Friday, February 27, 2015

The Institutionalization of Man's Depravity

Although Truth inheres in man -- in our spiritual substance -- it seems that this substance is susceptible to corruption. That would be the whole fall thingy. As a consequence, "there is a veil separating [man] from the inner light while nonetheless allowing a glimmer to filter through" (Schuon).

Or, maybe there's just this annoying veil between God and man, time and eternity, necessity and contingency, and we have invented myths and stories to explain why it's there: There extand by now one thousand and one stories, all told, of the same (JJ).

But in adam event, it's there alright -- more in some than others, granted -- and that's the main point. We forget it at our peril. And the left specializes in forgetting it.

You might say that denying the fall is the left's gnasty reason for beasting, or its first principle. Without this accursed principle it would never occur to anybully that the state can compel goodness instead of just preventing worse badness. Besides, who will compel the statist dogooders to do good?

Isn't this exactly what it is that makes Obama such an insufferable assoul? It is the very principle behind the diverse manifestations of his blinding assholiness. It is why Giuliani was wrong to call him unpatriotic, because he isn't even unpatriotic.

Being that he is a dick in "so many ways," it is tempting to point to this or that particular flacet, but Obama's asshattery is hierarchical in nature, which is why he is rotten from the tip of his ass to the top of his hat; in the distaunt tweet of the Iowahawk we have heard that the unicorn always rots from the horn.

But in turn, there is nothing new about Obama. He's just the same old slime mold, just a fadograph of a yestern scene (JJ). He's befouled this nest before and will be black this way again, who knows, maybe in two years if Nurse Ratched succeeds him.

Remangle the old testimony about pride before a slide and a haughtynaughty befalling a fool? This implied that pride and hubris sowed the slide of the humptydump that bumped our rump from its stump and into the sump. Thump!

Well smell, Schuon agrees that "pride is able to accommodate all the virtues so long as it can poison them, thus emptying them of their substance."

That's one of those cracks that maybe sounds abstracked or smackulative, but think of how the left can ape any virtue or good in the service of its opposite: democracy for tyranny, freedom for slavery, self-expression for self-indulgence, equality for discrimination, constitution for lawlessness, charity for robbery, justice for unfairness, nuance for having it both ways, etc.

Now, "under normal psychological and social conditions," writes Schuon....

Normal? Right there we've offended the left, for whom "normality" can only appear in scare quotes, and is always wielded in the service of abnormality anyway.

Nevertheless, under noumenal psychestances, "to have virtue is practically speaking to have faith, not necessarily a particular faith, but certainly faith as such."

This reminds us of what Kant said about his bewonderment at the starry heavens above and the moral law within, or in other words, about the miracles of existence and virtue, or truth and goodness.

For which we are not responsible. Therefore, the antinormal absurcumsdunces of the left profess "to have certain moral qualities, but at bottom it is to prove to oneself that one has no need of religion and that man is good by nature." Which means that the left denies man's fall while institutionalizing its depravitational force.

Which is ironic in a self-appointed community organizer, in that the very basis of community, or of the possibility of collective life, is grounded in adherence to virtues that precede and surpass us -- in the permanent things, not the progressive things that oppose and undermine them.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Dream of Gagdad, Gagdad Dreams of Madonna

The ? in the margin tells me that this must be a place where I depart from Schuon. Either that, or it signifies an idea which requires further interrogation.

Hmm. Last night I was interrogating Madonna. In my dreams! No, really, in my dreams. I blame Drudge's headline that she had FALLEN HARD during a recent performance. In the dream she stuck out a leg and tried to trip me as I walked past her in the course of my cross examination. I jokingly raised the back of my hand toward her, and she smiled.

I remember about twenty years ago, reading something about a book that collected people's dreams of Madonna. Turns out I wasn't dreaming: I Dream of Madonna: Women's Dreams of the Goddess of Pop. Rather, a nightmare: "Lustily [?] conceived like a Dada art object... the dreams of fifty women reveal their nocturnal encounters -- by turns moving, bizarre, and erotic -- with the Material Girl and are accompanied by original collages that help illustrate the dreams."

Good news for me: the authors argue that Madonna has invaded our collective psyche "as a symbol of fearlessness, sexuality free of shame, and self-realization." So I got that going for me.

However, I'm not sure that shamelessness and self-realization covary. Indeed, if I were a psychologist, I might venture to say that exhibitionism is a primitive defense mechanism against shame.

I don't know if I have sufficient fearlessness to check out the reviews; or, if I can handle the vicarious shame. But I will summon my inner Madonna and forge ahead anyway!

Proving that a man with a Ph.D. in anything other than a hard science is 1) easy to obtain, and 2) hard on the rest of us, Dr. Trivino says the book "captures the inner perspective of so many devotees to this pop icon," leaving "no taboo unturned and yet expos[ing] an innocence of a different time.... The dreams and devotionals in this book will make you want to pull out your Madonna tunes and celebrate the angst of a time when anything was possible."

Celebrate the angst of a time when anything was possible. Except angstlessness, I guess.

Another so-called man writes that "in a world where traditional spiritual & mythic images have lost much of their power for so many people, new ones arise to fulfill the same function. And why not a figure like Madonna, who embodies sexuality, creativity, individuality, and the spiritual through her songs & ever-changing public persona?"

Really? Why not? Why not build a religion out of Madonna? It's like he's never even heard of Obama.

Here's a thought. Given how easy it is to end up in someone's dream, I'll bet you anything that more than one of you has had a dream in which I appeared. Next time it happens, leave an anonymous comment describing it. Eventually we'll have sufficient material to produce a book called I Dream of Gagdad: Raccoon Dreams of the Titan of the Internet.

Okay, back to the ? at hand. Schuon actually draws a distinction between the Absolute and God, suggesting that the former "has no interlocutor." Rather, he is eternally all by his (l)onesome.

First of all,

Second, I think I've caught Schuon in a rare contradiction, for he writes that "God is Divinity that personalizes itself in view of man," thus becoming "a partner or interlocutor" with us.

Excuse me, but "personalizes itself?" Isn't that a soph-tautology? For what is a self if not a person? In the Christian view, the OneGod is person, or, more to the point, three persons, for there can be no person -- or self -- without the other. Self-and-other are built into God, or rather, vice versa (same difference). There is no prior non-personal something that needs to somehow personalize itself.

Having said that, is it possible that there is something of the non-personal in God? Or better, how do we account for the millions of souls who not only claim that ultimate reality is impersonal, but have had the experience?

I would suggest that what they have actually experienced is anOther side of their own selves; note that this is a side, not the ground, for the ground is divine personhood.

However, I am of the belief that there must be a "dark side," so to speak, of this personhood, otherwise eternity would be a very tedious place.

In other words, surprise, creativity, novelty, etc., all emanate from this dark side, or rather, from the complementary and fruitful play of the divine persons. If "other" is built into God, then it is also built into us. As such, it is incorrect to suggest that creativity is an outcome of our engagement with some unconscious cauldron of primordial urges and instincts.

Rather, creativity results from our own trinitarian nature. It is very much as if there is another person or two down there. To cite one particularly obvious example, our Dreamer is not the same as our conscious self, and yet, it clearly behaves like a very creative, perceptive, and even weird person. It wasn't me who inserted Madonna in my dream, but there she was.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

God is Proof that Man is Intelligent

I don't like to read more than one chapter a day with Schuon. Not that he's difficult per se, just that it's too rich. Dense. Pregnant. Full of implications. You have to allow the time and space, or silence (---) and openness (o), for the spontaneous occurrence of vertical resonance, AKA (≈).

Meanwhile, I started reading Poetic Knowledge, so I can't help drawing it into today's game. In fact, the title of the first chapter of The Face of the Absolute, The Decisive Intuition, goes exactly to what Taylor means by poetic knowledge (and to what I generally mean by [n] as opposed to [k]).

The decisive intuition must ultimately be intuition of God, and this intuition is always of a poetic nature (although it is possible to later work out the logical proof, just as, say, Einstein first had the vision of relativity before working out the math).

Poetic knowledge does not refer to poetry as such. Rather, it is a mode of cognition, "a spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning" (Taylor). It is pre-analytical, but I would emphasize that it is equally post-analytical, in precisely the way we've been discussing in recent posts.

