Friday, June 05, 2015

Reality: Accept No Substitutes

If transcendence is built into the nature of things, then we can only journey "toward" it while never arriving, for to arrive there would be to "collapse" and negate it. And in a world without transcendence, our journey would be reduced to a random walk in a featureless swamp, just the agitated Brownian motion of an imaginary soul.

This is one of the ways a trinitarian Godhead makes sense, because it seems that God too is in a kind of perpetual motion, eternally going out of and into himselves and falling in love with Love.

For Corbin, our true self is up above and out ahead, like an existential scout at the edge of the frontier. It is what gives our individuated transcendence a direction and vector; or rather, it is the source of our individuation.

We could say that there are no individuals per se, but persons in the process of individuating -- a process which never ends, on pain of putting an end to the adventure: individuation is freedom lived, and freedom is individuation actualizing.

It is as if our higher or deeper or truer selves "go out ahead" and "eternally open new horizons, new distances within Eternity" (Cheetham). And although I wouldn't express it exactly this way, Cheetham suggests that even God "is not a fixed Unmoved Mover, but is eternally drawn upward into an eternal 'future.'"

First, I wouldn't say even God, but especially God. Nor would I use the word "future" per se. Rather, there must be something "in" God that is distantly analogous to our own sense of a future. Our future is somehow a timebound echo or shadow of what happens eternally in God.

Which would be what? What does the "future" really come down to? Shorn of its abstract temporal aspect, future-ness essentially means openness, novelty, surprise, and creative possibility.

This is very much in contrast to the purely temporal future of mere physics, which ends in maximum entropy, equilibrium, and heat death. In that sense, the future is absolutely known: in the long run we're all dead, including the cosmos itself.

But that assumes a purely immanent cosmos without transcendence or direction. In that sort of cosmos, man could never have appeared to begin with: life comes from Life, truth from Truth, intelligence from Intelligence, beauty from Beauty.

Which is why, as Cheetham says, man is never content where he is, but only on the way there: "The longing for home is satisfied not by eternal rest but rather by eternal motion," except it is a vertical motion. "[W]e are always on our way home, in an endless series of renewals, seeking home again and again at higher and higher levels."

He tosses in an excellent and most coonworthy quote by Oliver Clement, that "I am on a destined path as if entering a land of childhood, knowing very well that, in the words of Saint Gregory, it will take me all eternity to go 'from beginning to beginning, by way of beginnings without end'" (emphasis mine, for reasons that should be bobvious to longtome lessoneers).

Which is why "Eternity is a first time, continually renewed" (ibid.). It is the opposite of the Nietzschean hell of "eternal recurrence," which is to say, eternal renewal.

Eros is the fuel. Thanks to it, we always yearn "for transcendence, for a figure who is always beyond" and "illuminates the essentially double [I would say triple] structure of consciousness." It is how the Light gets in -- how the Light sees itself in the subjects it illuminates, and how we exit the darkness of scientism, tenure, and other cheap substitutes for reality.

This reminds us that spirit and soul are always constellated together. Where spirit rises, soul descends. --Thomas Cheetham


Update: which is why the left does "no service to a child by preparing him for the lower life -- the life of the state-produced animal” (Roger Scruton, via Happy Acres).

Thursday, June 04, 2015

One Human is a Statistic, a Billion is a Tragedy

This is yesterday's post today. Just as I was about to hit the publish button, the power went out, so I was in the Stone Age for the subsequent 12 hours or so, while Edison performed "routine maintenance."

Coincidentally, during that long day of darkness, ignorance, and fear, I was able to read a most illuminating book called The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, which I mention because it's not the sort of subject we usually blah-blah-blog about. Perhaps we should, because fossil fuels are arguably the greatest thing for cosmic evolution since the opposable thumb, and people need to stop being defensive about them. Rather, they deserve a full-throated celebration -- intellectually, morally, and spiritually, let alone economically.

Perhaps the word "spiritually" comes as a surprise, but I'll provide a brief example. The book is filled with examples of how wrong the left has been about energy depletion and about "climate change," such that if we had heeded their constant warnings of catastrophe, we'd all be living as I did yesterday, in my energy-deprived state.

