Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Mommy is a Democrat... and a Passive-Aggressive Ex-Wife from Hell

The previously scheduled post has been pre-empted by the following, since it is fresh in our mind. We'll get back to it next week.

What is it about liberals -- or about liberalism -- that makes it impossible to communicate with them? To be fair, they would insist that the problem is quite simple: that they possess the truth, and that their political adversaries simply refuse to accept it.

This failure on our part troubles liberals, whose painfully acute compassion compels them to find some way to shove the truth down our ungrateful pieholes. In fact, Obama even confessed to Charlie Rose that the biggest mistake of his presidency thus far has been the failure to "tell a story" to the American public.

In other words, he and his policies have not failed. Rather, it turns out that he has gotten the policies right -- that was the easy part -- but that "the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

When he ran for office, people had the opposite concerns about Obama: this guy is obviously a polished BS artist with a soothing, tobacco-burnished baritone, but is he a half-educated ignoramus who substitutes ideology for thought, every time?

Turns out we had it backwards. For he has been satisfactorily "juggling and managing a lot of stuff" alright -- economic stuff, racial grievance stuff, government expansion stuff, deficit stuff, unemployment stuff, medical stuff, Middle East stuff, homosexual stuff, you name it.

Obama concedes that there is, however, one "legitimate criticism" and it is this: sure, people care about all the aforementioned stuff, "but where's the story that tells us where he's going?," i.e., where Obama is taking us?


Unfortunately, he doesn't explain. Actually, he's already explained that he can't explain, but that he needs to tell us a story in lieu of an explanation. I suppose we'll all be subjected to this likely story over the subsequent three months.

This is just one more example of the inability of liberals to be self-critical. Again, in their cramped little minds, the thinking must go something like this: "There is a straightforward liberal solution to every problem. Therefore, it is a waste of time and energy to actually condescend to address objections to the liberal program. To the extent that people fail to understand it, then there is something defective in them. But I'm so darn compassionate I'll try to do an end run around their defective cognition by expressing the truth via myth."

In short, there's no need to rethink his ideas. He just needs to express them more obscurely.

Taranto has an insultaining discussion of this dynamic, based upon an excellent piece by Zombie at PJ Media, which I'm thinking maybe it was a mistake for me to resign from, since I actually got more readers back then. Oh well. Charles Johnson also quit, and how could he be wrong about anything?

It turns out that this refusal on the part of liberals to acknowledge reality is not a bug, but a feature. In the past we have devoted at least one post to the Berkeley professor George Lakoff, whose ideas about "framing" have come to dominate leftist discourse, and go a long way toward explaining why liberals are so annoying. I mean, imagine if your spouse tried to pull such a condescending attitude on you. You'd want to throttle him or her.

Technically I suppose you could say that I'm professionally qualified to be a "marriage counselor" -- back off, man! -- but this is the last strategy I would recommend to the husband who is having difficulty getting through to the wife, or vice versa. Here's how it works:

"Don't repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them."

As Zombie explains, "This is why conservatives and liberals can't seem to have the simplest conversation: liberals intentionally refuse to address or even acknowledge what conservatives say. Since (as Lakoff notes) conservatives invariably frame their own statements within their own conservative 'moral frames,' every time a conservative speaks, his liberal opponent will seemingly ignore what was said and instead come back with a reply literally out of left field.

"Thus, he is the progenitor of and primary advocate for the main reason why liberalism fails to win the public debate: Because it never directly confronts, disproves or negates conservative notions--it simply ignores them...."

Taranto points out that "This is an important insight, not only into the way the left debates and otherwise communicates, but into the way the left thinks -- or fails to think. The book's subtitle, after all, promises an instruction in 'Thinking and Talking Democratic.' Lakoff and Wehling command their readers not only to act as if opposing arguments are without merit, but to close their minds to those arguments. What comes across to conservatives as a maddening arrogance is actually willed ignorance."

Which is of course incorrect. It is arrogance and willed ignorance.

In the past, I have on several occasions elaborated on the idea that left and right in many ways reflect the male and female -- or Mother and Father -- archetypes. Thus, in my view, a properly functioning state wouldn't come from left or right field, but from center-right field.

