Friday, August 28, 2015

Our Laddie of Reality

Anthony Esolen calls upon Our Lady of Reality to have mercy on the "common madness underlying all our troubles. We think that a thing changes because we assign it one name rather than another. A man is a woman if he says he is. Or we refuse to acknowledge that a thing has a nature at all. A man is not a man, because there is no such thing, really."

It's a nice sentiment, but I don't like to trouble the transnatural with things that are wholly in our control, and in this case it is our willful misuse of the gift of language, our logopathic way with words, that causes the trouble. Language, unfortunately, cuts both ways: into truth and falsehood. As someone once cracked, language was given to man in order to disguise his thoughts.

This is certainly why it was given to Obama, or at least the spirit in which he takes the gift. But this just goes to the more fundamentally troubled relationship with language which forms the basis of leftism. Particular illnesses such as deconstruction and diversity are just the final common pathway, the end state of the disease -- similar to how poorly controlled diabetes can lead to blindness, or amputation, or kidney disease, but it's the same underlying derangement of blood sugar.

Likewise, end-stage leftism can manifest in a variety of ways, but beneath them all it's the same spiritual illness.

Take deconstruction, which promulgates the notion that language is a closed system, such that words refer only to other words. It pretends to be a philosophy -- a rational conclusion -- but is really a diseased premise, principle, or axiom. This irrational principle destroys the supernatural power of language right up front, so it's really just a case of garbage in, tenure out.

Likewise any form of relativism such as "diversity," homosexualism, illegal alienism, feminism, etc. Each begins with an unsupportable, magical conclusion, no different than how, say, communism begins with the theory of "surplus value" or National Socialism with the theory of eugenics applied to Jewish DNA.

But as Bertie Russell said in one of our favorite wise cracks, "The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise."

Yesterday I saw an activist on TV object to the term "illegal alien" because "there's no such thing as an illegal person." This is a particularly clumsy attempt to use language to deny a simple reality, but no more clumsy than insisting that it is possible for two men to live in a state of matrimony, or to increase a man's value by paying him more than he's worth.

"[V]erbal cleverness, unless its limitations are clearly and continuously seen by its possessors, is an unbeatable way of blurring reality until nothing can be seen at all" (C. James, in Conquest). You could say that language comes with a universal temptation; or better, the universal temptation, which is idolatry. If our divine hunch is correct, then behind every logopathology will be an instance of idolatry.

Note how Christianity has a built-in defense against this idolization of language, in that at the center is not a book but a person from which the book is a response and prolongation. The earliest Christians, of course, had no book, for which we can thank God. (The Bible was not canonized until around 400.) The Aphorist has a number of brainslappers to this effect:

When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples. Thus, Only loyalty to a person frees us from all self-complacency. But In the hands of the progressive clergy, the Gospels degenerate into a compilation of trivial ethical teachings (Don Colacho).

Just so, western style political liberalism (the freedom that ultimately comes from God) was incarnated long before it was thought about in an abstract manner: "British principles did not arise out of nothing or from abstract philosophy," but "emerged gradually in practice."

In contrast, "it was the theorists and emotionalists who triumphed mentally" in the French Revolution and its moony descendants down to the present day. These descendants include the hyperacademic logobabblers of the looniversity bin who deploy language to destroy itself, like a linguistic autoimmune disorder.

Politics must serve reality. This would qualify as a banality were it not for the liberal activists for whom it is the other way around, such that reality must serve ideology: "All of the major troubles we have had in the last half century have been caused by people who have let politics become a mania." In order for the political maniac to achieve his ends, huge swaths of reality must be denied, excluded, and sealed off (and damaged in the process).

Thus, there is no left wing ideocracy without some form of intellectual and spiritual tyranny: it goes with the terrortory. The left must pretend that things forced upon us by the state are better than the things we would have freely chosen, or in other words, that real liberty is coercion.

The coronerstone of Marxism, according to its own definition, "is the mass, the liberation of which is the main condition for the liberation of the individual." Or in other words, no man is free until all are enslaved.

If our logocentric roots don't grow upword then they sink downworld. Thus, we are faced with "an increasingly irrational conformism, often no longer open to, or even cognizant of, argument.... The new antis [anti-realists] seem to have sunk to an alarmingly lower mental level."

