Friday, October 30, 2015

Our Cosmic Drama: It's Weird, but is it Weird Enough?

The book we're discussing -- Ordering Love -- takes seriously the idea that love is the ultimate order of the cosmos. If God is a relation of love, then what sort of cosmos is necessary in order to reveal his nature?

Along these lines, Schindler quotes J Rat, who says that "the world is created in order to provide a setting for the covenant by which God binds himself to man."

A movie or play needs a backdrop or stage, but the story is not about the scenery. The identical story can be conveyed with a backdrop of the wild west of the 19th century or outer space of the next century. Which I suppose is one more reason why Jesus -- or the Divine Drama -- only has to happen once.

The nature of our divine drama, writes Schindler, "lies in the fruitful tension" between our freedom and our bond to God. It is a bond, but a bond that is orthoparadoxically composed of freedom -- like marriage.

Conversely, in Islam, just as there are arranged marriages into which freedom does not enter, its entire religious structure -- and by extension, culture, politics, and cosmos -- is characterized by compulsion and submission, not freedom and consent.

In Islam no one is permitted to say Yes to God. For if one is forbidden to say No, then Yes doesn't enter the equation.

The same applies to the totalitarian lusting left. If they had their way, no one could say Yes to the left because no one would be permitted to say No -- which is the purpose of college speech codes and the like. Saying No to the left renders you a non-person. I know this because I live in an extremely blue area, and they talk about us as if we don't exist.

Schindler's prose at times verges on the turgidity of the tenured, as in the following: "What we properly term drama, in a word, has its ontological origin in the abiding depth and fruitful tension presupposed in the simultaneous unity-within-duality of subject (self) and object (other) in the free act."

Why not just say that the ultimate drama is between man and God? All drama is a subset of this. Indeed, all history is its reflection and residue.

The tension between man and God is first vertical. But it is prolonged in time, and this is what we call history (or, on an individual basis, development).

Now, here is where things get interesting, because God, who is at the other end of that vertical tension, decides to enter the drama.

First of all, why doesn't this collapse the tension and resolve the drama? In other words, if the drama is a consequence of the polarity, doesn't the Incarnation de-polarize it?

Well, this would go to the importance of keeping our categories straight, as did the early Councils. The fact that Jesus is simultaneously all-God and all-man has the effect of maintaining the cosmic tension. Without this tension we couldn't have the dramatic arc of the Passion.

For example, the heresy of Docetism removes the tension by insisting that Jesus only appears to be human. Or in Monophysitism, the divine and human are collapsed into one nature. Various forms of Gnosticism basically reject the backdrop -- matter -- rendering the Incarnation pointless.

The upshot is that God is able to enter history without destroying the dramatic tension between man and God.

More to the point, he preserves freedom and therefore love. This is the very opposite of what one might expect, in that God does not come down like some totalitarian cosmic dictator, but rather, as an offering of love and relationship.

I have a feeling that I'm not doing justice to the weirdness of it all.

Remember, there is the vertical tension between man and God. God takes on this tension by "entering history himself and staying there all the way through to his suffering and forsakenness on the Cross" (ibid.). The drama appears to end in his death on the cross, but that turns out to be only a brief inter-mission.

In another obscure passage -- and maybe it's impossible to make a mystery this deep any clearer -- Schindler writes of a "passion so deep that it enables giving birth to God and thus as it were giving God himself in response to God." This is the "born again" God to whom we are free to say Yes -- a God fully involved in history, and with us to the end of days.

Mary's Yes allows for the birth of God in history (and in human development). But Jesus must also freely say Yes to his own divinity, right through the cross and beyond. In other words, it is a Yes in the context of a living faith that carries him through even the ultimate impasse of death.

And still the drama continues.

If he does not hide from his own self, he comes to the insight: this is the goal toward which my whole being tends, this is where I want to go.... my ego is the place where I must transcend myself most profoundly, the place where I am touched by my ultimate origin and goal. --Schindler

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Man Minus God = Death On Two Legs

More spindle clearing, this time a book by theologian David Schindler called Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God. The post may or may not come together. Not only am I winging it -- which is always the case -- but I'm feeling a little loose in the head.

I suppose we could say that postmodern secular societies are nevertheless haunted by the memory of God, just as a man in prison might be haunted by memories of sex. Both impulses are part of man's standard operating equipment. They can be "ignored or even forgotten or dismissed," but that hardly means they are no longer present.

