Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Human Progress and the Metabolism of God

If we are going to search for the origins of humanness -- and more to the point, the origins of you or me or I -- we're going to need to know what we mean by "human," aren't we?

True, we can take the easy way out and say that a human is someone who can mate with another human and produce human offspring, but that's both circular and meaningless, in that we share that characteristic with every other mammal and reptile. We could take the liberal approach, and say that a human is someone whose mother doesn't want to abort him, but that is way too subjective, not to mention bereft of even rudimentary logic.

For Purcell -- following Voegelin -- there are three major pulse points in history, when humanness dramatically emerges like the big bang it is: "in the Hebrew Bible, in classic Greek philosophy, and in the New Testament."

This troubles me right away, because in my book I trace the big bang of human consciousness to around 50,000 years ago, as evidenced by the sudden florescence of all that beautiful art in those early mancaves.

Obviously we must be operating with a different definition of humanness. I would agree that something quite unusual occurred to the ancient Greek and Hebrew peoples, but I regard it as somewhat analogous to a celestial "solar flare" that was picked up and assimilated in different ways by different cultures. Furthermore, man had to already be there in order to receive the transmission, as opposed to the transmission "creating" him.

I'm thinking of Karl Jaspers' axial age, which saw the downloading of various revelations and realizations, from Plato to the Upanishads to Lao Tzu, Buddha, and the Jewish prophets. This diverse logogenetic activity culminates in the logos actually taking on human form. In other words, it is first dispersed more widely into cultures before being narrowly focused in a particular person.

I notice that the wiki article also references Voegelin, pointing out that he "referred to this age as The Great Leap of Being, constituting a new spiritual awakening and a shift of perception from societal to individual values. Thinkers and teachers like the Buddha, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Anaxagoras contributed to such awakenings which Plato would later call anamnesis, or a remembering of things forgotten."

Remembering of things forgotten. This is another way of saying "vertical recollection," which, in the Raccoon view, is simply the inverse of psychoanalysis. In other words, just as there is a lower vertical -- the unconscious -- there is a higher vertical -- the supraconscious -- which it is man's vocation to colonize. Hence, the more being we colonize, the more humanness we manifest or actualize. The psyche is a kind of hyperdimensional space, but it is up to us to explore as much of it as possible, for its horizons are endless.

To put it another way if God is, as Thomas suggests, "pure act," then by the law of inverse correspondence in the herebelow, man would be something like "pure potency." This would account for Man's relative infinitude which must be actualized in time, whereas God's "infinite infinitude" is present all at once in an atemporal (i.e., eternal) mode.

This also makes sense of one of the favorite wisecracks of the early fathers, that "God became man so that man might become God." Or, more simply, we can just say O (↓) so that (¶) (↑), culminating in ʘ. ʘ is when your divine adoption papers become final.

As we have discussed on many occasions, man is an open system, both horizontally (obvious) and vertically (evidently not as obvious, at least to the tenured). With respect to the axial age outburst -- or perhaps inburst -- alluded to above, Bergson called these "the opening of the soul" (in Purcell). Purcell adds that this was "the period when human beings first reflected explicitly on their own nature and origins, breaking more or less decisively" with myth (emphasis mine).

This is another useful way of looking at it, one touched upon in my book. That is to say, Life Itself emerged when that first molecular entity "wrapped around itself," so to speak, in a time-binding defiance of entropy. Likewise, humanness is clearly characterized by consciousness -- which animals obviously possess -- wrapping around itself in a recursive manner, which one might say is the basis of our self-consciousness, and with it, the possibility of a progressive mental metabolism.

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion called this mental recursiveness "alpha (α-) function," in the absence of which we cannot metabolize experience. In fact, one could say that when a person enters psychotherapy, it is almost always because of some failure in α-function. The patient is "suffering" some sort of experience that cannot be metabolized, converted to linguistic meaning, and deposited in the memory bank.

Thus, instead of the recursive and soul-building spiral, the soul is trapped in the body's neural circuitry. At the extreme this becomes obsessive compulsive disorder, but we are all prone to the occasional "neural eddy," if only in the form of an earworm from a song we can't get out of our heads.

My most recent obsessive-compulsive patient is a case in point vis-a-vis the failure to metabolize experience. For example, before leaving her apartment she had to kiss her cat repeatedly -- I'm talking dozens of times -- and even then had to simply tear herself away in order to get out of the house.

