Monday, October 18, 2010

Healing the Sick, Raising the Dead, and Flattering the Self

This is good to know, and not just because it's convenient and self-serving: that is to say, "there are ascetical and disciplinary measures that make no sense except for passional men given to ambition and vanity, not to say pride, and therefore disqualified for gnosis" anyway (Schuon).

What this means is that the full-blooded Raccoon -- to the extent that he actually is one -- needn't concern himself with all those spiritual techniques aimed at eliminating the ego with extreme prejudice, since his being is already pretty much in conformity with his highest aspiration. Just as, for the Raccoon, having to go to school interfered with his education, conventional religiosity may hinder his spiritual development.

Or, put it this way. Most Americans are now officially overweight. They eat too much and exercise too little because they lack self-discipline. Therefore, the many thousands of studies, diets, books, and Oprah programs dealing with this issue have no relevance to those of us who are already disciplined and fit.

It reminds me of diabetes, which is now a pandemic in the developed world. When there isn't enough food -- and there is plenty of physical labor -- people needn't worry about disciplining their appetite. But the plague of type II diabetes simply reveals the fact that most people have no control over their mouth and no discipline over their body.

I have adult onset type I, which is a different beast entirely, unrelated to lifestyle. However, it does require the same degree of self-discipline to control. I can't eat so much as half a pretzel without being conscious of the immediate effect on my blood sugar. But I have evaluated hundreds of type II diabetics, and thus far I haven't encountered a single one who exerts the level of self-discipline I would consider acceptable. And it's not just because I have "high standards," unless you call wanting to avoid blindness, stroke, cognitive decline, impotence and amputation an unreasonable standard.

I don't mean to rag on these people. The point is, they are average, just as the man in need of serious spiritual self-discipline is average. I recall another wise crack by Schuon, to the effect that the superior man dominates himself, and loves doing so. He doesn't have to be whipped into submission to properly order his soul and his life. Rather, it just comes supernaturally naturally.

Elsewhere Schuon wrote that "the world is miserable because men live beneath themselves." The fundamental -- and inexcusable, for it is diabolical in its effect -- error of every variety of liberalism, is that it pretends it can "reform the world without having either the will or the power to reform man." It only results in the absurdity of attempting "to make a better world on the basis of a worsened humanity."

Followed to its conclusion, secular leftism inverts the cosmos, ending "in the abolition of what is human, and consequently in the abolition of happiness too." For genuine improvement, man requires re-ligio, or an authentic and efficacious means of binding him to his source and destiny.

Having said that, it is obviously quite easy to deceive oneself in these matters, unless one understands that the burden is heavier, not lighter, for the self-disciplined. Or at least the responsibilities.

For example, if you are at the base camp of the mountain and something goes wrong, it's not going to be fatal. But if you are up there scaling a rock wall at 8,000 feet, you have to be very cautious, because errors will be magnified there.

This is one of the reasons why I have no patience with, or tolerance for, all of those self-styled new age spiritual teachers, as the great majority of them are no more advanced than their followers, only clever -- or sociopathic -- enough to make a career out of it. But suffice it to say, no person of genuine spiritual attainment makes a business out of it. Indeed, it is a kind of proof that the attainment is bogus. The spiritual life is its own reward -- that and the joy of passing it along to others.

In a more spiritually balanced world, all of the above would qualify as truism. But again, as we were saying last Friday, the Christian West emphasizes the penitential path, not the path of knowledge or metaphysics. In this regard, Schuon makes a subtle but crucial point, that "the great question that arises is knowing whether metaphysical ideas act on the will of a given man or whether on the contrary they remain inoperative abstractions" (emphasis mine).

As I am always at pains to emphasize, nothing I write about can be of any use if it is just "knowledge" (k) that is not realized (n). Unrealized spiritual knowledge is less than worthless, because it can be so deceptive. Not only must this knowledge be realized, but, if properly expressed, it should facilitate its own realization, or mysteriously actualize what it signifies. It should, according to Schuon, "unleash interiorizing and ascending acts of the will and affective dispositions of the same order."

If this takes place -- and only if it takes place -- then "there is no need to seek to create a distaste in the person in question for a world that already hardly attracts him or for an ego that already has no more illusions or ambitions." You can't kill what is already dead, so "it is pointless to impose attitudes on the 'pneumatic' that are meaningless for him and that instead of humbling him in a salutary fashion can only bore and distract him."

Naturally, we are speaking of degrees, not absolutes. But at least in my case, no one has to convince me to lead a quasi-monastic life focused on spiritual interiorization. However, please note that the form without the content would be a kind of perversion.

For example, there are numberless tenured drones who perhaps have the monastic temperament, but use it to obsess over some tiny, irrelevant corner of the cosmos. In my case, I have a passion for the eternal, which animates everything I do. To the extent that I discuss some small corner of existence, it is only in the context of how it bears upon the eternal. We're always talking about the divinization and sanctification of the cosmos, or cosmotheosis. This, we hope, is what distinguishes us from the acadanemic and infertile eggheads of the tenured henhouse.

I should also hope that it goes without saying that "intelligence" is not at issue. There are plenty of brilliant people who spend their lives propagating error, and plenty of average ones who live a truth that is much higher and deeper than themselves. Prior to intelligence -- for intelligence alone cannot know of it -- is "a sense of the sacred," and "all the moral and intellectual consequences it implies." For a sacred world demands a kind of knowledge in conformity with it. And it excludes systematic knowledge that is unaware of the sanctity of the world and of man.

In order to have a sense of the supernatural, one must either be above nature, or the supramundane must infuse nature with its presence. Same difference, which is none.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Child of the Moment, Living Without a Why

Since religion must deal with the whole man (who is not just afflicted in one isolated part), it is addressed to his intellect, his will, his body, and his emotions -- or in terms of truth, love, beauty, and virtue.

But for some reason -- especially lately, i.e., the last couple hundred years -- the general message has become more narrowly focussed on the will and the sentiments, excluding -- and sometimes even being hostile to -- the intellect.

In turn, this has only cleared the way for anti-intellectual modernists and postmodernists to perversely dominate the field of intellect. This leads to the intolerable situation of religion addressing one part of man, "science" another. This creates an existential or even ontological split in man, where no such split actually exists (or could exist).

This is quite insidious, because it violently estranges man from himself, and then posits the resultant alienation as normative. But to the extent that it is normative, it is only a result of our contingent "fallenness" and not our essential being, the latter of which is possible to recover (or, to be more precise, to re-member).

For not only is man whole, but he is the terrestrial refleshion of wholeness, i.e., the microcosm. At risk of being willfully misunderstood, we are "gods in the making," which is sort of the whole point of this verticalisthenic exercise. If "we must be careful not to attribute to God the limitations of men," it is equally true that we must not attribute to man the limitations of the self-styled godlings of atheism, materialism, and ideological Darwinism.

For the soul is all that it knows, which is all that is potentially knowable. And only nothing is not knowable. Everything real is.

Schuon agrees that Westerners tend not to "have a sense of the metaphysical transparency of phenomenon," and instead "insist as a matter of preference on penitential means" of religious practice. In short, they emphasize the "moral alternative, not that of contemplative participation." But as a courtesy to other spiritual types, "if these fideists have no wish to use their intelligence, at least they should not forbid others to do so" (Schuon).

There is of course nothing wrong with the penitential path so long as it is not forgotten that man is (potentially) whole, and that any single path should encompass the others. To say that man is fallen is not just to say that he is prone to moral corruption, but that he is also -- and perhaps even more fundamentally -- susceptible to intellectual betrayals of every kind.

In other words, man transgresses against truth just as much as he does virtue. To not know reality is to not know how to behave. But proper behavior implies some awareness of truth, even if it is only subconscious and not explicitly formulated.

Indeed, truth is nothing more than the inward virtue of the intellect, while morality is the exterior truth of soul. To artificially separate these various modes and functions cannot but help lead to incoherence, confusion, and absurdity. For if man is not whole (both spatially and temporally, vertically and horizontally), there is truly no escape from cosmic absurdity. Then it's just my surd against yours.

One might say that there is an inverse relationship between wholeness and absurdity. This occurred to me yesterday, while thinking about how much sense existence makes to my son. Nothing is yet absurd. We're trying to hold off that realization for as long as possible, while simultaneously nurturing the tools -- or better yet, the unThought deep structure -- to cope with the pressure (and the pressure to conform is intense) society will bring to bear on his spiritual innocence and wholeness.

Culture does one of two things: it compresses us into a dense and spiritually closed metamorphic rock, or disperses us into spiritually impotent fragments. Reversing the former condition requires love, beauty, slack, and dilation, while the latter requires self-discipline, rigor, severity, and boundaries. Or say music and geometry, female and male, mother and father.

