Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Speaking In and Of Reality

Science has a lot of answers. Duh! But only to very narrow and specific questions. If you ask the wrong question, for example, "Why are truth and beauty so intimately related?", or "what happens after you die?", you get no answer at all. Worse, some questions just generate paradox, such as, "what was before the Big Bang?", or "how can the same Darwinism that supposedly explains man be explained by man?"

Now, here's the deal: various sciences abstract from the meaning of being as a whole, which is only possible because truth emanates from being -- which is itself a timeless truth which we may know with certainty on pain of the impossibility of knowing anything at all. But science alone can never explain the existence of the truth-bearing scientist, any more than you can give birth to yourself or kiss your elbow.

Or, let us just say that our encounter with being begins with the dual mystery of a cosmos that is intelligible to intelligence. In fact, this complementarity reduces to the single word cosmos, which simply means order. The cosmos is "the order of the whole," but that one word presumes both the intelligence and intelligibility, the one making no sense without the other. Furthermore, the intelligence and intelligibility point beyond themselves in two directions, to the Divine mind and the intellect, or God and man, or just O and (¶).

Sciences develop diverse and technical languages to convey the truth of Being to our intelligence -- for example, the language of quantum mechanics or the hyper-sophisticated coding of the human genome. But again, these languages aren't Being itself. The map is not the territory. The human genome project is not alive, you can't make a cosmos out of mathematics, and you certainly can't give a robot a human soul by programming it with psychoanalytic theory.

Being just is; or as the biggest wag of them all put it: don't kid the keter, I Am that I AM. We can describe it any way we like, but our description can never exhaust the infinite ocean of Being. It perpetually flows into our little vessel of human knowing without being diminished one iota.

Oldtomers will pardon the brief review, because otherwise, new catecoonemates will have no idea what we're talking about. But in the wholly Bobble, I use the symbol "O" to stand for the infinite and unknowable ground of ultimate reality from which our existence is derived, the latter being like a spark thrown from a central fire. You are a spark in the dark responsible for that nasty business in the park, but that is a subject for a different post.

O itself can never be known as it is. On the one hand, we can know "about" it, which I call (k), which refers to all of our profane, everyday knowledge up to and including the highest reaches of science. We can also know in O, so to speak, which I call (n). "Speaking in O" accounts for a number of human modes, such as poetry, intuition, prophecy, and cosmo-American soul music.

Now, we can most definitely experience the energies of O -- its warmth and light, or love and gnosis -- directly. In fact, we can know many things about O, just as I can know many things about you. But I can never know you in the same way you know yourself in an unmediated way, from the inside. Only you can have this kind of "inside information" about yourself.

Thus, observational or inductive science proceeds in the "upward" direction of (k)-->O, while logico-deductive science proceeds in the "downward" direction of O-->(k). Again, (k) is the realm of everyday dualistic knowledge about O. This knowledge may be known objectively and passed like an object from mind to mind, or from the tenured to their young victims.

For example, the theory of natural selection is (k) about the ultimate unknowable mystery of the living O. It is not to be confused with O itself. For surely, O is alive, and yet, it can hardly be reduced to a biological object, which is only a distant effect, not a cause. Life comes from Life, just as love comes from Love and truth from Truth.

At risk of pointing out the obvious, the theory of natural selection cannot tell you how O evolved to the point that it could hypothesize and know a truth about itself, any more than musical notation can account for the existence of music.

Music is completely unperturbed by all the efforts to capture and contain it. All the music that has been produced in the history of the world has not yet made a dent in it. We will never "run out" of music. Although rap comes close.

No, music will continue to flow on forever, just as will language. Language will never explain the ceaseless creativity of language. It just flows and flows and flows, regardless of your theory or system or particular language. It is truly a mirror of the infinite, since it is one of the primary modes of O. Remember, "the Word" was with O from the beginning, and the beginning is always now: Yes, When He prepared the heavens, I was there. When He drew a circle on the face of the deep.... I was beside Him as a master craftsman (Proverbs 8:27).

Science must console itself with (k), which is fine. Obviously, (k) has its place so long as we exist, as we must, in the "separative illusion" of the relative world. Indeed, since most cultures revolve around (-k), I am eternally grateful that I won the cosmic lottery and live in a time and place that mostly honors (k). For any method of science is correct, on its own level, to the extent that it submits to O and allows itself to be molded and determined by the limited object or domain it is attempting to describe.

But for most of history -- and in much of the contemporary world -- this direction is reversed, and reality is determined and molded by (k), which automatically converts it to (-k). For example, Islamists are rooted in a pernicious (-n), which never touched O to begin with. (Obama's hateful Trinity Church is another fine example of (-n), or "lies about God.")

Worse yet, when (k) replaces O, one then lives in the parallel loooniverse of -O, or what I call ø, which is where so much of standard issue leftism can be situated. Whenever you deny O, you will simply replace it with ø, and fall from essence to existence. Instead of being "condemned to the absolute" -- as a self-aware man must be -- you are just plain condemned.

In fact, you may even elevate yourself to O, as do so many secular fundamentalist lunafanatics. They do this in both trivial and profound ways, from dictating how the infinitely complex systems of the economy or weather should be "governed," to making it against the law to discuss O in public schools.

We in the West suffer from a different problem than the one that afflicts so much of the (-n) Islamic world (mostly the unsufirabble parts). Unfortunately, our culture does more than honor (k). Rather, it elevates it to the highest. The secular world tries to eradicate O and replace it with mere (k), which automatically places one in an abstract, substitute, and counterfeit world at least one degree removed from reality.

Religions, properly understood, attempt to restore our primordial relationship to O. Fundamentally, they contemplate the holy and manifest mystery of Being by trying to enter it directly -- not talk about it but from within it. And when they do talk about the mystery, it is not in the manner of (k)-->O (or at least it shouldn't be). Rather, the direction is reversed, and it is O-->(n).

Again, (n) is not to be confused with (k). To take just one obvious example, it would be a grave error to reduce the words of Jesus to mere (k). Rather, Jesus spoke in almost pure (n). Indeed, you will note that Jesus used no technical terms at all.

Obviously, specialized (k) can be quite technical. Most of it is well over -- or under -- your head. But (n) is often quite homespun and plain -- even rustic -- sounding. The Tao Te Ching, for example, also contains no technical terms at all. Nor do the Upanishads or the Talmud. Nor, for that matter, did most of the great philosophers of history employ any technical language: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Schopenhauer, Bob Dobbs. Only when (k) started to become conflated with O did we see this great confusion in philosophy, a confusion that pervades the contemporary academic world.

In fact, sad to say, most contemporary philosophy has detached itself entirely from O. It now consists of nothing more than (k) about (k), which, suffice it to say, is merely (-k) as it pertains to metaphysics, the latter of which being the science of the Real.

If revelation is an objective manifestation of O, the intellect as such is its subjective manifestation, the one mirroring the other (for scripture is not only addressed to the awakened intellect [nous], but cannot be understood without one).

The scientistic middleworld of (k ) --> O is a barren one that is unfit for human hobbitation. Being spontaneously gives itself to us, but in order to appreciate that, we must adopt an attitude of receptiveness, or what I call (o). If we do not maintain this receptive attitude, the world cannot open up and give of itself from within -- from Within to within. Can I get a withinness?! Amen!

Although the way of the jnani is not the way of the bhakti, being that it is primarily the path of Knowledge, there is considerable overlap, in that it is nevertheless a love relationship. For it is phil of the beautiful Sophia, a passionate longing for Truth and Reality, the one an eternal reflection of the other.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Secrets of Successful Farming: Good Seed, Deadly Pesticide, and Lots of Miracle Grow

People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him. -- Swami Abhishiktananda

All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose

In his Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene -- an Orthodox Christian monk -- makes the claim that today we "are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union." Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we might call the "energies" of O, or (↓).

Yes, the Christian message is universal, but every revelation has an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component (although, as we shall see, the two can only be artificially separated, for this complementarity is analogous to the body and soul that constitute the living person).

Even so, the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by no-nonsense cherubim with flaming swords who prevent flaming assouls from barging in without the proper protocol. Rather, only those with sincere humility and childlike innocence know the passWord: amen for a child's job!

