Tuesday, August 04, 2009

We Are All Christians Now

Continuing with yesterday's post, Maximus affirms one of those old metaphysical truths-that-cannot-not-be, that multiplicity is "in the product" while unity is "in the source." In order to avoid further insulting our exquisitely sensitive atheist readers, let's just say that the source of this a priori cosmic unity is a mystery, and call it O. Obviously O "exists"; or, to be perfectly accurate, it is the ground or source of existence.

Let's find out how it all works, shall we?!

In order to talk about this mystery at all, we must borrow terms from existence, so we can mislead ourselves if we're not careful. To put it simply, we exist. O does not. So it's a bit like describing the sound of purple. It can be done, but only through higher mythsemantics. In order to cross the phoenix line, our powers of deception must be cleansed. As we always say, your seenill grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for these laughty revelations.

The problem is, our trolls -- who stand in for fallen mankind -- basically confuse what they are capable of understanding with what it is possible to understand. In other words, they are children.

Since God is the source of unity, and we exist within time, then you might say that reality is the formation and dissolution of multiplicity within God. Existence is a kind of emanation and return to God. This is what we call the "adventure of consciousness."

Looked at in a certain way -- my way, to be exact -- existence itself is a kind of alienation from God, and religion is the healing of that alienation. (Some of these ideas flirt with the gnaughty kind of gnosticism, but if you stay with me, I think you'll find that it's all kosher; as we've discussed in the past, it's not so much that heresies are absolutely false, but that they either overemphasize one element or exclude another, thereby causing a fatal imbalance within integral Truth. For example, there is obvious partial truth in pantheism, or emanationism, or even polytheism; or you could simply say that God is everything but that everything is not God.)

In order for existence to exist, there must be time and space. Time and space are the primary modes of existence, so that we are really talking about synonymous terms. Thus, God is not an object in space, which is why we do not say that he "exists."

Now, objects that exist are not radically autonomous in any way, shape or form. Even without getting into religious metaphysics, this is proved by modern physics, which shows material reality to consist of nonlocal energy (see my book for the exciting details; offer may not apply in Berkeley). In this view, everything is not just a part of everything else, but everything is within everything else. All "objects" are ultimately members of one another, if that's not too disgusting to contemplate.

Truly, we are all -- animate and inanimate alike -- members of the same species, the species of Existence. And if we didn't share membership in this species, then nothing would work, to put it mildly. We couldn't know anything, especially other minds. This is why I mentioned yesterday that even atheists are Christians, as they surely partake of this primordial cosmic unity, just like everyone else. Opposing God is like opposing gravity. You can do it, but only because gravity exists.

One of the mysteries of humanness -- a mystery that Darwinism will never be able to explain, since "explanation" would be impossible without it -- is this intersubjective openness through which we are members of one another. This would be the basis of my critique of neo-Marxist leftism on the one hand, and radical libertarianism on the other, for both begin with a faulty metaphysic. You might say that leftism reduces us to the the collective wave, while libertarianism reduces us to the autonomous particle.

But wave and particle are just ways to think about a reality that transcends both categories. In reality, as Balthasar writes, creatures "can only be open to each other through their transcendental identity in the unity of God."

Our common identity is a kind of negative one, in that first and foremost we are not God, even while we participate in God. However, it is also a "positive identity," in that "the one Creator keeps [creatures] in being, one might say, through his relationship to them." It's like my child. Yes, he exists as an autonomous subject. But he wouldn't exist very long without us "sponsoring" or underwriting his existence.

As someone mentioned the other day, it is possible to misunderstand the idea of God as "father." We do not begin with terrestrial fatherhood and project that into the heavens; rather, vice versa. To understand God is to begin to understand the true archetype of worldly fatherhood. I have many fathers, but only because they reflect the one Father. And of course, only because there is one Father can we all be brothers. If there is no Father, then we are all just animals fighting over the scraps. Blah blah blah liberal fascism Darwinism Queeg Deepak >insert standard diatribe here<.

So, we do not start our analysis with "existence," since we know that existence has a source. This is the unbridgeable abyss that divides mankind: there are those who begin with existence, and those who begin with essence. For the Marxist in all his ghastly varieties -- whatever you care to call him -- existence precedes essence. This does not so much eliminate God as elevate man to a false god, or into samskary monsters.

But the theist begins with essence, and if you are capable of thinking, then you realize that essence belongs to God. In other words, essence is clearly "supernatural," even while being immanent in nature. In fact, it is a kind of first hand implicit knowledge of God, for whenever we know an essence -- including our own essence -- we are participating in the Divine Mind.

Again, this is why it is so unproblematic for man to be able to "see through" nature, or to know universals, or to love the essence of another, or to produce beautiful art, or to comprehend the meaning of a poem, or to understand where this post is coming from. None of these things would be remotely possible in the absence of God, because each is a result of everything being unified in God, but dispersed, as it were, through the prismhouse of existence. All colors are only varieties of the colorless light.

Looked at in this way, we can see that consciousness itself is one -- must be one -- but that, in our case, it is refracted through the lens of a bipedal primate. This is why there are gradations of consciousness within man, ranging from the supramental saint, to the veritable trousered ape, on down to the MSNBC host. Only because there is unity is this diversity possible. Eliminate the unity, then a Maximus is no better than a Maher and the supramental is no better than the Olbermental. Relativity -- including relative stupidity -- only exists in light of the absolute.

Everything is nonlocally "linked together" in God. In a way, it's like the foreground and background of a picture. We focus on the foreground, but only because there is the "invisible" background from which it emerges. Thus, you could say that God must be "invisible" in order for existence to be visible. He is the Silence out of which the Music arises. Here is how Maximus describes it:

"God draws up all the things that are naturally distinct from each other and binds them to himself as their cause, their origin and goal.... No being can permanently isolate itself through its own particularity or through the drive of its nature toward some other end; rather, everything remains, in its very being, bound without confusion to everything else, through the single, enduring relationship of all to their one and only source.... For as the parts come to be from the whole, so created things come to be from their cause and are recognized in its light."

This is the "paradox of a synthesis that unites creatures by distinguishing them and distinguishes them by uniting them -- a paradox that can be found throughout the whole edifice of the universe..." (Balthasar).

One Cosmos Under God. Where else could it be?

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Grand Synthesis of Christ

As always, I don't yet know what this post is going to be about. But I do like the title, because above all else, Christ represents the unification of all reality. In fact, technically speaking, you don't even have to be explicitly Christian to believe this. Rather, you must only have faith in the principle of unity. Thus, looked at in this way, even atheists are closet Christians (it is no coincidence that most of them live in Christendom). They can call this principle of unity whatever they want, but they couldn't call anything anything if reality weren't already infused with it. Conceiving itself would be inconceivable, thinking unthinkable, knowing unknowable.

Again, it is a little shocking to realize that it took some 600 years for human beings to fully "get it" -- to arrive at a theology that was equal to the trans-linguistic event of the Incarnation.

Obviously, Jesus left a lot of loose ends. He didn't reduce anything to a written formula. Truly, he was an event first and foremost. And it is critical that we describe that event as accurately as possible, even while not confusing the event with the words.

I'm not enough of a scholar to know, but if Balthasar is correct, then Maximus was the first to survey all of the previous partial descriptions, all of the various doctrinal disputes "that had torn the Church apart for centuries," and resolve them into "a final, conclusive synthesis." For truly, if Christ is the "principle of unity," then it is simply a scandal that man cannot reflect this unity in his theology and within his own being.

And if this christological formulation is correct, then it should apply to all reality, not just "church politics," so to speak. Indeed, Balthasar asks why this formulation cannot, "seen in its deepest implications, also serve as the right model for the world?" It's just that it took a number of centuries to work out all of the implications, to dot every ʘ and criss every Cross.

Remember, the early Christians were not confused by our contemporary division between a secular world and a "supernatural" world. Rather, for them, there was just the one world. Which is why they had no problem taking the best of Greek thought and blending it with Christianity -- not in order to reduce Christianity to worldly thought, but to elevate Greek thought to a truly meta-cosmic status.

Thus, for Maximus, a synthetic understanding of Christ applied to the diverse "structures of being," or what Wilber calls the "spectrum of consciousness": "All things for him had become organic parts of ever-more-comprehensive syntheses, had become themselves syntheses pointing to the final synthesis of Christ, which explained them all." Seen in this light, a Hegel -- who came over 1000 years later -- is simply "a secularized derivative of biblical theology."

Which, if you're following me, is precisely how we end up with the upside-down theology of leftism, which is first and foremost a political religion. As we know, Marx "turned Hegel on his head." But as you may not know, he also turned Hegel inside-out, resulting in a "materialization" of Christian metaphysics.

In this diabolical formulation, the Kingdom of Heaven is immamentaized, and we will all live on Sugar Candy Mountain when the Obamessianic state forces us to be equal -- not equal in the eyes of God, but equal in the eyes of Marxist bean counters. "Administered equality" is just another name for tyranny. Just ask the lion who was forced to eat grass to make him equal to the sheep. Choking smokers don't you know the Joker taxes you? (Ho ho ho, he he he, ha ha ha, see how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide. I'm crying.)

Now, it is critical to bear in mind the distinction between Jesus -- the Word made flesh -- and the "pre-incarnate Word," i.e., Logos, which always was and is. Clearly, the Logos was accessible to a Plato or Socrates or Lao Tsu. It's just that it was an abstract principle instead of a concrete one. It never occurred to anyone that this principle could take on human form.

Indeed, this would have been considered a kind of insult to the Principle. Rather, for neo-Platonists such as Plotinus, the task of this life was to leave our humanness behind and ascend to the Principle. It necessarily involved an element not just of world denial, but of world detestation.

Remember Porphyry's famous description of Plotinus, that he "had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry of something 'higher and intelligible' which was the 'truer part of genuine Being.' This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike."

Maximus did not fall for this gnostic (in the gnaughty sense of the word) duality of spirit and flesh. Rather, for him, "the natural law, the written law, and the law of Christ are one and the same." For in the final analysis -- or synthesis -- we are talking about the unification of horizontal and vertical, however you conceptualize them (and you cannot be human without conceptualizing them in some manner, for man is precisely the being who equally inhabits, or manifests, the vertical and horizontal worlds).

Thus, "for Maximus, the reality of this synthesis is best conceived by the image of a right angle, in which two lines meet" (emphasis mine). This is a synthesis of "sensible reality and mind, of earth and heaven... of nature and idea" (Maximus). It is also the synthesis of "theoretical and practical reason, of wisdom and prudence, of contemplation and action, of knowledge and virtue, of immediate vision and faith."

In each case, the "whole" is not a product of the synthesis; rather, it is the prior reality, which bears within itself "the unmixed difference of the parts that make it up." Yes, unconfused but inseparable. This mystery "of the presence of a whole in its parts, from whose synthesis it comes to be, is not, for Maximus, simply the object of disinterested contemplation." Rather, for him "it is the direct way to God." For if the Logos became man, we must then ask ourselves, "by virtue of what principle?"

Probably a good place to stop for today. But the whole thing reminds me of another synthesis, Aurobindo's Synthesis of Yoga, in which he writes that

"In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodized effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos."

Sounds difficult, but don't worry, for my yoga is easy, my burden light.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why on Earth is Man on Earth?

I was going through the arkive, deleting a few things that weren't worthy of eternity, when I stumbled upon this one, which I think deserves a second shot at inclusion in the Blog of Life.

I remember back in film school, one of my professors mentioned that when they remake a film, it's almost always one that was already a classic and cannot be improved upon. Instead, why not remake a noble failure that had a lot of missed potential? In this case, I have meditated upon what I previously wrote line-by-line, and altered it accordingly, based upon up-to-the-minute dispatches from just over the vertical horizon.

What is man that the electron should be mindful of him! --E. Becker

In Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, he goes into the inglorious history of the left's attempts to pathologize its enemies (e.g., the embarrassing Frankfurter school of bitesized intellectual wieners). This is something that was practiced in the Soviet Union, just as it is done today in left wing university psychology departments. It is one of the ways they enforce political correctness, by pathologizing anyone who, say, believes that the government should not force us to discrminate based upon race.

But in order to even begin discussing the question of psychological health -- and its relationship to politics, if there is any -- one must first determine what the mind was designed to do. Everything is based upon this initial determination, so if you get it wrong, your entire intellectual edifice will be built upon pounding sand. You simply must know what a human being is "for," or your understanding of politics, history, economics, law, and other disciplines will be fatally flawed.

Another way of saying it is that we must first understand what on earth man is on earth for. For there really are only two choices, which come down to nihilism or pleromism (to coin a word), existentialism or essentialism, relativism or Absolutism. Humans are either an ultimately worthless cosmic aberration, or the very peophole through which the Absolute may contemplate itself. The bloody stakes are that rare, which is why the debate is so meaty.

All leftists, following Marx, believe that "existence precedes essence." Leftism in all its forms is based on man being "nothing," which is why the leftist believes that the god-state may manipulate him into being something less than a man.

