Whittle While I Work
The Religion the Almighty & Me Works out Betwixt us
multi-undisciplinary circumnavelgazing around the whole existentialada!
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Life is our school, The Cosmos our teacher, Truth the first Principal
In other words, he has freedom and he has intelligence, but these two would be literally meaningless in the absence of an object or end. Without an end, knowledge redounds to mere opinion, while freedom reduces to drifting, loitering, or tenure. Instead of a Rational Animal, man devolves to an Opinionated Ape.
Thus Sheed's reminder that, "just as loving what is good is sanctity, or the health of the will, so seeing what is there is sanity, or the health of the intellect."
My father wasn't a churchgoing man, but he would have agreed with the foregoing principles, although he might have formulated them as:
"Do you really expect me to believe that? And don't tell me you didn't know it was wrong." In other words, he put a premium on man's innate capacity to distinguish right from wrong, with no lame excuses.
But as we have discussed in the past, it is man's very capacity for truth that renders him capable of issuing lame excuses. Look at Obama. He, of all people, knows exactly what went down in Benghazi -- just as I, as a six year-old, knew exactly what had gone down with the paint brush and motor oil. The ridiculous lies are a reflection of that simple fact.
Of course, if he were candid, Obama would tell you that he couldn't disclose the truth about Benghazi because it would have threatened his candidacy and therefore placed his entire agenda in jeopardy. The problem there is that his agenda is an even bigger Lie. The biggest, even.
To paraphrase Churchill, truth is sometimes so precious that it requires a bodyguard of lies. More frequently, the Lie is so precious to the liar that it requires a bodyguard of more trivial lies. These are like the flying monkeys that protect the witch.
I just read a book, Stalin's Secret Agents, that documents the shocking extent of Soviet penetration into the Roosevelt government. His administration was full of liars who were able to affect policy in a way favorable to the Soviet Union, most conspicuously at Yalta.
Perhaps even more sinister is when the Lie is accompanied by a bodyguard of trivial truths. This kind of misdirection is another of the left's specialties, and they rely upon it to distract us from what they're actually doing to us behind the curtain.
Speaking of massive lies, I've been receiving a lot of vertical memos lately about the need to confront these in a systematic way. Religion is supposed to do this, but often fails for precisely the reasons articulated by Sheed: it doesn't adequately address climate change -- i.e., the disastrous spiritual cooling of modern man.
But if you have a spiritually infused intellect, you shouldn't see the world the way the flatlanders do -- and not just because you superimpose some byte of dogma over it. In the end, that's hardly better than superimposing any other ideology over reality, as does the left.
Sheed writes that it is not sufficient to simply see "what other people see, plus certain features taught us by our religion." We can't just see the same meaningless world with a few religious patches here and there. This approach is very easy to lampoon. I used to do it myself.
Sheed uses the example of a person with beautiful eyes. Remove one of them and serve it on a plate, and it's no longer beautiful. It's the same eye. What gives?
"The eye needs to be seen in the face; its beauty, its meaning, its usefulness all come from its position in the face; and one who had seen eyes only on plates would never really have known them at all, however minutely he might have examined the eye thus unhappily removed from its living context."
Now, religion is here to provide the ultimate context within which everything is situated. That context is, in a word, God. Science, of course, rips things out of their context in order to analyze and study them. Which is generally fine, so long as one doesn't forget the ripping part.
The lower something is on the scale of being, the less we care about the ripping. For example, no harm is done by studying bacteria in a petrie dish.
But imagine a study in which we ripped children from their mothers in order to investigate the effects of broken attachment. What repels us about Soviet or Nazi science is precisely this ripping of humans from their human context. One could say the same of abortion.
In order to engage in the ripping without guilt, the contextual support of a bigger Lie is necessary, e.g., Marxism or anti-Semitism or scientism. It was the same with American slavery, which wasn't originally racist in character. Rather, like all slavery everywhere, it just was, i.e., a sad fact of life.