Of course we ultimately need both. When both are operative and relating harmelodically, the partition between the upper and lower waters becomes more permeable, so that we may grow with the flow.

Also, as Schuon formulates it, "the psycho-spiritual is exteriorized to the extent that the believing mentality is interiorized." What this means is that if our ¶rimary Orientation is to the "above" (as in ↓↑) and not the "outward," the latter begins to be conditioned by the former, and "paradise" begins to emerge from the fog. Or at least there is an intuition of heaven, so to speak.

To live without a why and to be a child of the moment is very much as I described the situation with my son, except that he has a couple of deputized parents to help ensure the coontinuity. As adults we must rely upon, and place our faith in, the actual Source, i.e., the Father of fathers and Mother of mothers, and thereby be adopted sons after the Son, if one may put it thus.

This was kind of short, but a voice upside my head is saying "the end." I guess that's all for today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Inversion, Subversion, and Perversion of the Left

I really like Schuon's compact description of the purpose of sacred art: "the return of accidents to Substance."

It's actually a two-way, or circular, process, very much like Creation itself (which is obviously no coincidence, given our theomorphism): "Art expresses this relationship in a movement that is at once descending and ascending, for on the one hand it reveals the Archetype in the form and on the other hand it brings the form or soul back to the Archetype."

Thus, it is a literal (↓↑), like an exteriorization of the interior followed by an interiorization of the exterior. And clearly, the descending or involutionary arrow must be prior in this relationship, one more reason why scientism and metaphysical Darwinism are such absurdities.

If you consider history, it obviously reveals a great deal of accident and contingency, which, of course, it must. This is not heaven.

However, looked at in another way, its most important features are nothing less than exteriorizations of the soul, which are in turn interiorized by those who come later. And when I say "interiorized," I mean that these past exteriorizations are precisely the Archetypes that awaken both the intelligence in general but also its specific contours and forms.

This used to be the grand meaning of a "liberal education": in the words of Matthew Arnold, it was to familiarize oneself with "the best that has been said and thought in the world."

But today, to obtain a liberal education is to familiarize oneself with -- and internalize -- all that is petty, envious, egalitarian, mediocre, bureaucratic, aesthetically toxic and spiritually corrosive, even while elevating oneself for being so destructively cynical toward all that is properly human. Cynicism instantly converts the inferior man to a superior man (in his own mind, of course.) It is a kind of "negative omniscience," like the infantile Power of No!

The pathological combination of cynicism and contempt is the mother's milk of the leftist, which we are now seeing in all its disturbing transparency due to the rabble's rejection of our elite masters.

Narcissists never take rejection well, but this is more than mere rejection. It is a dramatic repudiation of a whole worldview that is upside-down. Leftists don't realize it, but they literally cannot function in a world that is right-side up. To put it mildly, there is no place for a lowlife, thuggish, anti-intellectual, spiritually barren community agitator in the real world, much less as its leader. To put it another way, leftism is an employment program for the unemployable. Imagine Al Sharpton actually having to function somewhere!

And while looking up the exact wording of that quote by Arnold, I found another that equally applies: "Culture is properly described as the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection."

Now, what is perfection? It is something free of defect. In a way, it is to say that every part is necessary to the whole, and not contingent, which is another way of expressing Schuon's formulation above. Thus, to quote Arnold again, "Greatness is a spiritual condition," and creative life is "Waiting for the spark from heaven to fall."

Last week I considered writing a post about the importance of envy and contempt in the psychospiritual economy, but I refrained from doing so because I thought it would be too technical. But it just keeps coming up, as the left deals with its ongoing implosion. Taranto touched on it yesterday, quoting a typically clueless moonbat who cannot even consider the possibility that her leftist worldview is defective. The problem for poor progressives, you see, is that they are "partisans of reason and rational choice" (!).

As always, the problem for the left is Americans; but really, it's human beings, since their metaphysic does not apply to us. Which is why it never works. Especially in practice.

I won't dwell too much on envy and contempt, only to say that they are an important component of what Melanie Klein called the "manic defenses." Basically, you may think of the manic defenses as ways to deny an impending reality.

Let's suppose "4" is a disturbing reality. Therefore, just as you are about to realize that 2+2 = 4, the manic defenses come to the rescue to deny 4. How do they do it? Well, one way is to devalue or destroy 4 through contempt and envy. In colloquial terms, you might think if it as "sour grapes." But unconsciously, the person realizes -- or fears -- that the grapes are not sour at all.

So I am seeing this defense every day, multiple times a day. If the left knew what they were doing -- or had any control over the process -- I don't think they'd do it. Or at least they wouldn't publicly engage in it, because it is so personally unflattering, and so alienates normal Americans -- the very Americans whose lives these elites wish to control! And no wonder they wish to control us, since we are all racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and all the rest. How could such monsters be capable of self-government?

Klein writes that the purpose of the manic defenses is to deny a psychic reality, usually as a result of a significant loss of some kind. The loss for the leftist is not just in the exterior "political" world, but more importantly, in the interior world, since for the leftist, his identity is much more bound up with his politics than is the case for the spiritually normative person. The leftist is a "superior person" -- more wise, noble, tolerant, and intelligent than the rest of us -- so that to have his politics repudiated is a personal affront.

I think I'll move on. But this sidebar into politics is not entirely irrelevant to our discussion of art, since, as Schuon points out, "the return of the accidental to the Substance, of the formal to the Essence, amounts to the reintegration of plurality into Unity."

Thus, it is possible to deny this higher unity, which is what the left does a priori, what with its multiculturalism, moral relativism, egalitarianism, "tolerance" of the intolerable, deconstructionism, etc. As we have discussed before, leftism is the doctrine of ontological multiplicity and its implications, so that the only way out is down, into the black night where all is just another kind of one -- the bad and ultimately fascistic kind.

I'm running out of time here, but to say unity-multiplicity is also to say center-periphery. Now, the further from the center we fall, the less of the divine influence there is. At the extreme periphery there is a privation of the Good, but it is possible to crash through even that, and into the realm of cosmic subversion.

You might say that the upcoming election will result in a subversion of all the perversion, except that it will actually represent a supraversion of the left's cosmic inversion -- which is to say, a vertical ingression. God wi↓↑ing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reality and Illusion in Science and Religion

Continuing along the lines of whatever line we were on yesterday, here's something you don't often think about: the relationship in religion between the necessary and the possible.

This distinction, according to Schuon, "concerns all domains of the universe," whether scientific or religious. After all, science only developed after it was understood that aspects of the universe could be abstractly described by excluding whole dimensions of contingent being e.g., the laws of physics.

For example, it is possible to describe, say, an apple, with mathematical equations, but at the cost of ignoring what an apple tastes like, let alone how Eve was tempted by one.

It seems that there are two types of uniqueness, one essential and the other accidental. A thing, in order to exist, must be something and not another. Every rock is different, but the differences don't amount to much. They don't add to or detract from the rockiness of the rock.

Similarly, we can talk about "humanity," even though each human being is unique. However, this raises the interesting point that among all existing things, only for human beings is their uniqueness essential (or is their essence unique) and not accidental.

In other words -- and this is the original sin of leftism -- the unique individual is prior to the abstract and anonymous group/state. (And mother-infant and husband-wife are the prior groups upon which the larger group is founded; here again, the left wishes to destroy this truth, and impose their own warped version of reality on the rest of us.)

As we have discussed before, there is the essence and the form. God is essential being, but in order to communicate himself to man, he must take form.

Now, exoteric (or conventional) religiosity tends to overvalue the form, sometimes to the exclusion -- or at least occlusion -- of the essence. This is why it can be difficult to relate to theologians who only think "mythologically," which is somewhat like trying to do physics without math.

But again, this was the situation before the development of modern science.

Consider medicine, which revolved around Galen's ideas about balancing the four humours, or theories of classical alchemy involving earth, water, air, and fire. These terms are too concrete to do the descriptive work required of them. Instead of being explanations, a deeper theory was needed that explained their existence.

This is not to say that a conventional theologian cannot be inspired; but there is inspiration and the form taken by the inspiration, two very different things, one vertical, the other horizontal.

Schuon writes of how "religious enthusiasm, coupled with a thirst for information about heavenly things and a quasi-conventional over-estimation of religious mythology as such, cannot but give rise to a margin of dreams, not to say illusions."

This would explain my discomfort with the so-called "religious right." These are usually nice people, even though I cannot relate to their theology.

Schuon notes that "Christian theology rightly teaches that such mirages are not opposed to sanctity as long as they are simply human and not diabolical." Nevertheless, they are mirages, or "pious fantasies," in the same way that water is a kind of mirage for the chemist who understands it as H2O.

