Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Surfing the Future of Mankind

Let us recall how we washed up here, because I've lost track.

Let's see. We were riffing on the biography of John Paul II (to which we will return), but before long were rafting into a discussion of his theology of the body (to which we will return), before sailing over the horizon of Ratzinger's evolutionary cosmos (to which we will presently return), and then coming ashore with some of Balthasar's thoughts along the same lines, as outlined in his three volume Theo-Logic.

One point to bear in mind (as alluded to in yesterday's post) is that we cannot regard the cosmos as some sort of static or given fact, if only because its factuality hasn't yet fully disclosed itself. The world is always evolving, always coming-into-being; furthermore, "world and human existence belong necessarily to one another, so that neither a worldless man nor even a world without man seems thinkable" (Ratzinger).

No one disputes the first half of this equation, but few people outside the coonosphere even think about the second part, i.e., the impossibility of a world without man -- not necessarily Homo sapiens per se, but more generally, the necessity of a vertical "bridge" between Creator and creation in any manifestation deployed in space and time.

Even the most materialistic scientist knows that there is an intimate link between cosmos and anthropos, if only because all science depends upon the consummation and development of this intimate marriage of intelligence and intelligibility.

To put it another way, even the scientist presumably knows that science is impossible without scientists. In short, there must be a kind of anterior and posterior oneness beneath the explicit twoness (or complementarity) of cosmos and man, in the absence of which we couldn't explain anything.

Again, science advances via the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A single concept -- say, gravity -- draws together a host of phenomena, on both a micro and macro scale, that had seemed entirely separate. For Ratzinger, this "two-in-one structure" of man and cosmos "has always pointed to... unity as its final goal."

This being the case, it is incorrect to suggest that history is something that simply "happens" in the cosmos. Rather, "the cosmos is itself history. It does not merely form the scene of human history; before human history began, and later with it, cosmos is itself 'history.'" Ultimately, "there is only one single all-embracing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes 'forward'" (ibid.).

Now, this "one single all-embracing world history" is....

Take a guess!

Correct: it is the unifying theme of our book and of this blog, no matter how far we may seem to stray from the plot. We are always on the way to the place from which we never left, even if we never arrive there.

I remember an analogy used by Alan Watts. Imagine looking at a wooden fence with a hole in it. A cat walks by on the other side. Assuming no prior knowledge of cats, one would have no way of unifying the disparate phenomena appearing from our side of the hole. We would see an event play out in time, which is actually unified in a higher space.

We may apply the same idea to the cosmos, since we are in the analogous position of viewing its diverse phenomena through our finite and transitory existence on this side of the whole. As Ratzinger explains,

"Of course, to him who sees only a section of it, this piece, even though it may be relatively big, looks like a circling in the same spot. No direction is perceptible. It is only observed by him who begins to see the whole" (emphasis mine). (For example, even simplistic Darwinian evolution may only be seen by those transcending it; nothing less than man knows anything about it.)

In other words, the lower dimensional evolutionary "movement" of the cosmos can only be seen from a higher perspective -- one more reason why there can be no "naked facts," because the nature of any fact changes, depending upon the temporal and dimensional perspective.

For example, in this larger perspective, the "natural world" is not, and cannot be, some sort of abstract realm cut off from the totality of the cosmos. Rather, in an evolutionary, historical cosmos, "matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind" (emphasis mine).

Here again, as explained in the book, it is nothing more than an unexamined prejudice -- a postmodern superstition of the tenured -- to attempt to pull the subject down into into the object, as if this provides any kind of satisfactory explanation for either.

This approach is analogous to attempting to pull the space of a building into its walls. One would have to be quite uncurious -- or a kind of craven conformist -- to accept it without at least raising one's hand in class and asking w-w-why?

One doesn't have to accept the Christian solution, but at least it confronts this question of an evolutionary cosmos head-on, without coming to a gentileman's agreement not to ask certain questions.

For if Jesus is who we think he is, then "the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter."

Rather, "the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist" (ibid., emphasis mine).

This is indeed one of our foundational orthoparadoxes, and quite literally the "connecting thread" of all our cosmic adventures. For without this connecting thread, there could be no connections and no threads at all. Regarded in this manner, what had looked merely "natural" is drawn up into a much more glorious narrative, i.e., the Adventure of Consciousness.

And not only. For this way of looking at things is, in a manner of speaking, the death of death, since the "dead world" of matter (or the world of dead matter) looks very different once life emerges from its dark womb.

But might we say the same of Mind? Is mind merely a dead end, a cosmic nul-de-slack, or does it point beyond itself to a higher source and destiny? Again, at least Christianity confronts and answers the question without changing the subject into an object:

"We have said before that nature and mind form one single history, which advances in such a way that mind emerges more and more clearly as the all-embracing element and thus anthropology and cosmology finally in actual fact coalesce.

"But this assertion of the increasing 'complexification' of the world through mind necessarily implies its unification around a personal center, for mind is not just an undefined something or other; where it exists in its own specific nature, it subsists as individuality, as person."

Therefore, this "implies that the cosmos is moving toward a unification in the personal," and "confirms once again the infinite precedence of the individual over the universal.... The world is in motion toward unity in the person. The whole draws its meaning from the individual, not the other way about" (ibid., emphasis mine).

