Monday, November 19, 2007

The World Series of Theological Questions (11.08.10)

... God, freedom, unity. Three things which are one, for you cannot realize freedom and unity unless you realize God... --Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle

Yesterday we discussed the question of whether mankind is degenerating or progressing, which inevitably touches on other issues, including the conflicts between evolution and "creationism," authority vs. personal experience, tradition vs. modernity, science vs. religion, timeless principles vs., er, "personal research," and ultimately time vs. eternity. I argued for a dialectic, or complementarity, between the two poles, which creates a sort of "space" where what Mead calls "dynamic (or evolutionary) religion" may take place.

Another way of saying it is that the One breaks out of eternity into the static two (i.e., duality), but that duality is resolved (and progress occurs) within a dynamic and "transitional" trinity. Thus, history can be seen as a sort of rolling catastrophe in hyperspace, as the many make their winding way back to the One. History is ultimately the straight book that God tries to write with crooked liars.

That made a lot of sense, Bob!

Look at it this way. History either has a direction -- and therefore a purpose -- or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then there's no point to anything, including religion. It would be like an endless baseball season with no World Series. Instead of 162 games, the season would never end, with a new game every day, day in, day out. Eventually, players would stop scratching their crotches and begin scratching their heads and asking, "why are we doing this? Why are we playing all these stupid games?"

So the Gods of Baseball bifurcated the teams into a duality (the American and National leagues) and invented this third thing called a "World Series" in order to create a sense of purpose and finality. When you win the World Series, you have reached the highest peak, the "absolute," the baseball equivalent of enlightenment.

But just like religion, there is apparently more than one Absolute, since there is a new champion each year, and it is not as if the new champion surpasses all the previous ones. The 2007 Red Sox are not better then the 1927 Yankees. Baseballically speaking, both went as high as it is possible to go in this world. Sure, you could argue over which team is better, but that's like arguing whether Shankara or Eckhart was a better hitter.

But in the case of the World Series, deep down some of us realize that it is something we merely invented for the purposes of finality. We simply superimpose it on the individual games, in order to give them a "higher meaning," so to speak. Since there is finality to the season, it creates intensity and drama, very much as does death (the playoffs are exciting because teams are always facing "sudden death"). If you knew you weren't going to die, it would be analogous to an endless baseball season. No, worse than that. Like an endless soccer season. No, worse. An endless soccer game. Just a bunch of people running around in circles.

In a way, if history has no purpose, then it is bound to get worse, i.e., to degenerate. This is for the same reason that the quality of professional baseball would degenerate in the absence of a World Series. No one would bother acquiring a player to improve their team at the trading deadline, since there would be no deadline. Standings wouldn't matter, since there would be no point to them. Wins and losses would be just like Monopoly money, a symbol of nothing.

To the extent that things are getting worse in the world, could it be linked to the widespread belief among our elite that history has no purpose, no direction, no telos? Interestingly, this is where the secular far left and traditionalist far right converge. As an anonymous commenter mentioned yesterday, given his 'druthers, Schuon, the hardcore traditionalist,

"considered a 'totalitarian' [in the traditional religious sense] society preferable to a secular society. Religion, culture, science, art, and soccer, should all be under one heading, if you will. He was obviously opposed to secular totalitarian regimes, like the Nazis or the Soviets, but not religious totalitarian regimes. One can also see this in the leaders he writes positively about -- Charlemagne, Napolean, Franco, and even Lincoln (Lincoln's temporary measures during the Civil War are clearly those of a monarch)."

For Schuon it is always a question of returning to first principles. Naturally, modern leftist liberals will reject this idea out of hand. But for you traditional readers out there who object to my understanding, I wonder how you square this circle, for it seems to me that you have only three choices. You can go along with Schuon that timeless and total truth has already been revealed to us, and that it is only for us to conform to it. Alternatively, you can be a member of what I call the "psychospiritual left" (of which their politics is just a reflection) and maintain that history has no meaning except that which we impose on it (which is no meaning at all).

Or, you can be a neurocosmological Raccoon, and maintain that timeless truth does exist, but that for our purposes it exists in the future, not the past. Primordial man does indeed walk above the clouds on the sacred ground of the cosmic mountain, but not in the past.

Rather, these intimations of paradise are just that -- they are what Bion called memoirs of the future. Being so, they are the vector that guides history and gives it meaning: the arc of salvation, through which you are given the uppertunity of a lifetome to dwell in time but to aim your eros at the heart of eternity. Your days are measured, guided, and given meaning by a sense of growing proximity to this sacred, nonlocal ground. Mine are, anyway. But perhaps I'm just living in my own racocoon.

