processimagining

thoughts on religion and philosophy in process and post-structural perspective

Reading Amy Kind and Peter Kung's magnificent edited work Knowledge Through Imagination, and am thinking through it's implications. For Kind/Kung, their goal in the text is to lift up the instructive implications of the imagination over and beyond the transcendent capabilities.

The problem with the transcendent capabilities of the imagination is its ability to disengage with the limitations of this worldly experience. That is, there are no constraints in the transcendent imagination (fantasy). This poses problems for both Kind/Kung because knowledge formation cannot find its derivation in the imagination. Kind/Kung look to find compatibility within the two forms of imagination by turning the faculty of imagination into a constrained imagination, limited by the ideas and things that the self gives into it. This allows for a focused thought for possibility in accessing new knowledge.

Although I am fond of it, and do not neglect it (I think this is necessary!), I see that what is missing is a relational approach to the imagination that is more known in the works of John Sallis, and hidden within Alfred North Whitehead's work. It is a relational imagination which blurs the boundary between transcendent and instructive, and allows for the connections of other actual occasions, entities, to dictate and develop knowledge. For instance, Sallis calls for a form of gazing at a space, which is the entrance to the imagination, as gazing provides the space for in depth viewing of the entity down to the elementals, the most basic of all things. And even then we are not seeing the origins, but rather the manifestations of the entity realized, the thing in itself.

Alfred North Whitehead offers a similar response in the concrescing of actual occasions, in which they become possibilities seeking a response. Instead of beings, we are becomings, always in process, and thus always being introduced into possibilities. Experiences therefore become important for our becoming, to be prehended and felt for a form of analysis towards satisfaction. But in our becoming we are just possibilities waiting to become. And when we become, we become actual, a datum for every other becoming. This is the imaginative generalization of actual occasions Whitehead is trying to get at: we are imaginative becomings, not repetitions, but becoming new at each moment because we are not the exact same things pertaining to time and space. The facts that we categorize are “bare facts” to Whitehead, and thus have a facticity because of the evaluation we give to it. It becomes valuable. And thus what we value is because of an imaginative undertaking of imaginative feeling, one that is not untrue, but is not yet fully realized. This makes it both transcendent and instructive, as we have not yet been (becoming, transcendent), and yet is instructive for the future of the actual occasion as a datum for feeling (the superjective feeling of the actual occasion as actualized). So for Whitehead imagination is integral for any becoming for without it, the act of becoming is mere repetition.

#AmyKind #PeterKung #JohnSallis #AlfredNorthWhitehead #imagination #repetition #actualoccasion #transcendentimagination #instructiveimagination #nonbifurcationofimagination

#Life is long if you know how to use it.

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This will be short, but a thought as I am reading Dr. Faber's book The Divine Manifold. In his chapter “Dispossessing God: The Antinomy of Love and Power,” Faber begins to “dispossess” power from the understanding of God.

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My dissertation is on the imagination and its necessity in discussions within religious pluralism. So one of my walking partners is john sallis, who writes within the field of continental thought and phenomenology. His work on Imagination is wonderful, specifically on the tension the imagination introduces in #logic so as to not conform to its “desires.” And yet, for Sallis, this too introduces another breaking, one of metaphysics.

Now, I am a Whiteheadian thinker, which begins with the understanding that all is process, that we all are always forming from events, occasions within a specific space and time at each moment. These events make up who we are, and we ultimately become actual objects, a datum for feeling in the immediate future. For Whitehead, the possibilities are endless, but we still require a metaphysics, something that brings us all together. However, at every moment our metaphysics gets entangled with the experiential reality of relations, events, etc., which iconoclast what we once believed was true.

How do I couple the two together, an imagination that breaks logic and metaphysics, yet at the same time returns to it? That is the question I am working on.

“Nothing attests more forcefully to the exorbitance of imagination than its violation of logic's most ineluctable proscription, its infraction of the most firm, steadfast, sure principle. Indeed the decisive indication is not just that certain contradictions, but also that delight is taken in flouting this supreme prohibition, as if contradiction were borne in the very impetus of imagination.”