Exploration revealed that this ritual revolved around unresolved feelings of abandonment and separation. Because she could not face -- and metabolize -- the latter, she lived it out symbolically at the expense of her cat. Kissing the cat would temporarily diminish the anxiety, but it would always return.

Interestingly, the patient was deeply ambivalent about taking medication to resolve the problem, because she was afraid it would cause her to become insensate to the feelings. This demonstrates how the OCD concealed something "vital" to her being, which she was not prepared to give up.

I want to add something about α-function and the apprehension of the metaphysical/theological One. Among other things, α-function is able to resolve a mass of data into a higher unity. Thus, the move from mythic polytheism to strict monotheism represents a psychic achievement and purification of the first rank (not without backsliding, of course), and sets the stage for the later emergence of science, which assumes the oneness of creation.

In any event, at around the same time, expressed in different ways, we see the "discovery of the One" -- or Absolute -- among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Upanishadic sages.

But there is nevertheless this -- what to call it? -- abyss between the One and the many, God and man. In my opinion the gradual "closure" of this abyss is man's vocation, precisely, and is the very measure of our earthly quest. It is why we are here, you might say, for it seems that most everyone, whether atheist, agnostic, or theist, wishes to be in conformity to Truth, and we all have a deep intuition that this Truth is ultimately One, whether we call it O, or God, or the physicist's chimerical TOE (theory of everything).

Must stop. Running out of time. To be continued....

Monday, April 09, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Person

To review: there is more difference between man and ape than ape and planet, being that when cosmic evolution crosses the threshold of Man, it enters a vast and inexhaustible Within that might as well represent a second cosmos. And yet, there can be only One.

This second cosmos is somehow "within" the existing one, and yet, transcendent of it. Thus, in his own way, man has a similar relationship to the cosmos as does God, i.e., both immanent and transcendent. Which is what it means to be a mirrorcle of the absolute, i.e., microcosmos, and why nothing short of the absolute quenches man's innate thirst for absoluteness.

As Schuon writes, "One of the keys to understanding our true nature and ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing."

Now this vast and protean cosmic interior is bound up with the universal Quest. Obviously no material object embarks upon a quest to discover its origins and destiny, nor does a dog give a hoot about where it came from so long as it is fed, watered, and walked. And yet, if one is a strict materialist, man's quest would have to be considered utterly quixotic and as doomed from the start as that of any other dog.

Yes, a houndfool of auto-condemned souls conclude that human existence is absurd, and leave it at that (even fewer can actually consistently live in such a desiccated fantasy world without constantly barking at the ghosts they deny). But man is not built this way, and it goes against human nature to imagine and project an absurd cosmos. Rather, meaning is everywhere and at every level of existence.

That being the case, it shouldn't be a surprise that existence is ultimately meaningful. Indeed, to say that meaning is everywhere except in the whole is analogous to affirming that every part of an object is white, but that the object itself is black, like Obama.

So everyone has a story, a story that confers meaning upon the person who tells it. And if this story gets you through the night, hey, who are we to argue? Just don't try to impose your father's gin-soaked dreams on the rest of us, okay?

Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery is his own story, his own attempt to situate himself within our 13.85 billion year cosmodrama. As it so happens, this is impossible to do without recourse to thousands of other cosmodramas.

In fact, this is one of the most baleful effects of living in any kind of totalitarian regime: that only one drama is permitted, e.g., the drama of Darwinism, or of scientism, or of Marxism, or of White Oppression. Yes, you are "free" to discover your life's meaning, so long as it is approved by the state and doesn't cramp its lebensraum.

"Mass education" is a key to facilitating the kind of concentrated power lusted after by the left, for if everyone thinks the same way -- lives in the same narrative bubble -- this makes their job a lot easier. "Thought," such as it is, runs in only one direction, converging upon the almighty state. There is a reason why so many of the wealthiest zip codes in the land encircle D.C.

Conversely, a liberal education is anathema to the state-media narrative of the left, because people might discover a meaning that clashes with state interests. Thus, for the state to "allow" school vouchers is as likely as the IRS operating on the honor system. Without coercion -- whether intellectual or economic -- there is no left. One cannot claim to be "against bullying" while sending money to the DNC.

One of the keys to life is discovering the useful narratives. One might even say that this is the ultimate purpose of an education. How can it be that one can complete thirteen or seventeen or nineteen or twenty-four years of education without having encountered a multitude of these? That was me: after twenty-four years of schooling and one Ph.D., I was pretty much just starting out. But at least they put me on the dayshift.

