Monday, April 21, 2008

Heavenly Bodies & Earthy Souls (4.11.10)

Who, looking at the universe, would be so feeble-minded as not to believe that God is all in all; that he clothes himself with the universe, and at the same time contains it and dwells in it? --Gregory of Nyssa

To say that one believes in the self-evident truth of "intelligent design" is really to say that one believes in intelligence, especially human intelligence. For intelligence is nothing if it cannot know truth, and no random shuffling of Darwinian evolution could result in truth-bearing animals.

Rather, because the cosmos is logoistic, we should never be surprised to find traces of the logos wherever we look, whether in objects or in the subjects to whom they are intelligible. This is the absaridity in the reductionistic desert of orthodorks neo-Darwinism, in that it posits an absolute contingency capable of knowing absolute truth about itself. If it can do that, then it is no longer merely contingent, but participates in a transcendent absoluteness for which it can never account. Obviously there is relative truth in natural selection, but surely not absolute truth.

Instead of "intelligent design," one might just as well say "beautiful design." For example, underneath the temporal flux of the cosmos, we see those beautiful and elegant mathematical structures that seem to abide in a disembodied platonic realm of their own.

Yes, ugliness -- even butt ugliness -- "must needs be," but we can only know it because it is a privation. Only in the postmodern world "has ugliness become something like a norm or principle; in this case, beauty appears as a specialty, even a luxury" (Schuon). But this ugliness is merely an exteriorization of the endarkened souls who produce it, e.g., the aptly named Aliza Shvarts. It requires no talent, since it takes none to produce ugliness and barbarism. It requires the exertion of will to arrest it, and the application of talent to reverse it. To put it another way, some butts are quite beautiful.

It seems that our decline into the postmodern cult of ugliness began at the other end, with the aesthetic movement of "art for art's sake." But this was an aesthetics cut off from its transcendent source. Once that happened, then gravity took care of the rest, and down we went on a wilde ride to the bottom. Idolatry of the beautiful is still idolatry, which is why the modern art museum became a kind of church for irreligious sophisticates. It is also why so much modern art is ultimately "empty," because it has been drained of any transcendent reference. In the absence of transcendence, all art is merely decoration on our prison walls.

Art is obviously a form; but the form must skillfully convey something of the nonformal; it is the real presence of the infinite captured within, or radiating through, the finite. Schuon wrote that "beauty is the mirror of happiness [I would say delight] and truth." Without the element of delight, "there remains only the bare form," and without the element of truth, "there remains only an entirely subjective enjoyment -- a luxury," and we are stuck with a decadent aestheticism instead of aesthetics, which is as intellectualism to the intellect, just a counterfoot to the head.

In this regard, to say that there are no objective standards of aesthetic value is to insist (to paraphrase Schuon) that myopia and blindness are merely different ways of looking instead of "defects of vision." Stupidity is not just another form of intelligence. So why should we call formal ugliness art, especially when it ultimately serves as an accomplice in ushering man's spirit down and away from its source? This is a quintessential form of demonism, of black magic, a "revolt of the darkness." Obviously it doesn't "elevate," since the telovator of the postmodern mind can never ascend from the ground floor to begin with. But curiously, it can nevertheless descend. It can do this because this is where they locate the "real," in matter. This is why their vision is so hellish.

Now, what does this all have to do with the human body? I don't know yet. I guess we're about to find out.

Again, man is said to be the image and likeness of the Creator. It is the Raccoon position that we will therefore find traces of this deiformity in both our subjectivity (e.g., our capacity to know truth, to will the good, and to love beauty), but also in our material form.

This is not a new idea, but an archetypal one that belongs to the religio perennis, or the religion from which religion is derived. As the Orthodox Christian Olivier Clement writes, "There is no culture or religion that has not received and does not express a 'visitation of the Word.'" For "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17).

Quoting from Manly Hall's sometimes kooky, sometimes helpful Secret Teachings of All Ages, he writes that "The oldest, most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body. The Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and Hindus considered philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an indispensable part of ethical and religious training."

In this approach, "the laws, elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution," so that "everything which existed outside of man had its analogue within man." An outgrowth of this was the notion that God is a "Grand Man," while man is a "little god." Thus, "the greater universe was termed the Macrocosm -- the Great World or Body," while man's body, "the individual human universe, was termed the Microcosm." As above, so below. Placed in this context, the idea that "the Word has become flesh" is perfectly comprehensible, even inevitable.

