Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cathedrals of Science and Religion (5.16.09)

Science and religion both build magnificent cathedrals, but whereas the religious cathedral is analog and "continuous," the scientific one is digital and therefore unavoidably discontinuous and atomistic. It can only approximate or model reality, whereas religion "mirrors" it.

Or, you could say that man is a mirror facing in two directions, above and below. When he turns to the above, he is like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. But when he turns to the below, he reflects the darkness and obscurity of matter, which can only be illuminated by his own intellect "shining" upon it. Otherwise, the world is as flat as a manflake, devoid of depth, dimension, and meaning.

Ideally, pontifical man is the axis mundi who -- like the vertical ray of creation itself -- transverses across all levels of reality, from mystical union above to quantum physics below. As a result of the law of inverse analogy, the paradoxical continuity of the quantum world is a mirror of the highest state of consciousness, in which the many are reconciled into the One. In other words, mystical union is not possible because of the "quantum universe"; rather, vice versa: the discrete matter of middle earth dissolves into the ocean of quantum oneness because it is a distant echo of the One.

You could even say that science (or scientism) is the "worldview" of the linear left cerebral hemisphere, whereas religion embodies the worldview of the right. This is why the naive scientistic fundamentalist always sneaks a foolish version of religion in through the back door. Obviously, the right brain is every bit as "epistemophilic" as the left brain, but the answers that satisfy the left brain have no necessary relevance to the right. Hence, try as he might, the bonehead atheist is fighting a quixotic battle against the very forms of thought that give access to Higher Things, e.g., transtemporal vision, spiritual intuition, transcendent art, mythic imagination, archetypal resonance, and so many others.

All of these modes unavoidably "return" to the atheist, except in a laughably crude manner. For example, the bonehead atheists are known for their lack of literary skill (Hitchens excepted), but one assumes that they aren't trying to write such ugly prose -- that they are at least aiming, however awkwardly, at some sort of transcendent aesthetic ideal in their rhetoric. Perhaps not. Perhaps the medium is the message which mirrors the ugliness, pettiness, and narrowness of their souls.

Man -- a proper man, anyway -- hungers for the transcendent. And even -- or especially -- an improper man will seek after the transcendent in the immanent. Because man must "transcendentalize" something, he will do so to matter, and thereby become either a hedonist, a virtual animal, or a sort of anti-religious religious fanatic. Of the three, the animal might actually be highest (or least low), since at least he -- like any animal -- doesn't try to wring more pleasure and/or wisdom out of matter than there is in it. Rather, he simply accepts it for what it is, and takes his bovine pleasures as they come.

But one of the marks of the postmodern perversion is to essentially locate the good and the true in matter and the center at the periphery; thus, the "inverse" wisdom of deconstructionism, which is none other than the mind turning on God and therefore itself, and systematically taking a wrecking ball to the beautiful spiritual cathedral man has built brick-by-brick over the centuries.

In the process, man loses his both his center and his spiritual resonance with the beautiful archetypal forms anterior to him. He becomes a kind of orphan of being, i.e., Existential Man, who, in the words of Schuon, embodies "the codification of an acquired infirmity." This is the final "intellectual atrophy of man marked by the 'fall,'" entailing a hypertrophy of practical (i.e., left brain) intelligence but the loss of any capacity to envision it in its higher kosmic context.

"Skeptical rationalism and titanesque naturalism are the two great abuses of intelligence, which violate pure intellectuality as well as the sense of the sacred; it is through this propensity that thinkers 'are wise in their own eyes' and end by 'calling evil good, and good evil' and by 'putting darkness for light, and light for darkness' (Isaiah, 5:20 and 21); they are also the ones who, on the plane of life or experience, 'make bitter what is sweet,' namely the love of the eternal God, and 'sweet what is bitter,' namely the illusion of the evanescent world" (Schuon).

