Saturday, August 14, 2010

Painting With Sound, Playing With Color

It's Music/Open Thread Saturday, but no particular topic or direction comes to mind. I was flipping through a few books, and found this little nugget of Schuon. He points out that some forms of art are static and objective, others dynamic and subjective.

For example, painting, architecture, and sculpture are both static and objective: "these are above all forms; their universality is an objective symbolism of of these forms."

I don't remember much of the art classes I took in college, but I do remember analyzing various masterpieces for the balance and harmony of elemental forms beneath the image. If I'm not mistaken, abstract expressionists such as Kandinsky were aiming at revealing the "form of form," or pure form, so to speak.

Better look it up: Kandinsky "developed an intricate theory of geometric figures and their relationships, claiming, for example, that the circle is the most peaceful shape and represents the human soul" (wiki).

But in Kandinsky's case -- and contrary to Schuon -- he was specifically aiming at an art that was dynamic, subjective, and musical. According to the wiki article, he related the act of painting to creating music, writing that "Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." Indeed, "music is the ultimate teacher."

The article goes on to say that the influence of music was very important to "the birth of abstract art, as [music] is abstract by nature -- it does not try to represent the exterior world but rather to express in an immediate way the inner feelings of the human soul. Kandinsky sometimes used musical terms to designate his works; he called many of his most spontaneous paintings 'improvisations,' while he entitled more elaborated works 'compositions.'"

If there are visual artists who compose music, are there musicians who paint in sound? Miles Davis comes to mind. He really uses the trumpet like a paintbrush.

Now, this is interesting: "Kandinsky felt that an authentic artist creating art from 'an internal necessity' inhabits the tip of an upwards moving triangle. This progressing triangle is penetrating and proceeding into tomorrow." Or, one might say, into the vertical.

The artist/prophet "stands lonely at the tip of this triangle making new discoveries and ushering in tomorrow's reality. Kandinsky had become aware of recent developments in sciences, as well as the advances of modern artists who had contributed to radically new ways of seeing and experiencing the world."

More generally, Kandinsky "compares the spiritual life of humanity to a large triangle.... The point of the triangle is constituted only by some individuals who bring the sublime bread to other people. It is a spiritual triangle which moves forward and rises slowly, even if it sometimes remains immobile. During decadent periods, souls fall to the bottom of the Triangle and men only search for external success and ignore purely spiritual force."

Sounds to me like what we call (↑), which is the spiritual aspiration that penetrates O and is met by (↓). In fact, I used a quote from Kandinsky on p. 94, which was just perfect for what I was trying to say about genetically human animals evolving into the transcendent and nonlocal space of true humanness. He is talking about the development of his art:

"I was like a monkey in a net.... only with great pain, effort, and struggle [↑] did I break through these 'walls around art,' which like that of nature, science, political forms, etc., is a realm unto itself, is governed by its own laws proper to it alone, and which together with the other realms ultimately forms the great realm [O] which we can only dimly divine."

This (↑) is the "inner necessity" of the striving artist. It is is for Kandinsky the principle which facilitates "contact of the form with the human soul." "This inner necessity is the right of the artist to an unlimited freedom, but this freedom becomes a crime if it is not founded on such a necessity. The artwork is born from the inner necessity of the artist in a mysterious, enigmatic and mystic way, and then it acquires an autonomous life; it becomes an independent subject animated by a spiritual breath." It is the fruit of what we call (↑↓) or O→(¶).

Recursive Cosmic Fractal or Great Attractor? O generating ʘ reflecting O attracting ʘ:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Survival of the Luckiest

Well, I finished The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Although it started off fresh and compelling, it flamed out about two thirds of the way through, which is often the case. Writers usually just submit their first chapter to a potential publisher. Not only does it contain the essence of the book, but it is always the most polished, because the author is trying to make a powerful impression. But rarely do I read a book that is good from beginning to end and leaves you wanting more.

In fact, this guy leaves you wanting a little less. He's such an unpleasant personality -- something noted by many amazon reviewers -- that you wish he'd just get to the point and leave out the personal details. He comes across as pompous, self-important, juvenile, and probably clinically narcissistic. But his worst offense is that he violates Godwin's Law throughout the book: that those who aren't funny shouldn't try to be. He's aggressively and repetitively unfunny.

As to the theory itself -- well, it's not so much a theory as an observation: that we are constantly surprised by events because of limitations of our knowledge. The title of the book comes from the idea that it takes the sighting of only a single black swan to disprove the theory that all swans are white, regardless of the millions of white swans that have been observed.

And this speaks to the problem of induction, which we use to guide our lives. We're always generalizing from what happened, and what happens is what usually happens. Thus, we're always surprised by what doesn't usually happen.