And while no one is sufficiently childlike to place themselves above dogma, I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal." (The book on Swami Abhishiktananda comes with Petey's imprimatur, in that it is 90% Coon-friendly.)

In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative, layered with multiple meanings, and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective barrier over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel.

In fact, after the above comment, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). And although he is being "figurative," he is also being quite literal, is he not? But the uninitiated will have no earthly idea -- or only an earthly idea --what he is talking about. At best, they can imagine what it is, and pretend that this is an adequate replacement for the experience of "harvesting" all that fruity goodness.

In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus? Also, note that the limiting factor is within the disciple, i.e., "as they were able to hear it." This means that the disciple must expand his inner horizon in order to make himself adequate to the fullness of what is being transmitted. You must stretch your mental ligaments, not contract them. Limber up and my yoga's easy.

Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric -- an important point, for otherwise it sounds as if one is talking about some kind of arbitrary magic. But aligning oneself with this force is one of the principle aims of the Christian life, because with it "all things are possible." Possible, mind you, not necessary. It's not like some kind of machine.

Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."

Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig."

As we have said before, it's all about farming; if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- turning the soil, planting the good seed, exposing oneself to sufficient light on a daily basis, irrigating with the waters of life, keeping the weeds and parasites out, nurturing the immature saplings, and especially, watching over the field.

For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the narcissistic lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps in and keeps right on digging.

Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.

This cosmic inertia -- in Vedanta it is called tamas -- is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable course, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.

Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels with raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation, although there are also important differences that need to be respected.

Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to watch and pray. It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.

Watching what?

Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

Hieromonk Damascene eliborates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are antonymous. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."

Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lovely Lies and the Forces of Spiritual & Material Poverty

We live in a world of forces; and not just physical forces, but mental forces, emotional forces, spiritual forces, and even economic forces.

For example, with regard to the latter, American Digest displayed a quote from the Adam Smith Institute to the effect that there are no causes of poverty, being that poverty is obviously our natural condition. There are no wealthy animals. Rather, poverty

"is the rest state, that which happens when you don't do anything. If you want to experience poverty, just do nothing and it will come. To ask what causes poverty is like asking what causes cold in the universe; it is the absence of energy. Similarly poverty is the absence of wealth. For most of humanity's existence on this planet, poverty has been the norm, the natural condition."

For example, if my father hadn't forced me to get a job when I was eighteen, I'd still be idly daydreaming in my childhood bedroom. Oh, wait. I am idly daydreaming in my childhood bedroom. Never mind. Still, I bought this house from my mother, fair and square.

Poverty just is. It doesn't become an actual force until the left takes over and begins to magically create poverty with bad ideas. There are no wealthy animals, and human wealth only began to exist on a widespread scale in the past couple of hundred years.

There are forces that result in wealth, such as human creativity, initiative, vision, risk, prudence, etc: "We should ask what are the causes of wealth and try to recreate and reproduce them. When you ask the wrong question, 'What causes poverty,' you end up with wrong answers.... Instead of trying to take wealth away from rich people and redistribute it, we should be seeking to implement the conditions in which as many people as possible can join in the wealth-creating process for themselves." Thus, the first law of wealth is "get off your ass." The second is "get the state off your ass."

Conversely, one of the greatest forces of poverty -- and the most potent force which the left pulls out of its arse 'n all -- is envy. Which is why the left has no interest in the forces that create wealth, only the forces that redistribute it under the auspices of envy.

In the mental realm, truth is a force. In fact, it is without question the most important force. Some people -- mostly aging hippies and addle-brained youths, who represent the two main constituencies of the left, wacktivists and hedonists -- will tell you that love (or compassion) is the most important force, but love is a derivative of Truth, not vice versa. I do not worship "the God of love" unless he is first the God of Truth, for who besides a leftist would worship the lovely and seductive lies of a Marx or Obama?

As our dear Mr. Gnosis All has written, "God is 'Light' before He is 'Heat,' if it may be so expressed; gnosis 'precedes' love, or rather, love 'follows' gnosis, since the latter includes love after its own fashion...."

Schuon goes on to explain that "one can love something false, without love ceasing to be what it is; but one cannot 'know' the false in a similar way, that is to say knowledge cannot be under illusion as to its object without ceasing to be what it is; error always implies a privation of knowledge, whereas sin does not imply a privation of will."

Although the lie -- being a privation -- has no "absolute" existence, it does represent a potent "counter-force" on the horizontal plane. In fact, if you think about it for even a moment, the Lie has possibly had an even greater impact and influence on the world than truth -- hence the parable of the Garden, which places the ontological lie at the center of the human dilemma.

Truth is always embattled on all sides, just as light is by definition surrounded by darkness. Only by positing a fundamental inclination in humans can you explain their constant attraction to the Lie. And the bigger the Lie, the harder they fall (cf. the fractured lie of the Obamessiah which now has the left hurtling back to the ground).

You'd think it would be uncontroversial to utter a simple truth, but you'd be wrong, wouldn't you? I am reminded of Obama's shamelessly opportunistic and manipulative "dialogue about race," when the whole reason we cannot say anything useful or productive about race is that the left will brand you a racist if you do. It seems that to carry Truth is to pick up a cross and paint a target on one's back, as one fellow put it.

Animals cannot lie. While they can have certain naturally selected mechanisms of deception, they certainly cannot consciously live a lie. But living a lie is in the normal course of events for human beings. Someone said that language was given to man so as to conceal his thoughts.

Interestingly, this problem is also fully recognized in scripture, as the very first conversation recorded in the Bible is a tissue of lies. The serpent lies to the woman, the woman transmits the lie to the man, the man lies about it to God, and then a rebellious angel leaks the scandal to the New York Times.

The very emergence of self-consciousness seems to be inseparable from lying. For how could it not be? Once we have an interior and an exterior (a self and a persona), the two can grow so far apart that our existence can shade off into the lie (which is one of the reasons actors have always been viewed with suspicion, since they are so adept at pretending to be what they are not).

So lying is absolutely fundamental to human existence. The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a sophisticated epistemology -- which you cannot say three times in rapid succession -- showing how a vital lie is at the basis of most all forms of psychopathology (at least those that aren't mainly genetic and/or biochemical). Once the lie is in place, it causes the psyche to enter a sort of parallel universe, for it constructs itself on the foundations of that initial falsehood.

A mind parasite is essentially an internalized lie that takes on a pseudo-life of its own. I believe the term is an accurate one, for it is meant to convey the idea that a vital lie that lodges itself in the psyche is not static, but avails itself of the marvelously elaborate machinery of the mind. Therefore, it can easily justify itself, elaborate itself, gang up on the truth, intimidate healthier parts of the psyche. It's like a dictator who uses legitimate means to come to power, but then corruptly uses all of the levers of power to stay there and eliminate opponents.

Now, those in thrall to the Lie are by definition slaves. While they may enjoy a subjective sense of freedom, the freedom is an illusion, since it does not converge on the truth that dilates being and liberates the self. In fact, they have forfeited their freedom and are attached to a monstrous demon that they have generated out of their own psychic substance, in the same way that a spider weaves a web out of its own butt.

Think of a vivid example that is readily at hand -- the Islamists. Is it not obvious that they are absolutely enslaved by artificial beings of their own creation? And that they want everyone else to be enslaved by the same demon? Does this not demonstrate the insane power of demons?

There are personal mind parasites and collective mind parasites. Many cultures revolve entirely around monstrous entities that have been engendered by whole communities, such as the Aztec.

Here again, it would be wrong to say that the Aztec had a "bloodthirsty god" -- rather, it clearly had them. Thousands upon thousands of human beings sacrificed to satisfy this god's appetite for human blood, elaborate mechanisms set up to supply fresh bodies, the heart of the sacrificial victim cut out by the officiating priest who would himself take a bite out of it while it was still beating. A whole society of Jeffrey Dahmers trying desperately to allay anxiety by vampirically ingesting the life force of others. The Islamists are just the latest maninfestation of this gruesome religion. But you undoubtedly know some people in your own life who do the same thing -- hungry ghosts who vampirically feed on the spirit or blog of others. Here comes one now! Hello, 'Nonyman.

In all times and in all places, human beings have looked for ways to objectify and worship their self-created demons. This is preferable to having them run around loose in one's own psyche. Take again the example of the Islamist. How would one even begin to tell him: "you have a persecutory entity inside of you that your life revolves around. You have placed it outside of yourself so as to make your life bearable, for it conceals a truth that is too painful to endure."

