Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good News for Man, Bad News for the Left

"Good news" presupposes an awful lot about its recipient, doesn't it? The great majority of news is neither good nor bad; or, more to the point, it is relative to the person or group.

For example, good news for a Palestinian would be the murder of every Israeli man, woman, and child. But that would be bad news for the sane, decent, and civilized remnant of the world.

Likewise, the re-election of Obama is good news for parasitic public employee unions, for crony capitalists, for those thousands of soulless petty tyrants who get a thrill out of bossing others around, but bad news for the poor, the unemployed, the maleducated, the recently college educated (but I repeat myself).

So when Christians say their news is objectively and absolutely good, that's saying a lot -- again, not just about the news, but about the recipient.

The word "gospel" -- which means good news -- appears close to a hundred times in the New Testament. A quick etymological check reveals that gospel is a translation from the Greek for evangelize, and both ultimately derive from angelos, or “messenger.” Obviously, in this case we're dealing with vertical messages and messengers.

In the spirit of Rahner, let's just call it "news," so as to avoid too many presuppositions. This news, in order to be effective, must be analogous to the key discussed in yesterday's post. When the person hears it, it must be different from hearing other types of more mundane news, say, about the weather, or about those damn Romans and their high taxes.

Rahner asks the question, "What kind of hearer does Christianity anticipate so that its real and ultimate message can even be heard?" And this is indeed "the first question we have to ask," because it reaches all the way past our existence, down to our very being.

Or to put it inversely, if it doesn't so reach, then the message will be no more efficacious than any other so-called news. It certainly won't have the power to transform its hearer.

When a bird sings a particular song, it is heard in a particular way by other members of its species. The rest of us hear the same thing, but not really, since we can't unpack the message. Bearing this in mind, Rahner observes that

"When the reality of man is understood correctly, there exists an inescapable circle between his horizons of understanding and what is said, heard and understood." And "ultimately the two" -- what is said and what is heard -- "mutually presuppose each other."

As such, the Christian message assumes it is already somehow "present in the ultimate depths of human existence," again, on pain of only understanding the message superficially or not at all. The message not only "summons man before the real truth of his being," but does so in such a way that the person is "caught" by it. Or, to extend yesterday's analogy, the key fits all the way in, to "the infinite expanse of the incomprehensible mystery of God."

Wo, wo, wo, slow down partner. Didn't you just pull a fast one? First you're talking about a key that opens the door of understanding, but then you tell us that behind the door is an "incomprehensible mystery." How is that supposed to be helpful? Doesn't that mean we're no better off than we were when we started this whole human thing, which is to say, mysteriously engulfed in depthless layers of WTF?!

We'll get there. But let's finish our discussion of just what kind of a being man is. Rahner makes the subtle point that we only really discover what -- or even that -- we are via encounters with who and what we are not.

This reminds me of Bion's wise crack to the effect that the first thought is No Breast. From the infant's standpoint, there is no need for thinking until this unpleasantly novel thing called "hunger" occurs, which gives rise to something along the lines of: What happened to that infinite source of all warmth and goodness that was just here a moment ago!

We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, and we are; but imagine all the things that make individualism possible, which precede our presence and are not us: language, culture, history, and family, for starters.

However, as alluded to in yesterday's post, man is ultimately a (?) to himself, which very much parallels what was said above about the Incomprehensible Mystery behind the big door. It seems that if the key is to fit into our lock, it must reach all the way down to the mystery of ourselves.

Think about the many alternatives to this view. Let's begin with the most ready to hand, since it is so... ready to hand. Actually, most of the alternatives come down to leftism and scientism in their many dreary varieties, but these two may be unified by the principle that they both try to derive man from something else, something less than man.

Which immediately brings to mind a perfect aphorism by Don Colacho: The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

How we initiate a causal series goes to the whole mystery of man, which in turn converges upon the mystery of God, for we take seriously the statement that where the Spirit of the lord is, there is liberty (2 Co 3:17), and vice versa.

Man's free will is full of implications, for which reason its denial is equally full of implications. As Rahner points out, all of the sciences (and the pseudo-philosophy of leftism, which may be traced to the pseudo-science of Marxian thought) regard man "as a result of and as the point of intersection between realities which on the one hand exist within the realm of empirical experience, but which on the other hand are not man himself, and yet establish and determine him in his reality and hence also explain him."

This in itself isn't problematic, so long as we don't confuse the map with the territory, and suppose that these partial explanations reach down to man's essential being. Such an approach -- and this is where scientism meets the left -- is usually "motivated by the secret desire not only to understand man... but also to control him thereby."

But the truth sets you free, which is why tyranny is always rooted in lies about man. There are political, economic, spiritual, intellectual, and other types of tyranny, but all are unified at their rotten core.

Hey, I think I'm really becoming like Rahner, because I'm not sure this post went anywhere, and now it's time for me to check out!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Peeping Thomists and Mysterious Keyholes

So man is a (?!) to himself, to which many answers are possible, if not plausible.

Any even modestly deep thinker intuits that there is no possible secular answer to the question, hence the turn to religion for a more plausible or satisfying one.

But in any event, to engage in theology is to "reflect upon the fundamental assertion of Christianity as the answer to the question which man is." In other words, it is a "second pass," so to speak, over the subjective horizon where question and answer fit together in this altogether surprising way.

At least it's surprising to me. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, I did not come at this whole innerprize from the standpoint of religiosity, but all the way back from blind atheism.

By the age of nine or so I realized that Christianity -- specifically, the version presented to me -- did not address the question I was to myself. Which is what I mean when I say that Bill Maher is every bit as intelligent as a nine year old.

But it took much longer to realize that the various feeble substitutes provided by the culture didn't address the question either. If anything, they just tried to force me to be a different question -- which, when you think about it, is what all forms of secular thought, from leftism to Darwinism, do: you are a race, or a gender, or a class, or a machine, or an animal, etc. Therefore, it was back to the dreaming board.

The deeper the question, the longer you have to hold off on answering it. But a good question generates deep answers, for which reason we need to avoid premature closure vis-a-vis this Ultimate (?).

Also, to paraphrase Schuon, there is far more Light in the good question than a bad answer; and in religious matters, as we shall see, the luminous question is actually composed of the very Light we are seeking -- otherwise, it would never even occur to us to ask it.

We could also say that (?) is a kind of precursor to the grace it evokes, or is even the grace itself. In author words & symbols, our (↑) doesn't just evoke (↓), but in the last analysis, is already the descent of (↓).

The (?) we are to ourselves is not analogous to a scientific or mathematical puzzle. Rather, it is fundamentally a mystery. But the latter is not, on the one hand, a riddle to be solved, nor, on the other, "a statement which is senseless and unintelligible for us."

For which reason our own mysterious question is susceptible "to those Christian mysteries which constitute the basic content of the faith" -- things like Incarnation, Trinity, and Resurrection.

Note that those latter three, if reduced to rationalistic non-mysteries, no longer speak to our own mystery in the same deep way. Myster-O must speak to Myster-I in a deep and intelligible way, and we mustn't confuse intelligibility with mere surface reason; nor should we be expected to simply accept mysteries that have no inner resonance at all. Intelligence has its legitimate rights.

Man is a mystery to himself, but everywhere and everywhen we find him intrinsically oriented to the greater Mystery, to O. This is what motivates everyone, from the scientist, to the philosopher, to the mystic theologian. All are on a quest for answers to the mystery.

Now, there was a time, not too long ago, when none of this was problematic. But today, as Rahner points out, we have to accept the fact that "Jesus Christ is himself a problem" (or, if you are Jewish, you could say the same thing of Torah: that it is a problem because there is no God, and besides, he doesn't spend his timelessness writing books for a bunch of stiffnecked nomads wandering in the bewilderness.)

For which reason Rahner doesn't begin with Jesus. As mentioned in a previous post, Rahner doesn't get to him until chapter six. Meanwhile, he is examining the keyhole, not the key: "A keyhole forms an a priori law governing what key fits in, but it thereby discloses something about the key itself."

O ho! This explains why a guy can learn a lot by simply keeping the keyhole open and uncorrupted, instead of shoving in any damn key, or even trying to pick the lock (or looking for the key under the streetlamp because that's where the light happens to be).

It seems that it won't be long before keys will become completely obsolete. Instead, we'll just have codes and passwords for everything. A physical key is a password, just as a password is a virtual key. And the purpose of the key is to -- or let us say the key's reason for being -- is tied in with this idea of a semi-permeable membrane between two spaces, for example, the inside and outside of my house or car or bank account.

Man needs boundaries in order to live -- for example, the skin that separates us from the environment. But all human boundaries are simultaneously open and closed. For example, as we go about our day-to-day business with the world, certain boundaries are more "rigid" than they are when we are with our family. Some people hold the keys to our heart in ways others don't.

