Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Will to Believe and the Willfulness Not To

I think that faith has a lot to do with first principles. No matter who you are -- atheist or believer -- you must have either explicit or implicit principles that cannot be justified by those principles, but are nevertheless present in your every judgment. Know a man's first principles and you pretty much know everything else, including his last end. Garbage in, garbage out. Materialism in, atheism out.

Saint Thomas discusses this in the first question of the Summa, pointing out that the science of theology is no different than any other, in the sense that it proceeds by drawing out the implications of first principles that are taken on faith, i.e., revelation. I'm not sure what this or that scientist would say are his first principles, because most scientists obviously don't bother with metaphysics, any more than your auto mechanic bothers with the physics of motion. And scientists who do dabble in metaphysics, such as Dawkins, are just incoherent.

The deeper point here is that it is impossible to think ourselves "all the way to the bottom of the cosmos," so to speak. Rather, at some point a free act of faith is required, emphasis on both words, free and act.

What this means is that the will is actually prior to the intellect, in that no one in a free society can force you to believe anything. At some point you have to choose to believe, even if it is choosing the idea that the laws of physics are an adequate explanation for everything.

Ideally one makes this choice consciously, but generally speaking, only religious people do this (at least in the west). In other words, everyone understands that an intrinsic aspect of religion is belief in the idea that the absolute principle has revealed itself to men. But as I have said on many occasions, the irreligious person usually believes the same thing, only implicitly and unconsciously, or in a garbled manner. There are very few genuine nihilists who have no faith in anything.

It should not be surprising that in our particular civilization, people who are supposedly ideological opposites are actually rooted in the same principles, for example, that the world is intelligible to human intelligence. This is not something that is believed in the Islamic world, since its first principles differ radically from ours. A major reason why the Islamic world has not "developed" is that their first principles make it impossible. To say that man may know natural things with his natural reason, independent of God, is just not kosher there.

Christian civilization has a much more expansive view of God, and with it, a much deeper appreciation of man's intrinsic dignity, nobility, and value. Here we are able to "partner up" with God and discover real truths about the cosmos.

But in Islam, God has no partners: there is no God but God. The idea that the Absolute would actually incarnate as a man is unthinkable and heretical. This is why the Koran makes allowances for Jesus, but only as a second rate prophet, certainly not as the Word made flesh.

But this distinctive idea of the enfleshment of God's Reason is again central to our civilization, whether you like it or not. The main difference between the believer and the atheist is simply in how far to take this principle. The atheist arbitrarily stops his journey into Truth midway, -- where it remains suspended in miderr, grounded in nothing -- whereas the believer remains focused on the only possible source and end of Truth, which is God.

To put it another way -- Saint Thomas's way -- "Of the practical sciences, that one is nobler which is ordained to a further purpose..." This is another way of making Wilber's point that a deeper explanation both transcends and includes a lower or more shallow one, say, the way in which relativity transcends and includes Newtonian physics.

But it also means that the value of science is determined by its end, which, in the end, is none other than ananda, or "celestial bliss," or heaven if you like. On first consideration this may sound strange, but again, it is simply a result of drawing first principles to their final deustination. All of you are aware of that tingle of delight that occurs when you grasp a deep truth. Now, just magnify that. That's ananda, baby.

To paraphrase Kreeft, things are either meaningful or they are not. This is a true either/or, for there is literally nothing in between. If things are not ultimately meaningful, then they are not meaningful, period.

Now, are things ultimately meaningful? The believer says yes, which is admittedly an act of faith. The atheist/nihilist says no, which is unadmittedly an act of faith. The difference is that our faith is rooted in Reason, whereas his is not, for the atheist has no real reason to believe anything at all.

Was that clear? This is the difficulty of "arguing" with a nihilist troll, when argument with him is impossible, precisely. It is impossible because a genuine argument can only take place if one's interlocuter has explicit principles to defend. If he has no principles, then he is just caviling, which is a very typical narcissistic defense, in that the clinical narcissist -- who is often developmentally arrested at the age of two or so -- can say "no" but not "yes."

In other words, this type of narcissist is very clear about what he doesn't like and doesn't believe. But to believe and defend requires a clear yes to things that are beloved (be-lief is related to be-loved).

Those of you who have had a two year old understand this well. In being defiant or negativisitic, the child is not trying to be difficult. Rather, he is simply trying to establish his boundaries as a separate individual. And obviously, his first attempts to do this will be clumsy and ham-handed, just like the first time he picks up a pencil.

But as Bobby Knight once said of journalists, "all of us learn to write in the second grade, but most of us go on to better things." It is the same with narcissism. All of us learn to say no by the time we're two years old, but most of us go on to saying yes to better things, e.g., truth, love, beauty, God, etc.

In contrast, the atheist spends his life saying no to God. Whether this is a result of a primitive boundary issue depends upon the individual case. It would be true of the militant atheists I have known, but I doubt if it applies to the person who is just indifferent to God. They usually have a different sort of malady.

Now, the "yes" of faith is not without its potential problems and pitfalls -- for example, "blind faith," or a bogus certitude of things about which man can never be certain. Faith is not certitude.

But nor is it doubt, opinion, or supposition, which all have their own distinct definitions. I believe that Thomas distinguishes it from knowing, but as I mentioned yesterday, I believe it is a variety of knowing, or a tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths, very much as Polanyi describes the attitude of the scientist, who can somehow distinguish between potentially fruitful and fruitless avenues of discovery.

It reminds me of this: have you ever had the experience of knowing that you don't know something vs. knowing that you do, but just can't remember it? Often I will have the instantaneous experience of knowing I don't know something, and that there is no point in trying to recall it. But other times I have the instantaneous experience that I do know it. And I don't necessarily mean that I can recall the answer if I try, but that the answer is knowable.

The closest approximation I can think of at the moment is a certain ability to know whether or not there is potential humor in a situation, or whether it's not worth the try -- for example, in coming up with a funny caption for a photo. Somehow, a part of me is able to instantaneously know whether I will be able to come up with a gag, before I've come up with it. Often I have the strong feeling that I know there's a joke here! Keep trying! I should add that this is a very different dynamic than forced humor, which is usually a result of ignoring the voice that says "no gag here. Move on."

So, just as we can smell the potential humor in a situation, or sniff the potential discovery in the data, we can sense the sacred -- the presence of God -- in certain beliefs and principles. Otherwise, no one would believe. Everyone would be exactly like the atheist who looks at Christianity and says "what a bunch of nonsense. No point in exploring that avenue." In the words of a particular two year-old of our acquaintance, "it's just a very long-lived personality cult. I should cleave to Jesus because he said so and lots of other people have too. Forgive me if I'm not the least bit interested."

Nothing in, nihilism out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The "Faith" of the Tenured vs. The Faith of the Wise

Pieper begin his discussion of faith by first defining the meaning of the term, since most people have no idea what it actually means in a religious context, most especially the tenured. The latter might define it as "practical certainty about matters that cannot be justified adequately," or "objectively inadequate acceptance of something as true." Ironically, this definition certainly applies to their beliefs, but this is only a static imitation of the dynamic faith that applies to O.

For example, since he's going to keep posting it again anyway, I might as well tell you that our blind troll really, really, wants my readers to know about this biologist, Ursula Goodenough, who has her own ideas about nature and religion, and that they differ from mine. He wants you to know that he is a victim, a victim I tell you, of my tyrannical "censorship" because I do not want my cult members to be exposed to an alternative doctrine that might liberate you from my clutches blah blah blah.

The review at the top says that she espouses "a kind of religious naturalism that will not be unfamiliar to readers of New Age literature." I certainly don't want my readers to know about that secret. I mean, I'd never alert them to those other demented, I mean brilliant theologians who have successfully reconciled spirit and nature!

As an asnide, as you all know, there is way too much material on the internet for any person to deal with even a fraction of it. However, I've discovered a shortcut that I recommend to others. When you read an editorial, don't necessarily waste your time with the whole thing. Rather, stop reading the moment you encounter a statement that is irretrievably stupid. I think you'll find that with most leftist, atheist, or materialist (or naturalist, or whatever their calling themselves these days) material, you often cannot get past the fatal flaws of the first sentence. ("Materialist material." Heh.)

A case in point is Goodenough's book. I'm sure she's a nice lady and a good scientist and everything, but as it pertains to metaphysics, she is strictly amateur, a dabbler, a Sunday painter. While her musings may be goodenough for the tenured, they are just a reminder of some old blandmarks we saw long ago in the foothills of our journey. Breaking news: nature is sacred. But it is specifically sacred because of its metaphysical transparency, because of the divine energies that shine through it, not because it "obeys the laws of physics." Sacred is an ontological category, not a side effect of math.

Furthermore, she has the self-regard to "think through" things that have already been fully thought through by people much more brilliant -- not to mention illuminated -- than she will ever be, so the whole exercise is rather childish.

