Thursday, June 25, 2009

Image is Everything: Man and Other Mirrorcles of the Absolute

Here's an old post that provoked few comments at the time, whether justifiably or not, I cannot say. But at least it gives me the opportunity to rewordgitate it and delete the old one from the arkive....

You often hear vaguely spiritual but essentially anti-religious people say that they kinda sorta believe in God, but not in some bearded old man sitting on a throne in the sky. Therefore, the non-conformist (or coonformist) in me makes me wonder if that isn't probably the best way to think of God, short of apophatic mystical approaches in which the only thing you can know about God is that you cannot know him; or that whatever you say must be immediately unsaid in order not to mislead.

While God must have an absolute truth known only to himself, down here we partake of relative existence. In short, we are not God. That being the case, it seems that God has extended the courtesy of revealing certain fruitful ways to think about Him so that he may be grasped by the mind on this side of manifestation: king, lawgiver, father, judge, comforter, shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, etc.

Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which typically results in a kind of self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism that can only belligerently (and narcissistically) affirm what it does not know. While this stance may mimic "sophistication," it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like one of our typical trolls. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophistical yahoos and faculty lounge liztards.

Schuon points out that these modern mytherfolkers "merely replace one sentimentality with another when laying claim to 'objectivity'"; in fact, their so-called objectivity is "merely a soft and pretentious sentimentality, which is far more illusory than a transparent 'subjectivity.'" The fundamentalist atheists come to mind, e.g., Dawkins, Harris & Hitchens, all lost in a sentimental and childlike notion of 19th century "objectivity."

This is a caricature of true objectivity, which, as every Raccoon knows, is a union of complements: it "does not set up an opposition between cold and heat but transcends them both: like emptiness it stands opposed to a false plenitude, whether hot or cold, or like silence to a heavy and blind affirmation" (Schuon). The Raccoon knows the secret that God is equally a bearded old man in the sky, and no such thing. He knows this because he himself has a physical form which he transcends (or, to put it another way, is infused with transcendence).

Christianity is obviously not the only religion that has promulgated the idea that God has assumed human form, e.g., the "avatar principle" in Hinduism. Without getting into ecumenical squabbles, let's just agree on the principle that the Absolute may take embodied form in the relative, uniquely so in man, who is the "image and likeness" of the Absolute.

Being that we are the image and likeness, we should expect to see traces of this in both our objective (i.e., bodily) and subjective (i.e., mental) states. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that other animals shouldn't share traces of this absoluteness, only in lesser degrees, as they are ultimately "descended" from man, rather then vice versa. A man isn't ape + X; rather, the ape is human minus X.

In other words, in relative, horizontal, and Darwinian terms, we may be "descended" from animals (or ascended, really), but in absolute and vertical terms, the converse is true. An ape is a partial manifestation of man; man is not a "perfect ape," although Keith Olbermann comes close.

As Schuon writes, there are certain lower forms of life, such as cockroaches or snakes, that repel us because they are "like living conscious matter," whereas "the law of matter is precisely unconsciousness."

Conversely, monkeys or olbermen are noteworthy for the opposite reason -- that "they are like men who have been deprived of the central consciousness that characterizes mankind." They are not "conscious matter," but "consciousness decentralized, dissipated." At the same time, there are other animals that are obvious symbols of transcendence and beauty, the butterfly being my favorite example. In their case, we see the higher prefigured in the lower.

Now, being that God is transcendent and therefore immanent, every manifested thing is actually "God in disguise." This is not to be confused with pantheism; for example, even a rock is God, but that hardly means that God is a rock. The latter would represent the pantheistic confusion. Everything points in two directions, toward its own form and to something beyond, or to something that "radiates" through it. We see this most vividly in virgin nature, which engenders a kind of spontaneous reverence. The radical environmentalist converts this supernaturally naturalistic awe into a pseudo-religion, conflating an effect with its transcendent cause. Yes, the earth is sacred. But how did it get that way, knucklehead?

In subsequent posts we will be discussing the beauty of the human form, through which transcendence radiates with particular metaphysical clarity, since a human being is nothing other than a "lens" where the vertical collides with the horizontal in the most intense way, very much in the manner that a hologram is produced.

To cite one obvious example of man's subjective deiformity, our minds are both "infinite" and "absolute," just like the Creator. There is no end to the human mind's inexhaustible creativity; but at the same, we are uniquely capable of knowing absolute truth and morality. For example, secular scientists routinely affirm the absolute truth of certain facts and theories, while many leftists can dimly apprehend somewhere in their tarnished souls that innocent human life is of infinite value, even if it is only their own life.

Again, being that our minds share this deiformity, it would be surprising if not impossible to not see traces of this in our physical form, bearing in mind that we are "descended" from the perfect archetype, the Cosmic man, or Adam Kadmon. For example, when we see Michelangelo's Pieta or David, are we not seeing man's formal perfection liberated from marble? Perhaps my standards are low, but I can hear perfection in a three-minute pop song.

When we discuss man's deiform nature, we are talking on the one hand about his capacity to know the absolute, on the other his physical beauty, beauty being embodied truth. Schuon points out that aesthetics is nothing other than "the science of forms," or formal beauty.

But just as beauty is the splendor of the true, truth itself will conform to standards of beauty. This is why a sense of form, rhythm, and proportion all "play an important part of intellective speculation," and can be important criteria of truth. A mathematician never expects to find an ugly equation ordering the cosmos. That we expect to see ugly art excreted from our elite universities tells us all we need to know about them. This distorted art -- which produces a de-divinized and therefore dehumanized picture of man -- can only be produced by willfully infrahuman beings, exiled and alienated from both God and man.

To put it another way, God cannot be a bearded old lesbian performance artist sitting in the faculty lounge (whether female or male).

This also explains the truth and beauty of scripture, for just as some things are too ugly to be true, others are too beautiful not to be.

The unbeliever, on earth, believes only what he sees; the believer, in Heaven, sees all that he believes. --Schuon

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very well written metaphysical ramble.

Having layed out the essential floor plan and established what is true and what not, the question then becomes, now what?

What should we do?

6/25/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You tell us.
Again.

6/25/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"For example, secular scientists routinely affirm the absolute truth of certain facts and theories, while many leftists can dimly apprehend somewhere in their tarnished souls that innocent human life is of infinite value, even if it is only their own life."

Ho! Aye, the "good of the collective" goes out the window when leftist lives are in danger or even greatly inconvenienced. Afterall, sacrifice is something other folks are supposed to do.

6/25/2009 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

If image isn't quite everything, it's certainly a lot. Without being able to imagine something, we don't know how to think about it, or where we are in relation to it.

This is the real sukky part of PC thinking and relativism in general: it destroys the imagination -- blurring all distinctions unto shades of washed grey. You know something's not right, but can't put your finger on it: it's that you can't imagine the world you live in!


A big value of OC is that you help us re-imagine the Cosmos via ideas and concepts, showing us where the parts fit. After awhile, things seem more "coherent and congruent."

I would think that your new work would be to help people imagine the Cosmos, all the way up and all the way down. Same as OCUG, except in your new voice, with updated imagery. Very useful.

6/25/2009 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Anon said-
"Having layed out the essential floor plan and established what is true and what not, the question then becomes, now what?

What should we do?"

Pledge your life to our cult and send all yer moolah to Bob.

6/25/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . there are certain lower forms of life, such as cockroaches or snakes, that repel us because they are "like living conscious matter," whereas "the law of matter is precisely unconsciousness." <<

I've wondered if the lower forms of life that most of us find elementally, instinctively repulsive/frightening - eg., cockroaches, flies, sharks, snakes, spiders - are not the by-product of "fallen nature", if they weren't created by what the Gnostics referred to as demiurges, insane gods. Demons, in other words.

>>The radical environmentalist converts this supernaturally naturalistic awe into a pseudo-religion, conflating an effect with its transcendent cause<<

Yes, the radical environmentalist takes the microcosm of nature - which is indeed an awe-inducing inter-connected-ness, a holistic miracle - to be the macrocosm of the All, the Divine Totality. Nature is definitely a reflection of the All, of course, but it's not the All, just as a human being is a reflection, an image of God, but is not God.

6/25/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Schuon points out that these modern mytherfolkers "merely replace one sentimentality with another when laying claim to 'objectivity'"; in fact, their so-called objectivity is "merely a soft and pretentious sentimentality, which is far more illusory than a transparent 'subjectivity.'"

And their condenscending smugness is palpable and noxious. They imagine themselves akin to the Care Bears, projecting their "power" to "care."

Only they don't care. They only wanna feel and appear like they care, but in reality it's a lie. It's purely selfish. "Good" intentions (although no one on the left can describe "good" since it's all relative, because if they did that they would realize it ain't good) becomes their (un)holy gray-yo.

It ain't about the "victims" they imagine they are "saving" it's about them.

6/25/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

The best chuckle I came across today: Rush Limbaugh says OK to have Iranian diplomats come to U.S. 4th of July celebrations; just serve them Hebrew National hot dogs...

6/25/2009 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Victor Erimita said...

I think the case of the radical environmentalist is a bit more complicated. You're describing here, I think, the case of the person who has expereinced a taste of the sacred by, for example, being away for a time by the attention-constricting influences of the human constructed world. Or perhaps by experiencing on a symbolic/suggestive level something his expereince of "nature" his triggered in him at a deeper, but hitherto unconscious level. The jarring re-entry to the constructed world is annoying, or perhaps even experienced as a deep loss, which is the break, or "fault" that self consciousness has always created when it ruptures merger consciousness. Classically, of course, that rupture was internalized and experienced as personal fault, sin, etc. Religions universalized it as "original sin" or some other construct. Today, because of the cultural environment, it is projected entirely outward onto the collective consciousness that produced (and produces on an ongoing basis) the rupture, and onto the culstural and social manifestations of that consciousness. It also joins in the much larger ongoing project of the destruction of the Western paradigm, the "masculine," whatever you like to call it.

There are also other, in a way lesser, speices of radical enviros. There are the developmentally arrested punks who simply hijack the somewhat higher language of Deep Ecology and so on to give a heroic gloss to their adolescent acting out, much as the Taliban hijacks the language of religion to justify its murderous bullying. And there are the proselytizing fundamentalists of varying stripes, Marxists, for example, and sundry haters of "mankind," "society," "industrial civilization" and other conceptual representations of a rigid ideological mindset. These use the language and putative moral authority of "planetary thinking" to merely repackage old ideas that have nothing at all to do with nature, and that certainly have no experience of the sacred at any level at their heart.

6/25/2009 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

wv sez "reasin".

It's 105 degrees outside in Texas, i.e. it's ♨ ...reasin enough to sit inside the AC and the DC of libation time.

Luv to Skully and friends!

6/25/2009 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

I am out of step and catching up from last week.

Pruning? ...I have said a prayer that GB won't prune anything I need to read. :) Am in the midst of firey life and some of the posts and comments are life lines. Just hoping the bulk will be spared. Not second-guessing but have realized how important the swing of it all is in the blog and hoping to still be able read it and refer back. I trust that it's in good process but am ...nervous. Forgive my nerves...

I guess in all fairness I owe a giant thank you to GB. I prayed for a counselor a few months before finding the blog and boy did this knock my socks off!!!! So, thank you. I hope to still be able to read that which I missed. (Joined in the fun in late Dec. '07.) I was in a bad way facing battles on a few fronts and then ... something finally helped. Sure I was compensating, coping, and still flying but fighting hard and the blog was like a cure and a weapon in one.

Just putting in my vote to conserve as much as possible.

6/25/2009 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

...or, I guess 'cure' is the wrong word. Medicine, salve, healing, etc. Cure is a different effect.

6/25/2009 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

WV=warbus
Don't gno what it means but it's too ominus to pass up.

6/25/2009 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

The following sobering reflection seems most fitting to the context/content of today's post:


The thoughts of worldly men are for ever regulated by a moral law of gravitation, which, like the physical one, holds them down to earth. The bright glory of day, and the silent wonders of a starlit night, appeal to their minds in vain. There are no signs in the sun, or in the moon, or in the stars, for their reading. They are like some wise men, who, learning to know each planet by its Latin name, have quite forgotten such small heavenly constellations as Charity, Forbearance, Universal Love, and Mercy, although they shine by night and day so brightly that the blind may see them; and who, looking upward at the spangled sky, see nothing there but the reflection of their own great wisdom and book- learning.

It is curious to imagine these people of the world, busy in thought, turning their eyes towards the countless spheres that shine above us, and making them reflect the only images their minds contain. The man who lives but in the breath of princes, has nothing in his sight but stars for courtiers' breasts. The envious man beholds his neighbours' honours even in the sky; to the money-hoarder, and the mass of worldly folk, the whole great universe above glitters with sterling coin--fresh from the mint--stamped with the sovereign's head--coming always between them and heaven, turn where they may.

Charles Dickens, BARNABY RUDGE & HARD TIMES

6/25/2009 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

“Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which typically results in a kind of self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism that can only belligerently (and narcissistically) affirm what it does not know. While this stance may mimic "sophistication," it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like one of our typical trolls. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophistical yahoos and faculty lounge liztards."

Sorry for continually bringing this guy up, but rereading Descartes, that pegs him rather well, and the roots of all our modern dandylyin's, and his very palpable fear of being fooled and looking silly, shine through. Descartes, in Part 1 & 2 of his Discourse, goes on about how as a yout', he had once paid attention to those revered and tiresome books, histories and tales of old, and yes "I revered our theology, and aspired as much as any one to reach heaven: but ... I thought that in order competently to undertake their examination, there was need of some special help from heaven, and of being more than man.", cause, you know, it's all tiresome and above me, and takes too much thinking, and doesn’t even tell you exactly what to do in every situation, so why bother?, and he was waaay too smart to waste time on that stuff.

And "Of philosophy I will say nothing, except that ... there is not a single matter within its sphere which is not still in dispute, and nothing... above doubt... I reckoned as well-nigh false all that was only probable." and "But I believed that I had already given sufficient time to languages, and likewise to the reading of the writings of the ancients, to their histories and fables. ... Besides, fictitious narratives lead us to imagine the possibility of many events that are impossible". So... finally after wasting his time on all those notions of dead white guys who were too foolish to realize, as Descartes did that all their 'wisdom' was just silly stuff, and "I compared the disquisitions of the ancient moralists to very towering and magnificent palaces with no better foundation than sand and mud: they laud the virtues very highly, and exhibit them as estimable far above anything on earth; but they give us no adequate criterion of virtue, and frequently that which they designate with so fine a name is but apathy, or pride, or despair, or parricide.". IOW, they were just silly, west-chauvinist, nonsense and just sooo 16th century. What was needed was a more garaunteed way to get answers! that couldn’t be doubted! "I thought that I could not do better than resolve at once to sweep them wholly away… "

All that thinking and considering of dusty old tomes, all that effort that just kept revealing deeper and deeper layers, which required deeper and deeper understanding, it all just didn't give him the snappy 2+2=4 results he was looking for, he wanted to quite literally re-engineer all of western thought and culture on clearly defined rules of engineering, so he tossed it all out, came up with his own method, which luckily enough he couldn't find any reason to doubt, and set it loose on the world, and in place of ever deepening intellectual consideration, we've got shallow calculations and Answers!.

I still think Descartes' errors were unintentional and innocently made, unlike ruesow, kant, etc, but living in a renovated building that collapses upon you because the junior draftsman who designed it didn't see the importance of sound old building practices, doesn't elicit much sympathy. And when you read him, it's very difficult not to recognize the fissures of rousseau, kant, hegel, james & dewey… the first modern was in a way our first post-modern... and the wreck of hundreds of millions of lives float in his wake... the Absolute Mirror Image of how our world could be and should be.

6/25/2009 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

(guess it would have taken a lot less html to just say "What Walt Said")

6/25/2009 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Whoa, Victor. That's a lot of words to just say, "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Rom 1:25

wv: wagool (nazgul's fun loving cousin)

6/25/2009 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif..." I remember reading Jedediah Purdy's book about the destructive aspects of Irony (among other things), and how a reviewer at Salon.com excoriated him as a pseudo-naif. Now, Purdy may have been mistaken on several points, but he had that earnestness that can only come of being homeschooled among hillbillies by hippies and raised on NPR, and I must admit I felt a certain sympathy for him, even though he's a bit of an enviro-kook himself...but not of the most detestable variety. And I am not simpatico with most Salon writers. So I was put off by the sneering. Ooo, I found the review.... Sample: "Now, it is one of the advantages of a traditional education that children who suck up to adults too cravenly are methodically cornered and beaten by their peers. Perhaps because he never enjoyed this behavior modification, Purdy seems to have internalized his parents' boilerplate unhindered. He has grown up to write a book of intellectual-fogy porn." Yet later on, the reviewer gets mad at Purdy for criticizing New-Age-ism thus: "It is worth noting, however trivial it may seem, that the same cars whose bumpers announce 'Magic Happens' are likely to sport the slogan 'Mean People Suck.'" Comments the reviewer, "Well, no, it isn't worth noting, and it's snide." Now that's some irony one can appreciate.

6/25/2009 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Victor Erimita said...

Well, NoMo, if "worshiping" some particular mythic representation of the sacred sufficiently addressed the problems of existence at all levels of consciousness, there would be little need to discuss much of anything. If mythic religion had delivered all it promised, there would never have been the need for rational or transrational approaches.

It does seem true that the dethroning of mythic religion has resulted in regression in some to either narcissitic infatuation (glossed over or not by hijacked language from higher modes of inquiry,) or to purely descending feminine/goddess/"nature"/physiosphere preoccupations. And I think that accounts, as I said, for much of what we see in the eco movement, even though it pretends to claim a higher authority, by mistaking the physical "planet" as the all-inclusive, when it is the physiosphere, biosphere and noosphere that are in fact included within consciousness, not the other way around.

But, unless I am mistaking what you are saying, the the mistake of the eco movement in privileging the purely descending path of physiosphere/biosphere is not sufficiently remedied by a return to mythic religion, especially any particular mythic religion. That is no longer possible in any case, since the primacy of mythic religion itself has been ruptured in the collective consciousness, and that toothpaste ain't going back in the tube anytime soon. But we must remember that it was the inadequacies (and pathological misuses) of mythic religion that gave rise to the necessity to look elsewhere. That "elsewhere" must be, though to higher levels of inclusiveness and integration, though, not to "lower" one erroneously based in the exactly wrong notion that thhe physical and biological include consciousness, rather than the other way round.

Maybe quoting a Bible passage sums it up for you, but it doesn't for me or most.

6/29/2009 11:14:00 AM  

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