Power follows wisdom, because nature unlocks it's secrets to the wise and dowers the temperate with zest and energy. Wisdom should be more than intellectual acuteness. It includes reverence and sympathy, and a recognition of those limitations which bound all human endeavour. ANW, 125.

Part of my dissertation is looking at the role imagination takes in understanding, making sense of the world. This is against a solely logical understanding of the world, imagination as a different way of “logicizing” the world itself.

In the reading of After Prophecy by Tom Cheetham, I took a pause in reading this phenomenal piece. I wanted to share it here:

It seems clear that in many segments of modern society the habits and skills of literate culture are in fact being lost, but they are being replaced by an immersion of the soul in technological gadgetry and media-controlled capitalism, which only exacerbates our isolation from nature and from other persons.

Powerful quote. technology and media, controlled by capitalism, which doubly shapes how we see and what we see, isolates us from nature and people. Cheetham writes that we, as Steiner and Illich propose, should have

cells of resistance, “houses of reading” where the habits of mind of a bookish civilization can endure.

This is essential for the preservation of humanity. But Cheetham goes one step further:

The Cosmos itself is a “house of reading:–it is the Primordial Temple of the Word.

How can one open oneself this? How do we return? is it just reading? No, it is a seeking, a passive seeking, or a following of a guide, or the opening up to “mystical poverty,” and a renunciation to seek power, to have power.

This changes the function and role of imagination. Imagination has often been used as a space for an idea to take shape, the idea being the bridge. In this case, it is the imagination which is the bridge, in which one relinquishes control and is set on a path in which the imagination leads into the imaginal realm, where two worlds meet, the two worlds of the actual and possible, the actual and the divine.

The imagination becomes the organ to enter the imaginal realm. Interesting use of the word organ. One still cannot fathom the mystery of how, internally an organ, our internal organs, can take foods digested, or air, and transform them in such a way so that it is useful for us. Sure we can scientifically break it down, but it doesn't talk about life itself, meaning, etc. Nevertheless, organs function to “transform” one from the actual world to the imaginal, to see in a different way, that allows one to realize, to understand, uniquely. I say uniquely because, like Cheetham, we make sense of the world, of events, of the things around us. In our analysis, we find what makes sense to us concerning it. But this too is the novelty of the event, since in making sense of it, one cannot claim the same things with another person, but rather, in the mirroring that takes shape within our forming of the event, one makes something new of it. Thus novelty, difference, exist in the process of imagination.

Technology, although helpful, may take us away from the reality of our novelty making system. Technology, if controlled by capitalism, distills the function or reality of nature, leaving to only one response, the one logic of truth. And that simply is not the case.

Houses of reading as modes or cells of resistance are necessary for the vitality of humanity. Reading viva voce, word of mouth, out loud, adds to the power of words, as they help contain the images that can be lifted into the structure forming in the imagination.

With this in mind, what can we read from the world? The Cosmos? What is it saying to us? Is it distilled? Or is it speaking so loudly that we cannot hear it? Maybe we need to open our minds, to see our mystical poverty, and seek out, journey, adventure, the words of the cosmos.

Creative fabulation has nothing to do with a memory, however exaggerated, or 'with a fantasy. In fact, the artist, including the novelist, goes beyond the perceptual states and affective transitions of the lived. The artist is a seer, a becomer. How would he recount what happened to him, or what he imagines, since he is a shadow? He has seen something in life that is too great, too unbearable also, and the mutual embrace of life with what threatens it, so that the corner of nature or districts of the town that he sees, along with their characters, accede to a vision that, through them, composes the percepts of that life, of that moment, shattering lived perceptions into a sort of cubism, a sort of simultaneism, of harsh or crepuscular light, of purple or blue, which have no other object or subject than them-selves. “ What we call style's,” said Giacometti, “ are those visions fixed in time and space.” It is always a question of freeing life wherever it is imprisoned, or of tempting it into an uncertain combat. ~p 171.

