Friday, May 04, 2012

Getting Off the Cosmic Dreadmill

Recall yesterday's opening salvO: the human vocation is to become in fact what we are in principle.

Obviously, for man as we find him, there is a gap between Fact and Principle, or what is and what ought to be. The former is the shadow-world of contingency, at the extremes of which we cross from twilight to darkness, into the netherworld of frank pathology.

As mentioned later in the post with regard to psychopathology in general and mind parasites in particular, "the creature seeks out its creator, only in this case, it is a strange demigod of the nursery, i.e., an exteriorized and projected mind parasite." Which is why some people are attracted to, and compulsively seek out, what is bad for them. And why your mind parasites are just as clever and crafty as you are, except they are all serpent and no dove.

You might say that a mind parasite is a crystalized center of contingency, or a kind of distant echo of the actual Center. It is the very "essence" of a false god, and the realm of idolatry more generally.

I hope this doesn't sound too abstract, because it is actually quite experience-near. It was lucidly confessed by Augustine back in the day, with his many wise cracks about knowing the good and yet willing something less, up to and including evil:

"We sin from two causes: either from not seeing what we ought to do, or else from not doing what we have already seen we ought to do. Of these two, the first is ignorance of the evil; the second, weakness." And to paraphrase Homer's Idiossey, my one weakness is that I'm weak!

Actually, Augustine leaves out willfulness, which is consciously choosing an action we know to be wrong. It seems to me that this is worse than ignorance and weakness, because it is the presence of a negative, not a deprivation of a good.

Or in other words, there is free will, on one side of which is weakness, the other willfulness. And yet, willfulness is a weakness, isn't it? Or, weakness masquerading as strength. I've known a few of those types in my day.

Again: this all has to do with our contingency, which is mingled, so to speak, with absoluteness. In the book, I used a couple of symbols to demarcate this situation. You might say that (•) is that part of us which primarily partakes of, and is oriented toward, contingency, whereas (¶) is that part which partakes of, and is oriented toward, the Absolute; the former is primarily horizontal, the latter vertical.

Thus, as Schuon writes, the human subject "seeks both the contingent and the Absolute; both the finite and the Infinite...." Furthermore, he "seeks the contingent because [he] is [him]self contingent, and to the extent that [he] is so" (emphasis mine).

In other words, the contingency in us seeks the contingent which fathered it, which is only natural. Obviously, this is a self-perpetuating cycle, which is precisely why the most frivolous among us are so frivolous, and becoming more so all the time. They wouldn't know absoluteness if it struck them in the nous, AKA (¶).

Schuon writes that "outwardness is a right, and inwardness a duty." Nevertheless, "the outward is the dimension of accidents [or of forms], the inward, that of substance [or essence]."

So the real duty, it seems to me, is a kind of harmonious balance between the outward and inward, each "inevitable" in its own way. Contingency is always breaking up the substance, just as the substance is always exerting a kind of organizing pull on contingency -- like a planet that is temporarily knocked out of orbit, but then "seeks" its own orbital center of groovity again. Indeed, this might even be the basis of evolution, i.e., the vertically rhythmic dialectic of entropy and order (as developed by scientists such as Ilya Prigogine).

If we think of man as composed of intelligence, will, and sentiment, we see that intelligence has a much easier time of it than will. And to the extent that it doesn't, it is because the intelligence has been infiltrated by willfulness and passion. Thus, there is willful intelligence and stupid willfulness. But enough about our troll.

Augustine writes that "The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed. The mind commands itself and meets resistance," so what's up with that?

He elaborates without arriving at an answer: "The mind commands the hand to move, and it so easy that one hardly distinguishes the order from its execution. Yet mind is mind and hand is body. The mind orders the mind to will. The recipient of the order is itself, yet it does not perform it.”

The mind commands itself and meets resistance. What is the nature of this resistance?

Well, it depends. If the mind commands me to do an evil, and I resist, this is strength, not willfulness. But to the extent that I know the good and struggle to translate it into action, that would again be a matter of contingencies mucking up the process.

Conversely, "the very perfection of a man" is "to find out his own imperfections" (Augustine). And "without good character -- one that is normal and consequently noble -- intelligence, even if metaphysical, is largely ineffective" (Schuon).

And what constitutes character? For Schuon it is essentially composed of what we will and what we love. Therefore, willing what is wrong and loving what is evil or ugly is both the negation of intelligence and the maiming of character. I said, enough about our troll! Are you deaf?!

Let's take an everyday example, marriage. The marriage ritual recognizes certain intrinsic goods of male-female relations, which the will pledges to live by. Results, of course, may vary, but there must have been some recognition of the truth -- to say nothing of beauty -- however attenuated, in order to be attracted by, and enter into, the condition.

But why, BG? Maybe you can tell me how a love so right can turn out to be so wrong?

