Friday, March 20, 2015

Time on Steroids

The cosmos itself furnishes little points of reverence everywhere: "Suddenly, in the illumination of poetic light," objects in the external world may "become analogous to our deepest thoughts and emotions" (Taylor).

Which means that the exterior world is not exterior only, but that it radiates a kind of "inwardness." Likewise, our interior is not interior only, but is always prepared to discover itself in the outer world. It's what we do. It is why, for the elect, the world never loses that new car smell.

I am reminded of a fragrant passage by Schuon, in which he reflects upon how "the sacred mountain, seat of the Gods, is not found in space even though it is visible and tangible."

We could say the same of the sacred river, the enchanted forest, the Raccoon National Cemetery in Bismark, North Dakota, or any other holy ground: "it is as if the one who is present there had passed beyond space," and "finds himself virtually reintegrated" into its divine source (ibid.).

Thus, "Certain geographical accidents, such as lofty mountains, are connected through their natural symbolism with the great primordial sanctuaries," such that "For the man of the golden age to climb a mountain was in truth to approach the Principle; to watch a stream was to see universal Possibility at the same time as the flow of forms." But for modern man, "The gates of Heaven, mysteriously present in nature, close before him" (ibid.).

Schuon seems to have believed in a literal Golden Age, which he in turn opposed to the postlapsarian civilizational decay of the present. In other words, historical time for him is entropic and corrosive.

We, however, do not believe this; or rather, we do, except that this temporal catabolism is complemented by a negentropic and renewing flow of grace and other providential goodies. The former is of course compulsory, while the latter is (mostly) voluntary.

In other words, we cannot only swim against the worldly tide, but are assisted in doing so by helpful nonlocal operators. The story in this book would seem to be an example. I've never read it, but my invisible friend at Amazon recommends it to People Like Me.

So, there are still magic mountains and heavenly valleys, except that they have always really been soul-exteriorized or paradise-interiorized. I was about to say that you can always encounter them in fiction and poetry, but I suppose one can only encounter them there, i.e., in what we are calling poetic knowledge.

I might add that while recognizing the world as sacred is entirely valid as far as it goes, it goes farther than that. In other words, natural religion (or supernaturally natural, to be precise) is eventually prolonged (but not negated) by revealed religion.

I just randomly flipped open God and the Ways of Knowing, where it states that revelation proper "replaces the cyclical view of the world" with "a historical view in which time has a meaning" -- just as we said above about negentropic time. You could call it metabolic time, or time on steroids.

In this evolutionary view, time becomes a school, and like all schools, it has a beginning and (thankfully) an end. Only liberalism busses us into a tedious school from which it is impossible for anyone to graduate, forcing us to remain children forever.

The Divine Clueprint is not, in my opinion, any kind of mechanistic or linear program. It's not like a communist Five Year Plan or a liberal Bridge to the Future.

Nevertheless, it is a plan. And "it is fulfilled by progressive stages, the ages of the world, which are a divine course of instruction" (ibid.).

In this adult correspondence course -- in which time corresponds with eternity -- "there is the time of Advent, the preparation, which corresponds to the Old Testament and the choosing of Israel," followed by the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, etc.

Again, this is quite different from natural religion, in that we find out what this creator of nature is like: "Through these works, the living God reveals His methods of action, His customs. It is through these that we are able to know Him" as he is, rather than just through what he does.

Outta time and outta here...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Points of Reverence for Mapping God

I have long contended that, just as there is an unconscious below, there is an unconscious above. It is not as if our ego-island merely floats on a sea of primordial unconsciousness, but rather, that it is like a bead situated on a vertical string, pulled in both directions. Nor is either direction "un" conscious; rather, the non-conscious just operates in the shadows, outside the spotlight of the the conscious self.

Moreover, like the Trinity, we cannot actually make cutandry divisions between the "parts" of our consciousness; while there are distinctions, ultimately we are one, an organismic whole. In fact, every conscious thought partakes of unconsciousness, and vice versa. Conscious / unconscious are complementary, not antagonistic. You can't have one without the other.

In health, anyway. You could say that psychological illness results when they are antagonistic, when, say, the unconscious is forcefully repressed, denied, or projected. This results in an overall diminution of consciousness, because you can't just toss out the bongwater without losing some of your bamba (again, since the mind cannot be divided that way).

