Shout-Outs From the O-->(k) Chorale
Yesterday I mentioned how a true musician -- as opposed to a mere technician -- is able to convey the "substance of music." It is impossible to say this without sounding grandiose, but when I write about spiritual matters, I am attempting in like fashion -- so to speak -- to convey the "substance of metaphysical truth," to the extent that I am able to do so. Now, trying to accomplish this and actually doing so are two very different things. Who knows? It may actually be impossible, even if it does make for a very compelling hobby. But since it is an experimental form of writing, the only way I can gauge the effect is through your fawning, er, objective feedback.
In other words, it is not enough to know that someone simply "agrees" with me. This is the usual a priori error of trolls who come here to start an argument. To be honest, to agree or disagree is in a certain sense to have missed the point. The point is that I am attempting to "reproduce" an experience -- not my exact experience, but your own experience. This is why "disagreeing" with me is to miss the point, but also why merely agreeing with me (i.e., being a subservient "racclone" or "Bobbist") might be even worse.
This is not intended to be a mere exercise in (k) on the mental plane, where knowledge can be passed from mind to mind in such a way that it does not change the object or subject of knowledge. In the case of the transfer of conventional (k), it can truly be said that the mind is more or less a bag full of stuff (speaking euphemistically). I do not sit here at 5:00 AM trying to come up with more stuff to put into your bag, which is already overflowing anyway. If anything, I would actually like to remove some of the stuff -- or perhaps to actually expand your bag, baby.
When you are in the realm of O-->(k), the instrument of knowing is transformed by the knowledge. To "know" something in this way is actually accompanied by an alteration in being. To take an extreme but illustrative example, Paul did not merely "learn" something on the road to Damascus. In fact, I was just rifling through my Bible in search of some more examples, but I can see that the Gospels are full of stories that reinforce the point about O-->(k). There are millions of people -- including many Christians -- who "rationalize" Jesus and reduce him to a sort of prophet who expressed some fine moral sentiments which they endorse. Here again, this is to have missed the point entirely -- the point being that Jesus is hardly conveying (k) or even O-->(k). Rather, if you are a Christian -- indeed, what defines you as Christian -- is that Jesus is O.
So it means little to me if someone simply agrees -- let alone disagrees -- with me. Imagine the absurdity of attending a musical performance, and instead of clapping, the audience yelled, "WE AGREE WITH THAT INTERESTING SEQUENCE OF CHORDS! DO IT AGAIN!" It means everything to me if we are all in this together, making a daily raid on the wild godhead and coming back with a little O-->(k). That is the point of the book and of the blog.
Here, this fine example just came in. Walt writes, "I find the political commentary very supportive, partly because I agree with the depth of your passionate opinions, and partly because I CAN -- i.e., they refer to something I already have 'organized.' But you add a twist, which is unique: presenting the politics as though aimed 'upward' at the vertical; always integrating the day-to-day with the higher, nudging us to 'think vertically' and showing the relevance of the one to the other." While I won't say I am not appreciative of the compliment, it means much more to me that Walt has had the experience of integrating the internal and external and being "nudged vertically." That makes my day.
Ricky Raccoon wrote, "I have never read a book that caused me so often to reread lines for more understanding and really for the pleasure they bring by just re-experiencing the message… or the re-awakening of messages I always had but didn’t realize I had them. I can’t quite describe the feeling of when things suddenly are shown to make ‘sense’. I can’t recall ever having written things in the margins for my own pleasure. My copy has my notes on nearly every page. Multiple notes on some pages." There you go. Provoking his kind of metaphysical disturbance is my fondest hope.
