Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Give Us This Day Our Daily Slack, As We Cut Some Slack to Others

Reviewing where we left off: "there are different levels 'within' God. It is not just God and World, although this can be a useful shorthand for people so long as they don't abuse the concept. But in reality, there is a vertical scale, with the Good at the top. In between the top and bottom is the murky world inhabited by the maninfestation of human beings -- a world that is deliberately made murkier by the sizable class of humans in whose interest it is to work under cover of darkness."

Probably critical to point out that this class of people doesn't just include the disorganized irreligiosity of the tenured and the organized anti-religion of the left, but much of organized and disorganized religion as well.

Oddly, denominations that tend to be looked upon as more authoritarian -- e.g., the Catholic Church -- actually both posit and mimic the cosmic hierarchy in structure. Love or hate the idea, but there is a Pope at the head because there is God at the top, but with lots of degrees in between.

The very opposite of this pattern is found in the radical split of Islam, where there is God and world, period. And Mohammed is his messenger, full stop. The existence of certain exceptional Sufis proves that this needn't be the case, but until that becomes the norm, we're going to have problems. Please note how the culture and the political structure follow the metaphysic of the religion.

Another idea occurred to me, which is that some Christians make a distinction between the economic and ontological Trinity, which might be a useful way to conceptualize and think about the Within and Without of God, or the Being/Beyond Being divide.

The economic Trinity of the without "refers to the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, etc.," while the ontological Trinity of the within "speaks of the interior life of the Trinity... without reference to God's relationship with creation."

Now that I think about it, this is probably the reason why the cosmos has a within at all. The exterior of the cosmos isn't as much of a mystery. Rather, it's the presence of an interior that freaks one out. But without an interior, there could be no exterior, certainly not one that could ever be known or freaked out about. The point is that the exterior is posterior and dependent upon the interior, for the converse could never be true.

Sure, this makes no sense to scientistic metaphysics, but scientism makes no sense to reality. Either way, "from the viewpoint of metaphysical intellection, the world has far less obviousness and intelligibility about it than the Transcendent Unseen" (Schuon). The interior is our true home; the exterior is a kind of exile, familiar and yet alien.

To say interior is to say subject and subjectivity. You will have noticed that human beings are inhabited by multiple subjectivities, both horizontally (i.e., mind parasites) and vertically (i.e., the ego/self or •/¶ distinction). In reality, we have only one subjectivity, of course, but it is refracted through the prismhouse of manifestation, similar to how God "becomes what he is not" (in a manner of speaking) by manifesting himself.

As it pertains to God, Schuon notes that we are "in the presence of two divine Subjectivities, the one belonging to the Absolute and the other already determined by Relativity..." And here is the key point: "while being intrinsically identical, they apply extrinsically at different levels, whence the possible appearance of a contradiction" (emphasis mine).

This can even take on the extreme form of a rebellion against God, for the world of relativity is necessarily a world of contrasts, mixtures, imperfections, and complementarities. In the end, it seems that all possibilities must be exhausted, even the most absurd (hence the truism that there is no idea so stupid that it isn't taught in some university).

Reader Verdiales anticipated this line of thought, supplying another passage by Schuon to the effect that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, we must remember (literally re-member, vertically speaking) that Creation is ultimately "made of goodness," which is to say "the existential unfolding of the Divine Qualities, hence too of all the goods that we know and can conceive, around us and within us."

Verdiales adds his own helpful wise crack, noting that "the basic idea in life/relativity/contingency is to hang out on a Raft of the unfolding Good as much as possible. Helping others aboard is good, too."

Precisely. This is to align our will with the Divine will ("on earth as it is in Heaven") and to arrest our fall into the "necessary but impermissible" shadows of mayaplicity ("deliver us from evil").

Speaking of prayer, this leads to questions of its purpose and efficacy, and the extent to which God directly intervenes in the herebelow to counter contingency, excess, willfulness, and just plain gravity.

This is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but I think Robert Bolton -- I forget in which book at the moment -- shows how alignment with the Divine will gradually exhausts the karma of one's past misdeeds, which allows the Divine energies (↓) to operate more directly in one's life.

And yes, as Bolton demonstrates with numerous passages, there are plenty of references to karma in both the Old and New Testaments, which you might say is nothing but cause and effect on the interior plane, prolonged into the horizontal.

These karmic seeds operate along different timelines, so that even after one is vertically reborn, this doesn't mean that bad things will stop happening all at once. Rather, some of the old seeds will still come to fruition in their season. And of course, no amount of personal divinization will remove every weed from your garden and transform earth into heaven.

Rather, we live in an orthoparadoxical world which, "taken as a whole is good because it manifests God," but "involves a partial and contingent aspect of badness because, not being God while existing nonetheless, it sets itself against God [the left] or tends to be the equal of God [the tenured]" (Schuon).

So give us this day our daily vertical sustenance to continue the journey, and please go easy on our karmic debts, as we cut some slack to others.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Within and Without the Godhead

In recent days, we have been discussing the principial distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, as a prelude to mapping the vertical reality in which man has his being.

Why does any of this matter, you might ask? First of all, we've only just begun lifting and deveiloping our pneumagraphy of the vertical.

But the short answer is that it is the only metaphysic that not only makes sense, but makes total sense. Not only is it true, but all truth -- both religious and scientific -- is grounded in it. If you have a better one, I'd be happy to hear about it. But most alternatives are ridiculously shallow, inconsistent, or incomplete, at least when they aren't refuting themselves (e.g., scientism, Darwinian fundamentalism, or any other purely horizontal metaphysic).

As nine out of ten whollymen agree, only the Good is ontologically real, while evil is a deprivation; likewise truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, freedom and slavery, liberty and leftism. In each case, the latter term is only a cosmic possibility because it is parasitic on the former.

Schuon reminds us of Augustine's self-evident dictum that it is in the nature of the Good to "communicate itself." Here we touch on an aspect of the Trinitarian Godhead, for what is the Trinity but eternal communion?

But at this point we would like to discuss this in more general and universal terms. Plus, we are talking about the "descent" of the Good, so to speak, as opposed to the Good that abides within the Absolute. In other words, it is one thing to say that "God is good." But how does so much good end up down here, of all places?

For unlike some of our competitors, we don't engage in the theidiocy of wondering how all the evil got here. Rather, we wonder about how all the virtue, love, truth, freedom, dignity, nobility, objectivity, and beauty got here, and how to obtain some peace of that action.

In speaking of "God's will," Schuon suggests that it matters whether we are talking about Being or Beyond-Being. One might say that Beyond-Being "wills" Being, and that Being wills creation. Perhaps a preluminary schematic would be of assistance:

Creation (or manifestation)

A key point, in the words of Schuon, is that "this manifestation by definition implies remoteness from its Source, so that in 'willing' manifestation, the Essence wills implicitly and indirectly that ransom which we call evil, on pain of not wishing to radiate or 'diffuse' Itself, precisely."

Again, if creation is to be -- a creation that is truly semi-autonomous and not just God -- then evil must be, even while being "impermissible." There is a reason why even in paradise there is a serpent -- who symbolizes the whole possibility of "falling vertically" further and further from the Source, even into the blind nothingness of pure evil and falsehood, i.e., hell. Here again: one might say that because God is, hell must be.

Schuon raises a subtle, but nevertheless critical point; not everyone will be comfortable with it, but I see no way around it: "[T]he Divine Will which wills moral good and for this reason forbids sin, is not the same as that which wills the world: the Will of Beyond-Being... wills the world itself, whereas the Will of Being... presupposes the world and exerts itself only within the world."

Sophists throughout the ages have tried to disprove the existence of God by saying that he is either omnipotent or good, but that he cannot be both, for if he can eliminate evil but doesn't, then he isn't good, and if he cannot eliminate evil, then he isn't omnipotent.

Here again, this is an illusory problem rooted in a false metaphysic, in which there is only God and World, which is then covertly reduced to just God. In short, it presupposes a kind of single-level pantheism, so that God is personally responsible for everything that happens.

But that is not how the cosmos works. And it is especially not how man works, since he has free will and is able to make the conscious choice between good and evil. Our free will is a legitimate gift, not some illusory side effect of God's iron will. Rather, we may obviously go against God's will, which is the only reason why we may align ourselves with it.

The cosmos is shot through with "degrees of freedom" which are the "residue" of the Divine freedom, so to speak. Thus, we see its traces to the very periphery of creation, for example, in the quantum indeterminacy, or in the upward thrust of the genome.

But the higher up the vertical scale, the more freedom. This, of course, presupposes that there is a virtually infinite range of freedom within the human being as well. Being that the human being is the microcosm -- a cosmos within the Cosmos -- he may be as enslaved to an extrinsic program as an ant, or as free as the saint or sage who has conquered illusion and aligned himself with the Real.

Schuon expresses the same point in another way: "Beyond-Being desires good as radiation, manifestation or world, whereas Being desires good as the participation of things in the Divine Good."

