Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Developing 20/∞ Vision

As I said, I'll continue with volume one of The Glory of the Lord, which, at almost 700 pages, should be enough for anyone. When I do these multi-post book reviews, the main purpose is to assimilate what I've just read, otherwise it can be like having never read the book, so you end up being hungry again an hour later. You know, like Chinese theology.

In the end -- and this is something Bion knew -- intellection really isn't that different from digestion, being that it consists of identifying what is healthy to eat, chewing it thoroughly, swallowing, breaking down, assimilating, and then, most importantly, utilizing or becoming.

In other words, the "end result" of food is either energy for action or else renewed substance for your being. (I guess we left out elimination, didn't we? In that case it's best to either not ingest useless crap to begin with, or else spit it out right away. Otherwise, you risk years of "detoxification," for example, the years it takes to undo a higher education.)

Now, one thing we really need to chew on is this thing called "history," for history is somewhat like a symphony.... No, wait a minute. I'll just stick with what I know best. Let's say history is like a small jazz combo, in which case you have cycles or rhythms (the drummer), certain ground notes that hold the musical structure together and unify rhythm and harmony (the bass), the chordal structure (the piano), and the soloists who use the other three as the basis for free improvisation -- the latter of which being rooted in the structure while "floating above" it. You could say that improvisation is simultaneously immanent and transcendent, or within and beyond the musical structure.

For Balthasar, "the revelation of Biblical salvation-history is a form set before mankind's eyes, implanted in the midst of mankind's historical evolution." In other words, profane history is one thing -- you might say the rhythm and bass -- over which God improvises his divine melody. And like any melody, it can only be discerned in time. This is the difference between "horizontal" and "vertical" in music. A chord consists of multiple notes that are played all at once, i.e., vertically. But a melody can only disclose its pattern in time. A single note of a melody is "nothing." In fact, a melody can't really be discerned absent the modes of memory and anticipation.

You might say that Balthasar's central concern is the beauty of this divine melody as it appears in time, beginning with the old covenant and extending through the new and beyond. The point is, it is a form, a form that is surely as real as physical or biological form. And like any form, if you break it up into its constituent parts, the form disappears. This is especially true of scripture, which any yahoo can "disprove" to himself by focusing on a single element and removing it from its overall context. This is a favorite approach of the atheistic barbarians. In fact, here's an apt quote by Schuon:

"In the opinion of all unbelievers, it is the absurdities contained in the sacred Scriptures which primarily stand in the way of the credibility of the Message.... First of all, it is necessary to envisage a Scripture in its totality and not be hypnotized, with perfect myopia, by a fragmentary difficulty, which after all is the perspective of the devil, who disparages a mountain because of a fissure and, conversely, praises an evil because of an inevitable particle of good." (In fact, this is why Satan loves the Porkulus bill.)

But "when Scripture is envisaged in its totality it imparts a global value and its supernatural character to whomever is not blinded by prejudice and who has been able to preserve intact the normally human sensibility for the majestic and the sacred.... [W]hat cannot be imitated [in scripture] is the depth of the meanings and the theurgic radiation of divinely inspired texts" (Schuon; emphases mine).

Schuon mentions our sensibility for the majestic and sacred, which are examples of the types of "aesthetic" categories Balthasar uses to understand the Divine message in its totality, not just in terms of a momentary or isolated fragment. And in considering this totality, he observes that its "contour-lines have been drawn with such mastery that not the smallest detail can be altered. The weights have been poised in such a way that their balance extends to infinity, and they resist any displacement. God's art in the midst of history is irreproachable, and any criticism of his masterpiece immediately rebounds on the fault-finder" (Balthasar; emphasis mine).

Like any truly great work of art, we must "elevate" ourselves in order to apprehend it. Yes, the artist "reaches down," so to speak, but surely not "all the way," on pain of becoming what he is not. Christ "became man"; but he did not become an evil or sinful man, just so you could better relate to him.

Now, a great work of art is surely "rational," but that is not all it is. This is why, as applied to scripture, "the mere light of reason clearly does not suffice to illumine this work, and it can be irrefutably established that anyone who seeks to comprehend it with this light cannot do it justice." Yes, there is an elegant mathematical structure to Bach's fugues, but an "x-factor" is added by actually listening to them in their wholeness, for the "math" is in service to the overall form, not vice versa.

As it pertains to the form of revelation, "faith" is the appropriate mode in which to apprehend the form in its totality. As Balthasar writes, "the light of God which faith has sees the form as it is, and, indeed, it can demonstrate that the evidence of the thing's rightness emerges from the thing itself and sheds its light outwards from it.... The decisive thing is that this form presents itself as the revelation of the inner depth of God" (emphasis mine).

I think Balthasar would agree that the Christian revelation represents a kind of totality -- the whole symphony, as it were -- that other revelations only express in parts. This is not to put them down. To the contrary, it is to give them a new kind of value by realizing that these fragments -- various chords, melodies, themes and rhythms -- were valid intuitions of the totality. But when a part is elevated to the whole, then you're going to run into problems.

Does this sound overly abstract? Possibly so. Let me provide a concrete example. As a child, Christianity was presented to me in such a piecemeal way that it was just too easy to reject. I won't dwell on the details. My point is that I eventually began re-exploring Christianity from the "outside in," so to speak, beginning with some of its greatest thinkers. In so doing, I began to increasingly appreciate the beautiful contours of this magnificent edifice.

But there was a curious thing. That is, there was still a big hole in the middle of this beautiful structure. And what might that be? It was the Crucifixion and Resurrection -- the very things that made the whole thing seem so implausible if presented up front, totally out of context. In other words, once I began to appreciate the incredibly rich totality, I began to see how the Incarnation is the pillar holding up the whole beautiful structure. What emerges is a new kind of "necessity" that clearly transcends logic, for it is more like the necessity of the artist who knows that this note, or this line of color, must go right there and nowhere else.

Thus, for Balthasar, the central problem of perceiving the form is an aesthetic one. To ignore this critical dimension can reduce scripture to a kind of crude materialism, which many fundamentalists tend to do. And along with materialism comes a misguided application of reason which exists side-by-side with a kind of dopey fideism; in other words, belief in frank absurdities backed by the misapplication of reason. The left never tires of trotting out such idiots in order to satisfy themselves that religion is for morons.

As Balthasar notes, to try to comprehend religion with the categories of materialism is to have conceded up front: "What basis acceptable to reason can we give to [Christ's] authoritative claims? Anyone asking the question in this way has really already formed an answer, because he is at once enmeshed in an insoluble dilemma." If he tries to believe on the basis of reason alone, then he is ignoring the dimensions of divine authority and aesthetic contemplation. But nor does Christian faith consist of renouncing reason in order to prop it up in the teeth of all reasonable objections.

Again Balthasar emphasizes the importance of seeing the whole. "Torn between knowing and believing," the critical rationalist will be "no longer able to see anything." Rather, "the spirit searching for meaning requires a higher light of grace in order to synthesize the signs.... Allowing that this point of convergence is supernatural and that it lies in the sphere of the properly divine, then it is clear that the spirit searching for the meaning of these signs will totally (not merely partly) fail to find it as long as it seeks for the point of unity in the realm of the natural."

This is why no rational argument will convince the skeptic. Rather, "the light of grace comes to the aid" of our "natural inabilty" and "strengthens the power of sight," thereby bestowing vision and making "the eye proportionate to what is being shown." Only then do you see the One Cosmos Under God.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Flood Lights and Laser Beams

Well, I'm getting a little burned out on the Balthasar. To review where we stand, I made the deadly solemn vow to wondertake an exhumination of his main body of work, the fifteen volume systematics (plus an appendectomous epilogue, so sixteen), and I'm now turning the coroner on volume four.

But I have to admit, at this point, I'm seeing a lot of pointless pedantry that's not really moving the argument along. It feels like we're in dryasdust flyover country now, with a long way to go before we flow into our deustinocean.

You might call it argument by volume rather than weight, just piling one endless paragraph upon another. I'm not getting any feeling of forward momentum at all. He's one of those writers who has no sense of rhythm or drive. Probably a German thing. A key point might be buried in the middle of a two page paragraph. There's no building up to the "ah ha!" experience, much less the sacred guffah-ha! I mean, 1500 pages so far. That's a long tome to go with out a single gag.

This reminds me that, when purusha comes to shiva, I would have to admit that I'm not a scholar, but more of a mystickle innertainer. But darn it, there's no reason at all why one can't combine both. It's just convention, really. That and a lack of talent. Most academics are dreadful writers, but turn it into a virtue. And then they marginalize the ones who do know how to communicate, with the epithet "popularizer." But I'm obviously not that. If anything, I'm an unpopularizer. Nevertheless, to quote Petey's scryptural exejesus, our yokes are easy, our words enlight.

It seems to me that Balthasar's essential argument is laid out in volume one, with the subsequent volumes just filling it out. So I may just finish posting on that, and then move on.

Brevity. That's what it is. Don't give me the dissertation. It just makes it look like you've got something to hide. Out with it. Get to the freaking point.

I don't mean to fawn, but this is why I am so drawn to Schuon, who never makes me yawn. It's as if he's done you the courtesy of assimilating everything beforehand, so he can rewordgitate it back to you in the form of a highly polished gem of wisdom that you can turn around in your mind and examine from various angles. Unsaturated, don't you know.

Jules: Example

Vincent: Okay, here's the first sentence from perhaps Schuon's most accessible book, Spiritual Perspectives & Human Facts. Truly a model of brevity and unsaturated clarity, like a righteous pimp slap from above:

Metaphysical knowledge is one thing and its actualization in the mind is quite another. All the knowledge the brain can hold is as nothing in light of Truth even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view.

Ah, refreshing! Balthasar gives us all [if not more than] the knowledge the brain can hold, whereas Schuon facilitates the direct actualization of metaphysical knowedge, i.e., O-->(n).

Second and third sentences: Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France? Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?

Oops. Wrong text. Try it again: Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it. The imprint of the divine Light in human darkness, the passage from the Infinite to the finite, the contact between the Absolute and the contingent -- this is the whole mystery of intellection...

