Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Truth Decay and Mental Hygiene

A big problem in our postmodern and post-enlightened culture is that even if a person believes that truth exists, they often have a very limited conception of what it entails -- basically empirical or rational truth. This, despite the fact that logical positivism, materialism, scientism, etc., are totally discredited philosophies. You would be a terribly crippled human crapling if you were to try to live your life as if there were a perfect correspondence between the True and the merely empirically or rationally true. Indeed, you would be Charles Johnson.

As there are diverse forms of beauty and goodness, there are diverse forms of truth. That itself is a true statement, but what sort of truth?

Another way of asking it is, "what is the truth about Truth?" There is empirical truth, rational truth, aesthetic truth, moral truth, revealed truth, even a person who claimed to be Truth. Given these diverse expressions, are we really dealing with the same thing? Or is it some kind of failure of language that causes us to confuse these categories?

Obviously, there must be some relationship between truth and intelligence, so that even if it is only in some vague, implicit sense, to say "intelligence" is to imply "truth" (and vice versa). For, as we have noted before, if intelligence doesn't know truth, then it isn't very intelligent. And yet, we know full well that there is a disconnect between human intelligence and truth, especially among the more tenured among us. The typical liberal intellectual not only believes things that are untrue, but things that could not possibly be true.

Naturally, the intellect must be subordinate to Truth. Thus, real intelligence -- assuming it knows Truth -- should automatically engender a spirit of humility, because it is aware of its inferior position. But due to a number of character flaws -- mostly pride -- the intellectual may come to value his own intellect more than the truth that may be known through it.

This is again why we should value good character over intelligence, since good character implies a kind of intelligence that is faithful to the transcendent object of human existence, whereas a dismembered and ontologically isolated intelligence entails no such concordance. The former implies "cardiac comprehension," or intellection, which transcends mere mental knowing. A truly intelligent person is a humble person, since he does not fundamentally seek recognition but transcendence: "he is interested in surpassing himself; hence in pleasing God more than men" (Schuon).

Schuon summarizes what has gone wrong with the "unintelligently intelligent" person, whereby "the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error":

"The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships; however, the definition 'intelligence' still applies, because there is still a discernment between something essential and something secondary, or between a cause and an effect." But the systematic, even intentional, exclusion of the vertical -- and we see this all the time, especially on the left -- "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill." (cf. The Varieties of Liberal Enthusiasm, and a tail waggle to Mizz E.)

And this is why irreligious people tend to be so extraordinarily irrational in their beliefs. It is not that religious people cannot also be irrational. Hardly! But that is the fault of the individual believer and of fallen humanity as such.

A proper Christian is never surprised when he encounters someone who believes nonsense -- whether religious or irreligious, it doesn't matter. Indeed, he expects it, since his religiosity both predicts and accounts for it. But secular extremists such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are surprised by irrationality -- as if human beings are not fallen and not prone to inhabit illusions (secular extremism being one of the most pernicious illusions).

Because to be a secular extremist is to be a fully horizontal man, and thus, to commit not only spiritual, but intellectual, suicide. It is the ultimate cosmic inversion, for it is to elevate our fallen state to the highest virtue. It is "to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path," to be "exteriorized," and to "love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values." Ultimately it is "to sin against transcendence, thus it is to forget God and consequently the meaning of life; and outwardness is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation" (Schuon)

And finally, it must be insisted that this willful horizontality engenders a kind of uniquely "human animality" that all persons with activated cOOnvision can see "is situated beneath animality as such, for animals innocently follow their immanent law and thereby enjoy a certain natural and indirect contemplation of the Divine Prototype; whereas there is decadence, corruption and subversion when man voluntarily reduces himself to his animality" (Schuon).

Schuon points out that there are four functions of intelligence: objectivity, subjectivity, activity, and passivity. In the human mind, these correspond to reason, intuition, imagination, and memory, respectively.

To be “objective” -- as in everyday science -- means that our knowledge "is inspired by data which are exterior to it." This is referred to as the "correspondence" theory of truth, and it certainly has its place. But to imagine that intelligence is nothing more than a mirroring of the external material world is to make intelligence subordinate to matter instead of Truth. Thus, to remain mired on this concrete level of reality is to codify stupidity in the manner of the devout atheists referenced above. It is to elevate a small portion of truth and a limited aspect of intelligence to the totality.

But there is also subjective intelligence, which "operates through existential analogy," as in, say, scripture ("as above, so below"). Scripture is only "effective," so to speak, because it is not ultimately about "the world" but about us. You might say that it is the truth about humans, including the world humans inevitably create in the absence of this saving knowledge.