One of our most distinguished environmentalists is Bill McKibben. When I say "distinguished," I mean wrong about everything all the time. But he is also a moral imbecile, an intellectual sociopath if you will (hence the spiritual angle). We can thank God that his inhumane ideas have never been implemented. (Here is an especially nauseating article that really puts the puff into puff piece. Imagine the MSM treating a conservative intellectual with such drooling fawnmanship.)

In that piece of puffery, McKibbon is quoted as saying that "Human beings -- any one of us, and our species as a whole -- are not all-important, not at the center of the world." Easy for him to say, since capitalism has been good to him, and he lives in his Vermont paradise amidst "red pines that go for miles." (I might add that if human beings are not all-important, then we can safely ignore this one's self-important squawking.)

Although McKibbon calls himself a "Christian," his first principles are at antipodes to Christianity. If you ask me if he's Christian, I would respond, "hey, is the Pope Catholic?"

McKibben is a biocentrist, whereas Christianity is person-centric; this person-centrism is of course tripolar, as in divine, human, and the mysterious Third. How McKibben uses Christianity to undermine itself could be the subject of a whole book, so I'll leave it at that.

Epstein cites a review of McKibben's first book, The End of Nature, a worldwide bestseller first published in 1989. The author of the review enthusiastically agrees with McKibben that the nonhuman world cannot be regarded in terms of utility; rather, it not only has "intrinsic value," but "more value" "than another human body, or a billion of them." You might say that one human is a statistic, a billion -- or 7 billion -- a tragedy.

Some of those human bodies think human beings "are a part of nature," but they are just evil or stupid, or probably on the payroll of the oil companies.

No, "Somewhere along the line -- at about a billion years ago, maybe half that -- we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth.... Until such a time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."


I guess HIV was the wrong virus.

But a billion years ago? Homo sapiens has only been here for 100,000 or 200,000 years max. Which means that a literal reading of Genesis is much closer to the truth. But how does anything have value in the absence of human beings? When the author says "quit the contract," -- first of all, what a bizarre metaphor. But to the extent that there was a "contract," it was the prehuman one that confined life to mere animality. Thank God we broke that contract and became human persons!

Maybe I will end up blogging about the book. Meanwhile, back to yesterday's post....

"The energies of life," writes Cheetham, "come from the Divine." If this premise is correct, then we are alive because God is. And although "these energies permeate the universe," it is possible for them to deviate from their course (as in the case of forest-dwelling McGibbon apes), to "get blocked and stifled, or run in little eddies that go round and round forever in one place."

The realm of spirit is life -- and mind -- transposed a higher key. Or better, life and matter are spirit transposed to a lower key, since the source of life is at the top.

It isn't possible to define life with precision, but we can specify the conditions under which it manifests locally; mainly it requires three things, a boundary between inside and out, self and not-self; far from equilibrium conditions (equilibrium equating to death by entropy); and partial openness through which matter, energy, and information are exchanged.

How would this apply to vertical life and growth? Well, first of all we need a firm but flexible boundary between self and other, or me and not-me, or I and environment, or feminists and their triggers. (Dr. Dalrymple alerts us to the young lady who "seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person’s excessive innocence, and another person’s guiltiest knowledge.")

Most people probably take this line of demarcation for granted, but if everyone had healthy boundaries, I would be out of a job. But at least there would be no women's studies departments, so, even-Steven or effin' Stephan.

There is no end to the mischief caused by poor psychic boundaries. It explains why leftists think the way they do more generally, for it is not so much the thoughts that are wrong but the very structure of the apparatus of thought. Like the foundation of a house, if it isn't secure, then the whole structure is in danger of collapsing.

Leftists unconsciously recognize this, hence the pervasive defense mechanisms of political correctness, speech codes, demonization, slander, imputation of imagined motives, trigger warnings, Citizens United hysteria, etc.

From the cosmic perspective, each of these really functions to keep the leftist's cognitive system closed and sealed off from reality, or to repel any information that would threaten its infantile omniscience and moral superiority. It's all a noxious exercise in pathological self-esteem, which itself is a kind of static equilibrium between (self) image and likeness: I am my own ideal.

I've been reading a book by David Horowitz called Left Illusions, and he describes the pathology as cogently as anyone. For example, the left's demonization of conservatives far exceeds the most extravagant dreams of Joseph McCarthy. Furthermore, these professional McCarthyists don't just talk about it, they get things done, which is why academia and the MSM are so monolithically left wing.

