Monday, July 25, 2011

On Having Faith in Reality

One simply cannot comprehend the cosmos without appreciating the orthoparadoxical reality of continuity and discontinuity, which, in a way, is quite similar to the complementarity of wave/particle in quantum physics.

Unfortunately, the shocking nature of this complementarity has been reduced to a bit of a cliche, but it means that at bottom, the cosmos manifests in two mutually exclusive ways, as continuous (wave) and discontinuous (particle).

I do believe that this complementarity is here to stay, irrespective of what physicists may or may not discover in the future. That is to say, it is not physical but metaphysical, and is a vital principle for understanding most everything; and not just in an abstract and theoretical way, but in an existential, phenomenological, and experience-near manner.

To cite one obvious example, man is a social animal, and yet, a unique individual. Not only are these two absolutely inseparable, but there is no possibility of individualism in the absence of a prior ground of social-ism (obviously not in the political sense, which defeats its very purpose by trying to impose an exterior socialism on what can only be interior and spontaneous).

I might add that this complementarity provides a quite natural way to think about the trinitarian nature of the Godhead, in which there is distinction but no separation, which is none other than Love, baby, yeah!

Curiously, mine is the only book of which I am aware (out of 129,864,880 in the entire world) in which the chapters are both continuous and discontinuous, as God intended. But despite my loneliness in the face of these daunting odds, I nevertheless believe that I am in the right. And one man with delusions makes a majority, at least in his dreams.

(Although, come to think of it, if I am not mistaken, the Hebrew Bible has no punctuation, but is one continuous stream of Words.)

So, now you are in a position to understand what Balthasar means when he writes in his Theo-Logic that "Although spirit is something qualitatively new with respect to all natural entities, it is at the very same time the crowning of an ever more unmistakable development in nature itself."

In other words, spirit is both alpha and omega, in that it is simultaneously an "attainment," and yet, the underlying ground, or surrounding tortilla, of the whole existentialada. One might say that, just as in individual development, the cosmos becomes what it already is, which is what we call in the book Cosmotheosis, another word that should have been made up long ago.

Please note as well that theosis (or divinization, or sanctity) of the individual is simultaneously (due to the spatially and temporally holographic nature of the cosmos) the crowning achievement of the cosmos itself, the beyond which of which there is no whicher.

This is directly addressed by Paul, who wrote of how "the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs until now" (Rom 8:22-23), just as we do. Every time the cosmos gives birth to an individual, the individual gives birth to a cosmos, in an ever-ascending spiral. This we call the cosmic gyroscape (sometimes joyrescape), or unabsurcular stairway.

Here again, we must insist that there can be no neutral or fully "objective" truth, since prior to truth is relationship -- for example, the relationship between knower and known. But what is this relationship? Again, it must be love, or so we have heard from the wise.

Now, recall what we were saying the other day about reality, i.e., the Absolute, manifesting as either Truth or Presence; the former is on the plane of knowing, or intellect, while the latter is on the plane of being, which for us is life. Any revelation must partake of both, i.e., knowledge and being -- what we symbolize as (n), to distinguish it from mere (k) -- and it is not difficult to see why.

Obviously, no contact with God -- or O -- is experienced in a neutral manner, shorn of such elements as awe, mystery, wonder -- in a word, presence, or the old mysterium tremendum et fascinans, i.e., (?!), the sacred WTF! For some it is the guffah-HA! experience, which is sometimes funny, other times quite serious, especially when the punchline is oneself and the yoke is on us. But don't worry, it's a light wave for your private particle.

So, "no communication of truth is devoid of mystery, for truth is never so unconcealed that no aspect of the thing is left outside its revelation." Again, truth proceeds from inside --> to outside --> back inside, but never in such a way that it exhausts itself (or us!).

And in communication that is "free," i.e., between two subjects, the truth is limited by "the freedom of the one revealing." Now, truth is not just a kind of "fact" waiting to be discovered, but a testimony, which can only be received in faith, i.e., faith that the revealer is not pulling our leg: "Without this faith, any exchange of truth between free entities is unthinkable."

Moreover, "To exclude testimony and faith from the way in which spirits communicate would be to dislodge their freedom from the center of their intelligence." I symbolize this complementarity as O, on the one end, and (o) at our end, or simply "openness to O."

"Only by welcoming things from the outside and remaining open to them, only by being given over to the service of what is other than itself, can man's spirit lay claim to a being of its own. And only if it has served the world can it hope for the measure of independence due it as spirit" (ibid.).

Testimony requires a witness. Is the witness reliable? Can we trust him? Can we place our faith in him? Shall we Cross-examine him?

This blog is never about mere facts. Rather, there is always an element of testimony. Am I asking for your faith? Yes, but surely not blind faith, rather, only faith in reality and in our ability to comprehend and convey it.

I would never knowingly lie to you, but even so, I would not advise putting faith in me, since I am the faithful one here, faithful to the testimony of the Other. If you have a problem, you really need to take it up with him, not me. For I am just an errant boy zenned by glossary quirks to correct some bull.

