Monday, July 09, 2012

Critters and their Crater

The Knowa's Arkive? The Seer's Catalogue? Yeah, I'm as curious as the next guy about what's actually buried down there. It seems like leaves under leaves under leaves dropped from the tree of life, resulting in so mulch humus nonsense. Is it true what they say? You know, the voices in my head? That if you read all 1989 posts you could reassemble the cosmos from scratch?

If so, I wouldn't be the first person charged with feckless driving behind the cosmic wheel. For example, Joseph Campbell, in the Skeleton Key, writes that Finnegans Wake "is a huge time-capsule, a complete and permanent record of our age. If our society should go smash tomorrow... one could find all the pieces together with the forces that broke them" within its pages. It is "a kind of terminal moraine in which lie all the myths, programs, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millennium. And here, too, will be found the love that reanimates the debris," for the latter "is not brickdust but humus."

In fact, Joyce even addresses this in the book, in the Manifesto of Alp (Book I, Chapter 5). In it he details the "mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest" which "has gone by many names at disjointed times" but always comes back to "Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!"

In mother worlds, there is the Male principle and there is the Female principle, and the mamafestation obviously has to do with the latter: with existence itself as the "other" scripture and (p)revelation, which complements the first: specifically, it is "Mother Nature's partial revelation of the majesty of God the Father; simultaneously it is the broken communication of that revelation through poetry and myth..." Not to mention rib-takling laughter, the guffah-HA! experience you should be having right about now.

Poetry and myth -- and music and laughter and beauty -- are, one might say, the complement and consort of sober science and teetotalitarian rationality. Which is why so many souls who fall into barren scientism are, ahem, "confirmed old bachelors," which is a polite way of saying compulsive homotextuals in a ghetto of one-storey bildungs.

On to this fallen leaf from exactly four years ago:

Excuse me, orificer! There's a hole in my crater! And a ghost in my post!

Which turns out to be a good thing, because without it, there would be no space for your own understanding in the bewilderness.

Let's talk about this smoking crater at the center of history. First of all, it doesn't just represent a horizontal discontinuity that divides history between BCE and AD, but a permanent vertical entrance -- and exit.

So there is both temporal and a spatial discontinuity; there are horizontal energies memorialized and sent forward by tradition, but vertical energies that continue to rain down and fertilize tradition "from above." (It's also where the saints and bodhisattvas rise and fall in and out, and where Petey and I meet for launch.)

Usually, to forget one of these streams results in a lack of spiritual efficacy, although not always, being that allowances must be made for the spirit blowing where -- and in whom -- it will. Still, the cross serves as an apt reminder of the vertical and horizontal energies that meet and harmonize in the crater of the human heart (or heart-mind). Of course, the heart must be "broken," which is again a kind of bewildering space that lets the light in.

With regard to the horizontal aspect of the crater, "before" and "after" take on absolute meanings instead of just relative ones. This recalls Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which is based on the absoluteness of the speed of light. Just as time slows down as we approach the speed of light, so too does history as we approach the crater. Prayer, contemplation, meditation, ritual, slack retrieval, the 5:00PM tippling point -- these are all vertical modalities that both slow down and dilate time (for the one is a function of the other) and allow us to exit history. Woo hoo!

This is surely what the author must have been referring to on Page 181 of the Encirclopedia, where it is written: "As a consequence of their apparently deathbound little selves, human beings began envisioning and longing for the whole, for an ideal existence located somewhere in the past, an eden, or in the future, a heaven, where all tensions are resolved, the circle is unbroken, and we are returned to the source from whence we came."

On the following page, it is written that a few vertical explorers were able to follow "a newly discovered current of being through to its non-local source upstream, far away from the terminal moraine of the outward-turned senses." They then identified "a passage [which is to say, a w-hole] hidden in plain sight, through which lay yet another altogether surprising but felicitous discovery: A Mighty Strange Attractor at the..."

Hmm. That's strange. The sentence ends just like that, at the end of the chapter. It's like the last stair is missing, and the book just drops off into a big crater or something... Oh well...

Anyway, if you read the pre-Christian pagan literature, you can see that this yearning for redemption or escape was becoming particularly intense and explicit as the Christic singularity approached -- for example, the poet.... what's his name, Jeeves?

I believe you are referring to Virgil, sir.

Yes, that's the geezer. In his Eclogues, he writes of "a new age that is about to begin. A child, the first born of the new age, is on his way from heaven" (Beckett):

A great series of centuries is born from the whole of time. / Now a virgin returns, the golden age returns; / now its firstborn is sent to us, down from the height of heaven. / Look kindly, goddess of childbirth, on the birth of this boy; / for him shall the people of iron fail, and a people of gold / arise in all the world

Come soon (for the hour is at hand) to the greatness of your glory, / dear offspring of the gods, great child of Jove himself! / Look how the round world bends in its weight, / the lands, the tracts of the sea and the deep sky; / look how all things rejoice in the coming time!

In order to be able to think about this, we need to appreciate the effect of a hyperdimensional object crashing down into history ("look how the round world bends in its weight") and then sending its waves both "forward" and "back" ("look how all things rejoice in the coming time!") These temporal waves have been sent "forward" -- not just by the impact of the original event, but amplified (or at least prevented from entropic degradation) through time by the collective ("tradition") and by certain elevated fleshlights (saints, doctors, mystics, etc.). Look at Augustine. He was already 400 years out from the singularity, and yet, still feeling its shockwaves as if it had happened just yesterday.

In fact, just as with physical entropy, it seems that if the original wave isn't renewed and given periodic "boosts," it will begin to fade. I can feel this quite vividly if, say, I read the early fathers -- who were much closer to the impact of the singularity -- and compare them to your uncoontemporary salesman of profit-driven churchianity.

In fact, this is one of the reasons Schuon was such an advocate of tradition, since there is a kind of spiritual entropy that slowly neutralizes the revolutionary effect of the revelation and eventually replaces it with the "human nature" it is designed to remedy. This entropic effect must be constantly battled, both in the individual and collective. Call it "conservative" if you like, but it's trying to conserve an explosive revolution, ya' knucklehead!

Think, for example, of how liberals take us further and further away from the original intent of our timeless "political revelation," the Constitution. The process is very similar -- which is why a so-called "conservative" is simply someone who wishes to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of the Founders.

In truth, all valid spiritual traditions will have something analogous to the Smoking Crater. Certainly the Torah serves this purpose in Judaism, for it is the infinite written in finite form. As such, it "explodes" all attempts to contain or reduce it to any mere human dimension. It's like a bomb that never stops exploding; or perhaps like a bush that burns continuously without being consumed.

Similarly, of Buddhism, Schuon writes that "Like a magnet, the beauty of the Buddha draws all the contradictions of the world and transmutes them into radiant silence; the image deriving therefrom appears as a drop of the nectar of immortality fallen into the chilly world of forms and crystallized into a human form, a form accessible to men."

In this regard, we can see that Christ is also like a lens in which the vertical energies are gathered and focused, just like a magnifying glass that can use the sun's rays to start a brushfire -- which Dupree insists he did not set, because he was here with me at the time throwing water balloons at the school bus.

Schuon calls this an "amazing condensation of the Message in the image of the Messenger," who also represents the "infinite victory of the Spirit," or the priority of the vertical over the horizontal. Note that Jesus said "it is expedient for you that I go away." Why is that? Because he needed to make sure that the crater stayed empty, which is to say, full of mystery.

Now, certain aspects of the teaching -- the "whole truth" -- can only actualize in time, as the waves move forward. This is because, to paraphrase Schuon, the original event must create the context for certain implications to be worked out. This is the necessity of the Church, or of Tradition, which "has the function, not only of communicating vital truths, but also of creating an environment adapted to the manifestation of spiritual modes of a particular character."

He goes on to point out that in religion, "some few centuries after its foundation, one sees a fresh flowering of a kind of second youth, and this is due to the fact that the presence of a collective and material ambience, realized by the religion itself, creates conditions allowing -- or requiring -- an expansion of an apparently new kind." One thinks of the fifth century that produced an Augustine and Denys, or 13th that produced both Eckhart and Aquinas. Or how Hinduism produced Shankara or Buddhism Nagarjuna (the spiritual genius, not the defective troll) only many centuries later.

As Schuon writes, the descent of the Holy Spirit would be inconceivable "without the departure of Jesus," through which he can become "present" for all time. Otherwise, his mere physical presence might have created a kind of idolatry, or "saturation" of the space where God is found. No space, no God, no service.

Again, that space is the smoking crater, but it is where the vertical energies flow. And of course, there are various heresies that essentially get the balance wrong between Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Us, and the Crater. You could also say that the Crater is necessary for man, since his worldly ego is essentially a precipitate or crystallization of a mode of consciousness that mirrors materiality.

But the higher self is a sort of mirror of the empty space of that crater, which has the effect of turning us "inward," toward our own existential crater that can never be filled by worldly things. As our trolls constantly teach us, to think in the material mode is to "think in opposition to intelligence," while to orient ourselves around the mysterious crater helps us to think beyond ourselves, into the Great Within.