The capacity to know this kind of truth is not fundamentally different from our ability, say, to know the subjectivity of another. For example, as a psychologist, my primary data is never merely rational, empirical, verbal, or objective. Rather, it is direct and intuitive, mind-to-mind. Only here do we begin to enter the specifically human world.

For example, an autistic person -- the real kind, not the newer variants that may or may not be related to true autism -- is specifically barred full access to this human world. A severely autistic person is a true materialist, in that he lives in a bizarre sea of objects from which he cannot escape "upward" or "inward," so to speak. This transition was captured vividly, if apocryphally, in the film The Miracle Worker, when Helen first makes the connection between concrete water and abstract wetness. Suddenly she gains access to a whole new world: the human world.

But something equally dramatic happens -- does it not? -- when we suddenly gain access to the "divine world" through our comprehension of revelation. There is definitely a "phase transition" in spirtitual growth, where one rather suddenly goes from knowledge to understanding (i.e., the "second birth"). To realize that this understanding will continue to deepen and grow is the thrill of a lifetime, as we enjoy the flow of energies from the Great Attractor along our keel.

As water leads to wetness, the experience of the divine (or of the sacred, the holy, the transcendentally beautiful) leads to Divinity. All are passages out, up, and in, however you wish to conceptualize it. But the exact word is not of fundamental importance. Rather, the experience is. Let your words be shaped by the divine object and anchored in the ground of real experience, or of O-->(n).

Now, in its active mode, intelligence "relives, recreates or combines the possibilities which are known to it, and this is the imagination." Conversely, in its passive mode, the intelligence "registers and preserves the data which present themselves to it." Thus, at once we appreciate the subtle balance of, on the one hand, fixed dogma and orthodoxy, and on the other, our active engagement of it with our higher imagination. Revelation must be "worked over" in the higher imagination.

I believe you will find that all of the greatest theologians are great precisely because they respect and maintain this subtle balance between imagination and doctrine. To default on the side of dogma creates a sterile conformity with no possibility of organic spiritual growth watered by the grace of personal understanding, or (↑↓); while to default in the other direction places one in the solipsistic and narcissistic realm of the new age fantasists such as Deepak and Co.

14 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Let your words be shaped by the divine object and anchored in the ground of real experience, or of O-->(n).

Excellent advice, though it seems to be one of those things that, while simple, is incredibly difficult to do without doing violence to the Truth one would convey.

5/12/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Amazon now allows authors to edit their page. I wrote a new and better bio at the bottom.

5/12/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I suspect some of our trolls would dispute the benignity of the cult, but then again they're probably just jealous because their Thetan levels are too low.

5/12/2010 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But secular extremists such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are surprised by irrationality -- as if human beings are not fallen and not prone to inhabit illusions (secular extremism being one of the most pernicious illusions).

An interesting example of that is the concerted attack on Tim Tebow by sportcasters. The experts even called in Dawkins to explain why Tebow is so messed up: a genetically weak mind coupled with homeschooling. I have never watched Tebow play. I am fundamentally opposed to all things SEC, and I cannot imagine ever hoping the Broncs win. Still, it sounds like the opposition to Tebow is not based on his ability nearly so much as it is based, irrationally, on his character.

Seems to me I remember a guy named Staubach with a sterling character doing OK in the NFL.

5/12/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left hates anyone who reminds them of their guilt.

5/12/2010 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob,

This post was well-named for me, as I spent the morning being drilled and sucked-dry by my dentist, and returned at noon with a really fat upper lip. I can tell you, Schuon and novocaine don't really complement each other.

Did you notice that your book still gets a good price as "used"? None of this $.01 stuff, like with Algore's tomes. This indicates that OCUG readers demand real money for the book, or else it remains a prized possession.

And that's the truth.

5/12/2010 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Mushroom-

On occasion I will watch football with friends here in the college town(read: lefty town) I live in. Any, and I mean ANY Christian display is gleefully mocked (even the "point to the sky" move). And I do mean GLEEFULLY. To my lefty friends they see such gestures as some tribal "My God wants me to defeat you" primitivism.

The few times I've offered a mild explanation something to the effect of "not I, but Christ who lives in me". That it may be an expression of HUMILITY and not some primitive display of egotism...my friends just stare at me like I just ruined all there fun. In particular they *really* enjoy tearing people like Tebow down.

The same people who wont render even the mildest judgement on nearly anyone else because that would be bad. JUDGING IS BAD!!

It's bizarre.

