Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Flowgorrhea & Wordplay

We have arrived at Rule One: Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

Tomberg says you can take it in several ways, so long as you take it seriously: clue, wise crack, advice, threat, etc. In any event, play is a very serious isness, fit only for amateurs (amo, of course, referring to the love that motivates the ama-teur).

The sentence may be broken down into three clauses, the first involving "effortless concentration." Tomberg provides a useful definition of the latter, which is "fixing the maximum attention on the minimum amount of space."

Imagine the concentration necessary to hit a little ball traveling at 100 mph. Or a wide receiver focusing on that ellipsoid flying object while knowing full well that he is going to endure great pain if he so much as touches it.

That sort of focussed attention "is the practical key to all success in every domain," and it is best accomplished by calmness and silence , or what we more or less symbolize (o) and (---).

(o) signifies a state of patient openness, while (---) is unhurried silence. These also happen to be the keys to allowing the softer voice of the right brain to speak, which is no coincidence, for the left brain is a loudmouthed know-it-all.

Just as not-knowing must precede knowing -- or emptiness fullness -- silence is anterior to (↓).

Tomberg then draws a critical distinction between interested and disinterested concentration. For example, it isn't difficult for most men to focus their attention on a Victoria's Secret catalogue. In a way, in order to practice disinterested concentration, we must liberate ourselves from the typical things that are always vying for our interested concentration.

This interested concentration arises from various planes of being, e.g., genetics, evolutionary psychology, mind parasites, cultural mimesis, cash and other valuable prizes, etc. As Tomberg says, gluttons and misers -- not to mention perverts and other activists -- are quite attentive to the objects of their interest, just as Obama has a laser-like focus on expanding state power and diminishing yours. He makes liberal fascism look so easy!

In fact a truly "liberal education" involves acquainting oneself with the entire domain of reality that exists outside necessity. Indeed, a key to happiness is doing things just for the hell of it -- i.e., for their intrinsic pleasure -- rather than for some identifiable payoff. Studies have even demonstrated that if you pay a person to do something he intrinsically enjoys, he will derive less enjoyment from it.

I found that last nugget in Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, which I'm reading for some reason, apparently because it relates to this post. He highlights the "paradox" that Americans are no happier today (and probably less happy) despite a historical increase in wealth over the past 50-60 years. What gives?

There are a number of reasons, but one is surely that the accumulation of wealth involves a great deal of interested concentration, when we've already established that a key to happiness and fulfillment is a lot of disinterested concentration, i.e., play. Murray points out that for most of western history we implicitly agreed upon an Aristotelian definition of happiness, whereas today we have one that is more Lockean.

The former revolves around the idea that we derive the most happiness from exercising our most fully realized capacities; in the book I discussed this in terms of realizing our potential, but the point is the same. We all have some sort of gift(s), and happiness very much involves using and developing the gift. Importantly, the rewards from doing so are intrinsic, unrelated to any secondary payoff.

This is what we call slacktivity, because it is the essence of higher nondoodling. It is a way of simultaneously doing nothing and something. You could also call it multi-slacking, which is what I am doing at the moment: several types of passionate nothing all in the same timelessness.

And no, that last crack wasn't just superfluous, because real slacktivity results in temporal dilation. That is to say, the present moment "widens out," so to speak, so the garment of the now isn't so tight and binding. More like one of those pirate shirts with the billowy sleeves.

Murray brings in a discussion of the unfortunately named flow -- unfortunate, because the word makes it sound like something Deepak might have come up with, instead of being a serious concept. It was coined by a man with the unflowing name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but his initial term sounded more serious: autotelic, meaning "self end," or an end that is both by and for the Self (not "ego," I might add).

Consider Murray's description of flow: it is action joined to awareness, such that "you know exactly what you're doing, but you are not thinking about the fact that you know." Like me right now. One thing I never do while blogging is look down, because if I do, I'll lose my balance and fall from the ground.

You could say that we are in flow when we are concentrating without effort, turning work into play, and multi-slacking. And flow has no purpose but to just keep flowin'. Which reminds me of Eckhart's notion of "living without a why."

I believe it is fair to say that Professor Cz%$^*&@yli's idea of flow, when applied to the spiritual dimension, illuminates what we call the "divine spiral" of (↓↑), as we are effortlessly pulled into the Great Attractor.

Now rhea means flow, and this pointless logorrhea must now cease its flow for the day.

Monday, February 04, 2013

I Don't See Any Method At All, Sir

Continuing with Friday's post -- we're discussing Letter I of Meditations on the Tarot -- Tomberg points out that in order to become fertile, two things are necessary, one positive, the other negative.

First we must become receptive, or "poor in spirit." Secondly we must avoid what he calls "the most serious spiritual malady," self-complacency.

This latter pneumapathology falls under the rubric of acedia, which has no direct translation but means something like "spiritual laziness." Thus, Tomberg is affirming an orthoparadox here, to the effect that we must be simultaneously active and passive, or one might even say male and female (in the metacosmic sense). Obviously conception -- and the Second Birth -- can only occur with male and female.

This Second Birth has resonance with metanoia (the cosmic turnaround), except that the latter is more "effort based," so to speak. Tomberg refers to "a change of the entire spiritual and psychic motivation," which is obviously more active and related to the will.

However, this willed turnaround is associated with "a complete change of the plane of consciousness," which mere will could never bring about on its own. I would say that the will is necessary but not sufficient. Rather, something else must meet it halfway. The mystery and the mirrorcle is that someone actually does!

This naturally segues into a discussion of what we can do from our end, and what we could never accomplice in the absence of grace. There is no such thing as a do-it-yoursopher, no lifting ourselves by our own buddhastraps. Thus "it goes without saying that nobody initiates anyone else." Rather, the initiation "is operative from above" because "the Initiator is above."

Now, any initiate, to the extent that he is a true initiate, recognizes this simple Law, and this recognition is the very substance of humility (and of the spiritual emptiness alluded to above). A Raccoon, of course, instantaneously recognizes the soul-stench of a fellow Raccoon, but it would never occur to us to suggest that one is the master, the other a disciple. Rather, "there is only one sole Master, who is the Initiator above."

I remember Schuon telling a correspondent something almost identical -- that he would agree to take him on as a student so long as he remembered that Christ is his Master, not Schuon. There is a dangerous temptation at work here for both parties, and it almost defines the newage.

Think of the luminous archetype of John the Baptist, who is obviously a vertical initiate but who humbly insists up front that There comes One after me who is mightier than I.

Compare this with the bloomin' ass darktype of a Deepak, who dumbly boasts -- without irony -- of being one of Time Magazine's "top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century"; and who, just moments ago, tweeted that "You create the universe in every act of perception," once again proving that cosmic narcissism is as cosmic narcissism does.

Why would state-run media elevate this wicked man to virtual sainthood? The question answers itself. He's like a one man war on spiritual poverty.

So: "Amongst Christian Hermeticists nobody assumes for himself the title and the function of 'initiator' or 'master,'" not even Toots Mondello himself. Rather, everyone learns from everyone, because "each is a master of each in some respect -- just as each is a pupil of each in some respect."

It's not about the master-pupil dialectic, but rather, simply about the circulation and flow of grace, bearing in mind what we said a few posts back about the (↓→) wondercurrent of grace.

I believe that all Raccoons can recognize "quality" in a human being. Yes, a man is a man is a man -- and sometimes even worse -- but there are some men who properly evoke a sense of reverence (not worship) in us. Or, we might say that the proper response to such a lumin being is reverence. This reverence creates a kind of dynamic tension that goes to what was said above about the relationship between effort and spiritual emptiness.

Tomberg makes reference to St. Gregory the Great, who, despite -- or because! -- of his greatness, "subjected himself in all sincerity to the pious men whom he visited and made it his endeavor to learn for his own benefit just how each was superior to him in zeal and ascetic practice." He would then assimilate in himself "what he had obtained from each and devoted his energies to realizing in himself the virtues of all."

Again, it all starts with recognition of spiritual quality, or what I call recognosis (i.e., vertical thou & I sight). This recognosis can never be reduced to some objective standard. Rather, it can only become spontaneously present on an interior level, and it is very important that one follow this "instinct."

It very much reminds me of what Mouravieff says about identifying and cultivating "B" influences (apparently discussed in these previous posts).

Tomberg then goes into an illuminating discussion of head and heart as applied to religion. "Hermeticism," he says, attempts to listen to and hear "the beating of the heart of the spiritual life of humanity." This very much relates to our recent series of posts on right and left brain differences, the former being more oriented to "hearing" in the spiritual sense.

You could say that the exterior church hierarchy is more of a left brain construct, more in the head than heart (and Tomberg is at pains to emphasize that this is by no means to minimize its importance).

But the heart is much more fluid, more interior, more "blowing where it will," so to speak. Therefore, it is spontaneously drawn to and attracted by "the mystery of the communal heart which beats within all religions, all philosophies, all arts and all sciences -- past, present and future." This is because it is oriented to O itself, in whose attractor field all those modes -- truth, wisdom, beauty -- come into view.

