Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wholeness, Happiness, Order, and Discrimination

Recognizing this life in things is equivalent to saying, "The universe is made of person-stuff. I always thought it was made of machine-stuff, but now I see that it is not." --Christopher Alexander

The whole thing reminds me of Eckhart's key principle of the Ground: Alexander speaks of how "the structure we call wholeness is connected with a ground where matter becomes personal..." This is why nature so obviously "speaks" to us, both in terms of feeling and of thought, art and science, beauty and truth. If we take this comm-unication seriously, the implications are endless.

For example, this is why language is even possible, because the person-stuff of the universe is interiorly related and therefore capable of encoding and transmission from one body or region to another. Our ability to see the beauty or apprehend the deep structure of the world represents one cidence of of the same coin-. It is to receive the memO and be in the lOʘp.

For this reason, we now understand how and why scientists are guided by feeling and artists by science. In other words, a scientist wouldn't even know what to investigate in the absence of a feeling that reduces the infinite field of phenomena to something "interesting," something that attracts his attention.

As it so happens, not too long ago I evaluated a former research scientist who had developed a dementia. It was still in its incipient stages, so he was well aware of how it had robbed him of his ability to perceive the deeper significance in things.

It reminds me again of a hybrid SACD, which has a standard CD encoded on the surface and the SACD layer encoded below that. Only an SACD player is able to reach beyond the surface and retrieve the denser, high-def information at the center. My research scientist was like this: his laser could no longer penetrate below the surface.

There is something analogous to this phenomenon in any discipline, from art, to science, to literature and religion, the difference being that there aren't just two levels to reality (i.e., CD and SACD), but an inexhaustible number. There is no end to the depth, but this depth extends in both directions, into the object and into the subject, which, in the end, are complementary aspects of one another.

In other words: we can only see the depth in things to the extent to which we have become deep. As I've said before, depth is a very real feature of the cosmos, not something merely "subjective." In many ways, it's the whole point, isn't it? It's certainly the point of this blog. And of this life, for that matter. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a cosmic surface dweller. I know I was there, but I can no longer remember what it felt like.

Schall raises the same point in this book I'm reading -- or at least I'm seeing obvious links. For example: "The Catholic [you could also say Raccoon] soul is not a divided soul. What is characteristically Catholic is the mind that pays full attention to the truths of reason and revelation on the basis of the truth that they both belong to a coherent whole."

More: "The 'wholeness' of all things to be known, something that fascinated a Plato, an Aristotle, an Aquinas, a Dante, cannot leave anything out and still claim to be concerned with the full scope of mind.... Philosophy is the quest for knowledge of the whole, a quest that, in principle, cannot omit any claim to the truth of things and still claim to be open to all things."

Thus, any form of bonehead atheism or vulgar scientism is a philosophical non-starter, because each has closed itself to the living ground (both "outside" and "inside").

Dennis Prager makes a similar point in his Still the Best Hope, which should be required reading for all human beings struggling to cure themselves of the liberal plague. He writes of how

"It is difficult to overstate the depth of the differences between the Judeo-Christian view of the world and that of its opponents on the Left. In addition to such basic issues as objective versus subjective morality, it involves the question of whether there is order to the world" (emphasis mine, and bear in mind that Alexander's quadrilogy is called The Nature of Order).

Now, as Alexander explains, order is intrinsically related to life, to wholeness, to depth, and to happiness (I would prefer a slightly more spiritually inflected term such as ananda-bliss, beatitude, or slack). And as Prager points out, "Basic to the biblical worldview is the proposition that God made order out of chaos -- order expressed largely through separation and distinction."

Indeed, what is order but distinction? And what is thinking but discrimination and synthesis? And what is chaos but indiscriminate blending?

Now, we all know that the religious are happier than the irreligious, conservatives happier than liberals. Might this have something to do with the unregenerate muddleheadedness of the latter?

Prager discusses the most obvious distinctions that the left denies, thereby engendering chaos and fueling unhappiness, such as good and evil, God and man, man and woman, holy and profane, human and animal, and great and poor art.

Denying these distinctions has devastating material, psychological, and spiritual consequences for both the individual and the society. At the very least, it creates unhappy people, and unhappy people are responsible for most of the world's problems. Happy people don't become activists, utopians, and ideologues. But to deny the nature of human order is to defeat the order of human nature. Which is the quintessence of soph-defeating beehivior.

Thus, "Almost all disorders of private or public life somehow begin in the souls of an educated elite..." And these elites are shielded from the devastating consequences of their noxious ideas by such things as tenure, jerrymandering, and wealth (the most wealthy counties in the country are the most liberal).

