Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cosmos: Now Open For Isness

This post concludes our guided tour of Dante's Inferno, which began way back on January 24, 33 cantos and 45 postas ago. I don't know whether I'll continue the journey upward into purgatory and paradise.

This wing of Hell is the maximum security Judas Memorial Detention Center, from which they say no one has ever escaped, for here one is deprived of both Life and Death -- although some prominent theologians believe otherwise, including Balthasar.

In underworlds, Balthasar believed it possible for even the worst deicidal maniac to pay his debt to the cosmos. Schuon too maintained that the idea of eternal damnation was contradictory, since only God can be eternal. To say that Hell is eternal is to imply that evil is coterminous with God.

Origen also maintained a belief in the restoration of all souls, i.e., apokatastasis: "For him, all souls, including the devil himself, will eventually achieve salvation, even if it takes innumerable ages to do so."

This is based on a deeper principle -- or at least divine hunch -- that God would not put himself through the hassle of creating this maninfestation of assouls "capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity." Consequently, Origen "reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or ‘healing’ than others."

True dat. Hence, the school of purgatory. In any event, it's a long time, and if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

Judas is the archtraitor, the archetype of traitors against benefactors (Upton). Such individuals not only do evil, but return "evil for good. They actually punished others for doing good to them -- and this kills life completely."

In life, such individuals are on the extreme paranoid end of the developmental spectrum. When dealing with a paranoid person, you cannot just be "nice" and expect it to change them or put them at ease, for niceness only makes them more suspicious.

You might say that they preemptively kill any love before it can enter. The paranoid mind is so consumed by the process of projecting the bad outward, that it contaminates everything else. They are kept "pure" within, but at the cost of being surrounded by persecutory objects.

And because they cannot emotionally "feed" on anything outside themselves, they starve to death inside. They end up eating only their own self-produced delusions (i.e., crap), in a tighter and tighter circle. It is a death spiral into Ø.

Once again Dante employs digestive similes, for Satan's munching of the traitors "is a parody of the sacrament of the Eucharist." The Eucharist in-corporates Jesus into the faithful, and vice versa. But Satan chews "endlessly without swallowing," which is reminiscent of the hungry ghosts of Buddhism, who have huge bellies and pinholes for mouths.

Imagine chewing endlessly without swallowing. Here again, there are patients who do this. Some are variants of the paranoid style, called obsessional (this is different from OCD, which is a more or less neurochemical problem; here we are referring to personality style). When you offer an interpretation, they will "chew on it" in a way that mimics thought, but is really for the purpose of rejecting. They are subtly "oppositional," and always find a way to spit out what you give them. Here again, they starve within.

Such individuals also cannot see the forest for the trees, because they are always chewing but never digesting. There is a helpful chapter devoted to this subject in Shapiro's Neurotic Styles. He calls such people "living machines," for they are marked by their rigidity and absence of pneumacognitive fluidity. Interestingly, they may appear "attentive," but theirs is actually an indiscriminate "active inattention," being that it systematically misses the big picture. In some degree or another, they lose contact with reality, since reality is not an empirical fact but a synthetic experience.

Now, the dead can be resurrected, but not the unDead. The purpose of most any spiritual practice is to "die before we die," so as to be reborn. But the people here cannot "give their lives," since they have no life to give. It has already been starved to death by their own self-enclosed psychic processes.

Upton writes that "the source of all sorrow is the lack of gratitude, and the most fundamental form of ingratitude is not to be thankful for the gift of one's own existence. Ingratitude is based on the delusion that we are self-created; and this is the deepest delusion of all" (emphasis mine).

This relates to what I said about the paranoid/obsessive style, in that the fundamental problem for such individuals is again the inability to in-corporate and assimilate reality. To assimilate means to become seamlessly one with what one has assimilated. In this way mere knowledge is transformed to being.

As I mentioned in the book, human beings are psychically open systems, both on the horizontal and vertical planes. Both horizontally and vertically we are intersubjective, which is why the purpose of religion -- at least Christianity -- is to have a living relationship with the Creator. This relationship takes place in the "space" between O and (¶). If that space is collapsed, then there is no possibility of gratitude -- or of spiritual growth, for that matter.

Upton contrasts the satanic principle -- which is entirely closed -- to Mary, the Theotokos who nurtures the "growing God" in her womb: "As opposed to the rebellious passivity of Satan, the Virgin is the active receptivity of Pure Being, which draws toward it the Grace of God."

In our bʘʘk of the same namelessness we symbolize this as (o), one aspect of which is the teloscapic (H)openness that brings with it the possibility of Love -- which must again be incorporated and assimilated in order to become truly efficacious.

