The back and forth that kicked off yesterday’s post came at an opportune time and helped me to solidify some material that started with this post. I had wanted to develop that post more by talking about Kabbalism proper and the question as to the possible identity or distinction between sefirot and henads allowed me to do some of that.
Okay, so this is going to sound weird and science fictional, but I work with what I got. I want to talk toward a fully temporalized account of embodied intelligences in dialogue with eternity as an alternative to a holographic account of eternity projecting itself into a temporal frame generating intelligences according to eternity’s logic.
This temporal and evolutionary account requires that I undo the sort of parallelism between microcosm and macrocosm, formal and material, that underpins a whole family of Neoplatonic and Hermetic cosmologies from Plato to Leibniz while trying to preserve some of the intuitions that animate and motivate them.
To be clear, if these are the sorts of accounts that you operate under, I’m not trying to kick the legs out from under you. If they work for you, if they provide you with an intelligible means of navigating your world ethically and practically, then more power to you. They don’t quite for me, though I have wandered in and out of them for a while.
I mean that sincerely. The kind of accounts that we’re talking about here are rarely right or wrong. They are developed too far from the intimate and dark details of experience to ever be a genuine reflection of them. I prefer to think of them in terms of more or less useful, where ‘useful’ is a black box amalgamation relating to our personal temperament, our position in the world, and the sorts of interactions we value and attempt to multiply.
If it seems like I’m using a lot of caveats lately, it is because I am just more keenly aware of speaking in the open here, to an amorphous and semi-anonymous public for which I can make few assumptions.
Enough of that, to the topic.
So, I have talked a bit about how to integrate evolution and consciousness more closely. I talked about how once we envision responsiveness to lie at the heart of both, we can start talking about the development of consciousness in a nonlinear fashion. We don’t need to arrange consciousness on a line from more to less sophisticated, with rocks being entirely lacking consciousness and humans, angels, and gods having the most (and most developed forms of) consciousness.
Instead, we can talk about the many forms of consciousness and their being suited to specific forms of being. These would not be divorced from the organic bodies that anchor these consciousness, but nor would they be strictly reducible to them. With William Blake, we could affirm the body as a particularly dense and receptive expression of consciousness. With Henri Bergson, we could talk about the body being the ‘nail’ upon which the coat of consciousness hangs.
While we can intelligibly consider how forms of consciousness anchored in bodies distant from us could exert influence over us, the more proximal bodies and their corresponding intelligences are going to have the most direct influence over us and we over them. These will be the forms of life that we will enter into most frequent dialogue with and whose presence will shape our consciousness and our organism.
What prevents us from appreciating this? Well, we’re necessarily quite entangled in our specific form of consciousness and project the specific form it has taken outward to apply to things with different forms of consciousness. While things like imagination might be latently present in the consciousness of a rock, it doesn’t have the same body that allows dream and desire and wish to become complex and interwoven as we do.
We think of that form of intelligence as lesser than our own, but that is a mistake, in part because our intelligence manifests only in communication with these intelligences of stone, air, animal, and plant which are the substance of the body.
We need to be a bit careful about becoming too cosmological too quickly. It’s tempting to try and establish broad model for how consciousness relates to evolution, when the real subject of our contemplation ought to be specific consciousnesses, specific evolved things. To do otherwise is to risk falling into category errors that muddy the water.
That is where time plays an important role. When we talk about the present intelligences in communication with each other, we need to consider their extension in time. The older intelligences bear within themselves the traces of past dialogues, some of whose participants no longer exist. Consider the way we, short-lived though we are, develop in dialogue with people who have died. Extend that to include things whose history extend into prehistory.
Even subtle conversations, carried out over millenia, can have profound impacts upon an intelligence. I suspect we can think about the influences of planets on each other at the spiritual level in this framework, as subtle through lines that endure within us as subtle dispositions.
We can talk about consciousness enduring past its bodies, likely by entangling itself with some new embodiment and the consciousness already related to it. Complications relating to the relative amenability of all the intelligences involved probably provide some of our ancestors’ earliest and clearest sense of not being alone.
We’re habit-driven creatures, too, and I wonder how often an intelligence has tried to open a dialogue only to have it collapse into a rictus of ritual habit. This isn’t to blandly condemn religion as mere habit, but to challenge us to look at our habits and see which ones suit the situation and which ones hinder it.
Either way, it is less a matter of trying to identify higher beings to whom we owe our allegiance by meas of our conscious inferiority, than of identifying the dialogues we are capable of entering and exploring our place within them.