To a large extent, this dynamic is at the heart of more mundane politics as well. For those who do not experience George Bush as a demon, it is almost impossible to understand those who do, any more than we can really understand the motivations of the Aztec. The collective mind parasite has a grammar and logic all its own, inaccessible to all but initiates into the Lie.

You don't actually want to get that close to an intoxicating Lie of that magnitude. It's not safe. Better to observe it from a respectful distance. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulled down into a false world of counter-lying rather than simple truth. You cannot create an artificial "good demon,” which is what secular leftists are trying to do when they aren't creating bad ones. Those who criticize my "negativity" toward the left probably think I am engaging in the former -- heatedly countering the lie -- when I am calmly engaged in the latter -- simply affirming the truth that Is and has always been. This is the inner meaning of "resist not evil." Resist it in the wrong way, and you come into its orbit.

For as our Unknown Friend points out, a demon operates through a combination of will and imagination. You may think of perverse will as the male principle and perverse imagination as the female principle. Together they beget the demon child that then controls the parents, taking over both will and imagination. Consider how so much art and tenured nonsense are nothing more than the elaboration of the perverse imagination -- ideological superstructures giving cover to lies of various magnitude. Think of how much "activism" is simply the sadistic will of a corrupt superego that mistakes moralism for morality.

This is the inner meaning of "you shall not make for yourself a graven image," for Truth is a living thing, a precious Being that cannot be reduced to the idolatrous systems of men, especially corrupted monkeymen who do not honor Truth to begin with and cannot distinguish it from a banana. Most modern and postmodern ideologies and philosophies are opiates of elites too sophisticated for such powerful pneumaceuticals as principial Truth.

And this is the inner meaning of "honor your father and mother”: not rebelling against received truth and tradition in a reactionary, adolescent manner, especially before you are even mature enough to understand what it all means. But those who flee from Truth will always exist in one form or another. Which is why "the poor will always be with you."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take Charge of Your Delusions with the One Cosmos Wisdom Tool!

When philosophy uses reason to resolve a doubt, this proves precisely that its starting point is a doubt which it is striving to overcome, whereas... the starting point of a metaphysical formulation is always something intellectually evident or certain, which is communicated, to those able to receive it, by symbolical or dialectical means designed to awaken in them the latent knowledge which they bear unconsciously and 'eternally' within them. --F. Schuon

A recent uninvited guest in the Casa del B'ob once again proved the soundness of Schuon's rule of metaphysical formulations and the impossibility of communicating them to those unable to receive them. The Mysteries aren't intended to be vulgarized and dispensed to any yahoo with an open hand and empty head, and they certainly weren't meant to be eagerly groped and pawed over by the grubby fingers of new age barbarians who reduce the most sublime knowledge to its ego (or worse) level equivalent.

Now, history is littered with caricatures of spirit. But so too is the present. I have in my hand a typical example in the form of a catalog I received in the mail a couple of days ago from company called Sounds True. I bring this up not just for valid purposes of mockery and ridicule, but to emphasize that there is actually great spiritual danger in treating these matters so lightly. For example:

The Mandala Healing Kit: Spark Your Sacred Geometry (for people who can't spark euclidean geometry). Loveland: Music For Dreaming and Awakening (dreaming or awakening? Make up your mind!). The Advanced Manifestation Program: Upgrade the Way You Think -- And Live (disclaimer: upgrade only works if you start off really stupid). Take Charge of Your Life at The Quantum Level (since you obviously can't deal with reality on this level). Explore Non-Ordinary Reality with the Wisdom Tool of the Shaman (step one: bend over to receive the Wisdom Tool).

The hucksters who propagate this debased nonsense have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic spirituality. They are poseurs, flatterers, con men and unCoonmen pretending to be as dense as their followers so their followers can strive to feel as clever as they are. But as always, the counterfeit of any kind relies on the existence of the genuine article, even while causing its devaluation. Gresham's law doesn't only apply to economics.

A real teacher is more likely to drive you away than to make outrageous promises and ask for your money. This is why it is best to work within an established religious framework. If I should ever receive a celestial mandate to become a World Teacher and solicit donations and love offerings, don't worry. I'll let you know.

Sure, the traditional path is less glamorous, like indexing instead of trying to find some exotic or risky way to beat the stock market. Yes, there are some people who can do that, and there are some spiritual practitioners who are able to operate outside the lines. But doing so requires an abundance of caution -- not less discipline, but more. As Bob Dylan sang, to live outside the law, you must be honest. You must know your own limitations, because Reality will eventually bring you to heel.

Ronald Reagan once said that "the solutions are simple, but not simplistic." As a matter of fact, simple is hard. Complexity is easy. Most people are very complex, especially the clever ones, since their mind parasites are by definition as intelligent as they are. Their intelligence just gives them more skill at pulling the wool over the eyes of their host and avoiding detection.

People are full of unconscious wormholes, psychic envelopes, secret lives, hidden compulsions, ulterior motives, and auto-hypnotic agendas. While they may appear deep, their complexity tends to conceal their essential shallowness. For mysticism is nothing more than the art of living with one's whole being -- body, mind, and spirit -- at a deeper level.

Macarius, a fourth century church father, discusses the problem of mind parasites weaving their way into the unconscious in a most vivid and arresting manner: "When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not in hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God?"

Well? The essential point is that the wicked one doesn't just walk in uninvited. He's not a barbarian, but a man of taste and restraint. He is a flatterer, a seducer, a charmer. One must give off signals that he is welcome -- that he won't be turned away at the door.

Before we can enter the pneumatosphere, we must begin by clearly recognizing the fragmented, dispersed (or hardened) and fallen situation in which we find ourselves, and sincerely wish to turn it around. Everything else depends upon this first recognition, for this is the "gap" through which grace enters (interesting point today at American Thinker about how leftists are always looking for a replacement for original sin, most recently, man's Environmental Badness).

To re-cognize this gap is to realize, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to detach from the local ego (and all its compulsive reactions) and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery, from life to death.

Denys the Areopagite wrote that "the higher we ascend, the more our words are straitened by the fact that what we understand is seen more and more altogether in a unifying and simplifying way." As "reason ascends from the lower to the transcendent, the more it ascends the more it is contracted, and when it has completely ascended it will become completely speechless, and be totally united with the Inexpressible." From lower complexity to higher simplicity. True science - -including spiritual science -- is the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Have you ever met -- I'm sure you have -- a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, who doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?

Achieving this is actually an important part of the preluminary spadework of spiritual practice. You might say that it is both alpha and omega, because it is both cause and outcome.

To put it another way, it begins as an efficient cause but eventually becomes a final cause. You begin by pushing, but eventually you will feel yourself pulled (and not only that, for you will then discover that your pushing was really His pulling). What might be called the "spiritual dynamic" involves a combination of our own ceaseless efforts and the recognition that our unaided efforts will get us nowhere. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "without God's grace we can do nothing; but without our voluntary cooperation God will do nothing." Or, to put it in the most simple form possible: (↓) and (↑).

Here's one for you to ponder. Basil the Great, a fourth century church father, said "A mind which is not dispersed among external things, returns to itself, and from itself ascends to God by an unerring path." Was it not Matthew who wrote, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light"? Yes, if thine "I" be single, many felicitous things follow. Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page -- for the psyche contains many things that are unworthy of, and incompatible with, the divine purity. Consign them to the purifying fire now, or be burned later.

Just to show you how much overlap there is over the vertical horizon, I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Sri Aurobindo that have a universal application (and this is never with the intention of steering westerners toward yoga, but the more important point of demonstrating to westerners that there is no need to leave their own tradition for what they believe to be a more sophisticated "psychospiritual technology"): "What we are now, or rather what we perceive as ourselves and so call, is only an ignorant partial and superficial formulation of our nature. It is not our whole self; it is not even our real self; it is a little representative personality.... There is a secret soul in us that is our true person.... to unveil that soul and that self is one of the most important movements of Yoga."

The lower mind consists mostly of "a complex mass of mental, nervous, and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations." A person fixated at this level "respects what belongs to the domain of mind mostly for its utility for the support, comfort, use, satisfaction and entertainment of his phsyical and sensational existence." He regards the higher as "a superfluous but pleasant luxury of imaginations, feelings and thought-abstractions, not as inner realities...."

