Friday, June 30, 2017

God has a Bridge to Sell Give Away

"To say man," writes Schuon," is to say form; man is the bridge between form and essence, or between 'flesh' and 'spirit.'"

I was explaining this concept to the young master yesterday -- that human beings, without anyone ever teaching them how, can spontaneously discern the treeness of trees, the dogginess of dogs, and the humanness of humans. Conversely, animals are nominalists: there is only this tree or that tree, but no concept or essence of treeness.

Along these same lines, we've had a number of recent discussions on What the Dog is Thinking. In truth, we can have no idea what it is like to be a dog, since we would have to remove language and conceptualization from the equation. A human can no more "think like a dog" than he can live like a tree. If we did so, we would no longer be men.

Without question, language is what sets us apart from the rest of creation. As with our spontaneous ability to discern essences, no one has to teach us how to speak. Rather, it happens as naturally as instinct does in lower animals.

In the case of animals, instinct is always a limiting principle, e.g., eat this and not that. But language for man is a liberating principle; or rather, it deploys limits in order to open out to the limitless.

There are three possibilities with language: first, it could be a purely horizontal phenomenon, simply assigning arbitrary symbols to concrete realities. Or, it could be reducible to something lower, as in how the ultimate purpose of birdsong is usually related to mating. Or again, it could open out to something higher, as in how, say, poetry uses words to express the wordless.

In reality it accomplishes each of these, for reasons outlined by Schuon above: man is the vertical bridge between form/flesh and essence/spirit. Language is a reflection of the universal Logos, and it seems to me that the Logos is this bridge, precisely. Thus, to the extent that man participates in the Logos, he makes himself the bridge between worlds.

Recall our recent posts on radial vs. circumferential knowledge. If you don't recall them, just imagine a circle with radii extending outward from the central point. Each radii is a celestial memo that carries the Logos with it, from the center to the periphery.

Now, everything is just such a radii, on pain of non-existence. A thing that exists completely apart from the center would be utterly unintelligible and absurd. For our purposes it might as well not exist.

And yet, this is the counter-philosophy of nominalism: that everything is a unique instance with no essential principle. Another name for this misosophy is "logical atomism," which denies wholeness and centrality. It retains a kind of totality, but this totality is just an agglomeration rather than synthesis.

Let's consider the words of our esteemed St. John the Apostle. Not through the eyes of faith, but, just for kicks, through the third eye of pure metaphysics. Wasting no time, he puts forth several essential principles at the outset:

1. In the beginning is the Word (a translation of the Greek Logos).

2. The Logos is with God.

3. The Logos is God.

4. All things are created through the Logos.

5. The Logos is a Him, therefore a person.

6. In the Logos is life, and this life is a kind of light for men.

7. But men have a tendency not to comprehend any of this.

How to make sense of this perfect nonsense? To jump ahead a bit, what if the Logos-Center, instead of merely radiating toward the periphery via centrifugal Logoi, actually incarnates at the periphery? In other words, what if, instead of mere prolongations of the Logos, we can have the real thing, right here, dwelling among us?

Analogously, this would be like the sun itself traveling to our planet instead of just showering us with its rays -- or maybe like Sun Ra somehow visiting planet earth.

It goes without saying that no mere animal can comprehend any of this. Rather, only a logocentric being can -- one who not only possesses language but understands where language comes from.

In effect, Genesis 1 speaks of the prolongation of the Logos to the periphery, AKA the Creation (without which -- or whom -- nothing is created). But John simultaneously parallels this passage while making the more startling claim that the creative principle decides to visit his creation.

I'll just conclude with a passage by Schuon, and hope it Wraps Things Up:

[H]uman subjectivity is such an amazing miracle that it is enough to prove both God and the immortality of the soul; God, because this extraordinarily profound and comprehensive subjectivity can be explained only by an absolute which substantially prefigures it and which projects it into accidence; and immortality, because the incomparable quality of this subjectivity has no sufficient reason, no reason proportionate to its excellence, within the narrow and ephemeral framework of this earthly life.

If it is merely to live like ants [or leftists -- G.B.], men have no need of their intellectual and moral possibilities, which amounts to saying that they have no need to be men; the very existence of man would then be a luxury as inexplicable as it is useless. Not to understand this is the most monstrous as well as most mysterious of blindnesses.

Mysterious perhaps, but ineveateapple. For the spirit shines in the flesh, but the fleshbound don't see it. For them, God has a bridge to sell. No, it's worse: He can't even give the bridge away!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

To the Unknown-Known, and Beyond!

I suppose we could say that the materialist (or any ideologue) naively reduces the world to the known-known, or conflates what is known with what is. For the flatlander, what is obvious obscures what is subtle, thus rendering him oblivious to the great unKnown that both surrounds and transcends him.