"A wise man," writes Schall, "knows how to find the order in things."

Bottom line: Everything that exists is an orderly circle that flows from and returns to the ground, Alpha to Omega. And some circles are deeper and more expansive than others. A stone is a smaller circle than a plant.

Likewise, your life is a circle, the difference being that this is the only circle that isn't simply "given." Yours needn't be a little jerk circle. Rather, it has some free play, some slack. How wide will you make it? And how deep is the order? Or how depthless, rather?

For the name of this depthlessness is God.

14 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

The Catholic [you could also say Raccoon] soul is not a divided soul.

I may not get anything else today, but I am hearing that.

3/13/2013 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger PatrickH said...

It is fascinating to read Alexander in these volumes (the last one in particular) saying that work, design, art, creation should be offered as a "gift to God". He's come a long way from referring to the source of the life in things as "the quality with no name".

3/13/2013 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, God is the new love that dare not speak it's name, while homosexuality is the love that won't shut up.

3/13/2013 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Seriously, Alexander sounds like me: I also didn't start with God. Rather, I just ended there. In a way, it makes it more credible, because neither he nor I started with any preconceptions, but were led to the divine reality in a more objective and disinterested manner, so to speak. His use of the term "center" is analogous to my use of the nonterm "O."

3/13/2013 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

There is something advantageous to not starting with God: it limits the baggage. Or those that start with God may have to leave "him", and then eventually return: implicated within the coherent whole.

3/13/2013 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Speaking of which, four is the number of Ground, so it is fitting for his work to be a quadrilogy.

Something to the effect of:

Each element of human ground
To walk and look and stand aright
Will thus among four things be found
Dawn and noontime, dusk and night.

It is no mistake to keep them four
If varied substance is within
Less may come from counting more
Fire, earth, water, wind.

The mind will do the work for you
A rule that's simple is the best
Its unknown compass is quite true
North and south, east and west.

So if you want to make a map
A map so human at its core
Within which all things overlap
Count no less, and count no more.


'Four'

3/13/2013 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The whole thing reminds me of Eckhart's key principle of the Ground: Alexander speaks of how "the structure we call wholeness is connected with a ground where matter becomes personal..."

I'm reminded, once again, of plants: through a mystic alchemy, they marry within themselves rock, water and sunshine, and so create life that serves to sustain ever more life. In a certain sense, a tree isn't not the ground from which it grows. So in a way, the tree reveals the life that is present in base matter.

3/13/2013 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Happy people don't become activists, utopians, and ideologues. But to deny the nature of human order is to defeat the order of human nature. Which is the quintessence of soph-defeating beehivior.

Heh. Yesterday, I followed a link from a comment in Neo's latest diet thread. It turned out to be a post at a feminist's blog on whether dieting was anti-feminist. The writer was clearly a miserable piece of work; she liked to use caps for emphasis surface-deep phrases such as, "...the male gaze is EVIL..."

Ironically, I think a girl like that would be happy if she could just live in a burka.

3/13/2013 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Ironically, I think a girl like that would be happy if she could just live in a burka.

Add a gag and everybody would be happy.

3/13/2013 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

The Catholic [you could also say Raccoon] soul is not a divided soul.

Speaking of Catholics, Habemus Papam!

3/13/2013 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos, the elements in their pure forms sure are beautiful.

3/13/2013 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Bismuth looks like it was done by Escher.

3/13/2013 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Recognizing this life in things is equivalent to saying, "The universe is made of person-stuff. I always thought it was made of machine-stuff, but now I see that it is not."

Dzogchen:
wouldja believe?-- it's made of Nothing-stuff [all & everything aint really ultimately 'there' if examined thoroughly]

In the universal womb that is boundless space
all forms of matter and energy occur as flux of the four elements,
but all are empty forms, absent in reality:
all phenomena, arising in pure mind, are like that.

Though all phenomena of all worlds seem to come into existence and perish in the sphere of elemental space, their appearance has no basis and thus, insubstantial, they are said to be absent. The four elements (earth, water, fire and air) that comprise whatever appears, because they are not composed of discrete particles, never actually come into being and, therefore, never cease to exist. Neither the supported phenomena therefore, nor the space that underlies them are actually established as existent. Likewise, both gnosis and all experience appearing within its scope are absent in reality...

[Longchenpa]

3/13/2013 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Sounds like the sense in which they say, "If God is said to exist, then man must be said to not exist, and vice versa."

Both are nothing-and-something...

3/14/2013 08:00:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home