpossible glory and in order to compassionately console and help others to travel moreswiftly and with less hindrance on life ‘s journey, realizing life ‘s deepest values andgreatest goods.A Movement Toward Praxis?A movement toward praxis might be one of the value-added takeaways for any whoresonate with this speculative account. Such a movement is embedded in every aspect ofthis hermeneutical spiral.Peirce leads one away from what can often become an endless and fruitless cycle ofabductive hypothesizing and deductive clarifying, such as can happen with a sterilescholastic metaphysic, by leading one always back to inductive testing. Indeed, one willthere enjoy a recovery of the measure of concrete reality; but this is only a recovery oflogical import. Such a pragmatic turn is but a test of truth; it is merely informative.Neville‘s axiological turn leads us to a recovery of the measure of that which has vitalimport, which is performative. Lonergan‘s conversions provide us the categories throughwhich we recover the measure of this Peircean-Nevillean axiological epistemology interms of the transformative.In Merton‘s encounter with the East and his excursus on humanization, socialization andtransformation, one can see these pragmatic and axiological turns playing out incategories that correspond to a naturalistic, evolutionary epistemology that then extendsto an existential phenomenology. Phenomenologically, any robust description of thehuman species will require a radically social ontology. This is because Homo sapiens isnot merely social but, singularly, the symbolic species (Terry Deacon). Merton wasknown for his emphasis on the relational and situated the human in a tetradic relationshipto self, other, world and God. To robustly describe the distinctly human experience, anyauthentic social, hence participatory, ontology must break open such categories as self,other, world and horizon. It must also provide a semeiotic account that recognizes the
  • 228. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011telic dimension of this experience. One does not yet encounter, here, telos in the classicalsense or transcendence as a theological notion. One is grappling, rather, with a minimalisttelos and a minimalist transcendence. One has crossed the threshold of spirituality whengazing over this philosophic horizon of human concern (Daniel Helminiak) but not in anyrobustly pneumatological sense.If philosophy and theology are both confessional exercises, what will characterize thetheological turn to telos, transcendence and pneumatology, all robustly conceived?This question brings us full circle back to the creative tension that presents between thespeculative and practical, between justification of beliefs and critical engagements ofpraxis, between our exoteric mythical accounts and our esoteric mysticalexperimentations, and even between radical fundamentalisms (including Enlightenmentnarratives) and radically deconstructive postmodernisms (such as Rorty‘s vulgarpragmatism).Our postmodern milieu has had believers searching for an apologetic to articulate what itis that the common folk of all religious traditions, in every culture and age, have alwaysknown in their bones. This has been a difficult search because the philosophers ofreligion, at every so-called ―turn,‖ have repeatedly buried this apologetic by variouslymisrepresenting it in many different forms of rationalism, evidentialism, fideism,presuppositionalism, existentialism and perspectivalism.For philosophers of religion, there has been, then, a rather frantic attempt to recover ameasure of certainty, which was lost with the demise of various foundationalisms, byestablishing some type of epistemic parity between, for example, the beliefs of science,culture, philosophy and religion. It will be the nature of the strategy employed in anygiven argument for epistemic parity that will distinguish one apologetic from the next.Certainly, one must attend to the validity and soundness of the reason, the quantity andquality of the evidence, the nature of the leaps, the basicality of the presuppositions, theexistential actionability of the options and the integral relations of the perspectives.However, as we sort through our various scientific, cultural, philosophical and religiousbeliefs, it is too facile a notion to suggest that their epistemic playing field has quitesimply been leveled by the postmodern critique such that, for example, one can merelyclaim that these beliefs are all confessional (and unapologetically so) or all basic (andproperly so).We have already demonstrated, in our consideration of the Peircean semeiotic, thatrationality is robustly participatory and imaginative and not merely conceptual andcognitive. From our axiological epistemology, we have gathered that it is value-orientedbut horizon-situated, thus establishing both a minimalist telos and transcendence overagainst any facile charge of an unmitigated nihilism in secular approaches to reality. Thisis to recognize that the human condition offers an abundance of value-realizations,juxtaposed though they may be with the cosmic irony of its value-frustrations.