Purcell writes that as he embarked upon his quest to explore the inner dimension of the cosmos (i.e., humanness), he discovered "a thousand and one mirror quests" in "the multiplicity and variety of quests of other individuals and cultures" down through the ages.

What this means is that, as we set out on our quest, our primary data is not the world per se. In other words, none of us starts from scratch. At the very least we are given a language, a culture, a tradition, a particular family, etc. But for the person who wants to go beyond the given, our data includes the "quests" of a multitude of others, separated in time and space by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Man is a temporal mountain range containing many peeks behind the veil.

This is a key point raised by Chesterton in his Orthodoxy. That is, mankind is one, not just in space but in time. By no means are we permitted to consider the dead as mere links to us -- as if their only purpose was to serve as stepping stones to something better. If one is an evolutionist, that is the inescapable conclusion: nothing simply "is," but is always on the way to something else. Including the evolutionist.

But just as it is immoral to treat a living person as a means and not an end, treating past generations as means robs them of their dignity as persons: "If we don't respect those who have gone before us, who will respect us when we are gone?" This is why no one in the future will respect, say, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. They will be tossed on the same rubbish heap as the persons they denigrated and disrespected in life. Except those folks won't be there. D'oh! What dreadful company.

For Purcell, "meditative re-enactment of the expressions of the quests of others, animates our existence with a heightened sense of the worth of human existence -- our own and others -- and grounds a sense of human family that is universal across space and time." Another word for this is tradition, which is essentially the temporal prolongation and iteration of an essential truth.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Tinkling into the Void

As I was saying yesterday before the conspiracy snatched the pencil out of my hand, "Same here. In my case, I -- " was puzzled by the most basic ontological distinction in the cosmos between subject and object -- specifically, how the I AM of the former relates to the IT IS of the latter. In no way could I understand how one could ever derive the I from the IT, unless it -- meaning I -- were somehow there with IT to begin with.

A casual and eventually thoroughgoing acquaintance with science and philosophy establishes the fact that most thinkers don't actually deal with the issue, but rather, simply stop asking questions at some point, thus violating the principle of sufficient reason, which says that any effect requires a cause adequate to account for it; which is a fancy way of saying that you can't get blood out of a turnip.

Another way of looking at this question is to say that before we look for an explanation, we have to first decide what would constitute one. Therefore, if you're following me, one not only has to have an idea of what would constitute truth, but this idea must lie outside or "above" the explanation itself.

This is where evolutionists and materialists in general run into so much trouble, eg: man is just another animal, animals are just the expression of selfish genes, and that's the truth. One of these statements is not like the others!

Bryan Magee has a good analysis of the problem in his fine biography of Schopenhauer:

"It is possible for us to pose some sort of Why? question with regard to anything. As Schopenhauer puts it: 'The validity of the principle of sufficient reason is so much involved in the form of consciousness that we simply cannot imagine anything objectively of which no 'why?' could be further demanded."

Now, the core of any discipline, whether science, philosophy, history, or law, revolves around this question of sufficient reason, of which there are different kinds. For example, physical causation is not the same as moral causation. If Al Gore defenestrates Keith Olbermann, and Olbermann falls on and kills a pedestrian below, we do not hold Olbermann responsible for the death. Yes, he is the direct material cause, but that is not a satisfactory moral account.

For Schopenhauer there are four main kinds of sufficient reason: the type of direct physical causation that occurs, say, between billiard balls; mathematical determination; logical entailment; and the sort of "motivated action" that can only arise from a free subject, or mind.

In each case, philosophical questions arise, but the first three categories are not nearly as problematic as the fourth. But even then, if you really want to be a noodge, you can ask a physicist, for example, "but what exactly is energy?", or "what is the cause of mathematics?" "[T]he scientist gestures in the direction of the philosopher," who then pretends to answer the question. The metaphysical theologian raises his hand and says "I know I know I know," but they refuse to pick him.

The bottom line is that "science is, in a serious sense of the term, occult, in that it explains everything else without itself being explained" (ibid). Ironically, this is one of the definitions of God, i.e., the uncaused cause.

Equally ironic is that, at the end of the day, after all the science has been, er, settled, "the mystery of the world as such would be as great at the end of the process as it had been at the beginning" (ibid). Why? That's why: because we can still ask why?

