The Picture of Dorwinian Gray
He adds that "DeKoninck set his whole life against mere jargon for the sake of jargon. His language is precise, but he only departs from common language when necessary. But he certainly isn't a fast read, even though I know of no one, not even Schuon, who is as good at propelling a careful reader towards ecstatic things."
Hopefully we'll get to at least some of the above referenced ecstasies in this post.
The last paragraph of yesterday's post was written so hastily that I don't think I was able to convey the shock of what I was attempting to say -- "to propel the careful reader towards ecstatic things," as it were.
Recall that I was reflecting on what it would be like if it were possible for conscious beings to exist at the quantum level, where all of the richness of the cosmos is bleached out. Through their experiments, they "discover" this unexpected macro realm of ours floating "atop" their sea of quantum energy. This macro world features all kinds of truly weird and miraculous things that seem impossible based upon the laws that govern their micro realm. "Ah ha!," they proclaim. "We've finally discovered the point of our otherwise meaningless cosmos. It's human beings!"
What I was trying to highlight is the irony of a science that considers the quantum world -- or any other abstract world of science -- to be more "real" than the world of human experience. What inevitably happens is that the human world is devalued and regarded as a meaningless side effect of something more fundamental.
Could it be that this is one of the primary causes of the general coarsening and re-barbarization of our culture? I don't think there is any doubt about it. It is why we can have scientists, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, and other highly educated professionals who are appallingly ignorant of the human world -- at the very heart of which is real religion.
This is why, for example, our post-modern barbarians imagine that it is possible to teach "sex education" to human beings, minus the humanness. But the only realm that preserves the full truth of our humanness is religion -- and I am speaking of the accumulated wisdom of the centuries -- so in effect, it means that teaching the truth about human sexuality is forbidden by the state.
The same can be said of the debate over "intelligent design." The metaphysical Darwinists are either disingenuous or just plain stupid in not appreciating what is at stake here, for what is at stake is nothing less than the abolition of man in the guise of a "humanism" that has nothing but the most extreme contempt for the human as such.
Again, our only desire is for the metaphysical Darwinians to be both honest and intellectually consistent (which is what we also ask of liberals, who share the infirmity of an inability to be simultaneously forthright and consistent): either the human station is a real reality, or nothing more than an extension of animality. Being that they cling to the latter substition, there can be no basis for objective morality, truth, or beauty. Likewise, any distinction we make between, say, a Shakespeare and a Toni Morrison, is just arbitrary.
Given the pervasiveness of this profoundly anti-intellectual view, can it be any surprise that the human qua human is slowly becoming extinct? For where does one turn in order to nurture the human essence? If our humanness is just an illusion, why nurture it at all? If we are just animals, why keep pretending we're not? Indeed, this is why the left idealizes animals such as Che, or Castro, or Chavez, for at least they are authentic. For the left, real animal authenticity trumps illusory humanness. It's why they love Sean Penn.
Again, I am reminded of viewing Olivier's 1948 film production of Hamlet the other day. How on earth did someone writing in the 16th century have this god-like mastery of language? How is it that he can be so vastly superior to those who pretend to be writers today? And not just the mastery of form, but the equal mastery of insight into human nature. It is almost as if our mastery of matter leads to a loss of mastery over the more subtle spheres of language, music, philosophy, metaphysics, theology, etc.
Or perhaps it's the other way around: we imagine we are mastering matter, when it is really matter that is slowly mastering us. This is certainly what Guenon believed, and it is not difficult to appreciate his point. Ironically, our very mastery of matter leads to our identification with it, when in reality, it should only further highlight the infinite gulf between the properly human and the material. For the bottom line is that if matter is capable of producing intellects capable of knowing the truth of matter, matter is not what the materialist thinks it is. Nor, for that matter, are genes what the geneticist thinks.
The other day I happened to watch the wonderful 1945 film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I hadn't seen since my film school days. George Sanders is particularly unforgettable as the cynical and mephistophelian sophisticate (ask a drunk person to repeat that three times) who seduces young Dorian from his humanness, as might any contemporary (sub)humanities professor. His advice is eminently reasonable on a strictly Darwinian basis. In fact, I challenge any metaphysical Darwinian to explain the basis of their objection to the following cynical adages:
Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.
Experience is of no ethical value. It is merely the name men give to their mistakes.
What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect -- simply a confession of failure.
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.
If I could get back my youth, I'd do anything in the world except get up early, take exercise or be respectable.
Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
Again, the abstract world of science, if reified and taken as reality, is what DeKoninck called the "hollow universe." And although the hollow universe is a human creation, soon enough it starts to spawn hollow people. Life and mind become just statistically rare combinations of atoms, with no intrinsic interiority. So not only do we end up with a hollow universe, but the "lifeless world of biology," not to mention the soulless world of psychology.
The full title of my book is One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. I bring this up because the only alternative is Only Matter Under the Cosmos: The Obliteration of Life, Mind, and Spirit.
Back to James' recommendations. Hmm, pp. 116-118. I see that I highlighted a number of passages, starting with "The problem of the scientific world is part of a broader problem -- the problem of experience." Indeed. That is the fundamental mystery, the question of how existence becomes experience. And not just "experience," but an exquisitely ordered interiority that answers so perfectly to the so-called "exterior," in such a way that it is able to abstract from it endless possibilities that are obviously inaccessible to mere animals.
If that doesn't qualify as an ecstatic mystery, I don't know what does. But the scientist demystifies this to the point of banality. He "speaks of electrons and quanta, but when he is asked to give us in concrete terms what all that means, he does not know how to answer. The very elements of the physical universe no longer have any correspondents in the world of vulgar experience."
The triumph of the postmodern barbarians has occurred when they have inverted the cosmos and successfully eliminated the human world on the pretext of having explained it.
But somewhere in the radical secularist's attic is a picture of his reptilian soul.