A real scientist -- e.g., not the AGW kind -- always bears in mind the known-unknown. In other words, he understands that science is never -- and can never be -- complete, but is surrounded on all sides by Mystery. (This Mystery is up, down, inside, and out.)

From Gödel we learn that any system of thought contains assumptions unprovable by the system, while from Hayek we learn that in a complex system such as the economy, information is widely dispersed and far beyond the scope of any single actor.

From psychology -- my kind, anyway -- we also appreciate a mysterious realm of the unknown-known, AKA The Unthought Known. I won't spend a great deal of time on this one... although maybe I should, because it also has profound religious implications, going to objects that awaken our vertical recollection.

For example, a few weeks ago we mentioned the experience of Kallistos Ware when he first entered an Orthodox Church. On the one hand it was completely unfamiliar, and yet, there was a shock of recognition. BANG!: the unknown (but somehow) known. Specifically, the "bang" occurs when the implicitly known becomes explicitly so.

According to Frank, something similar happens between two human beings: How little we know / How much to discover / What chemical forces flow / From lover to lover.

Then there is the biggest realm of them all, the unknown-unknown. That would be God -- or ultimate reality -- as he is in himself. Whereas cataphatic theology speaks to the unknown-known God, apophatic theology (un)speaks to the unknown-unknown God.

As it so happens, I'm reading what amounts to a little primer in apophatic theology by Henri LeSaux (Swami Abhishiktananda), called Prayer. There are better examples, but this one will do fine for our purposes. Here he speaks of the distinction between unknown-knowns and the unknown-unknown:

[M]ental images and ideas of God which we form when we study or meditate.... are signs pointing to the Reality they represent, but they are forever unable to comprehend that reality, which stands in its aloneness far beyond the reach of any conception or imagination of man.

Furthermore, to reduce the unknown-unknown to the unknown-known is to engage in idolatry: "The day in which we attempt to identify them with with the Reality they become simply idols." A proper approach to the unknown-known "tends always towards the Beyond where alone Reality abides in the unfathomable silence of the Godhead."

Orthoparadox: on the one hand, "there is nothing in the universe, or indeed in the whole of creation which is not itself a revelation, a manifestation of God." On the other, "He is beyond every form.... Nothing 'comprehends' him, but he shines through everything and makes himself known in everything." Truly, O is the great Nothing-Everything, or as Meister Eckhart expresses it,

"There is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing; rather unnamed than named; unknown than known," yada yada. Only like can know like, and God is like nothing.

These two attitudes or stances -- the cataphatic and apophatic -- are complementary and not antagonistic. But as in all complementarities one is prior, in this case, apophasis, for

If God is present in the tiniest portion of what manifests him, he is at the same time beyond anything in which he manifests his presence, beyond the whole universe and beyond every part of it, beyond everything mental and beyond everything material.

Again, ideologies such as rationalism completely forget what they don't (and can't) know. As Schuon puts it,

The danger of pride intervenes with rationalism, that is, with the prejudice of relying on a simply reasoning intelligence, and even in defiance of indispensable data, the absence of which is not even suspected.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

One Lie, Infinite Errors

Another brief blast, as I'm pressed for time...

As discussed in the previous post, if ultimate reality encompasses both immanence and transcendence, then man is perpetually tempted to exclude one in favor of the other. However, he doesn't really "exclude"; rather, covertly lends to one the properties of the other, even while denying those properties up front.

This is similar to how the scientific materialist tries to reduce subject to object, but in so doing inevitably contaminates the latter with properties of the former. But a subject attempting to cram himself back into objecthood is about the stupidest thing imaginable: it is literally like proclaiming "I am as dumb as a box of rocks."

No, you are dumber, because rocks cannot make false metaphysical pronouncements. "Systematic reductions to single terms," says the Aphorist, "fabricate likenesses of intelligibility that seduce the ignorant." But especially the tenured

Now, pantheism and idolatry are "sins against transcendence," so to speak. Both attempt to confine God to this plane; they mistakenly conclude that God is the world just because the world is (ultimately) God.

Which is why the Bible is so explicit on the subject. Right out of the gate it says that God creates the heavens and the earth, the celestial and terrestrial, transcendence and immanence. You might say that God transcends the dynamic complementarity of transcendence <--> immanence.

Why is this important? Because God is simply another word for Reality, and human happiness depends upon being in conformity with it.

Note that one popular alternative to being in conformity with reality is to rebel against it. But this rebellion is simply the tribute unreality pays to Reality, or Ø to O. Human ideologies are maps, except they are like those premodern maps that are more imagination than reality. Use them to navigate the sea and you will end up lost or shipwrecked.

The left is this rebellion writ large. It is always reactionary, in that the Lie us dependent upon the Truth to which it is a reaction.