If this dimension is in the "past," then each day that passes is simply a measure of how far we have fallen from the ideal -- a meaning, to be sure, but an "anti-meaning." Again, what's the point except to wait to die? I have read certain world-denying church fathers who said as much; I believe the Orthodox Father Seraphim Rose said something similar. Basically, conform yourself to Truth and wait for death, since it's only eternity that counts. As Schuon worote,

"One who has received the treasure of spiritual truth and the Divine Name finds himself, so to speak, at a crossroads: for now he must take up a new attitude in relation to the world and to life; he must renounce all worldly ambition and he must not expect anything but death, whatever be his outward activity."

Coonversely, for a member of the psychospiritual left, what's the point except to deny death and lose oneself in the senses? In this view, a Bill Maher or Hugh Hefner are the wisest men on earth.

Now obviously, Christianity has struggled with this dialectic, hence the argument between faith and works. If eternity is all that counts, then faith is all that matters. But if history has a purpose, then works take on much more significance.

And as a matter of fact, this relates to what I was saying yesterday about my experience of the very different spiritual worlds of Judaism and Christianity. At the moment I'm in a bit of a rush, so it's difficult to find the words to precisely describe the difference. But more generally, Judaism is very much focused on this world, not the next. In fact, if I am not mischugen, it is very unkosher to even speculate about the next life, since we are here for a reason, and that reason is more than sufficient to occupy our time and attention. In short, we are here to both enjoy and help repair the creation (tikkun, or as we call it, "ticoon"), so that our works are much more important than our faith. As I have learned from Dennis Prager, a proper Jew doesn't care what you believe, only how you behave. (BTW, this also explains why de-Judaised Judaism immediately devolves into worldly leftism.)

Furthermore, because of its worldly focus, I find that Judaism, among all the major religions, probably has more practical wisdom about how to conduct one's life than any other. The Talmud contains priceless wisdom about male-female relations, about the family, about raising children, about how to deal with others. Also, the "spiritual locus," so to speak, of Judaism is the family (within a community, of course), and even more specifically, children. Jewish life is almost inconceivable in the absence of family and children.

And what do children represent and symbolize? More than anything else in creation, they are a hope-filled arrow shot from the present into a better future.

And we are His children.

We'll meet again. Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by. A Divine child, a god'send, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes. --Petey

Manifestly, the unrestrained use of individual illumination or judgment without either any outer standard or any generally recognizable source of truth is a perilous experiment for our imperfect race.... [T]he whole tendency of development of an individualistic age of mankind [goes] back to the one dominant need of rediscovering the substantial truths of life, thought and action which have been overlaid by the falsehood of conventional standards no longer alive to the truth of the ideas from which their conventions started.... [M]an has to circle back towards the recovery of his deeper self and a new upward line or a new revolving cycle of civilization. --Sri Aurobindo

26 Comments:

Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

This is beautiful. I thought you said you were in a rush.
:-)

11/19/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Bob,
Have you submitted to your random drug testing? There is no way you could be this brilliant without nous enhancing creams.

11/19/2007 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And what do children represent and symbolize? More than anything else in creation, they are a hope-filled arrow shot from the present into a better future."

And true and good religion gives children the power to fly far into the future. Some religion admires the arrow and polishes its shaft, some religion ignores the arrow altogether. Some ideologies break the arrow in two.

If children are not a part of your religious quest then you may be on the wrong quest.

11/19/2007 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

The circle is squared by traditional (ie, Catholic/Orthodox)Christianity, which I have long seen as the bridge between "this-worldly" Semitic monotheism and "other-wordly" Indic mysticism. All the major world religions contain both of these elements, but only traditional Christianity (I believe) contains them in virtually equal measure. The seeming paradox and tension between these two poles is strongest in Christianity. And as one can see throughout Christian history, there is a perpetual tendency to want to resolve this tension, this paradox, one way or the other. The origin of all heresies is in trying to lean too far to one side or the other. This is why heresies are always more simple-minded than orthodoxy, which has a clash and a contradiction (symbolized by the cross, not to mention the impossible-but-true doctrine of the Incarnation) right at its heart. Orthodoxy is a strait (yes, I spelled that right) and narrow path between two abysses of heresy. So a properly traditional Christian view contains an evolutionary view of the created world against a backdrop of utterly static eternal Truth.

This is why the Church guards its doctrines with such rigor, sometimes extending even to violence (in the past, at least). Humans - including even some saints and Church Fathers - are not easy with this paradox and are always tending to fall one way or the other. The Church exists to prevent that from happening - because the moment one side or the other ever wins, Christianity is essentially dead, just another "religion".

With regard to Schuon, who influenced me very much, I must say that he ever really "got" Christianity, except maybe in theory. Schuon was essentially a crypto-Vedantist regardless of his outward religious practices, and he saw all the other traditions through that lens. But Christianity contains Vedanta, not (as I long thought) the other way around. Because of this, Christianity can comprehend and criticize Vedanta, but Vedanta cannot really comprehend Christianity in its fullness.

