Friday, July 31, 2009

Healing Liberalism Through Apparatchiks Anonymous

(Note to visitors: if you want to skip the post and get straight to the 12 step program, scroll down to the end.)

No time for a new post, since I have to leave earlier than usual for work. However, I think I have time for a repost. I wish I had more time to edit it in light of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, but the book is so packed with historical detail that that would be impossible. I'm more of a big picture or wide screen guy anyway. I'll be blogging about it in more detail in the future, but in such a way that it is woven into the Grand Metacosmic Narrative, for Goldberg is dealing with "intrinsic truth," even if he doesn't realize it.

What an excellent question asked by James Lewis at American Thinker, Why Isn’t the Whole Left Neoconservative? Leftism is such a discredited ideology, so intrinsically wrong, so at odds with higher human nature, so cruel and unworkable in practice, so retrograde in its results, that one can only wonder at the persistent hold it has on millions of minds around the world.

Some day Leftsim will be rejoined with its twin ideology, fascism, which no one takes seriously anymore (consciously, anyway; as Goldberg demonstrates, the program of the left is indistinguishible from fascism). Why is that? In fact, fascism is not a “right wing,” much less “conservative” ideology, but a competing from of socialism. It was the communists who tried to discredit “national socialism” by labeling it “right wing” merely because it wasn’t what they wanted, which was international socialism.

In a two-body system, it is impossible to say which body is moving. As I've mentioned before, in many respects, my own "journey" to so-called conservatism hasn’t been a journey at all. In reality, I am more or less the same even-tempered American (classical) liberal I have always been. It’s just that, over the past 30-40 years, liberalism has been hijacked by the Left, thereby becoming a thoroughly illiberal movement. Bizarrely, liberalism and liberty are now antonymous, for the state can only take with two hands what it gives you with the Finger.

To cite just one example, when I was in college in the 1970’s, being liberal meant being tolerant toward homosexuals. But for the Left, if you merely “tolerate” homosexuality, you are a bigot, something they call a "homophobe." No, you must celebrate and even encourage it. You must never suggest to children that certain sexual arrangements are better than others. If my son wants to marry a man or a woman, it should make no difference to me -- just flip a coin, as it were.

Needless to say, I regard such “thinking” as not only devoid of wisdom, but frankly abusive, narcissistic, and unscientific, completely at odds with what we know about both psychosexual development and the soul of man. It is a horror to even contemplate confusing a child in this manner.

Leftism can never be enunciated in any philosophically consistent and coherent manner -- hence the ubiquitous lies and deceit -- and unavoidably truncates the most vital aspects of man’s being. Like Lewis, I wonder why my entire generational cohort hasn’t evolved in the same way I did -- why there is anyone my age who is still clinging to the magical mythology of Leftism:

“After the Soviet Union crashed and no one could possibly ignore the bloody mess the Left kept making over seventy long years. So why didn't all the decent Leftists just read their Milton Friedman and grow up?” So-called neocons (i.e., former Leftists) merely saw "how wrong they had been. They grew up. My question is: What happened to all the others?”

Amazingly, surveys in such “liberal” places as Canada or Europe indicate that the clueless majority of their citizens regards the United States or Israel as the greatest threats to world peace. Lewis notes that in Britain, a recent BBC survey revealed that "the greatest philosopher of all time is considered to be... Karl Marx? A hate-filled parasitical scribbler who spent his life in the British Museum, stoking the fires that killed 100 million people in the 20th century? What is wrong with British education that the plain facts do not shout out for themselves?”

I think it’s the wrong question to ask “what is wrong with British education.” Instead, I think we have crossed the line into genuine soul pathology -- not psychopathology, mind you, which may or may not be copresent, but a disease of the human heart. Indeed, I believe the heart must be diseased to embrace such a profoundly inhuman and anti-human ideology. Marxism is not human, but specifically demonic -- even, one might say, the quintessence of demonology, in that it is the last word in fallen man’s promethean rejection of reality, whether it is economic reality, historical reality, psychic reality, or suprasensible reality.

One of the most salient characteristics of the Left is that it is peculiarly incapable of learning. In my lifetime, it has been ridiculously wrong about virtually everything, but it is as if facts and reality don’t matter. The same people who successfully curtailed nuclear power plants in America are now insisting that we must be “energy independent.” The same people who argued that Reagan’s tax breaks would destroy the economy enjoyed a quarter century of economic growth. The same Democrat party that accommodated southern and northern racists for decades continues to argue that race is all-important and that government should be engaged in the task of dividing people by race and gender and giving special privileges to some groups. And of course, the international left is now the main repository and champion of mankind’s most ancient and vile prejudice, anti-Semitism.

Lewis agrees that “The fact that the Left never, ever learns gives the lie to all its high-falutin' claims of ‘idealism,’ ‘progressivism,’ and superior morality.” Yes, but why are they never blamed for their failures? Why does the bill never come due? Lewis provides one obvious key: the left "still controls the organs of propaganda.... Thus some 90 percent of our media functionaries are left wingers. A predominant percentage of professors and teachers are, too.”

It’s the same old Marxist idea: “who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Lewis points out that “To hold on to their beliefs leftists must shut down any competing ideas, which is precisely what they do. Just take your favorite leftist friends, and tell them some obvious fact they don't want to hear. You can see it working right in front of your eyes: They just won't hear it.... As long as they control the dominant media, our society will keep teetering at the brink of destruction.”

One of the greatest conceits of the Left is that they are “intellectually curious,” “open-minded,” or “reality based,” when it would be difficult to find minds more parochial, narrow-minded, and hermetically self-enclosed people than those responsible for the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, or NPR, or CNN, or virtually any MSM outlet.

It is even worse in Europe, where their press is not nearly as free as ours and there is little access to competing views such as on talk radio. As Lewis notes, European thought is absolutely stifled by the Left, which "doesn't see any respectable alternative [to itself]..., since conservatism is constantly and deliberately confounded with fascism." And since these hidebound and intellectually inbred reactionaries live in such an echo-chamber, "if one fairy-tale of Earthly Paradise is seen to crash, another one must instantly take its place." Thus, "the commissars of Post-Modernism and Multiculturalism suddenly rose to power all over the West in the 1970s and 80s. The faithful had to find a new way to justify their idee fixe.”

Lewis notes the patent irrationality of this “mental fixedness,” and again wonders why they would continue “peddling the same toxins.” Why are they stuck?

Again, in my view, this is not a psychopathology but a pneumapathology -- a disease of the soul. Since leftism is a faux religion, you really need something closer to cult deprogramming. This is why conventional psychology is powerless to explain it or to do anything about it.

In a way, it is analogous to addiction, another problem of the soul that psychology is generally powerless to remedy. I don’t know if it’s the same way now, but when I was in graduate school, I was even taught that it would be unethical to try to treat alcoholism with psychotherapy alone. By far the most successful approach is the 12 step program, undoubtedly because it addresses the underlying soul pathology at the heart of addiction.

Perhaps we need a 12 step program for leftists, Apparatchiks Anonymous.

1. We admitted we were powerless over the intoxicating dreams of socialism, and that our lives and governments had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power far greater than our own omnipotent little egoic fantasies of total control could restore us to true liberalism.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the Creator and Guarantor of our Liberty.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the well-intentioned failures and frank evils of socialism.

5. Admitted to the Creator of our Liberty, to ourselves, and in a live phone call to C-SPAN, the exact nature of socialism’s wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have the Creator of Our Liberty remove all these defects of ideology.

7. Humbly asked Him to cancel our subscription to the Times.

8. Made a list of all races, genders, and classes our government programs had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all by realizing that these constructs of race and gender are irrelevant to begin with.

9. Made direct amends to such people by switching parties.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were again tempted to abuse ideology for the purposes of blotting out reality, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer, meditation, and listening to Rush Limbaugh, to improve our conscious contact with the Source of our Liberty, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Leftists, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is the Cosmos a Great Divinizing Machine?

Picking up where we lifted off yesterday with Maximus' vision of the cosmos, there is more where that came from. Balthasar talks about "the world dancing in the festal celebration of liturgical adoration," a "single organism" consisting of diverse ranks and offices, all "circling around the brilliant darkness of the central mystery," unspeakably near to the Source "in all its radiant generosity, yet [being] equally aware of the ever-greater distance of the 'super-essential,' 'super-inconceivable.''

As we sit here thunderstruck, there is "a bolt of lightning that discloses, in a single flash, the overwhelming contemporaneity of all realms of being, down to the very elements of matter themselves -- of their layers and interconnections, their approaches to, and descents from, the invisible peak of all things -- revealing a picture of stability and majestic peace such as has never been glimpsed before in Christendom."

More: the "dynamic insight... into the evolution of all things, step by step, from the primeval potency, is turned here into a picture of a reality that radiates outward, flows downward from above. It is not a cosmos frozen into [an] icon so much as a life that generatively streams and pulsates," something like a fountain consisting of bowls atop one another, so the water overflows down from realm to realm.

As Magnus calmly said yesterday, "Yes. That's it." Nevertheless, two things. One, why did no one ever tell me about this in Sunday School? Two, the whole durn thing thing reminds me of --->

The thing is, this is not just a poetic vision, even though it is one. As I mentioned a while back, the best one can do is try to pour language over the divine being, in the hope that its contours will emerge like an object beneath a veil. So on the one hand, the vision is unavoidably "poetic," even while simultaneously being, as implied by Magnus, rather "exact," evoking a simple "Yup. Bingo. That's the one."