In our end is our bigending. Upon touching bottom, our virtual adventurers turnaround and begin their journey back upstream along the ancient celestial trail. Night turns to morning, "And upon setting foot in what Dante calls the 'bright world,' they once more see the stars; their intellects can now, at least in potential, have access to the higher worlds."

(A circular round of applause for Jennifer Doane Upton for winging us back home sophly).

A luminous fissure appeared in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world. --p. 58


Blogger Bruce I. Kodish said...

Gagdad Bob,
I consider you one of the best and most profound writers on the web. A great post.

Re Uptons comment 'on the delusion that we are self-created; and this is the deepest delusion of all'. This seems to me like the ultimate idolatry, since it equates the small self with the Great One. Maybe I am G-d, but so is everyone and everything else, and then where are we?

3/25/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Excellent series, Bob. Has it been that long? Time flies..

Wonderful tribute to Upton's work. I'm sure she'd like to know. Is she and hubby coons? One way to find out.. May I have your permission to let her know? Maybe she'll stick around. (maybe she's already here)

3/25/2011 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Arthur is to Virgil
Larry Sanders is to Dante

3/25/2011 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick -- no, I wouldn't let her know. I don't think she would approve.

3/25/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...



"Shapiro's Neurotic Styles. He calls such people "living machines," for they are marked by their rigidity and absence of pneumacognitive fluidity. Interestingly, they may appear "attentive," but theirs is actually an indiscriminate "active inattention," being that it systematically misses the big picture."

Would these types be humorless?

3/25/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Generally, but not necessarily. However, they are incapable of the full body laugh.

3/25/2011 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks for this series, Bob. I doubt I would have ever gotten through the Inferno on my own, which I suppose is fitting given that even Dante needed a guide. Some of us lesser mortals apparently need many more than that to struggle along his trail.

It's too bad Upton didn't go on to write about the rest of the Divine Comedy; this has been such an outstanding book, I'd love to see what she thinks of the other 2/3 of the story.

3/25/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Ahh..was wondering if it may be almost like mimicry.

Hope you don't mind:

Arthur is to Virgil..
WARNING: (im)Mature content

3/25/2011 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Guenon wrote a book on the subject, although I don't know if it's any good. Ironically, I find him a bit paranoid....

3/25/2011 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"It's too bad Upton didn't go on to write about the rest of the Divine Comedy"

By the end of her book I was thinking this must have been a lot of work. I wonder how long it took her.

3/25/2011 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, Upton says she was influenced by this book by Titus Burckhardt.

3/25/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Bob, I'm very grateful for this immensely illuminating journey you led us on. I especially liked the way you wove in the aphorisms of Don Colacho.

3/25/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Serious books do not instruct, but rather demand explanations. --DC

3/25/2011 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Good point, Rick.

And thanks for the recommendations, Bob. The Burckhardt book looks intriguing; it's now on my list.

As far as the rest of the Comedy goes, I probably will try to finish it. I just know there's an awful lot of depth I'll be missing.

3/25/2011 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And Each new truth we learn teaches us to read a different way.

3/25/2011 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

"Origen also maintained a belief in the restoration of all souls, i.e., apokatastasis: "For him, all souls, including the devil himself, will eventually achieve salvation, even if it takes innumerable ages to do so."

This is based on a deeper principle -- or at least strong intuition -- that God would not go through all the hassle of creating souls "that were capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity." Consequently, Origen "reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or ‘healing’ than others."

— An excerpt from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

This life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats. It was not always dry land where we dwell. Everyone has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug that came out of a dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years — from an egg deposited in the tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this?

Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, deposited at first in the flesh of the green and living tree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance of its well-seasoned tomb — heard perchance gnawing out now for years by the astonished family of man, as they sat round the festive board — may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!

3/25/2011 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. Bob @ 9:46,

Ooooo, I like that one. It sounds like it should be an invocation over a library.

3/25/2011 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Back to Upton for a moment, she also makes an excellent observation on the perception of evil:

"Evil is a privation of reality which nonetheless exists, in a sense, since it produces real effects. It is both real and unreal, and this is what leads those in its power to deny it. Whoever denies evil becomes terrified by it, and whoever is terrified by it rushes to deny it."

One cannot help but be reminded of those on the left who would deny, for instance, the evil of Muslim terrorism, even as they act to appease it and thus deflect from themselves its terrible attentions.

3/25/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Evil doesn't exist, and besides, it's America's fault!

3/25/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A true joke.

3/25/2011 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . Origen "reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation,<<

Next stop: Purgatory Town, yes. And perhaps reincarnation as well. Purgatory, I believe, is the cleansing, but is an "inactive" state in which the passions exhaust themselves. For the circle to close, the soul must be active, must apply the lessons learned in an active, ie., corporeal state. At least this makes sense to the likes of me.