But, paralleling what Gregory Nazianzen said above, "Mind is a passage, not a culmination": "Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance.... But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma.... It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfillment."

In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare -- for inner vigilance, for watchfulness, for facing oneself, for separating from those things that separate us from spirit, for building the Inner Citadel and abiding in that silent slackatorium with the beautiful area rug that really pulls the room together. And there the dude shall abide.

One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires or an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit. --Sri Aurobindo

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Reach of Speech -- God's and Ours

Once one understands that the Absolute necessarily exists, then one realizes the limitations of reason. For to say something of the Absolute with any profane speech is to exclude too much of it to say anything deeply meaningful.

The only way out of this dilemma is up, where speech mirrors the Absolute in a more direct sort of way. This, of course, is the purpose of scripture -- what in Vedanta is called śruti, in contrast to smṛti, the latter of which is human commentary on the divine revelation.

I say this not to mix revelations or to flaunt Bob's multicultural sensitivity, but to highlight an important distinction that is not always kept clear in Christian circles: that there is God's speech, and there is our speech about God's speech.

Our speech is always a limitation on God; it necessarily makes of him less than he is -- just as the cosmos itself is a limitation on God, unless you are a pantheist who conflates God and his creation. In truth, God is the world, but the world is not God. And God is his written word, but his written word is not God; to think otherwise descends into bibliolatry.

And importantly, although the Bible is inspired word about God, it is not the Word of God, which is, of course, Christ.

Thus, the most -- the only -- fully adequate speech about God is his own complete self-revelation -- his kenotic self-emptying -- in the form of Christ.

In turn, this is why it took some 600 years or more to nail down an adequate theology to account for this explosive self-revelation of God (and then hundreds more years to deal with the secondary and tertiary implications).

In other words -- many words, in fact -- it essentially required a 600 year human conversation at the highest levels (i.e., all those ecumenical councils) to decode and standardize what God was telling humans with his one simple Word. One Logos generates all that endless logorrhea.

Does that make adequate nonsense? It does to me. God's speech (happily) shatters all human containers for the same reason that a three dimensional sphere shatters a piece of paper.

Imagine the sphere dropping down from an infinite height, crashing through the paper. It is then up to humans to reverse imagineeer the whole event and come to terms with the meaning of that massive object, whatever it was. So we pour speech over it, but still, much of the speech will necessarily be contradictory, fragmentary, paradoxical, and incomplete.

Only a man of great metacosmic vision -- say, John -- can truly speak of it in an adequate way. And even he must be supplemented by Matthew, Luke and Mark, and hundreds of years of commentary.

Truly, the conversation never ends, for it is the great circle of O-->(n). You can climb all the way to the source of this sacred river, but then you'll only be confronted with the mystery of water itself, the "universal substance" that pours itself out of the depths of the ground without ever running dry.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And just beyond that, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Paradox, baby! The only speech that is adequate to this realm of eternity must make statements that seemingly contradict or cancel each other out from the human standpoint.

But this is simply because we require the two extremes of human language to describe this object: transcendent and immanent, beyond being and being itself, timeless and all time, nothing-everything, a beam of intense darkness. A drop embraced by the sea held within the drop in the bucket with a hole in it we eventually kick into the goal of all striving!

And still we are no closer, for the closer one gets to this divine object, the further away it appears to be! This constitutes the highest and most exalted ignorance. Only the fool and the atheist imagine that God is so close to man that he can casually reject him, which constitutes the lowest intellectual attainment -- and which soon vanishes into the darkest night of cosmic nescience and tenure: publish and perish.

Or, as Schuon writes, "Not to affirm the Divinity would have meaning only if we did not exist..."

Alternatively, you could say that if God doesn't exist, only He knows it, because a mere primate could never know of such ultimate realities.

For just as the sun "goes down" at night, truth disappears in the long night of materialism.

But as we know, the sun doesn't actually go anywhere. Rather, it is only the earth that turns away from it. "Thus it could be said that man in search of God must 'descend' into his own heart to rediscover the Lost Paradise and to realize the 'Unicity of Existence" (Schuon). For the Greater Light must reconcile and combine both the light and darkness, emptiness and fullness, the naught and deity of the human station.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Light and Vision, Truth and Intellect

Bob is still trying to catch up with his work, so this will be Bob's Unconscious taking the wheel of the cosmic bus for awhile. Also, I'll probably exercise a heavier hand in deleting the Moloch-worshipping leftists who go off topic in order to testify of their strange gods.

Also -- and this is between you and me -- I think Bob's brain has been getting clogged up by reading too much profane history lately, so I'm going to try to clear it out and get back to some fundamentals. Back to the ground floor, if you like; which, through the cosmic Law of Inversion, just happens to be an analogue of the top floor.

I might also add that I will be assisted by my good friend Frithjof, whose fearsome sword of gnosis is so adept at cutting through all those annoying layers of superfluous mayaplicity.

I'll bet Bob wishes he'd seen this quote by Schuon before finishing the Coonifesto, because it goes to the reasons for its formal circularity: God's vision proceeds from Him and ends in Him, like a circle which originates and closes upon itself.

That circle is everything, but it is up to us to see it. If it looks like a line, or a point, or random pattern, then we're missing something essential about the very nature of things -- about how the One deploys itself into the many and returns to itself like the prodigal sun rising again in the east after its night sea journey in its underweird.

As Huston "We Don't Have a Problem" Smith observes, "Beauty is the vehicle for this return: outward beauty which comes from God and leads back to him; and inward beauty -- virtue -- which is essential for human participation in the Divine Nature."

It seems that everything else in creation automatically participates in the Divine Nature; only man has the choice of rebelling against it. This is because man, being in the image of the Creator, is "central" on his own plane of being.

That being the case, other animals are "peripheral" in relation to Man -- which is why, for example, in Genesis, it is Adam who names the animals; or, as our Unknown Friend properly notes, in the real (i.e., principial, or vertical) world of essences, man does not descend from the animals. Rather, vice versa: the lower animals descend from Man (otherwise lower and descend have no meaning).

So, as Schuon writes, "a bird greeting the sunrise really and necessarily greets God; a plant turning to the light really turns toward Him." Now, is there a way for Man to live in the simple, spontaneous and innoccent manner of the bird or plant?

Why yes, of course. It all has to do with light and vision, only transposed to a higher key. For a virtuous -- or unspoiled -- man spontaneously turns to Truth in the same manner that the flower opens to the light and warmth of the sun (and please note that just as animals are descended from God, our central sun is a transposition or declension from the more subtle Divine Light).

Just as light can shine in an outhouse, a sewer, or the NBC news department without in any way sullying itself, the divine light is omnipresent without undergoing any change upon contact with creatures.

This is another way of saying that Truth is anterior to our knowledge of it. Or, as Schuon would say, it is "independent of any dialectic." It matters not whether truth "is expressed this way or that," for the expression is not the thing -- just as a beautiful painting is not Beauty itself, and yet, not other than Beauty.

Another critical point: intelligence is not something other than what it knows, or the knowledge is not real. Ultimately, this means that intelligence is a substance: the substance of Truth.

Think about your lower senses, say, touch. The reason you can touch something is because your fingers are of the same substance as that which they touch, i.e., matter.

And the reason why the intellect may touch the divine realm is because it too is of the same substance. That "spark of divinity" we all carry inside (or which carries us) really is just that. You might compare it to a ray of light emanating from the Sun. The light with which you see the world at this very moment is actually not other than the Sun.

Just so, the light with which you see higher truths is not other than the primordial Light that comes from God. Please note that when the light shines on a landscape -- either in this world or the one directly above -- it does not "create" but discovers. That is, it simply reveals what is already there. This is a critical point to bear in mind with regard to the higher worlds, since spiritual light simply activates truths that are present in the nature (or substance) of intelligence itself.

Again, truth and intelligence are of the same substance; furthermore, just as matter and sensation form a unity, truth and reality are two sides of a single cause, that cause being God. That this is the case ensures that truth is real, efficacious, reliable, universal, unchanging, luminous, and ultimately salvific.