But again, there is much more to water than what can be captured or conveyed by H2O, so in reality, there is a kind of epistemological dialectic between water ←→ H2O. Clearly, the chemist would know nothing of H2O if he weren't first confronted with the reality of water. So which is more "real?"

This is about the best analogy for the exoteric-esoteric dialectic that I can imagine. In other words, as applied to the higher world disclosed and described by religion, esoterism is analogous to science, whereas exoterism is analogous to empiricism.

And just as we would know nothing of H2O without first experiencing water, we can know nothing of esoterism (or a limited amount) without the exoteric clothing, or "veils" of religion.

Thus, pure esoterism in and itself could never "be" a religion, any more than one can take a shower in the equation H2O. Schuon says that esoterism is actually "without a homeland," and that it simply tries to establish itself "wherever it can."

I believe this was the attitude of our Unknown Friend, who was a Catholic -- and probably became Catholic -- in order to have a proper "home" for his esoterism. And he emphasized that not only were both necessary -- rigid skeleton and beating heart, Peter and John, spirit and letter -- but that the institution was by far the more important of the two.

And this is because holy water is not just H2O, just as the communion wafer is not just a quantity of carbohydrate. Call them mirrorages, in which you may see yoursoph.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reason and Revelation: The Blind Reading the Blinding

Somewhere in the Coonifesto I mentioned that not only can religion sound absurd, but sometimes it is necessary -- or at least expedient -- that it do so.

Here it is, p. 204: "Most any spiritual tradition asks us to believe things that may at first seem implausible. However, some degree of 'belief in the unbelievable' may actually be a necessary component of deconditioning ourselves to the narrow and restricted consensus reality of our particular culture." One reason I believe secular people care so much about movies, fiction, modern art, and other trifles is that they are the only means they have to temporarily escape from the nightmare of their soul-crushing egoic existence.

Wolfgang Smith agrees that what may strike the modern rationalist as "categorically absurd" is just the thing that might "serve as a bridge that leads beyond the phenomenal realm." One way of bypassing -- or shattering -- one's habitual and saturated way of thinking is to properly immerse oneself in the highly resonant, mythopoetic language of religion, which doesn't necessarily rely upon conscious understanding to transmit its truth, but rather, activates perennial truths that are latent within us.

I've noticed that there are certain aspects of Christianity that you simply cannot get your mind around, and this may be the point. Not for nothing are they called "mysteries." However, it is critical to bear in mind that a mystery is not a wall but a window or perhaps bridge. Only at the lowest level of understanding -- e.g., existentialism, scientism -- does mystery shade off into absurdity. In that realm, one will indeed simply go around in circles, with no possible resolution to the world enigma.

Schuon says something similar, writing that in the realm of spirit, "coherence of the literal wording is not a criterion or guarantee of truth or sanctity." In certain respects, sacred language may serve as a "shock therapy," which always "contains infinitely more than ordinary language." Not only is it the opposite of saturated, but it is incapable of saturation. Indeed, this is the very reason why we are still fruitfully talking about events and texts from two or three-thousand years ago.

Schuon goes on to say that it is obviously possible to speak of the highest things in a logically consistent and coherent manner -- Thomas Aquinas alone is proof of this. At the same time, actual contact with the Absolute may cause one's consciousness to "shatter," so to speak, and here again we might point to Thomas' last experiences of infused contemplation.

So it should go without saying that "the spiritual worth of a man" is not "always a guarantee of his dialectical powers." However, this is not to say that the spiritual message must necessarily be expressed in an illogical manner; in other words, it is not a duty of the theologian, only a right.

Indeed, the Raccoon demands logical coherence. But at the same time, he does not demand that religion be expressed in this manner to the Normals, because if it were, it would mean nothing to them. In an interview, Schuon was asked why religion must embody metaphysics, and he responded, "because there are metaphysicians." Simple as.

It is also important to note that there are obviously different modes of cognition aside from mere reason: intuition, inspiration, intellection, etc. Of inspiration, Schuon writes that it is analogous to revelation, in that it is a "divine dictation," except that it is not a "lawgiving and obligatory Message," but rather, "plays an illustrative role within the framework of the fundamental Message."

Here again, this is why the Message of revelation is so fruitful and unsusceptible to saturation, since it provokes endless inspiration to those who contemplate it. This is why we can say that revelation is at once Absolute -- it does not change -- and thus necessarily Infinite, in that it flows ceaselessly like the Sacred River of your choice.

Also, just as we have an empirical ego that is conformed to -- and in many respects a product of -- the external, phenomenal world, we have a deeper subject -- call it what you want, but I just call it (¶) -- which is conformed to, and a product of, the higher, noumenal world. This is the Divine Spark of which you've heard so much. And where there is a spark, there is a central Fire.

Is it possible for the empirical ego, or (•), to approach O? Yes, of course, but it will inevitably generate what appear to be absurdities, in the manner described above. One can certainly try to apply profane reason to the higher world, but Schuon likens this to a blind man groping in the dark. For him, it is accurate to say that touching will be a form of seeing.

However, unlike proper vision, it will not take in the whole panorama. Instead, his knowledge will be fragmentary and linear, as he moves from object to object. Interestingly, the blind man can even feel the heat of the sun, so he can reason about the source but not experience its light directly. This is precisely the situation of the man who employs reason only to approach O.

You might say that faith is a conscious act of will designed to pre-emptively say Yes! to a reality to which the ego says No! By saying Yes!, you are getting on with the journey, and jumping into that mystery which the ego can only see as an absurdity. If you wait around for the ego's assent, you will wait forever.

To paraphrase Polanyi, faith is the tacit foreknowlege of an as yet undiscovered truth. Although he was talking about scientific discovery, one could equally apply this to spiritual discovery. Really, you won't discover anything without that leap of faith, just as a scientific discovery doesn't just "happen" to a closed and unprepared mind.

So the purpose of revelation is not necessarily to "give orders to the intelligence" in some sort of rigid, top-down manner. Rather, it should awaken the intelligence and "remind it what it is" (Schuon). For an intelligence that is proportioned to the divine message is necessarily of the same substance.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Drunk on Truth and Lit Up From Within

I try to read a little Schuon every day. Why? Because there is simply no other author who in-spires and speaks to me the way he does: straight through the peripheral bobscurities and directly to the center. My center, anyway. Obviously I don't agree with everything he says. But that's no different than not liking every performance of a musical artist I otherwise love.

He speaks with such clarity and force about matters that are unclear to -- or at least expressed unclearly by -- others. For example, he states that any cosmos -- which is to say, any ordered totality -- "reflects the homogeneity of the principial order," but that the manifest universe "is woven of necessity and liberty, of mathematical rigor and musical play, of geometry and poetry."

Come to think of it, most theologians tend to give you one or the other, but any discussion -- or "performance" -- of (or in) O clearly requires both: words and music, melody and harmony, spirit and letter, rhythm and surprise.

Revelation is both "systemic" and beyond any system. Somehow one needs to balance both. He writes that a particular religious doctrine is like "a crystal that captures the divine Light, refracting it in accordance with a language that is at once particular and universal."

How precise! The Light is one thing, the form another. The Light descends and vivifies the doctrinal form from within, a within that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Faith is like the light that causes a reflector on the back of a bicycle to become luminous in the dark.

As we have said before, religious literalists at both extremes -- atheists on one side, "fundamentalists" on the other -- cannot see this. But "in reality, a theoretical expression can only be an 'allusive indication,' the implications of which are endless" (Schuon).

It's quite the opposite of the linearity of science -- which is not to criticize science, which has every right and duty to be so. But it has overstepped its rightful bounds when it suggests that religion should reduce itself to the cognitive modalities of science.

And this is hardly to say that science is objective and true theology isn't. Rather, as Schuon says, objectivity is not only the true essence of intelligence, but its moral imperative: to see and describe something "as it is" is to be objective, whatever the domain.

Conversely, to see something "as it isn't," is a kind of lying, or bearing of false witness. But how easy to see a rock or tree as opposed to seeing God!

Note also that God is by definition "in the rock," even though we can still speak of rocks as if they have some sort of independent existence. But if we forget this -- if we separate intelligence from its ground and source -- it devolves to mere cleverness, which is in turn conformed to pride, power, or some other passion.

In short, intelligence detached from its principle and sufficient reason is no longer objective at all. Which is why scientism, atheism, and materialism are all pure subjectivity. Only the mystic or sage is truly objective, since only God is necessary. All else is contingent in his Light.

Another subtle point: as we have discussed in the past, language cannot possibly be what bonehead Darwinians and other materialists imagine it to be. Not only does it usher us into a world that is above and beyond the call of matter, but it is an emanation from that world. Truly, the medium is the message and the message is Truth!