You don't say.

No, really: don't say that. There are no illegal persons but there are criminal thoughts!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Liberal Utopia, or Obama's Word Made Flesh

This book by Robert Conquest on Reality and Delusion in the Course of History is one of the most insultaining works I've ever read. Among other things, it shows that historians are, get this, as deluded as their subjects -- call it left-on-left delusion, or tenure². It would be funnier if it weren't so deadly.

Consider yesterday's murder of the reporter and cameraman. The proximate cause of their deaths is political correctness, for the station was no doubt under pressure to hire a black person, no matter how unqualified or insane.

And more generally, it is precisely the liberal media that ramps up racial tension. The Obama-era race war rhetoric would be deprived of oxygen at once if the liberal media would just STFU about it. But they won't, so they of all people shouldn't be surprised that some deranged blacks will take the rhetoric seriously. They're the ones pouring the gas and giving away matches.

In reading Conquest's chronicle of delusion, the thought keeps occurring to me: by virtue of what principle is all this madness possible? What is the fatal flaw in man decreeing that insanity is always in the saddle? Yes, we can say man is "fallen" and leave it at that. But that's like saying we are prone to illness and death. True, but it leaves out a lot of details.

It occurs to me that one could answer this question with another question, which is simply What is the lesson of history? Since the same patterns keep repeating themselves, it apparently means we aren't learning the lesson.

For example: is it true that Munich = Iran and Obama = Chamberlain?

Conquest makes the point that what was unique about Nazism and communism was that we were dealing with definitionally unappeasable enemies. From our side, -- the side of sanity -- we wanted to believe there was something we could do to make their madness and hatred stop. But there was nothing we could do, for communism was a worldwide conflict between two antithetical systems, just as National Socialism was intrinsically expansionistic.

Islamists cannot be appeased, or they wouldn't be Islamists.

Another point before we get into the details. We all recognize the value of learning history, but to what end? And how much is enough? How do you know when you've learned enough to *get* the point?

I was thinking about this in the context of the founders. They were all learned men who knew their history. But think about how partial, incomplete, and fragmentary it was compared to what is known today! Truly, they knew a tiny fraction of what the google machine places at our fingertips, and yet, it was sufficient to get the Point. To put it another way, let us suppose President Obama knows much more history than did James Madison or Alexander Hamilton or Abraham Lincoln. So. What. For he has certainly missed the point.

Come to think of it, Lincoln famously immersed himself in the pretend histories of Shakespeare. I would suggest that in so doing he knew more about "history" than does Obama. This is because Shakespeare drills down to the invariant human nature that animates history. History is intrinsically complex, but perhaps like physics or the weather, controlled by a limited number of variables.

The most important of these variables is human nature, itself an amalgam of variables.

From the Publisher's Weekly reviewer, with my emphases:

This book "is a frontal assault on the pieties of the left. At its heart is Conquest's critique of a deluded idealization of the Soviet Union and the underestimation of the danger it posed to the West....

"But his targets here are far broader: if dreamy-eyed socialism has died, its ghost lives on, he says, in a mishmash of icons and fetishes..., held together by uncritical utopianism and reducing our intellectual culture to cerebral jelly.... today, these beasts dwell in academic corridors, where professors speak in jargon and channel the repressive spirit of the medieval Inquisition....

"Responding to the war against Islamist barbarians, Conquest assails veneration of the U.N., the EU, the International Criminal Court, a knee-jerk intellectual anti-Westernism and the presumption that benevolent colonial intervention is necessarily bad. This pithy book... will infuriate as many readers as it gladdens."

Who exactly will it infuriate? Oh, just childish and uncritically anti-Western utopians with dream-riddled brains of Jello prone to fetishistic idealization of their simultaneously post- and pre-religious icons, and willing to barbarically repress anyone who fails to bow before them. In short, the Tenured.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere! For that describes one of the invariants of human nature we're after.

Some of the amazon reviewers fit the description, such that it is as if they leapt from the pages of the book. For example, this two word review:

"Fascist garbage."

Or, "When will conservatives start trying to use facts, reason, and common sense? Instead we get vitrol (sic) once more, sometimes disguised as reasonableness."