And although the vision is "ecstatic," at the same time, "one's knowledge must possess, in the highest degree, that joyous calm that expresses the peace of this contemplative vision" (emphasis mine). I think this corresponds to the highest degree of transcendence -- which takes us beyond oursleves -- and immanence -- which paradoxically locates this beyond "within." Truly, the closer you get, the further away you are. Virtually all saints affirm this in one away or another.

This is not a "paradox" but a precise account and description. It is "intimacy-distance," or "twoness-oneness," or "union-separation." Only at the very point of ultimate intimacy does one discover the abyss of infinite Otherness. And it is only in this very gap that Love abides, and without which it could not Be, for love is the identity of identity and non-identity.

Just don't say that to your wife on Valentine's Day, because it doesn't sound very romantic. And while I'm thinking of it, don't give her a Garden Weasel either.

So there is simultaneous participation and detachment, even to their ultimate terms. As Maximus explains, "The first concern must, then, not be to speak as others speak, but to conceive the word of truth with understanding and exactitude.... It is not a matter of refuting the opinions of others, but of presenting one's own; not a matter of contesting some aspect of the teaching or behavior of others..., but of writing on behalf of truth" (emphasis mine).

Now that we have described this cosmos, what is it good for, besides sex, thrills, and rock 'n roll? Well, one might say that it is a kind of "divinizing machine," except that it is obviously not a machine.

Looked at in purely linear terms, you might say that you insert matter and energy (which amount to the same thing) on one end and ultimately end up with God at the other. In between you have such interesting features as biology, anthropology, politics, history and all the rest, some of it "progressive," most of it just meaningless eddies off to the side of main cosmic stream, such as "progressivism." This is such a profoundly misleading term, that only Satan himself could have invented it!

As we have discussed on a number of occasions, the whole idea of progress is absurd in the absence of the Absolute. To put it another way, it is only because of the a priori "existence" of the Absolute -- i.e., GOD -- that progress is possible, since "progress" is measured in terms of proximity to the Absolute, precisely. (And we put the qualifier "existence" in quotes, since the Absolute is obviously beyond existence; rather, existence is derived from the Absolute.)

This is why -- and I really can't recommend Liberal Fascism highly enough; I think it's actually much, much deeper than generally understood by both critics and fans -- "progressivism" is just another name for barbarism. It is the rule of the beasts, the infrahumans who have no desire to become human. For them the state is the absolute, and metaphysical gravity takes care of the rest. See Barack fall!

So Maximus envisages the cosmos "as the supporting ground for all supernatural divinization." The first thing that occurs to me is that this idea is mirrored at all levels of creation. For example, you might say that a solar system is a supporting ground for "biolization," or that biology is a supporting ground for "psycholization," or that psychology is a supporting ground for spiritualization.

You have to look at the whole, in both space and time, horizontally and vertically. If you do that, then you see that this is simply "the way it is." It is just an empirical description of "what happens," cosmically speaking. Nor is it anything that human beings -- let alone Darwin! -- could ever "make happen" in the absence of divine intervention, or let us just say a "vertical descent" to avoid saturation. Nature is supernatural, or it is nothing. Literally. But more important, figuratively.

Thus, this vision establishes the infinite value of the creation, since it is not only infused with potential divinity, but its very purpose is tied in with divinization. This is why Maximus "may be considered the most world-affirming of all the Greek Fathers." The world is not some big mistake or simple illusion that one must escape by any selfish means narcissary. Rather, not only is it a source of wisdom and revelation, but it is again the very "means" of divinization.

Man is not driven to contemplate nature for its own sake, but because it is "a kind of initiation into the knowledge of God," something which more and more physicists and cosmologists appreciate, even while fewer and fewer biologists do. For "the stars in the heavens are like the letters of a book." "The wise person stands in the midst of the world's realities as in an inexhaustible treasury of knowledge... everything provides food for his intellectual nourishment." Mmmmm, reality (Homer).

But only if you are sufficiently awake to be aware of your divine intellect (¶), so that it has emerged to the front of the personality. For the awakened intellect, the world is a ladder, "a hoist to higher intellectual insight." For the unawakened, it is merely a stool.

Last rung in's a written gag! --The Wholly Coonifesto

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Becoming a Master in the Game of Life

It's funny how such diverse things can be woven together in the crazy quilt of the human soul, and can only be woven together there. Unless they are already woven together, and we simply imagine that we do the weaving....

It reminds me of Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game, which, if I recall correctly (it's probably been 30 years), is about a league of gentlemen slackers who play a sort of game in which the point is to unify diverse strands of knowledge, say, a Bach fugue with the laws of physics.

Here, let me look it up... Yes, here's the description: "Hesse's final novel is set in a 23rd-century utopia in which the intellectual elite have distilled all available knowledge of math, music, science, and art into an elaborately coded game."

Another review says that it is "about humanity's eternal quest for enlightenment and for synthesis of the intellectual and the participatory life. Set in the 23rd century, the novel purports to be a biography of Josef Knecht.... Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy. This he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi," or Master of the Game.

I have been very aware of playing the Glass Bead Game for, I don't know, 25 years or so, and unconsciously playing it for longer than that. This is what I was alluding to in a recent post, when I mentioned my distaste for school.

The bottom line is that the liberal educational establishment interfered with my Glass Bead Game, and mostly just got in the way. It essentially consisted of transferring "finished products" of other people's thought into my dome in a wholly linear and atomized manner. Or, you might say that it consisted of giving me the "final scores" of other games, but not allowing me to play my own. I suppose some of it was useful for the Game, but other aspects can put an end to the Game altogether if you take them seriously -- for example, radical Darwinism.

The radical Darwinist eliminates himself from the Game, and imagines that those who play it are only doing so at the behest of their genes. In reality, the only entities in the cosmos that get to play at all are the genes. We are simply the byproduct of their unconscious play. Love? Beauty? Truth? All just tricks of those mischievous genes. And there is no point to their play. It's just what they do, so don't ask. It's for them to know and you to find out.

However, if you are remotely intellectually sophisticated -- or if your intellect has not been completely extinguished by this asinine sort of radical secularism -- then you see in an instant that the Darwinist is just playing a very bad form of the Glass Bead Game. For he too wishes to distill all knowledge into one vast (or tiny) system, except that in his case, it is not a system of thought, nor is it a product of the nonlocal intellect, only of the local ego.

In fact, thought -- and therefore truth -- is precisely what is eliminated in the Darwinist's game, reduced to a side effect of genetic competition. Yes, it is -- and they are -- absurd, but if you ask a terminal Darwinian how a Bach fugue and the laws of physics are related, he might say something like, "well, to be honest we don't yet know. But we think it has something to do with gene #5043-K. The main point is that there is a genetic explanation."

Intellectually speaking, this is like borrowing a huge amount of money because one thinks one will receive a windfall in the future in order to pay back the intellectual loan. But in reality, it is like the real estate bubble, except that it is a cognitive bubble that will eventually go bust. The truth of Darwinism is all "on paper" that can never be cashed in for real wealth.

Now, I think it is obvious to one and all that my book is the preluminary result of my own Glass Bead Game. However, the Game obviously continues, as evidenced by the past 1,300 or so posts.

But a couple of points to bear in mind. When I wrote the book, I tried to do so in such a way that my later play would not fundamentally contradict anything in the book. I don't like to be so self-referential, but I frankly don't know who else I can refer to here. But one of my purposes in writing the book was to do so in such a way that reading it would not be at all like my bad experience with education, in which someone else's finished products were simply funneled into the Gagdad melon.

Rather, what I wanted to do was create a book that would allow others to play the Glass Bead Game. In other words, it's really meant to be a sort of template one can use to play the home version of the Glass Bead Game. I believe this is most obvious in book four, with all of the symbols I use for the spiritual life. That practically ensures that I am not "giving you the answer," but showing you how to play the game. In order accomplish my goal, the book had to be simultaneously "fixed" and yet "open." But this is just an analogue to how life, mind, and spirit -- the cosmos itself -- operate.

These thoughts were provoked yesterday in reading Jonah Goldberg's great Liberal Fascism at the same time I am pondering and blogging about Balthasar's Cosmic Liturgy.

Now, I would be willing to bet folding money that I am the first human being in history who has ever read these two particular books at the same time. That is not a comment about me, just about the uniqueness of the individual human, and how each of us uses such different material to play the Game.

Anyway, in reading these two works simultaneously, some cross-pollination is bound to occur as a result of all the bees buzzing in my bonnet. So yesterday afternoon, as I was reading Liberal Fascism, I was furiously making all of these margin notes about the connection between the two -- connections that I imagine that no other human being has previously noted in this exact way, and yet, are just "there," waiting to be noticed by someone.

Therefore, are the connections manmade? Or are we simply the middle man needed to bridge the connections that are already there? And assuming that the connections are already there -- which I believe they are -- what does this say about the mutual "object" they are illuminating?

Well, for starters, it cannot be anything like a three-dimensional object in time and space. Rather, this would obviously have to have more dimensions than three, and it would have to be non-linear. In reality, I believe that it is -- to borrow a term from Terence McKenna -- a "hyperdimensional manifold," a subjective topology which human beings have the unique privilege of "entering" and exploring.

"Hyperdimensional" simply means that it possesses more than four dimensions, while a manifold is a special kind of mathematical space. I call this space O, and I believe that it is ultimately in the form of a complex Klein Bottle (see illustration), in which the outside surface is the inside, and vice versa.