Really, it's just a way to create a kind of faux religion that will be acceptable to the NPR listening/Slate reading/MENSA geeks who hate religion on its own terms. Let me be clear: there is nothing whatsoever wrong about demonstrating the compatibility of science and religion, which obviously cannot not be compatible, since truth is One. Problems only arise when the latter is reduced to the former, which is a cosmic impossibility.

Anyway, I couldn't get past the very first sentence of the book: Everything in our universe, including the Earth and its living creatures, obeys the laws of physics, laws that became manifest in the first moments of time. Oh, really? What is this, a premise? A conclusion? A faith?

Whatever it is, it is plainly wrong by its own lights, for if it is true, it is a truth that clearly cannot be reduced to the laws of physics, on pain of eliminating not only its own truth, but the very possibility of truth.

But this is what materialists -- excuse me, naturalists -- do. They begin with their implicit prejudicial faith in matter, and then conclude that matter (or the "laws" that "govern it") is all there is. This woman may call herself "religious," but there are certain intrinsic heresies in theology that in our view immediately place one outside the domain of theology -- for the same reason that there are intrinsic scientific heresies that place oneself outside the scientific world view, say, belief in miracles as a scientific explanation.

I'm not necessarily criticizing Goodenough. She's obviously a sincere person who is trying to figure things out on her own, but that's a big part of the problem. Again, intellects far more exalted than hers have already figured it out, e.g., Aquinas, Eckhart, Schuon, etc. No, these three do not agree in all the details. That's not their job. Rather, that's my job -- to reconcile the knowledge of those who truly know, and in turn to reconcile that with what science "knows."

This is precisely what Aquinas attempted some seven or eight centuries ago. We're getting a little sidetracked here, but I think it's important. As Pieper emphasizes, first of all, Aquinas had the proper qualifications to approach the subject, in that he was objective, dispassionate, and pure, an adjective that the tenured would just laugh at as irrelevant at best.

But hear us now, believe us later: there is no knowledge of higher things in the absence of purity, for you will just bring your impurities with you and confuse them with reality. Purity is to theology what, say, integrity and intellectual honesty are to the scientist. Without it, nothing they say can be trusted.

This is not something that only applies to theology, but to psychology as well. When a mentally ill person opines on the nature of the mind, what do you suppose he sees? Obviously, job one for the true metapsychologist is the sufficient insight and self-understanding to have at least recognized one's mind parasites, even if one hasn't fully domesticated them. This requires a level of personal honesty that most people do not possess, not for conscious reasons, but for unconscious reasons, since the very purpose of psychological defense mechanisms is to blind the person to his own true motivations.

Thus, applied to the domain of spirit, sincere humility is the minimum requirement. To paraphrase Thomas, the first-born daughter of unchastity is "blindness of spirit." Pieper goes on to explain that "Only he who wants nothing for himself, who is not subjectively 'interested,' can know the truth." Again, remember what we were saying yesterday about the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding.

Also, Pieper emphasizes that Thomas was, above all else, a teacher. True, he was probably the greatest philosopher who has ever lived, but he would have been the last to characterize himself in those terms. Rather, he mainly prayed for two things: truth or wisdom and the ability to impart it to others. Oh yes, and a third thing: that "his life would not outlast his teaching." Since there was no internet in those days, -- I think that's correct -- this was by no means assured, especially since Thomas left not a single disciple at the time of his death. We're lucky that someone didn't just toss it all in the nearest dumpster.

"To lead a man from error to truth -- this he considered the greatest service which one man can render another." Amen! More: "Teaching is a process that goes on between living men" -- and I might add that both needn't technically be merely "biologically" living, for as I have said on many occasions, it is very much possible to have a vibrantly living relationship with a teacher who is no longer on this side of the veil. In fact, if you don't have such a relationship with at least one such person, ur probbly doin it rong.

"The teacher looks not only at the truth of things; at the same time he looks at the faces of living men who desire to know this truth. Love of truth and love of men -- only the two together constitute a teacher."

And by no means does the study of philosophy involve merely learning "what others have thought but to learn the truth of things." Again, the true teacher does not impart (k) but facilitates (n). Thus, it is fundamentally impossible to impart the truth of O through (k), rather, only its outlines and shadows. A third thing is required, what I symbolized in the book as (you know, that equal sign with wavy lines). This is how (n) is imparted from one soul to another.

Thus, none of this is irrelevant to our discussion of faith, which is above all else a tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths, so that faith itself is already an aspect of the truth it seeks. Fathermore, even -- or especially! -- God has an analogue of dynamic faith within his person: "The divine archetype of faith is the 'yes' which God says to Himself; it is the Logos which on the one hand mirrors the Divine Infinity, and on the other hand refracts it" (Schuon).

I'll leave you with some more typically lucid words of Schuon:

"Faith is the participation of the will in the intelligence; just as on the physical plane man adapts his action to the physical facts which determine its nature, so also, on the spiritual plane, he should act in accordance with his convictions, by inward activity even more than by outward activity, for 'before acting one must first be,' and our being is nothing else but our inward activity. The soul must be to the intelligence what beauty is to truth, and this is what we have called the 'moral qualification' that should accompany the 'intellectual qualification.'”

The wife just captured a fleeting image of this water sprite in the backyard with her phone:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Religion is Spiritual. The Religion Business Isn't. Or, God is a Swingin' Cat

That was fun yesterday. I've always thought about devoting one post a week to music, maybe on Saturday or Sunday. Good topics would include how to go about collecting this or that artist, good starter CDs for exploring new genres, how to assemble a bitchin' hi fi system for little moolah, or the perennial debate over who was the cutest Monkee.

Our discussion of the theological virtue of hope is complete, and so we move on to faith. I hope it goes well!

We had begun discussing faith several weeks ago, but for some reason jumped ahead to hope. Actually, I just checked the arkive, and we began this discussion on June 11. But then on the next day I skipped ahead to hope. So if you want the prequel to today's post, here 'tis.

In rereading it, a few passages stand out. Example:

--"In speaking to men, God does not cause them to know objective facts, but he does throw open to them his own Being" (Pieper; emphasis mine). Do you see the profundity of this statement? When he communicates, God quintessentially communicates his own essence -- which, on our end, is subjectively accompanied by awareness of the sacred. And awareness of the sacred is nothing less than innate consciousness of the presence of God (Schuon).

--This revelation of being is only offered to us, never forced.

--The "content" of revelation is ultimately Revelation as such, which is to say, a loving invitation to "participate in the divine life." Which in turn is why faith is so critical, for faith is essentially the acceptance of God's offer -- or of his self-revelation, to be precise. "Divine revelation is not an announcement of a report on reality but the imparting of that reality itself" (emphasis mine).

--The statement I love you is a direct and intimate revelation of the deepest identity of the one who loves. Thus, there are three elements unified in the one utterance: the "self-witnessing" of the I who loves; the affirmation of the present reality of love; and the revelation that one is beloved.

--Which is why in God, one must not draw an artificial distinction between love and knowledge, for his revelation is a direct transmission of his loving nature, of love, and of our belovedness in God. Divine communication and comm-union are one and the same.

While I'm thinking about it, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion, one of my most important influences, is reminding me that in order to properly conduct psychotherapy, -- or write a post -- one must approach the session with an attitude of faith, by which he means the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding.

The reason for this is that in order for new meaning to emerge, we must try to avoid superimposing our present understanding upon things. This is because it is quite common -- most especially among the tenured -- to unconsciously use knowledge as a defense against being. Being is "void" of knowledge, so to speak. It is simply the state of raw awareness.

Or, better yet, it is O. My use of the symbol O is borrowed from Bion, who applied it to the "ultimate unknowable reality" that exists between two people, in particular, the two people sitting there in the consulting room. Think of all the superficial mechanisms we use to avoid genuine contact during the day. This is not to criticize these mechanisms, for they are necessary. No one expects you to pour your heart out to the bank teller or dry cleaner. Rather, we have ritualized ways of interacting with others.

But in so doing, one must be aware that one is eclipsing O. Problems only arise when one's whole life involves the foreclosure of O, so that there is no genuine openness toward, and contact with, the other -- which is none other than at-one-ment with being, since being is communion (again, we'll be expanding on this idea later, so at this point you'll just have to, er, take it on faith).

I hope this doesn't sound too abstract. To the contrary, when I write, I hope always to keep everything very experience near, so that we never venture too far from O. When I write these posts, I am writing from O, in the sense that they are purely spontaneous -- an exercise in the suspension of memory, desire, and understanding. No technical terms, no evasions, no ulterior motives, no goal, just me here witnessing being.

And I hope this gives the writing an energy and a momentum in which it is possible to "participate." I want to induce the same experience in others, not of what I'm thinking, but of how I'm thinking it (or how it's thinking me, to be exact). If it doesn't work for you, hey, you get what you pay for. All I know for sure is that it works for me.

And as a matter of fact, this touches on some of the subjects discussed in yesterday's musical thread. I am quite sure that Jack will agree with me that there is an infinite difference between simply playing a song one knows, vs. radical improvisation, through which one hopes to have an encounter with music itself.