In lieu of the above, we could probably save a lot of time with a one word, all purpose protest: Gödel!, proving once again that you can't crack the cosmic egg without breaking out the umlaut.

For "the laws of logic, like the basic concepts of science, and the axioms and the rules of mathematics... must involve circularity, since they themselves generate the justification procedures in their universe of discourse" (ibid).

But interestingly, we all recognize the flaw in this approach when it comes to moral justification. Our whole legal system is -- or was, before liberals hijacked it -- built around the idea that we do not allow people to get away with crimes just because they felt morally justified in doing so.

This whole discussion hits rather close to home, because, as a forensic psychologist, I am routinely asked to give a precise opinion as to what "caused" a patient's "psychiatric injury."

The problem here is that there is an utter conflation between the kind of causation that applies to matter with the kind of causation that is adequate to explain mental events. In no way am I permitted to provide fully comprehensive explanations appropriate to the subject -- for example, the percentage of causation that may be attributed to man's fallen nature, or just the fact that life is hard, so deal with it. Rather, I must pretend that the all mental causes are as discrete and proximate as those in a game of billiards.

In any event, as Magee explains, "there is a point where natural science, and indeed every branch of knowledge, leaves things as they are" and "does not go beyond this point."

Looked at this way, the belief that the "big bang" ends the discussion of our origins is no better than the belief that the cosmos was caused by the god Witoto taking a leak into the void. Neither one satisfies me. I mean, I certainly prefer the former, but it's not as if it's a self-sufficent explanation.

For example, where do all those elegant equations governing the big bang come from? Who knows, maybe Witoto tinkles them into the void.

Or maybe, just maybe, as reveiled in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, it was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo.


To be continued...

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Did I -- Of All Things -- Get Here?

I have exactly 35 minutes to my nameless. Maybe I can manage this time-squeeze I'm under if I just speed-type my spontaneous bobservations without pausing to reflect.

Let's do this thing. Go!

About that comment yesterday to the effect that there is more difference between a man and a monkey than between a monkey and an inanimate object. I would go even further and say that there is sometimes more difference between men than between men and animals.

One needs to be cautious here, because by no means does it imply that every person isn't of infinite value. But I was thinking of JWN Sullivan's remark to the effect that -- musically speaking, of course -- there is a greater distance between Beethoven and the average man than between the average man and a dog.

There are indeed a handful of men who tower above the rest, whether saints, or scientists, or novelists, poets and painters. Why is this?

I believe that it is essentially a necessary consequence of the ontological category of "man," who contains within himself all the hierarchical degrees of being, and spans the entire cosmos in both space and time, vertically and horizontally.

That being the case... Put it this way: it is analogous to the biosphere, in which there are no gaps whatsoever.

In other words, wherever one goes on the planet, from the deepest depths of the ocean, to the north pole, to the hottest desert, to the wastelands of MSNBC, there is some form of primitive life that has found a way to adapt itself to environmental conditions. It has found its niche.

But there is also a vertical space uniquely inhabited by man. This space too is populated wherever one travels within it. Indeed, one can go to hell and back -- Dante proved this -- but one will always find footprints of our predecessors and/or contemporaries (and occasionally descendants from the "future").

Even if one regards "hell" as a metaphor of the Freudian unconscious, this dimension was well-traveled even before Freud came along. It's just that he demythologized it and attempted to fit it into a scientific/mechanistic paradigm. But that is impossible, for the same reason religion cannot be so contained.

In fact, religion as such bears upon the ultimate container, not the contained. To imagine that one could ever be the former is to 1) misunderstand religion, and 2) create a narcissistic monster. Science becomes scientism -- and evolution evolutionism and politics religion -- when it presumes to be a self-sufficient explanation.

Back to the Beethoven-man-dog thingy, the point is that vertical space is densely populated, with some people near the top, others closer to the bottom.

But man possesses such protean gifts, that almost everyone has something that places him near the top, even if it is only -- only! -- kindness, or mothering, or decency, or sincerity. For example, although Beethoven was in the stratosphere musically, his interpersonal skills were evidently closer to a junkyard dog.

More generally, saints are not usually sages, scientists are not philosophers, celebrities are not political scientists, community organizers are not statesmen, etc.

Interesting, however, that someone like Thomas Aquinas was indeed both saint and sage, and at the highest levels. In his case, this convergence was necessary, because there is a kind of personal purity needed to disclose the realities he touches upon.

