Thursday, November 02, 2017

Anchored in a Cloud and Soaring Toward A Dream

Another rambling post. What can one do? It's a jungle in here, and some days the best you can do is hack away.

Instability. It is our lot. On this side of life we're always in critical condition. But don't worry -- you'll be stable when you're dead.

Well, not really, if you believe, as I do, in purgatory. But the point is that this instability isn't a bug but a feature having to do with the very essence of man.

Note that in the case of God, his existence and essence are one; or, his essence is to exist. That's real oneness, baby!

Conversely, man has to be the most irritatingly paradoxical creature in all of creation, being that our essence is to change. Or, to express it in terms of perfect nonsense, the point of life is to become oneself. We are condemned to transcendence, and the man who doesn't surpass himself sinks beneath himself, yada yada. You are a child of God, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

As to the reasons for the instability, "the human being is a kind of bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world" (White). The bridge is solid at both ends but spans over an abyss, such that the middle part has a great deal of sway; think of a suspension bridge made of flexible materials over deep ravine.

That's you, on the bridge. There is security at either end, but of very different orders. Both are rock, you might say, one physical, the other metaphysical. Both are solid-as. Only one is dumb-as.

"[M]an can tend upward -- ordering all things to the creator -- or downward into the exclusive pursuit and domination of visible, created things."

So in reality it is a vertical bridge, one end grounded in the Absolute, the other end grounded in... Actually, the other end isn't grounded per se. Rather, I would say that the Absolute radiates toward infinity, so the only thing holding the bridge up at the far end is the linear momentum of the Divine Plenitude tending outward toward nothingness; like an airplane, it only stays up because it's moving.

Think of a ray of light extending out from the sun -- or better, the Big Bang, which is of course still banging. From what? Or, more mysteriously, into what? No one has any idea. What is the leading edge of the bang? Can it really be exploding into, and surrounded by, "nothing"?

That is a different question, and it is unanswerable. As the politicians like to say when they are dodging a question, Let's talk about what we know.

What we know is that irrespective of whether the cosmos is "eternal" or had a beginning, it must have a vertical cause that is always present. It is this cause that extends down and out "forever," or has a tendency toward Nothingness without ever arriving there. It is like numbers; each number is a multiple of one (absoluteness), but they go on forever (infinitude).

In any event, for our purposes, the "tension inscribed within humans marks us with a deep spiritual restlessness and instability, since we cannot live rightly either as angels or mere nonrational animals" (emphasis mine). One can of course tend toward nonrational animality, but no one short a Stalin or Mao becomes a perfect leftist.

The absoluteness of God seems to be mirrored in the black velvet nescience of Death: "Human beings are marked simultaneously both by immortal longings and by the certainty of death."

Now, a total cosmic inversion results in Death being the only certainty, "God" being the illusory byproduct of our fear, uncertainty, instability, etc. In this regard, Nietzsche is "absolutely" correct, which is why he will always be the favorite philosopher of bright adolescent counter-revolutionaries of all ages. He was certainly mine!

Let me drag out my dogeared copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and recall what appealed to me back when I was a 30 year-old teen -- back when God spoiled everything, and I enjoyed the cheap omniscience of the dimestore atheist.

Can't find it. It isn't amongst the usual suspects. However, I looked up some quotes, and it is interesting how he is such a perfect mirror image, or inversion, of the truth, even using the identical language and images in some cases:

Become who you are!

Man is something that shall be overcome. Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman -- a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.

But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthword, downword, into the dark, the deep -- into evil.

Bravo! He is Satan's Aphorist -- which, in a way, makes him second best. Heresy and orthoparadoxy aren't strangers but cousins. Or twins, even. To err is human. But to invert reality and call it truth is diabolical. Some beliefs must exist, even though they have no right to. This is the true meaning of "tolerance."

BTW, Schuon writes that "Of course, a mature man ought to be 'adult,' but he can be so otherwise than by plunging into forbidden abysses..." Granted, Friedrich is a genius. But just because he jumps off the cosmic bridge, does that mean you should?

Anyway, those two rocks -- our "immortal longings" and the "certainty of death" -- "form a crossroads between God and the whole material creation." There are attractors at each end -- O and Ø -- such that "the devil, in his revolt against the wisdom of God, seeks to wrestle humanity away from God..."

The image comes to mind of a tightrope walker, or maybe just a bicycle rider. In either case you are stable so long as you are moving, but unstable when at rest.

Interesting paradox there, in that complete stability results in utter instability. Oh well. That's life. No, literally: what is life but change-in-service-of-conservation? Speaking of which, what is conservatism but the proper recipe for collective life? "The art of progress," wrote Whitehead, "is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."

Now we have to switch gears on our bike for a slightly different view of the same phenomena. Let's say God goes to the trouble of incarnating as man.