For the secular humanist, human beings can be nothing more than a late-model beast -- a recent arrival to the cosmic manifestival with a few interesting tricks programmed into us by father Darwin. But for the religionist, man carries a trace of the origin and center of the cosmos within his very being, so that what a human being truly is is the key to fathoming the implacable mystery of the cosmos itself. Again, these views are absolutely irreconcilable (which is one way we know of the Absolute).

To back up a bit, we cannot begin to discuss this question without bearing in mind the importance of complementarity, as discussed a few posts back. Man lives within various dialectical tensions that cannot be resolved, the most important of these being the celestial and terrestrial, or vertical and horizontal. In turn, each of these contains within it various tensions and relations that cannot be resolved, so long as we exist on the relative plane -- which we must do on pain of not existing at all. "Health" lies in the dynamic equilibrium between various complementary opposites.

With a few exceptions, psychology mainly deals with horizontal health, whereas religion addresses what we might call “vertical health,” so this is one of the first confusions that will arise in any attempt to deal with man in wholly material terms. If your metapsychology reduces man to mere horizontality, then your psychological model will necessarily be incapable of producing real health or wholeness in a wider (and higher) sense.

Let’s begin with the horizontal, because that will be the easiest to comprehend. Within the horizontal, there are several complementarities that have to be balanced in order to be healthy and happy. These would include the poles of narcissism (or individualism) <---> social-ism, conscious <---> unconscious, and thought <---> feeling (or head and heart).

Regarding the complementarity that distinguishes between our individuation and the more primordial “groupishness” out of which it must be won, the first thing you will notice is that most cultures throughout most of human history have failed to resolve this in a healthy way. Perhaps this is understandable, because as mentioned a few days ago, man was a group animal long before human groups began producing true “individuals.”

In my book, I discuss this “interior revolution” that only began on a widespread scale in around the 17th century (and only in the Christian West, mind you). What we call the modern self -- something that seems so self-evident to us -- was not the norm prior to that, any more than wealth was. Obviously, man is born stupid and poor, both individually and collectively.

Probably the most (excessively) thorough documentation of this is in Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self. By 1700 or so, he writes, “something recognizably like the modern self is is in the process of constitution.... Thought and feeling -- the psychological -- are now confined to minds. This follows our disengagement from the world, its ‘disenchantment’....”

Here you can see that this process of historical individuation almost exactly parallels the personal individuation that is described in the latest models of psychological development. These models track what is called the separation-individuation process, as we grow from our primary merger with the mother toward our unique identity. In the past couple of decades there has been a tremendous amount of research that confirms the importance of early attachment and bonding to the outcome of this process, probably most ably summarized for the lay person in Dan Siegel’s The Developing Mind.

For any psychoanalytically informed psychologist, this is where it all goes down, for there are any number of things that can go wrong on the way from dyadic merger with the Great Mother to that little island of the self that will stand out from the ocean of conscious being.

We’re covering a lot of ground here, so it’s impossible to go into a great deal of detail, but my best psychoanalytic teacher summed things up when he said that the unhealthy person wants to go from twoness back to primitive oneness, whereas the healthy person wants to go from lonely oneness to intimate twoness.

In other words, the unhealthy person has not resolved the issues of separation and individuation and cannot tolerate his or her separateness (“twoness”). Therefore, they seek to maintain or recapture primitive merger (“oneness”) with another person or with the group at large, in order to ward off separation anxiety and abandonment depression. All people can exhibit this regressive tendency under stress, but there are many cultures that entirely revolve around it. What you call “blessed solitude,” they would call a lonely and frightening hell. And what they call “family” or “community,” you would call psychic suffocation. The kinship (not to mention gynephobic) structure of the Islamic world is not just "another way to be human," but a major barrier in becoming a fully actualized human.

In my work in forensic psychology, I have had the opportunity to evaluate people from cultures all over the planet, and one of the first things that jumps out is how differently various cultures resolve the issue of separation and individuation. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but it is quite clear to me that with many cultures, you will not so much be dealing with an individual as a type. It is as if they all have the identical life story, the same values, the same parents, the same knowledge base, the same goals, the same way of looking at the world.

Now, an academically correct anthropologist would say that there is no developmental axis in culture -- that all cultures are equally beautiful and worthwhile, and that there is no objective measure of cultural health or pathology. Indeed, they might even make the idiotic charge of racism against people who believe otherwise, even though we are specifically dealing with psychology, not race. (Which is odd anyway, for what if one belongs to a racist culture? Isn't it wrong to judge the culture?)

But I maintain that the health or pathology of a culture can be evaluated in terms of how effectively it allows people to pass through the separation-individuation process and become themselves. Because in a primitive culture, you will have no opportunity to become who you truly are. Differences are not tolerated, or will be persecuted so as to maintain conformity -- somewhat like our stage of adolescence, which produces such abject conformity, or those tattooed leftist rebels who all look and sound the same.

To a very real extent, you can see this issue reflected in different political ideologies. For example, you will often hear leftists accuse conservatives (i.e., classical liberals) of being self-interested. Exactly! If you value the self, then you are going to value the system that most effectively nurtures it and allows it to develop. And without a doubt, the system that most effectively accomplishes this is the system of ordered liberty enunciated by America’s founders.

Likewise, as discussed a couple of days ago, the psychospiritual left has always been uncomfortable with the idea of “rugged individualism,” of competition, of winners and losers. You might think that this clashes with their extreme selfishness and pseudo-individualism -- e.g., the art world. But an astute observer can know in a glance that this primitivism is neither art nor an expression of the higher self. Beethoven’s fifth symphony is the expression of a unique self. On the other hand, most modern art is just “poopy diapers,” which, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all... no, check me on that... there are definitely degrees of disgusting diaperdom. In any event, while this pseudo-art may resemble extreme individualism, it is thoroughly typal. I only have to see one Robert Maplethorpe photo to know that some things shouldn't be seen at all.

Remember a couple of posts back, I discussed the manner in which envy-fueled egalitarianism was natural to primitive mankind, and that, to quote Cassell, “to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder." Precisely. Here you can see why I would dismiss a study out of hand if it equated emotional health with what I see as primitive regression, and pathology with what I regard as the system that best allows for true psychological growth.

Now, leftists will no doubt argue that liberty is a dangerous invitation to selfishness and greed. Our system simply unleashes the beast in man, and must be countered by a huge “maternal” government upon whose teat we may all suckle for comfort and security. But this is foolishness. For narcissism is not a healthy outcome of the separation-individuation process. Rather, it is specifically one of the many things that can go awry with attachment and bonding, leading to a caricature of true selfhood. Narcissism is always a caricature of individuation.

In short, leftists confuse a system that allows for narcissists with a system that creates them. But the narcissist is created mainly as a result of the conditions of childhood, conditions that the leftist is generally blind to -- for the same reason he is blind to, say, the conditions that produce the quite evident pathology of black culture. The leftist will reflexively say that the problems of black America are rooted in poverty, even though this is demonstrably false, because those many blacks who rise above the pathology of black culture do as well economically as any other group. It is a matter of healthy values, not race or poverty. Likewise, if you transferred Palestinian values to Israel, it would produce a barbaric and infrafuman swamp of depravity in less than one generation.

But with regard to what that great liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the "tangle of pathology " of black culture, the leftist will see a “victim of selfishness” instead of the sine qua non of selfishness, for it is difficult to imagine a more selfish and narcissistic act than bringing a child into the world without benefit of marriage and a father, just because you want someone to love you unconditionally for the first time in your life. But once the baby is born, it is too late to realize that he or she is about the last person in the world who is going to love you unconditionally. So you will end up creating yet another generation of damaged narcissists who have foundered on the rocks of attachment and bonding.

And if you are a leftist, you create special university departments for such damaged individuals, and give them tenure instead of psychotherapy.

To be continued...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

If You Find Yourself in a Sabbath Hole, Keep Digging

Let's see if we can't complete a post. Its length will depend upon when the boy wakes up. It's sort of like a game: find your way to ultimate reality before the ticking timebomb goes off!

Come to think of it, just like life.

But it's shabbat, so there's no pressure. We won't force things. We'll just let the cosmos come to us.

Indeed, that is the whole point, to relux and call it a deity. To quote myself, "Esoterically speaking, the sabbath refers to the OMnipresent 'hole' in creation that allows for (↓) and (↑) to enter and leave the 'kingdom of man.'" The point is to turn away from the world's "nihilocracy of urgent nonsense" and toward what is "behind," "above," or "beyond." As such, it is a time of vertical recollection, of time dilation, and of gnostalgia for paradise. It is a "memoir of the future."

