For a little more than a week now, I’ve been engaging with Graham Harman‘s object-oriented approach to philosophy. I’m intrigued, but not yet convinced by his tactics. I still have questions about access, about epistemology. How do I know anything about mind-independent objects if their essence remains infinitely hidden? I’m forced to rely upon analogy, the most important tool in the Hermeticist‘s repertoire. All knowledge comes through analogy, as all things are connected, not directly, but analogically. It is metaphor that carries the mind beyond itself to the inner life of things. Harman recognizes this, as well, going so far as to suggest that not just the human mind, but things themselves come into contact with others by way of analogical relationship.
The medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart, was deemed a heretic by a Franciscan-led inquisition, mostly because of the near identity he believed could come to exist between the human soul and God. He taught a path of inner stillness, so that, with the ideation and imagination of the desirous soul quieted, God might speak his silent Word. The utterance of this Word within our soul is a divine and eternal birth, “which occurred at one point in time, and which occurs everyday in the innermost recess of the soul–a recess to which there is no avenue of approach.”
There is no avenue of approach–no point of access, in other words–even to our own innermost nature. And yet, there is a state of transformed consciousness which grants us participation in that of which and by which we are always being made. Like Harman’s objects, whose molten core recedes forever from view, Eckhart’s doctrine of the soul is difficult–nay, impossible!–to grasp. We cannot gain access to the Son of God who is perpetually being born within us, because we are Him already. We cannot grasp the inner life of things, because it lives already within us. Knowledge of things themselves, then, depends upon knowledge of ourselves (which is also knowledge, or love, of God).
Perhaps there is still a trace of occationalism in Harman… or at least, perhaps I cannot understand his tactics without God’s help.
“The saints see in God an idea, and in that idea all things are comprehended–and the same is true of God, who sees everything in himself.”
“There is Truth at the core of the soul but it is covered up and hidden from the mind, and as long as that is so there is nothing the mind can do to come to rest, as it might if it had an unchanging point of reference. The mind never rests but must go on expecting and preparing for what is yet to be known and what is still concealed. Meanwhile, man cannot know what God is, even though he be ever so well aware of what God is not…As long as it has no reference point, the mind can only wait as matter waits for form. And matter can never find rests except in form; so, too, the mind can never rest except in the essential truth which is locked up in it–the truth about everything. Essence alone satisfies and God keeps on withdrawing, farther and farther away, to arouse the mind’s zeal and lure it on to follow and finally grasp the true good that has no cause.”
Excerpts from Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation by Raymond B. Blakney