Friday, April 28, 2017

Bad News About the Good News

Maybe I have nothing to say because I've been dabbling in Kierkegaard, who would say that saying nothing is preferable to saying much of anything about God.

Rather, one must Do; or better, Be. In his view, there were few actual Christians, just a lot of people pretending to be. Which, in a way, is worse than being "anti-Christian."

"My task is to disabuse people of the illusion that they are Christians -- yet I am serving Christianity."

So, he's a kind of inverse apostle: instead of convincing people to convert to Christianity, he's trying to convince them they never did. He spent his life spreading Bad News about the Good News.

Frankly, he's a bit of a pill. An irritant. A provocateur. He likes to stir things up. He would say that any intellectual approach to Christianity is doomed to failure, and that we have to completely bypass the intellect in the act of faith. He has a point there: one can rationalize forever without taking that final leap, which does indeed require commitment.

This is why he is called an existentialist, and even the "founder" of existentialism: "To become a genuine self, an individual in the truest sense, was a central concern to Kierkegaard." He "stands against every form of thinking that bypasses the individual or enables the individual to escape his responsibility before God."

Either. Or. Which is the title of one of his most famous books. The point is, it's on you, and no amount of rationalizing can free you from making the choice rooted in faith. "Each person must choose between God and the world." And "if someone wants to have faith and reason too, well, let the comedy begin."

Who is this meddlesome noodge! I wonder what Schuon would say?

Kierkegaard’s “existence” nullifies itself through lack of sufficient reason; how is it possible to conceive of an “existential” morality, that is to say, a morality which is “lived and not thought” and therefore immune to “abstraction,” at the level of terrestrial man who is a thinking being by definition? This alternative between “existence” and “thought-abstraction” is the fundamental misunderstanding in existentialism; indeed the latter is simply one of the most aberrant manifestations of what may be described as Western alternatives.

Thank you. I knew there was something deviant in his approach, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Here's a guy who writes 35 abstruse books and 20 volumes of journals, but he's not an intellectual!

Yeah, "What is one to say of a philosopher who 'thinks' cheerfully about the insincerity or the mediocrity of 'thought' as such? Inept though that may be, an audience is never lacking for such literary artifices of a mentally compressed city dweller" (Schuon).

A mentally compressed city dweller. I'm going to steal that one. Does it not describe our blue state and bluer city mouth-breathren?

Schuon continues as only Schuon can:

The Western spirit has always lived to a large extent on alternatives.... One of the most typical examples in fact is Kierkegaard’s criticism of the “abstract thinker” who, so it would appear, is guilty of “the contradiction of wishing to demonstrate his existence by means of his thought.” “To the extent that he thinks abstractly he makes an abstraction of the fact that he exists” is the conclusion reached by this philosopher.

Now in the first place, really to think, to think intelligently, and not merely to juxtapose figurative or question-begging propositions implies by definition “thinking abstractly,” since otherwise thought would be reduced to imagination; and in the second place, there is no fundamental opposition between the two poles of existing and “thinking,” since our existence is always a mode of consciousness for us and our thought is a manner of existing.

What's with the hatred of the intellect? Yes, it is obviously misused, but so is everything. Faith is certainly misused. Why not spend one's life ranting about that?

Kierkegaard is not completely wrong. It's just that he inappropriately generalizes from the widespread misuse of intelligence:

An element of truth is contained nonetheless in the existentialist criticisms, in the sense that discursive knowledge is separative by reason of the subject-object polarization; however, the conclusion to be drawn from this is not that such knowledge is devoid of value on its own plane or that it is limited as to its content, but that it does not embrace all possible knowledge, and that in purely intellective and direct knowledge the polarization in question is transcended.

In other words, there is analytical knowledge that separates (and is rooted in separation), and unitive knowledge that synthesizes (and is grounded in unity). It's almost like left-brain/right-brain, or particle/wave, or part/whole. The world is bi-logical. Complementarity, baby. Not Either/Or, but Both/And.

Does man have a right to know? Or is his intellect totally superfluous? If so, why do we have it? What is it for? Can our highest ability really be worth less than nothing?

Meh. I can see his point, but he takes everything too far. Intelligence doesn't save. But nor does it condemn. To put it conversely, can't the whole man be saved, intellect included? Or is everything rotten in Denmark?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Celestial Living in the Sublunary World

In lieu of a hiatus, maybe I'll just continue with shortish posts for awhile, until the urge to bloviate returns...