In his critique of rationalism, Schuon notes that the rationalist places reason above Truth, the result being that he places himself in the absurd position of only believing things that he can prove (or thinks he can prove) with his reason.

This is to place a means to truth above truth; and not only that, for in order for to use reason, something other than reason must select the premises to be used for the proof. This thing is again intelligence, which transcends reason and is the very substance of the truth it wishes to prove. Sadly, in order to live as a rationalist, one must make intelligence less than what it is, and ultimately make the assimilation of Truth impossible.

Furthermore, to limit intelligence to reason soon enough leads to the denial of reason, for the same intelligence that affirms reason can just as readily deny it -- as do all materialists, relativists, multiculturalists, deconstructionists, and the rest of the leftist rabble.

That is all. Good day.

Standing in the Light of God's bouncy house: what comes down, must go up.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Wishin' and Hopin': The Tyranny of Audacious Losers

Obama is the candidate who has the audacity of hope. But in order for the exercise of mere hope to become an act of audacity -- rashly insolent, intrepidly daring, recklessly bold! -- one must first, for whatever reason, feel unusually hopeless.

For example, if one has a cold, one hopes to get better soon. Nothing audacious about that. But if one has end stage cancer, then it's pretty audacious to hope to get better. Which raises the question: is it ever really appropriate to nurture audacious hope, in particular, on the horizontal plane? For to nurture audacious hope would seem to imply the wish for a complete overturning of the order of the world, which is presumably in a hopeless state. In other words, hope only becomes audacious in a hopeless situation.

In the everyday sense of the word, to hope is "to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment," or "to long for with expectation of fulfillment" (Webster's). It can also mean "someone or something on which hopes are centered," such as Jesus, Obama, or Bob Dobbs.

What about audacity? On the one hand, it can imply courage, but on the other, a reckless absence of prudence -- for courage without prudence is no longer a virtue.

Now, "hope" is one of the Christian virtues, which is why it is a sin for a Christian to wallow in hopelessness or despair. The whole point is that the Christian -- and the world -- is hopeless without Christ, whose mission it was to save us from that kind of existential cosmic hopelessnes. Therefore, it seems evident that no true Christian would find Obama's message of "audacious hope" appealing, since no Christian should feel so hopeless that he would essentially cash in his vertical hopes for the horizontal fantasies of a silver-tongued leftist.

If Obama were a proper theologian instead of a freelance messiah, he might have entitled his book The Bodaciousness of Fantasy or perhaps Getting Ahead in Life With Sheer Loser Power. With regard to the latter, one has only to look at the type of person who attends a left wing rally or demonstration to know that Loser Power is a formidable force in the world. (Zombie does a wonderful job of documenting the awesome Power of Losers; the images are from her site.)

As Dr. Sanity has written, "There is no doubt that both Clinton and Obama, for all their talk of 'hope' are both heavily invested in misery and failure -- both in their economic philosophy, as well as their desire for immediate (if not sooner) surrender in Iraq.

"You would think that people with real 'hope' would see the progress in Iraq and the turnabout that has occurred in the hearts and minds of the people there. You would think that people hyping 'change' would come up with some ideas and programs that aren't beholden to an ideology that has already failed in country after country, and which has made their economies circle the drain." (Update: notice how the Obama administration has seamlessly taken credit for President Bush's success in Iraq, which is a case of political envy in action, i.e., "stealing" success that they not only played no part in, but actively opposed.)

Now, hope, according to theologian Montague Brown, is "the will that what is good might be," as in "thy kingdom come, thy will be done." It is another way of saying "may the vertical radiate into the horizontal," or my we align ourselves with the Sovereign Good. He contrasts it with wishing, which is "the desire that what one wants might be." Theologically -- and psychospiritually -- the difference could not be more stark.

Brown explains that hope "involves the conviction that, despite appearances to the contrary, truth and goodness will prevail. To hope is to commit ourselves to the betterment of ourselves and the world." We would have no problem at all with the left if they understood hope in this way, and exerted all of their effort -- body, mind, and soul -- at improving (or even governing!) themselves (first) and the world (second), instead of transferring power to the state in order to force people to do their will -- which, in the end, means being compelled to do the will of audacious losers. As Tocqueville observed almost two centuries ago, once these losers discover that they can vote themselves goodies and force others to pay for them, democracy is in peril.

While hope "looks to the future," it is "rooted in reality as it is. In this sense, hope is realistic." However, it is also idealistic, in that "it envisions the perfection of that reality." Furthermore, we must be willing to work for what we hope. Again, this does not mean transferring this responsibility to a coercive and heavy-handed state to simply take from someone else in order to give us what we hope for.

Wishing, on the other hand, "involves the fancy that... our desire will be satisfied. To wish is to invoke fortune to bring us what we want, even if what we want is not good." Wishing is a product of the lower imagination, which has no limits. If you can breathe, you can wish -- and even if you can't, you can still vote Democrat. It "has no particular bond with reality as it is," nor must one dedicate oneself to making the wish a reality. "We wish for all all sorts of frivolous and unattainable things.... [It] is easy and makes no demands on us to choose truth over fantasy or to choose good over evil" (Brown).

For example, I am very much wishing for a new Luxman amplifier, but I don't expect the state to give me one.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Great Inscape: On Using Language to Scale the Walls of Language

A science of the finite has need of a wisdom which goes beyond it and controls it, just as the body needs a soul to animate it, and the reason an intellect to illuminate it. --F. Schuon

We intuitively and routinely use language in such a way as to imply that the mind is a space. But what kind of space is it? Is it a birthquake or merely a crock?

For if it is holographic and multidimensional -- which it is -- then we need a language that parallels that fact, or else it will simply mislead, as the mind will appear to take on reified properties of the language used to describe it. It will be like trying to represent a three-dimensional cube on a two-dimensional piece of paper. Something vital will be lost. One thing lost will be the dimension of "depth."

What does it mean to say that something is "deep" on the human plane? That it partakes of multiple dimensions, even if -- as in primitive mythology -- we are not consciously aware of all of them. Authentic scripture is a kind of language that is deep and resonant. Inexhaustibly so. It can never be fully explicated, since it partakes of the Absolute. Therefore, as Origen knew, it is fine to treat scripture as literal, but never only literal, for to do so is to deny oneself access to a multitude of other humanly critical dimensions.

The problem with much religious language is not so much the literal/symbolic divide as the question of whether or not language is being used in a generative or a static way. If it is static, then it is not really about religion, but simply about language, about saturated words pointing to each other. It is like a glorified case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which amounts to a circular nervous system chasing its own tenure.

The last thing you want is to be tied up in such a tight neural knotwork, because it will not only leave you on this side of the cosmic veil, but transform the veil into a wall. Then, all your theologizing is just a nice painting on the prison wall or a fanciful story about life outside the prison gates. But a human being is not deserving of the name if he isn't always plotting his great inscape from this gloomy cage. Spherical man was not made to live in a cubicle, no matter how much you pound on him.

Properly understood, a religion is very much like a scientific paradigm, in that it is a "frame of reference" that allows us to “see" the religious facts it iluminates. Otherwise this inexhaustible bounty of transnatural facts goes unseen. Astute scientists understand that "percept follows concept," i.e, "Never trust a fact without a good theory to support it." Neither scientific nor spiritual facts "speak for themselves." For example, it took hundreds of years to develop a coherent theology around the "fact" of Jesus.

A fact is a relation between two events. We are one of the events. God is the other. Thus, in order to think about God, we must move from epistemology to mystepistemology, toward the unKnown source of Truth that in-forms our knowledge. For if your ontology is not planted in a fertile field, your epistemology will surely fallow.

When spiritual communication is generative, something quasi-magical is taking place, as it becomes the translating function that renders the translinguistic "religious object" (O) present in the form of subtle energies of various kinds. To a large extent, the "purification" that is always preluminary to the religious quest is a means of eliminating the dross, the contingencies, or "noise" that compete with and drown out the energies.

Religious words are never just words, but words + music. To speak religiously -- to use language in such a way that it actually mirrors and partakes of the the domain of spirit -- there is a certain rhythm and a certain felicity of phrasing that must be achieved (or at least a-spired to): not to merge with the ocean but to use language to gather it in. Language must be unsaturated enough to either "bite" into spirit or "lure" spirit into it. Yes, grace "blows where it will," but it's always better if you don't use language in such a way that you're voiding into the wind.