And in fact -- and we will get into this in more detail later -- even the secular scientist believes in this ancient formulation after his own fashion. To cite one obvious example, how is it that human beings are uniquely privileged to have access to the abstract formal system that rules the heavens? In other words, the quantum cosmologist "contains" the cosmos just as surely as it contains him.

But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery: "Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen). "Man, this major world in miniature, is a unified abridgment of all that exists, and the crowning of divine works" (St. Gregory of Palamas). "Man is the microcosm in the strictest sense of the word. He is the summary of all existence" (John Scottus Erigena). "All things in Heaven above, and Earth beneath, meet in the Constitution of each individual" (Peter Sterry).

You will often hear reductionistic Darwinians refute design with reference to certain "ugly" realities in the world, say, the mosquito, or man's windpipe being too close to the esophagus, or Randi Rhodes' voice. And yet, such quibbles actually "praise God," being that there is an implicit recognition or "recollection" of perfection.

But again, the manifestation is not the Principle, otherwise the world would be God. Nevertheless, as Schuon points out, "the world is fundamentally made of beauty, not ugliness.... and [it] could not contain ugliness if it did not contain a priori far more beauty." Likewise, contingency and randomness necessarily exist, but they are ultimately harnessed by a higher ordering principle to achieve newer and deeper syntheses. There is no metabolism without catabolism.

Running out of time. Here's a johnish quote to ponder and a petrified pun to quander:

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit of God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.... Thus, to contemplate the smallest object is to experience the Trinity: the very being of the object takes us back to the Father; the meaning it expresses, its logos, speaks to us of the Logos; its growth to fullness and beauty reveals the Breath, the Life-giver" (Olivier Clement).

And His name & number shall be Immanuelent, which trancelighted, means "Godwithinus." --The Coonifesto (see also Matt 1:23)

To be continued....

26 Comments:

Anonymous jwm said...

(looks around for someone with a flamethrower- the coast is clear)
Bob, your post was like a drink of clear water after the mudwars on the LGF thread on Ben Stein's "expelled".
What I notice about the all night pissin' match between the godless Darwinists, and people of faith is that most of the really bitter, strident mudslingin' comes from the anti-religion camp. They really get pissed by, and at the notion of a Creator God. That anger is the number one symptom of the spiritual affliction that I jokingly call the Jesus Willies.
Not that there isn't some anger from the religious camp as well. And the positions that many of the faithful hold seem to be calculated to instill the maximum willies into the doubting- they seem to take a perverse delight in rubbing the atheists the wrong way. Here is a part of my contribution to the debacle:
In short science does not disprove the Creation, it discloses information about it. If your vision of Genesis is so hidebound that you don't have room for new information, then you're missing the point. If you can look at all that science has disclosed about the natural world, and come to the conclusion that the whole of creation is without plan or purpose, and that all that you see around you is the random result of sunlight on mud, then you're missing the point.

The rest of it is hanging around post 1679 of an over 2000 post thread that is still grinding away over at LGF.
As a final note- I wonder what the ratio is of people who have come to faith through science, as opposed to those who lost their faith because of science.

JWM

4/21/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That's an excellent question, J.

And a great post today, Bob - I had planned to spend a good portion of today painting, and now I think I'm even more mentally prepared. One good thing to come from last week is that it made me realize I have a responsibility to at least try (whether or not I succeed is another matter, but if I don't at least make an attempt, I'll have accomplished nothing) to create something beautiful.

4/21/2008 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Yes, just as truth is what we must know, beauty is what we are compelled to create.

4/21/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

JWM--

Yes, I tried to put in my two cents, but no one picked up on what I was putting down. Surprising amount of darkness at LGF. Then again, as valuable as it is, it is essentially "reactionary," i.e., a reaction to Islamism, as opposed to being rooted in any transcendent principles of its own.

4/21/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery: "Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen).

There is good humor in the misapplication of this principle by the hollow-earthers.

Caldera
at the earth's center
the language of solresol
such sweet soul music

4/21/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Hi! "Godless Darwinist" here.

Look, my only problem with "Intelligent Design" is when proponents of it declare "this is too complex to have been random - it must have been the result of an Intelligent Designer" and then declare that further investigation will (therefore) be fruitless.

"Intelligent Design" doesn't propose testable theories - by definition.

