Some thoughts on mysticism

M100: A Grand Design Spiral Galaxy

M100: A Grand Design Spiral Galaxy

Hello Moshe,

I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you earlier. I wanted to sit with your question. And I could sit with it a great deal longer.

Mysticism for me is the deepest feeling for and orientation to the whole, yet sensitivity to the parts that comprise it (in each part is the whole), to the relationship between whole and parts, to their infinite complexity and unceasing motion – and that awareness is essentially ineffable, yet intuitively understood.

If you remove ‘feeling’, ‘the ineffable’ and ‘intuition’ from this statement you have the description of a relationship that bears comparison with the first words of Lenin’s ‘On the Question of Dialectics’ – ‘The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the ‘essentials,’ one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) or dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter (Aristotle in his Metaphysics continually grapples with it and combats Heraclitus and Heraclitean ideas).’

My comparison is appropriate, because mystical philosophy, as Marx acknowledged (particularly its Germanic current culminating in the philosophy of the ‘German Proclus’, Hegel), is the philosophical core, stood by Marx on its feet, of dialectical materialism.

Lenin went on: ‘the correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science.’ This can be simply demonstrated – if you hold a rock in your hand, you hold a unity. While it looks utterly still – in its composition, in its parts, it is in unceasing motion. The contradictory motion of those infinitely divisible parts is the very thing which results in the apparently stable unity you hold in your hand (I am reminded of Plotinus’ profound and profoundly poetic position regarding his One – that it is the greatest activity in the greatest stillness).

And the interaction of this rock, this material composition, with the greater, infinite material whole will one day result in the passing of the form and contents of that stone into other material structures.

Thus everything passes, and only matter (objective reality) driven by the (theoretical) absolute of change remains.

While capitalist ideologues treat mysticism like pornography as they secretly study and draw from it, claiming, as true patriarchs, that their appropriations are the result of the most rigorous conceptual ‘reason’, materialists should be proud of their philosophical heritage and continue to mine it for more philosophical gems.

Intuition’ is one such. I believe it is a form of reasoning far more holistic and connected to our ‘emotions’/our ‘feelings’, our ‘sense of self’ than is the reason of language and concept. The latter, while its benefits and the achievements made with it are obvious, comparative to intuition (which is always functioning in the background), is plodding.

An example: suppose you were to walk around a corner while another did the same thing walking towards you. You bump into each other. Your eyes meet. Without doubt you would both have an instantaneous wealth of thoughts and feelings so rich and complex that thinking linguistically in and of that moment would not only be an impediment, it would be an impossibility.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), ‘Ecstasy of Saint Theresa’, marble, 1647-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), ‘Ecstasy of Saint Theresa’, marble, 1647-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Yet the thoughts and feelings you both have in those few seconds will be formative, evidence of a type of reason which I think is central to our sense of self.

When the monotheist prays to God – ‘God, give me guidance’, they are calling on that other form of reason which requires emotional ‘stillness’ to be heard and listened to. They speak of ‘stillness’ and ‘listening’ at such times.

It is a flux of reason that draws on their life’s experience, on their spiritual connection to the world, on all that comprises them.

‘Spirituality’ – a concept I rejected for many years – for me is the feeling for and knowledge of profound material connectedness.

Intuitive reason is like ‘another’ to that of our usual, linguistically conditioned self.

There is certainly nothing of the patriarch to it, yet if you fail to listen to that ‘voice’, you do so at your peril. You will be like the man in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket – reading all the labels, unable to choose, looking for an impetus and answer only in words, his linguistic ‘self’ disconnected from that other, deeper, more holistic, intuitive ‘self’.

In this unity of self (both linguistic and intuitive) and the world is to be found the unity of both mystic and materialist – it is one, unwilled yet profoundly dialectical, profoundly ‘poetic’ world.

When I am presented with any problem, I first try to intuit a way forward or a solution, then I apply my ability to reason linguistically. And although the results are usually different (my intuition seems consistent with necessity – which supports my understanding of intuition), I play those two results against each other to arrive at my answer.

These are a few of my thoughts on the subject of mysticism.

What are some of your thoughts on the subject?

Best regards,

Phil

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The Sydney Morning Herald – where journalism outdoes science

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First Horizon-Scale Image of a Black Hole

Washington; AP, with Liam Mannix, ‘Humanity stares into black hole abyss’, The Sydney Morning Herald  12.04.19

‘…The black hole is about 6 billion times the mass of our sun and is in a galaxy called M87. Its “event horizon” – the precipice, or point of no return where light and matter get sucked inexorably into the hole – is as big as our entire solar system.

Myth says a black hole would rip a person apart, but scientists said that because of the particular forces exerted by an object as big as the one in M87, someone could fall into it and not be torn to pieces. But the person would never be heard from or seen again.’

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China’s Chang’e 4 makes first-ever soft landing on moon’s far side

Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon at 10:26 Thursday morning, marking a breakthrough in human exploration of the universe, according to a statement the China National Space Administration (CNSA) sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

The probe sent back images at 11:40 am, about one hour after landing in the Von Karman Crater of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, said the administration, unveiling the moon’s far side for the first time in lunar exploration history. 

