Friday, May 06, 2016

Like Father, Like Son, Like the Restavus

Doesn't seem to be much interest in our recent peregrinotions. Either that, or my appeal is becoming more selective.

What are we trying to do here, anyway? First and foremost we are aiming words at eternity for the fun of seeing what we can hit. That is our verticalisthenic exercise. But to paraphrase Schopenhauer, we are like an archer trying to hit a target that can't be seen. How do we know then when we've hit it?

Far be it from me to complain about having too much fun. However, I suppose it's even more fun when a reader says something like, "Ouch. I've been hit, dammit!" Otherwise it's less like archery and more like placing a message in a bottle and tossing it in the sea. Which I'll keep doing, if necessary. But it's a little like writing comedy. How do you know if something is funny if there's no one there to laugh?

When I say we are shooting arrows at the nonlocal target, what I really mean is that we are firing our eros into Celestial Central. "Every created spiritual intellect," writes Clarke, "is endowed... with a radical innate drive toward the whole of being, the unlimited horizon of being as intelligible."

Therefore, it is not accurate to say that man cannot understand God. True, we cannot understand God as he is in himsoph, but that's true of anything, from other persons to rocks. It's a banality. However, we can understand God "in the mode of man," so to speak.

To put it another way, we can understand all we really need to know about God. The rest is none of our isness.

Which is why we are all born with the drive to know God. We wouldn't have this bally drive if it had no object at the other end, any more than we would experience hunger in the absence of food. To express it in philosophical terms, God is the sufficient reason for our zeal to know Him.

"[T]here is in every spiritual intellect a natural drive to know God as Source, fullness of being, and final goal of all knowing..." (ibid.).

Note the operative word, natural. Knowing that we have this drive requires no supernatural revelation, for it is as natural as any other innate drive. In reality, like most things about man, it is "supernaturally natural," but the point is, it is an empirical fact, not some wooly spookulation.

Now, God is love, meaning that God is first and foremost a being of self-giving. That statement -- that God is luuuv -- used to repel me as being overly cloying and sentimental, but now I see it as completely objective and rational. It has great explanatory power; conversely, if God isn't love, then it unexplains mountains and valleys of evidence.

For example, "The fullness of personal development turns out to be a losing or letting go of oneself that is simultaneously and by that very fact a new finding of oneself at a deeper level" (ibid.).

Analogously, might we not say that the Father lets go infinitely of himself, only to find himself in the Son?

"Self-transcendence is thus of the very essence of all personal development at its highest.... Only by reaching beyond the human can we succeed in becoming fully human. To refuse to do so condemns us to fall short of the human itself. To be a human person fully means to self-transcend toward the Infinite" (ibid.).

It is as if -- in a manner of speaking -- only by reaching beyond God does God succeed in becoming fully God. This statement only makes total nonsense in a trinitarian Christian context.

"Since the person is not something added onto being from the outside, but is the highest perfection and most intense expression of existential being itself, the person takes on more intensely the whole dynamism of existence as expansive, self-communicating act..." (ibid.).

Like Father, like Son; like Creator, like creature.

To be fully a person consists in living out to the full the alternating rhythm of self-possession and openness to others, or... 'self-mastery for self-giving'; for it is in the spark that passes from one of these poles to the other and back again that lies the secret of all authentic personal growth, creativity, life, and love that make the living person the supreme manifestation and glory of being. --W. Norris Clarke

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Perpetual Motion, Proof of God, and a Cure for Finitude

To be human is "to live on the edge, on the frontier of matter and spirit, time and eternity..." As such, it is to be an ontological I-AMphibian; we are freely able to choose "either direction, down toward matter or up toward spirit." Our "destiny is thus to journey through matter toward a fulfillment beyond matter" (Clarke).

Never mind that this is not something you will ever learn from the Conspiracy, for it is obviously not in their interest to highlight man's vertical freedom. More scandalous is the fact that one can be exposed to conventional religion without ever being shown the damn cosmic roadmap.

To the extent that we have free will, it is only explained with reference to its proper object, which we call O. Freedom itself is a good, but only -- obviously -- if it is oriented to the Good. Failing that, it is a dubious gift at best, analogous to knowledge without truth or creativity without beauty or "values" without virtue -- or, in a word, tenure.