Bingo! The rest is up to you.

This is good for me. Like a refreshing rinse after a lot of transcen dental work:

A proof is not convincing because it is absolute -- for this it could never be -- but because it actualizes something self-evident in the mind.

Ahhhhhhh. Frankly, you could summarize the entire argument of Balthasar's theological aesthetics with that one sentence, for he is essentially making the point that the divine beauty -- the Glory of God's revelation in time -- provides its own proof, a type of proof that clearly transcends mere reason, for it is seen and apprehended whole, not argued in any linear sense (although it does disclose itself in the form of the theodramatic "arc of salvation").

Correlative to every proof is an element eluding the determinism of mere logic and consisting of either an intuition or a grace; now this element [what I would call (↓)] is everything. In the intellectual order logical proof is no more than a thoroughly provisional crystallization of intuition.... One can most certainly prove every truth; but not every proof is accessible to every mind.

Indeed, the need for logical satisfaction "increases in proportion to ignorance, not in proportion to knowledge."

Balthasar definitely says the same thing but in a different way. For example, God's being "can encounter us centrally only from within the a priori of spiritual being itself -- as the deepening of the spiritual being worked by grace." In receiving this Mystery, man "conforms the proportions of his own thought and work to the proportions of the object of faith which are determined by God." Through this process we are led to "an ever deeper awareness of the experience both of the presence within... of God's being and the depth of the divine truth, goodness, and beauty in the mystery of God," i.e., (↑↓).

In this regard, there is a "deepening of a merely notional apprehension into an experiential apperception by the whole person" (Balthasar). At the same time, it is the movement from an exterior relationship to an interior relationship with God, in particular, as the "interior light" begins to shine in the dark.

And just as physical light is never seen -- rather, it is merely photons banging against our neurological apparatus -- the Divine Light is not so much seen as that by which we see -- especially that by which we see God, or the very source of the Light which shines forth its own radiant proof.

And only in man can the fullness of this light become apparent. Or ignored.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

As I mentioned last week, February '07 was a fairly fruitful month, so I think I'll repost things on both Saturday and Sunday until further gnosis.

Or, since we had more stale comments than usual for a Saturday, just consider this a fresh open thread.

FYI, here is part III of David Klinghoffer's takedown of Queeg and his crude scientistic anti-intellectualism.

******

When we talk about "leading a spiritual life," we are not necessarily referring to a conventionally religious life per se; nor do we wish to confuse it with any kind of new age exercise in larcenous pneumapathy, a la Deepak and Tony Robbins. Rather, what we are really talking about is vertical transformation and the conditions that make this transformation possible. Those conditions are embodied in religion, but it is clearly possible to practice a religion and miss out on the transformative element.

While religion obviously involves "faith" and "belief," these are not intended to be merely static and saturated "containers." Rather, properly understood, they should be fungible into a different sort of experiential (or ontonoetic) knowledge and should facilitate a real transformation. In other words, it seems that dogma is not the end of religious knowledge, but only the beginning. Truly, we believe in order that we may know.

In the past, I have discussed dogma in terms of Polanyi's analysis of scientific models, which he compares to the cane of a blind person -- to a probe in the dark. If you can imagine being blind for a moment -- which, of course, you are -- think of how the cane would quickly become an extension of your hand. At some point, you wouldn't even be aware of the cane's impact on your hand. Rather, these raw sensations would be instantaneously transformed by the brain into a three-dimensional image of your spatial surroundings. At the same time, it would expand your world and allow you to move through it in such a way that you could further expand your world by degree.

Clearly, scientific knowledge works in this way. Consider, for example, the equations of subatomic physics or quantum cosmology. In the case of the former, this mathematical language allows us to extend our senses and see "beyond" or "behind" the solid material world the senses give to us. Likewise, these scientific probes allow us to "visualize" the temporal arc of the cosmos, extending back to a time long before human beings even existed -- in fact, to the very timelessness that begot time, when One's upin a timeless, without a second to spore, and noplace to bang anyway.

But you will notice that we always convert this scientific knowledge -- again, think of the probe in the dark -- into a human vision. When we think of a "big bang," that's what we think of, even though, if you could somehow have been there at the moment of the big bang, you would have been too small to have been anywhere, plus you wouldn't see any banging anyway, for the same reason you don't see it happening now. After all, the cosmos is still banging away at this moment -- i.e., it is expanding -- but we don't experience this through our senses. Rather, we only know it by using the scientific equations as a probe in the dark to extend our senses.

But the universe is not merely a form of our sensibility. In other words, no matter how far science extends its probe into the dark, it is still going to be a human hand grasping a slightly longer cane. And, needless to say, the universe is what it is, regardless of -- or in addition to -- what we say or think it is. This is something materialists and metaphysical Darwinists always forget -- that is, they confuse their probes with reality.

To put it another way, science extends our senses forward, backward, and below, in so doing "widening" our conception of the cosmos, both spatially and temporally. But religion serves a different purpose. It too is a probe in the dark, but it specifically probes the inward and the upward. This is the great confusion of both scientific fundamentalists and religious literalists. The former imagine that the horizontal probes of science exhaust all that may be probed, whereas the latter imagine that religion is meant to probe the material world. Thus, for example, they attempt to use Genesis to probe the horizontal, just as scientists imagine that they can explain anything of a non-trivial nature about the vertical by relying solely upon their sensory probes.

This is something I actually understood when I began studying psychoanalysis. I began doing so at a time when psychoanalysis had fallen out of favor among strict scientific types, who regarded it more as a "mythology," even a sort of cult invented by Freud. What I realized is that the concepts of psychoanalysis are precisely analogous to probes we may use to explore consciousness, as we try to extend our knowledge from the well-lit area of the ego, across the subjective horizon into the darkness of the unconscious. There are a number of different psychoanalytic schools, and they each "work." Why is this? How can this be?

I believe it is because it is not so much the explicit theory that counts, so long as it may be used as a probe to explore the unconscious and to widen that part of consciousness that we have "colonized." The unconscious is just as dark and silent as the subatomic world until we have developed a "language of achievement" with which to probe and illuminate it. (I might add that one of the virtues of Bion is that he attempted to convert these "concrete" theoretical probes into something more abstract, which is precisely what science does as it moves from induction to deduction, or from particular, to general, and back to particular.)

I don't want to get sidetracked into a discussion of psychoanalysis, but let us transfer the same general idea to religion. To try to understand psychoanalytic concepts as an objective description of the mind is to misunderstand them, precisely. Again, they are subjective probes we use to reach into the darkness of the unconscious mind. Likewise, a religious system must be similarly understood as probe we may fruitfully use to reach into eternity, the vertical, the interior, the great within, heaven, whatever you wish to call it. Even if you don't consciously realize you are doing this, this is what you are doing when you "indwell" religion. You are expanding your consciousness and thinking about things that are otherwise unthinkable in the absence of the religious system.

Indeed, this is why religion persists and will always persist, because human beings, alone among the animals, have a built in need to reconcile themselves to the vertical, on pain of no longer being human. I was thinking about this the other day, in considering the first humans who awakened to the vertical. In fact, in every sense, "awakening to the vertical" is synonymous with "becoming human." I am currently reading a book, Before the Dawn, that I will soon be reporting to you on. It goes into the latest research on human origins, and I wanted to use it to update or correct any outdated information in Chapter 3 of One Cosmos.

The author confirms one of my main points, that anatomically modern humans emerged by approximately 100,000 years ago, and yet, there was no evidence of what we call genuine "humanness" -- which coincides with the discovery of the interior vertical world -- until it suddenly burst upon the scene some 50,000 years ago. Just as we have forgotten the experiential intensity of the early Christians, it's easy to dismiss the intensity of what it must have felt like for the earliest humans to awaken to the vertical -- the mother of all (?!)s, as it were. As Joyce said in his meandertale, they must have been completely astoneaged!

Consider some of the famous cave art that emerged in Europe after our great awakening. What force prompted our furbears to do this? Consider the fact that some of these caves are accessible only by long tunnels that extend deep into the earth, and are hardly wider than a human body, not as bad as boarding an airplane, but close.

Someone -- again, compelled by what mythterious force? -- had to be the first to wriggle down that tunnel into pure darkness, where he was eventually released into an underground cavern. His newly awakened soul then felt compelled to adorn the walls of this cavern temple with beautiful, fully realized works of art -- with mankind's first "masterpieces." Upon seeing the Altamira paintings, Picasso -- who was in a position to know about decadence -- famously remarked, "after Altamira, all is decadence." For this was art in its purest sense, in that it was obviously completely divorced from any commercial or egotistical motives. Rather, it was a purely spontaneous attempt to probe the interior reality to which humans had gained unique access, and to reconcile man to the vertical.

Now, where was I? Something about leading a spiritual life in the modern world. Now that we have more of an idea of what spirituality is intended to do, we are in a better position to come up with a way to organize our life around that endeavor -- to create conditions in which we may experientially "probe the vertical" with our cooncanes, so to speak.

Frithjof Schuon has said that "The chief difficulty of the spiritual life is to maintain a simple, qualitative, heavenly position in a complex, quantitative, earthly setting." When we chase after the exterior world and its shadowy phenomena, this has the effect of both externalizing and dispersing our consciousness, when the essence of a spiritual practice involves centration, interiorization, and assimilation -- as mentioned a couple of days ago, living from the top down and inside out. It is an "ascending descent" or "descending ascent."

In externalizing and dispersing our consciousness, science tends to get lost in time, in phenomena. But the vertical is only accessible in the present moment that is given to us, and the present is not actually a part of time, but at a right angle to it. A kind of remembrance must take place in this present moment -- vertical remembrance, which is what prayer, meditation, and contemplation are all about. This is what Schuon calls the "liberating center," but it is only available to us through 1) centration, by whatever means necessary, and 2), ascent (of the awakened soul) and/or descent (of grace).