Personally, I'm quite OK with the idea that there is a point beyond which we have no answers that science can provide. If you want to attribute that point to an intelligent designer, more power to you. Where that point lies, however, is a matter of great discussion.

But wrapped up in all of this is the point not too many people seem to want to address - which version of the "intelligent designer" is responsible?

There's a huge logical jump from some "creative force" responsible for the Big Bang and/or the genesis of life on Earth and the Lord of Hosts as described in the Bible.

And when followers of that version do things like this, a lot of "Godless Darwinists" rub their hands in glee.

I am not among them, but I understand the impulse.

4/21/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Kevbro,

If you found/find any of what goes on here interesting, then you should schtick around for a year or so. Hardly any of what you think to be true is as you think it to be.

4/21/2008 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

“Again, man is said to be the image and likeness of the Creator. It is the Raccoon position that we will therefore find traces of this deiformity in both our subjectivity (e.g., our capacity to know truth, to will the good, and to love beauty), but also in our material form.”

In church yesterday it occurred to me that we are an Icon (Image) of God with our left-brain, right-brain and heart as a very good imitation of the Holy Trinity.

4/21/2008 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous maine said...

But I do see what you're saying about how the viciousness of a palm frond assault compares to the more scientific endeavors of, say, Stalinism and Nazism.

4/21/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Not too mention the ruthless Darwinian struggle of each against all for tenure.

4/21/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Kevin said:
There's a huge logical jump from some "creative force" responsible for the Big Bang and/or the genesis of life on Earth and the Lord of Hosts as described in the Bible.

You are more right than you know. The jump is indeed huge, and very logical.

JWM

4/21/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Kevin, the math is pretty simple, but you have to recognize the problem as np complete (you can look that up in wikipedia, I think.) The reason why those who experienced or knew God said of him, "He is good", "He is true", "He is beautiful", "He is reason" is that the solution - the Telos (or 'the end' as David notes in his psalms) is what makes sense of all of this information. It's not a secret because there's nothing about it you don't already know. It's just putting it together in the right way. And besides, that's esoteric; if you're really more concerned about the hereafter all you really need to know is to throw yourself at the mercy of the court, or so to speak. It helps to know that you can, but anyone whose heart is right would.

4/21/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I have talked with some friendly atheists, and I believe that they honestly think they are magnanimous toward religious people by allowing God to settle in the ever further remote realms of the unknown, as if in a reservation.

This is utterly meaningless to us. It takes as an unspoken precondition that the Creator is confined to the same plane of reality as creation is. This is a common fallacy of a certain level of thinking. But having different levels or realms should be natural to the modern mind. After all, you cannot derive the functions of a software program from the hardware it runs on. You cannot derive the meaning of a book from the paper and ink it is printed with. Likewise you cannot derive the meaning of the soul from the brain it runs on. You have to step off to a separate plane and start to see the invisible.

God is present in the miraculous and in the mundane. Believers do not invent God to explain the marvels of nature. Rather, we believe that God has created all this because that's the kind of thing He would typically do.

Of course, religious literalists live in the same flatland, and insist that religious truth occupies the same space as scientific facts, and must therefore replace such facts. This does NOT help.

4/21/2008 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Well said, Magnus. But I'm not sure that religious literalists are as you say. It may be that I just don't hang around with any, but I give the fundamentalist who is anti-Darwinian, to take an example, credit for being aware that there's something incoherent about the Darwinist faith. Now, the fact that their counterargument might be overly rigid, two-dimensional, or flawed is just evidence of their conceptual capacity and not something for which they should be negatively judged. It's who they are, and they at least get credit for scoping out the basic problem with materialism vs. transcendence.

Being a fundamentalist Darwinian, on the other hand, seems less forgivable to me.

4/21/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Magnus - Help what? I'm sure you're not referring to this kind of foolishness.

4/21/2008 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Indeed, nomo.
The word of the cross is a rather different topic from whether or not there is a Creator, or why the universe makes sense, or why the laws of matemathics are universal when they were created for small mundane purposes.

There is no need to chase away the curious, they can go wherever they want until they come to the cross.

4/22/2008 03:04:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

maineman,
I find most "anti-darwinists" at least as inconsistent and incoherent as shoddy science. In fact, much of it IS shoddy science, pieced together and misapplied to prove the unprovable.

I do not have a problem with those who say "I am ignorant and like it that way. A worldview without science was good enough for my plague-ridden, witch-burning ancestors and it's good enough for me." It is the dishonesty of parading non-science as science that disturbs me.

