Friday, 15 March 2013

Absolute abstractions can make people crazy


There are some words, quite a lot of them, that name absolutes - and they can drive us crazy.

We can, it seems, quite easily get to the point where the abstraction takes over from immediate reality, such that the absolute requires nothing short of absolute submission to... to what?

To the absolute truth of the absolute.


An example:

Properly speaking, equal means the same - and 'the same' means no more than that things are in the same category - to say that humans are equal before God, or the Law, or whatever, means only that they are members of the same category.

Thus, there is a relationship with God which is characteristic of humans, and the category of humans includes (for Christians) men and women, children and adults.

The word equal is doing no necessary work here (or anywhere else), but instead - by its pseudo-mathematical and un-human precision, making our brains go into convulsions.


But in politics, equality has become an absolute abstraction.

As an absolute 'equality' comes first, as an abstraction it can never be known whether any specific reality matches up to the absolute value of being wholly 'equal'.

Because we cannot measure the concordance between reality and an absolute abstraction, yet hold the absolute abstraction as primary - equality becomes a concept which requires absolute submission.

Even to discuss the reality, achievability or degree of equality is an appalling thing - because equality is absolute.


Substitute for equality 'justice', we see the same.

There are many examples: freedom, democracy, human rights, poverty, oppression...

There can be, there is, often a gross dissociation between a person's adherence to what would seem to be the implications of equality, or justice and their actual lives (both outer and inner). But once the absolute abstraction holds-sway, then that doesn't matter - because of course there never can be any proportionality between an absolute and reality...


To refuse to submit to a concept like equality is to insult equality.

To refuse to say the right things about equality, to put equality first, to swear by the concept of equality... such things are seen as a gross act of aggression against society.

What matters is submission to the concept: public, and preferably private, submission to the validity of the idea in all its abstract purity.


In philosophy the 'omni' words when applied to God are similar absolute abstractions.

In terms of human understanding, to have 'total' power, knowledge, extent doesn't mean a thing.

We could imagine power, knowledge and extent which had no definable bounds, but our minds implode at the matter of absolute power, knowledge, extent...


And in religion these unimaginable incomprehensible absolute abstractions operate in an analogous fashion to equality and justice in modern politics...

People are not required to understand the omni words, because they are un-understandable; they are not required to live-by the omni words, because their implications are abstract and disconnected from life.

People are required to submit to the omni words; because to do otherwise is seen as insulting God (to whom these absolute abstractions have been linked).


So these omni words, and the absolute abstractions which lie behind them, come to rule religions; despite that nobody knows what they mean, and nobody even knows what it would mean to live by them.

It should be possible to make a one-sided rejection of omni attributes; to say, that don't make sense... and leave it it that.

But anybody who challenges an omni attribution is assumed to be stating the opposite as an alternative in philosophical terms.

And the opposite to an absolute abstraction is a terrifying thing, not least because it is necessarily perceived as incomprehensible and as craziness-inducing as the abstraction to which it is put in opposition...

So to oppose an approved absolute abstraction is to be perceived as proposing something so vast and total as to be mind-numbing in its horribleness.


So we recurrently get the situation in which submission to the official absolute belief system, in all its abstract perfection, becomes the hallmark of orthodoxy, and indeed in practice the one and only absolutely (!) required mark of orthodoxy.


For some religions that is appropriate, but not for Christianity.

For Christians, the essence is the personal relationship with God: that is the essence, not the whole thing, but we must work outwards from that.

And we cannot work outwards from a personal relationship to meet an absolute abstraction - if we try to do this, if we insist on doing that - at some point we will leave behind the personal relationship.

For all matters of doctrine, the  Christian hopes and aims to achieve a conviction in his heart; to understand is to have that conviction - and that conviction is of the form of a personal relationship.


The Christian must strive above all to love God; but we cannot love an absolute abstraction, only a person.