Friday, August 21, 2015

A Word to the Whys

Yesterday we spoke of how man is orthoparadoxically characterized by what is missing in him. The primary symptom of this present absence or absent presence is the Why. Every human, in so far as he is one, asks Why, and never stops doing so.

Unless. More on which later.

To ask Why is to seek into the cause of an effect or the reality behind an appearance. This is what man has been doing from the moment he was hatched from the cosmic egg.

In other words, to ask why something happens is to ask what causes it. The cause is presumed to be greater than the effect. Everyday experience shows us that something is "lost" or dissipated between a physical cause and its effect, AKA entropy.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason puts forth the controversial -- because inconvenient -- principle that "nothing is without reason" and that "everything must have a reason or a cause." We consider it soph-evident that:

"For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists. For every event E, if E occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation for why E occurs." And "For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true."

Now, on to the burning question before us: what is the sufficient reason of wisdom?

Remind us, what is wisdom? Wisdom has to do with ultimate causes, or the highest cause. Thus, the sufficient cause of wisdom must be God. Conversely, the sufficient cause of lesser forms of knowledge is found in, say, material interactions, or the laws of physics.

You might say that everyday science is "caused" by the world (or causes within the world), whereas the higher science of theology is caused by God.

However, science as such must also be caused by God, unless you simply stop asking why, or else tautologically confine your whys to a single level.

You parents out there will have noticed that even -- especially? -- a child won't fall for that one. They cannot be satisfied with some explanation that simply displaces the cause a little further back. You could explain the Big Bang in every detail, but the most elegant explanation withers in the light of just one more innocent Why?

The whys can only stop at God. Since God is the uncaused cause, he is by definition the source and end of the Whys.

Thus, you might say that the Why as such is a kind of "hook" that attaches to God. Without God, there is no reason for the hook, plus our earthly garment just falls to the ground.

We've been discussing this in the context of one of the greatest Whysmen of all time, Thomas Aquinas (or St. Thomas, his AquWHYness).

McGinn notes that the Summa contains "over a million and a half words divided into three large parts containing 512 topics ( questiones) and no fewer than 2,668 articles..." It is sort of an inverse fractal: questions within questions within the Question.

"Thomas says that all wisdom comes down from God," like water from the mountaintop. "In communicating true teaching to make the earth (i.e., their hearers) fruitful, they [teachers of divine doctrine] do not depend on themselves." Rather, "God communicates wisdom by his own power, so he is said to water the mountains by himself."

Thus, the best we can hope to be is a curious waterboy. And in order to be an effective water carrier, we need an empty bucket, or a bucketfull of Why. And be sure to check for holes. You want a big one at the top.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Sound Mind is a Sound Cosmos

We left off with a reminder from St. Thomas that the pursuit of wisdom is a game, and that this game -- like any game -- "is not ordered to something else but only to itself."

Moreover, the game "brings the greatest delight."

I deem Thomas's observations Entirely True, otherwise what am I doing here? Why am I doing this? For money? Fame? Attention? Boredom? My health?

The answers to the last five are, respectively, No, No, No, No, and Yes. Yes, I am doing this for my health, AKA wholeness. Health is of course cognate with WHOLE, and we might say that the One Cosmos is the Ordered Whole, or the whole order.

Here is how Webster's defines health: the condition of an organism or one of its parts in which it performs its vital functions normally or properly: the state of being sound in body or mind.

Several points: health can only apply to organisms. Ah, but what is an organism? The answer may surprise you!

Second, health applies to parts and wholes, or to parts within wholes. If a part is sick, then the whole cannot be well. And if the whole is sick, then the parts will suffer.

Third, the concept of health is incomprehensible in the absence of teleology: both the whole and its parts have "vital functions" that may be performed normally or abnormally. And these functions are never static, but always in process (which is part of the definition of an organism).

Fourth, there is objective health of the body, and subjective health of the mind or soul. Thus, the soul too has vital functions, including an intrinsic relation to a larger whole (i.e., a purpose or telos).

Let's go back to what Thomas says about the pursuit of wisdom bringing "the greatest delight." Why would this be?

Well, for starters, wisdom is to the soul what nutrition is to the body: it is a literal food, to which many biblical passages will attest. The dictionary adds that health is a "flourishing condition" marked by vitality and well-being. Thomas calls it "delight." Which is? "A high degree of gratification of mind or sense," or "lively pleasure."