If materialism is the case, then all problems -- and their solutions -- come down to matter. So, "if all men were exempt from material cares," asks Schuon, "would the world be saved?"

"Assuredly not," because "evil resides above all in man himself, as experience proves."

I thought of this the other day when reading this article reminding me that you and I are Richer than John D. Rockefeller.

Think about the fact that in 1924, the 16 year-old son of a sitting president died of an infected blister. How much worldly power would you give up just for antibiotics? How much wealth would you exchange for...

The medical list alone is endless: powerful analgesics, MRIs, cancer cures, organ transplants, open heart surgery, hip replacements, psychopharmacology, etc. I mean, insulin didn't become available until 1922, so I'd be a dead billionaire.

The bottom line:

I wouldn’t be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.

That is what you call a miracle: that the free market system has effectively transformed millions of ordinary people into billionaires -- or, into a lifestyle beyond the dreams of a 1917 millionaire.

But has it resulted in an increase in happiness? Do the average victims of a state-sponsored indoctrination even have the historical perspective to think in these terms, or are they utterly Creatures of the Now? Certainly the left doesn't look at it this way, by definition. For, in the words of Schuon,

Progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes; it is the wish to abolish calamities without realizing that the are nothing other than what man himself is; they necessarily result from his metaphysical ignorance, or his lack of love for God.

There are no material solutions to spiritual problems. That is a category error. But every problem looks like a nail if your only tool is a hammer... and sickle.

Envy has always been with us, but the political left has existed in a conscious and organized form for a couple hundred years (think of the left as intellectualized and/or organized envy). The left claims to be "progressive," but imagine if we had enacted their programs at any point along the way -- for example, in 1917.

Envy, of course, homes in on the existence of millionaires such as Rockefeller, and on the disparity between his and our incomes. Envy demands that this gap be closed now.

That could have been done, of course, but at the cost of destroying the Economic Progress Machine that in one hundred years would make us richer than Rockefeller. In other words, leftist policies can be fully enacted, but only once -- as in Venezuela. And good luck merely maintaining the level of prosperity that existed when you enacted them, since you destroy the very incentives that redound to the production of wealth.

Well, at least there are no longer any spiritual problems in Venezuela: spiritual hunger has been displaced by plain old hunger.

Is it even conceivable that an envy-driven leftism could be compatible with Christianity? "[T]radition has never admitted this kind of economic blackmail addressed to God" (Schuon). Nothing enslaves the spirit like liberation theology, and nothing asphyxiates gratitude -- the key to happiness -- like envy unbound.

Instead of having his gaze always fixed on the imperfections of the world and the vicissitudes of life, man should never lose sight of the good fortune of being born in the human state, which is the road leading to Heaven. --Schuon

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Inside Story of Religion

Although Schuon and Kierkegaard have little in common in style or approach, they would agree on this: "it can happen that a man is intelligent and competent, or that a minority is; but it cannot happen that the majority is intelligent and competent, or 'more intelligent' or 'more competent'" (Schuon).

Kierkegaard is on the same page: "As soon as truth is defined in terms of what the majority can understand it is ipso facto betrayed." But although "the truth is always in the minority, it does not follow that the minority always has the truth."

Nevertheless, "what most men are ready at once to understand, without further preparation, is unequivocally nonsense." Which is why people and institutions default leftward when deprived of any deeper understanding of the principles that govern human beings and their collective efforts.

These Principles have been known since Before the Beginning, from myths as diverse as Icarus or the Tower of Babel, up to more recent works of fantasy such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Paul Krugman's latest editorial.

"In every profession, and in relation to every subject, it is the minority that knows; the multitude is ignorant." This is how we end up hoodwinked by statists and their mouthpieces in the MSM, since they presume to have the knowledge and expertise we lack. Which is what "makes the press the most profoundly demoralizing of all the forms of sophistry."

People think Trump is hard on the media. Listen to Kierkegaard: "The lowest depth to which people can sink before God is defined by the word 'journalist.'" And "If Christ now came to earth, as sure as I live, He would not attack the high priests and the like; He would focus his attention on the journalists."

Indeed, if we place all forms of literature on a vertical scale, revelation and journalism must be at antipodes. Where Schuon and Kierkegaard would differ is in the former's belief that revelation is an instantiation of metaphysical truths accessible to the intellect.

