Monday, November 30, 2009

Veiling and Reveiling God and Reality

no time to spell-check....

Five more arguments to go before we're finished abusing Oldbob. For what it's worth, one of them contains a topical reference that leads me to believe this crockument is older than I had thought -- perhaps from 1980 or thereabouts. So that's a relief. At least I wasn't so dense for as long as I had thought. Nevertheless, this cannot detract from the timelessness of the arguments -- which is to say, timelessly bad.

The next one is actually quite important, not for its own sake, but for its counter-argument, which is probably too subtle for Oldbob to comprehend. He claims that "The mystic brings his theological beliefs to the mystical experience; he does not derive them from it." Now, the first thing one would say in response is, "how would you know? Here's a tip: you might want to actually undergo the experience before propounding sand on it."

Part of what Oldbob says is no doubt true. But it is a banality at best, more likely a barbarism. It is a barbarism because, as Richard Weaver discusses in Ideas Have Consequences -- and I'll just paraphrase from memory, so I can move this along -- it is a characteristic of barbarians, most especially postmodern ones, to insist that reality can be grasped "barehanded," so to speak, without all of the civilizing veils that give it substance and depth. This is to substitute "fact" for truth.

But contrary to what materialists would assert, the spiritual adventure is not an escape from the world but a pilgrimage to God on the very forms that constitute the ladder of ascent. Yes, a ladder is just a form, but try climbing out of a rathole without one. You can try to lift yourself by your own buddhastraps, but you won't get far.

Not sure if this is an actual quote from Weaver, or me paraphrasing: "Every group regarding itself as emancipated is convinced that its predecessors were fearful of reality, looking upon the veils of decency as obstructions that it will strip aside. But behind the veils is a reality of such commonplace that it is merely knowledge of death." It creates a tyrannical flatland with no way out, since there is no way in and up, no Realsymbols to serve as bridges between worlds.

Let's dumb this down a few notches, so that even Oldbob might understand. What if we banned clothing -- those phony and hypocritical veils of decency -- so that everyone walked around naked. Would this enhance the experience we call "intimacy," or would it detract from it?

Obviously the latter. In the absence of clothing -- and its removal -- there can be no real physical intimacy, for there is no intimacy to reveal. Similarly, promiscuity is not just an absence of intimacy, but a defense against it. Like pornography, it is the negation of real intimacy; by showing everything, it reveals nothing.

Theodore Dalrymple made the same point about incontinent emotional display in his Our Culture, What's Left of It. He writes that "A crude culture makes a coarse people, and private refinement cannot long survive public excess." The absence of emotional restraint to which Dalrymple refers does not liberate; rather, it enslaves one to the lowest order of reality, since it abolishes all of the others in its blind quest for "authenticity." Depth is cashed in for mere sensation.

There is nothing wrong with sensation per se, but when it is stripped of its human context, it becomes something less than human. A refined sensation is no longer the same thing as a raw sensation, any more than a lighting bolt is the same as the electricity that runs your computer. Context -- which is to say, form -- is everything. The soul -- another form -- is not merely an inconvenience between you and your appetites.

Elsewhere Dalrymple observes that the "loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce a shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything."

For example, that pervert who apparently kissed another man on national television last week would no doubt argue that he was striking a blow for greater "openness," or some such nonsense, when he was actually destroying one more veil of decency that makes privacy, intimacy, and depth possible. I could add that the left in general is shameless -- and proud of it -- but of course you knew that already.

Appearances do not always deceive; sometimes -- especially as they pertain to "revealed" appearances -- the appearance is the reality, or at least a point of entry into it. Imagine someone arguing that we could have the pure experience of "art" if only we could eliminate all of these deceptive paintings, poems and symphonies. No doubt some postmodern painters and composers have tried. As Andy Warhol said, "art is what you can get away with," just as for Deepak and his ilk, spirituality is what you can get away with.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is a characteristic of barbarians, most especially postmodern ones, to insist that reality can be grasped "barehanded," so to speak, without all of the civilizing veils that give it substance and depth.

That is just about the exact opposite of postmodernism. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

11/30/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The operative word is civilizing, not veils

11/30/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

the spiritual adventure is not an escape from the world but a pilgrimage to God on the very forms that constitute the ladder of ascent.

And "assent"...

11/30/2009 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Retriever said...

This argument against God: "The mystic brings his theological beliefs to the mystical experience; he does not derive them from it."

Have been scribbling away more clumsily about just this recently. Spurred by frustration with this post by a guy who approvingly cited research on "God, in One's Own Image" today: http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/11/creating_god_in_ones_own_image.php

I don't have a good answer for such a view, even tho it is wrong. They have it backwards. To the extent that we have the same views as God ever, at all, it is because He made us in His image. We were made for Him. Even miserable sinners can resonate to His call. But some think that we made Him like us instead. It's as if a molded statue claimed that it had made the mold that formed them and all others. Because the mold was shaped to fit around the statue. Not knowing that the mold came first...

A fun link here on the difference between lost wax casting and mechanically stamped bronze statues. http://www.lotussculpture.com/mechanical.htm
One could relate it to the difference between a loving God pouring Himself into each individual human being's creation, and a mechanical Clockmaker Deity.

11/30/2009 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob I'm wondering if you have had mystical experiences.

Sages, pundits, wise writers and philosophers are valuable, but genuine mystic experience seems a rarer thing.

Sometimes the reader hungers for fresh revelations not before expounded.

I have had two minor mystic experiences, but can't reliably get anything major going on and cannot function as a mystic.

Who among us has the faculty? Is it Bob? How about you, Magnus?

--Tasurinchi

11/30/2009 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Put it this way: I agree with Schuon's definition of the mystical as "all inward contact with realities that are directly or indirectly divine, and not just an exclusively mental contact."

11/30/2009 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Obviously the latter. In the absence of clothing -- and its removal -- there can be no real physical intimacy, for there is no intimacy to reveal. Similarly, promiscuity is not just an absence of intimacy, but a defense against it. Like pornography, it is the negation of real intimacy; by showing everything, it reveals nothing. "

Yep, and the crude language & lack of manners makes it even worse, it's a sheer drop from the higher vertical levels available to humanity, down, down to as close to the flattened physical plane as possible. The deep conceptual layers associated with proper manners, customs and stylized dress (fashions that reveal the good, the beautiful and the true lines of the human form by stylishly enhancing and veiling them, rather than by crudely mocking or exposing them), elevates humanity (or at least those capable of appreciating it), to heights the blatant and the crude are sunken to low to even glimpse.

Here's a test (Warning: Could put your Manly Man club membership in jeopardy). If you've already read it, or suspect that you are above (incapable of) reading the full book, flip to the end of Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice", say the first ten or so paragraphs of Chp 60, then scan the streets for two dogs in heat heeding natures call, or perhaps easier to spot, two or three co-eds imitating natures call in the midst of a party.

If someone has any difficulty telling which is engaged in the deeper intimacy... they've fallen down to the level of the post human. Perhaps someone will be kind enough to turn a cold hose on 'em.

11/30/2009 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In the absence of clothing -- and its removal -- there can be no real physical intimacy, for there is no intimacy to reveal. Similarly, promiscuity is not just an absence of intimacy, but a defense against it. Like pornography, it is the negation of real intimacy; by showing everything, it reveals nothing."

Aye! That's why many of todays movies can't handle eroticism like classic flicks.
By showing every sordid detail the directors, writers, etc., completely miss the point.
I might add they also bypass class and dignity in their effort to be the most lurid and depraved.

11/30/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

And what Van said. :^)

11/30/2009 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

IOW's it's a form of revulsion, or reviling when mainstream flicks are pornography.
Of course, they try to cover their shock-porn by claiming it's beauty.
As if the animal shallowness can possibly compare to True Beauty by elevating it's udder depravity.