Aurobindo is another genius who influenced me very much. In some ways I think he has more of the truth than Schuon. He clearly saw the limits of monistic Vedanta and Buddhism, and tried to "broaden" them by bringing in crypto-Christian ideas (like the New Creation). But I've always detected a strain of Western secular utopianism in Aurobindo, even though its couched in metaphysical terms (we shouldn't forget his past life as a political revolutionary). As a result, his viewpoint is a bit too Faustian for my tastes. He put himself and the Mother in a place that belongs only to Christ (and His Mother).

11/19/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Nous cream... maybe it's his Hair Treatment?

The pleasing odor is part of what is good...

11/19/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Warren:

Cooncur.

11/19/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Aurobindo was a brilliant man from what I can see. Were he of a different bent he & the Mother might have had a Constantine/Helena thing going. - which is to say, he might've been considered a saint. But, I can't give a canonical opinion; only my personal one.

11/19/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

"I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy." - G. K. Chesterton

11/19/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I can relate. If Truth is coonvergent, Chesterton's orthoparadoxical comment must be true.

11/19/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

Since you liked that one, here's another good one from GKC:

“The logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

11/19/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Goodbye Mr. Spalding! This one's outta da park!"

11/19/2007 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"And what do children represent and symbolize? More than anything else in creation, they are a hope-filled arrow shot from the present into a better future.

And we are His children."



Stop Bath
fractal algebra
projecting on a blank world
nature's etch-a-sketch

11/19/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Another way of saying it is that the One breaks out of eternity into the static two (i.e., duality), but that duality is resolved (and progress occurs) within a dynamic and "transitional" trinity. Thus, history can be seen as a sort of rolling catastrophe in hyperspace, as the many make their winding way back to the One. History is ultimately the straight book that God tries to write with crooked liars. "

Interesting playing out of this in the news today,


An ancient flood
some say could be the origin of the story of Noah's Ark may have helped the spread of agriculture in Europe 8,300 years ago by scattering the continent's earliest farmers, researchers said on Sunday.

...Using radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence, a British team showed the collapse of the North American ice sheet, which raised global sea levels by as much as 1.4 meters, displaced tens of thousands of people in southeastern Europe who carried farming skills to their new homes.

..."The flooding of the Black Sea was not well dated but we got it down to about 50 years," said Chris Turney, a geologist at the University of Exeter, who led the study. "As soon as the flooding is done, farming goes crazy across Europe."

...It also paints a picture of the kind of mass disruption that has prompted some scientists to link the ancient flood to the origins of the biblical story of Noah's Ark, Turney said.

..."When the Black Sea flooded at end of last ice age some people have suggested it was the origins of the Noah's Ark myth," he said. "If you lived in that basin it would have seemed like the whole world had flooded."


Several years ago I read the geologists book who first discovered this, Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History, and it is facinating, lots of other ramifications about the origen of the Jews, etc.

There's a decent little overview on PBS's site, Ballard, the fellah that found the Titanic, did some exploration at the bottom of the Black Sea to help verify their theory.

Question I have is, quite apart from plain archeological value, Who is it that benefits from such discoveries? The press plays the story as 'Hey, maybe those bible toting whack jobs aren't as completely kooky as we thought!'

But does such a discovery add anything of value to the religious understanding of Noah's Ark? The flat minded might give up an "ah. so... hmph.", but their new fact only widens their circle - but they are still wandering in circles. Unless they are willing to read upwards into the entire Bible, they are left as impoverished as before, still stuck with a designated hitter and no world series.

It is even possible for a religious person to grab onto such as story too forcefully as proof and support for their beliefs... and lose their balance, knocking some of the inspiration out of their own understanding as they try to bring it down into facts.

It seems as if you don't retain a dynamic understanding between the vertical and horizontal, if you don't keep You active in your understanding, you can easily wind up flat on your face or flat on your back, but flat all the same.

“The logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

Yep.

11/19/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

oooooh, there he goes again, dissing Soccer & holding up Dullball as a shining example of ..... whatever.

Heck, Mrs G., if you want FL to grow up be a Real Man, without one of those ridiculous bubblebutts, you gotta see if OLM has Soccer for toddlers.

11/19/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

ximeze said... "oooooh, there he goes again, dissing Soccer & holding up Dullball as a shining example of ..... whatever."

Lol... I was waiting for that!

(Course Gagdad's right, but that's beside the point)

;#)

11/19/2007 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Happy to oblige Van.

"Course Gagdad's right, but that's beside the point"

You know I can't just let that go.....

What's up with you Guys: how is it possible to be So smart & So stupid at the same time? Must some sort of Savant/Idiot combo......

