Wednesday, September 02, 2009

On Knowing How We Know Bill Maher is an Imbecile

Let's get back on track with Schuon's discussion of the proofs of God. Perhaps we should stipulate at the outset that just because something exists, you can't necessarily prove it to some or even most people. Not only does every proof demand a "subjective qualification," but part of the qualification is moral, not just intellectual.

It is hard to prove anything to a fundamentally dishonest man, or to a man who is not in love with Truth. A sociopath believes in nothing but his own power to deceive in order to get what he wants. A corollary of this is that the man who reduces truth to power is well on the way to sociopathy. One thinks of Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama.

You cannot prove to socialists that the free market is superior to a centrally planned economy, thus proving that one must first be willing to be humbly convicted by truth. You cannot prove to a committed leftist that racial quotas are not only unconstitutional but harmful to their intended beneficiary. You cannot prove to a barking moonbat that President Bush did not "lie us into war," or to a multiculturalist that some cultures are more beautiful and decent than others.

I once tried that last one over lunch at a psychology convention. During the break, about a dozen of us were sitting at a table. Everyone was sharing a little about themselves (we were all strangers), so I started innocently witnessing some Raccoon mysteries and slackraments, and the reaction was swift, sharp, and girlish. The feman next to me actually got up, petulantly threw his napkin down on his chair, and said, "I don't have to listen to this!"

Okay, okay. Sorry. He sat back down, and the meal continued in a kind of awkward silence punctuated by inane chitchat. The power of political correctness. (A reader sent me a link the other day, documenting the extraordinary disparity in political Love Offerings from psychologists and psychiatrists. It's as bad as you'd expect. Not a single conservative on the list.)

I just began reading Bernard Lonergan's Insight, so soon I should be able to report back to you on what is occurring when a man is thinking -- not just about God, but about anything, i.e., "what is happening when we are knowing" and "what is known when that is happening."

It's really quite mysterious if you stop to think about it. Plato grappled with the question of how it is possible to recognize a truth we do not know, unless we somehow already implicitly know it. Really, knowing anything is a freaking miracle. It doesn't really add to, or detract from, the essential miracle to say that we can know God. You have to be pretty unimaginative to imagine otherwise.

This is what Schuon is referring to when he says that "Skepticism and bitterness have nothing spontaneous about them; they are the result of a supersaturated and deviant culture." A Bill Maher comes to mind, since he is a fine example of someone who is skeptical and bitter as a way to signal his self-satisfied belief in his own intelligence to others.

This is a profoundly narcissistic exercise, because the cynic cannot "build" anything, only undermine and destroy. He can only sneer at the work of other men, while affecting an attitude of pseudo-sophistication. Such a man -- just like a child -- has no earthly idea of what he is attacking, because he would never attempt to do so if he did (to say the least). One doesn't destroy what is precious unless one is ignorant or insane. (By the way, Bill Whittle does a fine job of carving up Maher in this video.)

Again, a rational proof of God is only understood to the extent that it transmits a bit of the "substance" of God in the proof. In other words, it is not just the proof itself, but an additional x-factor that is conveyed in the proof. Really, the proof merely clears a space and creates a gap where a kind of electrical "arc" can occur. I'm sure you all know what I mean. Again, we're just trying to understand what's happening when it happens.

What we call the "mystical experience" is simply first-hand knowledge of God. It is actually much more communicable than people realize, but even if it weren't, "there is nonetheless no justification for concluding that it must be false simply because it is incommunicable." Again, that would be pure sophistry of the Maharian type.

As we've discussed before, the radical can destroy in a day -- a moment! -- what it took centuries to build. Thus, a Bill Mahar sets himself in opposition to "the unanimous witness of the sages and saints -- throughout the world and down the ages."

In order to maintain such a preposterous view, one must be so deeply contemptuous of mankind, that it is impossible to understand how mankind could ever produce someone as great as Bill Maher. Do you see the problem? It's like trying to account for a dog that one day starts using toilet paper instead of licking its butt, pardon the French.

Only the man who has understood the mystical experience can begin to appreciate what a neanderthal such as Bill Maher wishes to throw away. For in the end, he wishes to do away with man as such, that is, the archetypal man that conditions us from above, and toward which our life is a journey. As Schuon writes, "there is no comparison between the intellectual and moral worth of the greatest contemplatives and the absurdity that their illusion would imply were it nothing but that." Meister Eckhart or Bill Maher. Shankara or Sean Penn. Tough choice.

