Fragments: Taxidermy versus the Indomitable Lógos

A. N. Whitehead: “We may conceive humanity as engaged in an internecine conflict between youth and age. Youth is not defined by years but by the creative impulse to make something. The aged are those who, before all things, desire not to make a mistake. Logic is the olive branch from the old to the young, the wand which in the hands of youth has the magic property of creating science.”

Vladimir Soloviev: “All our universe, insofar as it is not a chaos of discrete atoms but a single and united whole, presupposes, over and above its fragmentary material, a form of unity, and likewise an active power subduing to this unity elements antagonistic to it. … The body of the universe is the totality of the real-ideal, the psycho-physical … Matter in itself, i.e., the dead conglomeration of inert and impenetrable atoms, is only conceived by abstracting intelligence, but is not observed or revealed in any such actuality.”

***

A. N. Whitehead says the chief error of Philosophy is overstatement but I think it’s taxidermy. By taxidermy I mean semantic abstraction in which one sunders the informational content of a word or phrase from the total being of it (i.e. which totality includes meaning, valence, history, etc…), and then proudly decorates one’s discourse with this linguistic corpse as one might display any other status-symbol. To put his another way, one says the word without experiencing it. “Substance” and “intellect” perished centuries ago. In my estimation, “integral” is succumbing to slow death by taxidermy—or “jargonisation,” which is the same thing—in our own time, and so too is the word “organic.”

The informational content of a word is the skeleton of its being. One may derive a skeleton from what was once living but one may not perform the converse operation, since abstraction depends on something concrete from which it may be abstracted. Just as definitions depend on meanings which they can define, so inert matter depends on life. What is static and measurable is the husk of what is living and immeasurable. As a serpent sheds its skin, so life as process sheds matter as substance.

***

Like L i g h t, which is itself invisible but is nevertheless the principle that renders all things visible (i.e. we see colours, which is to say, the interplay of light and opacity), so L i f e keeps no form to itself, yet is that impetuous force that forms all matter. Life recruits inorganic particles and organises it according to the former’s inner logic. Yet though bedight with an elemental raiment, Life remains itself invisible to sensory perception. In this regard, our eyes perceive only the trappings of Life but never Life eo ipso, in its essential being—we see only husks whilst germs escape us. In the way that an invisible river might form a riverbed by sculpture and sedimentary deposition, so flowing vital currents burgeon forth in supersensible ecstasy, and in their wake leave roots, shoots, leaves, sepals, fruits, and flowers, etc…not to mention the organic human form. These creative currents then sustain the said creature until exhaustion at which point their organic enchantment is suspended and they disperse again into the cosmic ether. No longer maintained by the logic of Life, Gaia gradually recollects on the loan of mineral substance she so generously offered into the erstwhile organism’s stewardship and biological death of the latter is the result. To recognise the inner nature of life and death is to appreciate a grand pulse of generative activity—in systole, substance inhales the breath of life, and in diastole the latter is released, the said substance falling back into the prima materia of terrestrial elements: Goethe writes, “So long as you do not have this, this ‘Die and Become,’ you are only a dreary guest on this dark earth.” The universe then appears as a cosmic heart, whose every heartbeat engenders form into primordial void to perennially call to life new creative marvels.

To follow the germination and growth of a single wheat kernel is to see the Lógos bind itself to matter and quicken erstwhile inert substance, leavening it to form the bread of Life. In this fixation into form, one may recognise the original Crucifixion, modestly recapitulated, like a fractal iteration of the sacrifice on Golgotha. The Lógos must incarnate into substance, “the Word must become flesh.” Eternal life must enter into time and bind itself to mortal form, nailing itself to the cross of perishable matter. Centuries before the John Gospel captured this archetypal sacrifice in its purest expression, Plato wrote variously in Timaeus, Phaedrus, and the Republic, of the ‘X’ shape of the world-soul, which crucifies itself upon the world body. We can kindle our appreciation for this gesture when we consider that, as human beings, we receive all corporeal sustenance and nourishment from the perennial offering of Nature, which serves in turn as the receptacle (khôra) and crucifix of the solar Lógos—“All things were made…and without [the Lógos] was not any thing made that was made.” Greening Nature is the symbol of matter enchanting sunlight. Rhineland mystic and prophetess Hildegard von Bingen recognised the spiritual dimension of Nature, which she recorded in the remarkable words as we also quoted above:

The Lógos is living, being, spirit,
Al
m>veriditas), all creativity.
Th
in every creature.

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