Thus the conclusion of Christianity, at once "scandalous" and yet fully in keeping with the way things Must Be: that a single individual, a fully integrated and complete Cross-Word puzzle, is "the center of history and of the whole.... What stands at the end is a countenance. The omega of the world is a 'you,' a person, an individual."

And this, by the way, has political implications, since this quintessential cosmo-historical Person "is at the same time the final denial of all collectivism.... The final stage of the world is not the result of a natural current, but the result of responsibility that is grounded in freedom." Terrorists indeed.

I heard the word
Wonderful thing
A children's song
A child is the father of the man

(All of the quoted material is from Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity. Some introduction.)

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Story of the Cosmos in Three Words

Human beings are always up against it.

Against what? That's just it. We don't know what. Being that we're surrounded by It on all sides, it's surprising more people don't go nuts. However, there are actually many more nuts than one might suppose, once one realizes that much of what comes under the heading of "culture" -- and of human activity in general -- is just a giant defense against It. It is what happens while we're busy making other plans.

In last Friday's post, we were discussing how our natural reason is able to lead us to the threshold of the Creator, but no further (except perhaps in a very general sense). As Balthasar writes, the created mind may only come up against "the brink of the unfathomable mystery of the Creator's inmost essence." It is analogous to a vast mansion that we can see from the outside, but cannot enter.

And when we say "vast," that is putting it mildly, to put it it mildly. What we mean is that "vast" is a word we use to describe terrestrial space. It can only be a pale analogy as applied to the Creator, since he is "beyond vast," so to speak. Not only that, but it is a qualitatively different kind of space, in the same way that the "space" of the unconscious mind isn't really analogous to a big bag full of stuff.

In one sense, the cosmos may be thought of as a kind of "exteriorization" of the Creator's interior (bearing in mind that it by no means exhausts his interior, any more than a single work of art exhausts and completely discloses the genuine artist; God is not a "one-hit wonder").

As such, this big bong has an intrinsic "inside-outedness" which represents its intelligibility, precisely. To know something about anything is to understand something of its interior essence, which again proceeds in the direction of Interior --> exterior --> interior.

Thus, our own interior -- or mysterious subjective horizon -- is a kind of mirror image of the Creator's interior, so that his voice ultimately echoes in our being. To the extent that we hear Truth, it is always his Master's voice, i.e., the Interior daseiner.

This intrinsic interiority is also the irreducible source of mystery in the cosmos. Getting back to the question posed in the second paragraph above -- what is It? -- It is ultimately this di-polar, complementary mystery of interiority, with us at one end and God at the ether end.

However, this way of putting it is not mysterious enough for us. That is why we would prefer to further unsaturate it, and just say O <---> (¶). (See bʘʘk for additional self-tautologies.)

In an apocryphal story, Hemingway once bet someone that he could write a compelling short story in under ten words: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."

Well, I bet I can symbolize the longest story ever told in under five symbols. Everything worth saying -- i.e., everything that is real, true, and efficacious -- is necessarily an instance of O <---> (¶). What about all that stuff that's not worth saying, knowing, learning, or repeating? That would be Ø <---> (-k).

Now, "because of this interiority, there are no naked facts" (Balthasar). I mean, right? It is amazing that this still needs to be said in the 21st century, but our detractors are always innocently coming at us with "facts," as if there is some fact somewhere that speaks for itself, with no mediation by a subject.

While we appreciate facts as much as the next guy, if there were such a thing as Naked Facts, they would be "exhaustively defined by their facticity; they would give no hint of any relation to a deeper meaning underlying them; they would have no 'significance' but their superficial meaning; because of their pure, flat factuality, they would be comprehensible in a single glance as independent, detachable units" (ibid.).

I remember having this conversation with a 20th century relative. I was trying to introduce him to the wonderful world of brilliant bloggers, but he insisted that he wanted his facts straight and unadorned by any agenda, as in the New York Times. To which I drew myself to my full height, looked him straight in the eye, and said: oh, never mind.

For where could one possibly even begin? Such a person is no longer up against It, but only up against a severely constrained imaginal world excreted by others: a pre-cogitated delusion, or second hand smoke blown up one's behind.

It reminds one of climate change models. When the climate changes in such a way that it doesn't conform to the models, instead of changing models, they attack the messenger. Everyone talks about the weather, but they finally do something about it: they politicize it. Indeed, "planetary temperature" is the perfect example of a "fact" that takes on vastly different meanings, depending upon the timeline one chooses. For example, where I live, if the temperature continues rising at the same rate it has the last hour, it will be 130˚ by midnight.

It is a fact that before we talk about this or that fact, we must account for the mysterious presence of facts-as-such.

For what is a fact? Whatever else it is, it assumes a cosmos in which "every being, every event, has significance, is laden with meaning, and is an expression and a sign pointing to something else" (emphasis mine). In short, we live in a cosmos in which everything is a symbol, which is exactly what we would expect to see in a logocentric reality. For the world is not made of atoms, or quantum waves, or of Whitheadian processes.

Rather, it is made of language: In the beginning is the Word. Or, in the words of Robert Wright, "In the beginning was, if not a word, at least a sequence of encoded information of some sort." But let's not quibble. It is the Word, which is intelligible because spoken, and vice versa.

So, to revert again to our opening question, human beings are always up against the mysterious Word. And this is true whether one is a Believer or a mere believer, because in either case, one must have faith that this Word discloses the Truth of things.