Only when slavery came under attack in the 19th century did the slaveholders need to come up with a bodyguard of racist lies in order to protect the institution. It reminds me of how no one ever heard of the "war on women" until it became necessary for Obama to protect an even bigger Lie. Likewise, the doctrine of "diversity" wasn't invented until leftists needed a smokescreen for state-mandated racial discrimination.
Is the person who falls for the Lie culpable? Of course, unless he is literally mentally incapacitated. Intelligence has responsibilities, obviously. More on this later.
So: "Nothing is rightly seen save in the totality to which it belongs; no part of the Universe is rightly seen save in relation to the whole" (ibid).
Which is why it must be One Cosmos Under O, because "the Universe cannot be seen as whole unless one sees God as the Source of the existence of every part of it and the center by relation to which every other part is related to every other."
In other words, only verticality accounts for a coherent, spatially and temporally articulated horizontality; or hierarchy and purpose.
The alternative to this is the pneumapathological condition of spiritual autism, in which nothing is seen in its proper relation to anything else: God to man, man to woman, individual to collective, human to animal, adult to child, etc., etc., etc.
Here is a perfect description of spiritual autism: "The man who does not see God may have vast knowledge of this or that section of being, but he is like a man who should know all about the eye, having never seen a face.... He sees nothing quite right because he sees nothing in its context" (ibid).
This is literally the case in psychological autism, in which the face is not "seen," only its unrelated parts. And since it is not seen, the autistic person is barred from the interior life of the person behind the face.
In an analogous way, the spiritual autistic is exiled from the interior reality of things, the "inscapes" of being. He can know nothing of the phase before he was bearthed and begaialed.
Having said that, it is actually quite rare to find an individual so spiritually impaired that he cannot experience the withinness of things.
It's just that in the absence of proper education and refinement, he descends into various idolatries such as radical environmentalism, "art for art's sake," or some other sentimentalized faux religion. He gets a bit of the warmth (without which life would be unlivable) but none of the Light.
Therefore, he has access to the within, but doesn't get anywhere with it. Without a map -- not to mention the winds of grace -- he just randomly floats around the ocean bewilderness.
When you spend your time just floating, you shouldn't be surprised that your nonlocal muscles atrophy and you fall victim to vertical gravity.
But just like its terrestrial analogue, the gravity is there to help you. It provides the resistance needed in order to engage in your daily gymgnostics and verticalisthenic exorcise of mind parasites, with the longterm fitness goal of increasing your cosmic levity.
But right now I gotta float off to work. To be continued....
It's a little like that distant-but-close boundary of death -- and why we can't find out something only dead men know, or buy back the beat of a heart grown cold (referring again to the Prophet Bob -- no, not me, the one with all the honors).
The infinite "presents itself to us in the mode of withdrawal, of silence, of distance, of being always inexpressible, so that speaking of it, if it is to make sense, always requires listening to its silence" (Rahner).
It is what the rabbis mean when they refer to the Torah as words of black fire written on pages of white fire, i.e., finitude on infinitude -- or perhaps relatively-absolute on absolutely-absolute.
Also, note that as we expand, the wild frontier of the godhead recedes but doesn't shrink or contract. Which is why the cosmic bus has a "way" but no end. The map is straight but the roads are crooked.
In euclidean space the expansion of one sector comes at the expense of the one adjacent.
But in this higher-dimensional non-euclidean space, as we expand, so too does God. This is why atheists have such a tiny godling, and why it is so easy for them to understand and reject their imaginary fiend.
This whole approach ensures that God is always our measure, not vice versa. If we are God's measure, then God is not God. We are.
In reality, we exist by way of analogy to God, not the converse. But for this very reason, you can learn a lot about God by studying his highest and most complete creature.
Speaking of which, the Bible is much more interested in vertical than horizontal creation, an area of confusion for both believers and infidels.
When it comes to horizontal creation, we're happy to accept whatever tentative conclusions science comes up with -- so long as they don't take the word "creation" literally, since nothing can't actually create anything but more nothing. Obviously, only someOne can make something of nothing.
But vertical creation takes place not once upon a time, but always upin a timeless. It doesn't "point back to an earlier moment in time at which the creation of the creature in question took place" (Rahner).