>> . . the dead can be resurrected, but not the unDead.<<

So what of the collective "zombie" infatuation of the last coupla years? As a reader of collective semiotics (yes, I went to film school), I have to wonder what the message is. A warning from the heart of the collective unconscious re: the point of no return, spiritually-speaking? Or maybe something more prosaic such as the millions of foreclosed homeless? Or both?

BTW, for Dante fans, there is a sci-fi novel titled Inferno, authors Niven and Pournelle. It's pretty durn good. Plot concerns a sci-fi writer's apparent death and tour of hell with Benito Mussolini serving as his Virgil. Not to worry, the overall message is decidedly spiritual and is not bleached out by scientism.

3/25/2011 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I'm tempted to say, What a long, strange trip it's been. But I'm always tempted to say that. This has been insightful.

Univeralism crops up quite a bit in Christianity. There is currently an exchange going on over a pop-theology book on the subject by Rob Bell. Albert Mohler and Maclaren (can't remember his first name) are on opposite sides. Mohler is president or something of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. Not surprisingly, he says eternal torment in hell is biblical.

As far as I'm concerned, hell must exist. But the very idea of eternal punishment, which carries the idea of correction, seems contradictory.

Not that I'm looking to go and find out. I certainly can't imagine anyone at the end saying, "I could do 40 million years standing on my head. In flaming poop."

Hell is eternal, at the very least, in its consequences.

Consequences is not the right word, but I can't think of a better one at the moment.

3/25/2011 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Also, I second Will's recoonmendation of Inferno, though it's been a while since I read it. I remember it as a favorite among the Pournelle and Niven collaborations.

3/25/2011 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"You might say that they preemptively kill any love before it can enter. The paranoid mind is so consumed by the process of projecting the bad outward, that it contaminates everything else. They are kept "pure" within, but at the cost of being surrounded by persecutory objects."

That's an interesting point. Being that both paranoia and love involve extensive integrations (maybe relations would be the better word for referring to both).

The paranoid spins relations based upon the most non-essential of appearances and happenstance, deliberately and necessarily without regard for context, between outer focused webs and ideas they seek to be separated from ... a spider spinning webs comes to mind (I'm betting brains will be served at some point).

While Love, on the other hand, involves not just relating but integrating your highest values, through the context of another, and back into yourself - and the deeper and truer your integrations become, the higher you are both lifted in union... and through the addition of a child, you can be drawn even further into One.

The relations of Love, unite, integrate and free you - the relations of the paranoid, confuse, disintegrate and bind you... nothing gets past the webs except to be devoured... anything that begins to I suppose must be regarded as a spider does that occasional fly which manages to scuttle across the web without becoming stuck... yet... waiting... watching... waiting...

(run Frodo!)

3/25/2011 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"And Each new truth we learn teaches us to read a different way."

Proven true daily. I second Julie's comment.

3/25/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Will said "So what of the collective "zombie" infatuation of the last coupla years?"

Well... sometimes I think of it as being simply a more palatable way of dealing with leftism in your daily life.

I mean come on, would you rather imagine a flesh eating zombie mindlessly seeking to devour you... or nancy pelosi, through the cooperation of many of your own friends and family, deliberately trying to devour your life and suck out your soul?

And zombies can be killed with a simple head shot (double tap for safety). But leftists... it's a never ending battle and you can't kill them.

Bring on the pop-corn. Please.

P.S. I've wondered about that Inferno of Niven & Pournelle... I've almost bought it a few times... with some serious raccoonmendations behind it I'll have to take the plunge next time.

3/25/2011 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Mushroom -

As I've said before, I think Dante's version of hell is basically a version of the lower caverns of Purgatory, and for this reason: To suffer, to sorrow, is to have a conscience, a link to God. In other words, God does not so much punish the sinner as the sinner punishes himself. Such punishment cannot be eternal (though it may seem that way to the purgatory-bound soul) because the purgatory-bound soul is not God and cannot visit eternal punishment on himself.

A quote from - in my humble opinion, if anybody's opinion can be said to be "humble", the greatest of Christian philosophical mystics, Jacob Boehme:

"It is not to be thought that the life of darkness is sunk in misery and lost as if in sorrowing. There is no sorrowing. For sorrow is a thing that is swallowed up in death, and death and dying are the very life of the darkness."

Boehme speaks of the individual soul who has destroyed all vestiges of conscience and sinks down, yes, eternally and willfully into the outer darkness.

3/25/2011 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Van -

Zombie = leftist. Good point.

I recall, too, the Borg of Star Trek, who were zombies of a sort. They were definitely of hive-collective mentality

3/25/2011 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous mushroom said...

I can see annihilation as a result of a rebellion that has become so all-consuming there's nothing left at the end of the purging.

3/25/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Mushroom - yes, but for Boehme's self-damned soul there is no purging. Purging is only for those with an active, however feeble, conscience.

3/25/2011 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I would be more optimistic about the abolishment of Hell if people did not love it so much. Even in this life, you cannot get the ordinary man to abandon his self-made unhappiness even if you tempt him with cookies. Will it truly be easier in the hereafter?

3/25/2011 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>>Will it truly be easier in the hereafter?<<

Don't think so, Magnus, in fact, I think it wwould be a thousand times worse. But that's the idea - the very trauma of it is needed to awaken the soul to its divine potentiality. You know, just like in the life we now have.

Point being most people have no idea of the damage they do to themselves, but they will eventually find out.

3/25/2011 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Will, I think you're right about that.

Also about the Niven/Pournelle Inferno. I read it a few years ago, and may have to dust it off for a second look now that I've read the original. There's a sequel as well, though I seem to recall DH picking that one up, but saying it wasn't as good.

3/25/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie, yes, the sequel is not nearly as good as the original. Consorting with the shade of Syliva Plath . . . no. Just no.

Bit of a disappointment, that.

But hey . . .

3/25/2011 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous sehoy said...

Thanks for the re-tour, Dr. Bob. It fixed some things I didn't even know were broken.

3/25/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

Time for a side step

Ezekiel 1:1–3:27

"As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. 14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[c]was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[d]was in the wheels.
22 The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures[e]was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. 23 And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. 24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD."

From there it should be but a short hop to "The Love which moves the sun and the other stars."

And remember, Life is short but lunch and purgatory is long.

3/25/2011 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mushroom said,
"the very idea of eternal punishment, which carries the idea of correction, seems contradictory."

That seems to make sense. The punishment (if that's what it is) must have a purpose, or a telos. It must be to someone's benefit. To the punisher or the one receiving it? If it is to someone's benefit, doesn't that indicate some period afterwhich the punishment has ended?
This, I think, depends if the premise we are talking about is in fact "punishment"; that that is what is actually intended and not just on how it is interpreted by the one experiencing it.

3/25/2011 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

Instead of punishment, how about 'just deserts'? At the end, they receive what they were tending towards throughout life, what they actually wanted, on some level. Which is- a life in which they are 'God'.

The souls in Purgatory are passive as regards themselves, but they can offer their prayers and sufferings for the living. We do the same for them.

wv: trial. no kidding

3/26/2011 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Every straight line leads directly to a hell. --DC

3/26/2011 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I like how you say "how about".

3/26/2011 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

One of the problem with hell or destruction of the soul is that everyone has an individual purpose and is essentially like an individual work of art.

I'm still trying to figure out whether the Jain model of the cosmos has any value.

3/26/2011 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

This is actually a useful set of posts by the way.

I think that MOT and these Dante posts are my favorites.

I vote to keep going with Dante.

3/26/2011 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tour, Gagdad Bob. It's been a hell of a ride. No, scratch that: A searing indictment of the pathology of the Left. Ahhh, never mind.

3/26/2011 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

The question of hell came up in Midnight Catechism. The Sister's description (paraphrased from memory) Well it's not like you don't get into heaven- you do- but it's like being at a concert, where your seat is soooo far in back that you can't ever see or hear the band.


3/27/2011 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous delenda est Carthago said...

The Dante series has been good. The faults and sins of many have been elucidated.

The blog author should comment on where he falls short; it would be instructive.

Which sins does he commit and why? What mind parasites plague him?

Does he have any military experience?

3/28/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

Re: Bob 10:50

If you like that video, there are a whole series of them by a guy on youtube that are beyond hilarious. He puts a new one up every Monday.

3/28/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

we know who said "...e blog author sh..."

grunt maker, really, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, shut up already.


3/28/2011 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous delenda est Carthago said...

Van, front and center.

You will now tell me sins you do and why.

You will tell me which two of your mind parasites bother you the most and why.

You will list any military experience you have, or if none, any combat experiences as a civilian against rivals, thugs,bullies, etc.

Now hop to.

3/28/2011 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Dishoalla said...


Soooo, you believe in rebirth. You seem to have some weight around here, which is good. People trust your opinion.

How can we be sure you are not a variant of GDB? He has the Petey, the Cousin, the Beaglehole, etc.

Why not the will? Hmmmmmmm

3/28/2011 04:26:00 PM  

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