It follows that a simple life, free of needless distractions, is best. I see it very much as creating stable boundary conditions so that something higher may emerge from the lower -- just as we can only speak meaningfully by relying upon stable rules of grammar, or create music by relying upon fixed scales. This is why I mentioned yesterday that my outward life may not look like much -- trophy wife, accessory baby, and bitchin' stereo notwithstanding -- but is in fact a continuous interior adventure that would be impossible if my life were more complicated, or if I were married to someone who, say, preferred fancy restaurants over the NHL playoffs. The one reality would eclipse the other, and I'd be blind as a moonbat.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

On the Spiritual Insanity of the Left: Who'll Stop their Reign?

Here's your weekly rewordgitation from two years past. "Spiritual insanity" will no doubt sound polemical to some, but I mean it quite literally and matter-of-factly, since it should go without saying that one who denies or distorts the reality of spirit is by definition spiritually insane. Or, to turn it around, if the radical secularists and metaphysical Darwinists are correct, then our knowledge and experience of spirit merely represent a kind of stubborn pathology that cannot possibly be valid. Being that "loss of reality testing" is the sine qua non of mental illness, we can't both be sane.

*****

I went down Virginia, seekin' shelter from the storm
Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow
Five year plans and new deals, wrapped in golden chains
And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain
--John Fogerty, Who'll Stop the Rain

I suppose what bothers me most about the left except for the bad hygiene is that it institutionalizes man's fall and reverses the cosmic order. This order can be known with the higher intellect, which is why "job one" of leftism is always the elimination of the intellect properly so-called. Leftism is intrinsically anti-intellectual, in that it must abolish that part of man which is capable of seeing the error of leftism in a direct and unmediated way.

In fact, a major part of the leftist agenda involves displacing the higher mind by the lower, that is, "small r" reason in its mechanical sense. Worse than the ideological takeover of academia has been the simultaneous eclipse of the higher mind, thus reducing man to a cultured beast.

The leftist program follows the split in the western world which occurred with the Enlightenment, which had its radical version in France and its skeptical version in England and Scotland. America has been by far the most successful nation in history because it was a product of the skeptical Enlightenment (i.e., classical liberals such as Adam Smith) and because our founders -- since they were so securely anchored in Judeo-Christian metaphysics and therefore "innoculated" against leftism -- categorically rejected the savagely utopian schemes of the romantic radicals.

Now, all purely secular philosophies that exclude the vertical are more or less error a grandiose scale, but at least most of these philosophies do not include -- as part of their intrinsic philosophy -- the imposition of their philosophy on everyone else. The whole point about being a classically liberal conservative is that it preserves at its very heart the right of anyone to reject it. It doesn't impose anything on anyone, which is what is so ironic about paranoid leftists who constantly fantasize about the imminent Christian fascist takeover! [Gee, how did that turn out, anyway?]

The pneumapathology at the heart of leftism always includes acting out, which is one of the more primitive defense mechanisms, as it bypasses thought altogether and replaces it with action. This is why leftist intellectuals are always activists, which simply means that they are more concerned with changing the world than understanding it. The gargantuan Generational Theft Act of 2009 is a case in point. Our children's children's children will be paying for this liberal interest group smash-and-grab legislation for the rest of their lives. (As Lucianne put it, The first terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11.)

Naturally, classical liberals have no objection to change, but only so long as the change is rooted in understanding, including especially an understanding of human nature. For if your understanding of human nature is faulty or grossly incomplete, then your political philosophy is going to be nothing less than a disaster. The disaster may happen quickly or it may slowly unfold with time, but the disaster is inevitable.

Anyone who lives in error eventually receives sharp blows from the world. But another purpose of leftism is to rescue people from the disasters caused by leftism, thus ensuring a steady stream of people to rescue, and therefore a greater need for the left. In short, the purpose of the left is to fail, as its success is built on the wreckage of its own failures. Its very foundation is failure, through which it gains more power, and the accumulation of power can be the only end for a half-animal who has rejected the vertical for the horizontal.

A couple of days ago while driving to work I was listening to Air America and caught a bit of the abysmally tedious program of professional unfunnyman Al Franken. The guest was a gold-plated leftist bull-goose paranoiac, Joe Conason, who has published a new cry for help with the harrowing title, It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush!!! The shrill and paranoid title is just a measure of how free of irony the left has become -- as if we didn't just have a freaking election a couple of months ago that effectively undermines Conason's entire thesis. But reality is hardly a consideration for the reality-based community. As any competent psychologist can tell you, truth is irrelevant when someone has an emotional need to believe in its alternatives.

Conason's unintentionally ironic title is a takeoff on uber-moonbat Sinclair Lewis' 1935 screed, It Can't Happen Here. Lewis is revered by contemporary moonbats for his boneheaded dailykosian remark that "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Brilliant! Sean Penn couldn't have said it better! As always, the left confuses hysteria with "courage" or "insight," so that Lewis stands in a long line of courageous leftists such as Cindy Sheehan and Al Franken who don't speak "truth to power" but excitedly bark at their own psychological projections.

Like all leftists, Lewis seems to have merely externalized his own existential misery and called it a political philosophy. I can't say I know much about his personal life, but his Wikipedia entry is instructive: "Alcohol played a dominant role in his life; he died of advanced alcoholism in Rome." If so, we can be fairly certain that Lewis was 1) miserable, 2) weak, 3) a slave who was not psychologically mature enough to handle spiritual liberty and who squandered his own, and therefore 4) in need of a political system to save himself from himself. Please feel free to correct me if he wasn't a total idiot, but I have never been drawn to didactic "realist" literature. Exterior reality can speak for itself, and doesn't require "artists" to represent it. Rather, the artist reveals the interior of the exterior.

All leftists must know that somewhere deep inside, beneath the histrionic bluster, they are weak, dependent, envious, racist, and so on, because they wish to impose a political system on those of us who do not have those particular problems. If you are not envious, you don't give much thought to CEOs who earn more money than you do. If you are not a racist, it doesn't occur to you that Barack Obama is half white, nor would you ever conceive the sinister idea that the Constitution mandates racial discrimination or equates a human fetus with a decayed tooth. If you love women, you would not be drawn to the loathsome philosophy of radical feminism; etc.

The description of Conason's book on amazon sounds like it is taken from the nursing notes of a recent psychiatric hospitalization for acute paranoia:

"Despite recent election, patient still believes America in great danger. Hopeless re future. Doubts existence of democracy. Government conspiring with 'big business' and 'big evangelism.' Asked him 'what about big entertainment, big media, big labor, big education and big trial lawyers?,' but patient incorporated me into paranoid delusions. 'You're just part of Big Health! You're not helping me! You only care about bottom line!, etc.' Obsessed with nameless ideologues and religious zealots 'attacking logic' and 'scientific method.' Asked patient if he meant Al Gore -- became extremely hostile. Incoherent babbling: 'ruling party encourages xenophobic nationalism based on irrational, manufactured fear.' Confusing -- asked him if he meant irrational manufactured fear of Bush. Patient became agitated -- required sedation and restraints. Carotid veins visible, face flushed like Howard Dean, screaming something about 'party in power seeks perpetual state of war to maintain power -- willing to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve ends.' Empathically suggest to him can't happen here. More agitation -- 'it can happen here, damn you! My 'book' says so -- select group of extremely powerful right-wing ideologues driving us ever closer to precipice, etc., etc., etc.' Intravenous push of thorazine; patient now watching Keith Olbermann and quietly mumbling to self."

At American Thinker there is an article entitled Cultural Marxism that demonstrates how Marxism hardly died with the dramatic fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. As it so happens, Raccoon lore maintains that leftism can trace its squalid genealogy all the way back to the origin of mankind. For the "fall of mankind" was specifically a rejection of the divine-cosmic order (and partnership) in favor of a wholly man-made one. This lesson is reinforced time and again in scripture (and its shadow in the herebelow, history), as man repeats his fall, 32 feet per second per second, and suffers the ineveateapple consequences.

Kimball traces the various permutations of the leftist mind parasite which, like all parasites, knows how to survive. Although the "New Left" of the 1960's collapsed and fell apart, it simply underwent what I would call an "interior diaspora" into various ideologies that all have roots in the same infrahuman ideological swamp: leftist "revolutionaries reorganized themselves into a multitude of single issue groups. Thus we now have, for example, radical feminists, black extremists, anti-war ‘peace' activists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, and ‘gay' rights groups. All of these groups pursue their piece of the radical agenda through a complex network of organizations such as the Gay Straight Lesbian Educators Network..., the ACLU, People for the American Way, United for Peace and Justice, Planned Parenthood, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States..., and Code Pink for Peace."

This is why if you attack leftism frontally, it will simply mutate into all of these other viruses. The only way to effectively confront it is from "above" and "below." In other words, its common root must be attacked at its base, but only from a higher psychospiritual perspective. Their strategy is to "divide themselves" in order to conquer us, so the solution must be a unified theory of the left, so we can apprehend the one beast beneath all of its pseudo-diversity.

As Kimball notes, neo-Marxism thrives partly because it has mutated into various superficially appealing code words such as "tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity." All of these words and phrases imply one thing but actually mean the opposite -- i.e., tolerance is intolerance, social justice is economic tyranny, sex education is the re-barbarization of sexuality, diversity is uniformity, sensitivity is a censorship of unwanted truth, etc.

Kimball goes into the intellectual history of Marxism, noting its intrinsic hostility to the Christianized West. If Marxism is to succeed, then the Christian West must fall. It is an either-or proposition: the West must be "de-Christianized, said Gramsci, by means of a 'long march through the culture.' The new battleground... must become the culture, starting with the traditional family and completely engulfing churches, schools, media, entertainment, civic organizations, literature, science, and history. All of these things must be radically transformed and the social and cultural order gradually turned upside-down with the new proletariat placed in power at the top."