That is, even if we only regard the neurology as a metaphor, it is very much a kind of inspiraling journey from right brain to left and then back to right, the latter of which being able to integrate the fruit of left brain analysis into a higher and deeper synthesis. This doesn't make the truth of the Decisive Intuition any more true, but it does make it more robust and more intellectually satisfying -- if you have an intellect in need of deep satisfaction, which most people don't, whether religious or secular.

Briefly violating our one chapter at a time rule, in chapter two Schuon mentions how conventional religiosity (or exoterism) "has to take into account the weaknesses of men, and thus also, be it said without euphemism, their stupidity."

But as we alluded to in yesterday's post, the same principle applies no less to the secular world. A conventional university education has to take into account the stupidity of men, especially now that all men are absurdly thought to be fit for college.

As a consequence of this very real limitation, the teaching "must itself take on something" of the intellectual shortcomings alluded to above, "or at least it must allow them some room, on pain of not being able to survive in human surroundings."

So interestingly, truth must be mixed with falsehood -- in a manner of speaking -- in order to reach the average man, again, whether we are talking about religious or secular thought. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you want millions of people who are incapable of thought thinking for themselves. That's how we end up with an Obama.

Poetic knowledge is perhaps better thought of as a verb than noun. As a matter of fact, it is the very activity required in order to be a Glass Bead gamer, as it encompasses "religion, art, literature, music, architecture, manners, economics, leisure, and politics" (and more). These things don't just integrate themselves! Hence the sufficient reason of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, who do not shirk the liborious play of total integration.

Schuon writes of how certain religious imagery, "contradictory though it may be at first sight, nonetheless conveys information that in the final analysis is coherent and even dazzlingly evident for those who are capable of having a presentiment of them or of grasping them" (emphasis mine).

For example, "the story of Adam and Eve may clash with a certain need for logic, but we bear it deeply within ourselves..." It inheres in the very nature of intelligence; or better, it is a symbolic expression of a prior truth that "is to be found in the deepest layer of our consciousness or of our being."

If you need "proof" of this statement, the proof is in the fact that we are still talking about it 3,000 (or however many) years later! Furthermore, man -- so long as he remains one -- will always be talking about it, or else about the same truths in another form. Such truths are simply part of our standard equipment.

But the truth can become obscured. Here we can't just blame stupidity, but rather, a kind of willful stupidity that is wrapped up in pride. As Schuon says, this is not a fault of the intelligence per se -- for how could it be? -- but "from a fault of character, of pride above all." It is hard to imagine a proselytizing atheist whose mind hasn't been poisoned by pride, or who embodies the virtue of humility before the Mystery.

Why? Because the Mystery communicates itself, otherwise we wouldn't even have the name.

From humility follows other virtues, and these virtues, you might say, are both cause and consequence of poetic knowledge and decisive intuitions. "In this sense, virtue is a proof of God, as is intelligence" (ibid.).

Or in other words, if you're trying to prove the existence of God with your intelligence, you're going about it backwards; rather, much easier to prove that intelligence is only intelligent because God exists.

After all, it is "intelligence which is capable of conceiving the Absolute," and "virtue which permits man to surpass himself." An "unvirtuous intelligence" is an abomination, as Obama proves every day, and as the Clintons would like to verify for another eight years. Be it said without euphemism.

[W]ithout this poetic sensibility toward things, life deteriorates into brutality and chaos; what is also revealed is the upward movement of the senses and emotions with the intellect that sees the invisible meaning of things. --Taylor

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If Atheists are Correct, Only God Knows

Seems like most people who encounter Schuon either accept his program entirely or else reject it out of hand. There's very little middle ground.

For example, a commenter named John recently criticized the B'ob for "taking what he likes from [Schuon] and rejecting the rest," arguing that "with some authors, Schuon being chief among them, the smorgasbord method is a priori disqualified."

He didn't explain why this is so, but in my experience, it is indeed tempting to place him above criticism, because he writes with such intrinsic authority. By which I mean that he doesn't have to appeal to anyone or anything to make his case. Rather, he writes in such a way that he bangs my interior gong in a direct and unmediated way. It is very much as if the proof is in the writing, more on which as we proceed.

Religion is a field in which it is notoriously easy to pose as a false authority, or to write with a certitude that isn't difficult to see through and pick apart. This kind of childish authority is not at all similar to Schuon. Such rhetoric doesn't convince like a perfectly forged key fitting into a lock, but rather, is more like a blunt instrument, or wet blanket, or cloud of verbal smoke. At the same time, it is fragile, like those religious solicitors who are trained to ignore all objections and stay rigorously on script. Belief for them is indeed a matter of will, not intellect.

Which is fine for some people. There's even a word for it: voluntarism. Which is perfectly respectable, within limits. After all, not everyone is cut out for intellection -- i.e., vertical cogitation and recollection -- and God has no desire to exclude them from the festivus.

We have much more in common with a simple fideist who believes (and loves) the truth with all his heart, than with some self-styled intellectual who believes falsehood with all his mind. Note that this is what the journalistic inquisitors are after vis-a-vis Scott Walker: do you believe in the god of matter with all your heart, mind, and strength?

"The content of religions and their reason for being is the relationship between God and man; between Necessary Being and contingent existence" (Schuon). Is that not refreshingly straightforward? Not blunt, mind you, but sharp. Truly truly I say to you, he slices like an effing hammer.

See, you can't joke around with Schuon, either. That last little comment makes me a vulgarian of the first rank.

Nevertheless. Let's continue.

For Schuon there is an orthoparadox at the very heart of religion, being that only religion-as-such can be absolute. It is only conformity to this "that gives [to particular] religions all their power and all their legitimacy," and yet, "it is their confessional claim to absoluteness that constitutes their relativity." In other words, for Schuon, such-and-such a religion can only be an outward mode of the inward principle.

Here again this is an appealing idea, because it can easily be deployed against atheists and other idiots who are more literal than the most literal believer, not in the service of faith, but rather, in order to justify rejecting the whole thing out of hand. Over the years we've had many trolls -- old William Femboy Catsnuggler comes to mind -- who know how to use the google machine to find this or that scriptural passage that makes no sense if taken literally and out of context.

Of note, one could do the same with science, for example, How can you say there was a big BANG, when sound waves would have been impossible? Or, how can RNA read DNA when it's so dark in there?

For Schuon, metaphysics is prior even to revelation, so, to the extent that revelation harbors and conveys truth, it is because it is in conformity to Truth as such.

I would rate this as mostly true, allowing for some things we could not possibly know with certainty outside a positive revelation from God -- for example, God as personhood, Trinity, love, and relation. Indeed, I think it is fair to say that Schuon would regard God as ultimately one and impersonal. He certainly allows for the personal God, but places him below the impersonal.

In contrast, I place them side-by-side, in that they are complementary, not hierarchical.

But in any event, irrespective of whether the absolute is personal or impersonal, metaphysics can easily knock down any secular argument, and indeed, the idea of an impersonal absolute will probably be more persuasive to the average flatlander. This is why westerners flock to Buddhism and yoga, because they reject the idea of God as an "old guy with a white beard." Note again how their childish literalism interferes with vertical perception.

So, "different types of religious imagery inevitably provoke doubts and protests in the absence of a sapiential esoterism" which can "bridge the gaps and bring the accidental dissonances back to the harmony of the substance" (ibid.).

In other words, we can integrate the dissonances with our intellect (AKA nous). We don't have to force the issue with the will, which just alienates the typical secularist who is so proud of his intelligence (even while holding to a Darwinism that utterly devalues it).

Ironically, "the reactions of the unbeliever and the esoterist may coincide," except that for the latter, this is the beginning of the journey, not the end. Thus, "the man who rejects religion because, when taken literally, it sometimes seems absurd," essentially blinds himself to the deeper truths that would speak to him directly -- i.e., bang the interior gong referenced in paragraph #3 above.

Out of time. To be continued....

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Science of Religions?

I'm reading this new translation of Schuon's In the Face of the Absolute. I've read all of his books, but these new editions -- which are reissued about one per year -- give me an excuse to reread them. Like MotT, it's always a new experience anyway.

In order to understand any thinker, you have to immerse yourself in his world. At least the first time around, you have to suspend criticism in order to sympathetically enter that world and check it out. It's like music or movies that way: surrender first, evaluate later.

One danger in doing this, of course, is that once inside, you may never get out. For example, think of the millions of people who "try on" liberalism as a worldview in college, and then never remove it. They accept it uncritically, often without even knowing they have done so. These idiotic journalists, for example, who want to know if Scott Walker "believes in evolution," have no idea that they are simply enforcing a dogma called scientism.

At PowerLine they have some examples of good responses to such clown questions. To the question of evolution:

"Evolution is a tremendously interesting subject. There are multiple theories of evolution, but none of them has been able to command a scientific consensus because they all have problems. It would be a full-time job to keep track of all of the scientific literature on evolution, and since I have been busy as Governor of Wisconsin [or whatever], I haven’t had time to do that. There are a lot of scientists who could give you better answers to such questions than I can, if you are really interested in the subject. Which I doubt."

Or, to the question of science more generally: "You just used the word 'science,' but I don’t think you know what it means. Science is a method, not a body of dogma. 'Science' doesn’t take positions on issues of public policy. So if there is a particular set of data that you want to ask me about, you need to be more specific."

Better yet, an all-purpose response: "you ask that question because you are a Democrat and you are trying to help your party. But your question contains an assumption that isn’t true."

To the debate about whether Obama is a Christian, I have a question for him: "Before Joe Biden opened his big mouth, you repeatedly lied about opposing the redefinition of marriage because of your so-called Christian beliefs. Does Christianity permit this kind of deception in order to advance an anti-Christian agenda? Or are you maybe thinking of taqiya?

Back to matters at hand. Although I still regard Schuon as one of the greatest religious thinkers of all time, now that there is some distance between us, I'd like to consider some of his ideas from a more critical perspective.

Let's begin with the foreword, in which he encapsulates a few of his key principles, most notably, that there is a distinction between "religion as such" and "such and such a religion."

What this means -- in my own words -- is that there is really only one religion, but that it is nonlocal, so to speak, and requires a local form, or a system of symbolic expression, in order to manifest to this or that cultural group. This is another way of saying that "all religions are the same," or at least have the same teaching beneath the outward multiplicity.

Is this true? Is there really a "transcendent unity of religions"? It's an appealing idea, especially in a modern world in which the diversity of religious belief is one of the main excuses for rejecting it. Can we really blame the village atheist who notices that religions posit seemingly contradictory beliefs that can't be verified anyway, so why believe any of them?

Schuon suggests that "religion as such" may be thought of as vertical, whereas such-and-such a religion is more horizontal. The former is the warp, or "fundamental doctrine," while the latter is the weft, which "consists in applications or in illustrations" of the doctrine. Therefore, every dude's area rug is going to look different because of the differing wefts.

In the past I have used the analogy of jazz improvisation, through which the soloist improvises over the chord changes. Many bebop compositions, for example, are based on the same chords as Gershwin's I Got Rhythm. Thus, each one is unique while sharing the same underlying structure.

For Schuon, the vertical component "possesses a crystalline homogeneity." It is absolute where the horizontal can only be "relatively absolute." Looked at one way, the latter is in the world of maya, or appearances. Even so, these ultimately contain the seeds of the absolute, or point to it.

More generally, Schuon says that "To speak of religion is to speak of a meeting place between the celestial and the terrestrial," or "between the divine and the human."

I can endorse this notion much more wholeheartedly, because I would agree that there is God -- or O -- and there is man -- or (•) -- and that "religion" is simply what takes place in the space between O and (•). This seems to me undeniably true, just as science is what takes place between man and world.

Therefore, "the two poles of a true 'science of religions'" must be "metaphysics and anthropology." Or, there is Truth at one end, man at the other. But a Raccoon takes seriously the principle that man is in the image of the Creator. This being the case, you can know a lot about the Creator by knowing what man truly is, and vice versa.

Schuon agrees that "In order to understand what religion is, it is necessary to know not only what the Message is but also what man is."

This is especially so because the Message is obviously tailored to man -- not to machines, or goats, or martians. In some sense, this message must be "prefigured" in man, otherwise we would have no way of recognizing it. It would be as irrelevant to us as, say, music to a dog.

If you've followed the argument thus far, it requires just one more leap to say that metaphysics -- which is on the divine side of the God-man divide -- "refers essentially to the mystery of the Intellect and thus to intellection." And our job is "to know the Absolute from the standpoint of the contingent, and to manifest the Absolute within the contingent."

Or in other words, there is knowing the truth, which is vertical; and then being, or embodying, or "doing," this truth in the world.

To be continued...