Friday, December 14, 2007

Existential Shrinkage and the Imagination of Reality (11.19.10)

The Eternal Body of Man is The Imagination.... Imagination, the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no more. --William Blake

Dawson felt that imagination was the most important mode of the metaxy (discussed in yesterday's post), the divine-human "bridge" that is Man; and that creativity and imagination were "the greatest gifts God had bequeathed to the human person" (Birzer). Or, if you prefer the psychedelicized words of a raving ethnobotanist,

"The imagination argues for a divine spark in human beings. It is absolutely confounding if you try to see imagination as a necessary quantity in biology. It is an emanation from above -- literally a descent of the world soul" (Terence McKenna).

In order to know reality you must first imagine reality, something no animal can do. This kind of higher imagination is "the ability to see clearly beyond the here and now into the reality of eternal forms -- thus allowing one to order one's soul to the eternal community." In its absence, the human being loses his ability to order anything; reality flattens out, so that animals become indistinct from humans, men from women, gods from kings, kings from men, men from monsters, art from entertainment, superstars from benchwarmers. All the world essentially becomes analogous to pornography, which is sex drained of eros, or matter drained of soul.

In contrast, the task of the true Christian -- like the neo-Vedantin -- is to unite matter with soul in order to sanctify the world. You might say that there is a vertical His- and Heresy, the former involving an "upward flight" from the world into the Abbasolute, the latter being a "downward escape" into the considerable charms and snares of Mamamaya. But where we are supposed to live is within the innercourse of the two, or more precisely, the One, which can be envisioned but not seen; or only seen with higher vision, which is to say, imagination. With our intelligence we may discern this reality, but with our imagination we may unite ourselves with it. The former is mind, the latter is heart, and their union forms basis of the higher I-mage -- the mage that imagines. That would be us.

As usual, Schuon says it best: "The vice of outwardness is the lack of harmony between the two dimensions: between our tendency towards the things that surround us and our tendency towards the 'kingdom of God which is within you.' What is necessary is to realize a spiritual rootedness that removes from outwardness its tyranny at once dispersing and compressing, and that on the contrary allows us to 'see God everywhere'; which means to perceive symbols, archetypes and essences in sensible things.... Similarly regarding matter: what is necessary is not to deny it -- if that were possible -- but to withdraw from its seductive and enslaving grasp; to distinguish in it what is archetypal and quasi-celestial from what is accidental and indeed too earthly; hence to treat it with nobleness and sobriety. In other words, outwardness is a right, and inwardness a duty..."

A one-sided, unimaginative, dryasdust outwardness is an affliction that particularly affects the left. Even back in his day, Dawson could already see that most liberals were "simple-minded secularists and utilitarians who failed to understand truth, beauty and goodness" and "lacked the power of imagination. They were quantifiers and calculators, sophisticated men of the world, but not of the soul. They had been duped by worldly wisdom" (Birzer). This attitude results in the mechanization of man and makes him "less than God intended him to be." To put it another way, the inevitable outcome of secularism is that one is free, but not free to realize one's spiritual potentialities, and therefore only free in the manner of an uncaged animal; or an animal with impenetrable barriers he cannot see, thus giving the illusion of freedom.

Imagination mediates between the possible and the actual. It is what allows the infinite to become intelligible, i.e., to be represented in the finite realm. As Bolton writes, "each relative world contains only a cross-section of the universal possibilities," and each person is just such a relative world. This world can be quite large and expansive or small and cramped, depending upon the individual case. In other words, the "size" of the exterior world in which one lives and moves is merely a projection of the human interior.

For example, when we consider the inconceivable vastness of outer space, only a materialized mind living under the "reign of quantity" fails to realize that he is really contemplating the infinity of his own mind, for the physical cosmos is neither large nor small. It's just a coonvas on which we paint beautiful or ugly pictures with the materials available to us. Bolton writes that "it may seem strange to speak of the mind as though it were a thing having a physical size, but it undoubtedly has its own analogue of spatial capacity." Furthermore -- and this is a critical point as it pertains to scientism -- the ability "to grasp one part of reality brilliantly while being oblivious of the other things that human minds are capable of can be more opposed to the truth than the perceiving of all things equally dimly."

And this is why, as I have mentioned before, even the literal creationist is surely closer to the reality of the situation than the unimaginative atheist who has drained reality of its most essential ideas and archetypes. His mind "contracts" the cosmos in order to make it adequate to the cold and shrunken proportions of his own being. This "existential shrinkage" would be a great embarrassment to atheists if only they realized how silly they look to us, but like children and savages, they live in a kind of naive cognitive innocence without a fig leaf of metaphysics.

