🪟 29 - The Mythical Crisis
Frame & Axiom #29 (Part 4): On the mystery of reality, the inadequacy of science as modern myth, and a preferred approach.
Table of contents
PART 1: NATURE » on the relation between man and nature: man as feeble and the consequence of forces.
PART 2: JUSTNESS: » on the relation between man and justness: reality as court and canvas.
PART 3: MIRRORS » on the relation between man and others: the necessity of love and compassion toward the ill, that is, us all.
PART 4: IDEALS
The Mythical Crisis
Thanks for reading A Memoir Worth Writing! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
🪟 29 - The Mythical Crisis
My fellow sufferer,
You might be scientifically minded. If so, at various points in my writing, you would have felt compelled to point me to evolutionary theory, as a means of explaining the way things are. Here, I will lay out my thoughts on this.
Inquirer, observe once again how everything is set out like an odd glass of wine. Nevertheless, let us raise our glasses for another toast, and take a moment to savour another sip of reality! Notice one of its foremost tones, an absolute and inescapable flow of time. It appears to house other consequential tones within it — for instance, within this flow of time, there is an element of continuity or non-continuity, and within this, there is a cycle of birth, growth, reproduction, and death. Do you notice them? Funny how this is just the way it has been specified. These patterns are odd but absolute. We are pitifully powerless to affect them.
Now, do you see how mystery flows down even to the concept of evolution? To retort that “our predispositions are everything we needed to survive and evolve” does not consider that survival and evolution themselves flow from mysterious patterns. You see, the element of continuity is already quite odd. Then, it is an oddity on top of this oddity that the element of continuity has been specified as the continual refining of generational seed, with its determinant being selective genes. Why?!?! Why do cells die? Or, OK, on a more reasonable note… why selective genes? The continuity of our species could have so easily been carried out by something else. Perhaps it could have been a fixed and indiscriminatory process, where every new generation was sculpted by God from the mud of the earth, or plucked by a benevolent stork , or by the arrival of free-diving blue ‘unborn’ blobs from an alternate dimension . But no! We have decidedly been allotted the process of genetic selection.
Perhaps a preceding pattern at play here is that first of all, change is constant, therefore, the multitude of cells and organisms live and die out, and thus, have the need to adapt to variable conditions at all. And that is yet another odd but absolute tone to this glass of reality-wine.
Odd! Odd! Everything is odd to the core. But, inquirer, here I begin to find my observations at odds with modernity. I know many educated fellows who would say something along these lines: “everything had to be fine-tuned in this way if we were to exist and evolve to be able to observe these things at all”. That is fair, but I see the approach to be sorely inadequate.
The answer is given supposedly as the resolution of mystery. It whispers with an air of reassurance, “there is no need to worry, we can answer these questions”. But that implies firstly that mystery is a problem to be solved, and that it is to be solved by explaining the unexplainable. Consequently, the modern man forms and prescribes theories upon theories, from the cosmological to the evolutionary to the subatomic, purporting to be able to resolve these questions. But every time he thinks he begins to understand, he is in truth infinitely far from it. Each time he only manages to explain away, resolving mystery with mirages of reasoning. Inquirer, remember this odd glass of reality set out before us. In the modern man’s obsession to be scientific about every component of the wine — its taste, aroma, colour, age, origin, pouring, and so on… he has lost his sensitivity to the strangeness pervading all of it. In the initial stages, he may be unbothered by it. It is a general strangeness that is insignificant… until, however, he awakens to this same strangeness pervading himself — which seems to have been the case for you, inquirer! Is this not the reason for the unrest in your soul? See how you have posed the questions ‘who am I?’ and ‘why am I?’ — questions that penetrate the heart of everything. Though we live in an age of sciences, it is as if mystery was never successfully cast away, nor dormant like a harmless mammal, for mystery was always lurking within the abyss, prowling like a beast that pounced when it found you in solitude and vulnerable in spirit.