Schuon goes on to say that this kind of hermetically sealed ignorance would lead us to believe that "no proof of anything is possible since every argument can be invalidated verbally by some sort of sophistry." In short, it is a reduction of integral truth to what the most common and vulgar minds are capable of understanding.

Housekeeping note: probably no posts for the next few days. It's the end of summer Labor Day reslackification.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Riding the Cosmic Treadmill to Nowhere while Gorging on the Rotten Fruit of Statism

New reader RS likes what he's hearing so far. For, unlike my competitors, my evolutionary cosmic vision offers a treadmill that actually goes somewhere. Or, you could say that it is a rat race you can actually win, or an eternal Groundhog Day in which you are forever trapped in the same happy ending. Or, you could just say that it is an ascending spiral.

Again, nihilsim or theism, absolutism or relativism. If everything reduces to matter, then things are very FUBAR, and nothing's gonna be okay. Conversely, if everything is God, then it's all gonna work out. No, we don't know exactly how or when, but that's were faith comes in, for once you have determined that God cannot not be, then it's usually not too long before you also discover that he cannot not be Good, passing appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

That being the case, then there is no real ontological basis for worry, despair, whining, etc. I mean, you are still free to indulge in them, but they certainly give no added value. Unless one is a leftist, in which case they become one's primary mode of being, as they are the deathline to the state. The squeaky constituency gets the pork.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons I don't do a great deal of psychotherapy anymore. In order to be an effective therapist, one must have empathy. But I have quite literally lost my ability to empathize with most human problems. You just have no idea of the sorts of peripheral things the rank-and-foul worry about. Perhaps you do, since you no doubt have relatives. Their lives are entirely beside the point.

But most people live in a world of trivia and drama. There is no real movement (except downward), only agitation. What their trivial pursuits rob from them in terms of depth, the drama confers in terms of intensity, or affect. Thus, it's very much like TV, which I described in my book as "a nihilocracy of urgent nonsense." That's the other kind of treadmill -- the kind that goes nowhere fast.

Again, there is only one adventure, the Adventure of Consciousness. Either you are on this adventure, or you are not. I have no real problem with the grazing multitude of unadventurous cosmic placemarkers. The worst offenders are the people who displace the spiritual adventure to the political plane. They cause most of the mischief in the world, whether in Iran or in the United States. Here again, this is where the political religion of Islamism converges with the political religion of leftism.

In reading this excellent new book on Reagan's presidency, I've really come to appreciate the near impossibility of a "conservative revolution." Make no mistake: there was no "conservative revolution" in the 1980s. Rather, there was only a Reagan revolution.

Among other sources, Reagan's diaries show the extent to which he had to do battle with Republicans just as much as Democrats. Quite often, he stood alone amidst all the abuse hurled at him from the Democrat media-academic complex plus members of own party -- even his own cabinet! There was quite literally no distinction between his American critics and Soviet propaganda (often the Soviets got their talking points from the American left, as do Islamists today).

It's just very, very difficult to promise people nothing but their God-given liberty. First of all, people who love liberty rarely get involved with politics. Rather, politics attracts people who are interested in power. And a person who is primarily interested in power is most likely going to be a lost soul at best. Such a person "finds" himself through the exercise of power, in the same way that any mentally and spiritually unbalanced person does. That is, they get an emotional charge that confers a temporary sense of meaning.

But this is transient and must be reenacted again and again. I was reading the other day that over the course of his diabolical career, Ted Kennedy was responsible for helping to pass something like 5,000 laws (I think that was the figure -- correct me if I'm wrong). Some of them were no doubt helpful, but I'm guessing that the vast majority may be likened to endless links in burdensome chain we all must drag around for the sake of the state. With the forging of each of those links, Ted Kennedy no doubt felt good about himself. To our everlasting detriment.

Yes, this does all return to the subject of the proofs of God, for the ontological bifurcation alluded to above -- i.e., theism or nihilism -- results in very different fruits. Kennedy's lifetime achievement reduces to the rotten fruit of statism, the religion of nihilists. For such an upside-down person, "Essence turns back toward form, Substance toward accident, the Center toward the periphery, Life toward death" (Schuon). Of course Kennedy was the very embodiment and bellowing spokeshole of the Culture of Death.