Yes, God is good, but in different ways, depending on one's perspective. Note that after the creation, God blesses it as good. This refers to Being itself, which is essentially good, in spite of all the mischief that will ensue as the result of a quasi-autonomous creation that is relatively separate from God. It is surely a core truth the mischief is ineveateapple.

Elsewhere I read of a good analogy. That is, I willed my son into existence. But I do not will the badness he does, even while knowing full well that he will inevitably do naughty things. Now you know why God weeps, especially now that we are going through this rebellious adolescent phase.

This also speaks to the critical distinction between guilt and innocence. Civilization cannot exist in the absence of a system of justice, even though it can never be absolutely just (rather, only God can). There are always "extenuating circumstances" if you look hard enough, especially with the development of modern pseudo-psychology, which can provide an alibi for anything.

Which is why the Christian is enjoined to love the sinner but not the sin. In other words, he is to judge acts and not souls.

You will note the cultural mayhem that ensues (and that did ensue) when this principle is ignored, and we engage in the impossible task of trying to judge souls, as the left has been doing for the past fifty years or more. We must understand criminals (except people of pallor, or white collar criminals), empathize with them, get to the "root causes" of their sociopathy and criminality.

Or, we must understand why the Palestinians and Islamists are such monsters. No, actually we mustn't. Rather, we must kill them, insofar as they insist on behaving like monsters, just it was necessary to kill Nazis and Japanese supremacists.

The left would like us to displace God and judge souls, which is strictly impossible for man. It is well above our paygrade, which is why it is preferable to stick with acts that we know to be wrong.

So, there are different levels "within" God. It is not just God and World, although this can be a useful shorthand for people so long as they don't abuse the concept.

But in reality, there is a vertical scale, with Good at the top. In between the top and bottom is the murky world inhabited by human beings -- a world that is deliberately made murkier by the sizable class of humans in whose interest it is to work under cover of darkness.

And the worst offenders are those whose job it is to radiate this truth, but instead propagate sterile relativism, malignant skepticism, and that pseudo-sophisticated god-of-the-saps known as blind chance.

To be continued....

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Space and Time, Harmony and Melody

This is music Saturday, which means that it's really more of an open thread, so you are free to ignore what follows, which is just a purely unpremeditated and improvised free association for the purpose of finding out where it leads.

I've mentioned before that in the course of writing my book, I had to race through so many other books that there are many I hardly remember reading. Actually, I remember reading them. I just don't remember much of what's in them. If they weren't useful for the purpose of mapping out the cosmic adventure, it was necessary to flush them down the forgettery, at risk of hopelessly cluttering my mind. Unlike a proper scholar, I only remember the things I need, and forget the rest.

A case in point is the book before me, Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Music and Mathematics. For Music Saturday, no particular topic popped into my melon, so I snatched this book from the shelf in the hope that perhaps it might cough up a worthy thought or two. I notice that the book is in my bibliography, but when you look up the author in the index (Rothstein), the name is there, but there are no page numbers afterwards. However, I used a quote of his on page 45.

All I remember is that the book, for some reason, did not address my immediate needs, which had more to do with the spiritual nature of music, and how the existence of music is sufficient to undermine any form of materialism for those with ears to see.

Hmm. Perhaps this is the problem: "Rothstein, who is both a mathematician and a musician, is currently the chief music critic for the New York Times." That's a pretty tough hurdle to get over.

As for the book's purpose, "In moving back and forth between the worlds of music and mathematics, he has frequently encountered the generally accepted notion that there are many connections between the two. This book attempts to explain why these connections are far from accidental or incidental and why they reveal something profound about the nature of each activity."

However, "for all his clarity, Rothstein does not ever really succeed in drawing them together." D'oh!

Let's see what some of the amazon reviewers say. You never know. Perhaps there's a Raccoon among them. This is helpful: "In all honestly, I have not read this book HOWEVER, let me tell you why I just purchased my copy!"

What kind of person.... never mind.

Here's another: "One way of defining music is that it's a... language for a lot of different things that people do with patterns of sound and silence. And one way of defining mathematics is that it's [a language] for a lot of different things that people do with pattern. By exploring the ways in which music and mathematics handle pattern, one is naturally pointed in other directions (weaving, art, science) that demonstrate how valuable it is to recognize and explore the inter-connectedness of apparently 'different' fields."

I don't like that way of putting it, because it's far too simplistic, even a kind of meaningless horizontal tautology: language = pattern recognition. So what? This pseudo-explanation must ignore the most shocking property of music, which is its ability to convey spiritual content through the medium of vibrating air molecules. In what kind of cosmos is such a thing even possible?


"It might be poorly written, but what can one expect from a mathematician?" Ouch. Important point, however, for there is no way one can write about the spiritual content of music unless one's prose is also able to directly convey a bit of that musicality and spirituality. In writing about such lofty matters, one's prose must literally "rise to the occasion," or else be "about" something much less than it purports to be.

Let's look at some of the passages I highlighted in the book. Here is a quote from the mathematician Marston Morse: "Mathematics are the result of mysterious powers which no one understands, and in which the unconscious recognition of beauty must play an important part. Out of an infinity of designs a mathematician chooses one pattern for beauty's sake and pulls it down to earth."

One could say the same of jazz improvisation, in which a there is a range of virtually infinite choice before one, and one must choose which path to follow, not just once, but on a moment to moment basis. Thus, it is more like "math in motion."

But to say that the process is "guided by beauty" is to take one well outside any realm reducible to mathematical mapping. Beauty is either spirit or it is illusion, just as the cosmos is either ultimately meaningful or it is absolutely meaningless. For the intellectually honest, there is no in between.

Music conveys things that mathematics never could. No one can use numbers to provoke a subtle spiritual state in another, or even a purely emotional state. There are no "sad mathematics," although I suppose one could argue that my tax returns qualify.

So right away the analogy between math and music is strained, because music uses math for the purpose of communicating things that are not math. No one is interested in purely mathematical music.

The materialized mind can touch the world of spirit, but cannot penetrate its own thick layer of ice. Of Beethoven, Rothstein observes that "in his late years, like a Newton," he was "voyaging in strange seas of thought, alone." Quite true, but what can this mean? What is this "strange sea of thought," and how is it possible for human beings to set sail for uncharted lands on it, to colonize new and unmapped areas which lesser humans can later inhabit?

No, that was not a rhetorical question, for the Raccoon takes it quite literally: the worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue are real worlds. They are discovered, not invented. Or, to be precise, they are simultaneously created and discovered, much in the paradoxical manner that God creates.

Here's a useful passage. In reading music, it is not a "purely linear" exercise; rather, "it involves the vertical dimension along with the horizontal, the first presenting a form of musical space, the second the progression of musical time."

The author doesn't pursue this where it leads, but it is actually quite useful to think of the vertical in terms of harmony and of space, and the horizontal in terms of melody and of time. Our lives necessarily partake of both; that is, our life is the warp and weft of horizontal and vertical influences (which is why one's "area rug of life" comes apart at the seams -- or never pulls things together -- without both).

Note that the vertical is pure harmony, thus, situated outside time. It is "static," like a single chord, but with an infinite number of instruments with different timbres and tones. Time is the drawing out of the implications of the chord in time, again, very similar to jazz improvisation.

It is not at all straining this metaphor to say that this complex horizontal chord consists of the archetypes, angelic powers, transcendentals, and other perennial realities which guide man, and toward which he is drawn. In other words, they are both origin and destiny.

But each person is a unique melody played with this timeless chord (a spacetime harmelody). We revere artists who are most successful at combining the two, say, Shakespeare, who "uniquely" expresses truths that are anything but unique. In other words, like all great artists, he expresses timeless truth, only in a uniquely creative manner.

Out of timelessness.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Myth of the Airy Godmother

To review where we stand in our full account and description of the cosmos: "we begin our metaphysical adventure before the beginning, with the necessary distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, or 'between the ontological and existentiating Principle and the supra-ontological essence' (Schuon). And the reason we begin here is because the Absolute is beyond name and form, untied by any tongue and untainted by anytroll."

So our first principle can't even really be Beyond-Being, since by definition it must also be "beyond principle" (or "the principle's orifice"). Thus, the first principle doesn't appear until Being, which one might say is the "first fruit" of Beyond Being (and don't think in temporal terms; this is all "taking place" in eternity, not unlike the relationship between Father and Son, in which the former is "prior," but not in time).

Not to immediately get all soph-referential on you, but you will note in the Cosmonaught section of your local Coonifesto, that in order to leave something to the imagination, the author takes a muddled position between respecting the veils of decency provided by mythological symbolism, vs. just "letting it all hang out." In other words, he presents it all in the form of a divine cosmedy, or Holy Joke, in which one is guided to truth by the higher knowing of the Guffaw-ha! experience.

This was also the playful approach of Meister Eckhart, although certain authorities obviously didn't get the joke. But not for nothing does the first black page of Cosmonaught: Before the Beginning not begin with a page full of nothing, and with Eckhart's orthoparadoxical wise crack about how "there is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing; rather unnamed than named; unknown than known.... higher than knowledge, higher than love, higher than grace, for in all these there is still a distinction."

