Friday, August 12, 2011

How the Under Half Lives

Let us cautiously proceed with this idea of Jesus' psycho-spiritual or pneuma-cognitive "development," which essentially comes down to his -- or anyone else's -- deployment in time.

Obviously, no human being is born "complete," or, less inaccurately, finished. No one is -- or should be -- finished until their life is. And even then... or so we have heard from the wise.

Rather, just like the body, the soul always points toward its own fulfillment, meaning that it must, in a sense, be both an "already" and a "not yet" -- which, as we shall see, has some important implications for Christian eschatology in general.

(And with regard to these irreducible orthoparadoxes that are not susceptible to aristotelian logic, -- e.g., already/not yet, I-in-Christ, Christ-in-me -- I would recommend using your God-given bi-logic to understand them.)

I am reminded of a couple of quotes by Norbert Elias contained in the Cʘʘnifesto:

"[T]he individual, in his short history, passes once more through some of the processes that his society has traversed in its long history.... If one wished to express recurrent processes of this kind in the form of laws, one could speak, as a parallel to the laws of biogenesis, of a fundamental law of sociogenesis and psychogenesis."

Never ask why human beings keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over, or why each generation discovers anew the wonderfulness of socialism, only to see their collectivist tower of bubbles come crashing down.

The second quote, and it's a good one, full of implications:

"It seems as if grown-up people, in thinking about their origins, involuntarily lose sight of the fact that they themselves and all adults came into the world as little children. Over and over again, in the scientific myths of origin no less than religious ones, they feel impelled to imagine: In the beginning was a single human being, who was an adult" (emphasis mine).

Interestingly, one thing I've really noticed about Balthasar, Ratzinger, and Wojtyla, is their deep appreciation of psychological development, and with it, attachment, bonding, parental relatedness, etc., which automatically, even if only implicitly, confers much more importance upon Mary, since carrying Jesus in her womb was only the beginning of her task (as indeed all mothers know).

With all due respect -- and I love icons -- the baby Jesus cannot resemble those paintings in which he looks like a mature little man with a full head of hair, grasping a Torah scroll instead of a bottle.

The idea we've been developing over the past several posts is that -- consistent with long-established dogma -- Jesus is man and God, unmixed and yet undivided. Here again, with the use of our bi-logic we may imagine how such a situation could be.

For Rahner (as described by Schönborn), we might imagine in Jesus "a basic mode of being that is immediate to God, of an absolute kind," coexisting with "a development of this original self-awareness of the absolute fact of the creaturely intellectuality having been given away to the Logos."

I don't know if that last sentence was entirely clear, but Schönborn goes on to suggest that "what develops in the human life of Jesus" is obviously not the basic mode, or his essential ground of divinity, but rather, "the thematization and objectification of this basic mode of being in human concepts that are taking place."

Here again, this allows us to at least imaginatively enter into his mentality, and understand how he could gradually come to terms with his mission -- for example, while praying in the garden of Gethsemene.

And it helps get our minds around the idea that Jesus can be God and yet have an "I-thou relationship with the Father that occurs in history."

For Balthasar, Jesus "mission" in time is precisely the realization in history of the eternal activity of the godhead, or the historical prolongation, so to speak, of the Trinity into time.

In a certain way, I suppose we may imagine it as the dialectic of O and (¶), only writ large, to put it mildly. As alluded to above, Jesus both "is" and, in the End -- or better yet, Begending -- "becomes" O: not My will, but Yours, be done.

This we might say is the full concordance of Man and God, or the full conscious realization of ʘ. Indeed, we might even pneumaticonically represent the well-known formula of the Fathers by unSaying: O became (•) so that (•) might become ʘ.

As we have discussed in many posts, there is not, nor can there be, any humanness in the absence of relationship, and this would apply quintessentially to Jesus.

For who is Jesus, ultimately? He is Son, and the essence of Son-ness is the relation to Father (and vice versa).

Gotta get rolling. To be continued....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Does I AM Say that I AM?

If omniscience is more the mode than the content, then it is clearly in the subject, irrespective of the object(s) it contains and contemplates.

In other words, even if we had access to every single "fact" -- like a vast computer -- we would not be omniscient unless we were in the mode of omniscience. Conversely, even with no "facts," so to speak, omniscience remains omniscience.

