Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Family is Any Two or More People Who Love the Government

HvB emphasizes the point that, while we can talk about abstract and concrete, we can't actually separate them. In fact, it's pure abstraction to think that we ever could. In other words, it's not only a pure abstraction to think that there are only universals, but equally abstract to think that there are nothing but concrete instances.

As it pertains to man, "he realizes his entire, one-of-a-kind uniqueness exclusively within the universal possibility of which he is a single instance." And yet, "the concept of man cannot be abstracted in such a way as to leave the individual person's being outside its conceptual content."

This is a truly strange but unavoidable paradox, and as we have previously discussed in the context of Letter IX of MOTT, it is only definitively resolved in the Incarnation. As a matter of fact, it was in reading that particular chapter that I was finally struck by the intellectual heft of Christianity. I saw in an instant how it doesn't just reconcile our spiritual and existential dilemmas, but resolves our cognitive ones in the bargain.

You could say that in man, abstract and concrete are separate and distinct, and yet, "not-two," neither to be confused nor radically separated. Therefore, no man is an a posteriori "synthesis of universal human nature and individual personality" (HvB). Rather, it is in the nature of humanness "to be realized from instance to instance only as an individual person."

Looked at in this manner, there is no such thing as human nature, only instances of it. But there can be no individual unless it is an instance of the universal. Here again, this is a critical point to bear in mind, because there can be no person except in light of the Person. You could say that mere "subjectivities" are transformed into persons insofar as they participate in the Incarnation.

This has obvious political implications, and, depending upon how you come down on this issue, it will determine your allegiance. Suffice it so say that an ontology of persons is absolutely incompatible with leftist statism or collectivism. This is why we can call the latter "ontological heresies," since they undermine the foundation of human possibility, and human possibility is the very bridge between appearance and reality, absolute and relative, time and eternity, Creator and creation.

In short, if you get your anthropology wrong, then everything else follows, from cosmology to politics. It is the error from which your system cannot recover, no matter how much "truth" you pile on top of it.

O my leftist friends, hear me now, believe me later!

It is more than a mere cliché to point out that leftists love mankind, while conservative liberals love people. I know that mankind stinks. What could be more obvious? Haven't they ever read a history book? And yet, I know equally well that people are beautiful. This is one of the reasons why I am hopeless about the world, and yet, not at all pessimistic. You will note that the leftist is the opposite: full of childish hopeychangefullness, and yet, as cynical, dour, jaded, and pessimistic as can be. This attitude is not "accidental" but essential.

For the hysterical/angry left, it is always "the end of the world," unless you allow them to "make it right." But for us, the world cannot be made right, only the person can be. For the left, the person cannot be made right, only the State. If only the state is big enough and coercive enough, it will somehow heal man. It will remove the greed from free enterprise, evil from the hearts of terrorists, and "unempathic" justice from the legal system.

We know that this is folly on stilts, doomed to fail before it gets underway. Again, the anthropology is all wrong: as with Darwinism, good theory, wrong species. This is why leftist ideas are always shovel ready. They emanate from a kind of intrinsic and perennial madness (AKA, the ineveateapple "fall") that is not susceptible to "fine-tuning," only a truly radical metanoia. The cure for sleep is waking up, not a government program for free sleeping pills.

Man cannot become who he is in the absence of the interior collective, beginning with that first collective known as "mother-infant," or, more generally, "family." Now, why do you suppose that the left would be so intrinsically hostile to the family? Why would they want to redefine marriage, or replace fathers with the federal government, or embrace kooky man-hating feminism, or promote (as opposed to tolerate; old-fashioned liberal tolerance is the new hate) homosexuality?

I discussed this in a previous post, A Family is Any Two People Who Love the Government. I wonder what I said? Since it's almost three years old, it's pretty much all new to me. Let's see. I'll cut it off when I get bored.


Yesterday, there was an article in USA Today entitled Marriage Gap Could Sway Elections (HT Dennis Prager). The implications of this article are so profound, and yet, I seriously doubt that it will get any play from the moonstream media.

The article is very short and rather matter of fact, but extraordinary in its ramifications. The most amazing statistic in the piece is that Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people, whereas Democrats represent all 50 districts with the highest rates of adults who have never married.

As for how this played out in the last presidential election, President Bush beat John Kerry by 15 points among married people, whereas Kerry beat President Bush by 18 percentage points among unmarried people. If I recall correctly, the gaps were even wider than that regarding religiosity. Something like 90% of irreligious people vote Democrat.

Let’s analyze this situation as a leftist would. For a leftist, free will is a dubious construct. Unlike classical liberals, they reject the idea that essence determines existence. Rather, they believe that existence determines essence. This is the whole basis of their class consciousness, their victimology, and their identity politics. For a leftist, someone is black before they are a human being, which is why they believe it should be against the law to think in a color-blind manner (hence their desire for government enforced racial quotas).

As we mentioned yesterday, leftists believe that poverty causes crime, or that America (or Israel) causes Islamist terror (instead of bad values causing crime or an evil theology causing terror). Likewise, if we engage in harsh interrogation of terrorists, we are exactly like them -- an abstraction that ignores, precisely, who we actually are. But that doesn't matter. For the leftist, only the abstraction is real, like "Democrats are for the little guy," irrespective of how much contempt they have for him.

The bottom lyin' for the leftist is that even our philosophical beliefs are a result of class. I believe what I believe only because I am a whiteuppermiddleclasspriviigedheteronormativemale, whereas women or blacks are from “oppressed” classes (oppressed by me and my kind, of course), so that their consciousness and interests are entirely different. "Perception is reality."

Back around the time of the O.J. trial, for example, I heard black (actually, leftist -- their race is irrelevant) legal scholars argue that O.J. Simpson was literally not gulity if black people believed he wasn't. This is called "critical race theory," and it is actually taught in American classrooms.