I think I have mentioned in the past that the ultimate question motivating my book was: how is it that I am possible? And I don't necessarily mean that in any special way, rather, just the naked fact of the most unexpected thing one could possibly imagine in a cosmos.

It turns out that in order to answer the question, you can't just say, for example, "my parents just happened to stumble upon one another, and you know the rest."

Yes there's that, but there's also cosmology, history, anthropology, linguistics, etc., etc., etc. It turns out that Purcell is motivated by that same question -- the very Question that defines man:

"What led me back to philosophy from psychology was a sense that, as a human being, I myself wasn't really, at least not exclusively, 'an object,' the kind of a thing a science could wholly encompass [read: contain] and explain."

Rather, "I realized I'm something other than a world-immanent thing -- a subject -- and that there's an inexhaustibility to the within-ness that marks me out as a human being as distinct from a galaxy, an ecosystem, or an animal."

Same here. In my case, I-

STOP! Please lay down your pencil, return to time, and prepare for work.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Man and His Endless Jnani Quest

No, that's not just a strained pun. Look it up: knowledge, specifically, knowledge that is "inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total reality or supreme being." (A jnani is on a quest for jnana.)

You see, occasionally English lacks the mot juste -- mot juste being another -- to describe certain things, including spiritual realities. And even if we did have such a word, it would probably be saturated by now, which is where our sacred wordplay, or punnishantics, come in, so as to remystify the language. In short, it helps us keep the good news new and our nous to the groundstone.

According to Purcell, there is a universal Quest "that summons all true human beings to the heart of the human mystery." Are "quest" and "question" etymologically related? I don't know, but Purcell says that we are not the answers, nor is "the source of the summons even... clear to us." In short, there is no self-sufficient explanation for the mystery of man and his wonderlust about the Mystery.

To back up a bit, if you don't recognize that man -- i.e., your existence -- is a mystery, then you are dismissed. You are way beyond -- or before -- my capacity to help you aggravate the mystery or shed any further obscurity on matters.

In a letter, Dostoyevsky wrote that "Man is a mystery. One must solve it.... I occupy myself with this mystery because I want to be a man" (in Purcell).

Isn't that a bit t-t-tautologous? Man is a mystery, but the pursuit of this mystery is somehow intrinsic to what it means to be a man. You're a mystery, Mister O! And the worst thing you can do is perform a mysterectomy on yourself. Rather, leave it to the experts: the tenured.

Now, you might suppose that a standard autobiography is a kind of transparent plunge into the mystery, but that approach usually leads nowhere if it fails to link up with the Source. In other words, the individual self is literally a kind of inexhaustible mystery, but this "inexhaustibility" provides a clue to the Big Mystery, since man is a kind of "finite infinitude" which mirrors the infinite infinitude of O.

Therefore, if you imagine that your bullshit will ever run dry, you're only fooling yourself. You'll never find God that way, because you're already in the ocean searching for water.

Now that it is understood that man is embedded in a cosmic drama extending back no less than 13.85 billion years -- that History is much longer than anyone ever supposed -- it is frankly impossible to write a comprehensive autobiography without taking into consideration, say, the big bang, the evolution of life, and the emergence of human consciousness; and on a more micro level, one's prelinguistic development (before the age of five), which is itself a vast undiscovered country, an infinite ground in its own way.

By which I mean that if we are deprived of certain ground-floor experiences during this sensitive period, our quest for the Ground will be compromised later in life. The psychoanalyst Michael Balint wrote of the "basic fault" (as in "fault line"), which can even be seen as one way in which man perpetuates his ancestral Fall from generation to generation. A person haunted by the Basic Fault often spends his life in pursuit of what might be called "dark mysteries," or thrilling perversions and secret compulsions of various kinds.

Pardon the abrupt transition, but I am glad to see another writer tackling the "discontinuity problem" of human beings. In fact, Purcell makes a useful distinction between the fact of evolution and the ideology of "evolutionism," which is analogous to the critical distinction between science and scientism, of which every educated person should be aware.

The dogma of evolutionism maintains that there is no ontological distinction between man and animal, an absurd metaphysic that immediately runs aground for reasons Darwin himself intuited:

"With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

The answer is no, of course not. That being the case, where is the line in nature at which point monkey convictions become reliable and trustworthy? The ideology answers -- and disproves -- itself if one is honest.

Recall that in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, the individual chapters are so arranged as to be both discontinuous -- i.e., discrete and numbered, just like any other book -- but also continuous and flowing, apparently unlike any other book. This complementarity signifies a number of things, including the ontological discontinuity -- the evolutionary leap, which evolution supposedly cannot do -- of man.