In this regard, negation or "unKnowing" has always been understood to be a kind of ultimate affirmation; for in the end, the Void turns out to be a kind of plenum, whereas the solidity of the world turns out to be a kind of existential nothingness, or samsaric void. As such, we must practice a certain detachment from the empty void in order to allow a Voidgin birth in the plenary Real. Me? I'm just an empty space cadet, apophatic nobody.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Quick Proof of God, Not that it's Necessary or Useful

I think I'll take a little unscheduled breather of indeterminate duration. I could be wrong, but I believe my brain is telling me it needs a break (if only Justice Roberts had listened to his brain before committing a blunder for the ages!). Plus, there doesn't seem to be all that much interest in our current line of attack on the celestial horizon, so I'm sure a new inspiration will come to me if I close the current windows and reboot.

Reader Magister left a provocative comment that is worth your contemplation:

"When I look at a chimp, a dolphin, or a dog, or any other creature that is intelligent, it is quite clear that the other creature is less than me. I like my dog, and have a sort of relationship with him, but in the end, he is not going to read MOTT with me, make love or music with me, or help me deal with issues. He's good at playing with a tennis ball and acts like a friendly pack animal. That's about it.

"In chimps there is great family resemblance, so there is indeed something haunting about their returned gaze. But my human sense of 'I' could not arise by prolonged interaction with a chimp. This can only happen with my mother, father, and other humans. With them the other gaze is a commensurate 'I,' which is the only gaze that can be a productive relation for building a sense of identity. What's more, if this interaction is loving and not harmful or smothering, it can be creative.

[I would just add that it is a necessary condition of creativity, and that all subsequent creativity mirrors this primordial dialectic between spontaneous expression and joyous reception and recognition.]

"At some point however even these human interactions will be incommensurate with our deepest longings, not because they lack value, but because they are limited in various ways, and so incommensurate with the scale of our desire for complete understanding and perfect relation. For that, we turn to God. The interaction with God alone is infinite, an ever-expanding mysterium of relation, and this alone satisfies and dissatisfies, leading us both inward, outward, and in every direction.

"Only God is adequate. We are built for the infinite, are groomed for the infinite, and are restless until we live with it in perfect union. Only at that point will our own "I" -- in all its expansions -- be complete.

"Is this another way of saying what this post is saying?"

My response:

Yes, more or less, although I would add an important caveat about human relations -- that there are "sacramental" human relations that serve as a vehicle for the divine grace, so they aren't merely "human" but divine; or, fully human because divine.

Otherwise, there are an infinite number of ways to say it, but you said it perfectly well (and each generation needs to say it anew, in relation to the accidents of science, history, and culture; also it has to be experienced, not just known, i.e., what we call [n] and not mere [k]).

Man is indeed uniquely proportioned to ultimate reality, so nothing short of ultimate reality is adequate to his ontological, epistemological, moral, spiritual and emotional needs.

As Schuon says, "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing." There can be no middle ground: O or ø.

That last wise crack reminds me of something Captain Beefheart once said: "Yeah, I'm a genius, and there's not a thing I can do about it."

Schuon adds that "If it were necessary or useful to prove the Absolute, the objective and transpersonal character of the human intellect would be sufficient as evidence, for that same intellect testifies irrecusably to a purely spiritual first Cause, to a Unity infinitely central but containing all things, to an Essence at once immanent and transcendent."

Right? Right. Embarrassingly obvious when you stop to think about it.

So, "total Truth is inscribed, in an immortal script, in the very substance of our spirit."

You might say we are condemned to transcendence, which hints at the supreme irony of Crucifixion in its universal sense. There's no way around it. One can, however, fall short of it.

So dive into the deep end. You're gonna get wet anyway. Plus you might even float:

Friday, June 29, 2012

It is Not Good that Man Should be Allone

Let's think through this notion of "person," which is so central to Christian metaphysics -- at least to the metaphysics of thinkers such as Ratzinger, Balthasar, and Wojtyla, plus some others I've read recently, such as Norris Clarke and Henri de Lubac. Each, in his own way, would say that Person is the ultimate category.

In purely abstract terms, person is covariant with centration. De Lubac illuminates this aspect of the problem:

"[W]e find that the higher a living thing rises in the scale of being, the more internal unity does it acquire." In contrast, "the undifferentiated, entirely homogeneous being is as little one as it is possible to be." Rather, the latter "is only a nameless agglomeration."

Therefore, the first thing we need to understand is that one -- or oneness, rather -- is located at the top of of the scale, not the bottom.

The infant, for example, when he is fed, dry, and comforted, is presumably "at one" with the cosmos. But this represents a very simple, or shallow, degree of oneness. As human beings grow and acquire more "parts," it becomes increasingly difficult to pull off oneness while retaining the achievement of identity.

De Lubac notes that in certain plants, "unity is so weak that every piece cut from the stalk produces a new plant." Each part is its own potential whole, so to speak.

The inverse obtains in something as complex as a human being, where each part supports the unity of the whole. A tooth is quite different from a toe, but each has its specific role to play.

Likewise, unlike earthworms, you can't cut someone in half and expect each half to grow into a separate person (unless the division happens during the very early and undifferentiated blastocyst stage).

Transposed to the psychic level, "True union does not tend to dissolve into one another the beings that it brings together, but to bring them to completion by means of one another. The Whole, therefore, is not the antipodes, but the very pole of personality" (ibid).

Thus, two errors need to be dispensed with. The human being is not an idealized individual -- as believed, say, by libertarians and objectivists -- but nor is he subordinate to a collective blob, as believed by leftists.

Rather, to be a person is "fundamentally to enter upon a relationship with others so as to converge upon a Whole." The chronically rebellious individual is just the other side of the slavishly conformist liberal, because both are equally repelled by real intimacy and communion.

This process of differentiation and union can only occur in time, hence the centrality of history to Christian metaphysics: "since the flow of time is irreversible nothing occurs in it more than once, so that every action takes on a special dignity and an awful gravity; and it is because the world is a history, a single history, that each individual life is a drama" (emphasis mine).

Again, this single drama is the drama of awakening to the cosmic person. Or, in the words of the title of another book we've been discussing, the cosmic movement runs from big bang to big mystery.

Thus, the person is ultimate, but with an important caveat: that there can be no person in the absence of other persons. Personhood is always, and can only be, a result of ex-change with other persons.

Therefore, just as there is a total biosphere, and beneath that a total system of physics and astrocosmology -- there is a single system of personhood. Call it the "psychosphere," or "pneumasphere" if you like. But we like to call it the cOʘnosphere.

At the center, or bottom, or ground, each person is simultaneously centripetal and centrifugal, within which we may "discern the stamp of the creating Trinity," like so:

"There is no solitary person: each one in his very being must give back to all.... It is like a two-way method of exchange, a twofold mode of presence." And "a person is a whole world," except that "this 'world' presupposes others with which it makes up one world only" (ibid).

De Lubac quotes Augustine, who asked, What is more yours than you? Yet what is less yours than you if what you are is from another?

Good question. I'm running out of time, so I'll just get to the upshot of it all, except that I'm going to take the extreme liberty of replacing certain words with empty pneumaticons, so as to not alienate non-Christian readers:

"By revealing O and by being revealed by him, ʘ completes the revelation of man to himself. By taking possession of man, by seizing hold of him and penetrating to the very depths of his being (↓) makes man go deep down within himself, there to discover in a flash regions hitherto unsuspected. It is through (↑) that the person reaches maturity, that man emerges definitively from the universe, and becomes conscious of his own being."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Open Thread

And barely enough time for that.

Question: does this mean we can check illegals for insurance documentation?

Otherwise, I don't see a big change. Anyone who's ever been audited knows that the IRS was already in the colonoscopy business.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't No Happy, Period

I'm just thumbing through this book on Vision and Separation Between Mother and Baby, trawling for any further in-sights into our subject.

Which is what again? I forgot.

I believe this all started with a discussion of the (temporal) cosmic journey, as outlined in Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery. This journey ends in the Person, but this latter term is full of implications. For starters, the journey from infant proto-person to adult person is teeming with hazards, many of which fall under the heading of "mom" and "dad."

For example, Wright describes how the mother's face is the child's first "emotional mirror" through which he "is able to come to understand his own emotions."

Of course, it goes much deeper than the word "understanding" implies, because this is not a question of epistemology. Rather, it reaches all the way down to ontology, to the level of being.

In this regard, it seems that "I AM" is posterior to "YOU ARE" (or at least they "eternally co-arise," so to speak).

But this is consistent with biblical metaphysics, where man's being is wholly dependent upon Being-as-such; and this Being-as-such just so happens to be person-as-such. Otherwise, I just don't see how it is possible to shoehorn personhood into the cosmos, unless one simply has blind faith in blind chance.

A brief point of order: whenever I use the word "mother" in this developmental context, I am not only referring to the exterior mother.

Rather, human beings are born with a stock of archetypal preconceptions -- or preconceptual archetypes, if you like -- through which we organize primordial experience. As such, there is an "interior mother," an empty category awaiting experience in order to assimilate content.