I would agree that the book isn't perfect, but I'm getting my $2 worth.

"The psychosphere and the logosphere are permeated by concepts, ideas, verbalizations -- a whole apparatus designed in theory to form some sort of contact with reality, but often resulting in reality's being blocked off."

At risk of auto-fellattery, doesn't that sound a bit like your old Gagdad? He often tosses in neologisms like that.

For example, he talks about how we need "general words and concepts" in order to think, but how these can escape "empirical control" and grow into "obstacles against understanding," which he calls brain blindfolds. Good term, but I would shorten it to brainfold, or perhaps I-patch.

In any event, these crocular infirmities and ideological myopias have always been with us: "Ideas insufficiently connected to realities have always been part of the human effort to understand."

Except there is a big part of man that doesn't want to understand, precisely. Indeed, this is their whole reason for being: not even to misunderstand, but rather, to dis-understand. This is what makes them so pernicious and malignant: that they are rooted in a real and enduring hatred of reality.

He touches on this later in the book, writing of how this drive comes "not so much from a devotion to the proclaimed social transformation as from a hatred for the actual" (emphasis mine).

The following opinion will infuriate as many as it gladdens, but I see Obama as a Hater of the Actual -- which is one of the secrets of his "success." An editorial the other day in the WSJ spoke to this (although I do not share the optimistic conclusion):

"No factor" in Obama's successful failure has been "more decisive than his unshakable determination not to let Congress, the courts, the Constitution or a failed presidency -- as America has traditionally defined it -- stand in his way." In short, we have a president who absolutely will not allow reality to interfere with ideology:

"American democracy has historically relied on three basic constraints: a shared commitment to the primacy of the constitutional process over any political agenda, the general necessity to achieve bipartisan support to make significant policy changes, and the natural desire of leaders to be popular by delivering peace and prosperity. Mr. Obama has transformed America by refusing to accept these constraints."

This is how Obama was able to fast-track the liberal utopia we now find ourselves in.

"There are minds that, having risen beyond primitive, unthinking orthodoxies, often merely turn to a rejection of the traditional.... But we often find those who have achieved a critical attitude to the traditional have also adapted a largely, or wholly, uncritical attitude to untried, or even failed, alternatives whose attraction is verbal rather than real."

Thus, Obama hasn't brought about a real utopia, but at least we're living in his verbal utopia, so we got that going for us. It is his -- and the left's -- word made all too flesh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grow Up and Behave Like a Proper Child!

I hope the bit about the demystification and re-mysterization of the world wasn't too obscure. As usual, it's meant to be quite literal and experience-near, but since no one talks about it, it can sound esoteric or goofy or cute or something. However, it strikes me as being at the heart of what we call "spiritual growth" or "religious maturity." For example, Schuon writes of how

"Gratitude is a virtue that allows us, not only to be content with little things -- this is holy childhood -- but also to appreciate or respect little things or big things because they come from God, beginning with the beauty and the gifts of nature; one must be sensitive to the innocence and mystery of the divine works."

One might say that gratitude is awareness of a kind of an ontological exchange that is always taking place, such that we are always receiving more than we give.

Elsewhere Schuon speaks of the rhythms (the spiraling thematic repetitions) and stages (the linear ascent) of life. From an elderly but still spry post:

"For Schuon, all natural phenomena are here to convey deeper lessons to us. Thus, for example, our lives are not just divided into day and night, but into seasons: the childhood spring of 'formation and learning'; the mature summer of 'actual and effective realization'; the late-middle age autumn of 'consolidation, reparation, and the directing of others'; and the old age winter of 'detachment and transcendence.'

"Alternatively, one could say that childhood is 'the paradise of innocence,' youth 'the time of the passions,' maturity 'the time of work,' and old age 'that of sadness' -- at least for the horizontal man. For the vertical man, 'the opposite takes place: age is an ascent towards another world.' Extremes meet, as paradise comes into view (hence the resonance between grandparents and grandchildren, who are on the Same Page)."

That would be page 265: "Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM." This nonlocal transcendent-immanent point of contact is precisely where "We'll meet again. Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by." Etc.

