Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Postmodern Man: The Eunuch at Every Wedding, the Corpse at Every Birth

Schuon talks about the "metaphysical transparency" of the world -- the fact that something from the other side of being always "spills over" to our side.

Which only proves that human beings aren't solely on this side of the ontological divide, but have a foot in each realm. If this weren't true, then we would have no access at all to transcendental truth, beauty, or love. For surely, to know the truth of something is to know the truth of what isn't there in what appears to be. In other words, truth -- including scientific truth -- is the reality behind appearances. Ultimately it is the vertical in the horizontal.

Balthasar says what amounts to the same thing in describing the relationship between finite and infinite: "infinity truly becomes visible in its appearance as the excess that does not become visible; it is unveiled as what remains veiled; it is made known as the ineliminable mystery of being." Thus, "the truth of any being will always be infinitely richer and greater than the knower is capable of grasping."

Truth, love, beauty, mystery, unity -- these are all "excess" qualities that are left over after any "complete" materialistic account of the world.

Or, to put it another way, if one could somehow successfully undertake the cremation of these qualities, one will have only succeeded in placing man in a cosmic tomb and therefore painting onesoaf into a funereal coroner.

No. Man is upright and he is bipedal; upright because he spans all of the vertical degrees of being; bipedal because he has a foot in both realms, the worldly and the celestial, heaven and earth, slack and conspiracy. He is not a dead man walking to his own godless wake, but a live man waking to his own walk with God.

Now, speaking of waking, something exceedingly mysterious occurred in the cosmos and Cosmos when it segued 3.85 billion years ago from chapter one to chapter two -- that is, when it suddenly "came alive." I did my level best to capture this ontological mutation in pp. 55-65, but try as one might, it seems that words are never sufficient to convey the weirdness of it all.

In order to feel one's way into it this topic, it helps if one is somewhat "psychotic" within a context of sanity. That is, the psychotic person specifically cannot take for granted what others do. For him, every waking moment is a calamitous novelty. For jaded postmodern man, the world is "too dead." But for psychotic man, it is "too alive."

And yet, this is apparently how it was for premodern -- and especially prehistorical -- man. As Hans Jonas argues in The Phenomenon of Life, the "discovery" of a non-living cosmos is a very late one. Rather, for primordial man, life was the general rule, death the exception, the very thing that Lucy and her astoneaged friends needed to 'splain.

When "man became man," it coincided with the perception that life was "everywhere" (i.e., animism), and that "being" was synonymous with "being alive": "Soul flooded the whole of existence and encountered itself in all things. Bare matter, that is, truly inanimate, 'dead' matter, was yet to be discovered -- as indeed its concept, so familiar to us, is anything but obvious." In fact, "that the world is alive is really the most natural view, and largely supported by prima-facie evidence" (Jonas).

This is especially true if one imagines the creepycrawly environmental surroundings in which early man evolved. Life was truly everywhere, and even what was outwardly "inanimate" was "so intimately interwined with the dynamics of life that it seem[ed] to share its nature." It could never have occurred to early man "that life might be a side issue in the universe, not its pervading rule."

Therefore, "to such an extent that life is accepted as the primary state of things, death looms as the disturbing mystery." Interestingly, "before there was wonder at the miracle of life, there was wonder about death and what it might mean" (ibid). In any event, since life was experienced as the reality, death had to either be unreality or else a part of the larger cosmic economy of life.

It is only with modernity that this perspective is reversed, so that death becomes "the natural thing, life the problem." Now that the universe is regarded as a kind of lifeless machine, life becomes a huge conceptual problem, because it must somehow be explained in terms of the lifeless. Could this attitude be one of the metaphysical tributaries to the death culture of the radical secular left? Jonas implies as much: "Our thinking today is under the ontological dominance of death."

I apologize. I'm just thinking out loud here, going wherever my mind leads. But if you think about funeral rites -- which obviously reach way back and down into man's essence, both historically and ontologically, the purpose they serve is to emphasize the continuity of life despite outward appearances. But in the upside-down cosmos of postmodernity, the real "funeral" would have to be for existence itself.

And one doesn't have to read too many existential writers -- e.g., Sartre, Camus, Kafka -- before one realizes that they really do regard life in this deeply pessimystic way -- as a plague or prison with no exit in which human insects are thrown upon birth, and from which we are then nauseatingly alienated once we realize that this is indeed our fate. Just the other day, some profoundly sick feminists celebrated "abortion pride" day. But why not? If our life is just an absurd and meaningless prison house, then surely abortion is a mercy. Why not nip it in the bud?

In my book, I attempted to restore man to his cosmic place, not by returning to premodernity (as fundamentalists attempt to do), but by sailing through modernity and postmodernity, into the world awaiting us beyond them. And what lies beyond them is located back at man's beginning, only now it is as if, from our privileged metahistorical vantage point, we can know the place for the first time.

Jonas was surely converging upon the same Raccoon attractor when he wrote, "Perhaps, rightly understood, man is after all the measure of all things -- not indeed through the legislation of his reason but through the exemplar of his psychophysiological totality which represents the maximum of concrete ontological completeness known to us: a completeness from which, reductively, the species of being may have to be determined by way of progressive subtraction down to the minimum of bare elementary matter."

The irony of this -- as alluded to by Balthasar above -- is that the scientistic "intelligibilty" of life is purchased at the price of a kind of ontological death, which surely includes death of the intellect to whom it was intelligible. In other words, there is a "way of knowing" that ultimately reduces to unintelligibility and death if faithful to its first cadaverous principles. But we already knew this, for it was first taught in paradise by the archetypal opposite of "upright bipedal" man, that is, the downright nopedal snake.

The animal represents a completely new fact that radically changes the situation of epistemology: the new object is now itself a subject. The revolution that this new fact brings with it is fraught with immense consequences (Theo-Logic: The Truth of the World).

We'll have to get further into some of those consequences tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Surfing the Eternal Waves of Novelty to the Sands of Time

Okay, back on our heads. I believe we were discussing the freedom of the object -- which in itself is a shocking idea, since we usually think of all the freedom residing in the subject, if indeed we acknowledge spiritual freedom to begin with (for freedom can only have a spiritual source). However, the infinite plenitude of the object world reminds me of something I once read on the back of a Sinatra album, by the King of Cosmically Bad Liner Notes, Stan Cornyn.

Wow. Speaking of "infinite plenitude," the internet is an amazing place. In a matter of seconds, I actually tracked down the exact quote I was thinking of: Sinatra "leans into the front end of 'Strangers' and starts singing all the way to 'The End.' And there's no chop-choppy phrasing along the way. No dit-dit-dit. It comes out mmmmmmmmm all the way. If he runs out of gas on a phrase, which is a very rare bird for the man, then he runs out of gas two-and-a-half miles after anybody else would. He sings like he's got an extra tank of Texaco in his tummy."

That's the point I'm driving at: that the object world always appears before us as if it's got "an extra tank of Texaco in its tummy." For example, we know when we look at the world that "the possibilities of life are infinitely more abundant than what is actually on display.... There is an incomprehensible prodigality in the very essence of life." I remember something Whitehead said along similar lines, that out of the infinite pool of possibilities, only a relative few undergo the formality of becoming.

Of course, the higher up the ladder we ascend, the more this becomes apparent. For example, one of our unavoidable existential "owies" is that a single lifetime could never be sufficient to actualize all that is latent within us. This is a very odd situation that should be noticed by more people, but I think the problem is that most people foreclose their infinite potential so early in life, that they don't really feel the sting in the manner I'm talking about here.

Then again, it would be Raccoon error to dwell on this inherent "lack," because life could never appear as rich as it does if it weren't floating atop by this infinite sea of potential. Rather, just consider the alternative. Imagine if existence were as simple as imagined by the metaphysical Darwinist or bonehead atheist, deprived of its intrinsic mystery. What a boring life!

As Swami Kahuna said, we cannot stop the ceaseless waves of novelty, but we can learn to surf them. And I believe this is one of the purposes of a valid spiritual practice -- not to sit safely on the shore like the village atheist, nor to drown in the ocean like the non-dual mystic, but to ride those waves of novelty all the way to the end of the line, which is none other than O-->(n).

As Balthasar expresses it, we cannot look at the reality of undeveloped possibilities as "a realm of limitation and poverty." Rather, "the very purpose of this fullness in the womb of life is to illustrate life's richness and superabundance. It would betoken the poverty of being, and ultimately of the Creator, if everything possible were also actual."

Imagine the horror! Some musician might come along and write the last song! Or a poet might compose the last poem! "That's it. We've run out of songs and poems." But that can never happen. This is obviously a mercy, not a privation. Existence is a gift that keeps giving -- although there are obviously people who specialize in "realizing" this, e.g., true artists and other creative types.

Which I think is why we often inappropriately idealize artists, who seem to live on that shoreline between the the infinite potential and the finite actuality. This is the "dream world," or to be precise, the world where the dreamer transforms O into (n). It is also the world of childhood, of their innocent natural mysticism.

In turn, the purpose of a secular education is to crush this natural mysticism and to replace the infinite world with their cold and godless abstractions. Then, once the soul is sufficiently materialized, it vainly searches for the "missing infinity," i.e., O, in the outer world. Thus is born every spiritual perversion from leftism, to scientism, to liberation theology, to environmental hysteria, to you name it. It is the elevation of Ø to O.