If I am not mistaken, Kierkegaard would reject that notion on the grounds that it represents an excessively abstract intellectualism. Schuon would respond that the point isn't merely to know these truths on the plane of abstract intellect, but to assimilate them via a legitimate religious practice.

On this they would agree. Sort of. For Kierkegaard, the whole point of religion is to realize its truths, not merely to "know" them with the mind.

This was the basis of his radical critique of Christianity as practiced and understood by his contemporaries: he essentially believed that the original revolutionary message had been domesticated and trivialized by respectable institutions and harmless church functionaries.

Isn't this always the way? I mean the way down, vertically speaking? I remember reading somewhere that virtually every schism, sub-schism, and sub-sub-schism is prompted by some religious minority longing for a more intense spiritual experience, or encounter with God.

Ironically, this is precisely why Catholics leave the church for Protestantism, and why Protestants return to the Church. Both are looking for the same thing, and perhaps it is more easily discovered in an unfamiliar setting -- similar to how life can be more vivid when vacationing, away from the familiar.

One of the appeals of Orthodox Christianity is no doubt its relative strangeness, especially for westerners (the same can obviously be said of Eastern religions such as Buddhism).

What we want is a Strange encounter with the radically Other. Such encounters must be the mother's milk -- or daily bread -- of religiosity, no?

This is what Kierkegaard is referring to with his insistence upon the subjectivity of Truth: not that Truth is subjective, God forbid, which would render it indistinguishable from lunacy. Rather, that it must be experienced subjectively, or inwardly; it is like the difference between seeing the notes printed on a page vs. hearing the musical performance.

So, don't misunderstand Kierkegaard when he claims, for example, that "I must find the truth which is a truth for me," or "Only the Truth which edifies, is Truth for you."

For he is not promulgating the subjectivity of Truth, but rather, the inevitable subjectivity of our response to it. In the face of Truth, "The problem is to potentialize one's own subjectivity to the highest maximum."

Really, he is advocating for a vertical plunge into the depths of Truth, which is never ending. There is no system we can master, which "presupposes a closed finality." Rather, "real life is always something we are in the midst of."

Which once again has political implications, because in the absence of this inward turn, man is just lost in the cosmos. In other words, no political program can accomplish what only individuals can do, one assoul at a time.

Kierkegaard even offered "a reward to any person who can find in the whole array of my books, one single proposal looking toward any outward change, or even the slightest hint of such a proposal" claiming "that the trouble lies in something external..."

No, the trouble is always inside. But it's easier to project the inside out and pretend to cure it with some political program.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Infrarational, Rational, Transrational

Just because something isn't rational -- or reducible to logical expression -- doesn't mean it isn't true (apologies for the triple negative). Nor, for that matter, is something necessarily true just because it is rational.

For example, many rational acts are immoral. But does this imply the converse, that moral acts are irrational? No, because such acts must comport with a higher logic -- i.e., they are transrational. Looked at this way, the immoral act becomes irrational -- or infrarational -- in the broader sense.

Some time ago I noticed that anti- or irreligious people tend to descend into a kind of sentimentality -- or that religious depth is replaced by emotional attachment. There is obviously nothing wrong with emotion, but by sentimentality I mean... What do I mean? A kind of cheapening -- a counterfeit, exaggerated, and arbitrary coloration.

That's convenient: I'm just now looking at an essay by Schuon called Reflections on Ideological Sentimentalism. In it he points out how, for example, a Kantian might imagine that his metaphysic is completely free of emotionality, when it is thoroughly rooted in it. For "its starting point or 'dogma' is reducible to a gratuitous reaction against all that lies beyond the reach of reason."

In other words, you might say that it constitutes the revolt of (mere) reason against the transrational.

But this revolt, no matter how superficially "rational" it may appear, is nonetheless rooted in passion, whether conscious or unconscious. For it is "an instinctive revolt against truths which are rationally ungraspable and which are considered annoying on account of this very inaccessibility."

Again, these truths may not be accessible to mere reason, but this hardly means they are inaccessible per se. I can't help thinking this is one more iteration of Genesis 3, with the temptation and fall having to do with the perennial attempt to enclose the transnational within the rational. Can't be done.

Speaking of which, for some reason I've recently been getting reacquainted with Kierkegaard, and I'm hearing rumors that his entire project must be understood in the context of a widespread Hegelianism that presumed to do just that, i.e., pretend that the real is rational (and vice versa). Well, it's not. Thank God. For if it were, then nothing could happen.

