Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Placing a Call to the Nonlocal ʘperators Above Our Praygrade

In the next scene, Dante finds that he is suddenly the most popular fellow in purgatory. He compares himself to a dice player who has just walked off with his winnings. The crowed presses upon him like pigeons around a geezer tossing bread crumbs from a park bench:

He does not halt but listens to them all; / and when he gives them something, they desist; / and so he can fend off the pressing throng.

What is it they're after? I turned my face to them / and, making promises, escaped their clutch.

In a full-employment vertical cosmos, there is not just a binary division of Creator and created. Rather, the whole point is that it is a complete hierarchy, with degrees of being from top to bottom -- for example, saints and angels above, television executives and community organizers below.

It seems to me that modern Christianity abolishes this hierarchy, which unwittingly abandons the field to scientism, or a materialist metaphysic. In other words, if there is only God above and the world below, pretty soon the former becomes superfluous.

Let us not accuse modern man of having killed God. That crime is not within his reach. But of having killed the gods. God survives untouched, but the universe withers and decays because the subordinate gods have passed away (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

And When their religious depth disappears, things are reduced to a surface without density where nothingness shows through (DC).

This is why in any form of old-school (small o) orthodox Christianity, it is both possible and efficacious to call upon various nonlocal operators to throw us a vertical bone, anyone from the Theotokos to the previous Pope. This is not polytheism, any more than it is "polybiology" to rank species between mammals, reptiles, insects, and Al Sharpton. To the contrary, the hierarchy is a necessary consequence of there being a Creator. Life is one, but vive la différence!

To put it another way, science would have no difficulty whatsoever describing a non-hierarchical cosmos. As it stands, it must maintain the absurdity that the hierarchy is an illusion or accident, not essential -- even while relying on the existence of the hierarchy in order to both recognize and appeal to Truth.

It reminds me of what Joyce said when asked if he was influenced by the ideas of Giambattista Vico: "I wouldn't pay over much attention to these theories, beyond using them for all they're worth."

The people in purgatory pray for others' prayers for them, in the hope that prayer can bend the rule of Heaven. Can it? Will, then, their hopes be utterly in vain? / Or were your words misunderstood by me?

Yes and no. There was a time when these hopes were in vain -- when prayers could not mend their fault in the absence of a passageway to God. But there is a light between your mind and truth, and we must wait for it to speak to us.

For Dante, Beatrice is this light. She is at the summit of the very mountain we are climbing, "smiling joyously." Upon hearing this, he is immediately reinvigorated, and tells Virgil, let us move ahead more quickly, for now I am less weary than before.

In a sense, the whole of Christianity is based upon this idea, in that Christ is given to us as a way to approach and think about the otherwise unthinkable God. However, it is careful not to imply that Christ is part of any hierarchy, hence, the Trinity. The Trinity is explicitly not a vertical emanation, a la Plotinus.

However, is it possible to say that there is a "Vertical Trinity" -- which is primary -- and a "Horizontal" trinity representing its shadow in the herebelow? This makes sense to me; perhaps we might call them the transcendent and immanent Trinities. This is how Schuon envisions it:

"The 'Father' is God as such, that is as metacosm; the 'Son' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the world, hence in the macrocosm; and the 'Holy Spirit' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the soul, hence in the microcosm."

This is useful, because it does not posit "three gods," but three modes of the one God. There is the inconceivable God-beyond being, the ain sof of Kabbala. There is the "conception" of God, the Word -- a word which can be recognized, read, and comprehended. And then there is the "Holy Spirit," which is the comprehension itself. Only Truth can recognize Truth.

Elsewhere Schuon writes that "The Trinity can be envisaged according to a 'vertical' perspective or according to either of two 'horizontal' perspectives, one of them being supreme and the other not. The vertical perspective -- Beyond-Being, Being, Existence -- envisages the hypostases as 'descending' from Unity or from the Absolute -- or from the Essence it could be said -- which means that it envisages the degrees of Reality."

Again, the very idea of God implies hierarchy; but also, the very recognition of hierarchy leads inevitably to God. Unless one just arbitrarily stops halfway up the mountain, as do the tenebrous, the tendentious, and the tenured -- or the dark, the twisted, and the opaque.

