Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Closed For Isness

I apologize to anyone I haven't offended, but I'm just too far behind in my remunerative work to continue posting. The patented One Cosmos method of applied non-doodling isn't possible -- or realizable -- if I cannot see before me that vast, trackless desert of slack extending over the purplish-pink ultra-human horizon, i.e., the summa vocation. Hopefully, normal isness upperations will continue once I catch up.

You could say that slack is the nonspecific ether through which we fly with wings of repose. Yeah, something like that.

Even reposting takes time, time needed to get things done in clockworld. Unlike my household gnome, I am embodied, and that's just the way it is.

The Raccoon is not so constituted as to grovel at anyone's surface. Squeezed for timelessness, it's like being rushed through your sleep -- as if, if you really hurry, you can complete eight hours of sleep in just six hours. When that happens, you eventually start dreaming during the day. Conversely, when the Conspiracy impinges, it's like being forced to wake while you really need to be dreaming.

Pretty soon you're completely "awake," but not in the good way. Rather, in such a way that all of the vertical springs, all the interstices of mystery, are bottled up with that familiar tenuro-media excreta that is somehow indigestibly concrete and adhesively slimy.

So, consider this an open thread, if you wish. Here is something to start the conversation, an email from a reader:

"As a longtime reader and fan of yours, I am attuned to your unique style. Yet occasionally I have trouble getting the point of a particular post (assuming there is one) reading it in the conventional top to bottom manner. When that happens I have found better results reading them backwards, not literally, but starting with the last paragraph and working up. Have I hit on something here? A useful technique for reading comprehension? An undiagnosed disability perhaps?"

To which we responded off the top of our head from the center of our cloud: "That is a provocative thought. I think I'll pass it on to readers for comment. Could be because I myself have no idea what the post is about until it somehow wraps itself up at the end, which it does nine times out of ten. The post just kind of finishes itself and says "I'm done. You can get on with your life now."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Circular Logic and Absolute Stupidity

When progressives talk about "progress," they cannot mean the same thing we do, for objective progress is precisely what is rendered impossible in their metaphysic.

One can approach this from various angles, but the result is always the same, for a determined stupidity at the start of a journey assures stupidity at the end -- like insisting that if only one travels far enough, one can prove that parallel lines meet, and then setting out for points unknowable.

Since there is no "fixed point" in leftism, it can claim no truth and hence no measure of progress. Schuon hits the troll on the head in his usual pithy style: "To claim that knowledge as such could only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute."

Either that thought will appeal to you, and be used as a stepping stone to higher things, or you will literally find it "repulsive," in that it will repel you onto a relative and therefore subjective, idiosyncratic, and ultimately arbitrary path. Mal voyage!

Once on that false path, no matter how rigorously one otherwise applies reason, one will be in a world that is fundamentally unreal. Therefore, one will be apportioning clouds, sowing the wind, spanking the monkey, etc. That is the bad kind of cosmic circle -- as the French put it, the cirque du jerkeil.

The cosmos is, of course, "structured," so to speak, as a circle, but it is a benignly inspiraling one, not a viciously repetitive one, i.e. an eternal return, or a Neitzsche you can't scratchy. When I first realized this, I thought I had hit on something kind of unique. Now I wish I had compiled all of the statements I've stumbled upon that affirm the same thing.

For example, this one, by Schuon: "There are basically but three miracles: existence, life, intelligence; with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring which in reality has never parted from the Infinite."

In fact, even prior to the establishment of the first Raccoon lodge on March 4, 1355, Thomas Aquinas had used exactly this organizational structure for the Summa: a chain of interior and exterior certitudes forming a Great Circle of Being:

"In the emergence of creatures from their first source is revealed a kind of circular movement, in which all things return, as to their end, back to the very place from which they had their origin in the first place."

There is a two-way journey; one can call it out and back, or down and up, or many and one, or conspiracy and slack, or just ø and O.

In any -- and every -- event, there is a "Journey away from Home, where creatures actively unfold their diverse dynamic natures as finite participations in the divine perfection and as centers of self-expressive and self-communicating action and interaction with each other, thus forming a universe, that is, a system of many real beings joined together by their interaction to form the community of all existents -- the ultimate of all communities. This part of the journey was called the exitus (journey out)" (Clarke).

This is accompanied by the journey back toward the Great Attractor, O, whereby creation is "drawn by this same Source through the pull of the Good built in to the very nature of every being through the mediation of final causation," or what Bob calls the the personal telovator or cosmic eschalator.

The bottom -- and top -- line is that this "ultimate One now appears as both the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and End, at once the Source and the Goal of the restless dynamism of all nature, of all finite beings."

It's just that in human beings, this restless longing, this passion for wholeness, has become conscious, and this consciousness, you might say, is the initial "spark" (?!) that occurs when two tingles mingle and abysses meet, i.e., the Divine and human:

"There is religious conversion which is 'being grasped by ultimate concern. It is an other-worldly falling in love....' The outcome of such conversion is that the Holy Spirit and the human spirit encounter profoundly" (Norris).

Love at first Light.

Monday, March 19, 2012

God's Endless Search for Man

The problem with the left is not a bad philosophy, but no philosophy at all. The left is truly "post-philosophical," which is what allows them to routinely hold views that are internally inconsistent, and more generally, to appeal to expedient principles -- an oxymoron -- as the need arises to defend what can only amount to raw power and self-interest.

No, this is not just polemical, because this is precisely what the more sophisticalated among them aver, without so much as a fig leaf over their straight faces. We are indeed in a "post-metaphysical" age, which is indistinguishable from a post-philosophical age, which in turn results in a post-serious thinking age, or what Dennis Prager calls "the age of stupidity."

When the tenured break out the "post-metaphysics" canard, what they really mean is post-Western civilization in general and post-Judeo-Christian in particular. The only way to jettison those two obstacles to their aspirations is to discredit them entirely. Not to seriously engage them, because to engage them would be to leave oneself beclowned (just as engaging the Constitution would put an end to the left's schemes).

Therefore, these more venerable ideas must be dismissed with a kind of a priori contempt, as if man learned nothing at all during his first 200,000 years on the planet. If nothing else, the mere presence of a species for 200,000 years argues for an essence or nature that defines the species. But this is not a problem if one's post-philosphical and post-intellectual outlook tosses aside the whole notion of essence.

Rather, if man is but the effect of wholly random causes, he has no essence. That being the case, we are free to turn him into anything we wish. For example, if we raise a boy as a girl, he will become one. For the left, the only thing in man that is absolutely fixed is homosexuality. That and the right to a dead baby. Unless the baby is homosexual. Then it's murder.

The only way to overcome what man has learned about himself over the eons -- much of it rather unflattering -- is to adopt an attitude of abject cynicism. Now, as we see in our troll, this attitude is one of extreme corrosiveness, in the sense that it naively prides itself on being able to dissolve any argument before reaching its conclusion. This is why I refer to it as "negative omniscience."

Unlike positive omniscience, or "knowing everything," this is the negative capability of knowing nothing. One routinely encounters it in clinical practice, among paranoiacs (in a more crude form) and narcissists (in more subtle forms).

Most of you have probably been around a hard-bitten paranoiac or conspiracy theorist with whom you simply cannot reason. If you carefully explain to them with facts, evidence, and logic, say, how implausible it is to suggest that George Bush "lied us into war" -- or, for that matter, that Bill Clinton is a mass murderer, or Barack Obama is an Islamist agent -- they will roll their eyes and dismiss you as hopelessly naive. But their blustering self-confidence is always brittle at the core, and rooted in fear and doubt, which is why they cannot tolerate ambiguity.

As Clarke discusses, "The very notion of constructing a unified systematic philosophical inquiry into being as a whole... has been abandoned by contemporary philosophers." An exception to the rule is Whiteheadian process philosophy, which is how I initially got into the racket. In fact, I don't think he can be surpassed if one is attempting to construct a metaphysic on merely scientific grounds, i.e., to draw out the metaphysical implications of modern science.

But man is obviously not restricted to the scientific mode of knowing. Rather, as Schuon writes, "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence." For "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing."

I don't regard this statement as remotely poetical, or romantic, or "in a manner of speaking." Rather, everything must have its sufficient reason, and the only sufficient reason for man's restless search for the Absolute is the Absolute. This is the real reason why science never rests content with any hypothesis (with the exception of manmade global warming, which, like homosexuality and the right to abortion, is another absolute).

But if man were only provoked to seek out the Absolute from the short end of the cosmos, this would be a cosmic itch he could never scratch, for it is not possible for a finite being to reach the Infinite.

Therefore, just as man is on a perpetual search for God, history reveals God's perpetual search for man. If one prefers, one may express it in abstract terms, and say that man, everywhere we find him, is characterized by (↑). But likewise, culture, everywhere we find it, is imbued with traces of (↓).

In the end -- as we shall see -- man's search for God is God's search for man, for there is no other way of looking at it, assuming God is God.

