Sunday, April 11, 2010

On the Cosmic Inevitability of Boneheadedness and Butt Ugliness

Little chaotic around here. Gardener putting in new sod yesterday put his pick through the water main called his cousin "the plumber" who was here until midnight working on the problem still not fixed yada yada yada.

In short, no time for a new post. Instead, a slacktory refurbished and fully guaranteed old one.

Who, looking at the universe, would be so feeble-minded as not to believe that God is all in all; that he clothes himself with the universe, and at the same time contains it and dwells in it? --Gregory of Nyssa

To say that one believes in the self-evident truth -- and it is self-evident to the Self -- of "intelligent design" is really to say that one believes in intelligence, especially human intelligence. For intelligence is less than nothing if it cannot know truth, and no random shuffling of Darwinian evolution could result in truth-bearing animals. Please.

Rather, because the cosmos is logoistic, we should never be surprised to find traces of intelligence on the one hand, and truth on the other, wherever we look -- or, in other words, in the objects we perceive and in the subjects to whom they are intelligible.

The absurdity of neo-Darwinism -- and it is an absurdity to the interior Self, not necessarily to the externalized ego -- posits an absolute contingency capable of knowing absolute truth about itself. If it can do that, then it is no longer merely contingent, but participates in a transcendent absoluteness for which it can never account. Obviously there is relative truth in natural selection -- only a false absolutist could insist otherwise -- but surely not absolute truth.

Instead of "intelligent design," one might just as well say "beautiful design." For example, underneath the temporal flux of the cosmos, we apprehend those beautiful and elegant mathematical structures that seem to abide in a sempiternal platonic realm of their own.

Or so we have heard from the wise. We only got up to trigonometry, in which we received a gentleman's D, in part because we were distracted by the more beautiful Susie Campbell in the next desk. Still, although we did not know it at the time, the geometry of her form revealed something essential about our cosmos.

Yes, ugliness -- even butt ugliness -- "must needs be," but we can only know it because it is a privation. Only in the postmodern world "has ugliness become something like a norm or principle; in this case, beauty appears as a specialty, even a luxury" (Schuon). But this ugliness is merely an exteriorization of the tawdry souls who produce it, e.g., {insert contemporary example}. It requires no talent, since it takes none to produce ugliness and barbarism.

Rather, it requires the exertion of will to arrest and reverse the entropic movement away from beauty. To put it another way, some butts are quite beautiful. Still, if it is a full time job just to be beautiful, then your life is clearly out of balance. ($2302.29 per day on one's hair? I'm not sure if I've spent that much in my life.)

It seems that our decline into the postmodern cult of ugliness began at the other end, with the aesthetic movement of "art for art's sake." But this was an aesthetics cut off from its transcendent source. Once that happened, then gravity took care of the rest, and down we went on a wilde ride to the bottom. Idolatry of the beautiful is still idolatry, which is why the modern art museum became a kind of church for irreligious sophisticates. It is also why so much modern art is ultimately "empty," because it has been drained of any transcendent reference. In the absence of transcendence, all art is merely decoration on our prison walls.

Art is obviously a form; but the form must skillfully convey something of the nonformal; it is the real presence of the infinite captured within, or radiating through, the finite. Schuon wrote that "beauty is the mirror of happiness [I would say delight] and truth." Without the element of delight, "there remains only the bare form," and without the element of truth, "there remains only an entirely subjective enjoyment -- a luxury." Then we are stuck with a decadent aestheticism instead of aesthetics, which is as desiccated intellectualism is to the ever-moist and chewy intellect, just a meretricious counterfate worse than death.

In this regard, to say that there are no objective standards of aesthetic value is to insist (to paraphrase Schuon) that myopia and blindness are merely different ways of seeing instead of "defects of vision." Stupidity is not just another form of intelligence.

So why should we call formal ugliness art, especially when it aids and abets the hijacking of man's spirit down and away from its source? This is a quintessential form of demonism, of black magic, a "revolt of the darkness." Obviously it doesn't "elevate," since the broken elevator of the postmodern mind can never ascend from the ground floor to begin with. But curiously, it can nevertheless descend. It can do this because this is where they locate the "real," in matter. And this is why their vision is so hellish.

Now, what does this all have to do with the human body? Again, man is said to have been created the image and likeness of the Creator. It is the Raccoon position that we will therefore find traces of this deiformity in both our subjectivity (e.g., our capacity to know truth, to will the good, and to love beauty), but also in our material form.

This is not a new idea, but an archetypal one that belongs to the religio perennis, or the Religion of which religion is an expression. As the Orthodox Christian Olivier Clement writes, "There is no culture or religion that has not received and does not express a 'visitation of the Word.'" For "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17).

Quoting from Manly Hall's sometimes kooky, sometimes helpful Secret Teachings of All Ages, he writes that "The oldest, most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body. The Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and Hindus considered philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an indispensable part of ethical and religious training."

In this approach, "the laws, elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution," so that "everything which existed outside of man had its analogue within man." An outgrowth of this was the notion that God is a "Grand Man," while man is a "little god." Thus, "the greater universe was termed the Macrocosm -- the Great World or Body," while man's body, "the individual human universe, was termed the Microcosm." As above, so below. Placed in this context, the idea that "the Word has become flesh" is perfectly comprehensible, even inevitable, given the nature of the Sovereign Good.

And in fact, even the secular scientist believes in this ancient formulation after his own fashion. To cite one obvious example, how is it that human beings are uniquely privileged to have access to the abstract formal system that rules the heavens? In other words, the quantum cosmologist "contains" the cosmos just as surely as it contains him.