One of the most important points raised by Kimball is that, for the left to succeed, "intellectual firepower was required: a theory to pathologize what was to be destroyed." As such, "Christianity, capitalism, and the traditional family create a character prone to racism and fascism. Thus, anyone who upholds America's traditional moral values and institutions is both racist and fascist." The human being is "but a soulless animal," so it naturally follows that contingent existence (or existential contingencies such as skin color) determines essence, rather than vice versa. Again, this is a complete rejection and reversal of the cosmic order upon which the American founders based our government.

And so we come full circle to Joe Conason raving in his hospital bed and chaneling the paranoid alcoholic Sinclair Lewis in the Al Franken nuthouse. An empathic and disinterested psychoanalyst would deal with Conason by respectfully acknowledging the urgency of his concerns and reflecting back to him an innocent but loaded observation, such as "I hear what you're saying. An extremely frightening and hostile force is trying to take over your world. Let's stand back a bit and try to understand who or what this force could be, shall we?"

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT
I wonder what they meant
--Leonard Cohen, The Future

Friday, February 06, 2009

From Egocentric to Cosmocentric

[T]he contradiction of wanting to be... the whole of reality and one's own self... is transcended first and foremost in Christ... --Balthasar

A few more thoughts on Soloviev before returning to where we were a few days ago, back in volume one. (And you folks should be grateful that I'm making my way through these dense volumes on your bewhole; it's quite a slog!)

I'm pleased to see that Soloviev highlights the importance of the individual to the cosmic spiritual economy, because this is again something that tends to be devalued among those who emphasize the obliteration of the ego. In other words, they conflate "ego" with "individual," which legitimizes either a state of boundaryless blobhood or a hypernarcissistic denial of one's hypernarcissism.

Most of the new-age gurus fall into the latter category (if they aren't borderline sociopaths like a Deepak or Tony Robbins). The blob-types tend to be those who can't tolerate the rigors of of mature functioning (like having a job), and therefore take refuge in a detached, prepersonal cloud of "spirit," while the narcissistic types always require "disciples," which keeps alive the dialectic of their fantasized superiority, which is simultaneously overwrought and brittle.

I suppose one must begin with the question, "just what is the proper role of individuation in the psychic economy?" Of Soloviev, Balthasar writes that "for him it is precisely the personal that is truly and properly 'ideal,' while, conversely, that which is purely generic and anonymous is assigned to matter." Therefore, to deny the individual is to negate one of the highest expressions -- a miracle, really -- of the divine creativity. What seems like an "ascent" into spirit can actually be a regression into matter, if it means tossing aside this divine gift of a unique self.

One critical concern is the very real danger of spiritual inflation that necessarily attaches to the individual. Thus, at every stage of the ascent, an attitude of deep humility is both the seed and fruit, for no one who begins to apprehend the contours of the Divine can possibly retain his grandiosity and hubris. Thus the well-known "paradox" -- which isn't really a paradox at all -- that those most aware of their sinful nature are the saints. In a certain sense, the higher you go, the smaller you get. Conversely, the lower you descend, the more inflated you become.

Think of Queeg, whose contemptuous superiority is sealed by his profound ignorance of both science and spirit. That is the bad kind of individuality. And what makes it bad? First, it is a caricature of individuality, because it exists in a stunted, reactionary, and especially closed form.

In other words, no one who is in a "vertically open" state (↑↓) could possibly maintain such a cramped and desiccated worldview. Such a person must literally die to spirit in order to "live" as a metaphysical Darwinist. In turn, his "self" can only be identified with matter -- for with what else could it be identified? -- which makes him a kind of generic character, superficial and worthless eccentricities notwithstanding. There is no uniqueness about him, just a bundle of horizontal reactions. This is the madness that results from believing that Darwin has counted every hair on your head.

In contrast, God loves people. Real people. But that presupposes "being" or "becoming" real, doesn't it? Now, all Raccoons will have pondered the fact that there are certain people with whom you walk away and say to yourself, "damn, now that's a real person." But what does that mean? Is it just a figure of speech, or is it an actual observation, albeit of a higher dimensional reality?

Obviously the latter. The real person has many subtle-but-obvious characteristics which can certainly be detected with cOOnvision (and scent), but can also sometimes even be literally seen (i.e., the "glow worm" effect). What are these characteristics? To a certain extent I touched on them on pp. 221-224 of the Coonifesto. Since I probably wrote that passage a decade ago, it might be interesting to review it to see if any of it still holds holy water.

Let's see. We begin with an observation by Unknown Friend, who says that "Real contact with the spiritual world always engenders the influx of forces." This is the grace or the subtle force, symbolized by (↓).

By the way, I often get emails from people, essentially asking "what's the secret," and as far as I'm concerned, that's it. Surrender + Grace is the only path I know. As Aurobindo wrote, once we enter this state, our "old predetermined destiny [I would say "fate"] begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, a Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma, which can lift the sadhak beyond the present possibilities in his nature."

Amen to that. How could I, on my own, ever lift myself by my own buddhastraps beyond my present possibilities? I tried. I couldn't. If others can, go for it. But it is not the Raccoon Way.

Another important point is that while (↓) is (super)naturally ubiquitous, we must become conscious of it; we must prepare ourselves both to be worthy of receiving it and able to detect it when it comes. Here I might compare it to Polanyi's description of scientific discovery, which seems to be "guided," as it were, by a subtle intuition of an approaching breakthrough -- as if the future can cast its shadow back into the present.

I would say that the same applies to O. How can you know when you are "near" it? I think by something analogous. However, how it specifically manifests will partly depend upon how it is "inflected" through the lens of the individual. For example, for me, when I write these posts, I am clearly non-trying to enter that receptive space in which I conform myself to O. I'm definitely not "thinking" in the usual sense, just trying to "amplify" a kind of flow between O and (¶). And when it's really working, I hope it comes out in a way that is simultaneously universal even while being individual.

Now normally, one would think that those two categories would be mutually exclusive. For example, a valid scientific theory can only be universal, and must be cleansed of its individuality. Not so with the realm of Spirit. This is because physics describes a relatively simple reality consisting of only four dimensions, whereas the self abides in a bi-logical space that transcends but includes the world of physics (and from which the world of physics is a declension).

Here again, think of Christianity: the ultimate truth is a function of Word + flesh, of the ultimate universal being inflected through a particular human being. But is Jesus a generic son of a nobodaddy? Hardly! He is a quite vivid somebody and somabuddhi, a unique individual with a distinct manner of expressing himself and idiom all his own. He is not some anonymous sage spouting platitudes, nor is he a post-personal blob of holy goo. And frankly, he wouldn't mean anything to us if he weren't such a man. Which is why Petey says, Ascent you a son, amen for a child's job!

Here is a quote by Smoley from my book. It could hardly be more accurate:

"[Y]our whole body and soul are merely a sort of telescope through which something much larger and wiser and more powerful is peering out at the world. As such a realization grows and deepens, you may increasingly sense that you know certain things without knowing how you know them. You begin to have access to the knowledge that is common to the whole human race."

Think about the profound changes that occurred in you the first time you fell in love and became a deeply open system on the horizontal plane. Now, apply that same idea to the vertical plane. When we become open to the Divine, what is the result? Let's see, "lightness" of being, innocence, transparency, spontaneity, and simplicity, to which I might add presence, "flow," gratitude, humility, and a lot of why me?!, i.e., ongoing repentance and metanoia.

Also, I've noticed that figure and ground tend to be reversed, so that one lives from the inside out and top down, which results in a sense that time is leisurely flowing out from a center of eternity, instead of just "rushing by" and hurtling us toward our doom. In short, one becomes a "mode of the infinite," emphasis on both.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Antichrist vs. Antimarx

As I mentioned yesterday, the later Soloviev tempered his optimystic side with some more sober pessimysticism. While the cosmos would eventually be deified, it first had to make it through the gauntlet of various opposing forces in the world. But instead of "unifying," or "integrating," these forces, it would be as if these opposing forces would be dramatically heightened and finally "revealed in all their contradictoriness." As you may have noticed, this is something our Minister of Docrinal Enforcement often brings up, which means there's a good chance there's something to it.

I don't want to be like one of those guys who is constantly predicting the apocalypse, or second coming of Toots, or X-day, but one can't help thinking of the way things are going here in the United States.

For example, I can remember back, say, in the mid-1970's, when it seemed as if it was the end of ideological division, since everyone (at least everyone I knew) was pretty much on the same page except for maybe a few right wing religious kooks (who back then actually supported the "born again" Carter!) and National Review subscribers. Then, within just a few years, the left wing anti-antichrist appeared, Ronulus Maximus, which brought out an extraordinarily deep and essentially unbridgeable cultural divide that the left will never stop resenting.

Likewise, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seemed for awhile as if we might even have reached the "end of history," in the sense that it was finally settled that history was inevitably moving in the slackward direction of individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets. Oops. Islamic supremacy and the resurgence of the lunatic left but the kibosh on that fantasy. Not to mention the Chinese hybrid model that combines free market capitalism with authoritarian control.

So now it seems that the world-historical outlines are more stark than ever. I have nothing whatsoever in common with a dailykos reader, Air America listener, or New York Times subscriber. Seriously, we might as well be a different species. Furthemore, I see no possibilty of reconciliation, because our first principles are completely and irrevocably at odds with theirs, and one doesn't compromise on first principles.

Which in turn is why the idea of Obama being "bipartisan" or a "uniter" is pure fantasy. Already, in just two weeks, we see that George Bush was far more of a uniter than Barry & crew. After all, did George Bush ever propose anything which every single Democrat voted against? Maybe he did, but I can't remember one. Despite all the hysteria, the war has remained bipartisan, in that congress has to keep appropriating the money. FISA passed easily, as did the Patriot Act. Rendition will continue, as will "torture," except now the press will call it "vigorous interrogation." Etc.

Blah blah blah. My only point is that the divisions in the country are as sharp as ever -- as sharp as the difference between the children of earth and the children of Light. Which Soloviev would probably say is the whole point, for "the ways of history do not lead directly upwards to the Kingdom of God," but "pass by way of the final unveiling of the Antichrist, who conceals himself under the last mask to be stripped away, the mask of what is good and what is Christian."