Since Democrat fortunes are so directly tied to the devaluation and destruction of marriage, is it any wonder that, in their own class interest, they would adopt polices that are harmful to marriage and the family? That is, the more people get married and have children, the less success Democrats are going to have at the polls.

How do they accomplish their goal of weakening marriage and the family? In any number of ways. In a social welfare system, the government replaces the family, so there is no need to get married. We see this even more dramatically in western Europe, where marriage has become a quaint thing of the past, to such an extent hat these nations are dying, economically, spiritually, and demographically.

And of course, this is how liberals took the wrecking ball to the black family in America, causing untold damage to both blacks and to the victims of their consequent cultural pathology (e.g., skyrocketing crime rates after instituting various “oh, Great" Society programs.

All wise men know that women exert a civilizing influence on men, so that when women give up their “gate keeper” role in converting boys to responsible men (i.e., sharing their bodies with boys), the culture in question will produce uncivilized boys in the bodies of men. Why grow up? Thus, ovary tower feminist doctrine -- which taught that there is no difference between men and women, and that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” -- simply produced pathetically de-feminized women and de-masculinized men. It also promoted the crazy idea that single mothers could raise boys just as effectively as married couples, ignoring the basic truth that only a man (either real or symbolic) can raise a man.

The destruction of the family also explains Democrats' desire for higher taxes. After all, the higher the taxes, the harder it is to support a family. But the government will be your family, so it doesn’t matter to them. It would also explain their jihad against Walmart, a place where people with modest incomes can purchases necessities, including food and medications, at rock bottom prices.

Liberals will respond, “We’re the real pro-family party. We’re for homosexual marriage!” Ahem. First of all, homosexuals are already allowed to get married, marriage being defined as a union between a man and a woman. What liberals favor is the thoroughly Orwellian notion of redefining -- in a way both magical and totalitarian -- a word and a reality with which they take issue.

My desire to remain faithful to the dictionary has nothing to do with homosexuals, much less “homophobia.” Rather, it has to do with a clear understanding of the very basis of civilization and therefore humanness. Civilization is not built from the top down, as leftist social imagineers would have you believe. Rather, it is built from the bottom up, brick by brick, family by family, the unit of civilization.

Put another way, leftists think they are merely rearranging furniture on the top floor of civilization, when they are blasting away at the foundation of the building. Being ahistorical, leftists cannot but help being oblivious to the forces that underlie history.

We can all see the damage to the black family produced by 50 years of liberal ideas. What if we were to try 50 years of rigorously applied conservative ideas? That is, what if we try to inculcate the same values in black culture that, say, the Mormons do in Provo, Utah, or that Asians seem to do to everywhere in America? Stay in school, work hard, get married, don't have children out of wedlock. Ironically, this was part of the strategy of the original liberal civil rights leaders of just a couple generations ago. Now, groups like the NAACP are plainly no longer liberal but thoroughly infused with leftist ideology that promotes dysfunction and dependence.

Why? Why are they so averse to individualism and self-reliance? In order to advance their own class -- not ethnic -- interest. What class is that? The class of people who gain power as a result of having fewer families and more dependent and self-defeating victims. Democrats.


What can I say? It kept my interest to the end. Perhaps I'm easily amused. But this post is now long enough, so it is officially over.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Whiteheads, Blockheads, and Rising Up Out of the Old Grooveyard

Mentality is an agent of simplification; and for this reason appearance is an incredibly simplified edition of reality. --Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas

What presents itself to us as appearance undergoes a transformation within the human person, a you-turn back in the direction of essence. In other words, being appears as appearance, which is all the senses can apprehend. However, that is hardly the end of knowledge, for there can be no knowledge at the level of the senses. Therefore, appearance is only the beginning of knowledge. Knowledge is the journey from appearance back to essence. You could even say that "essence became appearance so that appearance might become essence."

As HvB explains, what is given to us in the senses is always individual and particular. And yet, it always "points beyond itself to something that is more than it but does not lie outside it." This mysterious "something beyond" is the concept, or universal. This is obviously a precondition of knowledge. We don't just see red, but redness. When we see a beautiful woman, we are also aware of seeing an instance of beauty itself. When we listen to President Obama, we aren't just hearing lies, but the Lie as such.

HvB describes the essential two-way movement of the very possibility of knowledge: "the universal contains the particular just as much as the particular contains the universal. There is no single man who does not embody and possess what it means to be man, that is, the full, undiminished nature of man." (Bear this last point in mind for when we later discuss the ontological consequences of God taking on not just "a" man, but human nature. The answer may surprise you!)

Here again, this is a delicate balance. Go too far in one direction and you can end end up a materialist or bonehead atheist or metaphysical Darwinian. But venture too far in the other direction, and you unbecome a vaporous idealist or cavedwelling mystic with the lights on but nobody OM. Neither option is a satisfactory way to resolve the Enigma of Man. At least as far as we are cooncerned.

As Dupree says -- you will pardon his French, but it has a certain "tang" -- if I'm going to save my ass, I want my ass to be part of the package.

In other words made flesh, it hardly does us much good if only the universal is subject to salvation -- i.e., the atman -- but not the particular -- i.e., me. And as far as I am aware, Christianity is the only religion that actually saves the person. And this follows from the recognition that God is a person; and a person can only exist in relationship, which means that God must intrinsically be "in relationship." That being the case, then he would have to be three-in-one and one-in-three, for a static dualism cannot be a real relationship, just two poles of a monad.

Now, relationship is intrinsically superior to non-relationship for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which being that it makes love the highest ideal, or "first fruit" of God's interior relations. If you want to know where all the love came from, this is where. It is also where all the truth came from, for truth is always a relationship as well. Mathematics is always relational. Organisms would be impossible in a non-relational creation. Likewise, quantum physics reveals a cosmos not of ultimate "parts," but of internal relations.

