Friday, August 12, 2016

Predestined to Freedom

We were talking about a possible relationship between involution and universals. My intuition tells me that one is impossible without the other.

Now, first of all, what do we mean by involution? For me, it is almost synonymous with "creation," or at least with the manner in which the creator creates. In other words, because the universe is created, it has certain features that mark it as being so. Indeed, the existence of these features cannot be explained in any other way.

Our creator is intelligent, which is the sufficient reason for the intelligibility that pervades the cosmos wherever we look. Likewise our own intelligence, which both mirrors and explores the intelligibility: intelligence and intelligibility are complementary sides of the same single reality, i.e., the createdness of things.

Our creator is also -- obviously -- alive, thus we inhabit a living cosmos. As I suggested in the book, biological life is a kind of focused concentration of a more general principle, like light through a magnifying glass. This is one reason why I was so drawn to the works of biologist Robert Rosen, because he says the same thing, even though he was not a believer. Rather, he just saw that biology was more universal than physics.

This is also why I was so pleased when a reader alerted me to the works of "metaphysical architect" (my term) Christopher Alexander. Alexander says that life is everywhere implicit in the cosmos, and that it is his job as an architect to render it explicit via certain patterns and relationships. Interestingly, you would think that this is a rather abstract theory, but it is really quite the opposite.

That is, it is empirical and experiential, at least if your soul remains open to it. You have one experience in, say, the Chartres cathedral, another inside a McDonald's. The former not only is more "alive," but it also radiates or transmits a spiritual presence. Conversely, the McDonald's transmits no life and no spirit. It is barren and dry -- even more barren and dry than the empty land on which it sits.

Which goes to another point: it is not as if the living spiritual reality is only made present by man's manipulation of patterns and relationships. Rather, it is spontaneously present everywhere in nature, in mountains, rivers, oceans, clouds, the animal kingdom, the starry sky, etc. Why should this be so? And why shouldn't we trust our intuition when it conveys the reality of a spirit-saturated nature?

That is one way I think of involution: that the Creator is everywhere involved in his creation. This is not the same as directing it from above or pulling all the strings in a deterministic manner. What I am saying doesn't so much go to cause as to presence; it is more a vertical reality than a horizontal one.

When we are in the presence of the sacred, it is not something brought about causally from past to present, but vertically from the top down. Sanctity is the downward prolongation of God into our world. We don't create it, but we must be open to it. Also, we can bring about circumstances that render it more visible -- or palpable -- but again, that doesn't mean we are its source.

To say that man is created is to say that we too are a kind of prolongation of God, such that God is intimately involved in and with us. In man there are both horizontal and vertical causes, not to mention different degrees in each. In other words, there is both horizontal and vertical hierarchy.

In one sense, we are a "creation" of the past. We can each trace past causes that led to our present circumstances. However, this can never be an exhaustive explanation, because the horizontal causes are always interacting with vertical ones. We are woven by a mysterious pattern of freedom and necessity, and it is easy to overemphasize one or the other, i.e., to fall into predestination at one end (no freedom) and existentialism at the other (all freedom, AKA nothingness).

This is something I tried to convey in an orthoparadoxical comment yesterday to a post by Bruce Charlton. I'm not sure I made my point clear when I suggested that "we are only truly free to the extent that we choose what we are and what is. Only a free being can comprehend predestination, and man is uniquely predestined to be free to realize the destiny that precedes him."

That soiled gem of bobscurity was inspired by an essay by Schuon called The Question of Evangelicalism. The theme of the piece is on whether protestantism is legitimate or not (short answer: yes), but it is a wide-ranging article that touches on many primordial issues, one of which being the paradoxical relationship between freedom and predestination -- or our freedom and God's omnipotence. How can these two coexist? I know, I know, but the standard answers don't satisfy my demand for logic, or at least compelling illogic.

I'm not sure I even understood what Schuon is saying, which is why I'm returning to it. Hopefully this isn't a distraction, but will somehow relate to the topic at hand, involution and universals.

First of all, Schuon points out that there are spiritual archetypes. By definition these archetypes are ontologically prior to us; we don't invent them, but rather, discover them. Or, more likely, we simply unconsciously identify with one.