I think that last line about no distinction is where certain unimaginative types can miss the point, and, for example, conflate this teaching with, on the one end, vulgar pantheism, or on the other, complete merger with God. I don't believe that that is what Eckhart is saying.

Rather, I think he's just making the sane point we are, and trying to reconcile the fact that we can both know God and not possibly know him. In one sense, everything that is not God is nothing, but in another, anything that is not nothing is God. Paradox. Deal with it.

Revelation is an explosive transmission from the heart of O, addressed to man (the eros shot into his cardiac center). Being that it is addressed to man, we shouldn't get carried away with certain formal properties that must be veiled in such a way that man can comprehend the inner message.

For as Schuon writes, "To be shocked by the anthropomorphic character of the Biblical God is logically equivalent to being surprised by the very existence of man [boo!], for the Reality we call 'God' necessarily assumes a human character on contact with the human being, though of course this cannot be taken to imply that it is human in its own aseity."

Elsewhere he writes of the potential confusion "brought about by the fact that on the one hand theology envisages God anthropomorphically, as if He were a human subject and that on the other, it claims to take the whole of the Divine Nature into account, which is incompatible with the preceding viewpoint."

So here again, in scriptural exegesis we must respect the distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, or what is traditionally regarded as the husk and the kernel, respectively. To take revelation only literally is to literally deny God, for one is isolating oneself on the human side of the distinction.

But again: Word becomes flesh so that flesh might become Word. This is the ultimate purpose of revelation, which is to say, salvolution -- which is nothing less than crossing the ascending bridge of darkness between natural and supernatural man.

And which is why it is written: Before caterpultering your buddhafly, lotus pray: last rung in's a written gag, so your seenill grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for my laughty revelation. If you can unpack that sentence, it truly contains within it everything we are discussing in today's post. See footnotes for assistance.

Also, note that a lotus is the beautiful flower that incongruously grows out of the filthy mud below, like wisdom from tenure (yes, I agree, but we exaggerate for didactic purposes).

Schuon points out that the Scholastics drew a distinction between an Infinitum absolutum and an Infinitum secondum quid, identical to our point, and similar to the distinction in Vedanta between Nirguna and Saguna Brahman, also the Kabbalistic distinction between the Ain Sof (the limitless Godhead) and the more distinct "God of Israel," so to speak.

Now, when we speak of "divine will," it very much matters whether we are speaking of Being or Beyond-Being. Looked at in a certain way, Beyond-Being is feminine, while Being is masculine; also, Beyond Being can be identified with the Infinite or the Divine Substance, while Being can be identified with the Absolute and with Essence (all in a manner of speaking, of course).

Therefore, following this ombilical line of thought, it is as if Beyond-Being -- the Divine Mother, the cosmic womb with a pew -- gives birth to Being, the Father, i.e., the Voidgin Boyth. Is this possible? Well, Eckhart certainly thought so. But even to this deity, people still don't get the yolk.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Silence About God Goes Without Saying

In order to understand the nature of the divine and human will -- and the distinction between the two -- it is absolutely necessary to get one's metaphysics right.

Indeed, if one does that, then in many ways the matter (and mind) clarifies itself, as certain consequences inevitably flow from one's first principles. Conversely, as Thomas wrote, "An error concerning the Creation ends as false thinking about God." Garbage in, tenure out.

These first principles are, of course, embodied in those tidings from the father shore known as revelation. In fact, this is one of the two central purposes of revelation, i.e., doctrine and method for the purpose of upward salvolution. In other words, revelation provides 1) an adequate representation of the cosmos in its vertical aspect, and 2) a means for ascending it back to the sOurce.

There was a time when it was unnecessary to spell it out in such a cutandry and wideawake manner, because man lived in an almost inconceivably different soul-environment (e.g., ancient or medieval times). Unlike Schuon, however, I do not necessarily believe that this premodern environment was "normative," partly because no terrestrial environment is going to be completely normative for man, who always bears within him traces -- or recollections, or memoirs of the future -- of paradise, i.e., Raccoon Central, or Toots' Tavern in the Sky.

This is why one can say without fear of cliché that it is always the best and worst of times. For example, while I deplore the backdoor judicial redefinition of marriage, I wouldn't even be here to see this fellatious judge's blow to the foundation of western civilization in the absence of modern medicine. It is always Even Steven.

My point is that there was a time -- just yesterday in world-historical terms -- that man was a qualitative being living in a qualitative world. Quantity doesn't really come into the picture in any appreciable way until the conclusion of the Middle Ages and the rediscovery of Aristotle. Again, Thomas's project in many ways involved trying to keep these two worlds -- empirical and spiritual -- from flying apart, but fly apart they did. As a result, man found himself living in an increasingly quantified -- which is to say, abstract -- world.

Thomas "emphatically accepted" the reality of this new, external world, and bent all of his intellect toward the articulation of a synthetic vision in which it could be harmoniously integrated with the vertical world, or the Great Indoor.

For it is not healthy for man to live in an analogical world of only symbols; but nor is it healthy for him to live in a barren world of pure quantity, stripped of its symbolic character. Rather, it is healthy for man to live in reality, which always includes both. After all, there is a reason why we have two very different cerebral hemispheres that resolve themselves into a Higher Third (or third I).

It cannot be overemphasized that this quantitative world is not the real world, nor is it man's proper world. Remember what we said above about doctrine and method vis-a-vis revelation. The quantification that ends in the misosophy of scientism or metaphysical Darwinism begins in method, but then reifies the results of that method.

These human abstractions are then seen to be concrete, when they are anything but. Just because this or that scientific theory can explain the phenomena under its aspect is no proof of its truth. There are countless false theories that adequately explain some aspect of the phenomenal world. In fact, the progress of science involves the successive discarding of false theories. No real scientist would ever conflate this method with "truth." To paraphrase Thomas, the clarity of one's terms should not blind one to the inexhaustible mystery of stuff.

This grave subject is covered in my book, so I don't want to undertake a re-hearse of that corpse here, dig? The point is that man's true home is the imagination. But this imagination must be furnished with the proper materials in order to function as it should, just as our innate reason cannot function in the absence of material provided from the extra-rational world. In other words, the choice of what to reason about cannot be reduced to reason.

Now, it should go without saying that revelation speaks to man's divine imagination. Which is why, if the Real Estate of one's mythopoetic imagination is enfeebled or foreclosed, one will be barred from the nonlocal world disclosed by revelation.

Remember, revelation is a means, not an end. Religion is always about something that is not religion. What we call a "religionist" is just the flip side of scientism. One might call it "religiolatry," since it turns one's religion into God, when religion is the means to God. See "Islam."

As Pieper writes, "we simply cannot succeed in living" in a world "wholly divorced from all supramundane calls. It is likewise impossible for us to live, without uneasiness, in terms of a 'religionistic' religiousness wholly divorced from all obligations to the world." Man lives under the auspices of two great principles -- or a Principle and its existential prolongation -- i.e., God and world.

But again, because man -- at least postmodern western man -- finds himself in this alien quantitative world, he needs to have things spelled out for him.

Thus, we begin our metaphysical adventure before the beginning, with the necessary distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, or "between the ontological and existentiating Principle and the supra-ontological essence" (Schuon). And the reason we begin here is because the Absolute is beyond name and form, untied by any tongue and untainted by anytroll.

You may think that this deustinction is unnecessary, but Thomas himself drew a bright cloud between the God we may know vs. God as he is in himsoph, and he was entirely correct to do so: "This is what is ultimate in the human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know God." God is mirrored in the herebelow, most especially in man, but an image is not the thing itself. We are only dusty mirrorcles of the Absolute.


To be continued....

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel of Karma

I suppose it is possible to deny free will, but only for someone who either denies or is unaware of the existence of the soul as causal agent. And I suspect that this is the true agenda of such a-souls or assouls.

For example, the soul is the greatest impediment to the left's inhuman agenda, since it means that man was made to be free, and that the purpose of his existence isn't just anything the state forces it to be.

This is the dreadful situation that prevailed for most of history: the state had the freedom and the power to rule over human persons, without having to bother with the consent of the governed. The state has never been at peace with this situation, and has been fighting back ever since to regain its prerogatives. Indeed, this is the common thread that unites premodern tyranny and the postmodern left. Extremists meet.

Offhand, I can't think of anything that proves the existence of the Creator more than free will. Other things are equal to it -- e.g., truth, beauty, virtue, beer -- but one routinely reads of hapless Darwinians who come up with theories to explain these away, lame though they may be. Free will is trickier, because one cannot prove it doesn't exist without proving it does. In this regard, I suppose it's similar to affirming that "truth doesn't exist," whereby the statement refutes itself (or the belief that all beliefs are a result of insecurity: TW Van).

It also reminds me of a story about Lord Kelvin, who was touring a plant that manufactured electrical appliances. His guide, who didn't know who he was, was explaining various properties of electricity. Lord Kelvin asked to be informed as to what electricity actually is, but the young man was stumped. "No matter," said Lord Kelvin. "That is the only thing about electricity which you and I do not know."

