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...