Rather, it is "an ongoing and always actual process which for every existent is taking place now just as much as at an earlier point of time," although "extended in time" (ibid.).
If you need a visual, imagine a sort of (↳) movement. A universe of pure (→) is a metaphysical absurdity. Understand this, and you have sufficient proof of the Creator.
When we say we have a "relationship" to God, we need to look a little closer at this word, relationship. For it is easy enough to understand how we have relations with our equals (other humans) and lesser beings (animals, liberals, and material objects). But how do we relate to that which infinitely transcends us?
By way of analogy, how does a circle relate to a sphere? The circle can think to himself, "I understand the sphere. It's a humongous circle, the biggest one we can imagine!" Or, "it's like the giant circle that surrounds us!" Or, "it's like a circle, only with no outer boundary."
This is an example of how imagination can betray us when try to use it to think of higher things. Just like the subphysical world, the supraphysical world is intelligible but not imaginable.
Intellect and the imagination are very different faculties. Imagination can of course aid intellect, but for most people in the modern world -- especially the educated -- imagination has displaced intellect (for example, via ideology, idiolatry, and plain idiocy).
I recently read a book by an author who is so clear, he could be the anti-Rahner. He's a bit like Josef Pieper, who wrote with such clarity but without sacrificing depth or subtlety or giving me a headache.
I'm referring to Theology and Sanity, by F.J. Sheed.
The author shares the laughty goal of this blog, which you might call Sanity with a capital S. In other words, not the contingent and ultimately meaningless sanity of anthropologists, psychologists, and historians, but the true sanity of the coonical pslackologist, which connotes radical adjustment to WHAT IS. Cosmic sanity, baby.
Funny that sanity and sanctity are only one letter apart. Or that insane and in sin are so close.
"Just as loving what is good is sanctity, or the health of the will, so seeing what is there is sanity, or the health of the intellect" (Sheed).
In the introduction, Sheed is almost apologetic for focusing on the intellect instead of the will, but he has actually hit on the main stumbling block for most people in the modern west (and this was some 65 years ago): that they genuinely cannot wrap their minds around religion but can only submit to what they don't really understand.
In a way, it's like the difference between children and adults. In the formation of a child's soul, you first have to work on the will, because they don't understand enough to reach them through the intellect. But as they grow, it becomes increasingly possible to speak to them of principles and abstract truths.
Milk and meat.
Not much time this morning. To be continued.
I don't have time to track them down, but I've read any number of comments of prominent atheists to the effect that this would be an unalloyed Good Thing, both for individuals and for mankind at large.
For example, Richard Dawkins has said that exposing children to religion is a form of child abuse. And if you accept his premises, you can see his point. It is indeed abusive to inculcate a massive lie in a developing soul. And I will stipulate that one of us is indeed a child abuser.
Back to our gedankenexperiment. We have removed the word God from the human vocabulary. Now what?
"Then man would no longer be brought face to face with the single whole of reality, nor with the single whole of his own existence" (Rahner).
That much goes without saying. Man would be condemned to absurdity and to fruitless searching for an understanding of himself and his existence. Sisyphus would displace Jesus as our archetypal man.
For if we no longer have access to that to which God refers, then we are also exiled from "the single whole of reality as such and the single whole of human existence in the mutual penetration of both aspects" (Rahner).
In other words, liberal fascists can't just get rid of that one offensive word without it dragging down a lot of other things with it. To us this looks bad, but to the leftist it is a good thing. They know better than we do that if you can destroy the keystone, then the rest of the building will topple on its own.
This is why the left also goes after private property with such disgusto. For if you can delegitimize that, then everything else -- life, speech, religion, the rule of law, self-defense, the pursuit of happiness -- comes crashing down as well.
The great liberal fascists -- the cursed FDR, LBJ, and BHO -- all begin with the premise that what's yours is mine; or that the wealth you have created belongs to the state. Nothing about Democrats has changed since Lincoln summarized their philosophy as: you work, I eat.
Actually, that's not quite fair to 19th century Democrats. Now it's you work, I get food stamps.