Again, the mother's face is the child's first emotional mirror, but experiences in this modality come to "fill out" one's interior mother.

For example, if the maternal mirror "is unreflecting, damage is done to the child, who becomes walled off from his own emotional self by a similarly rigid and impervious wall" (Wright).

Do you see how that works? It is very much as if the psyche is now inhabited by this dialectic of an unreflective mother and a rejected -- because unrecognized -- self.

This is why, as Wright explains, body-image issues are so common in psychotherapy. For example, "someone who is troubled by a negative identity or discongruent self-image may, in an almost delusional way, experience his face as disfigured."

I'm thinking of, say, Michael Jackson, whose bizarre face was the outward image of an even more bizarre internal world. He spent his life searching in vain for the right face.

But even if he had succeeded he would have failed, for the true face has to belong to someone else, and be mediated by love. You might say that Jackson attempted to transform his own face into both lover and beloved, which renders growth impossible. Thus the pathetic spectacle of a 50 year-old child.

Just last week I was talking to a neighbor -- an old-timer who knows where all the bodies are buried -- who mentioned that someone I went to high school with had died of anorexia (probably a couple of decades ago). Anorexia is the sine qua non of a delusional body image.

I haven't studied the subject for a while, but back when I was in graduate school, it was thought to be related to deep ambivalence around primitive images of the mother, who is completely entangled with food, mouth, nourishment and digestion.

In other words, "primitive mother" and "food" are essentially indistinguishable at that level, hence the "oral stage" of development, which lasts from birth to... well, until it kills you, if you're not careful.

Actually, it does last to the end of one's life, only in a mature person it doesn't predominate. We all retain a healthy, primitive emotional attachment to food. But if you end up being reduced to a "foodie" whose life revolves around putting novel things into your mouth, you've probably got issues. But you're also harmless, so no biggie.

By the way, this whole subject has fascinating implications for theophagy, i.e., communion. "This is my body." "I am the bread and the life." "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven." Etc. Turning the cosmos right-side-up, we see that the primitive maternal relationship is our initiation into the life of the Trinity.

Again, I don't see how it would be possible to arrive at humanness -- or personhood, to be exact -- in the absence of this ontological communion, in which we interpenetrate and share being with another.

Wright calls this communion a "positively amplifying circuit mutually affirming both partners." The smiling infant fills the mother with joy, and the joyous mother presumably fills the infant with unspeakably juicy goodness. The mother's happy face is the deepest hint that the world is a good place, and doggonit, I'm good too.

For you gents out there, have you ever noticed the relationship between Happy Wife and Happy Life? It is quite true that When Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy.

But a bright and happy mama is like the sun shining indoors. Indeed, men have a deep need to make mama happy, in the absence of which we feel quite powerless, or puzzled, or despairing. Or maybe I just have issues.

Anybody got a doughnut?

Babies hold a secret about the human mind that has been hidden for millennia. They are our double. They have a primordial drive to understand us that advances their development; we have a desire to understand them that propels social science and philosophy. By examining the minds and hearts of children, we illuminate ourselves. --Andrew Meltzoff (in Garrels)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Face Time With God and Man

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

Whatever else it means, this statement by Paul shows a high degree of psychospiritual sophistication and introspection, as it gets to the heart of what it means to be seen and re-cognized, and therefore to have one's being -- one's humanness -- validated.

In the book I referenced yesterday, Vision and Separation, the author writes that "The 'space' of self-consciousness is a secondary development within the field of consciousness. It arises when the subject (the child) becomes aware of the looking of the object. It is the space within which the person looks at himself through the eyes of the other.

"I often speak of consciousness as interface, or inter-face. This is to emphasize that both consciousness and self-consciousness, and the symbols that mediate these experiences, only arise between faces, in other words, in an interpersonal setting, within which relations between persons... are formative."

In fact, infant observation studies have been conducted in which mothers maintain a deadpan expression, but otherwise respond normally to their infant in every way. As you might imagine, the infants quickly become visibly distressed. They are literally dis-oriented, since the mother's face is not only the center of their universe, but their primary means to manage their own internal states. In other words, they look to the mother to "know what's going on," both outside and "inside," in the emotional world. Without the M(O)ther, the child is quickly drowned in O.

I suppose any normal parent is implicitly aware of this, but since we were consciously aware of it, Mrs. G. and I always provided Tristan with lots of animated face time. Have you ever noticed how, when children fall down or have some kind of sudden accident, they first look to the parent, as if to ask, "Am I okay, or is it time to shriek like a Democrat in November?"

In these situations, we always gave him an enthusiastic, or reassuring, or amused expression (unless he was doing something truly dangerous). Also, whenever he fell down, I'd put my arms out like a baseball umpire, and yell SAFE!

In contrast, when I'm at the park, I notice that a lot of mothers in particular are constantly transmitting anxiety to their children, with pursed lips and worried or disapproving expressions. This has the effect of reining in the child's natural exuberance and exploratory impulses.

As it so happens, Tristan has turned out to be unusually daring and fearless. Of course, there's no way of knowing if our parenting style has played a role in this, because there's no way to conduct a controlled study, plus he has other personality traits and quirks that clearly have nothing to do with us.

In any event, just last week his first grade teacher conducted a sort of mock graduation ceremony, in which she gave a diploma to each child, citing their most prominent characteristic. Tristan's was for "always being the fearless, active, and brave one all year!"

Like any other system, this facial recognition system -- in which we feel the need to be recognized by other faces -- can go awry. For example, pathological narcissism essentially revolves around an exaggerated need for human mirroring in order to fill a deficit inside.

The problem here is that the narcissistic mirroring doesn't reach to the level of being, but only touches a superficial "false self" unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) constructed by the narcissist. This means that the narcissist is actually in control of the process, and isn't truly "giving" or exposing his true self to the other. That would be too risky.

One can understand why so many narcissists gravitate toward entertainment and media (and now "reality TV" and other similar sops to the craving for recognition), since these are an ideal way to submit a false self to a bunch of anonymous faces for their slack-jawed but wide-eyed approval.

But deep down the narcissist has a well-founded contempt for such losers, so he knows as well as anyone that he is just addicted to psychic junk food. It's never enough, which is why, on top of it all, these types have to hand out so many awards to each other for being such successful and accomplished phonies.

I recently read a book called Mimesis and Science, which goes into some of the latest research on the centrality of the Face in human development. One author, Jean-Michel Oughourlian, compares it to a force of attraction, like gravity, except displaced to the subjective horizon:

"That natural force of cohesion, which alone grants access to the social, to language, to culture, and indeed to humanness itself, is simultaneously mysterious and obvious, hidden in and of itself, but dazzling in its effects -- like gravity and the attraction of corporeal masses in Newtonian space.

"If gravity did not exist, life on earth would be impossible. Similarly, if this remarkable force that attracts human beings to one another, that unites them... -- if this force did not exist, there would be no humanity."

This means, among other things, that "from the very start, psychological actuality is found between individuals.... The self and the other are thus bound together in a fundamental way at the point of origin by a tie that is ontological and existential.... The genesis of the self cannot take place except by the mediation of the other and simultaneously with the other in a process of differentiation that is gradual and reciprocal."

In all my studies, I never came across a psychoanalyst who was also an orthodox Christian, or at least made the effort to unify metapsychology and theological metaphysics. I have, however, stumbled upon a handful of theologians who are aware of developments in attachment theory, and of their implications for theology.

But I guess I haven't yet found anyone who is as startled as I am at the psycho-developmental implications of the Trinity, through which one is two, two are one, one is three, two are three, etc.

But all of this bears directly on infant development, to such an extent that it is impossible to assume anything other than a trinitarian metaphysic and still permit humanness to exist. To put it another way, if the cosmos weren't trinitarian right down to the ground, then we wouldn't be here. Nor would you understand a word of what I just wrote.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cosmic Evolution: It's Just a Going Through a Face

We left off last Friday discussing the always-increasing complexification of the cosmos, a process which ends -- as far as we can determine -- in the human person. We say this because we cannot imagine something "beyond a person" except for God.

This is an example of one of those things I should think everyone can agree upon, believer and infidel alike.

In other words, if we survey the 14 billion year history of the cosmos, the whole thing is clearly getting more complex with the passage of time, for there is literally nothing as complex as the human brain-and-nervous-system, what with its 10 billion neurons and 10 to the 14th power synaptic connections.

I'm better at myth than math, but if I understand rightly, this means that in this social network, each neuron can apparently friend up to 14 others.

That's a lot of synapses, so many that if you were to attempt to compute their possible combinations, it would take longer than this cosmos is going to last. Which is just another way of saying that we'll never run out of melodies, poems, or jokes.

Now, this cosmoplexification revolves around a center, and that's what makes it so interesting (or any other adjective, for that matter). Think of all that computing power in the human brain, and yet, it all resolves into this simple, unitary experience of an "I" at the center of the neural storm.

This "I" not only manages to resolve all that micro-neural activity, but it also unifies various macro-brain structures such as left and right cerebral hemispheres, limbic system, language area, etc., plus subjective/vertical structures from the primitive unconscious to the transhuman supraconscious -- all spontaneously and without effort. Rather, it "just happens."