Looked at in this manner, almost everything is a theophany and an occasion for inwardness. Put another way, every out has an in and is even the manifestation of a hidden in. We might also say that the In is the Is, or the essence, while the Out is the existence or appearance. Everything is whispering secrets of God all the time! We call it the Gossipel of Nature.

Tomberg then moves on to a description of the first arcana, the Magician (and I would be curious to know how many of the elements are present in all these different versions).

But the bottom line of the card is the First Principle that undergirds all the others, and speaks to the rapport of personal effort and of spiritual reality -- or let us say of (↑) and O. It is not about doctrine as such, but rather, about method. And this method is as follows:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

What, work at giving up? Thanks for the tip!

One thing is for sure: if you're going to successfully transform work into play, you're really going to need to get off the hedonic treadmill and reduce your overhead, because a simulated life is quite expensive.

To be continued...

Friday, February 01, 2013

Magic = Spirit x Birth²

A gnote of order before we begin: in discussing this letter -- and the whole book, really -- I will be "attempting" to demonstrate its meaning -- and the meaning of its meaning -- in real timelessness. Yes, the old Raccoon Promise: eternity while you wait! (Or double your lousy karma back.)

I place "attempting" in scare quotes, because one of the central points of this first letter is that no such attempt is possible. For one cannot try to play. There is no such thing as compulsory spontaneity. Except maybe at an Obama rally.

Really, the best I can do is to simply give up and find out, with the rest of you pslackers, where the windbag blows, because I sure don't know.

Nor do I have any authority, if that's what you're thinking! (And only a troll would think that.) To the extent that "authority" becomes present, I can assure that it's not coming from me. However, that doesn't mean the authority isn't fully real, if you catch his draft.

Thus, Letter I, the Magician, begins with the following well known crack by this mysterious master named Jesus: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you have no idea where it comes from and not a clue where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

What is the context of this puzzling statement, and what does it have to do with the Magician? Jesus has just explained that seeing what he calls the "kingdom of heaven" requires undergoing a "second birth," this one of spirit, not of water.

Now -- little sidebore here -- the further back in history we travel, the more concretely and palpably words such as pneuma, psyche, and nous are understood. In his classic The Discovery of the Mind, Snell writes that psyche, for example, is "the force that keeps the human being alive" and "forsakes man at the moment of death" (d'oh!). It is "breathed forth" and exits through the mouth or through a wound.

Likewise, nous may often "simply be translated as 'to see.'" Thus, Homer can say that the nous of a god such as Zeus "is ever stronger than that of men," which implies that it -- the divine intellect -- is a kind of "mental eye which exercises an unclouded vision."

More generally, Snell makes the important point that, instead of translating Homer to contemporary English, we really need to translate our own speech -- and by implication, our own way of thinking -- into the language and thought of antiquity.

The same holds true of biblical language, for when Jesus uses a word such as "wind" it has a palpable link to spirit and soul (breath). We don't know -- nor does anyone else -- where thoughts come from and where they blow.

So, as to how the Master knows these things -- i.e., the source of his mysterious authority -- he says that he simply speaks of what he knows and describes what he sees. You might say that the kingdom of heaven is what the awakened or illuminated intellect (nous) sees; or, this dimension called heaven "comes into view" with the second birth. There is no need to strictly define it before the birth, any more than you want to plan your child's life before you even meet him.

Spirit, birth², authority, heaven, intellectual vision. I guess we'll have to get to the end of the chapter to fully understand how these relate to the Magician, but in any event, Tomberg says that Jesus's words here are the key to opening this image, and that this image is the key to all the others. To put it inversely, the meaning of this image -- and of all the others -- is closed to the onceborn.

Tomberg says that the purpose of the arcana is to awaken the deeper layers of the soul. The image that immediately blows into my mind is the earth's atmosphere. Herebelow the air is usually pretty stable, punctuated by breezes and zephyrs, with the occasional hurricane or tornado thrown in.

But this is just an illusion, because not too far overhead we have the howling vortex of the jet stream blowing wherever the hell it wants to, and there's not enough xanax in the world to stop it.

Tomberg points out that the arcana are not just allegories, but authentic symbols. An allegory is a figurative and concrete representation of an abstract notion, and therefore involves the opposite of the cognitive movement Snell describes above. In other words, we want to go from abstract to concrete, not the other way around.

An authentic symbol, on the other hand, will simultaneously "conceal and reveal" (what I call "reveil") its essence, depending upon the depth of vision. (Remember Jesus's statement that he is simply describing what he sees, and the etymological link between sight and nous.)

So none of this is "secret." Or, to be perfectly accurate, it is an "open secret," but a secret that protects itself. The image comes to mind of a hybrid CD, in which one layer has the standard CD encoding, while a deeper layer contains the SACD encoding. A standard machine will read the CD layer, but know nothing of the SACD layer. It's there, of course, but for the standard player it may as well not exist.

You playa's out there may want to give that some thought, because there's a whole world of highdef information you're missing out on.

Now these highdef secrets are not "out there," so to speak, but rather, they inhere in here. This "kingdom of heaven" is within, don't you know.

However, it's like a field or a womb, a kind of generative matrix. And, just like a field or a womb, it needs to be fertilized. Yes, things grow in there, but not unless we become fertile. No fertility, no harvest, no bread, no eat. Again, very concrete, not abstract at all.

Assuming fertility, in order to conceive we will need a seed, a ferment, an enzyme, a catalyst, some yeast. Little help, please! The presence of these will stimulate our "spiritual and psychic life." Bearing in mind those literal meanings, they should make the windbelow a little more gnosisable.

Fertility should lead to birth. But that's not the end of it. Rather, as you parents out there realize, it's only the beginning. Furthermore, birth -- and prior to that, conception -- is the quintessential mystery, isn't it? And we are of course speaking both literally and literally, i.e., of both persons and of spiritual ideas (and their consequences!).

Again, spiritual ideas don't just come from nowhere. Rather, like people, they come from somewhere, we just don't know where. What we do know is that in both cases we need fertility (preconception), fertilization (conception), birth (concept), and nurturing (growth).

For Tomberg there is only one Mystery. We shall call this Mystery O for short. When our light strikes O, it breaks out into a rainbow-like prism, and this indeed is our proper prismhouse with all those mansions.

This prismhouse contains all the slackraments needed for further growth into and toward O. Each slackrament is a color in the heavenly reignbelow, and each color has virtually infinite shades.

I don't know why, but I am always entranced by this palette of colors, and our freakish ability to make these tiny distinctions in the realm of light.

Look at the many types of blues, for example. I remember Willie Dixon saying that you can get one type of blues from your girlfriend leaving, another kind when she comes back. One kind from being unemployed, another kind from having a job. You cry when you're born, but dying is no picnic either. That's just how it is down here in this world of fluctuation and enigma.

Well, we really didn't get too far today, did we? Oh well. You know what they say about the wind.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Brief Message from Beyond the Grave

I don't have much time for a post this morning, so let's get right into it. The foreword to Meditations on the Tarot (and you may want to snap up one of those cheap used copies before they're gone) begins with a letter personally addressed to you, the Unknown Friend for whom the book is written, and through which you will acquire "definite knowledge" of Christian Hermeticism.

This is part of the book's charm, since it's a little like the wisest man you've ever met telling you all he knows about the deepest things. Moreover, the author "has said more about himself in these Letters than he would have been able to in any other way." No, not just via the content, but, as we shall see, via his incarnation right before your three eyes.

And what is Christian Hermeticism? It is none other than the venerable Raccoon tradition through which we unite "a spirit of free research with one of respect for the tradition." In this regard it is very much like jazz, which again requires the strictest adherence to musical principles in order to freely and spontaneously explore musical space, or the phase space of musical possibility.

The author says that his purpose is to "incarnate" into the above tradition by becoming "an organic part of it." This is indeed a key principle, not just for this book but for Christianity as such. After all, what are the key principles of Christianity? One is obviously incarnation, the principle whereby the ultimate Principle takes on human flesh.

Therefore, the "imitation of Christ" is more than just an exterior sort of impersonation. Again, think of a musical analogy. One could imitate, say, John Coltrane, and play a note-for-note copy of A Love Supreme. But in another sense, that would be the exact opposite of imitation, because Coltrane didn't copy anyone, and never played the same way twice. Therefore, a more profound imitation of 'Trane would involve the incarnation of his total approach to music.

Can we usefully apply this analogy to spirit? I think so, so long as we truly respect the tradition, and "play" within its rules and boundaries. Tomberg's purpose is to immerse himself in this "millennial-old current of thought, effort, and revelation," so as to help you do the same: to embody the tradition, not just "think" about or imitate it. To the extent that the book contains a lot of spiritual know-how, its real purpose is to facilitate spiritual be-who.