  • 229. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011How, then, do we evade the charges of either rationalism or fideism? Our axiologicalepistemology aspires to value-realization and thus to epistemic virtue. Any epistemicparity we enjoy vis a vis our various scientific, cultural (social, political, economic),philosophical and religious beliefs will derive from a shared virtue (when they meet suchcriteria, of course, which they can but often do not). We must otherwise concede that,even when equally virtuous (being neither unreasonable nor unwarranted), not all beliefsentail the same amount of epistemic risk, hence the perceived (and undeniable) epistemicdisparity. This is not to suggest that any increased risks will necessarily take ourhermeneutical spiral out of its otherwise virtuous epistemic cycle; rather, we look to eachrisk-amplification for some concomitant value-augmentation. It is this epistemicmaneuver, then, that characterizes any theological (or atheological) turn. Suchaugmentations of value become cultural data (anthropological, psychological, social,political and economic).Thus would go any apologetic which recommends the theological turn in terms ofrisk-amplifications and value-augmentations. Thus we‘d describe the movement from aminimalist telos, transcendence and spirituality as a participatory phenomenology andontology would conceptually map them onto reality with a much more robustly telic,transcendent and pneumatological imagination in play. The cultural data of just such ahermeneutic (the ubiquity of which makes me want to equate it with an open-heartedcommon sense) has universally been sought after and variously conceived in terms ofgifts (risk-amplification encouragement) and fruits (value-augmentations) of a spirit. It isnot only the task of the comparative theologian, then, but that of cultural anthropologists,sociologists, geographers, historians, economists and even political scientists, to discoverand discern when and where and whether (or not) it is the Spirit, whom we call Holy.Below are the methodological presuppositions that situate my outlook as articulatedabove.This is the precis for a theological anthropology that seems to be coming together in anemerging postmodern pentecostal theology. One day we may be inspired to substantiatethese claims. They describe, in part, what I believe might best correspond,cross-culturally and inter-religiously, to what we call the pneumatological imagination.1 ) However one conceives different value-realization approaches to reality, thoseapproaches are each methodologically-autonomous but all axiologically-integral. That isto simply say that all are necessary, none sufficient, in every human value-realization.(See note below for various approaches.)2 ) Our value-realization conceptions are irreducibly tetradic. Each tetrad functions as aholon or fractal unit which, in various ways, will correspond to truth | beauty | goodness |unity.3 ) Sometimes explicitly and well formulated, at other times implicitly and inchoately,such an axiological epistemology finds expression in Continental phenomenology andAmerican pragmatism, also in various strands of Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist
  • 230. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011philosophies.4 ) An authentic axiological epistemology will necessarily extend from an evolutionary(naturalistic) epistemology.5 ) An authentic theological anthropology, as a theology of nature, will then necessarilyextend from both an evolutionary epistemology, scientifically, and an axiologicalepistemology, philosophically.6 ) In each of the Great Traditions and in many indigenous religions, an authentictheological anthropology typically emerges whenever a cohort of practitioners movesbeyond an exoteric mythic spirituality to also practice an esoteric mystical spirituality.Both mythic and mystical spiritualities are practiced in all traditions and some mysticalelements are introduced at every stage of faith development. So, the emergence of amystical cohort then presents in varying degrees of mystical realization and not, rather, asan either-or binary reality. This is a profoundly relational and participatory reality, whichcashes out its value in terms of intimacy.7 ) Counter-intuitively to many, humankind‘s aspirations to inter-religious unity wouldproceed more swiftly and with less hindrance — not first by unitive strivings on theexoteric plane of religious reality via some putative reconcilement of otherwise disparatemythic elements vis a vis our cognitive propositions between our traditions, but rather —by better fostering greater degrees of esoteric experimentation and mystical realizationvis a vis our participatory imaginations within our traditions. This is to suggest that,transformatively, the performative enjoys primacy over —but not autonomy from — theinformative. Good News, then, enjoys a primacy over good knowledge.8 ) Put differently, orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy and is first mediated byorthopathy in orthocommunio. Put simply, belonging precedes behaving which precedesbelieving.9 ) Esoteric experimentation and mystical realization can be pragmatically cashed out interms of a growth in human authenticity. That is to say that they will result in conversion,growth and development in our intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical and religiousspheres of existence.10 ) In each of the great traditions, the esoteric and mystical will present in terms of a)some form of critical realism in their axiological epistemologies b) a critical scripturalscholarship c) a nondual, contemplative stance toward reality d) social justice componentin their eschatological realism e) an eternal now awareness permeating their temporalmilieu f) an institutionally marginalized yet still efficacious voice of prophetic protest g)a solidarity with and preferential option for the marginalized h) a deep compassionensuing from an awakening to a profound solidarity i) broadly inclusivistic andecumenical sensibility j) emergent, novel structures that are radically egalitarian.Note: tetradic — employing categories like truth|beauty|goodness|unity and