Just because we don't know what electricity is, that hardly disproves its existence, nor does it prevent us from using or abusing it.

Likewise, just because free will escapes quantitative determination, this hardly disproves its existence. Free will is by definition irreducibly qualitative, which I suppose is what irritates materialists so much. For one property that can never be derived from physics or biology is freedom, baby. It demands a metaphysic in which it plays a central role. Any metaphysic that denies freedom is a non-starter, because freedom cannot be reduced to anything less than itself.

As Stanley Jaki writes, just the intimation of free will is sufficient to belie mere material existence, "for in the final analysis, the elemental registering of free will almost exhausts whatever can be said about its reality." "Everything else is embellishment," because "it is irrelevant unless achieved and articulated freely" (emphasis mine). In other words, if there is no freedom, there can be no meaning. As Emerson wrote, "Intellect annuls Fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free" (in Jaki).

Some nagging trolls seem to be confused by the fact that freedom requires constraints, and is impossible in their absence. In an analogy we have used a number of times, the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are fixed, but not completely. As a result, we are able to use them as boundary conditions for the emergence of words. Likewise, words are the boundary conditions for sentences, sentences for paragraphs, paragraphs for plot and theme, etc. One could say the same of DNA or of the laws of physics, both of which are languages that permit the emergence of higher -- which is to say, freer -- realities.

Humans are the cosmic tipping point at which freedom trumps determinism, which then permits the conscious ingression of divine energies, or (↓). In man, God now has a conscious co-creator at the other end of the line (or "ray of creation").

And this is where all the love, truth, and beauty get in. Again, they do not -- and could not have -- come from below (i.e., the horizontal), only from above (the upper vertical). Like other fundamental transcendentals, the reality of free will brings one "face to face with that realm of metaphysical reality which hangs suspended in mid-air unless suspended from the Ultimate Reality, best called God, the Creator" (Jaki).

Free will introduces conscious purpose into the cosmos: no freedom, no purpose. Prior to the emergence of man, there can be only "God's purpose" or the purposelessness of laws of physics. But the Raccoon believes that these laws are not purposeless at all, but that they are analogous to the letters we use to create sentences (alluded to above). They are the cosmic scaffolding on which man will climb.

So the Raccoon takes a moderate position between necessity and freedom, law and adventure, harmony and improvisation. He denies neither side of the complementarity. Unlike the materialist, he does not deny the great realm of spirit, and unlike the naive religionist, he does not deny the great realm of matter, of manifest existence. Clearly, it requires both to make a man. This is hardly a new idea, as it was central to Thomas' metaphysic, in which body and soul go together like body and soul, hence, the significance of the Incarnation.

"... Thomas sees natural reality as divine creation which in the event of the Incarnation has been reunited... with its Origin" (Pieper). You might say that this is where the ↑ doesn't just meet the ↓, but where the two are intermingled in an inseparable manner; distinct with no divisions, you might say -- most importantly, between God and man. Thanks to the Godman, there is the cosmic possibility of the mangod, i.e., theosis.

Which will probably be misinterpreted by non-Orthodox Christians, for it hardly means that man becomes "God," only that he may participate in the divine nature. Or not. It's up to you. But it's only up to you because of your God-given freedom. In any event, we're talking about personal communion with God, not displacing him.

Here is how Father Anthony (Coniaris) describes it: "Thus, if we allow the dust in us to be animated by the breath of the Holy Spirit, then by God's grace we can rise from dust to image of God; from dust to likeness of God; from dust to sons and daughters of God," gradually (and endlessly) becoming (but not being) through grace what Jesus is by nature.

Interestingly, Father Anthony points out that anthropos is linked to a word meaning "to look up," while humanus is linked to a word that means "earth." This again speaks to man's uniquely dual aspect, of matter and spirit, freedom and necessity, dirt and divinity. As Gregory of Nyssa wrote, "Man's life is a strenuous and endless ascent toward God, that is, theosis." One could cite countless similar statements by the early fathers (as does Fr. Anthony).

This is the great Circle of Toots, of which Thomas was obviously aware, in which "there cannot be completion unless the last joins with the first.... Now since God himself is the first, and man the last among created beings," it is fitting that the completion of the universe involves God becoming man, through which the way is cleared for man to become divinized. Mission accomplished.

To be continued....

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fate, Luck, and Divine Will

I've always been troubled by unambiguous statements about "God's will," as if it could be no different than human will, or as if we could know it.

For one thing, although human beings can surely will, they can never know why they will, at least not completely. You may will, but you cannot will whatever you wish.

For example, all the will power in the world will not make you attracted to people or things that don't attract you. Or, if you do will it, you will just be running roughshod over parts of the psyche that want other things. Man is usually at cross purposes with himself, but could this be true of God? It seems impossible that there could be one part of God that wants one thing, and another part that wants something else. There are distinctions in God, but no divisions.

Being that we are in the image of the Creator, there must be some manner in which our will is analogous to God's. Perhaps it is just that we possess free will at all, conflicted though it may be. All other animals may will, but they do not will freely. They do not consciously entertain choices, much less between good and evil.

But there is a part of man that transcends this or that choice of action, and chooses between them. It would be extremely problematic to attribute this kind of free will to God -- as if there is an array of choices before him, and he chooses this or that one.

To the extent that freedom exists, it comes from above, not below, for the converse is impossible. The higher we travel up the vertical, the more freedom; the lower down, the less. In all of creation, human beings obviously possess the most freedom, at least until the left vanquishes the last remnant of it.

Since the source of our freedom is above, this would imply that God is absolute freedom. But what could absolute freedom mean, and how is it to be distinguished from complete arbitrariness? In other words, absolute freedom seems to devolve to absolute nihilism, which is one of the central points of the existentialists -- that man is condemned to freedom.

John Duns Scotus concluded that "Because God is absolutely free, everything that He does and effects has the character of nonnecessity, of being in a particular sense 'accidental' (contingent)" (Pieper). In other words, since God is radical freedom, there can be no "necessary reasons" for anything he does, which begins to sound more like madness than divinity.

Indeed, as Pieper says, the word "arbitrary" is "almost too mild a term for this will, which is conceived as being completely unconditioned by 'grounds' in the sense of reasons." God is radically spontaneous, like a free jazz musician, with no chords and no melody and no fans.

This then comes close to the Islamic view of a God that is completely beyond any human ability to know, and who simply "doeth what he will." Perhaps not surprisingly, this also comes close to a description of the ontology of psychosis, in that for the psychotic person, each moment is a kind of catastrophic novelty that comes out of "nowhere" and never ends. In other words, it is "eternal catastrophe," if such an oxymoron may be permitted.

To a large extent, this is the dilemma that Thomas attempted to resolve, for ultimately it comes down to how we may reconcile the vertical and horizontal, faith and reason, heaven and earth, transcendence and immanence. For a brief historical moment, the cosmic center "held" in the synthesis of Thomas, only to fly apart again shortly after his death.

This has led to the general situation of, on the one hand, fideism without intelligence, and on the other, intellectualism without intellect -- or, to the needless polarization of scientism and religionism. This is the great battle of the concrete and literal-minded for the soul of man. Little do they know that they are pulling on the same end of the rope civilization is at the end of.

Dennis Prager's most recent column discusses the element of blind luck in one's life. He writes that the older he gets, the more he appreciates just how large a role it plays:

"Let's begin with life itself. Whether one lives to 62 -- or to 92 (my father's age) -- and whether in health or in sickness is largely a matter of luck. I strongly believe in taking care of one's health, but for most people, living long and in good health is a matter of good luck. My wife's sister died of cancer at 35. The brother of my radio show's producer died of a brain tumor at 57. Friends of mine lost their son at the age of 13."

For some reason, many religious people are uncomfortable with the idea of luck -- one will often hear the banality that "everything happens for a reason," or that "there are no accidents." If there were no accidents, then we couldn't know it, because we would be programmed like robots, with no freedom to even entertain that possibility. Conversely, if God is radical freedom, then there is no reason for what he does -- or certainly no reason man could understand, and we're back wid' allah 'dat nonsense.

"As a religious person myself, I reject this outlook. Are we to believe that God chose every one of Mao's 75 million victims to die? That He willed the deaths of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust? That every person who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease or Multiple Sclerosis was chosen by God to suffer until death?

"That may indeed be the case. But for those of us who do not believe in such a God -- and I respect those who do -- all these people simply had terrible luck. I am alive because my grandparents came to America instead of staying in Eastern Europe, where they would have almost certainly been murdered in the Holocaust. They were lucky . And if one insists that they were wise rather than lucky, that somehow they realized that calamity awaited them in Russia and Poland, then my parents and I were lucky that they were wise" (Prager).

To be continued....

Monday, August 02, 2010

Israel Has No Right To Exist!