God is obviously the archetype of archetypes. You could say that the archetypes are analogous to his primordial thoughts, at least as they pertain to our world. There is a human archetype, which is to say, our nature. Indeed, you could say that Jesus is God's archetype of man, just as he is our archetype of God. Both vectors meet in Jesus, which is pretty much the whole point of his being here with (and in) us.

For Schuon, an archetype is a "legitimate spiritual possibility." There are of course illegitimate spiritual possibilities, as found in everything from Nazism to new-ageism to leftism. These all involve counterfeit archetypes.

In the case of the funny pneumatic money, it is as if they invent and bow down to their own manmade archetypes. But this only encloses them in their own absurcular microcosmos, closed and cut off from the whole, the real source of life and spirit (not to mention intelligence; or, to be precise, intelligence renders itself stupid when it cuts itself off from its own vertical source -- just as life renders itself dead when it closes itself to the environment via starvation or asphyxiation).

"Each denomination manifests the Gospel in a certain manner," writes Schuon. A Catholic would say that his denomination does so in the fullest manner, but the Protestant would reply that too much of Catholicism is at the human margin, away from the core transmission. The purpose of this post is not to arbitrate that question, but rather, to point out that religion is somewhat analogous to Alexander's conception of architecture, in that it is a kind of vertical and nonlocal "structure" for rendering spirit present -- a cathedral of the mind (and spirit).

Schuon notes that Protestantism "retains from the Gospel the spirit of simplicity and inwardness while accentuating the mystery of faith..." Interestingly, he suggests that part of this has to do with the nature and needs of the Germanic soul -- needs that are not in and of themselves illegitimate. In fact, we all deserve a God who speaks to us, i.e., in our "language of being."

I wonder if the language of being changed with the emergence of widespread literacy? It must have. The iconography of Catholicism and Orthodoxy speaks even to the illiterate. You might say it is a direct transmission to the right brain, but what happened when people became literate and therefore more left-brained? It must have awakened a new need for clarity and individuality.

At the same time, "Lutheran doctrine is founded essentially upon the anthropological pessimism and the predestinationism of Saint Augustine: man is fundamentally a sinner, and he is totally determined by the Will of God."

Is this a "legitimate" archetype? Yes and no. For Luther, "the first condition of salvation... is the awareness of abysmal and invincible sin, and hence the impossibility of vanquishing sin by our own strength." There is a tension between grace and freedom, but Luther emphasizes the former. And it is true that grace is a necessary condition -- i.e., a condition without which -- but that doesn't mean there are no sufficient conditions that can cooperate (or not) with it.

Schuon suggests that "Without works, faith would not quite be faith, and without faith, works would be eschatologically inoperative," i.e., just horizontal arrangements cut off from God, with no intrinsic meaning or value.

But Luther sacrifices "freedom to the Prescience and Omnipotence of God," and therefore "intelligence to faith." For Schuon, "this is solely a question of spiritual temperament," not of the literal reality of things. I know people who are reassured by the idea that "God is in control" and that everything will somehow work out for the best. I am just not built that way, and if I said that, I would be lying to myself.

Back to the question at hand. Schuon points out that "Absolute Being comprises both Necessity and Freedom." And because this is the case, our world is comprised of the same things -- again, think of God's involution, his involvement in creation. Therefore, "it is false to deny the possibility of freedom in the world, just as it is false to deny predestination."

It would appear that freedom and necessity (predestination) are truly complementary. But in all complementaries, one must be prior. Which is what I was trying to convey in the comment above, in that it is necessary to be free in order to know our destiny. Necessity must be a mode of freedom, because the converse could never be true. We are predestined to freedom, and there is not a thing we can do about it. Except to use freedom to choose our (pre)destiny.

52 Comments:

Blogger Allena said...

"But Luther sacrifices "freedom to the Prescience and Omnipotence of God," and therefore "intelligence to faith." For Schuon, "this is solely a question of spiritual temperament," not of the literal reality of things. I know people who are reassured by the idea that "God is in control" and that everything will somehow work out for the best. I am just not built that way, and if I said that, I would be lying to myself."

This is precisely what drew me into reading your blog, Bob. And your book. Well, that and your wonderful sense of humor. :)

Freedom and grace are as synonymous as love and truth, and I cooncur they are as complementary.

8/12/2016 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Allena said...

To further intropolate, involution also shows the connectivity (and complementary) of freedom, grace, works, faith, love, truth, the virtues, life, etc..

Without involution there is no intelligence, and certainly no possibility of trancendence.

8/12/2016 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon says that God is immanent because transcendent, and vice versa. That is, he spills over out of himself and into everything. This is similar to how Eckhart sees God, like some bubbling cauldron of divinity that spills over the sides.

8/12/2016 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So, in a sense, God "can't help" creating, because it's in his nature. Doesn't mean he had to create this creation, but he too is predestined to creative freedom, so to speak.

8/12/2016 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

It would also appear the idea that life has limits, and knowing those limits, offers a basis for wisdom.

8/12/2016 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I want to write a post on how unlimited government is a mirror image of an unlimited scientism, and how limited government rests on a foundation of limited science. For example, the latter posits a spiritual freedom rooted in our createdness, which obviously transcends the boundaries of what science can deal with...

8/12/2016 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The iconography of Catholicism and Orthodoxy speaks even to the illiterate. You might say it is a direct transmission to the right brain, but what happened when people became literate and therefore more left-brained? It must have awakened a new need for clarity and individuality.

Indeed, though as people became more lettered they also became in a way illiterate, inasmuch as the meaning behind much of the iconography was forgotten, at least in the West.

8/12/2016 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

We are predestined to freedom and there's not a thing we can do about it.

Excellent.

8/12/2016 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

...limited government rests on a foundation of limited science.

Could it be said that one of the unspoken tenets of scientism is that there should be no limits placed on science? This would make a sort of sense; just as God is bigger than the universe, so must the idol science be inflated to something unconstrainable if man is to have any faith in it.

8/12/2016 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I know people who are reassured by the idea that "God is in control" and that everything will somehow work out for the best.

I think it depends on the definition or "everything". If it means everything in this temporal life, than I agree that I'm not built that way either. But if everything means our eternal life than I agree that "everything" will turn out for the best.

8/12/2016 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

'Could it be said that one of the unspoken tenets of scientism is that there should be no limits placed on science?"

Yes. They suggest on the one hand that every existent is knowable -- I have no problem with that -- but that it is only knowable via the method of science. This reduces what may be known to what science can say about it, and covertly elevates science to a bogus omniscience. But thanks to Godel, man always transcends any such system.

8/12/2016 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Finding Zen through Yoga and Beer.

"Yoga and beer. Two words that most folks would usually not expect in the same sentence, let alone actually be involved with each other."

Wha? I didn't know they could be uninvolved with each other.

8/12/2016 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"This is also why I was so pleased when a reader alerted me to the works of "metaphysical architect" (my term) Christopher Alexander. Alexander says that life is everywhere implicit in the cosmos, and that it is his job as an architect to render it explicit via certain patterns and relationships. Interestingly, you would think that this is a rather abstract theory, but it is really quite the opposite."

Both abstract,and extremely practical. Alexander's ideas are at the heart of Object Oriented Programming, which is what I do to earn a living, and without which this site, and our ability to read it, would not be possible.

(Unfortunately... there are some cruddy programmers out there. Sigh. Parallels.)

8/12/2016 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"This is something I tried to convey in an orthoparadoxical comment yesterday to a post by Bruce Charlton. I'm not sure I made my point clear when I suggested that "we are only truly free to the extent that we choose what we are and what is. Only a free being can comprehend predestination, and man is uniquely predestined to be free to realize the destiny that precedes him.""

Similar to what I was getting at in my comments on the previous post, with the fly off AI. If your 'brain' is unable to make an error, it can't possibly get anything correct - that requires understanding, and the ability to be both ignorant,and to make mistaken choices.

If you can't be wrong, you're not up to bring right.

Related, without the possibility of sin (not the actuality, but the possibility of it), you could not be Virtuous. Just couldn't.

8/12/2016 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Also, autocorrect delende est.

8/12/2016 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Knowledge must be preceded by not-knowing, AKA ignorance. Can computers not know and then make an intuitive guess -- which is how science proceeds?

8/12/2016 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"Tap That Asana"

Yoga, beer and classy broads.

***

Van, autocorrect is my nemesis. Especially since it always wants to correct "its" to "it's", regardless of context.

8/12/2016 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Imagine James Joyce dealing with auto-correct.