Hmm. When you put it that way, it sounds pretty banal, doesn't it? A number of reviewers said that the book could have been condensed into a magazine article, and perhaps they're right.

But as is often the case, I found that I can use a lot of his ideas for my own purposes, in a more encompassing theory of which the author would no doubt disapprove. Again, he gives no indication of being a believer, and indeed, in my experience, most believers would have difficulty accepting his thesis of randomness.

But I would turn this around and say that if not for randomness, evolution, progress, free will, and ultimately spiritual growth would be quite impossible. In other words, if we were wholly constrained by physical law in a deterministic manner, there would be no possibility of the emergence of true novelty. In my view, randomness and uncertainty are where the final causation -- or destiny -- gets in. We do not create our destiny. Rather, it draws us toward it, ultimately into the Great Attractor.

For Taleb, a Black Swan is defined by three properties: rarity, high impact, and retrospective predictability. He uses the example of World War I, and "how little of your understanding of the world on the eve of the events of 1914 would have helped you guess what was to happen next."

Or, one might cite the collapse of the Soviet Union, or the British Invasion of 1964, or the rise of self-publishing from one's home computer. No one saw these things coming. They are only explained in hindsight. But even then, the explanations tend to be arbitrary or ideological, with this or that scholar "connecting the dots" in a way that comports with their own world view.

But again, thank God for the possibility of Black Swans, for as Taleb points out, "Literally, just about everything of significance around you might qualify." Indeed, all you have to do is examine your own life for the chance encounters that "changed everything."

But this also applies to science, which is hardly the linear and continuous enterprise it's made out to be. To the contrary, more often than not, the researcher "discovers" something he wasn't even looking for, anything from penicillin to the background radiation that proves the big bang.

This was something discussed by Michael Polanyi, one of our foundational Raccoon thinkers. He observed that science could never be controlled from the top down, but could only emerge from the bottom up, as a spontaneous order. He noticed that leftist governments didn't allow the freedom and spontaneity for true science to emerge.

The left wing abuse of science continues today with everything from "climate change" to "green energy" to their self-defeating economic theories. Most recently, we saw a judge in California using left-wing activists pseudo-science to prove that gender is irrelevant to marriage.

Taleb affirms a principle with which the psychoanalyst would certainly agree, that "what you don't know" is "more relevant than what you do know."

First of all, what we know is just a tiny fraction of what there is to know. But more problematically, so much of what we know just isn't so, which is why Taleb makes the wise crack that reading the New York Times actually decreases one's knowledge of the world. As he points out, what we know can become inconsequential just by virtue of knowing it, especially if competitors and enemies know you know it.

For example, consider those con-men on TV who sell their secret to getting rich. The secret only works because it is one, not because of its intrinsic merits. In a way, this is what caused the recent real estate bubble. Once everyone takes advantage of the "secret" that houses are appreciating, the bubble collapses. The whole thing was generated by people not seeing the illusion at the basis of it.

Since Black Swans are inevitable, how do we take advantage of them? For me, this was the most interesting part, because my whole life has been just one Black Swan after another. Why? Because I've never had a plan. I never know what I'm going to do today, let alone tomorrow, which permits randomness to enter one's life. For some reason, I've always been this way. But if I had consciously set out to invent my life, I'm quite sure I would have blown it. You might say that the Higher Power takes advantage of chaos.

Taleb says that "you can set yourself up to collect serendipitous Black Swans (of the positive kind) by maximizing your exposure to them.... [C]ontrary to social-science wisdom, almost no discovery, no technologies of note, came from design and planning -- they were just Black Swans."

This leads to the important corollary that one of the reasons the free market is so superior to its alternatives is not that it rewards merit, but that it rewards luck. Only in hindsight do we invent stories of how the successful deserved their success, but more often than not, it's just a matter of luck.

While this might seem unfair -- which it is, but that's life -- the left's misguided attempt to force the system to have outcomes it considers "fair" drains it of the very luck that facilitates so much success and prosperity for all. The reason why the United States is the wealthiest nation is because it is the freest. The more government, the less luck, and with it, the less prosperity.

To be continued....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's a Mixed Up Muddled Up Shook Up World

Are animals free? From our point of view they aren't, but compared to rocks and trees they are -- which is to say that they manifest a divine archetype and participate in the Divine freedom, or the drama of creation.

Likewise, human beings are obviously free on their own plane, but one assumes that this freedom looks very different from the perspective of God -- perhaps analogous to how animal freedom appears to us.

Elsewhere I remember Schuon saying something to the effect that for animals instinct is their intellect, while for human beings the intellect is our instinct. I agree with this, in the sense that the intellect is not radically free, but simply has a larger domain of freedom. Or, one might say that it partakes of additional dimensions, not the least of which being the cosmic interior that discloses truth, beauty, virtue, being, essence, and unity.