For this extensively rewordgitated repast, I'm retching waaaaaay back four years ago to a perennial internet favorite. In fact, according to my site meter, at least one disappointed anti-Semite googles their way to it every single day. It has only taken on more significance in the interim, what with a president who is so hostile to Israel.

One of the reasons so many Jews remain Democrat is because of a kneejerk fear of Christianity, which was perhaps once understandable. But the worst anti-Semitism obviously took place in Europe, and American Christianity is quite distinct from European Christianity, which has almost died out anyway. Now the European left is able to express its anti-Semitism directly, without the veneer of Christianity.

Conversely, the only Christianity Jews need fear is the kind practiced by Obama during his two-plus decades in Rev. Wright's Wee Church of Greedy Jews Run the World. And the most steadfast defenders of Israel are American Christians -- for which reason the left has put out the meme that this is only because some snake-handling yahoos think the apocalypse is around the corner or something.

As I have said before, the war between Israel and those who wish to destroy her is not just ideological, or about territory, resources, or any other tangible entity. Rather, this is a war that is taking place on a deeply spiritual level within the collective consciousness of the world; it is against principalities and powers, as one wag put it -- which is to say, it is archetypal. Indeed, you might even say that it is between "heaven and hell," or between celestial and sub-terrestrial forces.

You needn’t believe me when I say this. Rather, just apply it to the situation as you would any mundane academic theory and assess its explanatory power. In my view, the models and story lines we are given by the MSMistry of Truth and by the usual leftist academics are ridiculously inadequate to explain what is going on.

Israel is surrounded by enemies, both literally, in the form of her bloodthirsty Arab neighbors, and ideologically as well. Many on the left openly question Israel’s right to exist, deeming it an “historical mistake” (Richard Cohen) or the actual source of all Muslim grievances -- as if Muslims wouldn’t simply be at each others’ throats if Israel were obliterated, or as if Israel has anything to do with Muslim violence in the Philippines, Darfur, Malaysia, Spain, India, Singapore, and everywhere else in the world!

At bottom, the conflict between Israel and her enemies is easily explainable, and yet, this simple explanation exceeds the boundaries of human reason properly so-called, since it is irrational in its nature and infrahuman in its consequences. In other words, the explanation is not “beyond reason,” but prior to it. Quite simply, it is because the enemies of Israel are absolutely steeped in lies. They believe things about Israel that are not only untrue, but cannot possibly be true, to such an extent that the word “lie” is hardly sufficient to describe the phenomenon.

In this case we are not simply referring to “erroneous information,” or to something that is susceptible to being corrected. Rather, we are dealing with an ontological and spiritual lie that is at the very foundation of the culture -- and, by extension, personality. You might even say that we are dealing with “the father of lies,” in the sense that it is a primordial lie that then perpetually generates its own lies.

Therefore, just as with the left, it doesn’t matter how many lies you dispute on the surface, because a new one will rise to take its place. One can well understand why the Passover Haggadah -- the special prayer book for the Passover Seder meal -- says that "In every generation there are those who rise against us to annihilate us... " Those are always different people but representatives of the same spiritual force.

Grotesquely anti-Semitic scholarship is routinely produced by the academic left -- for example deconstructed historical narratives that blame Israeli actions for the irrational hatred directed it. But this worthless scholarship does not actually prove anything to anyone, any more than communist tools such as Noam Chomsky and communists full-stop such as Howard Zinn proved that the United States was responsible for the Cold War.

Rather, the only purpose of this propaganda is to serve up chicken soup for the anti-Semitic assoul. Anyone in their right mind knows that a Juan Cole or Edward Said are not real scholars, but that they simply fill a marketplace niche for anti-Semitic “product.” In this regard they are more analogous to political pornographers who cater to the market for anti-Jewish lust.

Let’s take the example of Mel Gibson. I don’t care about him as a person, and I have no interest in his particular case. Rather, I want to dispassionately focus more on the content of those things he uttered in his drunken rant. Where did they come from? How could such ideas -- which correspond to no reality -- even exist? But they do exist, and they have existed from the foundation of the world.

It is not about the Jews, but about what the Jews represent and symbolize. Because of what they symbolize, they attract and literally generate their opposite. Truth has no need of the lie, but the lie needs the Truth on which it is parasitic. Being parasitic, it takes its life-force from Truth, but then distorts it into its own image. Think of how the worst regimes in the world, say, Iran, still pretend that they are democracies. Same idea. Democracy does not need tyranny, but tyranny needs the illusion of democracy.

Gibson: “Fucking Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Again, not only untrue, but obviously impossible. On the other hand, because of the thought-blocking effects of political correctness, it seems as if people are incapable of making the banal observation that Islam is quite literally responsible for most of the wars in the world. As Samuel Huntington observed a few years back in his Clash of Civilizations -- and this was before the horrors that have been unleashed since 9-11 -- Muslims were participants in twenty-six of fifty ethnopolitical conflicts, and two-thirds to three-quarters of intercivilizational wars. Huntington concluded with the colorful statement that "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards.” But try saying that in a typical leftist university.

Again, Israel is hated because its enemies are not just liars, but so immersed in the Lie that they might as well be demon-possessed. Consider the charter of the PLO, which reads that Zionism is a "constant source of threat" to the entire world, "racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods." It is "strategically placed" to combat Arab liberation and progress, whatever that could mean. During a typically psychotic televised sermon, a Palestinian cleric taught that among the evil deeds of the Jews was the Holocaust itself, which was "planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy" (www.memri.org).

Similarly, the demonic charter of Hamas informs us that wealthy Zionists have taken over "control of the world media... they stood behind World War I.... They also stood behind World War II.... They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council... in order to rule the world by their intermediary" and "liquidate Islam." I am sure that most Americans don’t even have a clue about how desperately sick in the soul these people are -- including Islamist fronts such as CAIR, which masquerades as a "civil rights group."

One wonders if the average anti-Semite even knows that there are fewer than 15 million Jews in the entire world, which represents a whopping .227% of the population. Look at Afghanistan. It’s probably safe to assume that they are just as anti-Semitic as any other Muslim country, and yet, there is exactly one Jew living there. His name is Sy Goldberg, and he is very lonely and frightened. And yet, he has complete control of Afghan banking and media, and nobody can get a decent pastrami on rye without going through him.

In a column a few months back, Dennis Prager cited perhaps the most tragic statistic that haunts the human race. Throughout history, so many Jews have been murdered for being Jews, that “While the world's population is about 30 times larger than 2,000 years ago, the Jewish population has barely doubled. Had Jews been left alone to procreate at the same rate as others, there would be about 180 million Jews in the world today.”

“So what,” you might say. “People are people. It’s a tragedy when anyone dies.” Yes, but not all tragedies are equal in their cost to the advance of humankind. No one but their immediate families would mourn if all of the Iranian mullahs, Saudi princes, and CAIR spokesholes dropped dead tomorrow.

But in a recent post, I cited the evidence of Charles Murray, whose book Human Accomplishment demonstrates how, in nearly every important human endeavor -- biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, medicine, visual arts, literature, music and philosophy -- Jews are staggeringly over-represented given their small numbers. In mathematics the actual-to-expected ratio is 12:1. In philosophy it is 14:1. In physics 9:1. In medicine and biology, 8:1. Remember, these ratios are not just measuring the raw numbers of doctors, scientists and artists, but the number of truly great and significant ones.

So, what has the world lost due to its Jew hatred? A new source of energy? A cure for cancer and other deadly diseases? A key insight into the structure of the cosmos? God only knows.

Satan -- or whatever is responsible for the primordial rebellion against the light -- couldn’t be more pleased. Few things further his interests more than anti-Semitism.

Israel doesn't have the right to exist. Rather, it has the obligation to exist -- not for her sake, but for ours. And yes, for the sake of the genocidal fanatics who wish to destroy it, for the sun shines even on the wicked. I mean, even Juan Cole and Pat Buchanan like polio vaccine, right? And Iran isn't making Hitler's mistake, as they can't wait to develop a practical application for what he derided as "Jewish physics."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Solar Flares and Loony Tunes

This is just a ramble for Music Saturday. Feel free to comment on it or ignore it altogether and consider it an open thread on the subject of music and art.

Of the five senses -- sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell -- only the first two are associated with art and with aesthetic beauty. There are no olfactory artists who produce timeless smells, nor are there artists of touch.

Some might say that a gifted chef is an artist, but food is too closely connected to biological survival to qualify as art. Food may delight or entice, but it provides a kind of vital pleasure that is quite distinct from the pleasures of art. As Stephen Dedalus says in P of the A as a YM, eating provokes kinetic desire as opposed to aesthetic arrest. And there are some beautiful smells -- certain incenses, for example -- but they simply "are what they are," and don't point to or reveal anything else.

Why is this the case? First of all, how can two such diverse modes -- sight and hearing -- equally create the thing called "art?" Or, perhaps more to the point, what is art that it can express itself in two such diverse modes? Why are a painting and a symphony both called art? And why are the other senses excluded?