In order to do that, one must of course "suspend memory, desire, and understanding," something that is very difficult to do, especially when one is performing live in front of paying customers. What if it doesn't happen? Better to just stick with the script and give the people what they want, the same stupid song performed in the same way they heard it on the radio 40 years ago.

One reason why I hesitate to do any live speaking, is that it's one thing to abandon my self to the inanimate google machine, another thing to do so in front of strangers. Again: what if it doesn't happen? Better to stick with a script. Can you imagine being one of those people who go on the "lecture circuit" and deliver the same stupid speech over and over? It doesn't matter who it is. It's just dead language. Why not just get it in a book? I suppose seeing the actual person is a kind of faux-O.

Back to music. Imagine the degree of faith it requires to stand up in front of thousands of people and take a leap into the unknown. Again, it's one thing to do it in one's bedroom, another to do so in public. Of non-jazz artists, Van Morrison is one of the few performers who really does this. But because he does, it is possible that you can spend one or two hundred dollars to see a live performance in which it doesn't happen. Personally, I wouldn't be able to stand the guilt. I'd want to either give a refund or have a do-over.

I just so happen to be reading a new critical study of Morrison, Hymns to the Silence, which, when you think about it, is a marvelous title, since it goes to exactly what we're discussing here: the music, or thought, or God-awareness -- the encounter with Being -- that can only emerge from the silence of O. It must be O --> (n). Again, (k) --> O is just a defense against being.

Here are some passages I've highlighted from the book: "I don't want to just sing a song. Anyone can do that. Something else has got to happen." Elsewhere he says "it's a momentary release... the minute it stops, it's gone." Again, it's very much in the moment. Leave the moment, and you leave O.

Or how about this: "Blues isn't to do with black or white... blues is about the truth, and blues is the truth." Here again, it would be easy for the musical sophisticate to dismiss blues, based upon its simple structure and rudimentary instruments, but this would be to miss the point, precisely. Just as God "throws open his own being," it is possible for a gifted performer to "throw open the being-ness of music," so to speak. I mean, Aretha. James Brown. Ray Charles. C'mon.

Here's another good one: when Morrison was starting out, "I wanted to make my own blues, my own soul music, to do something of my own with it." Not necessarily a new form or style. To the contrary, he wanted to use the existing framework and infuse it with his own musical being in order to impart the present reality -- or real presence -- of music.

This is so far removed from the world of commercial music that it's two different realities. He is not creating a product to be "consumed" by others. In fact, the true artist generally must create his audience, not "find" it; or simultaneously create and find, shape and impart. (One thinks of Jesus, who had to do the same with the disciples, who often didn't get what he was on about, and still don't.)

As Morrison has said, "Music is spiritual. The music business isn't."

O, my little ringtailed ones, how tragic that the same can often be said of religion: "Religion is spiritual. The religion business isn't."

Where does one go to find swingin' jazz theology -- I mean le théologie hot!, not the cerebral and detached cool kind?

Jazz is not a kind of music, it is an approach, and it applies to how one goes about finding their voice, relating to a tradition, stepping into the unknown and swinging. --Ben Sidran

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nature vs. History: The Truth of Evolution and the Evolution of Truth

Yes, you could say that "life evolves." But you could also say -- with more plausibility, I might add -- that evolution lifes. First it maths, then it matters, then it lifes, then it minds, and finally it spirits. But where did all that lovely math come from "in the beginning?" The materialist says yada yada, while we say O.

Who's right? We are. But even if you believe the question is unanswerable, I think that if you think a little harder, you will realize that the materialist is not only incorrect in his metaphysic, but that he cannot possibly be correct.

Now, there can be no "biology of truth," any more than there can be a "physics of intelligence" -- that is, unless you inhabit the inverted cosmos of those dwellers in the Land of Flat. The very notion is absurd, and could only be plausible to someone who couldn't find the aseity of O with both hands and a road map.

For O is not a "God of the horizontal gaps" but of the eternal source that gives birth to each vertical moment. Conversely, the omnipotent randomness of the Darwinian is truly a god of the saps, a dopiate for the scientistic masses to preserve their dogmatic slumber and prevent them from being disturbed by those annoying promptings that emanate from the vertical. Zzzzzzzzzz... Wake me when I'm tenured.

While there is obviously truth in biology and physics -- this being a logoistic universe -- it is absurd to suggest that either is the truth, for truth must be anterior to existence. To suggest that existence is anterior to truth is the fundamental error of all materialists, atheists, and neo-Marxists leftists. Of course they could be right. But if they are right they are wrong, for to derive truth from history instead of nature is to derive no truth at all, just a forever shifting mindscape of perishable opinion.

I was reminded of this again in this devastating new critique of contemporary liberalism, Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State. The flight from Nature is ultimately at the root of liberalism's intellectual incoherence, because once you make that first false step into a parallel looniverse, there's no turning back. Unless you turn back, which they refuse to do.

People wonder why liberalism is such an ad hoc, intellectually negligible, feeling-driven enterprise, but they shouldn't. As Voegeli explains, our Founders embraced nature as their first principle -- and when they referred to "nature," they did not mean it in the sense of material nature, but the "nature of things," i.e., reality. In contrast, the progressives rejected this reality of nature, and located truth in history. Thus, for example, since man has no nature, he can be molded by the state into whatever the progressive wishes. There is no objective truth, or morality, or beauty, so normless multiculturalism becomes the norm.

Now, the soph-evident presence of "intelligent design" in our cosmos by no means proves the existence of God, much less the Judeo-Christian God (since real faith requires.... faith, about which we will be posting tomorrow). Rather, it merely proves the existence of intelligence, which is to say, Truth (being that the former is a function, or descent, of the latter -- no Truth, no intellect, no shoes, no service).

The point is, the recognosis of cosmic intelligence merely permits one to disinvert reality to your birthday party, so that one is once again living in a right-side up cosmos and can receive God's presence. In the words of Petey, this is to Return your soul to its upright position and come in for the promised landing.

Yes, this is where the real funwork begins -- your summa vocation -- because now we're back at the humble bottom (instead of the fake promethian top of a grandiose scientism), and must carry out the hard work of spiritual evolution, or realizing what you only know. In short, we move from the materialistic penthouse to the spiritual repenthouse, where we pent and repent again as necessary in order to keep our metanoia fresh and clean.

"Faith" is the gap between what we know and what we shall realize, so long as we cultivate virtue, sincerity, and simplicity, and breath within the space of our silent aspiration. But the more one realizes, the more justification for faith one possesses, until it becomes the norm to simply live in the perpetual uncertainty of an open and unsaturated faith, symbolized in the book by (o) and (---).

In so doing, one lives close to the cosmic spring where the vertical waters flow down into creation on a moment to moment basis. Or, to adopt the mystical formulation favored by Coons, we loiter on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway, looking for handouts from Petey, who usually comes through if he's not too terribly busy.

Biology is about "the adventure of life," whereas a Raccoon is more interested in the "adventure of consciousness" which is the very point of the former.

For us, Life Itself proves that there really is such a thing as a free launch, so we don't spend a lot of time worrying about how this wonderful means of ascent appeared in the supposedly dead and meaningless cosmos of the Darwinians. The point is, it's here, and we're going to take advantage of it. We're going to have our fun in spite of the narrow-minded and scowling Darwinists who think they hold the prison keys to the cosmos. But doors and windows to heaven are everywhere.

You see, the blinkered Darwinist thinks that life only points down and back to the dead matter out of which it was magically given birth. But for the Raccoon, life is a symbol (symbol meaning "thrown across") that always points "up" and "in." We do not see life as a circular series of lateral mutations, but an open spiral that ultimately rejoins whole and part, absolute and relative, time and eternity, center and periphery, man and God.

Our existence is a vertical lifeline thrown down into dead matter in order to divinize and redeem it. And human beings are the "axis" or "pivot" of the whole innerprize. Deep down we all recognize this, albeit often in a garbled and perverted manner, for example, the environmental hysterics or the pompous and deluded LGFers who know they are superior to biology, but have no idea how or why.

Life! If Darwinism is all there is, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, hnnn, say it again! It is difficult to respect the reductionistic Darwinist who lacks the rudimentary intellectual honesty and the courage of his absence of convictions to be a real nihilist. He has his feet planted in the soil of Judeo-Christian values, even while he has his head planted in his ass.

I'll take Nietzsche over them any day, in whose writing one may at least sense the giddy abandonment of living in spiritual free fall, and feeling satan's stinky breath along one's keel!

My own re-cognition that life is not a Darwinian loway but a spiritual highway is memorialized on Page 87, where it is written,

But then something altogether surprising happened. From our vantage point outside time, we now see that the boundary of life did not end with its own little precarious little dance along the precipice of non-being. Rather, we see that life was bound by two infinite frontiers, one side down and back into dark death and obscure material dissolution, the other side up and beyond, into more subtle regions of Mind and Spirit. Crossing that radiant upper threshold we are witness to...


