Saturday, December 28, 2013
The History of Heaven and Earth 10: “Progress”
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin,
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
- from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, 1920
(Bernini’s David, 1623-1624)
From his findings through his telescope, Galileo (1564-1642) came to support Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe. In fact, this was when our “domus” became the universe in the first place, rather than the earth or the world. Galileo also laid the early foundations of modern theories of motion; here was the beginning of how we now think of “force.” This was the time when motion was largely divorced from a moving thing’s “telos” and essence. In the medical field, this was when the movement of body parts, for example, wasn’t considered in terms of their “telos”, their “end,” “goal,” or originally made purpose, but, instead, was viewed as being in the service of the thing’s function. This, then, was when the natural sciences separated from philosophy. This divorce can be considered an extension of the categorical separation of sensible and intelligible reality that began with the Romans and intensified in the High Renaissance.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a contemporary of Galileo, also developed a telescope and used it to see into the new “somewhere else.” He was the first to publish a public work supporting Copernicus’ heliocentric model. He was also responsible for the idea that the planets travel in an elliptical orbit. Interestingly, Galileo disagreed with him on this point, because be believed the sphere to be the “perfect heavenly form.” With empirical science having fully won the day, Kepler’s model came to dominate a generation later.
That generation after Galileo and Kepler included Berninni (1598-1680) and Descartes (1596-1650). This elliptical turning of the planets around the sun became the driving idea behind Bernini’s work. In it, Bernini intended for his audience to cinematically and vicariously orbit the sun as the planets. Short videos of such dizzying and disorienting turning that separates a man from his senses, taken at Bernini’s St. Peter’s Square (pictured to the right), can be found HERE and HERE. In the first photograph of this post, above, you can see the clear difference between the Davids of Michelangelo and Bernini (Michelangelo’s was featured in the previous post of this series).
Bernini’s David clearly doesn’t have the “point of view” of Michelangelo’s, but it is also not sensed through the boundless, horizonless, and directionless air of the ancient man who perceives with his ear and stands upon the earth and under the dome of heaven. Like the Egyptian obelisk standing at the center of St. Peter’s Square – which, by the way, was used by the Egyptians as a symbol and icon of death, and which you can’t see in this photograph but does appear in one of the previously linked videos – the idea is to cinematically turn around Bernini’s David as the heavens around the sun. Needless to say, this planetary orbiting has nothing to do with how we sense apparent reality. Hence the appropriateness of the symbolism of death at the center of St. Peter’s square, and hence the disorienting nature of Bernini's works in general.
Firmly entrenched at the head of the Tower of Babel, in man’s cheese having fallen off his cracker, Descartes infamously said, “I think, therefore I am.” Of course, then, with his god-like view from the heavenly realm of the mind, he was the first to posit that man can have certain knowledge of universal truths about nature. This was different from Paul’s assurance of a coming union with God. Influenced by the Stoic's idea of an active Logos and passive matter, Descartes’ idea of man was that of “the ghost and the machine.” Our ghostly soul, spirit, or intellect moves our otherwise inert mechanical body. Notably, “ghost” there can be appropriately translated as soul, spirit, or intellect. Anyway, have you ever felt like a cog in the machine?
Descartes is also responsible for ANALYTIC geometry. His Cartesian coordinate system is how we think of geometry today, but it is not geo-metry (discussed HERE previously) at all. It is not the making of cosmic truth appear through an actually appearing artifact made of the element of and/or standing upon the Earth. It is the making note of hypothetical or theoretical points that occur on an unseen, gridded, three-dimensional co-ordinate system of the mind represented on parchment or paper. And, the “geometric” operation that occurs on this coordinate system is analytic, precisely because it is not the making of a cosmic truth to appear, but, instead, is the tracing of an actual worldly truth that already occurred in the past. The actual tracing is not upon the earth or in the air of heaven, but in the SPACE of the mind. And, the distance between the truth and the geometric representation of it that occurs on paper in analytic geometry is the same as that of a man standing still on a dock watching the boat of actual life sail away.
We now learn geometry algebraically largely because of Descartes. We also take it for granted that analytic is the meaning of geometry, without consideration of anything else. As I mentioned previously, our lens is taught.
Man’s being made into a machine to be analyzed is the meaning of the lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem that opened this post. Certainty is only found upon analysis of a fixed, formulated, and dead object. Assurance is that of life. Confusion between the two leads to being “pinned and wriggling on the wall”, having, by necessity of our mode of knowing, met our end and, thus, blind to our beginning. "Progress" is man's wriggling under a dissection pin. As Marshall McLuhan said it, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” “’Run for your lives!’ the angel warned. ‘Don’t stop anywhere in the valley. And don’t look back! Escape to the mountains, or you will die.’…But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following along behind him, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.” – Genesis 19: 17, 26.
