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June 3rd 2009

Russell

 

    For many years I lived with Russell's view of mysticism.  Mysticism was, he suggested, useful for the occasional insight, and he was very far from dismissing the authenticity of mystical claims, but as a man of reason and ultimately as a Lord of the Realm, he saw it as unreliable in the hunt for precision.

    This was enlightenment, I thought.  This was a person who would not genuflect to the unknown, because on a favorable reading of his thought, he was a man for whom things had to be demonstrated.  In his later years I get the sense that events of history sowed their seeds of doubt, pushed him into corners, left him with a dim view of that 'special sort of matter' he called life. 

    Invariably this is the lot of analysis.  The ideas form, solutions appear to emerge.  Good things are achieved.  Bad things happen.  But ask say a doctor what life is and he will tell you what death is.

Bergson

 

   

    While I was amongst Russell's view of mysticism I was inclined to hold the opinion that a belief in a higher power was either a frailty of mind or it was a sort of social club.  Here there are those who become quite irrational, I have even heard it said that we are somehow hardwired to believe in a God.

   On the other side there are those who have described reason in such a way as to make it appear as though it too is a temple.  Such a view reckons to know what reason is and in that assumption there is a subjective quality that leaves a mind disillusioned in old age.  They become old men, or women staring out of the photograph, almost like frightened children.

   My current inclination is to look for a better understanding of what it is to think, rather than what it is that thinking produces.  I am pompous to the extent that I have given it a name.  I call it "time as quality".  The root of this expression is a rude combination of that early idea "soul is a quality", which later was so mangled by faith, and that muddle that passes for my understanding of "time in physics".

    This gives me a most material thing upon which to rest the question why.  And oddly, while I have no answer, the process has given me a better and very useful understanding of why men sometimes chose to believe in higher-ness.  

    Which is I suppose how Bergson saw it.

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