Now, as you know, my preference is always to "demythologize" -- or at least unsaturate -- these things and look for the deeper principles they instantiate. I'm not saying it is the correct way, but it may be the more effective way, because as soon as you mention "Antichrist," it's pretty much of a conversation killer. Most people will dismiss you out of hand, while the rest will assume you mean it in the way they do. In short, the word has become too saturated to serve as a basis for exploration and thought, at least in terms of communicating novel insights. Which is why I prefer abstract symbols such as O and Ø. As outlined in my book, O is to (¶) as Ø is to (•) -- or more likely, (•••), i.e., a person with either no center or multiple centers.

Looked at this way, evil is not just a "lack" or "absence." Ultimately it is that, but it nevertheless takes on an ontological weight here in Middle Earth, since it "metabolizes" people and ideas, and therefore seems to grow (which it does). And as it grows, its mass produces a "spiritual gravity" that continues to draw people into its circular obit, where they "die to heaven" -- the opposite movement of the spiritual person who "dies to the world." And once that happens, you have a "creature of the Antichrist," so to speak, or someone who has been "born again" from below.

You will have noticed that not only are these people different from us, but they draw nourishment from a different source, which ensures that the demon they harbor will continue to grow. Specifically, they draw their nourishment from "the world," plus several gradations below that. These gradations are not "real" -- i.e., they are not a true part of the cosmic hierarchy, but are analogous to "false angels," or what we might call "collective mind parasites." That monster that the Islamic supremacists worship is a fine example, but the left also has its lowerarchy of demon-angels that a normal person simply does not comprehend -- in particular, why they should be in any way respected, let alone enforced by the bullies of political correctness.

(Here, check out this bizarre but typical example of a leftwing religious service. Yes, it's hilarious, until you realize that this diabolical ideology has completely penetrated academia. Note that this is literally the death of education -- and therefore its sufficient reason, the search for Truth -- and its replacement with a parasitic double. It literally prevents the possibility of pure thought breaking through into Being, and actually turns thought into an infectious spiritual illness. Colleges become centers of disease incubation and propagation, like the bathhouses of San Francisco or Barney Frank's basement.)

This will only sound polemical to people who already have the disease. To the rest of you, it will sound quite matter-of-fact. Not only that, but I think you'll find that the left describes us in the identical way. Examples are far too numerous to mention, but one thinks of Bill Moyers referring to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity as "political porn." Websites such as dailykos and huffpo are nothing more than unbound hatred given form by a fantasied projection of conservatism. And there is no need for a troll to leave a comment to the effect that I represent "unbound hatred given form by a fantasied projection of leftism," because we already know you feel that way. Let's just stipulate that only one of us can be correct.

One of the persistent metaphysical errors that assures the dysfunction of the left is the absurd elevation of matter to the ultimate ground of reality. Once this is done, then there is no way to adjudicate between competing ideas of reality, so it becomes easy to latch onto an abstract ideal, such as Marxism, and proceed to superimpose it on reality. In other words, the leftist lurches between bonehead materialism and hamhanded idealism in a completely incoherent way.

At risk of belaboring the pain, only Christianity gives birth to a (the) unity of idealism and materialism at a higher level, which is what the United States is supposed to be about in practice, what with the harmonious interplay of free markets operating within the boundary conditions of Judeo-Christian principles. Not surprisingly, the left attacks and undermines both, which can only result in decadence and dysfunction: the realm of Ø.

Furthermore, the doctrine of multiculturalism is a direct attack on the spiritual unity of Man, for man can only be unified on a spiritual level. Instead, the left wants to unify man on a material level, for example, by stealing from some people in order to give money away to people who don't even pay taxes, under the guise of "equality." But if equality is only material equality, it not only destroys the realm of spirit, but ensures tyranny: the tyranny of the takers over the makers and parasites over their hosts.

Oops. Out of time. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

God and His Jnâni Quest

The Boy woke up early at the same time I did, so I'm blogging under somewhat trying, and even three ring, circustances this morning. Let's see if we can get anywhere. (First of all, for those who don't know their sanskrit from a sand crab: Jnâna.)

Hmm. Return to our previously scheduled program, or continue with Soloviev? Magnus made a comment that is worth highlighting. He likes "the idea of the 'conquest of the nondivine,'", and sees "everything since the onset of the Big Bang (at least) as part of a relentless expansion of God into the void of utter nonexistence. First space and time, then matter, then life and mind etc., culminating with the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth (and the cosmos in general), until it is leavened all the way through and God is all in all, every bit of creation glowing with divine beauty, harmony and sheer rightness."

So is the creation ascending toward the divine, or is the divine coondescending toward the creation? I would suggest that they are ultimately the same movement looked at from different angles. God kenotically pours himself into creation, while we pour ourselves back into God, in a mutual surrender. But only if we are already partially divinized can we surrender at all.

Again, that is just one of the startling innovations of Christianity -- the idea that God "surrenders" and turns himself in to fallen man, in the hope of raising him up again. Our task is to surrender to the surrender, so to speak. As Balthasar describes it, "the divine and integral wholeness is answered from the side of created reality by a progressive integration into that integral wholeness," but not before the "glorious descent of Agape," which makes "humanity the object of God's quest." In contrast to the blues musicians of old, we have a heavenhound on our trail.

Magnus continues: "I may be wrong, though. There are only a few passages to this effect in the Bible, while there are chapter after chapter with threats of death and destruction and going on about how angry God is and [the] good reason He has for it. The conquest of the nondivine must be pretty hard work -- if not at the still center of the Godhead then certainly out here at the frontier (though I suppose some of us are more frontier than others...)"

Re God's "anger," elsewhere in The Glory of the Lord, Balthasar speaks of a progressive "demythologization" of God that occurs in the Old Testament, so that the God of Proverbs or Wisdom has quite a different character than the earlier, more anthropocentric depictions. Eventually Judaism is essentially completely cleansed of mythology, and develops a fully apophatic notion of the divine, to such an extent that this sacred cow can't even be uddered (i.e., G-d).

In turn, once the idea of God is completely demythologized -- or what we would call "unsaturated" -- the historical stage is set for God to appear as he is, as opposed to how we would like for him to be.

In other words, not only did God have to prepare a people for the divine descent, he had to create an "empty space," a literal void, a "higher nothingness" (which in a way parallels the original creatio ex nihilo). This is why Jesus' appearance was so unexpected (to say the least) and unprecedented (although in hindsight, we can see that there were hints and clues all along). Those who did nurture the idea of a specific messiah obviously didn't envision anything like Jesus. No one saw it coming in this particular form. Only after the fact did the apostles begin putting two and two together; or perhaps we should say three and one.

Also, as Magnus suggests, the divine descent is not the end, but only the beginning. And while in some sense the "victory" over matter is assured, this hardly means that it will be a smooth ride from here to the eshchaton.

Rather -- and I mentioned this in a comment yesterday -- it seems that the later Soloviev (1890-1900) was considerably more pessimystic than the early, more optimystic Soloviev (1873-1883), which is a good thing. While he never abandoned his Christocentric cosmic evolutionism, as he matured, he developed a much greater appreciation of the Hostile Forces that oppose the evolution, both individually and collectively. Balthasar feels this makes him a much deeper thinker than Teilhard, who had a fair amount of new-age fuzziness and happy talk about him. Teilhard definitely failed to appreciate the Dark Side.

This is also what elevates Soloviev above Hegel, as well as the upside-down Hegelians, i.e., the left. In the case of Hegel, his idea of the Absolute is far too abstract, and tends to blot out both the individual and the historical landscape, as if we are all just riding on the dialectic that inevitably returns us to Absolute Spirit.

And in the case of the left -- and we see this in an astonishingly immature form in the Obama cult -- people really believed that the election of this cunning and transparently mendacious politician would lead to some kind of "transformation of consciousness," or Deepak's "quantum leap in awareness." Please. Leftism can only create a heap of ants, not any true interior unity.

Here again, this emphasizes the importance of demythologizing the spiritual space, because if you don't, you will simply fill it with your own retrograde fantasies, as does the left. One would hope that no true conservative is foolish enough to believe that the evil in man can be transformed by electing this or that politician. If anything, a noble man such as Ronald Reagan only makes them hate that more fervently. The left despises nobility in all its forms, and nobility is one of the first fruits of Spirit. In reducing man to matter, they rob him of his nobility and try to make up for the loss with stolen goodies, thus plunging him further into the abyss.

The "principle of progress" can only be located in the individual, and only then because he is embedded in a deeper movement of "the evolution of nature towards man, of history towards Christ, and the Church toward the Kingdom of God in its completeness." Absent this movement, there is no progress, only agitation and change. Nor is there any true hope, only a counterfeit and reactionary hope that obscures their cosmic hopelessness.

Like me, it seems that Soloviev tried to playgiarize with everyone and everything in order to Bobtize the cosmos. Thus, "he fully appropriates" these sources for himself; "the muddy stream runs through him as if through a purifying agent and is distilled in crystal-clear, disinfected waters," so these sources might "live and breath... in an atmosphere of unqualified transparency and intelligibility."

Regarding mind parasites, Soloviev came to appreciate that "the forces of egotism are given to man not to be destroyed but to be transformed, just as God himself creates good out of evil. The dark 'ground' is constantly in need of being brought to illumination." Illuminate and eliminate, as Petey always says.

But the main point is that we do not escape from matter, but transform it: "Christianity sees material life as the necessary foundation for the realization of divine truth, the embodiment of divine spirit.... [I]t is only the acknowledgment of matter in its true significance that sets us free from actual slavish dependence upon it, from an involuntary materialism." Indeed, "so long as man does not feel material nature in himself and outside himself as something that is his own, something akin to him, he does not love it, and he is not yet free from it" (emphasis mine).

So real freedom is identified with love, but especially in the "sacred marriage of Heaven and earth," or the union "between the fully incarnate deity and divinized reality of the world." "Sophia is the eternal feminine in the world, the eternal object of God's love." In their eternal union, God and Sophia become "one flesh," or Theosophia (in its proper sense, not the brand name).

Again, this is why Christian wisdom is always embodied wisdom, not some abstract ideal that is imposed upon reality. No: "the understanding alone is in no way the organ by means of which we can know any actual reality. Such reality can be known only through genuine experience," i.e., O-->(n).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Evolution and the Divinization of Man

Okay, so now I'm completely sidetracked. While I'm still blogging about volume one, I'm now up into volume three of The Glory of the Lord, which has a chapter on the 19th century Russian philosopher, theologian, prophet, mystic, and all-around holy man, Vladimir Soloviev.

I'd come across the name before, but never followed up. Now I'm so preoccupied, that it's difficult to pick up the thread from where we left off yesterday. Might as well get it out of my system. Or, as John Lee Hooker said, let that boy boogie woogie, 'cause it's in him and it got to come out!

This all happened at around bedtime last night, so I ended up staying up late on a wild nous chase. Here's what initially caught my attention:

"Soloviev's skill in the technique of integrating all partial truths in one vision makes him perhaps second only to Thomas Aquinas as the greatest artist of order and organization in the history of thought."

As the note to myself in margin puts it, (?!).

Balthasar goes on to say that "There is no system that fails to furnish him with substantial building material, once he has stripped and emptied it of the poison of its negative aspects" -- including Darwin and evolutionism. Which naturally made me think of Aurobindo, who was floating in just as Soloviev was floating out (Soloviev died in 1900; Aurobindo began his outpouring in about 1912 or so).

So then I'm thinking to mysoph, "maybe this guy already accomplished the Aurobindonization of Christianity (so to speak), so my work here is finished, except that no one knows about him." Hmm.

Balthasar goes on to claim that Soloviev's is "the most universal intellectual construction of modern times," and is "beyond question the most profound vindication and the most comprehensive philosophical statement of Christian totality in modern times." He brings the "whole ethical and theoretical scheme to perfection in a universal theological aesthetic."

Furthermore, "Soloviev's thinking has an urgency attained by no one since Hegel, and it operates on the same level as Hegel's," that is, in the highest reaches of Absolute Spirit. (Of course, many people have compared Hegel and Aurobindo in that regard, at least in broad outline.)

So, who wouldn't be curious? I read a little further, and discovered that Soloviev honed in on the ideas of process (anticipating Whitehead) and evolution (anticipating Teilhard), which provide a master key -- both macro- and microcosmically -- in the sense outlined in my book, i.e, Cosmotheosis:

"By this means, the total meaning of the world's evolution is clearly established for the future: the development of humanity and the totality of the world into the cosmic body of Christ, the realization of the eschatological relation of mutuality between the incarnate Word and Sophia" (Balthasar), in a profound marriage of cosmic coonvenience.

Or, put it this way (and this has an obvious Aurobindean flavor, in terms of the divine descent and the divinization of Man): "The theme and content of Soloviev's aesthetic is nothing less than this: the progressive eschatological embodiment of the Divine Idea in worldly reality."

On the one hand, "the Divine Spirit is indeed in and for itself the highest reality, while the material being of the world is in itself no more than indeterminacy, an eternal pressure toward and yearning after the form" (↑).

In turn, "the impress of the limitless fulness and determinacy of God [acts] upon the abyss of cosmic potentiality" (↓). The human state is the conscious meeting place of this metacosmic (↑) and (↓), but only because O took on human form and now dwells in human nature.

So we live in a kind of spiritual whirlpool or dynamic process-structure created by the vertical energies of (↑↓), which in turn have a "purifying" effect, somewhat like the rinse cycle in your washing machine, which baptizes the garments in clean water and spins out the entropic impurities.

Soloviev refers to the "conquest" of the nondivine, through which God can "manifest his plenitude and totality and cause it to prevail even in what is opposed to it -- in what is finite, separated, egotistically divided, evil." In other words, the (↑↓) process automatically lifts us out of the closed system of our finite state, while simultaneously "cleansing" us of various personal and cultural parasites.

On the other hand, materialism is like trying to wash clothes in the drier. In that case, the impurities are simply baked in.

Soloviev also makes room for the divinization (as opposed to obliteration) of the individual personality, which, of course, is of great interest to a Raccoon, especially me.

Specifically, Soloviev's thought integrates "all partial points of view and forms of actualization into an organic totality that annuls and uplifts all things in a manner that preserves that which is transcended," i.e., you. What is specifically preserved -- and this is a very Coonish sentiment -- is

"the eternal, ideal kernel of every person in so far as it has been integrated into the entirety of the cosmic body of God.... There is no ultimate absorption of all things into an absolute spiritual subject."

Again, evolution; it is not as if the Kingdom of God crashes down into history once and for all. Rather, the Kingdom "must necessarily grow into maturity just as much from within," like any other organismic entity.

True, Christ is dropped down into history at a certain point, but it is not as if the human soil didn't have to be prepared for thousands of years, nor does it mean that we don't have to nurture and gradually assimilate this divine explosion as it ramifies through history. Again, timelessness takes time.

As Soloviev explains, this ultimate divine descent becomes a kind of fixed foundation planted within the middle of change, as opposed to being the principle of change. What is therefore sought "is a humanity to answer to this Divinity," that is, "a humanity capable of uniting itself" with this object. Evolution no longer implies an absurd, open-ended nihilism with no ground or goal, but the very basis of hominization and its fulfillment in Homo noeticus.

This then becomes "the active principle of history, the principle of motion and progress," as man evolves toward what he already is in essence, thanks to the grand-me-down of the Son, or our adopted brother. "The outcome must be man divinized, that is, the humanity that has taken the Divine into itself." And vice versa, so that the world becomes "the vessel and the vehicle of absolute being."

What, you have something more important to do?

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Moon Shining at Midday

For anyone who sees -- or who believes they can see -- real beauty in the world, Christianity offers the ultimate vindication, since it permits us "to possess the infinite within the finitude of form" (Balthasar). Again, for the irreligious anthropocentrist, beauty necessarily withers and disintegrates under the crushing weight of a barbarous materialism, or, at the other end, an effete idealism that swallows up the finite within the infinite, denying the dignity and nobility of the former.

You could say that with Christianity, male and female (i.e., Absolute and Infinite) are harmonized and love hopefully ever after. We needn't divorce the primordial couple and grant custody of our lives to One or the (M)other. But the materialist gives custody of his soul to mamamaya, while the idealist gives it to papurusha (in Vedanta, purusha is the masculine principle which "witnesses" the play of maya, the eternal feminine).

Since God manifests as the wholeness of beauty, we must enter a mode that is adequate to this beauty, since beauty always transcends the components through which it expresses itself. According to Balthasar, faith is the theological act of perception. And naturally, this faith must be with the whole being -- heart, mind, and soul -- in order to be adequate to the wholeness we seek. This would be one of the meanings of "no one comes to the father but through me," because faith in the Son objectively reveals the beauty of the Father (i.e., he is the Form of the Formless, not in some secondary manner, but intrinsically so).

Or am I off base? I'm not a theologian, but I play one in cyberspace. Let's just say it makes sense to me so far.

Speaking of which, one of the reasons I still hesitate to join a formal organization (aside from the Raccoons) is that I would have a hard time with someone saying to me, "nope. Can't think that. This is the proper way." That may well be the case, but I still need to discover these truths independently, or they might never be realized in me. Or, put it this way: I find it very.... bracing to independently discover and realize this or that transcendent truth, even (or especially!) when it's been discovered millions of times before by earlier pneumanauts. On the other hand, I find it tedious to merely learn it. It's like the difference between reading about love vs. falling in love, or studying child development vs. having a child.

Obviously, I give great weight to precedent and tradition. But say, in the case of Balthasar, I'm not merely trying to "learn" from him, much less memorize his ideas. Rather, I am attempting to enter his world, so that I might begin to see what he sees. And I am doing so in faith, because I am quite sure that he is someone worthy of my entrusting it to him. How do I know this? Well, first of all, judge the tree according to its fruits, and I'm feeling pretty fruity lately, even if I only understand about half of what he's talking about and just bobtize the rest.

Here, this is good: elsewhere, Balthasar says that "Faith is the light of God becoming luminous in man," for in the end, "God is known only by God." So faith is the dark light with which God sees himself through us.

Which reminds me of a vivid dream I had the other night. The idea of the "sun shining at midnight" is a common metaphor for the mystical experience, in which plunging ourselves into the deepest darkness reveals the brightest light. But in this dream, the moon was shining at midday. It was a moon as bright as the sun, setting out over the ocean.

I meditated on this image, and it made me think of gnosis (the good kind), through which we are able to apprehend the subtle light of God even amidst the overpowering brightness of the material world. I would even go so far as to say that cOOnvision is nothing less than "the mOOn shining at midday," through which our night vision is preserved even within the blinding brightness of the day. A materialist knows only the midday sun, as his faculties are too dense to apprehend anything more subtle than that.

So the first thing we must cultivate is this subtle "light of faith," which can more or less become extinguished if not tended to and nurtured. Here again, this is quite different from the manner in which religion was presented to me as a young kit, and which made it so easy to reject and even ridicule. For it is not simply a matter of transferring "the psychology of the purely human belief in testimony onto the Christian faith," as if we are studying something as concrete as matter.

I am reminded of something James mentioned in a comment about the intelligent design/evolution debate:

"Both sides of the ID/Ev debate want to be seen as doing 'science' as the term is presently accepted, which (in their context) means they want to be seen as doing biology. This is why I see the whole debate as an inner-biological turf war. So long as all sides are insisting 'I am doing biology' I don’t see how my opinion is of any ultimate importance."

As you no doubt recall, I mentioned this point on page 38 of the Coonifesto: "And yet, our wonderment at the mere order of the universe -- marvelous though it may be -- is misplaced. Both the scientific priesthood and the creationist countermovement make much of this order, but to opposite ends (one to prove the necessity of a creator, the other to prove a creator unnecessary). Either way, a metaphysics of order is a metaphysics of the dead-on-arrival past, an eternally frozen or repetitive universe seen through the rearview mirror of mathematical invariance."

James points out that "the upshot of no one respecting the rigor of theology, and everyone respecting the rigor of science, is that when people want rigorous arguments for God’s existence they turn to physics or biology or thermodynamics, etc. Let ‘em go if they want to. They can see what the modern sciences will give them. In the meantime, theology still remains with all of its rigor, all of its certainty, all of its non-hypothetical knowledge, and a whole cache of proofs that work regardless of how the ID/Ev debate falls out.

"And yes, some of the arguments that theology has are design arguments. The design arguments (as St. Thomas articulates them) work just fine regardless of whether living species came to exist by chance. St. Thomas, following Aristotle, never denied that many things arise by chance."

The point is, the ID proponents are in a way as metaphysically hamhanded as those they would presume to defeat, because they are still conceding true theology to science, instead of developing a mode of perception adequate to the theological object. Once you accomplish the latter, then you realize that of course the cosmos manifests a deep intelligence and beautiful order on every level. How could it not? If intelligent people want to spend their lives proving that intelligence doesn't exist, let 'em go nuts, since they already are anyway.

For as Balthasar writes, "When the spirit attains to real Being it necessarily touches God, the source and ground of all Being. The spirit's horizon is not confined to worldly being, but extends to absolute Being, and only in this light can it think, will, and love; only in this light of Being does it possess language as the power to know and to name existents. Otherwise, no proof of God could ever be formulated, or be in any way conclusive." For it is "only here in the innermost sanctum of the spirit that the deeper and higher light of the self-disclosing God can shine out of the light of Being."

By first becoming adequate to this Being through the grace of faith, grace then assimilates us into its endless depths. The moon shines at midday. Congratulations. You are a loony Coon.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Voidgin Births, Immaculate Coonceptions, and Speaking Obonics

Originally posted exactly two years ago today, and I wouldn't change a single word of it. Therefore, I changed quite a few.

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In order to novelgaze at a fresh world each day, one must train oneself -- wait, that's too general. I will speak only of myself.

In order for me to blog something different about the good nous every day, I have had to train mysoph to listen more carefreely to the smallstool voice of Petey, who is actually dropping little fragrant pellets of wisdom all the time. In fact, one of the helpful tidbits he shared with me is that he has always been sharing these helpful tidbits with me, but that I was so "dense" that I treated them like turdbits.

And when I say "dense" I mean dense, as in "dense." One must learn to "tune into" the remarkable subtlety of one's own mind, which truly has a mind of its own, just like the Dreamer who dreams your dreams. The difference, say, between a common materialist and a man of genuine spiritual achievement is merely a few immeasurable microns of psychic subtlety.

I can say this because my mind is -- pretty much by definition -- no more intelligent than it has ever been, and yet, much more subtle than it has ever been, in the sense of being able to see and understand spiritual realities. As a result, I "know" things today that I couldn't possibly have known 10 or 15 years ago. But at the same time -- at risk of smelling blasfumy -- Christ himself couldn't have taught me these things back then. They could have been handed to me on a silver platter, but I would have rejected them with a silvery platitude. The yolk would have wasted on my infertile egghead.

[Most of you may not relate to this, but I experienced an auditory analogue of this subtlety last week when visiting the in-laws. My F in L has a pair of Martin Logan speakers, which operate along completely different principles -- and a very different price range -- than standard speakers. I have no idea how the the technology works, but it's called "electrostatic"; notice how you can see through them.

[Anyway, the bottom line is a very different aural experience. Obviously hard to write about sound, any more than you can dance about architecture, but the music had a distinctly "airy," "transparent" and "shimmery" quality. Also, the sound image definitely couldn't be located as emanating from any source, but was suspended there holographically before me. Instead of the sound coming "at" me, it was as if I were "within" it. The point is, the speakers weren't just quantitatively better, but qualitatively better. Same "information," new experience. The bad news is that now my fairly expensive speakers sound to me like an AM radio. The sound is very "hard" and "dense" compared to the Martin Logans.]

When most spiritual types talk about eliminating the "ego," it always strikes me as just so much new age pneumababble. They don't know what they're talking about, because you can no more live without an ego than you can live without a brain. What we call the ego is simply your psychic "center of gravity" at any given moment, and it is actually a good thing to be aware of this center (more often than not, a person is mentally ill precisely because they lack such a center, for mind parasites are "attractors" with their own chaotically shifting centers in the fabric of consciousness; furthermore, these individuals often confuse having no homogeneous center with having transcended the ego. For such immature individuals, "spirituality" is an invitation to act out their parasites).

Having said that, our center can be wide or narrow, shallow or deep, dense or subtle, and those are the real issues. In my opinion, all this new age talk of "ego" must result from some kind of misunderstanding or mistranslation of the original Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist texts.

For me, it is much more meaningful to discuss it in terms of the shift in perspective that takes place when our psychic center transitions from the exterior/horizontal to the interior/vertical (for which I used the symbols (•) and (¶) in my book). This is, broadly speaking, what we would call being "born again from above." Thus, we don't so much eliminate the ego as give it a new life and a new orientation. You can give it a new name if you like, but obviously there is some continuity with the old you. In a certain sense, it is merely the "real you," minus all the cultural, familial, and other accretions. Perhaps the best way to think of it is to say that (¶) transcends but includes (•), in the same way that algebra transcends but includes arithmetic.

Another thing I've noticed is that as my "thinking" has become more subtle, I myself have grown increasingly "simple." The always excellent Lee Harris has spoken of how it took him some 30 years to unlearn the nonsense he learned in the course of his higher education, in order to once again be able to think clearly. I understand exactly what he means.

In a brief article entitled Good is Bad, Stanley Kurtz "reviews" a book review of an anthology called Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys. The original book review, written by a typically confused leftist, criticizes the book on the grounds that it is clear and well-written:

“'Almost without exception,' Jacoby begins, 'each essay is lucid and articulate.... Would it be possible to assemble a countercollection by leftists that would be equally limpid?' 'Unlikely,' Jacoby answers. The leftist professorate, he admits, 'distrusts clear prose as superficial.... On the basis of this volume, conservatives are excellent writers -- and facile thinkers. Perhaps the two go together.'”

There are huge differences between being clear about complex ideas (the right), being obscure, confused, or disingenuous about simplistic or kooky ones (the left), attacking cognitive links in order to dismantle meaning (the angry/psychotic left), superimposing fantasized meaning onto the world (the frightened/paranoid left), and using unsaturated language in such a way that you attempt to "reproduce" a spiritual experience in another ("Coonspeak," or "Obonics"). In fact, the reader who alerted me to this article actually accused Dear Leader, of all people, of falling into the category of the academonic leftist who writes in a needlessly convoluted manner about a subject -- presumably spirituality -- that is inherently simple. If so, one can only wonder why he would waste his time trying to unravel my mystagogic Bobscurities?

No. My writing is not the least bit complex. Rather, it is very precise, and makes perfect nonsense so long as you understand Obonics. However, as touched on above, there is a real challange involved in trying to utilize language in such a manner that you "reproduce" not just empirical facts -- which is easy -- but a spiritual experience in another, like those holographically shimmery Martin Logans. How do you do that with language? I'm not saying that I always succeed; however, I know for a fact that I sometimes do, for many readers have told me so.

Back when I was more of a garden-variety intellectual, I was full of all kinds of academically correct "ruling ideas" and dogmas -- all of the things people think are true because other important people think they're true, so you end up thinking thoughts that were actually manufactured elsewhere, in someone else's mind. But as Satprem, a sadhak of Sri Aurobindo's yoga, wrote, "Clearly, if we want to discover a new country within us, we must first leave the old one behind -- everything depends on our determination in taking this first step."

This first step is also the last step -- and every step in between -- for, in the words of Aurobindo, "fitness and unfitness are only a way of speaking; man is unfit and a misfit (so far as spiritual things are concerned) -- in his outward nature. But within there is a soul and above there is a Grace. This is all you know or need to know. "

A soul behind (¶) and a grace above (↓). What could be more simple? But simple hardly means simplistic, much less easy, for recognizing and living within this simple truth is the ongoing task of the spiritual life, i.e., O-->(n). To "transcend" or "eliminate" the ego really comes down to identifying with the wider reality to which the exteriorizing ego attaches itself.

As I mentioned, I have seen this occur in my own being, as I have gradually given up "thinking" for something that feels quite different. Perhaps Will touched on it yesterday, in his most excellent and luminous comment about the two types of creativity and their analogy to the Divine creativity. It is well worth reading in its entirety, but I wanted to focus on the second type of creativity, which

"does not involve the sense of 'creative build-up and release'. In fact, it's almost a 'give it or take it' creativity -- it's the kind of creativity characterized by the term 'not-doing'. The effortless effort, not there one second, there the next second, no explosion. Henry Miller's early 'Tropic' works, I think, are a good example of the compulsive, build-up and explode type of creativity. His later writings, such as Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch -- in which Miller turned to attention fully to spiritual matters -- are a good example of the quiet, serene, effortless effort type of creativity...

"Early Beethoven -- compulsive build-up/explosion creativity. Beethoven's late string quartets -- definitely effortless effort, very Zen. One thing that makes them so beautiful is the feeling that Beethoven could just as easily *not* have composed them. Shakespeare, too -- though the plays are replete with fury and emotion, there is something eerily detached about them that suggests that they were 'breathed into existence', not exploded into being.

"Eckhart once said in a sermon... something to the effect that when God created the cosmos, He actually didn't *do* anything. Enigmatic, yes, but I think it suggests that the Godhead's creativity was and is, at root, the 'effortless effort'. On the plane of being, this creativity is the most transcendent.

"There are those who will tell you that 'not-being' informs 'being' at every moment, which is what makes existence so beautiful.

"Anyway, I think the transcendent, less ego-individualistic, 'effortless effort' artist will eventually become the ideal. That, in turn, will reflect on our perspective of the Creator's divine nature."

