Monday, July 18, 2011

Why People Who Disagree with Me are So Deathly Boring

As we know, there is "natural" religion and there is supernatural religion. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the former -- at least as far as it goes -- and to the extent that it leads to mischief, I would generally mark this down to man, not religion per se (or one could equally say that there is a religion that is a "cure" for man's troublesome religiosity, but that is the subject of a later post).

For clearly, while there are monstrous examples of natural religion, its finest exemplars -- e.g., Plotinus or Shankara -- are objectively more evolved than, say, Fred Phelps, or Jeremiah Wright, or Jesse Jackson.

Natural religion may be thought of as the actualization of man's innate psycho-evolutionary potential, or bearing upon his ability to pull himself up (↑) by his own buddhastraps without any extra-natural assistance, i.e., grace (↓).

Conversely, supernatural religion begins with data emanating from a transcendent source, i.e., revelation. What this means is that the Other has deliberately revealed itself to man, disclosing things that no merely human faculty could have known or had access to -- just as one can have no access to another person's mind (beyond a certain limit) without their voluntarily communicating it.

But there is much overlap here, and in the end, it becomes clear that even the most natural religion is still supernatural, the reason being that nature herself is already supernatural.

For God -- or O -- doesn't simply reveal himself in words or statistically unlikely events. Rather, there are several a priori revelations of God, including nature, but most especially, the intellect. To reduce the intellect to physics or chemistry or genetic shuffling is not even wrong. Rather, it is William.

And as always, extremists meet, so it should come as no surprise that the most dogged materialist will treat his metaphysic exactly as a primitive religion, and harbor all sorts of religious assumptions, impulses, and strivings beneath the veneer of irreligiosity.

Hence, for example, the deep desire to evangelize others, to save them from a life given over to falsehood, to protect and guide youth from destructive error, etc. A literal materialist would't give two fucks.

Very much in contrast to reader William's long-since debunked anti-religious bigotry, science began as a conscious endeavor to study the world in order to disclose the (capital R) Reason transcending and imbuing it.

Early scientists were not yet stupid enough to believe that all this magnificent order and beauty could have come from "nowhere." Not only was there no conflict between Christianity and science, but there was no accounting for the latter in the absence of the former (and we are speaking, of course of its fully developed form, not some caricature that exists only in the mind of the bigot).

Are there individual exceptions? Of course, just as there are corrupt and misguided scientists. For example, the Galileo incident must be understood in the context of a Church that was attempting to defend itself from Protestant accusations that it was far too liberal in its interpretation of scripture.

Now, I do not, nor would I ever, argue for the premodern confusion of religion and science. First, on a "meta" level they cannot be separated anyway, because truth is obviously truth, irrespective of the source or the means of attaining it.

However, I do feel that the historical distinction between science and religion was very much providential, and is a prerequisite of post-biological evolution on a collective scale. Indeed, one might very well say that this historical parting of the whys was "the Christian thing to do."

It certainly wasn't -- and isn't -- the Muslim thing to do, as Islam explicitly forbids any such partition. The same is true of their politics (no liberty, democracy, or individualism), economics (no interest), art (no human images), psychology (no equality of men and women), and history (which comes down to Allahstory only).

As a result, Islam cannot evolve, and instead circles around in its pathetic little historical eddy. It is what happens when one has a supernatural religion only, with no room for the quasi-autonomous realms of nature, man, history, and culture. The latter should be unthinkable for proper Christians, but again, there are modern Christian sects that have more in common with Islam than with traditional Christianity.

Now, returning to the question of natural religion. It has always been the case that for the sensitive soul, nature is, in the words of Schuon, "metaphysically transparent." Indeed, this is what first prompts our attention to it. Man's first conscious engagement with nature is not any kind of detached skepticism, but rather, a wonder-infused curiosity, or what the Raccoon calls the sacred WTF?!

And when science attempts to posit itself outside the mode of wonder, it always reduces the world to far less than it actually is. It is somewhat analogous to falling in love, but instead of deepening it, spending the rest of one's life trying to unsentimentally explain it away as some sort of merely chemical or genetic attraction. One could do it, I suppose, but only at the cost of one's humanness.

But why would one want to? Again, scientists rarely if ever draw out the ultimate implications of their first principles, because to do so would drain life of any and all meaning, and transform man into an unredeemable freak.

Nature hides a secret. Everyone knows this, particularly the scientist who spends his life trying to coax nature into giving it up. The scientist begins with curiosity and wonder, but never ends there unless he has accidentally killed his own soul in the desire for unambiguous certainty on the horizontal plane (on which there are always snakes).

In the words of Balthasar, nature has -- or is -- an "intimate-public secret," in that it is simultaneously "permanently concealed" and yet "permanently divulged." This begins to take on the contours of love, for do we not have the identical attitude toward the loved one -- that no matter how much there is, there is always more, an inexhaustible richness of revelation?

Likewise, we should know at a glance that we could never "contain" our dear Ma Nature that bewombs us (in other words, you can't give birth to your mother, although we have heard from the wise that it is possible for Mother to give birth to God, more on which later). "The possibilities of life" are always "infinitely more abundant than what is actually on display." Indeed, "There is an incomprehensible prodigality in the very essence of life" (ibid.), to say nothing of Mind.

It is not as if we're ever going to run out of dreams, or poems, or songs. If that were possible, then life would be unendurable. In this regard, our ignorance -- or the absence of omniscience -- is a blessing, not a curse. Again, see Genesis for details.

Think of the infinite number of biological forms effortlessly tossed up by nature, each a little eros shot into the heart of eternity. These are only the appearance of certain "possibilities concealed in the overflowing abundance of life" (ibid.)

And this is again precisely where materialism converges upon revelation, or rather, where matter is itself a revelation. For no type of matter less wondrous would be worthy of man. The latter "would betoken a poverty of being, and ultimately of the Creator, if everything possible were also actual."

For example, in the great artist -- say, Shakespeare or Bach -- there is a kind of effortless profligacy that mimics nature's redundant beauty. "We know a great artist insofar as his works reveal how sovereignly he has created them and how little strain they put on his powers" (ibid.).

Two things may be said of this; the authentic genius always transmits a bit of the latter in his works. In other words, there is the work itself, but also the simultaneous transmission of the infinite from whence it came ("know them by their fruits").

Second, we can always experience the inverse of this in the unimaginative secular (or religious, it doesn't matter) thinker who reduces reality to what his own little mind can contain. In this type of prose, one can always intuit the strain, so to speak, in the author's attempt to stretch his inadequate ideas to the proportions of reality. This results in a kind of tedium, or deadness, that the author unwittingly projects into his reader. Zzzzzzz.....

The result is, of course, boredom, and it is critical to bear in mind that this type of boredom is not an absence, but rather a presence. In psychotherapy it is highly pathognomonic. There is something wrong with the boring patient, something that he is attempting to communicate via the therapist's counter-transferential boredom. It is not meaningless, but full of meaning, usually revolving around deadness, or more to the point, a soul murder that has taken place in the past (and repeats itself in the present).

And this is not to say that "absence of boredom" -- or "excitement" -- is automatically suggestive of health. Not at all. To put it mildly, the most "exciting" people can be a pain in the ass if they have, say, a narcissistic or borderline personality.

I just finished a book about World War II, and Hitler was evidently rather thrilling to be around. Everyone was quite aware of the fact that the room fairly crackled in his presence, even though, at the same time, the actual content was about as boring and banal as once could imagine -- all heat, so to speak, and no light whatsoever. Dark heat, as it were.

Does anyone else find Obama to be deeply boring? Al Gore? Clinton? Carter? Kerry? Edwards? Biden? NPR? CNN? Time? Newsweek? Rachel Madow? Charles Johnson? William? (Big tip o' the cap to Serr8d.) Prose by any other gnome smells just as bad.

In contrast, I would put palpably insane clowns such as Olbermann, Krugman, or Ed Schultz in the "exciting borderline" category. A therapist would not be able to handle more than one such character in his practice.

So behind appearances is "the infinite surplus of the possible." One might even say that beyond being is the Beyond Being of God, with the result that "finite appearance as such is the coming to light of a certain infinity." And as we have said many times and in many ways, finitude "shades off into the twilight of the unknown," which is none other than "the ineliminable mystery of being" (ibid.).

In short, "The truth of any being will always be infinitely richer and greater than the knower is capable of grasping" (ibid.).

Deal with it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

BP with Water Balloons

Not as fun as troll-bashing, but looks better:






*****

Those middle ones remind me of this iconic image:

I Ain't Gonna Work On Darwin's Farm No More

Same story. Woke up early, and there's nothing else to do while I'm sitting here drinking my coffee, since I can't begin working until my mouth is free (I need to dictate a report).

So it seems the supernatural thing to do to rummage around in the archive, and next thing you know I've pulled out a nugget from three years ago, just because I wanted to see what was going on back then in pre-Obama times. Seems like a clear enough dividing line between "these days" and "way back when."

However, the post is not irrelevant to recent inane discussions, because it does touch on the question of why intellectuals and so-called "geniuses" are so often wrong in such foolish and/or catastrophic ways. Reader William raised the well-known example of Einstein, who, when he wasn't a savant, was often an idiot, but there is no dearth of similar cases. Paul Johnson wrote a book on the subject, but it barely scratches the surface.

Most of our problems are due to man. From this one may deduce that man is "fallen," but it doesn't really matter what you call it, so long as you get the memo: that man has intrinsic limitations, and that, whenever he tries to deny them, he makes himself a god. And not a good one.

But the garden-variety intellectual commits a double-blunder, in that he first denies the nature of man (since there is no positivistic "evidence" for it), and then -- because he is so much smarter than the rest of us -- comes up with some bright idea to cure mankind, even while denying that there is anything wrong with him, nothing that a little indoctrination and coercion can't fix. See history for details.

Think of how this principle applies to all those naive intellectuals who unironically accept Darwinism as their guide to understanding man. Among other things, all this does is transfer our fallenness to the genes: we do bad -- or good, for that matter -- because we are programmed by our genes to do so. We cannot help it. We have no free will, but are condemned by nature and nature's genes to do what we do.

There are, of course, Darwinists who do not take the argument this far, but that is the problem: either one must draw out the implications of one's first principles, or get new ones. A trollish inconsistency is the bobgoblin of little minds. There are no "buts" in metaphysics -- as in, "I am constrained by my DNA but I can still know the truth of myself, to say nothing of you peons."

Rather, one of the two must go, even -- or especially -- if one doesn't yet know what to replace it with. I mean, when did not knowing fall out of fashion? (Oh, right -- when man fell out of paradise.) It is axiomatic that "knowing" is preceded by ignorance. If one prematurely forecloses one's ignorance with knowledge, then -- ironically -- the evolution of thought comes to an end, because one has reached the end of its evolution.

On to the post. I didn't intend to start a new one:

... [T]he notion of forest does not become invalid just because it is not possible to define quantitatively the number of trees that would constitute not merely a grove but a forest. It is not possible to find the number of pages that would necessarily constitute a book and not a mere pamphlet.... Human knowledge... concerns two separate realms, quantities and non-quantities, and these two realms are irreducible to one another. --Stanley Jaki

In his The Savior of Science, Stanley Jaki -- who was not just a physicist pretending to be a theologian, but both a Jesuit and a physicist -- writes of the vital relationship between Christian theology and the development of science. In the words of Professor Blurb of the prestigious Frontflap University,

"Beginning with an overview of failed attempts at a sustained science by the ancient cultures of Greece, China, India, and the early Muslim empire, Jaki shows that belief in Christ -- a belief absent in all these cultures -- secured for science its only viable birth starting in the High Middle Ages. In the second part of the book Jaki argues that Christian monotheism alone provides the intellectual safeguards for a valid cosmological argument, restores the sense of purpose destroyed by theories of evolution, and secures firm ethical guidelines against fearful abuses of scientific know-how."

Are there limits to the scientific method, or is it absolute? What, are you an absolute moron, or only relatively stupid? For clearly, the answers are "yes" and "no," respectively. In fact, as Jaki points out, "one may rightly say that there is nothing so important as to ascertain the limits to which science can rightfully be put to use."

For example, vulgar Darwinians insist that human beings are just replicating machines, or the gene's way of making more genes. If they truly believe that, is it permissible to treat a human being as a machine? Why not? Just because we "feel" it would be bad? What if other people such as Peter Singer or Josef Stalin feel it would be a good idea to murder certain people?

There are very sharp limits to the scientific method, one of which is that it specifically applies to the relative, not the absolute. Another intrinsic limit would be Gödel's theorem(s). Others include quantifiability: "science ceases to be competent whenever a proposition is such as to have no quantitative bearing" (Jaki).

This is why, when the scientist forces his paradigm into areas that intrinsically elude its competence, he always sounds a bit stupid to those outside the cult of scientism. As they say, it would actually be funny if their psychopneumatic dictatorship weren't a real problem. Life is hard enough without having to escape from the commissars of culture just to hit bottom and start all over.

Science can only operate within a matrix of a freedom that it is powerless to explain. Rather, it just assumes a freedom that nevertheless, from its blinkered standpoint, "cannot be." Einstein: "I do not believe in free will.... This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper."

But where did this illusory idea of freedom come from, since we are not free to harbor it? Muslims certainly don't believe in it -- much less value it -- and to the extent that scientists do, they cannot account for it. Is it a good thing? Obviously, most people, right up to the present time, don't believe so. Even in America, "land of the free," perhaps twenty to thirty percent of the population is composed of freedom-hating leftists -- most of whom undoubtedly harbor the conceit that they are more "logical" and "scientific" than religious believers.

Spengler points out the irony that Muslims and atheists are much closer in their metaphysical assumptions than are Christians with either, which is why Muslim apostates so often become atheists, for it is much easier for them to understand "no God" than a loving one:

"Islam is much closer in character to atheism than to Christianity or Judaism. Although the 'what' of Muslim and atheistic thinking of course are very different..., the 'how' is very similar. Secular liberalism, the official ideology of almost all the nations of Western Europe, offers hedonism, sexual license, anomie, demoralization and gradual depopulation. Muslims do not want this....

"For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.... Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that 'nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice' idolatry.

"What does it mean for God to be 'absolutely transcendent'? .... Allah does not limit himself by ordering the world through natural law, for natural laws would impinge on his absolute freedom of action. There are no intermediate [i.e, horizontal] causes, in the sense of laws of nature. Mars traverses an ellipse around the sun not because God has instituted laws of motion that require Mars to traverse an ellipse, but because Allah at every instant directs the angular velocity of Mars. Today, Allah happens to feel like pushing Mars about in an ellipse; tomorrow he might just as well do figure-eights."

Here is a moony quote which demonstrates the moronic convergence of moongods and moonbats, and with it, the lunar eclipse of intelligence:

"That notion of a god who accepts no limitation, not even the limit of laws of nature that he created, characterizes mainstream Muslim thought since the 11th century. St Thomas Aquinas wrote of its deficiency, drawing on the critique of the 12th-century Jewish theologian and philosopher Moses Maimonides. Despite its vehement and haughtily carried-forward idea of the unity of God, Islam slides into a monistic paganism.... Allah is no more subject to laws of nature than the nature-spirits of the pagan world who infest every tree, rock and stream, and make magic according to their own whimsy" (emphases mine).

The cognitive problems of Islam are more than self-evident. But note that phrase: a god who accepts no limitation. Functionally speaking, this is no different than the scientistic god who accepts no vertical limitation, and deems itself fit to pronounce on subjects that clearly transcend it, thereby reducing intrinsically transcendent categories such as virtue, beauty, truth, freedom, dignity, nobility, charity, compassion, etc., to the deceptive and self-flattering survival strategies of genes. Only the sober Darwinist sees through the ruse of these ruthless and entirely self-interested genes.

Roger Kimball says something similar, in citing E.O. Wilson's morally and intellectually insane comment that “an organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA.”

"Now, just sit back and think about that. Think, for example, of your favorite organism -- your spouse, for example: is he or she only DNA’s way of making more DNA? Is E. O. Wilson himself only a mechanism for the production of deoxyribonucleic acid?" (This is what I mean when I say that metaphysical Darwinism is logically self-refuting.)

Likewise, the renowned scientistic theologian Richard Dawkins says that we are just a "robot-vehicle blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes." Not only does this intellectual pablum converge with the fatalistic and freedom-hating Muslims, but with the deterministic Marxists and their many modern-day spawn who believe, for example, that poverty, rather than bad values, causes crime.

I have no doubt that they will eventually identify the "gene for crime" -- if they haven't already -- which will make the tyrannical marriage between Darwinism and leftism complete. Instead of the radically transcendent religion of Islam, it will be the radically immanent religion of Scientism. But both result in a fascistic repression of our divine-human birthright, i.e., our humanness.

A couple more passages by Spengler before I attempt to tie this all together and wrap up: "the absolute transcendence of Allah in the physical world is the cognate of his despotic character as a spiritual ruler, who demands submission and service from his creatures. The Judeo-Christian God loves his creatures and, in an act (so to speak) of love, makes them free. Humankind only can be free if nature is rational, that is, if God places self-appointed limits on his own sphere of action. In a world ordered by natural law, humankind through its faculty of reason can learn these laws and act freely. In the alternative case, the absolute freedom of Allah crowds out all human freedom of action, leaving nothing but the tyranny of caprice and fate."

"The empty and arbitrary world of atheism is far closer to the Muslim universe than the Biblical world, in which God orders the world out of love for humankind, so that we may in freedom return the love that our creator bears for us. Atheism is an alternative to Islam closer to Muslim habits of mind than the love-centered world of Judaism and Christianity."

I guess I don't have to tie it all together, because that pretty much did it.

Contrary to the claim that DNA is the secret of life, life remains the secret of DNA.... Microbiology has not found a quantitative answer to the question of free will. Brain research cannot answer the question, "What is that experience, called 'now,'" which is at the very center of consciousness.... Nor is the universe as such an object for science. Scientists cannot go outside the universe in order to observe the whole of it. --Stanley Jaki

Friday, July 15, 2011

You Aren't Small Enough to Fill His Shoes!

When I think about the forces that are arrayed against reality, I sometimes wonder how so many people maintain contact with it.

For example, it is a rather remarkable thing that in the United States there are still roughly two self-identifying conservatives for every liberal, despite the fact that liberals control the news media, academia, entertainment, professional organizations, and so much else.

I know from personal experience that to be a liberal requires nothing more than to passively assimilate the psychocultural environment. In contrast, to become a conservative requires a conscious act of will, at least in most milieus, and certainly in mine, i.e., my city, my county, my state, my education, my extended family, and my profession.

There are obviously places in America where the reverse is true -- that it requires a more conscious act of will to become a leftist -- but even then, the most red state is still blue in the face with ABC-NBC-CBS-CNN-MSNBC-NY Times-Washington Post-Time-Newsweek-Hollywood, etc.

There was clearly a time, not too long ago, that religiosity required no real act of conscious choice. Rather, religion was so a part of the surrounding culture that it was simply assimilated along with everything else. However, properly speaking, this is never supposed to be true of Christianity. Rather, in order for the latter to become operative, one must make a conscious decision -- not just "once," of course, but in every moment, so to speak.

But we're getting a little off course here. I mention the above to highlight the difficulty in reconciling one's faith with everything else -- by which I mean everything else, when everything else in our culture so opposes a religious metaphysic.

The result is that, in our culture, although most people are still "religious," their religiosity can be a kind of veneer over the deeper structure of a pervasive secular materialism; or, it is a kind of reactionary refusal that defines itself and derives its energy via opposition. Any sane person will say No! to the infrahuman elements of our culture, but it is much more important to say Yes! to the properly human -- not just to run away, but toward.

It's a little like speaking Chinese in a nation that speaks only English. In such a case, one can demand that the rest of the culture learn to speak Chinese, but this is not going to happen (although the ACLU will keep trying). One can perhaps settle into a little marginalized ghetto and live with fellow speakers of Chinese, but this kind of insularity results in a closed-ness that is not conducive to further evolution or wholeness -- or, one might say to unity in time and space, respectively.

This is one of the obstacles we face in any discussion of LIFE, which is so monopolized by the scientistic worldview that it is almost impossible to discuss it without being misunderstood. Interestingly, in Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, I was surprised to discover that he regards the question from the same perspective I do, which essentially comes down to not conflating life and biology (perhaps I should say Life [as such], to distinguish it from the the mere "life sciences" that deal only with effects, not causes).

In fact, in order to better understand where we are coming from -- and from where we came -- it is also necessary to uncouple Evolution-as-such from the mere natural selection of metaphysical Darwinism. I have done this in many previous posts (not to mention the book), so I will not make a rehash of the argument here.

The point is that "history" is not something that only suddenly and inexplicably occurs after 13 billion years or so of "prehistory." Rather, to say "cosmos" is to say "history." Our own history, at every level, is nested in a cosmic history that "begins" (i.e., in time) with creation, whether one calls it the "big bang" or something else.

Please note that there is nothing in this view that contradicts any strictly scientific finding. To the contrary, the application of a rigid scientism creates all sorts of temporal ruptures, ontological discontinuities, and logical absurdities in and to the coherence of reality. Anyone can draw an arrow that leads from matter, to life, to mind to spirit. The difference is that our arrow moves forward, whereas the scientistic arrow necessarily moves backward.

That is to say, scientism by definition pulls everything subsequent to matter back into matter, regardless of how shocking or significant. Therefore, whatever "evolves" is really just "more of the same," i.e., an iteration of genetic copying errors and environmental selection, and then whatever purely physio-chemical laws underlie that. It engenders a kind of breathtaking cosmic cynicism, but sometimes it is difficult to know whether the cynicism is a cause or effect. Either way, cynicism ensures a kind of blind but omniscient stupidity (think of Bill Maher).

Ratzinger speaks of a deeper sort of cosmic mutation represented first by Life, and then by post-biological evolution. The latter represents the leap to "a quite different plane," which is no longer subject to bios, but rather, "makes use of it," so to speak -- not dissimilar to how words make use of letters, sentences of words, paragraphs of sentences, etc. One doesn't build a novel out of letters (Stephen King is the exception that proves the rule). Rather, one enlists the letters entirely unconsciously for the higher purpose of revealing artistic truth and beauty. One could say the same of musical notes, or of the play of form and color, or of my exotic dancing.

The "choice" alluded to above regarding religious faith, is really a cosmic mutation. In the words of Ratzinger, it is no longer a biological stage per se, but rather signifies "the end of the sovereignty of bios, which is at the same time the sovereignty of death." It opens up "the realm that the Greek Bible calls zoe, that is, definitive life, which has left behind the rule of death."

Here is the deeper point: "The last stage of evolution needed by the world to reach its goal would then no longer be achieved within the realm of biology but by the spirit, by freedom, by love."

To say that this does not and cannot fall under the auspices of "natural selection" is rather obvious, but it is equally obvious that this further evolution is not something man could ever accomplish on his own. Clearly, man cannot "transcend himself" unless there is a prior Being who transcends man. Otherwise, any so-called transcendence will be just another iteration of man, another one of his biological possibilities, ultimately reducible to a trick of the genes.

Recall our statement above about how, in order to spiritually evolve into the higher Life, one must declare one's independence from the culture -- which, ironically, since it is rooted in Darwinian biology, is a culture of death.

Note that the Being referenced above was (is) the quintessential individual destroyed by "the dictatorship of the milieu," which is to say, "public opinion": the Individual vs. Mass Man (who always frightens us, but not the liberal; conversely, liberalism fears the individual, hence its embodiment in various groups, e.g., blacks, [cultural] Jews, homosexuals, Hispanics, transgendered, greedy geezers, et al).

Thus, "Precisely because Christianity wants history as a whole, its challenge is directed fundamentally at the individual; precisely for this reason it depends on the single individual in whom the bursting of the bondage to the forces and powers took place" (Ratzinger).

Yesterday I mentioned the "face" at the top of the cosmic mountain and at the end of history. The face is a kind of spiritual fingerprint, as no two are alike, plus the dance of the soul plays across the face, which cannot help revealing the Who that is behind it. For human beings, the face is the exterior gateway to the Great Interior.

Ratzinger: this metaphysic "is committed to the principle of 'the individual' in its most radical form. Here lies the intrinsic necessity of the unheard-of scandal that a single individual, Jesus Christ, is acknowledged as the salvation of the world. The individual is the salvation of the whole, and the whole receives its salvation only from the individual who truly is salvation...."

Thus, in a way, if Christ didn't exist, we would have had to invent him, which is what the scientistic person will essentially believe Christians have done in one way or another.

Scientism -- in fact, any serious philosophy at all -- also seeks the whole. But in so doing, it specifically excludes the individual as completely irrelevant. Is this real wholeness? We don't think so. Nor are religions "whole" that deny the centrality of the human individual and his relation to the whole of cosmic history.

Indeed, for us, history is a part of the same reality as the individual. History is not "truth," as Marxists believe. Rather, Truth is in history, in sometimes -- no, always! -- shocking ways. For it is the last thing one would expect to find in a dead and meaningless cosmos. Instead, it is the first and last thing we find, alpha and omega.

"To put it another way, the result is that God, the first principle, the Alpha of the world, appears as the Omega, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, as the lowest creature in it." God appears as "completely insignificant, actually, a pure nothing. One could cite in this connection the series of Earth-Israel-Nazareth-Cross-Church, in which God seems to keep disappearing more and more and, precisely in this way, becomes more and more manifest as himself...."

Thus, "the cosmic Nothing is the true All."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Knowing a Little Nothing About Everything

Our troll William reminds us of the well known cliché of the great and even sometimes correct physicist, Albert Einstein: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." In his view, religion is primitive, childish, and "nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses." Therefore, for Einstein, science without childish nonsense is entirely lame.

Could this be why he refused to eat his peas and accept the unsettling implications of quantum mechanics? Yeah, probably. If only he had practiced a less primitive and childish religion -- or maybe even understood his own -- perhaps he could have realized that complementarity and nonlocality are here to stay, irrespective of what mere physicists have to say about them. I mean, God is surely a physicist, but not only a physicist.

I think even Einstein would agree that physics can only discover truth, not invent it. And if physics arrives at a theory which renders the person who affirms it an illusion, well, so much the worse for the theory. Back to the drawing board.

As we said at the conclusion of yesterday's post, God will wait for the prodigal scientist. What did Robert Jastrow say? "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

Now, what is so interesting about this is that, at the top of that mountain, man doesn't discover an equation, or a singularity, or subatomic particle. Rather, what he discovers is another... face? Jesus Christ!

Bʘʘ!

We'll get back to this provocative idea later, but let's just stipulate at the moment that it is indeed possible to come face-to-face with reality and to graze in the mirror and recognize the phase before one was born. There I AM, just as I left him!

As we were saying yesterday, there is no object -- not even the teeniest tiniest ittybitty eerywhig of a torytale -- that lacks an "interior horizon" that is forever inaccessible to the cold and eager grasp of the materialist. Hate to be so antipromethean, but Way It Is.

"Even subspiritual entities are not completely bereft of this kind of protection.... There is no being that does not enjoy an interiority, however liminal and rudimentary it may be" (Balthasar, but see also Whitehead for exciting details).

The above holds true unless, I suppose, your faith in yourself is total, in which case there is literally no getting through to you, because you are entirely complete and therefore closed.

Congratulations, you unlucky bastard! You've come to the end of the lyin'. To you, we have nothing to teach. So why are you here? Might I suggest that it is because you are not even -- or especially -- fooling yourself? You're certainly not fooling us! So rejoyce, because ho ho ho Mr. Finn, you're going to be fined again! And again. And again. Until you're ready for your final exhumination.

At any rate, as we ourselves have said many times and in many ways, "what we actually experience of the world always remains an infinitesimal sector of the knowable" (ibid).

And not only! For as the "sphere of knowledge" expands, so too does the edge that shades off into the unKnown. Thus, if restricted to the horizontal plane only, it is quite accurate to say that "the more we know, the less we understand," and it is not difficult to see why this must be the case.

To playgiarize with another shopworn truism, it is possible to know more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing, at which point we are granted tenure.

Conversely, only the Raccoon -- dues-paying or honorary, it doesn't matter -- knows a little nothing about everything. It's just how we roll, even on shabbos.

The little "nothing" we know about everything is that inaccessible essence known only to... God? But isn't it interesting that even this little "nothing" speaks to us?

In other words, as we were saying a day or two ago, in the act of knowing, there is a kind of "cosmic movement" from interior to exterior. But the moment we try to clutch at that interior, it recedes back to its private sphere, like a mirage in the desert road on the way to Vegas.

Thus, "even so-called exact science remains an approximation of the truth about the essence of matter. It is no more and no less than a never-ending attempt to woo the core of the material world, which is not directly available to sense perception" (ibid).

Rather, it is veil upon veil upon veil, just like Einstein's "primitive" religion, Judaism, says it is. Not sure if Einstein ever got to the next part, which is that the veil simultaneously conceals and reveals, which is why reality is always a reveilation.

Is this a bad thing? No, of course not, unless you think that a negligee on a Victoria's Secret model is a bad thing. Nature woos us with similarly seductive veils, and we don't mind at all. Rather, she can use us until she uses us up.

Does this mean that we are championing the romantic and irrational? Hardly. Well, sort of. Again, we can know any number of things about nature. Just not everything -- any more than one could know oneself completely. Indeed, assuming that you don't even know yourself, and that you know yourself best, what makes you think that you could completely know anything else? What are you, a machine?

Balthasar: "[R]eality, not merely by reason of some accidental circumstance, but by reason of an intrinsic necessity, must always remain richer than any cognition of it," and "the truth even of the lowest level of being contains a richness that so utterly eludes exhaustive investigation that it can continue to engage inquirers until the end of time yet never ends up as a heap of unmysterious, completely surveyable facts."

For those of us who actually enjoy science, this should be wonderful news, because it means that there is no end to the knowledge party, no matter how late one arrives. Like the burning bush, or the wine at the wedding, or the feeding of the five thousand, there's always more where that came from.

However, this cosmic fact will not be a liberating joy, but a frustrating persecution, for those who pursue science with secret pretensions to omniscience. There are always scientific party-poopers, those annoying know-it-alls who tell everyone to break it up and go home.

For such narrow-minded and snake-eyed scolds, it will be extremely disturbing to learn that God enjoys playing a little dice now and then. And history teaches that the biggest gamble of all was the creation of a bunch of big-brained Einsteins with the freedom to deny that he plays dice.

But even before that -- before mind -- comes the shocking phenomenon of Life and all it implies. For when God told the cosmos to get a life, he wasn't just serious but really yoking around with time. Time to roll 'dem bones!

To be continued....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Story of God and the Prodigal Scientist

To briefly review, we've been discussing this exceedingly strange cosmos we find ourselves in, and how it is that such shocking features as consciousness, love, truth, beauty, and justice are possible "within" it.

Along the way, we have concluded that there is something especially odd about this persistent duality -- we call it an irreducible complementarity -- of subject and object. Science treats the former like some kind of unwanted bacteria in what should be a sterile universe, but frankly, we have found this to be unpersuasive ever since the evening of June 16, 1991, while out walking the dog.

The cosmos can be looked at in a linear, temporal, and horizontal manner, or in a vertical, hierarchical, and spatial manner. Here again, the one complements the other, for one cannot even notice time unless it is from a spacious vantage point "outside" or "above" it, so to speak.

Higher mammals may have some vague sense of the passage of time, but they are too immersed in it to gain anything like a clear view. My dogs can sometimes get (or at least look) bored, but they know nothing about the history of canines, to say nothing of how boring it is. Only man can be in the river of time while simultaneously laughing about it on the way to the bank.

What we call "Darwinian" evolution is obviously horizontal. It doesn't take a genius to notice that there are prokaryotes, then entry level eukaryotes, followed by reptiles, mammals, and humans, yada yada. But it cannot make any value judgments about the process, because in order to do so, one must stand in a transcendent, vertical space of qualities -- qualities such as truth, compassion, beauty, etc.

From a strictly horizontal Darwinian perspective, there would be no essential difference between, say, a cave painting and a spider's web or bird's nest. Or, if the differences are essential, then Darwinism has proved its own insufficiency.

Again, horizontal is to time what vertical is to space; science can pretend that only the former is "real," but the truth of the matter is that man cannot exist outside this total cosmic sensorium of vertical and horizontal, or quality and quantity, form and substance, facts and values, music and words, etc.

It is in this vertical sense that the cosmos "completes" itself in man -- or in the psychospiritual activity of man. Even looked at only horizontally, the cosmos is always surpassing itself, e.g., from matter to life to mind.

But it also transcends itself vertically in every act of knowing. Nothing in the cosmos is "complete" in itself. Rather, everything moves toward completion via relationship. Objects are related to, and find their completion in, the subjects who know them. And a subject cannot "be" itself unless it is situated in a world of objects that yield real knowledge.

But at the same time -- for reasons discussed in yesterday's post -- there is no possibility of exhaustive knowledge of any object, not so much as a rock.

What this means is that even the barest "fact" nevertheless conceals a mystery at its core, a kind of "intimacy," so to speak, from which the most brilliant mind is barred. And yet, it must somehow be "known," for only what is knowable may exist. We can say it is "known by God," but let's not get out in front of our headlights.

If nature could truly be stripped bare and placed on the rack, she would be robbed of her own dignity, her majesty, her mystery and allure. To put it another way, nature would have no interiority and hence, no meaning.

This objectification of nature is a kind of "knowledge," but it is a "violent," or "destructive" knowledge, so to speak. For in the words of Balthasar, it "would cast a cold, pitiless, shadowless light into every corner, and there would be no possibility of escaping this scorching sun."

When modest science becomes grandiose scientism, it is analogous to an overexposed photograph, a picture rendered ugly because of too much light. If the normal man at times feels inclined to turn away from this photograph, it is not because of the science itself, but the way it is misused by subspiritual men to cast that scorching sun into the very realms that make this cosmos so hospitable. Truly, it is like cognitive porn, which, in showing "everything" reveals nothing (and not the good kind).

To "illuminate" a mystery in the vulgar, scientistic sense is analogous to studying night by the light of the sun. This is simply to convert night to day, and then deny the existence of night.

In reality, it is always night, with the exception of those times that the sun is out. The sun is surrounded by darkness, just as the human ego is surrounded on all sides by the dual mystery of the unconscious and supraconscious, and human existence as such is surrounded by a kind of "darkness" on all sides. Which is why you must get thy thingdom done while the sun is out, because the night is surely coming in which no man can blog.

For if it is honest -- or at least consistent -- science cannot actually tell us where man came from, where he is going, why he is here; in short, it can have nothing to say about origins or destiny, alpha or omega.

This wideawake and cutandry stance toward the cosmos is necessarily closed, and not just vertically. Rather, it must ignore anything that is not susceptible to abstraction and quantification. It inevitably leads to -- or is founded upon -- a kind of worldly-wise cynicism, which occurs "whenever man no longer has a flair for the central mystery of being, whenever he has unlearned reverence, wonder, and adoration, whenever, having denied God, whose essence is always characterized by the wonderful, man also overlooks the wondrousness of every single created entity."

This is surely to miss the concrete celestial trees for the abstract terrestrial forest. It is to cash in human existence for a "hypothetical life" that only works in theory, never reality -- like Keynesian economics, or anthropogenic global warming.

Again, much of this discussion revolves around the nature and existence of mystery, which is by no means synonymous with "ignorance." Rather, in the spiritual sense, mystery is positive information, a kind of revelation of essence. This essence is always -- thankfully! -- more than (human) words can say. Objects may speak their finite truth, but whisper their infinity.

Furthermore, this essential mystery is not "solved" in man, but only deepens: "It increases as things move up the scale of being-for-itself; it reaches its complete form on the level of self-conscious spirit."

Again, at this level there is a choice as to whether one will reveal the mystery to another; and, to a large extent, it is only in revealing it to another that the subject comes to know his own intimate mystery. Again, Balthasar:

"On this level, the exteriorization of the interior is left to the discretion of the spirit and is thereby protected from being grasped mechanically by any stranger's knowledge."

Remember Adam and Eve, who suddenly become aware of their nakedness? Individual psychogenesis recapitulates cosmogenesis, so I have noted with fascination my son's growing awareness of his own intimate space, along with his capacity for shame. We have never "forced" him to disclose things he is not ready to share. Rather, we let him know that he can always tell us anything whenever he is ready to disclose it. Which he does, in ways that are frequently *mindblowing*.

Likewise, we never took pictures of him naked, for the same reason one wouldn't do it of anyone else without their consent. Rather, we have treated him as a subject with his own autonomy and dignity right from the start -- and that would include his intrauterine life. Simple courtesy, really.

Now, isn't God the same way? What kind of God would compel you to accept him, would force his way into your psyche and demand assent? Yeah, him, but not the Christian God. Rather, he says, "whenever you're ready, I'm here. Just don't do anything really stupid while you're out, because then I might not be able to bail you out so easily."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth, About Everything

In what kind of cosmos is self-consciousness possible? Truth? Beauty? Love? Just any old cosmos? Or a very particular kind -- indeed, one "designed" (so to speak) toward that end?

For example, if we begin with a cosmic wishlist that includes, say, the desire to let there be persons in our image and according to our likeness, this presupposes a multitude of variables and conditions. Again, not just any old cosmos can house man, let alone end in this particular Bob, i.e., the unique individual, each of whom is a "species unto himself," so to speak.

But the scientist does not and cannot begin with the cosmos as he finds it. Rather, he begins at the end or periphery of being, with pure effects such as matter and force, not with a priori principles such as intelligence, truth, and unity, even though he could never even get underway in the absence the latter. Ironically, the materialist pronounces from the center of the world that he (i.e., man) is not the center of the intelligible world.

In this regard, (mere) science is a little like liberalism, which presupposes the existence of wealth. For the left, it's just a matter of dividing it up. Where it came from, or how to generate more, they couldn't care less. Likewise, science presupposes the wealth of truth that is buried in matter, but never bothers with figuring out how it got there. Which is fine, because that's not their job.

In Theo-Drama I, Balthasar goes into a lengthy explanation of dizzying range and depth, which turns out to be surprisingly in accord with our own little mythunderstanding. I say "surprisingly" only because there is this cliche among the media and the tenured that somehow Christianity is at odds with an evolutionary cosmos, when the truth could hardly be more divergent.

There are, of course, modern, deviant forms of Christianity that reject evolution, but these turn out to be much more similar to materialistic science, not in terms of content, of course, but in the form of thought. We are not a participant in this battle, since it is really between two forms of flatland literalism which can only account for creation with recourse to magic -- the magic of "it just happened" vs. the magic of "God made it all happen."

The latter is, of course, closer to ultimate truth, but this is little consolation once we remember that it is also what the Mohammedans believe -- that God is responsible for everylittlething that happens, with no mediation by anything else, from physical law to human free will. So in either case -- the false religion of scientism or the bogus science of religionism -- we end up with man stripped of his innate dignity, and a man without intrinsic dignity is not a man.

Balthasar begins with the phenomenological truism that "The actualization of truth is no mere natural process but a spiritual event, which takes place only in the lightning-like encounter and fusion of two words -- the word of the subject and the word of the object."

Now, one can pretend this statement isn't true, but doing so is analogous to pretending the eyes don't see. What could be more obvious than that the experience of the simplest truth takes place in the mysterious "space" between subject and object?

For "outside of this event, there is no truth" (ibid). I mean, right? Objects do not know truth. Oddly enough they have truth, but this is not known until there is a subject to know it. In other words, the truth of the object may only be known in the subject who encounters it in the act of knowing.

So, could there exist a purely "objective" cosmos? No, of course not, because there is no object in the absence of a subject. Otherwise, who is it that is positing this object? Another object?

And yet, man is quite obviously not "pure subject." Right now I can look at my hands scurrying over the keyboard and know that I am an object; or that I am somehow in an object, or that there is an object in my am.

People seem to gravitate toward one pole or the other in their metaphysic -- i.e., spirit or matter -- but the plain fact is that we never experience a strict separation of the two. The most ethereal spirit is still "embodied" (in something, otherwise it could not communicate to us), while the most concrete fact discloses to us -- even if nothing else -- its bare existence.

If we assume a full employment, hierarchical cosmos, then we might say that the Object is at one end, the Subject at the other. Only the Absolute would be "pure subject" unencumbered by any specificity or limitation on freedom. But man, who is "in between," has his feet in a "subspiritual" world below, i.e., nature, but his head in the clouds of unknowing above.

And we use the word "unknowing" advisedly, because the only reason the cosmos is intelligible at all is because it is not intelligible in its totality. In other words, "ultimate" ignorance is the guarantor and seal of any particular knowledge. No particular knowledge can be complete and still be knowledge, because it would efface the distinction of subject and object, making you either the Godhead or a rockhead.

So for humans, while the actualization of truth is predicated on the freedom of the subject to know it, there is still an irreducible element of "unfreedom" in any human act of knowing.

This is because "subject and object find themselves by nature in a position of having to rely on each other in order to express their own intimate word" (ibid). The human subject requires the other in order to attain to his own truth, and is inevitably "constrained to actualize itself in something other than itself."

From the moment we come into the world, we are thoroughly entangled with objects that will only gradually reveal themselves as subjects. We ourselves enter the human drama "more object than subject," so to speak, and must be immersed in a milieu of subjectivity in order to actualize and deepen our own subjective space (or, one might just say "space").

Human evolution is nothing less than the ongoing exploration and colonization of this subjective horizon, but at every step along the way it must be attained in dialectic with objects, bearing in mind that all objects have, by definition, an interior capable of disclosing itself to us, whether it is the interior of a stone, an animal, or a beatle.

Therefore, as Balthasar writes, "There was never a time when the subject was not already disclosed to the world and the world to it." In other words, since existence is presumably "one," if nothing else, then there is no line we can arbitrarily draw that says "objects on this side, subjects on the other."

Rather, existence as such is a union of these complements, which is why, as Petey once said, "complements will get you everywhere." A world of pure objects would be "nowhere," because, for starters, it couldn't exist.

Can we say that there is any "ontological direction" in the world, some kind of sign pointing which way is up? Gosh, I think so.

For example, man, everywhere we find him, wants "knowledge," no matter how stupid the knowledge might be. Can we also therefore say that the world "wants to be known?" Let's not go there just yet. Let's just say that if man's earthly mission is to know, it would be a mission impossible in the absence of a willing partner. The partner may play hard to get, but deep down she wants to be known.

Getting back to the very nature of this weird cosmos, Balthasar notes that "It is of no insignificant question for an entity whether or not it is the object of someone else's knowledge."

With what we have discussed above, I believe we are in a better position to appreciate this significance. For it is not just that objects may be known by subjects, but even more strangely, that subjects may be known by subjects.

But obviously not in the same way. This is because -- reductionistic scientism notwithstanding -- in order to know a subject, the subject must disclose itself.

True, we can know a great deal about the subject by studying the object it is housed in, but there will nevertheless be a kind of ontic wall beyond which we cannot proceed. It is here that man's innate freedom and dignity lie, for this is a sacred space accessible only to God and ourselves, unless we choose to disclose it in intimacy.

This is why man can never be treated "quantitatively," as a mere object or means to an end, for to do this is to deny his freedom, his dignity, his unique individuality, and the intimate space where all these are disclosed and preserved.

"If each and every thing were nothing more than an 'instance of...' or a kind of algebraic 'x' that could be exchanged for other entities without loss, then things would possess absolutely no intrinsic value of their own as individuals" (Balthasar).

Rather, to know this man would be to know all men, with the result that "no individual could present [us] with any further mystery" (ibid).

But guess what? Each man is a mystery, for if he weren't, God couldn't have created him. In other words, just like the cosmos, we may only know man at all because we may not know him completely or exhaustively. Rather, there is always more to know and love.

To be continued....

Humans don't have a monopoly on the subject. Beneath the mask of every supposedly blankrupt object lies concealed a wealth of subjectivity just waiting to be unpacked and known:

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Completely Little Big Man at Evolution's End

Frankly, we're on the road to romance -- that's safe to say -- but why not make all the stops along the way? In other words, we'll get back to the theology of the body when we get there. But how do we get there? We evolve there, nice and easy -- not via the paltry evolution of the Darwinian faithful but the much grander evolution of the philosophers.

Only the latter comports with man as he is as opposed to how atheists would like him to be. It should come as no surprise that the random man -- the man who has not discovered his reason for being -- discovers only randomness at work in the cosmos. He discovers the god who made him, but then expects the rest of us to bow down before it. But if you're smart, you don't just accede to KAOS.

In the end, it comes down to only two possibilities. As Ratzinger explains, one possibility is that what we call matter is the only "demonstrable reality," which "consequently represents the real being of all that exists."

However, there is no goonslaying the fact that when we consider matter, we soon enough "discover that it is being-thought." Even the fact that we may think about it -- that it is intelligible, in other words -- means that it cannot be "ultimate." Rather, it is as if it only completes itself by reaching into our own subjectivity, don't you know -- as if the two somehow go together.

We might say that matter is being "that does not itself comprehend being," whereas the very existence of man testifies to the cosmic fact that there exists being-for-itself.

Man represents the cosmic loopwhole whereby being loops upon itself and creates this little big space for contemplation, reluxation, and a little gymgnostics. And religion is the sacred "area rug" that pulls it all together. Otherwise, man is condemned to living within the walls of his own little gratuitous prison pod devoid of any coherent design scheme.

Now, man -- the thing about man is that he is an open system, not just biologically but psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, etc. Let's just call this (o) for short, in contrast to the hard-and-closed (•). We might say that man is intrinsically -- at least in potential -- open to what is "other," all the way up to the ultimate Other, the radical otherhood of God. This is why on Christmas and Easter we celebrate Other's Day.

Man, in order to be one, is constantly overstepping his boundaries. This is why, say, a man of 100,000 years ago is so different from one today. Although there is apparently no genetic or essential difference between the two, one has benefitted from 100,000 years of man's constantly reaching beyond himself from what is to what can be -- or from potential to actuality.

But if we are honest, there is no real basis for saying that this "reaching beyond" only appeared in bipedal hominids one- or two hundred thousand years ago.

Rather, it would appear that the cosmos itself is never just "what it is," but always on the way to something else -- for example, from matter to life, life to mind, mind to spirit, etc. Ratzinger seems to have conceived my egg before it was hatched, in that he agrees that the cosmic phenomenon of "hominization" represents a definitive Rubicon that was crossed by mother evolution. One might also call it a caesura, or cosmic see-section, where the Light gets into these rubes.

As Ratinger explains, "Man came into existence out of the 'clay' at the moment when a creature was no longer merely 'there' but, over and above just being there and filling his needs, was aware of the whole."

In other worlds, in all other animals there is no "residue" between nervous system and environment. Nature just doesn't waste her time in this manner. Rather, she is ruthlessly efficient. You might say that all other animals are mere effect. Only man breaks the chain of necessity and introduces his own independent and self-willed causes into the world.

It is this "openness to the whole, to the infinite, that makes man complete. Man is man by reaching out infinitely beyond himself, and he is consequently more of a man the less enclosed he is in himself, the less 'limited' he is" (Ratzinger).

Thus, a kind of paradox -- a persistent orthoparadox, to be exact. One might address it in the form of an orphic riddle: who is the being whose being consists not only of being-from but being-for and being-toward? Whose incompleteness is his completeness?

And Who, might we ask, would represent the ultimate instance, or final reconciliation of, this Being-From and Being-For? Let's just say that it's an impossible task, so someOne has to accomplice it.

Ratzinger cites Teilard de Chardin, who undoubtedly got some things wrong, but also got some very important things right. For example, he agreed with the oracle above that the human being "can only be absolutely itself by ceasing to be alone."

Frankly, it is not good that man should be allone, but we knew this already. He needs to not only be open "at the top" to truth and beauty, but horizontally open to others "from the side." He needs to not only get a clue, but get a date. According to Ratzinger, it is more accurate to say that Eve was formed from Adam's side than his sparerib. And, from what we can infer from Adam's reaction, she must have been quite a side dish.

But in any timeless event, man again inhabits this undeveloped third world notion "which determines the real drift of evolution.... It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth or becoming; it reaches a first peak in the genesis of living things and then continues to advance to those highly complex creations that give the cosmos a new center" (Ratzinger). It requires a kind of unsane humility bordering on the grandiose to deny the reality of this cosmic center.

In another oracular orthoparadox, we might ask, who is the center who eternally longs for his Center? Man, wherever we find him, has a passion for wholeness. But can man ever achieve, without God's help, a whole-in-One? Again, no, not if the essence of man is a perpetually open being-for -- which is one of Love's names; perhaps even its given name.

One might say that man is the goal who isn't one. Does this mean that the ref simply made a bad call? No. For there is no "I" in team, and it requires a team of no less than two persons to score this cosmic goal.

Somewhat surprisingly, since I was sure I had thought of it first -- see p. 228 regarding the divine fleshlights who are "end made middle," or "eternal made temporal," or urgent telograms from the office of the eschaton dropped from on high like spiritual depth charges into the ocean of history -- Ratzinger writes that Jesus represents "the next evolutionary leap, as it were," in that he is "the man in whom the breakthrough out of the limited scope of humanity, out of its monadic enclosure, has occurred" in the most definitive and final way.

Again, he is end-made-middle, whereby One's upin a timeless there was a little sondown in time, and we all lived hopefully ever after. The end.

In other words, "it is precisely his complete openness that makes him the man of the future." Conversely, the "man for himself, who wants to stand only in himself," is the progressive "man of the past whom we must leave behind us in order to strive forward." Yes, this is evolutionary "progress," but decidedly not the "cheerful romanticism" of the flat earthers.

Ultimately -- again, in parallel with the bOOk -- Ratzinger writes that "one might say that for history God stands at the end, while for being he stands at the beginning." Not just alpha or omega, or even alpha + omega, but the very alphomega deployed in time, which is indeed why time seems to take such an eternity while eternity just takes its sweet time. "To put it another way," says Ratzinger,

"the result is that God, the first principle, the Alpha of the world, appears as the Omega, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, the lowest creature in it." Little planet, little tribe, little village, little man, little hill, little cross, little church, little blog. Little big!

Of all the sin joints in all the towns in all the cosmos, he walks into ours. Go figure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why Can't a Democrat be More Like a Man?

And why am I reposting this soiled bobservation from over two years ago? Two reasons I can think of. First, I awoke at the usual time -- before the rest of the family -- and it's just so damn peaceful that I hate to waste the slack. Second, I was attracted by the title. I have no idea what it's about. I shall lightly -- or heavily, if needed -- edit as we proceed:

As I have said before -- and this is undoubtedly true of most of you -- I am a conservative because I am a liberal. In many ways, I am the same liberal today that I was when I was younger, except that today it's called "conservative." Likewise, what we mistakenly call "liberalism" is pure leftism, which is a different animal entirely. There is nothing liberal about the left except perhaps its freedom from objective truth and morality, which is the shortcut to tyranny.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of race or ethnicity. Taranto posted an excerpt of a typical All in the Family episode, which ironically demonstrates the reversal that has taken place in the past 35 years. Back then, Archie was the bigot and Meathead was the liberal. But today the roles are reversed: Archie expresses the race-obsessed leftist view, while Meathead expresses the view of the typical bewildered conservative who doesn't understand the left's obsession with race and ethnicity:

Archie: What's the matter with this? I call this representative government. You've got Salvatori, Feldman, O'Reilly, Nelson -- that's an Italian, a Jew, an Irishman and a regular American there. That's what I call a balanced ticket.

Meathead: Why do you always have to label people by nationality?

Archie: 'Cause, how else are you going to get the right man for the right job? For instance, take Feldman there. He's up for treasurer. Well, that's perfect. All them people know how to handle money. Know what I mean?

Meathead: No, I don't.

Archie: Well, then you got Salvatori running for D.A. He can keep an eye on Feldman. You know, I want to tell you something about the Italians. When you do get an honest one, you really got something there.

Meathead: Aw, c'mon, Arch.

Archie: Well, then here you got O'Reilly, the mick. He can see that the graft is equally spread around, you know. You got Nelson, the American guy. He's good for TV appearances, to make the rest of them look respectable.

As Archie might say today, with a Wise Latina on the bench, that's what I call a reasonably balanced court: including various overlapping categories, there are two broads, a castrati, a spic, a mick, two waps, a darkie, two kikes, and four or five regular American guys, depending upon the day.

However, there are now six mackeral snappers. Now, that's a problem. Just yesterday I heard Christopher Hitchens on Hugh Hewitt's program, saying that we needed to do something about that and appoint a pagan, I mean atheist, to the court. (Somehow, I think he's overlooking the obvious.)

*****

One of the more provocative works of anthropology I’ve ever read is The Human Animal, by Weston LaBarre. LaBarre was both an anthropologist and a psychoanalyst, and this book deals with exactly what I attempted to outline in Chapter Three of the my bʘʘk, that is, how primates and proto-humans eventually evolved into full-fledged human beings. Being that it was published in 1954, many of the details in his book have undoubtedly been superseded by more recent findings. And yet, he captured the big picture in a way that few people even attempt to do these days.

Few among the tenured would cite LaBarre as an influence, but if nothing else, he’s a very entertaining writer, full of pithy and astringent comments, asnides, and fine insultainment.

Interestingly, he was a devout atheist, but that doesn’t necessarily bother me. So long as someone has a piece of the truth, their overarching philosophy is of no consequence to me, no matter how shallow or ignorant. For example, I have no difficulty accepting whatever parts of Darwinism comport with reality. I only reject those parts of of it that are not true and cannot possibly be true.

Chapter 6 of The Human Animal deals with sexual differences and the evolutionary circumstances that supposedly allowed humanness to emerge. In an evolutionary tradeoff, human brains grew so rapidly that women had to give birth earlier and earlier, to the point that the brain's incomplete neurology could only be wired together in the extra-uterine environment. (For those of you in Rio Linda, that means after you're born.)

The resulting infantile helplessness (and maternal preoccupation) meant that the family unit switched from the mother-infant dyad to the mother-father-infant triad. These symbiotic relationships further modified all of their members, as they adapted to -- and became intersubjective members of -- one another, thereby creating the "interior unity" of the family (which, in important ways, mirrors the dynamic interior unity of the Creator; not coincidentally, the Christian God and human animal are principially intersubjective, a momentous pointer to ponder).

LaBarre notes that “a society’s attitudes toward women and toward maternity will deeply influence its psychological health and all other institutional attitudes.” He wrote in 1954 -- well before the degradation to womanhood brought about by the feminist movement -- that “It is a tragedy of our male-centered culture that women do not fully enough know how important they are as women.” Sadly, today countless women only know how important they are as men. This is a human tragedy of epic proportions, in part because it also results in men not understanding their own role in terms of being men. If women aren't women, then men won't be men.

One of the keys to understanding male-female differences lies in examining the different ways in which we are permitted to love. As a child we must love in one way, but in order to become an adult we must love in others.

The process is significantly more complicated for males, because our first love object is the mother with whom we are merged. Male identity must first be wrested and won from this primordial union, otherwise there will be no spiritual manhood, only biological maleness. In other words, a man's love must transition from male-female, to male-male, then back to male-female. Many things can go wrong along the way, as you might well imagine.

On the other hand, female identity is coextensive with their union with the Great Mother, both literally and archetypally. They only have to transition from female-female love to female-male. As a result, their identity is much more secure -- literally "grounded" -- because they never have to renounce the primitive identification with the Great Mother, at least totally. For example, I would guess that at least 90% of sexual perverts are men. Still, things obviously can and do go wrong in female psychosexual development, for any number of reasons we don't have time to discuss here.

All men know that women can miraculously produce children out of their bodies. This is another reason that women are generally more “grounded” and secure in their identity than men are. It would also explain the essential restlessness (and sometimes rootlessness) of men, along with the psychological adaptiveness of (non-violent, of course) male homophobia. (A couple of days ago we were discussing the hobo archetype, the man with no roots, or whose "roots" are in motion; there is a reason why they are almost always male, whereas the female usually has a much stronger nesting instinct.)

Femaleness as a category is secure: its undeniable signs are menstruation, maternity, and an obsession with shoes. But manhood -- as opposed to mere biological maleness -- has no such obvious markers. Rather, it is something that must be constructed and achieved. The adaptive mechanism that allows males to become men is culture. For a male to become a man, he generally must conquer something in a show of strength, whether physical, spiritual, economic, political, whatever.

What connects mother to infant is very concrete: the breast and all it symbolizes and implies ("breast" is a psychoanalytic term of art that is more analogous to "cosmic source of all goodness," if viewed from the infant's omnipotent and boundary-less perspective.) Likewise, what originally connected male to female was the evolutionary change that made females sexually available year-round.

But what connects man to man? “What connects father and son, male and male, is the mystery of logos and logos alone...” It is through this shared pattern of cosmic meaning that “father can identify with son and permit his infancy, within which son can identify with father and become a man, and within which a male can perceive and forgive the equal manhood of his fellow man.”

(In rereading this passage, it has a couple of very powerful ideas: permit the infant to live [both literally and symbolically, and both internal and external], and forgive the manhood of fellow men; few cultures have fully succeeded in doing this, certainly not in much of the Islamic world, where they blow up their children in order to blow up other men.)

At the foundation of the State, writes LaBarre, “is our struggle to find both paternal power [an aspect of the vertical] and brotherly justice [the vertical prolonged into the horizontal] in the governing of men.” This is why something psychologically noxious happens when government becomes mother.

A similar thing happens when God becomes mother or mother becomes God. It interferes with the primordial basis of culture qua culture, which is to convert boys to men. If that fails to happen -- as with the left -- then civilization either cannot form or will not be able to sustain and defend itself, since there will be no men or manhood, only Democrats -- or women and children.

This would explain the (until recently) universal practice of various male initiation rituals, in which boys are sometimes brutally wrenched away from their mothers in order to facilitate male “rebirth” and full membership in the fellowship of men. Again, femaleness is given by biology, but maleness must be proven, not just to oneself, but to the group. If appropriate models are not given for this drive, we will simply have pathological versions of it, such as the urban youth gang or the NBA, which are all about proving one’s manhood, only to other female-centered boys.

In fact, this is why so much contemporary rap and hip hop is so perversely male. In a matriarchal culture so lacking in male role models, these clueless boys are constantly trying to prove that they are what they imagine a man -- and themselves -- to be. This is why they are such pathetic, brooding, aggressive, and hyper-sexualized caricatures of manhood. (And ultimately this results from female sexuality reverting back to the mother-infant dyad, with no real role for men except George Gilder's "naked nomad.")

Other males -- we call them liberals -- often take women as their role models, with predictable results. They regard auto-castration as the quintessence of civilization and sophistication. They aren't really assertive in a male way, but a catty or bitchy way, like the New York Times or their perfectly manless man, Obama.

Again, male psychosexual development is inherently more complex and hazardous, for men must first love and identify with the female, only to make a clean break of it and then return to the same object as an adult. Many things can go wrong with this process at each step along the way, as the road is filled with conflict and ambivalence. It explains why men often have the harder time growing up, and remain ambiguous adolescents. Still, that's no excuse to elect one president.

In the triangulated war between liberals, Islamists, and the left, only one side can win. Our side will lose if we run out of real men because our feminized culture no longer creates enough of them. We will lose if we allow the new cultural ideal of the feminized adultolescent male to become the ideal. We will lose if we forget that an upright and noble man with the capacity for righteous violence is at the very foundation of civilization.

Liberals sneer at such men, which is to say, men. I found a typical example by a college professor at dailykos, called A Pacifist’s Agony. S/h/it writes that “I've always hated the term ‘war crime,’ since it's an insidious tautology. It implies that some wars are not crimes, and some of the atrocities committed during war are excusable by virtue of their context. I believe that if there can be any single concept by which a civilization ought to be defined it's this: there is no context that can justify the intentional killing of a sentient being who does not wish it. Period.” (Somehow, I'm sure there is a loophole for abortion.)

The professor's job is not to educate students but to make them “politically aware,” which in practice means to arrest their developmental journey toward adulthood, and especially manhood. It is a form of spiritual and intellectual body-snatching; for the boys, it means a fantasized acquisition of manhood, for the girls, contempt for it.

Before being undicktrinated, students are “not particularly politically aware,” but by semester’s end, if all goes well, they will be “different people. They now understand the direct relationship between their own deliberately inculcated ignorance and the crimes that are committed in their name.” They will have inverted reality, so that they imagine themselves to be Morally Superior to the primitive and murderous men who protect and defend them.

This is why the left must constantly attack and undermine America, for that is what allows their sense of moral superiority to flourish. But the attack brings with it the unconscious fear of father's retaliation, hence the hysterical fears of murderous retribution for "speaking truth" to Father -- fear of spying, of theocratic takeovers, of Al Gore's world melting. When leftists say that George Bush is the world's greatest terrorist, they mean it, although it goes without saying that they have no insight into the unconscious basis of this hysterical projection of their own fear converted to anger and persecution.

Oddly enough, the professor agrees with me that our civilization is threatened: “Chomsky's right. It's over for America. Not just this war, but the American idea. And right now, the peace I'm enjoying in my living room, every selfish mile I drive to and from my home, the electricity that's powering my computer, and the privilege of education that allows me to articulate these thoughts is bought with the blood and dust of all the Hadithas that have made a moment like this and a person like me possible. And it's more than I can bear.”

It’s a fascinating thing about truth. One of the things that makes a fellow believe in a deity, really. As every psychoanalytically informed psychologist knows, there is the patient, there is the truth, and there is the truth they would like to deny, which is why they are in your office. Truth has a life of its own, and has a way of insisting its way into the patient’s discourse, try as they might to prevent it from doing so.

The truth is true, and doesn’t actually require anyone to think it. But this is not so of the lie. The lie is entirely parasitic on a thinker. Furthermore, the liar implicitly knows the truth, otherwise it couldn't lie about it. Pacifism is just such a lie, for it contains the truth to which it is a reaction:

...the blood of men who are far better than I, men who stand ready to do violence against the forces of evil that have made a moment like this and a person like me possible. And it's more than I can bear.

Yes, that would require growing up and facing the unpleasant Truth.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Living and Loving in the Real World

When I speak of "evolution" on the human plane, I mean it in exactly the sense John Paul does in this letter to a friend in 1957:

"I am convinced that life is a constant development toward that which is better, more perfect -- if there is no stagnation within us." He adds that it is a great achievement "to see values that others don't see and to affirm them," but an even greater one "to bring out of people values that would perish without us. In the same way, we bring our values out in ourselves."

Put them together, and you have a life devoted to awakening and articulating the latent values that lay dormant in people, in the effort to help them evolve toward that which is better. This is only possible in light of the "perfect," i.e., the Absolute, without which there could be no hierarchy or gradations of quality. But in reality, man is always -- what's the word, Jeeves? Asymptotically? -- "on the way" to perfection. Man is surely a bridge, but not to nowhere, as he must be for the materialist.

As we have discussed in the past, this was the proper meaning of evolution before the word was appropriated and redefined by Darwin. Taken literally, evolution is precisely what cannot happen under metaphysical Darwinism. Rather, only horizontal change may occur. Notice, for example, how Darwinian fundamentalists are always so quick to cut man down to size, insisting in various ways that he is "just an animal." But I don't get my truth from animals -- with the exception of certain partial truths about animality.

In their worldview, it is as philosophically absurd to suggest that man is superior to animals as it is to say that blue is better than the key of C. It's just pure nonsense, because "better" can only be understood in the context of a hierarchy of transcendent values.

As you all know by now -- actually, maybe you don't. But I'll be brief so as to not bore. When I made the formal decision to enter the spirituality racket -- to dive into the deep end of the cosmos -- it was initially as a disciple of the Indian sage, Sri Aurobindo, whose theology I felt at the time to be the most "capacious" and insightfully see-worthy.

Probably because he was raised in the west from a very young age -- and was educated at elite places such as Cambridge by professors such as Whitehead -- he assimilated much of this environment into his theology and metaphysics after returning to India in his 20s. I don't know that it was intentional, but the end result was a "Christianization" of Hindu metaphysics, which was itself an evolutionary leap in what had theretofore been a less sophisticated theology.

Interestingly, I came upon a passage that said as much in God and the World, a book length interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger. Hmm.... Lotta good stuff in here. Getting distracted. Pay attention! Right. Here it is:

"We can already see how, by way of Indian intellectuals, the leaven of Christianity has found a way into Hinduism. The number of Indians who revere and love Jesus is extraordinarily great, far greater than the number of Christians, even if in this case Christ is simply counted in among a series of other saviors."

I don't remember when it was -- a few years back, anyway... charter Raccoon Will seemed to have already realized it -- but it dawned on me that Aurobindo's whole spiritual project was a kind of Christianized Vedanta, for several reasons. First, its focus was on this world. In contrast to the traditional view -- which regards the world as a kind of deception -- Aurobindo regarded it as important in its own right. You might say that the world is worthy of our being in it, which is saying a lot.

This led to a particular appreciation of the body, even the "divinization of the body," which essentially comes down to the idea that his is a descending path, in contrast to the ascending ones of Hindu tradition. In other words, instead of escaping up and out "into God," the spiritual vector is reversed, and the emphasis is placed upon bringing God down "into the world."

Call it "incarnation" if you like. Or sanctification. In this regard, our earthly spiritual "evolution" is exactly as John Paul describes it above -- an adventure of consciousness from what we are toward whom we ought to be; or toward whom we truly are, which always includes an element of relationship (which in turn imbues the relative with a kind of absoluteness, more on which in a subsequent post).

Now, John Paul's theology is very much like Aurobindo's, in the sense that its purpose is to encompass everything, i.e., every plane of being from the lowest to the highest, and yet, bring the highest into the lowest, so to speak, in order to appreciate it in a new Light. Jesus is obviously the quintessence of this, in that he represents the highest-made-lowest in order to "redeem" the latter -- not just man, but the entire cosmos. (Ratzinger notes that a better translation is "God so loved the cosmos...")

In practical terms, what it means is that -- at least from this Raccoon's point of view -- virtually everything can and must be bobtized and divinized. This is how his "theology of the body" is to be understood. But it doesn't just apply to sex and marriage. Rather, the priest's duty is "to help make God present in the world," not just in "official" ways, such as the celebration of Mass, but, as did Jesus, "to live with people, everywhere they are, to be with them in everything but sin."

In the past, I have written of the analogy between this way of living and jazz, since it unifies the extremes of great preparation and then forgetting all about it; it is a complementarity of discipline and slack, which ultimately comes down to a terrestrial analogue of Absolute and Infinite (which are also male and female, respectively).

Thus, John Paul (then Wojtyla) wrote of how an excursion into "the world" -- i.e., with people -- "had to be a 'well-prepared improvisation' in which the priest was ready and willing to talk about everything, 'about movies, about books, about one's own work, about scientific research, and about jazz bands...'" He felt he had "a special responsibility to help those who want 'consciously to create the lifestyle of the modern Catholic.'"

By 1954 he understood that there can be no sharp division of life "into the serious and frivolous [whew! -- ed.], the true and the unimportant. The contemporary tendency to fragment life, or to reduce the question of truth to a secondary issue, had to be resisted. 'The method of the Kingdom of God is the method of truth.' Because of that 'man must be prepared to agree with reality in its totality'" (emphasis mine).

This openness to all of reality is, of course, in the spirit of Vatican II. More to the point, it goes back to the literal meaning of "catholic," which is, in my dictionary: fr. Gk katholikos universal, general, fr. kata by + holos whole 1: COMPREHENSIVE, UNIVERSAL: esp: broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests.

I mean, right? Isn't that what we endeavor to do here? Put everything in Humpty's postmodern dumptruck back together again? And even if Humpty shell fall frumpty times as awkward again, we'll have iggs for the brekkers come to mournhim, sunny side up with care (Joyce). To be perfectly obscure, in order to be meek with an om light and become a fertile egghead, you'll have to make a fast break from a few notshalls. It's the most important meal of the deity!

So. Back in communist-controlled Poland, there was an ongoing attempt by the state-- quite literal, mind you -- to do the precise inverse of what John Paul was doing, for this is what the Left does, ether obviously or more subtly: "communism deliberately fostered the fragmentation of society and the atomization of its members, the better to maintain political control and the easier to form [the] 'new socialist man.'"

No one could or can live fully -- or be fully alive -- under such a regime. Therefore, life must be stolen on the sly. In a very real way, human life becomes against the law.

For this very reason, the people around him were "attracted" to the young priest, for they felt "alive" in his presence: "We felt completely free with him, without any burden. His presence led us to express ourselves. While he was among us, we felt that everything was all right.... We felt that we could discuss any problem with him; we could talk about absolutely anything."

How different this is from contemporary America, where our elites associate "aliveness" and "openness" with a kind of "empty freedom" which reduces to nihilism, and "closedness" and "rigidity" with religiosity.

Is the latter a problem? Quite obviously. But it's the same problem Wojtyla re-cognized: that, for some reason, religion is not adequately meeting man where he is, or speaking to who he is.

In my view, it is a "false solution" to suggest that man simply made a wrong turn with modernity, and that he needs to revert to the mindset of Traditional Man and culture, which are forever normative for him. No way am I giving up my stereo. Far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter when you were born, or into what culture, so long as you're ashamed of it. That's real multiculturalism, since it sees beyond the contingent and converges upon what is universal.

No earthly manifestation is or can be absolutely normative for man. Again, the norm is up ahead, in the future (although it once manifested in time and history). It is that toward which we are evolving, the better-on-the-way-to-the-perfect. Thus, for man it is always the new normal. Or, to put it another way, you're not normal unless you're made new.