In my particular version of the Glass Bead Game, this is how I understand the distinction between subject and object, spirit and matter, potential and actuality. You might say that consciousness is the "interior" of the cosmos and matter the "exterior." However, theses are simply two sides of the same surface, like the Klein Bottle. We live "inside" the Klein Bottle, while the world we interact with is the "outside" of the Klein Bottle. But on pain of absurdity, object and subject are ultimately "one." The world is infused with intelligent consciousness, while human beings prove that matter can "think."

As I said, that's how Gagdad plays the Game.

It is also how Maximus played the Game, which is why I find him so compatible. For example, Balthasar notes that it is ridiculous to think that two "ways of conceiving the universe can stand in [such a] contradictory relationship to each other that no power of the intelligence will ever be able to remove the contradiction by creating a higher, third possibility."

That is, Maximus was a "creator" who worked with "traditional material but who also [knew] how to arrange the pieces according to their own architectural design." Again, as we mentioned before, he was able to unify -- or to see the hidden unity of -- "five or six intellectual worlds that seemingly had lost all contact," bringing to light "new connections that gave rise, in turn, to unexpected similarities and relationships."

Really, he was just accurately describing the hyperdimensional manifold of O: "His ecstatic vision of a holy universe, flowing forth, wave upon wave, from the unfathomable depths of God, whose center lies always beyond the creature's reach; his vision of a creation that realizes itself in ever more distant echoes, until it finally ebbs away at the borders of nothingness, yet which is 'brought home,' step by step, through the ascending unities of an awestruck love..."

Maximus was a Master of the Game.

And if it's all the same to you, I would prefer that you address me as the Maestro.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And That's the Way It Isn't: News and Meta-News

In case you're joining us in mid-program, we've been chewing on Balthasar's Cosmic Liturgy. It's not the sort of book that you can just read, toss aside, and reach for the next one.

Rather, in order to get anything out it it, it must not only be chewed -- 40 times -- each page -- but swallowed, digested, and assimilated. And when I say "assimilated," I mean that it must either be used for energy or for renewing or filling out one's celestial form. The purpose is not just to make you intellectually fat and lazy with a lot of useless knowledge, like a tenured bore-belly or coldblooded faculty lounge liztard.

I hope that every book I eat will be this chewy and nutritious, but that is the exception, not the rule. Actually, that's not entirely true. In the evenings, I try to opt for somewhat less rich fare, since this type of book can only be understood with all one's faculties operating at maximum capacity: mind, body, and spirit. You need the cooperation of all three to benefit from this type of book.

For example, without the higher spirit (¶), I can't imagine how this book would make any sense at all. I have no idea what an atheist would think of it. I suppose it would be similar to what a dog thinks of a fire hydrant.

Which is unfortunate, because the subtitle of the book is The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor. In other words, it's all about the all and the everything, forever and always. I suppose the spiritually anorexic atheist might cleverly ask, "what could this man possibly know about the universe? He died in the seventh century, way before Bill Maher proved that God doesn't exist and that Obama is His prophet."

Let's just say that physics is derived from metaphysics, not vice versa, and that metaphysical truth is always true, and therefore always accessible to man -- not to his evolved mind but to his intellect, i.e., the nous. This is how a man who lived and died over a thousand years ago can be every bit as fresh and relevant as today's news.

In case you missed it, that was a little joke at the end there. The point is that almost all "news" is completely irrelevant, just a distraction that ultimately serves to obscure what I call The Eternals. It takes no intelligence whatsoever to be a producer or consumer of MSM "news."

When I began this blog, you might recoil that this was a major part of my mission: not necessarily to avoid the news, but to look at it in light of eternal truth, i.e., to illuminate it with timeless principles. And really, this is the only way one can understand the news, just as the only way one may understand the physical world is in light of certain mathematical constants. If the constants changed every day, it would be ridiculous to say that we "understand" the world.

And one of the major purposes of "news" -- and I am speaking here of the moonstream media, or MSMistry of Truth -- is to obscure the rules of reality, precisely, so that the impossible may seem possible, e.g., that it is possible for a man to marry a man, or that "experts" can predict the weather 100 years hence (but not next week), or that high taxes are good for the economy, or that providing more of something at less cost will cause people to consume less of it, or that arresting an obnoxious clown for being one is an instance of "racism," etc., etc., etc.

As Walter Cronkite might have said if he had had an ounce of irony or self-awareness, And that's not the way it is. Not at all. Not even close. Rather, this is just the current Liberal Truth, a cognitive pacifier for the spiritually dead, a fount of elite conventional wisdom for over- and undereducated rubes, which is to say no wisdom at all. Good night clowns.

Okay, back to the eternals. Balthasar points out that Maximus was able to serve as a living bridge between the scholasticism of the West and the mysticism of the East (yes, we are speaking in generalizations and of major trends). This naturally arrests my attention, because "scholasticism" is related to school, which was something I absolutely detested. And why did I detest it? I can't even necessarily blame school, not completely anyway.

Rather, it's an issue of temperament. I'm not sure if I want to get into all of the personal details at this juncture, but let's just suppose that God speaks in diverse ways in order to serve a diverse population. It is not that God is diverse. Rather, people are. Obviously. Therefore, the identical truth must be tailored, so to speak, to suit different people. This is why a certain amount of "fragmentation" of Christian truth is permitted at the human margin, but only up to a point.

For example, there are denominations of Christianity that cater to the sick, the perverse, the envious, the racially paranoid. These can never be true forms of Christianity, for they are well beyond the permissible human margin.

Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ would be a fine example. It is actually the Perpetually Divisive Bank of Racial Victimhood, and now we know that Obama wasn't just snoozing in the pews all those years. Rather, he absorbed and assimilated their template for interpreting reality, which is why he could reflexively come to the defense of his undignified friend from the prestigious Harvard Department of Race Hustling. And what happened to Gates doesn't hurt his business but helps it, for it allows him to sucker in more aggrieved customers at $150,000 per.

So Maximus speaks to me quite directly, especially in his cosmic vision. In fact, I have had to invent a new pneumaticon that I place in the margin of the book every time Maximus says something that mirrors the main idea presented in my book. I don't know if I can reproduce the symbol on my keyboard, but it looks something like this, for reasons we will get into later:

At any rate, Maximus clearly saw the importance of unity between dogma and experience, or what I would call (k) and (n). There is nothing wrong with (k) so long as it remains "within the orbit" of (n), so to speak. But I can't tell you how many Christians I meet who begin spewing spiritual (k) that makes no sense at all in light of eternal truth, and cannot possibly be true. It's all just man-made heresy. And it finds a home in people for the same reason liberalism does: because they have forgotten how to think metaphysically, which must always be simultaneously experiential.

If you emphasize one pole over the other, then you are bound for trouble. You end up in a realm of pure subjectivism on the one hand, or a kind of abstract system on the other, detached from the Real and then infused with human passion. You know the type.

Ironically, this is where the deep structure of liberal fascism meets up with religious fundamentalism. The former is religious passion in the absence of religion, while the latter is religious passion in the absence of intellect. As we know, whatever the leftist accuses someone else of may be interpreted as projection. This is why they are so preoccupied with the "religious right" in general and Sarah Palin in particular. Pure projection.

Now, scholasticism is all about fine distinctions within the One, whereas mysticism is all about unity amidst multiplicity. Or, you might say analysis vs. synthesis.

Here again, you can't really have one without the other, for they are analogous to anabolism (building up) and catabolism (breaking down), which constitute metabolism. Since bodily metabolism is a declension from spiritual metabolism (not vice versa), I think you see the point. Ultimately, the "purpose" of scholasticism must always be unity -- or to better understand the nature of unity -- which, of course, Aquinas himself proved in the mystical experience he was granted near the end of his life. This in no way contradicted his magnificent system of thought, but sealed it.

"... [D]ogmatic theology and the spiritual ascent to God, according to Maximus, offer each other no opposition.... the ultimate and highest degree of reconciliation occurs only within the active range of clear, discerning, and decisive intelligence. The power of thought is the force that transforms the world" (Balthasar).

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Occidentally-on-Purpose Unification of East and West Brains

Friday was a bit of a sidetrack. We've been discussing the unification of East and West in Maximus -- not just of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, or even orient and occident, but a deeper dialectic that seems to be imprinted into our mainframe, i.e., the left and right hemispheres of the brain, each of which is required in order to host the "higher third" of the human subject.

So many philosophical disputes down through the ages are simply a result of failure to appreciate the irreducible complementarity -- not duality -- of being. A duality is an unproductive sort of stalemate, whereas a complementarity is a productive interplay that generates the "higher third" alluded to above.

Individual examples are too numerous to chronicle here, but failure to admit complementarity not only creates impasses between disciplines, but within them as well. For example, in science, there are materialists and idealists, or Aristotelians and Platonists. In psychology, there are behaviorists and depth psychologists. In religion, there are the mystics and dogmatics.

I no longer remember the details, but about 20 years ago, I was complaining about some quandary to my analyst, and he said something to the effect of, "why does it have to be either/or? Why not both/and? After all, it always is."

The idea of complementarity is one of those things that you realize is true the moment you hear it, and yet, must be relearned again and again. As we now know, it is woven into the very fabric of the cosmos, as elucidated by the physicist Neils Bohr (the "complementarity principle").

That is, in subatomic physics, it literally makes no sense to ask if one is dealing with a wave or a particle, for it is always both/and. Yes, you can pretend that reality is particle-like, but then you're excluding half the story. Or, you can pretend it's wavelike, and you miss the other half. If you know where a particle is, then you don't know its velocity. If you know the velocity, then you don't know its location. I understand that batting against Sandy Koufax posed a similar problem. On one occasion, after the umpire called a strike, the batter asked, "are you sure? That sounded outside."