I am hardly the first to have experienced (?!). The sacred WTF?!!! is re-enacted by Raccoons from all over the world every March Forth, as soon as we "open our eyes" in the "morning," innocently view creation like a newborn Adam in paradise, and, like our ancestral furbears, blurt the words in wide-eyed astoneagement:

WTF is going on here?!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wisdom Begins With the Fear of Fearlessness

Peaking up where we slacked off yesterday: taking either the ↓ or the ↑ route is less than optimal, although with important qualifications.

For example, a complete surrender to ↓ will get the job done, although the same cannot be said of a complete commitment to ↑, since man cannot pull himself up by his own buddhastraps. I mean, he's welcome to try, but just where does he think he's really going? He's going nowhere, but he only discovers that when he gets there. Then he and the roshi presumably have a big belly laugh at the folly of man's delusions.

According to Pieper, the "↑ is all you need" approach -- i.e., the sufficiency of the human will -- falls under the rubric of "pelagianism," which is "characterized by the more or less explicit thesis that man is able by his own human nature to win eternal life and the forgiveness of sins."

And "associated with it is the typically liberal, bourgeois moralism" that is often frankly antagonistic to dogma and various sacramental protocols. It comes down to "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, I'm saved!" But don't kid yourselves, for that kind of kooky talk is a Neddy no-no.

The converse form of presumption -- and you Protestants will want to discuss this quietly amongst yourselves -- is the idea of "the sole efficacy of God's redemptive and engracing action" and "the absolute certainty of salvation solely by virtue of the merits of Christ." (And please never forget that I'm hardly an authority in these matters, just a guy blogging it up as he goes along. If slide effects occur, consult your local holy man.)

It reminds me of what Dennis Prager often says about so-called liberals who personally lead very conservative lives, and yet, don't have a political philosophy in accordance with that fact. There is a weird disconnect between how they conduct their own lives and what they believe. The people who actually do live out leftist ideas are more or less the dregs of society. They are not following a recipe for personal success, to put it mildly, unless they are already wealthy, or pursuing a line of work in which depravity is a prerequisite, such as politics or the arts.

Just so, I find that most people who believe in the sole efficacy of salvation through Christ rarely behave that way. Rather, they are generally very much interested in ↑ to go along with the ↓, i.e., aspiration + grace.

Again, if they're not, then they tend to be insufferably smug and difficult to be around. Frankly, these are the types of people who give others the Jesus Willies, and rightfully so.

For if one has already achieved salvation -- neener neener neener! -- not only is there no need to aspire, but there is a kind of implicit invitation to moral license, since it's all forgiven in the end. It turns God into a kind co-depenent wife of an alocohlic. Every time she "forgives" her husband, that releases his guilt and sets the stage for the next transgression.

I have definitely noticed this pattern in certain patients from the south, and now that I think about it, you can also see it in that first generation of rock & roll pioneers, who were all from the south and had similar religious roots -- Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Johnny Cash. Each of them at times led lives of utter dissolution, but it tended to be a saw-toothed pattern of indulgence and repent, with no true forward movement. Rather, the repent just creates a clean slate for the next fall.

I remember a story about Johnny Cash, who had invited a couple of members of U2 for dinner. At the table they held hands in a circle while Johnny said a solemn grace. At the end, he pauses and says, "sure do miss the drugs, though, Lord." The film that came out a few years ago is rather misleading, since it implies that his drugging days were over by 1967, but that is not the case.

This type of person may even be happy to concede that he is "the biggest sinner of them all," but mainly as a way to unconsciously explain away the future sins to come. Ironically, it is a form of pride, as if to say, "my sins are bigger than yours, so look how much God has forgiven!" You might say it is a humble lack of humility.

Augustine said that "only to the humble is it given to hope" (in Pieper), so that the presumptuous person cannot even genuinely pray "because he fully anticipates its fulfillment."

Pieper makes the more subtle point that in tipping over into either despair or presumption, one eliminates the dialectical tension, as it were, between divine justice and divine mercy.

But in reality, in hope there should be no separation between divine justice and mercy; rather, we only create it by falling to one side or the other. From our standpoint, justice and mercy may appear to be at odds, but in God they "are actually identical."

One has only to think of one's child to understand this. Discipline is not an end in itself but a kind of mercy, precisely. The child may protest that you lack mercy in not allowing him to eat M&M's and Doritos for breakfast, but the opposite is true. It's nice to have all your teeth.

Remember that wise crack to the effect that wisdom begins with the fear of God. It is this fear that presumption eliminates. Pieper points out that Saint Thomas "lists not only disordered fear but also unnatural fearlessness" as Neddy no-noes to be avoided. Fearlessness is a form of immaturity and self-deception. Again, I have a child who happens to be rather fearless, so in his case, he needs to cultivate some rational fear in order to grow in wisdom.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Am Not Him, Therefore God Is

Pieper says that of the two -- presumption and despair -- the former is less opposed to hope, for it is only a false similitude, or "fraudulent imitation," as opposed to a true antitype. In the same way, childishness and infantility are fraudulent imitations of the holy innocence of childhood, whereas its true antitype would be old age, or senility, or Larry King.

If one is a true and consistent existentialist/materialist/atheist, then neither hope nor presumption should ever enter the picture. Presumptuousness, yes, in that that adjective obviously applies to anyone who imagines himself to have understood the vast realm of spirit sufficiently to categorically reject it.

In ether worlds, it's more than a little presumptuous for a horizontal man to reject the vertical on the basis of the fact that this is what horizontal men do. It's analogous to rejecting things that children cannot understand, or a cat insisting that lettuce has no nutritional value.

The materialist is committed to the belief that the horizontal world is sufficient to account for man's origin, destiny, purpose, and cognitive abilities, which correspond to chance, nowhere, nothing, and accident, respectively. The only thing the troll can know with certainty is that he knows nothing, which is one of our rare points of agreement.

To say that man is "ordered to God" is one of those things that is fraught with potential misunderstandings, which is again why I prefer to use the empty symbols, or pneumaticons, in this case, O and (¶).

On the surface, it can sound tautological to say that if God didn't exist, we couldn't conceive of him. But it means much more than that, for what it is really saying is that the astonishing fact of the human subject, with all of its marvelous abilities, must have a sufficient reason, a cause proportionate to it.

As I mentioned in the wooly Coonifesto and would still weave today, man is by an order of magnitude the most astonishing fact of the cosmos. Not only is this something we should all be able to agree upon, but I believe it should be the starting point of any coherent philosophy, not just a bizarre and unexpected afterthought that defies explanation and is therefore explained away. You could even say that "Man is, therefore I AM," but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.

To say that man is the "image and likeness" of O is simply to affirm that he is in some sense proportionate to the ultimate Principle of the cosmos. Interestingly, this is something that the materialist/atheist/Darwinist not only believes, but insists, i.e., that man is capable of pronouncing on his own ultimate meaning(lessness). For to say, for example, that man is a result of random genetic mutations is still to affirm that the mind of man is proportioned to reality.

The problem is, Darwinism obviously cannot explain its own intrinsic exceptions, the biggest one being man's adequation to truth. No mere animal has anything approximating this, which is why the gulf between animal and man is infinite if considered from the bottom up -- for the same reason that the gap between Ø and O is infinite from the perspective of Ø.

However, if looked at from the top down, it is both understandable and even somewhat expected -- again, for the same reason that, viewed from the top down, Ø is simply the "further reaches," so to speak, of O, like rays from the sun.

This is by no means to suggest that man was "inevitable," which would be another form of presumption, plus it would deny the creative freedom of O. It simply means that since it is in the nature of the sovereign good to create, we shouldn't be all that surprised that he should create something as magnificent as man. Astonished, yes, but not surprised.

And this would also account for our disappointment in that habitual underachiever, Homo sapiens. In contrast, the Darwinian or secular humanist has no grounds whatsoever for being disappointed in man. For him, the mystery is why man should be anything other than a mindless animal seeking food, sex, and tenure.

Anyway, back to Pieper. He points out that the problem with presumption is that it engenders a "perverted attitude toward the fact that eternal life is the meaning and goal" of our terrestrial adventure. Again, man is only proportioned to O. He is not O.

But presumption fails to honor this distinction, and therefore "fails to accept the reality of the futurity and 'arduousness' that characterize" our journey in and toward O. It manifests in the attitude, for example, of those arrogant bumper snickers that say CHRISTIANS AREN'T PERFECT, JUST FORGIVEN, or something like that. I wouldn't be so sure about that, pilgrim. You are of course permitted to hope for salvation, but to simply assume it is the height of presumption. It is also to appoint oneself judge and jury over one's own case. It is a recipe for mischief, since you can essentially do whatever you want in this life, knowing that in the end you've got a get-out-of-hell-free card.

Presumption really detaches itself from O and thereby "destroys supernatural hope" by not acknowledging the transitional nature of life in the herebelow. Therefore, it regards "eternal life as something that is 'basically' already achieved, as something that is 'in principle' already given.'" No wonder such people are so boring.

