Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court Does the Impossible

Not sure where we left off, but then again, I will align myself with the gentleman from Colombia, who says... he says a few choice things, actually, for example, that his sentences are merely "dots of color in a pointillist painting"; nor do his words try to explain, but rather, "circumscribe the mystery." And he also says something about being less like a tree and more like a bush that grows every which way from the center out.

In other words, it doesn't really matter where we begin so long as we are either starting from or returning to First Principles, AKA Alpha and Omega. For only first principles can really bite into reality and generate traction for the vertical ascent. Without them we cannot "defy gravity," as it were, at least on the intellectual plane.

Indeed, if everything were just contingencies and not principles, then we could never get off the goround, could we? Then we would be in the position of the krugmaniacal Keynesian who stands in a bucket while attempting to lift himself by the handle.

This book by Lings -- Symbol & Archetype: A Study of the Meaning of Existence -- is all about first principles. The second half of the title is a hint: the meaning of existence.

Oh great. Just clicked over to Drudge. Let the learned gentleman from Colombia have the floor: "Moral indignation is not truly sincere unless it literally ends in vomiting."

Excuse me for a moment. I need a bigger bucket.

"The fool, seeing that customs change, says that morality varies." The same fool "does not content himself with violating an ethical rule: he claims that his transgression becomes a new rule" (Don Colacho).

Oh well. "Civilization is what old men manage to salvage from the onslaught of young idealists." Besides, "Whoever defeats a noble cause is the one who has really been defeated." Therefore, "The cost of progress is calculated in fools," and I can't count that high.

Speaking of first principles, the SCOTUS decision is a violation of the first rank, because it goes to the very basis of civilization. Perhaps we'll get into that more deeply once this acute nausea subsides a bit.

I wouldn't blame the Creator if he withdraws that providential hand that has both guided and bailed us out so many times over the past 250 years. Why bother with these loons?

It's one thing to be fallen. It's something else entirely to confuse down and up. Once that happens, then man enthusiastically pursues his own destruction. But nothing obliges us to participate in the sickness of the world. Well, except the IRS.

I feel like I'm live-blogging a black hole. This is a Dark Day, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with animus toward homosexuals. Indeed, I have a homosexual relative by marriage, an artist, and one of his works hangs on my office wall. If someone can't appreciate the distinction between micro and macro, between private behavior and the state presuming to redefine reality, then they are too unsophisticated and too insentient to even bother with. Let the dead bury the tenured.

For Lings, what we call the "fall" results in a kind of veiling, the veil being part of the "atmosphere" that opens up between divine and human, terrestrial and celestial. The path of return is "upward," but it is not as if we have lost all O-rientation.

Rather, "the science of symbols is inextricably linked with the path of return," for these symbols "are reminders for the spiritual traveller of man's lost perfection." Or, they may be nuisances, depending on the case (e.g., marriage, which can obviously only be between man and woman without ceasing to be what it is; to not know this truism is to not know what marriage is, even if one is technically married).

The spiritual adventure always involves "swimming against the tide." What makes the contemporary journey a little more tricky is that the stream is a sewer, so we are battling both gravity and ambient toxicity. That's okay. The exercise just makes our wings stronger, and exposure to the left makes our immune system all the more robust. Like a child who eats dirt, I have the antibodies acquired during my many years of exposure to higher education.

About that shrub alluded to in the first paragraph. Imagine looking down on a shrub, which seems to grow in every direction from a central point. Or better, imagine a spider's web, which "is all the more apt inasmuch as the web is woven out of the substance of its 'creator.'" For Lings, this provides a fruitful symbol of the cosmos.

In considering the web, "The concentric circles represent the hierarchy of the different worlds," such that "the more outward the circle, the lower its hierarchic degree." Thus, if the central point is "truth" or "sanctity" or "Christ," then the outer circle would represent darkness, journalism, and tenure.

But in addition to the concentric circles, there are also radii from the center out. Thus, we are never really separate from the Principle; you could say the circles represent immanence, while the radii signify transcendence. Without the radii, we would indeed by stuck like flies in whatever circle we happen to inhabit.

Lings makes the helpful point that at the "end" of each radii is a symbol. Or better, at the center is an archetype, while at the outer end is a symbol that more or less reflects the archetype. The local symbol is an emanation or prolongation of the nonlocal archetype, as it were.

Thus, for example, herebelow, marriage is a symbol that reflects a much higher and deeper archetype, ultimately the union of male and female, or absolute and infinite and other primordial complementarities.

This is the archetype the Supreme Court presumes to be qualified to destroy. Which is analogous to Iranian mullahs feeling qualified to destroy the bond between protons and neutrons. The result is vast destruction, the "unleashing of hell," so to speak. Likewise, to undermine the primordial link between male and female is to unleash a different kind of hell, but equally destructive.

Now, bearing the image of the web in mind, we see that there will necessarily be some things that "fall between the cracks," so to speak, i.e., the indeterminate spaces between the radii.

What sorts of things are these? I would say these spaces are filled with human illusion -- for there is no other kind -- i.e., with things that cannot be, because they have no ontological basis. In one sense they "must be," man being what he is. And yet, they "cannot be," for they are like the possibility of the impossible, or the nihilistic side of freedom, detached from principles and from God.

So, give the Supreme Court credit for doing the impossible.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pecking at the Inside of the Cosmic Egg

It just now popped into my head that perhaps there's a connection between unity/totality and Gödel's incompleteness theorems, which prove that an intellectual system can be consistent or complete, but not both. Unity would go to consistency, while totality would go to completeness. Therefore, we could say that a human life can be consistent or complete, unified or total, but not both.

"Does this make any sense?" -- a question he probably should have asked himself before springing it on an unsuspecting public. Only one way to find out: keep writing until it either makes sense or goes off the cosmic rails.

What does it mean to love God with all one's mind, heart, and strength? These three are intellect, heart, and will, respectively.

It seems to me that intellect goes more to the quality of absoluteness and consistency, while heart would go more to unity and completeness, while the will is that antsy thing in us that won't rest until it rests in the absolute unity-totality that is God, for God is the one being who escapes Gödel's logical straitjacket.

You could say the straitjacket necessarily exists because under terrestrial conditions, God bifurcates into unity and totality at our end of the bargain.

In his Spiritual Perspectives & Human Facts, Schuon says "Metaphysical knowledge is one thing and its actualization in the mind is another," which right away puts it on a different plane than ordinary knowledge for which there is no such distinction.

But metaphysical knowledge is always mindful of that gap between man and God: no matter how absolute our knowledge, it is never absolute per se, only a reflection of it herebelow.

Here again, this would be consistent with Gödel, who was really trying to prove the meta-truth that just because we can't prove something logically, it doesn't mean it isn't true. He just wanted to place appropriate limits on logic, not invalidate it, for if everything were subject to logic, then man would be condemned to an absurcular tautology. But just because we can't attain unity and totality, it hardly means they don't exist. That's what you call an unwarranted leap, only a leap down, off the cosmic telovator.

Which is why, as Schuon says, "All the knowledge the brain can hold is as nothing in the light of Truth even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view."

Substitute "complete" for "immeasurably rich," and you get the idea: no matter how complete our knowledge, it is as if nothing compared to the nonlocal object of all knowledge, which is precisely what Thomas Aquinas meant when he made his famous crack about everything he had written being "so much straw" compared to the soul-shattering experience of infused grace. In the end, God shatters all speech. A word is like an egg, inside which there is always a bit of life pecking at the shell to get out.

Or, "Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it." If thought were to fuse with divinity, it would turn from a glimmer to an explosion of light. Contact between the two is necessary to get anything done, but you don't plug your toaster directly into the nuclear reactor.

At the other end, failure to plug into the cosmic grid at all necessarily results in Error, whether trivial or grandiose, human or tenured. Why? Because without the divine rocket boost -- AKA the free launch of grace -- "the ascending curve of a circle changes imperceptibly to a descending curve." Remember, just because you don't recognize Gödel, it doesn't mean he doesn't recognize you.