I believe it is possible to approach this coonundrum by way of analogy. As it so happens, psychoanalytic theory describes clear developmental stages which result in fundamental transformations to the subject, so that the "objects" within undergo changes as well.

To be perfectly accurate, the objects do not change, but the "vertex" of the subject does, but this seems to bring a new object into being; or at least hidden dimensions are disclosed that can only be perceived in the higher mode.

I've posted on this subject before, but I know not when. I believe I characterized psychological development as a "conquest of dimensionality," a phrase I once heard Terence McKenna use in a more anthropological sense.

For if we consider the long view, human historical development clearly involves an ongoing conquest of dimensionality, or exploration of the cosmic interior.

By the way, just yesterday I noticed a provocative sentence by Ratzinger, which includes the words, "theological advances have not ceased..." Advances. What can he mean by this?

For animals, the world is mostly surface. They have a sensory orientation to the world, which is why their reality is quite unimaginable to us. It's still "the world," obviously. And sometimes they experience much more of it than we do, albeit on a single plane. For example, who can imagine what it would be like to be a dog, whose olfactory sense is so acute that it can detect urine to the tune of one part in ten thousand (or whatever it is)?

But a normal human being comes into to the world oriented to the cosmic interior, to which almost all other animals are entirely closed. However, it doesn't end there, with the simple binary of interior/exterior or human/animal.

Rather, just as there are degrees of sensory attunement -- e.g., dog nose vs. human nose -- there are degrees of interior attunement. For example, psychologists now talk about "emotional intelligence." I'm not one of them, but wikipedia describes it as "an ability, skill or... a self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups."

I don't have time to go into the etiology of my own model, but....


Agreed. I just googled myself (it tickles!) and found a previous post in which I discuss the subject.

Now, there is a question in developmental psychology -- at least in integral/transpersonal circles -- as to whether "spiritual development" inhabits its own maturational track, or whether it goes along with psychological maturation in general. It's a little difficult to say, because, for example, one can attain sainthood in the absence of great intellectual development, or, conversely, one may be a great theologian without attaining sainthood.

Still, I think the "more perfect man" would be someone like Aquinas, or Eckhart, or John Paul II, in whom sanctity and intellect are equally developed. Many a fall is caused by good intentions in the absence of intellectual rigor. But so too are falls caused by intellectual development proceeding ahead of emotional and spiritual development.

Another way of saying it is that sanctity may be attained in the realms of truth and/or of virtue, but ideally these two are united, for virtue is the truth of action, while truth is the virtue of intellect.

Sanctity as such is not a "moral concept, but an ontological reality: the divine reality communicating His intimate and proper Life to some of His children. The saint is thus not primarily the humanly perfect Man, but the divinised human person." It is "not so much God-realization on Man's part, as Man-realization on God's part" (preface to Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle).

Thus, "The progress of a spiritual person towards God is rather the progress of God in him or her. The ascent to the mountain on a person's part (↑) corresponds to the more real descent of God (↓) into his/her being" (ibid., emphasis and sharp objects mine).

Therefore, we might say that God -- and only God -- discloses his omniscience in this (↑↓) trialectic, or what we call the cosmic gyrescape.

Returning to Schönborn, he says that in the "ultimate unity of the conscious subject, in which I know myself, in which I am as it were everything," lies "the clearest analogy to the divine omniscience, which must surely be thought of as a unity, not as an infinite sum of perceptions."

As it pertains to Jesus, he writes (following Rahner) that what "develops" in his human life is, or must be, a kind of gradual disclosure of his own interior. For even -- or especially! -- Jesus was a baby, a boy, an adolescent, a young man. Presumably development took place, just as it does for any human. We are not born adult, which is to say, mature. Eternity takes time.

Quoting Rahner, "This does not of course mean that Jesus 'came upon something' that he absolutely did not previously know but, rather, that he more and more grasps what he already always is and what he basically already knew."

In this way, we are able to, in a sense, reconcile the divine and human, which can be seen as both without confusion and without division.