Pieper adds that it is also a type of heresy, but I would expand upon this to say that it is one of those intellectual heresies that isn't only specific to Christianity, but to thought as such, for it ultimately means that in one way or another, one is collapsing that generative and transitional space between man and O, which is man's true habitat. This is why both the concrete atheist and the presumptuous theist are so tedious, for they are just mirrors of one another.

Interestingly, Pieper also touches on how liberal theology transfers the gap between man and O through activism, as if by stealing enough of one man's property and giving it to another, they can create the kingdom of heaven on earth, the old hate-and-switch "immamentization of the eschaton" routine, as Voegelin put it.

The cosmic truth of the matter -- or so we have heard from the wise -- is that neither grace nor aspiration, ↓ and ↑, are sufficient, only ↓↑. And I wish I could depict those arrows in a kind of open, upward spiral, because that would be more accurate. More like the image at the right, whereby the field created by the arrows is a kind of hologram. (And note how the point at the top is none other than ʘ.)

You could even create a pithy bumper sticker to reflect this truth, say, BELIEVERS AREN'T PERFECT, THAT'S HOW WE KNOW THERE'S A GOD, or I DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, THATS HOW I KNOW TRUTH EXISTS.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Youthful Reagan and Old Man Obama

Speaks for itself: "By implanting in man the new 'future' of a practically inexhaustible 'not yet,' supernatural hope lays the foundation for a new youthfulness that can be destroyed only if hope is destroyed" (Pieper).

It's not so much that youth is full of hope. Rather, the reverse: hope is the essence of youth. Remama? The present wasn't just the present, but the continuous "harvesting" of an endlessly novel future. I remember always "looking forward" to things, not in the pathological manner that takes one out of the present, but adds to it.

In fact, it is precisely because of this gift or malady, depending upon how you look at it, that I never developed the usual ambitions which the Conspiracy expects one to have. I was already having such an excellent adventure, that I didn't really see how it could get any better. Rather, you'd have to be pretty bored to be enticed by what Conspiracy had to offer in exchange for your Slack.

In other words, I didn't hope for anything fundamentally different, and still don't. In thinking about it for the first time, I think I retained my innocent and youthful hope, and never replaced it with the kinds of artificial and convoluted hopes that haunt most people, i.e., a world-weary hope for some kind of fundamental change, or for some sort of future "excitement" that really just takes one out of one's center and makes it feel like the center for awhile. I knew by the time I was in my late teens that if I couldn't enjoy the present, then I wouldn't be able to enjoy the future, no matter what came along. I knew that fulfillment can only occur now.

This very much reminds me of how there is no such thing as an individual per se. Rather the person is always oriented to the other; he is always in communion, so that the substance of being, if you like, really is threeness: the I, the You, and the link between. There is nothing behind or beyond that, not even -- or especially not -- "in God," who "contains" his own Other, i.e., the Son.

(To be honest -- and with respect -- I don't always like the words "Father" and "Son" as theological placemarkers, since they are so saturated with other meanings and associations, only some of which apply to the interior of O, so to speak. Rather, I find it more helpful to contemplate the astonishing fact that the essence of being is not "one" but communion; or, that there is no One without his Second. It is in the very nature of One to give birth to the Two, which is why Eckhart said that "the essence of God is birthing.")

Just so, it is in the very essence of the now to "point toward" the future. In other words, just as there is no One without the Other, there is no now without the then. If there were no promise of a then, then hopelessness would be the proper orientation to the world. But the future is always flowing into the now, and furthermore, it is not just coming "from nowhere," but from O, precisely (the cosmic telovator or eschalator).

This is why such things as creativity, novelty, evolution and discovery are not just possible, but normative for the human being. It is because of this structure that existence isn't completely ruled by entropy. Obviously if entropy is the irony-clad law of the cosmos, then there is no reason whatsoever for hope. Hope resides in the fact that it transcends entropy, including that annoying state of entropy we call death. Remember: hope is eternal youthfulness (or vice versa), while hopelessness is senility and death.

Which is why America is still the youngest nation in the world, and why everyone wants to get out of their decrepit cultures and come here. America is not just the last, best hope of humanity, but a bulwark against hopelessness. It reminds me of how victims of the soviet Gulag were comforted by the moral clarity of Ronald Reagan, even while it annoyed the hell out of the hopeless and cynical progressives. Conversely, the appeasement of the left only added to their despair.

It is also why progressives may look immature, but they are really bitter old men, as you'll probably see in the comments today, except not now that I've mentioned it. But for Obama to peddle "hope" is like Forest Lawn selling vacation property. No matter how nice it looks, you'll be dead when you get there. And if we ever arrive where progressives want us to go, we'll also be dead, either literally or figuratively.

So as Pieper explains, youthfulness "can be destroyed only if hope is destroyed." But I would add that if one can manage to damage or destroy the state of innocent youthfulness, one can also undermine hope, and create a "hopeless" situation from which only the State can save one.

I don't think I need to chronicle the many ways the left assaults and undermines the innocence of childhood, but I would no more place my child in a public school than I would expose him to pornography or MSNBC. I am charged with protecting his holy innocence, not eliminating it. The point is not to produce a jaded cynic who is wise as a dove and innocent as a serpent.

For only with this reservoir of innocence can one remain an innocent child forever, instead of, say, a childish know-nothing such as Obama. Note how the latter is a corrupt version of the former. To be "innocent" does not mean being innocent of wisdom and self-understanding.

It is critical to bear in mind that there are two forms of hopelessness, despair and presumption. Again, both "collapse" the space between now and then, and now that I think about it, probably collapse the space between I and You as well, in that the I becomes a self-sufficient god, either for better or worse. But in each case, the present moment, which should be oriented toward the future, collapses to nothingness.

As Pieper explains, "the 'infantility' of presumption lies in its perverse anticipation of fulfillment," so that genuine hope "passes into the peaceful certainty of possession." What does this remind me of... Oh yes, "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Really? Yes, he's a buffoon, but why is this so different from, say, the kind of hope promised by Reagan, e.g., "morning in America"?

The difference is that in the real morning that announces the day, it is the person who makes all the difference, not the state, since one man's morning is another man's twilight or Darkness. Remember, it was always morning in the Soviet Union as well, with the announcement of a new Five-Year Plan. When you give up your hope to the State, they just sell it back to you at triple the price.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Being's Flight From Being, or You Can't Outrun an Assoul

Acedia has a number of "friends and companions," including despair and restlessness. In a way, you could see restlessness as a defense against despair, so they are really just two sides of the same coin.

Pieper describes some of the variants of restlessness, which are interesting in and of themselves. But also, they demonstrate how perceptive a psychologist Saint Thomas was, long before there was even a word for psychology. For that matter, it also shows how anemic modern psychology is in ignoring the spiritual dimension of things (or, alternatively, taking it seriously only in a frivolous, new age, chopra-esque manner).

If one's depression is a result of spiritual disorder, then it's important to know that. It is very much analogous to how physical pain conveys important messages about our behavior and surroundings. Likewise, on a psychic level we have certain built-in mechanisms that convey pain, such as shame and guilt. A person with no shame and no guilt becomes a sociopath or even a Chicago politician.

There are few people who are born with no capacity for shame. More often than not, the dysregulation of shame is a result of having had one's "circuits blown" as a child -- of having been exposed to too much shame too soon. As a result, the person may grow up with a kind of "shame bypass" mechanism, or else be so vulnerable to shame that they are paralyzed for fear of triggering it.

But do note that shame is only thinkable in the context of the other. When we are shamed, it is a result of projecting our own judgmental eyes outward. Therefore, the shame-prone individual projects a pair of eyes that are particularly harsh and judgmental, even condemnatory.

In this regard, it is important to distinguish between shame and guilt, the former being more "ontological," the latter more "existential." In other words, when we feel guilt, it is over an action. But shame has more to do with our very existence.

In his books, Allan Schore does a wonderful job of describing the actual neurobiological correlates of shame. When shame becomes dysregulated, it actually becomes woven into our very neurology. Let me see if I can find an illustrative passage.

But before doing that, let me describe how it happens with my son. Of course, until a child is, what, three years old or so, they have no capacity for shame. They are quite literally shameless, which, of course, brings to mind the primordial state of Adam. But what is the first thing Adam experiences upon his eyes being opened? Correct. Shame. He saw that he was naked, and quickly covered up.

Anyway, so future leader is now capable of feeling shame, which is clearly a good thing, because if he weren't, I wouldn't say that there would be no way to control him, but we would have one less tool in our arsenal. But the key, of course, is to never shame the child in a way that is traumatic -- any more than you want them to feel any kind of pain to excess, even while retaining the capacity to feel it. Shame is like an unbidden stranger that lives within us. Quite literally, it is a "built in other" that ensures our harmonious relations with the group.

But again, dysregulated shame either paralyzes or "unleashes." This is why so-called shame cultures -- for example, much of Islamic world -- are so shameless. Or, precisely because they cannot tolerate the acute shame they feel for being such world-historical losers, they attack the nearest "eyes," which happen to be the Israelis. If not for them, they'd have to just murder and maim each other more than they already do.