Most of the comments yesterday were in this vein. But you will notice that no one really made it about me. Rather, it was about their own O-->(k). In fact, even the troll who calls himself A Low Form of Life (and who sounds like Will putting us on) -- wrote quite eloquently of a powerful experience in what might be called "upside down O-->(k)," or envy of O. Even if he is not real, he actually articulates a certain very real, "anti-Divine" mind parasite that afflicts many people. Imagine that he's not addressing me, but God: "I feel compelled to oppose you. I read every day, hoping that you'll make a mistake so that I can put you down. I want you to hurt like me. I want you to feel as unappreciated and small as I feel.... For me, One Cosmos is all about emotions. Bad ones.... I can't stop. I must read and wallow in my feelings of shame and inadequacy. I derive some sense that I actually exist when I do this. So, to you Bob I have a mixed message: please keep blogging, I need it. And yes, quit. That would be the ultimate burn. I might feel happy for five minutes."
Now, all of this segues perfectly into the discussion of how transcendental beauty -- "the glory of God" -- reveals itself through religion. For religion is never about mere knowledge, "the true." Rather, the more one ascends toward O -- the source of religion -- the more Truth will be clothed in beauty, and vice versa. In fact, it is because of cosmic analogy -- "as above, so below" -- that truth and beauty even converge on the material plane. For example, world-class mathematicians know that the deep structure of mathematical reality is not only beautiful, but that beauty serves as a sort of guide for the mathematics.
I've been thinking about this issue because I have been re-reading Hans Urs von Balthasar's magisterial -- a word that somehow falls short -- The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. Before you decide to casually wade into the world of Balthasar, bear in mind that this is a seven volume project, each book consisting of some 400 to 700 pages, and that this seven volume series is only part of a trilogy consisting of six additional weighty books (the Theo-Drama and the Theo-Logic). If Balthasar is not the greatest Christian theolgian of the 20th century, then he is certainly the most wordy.
I discovered Balthasar because he wrote the afterword to Meditations on the Tarot -- which only serves to emphasize how misleading the "tarot" is in the title of a book that is quite esoteric but nevertheless kosher. Off hand, I cannot think of anyone other than Schuon who so emphasizes the centrality of beauty to the spiritual life. Schuon, who fundamentally agreed with Plato that "beauty is the splendor of the true," wrote that, "like the sun," beauty "acts without detours, without dialectical intermediaries." And like love, "to which it is closely connected, it can heal, unloose, appease, unite or deliver through its simple radiance."
Schuon further noted that "beauty stems from the Divine Love, this Love being the will to deploy itself and to give itself, to realize itself in 'another'; thus it is that 'God created the world by love.'" As such, while the cosmos may contain ugliness, in its totality it cannot but be beautiful. This is actually one of the sources of Christian hope, which may be coonceptualized as beauty expressed temporally. In other words, no matter how bad things may look in the "now," somehow the pain or ugliness of this now will be redeemed in the end, in the "fullness of time" -- which is to say, eternity.
Obviously, religion is not dealing fundamentally with exterior beauty but interior beauty. Or, to be perfectly accurate, the external forms are there to support the experience or "recollection" of interior beauty. Beauty is "something limitless expressed by means of a limit," but the limit -- i.e., the form -- is required in order for the beauty to "enter" the world. Through it, "the unfathomable mystery of the Self is 'deployed' in Being."
Properly understood, beauty allows us "to pass beyond the appearance and to follow the internal vibration back to its roots." A couple of days ago we spoke about the importance of having a center and living from the inside out, as opposed to our consciousness being dispersed and living from the outside in. Metaphysical beauty can contribute to centration and union because it communicates, so to speak, "the substance of O" in a direct and unmediated way. This is because it is ultimately "the outward projection of a universal quality immanent in us, and quite obviously more real than our empirical and imperfect ego gropingly seeking its identity." Because beauty is "unitive," it "excludes, with a kind of musical evidence, the fissures of doubt and anxiety."
I'm running out of time here, but this all circles back to O-->(k), because metaphysical beauty -- the glory of God -- is clearly something that bypasses the mind's ability to reduce the divine plane to something "containable" by the lower mind. To put it another way, nothing as ugly as atheism could possibly be true.