Yes, we are aware of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, but that is merely another attempt at a natural explanation to "save the appearances" of what is clearly a transnatural phenomenon.

One of the themes that runs through From Big Bang to Big Mystery is that human beings "are both continuous with the evolutionary process and discontinuous with it." I for one know exactly what he means when he references Walker Percy's observation that there is "more difference between a human and an animal -- let's say an orangutan -- than between the animal and the planet Saturn."

Everything thus far has been introductory. Details will be filled in as we proceed down this mysterious rabbit hole.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Scoping the Cosmic Competition

First of all, take a look at the cover:


Look familiar? We're obviously describing the same object:


His is just a little more sloppy, or impressionistic, or sloppy drunk, that's all. Same bang, same torus-shaped object emanating outward from a central point of infinitude, which is both source and destiny, alpha and omega. Both are renditions of O. Truly, we have been drawn into the same attractor, right down to transformations of the same invisible visual image to convey it.

We are of course talking about Brendan Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution, which, like our One Cosmos, attempts to pack the whole existentialida -- the whole cosmic drama -- into a combo-plate in the head of about 300 pages. It is the only other recent book of which I am aware that synthesizes everything from physics to anthropology to paleontology to biology to history to mysticism to theology to mind parasites into one convenient narrative -- but in a non-stupid manner, since anyone can do it the other way.

There are differences, however. I would estimate that his bibliography is about twice the size of mine. Hard to tell because of the different sized fonts, but his runs to over 20 pages, whereas mine is only 11. However, this quantitative difference reveals a qualitative difference, in that mine has much more of a "top-down," synthetic approach, whereas his is much more of a bottom-up endeavor.

In my case, I was guided by a clear and distinct vision and narrative that organized the material below, whereas his relies more on an overwhelming amount of scientific data, from which an attempt is made to discern the overarching pattern stretching from 13.7 billion years ago to the present moment. Perhaps that's why his cover art is so much more sloppy. You might say that mine suggests the supernatural order of Dante's realism, whereas his is more postmodern.

Who is this Brendan Purcell? According to Professor Backflap, he is an ordained priest who is currently adjunct professor of philosophy at Notre Dame. His previous book was called The Drama of Humanity: Towards a Philosophy of Humanity in History, while he also co-edited Voegelin's classic Hitler and the Germans. In fact, he is hugely influenced by Voegelin, whom he knew personally. In his bibliography there is more Voegelin than anyone else, essentially the complete works, which would probably take about five years to get through, assuming one has other responsibilities and a slight streak of masochism.

Speaking of whom, our bibliographies contain many of the same names. This is not an academic observation, since it reveals the "clues" we both regard as significant. In other words, faced with the infinite mass of data before us, we both honed in on particular sources.

At the same time, we had some mutually exclusive influences, including some who are quite central to my approach, thus accounting for differences in sensibility and emphasis.

For example, I don't expect that too many other people -- well, none actually -- will share my enthusiasm for W.R. Bion, Allan Schore, Robert Rosen, Valentin Tomberg, James Joyce, and Fritjhof Schuon, especially in combination. You'd think the combination would make for one weird stew, and perhaps it does. Yes, that would explain a lot. The elusive "royalty check," for starters.

I think it's safe to say that Purcell's approach is much more mainstream, both scientifically and religiously. Obviously we are burdened -- or liberated, depending upon your EQ (eccentricity quotient) -- by the whole Raccoon thing, from which we could not escape even if we wanted. I think Purcell would say that he wants to "engage" the other side, not wage a polemical and unproductive battle with them.

But from our more bobnoxious perspective, this has as much chance of success as attempting to reason with a liberal, which we all know is as productive -- and perverse, frankly -- as milking a bull. As we say, liberalism cannot be argued out of, only awakened from.

That being the case, it is only more true of Spirit, to which we must also awaken, not be argued into. Arguing helps, of course, but only if one is dealing with an intellectually honest and uncorrupted spirit who is inclined to accept the evidence and willing to humble himself before Truth.

This is just a very short intro, since I'm already pressed for time, so let's start with the big picture, and get into details later. This Big Picture is the idea that all human beings -- even the wrongheaded ones we don't like -- are motivated by the same Quest, which is none other than the Cosmic Adventure, the search for the Eternal Ground.