However, it is not exactly correct to say that the infinite cannot be found in the finite, for in truth, that is the only place it can be found, just as it is impossible to locate essence in the absence of form. Rather, form is precisely where you will find essence.

Thus, "the finite appearance as such is the coming to light of a certain infinity." Do you see the point? The realization of finitude is at once the "revelation of its intrinsic infinity. This infinity truly becomes visible in its appearance as the excess that does not become visible." Again, finite reality always croons as if it's got an extra tank of Texaco in its tummy.

As such, any knowledge is surrounded by a penumbra of mystery, which gives it its... tang. Again, imagine how dreadful life would be if there were some one-to-one correspondence between object and subject! Obviously, subject and object are stuck with each other until death do they part, but a statically bi-polar situation would be a marriage made in hell.

And that is no joke, for "Raccoon Hell" is a place where everything just "is what it is." But as Hegel cracked, identity is the identity of identity and non-identity, which ultimately means that you are only you because of who you're not, mainly God. Which in turn is why atheists are so boring.

In psychoanalysis we call this "non-identity" the unconscious. However, as I have mentioned before, it is incorrect to visualize it as a conscious ego floating over a a kind of unconscious ocean. Rather, it must be looked at dialectically, in that there can be no ego without an unconscious, and vice versa. They co-arise, in the way that shining a light in the dark illuminates a spot, but also "unShows" you all the darkness surrounding it. Therefore, knowledge of any kind is always surrounded on all sides by the great unKnown.

And I emphasize un-Known, because this dimension is surely "known," just not in a wideawake and cutandry way. It is this unKnowledge that allows us to tend toward a true self which isn't yet known to us. This is also the higher unKnowledge of faith, the "luminous darkness" that allows us to approach the unKnown God who will increasingly become known to us through that very link of faith-infused unKnowledge.

Well, I guess that's enough for today. I could keep writing forever and never get to the bottom or top of this Subject or object. All quoted material from Theo-Logic: The Truth of the World.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Miracles and Magic: Vertical Mojo and Horizontal Hoodoo

A Sunday repost from two years ago....

According to Tomberg, the seven miracles recorded in the Gospel of John "represent the healing of the seven principal infirmities of human nature in both individuals and groups." As such, they are "not just miracles," but "signs of the future spiritual and bodily healing processes within the human organism, which is sick as a consequence of the fall of humanity."

Joan made a truthy point when she commented that she had never gone in for "the whole 'seeking after miracles' obsession." However, like all Coons, she has "seen and experienced them," and while she doesn't "dwell on this topic as central to my faith," she observes that "you only get good results when you center on the Good. Center on the wanted results and you get bupkis."

[Hello] Dilys [wherever you are] expanded upon this, writing that the realm of the miraculous cannot function "without corruption outside of the protection of a Vertically-revealed tradition, and indeed can't be plucked cleanly out of the tradition to carry away for idiosyncratic power. As Joan says, miracles are often only semi-conscious side effects of a fervent consistent illuminated devotion to the Good, the willing citizenship in what Jesus calls the kingdom of God."

Three statements come immediately to mind: 1) The kingdom of God is within [or among] you, 2) Seek ye first the kingdom, and 3) from the Gospel of Thomas, The Father's kingdom is spread all over the world, but people cannot see it.

Another way of saying this is that there is an upper vertical magic and a lower vertical magic. This is indeed a key point, for now that I think about it, my life only became a more or less non-stop magic show when I ceased living for myself and undertook the task of aligning myself with a greater reality. This is not to in any way claim that my life is extraordinary. I am sure that to most people it would look rather boring. The point is, as several people pointed put yesterday, signs and wonders are happening all the time -- i.e., the Father's kingdom is spread all over the world -- but the interventions are so subtle that we may "underlook" them, so to speak. We may also fail to notice them because we only live in one reality, and cannot see that other impoverished reality that "might have been" in the absence of the vertical influence.

Of course, it's almost too corny to point out, but this is the spiritual lesson of It's a Wonderful Life, and why even many secular children of the earth cannot help being touched by it. Here is an example of a man who spends his life selflessly aligning himself with the universal on behalf of the individual, at great personal cost. However, in his case, he is shown what might have been had he spent his life pursuing the narrow agenda of his self-interested ego.

Another way of saying it is that George is granted the boon of a clear vision of all the miracles and magic that had occurred in his life as a result of unselfishly aligning himself with the Sovereign Good. And realizing this is the greatest miracle of all, for with this realization, the magic that had always been operating in his life bursts upon him like a sudden downpour of grace. What a tragic waste of life to miss the magic that is happening all the time, for this magic is precisely what nourishes the soul and feeds the "second birth."

The same lesson is present in Dickens' Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge is first given a vision of the forces that went into exiling him from the greater reality and enclosing him in the narrow world of his bitter and envious ego. Envy and entitlement are literally forms of "reverse magic," in that they will spoil whatever they acquire. Envy may or may not help you get what you think you want, but it will also prevent you from enjoying it once you have it.

This lower vertical magic forms the basis of the leftist agenda, which is why they only become more bitter upon getting what they want. The bitterness of the left has not remitted one iota since prevailing in last November's election, because envy is an addictive way of life for them. Try listening to Randi Rhodes for five seconds. In the words of the immortal Big Joe Turner, "I believe to my soul you a devil in nylon hose." Or possibIy the great Junior Brown: "she's just venom wearin' denim, she's a copperheaded queen." I once heard Alan Watts refer to seagulls as "winged hunger." Dailykos must be "digital envy."

This is why the civil rights movement only became a perpetually angry and bitter crusade once it achieved its main goals and should have closed up shop. Indeed, this is how a moral giant such as Martin Luther King transmogrifies before our eyes into grotesque lower vertical beings such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright. Likewise, it explains how the feminist movement began cranking out creepy hybrid femen such as Hillary Clinton or Gloria Allred or Maureen Dowd after it was no longer necessary. And it surely explains the moral monsters of CAIR, a group that is completely unnecessary except to advance a truly diabolical lower vertical agenda. But all of these diverse beings have "common cause" in aligning themselves with the false universal of "coerced" or "Faustian magic."

According to Frithof Schuon, a miracle represents "an interference of the marvellous in the sensory realm." In itself, there is "nothing mysterious or problematical about it." In fact, if you consider the metaphysical structure of reality, miracles cannot not occur, since the vertical cannot not be, and the vertical takes ontological precedence over the horizontal (i.e., the vertical could never have come from the horizontal). In hermetic terms, the subtle rules the dense, and the the deeper the effect, the higher the cause. The highest cause being God, aligning ourselves with this cause should, so to speak, lift us out of the closed circle of horizontality and manifest in our own lives in terms of the "subtle ruling the dense."

Now, this is not to say that the dense -- the horizontal -- can be ever be wholly eliminated. We are not angels, which is to say, purely vertical beings. But it does mean that we can do our part to reverse the fall and restore the priority of the vertical over the horizontal. Obviously, if everyone did this -- individuals working on behalf of the universal -- we would have "heaven on earth." On the other hand, "hell on earth" is the leftist agenda of the individual being forced to work on behalf of the (false) universal. What is today, only March 29th? Most of us are still slaving away for the collective, as tax freedom day does not occur until some point in late April, when we have worked off our debt to the collective. But at least we are not Sweden, where the shackles aren't released until August.

Now, as Schuon points out, a miracle is only "supernatural" on the earthly scale, but "natural" on the cosmic scale. Furthermore, "the purpose of the miraculous phenomenon is the same as that of the Revelation which it accompanies or as a result of which, or in the shadow of which, it is produced: to elicit or to confirm faith." There are two central miracles, one "supernaturally natural," the other "naturally supernatural." Existence itself is a supernaturally natural lesson, what with its gratuitous truth and beauty coursing through its every artery as a result of being infused with the manifestly transnatural logos.

This is why the first miracle recorded in Genesis is the archetype of all others, for as our Unknown Friend says, creation ex nihilo, or out of nothing, "is the highest possible expression of magic, namely divine and cosmic magic." This is why the primordial act of creation was not so much a bang as a blossoming seed. As he says, this is "not too difficult to imagine, because each little acorn is such a 'constructive bomb' and the oak is only the visible result of the slow 'explosion' -- or blossoming out -- of this 'bomb.'" What is a butterfly but an exploded caterpillar -- or in our case, a buddhafly catarpultering out of a christalis c-coon?

Schuon points out that "the miraculous is that which is due to a direct, thus vertical intervention of a heavenly Power, and not to a horizontal progression of causality. If one extends the notion of 'nature' to all that exists, miracles too are 'natural,' but in that case words would become meaningless, as it would then be impossible to make the essential distinction between blind or unconscious causes and the supra-conscious Cause, the source of all consciousness and of all power. Scientists confuse the miraculous with the irrational and the arbitrary" (emphasis mine).

A couple of days ago we spoke of the "husk" and "kernel." The husk is there to protect the kernel, but it is possible that we can come to identify with the husk, thus defeating its purpose -- and the purpose of our lives -- by arresting the "blossoming explosion" of our true self. This blossoming -- once you begin to experience it -- is the "personal magic" that mirrors the magic of creation itsoph -- of God's unfolding, creative self-revelation. The kernel, since it is internally related to the whole, seems miraculously able to draw the people and materials it requires in order to fulfill its mission. Or as a rabbinical expression puts it, "God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages."