This changes (?!) everything, in that it now means the Center -- the Unmoved Mover -- is here among us. It is available in a way it never was before: indeed, they will call him Immanuel, which means "God with us" -- and withinus -- no longer just without us. The transcendent becomes immanent that the immanent my become transcendent; or, God becomes bridge that the bridge may actually get somewhere.

Reality and appearances. It seems that our bridge is somehow suspended between these, even though it isn't really possible to anchor anything in illusion. Nevertheless, the tenured have been explicitly attempting to do this ever since Kant, who suspends us, as it were, between the illusory and the unknowable, or between a dream at one end and a crowd of witlessness at the other.

My apologies for this post getting nowhere. We'll leave off with a Whiteheadism:

Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

On the Depth and Direction of the Cosmos

As promised, we're going to drill down a little deeper into Ultimate Reality. In order to accompany us on the journey, you will need an ontological drill (AKA language); some quality timelessness with yourself; access to the source of all being; an ordinary deck of playing cards, jokers included; a 4 oz bottle of Elmer's glue (larger is fine); an X-acto knife or sharp scissors; and a sincere heart purified of all egotism, self-deception, and conspiracy indoctrination.

Let's begin!

Um, where?

In the beginning!

Of what?

Oh, let's just say intelligence, since it is obviously the alpha and omega of this entire enterprise. After all, if we aren't first intelligent, we can't even ask from whence intelligence comes. And if it comes from stupidity... well, at least that explains the left.

"Christianity," says White, "affirms that the human person is created in the 'image' and 'likeness' of God,"; or better, "toward the image and likeness."

In or toward; the choice of prepositions makes all the difference. Obviously, "toward" is the more dynamic, connoting telos and finality, or journey and destination.

However, there is really a complementarity between the two: "First, the human being is made in the image of God in a stable way due to his or her nature, as a rational person, having a spiritual soul with incorporeal powers of intelligence and free will."

Intelligence and free will. Here you must recognize that these are two seeds of the same coon: the purpose of free will is to utilize our intelligence to discover truth. If there is no free will, then we are not free to discover truth; and if there is no truth, then freedom is a kind of sick joke that reduces to nothing, AKA limitless stupidity.

If these are two s. of the same c., then the source of our being is not just intelligence but freedom. Or, as it says in 2 Corinthians, "the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." And where there is liberty, there is truth; flip a few pages back, and we read in John that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Oh, and Jesus then says something rather provocative to his listeners: "you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you." Even more provocative, "You do the deeds of your father." Who is? "He was a murderer from the beginning... there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it."

That is a somewhat mythopoetic way of expressing a metaphysical truth, but clearly, if you are not open to, and grounded in, the source of being-intelligence, then in what are you grounded? For in the words of the Aphorist, Myth is not a premature science of the universe, but a specific dimension of language.

Please take out your bottle of Elmer's glue, and affix your soul to this proper ground. If you have to detach yourself from the false ground, use the X-acto knife.

You will have noticed that when you are attached to the false ground, you are two things rather than one. You are in an imaginary world of paradoxical dualism instead of the real world of orthoparadoxical complementarity:

"The human animal is not two things: a spiritual substance of soul and an animal body, related to one another." No, "there is one composite person who is both body and soul." From where does this most mysterious oneness arise?

Where else? From the upper vertical. The other direction is a non-starter, because there you will find only fragmentation, dispersion, and surfaces with no depth. The featureless homogeneity of Flatland. This is the shadow of God, just as cold is only the absence of heat.

Because there is depth, there is man. It is not the other way around. If it were, then all the depth we experience would be completely illusory. In a way, intelligence is a measure of depth, isn't it? A smart person sees more deeply into the unity of things, just as a genuine artist conveys greater depth than the mediocre one. Likewise a saint and sanctity. Thus,

[T]he human being remains the summit of the visible creation and can become more profoundly so only if he develops a more dynamic, perfect relationship toward God....

[T]he human being was created "in the beginning" to be relational in its own way. The person is made first and foremost to be in relational communion with God....

Man is a combination of melody and harmony, the former going to our uniqueness, the latter to our sameness. Harmony is vertical, whereas a melody (in western music) is a horizontal adventure through the chordal structure.

For our purposes, this chordal structure is "human nature," or universal essences and archetypes. This structure is quintessentially spatial, whereas the melody necessarily plays out in time. For which reason we say that timelessness takes time.

The melody is your Life. But it is also history, which is equally constrained by certain archetypes, for which reason we say that it "repeats." Of course it doesn't literally repeat itself, but it certainly meanders through the same archetypes. It is "going somewhere," or at least supposed to be going there.