One of the classic definitions of art is that it combines, wholeness (integritas), harmony (consonantia), and radiance (claritas, which is similar to Plato's "splendor of truth").

Thus, painting and music can obviously embody wholeness and harmony, but it is difficult to imagine how the other senses could do so. For example, touch is inherently fragmentary; one cannot "touch the whole," nor can the fingers perceive radiance. And no one imagines that truth can be tasted or smelled (except in a subtle, analogical manner).

Let's go back to Joyce, who is speaking through Stephen: "An aesthetic image is presented to us either in space or in time. What is audible is presented in time, what is visible is presented in space."

The "mysterious instant" of aesthetic reception occurs when "the supreme quality of beauty... is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony." There is in "the silent stasis of aesthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which... [is] called the enchantment of the heart."

Schuon, who wrote extensively on the spiritual dimension of art, notes that of the five senses, the eye lends itself to a "particularly adequate correspondence with the Intellect," since it is more detached and objective, the least bound up with vital sensibility.

I'm not so sure about this, since for men especially, sight is the vehicle of the female form. 'Nuff said.

But in any event, he says that sight corresponds to the intellect in its "static and simultaneous" mode, while hearing reflects it "in its dynamic and successive mode."

He adds that the latter may be thought of as "lunar" in relation to the solar centrality of sight. This makes sense, since they say that females are more sound-oriented from the get-go. They are also more interpersonally connected, and yakking is the vehicle of this connection.

We all know that light and illumination are the universal symbols of divine knowledge and its acquisition, just as darkness connotes ignorance, stupidity, and tenure.

But here again, sound is not far behind. For example, in Vedanta they posit the primordial vibration of existence as AUM, while in Christianity it all begins with the Word. And this Word must be heard.

Perhaps vision conveys the image of eternity, while sound is the moving image of eternity. As Schuon says, aesthetics is "the science of forms," and music presents us with temporal form, or architecture in motion. But the form must convey what is non-formal, i.e., the supra-formal light -- and truth -- from another world. It is limitlessness expressed by a limit, or divine radiance expressed through wholeness and harmony.

Interestingly, Schuon writes that "ignorant and profane aesthetics places the beautiful -- or what its sentimental idealism takes to be beautiful -- above the true..." This leads to idolatry of beauty, and of "art for art's sake." But beauty should be for truth's sake. If it is not subordinate to something higher, it will be appropriated by something lower.

Without this element of truth, beauty has no intrinsic value. It is reduced to "subjective enjoyment -- a luxury, if one prefers" (Schuon). Contrary to postmodernism, which is the nadir of subjectivism, beauty "is objective, hence discernible by intelligence and not by taste."

This is no trivial matter, for if man's environment is filled with corrupt and deviated images, "he runs the risk of 'being' what he 'sees,' of assimilating the errors suggested by the erroneous forms among which he lives." In this sense, everything becomes pornographic, which simply means that it is drained of any and all spiritual content.

Sri Aurobindo says something similar in a letter to a disciple, that through sound or image, "in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly, there is a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight..."

However, "so long as one is satisfied with looking through windows, the gain is only initial; one day one will have to take up the pilgrim's staff and start out to journey there where the Reality is forever manifest and present."

Or, one must follow the light to the sun and sound to the moon, for "in a certain sense, the sun makes known space and the moon, time" (Schuon).


Any other Pharoah Sanders fans out there? Probably not. He's definitely among my top 10, desert island artists. Like Van Morrison but few others, he always plays from the Source. Audible and visible sOlar flares:

Friday, July 30, 2010

World. War. Three.

I'm reading a book that may have some relevance to our discussion of spiritual warfare against bad citizens of various cosmic dimensions, Philokalia: The Bible of Orthodox Spirituality.

In fact, spiritual warfare might be the unifying theme of the Philokalia, as it was originally written for monastics in pursuit of deification, which always involves purification, illumination and union. And purification is none other than declaring war on lower vertical influences and ridding oneself of mind parasites.

This particular edition is a greatly condensed and dumbed-down version that attempts to make the Philokalia more relevant to non-monastics and accessible to moderns.

For example, Fr. Anthony says at the outset that "the call to spiritual living" is addressed to everyone, but that each "must live the spiritual life in the context of their calling."

And not everyone is called to be a monk, or a priest, or a theologian. It's very similar to what the Bhagavad Gita says about being true to one's dharma. Some are called to be warriors, some merchants, and others householders. As they say, "following another man's dharma is a great danger."

One thing the left doesn't understand about military life is that it is a spiritual calling, like the priesthood. What could be more spiritual than killing evildoers and breaking their stuff?

The distaste for military combat is simply a mirror of the prior wimpified rejection of spiritual combat. The left surely engages in battle -- that's all they do -- but for them, the battle is wholly externalized, with no understanding of human nature and how it will spoil any victory for them. Thus we end up being physically governed by the spiritually ungoverned.

Real warriors understand the spiritual nature of combat -- you might say that they have heroically transposed the unseen combat of the spiritual world back down to the material plane. Thanks to them, we are free to pursue a life of unseen spirituality, instead of the visible kind.

Mind parasites are like seeds, but so too is our divine spark. Both require cultivation in order to grow and flourish. The Philokalia is absolutely opposed to the idea that one is suddenly "born again," and that's it. Rather, that's only the beginning.

Furthermore, as mentioned yesterday, vertical rebirth is not only an invitation to spiritual warfare, but a declaration of it. Conquering more territory results in sanctification, deification, salvation, and theosis, but the battle is never over. "It is a process of unending spiritual growth.... God's grace plus our own cooperation [what we call (↓↑)] lead to salvation."

Fr. Anthony: "Spirituality needs to be rediscovered today because if we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, there are many unholy, evil spirits out there waiting to rush in and fill the vacuum. It is not only nature but also the soul that abhors a vacuum. You will either be filled with the Holy Spirit and be free, or you will be filled with evil spirits and be a slave to them."

But importantly, Christianity doesn't really distinguish between worldly and spiritual domains, in that everything should be divinized: for God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

St. Theophan, the great 19th century Russian Orthodox mystic theologian and staretz, wrote that "the arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place, is our own heart and our own inner man. The time of the battle is our whole life."

I think that is a key idea, for there is simply no way to avoid this battle of a lifetime. Or, to be perfectly accurate, you can opt out of the battle on pain of squandering the purpose of your life and caving to the enemy.

You cannot be a conscientious objector in the war for your own soul, only an unconscious objector. You can lay down your weapons, but the Adversary will never put away his. You can be no one's enemy, but that doesn't mean you won't have enemies.

I think the purpose of spiritual combat is to transpose the constant battle of life to a higher key, so to speak. Just as, say, the sex drive is contained and transmuted through marriage, inner conflict is given new meaning by placing it on a higher spiritual plane, on which we polish and perfect our character against the rocks of adversity.

You don't really discover who you are or "what you're made of" until you're up against it. Therefore, to deprive man of adversity is to deprive him of the opportunity to grow and evolve, which is apparently the reason why we are here.

As Petey has explained it to me, angels pretty much know everything, but within a limited domain, and that's it. They cannot evolve, because there is nothing to clash with. Their lives are entirely non-friction, so to speak.

As Theophan wrote, "It was Saint Paul who repeatedly said that the Christian life is an athletic contest, and that we must always train for this contest. He also first likened the Christian life to a battle, and the Christian to a soldier; he described the discipline appropriate to such a warrior; his armour, his offensive and defensive weapons, and the internal and external enemies against whom he has to fight. The Bible is full of this doctrine and its related disciplines.... Most of these combats occur during purification, when man is divided against himself, the old man against the new."

Here's a bullet in: being a spiritual wussifist will not do. Rather, you must choose sides, declare war on yourself, and terminate your mind parasites with extreme prejudice. You can "study war no more," but you'll just end up some body's slave. True enough, God "loves us the way we are; but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are" (Cairns).

There is the world. There is a war. But there is a Third to assist us in the latter.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Tell Your Friends From the Demons

Tuesday's post generated some questions of how one distinguishes between angelic and demonic presences, on the one hand, and mind parasites on the other. In object relations theory, the latter are known as good and bad objects. As I've mentioned before, the word "object" is misleading, as it is a holdover from Freud's original theory, in which the young child regards other people as objects for the purposes of discharging instincts.

The classical psychoanalysis of Freud was a one-person psychology, whereas the modern psychoanalysis which grew out of that is a two-person psychology -- or, more to the point, intersubjective. Looked at this way, instincts are not just animal discharges, but links between two people. An obvious example is sexuality. For a normal human being, sex is not just an animal instinct that can be separated from a relationship. Rather, it is a link between two persons -- which is why only for humans can this link be loving, or sadistic, or perverse, or narcissistic, whatever.

This is only possible because we are intimately linked to the other from the moment we come into the world, just as we are linked to the atmosphere and physical environment. Just as we exchange food and oxygen, we exchange psychic "substances," so to speak, with others. And just as the physical nourishment we take in is used to build our bodies, the psychic nourishment we take in is used to build our minds.

