The Neo-Traditional Post-Postmodern Circle to Premodernity and Back
That's why I've come to enjoy blogging so much -- the silence and darkness of the early morning, sitting down and waiting for inspiration -- a little merciful K from O! I don't have much time to prepare, and there are no second drafts, so I pretty much have to light on the first thing that catches my attention. It might be a comment by a reader, or a post from one of my favorite sites, such as American Digest, Dr. Sanity, or American Thinker, or some kernel of an idea for an idea that floated into my noodle the day before, but I basically have to just grab it and run.
Now that I think about it, it's rather interesting, in a Polanyi-esque sort of way -- the idea that we are able to non-consciously intuit the full implications of the kernel of a potentially fruitful idea before we have ever worked them out in any conscious or explicit way. As philosophers go, I hold Polanyi in the highest regard, and believe him to have developed the only philosophy qua philosophy -- i.e., not a theology -- that effectively counters and transcends the plague of deconstuctionism, the latter of which I believe to be a somewhat inevitable, if malodious, development in man's cognitive tool shed. Deconstructionism is literally an adolescent phase in our collective evolution, a weed that sprouted up in the gap between man's pre-critical understanding of the cosmos -- which is to say, the underlying and overarching whole of reality -- and our post-critical understanding of it.
I am not a professional philosopher, so there may well be others, but Polanyi's is the most clear articulation of a post-critical philosophy that I have ever encountered. Furthermore, once you have understood Polanyi, you can then move on to a post-critical mystical theology in a rather seamless way -- which was perfect for the absurcular needs of my book. Because once you have a post-critical theology, then you may circle back to the origins of religion and understand it in an entirely new way -- you may, to paraphrase or possibly plagiarize Eliot, "return to the beginning and know it for the first time." I don't know what to call this new-old phase, because I'm not sure there is a name for it. Call it "neo-traditionalism."
This exactly mirrors my own personal evolution. I won't say that I was ever a deconstructionist per se. For one thing, looking back on it, I can see that embracing such a cynical philosophy that rejects absolute truth is entirely foreign to my nature. Nevertheless, throughout my formal miseducation, this was the backdrop, the culture, the milieau that one could not help imbibing.
Interestingly, this pernicious philosophy doesn't have to have any "content" for it to burrow its way into your soul and begin doing its damage. Rather, one must merely internalize the stance, which is skeptical if not cynical, world-weary, and always ready to prove the superiority of the mind that can disprove anything with mere reason -- a reason that is detached from intellection and thereby become infrahuman, or monstrous, killing God but destroying man in the bargain. Deconstruction is a magic tool that allows the most bovine intellect to imagine itself superior, merely because it can rebelliously dispute the adults on its own adolescent level. It is no wonder that most people don't know how to counter it except, for example, to hold up a cross and insist in the face of such perverse reason that "We preach Christ crucified! He is risen! Now get behind me, satan!"
Naturally, back when I spent my spore time in the moldy academic mildew, I would have probably contemptuously dismissed such an unfungal person to the mulchroom. But now that I have completed the cosmic circle, I understand them entirely. Now, if someone were to ask me if I believe in the literal resurrection, I could say "sure." And yet, somehow "literal" does not mean literal. Hard to describe -- call it "transliteral" or "metaliteral." But sure enough, when I circled back to the origins of Christianity, I found capacious souls that had already beaten me to it -- people such as Origen or Pseudo-Dionysius, who already had a very post-modern cosmic view of things. Thus, within the very heart of paleo-tradition I discovered the neo-tradition that had been there from the start! Such are the miracles of revelation.
Look at what Origen -- who lived between 180 and 254 -- had to say about the interpretation and understanding of scripture, for it is extremely subtle and sophisticated: "[T]o those who are at the stage of infancy and childhood in their interior life... it is not given to grasp the meaning of these sayings..." Later, he says that "divine scripture makes use of homonyms; that is to say, they use identical terms for describing different things." He then distinguishes this capacity from mere reason -- i.e., he is already postcritical -- by referring to the faculty of spiritual gnosis (not to be confused with gnosticism) "by which we go beyond things seen and contemplate something of things divine and heavenly, beholding them with the mind alone, for they are beyond the range of bodily sight."
But "the soul is not made one with the Word of God and joined with Him until such as time as all the winter of her personal disorders and the storm of her vices has passed so that she no longer vacillates and is carried about with every kind of doctrine." In short, being tethered to the Absolute, as reflected in scripture, is the cure for a hypertrophied and stupidly curious reason, a centerless deconstruction that "carries the mind about with every kind of doctrine."
Or consider the great Dionysius (c. 500 AD), who cautioned that the fruits of mystical contemplation are beyond the rationalizing intellect. They are protected from "the uninitiated, by whom I mean those attached to the objects of human thought, and who believe there is no superessential reality beyond, and who imagine that by their own understanding they know him who has made darkness his secret place."
To reach the summit of our being we must "leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in world of being and non-being, that you might rise up unknowingly toward the union with him who transcends all being and all knowledge." Here is "where the pure, absolute, and immutable mysteries of theology are veiled in the dazzling obscurity of the secret silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories surpassing all beauty."
This, my fellow nocktrinical marysophicals, is a man who knew all about O-->K, a man who was post-postmodern before there was even modernity. Or to put it succinctly, a man, properly so-called, a Raccoon, a brother under the pelt! Woo woo!
A final orthoparadoxical Dionysian ode to O, only slightly altered:
"Ascending yet higher, we maintain that O is neither soul nor intellect; nor has he imagination, opinion, speech, or understanding; nor can he be expressed or conceived, since he is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; nor equality nor inequality; nor similarity nor dissimilarity; neither is he immovable, nor moving, nor at rest; neither has he power nor is power, nor is he light; neither does he live nor is he life; neither is he essence, nor eternity nor time; nor is he subject to intelligible contact; nor is he knowledge nor truth, nor kingship, nor wisdom; neither one nor oneness, nor divinity nor goodness, nor is he Spirit according to our understanding, nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not; neither does anything that is know him as he is... neither can the reason attain to him, nor name him, nor know him, for O is free from every limitation and beyond them all."
And yet, this inexhaustible void became flesh. And we speak of, in, and through it continuously. For how could it be otherwise, without being other than wise?