Although their metaphysic will not allow them to admit it to theirproudselves, even -- or perhaps especially -- Marxists, leftists, metaphysical Darwinists, doctrinaire atheists, secular fundamentalists, and positivists of various kinds are all seeking the same ultimate Truth, except in a self-defeating way that assures failure. However, this hardly means that we can't benefit from this or that genuine relative truth they discover, since all truth is of the Holy Spirit.

Damn, I think I'll just stop now, because it will be too frustrating to stop once I get started. Gotta wake the boy in five minutes, and then drive him to school. To be continued....

But first, another snapshot of the cosmos, just because:

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Limits of Leftism: Death, Tyranny, and Grown-ups

Just a brief thoughtlet, more worthy of a tweet, whatever that is.

The Supremes obviously want to know what the "limiting principle" is behind Obamacare, but they're about 75 years too late, since they will search in vain for any such principle in leftism.

To put it another way, leftism is the principle of unlimited government, so it has no intrinsic limitation. It is omnipotent, omniscient, and utopian, hence "offended" by your petty -- and probably evil -- objections. You can't get too much of Never Enough. And there are no moral or rational limits to a Limitless Science.

The Party of NO! just spoils the Party of Hearty. But the latter can never be independent, dammit, because they require all that cash from productive adults in order to keep the party rolling.

Get Out of My Life, Rethuglicans! But First Could I Borrow About Ten Trillon?

The left does, however, have an extrinsic limiting principle. It's called "conservatism." Conservatism is the only limit on unlimited government, the adult "no" to the infantile "more!"

Which goes back to the bobservation cited by the hysterical Kosbag in yesterday's post, because the situation is indeed very much analogous to the parent/child dialectic, in which children need parents to set limits and boundaries. A child without boundaries soon enough becomes a monster in some form or fascism.

If one fails to internalize these boundaries, then a whole range of pathology results, both personal and, more problematically, sociological. It wouldn't bother me so much if boundaryless people only destroyed themselves. Sad, maybe, but Darwin is a cruel master, and the least fit among us are often permitted just one big mistake.

If one cannot behave like a civilized human being, one is much more likely to encounter a limit in the form of a jail cell, a dreadful disease, a bullet to the chest, etc. ***cough***trayvon***cough cough AKA "No Limit Nigga." What a dramatic way to discover one's limit. D'oh!

Fatherless children often find a rigid and punitive father later in life, in the form of cold iron bars or hot lead projectiles.

What is the limit of homosexual acting out, of having thousands of anonymous sexual encounters, like Patient Zero? In his case, the limit was the free-swinging scythe of AIDS. Once that condition is controlled, you'll see a recrudescence of the same sort of behavior that caused the virus to flourish.

Indeed, what is the limit of male heterosexual acting out? It used to be something called "female discrimination," also known as "taste," "standards," or "a future." Eliminate these, and manhood soon enough devolves to Andy Warhol's definition of art: what you can get away with.

Actually, there is another limiting principle of leftism: reality. But if reality isn't respected, it exacts a terrible vengeance, so it is more than just a limit.

It's very much like science, in that we obey nature in order to control nature. Disobey nature -- including human nature -- and the account will be balanced, one way or another, sooner or later, by God or by Darwin -- and sometimes by God through Darwin.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Godding About the Voicinity

No, I'm not yet caught up with my work. Made some progress, but I still need more time to get my existential account out of the dread and into the slack.

For my own edification I've been trawling through the arkive, trying to see where the live bodies are buried. I'm only six month in, but the good news is that I haven't found much that's worthy of eternity prior to April 2006, so don't waste your time back there.

If memory serves, there was some point that I gave up trying, which is when the quality improved. Once out of my own way, I could express things more in my own way. Or, maybe each post is a new attempt to "get it right," so that anything before today is obsolete.

I did find one item of comedic value, when a diarrheist at Dailykos bestowed upon me the title of Most Obnoxious Man In America:

"No, it's not Bush and it's not Cheney. It's Robert Godwin. Not heard of him? Well, this man, a clinical psychologist, continually attacks the left and liberals as mentally ill, as having pathologies, of being sick in their soul. He does this in a beautiful way, as he is undoubtedly intelligent, just severely severely skewed.

"Go ahead and check out his latest post on his blog. Sample quotation:

Leftism continues to be a children's crusade against the adult world, and we are in desperate need of adults who will stand up to the children and not worry about trying to be their "friends." As a parent, you simply must do what you need to do, because children don't really know how to raise themselves. The spirit of rebellion that animates the Left is oedipal to the core, so to gratify it is to create a monster.

