Friday, December 22, 2017

The Last Christmas Post You'll Ever Need

What might that be? I can't say, because the title occurred to me before the post. At the moment, all I have is a bold title with no content. Nevertheless, I trust that if I just keep banging away, a post worthy of the title will somehow materialize.

I want to wrap up the review of Freedom from Reality, not because I succeeded in summarizing it, but because I give up. It's just too... unruly. I can't seem to reduce the thing to something smaller than itself, which I like to think is my speciality. Or something I can't help doing, at any rate.

Too much noise and redundancy. Again, not to belabor the point, but my favorite writers convey almost no noise, and if they are redundant, the redundancy is not in the message. In other words, they are never wooly or diffuse. If they repeat themselves, it is in the manner of a great artist who tosses out one masterpiece after another. That's not redundancy but fruitfulness.

Also, the work of the true spiritual master is very close to the source. The more distant one is, the "longer" the channel, and the more opportunity for noise to get in and contaminate things.

Schuon, in my opinion, always speaks in proximity to the Source, which is why he is so essential, universal, and primordial. As described in the foreword of his biography, "there are authors who occasionally examine things in depth, but who, very quickly, return again to the surface. In the case of Schuon, he starts at a considerable depth, and he remains" there.

This is quite true, but what makes it doubly intense is that once there, he doesn't go all wobbly or wooly on us. Rather, he maintains the same level of clarity, which is quite unusual, or maybe you haven't gnosissed. But this ultimately makes his yoke much easier, because he's done the hard work of stripping the celestial message of so much noise at the human margin.

Back to Schindler. Toward the end of the book, he summarizes what occurs with man's acquisition of diabolical freedom, calling it a kind of "anti-redemption," which is to say, a total inversion of "the perfect sacrifice of Christ." With it, man is reduced to "the all-powerful technician and the helpless product" of his own techne.

Indeed, you might even say that man, who is always analogue, literally makes himself into a digital being.

For this is the end result of a logical atomism that, on the human level, redounds to a radical individualism in which each man lives in his own private Idaho. Instead of being oriented toward the Transcendent Third that (who) unites us all, he... well, no one put it better than Thomas Wolfe, in his priceless description of some French pinhead, a

relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.

In other words, he disappears up his own aseity. Which is, yes, funny, but more importantly, 100% ineluctably true if you take logical atomism to its absurcular conclusion.

But that conclusion simply cannot be, can it? Since this metaphysic is 100% false, it makes me wonder if its metaphysical opposite might be 100% true. And what might be the inverse image of this flat and desiccated world that can't even account for its own freedom, beauty, and intelligibility? In short, in what kind of cosmos is it possible for beings to know truth, let alone error on such a grandiose scale?

That also sounds funny, but if man cannot know error, then he cannot know truth. In other words, freedom and truth go together like error and subjugation. To be in error -- in particular, fundamental error -- is to be in thrall to... to what? I would say to powers, principalities, thrones, dominions. The usual cosmocrats of the dark aion.

In other words,

Pure power and utter powerlessness now converge into one, and man becomes the abject servant of his own limitless freedom, a passive object of active power: a slave of modern liberty (Schindler).

Paradox. The bad kind.

That might require a little more explanation. In reality, freedom is again distinguishable but inseparable from other transcendentals such as truth, beauty, and virtue. Sever it from these transcendentals, and what does it become?

Blind power. The person -- who was once-upin-a-timeless intrinsically connected to his own essence-telos -- is now adrift in a meaningless world over which he has this imaginary power he calls "freedom." Free, like a man dropped into a vast desert with no map, no compass, no companions, no traditions, and certainly no hope. The Aphorist:

Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything. So, Total liberation is the process that constructs the perfect prison. In fact, Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

Well, it looks like this is not the last Christmas post we'll ever need. Rather, we need at least one more, but it will probably have to wait until Tuesday. We'll leave you with a couple more aphorisms to ponder in the desert:

Freedom is not the goal of history but the material that it works with.

D'oh! Now you tell me!

The prestige of freedom in a society that professes scientific determinism is a Christian holdover.