Which Kierkegaard means literally. There is actually a fleeting reference to this principle on p. 72 of the book of which this blog is an endless footnote. I suppose it's a kind of subtle point, but nevertheless important to understand: that the logically necessary "cannot come into existence, because coming into existence is a transition from not existing to existing. The purely necessary in fact cannot essentially change, because it is always itself."

The point is that real change is translogical. Admit it into your metaphysic and you've escaped Kant and anyone else who tries to confine you within its walls. For "novelty is truly creative and therefore contingent and unnecessary. If something is strictly determined, it cannot be novel or creative, for the same reason you cannot compose a symphony by merely applying a predetermined rule for the combination of notes" (ibob.). (One important implication is that evolution isn't logical, thank God again.)

Can't know the noumenal? Of course we can know the noumenal. If we couldn't, then life wouldn't be worth living.

Nor, for that matter, would life be worth living if we could actually enclose the noumenal within the phenomenal. Indeed, the whole freaking point of life is to apprehend and assimilate the reality behind appearances, not to do the opposite, i.e., confine reality to your puny ideas about it! That's crazy.

"There can be no such thing as a philosophical system embracing potentialities or meanings," because "a system presupposes a closed finality, while real life is something we are always in the midst of. We think backwards, but we live forwards..." And "he who clings to the external fact alone is content with an empty shell" (David Swenson).

Along these lines, here is an excellent orthoparadox: "The Truth is, not to know the Truth, but to be the Truth; to know the Truth only, is to be enmeshed in error" (ibid.). This goes to the distinction between (k) and (n): there is nothing wrong with (k) about the world, i.e., about appearances. But (k) about O -- or, to be precise, pretending to enclose O within (k) -- is just a total non-starter. Might as well try to give birth to yourself.

The Problem obviously has only gotten worse in our age: Kierkegaard "believed that [his] age suffered from an over-abundance of knowledge. Life was being made increasingly unreal, since living was being confused with knowledge about life. In this situation it would be superfluous and even harmful merely to increase the store of knowledge already existing.... this would only tend to promote the disease it was intended to cure."

God forbid that this blog add more knowledge to that steaming pile! That's what the other 152 million blogs are for. This one is for escaping all that (k) through the inscape of (n). I say, better to live by a transrational myth that proceeds from the weirdness of God than to subsist on the wonderless bread of absurcular logic.

What is crucial in Kantianism is... the altogether 'irrational' desire to limit intelligence; this results in a dehumanization of the intelligence and opens the door to all the inhuman aberrations of our century. --Schuon

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How Stupid Can a Man Be? And How Intelligent Should He Be?

"Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth -- 'the Truth' -- is a construct of the Euro-West... This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny" (A Bunch of Illiterate Liberal Fascist Students of Color).

I realize that people believe these things, but still. Do they really believe them? Is this even possible?

Let's start with the existence of truth. If there is no truth, can there be such a thing as honesty? Obviously not. One can be earnest, sincere, passionate, etc., but honesty has to do with commitment to truth. So the dim bulbs who penned this screed are not, by their own lights, honest. They are just... screeching or howling, like any other animal that registers distress.

Interesting too that the authors assert that belief in the existence of truth and objectivity is a "myth." In the profane sense, a myth is "untrue." But what can it be in the absence of truth? Why pretend shadows can exist without light?

On a deeper level, of course, myths convey transrational truths that are timeless and universal, applying to all people at all times.

Have these students never had a course in basic logic? The question answers itself, but there is a Logic without which no coherent statements of any kind can be made. This logic -- AKA Logos -- is not explicit, but rather, implicit in all speech. It is why we have speech at all, and one of the coolest ways we are in the image of the Creator.

In short, only God and man possess speech. Animals and liberal college students can "communicate," but only in a predictable and repetitious way, on a very narrow frequency.

What is especially perverse about the claims of these liberal fascists is that they render man utterly worthless. Which fascists tend to do.

To put it conversely, "The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute" (Schuon). Now, this is the same Absolute that is implicit in all speech, even if denied. Which is why the speech of the liberal fascists is so utterly incoherent: it explicitly denies the Absolute while making all sorts of claims that are meaningless in its absence.

The bottom line is that you can't just jettison the Absolute and pretend nothing has happened. Truly, it is like the Titanic hitting the iceberg while everyone ignores the water flooding into the hull. A ship cannot float, let alone get anywhere, under such circumstances. Just so, without the boundary between true and false, language crapsizes and sinks into darkness.