Why center-right, and not just center?

First of all, let's break down the concerns and responsibilities of the respective fields. The Father dimension involves first and foremost self-defense, which goes to domestic security, justified violence, autonomy and sovereignty, law, and punishment, plus standards, independence, achievement, etc.

Conversely -- or complementarily -- the Mother realm has to do with health, compassion, community, charity, nurturing, mercy, etc. As one can see, it is intrinsically more emotional, which is precisely why liberal arguments are so rooted in emotion and not thought. For a liberal it is sufficient to show some poor uninsured kid to tear down the greatest medical system in the world; or, it is sufficient to show a grieving mother to condemn a war. Each of these may be sad, but they are just a cheap substitute for hard thought.

And in any event, we can no longer afford the outrageous alimony and adult-child support payments, so it's a moot point. Mommy is going to have to cut up the credit cards and begin economizing. No more of your cockamamie sob stories. I see that look on your face. I know you want another "stimulus." But this time it's real: We. Are. Tapped. Out. And I'm not pissing away another cent of our children's inheritance just to keep you partying with your government union boy-toys. Some compassion you have!

The reason why a country should be center-right is that, as Dennis Prager has explained, masculine values tend to be more "macro" in nature, while feminine values tend to be more "micro" (and of course, this hardly means that a woman cannot lead in the macro realm, as exemplified by, say, Margaret Thatcher). Therefore, just as it is inappropriate for a father to treat his family as if he is the dictatorial general and his wife and children mere privates, it is inappropriate to treat the state as if it is a bountiful and inexhaustible breast and the citizens as dependent sucklings.

Our constitution essentially mandates a "center-right" country, in that the main responsibilities of the executive are 1) to defend the nation, and 2) uphold the constitution (and law more generally). And as it so happens, America remains a center-right nation, despite Obama's best efforts to transform it to a hard-left authoritarian social democracy ruled by an ex-wife from hell.

I'll leave you with some choice excerpts from the classic book, Why Mommy is a Democrat, which I posted back in March 2006:

--Ask not what your country can do for you. Instead, organize a demonstration and demand it.

--It's not how you play the game, so long as no one wins or loses and gets their feelings hurt.

--A fool and someone else's money can solve any societal problem.

--If life gives you lemons, file a class action suit against Sunkist.

--Always remember you're above average, just like everyone else.

--A person is known by the company he boycotts.

--When the going gets tough, the tough start leaking.

--Beggars can't be choosers. Rather, they're now called "homeless."

--Boys will be boys until government provides subsidized ritalin for every one of them.

--Regardless of your background, any American who really works hard at it can still be a victim.


Classic. Via Ace:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grow with the Flow vs. Upplication of the Will

Here is another vertical murmurandom from four years back and down the road, but it feels new to me, especially now that I have substantially edited and updated it. The editing ended up taking at least an hour, which is how long it takes to drive a new post into the ground anyway.

Reader Kahn the Road recently attended a ten day Buddhist meditation retreat, during which time he lived as a shut-yer-trappist monk and attempted to pull himself up by his own buddhastraps via "silence, dietary restrictions, no reading, writing, outside communications, etc."

Although he had a favorable impression, he was left with ambivalence about "the complete detachment required and the lack of room for a deeper spiritual understanding beyond reduction of the worldly experience to neutral throbs and tingles in the body." As such, "it didn't take long for me to realize that a serious Buddhist practice wasn't for me, although it is comforting to know that such a path is there."

"My question remains, however, how does one access the ever fine line between faith and complacency?"

First of all, I'm not sure if I'm qualified to dodge this question head on or just dance around it in a more oblique manner. In other words, even BS artistry has its limits.

What I can do -- or what anyone can do -- is treat the matter as a verticalisthenic exercise and draw upon the usual nonlocal theodidactic energies to guide us either toward the answer, or toward the conclusion that the question is too good to deserve a sudden death-by-answer.