Animals obviously don't have access to any of these dimensions. They can touch beauty -- for example, through the eyes and ears -- but that is all. They cannot "enter" it, let alone inhabit it.

One wonders if there is something analogous going on in certain humans who can touch truth or God, but not enter. For example, atheists who argue against the existence of the thing they call "god" must be "touching" it, so to speak. But to enter it would be to know it, precisely. Conversely, to remain exterior to it is to not know it, just as a blind man must forever be exterior to painting.

The purpose of human existence is to realize the Absolute. Either this is the purpose, or there is no purpose at all. Again: it is either theism or nihilism, with nothing in between. But this "nothing" is not a zero. Rather, it is very much a "something," but this something is the great realm of illusion.

Now, the theist also lives in this realm of illusion, but it makes all the difference in the world if one regards this illusion from the bottom-up or the top-down. If the world inhabited by human beings -- especially the subjective world -- is simply a prolongation of physics and biology (the latter of which being a prolongation of the former), then we know full well that the world is just an illusion resting on another illusion. It's illusions all the way down.

Since we live in an illusion, we can't even be sure that physics isn't an illusion, right? I mean, let's be honest. As J.B.S. Haldane put it, "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."

Everything changes if we invert the cosmos and set it back right side-up. Again, we still live in "illusion" -- for anything that is not God is less than real -- but now we see this realm of mayaplicity as an extension or prolongation of the One. Now we have solid ground over our heads and a cloud under our feet -- for example, Heisenberg's quantum cloud of blessed uncertainty, or Gödel's holy incompleteness, or Bohr's divine complementarity, or Matte Blanco's sacred bi-logic. That is the real world, which eludes any reductionistic explanation (except for technological purposes).

In short, our Reason -- and therefore reason -- is from above, not below. That being the case, creation is a hierarchical prolongation of divine energies. The central evil of the left lies in denying this reality, which leaves man orphaned in illusion and exiled from himself. It robs him of his sufficient reason -- his reason for being -- replacing it with what amounts to sensation without joy and rationality without truth. We become nothing but an animal, except with the disadvantage of knowing we are one.

In this scheme, we are quite literally a freak of nature with an accidental recursivity of consciousness that permits us to know with certainty that we don't know, but that is all. We know we are alive, but we don't know why. No reason for our existence can be located below -- at least no reason equal to what man is. In other words, in a wholly naturalistic view, all of the explanations for man are far less than man: truth is explained by illusion, the illusion that there is anything other than physics going on.

The difference between a proper humanist and a secular "humanist" is that the former seeks explanations that don't destroy humanness as a result of entertaining them. For in truth, nothing less than a human explanation can explain human beings -- just as nothing less than a biological explanation can explain Life. In other words, it's one thing to say that a living body is just a rare agglomeration of matter, but one doesn't go to a physicist when one is ill. Nor does one go to a biologist for human wisdom.

And yet, some people do, e.g., evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists. To call this "psychology" is an abuse of the term, being that psyche means soul. No psychologist understands how mind affects matter, let alone how soul affects mind or God affects soul. These are subtle causes that will forever elude any scientific explanation.

When we talk about faith, we are talking about being faithful to one's sufficient reason -- the reason for one's being, both in a general and particular sense. In other words, there is a reason for man's being, as well as a reason for one's own being. Again, man's sufficient reason is to realize God, which is predicated on the understanding that man is a bridge that spans the cosmos from top to bottom.

But the reason for your existence is that you are a unique "problem of God," so to speak. Look at your children, each one unique, and each one requiring a different approach to actualize his being. To parent each child in the identical way is to treat them as an object, not a subject.

Now the left, in abolishing hierarchy, also wages war on individuality. By definition, the state treats all people identically, profound differences notwithstanding. This is not a problem in the negative sense; indeed, it is a blessing -- the idea that we are all equal before the law.

Mischief arises when leftists begin creating positive rights, through which uniformity is imposed upon us by the state.

For example, most recently a judge in my state has declared that there are no essential differences between the sexes. This is a spiritually and morally insane cosmic egalitarianism by judicial fiat. It is the declaration that there is no heaven and earth, no celestial and terrestrial, no archetypal and phenotypal. Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world. Especially for Judge Walker, who wishes to impose his own gender confusion on the rest of us in order to pretend it's clarity.

Thus materialism amounts to reducing man to the animal, and even to the lowest, since the lowest is the most collective; this explains the materialists' hatred for all that is supra-terrestrial, transcendent, spiritual, for it is precisely the spiritual by which man is not an animal. To deny the spiritual is to deny the human: the moral and legal distinction between man and animal then becomes purely arbitrary, like any other tyranny... --F. Schuon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playing Dice with the Cosmos and Taking a Chance on God

In our ongoing discussion of divine and human freedom, we left off with the orthoparadoxical idea that we live in a world which is good in the sense that it manifests the Divine and its reflected qualities.