Which raises another important point: that language is literally a conveyer of Light. Any lover of language appreciates this, as it is one of the more experience-near emanations of spirit. Great poems are not just gay sentences.

And speaking of "myth," In the beginning was the Word; without this Word nothing was made; and in this Word is Light and Life.

Those are metaphysical claims expressed in mythopoetic manner. Not only are they true, they are precisely true, even the basis of Truth. They explain how and why the world is intelligible to intelligence, why we can share this intelligibility with each other, and ultimately how man and world are mutually illuminating, since they are derived from the same Absolute Light.

In this majestic Light, how petty and impoverished are those proudly lightless Students of Color! Imagine rejecting the one thing that elevates you above the beasts!

It is especially ironic that African Americans would embrace an ideology that considers it "fascist" to make an absolute truth claim such as All men are created equal. Not to mention the fact that if there is no truth, then there can by definition be no freedom (unless the latter is conflated with being lost in permanent confusion).

Here are some more absolute truth claims. If they make me a fascist, then what can one say but God bless fascism?:

"The intelligence of the animal is partial, that of man is total; and this totality is explained only by a transcendent reality to which the intelligence is proportioned" (Schuon).

If the intelligence of animals is partial and of man total, then the stupidity of these students is complete and irremediable. They literally situate themselves beneath the beasts, since animals at least don't believe idiotic lies about themselves.

"Objectivity, whereby human is distinguished from animal intelligence, would lack sufficient reason without the capacity to conceive the absolute or infinite, or without the sense of perfection" (ibid.).

Animals can at least rely upon unwavering instinct instead of being plunged into the darkness of an absolute subjectivity that answers to no object.

"Truth is the reason for man's existence; it constitutes our grandeur and reveals to us our littleness" (ibid.).

Note the corollary: that deconstruction pretends to reveal our littleness while exalting man's pride -- for it is a proud man who claims to have "rights" in the absence of truth.

"Totality of intelligence implies freedom of will. This freedom would be meaningless without an end prefigured in the Absolute; without knowledge of God and of our final ends, it would be neither possible nor useful" (ibid.).

In such a world, freedom becomes a nuisance -- like these cognitively shipwrecked students who agitate for things that cannot be, and insist that other people are somehow obligated to respect their stupid claims.

"[W]ith intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite" (ibid.). That eternal circle bisects every now, as every now bisects the circle.

Recall Lincoln's gag, when someone asked him how long a man's legs should be: long enough to reach the ground. Similarly, how intelligent should a man be? Intelligent enough to reach the ground of truth, i.e., to intuit the principles without which truth is impossible and man sinks beneath himself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Absolute Stupidity of the Left

"Strictly speaking," writes Schuon, "there is but one sole philosophy, the Sophia Perennis." In turn, this philosophy, extended to its outer and inner limits, must be the one religion (or the Religion underlying religiosity).

It is axiomatic that truth is one, the purpose of philosophy being to map this truth. The purpose of religion is to realize and assimilate this truth -- not just mentally, or on the plane of existence, but into the very fabric of one's being.

Indeed, this is what it means -- broadly speaking -- to be "saved": what is saved is unity from multiplicity, or reality from appearances, or eternity from time, or man from himself, etc.

In his pithiest and most aphoristic book, Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, Schuon puts it as succinctly as possible while cutting through thickly beclowned forests of tenure:

To claim that knowledge as such can only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute -- or that a human being is an Absolute Ignoramus.

This is precisely the claim liberals make of themselves. Is there a reason why we shouldn't believe them? They invert the comment in paragraph one to say: "Strictly speaking, there exist countless philosophies, even one per customer. We call this the Imbecilia Perpetuum."

This profoundly anti-intellectual jumble, extended to its furthest reaches -- which aren't very far -- necessarily redounds to no religion at all -- or worse, to "anything at all as religion."

"Exaggerate much, BoB? You see, this is why your blog irritates me. One moment you're discussing some sublime mystical theology, the next moment you jump into the gutter with these preposterously partisan political polemics. Which is it, singing God's praises or flinging mud at the crazies?"

I already told you: there is only one philosophy, and it covers both God and politics plus everything else.

This preramble was inspired by an unintentionally fascinating and hilarious thinkpiece -- or feelpiece, rather -- in the New York Times, called Has Trump Stolen Philosophy's Critical Tools?

