Friday, July 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everybody's Got Something to Hide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why People Who Disagree with Me are So Deathly Boring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deal with it.