"The human will," writes Clarke, "is necessarily oriented towards nothing less than the Infinite Good as its only adequate fulfillment..." But finite goods are a reflection or prolongation of the one Good, and there are an infinite number of pathways through them.

It reminds me of jazz: a solo is like a journey from this chord to that, but there are an infinite humber of melodic pathways one can take along the way.

Likewise, the human intellect "is naturally ordered, as to its adequate object, to the whole of being as intelligible." Nothing short of God fully satisfies, but this doesn't mean that sub-divine knowledge is worthless.

Rather, as St. Thomas quipped, "Every knower knows God implicitly in anything it knows." If this is not the case, then we can ultimately know nothing -- or nothing can actually be known.

Yes, we just proved the existence of God. Or, alternatively, the impossibility of proving anything, including this statement. Take your pick.

In the past I have referred to O as the Great Attractor. This was before I even knew that other folks characterized it in the same way, albeit in different terms.

For example, "we are magnetized, so to speak, by our very nature towards the Infinite Good, which draws us in our very depths" in its wake (Clarke). This is "the great hidden dynamo that energizes our whole lives, driving us on to ever new levels of growth and development, and refusing to let us be ultimately contented with any merely finite, especially material, goods."

Clarke makes an important point about the dynamo that energizes us. Any kind of energy is the result of a polarity; in this case, the polarity is between God and man. Being that he is infinite and we are finite... well, in addition to proving the existence of God, we have now proven the existence of perpetual motion.

What we call development takes place in the tension between these complementary extremes: "the spiral of self-development should ideally go on, alternating harmoniously between the two poles," which are really two streams of metacosmic energy, one going out and up, the other down and in. As such,

"the life of every human person unfolds as a journey of the spirit through an ever-developing spiral circulation between self-presence and active self-expressive presence," or "between inward-facing self-possession and outward-facing openness to the other" -- both horizontal others and the vertical Other.

Which is why those who give shall receive, those who are empty shall be filled, the last shall be first, the love you take is equal to the love you make, etc.

Again, the I is always a We, AKA substance-in-relation. How does it all end? "In a word, the final goal and perfection of the whole universe is, literally, the communion between persons, who in turn gather up the whole universe in their consciousness and love and thus lead it back to its Source."

So I guess we've also discovered a cure for finitude.

You're welcome.

[A]s we move more and more into the phase of vertical self-transcendence, putting off our self-centered consciousness to open up the Great Center and its transforming power, then a profound reversal in the movement of self-development takes place: it now flows primarily from above downwards, transforming us from above. --W. Norris Clarke

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Science vs. Truth

Eh, too late to start a new post, too early to just give up.

Two posts back I ended with an aphorism by Dávila that not only deftly twists the knife into goofball popularizers such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, but into scientism in general.

You ask yourself: Bob, how are you able to so rapidly find an Aphorism to fit the O-->(k)sion?

Well, a few years ago I transcribed every single aphorism from a blog that published them, and then organized them into categories beginning with Art and Atheism, and ending with Wisdom and Writing.

"Scientism" is one of the categories, and assimilating the relevant aphorisms would be the equivalent of a PhD in the philosophy of science, or maybe even avoiding graduate school altogether.

Dávila tells us all we need to know about the subject -- often all we can know -- with a minimum of words and maximum of verve. Nor does he ever throw a straight fastball. Rather, like Mariano Rivera, every pitch has late movement.


Okay, "Whoever has understood a notion from the natural sciences has understood all that can be understood; whoever has understood a notion from the humanities has understood only what he can understand."


That's a direct hit not only on scientific pseudo-intellectuals but on the typical postmodern humanities professor whose skill consists in projecting his own victimhood into any work of art -- or converting his personal unhappiness into a problem of politics.

Which goes to the next aphorism: "Where he is easy to refute, as in the natural sciences, the imbecile can be useful without being dangerous. Where he is difficult to refute, as in the humanities, the imbecile is dangerous without being useful."

Which is to say, unemployable.

Nevertheless, we should be forced to pay for the university indoctrination that has made him a dangerous, useless, and unemployable parasite.