As to our far-from-equilibrium condition, this may be considered from a number of angles. You might say that the furthest from equilibrium are man and God, or (¶) and O. Thanks to this deusequilibrium, everything else is possible, e.g., love, truth, justice, creativity, evolution, and beauty.

For example, premise one is I don't know. Premise two is Truth is. Conclusion? Man may know truth, but only insofar as he maintains that vital disequilibrium between himself and the Source. If he imagines that he is the source, then this is the end of both disequilibrium -- and thus the further evolution of thought -- and vertical openness. We have torn up the Cosmic Contract.

Or, just see Genesis 3. What's really going on there? Well, there is something man shouldn't do, on pain of death, which is to say, existential equilibrium. What might that be? I would say it involves rejecting our complementary pole, and presuming to carry it within. It may be summarized with the atheistic formula, There is no God, and I am he.

That is by definition the ultimate equilibrium, and thus the ultimate death. I'm sure Mushroom can provide scriptural support for this view.

The third characteristic of life is the open exchange of matter, energy, and/or information. In the case of spirit, we're not so much concerned with matter, but then again, forget what I just said, for a central theme of Christianity is that matter itself is to become divinized, or infused with those higher energies. It's a messy job, but someone has to do it. Unless you tear up the contract.

This goes to what we said in the previous post about "first" and "second" theologies. Theology is a kind of information, but if you confine it to the head, then you're a pretty weak be-er, just foaming at the mouth.

Rather, the whole point is to draw that information/energy all the way down and out. In other words, like sap from the upside-down cosmic tree, it should proceed all the way from the roots to the trunk to the branches to the leafy individuals. And then there is the prolongation from leaf-to-leaf, i.e., "love thy arbor."

This, I believe, goes to Petey's jehovial witticism that It's a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.

Interestingly, the footgnote to that very passage goes to exactly what was said above: "In the incarnation humanity is the 'boundary' or 'frontier' between the visible and the invisible, the carnal and the spiritual, like a mediator between creation and the creator" (Olivier Clement).

The leaf motif also reminds me of the final death scene in Finnegans Wake: "My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I'll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff!"

So long as a single green leaf remains, the tree is still alive with lff.

A world without soul is a world without anima, without anima-tion. It feels dead and unreal.... That is what Reality is for us -- being intensely alive. And the energies of life come from the Divine. To tap into this energy it is necessary to sacrifice ourselves, to sacrifice the merely personal, the closed-off and isolated world of the person as ego, in favor of the transpersonal divine context out of which our own tiny individualities flow. --Thomas Cheetham

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Give Me a Premise and I Will Destroy the World!

It seems to me that Corbin's remedy for the error of reductionism is a defiant expansionism: we should resist all attempts to trap the soul in the tautologous absurcularities of its own reason. Auto-pullwoolery is never the solution to man's terrestrial challenges.

Man cannot contain himself. Even on the physical plane, our skin doesn't actually contain us per se. Rather, it is a semipermeable membrane through which pass moisture, light, and sensations (and probably some more subtle energies as well, e.g., certain kinds of touch). It is simultaneously inward and outward turning.

This two-faced property of inside/outside proceeds all the way up the cosmic hierarchy. It not only defines life, but also mind: the mind too is a kind of membrane that bounds the "self." However, there is no self without an and ultimately the Other, this otherhood being built into the very nature of things, i.e., the Trinity.

At risk of belaboring a point that no one outside the Coonosphere will appreciate anyway, this is my main argument against both artificial life and the likelihood of discovering intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos, for an artificial intelligence will not cohere around a nonlocal interior, and the evolutionary circumstances for its terrestrial appearance are so insanely specific that it could never occur by chance.

If we do ever discover an intelligence that is in any way analogous to ours, then it will simply be because God didn't limit it to one planet. The aliens will be "like" us because they have the same source, which is not from below, but above.

This has nothing to do with "creationism," mind you, nor intelligent design. Rather, it follows from the principles involved. The argument -- which is highlighted in a book I recently read, Who Designed the Designer? -- is metaphysical, not merely empirical or (lower case r) rational.

For the intellectually honest, the conclusion is ineluctable but not of course foolproof, since a fool can prove anything. Just as that Greek guy who said "give me a big enough fulcrum and I can move the world," if you allow me to specify the premises, I can prove whatever I want.

How can someone be a devotee of reason and not understand that reason is tautologous, simply following from its premises? How can they not know of their master, Gödel? Or that they are contained, not container?