According to Schuon, the prototype of language as such is "universal Existence," so that we are ontologically "enclosed," so to speak, in both.

Wish all you like, but you cannot wish yourself out of Being, short of suicide. Nor can you wish yourself out of language and remain human, short of cluelesside.

Thus, to undermine the foundations of language -- as do deconstructionists and other postmodernists -- is to attack the basis and possibility of human being itself. In other words, to injure language is to damage being (not Being, of course, which is impervious to the petty insults of the tenured).

Think about that: we are enclosed in truth by virtue of being enclosed in language, which is enclosed in Being. This is precisely in conformity with the existence of a logoistic principle that is prior to manifestaion and "with God" from before the beginning. Every thing is made of it, and not a thing can be made -- or thought -- without it. Man is condemned both to be and to know, but these are just two sides of the same coin: He exists -- or I AM -- therefore we think.

Everything short of God is woven of essence and contingency. Only God is pure essence with no accident. Thus, although we have an essence, or essential being, it is necessarily veiled and obscured by layers of contingency, and not just mind parasites.

Rather, there is the time into which we are born (since we are not eternal), there is culture, there is our particular language, there is our family of origin, and there are genetic quirks. Man is a "fragmentary totality" (•••) on the way to totality. To paraphrase someone, our task and duty is to heal the inevitable wounds made by history.

Thus, it is our earthly duty to realize our essence, which is to simultaneously realize our origin, our destiny, and our vocation. It is to realize the soul, which is to realize God, the one being literally un-thinkable without the other. To know the soul is to know that God exists, and vice versa.

It is not just love, truth, and beauty that connect us to our source, but pleasure too. I don't think it is accurate to say that animals experience pleasure in the way human beings do. There is analogy, of course, but not identity. For example, no animal knows the pure joy of learning, or the tingle of aesthetic arrest, or the unalloyed bliss of coming into contact with truth.

For Schuon, any normal pleasure "is a kind of reverberation and therefore anticipation -- quite imperfect, no doubt -- of a celestial joy..." This is the ananda of pure being. In Vedanta, the oneness of God, or ultimate reality, breaks into the trinity of sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss. Or, one could say existence-truth-joy. Or Father-Son-and the Love that flows between. It's all Good.

Gotta run.

Friday, October 08, 2010

What is Life? Life is What?!

Just as today's armies are equipped only to win yesterday's wars, we cannot expect contemporary physics to successfully cope with problems other than those with which it has already coped. --Robert Rosen, Life Itself

As we were discussing yesterday, it is very unlikely -- impossible, really -- that the cosmos could be a machine. Rather, it is much more like an organism -- or even a mind -- than it is a machine. And once we understand this, it makes the so-called "emergence" of life and mind much less problematic, based upon the Principle of principles, as above, so below.

Conversely, if we begin with the scientistic quaxiom "as below, so above," we really can't ever leave the bottom floor, or barking structure, of the cosmic telovator. It is a world intrinsically devoid of values, progress, hierarchy, or even evolution (as opposed to mere change).

Based upon a proper meta-understanding of reason, it is the work of a moment to arrive at the logical necessity of God. To put it another way, I have never heard any version of atheism that isn't shot through with unjustified premises, illogical conclusions, and metaphysical nul-de-slacks.

However, to merely posit the existence of a creator tells us nothing about what this creator is like, for example, whether he is even good or worthy of worship. Indeed, how did this idea of "worship" slip in, anyway? Suppose physicists eventually discover a mathematical "theory of everything." It is highly unlikely that they will spontaneously bow down and worship it, even if it is their ultimate icon of scientistic gnosis. So why should we worship our Ultimate Principle? We'll get to that later.

If the Creator exists, it necessarily follows that he is "like us," without being limited to being like us. This is true of any level in the cosmic hierarchy. For example, life is "like matter," without being limited to it. Likewise, human beings are "like primates" without being limited to that. Or, to put it another way, if we turn the cosmos right side up, and begin at the top, we can see that each level of reality is a diminution, until we reach the realm of dense matter.

And in fact, all esoteric cosmologies continue down beyond matter, which makes perfect sense, since the "ray of creation" proceeds from the cosmic center (or top, if you like), and continues on "forever," so to speak, to the threshold of nihilism, or blind nothingness. In this regard, we can see that matter is actually superior and has more nobility than, say, the nihilists of dailykos, even though we must never treat them as such, out of respect for their still human potential.

I realize that some readers think Schuon is difficult or obscure, but really, the following cannot be said with any more adamantine precision. The difficulty probably results from trying to read what he is saying while sitting upside down. Basically you're out of your tree. Once you properly orient yourself to reality, feet firmly in the air -- roots aloft, branches down below -- it makes perfect sense:

"The diverse manifestations of the Good in the world clearly have their source in a principial and archetypal diversity, whose root is situated in the Supreme Principle itself, and which pertains not only to the Divine Qualities, from which our virtues are derived, but also -- in another respect -- to aspects of the Divine Personality, from which our faculties are derived" (emphasis mine).

Recall Jesus' ironic and extraordinarily soph-aware remark, "Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." What this means is that if we begin "at the top" -- which is to say, with the Absolute -- then we must conclude that only it is absolutely good: "He alone possesses, for example, the quality of beauty; compared to the divine Beauty, the beauty of a creature is nothing, just as existence itself is nothing next to the Divine Being" (Schuon).

But God, being absolute, is necessarily infinite. As such, his absolute transcendence is matched by his infinite immanence which extends everywhere and into every thing -- and which ultimately is another form of transcendence! It is why, for example, God is intuited in the very large -- e.g., Mount Everest or the Grand Canyon -- and the very small -- e.g., an infantile or even infinitesimal quantum of life or energy.

Because of the immanence of the Absolute, it can be said that "the beauty of a creature -- being beauty and not its contrary -- is necessarily that of God, since there is no other; and the same is true for all the other qualities, without forgetting, at their basis, the miracle of existence" (ibid).

Yesterday we were discussing how these principles may be applied to life, not just biological life, but to Life as such, of which biological organisms are a trans-lucent revelation and reflection. For clearly, as I mentioned in the Coonifesto, God is obviously alive; but just as obviously, not a biological organism. In fact, if animals could speak to biologists, they might say something like, "Why do you call me alive? There is none alive but one, that is, God." Then again, animals say this all the time. But in order to gnosis it, you must be an animal lover, for love is the "link" or "channel" for such pneumatic information. That or beauty.

Rosen -- who was a "hard" scientist, and, to my knowledge, not a religious man -- wanted to know "what it is about organisms that confers upon them their magical characteristics, what it is that sets life apart from all other material phenomena in the universe. That is indeed the question of questions: What is life? What is it that enables living things, apparently so moist, fragile, and evanescent, to persist while towering mountains dissolve into dust, and the very continents and oceans dance into oblivion and back?"

Of course, he looked for (and found) a scientific answer, but it is an answer that ultimately "must be," for the very same reason that the Creator must be. Rosen foreshadows this Reason in the Prolegomena of the book, where he observes that, "Ironically, the idea that life requires an explanation is a relatively new one. To the ancients, life simply was; it was a given; a first principle, in terms of which other things were explained."

But life "vanished as an explanatory principle with the rise of mechanics," even though machines -- which are created for a purpose -- are much more "like life" than life is "like a machine." It is as if scientists abstracted some quality from life, and then re-projected the abstraction onto the concrete reality, thus conflating the two. Frankly, scientists do this all the time, which is why one must make a conscious effort to escape the influence of the cramped and banal models of reality proffered to us by scientism.

One thing atheists and other materialists habitually do is to naively take their abstractions for real reality. However, the cosmos is not a machine, the genome is not a map, the brain is not a computer, mountains are not triangles, and love is not a baseball game. But I am a Raccoon, a foolblooded schlepson of Toots Mondello, a mystery for you to ponder until I continue this thread later.

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. --John 15:4

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Problem with Solutions and the unKnown God of the Godless

Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious…. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. --Sam Harris

Science is and must be exciting, since it relies on largely unspecifiable clues which can be sensed, mobilized and integrated only by a passionate response to their hidden meaning.... This is the unaccountable element which enters into science at its source and vitally participates throughout, even in its final result. In science this element has been called intuition. --Michael Polanyi

Continuing our little raiding party on the wild godhead, Schuon writes that on the natural plane -- i.e., the horizontal world of empirical reality -- it is sufficient "to have at one's disposal the necessary data and then to reason correctly."

As it so happens, the same rules apply to the suprasensible world, with one important difference, "that the object of thought then requires the intervention of intellection, which is an inner illumination" (emphasis mine). However, the difference is not really as stark as one might suppose, for as Schuon adds, "if natural things may require a certain intuition independent of reasoning as such, then supernatural things will a fortiori require intuition of a superior order, since they do not fall within the reach of the senses."