(U.S. Department of The Treasury, construction 1836-1842)
Newton was also primarily responsible for the development of calculus, by which we measure heavenly bodies – bodies of irregularly rounded shapes belonging to the circular rather than orthogonal order of things – rather than earthly bodies, which would be geometry and would belong to the orthogonal order. The development of the concept of infinity was interwoven with the development of calculus at this time. With the development of infinity, man’s architectural history developed infinitely long rows of columns, like the one pictured above at the U.S. Department of The Treasury, in which the number of columns in one mathematical set far exceeds what the body can make sense of as a perceived set of unified and rationally related parts (which is generally 5, at most). This is when man went from demonstrating truth to building monsters; the U.S. Capitol Building and most skyscrapers are other clear examples of man-made monstrosities.
People sometimes attribute infinity to one of the pre-Socratics (Anaximander), but that is the mistake of someone who can’t conceive of a geometrically demonstrated cosmos whose beginning and end, and whose derivation, in its entirety, is ONE. People think Anaximander first considered the concept of infinity because he referred to the “arche” as being what is generally translated as “boundless.” He was simply referring to its not having a sensible or identifiable contour.
Speaking of Newton’s mechanics, the Renaissance man Leon Battista Alberti (discussed in the last post of this series), in his treatise on Architecture, has a section devoted to machines. As an oddity to the modern reader, “On Machines” is included in the section on Ornament. The purpose of ornament, according to Alberti, is to elevate (both the building and the man who beholds it). Machines, then, are in the section of his treatise on ornament because they elevate man and building. After man had climbed significantly further up the Tower of Babel that is his history, Newton didn’t conceive of machines as what elevate the man who lives under the dome of heaven, but he instead posited the entire universe AS a machine! The clockwork universe was born. Soon thereafter, the Industrial Revolution occurred (1760-1820), and buildings, even ones made of brick or stone, were no longer elevated by machines but came to look like them! Our U.S. President’s White House is a good example, which is more readily seen if the photograph of it is enlarged. So is the City Hall of Savannah, GA, which has a giant clock on it.
Economy is from the Greek word “oikos”, for house, household, or family. It is appropriate, then, that soon after the universe became man’s house and the globe merely a room in it, large corporations began operating on a global scale. Soon thereafter, Adam Smith published his Wealth of Nations in 1776. His economic specialization was also an extension of modernity’s separation of natural science and philosophy, leading to reductionism in the name of function. As Marshall McLuhan said it, “One of the nicest things about being big is the luxury of thinking little.”
On the same hand, specialization was also a natural progression from the conception of man and the universe as a deterministically controlled machine. Man was learning to expand his oikos, his economy, not by the will of the God who is actively at work in the cosmos, but by determining the natural laws by which the oikos is built. “The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.” – Marshall McLuhan
When the whole universe is in each man’s head, then the King’s head comes off. With the French Revolution (1787-1789), political DOMinion died, and the social machine was born. In the above picture of the White House, at the foot of the elliptically shaped porch, you can see a couple of monumentally shaped rounded exterior monumental stairs. The idea was that on special occasions, important citizens (not kings, of course) would descend the stairs together and in rhythm as in a dance. Men and women, in tandem with literary sheet music, literally become the smoothly operating machine of the planetary orbits determined from a distance by a Deist god.
Auguste Compte (1789-1859) then theoretically completed the divorce between mind and sense and between heaven and earth. He also, then, in turn, completed the reduction of reality to a physical machine, with his development of logical positivism. As Wikipedia says, “Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, and that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in scientific knowledge.”
Notably, this is the source of the very meaning of our term “science” as it has changed and been handed down to us. That positivism had not yet developed was why I found interest in Galileo’s rejection of Kepler’s idea of the elliptical orbits of the planets because of his thinking of the sphere as the “perfect heavenly form.” Appropriate to Compte’s ridiculous over-stating of man’s dominion in the universe and his knowledge of it, Compte was the father of sociology, purporting to not only formulate scientific theories about whole groups of people but to predict their behavior! This was the Babylonian foundation of the Marketing industry.
The arrival of Compte’s thought signified the natural direction of modernity’s progress to that point. I just referred to it as ridiculous, but we now take for granted his method and mode of knowing about natural phenomenon. This is an indication of both the presence of a lens and the Enlightenment’s pagan influence on said lens. Most naturally for us, natural phenomena are viewed as being governed by their own complete set of laws that are separate and distinct from any influence that cannot be empirically observed and measured. And natural phenomenon are certainly not associated by us with a Christian God. At the least, what comes natural to us, because of the science TAUGHT to us, is in tension and directly clashes with the truth of an Incarnate God of heaven and earth active IN and THROUGH history, in the here and now, toward the telos of joyful communion with us, which was his passion.
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]