But again, this blossoming cannot be "self-willed" any more than you can will a carrot to grow, for "God gives the increase." All organic growth -- which is to say internally related change directed toward a telos -- is magic. It is the everyday magic of watching an infant change from day to day, or even of writing this blog, if I may say so. For me -- especially for me -- I am always aware that this activity is miraculous when viewed in light of the alternative Bobs I might have become and narrowly averted. "There but for the grace of God," and all that. It's a wonderful life, but only if we stop to consider the alternatives.

[And for those of you who are truly motivated, here is part 2. It's more for my benefit than yours, because I use these weekly raids on the Arkive in order to find out what's down there in that spooky place. I would still like to find the time to put together another book, which I can't do if I don't somehow get a handle on what I've already written.]

Humans may be assessed in terms of action, wisdom, and sentiment; or what they can do, what they can know, and what or whom they love (i.e., moral freedom). "Miracles" -- which is to say "signs and wonders" -- can occur on any one of these planes, although Christianity traditionally places emphasis on the last. As Paul said, there who those value wisdom and those who demand miraculous actions, "but we preach Christ crucified," which is to say the mystery of God's ultimate love for mankind.

Nevertheless, as I have written before, whatever principial truth a religion excludes or minimizes tends to return in a disguised form. Therefore, we should not be surprised that at different points, Christianity is as much a religion of divine wisdom and power as it is of love. But each must always be tempered by the others -- wisdom without love or action is merely intellectualism or solipsism, just as action without love or wisdom results either in a centripetal dispersion or a "hardening" will to power.

As Valentin Tomberg writes, love is the highest freedom, for "it is the sole element in human existence that cannot and may not be demanded. One can demand effort, veracity, honesty, obedience, the fulfillment of duties, but love may never be demanded. Love is and remains for all time a sanctuary of freedom, inaccessible to all compulsion. For this reason, the highest commandment -- 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind... and love your neighbor as yourself' -- is not a command, but a divine-human plea. For love cannot be commanded; it can only be prayed for."

This is also the American secret, for it is the one nation that is founded upon the primacy of spiritual liberty, which is to say, the possibility of genuine vertical (godly) and horizontal (neighborly) love. Just as man was not created for the sabbath but the sabbath for man, American citizens are not here to serve the state, but the state is here to nurture spiritual liberty that we may grow in love, wisdom, and compassionate action -- or goodness, truth, and beauty. At least until Obama got here.

Tomberg points out that the Gospels may be thought of as "holographic" (my word), in the sense that the events described therein are simultaneously signs, signs are teachings, teachings are events, events are parables, etc. Everything in the Gospels is at once "fact, miracle, symbol, and revelation of the truth."

There are only seven miracles described in the Gospel of John, beginning with the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, and ending with the raising of Lazarus. However, the conclusion of John points out that if every miracle attributable to Christ were to be recorded, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.'" Therefore, Tomberg suggests that the seven miracles of John are intended to be "archetypal," or to summarize certain categories of the miraculous -- of how humans, unlike any other beings in existence, may surpass themselves in love, wisdom, and action.

Might there also be an implicit parallel between these seven miracles and the seven primordial acts of God described in Genesis 1-2? Yes, at least according to Tomberg, who feels that there is an inverse relationship between the seven phases of creation in Genesis and the seven miracles of John. Thus, for example, the wedding at Cana somehow mirrors the seventh day of creation.

Tomberg writes that the sabbath is the day on which "created being attains the highest level of inwardness: freedom. The seventh day of creation is the 'day' of the meaning of the world." And since it is only in love that freedom is perfect, ultimately divine-human love "is the foundation, the meaning, and the purpose of the world." Real love is both the alpha and omega of existence.

If the sabbath is also the consecration of the free "union" between God and man, then a sort of "divorce" occurred as a result of the fall. Man was unfaithful to his vows, so to speak. Tomberg writes that the wedding at Cana symbolically speaks to the restoration of this union, for it seems that marriage often "begins with enthusiasm, with the 'wine' of the honeymoon period, and ends with the 'water' of routine habit."

The renewal of love is indeed a miracle, even though we rarely think about it in those terms. To put it another way, only love can renew the world, one's being, and one's wedding vows. At the wedding, Jesus not only transforms water into wine, but the second wine is even better than the first. In other words, not only does love not degenerate, but it is miraculously renewed and increased; as such, this miracle is the "sign" of the healing of marriage -- i.e., "healing in the service of restoring the marriage relationship to correspond to the divine cosmic archetype, which is the seventh day of creation."

Is it important that John 2:1 says that the wedding took place "on the third day?" Why is that seemingly random fact inserted at the outset? And when they run out of wine, it is specifically Jesus' mother who brings this message to her son. Interestingly, Jesus says something very strange, in that he immediately interprets Mary's news about the wine in symbolic terms, asking her, "what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."

Thus -- I am hardly a Biblical scholar, so I don't know if I'm pointing out the obvious here -- the wedding on the third day clearly has resonance with the entire mission of Jesus, in which he will restore the marriage between God and man.

And again, strikingly, there are exactly six waterpots, apparently referencing the other six days of creation and the other six miracles.

Skipping ahead a bit, wine once again comes into play when Jesus' "hour has come." In John 19:28, only after he knows that "all things were accomplished," he says "I thirst." He is given some sour -- which is to say, bad -- wine, which is placed to his mouth. After receiving it, he bows his head and says, "it is finished."

What is finished? One of the soldiers pierces his side, and "blood and water come out." At Cana, water is transformed into good wine. Here, as it were, bad and sour wine -- which is to say, the hateful karma of the world -- is transformed into water and blood. In the Bible -- and in antiquity in general -- "blood" always had spiritual connotations, and was regarded as the vehicle of life, while water carries two distinct meanings.

Back to Genesis 1. On the second day of creation, God separates the upper waters -- the waters above the firmament, or heaven -- from the lower waters. In fact, heaven is placed between the upper and lower waters, as a sort of dividing line. As such -- again, curiously -- heaven is not at the "top" of creation, but is a sort of membrane between upper and lower, or superior and inferior, waters.

But clearly, Jesus seems to be able to mediate between the upper and lower waters -- to bring about their harmonious union, in which the lower is transformed into the higher, and the higher descends into and infuses the lower.

Exacly what is the sacrament of marriage? It "is an inseparable bond between a man and a woman, created by human contract and ratified by divine grace. The nature of the covenant requires that the two participants be one man and one woman" and "that they be free to marry." In the Catholic Church, "it is consent that creates marriage. Consent consists in a human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other. Consent must be a free act of the will of the consenting parties, free of coercion or grave external error. If freedom is lacking, the consent is invalid." Interestingly, "it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. The spouses, as ministers of grace, naturally confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony."

Now, back to the union of God and man. Let's think about some of the constiuent components of marriage: freedom to consent to an inseparable bond, absent any coercion; mutual surrender; male (God) and female (the soul); the parties freely choose to confer marriage upon each other, not one upon the other; and the parties become vehicles of grace for one another, through which the regenerative upper waters flow into the world, transforming water into good wine and sour wine into the upper waters of eternal life and love.

Well, that's about the best I can muster today. Bit of an incoherent mess, no? Frankly, it's surprising it doesn't happen more often. But perhaps I've left enough fragments for others to meditate upon and miraculously pull together. To turn water into wine, so to speak.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Slack Liberation Theology and the Reign of the Anti-Bob

How time flies! It's already Antichrist Saturday. However, I think I'll change the name, since that one is too loaded, and bound to be misunderstood by all but our most fanatical readers. Therefore, we'll use the term anti-Bob to designate the Odious one who wishes to misappropriate our slack and reduce us to serfs of his levy-athon state. Instead of a nation of resourceful and individualistic rascals in charge of our own slack, the anti-Bob would turn us into a grey nation of pathetic sponge Bobs and splenetic bland beasts. Obama is the quintessential Slack Liberation Theologist, as he is all about liberating us from our precious, God-given slack.

But when the slackless have enviously confiscated all of the slack from the productive members of society, there is no slack left for anyone but the super-wealthy. Look at the present situation, in which the anti-Bob is even plundering the slack of future generations (at least the ones who will not be aborted, abortion being the ultimate in slack theft) in order to give a kind of "false slack" to his slack-jawed and open-handed mytho-flockers.

But any serious slackonomist knows that this will fail, as true slack can never be created or conferred in this manner. Our founding subgenii knew that our slack was a divine birthright, and that the state could not grant it, only protect it. The problem inevitably faced by the left is that eventually there is no more slack left to steal. Then, instead of being the beacon of slack for the world, we will be just like any other slackless hive of leftist rabble, climbing over each other like animals to fight over the few crumbs of slack granted by the state.

*****

It was like watching people letting themselves be hypnotized for the greater glory not of Christ but of men. It was like watching a generation willing to continue their enslavement to a self-imposed definition of inferiority rather than rise up in the liberation of truth faith and equality. I saw not a hunger for the glory of God, but a thirsting after the glory of a race to the detriment of all others. How weak, I thought, and how shameful. A Christ triumphant would drive these race hustlers from His temple. --Vanderleun @ American Digest

Yesterday I mentioned that one of the reasons the left gives Obama a pass on his membership in a religious hate cult is the soft bigotry of low or no expectations for blacks. Of course they hate us. Of course they believe crazy things. Of course they seek solace in bizarre conspiracy theories.