Polanyi most adequately expresses this idea of "lower intuition," so to speak, being critical to the evolution of scientific understanding, and therefore progress into the great unKnown. It's not so much that the "intuition" is lower, only that science applies -- and then arbitrarily limits -- it to a lower order of reality, i.e., the natural/horizontal world. But to point out that the material world cannot be understood in the absence of intuition is to affirm the obvious principle that the world is not material (or that matter is not ultimate).

Theists often argue that most of the world's greatest scientists have been religious, and most serious philosophers of science now understand that science as we know it could only have arisen in Christendom (Whitehead was one of the first to notice, in his Science and the Modern World).

In any event, science cannot operate without certain functions that most people would regard as spiritual or quasi-religious, certainly not "mechanical" or empirical. Even to digest the most alimentary fact, "reason requires data in order to function, otherwise it operates in the void." Therefore, something transcending reason must supply the material on which it operates, or else you are truly trapped in a closed universe from which there is no escape, not even into knowledge -- including the knowledge that you are trapped.

In a way, this mirrors the philosophical problem of the ontological status of mathematics. That is, the most perfect mathematical account of the cosmos will never account for three things, 1) the mysterious existence of invariant mathematical operations that map the inner workings of the cosmos, 2) the "substance" to which the mathematical equations apply (in other words, no abstract mathematical equation can create the concrete reality on which it operates, only provide a description of it), and 3) the existence of mathematical subjects and the mysterious reciprocity between (and inner unity of) the objective world, the mathematical world, and the subjective world.

In reality -- which is where we want to be (and can only be, since it is Being) -- the data required by reason can only come from four sources, 1) the world, which is objective, 2) experience, which is obviously subjective, 3) revelation, which is, as Schuon explains, objective, since it enters from outside the world-system, and 4) intellection, "which is subjective since it is produced within ourselves" (Schuon).

Four sources of knowledge: exterior world, interior experience, exterior revelation, and interior intellection.

But it is the work of a moment to see that each of these implies and even "contains" its complementary opposite.

For example, the fact that we may comprehend the "inner workings" of the exterior world indeed suggests that it has an interior, as Whitehead immediately grasped almost a century ago, based upon the (then) new findings of quantum physics.

Likewise, the fact that we may objectively understand reality must mean that there is something of the unwavering object inside the human subject. Of the animals, only man is capable of objectivity, detachment, and disinterested consideration.

And revelation, save for the most fundamaliteralist (who may be a theist or atheist, it doesn't matter) is like a veritable interior cathedral that ultimately discloses the mind of the Creator (not completely, of course, any more than any text could exhaust the mind of its author).

Reason and Experience: both are far more mysterious than the weak and secularized mind can appreciate (and it is because of its all-too-human weakness that it is so easily secularized).

In an essay entitled The Unaccountable Element in Science, Polanyi explains how it is not possible in the practice of science to replace unspecifiable acts of personal judgment -- AKA, intuition -- with the operation of explicit reasoning, as if our minds operate like machines. This applies not only to scientific discovery, but to "the very holding of scientific knowledge."

Based upon his own extensive experience as a working scientist, he knew that "into all acts of judgment there enters, and must enter, a personal decision which cannot be accounted for by any rules." In other words, "no system of rules can prescribe the procedure by which the rules themselves are to be applied." This is particularly obvious in my own racket of psychology. You cannot unambiguously convey to another person the "rules" for apprehending the unconscious mind. Rather, this ability can only be gained through experience, even though it is still "rule bound."

To bring it down to a more mundane (or sophisticated, depending on your point of view) level, when Sidney Crosby and I watch a hockey game (today happens to be opening day), we "see" entirely different realities. What may look like mere noise to me, will constitute a field of extremely significant facts to him. And what looks important to me, may be just noise to him -- a sort of diversion that obscures the real action.

So right away, we can see that one of the indispensable skills of the scientist -- or, shall we say, the expert in any field, from theology to hockey -- is to distinguish between noise and information. The expert is able to convert what is foreground to the untrained eye into background, so as to attend to hidden clues that only the expert can intuit -- which is to say, appreciate as clues. In psychoanalysis it is referred to as "listening with the third ear," while in trolling it is called "listening with the middle finger." But every discipline or field of study must have something similar, whether it is quantum physics, wine tasting, or biblical exegesis:

"This gift of seeing things where others see nothing is indeed the mark of the scientific genius." Atheistic flatlanders such as Sam Harris see simplistic answers to the world enigma everywhere. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the liberal mind sees a simple solution for every complex problem and a complex solution for every simple problem. In short, they lack depth and therefore wisdom. And when they do try to be wise, they replace intuitive wisdom with a kind of inappropriately mechanical thinking that is simultaneously linear and convoluted (as in the healthcare monstrosity).

In contrast, what the subgenius or even mere genius sees is a problem where others don't: "All research starts by a process of collecting clues that intrigue the enquiring mind.... The knowledge of a true problem is indeed a paradigm of all knowing. For knowing is always a tension alerted by largely unspecifiable clues and directed by them towards a focus at which we sense the presence of a thing -- a thing that, like a problem, embodies the clues on which we rely for attending to it" (Polanyi).

So don't give me this "God is just an intuition" business. For reality itself is nothing but an intuition. And atheism is indeed "nothing more than the [silly] noises [merely] reasonable people make in the presence of [their own] unjustified [ir]religious beliefs."

Or, to put it another way, God is not the solution. He is the problem. But only if you can give up your childishly simplistic solutions and are sophisticated enough to intuit the clues within the noise of the world. In short, to see God, you must quiet the noise -- especially in your fat head -- and get a clue. Otherwise you'll be stuck down in the paradorksical realm where truth lies -- or where "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity."

Why, on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of thing, amongst those you know not, will you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best, that you hit upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know? --Plato, Meno

Now -- if you haven't got an answer
Then you haven't got a question
And if you never had a question
Then you'd never have a problem
But if you never had a problem
Well, everyone would be happy
But if everyone was happy
There'd never be a love song
--Harry Nilsson, Joy

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Okay, So Reality Exists: Now What?

Another item from several years back. In addition to being tweaked and recalibrated, it was the best one of about thirty I scanned & canned, the only one worthy of the eternal distinction of being tossed up and rewordgitated...

Let's suppose reality exists. If it does exist, then it is not sufficient to merely think or talk about it. Rather, we will want to be in conformity with it, no?

To put it another way, to not be in conformity with reality will result in death, injury, disease or dysfunction in one form or another.

For example, if you are not in conformity with the reality that walking into a speeding bus can be harmful to your health, you won't live very long. Likewise, if you aspire to be a world-class mathematician, you won't get very far if you refuse to conform to the dictates of basic math. Your career will die, as it were.

And if you wish -- or even don't wish -- to know God in the absence of conformity to the divine reality, you will undergo spiritual death. But only again and again.

So there obviously exist different environments -- a vertical spectrum as it were -- to which man must adapt. Unlike other animals, it will not do for man to only adapt to the physical world, for if he were to succeed, he would be an animal, not a man.

Now obviously, it is possible -- common, actually -- to have thoughts that do not conform to reality, and not just if you're frankly crazy. Leftists are proof of this. Nor does intelligence help. Our universities are proof of that. And good intentions are of no help at all. The Democrat party proves this year in, year out.

As we have discussed before, in order to have a cosmos at all, there must be a synapse between subject and object (we call this synapse "spacetime"). But no sooner do you have this differentiation, than you have a distinction between reality and appearances. The human vocation is to bridge this gap and to act upon it. The former is wisdom, the latter morality. Beauty is the creation of objects through which this reality is transmitted and reflected, i.e., the higher shining through the lower.

In the words of Schuon, "He who conceives the Absolute... cannot stop short de jure at this knowledge, or at this belief, realized in thought alone; he must on the contrary integrate all that he is into his adherence to the Real, as demanded precisely by Its absoluteness and infinitude."

Therefore -- and here's the point -- "Man must 'become that which he is' because he must 'become That which is.'" Which is why the new and improved "first commandment" is to love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

In other words, it takes all four -- heart, soul, mind and body -- to achieve this vertical conformity. Leave out one, and you leave a "hole" in the Divine reality, the fullness of which is deveiled only in our adequate mirroring of it.

In man, the big three transcendentals -- the Good, the True and the Beautiful -- are reflected in the form of Will, Thought, and Love, respectively. In other words, we must will the Good, know the True, and love the Beautiful. For who would want to will the bad, know lies, and love ugliness?

Okay, besides the left.

Just as wisdom is beauty of mind, virtue is beauty of will. And beauty itself reveals the intelligence -- not to say, love and will -- of creation, and therefore the Creator.