As alluded to a couple of posts back, it isn't difficult to establish the existence of God -- or better, O. What is a bit more puzzling is why human beings should not only know of O, but be oriented toward this Big Mystery. This itself reveals a great deal about our mysterious keyhole, something which Rahner calls "unthematic knowledge of God."

You might say that this latter is the completely unsaturated knowledge of God that is part of our standard equipment. Later, theology will be superimposed upon, or fill in, or respond to, this unsaturated space. It is similar to our intrinsic "preparedness," so to speak, for justice or to receive beauty. No one would create a specific beautiful object if there weren't an innate receptiveness to beauty in general. And law couldn't exist unless man loves justice.

Likewise theology. No one would waste a moment on it if it weren't a response to the primordial mystery.

Rahner speaks of the "anonymous" God. Since it is anonymous, we'll just have to call it O, on pain of descending into either mythology or rationalism or yelvertone deafness, which amount to the same thing.

In any event, "the original idea of God is not the kind of knowledge in which one grasps an object which happens to present itself directly or indirectly from the outside." Rather, it has "the character of transcendental experience" as such.

This is a subtle point, but an important, well, key to the whole. But it's so familiar, that most people seem to miss its significance -- as if any other animal -- or mere animal -- is oriented to the Mystery of All. No, this is only possible for a mirror animal.

As Rahner explains, this built-in transcendental experience -- or experience of the transcendent -- "is always present unthematically and without name." It is present in the "non-objective luminosity of the subject in its transcendence" toward the hOly Mystery.

So, once we're aware of this transcendental keyhole, then we can start talking about the type of key that might fit.

In the contemporary world this whole issue -- as with most everything else -- has become completely inverted. By which I mean that man has convinced himself that he may start his self-understanding with various kinds of knowledge that aren't really knowledge at all, not when you trace them all the way down.

Rather, the one thing we can know and must know is that this stuff we call "knowledge" is but "a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is borne by the sea and only because it is can we be borne by it." Again?

Yes. So the questions become: which do we love more, "the small island of... so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?" And "is the little light with which [we illuminate] the island -- we call it science and scholarship -- to be an eternal light which will shine forever for [us]?"

"That would surely be hell."

(All quoted material from Rahner.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Man: Putting the Quest in Question

I know, I know, enough with the throat-clearing. Let's get on with it!

The problem I'm having is that I don't yet feel qualified to discuss Rahner, since I keep thinking that I'm going to get his overall point, which will then organize the hundreds of pages I've slogged through already.

But it's not happening. In Bion's terms, there is no PS <--> D.

What is PS <--> D? That refers to a critical psychopneumatic process whereby a mass of seemingly unrelated material suddenly discloses its inner coherence, and the outward "many-ness" resolves into an internally related One. Or, it could just mean you're paranoid.

It's complicated enough when you're just dealing with space, more complex when you toss time into the mix, and even more so when you're talking about what amounts to hyper-dimensional chess.

Or again, think of what we were saying about a person who spontaneously produces all those musical notes while simultaneously searching, so to speak, for their interior unity.

For those of you who are new to the incoondescent luminareum, blah blah blah, this is what I was attempting to do in the book of the same flame.

In short, we moderns are aware of the fact that everything is situated in history -- that history didn't just begin when we started writing stuff down, or when man split off from the Homo Yelverton branch of protohumans and began thinking for himsoph.

Rather, we now know -- or at least think we know -- that history has been going on for 13.7 billion years -- next month, if my calendar is correct. This means that it isn't just possible, but really necessary, to tell OneStory that encompasses the whole existentialada. To do less than this is to approach the task in a completely arbitrary manner.

For example, think of contemporary Darwinism. It is certainly a historical science. And yet, it arbitrarily starts its history with a bright line between organic life and its cosmic matrix.

As I wrote in the book -- and I wasn't kidding -- who's to say that biological life isn't just what we see in a sufficiently mature cosmos? I mean, there are very good reasons why it couldn't get going more than 3.85 billion years ago, because the cosmos simply hadn't reached puberty. Once it did, the planet became a hotbed of biological activity.

As it so happens, this is precisely the approach Rahner takes. You can say that Christianity starts with the Resurrection, or the Incarnation, or in Genesis, but each of these presupposes an awful lot of stuff that we need to take into consideration, at least if we want to go beyond a mythopoetic understanding.

Again, the latter is fine, except it won't necessarily speak bo diddley to a modern mind rendered barren by scientism, college, and TV.

Anyway, Rahner is trying to do this, but I'm not sure he's succeeding. Again, it seems to me that he's putting it all out before having completely digested and assimilated the material, so that too much work is required on the reader's part.

Nevertheless, we'll try, dammit. At least we'll try.

He writes in the preface that the purpose of the book will be to "try as far as possible to situate Christianity within the intellectual horizon of people today." As such, he doesn't "begin with a faith in which everything is completely settled and simply repeat what is in every catechism." That's an entirely different task which has already been done thousands of times, so there's no need to do it yet again.

This task is a more difficult one, and "is going to require some rather strenuous thinking and some hard intellectual work." He even warns off the looky-losers and spiritual thrillseekers: "Anyone who is just looking for religious inspiration and shies away from the demands of patient, laborious, and at times tedious reflection should not enter into this investigation."

Think of all the disciplines and subdisciplines one must deal with in order to do justice to such an endeavor: "philosophy of knowledge and the philosophy of language," "sociology, history, phenomenology and philosophy of religion," not to mention biology, cosmology, anthropology, neurology, psychology, and more. And let's not even talk about the fragmentation within theology, nor the extrinsic fragmentation produced by awareness of other faiths.

Who but a metaphysical b'atman would be brash enough to even try! Readers who are not up to the task can "only be referred to the church's catechism and told that they should simply believe what is taught there and in this way save their souls" (which he is by no means trivializing).

In short, Rahner wants to provide "an intellectually honest justification of Christian faith," one that is again geared toward modern sensibilities (or prejudices, if you want to be less charitable).

First of all, the task might not be as daunting as it appears to be at first blush, because although many people in the modern world have convinced themselves that they are wholly rational and bow to the scientific worldview, absolutely nobody actually lives, or could live, in that cold and dark world. Every sane and decent person recognizes the limits of science, even if he pretends otherwise.

Rather, we always inhabit a human world, and religion is addressed to just this world. In other words, it is not addressed to animals, because they wouldn't understand it. It is not about the world of physics, nor is it about some other hypothetical cosmos. Rahner addresses the book to the person who is Christian or who wants to be, and who wants to situate his Christianity within "the totality of his own existence."

First of all, we must begin where we are, which is to say, in the human form. But what is a human?

Ah, good question! If you are intellectually honest, the first thing you will acknowledge is that man is a mystery to himself, period. Yes, we can learn more and more about ourselves, but this is a vessel that can never be filled.

Therefore, Rahner posits man as "the universal question he is for himself." You might even say that man is the original (?!), or the sacred WTF!

I mean, right? Isn't it obvious when you think about it? And isn't it immediately apparent that such godforsaken disciplines as evolutionary psychology and behaviorism are just so much whistling past the graveyard, just fairy tales the tenured tell themselves so they can sleep at night?

To jump ahead more than a bit, Rahner later suggests that Christianity is first and foremost the mysterious Answer to the mysterious Question that man is.

And in fact, we can jump even further ahead, and suggest that the figure of Jesus will represent both the Question and its Answer in the same being. But we will first have to do a lot of preluminary gruntwork to get there.

To be continued. Another entirely different kind of gruntwork beckons.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secret Plan of the Tenured to Torture Readers Revealed!

I don't mean to complain so much, but one of the difficulties with this book -- Foundations of the Christian Faith -- is that it's so disorganized and repetitive. Could have definitely used another run through the Rahner brain before letting it fly out the piehole, in order to render it a bit more linear and coherent.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's a challenging -- the most challenging -- subject, but still, the only excuse for being so non-linear is a particularly beautiful literary style, which is lacking here.

I mean, I enjoy free jazz as much -- or more, if you want to believe my neighbor -- as the next guy, but playing it properly requires intense discipline, the reason being that one must find the compositional center, or "container," so to speak, even while one is spontaneously producing the content.

This requires, on the one hand, a kind of surrender, but on the other, the ascent to, or descent of, a higher order. It frankly requires a kind of mating between ♀ (container) and ♂ (contained), but let's keep this clean, okay?

What this means is that whatever comes out must be placed in a higher and deeper context, just as in a normal melody, only at a much higher level of abstraction. The alternative is just blowing notes with no internal coherence, which is hardly the same thing (similar to the difference between liberty and freedom, as discussed a couple of posts back).

It reminds me of something a particularly brilliant friend of ours wrote to Mrs. G, which I'd apparently filed away for just this moment. She writes of "a huge gulf between being able to play the piano in a technically brilliant, dazzling way, and the people through whom the music literally lives and breathes. For the latter very small group of pianists, making music is a very spiritual experience, and playing the piano is like opening up a window into their soul."