Now, many new-age types try to use the facts of physics to build "upward" and justify a mystical view of the cosmos, e.g., The Tao of Physics. But it doesn't work that way. We don't have a left and right brain because the cosmos is simultaneously particle- and wavelike. Rather, vice versa. And our analysis cannot end with man. Rather, man has this intrinsic complementarity because he is in the image of the Creator.

Again, creation could not occur if there were only a uniform "oneness." Rather, there must be distinction. But this is never a radical separation from the Principle; rather, it is always multiplicity within a prior unity.

Oneness could never be achieved on any level -- material, biological, psychological or spiritual -- if it weren't latent within creation to begin with. In other words, in the absence of oneness, we could not have objects, organisms, egos, or selves, each of which reflects the principle of wholeness within its particular domain (i.e., matter, life, mind, and spirit).

You might say that as one becomes many, it breaks out into the absolute and infinite, which would correspond to particle and wave (or left brain and right brain, male and female), respectively. Thus, whenever we see the apparent multiplicity of duality, we must "recall" the prior complementary oneness that actually joins them together in wholly matterimany.

One critical point to bear in mind is that the principle of complementarity applies to both the object and subject. That is, just as physics proves the existence of material complementarity, psychology proves the existence of subjective complementarity. As I have discussed before, it is a bit old-fashioned to imagine the mind in 19th century mechanistic terms, perhaps as an archaeological dig with the older material "below," or maybe a bag with "stuff" inside, or perhaps a pressure cooker that needs to let off steam in the form of "instinctual energy."

Rather, just as the Trinity is entirely intersubjective, each being a member of the other, the mind consists of "parts" that can only be artificially separated from the whole. Therefore, while we can talk about "ego" and "unconscious," we must always remember that these are no more real than "wave" and "particle."

Rather, it all depends upon how we look at it. In reality, there is no conscious act that doesn't have unconscious roots, and no unconscious fantasy that isn't infused with the conscious. And we have no idea how this actually works, any more than we have any idea how a dream is produced. In order to think about anything at all, we must resort to dualism. Just don't confuse method with truth, for the truth is always the complementary whole. A physicist doesn't actually know what matter or energy are, any more than a biologist knows what life is, or a psychologist knows what consciousness is, or a priest knows what God is.

But in each case, we do have means of finding out. In other words, there are specific methods for disclosing the truth of matter, life, mind and spirit. However, just don't confuse the means with the underlying truth, which is to confuse epistemology -- what we can know -- with ontology -- what actually is.

In fact, that is another false dualism -- ontology and epistemology -- that is resolved in Christian metaphysics. If I discuss this now, I'll be getting wayyy ahead of myself, but this was very much emphasized by Symeon the New Theologian, who you might say unified doctrine and experience within his own person (which is what made him so New). But I want to finish with Maximus before moving on to Symeon.

Indeed, in many ways, Symeon is just a restatement of Maximus, only in a more highly personalized manner. Remember what I said about complementarity having to be rediscovered again and again, perhaps by each generation; thus, you can draw a more or less straight or crooked line from, say, Denys to Maximus to Symeon to Gregory Palamas to Toots Mondello to me.

So Balthasar talks about some of the polarities that are unified in Maximus, such as that "between the impersonal religious thought of the East and the personal categories of biblical revelation," or "between a religion of nature [↑] and a religion of self-communication and of grace [↓]," between "narrative thought" and "analytic thought," between schoolroom and monastery, or between mythos and logos.

For me, the important point is that Maximus straddled the gulf between God's transcendence and immanence, which is a complementarity that can only be "resolved" within the human subject. Although he ultimately chose the Western tradition, he did so in such a way that he "imported" the Eastern conception. In other words, he brought in "the whole Asian mystique of divinization," or theosis, "on the higher level of the biblical mystery," as opposed to "the lower level of natural dissolution and fusion."

Do you see the point? It all turns on the meaning of One. Symbolically, you could say that it all turns on O vs. ʘ. That little point in the middle is you. Either that dot is o-bliterated in egoic dissolution, or it is "preserved" as one of God's precious "parts." If you think you must choose between the two, I think you're caught up in one of those false dualities. For in reality, there is the eternal complementarity of O and •, which is none other than infinite and absolute playing along the shoreline of the aeon. So enjoy your praydate with O. You only get ʘne.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wondering Through the Bewilderness

Last night I dreamt about writing an ironclad proof of God. However, I can't remember what I wrote. Oh well. It'll come to me eventually. In the meantime, I dragged this two-year old baby out of the smoking arkive. As always, it has provoked many second thoughts that I have tucked in here and there.

I don't know if this is still valid -- probably not, since I learned it in college -- but I remember reading about how the resting EEGs of extreme extroverts and thrill seekers are unusually rather flat, which is precisely why they seek thrills -- in order to stimulate their brain. In the absence of a vivid assault on the senses, they just feel kind of dead. Such individuals can also be drawn to stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine in order to gain a spurious sense of life without having to do anything. But that just burns out the synapses, leaving them even more endeadened in the headend.

Conversely, more quiet and introverted people showed a great deal of brain activity even while resting and doing nothing. Often, such a person can feel overwhelmed by too much external activity -- it overloads their nervous system, so to speak.

I definitely fall into that latter category, in that I have always required very little stimulation in order to feel hyper-stimulated. For me, one is often a crowd. O is enough to deal with. It took many years for me to finally be comfortable about being uncomfortable in my own skin. These types of individuals are often attracted to the more calming type drugs. Back in my undergraduate days, I remember feeling as if I were always two beers shy of normalcy, so to speak. Let's just say I occasionally overshot the mark.

I was thinking about this while eyeing Josef Pieper's For the Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, in which he discusses the meaning of philosophy. He quotes a fellow named Socrates, who remarked that "the sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin."

But contemporary philosophy does not begin with a sense of wonder, nor does it attempt to cultivate it. Rather, it begins with the capacity to doubt, and then aggravates it, eventually turning a good servant into a tyrannical master, for there is nothing that cannot be doubted by doubt. It takes no wisdom or skill at all. You can take any buffoon with a capacity to doubt, and make him, I don't know, the Alphonse Fletcher chair at Harvard.

One reason I could never be a secular leftist is that it is a cynical philosophy that drains everything it touches of the dimension of wonder. For atheists and other philisophostines, the world loses its metaphysical transparency; surface is reality and everything is self-evident. They elevate our crudest way of knowing the world to the highest wisdom, and their self-satisfaction ensures that no spiritual growth can occur. They are a closed system.

The sense of wonder is not merely a useless "luxury capacity" that serves no human purpose. Rather, it is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the cosmos. In fact, like a divining rod, it tells us where to look for the water -- the baptizing Waters of Life. It senses those "holes" in the landscape through which the wondrous spiritual energies gently bubble forth to the surface. Look, there's one now! Which reminds me of one of the mysterious Sayings of Toots: Why listen to me? I'm all wet.

The flatlander who is confined to the everyday, proximate world can never really philosophize, whereas for the person who has been arrested by a sense of wonder, "the immediate necessities of life fall mute, if only for this one moment of impassioned gazing at the wonder-inspiring physiognomy of the world." I suppose the atheist might object that he too wonders at Being, but he would never agree that wonder is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the object that has provoked it.

Pieper points out that it is not the abnormal, the sensational, and the exciting that provoke the sense of wonder. Indeed, this is the whole point. Many people compulsively seek out the abnormal and the sensational in order to simulate a dulled sense of wonder that is incapable of perceiving the wondrous in the commonplace:

"Whoever requires the unusual in order to fall into wonder shows himself by virtue of this very fact to be someone who has lost the ability to respond correctly to the mirandum of Being. The need for the sensational, even if it prefers to present itself under the guise of the bohemian, is an unmistakable sign of the absence of a genuine capacity for wonder and hence a bourgeois mentaility" (emphasis mine).

This highlights the fact that the weirdest people are usually the most banal and predictable underneath their weirdness. And the far left -- you know, soak-alled liberals -- is nothing if not a collection of weirdos, misfits, rejects, losers, crackpots, kooks, "rebels," outliars, and auto-victimizing boohoomians hiding behind their "authenticity." You know, the "herd of independent minds."

A genuine sense of wonder preserves the extraordinary in the familiar, and is therefore a key to happiness. Pieper notes that for Aquinas, it was one of the indirect proofs of God, in that "in the very first moment of wonder man sets his foot on the path at the end of which lies the visio beatifica, the blissful perception of the ultimate cause." In this regard, you might say that wonder is a way of "metabolizing reality," in that it involves both digestion and resultant growth.

By the way, for those of you with my book, much of what we are discussing here dovetails nicely with pp. 215-16, in which I point out that a goal of the spiritual life is "to be in a mild state of (?!) at all times.... It is a matter of removing obstacles to its reception, not setting up elaborate, complicated, or expensive situations to trick the ego into relaxing its death-grip for awhile."

In fact, to further quote mybob, "All of us can, with even unschooled intuition, receive these transitory, partial, and mixed messages from O, the flotsam and jetsam that wash up from the father shore.... [But] only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something felt as a continuous presence." God is a presence. Nonetheless, we have to open it in order to have our second birthday.