So, looked at developmentally -- and this I think is the experience-near part -- we obviously come into the world in a state of... mysticality, for lack of a better term. It's all a mystery, but this will generally be a pleasant or dread-full mystery, depending upon the quality of caretakers. Scaretakers are very adept at transmitting their own dread -- their own anxieties, impasses, conflicts, and dead spots -- into their children for processing.

The point is to cultivate -- or at least not pave over -- a ground of the personality whereby one is Alive Before the Mystery, one reason being that we can only pretend to make the mystery go away anyway. This latter is what I mean by demystifying the world, i.e., draining it of Mystery.

While looking up that first quote from Schuon, I found a number of relevant points from previous posts:

"Both Balthasar and Chesterton make much of the very idea of God-as-child. The former speaks of 'the eternal mystery of the childhood of Christ' flowing 'into the eternal childhood which is given to men: hope.'

"For if you think about it, hope is indeed the essence of childhood. Why? A number of reasons, but I was thinking of how children are always changing and growing. They are like little arrows that always point toward their own telos -- which is to say, perfection, or completion, or maturity. I would suggest that America is infused with this idea -- or rather, that the very idea of America is infused with Christian hope in the sense we have just stated.

"What I mean is that there is no reason for hope in a static society: things are as they are and will be as they will be because they have always been this way (and this way is decreed by the gods, so it is not for us to change it).

"Against the American ideal is the European import of Marxism, which both sees and creates static classes.... Just as the caste system tethers individuals to their societal place, thus depriving them of hope, multiculturalism seals people into so many boxes of petrified failure. The difference is that the leftist exchanges hope for envy, thus the crude appeals to race, class, sexual preference, etc. In other words, the leftist crocktrine of diversity

"'tends to freeze people where the accident of birth has placed them. Unlike the caste system, multiculturalism holds out the prospect that, all cultures being equal, one's life chances should be the same -- and that it is society's fault if these chances are not the same' (Sowell). So instead of hope for betterment, the left promotes resentment of the better off, accompanied by a demand for what they call 'social justice' which is simply envy with a truncheon.

"Now Jesus, of course, makes a point of counseling us to be as children, but surely he doesn't mean this in any pejorative sense -- i.e., to be as naive, credulous, and easily led as a Democrat.

"Again, what characterizes the child? Well, for starters, a child is what man uniquely is, in the sense that -- alone among creatures -- he specializes in immaturity because his neoteny never ceases.

"To say neoteny is to say neo-nate, which simply means 'new birth.' Thus, to say that man must be 'born again' implies that one must not conflate, say, biological and spiritual birth, in that the former happens just once.

"Now a child, just because he is constantly learning and therefore 'permanently immature,' is not thereby a little nothing. Rather, he is the very symbol of our own eros shot into the heart of the divine center. We are all as children growing toward our proper end."

End of Old Stuff.

What I'm trying to get across is this idea of recapturing and reviving that state of Mystery. I well recall how the Mystery gradually closed in my case. It reminds me of the worthy words of Wordsworth:

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

But then, don't you know, "Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy."

D'oh!

"At length the Man perceives it [the Mystery] die away, / And fade into the light of common day."

What I want to know is, can we avoid ebeneezing away the Mystery, or can we revivify it later on?

"Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only? Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

I suppose that is the point of this book, The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit. (Not sure if I can unambivalently recommend this one.)

Back to how the shades of the prison-house began to close on this growing boy. I suppose it became especially noticeable some time after completing graduate school in 1988 and picking up the spiritual practice in 1995. Seven years in the desert.

To complete school and become a licensed Healer of Souls is to invert the world one had previously inhabited up to that time: instead of being on the receiving end, one is now on the bullshitting end. You go through a brief phase of back off, man, I'm a psychologist, but that fades, at least in my case. Fortunately, the psyche is a small thing compared to God.

Out of time, but I would end by saying it is far more interesting to be contained by the Mystery -- like an innocent child -- than to pretend to contain it -- like an obnoxious or even tenured child.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The De-partment and Re-Wholement of Wisdom

On the macro level, truth -- and therefore intellectual honesty -- is the highest value. As Dennis Prager says, this is not necessarily so of the micro level, where there is no reason to be brutally honest at the cost of damaging relationships. In fact, we might say that on the micro level the most important value is love in its various forms: caritas, eros, and agape.