In a way -- and I'm thinking about this for the first time -- we might think of Jesus as "God deployed in human (developmental) time," since a human being cannot help but be situated in developmental time. Jesus is God refracted through the lens of humanness, but this lens has very specific temporal properties that we need to understand in order to see how God manifests in the human mode.

We (intuitively) know, for example, how God manifests in the mode of nature, since the latter radiates something of the divinity in what Schuon calls its "metaphysical transparency." I suppose that glory, or divine beauty, is ultimately how he manifests in Jesus. Only when we perceive this resplendence are we able to exclaim with Peter, Wo, you really are the Son of the living God!

Like anyone can know that! For again, this is not God-realization on Man's part, but Man-realization on God's part.

I call it a guman... It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like God and human unmixed and undivided... bred for its skills in salvation...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mister Gnosis-All & Miss Understanding

... omniscience? Which is what, exactly? a: infinite knowledge b: universal or complete learning or knowledge

Omniscient: 1: having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight : knowing all things : infinitely wise 2: possessed of universal or complete knowledge

Not sure if that's helpful. What do you mean, "infinite?" 1: being without limits of any kind : subject to no limitation or external determination 2: having no end : extending indefinitely : having no limit in power, capacity, knowledge, or excellence : immeasurably or inconceivably great

Seems to me we're entering an absurcular tautology here: omniscience is having infinite knowledge, and infinite is having no limit in knowledge, AKA omniscience.

And let's not get into "universal," or even "knowledge," because I believe we'd encounter a similar tautology, for if a truth isn't universal, it isn't true and therefore not proper knowledge.

Let us stipulate that God -- or O, rather -- is by definition "OMniscient." We could also turn this around and say "omniscient is O," since it is the only case -- even if hypothetical -- of omniscience.

Except we are also told that Jesus is "true God." If so, then he is "ʘmniscient." But how? How can a man be omniscient? We can affirm it, but can we understand it, even by analogy?

And if we can't, isn't it just nonsense? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, for such "nonsense" can nevertheless serve the purpose of placing a border around thought, and let us know that beyond this border, no productive thought is possible. Like "zero" in math, we need a placeholder for nothing in order to think.

There are many such boundaries in Judaism, which no doubt contribute to their being such a freakishly productive people. For example, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Period. Issue settled. Move along. Get a job. Support your family. Don't waste your life in idle speculation about what comes "before" creation.

(The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo serves a similar purpose in Christian metaphysics, which one might say is meaningless in a meaningful way.)

So, again: how are we to understand how this applies to Jesus? In other words, if we say he is "omniscient," is this something we may actually "think about," or is it more a kind of pneumacognitive boundary to prevent us from wasting our time on unproductive speculation? Should we just say it's a "mystery," and leave it alone?

No doubt this is fine for most people, since most people are not metaphysicians or Raccoons. For the majority of believers it is more important what they "feel" than what they know, although it should be emphasized that in a normal person, feeling serves as a kind of very sophisticated and rapid-response knowing.

Revelation is addressed to the "average" mentality. So where does this leave those of us who are at the margins of normality? Is there no religion for us? Did God forget about us in his haste to fashion a revelation for mass consumption?

Oh, and before you even go there, no, this does not make us "elite" or "special." Rather, it simply and dispassionately acknowledges who we are. We could pretend to be otherwhos in order to "pass" in normal society, but as we mentioned a day or two ago, the "original sin" is pretending to be someone we are not.

A lot of mis- and disunderstanding might be avoided if our detractors could simply acknowledge that we do not run a blog for normals. As we speak, there are over 500 religious blogs that cater to normotic personalities, and are (naturally) more popular than ours. This is to be expected, as there is no shortage of nonbʘbs.

Back to our idle questions about the nature of Jesus' mentality. Schönborn asks, "Is the concept of 'omniscience' a meaningful concept at all?" If so, "what might represent its corresponding finite analogy in human consciousness?"

Is it Al Gore, the self-styled omniscient weatherman who drunkenly assures us that any opinion deviating from his is BULLSHIT!!! Is it the petulant and peevish know-it-all Obama, or is he just bluffing? No, because someone who pretends at omniscience is just infinitely stupid, or Ømniscient. That sort of unsettling Ømni-science is indeed settled.