It all goes together, of course, because the very keystone of our Constitution is the Creator who gives us the rights which the Constitution exists to protect. Remove the keystone, and the document loses all defenses against the predatory state. It loses its very reason for being.
So it is no surprise that the left is always on offense against God and against private property. These are the Twin Towers of the cultural terrorists of the left.
Let's get back to the point of our post, which is the effect upon man's soul when he loses the principle of God. Let's just try to describe the effect like a dispassionate scientists, without getting into whether it is good or bad.
Man "would not notice anymore," observes Rahner, "that he is only an individual existent, and not being as such." He couldn't notice this, for God is the name we customarily give to being as such. Or, as soon as man rediscovers being as such, God will sneak its way back into the human vocabulary.
Since man would be reduced to a mere object in an objective world, "he would remain mired in the world and in himself, and no longer go through the mysterious process which he is" (ibid).
In other words, it would no longer make any sense for man to engage in the business of isness, because our isness would no longer be related to the isness of the whole.
And my isness would be none of your business, so this would also be a loveless world. Oh sure, we'd still have friction between bodies and all that, but to call it "love" would be an abuse of the term.
A godless universe is a loveless universe, for the same reason it is a truthless and amoral universe. Frankly, it's not even a cosmos anymore, i.e., an order, because we'd know that any order we encounter is just a human projection, no more meaningful than the projection of a "Big Dipper" on a bunch of random stars.
We can summarize man's existential situation by saying that he will have lost all notions of his Center, his Origin, and his Destiny (which, in a created universe, are all necessary reflections of one another).
In Rahner's formulation, "man would have forgotten the totality and the ground," which amounts to the same thing, for there is no spatial or temporal wholeness and no privileged cosmic position from which to access and experience them anyway.
The irony here is that the Jews of antiquity were way ahead of the curve when they came up with the idea of forbidding the naming of God. Because as soon as you have reduced God to some human category, then you can toss it out. But God is the uncontainable vector and object of our own undefinable transcendence.
There are two alternatives to this strict kosher orthoparadox, both resulting in false gods: "Both atheism and a more naive form of theism labor under the same false notion of God, only the former denies it while the latter believes that it can make sense out of it" (ibid).
Which is why orthoparadox and perfect nonsense always go hand-in-hand, without any hands.
What do I mean by this? What I mean is that when a hyperdimensional object crashes through four-dimensional history, we shouldn't bloody well expect to be able to capture it in our finite categories, should we? The very nature of the event is going to generate paradox, and indeed, paradox is the only proper way of discussing the situation.
What do I mean by this? "The term of transcendence [that would be God] is indefinable because the horizon itself cannot be present within the horizon."
Obviously, transcendence cannot be dragged back down into radical immanence without destroying it. It is always one step beyond, just over the subjective horizon, thank God.
What do I mean by this? Well, for starters, if this weren't the case, then the world would be flat boring. You know the type, right? What can you say? For them the gedankenexperiment is all too real, and they are the guinea pigs that have been sacrificed.
I prefer the real world of God-infused hyperdimensional evolution, because this way it's a nonstop adventure of consciousness. I know there's a bottom and a top, because I can't reach them.
For the intrinsic relation between man and mystery is not "prepositional" but essential. This relation is deeper than language, as language too is predicated upon it. If there were no mystery, then there would be absolutely nothing to talk about and no one to hear it. You know the type.
Today we want to get into man's experience of the ultimate Mystery customarily called God, but referred to here as O in order to preserve the Mystery.
As Rahner points out, the experience of this Mystery "is more primary than reflection and cannot be captured by reflection."
Indeed, man himself is the mirrorculous reflection of this prior Mystery, and the mysterious experience of oneself is also obviously deeper than reflection. It is the unfathomable Ocean upon which we float, AKA the Great Sea of the UnThought Known.
Man is always Oriented to the Absolute Mystery. Here again you may need to respectfully forget about your seenill grammar and gravidad, because this is like no other familiar relation. "For we do not have an experience of God as we have of a tree, another person and other external realities," all of which "appear within the realm of our experience at a definite point in time and space" (Rahner).