If there is only a non-dual ground, then even truth is just illusion by another name, the only "truth" being the complete emptiness of the eternal void. Of course, the Buddhists could be correct about that, but I don't think so, for it renders the cosmos into a radically bi-polar entity with a dream at one end and a vacuum at the other. And if reality is just dirtbag that really sucks, Deepak is God.

In truth, there can be no void in the absence of its overflowing fulness. I'm an optimist. I see through the glass darkly half full. How did Whitehead put it? For the identical confusion plagues postmodern scientism of the Queeg variety. Let me see if I can dig it out.... Boy, lotta good stuff in here.... I could really get sidetracked....

Can't find the passage I'm looking for, but this one about modern materialism will do: "Clear-sighted men, of the sort who are clearly wrong, now proclaimed that the secrets of the physical universe were finally disclosed. If only you ignored everything which refused to come into line, your powers of explanation were unlimited."

Science and the Modern World is still one of the most thorough and unassailable debunkings of silly Queegism, which I did my best to playgiarize for you in chapter one of my book. Here is a good zinger about what this kind of malevolent fantasy can do to a mind: "It fixes attention on a definite group of abstractions, neglects everything else, and elicits every scrap of information and theory which is relevant to what it has retained."

The process itself is formally identical to paranoid cognition, and leads to the ever-tightening spiral that Queeg finds himself in, in that more and more reality must be kept at bay in order to stay safe in one's familiar mental groove (which, ironically, is a mirror of natural selection, except that the person creates the mental environment to which he then adapts):

"Now to be mentally in a groove [read: cognitive environment] is to live in contemplating a given set of abstractions. The groove prevents straying across country, and the abstraction abstracts from something to which no further attention is paid. But there is no groove of abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension of human life."

Duh. Either you understand this, or you are a fool. You may be a highly intelligent fool, but a fool nonetheless. For you have never given a thought to thought and to how it gets that way.

Truly, Whitehead saw the coming of Queegism, the scientistic barbarians at the gates of civilization, almost a century ago. This is not personal. Queeg himself is simply a well-known stock character whose naive belief in a metaphysics-free knowledge is "a figment of the imagination. The belief in it can only occur to minds steeped in provinciality -- the provinciality of an epoch, of a race, of a school of learning, of a trend of interest -- minds unable to divine their own unspoken limitations" (and assumptions, I might add).

No. It is simply a truism that "no science can be more secure than the unconscious metaphysics which it tacitly presupposes.... We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from the environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature."

And what is the necessary cosmic environment for a true thought?

(The answer may surprise you.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Divine Actors, Pomotextuals, and Drama Queegs

The paradox of human existence cannot be resolved within the human being. This is why all godless philosophies are intrinsically absurd. But can absurdity be the last word of existence? It seems that insisting that it is gives the atheist a kind of faux dignity and courage, which is just non-absurdity by another name, for both are derived from God, not our animal nature.

HvB writes that "man, fashioned by the Logos, is essentially constructed along dia-logical lines," so that "any mono-logical interpretation is bound to destroy him." This would include the diverse mono-logues of materialism and false religion.

In fact, this is where the extremes of new age integralism and crypto-Marxist Obamism meet in the muddle. For both negate the real person, who specifically becomes real in light of the Absolute. The former dissolves the person into pure spirit, while the latter dissolves him into matter and/or the collective.

(Some idiot left a comment wondering how a Subgenius could hold my political views. The real question is how one could not hold them, since a mono-logical, flatland existence is intrinsically devoid of Slack. If God does not exist, then Slack is pure illusion.)

I'm mixing up my volumes here, because the Theo-Drama makes so many provocative observations along these lines. So many, that I don't see how I'll ever be able to trancelight them into blog posts. In fact, I'm thinking of writing the next book as a kind of Raccoon/Subgenius playgiarizarion of Balthasar. For me, the problem hasn't been writing another book. But I don't want to just toss another stupid book onto mankind's mountain of pseudo-intellectual or pneuma-babbling vanities. Rather, if I'm going to do it, I want it to be about everything and for all time.

With the first book, my inspiration was Finnegans Wake, which is a kind of closed and yet infinite circle embracing the entire insane (and occasionally sane) collideorescape of history. But now I need a bigger circle. In Balthasar, I think I've found one sufficiently large for my purposes.

Which, when you think about it -- don't worry, I'll stop talking about myself in a minute -- returns to the absurdity and insufficiency of any empirical, materialistic, positivistic, scientistic, or Darwinian view of man. If that is the tiny canvas upon which I am supposed to work, I couldn't even begin. It is analogous to putting someone into a lightless little box and asking him to produce something true and beautiful. Impossible.

No, in order to properly live our lives at all, we need the largest possible canvas. And in my ongoing Adventure in Christianity, I'm discovering that this is the biggest canvas there is. Or at least the biggest one I've found. For in this inword adventure, we get to live our finite life in the light of an infinite Absolute who confers absolute meaning upon it.

Every alternative comes up short of this, and is "boring" by comparison. And one reason it is boring, is because -- as HvB is at pains to point out over the course of some 3,000 pages of Theo-Drama -- it is specifically drained of drama.

For example, take the metaphysical Darwinist. His life is devoid of drama, I suppose with the exception of whether or not he will reproduce, or even just get a date on Saturday night. Thus, I suppose this could confer a kind of faux-drama, or at least urgency, upon Queeg's objectively meaningless life. Will he leave behind a little liztard to carry on his meaningless genetic line? Or will this be it?

But even in the unlikely event that he is "successful," what's the point? He's just kicking the empty genetic can down to the next generation. And not only that, but once you realize that the whole thing is just a trick of the genes, why pursue it at all? Why not just be an obsessive and slightly paranoid computer geek, and stay away from the ladies?

In other words, women aren't really "beautiful." Please. They just appear that way in order to trick us into having sex with them. Once you've seen through the ruse, then you're free to ignore nature's deception that we erroneously call "female beauty." To say that beauty is "beside the point" is literally true, the point being to deposit genetic material into them.