Blasphemy! Cried the devil.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Celestial Laws and Terrestrial Loopholes

Two more subtle aspects of diabolical freedom: it "proffers an object of desire while at the same time undermining the conditions under which that object could be attained in actuality."

And it presents "just itself as the solution to the problem that it itself generates" (Schindler).

The first observation reminds me of (Glenn) Reynold's Law, that "Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them." Sad!

And the second reminds me of Murray's Third Law (same link), that "The less likely it is that the unwanted behavior will change voluntarily, the more likely it is that a program to induce change will cause net harm." Sadder!

But both of these are easily subsumed by Gagdad's First Law of Leftism, which is to deny, ignore, or invert all laws of human nature. Saddest!

Which reminds me of Thomas Sowell's first lessons of economics and politics: "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."

If you try to provide as much as everybody wants via government fiat, you "paradoxically" create shortages, rationing, and black markets. But there is no paradox, being that this is a finite universe. Scarcity would only be paradoxical in Eden.

Then again, there must be some sort of scarcity even in Eden. Why? Because of the ontological distance between Creator and creation, finite and infinite, time and eternity, absolute and relative. Taking it one step further, isn't this the lesson of Genesis 3?

Put it this way: the first law of metaphysics is the Absolute: it exists, and you're not it. The first lesson of Man is to disregard the first lesson of metaphysics. Gravity takes care of the rest. It resembles freedom, in the sense that a falling man looks free until he hits the ground. Who was freer than Harvey Weinstein, or Matt Lauer, or Kevin Spacey?

Another subtle point, that diabolical freedom "signals a kind of desperate neediness, the response to which tends to take the repetitive and self-reinforcing form of addiction." This ontologically closed loop "lacks the inward openness in response to the other that is the form of hope."

There's a lot to unpack in that little passage. It implies that addiction -- or any compulsion, really -- is nothing less than a fruitless attempt to heal (as in whole) oneself in a way that aggravates the wound, precisely.

Indeed, from the perspective of the wound, the pseudo-cure is the wound's way to go-on-being. The process "is not only perverse; it is perversity itself, because its turning toward what is other than itself is in fact nothing more than a turning toward itself" (Schindler).

The alcoholic drinks to forget about the problems caused by his alcoholism, just as the feckless millennial attends an expensive college in the hope of obtaining a job that pays enough to repay the debt incurred by attending college.

On a deeper level this goes to the very structure of personhood, which is intersubjective and relational, both horizontally and (because) vertically. Of course we "discover" the (m)other before we discover God, but that is a function of teleology, in that final causes are ontologically first but chronologically last. Which is why it takes time to become oneself, precisely. (A distinction that goes to the difference between a paradox and an orthoparadox.)

About the isness of (m)otherhood. One of the shocks in my life has been how my psychoanalytic training (at least in my case) caused me to burrow toward a trinitarian metaphysic, while emminent Catholic thinkers such as Ratzinger and Balthasar were coming at it from the other side: burrowing toward psychoanalytic attachment theory via trinitarian metaphysics. I was reminded of this just the other day, in a passage from No God, No Science.

Which I can't find at the moment. However, the main point can be summarized in a remark that "the poles, even as they are in tension, exist strictly through each other" -- from Father and Son, to mother and infant, man and wife, intelligence and intelligibility, and throughout the cosmos. Complementarities everywhere, duality nowhere.

You might put it this way: Every I is a we, such that every is is an are. So yes, before Abraham was, I am. But before I am, we are. So, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.

I hope that is clear, because it's kind of the whole point of existence. Last night at a little Christmas get together, I was showing off my marvelous Dude sweater while bobbling on about something having to do with the search for the cosmic area rug.

Then it occurred to me -- obvious when you think about it -- that Christ, or the Incarnation, is the cosmic area rug, precisely. Truly, it (He) is the metaphysical concept that ties up every loose end, and makes sense of critical aspects of our humanness that are otherwise inexplicable -- certainly via any kind of scientistic metaphysic.