Thankfully, the most devout atheist nourishes implicit religious sentiments that prevent him from being intellectually consistent and acting on his beliefs. In other words,

"What still protects man in our time is his natural incoherence. That is to say: his spontaneous horror before consequences implicit in principles he admires." Show me a metaphysical Darwinian with the courage of his convictions and I'll show you a Darwin Award winner.

"Nothing is more alarming than science in the hands of an ignoramus."

Global Warming in the hands of Obama.

You can only pretend to avoid faith:

"There are arguments of increasing validity, but, in short, no argument in any field spares us the final leap."

If you truly understand that last one, you will realize what a willful fantasy world you've been living in.

Because in reality,

"Intelligence should battle without respite the sclerosis of its findings."

That last one is true because human intelligence is ordered to the tOtality, such that nothing short of this totality will satisfy it. Vulgar scientism just stops asking Why at an arbitrary point, and calls it a metaphysic (or pretends it is no metaphysic at all).

Truth courses through the descending arteries and ascending veins of the cosmos, and God is its beating heart. Unless you have suffered a metaphysical stroke or pneumocardial infarction.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Before, Beneath, and Beyond

Myth is at the horizon between history and prehistory. Yeah, that's a platitude, but the idea of "prehistory" is quite interesting in its own right. Other animals are not living in prehistory, so it's a stage only humans go through.

But what is it? Hard to say, since the distinction between history and prehistory is that the former is written while the latter isn't. This is just another way of saying that it's very difficult to know what (supposedly) went on in the evolutionary space between animality and humanness. Thus the space is filled with myth, but as we all know, myth does not equate to pure fiction or fantasy; rather, it is truth expressed via these modalities, i.e., in the form of a story.

Really, it's the same with your individual life, so perhaps we can take a cue from that. I don't know how far my earliest memory goes back -- perhaps three years old or so. And yet, we all know that important things happen between 0 and 3; in fact, between -9 mos and + 3 yrs. And something registered memories of what happened, even if the memories are implicit and not subject to conscious recall.

In The Platonic Myths, Pieper says that myths "are played out between 'here' and 'beyond,'" which means that they are primarily vertical where history proper is horizontal. Put another way, myth must be a horizontal narrative about a vertical reality, say, the genesis of the cosmos, the origins of a people, or the provenance of their customs.

Ultimately, all myths have to do with what is beyond or before or after profane time. In other words, myth transcends the conventional categories of past, present, and future, and ventures into the mystery of our origins, our present being, and our destiny, or the First & Last Things in general: the whole alphomega riverrun.

I wonder what Schuon says? "The notion of myth usually evokes a picture of traditional stories charged with a wealth of symbolism and more or less devoid of historical foundation; however, in defining myth one should not lay undue stress on this supposed lack of historical basis, for the function of myth is such that once it has been properly understood the question of historicity ceases to have any practical importance."

Pieper: "The [mythical] events take place outside the historical world that we can understand -- beyond the here and now. For this reason it is only possible to use the language of symbol..."

Again, we are trying to express the higher via the lower, i.e., metaphysical truths via sense images. For example, "because the 'heavenly realm' is beyond our experience we need to have it said, in various ways, what it 'resembles': a banquet, a wedding, a treasure buried in a field, a fishing net, a mustard seed," etc. (ibid.).

The deep past and distant future disclosed by myth are inaccessible in any other way. Again, Origins and Destiny are in principle beyond the limits of science, so don't even try. If you don't understand why science can never disclose these things, then you haven't thought very far or very deep.

Rather, however you manage to do it, the task is "to turn our gaze inwards to the source and origin of both the 'outer' universe of phenomena and of the 'inner' universe of consciousness, to find there the ever-present and eternal simultaneity of what here is seen as a flow of separate events in time; and above all, to fathom the ultimate mystery of our selfhood" (Sri Krishna Prem).

Apropos of Nothing, Pascal has something interesting to say: "it takes no less capacity to reach nothingness than the whole. In either case it takes an infinite capacity, and it seems to me that anyone who had understood the ultimate principles of things might also succeed in knowing infinity. One depends on the other, and one leads to the other. These extremes touch and join by going in opposite directions, and they meet in God and God alone."