Or you could say that it is a day to catch up with your verticalisthenic exercises, or O-->(n). I see that Maximus is right with us, as Balthasar informs us that he was quite concerned with "the 'realization' of theoretical knowledge," or what a Raccoon calls the distinction between (k) and (n). He also talks about the inner peace that counters those jarring worldly energies "that cloud or weigh down or tear apart the mind, in order to rob it of its freedom and self-possession."

In my book, I symbolize this attitude or stance as (---) and (o). You could say "calmness" and "openness," but it's obviously more than that, as it has an intrinsically sacred quality.

As Balthasar writes, "This calm is also [the] mode of entry into the mystery of God, which stands beyond the world. Only the spirit that has become pure and simple can encounter the transcendent One; the soul that has fully emptied itself, that has 'no song to sing,' becomes the place of revelation, the abode of the infinite God."

Ah, perfect: "Right through the middle" of our "hierarchically ordered universe cuts -- straight as an arrow -- the Alexandrian way of ascending from the sensible to the intellectual and ultimately to the divine world" (emphasis mine). For Maximus, this is the very axis of the world -- which it most assuredly is. Looked at in a certain way -- whether you are theist or atheist -- it is all we ever know, all we ever encounter directly, which is to say, "our" own consciousness.

This is surely not solipsism. Rather, it is the Darwinists and other materialists who are the crude solipsists, for they confuse their simplistic abstractions with the Real, which is always radically other, and certainly more than what a glorified ape can entertain in its head. The problem with atheists is that they don't know what they don't know, which, like dark matter and energy, is some 90% of reality.

I distinctly remember when I first began the systematic practice of (---) and (o). It was 1982. I was still working in the supermarket, attending graduate school for my masters degree, and living in a single apartment. I began studying yoga with a certain Yogi Raj, every Tuesday night I believe it was. I think my brain neurology was finally beginning to settle down on its own after an extended adolescence. Prior to that, I don't think I would have been capable of any kind of interior journey.

Anyway, I had all of the usual worldly troubles and worries at the time. But I decided that just once a week, while in the yoga class, I would completely forget about the world. Rather, all there was was the now, and it was up to me to mine out of it whatever I could. If I couldn't get anything out of it, then it was my fault, not the fault of the world. I decided that paradise was just a few microns away, but that I nevertheless had to make the first move. It wasn't going to come to me.

So that was the seed. Afterwards it just got a little out of hand, and here we are. In fact, I also distinctly remember when it began to "take," so to speak, both in thought and in action. You know it is "working" when you begin having thoughts and making connections that you couldn't before, and when this shift in attitude begins to manifest in behavior. Sri Aurobindo describes this as the "psychic being" coming to the "front" of the personality, as if you are now operating around a new axis. In Christian terms, it would simply be the perpetual event-process of metanoia, and the discovery and strengthening of the nous.

And of course, this is a new axis (¶), which in turn relates to the world axis alluded to above. As discussed in my book, (¶) is to O as (•) is to Ø. This is when you rediscover that human beings really are the "center" of the cosmos, just as God is the "center" of the meta-cosmos. And those two centers come together -- or reveal their prior unity -- in ʘ.

But Maximus is quite cautious as to the precise meaning of ʘ, and you might say that this is what all of the Christological debates were about. There are many intrinsically heretical ways to understand ʘ, and which lead to all sorts of problems -- e.g., relativism, fascism, totalitarianism, and other pathologies of the left. Indeed, you might even say that leftism itself is the "left hand path to god," for above all else it is a political religion, or a fully "horizontalized verticality." It is certainly where a Deepak Chopra is coming from, which is why his brand of spirituality results in such sinister nonsense and evil.

A key point to bear in mind is that ʘ is not "a 'mixture' of divinity and humanity," like a union "of two fluids blending with each other." In fact, this kind of indiscriminate mixture of essences is "far from the most perfect and intimate kind of union." Rather, it is "a reciprocal indwelling of two distinct poles of being." That little dot in the middle is "everything," including the essence of love, which requires two (actually, three, the lover, beloved, and the love that passes between them).

Balthasar: "Love, which is the highest level of union, only takes root in the growing independence of the lovers; the union between God and the world reveals, in the very nearness it creates between these two poles of being, the ever-greater difference between created being and the essentially incomparable God." This is "the mystery of a polarity that can never be seen in anything like a final vision," but is instead perpetually ascending toward, and being drawn into, the divine ground.

In short, we do not confuse God's aseity with the hole in our ground.

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.