(All the Balthasar quotes are taken from Theo-Logic vol. I.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being Liberal Means Always Having to Say You're Sordid

For this morning's repast of a repost, we have chosen an easy-to-digest morsel from three years back. It will be pure rewordgitation for longtimeless readers, but may be of some assistance to new readers as well as long-time obsessives who, no matter how many posts they read, don't understand where we are coming from. (Some light editing, including use of the royal We, because we think it's somehow funnier that way.)

Alright, let's resolve this thing once and for all. 200,000 years is long enough for anyone to have to live in darkness about his origins. How do we reconcile God and Darwin, Maher and Godwin, Adam and evolution, kings and apes, Elvis and Scatter?

Let us preface this by emphasizing that we are perfectly willing to adopt what science determines to be "true" -- within unbreachable metaphysical limits, of course -- for the same reason we are willing to accept the advice of our doctor that if we do not take insulin, we will surely cash in our chimp.

Put it thisaway. As it so happens, our mother was a Christian Scientist, and we attended Christian Science Sunday school until the age of 10 or so. In fact, one might say that our mother was a devout Christian Scientist, with the exception of the Christian Science part.

That is, when we left the plane of theological abstraction for the world of concrete reality, we took medicine and went to the doctor just like anyone else -- in fact, more so; our mother was a bit of a hypochondriac by proxy. Frankly, there was no attempt whatsoever to reconcile what we heard in Sunday school with what went on the rest of the week, especially if, say, we had a fever of 98.7, in which case it was off to the doctor.

Which undoubtedly played a role in sowing the seeds of religious doubt in our mind, being that we became a vocal atheist by the age of complete ensoulment, or somewhere between the ages of nine or ten.

In our case, the "Christian" indoctrination completely backfired, as it was one of the primary reasons for our rejection of it. Obviously, we are not alone in this regard. The absence of elementary consistency was abundantly evident even to this nine year-old, and a healthy mind seeks unity above all else. It is what the mind does and what it is for. It can also, of course, analyze into parts, but always for the purpose of synthesizing things into a higher and more complex unity. Only a psychotic person prefers to live in a hopelessly sundered world of bizarre and irreconcilable fragments.

The other day, a fellow named Rush Limbaugh made an astute observation, suggesting that the reason Obama is reduced to such a stuttering prick (to quote Tommy DeVito) when off the teleprompter, is that he is a deeply divided person, either consciously or unconsciously (and undoubtedly both, in our opinion). He is the polar opposite of, say, Ronald Reagan, who always knew what he thought and could answer any question, for it was simply a matter of returning to well thought-out first principles and applying them to the problem in question. Very scientific, if you will. (What he could do about these principles was, of course, constrained by certain realities such as a liberal congress dedicated to expansion of the state.)

But one of the intrinsic problems in being a liberal -- as we well remember -- is that one can never reveal one's first principles (at least politicians cannot; those protected by tenure are free to remove the mask), because if one explicitly articulates them, people will be repelled at what a contemptuous, condescending, supercilious, and authoritarian asshat of a control freak one is.

Therefore, one must always couch these principles in terms of "compassion," or "helping the little guy," or "healing the planet," or "unity," or some other such blather. So in this regard, Obama is dealing with a more general problem that is intrinsic to liberalism, which is How to Fool the Idiots. One must be very cautious, because even the idiots are only so stupid. Thus Obama's constant verbal ticks: "uh, uh, uh, let me, uh, say this, uh, uh, I've been completely, uh, consistent about this, aaaaaaaaaand blah blah blah."

Being that liberalism is the political embodiment of multiplicity (or of an oppressive "bad unity" to try to heal it), it should not be surprising that its adherents are so intrinsically inconsistent. It's not so much that they are dishonest, but that the whole ideology is dishonest -- it is a lie from the ground up. Which is also why, the worse one's character (e.g., Ted Kennedy, Anthony Wiener, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd) or the less one's intelligence (Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden), the better one will fare as a liberal politician, because one will be able to lie with such great ease as to even fool oneself.

Anyway, in Mr. Limbaugh's analysis, he was pointing out that Obama is running several campaigns simultaneously, and that it is obviously a struggle for him to keep them all straight in his head, thus the great difficulty in being consistent and giving straight answers. Because of this, he is always one gaffe away from an accidental revelation of truth. For example, he's running one campaign for blacks, but an entirely different one for whites. (Here is a partial list of the various irreconcilable positions which Obama must hopelessly try to keep straight in his crooked mind.)

Our point is that in the ultimate sense, science is the reduction of exterior multiplicity to interior or subjective unity. But the only reason this is possible is because the human intellect mirrors the unity of creation. Our mind operates the way it does because we live in a cosmos, which is to say, an ordered totality.

And the cosmos can only be an ordered totality because it exhibits nonlocal internal relations. Because of this, every part of the cosmos embodies and participates in the whole, just as every gene contains the blueprint for the whole body, and everyman is potentially allmen. Again, the cosmos is thoroughly entangled with itself, which is why we may know anything and also why we may know anything knowable. It is how and why Man may be the microcosmos he is to the macrocosmos.