But for the properly oriented person, it's the opposite movement: "the Inward vivifies the outward and resurrects the kernels of which we are composed -- products on the one hand of creation, secondarily, of our own attitudes and actions." Here again, vertical and horizontal causation: we are the products, yes, of God, but also of our own choices. And the more our choices are constrained by the false god of the state, the more we handicap God, for we are less free to do good.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Darwin's Death Panels and the Spirit of '76

A brief sidebar as we amble through the proofs of God. I think I've just noticed a little inconsistency in Schuon's thought, which divides us on the issue of evolution. My views on evolution are of course explicated in my book and extended in many subsequent posts, but I think the one other person who shares my deep Coonfusion is our Unknown Friend.

I don't have time at the moment to dig out the exact reference, but UF talks about vertical and horizontal causation being unified in the Cross. A purely horizontal science is a metaphysical impossibility. Rather, it must be "crucified" to the vertical in order to arrive at a truly integral science. There's much more, but you get the essence of the gist of the nub of the drift: In the eternal beginning God creates the vertical and the horizontal (please note how the vertical must be in the present, not past, tense, since it is "outside" time).

Schuon writes -- accurately, in my view -- that "Divine causality may be said to have two dimensions, one relating to the nature of things, the other to their destinies: God is at once the cause of perfections and the cause of of their ultimate limit" (emphasis mine).

The static "nature of things" obviously abides outside or beyond the categories of time and space. This is the vertical. But if we only existed in the vertical, change -- and evolution -- obviously could not occur. Rather, it is only in the horizontal world that we can manifest our vertical destiny -- which you might say is the purpose of the world.

Once again we see that the vertical is the "condition without which" -- i.e., the necessary cause -- whereas the horizontal is the "condition with which" -- i.e., the sufficient cause.

I imagine God before Creation to be a little like Bob Dylan on Maggie's Farm: he has a headful of ideas that are drivin' him insane. The only way to express them all is to create, which he almost cannot help doing, being the kind of being he is, which is to say, Being.

But creation always requires time. Perfection does not simply fall out of us fully formed. To say that creation as such has a purpose is effectively to believe in evolution -- again, for the hundredth time, not the watered-down evolutionism of scientistic natural selection, but in the literal meaning of the word.

Natural selection is obviously a subset of evolution, not vice versa. To insist otherwise to believe merely in change, not in evolution. As I have mentioned before, anti-evolutuonary Darwinians have highjacked the word "evolution" in exactly the same manner that illiberal leftists have highjacked the word "liberal." And it is no coincidence that these are generally the same people, for clearly, there is no basis for [real] liberalism if we are simply horizontal replicating machines with no higher purpose. The implicit assumptions and aims of Darwinism and leftism converge.

There again, you can see how this critical distinction plays out in my political differences with Schuon, for as always, politics follows ontology and anthropology. Since Schuon overemphasizes the vertical to the exclusion of the horizontal (his above statement about the two forms of divine causation notwithstanding), he was an unapologetically anti-democratic royalist. Conversely, the illiberal leftist, since he is a purely horizontal beast, overemphasizes the horizontal to the exclusion of the vertical, since for the materialist, the vertical does not and cannot exist except as illusion.

But America is different. It is the only country that was explicitly and consciously founded upon both horizontal and vertical principles. Much of this formula was worked out in the Federalist Papers, which remains a timelessly true meditation on the nature of good governance, which must take into consideration both horizontal and vertical realities.

The Founders were very aware of the dangers of a purely horizontal democracy, which they knew would not work, and would devolve to tyranny. For them the idea of an irreligious and non-virtuous citizenry being capable of self-governance was a non-starter.

But how to incorporate the vertical without reverting to the static system of monarchy? This is, of course, the dynamic synthesis of classical liberalism, which balances the libertarian "creative destruction" of the free market with the vertical traditionalism of spiritually evolved (and evolving) man. Thus we can affirm: "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often" (Churchill). This truism is only paradoxical if you exclude either the vertical or horizontal.

Now, will this system devised by the Founders work? That's a whole different story. This delicate formula has only existed on earth for some 235 years, whereas some of those static vertical dynasties lasted for thousands, e.g., Egypt.

Imagine thousands of years with no change -- changelessness being the whole "point" of traditional cultures. For a traditional culture, change is always associated with decay and degeneracy, as it drifts away from its static archetype. There was not even the idea of "progress," i.e., that things could improve with time and bring us closer to the ideal.