You could say that this is similar to other infinitely complex systems, say, the US economy. For example, at the end of the day, you can hear on the news that the stock market gained or lost this or that amount of wealth.

This latter is presented as a unitary quantity, but of course it's just an abstraction, plus it has no actual center. There is no "I" in the middle of all that economic activity saying to itself "I cleaned up today," or "today I really lost my shirt, and it's all Bush's fault!"

As I've mentioned before, one reason I am skeptical of finding "intelligent life" on other planets is because of the extreme unlikelihood that we would ever find persons. A person is the apex of cosmic intelligence, but it turns out -- or so we have heard from the wise -- that the "center" represented by the person actually extends all the way down.

In other words, it is not as if the cosmos evolves to a certain point, and then there appears this inexplicable thing called a person, like the frosting on a cake. Rather, there is a kind of "centration" that is present everywhere and everywhen, only in more or less attenuated forms.

For example, when Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I am," he's expressing our point, albeit more enigmatically. This needs to be understood in the context of other biblical statements such as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," "I AM WHO I AM," "When He prepared the heavens I was there," and "When He drew a circle on the face of the deep... I was beside him."

Also, in the extra-biblical but orthoparadoxical Gospel of Thomas, Jesus asks, "Have you found the beginning that you look to the end? Where the end is, is where the beginning is. Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end"; and even more to the point, "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being."

All of these statements go to the idea of the person being anterior to all phenomena.

This may not be something you've ever considered before, but just as there can be no mind in the absence of a person, there can be no person in the absence of the face. Human beings are of course "social animals," but it is possible to be social without being completely interior to, or inside, one another.

For example, bees and ants exchange information with each other and act as a group, but they don't think about it. You might say that the "center" of a bee hive is dispersed throughout the colony, rather than being present in its totality in each bee.

But in the case of humans -- and liberals hate to hear this -- the center is in the individual.

In fact, liberals attempt to subvert this individual centration by forcing people to identify with race, class, ethnicity, gender, and what have you, but this is the very essence of "regressivism," as it recalls a time in human history prior to the emergence of the free and autonomous person.

As we can see, Obama's whole campaign revolves around the attempt to cobble together a plurality by pandering to various groups via the re-definition of marriage, amnesty for illegal Democrats, a war on men, and so on. Conversely, conservatism embodies arguments that can only be made by persons to persons, irrespective of such accidents as race, class, and gender.

Looking back on it, I must have first been alerted to the centrality of the Face after reading a book called Vision and Separation Between Mother and Baby. This would have been back down in the early '90s, way before I would have been able to draw out the metaphysical and theological implications. Nor have I picked up the book since then.

Just look at the cover photo, and notice the vibrant, joyous, and resonant space between mother and baby:

And when I say "notice the space," think about what that implies. Only another person is capable of noticing this space. Anything less than a person will see only two, three, or four dimensions in such an exchange, but the interior dimension will be inaccessible -- like a person who can hear the notes but not the melody of which they are a part.

I'm just flipping through the book to see what sorts of things I highlighted: "This book is the seen form of that which was previously felt but not clearly formed. Seeing is forming, and the idea that the self, as a conceivable entity, is formed -- or de-formed, or re-formed -- at that place where the Other's view meets with the felt substance of the person is an important part of my thesis."

"The central structure around which the book coheres is thus the space or gap that develops between subject and object through their separation. It is this gap that, according to my thesis, becomes the gap or 'space' of consciousness."

Yes, space is the place. Reminds me of Bowie's Moonage Daydream:

Press your space face close to mine, love / Freak out in a moonage daydream

To be continued...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Taking Existence Personally

We are seriously toying -- or child laboring -- with this equation of A + C = M² (i.e., Son of Man). As things stand -- which is to say, divided -- anthropology and cosmology have no necessary relationship, and the immanent-transcendence of these via the metacosmic spiral of Incarnation-Resurrection is a non-starter.

I can appreciate the latter sentiment -- after all, while science operates with certain assumptions borrowed from revelation, once in place they needn't be explicitly thought about again in order for workaday science to proceed. Bees can make honey without knowing how they do it.

Paradigmatic leaps, however, are a different matter, for reasons both cosmological and anthropological. But we'll leave that to the side for now. If you are one of those scientistic worker bees, don't worry, no need to look up. Carry on.

The first point to emphasize is that anthropology and cosmology are entangled in surprising ways. Recall that the nasty reign of dualism supposedly got underway with Descartes' division of mind and matter. Everyone forgets that even he saw the absurdity of this, for which reason the whole system falls apart without God. The reasoning goes something like this:

"I think, therefore I am."

"Yes, but how do you know that's really true?"

"Er... because God wouldn't deceive us."

So Descartes sneaks in a -- or The -- first principle at the end, which is pre-posterous (which literally means putting the post- before the pre-). For there is no doubt that the cosmos is intelligible and that man may know it; and these are only true because the universe is created.

In short, the createdness of things and knowers is their only seal of intelligibility and intelligence, respectively. In turn, this reveals the intimate relationship between cosmology and anthropology, which are unified in knowledge, or Truth.

I'm afraid I'm really running short on time, so I'll have to make this brief. So brief that I'll turn the wheel of the cosmic bus over to Ratzinger. Please treat him as you would your regular driver (or not, depending on the case):

"[O]ur history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, the real, firm ground is mind.

"Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality; it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist."

There exists a "process of 'complexification' of material being through spirit," through which emerges "a new kind of unity." (I would say "unities," for that is what time -- and evolution -- do: create new and higher -- which is to say, more "dense" and "deep" -- unities.)

Note that this evolution, or complexification, cannot be a result of mind being drawn down into matter; rather, the opposite: mind eventually baptizes and sanctifies everything in its wake. Can it also baptize and redeem Death? That is the question, isn't it?

Ratzinger: "We said before that nature and mind form one single history, which advances in such a way that mind emerges more clearly as the all-embracing element and, thus, anthropology and cosmology finally in actual fact coalesce."

BUT,

"this assertion of the increasing 'complexification' of the world through mind necessarily implies its unification around a personal center, for the mind is not just an undefined something or other; where it exists in its own specific nature, it subsists individually, as a person."

I am beyond out of time. To be continued....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spoiler Alert: Anthropology + Cosmology = Christology

We left off yesterday with the question, "What -- or who -- is this point of existence?"

First of all, we can all agree that existence either has or doesn't have a Point. However, this does't necessarily imply that we could know -- or not know -- it.

In other words, existence might have a Point we can never know. Conversely, we could mistakenly believe that it has no Point when it actually has one.

But if you have the intuition that it does have a Point, that intuition may ultimately be traced back to God -- or let's just say O to keep everybody honest.

In fact, human reason is powerless to determine whether or not there is a Point, first, because reason can only work with the premises it has been provided from elsewhere, and second, because it cannot adopt a stance from outside the total cosmic system, and render judgment on the totality of which it is only a part.

More generally, people will deploy reason to prove the truth of this or that intuition, the latter of which can emanate from spheres above and below the realm of reason per se.

The latter is called "rationalization," and is only a caricature of proper reason. The former is called various things, including intellection, infused contemplation, and riding the currents of the slackstream.

This just highlights the fact that we have various sources of information, interior and exterior, subjective and objective, empirical and suprasensible, that we draw upon to toss into the cognitive hopper and come up with the Answer.

Revelation is one such source we may draw upon. In fact, it is the only source that is presupposed to emanate from outside the total cosmic system, and therefore the only information that can truly bear upon our opening question about the Point of existence.

Now, if this point is truly the Point, it won't just appear at the "end" of the cosmic process. By way of analogy, the point of a novel doesn't just abruptly appear on the last page, disconnected from everything that has preceded it.

Rather, in hindsight it will be seen that the end was there all along, shaping the narrative and infusing it with drive, coherence, and purpose. Again, there are hints along the way, but only at the end do we acquire the area rug that pulls the whole room together.

Think, for example, of the first generation of Christians who were shocked to discover the abundance of meaning in the "Old Testament" which had eluded them before. In this way, the novel events of those three days in particular had the effect of utterly transforming the past, so to speak.

But this is only an extreme case of what history always does. Since the present is always changing, this changes the meaning of the events leading up to it. One can only understand the meaning of something by allowing its effects to play out.

In the margin of Credo for Today "I" wrote a note to "myself" -- or was it the other way around? -- that Anthropology + Cosmology = Christology. Colloquially speaking, this is the equation of our cosmic birth (see p. 15 of the Encirclopedia).

This inburst of data is an example of what was stated above about the different sources of information. For what is the ultimate source of this "fact," if that's what it is?

Yes, it's from "me" -- with a big assist to the Cardinal -- but that just begs the question, because it isn't anything I thought out ahead of time.

Rather, the reverse: the moment it entered my head -- or broke into my sphere of conscious awareness -- it was accompanied by the thought that this was something I needed to think about.