Come now. It is no less queer to suppose that this mysterious Word only conveys the truth of exteriors, because one still needs to account for the interior who comprehends them, which should -- if one thinks it through -- lead back to our little short story, O <---> (¶).

The crucial insight that springs organically from our discovery of the intimacy of being, then, is that the signifier can neither be perfectly united with nor truly separated from the signified. --Balthasar

(And in our opinion, this is because the world is irreducibly trinitarian, so that no fewer than three symbols are required to map and tell the story of its three coequal storeys, so to speak.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When the Pupa is Ready, the Imago Appears

Another foundational rerun from several years ago, which follows up on some of the points discussed in last weekend's offering. Perhaps it's not a bad idea to rewordgitate some of these old posts, because it will give new pupas a chance to correct any buddhaflaws, while creating important gaps in their knowledge base: Coon mind, beginner's mind.


As long as one clings to time, space, number and quantity, that person is on the wrong track and God is strange and far away. --Meister Eckhart

We couldn't be human if we didn't have something analogous to left and right cerebral hemispheres, with very different ways of processing information and understanding the world. As mentioned in last Sunday's post, I believe the reason we have a left and right brain is because we simultaneously mirror, and are mirrored by, the cosmos, which has both a horizontal and vertical structure.

Science deals with the horizontal aspects of the world. It is linear, deterministic, past-to-future, bottom-up, etc. It also presumes the logical atomism that seems to be "common sense" for the left brain. That is, the universe consists of an infinite number of parts which are external to one another and subject to various forces.

But the right brain isn't like this at all. Where the left brain is time oriented, the right brain sees things all at once. It is also inherently relational as opposed to atomistic. The right brain sees connections where the left brain sees divisions; it is continuous where the left brain is discontinuous. In a certain sense it is receptive and female, whereas the left brain is active and male.

I recognize that this is rather simplistic, but even if it is only "in a manner of speaking," there is nevertheless much truth to it, and confirming this truth is always just an experience away. For just as it is impossible to imagine a great poet, painter, or musician without a highly developed and integrated right brain, it is inconceivable that one could be a great theologian -- let alone saint or mystic -- without one.

We might also say that the left brain operates along the lines of asymmetrical (Aristotelian) logic, while the right brain is the realm of symmetrical logic. But no one -- unless they are brain damaged -- operates out of only one lobe, so there is always some degree of integration, although it can be relatively conscious and harmonious or unconscious and unharmonious.

For example, much of the bonehead philosophy that emanates from scientism comes either from unacknowledged sympathies emanating from the right brain, or a denial of its voice altogether. If it sounds half-witted, it is because it is.

It should be noted that in childhood the right brain develops in advance of the left, and that it has much deeper connections to the older parts of the brain such as the limbic system; as such, it is more "emotional," bearing in mind that emotions are also a sophisticated source of information, and that there can be both subtle and gross emotions (and even true and false ones -- for example, hating people who do not merit hatred).

As you may have noticed, much of spiritual development involves -- or is at least accompanied by -- a kind of "subtilization" of emotion, which is why it becomes more difficult for one to tolerate being around the Barbarians and other subspiritual riffraff.

For example, although the sacred and holy are just as real as, say, matter -- actually, more so -- they obviously cannot be detected only by the senses, but in the heart, so to speak. In turn, this is why for the left, nothing is sacred, except in an arbitrary or idiosyncratic way. They cluelessly steamroll over what is infinitely precious, like a child who gleefully smashes a cocoon to see what's inside. They habitually confuse blasphemy with courage. But aggression devoid of prudence is never courageous.

Now, one of the easiest ways to render scripture absurd is to approach it with the left brain of the scientistic mind. This is what anti-religious bigots typically do, with great self-satisfaction -- as if they are the first to have noticed that a literal reading of scripture is problematic! But if one approaches the same passages with bi-logic, the problem usually disappears.

For example, what can it possibly mean that "Christ is in me" and that "I am in Christ"? From the standpoint of conventional logic, this is patently absurd, like saying that "I am in Upper Tonga" and that "Upper Tonga is in me."

But from the standpoint of symmetrical logic, it not only makes perfect sense, but is a kind of logical corollary. We all know that God is both radically transcendent, or "beyond everything," and intensely immanent, or "within everything." With conventional logic, these statements would be mutually exclusive, but from the standpoint of symmetrical logic, they are complementary.

Speaking of complementarity, one wonders if some of the conundrums of physics cannot be reconciled in this manner. For example, from the standpoint of conventional logic, it is deeply problematic that the electron appears as either particle or wave, depending upon how one looks at it.

In other words, the same entity can either be an isolated part, or else a wave that shades off into the totality of existence. In the former sense, things are externally related and local, whereas in the latter sense they are internally related and nonlocal. This is a mystery to the left brain, but a banality to the right.

To extend the analogy a bit, much of the Bible is a primer on verticality (unlike a scientific text, which discloses horizontal knowledge in a horizontal mode). It simultaneously acquaints us with the vertical realm, while at the same time furnishing us with a vivid kind of language with which to think about and communicate it. This language was obviously quite effective for most of mankind's history. Indeed, it is perhaps difficult for modern sophisticates to understand how easily Christianity spread. People simply heard the story and said, "makes sense to me," and that was that.