The point is that our Thought, Will, and Love are not merely isolated functions that arose through some sort of Darwinian magic. Rather, they specifically function in a vertical-teleological manner toward their appropriate ends. It is impossible to coherently argue otherwise. People will the bad all the time, but it's only because they confuse bad and good, as does, say, the U.N.

Likewise, people regularly teach and learn falsehood, but only because they either conflate it with truth, or deny the existence of Truth. If the latter, then "thought" will simply meander in a meaningless way over the blandscape of the mind, going from nowhere to nothing and then back again. It takes approximately four years to complete this round trip at a major university.

To quote Schuon, "Without beauty of soul, all willing is sterile, it is petty and closes itself to grace; and in an analogous manner: without effort of will, all spiritual thought ultimately remains superficial and ineffectual and leads to pretension."

Let's think about that one for a moment. Are there beautiful souls?

Who would have to even pause to answer something so obvious? What I don't understand is how the bonehead atheist can get through life and not be in conformity with this simple reality, i.e., the existence of beautiful souls, along with the naturally supernatural desire for one's own soul to attain to such beauty. But if beauty is just an illusion and the soul doesn't exist, I guess that's their only real option.

Again, such madness is analogous to wishing to develop one's mind even while denying the sufficient reason for its development, which is Truth. And who doesn't love Truth?

Okay, besides the tenured.

It's quite simple, really, because the Real is simple: There is something that man must know and think; and something that he must will and do; and something that he must love and be (Schuon).

Notice the invariant in these three statements about human reality: must.

Therefore, Man is the unnecessary being who must Must, in conformity with the Being who Must Be, since we didn't have to be.

In other words, human beings are contingent -- which is to say, relative -- not necessary, or Absolute.

And yet, religion is here to teach us how to travel the perilous path from contingency to Necessity. The secret lies in the Must, which is that little portion of necessity we share with the Creator. But, in keeping with the gift of free will, it is necessary for us to "activate" the divine Must, for only in conformity to this potential reality are we necessarily free.

Or, the crucifixion of the contingent is resurrected in the Absolute.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Are You Living in a Counterfeit Cosmos?

Where does the idea of a universe, or “cosmos,” come from, anyway? Why do we assume it exists? Animals don’t know anything about a cosmos, for they can't escape or transcend their sense impressions.

Whatever we imagine it to be, for the vast majority of human history, it was imagined very differently. Here I don't want to get into the quaintness of those old images and models. Rather, I want to emphasize two things, one, that human beings cannot help creating a wider cosmic context for themselves, and second, that these will always be human projections. Therefore, the premodern, modern, and postmodern cosmoses have much more in common with each other than they do with, say, the cosmos of a cow, which doesn't extend beyond its pasture and its senses (nor can the cow reflect on its cosmos, so it doesn't even really exist as a thing in itself).

Humans imagine there is a cosmos, but what do we really mean by the word? Is the universe the sum of things, or the whole of things? -- for these are two very different ideas. If it is merely the sum of things, there’s really no way to understand it, because each part is more or less independent of the other parts. But if it is the whole of things, that must mean that there is an underlying wholeness that somehow transcends and yet participates in each of the parts. Thus, to say "cosmos" is to say "unity" -- which is to say "the One," no matter how you say it. And to say that everything is one is to say that everything is internally related in such a manner that everything is within everything else.

Insofar as the universe is a whole, science cannot speak of it consistently. In other words, science, in order to be science, must treat the universe as a collection of objects, and simply assume their underlying unity -- if only to separate the scientific observer from what he observes. Like the mind itself, wholeness cannot be observed, only inferred. This leads me to believe that there is some hidden relationship between the mysteries of consciousness and wholeness. In short, the one cannot exist without the other. And for the Christian this is, of course, axiomatic, since he lives in a logoistic cosmos in which intelligence and intelligibility are just two sides of the same coin of the realm.

Every sense perception is an act of division within prior wholeness. Only the particular is ever observed, and there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. But every mental act is an act of synthesis and integration -- of bringing particulars together into a wholeness that reveals their meaning. Thus “the cosmos” is the ultimate mental act of material synthesis, analogous to the metaphysical synthesis of conceiving of God -- who also represents an absolute integrity and cohesion that we can never perceive in its a priori fulness with our senses or our mind. You might say that God is to the intellect as cosmos is to the senses.

For this reason, we can say that the physical cosmos is a kind of exteriorization of God, while God is the interiorization of the cosmos (while not limiting God to that). Conceiving of either is only possible because human beings are able to intuit both the wholeness and withinness of things. We are able to conceive the Absolute not because it is a fanciful wish, but because it is the inner reality that subtends everything; in other words, the Absolute is the necessary condition for conceiving of it at all. This is not a tautology, nor is it a repetition of Anselm's ontological argument. It is analogous to saying that without light we couldn't see anything, including light.

All bad philosophers -- which is to say, almost all modern philosophers -- take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events (much less how we can know that it exists).

The religionist doesn’t have this problem. Judeo-Christian traditions affirm that “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, there is a prior supra-unity called “God” underlying the apparent division between the celestial and earthly realms -- the vertical and the horizontal, consciousness and matter, whole and part, knower and known, yin and yang, guys and dolls. Religion teaches: where there is apparent duality there is wholeness and unity, whatever the duality. Even life/death. Woo hoo!

The Mundaka Upanishad says something similar, affirming that “Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.” In other words, the creator God -- Yahweh, Brahma, the Father -- is himself an aspect of an even deeper unity, called Brahman, the Ground (by Meister Eckhart) or the Ain Sof (in Judaism), for even God (like the youman beastlings who mirror him) must possess a relative outside but an infinite inside. God turns his face to man, which is the part we may know through revelation. But I think everyone would agree that even if we somehow knew everything of what God has revealed to man, it would be just a drop in his Ocean.

In the absence of revelation -- either explicitly given or implicitly intuited -- there is no way to know about either the cosmos or its "parent," or source. Reduced to natural reason, human beings are like spiders spinning concepts out of their own substance and then living in and crawling about on them, catching the occasional meal. In fact, if the secular black window spider is going to be honest, he will have to admit that the noumenon is a black window, and that all he may ever really know is his own web, which was Kant’s point. Kant took profane philosophy as far as it could go, which is why most philosophy since has merely been a footnote on Kant.

For you have a choice that you must make at the outset: either we live our lives in an illusory, phenomenal universe, cut off from the noumenal reality. Or, because we are made in the image of the Creator, we can know the absolute in both its material/natural and immaterial/transnatural modes. The former side of the absolute subtends science, while the latter makes it possible to know transcendentrialities such as love, truth and beauty, being-conscousness-bliss, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, kether-hokmah-binah, or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Thus, secular philosophers create a problem where there is none. First, they exile us from the cosmos, and then they complain that we can never get back in! True, we are exiled in maya. But that is only to warn us that our senses do not disclose ultimate reality. Revelation goes to great lengths and heights and depths to explain this, including how to overcome the temptation to absolutize the relative. Scripture fully anticipated Kant and all of his followers in the allegory of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, you have free will, so you are therefore free to nourish yourself from the tree of duality. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of spiritual malnourishment.

Of course, this doesn’t stop scientists from talking about the universe and making all sorts of absolute claims about it. In fact, science has hijacked the universe concept, and will permit no one else to make statements about it on pain of ridicule, ostracism, and ACLU lawsuits. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki writes, it is as if all of the central banks had been taken over by counterfeiters. So much of scientific epistemology and ontology is based on intellectual funny money that is not fungible into any underlying reality. The Raccoon says: bring back the Gold Standard! -- which is to say, the Absolute.

Like leftists who are only concerned with the distribution of wealth rather than its creation, secularists are only concerned with the propagation of "truth" rather than the specific metaphysical principles that make Truth itself knowable.

For example, science assures us that their model of the cosmos truly accounts for the strict totality of interacting objects and events. But how can the model contain the proof of its own claim, since it is part of that totality, not outside of it? The question is, can we take a scientific dollar bill and cash it in for real Truth? We can, but only if we realize that there is indeed a central bank that ensures the value of each of those scientific bank gnotes. Science divorced from God is a classic bubble that must eventually burst, since it is analogous to economic activity divorced from real value.

Yes, there is a cosmos. For the same reason there is a God: you can't half one without the underOne. As a matter of fact, the same thing holds true of biology. Say what you want about natural selection, but it presupposes something that its theory cannot account for: the wholeness of the genome and the organism, which is a reflection of the primordial wholeness of Being. Natural selection operates on entities that are living benefactories of a prior wholeness, without which Life itself could not be.

Knowledge is simply adequacy of subject to object. We can know the Reality because our intelligence is a sonny mirrorcle of the Abba we salute.