These types of thoughts occur all the time, but I only began noticing them when I began paying attention to them. Now they occur so frequently that I must write them down, as in the case of the above. I compare it to seeds falling from the sky. First you have to catch them. But then you need to plant them. Yes, occasionally one will randomly fall into fertile soil and flower on its own, but why waste the bounty?

One question we need to address is whether any musings about the totality of the cosmos are just forms of anthropology dressed up as cosmology. For any discipline short of traditional religion, this must be the case, because for the secular atheist it is quite impossible for man to know anything outside his own neurology and cognitive categories -- including that!

Ratzinger notes that for Christianity, the convergence of person and cosmos, of anthropology and cosmology, is the end of "the world." The revelation of the unity of the two reveals that this unity has been the goal all along, precisely:

"Cosmos and man, which already belong to each other even though they so often stand opposed to one another, become one through their 'complexification' in the larger entity of the love that... goes beyond and encompasses bios."

That was already more than a mythful, but allow Ratzinger to continue before we add our own commentary:

"Thus it becomes evident here once again how very much end-eschatology and the breakthrough represented by Jesus' Resurrection are in reality one and the same thing; it becomes clear once again that the New Testament rightly depicts the Resurrection as the eschatological happening."

In other words: the Resurrection is the unsurpassable end and meaning of existence. It certainly meets the criteria mentioned above, in that it is not something we could ever accomplish on our own, and it is indeed an ingression from outside the total cosmic system, and one that has the effect of transforming the cosmos, in the same way that the passage of time always reveals the purpose of what went before.

We're not through here. But that's probably enough to think about for one morning, and besides, I don't want to saturate the space or flood the field right away. To be continued.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Folks, You are History!

This guy Benedict -- the former Cardinal Ratzinger -- was once quite the daring metaphysician and theologian. Clearly he's had to dial it back since becoming Pope, being that he is now responsible for making things crystal clear to the 99% who don't have the time, inclination, or capacity to think these things all the way through to the ground and back up again.

But back in the day, he was publishing opinions that just a generation before might have landed him in the soup (despite their intrinsic orthoparadoxy).

Personally I would find this quite frustrating. I just couldn't do it. Not that anyone has asked me to be Pope. I mean, I put in my application and they said they'd get back to me, but you know how that goes. Turns out they also discriminate against non-Catholics, but let's just move on.

Besides, blogging is the ideal medium for me, because it allows me to utterly be myself, with no compromises. I can say what I want, when I want, in the way I want, with only Petey as my infallible guide and no readership to get in the way.

I just finished a book of Ratzinger's called Credo for Today. Its subtitle is What Christians Believe, but I'm pretty sure that this is not what most Christians believe. If they did, then the information here would be superfluous.

I'll just speak for myself, and say that the cosmology Ratzinger lays out is much closer to the Raccoon metaphysic than it is to the worldview of most Christians of my acquaintance.

He begins with the observation that in the Bible, "the cosmos and man are not two clearly separable quantities, with the cosmos forming the fortuitous scene of human existence, which in itself could be parted from the cosmos and allowed to accomplish itself without a world."

This may look like a banal consideration, but it goes directly to the philosophical problem of dualism that infects most all science (that is, when it attempts to be more than a method that is rightly predicated on this instrumental dualism).

Ratzinger's view is obviously in accord with modern physics, which reveals the deep "oneness" and inseparability of all reality. Whitehead was perhaps the first philosopher to understand the metaphysical implications of modern physics. I am reminded of a comment from Science and the Modern World, to the effect that,

"each volume of space, or each lapse of time, includes in its essence aspects of all volumes of space, or all lapses of time," so "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world."

I am also reminded of a circular comment rolled out by the physicist John Wheeler, that "It is not only that man is adapted to the universe. The universe is adapted to man."

And this is true in more ways than one, for example, the manner in which the deep mathematical structure of the cosmos is mirrored in the psyche.

Finally, I am reminded of another misleading dualism that affects our ability to "think about thinking." I'm not going to have time to rehearse the whole argument here, but if you search the blog for the name "Matte Blanco," you will see that this is a topic we have discussed on numerous occasions in the past.

In particular, I was thinking of the implicit, folk-psychological notion that the mind is something like a "bag full of stuff," or in other words, a kind of empty space that harbors thoughts and such.

But in reality, the space -- the container, or (♀) -- cannot be separated from the thoughts -- i.e., the contained (♂). Yes, thoughts are from Mars and the thinker is from Venus, and their relationship in many ways determines the quality, depth, and fruitfulness of mental activity.

Being that "all is one," what we call "history" can only be separated from cosmology in the abstract. The fact is, thanks to modern (post-Einsteinian) physics, we now understand that everything has a history, and that everything is situated in the larger cosmodrama, i.e., the whole existentialada.

Here is how Ratzinger describes it:

The cosmos is "not just an outward framework of human history, not a static mold -- a kind of container holding all kinds of living creatures that could as well be poured into a different container."

Rather, "the cosmos is movement... it is not just a case of history existing in it," because "the cosmos is itself history."

Another critical point: thanks to the tenured boobs of multiculturalism, we now have multiple histories -- feminist history, black history, queer history, Chicano history, etc.

But in truth, "there is only one single all-encompassing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes 'forward.'"

But this direction can only be seen from a higher perspective, just as a person struggling in the rapids can't see the mountainous source and oceanic destination of the river.

And if we do manage to float our boat above the currents of time, we see that "spirit is not just some chance by-product of development, of no importance to the whole; on the contrary..., in this movement or process, matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind" (Ratzinger).

For any transrational person, this metacosmic march forth -- for which reason March 4th is the Oliest and most slackful day of the Raccoon calendar -- is undeniable. Nor is it intelligible in the absence of a "point" -- an Omega point, if you will.

What -- or who -- is this point of existence?

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You Have to be Nobody Before You Can be Somebody

About those useless grace notes in the human sonata we were about to discuss yesterday. Purcell counts seven principal ones, beginning with "our culture-oriented body plan" and "our meaning-oriented brain and vocal tract."

Now, "orientation" has to do with that part of the firmament where the sun rises, the sun being the visible symbol of centrality and radiation.

To be oriented to culture is to be oriented to meaning, so these two are actually one. Human beings are oriented to meaning, period, and are epistemophilic to the core. Which is why deep down we are depthless.

And this orientation is indeed incarnated in our "body plan," as explained in book three of the encirclopedia.

That is to say, culture and meaning would be impossible -- literally inthunkable -- in the absence of a biological mainframe that is both malleable and intersubjective. Hence our neurological incompleteness at birth and our permanent neoteny thereafter.

No other organism remains "incomplete" for life. Rather, all other organisms are "completed" by the actualization of their genetic program. But a merely genetic human being wouldn't be one.

Purcell is clearly oriented to the same attractor and occupying the same phase space I am. I wonder if he also wants to be a cage fighter?

As he writes, "Unlike animals who are fairly well provided by instinct..., the most important things we need for existing as humans take a long time to learn. So we have both a long childhood and a long period of post-reproductive survival..."

Purcell cites similar evidence to mine (see p. 127), noting that "Neanderthal children grew up at a faster rate than those of modern human beings," which meant that they had a shorter amount of time to imprint culture before the neurodevelopmental window slammed shut. Which is why the evolutionary door also closed on them.

Yes, definitely the same phase space: "the extremely unspecialized human infant body" allows it "unlimited adaptability in relation to... the 'social womb' of its human environment..."

Purcell's next two grace notes are language and symbolization, but here again, it seems to me that these too fall under the rubric of "meaning."

Meaning per se is the whole dimension of post-genetic and post-biological truth and subjectivity:

"Homo sapiens represents the last known stage of hominid evolution, and also the first in which the constraints of zoological evolution had been overcome and left immeasurably far behind" (Leroi-Gourhan, in Purcell).

Indeed, one might say infinitely behind, because there is an infinite and unbridgeable abyss between absolute and relative from the latter up, so to speak.

In other words, the Absolute not only implies, but necessitates, the relative.

But the relative could never become absolute of its own powers, any more than darkness could become light or Obama could get into Harvard.

The deeper principle here seems to be the "separation of form from matter," both individually and as a species. In other words, for the individual, to "think" means to distinguish appearance from reality, or principle from manifestation.

Likewise, post-biological human evolution involves the potentiation of what is only implicit in the DNA. DNA is necessary but insufficient for humanness to emerge and develop. That requires other humans, or let us say exemplars and models of humanness.

This is why most human artifacts have no connection to genetic interests, or again, why so much of what we do is so wonderfully useless.

Now, in order to discover "reality," man must obviously be liberated from Darwinism, otherwise what he imagines he is discovering is just a predictable consequence of his genetic programming.

Again, in order for this to happen, man must be ordered to the infinite, not just bound to the finite.

How to create such a species? Noam Chomsky, of all nim chimpskys, once mused that "if a divine architect were faced with the problem of designing something to satisfy these conditions, would actual human language be one of the candidates, or close to it?"

In a word, yes. For in the beginning -- and end -- is the Word.

Monday, June 18, 2012

There is Nothing More Useless Than a Human Being

In part four of Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery, he discusses what he calls "grace notes in the human sonata."