This goes to one of the fundamental inversions of leftism, as the moonbats among us often behave as if Love is All You Need on the macro level. Isn't this how Obama is treating the Mullahs? Just be nice to them, and they'll be nice back to us. When new age leftists talk about a global shift in collective consciousness, this is what they're referring to: replacing hard truth with gooey luv.

"Taking this perspective into the political realm, [Marianne] Williamson has advocated a Department of Peacebuilding and has created a group called the Peace Alliance to bring this about."

Sounds a little vague, even gooey. How would it work? "[O]ur country’s way of dealing with security issues is increasingly obsolete.... We cannot simply rely on brute force to rid ourselves of enemies.... The only way to make peace with your neighbors is to make peace with your neighbors.”

Now that is profound. It only looks like a vacuous tautology.

Williamson actually ran for congress in my district in 2014. I say this to remind you just how lonely and isolated I am here in Comedy Central. One of her ideas is "to establish a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding that would examine 'non-violent problem-solving options' to global conflict."

Dennis Kucinich is on the same page of the coloring book: "The intention is to develop an organized approach, tapping the intellectual and spiritual power of America to develop programs that would include teaching children the principles of peace: teaching them peace giving, peace sharing, mutuality, seeing the other person as an aspect of oneself, of teaching the inner equality of all people."

Here again, those are all fine goals on the micro level. In fact, we used to teach these things in public schools before the Supreme Court declared Christianity unconstitutional.

This goes to Jesus's crack about being innocent as doves and wise as serpents. You could say that on the macro level we need to be at least as wise and cunning as the serpents with whom we are dealing: Iran, North Korea, Putin, ISIS, the IRS, et al. However, the Obama left is innocent toward our foreign enemies but cunning and cynical toward domestic opposition.

We need a Department of Peace so that the left might examine non-violent solutions toward dealing with conservatives, instead of using the power of the state to harass us and limit our speech. Liberals need to see conservatives as aspects of themselves, and appreciate our inner equality.

Think about how truth works. Truth is always a kind of "opposition," at least to the extent that we haven't internalized it: there is truth, and there is what I believe, and there is no way to simply "love away" the difference ("iron sharpens iron," in the words of Solomon). One cannot make peace with truth by finding some middle ground between What Is and What I Want It To Be, but rather, by submitting to it.

But the modern education establishment is like a Department of Truth. And like the Department of Peace, it pretends to solve a problem by defining the terms away.

Think, for example, of their holiest of holies, Diversity. What is diversity but the insistence that we make peace with multiple truths, which is (literally) no truth at all? Therefore, job one of our federal Department of Truth is to use the power of the state to outlaw truth -- just as a Department of Peace would assure perpetual war (at least until our surrender and defeat).

It comes down to Wisdom and her diverse liberal alternatives. "Aristotle," says McGinn, identifies wisdom "as the habit of knowledge that puts things in their proper order."

Thus, "Ordering and judging are rooted in the essential act of wisdom, that upon which all its ordering and judging depend, namely, contemplation" (McGinn). And contemplation "considers the very object of happiness, the highest intelligible being"(Aquinas, ibid.). Thomas enlists Paul as a wingman, who says in Corinthians that "The spiritual person [i.e., the wise person] judges all things."

This, of course, has nothing to do with judgmentalism, let alone ontological or epistemological closure. Rather, it means forming a living relationship to the highest intelligible being, or O. Thus, it is the quintessence of dynamic openness, its very source and possibility.

In a manner of speaking, it is not as if we are made in the image of God once and for allah, but rather, ceaselessly being remade -- similar to how one's body retains its identity while undergoing constant change. To cease changing is another term for death.

Note also that Wisdom is what orders science. It is superior to science, and allows us to put all of the many individual scientific disciplines in their proper place: physics, biology, chemistry, neurology, anthropology, psychology, etc.

The fraudulent metaphysic of scientism is really a bad imitation of wisdom and theology, because it surely orders the universe in a hierarchical manner, but does so in a precisely upside-down manner, placing physics at the top instead of at the bottom or periphery.

In contrast, Christian metaphysics places person at the top (and center), such that this is the sort of cosmos we would expect to see, given the necessity that persons exist in it. By dis-inverting the cosmos and seeing it from this proper perspective, we can eliminate a lot of the mystification -- not mystery -- from the world.