4/22/2008 03:15:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Surprising amount of darkness at LGF.

Atheism is alive and well among "conservatives". Most conservatives in Western countries other than the US are atheists.

These people are aligned with the Good by accident for the most part. They are propped up and oriented by their God-fearing peers. All it takes is for that ascendency-by-proxy to relent and "conservative" atheists will go batshit homicidal in the blink of an eye, just like their leftist bretheren.

Atheism is far worse -- and far more dangerous -- to humanity in the long run than anything Islam can conceive.

4/22/2008 03:50:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"These people are aligned with the Good by accident for the most part. They are propped up and oriented by their God-fearing peers. All it takes is for that ascendency-by-proxy to relent and "conservative" atheists will go batshit homicidal in the blink of an eye, just like their leftist bretheren.

Atheism is far worse -- and far more dangerous -- to humanity in the long run than anything Islam can conceive."

Hi Smoov!
Man! That is aso ccurate and true, and anyone who has read LGF the last few days can see that in action, so to speak!

"By accident!"

Now, I'll admit, there may be a FEW atheist conservatives that are...for want odf a better word, reliable and trustworthy.

IMO, these type of rare atheists aren't bonofide atheists...they have honor, nobility, decency, self evident recognition of Truth, moral absolutes, etc..
They are usually in the military or police.
And they know God, but they don't gno it yet.

The atheists Smoov speaks of are, indeed, very dangerous.
Because they are only our allies as long as it suits their goals.

They have contempt and even hate for Religion and those who earnestly practice it.
Their smugness and burnn' hate is...palpable.

4/22/2008 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

JWM-
Right on! They are bitter, angry, and pissed beyond belief!

When I read it I was taken aback by the sheer ferocity and hostility for Religion.
And they seem to take a perverse pleasure in it.
That kind of nihilism chills my bones.
Hell, maybe I'm readin' too much into this, but...no. I don't think so.
Damn it!

And like you said, some of the Christians were like-minded, minus the inbtense hatred, yet full of ignorance and bullshit.
Haughty, I reckon you could say.

Lizards I thought I knew were all of a sudden...alien. WTF?
Reduced to creatures no better than the left.

I hope I'm overreacting...but I fear I am not.
JWM gnos what I mean, as does Gagdad Bob, and any Raccoon that has read LGF recently.

Hell, no one...NO ONE would dare engage Bob in debate.
I sensed that many were afraid to do so, becausae they knew they couldn't match, let alone understand Bob's words.

Indeed...no one even tried!!!
I just shook my head in sadness.
Darkness indeed.

Thankfully, there are still some bright lights at LGF.
They need our prayers and support, because it's gonna keep on gettin' ugly.

Hey, you know...it doesn't bug me to encounter a true atheist that shares my principles and honors our Constitution.
More often than not, they are seeking.
Seekin' God. They just won't say it.
I'm okay with that. That means there's Hope. :^)

4/22/2008 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Huh, I recall a Akathist which says, "Thy right arm controls all of human life."

The 'Worldly knowledge' is not - not necessarily knowledge about material things. If God is seen in all things then there is a kind of knowledge which is Godly knowledge about all things.

For instance all true wisdom whether 'worldly' or not points eventually to spiritual or divine wisdom. Adam named all of the animals - but it was not considered a low, unworthy thing.

The difference between Adam naming the animals and us trying to figure out the species and genus of different creatures and organisms, is that Adam saw directly what the essential differences between animals were; no need for a complex system of classification. But as fallen man our seeking divine knowledge always gets muddied up with earthy, worldly ways of understanding and knowing. A matter of the Nous, through which Adam saw the Logos in even the fly; and without which we struggle to understand why there is a fly at all.

4/22/2008 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Indeed, Ben. True hope will always be there (whether we're there with it or not).

4/22/2008 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"To put it another way, some butts are quite beautiful. "

Indeed!

Maineman, I've lived next door to, worked for, and with, several of the literalist fundamentalists, and I've found that in my experience at least, it jibes with Magnus's "religious literalists live in the same flatland, and insist that religious truth occupies the same space as scientific facts, and must therefore replace such facts." - they strike me as the flipside of the same coin of the atheists... perhaps with their being Heads to the atheists tails (... and some butts aren't...).