Back in purgatory, Virgil notes that the sun is setting -- as it must, even though its light is only "hidden," not absent -- but that a distant soul will show us where to climb most speedily.

We then see a very dignified, noble, and silent soul -- perhaps Schuon himself -- who watches us pass as a lion watches when it is at rest.

No, it's not Schuon, but someone named Sordello. Sordello, who has great affection for Italy, goes into an extended rant about its present condition. He even questions God, asking

You who on earth were crucified / for us -- have You turned elsewhere Your just eyes? / Or are You, in Your Judgment's depth, devising / a good that we cannot foresee, / completely dissevered from our way of understanding?

I don't think so. This would imply a complete misunderstanding of the cosmic situation, and a misuse of the idea of hierarchy -- as if God is to blame for this not being paradise. You can't blame God for something he never promised, and which is impossible anyway.

Running out of time here, but Pope Benedict writes that "The present 'world' has to disappear; it must be changed into God's world. That is precisely what Jesus' mission is, into which the disciples are taken up: leading 'the world' away from the condition of man's alienation from God and from himself, so that it can become God's world once more and so that man can become fully himself again by becoming one with God."

Bottom line: this is an analogue, continuous cosmos, not a digital and discontinuous one.

18 Comments:

Anonymous will said...

>> . . the whole point is that it is a complete hierarchy, with degrees of being from top to bottom . . <<

And perhaps unique among all beings of the hierarchy, we humans are graced with the capacity to rise or fall, to become divine fragments higher than the angels or to sink lower than the animals.

4/05/2011 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is apparently the case. Everything else is pretty much fixed. And the leftist would like to eliminate that one little strand of freedom. Hence, class warfare instead of class harmony.

4/05/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Great Post!TM

Bob said,
"This is useful, because it does not posit "three gods," but three modes of the one God."

Speeching of analogues, the above "three modes of one God" is less troubleson for me if I think of... my wife speaks to me as wife, my son speaks to me as son, and my mother and father speak to me as Frank and Estelle Costanza..

4/05/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This ties in nicely with the article you linked yesterday in the comments to one of last week's posts, re. Jung and Freud.

4/05/2011 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>You who on earth were crucified / for us -- have You turned elsewhere Your just eyes? / Or are You, in Your Judgment's depth, devising / a good that we cannot foresee, / completely dissevered from our way of understanding?<<

Maybe ole Sordello was half-right. His first sentiment was worthy of Cormac (The Road) McCarthy in its despairing tone, but that would be one of the hallmarks of purgatory wherein one sees through a glass very very darkly.

But yeah, I have to think that the Creator improvises and can devise a good even in the midst of, even by using our spiritual failings. M. Eckhart once said (paraphrase) that God sometimes causes us to sin in order that we may find Him.

4/05/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"perhaps Schuon himself -- who watches us pass as a lion watches when it is at rest."

Actually, I always think of Schuon as eagle.

4/05/2011 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick, both comments, lol.

Also, re. the three modes, that's a great way to think of it. I also see it like some types of Celtic triangle, where there are three distinct lobes or shapes but they are still entirely connected, all part of one unbroken line.

Will - there again, sometimes to go up we must first make our way down. Puts me in mind of a catapult, or a bow or a slingshot - in order to achieve any distance in the right direction, the projectile must first be drawn the opposite way, until the right amount of resistance and tension have been built up...

4/05/2011 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks, Julie :-)

Will said,
"M. Eckhart once said (paraphrase) that God sometimes causes us to sin in order that we may find Him."

I read something similar recently in the Philokalia. And the father may have been referencing the Mister. But the time frame may be wrong. Which, cosmosly speeching, is not beside their points :-)

4/05/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Felix the Catechumen.

4/05/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie -

>>there again, sometimes to go up we must first make our way down<<

Yup, Dante's ascent of Mount Paradisio begins with his descent into hell.