This goes to one of the Prime Directives of the Raccoon lifestyle, which involves the demystification the world in order to re-mysterize it. Doing so requires a kind of skepticism at one end -- wise as serpents, you might say -- and open acceptance at the other -- innocent as doves or children.

This goes to the born and born-again cycle, or the continuous remaking alluded to above: "Such wisdom follows the model of the most perfect form of movement, circular motion, by beginning from principles, arguing to conclusions, and returning to the principles with deeper understanding" (McGinn).

There are many ways to express this perfect nonsense, e.g., Returning to the Oneself, borne again to the mysterious mamamatrix of our birthdeath, our winding binding river of light empties to the sea: as it was in the beginning, same as it ever was... same as it ever was... same as it ever was...

Monday, August 24, 2015

On Being Your Own Best Enemy

Continuing with the centrality of the Why in human affairs, McGinn notes that "Thomas's mode of engagement was always to encourage discussion, not invective."

Thus, in the Summa, for every question he formulates at least three plausible objections, and these objections are never in the authoritarian form of the modern liberal, i.e., "because my truth is newer than yours," or "because consensus," or "because blacks / women / homosexuals have their own truth and it's just as good as yours."

As Kreeft explains, objections "must be arguments, not just opinions, for one of the basic principles of any intelligent debate... is that each debater must give relevant reasons for every controvertible opinion he expresses."

Thus, an intellectually honest person will always seek out the strongest possible objections to his own opinions -- not just to win the argument, but much more fundamentally, to be secure in one's own groundedness in truth. In a way, it is totally self-interested, since the last thing we want to do is found our lives on a Lie.

One reason people hate politicians is that they are so transparently intellectually dishonest. For example, Howard Dean says the Clinton e-mail crimes have been "manufactured partly by a press that’s bored and partly by the Republicans."

I know what you're thinking: who's Howard Dean? He is someone the liberal press turns to when it needs an authority to deny the obvious and to pretend the irrefutable is controvertible. If it were refutable, then he would just refute it instead of attacking the motives of his imaginary interlocutors.

Reducing another's thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it. --Don Colacho

Which is why they do it. It's not really misunderstanding, but preemptive dis-understanding.

You will have noticed that on any major question, the left reduces our thought to its supposed motives (e.g., racism, homophobia, "controlling women," favoring "the wealthy," etc.), which seals them in their ignorance. The clever ones -- the 1% -- do this consciously as an intellectually dishonest debate strategy, while the other 99% of liberals just imitate the 1%, or do as told. Thus far, every one of our trolls has been a 99 percenter.

And of the 1% conscious liars and distorters, some are adept at it (e.g., Bill Clinton, Eric "Otter" Stratton) while others are awful at it (Hillary Clinton).

Does it trouble you that liberal-funded ghouls hack through a baby's face in order to extract his valuable brain? For Hillary Clinton, your misogynistic distress is "really an attack on a woman’s right to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face.”

Is she ashamed to be associated with such sadists? Not quite: "I'm proud to stand with Planned Parenthood, [and] I’ll never stop fighting to protect the ability and right of every woman in this country to make her own health decisions."

Truly, Clinton gives intellectual dishonesty a bad name: "If this feels like a full-on assault on women’s health, that’s because it is.”

Your real motive? When folks like you “talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, they’re talking about blocking millions of women, men and young people from live-saving preventive care." Just not too young.

It's hard to imagine even Bill Clinton so grotesquely hiding behind the flag:

"When they attack women’s health, they attack America’s health and it’s wrong and we’re not going to let them get away with it.”

Compare this to Otter's classic courtroom defense in Animal House:

"The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests -- we did. But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick perverted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg: isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!"

Back to intellectual honesty, which is a trait we need if we are ever going to reach the truth. In particular, we are all in need of intellectually honest adversaries in order to be truly secure in our truth. If we are only exposed to the bozos of the left, it is awfully easy to gain a false sense of security. Since they do not furnish the arguments against us, then we ourselves need to do the job. We have to be our own best enemies.