In music, grace notes are "nonessential ornamentations" added to the written score. The term isn't entirely apt, because in the case of human beings, it seems that the grace notes are paradoxically essential.

That is to say, much of what is "necessary" in man is inessential and even inconsequential. In other words, who cares if we have two legs, or six arms, or twelve toes, or a belly button on top of our head?

Conversely, everything that is completely unnecessary from an evolutionary standpoint is precisely what defines us as human: music, poetry, painting, humor, philosophy, religion, love, etc.

Indeed, one could even go so far as to say that it is man's uselessness that is so useful. For example, can you think of anything more useless than a baby? Babies are literally useless, in that they are born at least eight months premature and are therefore neurologically incomplete, just retarded apes. The only thing a baby is good for is for growing into another useless human being.

This notion of uselessness is quite central to our humanness. For example, consider beauty. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Human beings can survive without it, which is proved by the existence of __________ [insert cheap shot here].

In his How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism, Scruton writes that "To look on a thing as beautiful is to value it for what it is, not for what it does or for the purposes it serves. On the contrary, it is the intrinsic value of beautiful things that renders them useful" (emphasis mine).

Not only are "value" and "usefulness" not synonymous, but the most precious things are generally without economic value or practical utility, for example, my son's smile, or the Stanley Cup, or the wonderfully retro styling of my Luxman Amp.

Scruton continues: "The case may be compared to that of friendship. Your friend is valuable to you as the thing that he is. To treat him as a means -- to use him for your purposes -- is to undo the friendship. And yet friends are useful: they provide help in times of need, and they amplify the joys of daily living. Friendship is supremely useful, so long as we do not think of it as useful."

Think about that. There are degrees of sociopathy, the essence of which involves treating human beings as means, not ends. A mass-murdering psychopath such as the one depicted in The Devil in the White City quite literally sees human beings as objects to be used and discarded, of no more intrinsic value than a paper napkin.

What is especially frightening about these types is that they are adept at mimicking humanness, and may even appear to be unusually empathic and caring. But their empathy is just a tool of manipulation. They can't actually put themselves "inside" the other and "feel their pain," to quote another (less pernicious) sociopath.

The environment -- man's context -- is another thing that most people do not and cannot treat "as having only instrumental worth" (Scruton). Here again, what could be more useless than, say, the beauty of Yosemite, or of the Grand Canyon? Why not pave over the former and build condos in the latter? But what would the world -- or the cosmos -- be without its breathtakingly useless beauty?

Indeed, this beauty appears to be fractally organized, in that it is present in every realm, from the extreme macro to the micro, and from the exterior and objective to the interior and subjective. It is seen in every scientific discipline from astrophysics to molecular biology, and in every human endeavor from playing music to laying bricks.

Thus, what is true of Truth is equally true of beauty. Just as we encounter intelligible truth everywhere we look in the cosmos, so too do we witness beauty. And truth is also "useless" in its own way, which we refer to as "disinterestedness."

Science, of course, requires a great deal of passion in its practitioners. But this passion cannot dominate. It must be a means, not an end, the end being truth for its own sake. "Intellectual honesty" means accepting any and all facts, even if they threaten a cherished theory or belief. Don't worry, there is a higher beauty, and truth is its penumbra. Or, we could say that beauty is the fragrance of truth.

For "true beauty is equally a form of self-denial" (Scruton). Think of all the self-denial involved in becoming a great musician, writer, or artist.

In fact, we can measure the value of so much modern art by its self-indulgence, which is the opposite of self-denial. For most people there is a kind of immediate feedback that lets them know they're on the wrong track: when they are -- or think they are -- "original." Originality is permissible, so long as it is simply an effect of something else. If it is elevated to an end, it becomes more useless than uselessness.

Right. Back to Purcell. On the first page of this section, he relates a compelling vignette from a film called The Lives of Others. It takes place in East Germany, and its central character is a Stasi agent (Captain Wiesler) who spies on innocent citizens.

Now that I think about it, he's a bit like St. Paul, persecuting those who pose the greatest threat to the state, AKA the Living.

In this case, Wiesler has been spying on an artistic couple, a playwright and his actress girlfriend. Gradually he finds himself "attracted by the beauty, meaning and love present in their life but absent from his own. Various scenes show Wiesler's gradual transformation from remorseless defender of the GDR to one who's prepared to risk his life for those he's spying on."

What a powerful allegory. Purcell quotes a reviewer who wrote that it "demonstrates that the human soul is mysterious and hard to obliterate. Even the coldest heart can thaw. Even the most technocratic imagination can respond to a sudden whisper, an implicit grace note."

Which shows that man is only human when he realizes that there are things more valuable than life, and that these are utterly useless.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Whatever

I hate to sound like an old crank, but the truth of the matter is I can't stand all the made-up holidays. Just give me the real ones, starting with Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, and maybe Memorial and Labor Days, just to frame the summer.

But assuming you're more than a sperm donor, you're supposed to father. What's the alternative, abandon your child? Sets the bar pretty low, IMO.

Besides, you can hardly call yourself a father without a son around to hit and bite the water balloons. I'd look pretty silly standing up there by myself dropping them off the house.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hopeless Nihilism, and Beyond!

Way out of time this morning. Therefore I dug up a partially decomposed essay from four years ago. Don't worry, it's timeless, so it doesn't smell too bad. It did have some gnostic edges that I have tried to soften, because it is not meant to imply any kind of "secret knowledge" or occult spiritual technology. Rather, it is intended to be blandly experience-near and phenomenological, just describing "what happens" when we give up and call it a deity. Or rather, dive into O and trust that something will keep us afloat and prevent us from being all wet.

The other day we spoke of the differences between (k) and (n), or of knowledge and experience. It's easy enough to have spiritual experiences, easier still to gain spiritual knowledge, but how does one make them "stick," or transform these from transient or surface states into stable and ensuring traits, i.e., (¶)?

Clown question, bro. We don't.

Nor could we ever do so, any more than we could construct a tree or grow a carrot or build a cake or cook even the most half-baked thought from scratch.

Philalethes: "The whole process which we employ closely resembles that followed by Nature in the bowels of the earth, except that it is much shorter."

That's right, shorter. Think of a baby who grows up into a normal civilized human being. In so doing, he is compressing 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution into 20 or 30 years. But why stop at normality? Why not go all the way?

Really, all we can do is create the conditions, and then get out of the way of the same energies that turned dirt into Dostoyevsky or mud into Mozart or shite into Shakespeare -- which is what "right living" is all about.

It reminds me of when people "try" to get pregnant. Often it only happens after they've given up. I've even heard it said that it's not uncommon for people to adopt a child, thinking they'll never get pregnant, only to become pregnant once they've given up hope.

I can't tell you how hopeless I am. No (temporal) ambition at all. No hope that things will ever change for the better. For one thing, how could things get better so long as I'm around to spoil them? I'm also pretty nihilistic, in that anything less than that tends to eclipse the Absolute. In other words, it's very easy to fall into idolatry.

And now that everyone is famous, anonymity is the new celebrity. "Let not him who desires this knowledge for the purpose of procuring wealth and pleasure think that he will ever attain to it" (The Sophic Hydrolith).

In my hopeless condition, I try my best to burrow more deeply into the present, and again, let the rest take care of the rust. Call it blind I-AMbition. Let the dead bury the tenured, and let the unBorn... let them do whatever they need to do to become born, but certainly don't abort them on the one hand, or feed them steroids on the other. Let supernature take its course.

I don't put my precogitated unBorns on a timetable. They'll arrive at their own pace, so long as I take care of my end, and patiently fertilize the present ground. There's more than enough experience to be had in the present, thank you, without seeking it elsewhere, in the past and future.

In fact, Christian hope paradoxically arises specifically from a kind of liberating hopelessness about this fallen world. To place one's hope in the world is to misplace it. Thus the intrinsic cosmic heresy of all those franciful schemes of leftist udopians.

I prefer to live as simply as possible, because a complicated life begins to place barriers between oneself and human (and therefore divine) reality, or between one's feet and the ground.

At the moment, I'm reviewing a section in The Spiritual Ascent entitled Integration, and it has many helpful pointers along these lines. Again, you will find that the insights therein are generally universal and Timelessly True, as invariant vis-a-vis the transhuman realm as the Platonic truths of mathematics are with regard to the physical plane.

For example, some guy named Hujwiri tells us from across the centuries that "the Sufi is he whose thought keeps pace with his foot, i.e., he is entirely present: his soul is where his body is, and his body is where his soul is, and his soul is where his foot is, and his foot is where his soul is. This is the sign of presence without absence."

Like so many similarly fractal passages in this book, this is the whole teaching boiled down to a single phrase. You could identify any number of biblical passages that convey the same thing in a slightly different way.

But it's one thing to "know" this, something else entirely to realize it. This is why the saints are so important, for they are the realization, or terrestrial fulfillment, of the celestial doctrine.