Note also how the general emotional immaturity of the Islamic world causes men to locate their shameful sexual impulses in women, so that by covering them up, they can tamp down their libidos; or how our own ridiculous troll hides his shame behind a cloak of anonymity, as if that prevents us from remembering his numberless follies!

Eh, forget about Schore. We're getting way too far afield. Let's get back to Pieper/Aquinas and the many defenses against despair, which include loquaciousness, excessive curiosity, "an irreverent urge to pour oneself out from the peak of the mind onto many things," "interior restlessness," and "instability of place or purpose."

Each of these could be confused with garden-variety anxiety, but Aquinas is talking about something deeper, about being's flight from itself. But, to quote the wise words of Beavis, it is absurd to imagine that you can "run away from your bunghole." Rather, wherever you go, it goes there too.

There are other ways to flee from being and to manifest the "sluggish indifference toward those things that are in truth necessary for man's salvation," for example, "pusillanimity toward all the mystical opportunities that are open to man.'' Another --a veritable peter pandemic on the left -- is "irritable rebellion" against those who serve as a reminder of one's higher purpose (thus, for example, the truly inevitable attacks on the Pope and on Jews). For what did the Master say about being hated by the world?

The last and most noxious and destructive defense against despair goes all the way in converting defense to offense, to actual defiance; it is the "conscious inner choice and decision in favor of evil as evil that has its source in hatred for the divine in man."

To pick a low-hanging fruitcake that is always near at hand, our own perpetually irritated and rebellious troll makes no attempt to conceal his belief that it is necessary for God to have an adversary, and that he considers his presence here to be the reflection of a "very fundamental principle of the universe," that is, "the tendency of any force to give rise to its opposite."

There is some garbled truth to this notion, except that it is critical to bear in mind that while light necessarily gives rise to shadow, that hardly means that light "wishes" for shadows to exist.

Rather, shadows are entirely "parasitic" or "reactionary." Only in this sense do we give rise to our opposite in Anon. It would never occur to us to seek out this anonymous darkness, much less create it! Nevertheless, in throwing out the light, we have indeed done so, in a manner of speaking. My bad. (Remember, never get angry or impatient with him, as I sometimes see some of you doing, for he is always here to teach.)

Some of the above defenses are probably not self-evident, for example, "excessive curiosity." What could this mean? Obviously there is nothing wrong with curiosity. It is how we learn. It is the empty space we must tolerate in order for knowledge to occur. As Bion was fond of saying, "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." But what is excessive curiosity?

I think it manifests in various ways, for example, in a kind of seemingly innocent but bovine lack of certitude about certain fundamental questions, without which thinking isn't even possible -- for example, in questions of whether truth, or free will, or moral absolutes actually exist. To even ask such questions, one must either be stupid or malicious, but in any event, such an insane quest can only result in ignorance chasing its own tail and calling it "philosophy," i.e., tales told by the tenured and troll tales of the tin-eared.

Another manifestation of excessive curiosity involves "overrunning" the truth long after it has already been found.

And with that, I am abruptly out of time. To be continued.....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Get Out of My Life, God! But First Could You Drive Me & Dawkins to the Mall?

Wait, don't go away! Acedia is actually very interesting. And important.

After all, if it's a capital sin, there must be a reason. And a capital sin is...

Hey, what is a capital sin, anyway? I'm assuming that it involves choosing a course of action that places one's soul in real danger, ultimately running counter to one's very reason for being. These sins lead to spiritual suicide, if you will -- a self-administered celestial abortion and an in-your-face rejection of O. It is not just the flight into Ø, but the prideful celebration of it.

Again, since there is no adequate translation of acedia, it has become associated with "the middle-class work ethic" -- as if the latter could have anything to do with spiritual perfection. But if anything, acedia is at a right angle to the work ethic, in that Aquinas associates it with forgetting the sabbath, "by which man is enjoined to 'rest his spirit in God'" (Pieper).

And if you will turn your new testavus for the rest of us to page 236, you will see that Toots Mondello enjoins us to observe the sabbath speed limit, which does not mean putting your pedal to the metal, but rather, slowing down, precisely. To quote ourselves, it involves "turning toward what is 'behind' and 'above' the external world and its nihilocracy of urgent nonsense." Furthermore, it is simultaneously a "memoir of the future" and a return to "the unmanifest paradise of Eden."

One might say that the paradoxical "work" of the sabbath involves internalizing its essential contours and rhythms, so that there is a peaceful "zone of silence" between oneself and the world. The work of the sabbath is not "not doing" -- which is only the opposite of doing -- but non-doing, as per our friend, the gentleman from China, LaoTsu.

We prefer to call it non-doodling, because it may look like we are just doodling around doing nothing, but it's true. We are indeed doing nothing, which requires the effort of no effort. In fact, I'm not doing it right now.

Speaking of this return to the vertical source, I just want to share something that ba-lew my mind, as they used to say. This weekend I was reading this fine little book on Aquinas, by Josef Pieper. I am embarrassed to admit that I've never actually read the Summa Theologica, a failing I am about to rectify.

Anyway, I get to the bottom of page 101, and Pieper says that in order to understand the structure of the Summa, one must imagine "a circular diagram, in a ring returning back upon itself."

What the!

And here is Aquinas' bottom line, which turns out at bottom to be a metacosmic circle: "In the emergence of creatures from their first Source is revealed a kind of circulation, in which all things return, as to their end, back to the very place from which they had their origin in the beginning."

Who knew? Aquinas was a Raccoon!

Where were we? Yes, back to acedia, which, in a way, can be thought of as the perverse struggle to convert the above-noted circle into a straight line. Doing so automatically takes one off the path, and prevents one from floating upstream on the cosmic winds.

Acedia fundamentally involves choosing worldliness over spirit; it is to commit oneself to the horizontal over the vertical. Thus, it "lacks courage for the great things that are proper to the nature of the Christian" (Pieper), so that the acedic man hasn't "the will to be as great as he really is. He would prefer to be less great in order thus to avoid the obligation of greatness" (ibid).

One can well understand how acedia represents a kind of "perverted humility"; Pieper aptly compares it to the neurotic patient who consciously wishes to get better, but unconsciously resists it because of the responsibilities it will bring in the future, not to mention the regrets about the past.

Resistance is ubiquitous in psychotherapy, if only because any dynamic system first and foremost wishes to go on being. But there's more to it than that, as genuine growth is always a double-edged sword, as is seen quite vividly in developing children. Every major movement toward individuation and autonomy brings with it a little separation anxiety that needs to be tolerated and worked through. To put it simply, gaining individuation means losing mommy.

I might add that we never truly resolve this dialectic between merger and autonomy, a topic I will be posting on in the near future. It's just that instead of fleeing back and dissolving into the loving arms of mommy, we regress in different ways, some healthy, others pathological.

For example, it's no secret that for the Raccoon, the Beer O'clock slackrament is a kind of dissolution into the arms of the cosmic mother, but there are many other examples. Always there is the father principle of doing and the mother principle of being. Obviously there are many ways for pathology to enter into the marriage, but that's a subject for a different post.

Pieper goes on to say that acedia can go from mere passive drifting to "an actual fleeing from God. Man flees from God because God has exalted human nature to a higher, a divine, state of being and has thereby enjoined on man a higher standard of obligation."

Again, man is condemned to transcendence. But to paraphrase Pieper, acedia ultimately expresses the wish that God would just leave us alone and stop pestering us with these annoying calls to dignity, nobility, and greatness. Go away, God! I'm not your baby anymore! I can do it myself!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Loafing and Laughing Our Way Toward the Real Singularity

Who is that motherhuckster that propagates nonsense about the "singularity," about living forever, and about recreating human minds with AI (not just the body, but the actual "person")? Kurzweil?

He is a prime example of despair masquerading as hope, of extreme materialism masquerading as transcendence, and of grandiosity masquerading as magnanimity. Not to mention abject foolishness masquerading as wisdom. No wonder he has so many honorary doctorates. Then again, one more and he gets a free carwash.

Suffice it to say -- as we have discussed before -- man is born with a religious instinct; or, as Schuon ironically expressed it, he is "condemned to transcendence." But just as our sexual instinct can become disordered, so too can our religious instinct. Indeed, this is such a truism that it hardly needs to be said. Just as there are sexual perversions (although in the polticially correct world of clinical psychology they are now called "paraphilias"), there are religious perversions (metaphilias?).

Although the list of man's sexual perversions has become shorter with his "evolution" and sophistication, the current resumé includes Exhibitionism, Fetishism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, Transvestic Fetishism, Voyeurism, and attraction to Rosie O'Donnell. With further evolution, I would expect Transvestic Fetishism to soon be stricken from the list, followed by the sadomasochistic tango.

If we were to compile a list of religious perversions, what would it include? We could say obvious things such as Islamism, except that it is by no means clear whether or not the Grand Jihad that motivates the Islamists is actually normative for their religion. I don't want to say it. Or draw a picture. You do the myth.