So, one thing that makes me a very lonely psychologist is this idea that, just as we may have unconscious pain and conflict from below, we may have unconscious pain and conflict from above. Just as we may repress the "id," we may repress God. For Freud, the superego -- the conscience -- is ultimately just a transformation of id-aggression directed toward the ego. It is wholly learned, not innate. For example, if I regard rape as a bad thing, it is just because my own aggressive desire to rape has been turned toward myself. For Freud, this is the origin of guilt, i.e., self-rebuke.

Anyway, there is much in Poetic Knowledge that goes to vertical repression of the Above. In fact, spontaneous poetic knowing would be evidence of a smoothly functioning and integrated "supraconscious," for lack of a better term.

For example, Aquinas writes of how knowledge of God, since it cannot possibly be directly proportioned to the reason, must make use of "the symbolic poetic mode" in order to communicate its truth. Likewise, Schuon speaks of how revelation and theology contain "points of reference":

"We are here at the limit of the expressible; it is the fault of no one if within every enunciation of this kind there remain unanswerable questions.... [I]t is all too evident that wisdom cannot start from the intention of expressing the ineffable; but it intends to furnish points of reference which permit us to open ourselves to the ineffable to the extent possible, and according to what is foreseen by the Will of God" (emphasis mine).

This is a very helpful way of looking at things, because it takes us from the abstract to the experiential, and avoids pointless arguments about the literalness of scripture. Literal or not, scripture is of no use if it fails to resonate with the supraconscious, i.e., to provide points of reference necessary for thinking higher thoughts, or for transposing thought into a higher key.

Which is why the Raccoon calls them points of reverence.

The points of reverence are not the thing itself, but rather, point to the thing itself. They always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express.

This is quintessentially true of the points of reverence we call revelation. One might say that revelation is not God, but God is revelation, at least in terms human beings can comprehend. The bibliolatrous doctrine of sola scriptura comes very close to denying this distinction, and thus the purpose of revelation.

Now, science too provides us with points of reference. And these are obviously legitimate so long as they are confined to their appropriate bounds. For clearly, even in the most perfect scientific theory imaginable there will still remain "unanswerable questions" that lay at the foot of the inexpressible and cannot breach the walls of the ineffable. Or just say Gödel.

Think about it: if God is a hyper-dimensional object, how would one go about mapping him in 3D? Isn't there a branch of mathematics that goes to this? There are relatively straightforward transformations, as in how a three-dimensional city may be plotted on a two-dimensional map. But God is of infinite dimensionality. Therefore, we could never map him on our own. Rather, he must provide the map, i.e., the points of reverence.

Which reminds me of a story E.F. Schumacher tells in Small is Beautiful. He was visiting the Soviet Union, standing outside an Orthodox church, looking at a map and trying to figure out where he was. But the church was nowhere to be seen on the map, because the God-denying authorities had removed it.

Now, how exactly is this different from public education, or academia? Let's say I'm on the university campus looking at God, but God is nowhere to be found in the syllabus. This is bound to be disorienting.

When I say "looking at God," I am of course referring to an experience of poetic knowledge. Maritain (in Taylor) speaks of a "musical unconscious" which is essentially identical to the poetic mode of knowing, in that it is "a way of seeing the world, seeing the significance of the superficial, what most would dismiss, ignore, or never notice." Through it, we open ourselves to the points of reverence that "[sound] a note from the external senses and [resonate] throughout the interior faculties..." This receptive act "effortlessly assembles impressions and spontaneously gives a spiritual knowledge of being, a kind of song of reality" (Taylor).

Just because God is unglishable, translogical, and mythsemantical, it hardly means there is "nothing there" for us to receive.

Rather, as Voegelin writes, "The truth of reality is not an ultimate piece of information given to an outside observer but reality itself becoming luminous in the events of experience and imaginative symbolization." These symbolic coordinates "give direction to the quest of truth," which is simultaneously inward, outward, upward, and onward.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If This Brain is Rockin', Don't Bother Knockin'

Time only for a brief evocation. You'll have to read between the lines and fill in the details.

Picking up where we ended yesterday -- which was with the affirmation that the "intellect (nous) is itself a revelation, just as revelation is a letter addressed to it."

Therefore, if we're going to be translogical, we would have to conclude that both revelation and intellect share a common substance: let's call it truth. This is really just transposing the Aristotelian view to a higher key. The fact that the soul may "know" means that "the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects."

But since the soul cannot literally be identical to the object known, it must mean that the immaterial form is present in us, or that we are able to participate in its form. In the words of Aquinas (in Taylor), "the knowing being is naturally adapted to have also the form of some other thing."

You might say that human beings are adapted to adaptation, adequate to adequation, or conformed to conformation. Which is also why we are evolved to evolve, or to be child-like forever: neoteny rules.

