Friday, March 30, 2018

Hierarchy, Caste, and Light Detectors

Okay, I don't really know where I'm going with this idea of depth. So let's go there!

For example, last night I had a dream that took place in the southern US. I was looking at an empty space where one of their statues had been removed. An old classmate from grad school recognized me, and I sat at her table while pretending to recognize her.

As we chatted, I defended the statues, suggesting to her that there was much more to southern culture than just slavery -- as there is more to Germany than Nazism (or more even to New York than the Times). But she was thoroughly steeped in the Narrative, and obviously didn't understand where I was coming from. I could tell she suspected I was a racist, and there was no way for me to escape the imputation. In such situations, the more you try to explain, the more defensive and guilty you sound.

So, it was a case of level confusion. Yes, it was also a case of narrative vs. truth, but such simplistic narratives can only exist at a certain cognitive level. A more intelligent or curious or openminded person questions the narrative and thereby escapes the matrix.

Eh, that's not a very good example. How about this one: a couple evenings ago I had a wide-ranging conversation with a lady. She asked what I did for a living, and I said "psychologist," which for some reason always gets a rise out of people. But I always qualify it right away, since I don't at all relate to the field. Okay, then what am I?

Good question. Really, I'm just this guy having a wide-ranging conversation with you, nothing more, nothing less. It's kind of what I do. Including on this blog.

But again, it's a question of depth. For me, psychology is dwarfed by metaphysics, theology, mysticism, esoterism, philosophy. The latter are totally compelling, in comparison to which psychology is a cage.

Indeed, it reminds me of the old gag to the effect that for the sage, paradise is a prison. You could drop me into any earthly paradise, but if I didn't have the space and time(lessness) to simply be, then it wouldn't be paradise.

So, in a very important way, being is paradise, and vice versa. That's a bold statement. Can you back it up? I think you're just lazy -- and probably neurotic -- and that you hide behind these fancy metaphysical ideas to conceal your lack of achievement.

Oh shut up. One mother-in-law is enough.

Looking back on it, I've always been sensitive to "class." Not economic class, nor social standing. Rather, something more ethereal... I'm sure Raccoons know what I'm talking about: there are supernaturally natural aristocrats, or "beings of light," so to speak. Can't you tell when you're in the presence of one? Of course you can. You can also feel the darkness. The remarkable thing is that some -- or most -- people can't.

For example, Rachel Maddow is apparently the most popular cable news host these days. I literally cannot imagine what it would be like to regard her as normal -- to not sense the dark-and-crazy. Conversely, there are people who regard, say, Churchill as Hitler. Not just on the fringe, but in the Washington Post (my mother-in-law sent me the link, worried that I might be giving our son a one-sided perspective).

Hmm... if Churchill is Hitler, that means Hitler is Churchill, so what's the big deal?

This post is turning into the Usual Friday Ramble, isn't it? Let's try to restore order with some gimlet words from Schuon. And what is order but awareness of, and respect for, levels?

The man of “aristocratic” nature -- we are not speaking of social classes -- is he who masters himself and who loves to master himself; the “plebeian” by nature -- with the same reservation -- is on the contrary he who does not master himself, and who does not wish to do so.

To master oneself is in substance to want to transcend oneself, in conformity with the reason for being of that central and total creature which is man; in fact, the man of the “dark age” lives below himself. Thus he must transcend himself -- or re-establish the equilibrium between Maya and Atma -- in accordance with a norm which he bears within himself, and which comprises all that makes life worth living.

For example... let's just say I know of a family of billionaires in which the wife and daughters are devoted to the TV program Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Can you even imagine what that must be like? Which proves -- as if such proof is necessary -- that no amount of money can purchase the kind of class under discussion.

I can hear it now: who are you to speak of class, when you support Trump! Again, level confusion: politics is politics. Dennis Prager speaks for me:

the policies of a political leader matter much more -- morally -- than that individual’s sexual sins, or even character. It is truly foolish to argue otherwise.... That “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper and many in our country found it acceptable to ask a woman, “Did he use a condom?” on national TV is a far graver reflection of America’s moral malaise than a man having a one-night affair 12 years ago....