But why did it make sense? The contemporary cynic will say that it had something to do with childlike naivete, or fear of death, or wishing to have a spurious sense of control over the environment. This may well have some truth in it, at least for the collective. But it is patently untrue if one reads the early fathers, whose thinking is enormously subtle and sophisticated, and is still completely relevant to moderns, to say the least.

In The Symmetry of God (a book which attempts to apply bi-logic to religion), Bomford notes that we cannot actually conceive of eternity, since it is both timeless and changeless, whereas linear thought naturally takes place in time. But we can grasp it through various analogies in the herebelow, for example, the "everlasting," which "provides the closest image of the timeless within time." Therefore, we gain a sense of timelessness in proximity to things that are very old, like a European cathedral, or the Pyramids, or Larry King -- anything "whose beginning is lost in the mists of time, the ancient and the ageless, for these approximate in feeling to the everlasting."

At the other extreme, we may also glimpse the eternal in the passing moment, "for such a thing is simultaneously whole and unchanging -- it has no time in which to change.... It is there in its fullness -- and it is gone again." Thus, a mystic such as William Blake could see eternity in a flower or grain of sand, just as Lileks can see it in an old matchbook or motel postcard.

Eternity can also be suggested "by the last event of a series." Bomford cites the example of an aging travel-writer "who had long before visited many places for the first time, and returned often, found a renewed significance in returning once more deliberately for the last time. Places regained the freshness of the first visit."

Similarly, "the last words of the dying may be seen as a key to an understanding of a whole life. The last of the series completes the picture, ends the story, and thus hints at the instantaneous wholeness of eternity."

Think "It is accomplished." What is? Oh, I don't know, maybe a little bridge between time and eternity in the heart of the cosmos, making each moment an eternal new year where death touches Life and the former is tranfsigured by the latter.

Every December 31, we touch the edge of eternity, as we approach the "end" of one year and the "beginning" of another -- the uniting of old and new, as they are joined at midnight. The Book of Revelation captures this quality, only on a cosmic scale, when the enthroned Christ "announces himself as The First and the Last and the Lord God himself is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end." Similarly, St. Augustine "addressed God as 'Thou Beauty, both so ancient and so new,'" an expression of eternity which has a deep unconscious resonance.

Traditional metaphysics always makes a distinction between the God-being and the God-beyond-being -- between the personal God that can be named and thought about and the Supreme Reality that is beyond name and form. The former is the cataphatic God about whom we may talk, debate and theologize in a somewhat linear way, while the latter is the apophatic God that so utterly transcends our categories that the most we can say about it is what it is not. Various formulations are "fingers pointing at the moon," and although they are doorways into the divine mystery, one should not mistake the finger for the moon.

Most rank-and-file religious people have never heard of the God-beyond-being, and might even be offended by the idea. They have a clear conception of what God is like, and don't want to be reminded that the real unconditioned God blows away those mental idols like something that blows really hard.

This distinction between the God-being and God-beyond-being is actually a distinction within God himself, and perhaps mirrors the distinction within us between symmetrical and asymmetrical logic. I don't believe it a bobmade principle, but rather, one that would be intrinsic to the inner life of the godhead. Indeed, it seems to me that the God-beyond-being is the one thing that absolutely cannot not be, although numerous implications immediately follow. God turns his face to man, but there's an awful lot going on behind a face!

This brings up an interesting point. That is, does God have mind parasites?

Well, "yes and no." For what is a mind parasite in the final analysis? It is a relativity that partakes of, and confuses itself with, absoluteness. God being God, he cannot help being present in all relativities. But being God, he cannot help being beyond them as well.

A mind parasite is a relativity that steals from the absolute and then forces itself upon others absolutely. In short it is a demon. Like everything else, it must ultimately be "of God," even though it can't be. Only symmetrical logic can reconcile this problem. Evil must needs be, but woe to the assoul who commits it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Freest Things in Life are Best

Returning to our cosmic ascent, the trajectory of this evolution proceeds from exterior to interior, and therefore from necessity -- or determinacy -- to freedom. At the toppermost of the poppermost is the absolute freedom of the Creator, or "man on the flaming pie."

It is the work of a moment to prove the existence of this Creator, for, as Balthasar notes, "every entity in the cosmos necessarily reveals" him.

That's the good news. The bad news is that this recognition of necessary being simultaneously "reveals the nonnecessity of creaturely existence."

D'oh! It seems that our only real choice is to be a meaningless fish in a meaningful pond (non-dual mysticism) or a meaningful fish in a meaningless pond (existentialism).

Again, as Balthasar explains, our own contingency "is a reliable trace by which created reason can see with necessity that the Creator exists." Nevertheless, one is generally blowing smoke if one speculates beyond this point about the specific nature of the Creator, in the absence of his own self-disclosure, i.e., revelation:

"The natural knowledge of God from creation inexorably comes to a halt before the intimacy of God's personal life." In order to proceed beyond this boundary, it will require "a new revelation of grace in order to open man in faith and to communicate to him -- in abiding mystery -- what God is in his inner being."

This follows a more general cosmic principle, that what is best, or highest, or most noble -- what is "worthier or weightier" -- is "surrounded by a protective veil that withdraws them, like something sacred, from the grasping hands of the profane."

You know, the Secret Protects Itself. One must prove oneself worthy of it, in the same way intimacy between two people is founded upon trust (which is another word for faith). Those who are faith-ful are trust-worthy, and vice versa.

Now, the cold and grasping hands of the tenured paw at existence like some kind of cheap whore, who will give up her secrets to any old lout. But the secret is not, and cannot be, revealed in this aggressive context.

For one thing, secrets are whispered, not announced to all and sundry, regardless of qualification. Thus, the ham-handed materialist "may confuse hiddenness with a deficient rationality or brand with irrationality all those objects that are not accessible to the anonymous, public knowledge of the man on the street."

Although we hold science itself in the highest regard, there is a certain scientistic mindset that is positively adolescent in its hubris.

I'm sure you know the type, for this is the person who not only fails to respect the mystery, but confidently speaks as if the mystery has been "solved." It is reminiscent of the insecure but obnoxious 18 year-old who boasts of his deep understanding of female nature. But enough about Bill Maher.

In the end, "All truth is rational, but not every intelligence is competent to know every truth." The corollary of this is that, the higher or deeper the world, the more qualifications are necessary. This is simply a truism. Someone even came up with a "10,000 hour rule," whereby it takes roughly this long -- equivalent to five years of full-time practice -- to master anything from golf to writing (and this assumes an underlying gift that can be cultivated; many people spend their lives cultivating the wrong gift).

I wonder how many hours, say, Richard Dawkins, has spent cultivating his interior understanding of the Creator? I don't mean to pull rank on anyone, for even -- or especially! -- so-called experts can be wrong (Bohr said that an expert is "A person that has made every possible mistake within his or her field"). But at least I've put in much more than the requisite 10,000 hours of spadework, so I've earned the right to be wrong.

For Balthasar, "mystery" and "interiority" are related terms. For what is a mystery but the palpable presence of an unKnown interior horizon? When we say "unKnown," we mean that it is not known rationally or externally, but instead, resonates in our being on a deeper level.

This too is surely a kind of knowledge, what Christopher Bollas calls the "unthought known." One reason (among many) that no artificial intelligence will ever be similar to our own being, is that humans are surrounded by the unthought known, without which we couldn't get through a single day. The world is not regarded as some sort of flat space, in which all facts are of equal significance and accessible in the same way.

Rather, the vast majority of our thinking takes place subconsciously, unconsciously, and supraconsciously. Think, for example, of what is going on when we view a film that moves us on some deeper level.

Again, a kind of re-cognition is taking place, regardless of whether we can explain it to ourselves. Even more mysteriously, what is really happening when we are moved by a piece of music? And would any merely rational explanation be worthy of, or replace, the experience? And do you really want this mystery to go away? Really?

More mysterious still is the phenomenon of "love at first sight." This is more or less how it was between me and Mrs. G.

To be perfectly accurate, it was "love at first date." Something simply clicked that night, and we ended up talking until the sun came up, with a kind of instantaneous intimacy I had never before experienced. What was that all about? Well, first of all, it's a mystery, moron! 27 years later, and this moron is no closer to explaining it, much less exhausting it. And suffice it to say, I do not want to ever "solve" this mystery.

The same is quintessentially true of religion, assuming that one has freely chosen it and not simply been compelled to follow it, as in the Islamic world. All those nerds of the radical Enlightenment assumed it would be just a matter of time before reason made it "unnecessary," but this failed to take into consideration the much deeper level of knowing that is being engaged in religious experience. Science, since it is always "public knowledge," simply cannot reach into these intimate spaces, any more than it can understand a relationship, or a poem, or a person.

Only a mind without feeling for nobility... will complain of this hiddenness of the best.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Worstest Generation: Hope They Die Before I Get Old!

Sorry. I didn't intend for this to become a post. It was just a passing thought that kept going on and on until I ran out of time....


On a completely unrelated topic, one of the most annoying things about the most self-regarding generation in human history -- the dreaded Baby Boomers -- is that they are constantly taking credit for things of which they played no part whatsoever. For example, at the time of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the oldest baby boomer would have turned just 18 that year, and couldn't even have voted until 1967. Indeed, a greater percentage of those old racist Republicans voted for it than did idealistic Democrats.

Those cool Boomers who discovered coolness are often seen as the generation that invented rock music, but this is clearly untrue. Rather, they are the ones who wrecked it for everyone else. The vast majority of the truly great rock artists are all pre-boomer. Obviously, the Founding Fathers were all born before 1946: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, the Everlys, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, not to mention all the blues immortals: Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker.

But the next generation of rockers -- the one most identified with, and idealized by, the Boomers -- was also pre-Boomer. Let's begin with the British Invasion. A short list of consensus all-time greats would include Lennon-McCartney (1940, 1942), Jagger-Richards (1943), Pete Townshend (1945), Ray Davies (1944), and Van Morrison (1945). The body of work laid down by these five -- Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Morrison -- is still the gold standard for British pop music. And if one is a fan of guitar gods, one could add Jimmy Page (1944), Eric Clapton (1945), and Jeff Beck (1944) to the list.

The same is true of America, where the most important artists were all pre-Boomers, e.g., Dylan (1940), Brian Wilson (1942), Hendrix (1942). In addition to the Beach Boys, the most important and influential groups included the Byrds (Roger McGuinn, 1942), Buffalo Springfield (Stills, 1945, Young, 1945), the Doors (Morrison 1943), Velvet Underground (Lou Reed, 1942). Other important songwriters were Paul Simon (1941) and Leonard Cohen (1934!), but one could name many more.

I wouldn't even be surprised if none of the performers at Woodstock were Boomers. Just checked: there was Tim Hardin (1941), Creedence (Fogerty, 1945), Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, 1939), Janis Joplin (1943), and Joe Cocker (1944). Only Carlos Santana makes the cut, at 1947, but he's probably lying about his age.

Finally, none of the greatest soul artists were Boomers: Ray Charles (1930), James Brown (1933), Aretha (1942), Mavis Staples (1939), Marvin Gaye (1939), Smokey Robinson (1940), Sly Stone (1943), and countless others.

In reality, rock music only began to deteriorate after my generation got ahold of it. If one has only the above artists in one's collection -- and no serious collection is complete without them -- one would have a pretty good idea of what rock music is all about.

I can't think of any important or truly novel (in a good way) developments that have occurred in the genre after 1973 or so, since which time it's all been recycling and posturing, combined with a kind of ridiculous exaggeration of certain elements of the music: "rebellion," "non-conformity," "authenticity" -- meaning hollow and self-aggrandizing caricatures thereof, to be exact. Frankly, rock music has become about itself, in a way that it couldn't have been for its originators. At some point along the line it became simply a derivative, reactionary, and inbred lifestyle -- really, just a silly attitude of perpetual adolescence, and the juvenile politics to go along with it.

Obviously, the first generation of rock musicians couldn't have been influenced by rock, since it didn't exist. So what were their influences? Pretty much everything. Their ears were wide open to a host of influences, including a form of R & B that hadn't yet completely detached from jazz, and therefore had not just elements of swing, but of actual musicianship. Most of those guys who played on Atlantic and Motown sessions had some serious jazz chops.

The Beatles and Kinks were influenced by British music hall and other genres (the Beatles' first two albums included the Broadway show tunes A Taste of Honey and 'Til There Was You, while Brian Wilson's harmonies would be inconceivable without the Four Freshmen). Chuck Berry's guitar style was developed as a way to mimic the call-and-response sound of big band horn sections, as were the doo-wop harmonies of Dion and the Belmonts.

So what happened to the Boomer generation? Why do they, you know, suck? I think it is because they did the same thing with music that they did with everything else that preceded them: they tossed it all aside as being hopelessly outdated. For them, pretty much everything started in around 1964, or shortly after JFK was assassinated. And then they simply took credit for whatever they liked about the past. What they don't like is projected into contemporary conservatives in a transparently childish manner. But we are not the ones who were in bed with those southern racists for all those years. (Cue troll bearing the mythic "southern strategy.")

For example, they even decided that JFK was one of them, even though, if one actually reads his speeches, he was far closer to Ronald Reagan than to Barack Obama, whom he would have undoubtedly despised. Back then, not only was there a sharp distinction between liberal and left, but Democrats were just as anti-left as Republicans. I just finished McCollough's celebrated biography of Harry Truman, and he would have vomited at the thought that the party has been hijacked by people such as Reid, Pelosi, and Frank.

But that is what happened after the Boomers came of age. They tried to get their way by rioting in 1968, but eventually succeeded in nominating their man, McGovern, in 1972. Obama is simply the final fruition of that retrograde impulse. If he prevails in 2012, it certainly won't be a result of the post-boomers whom he treats as his personal piggy bank. Rather, he'll need widespread support of the greedy and entitled Worstest Generation.

It would be crossing the line to agree with Pete Townshend that we hope they transition from AARP to harp before they bankrupt us. But it may be our only hope.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Strawberry Walrus Never Knows

As I've mentioned in the past, one of the influences on the One Cosmos method -- Method? I don't see any method at all, sir.

Ahem. One of the influences on the One Cosmos method (not content) was the free-ranging fertile egghead and stoned philosopher, Terence McKenna, whose peculiar late-night riffing first alerted me to the centrality of language to transdimensional communication, while I was otherwise occupied stocking shelves on the graveyard shift at Malibu Market Basket, store 81.

The above -- "language is central to transdimensional communication" -- is a tautology, of course, like saying that language is important to language. Nevertheless. We live in so many different intelligible worlds, that it's easy to forget -- or to imagine that just one type of language is sufficient to cover the waterfront and back, both inside and out.

There is more or less horizontal, person-to-person communication, which can be exterior and superficial, or which can take on degrees of interiority, depth, and intimacy.

Then there is scientific communication, say, of what goes on down there in the micro world of atomic and subatomic reality, or the language of DNA. There is artistic communication, either in word, sound, or image, "body language," even just good or bad vibes.

And yet, it's all word in some form or fashion, i.e., something transmitted and received, something intelligible to intelligence.

McKenna often spoke of the development of what he called a "more perfect logos." I just googled the phrase, and in this talk, he says that

"the world arrives at the surface of our skin as a seamless body of electromagnetic and acoustical and pheromonal data. It’s just that our eyes, our nostrils, our ears, our skin, we break up this incoming flow of data. And now we’re close to McLuhan country here: I think what this hints at is that print skewed our perceptual apparatus, our style of parsing perceptual data, toward the acoustic space. So that for us, thought became a voice… you know? And very early in the Western tradition, this is so. Jehovah is a voice in the Old Testament; the Logos is a voice. In Hellenistic philosophy, we are the People of the Voice. But apparently, you know, there is a passage in Philo Judaeus where he talks about the etymology of the word Israel, and he says “Israel means He who sees God” -- he who sees God. And then he poses the question to himself: “What is the more perfect Logos?” And then he says, “The more perfect Logos is that Logos which goes from being heard to being seen, without ever passing over a moment of noticeable transition.”

