Thursday, October 10, 2013

Priceless Cheap Book Offer

Good -- or indifferent, depending on your point of view -- news for One Cosmos readers! Long-time stalkers will recall the seemingly once in a laughtome offer of 2006, when I came into the possession of 100 copies of my book, One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind, and Spirit. Readers long ago snapped up the original 100, but I still get the occasional request for a personally enscrypted copy.

Well, the distributor is reducing its inventory, and my publisher gave me the option of taking them off its grubby hands. I impulsively and unwisely purchased a bunch more than I can possibly unload, so the offer is back on, only this time with twice the desperation!

Remember, these won't be merely "signed" copies, as my competitors deign to hastily scribble off. Rather, each copy is adorned with a lovingly handcrafted and personalized metaphysical wisecrack or insult, an official pronouncement of Raccoon membership, or perhaps a limerick of questionable taste, each different from the other, because no Raccoon is alike.

And remember -- the book will no doubt become a valuable collector's item if I am ever convicted of a well-publicized major crime or felled by a meteor.

A Love Offering of just $10 will suffice, and this pittance will even cover schlepping & fondling.

BTW, this is the new CORRECTED EDITION that fixes some embarrassing typos and other infelicities in the first printing.

If you'd like one, e-mail me at:

Or, just send a check, along with any instructions for enscribblement, to:

Robert Godwin

26141 Veva Way

Calabasas, CA



Back to the isness at hand. We were outlining Schuon's "universal metaphysic," to see if this can be harmonized with process theology.

Again, in order to visualize the spatial distinction between absolute and infinite, we may think of the former as point, the latter as extension; similarly, "in time the absolute is the moment, and the infinite is duration."

In terms of matter, the absolute is the ether, the "primordial substance" (prakriti in Vedanta) while "the infinite is the indefinite series of substances." In terms of form, the absolute is "the sphere" -- one more reason why we call it O -- which is widely considered the most "simple, perfect, and primordial form," whereas the infinite is "the indefinite series of more or less complex forms." Etc.

Now, there is an obvious conflict between Schuon's view and the Christian view of creation. Again, Schuon comes very close to an emanationist position, in which creation is a kind of inevitable vertical descent from plane to plane.

Conversely, Christianity always emphasizes the freedom with which God creates. In this view, creation is said to be completely unnecessary, an utterly free gift for which God receives nothing in return (since he is already complete, lacking absolutely nothing).

A few posts back I hinted at a way to harmonize these positions, and I think the key lies in horizontalizing Schuon's verticality, while converting a relation of dependence to one of complementarity.

For example, in Schuon's view, the absolute is prior to the infinite, even if the infinite is a necessary consequence of absoluteness. Another traditional way of saying this is that it is in the nature of things for the Sovereign Good to radiate its goodness outward. After all, a goodness that didn't spontaneously share it's goodness wouldn't be very nice.

But what if we tweak this formulation slightly, and see absolute and infinite as complementarity, whereby the one is impossible in the absence of the other? Here we can easily see how this would apply to Christian theology, since -- as far as I know -- it would be incorrect to suggest that the Son "emanates" from the Father in a vertical fashion.

Rather -- and this is a bit of an orthoparadox -- the Father is "primary," so to speak, but nevertheless, he has never existed without the Son. It is not as if the Father-Absolute (what we call Abbasolute) one day decided to have a Son. No, Father-Son is not a vertical relation but a complementary one.

And if I am not mistaken, this goes to the theological dispute that finally split the Eastern and Western churches, i.e., the filioque. In brief, for the East, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, whereas in the West the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son.

I don't want to reopen old wounds, but it seems to me that the latter formulation is a defense against the vertical/emanationist view, in that it emphasizes the irreducible complementarity and intersubjectivity of Father and Son. In short, it characterizes ultimate reality in terms of relation rather than subordination.

It's like the old days, when we had three coequal branches of government instead of this peevish tyrant who thinks congress only exists to ratify his delusions.

Once again, I don't have sufficient time to get more deeply into things. All of this is still quite preluminary...

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Andrew Breitbart and Ultimate Reality

Hartshorne calls his approach to metaphysics "neoclassical," which only puts him at odds with two groups: the great majority of philosophers who devalue or reject metaphysics entirely (or pretend to, anyway), and the minority who still embrace traditional or classical metaphysics, e.g., Catholic Thomists or perennialist/traditionalists of the Guenon-Schuon school.

Let's begin by summarizing Schuon's conception, and then see if there is any way to tweak this toward a process view, something he would have admittedly abhorred, for reasons we will try to illuminate (mainly because it seems to imply an "evolutionist" metaphysic that always caused his blood pressure to spike to unsafe levels).

In the compilation Splendor of the True there is a helpful chapter entitled Summary of Integral Metaphysics (also found in the indispensable Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism). In the preface to the latter, he states that "there are truths inherent in the human spirit that are as if buried in the 'depths of the heart.'" As such, they may be thought of "as potentialities or virtualities in the pure Intellect" (i.e., the nous, not the profane ego).

In short, these ultimate truths are latent within us, but need to be activated by metaphysical understanding, which is gained either explicitly, via metaphysics as such, or implicitly, via revelation. In other words, what revelation reveals is the universal metaphysic -- or information about the nature of the Absolute: about ultimate reality and about how this bears upon our origins, our purpose, and our destiny.

Unlike animals, man may know -- or at least be aware of -- the Absolute, in the absence of which we couldn't think at all. That is to say, man's intelligence is not proportioned just to the physical world, or to culture, or to reason. Rather, it is proportioned to a transcendent reality that conditions all these lesser modalities, the latter of which fall "immensely beneath the scope of our intelligence."

The very principle of truth is unthinkable in the absence of the Absolute, which is why infrahuman metaphysics such as materialism and reductionism are non-starters. They are not "humanistic" at all, but rather, the opposite. There is nothing human about secular humanism, because to reject transcendence only ends up disfiguring man. A person without transcendence looks like the hideous Miley Cyrus, if not outside, then inside.

Thus, "our soul proves God because it is proportioned to the divine nature," which in turn reveals our purpose. In the absence of this divine-human dialectic (or dia-logue), human existence is of course absolutely meaningless (which is a contradiction in terms, but whatever).

In any event, "For the inferior man, only what is contingent is real, and he seeks by his method to lower principles to the level of contingencies when he does not deny them purely and simply."

But how can a purely contingent being presume to be so obnoxiously absolutist -- for example, like those aggressively tenured products of natural selection?

This is an example of what happens when one rejects metaphysics: one's thought has no center, no ground, no external consistency. Thus, metaphysical Darwinism is indeed internally consistent, i.e., logical within itself. It just can't apply to reality without refuting its own consistency and completeness.

Or in other words, if it is true, then it is false, for if only what is contingent is real, then there's no reality deserving of the name, and we're off to the deconstructive races, into diversity, relativism, and class warfare -- into the lightless world of unalloyed tenure.

As a very brief aside, I'm really enjoying Breitbart's last book, Righteous Indignation. It tells of his gradual emancipation from unthinking, default ambient-cultural liberalism toward the reality of conservative principles, and in many ways parallels my own developmental road trip.

And although our temperaments are very different, I think, had he lived, he would have eventually pursued those principles all the way to the toppermost of the poppermost, into the permanent metaphysical truths embodied in religion. If one keeps evolving at his rate, there's really no place else to grow.

There is an illuminating passage on p. 159, where he concedes that "I'm not religious, and I'm certainly no theologian, but if there is one thing in religion that speaks to me, it is the idea of absolute truth.

"In fact," -- sounding more than a little like a full-blooded Raccoon -- "the word truth has meaning only if it is absolute. And absolute truth will set us all free from the grip of the [Democrat/MSM] Complex, because the Complex lives in the clouds, in the theoretical heavens" of pure abstraction.

I mean, once you realize there's an Absolute Truth, you're knocking on heaven's door (or Toots' Tavern). Recall what Schuon said above about those virtual truths "inherent in the human spirit" that are "buried in the 'depths of the heart.'"

Now, one reason why metaphysics is foolishly rejected is because people imagine it is completely remote and abstract, unrelated to practical existence. But this is only half true. Yes, it is abstract, but as Hartshorne emphasizes, the abstraction is unthinkable in the absence of the concrete.

In this regard, it is analogous to Aristotle's correction of Plato's belief in an abstract and disembodied realm of pure ideas. Rather, we only encounter the form in the substance, and vice versa.

In reality -- ironically -- it is leftism that is purely abstract. This has been demonstrated time and again whenever the left has gained power and attempted to force their beautiful abstractions upon recalcitrant reality. What is Obamacare but a baroque abstraction that cannot possibly comport with concrete reality? To characterize this a priori mismatch in terms of "bugs" or "glitches" is analogous to insisting that phrenology will work just fine with a few tweaks. (Same problem with global warming: right theory, wrong planet.)

Back to Schuon's conception. Again, at risk of making him rotate in his sarcophagus, what I want to do here is find out if there is a way to reconcile his universal metaphysics with a more process view of God.

For Schuon (as for Breitbart!), "we must begin with the idea that the supreme reality is absolute and therefore infinite."

Thinking in terms of geometry, absolute may be thought of as a kind of adamantine point, whereas infinite may be thought of as radiating out from this central point. This would appear to encompass both sides of God, in that the absolute "is solely and totally itself," whereas the infinite "is not determined or limited by any boundary." Rather, "it is in the first place Potentiality or Possibility as such," and "hence Virtuality." Thus, without this "All-Possibility there would be neither Creator nor creation..."

Ah ha! Did you see that? I think I detect a little opening for process to get an edge in Word-wise. But right now I'm out of time, so to be continued.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Why Does God Bother?

Time only for a speedpost this morning.

So, why bother at all? Is it so important that I come up with some tendentious new slant on the same old rant? Am I like the federal government, which must continue to function, because if it doesn't, everyone will realize how irrelevant it is? Am I worried that no one will notice if there's no gnosis here?

To be honest, I am plagued by a kind of creeping uselessness if I fail to post. The main thing that makes my life extra-ordinary is it's focus on the trans-ordinary, on what surpasses me.

Or rather, the reverse: the task is essentially to refract eternity through time; or in other words, to elevate the mundane via the transmundane. Only in so doing does life become a true adventure of consciousness, through which we participate in God's own adventure.

Speaking of which, there are a lot of things I don't like about process theology, but a few others to which I am strongly attracted. The question before the house is whether this attraction is really coming from the Attractor, or whether it is just the way I'd prefer reality to be.

In particular, I'm referring to the idea of true creativity, spontaneity, and adventure -- and therefore, change -- existing in God.

After all, if God isn't "changed" by his creation, why does he bother? What's the point? If he truly knows how it will all end, in every detail, then I don't get it. Yes, you could affirm the traditional idea that he creates as pure gift, but again, isn't the point of a gift a transfer of feeling? A gift is just the signifier of a transaction.

But the traditional view holds that God gives without getting or needing anything in return. Frankly, he can't receive anything, because he's already complete. Just as you can't make water wetter by adding more water, you can't make God lovelier by adding more love.

Well, I don't care. I don't like that vision of God, and that's all there is to it.

Yes, you can go too far in the opposite direction, and make God too human, but that's not what we're talking about. Rather, as Hartshorne suggests, there is simply no possibility of determinism on any level of reality. Determinism is an impossibility, an absurdity, a nothing. If it existed, then surely we couldn't know it, because the knowledge wouldn't be distinct from the determined. Everything would be exactly as it is, with no possibility of change, novelty, or surprise. While something might superficially appear to undergo change, if the change is determined, then it isn't really change.

But without the possibility of change, I don't see why human existence is worth the trouble. And if determinism is the case, then life is neither worth nor not worth the trouble. Rather, it just is. It's something to endure in all its absurdity until the curtain closes.

However, if we participate in the Absolute -- or the Absolute participates in us -- then this changes everything.

In process theology, God is still "the supreme cause and influence," but he is also "affected by the contingent world, a world which is external as well as internal to him." In short -- and for some reason this is heretical -- "God influences us eminently, but we also influence God, something that devout worshipers have always believed [see, I'm not the only one], or at least hoped" (McMurrin).

Now, I do believe that we need to be supremely cautious in entering these waters, for there is abundant room for error. But Hartshorne echoes what I alluded to above, in writing that "if we could not influence God, our existence would be simply vain."

Of course, that doesn't prove it's true, but another thing I've never understood is why God would want us to internalize a belief system that makes to sense to us, and violates both our reason and our experience.

If God is a person, then he is a thou to our I. The corollary to this is that he is an I to our thou. In other words, there is a dia-logue, and "this dialogue is religion. God creates us as free creatures, but in our free creativity we add to the divine life. Our creativity is God's potentiality being actualized" (ooh, I like that, which is why I emphasized it).

Now, I realize that this appears to erode God's omniscience, but not necessarily. Rather, we just need to think of omniscience in a different way. God, of course, knows all there is to know about all there is. But some things isn't, at least not yet. If we are truly free and the future isn't written in stone, it's not yet knowable. Therefore, it is still the case that "nothing surpasses God." It's just that God eternally surpasses himself.

Nor does it mean God doesn't "have a plan." But a plan is not identical to the way we fulfill it. The blueprint isn't the building.

I like the idea of God surpassing himself. I just find it very appealing, and it seems to me that this would be a good explanation for why the Trinity is the Way It Is -- or Are, rather. God is still very much necessary existence. But instead of necessary being, he is necessary becoming. To say that God is in any way necessary seems to limit him, but this isn't true. "Necessary being" is just a way of saying that it is impossible for God to not exist.

The only difference is again that God's being eternally surpasses itself. In that sense he is "static," in that ever-surpassing trinitarian LoveTruthBeauty is the universal reality.

So, that's why I blog. "Freedom is 'becoming,' which is the creation of definiteness where causation has made alternatives possible to free decision or action. The future is open, indefinite, and indeterminate, The past is closed, definite, and, I presume, determined" (McMurrin).

And yes, "in the last analysis all knowledge is circular; it is simply a question of who has the biggest circle." So all this cosmic expounding is my little way to keep the cosmos expanding, i.e, to keep growing in O, as O grows in I.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Obama: Prince of Chaos, Maker of Impossible Worlds

This piece by Victor Davis Hanson on Obama as Chaos has some important insights that I hope to tie into our discussions of information theory and process theology. It highlights something I've noticed about Obama, but not been quite able to articulate. It's something all prominent leftists do, but Obama is just so brazen about it, that one hardly knows how to respond.

That is to say, not only is he untruthful, but he doesn't even lie. Rather, he's way beyond -- or before, to be exact -- lying, since lying requires an implicit knowledge of a "stable" truth that is then lied about. In short, the lie is parasitic on truth.

Thus, lying is always reactionary -- for example, Bill Clinton's compulsive lying is much more transparent -- whereas it is as if Obama first softens the cognitive battlefield with rhetorical cluster bombs, thus degrading the ability to think at all. At least when Clinton says something, you can be pretty sure the opposite is true. That's not chaos, but a kind of predictable order.

Again, as we've been saying, information, novelty, and upside surprise require a low-entropy, ordered, and stable channel in which to carry the message. But Obama reduces that ordered channel to chaos, so the question of truth doesn't even arise. If one were to take Obama's chaotic verbalizations seriously, and try to find some kind of harmony, progress, or"emergent truth" in them, it would be quite literally impossible, because there is no possibility of information there.

It is possible to synthesize opposites into a higher union (or to intuit the union prior to their bifurcation). But it is impossible to do this with, say, the chaotic "word salad" of a schizophrenic. More to the point, the purpose of such verbalization is to generate chaos, not to rise above it. The purpose is to attack the foundational cognitive links that are built upon in order to ascend to higher and more comprehensive systems of knowledge.

Hanson observes that "Amid all the charges and countercharges in Washington over the government shutdown, there is at least one common theme: Barack Obama’s various charges always lead to a dead end. They are chaos, and chaos is hard to understand, much less refute" (emphasis mine).

To which I would add that chaos is impossible to understand, and that's the point. But remember, low entropy randomness and high entropy information can be difficult to distinguish, which is precisely why so many tenured bullshit artists are regarded as deep, or oracular, or profound.

"[W]hen the president," writes Hanson, "takes up a line of argument against his opponents, it cannot really be taken seriously -- not just because it is usually not factual, but also because it always contradicts positions that Obama himself has taken earlier or things he has previously asserted."

So, how does one deal with such a satanically chaotic character? (I refer here to the traditional identification of chaos with satanic energies.) A quick google search turns up quite a bit of material, the first result suggesting that for the Bible,

"Satan is the author of chaos and confusion, since the earth was in that chaotic state when the Spirit of the Lord hovered above it, Satan must have played a role in it being in that chaotic state, since he is the father of chaos."

It can't be quite that simple, because as Hartshorne has correctly noted, order and chaos work together in order to generate surprise. So, just as there are good and bad (i.e., tyrannical) forms of order, so too are there good and bad forms of chaos. There must be a kind of "divine chaos" as well as a satanic aping of this.

The quintessence of good chaos would be the ordered liberty the Founders attempted to enshrine in our Constitution. Bad chaos would be exemplified in various postmodern pneumopathologies that promote relativity and "diversity," and erode hierarchy, standards, and universal values. Underneath this is a rejection of verticality as such, so the attacks on God inevitably redound to the bestialization of man. This only ensures more personal and societal chaos, which requires the leviathan state to tame, or "order."

Of course, no spontaneous order can emerge from this kind of intentional chaos, for the same reason you can't make a smoothie without putting the top on the blender. Remove the top, and you just end with a chaotic mess all over the place.

VDH writes that when Obama "mellifluously asserts a teleprompted falsehood," the consequence "is not so much untruth, lies, or distortions, as virtual chaos. Is what he says untrue, contradictory of what he said or did earlier, or just nonsensical? (emphasis mine).

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, is a fantasy a lie that don't come true, or is it something worse, i.e., malignant chaos? And in any event, "how do you refute fantasy" without descending into chaos yourself?

Speaking of the vast differences between ordered liberty and mere democratic chaos -- i.e., tyranny of the mob -- VDH writes of how Obama inverts the nasty "chaos in the Middle East by saying that 'a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa' during his administration." Which translates to genocide for them and loss of power and prestige for us.

I wonder if Obama's chaos is facilitated by the loss of attention span induced by constant hammering from the 24 hour news sickle, or by the immediacy of the internet? Obviously, if people have no memory, then there will be no recognition of the fact that Today's Truth contradicts Yesterday's Truth.

Now, how does this relate to process theology? Well, for Hartshorne, an absolutely ordered world is simply an impossibility, for the same reason a "shapeless chaos" is: "The alternative to God's existence is not an existing chaos, but rather, nothing conceivable," i.e., no information. "Apart from God," then "no world, and no state of reality, or even of unreality, could be understood."

So: not only is it impossible to comprehend Obama's chaotic pronouncements, it's not even possible to not understand them. Mission accomplished.