The fact is it is none of my business and none of my concern whether a politician ever had an extramarital affair. To cite just one of many examples, a president’s attitude toward the genocide-advocating Islamic tyrants in Tehran is incomparably more morally significant. That is just one of many reasons -- on moral grounds alone -- I far prefer the current president to the faithful-to-his-wife previous president.

It is apparently difficult to escape the caste to which one has been assigned. Think of all the academics who shouldn't be thinking, but rather, engaged in some productive form of manual labor. Most of the real trouble in the world can be traced to miscaste "intellectuals."

Schuon: "Caste takes precedence over race because spirit has priority over form; race is a form while caste is a spirit." But the left, from Andrew Jackson to the present, maintains the opposite: that race is critically important. Really, diversity and multiculturalism are the substitution of race for natural hierarchy, such that even truth itself is denied.

We've discussed the idea of caste before. You don't have to take it literally to understand that there is something to it, based upon everyday experience. Who hasn't met a warrior, or priest, or scholar, or laborer, or merchant? Nor do I, for example, pretend to be a warrior. I could probably be one, but it wouldn't be me -- the guy who likes to have pointless, wide-ranging conversations.

There is first of all the intellective, speculative, contemplative, sacerdotal type, which tends towards wisdom or holiness; holiness referring more particularly to contemplation, and wisdom to discernment.

Next there is the warlike and royal type, which tends towards glory and heroism; even in spirituality... this type will readily be active, combative and heroic, hence the ideal of the “heroicalness of virtue.”

The third type is the respectable “average” man: he is essentially industrious, balanced, persevering; his center is love for work that is useful and well done, and carried out with God in mind; he aspires neither to transcendence nor to glory -- although he desires to be both pious and respectable -- but like the sacerdotal type, he loves peace and is not interested in adventures; a tendency which predisposes him to a contemplativeness conformable with his occupations.

Lastly there is the type that has no ideal other than that of pleasure in the more or less coarse sense of the word; this is concupiscent man who, not knowing how to master himself, has to be mastered by others, so that his great virtue will be submission and fidelity.

Modern liberalism is premised on the idea that anyone can be anything, which is really a way of saying that everyone is nobody. We are not infinitely malleable. You are who you are, and it is a matter of actualizing and deepening that you, not pretending you're someone else.

Surely there must be some aphorisms that can save this wayward and wooly post from itself!

Equality is not justice; it is merely the way of avoiding the obligation of attributing to each his own.

Unjust inequality is not remedied by equality, but by just inequality.

Leveling is the barbarian’s substitute for order.

Where equality permits liberty to enter, inequality slips in.

He who claims equal opportunity ends up requiring that the gifted be penalized.

There is something definitively vile about the man who only admits equals, who does not tirelessly seek out his betters.

Equality is not the fulfillment but the perversion of equity. Only a hierarchical ordering proceeds equitably with “the lion and the ox” (Dávila).

By the way, I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else. Indeed, I would love for just once to be normal. But I've resigned myself to the realization that that is something that can never be. So the conversation continues...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Simple and Deep, Complex and Shallow

We are on the subject of depth: what is it, and how do we know it? There are degrees of depth in thought, prose, poetry, science, religion, music, painting, or in other words, knowledge and beauty.

But again, depth isn't necessarily covariant with truth. I suppose Heidegger is deep, but that doesn't make him any less wrong. And in a certain sense, truth is actually quite simple, simplicity being not at all synonymous with superficiality. "God's essence is to exist." Doesn't get more simple or true than that.

Nevertheless, Often the simpler a truth is the more difficult it is to understand (NGD).

Some people are drawn to depth, while it appears that most people are indifferent to it at best, but often repelled by it. In the past, I've written about the psychological reasons for this, in that -- in my opinion -- just as people have psychological defense mechanisms that repress, deny, project and otherwise transform the lower vertical, they also have "pneumatic" defense mechanisms that allow them to do the same with the upper vertical. Which is how leftism becomes a religion.

To say lower is to say higher, and it makes no sense to affirm that the human ego is the highest entity in all of creation. Rather, it is always situated on a vertical spectrum between... best to leave this undefined -- or unsaturated with preconceptions -- since the unKnown is at both ends; let's just say that man is suspended between O and Ø.