Now, our sense of wonder ultimately answers to the Mystery of Being, and a mystery is not an enigma to be solved but a riddle to be enjoyed and even played with. And all of this falls under the heading of "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." As Pieper points out, our higher bewilderness is not to be confused with resignation, despair, or hopelessness. To the contrary, our engagement with the mystery of being is generative and therefore filled with hope and joy, because it brings us closer to the ultimate cause of our wondering.

What actually provoked me to wonder about wonder was an essay by Dennis Prager on how Excitement Deprives Children of Happiness -- which is another way of saying that immersing children in over-stimulating activities will inevitably lead to an atrophied sense of wonder. As Prager writes,

"because we parents so delight in the excitement we see in our children at those moments -- because they seem so happy then -- we can easily fall into the trap of providing more and more exciting things to keep them seemingly happy at just about every moment. And they in turn come to rely on getting excited to keep them happy and to identify excitement with happiness. But excitement is not happiness. In fact, it is the ultimate drug."

Never before in history has so much excitement been available to people, but are they really any happier or fulfilled? I agree with Prager that "all this excitement is actually inhibiting our children's ability to enjoy life and therefore be happy." It "renders young people jaded, not happy.... That is why the frequent complaint of 'I'm bored' is often a sign of a jaded child, i.e., a child addicted to excitement and therefore incapable of enjoying life when not being excited."

So, what have we learned? It's the simple things of life. You know, like extreme seeking, off-road spiritual adventures, verticalisthenics, gymnostics, isness ministration, neurocosmology, coonical pslackology, applied non-doodling, nonlocal dot connecting.... and a couple of beers.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On Being Shattered, Battered, Scattered, and Made Whole

Ted raised a valid point in cautioning me against disparaging or dismissing Buddhism, which I am not trying to do. It is entirely true that earlier forms of Theravada Buddhism were more purely focussed on escape from one's own suffering, whereas the later Mahayana schools developed the bodhisattva principle, whereby the liberated soul forgoes nirvana until every being is released from suffering. Then he just shuts the door behind him.

But of course, that begs the question of whether the bodhisattva is simply reinventing the wheel of karma, in light of Christ's accomplishment -- that is, if it was truly universal. Looked at in this manner, the bodhisattva is simply participating in the metacosmic "mind of Christ," even if he doesn't call it that. You know what Toots Mondello said in his Wise Sayings and Cracks: "I have other Coons, who are not of this den."

In any event, I am not attempting to disparage Buddhism by looking at the possibility of a higher synthesis of natural and supernatural religions, any more than I am disparaging Christianity by pointing out that it can learn (or at least rediscover) something from Taoism or Vedanta. We'll get more into this as we go along, but it is apparently very difficult for man to hold "totality" in his head, so to speak. What inevitably happens is something like Hegel's dialectic, through which people elevate this or that part to the whole. Then that part generates its own antithesis, or "missing part." That part is then regarded as the new whole, and so on.

Using the example of Buddhism above, we can see that it initially focussed too heavily on a pessimistic rejection of the world. Thus, this partial truth dialectically generated the complementary truth of Mahayana.

I believe the same thing has occurred in Christianity, again, because of the apparent difficulty of holding the "fullness of truth" in one's head. Thus -- this is just my view, so you certainly don't have to agree with me -- the overemphasis on dogma and scholasticism in medieval Catholicism generated the Protestant lurch into a more personal and unmediated experience of God.

Yes, I fully understand that the Protestants did not "discover" anything new, the proof of which is in the highly personal and existential writings of a Meister Eckhart or St. John of the Cross.

Nevertheless, I think I understand the rebellious Spirit that is almost automatically provoked when someone tells me what I can and cannot experience of God and how I am permitted to do so. In a certain way, the "mystic" is always a threat to the "establishment" -- also proved by an Eckhart or Maximus -- and by Jesus himself, quintessentially!

Really, it goes back to something much more primordial, something that I believe is woven into the very fabric of the cosmos, and that would be Bion's ♀ and ♂, which are the empty symbols he used for the eternal dynamic of container and contained -- which in turn generate so many fundamental antinomies, e.g., form-substance, absolute-infinite, point-line, space-time, male-female, etc. (Do not confuse ♀ and ♂ with mother and father, although, looked at in another way, feel free to do so.)

We might as well face the fact that we can never contain God, not in any human words, any institution, or any person, no matter how "realized." Rather, God -- the ultimate ♂ -- will always shatter whatever you attempt to contain him with.

Does this mean that all containers (♀) are equal? Hardly! For one thing, if that were the case, I would have nothing to blog about, and the Catholic church would be no better than Obama's Trinity United Church of Race Baiting Cop Haters. What it means is that the "human project," so to speak, involves the impossible task of developing a ♀ that is equal to God's ♂. We know it's impossible up front. So why bother?

This is again like asking why we produce art, i.e., divine beauty, or why we want to be virtuous, which is to reflect the sovereign good in the herebelow. I don't think we can not attempt do these things, unless we have become somehow deranged -- which, of course, a lot of people are. Nevertheless, try as we might, "there is no one good but the One."

Now, I am sympathetic to the view that the Catholic church is God's own "authorized ♀," so to speak. Nevertheless, I don't think it is fruitful to look at this in a static way, as if everything is decided in advance, and it is only for us to assent.

Indeed, you might say that there is an ideal church -- a nonlocal or celestial ♀ for God's ♂, so to speak -- and that the best the earthly church can do is try to "imitate" it. This is how we can have equally lofty saints and doctors who continue to disagree over doctrine. Again, no one person can contain -- or be a ♀ -- for the whole. Can't happen.

You might even say that Mary -- and only Mary -- was able to be ♀ for ♂. The church can imitate Mary in endeavoring to give birth to the Word, but can never duplicate her feat. There is only one theokotos, or Mother of God.

And yet, we are all called upon to be that womb with a pew, so that we too can "give birth to the Word." We must all be Mary, which is to say, a little ♀ for God -- a fertile egghead for the free-ranging Spirit.

Some of us are cups, others are buckets. Some, like Deepak, have only a crock. But in any event, in view of the fact that God is the Ocean, this should be cause for humility. Nevertheless, a bucket of Maximus is obviously better than a crock of Chopra.

It seems to me that we are again dealing with the earthly instantiation of a metacosmic principle, what we might call the "eternal birth" of ♂ out of ♀. It is eternal, because it is the paradox of the all-containing giving birth to the uncontainable -- an irresistible force and immovable object. Thus, reality is their "divine play," so to speak, an eternal game of bride and speak. Just when you think you've contained the Word -- oops! -- another post. It never ends.

And if I am on the light track, this would seem to lead into the heart of the trinitarian mystery, which is the ultimate case of something that can be thought about but never contained, since it is the container. Making maters (and paters) more complicated, it is not a "static" container, but a dynamic one. But perhaps it is dynamic because it is fundamentally ♀ and ♂, who are together always giving birth to.... to what?

To everything, among other non-things. However, I can understand why Christianity would refer to these as "Father" and "Son," since it is probably important to desexualize ♀ and ♂, and not confuse them with human sexual generation, which is what most pagan religions tend to do.

That is, pagan mythologies see the cosmos as a result of a sexual act between the gods, which is specifically avoided in the Judeo-Christian tradition, in which God creates the world out of nothing, with no hanky panky at all.

Much of this is discussed in a meta-mythological, trans-linguistic, and orthoparadoxical manner in pp. 9-17 of my book. Yes, I hate to be so annoying with the so-called wordplay, but I'm not just trying to be a pomographic text fiend.

Rather, if I am in the right light, then the dynamic rapport of ♀ and ♂ is a kind of wordplay, if you will. After all, it generates a paradoxical Word that we cannot wrap our minds around, try as we might. It is what created this wholly matterimany in which we live and have our being.

And you will gnotice how often the playful Word Himsoph played with language in such a way that it could never be "contained" by all of the future would-be scribes and pharisees. After all, he could have left an unambiguous "to do" list for humans, couldn't he? Instead, he largely spoke in the form of parable, symbolism, metaphor, and allegory -- all modes which require our own participation to realize their truth. In other words, they are not simple containers of information, i.e., ♀.

Rather, in an odd way, they are always highly provocative and "disturbing" ♂s that require our own ♀ to com-prehend, i.e., we must make the effort to wrap ourselves around his rap (even as it wraps around us).

But then it shatters our ♀ again! And again. And again. It's hopeless. And therein lies our hope. For in being shattered and deprived of merely human meaning, we are resurrected and part-icipate in ultimate meaning.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Marriage of Natural and Supernatural Religion

This is one of the things that intrigues me about Maximus, that he leant "new brilliance and new validity" to "the element in Christian thought that had its living roots in Asia" (Balthasar). I think this may be important because he therefore serves as a kind of bridge between the supernaturalism of Christianity and the more "natural" (or "naturally supernatural") religions of the East, i.e., Vedanta, Taoism, and Zen.

You might even say that this approach forms a nexus -- or performs a sacred marriage -- between "Father sky" and "Mother earth," in that man's religious instinct is analogous to the "maternal soil" that must be fertilized from above.

As discussed in my book, manhood is the basis of civilization. That is, maternity -- and therefore the mother-infant dyad -- is a biological category that excludes any necessary role for men aside from a little help with conception.

But the emergence of humanness is characterized by the trimorphic, intersubjective structure of Mother-Father-Baby. This can only take place because the male now has a social (not biological) role: father, husband, protector, etc. Thus, you might say that these categories are the very "essence" of civilization.