"There is a dimension of reality," writes Pieper, "that is simply not attainable by our rational efforts." For the sake of coonvenience we call this unfathomable object O.

Now, "The human self remains always a 'known-unknown,' a mysterious abyss in which more remains unknown than known..." And "there is a kind of infinite or inexhaustible depth in our spirit, due to its openness to the Infinite [O], which cannot be plumbed by our explicit consciousness..." (Clarke).

I can't say it any more clearly than this: "We are drawn out of ourselves, called now to focus on the Great Center beyond us -- also within us, of course -- to take as our own center the One Center and Source of the whole universe, of all being and goodness, the Great Self..."

This is the "deep finality" built into the very nature of spiritual beings. "Thus there is a great double 'movement' [⇅] in the universe of actual being from the Source outward toward creation and from the Creation back to its Source" (ibid.).

This is none other than "the great circle of being, in the exodus of the Many from the One, and the return home again of the Many in the One." This is the rhythm of being, as if "the whole universe itself were one great rhythm of breathing in and breathing out."

A riddle: who is the being that infinitely transcends man?


Monday, May 02, 2016

Reality and Other Likely Stories

Continuing with our brief side trip into the nature of philosophy, Pieper writes that "science ends where it reaches its limit, whereas philosophy begins at this limit" precisely. You could say that science become scientism is a science oblivious to its proper limits. Down boy!

In fact, Stanley Jaki wrote a book on just this subject, called The Limits of a Limitless Science. Science "ceases to to be competent," for example, "whenever a proposition is such as to have no quantitative bearing." This is a key reason why "artificial intelligence" of the human type is an oxymoron.

Besides, so long as Gödel is in charge and his theorems remain the law of the land, no scientific theory contains proof of its own completeness and consistency.

And Life? "[L]ife itself still cannot be measured. Therefore, scientifically speaking, life does not exist" (Jaki). Nor can brain research answer the simple question: "What is that experience, called 'now,' which is at the very center of consciousness?" (ibid.). For that matter, how does the reality of free will get into the cosmos?

These are all examples of "limit questions," and in order for science to be a valid enterprise, it is important that it not pretend to answer them (or to simply make them go away by, for example, denying the reality of consciousness and free will).

I've mentioned in the past my intuition or suspicion or hunch that these Limit Questions are somehow related to one another. It's like the old gag about the blind men and the elephant, only this is the nonlocal object which we can only perceive by blinding our two local eyes and opening the third.

Do you get the idea? This one object, depending upon your angle of vision or which part of it you grab, is responsible for life, for consciousness, and for free will, not to mention little things like love, truth, creativity, and virtue. It comes into view at the limits of science; but really -- really now -- science must come into view at the limits of O, right? Scientism is just the blind man grabbing the tail or whatever and forgetting about the elephant in the womb.

Science certainly doesn't study "the universe," for "the universe as such" can never be "an object for science. Scientists cannot go outside the universe in order to observe the whole of it and thereby give to their knowledge of the universe that supreme scientific seal, which is observation with measurement" (Jaki).

Even so, we all intuitively believe 1) that there is this thing called the cosmos, i.e., the strict totality of interacting objects and events; and 2) that we can know it from the outside, i.e., that we can somehow transcend it.

For example, to the extent that the mathematical physicist believes his equations describe reality, those equations obviously transcend the reality they describe, so what explains them?

The old myths are still the best myths, in this case Plato's Cave, more on which below, if not today then tomorrow.

Okay, today. Science studies the walls of the cave, but the philosopher is interested in what lies beyond it. For starters, the cave clearly isn't enclosed on all sides; there is an opening. What is the nature of this opening?

Well, it seems to me that it is related to what was said above about limit questions: in human terms, this opening involves consciousness and freedom converging upon the good, true, and beautiful.

Or just say: I AM, the door.

In his little book on The Platonic Myths, Pieper asks whether it mightn't "be the case that the reality most relevant to man is not a 'set of facts' but is rather an 'event,' and that it accordingly cannot be grasped adequately in a thesis but only... in the representation of an action -- in other words, in a story?"

To be continued...

Nothing makes clearer the limits of science than the scientist's opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession. --Don Colacho