Friday, March 17, 2017

Variations on a Theme of Reality

More variations on a theme of Schuon. But I ended up having little time to improvise on it. Too many distractions. In any event, first the theme. Maestro:

♪♫ Man's spiritual alchemy comprises two dimensions, or two phases, which can be designated by the terms "doctrine" and "method," or "truth" and "way." The first element appears as the divine Word, and the second as the human response; in this sense the truth is a descent, and the way an ascent. ♪♫

This is pretty much what I was driving at with our old friends (↓) and (↑). Schuon is already pretty abstract, and I'm just abstracting from the abstraction and distilling the essence from the essential.

Right away this reminds me -- remember, we're just improvising here -- of something Nasr says in The Essential Schuon: that his writings "are characterized by essentiality, universality and comprehensiveness."

As to the first, "they always go to the heart and are concerned with the essence of whatever they deal with."

Or in other words -- and this is something we are always striving for as well, otherwise why bother writing? -- he tries to reach "to the very core of the subject he is treating" and go "beyond forms to to the essential formless Center of forms," in what amounts to "a journey that is at once intellectual and spiritual from the circumference to the Center."

Circumnavalgazing the whole existentialada, we call it, or sayling 'round the unsayable sea of being. Verticalesthenics. Same difference.

Essence. Exactly what does it mean? "The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character; a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is; the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features."

Something is essential if, when we remove it, the thing to which it attaches is no longer itself. This has many important applications, for example, what is the essence of the United States?

In order to address that question, we need to go meta, or become even more abstract and essential, for philosophy itself split in two some 700 years ago with the development of nominalism. The, er, essence of nominalism is the denial of essences, precisely, such that anyone who talks about them is talking about nothing, or certainly nothing real.

In truth, one cannot not be an essentialist, for reasons implicit in the above paragraph -- i.e., that without a notion of essence, one can't even speak of its denial. It's ultimately a variant of the postmodern "there's no such thing as truth" gag. Nominalism, like relativism, Darwinism, and scientism, is soph-beclowning.

Of course, Richard Weaver's Coon Classic Ideas Have Consequences is on just this subject.

Nominalism expands the world in a certain sense, in that everything becomes an individual instance of itself. But this is only a horizontal expansion, with no way to organize it from above.

Some people have described a bad acid trip this way: it is as if every moment becomes a catastrophic novelty, with no way to make sense of it. Psychosis has been characterized this way as well: nonstop nameless dread -- and dreadful because nameless.

In reality, it's a complementarity. Much of the history of philosophy involves some guy grabbing at one end of a complementarity and running with it. Looked at this way, a strong realist is as wrong as a strong anti-realist. For reality is a tapestry of form and substance, or music and geometry, or spirit and matter, or boxers and briefs, whatever.

But denying universals denies everything transcending experience, thus denying one's own denial. Which is an affirmation of universals.

Much of what we call "fake news" (as well as liberal fakademia) is a result of messing with concrete facts, abstract universals, and the space in between. When a Republican is caught redhanded, it's a Culture of Corruption. When a Democrat is so caught, it's just an aberration, and besides, being a Democrat has nothing to do with it. Obama? Vigorous executive. Trump? Fascist usurper.

The other evening Tucker Carlson was trying to get a Planned Parenthood executive to say whether or not a fetus is a human being. Fascinating, in a creepy way. We all know what the answer is, but she simply could not or would not say it. She was the very essence of anti-humanism.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Good News: Ye Are Gods! The Bad News: Ye Are Gods!

As you all know by now, I am fascinated by the idea that God creates man "in Our image, according to Our likeness" -- not just for the Trinitarian implications, but for what else it implies about man and God.

It seems that most Christians instinctively limit its meaning, for fear -- and the fear is not misplaced -- of hubristically equating man and God. So various theologians have placed sharp constraints around the concept, such that any similarities are completely dwarfed by the differences, almost to the point of rendering our deiformity meaningless.

It's as if the idea is too hot to handle, so it is essentially explained away or at least downplayed.

In a way, it reminds me of the daring rhetoric in the D of C: that all men are created equal, period. For a while this was unproblematic, until people began taking it literally and demanding that it be respected. It prompted, on the one side, the abolitionist movement, and on the other -- and for for the first time -- theories of racial inequality in order to justify slavery as a positive good.

Interestingly, the Orthodox east never got hung up on the whole image-and-likeness business. Rather than seeing it as problematic, they saw it as the whole point of the Christian innerprize, AKA theosis.