Is it any wonder that conservatives are so much happier than liberals, when the misosophic leftism that has infected kookbook of liberalism is quite literally the very recipe for unhappiness? Of course Michelle Obama is the bitterest millionaire; except that she has plenty of company, i.e., Michael Moore, Sean Penn, George Soros, Jimmy Carter, Keith Olbermann, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Springsteen... the list is endless. For it is a list of losers who are spiritually vacant and unconsciously in search for the reason in politics. Hence their energy and fanaticism that can never be matched by the hordes of the Happy, for the same reason it is literally impossible for a normal person to understand what motivates the jihadi, who is none other than Envy with a bomb attached (whereas the leftist is Envy with a state attached).

At least the outright hedonist is not as pretentious as these metaphysical yahoos. Still, he searches after ecstasy -- which in its literal sense ("stand outside") means to exit the closed circle of the ego -- except that he tries to spring his cage from below instead of above. This is certainly possible; the trouble is, there's no floor there, so one tends to keep falling, which, for awhile, gives a kind of thrill from the bracing "movement." This lasts until one begins to notice the gradual absence of both heat and light (i.e., heart and intellect), as one drifts further and further from the central sun which makes the earth humanly habitable.

This postmodern downward movement began in the 1920s, but was then placed on hold due to the great depression and World War II. Afterwards it started up again in earnest in the "Beat movement" of the 1950s, and then reached a critical mass in the 1960s, trickling down into a baby boomer generation that had such a weakened spiritual immune system that the virus took over the host. We still haven't recovered from this epidemonic, and perhaps we never will. As someone --Dawson? -- said, you can undo in a matter of weeks what it took millennia to build.

Again, that would be our precious Western cathedral, which can only be "animated" by people who can see and appreciate it, just like any work of art -- or even like the quantum world sightlessly envisioned by physicists. Dogs don't get jokes, they don't understand baseball, and they certainly don't get religion. In an analogy I have used before, even something as luminous as scripture is nevertheless like a reflector light on the back of a car. It gives off no light of its own, otherwise it would be visible to dogs and atheists. Rather, it must be "lit up" by something external to it, which would be the uncreated intellect. Shine the intellect on scripture and it suddenly glows in the dark, as light reaches out to light, in the process compressing time and history into an eternal point.

But a dog will just bark and chase after the car. Plus, he wouldn't have the foggiest idea what to do with it if he caught it. Maybe piss on it, I suppose.

[In most modern men] the intellect is atrophied to the point of being reduced to a mere virtuality, although doubtless there is no watertight partition between it and the reason, for a sound process of reasoning indirectly transmits something of the intellect; be that as it may, the respective operations of the reason -- or the mind -- and of the intellect are fundamentally different... despite certain appearances due to the fact that every man is a thinking being, whether he be wise or ignorant.

There is at the same time analogy and opposition: the mind is analogous to the intellect insofar as it is a kind of intelligence, but is opposed to it by its limited, indirect and discursive character; as for the apparent limitations of the intellect, they are merely accidental and extrinsic, while the limits of the mental faculty are inherent in it. Even if the intellect cannot exteriorize the “total truth” -- or rather reality -- because that is in itself impossible, it can perfectly well establish points of reference which are adequate and sufficient, rather as it is possible to represent space by a circle, a cross, a square, a spiral or a point and so on.... There is no difficulty in the fact that pure intelligence -- the intellect -- immensely surpasses thought.... There are objects which exceed the possibilities of reason; there are none that exceed those of intelligence as such.
--F. Schuon

Speaking of dogs & art:

"We were stopped at a traffic light when a car pulled up beside us and an Airedale in the backseat began barking furiously through a half-opened window. When I turned to look at the dog, he suddenly stopped barking, yawned broadly, and lay down. 'He doesn’t know whether to bark or yawn,' my friend observed. Which more or less sums up my reaction to that biggest-ever travelling road show of works by Robert Rauschenberg" (Roger Kimball, Robert Rauschenberg: Dadaist for the Masses.)

29 Comments:

Blogger lance said...

WOOT!!! First and my head is spinning due to all the big words. I need to wait till I am more awake before I try to digest Bob's writing. phew

5/15/2008 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

While you were posting this, Bob, I was making a reply to Walt over at my place:

"...when you’ve been looking at your drawing for a while, your brain starts to automatically “right” the parts where you’ve gone wrong, so you literally cannot see where your drawing and the model differ (or your map and the coastline, if you will). Looking at both in the mirror tricks the brain out of its complacency, and allows the artist to see the errors."

5/15/2008 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

lance:

I know that feeling well. Just got back here after a respite in Brazil.

Damn, this post just rocks. I've said here many times, it doesn't matter how many times we cover the "same" ground, each post removes yet another film of grime from my coon-vision spectacles. Of course if I stray too far from the circle the specs start to cloud over again. Spiritual practice is practice -- like physical exercise. Gotta keep at it.

5/15/2008 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Lance, dawg, I'm feelin' ya.

When he turns to the above, he is like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. But when he turns to the below, he reflects the darkness and obscurity of matter, which can only be illuminated by his own intellect "shining" upon it. Otherwise, the world is as flat as a manflake, devoid of depth, dimension, and meaning.

Paul says that we reflect the glory of the Lord and that, as we reflect, we are transformed into what we look upon (2 Cor. 3:18). Probably works in the inverse as well.

This is why the naive scientistic fundamentalist always sneaks a foolish version of religion in through the back door.

One might even say a "foolish virgin" -- one without sufficient wisdom to recognize the need for the oil of spirit to fuel her lamp.

Hence, try as he might, the bonehead atheist is fighting a quixotic battle against the very forms of thought that give access to Higher Things,

One of the arguments from yesterday involved the source of morality. A naturalistic, materialistic explanation assumes that it is built in to human DNA somewhere, perhaps equivalent to firmware rather than hardware, but still built in. Anyone who has raised a child immediately sees the first problem with this view. Beyond that, history teaches us that moral codes do not arise spontaneously from the masses. Instead they come from discreet individuals who -- continuing a computer simile -- take the download and burn the new firmware into those willing to receive.

5/15/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous sehoy said...

I was just discussing this subject yesterday with someone.

A few years ago I read a short story for an English class and it was about a gang of kids who were using an abandoned, empty, beautiful old building in a London slum as a gang hang out. One day the leader of the gang decides that the kids will start dismantling the building from the inside. Just because they could. They do it in such a way that no one notices what's happening, until one day the empty shell collapses and the people in the neighborhood are dumbfounded that the building could just collapse like that. What they didn't know is that these kids had gutted the structure until it was just an empty fascade. I recall the name of the story was "The Destroyers." The story keeps coming to mind these days.

I was thinking all day about cathedrals yesterday too. What a coincidence.

I want to build a copy of this one in Tennessee.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Koelner_Dom_bei_Nacht_1_RB.JPG

5/15/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Today's post - yet another of Bob's intricately beautiful stained glass windows on the east side of the cathedral.

Sun's up! Breathtaking.

5/15/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sehoy;

That's not an allegory of what the tenured children of academia are doing. Rather, it's literally what they're doing.

5/15/2008 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

Bob, In Kimball's article on Rauschenberg, toward the end, he mentions that only two works at a Guggenheim exhibit revealed any aesthetic emotion. Kimball states they were made at the suggestion of his then wife Susan Weil. In her wiki bio, we learn that "During a period of eleven years Weil experimented with etchings and handmade paper while also keeping a daily notebook of drawings inspired by the writings of James Joyce. Her exhibition, Ear's Eye for James Joyce, was presented at Sundaram Tagore gallery in New York in 2003."

From an interview:

I’ve heard you were exposed to Joyce early in your life.
Well, in my childhood, my father was a writer and he did read to us, unbelievably, from Finnegans Wake when I was a child [laughs]. But I loved it because I loved the music of it and I understood it was his passion and so I thought it was important to me. Of course I didn’t understand a word, being a child, but when I went back to it as an adult I felt that same kind of response to the music of it and the journey of Joyce. It really struck me.

Link to the Ear's Eye for James Joyce, exhibit online; based on various works by Joyce.

5/15/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"Ideally, pontifical man is the axis mundi who -- like the vertical ray of creation itself -- transverses across all levels of reality, from mystical union above to quantum physics below. As a result of the law of inverse analogy, the paradoxical continuity of the quantum world is a mirror of the highest state of consciousness, in which the many are reconciled into the One."

Beautiful, Bob.

Equipoise
lattice of nine worlds
intersecting valences
the artist unpaints

5/15/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Each Archetype functions like a lamp. Take for instance the archetype of the 'gang', which is (it seems to me) mostly clearly pictured in 'Lord of the Flies'. The old building in the story is the Archetype of the Cathedral, 'the seat', which each and every church, cathedral, parliament, and college is an 'icon' of. The story of sehoy asks, which if the Gang throws out those who normally occupy the Seat?

It seems likely that this is exactly what would happen; they would hollow it out, so they could keep the appearance and prestige without having to deal with the actual 'rules'. Then, whether they wanted it to or not, it would eventually collapse on itself, to the surprise of anyone who had not taken a look inside recently.

5/15/2008 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julie/ Walt:
I'm just going to butt in here, and assume that I know what you're talking about, and presume to have something of worth to say.
When I was carving stone, an important part of the process for me was to set the work in progress on a marble disc at one end of the table, and then go into the bathroom where I could open the medicine chest door, (there is no screen on the window. We leave it open for the cats)look at the carving table reflected from the back porch- and get a good look at the stone from a great range of angles reflected in the mirror. It pointed out flaws I hadn't noticed, curves that needed snoothing, and areas that needed one thing or another became readily apparent in the mirror view. Great tool!

ontheotherhand
Sometimes looking at your artwork in the mirror has the same effect as hearing your voice on a crappy tape recorder- you know- it kind of gives you the willies.

JWM

5/15/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Here's a priceless excerpt of Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake, in such a way that you can really sense the musicality and humor. It was meant to be heard, not just read (as is true, BTW of the begending of One Cosmos). (For those you who have the book, this starts with the third to the last paragraph at the very end of Book One.)

5/15/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

JWM - yep on both counts; I don't use the mirror very often, but after this week I think I'll try to make a habit of it.

5/15/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of hearing, are you ever gonna have your book on cd, Bob?
Read by you of course.

5/15/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if the Cathedral comes down in whatever sense...what is one's best response? Build one's own small chapel (I'm still speaking metaphorically, of course) in which to whether the storm...or does one defiantly pitch in to the rebuilding efforts. (or both?)

In that sense I've been puzzling over a phrase GB tossed off a while back "Post-religious Religion". That would seem, to me anyway, to be more of a personal chapel situation than that of building a civilization-defining CATHEDRAL.

Any insights to help me light my confusion?

5/15/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

As always, I think one's task is to find the cathedral that hides in plain sight. But also, it is nice to help pitch in in the rebuilding efforts.

5/15/2008 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

It has many mansions. You can quote me on that.

5/15/2008 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

But may I quote you on that?

5/15/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

"Allalivial, allalluvial!"

Picked out enough phrases in Joyce's reading to google for
the written passages.

My hearing gleaned more than my seeing.

5/15/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous sehoy said...

I want to stop the destroyers, before they complete their destruction.

(By the way, I tracked down that story. It's called "The Destructors," and it's by Graham Green.)

5/15/2008 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It is the intellectual embodiment of the death instinct.

5/15/2008 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

Some time back I mistakenly ordered two versions of Julian of Norwich's "Showings"; the versions had different titles; one was in the original semi-Middle English and the other was "translated" into modern English. I found the modern version sort of uninspiring. Nothing happened while I was readin it. With the original language I could not read, as in recognize, the original English while reading it silently. But I found that when I read the original out loud I understood the meaning; it was much more vital and penetrating that the modern English. F/Y/I

5/15/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Over at the Weekly Standard’s website they’ve posted online a Joseph Bottom piece about agenbites—the term he suggests we use for words that sound true of themselves.

Sample:
Verbose has always struck me as a strangely verbose word,” I note. “Peppy has that perky, energetic, spry sound it needs. And was there ever a more supercilious word than supercilious? Or one more lethargic than lethargic?”

Buckaroos prolly wouldn't enjoy learning the history of the word agenbites.

5/15/2008 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That reminds me that Mrs. G. and I used to play Scrabble in such a way that you were allowed to use made up words, so long as you could define it and it sounded like a real word. The only example I can think of at the moment is the bar of soap that's getting too small to use but is still too big to throw away: a slimp.

5/15/2008 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Spork! Or.. Runcible Spoon? They would seem to describe completely different utensils - spork sounds to be made of cheap wood or plastic, while runcible spoon sounds like a wondrous implement made of fine silver.

By the way, how about the japanese word for car? 'Kuruma'? Or the greek for enemy, 'exthroi'? There are plenty, I think.

5/15/2008 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"...except that he tries to spring his cage from below instead of above. This is certainly possible; the trouble is, there's no floor there, so one tends to keep falling, which, for awhile, gives a kind of thrill from the bracing "movement." This lasts until one begins to notice the gradual absence of both heat and light (i.e., heart and intellect), as one drifts further and further from the central sun which makes the earth humanly habitable. "

The sheer deliberate joylessness is what is most confounding, especially since it is so very obvious to anyone with eyes to see the Truth of what creeps in when the Good, the Beautiful and the True are shoved 'out of the way'.

To see how far we've fallen, where the rejection of Truth and the denial of our ability to grasp reality leads, compare the transcendent beauty of William Bouguereau's "The Rapture of Psyche" Oil on canvas, 1895, with the sunken flatness of Rauschenberg's 'combine' from 1963 - only sixty some odd years separate them in time, but as Gagdad might say, the distance between them is infinite.

"As someone --Dawson? -- said, you can undo in a matter of weeks what it took millennia to build."

True, but the good news is that you can rebuild the Cathedrals within yourself - and make no mistake, they will need to be rebuilt within the populace before there's a chance of seeing them being rebuilt in the world; but sights like Are Renewal do give hope that that reconstruction has begun. For all we decry modernity, and rightly so, it is the one and only time in history, that the evidence of past greatness, and the materials with which to recreate it, have been readily available to anyone curious enough to seek them out, and others of like mind, whether they be next door or across the world - and/or through our Raccoondom of One Cosmos.

Hope and Truth can be a powerful combination... especially when you realize that the evil we face is every bit as worthless and insubstantial as rauschenberg's splating. That stands a chance against "The Rapture of Psyche"? Puh-leeze

(Keep at it Lance - it's worth it!)

5/15/2008 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

You know, Van. Those two “pieces” are a great comparison. The fact that people can see the difference between those two without even having to know exactly why, that is amazing to me. Just the fact that we can. And instantly, I might add. Amazing too is that you could have pointed to example after example. Because that gap is infinite, as you say. I would argue it doesn’t completely have to do with realism.

Rauschenberg's “combine” may be a perfect example of everything outside of what makes art Art. It’s composed and arranged and there are rules, but that’s all it is. Just rules. He grabbed what was around him (which must be the definition of a materialist) and that was it. When does the art show up? It doesn’t. Why did he stop before the art? That is nothing to celebrate.

Rauschenberg's shows me what the cosmos would look like without a Creator. It would just be monkeys on typewriters headed toward stop. When you look at “The Rapture of Psyche" doesn’t it make you say “more”? Which is to say “keep going!” I want to see what’s next. I can sense “next” is out there. Rauschenberg’s work will make that “next” look even better by comparison. That doesn’t mean I’m thankful for his work. It’s just a reminder. Work like his is creating a large space behind it where the next Michelangelo or Van Gough or Mozart to work within. And everyone will turn around.

5/16/2008 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger sorceror said...

mushroom - Everyone has a built-in talent for language, but that doesn't mean that sophisticated language develops spontaneously without any input or guidance. Similarly, everyone has a built-in talent for morality but that doesn't mean that sophisticated morality will develop without input and guidance.

Oh - and scientific theories and chess strategies are developed by discrete individuals and then propagated, too.

Not challenging, just pointing out a different way to look at things.

5/16/2008 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Sorceror: I would say the best languages are those that 'have many chefs that don't spoil the pot', no?

5/16/2008 07:49:00 AM  

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