Friday, August 07, 2015

If You Can't Correct Your Own Rotten Character, Just Fundamentally Transform the World

Now, touching on this business of Man. You know, creating him. Frankly I don't like the term -- Man -- and not because of its andronormative and patriarchal associations.

Rather, it implies an object, when the whole point of man is that he is a subject. But even then, all animals, right down to the itsiest bitsy, are subjects, for which reason we reserve the term Person for human beings. Other animals are subjects, but only man is a Person.

To review, these persons are trimporphic to the ground, in that there is no "part" that doesn't partake of it. (I saw an arresting image in the book Pathological Altruism, located here, on the second page from the top [right after the cover]. Just imagine it as tri-complementary instead of bi-complementary, and you've get the idea. Each "part" looks like this, as does the whole.)

As mentioned a few posts back, man is either "something" or he is nothing. In other words, either he has an essence and a nature, or he is the Beast With No Nature, and therefore a kind of literal monster, a cancer on Gaia.

From a Darwinian perspective man can have no essential nature, because any "nature" is just a temporary genetic weigh station on the endless road to some other random accident and transient adaptation. While this could be true, if it is, we couldn't know it.

Imagine, say, a pair of dice. It might land on any combination of numbers, but one could never say that one particular combination expresses the nature of the dice. Rather, their nature is to vary. Except to say that with the genes there is an infinite number of possibilities instead of just... 36?

Which is why you should never bet on man. Really, it's very similar to what they say about horse racing: no matter how much information you have, never forget that it all comes down to a dumb animal.

A contribution by Happy Acres Guy caught my attention this morning: "Political correctness & so many of the political fashions of our day could only be perpetrated on adolescent minds."

Quite true, but why are there so many adolescent minds? Why are they stuck in adolescence instead of being properly childlike or even infantile?

The reason is that Man, like the adolescent, is perpetually "on the way," the difference being that for the adolescent it becomes a pathological way of life. I am reminded of something Donald Fagen once said, to the effect that all of life is a midlife crisis. If you imagine there is some point that you can let your guard down and just relax, you're fooling yourself. Death alone takes care of that illusion. So adolescents do have that part right.

But what is a crisis, really?

Well now this is interesting. I was just looking it up and I see there is something called Crisis Theology: a neo-orthodox view of human nature "that holds that man and all human institutions are inevitably confounded by their own inner contradictions and that the resultant crisis forces man to despair of his own efforts" and therefore turn to the Divine Grace.

Okay. So I'm a crisis theologian.

But back to crisis, the word. It is "the turning point for better or worse." Interestingly, it is etymologically related to the verb to separate. Thus, it seems to me that time itself is a perpetual crisis. Or at least it is a crisis if we toss freedom into the mix.

In other words, if the world were actually deterministic, then there could be no crises because there could be no options and no separation into good and bad, or, more likely, bad and worse: no alternatives, no problems.

If eternity is the still point of the turning world, and time the moving image of eternity, we might say that Crisis is the turning point of the moving world. Thus, although Obama is surely a world-historical crisis, when has it not been a crisis? Even if the world weren't in crisis, your life still would be.

Indeed, one reason why the leftist is so caught up in the world-catastrophe is to deny and externalize his own existential crisis into the mode of politics (e.g., the "personal is the political"). As usual, N.G.D. has many excellent aphorisms to this end:

--The left is a collection of those who blame society for nature's shabby treatment of them. (So don't blame me for your low IQ, poor impulse control, and lowlife father!)

--The individual today rebels against immutable human nature so that he might refrain from amending his own correctable nature. (Actually the left wants it both ways, as they are quick to appeal to an "immutable nature" when it is convenient, e.g., homosexuality or brucejennerism.)

--Transforming the world: the occupation of a convict resigned to his punishment. (Which is why the unhappy leftist wishes for everyone to be as miserable as he is. Hey, fundamentally transforming the world is easier than addressing your own reprobate character.)