"Who designed the designer?" is, of course, a trick question. To even ask it is to betray an implicit premise, or to not understand the nature of a first cause. Or, it is just an incoherent projection of human limitations.

Corbin speaks of a "primary theology" which is prior to all of our secondary elaborations, rationalizations, and intellectualizations, the latter of which may perversely function to distance us from that First Naked Encounter with the Nameless Other.

This, I think, must be the function and the appeal of what a Catholic would say is at the center of the whole existentialda, which is to say, communion. Can't get more physical than that that. It is meant to be a primary, irreducible encounter that bypasses all of our (sometimes) unhelpful pneumababble. Its motto might be Just duit!

However, for Corbin -- and I suppose for any esoterist -- communion would nevertheless ultimately be the outward instantiation of an inward principle, albeit the Highest Principle. It is not the only way to know the principle, except for most people. After all, most people can't even read between the lines, because their literacy obscures the transliteracy of the text. It takes a long time to unlearn to read!

In any event, First Theology is not a thought but an experience. All other theologies are number two or lower. Ours is always a "theology of reception," as Son to Father. It is "given." It is gift.

Not to in any way devalue Aquinas's immortal accomplishment, but even he -- when he had that direct encounter and contemplative infusion of First Theology -- was heard to exclaim that All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me. Everything short of this is number two or lower!

Faith and belief are no doubt essential, but they have a function. They are not ends in themselves, but serve the higher purpose of assimilation, such that we may actually believe what we profess to believe. Faith is indeed the evidence of things unseen, or the establishment of a kind of link through which a flow of energies takes place. Without this infusion, "you have nothing -- just a catechism as a list of doctrines, more or less abstruse and impenetrable" (Cheetham).

Just as it is up to us to look through Galileo's telescope in order to see what he's talking about, it is up to us to peer through the teloscape in order to understand what scripture is going on about. The former is necessarily a kind of echo of the latter, otherwise science itself would be strictly impossible.

We might say that First Theology is to theologians as genuine art is to critics. Obviously, all of the Shakespearean criticism in the world doesn't add up to single Hamlet. The tenured will apparently be analyzing it "forever," without ever exhausting it or equalling it. This is because art is what we call a clue as to the Way Things Are. It is why we are "attracted" to art in the first place. The critic is the parasite, not the host.

It calls to mind an aphorism: A work of art has, properly speaking, not meaning but power (Don Colacho). Or, its meaning flows from its power. It first "makes an impression" on us, after which we explore the nature of the powerful impression.

Am I just repeating myself? Sometimes I feel like Schuon, who wrote in the preface of one of his books that "Everything has already been said, and well said; but one must always recall it anew, and in recalling it one must do what has already been done: to actualize in thought certitudes contained, not in the thinking ego, but in the transpersonal substance of human intelligence."

So, I suppose this blog really is one great big exercise in vertical recollection, or at least avoidance of vertical forgetting, especially mine.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Individuation of the Beyond

As mentioned a couple of posts back, partly because of its associations and partly because of Corbin's idiosyncratic use of the term, I would prefer to deploy the unsaturated pneumaticon (¶) for when he says "angel." This allows us to consider the phenomena he describes from a more purely functional and experiential angle.

In other words, it doesn't so much matter what we call it as how it actually functions. As we know from our Aristotle, knowledge of any reality requires the proper mode of investigation. One doesn't study religious objects in the same way one would study physical objects, which is what occurred to me while taking a random walk through this atheist site.

Such sub-metaphysical blah-blah is unavoidably beside the point, since you can't actually transcend transcendence from below, although many people try. On the other hand, such a missgodded approach is a time-honored path to the divine -- a lefthand path -- for just as communism is the longest distance between capitalism and capitalism (or at least it feels that way), atheism -- pursued to its absurd and destructive ends -- can be a circuitous path from a preconscious theism to a mature and fully developed theism. That's how it was for me, anyway. Atheism is the ironyclad link between the two.

Besides, why would anyone want to make transcendence go away? It is without a doubt the most privileged view and interesting property of the universe. It is what makes the immanence tolerable, as we always have our vertical freedom, or inweird mobility and upward nobility. Without it, this really would be a prison.