Nevertheless, it "involves a partial and contingent aspect of badness because, not being God while existing nonetheless, it sets itself against God or tends to be the equal of God" (Schuon). The left rebels against God, while the tenured think they are God. Which is why the tenured radical is such a destructive demon.

This correlates with the principial (vertical) distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, which is the basis of theodicy, through which the problem of evil is explained and God's goodness is vindicated.

In case you've forgotten, this whole discussion started last week, with a post about fate, luck, and free will. Human freedom is derived from the Divine freedom. Again, our free will could never be explained from "the bottom up." Nor could we know good and evil, truth and illusion, beauty and ugliness, and choose between them. If we didn't have free will, we could never know it (just as, if we couldn't know truth, we wouldn't be able to know it).

Having said that, although there are analogies between divine and human freedom, the differences are even greater. Human beings live their lives along this ambiguous vertical bridge, with God at the top and biology, physics, and other principalities down below (sort of like the sewer pipes under the city).

As Schuon writes, "creation implies imperfection by metaphysical necessity." And the fact that we have the freedom to choose badly makes matters even worse!

One problem we encounter right away is that freedom implies change, whereas we are told that God is immutable. Perhaps we need to distinguish between the freedom that applies to Beyond-Being, vs. that which applies to Being.

In Beyond-Being, freedom is in a way meaningless, because there is nothing from which to be free. Freedom only comes into play in the context of restraint, of other, of world -- of subject over and against object.

And the highest purpose of freedom is "the possibility of choosing between the Substance and accident, or between the Real and the illusory" (Schuon). Since there can be no accident "within" God, our freedom is obviously quite different, being that our world is a tapestry of chance and necessity.

Speaking of which, the chance aspect of the world is insufficiently appreciated, both by the tenured and the wider population. I'm currently reading a very interesting book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, and would like to work some of Taleb's contrarian and counter-intuitive ideas into the mix.

It seems that people hate the idea of pure luck holding so much sway over their lives, which is why both the tenured and the religious invent various ex post facto mythological narratives to explain the past. In this regard, Darwinians are no better than any other fundamentalists.

I should hasten to add that Taleb shows no signs of being in any way religious (I'm only halfway through the book), so that he seems to be trapped in his own narrative that chance is all -- and more importantly, that chance is only chance.

But in my view, the cosmic purpose of chance is to create a non-deterministic space in which the higher can operate on the lower -- or through which final causes can influence souls and events.

If the world were a deterministic machine that functions only from the bottom up, there would be no freedom and no chance. But being wholly determined from the top would make us no more free than being determined from the bottom.

Thus, freedom and chance go together like matter and law. It is largely because of freedom that the future is completely unpredictable. But because we are aware of the past, we superimpose narratives on it that make it seem as if the future will be similar. Thus, we are always surprised by the "black swans" that no one predicted, and yet, have the most impact on history.

For example, to the very eve of World War I, no one saw it coming. But in hindsight, historians invent narratives that make it appear inevitable. Likewise other large-scale and highly impactful events such as 9-11, the recent real estate bubble, or the Great Depression.

One thing that eludes historians -- by definition -- is all of the evidence of things that didn't happen. Obviously, we cannot know what we don't know (the unknown unknown), which is probably the majority of (potential) knowledge.

It seems that history is always on a knife-edge, and can easily be tipped one way or the other by sometimes trivial causes. This is true of any complex system with an infinite number of variables.

But we'll have to get back to black swans later. I just wanted to introduce the idea that randomness is both our friend and our enemy, like water or electricity. Without it we couldn't be free, but with it we're always in for an adventure.

There is no accident in Beyond-Being. But the creation, in order to be separate from God, must involve relativity and therefore contingency.

Thus, one of the purposes of a spiritual practice is to distinguish between those things that must be versus those things that may be.

Again, the world is a tapestry of vertical and horizontal causes, of the real and the contingent, so we always see the one in the other. This is why, for example, matter, which is otherwise so "distant" from God, has the metaphysical transparency through which beauty and truth nevertheless radiate.

And it is certainly why man may use his freedom to turn toward truth or illusion, atma or maya, O or Ø. The ego is a bipolar, janus-faced entity, which it must be if we are to be free.

As Schuon describes it, being that we are the "handiwork" and not "the Principle which alone is good," man "is a good inasmuch as he manifests the Principle, but he is not good inasmuch as he is separated from it."

Evil and falsehood remind us both that the world is not God and that there is no one good but the One.

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....