To speak of Spirit, one must have one foot firmly planted in reality. But not both feet. One foot must be equally planted in trans-reality, in the world that is prior to the material. You have to catch it before it quickens and congeals into the illusion of solidity. As I get older -- especially now with a child -- I am more deeply entangled in the world than ever. But at the same time, I am more deeply rooted in the other realm as well. Put the two together, and you have a man who passes his timelessness in a dialectical space between now and forever.

It reminds me of looking into a placid lake with a tall tree on the other side. On the lake there will be a mirror image of the tree, going in the opposite direction, one up, one down -- or, in the case of the cosmic Tree of Life, one exterior, one interior, meeting at the Crossrood where life must be lived. Similarly, when I look into my son's eyes, it is like gazing into an eternity that extends infinitely in two directions -- into him and into me (and beyond). Growth is growing in both directions, not one or the other; the soul penetrates God just as God penetrates the soul.

Reality is logos, absolute Word and infinite speech. But language is always communication. It is to someone. It is from someOne. Why spend your life decoding the message but never ask who is speaking?

Sufficient language for speaking of God has yet to be perfected. I take that back. The language has been perfected, but few remember how to speak it any longer. We've run out of competent trancelighters who are able to demonstrate it while speaking it. An evolving logos will evolve the consciousness of the person who contemplates it -- it will not only in-form but trans-form, not just push in but draw out.

The logos itself does not evolve, but causes evolution upon contact with mind, so to speak. This is why religious doctrine "has an aspect of system and an aspect of indeterminacy," for if it didn't, it would simply be God, and no communication would be possible between the Absolute and his middling relativities, or between God and man.

How to speak of the Omninameable One? It is not that we can say so little about it, but so much. As Schuon writes, the problem is "not through a lack, but through a superabundance of light." Language does not contain it, but It contains language, absorbing words like a sponge or shedding them like water off a duck's back. It cannot be done without paradox, symbolism, wordplay, myth -- all the linguistic tools available to half-awake language-bearing primates.

To be able to combine the religious symbolism of Heaven with the astronomical fact of the stellar galaxies in a single consciousness, an intelligence is needed which is more than just rational.... The tragic impasse reached by the modern mind results from the fact that most men are incapable of grasping a priori the compatibility between the symbolic expressions of tradition and the material discoveries established by science.... Man, when he trusts his reason alone, only ends by unleashing the dark and dissolving forces of the irrational --F. Schuon, Stations of Wisdom

Friday, March 05, 2010

Coming Face to Face With Reality

I'm waaaay behind in my workwork, so we may be reduced to stale bobservations for awhile. I'll try to select ones that seem to have been little-noted nor long remembered, having generated few comments at the time.... As always, it is edited and fortified with essential and existential vertimins.

Beauty is a crystallization of a certain aspect of universal joy; it is a limitlessness expressed by a limit. --F. Schuon

Ever since the scientific revolution, we have tended to divide the world into a public sphere of objective, measurable reality and a private sphere of ephemeral, subjective perceptions. In this view, the external world is considered the fundamental reality, while consciousness is reduced to an epiphenomenon, so that all our perceptions of the world -- its vivid colors, sounds, tastes, and textures -- are rendered meaningless, revealing nothing intrinsic to the cosmos. All subjective qualities are reduced to quantities -- for example, our perception of the redness of an apple is reduced to a particular frequency of light, or music is reduced to vibrating air molecules striking against our ear drums.

As we wrote in our book of the sane gnome, "science begins with the one world we experience with our senses (where else could it begin?), but quickly saws off that familiar limb by 'excluding everything that can be imagined or conceived, except in abstract mathematical terms,' consequently relegating everything outside mathematical description -- the very world it started with -- to 'an ontological limbo.'"

Only this second, abstract world is considered to disclose valid information about the universe, whereas all of our initial impressions of color, sound, texture, beauty, and meaning supposedly reveal nothing "really real" about the universe, only about our own peculiar neurology.

But one of the fundamental tenets of esoterism is that the universe not only has a within that is uniquely accessible to humans, but that the very cosmos is the "exteriorization" or crystallization of this same within. In other words, the universe is not simply an exterior made up of discrete parts that are external to one another. Rather, by looking at the parts in a certain way, we may intuit a wholeness in the world that in turn reveals its interior dimension. Parts show us only the exterior of the cosmos, while wholeness lures us toward the Great Within.

Here is how St. Augustine characterized this Great Within: "Men go to gape at mountain peaks, at the bottomless tides of the seas, the broad sweep of rivers, the encircling ocean and the motion of the stars; and yet, they leave themselves unnoticed; they do not marvel at themselves."

It seems that we originally gain access to the Great Within through the human face. As infants, our whole world is oriented toward the mother's face. Obviously, in looking at a face, we don't first attend to a nose here, an eye there, a mouth there, and then inductively leap to the conclusion that faces exist. Rather, without even knowing it, we spontaneously attend to the face as a whole, and can instantaneously distinguish one face from another and one expression from another. (Thus, we are all born disciples of Polanyi, in that facial features are "subsidiary knowledge" on the way to the "focal knowledge" of the face.)

In attending to the mother's face, the baby gradually discovers that the mother has a living interior, and through her changing expressions -- or, specifically, through a dance of reciprocity between faces -- he begins to discover his own interior space. In other words, a space opens up between the two faces. This space is everything, for it is the opening of the "transitional space" where thought takes root. Thought begins with the simultaneous affirmation and negation of the sensory realm.

Severely autistic children, for example, do not see whole "faces," but only a collection of parts, so that they are never fully ushered into the intersubjective Withinness of the cosmos. Instead, they can be left isolated in the bizarre and frightening existence of a living death -- immersed in a sea of things that move and have independent existence, but reveal no intrinsic meaning. Adhering to the strict scientistic view -- which regards the "within" as mere subjective "noise" -- one would have to say that people with autism are more in touch with reality than anyone else, which is absurd.

Just as the face allows us to see the within of the person "behind" it, the wholeness of the cosmos invites us to see beyond its surface. (One of the central points of my book is that modern physics reveals the cosmos to be an internally related whole, not just a collection of exterior parts.)

Paradoxically, -- but not really -- we can know the interior only by focusing on the exterior. Just as the face is the meaning of its features, the meaning of existence can be discovered by dwelling in its features. Poets, for example, have always understood that by indwelling nature we can intuit what dwells within nature -- we are floating atop a sea of subsidiary clues that focally point beyond themselves to a hidden reality, which in turn throws out in-sights like sparks from a central fire. By attending to things and events in a certain "actively passive" way, we allow them to "speak" to us, and this in turn in-forms us about their nature.

Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term "inscape" to refer to this more intense experience of observing things in such a way that their intrinsic qualities emerge. He believed that by allowing one's attention to be drawn to a bird in flight, a tree, a landscape, we allow their character to act upon us through a union of the inner and outer worlds. Similarly, Goethe argued that we discover the true nature of things through a contemplative kind of looking which he called "seeing with exactitude." By doing this, we can open ourselves to what the cosmos is telling us about itself (and by extension, ourselves).

This being so, we can also see that exploration of the Great Within will yield valid insights about the cosmos. As Schuon writes, certain gifted metaphysical or mystical poets such as Dante are able to express "spiritual realities with the help of the beauty of their souls." In this regard, "it is a matter of endowment far more than of method, for not every man has the gift of sincerely expressing truths that go beyond ordinary humanity." One secret denied the materialist is that the world is as beautiful -- or as meaningless -- as the soul's capacity to see it.

This has obvious theological implications. For example, what is scripture but an exterior narrative that tells us of the within of God? Just as it is a mistake to view nature as an object, one makes the same mistake in viewing scripture only as a historical narrative of external events. Rather, those events have a within which is their truest teaching. As Meister Eckhart wrote, "If you would have the kernel, you must break the shell."

It can also be argued that the figure of Jesus answers the deepest human longing to "see the face of God," and thereby know his Within most intimately. Again, the whole point of the gospels, if you are a Christian, is that their external narrative reveals the interior God. You cannot dismantle or deconstruct the gospel stories, for this would be like disassembling a human face to try to understand its expression. We see by a sort of interior light when we dwell in faith, for faith is actually foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths -- knowledge of approaching discoveries over the interior horizon of things.

