Thursday, 11 June 2015

The primacy of 'impressions': the metaphysical necessity for direct communication: wordless, imageless, by-passing the senses

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Since I believe that bad metaphysics is at the root of many modern problems, we (almost-) all need to examine our fundamental assumptions.

One assumption that I think is necessary for any metaphysical system which is not self-refuting (and despair inducing) is that it is possible for communications to be direct. And 'communication' includes divine communications, such as personal revelations.

In other words, there must be some form of communication which by-passes the senses, and does not involve anything like language or symbols (or smells, touches, or tastes).

This is not something which can be proven by observation or experience; it is something which is a required assumption for there to be any possibility of real communication - otherwise all communication is compromised by the impossible-to-rule-out chance of errors, illusions, delusions, self-deception; the inevitability that all symbolic communication is partial and biased, and that all receivers of communications are likewise.

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The assumption of direct communication is necessary because any communication which relies upon, say, words or pictures requires that these symbols be interpreted; and it is possible, indeed likely, that we will misinterpret them.

So the classic description of divine revelation of a religious visionary or mystic is missing the point if it is assumed that someone seeing pictures, or hearing spoken phrases, or reading a text, or remembering a dream was the essence of the revelation.

Instead, the essence of any true revelation must have been the wordless, un-envisioned impression (as Mormons call it) of a non-symbolic communication; and the words or pictures are merely serving the function of an aide memoir, a mnemonic, a convenient summary of that impression.

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This means that more people are religious mystics in receipt of divine revelation than probably realize it, and that such communications are commoner than generally recognized - because most people are looking-for a vision, spoken words, a prophetic dream or some such thing.

It is, indeed, probable that many people will receive only the essence of the revelation - they will experience the pure or true 'impression' of the communication - but without any sensory or symbolic representation.

And this impression from a direct communication is not some kind of second-rate revelation but actually the unadulterated 'real thing'!

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14 comments:

mushroom said...

I agree with this. Perhaps the wordless impression might be compared to a receptacle in the wall waiting for some element of language to plug into it. The "power" in the impression then illuminates through the metaphor as a lamp plugged in illuminates a room.

Adam G. said...

There is a parallel to parables and stories. The meaning usually goes beyond the "moral of the story" when you try to summarize it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - Yes, that's a good comparison. However, I think most people recognize that the moral doesn't capture a parable; but I get the idea that people suppose that a personal revelation, or testimony, should come via the senses; and that receiving an impression is a rather second rate kind of thing. Perhaps this is based on the Biblical descriptions of prophets hearing God's voice, visions, dreams etc. But I would regard these sensory aspects of prophetic revelations as being suited to the need for communication of these publicly applicable revelations; while direct pure impressions seem fitted to the needs of personal revelations.

Laeeth said...

Jaynes/Mcgilchrist. The impression is received via one system in the brain, translated to language in another (imperfectly). What you describe fits perfectly with both their work, although it is an important and distinct insight - the missing piece really that some might have decided not to discuss for strategic reasons.

ITF said...

As Thomas Torrance once pointed out by way of analogy: if created light is in need of no medium by which to communicate itself, how much less so does the Uncreated Light of God need a medium to be communicated? And where there is Light, there is Grace.

I have found your considerations of this mysterious point to be very insightful, so I thank you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Laeeth - I agree that the impression has to be 'translated' to be articulated or communicated - but my point here is that we must assume the possibility of a primal direct 'perfect' communication, prior to any act of translation, if communication is to be real.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ITF - Thanks for the comment.

alexi de sadesky said...

Yes! This seems right to me. I often think it must be this way, pure, frictionless communication. In a similar but, less frictionless way my dreams work like this. I'll have the sensation of communication without any tangible words coming forth.

Thordaddy said...

Dr. Charlton...

I think the question is then whether a free will can originate outwith Perfection? It seems from the Christian perspective, Perfection IS the metaphysics. Abstractly understood as non-duplicating AND solution to General Entropy and "the will to do all right" by worldly conception, can *your* soul originate outwith this Perfection? It seems inexplicable that "it" could AND communicate any meaning to mere mortals. It is not clear where your soul would be ideally "positioned" IF it came to "rest?" It does not seem in the ideal "position," the soul would speak past Perfection, only parallel to "it," thus creating no friction or communication?

Thordaddy said...

Direct communication demands singularities. Revelation is a singularity. An impression is a singularity. These "things" do not exist to those with the metaphysics of The Redundant Phenomenon. Where "our" side fails is in imposing the worldly consequences of believing of a universe absolutely devoid of singularities, ie., non-redundant phenomenon.

Nathaniel said...

I notice "translation" is only mentioned in the comments, but I suspect this is how you believe the JS translation happened? It appears to fit the record very well indeed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ThD - The Mormon theology, to which I adhere, does not originate in 'perfection' - it is an 'evolutionary' and dynamic theology.

Thordaddy said...

Dr. Charlton...

But you present exactly the problem... "Evolution" and dynamism are mutually exclusive (unless you define "evolution" under a new and disputed metaphysical assumption). "Evolution" IS descent and "descent" is merely duplication observed in reverse. HBD is, on its sweetest day, only whipped cream. HBD doesn't prove there is a pumpkin pie. Duplication and dynamism cannot coexist as originating properties of one's soul. If a soul does not have "access" to Perfection OR can only move parallel to Perfection then one can envision the oppressive constraints of "evolution" and the restrictive nature of your so-called "dynamism." Direct communications entails a "collision" of dynamic entities. Direct communication entails a "collision" of one's soul with Perfectiion.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ThD - http://theoreticalmormon.blogspot.co.uk