Here are some of the more articulate comments at Dailykos:

by gad
what a pompous twit.

by bumblebums
some people should never be educated
they just spew nonsense with fancy words and that fools the REALLY dumb people

by RumsfeldResign
how much does he get paid to say that filth? And by whom?
Follow the money!

by Tamifah
i think he does it from a sense of duty which is perhaps more worrying than doing it for $$$. it is a disorder.

by kingfelix
Are you sure it's not a sense of "doody"? He's a mean, mean, doody-head. Doody, doody, DOODY!!!

Seriously, even if he's sincere, the party of the rich always has enough money to see to it that their mouthy little spokesturds like him never have to eat ramen or worry about the rent. Follow the money, indeed. There's always enough to keep scumbags like him and Tucker Carlson in clean bowties.

by drewfromct
Thanks for highlighting the circus sideshow named Godwin.
Gads these guys are scary.

by Cool Blue
A sophmoric twit for sure, but the most obnoxious man in America, for the 18th consecutive year, is Pat Robertson.

by Olds88
given his professional capacity and his erudition, it makes him more a full blown obnoxious fascists than robertson , limbaugh, o'reilly, and falwell.

by kingfelix
This shrink guy is just an embarrassment to his profession.

by Olds88
yeah, but if the caysh was'nt there he'd be sellin some other snakeoil, or some line of bs. Ain't none of these guys doin any of that stuff for nothin'. I bet you he's into porno and hookers.....and wears women's lingerie when he's psychologizin'.

by Manix
We could temporarily revoke, uh, Godwin's Law, and compare this guy Godwin with members of a certain German political party.

by Manix
whenever I think about this guy, I can't help but do a Nazi salute.

by lazybum
This guy's bad. And Pat Robertson and his ilk are bad too, but I wouldn't say obnoxious. Awful pieces of dog shit who are dangerous to America, yes. But obnoxious implies that certain nails-on-the-blackboard kind off effect when you hear their voice and their comments.

by GUGA
That post has its historical basis in the way white southern men viewed themselves as Cavaliers, noble and pure in soul, as opposed to the debased and wretched northern Puritans. Opposition to slavery was the prime example of Puritan soullessness.

by YellowDogBlue
his hatred is obviously self-hatred directed outward at those he secretly admires.
Conservatives are mentally ill. He is a classic example.

by theyrereal
An egregiously bad writer.
Stick to your day job, Robert, whatever it is. And the next time you feel the compulsion to write, lie down until the feeling goes away.

*****

I also found the following, which I like:

I think it’s fair to say that on this side of manifestation, God in the cataphatic sense is a verb, whereas the apophatic God-beyond-being must be a noun. That latter "dimension" of God is called silent, still, unchanging, unqualified, etc., whereas the only God we can know must be “Godding” somewhere about the vicinity, or we couldn’t know about him.

In fact, the only way we ourselves can know about God is by religioning. A religion is not primarily something one “has” or “knows.” Rather, it must be something one does -- like playing a musical instrument in order to make music present.

I always say that one doesn't generally become religious after deciding with the mind or ego whether or not God exists. Rather, one becomes religious in order to find out for oneself. Just as science is the appropriate means with which to study the properties of the natural world, religion is the means with which we study the properties of Spirit.

Whatever the quantum world is in itself, science cannot say. Looked at this way, it’s a particle. Looked at that way, it’s a wave.

It is just so with religion. Religions are ways to look at (and even “through”) God in order to reveal different aspects and dimensions of him. But this doesn’t mean that the entire enterprise is subjective, any more than quantum physics is subjective just because knowledge of the subatomic realm depends upon the way we look at it.

So the question really isn’t whether or not God exists. The existence of God can easily be proven to someone who is inclined to believe the evidence. To someone not so inclined, no amount of evidence will suffice.

Being that God is real, how do we actually make him ex-ist? That is, the literal meaning of exist is to “stand out.” Thus, in this way of looking at things, something can be real but not exist.

While we cannot manufacture grace, we can do many things that interfere with its operation or which facilitate our awareness of its presence.

Which is why it is so helpful to associate with “men of ascending tendency.” Of course, there are many neutral or descending relationships we cannot avoid, which is all the more reason to be part of ascendiation of people who are serious about the spiritual life.

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.