Nevertheless, here lies "the whole tragedy of philosophy," which either breaks out toward God or is a manmode tautology: it is like stamp-collecting instead of sending and receiving letters. Ever see a complete stamp collection? First of all, who would want to? Second of all, no.

Or, as Schuon puts it, "Modern man collects keys without knowing how to open a door." Ho! Even worse, like the politically and academically correct left, he is like "a child who, after having burnt itself, wants to abolish fire." But if you don't burn baby burn, you can't learn baby learn, because where there is Light there is Heat.

This is why everything about Obama is not only dark but frigid. History shows that the two always go together when conjoined with Power. It's why this particular historical passage is so gloomy.

With preluminaries out of the way, let's get back to Lings, who relates all of this to Genesis 3, for "the eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree was the attachment to a symbol for its own sake apart from its higher meaning."

Again: the symbol is "thrown across." The postmodern posthuman will stipulate this, except to say that all throwing is only horizontal in nature, such that symbols point only to other symbols, such that we are forced to participate in this bootless linguistic circle jerk. Which is why it is absolutely the case that liberals throw like girls.

Instead of setting us free, this leftward truth imprisons us. Which I would refuse to believe even if it were true, just for the joy of questioning authority. For even if there is no truth, there is still fun, and what's more fun that tweaking our leftist prison wards?

Remember: man is the "mediator between Heaven and earth." In our unfallen state, you could say this is the "end of the story," in that the Bible would abruptly end at Genesis 2:24, with man and woman naked and happy. What could go wrong?

The short answer: history.

Yes, yes, history is one long chronicle of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of our post Gen 3 exile in the bewilderness. But that's not all it is. For we insist there is nevertheless a vector, an inscape hatch from the egg, a path of return, a lifeline. The way forward is more or less an I witless foggus, but, like an airplane pilot, we may nevertheless novelgaze forward with the use of our God-given instruments:

"The clouds of the macrocosm are never permanent; they come only to go, the luminaries still shine, and the directions of space have lost nothing of their measurelessness" (Lings). Our primordial calamity veils the firmament but doesn't sever the link nor void the promise. God is still God, even if man will always be man.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Humans Hear a Who

Unity and totality. What are they, and where do they come from?

A totality without unity would be just a blob, while unity without totality would be an impenetrable monad. But darn it, that's not the kind of universe this is, nor the kind of people we are.

This topic may sound... whatever you think it sounds like, but I promise you it isn't, because it goes straight to the nub of the gist of the essence of things. First Philosophy, you might say, because you either have to address this issue or skip right past it while pretending you have dealt with it.

Let's start with an observation by Schmitz, that there must be "an immanent specifying principle," i.e., something that gives things form and makes them what they are -- this and not that. To put it another way, in the absence of the specifying principle, everything would be the same, and we're back to the cosmic blob. It has oneness but lacks all distinction.

Totality, on the other hand, "brings unity to an even wider context, to a system, horizon, or world. It is a kind of organizing form that brings diverse factors into a complex and more or less internally related arrangement."

Thus, it seems that formal unity is the more static of the two, while totality seems more of a process. In fact, totalizing might be a better way of expressing it.

For example, what is personal growth -- the kind of post-biological growth alluded to yesterday, subsequent to the achievement of (merely) formal adulthood? I don't know about you, but to me it feels like a kind of totalizing process whereby the person attains to a higher and deeper sense of totality. Call the latter One Cosmos, or the Cosmic Attractor toward which we are drawn.

Look at it this way. A person laboring under the dead weight of scientistic materialism will agree that there is One Cosmos. But what an impoverished cosmos it is! Sucked into the "vortex of objectivity," it is lacking precisely the totality under discussion. It is one, but in this case, one does not equal one. It doesn't even come close, for the most exterior thing still has an immaterial interiority that transcends materialism, otherwise we couldn't know anything about anything. Knowledge is a relationship and relationships are not material objects.

So there is really a dynamic complementarity between unity and totality. Physicists talk about a "theory of everything," but you can be sure this theory will go only to unity, not to totality. In a footnote, Schmitz dryly mentions that postmodernists "wish to make war upon totality."

This is an understatement, since they actually destroy the very possibility of totality up front, and then go on from there, cleaning up their own mess and calling it scholarship. A tenured barbarian can destroy in five minutes what took thousands of years to attain. In so doing, the postmodern savage is far more effective than those Muslims with hammers, although we don't want to find out what would happen if the latter were to replace their hammers with nuclear missiles.

Grinding our gears a bit, I want to turn to a book by Martin Lings called Symbol & Archetype, because I think it advances our discussion more deeply into Totality. I've only read one chapter so far, but it is so dense and rich that I had to stop to digest it. {Belch}

Lings begins with the bold statement that "symbolism is the most important thing in existence; and it is at the same time the sole explanation of existence." Really? Symbolism is the theory of everything we've been looking for?

This makes a kind of superficial sense, in that any explanation of existence is naturally symbolic, and a cosmos capable of symbolization is radically distinct from one that isn't. Ironically, we may conclude that the very possibility of a "theory of everything" rests on metaphysical grounds far more consequential than its specific content, for the theorist is essentially proclaiming I can explain everything!

In short, he is confessing to omniscience, which you will agree is more interesting than the theory itself. Omniscient products of random evolution? Wo! Now you need a theory for how that is even possible, being that it cannot be explained by your little theory of everything. If anything, your theory renders the theorist impossible, so you need to go back a few steps in order to account for this strange totality to which man is uniquely qualified to access.

We have touched on this subject in the past: that is, we just so happen to inhabit a cosmos in which one thing can stand for another. In short, it is a symbolic and symbolizing cosmos, and we are its privileged symbolees. How did that come about? In any event, we can be sure that physics in principle cannot explain it, only rely on it.

The literal meaning of symbol is something "thrown across." Here again, this implicit meaning is loaded with implicit assumptions about the nature of this universe. For example: thrown across what? Or, from who and to whom? Who? Wo, slow down. How did a who get into the cosmos? And can there be a who without a whom?

"Man himself," writes Lings, "is the greatest of earthly symbols" -- which follows from the "universal doctrine that he was made in the image of God." That language is unfortunately loaded -- or saturated -- such that its metaphysical meaning is lost to most. But in the context under discussion, it suggests that man himself is "thrown across," so to speak, just like any other symbol.

However, being the quintessential case, "man is the symbol of the sum of the attributes, that is, of the Divine Nature in its Totality."

There's that word again, totality. This implies that man is a symbolic totality thrown across a something by another Totality. Everything short of man is also a symbol, but in a much more limited way. They will have more or less unity, but not totality. Which is why we can know -- contain -- them, but not vice versa.

This is why the world "lies open" to us. It is a kind of open book, filled with words, which is to say, symbols. It's where the all the metaphysical transparency comes from, whether we are talking about truth, beauty, or unity.

Better stop. Gotta get ready for work.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Liberalism and Other Spiritual Abortifacients

Every psychologist has his pet developmental theory, but when you get right down to it, one could say human development has only two stages: the first runs from conception to adulthood, the second from adulthood to infinity and beyond, being that there can be no conceivable end to human post-biological development. It's like what they said about the quarterback Y.A. Tittle, if I am remembering rightly: he never lost a game, the clock just ran out.

The great within of the soul is oddly proportioned to the great beyond of God, in that man's worth, in the words of Schuon, "lies in his consciousness of the Absolute." Alternatively, if man is proportioned to relativity, then he is nothing, just as our tenured apes tell us.

What is the essential difference between these two movements? Well, the first must be guided by some sort of largely genetic telos, or morphogenetic field, or teleonomic attractor. It happens "by itself," given certain minimal environmental conditions, e.g., good enough mothering, good enough nourishment, and good enough information.

I am old enough to remember when being an adult wasn't considered much of an achievement. But in the contemporary world there is a panoply of barriers to the achievement of adulthood, virtually all erected by the cultural left. For example, they have no use for motherhood, with the predictable result of producing children with attachment disorders inhabiting adult bodies. That's no way to preserve and hand on a civilization.

