Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Man is a Person in Order to Become One

File under Hints that You May be More than a Finite Object: "The experience of radical questioning and man's ability to place himself in question are things which a finite system cannot accomplish."

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good News for Man, Bad News for the Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Peeping Thomists and Mysterious Keyholes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That would surely be hell."

(All quoted material from Rahner.)