Rahner makes the provocative point that it is impossible to imagine a future in which the human race could exist without the word "God."
In order for this to occur, man would have to lose all contact with the experience that gives rise to the word; and to deprive ourselves of this experience is to annul our manhood and cash in our chimps, precisely.
Man's consciousness comes into being in the space between Mystery and mystery, O and ʘ, so the elimination of God would necessitate paving the space over with contingency and turning it a big barking lot.
Among other things, it would imply a complete eradication of our inborn bullshit detector. The whole world would be reduced to those 59 precincts of Philadelphia, where 100% (at least) of the people voted for Obama. All zzzombies all the time.
As such, our atheist friends, by incessantly using the word for what they haven't experienced, halfwittingly keep the experience alive.
The only alternative for the genuine øtheist is to not just feebly hope the word will someday disappear from the human vocabulary, but "to contribute to its disappearance by keeping dead silence about it himself and not declaring himself an atheist." You know, don't just stand there doing something, but sit down and shutup.
In order to achieve this, the atheists will need to be more like their fellow liberals, who are always trying to ban words in order to pretend that the unpleasant realities to which the words attach do not exist.
But in an evolutionary cosmos, words -- to say nothing of Word -- will always find a way. As they say, supernature abhors a vacuum. Banishing the word "retard" doesn't mean you aren't one, only that you're the last to know.
So "The mere fact that this word exists is worth thinking about," to put it mildly. For starters, as alluded to above, it's not like any other word, and yet, we still understand it, if "understand" isn't too misleading a term.
Which it no doubt is, because to understand God would be to be God. In other words, if God doesn't exist, only he knows it. And if he does exist, only a retard could not know it.
Even if we deicide that God is dead, we still need to reserve the name for what has died. But as soon as we do that, some mischievous rascal is going to start nosing around and redeuscover the empty tomb where the body is supposed to be buried. Game over. Or resumed, rather.
Nevertheless, if man were to effectively banish the word God from his vOcabulary, he would obviously still be immersed in mystery, except the mystery would "rot," so to speak, being deprived of all light and oxygen, i.e., its proper gnourishment.
What I think I mean by this is that man would have to regress to a time when he was plunged into the body and immersed in the senses, with no hope of an inscape or help of a teloscope. He would have to forget all vertical memories of higher things, and then forget he had forgotten, i.e., double I-AMnesia.
"The absolute death of the word 'God,'" writes Rahner, "would be the signal, no longer heard, by anyone, that man himself had died." Call it a signul.
Last night I was listening to the prophet Bob on my walk -- yes, in mOnʘ, as God intended -- and he reminded me of a number of plain facts that only the cosmically lost can never know, for example, that there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden -- whether Eden is understood in its proper sense or as some kind of statist utopia that denies all truth outside it.
But we won't press the point, for we know too much to argue or to judge.
With a time-rusted compass blade / Aladdin and his lamp / Sits with Utopian hermit monks / Sidesaddle on the Golden Calf / And on their promises of paradise / You will not hear a laugh / All except inside the Gates of Eden
The kingdoms of Experience / In the precious wind they rot / While paupers change possessions / Each one wishing for what the other has got / And the princess and the prince / Discuss what’s real and what is not / It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden
The foreign sun, it squints upon / A bed that is never mine / As friends and other strangers / From their fates try to resign / Leaving men wholly, totally free / To do anything they wish to do but die / And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden --Bob Dylan, Gates of Eden
You see? We are always standing "outside and above the system of empirical, individual and specifiable data." And this is not just one element to be placed aside the others that constitute man, but is again always above them. If I say "you are a bepedal ape" and you say "um hmm," you've just transcended apehood, however tenuously.
Which makes one wonder: why can't leftists see this? The whole enlightenment project of classical liberalism culminated in the notion that we are unique persons, not races, genders, classes, ethnicities, and all those other lucrative accidents of existence.
But no. Progressives want to turn back the world historical clock and devolve to a time when man identified with his contingencies. Which, among other problems, always leads to increased civil strife.