Maybe instead of Christmas trees we should have Christmas rugs. But the gift-giving, irrespective of how annoying and transactional it can be, goes to the heart of things, being that creation is literally the gift that keeps giving. It is wholly unnecessary. It is uncalled for, except that it is, via the in-vocation of the logos.

Certainly it is why I give away my writing. A cynic might say you get what you pay for. But in my case I get what I pray for, which is another damn post for readers to en-joy. I hope.

That's kind of a blunt way to end things. Let me find an aphorism or three from a particularly fine rug maker to tie things up:

Loyalty to a doctrine ends up in adherence to the interpretation we give it. Only loyalty to a person frees us from all the indulgence we grant ourselves.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face

Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Exhausting Flight from Reality

We need to bear down, people, and finish up with diabolical liberty before moving on.

As mentioned when we started this review a few weeks back, Schindler spends 100 pages or so analyzing Locke as a paradigmatic exemplar of modern liberty. Not a bad guy by any means, but the type of liberty he espouses is simply not sustainable; or, to be precise, it is groundless and therefore unstable -- denied its organic telos in the Real, freedom reduces to nihilism. And as the master puts it, nihilism is exhausting.

Why exhausting? More to the point, how can slack end in slacklessness? What gives?

Well, recall what was said yesterday about appearance and reality. Liberal freedom is all about the appearance of freedom, not its substance. Again, its substance is grounded in truth, beauty, virtue, and a higher unity-in-diversity. Severed from this deeper reality, it is like a planet with no sun, endlessly wandering the cosmos. No center, no destination, no direction home. Like a... rolling stone, or something.

So, now you know what Leo Strauss means when he characterizes this as "the joyless quest for joy" (in Schindler). Have you ever been in that state? Then you know how exhausting it can be. "The quest for joy is joyless because it is a pure means to an absent end." Literally, because it is what inevitably happens when you abstract liberty from its deeper matrix.

I don't want to get sidetracked, but I'm reading a biography of one of my favorite groups, the Byrds. (It's only 1200 pages, but don't worry, there's a volume 2.) They were at the epicenter of the hedonism of the 1960s, of an insanely joyless quest for joy. Keeping reality at bay is a full time job, and it is indeed exhausting. There simply aren't enough drugs -- or women, or money. It's a familiar story.

In any event, as Schindler says, the diabolical liberty of modernity ends in "the narcissism of desire, not for anything, but simply for desire itself." But you can't get there from here -- or here from there, rather. In a very real way we cease to be human, if humanness means anything. So one can get there, but you can't be there to enjoy it.

Modern liberty reduces to the meaningless power to act on desire, in an absurcular and autonomous pattern -- very much like any other dissipative structure. If you feed the structure money or power or some other narcissistic supply, it widens out, so to speak, conferring the temporary illusion of freedom.

But this is reminiscent of what Lao Tse says about the best way to control a bull: just give him a wider pasture, so he doesn't notice the fence. Diabolical liberty imprisons human beings without them even knowing it. Which is what makes it diabolical.

Notice too how the widening of the pasture is conflated with "depth." But to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, is to skim endlessly on the surface of being.

It reminds me of a passage in the Byrds book about the insufferable -- and exhausting -- David Crosby. Regarding one of his lame attempts to write a profound song, his manager says that

David collected a lot of thoughts and phrases to make him appear smart, but he was glib. He had the reasoning and logic of a 14-15 year old who has just reached the age of reason and is so astounded by himself and the fact that he can figure out something that he thinks he's somehow turned into a god.

That was in 1966, and amazingly, he's the same rebellious and grandiose ignoramus today. He has learned nothing in life: his twitter feed reveals a drug-addledescent geezer wandering the large pasture provided by his money and fame, with a pseudo-omniscience concealing a genuine nescience. His flight from the real has been a complete and total success: this Byrd has flown.

"Precisely because Locke interprets power as separate from actuality, it is utterly without content: in itself it is nothing" (Schindler).

For to separate freedom from actuality (i.e., from its telos) is to separate mind from reality and appearances from truth. It renders the mind worthless because the truth unknowable.

It is also a life of total irresponsibility, in that the price of freedom is its obligation to reality. If all people were David Crosby, it would never have occurred to God to give them freedom. At the very least he would have created man with two livers.