Let's start with some basics. As Schönborn explains, "Omniscience cannot be the sum of all present, past, and future propositions." In other words, by its very nature, "One does not become omniscient" because "one cannot get from a finite to an infinite knowledge by a process of addition."

That may be helpful, because it suggests that omniscience is not so much the "content" as the "mode," so to speak. In fact, it can't really be the content, because (as deifined at the top) in the mode of the "infinite" there can be no boundary, no limitation, no determination, no distinction between knowledge and its knower.

Bob, that makes me a little uncomfortable, because you're beginning to sound like some kind of mush-headed non-dual mystic who reduces the world to an infinite blob of no-thingness.

Don't worry about that. We are not one of those. Nor are there any hidden fees in my saying so. One Cosmos will never grovel for your love offerings.

Schönborn goes on to point out that "negative [apophatic] theology" is a kind of unknowculation against our attempts to grasp what cannot be grasped with our finite minds, which "simply cannot imagine a total knowledge."

Unimaginable. Immarginable. Reminds me of Joyce's boundary-less and omnihilist text. Perhaps it can provide a clue or two.

"There is no agreement as to what Finnegans Wake is about, whether or not it is 'about' anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, 'readable.'"

Now we're getting nowhere, and fast! An unreadable text that isn't about anything. And yet, "it is, perhaps, the single most intentionally crafted literary artifact that our culture has produced." But why would someone spend their life painstakingly crafting a meaningless text?

O, I don't know, except when I do. How and why does a meaningless cosmos make such sense to us? And doesn't any kind of real and universal knowledge necessarily partake of...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Wanted: One Messiah. No Experience Necessary

Lord of the Flies. Happens every time you put the children in charge.

Any idiot can change the world, but that doesn't mean you can change reality. But the left long ago abandoned any pretense of understanding the world for changing the world. Change! Change is good, isn't it? Isn't this what they were hoping for? Finally the death of capitalism.

It's fine, I suppose, to have an adolescent ideology when one is an adolescent. But what if adolescence is the maturational terminus of said ideology, and every institution established or infiltrated by these immature ideologues legitimizes their immaturity?

Not only do we need a different ideology -- one that isn't, to be exact -- but some adults to administer it. Because it will take the rest of our lives -- at least -- to undo the mess the left has gotten us into, not just here, but around the world.

Yesterday I had to inform my six year-old that his allowance will not begin to cover the bill for Obama's spending spree. Naturally he's going to want a raise, but then I had to explain to him the perils of inflation.

Indeed, it will require an unusual (these days) degree of maturity to endure the patience that will be required to dig our way out. For one thing is certain: even the wisest and most mature adults will not be able to turn this around in one, two, or four years. Which will be the basis of the left's shrill calls for more socialism in the coming years, in order to solve the problems created by socialism (which, you will recall, all started with the socialist attempt to make everyone a homeowner -- or rather, to force lenders to make loans to unqualified borrowers).

Oh well. Human nature. Never say that it's not in need of redemption.

Which brings us back to our freewheeling discussion of Christology, in particular, how we may approach the question of human and divine natures coexisting in the same being.

"For the Son is not the Father -- for only one is the Father, and yet he is what the Father is -- nor is the Spirit the Son, because he comes from the Father, for only one is the Only-begotten, and yet he is what the Son is" (Gregory the Theologian).

In other words, the three persons of the Trinity share an essential "what" but not the "who." This would imply that the What is "deeper" or more fundamental than the Who, but this is not so, because the "whoness" is intrinsic to the "whatness."

What this means is that there is no What without a Who, or rather, no AM without an I. And there is no I without a Thou, and no I-Thou without a link between that is called "love," but which I would prefer to symbolize (L) and (K).

For love and knowledge -- or truth -- are always related, no matter how much one may wish to deny it (but why would one want to, anyway?). Put it this way. You -- you there: do you have any obligation to Truth? Do you owe the Truth your allegiance, your respect, your devotion even?

Of course you do. If you don't, then why am I listening to you? And why are you bothering with me?

If we ask the question, "Who am I?", it is obviously insufficient to answer it in any materialistic way, but also with any general appeal to Being, because man is always personal being. Indeed, he is the mode of personal being within the cosmos (which is why a part of him is always "without" the cosmos, i.e., transcendent). And this personal being is always particular, even though it shares the general features. Yes, I am somebody, but not just anybody.