I have a note to myself in the margin: emptiness is to God as curiosity is to science and wonder to philosophy. In all three cases a dynamic tension is generated. You could even say that these tensions fuel the drama of life; to paraphrase Schindler, they stir the imagination and evoke the passions.

In turn, this is the very same energy that prompts us to explore beyond appearances and into reality. Thus, this passionate energy is a prerequisite for seeing into the dimension of ontological depth.

It is "in contrast to the dull repetition of a machine-like entity, whose movement remains superficial" and is "merely a function of external forces." This is precisely what distinguishes human life from mere biological life: the passionate adventure into the dimension of depth:

"It is passion and interior power, then, that enable human life and action to be truly dramatic." But what is the drama really about?

You could say that the passionate curiosity that animates the scientist is about understanding the material world. But what's that all about? Most scientists never stop to ask, but this goes to the difference between science and philosophy of science. Philosophy is a little higher up the food chain, but what is it really about? It is about truth. And what is truth about?

First of all, in order to have a relation with something, we have to have an interior. Things with no interior cannot be related to one another, since there is no awareness. Perhaps the most revolutionary implication of modern physics is that everything has an interior, such that everything is interiorly related to everything else, from the subatomic to the cosmic.

In man, interior relations reach their highest creaturely expression, as we are in the image of the God who is irreducible relationship. Just as there is no independent particle beneath or behind the wave, there is no "substantial" God behind his relations. God is relationship (or substance-in-relation).

"Passion and interiority, in short, disclose the deepest depths of what characterizes our creaturely openness to the infinite. They indicate the human receptive capacity for relation to God."

We could say that the ultimate constitution of man is this "capacity for God." This is indeed self-evident, being that God is another word for Ultimate, and everybody's got one (even if it is just a shadow or vague memory of the actual Ultimate).

This also explains why "when God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible." This statement is completely logical -- like saying "when flight is forgotten, wings become unintelligible," or "when breathing is forgotten, the lungs grow unintelligible."

Things have their sufficient reason, and man's sufficient reason is contemplation of, and communion with, God. In other words, it is the One Thing that explains everything else about us; conversely, the mere sum of everything else about us does not add up to our capacity for God.

Certainly it is the One Thing that explains the existence of freedom, or free will. There can be no bottom up explanation of free will, because freedom by definition transcends lower causes.

In other words, if freedom is determined by lower causes, it bloody well isn't freedom, now is it? (And this is not to deny the existence of some causal factors; we are not disembodied angelic beings.) But the good person is still free to do bad, while the bad person is free to do good.

Now, if what we have said above is true, then man is a kind of bridge between dimensions or worlds. It reminds me of a crack by Dead Can Dance: We make a road for the spirit to pass over. The body is "a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world" (Schindler). Its purpose is not just "pleasure and efficiency," but rather, contact with others and with God.

How to put it... if you were going to create a being made for contact with God, it would look exactly like a human being. I might add that if you were going to create a planet to host human beings, it would look like this one. Likewise if you wanted to create a cosmos capable of producing stars and planets.

Or we can deny all of these soph-evident truths, in which case we reach the final common disease pathway of postmodern liberalism, AKA the Culture of Death. "The absence of God that correlates with the culture of death... is in the first instance a matter not of moral intention but of ontological depth."

In other words, the death of God becomes a cosmic defense mechanism against the attainment of depth. It is enforced via political correctness, by speech codes, by the liberal noise media, and by the academic unintelligentsia. Oh, and by ideologically undead debate moderators.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Point of It All

As mentioned a few posts back, I'm just trying to clear my spindle, in this case, Schuon's first and rather more challenging book, Primordial Meditation. What follows may or may not make sense. I'm just interfacing with the book and trying to make sense of it.

In a blatant act of anticipatory plagiarism, Schuon wrote -- somewhere between 1928 and 1932 -- that 0 (zero) is, "in the numerical domain, an image of ultimate, highest, pure Reality, of the completely undeterminable Divine, nameable only inadequately through negation."

Its first determination must be 1, and then from there, everything is just multiples of 0 and 1: "[F]rom the number one a quantitative infinity is generated which is only an unfolding... of the inexhaustibility contained in the number zero..."

As an aside or maybe above, I would say that 0 is to Father as 1 is to Son.

Zero must be a quality, since no quantity can fill it; even an infinite series of ones "stands in no comparable relationship to zero and can only symbolize its awesome void by unlimited quantity, without ever being able to fill it..." It's analogous to pi, which "goes on forever" without quite completing its round trip, 〇.