Notes:

  • Reading on fabulation and how it is diverse from the role imagination plays.
  • find it of interest of Deleuze' movement from perception to percept, affection to affect. This move wrests the percept away from the subjective idealism which converts it to a perception. The same with affect.
  • Nevertheless, one needs to do something with it, thus the need for the subjective grasping, the passing through an ideal.
  • I think I will look at how John Sallis rethinks the imagination through a gazing, and thus a tracing of the thing, the image, thereby shifting the moment from a subject to the object itself.

These are writings from after teaching my intro to catholic theology class. After bumbling through my lecture and discussion, I end up writing; this is some of it.

We are always discussing from the middle of something. We can never start from the beginning, but always in the in-between. What I mean is that we always begin from where we are and try to understand by going around, before and after, to make sense of it all. So...what about this thing called human nature? And why were Pelagius and Augustine battling it out? The question becomes one of relationship, at least in my opinion. It has to do with God’s relationship towards us in this progression towards restoration and holiness, which is being like God. Being like God.

Hmm…. There is a difference between being like God and being the Image of God. We can argue that being in the image speaks to certain things, characteristics or abilities that are shared or have a similarity. In this case, being in the image of God has a sense of sovereignty, to rule, to have authority. In Augustine’s idea, it is our minds that have the capacity to have the image of God. We can reason, make choices, judge, all due to our minds ability. And yet this only tells of the image of God. An image, a still shot. A photo, taken, giving a glimpse of the Divine.

But there is also likeness, the likeness of God, being like God. This, in my thoughts, means the active state of showing that one has like responses as God would. It is the image in action. Take for instance a picture of a father and a daughter, and the image shows similarities of skin color, eyes, facial expression. Then you also begin to find out that the father was an accountant, and she has decided to pursue the same career. These are images, images that show she has similar characteristics or interests as her father. They enjoy numbers. But here is the next part that is most important. Is she like him? Does she work the numbers justly? Does she treat her clients well? Is she a good worker? Why is this important? Well, it isn’t, unless you know of the father. The father is an excellent worker, he treats his clients well, and is very honest. The idea here would be that if he contains all these actions that show his internal nature, who he was, it would be appropriate that, if she follows in his steps, that she would take on these integral and honest concepts as her own. To be in the image of God one has certain faculties available to them; but to be like God, one requires to be close to God. And that is the problem. The closeness of God; being in relationship with God. Why? Because of this problem that we are handed to right smack in the middle of seemingly nowhere: sin.

Sin. The thing that is not really there, but really affects us. It is not substantive, but it takes away from our substance, who we are, how we live. Alfred North Whitehead says that evil, and I will add in the action of evil as sin, is the degradation, the destruction, of elevation, progress. It breaks us away from relationship, it destroys any form of relationality because it wants greatness for itself, and not realizing this greatness that is found in others, and it being there for reflection and growth.

The question then, is how did it get here? Where was its inception? Was it purposeful? Although this is lengthy, it would be suffice to say that it finds its origin, scripturally, in the beginning, the fall, of adam and eve. I say scripturally, because for whitehead and others, especially in philosophy, this response is inadequate. Nevertheless, because of the christian faith, we get this insight due to the revelation of God. This movement of sin manifests itself in the form of a movement from relationship to selfishness, from inclusion of the other, to exclusion towards self. It is the goal of making oneself great, powerful, safe, etc., at the cost of the other.

So how do we break ourselves free from this and get back into relationship? Not as simple as one thinks. Even the above response about the origin of sin is a simplistic response, yet I will take Whiteheads route, that the stories lead us towards philosophical/theological discussion, and therefore trruths. The problem with sin is that its goal is destruction, destruction of the pursuit of higher things. But that is an ugly statement. I would say that the pursuit is the pursuit of better things, deeper things, things which engage not for the self, but for all: a widening, a moving beyond just the self. Evil/Sin wants to destroy that, but it does so by mimicking the same process! For example, I want to pursue higher things, better things, I want to widen myself. But in that widening, I lose a particularity of myself in that process. My thoughts and ideas about things become part of a bigger set of thoughts and ideas, conjoining with others. This is the gift of peace, of adventure, of truth; one alone does not have it. Now sin pursues this as well but does so in this way, it wants to overarch everything for the self. In doing so, it destroys it, because it cannot be contained in one thing; it must be retained in relation or in process with everything else; not overarching, or controlling. It’s goal: feeling. Intensification. A spark. Sin destroys that spark.