5/12/2010 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

The same people who would be ENRAGED if a Christian group somehow got Comedy Central to censor their beloved South Park. But nary a peep if a Islamic group threatens the creators with death and Comedy Central caves without missing a beat.

5/12/2010 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad and Miz E re:

"On what Matthew Arnold famously called the “sea of faith,” then, it may be that a rising tide raises all ships. If reawakened religious feeling can prompt people to inject messiahs into their movies and dyes into their skin, why shouldn’t it prompt them to vote for a black angel? Perhaps we should simply identify Obamaism as one more manifestation of a wider resurgence of spiritual enthusiasm—a manifestation that differs from the others merely in having a political component—and stop worrying about it."

I was struck, at the time, by the similarities between Obama and Carter. Both campaigns had a spiritual quality to them, a cheesy redemptive quality. As you will remember, much was made by the press about Carters "reborn" Christianity. Unfortunately, when push came to shove with Carter he defaulted to the Georgetown/Ivy League status quo instead of maintaining his alleged reborn evangelicalism. Too bad, he could have made something of himself had he stuck to his grits. With Obama the redemptor, a different messianic message is broadcast. A racial belief system of entitlement secured by leftist wankerism. To say Obama is spiritually and intellectually stillborn is true, but to say he is cunningly unaware of the child like grasp of reality that the left invests in their world view is incorrect. Obama understood the shortsightedness of his followers and their minimal requirement of proof of deity and played it for all it was worth. The scary thing about his campaign was the willingness of the press to believe the bullshit and broadcast the ecstasy was creepy and unsettling. After all those sermons on how important the "secular press" was to democracy to watch them prostrate and whip themselves into bloody nirvana over their savior was, how shall I say, repulsive and enlightening? My final discovery throughout this nightmare was how desperately poor of soul and meaning are the believers of the secular. Believing in nothing, qualifies you to believe in anything. It has been embarrassing to watch and listen to them. I wonder in a few years when they hear their words and opinions replayed will they cringe?

Bob, you description of the total horizontal being as autistic really hit home. I have an autistic cousin and could picture your description perfectly. While I love my cousin, I know that he would remember every single conversation and interaction between us precisely, he would still view me like he would view an insect. Strange, such a mental gift gone so wrong and wasteful. BTW, excellent post, really fired me up. Thank you Yazad.

5/12/2010 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Another excellent post, Bob!

5/12/2010 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

A completely horizontal person may experience a very full life, to a ripe old age, and die satisfied and with a head full of grand memories.

I mention this because although the vertical is valued above the horizontal here, I don't see how this evaluation is always advised.

The vertical is useful mainly or especially to those for whom the horizontal is not providing enough ooomph.

And I know; I'm one of them. But I am aquainted with horizontal people that are perfectly adapted to their milieu and are perhaps smiled on and indulged by the Gamekeeper.

They live in the sun like beautiful animals and I question their need for a vertical ascension.

5/12/2010 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Obviously, there must be some relationship between truth and intelligence, so that even if it is only in some vague, implicit sense, to say "intelligence" is to imply "truth" (and vice versa). For, as we have noted before, if intelligence doesn't know truth, then it isn't very intelligent. And yet, we know full well that there is a disconnect between human intelligence and truth, especially among the more tenured among us. The typical liberal intellectual not only believes things that are untrue, but things that could not possibly be true."

Truth is at that point of opportunity where we can conform our thoughts to what is real... or choose to ignore it and pretend that our preferences are more real than what IS.

It's the point which each of us faces daily, where we choose between what they sssay is valuable, and what truly is, where we say to ourselves that it'll be ok to eat of the shiny red apple that we'd prefer to be ok, and separate ourselves that much more from what is Good and Beautiful and True, and I think lessens our ability to recognize and appreciate it at all.

With each bite we shrink and shrivel our ability to know and digest what is Good and Beautiful and True... and like an anorexic who looks in the mirror and is almost pleased with their size and appearance, which the rest of us see as nearly cadaverous, these "horizontal people" feel that they "are perfectly adapted to their milieu"... and recoil from the vertical food that is offered.

Eat of the Vertical, exercise it in the horizontal, and remember to brush and floss daily with an OC Truth pace, as Aristotle said,

"... human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue... " "

5/13/2010 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

A completely horizontal person may experience a very full life, to a ripe old age, and die satisfied and with a head full of grand memories.

Yes, I'm sure Mengele felt that way...

5/13/2010 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"The vertical is useful mainly or especially to those for whom the horizontal is not providing enough ooomph."

I see it more as an issue of my soul being saved from a living death (separation from God). "Useful" would be an understatement.

5/13/2010 12:09:00 PM  

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