Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD)

There are divergent accounts, but at least some cosmogonies hold that the first such powers emerged from a primordial chaos through their own dynamism. In her rendition, the first verse begins:. At the time that turned the heat of the earth, At the time when the heavens turned and changed, At the time when the light of the sun was subdued To cause light to break forth, At the time of the night of Makalii winter Then began the slime which established the earth, The source of deepest darkness.

Kumulipo was born in the night, a male. Poele was born in the night, a female. A coral insect was born, from which was born perforated coral. The earth worm was born, which gathered earth into mounds. Again, thinking through the work of a possible comparative philosophy of religion, we can make the initial observation that some cosmogonic narratives allow for radical diversity or even incommensurability across different phenomena Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) systems; while others, by various means, reduce diversity to sameness.

Consider three options:. This allows for the possibility that structured existence emerges from chaos, that being emerges from non-being, or that some manner of existence has simply always existed, in various states of organization and dissolution. We will turn to some of the options under the third narrative in the next section. In the first case, the narrative of transcendence tends to accord to itself an absolute sense of truth, and hence is less able to tolerate competing narrative models.

But an emergent deity is truly a unique production. It is its own force to be reckoned with, on its own terms. But I could claim no direct kinship, neither through narratives of transcendence nor of manifestation. As I propose here, the narrative of emergence retains the political dimension of the supernatural, where unequally situated forces engage each other in conditions of uncertainty and under the weight of real consequences.

We turn now to various versions of emergent cosmogonies in Chinese thought, with an eye toward the political disagreements that underly seemingly obscure cosmological or metaphysical points.

In line with my continuing theme, I suggest that it is because Chinese theories overall privilege emergentist narratives that the political dimensions remain front and center. Humans follow the way of the earth, the earth follows the cosmos, and the cosmos follows dao. But what does dao follow? In other words, the polarity quickly becomes a multiplicity due to the recursive behavior of these generative forces by which newly emergent phenomena interact with existing phenomena in layers of escalating complexity.

In most Chinese cosmogonies, the behavioral tendencies of qi play a crucial role. No single phenomenon is yin or yang on its own but only in relation to other phenomena in specific contexts. This accounts for the so-called correlative cosmology often associated with Chinese philosophical and metaphysical theories.

The primal qi is, in one way or another, altered by the emergence of this polarity. Some strands of Chinese thought portray this as a transition from chaos to structure, while others portray it as the disturbance of a once-pristine tranquility.

But, either way, the emergence of the yinyang polarity marks the onset of new conditions, not the manifestation of generic primal qi into two specific forms. We cannot capture the relation of yuanqi to yin and Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) through a logic of either genus and species or primary and secondary qualities.

As stated in an early companion commentary to the Yijingthe text is a vehicle for the same primal cosmological progression that birthed the universe:. The Book of Changes contains the Great Ultimate; the Great Ultimate brings forth the two polar forces; the two polar forces bring forth the four images; and the four images bring forth the eight trigrams. These eight establish good fortune and misfortune. From fortune and misfortune come forth the great affairs [of life].

Despite a common cosmological pattern across the Laozi and Yijing —from one, to two, to the myriad things—later Ruist and Daoist interpreters disagreed about the details. And, although it is not always immediately evident to readers today, these disagreements often had a political dimension.

Often these critiques were extended to Daoist thought, as well, which even since the early days of the reception of the dharma in China had been seen as similar to Buddhism. Liu provides strong textual and etymological evidence to show that, in early Daoist texts, apparent references to nothingness or emptiness are in fact references to formlessness, which is to say, primordial formless qi.

As a result, she asserts, both early Ruists and early Daoists share the same basic qi -based cosmology in which utter nothingness is not a plausible metaphysical possibility. Accordingly, she argues that many Song-era Ruist critics of Daoism were often making a political or moral point about Daoist passivity; that is, they were mostly worried about the perceived abnegation of social responsibilities, not the status of nothingness in a metaphysical theory.

All such possibilities are present in the Chinese. A more Ruist interpretation would suggest, instead, that the Great Ultimate is to be understood as limitless or indescribable. Liu provides detailed research and argumentation to show that, according to most Ruist understandings, taiji refers to the primordial formless qi out of which yin and yang spontaneously differentiate themselves. The focus is not on the origin of the qi -matrix itself, which would draw us toward narratives of either transcendence or manifestation; rather, the focus remains on the spontaneous emergence of a diversity of forms out of formlessness, where formlessness is neither ontologically foundational nor metaphysically transcendent.