The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature capable of conceiving the starry heavens is more than the space and the stars so conceived.... It is precisely in virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and therefore the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine. --F. Schuon

Monday, October 04, 2010

Brief Innermission

An open thread while I wondergo another short hiatus until further gnosis, since I don't feel like just rewordgitating the olden pneumagain precogitated bloggerel from the remurmurtory.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Reality and Other Figures of Speech

No burning absence of desire to post anything, so I grabbed this one from three years ago and rethunk it:

Metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in the place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them" (Webster's). In short, it is figurative language, which is to say, language, for all language is ultimately a "figure of speech," is it not?

How then does the B'ob differ from deconstructionists, who also believe that reality is made of language? Fair question.

Human beings communicate through symbols, and all symbols are ultimately metaphors. Language as such is nothing but an endlessly interlocking series of metaphors, but where I differ with naughty deconstructionists is in affirming that human language is woven out of the universal Logos that necessarily subtends it.

In other words, for the deconstructionist, there truly is no there there, no ultimate ground or referent for language. But I am quite certain there is a therethere, which we call the Logos. Without it, all language really would be about "nothing," and life would be a long and tedious Seinfeld episode.

There is nothing you can say about anything that isn't laden with implicit or explicit metaphors, which is one of the reasons why it is so absurd for the materialist to object to religion, since the idea of solid matter is itself a sort of airy metaphor, just a fanciful concept based upon the illusions of our nervous system, illusions like "solidity" or unambiguous "place."

Scientists often conflate the abstract and the concrete, and essentially extend the concretions of the nervous system into an abstract worldview. Which is fine, so long as you don't confuse them with metaphysical truth, or with the Ultimate Real.

For their part, so-called fundamentalist religionists often do the opposite, which is to say, concretize the abstract. But only God can really do that, since the cosmos itself is nothing but a concretion or coagulation in a small corner of the Divine Mind.

As mentioned a couple of days ago, one of the purposes of scripture -- which employs countless metaphors and other seemingly concrete images -- is to follow it back upstream to its hidden source, the "place" from which revelation perpetually flows like a spring from the ground; indeed, the place from which language itself flows.

It's not that scientists don't use metaphor in most every statement they make about reality, just that the metaphor has generally become dead, or saturated in Bion's terminology. Often, advances in science cannot be made until a new metaphor is deployed.

For example, the so-called Newtonian worldview regarded the universe as a giant mechanism. Seeing it as such is undoubtedly useful, and applying it to our experience discloses a range of additional "facts" to ponder. But pushed too far, the metaphor is eventually confronted with facts it cannot explain.

That happened with the development of quantum and relativity theories, way back in the 20th century. There is simply no way to understand the quantum world with the machine metaphor. Rather, it is much more like an ocean, a roiling cauldron of ceaselessly flowing energy that tosses up explicate forms from the implicate order.

Or better yet, it's like the infinitely complex global weather system. We see things like distinct clouds, but we cannot see (with our eyes) that the cloud is simply an outwardly visible residue of an inconceivably complex global weather system. Only Al Gore and his co-religionists think they can see the latter, but of course their heads are up their assumptions. As Michael Crichton has written, Gore's linear paradigm is so last millennium.

This is one of the things Joyce was up to in Finnegans Wake, which is a veritable sea of metaphor constructed out of dozens of languages. It is as if the usual solidity of language has "melted" and we are left with only the quantum realm, so to speak, from which it emerges. Throughout the book, various intrinsic complementarities clothe themselves in time and space with the dream logic of the night -- just like the thing we call "history." You might say that Joyce shows us the complementarity of his & herstory, or Myth & Myster E.

Indeed, one of the central philosophical ideas to emerge from quantum theory is that of complementarity. That is, we can never affirm one thing about the quantum realm without "para-doxically" (which literally means "beyond speech") affirming its complementary opposite. Therefore, is the world made of particles? Yes. Is it made of waves? Yes. But these are opposites. Of course. Well, not really. They are complementary, co-arising simultaneously.

Other important irreducible complementarities in the manifest world include mind/matter, subject/object, unity/diversity, form/substance, individual/group, time/eternity, space/time, male/female, and Lennon McCartney.

Incidentally, one might be tempted to think that Democrat/Republican (or liberalism/leftism) represents a true complementarity, but it doesn't. The true complementarity is within conservatism itself (as always, I am speaking of the classical liberalism of our founders, the closest we have to a "perfect" political philosophy).

Among others, the latter embodies the dynamic complementarity between liberty and order, permanence and change, static truth and catabolic capitalism. Leftism is not complementary to liberalism, any more than disease is complementary to health. Leftism explicitly denies many of the most important human complementarities that drive change and progress; for example, the complementarities between male and female, child and adult, sacred and profane, equality and liberty.

Furthermore, leftism imposes false complementarities such as good/evil. Only in this way can the left maintain that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Evil is not a complement of the Good, but its deprivation.

Nor are freedom and property complementary, the former being rooted in the latter; which in turn is rooted in the 2nd Amendment, which is to say, "don't steal my stuff or I'll squeeze this trigger, because when you steal property you are undermining liberty, and therefore the ground and basis of human life and dignity."

Perfection/imperfection aren't complementary, either. Rather, imperfection is again a deprivation, a declension from the Absolute, as the celestial rays proceed from the vertical cosmic center to the periphery, which, as Schuon has written, "tends" toward a nothing that can never actually be realized. But the hardcore leftist feels a sort of frisson in riding the winds of the ray of creation all the way into the darkness of nihilism. The thrill of the fall, so to speak.

If you don't realize that imperfection is a necessary deprivation, you may be tempted to try to impose perfection from the herebelow, which is one the left's specialties. But as Russell Kirk wrote, conservatives well understand that human nature "suffers irremediably from certain grave faults":

"Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent -- or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: 'the ceremony of innocence is drowned.' The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell."

A leftist-integralist blogger was impressed by the following quote from Ken Wilber, which is about as good an example of the need for buddhaflaw correcting as I could imagine:

"Spirit is not the good half of the opposites, but the ground of all the opposites, and our 'salvation,' as it were, is not to find the good half of the dualism but to find the Source of both halves of the dualism, for that is what we are in truth. We are both sides in the great Game of Life, because we -- you and I, in the deepest recesses of our very Self -- have created both of these opposites in order to have a grand game of cosmic checkers."

Please. This attitude, if applied to real life, would end in leftist horror. It is another false complementarity based upon partial understanding. For as Schuon writes,

"Assuredly it can be said that the Divinity is 'beyond good and evil,' but on condition of adding that this 'beyond' is in its turn a 'good' in the sense that it testifies to an Essence in which there could be no shadow of limitation or privation, and which consequently cannot but be the absolute Good, or absolute Plenitude."

The idea that conservatives "don't want change" is also preposterous. We do, and desperately. But we don't want to accomplice it by renaming evil good. And we want to evolve toward the Good, not have it imposed by leftist elites with their own peculiar ideas about how we should live. The conservative, according to Kirk, feels

"affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism [read: denial of complementarity] of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation. Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality."

The so-called "progressive" fails to consider one of the truly enduring complementarities in governance, which is that whenever government does something for you, it does something to you. Which is why, according to Kirk,

"When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces..., its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate."

In other words, progress and permanence are complementary, not opposites: "the intelligent conservative endeavors to reconcile the claims of Permanence and the claims of Progression. He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old."

Clearly, "Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host. The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism" (Kirk).

Which is why I say that leftism is truly a death cult. Hey, don't believe me. Just judge it by its fruits. And nuts. And flakes. Speaking literally.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Truthsong to Love

I'm a little tired this morning, so I don't know if a post will appear, and I don't want to force anything. Not a problem. The Intellectual Life is so filled with pithy little maxims, that I can just rebleat some of them without having to comment. Or, maybe one of them will provoke a post, and off we go.

I'm going to organize them in such a manner that the essence of a full-service "Christian gnana yoga" emerges:

Know that "Every study is a study of eternity.... keep yourself in the state of eternity, your heart submissive to truth." Slacken the tempo of your life.

Next, "Plunge every day of your life into the spring which quenches and yet ever renews your thirst.... The soul is that secret spring: do not try prematurely to clear up its mystery.... impatience is a revolt against Him." (Here again, this is the meaning of "To be long multiple is the condition for being richly one.")

Begin by laying your foundation "according to the height you wish to reach. Broaden the opening of the excavation according to the depth it has to reach."

"There are books everywhere, and only a few are necessary.... In ourselves also there are volumes and texts of great value that we do not read."

More importantly, "the value of a book" is limited by "what you are capable of getting out of it." Our task is to find "a way of entry through them into a new domain." Thus, "The source of knowledge is not in books, it is in reality, and in our thought. Books are signposts; the road is older, and no one can make the journey for us...."