Or, in plain lingo, we'll just plant the question in the old extra-conscious mind, then go about writing this post in the usual leisurely way in the hope -- or faith -- that any answers are somehow wefted into our warped perspective.

Because I've found that that is how life generally works, at least when it works. The thing is, you can pretend do everything in a "conscious" way, just as you can pretend that the world is analogous to a non-linear machine with no hidden variables.

But in either case you're still going to be subject to primordial powers (not to mention principalities) that are beyond the individual. In other words, the real world doesn't go away just because our soul has been captured, domesticated, and contained by some ideolatry, whether Darwinism, Marxism, scientism, whatever.

Unfortunately, this can sound like deepaking the chopra, but it really comes down to the upplication of the will, only with one's totality -- i.e., "all thy mind, heart, and strength," instead of just with one's surface ego.

To a certain eggstent it's a hatch 22, since this wingless flight involves "willing with one's totality," when the ability to do so would, in a sense, represent the final end of the spiritual ascent -- which is to say, to be one, or whole, or fully integrated, with no subterranean crosscurrents and mind parasites with agendas of their own: if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Easy for I AM to say!

Again, people tend to denigrate the ego, even though -- back off man, I'm a psychologist! -- having a coherent and stable ego represents a significant developmental achievement for most people. This is why in the Wholly Bobble we noted that your typical folker is (•••), not (•). To live as (•••) means that one's I is not single, and that one will necessarily be at cross-purposes with oneself and thereby dissipate one's power. Conversely, one's share of the Power is magnified as one approaches the One (even while one becomes less identified with it, i.e., "thy will, not mine").

Furthermore, there is no way to "cure" this fragmented existential condition "from the bottom up," being that the "bottom" is fragmentation as such, while the "top" is where the Oneness abides.

Rather, real and enduring organization is ordered from the top down. To attain this would be to live in conformity with the divine will, or to see "thy will be done on earth (i.e., at the bottom) as it is in heaven (at the top)."

All spiritual paths involve 1) doctrine, and 2) method, AKA "reality and how to know it" (or, to be perfectly accurate, how to be it, or to combine Truth and Being -- which can only be separated in the human mind anyway, and nowhere else).

In Raccoon parlance, we say that it comes down to the combination of metaphysical or noetic know-how and spiritual or pneumatic be-who, but both are necessary to avoid error on the one hand, and hypocrisy or mere barren intellectualism on the other. The point is, we need to activate the Truth in order to make it efficacious in our lives, or to "set us free." Free from what? From lies, for starters.

Back when I was in graduate school in the 1980s, one of the first things I gnosissed about psychology was that, unlike, say, biology or physics, there is no organizing paradigm to make sense of it all. And to say that there is no organizing paradigm amounts to the same thing as saying that the science is in a primitive state. It would be as if physicists had no basic agreements, and just came up with hundreds of ad hoc theories to explain the appearances of things.

Now, tenured superstition notwithstanding, science is intrinsically spiritual, being that it too involves the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Problems arise when scientists do this "within" their own narrow discipline, but not across disciplines (like a vertical plumline that unites them all), which is why, for example, there is no way for science to unify matter and life, or life and mind, or mind and spirit, even though we unproblematically do it every day by virtue of being alive.

This is where the Raccoon project comes in, as we can mischievously scamper across disciplines under cover of darkness (our "gnocturnal O-mission"), unlike the tenured, who work only by day, and who have no nightvision giggles with which to get the pundamentals right.

So the first thing I noticed about psychology was that it was clearly in a "pre-paradigmatic" state, with no one agreeing upon the fundamentals, let alone the details.

One of the reasons leftists have been able to come in and take over the field -- or why the patients have taken over the asylum -- is because the absence of a proper Popperdigm is an invitation to deconstruction, since there is no stable "construction" to begin with. The less coherent the paradigm, the more leftists are able to take over the discipline with "feelings" instead of proper thought. Hence their successful transformation of the humanities into the subhumanities.

Please note that when one is in the grip of a Feeling, that is indeed a kind of oneness, at least while the feeling lasts. For example, how long did the Obama-feeling last? I can't say, because I never had it.

Anyway, Bion noticed the same problem back in the 1950s. Even in psychoanalysis -- which is a subspecialty of a specialty -- there were dozens of sub-subspecialties, i.e., various competing theories not only trying to account for the same phenomena, but creating phenomena of their own, which is what a theoretical paradigm -- good or bad -- does.

In other words, to a large extent, percept follows concept; or to put it in the colloquial, "you see what you believe." Combine this with "never trust a fact without a good theory to support it," and you have a situation in which people essentially live in their own private Idaho.

Long story short, that's why Bion felt it necessary to develop an abstract system of symbols, or "empty categories," to apply to the subjective mindscape and to bring unity to an otherwise hopelessly fragmented field. Being that no one else was apparently going to do it, I merely adopted the same approach to the spiritual dimension. After all, we have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., all claiming to have adequate maps of the spiritual dimension, plus efficacious means with which to get there. They can't all be right... unless...

So you see, the problem again comes down to the relationship between language and spirit. However, unlike cutandry euclidian space, the space of the mind is "hyperdimensional," meaning that it has more than four dimensions. This applies both to psychological space and to the spiritual space of which it is a declension, or a lower dimensional projection.

This is a key idea, being that a realm of lesser dimensions cannot produce one of greater ontological dimensions, which is why it has always been understood by traditional metaphysics that the realm of matter is the final precipitate, or "crystallization," of the involution of spirit (just as the lower animals are a "projection," or descent, of the Cosmic Man, which is the only principle that makes sense of an otherwise blind evolutionism).

It is also why the "many" is located in the more material dimensions, whereas unity specifically abides at the top; the more we move up the evolutionary chain, the greater the unity. Man is the vertical axis that spans the One and the many, and he can obviously go in either direction, depending upon a variety of factors.

A spiritual practice is nothing less than the recovery -- one might say resurrection -- of unity -- which is to say, being + truth, in all their manifestations. The language of revelation turns out to be a form of symbolism that furnishes keys to knowledge of suprasensible realities, keys which are of the same "substance" as the eternal realm they describe. That's why they make for such nourishing and attractive meals.

Now, back to Kahn's question, which, as you might remember, I've purposely forgotten, or "un-Remembered," so as to allow nonlocal dental factors to chew on it: ""My question remains, however, how does one access the ever fine line between faith and complacency?"

Again, to become "whole" is to be organized "from the top down," or from the inside out. This is what we call O-->(n). The more one becomes whole, the more powers one has at one's disposal, for wholeness counters the dissipation and fragmentation of profane living. A Whole Person is always a powerful person, both as a cause and an effect. A Whole Person is also "charismatic," in that his words and actions will have an existential "heft," since they are not alienated from the fullness of Being.

So I suppose the question is, how does one achieve this wholeness without already having it? Again, I think it comes down to making a commitment on every level of one's being to making it so. I suppose, to a certain extent, I discuss this toward the end of my book, with the "Ten Commanishads and Upanishalts for Extreme Seekers."

I see there's even a helpful little summary on page 244: "In short..., the spiritual life involves making the transition from mindlessly willing for that which we uncritically yearn, to consciously yearning for that which we actually want (that is, enlightenment and liberation). In making this transition, it may appear as if our conventionally understood 'horizontal' freedom is diminishing, which is true. However, the point is to exchange it for a more expansive 'vertical' freedom that is relatively unconstrained by material circumstance, so that the old freedom is eventually regarded as a comparative enslavement."

Then what happens? Page 247: "Thus, in our properly oriented right-side-up universe, its unity and coherence are experienced from the top-down, in light of our source and destiny in the non-local singularity at the end of the cosmic journey." Blah blah blah, yada yada yada, I suppose you could say that the Buddhist paradoxically "cleaves through detachment" to the empty plenum, while the Raccoon has an unapologetic passion for wholeness and therefore eternal Being which, from downbelow, can look like a void, for the same reason that an abundance of light can render one blind.

Cosmic weather permitting, I'd like to discuss all of the above in the context of a book I recently read, Ages of the Spiritual Life, tomorrow or maybe Friday.

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."


"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


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.