As the poet Novalis put it, "The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet." If you are feeling boxed in by the materialistic paradigm of modernity, know that you may escape it any time through any of the infinite inscapes that both surround and abide within us. For being mirrorcles of the Absolute, we may penetrate nature only because it penetrates us in a higher realm of transcendent union.

The sacred mountain, seat of the Gods, is not to be found in space even though it is visible and tangible.... For the man of the golden age to climb a mountain was in truth to approach the Principle; to watch a stream was to see universal Possibility at the same time as the flow of forms.

In our day to climb a mountain -- and there is no longer a mountain that is the "center of the world" -- is to "conquer" its summit; the ascent is no longer a spiritual act but a profanation. Man, in his aspect of human animal, makes himself God. The gates of Heaven, mysteriously present in nature, close before him
. --F. Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Life Goes On Within You and Without You

Wow, March Fourth really snuck up on me this year... this month... this week... actually just this moment. For the benefit of recent initiates, I could republish a post on the metacosmic significance of the date, but, in the spirit of conservation, why not save some valuable space and just link to it?

I notice that the coffee is not working its usual magic on my delicate norepinephrine receptors, which must mean that I am jetlagged. Therefore, I am in no condition to come up with a new post. But perhaps I can weave some new thoughts into a previous one.

My father-in-law was perhaps the most cultured person I've ever known, and yet, there was almost no intersection between his and my idea of culture (this is not a criticism, mind you, just an observation). Or, if there was an intersection, we interpreted it in diametrically opposed ways. He knew a little bit about virtually everything, and I would estimate that his IQ was in the 150 range. Plus he had a phenomenal memory, almost like a computer that could draw up raw data in an automatic fashion. But the computer naturally doesn't "understand" the significance of the data it draws up; it merely does so at the command of another, and for purposes it knows nothing about.

In my father-in-law's case, his head seemed like a vast museum with no organizing principle -- or perhaps after an earthquake. Thus, a dinosaur skeleton might be next to the Picasso, which was adjacent to some illuminated manuscripts (which might be nice to look at, but are of course devoid of meaning), which were next to a controversial film about World War I, which was next to a conspiracy-theory book of non-fiction about how Jesus didn't actually die on the cross.

From my perspective, it all seemed like a jumble. But the jumble would come to life for the purpose of argument.

It always seemed to me that argument was not a means to an end for him -- the end being truth -- but an end in itself. I shouldn't say "always," because it took me quite a while to grasp this. For example, when we first met, I was still in graduate school and very much under the influence of the left. When I would give him the naive but earnest talking points of the left, he'd easily shoot them down with conservative arguments. But as I matured and became more conservative, we'd still get into arguments (again, it was his primary mode of social intercourse), only now he'd come at me with those stale leftwing talking points that I had long ago discarded.

So I eventually realized that for him, argument was very much analogous to sport, or play -- the way boys roughhouse with eachother. There was no ultimate meaning to it, and certainly nothing personal, any more than there is ultimate meaning to the Stanley Cup (unless you're Canadian). It was like lawyers who are at each other's throats in the courtroom, but cheerfully go out to dinner afterwards. It's all forgotten. Literally. Tomorrow's arguments would have no connection to today's. Which is quite the opposite of how my mind works, in that I always look for the interior connection of everything.

Anyway, I brought along a book to read on the plane, but it turned out to be so dreary and depressing (it was a straight history of the Reformation) that I put it aside. So I looked through my FIL's huge library for something to read on the trip back. With the exception of the classics (which would be too difficult to read on a plane), I couldn't find a single book that caught my interest, until I found a lone conservative volume, Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe, by Jeffrey Hart. I don't know how it got in there. Maybe it was a gift, or else the New York Times must have had something positive to say about it.

I'm guessing that some marketing genius came up with the title, because it's very misleading. Actually, the book is about a topic we frequently discuss here, which is the higher unity of science/philosophy and theology/mysticism, or what Hart refers to as the Athens-Jerusalem dialectic that has always been at the root of western civilization. Eliminate either side of the dialectic, and that is where the cultural catastrophe comes in.

But now I'm running out of time. The following post is from a year ago, and discusses some of the ideas of Charles DeKoninck, a neo-Thomist philosopher who had a subtle grasp of the science<-->religion or Athens<-->Jerusalem dialectic.

Of all the vicious circles one could imagine, that in which the materialist encloses himself is the most primitive, restrictive, and binding. --Charles DeKoninck, The Cosmos

How does a cosmos that is supposedly purely exterior, become interior to itself? Or again, how does mere existence become experience? How does a primordial nuclear conflagration become conscious of its own truth? It seems that to even ask such questions takes us to the threshold of the unglishable, beyond which lies... what?

But pretending that the question permits of no answer is hardly the same as having answered it. This is an example of how an intrinsic deficit of the scientistic approach is converted to a metaphysical dogma -- a minus is covertly turned into a positive, as it were.

DeKoninck illustrates the problem with the example of a simple electron. One could hypothetically follow its trail "from the water of a spring through the grass eaten by a cow and the cow in turn eaten by this gentleman," but it's the same electron. The electron will have remained identical as it passes from water to cow to gentleman -- even perhaps participating in his thoughts of how yummy the cow tasted. So how does an electron that is part of the pure exteriority of water become part of the pure interiority of a man's psychic life? How does the yummy become the yumminess?

In tracing this electron, there is no conceivable experiment -- nor could there ever be one -- that could disclose the ontological significance of the electron's activities, which simply "are what they are." Only up here, on the macro level of human experience, can we appreciate the infinite gulf between the electrons of a rock and those of a human subject.

But the same can obviously be said of our genetic endowment. Biologists tell us that the DNA of chimps and humans is 99% identical, or whatever it is. Does this mean that a chimp has 99% of the capabilities or ontological value of a human being? Only a moral idiot would suggest such a thing. For whatever else DNA is, it cannot account for the infinite gap between humans and animals. When it comes to electrons or genes, context is everything.

Coincidentally, I see that James has touched on this same issue this morning. The absurcular materialist philosopher asks "how can the intellect be immaterial when no one can imagine how the immaterial can interact with the material?" But "It’s odd that people view this as an objection. I look at the same facts and view it as a proof. Of course you can’t imagine the interaction. That’s the whole point! Did you think we were kidding when we said 'immaterial'? If I could imagine the interaction, then I’d be wrong! Don’t you see that I’m insisting that you can’t imagine any interaction?"

Again, the scientistic bonehead essentially says, "Duh, I don't see anything immaterial. So it must not exist." Which is about as sophisticated as a child putting a blanket over his head and asking "who turned off the lights?!"

The point is, any attempt at an even minimally adequate ontology or epistemology breaks down if we fail to admit the reality of the immaterial. But once you admit the immaterial, then you are on a path that inevitably leads straight to God -- or O, if you like. Therefore, the contemporary materialist would prefer to promulgate a hopelessly incoherent worldview to ceding an inch of ground to any form of theism. I am quite sure this explains the spluttering hysteria and anti-intellectualism of a Queeg and his rabble of howling clones.

Raccoon metaphysics looks at the same mysteries as science, but regards them as doors or windows instead of walls. We begin with the idea that the interior of the cosmos is not something that is magically and unaccountably added later on in a wholly inexplicable manner. Rather, we say that there cannot not be an interior, for the simple reason that any outside by definition has an inside. We can only know of the without from the standpoint of the within.

For example, when Jesus says that his Kingdom is "within," this is what he means. In the Gospel of Thomas, he says the kingdom of heaven is spread out across the earth, only people do not see it. Even if you question the authenticity of that book, I'm sure this is a sentiment Jesus would endorse. (One might even say that the kingdom is withinness as such, with certain qualifications.)

So, in Raccoon metaphysics we begin with interiority as an irreducible cosmic category. Indeed, if you try to reduce interiority to anything else, you are what we call a "moron." Nor will we bother debating you, for you are in essence affirming the thoroughly self-refuting position that neither truth nor the intellect that knows it actually exist in any real way. Go away and think some more. Preferably on your knees.