For the critical tool who has written the piece, truth doesn't exist, so it is impossible to understand how Trump can have appropriated it. The complaint is as logical as saying Private property doesn't exist, and you stole my cheese!, or Walls are racist and get off my beachfront property!

Come to think of it, liberalism is full of such thought-negating exercises, such as Gender is a construct and gays are born that way!, or Greed is bad so take more from the wealthy!, or Humans are killing the planet with fossil fuels so we need millions of illegal immigrants to come here and burn more fossil fuels!

Recall what was said above about philosophy going to the realization of truth, religion to its integration and assimilation. This distinction essentially correlates to doctrine and method.

Well, in postmodern philosophy, there is no truth, only method. Or, what is called "truth" is simply a method of exercising power, such that truth is just another name for oppression.

This is what the author "accuses" Trump of doing, but how can Trump do anything else if postmodernism is indeed "true"? Trump is only doing what he cannot help doing. On what basis can the author complain about cosmic necessity? Might as well spend one's life claiming to be a victim of gravity.

As an asnide, there was a time I too assumed that philosophy, like science, "progressed." Therefore, one could fruitfully study it by ignoring everything prior to the 19th or 20th century. Just cut to the chase and get right to the existentialists (or positivists, or deconstructionists, depending upon one's taste or emotional conflicts).

So among my first forays into philosophy were authors such as Sartre, Foucault, Nietzsche, and numerous other illuminutti that have long since been donated to the library, since my own liberatoreum scarcely has enough space for the truth, let alone its many alternatives.

I wonder: how much self-awareness can one lack before one's self disappears entirely? What makes me wonder this is author's opening salvo: "Truth is pliable in Trumpland."

Well, yes. It's pliable everywhere, to the point of being anything we want it to be. That is your first principle, Einstein. And now you're complaining about it?

"It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them." Umm hmm. Anyone who claims to know the truth is simply asserting power. Therefore.... Trump is asserting power. As is this author. So, what's the point? One can hardly make an appeal to truth after one has claimed that it doesn't exist.

"Call it what you want: relativism, constructivism, deconstruction, postmodernism, critique. The idea is the same: Truth is not found, but made, and making truth means exercising power."

Call it what I want? Okay, I'll call it invincible stupidity. For example:

"Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism." How can one have a "relationship" with something that doesn't exist? "For Trump, truth is always more about how people feel than what may be empirically verifiable." "For Trump, facts are fragile, and truth is flexible."

I think I know what's really bothering this author. His parents are forking over $50,000 a year for him to learn there is no truth, while he thinks Trump got this esoteric nonsense for free. That's not fair!

FYI, that was post #3,000.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Alternate Facts, Alternate Brains

This post is all over the place, and once again I don't have time to tie it all together. Besides, that's what commenters are for. You tell me where the rug is hidden.

Yesterday we spoke of those "enigmas which faith imposes upon the believer," but "which he accepts because he accepts God." And accepts God "not out of naivety, but thanks to a certain instinct for the essential and for the supernatural."

In short, there is a kind of direct perception or intuition of God that allows one to take the rest on board, even if some of the rest is enigmatic or impenetrable to mere reason.

For the great majority of history the great majority of men functioned with this "instinct" intact. Did the rise of rationalism (or materialism or scientism or secular leftism) result in an attenuation of the instinct, or did the weakening of the instinct result in a heightened rationalism?

Either way, there is something one-sided -- something intrinsically out of balance -- in a man who seeks truth (as all men must), but only via the left brain. Alternate facts? Of course there are alternate facts. Unless maybe you're had a stroke or head injury or attended graduate school.

And I use "left brain" as a metonym for all the modes of truth and truth-seeking that bypass or transcend mere logic of the everyday kind. Indeed, what about the nighttime logic of which, say, Finnegans Wake is an expression? Clearly, that book was not written by or for the left brain.

Which is its whole reason for being. It was "conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity." But not pointless obscurity! Rather, "it's natural that things should not be so clear at night, isn't it now?" (Joyce, in Bishop). In short, it's a book about the logic of the night, written with the logic of the night (i.e., the dream logic of the right brain).

Come to think of it, why was it written at all? No doubt because people hate being caged within rationalism. If they can't escape via religion, then they'll find another way out, whether through drugs, political radicalism, literature, whatever.

There was a time in my life when I would have agreed that in the bad old days people had to settle for God, but that nowadays, thankfully, we have almighty rock music. From the age of nine or so, music was my means of escape (or inscape). In many ways it still is, only not in a way that runs counter to religion, but is confluent with it.