Once you have successfully eliminated the transcendent, then you have taken away any basis for real drama, which can only occur on the "stage" between us and our Creator. For the essence of the drama is the dialectic between finite and infinite freedom. Here is the question and task every human being must face: how do I imprint as much of the absolute as possible in the finite time given? How do I write eternity with these clumsy crayons of time?

Can it be done? Of course it can be done. But it can again only take place in the space between the scylla of materialism and the charybdis of pure mysticism. In the case of the former, both drama and history are reduced to nature. In the case of the latter, they are dissolved in illusion, and have no ultimate value whatsoever. But anyone can look into the eyes of his child and know damn well that he has infinite value.

The other possible non-drama in which to play out one's life -- for in the end, there are only these three possibilities -- is post-Christian Marxism in one of its many guises. And when I say "post-Christian," the operative word is "Christian," for everything from Maoism to Obamaism is just a Christian heresy, specifically, a counter-drama which displaces the conflict between finite and infinite freedom to the plane of a materialistic-messianic hope, in which everyone will have the same amount of stuff.

But then what? The only drama takes place in the illusory hope that this would actually do anything to resolve the paradox of human existence. All the world is just a stage in the Marxist dialectic.

We see quite vividly how this de-Christianized messianic hope has been transferred to the ridiculous figure of Obama, who indeed plays the part for all it is worth (which is ultimately nothing, once the lights of the political theatre come back on). But for those of us who are not sitting in the dark to begin with, the whole sad spectacle is simultaneously pathetic and alarming, for we are seeing this Christian heresy embraced not only by those who hate God, but by so-called Christians as well. Madness!

So there are modes of existence that borrow from Christian theo-drama -- e.g., Marxism, "progressivism," "climate change," Obamism -- and there are modes which destroy the drama up front -- e.g., existentialism, hedonism, Darwinism, the pomo schtick of deconstruction, etc.

If there is drama, there must be fulfillment, as any playwright knows, i.e., conflict and resolution. In the case of our little drama on the stage of the herebelow, the primary conflict is again this persecutory combination of knowledge of the Absolute and of Death. In other words, mankind is condemned to the Absolute if only by virtue of his knowledge of Death, which appears on the stage as a kind of absolute horizon. How can we simultaneously possess absolute knowledge but not be God?

Again, there is your drama! For your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to assimilate as much of the absolute as possible within the allotted time, for everything else will go up in flames faster than Obama's economic policies.

The monuments of those who "make history," only express a desire that is equally that of the insignificant and the powerless: all alike want to scratch something true, something valid, into the face of the dwindling day. --Balthasar

Monday, May 04, 2009

Icons, Con Men, Misplaced Concrete, and Absolute Condescension

Now it feels like Sunday. Will I ever catch up? Or will it always be like this, one day behind?

I think we've established that essence can only manifest itself in appearances. These two poles are always present in any act of knowing. However, it is critical to bear in mind that while we can make a distinction between these two poles, they can never actually be divided. Indeed, knowing is very much a "one in three," i.e., essence (or ground), appearance, and the link between them.

HvB says that "We cannot describe [this] movement either monistically or dualistically, but we can say that the structure of truth rests on it as on its deepest foundation." Although essence is primary, "both poles nevertheless remain in a reciprocal relation of dependence."

We have also established that being is involved in a kind of primordial "movement," in its ceaseless unveiling and self-revelation.

Meanwhile, what's happening at the other end, in the subject? You know, us? Just as "the essence seems abstract compared with the appearance," sensory images are concrete compared with our ability to think about them. (For those of you who have the home version, you may recall that I discussed this issue on pp. 198-206, under the heading Saying More With Less: The Problem of Conceptual Abstractness and Concreteness.)

I have no idea what I wrote there, but I would now say it like this: let's think of Jesus as the "icon of God." Consistent with what we have described above, this would be analogous to the "movement" of ground to appearance. No one can see the ground, i.e., the Father. But we can see his icon, his own unveiling, or appearance, the Son. And ultimately, the two are "not two."

But just as with everyday cognition, this is not enough, for at one end we have pure abstraction, while at the other we have the concrete image, which we can use as an occasion to descend into idolatry if we aren't careful. In fact, I think this is what the iconoclasm controversy was all about. Let me check to make sure.

Blah blah blah, read the whole thing yourself. The point is, the iconoclasts "condemned the making of any lifeless image that was intended to represent Jesus or one of the saints.... Any true image of Jesus must be able to represent both his divine nature (which is impossible because it cannot be seen nor encompassed) as well his human nature. But by making an icon of Jesus, one is separating his human and divine natures, since only the human can be depicted, or else confusing the human and divine natures."

Note how they resolved the problem: "the biblical commandment forbidding images of God had been superseded by the incarnation of Jesus, who, being the second person of the Trinity, is God incarnate in visible matter. Therefore, they were not depicting the invisible God, but God as He appeared in the flesh."

So the problem is a real one: on the one end, pure unknowable abstraction, on the other end, man's tendency to worship graven images. What is the solution? It is to respect God's "double movement," from essence to appearance, and then from appearance back to essence. Doesn't Jesus say as much about the way he himself is to be regarded, not as an end, but as a means, so to speak? < insert any number of relevant scriptural passages from Nomo here >

A variety of heresies results from getting this precise balance wrong. However, the interesting thing is that the same intrinsic heresies apply to purely secular thought, which requires the identical balance between ground and image. Indeed, it is not going too far to say that Christianity teaches men how to think properly about reality as such.

