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....