But it is not just good things that are taken in. Rather, a frustrating, neglectful, or abusive primary relationship is also internalized, and becomes a "bad object." But because of the logic of the unconscious mind, the person can identify with either pole of the bad object relationship, and project the other side into someone else, to whom he remains linked. Which is why one person can become an emotional sadist in search of masochistic victims, while the other becomes an emotional masochist in search of sadists.

Now, these good and bad objects result from our horizontal openness to others. Religion results from the fact that we are also open systems vertically. In a letter to a disciple, Schuon talks about the moment in life when a man makes the decision "to realize a permanent relationship with his creator" and "to become what he should have been" all along, whether we call this state "salvation" or "union."

But after the initial enthusiasm subsides, in many cases "the aspirant is unaware that he will have to go through difficulties he carries within himself which are aroused and unfolded by the contact with a heavenly element." Very similar to what Sri Aurobindo taught, the "lower psychic possibilities -- quite evidently incompatible with perfection -- must be exhausted and dissolved." This is known as the "initiatic ordeal," the "descent into hell," the "temptation of the hero," or "spiritual combat." In Vedanta, it is called the fire of "tapasaya," which refers to the burning that accompanies the dissolution of these patterns and knots.

And as I mentioned yesterday about discerning the plane from which the difficulty is arising, Schuon says that the psychic elements that are unfit for consummation can be "hereditary or personal." Or, they can result from our own will, or, conversely, pressure from the environment. In any event, they generally take the form of "a discouragement, of a doubt, of a revolt," and the important thing is to not further empower them by "embarking on the downward slope of either despair or subversion." One must detach and fight back, not build an errport for these parasitic thoughts to land and establish a beachhead in your head.

In an essay on Trials and Happiness, Schuon points out that "a trial is not necessarily a chastisement, it can also be a grace, and the one does not preclude the other. At all events, a trial in itself not only tests what we are, but also purifies us of what we are not." Just think of all the things you thought you wanted at the time, but which would have been disastrous if you had gotten them. As they say, more misery is caused by answered prayers than unanswered ones.

Who we are is up ahead, not behind. It reminds me of mountain biking. In order to avoid a crash, you should generally not look down at what you're trying to avoid, but up ahead ten or twenty feet. By focussing on where you want to go, you'll keep your balance and automatically avoid the obstacles.

Similarly, as Schuon says, "we have to avoid becoming hypnotized by the surrounding world, for this reinforces our feeling of being exposed to a thousand dangers." It is as if we are on "a narrow path between two abysses; when looking to either side one risks losing one's balance." Instead, one must "look straight ahead and let the world be the world," or "look towards God, in relation to Whom all the chasms of the world are nothing." This is the meaning of Jesus' statement that "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Schuon also talks about the distinction between the "trial by water" and "trial by fire," the former essentially involving the siren song of temptation, hypnosis, and seduction, the latter the dragons of the unconscious mind and the dreaded General Law.

I first came across the idea of the General Law in Mouraviaeff's Gnosis. I don't know if there is actually a General Law in the cosmos, but there might as well be. He begins with Origen's comparison of the cosmos to a living organism, the soul of which is God, the "soul of souls." He then asks what the purpose of human existence could be. On the one hand, it could be "an element of the universal organism," serving its aims; or "an isolated individual" pursuing his own aims.

If we compare the human being to a cell in the body, the cell is subject to two categories: "The first keeps the cell in its place. In esoteric science we call it the General Law. The second leaves a certain liberty of action for the cell, and is called the Law of Exception." I'll skip some of the details, but as it pertains to humans, the General Law allows man a certain margin of free movement. Although objectively limited, the limits appear subjectively vast to horizontal man, who "can give free rein to his fantasies and ambitions" within their bounds -- what you might call the "bourgeois happiness" of the tenured:

"As long as man accepts the principle of the final annihilation of his personality without a fight, he can carry on in life without attracting the increasing pressure of the General Law upon himself."

Ah ha! This would explain why the sub-Raccoon population seems so blandly content. They have no idea that their lives are subject to the General Law. They don't rock the cosmic boat, and therefore do not attract the attention of the authorities.

But dash it all, wouldn't you know "the case is totally different if he struggles to surpass the limits which [the General Law] imposes.... It acts simultaneously on several planes: physical, mental and moral. Its action on the moral plane is conceived by man, since time immemorial, in the form of a personification: the Devil."

Now, in the Orthodox Christian tradition -- which I suppose we'll be getting into later -- there is much practical consideration and advice on how to deal with the provocations of the General Law, i.e., how to wage hand-to-hand combat without hands. In any event, it is a commonly encountered pattern that "once positive results are obtained," the seeker will "unmistakably run up against the opposition of the law and the game of the Crafty One."

Pleased to meet me, hope I guess my name!

Again, you can debate about the ontological basis of all this, but as far as the phenomenology goes, it is identical in form to the resistance that is universally encountered in psychotherapy. As soon as you make a move toward health, a legion of internal propagandists and saboteurs will be aroused from their slumber to block the way. Likewise, by "placing himself under the aegis of the Law of Exception, man goes against the General Law, which he is even called upon to overthrow, if only on an individual scale." The seeker must remember -- "under penalty of surprise attacks" -- that "salvation depends on victory over the Devil," which "is the personalized aspect of the General Law."

In other words, to live outside the law, you must be honest (Dylan). Whatever you do, don't engage in autokidding, or pulling the wool over your own I's. You must show proof, including three forms of disidentification, that you are a worthy candidate to defy the authority of the General Law, because as soon as you defy it, you'll get it from all sides.

The Law of Exception is a narrow way, more difficult than it is for a Camel to pass through the lips of the surgeon general, but it's where the razoredgeon is.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adrift in Time with No Vertical Compass

This is the best kind of repost: an old one that not only provoked few comments, but that even I don't remember writing.

In his book From the Divine to the Human, Schuon has a chapter entitled To Refuse or Accept Revelation. In it, he points out that the reason people freely accept revelation is obviously not on empirical or (merely) rational grounds, but because man is a form of Truth, and therefore disposed to comprehend the divine message in spite of the objections of his own ego. In a way, the fact that we may comprehend revelation so deeply, proves the deiform nature of man and the divine object of which he is a distant reflection.

Schuon points out that in all orthodox religions there are two domains, one which "must be," and one which "may or may not be," and therefore doesn't necessarily have to exist. The former is that of dogma, the latter interpretation and elaboration. For example, just yesterday I was reading in Steinsaltz's In the Beginning about the distinction between the written Torah and the oral Torah.

In kabbalistic terms, the written Torah corresponds to wisdom, the oral Torah to understanding. The former is a numinous flash, a "nucleus" of all knowing, but only in potential. "Only afterwards does Understanding clothe this insight with the length and breadth of reason and make it comprehensible and communicable."

Steinsaltz writes that "the process is not unlike conception and giving birth: the original fertilized cell contains all, but it has to be lodged in the womb and developed." Similarly, Schuon thinks of revelation as a vertical ingression into time, while tradition is its horizontal extension or prolongation within the womb of time. There is (↓) and there is (→), and they shouldn't be conflated. Both are necessary, but in different ways.

This is why, while revelation must be preserved, it must also be interpreted and elaborated. Otherwise, it would be analogous to removing the fertilized cell from its nurturing environment and expecting it to be self-sufficient. As Steinsaltz writes, "Written Torah needs endless amplification, study, and clarification. There are infinite layers of meaning, depthless beauty," and new modes of experiential comprehension to be revealed, which is to say, O → (n).

While one receives the written revelation passively, so to speak, the oral revelation "proceeds to act on it, engaging in critical thinking" and "deep experiencing." And unlike the written Torah, which is fixed and not given to change, the oral Torah "can be altered and improved and is constantly being enlarged, added to, re-created, and enhanced by ever higher levels of experience."

Again, (↓) is unchanged, but it is continuously being refracted through (→). Indeed, this is one of the central tasks of theology, to show how (↓) is still relevant (to say the least) despite the inevitable changes brought about in (→). If one's theology doesn't keep up with (→), then soon enough, people will conclude that (↓) is outdated and of no possible relevance to them, at which point they will transfer their allegiance to (→). Game over. The secular clock jockeys and Marxist time zombies have won.

This is precisely what I meant when I made reference to the transitional, generative space that exists between revelation and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study has the identical pneuma-cognitive structure of science, the latter of which you might also say has a "written revelation" and an "oral revelation."

The "written revelation" of science is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the "oral tradition" -- takes place in the space between this fixed Object and our own evolving Subject, which mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels, as if the one were a deep reflection of the other. Which of course it is. The world was made to be known, or it couldn't be.

Now, the written revelation may be thought of as "day," the oral as "night." The wisdom of revelation manifests itself in the light of day, but may only be understood in the darkness of unknowing. In short, there is "daytime" knowledge and there is "nighttime" knowledge, and one must understand the distinction.

As Steinsaltz says, "the day is the time for receiving the light, and the night is the time for creating. There is a time to perceive, to look out and absorb things, and there is a time to develop what has been absorbed and even to fashion new things out of this knowledge." Steinsaltz compares it to a photograph, in which the film of the camera absorbs a bit of the light. But then you must enter your dark room in order to "develop" it.

It is no different with the pneumagraph of our indvidual lives. For genuine knowledge can only be gestated in the nighttime womb of the soul. Irrespective of how much daytime knowledge (k) one possesses, without the night vision to complement it, one will not "see." This latter condition is what we call slackular degeneration.

For the Raccoon is a gnocturnal creature, don't you know. For us, the daytime light is so intense, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We actually "see" the light better in the dark. Conversely, many anal-type materialists reject religion because they are either night-blind or afraid of the dark. But our spiritual essence is exactly analogous to the flash of (↓) or the fertilized cell. Our life is the elaboration of this (↓) in (→). God help the man who has become detached from the ombilical cord of (↓) and is adrift in the mayaplicity of (→). I don't pretend that I can.

The day and night also correspond to "outer" and "inner," part and whole, letter and spirit, geometry and music. Paradoxically, wholeness can only be seen by night, when all of the apparent, well-defined parts blend together and interpenetrate. By day, we see only fragments, but by night we are able to intuit the whole and dream the metaphysical dream by which the day may be creatively illuminated by the higher darkness.

Here is the essential difference. The spiritually attuned person, the poet, the true artist, all live and breath by night and communicate their vision by the light of an intense beam of darkness. Conversely, the atheist, the materialist, the radical secularist -- all live by day and are blinded by the true light of darkness. And being that they cannot think by night, they dream by day -- which is to say, sleepwake -- through their lives.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It Takes Two to Lingo: Word Became Flesh So that Flesh Might Become Word

I wouldn't say I'm burned out. However, I'm not really fired up about anything in particular, and where there's no fire, there's no smoke to blow up anyone's behind. So I dipped down into the arkive and pulled out a three-year old post for the basis of a new one. However, I never just repost something without using it as an occasion to rethink it for the first time and to extensively revise. Or vise, I guess.

Well then, it all comes down to consciousness, doesn't it? What is it? What's it doing here? If consciousness is just a fluke, a total cosmic accident, what makes us think that it can truly know anything, much less the truth about itself?

Schuon wrote that "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and of our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing. Among all the intelligences of this world the human spirit alone is capable of objectivity, and this implies – or proves – that what confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish, and what makes it wholly what it is, is the Absolute alone."

Along these lines, he quotes Dante: “I perceive that our intellect is never satisfied, if the True does not enlighten it, outside which no truth is possible." In other words, we can only know truth because we are grounded in Truth.

Consciousness is constituted of awareness; intelligence; will; and sentiment. Am I forgetting anything? As mentioned yesterday in the brief discussion of Schopenhauer, human beings have an automatic bias toward concretizing the explicate aspect of their own consciousness, which we call the ego. But the ego is only the local constellation of a much more encompassing, nonlocal "implicate" consciousness, which includes the lower and higher vertical. The totality of human consciousness is unconscious-conscious-supraconscious.

Analogously, the ego is like a discrete cloud appearing against a clear blue sky. We focus on the cloud, but do not see that it is simply the end result of a global weather pattern -- a small "ripple" against a vast and unbroken substrate of nonlinear meteorological processes.

Or better yet, compare it to an ocean current. Imagine reifying the current, and thinking that it is somehow separate from the ocean that produced it. This goes not just for the ego-island atop our own little pond of consciousness, but the presence of human beings within the cosmic ocean that tossed them up like a tangle of seaweed upon the shore.

But exactly where do we draw the line with regard to consciousness? Presumably there is an absolute barrier between the consciousness of one person and another. Therefore, we invented language in order to link minds to other minds. But that is not exactly how language works. Rather, language is very much like consciousness itself, in that it has an implicate/explicate order -- in other words, its particular meanings rest upon a much deeper kind of holographic field that unifies us within language as such. We are all "members of language," which is what makes deep and resonant communication possible. It is "in" us, even while we are in it.

I see this vividly in my two year old son, who is in the midst of "language acquisition." He has always been extremely talkative, even though his speech had no discernible content. While it had pitch, modulation, emphasis, dramatic pauses, musicality, and even humor, he seemed to be using a private language. Some days it sounded like Chinese, other days German, but it was nevertheless possible to have lengthy, animated conversations with him merely by mimicking his speech patterns.

In my opinion, what the boy was doing was laying down the implicate order of language, in which he first links up directly with other minds. Only afterwards are actual words superimposed upon this deep connectedness. So on the one hand, language "divides" the world into units of meaning, but it rests upon a sea of primordial, holistic interconnectedness. Language doesn't "invent" the interconnectedness so much as take advantage of it and ride piggyback on top of it.

The oneness is our prior condition, which is why it is possible to say "I love you" in a way that actually bridges the separation between two people. Recall our recent discussions of the ultimate reality of communion; better yet, think of how this is predicated on a logoistic cosmos in which the word has become flesh, so that to communicate is to reverse this process, and transform flesh into word: word became flesh so that flesh might become word.

This is what makes humans so different from computers, which also "talk" to one another, but not in this intensely holographic manner that unifies the communicants on an implicate level. In fact, there are many people and trolls with various cognitive, emotional, or spiritual disorders who use language more like a computer than a human being. We might call them "autistic," "schizoid," or just a little "off," but what they lack is a feel for the music that exists beneath the words.

Furthermore, this is one of the primary barriers to accessing the world of meaning present in religion. The obligatory atheist or doctrinaire materialist is, for whatever reason, unable to "read out" what is being conveyed through religious language and imagery. Instead, they reduce it to its explicate form, which immediately forecloses the implicate and renders it nonsense. It's so easy, even a caveman can do it.

As we discussed a couple of days ago, it is not so much that there are two realms -- conscious/unconscious, implicate/explicate, or phenomenal/noumenal -- but different ways of looking at the same thing. For example, while the purpose of psychotherapy is to "make the unconscious conscious," it is not as if one can ever know the unconscious directly. Rather, one merely begins to look at oneself -- ones actions, beliefs, and feelings -- from a different "angle," so to speak, which in turn reveals a world of hidden meaning. But it's the same world. There are no bright lines in the mind. There is a degree of unconsciousness in every act.

Likewise, to enter the realm mapped by religion is not, strictly speaking, to enter another world, but to regard the same world from a different perspective. There is only one world. However, it can feel like another world, simply because the focus has shifted from the explicate to the implicate side of things; to put it another way, everything about religion bears upon the complementarities that create the possibility of the empirical ego to begin with: whole vs. part, eternity vs. time, One vs. many, Absolute vs. relative, wave vs. particle, consciousness vs. matter, etc. The ego always exists "in between" these various complementarities. To default to one side or the other is to deplete one's life.

Now, another way of looking at this is that we must discern between the created and uncreated aspects of our own consciousness, or between the Intellect (the nous, not the lower mind) vs. the ego. As Schuon writes:

"The Intellect, in a certain sense, is ‘divine’ for the mind [i.e., ego] and ‘created’ or ‘manifested’ for God: it is nonetheless necessary to distinguish between a ‘created Intellect’ and an ‘uncreated Intellect,’ the latter being the divine Light and the former the reflection of this Light at the center of Existence; ‘essentially,’ they are One, but ‘existentially,’ they are distinct, so that we could say, in Hindu style, that the Intellect is ‘neither divine nor non-divine,’ an elliptical expression which doubtless is repugnant to the Latin and Western mentality, but which transmits an essential shade of meaning. However that may be, when we speak of the Heart-Intellect, we mean the universal faculty which has the human heart for its symbolical seat, but which, while being ‘crystallised’ according to different planes of reflection, is none the less ‘divine’ in its single essence."

Now the heart is an interesting organ, for it has always been the symbol of man's implicate consciousness -- that which joins as opposed to the brain, which separates, distinguishes and analyzes. Do you remember your first broken heart? Exactly what was broken? I don't know about you, but for me it was the entire unity of being. Suddenly I was a cosmic orphan, disconnected from the very source of Life and Love.

But subsequent therapy revealed that this broken heart was superimposed upon an earlier brokenness, or primordial disconnection, and that it was simply the "occasion" to realize it. In fact, the "falling in love" itself was an attempt to recapture the broken unity, which was one of the reasons why it was charged with an intensity well beyond what was healthy or appropriate.

It reminds me of something one of my psychoanalytic mentors once said about relationships. Unhealthy people always want to go from twoness to oneness. But a healthy relationship involves going from solitary oneness to shared twoness. If you try to use the other person to complete yourself, you are headed for trouble of one kind or another. The idea is to complement a self that is already reasonably whole, and then to create a higher wholeness -- or communion -- of two.

But there is horizontal wholeness and vertical wholeness, and no human being can achieve the latter in the absence of some kind of active spiritual life. In this respect, we do want to go from being two to being -- or realizing -- One. But here again, it is the illumination of Oneness, not merely the elimination of twoness.