To put it another way, every culture is characterized by a search for the ground, the ultimate principle, the unchanging. As Norris describes, this is the "search from below." He references Cardinal Newman, who remarked that "all the nations" seek God, and that "by feeling their way toward him, succeed in finding him." However, it is necessary to discern the principial truth within "the corrupt legends" with which it is inevitably mixed.

However, the story of the people of Israel is not just another story of (↑), but more importantly, a -- the -- story of (↓): "it is not we who seek God, it is rather God who seeks us out." And for Christians, (↑) and (↓) meet -- or Cross paths -- in the person of Christ, who is both ground and destiny: "Here the human search from below, in its many different modalities and incarnations... effectively meets the divine descending search..."

Thus, "the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face." More to the point, "dialogue" becomes the possibility of "union" when the Absolute crosses "the ontological abyss separating the infinite and infinite." Again, to say that man cannot accomplish this union in the absence of (↓) is a truism.

Which is where the Holy Spirit comes in, for he may be fruitfully thought of as an ongoing form of (↓), so that our sincere search is never in vain. The Holy Spirit "is the finisher and polisher of divine revelation with regard to us." Norris references an illuminating passage by the Orthodox bishop Ignatios of Latakia:

Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
the Gospel is a dead letter,
the Church is simply an organization,
authority a matter of dominion,
mission a matter of propaganda,
the liturgy no more than an evocation,
Christian living a slave morality.


(↓) is indeed the cosmic vertilizer spread over the ground. Which is why so much fruit grows in these parts. And why it just lays there uneaten, rotting on the grounds of your typical university, in favor of their highly processed, manmade junk metaphysics.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The All-or-Nothing Cosmos

One of the perverse characteristics of our age is that the world is simultaneously regarded as exquisitely intelligible and yet completely absurd. Which is itself absurd, because it is impossible to understand how the two can be reconciled -- not in this or that aspect, but vis-a-vis the totality. In other words, we can all have a bad day. But does this mean our life is a total waste?

When I say that the world is seen as exquisitely intelligible, what I mean is that we've gotten to the point that we just assume -- correctly so -- that whatever or wherever we investigate in the cosmos, it will make sense, if not immediately, then if we put our minds to it.

This is science's unacknowledged legacy to stand on, of a Judeo-Christian tradition that insists upon the rationality of a world brought into being by a rational Creator. Faith in the rationality and intelligibility of the cosmos is faith in God once removed (non-Judeo-Christian cultures have no such faith, unless it has been imported from outside).

In this regard, as it bears upon ultimate issues, or limit cases, science is every bit as "faith based"as religion (except in a naive and uncritical way). What I mean is that, for example, science actually has no idea -- nor will it ever, on its own terms -- how a supposedly dead universe suddenly sprang to life 3.85 billion years ago. But most scientists seem to have a serene confidence that this ultimate discontinuity is unproblematic. Which is why I felt so fortunate to encounter the brilliant Robert Rosen during the years I spent puzzling over the problem of Life Itself (can't really recommend him to laypeople; he didn't live long enough to maybe dumb it down for us).

Likewise the transition -- or leap -- from (mere) animal to man. You will have noticed that in facing this question, science doesn't really work inductively from the actual evidence. Rather, it begins with a Darwinian conclusion -- for them, an axiomatic truth -- and deduces how this or that human trait must have come about via random copying errors naturally selected.

Yes, the results are comical -- for one thing, any overeducated fool can play the game -- but no more so than a religious person who, say, begins with the axiomatic truth that the world is 6,000 years old, and then tries to cram all the empirical evidence into that hypothesis.

We had a barmy twiteration of this the other day, in reader William's appeal to cosmic ignorance in support of his negative omniscience (similar to how scientism marshals intelligibility in support of absurdity). That is, in response to our belief that the universe must in principle be finite, he commented that he is

"limited in [my] perception of the observable universe by the space time coninuum in which [I] exist, and that [I am] able to perceive and theorize"; and that "The particle horizon -- the maximum distance from which particles can or have traveled in the age of the universe -- represents the boundary between the observable and the unobservable universe."

Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. The intrinsically absurd way. For example, is it even remotely true that man's perception is limited to the laws of physics, or to what is empirically present? If this were true, then we couldn't even know the laws of physics. More to the point, man is capable of pondering universal truths that operate in the realm of being as such, in any conceivable cosmos. To exist is to be in very particular ways.

In other words, in order for something to be intelligible at all, it must share certain characteristics (which I will discuss in a subsequent post). Therefore, to the extent that there are things outside our "space-time continuum," if they are intelligible, then we can understand them. If they are absurd, then we can't. Simple as. But there is every reason to conclude that "existence" and "intelligibility" are intimately related, and that to exist is to be intelligible. To put it the other way around, it is obviously impossible for us to conceive of something that "exists" in an unintelligible way. Such is analogous to the "impossible-possible," or simultaneously "this particular thing" and "no-thing at all."

We can go so far as to say that the cosmos is "fulfilled" in knowledge of itself -- which is simultaneously man's fulfillment, at least on the natural plane.

But even then, there can be no contradiction between Reason and Revelation, since both are "written by the same Author." Thus, in the face of apparent contradiction, we must re-examine and rethink the matter through. Atheists and other trolls never tire of raising these contradictions, precisely because they haven't thought them through.

While it is no doubt true that in premodern times epistemology was subordinated to metaphysics, in our day it is the converse, so that metaphysics is subordinated to positivistic science, a strangely oedipal scenario in which the child murders its parent (and yet similar in form to how the left wishes to place the Constitution in an old-folks home and euthanize western civilization in order to seize their priceless inheritance; to paraphrase Don Colacho, leftists are simply "impatient heirs" -- so impatient that they are now feverishly stealing from their descendants too, but that's the subject of a different post).

Clarke writes that man innately possesses an "unrestricted drive" to know "all that there is to know about all that there is."

Good credo for the masthead: All There is to Know about All There Is.

As such, our mind is by its nature "oriented toward the totality of being as knowable, as its final goal which alone can satisfy its desire to know." Further, this is a kind of "natural hope" -- to go along with our natural faith -- "in the radical intelligibility in principle of all real being."

In short, Mind is ordered to Being. Or haven't you gnosissed?

Blah blah blah yada yada, if you pursue this line of thought to its inevitable end, you are faced with a choice: "Either the universe is unintelligible," in which case you are dismissed, and are free -- or compelled -- to wallow in your own absurdity.

If not, then "there must exist one and only one Infinite Source of all other beings, both of their actual existence and all the perfections (goodness) within them.... Our journey of the intellect, in search of the full intelligibility of what it means to be, has now finally arrived at the single Infinite Source of all beings, of the whole community of real existents."

O!

The original desire for the good takes its energy from the ever-pulsating momentum of that Origin in which man, answering the creative call of God, flew across the abyss which parts nothingness from existence. It is the moment with which the possible bursts forth with a roar into the radiant dawn of its first realization: the swift current of a stream that originating in the bright darkness of mere Nature and steadily fed by its source, crosses by the dictates of innate conscience into the realm of freedom. --Josef Pieper

I don't care what Kant says. Half a cosmos just doesn't appeal to me:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cosmos and Reality, Infinite and Absolute

The human being is faced with a range of phenomena -- both exterior and interior, i.e., thoughts and things -- of which he needs to take account and make sense. And if he is to comprehend the totality of existence, i.e., the Kosmos, then the True Philosopher, the extreme seeker after knowledge, the ardent lover of wisdom, the off-road spiritual adventurer, must exclude nothing (including, of course, Nothing; in other words, he must also be mindful of non-being, or more or less complete privations of the Good and True).

Being that man cannot bearth or begaial himself -- for no man is autochthonous -- and stands in a venerable stream of tradition, he will eavoid dissing in it and dismissing the illustrious minds that went before, the vast majority of whom found the existence of Spirit to be soph-evident.

If embracing the fancies of a Dawkins or Dennett means rejecting the oceanic depths of an Aquinas or Maritain, then so much the worse for the modern misosophers who are blind to any reality that exceed the limits of their narrow reason. For example, reader William, as usual, turns reality on its head by appealing to what he calls "the infinite" in order to maintain his rigidly finite, parochial, and earthbound attitudes.

What he forgets is that to posit the Infinite -- which only man can do, and which in a certain sense defines man -- carries with it certain immediate implications. If nothing else, to take seriously the principle of the Infinite is to leave vulgar materialism behind and enter the realm of pure metaphysics. If the Infinite "exists," then it is obviously a first principle, since it cannot be surpassed. If nothing else, it is the end of the lyin'.

As Schuon explains, "To say Absolute, is to say Infinite."

I mean, right? Again, the mind cannot surpass infinitude, so it is an absolute: "Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute." As such, "It is from this 'dimension' of Infinitude that the world necessarily springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude."

Now, we know the cosmos is "expanding," for that is an implication of Infinitude. Schuon:

"The Infinite is that which, in the world, appears as modes of expanse or of extension, such as space, time, form or diversity, number or multiplicity, matter or substance.