More: "It's difficult to describe, but when you play piano you can enter a kind of transcendental state where you feel at once both entirely disconnected from, and at the same time almost controlled by, the music you are making.... The physical actions of playing don't require any thought at all. You don't think about technique or how to play, and your mind is entirely free to go anywhere; meanwhile your hands are playing the music and it keeps just appearing as if by magic. In fact, if you try to think about where it's coming from or how you are doing it, then it's impossible and the magic stops. Often I've sat at the piano and started to play, and it's been 3 or 4 hours later before I know what's happened.... Each piece leads seamlessly to another and it's like my mind went on a vacation to another place."

As I said, brilliant. But what about the restavus slobs? I think I know the feeling, because writing can definitely engender a similar experience, especially this type of writing, which is completely, er, spontaneous. But if it were only spontaneous -- i.e., self-indulgent -- then why would anyone want to read it?

Oh, right. That explains a lot.

The key, it seems to me -- and it is clearly not something within our conscious control -- is to "be controlled by the music you are making." Sounds paradoxical, and it is. Orthoparadoxical, to be precise, meaning that it is, among other things, an irreducible mystery.

Therefore -- well, as usual, Don Colacho has a piquant aphorism made to order: The writer who has not tortured his sentences tortures the reader.

Ah, Don Colacho. Now there is a man who knew his lumitations. Of his own gnomic style, he writes that The reader will not find aphorisms in these pages. My brief sentences are the dots of color in a pointillist painting.

That is an apt description, for each aphorism is a free-standing gem of its own, and yet, throw them into a big pile and a whole sensibility emerges. In fact, I would say that the soul of this person, Don Colacho, appears before us.

In this context, each aphorism is a fractal, or microcosm, of the macroman, like spiritual DNA. Indeed, "The only pretension I have is that of having not written a linear book but a concentric book" (DC). And his center is everywhere in those pointillist dots that constitute the circle.

Hmm. I wonder what other advice he has for the aspiring blogger?

"To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself."

Yes! Now maybe my in-laws will finally believe me that it's not just morbid introspection.

"The first step of wisdom is to admit, with good humor, that there is no reason why our ideas should interest anybody."

I am unworthier than thou!

But also, if you're going to toss yet another book onto the existing pile of millions, you'd better have a damn good excuse.

"Only he who suggests more than what he expresses can be reread."

See, I told you I wasn't just being vague and evasive.

"A phrase should ruffle its wings like like a falcon in captivity."

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

"Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas."

Ouch! I'll let you field that one, Professor Rahner.

"A writer should know that only a few of those who look at him will actually see him."

Hello? Is this thing on?

"Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond."

Ah. That would explain William Yelverton.

"Clarity is the virtue of a man who does not distrust what he says."

Call me credulous, but at least I got that going for me.

"The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie."

So true. In the back of my head I always hear the stern voice of Professor StrunkWhite: Omit needless words! That and Do not affect a breezy manner!

No, I am not affecting one. Rather, it's genuine.

"Mere talent is to literature what good intentions are to conduct."

In your face, Shakespeare!

"Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."

Well, if that's the way you feel about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Bigger the Mansion, the Deeper the Foundation

I remember reading that Schuon, although German was his mother tongue, preferred to write in French, because he found it much more conducive to expressing highly subtle metaphysical ideas with clarity and precision. He felt that German simply wasn't up to the task. Which might well explain the problem with KantHegelHeideggar et al.

On the other hand, they say that Schopenhauer was a fine stylist who expressed himself clearly despite being burdened by the German tongue. He absolutely detested the bloviating Hegel, and wasn't afraid to say so. Here are some of his greatest hits:

"[If] I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right."

That is a rather overlong sentence, though.

Moreover, "If I were to say that this pseudo-philosophy has as its central idea an absurd notion grasped from thin air, that it dispenses with reasons and consequents, in other words, is demonstrated by nothing, and itself does not prove or explain anything, that it lacks originality and is a mere parody of scholastic realism and at the same time of Spinozism, and that the monster is also supposed to represent Christianity turned inside out, hence, ‘The face of a lion, the belly of a goat, the hindquarters of a dragon,’ again I should be right."

Hey, that's what I said about the Democratic platform!

"Further, if I were to say that this [Great Philosopher] scribbled nonsense quite unlike any mortal before him, so that whoever could read his most eulogized work... without feeling as if he were in a madhouse, would qualify as an inmate for Bedlam, I should be no less right.”

Calling Professor Krugman!

Finally: Hegel is "a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.”

Now there is a singular feat. In order to accomplish the same corruption in America, it required the entire leftist educational establishment.

Anyway, toward the end of his life Schuon reverted to German, but this was when he essentially wrote nothing but poetry. For the purposes of the latter, German was the more effective vehicle, presumably because it burrowed all the way down to his most primary experiences -- the types of primordial thingys beyond, beneath, behind, and above speech.

So I guess we're stuck with Rahner and his German, and we'll just have to deal with it. You can pretty much open a page at random and be faced with a wall of impenetrable semantic something. What makes it especially funny is that --

Put it this way. You know how I'm always *helpfully* saying in other words? A reader once commented on this, and thanked me for it (I think he even said that the blog ought to be called In Other Words, which is not a bad idea).

Anyway, this quaint expression is supposed to be a tipoff that what follows is going to be the same idea presented in a more digestible form. No, not "dumbed down," but if anything, "dumbed up." I often do it for my own benefit, because if you can vividly and spontaneously describe the same thing from various angles -- as if it's standing right there before your mind's eye -- you can be pretty sure it's really there.

But when Rahner says "in other words" -- or the German equivalent thereof -- it's just more words, and there's a fifty-fifty chance that they are even less clear.

This whole thing about clarity of expression. Is it overrated? One would think so, given the appalling quality of writing one finds in academia.

But I am of the belief that if one really and truly understands something, one should be able to express it in a clear and convincing manner, in such a way that a person of average intelligence should be capable of understanding it (assuming, of course, genuine curiosity, good will, and intellectual honesty on the reader's part; and a pinch of grace, of course).

I know what you're thinking: "you should talk, Bob, what with all the mystagogic homophonia, sub-Joycean pundamentalism, and general portmanteau much of a good thing." I see your point and I'll even raise you a nickel, but that's getting into the whole Raccoon doctrine of Perfect Nonsense, and we don't have time for such nonsense at the moment.

On to Rahner. As alluded to in yesterday's post, he doesn't start his analysis of the foundations of Christianity with Christianity. For many faithful this no doubt sounds suspicious, but I think he's absolutely correct to do so. For starters, how does one -- especially in the no longer homogeneous modern world -- talk about Christianity in a way that isn't just solipsistic?

In other words, it isn't really intellectually honest -- if that's the right word -- to ground Christianity in Christianity, because it begs the question. Obviously there are millions of Christians who do this, and that's fine. It's perfectly valid for purposes of salvation (is that all?), but not really optimal for communication. For example, if someone asks how you know Christianity is "true," it's not going to impress your interlocutor to respond, "because it says so."

Think of the fundamentalist who says that every word of the Bible is literally true. How does he know this? Not only does the Bible nowhere say this, but it is entirely accurate to say that the Bible knows nothing of this thing called a "Bible." What, do you think that when Paul was dashing off his letters he knew that someone would later come along and put them in a book that includes not just the Torah and prophets but also the Gospels which were composed after he died?

As far as I can discern, one of Rahner's central concerns is this issue of helping Christian theology make sense to a mentality that is entirely different from the mentality which prevailed when it was developed.

Sure, you can keep expressing it with the same old cognitive tools, but in the long run it's probably not going to work. Or there will be an intolerable split between religious cognition and other forms of cognition, both within the individual and in the wider collective.

It no doubt helps explain why we have this dreadful being in the White House, because his most vocal supporters obviously know nothing of God (and are proud of it). But it's not entirely their fault, since they are the passive victims of an infrahuman culture that made them what they are (and more importantly, aren't). Their primary sin is this spiritual and intellectual passivity, but we can see that passivity soon enough transforms to a disordered activity in order to fill the void. That is how you create a liberal. (Note the more subtle point -- that we are all created; the leftist is a creature of his horizontal matrix no less than we are of the vertico-horizontal nouscape.)

So Foundations of Christian Faith starts with five chapters before it gets into anything specifically Christian. It is not until chapter VI that he gets to "what is most specifically Christian in Christianity, Jesus Christ." But there are excellent reasons for this, and I've never seen anyone approach the issues in such a, well, fundamental way.

That is to say, before we can have this phenomenon called Jesus Christ, we must assume -- or establish, rather -- a certain ontology, cosmology, anthropology; we must understand the nature of language, of space, time, and history, of why man is in need of this thing called "salvation," how such a thing could even be possible, and how man could recognize it if it were.

We must ask what it could mean for God to "become" something other than what he is, or indeed how the changeless can "become" at all. We must understand how the infinite may clothe itself in finitude, and how it is possible for man to understand communications from God (whatever that is), and what kind of understandable category the "godman" falls into.

This post was deusrupted by having to take the boy to school. To be continued....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Beginner's Guide to the End of All Existence, or Unfathomable Depth for Dummies

Because of last week's annoying vexcitement, I've lost the plot again and wouldn't know where to find it if I tried. Male-female relations, wasn't it? In the context of the group/individual complementarity or something?

Oh well. Time to dive straight into the cold and bracing waters of O and see what we can pull out. For we are not nuts, we are fishermen! And we are the fish we catch.

For those who glance now and then at the sidebar in order to see what Bob is up & into, I've been trying to slog my way through this Karl Rahner person, whoever that is. (I removed the book from the sidebar as soon as I concluded that it is not for everyone.)

I'd bumped into him frequently in my transdimensional peregrinations, and found that he was often described as the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th century, or at least among the toppermost of the poppermost, along with such fertile eggheads as Balthasar, de Lubac, Maritain, and Congar.

Now, the first thing you need to keep in mind before we begin this strenuous verticalisthenic -- and I know you will -- is that I am neither a Catholic nor a theologian, just a guy with a blog. And as Jean Paul Sartre might have said, hell is other people's blogs.

Frankly, I'm not even a lay theologian, but I will cop to being a ¶lay theodoxian, which is to say, a guy who just fOʘled around and fell in Love, and has a lot of unsolicited opinions about it.

Note that I just used the word "strenuous" up there. It definitely applies, because this is without a doubt some of the most strenuous reading ever engaged in by the Gagdad melon, which is disinclined to what the conspiracy likes to call "work" but we just call slavery.

What?

Oh yes. We are referring specifically to what is said to be Rahner's magnum opiate which is definitely not for the masses, despite its innocent-sounding title: Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.

"Introduction?" "Foundations?" Ho! C'mon, Karl. You really need to get out of the fane more often. I mean, we just had this ratification of stupidity we call an "election," and to imagine that this grazing multitude of knuckleheaded conformists could grasp the first sentence of your Introduction is to overestimate the average man's yelvertonian intellect by an order of magnitude.

Maybe he was being ironic? If so, he needs to telegraph it a little more. Otherwise you end up like Andy Kaufman or Joaquin Phoenix, who push the joke so far it can start to grate. Gotta be a little more like Spinal Tap, Larry Sanders, or Iowahawk, so the audience can be in on the joke. Why not call yourself something like "Gagdad Rahner" or Coolhand Karl to create the right mood?

Nineteen reviews on amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars, so there are obviously some people ready for such an advanced introduction. Haven't read them yet. Let's see if any resonate...

Yes, this is good: "I bought this book used and it came in great shape. I am currently trying to muddle my way through it."

My experience has been quite similar, except that my used copy has a cracked spine. Should have been rated "acceptable" instead of "good," but I decided to let it go. Life is short and eternity long, and all that.

Ah! Another reader with whom I see eye-to-eye: "I am new to studying Karl Rahner, but this book is difficult to read, confusing, and if the reader is not very careful, can easily misconstrue the author's intent."

This is helpful: the reviewer speaks of Rahner's "rambling German sentence structure, but once you understand that this text, like all of his published works, was written from dictation, you will begin to understand just what is missing from the printed word."

Nevertheless, it is difficult to "capture the characteristic vocal inflections that made the rambling sentences concise and clear. The reader must supply the drama of the words, understanding that not a word that was uttered has been left out of print."

"Thus, Rahner is not to be read so much as to be experienced [what we call (n) vs. mere (k)], and this will take some work. But in this way, the reader will suddenly discover what Rahner, in his persuasive and vastly diverse way, is attempting to say. This book is well worth hearing, for those who have ears."

The problem is, Rahner is attempting to condense "50 published works into one 400 page book" (as one reviewer puts it). What if someone were to ask me to boil down the previous 2069 posts into a 400 page book? Nocando. That's for someone else to attempt. Any takers? I didn't think so.

This review comes close to what I'm getting from Rahner: "A mystical theology for the future" and a "marriage between intellectual thought, deep spirituality, and a home in tradition."

Now, why is he controversial (which he apparently is)? I think I know why, and we'll get into that as we proceed. One reviewer mentions "the perennial conflict within Catholicism between a theology inspired by Thomas (based on Aristotle) and Augustine (based on Plato). The representative of this latter theology is the Swiss theologian Von Balthasar, who wrote his magisterial 'The Glory of the Lord' in response to what he saw as Rahner's 'dilution of the concept of Revelation,' amongst other things."

I can't vouch for that, and have no idea whether it's true.

The reviewer continues: Pope Benedict "is a firm supporter of Von Balthasar's theology, which makes Rahner somewhat unpopular in Vatican theological circles today. Rahner, in contrast to the entire Catholic approach to theology of the past 2000 years, does not start his understanding of Christianity by elaborating upon the tenets of revealed faith, but starts from 'below,' i.e., from mankind as a species which is open to the supernatural in its very essence..."

Now we're brushing up against Coonland, because I definitely have a similar approach -- that is, I start from the facts of existence, not necessarily from revelation.

But the most important fact of existence is without a doubt the human subject, and I am in complete agreement with Rahner that the human subject is inconceivable in the absence of "God" -- which I place in scare quotes because, as emphasized by Rahner again and again, the word is simply too saturated -- including by later revelation -- to serve as an adequate placeholder for what we are attempting to convey -- what Rahner simply calls the Holy Mystery, or what we call O.

As we have demonstrated in so many ways in so many posts, it isn't difficult to prove the existence of God to the intellectually adequate. But as to what God is actually like -- this can only be furnished by revelation, faith, and grace. More on which later, but it's an important distinction, which comes down to the difference between "I" and "AM."

The reviewer notes that "A further difficulty for the traditionalists is that Rahner tries to make evolution an integral part of his understanding of faith." The reviewer properly notes that "placing any scientific theory as an integral part of theology exposes it to the risk of collapse should the theory prove to be false or is replaced by another theory," but I don't see Rahner doing this.

Rather, he seems to make it clear that experience trumps theory. He's just trying to situate the transcendent experience of the presence of the Holy Mystery within the context of an adequate metaphysic that accounts for everything, including the truths of science. Here again, much more on this as we proceed. Which I guess we'll do tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Died for What?!

This is a continuation of Friday's post. But it's Veteran's Day, isn't it? So let's consider what follows in light of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sacred principles espoused therein, because I seriously doubt that many of them did so for food stamps, high taxes, low standards, illegal immigration, corrupt and greedy public employee unions, free birth control, homosexual "marriage," and millions of pathetic women betrothed to the state.

Or, if they did make such a sacrifice, it wasn't a necessary one, because it's much easier to achieve the goals of the left by simply hijacking the educational system, the media, and the Supreme Court. Then, after having produced a couple generations of educated idiots and tenured apes, you will have won the culture war -- the war on culture -- without firing a single shot. No body is killed by a hostile enemy, and only the soul dies by its own hand.

OOOOO

In an election, we are not just choosing a candidate, but affirming what we believe to be The Case -- not just the facts, but the metaphysical paradigm for interpreting them. When truth and intent coincide, then progress can occur. But if there is a rupture between them, then democracy easily becomes the method of its own demise, as in my state, which just voted to raise taxes again in order to funnel more of our hard-won public treasure to our millions of fat and lazy parasites.

Almost all liberals presumably have good intentions. The question is whether their intentions are in accord with reality. For if we could only discern what is true, then voting would be seen not so much as a choice but a ratification of the obvious. In the end, you cannot really vote to reject reality. Or you can, but you’ll lose every time. As I said, let us just hope that the catastrophe comes sooner than later, and that it is swift and sudden rather and long and drawn out, and thus "deniable."

OOOOO

Although we are individuals, we are immersed in a collective mentality out of which our individuality must be won. As along as we live, the group is always trying to pull us back down and out of ourselves -- which makes sense, because excessive individualism would be a problem for human beings, who simply cannot exist as isolated monads (except in fantasy).

On the horizontal level, our “groupishness” is anterior to our individual self, while the reverse is true vertically.

In other words, while the group is existentially prior, the self is ontologically prior. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that we have a political system that reflects the primordial complementarity between social-ism and individual-ism. This in itself is inevitable and not necessarily a reflection of spiritual illness, any more than sexual polarity is a problem just because hateful feminists turn it into one.

For there is, so to speak, a “left hand” faction of horizontality, groupishness, and rebellious pseudo-indvidualism; and a “right hand” faction of verticality, inwardness, and individual development.

Many consequences flow from this initial bifurcation of mankind. Right hand man, because he sees his earthly vocation in the journey toward vertical transcendence, masters himself and loves doing so. Because of this (super)natural vector, he doesn't require a heavy-handed government to compel him to do the right thing.

In such an individual, the conquest of even a trivial impulse is a victory for God if it brings him closer to his true Self, a Self that can only be discovered and developed in an environment of liberty. For vertical man, society is useful to the extent that it helps the person realize his reason for being. A society is more or less sick to the extent that it doesn't embody, preserve, and foster verticality.

Vertical Man believes that our primary obligation is to defend man from himself -- that our greatest enemies and obstacles are from within -- whereas Horizontal Man believes that his primary obligation is to generate social conditions that allow a man to indulge his desires while remaining beneath himself.

As such, Horizontal Man has no interest in mastering himself, for doing so is identified with judgmentalism, repression, and delayed gratification. He naturally celebrates what is most common and coarse, for there is nothing higher to aim at. Rather, the only “higher” is more freedom, which is a debased liberty understood only in its horizontal aspect.

In other words, while liberty is freedom oriented toward a spiritual telos, horizontal freedom is mere license to express one’s whims and impulses without spiritual consequences. The former is objective and radiates; the latter is subjective and encloses. Vertical liberty leads to Truth, Beauty and Goodness; horizontal freedom leads to “my truth,” to moral relativism, and to ugliness and barbarism masquerading as art. Or in short, nowhere and nothing.

If truth is relative and perception is reality, then no one’s ideas about the world are any better than anyone else’s. Fact is reduced to opinion and conformity to opinion is ultimately maintained by the group or institution that has the power to enforce its version of reality.

But this quickly redounds to the opposite effect intended by its liberal proponents. That is, if we cannot judge the merit of competing ideas by assessing their value in light of an absolute standard, then either everyone will have their own private truth, or truth will be enforced by the state or some other powerful collectivity.

On college campuses, for example, no one is unsophisticated enough to believe that absolute truth exists; however, you'd better not utter the wrong truth, or you will come face to fist with the raw power that enforces absolute horizontal relativism.

Horizontal man is condemned to live beneath himself because that is all he can do. This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about "popular culture."

In this desiccated environment, quantity must somehow make up for qualities that can only be found in the vertical, which is why horizontal man can never get enough of what he doesn't really need, and why no economy could ever be “good enough” for him. Reality simply cannot compete with horizontal man's undisciplined imagination.

By definition, horizontal man can only measure progress empirically, but even then, empiricism must ultimately be ignored because it doesn't speak to the unrecognized non-empirical needs of the soul. Thus, the impoverished soul, with no other outlet to express itself, will do so in the language of quantities -- the many variations of the infant’s “More! More! More! Again!”

The horizontal/vertical divide can also be seen as a reflection of the division between id and superego, or impulses and standards. Based upon a profound misunderstanding of Freud (if a misunderstanding can be called profound), a horizontal psychology emerged in the 1960s to go along with the horizontal ideology of the left, in order to legitimize what in any traditional context would be regarded as the essence of soul pathology.

Major leftist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and N.O. Brown developed a beastardized version of Freudianism to argue that people only imagined they were happy, but that they were actually living "inauthentic," repressed lives. In order to be "real," they had to express themselves in an uninhibited and unrepressed manner.

Thus followed the idealization of the primitive in all its ghastly forms. For horizontal man doesn't actually remain horizontal. Rather, he simply removes the impediments to his own fall -- which can admittedly feel exhilarating until one eventually reaches a realm that is without light, warmth, and cash. And when that happens, you just blame angry white men or something.

Regarding our horizontal groupishness, multiculturalism devalues the concept of the individual in favor of the ethnic group, while socialism in all its voracities favors the large and powerful state that "unites" us all. But no such bullying can actually unite us. Rather, it can only push us together like so many anonymous bags of wet cement -- which should describe that uncomfortable feeling you've been having since last Tuesday. No normal person wants to be treated like that.

Deconstruction throws all objective meaning into question, so no one has to have the disappointing experience of being wrong or denied tenure, no matter how sick or stupid one's ideas. The burden of personal responsibility is mitigated, because one's being is determined by accidental factors such as race, class and gender, rather than one's owns values, decisions, and actions.

Skillful knowledge acquired by intense effort is replaced by an obnoxious, hypertrophied, and omniscient adolescent skepticism that knows only how to question but not to learn. It is grounded in a sort of bovine materialism that is not the realm of answers, but the graveyard of meaningful questions. The primitive is idealized, because it is within everyone's reach; it is painful to have standards, because not everyone can attain them. Horizontal man just lowers the target, which amounts to punishing those who aim higher -- for example, via racial quotas and campus "diversity."

OOOOO

The purpose of religion is to become human. Biology will only take us so far, which isn't very far at all. A merely biological human being would also be a monster, a misfit, something grotesque.

In our bOnes we know this. In Genesis, the first thing Adam and Eve realize upon attaining self-consciousness is their nakedness, of which they are ashamed. They know instantaneously -- another one of those things we cannot not know unless we are highly educated -- that they are not like the other animals and that there is something shameful in behaving like one.

In so many ways the contemporary left presents a teaching that is completely at odds with our divine clueprint. How does this happen?

Leftism, in all its forms, is a revolt. Specifically, it is a revolt against our divine-human nature. With the 1960’s came the pervasive message that one could be an authentic human only by being subhuman, by rejecting all of society’s hypocritical mores and values. Therefore -- in a complete inversion of the cosmic order -- the purpose of life was to become “unrepressed” and to overturn tradition, which was simply an illegitimate means of control and domination.

This is why the left cannot help aligning itself with movements -- no matter how vile or evil -- that further this goal of overturning Western Values, which is to say universal virtues.

OOOOO

The establishment doesn't require the rebel but the rebel requires the establishment, in the same way that the adolescent requires his parents to act out his rebellion. Therefore, leftism isn't just reactionary, but it is a dance of projective identification in which the leftist projects the most human parts of himself outside and then rebels against them. This is what allows him to live without guilt, for the guilt is converted into the imaginary “right wing fascism” (or whatever) that persecutes him.

Ultimately, radical secularism fails as a religion because it has no God, only demons: George Bush, Christian fundamentalists, Israel, tax cuts for the rich, waterboarding, Halliburton, Fox News, Abu Ghraib, corporate profits, disparities in wealth, strict constructionists, parental notification, talk radio, and so many more.

On the other hand, the sort of classical liberalism to which we ascribe -- now embodied in the modern American conservative movement -- recognizes that politics must aim at something that is not politics -- something higher, not lower. The alienation of the world can be healed -- or at least treated -- but not in the flat and horizontal line of secular history, nor in the endlessly recurring cycle of primitive fusion with nature. Rather, it can only occur in the ascending, evolutionary spiral.

The secular world is a value-free flatland of nihilism and urgent nonsense, whereas the vertical world accessed by authentic spirituality is a world of hierarchical values to which we are perpetually drawn.

It is here that the luminous horizon of salvolution lies, for so long as there are free individuals endowed by their Creator with an orientation toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, there will always be upward frontiers, not just horizontal edges. And there will always be something worth dying for. But only if we live up to the ideals worthy of such sacrifice.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking for a Few Good Übermen

For you SubGenius readers out there (and there's obviously an überlap between Raccoons and SubGenii), I think this would be a good time to reflect upon and renew your Citizenship Pledge:

--I declare my allegiance to the SubGenius Race and to my household kingdom, while severing all ties with enemies of the SubGenii (including myself if need be) except where it is fiscally required.

--As a member of this mutant empire, my first concern is Slack for myself, my family and friends.

Therefore:

I will promote divisions and wars among non-SubGenii.

I will work to cast out the False Prophets.

I will work to erase the Conforming Instinct.

I will work for Time Control in my own life.

I will work to preserve this planet from destruction except for the proper reasons.

I will work to unmask the Conspiracy and install a strict anarchy or formal chaos.

I will work to prevent humanity from ever acting with a common will.

I will work to grip the reins of evolution.

And finally:

I pledge that I will not actually "work" at any of the above; moreover that I will never voluntarily allow any shortness of Slack into my home, temple, fane, cathedral, chapel, shrine, priory, abbey, friary, convent, monastery, or place of business.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Gagdad's Greatest Hates

Since we all seem to be in a nabkaish frame of mind -- and since I don't have much time -- I thought I'd revisit the Cosmos of November 2006, and see what we said after that previous Nabka, when the Democrats stole the nation's credit card and haven't stopped spending since. Now, of course, they've moved on to cultural identity theft, but the underlying principles haven't changed.

If nothing else, this verticalisthenic exercise will show that man is always in the same boat, and that we most certainly would have been in this boat regardless of who prevailed last Tuesday. Frankly, there's no way to not be in the boat short of death. And you certainly can't tax your way out of it. Nevertheless, California is trying, so hopefully it will be the first dumino to fail. The sooner we get the coming catastrophe over with, the better.

Actually, since there were several posts on the subject, I think I'll just republish the most relevant extracts, and make it a sort of Best 'o Bob:

I’m trying to imagine what it must feel like for Horizontal Man to win an election. I know that for me and other vertical beings of my acquaintance, there is no great joy upon winning an election, usually just relief that we have managed to temporarily pull the cultural plane out of its death spiral. But for Horizontal Man, politics is his religion, which is the whole problem with his politics.

Vertical man is born again “from above” (on a moment to moment basis), drawing energies from the cosmogonic center and radiating them to the horizontal periphery. But since Horizontal Man is trapped in the bewilderness of his contingent being (i.e., maya), he projects the Above into the Future, and constructs a faux spiritual life that attempts to draw psychic energies from this self-created illusion.

In other words, the spiritually constricted leftist practices the religion of progressivism, in which belief in a transcendent heaven is immanentized and nourishes the place where his shriveled soul ought to be.

In doing so, he receives a kind of existential consolation which may be compared to a form of counterfeit grace, in particular, when he imagines that he is in proximity to this faux heaven and therefore closer to being “saved” from the existential situation that afflicts all humans.

Or you could just cut out the bullshit and say they're idiots.

In any event, you can clearly see this mechanism of horizontal salvation in action. For if reality were actually what the fantasists of the left have been saying it was prior to the election, we would not see manic exaltation among their ranks. Rather, we would see great sobriety and moral seriousness, as they brood on the monumental achievement of having just barely prevented a theo-fascist takeover of America. If this self-evident fantasy had been real, the more appropriate reaction of the left would be sobbing, not fist-pumping and sack dancing.

OOOOO

Regardless of what happens today, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the seasoned Raccoon, whose invisible combat will continue unabated. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. To witness the fevered excitement of a crass and loudmouthed vulgarian such as Chris Matthews or the adamantine darkness visible of a Keith Olbermann and the kos-bags for whom he shrieks is to see the human pig in all its naked horizontal glory.

Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to help save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats. Both bad religion and bad politics follow from the belief that it is possible for essentially lost souls to help other lost souls, which simply ends up drowning both parties -- the blind leading the bland straight into the abyss.

OOOOO

The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose.

To say that human beings cannot live without an ultimate purpose is another way of saying that man is condemned to transcendence and that he cannot avoid the vertical. The choice is whether he will bow before a manmade idol or stand in the light of the Absolute that is the true source of his quasi-divine dignity and metacosmic stature.

Nor, let it be emphasized, can human beings deny the horizontal, on pain of not existing. In order to be at all, we must be separate from the Absolute. The task before us is to find the proper balance between vertical and horizontal, spirit and matter, time and eternity. Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit, meretrocious version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine power.

Taken to its illogical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue or dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people.

But all forms of leftism lie on this cunningtinuum, including the dark side of American democracy, of “people power,” of class warfare, of the false absolutes of “diversity” and cultural and moral relativism. So much of the pandering of the left is merely totalitarianism in disguise -- a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical.

But we all know -- should know -- that there is a horizontal aspect to the true vertical, which manifests as humility, submission, spontaneous adoration, and a sense of awe before the sacred and hOly. Ironically, horizontal man possesses none of these virtues. Rather, he is proud, vulgar, blasphemous, and blind to the sacred, all of which inflate his own self-importance and, in his myøpia, lift him far above his spiritual superiors.

OOOOO

There is no one so vertical -- in its inverted sense -- as the naive atheist or secular leftist, a contingent being who fraudulently claims absolute metaphysical knowledge for himself.

And there is no one so inflated with narcissistic hubris than the leftist social imagineer who will save mankind from its own self-inflicted need for salvation. The leftist can give man everything but what he most needs, and in so doing, destroys the possibility of man.

For masturbatory horizontality goes hand on gland with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas salvolution lies up and in.

Animals are almost entirely exterior. They do not actually live in the world, but in the closed system of their own neurology. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any strict scientific basis -- can exit the closed system of his own neurology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and moral goodness.

To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and sophocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can grow into full manhood.

You cannot replace the holy grail with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.

OOOOO

Being what he is -- and isn’t -- horizontal man externalizes concerns about his own collective suicide and obsesses over the future of the planet, over speculative weather reports one hundred years hence.

But right now there is a hell and there is a handcasket, because we can clearly see both with our own third eyes. Furthermore, we can see exactly who is running with one in both hands.

OOOOO

Now, vertical man never obsesses, let alone enters the state of perpetual hysteria of horizontal man. Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the interior of the human world, and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.

Such lost souls and last men cannot discern the signs of the times, much less the direction of history. For them, history can be nothing more than a meaningless tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a nice paycheck and adoring coeds. Horizontal man scoffs at spiritual reality on the peculiar grounds that it cannot exist, denying its presence with that which affirms it by virtue of its self-evident existence.

It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives very close to the ground, hence the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recrapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology.

But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance.

For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built the foundation brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).

Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is in the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.

Yes, we are exiled in time, but for vertical man, time does not alter the basic existential situation which religion is here to address. It is believed by our intellectually and spiritually shallow elites that religion is no longer relevant.

In so believing, they underscore their own irrelevance, for they blame Truth for their own lack of qualification to understand and accept it. Suffice it to say that to be eternally young is to forever grow -- only inward and upward, toward the primordial light that has already defeated horizontal darkness, today and forever.

So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens come home to roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.

There's actually a lot more, but now I'm out of time, so maybe I'll continue tomorrow...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I'd Rather Have a Battle in Front of Me than a Frontal Lobotomy

I was reading this sobering editorial by Melanie Phillips, which highlights all of the reasons to dread the future which began stalking us last Tuesday. Truly, it isn't just policies that are at stake, but our entire way of life.

And even then, it goes deeper than existential issues, all the way down to the ontological and spiritual. The latter two categories have to do with who we are and why we are here. For Obama, it's pretty simple: we are nobody special, and I am here to control you. Or, he is special and you are not.

Ironic, to say the least -- but this is always true of the left -- that Obama wants to stop policing the world. Instead, he just wants to police us. For him, we are the problem, not Iran or Egypt or Libya or Russia or North Korea. Which is the same problem Iran, Egypt, Libya, Russia, and North Korea have with their subjects.

This is precisely what Phillips is saying: "Obama’s agenda has been crystal clear from the get-go: to increase the power of the state over the citizen at home, and to neutralise American power abroad. Four more years of this and he’ll almost certainly have succeeded. The impact upon western security could be cataclysmic."

She speaks of security, which is again an existential issue. But then she gets to the ontological: "Britain and the Europeans love Obama because they think he will end American exceptionalism and turn the US into a pale shadow of themselves" (emphasis mine). We will become someone else, someone we have never been and were never intended to be.

However, Phillips then says something that leapt out at me: "What they don’t realise is that, all but lobotomised by consumerist rights, state dependency, victim culture, sentimentality, post-religion, post-nationalism and post-Holocaust and Empire guilt, Britain and Europe are themselves fast going down the civilisational tubes."

If you don't believe her, I would suggest you read some of Theodore Dalrymple's b-o-o-k-s, unless you're already dispirited enough, thank you.

But that word, lobotomized. First of all, we spell it with a 'z.' But as it so happens, the other night I watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with my son. I've seen it so many times that I was able to mute or fast forward the age-inappropriate parts.

I must have seen the film five times within the month it was released in 1975. The question is, why did it speak to me? After all, I was only 19, but more to the point, still a quasi-animal, although a harmless and good-natured one -- an amiable barbarian.

I was in college at the time, but it is fair to say that "learning" was the last thing on the agenda. I'm not sure I even knew there was such a thing as "graduate school," but the idea of continuing school beyond the bare minimum would have struck me as absurd -- unless there were some kind of dramatic payoff, such as extending adolescence into my late 20s. And so there was.

I suppose that many on the left would interpret OFOtCN in sociological or political terms, and this may even have been the author's conscious intent, for all I know. But for me it has deeply religious overtones, and is spiritual through and through.

Anyway, one reason I wanted the boy to see it is that lately we'd been watching a lot of crappy horror movies. It seems that every horror/monster movie ever made is shown in October. Boys have no qualms whatsoever about blood and gore, so I'm not worried about that -- so long as it isn't the propagandistic kind of gore that deals with "climate change."

After watching a dozen or so of these artistically vacant horror films, he could tell how truly bad and emotionally unsatisfying they are -- he could see that something vital was missing, something that defines the difference between art and dreck. So it was an auspicious Teaching Moment.

We actually had some preliminary conversations about this -- for example, how in a poorly done film you don't care about the characters, or how these films teach nothing, or how they have no satisfying resolution. Toward the end of one of them, he said "I don't see how they're gonna wrap this up in five minutes." And he was right. Everybody dies. The end.