BTW, Scientists Discover That James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Has an Amazingly Mathematical “Multifractal” Structure

Haven't read the article. File under Too Good to Check.

8/12/2016 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ha!

8/12/2016 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

A better link out of that wretched website about Joyce at the Guardian.

8/12/2016 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Ebony Raptor sez:

"I think it depends on the definition or "everything". If it means everything in this temporal life, than I agree that I'm not built that way either. But if everything means our eternal life than I agree that "everything" will turn out for the best."

My sediments exactly.

8/13/2016 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT but not really, ran across this quote which recalls the 'coons I know:

"On the American desert are horses which eat the locoweed and some are driven made by it; their vision is affected, they take enormous leaps to cross a tuft of grass or tumble blindly into rivers. The horses which have become thus addicted are shunned by the others and will never rejoin the herd. So it is with human beings: those who are conscious of another world, the world of the spirit, acquire an outlook which distorts the values of ordinary life; they are consumed by the weed of non-attachment. Curiosity is their one excess and therefore they are recognized not by what they do, but by what they refrain from doing, like those Araphants or disciples of Buddha who are pledged to the "Nine Incapabilities." Thus they do not take life, they do not compete, they do not boast, they do not join groups of more than six, they do not condemn others; they are "abandoners of revels, mute, contemplative" who are depressed by gossip, gaiety and equals, who wait to be telephoned to, who neither speak in public, nor keep up with their friends, nor take revenge upon their enemies. Self-knowledge has taught them to abandon hate and blame and envy in their lives, and they look sadder than they are. They seldom make positive assertions because they see, outlined against any statement, as a painter sees a complementary color, the image of its opposite. Most psychological questionnaires are designed to search out these moonlings and to secure their non-employment. They divine each other by a warm indifference for they know that they are not intended to forgather, but, like stumps of phosphorus in the world's wood, each to give forth his misleading radiance."

Cyril Connoly

8/13/2016 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, that does sound rather familiar.

Wait, Cyril Connoly is a real person? I only know the name because of the last part of Monty Python's "Eric, the Half a Bee" song.

8/13/2016 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't think I've ever mentioned this in a post, but by the age of seven or so, I had determined that most everything -- the things people care about, or get all worked up about, or hope for -- was just kind of *stupid* (school obviously fell into this category). I guess you could say I was cynical, but the cynicism coincided with a kind of innocence and idealism -- who knows, maybe the cynicism served to protect them.

There were a few things that made sense to me, such as music, baseball, and doing nothing, i.e., just spontaneous fun with my friends.

In any event, I've never gotten over this attitude. Most things people care about are still kind of stupid to me and hold no attraction. I am reminded of a Simpsons episode, when Homer is complaining to Marge about having to go to some function -- a dinner party or wedding or something. Marge says, "If they hadn't invited us, then we would have been offended. And if we don't go, then they'll be offended."

Homer sadly shakes his head and says I'll never understand the adult world. That's me.

8/13/2016 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes, he was real. Never heard of him till I ran across a Hemingway quote of high praise for his odd book called, The Unquiet Grave.

8/13/2016 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For some reason my comment says it was at the age of seven. It was actually more like 12. Cursed autocorrect!

8/13/2016 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Actually, his last name is spelled Connolly.

8/13/2016 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I suppose Socrates is the archetype. He spent his life in a state of bemusement, wondering why people believed the things they did. If I recall correctly, it was he who walked through the marketplace one day and marveled at the countless things for which he had no use.

8/13/2016 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, part of Cryil's quote recalled you saying once, some thing to the effect "..I only look bored on the outside.."

8/13/2016 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have often said that while it may look as if I'm doing nothing, that is far from the case. Rather, it's all happening inside. That's where the phrase "extreme seeker" came from. I'm never bored, at least so long as I'm not haunted by obligations. The other day I was telling my son that while he is an external adventurer, I'm an interior one. We both enjoy thrills & spills, just in different ways. I was just like him at age 11. Because school was so boring, it took me until about age 25 to start to realize how interesting the interior is. Someone said that life is too interesting to merely live it, or something like that...

8/13/2016 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick, I didn't see your last comment when I wrote that...