4/05/2011 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos: Prager right now is discussing the lack of hierarchy in churches and synagogues ("don't call me Father/ Rabbi, call me Jerry..."), among other things, as being a part of the reason atheism is on the rise.

4/05/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Also apropos, Dalrymple:

"An early piece of advice in the book concerns how one should write to one’s social superiors and one’s social inferiors. The very fact that people can be written about in such a way gives one a jolt. But I wonder whether, in fact, this way of speaking, writing and thinking is more honest (and in some ways civilised and psychologically balanced) than our pretence that there are no such creatures as or superiors and inferiors? For it has been my observation that, in practice, the most fervent egalitarians are often egalitarian mainly about the people above them in the social scale; no one is above them, but their conduct often leads one to suppose that they have no difficulty in conceiving of and treating people as their inferiors. With the destruction of the notion of noblesse oblige, behaviour towards inferiors becomes more raw and unpleasant. The pretence that one believes in equality in any other sense than the religious or the abstraction of equality before the law leads directly to cognitive dissonance."

4/05/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is how Schuon envisions it:

"The 'Father' is God as such, that is as metacosm; the 'Son' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the world, hence in the macrocosm; and the 'Holy Spirit' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the soul, hence in the microcosm.""

Trotting out my favorite Triune Trinity,
1), horizontally put, there's the three philosophic axioms,
1. Existence exists,
2. what exists, exists as that which it is - Identity, and
3. Consciousness is that which grasps this

2)Poetically put as
1. The Good,
2. The Beautiful and
3. The True,

3)or Religiously as
1. The Father,
2. The Son, and
3. The Holy Ghost

As creatures of the Logos, we can go no further... whichever mode we might approach it from, Philosophically, Poetically or Religiously, you can go no further than that modes triune axiom, they as a whole are the basis for all. Just as you can't contemplate Existence without also implicitly including Identity and your consciousness... you cannot contemplate the Good without also implicitly including the Beautiful and the True, and Religiously, The Father implies the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Each is an indivisible Whole... and what I get out of, or into, Dante, is that when we train your thoughts to be aware that the wider trinity is also always present, that Philosophy must also include Poetry and Religion, each one is present in each of the others and together they make up a much greater One.

What I wonder is, given that, that you can't contemplate upon one part of one mode, without its remaining two - there is no further divisibility for our thoughts than those three together... is it possible to inwardly outwardly seek beyond their barrier by encompassing the larger three, the Nine (which Dante would love, btw), if in contemplation of Truth, if we contemplate upon the 333 (sorry Rick) together, might those possibly resonate in such a way as to reach beyond the Three wall... or enable us to establish a sympathetic vibration 'through' it...?

Isn't that what Dante achieved with his Divine Comedy?

Sigh. Now back to c++.

4/05/2011 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Seeing how eternity is presumably eternal, it should not surprise us if all those who have spent time in timelessness, still exist there. In some cases we happen to have the works of such "made eternals", and can verify them by the way their fire lights our own.

But I believe (and believing is seeing) there is a cloud of witnesses, as it were, whose adventures in there thereabove while herebelow were never recorded in word or paint or tune. And yet here they are, like a choir heard beyond walls, and the occasional voice in the desert, telling us there is still hope. No name, no title, no memory of the past, but a serene presence, like that of cloaked pilgrims bearing candles, in a holy night.

Oh, to be one of that crowd for those who are still to come. Forgotten by the world, vivid in the memory of angels.

But yeah, I guess it is still above my praygrade.

Back to bed goes the porcupine.

4/05/2011 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I was meditating on Isaiah 55 before getting over here today. His thoughts are not our thoughts and they are of a higher order than ours. This fits right in.

4/05/2011 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Magnus -

>> . . a cloud of witnesses . <<

You want to join the cloud, eh? Then I'd say you're more than halfway there, and maybe more than that.

Maybe many, perhaps most of the saints don't receive worldly recognition, but they're recognized where it counts.

4/05/2011 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Magnus, I'll second that wish, along with Will's guess about how far you are along. Lord knows you've already helped my understanding in just such a way.

4/05/2011 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, that really deserved a link.

4/05/2011 08:10:00 PM  

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