Even on a purely practical basis, a civilization that fails to produce manly men to protect it is not long for the world. But more subtly, in psychoanalytic terms, "father" is also a symbol of the Law (in its most generic and universal sense, in that reverence for the abstract Law is one of the things that lifts us above the animals).

In contrast, the mother is mercy, which is felt, not thought. Nor could it ever be reduced to granite tablets, like the Ten Commandments. Law is always masculine.

It reminds me of when Senator Feinstein was questioning Justice Roberts at the confirmation hearings. She said something to the effect that she wanted to know how he felt, not what he thought. Or more recently, think of the supremely feminized Obama saying that he wanted justices with "empathy." I think you can see why that leads directly to the unraveling of civilization at its very foundation, for it is a passive aggressive attack on masculinity. Judicial tyranny is the result.

By the way, it's the same with socialized medicine. One of the reasons Obama needs to ram through any kind of bill, no matter how bad, is that once we have socialized medicine, there's no turning back (or forward, to be precise). Like it or not, most everyone becomes dependent upon the state, so that for the rest of our lives, we'll be arguing over government run healthcare.

Which is exactly what the Democrats want. It's the same with Social Security. Once you lock up a significant portion of the populace into dependency upon the state, conservatives can be caricatured as people who want to throw grandma out in the cold.

Anyway, back to natural religion. In a way, you could say that natural religion is (↑), while supernatural religion is (↓). The former embodies all the techniques of ascent available to man. (I should point out that in reality, these natural religions must also ultimately be "from God," but that's a subject for a different post.)

Here is how Balthasar describes natural religion: "As the elemental groping of man toward God, it is, first of all, a way of renouncing the world -- for this transitory, spatio-temporal, destiny-determined world is surely not God! It is a way of stripping off form, in order to find the infinite Absolute in a state of formlessness. The world, compared with God, is unreality, a falling away from the eternal unity."

Balthasar has a tendency to caricature theologies with which he disagrees, but this strikes me as a pretty fair assessment, for this ascent into the formless "beyond being" is the basis of all natural religions, from Vedanta in the East to Plotinus in the West. There's nothing really wrong with it, except perhaps that it rarely "works" (even Plotinus had only a few brief swooning episodes of egoic dissolution into the One).

I remember reading an interview of Ken Wilber (who is a Buddhist or something), and he said something to the effect that the chances of a human being achieving liberation in this life were less then one in a billion. Hence the need for lots of reincarnations to do the job. But that is the way of pure (↑). It really is a case of trying to lift yourself up by your own buddhastraps. Good luck with that.

Also, from the natural side of things, the "god-man" can only be understood in relative terms. Even the most exalted avatar -- say, Krishna -- is not literally God. As Balthasar explains, "expressed in terms of this picture of things, an incarnation of God can only mean a concession, the gracious descent of God into multiplicity, into the realm of matter, in order to lead what is multiple back into unity." Thus, it is not a real reconciliation of the One and the many, God and world. Rather, it is again a means of escape from the world.

And there is an inevitable elitism associated with the way of pure (↑). It's somewhat like golf, which you can only be good at if you have lots of time and money. This is how a sinister clown such as Deepak becomes "guru of the stars," or how poor Ken Wilber becomes the leader of a children's crusade of affluent new agers with skulls full of mush. Remember, his way has nothing to offer the other 99.999% of poor slobs on the planet.

But the Christian way is a way of grace, of pure (↓), although naturally we must do what we can to make ourselves worthy of it. Unlike Eastern approaches, it takes the individual seriously. He is not just an illusion of maya, with no value or purpose beyond escaping the dreary play as soon as possible.

Rather, the purpose of God's (↓) is to lift creation "beyond itself to fulfillment." It is a divinization of the world, so that you might say that God's descent is our ascent, if you catch my meaning.

I'm trying to think of a human analogy... Imagine the gifted artist, who, by infusing a common landscape with his artistic vision, is able to elevate it beyond itself and reveal its metaphysical transparency. As a matter of fact, this is the very purpose of art, which is to imitate the Creator.

I always think of that scene in American Beauty, where the young videographer shoots a film of a brown paper bag spontaneously blowing in the wind. Thus, he is "elevating" the most common reality by descending fully into it in an empathic way.

Now imagine God fully descending into reality in an "empathic way," thereby transforming the most ugly realities -- including death and suffering -- into a kind of aching beauty.

But the key remains our own participation in this drama, which is why there is surely a place for the Eastern approaches, only fully "baptized," so to speak, which is what Balthasar claims that Maximus was able to do. The danger of Roman thought, and later scholasticism, is that they tended to create a kind of masculine imbalance, forgetting about the experiential side of things. This is why Balthasar himself -- who was a Jesuit by training -- felt so spiritually reanimated by going back to the early fathers such as Maximus.

Balthasar believes that Maximus confronted that same duality, "and recognized that Christianity could not survive without the religious passion of Asia. But how much of this impulse, this human way of thinking, can be assimilated into Christianity? How can it be done without endangering the core of Christianity itself?"

All good questions. It reminds me of why leftism never works and never can work. Why? Because it forgets what man is. In contrast, free enterprise works because it takes man as he is, and transforms his self-interest into great public good.

Might we apply the same idea to religion? If so, then we have to take man as he is, and focus his private, natural religious impulses onto something far grander.

To be continued....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obeying the Law of Levity: Playing Weightlessly in the Space of God

When it is said that "Jesus saves," I don't spend much of my timelessness thinking of that in terms of what happens after time runs out, i.e., death.

Rather, I think of the saving presence of the Absolute within the relative, in a way that is not only accessible to humans, but in which humans can participate directly. I am very much interested in saving myself -- including my intellect -- right now. The rest -- i.e., eternity -- can take care of itself.

In the forward to Cosmic Liturgy, Daley writes that it is only the "personal presence of the infinite God in our world as a human individual, and our own potential personal unity with God through and in him," that prevents us "from regarding the world as simply the extension of our own minds, the playground of our own ideologies, or the mirror of our own limitations and vices."

In short, there is an objective standard of Truth (which is the virtue of mind), Virtue (which is beauty of soul), and Beauty (which is truth in form or action), one that we may approach but never fully embody, even if -- or because! -- someOne else did.

Again, "progress" is only meaningful -- can only exist -- within this real space. In its absence, you end up with ironically named "progressives" for whom real progress is specifically impossible, since they deny the Absolute up front. Instead, the secular leftist simply absolutizes his own ego, so that the world becomes "the playground of his own ideology" and a "mirror of his own limitations and vices." Another general name for this is tyranny, while a particular name -- one of many -- is Obama.

Thus, in saving our mind -- in allowing us to think clearly about reality -- Jesus also saves us from political tyranny. Being that the person is "ultimate" -- or participates in the ultimate -- he can never allow the state to become so. For the Christian, that is a non-starter. One cannot be a "Christian leftist," for it is an oxymoron, pure and simple. Your sacred rights -- and duties! -- are grounded in nature and nature's God, not in the state. Period. The political struggle in all its iterations is with people (not persons, for only God can confer personhood) who do not believe this. End of issue. Beginning of struggle.

The mind is free. But it is only free because it is capable of knowing truth. And we only have freedom of will to the extent that we are able to assimilate truth -- that is, to live out of the "center of truth," so to speak.

Thus, truth is the axis and foundation of the human world. If there is no truth -- which is to say, objectivity -- then there is no possibility of anything deserving the name "human." Again, if there is only relativity, then we are just a bunch of wild animals who can be herded together based upon whomever is able to enforce their version of "truth." To live in subjectivity is to be a subject, i.e., subjugated. But we are Americans. We are not subjects, but citizens. We cannot be forced to pay for the healthcare of illegal immigrants or to murder babies in the womb.

I repeat: even if Jesus had not lived, I would still "believe in him," because I believe man is fashioned in the image of the Absolute, and it is only this fact that allows us to stand up to tyranny in a manner that is simultaneously objective (true) and righteous (good).

Yes, you might well get streamrolled like Sarah Palin in the process, but you have every cosmic right to hold up a cross in the face of His Smugness and say, "stop! That is not permitted here!" Yes, the world will do to you what it did to Him. Goes with the territory, the territory we call "liberty," which is always under assault from all sides.

Again, our freedom is a cosmic right. It is only ratified and forever memorialized by Christ's saving presence. You can only not know this if you have ceased being American, and are instead a "world citizen" or some other such nonsense.

"World citizenship" (not to mention "international law") is a lie, since it is not based upon any interior reality. Rather, it is something invented by tyrants for purposes of crowd control. It is one of the pillars of the criminal organization known as the UN, which does not promote the natural law, to put it mildly. "International law" is simply "man's law" writ large, and therefore cosmic lawlessness. It excuses anything but intrinsic goodness, truth, and freedom.

This is one of the reasons why they love "global warming," as it will allow them to extend and legitimize man's law (which is tyranny) in an unprecedented manner. It's bad enough that Obama can reach into our pockets. With crap & trade, dictators from all over the world can do so as well.

When I said a few posts back that "only America can save the world," I meant it in this precise sense. Only America can save the world, because only America was very much "founded in Christ"; or, you could say that America consciously founded itself on this principle of the "cosmic Christ" defining the limits of the state, whether you like it or not. Yes, liberty is a terrible thing, but that's no excuse to allow leftists to take it away and thereby cash in your humanness, just because they're frightened of it.

This post is going in an unforeseen direction, but perhaps not. "The spirit blows where it will," which it can only do in an atmasphere of truth and freedom, no? Thus, Balthasar writes of how a human being only fulfills his own potential when he "has seen his own star rising beyond all the cultural and political configurations and weaknesses of his time," and follows it in body, mind, and spirit "with a freedom that overcomes the world."

Thus, truth can only "overcome the world" in freedom. And freedom can only be free if it is grounded in truth. You might say that truth is the Absolute, while freedom is his beautiful but intimidating sister, the Infinite. "Male and female he created them." Boo!

There are a number of lines in this book that I just love. Balthasar speaks of how Maximus wrote in such a way that "he seems to crystalize automatically around his higher center," which could only be achieved in "the highest degree of Christian freedom." I discuss this in my own Coonish way in chapter four of my book, for example, section 4.2 "Escaping the Prismhouse of Language," or 4.6, "Saying More With Less." In that latter section, I talk about how "Truth is inexhaustible, flowing as it does from the direction of the Absolute (which is beyond image and form) into the relativity of formal language."

Thus, in order to accomplice this, one must maintain a rather different, more "fluid" relationship to words. One must allow the words to be spontaneously "formed," so to speak, out of the higher, or from the top down. As always, the best analogy I can think of is the jazz master, who is able to recall the world of music in the act of forgetting it. Just so, our absence is God's presence, and vice versa. So get the hell out of the way!

Elsewhere Balthasar speaks of Maximus' ability "to play weightlessly before God." What a marvelous phrase! This is "a calm freedom from all the passions that cloud or weigh down or tear apart the mind, in order to rob it of its freedom and self-possession."

These passions, or forces, are either centrifugal or centripetal, in that they alternately compress or disperse consciousness, and take us away from our "free center," the motionless mover within -- which is the "place" where truth can be known, since it is the "substance of truth." It is where truth intersects with our own being, like a lance piercing the side of matter. It is where the Light illuminates the darkness. And if you could com-prehend it -- which is to say, "wrap your mind around it" -- it would not be the Light.

This darkwomb is none other than the "mode of entry into the mystery of God, which stands beyond the world" (Balthasar). Yes, "only the spirit that has become pure and simple can encounter the transcendent One," and thereby become the very nexus of revelation, the middle term between the One and the many, time and eternity, Creator and creation.

Here we find the vertical axis of the world, a ladder thrown down from heaven, the very possibility of inword mobility and upward nobility, or freedom in action, truth, and being. Amen for a childs job!

Levity in action, as frosting effortlessly rises upward:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gimme That Old Time Meta-Cosmic Religion

It's like some kind of conspiracy. Why does everyone know about T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen, but not Maximus Confessor? Prior to the publication of this "groundbreaking" (really more of an "unearthing") book by Balthasar in 1946, he was nearly forgotten in the West, regarded as little more than an historical footnote.

Talk about historical I-AMnesia! That's like forgetting who you are. And why you are, for that matter.

I haven't finished the book yet, but as far as I can tell, this guy is the Man. I was familiar with him before, but this is my first in-depth study. One of the things that most intrigues me about him is that he doesn't just unify eastern and western forms of Christianity, but eastern and western forms of thought -- or even being.

It seems that it never occurs to anyone that the dispute between Orthodoxy and Catholicism is not so much over content as form. That's certainly how I see it. (There are also differences in emphasis, but I'm guessing that these can be reduced to form as well. We shall see as we go along.)

Even more importantly, I think this may speak to the intrinsic division in the human psyche between left and right brains, which process information in completely different ways -- and yet, result in the unitary experience of a self.

In fact, I do not reduce this phenomenon to a materialistic anatomical division; rather, I believe that the anatomical division is there because it reflects the deep structure of reality. That is, it is a duality that mirrors the deepest complementarities of the cosmos itself, as it manifests outside the Absolute, e.g., wave/particle, form/substance, spirit/matter, part/whole, male/female, vertical/horizontal, semantics/syntax, Kramden/Norton, etc.

As I have discussed in the past, many contemporary disputes are just ongoing iterations of these primordial complementarities -- even, say, between left (which values the state over the individual) and right (which values the individual over the state). That complementarity is resolved in the classical liberalism of our founders, which strikes the proper balance between the individual and the collective.

But the founders could only strike that balance because they were so steeped in Christian metaphysics, which is itself rooted in the ultimate unification of these complementarities -- who is none other than Christ. It is the eternal Christ who unifies part and whole, word and flesh, time and eternity, world and God, Father and Son, spirit and letter, life and death, innocence and wisdom, and so many others.

Importantly, this divine principle could only be a who, not a what, on pain of excluding the human person from ultimate reality. And the mysterious presence of the human person is only the most important fact in all of existence.

Many of the disputes and heresies in Christianity come down to emphasizing one end of the complementarity. For us, it might be difficult to comprehend why there was so much intense arguing over the nature of Jesus in the early centuries (!) of Christianity, but if they had gotten the precise christological formula wrong, then the consequences would have been devastating. This was not some trivial argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but about the nature of ultimate reality.

Maximus himself was a victim of, and martyr to, this cause, as he was scourged and mutilated for holding to his beliefs, which turned out to be the correct ones. Think of the entire history of the United States. Now realize that it took Christianity nearly three times as long to arrive at the correct synthesis that brought together and harmonized all of the diverse strands of the Christian mystery. Never mind that it unraveled again thereafter... It is similar to how America is unravelling before our eyes despite the greatness of our founding generations.

I suppose we have to imagine all of the emotional energy that goes into politics and academia, and transfer it to the plane of religion. I think then you can get more of a feel for the intensity of the debates. We may think we are more evolved than the people who killed Maximus, but many on the left would have murdered George Bush or Dick Cheney if given the opportunity.

So Balthasar notes that Maximus is "the philosophical and theological thinker who stands between East and West" (emphasis his), and "the most imposing ediface to rise before Aquinas." But his thinking transcends mere surface theological disputes, or even Rome vs. Byzantium.

Rather, for Balthasar, East "really means Asia," while West is "the whole Western world." Thus, for me, we are really talking about the harmonization of those primordial complementarities alluded to above. For our purposes, we will be emphasizing the complementarities of dogma/experience, ego/self, grace/effort, and essence/energies, among others. To express it symbolically, we could say (•) and (¶), (↓) and (↑), (k) and (n), and ultimately, ʘ and O.

As Balthasar explains, "what makes Maximus a genius is that he was able to reach inside, and open up to each other, five or six intellectual worlds that seemingly had lost all contact" -- similar to the contemporary problem of the division of science, religion, psychology, biology, and history. It is simply a human scandal that these disciplines should be artificially separated. Intra-Christian disputes are just a subset of this uber-scandal. Not to mention disputes between evolutionists and traditionalists, or Darwinians and IDers. Perhaps we should call this scandal -- or Fall, if you like -- Fathergate.

Obviously, to be continued.....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Christian Fertile Eggheads Unite!

Concluding our little plunge into the world of John Scottus Eriugena, AKA the world, or totality of interacting objects, forces, and events, both exterior and interior, vertical and horizontal. You know, the cosmos.

In fact, there is no question that he could have called his work "One Cosmos Under God." I just can't believe that rank and file Christians typically don't know about this stuff, and probably wouldn't care anyway. It reminds me of how so many black ballplayers don't even know who Jackie Robinson was.

But I think it speaks to a kind of intellectual impoverishment that has taken place within Christianity. As for why this degeneration took place, I suppose you could blame Kant, but how many people read Kant? The real problem was that religion thought that the only way it could save itself from the depredations of scientism was to leave knowledge to science and preserve faith as the province of religion. But faith without knowledge -- without the possibility of knowledge -- is just stupid.

Indeed, faith is supposed to be a subtle mode of knowledge, so to yield epistemology to materialism means that there is no longer any real and accessible "object of faith" to be known.

Here's one of the ironies -- and this is brought out by Gairdner in the highly highly recommended Book of Absolutes -- the pursuit of pure science has led back to an idealistic view of the cosmos that is entirely compatible with traditional metaphysics.

Even more ironic is the fact that in the 19th century, it was the physicists who were the reductionists and materialists, whereas the biologists tried to cling to some romantic version of elan vital against the grotesque idea of reducing man to a machine.

But now the situation has reversed, precisely: because of advances in quantum physics, it is no longer possible for any thinking person to maintain a materialistic view of the cosmos. To do so is pure superstition and ignorance.

And yet, this is exactly what radical Darwinians such as Queeg do! They imagine that they are the most sober and scientific, when they are actually operating out of a silly, outmoded metaphysic detached from the primary reality. Science presumes that biology is reducible to physics. That being the case, then life cannot be a materialistic process. Someone like Queeg is simply a "fanatic advocate of the impossible," of something that cannot be and never could be, not in this or any other cosmos. He is a Darwinian Truther.

More irony: at the end of our 300 year long materialistic bender the West has been on, here is John Scottus Eriugena -- or Maximus Confessor, the designated driver -- soberly waiting for us with the coffee and aspirin, asking "what took you so long?"

So again, for Christianity to abandon the field of epistemology and ontology to the pagans, heathens and other assorted infrahumans is worse than a crime. It's a blunder. And the consequences for our civilization are beyond tragic, because it is doubtful that any civilization can survive in the absence of a spiritual center that unifies people around a grand (and accurate) vision of reality in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions.

Along these lines, C.S. Lewis wrote that "For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."

Here again, this is precisely my attitude in posting. This is never a mere intellectual exercise, even though we deal with highly abstract ideas. Rather, I am aiming for that nonlocal vector where heart and mind intersect -- where the mind "sings" and the heart "thinks."