"Human beings can become Angel or demon or anything in between," writes Cheetham. Again, my preference is to simply situate human potential along a vertical spectrum, one reason being that it is so experience-near. We all know there are saints and sharptons; and minimal acquaintance with oneself leads to the conclusion that the line between saint and sharpton runs straight through the human heart.

If our highest potential is (¶), then our culture- and timebound ego is (•). How then do we psymbolize the lower vertical? In the book I called it (•••). This was for a number of reasons: first, because it is always a state of fragmentation, or partialness, or lack of integration; second, because development -- whether scientific or spiritual -- involves the reduction of multiplicities to unity; and third, because (•••) has the literal meaning of an ellipsis, in that it "goes on forever," as in pi equaling 3.14159265....

In other words, it is the paradigmatic case of a naughty infinite: "A bad infinity contrasts with true infinity, which is closely associated with the finite, for something that is infinite in one perspective can also be finite in another. True infinity is like a circle, finite but unbounded..." Or better, it is an absolute point which is "everywhere," from which radiates infinite potential, or a circumference which is "nowhere."

The world is not infinite, but it does "reflect" infinitude, most conspicuously in the transcendence of the human psyche. However, in the absence of a complementary and dependent relation to the Absolute, it simply redounds to nihilism, or a mayaplicity of false selves all the way down.

Absoluteness is also reflected in the herebelow, and this is precisely the function of (¶), which is both one and unique, but only in light of the Absolute, i.e., it is the "image and likeness" of O. Otherwise, it is just random error, or the intrinsic absurdity of "absolute contingency," or the truth of untruth.

None of this relies solely on logic, even though the logic is ineluctable. Rather, it must be lived, enfleshed, incarnated, sophered, etc.

As Cheetham explains, "The exegesis of the soul is the individuation of the Beyond," in the absence of which life is "a journey into madness, into the unconscious and impersonal realm of the powers of the psyche that can destroy a soul, a society, and indeed, the world itself."

The individuation of the Beyond.

What a perfect way of expressing it, for without this individuation, the Beyond is like an obscure and I-ambiguous nonlocal cloud. It is analogous on the physical plane to the wavelike ocean of energy that "collapses" into individual particles. I generally don't like these analogies from physics, unless it is emphasized that physics is the way it is because God is the way he is, not the other way around. If humans are soph-evidently trinitarian, it is because God is. Likewise, if we are persons and not indistinct blobs, it is because this mirrors the interior of the divine situation-comedy.

I will be the first to acknowledge that many people are indistinct blobs, which goes back to what (•••) is supposed to convey, i.e., a meaningless agglomeration of drives, impulses, desires, habits, masks, personas, and cultural programing, with no personal teloscape. It is the direction toward which the political left always tends, in case you haven't gnosissed.

And to be fair, one might add that an overly rigid or literal religious understanding tends toward the the other extreme of a crystallized, closed, and hardened (•). Cheetham quotes Emerson, who warned of the religious error of "making the symbol too stark and solid."

Rather, in order to function, the symbol "should flow" and not "freeze." Indeed, this is how we grow with the flow while avoiding the embarrassment of existential shrinkage. ("Let the soul fall in with the Ugly and at once it shrinks within itself" [Hillman, in Cheetham]).

Cheetham writes of the "cosmically unique process by means of which a divine figure, an Angel, meets with, struggles for, and transforms with an incarnate human soul" It is this "coupling" which "produces the eternal individual."

Here again, I would simply say that there is a complementary or dialectic relationship between (•) and (¶), which "bears fruit" herebelow; (¶) is in the orbit of O, and already its reflection, but only in potential; it is image, but not yet likeness, the latter resulting from identifying with and assimilating its energies.

This is a "transmutation," or change of form through which "the world becomes more real, more alive, more intense," for "the soul has come Home. This is the hallmark of the Return" which begins in metanoia, i.e., turning around, looking up, and opening within.

Thus, our own free will is a necessary condition but not the sufficient one, as only God can (or could) provide the latter, i.e., grace. Man could no more invent or provide his own grace than he could truth, beauty, virtue, or unity. Each of these comes from above or doesn't really exist: God or nihilism, person or animal, O or Ø.

The cosmic bus is on an adventure; this adventure is "the individuation of the world and the energies of the world. That is why it has its end in freedom -- the release from the compulsions of nature" (ibid.).

You could say that the adventure relies upon a map that we simultaneously navigate while drawing it. But isn't that the nature of all genuine discovery?