A couple of posts ago, I promised an exposition on the Trickster in the Bible. As it turns out, the subject is so vast that I needed a book rather than a few blog posts to explore it. I got bogged down in the details, so I’m putting that on the shelf for a while.
One concept to come out of my exploration of the Trickster which I will expound upon here is the conceptual Trinity of the Logos, Abyss, and Spirit.
Who are we? Why are we here? What are we going to do about it? (Or as Alan Watts would say: Who started it? Who’s going to finish it? Is it serious? And who’s going to clean up?) These are the fundamental questions at the root of all human exploratory endeavors. Scientists are searching for the great TOE (Theory Of Everything) – one theory to rule them all – one fundamental supreme model of reality from which everything else can be derived. We want to boil reality down to simpler and simpler more fundamental terms to find the root of the core of the essence of the kernel of the source of the atom of being. Let’s pretend for a moment that we can do this and that all reality boils down to just three concepts: Logos, Abyss, and Spirit.
Logos is a Greek word translated in the New Testament as “Word” and is considered the principle of Divine reason from which we derive the word “logic”. I am going to define the Logos here as: the patterned alternation of boundaries and spaces. A word is the symbol of a defined boundary around a conceptual space. Going back to the “whirlpool in a stream” analogy. The word “whirlpool” calls to mind a bounded space around a particular area of a stream behind an obstruction where the hydrodynamic forces organize the water into a structured shape that we call a “whirlpool”. But is the whirlpool an objective thing or merely a creation of the mind? The boundary around the whirlpool is more of a dashed line and is entirely mental and somewhat fuzzy. Can a whirlpool have any sort of independent existence? Do we find whirlpools of water isolated floating in space? Obviously not. A whirlpool’s existence only makes logical sense when embedded within the larger context of the stream… and likewise the stream’s existence only makes logical sense when embedded within the context of the landscape – and that within the earth – the earth within the solar system – and the solar system within the Universe as a whole.
Likewise ALL words are mental boundaries drawn around parts of the Whole. Since the independent existence of the parts makes no sense without reference to the rest of the Whole, these boundaries would appear to be merely mental creations and illusory. But if all boundaries and the words that represent them are illusory and merely mental, why are we able to break reality down into these mentally defined parts, stitch them back together with logic, and thereby create logical models of reality that seem to match up so well with empirical reality? It must be that reality itself is a construct of mentally defined boundaries and spaces which I am calling the Logos.
Logic is a comparison of mentally defined boundaries and spaces to expose a relationship or pattern between them. The most primitive form or relationship is ratio from which we get “rational”. So the rational aspect of reality is the Logos. For example, imagine two points. In Euclidian geometry, these points define a line. Place a third point on the line and you have a ratio which is a comparison of the spaces defined by the boundaries (points). Without the third point the distance between two points is undefined. It could be considered infinitely large or it could be considered infinitely small. All distances are ratios comparing two bounded spaces, so ratios form the basis of rational logical structured existence.
The Logos is the patterned alternation of boundaries and spaces and forms the intelligible, rational, structural aspect of reality. All structures are likewise patterned alternations of boundaries and spaces. Buildings are composed of beams and walls and rooms. Organisms are composed of organs and cells. The cell wall is a structural boundary that encloses a space which contains still smaller structures. Even mental and social structures are composed of boundaries and spaces in the form of taboos, sins, morality, law, sanity, schedules, holidays, discipline, etc. There are certain ratios like Phi and Pi that are somehow fundamental to the expression of Logos in this reality and so they show up again and again in all sorts of structures from galactic spirals to conchs on the beach to wildflowers to the human body. The study of these natural ratios and their expressions in form is called Sacred Geometry and has been applied in many ancient and modern structures to encode knowledge and appeal to aesthetic sensibilities. These natural ratios also appear in music. For example, the ratios of the lengths of line segments in the pentagram (which encodes Phi) form the basis of the pentatonic scale which is found in many genres of music around the world.