The notion of cosmic interiority is a key that opens many locks, and is the unifying concept that helps us to fruitfully approach most of the other mysteries in which we seem to be plunged. These would include wholeness, intelligibility, beauty, morality, love, individuality, creativity -- pretty much everything that defines the human world. In contrast, the bonehead materialist must reduce these interior realities to meaningless side effects of the more fundamental exterior, again destroying that which he presumes to explain. This is nothing less than intellectual and spiritual genocide.

I came across an all too typical example yesterday, which was breathtaking in its breezy confidence and abject stupidity -- you know, in the way that members of the MSM always combine those qualities. Let's see if I can track down the link... Here it is: Why Dreams Mean Less Than We Think. In short, move along, nothing to see here. A couple of scientific experts have "proved" that dreams are just a "complex but observable interaction of proteins and neurons and other mostly uncontrolled cellular activity." In a statement of unsurpassable naiveté, the author assures us that "After all, brain activity isn't mystical but — for the most part — highly predictable."

What's with the qualifier he slips in there, "for the most part"? What, is brain activity 51% uncontrolled cellular activity and 49% mystical? The tenured ape. If my dreams are nothing more than "uncontrolled cellular activity," why have they gradually transformed in tone and content as I have grown spiritually? Even on the face of it, the scientistic position is absurd. When you are granted one of those epic transformational dreams that are so pregnant with meaning, you know that you could no more have produced it than you could have made Citizen Kane in your sleep.

Here again, this is a classic case of scientistic bait-and-switch, of "(implicit) materialism in, (explicit) materialism out" -- of a metaphysical assumption dressed up as a scientific conclusion. In one therapy session, I could prove to these scientists that they are not even wrong about dreams. Or maybe not, depending upon their level of defensiveness and denial.

O, endarkened trolls, remember the sacred guffah-ha! experience, for we are not laughing with you, but at you and the inrisible yolk you can never crack!

But it is with the philosophical sense as it is with the sense of humor. All the arguments in the world aiming at showing the humor of a farce cannot make a person without a sense of humor laugh. A farce has lost its savor when one has demonstrated its risible qualities. The man without humor will follow our dialectic, but he will not laugh.... [And] we will laugh all the more at the spectacle infinitely more comic of the man without a sense of humor's grotesque disdain for that which he cannot apreciate. --DeKoninck

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

With Each Human Birth, the Cosmos is Created and Perfected Anew

At the moment, I'm hoping -- I wouldn't say praying, since I don't like to trouble the Creator with my trivial little dramas -- that I don't end up stuck inside of Georgia with the LA blues again, since there's a winter storm warning that may delay our connecting flight back through Atlanta.

I hate to admit my selfishness, but until now, I guess global warming had never directly affected me.... But perhaps we should cripple the world economy to correct this problem of too much and not enough snow, depending upon the day-to-day propaganda needs of the warmists.

Oh well. At least I have time to republish something from 365 posts ago, now cleaned up and edited.

DeKoninck -- who obviously knew what it meant to inhabit a right side-up cosmos -- wrote that "It is only in human understanding that the cosmos becomes a universe in the full sense."

In other words, the "end" of the causal chain cannot be found in the endless horizontal iterations of abstract matter, but in our concrete vertical understanding. Which is another way of saying in truth, specifically, the truth of being.

In this regard, it is critical to bear in mind that "God does not act" -- or only act -- "on things, but from within" them. Thus, it is as if God comes to his own fruition, so to speak, in the uncreated (following Eckhart) light of our interior understanding (or in love or virtue, but that is a subject for a slightly different post). Therefore, "Creation is essentially a communication," a communication of being; or a communication of beyond-being to being, if one prefers.

In fact, to turn it around, it would not be possible for God -- since it would contradict the divine nature -- to "create a cosmos which was not essentially ordered to an intra-cosmic intelligence." In other words, God could no more create an unintelligible universe than an evil or ugly one. (This is not to limit God, only to affirm the truism that God is God.)

So when we see that being itself is overflowing with truth and beauty, we should not be surprised. Awed, but not surprised. The really strange thing, as that famous awedball Aquinas observed, is that "the perfection of the entire universe can exist in one of its parts." That would be us. "For this reason, philosophers have held that the ultimate perfection to which the soul can attain consists in embracing the whole order of the universe and its causes."

In my book, for reasons that should be apparent to achild (or rather vice versa), I use the pneumaticon ʘ to symbolize this state of the soul in its relation to the totality of O, or of human part to divine whole.

O is not just source but end; ontologically speaking, it is both alpha and omega. But this is to be expectorated, since the "ultimate cause" must also be a spittin' image of the "ultimate end." Thus, the Poeliot is not just being poetical but quite literal when he speaks of the end preceding the beginning, and how both are "always there," for these are Things that Must Be. It is the Law. Some poets -- some -- are indeed the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Others are just political hacks.

Meaning, interior, wholeness, unity -- these are all interconnected aspects of the same prior reality. It should be a banality to point out that the cosmos can have no meaning unless there is an interior where it can be apprehended. Nor can there be meaning in the absence of unity and wholeness, for meaning essentially consists of the reduction of multiplicity to unity -- or the apprehension of the hidden unity behind or above the veil of appearances.

Now, if there is an "ultimate meaning," there must be an "ultimate interior," so to speak. Or, to turn it around, to say that the ultimate meaning could be found in empiricism or profane reason -- i.e., matter or mechanical thought -- is not only to say that there is no meaning, but to abolish the very ground and possibility of meaning. Here is how DeKoninck describes it:

"In order for the world to have a raison d'être, in order for it to be profoundly one and a universe, it is not enough that it be composed of parts and that these parts physically constitute a whole; it is also necessary that all the individual parts be oriented toward that one in which all together can exist, that each of the principal parts of the universe should be the entire whole, that each of these universes be in some fashion all the others."

In other words, the universe must be both interobjective and intersubjective, with both properties emanating from the a priori wholeness and interior unity of O, the origin, the one, the OMega. In short, the cosmos must fundamentally be a place in which everything preserves its "partness," even while each part holographically participates in (not just with) all the others.

In otherother words, the universe, since it is one, is an internally related totality -- which is why we all intuitively apprehend the unity of being, from which the truth (not to mention, goodness and beauty) of being radiates, both from objects and the subjects that apprehend and bring them to their own fulfillment.

For the truth "flows" from objects into subjects, even while the object completes itself in the knowing subject. Without objects there is nothing to be known, and without subjects there is no way to know it. But in the end, both flow from the same prior unity, i.e, Truth as such.

It is not so much that "being is transcendentally accessible to intelligence" (DeKoninck). Rather, that is only half the story, for if that is the case -- which it is -- then it must mean that being and truth are one -- or at least not two. After their little game of hide and seek, or bride and seeker, they return to themselves and embrace in the one fleshlight of the divine-human subject.

Being is "good," for, among other reasons, it is open to intelligence, to which it gives of itself without reserve. There is indeed a kind of divine marriage, or sacred bond, between being and intellect, as the two become united in one flesh. As this marriage matures, we can see in the cosmos "a tendency toward the thought in which all its parts are united and lived; the cosmos thus tends to compenetrate itself, to touch itself in the intelligence of man, in which it can realize this explicit return to its First Principle."

You might say that the emancipating journey from cosmic infancy to metacosmic maturity begins in an inside-out universe of "pure exteriority. The world was so to say entirely outside, separated from itself, imprisoned in itself and its own obscurity" (DeKoninck).

You know -- for it is written in the New Testavus -- pure emptiness, a formless void without mind or life, a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea, unlit altar of eternity, fathomless vortex of the Infinite Zero.

In this murky state of affairs, the world "is dead, empty, an abyss of division." And yet, here we are, like mushrooms that have sprouted in the darkness of the cosmic naughtmare. For "intelligence must appear. This demand is written in it from the beginning.... it is necessary that the universe fall back in a certain way on itself, and that it close in on itself, that it interiorize, and it is just this interiorization that will permit it to open onto itself."

In ether worlds, it is only our understanding of the cosmos -- our divine wisdom -- that makes it possible. For if we couldn't understand it, surely we wouldn't be here. The ultimate cause of the cosmos is its truth, a truth we may know and renew in the timeless ground of the metacosmically transcendent intellect. So when I say that "I caused the universe," I am not really making any special claim for myself. Now and again I do it all the timeless. I just wish I could make it stop snowing in Atlanta...