Here again, Don Colacho has a number of aphorisms that go to this:

The unbeliever is dumbfounded that his arguments do not alarm the Catholic, forgetting that the Catholic is a vanquished unbeliever.

Thus, Whoever wants to know what the serious objections to Christianity are should ask us. The unbeliever makes only stupid objections. Indeed, his objections are often the foundations of our faith.

Note that it is possible for the Christian to be to Christianity what a Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are to liberalism. Which is why Every Christian has been directly responsible for the hardening of some unbeliever's heart.

So, we want to be our own best adversary, secure in the faith that our faith can handle the challenge. "If we do not consider opposing views, we spar without a partner and paw the air. If we do not do our homework, we only skim the surface of ourselves" (Kreeft).

But if we spar only with liberals, then we spar with partners who flail around as indiscriminately as Helen Keller before she discovered that water is wet.

"One who is seeking the strongest possible arguments against any idea of St. Thomas will rarely find any stronger ones, any more strongly argued, than those in St. Thomas himself." He "aimed only for light, not heat."

To which it should be immediately amended that light gives off its own heat, i.e., that there is a proper "intellectual passion," so to speak. We are not Vulcans. Only half Vulcan.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Word to the Whys

Yesterday we spoke of how man is orthoparadoxically characterized by what is missing in him. The primary symptom of this present absence or absent presence is the Why. Every human, in so far as he is one, asks Why, and never stops doing so.

Unless. More on which later.

To ask Why is to seek into the cause of an effect or the reality behind an appearance. This is what man has been doing from the moment he was hatched from the cosmic egg.

In other words, to ask why something happens is to ask what causes it. The cause is presumed to be greater than the effect. Everyday experience shows us that something is "lost" or dissipated between a physical cause and its effect, AKA entropy.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason puts forth the controversial -- because inconvenient -- principle that "nothing is without reason" and that "everything must have a reason or a cause." We consider it soph-evident that:

"For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists. For every event E, if E occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation for why E occurs." And "For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true."

Now, on to the burning question before us: what is the sufficient reason of wisdom?

Remind us, what is wisdom? Wisdom has to do with ultimate causes, or the highest cause. Thus, the sufficient cause of wisdom must be God. Conversely, the sufficient cause of lesser forms of knowledge is found in, say, material interactions, or the laws of physics.

You might say that everyday science is "caused" by the world (or causes within the world), whereas the higher science of theology is caused by God.

However, science as such must also be caused by God, unless you simply stop asking why, or else tautologically confine your whys to a single level.

You parents out there will have noticed that even -- especially? -- a child won't fall for that one. They cannot be satisfied with some explanation that simply displaces the cause a little further back. You could explain the Big Bang in every detail, but the most elegant explanation withers in the light of just one more innocent Why?

The whys can only stop at God. Since God is the uncaused cause, he is by definition the source and end of the Whys.

Thus, you might say that the Why as such is a kind of "hook" that attaches to God. Without God, there is no reason for the hook, plus our earthly garment just falls to the ground.

We've been discussing this in the context of one of the greatest Whysmen of all time, Thomas Aquinas (or St. Thomas, his AquWHYness).

McGinn notes that the Summa contains "over a million and a half words divided into three large parts containing 512 topics ( questiones) and no fewer than 2,668 articles..." It is sort of an inverse fractal: questions within questions within the Question.

"Thomas says that all wisdom comes down from God," like water from the mountaintop. "In communicating true teaching to make the earth (i.e., their hearers) fruitful, they [teachers of divine doctrine] do not depend on themselves." Rather, "God communicates wisdom by his own power, so he is said to water the mountains by himself."

Thus, the best we can hope to be is a curious waterboy. And in order to be an effective water carrier, we need an empty bucket, or a bucketfull of Why. And be sure to check for holes. You want a big one at the top.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Sound Mind is a Sound Cosmos

We left off with a reminder from St. Thomas that the pursuit of wisdom is a game, and that this game -- like any game -- "is not ordered to something else but only to itself."

Moreover, the game "brings the greatest delight."

I deem Thomas's observations Entirely True, otherwise what am I doing here? Why am I doing this? For money? Fame? Attention? Boredom? My health?

The answers to the last five are, respectively, No, No, No, No, and Yes. Yes, I am doing this for my health, AKA wholeness. Health is of course cognate with WHOLE, and we might say that the One Cosmos is the Ordered Whole, or the whole order.