So, again, how does one pursue? It can only come as a gift. In Christian faith, the Pelagian way doesn't work because the claim is that our faculties work just fine. Augustine says it is functional but marred. Whitehead offers a certain distinction, which says that free will inevitably requires knowledge and growth, and that growth, could lead either to good or evil, not in its thought, but in the actions that it makes, and the damage or loss it does on others. The reality is that loss, suffering, is evil. Whitehead writes that we all have appetition, and thus appetition, as necessary, is also what causes evil in a way because of loss. But, moreso, the evil that we do not want is that which leads to a degradation of the self, a loss of self that does not lead to progress, betterment.

But let me get back to the idea of the gift. Peace, although an action we can perform, must initially come as a gift. Adventure, the taste of it, requires first that it be given: a gift. Truth, beauty, it all begins as a gift. We dont make it happen; it is already there in the process of happening. Our task is to be a part of it, to be in harmony with it. So it requires more than a guide, or rules, but a new way of being, or becoming. It means we do not negate that which is luring us towards a better way. It means allowing a certain posture that allows us to see images, things, in a different perspective, beyond the facticity, to understanding from ones context, in following the aim of the divine, through the renewal of the self in Christ, who provides creative novelty. It is a gift. It is grace. Let it be. Peace. Adventure. Truth. Beauty.

I’ve been thinking about Augustine’s concept of the trinity, and trying to articulate in my head, and then explain it in a way that makes some sense.

  • The Divine Nature is prior to the Persons/alities
  • God is not God the Father, but the Trinity.
  • The external operation of God (economic), is due to the whole trinity, and not solely of one person of the Godhead
  • The son is begotten from God as an immanent act of the intellect (from immanent to economic)

For eastern theology[^1], God was to be known through the persons of the trinity, the begotten son who points to God the Father, and the Spirit, which proceeds from the Father, as something that has always been, and points back to both the begotten Son and the Father. Jesus speaks that he will ask the Father, and the Father will send an Advocate. It is in this threeness that one understands, through perichoresis, the intertwining of the distinctive persons in the Godhead, that we see in their essential nature one substance, one essence that makes them who they are. They are one and three, with the distinctive persons showing and representing the one God.

But for Augustine it is different. God doesn’t begin with God the Father, with the begotten Son afterwards, and then The Spirit proceeding from God the Father. Rather God is Trinity, God is fathersonspirit. There is no distinction in God’s essential nature, in God’s self. It is in the economic space, the realm in which we exist and are in need of redemption that God as describe as the Father, Son and Spirit are emphasized. The Son reveals the Father, and in his ministry, his act, he shows God, and that he is God. In his act he reveals and gives the Spirit. In this way, both in God’s essential and economic nature, in which I mean God’s way of communicating, and being, is both a distinction of three as well as a unitary act. And this unitary act is the act of Love. Augustine uses this as the central aspect of God. God is love. God acts in love. Thus when we reflect on the Cross, we see Jesus; but we do not only see Jesus on the cross, we see and feel and hear “Look at the love of the father!,” not in the horrific act of death on the cross, but the symbol of sacrifice to redeem what has been lost, humanity, free will, true love, true relationship. So for Augustine, God is in reality the Trinity, but acts in unity, unity of cause, unity of will, unity of purpose.

[^1]: Eastern theology from the Cappadocian fathers. Please understand this is a rudimentary understanding, brief, just to bring across the aspect of threeness and oneness. Of course a more thorough discussion is necessary.