In turn, this is why we learn more by watching the good man "tie his bootlaces," so to speak, than from his words per se; or, bear in mind that their communications will always consist of "words and music," and that one must have an ear attuned to the latter to gain maximum benefit of the former. Or, put it this way: truth can be told in such a way as to become a lie, due to the unworthiness of the container.

Spirituality must not only take place in the body -- where else? -- but transform the body, i.e., recalcitrant matter, which is "resistant" to being spiritualized, so to speak, in the same way that dirty water resists the light.

Again, think of how easy it is to have a spiritual experience "above" the body. But when you come back down, you're left with the same unreformed physical being, i.e., certain dense and mindless patterns that seem "opaque" to the light.

It's much more challenging to be in this world and sharpen oneself against the rocks of adversity and even inconvenience. This is why we never trust "professional gurus" who not only don't have real jobs, but who are very likely unemployable due to the extent of their bloated cosmic narcissism.

Jesus was a carpenter. He worked with his hands and with natural materials. If you meet the Buddha on the road, first take a look at his hands. If you don't see callouses, or at least some dirt under the fingernails -- worse yet, if you see a manicure -- kill him. Buddha would be the first to do so.

In both Judaism and Christianity the focus is on embodiment. The point is not to "escape" this embodiment, but rather, to incarnate fully. Our incarnation is God's excarnation; or God ex-spires into us and we in-spire God -- which is how we oxidize the blood that courses through the arteries of the cosmos.

Real Men take their realization into marriage, into child rearing, into work, into the constant battle that is this world. The world is a test that never ends.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Here again, there is the upper vertical and the lower vertical, the celestial and the terrestrial, spirit and body, heaven and earth. It's easy enough for God's will to be done "above," where it is done "automatically," so to speak. The trick is how we allow it to be done in the herebelow, for there are many layers of influence between the top and bottom.

Again, it's more a matter of getting out of the way, isn't it? Benjamin Whichcote: "Our Conversation is in Heaven, according to the Measure and Degree of our present State and Condition.... When we set ourselves to do the Will of God here, then Heaven is come down into the World..."

We mustn't wait until we are dead -- or 'til the sun is down, when no man can work. Rather, it should begin "while the soul is in the body. I say more: while yet in the body a soul may reach oblivion of its travail not to remember it again" (Meister Eckhart).

In other words, there can be a kind of egobliteration and resurrection in this life, or at least its "first fruits." For any transcendence is evidence of all transcendence, which is to say the transcendence of all -- which is another way of saying resurrection, or at least rebirth.

William Law: "What could man have to do with the perfection of God as the rule of his life, unless the truth and reality of the divine nature was in him?"

The Russian Pilgrim: "It is possible for man to get back to that primitive contemplative state in which he issued from the hands of his Creator."

Why? Because you weren't issued in the past; rather, you are issued afresh each moment. You know, make your resurrections in advance, and don't forget your peaceport.... De-part and bewholed like in them seers' dialogues of old, then aim your eros for the heart of the world!

Hakuin goes even further -- it's not only senseless to wait until death for the climb of your life, but it is the most culpable negligence. It's a kind of philosophical malpractice. It's worse than a crime, it is a cosmic blunder.

Nope. "He that beholds the sun of righteousness arising upon the horizon of his soul with healing in its wings, and chasing away all that misty darkness" -- such a regular feller cares not "to pry into heaven's secrets, and to search the hidden rolls of eternity, there to see the whole plot of his salvation; for he views it transacted upon the inward stage of his own soul, and reflecting upon himself, he may behold a heaven opened from within, and a throne set up in his soul, and an almighty Saviour sitting upon it, and reigning within him.... It is not an airy speculation of heaven as a thing to come that can satisfy his hungry desires, but the real possession of it even in this life" (John Smith the Platonist).

Amen for a child's job! (And vice versa.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Conservatism and the Implications of Human Nature

Let's try to get to the essence of the nub of the gist of our political differences. For me, conservatism is simply the cultural and political implications (in that order) of human nature, both good and bad. Given the constraints of human nature, only so much "hope" is rationally warranted and only so much "change" can be reasonably expected, man being what he is.

Which is why leftism in all its forms starts with the denial of human nature. Once that particular obstacle is removed, then anything is possible. For example, the left talks about "greed" as if it is something invented by conservatives instead of an intrinsic defect in man, like some kind of original sin or something.

And once it is projected into conservatives, it is possible to imagine that the state isn't susceptible to the same greedy impulses. Then one lives in a fantasy world in which corporations are driven to increase profits but the state isn't driven to increase revenue. This naive mindset can only be maintained if one has already engaged in primitive psychological splitting, projecting the bad into the private sector and the good into the public sector.

Me? No, I do not imagine that huge corporations are magically good or altruistic, nor do I believe that the state is intrinsically evil. Rather, both institutions are shaped and limited by three things: human nature, a system of incentives, and negative feedback. The first cannot change, but the second two can limit or exacerbate the damage.

In an ideal world of market forces, businesses are subject to a continuous flow of corrective feedback known as profits and losses. A business owner can be as greedy as you like, but this greed is impotent if it doesn't translate to providing a product or service that people want, and for which they are willing to part with their cash. The leftist will no doubt argue that people want the wrong things!, but that's a different argument, one that again touches on human nature.

For example, it is natural for human beings to seek and enjoy sugary substances. The conservative argues that this is no doubt true, for which reason the essence of psychological maturity involves mastery of one's impulses, whether they are directed toward food, sex, drugs, or any other pleasurable activity.

No one can call himself a proper human if he hasn't even mastered himself. Temptations are everywhere, and that's just the way it is. In the Islamic world they don't like sexual temptation, so they put women in black bags. Good idea? Or should they apply a more Bloombergian rule, and just bag women with C-cups and larger?

The leftist instinctively rejects the strategy of self-mastery because of a paradoxical affirmation and denial of human nature. One also sees this in their hatred of "abstinence," as if sexual impulses are beyond anyone's control, unless, of course, you use dirty words in front of a fragile female coworker, in which case you should be sued and fired. I mean, isn't the whole point of political correctness that people can be bullied and cowed into unnatural thought and behavior?

The best part of human nature is actually supernatural and cannot be reduced to nature. Quintessentially this applies to free will. The leftist denies this higher human nature, but accepts the lower nature. And since we have no power of free will to exert control over our lower nature, we need the state to intercede and do this for us. As a result, the state treats us all like impulsive babies, even those of us who have attained control of our bladders and mouths.

Dennis Prager makes this point in a recent essay, Science Demands Big Government. Specifically, with regard to Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on beverages he doesn't like, a Harvard professor of evolutionary biology helpfully points out that human beings "have evolved to need coercion." There is a contradiction here, because science proves that there is no such thing as human nature, and that the state can control it.

Note first of all that this is an ironic conclusion for a "progressive," since it denies any human capacity for progressing beyond our most primitive impulses without assistance from the state. And those of us who believe we can control those impulses on our own, thank you, are not only wrong but ANTI-SCIENCE!

Such an attitude, if permitted to stand, leads to devastating -- and profoundly anti-human -- consequences. For example, if we use natural selection "to guide social policy, little that is truly decent will survive. Is there anything less prescribed by evolution than, let us say, hospices?" Likewise, "if evolution demands the survival of the species, wouldn’t evolution call for other 'coercion' -- against abortion, for example?"

Left unanswered because the left won't answer is the question of how private human beings cannot know -- or at least exert control over -- what is bad for them, but a public human being -- a state bureaucrat -- somehow magically acquires both the knowledge and the wisdom to coerce others. Or in other words, government employees are better than us. But you knew that already. In fact, too good for us, really. We are not worthy of his demonization!

Thomas Sowell makes a similar point in a piece called Barack Obama: Dictator of the Left (Sowell is an obvious racist, so forgive the hyperbolic title). In it, he essentially shows how politicians such as Obama are shielded from the rigors of negative feedback, very much unlike the market.

For example, "the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the 'greed' of the insurance companies."

The identical dynamic played out in the collapse of the real estate bubble in 2008, in that instance, the state forcing lenders to make bad loans to unqualified borrowers.

In both cases, note that the state is subject to feedback, but not market feedback. Rather, the state responds to political feedback, so it will implement destructive policies in exchange for positive political feedback and refrain from helpful ones if they generate negative political feedback.

Back to the reality of human nature. Human nature isn't, of course, "unitary." Rather, there are things like sex and temperament through which that nature is inflected. Now, it is clear that political differences are rooted in these deeper distinctions, for which reason the quackademic left, for the past 60 years or so, has been attempting to pathologize half the spectrum: the male half, precisely.

Scruton discusses these contrasting "political temperaments" in his How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism. I think you'll agree that it is just common sense.

For example, there are "individualists, who look for opportunities and freedoms, and who are disposed to hold people responsible for their acts." On the other hand, there are "egalitarians, who seek a solution that will not make distinctions between people, and who are apt to to entrust problems to the state, as the impartial provider and distributor of goods."

Scruton has just defined the characterological distinction between (classical) liberals and leftists, and no amount of tenured nonsense is going to eliminate the former, at least not here in the United States, which is founded on those very principles.