The far side of the moon refers to the hemisphere that never faces the Earth and cannot be seen directly from the Earth.  

The lunar lander touched down and sent signals from the moon’s far side to the Earth for the first time, launching “a new chapter in human exploration of the moon,” according to the administration’s statement. 

The probe’s lander and rover successfully separated on Thursday night, Xinhua reported. The first photo of the Yutu II rover landing on the far side of the moon was snapped by a camera attached to the lander and sent to Earth via the Queqiao satellite. 

The name Yutu II was picked for the rover of Chang’e-4 from 42,945 online suggestions from all over the world including Light, Walking Man and Elf, CNSA announced on Thursday night.

The rover looks like its predecessor Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, China’s first lunar rover launched in 2013.

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An image of the moon’s dark side. Chang’e-4’s lander descends to the moon’s surface. Photo: China National Space Administration (CNSA)

But the newer rover has adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration to deal with the more complex terrain on the far side of the moon, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

Hashtags related to Chang’e-4’s moon landing had been viewed more than 100 million times as of press time on Thursday evening.  

Internet users almost universally welcomed the landing. 

“Chang’e flying to the moon is a myth and we are realizing the myth,” Sina Weibo user Zanjia posted. 

“Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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An image shot after Chang’e-4’s soft landing on the moon’s dark side. Photo: China National Space Administration (CNSA)

‘Blind landing’

Rocks on the moon’s far side are comparatively more ancient than those on the front, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based aerospace expert, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chang’e-4 will help humanity learn the origin and evolution of the moon and help with low-frequency radio astronomical observations, Pang said. Those observations may well lead to some major astronomical discoveries, he noted. 

It was not easy for Chang’e-4 to land in the heavily cratered, mountainous South Pole-Aitken Basin, he said.

The basin was created by the impact of a meteor and is one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. It is about 2,500 kilometres in diameter and 13 kilometres deep, according to Xinhua.

Unlike the Chang’e-3 probe landing on the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on a parabolic trajectory, the Chang’e-4 probe made a vertical descent at the Von Karman Crater, said the CNSA. 

“The Von Karman Crater is believed to have great scientific research potential. The region is also comparatively flat, making it safer for Chang’e-4 to land there,” Pang said.

A vertical landing helped Chang’e-4 avoid hitting rocks on the far side. As Chang’e-4 cannot directly communicate with the Earth, the probe relays communication – with a 1-minute delay – through the satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, said CNSA. 

Such a time difference creates the conditions for a “blind landing,” meaning the probe must land on its own, using information installed in advance.

To ensure a safe landing, Chang’e-4 was equipped with an autonomous diagnosis system to detect and resolve problems for itself. 

The probe can also work at night to record the temperature of the far side, another improvement on Chang’e-3, Pang said. 

Cooperative future

More than 100 spacecraft and probes have been launched onto the moon since the 1950s, but none soft-landed on the moon’s far side, Zou Yongliao, deputy director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference in November 2018.

Chang’e-4 is carrying eight payloads including a low frequency radio spectrometer from Germany and detectors from Sweden.

Instruments will conduct low-frequency radio astronomy observations, research the structure of the moon’s surface and study neutron radiation on the moon’s far side.     

CNSA said that with data provided by the Chang’e-4 probe, they would like to jointly explore the universe in cooperation with foreign space agencies, research institutes and space enthusiasts. 

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Broader mission

The Chang’e-4 landing moves China a step closer to the establishment of a moon base. The lunar exploration project was initiated in 2004 as China’s first step into deep-space exploration. 

The Chang’e-1 to Chang’e-5 lunar probes constitute the first of three phases from unmanned lunar exploration through manned moon landings to the establishment of a moon base. 

The construction of the moon base will be controlled by artificially intelligent robots and occasionally managed by human beings after astronauts are sent to the moon, China News Service reported in March, citing Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

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The Tarantula Nebula

Tarantula

Sorry, my mistake.

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The Tarantula Nebula

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It won’t be long before pilots will be doing this

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Astronomy, formal and dialectical reason

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Formal reason:

‘Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet.’

Dialectical reason:

To consider this statement dialectically, one would think creatively – of the relationship between destruction and creation. Hegel did this from the idealist perspective –

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118

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The aesthetic relation of art to reality – design in the Sistine Chapel and in the storms of Jupiter

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Jupiter’s zones and belts dominant near its equator decay into a complex pattern of continent-sized storm swirls

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Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Vatican City

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NASA and a disk, science and art

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Seven Dusty Sisters – the Pleiades star cluster.

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A colour-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitised Sky Survey

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The Nebra sky disk, dated circa 1600 BC. The cluster of dots in the upper right portion of the disk is believed to be the Pleiades. Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

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The Orion Nebula

The Orion Trapezium

The Orion Nebula Trapezium

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In the Valley of Orion Nebula visualisation

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Want to see a good display on New Year’s Eve?

NGC 6357: Stellar Wonderland

NGC 6357: Stellar Wonderland

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Image (click twice to fully enlarge)