However, another big reason is that the left doesn't take religion seriously except for any version of "conservative" Christianity, which it takes as a serious evil. All other religions are simply harmless or neutral, no matter how harmful, Obama's Trinity Church being a quintessential example. Spengler quotes James Cone, one of its most prominent "theologians":

"Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community.... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love."

Spengler notes that in his recent defense of Rev. Wright, Obama made reference to the "academic prominence" of Black Liberation Theology -- which, translated, means the indulgence by white leftist intellectuals of this kind of abject kookery. Ironically, Obama's "faith in the white establishment is touching; [Wright] honestly cannot understand why the white reporters at Fox News are bothering him when the University of Chicago and the Union Theological Seminary have put their stamp of approval on black liberation theology."

Of course, white leftists do not put their stamp of approval on Black Liberation Theology because it is theology, but because it is Black, but more to the point, Marxist.

[Brief update: just yesterday I read a passage by Balthasar, who raised a point that I have discussed in the past, that Marxism represents a kind of radically upside-down and debased version of Judaism -- which would explain why, in the history of leftism, disaffected and sometimes frankly anti-semitic Jews have always played such a prominent role (think of Noam Chomsky, George Soros, Howard Zinn, Michael Lerner, etc.). It's just a brief footnote, but he reminds us of how any "liberation theology" is rooted in a utopian messianism, in which the object of hope is fully immamentized. In true theology, the messiah is outside space and time, even while drawing us toward him.

But the false messianism of the left takes the Jewish idea of the messiah, and politicizes it. This creates a "radical eschatology," in which it is believed that our existential alienation can be remedied by overturning the present order. This is why the left is always so reactionary, since they inevitably convert perennial existential / ontological / spiritual problems into political ones. In turn, they will always be attracted to false messiahs and anti-Bobs, whereas the spiritually normal person will be immune to the attraction. There are no political solutions to spiritual problems, whereas there is usually a spiritual solution to most politicized problems.]

All valid theology has to do with systematic distinctions between ego and Self on the one hand, and reality and illusion on the other. Ego is to illusion as Self is to reality. Human beings are uniquely and providentially situated in the cosmos so as to be naturally (horizontally) idolatrous but supernaturally (vertically) -- or "transnaturally" -- oriented to the Absolute. This is just another way of saying that human beings are mirrors of the Absolute, and potentially contain within themselves the entire scale of being, the whole existentialada.

For example, Schuon notes that the great Christian virtues, e.g., charity, humility, poverty, and childlikeness, have their final end in the transcendent Self, or in Christian terms, the nous. Each of these virtues represents a negation "of that ontological inflation which is the ego." Practice of them helps soften and dissolve this existential infarct that clogs up the arteries of being. Likewise, Christ represents "the Self holding out a hand to 'me'; man must lose his life, the life of the ego, in order to keep it, the life of the Self."

Black Liberation Theology precisely turns the cosmos upside down in the manner of all materialists -- which is another reason why it is embraced by left wing materialists. For it promises not any kind of universal transcendence of the ego, but a particular fulfillment of its demands for a "chosen" (in the pernicious, non-Judaic sense) people: "Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community." Here the "black community" is analogous to the rebellious ego, which makes its own intrinsically heretical demands upon God: "If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him."

Shelby Steele writes of Obama that "a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity," and that his tacit endorsement of "a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism" represents "a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness." Again, the source and outcome of this need are ego insecurity and "hardening," not spiritual aspiration and transcendence.

In genuine theology it is understood that "the world" -- and by extension, your very life -- are "on fire," so to speak. This is how many of Jesus' most extreme statements are to be taken -- as urgent calls to get a clue about the eternal order of existence, and to do something about it before it is too late. I would say "obviously," but I guess it's not, that Jesus was not referring to the political order of the world. Rather, he was speaking to Man as such about Existence as such -- not to this or that man in this or that situation, but about the way things always are for man as he always is.

But as Vanderleun notes in his essay, it's easy to confuse the manacles we forge for ourselves with the ones we imagine are placed upon us by others, and then rail against the others as a substitute for the universal call to self-betterment and transcendence. For as Schuon writes, "the man who does not know that existence is an immense brazier has no imperative reason for wanting to get out of it" -- which is why the beginning of wisdom is the awe of God, not the hatred of white people, or Rush Limbaugh, or "neo-cons," the latter attitude only plunging those who embrace it deeper into the flames.

I thought, watching these sermons, these crazed rants spouted in the name of God, "Don't they know.... Can't they see... They're not worshipping God or Christ, they are worshipping men.... racist men.... the very thing their forefathers suffered under and fought to get free of... and now they're back in the same place. --American Digest

Don't fwy off with my swack, Mr. Pwesident! It's not yours.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Getting Intimate with Sophia

I remember my first time. It's not the kind of thing one forgets. Suddenly I knew in my bones that

"The intimate character of being, which reaches its completed end in the conscious spirit, has its preliminary stages in unconscious nature. There is no being that does not enjoy an interiority, however liminal and rudimentary it may be."

Bear in mind that I am not talking about the first few fumbling attempts to pierce the veil of reality after getting hopped up on reefer pills with my buddies in the back of Lumpy's van.

Rather, this actually occurred in a state of sobriety while walking the dog on a warm summer evening. I was idly contemplating something Whitehead had said along similar lines, when the Gagdad coconut "snapped" in such a way that the inside was now out, and the outside in. I suppose you could say that it was like the sudden solution to a koan, which is not an intellectual affair, but more of a breakthrough into the ground of being.

In turn, once you have secured that realization, then so many other pieces of the puzzle naturally fall into place. In other words, once one understands that interiority is not somehow magically confined to animal brains in such a way that it defies all explanation, then the most intractable problems of philosophy more or less vanish. We see that these "problems" were just the inevitable residue of our defective mode of knowing.

Just a brief soph-reverential note about the circularity of the Coonifesto. When you first read chapter one, you may get an intellectual "feel" for this cosmic interiority. But after having broken through into cosmobliteration on p. 266 and returning to the ground on p. 6, the next journey through chapter one should be rather different, in that you are now equipped to "realize" what you could only "know" the first time around. I don't want to give away all of the jokes, but this is what we were driving at on page 264, where it is written,

O me ga! I can explain everything. I know this place. Been here before. Where we started. No it this time. A huge mythunderstanding. The word made fresh. Non-friction. Telos when its over. Now. It is accomplished. End of the piper trail. You're on your own.

This passage has more baggage than I can unpack at the moment, but "O me ga!" is the shocking realization of the end (omega), the telos, which tells us all about the beginning. Thus, we can "explain everything," but only in the eternal now, where there is no longer a radical disjunction between the "it" and the "I," or subject and object (no "it"). It's the same place, but now we know it in an entirely different, participatory manner.

However, this is not something any mortal can give to you, like a piece of information. You cannot follow me like a pied piper. Rather, you're "on your own" (O-->n). Well, not really. "It is accomplished" by the One who has already rejoined heaven and earth, inside and outside, man and God. And he's always happy to extend a little nonlocal assistance to get it accompliced.

With regard to scientific law, one could never say "it is accomplished," since the laws apply only to a finite realm that has already been unnaturally split into rigid categories of subject and object.

Thus, at their margins, both science in general and the scientific method in particular generate metaphysical absurdities that can never be resolved within the realm of science, since it assumes up front what it tries to eliminate at the back. This is strictly impossible, but don't tell the tenured. It would be cruel to deprive a primitive people of their comforting myths.

Suffice it to say that Sophia never makes passes at scientistic asses, despite the latter's "never-ending attempt to woo the core of the material world" (and remember, matter is related to mater and maya, or the primordial feminine). While the physicist no doubt "thinks" he understands the charming ways of mamamaya, so long as he is stuck in his fully masculine mode of thinking, he won't get to first base.

Rather, as Balthasar notes, the scientist's "perplexity about the ultimate essence of matter" is a permanent fact, whereas "living being, to whose realm we ourselves belong" may "in the end [be] better known to us than inanimate nature."

This should by no means come as a surprise to senior Raccoons, who know that metaphysics is the only truly "exact science," whereas everything else is more or less opinion. And one of these metaphysical laws is that the realm of matter, "not merely by reason of some accidental circumstance, but by reason of intrinsic necessity, must always remain richer than any cognition of it and that the truth of the lowest level of being contains a richness that so utterly eludes exhaustive investigation that it can continue to engage inquirers until the end of time..." This is the nature of Sophia: veils upon veils upon veils.

The interiority of the cosmos is an irreducible fact (or principle), but it obviously becomes more concentrated and expansive as we move up the vertical, and therefore gain greater access to the Mystery of it All:

"Even on the lowest level of life, the living entity already irradiates such plenitude and power from the hidden core of its interiority that we should fall back, blinded, before every one of its outward forms." Any scientific inquiry that clams to explain the Mystery of Life is "simply absurd." It "touches the the sacred core of life with profane fingers" and "covers the unknown with names and concepts but does not see that it has only glued a mere label onto a container of unknown content."

I discussed this problem in my book -- how science begins with the real world, constructs abstractions from that world, and then proceeds to confuse the abstraction for the reality, so that anything falling outside the abstraction is no longer real! It is definitely a kind of madness.

We can see this madness in the global warming hysterics, for whom a speculative weather report 100 years into the future is more real than the living people who are freezing their asses off today. And we obviously see the same thing in the metaphysical Darwinists, for whom theories of life are more real than Life Itself. (And as Dennis Prager mentioned yesterday, this is also the perennial pathology of leftist thought, which habitually regards its theories as more real than the reality they are supposed to describe.)

What is the Mystery of Being? It has to do with the fact that Being is "permanently concealed," and yet, "permanently divulged," like an "intimate-public secret." And as Balthasar emphasizes, in a certain very real way, we know more about this "secret" if we accept its testimony "as it is," rather than trying to peel away the endless layers in a futile effort to find its "essence." One will never find the essence of so much as a single tree by that route. Rather, the essence of the tree may be in its majesty, its dignity, its beauty, its strength, its generosity. As such, "no one who has witnessed the unfolding of a plant's life ought to say that he has seen 'only' the appearance of life, not its essence."

Again, the essence is the appearance, only not in any exhaustive way. Rather, the essence is a kind of plenitude that displays itself in the endless play of appearances. We know by looking at the manifestation "that the possibilities of life are infinitely more abundant than what is actually on display." This only becomes more apparent as we move up into the higher realms. For example, this blog and my essence are "not two," even while not being identical. I do my best to reveal my essence, and yet, there is no end to it.

And being that we are in the image of the Creator, I think that pretty much sums up one aspect of his creative activity. Just as his transcendence is necessarily immanent, his immanence is necessarily transcendent. Thus, his inside is everywhere outside (and vice versa), which is one more reason that the outside is so permeated with infinitude. Manifestation is a kind of gift of the inexhaustible divine essence, but only if we open his presence.

(All quoted material playgiarized from Theo-Logic: The Truth of the World.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Truth as Freedom (3.12.12)

Truth as Freedom. For those of you scoring at home, that's the title of the next chapter of the Theo-Logic, and it will do perfectly as a title of this post, the substance of which we are about to freely discover. I hope.

Who could argue with the following proposition: "The actualization of truth is no mere natural process but a spiritual event, which takes place only in the lightning-like encounter and fusion of two words -- the word of the subject and the word of the object. Outside of this event, there is truth."

Thus, if you do not understand that truth is a supernatural thang, then buddy, you've got some catchin' up to do. Nature may embody truth, but it takes a supernatural act to pull a truthy rabbit out of a material hat, to quote Aquinas on one of his rare "off days." No: "The truth of the object exists only so long as infinite or finite spirit turns to it in an act of knowing; the truth of the subject exists only as long as it abides in this act" (Balthasar).

So truth is implicated in both subject and object, but only their mutual encounter "activates" the truth between them, sort of like the erotic spark between male and female. I know you know I know you know what I mean, because the love of truth cannot be separated from its own distinct version of eros, which the psychoanalsyt Christopher Bollas has called the "eros of form."

This is a particular kind of encounter with objects that releases the truth of the self into being. This is why we all respond to different objects -- and subjects! -- which have a way of giving birth to a latent part of ourselves. If you think about it, this has mulch in common with the fertile Platonic idea of education, the purpose of which is more to draw out what is within than to stuff other people's notions of sexy ideas into us. Some people are turned on by the strangest things!

Was that clear? For example, in my case, I rarely encountered any kind of personally engaging pneuma-cognitive spiritual form throughout all of my schooling, at least until my last two years of college, when something fortuitously began to ring a bell, and then my voice started to change. You could say that this was the dawn of my intellectual clueberty, which is also when I began to have terrible crushes on various ideas and thinkers -- including many leftist soul-crushing thinkers such as Chomsky, Zinn, The Nation, and all the rest of that promiscuous crowd. It's a wonder I didn't die of one of their spinereal diseases!

But of course, it was only puppy love. As is usually the case, I was merely "in love with love," that is, the thrill of encountering illicit ideas that the mass of Americans knew nothing about. For example, our empty ravin' kosbags have nothing on me. I knew that America was a torture state way back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president. I knew full well that we were no better than the USSR, and that by opposing communism, we merely reduced ourselves to their mirror image, just as we do today with the Islamic supremacists. Furthermore, we had just as many "political prisoners" as the Soviet Union, but we just called them "blacks."

In the spirit of fool disclosure, I must also admit that I actually attended a Noam Chomsky lecture some 20 years ago. I remember it well, because he assured the lunatic crowd that George Bush was poised to invade Cuba and oust our beloved comrade Fidel! In fact, I'm guessing that the only reason we didn't do so is because Chomsky blew the whistle on those fascists.

Enough about me and my sordid infidelities. But another reason why I do not argue with leftists is that I have only to mentally travel back to that hellseein' daze, and imagine how I would have reacted if a so-called conservative had presumed to instruct me about anything. I was 100% unreceptive, and would use the occasion merely to enlist them into my persecutory fantasy world. Because I was just as intelligent then as I am today -- maybe even more so, given the inevitable loss of brain cells -- I was virtually always able to run circles around my interlocutor and prove my demonic superiority.

Shame on me. There is no end to the damage to truth caused by the abuse of intelligence. I am not one of those people who is impressed by Obama's intelligence. Indeed, for those of us who have been there, it is a sorry sight to watch this cognitively arrested boob in action. This is not just an insult, because it is quite obvious that Obama is not free to discover truth, since he is laboring under the oppressive weight of systematic falsehoods he has passively absorbed throughout his friction-free life. Being good at articulating lies in charcoal activated cigaret-burnished tones should not be confused with being "articulate."

One cannot get to the freedom of truth unless one first appreciates the "unfreedom." The spirit must first apprentice itself to the object world before it can "attain to itself." This is very similar to the manner in which one must first master scales and chords before one is truly free to play a musical instrument. In fact, for a true master, the unfreedom and freedom will live side by side for the remainder of one's life. John Coltrane used to practice eight hours a day long after he was considered the greatest living master of the tenor sax.

Things are more than things, and facts are more than facts. If that weren't the case, then we would all be identical, in the way that animals and the tenured are. If you've seen one radical squirrel you've seen them all, because they are all operating from the same facts, like "Fox bad, ACORN good."

But for human beings, facts are always enshrouded in mystery, for they are an occasion to know the great Mystery of Withinness. Facts speak to humans, again, in ways that engage us in particularly intimate ways. Take the simple example of this book we're talking about here. Not a single person in the world would have highlighted the same passages that I have. So are the facts in the book? Or in me? Or in the space in between?

Actually, when I highlight a passage, it is never because it is merely some "fact" of which I was unaware. Rather, I have a system that allows me to go back to a book and revisit passages that gave me that erotic charge.

As I have mentioned before, this was actually the basis of my book. I keep meaning to digitalize the photos, so I can show them to you, but the first thing I did was remove all of the books from my shelves that spoke truth to me in this intimate way, irrespective of discipline -- physics, biology, anthropology, philosophy, metaphysics, historigraphy, psychoanalysis, theology, mysticism, etc. I placed them all on the floor, and stared at them until they reveled to me their hidden unity.

Obviously, no other person ever has or ever will do this in the way I did, but that doesn't mean that the exercise was (merely) eccentric or idiosyncratic. Obviously no single person can know "all truths," but we do the best we can with the materials available to us. The point, I believe, is to try to inflect the universal through the lens of the particular, which is what really makes truth come alive -- alive in us! Anything less than this living process tends toward pedantry and tenure.

Theological mind jazz, daddy-o. That's what it is. If it weren't for the wonderful erotic mystery that enshrouds truth, we'd all be singing from the same boring hymnal. "The event of knowledge would cast a cold, pitiful, shadowless light into every corner, and there would be no possibility of escaping this scorching sun. Being, stripped of mystery, would be, so to speak, prostituted" (Balthasar).

And if one more troll equates what I do with relativism or deconstruction... This is the precise opposite of those cynical and spiritually barren approaches. Rather, that sort of "radical cynicism only becomes possible wherever man no longer has a flair for the central mystery of being, whenever he has unlearned reverence, wonder, and adoration, whenever, having denied God, whose essence is always characterized by the wonderful, man also overlooks the wondrousness of every single created entity."

There is a perverse joy in this radical cynicism, and I again remember it well. Nor is it difficult to trace its roots, now that I have a four year old boy who likes to build things, but not nearly as much as he enjoys tearing them apart, knocking them down, or disassembling them to see "what's inside." But of course, there is no inside without the outside. The outside is the manifestation of the inside, just as the inside is the invisible "essence" of the outside. Jettison either, and the cosmos is reduced to a flat and empty place.

The outside reveals the inside, just as the downside reveals the upside.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Picking Up the Pieces After Discovering the Repulsive Truth About God

The creative side of human knowledge is therefore the creature's analogical participation in the act by which God's archetypal, productive knowledge creatively metes out truth. By a kind of grace, knowledge draws the other into the properly spiritual sphere, thus giving it the opportunity to unfold therein by the power, and the light, of the subject -- before it has to become, in its objectivity, the object of knowledge. --Balthasar

Allow me to explain. While knowledge begins in perception, it does not end there. Rather, "sensory intuition can do no more than introduce the image into the space of the subject" (Balthasar). But then what? How is it that human beings are able to escape the immediacy of perception and rise above it into the realm we call knowledge? -- which, if it is not objective, is no knowledge at all, just opinion at best (and often anti-knowledge or -K).

Furthermore, it is one thing to accomplish this "distancing" with material objects, much more tricky to do so with one's own mind. In other words, for all of us, our consciousness is simply "given" to us, as in any animal.

But man -- potentially anyway -- possesses a "double consciousness" that allows him to distance himself from the objects of his own mind and to analyze and judge them. In short, man is able to attain to objectivity toward himself and the world, which is synonymous with truth.

Which, when you think about it, is a little odd, because it means that, in becoming objective, the subject is back to being a kind of object, as it were. This is confusing, because your typical village atheist or bonehead materialist would claim that he is the one who is being "objective," whereas the Raccoon position maintains precisely the opposite: that the materialist is lost in his ethereal, subjective, and manmode abstractions, whereas only the Man of Spirit dwells in the Real.

Now, the question is, who is right -- besides me, that is?

This reminds me very much of psychoanalytic therapy, which does not just consist of two objects hashing things out for an outrageous fee. Rather, first of all, you must imagine a "bi-personal field" that is co-created by analyst and patient. Everything that occurs in therapy will actually take place in this field, not in one or the other of its constituents per se.

In my mind, I picture a couple of children at play. One of them (the patient) comes in and dumps his bag of toys on the floor. The two of us proceed to play with them. Why this toy? Why not that toy? Hmm, you seem overly attached to this one here. And why is that one always turned upside down so no one can see it? Any ideas why? And why can't I touch that one over there? Why are you hiding it? And why do you keep playing the same game over and over, even though you never win? Or always win in a predictable game that is too easy? And you seem to think I want to steal your toys, even while you are envious of the wonderful toys you imagine I have stashed away somewhere. Etc.

I remember one patient whose transference to me was so intense, that it was impossible to conduct therapy. She essentially "fell in love" in the first session, not in a therapeutic way, but in the usual way. There was no "space" in which to interpret her feelings, because they would simply be met with words to the effect of, "no, you don't understand. I am in love with you. You are perfect." So in this case, what she called "love" was actually a defense mechanism against knowledge. Many women with histories of abuse do this, i.e., disable their objectivity with a kind of intoxicated auto-hypnosis that feels like love, but is in reality surrender to a powerful predator. If I were the predator type, I would have no problem getting dates with this type of woman.

Back on track. Now, there is obviously a world of difference between objectivity toward matter (or the physical world) vs. objectivity toward Mind or Spirit, and if we fail to appreciate the differences, much mischief will ensue. For in reality, science is irreducibly subjective, whereas only religious metaphysics discloses the objectively real, i.e., a realm of perennial truths that simply cannot not be -- for example, the idea that truth exists and is anterior to man. If this is not true, then there is no truth, period.

As usual, Schuon had many useful things to say about this subject. And when I say "useful," I am being coy, for what I actually mean is "true beyond the shadow of a doubt." For unlike the typical pagan logician, he is employing what might be called transcendent logic, or "the logic of logic."

For example, "By 'objectivity' must be understood not a knowledge that is limited to a purely empirical recording of data received from outside, but a perfect adequation of the knowing subject to the known object.... An intelligence or a knowledge is 'objective' when it is capable of grasping the object as it is and not as it may be deformed by the subject."

Even more, we could say that objectivity implies a more general “conformity to the nature of things,” which surely includes the "inner space" of the subject, on pain of eliminating the one place in the cosmos where Truth may be known and loved. For this is none other than "the contemplative withdrawal into the 'heart,' given that 'the kingdom of God is within you.'"

So we should not confuse subjectivity with any kind of sentimental or romantic "perception-is-reality" nonsense. Rather, it is again the expanding space where reality -- which can only mean "truth" -- may be known and loved for its own sake, not for ours. And of course, we must be willing to "die for love," or it's not much of a love, is it? Schuon:

"Objectivity is a kind of death of the subject in the face of the reality of the object." However, "the subjective compensation of this extinction is the nobleness of character," among other things, i.e., serenity, centeredness, radiance, the "peace that passeth understanding," etc.

Not only that, but in the final Oquation, "the transcendent Object is at the same time the immanent Subject, which is affirmed in the knowing subject, to the extent that the latter is capable of objectivity. Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and the object coincide, and in which the essential takes precedence over the accidental -- or in which the Principle takes precedence over its manifestation -- either by extinguishing it, or by reintegrating it, according to the diverse ontological aspects of relativity itself."

Here again, I think this goes to the very heart of a trinitarian view of things. For this is not to say that in knowledge of God I am identical to God. Again, we are talking about a "non-dual trinitarianism," in which -- in some sense -- we might say that "I and the the Trinity are not-two."

Therefore, to trancelight what Schuon just said, God is a kind of Subject that is purely objective; or, an Object who is transcendently subjective. In God there is no "potential," for he always Is Who He Is. And yet, he eternally generates what he is not (so to speak), which would of course include us. As such, the knower who knows is made of the most precious substance in all of creation, a spiritual substance that is a spark of truth itself -- not the central fire, but then again, not radically separate from it, either.

Thus, looked at one way, we are obviously "not God." But to the extent that God became man (and not just a man, but Man as such), then we may share in God's objectivity and Truth, and therefore, eternity. Again, the “Kingdom of God” is “within you,” but this hardly means it is "subjective," even though it requires a subject to get in -- the subject being "inwardness as such." No subject, no "in." But what we want to enter is the Transcendent Object. As Balthasar explains, "The object's immanence in the subject's consciousness is the prior condition for understanding its transcendence."

Is any of this making sense, or am I just rambling to a polite but uncomprehending choir?

Without the subject, there can be no unity in the cosmos, most particularly, the unity of subjects and objects. Only the subject can heal the ontological wound of subjectivity, not by immolating itself in the world of physical objects, but by its higher flight to their very source. This is not an escape but a spiraling inscape where unity flows into multiplicity and back again.

And this is why perfect objectivity would also have to be perfect nonsense of the type spewed by any great mystic, because only this type of nonsense is "adequate" to an object that always transcends what we can say about it. You could say that human speech will pour off the Logos like water off a duck's back, but that's okay, for if words could actually contain the Divine, then I would be God, and this would be a very boring cosmos. You know how it is -- "Words crack and sometimes break under the burden" (Eliot). But in so doing, we understand that there is a Mighty Big Object against which our words are shattering into pieces -- as in the case of this shattered piece I just wrote.

Really, it's quite a thrill and a privilege to be constantly repulsed by God. It very much reminds me of my son, who, when he greets me, takes a running start and tries his best to crash into me. In turn, I will use his momentum to lift him up in a kind of spiral around my vertical axis.

That image will do nicely.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All the World's a Stage, and Each of Us Plies a Part and Whole

All right then, little lambs, the stage is set for us to engage in the ancient Drama of Knowledge. We have a subject. We have objects. And we have a transitional space in between for them to establish their various links: (L), (H), (K), (-K), etc. But nothing has happened yet: "It is not until the other enters into the space of the subject that, like Sleeping Beauty, it [the subject] awakens from its slumber -- at once to the world and to itself" (Balthasar).

In the Wholly Coonifesto, I was interested in identifying the precise moment when the curtain opened on this play of knowledge, which simultaneously ushers subjects and objects onto the stage.

Ever since that moment, the two have been quarreling over top billing, but one could no more have a subject without an object than form without substance or inside without outside. True, the wise men & guys of the east talk about a type of consciousness-without-object, but they do always come back on stage to talk about it, proving that it is more a trick of the senses than any permanently inhabitable state.

The plain fact of the matter is that if everyone lived in a world without consciousness of objects, mankind would soon enough become extinct, which would solve the problem once and for all. Frankly, the world would be better off if all self-proclaimed gurus just got real jobs and manifested their so-called enlightenment in slightly more challenging circumstances than lecturing groups of starry-eyed and adoring dupes.

That's the easy way out. A while back, one of those genial new-agers wrote a book called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, about this very topic. I didn't read the book, but I did thumb through it at the bookstore several years ago, so I believe I am entitled to a possibly mistaken impression, but I think that the essence of the problem is that he had great difficulty reconciling subject and object -- i.e., "enlightenment" and reality -- after coming down from his lengthy solitary ecstasies.

Let's put it this way, and then move on: there are ascending spiritualities, and there are descending spiritualities. Raccoons are emphatically in the latter camp (or, to be precise, we harmonize the arrows of (↓) (↑) within our being). For example, we do not wish to escape from the body, but to divinize it. Even more than that, we feel we are here to divinize the very cosmos, and then hand it back to the Creator, which is none other than cosmotheosis. God pours himself out in the kenosis of creation. It's the least we can do to return it to him unharmed. Rememeber the Kit Scout rule: always leave the cosmos more sacred than you found it.

I'm confusing volumes here. We'll get more into this subject when we move on to volume 2, but the point is again that objects are real, for the very reason that God eternally creates his own "Other," i.e., the Logos, or second person of the Trinity, so wherever there is one there are actually three (and vice verse; where there are the Three there is the One).

In turn, this is why human beings can never find their true unity in either the object world (which science attempts to do) or in the subject world (as ascending spiritualities and idealist philosophies attempt to do). Such an approach does not heal this cleft in existence, but merely exaggerates it by imagining that the other half has gone away. But it always returns, often with a vengeance.

Christ, however, is the very archetype of the simultaneous healing and preservation of this cleft, the very cleft that makes existence possible. In Christ, God and man are "united without division and without confusion." The incarnate Logos is "the unifier of all that is divided, whether by nature or by sin." He "equally indwells -- and transcends -- both poles of creaturely unity" (i.e., existence and essence).

And as we are sons "through adoption," we too are called upon to repeat this feat, only from our side of the maninfestation, to carry out the unification of the cosmos in ourselves, to rejoin heaven and earth, to reconcile spirit and matter, and "and to present the world thus unified to God." When you do that, then you can say with Christ that it is accomplished, the difference being that we must accomplish it continuously until checkout time.

Only in this way is the Great Circle unbroken: "the creature's procession from God" is balanced by his return, but with brother ass in tow, for "the indestructibility of the body"-- the resurrection of the flesh -- "is the end of the works of God."

Put it this way: there is no better temple to encounter God than in the human form. You will not find superior lodging elsewhere in the cosmos. Is this not again the point of God becoming man, rather than a temple, a book, or a mountain? For one thing, only man can consciously evolve toward his source, and have "unKnown knowledge" (i.e., faith) of the end toward which he tends: his being is in his becoming, like a melody that cannot be reduced to its notes.

Sidetracked! As I was saying, in the Coonifesto, I attempted to pinpoint that glorious moment when the cosmos as we know it actually came into being some 35 to 40,000 years ago, with the "big bang" of humanness. However, it also occurs on a micro, individual basis each time a baby awakens to the world he co-creates in his own transitional space.

We can say that there were two necessary stages for the cosmos to come into being, first Life, then Mind. With regard to the former, the book talks about that "luminous fissure that was about to break open in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle. Here, the dawning of an internal horizon in a universe now divided against itself, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world." This represented an ontological rupture in the cosmos, with only two ways to heal it: up or down, that is back to matter or up into the mind and eventually spirit capable of encompassing the whole.

Regarding the healing of this ontological rupture, this is the secret meaning of Toots' cryptic mantra, in God we truss.

But this takes time. In fact, you might say that time is the time it takes for time to return to eternity. For as Balthasar explains, "The subject's subjectivity is not a finished product" that "merely awaits the arrival of the object to come into appearance." Rather, "the subject comes to itself only through the construction and completion of the world that [goes] on inside it." Without the world of objects, we remain "an unformed ego" with "no form, no contours, no definite lineaments, no character. It becomes formed in the measure that it takes the world in and helps it take place."

This is why we say that the Way of the Raccoon is only for mature adults who have already become Masters of Their Domain. Unlike, say, Ken Wilber, we will never start a children's crusade of empty-headed 20-somethings to try to trigger the Revolution. Rather, we would advise such saps and saplings to stop running away from life and to get a real job, maintain a healthy marriage, be a good parent, etc. Bring Spirit down into that world, rather than escaping it into new age fantasies that elevate you above the people who actually make your comfy world possible.

"Thus, it is only by toiling away at sifting and analysis, division and composition, that the subject gradually regains its freedom. It begins totally expropriated by the world, and only by performing the work of the subject does it get its recompense for its labor, which is its character as a well-rounded, formed and masterful self." In so doing, the subject becomes increasingly "cosmoform" (Balthasar), and fit for handing back to the God who did all the heavy lifting anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Love and Knowledge at the Leading Edge of the Cosmos

We're still dwelling in the space between subjects and objects, without which truth would be in-conceivable, since this transitional space is the womb where the truth of spirit and spirit of truth are nurtured and given birth herebelow in the fertile egghead. (New reader(s) will have to go back to Friday's post in order to see where we left off, specifically, the part about trees and the qualities without which they are not trees -- qualities that can only reveal themselves in a human subject.)

It is not as if the world consists simply of objects that impress themselves upon subjects, like a seal in hot wax. That is too "bipolar" and ultimately static, and places too much emphasis on the object side of things. For if this were the case, then the subject would reduce to the object, even while providing no reason why this mirrorculous subject should inhere in here at all.

Not only that, but as we have mentioned before, the fact that the object has qualities waiting to be "unpacked" by subjects means that there is already an implicit subject in the object. Objects "speak" their qualities to subjects, but not all at once. Rather, it is literally a kind of endlessly recursive con-versation ("flowing-togther"), for in the final analysis we cannot fully know the essence of so much as a gnat.

Truly, we cannot "contain" a single object -- again, thank God! For if we could, the mystery of being would be nullified, and we would live in a brightly lit hell, which is the end result of the naive demystification of scientism.

"In reality, the objects of this world need the subject's space in order to be themselves" (Balthasar). It reminds me of how it is only human convention that separates the bee and the flower, when they are so interior to each other that the one could not exist in the absence of the other. Each is an "external organ" of the other, so to speak.

As Balthasar explains, the object "needs the sensorium as a space in which to unfurl itself. It unveils its color within an eye that sees color; it whispers only in an ear that hears sound; it presents its unique flavor only in the mouth of another capable of tasting. It makes use of the space furnished for this purpose just as surely as it makes use of the soil and the ambient air in order to develop." "[S]ubject and object expand within each other, thus helping each other in a common discovery of truth."

Wind that speaks to the leaves / telling stories that no one believes / Stories of love / belong to you and me --Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dindi

Just so, human beings are irreducibly intersubjective. Take away the Other -- and the love in between -- and no I comes into being. As we will later discuss, this goes to the very heart of the eternal dynamism of the Trinity, as it manifests its image or echo in the herebelow.

There are many fruitful ways to think about this, but I-magine the intra-trinitarian life as a kind of perpetual giving birth to its own Other (the Son), who is actually none other than itself. The Father bears witness to the Son and the Son bears witness to the Father in the love that flows between them -- which is also why love is prior to knowledge. There is no is that can be reduced to anything less, i.e., to any kind of static, loveless monism or narcissistic dualism. In other words, we are intrinsically trinitarian because God is. (I probably just said something heretical, but don't worry, I'm sure I can fix it later.)

Or again, think of a smiling face, which we can only artificially separate from the joyful interior state it radiates to the world: "A smiling face is not simply a dull reflection of inner joy but rather its embodiment, its communication, its formation, its liberation."

I will never forget the first time my baby smiled at me, for it was a communication of a kind of infinite joy that crashed through to my deepest essence. So, was it about him, or about me? As I have said before, we raise our children, but not nearly as high as they raise us! Only now do I realize that my parents got a much bigger kick out of me than I ever will. People who cannot get over themselves, or who are joylessly ambitious, are in a way forever trying to look at themselves through the eyes of their adoring parents, instead of looking outward and adoring something or someone else.

In this regard, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the damage done to the soul by the assimilation of crude materialism, for it is ultimately the very death of the soul. The soul is "all it knows," and in materialism, the soul not only knows nothing (by definition) but is violently uprooted from the creation.

Don't let this happen to you! Our recent trolls stand as living witnesses to what happens to a person who is biologically alive while remaining spiritually dead. Intrinsic falsehood, intrinsic amorality, intrinsic ugliness, and intrinsic violence -- a kind or rooted rootlessness, which also results in their absence of coherence or consistency. Zombies.

From a God's-eye view, mankind is more like a single entity in both space and time -- like a single "substance" that is stretched through history to serially reveal its inexhaustible essence in the play of forms. This is how, for example, we are able to be "one" with great souls who preceded us, because there is a non-local interconnectivity within this temporal substance, just as there is within space. Someday this will be obvious to more people, instead of only being so at the leading edge of that stretchy cosmic substance.

Again, think of truth as a "joint operation of subject and object," not a property inhering only in one or the other. There is no "discovery" that isn't simultaneously an "unveiling of the object" in the space between them. A human being who is not ushered into this transitional space is not really human at all; again, he will be either a kind of autistic "object," or else a new-age narcissist who imagines he creates reality -- or that reality is a kind of magical projection of the subject. Both are states of human non-being.

In truth -- again, as in the Trinity -- there is a kind of mutual surrender, or self-giving, between object and subject, which is why knowledge touches on the sacred. Not for nothing does Genesis talk about Adam "knowing" Eve, thus emphasizing the intimacy and love that are prior to knowledge. For is it possible to know existence without first loving it? Yes, I suppose so, if you reduce knowledge and sexuality to the friction between a couple of objects.

Here is the passionate witness of a true lover of his mamamaya: Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn.... you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards of measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God (Teilhard de Chardin).

You see? It is possible to lose the soul in its objects or to be "saved" by them, depending upon one's attitude toward this oneish world of holy matterimany, toward this manifestivus for the rest of us. For "God's idea is indivisible, even though it needs both the knowable object and the knowing subject in order to reveal itself in its unity" (Balthasar).

Amen for a child's job!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

De-mask Us On the Road to God: How an Appalling Saul became the Apostle Paul

A rewritten post from two years back for your Sunday coontemplation.

***

Reader Brian asks, "You've alluded to this before -- and may have dealt with it in the comments when I wasn't looking -- but I am incredibly interested in your take on Saul of Tarsus becoming Paul. His mindset was quite hostile to Christ, yet he had an almost involuntary conversion. Or was it involuntary? So many who wish to serve their Creator fall short because of internal divisions, etc., but Saul absolutely wanted the opposite, yet he became the man who spread the Gospel more effectively than anybody. Did God reach out to him, or did he reach out to God, or is there even a difference?"

As a matter of fact, I was thinking about this subject just yesterday. For in a certain way, the story of Saul-->Paul is as central to the Bible -- and to the arc of salvation -- as several other scriptural "centers," or "axes," each of which seems to parallel or reflect back and forth upin the others. For example, one obvious center is in Genesis 1:1, with the creation (a Raccoon would say "origin") of the cosmos.

This cosmo-scriptural center is deliberately paralleled in John 1:1, which even begins with the same three words, In The Beginning. In both instances, "beginning" superficially refers to the "horizontal" beginning, as in the beginning of a sequence. But the deeper sense of the word has to do with the "vertical" beginning, which equates to the ontological center.

This center is not in space or time per se; rather, space and time are reflections of the center. "In the beginning was the Word" does not (just) mean "a long time ago," but in the center represented by each now -- the now being the horizontal center of time. This center is the "light that shines in the darkness," since light is precisely that which radiates through the now from the center to the periphery.

Now, a man was sent by God -- i.e., the center -- "to bear witness of the Light" -- i.e., the radiation from the divine center. His name was John. He was required because, although the light shines in the dark, the dorks don't get it, so they need a pretty in-your-face kind of guy to grab them by the tunic and point it out to them. John was just that man. As such, he represents another important center, a sort of "reflected center" who was not the light but who could see the light.

Jesus obviously represents the full embodiment of the center at the periphery. A couple of days ago we spoke of black holes, and how they pull everything into their vortex, so that nothing escapes. In a certain sense, Jesus might be thought of as the opposite, as a sort of "white hole" as it were, that pulls all of creation into its wake. You have heard of the esoteric tenet, "as above, so below," or, to be precise, "That which is below corresponds to that which is above, and that which is above corresponds to that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing."

Another fundamental axiom is the greater the cause, the greater the effect. Thus, if Jesus is who he says he was, then it should be no surprise whatsoever that his effect continues to ripple through existence down through the centuries, like a depth charge dropped from heaven into the ocean of existence. It is not "speaking poetically" to say that we are surfing one of those little waves right now, no? If not, what are we doing? Just sitting here making stuff up at 5:00 in the morning? Er, I don't think so. If that were the case, you wouldn't understand what I'm talking about. It would be perfect nonsense instead of perfect nonsense.

The Mystery of Golgotha represents an exact analogue of the mystery of creation itself. For if creation is God's kenosis, or self-emptying (and spontaneous and unnarcissary self-giving), then Jesus' work on the cross represents a parallel kenosis, a complete self-emptying, even into the "negative existence" of death.

For Jesus does not merely "die," but takes on the mantle of Death in order to join ranks with the great "brotherhood of the dead." As Balthasar has written, when it is said that Jesus descended into hell on Holy Saturday, "descend" (in his opinion; others may disagree) should not be understood in its active sense, but the strictly passive sense. He fell and fell and fell, just like humans, to the very periphery of existence, the furthest point from the light of the radiant cosmic center. Only once he hit bottom could the "fall" be reversed, the rock bottom nihil of dark death being the "relatively absolute" separation from God.

Now this is all well and good for God, Sons of God, Light, Logoi, hand-selected apostles, and the like. Where do we fit in -- regular guys and gals, ordinary stumblebums, rank and foul earthlings?

Here I think that Saul serves as an archetypal illustration of the divine center as it manifests in fallen man. For just as Jesus represents the center crashing into the periphery, Saul ultimately represents the perpiphery making its way back to the center.

In fact, Saul is not just an ordinary peripheral man who is ignorant of the Light, i.e. luciferian. Rather, he is like the ACLU or the MSM or the Democrat party. He is specifically at war with the light. He is "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord," perhaps even threatening petty lawsuits to demoralize the decent. In fact, Saul is the patron shitheel of the ACLU, since he didn't have to be a sneaky weasel with a briefcase, but could directly make "havoc of the church, entering every house and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." If Gitmo were in existence back then, he would be fighting with all his strength for the release of the Christian killers.

Thus, Saul represents another kind of center, a perverse center, even the "center of perversity." He is the "center of (not at) the periphery," so to speak, at war with the true center. Paradoxically, he must obviously be quite full of himself, the opposite of the self-emptying, radiant center. But his fullness does not bring peace but persecution, just like anyone with too much self esteem and time on their hands.

As we have been reading lately, psychologists are finally catching up to the self-evident truth that "self esteem" is neutral at best, but usually destructive. Most of the problems in the world are caused by people with too much self esteem -- dictators, criminals, politicians, newspaper editors, etc. Because they are so full of themselves, there is no space for God, which requires self emptying of one's own (false) center. As Paul would later say -- I'm paraphrasing here from memory, "It is not I who live any longer, but Christ in me" -- i.e., the real center at his center, rather than the bogus center of the hypertrophied ego. One or the other must go.

Since the false center of the ego represents an ontological nothingness, its resultant darkness envies the light. This envy is the dreary joy of the joyless, who simply spend their petty lives grinding away at truth, beauty, and virtue, as do so many lie-roasted academia nuts. Nowadays they might call it "speaking truth to power" in order to elevate themselves in their own eyes. Or they might give each other academy awards, or Pulitzers, or Nobel prizes, or even Daytime Emmys.

These external supports are all necessary to prop up peripheral man and disable his consciousness of guilt. No doubt if Saul were alive today, he would have been given a Nobel Peace Prize for his important work in combating extreme Christianism. He would join the ranks of other recent winners -- men and institutions at war with the center such as Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mohamed El Baradei, the U.N., Al Gore, etc.

But then, on the "road to Damascus," as the cliche goes, Paul has a profound experience that unmasks and violently pulls him from the periphery to the center. In its own way, this event is as principial as its reverse, when the center emptied out to the periphery in Genesis I and on Holy Saturday. For quite suddenly, in an instance of true "quantum change," someone who had been at war with the center snaps like a rubber band into its opposite. If you can imagine the big bang as an infinite point radiating outward to the periphery, this would represent the opposite of that movement: a deusorienting implosion as dramatic as an underwater volcano in Upper Tonga.

The first and last step (and every step in between) on the spiritual path is "repentence," which actually comes from the Greek metanoia which is simply to "turn around." Instead of turning our back to the central sun, we look around and see it face-to-facelessness. Instead of running away from it, or struggling against it, we embrace it, like flowers that naturally orient themselves to the sun and open up or "surrender" in its presence.

Saul "opened up," and in so doing died to himself, in the same way you would die if you opened up your abdomen with a bowie knife. At once he was in the presence of the central light which "shone all around him" (for how could it not, if one's eyes are open?), and fell down like Saul t' the earth. Yes, in such circumstances we all fall what seems like a long distance. But in reality, it's just back to the ground, the same ground you were crawling on to begin with.

"Saul, why are you persecuting me? You're acting like a freaking ACLU goon. What's up with that?"

"Homina-homina-homina.... I was scared about the imminent Christo-fascist takeover, like I read about on dailykos... But w-what do you want with me?

"Before getting into that, why don't you just assimilate what's happened so far? Go have a little clubhouse meeting with yourself. Walking on water wasn't built in a day."

"B-b-but I'm blind. I can't see anything."

"Yes, I know that. This is not in the Book I've been sketching out, so you'll have to read between the lines. The point is not that you are blind. Rather, the point is that you can no longer "see" your previous world. It no longer exists because it never really existed. It is gone. Finished. No more. Ceased to be. You are now in the land of the Real, but you do not yet have the extrasensory organs to see it. You are like unto someone who is snowblind. The problem is not darkness, but too much light. Now get lost for a few days, unplug, chill, relux and call it a deity. And turn off your cell phone! If any Romans call, you're not home, got it?"

We are then told that Saul spent the subsequent three days without sight, without food, and without liquid -- i.e., closed to the horizontal -- and simply shut up in his existential darkness. One cannot help but compare this with Toots' "long weekend" in the drunk tank. While some blasphemers suggest that the visions were a result of delirium tremens, we know better.

This, of course, parallels the Jews' 40 years of wandering in the desert, Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the bewilderness, and ultimately the three days of the passion. In each case, "emptiness" at the periphery (i.e., "wilderness," "desert") is a prelude to "fullness" or "resurrection" at the center. Specifically, Saul's emptiness is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is charged with a vertical mission, for if Jesus took care of the R & D, then surely Paul was the marketing department. He is to spread the good news of the center to the periphery, to "bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel."

Paul has a new name and new vocation (which means "calling"). His earth name is gone, as is his sickular mission. Now he has a divine name and a divine mission. His sight is restored, but it's not like the old sight. Rather, he is granted the gift of 20/∞ cʘʘnvision, as "the scales fall from his eyes." Then he arises and stands in the divine ground as a truly Upright, Tripedal Man, an I-AMissary of the center instead of a bipedal beast of the periphery.