Now, before you just assume your divine status, bear in mind an important characteristic of God: that nothing and no one is more humble. D'oh! There goes your grandiosity, narcissism, will to power, and self-glorification. Those traits decidedly do not apply to the Christian God.

It reminds me of something I read the other day by this fellow Jesus, about turning the other cheek, offering one's tunic, and generally loving one's enemies. In trying to make sense of it, it occurred to me that Jesus is setting an impossible standard, and properly so. In other words, it's as if he's saying: sure, you're in the image of God. Now try acting like it!

Again: d'oh! Not so easy.

Not to make invidious comparisons, but it's easy to act like, say, certain prophets who extol violence, polygamy, and oppression. No need to get into details, but you know what I mean. (For example, compare the two very different meanings of "martyrdom.") It is not so easy to act like the God who gives himself utterly, right up to and including the Cross -- again, an almost impossible standard. But this very "impossibly" is the Divine Standard.

D'oh! Maybe I don't want to be godlike after all.

Back to Orthodoxy for a moment. I recently read a book called Everywhere Present that touches on this subject. For example,

The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches us that God has become man and dwelt among us. In the God-man Christ Jesus, heaven and earth, are united, and the distance between God and man, of whatever sort, is overcome.

That's the Good News. But it is intrinsically intertwined with some Bad News -- bad for the selfish ego, to be exact, for whom it is nothing less than a death sentence.

So yes, you are like gods (John 10:34). But it all comes down to the meaning of "you" -- or, more precisely, "I". His listeners didn't like the sound of that, so they tried to grab him "but He escaped out of their hands." For awhile, anyway.

Elsewhere Freeman writes that "Jesus did not come to make bad men good; He came to make dead men live." What, by dying?


We've mentioned before the idea that Jesus is simultaneously our icon of God and God's icon of man. Now, what is an icon? It is not the material thing; rather, the material is meant to be transparent, i.e., to reveal something it is pointing toward (this being the difference between idolatry and iconography).

The plain truth of the matter is that God is an icon-maker. He first made man "in His own image." And in becoming man, the man He became is described as the "image of the invisible God."

All of the above was provoked by a short passage in The Play of Masks, that "it goes without saying that God is indeed 'obliged' to be faithful to His Nature and for that reason cannot but manifest Himself" via creation; in other words, God cannot not create without failing to be God.

Again, this may sound like a "limitation," but it is really quite the opposite. To think otherwise is to place eternal sterility and eternal fecundity on the same plane -- as if any rational being would choose the former over the latter. I see God's inexhaustible creativity as his eternal divine delight.

A Big Difference here is that God obviously cannot "fall" from his nature. Rather, that possibility is uniquely reserved for man. Animals cannot fall anywhere, nor can mere matter. And the only reason man can fall is because there is somewhere to fall from, which is none other than the image and likeness referenced in paragraph one.

"Only man," writes Schuon, "participating in the divine liberty and created in order to freely choose God, can make a bad use of his freedom under the influence of that cosmic mode that is evil." Our very form predisposes us to return to our "divine Prototype," but it seems that we are situated in the context of cosmic energies that flow in both directions. Thus,

"The 'dark' and 'descending' tendency not only moves away from the Sovereign Good, but also rises up against It; whence the equation between the devil and pride."

Which brings us back to the contrary equation of divinity and humility. You might say that God's emptiness -- his kenosis -- is our fullness, but we can only maintain the fullness by giving it away, so to speak. So, grace is kind of a hot potato. If it comes your way, don't get caught trying to hold on to it, but give it away immediately!

Not sure if this post was a case of celestial co-creativity or just terrestrial rambling. "Emptying oneself" has two very different connotations.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Inane Reciprocity of the Liberal House of Mirrors

Here's a provocative claim: "Without objectivity and transcendence there cannot be man, there is only the human animal; to find man, one must aspire to God" (Schuon).

This is consistent with the gag by Voegelin above our comment box, that The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable.

In other words, you can spend your life searching for your self and not find it. Or worse, your punishment will consist in finding and being stuck with your self, precisely.

The point is, man qua man lives in the vertical space between Herebelow and Thereabove, or the metaxy.

It reminds me of something the Aphorist says: that If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors. As such, To believe in the redemption of man by man is more than an error; it is an idiocy.