11/30/2009 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm not just speakin' of movies either. One must ask themself "does this promote light n' growth?" For it to have meaning and purpose.

Otherwise the point is simply to elevate the foolish to the station of the wise.
Or the villain to the heights of the Hero.
Or ugliness to Beauty.

There's no quality to such, and certainly no truth, goodness or beauty.

11/30/2009 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Elsewhere Dalrymple observes that the "loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce a shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything."

There is also not much privacy or intimacy without liberty and freedom.

11/30/2009 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Which is why leftists are outta their depth. Like 'wogs they only keep to shallow and surface water.

Ain't no mystery or depth to a lefty 'wog.

11/30/2009 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ben & Van, see also these two posts on Big Hollywood.

Anonymous, re. the mystic, I think I've come across observations by both Schuon and von Balthasar (and probably many others who would know) to the effect that even if you've had a mystical experience once, you really can't expect nor demand to have one again. Grace has its own agenda, and knows what we need far more than we do. If you allow it to work, you might just get what you need.

But looked at another way, what is it you expect, exactly?

The mystic is everywhere and all the time, if you are paying attention. It's in sunlight shining through a spider's web or the smell of water on a hot dry day or the sound of a fire crackling on a chilly night. It's in the timely observation by an unseen friend who says just exactly what you needed to hear, when you've reached that point where you no longer know what to pray for. In other words, more often than not, it's in the subtle things. Or again in another way, if you can appreciate the subtle mystic, perhaps you'll be more open to the not-so-subtle. Though from what I've heard, that can be rather less pleasant than you think...

11/30/2009 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

I'm not sure what a "mystical experience" is. I've been smacked up alongside the head by divine intervention that saved my life. I've seen into the future. Or is it what Julie described, or that seldom groove when the band is playing in the pocket? Or all of the above. Everything seems mystical to me. But, as a raccoon, I expect it to be that way. I feel the presence of O all the time in subtle and as Julie said not so subtle ways.

11/30/2009 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people sound like a bunch of old ladies. Oh my stars, crude language, whatever shall we do.

11/30/2009 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Anon- Of course you miss the point entirely. But why let that stop you from flaunting your foolery?
Jest as long as you justify porn to yerself.
Truly you are the master-debater here.

11/30/2009 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous a reader said...

Agree with Julie.

11/30/2009 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, Julie. Those are excellent articles.

11/30/2009 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

In most cultures, crude language is a sign of ignorance and lower social class.

11/30/2009 11:23:00 PM  
Anonymous inis said...

Bob, have you read Julian Jaynes? Thoughts?

12/01/2009 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. I think there's something to his main thesis -- essentially that mind parasites were originally perceived as exterior to the self -- but I don't have time to get into a full discussion.

12/01/2009 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re crude language: it's only crude because there is refined language. The refined creates the crude, not vice versa. In the absence of refinement, crudity is not crude, it's just "nothing." Which is why for uncultured people such as anon, the proliferation of crudity is no big deal.

12/01/2009 06:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Gradus said...

Dear Anonymous

Re: "old ladies"

It sounds like you find this kind of talk embarrassing, that we're sitting on our perches, saying "no," over and over, and clucking with prudish disapproval.

I used to find that characterization persuasive (and it was true for some people I've met), but the older I get, the more convinced I am that it's your very characterization that is prudish and cramped. Here's why.

Defending libertinism of various kinds ends up creating a Gresham-like effect. This race to the coarse/raw bottom is a perennial force in culture, and many cheer this race as liberating. In fact, it is the exact opposite because it elevates simplification over complexity. That elevation then clamps down a powerful filter on anything else, characterizing them as "overachieving." Consequently, the main current of public culture is diminished and cheapened.

So when you say "old ladies," I would simply say in return: you sound like a classic underachiever.

There's more to life than Dionysos. On every level. Don't let this adolescent "embarrassment" crap limit your options.

12/01/2009 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Slightly OT: Andy Warhol's Art of Sloth

12/01/2009 09:45:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home