It is a modern myth that the appropriate approach to mystery should be with the sword of scientific reasoning — to cut down its highest-identifiable unity into components, then those components into more components, ad infinitum, in pursuit of understanding and wielding power over the constituent forces at play. But, inquirer, what you thirst for is not a comprehensive description of the universal forces, be it the cosmos, the laws of physics, and the conditions for human evolution. If the modern presumption that all is physical was correct, that would be sufficient. But seeing that reality is interpretative and as experienced — in other words, psychical — the most deeply piercing unknowns should correspondingly be psychical unknowns. A psychical unknown calls for a psychical resolution, and indeed, you thirst not for a principle or a hypothesis, but for a meaning to make of this odd glass of life you have been allotted. You want to know reality not as it pertains to itself, but as it pertains to you.
Indeed, when your model of everything was sensed to be incomplete, the alarm bells of incoherence began to sound, and this sounding will not stop until it is resolved. It is no surprise then that there remains a seemingly limitless wellspring of anxiety (and all the more so in modernity)! When the psyche begins to sense wavering in existential matters, it will not simply bid ‘adios!’ and recede into its former territory. Such all-encompassing incoherence demands resolution. Resolution, however, is impossible. The open-ended question of life is posed, and you can afford no more than guesswork. Inquirer, I hope you can see more clearly by now, that as far as our requirement here goes, the modern prescription of science-pills will be sorely ineffective. Your answer lies not within the study of the physical, but the psychical. Not within the world, but within your view of the world. Not within the territory, but within your map. That is where you need to look.
Now to that end, the truth of mystery is that it is an irreducible phenomenon. It cannot be explained or reduced. It just is. And this truth has always been rather plain and simple to see, for it is right in front of us, if only it was not cast aside by the novelty of the scientific revolution and then by modernity’s staunch faith in its ability to eventually encompass all. This is the grave error of modernity: abundant in self-belief, we have placed mystery beneath us instead of beyond us. We have been led instead into an epidemic of hyper-theorisation, and become trigger-happy with the reductionist razor. We retort, it's just this and it's just that. But in making trivial the mystery inherent to truth, we have only blinded ourselves to the truth of mystery. The pedestalisation of reasoning may satisfy the mind, but it will not satisfy the soul. Thus, modernity leads itself into a crisis of myth, for while the modern man prides himself on being capable of omniscience, he continues to be perplexed by unknowns at the very core of his existence. I think this is one of those things where the ancients have been much more advanced in their approach than us. Taoism, for one, knows that there is that which cannot be known, that reality exceeds understanding; that “all” is eternally inexplicable.
I believe the appropriate way to approach mystery is to get to know it, not however by trying to explain and control it, but by getting to know it as a man gets to know his wife. No matter how much the man learns about his wife, and no matter how many words he can predict before she says them, there will always be mystery to her in that she is to herself. The woman he encounters will always be pervaded by something of utmost significance but that is entirely inaccessible to him. He may, at best, excel at guesswork. Now, how should he approach the inexplicability of his wife? Not to try to subsume everything within reason, surely, despite the modern inclination to it. Her inner life is beyond, so complete subsummation is an impossible task, but even more importantly — how deluded and scornful would that intention be on part of the man! The fullness of his wife is not to be described, but to be acquainted with. But — and this is of utmost importance! — that is precisely the source of her mystical, erotic and profound quality.
Inquirer, you who stress over the ultimate questions? Mystery is omnipresent. There is an innate unknowability to everything before you, and no one and no thing can be spared from it. But let us not entertain the modern proclivity to demystify. It is far from possible to overcome mystery. That is a victory that will never be won, and we will only end up paying the price of such a futile and irreverent pursuit. No! Let us go the other way. Let us honour the qualities that lie in the inexplicable and beyond. Let us attend to mystery as a woman, not with the coldness of science, but with warmth and reverence. Then, and only then, we can begin to learn to dance with it.
An excerpt of a better approach:
The tao that can be described
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken
is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.
— Lao Tzu, in Tao Te Ching (Trans. J. H. McDonald)
Till next time,
As per Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and later, Dawkin’s theory of the ‘selfish gene’.
God created Adam from the mud of the Earth (Genesis 2:7).
As in the stork-birth myth.
As in the Pixar film Soul (2020), in ‘The Great Before’.
This is known as the Anthropic Principle.