Not to get pedantic, but out of curiosity I just looked up "game," and the first thing it says is "amusement," which adverts to the Muses, who were the Greek goddesses associated with learning and creativity. Thus, they seem to be play-cousins of Sophia-wisdom.

Now, in an organism everything runs in cycles, and a cycle is a kind of self-renewing spiral. This implies that wisdom must also be a cycle, and Thomas says it is: his entire Summa is structured around this cycle, which is ultimately emanation from, and return to, God. This represents the Cycle of cyclicity, the Rhythm of rhythmicity, and the Circle of circularity: it is the fundamental respiration of the cosmos.

It is a spiraling movement; however, spiral is apparently not cognate with the breath, but rather, with spire, or a central axis around which things move. So you could say it makes implicit reference to the unmoved mover, or again, the Cause of causes to which Wisdom is conformed.

Now, just as there is in-spiration and ex-spiration with regard to the lungs, it seems that there is an analogue of this on the spiri-tual level. If the mind is an organism, then this follows the principle that an organism is defined by an open exchange of matter, energy, or information.

What is the spiritual analogue of expiration? Jesus makes many references to it, but it essentially comes down to "poverty of spirit," i.e., a kind of positive emptiness, for the poor shall receive, the last shall be first, the dead shall be given life, etc. (And to die is to expire.)

We might even say that Jesus's mission involves the Whole becoming part so that the part might be made whole. "It is not the healthy" -- the whole -- "who need a doctor." But who is whole? Only people who pretend to be, or who cannot tolerate their part-hood.

So, wisdom begins with consciousness of part-hood and incompleteness, which implies dependency. How do we express this parthood?

Well, I would say the Quest begins with questioning. Whatever else we can say about man, man is the being who questions: Aristotle, for example, "said that questioning was the essential operation of the human mind..." (in McGinn).

For truly, man begins with an epic (?!) that can still be heard today, the sacred WTF?, the astoneaged shout heard 'round the cosmos.

Now, that right there is interesting, because it implies that the essential operation of man is not a "fullness" (as an animal vis-a-vis its settled and invariant instincts), but rather, a kind of anticipatory emptiness.

And what is anticipatory emptiness but faith, or what we symbolize as (o)? Faith is implicit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truth. It is truth waiting to happen, or to be born. The question is the Womb of Truth.

The pathological versions of this are many. For example, this morning I saw this headline on how a Leading science publisher retracts dozens of papers for fake peer reviews. What does this mean? It means that the scientists in question only pretend to ask why. Therefore, there is no space for the answer. Instead, they fill the space where the Why ought to be with someshit they just made up.

This means that leftism -- which has thus far been mostly confined to the liberal arts, to history, and to politics -- has now seeped into science. Which we already know -- cf. global warming -- but the larger point is that this failure of Emptiness is an intrinsic cosmic pathology.

I don't know if we got anywhere today, or if I've just wasted our time. One thing you can say about the spirit: it blows where it will so long as you provide an empty space.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Vertical Church of Perpetual Delight

Yesterday we mentioned the difference between the two forms of knowledge, (k) and (n).

There are many ways to frame this distinction, but one is between information and wisdom. One of the characteristics of the left, for example, is that it is full of information-blather but utterly devoid of wisdom. The university is Ground Zero for the liberal scary goround of zero wisdom.

And even then, their information tends to be fragmented, inflated out of proportion, expanded beyond its proper limits, or just plain wrong, rendering it (-k), that is, knowledge that isn't so.

And in recent years the contemporary left has become more characterized by low-information, for which I haven't invented a pnemuaticon.

Hmm... How about (ø) for our lo-fo mouth-breathren. This signifies the bad nothing, in contrast to the good for nothing of (o), or the "poverty of spirit" with which we approach God (or O).

Information can be in conformity to anything down to the most trivial matter. Yesterday, for example, I read in Stereophile of a few low-cost tweaks to supposedly improve the old sound system, so I was messing around with them as would any obsessive crank in futile pursuit of perfect sound.

What I was actually doing was messing with the cause(s) of "good sound." This subject can get metaphysical very quickly, but I'm looking at it in a more purely linear context: try this, listen for that.

But what is the Object of sound wisdom? McGinn writes that the whole point of the 1.5 million words of the Summa Theologiae is to converge upon and disclose "what he called sapientia, that is, wisdom."

Philosophy, left to its own devices, can only deal in (k), not (n). The moment you realize that philosophy is infused with energy and information from a nonhuman source, then you are in the world of theology. Of course, every philosopher deals in theology, but only a relative few admit it.

I mean this literally, because wisdom "deals with the highest cause, which is God" (ibid.). Science and other disciplines deal with various intermediate causes, but as soon as you posit an ultimate cause, then you are a theologian, even if a frivolous one. Two gags from Happy Acres express this principle in a succinct form:

In the first, Professor Dawkins concedes the absurdity of imagining there is no higher cause outside this world, but just when you think he's about to get a Clue, he simply converts it into a horizontal fantasy about alien beings.

But this does nothing to resolve the ineluctable philosophical problem, since it just defers and displaces the ultimate cause elsewhere. In other words, you still have to account for the cause of aliens.

Oh, right. Other aliens.

In the second image, Chesterton reminds us of Petey's adage that supernature abhors a vacuum, and that you can drive it out with a pitchfork but it will always come rushing back in, only in a transmogrified form because it promiscuously "mates" with various mind parasites from a lower order. Thus, liberals will be the first to tell you that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Yet.

As information allows us to accomplish things in the world, wisdom is the cause of judgment (or prudence), which is the cardinal virtue.

It reminds me of how the ancient Greeks could only learn so much about the world, because they didn't have much commerce with it. Rather, slaves did all the work, so they are the ones who learned how the material world actually works. You might say the Greeks specialized in wisdom but had a rather impoverished knowledge of the world.

But this only shows how there can indeed be a (-n), or "false wisdom," so to speak. This tendency is only fully eradicated in the "moderate realism" of the Aristotle-Thomas tradition, which begins with the world but doesn't end there.

There are two main alternatives to this sane approach to the world: the older one is to begin in the other world, a la Plato, and to devalue this one. The more recent is to begin and end in this world, as do materialists, Marxists, atheists, etc.

I suppose there's a third approach, the Kantian one in which you essentially begin and end in man's neurology. Deconstruction would simply be a postmodern version of this, as it traps us in the closed system of language, itself just a prolongation of our neurology.

Note that any of the three alternatives splits the world and then elevates a part to the whole. Big. Mistake.

In fact, this is the quintessence of anti-wisdom, for "judgment is made about an effect through its cause, and the same is true about lower causes through the higher cause, so wisdom is the judge of all the other intellectual virtues; it belongs to put them all in order" (Aquinas, in McGinn).

In other words, we might say that (lower case) judgment allows us to infer causes from effects (and vice versa), whereas (upper case) Judgment allows us to wisely organize reality into a hierarchy of causes, with the Cause of causes at the top. A comprehensive -- and wise -- account of reality will exclude neither causes nor Cause.

There are three sources of wisdom: there is the universal metaphysics from which we may deduce various truths that cannot not be (e.g., the laws of non-contradiction or excluded middle), revelation, and what we are calling (n), or direct infused knowledge/intellection of the transcendental Object.

You will have noticed that evangelicals tend to reject the first and third in favor of a pure fideism to revelation, whereas "new agers" will tend toward the third while rejecting tradition and science. But the Raccoon wants all three in his arsenal: knowledge, revelation, and grace.

For St. Thomas, sapientia (n) "has a greater affective, even experiential, quality than abstract deductive reasoning."

This is indeed a key point, because (n) cannot just be handed off from mind to mind or soul to soul as can ordinary (k). Rather, it must be experienced and "vivified" by each soul anew -- and ultimately this cannot be accompliced without the aid of the Holy Spirit, for

"To see oneness in creation is to sense the source of creation, the Creator. To see only fragments in creation is to see creation in its material aspect, missing its source and its life." Thus, wisdom is ultimately a reflection of wholeness, of life, of dynamic unity, and of divine delight, for

"[C]ontemplation of wisdom is like a game for two reasons. First, because a game is enjoyable and the contemplation of wisdom brings the greatest delight.... Second, because a game is not ordered to something else but only to itself; this belongs to the delights of wisdom" (Aquinas, ibid.).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Outside the Gates of Eden

Some time ago I minted the irritating term orthoparadox to signify the manner in which the divine reality bifurcates herebelow into seeming paradoxes that are actually complementary and wholly orthodox.

To cite an obvious example, take justice and mercy. In the higher dimensionality of God these are one, but herebelow they can seem at odds. In God, perfect justice is perfect mercy, and vice versa.

This is not a new idea, but rather, very old. "Orthoparadox" is just a neologism for a paleoconcept.