"We think too little of the privilege of this bond with the greatest minds.... Next after men of genius come those who can recognize their worth."

"Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man.... one is fully oneself in surrendering to what is above self."

To paraphrase, we should turn our eyes toward first causes and our hearts toward supreme ends: "[I]ntellection passes from God to God, as it were, through us. God is its first cause; he is its last end."

In order to "properly to regulate the intelligence..., qualities quite different from intelligence itself are required."

"Love is the beginning of everything in us.... Truth visits those who love her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue.... This submission to truth is the binding condition for communion with it."

"Truth is, as it were, the special divinity of the thinker.... By practicing the truth that we know, we merit the truth that we do not yet know."

"No branch of knowledge is self-sufficing; no discipline looked at by itself alone gives light enough for its own path.... There is a great revelation in discovering the hidden links that exist between ideas and systems the most dissimilar.... Each truth is a fragment which does not stand alone but reveals connections on every side. Truth itself is one, and the Truth is God.... "

"Everything is in everything, and partitions are only possible by abstraction.... Those who rest satisfied with provisional answers to problems that in reality remain unsolved, warp the answers given to them" (and thereby warp themselves, I might add).

"Hence, for the fully awakened soul, every truth is a meeting place.... Everything that instructs us leads to God on a hidden byway. Every authentic truth is in itself eternal, and its quality of eternity turns us towards the eternity of which it is the revelation."

Theology inserts "a divine graft into the tree of knowledge, thanks to which this tree can bear fruits that are not its own. It loses nothing of its sap thereby, on the contrary, the sap circulates gloriously."

As a result of "human effort [and] the collaboration of heaven" (↑↓), a "soaring impulse is given to knowledge," all branches of which "are vivified and all disciplines broadened.... Everything makes one harmony in the concert of the human and the divine."

However, on a discordant note, "he who is united to men and to nature without being hiddenly united to God... is but the subject of a kingdom of death.... [S]uch are those... who are out of their element in any higher region," and "who would like to reduce others to their narrow, elementary school orthodoxy."

The setting of our knowledge is the cosmos; and this is itself organization, structure.

Serve truth!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Psychic Catastrophe and the Repression of God

Some readers were a little unclear on Sertillanges' statement that "To be long multiple is the condition for being richly one." I suppose I was thinking of Bion's theory of thinking, one aspect of which he calls PS<-->D, which is "the emotional experience of a sense of discovery of coherence."

Bion references Poincaré, who wrote of how a new scientific discovery unites "elements long since known, but till then scattered and seemingly foreign to each other, and suddenly introduces order where the appearance of disorder reigned. Then it enables us to see at a glance each of these elements in the place it occupies in the whole. Not only is the new fact valuable on its own account, but it alone gives a value to the old facts it unites" (emphasis mine).

The passage is worth quoting in full: "Our mind is as frail as our senses are; it would lose itself in the complexity of the world if that complexity were not harmonious; like the short-sighted, it would only see the details, and would be obliged to forget each of these details before examining the next, because it would be incapable of taking in the whole. The only facts worthy of our attention are those which introduce order into this complexity and so make it accessible to us" (emphasis mine).

Thus, the "D" in PS<-->D refers to what Bion calls the "selected fact," and we can see how in psychic development, one selected fact becomes a part (PS) of a new whole (D), as in metabolism (discussed yesterday). Indeed, this is why you are what you eat, and why you should think twice about what you shove into your head.

Hinshelwood elaborates: "In the creative process, thinking involves the dismantling of previous views and theories, with the development of new views. In changing one's way of thinking, the container has to be dissolved before it is reformed.... When this happened, Bion thought, it caused intense emotional experiences -- so intense that he used the term catastrophe [to refer to] the mental event of having a new thought." We must tolerate disintegration (catabolism), but more importantly, integration (anabolism).

Why integration? You don't need to be a licentious coonical pslackologist to understand this. All you have to do is observe the maturational process in your child. Every significant development is fraught with ambivalence, as it represents a catastrophic departure from the familiar.

Watch how a young child who is exploring the world will constantly look back and "touch base" with mother. In fact, they've done studies in which mothers are instructed to reflect a proud smile or a worried frown back to the child. Those with the frowning mothers immediately cease their explorations and scurry back to her arms, because the unknown becomes too frightening without the background of psychic "support."

When a patient comes in for therapy, it is always because, in some form or fashion, he has not found the "selected fact" of his life. More problematically, this Fact can be forcibly prevented by not allowing its constituent parts to come together.

Indeed, sometimes the Fact is unconsciously attacked and dismantled, which Bion called "attacks on linking." It's a more sophisticated way of accounting for the same phenomena as repression. Repression is a very linear and three-dimensional way of looking at it, when the mind exists in more dimensions than just three or four.

In mother worlds, it's not like taking the unwanted fact -- imagine, say, a balloon -- and just shoving it beneath the surface of the water. Rather, the balloon is first rendered into bits, which makes repression unnecessary, since you've "un-Known" the thing that needs to be repressed (and bear in mind, of course, that you must already have some inchoate awareness of the truth in order to have to deny it; you might say that only the Lie requires a thinker).

This is what I call a "dimensional defense," because another way of doing it is to simply live one's life in a mental space of fewer dimensions, where none of the unwanted meanings can coalesce or be consciously available. No mind, no problem, so to speak (although this usually causes problems for other people due to acting out the unKnown thoughts).

I hope this isn't abstract, but rather, quite clear and even experience-near. All of us have done it at one time or another. If I were a more literate or even more caffeinated fellow, I'm sure I could make reference to famous characters in literature. Sometimes the whole plot can revolve around That Which Must Not Be Known by the character(s). The one fact that is desperately needed in order to grow and move beyond the psychic impasse is the one fact that is denied.

But denied does not mean forgotten, so the fact nevertheless has a kind of shadowy, persecutory existence at the periphery of local being. It is like a thought in search of a thinker who will host it. It is "out there" wanting to come together, so it requires a considerable outlay of psychic energy to forcibly separate its constituents. It's just like your body, which has a powerful "tendency to wholeness." Cut or injure it, and it "wants" to heal and revert to wholeness (indeed, heal and whole are etymologically related).

Your mind and soul quite obviously run along the same lines, since the soul is the form of the body. It wishes to be whole, to such an extent that you might say that this is its earthly mission.

But there are various degrees of wholeness. There is material wholeness, say, a rock or crystal. There is biological wholeness, i.e., the living body, and there is psychic wholeness, the true self.

There is also spiritual wholeness. However, like psychic wholeness, it cannot be given "all at once." Why not? Because we do not exist in only three or four dimensions, like material objects. Rather, it requires at least a single lifetome to compose the book of "who we are," so to speak. This becoming is a ceaseless process of PS<-->D -- of psychospiritual metabolism -- which is why "To be long multiple is the condition for being richly one."

Think of the difference between a rock and the simplest body, even that of a single cell. Both are "one." But what a difference! They tell us that the cell contains more information than what, the entire New York City Library or something? A humanly inconceivable degree of multiplicity, and yet, a harmonious one.

And it only becomes more multiple -- and therefore more richly one -- the higher we move up the cosmic food chain. At the very top we find this thing called God or O, which is -- you guessed it -- the simplest thing imaginable, since it effortlessly unifies all this mayaplicity. Or, all of it is re-solved, as it were, in God.

And this, don't you know, is what we were driving at in our book, which begins in the multiplicity of Cosmogenesis and ends in the unity of Cosmotheosis, or the conscious divinization of all reality, both vertical and horizontal (again, that Rich One).

The principle difference between theists and atheists is that the latter cling to the absurd belief that there is no nonlocal sponsor of all of this dynamic wholeness within and without, no ground and no end, no origin and no destiny. Again, this is strictly absurd.

This is why philosophical time has been moving backward since the great synthesis of Thomas Aquinas, who, suffice to say, wanted to develop a philosophy that excluded nothing, whether horizontal or vertical; in other words, the richest One man is capable of attaining. Pieper:

"... [H]e was intrepidly affirming the whole of natural reality, not only with regard to objective existence, but also within man himself.... [I]t was his life's task to join these two extremes which seemed inevitably to be pulling away from one another."

One cosmos under God, as one wagdaddit:

We are Ones again back by oursoph before the beginning, before old nobodaddy committed wholly matterimany and exhaled himself into a world of sorrow and ignorance. Back upin a timeless with the wonderfully weird Light with which everything was made, a Light no longer dispersed and refracted through so many banged-up and thunder-sundered images of the One. Back at the still point between the vertical and horizontal, where eternity pierces the present moment and we are unborn again (p. 248).