Yes, yes, and yes. In short, "ys." I believe this second type of creativity is analogous to the "virgin birth," that is, the immaculate conception that occurs as a result of our soul's feminine receptivity to vertical influences, as the "Son" is eternally (re)born in the ground of our being: A soul behind and a grace above, is all you know or need to know.

As Molly Bloom -- the archetypal feminine -- says in her interior dialogue at the conclusion of Ulysses, as she relinquishes the ego and falls into sleep -- the brother of death: and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Now now, keep it clean. Seed, soil, conception, birth. As above, so below. It might as well be Saint Teresa. Same story in a different context. In any event, if you wish to give your consciousness a wider berth, you must learn to say yes to the Divine Influx.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Darwin was Not a Darwinian

For whatever reason, February '07 was a fruitful month, so I had difficulty selecting just one post to republish. I ended up choosing this one, because it has some continuity with our recent discussion of theological aesthetics. The subject has also become more relevant in the interim, what with Queeg's misosophical lurch into clinical inanity and liztardian genetic triumphalism.

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New commenter Flash Gordon left a provocative challenge yesterday, claiming that Dear Leader is "interested in the origin of life and intelligence. Darwin was interested in those things also. He made a valuable contribution to our understanding of those things."

The first two points are entirely true, while the third is a bit more ambiguous, since I am more interested in the origin of life and of specifically human intelligence, while Darwin's contribution was to the origin of species and of animal intelligence (which humans also naturally possess but infinitely transcend).

Starting with the former, natural selection can have no bearing on the origin of life, since natural selection by definition requires living organisms to select.

While I am aware of the fact that some theorists are attempting to save the appearances of materialism by applying principles of natural selection to the non-organic world, as I explained in The New Testavus For the Rest of Us, what both they and orthodox biologists fail to appreciate is that any type of natural selection presupposes a metaphysical principle that must be anterior to both organisms and the cosmos itself: wholeness. Neither life nor natural selection could exist in a cosmos that did not have a principle of wholeness woven into its very fabric. In fact, to say "cosmos" is to say "wholeness," since a cosmos is by definition a unified and ordered totality -- just like an organism (which is its more or less distant reflection: as above, so below).

In an organism, no matter where or how deeply we look, we find fractal wholeness at every level. You could even say that the essence of pathology is an absence of integrated wholeness -- some part of the whole has broken away and is "doing its own thing," you know, like my wayward pancreas.

The same is true of the first hyperdimensional organ, the human mind, which in health is a dynamically integrated whole -- a rolling catastrophe (as in catastrophe theory; then again, not necessarily) in the phase space of subjectivity, as it were.

The essence of mental illness is the existence of semi-autonomous autopoietic subpersonalities (i.e., mind parasites) with agendas all their own, and which don't really give a hoot what you think or want. These spectral entities haunt the mindscape and look to infect others or to draw them into their little psychodramas in a way that is self-defeating to the host.

Mr. Gordon left a quote in which Darwin expresses the sentiment that (referring to his scientisic vision of metaphysical Darwinism), There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Gordon concludes by asking, "How can you say intelligence is strictly forbidden in [the] 'Darwinian view?' Your equation E = RE+EF is ridiculous" (Evolution = Random Error + Environmental Feedback).

Let's break this down for my omies. First, "There is grandeur in this view of life." Is that true? Is there? If so, one wonders how it got there. Why, on strictly Darwinian grounds, would any mental view of anything be a sponsor of "grandeur." It's impossible to know exactly what Darwin meant by the use of this term, which has no non-poetic or exact meaning. Rather, it is entirely subjective, since it connotes things such as "magnificence," "glory," lofty," "sublime," and "wonderful."

Now, I personally have no difficulty with any of these categories of human experience, as I believe they disclose objective realities. But I wonder what evolutionary purpose they serve? Let us suppose that I am one of our ancient furbears, and that a random genetic mutation has given me the heretofore unknown ability to be in a state of aesthetic arrest as I contemplate, I don't know, a grand sunset or a magnificent mountain. Remember, there is nothing intrinsically grand or magnificent until a human subject makes it so, just as there is no such thing as a ball or strike until an umpire makes the call. So I'm staring with astonagement at the sunset and a lion pounces on me, or a rival Neanderthal conks me on the head and places me on the menu. The gene for grandeur dies on the vine.

Let's not kid ourselves. We really only have two choices. Either this cosmos is in fact grand -- not to mention, beautiful, awesome, sacred and numinous -- or our genes, for reasons we cannot know, randomly mutated in such a way that we imagine that such entirely chimerical things as grandeur and beauty exist. But in reality, we are simply prisoners of our genes, and by extension, our nervous systems. I don't see how one can say that it is a "grand" view of the cosmos if the grandeur is simply an illusory side effect of our nervous system. Thus, there is an obvious contradiction at the heart of Darwin's sentimental assessment of his own theory.

Next: Endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Here again, I have no difficulty agreeing with this statement, but one naturally wonders what Darwin meant by "beautiful" and "wonderful." Obviously, on any strict Darwinian view, "beauty" cannot objectively exist. Rather, there can be only the illusion of beauty that is put there for some reason related to reproductive fitness. To us, a peacock or a butterfly is "beautiful," but in reality their markings are just there to attract the opposite sex of their particular species. It's actually none of our business.

Which is true of nature in general. Animals are only interested in other animals to the extent that they can 1) eat them, 2) can have sex with them, 3) need to run away from them or 4) can form some kind of symbiotic or parasitic relationship that advances survival prospects, like the alliance of rock stars and supermodels. No antelope, in the midst of running for its life, thinks to itself, "I give that lion credit. It sure is a magnificent beast." No goat or rabbit says, "pity I have to eat this beautiful flower. It would look so nice on top of the telly." No fly, while struggling for its life, says "hmm. Check out the fabulous geometric design of this web. Such stark neo-industrial beauty!" (unless he watches "Queer Eye For the Straight Fly").

Now, I can well understand on Darwinian grounds why the sons of heaven would have the illusion that the daughters of men are so beautiful. Which they are. But I do not see what this has to do with seeing other species as beautiful. What's the point? What is the added value to our reproductive fitness? There are things that are beautiful to the eye, just as there are things that are beautiful to the ear: beautiful paintings, beautiful poems, beautiful symphonies and cathedrals, beautiful equations, beautiful theories, beautiful theologies, beautiful afternoons, beautiful moments in life. There is beauty hidden in every fold and cranny of existence. Did humans somehow "awaken" to a cosmos that just so happens to be permeated with beauty? If so, how did all the beauty get in there? Isn't a beautiful object the reflection of a beautiful subject? Who was the Subject of all this Cosmic Beauty before human subjects were here?

Perhaps, like wholeness, it cannot not be here. For what is wholeness? In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, discusses the criteria for great art. He says that it is the task of the true artist to record "epiphanies," that is, sudden spiritual manifestations, or ingressions. Following Aquinas, he says that the three things necessary to beauty are wholeness, harmony, and radiance, or claritas. It is this third category that has to do with epiphanies, when the soul of the thing, its essential whatness, leaps through its outer appearance and reveals its true nature. This supreme quality of beauty transfers light from another world, provoking a spiritual state in which we apprehend the luminous reality behind appearances and see things in their metaphysical transparency.

Now Bob, "How can you say intelligence is strictly forbidden in 'Darwinian view?' Your equation E = RE+EF is ridiculous."

First of all, this is not my equation. Rather, it is the equation that forms the basis of Darwinism, which is that all change in the phenotype is a result of random genetic mutations that either enhance or diminish our reproductive fitness. To the extent that a species is "intelligent," the intelligence is always in the service of something that both guides and limits it, which is reproductive fitness. In other words, either intelligence, like beauty and virtue, transcends and therefore cannot be reduced to genetics; or, it is an ultimately meaningless side effect of our genetic "strategy." (In fact, we shouldn't even say "our" genes, since this reverses the relation of ownership. According the strict Darwinians, it is our body, or phenotype, that ultimately "belongs" to the "selfish genes.")

But what is human intelligence, really? As mentioned above, if there is aesthetic discernment, then surely there is beauty. Likewise, if man is intelligent in any meaningful sense of the term, then surely there is reality to be apprehended and there is truth to be known. For if intelligence does not know reality or disclose truth, then it hardly deserves the name. In other words, if it is just a more elaborate way to know falsehood and delusion in order to get chicks, then truly, there is nothing further to debate, because truth cannot even be conceived, much less known.

Is it possible that strict reductionistic Darwinism could be "true" without contradicting its own principles? I do not see how. As Schuon has written, human intelligence "is the perception of the real and not the 'intellectualization' of the unreal." The discernment of intelligence allows us to pass "from appearances to reality, from forms to essence, and from effects to cause." No animal can know of the reality behind appearances or intuit the essence beneath the form. This is what I mean when I say that the gap between human and animal intelligence is literally infinite, because the gap between truth and its alternatives is infinite.

Why is human intelligence so perfectly adapted to invisible realties that played no role in the selection of our genes? Why is there nothing in the world commensurate with the nature of human intelligence, which easily transcends everything into which it comes into contact, including our own evolution? If we comprehend our own evolution, isn't this another way of saying that we transcend it? And if we don't comprehend it, isn't Darwinism, ipso facto, false?

Schuon writes of the truism that "It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error." How can this be? First, it results from an intelligence "that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships." Secondly, it results from "an extra-intellectual element, such as sentimentality or passion; the exclusivism of 'horizontality' creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill." In short, as all psychoanalysts and true theologians know, reason is more often than not a slave of the passions.

Man is intelligence, just as he is beauty. For this reason, no normal person sets out to love ugliness or know error. Just as good character involves distinguishing between good and evil and willing the former, the virtue of intelligence is its intrinsic love of truth. Was Darwin a truth lover? I would say there is no question that he was. His passion for Truth is obvious at every turn (albeit in an intrinsically limited way). Therefore, he cannot have been a Darwinian, for Truth renders metaphysical Darwinism extinct.

Man is intelligence, and intelligence is the transcending of forms and the realization of the invisible Essence; to say human intelligence is to say absoluteness and transcendence. --F. Schuon