Another important principle to bear in mind involves the verticality and horizontality of Tradition. Revelation is a quintessentially (↓) phenomenon, but it does not, and cannot, remain there.

Rather, it is "received" by human receptacles, who are not angels but men living in this world. Our task, as it were, is to prolong the vertical message forward (→) into time, history, and culture. Indeed this horizontal prolongation is the very essence of Tradition.

However, at the same time, (→) must never be detached from (↓). This occasionally -- okay, more than occasionally -- happens, and when it does, the message is drained of its transformative and otherworldly power. The Word is reduced to mere words, or pneumababble, and becomes more meaningless than profane language, which is at least still connected to its object.

The solution to this problem is again incarnation. When Tomberg refers to various "masters of the tradition," he doesn't do so in order to impress you with his erudition, but so "they may be present with their impulses of aspiration and their light of thought." In other words, it's not about their words per se, except insofar as the words make the reality they symbolize present.

This reality involves light and aspiration. The former is "free" but the latter will cost you. We -- that is, I -- symbolize aspiration as (↑), whereas the light is a manifestation of (↓).

Right here you can see that we totally avoid the pseudo-conflict between grace and free will, because our task is to freely coupperate with grace in the divine spiral of (↑↓). It is through this spiral that we assimilate so as to incarnate, if that makes sense to you.

The (↑↓) is also the essence of what we call verticalesthenics and gymgnostics. As Tomberg says, the book comes down to "twenty-two spiritual exercises, by means of which you, dear Unknown Friend, will immerse yourself in the current of the living tradition, and thus enter into the community of spirits who have served it and who are still serving it."

In short, this is your esoteric bar mitzvah and baptism, through which you jump into the stream of living waters in order to bring it down and carry it forward. And in order to keep it, you must give it away. But only to the sincere and the qualified. The insincere and unqualified will just make a mess of it.

As an upright and tumescent member of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, you do not internalize a doctrine but I-AMbody "an invisible community of spirits" that persists "from age to age," and will shadow the visible Church until further gnosis. Offer void in academia.

There remains nothing more to say in this introduction to the Letter-Meditations on the Tarot, because all other questions concerning them will find a response in the Letters themselves.

Your friend greets you, dear Unknown Friend, from beyond the grave.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yeah, I'm Totally Useless. What's Your Point?

In an interview, Schuon was asked about the distinctions between philosophy, religion, and metaphysics.

Philosophy, of course, "operates only with reason, hence with logical assumptions and conclusions." The trick is that its effectiveness is contingent upon starting with correct premises (or first principles), which philosophy itself cannot furnish.

For that you'll need the uncommon gift of common sense. Thus the old saying, "garbage in, tenure out." Which simply means that if you don't start with reality, your philosophy can never reach it.

For it is written: from bullshit you are, and to bullshit you shall return.

Religion adds several dimensions to the picture, including revelation, grace, wisdom, and salvation. You might say that it provides man with fixed premises that he himself could never have arrived at without supernatural assistance -- say, Torah, or Exodus, or I AM, or Incarnation, or Person, or Trinity, or Resurrection, or Judgment.

Schuon highlights another important purpose of religion, which the modern secular world has, by definition, forgotten: "to establish a realistic social dimension."

It is a truism that the left's secular vision is unrealistic and unworkable in the real world, but people usually focus on the economic pathologies, e.g., krugmania, marxophrenia, obamanoia, etc. But these are all just fancy euphemisms for being broke and not knowing it, or else rationalizations for generational theft.

Much deeper than this is its social/cultural insolvency and moral bankruptcy. Only when the left has succeeded in completely destroying what only Judeo-Christian values could build, will some of them finally appreciate -- like the clueless Colonel Nicholson -- the enormity of what they've done. But most of them will find a way to displace the blame, because being on the left means never having to say you're wrong, sorry, sick, insane, lazy, broke, perverted, greedy, or lying through your teeth again.

So, why metaphysics? Which is a little like asking a monkey, "why the banana?" Human beings are built in a certain way and therefore have specific needs. Schuon says that metaphysics simply "satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men." However, he isn't talking about profane metaphysics, which is just another branch of philosophy, and therefore not really metaphysics at all.

Rather, to engage in real metaphysics is to touch the divine. This must be so, since metaphysics is the study of being qua being, and God is.... No, let's just leave it at that: God is, period.

Metaphysics is the quintessential business of isness, and God is isness as such. Therefore, "metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but penetrates also to our whole being." As such, "it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word." Perhaps we should call it transphysics, because it is both above and beyond the call of nature.

Back to the monkey and his banana. A monkey, goddammit, has certain intrinsic needs, and to deny him the object of those needs would be a cruelty. So hand over the banana already!

Likewise, man has certain intrinsic needs, and to deny these is to make a monkey out of him. However, man's needs are not limited to the biological sphere, or even the social sphere, although food, grog, and sex is certainly a good start. But no man can live on bananas alone, nor even on human love.

Rather -- and this is a key to appreciating what man is -- man has a need of truth and of salvation. Allied with these is a need for morals, which represent truth in action, or, say, truth prolonged into the social sphere.

Man also needs, according to Schuon, spiritual practice, which, you might say, is a systematic way to assimilate and embody truth and morality. In short, in order to get anywhere he needs Truth and Way, or Doctrine and Method, or Ass and Roadmap.

I know, I know, MOTT. Don't worry, we'll get there. The spirit blows where it will, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Besides, this post is going somewhere, I just know it. And if it doesn't? Well, that'll just prove that the title of the post is apt.

Now, the following may require a bit of a leap, and this does indeed veer or careen into esoterism, depending upon how carefully you derive. For Schuon, an authentic religious tradition already embodies metaphysics, and this may be sufficient to satisfy the average believer.

For example, as we were saying yesterday -- or was it Friday? -- Genesis is chock full of metaphysical arguments and insights, and there is no intrinsic reason why an intellectual explication of them is superior to an implicit, right brain understanding.

I mean, it's all there: radical creation (and the goodness thereof), deiformity, vocation, destiny, judgment, woman trouble, sibling rivalry, and much more.

In fact, this "much more" is precisely what we'll be getting into with MOTT. Much of MOTT is spent unpacking the esoteric or "hidden" knowledge packed into revelation and tradition. Some oddballs have a legitimate need for this sort of thing.

Which is why most people are not my readers. They just don't have that itch, so my scratching would just annoy them. The Unfathomable Lucidity of the B'ob? No thanks.

Now, all of these preluminary meditations have a reason, I'll bet. The reason is that I am attempting to rationalize my peculiar existence. Because let's face it, I am a completely useless man.

What I mean is that this writing I am doing has no practical purpose whatsoever. I don't make any real money off of it (I do receive a nominal sum from you thoughtful folks who click through to amazon and buy something), and I am in a a career in which I could readily earn more money by... by, you know, working more.

I don't usually think about it in these terms, you ungrateful bastards, but this blogging isness does consume an awful lot of time. Over seven years, in excess of 2,000 lengthy posts, thousands of comments. Why do I do it? Why don't I do something more productive and remunerative with my time? That's right, Why don't you make yourself useful, ya' lazy bastard?

Monkeys and bananas, I suppose. I'm not "making up" this need I have. Rather, I'm just pursuing (indulging?) it in the most natural and spontaneous way immarginable. Always been this way, at least from my mid-twenties or so, when my personality fully came on line (yes, it took that long for me to recover from the initial shock of being here).

When I was younger, I used to think it was simply because I was an enlightened sphere walking amongst the grazing multitude of somnolent cubes. But I no longer look at it that way. People are just different, that's all. Strokes and folks. Speaking of which, I don't want to be like my cardiologist, but even less do I want him to be like me!

On the other hand, the historical ubiquity of religion proves that it answers and speaks to a genuine need in man, because to think otherwise is to posit an effect with no cause. What this suggests to me is that all of the irreligious cubes in this world are deceiving themselves. They have the same needs man has always had, because man is man, a self-tautology.

In order to be unaware of the pain caused by this unfulfilled need, they must engage in all sorts of distractions, displacements, replacements, and substitutions. But still the need will be there because the void will persist, a void that cannot be filled by the world, any more than the need for human companionship can be satisfied by food.

The bottom lyin' is that human beings try to evade their uselessness by doing something useful. But reality is utterly useless, which is to say, it cannot be reduced to some pragmatic, goal-directed activity.

The Great Useless, or Big Empty, cannot be measured by the useful. It is our reason, but in itself it has no reason; or in other words, it alone has no extrinsic causes, but just IS. Therefore, it seems to me that the last word in deiformity is to become equally useless, at least for as much timelessness as we can manage.

Look at God himsoph. What does he do? He makes himself useful with six days of creativity. But the proper telos of all this creativity is the sabbath, on which we are enjoined to enjoy utter uselessness.

I remember reading a book by Stanley Jaki, in which he expressed the opinion that this is the whole point of Genesis 1 and 2: its principle lesson concerns the sabbath, our great Day of Focussed Unactivity, Higher Non-Doodling, or slack.

Ultimate truth, like its divine sponsor, just is, and has no reason. And we cannot rest until we are conformed to it, and made equally useless. As useless as, say, a baby. We all need a touch of infanity.

Well, this post is over. Unfortunately, I have to go out and make myself useful.

According to the "physics" of the spiritual order, the more one draws on the divine life, the more one receives that life.... when one receives a gift, one must give it away, since it only exists in gift form, and when he gives it away he will find more of it flooding into his heart. --Robert Barron

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the Necessity of Esoterism

Before embarking upon our journey into Meditations on the Tarot (which seems to have gone out of print again), I'd like to begin with a discussion of the meaning and purpose of esoterism more generally, since so much of it can appear a little dodgy, as if we're just deepaking the chopra rather than engaging in the Eternal Science (or the science of eternity).

However, it has always been understood that, for example, scripture is susceptible to multiple levels of meaning: the literal or plain meaning; the allegorical, or implied meaning; the conceptual meaning; the moral meaning; the more abstract and esoteric meaning; etc.

I just found this helpful post on the Four Ancient Assumptions of Biblical Interpretation, which points out that, not only is the full meaning of scripture "hidden" or cryptic, but harmonious despite superficial inconsistencies. But in my opinion, the only way to harmonize the inconsistencies is via esoterism. Which is why fundamentalism is entirely soph-defeating, because to insist "that the surface or literal meaning of the text is always relevant and never contradictory requires great skill in sophistry."

Here is one way of looking at it. As we have said many times -- either because or in spite of its obviousness -- human beings uniquely span all the vertical degrees of creation. Rather than representing a point of light, we are more like a line of light, extending from the Source at Raccoon Central all the way down "below" matter, and into the infrahuman realms inhabited by criminals, psychopaths, MSNBC hosts, etc.

The light is naturally brightest at the top, but becomes less luminous the further it descends from the source. I might add that there is more coherence at the top, hence, identity and individuation. The further from the source, the more anonymous, collective, reactionary, conformist, etc. There the differences (to preview Letter IX) blend into -- or are hidden by -- the darkness of the Black Point.

Paradoxically, the Light still shines there but the little darklings can't see it. Nevertheless, darkness is always a function of Light (for the converse could never be true), so the shadows they worship down there are still a kind of left-handed tribute to the BrightOne.

One must also realize that our human home is a kind of middleworld which we inhobbit. Especially with the development of modern science, we can all see for ourselves that we are immersed in "other" hidden worlds, say, the worlds of modern physics, or DNA, or quantum cosmology.

We can of course "tell the story" of our DNA -- or evolutionary biology can attempt to tell the story of human beings via DNA -- but the most complete possible genetic story will never describe man as he is, any more than an analysis of photons entering your eyes at this moment will tell you anything about what those photons mean.

For these are message-bearing photons that I have personally encoded with a weightless semantic freight. This cargo has no effect on the speed of transmission, which is why we say that in this cosmos, by God, thought travels at the speed of light.

Now, anything that exists is intelligible, or it wouldn't exist: to exist is to be the instantiation of an intelligibility. Or in other words, in order to be anything you have to be something, or else you're just nothing: every is is a what. If this weren't the case, then everything would be all mixed up with everything else and completely unintelligible, like the mush in Deepak's head.

Some religions don't like such intrapneumatic divisions and boundaries, which is why the cultures resulting from them are stuck in history and go nowhere. Such religions are defensible, of course, so long as one of your core values is going nowhere.

In other words, in such a metaphysic time is not just illusory, but a kind of cancer on the body of eternity. This was the error (or virtue, if you swing that way) of Parmenides, but it also applies to Muhammadanism and to aspects of Buddhism.

Some of our best friends, the Jews, thought otherwise, and voted for an enthusiastic embrace of history. Which is why time is on their side. Since then every contemporaneous ancient civilization has exited history: Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, etc.

And yet, the Jews are still here -- despite being the most persecuted people in history -- now prolonged into Christianity and the American founding. Notice too how the left's ceaseless attack on America (and its Judeo-Christian tradition) is an iteration of the same dreary attack that has been going on for roughly 5773 years. Get in line, Barry. We'll survive you too, assoul.

And make no mistake: it is not just an attack on Judeo-Christian values, but on history, on morality, on intelligibility itself. For absolute relativism (and there is no other kind) absolutely negates the Absolute from which all these good things flow: truth, meaning, virtue, unity, love, beauty, etc.

Now, a big part of the leftist negation of truth and reality revolves around its crude materialism. I myself am an enthusiastic and even crude materialist, but that is not all I am. Again, for us, matter is just one of the vertical degrees of being. It's a great place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there.

But as it so happens it is the easiest one for us to negotiate, since it is so sensual and ponderable. Other realms are just as intelligible but not as sensible, and this applies to both the above and the below. For example, the quantum world isn't sensible -- or even imaginable -- but it is surely intelligible.

Likewise the spiritual world. It too is obviously intelligible, but not necessarily on its own terms. Rather, in order to encode and communicate it, we must generally use language borrowed from the sensible world. Hence the power of myth, which embodies a truth (or multiple truths) that are difficult to express in lingo that is fully wideawake & cutandry.

Or, consistent with what we've been saying about left and right brain differences, there is a certain manner of speaking to and from the right brain that completely eludes the left (which may even denigrate the wisdom of the right, depending upon how far left it has fallen). Just last Sunday I attended a religious ritual -- a baby naming -- that quite effectively bypassed the left brain and went straight into the heart via the right. Either that or I'm just getting soft.

Of myth, James Schall writes (in Pieper) that it "seeks to find a truth that does not seem to be expressible by philosophic argument."

You will have also gnosissed that we learn from myth or parable "from hearing," and "not from argumentation." Or, the myth is the argument, only in a different mode. Genesis surely involves many sophisticated arguments, but fully explaining them -- at least for most people -- may actually be less effective than simply hearing them.

Indeed, this is why the myth survives: because it is a true story that never happened but which happens every time. Pieper speaks of an "original revelation" that seems to be embodied in world myth, and people such as Jung, Campbell, and Joyce would certainly agree on that score.

"Could it not be the case," asks Pieper, "that the reality most relevant to man is not a 'set of facts' but is rather an 'event,' and that it accordingly cannot be grasped adequately in a thesis, but only... in the presentation of an action -- in other words, in a story?"

Note also that man cannot actually live without myth, which is precisely why the myth of leftism persists despite a total lack of logic and practicality, and an unblemished record of failure. Many thinkers (such as Voegelin) have seen that the left is essentially a secularization of the ancient myths, which is why the initial "denial of eternity" soon enough begets "the effort to replace it by political or scientific movements in this world." At which point the bodies begin piling up.

Much of what human beings urgently need to know cannot be conveyed in purely abstract, left brain terms. As the title implies, the author of MOTT meditates on the universal-mythological images of the tarot in order to deepen our understanding of Christianity. Thus, it is fundamentally the type of R --> L --> R brain verticalisthenic we've been discussing in recent weeks.

Just as science takes place in the space between the human mind and its object of study, the science of theology takes place in the space between man and O. Revelation too takes place in this space. If you think about what revelation is, it is a divine message that must be clothed in human terms in order for humans to apprehend it. But again, arguments aren't the only way to encode the message. It can also be encoded in stories, historical events, parables, a book, and even a human being.

As Socrates remarked, "it is difficult, my friend, to express higher things without recourse to sense images. In this we are like the person who knows everything in a dream and in waking no longer knows anything."

You might say that the myth or image is a way for the Dreamer to directly convey what he knows. Thus, as Pieper writes, the "heavenly realm" can be spoken of as a banquet, a wedding, a treasure buried in a field, a fishing net, a mustard seed, a day of reckoning, etc. It is simultaneously each, all, and none of these things.

In the beginning, writes Plato, man "has the shape of a sphere," which has connotations of wholeness, perfection, and eternity. But soon enough we lose that wholeness and enter the linear world of the left brain.

Our task is to help the prodigal brain return to its mythic sphere, now enriched by its novel adventures among the straights and cubes.

Bottom line: I don't think esoterism is necessary for everyone. Maybe just people who are too bright for their own good.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Clear Spheres & Rubish Cubes

"When two or more independent insights cross," wrote Henri Bergson, "a new philosophy is born."

That little gem was plucked from Gilson's Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge, which I would like to transfer from the cerebral inbox to the blogging outbox so as to move on to the next subject, which will likely be Meditations on the Tarot. But probably not Monday, since I'm going in for a nuclear treadmill early that morning. (It's my tri-annual Immortality Reassurance Tour.)

I can't say that I would commend TR & the C of K to your noggin, since it has an awful lot of inside beanball, meaning that he responds to critics of his Methodical Realism by chucking some chapter-length verbal heat right under those wagging chins.

However, history has already knocked these mediocretins off the plate by consigning them to the great Bin of Irrelevance, so it's like throwing chin music to Mario Mendoza. Why bother? Let Clio even the score. She's like Greg Maddux: looks easy to hit, but few thinkers can get it past the infield.

Now, that quote at the top goes to what we've been saying about the R --> L --> R --> L --> R brain-to-brain spiral movement. We routinely find ourselves in the position of harboring a couple of independent insights in the left brain. But how to reconcircle them?

Seems to me that it can only by accompliced via the right, which, according to McGilchrist, can take the left into consideration, while the left cannot reciprocate.

This is because the left brain is more linear, while the right is more spherical, so to speak, and you can fit any number of lines into that sphere (which, we should point out, is not a closed sphere, but open, so that its center is everywhere even while its circumference is nowhere, man).

Indeed, this is one of the reasons why O looks like an O, why my book is shaped the way it is, and why the slang term for the non-raccoon is "cube" -- as in "Richard Dawkins. What a cube!"

Conversely, some famous spheres -- in addition to Thelonious -- would be Pseudo Dionysius, or Maximus, or Eriugena, or Eckhart. Each of these men is quite spherical, and a couple of them got into some real trouble with the religious (and musical) cubes of their day.

Eckhart: "Being is God's circle, and in this circle all creatures exist." Or "In my flowing-out I entered creation. In my Breakthrough I re-enter God."

Similarly, Ruusbroec speaks of how "giving birth and flowing back into unity is the work of the Trinity"; or Eriugena of "the unexhausted diffusion" of the Godhead "from itself in itself back to itself."

Bernard "Bernie Mac" McGinn, Mr. 2000 Years of Christian Mysticism: "In the circle of love that forms the Dionysian universe we have a God who becomes ecstatic in procession and a universe whose ecstasy is realized in reversion."

I could go on and on, and would like to, but I'm starting to run out of linear time. Let me conclude with McGilchrist's circular argument for a commodius vicus of cosmic recirculation:

"The left hemisphere loves straight lines, not curves or circles."

In contrast, "the processing of the right hemisphere is that of the circle, and its movement is characteristically 'in the round,' the phrase we use to describe something that is seen as a whole, and in depth.... There are strong affinities between the idea of wholeness and roundedness."

Also, "the images of movement within stasis and of stasis within movement, are reflected in the circle, as they are in the movement of water, ever flowing, and ever reflected in the circle..."

Van Gogh: "life is probably round."

Yeah, probably. But not in a Nietzschean way, which he may not have realized, or else he wouldn't have tried to end it.

A musical dream of Thelonious Sphere:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Have to be All Man to Know the Whole Truth

What is reality?

First of all, even the ability to pose the question is fraught with implications. No other animal can ask the question. Therefore, we might say that reality is the thing human beings are able to ask about.

Here is why the question is not like any other question, and not susceptible to a cutandry answer: reality, whatever else it is, is singular, similar to the UNIverse. Now, our senses reveal to us the singular, but there is no knowledge of reality -- of totality -- at the level of the senses.

Conversely, the intellect deals with universals. But reality is not an abstract universal. Rather, it just is.

So, if we can't know it with our senses or with our intellect, how is it that we even have the word?

Along similar lines, Gilson asks "Why is there existence at all, seeing that the existence we directly know does not seem to have in itself a sufficient reason for its existence? And if it is contingent, does it not postulate a necessary existence as its cause and explanation?"

Yes or no?

We say yes, and we call this necessary existence O. If not for the Necessary, we wouldn't even have the word contingent. In the absence of O, literally nothing makes any sense, and yet, O is again neither an object of the senses nor a concept in the melon.

But at the same time, O is -- in a manner of speaking -- the Concept without which there are no concepts. Or, call it the orthoparadoxical "empty concept," so to speak -- a sort of "structured nothingness" which we spend our lives exploring and unpacking.

O has diverse degrees and modes of manifestation, but it is the unity within the diversity; or, in the words of Gilson, it joins "the diverse modes of existence to Him" -- Him being I AM, one of the names of O. One God, one Reality, one Truth, one Love, one Mind -- each of these is necessarily related to the others.

If we invert the cosmos and try to begin with thought, there is simply no way back to oneness except in fantasy, for oneness is something we could neither invent nor discover in the absence of the real One.

Indeed, to even be wrong about God is to prove his existence -- hence Eckhart's crack to the effect that he who blasphemes praises God. The Divine One "is a negation of negations and a denial of denials." He is the light that shines in the darkness of every mind, and in the absence of which there is only darkness upon the deep.

Sure, you can run around with that little candle looking for darkness, but the only thing you'll ever find there is tenure.

About that implicit two-way pre-structure of world and thought: "It is a characteristic of thought to be faced by what is opaque," writes Gilson.

But "as soon as that wall of opaqueness becomes translucent, there is always a similar one behind it," such that "thought progressively assimilates what is intelligible in a world given to it from without."

We do not create -- nor could we ever create -- "the intelligibility and existence of that world." Nevertheless, Deepak will be happy to sell you a very expensive bridge that ends in a shadow world where you can relax in the comfort of your ownan delusions.

Speaking of which, "the birth of the concept presupposes fertilization of the intellect by the reality which it apprehends. Before truth comes the thing that is true" (emphasis mine). Our mental womb must be penetrated and fertilized by a, you know, thing, pardon my French.

To put it another way, we must begin with O, "with the whole in order to distinguish the parts." We cannot begin with one of the parts, "to be posited as the pre-condition for the existence of everything else."

This very much comports with what we were saying last week about left and right brian differences. We begin with the holistic experience of the right brain, not with the abstractions of the left.

If we try to start with the left, we are essentially trying to get from thought to being, and that is like trying to capture a sphere with a circle. All the circles in the world don't add up to one lousy ball (hey, didn't Himmler have something similar?).

Oh. About how we know reality exists even though it is neither sensation nor concept. Very simple. In the real world, there is neither sensation nor intellect. Rather, there are men, and it is the whole man who apprehends being.

You will have noticed that we don't actually find human sensation or human intellect existing abstractly, separate from one another.

For the same reason, it would be absurd to state that a heart, isolated from the body, "pumps blood." In reality, the whole human body pumps blood.

As with the interior of the godhead, we can speak of distinctions but not divisions: "Properly speaking, neither the senses nor the intellect knows; it is the individual man who knows by means of the senses and the intellect."

There is only the "one subject, one being who possesses distinct yet harmonious powers and produces these diverse actions": one man and one cosmos under one God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Logophobic President

What a perfectly loathsome and undignified diatribe. Have you ever noticed? Just when you forget all about your craw, a bunch of stuff gets caught in it, reminding you it's there. Here are some passages and phrases that are stuck in mine:

"Schools and colleges to train our workers." How about schools and colleges to liberate the mind and elevate the soul? I really couldn't give two f*cks if my son misses out on such "training." I mean, a man's gotta eat, but man surely doesn't live by bread alone. Men who aren't leftist flatlanders, anyway.

Besides, blowing harder on the higher education bubble helps no one but the colleges. On the other hand, at least Obama's policies will cause the bubble to burst sooner, so we can get it over with.

"A great nation must protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."

Hmm. Does that include protection from the most devastating hazard and misfortune of them all, the tyrannical and intrusive state?

Because if the 20th century taught us one lesson, it is that there is nothing more destructive than the all-wise and all-powerful state predicated on the fantasy that it will protect its citizens from all of life's unavoidable exigencies. I mean, just protect me from domestic and foreign enemies, okay? And stop violating with the Constitution. Then we'll talk.

What are life's worst hazards, anyway? Probably the same they've always been: war. Famine. Disease. Poverty. So, why don't we cure hunger by imitating the Soviet Union and putting the state in charge of food production and distribution? While we're at it, why doesn't the federal government create millions of pretend jobs and lavish its worthless employees with absurdly generous wages and benefits?

Oh, right. I guess Obama noticed how effectively that model is working here in California. Hence the thriving economy in and around Washington DC.

"A decade of war is now ending."

Rrrrrright. First of all, I think he means 40,000 years of war, or however long it has been since man has been fully man (in other words, war and humanness co-arise). Still, good to hear that it's ending. Someone needs to inform the Algerians, Afghans, Libyans, Malians, Iranians, and the peace-loving Palestinians. Not to mention the city of Chicago.

"An economic recovery has begun." Indeed. Just as war is ending. This calls to mind Zeno's paradox, doesn't it? With this logical fallacy, it is possible to prove that the runner is always beginning, without ever reaching the end. Thus, with four years of Obama's economic policies, the unemployment rate has plunged from an intolerable 7.8% down to a more modest 7.8%.

Nevertheless, there's still a lot of work to be done if we want to drive it further down to 7.8%. Given the worsening economic conditions, the only way to accomplish this will be to force even more workers to permanently drop out of the labor force.

"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity."

Actually, no. Not if you mean that our dignity is conferred by the state. Dignity is like class. You either have it or you don't, and it certainly has nothing to do with income, as proved by Obama's many conspicuously undignified Hollywood friends. How about Al Sharpton? Who stole his dignity? Jesse Jackson? Joe Biden? Keith Olbermann? Piers Morgan? The free telephone lady?

"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit."

Memo to Obama: the country made that hard choice in 2008 and 2012, and voted for skyrocketing healthcare costs and massive deficits. In other words, bigger and more intrusive government. Besides, healthcare costs what it costs. You can manipulate the price, but that will just end up increasing the overall cost.

"But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

That's a coincidence. We reject strawman arguments that create the illusion of reasonableness by denouncing arguments that no one actually holds. For example, I REJECT THE BELIEF THAT WE MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN LOVING OUR CHILDREN AND EATING THEM.

"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

And others will deny the overwhelming judgment of science that none of those things have any link to "climate change."

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."

Yes, but here's the tricky part: our enemies believe that a lasting peace requires perpetual war. Or submission to the caliphate. So at least we have a choice.

"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."

If that is the case, then our journey is over. And what a banal journey it was! It seems that history ends with neither bang nor whimper, just a crappy job and your children raised by strangers. But that's okay. At least every little girl can dream of some crappy job in her future. The circle of life!

It's a matter of priorities. The Raccoon -- and the supernaturally Natural Man more generally -- must have Slack. That most of us must work in exchange for Slack is just a sad fact of life. So let's not pretend that the purpose of Slack is to work, rather than vice versa. Let's not invert the cosmos.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

In this version, history ends when the state has successfully mandated that my aunt is a trolley car, just because my uncle likes it that way.

Wait! There's another auger, straight from the goat's entrails: "Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote."

Let me translate that for you: history will end when voter fraud becomes so easy and so widespread that we'll have a permanent liberal majority.

Here's a good one: the journey will be over when all children "are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm."

I used to kinda sorta believe that until I actually had a child, and discovered that no matter how much you cherish, care for, and protect them, they have minds and wills of their own, and are bound to reenact the ancient patterns. In other words, just when you thought history was over, the next generation will start up the whole catastrophe all over again. Especially if they have tossed out the perennial wisdom of religion.

The Marxist hacks at Reuters naturally applaud the totalitarian instincts of our dear leader, noting that he demands "a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change."

Or, in non-Newspeak, a less inclusive America that rejects alternative points of view. Nor can we "treat name-calling as reasoned debate," you bunch of science-denying, homophobic, war mongering, elder abusing, child hating misogynists.

What? Logophobia?

That's a spiritual disease involving an irrational abuse of language, or the deployment of language to destroy meaning. Our journey will be over when we find a cure for it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Big Error, Countless Problems

A few more points from Gilson's Methodical Realism before the bus moves on -- either to the next topic or back to the previous one (which we never finished), or possibly in another direction altogether, a circular revisitation of Meditations on the Tarot.

Regarding the latter, several weeks ago the Office of the Cosmic Dispatcher received a request that we embark upon another chapter-by-chapter field trip into that classic work of esoteric Christianity, so those of you who don't already have the book may want to pick up a copy. If you want to ride along on the bus, that is. And don't forget the signed permission slip from your guardian angel.

You may have noticed that modern philosophy has mostly devolved to a lot of pretentious windbaggery and nut-numbing obfuscation. It is a dreary factory system in which tenured hacks pretend to publish important ideas for other tenured hacks to pretend to read.

No light results from this verbal jirque du cercle, but that's obviously not the point. The point is -- well, we're seeing it in today's reimmaculation of His Royal Pain in the Ass: the successful displacement of truth by raw power.

Remember what was said at the end of Friday's post, because there is indeed a "practical" element to postmodern thought. The thinking itself is of no practical value, i.e., in assimilating the truth of reality.

Rather, its practical application lies in defining reality so as to appropriate power. It's similar to Lenin's crack to the effect that "who controls the past controls the present."

Likewise, who controls indoctrination more generally controls the indoctrinated.

So, as mentioned at the end of the previous post, "once we detach ourselves from reality, it follows that we no longer know what the individual is or what he is for."

"The result is a monadic individual who exists only for himself -- this is the selfish and amoral side of leftism -- and the need for a leviathan state to control all these selfish and amoral monads. This ends in a combustible mixture of moral anarchy and tyrannical collectivism, each reflecting and aggravating the other."

As in the class warfare of the left, this type of thinking results from the reification of a pair of "false opposites," in this case, individual and collective. In reality, there is no abstract "individual man," nor is there a purely collectivized one whose identity can be legitimately subordinated to the state.

Rather, man is a social animal (ultimately because of his trinitarian structure that orders him to love), and in the absence of culture, there is no such thing as a man. There is no prior "state of nature" in which man appears, unshaped by culture. Our individual-ism and social-ism (in the non-political sense) are two aspects of one being.

But Gilson points out that Hegel, for example, "lives by" such antinomies, "and thinks that the effort to surmount them is what constitutes philosophy."

Conversely, the task of realism is to avoid such false dualisms, but to harmonize them in the real unity of the human person. (In psychoanalysis we call it the development of mature dependency as opposed to immature dependency or pseudo-mature independence.)

Because that is the simple reality: again, human beings unproblematically harmonize any number of dualities, both vertically and horizontally.

For example, we harmonize religion and science, or sense and intellect, or lust and love, or mind and matter. It is only when the thinker abstracts and reifies one or the other that the appearance of a "problem" emerges. But it's a pseudo-problem caused by one Big Error in methodology.

Gilson: "if there is a single initial error at the root of all the difficulties philosophy is involved in, it can only be the one Descartes committed when he decreed, a priori, that the method of one of the sciences of reality was valid for the whole of reality."

Thus, for the left, ideology defines all. First they sunder reality by superimposing their favored abstraction (e.g., race, or class, or gender), and then do violence to the person by placing him in one of their abstract categories.

The result is a genuine death culture: death to the spirit, death to the intellect, death to beauty, death to love, death to the human vocation (because we cannot actualize our vocation if we are denied our vertical station). You can still "develop," but only toward nowhere and into nothing.

So: "Consequently, it goes without saying that the fate of metaphysics as a science is sealed in advance. Deprived of concepts, it no longer has anything but ideas and finds itself irrevocably trapped in their antinomies" (Gilson).

And the most undignified antinomy of all is the one that creates millions of little guys who are dependent upon the only really actualized men -- those benevolent liberal fascists who control the levers of state power.

But if you actually imagine that the state can render you anything other than the pathetic little guy it sees you to be -- and helped create for its own purposes -- then your auto-degradation is irreversible. Party on! The Big Guys will gladly foot the bill.

Friday, January 18, 2013

At Play in the Fields of the Real

Again, realism begins with the world and with the object. Conversely, all forms of idealism begin with the subject, but we can never "extract an ontology from an epistemology" (Gilson), only more thoughts. Hence the adage "publish or perish," since idealist thought perishes if it fails to keep one step ahead of reality by making new forays into absurdity.

There is no middle ground between these two positions. It is reminiscent of Jesus' statements about swords, goats, and sheep. As Gilson puts it, the Cogito -- I think therefore I am -- "is manifestly disastrous as a foundation for philosophy," as it leads -- and ends -- precisely nowhere (or nowhere real, which amounts to the same thing).

Gilson quotes Whitehead, who properly observed that "When you find your theory of knowledge won't work, it's because there is something wrong with your metaphysics." And in the case of idealism, writes Gilson, "nothing works." It "can only be overcome by dispensing with its very existence." Perish, then publish.

Here are some florid but typical examples of idealist pneumapathology, via some imbecilic tweets by Deepak. They are all completely jassackwords: "Your senses send electrical information to your brain. Your consciousness converts it into a material universe." "Your world reflects your brain, which reflects your mind, which reflects your soul." "You create your past & future now."

None of these silly poses can be sustained in any consistent way, as they will eventually reveal insurmountable contradictions. Again, as Gilson says, "The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist," the second "to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to."

In short, get over your infantile omniscience and realize that there is a real world beyond the control of your thoughts. But no one ever went broke selling infantile omniscience to new age dupes and religious illiterates.

I might add that -- Deepak's nauseating self-righteousness to the contrary -- no ethic is possible in the absence of a prior reality. That is to say, all ethical behavior is founded upon accurate perception of reality. We can only do the right thing if we first see rightly. But if reality is just a function of our perceptions, then so too is morality.

For example, if I insist in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary that there is no fundamental distinction between animals and human beings, this has ethical implications that are devastating in their consequences.

Naturally there are different levels of reality disclosed by the mind, but this hardly means they are a function of mind. At first glance, writes Gilson, reality "is immediately given to us in a kind of block form." But perhaps the most astonishing thing about this "block" is its endless intelligibility, no matter how deeply we dig into it.

One critical point to bear in mind -- and one which prevents all manner of metaphysical mischief -- is that we are clearly contingent, and yet, we participate in absoluteness. How is this possible? It is only possible because we are created in the image of God. Absent that creative nexus, then metaphysics falls apart, because there is no way for the contingent to know the necessary.

Here is a clear example of the left and right brain differences we've been discussing. For Thomas, writes, Gilson, the singular is apprehended while things are being sensed, while "the universal is grasped while things are being understood."

Only the singular is concretely real, and it is precisely this concrete reality that is experienced by the right brain -- say, a particular tree. But the left brain seems to specialize in extracting the essence from the experience, and coming up with the abstract category of "treeness."

Gilson suggests that "in a sense, all of modern thought goes back to that winter's night in 1619, when, shut up inside a stove in Germany, Descartes conceived the idea of a universal mathematics." While some believe it was just a mild case of carbon monoxide poisoning, Descartes' method nevertheless spread like a kitchen fire, soon enough resulting in "the substitution of a limited number of clear ideas, conceived as the true reality, for the concrete complexity of things." In short, the left brain had muscled aside the right.

Whitehead is all over this fallacy in his Science and the Modern World. The fallacy results in a world drained of qualities -- or of qualities being reduced to the secondary phenomena of a purely quantitative world.

No such simplification is possible with a realist view. Again, since we start with the object as it is, it clearly manifests all sorts of features and levels that cannot be reduced to mere quantity, such that "several concepts are are required to express the essence of a single thing, according to the the number of points of view it studies it from."

And even then, the simplest thing we will ever encounter can never be known in its totality, as if we are God.

Rather, everything is inexhaustible in its richness and depth. There is an important orthoparadox at work here, in that the same factor that makes things intelligible at all -- God -- makes them not intelligible in their totality. Remove our Divine Sponsor from the equation and we literally end in a kind of omniscient stupidity, a la Deepak, for if we create reality with our mind, there is no such thing as reality.

In short, for the realist "every substance as such is unknown, because it is something other than the sum of the concepts we extract from it." You could call it the potent ignorance which grounds the fertile egghead.

All of this, of course, has deadly political consequences, so it is certainly no coincidence that Deepak is such a hate-drenched leftist. Specifically, once we detach ourselves from reality, it follows that we no longer know what the individual is or what he is for.

The result is a monadic individual who exists only for himself -- this is the selfish and amoral side of leftism -- and the need for a leviathan state to control all these selfish and amoral monads. This ends in a combustible mixture of moral anarchy and tyrannical collectivism, each reflecting and aggravating the other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You Can't Maintain Metaphysical Fitness by Wrestling with Shadows

This is a post where you may have to read it all the way through in order to know what it is about. Or, it may require additional posts....

Bahhhh... It's on the tip of my tongue... No, not sheep. What do you call it, Jeeves? That's it: Baadar-Meinhof phenomenon. It's when something is brought to our attention, and then we start seeing it everywhere.

It's happening now with left and right brain differences. Ever since I picked up The Master and His Emissary, they're turning up everywhere I look, for example, in this book by Etienne Gilson called Methodical Realism.

I should point out that nowhere does Gilson, of course, make reference to split brain research. Nevertheless, his description of the proper working of the mind is uncannily reminiscent of what we've been saying about experience starting in the right brain and then being processed in a more abstract way by the left.

If we start with the left, and confuse the abstraction with the reality, we're headed for the metaphysical ditch. And yet, this is the fundamental Error of the West over these past few centuries, essentially since the innovations of Descartes took hold in the collective western psyche. In fact, instead of "western psyche," we might as well say "left psyche," as I will proceed to demonstrate.

Let's fast forward to the last chapter of the book, A Handbook for Beginning Realists. It consists of 30 insultaining postulates and principles one would do well to read and internalize before setting foot onto university soil, because most everything you are exposed to in the university will violate these principles, and therefore, the Real. Certainly no one there will ever chide you for being a simple-minded relativist or naive liberal. Or sick idealist.

Here is Gilson's #1: "The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one's conversion is all but complete."

What this means is that people who are not realists are just posing, like the proud and brave anti-gun activists seen in James O'Keefe's hilarious new video.

Or think of Al Gore, who is happy to impose his abstract fantasy on the entire world, but not to the point that it troubles his conscience to take 100 million real dollars from Big Oil. He may be crazy, but he's not stupid. Or is it the other way around? Same with Obama. He's happy to grab your weapons, but he's not unrealistic enough to declare the White House a gun-free zone.

More generally, almost all of the liberals I personally know live conspicuously conservative lives. So why don't they preach with the left brain what they practice with the right? It's a weird form of inverted hypocrisy.

Before proceeding any further we probably need to nail down some definitions, since realism is a philosophical term of art. Everyone thinks he is a "realist," but we are obviously not using the word in the colloquial sense.

Quite simply, the realist starts with the external world as the source of knowledge. Ever since Descartes, and especially Kant, this seemingly common sense view has been dismissed by the tenured as hopelessly naive and pre-critical. Which, of course, it can be. But to imagine that Thomas Aquinas was a naive and uncritical thinker is itself a breathtaking example of uncritical naiveté.

There are really only two places to begin our lifetome adventure of consciousness: with being, or with thought. Quite simply, the scholastics begin with being, while any form of critical philosophy begins with thought, as in I think, therefore I am.

Really? Really?

Again, as alluded to above, people inevitably vote with their feet, and it is strictly impossible to maintain a consistent idealism: "The idealist method is the suicide of philosophy," writes Gilson, "because it engages philosophy in an inextricable series of internal contradictions that ultimately draw it into skepticism," or "self-liberation through suicide" (what we call cluelesside).

Here is Gilson's second point:

"We must begin by distrusting the term 'thought'; for the greatest difference between the realist and the idealist is that the idealist thinks, whereas the realist knows.

"For the realist, thinking simply means organizing knowledge or reflecting on its content. It would never occur to him to make thought the starting point of his reflections, because for him a thought is only possible where there is first of all knowledge. The idealist, however, because he goes from thought to things, cannot know whether what he starts from corresponds to an object or not."

The inevitable result is that there is simply no way to reunite thought and reality. "You can't get there from here," as the joke goes. In terms of left and right brain differences, it seems that knowledge must begin in the right brain, because it is precisely where world and psyche meet in a thoroughly holistic and entangled sort of way. Gilson says as much:

"The knowledge the realist is talking about is the lived and experienced unity of an intellect with an apprehended reality." The left brain can then help us reflect on that reality, but cannot be its source.

But when we sunder thought and reality, the latter is "ceaselessly fragmented into imaginary entities which are so much false coin.... everything splits into a couple of antinomical terms which the ingenuity of philosophers will never succeed in reuniting" (e.g., body and soul, life and matter, mind and animal, subject and object, individual and collective, freedom and determinism, etc.). It is "a field of battle where irreconcilable shadows are locked in a struggle without end..."

In other words, the left brain cannot generate its own content, with certain exceptions, most especially, logical or mathematical entailment. Interestingly, Gilson points out that Descartes used mathematics as the touchstone of his system, which is precisely what helped displace Aristotelean science, which had been erroneously rooted in biology. (Probably not saying that as clearly as I should, but you get the point.)

Once it was seen that scientific advance was only possible by adopting a quantitative view of the world, the realist baby was thrown out with the Aristotelean bathwater, and here we are: the patently un-real worlds of scientism, Darwinism, neo-Marxism, and various other abstract left brain pathologies. Each of these pseudo-philosophies generates absurdities and paradoxes which it is powerless to resolve within itself.

Note that there is nothing fundamentally illogical about such ideologies. As Gilson explains, "Idealism derives its whole strength from the consistency with which it develops the consequences of its initial error. One is, therefore, mistaken in trying to refute it by accusing it of not being logical enough." Paul Krugman is of course crazy, but not illogical.

Indeed, ideologues "live by logic," because in them "the order of connections of ideas replaces the order and connection between things." Thus, Marxism, for example, makes perfect sense, so long as it follows on the initial error of superimposing the Hegelian dialectic on reality. Likewise, Darwinism is a total explanation so long as we ignore our lived human experience.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wandering the Desert Bewilderness Without Two Brains to Rub Together

It's beginning to dawn on me that everything about religion means one thing to the left brain, another to the right. And this is because everything about everything does.

Nor does it matter whether the difference is truly rooted in neurology or just a useful metaphor, because it's the difference that makes the difference, not the neurology. In other words, neurology makes no difference unless the difference is meaningful, and meaning transcends neurology.

A brief procedural matter. In the last month or so I've read an unusual number of hefty tomes, and am having some uncharacteristic difficulty assimilating them all, i.e., coonecting the dots.

It started with the Giussani trio, and went from there to Bernard McGinn's new doorstop on renaissance mysticism, then a giant history of the Catholic Church, on to the Master and the Partnership, with half a dozen others in between. Normally I blog in order to help my psychic digestion, but I'm afraid I overindulged during the holidays. Nonblogging gave me more time to read, but also seems to have resulted in a psychopneumatic backup.