For example, over half a millennium ago Nicholas of Cusa wrote of his discovery that God is "girded about with the coincidence of contradictories." He calls this the "wall of paradise" beyond which God resides: "Thus, it is on the other side of coincidence of contraries that you [God] will be able to be seen and nowhere on this side" (in Bell).

On this side most everything about God seems somewhat paradoxical, but that's just the way it is in order for us to be in Isness for ourselves. Presumably in Eden we were inside the walls of orthoparadox, but in our fallen state we face the wall of complementarity.

But it is no small thing to realize this. This may not be the best analogy, but it reminds me of Panic Disorder. A panic attack is a terrifying experience, especially if you don't realize it's "only" a panic attack. But if you do, then it's possible to detach from the experience somewhat and ride it out.

Likewise, if you imagine the various cosmic complementarities to be paradoxical contradictions, then your thinking will suffer. Indeed, most every bad philosophy -- which is most -- begins by abstracting one complementarity from its I-AMese twin and then elevating it to a totalistic metaphysic. Materialism is just one version of this. Idealism is its pathological sibling.

Which leads to an important point about heresy (and about the charge of Gnosticism discussed in yesterday's post). That is, if you consider the various heresies, they all result in an ontological shrinkage, not an expansion, of the divine reality. While they always masquerade as liberating or mind-expanding, they do so from an anthropocentric point of view.

The logical endpoint of such shrunken Gnosticism is modern liberalism, which has managed to fully liberate itself from God.

But this perverse liberation is just another name for nihilism. In reality -- the divine reality -- freedom could never be detached from the Good. In God, freedom and goodness are obviously one. And if you believe in saints and in sanctity -- or in the sanctification/theosis process -- it comes down to an increasing harmony of freedom and goodness as we ascend closer to the divine source.

Conversely, "progress" for progressives is whatever redounds to the destruction of Christian civilization. They don't hesitate to acknowledge this. Why do conservatives?

The progressive materialist is free "in the sense that breaking an arm confers a new freedom of movement on the arm: it is the freedom of incoherence. In philosophy as in morals, it is the facile path that leads to hell and the hard one that rises to heaven..." (Sire).

Yes, if you jump from a building you will "fly." Up to a point. Or, it is "like a husband who resolves the problem of controlling his wife by murdering her" (ibid.).

Nothing brings more narcissistic joy to the progressive than the conceit that he is more educated, or sophisticated, or scientific, or intellectual than the restavus. To a certain extent these are accurate, so long as we deploy the qualifier "merely," as in "merely intellectual."

For the cheap omniscience of the tenured leaves them entirely -- and proudly -- outside the Walls of Paradise alluded to above. After all, if mere words were sufficient then the Incarnation would be superfluous. But not only did Jesus leave no book, he left not a single printed syllable. Rather, he is the book God throws at us.

One of our fundamental epistemological distinctions is between (k), or ordinary knowledge, and (n), which is essentially (lower case) gnosis. This is again a wholly orthodox and venerable idea, for it goes to the difference between open and therefore living vs. closed and therefore dead language. To be open to O is to assure that language never reaches a dead-end nul-de-slack, but rather, is perpetually infused with energies from the very source of language itsoph; for

"Language is not its own end: it comes from and leads to thought that transcends it" (Bell).

This again goes to that pulsating meta-cosmic circular flow at the heart of creation described in yesterday's post:

"Movement along this vertical axis is not simply upward: life from heaven can come down to earth." Via man-through-Christ, "Heaven [reaches] to earth through him even as earth reaches to heaven in him. Downward and upward he is as a tree" (ibid.).

God is an open book. Only man's learning can close it.

Man too is an open book. Only rejection of God can end it.

And although he's got a Way with Words, God is fortunately a terrible mathematician, or one plus one would equal one or two instead of three. I suppose he's a practitioner of the evernew math.

At times I think there are no words / But these to tell what’s true / And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden --Gates of Eden, Bob Dylan

Monday, August 17, 2015

O, Nothing in Particular

Picking up from where we loafed off... which was wherenow? Something about whether there is actually such a thing as Man, or if man is, as the Darwin-at-all-costs insists, just a random jumble of contingencies -- a permanently moving target instead of the being who is permanently moving toward his nonlocal target, i.e.i.e., O. You know the old gag: eros shot toward the heart of the son.

But first, thank you for all those kind komments. I hadn't planned on a living eulogy, just the announcement of a brief break and an open thread to go along with it. The reference to "ten years of service" was just tossed out there, but became the focus.

Which is fine. I know that every year on his birthday, Dennis Prager invites guests to call in and let him know how he has changed their lives. It's a profound and touching ritual, and it helps both parties in different ways. For Prager, he says he always takes praise to heart and criticism to the head, where most people presumably do it the other way around.

I'd like to believe I'm the same way. There's just no way those flattering comments could go to my head, for reasons mentioned in one of my comments: if they did, it wouldn't be an occasion for narcissistic inflation, but rather, black despair. If I am IT, then we, my fiends, are as deluded as any Obama voter. I don't know how these new age teachers such as Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra or fill-in-the-blank can live with their depraved selves. Probably by projecting it into conservatives.

No, my self esteem just isn't that high, and I promise that there's nothing you folks can do about it. Besides, if self esteem is what I were after, wouldn't I write a bunch of useless books for the mediocretin masses or get myself published in the International Journal of Tenured Hackery?

On the other hand, to the extent that the blog is truly "efficacious" -- meaning that it does apparently lead to genuine change in people's lives -- then that is Something to be looked or even sneezed at. What's going on there? I have to believe it begins with me, because that is precisely where I begin: my first operating principle, as it were, is to get me out of the way. In fact, it's really spelled out in the book, isn't it?

For example, we begin (or end) by positing the existence of O -- which is necessarily many things, such as the Organized Totality. I believe that by selflessly orienting ourselves to it, we set up a kind of vertical exchange of energies which we symbolize (⇅). When I first came up with that idea, I imagined I was being a little daring or esoteric or avant garde, but I've come to realize that I'm just being as literal and mundane as can be.

For example, a reader this morning posed the following question for Catholic anti-Bob whisperers: "how does one reconcile the esoterist perspective on religion with the exoteric religion that is largely intolerant of any heresy? I mean Schuon is clearly a heretic (Bob likely is too) according church teaching. It seems to me that believing special revelation exists outside the church isn't compatible with being a legit Catholic."

What I am suggesting is that there is nothing "special" about this verticalisthenic exercise, nor are we talking about Revelation, and certainly no revelation that deviates from Tradition. Catholicism is a rather large tent, in fact, the largest tent I have thus far encountered on this earth.

I mean, Meister Eckhart? Yes, he ran into a couple of bumpkins in the road during the Inquisition, but he was never excommunicated, and he is as Far Out as you can get without burning down the tent. I've been meaning to do a Meister Eckhart Review and Update. Soon.

Here are some concrete examples, torn from my recent slactio divina. Take this book on Aquinas by Bernard McGinn (who also wrote THE best book on brother Eckhart).

First of all, this haiku-ized statement by Thomas could be our motto:

our task is to hand

onto others the things gained

in contemplation

It goes like this: 1) (↑), 2) (o), 3) (↓), 4) (→). In fact, you could say that your Lavish Praise is (←). And I know and you know that (←) is a meager thing unless it is preceded by your own (↑) and (↓). I am just the middleman. You're welcome.

About the charge of esoterism. Well, yes and no. No because I don't believe I contradict Tradition, Yes because one can hardly get more esoteric than Christianity itself.


Take the circular structure of One Cosmos, the prequel. Pretty modernist and avant garde, right?


"The wisdom found in revelation and the wisdom that is the gift of the Holy Spirit go beyond any wisdom we can acquire by our own thinking -- they are what Thomas calls 'supernatural gifts.' They come from God [↓] and are integral in our return to God [↑]..."

This is the Circle to which the book -- and blog -- conforms: "For Thomas there is a cycle of wisdom, a circular process of emanation and return to God, following the order of the circular model of the creation and return of the universe."

Yes, that is pretty esoteric but that is also the Doctor of the Church talking, so no, you can't buy some pot from him.

You might even notice that I yoinked a bizarre statement by Thomas and placed it above the comment box below:

The circle among figures and circular motion among all the forms of movement are the most perfect, because there is a return to the source in them. For this reason in order that the whole of creation attains its final perfection, it is necessary for creatures to return to their source.

Nor is it remotely Gnostic to say that the Great Return is a return to Nothing.

First of all, that is made plain by Eckhart's crack on p. 6, the Page of Darkness: There is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing, rather unnamed than named, unknown than known, etc.

To borrow a gag from this other book, we're not talking about some vague and vacuous existentialist nothing in general, but rather, the divine and slacuous nothing in particular.

Not much time this morning. Back to vertical play but back to horizontal toil as well.