The human mind requires structure to persist in this reality. When a person is “sane” they behave rationally or logically according to internally consistent patterns of thought. When a person is “insane” their mental structure is broken down such that there is a lack of internal consistency and a lack of correspondence between their mental thought patterns and the patterns existing in their external reality. More on insanity when we approach…
So logic is useful and in fact incredibly necessary for us – yet it has its limitations. The limits of logic can be discovered through reflexivity. Turn any logical process back in upon itself and you begin to approach The Abyss. Perhaps that is why a hall of mirrors is incorporated into creepy carnivals and mirrors are prominent in the arts of magic, magick, and the occult.
Deconstruction is one example of reflexivity that would appear in its more extreme form to annihilate logic. Deconstruction is the use of language to analyze language. Take the definition of any word or any sentence, and then attempt to explain the definition, and then attempt to explain the definition of the definition, etc. You will find, as in the case of the whirlpool above, that every part implies the Whole. Nothing can be fully explained without explaining the entire universe itself. And how do we explain the universe…?
For a further demonstration of reflexivity and the limits of logic, consider that all systems of logic are constructed from axioms or primitive notions. These are words or concepts that are considered to need no explanation or definition because this would lead either to infinite regress (need to explain the entire universe in infinite detail) or into a vicious circle (circular reasoning or circular definitions). Take the example of an axiom from Euclidian geometry above: “two non-coincident points define a line”. Coincidence, points, and lines are all primitive notions, but do they really exist? Aren’t they merely mental constructs? We say that a point has no size, but has a location. A location relative to what? As stated above, all distances are ratios or comparisons of bounded spaces. So a point doesn’t have any objective existence but is a mental construct that compares a location to other locations. So points have zero size so they don’t really exist, and points form lines which have zero thickness so they don’t really exist. And lines form planes which have zero thickness so they don’t really exist. And planes form solids which don’t have any duration, so they don’t really exist. Now suppose we have a solid body that floats in space for some period of time… does it exist? How can it exist if everything that composes it does not exist? At what point, do we arrive at something that actually exists? Or is everything that exists actually a mental construct? We could take the approach of an inverted reductionism where concepts are real and prime. We can then zoom in or zoom out to add or subtract informational detail by focusing on more or fewer boundaries and the logical relationships between bounded concepts.
Every system of logic can be deconstructed. Every system of logic relies on axioms and primitive notions that are not supported by any logic because any self-reflexive attempt to do so results in either circularity or infinite regress. Since all foundations of all logic and rationality are fundamentally incapable of being supported by logic and rationality, we can imagine that they “float” upon a dark sea of irrationality or are bubbles of structure floating in a spacious absence of structure. This sea of irrationality and spacious absence of structure is the concept of the Abyss.
The Abyss is poetically synonymous with the deep-sea or “the bottomless pit”. It is mystery, darkness, non-sense, irrationality, and insanity. Curiosity is the quality within an individual that draws that individual to the boundary of present knowledge and causes that individual to yearn to go beyond it. The existence of the Abyss ensures that for every new boundary discovered, there will always be a mystery beyond that draws the curious spirit towards it.
Science employs logic and rationality to explore and model the patterns of the Logos. It can only explore the Logos, but is necessarily blind to the Abyss. Any phenomena that does not conform to rational patterns cannot be explored by science because science requires testability and repeatability. Where there is no pattern, there can be no science. Science is the expansion of knowledge enlarging the bubble of Logos within the infinite void of the Abyss to which science is completely blind. Science is therefore in the business of infinite demystification. It does not matter that this process could be infinite because the process of discovery is in itself its own reward to the curious spirit.
A problem occurs in our adjustment to reality when we forget that the Abyss exists and are led by Science and its efforts at demystification to believe the Universe is entirely logical and that we are approaching the end of all mystery. There is no end to the bottomless pit and there is no top to the heavens.
We are reminded of this reality of the Logos floating in the Abyss in various ways. Men once thought the ground to be solid, but eventually discovered this solid ground floats on fiery magma. The Earth was once thought to be a solid flat entity supported by pillars (or the backs of Turtles), but it was discovered the Earth is a globe floating in the void of space. Matter was once thought to be solid, but it has been discovered that matter is made of smaller and smaller bits of matter until it appears to be more of a collection of thoughts or information rather than physical billiard balls of substance.