For example, we had a confused troll yesterday (and earlier this morning) who was specifically confused because of his inability to appreciate this distinction between essence and appearance. His writing, thinking, grammar, and punctuation are all rather sloppy -- other than that, he is a beacon of clarity -- so it's a little difficult to decipher his meaning, but I think you can get the drift from his latest utterance:

"Ok, you're either wrong about your fundamental philosophy or you're wrong about the word. You're choice. If people have different values, and God is intrinsic because he is extrensic, his standards and hierarchies. most certainly are not intrinsic. You keep changing subject. Are God's values intrinsic? If so, why is it that no people share the exact same values? No two people hold all the same values to the same degree. Thus, if God is intrinsic, he most certainly has not made his hierarchies or standards so. Otherwise why even have free will? You're squirming and changing subject."

Do you see his error(s)? The central one is the severing of God's transcendence from his immanence, or essence from appearance. Because humans have freedom, he seems to think that this is incompatible with having an essence. But freedom is an aspect of our essence, including the freedom to err. The proper use of freedom involves the journey from appearance to essence, from contingent to necessary, from relative to Absolute.

But to return to the main topic, the whole point is again this "double movement" that takes place between ground, image, and subject. A true icon, for example, is never a "thing in itself." Again, that would be idolatry. Rather, the icon is the quintessence of metaphysical transparency, in that it is like a two way mirror through which God radiates, but through which we can also "see into God" from the other end, like a "window to heaven."

Is that clear? I wish I could draw a picture of the process, but it would look something like this: >.<, with the first arrow representing God, the second arrow representing us, and the point between being the icon. But it's all one two-way, or spiraling, process.

Again, this doesn't just apply to icons. Rather, they are just the quintessence of a more general vertical movement, in that the entire cosmos is a theophany of God. It too has an obvious metaphysical transparency, which is precisely why it is so larded with overflowing truth and beauty. It offers itself to us in such a way that it always points back to its source, at least if we look at it in the proper way. File this under the heading of one of those things that cannot not be understood, at least until modern times.

This is why prayer is a movement; contemplation is a movement; lectio divina is a movement; my blogging is a movement. But the movement on our end is only possible because the Absolute has condescended to meet us more than half way.

Conversely, here is the danger -- a danger that has already manifested in various forms of postmodern pnuemapathology, e.g., atheism, metaphysical Darwinism, scientism, radical secularism, et al. Each of these represents idolatry by another name, or what Whitehead called "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness." Here is how HvB describes it:

"The concept has the capacity to distance itself from the perceptual image and to assume a stance of self-sufficiency in abstract isolation. In doing so, it falls under the sway of unreality, thus resembling the object of sense intuition -- the image."

In other words, man confuses God's power with his own, and thereby distances himself "from the vitality of truth." For unlike God, he becomes enclosed in his little false world, and exerts what might be called a "negative radiation" which attempts to pull everything into its absurcular purview. Here we confront the "vacant mystery of agnosticism and skepticism" in all its minus glory.

More tomorrow on how the universal can (only) appear in the particular, which touches on how Jesus can simultaneously be God's icon of man and man's icon of God.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Who Defines Normality Controls the Future

Only my true fans and stalkers will recognize this as a reedited rerun from two years past....

George Orwell's essential insight into the mentality of the left cannot be surpassed. In 1984, the motto of the Ministry of Truth is Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.

I couldn't help thinking of this last night while suffering through the Republican debate [two years ago!], which essentially consisted of the candidates submitting themselves to orthodorks leftwing barking points filtered through that spluttering, loudmouthed hack from the moonstream media, Chris Matthews, whose main talent is the ability to barge past any truth he accidentally stumbles upon like Michelle Obama at a plus-size sneaker sale. Do you also have to wipe the spittle off the back of your TV screen when he speaks?

But who controls the present also controls what is defined as "normal." Therefore, since leftists have taken over most of our institutions in the last 30-40 years -- the media, academia, the courts, the educational establishment, Hollywood, etc. -- they have been engaged in the unyielding project of redefining normalcy -- of defining deviancy downward -- so that the abnormal appears normal and the normal abnormal.

It begins with their radical cynicism, which throws out all intrinsic hierarchies and standards as arbitrary and subjective, supposedly motivated simply by the desire to dominate, control, and oppress. Therefore, to believe things as banal as "terrorists are evil," or "children need a mother and father," or "marriage consists of a man and a woman" is to expose oneself to the ridicule of people who do not know what normal is -- nor do they want to know. I can guarantee you that Keith Olbermann has no personal acquaintance with normality.

(To be perfectly accurate, leftists unconsciously know, as all humans must, but they are in a state of compulsive rebellion against this knowledge, a rebellion which must be constantly renewed in order to stay one step ahead of the judgment of their conscience -- which they generally project into conservatives and then feel "persecuted" by them. To put it another way, the persecution is an internal phenomenon, but in order to obtain some leibensraum for their mind parasites, they imagine the nazis are outside their head.)

Almost every "liberation" group of the left insists that their particular aberration be considered normal, whether it is homosexual activists, radical feminists, the "transgendered," the ACLU, pacifists, God-haters, Darwinian fundamentalists, bonehead atheists, etc. Teaching that there is a normal human condition is considered by these people to be the quintessence of tyranny and oppression. Which in a way it is, in the same way that it is oppressive to insist that your body needs exercise, that you have an ideal weight, or that you can't eat junk food all day. Frankly, for a child, the reality principle is oppressive.

Being that the left does indeed "control the present," all textbooks must be rewritten in order to make the abnormal appear normal, and to attack and undermine our intuitive understanding of what is better and what is normal. This is one of the big reasons why people homeschool their children, because they don't want them to internalize such abnormality at a young age, since it can be very difficult to undo this programming later in life.

For example, in California it is literally against the law for any textbook to depict any human group in an unflattering light. Underneath this is a radical leveling that quite literally bars access to the natural hierarchy that allows the mind to discriminate, AKA, to think. Again, this absolute relativism is the cognitive absurdity that is at the heart of the leftist rebellion against reality.

As I have mentioned in the past and future, I passively internalized much of this leftist brainwashing -- or soulsmirching -- when I was younger, and it has been on ongoing adventure in liberation to cast it off bit by bit and reclaim my normalcy. Which, of course, would be considered very, very abnormal by anyone on the left, such as the Women's Aberration Movement.

