Veiling and Reveiling God and Reality
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.