The problem -- and this is plainly specified in the owner's manual in Genesis 3 -- is that man tries to dissolve the divine-human partnership and get there on his own -- as if one can enjoy celestial living in the sublunary world without the aid of Heaven! This always fails, because it fails before it even begins.

In other words, it eliminates the ground and measure of success, which is proximity to the absolute. A progressive in the vulgar sense is someone who has obliterated the very ground of progress. His subjective desires become the measure of success, and it's Genesis 3 All Over Again. Cosmic inversion complete.

So: "the human being is precariously located between the visible [horizontal, local] and invisible [vertical, nonlocal] worlds." The whole innerprize falls apart "without a right orientation toward [our] true homeland and a genuine knowledge of God."

Now, remove your deck of cards. Pick a card, any card. The deck is you, the card your particular action. Was the action free, or was it determined? Yes and no, for in the words of the Aphorist, sin shuffles the deck.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Matter + Math ≠ Reality

Yesterday I didn't get enough sleep because of staying up so late for the World Series on Sunday night. This morning I caught up with my sleep, but now it's too late to post.

Furthermore, being that the Gagdad constitution is a finicky contraption, I don't respond well to deviations in my rut. So, while I theoretically slept enough, I can't say I'm in shape to get behind the wheel of the cosmic bus. And yet, if I don't, then I feel as if the course of cosmic evolution will have been stalled for another 24 hours. Sad!

We were talking about exactly when man became (or becomes) Man -- or rather, examining that border between animal and person. As soon as you think about it, you realize there can't be a border, or that the border is a wall: there are animals and there are men, with no species in between. [Insert Hollywood sexual predator joke here.]

Yes, yes, there is continuity. But there is simply no common measure between animal and human minds. And when I say no common measure, I mean that absolutely literally: that certain human capacities not only surpass animality, but transcend matter altogether.

It's analogous to Flatland, in which two-dimensional beings have no way to comprehend three-dimensional ones. Nor, for that matter, will all the two-dimensional landscapes in the world add up to three dimensions. More generally, quality cannot be reduced to quantity (nor -- and for the same reason! -- subject to object).

This reminds me of the argument from causation: just as no amount of proximate or even ultimate causes adds up to the First Cause, no amount of planes adds up to a 3D space. Likewise, all the animal intelligence in the world doesn't add up to what a child spontaneously knows (i.e., essences).

There is something in the human being that absolutely transcends his material and animal antecedents. What is this something?

Our shorthand way of talking about it is with reference to a soul. Although a perfectly adequate word, it has gradually become saturated with various colloquial or agenda-driven connotations, such that it no longer means what it is supposed to mean, i.e., the form of the body. In other words, a once technical term has devolved to a kind of folk expression, similar to what has happened to the words "marriage," "man," "woman," "liberal," etc.

Jumping ahead a bit, White argues that "the ultimate foundation of reality is both personal and interrelational." And "if this is the primary truth that is behind all other truths, then it casts a theological light upon all else that exists." That's a bold statement. Can we prove it? (Yes, but in the next post.)

Recall what was said above about the first cause. The first cause of three-dimensional space cannot be the line or point, even if space is constituted by an infinite number of these.

Analogously, the first cause of the person cannot in principle be anything impersonal. The materialist will no doubt argue that this is because there is really no such thing as persons -- that what we call persons are just animals with a few more tricks. Perhaps. [Insert Frederica Wilson joke here.]

Although tempting -- the prospect of fine insultainment always is -- I'm in no mood to get into an argument with a materialist this morning. Besides, animals don't argue, and certainly not over the truth of reality. They bite, or mark territory, or fling poo, or become journalists (but I repeat myself), or run for congress, or whatever.

"Here then we can see a fundamental truth of the cosmos: there is a relational character to the hierarchy of being. The nonliving things exist for or are relative to the living things." Emphasis mine. Why? Because I want to emphasize 1) the verticality of it all, and 2) that this verticality cannot under any stretch of the imagination be explained in a bottom-up manner.

In other words, no amount of tenure adds up to even a particle of truth -- just as no amount of MSM reporting can ever exit the libubble narrative. Seriously. That's a joke, but a grievous one that, if you get it, should make you laugh and weep and vomit simultaneously -- assuming you haven't abandoned your soul, or your soul hasn't already departed in disgust.

Oh, it happen. It do happen.

The human being who "turns in on itself in pride and rejection of God" is vulnerable to becoming a "spiritually empty image," i.e., a container with no content. An empty barrel, you might say.

But in a properly bright-side up world, "the human being is meant to be a special 'location' of grace in the cosmos, where the spiritual gifts of God descend through human reason and human freedom," thus instantiating "a human common life based upon truth, moral goodness, and beauty" (White).

We'll try to drill down a little deeper into all of this in the next post...