"It seems that our decline into the postmodern cult of ugliness began at the other end, with the aesthetic movement of "art for art's sake." But this was an aesthetics cut off from its transcendent source. Once that happened, then gravity took care of the rest, and down we went on a wilde ride to the bottom."

Really, this may be the better (initial) test of the Atheist/Fundamentalist/Religious question - does the person in question recognize Beauty, recognize that there is morality and recognize that there is Truth, and does that person revere, or revile, the existence of Truth, and its heirarchical nature. Without revering them, they have no religious understanding, no matter the labels they may parade under. With revering them, they have the understanding fundamental to religious understanding, no matter the labels they parade under.

There is such a thing as an incidental atheist and an incidental religionist - they've happened into their beliefs by custom or happenstance, and neither ensures or excludes Truth - what beliefs lay under those lables? There are many, myself formerly among them, who on hearing the literalist 'communication' of religion, snicker, cringe, and with a serious case of the Jesus willies, get some distance from them - fast. That person, repulsed by a flat and meaning-less representation of the Truth they behold around them, is repulsed by the apparent anti-truth-ism of the literalists, but they do see, understand, and revere the Good, the Beautiful and the True, and I don't believe that they will be told "I never knew you"

Both the committed and raving atheists and literalists, to my mind, are ignorant of the Good, the Beautiful and the True, and though the literalist, having some smidgen of depth by way of the 'story' of their Bibles, may perhaps be a thin slice above the atheist, their shared coin lying heads up, they are very nearly as flat in their lack of recognition and reverence for the truth as their coin buddies, turn their Bibles into mere narrative story, and will be left asking "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?".

4/22/2008 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have a habit of letting other people say what I intend, if they can do it better than I, so I will do it again.

From a comment at my blog by "GrumpyOldFart": When you boil the idea of creation down to its essentials, you are left with one of two choices. Both ID and "random" design, ultimately either something can spring from nothing or time is not remotely as we think it is. Both of those choices seem equally ridiculous and equally unprovable on their faces, so it matters little from a practical standpoint which you choose.

I, and many people the world over, choose to believe that we are not here through the mechanism of sheer chance. Perhaps that is nothing more than hubris, an unwillingness to accept that the entirety of human civilization is precisely as significant in the big scheme of things, no more and no less, than the pattern of sand grains in an anthill on my lawn. You may believe otherwise, and you are welcome to.

Regardless, there seems to be no way *so far* to even gather evidence to support or disprove EITHER hypothesis. And that, I think, is the kernel of the whole argument and why I have to come down on the side of academia on this subject. As Kevin
(that would be *me*) pointed out, the whole point of the scientific method is to restrict itself to things that can be measured and quantified, as those are the only things that can ultimately be proven or disproven. Sciences require real world facts to hang their logic on. Logic alone, no matter how rigorous, can do nothing to advance it.

In short, the ID vs. Sheer Chance debate belongs in the Philosophy Dept., NOT the Science Dept. And that has nothing to do with which religion you believe in, or whether you believe in one at all. It has to do with the definition of "Science".

4/22/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I almost agree with that comment, Kevin. I'd like to add that there is religion that is based on controlled experiments and peer review, but most religious people seem to avoid it. The problem is of course that you can't bring instruments other than your mind into such an experiment. Then again you cannot experience even the tangible world without your mind.

Religion and science are in fact very similar, only in different realms. A small minority of scientists foray into the realm of matter and explore it, publishing their observations, while most people just believe it. Likewise with religion into the realm of spirit. Obviously when one side tries to conflate the two realms, chaos ensues.

Just mentioning this because it sounds like experiential religion could appeal to you or your friends.

4/23/2008 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Kevin said "In short, the ID vs. Sheer Chance debate belongs in the Philosophy Dept., NOT the Science Dept. And that has nothing to do with which religion you believe in, or whether you believe in one at all. It has to do with the definition of "Science"."

I'd mostly go along with that as well, with the emphasis on what the definition of Science is. Science does and should deal with, quantifiable facts and figures. It goes off the rails, where, not finding quantifiable facts and figures, it therefore declares that the iteam in question doesn't exist, as with Free Will, and on and on and on. In fairness, it has usually not been scientists themselves who have made that step, but those who want to use the aura of 'scientific' regard to their advantage, as in much of Gagdad's field, educationists, and even some scientists trying to step out of their fields and into areas which interest them, but in which they are wholy out of their depth.

4/23/2008 06:17:00 AM  

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