But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery: "Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen). "Man, this major world in miniature, is a unified abridgment of all that exists, and the crowning of divine works" (St. Gregory of Palamas). "Man is the microcosm in the strictest sense of the word. He is the summary of all existence" (John Scottus Erigena). "All things in Heaven above, and Earth beneath, meet in the Constitution of each individual" (Peter Sterry).

You will often hear reductionistic Darwinians refute design with reference to certain "ugly" realities in the world, say, the mosquito, or man's windpipe being too close to the esophagus, or Keith Olbermann's wide ass and ferret-like eyes. And yet, such quibbles actually "praise God," being that there is an implicit recognition or "recollection" of perfection in apprehending its abence.

But again, the manifestation is not the Principle, otherwise the world would be God. Nevertheless, as Schuon points out, "the world is fundamentally made of beauty, not ugliness.... and [it] could not contain ugliness if it did not contain a priori far more beauty." Likewise, contingency and randomness necessarily exist, but they are ultimately harnessed by a higher ordering principle to achieve newer and deeper syntheses. There is no metabolism without catabolism.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit of God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.... Thus, to contemplate the smallest object is to experience the Trinity: the very being of the object takes us back to the Father; the meaning it expresses, its logos, speaks to us of the Logos; its growth to fullness and beauty reveals the Breath, the Life-giver." --Olivier Clement

11 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

“But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery:..”

Oh, I like this next part. It’s like when Rush says, “roll the tape” and Snerdly plays a montage of actually recorded evidence:

"Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen). "Man, this major world in miniature, is a unified abridgment of all that exists, and the crowning of divine works" (St. Gregory of Palamas). "Man is the microcosm in the strictest sense of the word. He is the summary of all existence" (John Scottus Erigena). "All things in Heaven above, and Earth beneath, meet in the Constitution of each individual" (Peter Sterry).”

The Mah-ha B’ob. Doing the work the {insert contemporary gurus} used to do..

4/11/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"the world is fundamentally made of beauty, not ugliness.... and [it] could not contain ugliness if it did not contain a priori far more beauty."

A complement. Or perhaps a supplement.

I hope your water woes get sorted out soon!

4/11/2010 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

In defense of beauty, I don’t know about yous coons, but no one sat me down and told me the definition of the term. I’m not sure one can. You learn it by hearing how it is used. Which is a sense is a triune experienced. And by comparing that indefinable thing, within the thing that was pointed to, and comparing that to the next time, and then the next, until you know the essence well enough to spot it on your own. Your unworded definition grows your whole life. The definition is perpetually enriched. If you’re lucky.

4/11/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

Go with the flow: plumbers after sod-placers - play in the water.

Beauty and truth: morning reading

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/04/leo-strauss-and-the-second-cave
Thomas S. Hibbs writes,
¨Yet the self-destructive transformation of philosophy in modernity has precisely to do with its confrontation with the revelation of the New Testament and Christian theology.¨

Had it been ´consultation´ - rather than ´confrontation´ - perhaps we would not have
¨...so much modern art {which}is ultimately "empty," because it has been drained of any transcendent reference.¨ -Bob

4/11/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Good news / bad news. The good news is the water is back on. The bad news is I have no excuse for drinking beer in the morning.

4/11/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Instead of 'intelligent design,' one might just as well say 'beautiful design.'

...In the absence of transcendence, all art is merely decoration on our prison walls."

Just wanted to post a big "amen."

Julie, lovely flowers & thoughts. I just spent a good ten minutes staring into our apple tree in full bloom, which was buzzing loudly. Ah, spring.

OTOH, there's the stinkbug...or stinkbugS (plural)...now in full home invasion mode. (Ah, spring.) Taken one at a time, it might even be beautiful in its own way--or at least interesting--or maybe just symmetrical, shaped like a tiny medieval shield.

I just don't like them en masse.

4/11/2010 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Oliver Clement's book is now back in print, btw.

4/11/2010 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

I'm ready for some of your more inflammatory policitcal writing, if you can cook some up for tommorrow.

Name names, make accusation, etc.

State some dire predictions

In other words, lets get crackin' here Mr. G.

4/11/2010 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Off topic, but Wow.

I'd like to think that was an April Fool's joke, but going by the date it is apparently serious.

I wonder if that'll ever catch on as the next big method for boosting self-esteem?

4/11/2010 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In this regard, to say that there are no objective standards of aesthetic value is to insist (to paraphrase Schuon) that myopia and blindness are merely different ways of seeing instead of "defects of vision." Stupidity is not just another form of intelligence."

Hooo! And yet, the stupid continue to tout their intelligence while demonstrating new depths of stupidity.

It's an outright plague among democrats.
Island tipping, let's vote to see what's in the bill, a White Sox "fan" that can't name a single player past or present, etc..

Hey, let's eradicate the words "Islamic radicalism".
That'll show the terrorists.

Obamao can mix his stupidity with his blatant anti-semiticism.
Does that make him stupidly evil or evilly stupid?

4/12/2010 04:59:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

Again: Beauty and Truth, afternoon reading - h/t WUWT

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/12/dr-jerry-ravetz-on-willis-epidemics-rough-tumble-debate-and-post-normal-science/#more-18388

¨There is another unsolved problem, Truth. ... I happily use the terms for other Absolutes, like ‘beauty’, ‘justice’ and ‘holy’; so clearly there is something wrong in my head.¨ - Ravetz

4/12/2010 03:05:00 PM  

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