Anyway, I wanted to contrast these with a great film, so he could see the difference. We actually watched The Gladiator too, and he could see right away that its violence is entirely different from the gratuitous violence of the horror films. But he could also see how the film made you care about Maximus from the very start, and how you identified more deeply with his character as the film proceeds.

Back to OFOtCN. I didn't expect him to say this, but Tristan discerned right away that R.P. McMurphy is Maximus, while Nurse Ratched is the evil Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Clearly, in both cases we're seeing a kind of dance between light and darkness, which he picked up right away.

He also totally understood the idea that McMurphy is Jesus. In this view, the insane asylum isn't "corporate America," "the establishment," "fascist Christianism," or some other leftist bogieperson.

Rather, it is the world, a fallen world in desperate need of redemption. From the opening scene, McMurphy provides this redemption, as his "spirit" at first disturbs this stifling world, and then begins "entering" the other patients.

After all, at the time, 2000 years ago, Jesus was also understood to be nothing more than a common criminal who was a nuisance to the world of Rome (which was the world). His Light was deeply disturbing to the darkness, so it had to be eliminated and deluminated. Or at least that was the best laid plan of mousy men.

Speaking of Jesus, there is a scene in which McMurphy hijacks the bus and takes the patients out on a boat. He says to them You're not nuts, you're fishermen! You don't say.

And just as Jesus heals the deaf and blind, McMurphy "heals" the "deaf and dumb" Big Chief. He also heals Billy of his stutter, at least until Nurse Ratched cracks down on him with the threat to inform his mother.

This occurs the morning after the "last supper," when McMurphy bribes the night watchman and they have a spirited all night party (with lots of spirits smuggled in). Remember, they're still in the mental institution/world, but no longer "of" it; somehow they are "set free" within its confines. Nothing has changed except their interior horizon.

But that won't fly, any more than it flew for the Romans. In the end McMurphy is crucified -- in his case, lobotomized -- and order is restored.

But not so fast. Something strange then happens. Because of McMurphy's influence, the Chief realizes his true stature. He has become "big as a mountain," and is ready to escape with him. (McMurphy's first words to the him are something like "Goddamn it Chief, you're about as big as a damn mountain!")

But the lobotomized McMurphy is "gone," without two cerebral cortexes to rub together. For him to remain in that condition would be analogous to leaving Jesus up on the cross to serve as a warning to all: come to life, and you too will die. The Chief won't allow this to happen, so he smothers McMurphy under a pillow.

Then it is Pentecost: the spirit fully enters the Chief, he hoists the hydrotherapy console from the floor (lots of water imagery in the film), chucks it through the barred windows, and escapes over the horizon into the great wide open.

I try not to talk about politics too much around the boy, since he's entitled to his childhood slack. Thus, I was a little taken aback when he pointed out that Nurse Ratched = Obama and that his supporters are lobotimized.

And lately the boy has taken to asking, Which one of you nuts has got any guts?

Well?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

S.N.A.F.U.

Well, that will be Petey's last prediction for awhile -- or at least the last one I'll take seriously.

Get this: now he's blaming Hurricane Sandy and that bloated Springsteen-loving Jersey retard -- as if we wouldn't be totally f*cked anyway because impressionable independents are even stupider than we thought.

After all that money, does it really come down to a bunch of impressionable idiots watching pictures on TV?

C'mon. When was it ever any different?

Oh well. At least the country will be ungovernable now that Obama has waged the most expensive campaign of character assassination in world history.

Yeah, he got his revenge against us, we'll give him that. Well done, assoul. Finally you've earned your Peace Prize and can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Yasser Arafat without feeling a little embarrassed. Welcome to the club. You've made your bones.

But it's going to be a bit like Michael Corleone staring out over Lake Tahoe after whacking everyone who stood in his way. One of those... something victories. What's the word, Jeeves? Yes, pyrrhic.

One consolation is that a Romney victory would have hardly augured a pleasant four years. Rather, journalists would have suddenly remembered their vocation, and their latent Bush Derangement virus would have again become florid.

Homelessness would have suddenly been rediscovered. Al Qaeda would again be on the move. The dramatic increase in Black poverty would be a scandal. Snatching defeat from victory in Iraq. Nuclear mullahfolkers. An unsustainable level of government debt would provoke shock, shock.

To say nothing of the new War on Women, the rampant racism, the Mormon Theocracy, our outraged frenemies in Old Europe.... Pulitzers all around!

I'm with Taranto, but then I'm always with Taranto. In any event, if the Cosmos sees fit to grant our modern-day Lincoln a second term, he asks, "how bad could it be?"

"Obama has spent the past four years explaining away his failings by essentially arguing he is the best of all possible presidents -- that he has done as well as any man could given the 'mess' he 'inherited' from his predecessor."

Yes, but "things are about to get a lot worse because of decisions taken but deferred during the Obama years." If he thought the Bushmess was bad, wait until he gets a load of the Obamamess.

The mess "includes not only high unemployment and slow growth but impending policy changes that threaten to make those problems worse. On Jan. 1, unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts expire" -- or in Obama's more accurate words, we're about to be hit with "massive, job-killing tax increases."

And ObamaCare was of course written so deceptively "that most of its provisions would not take effect until the next presidential term," not the least of which being "an additional massive, job-killing tax increase (on investment income), also scheduled to take effect Jan. 1."

The state-run media will have its laziness cut out for it this time, but it would be a mistake to underestimate their determination to lie and deceive. With this presidential campaign they crossed a rubiconjob from merely shaping and imposing their narrative to outright fabrication and brazen denial of reality.

The election proved that a lot of semiconscious Americans still take the MSMistry of Truth seriously.

As a result, I would say that we'll really have to reach bottom in a completely undeniable way before things can turn around -- like a guy who finally stops chewing tobacco after they remove his jaw.

Look at California, which is totally run by Democrats who betray absolutely no ability to see that yawning fiscal abyss up ahead or to take their foot off the gas. For them, a red inklight means gun it!

But if things cannot go on, they will not go on. It's just a matter of when, which cannot be predicted by any linear model. Rather, it's going to be like chaos theory, and occur with no hiatus, allofasudden: a fold catastrophe.

Of course, no one knows the hour, but Petey still thinks it will be on or about 12.12.12.

I didn't want this post to be about the election, but what can you do? I don't want pretend it's not on my mind, and try to write around it. It takes a moment to gather yourself after you've been kicked in the nuts. But I promise that tomorrow everything around here will be back to abnormal. And this is the last time I'll forget to gird myself with the Cup of Righteousness.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Strange Things are Afoot: Malicious Software in the Human Brainframe

So, I think we've established that the body -- AKA Brother Ass -- is Not Guilty by reason of mental incompetence. Rather, the body (to the extent that it is naughty) is just shoved around by the malware that makes its way into the human mainframe:

"Malware, short for malicious software, is software used or created to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems." It "is a general term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software."

You mean like mind parasites?

Yes, it "includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, adware, and other malicious programs." "Sometimes known as a computer contaminant," it "is not the same as defective software, which is software that has a legitimate purpose but contains harmful bugs that were not corrected before release."

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? If so, that's a lot to digest.

First of all, how does the malware get into the hominid wetware? Where does it come from? If we stipulate that God didn't create it, then how does it get here?

And by "here" we are of course referring to Genesis 3, which is perpetually speaking to us from There to Here in vertical phase space, i.e., from Celestial Central to our 4D outpost at the edge of the subjective horizon.

Again, the real trouble can't come from the body, which only has a few simple needs and impulses that are easily satisfied. Indeed, since the body as such doesn't exist within the infinite subject, it doesn't even know about tomorrow (as is true of any animal).

However, it is incorrect to say that human beings "have" a body -- or even "have" a mind. Such thinking betrays an ontological (and ultimately Gnostic) dualism that just isn't there.

Rather, human beings are always a "bodymind." You can't even say that "we" are "embodied," because you've again separated the subject from its matrix in a way that we never encounter in the real world.

I think also that we need to widen out our conception of what it means to be embodied.

Language, for example, is an extension of the body. When we speak, we are simply using a thingy inside our necks to vibrate the air around us in order to tickle a bunch of little hairs within the listener's inner ear. In this context, it's a miracle that anyone understands a thing I'm saying (even leaving aside distortions resulting from the malware).

The question was raised in yesterday's comments as to whether our fallen condition is necessary or contingent. Was it inevitable that the humans would mess things up so badly? If so, how come God didn't foresee it?

There seems to be a genuine orthoparadox at work here, similar to the idea that we are created in the image of God, and yet, in need of redemption. The former would seem to obviate the need for the latter, but there you go. We all need a vertical lifeline.

Similarly, we are told that the creation -- man included -- is "good." Why then the mischief and mayhem?

Commenter Gandalin is on the bright track, noting that there must be some sort of "fall" woven into the very idea of creation, since it implies an existence separate from the Creator:

"And yet, in another sense... the material Creation is the apex and pinnacle and purpose of all of the 'higher' levels that progressively (or perhaps discontinuously) lead to Malkuth" (the latter term referring to the crystallized and coagulated material ghetto unhappyted by us I-ambodied malkutents).

But if I understand rightly, we actually inhabit the entirety of the Sephirot, at least implicitly or in potential (which is sort of the Whole Point). The Sephirot essentially maps the possibilities of Spirit, from top to bottom, Keter to Malkut.

Antother subtle point: the Sephirot may be thought of as a kind of manifestation of the unmanifest God. Behind it -- and totally infused by it -- is the Ain Sof, which I believe literally means No End. It is uncontainable, unimaginable, beyond all categories. It is utterly transcendent, for which reason it is also immanent in everything.

In other words, since it cannot be contained, it is present in every where and every thing. It is the mOther of all, the womb with all views and the mamamatrix of all Neovelty.

Wo! Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K!

Yes, you might call this ainsoferable mystery 'O' for short.

It just so happens that I am reading a book that hardy-har-harmonizes with these thoughts, Foundations of Christian Faith, by Karl Rahner. It's extremely challenging, so I cannot give a general raccoomendation -- like a combination of Heidegger and the Philokalia. If this is the Foundation, the mansion must be something else.

In discussing this "foundation," Rahner does just that: he drills all the way to the bottom, in the effort to establish the cosmic and ontological principles that make such a weird thing as Christianity possible. In other words, Christianity, if it is to make sense to human beings, must be in conformity with "the way things are," including all of the things that are prior to Christianity as such -- things like embodiment, for example, or having a language, or being a person.

For example, this word "God." Note that the apostles didn't first have to establish the existence of this entity, and then go about describing Him. Rather, they go straight to the description, and waste no time establishing the principle of God.

But as I said, Rahner digs deeper. Which is clearly necessary in our day and age, when so many people doubt the very existence of God. You can't just tell someone what God is like, if they have already rejected his existence. So we moderns have a lot more spadework in terms of building the foundation.

In practical terms, this means that it is much more difficult to be a believer today than it was 1,500 or 1,000 or 2,000 years ago. It's not even clear what sort of conscious "decision" was necessary to be a believer back then, since there were no unbelievers.

There is a kind of reverse analogy to contemporary times, since no one today has to make a conscious decision to accept science. Rather, you have to make a conscious decision to reject it, and even then you have to be more than a little crazy to do so.

Conversely, no longer can faith be "taken for granted" and "supported by a homogeneous religious milieu common to everyone" (Rahner). Look at the Islamists, who want to shove all this novelty back into the tiny bottle that existed in 800 AD. That's pathetic, and unworthy of any God deserving of worship.

Rahner wants to show that it is possible to live a Christian existence with "intellectual honesty," but again, an honesty that penetrates all the way down, deeper than both science and typical churchianity. This requires no less than an integration of everything, and you have to admit that there is a helluva lot more to integrate today than there was 2,000 -- or even 100 -- years ago.

But ironically, as we shall see, even the fact of so much new stuff to integrate speaks of the Hidden God alluded to above, who is again the source of novelty, and why things never get boring around here. Not only is God the cure for boredom, He is its radical antithesis. If nothing else, He is the highest form of entertainment.

Remember, we're not just talking about scientific developments, but "all the various non-scientific manifestations of the life of the spirit in art, in poetry, and in society..."

Rahner describes a kind of "anonymous" and preconceptual knowledge of God that is present in, and available to, anyone, theist and atheist alike. It is frankly why we -- and all cultures -- have the word "God," and why the word can never be eliminated from the human vocabulary.

Even if all people were self-described "atheists," we would still have this word, since the very existence of human beings is unthinkable without it. To put it another way, the moment we have persons, we are going to have the concept of God.

Why is this?

That's a big subject. To be continued...

Monday, November 05, 2012

Madness!

We were discussing the Two Natures or tendencies that seem to coexist in man, one lower, the other higher.

Here again, we all realize -- any normal person does, anyway -- that we have these two trends, and you have to engage in an awful lot of self-obfuscation, or auto-pullwoolery, to deny their existence. Frankly, you have to be as adept at self-deception as is our current future ex-president tomorrow, and not a moment too soon!

But the bottom lyin' for any full-blown secular maniac is that the higher and lower cannot exist, despite the fact that they so obviously do -- which leads to all sorts of confusion, ending in the intellectual and spiritual deadzone of diversity, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.

One problem with the modern mind is that it wants to search for explanations that cease to be explanations once they leave the human plane.

This is a Very Large Subject, but we all know, for example, that there are decent people and cruel people. Simple as. But if you analyze those terms too far, it's analogous to dissecting a body to find out where the life is: it results in the destruction of what one is looking for. In a different context, Alan Watts said it's like chasing a fugitive while banging a drum.

Which is why such vehicles as mythology, literature, and film are so much more effective at explicating this quintessentially human territory than is naive science. The same is obviously true of scripture and revelation. I have explained this to my son, so his brain won't get spoiled by trying to understand religious wisdom in a less than human way.

For example, the other day he was asking about the story of the Flood, and I explained that it isn't just a mundane weather report, but is supposed to tell human beings something very important about themselves -- in this case, that we are, or can be, so rotten that even God has grave second thoughts about whether to continue the ghastly experiment.

"The Bible's picture of human nature," writes Leon Kass, "is, to say the least, sobering." No political correctness here, no punches pulled, no liberal appeal to sociological "root causes" of the widespread depravity.

Rather, "The tales of the primordial family underline the dangers of freedom and reason, speech and desire, pride and shame, jealousy and anger." The narratives "make us suspicious not only about politics and the arts, but even about man's interest in the divine." Truly, it seems there is nothing that can't be ruined by human involvement.

Nevertheless, these "first stories of human life" accurately depict "the explosive tensions lurking in any human family, both between husband and wife and (especially) between siblings." For example, I have a relative who is one of those diversity tools at a fourth-tier cow college. Not surprisingly, we haven't spoken in years, not least because intra-vertical communication becomes tense at such extremes.

Kass makes the interesting point that not a lot happens between the accounts of the prototypical humans -- Adam, Even, Abel, Cain -- and the Flood, mostly a lot of begetting. But this begetting, in Kass's interpretation (which is too long to provide in full here), results in kind of indiscriminate blending of divine and human qualities, and with it, a gradual loss of contact with the "divine within."

Thus, we may understand God's otherwise cryptic comment in 6:3, to the effect that His spirit shall not judge from within man. In other words, to put it plainly, man gradually loses touch with his divine conscience -- which is obviously a central component of our higher nature -- or at least it is contaminated by various other strands, e.g., rationalization, the lust for glory, self-worship, tenure, etc.

As a result, it seems that "Only two ways are open: total destruction of the world or the imposition of external law" (Robert Sacks, in Kass). This would also explain why we so detest lawyers, because the vast majority of their thousands upon thousands of laws are aimed only at bad people, and in a way, create bad people, because we start confusing morality with obedience to the exteriorized law.

Think, for example, of how liberals conflate big government and charity, when in reality big government displaces and even eliminates man's charitable impulses; real charity is actually in competition with the state, the latter of which is just the quest for power mesmerauding as charity or "public service."

So God can't help gnosissing that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the day. And God says something similar to Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai, in his case, What have I done?

Interesting too that Colonel Nicholson's moral crime fits right into the scheme of what man was up to in those antediluvian days, telling his troops that "One day the war will be over. And I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it."

Rrriiiiiiiiight. It's really about the Colonel's own unhinged lust for glory. Indeed, after the bridge is completed and he is dining with Colonel Saito, he reflects on being "nearer the end than the beginning" of his life: "And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything.... I don't know whether that kind of thinking's very healthy; but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time."

No, it's not very healthy at all, as Nicholson discovers too late. In short, his higher impulses -- honor, duty, self-discipline -- were totally contaminated by the lower.

As it all plays out below, Major Clipton famously mutters in astonished disgust, Madness! Madness!

That seems to echo God's sentiment as he surveys the human wreckage below: "The experiment in anarchy -- in living law-less-ly -- has failed miserably, so much so that God despairs of His creation. In an extraordinary remark," the Creator "says that he repents His creation of man and the other animals."

Blah blah yada yada, God ends up finding a righteous, pure, and simple heart in the figure of Noah, so all is not lost. For "blessed are the pure in heart."

I'm just consulting the Catholic catechism for any further insights into this issue, and it says that "Because man is a composite being... there already exists a kind of tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between 'spirit' and 'flesh' develops."

However, "it is not a matter of despising and condemning the body," but rather, cultivating certain "permanent dispositions" which result from submission or resistance to "the saving action of the Holy Spirit" (which we have symbolized (o) for the submission and (↓) for the saving action).