With this in mind, we now have a way to conceptualize depth: the deeply true is in the direction of O, while the deeply false is in the direction of Ø. Looked at in this way, reductionistic Darwinism is deeply false, as is Marxism, or feminism, or positivism (giving adherents the benefit of the doubt that these isms are deep to begin with).

Now, what can it mean to be "in the direction of O"? How can we tell? Let's leave aside aesthetics and focus on thought. One critical point is that while Ø necessarily excludes O, O must encompass and account for Ø -- which is precisely what makes it the more deep. For depth implies comprehensiveness, and a system that accounts for the cosmic Subject is obviously more comprehensive than one that pretends to deny it at the outset (and it can only pretend to do so, on pain of saying nothing with no one to say it).

Conversely, O doesn't deny Ø, least of all in the Christian tradition. Indeed, we could even think of Incarnation as O becoming Ø; or, to tweak the old patristic gag, "O became Ø that Ø might become O."

In contrast, think of Eastern traditions for which Ø is pure illusion. Their goal is to attain O, but it must be a less comprehensive O, since it excludes Ø. A western representative of the same approach is Plotinus, whom St. Augustine rejected for precisely this reason. With neoplatonism you can experience the One, only you can't be there to experience it. D'O!

Backing up a bit, it was the work of millennia to first discover that God is one: "A religious-minded Greek felt himself the passive battlefield of overpowering and too often mutually conflicting divine influences. His will was at their mercy" (Gilson, God and Philosophy).

This testifies to a fragmented psyche that is both the cause and consequence of inability to know the One. This was a world "where everything came to men from without, including their feelings and passions, their virtues and their vices..." (ibid.).

And guess what? That world most assuredly still exists. As a clinical psychologist, I see it all the time -- not just in patients but (especially!) in politics, which is the widest field for externalizing various psychic fragments.

For example, the existence of people who cannot tolerate free speech isn't really a political problem but a psychological crisis. To even discuss it on the plane of politics is to obscure and displace its location and depth. In other words, there can be no deep political reason to eliminate free speech. However, there are certainly deep psychological reasons to do so! But that's between you and your psychologist.

Back to the gradual discovery of the One: "What makes Aristotle's metaphysics an epoch-making event in the history of natural theology is that in it the long delayed conjunction of the first philosophical principle with the notion of god became at last an accomplished fact" (ibid). In short, God is no longer the fragmented and un-integrated experience described above, but its synthesis: "At the summit of the Aristotelian universe is not an Idea, but a self-subsisting and eternal Act of thinking": an eternally one-ing one, so to speak.

Coming at it from a different angle -- revelation as opposed to natural theology -- "any follower of the Jewish God would know at once that, whatever the nature of reality itself may be said to be, its religious principle must of necessity coincide with its philosophical principle" -- each is one, but unified in an even higher Oneness: I AM and IT IS are not two, so to speak.

Gilson mentions in passing a key principle in understanding depth, that "Whereas Thomas Aquinas distinguished in order to unite, Descartes divided in order to separate." In the case of the latter, there is no way to put the cosmic egg back together after the initial division of thought and being -- thus, there can be no recovery of the depth of reality.

But what makes a thing deep is precisely the complementary oneness in the many and manyness of the One. "A world," writes Schuon, "is not a simple and inert block, but an infinitely variegated play of antinomies and combinations" which nevertheless possess a "homogeneous character," otherwise they would be different worlds. "Existence crystallizes, divides, and disperses; Intelligence on the contrary brings back to unity." The two are complementary:

we must distinguish between a perspective that is intellectual and unitive and another that is existential and separative; the first envisions everything in relation to unity, even Existence..., whereas the second sees everything in relation to separativity, even Intelligence...

Theology and science, respectively. Which are not two. Anything short of this is in the shallow end of the gene pool. For "there is no true synthesis without discernment." And vice versa.

Aphorisms, which is to say, maximum depth with minimum words:

All truths converge upon one truth, but the routes have been barricaded.

Thought can avoid the idea of God as long as it limits itself to meditating on minor problems.