A big part of being a "finished" human being is to transcend one's time by becoming a mode of the universal -- which is another way of saying "normal." For, as I shall belaborate below, a normal man is a vertical man -- or what Schuon called pontifical man. The only alternative is to be a more or less horizontal man, which is to say, not a man at all. Doing so is to permanently mahar your divine archetype and to cash in your chimp for a beast in human form.

Being that there is a vertical dimension proper to man, it means ipso facto that we live in a hierarchical cosmos that is conditioned from top to bottom. This is why it is simply a truism that all attacks on religion are in the end an attack on mind itself -- and therefore on man. (Which is of course not to suggest that there aren't stupid forms of religion, for where man is, stupidity follows.)

But hierarchy is the one thing that absolutely cannot be tolerated by the totolerantarian left. Religion must be reflexively attacked and scorned, for it teaches that there are values that are intrinsic to humans, and that some ways of living, being, and thinking are better then others. Ultimately, the divine conscience -- that which distinguishes between right and wrong, good and evil -- must be disabled by the left in order to get any traction at all (even while they tyrannically enforce their own infrahuman values).

For example, children must be taught "values clarification" instead of straightforward rules of right and wrong. They are literally indoctrinated into an anti-religion that sets itself in opposition to the true and universal one. It is designed to confuse, not clarify. We see this played out in vivid form with the simplistic moral retards fueling the "torture" debate.

But for the nihilistic leftist flatlander -- and this cannot be emphasized enough -- the only abnormal person is the person who insists that some things are intrinsically abnormal, even someone as insignificant as Miss California.

I know of no professional group that has been more infiltrated and "horizontalized" by the left than psychologists. There is no human behavior so bizarre that one cannot attend a continuing education seminar on its virtues. (I had been saving an illustrative flier for an occasion such as this, but I think I must have thrown it out. Which makes me evil for not having recycled it. There's no explaining away that deviancy.)

This explain the ubiquitous "inverted hypocrisy" of the psychospiritual left. Although this type of boundary-less person or "masterless man" superficially appears to be the most “liberated," they are desperately in need of an "external center" to rebel against. Like a child, they are most in need of that which they most vociferously and compulsively protest against. Since they are chaotic souls with no center, they gain a spurious sense of internal coherence by rubbing up against, or breaking through, a boundary. In short, they need adults.

Thus, the transgression eventually takes on a wearily compulsive quality. They rapidly become caricatures of themselves, a pattern constantly seen in our trolls. This is why, for example, all of those brave comedians who spent eight years bashing President Bush cannot lift a middle finger to ridicule the ridiculous Obama. They can speak truth to any power except the power that controls them.

As Richard Weaver wrote in Ideas Have Consequences, forms are the ladder of ascent: "Every group regarding itself as emancipated is convinced its predecessors were fearful of reality, looking upon veils of decency as obstructions that it will strip aside. But behind the veils is a reality of such commonplace that it is merely knowledge of death." This is why the left in all its forms is a death culture.

That is, the obliteration of vertical degree creates a tyrannical flatland which is death to the soul and its spiritual evolution. This is why leftists are always mindlessly rebellious, anti-authority, and radically "democratic" (when it is convenient), and why their movement has literally "gone nowhere" -- for its own assumptions mandate that there is nowhere else for it to go but into further nothingness, something demonstrated on a daily basis by its more undisguised voices, such as a dailycurse or huffingandpissed. They wander from cause to cause in an contradictory and incoherent manner, as their conscience still seeks to do good in a world where they have helped define it out of existence.

This is the greatest divide between secular fantasists and religious realists, for the latter regard man’s life as an irreducible ought grounded in transcendence, instead of a mere is rooted in dead matter. Conscious being automatically confers existential obligation. Man is the only thing that ought, which immediately takes him out of the realm of both is and of mere things. For to do as you ought is to both transcend and to find oneself. It is also to be a normal human being.

Man is true to himself only when he is stretching forth -- in hope -- toward a fulfillment that cannot be reached in his bodily existence. --Josef Pieper

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Realizing

I'm glad that most of you seem to have appreciated the spirit of yesterday's post, because I think it discloses a more universal spiritual problem that seems unavoidable. That is, how does one affirm and embrace truth without saturating and smothering it in the process? It really comes back to the necessary relationship between letter and spirit, the latter of which gives life, the former of which kills.

But it's not so simple, because one could say the same of oxygen, or sunlight, or bacon. That is, we need oxygen to live, even while oxygen is toxic and eventually kills us due to oxidation. Metabolism is a kind of "controlled fire" that inevitably burns us up in the process. Thus, living is a kind of "slow motion dying." But it beats the alternative, which is not living at all.

So it seems that we must seek a proper balance between letter and spirit. Many people reject religion because of an early experience of too much letter, not enough spirit. But then they might get involved in some new age nonsense, which is all spirit and no letter. However, spirit itself, like any other energy, is neutral; if it isn't guided by a nonlocal structure of unchanging truth, it can just as easily lead down as up. You can find yourself on a slippery slope that leads all the way down to a slippery dope such as Deepak Chopra, who embodies the paradox of pure "slime without substance."

Put this way, organized religion itself is a "necessary evil," as it were. While necessary, we must not confuse it with that to which it points, or else we are simply engaging in idolatry by another name.

This reflects a more general principle in the cosmos. As HvB explains, our images of reality "must not be confused with the reality itself." They "must not be treated any differently from the letters in a book: you see them, you read them, and yet you are conscious, not of the written image, but of the sense that comes to expression in it." For any of you who have read the Polanyi books in the sidebar, you will appreciate the obvious parallels with his work, i.e., the "tacit knowledge" that evolves in the space between the exterior and interior worlds.