Now, metaphysics is obviously about first principles. Our intention is to have a completely consistent metaphysic, so that, in order to answer any question, we need only return to first principles, and take it from there. In this sense, Darwinism (unleavened with any verticality) is a lie, because it cannot furnish any consistent first principles. In fact, whenever a committed Darwinist tries, he ends up making self-refuting statements right out of the box, just like a liberal politician; one cannot be a champion of human dignity and materialism any more than one can be a partisan of statism and liberty.

"Young earth" creationism makes the same sort of error, in that it contradicts so much evidence that in order to maintain it, one will essentially have to split one's mind in two. One will live in a scientific world with all of its blessings, and yet, a part of oneself will have to reject it, or at least not be able to fully integrate it into one's belief system. We do not believe the Creator wishes us to live this way, with the left brain not knowing what the right brain is up to.

The other day we half-jokingly mentioned that our right brain agrees with Schuon about evolution, while our left brain agrees with Aurobindo (or Teilhard, if you like). One of Bion's adages (which he borrowed from someone else) is that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity. In the case of our bʘʘk, we have posted in the past about how it was essentially the fruit of years spent in the state of higher bewilderness, essentially trying to beat this coonundrum of Adam and evolution. In a sense, it would be easy to just come down on one side or the other, and make it go away.

But for us to do this, we would feel as if we were back to the di-polar life of a doctor-shopping Christian Science hypochondriac. For better or worse and 'til death do us whole, the way our minds are built, they seek an integrated unity, which is a very different thing from "unicity," or bland, flatland uniformity.

In other words, to simply accept an ideology -- whether scientific or religious -- and superimpose it upon the world would be an example of unicity. Such a worldview will be "consistent" but it will not be complete, as it will necessarily have to omit and underlook a lot of details and anomalies, to put it mildly.

Or, we may accept both science and religion, and not worry about the lack of reconciliation. Such a world view will be more complete, but it will then lack consistency.

The Raccoon, however, wishes to have a maximum of completeness and consistency -- at least as much as Gödel will allow. Which is a lot, once one accepts the implications of his theorems, one of which is that truth is prior to our fragmentary logical "proofs" of it.

The point is, there must be a deeper way to harmonize revelation and science. But the only way to arrive at this is to dwell in the bewilderness and actually ratchet up the tension, as opposed to prematurely resolving it. The same thing applies to psychotherapy, at least as Bion envisioned it.

For example, a therapist might have a pretty good idea of what is going on with a patient after the very first session. But it won't do the patient any good to simply provide him the answer, which would essentially foreclose the evolution of O by superimposing mere (k) upon it.

Rather, what one wants to happen is for O to evolve into genuine (k) in the patient; it is the difference between (k)-->Ø and O-->(k). In order to accomplish the latter, one must exercise Yeats, I mean Keats, "negative capability," which is to dwell in "uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

If one does this long enough, one will eventually "snap." Now, being that a Raccoon is an extreme seeker and off-road spiritual aspirant, one might say that he wants the ultimate spiritual adventure. Therefore, he will constantly feed his head with inconsistencies and contradictions until it basically implodes in an inverted but even Bigger Bang than the one at the other end.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Brewing White Lightnin' in My Pappy's Still Point of the Turning World

When we talk about the mysterious presence of human subjects "in" the cosmos, we cannot avoid the equally mysterious presence of Truth, for it is only human subjects who are privileged to know Truth, and yet, both Truth and subjects are irreducible mysteries: "no communication of truth is devoid of mystery, for truth is never so unconcealed that no aspect of the thing is left outside the revelation" (Balthasar).

I mean, right? Sometimes I feel as if I'm just spouting common sense, only at an uncommonly high level, so to speak. You know, all the stuff that must be true in order for anything to be true.

In other words, there is the common sense of knowing not to put one's hand on a hot stove, but also the common sense of knowing that we are not omniscient, and that we are forever barred from total knowledge of anything.

And yet, we most certainly do know, and knowledge is truth unless the former is drained of all meaning. Yes, there is obviously "false knowledge," but that is another way of saying that it isn't true.

For the same reason, there can be no "neutral truth," because truth always takes sides. The only way out of this di-lemma is to adopt the approach of the left, whereby they accuse reality of being racist because it doesn't comport with Obama's policy preferences.

The stimulus worked, it's just that reality refuses to take orders from a black man. Indeed, reality is even mocking Obama by creating all the jobs in Texas and Wisconsin, meanwhile destroying liberal paradises such as California.

But the truth is that race doesn't matter, and that Truth couldn't care less about it. Only racists -- or, more usually, the people who cater to their prejudices -- give it any intrinsic significance.

What this means is that anyone who truly cares about truth is going to be a "mystic," whether he identifies himself as such or not. In fact, numberless mystics would even be offended at the charge that they are mystics -- Darwinian mystics, Marxian mystics, Keynesian mystics, etc.

But if truth necessarily conceals a mystery, there is no getting around the fact that anyone who claims to have cornered the truth is indeed a mystic (not necessarily a goodʘne mind you, but that is the subject of a different post; perhaps a better word would be "mystagogue").