Oddly enough, this issue reverts back to our opening comments about the current crisis. For if we fail to respect the distinctions within the Trinity, we end up with an admixture that always redounds to our detriment: "Intermingling would mean caesaropapism or political messianism, when a political reality is equated with the Kingdom of God. The human element is swallowed up here" (Schönborn).

This is why genuine religiosity was and is an inoculation against the latest messianism of the left, i.e., Obama. Only a rube or knave would place hope in this mediocrity, who is merely a nothing when he isn't busy pretending to be everything.

And you will see more and more of this recognition on the left, as the scales fall from their eyes and he transitions from everything back to nothing, from somebody back to anybody. The important point is that he hasn't changed, only the projections of those who saw something more in him than a smooth-talking but none-too-bright community agitator.

As usual, this will not be an occasion for introspection on the left or in the media (but I repeat myself), but an occasion to reassemble the search committee for the next messiah. In fact, I believe they'd already have one in place -- as they did in 1980 -- if it weren't for Obama's "race" (which I place in quotes only because I attach no importance to it). For the Democrats cannot alienate blacks and win any national election. Live by the race card, die by the race card.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we were discussing the nature of "self-knowledge." Now, even the most thorough knowledge of oneself is nothing whatsoever like scientific knowledge, i.e., knowledge of objects and principles. Rather, it is first of all interior knowledge of one's interior, but also "knowing oneself as a whole" (Schönborn), even though the latter is never -- and can never be -- completely conscious.

This a priori "wholeness of self" is an extremely mysterious reality that doesn't receive sufficient attention. For it's one thing for us to perceive exterior oneness, or relative wholeness, in an object of some sort, which has clear boundaries around it. But how to account for the interior wholeness that we take for granted, but which is the implicate ground of our humanness?

It seems that Augustine confronted this question way back in the day. According to Schönborn, he was "convinced that there is something that 'every mind knows of itself and about which it is certain,'" which is none other than I Am.

In this regard, he anticipates Descartes by a millennium or so, but without going off the rails into a mere rationalism: "This ultimate certainty, which can never become objective knowledge, is the basis of all perception" (ibid.).

Thus, not "I think, therefore I am," but rather, "I am, therefore I think." For remember: there is no AM in the absence of the I; and in order for thinking to be both "in truth" and (therefore) efficacious, it must obviously be in conformity to Truth. And do you owe no obligation to Truth? Of course you do. We've already settled that.

Long story short, I believe it is fair to say that, since Jesus is "true man," then all of the above observations must apply to him as well -- indeed, must apply to him quintessentially.

For he surely respects the distinctions within the Trinity, even while knowing that they cannot ultimately be separate; he has an unusually high degree of self-awareness, and with it, other-understanding, or empathy; has a total allegiance to Truth; and does not conflate celestial and terrestrial dimensions, despite the ubiquitous temptation to vote Democrat.

Ah, nostalgia. Good times, good times... until Thatcher had to come along and wreck things.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Morning Metaphysical Quarterbacking

We are in the midst of a discussion of Christology, which essentially comes down to that age old question: Who do you say that I am?

Well, obviously I am Bob. Even the least of you knows that. Nevertheless, just because one knows that I am Bob -- and some days even I have my doubts -- it doesn't mean one knows what it is like to be Bob, hence the need for a more systematic Bobology, not to mention all those years of psychotherapy.

In the case of Jesus -- as mentioned in the antepost -- it is one thing to say that he is "two natures in one person," but this serves the purpose more of defining what he is not as opposed to providing any kind of understanding of what it is like to be him.

For if someone is truly sui generis, one-of-a-kind and kind-of-a-One, isn't it a little like trying to understand the consciousness of a different species? And yet, it is insisted: true man. That being the case, there must be some way to relate to this true man despite the fact that he also happens to be true God.

Returning to Schönborn's discussion of Rahner's stab at it, recall that the latter begins with a proper description of human consciousness, which exists on a vertical spectrum, to which our conscious mind -- which is only a small part of consciousness as such -- does not and cannot have total access.

For practical reasons alone, if we were bombarded every moment with everything we "know," we would immediately become paralyzed.