In order for a multitude of diverse terms to coexist, it is necessary to place them on different levels. A hierarchical ordering is the only one that neither expels nor suppresses them. --Dávila

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Building the Cosmic Cake or Something

Back to the structure of the conditions of existence -- which is to say, the rules of the game. What game? The Game of the Cosmos, or Cosmic Game. So play the game existence to the end... of the beginning (Lennon).

These structural conditions are universal. Why is that? Because this is a universe. You might even say they are the universe, because everything else changes, while these remain the same. For that matter, they also account for, or undergird, the change.

"Existence is perceived by a subject, and what it perceives is contents in containers, namely matter-energy, forms, and numbers, all situated in space and time" (Schuon). Can't get more concise than that: mattergy, spacetime, form & number, all perceived by a subject.

Everything we perceive is a form of matter-energy; the form is, so to speak, the nonlocal container, or that which makes a thing what it is. But some forms require time in order to disclose and reveal themselves. Or in other words, they are "nothing" in an instant.

Come to think of it, nothing is anything in an instant, since a degree of time is present in all manifestation. As Schuon explains it, the spatial container "is static and conserving," while the temporal container "is dynamic and transforming." Nothing is actually completely static, nor can anything consist of pure change.

Which, by the way, goes to one of the metaphysical criticisms of Darwinism: if everything is evolving, then we couldn't know it, knowledge -- or truth -- being of the changeless, precisely. Truth cannot surpass, or "evolve" beyond, itself, which is one reason why there can be no species that will evolve beyond man. Man can already know the absolute, so evolution beyond this is strictly inconceivable -- which is not to say we can't deepen our understanding of it, or see it from a higher perspective.

Time out for Aphorisms, once again arranged (by me) hierarchically:

Because opinions change, the relativist believes that truths change.

Truths are not relative. What is relative are opinions about the truth.

Religious thought does not go forward like scientific thought does, but rather goes deeper.

The scientific proposition presents an abrupt alternative: understanding it or not understanding it. The philosophical proposition, however, is susceptible to growing insight. Finally, the religious proposition is a vertical ascent that allows one to see the same landscape from different altitudes.

Regarding that last one, in recent days I've been thinking a lot about the idea of depth. What exactly is it, and is it real? We use the term all the time to navigate the subjective world, and no intellectual wishes to be thought shallow. And yet, there they are: millions of them!

Clearly, to say "depth" is to say "verticality." So, straight away, a person who denies verticality is not only as shallow as can be (e.g. Steven Pinker), but ridiculously self-refuting, because verticality can only be denied from a vertical perspective. Only someone who transcends materiality can deny transcendence.

But for us, subjectivity -- the transcendent center(s) -- is built into the cosmic cake; it is not the residue or by-product or effluvia of something more fundamental, but fundamentality itself. Recall what Schuon says in paragraph three about the structure of existence: at one end subjects, at the other end contents-in-containers. In between is the Cosmos.

Interestingly, "deep" doesn't necessarily correlate with "true." For example, I well remember when I was an ordinary, unreflective, ambient liberal back in my 20s. Then I began to be exposed to thinkers such as Chomsky, Zinn, and all the rest, and said to myself, "Wow, this is deep!" It's deep in the sense that it either drills down to the foundations of leftism, or draws out its ultimate implications. Yes, both are absurd, if not crazy, but I didn't know that. I was too shallow!

Indeed, Confused ideas and murky ponds seem deep (NGD). Which reminds me of the recent insufferable Children's Crusade: To praise youth is to forget our former idiocy.

Come to think to it, at the other end of the spectrum, I'm sure this explains the appeal of Jordan Peterson: for me he doesn't go deep enough -- he's on the way there -- but for many of his fans it's as if he is their introduction to vertical psycho-pneumatic depth.

I'm not going to have time to say everything I want to say about this depth business. But here are some aphorisms that flutter around different aspects the subject:

The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality.

The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths.

And this one especially: Profundity is not in what is said, but in the level from which it is said. How do we assess this level? How do we know right away that this person is deep, and this one shallow? This applies not only to thought, but to music, painting, religion, politics, everything. And for some reason, most people get off the depth train before arriving at the final stop.

Definitely to be continued...