11/19/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Actually, I gotta interject here. Unlike Mead and Schuon, Bob and Ximeze are both wrong. Soccer and baseball are equally dull. For real athleticism, strategy and skill it's hockey or football ;)

11/19/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Lacrosse is the chosen game of Great Spirit, says Indian brother. ;-)

11/19/2007 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Robin, while I've never watched Lacrosse I have to agree that any sport based originally on a game played with human heads instead of balls is pretty badass, and therefore probably not boring.

11/19/2007 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I'm not at all sure that the professional standard of baseball would deteriorate in the absence of a world series. I mean, c'mon -- did you watch last season?

11/19/2007 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Once again it is proved that Baseball really does explain everything. In this life.

Now we just need a good metaphor for the afterlife. I think it's likely to be music.

11/19/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

And nowwww sports with B. Hard Intelectual!

"Lets examine the socio-sportological ramifications inherent in the quasi constitutional structuralism as expressed in the methodological interplay of indivual players within the team organism, and the larger inter-team environment.

Clearly Baseball most perfectly expresses the spirit of the Founding Fathers conception of Americanism. Due to its sophisticated manipulation of, and juxtoposition of the dualistic nature of Time as expressed in Action and Rest, the interfacing of a single individual representing each team, this concretizes the wider American concept of the Individual facing off against another individual, then progresses into the One against the many, as the batter becomes a runner racing in idealized fight or flight instinct, intellectually channeled into a race to an objective ahead of the object he's just struck towards the opposing team. If successful in taking a base, another of his team may come to his aid, evening the odds, and so on.

This is further highlighted by the manner of initiating action in the person of the hierarchical head of the opposing team in the person of the Pitcher, hurling a spherical hard ball at the lone representative of the opposing team, who then brings all his muscles into play to swing a hefty hunk of hardened ash, in an effort to smash the ball, reversing it's 90+ mph missile back at their asses, preferably by showing their disdain by sending it out of the park, or next best parting the hair of the pitcher.

Throughout the contest, constitutional law is expressed through the rules of play, the dualistic innings, and the judgments of the bum... eh, umpires. Interlaced throughout, is the lavishment of wealth in the form of a leisurely afternoon or evening spent in community attention and revelry. Nothing beats baseball and if you don't believe that YOU'RE JUST A BIG JERK!!!

Ahem.

Next, is Football. Football is more geared towards collective action, yet still maintains a high visibility of individuals in the persons of the Quarterback, Receiver and the Coaches. Football too, utilizes a sophisticated use of time in rest and action, and numerous bums... er referries... and the biggest damn people in the world charging down to smash eachother into the ground in a pile of barely controlled MAYHEM!!! YEARRGGHHHH!!!!

cough. ahem, pardon me.

Soccer. Hmm. Soccer can be best explained by looking at its logical origins and level of sophistication. Take the 5 year old rowdie snots from a pre-school, put some on the yard... toss a ball into the middle of them, call the teenage caregiver in when they start running around too much. When the caregiver's got their back turned, turn the rest of the mob free to rip the schoolyard apart while the caregiver's occupied.

Hockey... yes, well - take the above, make it real cold, raise the ages of the kids to 8 yrs old, give em sticks and don't watch them as closely. Keep ambulances on hand.

Want to further argue the question? Get the team members from a World Series champion baseball team and a Super Bowl team together on one side of a room, the brats from a soccur cup (not like the athelitic supporter type of cup, a real cup) from both the soccer and hockey team on to the other side of the room.

Tell each side to kill the other. If the cup side hasn't wet theirs and run away, the Baseball and Football teams will wipe the floor with their worthless selves. Oh, and if the cup's fans want to complain? Call in the F-18's.

'Nuff Said.

Thank you for participating in this symposium on who the best sports are, and thanks for agreeing completly with me."

11/19/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Oh sure, don't even mention team chess - like it doesn't exist. Now that's sport!

wv: shmusht (ewww)

wv: mtiabfm (even better)

11/19/2007 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I always thought baseball would be cooler if it were played in bad weather. At least that has been my experience.
Still, any game that makes stealin' legal is okay in my books.

11/20/2007 02:56:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Or the way they play it in futurama...

'Blernsball'

... Multiball!!!! Sums up all you need to know about it.

(Blernsball is basically Baseball with Calvinball rules except they're determined play-by-play by the writers of the episode.)

11/20/2007 03:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just LOVE the baseball analogy!

How about if this world has gone too far in the wrong direction for quite some time now, and it actually has to get worse before it can get better?

Or does that sound too apocalyptic?

"And what do children represent and symbolize? More than anything else in creation, they are a hope-filled arrow shot from the present into a better future.

And we are His children."

Lovely, made my day go from average to great :)

Johan, a cosmic drifting Swede

11/20/2007 06:50:00 AM  

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