8/13/2016 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Re Socrates, my wife and I and another couple used to go to this thing almost every year in NY called the worlds largest garage sale. Always hopeful to find something interesting or whatever, a luggable piece of furniture handmade, neat book, album; can't know till you find it. Anyway, sometimes (I never told my wife) I'll get an almost overwhelming sense of sadness while there.

8/13/2016 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

That's remarkable. Wavelengths gotta wave.

8/13/2016 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of thrilling and dangerous adventures, I'm reading a forbidden book, Why Race Matters, recommended by Happy Acres. It is quite good. Not remotely "racist," rather, just tells it like it is.

8/13/2016 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I recently went to the mall for the first time in years to pick up a repaired computer from the Apple Store, and was completely overwhelmed. Not anxious, but just a little disoriented at all the window displays pulling my attention this way and that. It was a little like having one's souls extracted from one's body and dispersed into the surrounding environment.

8/13/2016 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Alan Watts once called seagulls "winged hunger." In a consumer society, it is as if Americans are "wheeled desire." The other day I mentioned to my son that he should notice the structure of desire -- that not only do we want things, but we want to want them. Therefore, when we satisfy a want, a new one quickly displaces it. I pointed out that I am hardly free of the impulse. For example, I have CDs I still haven't listened to, but still want more. (Although I have succeeded in rendering the habit nearly extinct.)

8/13/2016 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's like being addicted to itching because scratching is such a relief...

8/13/2016 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We once had a dog that manifested almost human-like envy. We'd give both the dogs a bone, but she wouldn't be happy unless she stole the other one's bone. But then she'd be paranoid that everyone else wanted her bones, so she wasn't really happy.

That's pretty much the structure of liberalism: all they ever think about is somebody else's bone, while imagining that everybody else is greedy.

8/13/2016 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I knew a guy who took great pleasure in criticizing people's need for an SUV.
He owned a sailboat.
I didn't have the heart to point this out to him.
Mainly because I want him to keep the boat. He likes it very much.

8/13/2016 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Allena said...

That's an excellent analogy. Also, many liberals want those who don't experience the psychic pain they have to have the same pain (equality!).

8/13/2016 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "...I'm never bored, at least so long as I'm not haunted by obligations. The other day I was telling my son that while he is an external adventurer, I'm an interior one. We both enjoy thrills & spills, just in different ways..."

Oh, that's a goodun, and I excitedly cooncur.

8/13/2016 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The boy is really into parkour and free-running, doing flips and things that scare the grown-ups at the park. Likewise, this book on Why Race Matters would definitely shock the grown-ups.

8/13/2016 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

SJWs aren't happy unless they're unhappy about some victim. Which is why virtue-signaling is their only joy.

8/13/2016 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Allena said...

Virtue signaling without the virtue.
But SJWs feel virtuous so that's all that matters to them.

8/13/2016 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

The book, I think recommended by maineman, titled "Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness" is fascinating. And only about 100 or so pages. Needs a better cover, though.

8/13/2016 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger doug saxum said...

Off Topic:

Does anyone have the link to the Raccoon Playroom?

Dougman

8/13/2016 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/13/2016 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I had forgotten that site existed. But it does! here :)

8/13/2016 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger doug saxum said...

Thanks Julie!

I'm going to try to download a song or two.

Hope it works.

8/13/2016 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger razzbuddy said...

Bob,

Many things you write about often seem to me connected to the Arab mystic, Ibn Arabi. I don't think I've seen you mention him. Shuon perhaps is a proxy for him? This post goes straight to the heart of the Hadith Qudsi ""I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known...". Are we necessary to creation?

8/14/2016 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Odd you should mention Ibn Arabi, because I just ordered Henry Corbin's book on him, Alone With the Alone. To the extent that he is an influence on me, it would definitely be a ricochet off Schuon, so indirectly.

Are we necessary to creation? Yes, in a manner of speaking. Eckhart says as much in his usual orthoparadoxical way, and I suspect that there are some parallels between him and Ibn Arabi.

8/14/2016 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Kind of curiously that Greek philosophical dude P Kingsley was translator of Ibn 'Arabi's bio QUEST FOR THE RED SULPHUR
https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Red-Sulphur-Arabi-Golden/dp/0946621454
[am an old fan of Corbin, Ibn' during Sufi phase of mystic trads del mundo journey]

8/15/2016 08:23:00 AM  

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