I can and I will. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a couple of reasons, but really, they come down to an absence of insight, self-awareness, and self-understanding; or, a failure to understand that a good marriage is designed to facilitate just these things, or in other words, growth, and growth is merely expansion or metastasis if it isn't oriented to an end that isn't itself contingent.

Contingency -- what Schuon calls dissonances, fluctuations, and enigmas -- are always coming into play, the world being what it is. It doesn't mean we must be conquered by them, for this would elevate contingency to absoluteness, and besides, isn't the Arc of Salvation all about reversing that nameless dreadmill? I suppose love conquers all, but especially contingency, and cures what inevitably fails us.

17 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

You really are on a roll. I'm finding it tough to add much, but only in a good way.

5/04/2012 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Looks like I have something after all. Here's a perfect demonstration of what can happen when the will overcomes the contingencies and accomplices something wonderful.

5/04/2012 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

I haven't had a chance to comment yesterday, or today (I'm not here right now), but have enjoyed hugely.

5/04/2012 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Julie

Great link, thanks

5/04/2012 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Bob, just want to send out much gratitude for exposing me to Shuon's work. Just read "Echoes of Perennial Wisdom" and it filled me with tears of joy.

5/04/2012 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I would say he was truly a great man, except the word has become so debased as to be almost meaningless. A three hour biographical DVD has recently been released. Haven't yet seen it, but I will soon...

5/04/2012 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re the tears of joy, when the soul encounters such truth and beauty, that's one common reaction. Others include a sense of sanctity and of spontaneous reverence without immature idealization.

5/04/2012 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting too that he always speaks to things we know with certitude at the deepest level, but perhaps never explicitly expressed, let alone so luminously and succinctly. He facilitates vertical recollection like few others.

5/04/2012 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The DVD sounds really interesting. Thanks!

5/04/2012 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Today's sign of the apocalypse:
Mamas, Don't Let Your babies Grow Up to be Yell Kings

5/05/2012 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"And to paraphrase Homer's Idiossey, my one weakness is that I'm weak!"

Ha ha! Excellent paraphrase!

Other than that...everything is a-ok.

"The mind commands itself and meets resistance."

One of my favorite quotes by Augustine. As you say, it's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the circumstances...

5/05/2012 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
Re the tears of joy, when the soul encounters such truth and beauty, that's one common reaction. Others include a sense of sanctity and of spontaneous reverence without immature idealization.

I tend to get that more frequently than usual when I read stories of the sacrifices some folks are willing to make to protect others (no greater love).

And of course writing such as Schuon's can have the same effect.
Both tap into truth and beuaty and goodness.

I reckon stories of those making their own ultimate sacrifice (or a huge one at any rate as Julies video shows) affects me more because of my experiences.

Either way I hope I never get so cynical that I feel nothing upon seeing or hearing such truth, beauty n' goodness.

"Think on these things..." takes on a whole new meanings in this Light.

5/05/2012 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Actually, Augustine leaves out willfulness, which is consciously choosing an action we know to be wrong. It seems to me that this is worse than ignorance and weakness, because it is the presence of a negative, not a deprivation of a good. "

Yea. Because being evil can be so 'gosh darn fun':
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_IirxWrT1Zso/R_P8JtQCipI/AAAAAAAAAU0/jSOLXLA8NCU/s400/insp_revenge.jpg


CS Lewis talked about this evil mindset in the forward of the collected essays called 'The Screwtape Letters' where he found it a real drag to create the mindset of a 'Devil'. But then some people crave that mindset. Crave things that are not ours to have: To Dominate, manipulate, and control others whom are their equals (humans).

5/06/2012 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Let's take an everyday example, marriage."

About marriage:

I do believe that if the love for the other is greater than for the self, it will not fail - no matter how flawed and messed up the individuals are.

Because the love is interlocking between only the two, there is little chances of exploitation of such a divine gift.

5/06/2012 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

Oh...

Solid Marriage:
http://oi40.tinypic.com/2556xl0.jpg

5/06/2012 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Out Friday for medical reasons so I'm just getting to this.

The thought about the planet finding its orbit and evolution is rich. Every creature is part of its environment both in terms of being subjected to its stresses and as one element creating stresses, accelerating and braking through feedback. Everything alters its environment and is altered by it.

C'est la vie. Et c'est la guerre.

Among other things, it makes it seem silly to try and keep everything pristine and primeval.

5/07/2012 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Actually, Augustine leaves out willfulness, which is consciously choosing an action we know to be wrong. It seems to me that this is worse than ignorance and weakness, because it is the presence of a negative, not a deprivation of a good.

Or in other words, there is free will, on one side of which is weakness, the other willfulness. And yet, willfulness is a weakness, isn't it? Or, weakness masquerading as strength. I've known a few of those types in my day."

Yes, you actually have to choose good rather than evil.

I mean, first you need to choose your destination.

For example, I'm free to be an evil assoul and I can actively aim for deceit, cowardice, and treachery as my touchstones.

You can have your aim in life to end all life.

5/07/2012 07:21:00 AM  

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