Now, to penetrate the mystery is to know a truth, even though, at the same time, the higher the truth, the deeper the mystery. One might even affirm the orthoparadox that "the more you know the more you don't" -- cloud-hidden apophatic theologians would say the less you know the more you do -- but this is perhaps too obvious a bobservation to bother formulating. But it does explain how it is that the more we blog the more there is to blog about.

Again, we inhabit a sphere, only unlike those cheap Aristotelian ones, each cooncentric circle is more vast as we proceed inward, until we reach that still point at the center, which is infinite. You could call it the "still point of the turning world" or the dynamic point of the crystalized world. We prefer the latter.

Regarding this still, George Jones might have put it best when he sang

Well in North Carolina, way back in the hills
Me and my old pappy had a hand in a still
We brewed white lightnin' 'til the sun went down
Then he'd fill him a jug and he'd pass it around
Mighty, mighty pleasin, pappy's corn squeezin'
Whshhhoooh... white lightnin'

Here we see a rustic expression of elemental truths revolving around Father, Son, the hidden area of still point, and the reluxing "spirits" that are passed around between them. Note also the relation to our own Raccoon slackrament of "beer o'clock time dilation," i.e., the cosmic "tippling point."

Now, as Schuon has said, there can be no privilege higher than truth. This means that truth is even "higher" than humans, but this can be a dangerous doctrine in the hands of demagogues, since they will claim that their idiosyncratic truth is higher than you.

This was the catastrophic story of the left in the previous century, in which millions were murdered in the name of the absolute truths of communism and national socialism. Unfortunately, the leftist, despite his deep and abiding cynicism, never turns it toward his own doctrine, so he alway has a certain irony-deficiciency at the core of his being. See trolls for details, who can corrode anything except their own lies.

Truth can only be higher than humans if it doesn't originate from humans. In other words, any man-made truth, such as Marxism, by definition cannot be higher than man, only co-equal, or on the same plane. (However, the merely human immediately becomes the less than human.)

Which is why we can dismiss any truth the moment it claims to go beyond this intrinsic limitation. Another way of saying this is that either there is revelation, or there is no possibility of truth.

Go ahead, think it through. I'll wait. Ironic, is it not, that our troll claims that "the real enemy is absolute certainty"? Well, doy! Which means that the real and permanent friend is certainty of the Absolute.

Again, to know a truth is to penetrate a mystery is to ascend the cosmos. Is man more "true" than mere animals? Either this question is absurd, or it is too obvious to even bother with.

Fundamentally, in the words of Schuon, "Metaphysical truth is in the first place discernment between the Real and the unreal or the less real." Does this also mean that human beings are more "real" than rocks or plants? C'mon. Get real!

Now, the Absolute manifests in one of two ways, either as Truth or as Presence, or knowing and being, testimony and testament, but both partake of Mystery and Mister O. And this is never a "one way" process, but always an open exchange between free entities. And if that isn't true, then nothing else is.

Slept late and now I'm cutting it close. Gotta run!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everybody's Got Something to Hide

Your inside is out when your outside is in
Your outside is in when your inside is out
So come on...
--John Lennon, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

It's a little odd when you think about it, but with the emergence of Life, we suddenly have a cosmos with millions upon millions of subjects, each a world unto itself: "The animal kingdom gives rise to a variegated profusion of subjective images of the world, all of which are closed off from one another." And "each of these images is completely finite; it operates within a peculiar environment that is snugly fitted to its particular sensory apparatus" (Balthasar).

The image just popped into my head of a room, like those used by security guards, only with a huge bank of monitors showing what different animals see, and how they see it.

Impossible of course (especially the latter), but one wonders if there isn't a common Subject of which they all partake -- or in whom they all participate. Everyone has a piece of the puzzall, and yet, all of the pieces combined don't come close to constituting the Subject. Think of the sunlight that streams into a room and then enters the eyes and brains of everyone in it. Being that light is a wave, it remains one despite the fact that it is present in the diverse subjects. Is the sun in us, or are we in the sun?

There is a sound reason why Light is one of the primary and universal icons of Spirit. It is not that Spirit is an analogue of Light. Rather, vice versa: that Light is an analogue of Spirit. Spirit is prior to Light, as truth is prior to knowledge.

One of the reasons we cannot perceive the world as another animal does is that (as alluded to above) its environment is so "snugly fitted to its particular sensory apparatus." In other words, the subject is ordered to the object, seemingly with no "remainder." But for human beings, this remainder -- this free and indeterminate area of being -- is everything.

However, even knowing this is knowing something about lower animals, isn't it? We also can't consciously know what things look like from an infant's perspective, yet we can nevertheless intuitively enter their world and be in communion with them.

The same might be said of the mentally ill individual. A psychotherapist utilizes empathy in order to enter the world of a patient, even though the boundary between us remains "absolute." Yet despite the boundary, both patient and therapist can sense when they are close to, or distant from, one another. Indeed, one routinely senses the same thing in any intimate relationship, for, as we were saying yesterday, one cannot have intimacy in the absence of distance.

One could also apply this to the political sphere, in that there has been a complete "empathic failure" between liberals and conservatives. I feel that I understand them, but I am quite certain that they do not understand me at all, because, like an inept therapist, they never stop offering "interpretations" that simply do not apply to me ("hatred of art"?).

Imagine a therapist who, no matter what you say, keeps telling you that you really want to have sex with your mother. This is no different from the liberal who, no matter what we say, tells us that we really want to enrich the wealthy, hinder the poor, hurt blacks, oppress women and homosexuals, etc. That we want no such things poses no obstacle to their interpretation.

Conversely, I know that liberals want to grow government, raise taxes, and redistribute wealth, for if they don't want to do these things, then we have no argument (at least in terms of economics). And yet, for some reason, saying this makes them angry. I know people who are offended if you even call them a liberal. What gives?

Here again, there is an analogy to therapy, in that one cannot offer an interpretation until a patient is ready to hear it. This is part of the art of therapy, which involves a lot of cultivation of the soil before it is possible for truth to grow.

The same, of course, applies to religion. Not for nothing does Jesus employ so many agricultural metaphors and similes. One can hand the truth to someone on a silver platter, but this accomplishes nothing if the person isn't ready to hear it.

Balthasar writes that each sentient creature is like its own "clearly articulated word. Nature has produced an immense number of such words -- as many as there are genera and species of living things."

Now, as we have discussed in the past, words are more than mere words, because, for one thing, they are both transmitted and received in an irreducible complementarity. There is no Speaker in the absence of a Hearer, which is another way of saying "intelligence" and "intelligibility."

But this complementarity undergoes transformations as we ascend the scale of being. For example, "plants are only spoken words," whereas animals begin to "speak as much as they are spoken" (ibid.). One might say that in the evolving subject, passive intelligibility begins to transition to active intelligence.

In short, animals begin expressing things from their own interior. This process culminates in man, who doesn't only express "things," but is able to express himself. Recall what we said a few posts back about the "cosmic movement" that proceeds from "inside" to "outside," which is none other than commun-ication. It is con-versing, or "flowing together."

In the case of humans, the communication proceeds from inside (the subject) to outside (some form of symbolic representation) back inside (to the receiving subject). This is what we are doing right now, although much can go wrong in this benevolent cycle, as evidenced by our malevolent troll, who not only fails to receive the communication, but converts it to an object of his own fantasy, and then projects it into me. If we weren't a psychologist we would be puzzled by this behavior.

As we move from plant, to animal, to troll, and to man, "consciousness attains greater interiority and so becomes self-consciousness." This "inner dimension is not only luminous, as it is in the case of the animal, but also light for itself" (ibid.). In other words, it doesn't just shine a spotlight on the world, but can reverse its gaze and shine it upon the "content" of one's own subject -- or even impersonal subjectivity as such, as in Eastern meditation techniques.

In this luminous passage of greater interiority lies our freedom -- freedom to act, freedom to speak, freedom to know, and freedom to disclose our interior to others. This introduces so many problems in the cosmos that One sometimes Oneders whether it was worth the hassle. For starters, man "is the first entity that can freely tell the truth, but for the same reason, he is also the first that is capable of lying" (ibid.). D'oh! See Genesis for details.

Note that in the so-called object, there is always a distinction between "what it is" and "how it appears," or between essence and existence. But in man this is complicated by the fact that this distinction also applies to the subject, whom we are always "striving" toward and yet somehow never reach. In other words, the subject too has an appearance and a reality, but who is the Speaker of this intelligible reality? That would be the longwinded and logoquacious being called God, but I don't want to blow too far ahead of oursails.

Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to be, on the one hand, a subject who were entirely known; or, on the other, completely incapable of expressing oneself and escaping our own closed world. Each would be hell in a different way. In the former there would be no privacy at all, while in the latter, no intimacy.

People on the schizoid/autistic end of the spectrum can inhabit both kinds of hell, in that they can feel intensely scrutinized by others, as if they are psychically naked, and yet, incapable of intimate communion with others. There is no "privacy," and yet, no "publication" either, at least none that is voluntarily disclosed from the free space within.

The purpose of this blog is to simultaneously commune, both vertically and horizontally, i.e., with O and with (¶). As I have said before, it has become my primary spiritual practice, a kind of "circle" into which I want to allow others while excluding the jerks. It's not that kind of circle. There are blogs for that.

One is, of course, free to criticize it, but this is to miss the boat and even the water, because the reality of it is not taking place in a "critical space," so to speak. I am not arguing, persuading, cajoling, evangelizing. Rather, just sharing the space.

I hope! Otherwise, I am all alone in this crazy place, with no way to get out or to bear witness to the miracle of being here at all.

The deeper you go the higher you fly
The higher you fly the deeper you go
So come on...
--John Lennon

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Getting Intimate with Reality (While Tossing Bombs in the Graveyard)

We were discussing the cosmic revolution marked by the emergence of life, which occurred on a Tuesday afternoon some 3.85 billion years ago.

We are all the benefactors of this revolation and revelution -- yes, even trolls, because the undead can only maintain themselves by parasitizing the living whom they envy. They are quite literally "reactionary," analogous to the manner in which a frog (pardon the French) will react to the presence of a live insect. Otherwise they do not see it. Likewise trolls who can see that we create and know stuff, but can't imagine how.

One cannot just say "life" and leave it at that. Truly -- and we really don't mean to rag on scientists, because we adore science qua science -- one must be some kind of neanderf*ck to not appreciate the endless implications of a living cosmos.

Imagine going into your backyard and seeing an entirely new mode of being, completely unknown to any existing categories of science. You'd be pretty excited, wouldn't you?

Back when I was a carefree bachelor like reader William, living in my own little Port Hueneme paradise, I once found something like that growing in the moist carpeting near the bathroom where the toilet had overflowed, and it was real enough to result in losing my security deposit.

Well, something similar happened -- and happens -- with the emergence of Life, even though we do all lose our security deposit in the end. But then we move on to a new apartment and a new mode of being.

Everyone knows that in order to begin to understand Man, one must study hard sciences such as neurology, along with relatively flaccid ones such as psychology, and then hybrid forms such as anthropology.

But most of all, one must study the humanities, because only these really reveal what man is all about and what he can do, irrespective of the science. After all, science may conclude, for example, that free will is impossible. Whatever. Bees also can't fly. Placebos can't work. Waves can't be particles. Sanctity is impossible. God can't play dice. What's your point, Einsten?

Obviously we need to define humans by what they can do and what they reveal -- or, to put it another way, we cannot intimately embrace a definition that absurdly renders the actual impossible. Same with life. Otherwise one is in the position of the liberal economist or global warming fanatic who won't acknowledge that something works in reality unless it works in his theory.

So, just as we have the humanities to complement our infrahuman arsenal for understanding man, we need a.... what? biolities? to complement biology. This has, of course, been attempted in the past by philosophers such as Bergson and Hans Jonas, and even Whitehead to a certain extent, but I am thinking of something different.

It is also explicated in certain eastern philosophies such as hatha yoga, with its focus on prana, but as pleasant as that can be, it also isn't exactly what we have in mind.

The latter gets a little closer to, and more intimate with, our meaning, as it has some convergence with the idea that when God creates man, he specifically breathes into him the the breath of life, breath in this context being synonymous with spirit (i.e., the Creator's ex-piration is our in-spiration; or, his ex-wholation is our in-wholation, like a kind of inverse image). This gift is our birthday presence, and it is the one gift that never stops giving unless we give up receiving and leave ourselves for dead.

For those of you playing along at home, see p. 248: We are Ones again back to oursoph before the beginning, before old nobodaddy committed wholly matterimany and exhaled himself into a world of sorrow and ignorance. Now you know what that nonsense was all about.

As mentioned yesterday, with the emergence of Life, we have the undeniable existence of a cosmic interior. Looked at one way -- the important way, to be exact -- all subsequent evolution will represent but the "expansion" and colonization of this subjective space; or let us just say space, since the latter is merely a projection of the divine-human sensorium; there is no space in the absence of the Center surrounded by it (or which orthoparadoxically contains it), which is ultimately how One puts the ʘ into cʘsmos. But let's not get behind of ourselves.

But what is subjectivity? Is it only parasitic upon, and reducible to, objectivity? If so, then you are a zombie, and you needn't read any further. Except you do need to, don't you? Where is this going? What comes next? How can I find some trivial bobjection to fight back against and prove to all and sundry that I am indeed dead? As if we didn't know!

According to Balthasar, "Subjectivity is intimacy." Does this mean that we live in an "intimate" cosmos? Yes, precisely. And if you don't believe me, just ask yourself, with whom I will assume you are on intimate terms.

"This intimacy cannot be forcibly invaded, nor can it be communicated as such. Whoever has being-for-himself has, of course, the capacity to express himself outwardly, but he does not have the capacity to get rid of his essential solitude." Thus, -- again, in an orthoparadoxical manner -- loneliness and intimacy, solitude and communion, go together like William and his cat, Pickles.

This leads to the notion that there is a reciprocity built into subjectivity, without which the subject would be completely "empty" or bereft. You know, it is not good that man should be allone. If he is, he can tend to get a bit cranky and eccentric. We all remember what Dupree was like before Glodean.

Balthasar goes on to say that any "community of truth" must be built upon "the foundation of this basic resignation," i.e., that one is not, and cannot be, complete. To believe so is, to a large extent, what we call narcissism, but it is obvious that the narcissist's completeness is only in fantasy, as he requires other subjects around him to confirm his wholeness and perfection. Thus his simultaneous need of, and contempt for, the devalued people who reflect back to him his fraudulent "completeness." See Hollywood for details.

All of this is also addressed in psychoanalytic developmental theory. I am especially thinking of D.W. Winnicott, who wrote of how oneness, is both anterior and posterior to twoness, as in: oneness with mother, followed by the discovery of twoness with (always with!) her, followed by oneness again later in life -- hopefully not with mother, symbolic or otherwise. But if so, at least I'll get a cut.

Now, in the twoness-in-oneness represented by love, there is a kind of mutual "gift giving" built into the very fabric of being. To jump ahead a bit, I believe this is why the free market, properly understood, can be a kind of Festival of Love, for the entrepreneur can only succeed in the proper sense by knowing all about you and by satisfying your needs.

For example, I know this big amazon who understands me in a quite intimate way, as she is always giving me little tips on books I might like to read or CDs I might want to hear. And if she is wrong, I can exchange it for something else without even hurting her feelings.

In a way, if we follow these implications to the end, we might even say that the ultimate communion is also the ultimate abandonment, son.

We begin, for example, with the experience of raw sensation, unmediated even by mind as we understand the term. As Balthasar describes it, "The subject's solitude begins already at the level of sensation, where the ineliminability of its solitude also becomes immediately evident. But the same solitude remains even in the realm of mind, despite its heightened possibilities of communication" (emphasis mine).

In other words, "the walls erected in the sensory sphere for the benefit and welfare of subjects also rise up into the sphere of intellect. Any attempt to demolish them, hence, to disregard the mystery of the other subject, violates the mystery of existence and the ultimate nature of truth."

That, my dear friend, is a passage worth pondering. For it bears upon the necessary existence of certain boundaries that cannot be transgressed or demonolished without destroying man (because the subject has been destroyed).

Note what happens, for example, when an admittedly infrahuman scientism reduces man to an object. While this may appear to be a cold and dispassionate stance, the implications of it are as endless as its inverse.

For with a single sci-entific de-cision (scindere, cut, cleave), one has at once disinfected the world of of such nasty viruses as love, mutuality, intimacy, communion, reciprocity, and more.

Only because there exists an infinite gap between subjects can there be an eternal love between them, i.e., existential distinction without ontological separation. And baby makes trinity (whether lateral or fatherative).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's My Narrative, and I'm Sticking With It

It just occurred to us this very second -- in fact, it's still coming down as we type -- that it is quite difficult if not impossible to articulate a Boundlessly Immense Grand Theory of Everything -- or BIG TOE -- in the absence of a tight little narrative.

I realize that this qualifies as a banality, but it just flashed into my melon as I stared at this page of Balthasar while awaiting the inspiration to flow, so it may or may not lead anywhere, much less toward its own denouement on the cosmic stage.

Speaking of narratives, von B. certainly had one, but not really. The sprawling, fifteen volume theological aesthetics that we spent most of 2009 dilating upon may look orderly on the shelf, but once one dives in, it is an unruly jungle of inexhaustible truth and extravagant beauty that one must hack through page by page. And while in the process of hacking, it really isn't possible to keep one eye on the big picture.

Speaking of hacks, this was the underlying purpose of the patented One Cosmos narrative, i.e., of cosmic evolution from Matter (or existence), to Life, to Mind, and on to Spirit. This seems not only like the most obvious structure to place one's Big Toe, but it also provides a dramatic arc, since there is purpose woven into the very fabric of being, both personally and collectively. Indeed, the main difference between us and the metaphysical Darwinians is that we take evolution seriously.

But as we were saying yesterday, it is not actually possible for man to "contain" existence, let alone being. Rather, we must rely upon abstractions and generalizations, and these almost always come down to narratives, either implicit or explicit. There are personal narratives, historical narratives, political narratives, scientific narratives, media narratives, weather narratives -- everywhere you look, a narrative.

But few of these narratives are sophisticated enough to account for the fact that man is an intrinsically narrative creating being whose fundamental way of knowing the world is to tell stories about it.

In other words, in an important sense, "the medium is the message," whether your particular narrative says that the cosmos just banged into being by itself and then came to life for no reason, or did so as a result of the god of the Witoto hawking a loogie on the earth to create the rain forest.

Clearly, there are religious myths and scientistic myths, but both have a kind of binding power that permits one to organize reality and think about what is otherwise unthinkable, but which can also cause us to distort reality in fundamental ways.

Amazing that in the 21st century we still have to remind people that the map is not the territory -- or that one cannot eat the menu -- and that if one confuses the two, one is about to enter a world of pain or indigestion. But what is there if we toss aside the map? Then we're back in the jungle of pure experience, and another kind of pain.

One thing you will have noticed is that our troll persists in the effort to place us in a fanciful narrative of his own creation (or partly his own, as it was mostly composed by more intelligent demons). We are nowhere in this narrative, but this poses no barrier, since one of the elements of the narrative is that it is a kind of "secret" known only through leftist gnosis.

Only the leftist can see into our being and know that we are racist, or homophobic, or anti-science, or misogynistic, or shills for the wealthy, and on and on. There is nothing we can say that could dislodge us from the narrative, since one cannot reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into.

I was thinking about this while reading this typically deep meditation on the current political mindscape by Deepak Chopra. As with most everything he writes, it is way, way beyond parody, at least my sub-Iowahawk powers thereof. For example (and try to just read it in a dispassionate manner, like a therapist, and not react to it emotionally; it hurts a patient's feelings if you laugh at them):

"One of the virtues of being on the liberal side of politics is that total obedience isn't required. There are no hidden agendas. Ideology doesn't lead to unreason.... Liberal politics is based on a non-regimented, all-inclusive approach to democracy. Freedom of thought is paramount.... For thirty years and more, the progressive tradition has been severely undermined, dating back to Nixon's 'Southern strategy' (coddle the racists) and Ronald Reagan's smiling reactionary agenda (AIDS victims deserve what they get), through the first President Bush's Willie Horton strategy (another boost for racism) and the second President Bush's deceptive 'compassionate conservatism.'"

There is so much wrong -- even evil, what with the casual vilification of good people with whom he has policy disagreements -- with this narrative, that it is pointless to correct it. The deeper -- and more unsettling -- issue is that he undoubtedly believes what he writes, and is therefore completely imprisoned in his delusional narrative. It doesn't necessarily mean that he is delusional per se, but rather, that he is delusional by proxy, or "stupid through another's head." In this sense, he is not even crazy, but can only borrow the crazy from others.

Are there Republicans who also end up trapped in their narrative? Of course. Which is why conservatives are such an annoyance to them.

And only a poor or very sloppy reader could confuse my own narrative with the conservative one. If they were identical, then I would undoubtedly have more readers than I do. It requires no effort on my part to write a red-meat post that attracts a great deal of conservative attention, but rarely do these visitors return after the next post.

Nor do I want them to return, because it is wearying to start with someone from the ground up, and dredge up long-ago settled arguments; it took me decades to get here, and I expect nothing less of others, to say nothing of the fact that my Here can be no one else's Here without becoming a there, or an experience once-removed, which is to say a non-experience.

In my narrative, politics is always placed in a cosmic context. It is not, and cannot be, any kind of free-standing enterprise without man taking a steep fall from his true station. We are "in" politics, but unlike the left, not "of" it.

Importantly, the latter is in no way intended to be inflammatory or polemical, since it is an axiom of the Marxian left that man has no essence and is determined by the dialectic (read: narrative) of class struggle. This worldview is hopelessly outdated, but it nevertheless structures most everything Obama sees and says about the world. Recall that the greatest spiritual influence in his life was the Reverend Wright, whose transparent Marxism can be readily seen under the veneer of subChristian kookery.

Back to where we were. Suffice it to say that it has come as something of a shock to see just how closely my narrative hews to the one expressed by such leading-edge Christian theologians as Balthasar, Wojtyla, and Ratzinger. Sometimes I wonder whether the three got together and conspired to get the Christian narrative back on track, but it is certainly different from anything I learned while growing up nominally Christian before rejecting the whole thing by the age of nine.

For example, on this page before me, Balthasar expresses the Raccoon doctrine that the emergence of Life represented nothing less than a cosmic revolution -- or a transformation fraught with cosmic implications and consequences. It is not merely some local aberration in an otherwise dead cosmos, the latter being a hopelessly naive and temporo-centric view.

It is naive because it assumes that the emergence of life "took a long time" or what have you, but what is time from the standpoint of eternity? From this vantage point, is not a day a lifetime and a lifetime but a single day? It is such a childish projection to assume that our profane sense of time has anything to do with Time as such.

Indeed, I assume that even the most diehard atheist has belightful moments when the atemporal breaks through and illuminates the temporal. For us, these are sort of the point, not some aberration that can be ignored and explained away.

To put it another way, we are not less in touch with reality during these unmapped moments of extreme seeking on the ungroomed slopes, but more. Our troll would undoubtedly reduce them to "brain waves" or some other such scientistic nonsense, but this only emphasizes how desperately a person will cling to his dysfunctional narrative for a host of underlying motivations too numerous to catalogue. It would be easy to assume just one -- e.g., fear, omniscience, superiority, contempt -- but the reasons are usually mixed, plus a combination of personal and impersonal (i.e., historo-cultural) factors.

Here Balthasar describes exactly the shocking ontological discontinuity to which we attempted to give voice on pp. 55 - 61 (givortake) of the bʘʘk:

"With the emergence of the animal world, the intimate character of being enters a new phase. Although insentient life suggested an overflowingly rich interiority, this inward dimension remained veiled to itself. In the animal, by contrast, this inner space begins to grow light, to become luminous and accessible to itself. The animal represents a completely new fact that radically changes the situation of epistemology: the object is now a subject. The revolution that this new fact brings with it is fraught with immense consequences" (Balthasar, emphasis mine).

What consequences? Well, for starters, we discover that we inhabit an irreducibly intersubjective cosmos, in which it is possible to "know what another knows," but not "to know as he knows it."

This applies with particular force to the animal world. Yes, we are animals, but can anyone even imagine what it would be like to be a fly, or a snake, or a dog, or Al Sharpton? What would it be like to live in a world in which one's primary contact is via the nose, or to communicate out of one's ass? And would the naso-centric animal understand Sharpton better than we do?

As Balthasar writes, "the world of sensory images is purely subjective and, as such, cannot be objectified." This is, of course, why there are no "brute facts" in the cosmos, and why it is so naive to insist otherwise.

Ack! Out of time. Narrative to be continued...

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!


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....