Regarding the "intelligent error" of shrunken secularists, Schuon writes that "It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error. The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships." In turn, this exclusively horizontal mentality "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill." And of course, there are not just scientific materialists but religious ones, those "whose intellectual intuition remains latent, this being precisely what constitutes the 'obscure merit of faith.'"

Reason can never arrive at reality. At best, it can remove obstacles in the way of our imaginative vision. As Schuon explains, reasoning is analogous to "the groping of a blind man, with the difference that -- by removing obstacles -- it may bring about a clearing of vision; it is blind and groping due to its indirect and discursive nature." That is, "it is a means of knowledge, but this means is mediate and fragmentary like the sense of touch, which enables a blind man to find his way and even to feel the heat of the sun, but not to see." To put it another way, it allows us to uncover the transcendent vision "which one possesses a priori," i.e., vertical recollection.

What does it mean to say that the cosmos is "expanding?" Again, if one is only referring to physical reality, the point couldn't be more banal. In the absence of an objective frame of reference outside the system, for all we know, the cosmos could equally be contracting toward a metacosmos encircling it. In a very real way, the only thing that is actually expanding in the world is man's inwardness, is it not? And if you're not expanding, then you are contracting, for the mind cannot cease its dynamism, its "metabolism" of reality. You are what you eat, and if you eat the quantified and atomistic sawdust of secularism, you will inevitably be spiritually malnourished, just a shell of your future self.

Slowly, through grace, each Christian is sanctified, the debris of the world being gradually removed from the order of his soul, and then the human as the metaxy serves as the bridge between the spiritual and material worlds. --Bradley Birzer

29 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"All the world essentially becomes analogous to pornography, which is love drained of eros, or matter drained of soul."

Hmm... "love drained of eros" or "eros drained of love"?

12/14/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I meant "sex drained of eros." Therefore, these two comments will soon self-destruct.

12/14/2007 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

For example, when we consider the inconceivable vastness of outer space, only a materialized mind living under the "reign of quantity" fails to realize that he is really contemplating the infinity of his own mind, for the physical cosmos is neither large nor small. It's just a coonvas on which we paint beautiful or ugly pictures with the materials available to us.

"But to be sovereign of the universe is no great matter to God. In Himself, at home in "the land of the Trinity," he is sovereign of a far greater realm. We must always keep before our eyes that vision of Lady Julian's in which God carried in His hand a little object like a nut, and the nut was 'all that was made.'" (Lewis)

Which is another way to say that from a vertical perspective, quantity is relative. God is the baby in the cave, and the dude carrying everything in his pocket. As infinite as the universe is, it's still painfully finite. That is both it's weakness and strength; for 'relative' implies 'relationship'.

12/14/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

*chirp chirp*

Man, this brother knows how to kill a good discussion.

12/14/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Bipolar
salesman contemplates
the first step into mammon
walk or take the train

12/14/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous greybeard said...

Good post, Bob, and very pertinent for me.

I recently arrived at a place in my life where I had complete control of how much "outwardness" to take on; I could have had a very quiet, inwardly oriented life. I am a philosopher and a writer and here was the option to just focus on these elements and on the contemplation of God and on the doing of quiet works to advance mankind, volunteering and so forth.

Instead I put a personals ad on Craigslist and became embroiled in a tempestuous relationship. The new girlfriend has some psychospiritual issues that I find interesting, but nevertheless the outward pull of such an affair knocks me out of equilibrium, particularly the sex.

I directed an inquiry towards God-"What happened to me? Am I off the correct path? Advise and lead, please. Show me what to do. I want to serve You."

The danger in combining spiritual motives with outward movements is that you might not be sincere and could be using spiritual motives to cover for wrong worldly actions. I have audited myself for these and don't find it to be so, but perhaps a person can become so bent that they can't honestly evaluate themselves.

My clearest intuition that I have recieved is the the girlfriend and I are to influence each other, teach each other lessons that need to be learned. We are hammer and anvil, and will strike and polish two souls simultaneously. The outward push caused by sex and emotional lability can be overcome by detachment on a higher level.

The question that goes to Bob and the raccoons is: can relationships be classified as Godly works, or am I decieving myself in the pursuit of wrong and worldly movements? Opinions, please.

12/14/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greybeard-

I have just ended a similar situation in a tempestuous relationship. The sexual aspect was often disorienting in many ways. It was certainly intense.