Conversely, truth does not require the lie, just as light does not require the shadow (even if it makes shadows inevitable on this plane). One could cite thousands of examples, but consider CNN: their peddling of the Russia conspiracy is founded upon the realization that it is false.

Cue the Aphorist to bail me out:

The lie is the muse of revolutions: it inspires their programs, their proclamations, their panegyrics. But it forgets to gag the witnesses. The Resistance is on the verge of devouring itself, now that the Russia investigation is moving on to Obama, Lynch, and Clinton.

Revolutions have as their function the destruction of the illusions that cause them. Which is why Obama's function was the destruction of the infantile hopenchange that caused him.

This one is apropos: In society just as in the soul, when hierarchies abdicate the appetites rule. Usurpation, by one of the terms in the system, of the liberties of the others.

Thus, for example, when transcendence is reduced to immanence, then man is reduced to matter and the genocide is on. Which is why The leftist screams that freedom is dying when when his victims refuse to finance their own murders. White Christian males in particular must vote for their own extinction or be taken out by other means.

The egalitarian passion is a perversion of the critical sense: atrophy of the faculty of discrimination. For them, discrimination is the original sin, while for us it is the original act of consciousness, i.e., to discriminate between immanence and transcendence, appearance and reality, existence and essence. (Note that the creation begins with God's own discrimination between heaven and earth, transcendence and immanence; we would do well to imitate him.)

The most reliable conservative is the lapsed leftist, "the man who has known the reality of the problems and has discovered the falseness of the solutions."

Now, man is made to know Truth, but not without certain qualifications. One must be a servant of Truth, never presume to be its master. As Schuon puts it, "whoever should wish to use his intelligence without the risk of erring must possess the virtue of humility." Specifically, "he must be aware of his limitations" and "know that intelligence does not come from himself."

But in this context, humility is just another word for objectivity toward oneself. To be objective is to know we are creature and not creator.

Which goes to the title of the previous post, in that the flatland materialist living in a one-story cosmos pretends to objectivity even while committing the greatest error possible, which is to elevate one's own subjectivity to godhood. You can't get more wrong than that, although the ways of expressing this wrongness are without number.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adam's Mistake: Having Your Cake and Going Hungry

Just a short post because Time.

As mentioned in the previous post, the world is a tapestry of radial and circumferential lines emanating from, to, and around the Center; you might say they are the warp and weft of the primordial area rug that pulls the cosmos together. And again, do not visualize a flat and static surface, but rather, a spheroidal and dynamic one.

For example, it is critical to understand that the radial lines between the center and periphery aren't just one-way. Rather, they are always circular, which is precisely why they simultaneously veil and reveal God.

I wonder if this is why, as Einstein discovered, the spacetime of the universe itself is spheroidal -- i.e., curved -- such that if you travel in a straight line forever, you will eventually return to where you started? Same with God: wherever He goes, there He is.

We could also say that the world is woven of appearances and reality, or, as they say in the East, Maya and Brahman; and in the final unalysis, Maya is not other than Brahman.

How can this be? Well, if the world were only circumferential, it couldn't be. Rather, like lower animals and Kantians, we would be confined to a particular ring around the center, and that would be that.

But in the case of radial -- i.e., vertical -- knowledge, it is always an appearance of reality, precisely. Conversely, with circumferential knowledge there are only appearances of appearances of appearances, AKA Turtles All the Way Down.

Which is why modern "philosophy" -- which isn't really deserving of the name -- is such a hot mess. For it is literally the case that it wants to have its cake and go hungry at the same time.

By which I mean that it wishes to pretend that reality doesn't exist and that only science can know it. In other words, it tries to situate absolute truth within an absolute relativity, which is obviously quite impossible.

There is nothing wrong with relativity. Indeed, without it we wouldn't even be here! Just don't elevate it to the absolute, that's all we're saying.

Why does someone elevate the relative to the absolute? Passion and pride, for starters. For reasons lost in the mysts of timelessness, Genesis 3 is inscribed in our bones. It seems we just can't stop ourselves from idolatry, hence the second commandment. It's so clear, and yet, humans still rebel.

Schematically, the first and second commandments can be expressed thus;

1. O = O.

2. Ø ≠ O.

And yet, although Ø ≠ O, it is not the case that O ≠ Ø. In other words, because God is both transcendent and immanent, we say that God is not the world, and yet, the world is not other than God.

To say that "the world is God" is the error (whether implicit or explicit) of pantheism, atheism, and scientism, while to say that "the world is not God" is the error of idealism, manichaeism, and Gnosticism. The former are monistic, the latter dualistic. The secret, of course, lies in God's own trialism.

Now, the two distinguishing principles of Christianity are Trinity and Incarnation (with Resurrection following in tow). Note how Incarnation in particular deals with all the issues raised above. As the Fathers say, "God becomes man that man might become God." And this can only happen in a radial cosmos. So we got that going for us.