Here is how Webster's defines health: the condition of an organism or one of its parts in which it performs its vital functions normally or properly: the state of being sound in body or mind.

Several points: health can only apply to organisms. Ah, but what is an organism? The answer may surprise you!

Second, health applies to parts and wholes, or to parts within wholes. If a part is sick, then the whole cannot be well. And if the whole is sick, then the parts will suffer.

Third, the concept of health is incomprehensible in the absence of teleology: both the whole and its parts have "vital functions" that may be performed normally or abnormally. And these functions are never static, but always in process (which is part of the definition of an organism).

Fourth, there is objective health of the body, and subjective health of the mind or soul. Thus, the soul too has vital functions, including an intrinsic relation to a larger whole (i.e., a purpose or telos).

Let's go back to what Thomas says about the pursuit of wisdom bringing "the greatest delight." Why would this be?

Well, for starters, wisdom is to the soul what nutrition is to the body: it is a literal food, to which many biblical passages will attest. The dictionary adds that health is a "flourishing condition" marked by vitality and well-being. Thomas calls it "delight." Which is? "A high degree of gratification of mind or sense," or "lively pleasure."

Not to get pedantic, but out of curiosity I just looked up "game," and the first thing it says is "amusement," which adverts to the Muses, who were the Greek goddesses associated with learning and creativity. Thus, they seem to be play-cousins of Sophia-wisdom.

Now, in an organism everything runs in cycles, and a cycle is a kind of self-renewing spiral. This implies that wisdom must also be a cycle, and Thomas says it is: his entire Summa is structured around this cycle, which is ultimately emanation from, and return to, God. This represents the Cycle of cyclicity, the Rhythm of rhythmicity, and the Circle of circularity: it is the fundamental respiration of the cosmos.

It is a spiraling movement; however, spiral is apparently not cognate with the breath, but rather, with spire, or a central axis around which things move. So you could say it makes implicit reference to the unmoved mover, or again, the Cause of causes to which Wisdom is conformed.

Now, just as there is in-spiration and ex-spiration with regard to the lungs, it seems that there is an analogue of this on the spiri-tual level. If the mind is an organism, then this follows the principle that an organism is defined by an open exchange of matter, energy, or information.

What is the spiritual analogue of expiration? Jesus makes many references to it, but it essentially comes down to "poverty of spirit," i.e., a kind of positive emptiness, for the poor shall receive, the last shall be first, the dead shall be given life, etc. (And to die is to expire.)

We might even say that Jesus's mission involves the Whole becoming part so that the part might be made whole. "It is not the healthy" -- the whole -- "who need a doctor." But who is whole? Only people who pretend to be, or who cannot tolerate their part-hood.

So, wisdom begins with consciousness of part-hood and incompleteness, which implies dependency. How do we express this parthood?

Well, I would say the Quest begins with questioning. Whatever else we can say about man, man is the being who questions: Aristotle, for example, "said that questioning was the essential operation of the human mind..." (in McGinn).

For truly, man begins with an epic (?!) that can still be heard today, the sacred WTF?, the astoneaged shout heard 'round the cosmos.

Now, that right there is interesting, because it implies that the essential operation of man is not a "fullness" (as an animal vis-a-vis its settled and invariant instincts), but rather, a kind of anticipatory emptiness.

And what is anticipatory emptiness but faith, or what we symbolize as (o)? Faith is implicit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truth. It is truth waiting to happen, or to be born. The question is the Womb of Truth.

The pathological versions of this are many. For example, this morning I saw this headline on how a Leading science publisher retracts dozens of papers for fake peer reviews. What does this mean? It means that the scientists in question only pretend to ask why. Therefore, there is no space for the answer. Instead, they fill the space where the Why ought to be with someshit they just made up.

This means that leftism -- which has thus far been mostly confined to the liberal arts, to history, and to politics -- has now seeped into science. Which we already know -- cf. global warming -- but the larger point is that this failure of Emptiness is an intrinsic cosmic pathology.

I don't know if we got anywhere today, or if I've just wasted our time. One thing you can say about the spirit: it blows where it will so long as you provide an empty space.