I also would be interested in the opinions of the various racoonists of this venerable blog.

I found that once I began demanding full self-responsibility for myself for what happened in the relationship insights into my own mind virus/dysfunction started flowing abundantly.

Sadly (or not) it did not necessarily improve the relationship. Which seemed to get stuck in semi-destructive behavior.

Again, I'd love to hear what others have to say. I'm still trying to make sense of it all.

12/14/2007 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Stu said...

"Can relationships be classified as Godly works, or am I deceiving myself in the pursuit of wrong and worldly movements?"

Erotic love between man and woman is symbolic of God's nature... It represents the highest Divine Unity that is behind all dualities.

The womb and the seed. The Void and The Spark. Christ and Sophia. The paint brush and the canvas. The Penetrator and the Penetrated.

The World of Form and the Formless Beyond.

Like all worldly pursuits, erotic relationships are neither good nor evil in of themselves. They can be used as disctactions or escapes from Truth. Or they can be used as signposts pointing to the Truth that it represents.

Do not renounce the gifts of existence. But receive them with gratitude and respect.

And for God's sake, enjoy the ride while you're here. You may not be of this world, but you are here for a reason.

A very Merry Christmas to all my Raccoon friends.

12/14/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Stu said...

This is so sick. I got nauseous reading it.

It is unthinkable to me that someone would sell out their nation like this for additional magazine sales.

Kinda makes a guy think that the world just might be degenerative after all...

http://www.newsweek.com/id/77945

12/14/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"...can relationships be classified as Godly works, or am I decieving myself in the pursuit of wrong and worldly movements? Opinions, please."

Since you asked. If you are a believer, I recommend backing away from the questionable part of the relationship. Just sayin'. If you're not a believer, I guess you should go for the gusto - since there won't really be any consequences, right?

What would you expect from NoMo?

My own similar experience resulted in a beautiful 31 years of faithful marriage. Thank God.

12/14/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

There's nothing wrong with sex, but everything wrong with compulsion, for compulsion is a meaningless nonsense movement that revels in the shadow of death instead of light. The Christian tradition distinguishes between two types of love: agape and eros, or Godly (vertical) love and passionate (horizontal) creature love. Obviously, to deny either is to unavoidably submit to the anti-life, since it takes two to make a dream come true...use your imagination.
Thomas Jay Oord defined agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being." In this world--the cosmic metaxy as we're calling it--the two cannot balance themselves (as the world is an undead testement), but, rather, there must be an intensional response, not of this world, to bring about consonance between opposites that are in the habit of colliding. So compulsion is eros misdirected and divorced from agape, wherein self-contraction and the bracing for impact are the typical responses.

The greatest commandment is:

'Love (agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love (agapao) your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Without this Love, 'love' is drained, and basically meaningless, which is not love at all, but a secret violence and sickness--the anti-life. See it. Most of the world is that.

Consult Aurobindo's letters for his opinion if anyone wants.

12/14/2007 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

"What would you expect from NoMo?

My own similar experience resulted in a beautiful 31 years of faithful marriage."

Gosh, your old Nomo. :)

12/14/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

I mean, older than I thought. You should take it as a complement. ;)

12/14/2007 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Read this book for more information.

About lusting, which is what may happen if sex is central, or even about a relationship based purely on meeting needs, C.S says:

"Does a man keep the carton after he's done smoking the cigarettes?"

12/14/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Ben Update:

I received a call from Sheriff's office in Washington stating that one of their officers had in fact contacted Ben and Patti, that they are at a neighbor's house, and that they are okay. He did say that Ben was informed I was trying to reach him.

I was hopeful I might be able to contact them today, but nothing so far, and I wanted to let folks know what was going on.

12/14/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

coonified - I hide my advanced wisdom better than I hide my advanced years.

:')

12/14/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Walt: !!!!!
Thanks for the Ben update. Good thing Raccoons are persistent little buggers, otherwise by now I'd be reduced to babbling with worry about Ben & Patti.

Yeomen's award to thee & the other under-the-pelters who made this possible.

12/14/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>>A one-sided, unimaginative, dryasdust outwardness is an affliction that particularly affects the left<<

It could be that, at worst, the leftist and those who want to reverse the flow of human evolution don't so much lack an imagination as they corrupt imagination. In other words, they succumb to *fantasy*, which is imagination unmoored from its divine roots.

Let's face it, evil often does manifest itself in insidious, trickster-ish ways. Political correctness, though prima facie insane, can cannily tie itself up in knots of theory that, to many, prove very seductive. Still, the whole enterprise is a fantasy. One simply must take a little care to detach one's self from the spell and then the whole thing appears as the monstrosity that it is.