A society can tolerate a certain number of progressives, but someone has to change their diapers. And donate a liver.

[P]rogress means advancement.... [It] can be determined only in relation to a telos, a destination, and thus the term makes sense only in relation to specific, determinate realities.

One might say that, when a person uses the term "progress" without intending any specific, concrete, actual, and end-directed reality or realities, then the implied subject of progress is diabolical.

And "to the extent that one's relation to the world is mediated by and through the diabolical, one not only will lose one's soul (as a future danger), but one has already surrendered it."

Mission accomplished.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Breaking News: The Strange Death of the Cosmos

Yesterday I had the usual slew of indiscriminate thoughtflashes. This one probably isn't an original one, and it may or may not lead anywhere, or be worthy of a post. But if you're reading this, then it means the half-baked thought did indeed make it to the finish line and achieve posthood. Otherwise I'd just delete the whole thing and start over.

It has to do with the function of intelligence, which is to discern reality from appearances. Now, if you were the devil, how would you nullify intelligence, or even turn it against itself? I can think of an easy way that doesn't even involve extensive lying, indoctrination, or exposure to college (but I repeat myself).

Rather, all you have to do is eliminate the distinction between appearance and reality, and voila, no intelligence! It reminds me of the neutron bomb, which destroys every living thing while leaving structures intact. It "only" kills people, while sparing the places they inhabit.

Now, I can think of three main institutions that function like a cognitive neutron bomb: the liberal news media, Hollywood, and public education. Each is all surface with no depth, or all appearances with no reality.

Isn't it ironic that we've lately been witnessing the Revenge of the Depth in two of these three institutions, what with the daily revelations of predation and depravity? In each case it involves someone who pretends to be one thing on the surface, but is someone else deep down. I think it's only a matter of time before academia has its turn in the pervnado barrel.

The surface is glib, shiny, and seductive. But you can't even know it's a surface except from the perspective of the depth. Eliminate the depth, and the surface is the depth. Several aphorisms come to mind, for example,

To feign knowledge of a subject, it is advisable to adopt its most recent interpretation.


The only man who saves himself from intellectual vulgarity is the man who ignores what it is fashionable to know.

Journalists are the worst of all, being that journalism is -- to paraphrase someone -- of and for the moment. There are, of course, exceptions, but journalism as such is the study and transmission of appearances. It used to be the function of history to sort it all out later.

To paraphrase someone else, journalism is the first rough draft of history. But now it's the first rough draft of rewritten history, AKA historical revisionism. Anyone can get the facts wrong, but to weave them into a grand narrative requires a historian.

In the real world, "noise" is what interferes with the transmission of information. But the news media is quite literally the noise media, insofar as they provide a kind of incessant noise between appearances and reality. They generate a flow of pseudo-information which is really a diabolical "higher noise." It has the appearance of information but is really the obfuscation of reality.

For which reason Iowahawk, of whom we are not worthy, says that Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving. A professional journalist is someone who knows which stories to asphyxiate.

In another solid gold tweet, Jim Treacher says Modern journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn't know because they might reflect badly on Democrats.

There is a deeper principle -- or lack thereof -- in all of this, but I got a late start and now I'm near out of time. It's one of the threads running through this other challenging book I'm reading called No God, No Science: Theology, Cosmology, Biology (not challenging because of the subject matter, but because of the presentation).

Here are a couple of clues as to what's going on deep down in the cosmos, beneath all the journalism, entertainment, education, and other lies:

Though we are led to think that the universe is the province of a special science such as astrophysics or astronomy, the cosmos (or universe) is an irreducibly metaphysical and theological idea.

But modernity has essentially destroyed the soul while leaving the cosmos (disclosed by and to the soul) standing. The cosmos is now like a shell, vacated of hierarchy, truth, meaning, and spiritual depth. Deep down it has become entirely flat, such that it can no longer even account for its own intelligibility. In other words, it can no longer host the soul that intuitively perceives its nonlocal wholeness-in-being. It is a ghost town minus the animating ghost.