It's been a while since we gave a shout to The Symmetry of God, which may not resolve all of the enigmas faith imposes upon the believer (or right brain on left), but certainly provides a fruitful way to look at them.

Long story short, even back in graduate school I was an extreme seeker, such that I was drawn to more daring and far-reaching psychoanalytic theorists such as W.R. Bion, and in this case, Ignacio Matte Blanco. I devoured his magnum opus, The Unconscious as Infinite Sets, and if I'd thought of it first, perhaps I might have applied his ideas to religion, which is what Bomford has done.

The amazon review of Matte Blanco a little overwrought, but gives a sense of where he was coming from, and why young Bob was excited at the prospect of diving into the strange world of bi-logic with both hemispheres:

The Unconscious as Infinite Sets: An essay in Bi-logic by Ignacio Matte Blanco is an endless roller coaster ride into the deepest sources of thought and feeling. Matte Blanco writes from the inside out, from the thermonuclear source of the Sun to the warmth of its rays to the Earth. Words like quarks ricochet off the pages.

Matte Blanco splits the Mind into two realms, two bi-halves, two different logical structures, or his "bi-logic."

The depths and hell of the unbelievable, is the Unconscious, where instinct spews lava into primordial affect. Unconscious logic underlies the language of poetry, dreams, jokes, propaganda, racism, advertisement, religion, and figures of speech. This Alice in Wonderland logic is generated by the Unconscious mind by the mechanisms of condensation, displacement, symbolization, concretization and hallucinations. This logic was conceptualized by Freud as the primary process and by Matte Blanco as symmetrical logic.

The other half, the Conscious, is where instinctual energy is transduced into factually based logic that attempts to keep us from being eaten alive by our fellow carnivores. This Aristotelian logic is generated by our conscious mind; Freud conceptualized this as the secondary process and Matte Blanco as asymmetrical logic....

It goes on in that florid vein, but the point is that the wide-awake asymmetrical logic of Aristotle does not necessarily yield truth, just as the symmetrical logic of the night brain doesn't necessarily result in error and falsehood.

For example, the left brain is of little use in helping us understand the truth of poetry, music, painting, and religion. Or, to be precise, we really need to exercise bi-logic, and not just rely on one or the other. In so doing, a hidden dimension emerges, similar to how our two eyes result in spatial depth, or our two ears in stereo.

So much of religion can only be apprehended via the right brain! But when I say "right brain," what I really mean is that what we call the right brain is already an expression of the deeper reality it discloses.

In other words, we don't perceive reality the way we do just because we perceive it through right or left brains; rather, human beings have these two modes because they are required in order to disclose the fulness of reality.

Think of, say, Mr. Spock, and the dimensions of humanness from which he is excluded due to his half-Vulcanized, hypertrophic left brain.

I'm about to make a wrenching segue, but it reminds me of a critical point Steven Hayward makes in Patriotism is Not Enough: basically, that what we call "statesmanship" can never be reduced to a formula. There are many thinkers and politicians of both left and right who imagine that leadership essentially consists in having the correct theory and pushing the right buttons. Thus, a leftist such as Obama relies on Keynesian theory to push the EXPAND GOVERNMENT button, while conservatives promise to hit the REDUCE TAXES button.

You might say that ideology of any kind is always a simplification of the world into easily manageable left-brained categories. But the heart of statesmanship is the exercise of a prudence that can never be reduced to ideology, and certainly isn't any kind of linear formula.

Churchill, for example -- surely one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived -- was not what you would call a logical man; nor was he illogical. Rather, passionate, visionary, inspiring, resolute, courageous, etc. Indeed, sometimes he was superficially illogical in pursuit of translogical aims. At any rate, there was no ready formula that could tell him, say, whether or not to bomb the French fleet, just as there is no formula that can tell Trump whether or not to drop the mother of all bombs on ISIS.

The point Hayward emphasizes is that just because statesmanship cannot be reduced to a formula doesn't mean it isn't a Thing. It's a Thing alright, just not reducible to left-brain, asymmetrical logic. Like religion, which is also a Thing, but a Thing that simply cannot be cracked by the left brain. As they say, it has not pleased God to save men through logic. But that's just the personification of an ontological fact: that it is the height of illogic to imagine that reality can be contained by mere logic, any more than the day can contain the night.