If you wanted to come up with a malign doctrine of unregenerate hatred and resentment, you could hardly do better than multiculturalism and "diversity" (in the diabolical leftist sense of the term, i.e., neo-Marxist materialists of different colors and sexual preferences). Obama and the left might not know much, but they certainly understand the principle of "divide and conquer."
People talk about Obama's failure to "heal" the polarization in the country. Well, doy.
When we say Obama is a wicked man who is unfit for the office he holds, this is what we mean -- that he not only stands by silently while his allies engage in the most slanderous racial and sexual demagoguery, but that he himself instinctively engages in it. Instead of healing it, he fuels it: the police acted stupidly, my son the thug, Trayvon Martin, incompetence is beyond the reach of blacks, etc. If Obama doesn't make you want to vomit, you may be morally retarded.
But more to the point, he participates in and even leads the campaign to render man a shadow of what he actually is and can be. Yes, these mephistofeel-your-painian statists will give you losers lots of stuff. And all they ask in return is your soul. It's that sucking sound you hear at the core of your desiccated being.
Remember, leftism doesn't explain man. Rather, it explains him away. It does this in a multitude of ways, for example, with respect to crime.
In a free society, man is responsible for his acts. I mean, I realized this by the age of six or so. But in the 1960s the left finally had the power to actually implement their crackpot ideas about crime and justice. In this view, people were simply creatures of their environment, lacking the ability to distinguish between good and evil that I, as a six year old, understood.
So, what happened with that experiment? As we all know, crime rates increased exponentially, most especially among the supposed beneficiaries of the new approach, e.g., blacks. Which is my point: if your philosophy regards people as animals, you shouldn't be surprised if they behave like animals.
You can also point to the economic crisis of 2008, which resulted from the state deciding that some people are just too stupid and helpless to develop the traits consistent with homeownership. How'd that work out?
Note also that such an infrahuman animal is no longer in need of redemption from above. Rather, he can get it from some quack psychologist who pardons him because -- well, in the words of West Side Story, because he's depraved on accounta' he's deprived!
"Being a person," writes Rahner, "means self-possession of a subject as such in a conscious free relationship to the totality of itself."
You must understand that this peculiar way of being is the prerequisite of little things like truth, freedom, and virtue. It is the antecedent "space" out of which we all operate, and the point is to expand this subjective horizon, not to shrink or negate it!
Oh peoples, I gots the anointin' this mornin'! Listen to what the almighty is tellin' you in yo' soul! And lord, help me shut my big mouth at tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner with the liberal relatives!
In contrast to the free person, the left offers us this... this bigbrained cosmic freak who is "totally determined from without," even if this is impossible, because a person who believes this nonsense has nevertheless chosen to do so. There is no escape from your freedom and responsibility, leftist assoul!
To say that man is a Person "means first of all that man is someone who cannot be derived, who cannot be produced completely from other elements at our disposal."
Yes, you can say that only God can create such a singular being. Or, if that makes you uncomfortable, just render it in the form of an algebraic equation: only X can produce such a being. But don't pretend you understand the nature of the variable before investigating it. In other words, don't be a jackass.
"Man shows himself to be a being with an infinite horizon." It's not just that in America you can "be what you want." Rather, the point is that you already are (as being), and because you are, you can make the choices you want, i.e., drive the cosmic bus over the subjective horizon:
"When freedom is really understood, it is not the power to be able to do this or that, but the power to decide about oneself and to actualize oneself."
And since the space is infinite, there is no end to the expansion: "The infinite horizon of human questioning is experienced as a horizon which recedes further and further the more answers man can discover."
Elsewhere Rahner writes that "A person is always a Christian in order to be one." But this is because a person is always a person in order to become one.
Conversely, a leftist is always a leftist in order to become less than a person in the full sense of the word. And yes, we mean that literally. Because we are trying to help.
But unlike the left, we only offer the help. It would frankly never occur to us to force it on you, backed by the threat of state violence.
If the more radical empirical psychology is, the less freedom it is able to find, that is perfectly consistent with its method... --Karl Rahner
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
--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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...