  • 231. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011orthodoxy|orthopathy|orthopraxy|orthocommunio and creed|cult|code|community anddescriptive|evaluative|normative|interpretive and science|culture|philosophy|religion andtheoretic|heuristic|semiotic|dogmatic and objective|subjective|intraobjective |intersubjectiveSuggested ReadingLonergan, Bernard, Method in Theology (New York: Herder & Herder, 1972)Deacon, Terrence, ‗Emergence: The Hole at the Wheel‘s Hub‘ in The Re-Emergence ofEmergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion by Philip Clayton(Editor), Paul Davies (Editor) (Oxford University Press, 2006)Deacon, T. & Goodenough, U., ‗The Sacred Emergence of Nature‘ in The OxfordHandbookof Religion and Science (Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology) by Philip Clayton(Editor), Zachary Simpson (Editor) , (Oxford University Press, USA, 2006)Gelpi, Donald L., Varieties of Transcendental Experience: A Study in ConstructivePostmodernism (Collegeville, Minn.:Liturgical press/Michael Glazier, 2000)Gelpi, Donald L. , The Gracing of Human Experience: Rethinking the RelationshipbetweenNature and Grace (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier, 2001)Haught, John, The Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion and the Quest for Purpose(PaulistPress: 1984)Bracken, Joseph, The Divine Matrix: Creativity as Link between East and West(Maryknoll:Orbis, 1995)For comprehensive discussions and bibliographical materials pertaining to the relationbetween science and religion, visit http://www.counterbalance.net/Barbour, I., When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperOne,2000) and Religion in an Age of Science: Gifford Lectures 1989-1991, Vol 1 (HarperOne,1990)Polkinghorne, J., Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (YaleUniversity Press, 2007) and Science and Theology (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1998)Haught, J., Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation (Paulist Press, 1995)andThe Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion and the Quest for Purpose (Paulist Press, 1984)Peters, T., Bridging Science and Religion (Theology and the Sciences) by Ted Peters(Editor), Gaymon Bennett (Editor) (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2003) and Evolutionfrom Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence by Ted Petersand Martinez Hewlett (Abingdon Press, 2003)Peacocke, A., The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century (University of NotreDame Press, 1986) Paths from Science Towards God: The End of All Our Exploring(Oneworld Publications, 2001)Drees, W., Religion, Science and Naturalism (Cambridge University Press, 1996) andReligion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates (Routledge, coming in 2009)
  • 232. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011DRAFT TABLE OF CONTENTS -GENERAL ORGANIZATION OF THIS MAUSCRIPTTriadic Phenomenology – Relationships: Word, Community & Spirit The Economic Trinity & Our Immanent Ontological Frame Intraobjective Identity as Word Science – the physical Ontology – the metaphysical Emergence – the phenomenological Intersubjective Intimacy in Community Intrasubjective Integrity of Spirit Lonerganian Conversions Formative Spirituality Disciplines and Practices The Immanent Trinity & Our Transcendent Ontological Frame Interobjective Indeterminacy & Ens Necessarium The Actual in Creative Tension with the Possible mediated by theNecessary prescinding to the ProbableTrialectical Teleology – Values: Truth, Beauty & Goodness Immanent Axiological Frame Cosmological Axiology Historical Social & Cultural Anthropology Economic Transcendent Axiological Frame
  • 233. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 Political Coercion in Tension with Freedom mediated by subsidiarityTrialogical Epistemology – Methods: Science, Culture & Philosophy Immanent Epistemic Frame Descriptive Sciences Evaluative Cultures Normative Philosophies Transcendent Epistemic Frame Interpretive Religions & Natural Theology The Immanent Intuits an Assist from BeyondTrinitarian Theology – Christology, Patrology & Pneumatology Special Revelation – Transcendent Incarnational Hermeneutic Christological Axiology Transcendence of Historical Tensions (past & future) Transcendence of Social & Cultural Tensions (individuals &institutions and competing, extrinsic values) Transcendence of Economic Tensions (needs & means) Transcendence of Political Tensions (bias toward freedom &subordination of coercion mediated by Incarnate Word) Patrological Axiology Eschatology Ecclesiology & Theological Anthropology Sacramentology Soteriology – an assist from beyond? Anticipating a Messiah Pneumatological Axiology Orienting
  • 234. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 Empowering & Sanctifying Healing Saving – an assist from within? Proleptic Realizations of the Cosmic Christ General Revelation – Hermeneutic of Immanent Indwelling Theology of NatureHermeneutics in Dialogue Interreligious Dialogue Other Kindred Voices

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