It is customary to regard Republicans as the stupid party and Democrats as the evil party. But beneath the evil of the latter is the metaphysical idiocy alluded to by Davila. Republicans may be idiotic, but they're not usually that idiotic.

As it so often happens, I'm reading another (so far) excellent book on the history of progressivism that goes to just this idiocy.

Along these lines, one of the problems with a state-funded indoctrination is that nowhere in the course of it will you learn the truth about your state-funded indoctrination: it is a vertically closed system that cannot (or at least will not) look at itself. It takes no chances, so it excludes transcendence entirely under the tendentious guise of "separation of church and state."

Obviously, the progressive state doesn't want you to know the truth about itself. It reminds me of a story linked to Drudge yesterday, that in China it is against the law to criticize Martyrs of the Communist Revolution. The difference between us and them is that no one here needs to enact such a law. Rather, the educational establishment takes care of it without having to be coerced.

The promethean nature of progressivism was apparent from the getgo in the late 19th century. The prometheanism consisted precisely in what was said above about collapsing the metaxy and attempting to redeem ourselves, i.e., for the state to lift us by its purloined lootstraps.

Nor was this a solely secular project. If only! Rather, there was plenty of help from Christianist do-gooders, busybodies, and control freaks who understood everything about Christianity except its whole point.


The progressives' urge to reform America sprang from an evangelical compulsion to set the world to rights, and they unabashedly described their purpose as a Christian mission to build a Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

This was the infamous Social Gospel that morphed into heretical liberation theology and various other iterations. You might say that Social Justice Warriors are the same old irritating Social Gospel Warriors, minus the Gospel.

For the SGWs, salvation no longer applied to the individual. Rather, "society was the proper object of redemption," and "sin was no longer a matter of inborn immorality." In short, "sin was social in cause."

Is it just me, or does it smell like sulphur in here?

Another clever trick was to displace the invisible hand of the market to the very visible and clumsy hand of the State: "The social gospel economists, who opposed free markets but not divine purpose, relocated Him to the state."

True, God works in mysterious ways, but the greatest mystery of the progressive administrative state is how it managed to staff itself with all those thousands of angelic beings who look after us so selflessly.

Nor was there any need to wait around for Christ's return in order to fashion our new Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth. Rather, "Christian men and women, providentially equipped with science and the state, would build it with their own hands. In other words, the social gospelers believed they already held the blueprints for social and economic redemption."

So, how did that work out? They will never tell you. Which should tell you how things worked out.

In order to accomplish their mission, progressives needed of course to rid us of the Constitution and its underpinning of natural law. If there is a natural law, then it constrains what progressives can do to us, so it has to go.

Interestingly, and for the same reason, they were also quite explicitly opposed to the idea of natural economic law -- you know, little things like supply and demand, the knowledge problem, and incentives. Virtually all of the early progressive eggheads imbibed this nonsense via post-graduate study in Germany, where they prided themselves on their distinction from the primitive and old-fashioned nonsense of British classical economics.

These newly credentialed zealots "returned from Germany with their evangelical zeal to redeem America" mingled with "the latest ideas in political economy and informed by a working model of economic reform."

So, the worst in religion combined with the latest in tenured nonsense. The result was an aggravated activism that has continued afflicting us down to the present day.

Eh, that's about it for today. Still adjusting to the state-sponsored theft of that extra hour of sack time.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beautiful Monsters, Righteous Swindles, and Privileged Malcontents

Where are we? In the overall scheme of things, I mean. While our posts may take their time getting there, they usually have a deeper point or at least trajectory.

In this case, our theme has to do with political philosophy, which must begin with a proper definition of the human person. Thus, we've essentially been touching on "principles of human nature," including our intrinsic rights, duties, and capabilities.

It cannot be overemphasized that the left, as usual, has some very different ideas of where to start. For example, there is no place for "human nature" in leftism. If there were, then this would undermine their whole project, which ignores human nature when it doesn't attack it outright.

Even so, you will have noticed that a leftist is never consistent with his principles. Rather, he will have the audacity to appeal to "human nature" when it is expedient to do so -- for example, it would never occur to them to force a Muslim caterer to do business with a homosexual bathhouse. Religious freedom, and all that.

But a principle, in order to be one, applies universally, which is to say, at all times and in all places. This metaphysical inconsistency reveals the true principle that animates the left: power, or better, will (through which power is exercised).

It is the same with other transcendentals, by the way. As Dennis Prager often points out -- and not in a polemical way, mind you -- truth is simply not an important value for the left. What really animates the left are things like equality, race, class, gender, "social justice," "microaggressions," and the right to use the wrong bathroom.

