ALL TRUTHS DWELL IN ALL THINGS
WALT WHITMAN crystallizes what must be our perspective. BUT it also says more: not merely that all things are (ultimately) connected (think of a mind-map) but that within each “node” you might identify there are countless internal levels of organization that are connected. Read what Emerson said about this
- in DEEP ethology, we consider the circumstances imposed upon the flow of energy into an organism such as our selves: there is STIMULATION (narrow field of responsiveness) … Perception (involves expectations, error-detection and correction) … ABSTRACTION (getting to the core of things) … MOTIVATION (fine-tuning all other processes based on stress response to real or perceived urgency, rooted in NEEDS) …
WE can take these “bottom-up” perspectives but must remain mindful of the “top-down” –How events make you “feel” and how all MEANING derives from CONNECTION, no matter how circuitous …
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon.
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
What is less or more than a touch?
Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.
–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
“All finite things reveal infinitude”
(Theodore Roethke: in The Far Field IV 1964).
Or as Elizabeth Barrett Browning would put it, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.” (in Aurora Leigh).
In antiquity, Thales said, “all things are full of gods”[i] Do we feel that following the path of connections will somehow lead us to a transcendent state? (Logically, this is an extrapolation, not to be known until if and when it is experienced)
Do we have a feeling that there are connections we can’t quite see? can’t quite summon to consciousness?
Are there some things that should not be summoned to consciousness? (although “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp…”[ii]) Would thinking about it … talking about it … help? Franz Wright wrote of the “radiantly obvious thing I need to say, though quite what that might be escapes me at the moment, as it always has, and always will.” (2006)[iii] My own experience is that beyond thinking (including internal speech), writing, and speaking to others almost always enriches my personal understanding (even if I’m not understood). I need an audience, even if it is just my self.
“Young man! At table you either generalize or particularize! NOT BOTH!”
(caption to cartoon of philosopher’s family seated at the breakfast table).
The idea of any one thing being the gateway to all others recalls also [Freud’s] “…great strength, though sometimes also his weakness, was the quite extraordinary respect he had for the singular fact… When he got hold of a simple but significant fact he would feel, and know, that it was an example of something general or universal, and the idea of collecting statistics on the matter was quite alien to him. (Ernest Jones The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol 1, 96-7.)
UNIVERSALS and PARTICULARS. On this emerging theme of “Any thing leads to all things,” a comment on shodo (Japanese calligraphic painting): A “do” form in Japanese aesthetics “is an art that allows you to grasp the ultimate nature of the whole life by examining yourself in great detail through a singular aspect of life: “to grasp the universal through the particular” … (“do” is “the way” (like tao) as exemplified also in budo (martial arts) & kado (flower arranging, ikebana), (Davey 2007:210)[iv] (preface to Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony. by H.E. Davey. In. The Japanese Way of the Artist. Stone bridge Press, Berkeley, Calif. 2007.)
WELL, maybe there are revelations implicit in all that is … and is not ! The existence of a thing implies its negation–an idea that would never otherwise exist. All sounds imply complete silence, ultimate emptiness, AND even imagined things imply that there are things that we have never or could ever imagine. So these circular concerns remind us of the metaphysical problems of looking at anything:
AND how we suffer for a glimpse: for example, “The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, prodigious and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, keeping only their quintessences. . . . Even if, half crazed, in the end, he loses sight of his visions, he has seen them! (Rimbaud, cited in Rosemary Dinnage’s essay review, The Scream Behind the Pattern NYRB 8 April 1993: 33-36)
Causes and Consequences. So the question that echoes through these ides: does God precede–or emerge from–the connectedness of things?
BACK to DIVINITY. “all things are full of gods” Thales is reported to have said. Is divinity transcendent or immanent? What is the relation between the creator(s) of the world and the supposedly created world of sky, oceans, and stars we see around us, and whose air we breathe? These basic questions about the nature of the divine were given comparatively unusual answers by the myths of Archaic Greece, and their near eastern predecessors or progenitors. A distinctive feature of these cosmogonies is that the gods are immanent: their relation with the sky, ocean, and air is, in an important sense, one of identity. This note aims to stress a specific continuity between these ancient mythical beliefs and the assertion, which Aristotle attributes to Thales, that ‘all things are full of gods’ (de An. 411a7)[v].
Thales is not the only non-mythological thinker in the ancient Mediterranean to suggest that divinity permeates everything. We also find this idea, for example, at the close of the Hippocratic treatise known as The Sacred Disease. This so-called ‘sacred disease’ is due to the same causes as all other diseases, to the things we see come and go, the cold and the sun too, the changing and inconstant winds. These things are divine so that there is no need to regard this disease as more divine than any other. (Hippocratic Writings, G.E.R. Lloyd ed., J. Chadwick and W. N. Mann trans., New York: Penguin Classics, 1978, p.254.)
Items as apparently ordinary or mundane as the winds and the cold are included in the Hippocratic writer’s list of divine things. In Plato’s Timaeus, as well, many things that seem material and profane to modern sensibilities are called gods. The Demiurge is a god; but so are many other entities: the created cosmos (34B, 92C), the fixed stars (40B), the Earth (40C), as well as the sun, moon, and planets (40D). …
“Two sorts of truth: profound truths recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth, in contrast to trivialities where opposites are obviously absurd. – Niels Bohr As quoted by his son Hans Bohr in “My Father” (1967)
RETURN to CONNECTIONS
[iii](2006). From Langdon Hammers review of ‘God’s Silence: Poems,’ by Franz Wright: In Pursuit of Revelation (orig title in paper was To Live is to Do Evil) (NYT Sunday May 14, 2006, p38.
(What kind of apocalypse does Wright imagine in his new poems? He is not waiting for the Rapture, but he is a Roman Catholic devotional poet of mystical hope. He is impatient with the real and visible (concrete things stand for / invisible things), and he pushes past them toward real reality, a higher unseeable / life, inconceivable / light / of which light is mere shadow. This impatience extends to people a human face is the mask / of some being no one can see as well as to language. Wright describes a moment of past vision in which “The mask was gone,” “There was no / I,” and … “there was no text, only what the words stood for; and then what all things stand for.”