I suppose we could say that fantasy is imagination in service of destruction and dissolution.

12/14/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

"You might say that there is a vertical His- and Heresy, the former involving an "upward flight" from the world into the Abbasolute, the latter being a "downward escape" into the considerable charms and snares of Mamamaya."

Sometimes you go off on these riffs that just crack me up -- mostly because they are so precise!

12/14/2007 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not for nothing did God condemn sex outside of marriage. Sex without a long term (lifelong or better if you can get it) is bogus. Any rationalization of this is a self-deception.

12/14/2007 06:12:00 PM  
Anonymous coonifed said...

"I hide my advanced wisdom better than I hide my advanced years."

You shouldn't hide your wisdom Nomo. Because...this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. La la la. La. Laaaaaaaaaa.

Yea, I might look stupid sometimes, but oh well.




"I suppose we could say that fantasy is imagination in service of destruction and dissolution."


"Adieu! the fancy (fantasy) cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf." --John Keats, ode to the nightingale.

12/14/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

"Sex without a long term (lifelong or better if you can get it) is bogus. Any rationalization of this is a self-deception."

Wait a minute anon. You can get better than lifelong sex? This is unheard of. Please grace us with your crazy wisdom. I'm probably just misunderstanding. Nevermind me.

I agreed about the rationalizing mind.

12/14/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous coonified said...

I mean, I agree about the rationalizing mind.

12/14/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Greybeard said,

"The new girlfriend has some psychospiritual issues that I find interesting, but nevertheless the outward pull of such an affair knocks me out of equilibrium, particularly the sex."

Last one of those I was in, the psychospritual issues turned out to be way more psycho than spiritual and my interest in them morphed into disgust after a time. When I finally did break it off it was like a crack addict going cold turkey, due in large part to the sex.
On the plus side, I uncovered alot more of my core self in the aftermath and had some life altering epiphanies relating to my role in the relationship and to the magic of forgiveness.
What is the long term prognosis as it looks from this point? It really does take dedication by both parties to evolve in a good, forward direction which points to a deeper commitment at some point to keep things moving. And as always, actions speak louder than words. Sport f*^#kn' and just hangin' out will only take a couple so far.

"The outward push caused by sex and emotional lability can be overcome by detachment on a higher level."

Good luck on that one.
In my opinion, you've squandered the detachment angle because of the sex.
For the most part, without a deeper commitment and a higher shared ideal, people will retain those cherished mind parasites throughout their lives, conforming to each others disfunctions along the path of least resistance. After a time, it all seems normal.
Without that measure of cause and effect understanding and detachment, a "North Star" to aim for and the ability of at least one whole person to do what is needed, things just seem to drift.

These days I try and keep it zipped up and listen to alot more Dr. Laura than I used to.

12/14/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

A relief about Ben.

Just a wonderful column Bob. I am in awe, really. Also working out my own relationship issues -- trying to escape my old patterns of skirt-chasing, young & pretty, etc.

Otherwise I have been deeply engaged in trying to decide what God wants for me/from me. I currently have before me the opportunity to take up a position as an officer and executive (C-level) at a public corporation. I haven't done that sort of gig before (recent corps I have partly owned, and were private). I have this feeling that this represents a door opening for me, but I cannot understand why. Why is this different than, say, just retiring young, or perhaps consulting?

I haven't figured it out yet. Has anyone else ever come to a career juncture and felt drawn into something they were not really considering before?

12/14/2007 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

In other words - you are what you eat.

12/14/2007 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meant to say:

sex without a lifelong commitment is bogus.


Or better sex is for commitments that are signed, sealed and delivered not for "relationships.

12/15/2007 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

What Nomo and anonymous said.

To paraphrase JPII in a nutshell:
Don't lie with your body. If you aren't married, don't behave as though you were. It's not living with integrity.

What sort of relationship would you have, without the sex? That's the question here, I think.

Walt-thanks for the good news on Ben and Patti.

12/15/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Anonymous greybeard said...

Thanks all who responded to my question. What I think I will do is establish with my girlfriend that we are either moving towards marriage or we should stop now.

Above all I want a relationship that is pleasing to God and will serve him well.

Monogamy and stable matrimony are the only acceptable relationship outcomes, I think.

And to answer Smoov--to go where the Lord calls you via your intuition is a right movement. Feel it in your gut and you can't go wrong.

12/15/2007 12:08:00 PM  

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