Does this mean there is no place for the egalitarian impulse? Of course not. It's not going anywhere either, at least so long as there are, for example, single women, feminized men, and various victim groups anointed by the left.

My problem is that I see no need to embody the egalitarian impulse in a massive and intrusive state, just as I see no need to displace self-control into the government, a la Bloomberg.

A fully functioning -- which is to say, integrated -- human being harbors a complementarity of mercy and severity, compassion and justice, violence and magnanimity, self-interest and charity, male and female, individual and social, etc. I think to embody just one or the other is to be in a state of imbalance, and that a big part of maturity involves realizing -- and tolerating -- their unresolvable complementarity.

And that is a state no state can force upon you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dogmatic Circles and Birds of Play

The mind is infinite -- or might as well be, because I guarantee you'll never find its edge in your lifetime -- and yet, people choose to live in more or less confined spaces of idolatry, sub-ideology, and convention.

Frankly, that's okay for most people. But not for the Transdimensional Raccoon, who prefers to frolic in the wide open spaces of the wild godhead beyond the subjective horizon.

The auto-enclosure referenced above seems to be an evolutionary holdover, or nul de slack, that once served a purpose, in that early man was naturally distracted by the urgent necessity of mapping the world in some kind of predictable way that bore immediate fruit.

In short, he was preoccupied with survival, both with his own and that of his genes; or food, reproduction, and killing enemies. Hunters hunted and gatherers gathered, and it must have worked because here we are.

There was a time when anthropologists were of the universal belief that mankind developed in stages, e.g., from primitive to agricultural to technological; or from myth to metaphysics to science; or from agrarian to capitalistic to communist; or totemism to polytheism to monotheism; etc.

But this way of looking at things became unfashionable in the 20th century, largely due to the racism that attached to certain theories of development, along with a conflation of genes and culture. I suppose this pathology reached a peak of virulence with Nazi theories of race, but the left will never fully abandon racist ideas so long as they translate to political power.

As a result of the new academic correctness of the 20th century, to suggest, say, that some backward tribe in Africa was "primitive" was -- and still is -- to brand oneself a racist.

But in recent years the left's stranglehold on permissible thought has been weakening, so it is possible to perceive and talk about the human reality beneath an absurd dogma that pretends all cultures are equally wonderful except our own, which is uniquely bad (e.g., Sick Societies, Race And Culture, The Culture Cult, Constant Battles, or War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, to name just a few off the top of my head).

Yes, the intellectual red tide is turning, but just as in natural selection, we'll pretty much have to wait for the old demagogues of the left to literally die out and be replaced by a new and nonself-hating generation of the intellectually open and bi-curious (i.e. horizontal and vertical textual orientation).

Only a handful of leftists ever grow out of their adolescent rebellion, and most of these heels will actually dig them in when faced with corrective feedback from reality, e.g., Obama. He is far too narcissistically invested in his fanciful worldview to adjust it to the dictates of reality, which is why we are all being held hostage to one man's immaturity.

So long as there are millions of others to help Obama prop up the fantasy, he can ignore the feedback. But now that his own base is crumbling, we'll see him become increasingly confused about what to say and how to act.

Conversely, it is so liberating to simply speak truth and let the world be the world!

This post wasn't supposed to be about politics per se, but rather, about the snares of thought that capture and enclose the spirit. Then again, for a secular person, politics can be one of the biggest snares.

In Into the Silent Land, Laird tells the story of four Kerry blue terriers he saw in the course of his regular walks. Three of them raced through the open field with "bounding energy, elastic grace, and electric speed," but the fourth stayed close to the side of the owner and ran around in tight little circles.

One day he asked the owner about this behavior, and he responded that prior to his acquisition of the dog, "it had lived practically all its life in a cage and could only exercise by running in circles. For this dog, to run meant to run in tight circles" (emphasis mine).

Let us stipulate that some men aren't dogs, and that they can think, which is to say, run around in hyperspace. But most men seem to run around in tight little circles near their ideological owner while wagging their fingers. Why is that?

Could it be that they are in a cage? Or on a leash? And neutered?

If you will open your Coonifesto to page 21, you will read that the author did not write the book for the absurcular intellectual, tenured ape, or cognitive wanker bee. There are millions of books for them, and they don't need one more bar on the cage.

Rather, the book is addressed to the "free-range spiritual aspirant" and not the "unfertilized egghead of contemporary hyperspecialization." The same is a fortiori true of the blog. The whole innerprize is in a spirit of child-like play, and one of the purposes of play is to vault oneself out of time and into the timeless.

"For indeed we are free, as the Psalmist insists, 'My heart like a bird has escaped from the snare of the fowler." And in the words of Dante, "Reason, even when supported by the senses, has short wings" (both in Laird).

Although that would be a good place to end, one more point that expands upon what the Poet just said.

In the epigraph to his Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge expresses the idea that "it is good that human beings contemplate invisible things in the universe 'lest the intellect, habituated by the trivia of daily life, may contract itself too much and wholly sink into trifles'" (cited in Piereson).

So, do the myth, sheeple.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Reality of Sp↓r↑t

Remind us again, B'ob. What is reality?

Yes, reality is the revelation of Being. But there can be no revelation in the absence of a recipient, so reality is simultaneously the registration of Being. Or, we can say that reality is the successful communication of Being; or, if you prefer a shorter answer, communion.

Obviously reality registers at different levels and in different modes: there is empirical/sensory reality, mathematical/logical reality, aesthetic/artistic reality, moral/ethical reality, spiritual reality, etc.

Why we can't all agree on this, I can't tell you. I mean, after you've communicated it to the the person. Truth is one, but resistances to it tend to be particularistic and idiosyncratic, rooted in personal biography. I don't have the time.

Now, to the extent that there is self-communicating spiritual reality, we want to be open to it -- just as we want to be open to the other realms of being. Because reality can communicate all day long, but if we're not receiving, then it might as well not be there, and you are no different than the DNC.

In his Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation, Laird makes the elementary point that "A spiritual practice simply disposes us to allow something to take place."

What, exactly? You're getting ahead of yourself. This is like showing up on the first day of school and asking the teacher, "exactly what is this math class supposed to teach me?" The only rational response can be, "keep showing up, and you'll find out."

Contrary to what they say, there is no map... there is only surrender (Matarasso, in Laird).

"For example, a gardener does not actually grow plants. A gardener practices certain gardening skills that facilitate growth that is beyond the gardener's direct control. In a similar way, a sailor cannot produce the necessary wind that moves the boat.... there is nothing the sailor can do to make the wind blow" (Laird).

There is a spiritual wind beyond our control, and there has never been a time that it has been unknown to man. We just call it (↓), so as to avoid being like that math student who wants to know all about math before he has learned it -- i.e., before opening himself in silence and receiving the transmission.

We symbolize the silence (---), the openness (o). The patient application of these two results in "surrendering of deeply embedded resistances that allows the sacred within to reveal itself as a simple, fundamental fact" (ibid.).

Again, communion is communication, and vice versa.

Thus, spiritual communion "is not something we are trying to to acquire; God is already the ground of our being. It is a question of realizing it in our lives" (ibid.).

This realization is symbolized (n), in distinction to (k), the latter of which is received but needn't be realized. The person (or level of the person) who realizes (n) is (¶). (All of this is explained in the book, but occasionally even I remember.)

Laird references what St. Paul called our "hidden self": "may he give you the power through his Spirit [↓] for your hidden self [¶] to grow strong" (Eph 3:16). Or just say grow, because "growing weak" is an oxymoron. The latter is either vertical dissipation or the heartbreak of cosmic shrinkage.

Paul adds that this is a kind of "comprehension" that "passes knowledge," that we "may be filled with all the fullness of God." Again, this "filling" can only be a function of (↓), however you wish to conceptualize it. (Speaking of which, I just discovered a helpful symbol for mere [unrealized] knowledge of God: (⇡), i.e., the broken eros.)

In the end, "this God we desire [has] already found us, thus causing our desire," which means that the real cosmic action looks something like this: (↺). And "the soul's center is God" (St. John of the Cross) " which we of course symbolize (ʘ).

As we have discussed before, this (↓) business (or isness, precisely) is what confers the depth dimension on things; call it the yeast, the salt, the cream in your coffee, the bubbles in your champagne, the cork in your bat, the lead in your pencil. But without it, everything goes quite literally flat, and our carbon-based life becomes uncarbonated.

Another important point is that as we approach the center -- as in ʘ -- we necessarily have closer communion with others, because that dot at the center is the very basis for the possibility of communion.

Laird provides a helpful visual: picture a wheel with spokes. At the outer periphery the lines are all separate and distinct spokesmen, but as they converge upon the center they become closer, ultimately converging upin the One spokeswhole. Thus, "the more we journey towards the Center the closer we are both to God and to each other" (ibid.).

And one thing that facilitates this closeness is mutual recognition of the "thirdness" of it all. I suppose it is possible for love to last if two people just love, and try to love, one another. But love can really only last "forever" if there are two people in communion focusing on a mutually loved transcendent Third. Thus, I suppose that a properly functioning marriage might be symbolized (⇈).

Communion around a higher third: