Cathedrals of Science and Religion (5.16.09)
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.)