Christ is, among other things, the hidden unity of the cosmos: "the incarnate Word unites both the whole of the intelligible [vertical] and sensible [horizontal] worlds in himself..." (JSE). This is also a harmony: the harmony of part and whole, in both space and time.

But since this wholeness (from which healing is derived) takes place in time, it is a melody, or rather, a harmelody of adams forged from within stars. Thus, JSE "often speaks in terms of the growth of the total Christ, the vir perfectus who is the goal of all history" (McGinn). (If I understand my Latin, vir perfectus would mean the erfect-pay an-may.)

Do you see the point? Just as John the Scot is waiting for us up ahead -- or above -- so too is Christ, in the sense that time is the time it takes for the timebound (i.e., crucified) Christ to realize the eternal Christ, if one my put it thus without promulgating a misunderstanding. The seed that grows into the kingdom of heaven is of the same substance. To "imitate Christ" is to recapitulate this journey from crucifixion to resurrection. But only every moment, for this movement an "infinite unfulfilled fulfillment" (McGinn).

For "the Word stands at the beginning and end. But the end is different from the beginning," as the creation "realizes" itself, which is to say, God. This is to bring the creation back to God, to its divine source and destiny. With ribbons. On a silver platter. Right down the middle of the plate. It is a union, but a union in difference, and that makes all the difference.

That is, if I understand things correctly. You have no idea how delicate is the balance between abandoning myself to automatic writing and fidelity to orthodoxy! All the more reason to revisit old posts and clear up misunderstandings.

Our "crucified part" is not so much "lost" but "absorbed in the higher," so that it may "become one with [the] higher nature" (JSE). This is none other than theosis, the never-ending and ever-rending process through which "we may now be deified by this likeness through faith and afterwards will be deified in vision" (JSE). Through participation in the mystery of Christ, we become sons through adoption. Or you might even call it in vitro fertilization, which is to be a fertile egghead on this side of eternity.

The intellectual nature... does not rest until it becomes a whole in the whole beloved and is comprehended in the whole. --John Scottus Eriugena

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On the Limitlessness of Human Intelligence

Hmm, why am I posting on the weekend when I promised not to? Well, for one thing, it's so peace & quietful right now, that it just comes supernaturally. I guess what I want to get away from is the feeling of having to post.

I'm still combing through the arkive, although not very diligently. The main thing I'm trying to do is delete reposts, since the later version are the more definitive. I've also been reposting things that had few comments at the time in order to give them a "second chance." As I mentioned last week, the absence of comments may be the most important comment. Who knows. Anyway, here's one from several years back. As always, it is edited and rethought from the ground up and then back down again.

*****

There are several ways to end up being what I call an obligatory atheist. Like every other human capacity -- from math to music to hitting a baseball -- the ability to intuit the divine runs along a spectrum. Frankly, there are a few people for whom the realm of the sacred really seems to be a closed book. You can’t do much for them, but then, they don't tend to be the militant sort of atheist. They just let it go.

On the other hand, a larger percentage of atheists seem to have been traumatized by exposure to a dysfunctional version of religion as a child. They are the ones who can get more angry, obnoxious and militant.

The third and largest segment of the atheist population consists of the “not smart enough” who are nevertheless extremely proud of their intellect. This in itself is a contradiction, for they have great faith in the intellect’s ability to know reality, and yet, place an arbitrary limit on what it may know -- even what "reality" consists of. The placement of this limit is obviously not a result of logic or reason. It is actually more of a religions inclination brought in through the back doors of perception, for it is an absolute statement about what the human mind may or may not know.

And once you are in the realm of the absolute, you are reflecting one of the inevitable attributes of the Divine. Obviously, no relative being can know anything of the absolute. But man is defined by being "condemned to the absolute," so to speak. In the absence of the absolute, he could not think, reason, exert free will, or make moral choices. Therefore, to deny the transcendent absolute is first and foremost an act of great moral and intellectual cowardice -- and usually narcissistic duplicity as well, for such individuals covertly worship their own personal version of the absolute, which reduces to their own corrupt and worthless ego.

The effectiveness of one’s “thinking in" (not about) God -- that is, thinking metaphysically -- always depends upon two factors, neither of which falls strictly within the realm of profane rationalism. First, there is the profundity of the intelligence involved. Obviously there are plenty of smart people walking around. College campuses are full of clever folkers. But they are hardly profound or deep thinkers.

For example, there are presumably thousands of musicologists with Ph.D.s, but who would pretend that their words are remotely as deep or profound as one of Beethoven’s late string quartets, or could approach the transcendent funkmanship of one of James Jamerson's bass runs ?

How do we even recognize depth -- or funkmanship -- and what is it? It clearly exists, and yet, it is well beyond the ability of any rational system to define it in any operational terms or to capture its meaning.

This is why I don’t enjoy debating or arguing with people who disagree with me, for it ultimately comes down to the fact that I perceive something and they don’t. To argue over this is analogous to telling someone that what they see with their own eyes cannot be trusted, because vision is just light waves transformed into an image in the brain. For me to argue with a troll is to pretend that blindness is just another variety of vision. In fact, I agree with them: God does not exist. For them.

This is hardly any kind of self-glorification, for I would not presume to get into an argument with Van Gogh about what he saw with his eyes or Albert Pujols over how large the baseball looks as it's approaching the plate. I’d rather just enjoy the depth of the former's vision and artistry of the latter's hitting. But if you don’t believe in depth of artistic vision, then a Van Gogh is no better than a Thomas Kinkade purchased on QVC. And it goes without saying that Albert Pujols has the supernatural ability to slow down time and increase the size of the baseball, even if we don't.

The second thing that limits the mere rationalist is an arbitrary restriction on what is taken as evidence. The rationalist limits himself to empirical phenomena (or something reducible to it). But this limitation is not something that can be justified by reason. Rather, it is a prelogical, a priori assumption.

The religious metaphysician is not hindered in this manner. He does not arbitrarily stop at the external senses, but considers other sources of information, most notably, divine revelation, the testimony of the saints and sages, and one’s own personal experience. The rationalist merely defines these realms out of existence, and as a result, is unable to reason about God at all.

Or we can say that his reasoning will be limited to mundane facts of common experience, not to that which transcends them. He will simply project onto God his own distorted and highly limited understanding, like a two-dimensional circle pronouncing on the nonexistence of spheres. Of course spheres do not exist for such a person. They can prove it with ironclad logic -- thus proving only the closed circularity of their logic.

This is what happens when reason (ratio) detaches itself from the intellect (nous), which is the realm of pure, unencumbered intelligence. Properly understood, reason is a tool of the intellect, not vice versa. One of the defining lies of our dork age is that our intelligence is inherently limited, so that the realm of ultimate issues must be left to faith alone. Who said that intelligence is limited? If so, how do we know that that statement is not equally relative and limited? Who said that human beings are intelligent enough to pronounce on the limitations of intelligence?

Either intelligence is in principle unlimited, or else it is arbitrary, relative, and illusory, incapable of saying anything with certitude. But the shallow contemporary thinker wants it both ways: the omnipotent ability to know where to place an absolute line between what is knowable and what is not.

The realm of religion is not so much “thought” as it is seen, heard, and touched. Therefore, it is as absurd to argue against these sensory modalities as it is to argue in court that an eye witnesses testimony is not to be trusted until we can first prove that vision exists.

Have you ever been “touched” by the depth of a musical performance? What can the rationalist say about such an experience? He can listen to the performance. Nothing happens. There! Proved it! Music cannot convey spiritual truth! The crude rationalist merely confuses truth with method.

But reason is not autonomous, and cannot reason without data being supplied from elsewhere. As Schuon writes, “Just as it is impossible to reason about a country of which one has no knowledge, so also it is impossible to reason about suprasensory realities without drawing upon the data which pertain to them, and which are supplied, on the one hand, by Revelation and traditional symbolism, and, on the other, by intellective contemplation, when the latter is within reach of the intelligence. The chief reproach to be leveled against modern philosophy and science is that they venture directly or indirectly on to planes which are beyond their compass, and that they operate without regard to indispensable data...”

Rationalists believe that, unlike the theist, they start from "zero,” without any dogma or metaphysics at all. The Catholic philosopher Stanley Jaki compares it to baseball. Secular philosophers always begin at first base, but offer nothing in their philosophy that can justify how they have arrived there.

But we all know that even Albert Pujols cannot steal first base. Rather, you must earn your way there (although Pujols is sometimes given the gift of first base in order to prevent him from taking four). Thus, the rationalist or materialist begins at first base with the gratuitous dogma that nothing exists except our perceptions filtered through our preconceptual logical categories. But from where did this premise arrive? It is not a sensory perception filtered through a logical category. Rather, it is metaphysical dogma.

I had this very conversation with an eminent historian a few years back, an absolute relativist through marriage. In order to communicate at all, we speak across a truly cavernous divide. I actually enjoy it, although he seems to quickly become exasperated. He insists that there is no such thing as metaphysics, and that knowledge (he would never say “truth”) is merely a property of sentences. Either a sentence can be justified or it cannot. I insisted that it was impossible to make a nontrivial statement about the world without an implicit metaphysic, usually a bad one. He impatiently said, “Okay,” pointing to the remnants of our dinner. “The lasagna was good. Where’s the metaphysics in that?”

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “Are you dividing the world into a realm of objects and subjects that can obtain truthful information about them?”

That was the first time someone ever called me “vulgar” without my having uttered a profanity. But what could he say? The lasagna existed. And it was good. Far be it from me to try to talk someone out of their religious beliefs.