Recall that man is characterized by intelligence, free will, and sentiment, which are adequations to the true, good, and beautiful, respectively. Although these three converge upon the One, it is nevertheless the case that Truth must predominate, at least herebelow. As Schuon often says, there is no right greater than that of truth.

Consider the alternatives. We might begin our political philosophy with beauty, but it is doubtful the resultant system will last long. Many ideas of the left are superficially attractive, but unfortunately catastrophic in their application.

In order to ignore the entirely predictable catastrophe(s), the will is brought into play. Impossibility is no barrier, just a nuisance. Look, if you are publicly willing to amputate your private parts in order to prove you're a woman, what won't you do to demonstrate the impossible?

Consider, I don't know, ObamaCare. What a beautiful idea -- that everyone, solid citizen and lazy bum alike, can have affordable and quality healthcare, with no tradeoffs and no losers! However, being that the idea in no way comports with reality, it must be forced to do so via Will, i.e., taxes, subsidies, penalties, regulations, manipulations, bribes, and threats.

Probably a mistake for Republicans to try to rescue the Democrats from their impending shipwreck. Let their principles play out against the shoals of reality, so people can learn a priceless lesson they will never forget -- that abstract beauty and perverse willfulness are no way to organize a healthcare system.

It reminds me of the 1980s, when the left had another beautiful idea for dealing with the Soviet Union: unilateral disarmament. Or how about before that, in the latter half of the 1960s, when Love was thought to be the answer. Well, yes, no shit. But not detached from truth! Not to belabor the analogy, but remember Hitler's dog. To love what is hateful is as dysfunctional as cherishing the lie as truth (or celebrating the ugly as beautiful).

If Truth exists, then it is our obligation to know it, right? This is a fine example of what we might call a "natural duty," for the duty follows logically from the premise. Human intelligence is a rare privilege, but the privilege imposes obligations that can only be ignored at the soul's peril.

But what if, like deconstructionists and the like, one begins with the principle that truth either doesn't exist or is inaccessible to man? What happens is institutionalized irresponsibility, AKA journalism and tenure, the fake news of the MSM and false truth of liberal academia.

Getting back to truth and obligation; again, supposing truth exists, then we are obligated to know it. But even prior to this is an epistemophilic drive to know truth. It's built into us. To paraphrase Schuon, as animal instincts are their intellect, for man, intellect is our instinct. In short, we are born to know -- which means that our minds are in conformity -- at least in potential -- to the nature of things.

Now if truth is what we are compelled to know, then "virtue" is what we must attain, for as intellect is to the True, will is to the Good: "Virtue is what we must love, become and be" (Schuon).

Here again, man is intrinsically obligated to "be good," so to speak. This is woven into the very fabric of our being, as is truth. With the exception of sociopaths, everyone wants to be good; and even sociopaths convince themselves they are doing good as they understand it.

What do we call people who will the bad and call it good? I can't think of a particular word, but they are certainly moral idiots. Take the Islamists, who are motivated by a strict conception of the good. Or, closer to home, take our liberal fascists, who are motivated by their own perverse ideas of "social justice."

But this again goes to the priority of truth, for "social justice," as Hayek pointed out 75 years ago, isn't just a meaningless phrase, but often a malevolent phrase that means the opposite of what it pretends to mean, AKA injustice. The Aphorist said it well: 'Social justice' is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right; and the adjective that serves as a pretext for all swindles.

So, left wing justice is a theft and it is a swindle. Other than that, it's the highest and most progressive form of justice there could ever be!

As to the academic left, it has become notorious for disseminating knowledge with no truth, thus uprooting the intellect's very reason for being. "When all is said and done," writes Schuon, "reason becomes an infirmity" for such ignoramuses who pretend to knowledge.

Oh, and speaking of social justice, in the same book, Schuon has a few choice Remarks on Charity. These also go to the left's prior denial of human nature:

"One has to beware of turning the beneficiary of charity into an insolent protester, incapable of appreciating another's generosity; the man who does not know how to say 'thank you' whole-heartedly, and without concerning himself with the psychology of his benefactor, is a monster."

When is the last time one of these monsters thanked us for our civilization, for our system of government, and for disproportionately funding their dysfunctional schemes? Instead, we are relentlessly accused of being "privileged," when truly, they are privileged to live in our world.