In the Bible we find in John 1:1 an interesting description of the Logos “The Word”. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him; and without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John states that the Logos manifested the creation and that the Logos manifested a form within the creation by the name of Jesus. Keeping in mind the notion of the Logos “floating” upon the Abyss, we find this interesting imagery in the story of the Logos in the form of Jesus “floating” or walking on the water (Abyss) by faith. The disciples also float on the water by utilizing their logically created structure (a boat). Peter’s curiosity causes him to step beyond the boundary of his logically created structure and attempt to float on the Abyss as the Logos encourages him to do likewise. Peter’s faith fails him and he begins to sink into the Abyss, but the Logos lifts him back into his floating structure, the boat. The Logos then steps into their structure (the boat) and calms the storm (pushes the Abyss back into its boundaries).
As we have seen, all logical structures are created upon axioms or primitive notions which are accepted to be true by faith. The logical structure within which we find ourselves enmeshed and which we call objective reality is in fact floating upon the Abyss supported only by faith. It should then theoretically be possible for an individual mind to alter one’s faith and step out of this logical bubble of reality and float upon the Abyss. In fact, the existence of the Abyss means that literally anything is possible. The very next instant could see the demise and recreation of the entire universe. There is literally nothing that says the universe must continue its logical progression one second longer save the collective faith of the Logos.
We also find the imagery of “floating” upon the Abyss in Genesis 1. Elohim creates the heavens and the earth, but the earth was “void” and “darkness was on the surface of the deep (Abyss)”. The Spirit of Elohim moved on the waters and this movement was the first act of creation from which light and everything else sprang into existence. Movement or Spirit is thus the third conceptual component of this Trinity.
Spirit means wind or breath. It implies invisible motion and e-motion. It is the animating life force. “And Elohim breathed into his nostrils and the man became a living being.” Motion implies change. As some have said, “the only thing constant is change.” Everything in all existence is in motion. Even the ancient hills and mountains are in the midst of a dramatic progression. When the rate of change is small, conceptual identities can be formed. You consider yourself to be the same person from one day to the next despite your gradual changes because your changes are so gradual they are hardly noticed, so you have formed for yourself an identity or an ego. But this defined identity, like the whirlpool, is mentally constructed, has fuzzy edges, and makes no sense apart from its context within the Whole. So by playing with zoom level, one can have the perspective that individuated identity is illusory – one is nothing or everything or both at the same time; this is the root of mystical experience.
Motion or Spirit is essential to the creation of reality along with the Logos and the Abyss. Creation is movement on the surface of the Abyss – the boundary between the Logos and the Abyss. This movement is Spirit. If there were only Logos, there would be no novelty and therefore circularity without change. If there were only Abyss, there would be no structure or sanity. Creation rides the boundary surface between the two generating both structure and novelty, knowledge and mystery, light and darkness, sanity and insanity. As quoted from the book of John above, “The light (logos) shines in the darkness (abyss), but the darkness has not understood it.” The darkness of the abyss is the place of no knowledge and no understanding. This sounds terrible, but this is what makes the experience of curiosity and learning and interestingness possible. You cannot paint without a blank canvas. The glory of the light is imbued by the darkness that surrounds it.
Many have noted that there is a fine line between creativity and insanity. Some of the most brilliant artists in art, literature, and music lead very dynamic and chaotic lives that sometimes end up going “off the deep end” (into the Abyss). This is because creativity itself is a delicate balance between structure and destruction, sanity and insanity, sense and non-sense, Logos and Abyss.
Throughout all ages and peoples there are warnings against the occult. Channeling unseen entities or dabbling in magic is dangerous because like Peter who sank when he got out of the boat, we can get lost and sink when we leave behind the structure of the Logos and dance a jig on the surface of the Abyss. There is always an element of danger to curiosity. Curiosity has led us to unleash the power of the Sun on Earth. But danger is part of this game. It is the risk of sinking that makes boating exciting. The Spirit of Adventure propels one along this boundary between the Logos and the Abyss and that is the Spirit of humanity and the Divine Spirit. It is dynamic movement, the Spirit of Life that treads upon the surface of the Abyss that keeps life fresh and new and exciting.