About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Scary Theater

The original illustration from Descartes' Treatise on Man
This Sunday I would like to take you to a special and and also somehow scary place. It is called Cartesian Theater after René Descartes (Renatus Carteius in Latin). Yes, it is that french philosopher famous for postulating Cogito ergo sum - "I think, therefore I am."
    Cartesian Theater is a modern name for an important part of Descartes’ philosophy just as Plato’s Cave is important part of his. The Cartesian Theater was supposed to be a place of interaction between the immaterial, intelligent soul and the physical body. Senses were picking up perceptions and transmitting them along the nerves to a place in the brain where they were presented to the soul. The immaterial intelligent soul then analyzed these inputs, made freewill decisions and sent neural commands back to the body. The Cartesian Theater was supposed to be an essential function of a brain mediating between these two realms, spiritual and physical.
    This radical body-mind dualism had major and far reaching consequences. It demisticized, secularized, even desecrated the world. The only mystical and sacred element in existence (beside God) was the intelligent human soul. Anything and everything else in the world was just secular “stuff” fully available for rational, scientific study. This worldview greatly accelerated the development of the modern science and modern technology.
    But this radical body-mind dualism also led to an alienation of the mind from the body and alienation of reason from emotions. Most importantly it led to the alienation of humans from the rest of nature. Inevitably, the human intelligent mind (often quite narrowminded) became the measure of everything. This secular worldview greatly contributed to our modern ecological crisis. The Cartesian Theater morphed into a scary haunted castle of human hubris.
     This Sunday and all the following summer Sundays in a special worship series we will seek to heal our alienation and modern self-centeredness. Come this Sunday to be assured from the fountains of our faith that we are more than thinking machines. Come this Sunday to rejoice in the spiritual wholeness growing up from the deep roots of our faith tradition.

And for those who read this far:
René Descartes situated the interface between a soul and a body to the pineal gland. Of course, it is not its true physiological function. But even if we take the soul-body interface not anatomically, but instead metaphorically, there is a remaining logical problem. In this picture a person fries an egg and every new inner observer creates a new need for a next and deeper interface - ad infinitum et ad nauseam. This was most clearly pointed out by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett.

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