The insanity of triggers, microaggressions, speech codes, and political correctness in general are just ways to protect children from the rigors of adulthood. Dennis Prager says the loudest applause he ever heard was during a commencement speech by Obama, when he reminded the supposedly grown-up students that with his healthcare plan, they would be able to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26! YAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY! Parasitism rules!

With so few children making it to adulthood, we can forget all about the second movement for most people. An abortion -- which is to say, an arrested birth -- can occur at any age. I believe it was Boris Mouravieff who coined the term "astral abortion." Let me look it up. Hmm, no index. Ahh, here it is. An astral abortion occurs should we fail to undergo the second birth, because we can't stay in the womb forever. Unless of course we receive tenure.

But once born again, this new "individuality no longer depends on the physical body, in the same way that the child who has been born does not die, even if his birth has been at the cost of his mother's life. It is this to which the apostle alluded, saying we shall not die."

At the very least, the person faces a life of arrested development if not born again from above, which facilitates transition from the little human cosmic womb to the big divine-human matrix which "forms the link between visible and invisible worlds." That link goes to the famous ombilical cord between man and God.

Some additional relevant observations from our guest bobstetrician: "If we were to imagine a perfect World based on a principle of perfect and stable equilibrium, it would be a petrified image -- that of Death. Above all else, Life is movement; movement from a flowing current," such that a key to evolution is broken equilibrium.

Which immediately calls to mind an aphorism: "An 'ideal society' would be the graveyard of human greatness" (Don Colacho).

This is precisely why liberal academia has become just such a graveyard, because it wants to create an ideal world for emotionally fragile children, such that there is no motivation for women to grow up or men to grow a pair.

Remember: the source of man's value -- his dignity -- is in that disequilibrium between us and God. You are of course free to pursue a life of equilibrium with the world, but if you succeed, then you fail.

About that disequilibrium: "God is infinitely close to man, but man is infinitely far from God." The first makes the journey possible, while the second makes it necessary. Again, unless you forge a static equilibrium between the two, which reduces to a death-in-life, for no one is more safe and secure than the dead.

Even before leaving genetic adulthood behind and below, we all have intimations of the beyond, which are analogous to the contractions of labor (second birthquakes). Eventually, the womb simply becomes too small to contain us. Which is why, as Schuon puts it, we discover "that the things of this world are never proportionate to our actual range of intelligence."

Think about that, because it is so experience-near that we can fail to appreciate the weirdness of it. All other animals short of man are indeed proportionate to the world; or not even the world, of which they know nothing (any more than they know of the universe). Rather, they know only their world, as in how a frog can see a living insect but will starve in the presence of dead ones. The dead ones simply fall off the frog's radar screen, as in how living truth ceases to exist for the liberal.

But man is never at equilibrium with the world, a condition which is both our privilege and a source of frustration if not seen rightly. You know Augustine's crack about not-resting-until-we-rest-in-God? This is what he's talking about, i.e., a kind of higher equilibrium that goes by different names in different traditions, e.g., beatitude, shanti, shalom, ananda, slack, etc. It can never be 100% "complete" in this life, because "only the 'divine dimension' can satisfy our thirst for plenitude in our willing or our love," and there are certain terrestrial barriers to full identification with it, such as our materiality.

The following also goes to the developmental continuum under discussion, that "The way towards God always involves an inversion: from outwardness one must pass to inwardness, from multiplicity to unity, from dispersion to concentration, from egoism to detachment, from passion to serenity" (Schuon).

Note that this doesn't necessarily involve withdrawal from the exterior world, but rather, the infusion of these latter qualities into the world, such that we pull ourselves out by our own buddhastraps -- i.e., the bodhisattva principle whereby we extricate our heads from our own aseity. Or just say down- and in-carnation.

Inwardness is a quality, not a place. You want to cultivate it everywhere, because it is where all the radiance radiates from, whether in the mode of truth, love, beauty, depth, light, etc.

The end, I guess, not that we've achieved equilibrium or anything. Rather, only the fruit of disequilibrium.