Normally I blog from the "center-out," but now I find myself trying to do so from the periphery in, which is simply impossible for this type of thingy. In a way, it parallels our discussion of right and left brain differences. Perhaps the immoderate reading overstimulated the left brain -- which takes things apart -- and the absence of creative expression put the right brain -- which reassembles them -- to sleep.

What's the solution to a brain imbalance? Good question. Another book I read during the hiatus was The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living. It provides some helpful tips on what to do during a period of spiritual dryness, which, it seems to me, must almost by definition involve a loss of right brain integration and depth.

The bottom line -- at least according to St. Ignat -- is that we should change nothing during such a period. That is to say, resist the temptation to overreact and change things around, but rather, keep doing the same things you were doing during the period of spiritual consolation, before the dryness hit.

Gallagher describes spiritual desolation as being "trapped in confusion, unable to comprehend what is occurring spiritually. Mingled with this inability to understand is the affectively heavy sense that things are going badly and will continue to worsen."

Interestingly, there is a kind of "disquietude" which I think of as spiritual anxiety, while the "heaviness" sounds more like a spiritual analogue of depression. In such a state, it can take all day just to get nothing done.

Of the heaviness, Gallagher writes of a downward attraction toward earthly things, whereas in periods of consolation, the movement and the attractor are in the opposite direction: up and in as opposed to down and out, or flying in the light instead of crawling in the dark.

It is important to bear in mind that we are being lied to during the period of desolation (assuming that is what it is). The essential lie is the "false equation between what the person feels in desolation and what the person is spiritually."

Which is why Ignat's rule for dealing with it is to never make a change, because the change will be in response to a transient feeling that is based on a lie anyway. If you're going to make a change, wait until the consolation returns, and you'll probably feel very different about it.

I'm not sure if this goes to left and right brain differences, but Gallagher writes of how the "present spiritual desolation attempts to define the spiritual past and future" with various categorical universal negatives. Such abstract universality seems to be a function of the left, but I don't know if that really adds anything.

Back when I was writing the book, I would almost always respond to drysolation by ceasing to write, which is apparently the exact wrong thing to do, and undoubtedly perpetuated the disconnect. Rather, it seems that the correct approach is to firmly say FU to the desolation, and calmly carry on.

Now, where were we? I want to focus in on what Sacks has to say about meaning, because the meaning of meaning is crucial to understanding our cosmic situation, and the kind of meaning we're talking about is without question a right-brain specialty.

There is knowledge and there is meaning; there are the countless facts to select from, and then there is what they mean, and the latter is literally outside the province of left brain science.

Indeed, scientistic believers only fool themselves when they imagine they are dealing with facts in a perfectly dispassionate manner, because there can be no fact in the absence of a more overarching paradigm that tells us what to look for, i.e., what is important. And facts don't come labeled with signs saying "hey, look at me, I'm significant. That other fact over there is just trivial, so you can ignore it."

Now, "the meaning of a system," writes Sacks, "lies outside the system. Therefore, the meaning of the universe lies outside the universe."

This is axiomatic. If there is no meaning then the universe is a closed system, and if it is a closed system there can be no possible meaning. If this is the case, then one's only recourse is to a naked Nietzschean nihilism, a will to power and to pleasure. There can be no absolutes, no truth, no morality, no better or worse way to live.

I've always been intrigued by the meaning of meaning, ever since I was lucky enough to stumble upon Polanyi. This is just an intuition, but I do feel it quite strongly. That is to say -- to quote Wittgenstein -- "To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning."

Again, axiomatic. However, I've always sensed that the opposite holds equally true: that if meaning exists, then so too does God. God is disclosed via meaning, and the deeper and more comprehensive the meaning, the more God sort of "pops out" at you.

And the kind of meaning I'm talking about is again a quintessentially right-brained one, as it involves the synthesis of... of everything, from religion to science to history to anthropology to metaphysics, you name it. The whole existentialada.

Indeed, even the fact that it is possible to apprehend the inner coherence of these diverse perspectives speaks to me implicitly of God. I imagine that these things are "held together" in the divine mind as unproblematically as a human being holds together such diverse planes and modes as matter, mind, emotion, love, truth, beauty, animal nature, etc. Each of these is present in a man, and yet, we are still "one." Nor do we understand how we keep them together -- e.g., body and soul. We just do.

Unless we suffer left brain existential shrinkage, and end up puffing up one of the dots instead of synthesizing all of them. For example, scientism or metaphysical Darwinism or leftism all result from inflating a single dot to the exclusion of the whole. This is what the Blakester was referring to when he spoke of the dangers of "single vision" and "Newton's sleep."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Have You Heard the One About the Snake & the Lass?

In our previous post we suggested that, for the right cerebral hemisphere, "understanding music is perceived as similar to knowing a person."

Turns out to be the same vis-à-vis language, which "is an extension of life" (whatever that is). Like most of the factoids emerging from split-brain research, it doesn't really require the research to understand the principle.

For example, McGilchrist quotes Wittgenstein, who said that "to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life" (whatever that is).

Yes, "whatever that is." This is a critical unThought to bear in mind, because "life" and "language" are absolutely coterminous. In other worlds, no pre-linguistic animal "knows" it is alive, or has any way of abstracting the thing we call "life" from the totality of its experience.

Nor is it likely that human beings would have the concept of life in the absence of the experience of its absence. We've discussed this in the past, but it was Hans Jonas who first brought this to our attention.

In his The Phenomenon of Life, Jonas writes that "When man first began to interpret the nature of things -- and this he did when he began to be man -- life was to him everywhere, and being the same as being alive" (emphasis mine).

Thus, "Animism was the widespread expression of this stage.... Soul flooded the whole of existence and encountered itself in all things. Bare matter -- that is, truly inanimate, 'dead' matter, was yet to be discovered -- as indeed its concept, so familiar to us, is anything but obvious."

Now, in the absence of a vascular catastrophe, it is very hard for us to put the developmental truthpaste back into the tube, and revert to a wholly right-brained view of the world.

However, as we shall hear, I think Genesis 3 must have something to do with this epic transition -- arguably the biggest bang in the cosmos -- from the untroubled holism of right-brain living into the dualistic world of the left, i.e., the tree of bifurcated knowledge of good and evil.

While we're on the subject, I should mention another book we've discussed in the past, The Symmetry of God, by Rodney Bomford. I don't have time to review his ideas at the moment, but if you search his name on the blog, you will see that his application of symmetrical logic toward understanding the divine realm is completely compatible with the idea that this realm is mediated via the right brain.

Indeed, Matte Blanco's analysis of symmetrical and asymmetrical logic essentially defines the left and right brain views of the world.

Back to the orthoparadox that Life is prior to nonlife. Clearly, this is a quintessentially right-brained view of the world, which doesn't perceive the sharp outlines and abstractions of the left. It sees holistically, and who's to say its interpretation is wrong?

For example, modern science places a sharp temporal division in the cosmos, and tells us that on one side is dead matter, the other side "life" (whatever that is). Life wasn't present for the first five billion years or so of cosmic evolution, and then it suddenly pops up out of nowhere (BOO!).

But as we suggested in the Bʘʘ!k, who are we to assume this cosmos is fundamentally dead, or that biology isn't just the mature fruit of a sufficiently ripe old cosmic tree?

Speaking of trees, back to Eden. One of the lessons of Genesis 3 is that with the dominance of the left brain, Death is introduced to the cosmos.


But that's just the way it is. Once we enter the dualistic world of the left, "the riddle confronting man is death: it is the contradiction to the one intelligible, self-explaining, 'natural' condition.... To the extent that life is accepted as the primary state of things, death looms as the disturbing mystery" (Jonas).

Just so: the price of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is indeed death, just as God says.

Note that he says we will die if we eat from it, which is to say, assimilate it. Also, when the Torah uses the word "knowledge," it is not in the abstract way we understand the term. It has much more to do with intimate familiarity, as we've discussed in the past (e.g., Adam knew Eve, ooh la la!).

Now, Rabbi Sacks has an interesting take on this subject, in his highly raccoomended The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning. Alert to the whole left-right brain tissue, he notices some details in Genesis that had escaped me.

First of all, for prelapsarian man, God "speaks" in an unproblematic manner. In short, he is "heard" intuitively, which is much more of a right brain phenomenon.

But in Genesis 3:6, Eve can't help noticing that the forbidden tree is easy on the eyes, meaning that she has transitioned from ear to eye and right to left. Indeed, immediately thereafter we read that the eyes of both of them were opened. Adam and Eve suddenly see that they are naked, and -- just as in the developing child -- feel shame.

Then it's back to the ear: they once again hear God, only now, for the first time, Adam is frightened of him. Which reminds me of a Buddhist crack to the effect that where there are two, there is fear. (I'm also thinking of "no one sees my face and lives. But hears my voice? No problemo.")

But who is this serpent fellow, this snake in the lass? Hmm, maybe the corpus callosum that links the two hemispheres: