June 26, 2008

Hans Jonas, Robert Rosen, and Sri Aurobindo

The Absolute Science of the Center and the Darwinist Religion of the Periphery
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

In this regard, I was very much influenced by the philosopher of biology, Hans Jonas, whose The Phenomenon of Life was very helpful to me back when I was lost and coonfused in the bewilderness of my "higher" education. His essay at the start of the book was like an insoluble but fruitful koan that kept me occupied for years, and wasn't really resolved until I encountered the works of Robert Rosen (both authors are difficult, so I can't say I would recommend them to a general audience). Let me go back to that essay and see if it even still resonates....

"The organic even in its lowest forms prefigures mind, and the mind even on its highest reaches remains part of the organic. The latter half of [this] contention, but not the former, is in tune with modern belief; the former, but not the latter, was in tune with ancient belief; that both are valid and inseparable is the hypothesis of a philosophy which tries for a stand beyond the quarrels of the ancients and the moderns" [or one could say to stand beyond the quarrels of science and religion, which is the Raccoon position]."Both scales culminate in the thinking of man and there come under the question: which is for the sake of which? Contemplation for action, or action for contemplation? With this challenge to choice, biology turns into ethics."

"If mind is prefigured in the organic from the beginning, then freedom is. And indeed our contention is that even metabolism, the basic level of all organic existence, exhibits it: that it is itself the first form of freedom.... it is in the dark stirrings of primeval organic substance that a principle of freedom shines forth for the first time within the vast necessity of the physical universe -- a principle foreign to suns, planets, and atoms.... the first appearance of this principle in its bare, elementary object-form signifies the break-through of being to the indefinite range of possibilities which hence stretches to the farthest reaches of subjective life, and as a whole stands under the sign of 'freedom'.... even the transition from inanimate to animate substance, the first feat of matter's organizing itself for life, was actuated by a tendency in the depth of being toward the very modes of freedom to which this transition opened the gate" [this is very similar to Sri Aurobindo's conception of involution followed by evolution].

Interesting. If metabolism is the "process" of freedom, then the metabolism of Truth would be the way to God. And to practice a religion is again the effort to metabolize truth in order to deepen one's relationship to the Absolute. It is along this vector that the real cosmic evolution is taking place, which is to say, in and up. The cosmos is whole and intelligible, and man is deeply free, because God is One.

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