"In other words, and to be more precise: there is a conserving mode, and this is space; a transforming mode, and this is time; a qualitative mode, and this is form, not inasmuch as it limits, but inasmuch as it implies indefinite diversity; a quantitative mode, and this is number, not inasmuch as it fixes a given quantity, but inasmuch as it too is indefinite; a substantial mode, and this is matter, it too being without limit as is shown by the star- filled sky. Each of these modes has its prolongation" in our world, "for these modes are the very pillars of universal existence."

Those who "go off the deep end" receive all of the attention from mental health professionals, but it is also possible -- and more common, actually -- to fall off the shallow end, "to lose everything but one's reason," as somewag once said. These people can't really be helped, since they find the shallow end to be quite congenial to their simplistic (not simple) souls. They know how to wade, to tread water, to dog-paddle, and that's all they want or need to know.

This blog is not addressed to them, so I don't know why they keep returning. Their little vessels will just keep crapsizing unless they overcome their dysluxia and learn to god-paddle in the bobtismal waters of Raccoon Central.

The materialists propose what amounts to an absurdly false hierarchy with man at the top, but no way to explain how he got up there (since there can be no objective progress in a random and meaningless cosmos). As Schuon explains,

"To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative, or again, that the universal Intellect is the measure of individual existence.... Once man makes himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses."

This is why there can be no philosophy more anti-human than secular (as opposed to Christian) humanism; you cannot turn man into a god without placing him beneath himself, for you will simply create a demon who is beyond good and evil.

"Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such" (Schuon). Therefore, intelligence is the ability to discern the Real from the unreal, or from the "less real."

Furthermore, intelligence itself must share something of the substance of the Real, or it could not possibly know it. Ultimately, Truth and Intelligence must be two aspects of the same thing, or both are meaningless, at least as far as humans are concerned.

As Schuon explains, "the sources of our transcendent intuitions are innate data, consubstantial with pure intelligence." This is a key insight into how and why the intellect "resonates" with divine revelation and with the "inward appearance" of things in general. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, just as our physical eye perceives empirical reality, our spiritual vision is able to perceive the vertical realm. Or, to paradoxaphrase Eckhart, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

To put it another way, Intelligence itself is proof of eternal values, since man's intellect would be inexplicable -- for it would lose its sufficent reason -- if deprived of "its most fundamental or loftiest contents," which include Truth, Reality, the One, the Infinite, the Absolute. To recognize the Infinite is to reject all idols and graven images, including those of science.

Conversely, you can say -- as do postmodernists and other tenured apes -- that objective truth doesn't exist; but if so, then neither does intelligence, so there is no reason to pay any attention to their avowed lack thereof.

Scientific materialism provides us with facts and details, but no wisdom as to what they mean, or even whether it is worthwhile to know them. Philosophy, in the words of Josef Pieper, is simply "the hunt for that which is worth knowing, for that wisdom which makes one unconditionally wise..."

In fact, Pieper's conception is quite similar to Schuon's, in that he regards philosophy as being concerned with reality as a whole and with wisdom in its entirety, which can be seen as two aspects of the same underlying unity. He quotes Plato, who wrote that the lover of wisdom seeks not this or that part, but "integrity and wholeness in all things human and divine."

Clearly this is not so of science (nor should it be), which explicitly limits itself (or should, anyway) to this or that aspect or part of the cosmos, not its totality. It does, however, assume that there is a totality, even though this totality can obviously never be observed or proven empirically. No one but the Creator has ever "seen" the cosmos.

In fact, one could say that Cosmos and Creator are also two aspects of a single reality. There is no cosmos that cannot be known, nor knowledge in the absence of a hierarchically structured cosmos. Again, Being is Truth, at least around these parts of the whole.

To reduce reality to what may be clearly and unambiguously known through the scientific method is to in effect say that "I want to know only what can be made blindingly obvious and is thoroughly demonstrable to the densest man."

Such an approach is not worthy of the name Philosophy. Philosophy begins where science ends, which is to say, at the edge of the known, where it shades off into the vast unKnown that shines forth with a dark light visible to the eye of the soul.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

All This Useless Truth: First Things, Ask Questions Later

First things. First things. First, things. Or, principle first. Then things.

What's first? And who's on it? Things? Or Principles? Or do they co-arise?

Way before I ever encountered Thomism, I attempted to think all this through on my own. Yes, you could say "needlessly," as it turns out, but not necessarily.

I say this because I'm always shocked at how frequently my own free application of reason ends up in the same space as this Thomas fellow. Details may vary -- after all, he couldn't have foretold 700 years of scientific development -- but the broad outlines are similar. Let's say we're in the same school, if different classrooms.

But in any event, we share the same principal, Dr. Furst. Why? Because the One Cosmos mysthead tells me so:

∞ ... LIFE IS OUR SCHOOL, THE COSMOS OUR TEACHER, GOD THE FIRST PRINCIPAL ... ∞

So, in the book of the Sane Gnome, I begin with the question -- the first question, as it were -- of "Where in the world do we begin? Do we have any right to assume that the universe is intelligible? If not, you can stop reading right now and do something else, something that actually has a purpose."

Wait, a footnote, the first one. Let's see what it says. "Bear in mind, however, that if the universe has no purpose, then neither will anything you do instead of reading the book. Therefore, you might as well read the book."

So you see, there's really no way to avoid reading the book. You have no excuse, only pretexts.

Back to the text: "But if the universe is intelligible, how and why is this the case?"

Blah blah yada yada, "Of course we should start our enquiry with the 'facts,' but what exactly is a fact? Which end is up? In other words, do we start with the objects of thought or the subject that apprehends them?"

And hey, "just what is the relationship between apparently 'external' objects and the consciousness that is able to cognize them? Indeed, any fact we consider presupposes a subject who has selected the fact in question out of an infinite sea of possibilities, so any conceivable fact" is bound up with the subject.

So it seems that first things are immediately followed by first questions. That is, humans are uniquely capable of asking questions about the things they first encounter. Knowledge begins with this encounter between subject and object, but doesn't end there, as it does in animals and other atheists.

Rather, human beings may reason about their experience of things -- and, equally important, reason about reason itself. A better name for metaphysics might actually be "meta-epistemology," "meta-pneumatics," or something similar, so the accent is on the unavoidably supernatural properties of reason.

Metaphysics begins in being, not knowledge. Which is why any metaphysic that begins with science is, in the words of Maritain, "false from the beginning," because science assumes being without attempting to account for it.

To use a construction analogy, science analyzes the building without getting into the question of how it got there or who planned it. Indeed, it cannot even address the question without fatal contradictions, e.g., the absurcular argument of natural selection.

But unlike science, metaphysics is utterly useless, which is another way of saying that it is completely disinterested and hence objective. Conversely, science always assumes a point of view, and more generally, a whole paradigm (usually unexamined).

Now, "useless" doesn't imply "worthless." Hardly. To the contrary, "nothing is more necessary to man than this uselessness. What we need is not truths that serve us but a truth we may serve" (emphasis mine).

My fellow Raccoons, ask not what Truth can do for you, and you know the rest.

"For that truth is food of the spirit.... Useless metaphysics puts order -- not any sort of police order, but the order that has sprung from eternity" into man's otherwise rudderless -- or groundless -- intelligence (Maritain).

To express it poetically but then again literally, metaphysics allows man "to gravitate, head first, to the midst of the stars, while he hangs from the earth by his two legs."

In other words, in the Upanishadic formulation, the universe is a tree with its nonlocal roots aloft and local branches down below. Therefore, in the bobservational formulation,

"history is a chronicle of our evolutionary sprint from biology to spirit, in which we first climb down from the trees of eastern Africa and then up the metaphorical Upanishadic tree....

"Thus, we start our journey 'out on a limb' and soon find ourselves 'grounded,' but eventually find a radical solution to our troubling situation, arriving at the root' of the cosmos" ("radical" being related to the Latin "root").

So, where does this leave us? Out of time, for one thing. Still not adjusted to dawnlight wasting time...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Science of Values and the Mythology of Fact

Reader William is a self-refuting idiot. Fact or value?

First he affirms the fact -- or is it a value? -- that "It's a false dichotomy to compare religious belief with evidence based thinking."

But then he marshals misogynistic cable TV host Bill Maher to affirm the very opposite principle, that these two realms are "not two sides of the same coin." Rather, "you don’t get to put your unreason up on the same shelf with my reason. Your stuff has to go over there, on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kraken, with the stuff that is not evidence-based, stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens."

In other words, fact and value are very much dichotomous and irreconcilable. But is this meta-statement about the world a fact or a value? Clearly, anyone with a modicum of philosophical training would recognize it as a value, because it is plainly not a fact that facts are value-free.

Nevertheless, post-literate, post-religious, and post-metaphysical postmodernists typically regard these as opposites, except when they don't.

As we know, if the leftist believes his made-up facts are on his side, he will appeal to them; if not, he will appeal to a "deeper" principle, i.e., that perception is reality, or that no cultural perspective is superior to any other, or that absolute truth is a myth.

Thus, the moment you defeat the leftist with facts, he will pull various blunt instruments out of his relativistic arsenhole, such as critical race theory, gender studies, queer theory, diversity, etc.

For the vulgar materialist/atheist, the existence of facts is unproblematic, uncontaminated by the nebulous world of values. Conversely, the world of values is a fact-free zone of more or less arbitrary beliefs.

But this was not the perspective of our founders, nor is it consistent with centuries of natural law.

For example, Locke -- who was a major influence on the founding generation -- maintained that morality stands "amongst the sciences capable of demonstration," and that it is grounded in "self-evident propositions" with "necessary consequences as incontestable as those in mathematics."

As such, "measures of right and wrong might be made out to anyone that will apply himself with the same indifferency and attention to the one as he does to the other of these sciences" (in Arkes).

Conversely, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how scientific facts are only meaningful within a larger paradigm. For example, the Newtonian paradigm not only doesn't recognize quantum indeterminacy as a fact, but cannot recognize it period.

When the founders affirm that all men are created equal, they do not mean it in any relativistic or culture-bound sense. Rather, they are affirming a truth that is timeless and universal. There is no new fact that can come along and contradict it, because it is an axiomatic moral proposition implied by morality itself. It is certainly not a "value," if by value you mean something inherently subjective and personal.

As is true of any scientific fact, morality is not moral unless it is universally applicable and potentially knowable by anyone.

In other words, just as we say that Greek logic doesn't end with the boundaries of Greece, it is equally true that Judeo-Christian morality doesn't only apply to the Jews and Christians who value it. Rather, if it isn't universally true, then it isn't true at all, for universality is one of the minimum requirements of truth. In the words of Arkes,

"Moral statements purport to speak about the things that are universally good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust -- which is to say, good or bad, right or wrong, for others as well as for oneself."

This being the case, we can see that morality is founded upon universal truths that are accessible to reason. Man can know that a law is moral even if it clashes with his immediate self-interest. Just as certain mathematical truths remain true even if no one knows them, there are certain moral truths that apply to persons as persons.

You will have noticed that leftists are forever accusing conservatives of supporting principles that are in their economic self-interest. First of all, this is based upon a peculiar theory of economics that we do not accept.

Secondly, it only highlights the fact that we support principles that are universal, regardless of self-interest. In any other context, leftists would regard this as "noble" -- such as when wealthy liberals supposedly vote against their own economic self-interest by supporting statists and collectivists.

The moment man is capable of recognizing the existence of the good, this is an occasion for reflection. Does it just mean pleasurable, or good for Bob, or good for this or that group? Or does the word "good" imply a more abstract and universal standard accessible to man's reason?

For Arkes, there are certain objective moral propositions that may be drawn as immediate implications of the very idea of morals and of rational being.

Now, man is often -- more often than not -- bad and wrong, but all men -- as men -- are nonetheless equipped with the ability to reason, including within the moral sphere.

The leftist may concede that all human beings reason about morality, but the existence of so many diverse moral systems proves that there is nothing objective or universal about it.

Thus, in affirming relativism, the leftist necessarily embraces either amorality or immorality, the former inevitably redounding to the latter in any event.

To be continued....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Truth Sets Us Free, Freedom Sets Us on Truth

It may be daylight savings time, but for me that translates to dawnlight wasting time -- one less hour to leave unfinished what I didn't have sufficient time for anyway. Therefore, an edited post from several years back. Because of the edits, it contains some jump cuts that I didn't have time to smooth over.

This post is about Truth and Freedom, since we cannot have the one without the other. For who could argue with the following proposition: "The actualization of truth is no mere natural process but a spiritual event, which takes place only in the lightning-like encounter and fusion of two words -- the word of the subject and the word of the object. Outside of this event, there is no truth" (Balthasar, Theo-Logic).

Thus, if one fails to understand that truth is a supernatural thang, then one has some catching up to do. Nature may embody truth, but it takes a supernatural act to pull a truthy rabbit out of a material hat, to quote Aquinas on one of his rare "off days." No: "The truth of the object exists only so long as infinite or finite spirit turns to it in an act of knowing; the truth of the subject exists only as long as it abides in this act" (Balthasar).

So truth is implicated in both subject and object, but only their mutual encounter "activates" the truth between them, not dissimilar to the erotic spark between male and female. I know you know I know you know what I mean, because the love of truth cannot be separated from its own distinct version of eros, i.e., our innate epistimophila, or what the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas calls the "eros of form."

This is a particular kind of encounter with objects that releases the truth of the self into being. This is why we all respond differently to different objects -- and subjects, i.e., persons -- which have a way of giving birth to a latent part of ourselves. If you think about it, this has mulch in common with the fertile Platonic idea of education, the purpose of which is more to draw out what is within than to stuff the bovine fertilizer into us. (If memory serves, doctor is from docer, to "draw out.")

One reason why I am impervious to the rantings of our trolls is that I knew America was a torture state way back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president. I knew full well that we were no better than the USSR, and that by opposing communism we merely reduced ourselves to their mirror image, just as we do today with the Islamic supremacists. Furthermore, we had just as many political prisoners as the Soviet Union, but we just called them "blacks."

In the spirit of fool disclosure, I must also admit that I actually attended a Noam Chomsky lecture some 20 years ago. I remember it well, because he assured the lunatic crowd that George Bush was poised to invade Cuba and oust our beloved comrade Fidel Castro. In fact, I'm guessing that the only reason we didn't do so is because Chomsky blew the whistle on Bush's nefarious plan.

Another reason why I don't argue with leftists is that I have only to mentally travel back to my own hellseein' daze, and imagine how I would have reacted if a so-called conservative had presumed to instruct me about anything. I was 100% unreceptive, and would use the occasion merely to enlist them into my persecutory fantasy world. Because I was just as intelligent then as I am today -- maybe even more so, given the inevitable loss of brain cells -- I was virtually always able to run circles around myself and repel any interlocutor.

Shame on me. There is no end to the damage to truth caused by the abuse of intelligence. I have never been impressed by Obama's intelligence. Indeed, for those of us who have been there, it is a sorry sight to watch this cognitively arrested boob in action. Obama is not free to discover truth, since he is laboring under the oppressive weight of systematic falsehoods he has passively absorbed throughout his friction-free life. Being good at articulating lies in charcoal activated cigaret-burnished tones should not be confused with being "articulate."

One cannot get to the freedom of truth unless one first appreciates the unfreedom that often surrounds it. The spirit must first apprentice itself to the object world before it can "attain to itself." This is similar to the manner in which one must first master scales and chords before one is truly free to play a musical instrument. In fact, for a true master, the unfreedom and freedom will live side by side for the remainder of one's life. John Coltrane used to practice eight hours a day long after he attained virtuosity.

Things are more than things, and facts are more than facts. If that weren't the case, then we would all be identical, in the way that animals and the tenured are.

For human beings, facts are always enshrouded in mystery, for they are an occasion to know the great Mystery of Withinness. Facts speak to humans, again, in ways that engage us in particularly intimate ways. Take the simple example of this book we're discussing today. Not a single person in the world would have highlighted the same passages that I have. So are the facts in the book? Or in me? Or in the space in between?

If it weren't for the wonderful erotic mystery that enshrouds truth, we'd all be singing from the same boring hymnal. "The event of knowledge would cast a cold, pitiful, shadowless light into every corner, and there would be no possibility of escaping this scorching sun. Being, stripped of mystery, would be, so to speak, prostituted" (Balthasar).

This is the precise opposite of a cynical relativism or spiritually barren deconstruction. Rather, that sort of "radical cynicism only becomes possible wherever man no longer has a flair for the central mystery of being, whenever he has unlearned reverence, wonder, and adoration, whenever, having denied God, whose essence is always characterized by the wonderful, man also overlooks the wondrousness of every single created entity."

There is a perverse joy in this radical cynicism. Nor is it difficult to trace its roots, now that I have a four year old boy who likes to build things, but not nearly as much as he enjoys tearing them apart, knocking them down, or disassembling them to see "what's inside." But of course, there is no inside without the outside. The outside is the manifestation of the inside, just as the inside is the invisible "essence" of the outside. Jettison either, and the cosmos is reduced to a flat and empty place.

The outside reveals the inside, just as the downside reveals the upside.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Religious Knowledge and Secular Belief

Yesterday we took a peek from behind the veil that separates us from five years ago. Today -- since I am once again pressed for timelessness -- we shall dial the time machine back four years, to March 2008, in order to examine the state of the cosmos at that particular moment.

Since this blog is an exercise in vertical downloading -- or verticalisthenics -- time should be of no consequence anyway.

I'm not saying they always succeed, but even stale bobservations are supposed to retain a degree of freshness, since things that are temporally distant in the horizontal are co-present in the vertical -- just as in our hyperdimensional dreamspace, where past and present blend into the eternal yesternow.

Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the previous 1,899 posts -- like them or hate them -- have been "the work of a moment," that moment being the now. As such, in addition to revealing whatever they do about this and that, they should also reveal something about the contours of the now, i.e., the form and not just the content.

So, what is the form of the now? Well, for one thing, it is not reducible to efficient causation, since that specifically runs past-to-present, and is the domain of science. Rather, this is a vertical causation that runs from the top down. You might say that, of the four forms of causation, material and efficient are in the horizontal, while formal and final are in the vertical.

Anyway, on to the post, which now includes a bit of horizontal editing:

[R]eligion translates metaphysical or universal truths into dogmatic language. Now, though dogma is not accessible to all men in its intrinsic truth, which can only be directly attained by the Intellect, it is none the less accessible through faith....

[I]ntellectual knowledge... proceeds neither from belief nor from a process of reasoning, [but] goes beyond dogma in the sense that, without ever contradicting the latter, penetrates its "internal dimension," that is, the infinite Truth which dominates all forms
. --F. Schuon

As we have discussed in the past, what makes man unique is not just his capacity for knowledge, but his capacity to know so many things that are manifestly false. To call this latter thing "knowledge" is a perversion of the term, for knowledge that isn't true isn't proper knowledge at all. Then what is it? Why are human beings so prone to believe nonsense?

Even for most so-called intellectuals, most of what they know is not necessarily knowledge. Rather, it is plainly "belief." Belief is knowledge once or twice removed, for it means that we are placing our trust in the experience of another, or participating in the knowledge of another knower. We don't really know, but somebody does, and we trust them.

For example, no one asks if you "know" about global warming; rather, they appropriately ask if you "believe" in it. And whether you believe in it depends upon whom you trust. In my case, I have enough common sense not to trust those who claim to know what the weather will be like in 100 years.

So much of what people think they know -- but which they really don't know at all -- comes down to whom they trust. For example, with regard to economics, I trust, say, Thomas Sowell, but judge Paul Krugman to be not only untrustworthy, but desperately in need of mental health services.

But it's much deeper than that, because one's understanding of economics is always shaped by one's values. For example, I value individualism, low taxes, the rule of law, and a limited government regardless of the economic implications, because I believe these values create better human beings.

On the other hand, the leftist values collectivism, dependency, big government, high taxes, and an extremely elastic law interpreted by elites, depending upon the needs of the state. I derive my values from religious metaphysics and natural law, whereas the leftist derives his from... from what? From his feelings, I suppose.

For example, if an economist came along and "proved" that slavery created more wealth and affluence, I would still reject that economic theory on deeper grounds. Likewise leftists who reject the principle of non-discrimination, and insist that the law should discriminate on the basis of race. I am against discrimination for the same reason I am against genocide or child abuse. Even a little of it is not a good thing.

Belief cannot establish its own legitimacy, but derives its legitimacy from someone who either knows, thinks he knows, or pretends to know. In this sense, it is superficially similar to faith.

However, belief is generally a static thing. It takes the unknown and superimposes the known upon it, thus foreclosing the unknown. Once one believes something, the issue becomes settled, even if in reality it isn't.

Again, for those who believe in global warming, the science is settled. But it's actually the reverse -- that is, the science is only "settled" because they believe in the theory. Nothing is truly settled until we have arrived at a first principle, or axiomatic truth. Anything short of that is just arbitrary.

Secular fundamentalism has certain superficial similarities to religious belief -- for example, our faith that the universe was created. For me, this is indeed a "settled" matter, and no amount of sophistry could change my opinion. But that is not to say that my opinion is "static."

To the contrary, with the exercise of faith -- which is to be distinguished from mere belief -- one's understanding will deepen and deepen, in a kind of endless spiral. Looked at in this manner, faith is merely a placeholder for the accumulation of meaning.

This is again because profane belief is foreclosure of the known, whereas living faith is a dynamic engagement with the greater unKnown. Faith, properly understood, is not a cognitive structure or grid to be superimposed upon reality. Rather, it is a psychospiritual probe with which to explore transcendent reality -- somewhat like the way a blind person might use a cane to to construct an internal image of the dark space around him (to borrow an analogy from Polanyi).

Furthermore, unlike mere belief, faith should be convertible to real, i.e., "eternal" knowledge. It is actually a subtle and sophisticated way to gain knowledge that transcends the senses, not a means to provide false but comforting answers and to vanquish curiosity.

Scientific knowledge, by definition, is always relative, whereas religious knowledge is the closest human beings can come to knowledge that is "absolute." In fact, religious knowledge partakes of the Absolute; or, to be exact, it is "infused" with the Absolute, so that any part of revelation mirrors the whole, so to speak, as in a fractal. (Or, in the words of Joyce, a part so ptee does duty for the holos.)

Thus, many people of faith are actually "people of (implicit) knowledge," whereas many so called intellectuals are actually no more than simple "people of faith." You can really see what little genuine knowledge people have when the discussion revolves around something you do happen to know about, whether it is quantum physics or plumbing repair.

For example, in my case, I happen to possess a lot of theoretical and first hand knowledge of psychology. Most intellectuals who claim to know about psychology don't actually have this kind of first hand knowledge. Rather, they have simply placed their trust in an expert whom they choose to believe. Thus, they have placed their will higher than their intellect; or, at the very last, their intellect is in service of the will to believe.

This is not a bad thing, so long as the will is in the service of Truth. But most of the really serious problems of mankind -- the real wholesale evil -- are a result of the will in service to falsehood, e.g., communism and national socialism.

I remember having a number of discussions with a world-renowned leftist historian who shall go unread. His historical thinking presumed a great deal of psychological knowledge, for how can one claim to study human history without some kind of implicit or explicit theory of human development and motivation?

And yet, his psychological ideas were so outdated and unsophisticated as to be laughable. Yes, he had his own psychological "experts" whom he relied upon -- probably some fashionable ideas he picked up here and there from fellow leftists in the faculty lounge -- but I knew that his faith in these experts was entirely misplaced.

Ironically, it is just so in any debate between an obligatory atheist, or secular fundamentalist, and a man of genuine faith or gnosis. True, many people of faith simply place their trust in someone who knows -- or claims to know -- and leave it at that.

But others do know. They know directly, in the manner of vision or hearing. How then to discuss this knowledge with the obligatory atheist -- that simple and unsophisticated secular man of faith -- who has placed his childlike trust in those who not only do not know but obnoxiously insist that there is nothing to know and no way to know it anyway?

Imagine, say, an 18th century medical expert, the kind that killed George Washington. He has all of the latest knowledge on disease. He knows all about the four humors, about the proper placement of leeches, about how germs are spontaneously generated by bad air, etc. Someone comes along and tells this arrogant fellow that germs aren't spontaneously generated. Rather, there are invisible microorganisms covering his hands, living things that he is actually unwittingly transmitting to his patients. Would this doctor not be far closer to the truth if he ceased believing his experts and stopped trusting his self-confirming personal experience?

As expressed by Josef Pieper, "belief has the extraordinary property of endowing the believer with knowledge which would not be available to him by the exercise of his own powers."

Furthermore, "being wise with the head of someone else is undoubtedly a smaller thing than possessing knowledge oneself, but it is far to be preferred to the sterile arrogance of one who does not achieve the independence of the knower and simultaneously despises the dependence of the believer."

Since we begin the spiritual path without explicit knowledge, we must inevitably place our faith in the testimony of someone who does (or did) know (or who is perhaps knowledge itself). Ah, but how do we know that this person isn't a mere believer himself? How do we assess their credibility and trustworthiness? By what signs do we judge the false from the true prophet?

Human beings are equipped with means to apprehend exterior reality. But we are also curiously equipped to apprehend the interior reality of persons. It is said that a sophisticated scientist, strictly speaking, does not only judge the merits of a scientific theory on the basis of whether it is "true" or "false." Rather, he does so (at least partly) on the basis of its generativity, that is, by how much it explains, how well it ties together various other facts and observations, and the extent to which it gives rise to new and "interesting" problems.

Have you ever known a generative person in whose presence you experience the bracing flow of "life" along your keel? Have you ever been in the presence of a stagnant and lifeless person in whose psychic presence you feel your soul being sucked out of your body?

The spiritually generative lumin being does not merely report reality. Rather, such an individual imparts reality. You might say that they are a door. Or you might say that they are a way. Or perhaps they are even the life.

They know. And we know that they know. And soon enough, we know too. Call it recollection and recognosis.

An esotericism is addressed precisely to those "that have ears to hear" and for that reason have no need of the explanations and "proofs" which may be desired by those for whom esotericism is not intended.... Christ necessarily spoke from an absolute standpoint, by reason of a certain "subjectivization" of the Absolute.... --F. Schuon

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Navigating the Cosmic Winds to the Edge of the Known

Unlike most blogs, this really is one, in that it is a "web log," or public verbal diarrhy that charts my own little cosmic adventure in time and space. What I mean is that it is always taking place in "real time," similar to jazz improvisation, which is being composed on the spot.

To put it another way, if I were just some kind of "expert," presuming to tell you what I supposedly know, then it would be another thing entirely. When I write, it is always with a sense of discovery. I don't know what attracts readers to my writing, but I do know what attracts me to it, which is precisely this sense of adventure that is taking place in the moment. I have no idea what's going to happen next, any more than you do.

Now that I think about it, an image comes to mind, of literally being at the edge of the (or my) known cosmos, and trying to use language to push further into the unknown. I don't expect it to be like this for anyone else, but that's what it's like for me. If I learn something through the process -- which I do -- it is a result of abandoning myself to forces or agencies of which I am not consciously aware. They are very much "other," like the Dreamer who dreams our dreams.

Again, the image comes to mind of a sailor, who is guiding his vessel via forces he cannot see or touch, i.e., winds and currents. Are there cosmic winds and currents? Of course there are cosmic winds and currents.

Which is why, when I repost something, it is like revisiting where I was in the cosmos on that particular morning.

Okay, busted. What I really mean is that I'm pressed for time and have to get ready for work. So here's where I was in the cosmos five years ago this month:

What the devil?

Good question. According Schuon, the devil be "the humanized personification -- humanized on contact with man -- of the subversive aspect of the centrifugal existential power; not the personification of this power in so far as its mission is positively to manifest Divine Possibility."

In other words, the Absolute, insofar as it manifests in time and space, radiates from a cosmic center to the periphery ("the centrifugal existential power"), somewhat like a series of concentric circles with God at the center. God's energies are like radii emanating from the center outward, while the different concentric circles are the various levels of being, or the cosmic hierarchy. (You can also picture it as a cone, with the "point" of God at the top, degrees of manifestation below.)

Therefore, although everything is ultimately God, not everything is equally God. The idea that everything is equally God leads to pantheism, which is an indiscriminate flatland philosophy no more sophisticated than bonehead atheism. It is logically equivalent to saying everything is not God. Or one might simply say "everything," and therefore "nothing" -- it doesn't matter, or mind, for that matter.

In any event, nothing is that simple, let alone everything, let further alone the Divine Nothing-Everything at the center of it all.

Now ultimately, everything "is God" in some sense, but God is not the sum total of everything. Things vary in their proximity to God. You yourself know when you are close to, or distant from, God, even though God hasn't gone anywhere.

We call the movement toward God "evolution," but we should probably come up with a different term -- perhaps Adam & Evolution -- so as to not confuse it with mere natural selection, which reduces the transcosmic fact of evolution to a random and mechanical process of meaningless change.

But it goes without saying to anyone with common sense and uncommon vision, that the greater cannot be derived from the lesser, and that there is presently no plausible theory whatsoever that can account for the miracle of the human subject, which represents a miniature "cosmic center" within the whirling microcosmos of man.

And like the cosmic center of which it is a mirror, the individual center has a natural tendency to radiate outward and lose itself in the playful phenomena of its own creation, or the form of its own sensibility, as Kant would have it.

However, in its properly balanced way, this radiation leads to further centration, not dissipation. For example, when we love what is beautiful, we identify the soul's "within" by locating it in the without, which has the effect of strengthening our central being.

Conversely, if we love that which is ugly or "know" what is false, this has the effect of diminishing our center -- which, at the same time, necessarily pulls us further from God, the cosmic center.

The periphery must be -- i.e., there must be things that are more or less distant from God -- but this does not mean that they need be evil. Nevertheless, as Schuon implies, the divine radiation results in "cosmic interstices," so to speak, where evil enters the picture. This is where the soul-cancers arise and take root. It is one of the inevitable even though unsanctioned possibilities of the Divine radiation, somewhat like an existential blood clot.

The cosmos is permeated with arteries that carry "oxidized" energies away from God and veins through which creation returns to its source. Only human beings may partake of this circulatory system in a conscious way, and become co-partners in the divine plan. It's an offer we can and do refuse, although no one in their right mind would do so.

On the one hand, creation is already "perfect," being that it is a metaphysically necessary but unnarcissary objectification of God. Nevertheless, by virtue of not being God, it cannot be perfect, but can only "become" perfect through man's conscious participation.

Or let us say that perfection is only a possibility because it is woven into the very warp and weft of creation. If it weren't, we wouldn't even have the word. Nor would we have the words for truth and beauty if they were not coursing through the arteries of existence as divine possibilities. Truth is either "invented" or it is "discovered." If invented, then it is not true. If discovered, then it is of God -- or at least underwritten by God, the Absolute.

Now, today we find ourselves in a struggle of truly cosmic proportions between forces representing the human personification of the centrifugal existential power -- which is a very real, even if derivative and parasitic, power -- and those representing the center (or evolutionary return to the center).

It's funny where one can pick up important ideas, but a couple of days ago I heard a promo for the new Dennis Miller radio program. In reference to the weather hysteria of Al Gore, Miller said words to the effect of, "hey, I'm not worried about the earth -- I'm worried about the world."

Exactly. The earth is simply an object deposited somewhere roughly in the middle of the arc of creation. The human world, on the other hand, is very near the top -- or at least the bottom of the top. If you imagine that the earth is a fragile and delicate thing but the world is not, then you are quite naive.

In particular, the world of the West -- the wonderful world created by Judeo-Christian principles -- is without question the most rare and precious thing in all of creation, since it represents the apex of the possibility of the cosmic return to God. In a sense, it is even more precious than individuals -- who are intrinsically infinitely precious -- since it is the only guarantor that the individual may actually discover his unique idiom and become himself, thereby being an individual reflection of the cosmic center.

Let's be honest -- this is why it would suck to have to endure the horror of being born in most any other time or place. Given the choice, would you want to be born a Saudi? A "Palestinian?" A feudal serf? An Argentinian? A Cuban? Lost most anywhere in the continent of Africa? Why? What would be the point? In most times and places, there has been no way for you to do anything but remain frozen in your little cosmic rut with no options.

Now, the cosmo-political battle in which we are engaged is ultimately between forces who deny hierarchy and those who affirm it; and those power-mad drunks who ride the centrifugal waves to the periphery, vs. those who soberly partake of the centripetal return.

Importantly, those who deny hierarchy do so -- either consciously or unconsciously -- with the intention of replacing the natural hierarchy with their own illegitimate one. This is where all the false absolutes of the left enter the picture and set up shop (remember those cosmic interstices alluded to above). Left alone they become cancers, which means that, as they grow in strength and intensity, they actually begin to take on a gravitational attraction of their own.

You might even say that they become an alternative cosmic center that sets itself against the real one. It arrests progress -- the cosmic return -- by pulling both the innocent and guilty into its dark principality. Its methods are moral relativism, multiculturalism, and "critical theory," or deconstruction; its defender and guarantor is the coercion of political correctness rather than the "lure" of Truth; and its goal is the reversal of the cosmic order, the instantiation of the Fall, the obliteration of the vertical, and the exaltation (and therefore bestialization) of man, thus sealing his spiritual fate and ending the possibility of divine co-creation and theosis, or God-realization.

It is appropriate that these cosmic tyrants are called "Democrats," for democracy is a system of information flow that can lead to the higher or to the lower. In fact, it will inevitably lead to the lower if we do not acknowledge at the outset that there is a higher toward which democracy must orient itself. In other words, in the absence of hierarchy, demo-cracy will become exactly what the word implies, which is to say, tyranny of the horizontalized masses, or demo-crazies.

This is why the ads for Air America can insist that they are the "real majority," a bizarre statement on its face unless one understands that this is the leftist substitute for truth. Or as Jim Morrison sang, The old get old / And the young get stronger / May take a week / And it may take longer / They got the guns / But we got the numbers / Gonna win, yeah / We're takin over / Come on!

Who's taking over? In point of fact, the crazies of the left are half correct, in that we are ultimately faced with the choice between democracy and theocracy. The American founders, in their infinite wisdom, chose theocracy, in the sense that the only legitimate purpose of democracy could be to preserve and protect the spiritual freedom of the theocentric individual. In short, they created a benign theocracy that would be mediated not from the top down -- which is never a real theocracy, but man-archy -- through thousands and now millions of godlings, or "divine centers." But a democracy mediated by mere animal-men will sooner or later lead to the Reign of the Beast.

In the specific sense we are using the word, theocracy is "the only guarantee of a realistic liberty" (Schuon). Otherwise, the centrifugal riptide in which secular man stands soon leads to the following ideas: that "truth amounts to the belief of the majority," and therefore, that the majority for all intents and purposes creates the truth, which is one of the explicit assumptions of the left -- i.e., "perception is reality."

Under such berserkumstances, authority cannot appeal to truth, but "lives at the mercy of the electors," which in the end degrades them by patronizing them. Schuon adds that this doesn't mean democracy is impossible, but that "it is primarily a question of... an inwardly aristocratic and theocratic democracy" as envisioned by the Founders.

The adage vox populi vox Dei has no meaning except in a religious framework which confers a function of “medium” on the crowds; they then express themselves not by thought but by intuition and under the influence of Heaven..., so that the feeling of the majority coincides in any case with what may be called “the good".... --F. Schuon

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Come for the Sex, Stay for the Tyranny

I've been thinking lately of the "break in being" represented by man as we find him. Everything else in the cosmos just "is," from matter on up through animals. But man is always in some way divided from himself, which you might say is his gift and his curse.

With regard to the gift, what sets man apart from the rest of creation is his "self-consciousness," which implicitly posits a self of which we are conscious.

Ah, but there is the split: consciousness on the one hand, self on the other. Animals -- or let us just say "life" -- are also split off from the cosmos, except they have no conscious awareness of this fact. In order to know this, consciousness would have to wrap around itself, as it does in human beings. Only man may become "critical," so to speak, capable of offering everything from reasons and explanations to pretexts and likely stories.

In "hindsight" -- which is also "downsight," vertically and ontologically speaking -- humans can see the various splits that are necessary for humanness to exist. We could also call these "multiplicities" that are necessary for the higher unity of humanness to reconcile in order to be "one."

For example, life seems to somehow exist apart from matter. While obviously dependent on matter, it dances upon its precipice, somewhat like a whirlpool, which is a form created by the ever-changing water coursing through it. Thus, the form cannot be reduced to "water," since the water is always changing.

Same with life. Any biological entity is a kind of stable form through which courses matter and energy. The same can be said of the person, except on a higher plane. Our minds are constantly taking in information and emotion, and metabolizing them via experience. For human beings, existence is the metabolism of experience.

Evidently, man cannot be man without being aware of the splits that define him. Take, for example, Genesis. The "story of man" begins with the story of a primordial division that exiles man from his true station.

In this excerpt of J.G. Bennett, he writes of how parents and culture encourage and facilitate this split condition, which they apparently regard as "normal":

"If we study our own childhood, and that of any children growing up around us, we can see how, by every means, we and they are led to accept, and to prefer to exist in, the dream state. The one thing that everyone without exception impresses on children is the need for insincerity, the need to appear to be other than what one is, to hide what one is and appear different" (emphasis mine).

This is a systematic form of "crazy making," because it forces one to distrust one's own perceptions and eventually reject and abandon one's intuition. In raising my son, I am very much aware of not doing this to him. For example, when I was a child, I couldn't help but notice that certain adults were creepy, or crazy, or anxious, or annoying, or weird, or stupid, etc. But I could never discuss these intuitions in a free and frank way with my parents. Rather, adults were people one respected.

I also teach my son to respect -- or at least be polite to -- others, but not to ignore the subtle stream of data given to him by his perceptions. Thus, of our neighbors, he knows that this one is a harmless nut, that that family across the street is rather loud and unrefined, that this lady is anxious and prone to projection, that that mother is a fearful, humorless, controlling, and judgmental "liberal" who is afraid of toy guns and thinks there is no difference between boys and girls, etc.

When the person is alienated from himself, it is not as if the alienated core just closes up shop. Rather, as Bennett writes, "there is a progressive shutting out of all the experience of possibilities, and their replacement by dreams, and, with dreams, just living in the functional life only."

As a result, "man gets divided into two parts. He gets shut up in the world of facts and shut out of the world of possibilities" (emphasis mine).

I was propelled down this path this morning after reading this excellent talk on The Origins of Political Correctness (ht Vanderleun). Lind correctly points out that the regime of political correctness is just a new from of Marxism, or of Marxist principles applied to man and culture instead of economics, where it is too easily disproved.

What is so insidious about it is that, like Genesis -- which it explicitly replaces with its own counter-myth -- it recognizes the primordial split referenced above. Any religion begins with a "diagnosis" of man, for which it then offers the treatment.

Likewise, the pseudo-religion of cultural Marxism begins with a diagnosis of man, and finds him to be irredeemably stupid, to such an extent that he is incapable of recognizing his own interests (never ask why liberals are so sanctimonious and superior, because this is how they see you if you aren't one of them). If you are not a liberal, it is only because you are essentially infested with mind parasites of various kinds, including religious, patriotic, class, gender, and sexual parasites.

Thus, you need to be purged of these impurities. Since not everyone can afford to take the cure at an elite college, the purging process has to be much more widespread, extending into elementary education, entertainment, and media in general. Only then will you be capable of recognizing your own economic interests (and there isn't any other kind).

As Lind explains, Marxism and Freudianism had a baby known as "critical theory." This theory has no "positive content," so to speak; to be perfectly accurate, it does, but it conceals this sinister content behind an epistemological omnipotence -- i.e., industrial grade cynicism -- capable of dissolving the most settled truth acquired by man in his slow struggle up from barbarism. Thus, it truly results in the re-barbarization of man, at which point the "new man" may be programmed into him.

As alluded to above, never wonder about the source of the liberal's sanctimony and superiority; likewise, never wonder about the barbarism, i.e., the body mutilation, er "art," the celebration of animal sexuality, the replacement of morality with "authenticity," the promotion of homosexuality and other deviations, the mindless attacks on tradition (which are fundamentally no different than the Taliban blowing up religious statues), etc. Man must be demolished and demoralized in order to begin history anew.

Thus, the purpose of Critical Theory "is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring down Western culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down an alternative. They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it can’t be done, that we can’t imagine what a free society would look like (their definition of a free society). As long as we’re living under repression -- the repression of a capitalistic economic order which creates (in their theory) the Freudian condition, the conditions that Freud describes in individuals of repression -- we can’t even imagine it. What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing. It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way, designed to bring the current order down" (Lind).

Consider the bait-and-switch involved in the "sexual liberation" of the 1960s. Yes, animal sexual was "liberated," so to speak, with the result that human sexuality was eclipsed. As Murray documents in his Coming Apart, the liberation resulted in a vast increase in cultural pathology, including broken homes, fatherless children, criminality, abortion, new and deadly venereal diseases, etc. But progressives do not call this "pathology." Rather, for them it is progress: the progress of breaking eggs in order to cook your goose.

Herbert Marcuse was one of the most prominent feelers of the new left, and was quite explicit about the use of sex for political ends (which we saw repeated just last week with the disingenuous Georgetown Skank):

"Classical, economic Marxism is not light, and most of the radicals of the 60s were not deep. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for our country today, and not just in the university, Herbert Marcuse.... saw the 60s student rebellion as the great chance" to begin refascining man.

In Eros and Civilization, he "argues that under a capitalistic order... repression is the essence of that order and that gives us the person Freud describes -- the person with all the hang-ups, the neuroses, because his sexual instincts are repressed. We can envision a future, if we can only destroy this existing oppressive order, in which we liberate eros, we liberate libido, in which we have a world of 'polymorphous perversity.'"

This is the bait: "here is a guy writing in a way they can easily follow. He doesn’t require them to read a lot of heavy Marxism and tells them everything they want to hear which is essentially, 'Do your own thing,' 'If it feels good do it,' and 'You never have to go to work.'"

Here is the switch: "America today is in the throes of the greatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by the power of the state.... The terror against anyone who dissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it.... it’s not funny, it’s here, it’s growing and it will eventually destroy, as it seeks to destroy, everything that we have ever defined as our freedom and our culture."

Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Of Moonbats & Sunspots

About those degrees of knowledge: we all know what they are, even if we can't explain how they relate. After all, no one treats rocks like persons, or mathematical equations like bricks, or spirits like-

Not so fast!

As we know, there is a neurological condition called synesthesia, in which the senses are confused. Thus, for the synesthete, colors may have distinct sounds, sounds may have flavors, or numbers may possess personalities. This is commonly experienced under the influence of psychedelic drugs, e.g., "listen to the color of your dreams" (J. Winston).

In fact, there was a lot of this going around in the '60s: strawberry alarm clocks, electric prunes, peanut butter conspiracies, chocolate watchbands, marmalade skies, etc.

But as it so happens, my pal Bion developed a heuristic device he called "the grid," which looks like this:


The grid is so simple, that I'm surprised no one ever thought of it before. Basically, the vertical axis has to do with the evolution of thought, while the horizontal axis has to do with the uses to which the thought is put.

Thus, for example, it is indeed possible to treat ideas as rocks, as the left proves every day. On the grid, the "rock idea" would be at the intersection of "concept" on the vertical axis and "action" on the horizontal.

You might say that this political synesthesia involves the use of sophisticated ideas such as "liberty" or "democracy" for purposes that are sub-ideational. (The converse can also occur -- the sophisticated deployment of a primitive idea -- for example, when Islamists use a telephone, airplane, or toilet.)

Consider the primitive manner in which the ACLU uses the Constitution. They love the Constitution, not for its intended purpose, of course, but as a bludgeon with which to club opponents and impose leftist polices.

The grid explains how and why, when the left uses words such as "equality"or "justice," they mean -- or intend -- something entirely different than we do. It is why leftists are always "activists," and why they all want to change the world (and man) before they have undertaken the formality of understanding the world.

Which is why you must never deal with a leftist as if they are intellectually honest, because that is the one thing they cannot be. If they were, then they couldn't win a single debate. They win by assuming your honesty, just as the Islamists win by assuming our decency.

To understand the world is to change the world, one assoul at a time. Which is not fast enough for the left, which doesn't care about individuals anyway. As Obama says, they want to fundamentally transform the nation, in a vast top-down imposition of central authority.

In the Degrees of Knowledge, Maritain proposes to outline a synthesis of the integral man, "starting with the experience of the physicist and ending with the experience of the contemplative."

Again, we can all agree that there is an empirical world revealed to us via sensation, e.g., touch, sight, and sound. Above this is a rational-mathematical world that cannot be perceived by the senses. Rather, it is in the realm of abstract thought, but certainly no less real and enduring than the sensory world.

Science as we have come to understand it deals with worlds one and two, although there are some sciences that consist of more or less pure abstraction and deduction, others that rely upon observation and induction.

Bion, for example, specifically attempted to make psychoanalysis more of a logico-deductive discipline than an empirico-inductive, by developing a system of abstract symbols to stand for various psychic categories and entities. In my book, I attempted the same thing vis-a-vis the spiritual dimension. It can be done. It's just that no one will really care until around 2075, when the Raccoon movement goes viral (or parasitic, depending upon your point of view).

After the rational/mathematical comes the metaphysical, although it should be clear that one can't really have worlds one and two in the absence of some (usually) unarticulated metaphysic containing implicit but necessary propositions.

For example, science cannot operate without various metaphysical assumptions such as the unidirectionality of time, the principle of non-contradiction, or the reality of the external world. Similarly, Darwinism cannot account for the cosmo-organismic wholeness that is a prerequisite for natural selection to operate. It cannot explain wholeness, only work with it.

While metaphysics leads to certain necessary truths, such as the existence of God (in the form of first cause, unmoved mover, pure act, etc), it cannot disclose the "within" of God. Thus, metaphysics leads us to the penumbra of the Ultimate Real, but not beyond a certain threshold. Knocking on heaven's door, as it were.

Having said that, because of the properties of this Ultimate Real, the latter can indeed radiate down into metaphysics, leading to an intellectualized form of "infused contemplation," or a metaphysic that reflects some of the luminosity of the Divine Object.

For me, Schuon accomplishes this, as he always makes it clear that he's attempting to communicate a vision, not just articulate a thought. Or perhaps it is a thought-vision that is still at least one degree removed from the beatific vision -- like standing in the corona of the sun, but not fully within. Schuon would be the first to draw this clear distinction, no matter how sublime the metaphysic.

But of course, when you get right down to it, we're all in the sun, aren't we? We can draw a distinction between the light flooding into my window and the vast explosion going on in the heart of the sun, but no such line can actually be unambiguously placed anywhere -- any more than there is a real ontological divide between a baby inside and outside the skin-boundary of the mother (speaking of intellectual honesty interfering with a desired action).

So, who's to say that the photosynthesizing leaf is separate from the photopropagating sun? Perhaps a leaf is just the sun's way of establishing centers of light elsewhere in the cosmos, just as the exploding stars of which we are composed are just the big bang's way of making a lot of little bangs.

Or, better yet, perhaps the sun is just a way to make sure the universe will contain leaves.

One question, Bob. Can I buy some pot from you?

Monday, March 05, 2012

Tracing the Dimensions of the Soul

Ah. Now I remember why I was intrigued by Maritain's The Degrees of Knowledge back in the day, when I was working out the Raccoon metaphysic.

To back up a bit, recall that I only completed the latter project in the spring of 2006, subsequent to mountain biking after a brush fire had passed through. The fire had exposed a vintage Kaiser Willys, with a skeleton in the front seat still clutching a rough draft of the Protocols of the Elders of Bensonhurst sketched out on a badly decayed cocktail napkin.

This provided the missing piece for which I had previously searched everywhere for well over ten minutes -- the area rug that pulled the entire cosmos together -- and which represented the crapstone to our solution to the World Enigma.

Finally, I had in my trembling hands the means with which to March Fourth on a soph-surfing trialogue at the edge of the subjective horizon on wings of rest, i.e., Slack, the latter of which is the soothing "interstitial fluid" in the handy spaces within necessity.

As I have mentioned before, I didn't initially come at this huge mythunderstanding from a Christian perspective. Which was ultimately a good thing, because frankly, I never could have done what I did had I known what I was doing. Because I didn't know any better, I was free to violate disciplinary boundaries, blend irreconcilable thinkers and doctrines, engage in friction-free leaps of logic, and obey revealed hunches as demanded by expediency.

Now comes this Maritain fellow who claims to have accomplished the same thing from a Christian standpoint! In 1932! Why didn't I know about this? Indeed, the Thing had essentially been accomplished some 700 years ago, and only required some touching up and tinkering at the edges in order to make it fully conversant with the scientific progress that had taken place in the interim. Here was no apologetic Uncle Thomist, but a Thomist apologetic capable of speaking to our age of stupidity.

When we talk about "the degrees of knowledge," we implicitly acknowledge the degrees of being that correspond to them. In my case, I divided these into the convenient categories of matter, life, mind, and spirit, each reflecting a different mode of being and requiring a different manner of knowing.

For example, one cannot know spirit empirically. However, one can know matter spiritually, being that truth emanates from the top down, not the bottom up.

When we talk about these essential distinctions, we are really talking about the vertical. As Maritain says, "Every attempt at metaphysical synthesis, especially when it deals with the complex riches of knowledge and of the mind, must distinguish in order to unite." What is necessary above all is "to discriminate and discern degrees of knowing, its organization and its internal differentiations."

Looked at in this manner, any form of scientism, for example, is a non-starter, because it reduces the hierarchical complexity of the world to a vulgar monism. In so doing, it reduces reality to our most simple way of knowing it, and in the process denies any reality outside its narrow scope. "Leveling," says Don Colacho, "is the barbarian's substitute for order."

In the past, I have discussed the idea that the measure of soul is depth. To put it bluntly, a developed soul will see much more deeply into the nature of reality, whereas a shallow soul is satisfied by staying on the surface of things. The deep soul knows that no merely scientific explanation can ever satisfy man, whereas the shallow soul seems content to play in the little blandbox of efficient causes.

However, Maritain adds to this the dimensions of length, breadth, and height, which I had basically subsumed under depth. In any event, when we refer to these categories, we are referring to hidden or implicit dimensions of reality that are just waiting to be unpacked by man.

In a phrase I am very much tempted to steal, Maritain refers to the fundamental fact of a cosmos that is boundlessly intelligible. But it is only boundlessly intelligible to the extent that there exists an unbound soul to witness and testify to it.

To cite an obvious example, for the Marxist, the world is surely intelligible, but not boundlessly so. Rather, Marxism serves the function of placing sharp boundaries around reality. Dialectical Materialism explains everything, with no remainder. Indeed, if you deny it, you are actually an instance of it.

I came across an unintentionally funny example of this at HotAir this morning, Does college really turn people into liberals? The authors cite some silly studies to deny the obvious, and conclude by stating that if you believe otherwise, then it's only because you are trying to protect "economic power." In other words, they trot out a classic Marxist explanation to deny their own Marxism, reducing great complexity to a simple pseudo-economic explanation.

Which reminds me of a quip of Don Colacho to the effect that the easiest way to dismiss a counter argument is to attribute it to its supposed motivations. This is the cognitive Swuss Army Knife of the left, in that any idea that threatens these wusses is attributed to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. Which is why, as Don Colacho says, the denial of hierarchy ultimately results not in "equality," or the elimination of class, but in two classes. And you are in the wrong one.

Back to those dimensions of depth in the soul. For Maritain, "length" bears upon "the manner in which the formal light that characterizes a particular type of knowing falls upon things and defines in them a certain line of intelligibility."

For example, in my case, I attempt to trace things back to (and before) the big bang, or forward, through the realms of matter, life, mind, and spirit. To put it another way, to deny this line of continuous development is to deny and even maim a vital dimension of the soul.

"Breadth" has to do with "the ever-increasing number of objects thus known." As such, a truly all-purpose metaphysic that is worthy of man, will explain the material world as well as the subjective world, without reducing one to the other. But to reduce mind and spirit to matter is the ultimate case of denying the breadth of the soul.

"Height" involves distinguishing the "different sorts of knowing" and "the degrees of intelligibility and immateriality of the object." In other words, it deals with vertical differentiations in the hierarchy of existence and being.

Finally, "depth" speaks to all those "hidden diversities," i.e., those relatively autonomous sub-worlds which are constantly disclosed to the mind that is free -- i.e., the liberal mind, as opposed to one that is servile to ideology.

To be continued....