You could say that classical liberalism "discovered" progress (which naturally brings with it the possibility of regress). As I mentioned in my book, if you go back to where things stood with man in 1600 or so, the future looked rather bleak. For the average man, things were no different than they were 1,000 or 2,000 years ago: famine, disease, illiteracy, tyranny, backbreaking toil, etc. For all you strict traditionalists out there, if that is your preferred mode of life, I say go for it! Don't just dress up like an Indian and a smoke peace pipe on weekends, go live like one. Stop reading. Stop eating modern food. Stop using air conditioning, antibiotics, analgesics, automobiles, audio systems. And that's just the A's!

The thing is, these people never have the courage of their convictions, any more than do the Darwinians. They too never (at least nowadays) draw out the implications of their metaphysic, that life is an utterly meaningless struggle for survival.

I say "nowadays" because in the not-too-distant past, progressives and fascists did indeed draw out these implications in the form of eugenics, forced sterility, abortion, etc. There is nothing in Darwinism that makes such practices -- or any practice -- "wrong," much less "evil." It is simply a truism that natural selection does not know right and wrong, only survival and death. And survival is merely "death delayed."

But what if you don't want to spend your life standing in front of one of Darwin's death panels? Too bad. No primordial soup for you! No tenure, either!

Extremes meet. This is why a political system of purely horizontal causes ultimately leads to the various static leftist tyrannies that littered the 20th century. And now in the United States we have an illiberal, anti-American president who is the very embodiment of the horizontal divorced from the vertical. Only a revolution will save us: but it is simply the same vertical revolution that is always occuring in 1776.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Proof of God Announced Today: Media and Tenured Hardest Hit

The next chapter in Logic and Transcendence concerns the proofs of God. Now, like any proof, proof of God is not idiot-proof. The only final proof is personal experience, but this type of proof has no necessary purchase on another fellow's beliefs, unless the other fellow happens to have great faith in your credibility.

In fact, it is probably fair to say that most of our knowledge is of this order. During the course of our education, there are few things that we ever experience on a first hand basis. For example, I am not an economist. But I have faith in Ludwig von Mises, Fredrich Hayek, and Thomas Sowell, whereas I regard Paul Krugman as an ideological hack, even perhaps crazy. Similarly, I am not a quantum cosmologist, but I am quite certain that this field will never arrive at a "theory of everything," if only due to Gödels's theorems. I am not a biologist, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the theory of natural selection is absurdly incomplete. Etc.

So if some skeevy televangelist or door-to-door religious salesman tells me that God exists, I don't give it much weight. On the other hand, if a man of great intellect, erudition, experience, and virtue says so, then my ears perk up. As with most everything, one must consider the source. Our trolls do not consider me a credible source, which should be the end of their sophering fixation on this site, but for whatever tangled intrapsychic reason, it isn't. Which is fine. Truth being what it is, they teach us many valuable lessons.

But in any event, you will never hear me attempting to convince a reader of my credibility, which I could never do anyway. Either you regard me as credible, or you don't -- although I assume that this credibility has been slowly earned through time, based upon your own personal experience with the substance of these posts. It is perhaps similar to the good will one builds up with particular musical artists. If they come out with a new work that doesn't speak to us, we are willing to put in the effort required to penetrate it. For example, I initially didn't "get" modern jazz, but I accepted it on faith that these men weren't merely musical frauds trying to separate me from my cash.

And let me add for those readers who do regard me as credible -- which is always a leap -- I would never under any circumstances take this for granted or do anything to jeopardize it. We know you have a choice in your vertical travel, and we thank you for choosing trans-Bob airways. But the credibility can only be re-earned with every flying post. Besides, it's not the person, it's the fruits. If that weren't the case, I would have no credibility anyway. I'm not like that surly tree in the Wizard of Oz. Anyone is free to come by and pick an apple off me, because where I got 'em, they didn't cost a thing. Although gratitude would naturally compel you to purchase my book without my having to beg. What? Okay, I'll beg.

Schuon points out that the classical proofs of God occupy a kind of "in between" area on the vertical plane. Above them is the direct intellection or mystical experience of God, while below them is the profane rationalism of the flatlanders. Thus, we know in advance that these proofs can only "indicate" or support the journey. But that's actually saying a lot, because by dwelling in them, one may very well unexpectedly find oneself drawn up into the Great Attractor (more on which below). It's like innocently rubbing some sticks together at a gas station, and all of a sudden the whole place goes up in flames.

It should also be pointed out that man has a right to a God who doesn't offend his intellect. Clearly, not every man is in need of such a God, but some of us surely are. To ignore human diversity and say that God only cares for the stupid is to posit a god in whom I cannot believe.

One frequently encounters fundamentalists and fideists who distrust the intellect in general and gnosis in particular, as if we are the presumptuous ones. But it's actually the other way around. How dare they suggest that God cannot be known in ways other than scripture! There is no intrinsic reason for any ontological break between mind and spirit, psyche and pneuma. Great Neptune, you have no right to reject scholasticism before you have even deeply understood it, barnacle head!

Let us begin with a premise on which we can all agree, theist and atheist alike, for if it isn't true, then no real thought of any kind is possible (that is, if thought is adequate to truth): "it is necessary to begin with the idea that human intelligence coincides in its essence with certainty of the Absolute."

Please note that you don't necessarily have to have had a personal experience of the Absolute. Rather, you simply must posit it, and understand that no coherent thought or discourse is possible in its absence. It is the ontological "condition without which." In turn, the human subject is the "condition with which."

While the prior existence of the Absolute is self-evident to the even minimally awakened intellect, in our present Age of Stupidity, the "awareness of 'accidents' has stifled the intuitive awareness of 'Substance,' and from this has come an intelligence that is systematically superficial, fixed upon a fragmentary reality."

Do you see the problem? Either you are an absolutist or you are a relativist. And if the latter, you condemn yourself ahead of time to falsehood, fragmentation, disharmony, immorality, ugliness. Or at least you will have no ontological basis for distinguishing between these and their opposites. Rather, one can only appeal to tastes, fashions, authority, or the ubiquitous urge for conformity.

The Absolute simply is. It cannot be proven with logic, since it is its own proof, not to mention the fact that it is the basis for the existence of any proof at all -- obviously! For to affirm that anything is "absolutely true" is to have brought oneself into the orbit of the Absolute and outside the obit of relativism.

So it is with this prior understanding that one should approach the proofs of God. If you cannot make this leap, then you are excused. It will come as a surprise to our trolls that you are under no external compulsion to continue reading this evil and stupid blog.

{Are they gone? Good. Let's continue.}

To the stubbornly godless man, the following statement by Schuon will appear as a tautology or even a clever trick: "in the spiritual order a proof is of assistance only to the man who wishes to understand and who, because of this wish, has in some measure understood already." Conversely, "it is of no practical use to one who, deep in his heart, does not want to change his position and whose philosophy merely expresses this desire."

Reason flees from such a self-enclosed individual, who can easily find intellectual justification for his static condition. I remember it well! To say that the proofs are of no use because they don't work for everyone is like saying that ebonics should be taught because proper English grammar and syntax don't work for everyone.

As mentioned above, everything hinges upon that first ontological choice between Absolute and relative. Once you have chosen the latter, then there is no hope for you -- at least until you reverse course and undo what you done did. Upon this choice depends one's conception of truth. For the absolutist, truth is discovered; for the relativist, truth is created -- which is just another way of saying that there is no truth at all, only opinion.

For the absolutist, "truth does not depend on reasoning -- obviously truth is not created by reason." Rather, it "reveals itself or becomes explicit thanks to the key provided by the mental operation." Within this act of understanding, there is always something that "escapes the thinking process rather as light and color elude the grasp of geometry."

I'm sure all of you have felt this "something." Perhaps you are feeling it now. It is similar to that extra ingredient that elevates artistry over competence, the profound over the prosaic, Magnus over goddinpotty, etc. To suggest that this gulf could ever be reduced to "quantity" is absurd. And stupid.

Qualities are not arbitrary, or they wouldn't be qualties. Rather, to say that one thing is better, or truer, or more virtuous than another, is to acknowledge the vertical hierarchy that can only end (and begin) in the Absolute, on pain of our humanness being a pure miracle hanging suspended in mid-air, like, I don't know, like something just hanging there in mid-air suspended. Yes, we are suspended, but from above, like Larry King's pants. The alternative is just too hideous to contemplate -- i.e., a pantless Larry King.

To be continued... all quoted material taken from Frithjof Schuon's Logic and Transcendence...