As one is to zero, so are we. In other words, we are determined, whereas zero -- like God -- is not. Thus, "all existent things are no match for for those which are non-existent" (for God is prior to existence).

Nor can all the things of this world actualize or exhaust its possibilities: 〇 is inexhaustible, but it is the source and ground of everything else.

Therefore, although we are one -- a determination -- it is as if our feet and head are in infinity. We are, as it were, "knots" in the infinite. Or, finitude is a knot made of eternity. Schematically, it must look like this:


That's man in a knotshall.

Symbolically, we could say it is ∞(¶)∞. (¶) -- the psychic being, nous, or divine intellect -- abides between two slabs of eternity. But as it metabolizes the infinite, it starts to look more like ∞ʘ∞. It puts on a little ontological weight and existential heft in between.

Now, when two or more are gathered in Tʘʘts' name, we have ʘʘ, or a Raccʘʘn lodge.

The imponderable journey from zero to one -- or from infinite to determination -- is from potential to actualization. The latter signifies "nothing but a transposition and inversion of the highest Non-Being," now determined by Being.

Here again, from a slightly different angle, I suppose we could say that one is to zero as Being is to Non-Being (or Beyond-Being).

Or, in Eckhart's terms, 1:0 as God:Godhead. To even say "God" is to already reduce his Zero-ness to a kind of One-ness. It's the difference between the cataphatic God -- the God of whom we may speak -- and the apophatic Godhead, about whom we can only unsay and unknow and unblog.

"It is impossible to understand ultimate, absolute, all-surpassing Reality"; rather, "we know of It by knowing nothing, we name It because we must limit It in order to be able to grasp It intellectually." Thus, "comprehensibility and limitation are one and the same to human reason" -- i.e., reducing 0 to 1.

We've discussed in the past how we can only know anything about an object precisely because we cannot know everything about it. In other words, the Everything -- 0 -- must be prior to the Anything it actualizes -- 1.

But man is all about elevating this or that any-thing to the Great Everything. Most men "inhabit only one fragment of the soul," which is in turn "receptive to repercussions from the perceptible world..."

Indeed, this is how a (more or less fallen) world comes into being, and even how a fallen being comes into being. In other words, such a one is a creature of the horizontal environment instead of the vertical.

In the higher sense -- i.e., (¶) -- "man is connected through the Spirit with the Reality that corresponds to It... by actually being a presence of Reality or Being in man..."

What this means is that the higher self must receive its repercussions -- or reVerb-Orations -- from a higher world, such that we literally talk to the beat of a different nonlocal percussionist.

Even the simplest thing is a center which must partake of the Center in order to exist at all. Thus, anything is an echo, however distant, of Celestial Central. You could say that everything and everybody has a point -- • -- unless we reject God and render ourselves pointless.

I think too that the point of the point is that it is actually an axis that spans the worlds, and which man uniquely inhabits. If it weren't for this vertical axis we would be like planets with no sun, just wandering about randomly. But a circular orbit is really defined by the axis between gravitational centers.

There are also false centers, which goes to what was said above about our center being reinforced by an external environment, which is ultimately an exteriorization or crystallization of our own fragmented self.

Such a man is "nourished by delusion" -- instead of O -- until he reaches its limits in, say, an absurd scientism. The latter is a hell precisely because its practitioner has succeeded in containing what can only contain him, and thereby committing cosmic cluelesside.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Grace is a Finger Pointing to its Source

We've been discussing the Orthodox approach to atonement and salvation, which got me to reminiscing about my first exposure to these ideas, which was in the book A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought, by Robin Amis.

My amazon account indicates that I purchased it on December 20, 2002, which is about two years prior to finishing the book. I tried rereading it over the weekend, and found it to be somewhat sprawling, unfocussed, and repetitive. Nevertheless, it did open up a number of vital cosmic arteries for me, including in particular Meditations on the Tarot, which I purchased a month later, on January 18, 2003.

However, my first attempt at MotT was a fail, and I didn't return to it for a year or so, when Petey ordered me to give it another try. It was then a smashing success, except it now meant that my book was bobsolete, stillborn, dead on arrival.