This goes to the trinitarian basis of even the very possibility of knowing. You could say that we are able to get inside the known, or that the known is somehow in us, but either way, there is some heavy interpenetration going on, so if this brain is rockin', don't bother knockin'.

For Taylor, this goes to our poetic nature, in that "it is always the end of poetry to bring us sympathetically inside the experience of reality, always in search of union, fulfilling our innate desire to know."

Shifting gears for a moment, Bollas writes of how we "constantly engage objects crucial to [our] own self experiencing."

This implies a different sort of knowledge embedded in objects, knowledge of ourselves. Or rather, the form of the object resonates with our own form, making explicit what was implicit, or actualizing its latent potential. (And again, in psychoanalytic parlance, "object" includes subjects, i.e., relationships.)

But this management of objects "is part of a complex relation each of us has to ourself," such that "we inherit the tasks of our mothers and fathers." If our parents weren't very good at helping us discover our idiom, then it is likely that we will parent ourselves just as poorly: "The quality of any person's self experiencing will reflect the individual's skill in meeting idiom needs by securing evocatively nourishing objects" (ibid.).

Evocatively nourishing objects. Religion, it seems to me, is very much about contact with evocatively nourishing objects, at least if it works the way it is supposed to. As Bollas puts it, "Some objects (a book, a friend, a concert, a walk) release us into intense inner experiencings which somehow emphasize us" (emphasis mine).

It is as if these objects "lift us into some utterance of self available for deep knowing." While he's not talking about religion per se, this is obviously how religion works on an experiential basis: it "lifts us into some utterance of self available for deep knowing" -- and not available in any other way.

But of course, it is possible to block out this evocative area entirely, otherwise there would be no such thing as atheists. Likewise, it is possible to repress sexuality or any other dimension of the self.

More generally, "Some individuals are reluctant to live in the third area (the intermediate area of experience)..." They impose their own ideas on the vertical, and thus blunt its evocative and transformational possibilities.

I'm out of time this morning, so I'll just conclude by saying don't do that!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I Think I Sort of Disagree

Vanderleun has alerted me to a piece by David Warren called Flatman Rising. He's very forceful in his assertions, but are these assertions cosmically correct?

Warren begins with the entirely sound observation that we not only "live in flatworld," but that this has become "the ground condition for Enlightened man." Around here we call it Flatland, but it's the same idea. It is summed up by Don Colacho, who says that Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot, or like a liberal politician treats an MSM journalist.

Warren references the biologist Richard Lewontin, who rejects genetic determinism because -- it seems to me -- it undermines his religion, in his case, Marxism. Thus, he is a harsh critic of metaphysical and reductionist Darwinism, or -- as in the title of one of his books -- Biology as Ideology:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs [and] in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism."

True, but I too have a commitment to materialism. In fact, no one can be more committed to matter than the Christian, being that it is the temporal stage for the adventure of consciousness and drama of salvation.

But "commitment," of course, is a vertical category. The problem is a de-differentiation and re-fusion of vertical and horizontal. The vertical can never be negated, mind you. To even be conscious is to have transcended matter, but flatland scientism pretends to pull the subject(ive) into the object(ive) without remainder -- i.e., as if that has exhausted the need for any further explanation.

Lewontin continues: "It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

I'm not so sure about that. There is no problem in beginning with the material world. The only alternative is to begin in the ideational world, and thus take a wrong turn into the Great Modern Deviation that begins with Kant.

Note the real problem: modernity doesn't begin with an embrace of the material world, but rather, a rejection. No longer can we know the world, because all we can really know are the forms of our sensibility. So it's really a radical subjectivism masquerading as objectivity.

This latter is also the whole basis for the leftwing attack on science masquerading as a veneration of it. Nothing can be more subjective and relative than liberalism, so the idea that liberals "support science" is laughable. Rather, they use science, where it is convenient, to support their prior commitment to liberalism. What we call "materialism" is really pure verticality pretending to be horizontal.

The cosmically orthodox view is that knowledge indeed begins with the senses. This provides a sure foundation, but the purpose of a foundation is to build upon it.

Warren believes that most people have become unwitting votaries of an evolutionary materialism. This is a separate question. To me, it's a little like the debate over "climate change." Of course the climate is changing. That's what it does. However, it has no built-in direction, no final cause, no telos.

But it's very difficult, if not impossible, to understand the world in the absence of final causes. And if there are final causes, there is evolution toward these nonlocal attractors.