For example, the average human knows tens of thousands of words, and yet, at the moment, they are pouring out of me without any conscious awareness of this reservoir, nor any agonizing decisions over which ones to use... er, deploy... no, wield... toss out there... press into service. It is not as if I rifle through this word-dump and and consider the infinite possibilities buried there. And in a pinch, I just make up a new one anyway.

The point is that for any "true man," one of the most striking things about him will be this dialectic -- or complementarity -- between what is implicit and explicit -- between tacit and focal awareness, between what we know and all we know. Does the jazz musician plot out his solo before he delivers it?

And this isn't even getting into the issue of the neurotic person, who unconsciously knows all sorts of troubling things he consciously denies, or who consciously knows things that just ain't so.

Presumably, this would be one of the human foibles to which Jesus was not heir. He was of course tempted by it, but did not fall into it. For the "first temptation" is always the invitation to be someone you're not.

Regarding our tacit knowledge, I once read something about the extremely sophisticated knowledge of physics and gravity that the successful NFL quarterback must possess. I mean, some nerd could work out on paper the timing, velocity, and trajectory required to dispatch a 15 ounce object to its moving target, but by the time he arrived at the answer he'd be sacked.

When we say we "know ourselves," what kind of knowledge is this? It certainly is not, and cannot be, scientific knowledge, since it is entirely private knowledge, which no one else can ever know on a firsthand basis.

But more troublingly, science does not regard it as ontologically real anyway. This means, perversely, that in order to be an "orthodox scientist" -- i.e., to embrace scientism -- the rallying cry must be do not know thyself! For to believe there is a "self" to be known is to fall into the trap of essentialism, which science dismisses as pure illusion.

For the record, I do not believe that such scientists exist, but that they are analogous to the neurotic referenced above. That is to say, they deny consciously -- and rationalistically -- what they unconsciously know full well. No one could actually live their absurd metaphysic and remain human. I'm not sure "what" they would be, but whatever it is, it would not be human. Ayn Rand, maybe.

So clearly, when we say that Jesus is "true man," it cannot mean that he is analogous to, say, Spock, a creature of pure reason; or omniscient in the manner, say, of a computer, which has immediate access to "all it knows." For a computer, there are no "hard" questions and "easy" ones. No computer says, "Hmm, that's a provocative question. Hadn't considered that angle. Mind if I sleep on it?"

Speaking of which, we learn from the gospels that Jesus spends a lot of his spare time "praying to his father." What's that all about? More to the point, what does it say about his -- and our -- humanness? For clearly, it implies a simultaneous continuity and discontinuity between one aspect and another -- or one person and another, to be precise.

I'm just free associating here as usual, but it just occurred to me that (in my opinion) a breakthrough occurred in psychoanalytic theory when it was discovered that the unconscious is not full of static "objects," so to speak, but relationships. This is why modern psychoanalysis is referred to as Object Relations theory.

But even that is a misnomer, because a more accurate name would be Subject Relations. The unconscious mind is really a kook depository of troubling relationships which most people end up acting out in relationships with other people. "Acting out" is the opposite of "insight," which we might term "thinking-in." Thinking-in prevents acting-out, while acting-out substitutes for thinking-in. To put it another way, neurotic action is exteriorized thought.

And as it so happens, many of Jesus' parables and actions can be seen as counsels to stop acting out and to start thinking about one's emotions and impulses, e.g., turn the other cheek, pull that beam out of your eye, stop stoning that sinner, don't be so quick to judge, etc. The only way to "know thyself" is to first create a space between thought or emotion and impulse or action.

Back to the question of what self-knowledge is. Rahner calls it "an a priori nonobjective knowledge of oneself.... This basic mode of being is not objective knowledge, and normally we do not deal with it; reflection never adequately catches up with this basic mode of being, even when it is explicitly directed toward it."

This essential "selfhood" is indeed a problem. Again, scientists just make it disappear via denial, whereas eastern religions do so via a radical disengagement and subsequent impersonal identification with its ground (even though they do not and cannot really rid themselves -- much less, us! -- of themselves, but rather, generally become new-age Salesmen).

I'm pressed for time this morning. I'll have to pick up the thread tomorrow.