It's such a subtle balance that I find it difficult to describe. Like many complex skills, it's easier to demonstrate than elucidate. It reminds me of a story about Yogi Berra, who was trying to explain something to a young hitter, and finally in frustration grabbed the bat and said "ah hell, let me just show you."

Here is what makes it so subtle: "the signs in which being reveals itself must be simultaneously read and overlooked" (HvB; emphasis mine). Thus, we're talking about a subtle movement that leads us -- I would say pulls us -- through the word and toward the thing it embodies, a thing that we can never actually reach without killing it (and being killed).

I'm trying to keep this as "phenomenologically true" as possible, in other words, "experience near." This shouldn't be at all abstract, but quite concrete, even if this is a kind of concrete that can never dry. Rather, it's always being poured. But you could no more fill the transitional space with it than you could fill a hole at the beach with water.

That's a good analogy, because the space is obviously finite, and yet, infinite -- as space must be. But you wouldn't even know about space unless it had boundaries. In fact, the discovery of the boundary is the simultaneous discovery of space. Without the boundary, there is only nameless dread.

So images always "point beyond themselves to the mystery they harbor" (HvB). On the one hand, being moves in the direction of "inside out," while our understanding moves in the direction of "outside in," or re-collection. Again, movement. It can never be static, even though the static images are required for the movement -- just as we could not jump without a counterforce, i.e., gravity, holding us down to the earth.

Come to think of it, this is a fine way to think about the importance of being embodied. Among other inconveniences, without material bodies, we could not vertically "leap" into spirit. This is why it is said that angels cannot evolve, for they are like unchanging essences. It is also why we must spiritually keep busy now, for the night is coming when no man can work.

So, images "invite the spirit to a searching movement" (HvB). This is quintessentially true of religion, which, if it's not facilitating this movement, is just "wrong," no matter how right. < insert relevant scriptural passage from Nomo here >

Yesterday I came across a pithy passage in the Theo-Drama to the effect that -- now think about this -- from the perspective of man, Jesus serves as the "icon of God." But from the perspective of God, i.e., the Father, Jesus serves as the icon of Man.

Now, think about icons, i.e., sacred images: "they allow no simple rest in their significant content but stir up an unrest and levy a demand. It is not enough merely to acknowledge the mystery of which they are the external sign and to leave it undisturbed."

Rather -- and here is the key point -- "The truth is in motion, it presses upon the mind and calls the conscience to decision," which is an ontological scission, or cutting in two. Today we see the world being cut in two as never before. "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword," etc., etc. < insert Will comment here >

This, I believe, is the kind of surgical decision -- for it can only be elective surgery -- Magnus was talking about yesterpost, when he commented that,

"The thing is, once in my much younger years, I was sitting in a Christian meeting half listening to some doctrine. Then God said to me: 'Choose now. You can get the truth, even if you cannot handle it. Or you can forget that which is too much for you, so you can have a good conscience." (This was many years before the Matrix, btw.) Of course I replied "Give me the truth!' because that's the kind of guy I am. The overconfident kind. 'I thought you would say that,' replied God. And since then I have been this worm, a stranger in Paradise, completely inadequate to what I see all around me, a small dirty porcupine scuttling around in your beautiful cathedral. But just you try to get me out of there."

The beautiful cathedral is built with words and images in the space between us and God. But cathedrals are built for movement, which is the purpose of their great weight and stature. They "cannot move," so that you can.

I'm a hick. I never been to Urip. But I have seen the pictures, and when you sit in one of those magnificent "houses of God," you can feel how they lift you up and out. < insert purdy pitcher here > The movement is neither one of "compression," nor of "dispersal," but of radiation. In this context, images

are a sign pointing to the sphere of spirit. They point by means of their evident changefulness and transience, for in this... they are like the single words of a sentence or the notes of a piece of music, which must successively fade away in order that the coherent totality of an intellectual harmony can emerge. --Balthasar

Can't climb into space without a structure; or as Petey says, "no gravity, no levity":

Friday, May 01, 2009

Adventures in Christianity

Balthasar writes that "The knowing mind is no longer capable of being thrilled by anything that it has thoroughly penetrated, that lies open and unveiled before it without mystery. The mind feels superior to, and looks down upon, whatever it has penetrated in this way.... It has taken cognizance of the message, and, if the message is constantly repeated, it gets impatient. Its experience is like that of a pupil with whom the teacher wants to review the same material every day, even though he has already gotten the point long ago; he is sick and tired of hearing the same thing over and over again."

I have always been easily bored. Boring people, boring places, boring routines. I'll never forget the feeling of being in school, which I absolutely detested. Waiting for that last hour to pass was literally painful. But I am never bored when my mind is free to ramble and roam.

It seems that the problem has to do with the mind being confined in someone else's little prison -- of being forced to adapt oneself to some little world, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with the living mystery of truth, and of encountering that mystery on a first hand basis.

Rather, real truth, which emanates from O, is a "perennially inexhaustible wonder" (HvB). It is permanently unmasterable, and anyone who says otherwise is a crashing bore, a jaded pinhead. This is because "As soon as we cut off the living world of signification from the ontological root that sustains it, it withers and dies" (HvB).

Pardon the self-indulgent musing. I'm just getting warmed up. But the other day, I was having a conversation with a friend who is a dyed-in-the-wool-over-his-own-eyes atheist -- one of those people who is just completely tone deaf when it comes to religion. I mentioned how I had long since abandoned philosophy for theology, and he asked why -- what do you get out of it?

Of course, I had no way to explain it in his earthly terms, i.e., to somehow fit it into his little world, which obviously excludes the realm of spirit. I mean, there is surely spirituality there, as there is in any normal person's life, but he doesn't see it as an autonomous realm, just a derivative one.

Oddly, this is obviously the real world in which humans live -- it is the quintessentially human world -- and yet, this type of person rejects the human world for a lower one, while still trying to maintain their humanness. I suppose this can work for a generation or two, but at some point, the thread that links us to our civilizational source will be snapped, and that will be the end. Then it will just be a matter of waiting for the Islamists to finish the job, as in Europe.