Elsewhere in the talk he speaks of encountering "linguistic objects" during his chemical adventures, which he compares to "three- and four- and five-dimensional puns. And you know how the pleasure of a pun lies in the fact that it is… it’s not that the meaning flickers from A to B; it’s that it’s simultaneously A and B, and when the pun is really funny it’s an A, B, C, D pun; and it’s simultaneously all these things… well, that quality, which in our experience can only occur to an acoustical output or a glyph which stands for an acoustical output -- in other words, a printed pun -- in the DMT world, objects can do this. Objects can simultaneously manifest more than one nature at once. And, something like a pun, the result is always funny. It’s amusing! You cannot help but be delighted by this thing doing this thing."

So if you want to trace the origin of our annoying freevangelical pundamentalism, McKenna would be it (although he in turn was greatly influenced by Finnegans Wake). However, he and I parted ways with his reliance upon chemistry to develop the method of 5-D linguistics. I, on the other hand, not only wanted to see if it might be possible for a punformational techgnosistry to be accomplished on the natch, but wanted to, in a manner of speaking, transmit a kind of "contact high" via my exalted and hopped up wranting.

I mean, what are they going to say, man, when he's gone, huh? Because he dies, when it dies, man, when it dies, he dies. What are they going to say about him? What, are they going to say, he was a kind man, he was a wise man, he had plans, he had wisdom? Bullshit, man! Am I going to be the one, that's going to set them straight? Look at me: wrong! You! You were the one!

Weird, I know, but there it is. Another big influence was John Lennon, who was uniquely capable of translating his chemical adventures into word and sound, at least in 1966 and 1967, e.g., Tomorrow Never Knows, Strawberry Fields, and I Am the Walrus.

Just as it is possible to consider the evolution of science as the evolution of language, so too is it possible to regard the evolution of Spirit in this manner.

Consider the language spoken by the biosphere. According to standard Darwinism, what really "evolves" is just the genetic code, which speaks new and different organisms. Thus, a human being is just a more complicated sentence. In one sense this is surely true, since it obviously takes a lot more time and trouble to speak a man than a worm.

Likewise, the physical world speaks to us in mathematical equations, or the periodic table of elements. Here it is difficult to know which is more shocking, the communication or the comprehension, but the truth is that the one cannot exist in the absence of the other.

The evolution of science itself can be seen as the evolution of language, which gradually penetrates more deeply into phenomena. For example, the language of quantum physics proceeds deeper than the language of Newtonian physics, but no one pretends that we have reached the end of the line. For one thing, physicists haven't yet discovered a meta-language that unifies the languages of relativity and quantum theories, or macro with micro.

But as soon as one thinks about it, nor is there -- supposedly -- any language that unifies, say, the interior and exterior worlds, the worlds of quantity and quality, the subject and the object. Or is there?

Revelation, for example, is supposedly a language that reconciles Absolute and relative, Creator and creation, God and man. Now, irrespective of one's personal opinion of this or that scripture, the interesting question -- as far as we are concerned -- is whether this kind of language is possible. For if it is possible, then we have to do something about it! And this blog, of course, is my best shot.

Another way of saying it is that if this type of language is possible, then it is necessary. In other words, if it didn't exist, then we'd have to invent it, if only to maintain our sanity. And that is precisely what our secular sophisticates tell us: that we simply make this s*it up. So smoke another J, Bob. Keep it flowing.

There are two main sections of the bʘʘk in which I attempt to develop a better logos, one of them "saturatedly unsaturated," the other "unsaturatedly saturated." In other words, in both cases there is an intentional dialectic between symbols and suprasensible things. The former applies to the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections, in which we are attempting to go where words cannot (supposedly) take us, which is to say, "before" and "after" language, into the Word itself.

The latter applies to subsection 4.2, Building a Better Logos: Insert Your Deity Here. This is because the abstract symbols are "empty categories," emphasis on both empty and category. In other words, their purpose is to clear a space where suprasensible meaning is then free to coalesce. But this is not just "any old meaning," as in the case of, say, existentialism. Rather, this is the space of "vertical recollection," in which we receive a memoir of the future or premonition of the past.

Now, if we consider the world from the vertical perspective, and posit a kind of spectrum from infraconscious Ø to ultraconscious O, then the question of whether there are discontinuities will depend upon our point of view. Looked at from the bottom up, then there are indeed a number of shocking discontinuities, for example, from matter to life, or life to mind.

But considered from the top down, these discontinuities not only disappear, but the diverse degrees of being are necessary implications of having a manifestation at all. In other words, since the cosmos is not the Absolute, but a reflection thereof, it necessarily includes every degree of being, from the lowest to highest.

Just as there are (obviously) beings that exist between matter and man, there are beings who exist between man and God. We call these "angels," but if that term disturbs you, we can call them archetypes, or Platonic ideas, or universals.

However, if you agree with the premise that the source of Life is at the top, not bottom, of the cosmos, then it is no great leap to infer that they are "alive." Rather, it would require some sort of discontinuous leap to explain how the archetypes can be there at all, can interact with us, and yet, be "dead." How did these nonlocal attractors get there? And why are they so compelling? Why do they order our lives, even if we try to escape them?

In Theo-Logic, Balthasar discusses these entities, which, in our opinion, must exist in any full-employment cosmos. He writes that "An angel's word must be like the work of an earthly artist, which rises above every convention of its expressive medium and bears on its brow the sign of creative uniqueness. Just as this symphony can be only by Haydn or Mozart, so too an angelic word can be spoken only be this angel."

Here we begin to converge upon the mysterious source of our own cosmic uniqueness and individuality, which, again, cannot come from "below," but only above. It is another way of saying that each person is an absolutely unique word -- or sentence, or paragraph, or novel -- that is both spoken and heard (which are again two sides of the same complementarity).

Balthasar continues: "Corresponding to the freedom to speak there is a freedom to hear that we must bear in mind: the attitude of self-surrender on the part of the speaker presupposes a corresponding attitude of surrender in the listener. Without an element of confident faith that relies upon the truth, it is inconceivable that even a pure spirit could hear and listen."

If you have followed me this far, then you now understand why it is necessary for us to surrender to the one who is speaking us, in order to receive and comprehend the message, or unpack his presence.

That is all. You can exhale now, neighbor.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

O and ʘ Tattooed Across the Knuckles of My Head

If only I could read my mind.

What a hell that would be! Life is only bearable because we do not and cannot completely know ourselves, or anyone else, for that matter. I love the sound of surprise in the morning. For us it is always Raccoon Day, never Groundhog Day.

Know thyself! But not completely. Leave that to the Creator.

This thoughtlet may have nothing to do with the post that is presently aborning, but it spontaneously popped into one of our brains upon reading the following words (by W. R. Mead) at American Digest:

"Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes. In my view, this is one of the reasons that belief in a transcendent power beyond the human mind is intellectually necessary to grapple successfully with the realities of our time. When the determinist progressives threw God under the bus, they threw away the possibility of an integrated world view that has room both for scientific and rational analysis on the one hand and a honest, unsparing appraisal of the radical uncertainty around us on the other."

You know, left brain, right brain, transcendent brain. The meadle way of the intersubjective third appears to be the *point* of the first two, given the impressive size of the corpus callosum, which is our suspension bridge between the she & hemispheres. This is similar to how man and wife do not constitute marriage, but rather, are a declension from this primordial condition.

Thus, it would be an error to say that the transcendent position is merely a "synthesis" or integration of left and right; rather, the left and right hemispheres are a declension from the "total reality" of the third.

Neither one hemisphere nor the other has the "carrying capacity" to contain the cosmos, which is why the scientist has one piece and the poet another piece of aseity. Still, the poet usually gets more.

Say, just what religion do you profess, Bob?

The religion the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us.

I don't know about you, but we are "composed" of soul and body, or form and substance, but here again, these are a declension from something higher. One might say that time is necessary in order for this higher whatever to disclose itself, which it could never do "all at once," any more than one could perform a symphony in an instant by playing all its notes at once.

Balthasar says something similar in writing that "the spirit is veiled from itself in order that it might seek and find itself, not in itself, but in the infinite spirit that created it and that alone is perfect self-possession." Thus, the seeking is, orthoparadoxically, simultaneously "exterior" to us, and yet, interior.

This goes to what we were saying yesterday about the dialectic of our individualism and social-ism. Note that Jesus' own kenosis, or self-emptying, must represent a kind of analogue of the kenosis represented by creation itself. The kenosis actually "takes place" within the Godhead, as it were, as one gives all to two, and two back to one.

Therefore, as Balthasar notes, "spirit's self-possession is inseparable from the primary self-dispossession, entailed in its dependence upon external objects. Receptivity is thus like a deep, unclosable breach opened up in the closed circle of being-for-itself."

In short, a kind of paradox: "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" (ibid.).

So let's give it up for the Creator!

I hope this isn't sounding too lowdown heideggerical, but what this essentially means is that the "fuel" of the cosmic gyrescape is the "self-dispossession" that seeks completeness via incompleteness, or independence via dependence. Or, in the recreational pharmulation of the Beatles, "The love you take is equal to the love you make," as it were.

Now, we can only be open to one another (i.e., horizontally) if we are first open to God (i.e., vertically), whether we like to think of it that way or not. Again, I do not make the rules. But no matter how "close" we may feel to the other, our solitude is "sealed forever by the incommunicability of spirit."

However, I would qualify this by saying that there can be no true communion with others in the absence of the unifying "higher third" referenced above. Indeed, what is this blog but a site for soirees where we see together with the third eye?

The same goes triple for the transcendent "body of Christ" of which the universal church is composed (including the sheep not of our folderal).

Think of the (admittedly impossible) alternative, of a universe of all-knowing spirits. This would be as boring as a MENSA meeting or as tedious as any Ivy League fatuity lounge.

For one thing, it would be "devoid of mystery," such that "every conversation, every exchange between these freest of entities would be restricted to a communication of something already known and possessed; it would therefore be superfluous" (ibid.).

Yes, but what we all want to know is, how does this affect Bob? Well, I started blogging almost six years ago, in October 2005. By November 2005 it was getting to be a grind, because there was nothing left for me to say. At that point I gave up trying, and simply dispossessed my Self of myself. So you could say that it's been non-stop bullshitting since then, but never say that it hasn't been empty bullshitting.

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).