At the very bottom of our sidebar, what does it say? RIDDING THE WORLD OF MALEVOLENT BEINGS SINCE 2005, ONE ASSOUL AT A TIME. If I have succeeded in ridding the world of just one, then this is more than Obama has in seven years. Rather, he has only added bodies to Satan's Payroll.

But what I really want to discuss is something Brother Nicolás alluded to above about "immutable human nature." If man is something, then this is the something he is, i.e., the immutable part.

The mutable parts are nothing, that is, unless they converge upon the Immutable itself(s). In turn, this is what distinguishes the adolescent from the adult, in that the adult surely changes, but the change is measured in terms of proximity or conformity to the Absolute.

You know the old crack: To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. That the "progressive" doesn't progress is a truism; but that he also doesn't change is perhaps less appreciated.

But progressives will always be with us for the simple reason that there will always be human beings who are developmentally arrested in adolescence. For the typical adult, leftism is just a rebellious rite of passage wrapped up in the project of individuation. But for the adult leftist, immaturity is a career.

So, if man is an image of the Absolute, what then is absolute in man? What is immutable and normative? For the multiculturalist, nothing is immutable except his belief that nothing is immutable. This gag yoinked from Happy Acres summarizes their incoherence diversity:

In the excellent Book of Absolutes, Gairdner has whole chapters devoted to the absolutes that constrain and orient our life assage, including universals of human life and culture, of nature, of biology, of human sexuality, of language, of natural law, etc. But that's about it for today. I've fallen behind and I need to catch up.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Manhappen Project

Back to our Manhappen Project, AKA how God made (and makes) Man happen. As the note in my recipe indicates, there are certain ingredients that must go into it, in that we want this to be a 1) thinking, 2) creative, and 3) loving being. But none of these things mean much unless they are turned toward their proper ends.

Man must be a relational being right down to the ground -- he shall have no final bit of unrelated substance -- both vertically and horizontally. Vertically he is always related to the Sovereign Good, while horizontally he is related to Mother, Father, Child, Spouse, Sibling, Friend, and Stranger by way of prolongation.

As alluded to the other day, thinking is related to truth as creativity is to beauty. And love is related to the Good itself. To put it conversely, it makes no sense to exalt lies, to create ugliness, and love what is evil, but what is a demonic political party -- the Democrats -- but a stupid one's teacher?

Freedom must also be in the mix, obviously. And not by way of a simple "additive," so to speak -- an extra feature. No, like relation, this goes all the way down to the ground. Man is free and man is related, full stop.

Man is also -- and for this reason -- in process. He is a movement and a sojourn -- an Adventure of Consciousness. Importantly, to say process is not to say relative, the reason being that the process, while a movement, is related to what is stationary, principial, axial, e.g., Truth.

Having said that, there is a kind of analogous "movement" in God as well, the difference being that this movement can never surpass itself, but is like perfection upon perfection. It is unending novelty -- even the source of novelty -- accompanied by... let us call it "delighted witness."

God is the delighted witness of his own belightful novelty. Each is "relative" to the other, which again is the ultimate foundation of Relationship. Call it Father + Son + naches.

Ever been delighted just to watch your child breathe while sleeping, let alone accomplish even more than that while awake? That's probably a glimpse through God's peophole.

(Off topic, but in the middle of the night a thought occurred to me. Remember the bit about God breathing the breath of life into man via the nostrils? Why nostrils? I was reminded that in yoga, one always inspires through the nose and expires through the mouth. There are many reasons for this, one of which is to imagine God's grace, or power, or light, coming in with the inspiration and going back to God with the expiration. Thus again, our in-spiration is God's ex-spiration.)

Back to the Man happening. We've just laid out all the "parts" or ingredients for the recipe. However -- and this is a key point -- our man will not be composed of parts, but rather, be a whole. Thus, each "part" can only be understood in the context of the whole, similar to how we can say that God has distinctions but no divisions.

Better, we can say that man is fractal, in that each part will contain the whole, as in DNA: each cell -- each "unit" -- contains the formula for the whole organism.

This is how, for example, a musicologist can instantly say "this is Mozart," or "that is Beethoven," or "wo, that must be Monk!" One could say the same of painting or literature. There's a distinct soulprint, as it were (or stench, depending on the case).

For example, even though I forget each post after it is written, if you show me one ten years later, I could instantly say that's my Gagdad! There's a kind of rhythm and logic and flow to them. There are certain things I would never say, and certain things I would inevitably say given the trajectory of the thing. This has of course become more pronounced as I have given up trying, but rather, just let the planhappen as it will, without precoonception or artifice.

In Thinking Beyond Darwin, the author cites a gag by Goethe to the effect that "From the top to the bottom the plant is all leaf." (Which reminds me of Petey's crack that the world is a tree of life for those whose wood beleaf.)

The great man's point is that the plant is first a whole before we divide it into various abstract parts. Thus, it is a concrete way of looking, just as science is an abstract way of looking -- of analyzing the whole into its parts. But if we aren't careful, we can reify our own abstractions, which ultimately redounds to a sterile scientism of pure abstraction. Infertile eggheads and all that.

Even more deeply, there is only one world, AKA One Cosmos. And most importantly, consciousness is entirely wrapped up in this world. One can remove consciousness, or divide the world against it, but just remember it is you who have done this, not the world. The world is always the world, not our ideas about the world.

In conclusion for this morning, it seems to me that the modern anti-Manhappening Project of analysis and dissection is ultimately rooted in a philosophical nominalism. Applied to man, it means that man has no real form, no transcendent reality, no nature. Rather, he is just a bundle of parts, and these parts are just random and contingent adaptations to a transient environment.

That being the case, there is no moral problem attached to literally cutting one of us into parts and selling them to the highest bidder. If something about this makes you recoil, it means the left hasn't yet succeeded in preventing your wholeman from happening.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

La Bête Divin, or Look Who's Talking

There is a significant leap to the next stage -- speech. The unity of body and animal is broken. Something new and different has been added -- a capacity to transcend the limitations of the body. --Adin Steinsaltz

The ultimate humblebrag has to be the one about man being little more than an animal with speech, or culture, or tools, because these make us nothing like an animal. As the Rabbi suggests, they mean that we have transcended animality, precisely.

And transcend doesn't mean exclude or negate, but it does mean that even animality itself becomes something radically different in man.

In fact, it isn't possible for man to be a mere animal. If he tries -- and he does try... and try... and try -- he not only sinks beneath himself but beneath the animals as well. No animal, even if it had the means to do so, would engage in the cruelty, depravity, and sadism of man. So don't make the mistake of referring to those planned parenthoodlums as animals. More like la bête humaine.

Which captures the extremes of man: "The Lord God (YHVA) is the Divine name beyond existence. But man cannot be created from this beyond." Rather, he is a strange union or combination "of the end and the beginning. He is therefore made of the dust of the earth and the sublime spirit of God. His Divine soul is not even the same animal soul of creatures; he is a paradox of the lowest and highest." Not an animal but a kind of super- (or infra-) animal; and not God, but a kind of hobbled godling.

All of the above is by way of a note to myself about how one would go about creating Man -- not this or that man, but Man as such, i.e., the category, archetype, or advanced prototype. The note says "consider man from the POV of God wishing to create a thinking, creative, and loving being." Think of the obstacles and potential bugs!

Again, it is one thing to have the idea of Man, but then it has to be embodied, and the body has to be in an environment and a community. One nonstarter would be reptiles. The problem isn't reptiles per se, but the absence of mothering. Rather, reptiles are abandoned by their parents long before they hatch, and they pop out of the shell more or less complete. Which is to say "perfect." A perfect reptile cannot transcend its own perfect reptilian archetype.

Furthermore, no matter how big the brain, a reptile could never be a person, because that brain could never be intersubjective. We've discussed this on a number of occasions, so I'll let it go. But human neoteny is the key to transcendence, or of squeezing transcendence into immanence. It is where transcendence first gets into the cosmos, in the sense alluded to above by Steinsaltz.

I've said it before, but that space between an immature and incomplete nervous system and its caretakers is everything. It is the crack where the Light gets in. And it gives a whole new dimension to the baby Jesus-with-Mary archetype. An infant God? Of course.

Over the years, I have been surprised and blown away that a number of Catholic thinkers have thought along these lines. In particular, Balthasar and Ratzinger committed anticipatory plagiarism against me by saying very similar things before I had the opportunity to think them myself. I shall now endeavor to dig them out, which I will not be able to do without the aid of God, considering how much they wrote...

Here's something from Balthasar's Theo-Drama vol III. Note that if you are God, and you are planning to incarnate as man, then this presupposes that Man must be in a form that will permit this.

Thus, just as God first had to create a community, he also had to create nervous systems and persons -- and even wombs -- susceptible to the Divine descent. This descent would just bounce off of most communities, just as surely as it would bounce off the skull of a Bill Maher or Barack Obama. Nor could it reach into the womb, as evidenced by their enthusiastic support of premeditated and Planned Pedicide.

von B writes of how "in principle every created spirit is qualified to apprehend the totality of being," or in other words, man is the container who can -- at least in principle -- contain the uncontainable, which is precisely Christ's mission. The resurrection is simply the last piece of evidence that the attempt at containment was unsuccessful, so to speak, for he skedaddled over the horizon of every human boundary.

"[E]very man, insofar as he possesses complete human nature, has access through love and understanding to all that is thought and felt, done and suffered by other subjects possessing the same nature. Thus all that is human is open to us..." (ibid.).

This has two important implications. First, notice that no matter how perfect the man, it still isn't enough. We are clearly the most exalted being in existence, and yet, in the absence of God this means nothing. In a Most Excellent Aphorism, Dávila puts it that Man is important only if it is true that a God has died for him.

Think about that one for a moment. As flawed as my parents were, there was never a time that I doubted they would give their lives for mine in a heartbeat, no questions asked. Naturally it is the same with I and my son. Importantly, it's not even a thought, but deeper than that. If push ever came to shove, it would be completely spontaneous.

Thus, even the very idea of God dying for man is about the loftiest idea one could humanly imagine.

But we're getting slightly off track or out beyond the reach of our headLight. We were discussing man's irreducible intersubjectivity. For von B, "the human 'I' is always searching for the 'thou'..., without ever being able to take possession of its otherness."

Thus thank God for our incompleteness, because without awareness of it, we could never complete ourselves via God! A cow, for example, doesn't know it isn't All That, any more than Obama does. Therefore, they remain stuck in cow- or asshood.

von B references Eve, the archetypal Mother of Us All, who says I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.

First, what a charming way to express it. Second, "She understands that the human child is not a mere gift of nature but a personal gift of God.... If we are to measure the whole scope of the self, we must penetrate into the very womb of the Godhead, which alone can solve the entire mystery of our being."

As the talking baby said after being born in Look Who's Talking, I don't know about you, lady, but I'm beat. To be continued.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

How to Make a Man

I guess what I want to say is: think about it from God's perspective. How would you go about creating man? Which is to say, how would you incarnate persons?

Yes, it's easy to imagine a divine snapping of the fingers and abracadabra, Man! But even (especially?) the Bible doesn't make it that simple.

In particular, the creation of man is preceded by five earlier ages of creation. Man could not have been created first, because, among other reasons, there would be no place to live and nothing to eat.

And, far from snapping his divine fingers, the Creator utilizes the available material -- the stuff he made on day three -- to fashion Adam, which of course means "of the red earth."

Nor is this the end of it, because a person without other persons is not a person. Rather, persons -- like their creator -- are intrinsically relational -- so the Creator completes the process by using the same personal substance to create the male's horizontal complement, AKA female.

Why a rib? There are many theories -- closest to the heart, a foreshadowing of Jesus' side being pierced on the cross, that woman is "made of human" instead of dirt, and therefore more civilized. Who knows? It's an arresting image, made more arresting by its unsaturated peculiarity.

A few posts backed we alluded to the fact that man is not just animal plus X -- or at least no horizontal X. However, it might be acceptable to say that he is animal plus a vertical Y.

This would go to Genesis' account of man being made of primordial matter, like any other animal, but then inspYred by God. We are animals into whom God has breathed the breath of life (inspire, spirit, and respiration are all cognate).

Truly, our inspiration is God's expiration. Indeed, now that I think about it, his ex-piration on the cross must be the last Word in in-spiration, and isn't it provocative that each gospel makes a special point of it (Matt 27:51), Mark 15:34, Luke 23:46, John 19:30)? I never considered it from this angle before, but it must be a parallel to Genesis 2:7 -- a new breath of life, a blast of fresh air, for the new-and-improved man.

Not only does man summarize the six days of creation, but the seventh day, you might say, is created for the contemplation of this strange-but-true fact. To paraphrase Rabbi Steinsaltz, man contains all the forms of existence, in that he is made of material substance, grows like a plant, moves like an animal, and communicates through language. One might add that he relates like a God.

Why? For what purpose?

"Man is human because he has a task in life to relate to the world, to raise it up and give it meaning and purpose. Otherwise the universe is an endless repetition, a question without an answer, a movement without a goal" (Steinsaltz, emphasis mine). A dead, because closed, circle.

In doing his cosmic duty, man elevates himself (and everything else), is "lifted up out of the earth," such that "hidden sparks of holiness are released" to become "part of a higher level of reality" (ibid.). This is the "Kingdom of Heaven," which you might say we orthoparadoxically enter by co-creating and co-create by entering.

You could say the same of hell, which goes to the purpose of Democrats.

About our material substrate. We are not immaterial (angelic) beings. Rather, "the Divine soul of man had to be fastened to something firm and steady like the earth," for "man is also the lever and the hoist of all of creation, the factor that can raise the essentially inert parts of the world" (ibid.).

Yes, just like God. For what is artistic creation but essentially raising up inert parts of the world, whether color, sound, or rhyme? Man creates beauty, discovers truth, and embodies -- incarnates -- virtue and love. This is called "why we're here."

"A circle is thus formed; the end meets the beginning. Indeed, it would seem that the end and beginning have something in common that is of the very essence of the whole," for purpose "requires the simultaneity of both the end and the beginning. The end of the matter is in the nature of the beginning. The original idea contains the result; the final result contains the initial notion" (ibid., emphasis mine).

Which is of course the point of the riverrunning circularity of pp. 266 <--> 6 of the book. And that circularity is itself the whole point, a fractal of the expanding spiroidal cosmic movement which occurs at every moment:

The circle unbroken, by and by. A Divine child, a godsend, a bloomin' yes, and all that. It's happening now! Our common source without center or circumference, blissfully floating before the fleeting flickering universe, stork naked in brahma daynight. Who is? I AM. A wake!

I have less time than usual this morning, so we'll get back to the main thread tomorrow -- of just how one goes about making a man.

One becomes aware of a vast arc, curving from the divine source to oneself, which corresponds to the question, Where am I going? And within this great circle... each person can discover the special lines of his own direction. --Adin Steinsaltz

Monday, August 03, 2015

Is Man a Thing?

If you're going to reject Darwin's theory of how evolution came about, then you're going to have to come up with a better idea.

And you can't just say "God," because that's not an intellectually -- or even spiritually -- satisfying theory. After all, you could say the same of anything: "Why did you eat the last cookie?" "Er, God!"

Yes, in an ultimate sense God is at the "beginning" of all causation -- he is the uncaused cause -- but this hardly means we should ignore all the many intermediate causes that go into a phenomenon. Science is the science of intermediate causes, not of the first and last, AKA alphOmega.

Obviously, there was a time -- or timeless -- that this cosmos did not exist. Likewise, there was a time that no life existed in this cosmos. And there was a time that man wasn't here. From the view of cosmology, it is as if man arose fully baked just yeasterday.

Being that man is now here, what we really want to know is how he got here. Neither believer nor unbeliever dispute the fact that man once wasn't here, so our present presence is in need of explanation.

That man once wasn't here is a fact. Likewise our current existence. Natural selection is simply one way to bridge those two stark Facts. Some people say Genesis is another way, but this is not necessarily so.

For example, Genesis 3 is more a lesson in why things are so fouled up than how we got here per se. And I have heard it said that even Genesis 1-2 are there more to impart important moral lessons -- for example, the importance of the sabbath -- than to provide a comprehensive explanation of how we got here. Not, as the gag goes, how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.

Although I do not accept the Darwinian narrative of anthropogenesis, I could never get completely on board with the alternative either, at least in every vague detail. But this book on Thinking Beyond Darwin has given me a way to wrap my mind around the traditionalist view of How We Got Here.

If man is in the image of God, then this is a way of saying that he is not contingent, or at least not wholly so.

Rather, there must be some part of him that is made of "absoluteness," so to speak -- which cannot not be -- in contrast to the evolutionist view, which would say that man of course could have not been or could have been unrecognizably different (and everything in between).

In the traditionalist view, if God wants you to be, then it will take a great deal of effort to deny him. But that's what the left is for.

The traditionalist view holds that man is a very specific thingy, and that if he is not this thingy, why then he is literally no-thing, just an ephemeral accumulation of random genetic booboos.

For Schuon, "To say that man, and thus the human body, is 'made in the image of God' means a priori that the body manifests something absolute and therefore something unlimited and perfect.... The human form cannot be transcended for its sufficient reason is to express the Absolute, hence the unsurpassable..."

I'm trying to find the Traditionalist explanation of how we got here, but can't track down the exact one I'm looking for...

Schuon writes that "One must not tire of affirming this: the origin of a creature is not a material substance, it is a perfect and non-material archetype....

"Assuredly, there is a trajectory; but this starts not from an inert and unconscious substance, it proceeds from the Spirit -- the womb of all possibilities -- to the earthly result, the creature..."

For Lings, "the universe and its contents were created in order to make known the Creator, and to make known the good and to praise it....

The things of earth are "sent down in finite measure from the Stores or Treasures of the Infinite." While this or that animal incarnates an aspect of God, only man has the potential to manifest them all, for which reason the Perfected Man would be the most adequate image of God.

I can't find the exact passage I'm looking for, but it has something to do with animal forms, including man, being coagulations of divine archetypes. But the real point is that either man has an archetypal form, or he is truly nothing, just a bundle of accidents.

So, the deeper metaphysical question is, Is man something? Is he a thing? Or no-thing?

The first thing one wants to say to the Darwinist is, "okay, we get it. You're nothing. But how does an accidental nothing know an absolute anything?"

I apologize for the rambling, but I'm feeling a bit fuzzy this morning, like my archetype hasn't fully coagulated or something.

Let me get back to what is close at hand, Thinking Beyond Darwin. First, I would suggest that to think beyond Darwin is not necessarily to think against Darwin. Furthermore, there is a way of thinking with Darwin that is ultimately to think against him.

For if it were true that we couldn't think beyond Darwin, this would represent a weird backdoor way of codifying man's absoluteness, i.e., that man knows the absolute truth about himself, a truth which renders him absolutely relative. This is literal nonsense. And not the good kind.

I'll take a fresh stab at this thing tomorrow morning.