Again, the difference is political. For example, the historian Tze-Ki Hon identifies competing cosmogonic narratives as central drivers of social and political reform in the Northern Song dynasty — But, as Hon explains, this seemingly obscure metaphysical point was indeed an act of political resistance:.

He also believed that, as part of the universe, human beings were already fulfilling their cosmic mission by improving their social and political order. For him, since the universe is actively renewing itself Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) the interaction of the yin and the yang, human beings should also be actively renewing themselves in matters big and small.

For Hu, the correct understanding of wu as wuxing returns emphasis to the concrete meaningfulness of the affairs of his day, making political progress itself a function, and appropriate goal, of spiritual self-cultivation.

This was, of course, one of the central tenets of the Ruist critique of Buddhism in the Song—i. And, under the right conditions, this primordial qi is available to us Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) a raw material, as it were, from which we can shape new forms, events, or processes. The ability to draw on this primal material is often portrayed as revitalizing, refreshing, and healthy. Again, the difference, at least for the Ruists, was political.

The Buddhists had their own Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) to these charges, of course, and a full review of Buddhist—Ruist comparative thought is beyond the scope of this essay. Hu Yuan resists both readings, and, as such, he aligns with what I described above as a strong emergentist position.

His interpretation of wu as wuxing retains emphasis on the potency of qi and the forces of yin and yangwithout speculating on what came before or lies outside the generative qi -matrix. Hon concludes:.

By arguing that yi meant changes alone, Hu treated phenomenal affairs as ontologically real, and thereby significant in their own right. In the language we have been developing here, we might say that the ontological reality of phenomenal affairs is one hallmark of an emergent cosmogony in general. In other words, this cosmogonic narrative speaks to the emergence of truly diverse phenomena, neither the manifestation of specific forms from a generic ontological substratum nor the reliance of the immanent world on a transcendent source.

Arguably, this point holds whether we are talking about the spontaneous emergence of form from formless qior the possible emergence of the qi -matrix itself from a more primal void. Perhaps, in his attempt to discount the latter option through his strong emergentist position, Hu is guarding against any interpretation that diminishes the complexity and real diversity of contemporaneous affairs.

As we see, in this brief tour of Chinese cosmogonic debates, questions that vex cosmological and metaphysical investigation in European philosophy or religion are notably absent, such as questions of intentional design, divine attributes, the status of miracles, or the problem of evil. Rather, the debates center on moral and political issues: Does Buddhist emptiness lead to nihilism? Does Daoist voidness lead to political pacifism and moral relativism? The Ruists, like good critical theorists today, built socio-political analysis into their speculative philosophy.

This emergentist model is a hallmark of the so-called disenchanted worldview. How, then, does our discussion of cosmogonic emergence above contribute, as I suggested, to a philosophical position that takes seriously the specificity and locality of the supernatural? This takes us to a central assumption on the part of Song philosophers, namely that Sacrifices To The Blood God - Recursion (4) - Transcendence In Impermanence (CD) thoughts and emotions can be understood as modes of etheric or refined qi.

In other words, consciousness in general can be understood according to the same qi -realism that explains the behaviors and tendencies of other phenomena. Thus, qi was endowed with qualities of mind, and could interact with the mind. This same qi -based worldview that explains consciousness also explains the existence of ghosts, spirits, gods, and so forth. All are emergent phenomena made possible by the behavioral tendencies and dynamic vitality of the matter—energy matrix of qi.

This leads us to at least three conclusions regarding the supernatural derived from the emergentist narrative. Firstly, understanding the language of emergence in terms of the dynamic vitality of qi can account for certain naturalistic explanatory models without thereby committing us to an entirely mechanistic, deterministic, or otherwise reductive scientific worldview. Secondly, the qi -based model situates all emergent phenomena, both ordinary and extra-ordinary, within a constitutively politicized social context.

The ancestral shrines are precisely such sites at which differences in power are negotiated between human and spiritual interests. Thirdly, following from the point above, our discussion is politicized in yet another sense: the cosmogonic position of spontaneous emergence under qi -realism allows for meaningful differences between supernatural phenomena to come into philosophical view, in a way that no version of either absolute transcendence or mystical holism ever will.

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