Evolve is derived from a word meaning unfold or unroll; according to Webster's, it means "to disclose by degrees to view," to disentangle, to develop. So, is the world evolving? This has nothing to do with Darwinism, mind you; or, to the extent that Darwinism has any truth to it, it would be because of this deeper context of cosmic disentangling and unfolding. Absent the latter, what we call Darwinism would be strictly impossible.

Warren is half-right in his rejection of evolutionary theologians who "think that God works through evolution." He reserves particular scorn for Teilhard de Chardin, "the ingenious Jesuit charlatan whose works had such a powerful hold on the minds of liberal churchmen around the time of Vatican II," and for whom "Church doctrine was necessarily 'evolving.'"

Truth, of course, does not evolve because it cannot evolve. But this doesn't mean we cannot evolve toward truth. In fact, I just read a completely orthodox book called God and the Ways of Knowing, that goes directly to this question. If man were not evolving, then it would have been possible for God to give the full revelation to the very first man -- or to Abraham -- but this is not how it worked in practice.

Rather, God's revelation (in the Christian view) is very much a matter of a successive unfolding -- limited by man's evolving ability to handle the truth, so to speak -- culminating in the revelation of the Trinity.

Jumping back for a moment to the blessings of our material foundation, Danielou says that "nothing is more dangerous than a religion that claims to have outdistanced reason," for "this can only lead to fanaticism, illuminism, obscurantism... lost in a jungle of superstition" (think only of the Islamists).

Remember, Christianity at its foundation is actually an empirical religion, for if there was no Incarnation then there is no Christianity. Likewise, if we cannot really know the world, then we cannot know Christ either, because we would again have only knowledge of our own neurology.

Here is another relevant passage from Danielou: God "possesses in Himself in a pre-eminent fashion both that which creates the value of mind and that which creates the value of matter. Christianity is not a spiritualism in the Platonic sense of the word, which identifies the divine with the sphere of spirit." Rather, it also has "a materialist aspect" which "is of great practical consequence" -- one consequence of which was the very development of science.

I am no uncritical fanboy of Teilhard, but I think it's unfair to say that he believed man creates Christ via evolution. Rather, my understanding -- and I could be wrong -- is that he sees Christ as the ultimate telos, the omega point that is drawing creation in his wake.

Looked at this way, Christ is not just Word-made-flesh but future-made-now, not just once, but always -- or "once and for all." God becomes man so that man might become God (or be divinized), as in the formulation of various Fathers. From our end this is a teleonomic process.

Warren claims that "God does not create through evolution, and could not possibly do so, for that would mean creating in time. God, who created time, cannot be confined (except by His own kenosis) within what He has created. Rather, God creates through time."

I would affirm rather the opposite, in that there is something of the nature of time in God, only in a supereminent manner. One reason I say this is that I don't see how man should be privileged to have something that God doesn't. To put God entirely on the eternal side of the time/eternity complementarity is to imagine a God who is unmoved and unmovable by anything that occurs in time, say, oh, suffering. Either God suffers with us or he doesn't. And if he does, he moves.

Indeed, I would go further and say that if God relates to us, then he is relative. As Hartshorne says, not only is God relative, but he is the most supereminently relative at all, in that he is the last word in compassion and empathy.

Is this not the deepest meaning of the Trinity, that it is irreducible relationship, such that relationship -- love -- is prior to substance? This is a perfection, not a limitation -- just as an unmovable human being would be far from perfect. And it seems to me that "divine time" (so to speak) is the endless perichoretic boogaloo; and that creative time is a kind of distant reflection of this in the herebelow.

Danielou looks at it in a complementary and orthoparadoxical way: it is fine to say that God is perfectly immobile so long as we immediately add that he is perfectly receptive! To quote one of the early Fathers, "He is stable and immobile, dwelling always in the same place, and yet mobile, since He radiates through all things." Complementarity.

The problem is that it is possible to affirm God so strongly that one negates man. But even God doesn't do this, or we wouldn't be here.

Just because becoming isn't everything, it doesn't follow that it is nothing. A pure "philosophy of the eternal" may end in "the negation of the value of time." There is a kind of divine omnipotence that renders man completely pointless, just a prolongation of God, with no freedom, no dignity, no meaning, and no adventure.

It is also a devaluation of our most precious divine gift, our intellect. What is it for, if not to understand? For Warren, "The very existence of this universe and of ourselves is a bottomless Mystery that cannot be 'solved.' Reason may worm about, and make its observations on our plane, but Revelation provides the only possible access to that vertical dimension."

Yes and no. Reason can actually reason all the way up to the threshold of God, affirming his existence without claiming to know what he's like. Nor do we have to check our intellect at God's door, because revelation is a prolongation of it, not a negation or radical disjunction. Indeed, intellect (i.e., the nous) is itself a revelation, just as revelation is a letter addressed to it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Purposeless-Driven Life

Those who wish to make a point of their lives don't remember the exhilaration of not having one, AKA holy infanity, in which life is its own point.

Or rather, life surely has a point. It's just that we don't concoct it, on pain of -- if you are intellectually honest -- immediately reducing it to pure cosmic pointlessness, since we and our dull point are necessarily finite, relative, and contingent. If there is an absolutely necessary point, then it must come from God, nor are we sharp enough to know it unless God lets us in on the secret.

The cosmos is a hierarchy, and there can be no hierarchy without a point. In fact, a hierarchy is defined by its point, toward which all its parts and levels are oriented. It is only because there is an absolute point that there can be relativity at all.

In other words, to say relative is to implicitly acknowledge the Point. The only metaphysical alternative is a kind of pure horizontality that equates to intellectual chaos, AKA unalloyed tenure.

Aren't you glad you aren't in charge of the Point? Here is precisely where we depart from the left, because they not only invent their own point -- which they are free to do -- but then exert all their efforts to impose this point on the rest of us. But what if -- I know, crazy idea -- my point is not Barack Obama's, or Hillary Clinton's, or Harry Reid's, point? I don't want to force my point on them. Beside, my point cannot be forced, rather, only freely accepted, since before I was, I AM.

If you're following me, I think you can see why liberalism is intrinsically hostile to God, since it is in competition with God for the Point of it all.

Eco (in Taylor) writes that "Aquinas was always conscious of the possibility of a pleasure which was pure and disinterested."

We could say the same of having a pure and disinterested point. Indeed, the less interested, the more pure. Think of math. The more interest we have in a certain numerical outcome, the less pure the math, as in government accounting. Math and science only advance if we are "passionately disinterested," so to speak, not invested in any particular outcome. Notice the passion of the global warmists, and how it perverts their findings!

Eco writes of how "Disinterested pleasure means pleasure which is its own end, which is not connected with the satisfaction of animal needs or with utility."

Hmm, what might that be? "An embryonic form of such pleasure already exists in play," which is "an activity whose end is its own fulfillment."

So, play has an end: itself. However, we need to distinguish this from simple objects that have their own end, say, a rock. If a rock is analogous to an atemporal, geometrical point, play is more of a rhythm and a spiral: a rhythmic spiral. It is of time, or better, time is of play. That's how the Hindoos think of it: lila, or the Divine Play. (Every lila son of adwaita is born of a voidgin. -- Petey)

Let's remember too Letter I of MoTT, the point of which is to learn concentration without effort and transform work into play so as to lighten those burdens & yokes.

Now, what is the opposite of play? That would be, er, work. Play should be spontaneous. When it is too planned, it becomes work -- like an office party, or Valentine's day. "Aristotle's principle of 'leisure preceding action' is reversed," so we are unable to approach things in a proper spirit of disinterest.

There is will and there is free will; it seems to me that the former is always interested and thus unfree. For example, an animal has will: the cat is interested in that mouse over there, and is willed to chase it.

But the cat cannot have a disinterested curiosity about the mouse. That requires freedom, slack, leisure, free will, which are precisely what the cat lacks.

But it is not as if play is free of passion. However, this passion is more in the mode of love: "The basic activity of the [free] will is love. Love is the passion of the intellect" (Conrad Baars, in Taylor). And "How different this 'loving will' is from the popular image of the will in general as the realm of high energy, exertion, and the powerhouse of 'getting things done'" (Taylor). Rather, it "rests in being rather than doing," such that -- fine quote here --

The loving will follows the wondering intellect which is open to the mystery of being (Baars).

This is what it means to wonder in the bewilderness, which we are all called upon to do in this semi-permanent state of in-betweenness, i.e., exodus. However, our bewonderment is always oriented to the Point that precedes us, without which we could never be lifted out of Groundhog Day.

Some people seem to have no sense of the day being a potential space. For the melancholic it is an unpunctuated temporality, one day no different from the next. [In contrast], The overly anxious person, perhaps feeling safe while in bed, views the day with trepidation: a hurdle to be leapt over before the next bedtime. --Christopher Bollas

Only playful orientation to the North Point keeps life from becoming a grim hurdle between two deathtimes