But I don't want to get into specific cases anyway, only the more general cat- and dogmatories. To a certain extent we've already covered this ground in our recent posts about intrinsic intellectual heresies. Furthermore, acquaintance with the debates of early Christianity provides a useful education in the delicate balance required in order to avoid these various pitfalls through which one really does fall into the pit.

Let's just focus on the theological virtue of hope, along with its corollary, hopelessness. Why would hopelessness be a sin and a heresy? Indeed, our reader Anon informs us that depressed and hopeless people are actually more in touch with what he calls "reality," because a couple of the tenured said so. In his upside down world, the disease is the cure. But how do we know for sure if those two are really depressed and in touch with reality, or just faking it? Anyway, some books are written with the assistance of psychoactive drugs; this one could have been avoided with them.

According to Pieper, there are two kinds of hopelessness, despair and what we will translate as presumption. Both involve a kind of anticipation: the former is "a perverse anticipation of the nonfulfillment of hope," while the latter is "a perverse anticipation of the fulfillment of hope." And I didn't expect him to use the word "perverse," but there it is. We are on the same cosmic page.

But why are these perversions? Because man is again always on the way. You might say that just as God's essence is his being, Man's essence is his becoming. God is who he is -- his name is I AM THAT I AM -- while man is who he is to become. His orthoparadoxical name is I AM THAT I WILL BE.

Both despair and presumption therefore undercut man at the very root, since they "destroy the pilgrim character of of human existence" and are "opposed to man's true becoming" (Pieper).

Note that the substance of real hope "flows" -- can only flow -- between (•) and O. Despair is to live only in (•), while presumption is to assume the acquisition or conquest of O; it is to conflate (•) and O in such a way that (•) is expanded to O.

Man is only in the image of the Creator. He is not the Creator. While the human station uniquely allows him both to create and to know, this conceals the fact that man cannot actually create or know the essence of a single thing.

In other words, both knowledge and the limitation thereof are a result of the same ontological reality, the very structure of being. Because we are an emanation of O, we may truly know; but because we are not O, knowledge is literally inexhaustible.

The same may be said of our creativity. Although it too is inexhaustible, man clearly cannot create something from nothing, which is the true essence of creativity that only God possesses.

Now, as mentioned in the book, man is a uniquely open system, both vertically and horizontally. Therefore, in order to "grow" in either direction, he must remain an open system at disequilibrium.

Both of these are fundamental, i.e., openness and disequilibrium. For example, there is a word we use when your body has reached equilibrium: death. Likewise, there are a number of words for a system that has become closed: starvation is one that applies to the horizontal, while sin is a word that applies to the vertical (i.e., rejection of an open relationship to God).

The kind of hope being peddled by Kurzweil is really just despair mimicking hope. You might say that it recapitulates man's original creation of a closed system that excludes God, in that it elevates man to God (both Kurzweil and the serpent agree that "you shall not die").

But any way you cut it, life in a purely horizontal world is already a kind of death. Kurzweil cannot really promise life forever, only death forever, with no real reason to hope for anything. Please note that Kurzweil is full of hope. But I can guarantee him that he will soon be dead, and that his childish (not childlike) hope is entirely misplaced.

One way we maintain vertical openness is through the virtue of humility. But this can go awry in two directions, not just one. Obviously, grandiosity and presumption run counter to genuine humility.

But Pieper notes that despair can represent a kind of false humility that makes it impossible to maintain a vertically open system. He discusses this in terms of the capital sin of acedia, which has no precise translation, so that it is generally thought of as "sloth," which is quite misleading, since it has nothing to do with laziness per se.

For example, as Pieper explains, it is entirely possible -- likely even -- for a workaholic to indulge in acedia, the real meaning of which is a kind of "sadness in view of the divine good in man," and a rejection of the "God-given ennobling of human nature."

You might call it spiritual laziness, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the divine Slack required to properly contemplate and abide in O. Slack is only the true Slack if it is oriented toward its proper spiritual end. Yes, the Raccoon is not just some kind of loafer, but a gentleman loafer. Furthermore, he loafs in God's vertical bakery, where the bread is baked fresh daily.

To be continued....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Obama and the Hope-a-Dope Strategy

Pieper discusses the quite natural relationship between hope and youth, noting that the two are "ordered to one another in manifold ways."

This almost requires no explanation, and yet, is quite important -- and now that I think about it, undoubtedly helps to explain certain well known psycho-spiritual political pathologies of youth, which generally occur when their abundant hope is combined with their lack of wisdom and experience to produce... well, you name it. Obama is only their latest gift to the world.

Why anyone would place their hope in politics and politicians is quite beyond me; then again, I have only to think back to my own youth to realize that it's actually quite behind me. After all, my first vote was for Jimmy Carter, and in 1980 he was too conservative for me, so my preferred candidate was Barry Commoner of the illustrious Citizens Party, a socialist front that mainly spread hysteria about nuclear power plants.

Pieper writes that "natural hope blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers." Again, no doubt true. This is obviously a depressing reality, but again, I think it explains why older people who should know better cling to the callow political enthusiasms of their youth. How could a grown man be taken in by Obama's vacuous hopey-changey rhetoric?

It seems to me that one explanation might be the attempt to revive the kind of exciting hope for the future they once had as adolescents. As they say, when you see an old man with a young woman, it's not her youth he's after.

Likewise, when you see an old fart like Chris Matthews getting all tingly upon hearing his boyfriend speak, the real source of the excitement is obviously not Obama's vague future but Matthews' own specific past. Thus, the recent disillusionment with Obama is just the other side of hisillusionment. He has awakened to his own projection, and yet, has learned nothing, since he now blames Obama for dissing his beautiful illusion!

Being that politics is a substitute religion for the left, it is understandable that they would be prone to creating earthly messiahs. In reality, the entire process obviously took place in Matthews' own fat and spluttering head, that is, the illusion followed by the inevitable disillusion. (And to be clear, I would say the identical thing of a "conservative" who placed this kind of inappropriate hope in a politician.)

Now, the loss of natural hope brings with it the growth of what we might call "natural despair." This only makes sense. In the absence of any transnatural form of hope, it is simply an ironclad law of nature that when we are young the past is essentially irrelevant while the future is virtually unlimited.

But as we age, the past grows long while the future inevitably shrinks to nothing. How could one not be quite literally dis-illusioned? As Pieper describes it, the "not yet" of youth "is turned into the has-been," and we become a kind of bittersweet repository of "memories of what is 'no more.'"

Perhaps you have to be of my generation, but for me, there is nothing quite as pathetic as when cadge-drive time comes around, and PBS digs out some old hippies to sing the same songs they sang 40 or 50 years ago, in the same way, hopefully kindling the same rancid emotions.

Can you imagine having to sing something you wrote at the age of 20, while expressing the same emotions you felt then with conviction? It is no wonder then that these people literally haven't taken a new political imprint since 1967. Ironic too that this desperate flight into the past is called "progressive."

This whole sad spectacle can be avoided with properly ordered hope. Pieper is at pains to emphasize that hope in and of itself is no kind of virtue. Rather, it only becomes a theological virtue when it converges upon its proper transnatural target.

Likewise, hopelessness and cynicism would be quite appropriate in a wholly materialistic worldview, for what is there to hope for aside from maximizing pleasure and delaying death as long as possible?

This very different type of transnatural hope is by no means tied to natural youth. However, consistent with Jesus' statements regarding the importance of holy childlikeness, this hope "bestows on mankind a 'not yet' that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man's natural hope."

Looked at in this way, adolescents are more than a little hopeless before they gain real wisdom, and especially hopeless, or pathetic, if the condition persists well into adulthood, as it generally does in the tenured retardentsia.

Now interestingly, properly ordered (supernatural) hope has the effect of re-infusing, so to speak, natural hope, hence, the cheerful optimism of the Raccoon. We have discussed in the past how (↓) has a kind of "rejuvenating" effect, and how, for example, people literally feel "lighter" after attending a religious service. Indeed, if I wake up feeling "heavy," I always feel lighter after a post, which is one of the reasons I persist in these verticalisthenics -- to keep the existential pounds off, so to speak. I would no more give up the habit than I would stop exercising.

Pieper writes of "the enchanting youthfulness of our great saints," for "nothing more eminently preserves and founds 'eternal youth' than the theological virtue of hope. It alone can bestow on man the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, that adaptability and readiness, that strong-hearted freshness, that resilient joy, that steady perseverance in trust that so distinguish the young and make them so lovable."

Which is why we may say with Pieper: God is younger than all else.

And why we may say with Petey: Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM. The circle unbroken by and by, a Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes.

For in the end, hope is nothing more or less than a trusting and childlike Yes! to the Creator, and the faithful certainty that his creation is indeed good.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Little Big Man: The Humble Aspiration to Greatness

Continuing with yesterday's post, hope is "the steadfast turning toward the true fulfillment of man's nature," or the essence of (•) --> O. But Pieper adds that hope is ordered to two additional sub-virtues, as it were, magnanimity and humility.