Anyway, this friend asked me what I "get out of theology," and I tried to answer. I pointed out that, first of all, the whole thing is an ongoing surprise to me, and that it is not even as if I chose it; rather, it has chosen me. I said that it was like entering this huge, magnificent intellectual cathedral that was perfectly adapted to the human psyche. I said that I am never happier than when I am wandering the halls of this cathedral, which is both "confined" and yet "infinite." Truly, it is like a kind of infinite and yet ordered space that fills us up without ever filling us up. It contains no truth that isn't beautiful, no beauty that isn't good, no good that isn't true... Who wouldn't want to spend as much time there as possible? It's certainly never boring.

That was pretty much the conversation killer. Which is kind of a general problem, and why I need the blog. I just don't meet many people upon whom I can inflict my true self. If you think of all the spiritual energy -- and it is energy -- that gets funneled into this blog, it wasn't too long ago that I didn't have this outlet. As a result, when I would find a remotely sympathetic listener, it would pour out of me like a torrent. I could talk and talk for hours. I didn't know where it was coming from, because it would seemingly "invent itself" as I went along. It was definitely an "altered state," in that it wasn't my normal state of mind. Mrs. G witnessed it countless times.

There is no question that something happened as a result of being in the presence of a sympathetic ear, almost like a sexual energy, if you will. Imagine someone who had never seen a female, so he is only aware of some kind of diffuse energy inside. Then he finally sees a woman, and the energy not only has an object, but is strengthened.

This is what the blogging has been like for me. All of a sudden, the energy has a focus and has been strengthened. It all happens in the space between you and me. And O.

I also want to mention something else that has been on my mind for quite awhile. I don't quite know how to formulate it without being misunderstood, but I was thinking about it yesterday while mountain biking. It's sort of provocative, so stay with me.

As you know, Mrs G has converted to Catholicism. Not only that, but quite a few of my readers have either returned to Christianity or undergone formal conversion, and for that I am humbled and eternally grateful. But what about you, Bob? What are you? And what are you waiting for?

I am not a Christian, in the commonly understood sense of the term. I have to acknowledge that up front. Now, some of you are no doubt thinking to yourself, "Ha ha. Yes you are. Stop kidding yourself. You just haven't realized it yet." I won't argue with that, but please indulge me. The point I would like to make is that, while not Christian per se, I am surely on a Christian adventure. An extraordinarily deep one, I might add. It has been ongoing for the past, I don't know, eight or nine years, and just keeps getting more compelling.

In a way, I feel like the earliest Christians, who, after all, were not "Christians." Rather, they were simply people having a Christian experience that later came to be known as "Christianity." In fact, I'm thinking of calling it that myself. But the point is, this is what makes these early writings all the more compelling. No one was telling them the "correct" way to think. They did not "believe" in religion, but were undergoing religion.

And yet, I hold back. Why? First of all, it's a process, an organic one. It reminds me of psychoanalysis, in which the candidate must undergo years of psychoanalysis in order to become an analyst. It's not like merely getting a Ph.D. or M.D., which anyone with adequate intelligence can do. Nor is it a matter of knowledge. Rather, it is a genuine transformation that must take place on the level of being, from which genuine psychoanalytic knowledge must flow. As is true of religion, psychoanalytic knowledge divorced from being is more or less worthless. It must always be backed by the full faith and credit of real experience. It is not abstract, but concrete. Or, to the extent that it is abstract, the abstractions must always be rooted in personal experience.

It is surely the same way with religion. I don't want to say that this should be a general rule for everyone, because not everyone has the same vocation. Some if not most people need to convert first, experience later. But my blogging, for example, is only possible because it is being done by someone encountering these ideas and realities for the first time, and spontaneously disclosing their effect on me. I must re-emphasize -- just in case it isn't obvious -- that I am hardly a scholar, much less a Christian theologian.

Rather, what you are seeing is a purely spontaneous production chronicling the encounter between me and Christian truth, which I believe, in a certain way, gives it more weight than it might have if I were simply reciting dogma as an "insider." While some of what I say might sound dogmatic or authoritarian, I must again emphasize that I am not in my right mind when I'm saying it. Rather, I not only try to write about what I know, but what I don't know. That is, I try to "write beyond myself," so to spook, so that I am as genuinely surprised as anyone else at what comes out. Boo!

It is very important to me that I reach people who aren't religious, but still have an impulse to be -- especially people with the "Jesus willies." I think that I would be less convincing if I were simply coming from a Christian perspective. In other words, perhaps I can be analogous to the disinterested scientist who explains how global warming or reductionistic Darwinism are bogus. People get enough of the normal evangelizing, and, as often as not, it backfires. But when a disinterested person with no vested interest is doing the selling, it may be more effective. You know, Coonsumer Reports.

As I have mentioned, although I am still blogging about the Theo-Logic, I am already well into volume three of the Theo-Drama, which is said to be Balthasar's greatest work. I am quite sure I've never read anything so rich, and I'll probably have to spend a year blogging about it.

But one thing that struck me with great force yesterday while contemplating a passage, is how the West has virtually taken a wrecking ball to its own priceless cathedrals. This is our home, the source of our civilization. It is where we were meant to live. It's just so achingly true and exquisitely beautiful, that it makes you want to weep at man's arrogance and folly.

What reveals itself is so rich that it satisfies his entire need for truth; what remains hidden is so mysterious that he knows he is sheltered within its veiled womb. Everything that exists is allusive, is a pointer and a reminder, and any conceptual clarification of univocal definition of these infinite significations would appear to him an impoverishment, perhaps even as a profanation.... To say explicitly what their wordless song tells us would be presumptuous, if it were not altogether futile. --Balthasar


As Saint Augustine might have said, "what I was out there tryin' to find, I done had it right here all the time." (See p. 261, line 7)