Up to that point it was pretty much all yoga and no Christianity. Being that I wanted it to be about Everything, this put me in a cosmic pickle, such that I had to revise the whole upperating system to make it compatible with Christianity, and to this day it bears the traces or scars of I-Amphibiously spanning two spiritual worlds. The whole story has been laboriously blogged before, so I won't belabor it again.

Since I am pressed for time, today will be our weekly descent into the knowa's arkive. I searched for "Robin Amis," and this is what I pulled out, edited and updated from about 5.5 years ago:

While we're discussing Boris Mouravieff, I should point out for those unfamiliar with the name that he was an Orthodox Christian with a Gurdjieff-Ouspenskian (Fourth Way) slant, somewhat similar to how our Unknown Friend is a Catholic with a hermetic slant.

As it so happens, I first bumped into both gentlemen in the same book, Inner Christianity, the latter of which led to Robin Amis' A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought. It is fair to say that all of these books were central in helping me to get over my Jesus willies once and for all, being that they present Christianity in terms a soph-surfing Raccoon can sink his mischievous claws into.

Not to say that I agree with everything Mouravieff has to say. To the contrary, much of what he says strikes me as overly occult, gnostic (in the pejorative sense), and frankly unOrthodox. He maintains that he was not copying Ouspensky or Gurdjieff, but that he was supposedly dealing with the original sources found in esoteric Christianity. Not bloody likely.

Either way, when people start talking about "secret knowledge," it's time to hold onto your wallet. Yes, there is secret knowledge, but there is no real need to hide it from others (rudimentary discretion notwithstanding), since the secret is quite bashful about disclosing itself to the the unworthy. The Secret protects itself, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Ultimately it is no more secret than, say, quantum physics, which is available to any intellectually qualified and sincerely motivated individual. You don't have to hide quantum physics to keep it secret. Indeed, promiscuously deepakinating it just debases the theory.

Similarly, when I write an over-the-top political hit piece, I get three or four times the traffic. But newcomers almost never return more than once, because the very next post will likely be full of openly secret knowledge which is of no use to them. It is either inaccessible, an affront to their existing faith (or lack thereof), or just too kooky to be of any practical use. In reality, it's just another routine instance of the kosher pearls protecting themselves from the porciners.

Regarding Mouravieff's unorthodoxy, Schuon once made a very important point about people's spiritual experiences. He of course had had many such experiences, but he did not wish for them to be the source of any doctrine. Rather, he wanted Truth to stand on its own merits, and to be understandable and independently verifiable within the awakened intellect (hence, to be universal). He would never dream of saying, for example, "I had a vision of the Virgin Mary [which he did], therefore she is real."

Rather, he maintained that "if one wants to impart mystical certitude to another, the import or message should be capable of being coherently expressed" (Fitzgerald). Along these lines, Fitzgerald quotes a didactic poem by Schuon (translated from the original German):

You may often keep silent about a certitude, / But if you wish to impart it, you must support it / With clear logic; for those who hear you / Want to see a meaning in what you are saying. / You must not say: I am certain of this -- / And then withdraw in proud obscurity. / Finally: what is of no use to anyone, / You are not obliged to preach in the streets.

Not only that, but all of the traditions agree that it is a breach of spiritual protocol to blab on about one's experiences to any- and everyone. Such experiences (?!) always have an aura of sanctity that makes one circumspect about sharing them with the unwashed bipedal primates.

Rather, Fitzgerald quotes another student who recalled Schuon saying words to the effect that "When a man experiences a spiritual state or favor, or when he has a vision or audition, he must never desire this to happen again; and above all he must not base his spiritual life on such a phenomenon, nor imagine that the happening has conferred on him any kind of eminence. The only important thing is to practice what takes us nearer to God..."

In short, (?!) is, yes, a gift, but even more fundamentally, it is a sacred obligation, for ultimately you are obliged to follow it back up to its source and conform your life to the conditions that make the grace flow more readily (e.g., Virtue, Truth, and Beauty).

For this reason, Schuon insisted that his "message" was contained in his books only, not in his peripheral function as a spiritual master for a particular group. The latter function was not unimportant, but it was nevertheless a prolongation of the former, not his central concern or legacy to the world.

But as it so happens -- at least for me -- Schuon's books are jam-packed with his barakah, or spiritual perfume, or transformative grace, or sanctified mojo, or just plain (↓), for which they are the occasion, not the cause. No one should forget that (↓) courses through his words, not from them.

Of this I am quite certain, but my certainty is of no use to another, except perhaps as a suggestion to try it out see for yourself.