I found his analysis here to be particularly fascinating, for at least a couple of reasons. First is the recovery of original, subtle word meanings that have become buried under centuries of use; and second is the way these words have a sort of geometrical relationship to one another, as I will proceed to explain.

I don't know about you, but in their contemporary usage, I wouldn't have seen any overt relationship between magnanimity and hope, or humility and magnanimity, but this is a fine example of how spiritual reality can become obscured when our words cease to effectively map it.

As mentioned in a recent post, magnanimity is "the aspiration of the spirit to great things." It is not only the "courage to seek what is great" -- and do remember the actual meaning of courage, as per our recent posts on that subject! -- but also to become worthy of the greatness one seeks.

In turn, this all speaks to the special nature of spiritual development, in which who one is is far, far more important than what one knows. Or, to put it another way, who one is places an upper limit on what one may know; in short, know-how is posterior to be-who.

I might add that this adage doesn't just apply to the spiritual dimension, but to the psychic realm as well. It first occurred to me early in my psychoanalytic training. Indeed, it is a thread that runs through Bion's works, and now that I think about it, it explains why it was so natural for me to simply apply Bion's ideas to spiritual reality -- to transpose them one Octave up, as it were, from psyche to pneuma.

The point is that you really cannot become a "healer of souls" unless you have recognized and healed your own soul-wound, otherwise you are just a pretender. You can have all the theoretical knowledge in the world (k), but that doesn't necessarily add up to an ounce of (n). This ultimately means that your theory must flow from genuine experience, or it is just words. And once the theory is severed from emotional/spiritual reality, it begins to drift away from the reality it is supposed to map.

Anyway, back to magnanimity, which Aristotle characterized as "the jewel of all the virtues," since at any particular moment it turns toward "the greater possibility of the human potentiality for being" (Pieper).

Having said that, if magnanimity is detached from humility, it can tend toward grandiosity, presumptuousness, and a promethean glorification of man only. Put it this way: if man is capable of great things, it is only because he is endowed by the Creator with a soul and spirit to aspire to truly great things (aspire is related to spirit).

Excuse me a moment.....

Little insulin reaction there. D'oh! That's the last time I'll take humalog (rapidly acting insulin) first thing in the morning. I've been fooling around with my regimen, seeing if I can get my A1c (the best measure of diabetic control) even lower than 5.3, which is probably impossible. Anyway, back on the record.

Here is how Pieper describes it: "Man's worth, as that of being possessed of a soul, consists solely in this: that, by his own free decision, he knows and acts in accordance with the reality of his nature -- that is, in truth." So the loss of supernatural hope entails the loss of O.

You might say that faith and hope are the penumbra of O. They are "implanted in human nature as natural inclinations," -- although I suppose it would be technically more accurate to say that these are transnatural inclinations, or tacit foreknowledge of the as-yet-undiscovered reality of O. Faith and hope are like "empty categories" to be filled by experiential knowledge of O, or what a Raccoon calls (n).

If magnanimity is working as it should, and our aspiration to great things is resulting in "closer proximity" to the Great Thing, or O, it should automatically result in humility, since one recognizes, first, that no genuine progress is possible in the absence of O, and second, the inconceivable distance between man and God, or (•) and O. Truly, the closer one is, the further away.

If humility is not operative, then pride and hubris come to the forefront, and then comes the fall, all over again. But to paraphrase Unknown Friend, when we fall in this manner, it is only back down to the ground, our ground, that is, the human station, which we never left anyway. And which is great enough as it is without making oneself a god.

So, it is no paradox at all to affirm that hope involves the humble aspiration to to greatness -- or to be a little big man.

Great Danes are like this, which is a big part of their charm. Simultaneously majestic, and yet, oh-so humble, even verging on low self esteem. Little Big Dog:

We are not worthy of a belly rub from the Master!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Crude Psychic Maps of Postmodern Barbarians

One of the underlying themes of Pieper's Faith, Hope, Love is the loss of meaning that has occurred with respect to certain words that are of critical importance to the spiritual journey (which we touched on in last Wednesday's post). When this happens, it is analogous to certain features of a map being erased, or perhaps like a painting that gradually begins to fade.

Conversely, thanks to language, the map of (•) --> O can be as detailed as a google map that shows the address of every saint and sage along the way. Christianity has been here for a long time, and Western civilization even longer. And the Transdimensional Order of the Cosmic Raccoon is so venerable that it disappears into the mists of the mid-twentieth century.

That's a lot of map making. But with the gradually increasing materialization and quantification of our culture over the past several centuries, it is very much the case that our exterior maps are more detailed than ever, even while the interior ones have become sketchy and impoverished at best.

I say "at best" because when a map loses its features, it becomes a kind of canvas for the psyche to project upon. Prior to the development of systematic scientific discovery -- the discovery of discovery -- the situation was the reverse, in that our exterior maps were vehicles of psychic projection. People projected all sorts of mind parasites in the form of mythical beasts beyond the boundaries of the known world. It is similar to how liberals imagine that anyone outside their familiar territory is a greedy, racist, and homophobic monster, as seen below in the depiction of conservatives swimming beyond the shore of academia and the MSM:

I remember Terence McKenna discussing this in a lecture. He said that early spiritual adventurers were analogous to worldly explorers, in the sense that their first reports are very empirical, and discuss the flora, fauna, and climate of the region. Only with repeated testimony are we able to put the reports together and create something like a useable map. In other words, if one explorer has described the landscape of El Salvador, it won't be helpful to the person who lands, say, at Plymouth Rock.

Obviously, the problem is only more complex in the multidimensional world of the human subject. Here we confront Hayek's "knowledge problem," in that we are also dealing with a non-linear system that has an infinite amount of information. Imagine trying to "map the economy." We can do it, but only with very crude statistics such as GNP, or money supply, or rate of inflation. And no one can say how the variables will interact in real time, so the system is fundamentally unpredictable. Nor do these statistics say anything about particular individuals, and certainly not about their interior states.

People who are "surprised" that Al Gore should leave his wife are simply naive about the unpredictable nature of the complex system of the psyche -- very similar to those loons and crackpots who think they can predict what the weather will be like in a hundred years.

Now, it is impossible to navigate in the absence of a map, of some kind of representation of reality, even it is just the sun or stars. In the absence of a map, one can only wander this way and that. This is doubly true of a human life, in that, if you don't know where you're going, you're sure to get there. Alternatively, if you don't change directions, you're likely to end up where you're headed.

In space there are six directions, north, south, east, west, up, and down. In psychic space, all orthodox traditions testify to the existence an enduring world of vertical space that has an up and down, which is represented on our map by Ø <-- (•) --> O. But there are many well known features between (•) and O, on the one hand, and between (•) and Ø on the other.

The problem is, modern man has tossed aside the most useful maps of this territory, which condemns him to drifting around in hyperspace like a born again caveman following his appetites. In so doing, he is "discovering" things that were well known by our furbears, and, more often than not, confusing these mere features of the landscape with the destination. Not only that, but the postmodern neanderthal, or proglodyte, often confuses a psychic hellhole with a vacation spot, or even a place to set up permanent residence.

The modern university is testimony to this kind of perverse mapmaking. At the very least, spending four years at one of these institutions should result not just in a diploma -- or license to steal -- but in an adequate map of reality in order to conduct safe passage on the human journey.

But again, more often than not, the university graduate emerges with a map that is even worse than the one he came in with (cf. Obama). He will quite literally not know up from down or inside from out or Israel from Iran. For example, to internalize deconstruction is to say that there are really no objective maps, that all the maps are based upon power, and that the map means anything one wishes it to mean.

Or, to internalize materialism is to say that there are no interior maps at all. Rather, if we can only obtain a detailed enough map of the exterior, that will automatically map the interior as well. Multiculturalism insists that the human map has no up or down, while moral relativism says that one man's map is another man's toilet paper (and vice versa).

As the old wise crack goes, the leftist dreams of systems so perfect, that no one will need to be good. This is no joke, for the essence of their pneumapathology resides in their defective map making -- the belief that all human problems can be located on their exterior map, and have nothing to do with morality. Problem with capitalism? It's a few greedy fat cats on Wall Street, as Obama said a couple of days ago. Problem with poverty? It has nothing whatsoever to do with the behavior of people who remain in poverty. There is no "map to success," such as staying in school, avoiding illegal drugs, and not having children out of wedlock.

Anyway, back to Pieper. In discussing human virtue, he is really describing the landscape between (•) and O, using detailed maps that have been preserved and developed over the past 2000 years or more. Again, virtue is "the steadfastness of man's orientation toward the realization of his nature, that is, toward good" and "an ennobling of man's nature that entirely surpasses what he 'can be' of himself."

To say that our orientation to the transcendental good allows us to surpass ourselves, is another way of saying that human beings are uniquely privileged to participate in the divine nature, so that the human adventure is ultimately a journey from image to likeness. This is where virtue, truth, meaning, happiness, and joy are all situated.

To be continued.....