Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Taking Existence Personally

I've completed nearly six years of posts, meaning there are only seven years left to review. However, I didn't post quite as frequently after 2010, so I'm actually beyond the halfway mark in terms of sheer verbiage. On the other hand, the quality is beginning to pick up, which is seriously slowing me down, in that I have to actually pay attention to what I've written.

I don't ask much of a post. My only request is that it hold my interest. Which this old one from 2011 did:

One point to bear in mind is that we cannot regard the cosmos as some sort of static or given fact, if only because its factuality hasn't yet fully disclosed itself. The world is always evolving, always coming-into-being; furthermore, "world and human existence belong necessarily to one another, so that neither a worldless man nor even a world without man seems thinkable" (Ratzinger).

No one disputes the first half of this equation, but few people outside the coonosphere even think about the second part, i.e., the impossibility of a world without man -- not necessarily Homo sapiens per se, but more generally, the necessity of a vertical "bridge" between Creator and creation in any manifestation deployed in space and time: persons.

Even the most materialistic scientist knows there is an intimate link between cosmos and anthropos, if only because all science depends upon the consummation and development of this intimate marriage of intelligence and intelligibility.

To put it another way, even the scientist implicitly knows that science is impossible without scientists. In short, there must be a kind of anterior and posterior oneness beneath the explicit twoness (or complementarity) of cosmos and man, in the absence of which we couldn't explain anything, especially the surprising mirrorcle of science <--> scientists.

Again, science advances via the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A single concept -- say, gravity -- draws together a host of phenomena, on both a micro and macro scale, that had seemed entirely separate. For Ratzinger, this "two-in-one structure" of man and cosmos "has always pointed to... unity as its final goal."

This being the case, it is incorrect to suggest that history is something that simply "happens" in the cosmos. Rather, "the cosmos is itself history. It does not merely form the scene of human history; before human history began, and later with it, cosmos is itself 'history.'" Ultimately, "there is only one single all-embracing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes 'forward'" (ibid.).

Now, this "one single all-embracing world history" is the unifying theme of our book and of this blog, no matter how far we may seem to stray from the plot. We are always on the way to the place from which we never left, even if we never can arrive there.

I remember an analogy used by Alan Watts. Imagine looking at a wooden fence with a hole in it. A cat walks by on the other side. Assuming no prior knowledge of cats, one would have no way of unifying the disparate phenomena appearing from our side of the hole. We would see an event play out in time, which is actually unified in a higher space.

We may apply the same idea to the cosmos, since we are in the analogous position of viewing its diverse phenomena through our finite and transitory existence on this side of the whole. As Ratzinger explains,

"Of course, to him who sees only a section of it, this piece, even though it may be relatively big, looks like a circling in the same spot. No direction is perceptible. It is only observed by him who begins to see the whole" (emphasis mine). (For example, even simplistic Darwinian evolution may only be seen by those transcending it; nothing less than man knows anything about it.)

In other words, the lower dimensional evolutionary "movement" of the cosmos can only be seen from a higher perspective -- one more reason why there can be no "naked facts," because the nature of any fact changes, depending upon the temporal and dimensional perspective.

For example, in this larger perspective, the "natural world" is not, and cannot be, some sort of abstract realm cut off from the totality of the cosmos. Rather, in an evolutionary, historical cosmos, "matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind" (emphasis mine).

Here again, as explained in the book, it is nothing more than an unexamined prejudice -- a postmodern superstition of the tenured -- to attempt to pull the subject down into into the object, as if this provides any kind of satisfactory explanation for either.

This approach is analogous to attempting to pull the space of a building into its walls. One would have to be quite uncurious -- or a kind of craven conformist -- to accept it without at least raising one's hand in class and asking w-w-why?

One doesn't have to accept the Christian solution, but at least it confronts this question of an evolutionary cosmos head-on, without coming to a gentileman's agreement not to avoid certain awkward questions.

For if Jesus is who we think he is, then "the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter."

Rather, "the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist" (ibid., emphasis mine).

This is indeed one of our foundational orthoparadoxes, and quite literally the "connecting thread" of all our cosmic adventures. For without this connecting thread, there could be no connections and no threads at all. Regarded in this manner, what had looked merely "natural" is drawn up into a much more glorious narrative, i.e., the Adventure of Consciousness.

And not only. For this way of looking at things is, in a manner of speaking, the death of death, since the "dead world" of matter (or the world of dead matter) looks very different once Life emerges from its dark womb.

But might we say the same of Mind? Is mind merely a dead end, a cosmic nul-de-slack, or does it point beyond itself to a higher source and destiny? Again, at least Christianity confronts and answers the question without changing the subject -- into an object:

We have said before that nature and mind form one single history, which advances in such a way that mind emerges more and more clearly as the all-embracing element and thus anthropology and cosmology finally in actual fact coalesce.

But this assertion of the increasing "complexification" of the world through mind necessarily implies its unification around a personal center, for mind is not just an undefined something or other; where it exists in its own specific nature, it subsists as individuality, as person.

Therefore, this "implies that the cosmos is moving toward a unification in the personal," and "confirms once again the infinite precedence of the individual over the universal.... The world is in motion toward unity in the person. The whole draws its meaning from the individual, not the other way about" (ibid., emphasis mine).

Thus the conclusion of Christianity, at once "scandalous" and yet fully in keeping with the way things Are and Must Be: that a single individual, a fully integrated and complete Cross-Word puzzall, is "the center of history and of the whole.... What stands at the end is a countenance. The omega of the world is a 'you,' a person, an individual."

Time out for aphorisms:

--For the Christian, history does not have a direction, but rather a center.

--By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face.

And this, by the way, has political implications, since this quintessential cosmo-historical Person "is at the same time the final denial of all collectivism.... The final stage of the world is not the result of a natural current, but the result of responsibility that is grounded in freedom."

(All quoted material from Ratzinger's so-called "Introduction" to Christianity.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Update: Keeping Limber with Truth, Freedom, and, uh, Other Cosmic Strands

Update: I've now reviewed over 1,700 posts, which means there are only around 1,500 to go, at which time I may resume blogging, because I feel better when I blog than when I don't. Keeps the mind and spirit, you know, limber.

Here's an old post I reviewed just this morning, which I kind of like. I like it because it comes down to a number of un-further-downable fundamentals. And if the Book is to be written, that is what it would involve: those truths that cannot but be true.

***

They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? Even -- or especially -- the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered Truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept (or possibility) of truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If compulsory racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior races." Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise in ways that severely hindered their logical allocation.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy. [This is the difference between an AOC or Omar, who are clearly principled, vs. a Pelosi or Schumer, who aren't.]

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its good name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

Man is ultimately oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit of his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is of course absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the mere existence of this or that "god" (likely a false god of his own imagination anyway), but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-beingness of O without absurdly disproving his own existence (since the existence of even the atheist is explained by something higher than existence, not lower).

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O. Obviously, the object and purpose of religion transcends religiosity, but cannot exclude it.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than we are -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

(Some resonance here with a few comments I made on an Instapundit thread this morning.)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Map of MAGA Country

Still slogging my way through the archive. This is from an old post:

But with the gradually increasing materialization and quantification of our culture over the past several centuries, it is very much the case that our exterior maps are more detailed than ever, even while the interior ones have become sketchy and impoverished at best.

I say "at best" because when a map loses its features, it becomes a kind of canvas for the psyche to project upon. Prior to the development of systematic scientific discovery -- the discovery of discovery -- the situation was the reverse, in that our exterior maps were vehicles of psychic projection. People projected all sorts of mind parasites in the form of mythical beasts beyond the boundaries of the known world. It is similar to how liberals imagine that anyone outside their familiar territory is a greedy, racist, and homophobic monster, as seen below in the depiction of Trump supporters swimming beyond the shores of academia and the MSM:

When the progressive condemns, every intelligent man must feel alluded to. --NGD

I was also thinking of how in a shame culture, you'll see a lot of fake honor; in a guilt culture, fake innocence; and in a victim culture, fake oppression and hate crime hoaxes. When victimhood is incentivized -- itself a crypto-religious secular perversion of "the meek shall inherit the earth" -- it results in a literal race to the bottom, such that the scum rises to the top.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cosmic Area Rug Update

This is what I'm talking about. It's from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that I bumped into the other day:

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour / Rains from the sky a meteoric shower / Of facts... they lie unquestioned, uncombined. / Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill / Is daily spun, but there exists no loom / To weave it into fabric.

So, that's where we come in: a loom with a view toward weaving the threads into fabric, and fabric into rug. By the end of the week I will have gone through around 1,300 posts, so, less than 2,000 posts to go after that.

However, these newer posts might well take longer to review, since they will presumably be superior to the ones I've slogged through thus far. If they aren't better, then I think we can throw out the whole "10,000 hour" thingy.

We know all about "information management." What about "wisdom management"? That would be the purpose of the Cosmic Area Rug: you could just look at the rug and see where things fit in, and where everything relates to the whole encirclopedia of existence.

What? Yes, I am aware of the fact that it is an impossible undertaking. Why else would I try to do it? The possible is boring.

I recently read a book called Too Much to Know, which is essentially a history of man's information overload, which actually began long before the "information age." For example, Descartes lamented that

Even if all knowledge could be found in books, where it is mixed in with so many useless things and confusingly heaped in such large volumes, it would take longer to read those books than we have to live in this life and more effort to select the useful things than to find them oneself.

Too little time, too many tomes. And way before the Enlightenment there were already too many books; we read in Ecclesiastes 12:12 that "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."

Or Erasmus 500 years ago: "Is there anywhere on earth exempt from these swarms of new books? Even if, taken out one at a time, they offered something worth knowing, the very mass of them would be a serious impediment to learning..."

There was a time when man had insufficient information. But now there is so much that we can't cope with it -- indeed there is more new information produced in a year or two (or whatever it is) than all the information man has produced in the past.

But wisdom doesn't increase in a similarly exponential or even linear manner. Indeed, one could argue that by definition wisdom cannot increase, since it goes to essences -- to the very nature of things. Nor is it possible to have too much of it. Which is the only excuse for another book: my only promise is that it will be entirely free of information.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Father of Anthropology

Anthropology is catching up to One Cosmos (although not really, because with the reactionary left there is always a backlash against truth):
As any parent knows, human babies are startlingly dependent when they are born. This is due to the combination of a narrowed birth canal -- the consequence of our bipedality -- and our unusually large brains, which are six times larger than they should be for a mammal of our body size.
This has meant that, to ensure the survival of mother and baby and the continued existence of our species, we have evolved to exhibit a shortened gestation period, enabling the head to pass safely through the birth canal. The consequence of this is that our babies are born long before their brains are fully developed.
Without dad’s input, the threat to the survival of his child, and hence his genetic heritage, was such that, on balance, it made sense to stick around. Dad was incentivised to commit to one female and one family while rejecting those potential matings with other females, where his paternity was less well-assured.
The author claims that "until 10 years ago the role of fatherhood had been neglected on the grounds that it is wholly dispensable." However, I myself was highly influenced by a work of anthropology that was published over 60 years ago, The Human Animal by Weston LaBarre. It's one of those books that didn't have to convince me of anything, but rather, simply reminded me of what I already knew but had never completely worked out.

Take away the animal and Homo sapiens is inexplicable; take away God and the human person (and science) vanishes. For it is written: all attacks on God are attacks on the mind itself.

Regarding the latter, man and God are mirrors: The very word “man” implies “God”, the very word “relative” implies “Absolute” (Schuon). Moreover, The transcendent God is not a projection of the one who is our father in the flesh. To the contrary, a reflection of God turns the animal progenitor into a father (Dávila). So, a little perspective please!
To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative.... 
Once man makes of himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all his meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses (Schuon).
In other words, the vertical collapses and we are in flatland, where there are no truths, only opinionated bipeds and tenured apes.

LaBarre: "The family is not a creation of culture: without the family there would be no culture!"

And feminists don't like to hear this, but in the very nature of things, men are responsible for civilization in a way women could never be: to begin with, men are selected for aggressive competition with other men (if only to protect the mother-and-helpless infant), which would appear to pose a barrier to civilization.

In order to overcome this, "a new adaptive mechanism is necessary," and this consists of abstract rules and conventions (there is a reason why men tend to be more abstract than women, and women more interpersonal than men).
Culture is the non-bodily and non-genetic contriving of bonds of agreement that enable this animal to function as human.
Such relationships -- of father and son, and of male and male -- must be forged morally. They can operate only through the discipline [or sublimation or transcendence] of aggression, through identification with one another.... 
Women often wonder that men are so passionately concerned with generalizations and with principles....
But the simple fact is that males do not have female bodies. Human males need principles and agreements by very virtue of their being males and being the kind of animal that necessarily and still usefully embodies the old mammalian male aggressiveness. No amount of feminine example and persuasion can un-teach the honest masculine animal of this knowledge of his nature (emphasis mine).
See our fatherless urban underclass for details. And increasingly our (former) civilization. And of course the systematic anti- and dis-honesty of academia.

LaBarre himself came at things from a purely secular perspective -- or at least he imagined this was the case. But one cannot simultaneously speak truth and avoid God. Thus, he speaks of "the logos that is the endless preoccupation of male metaphysics":
What connects father and son, male and male, is the mystery of logos and logos alone: logos as the literal "word" which conveys linguistic meaning and understanding; logos as laws, agreements, rules, and regularities of behavior; logos as the implicit means and substance of common understanding and communication, and of cultural joining in the same styles of thinking; and logos as shared pattern, within which father can identify with son and permit his infancy, within which son can identify with father and become a man, and within which a male can perceive and forgive the equal manhood of his fellow-man.
Not for nothing is God the Father and not Mother -- and yet there is always a deeper dialectic or complementarity between them; indeed the womb of Beyond Being is in a sense prior to Father, but that's another storey to the metacosmos.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sharing the Muck

Still mucking about in the archive -- I've probably looked at over 700 posts by now, so less than 3,000 to go. Clearing out the entire stable will probably take six months of mucking. Fortunately, the quality picks up after about mid-2007, so it wasn't just my imagination that there were some interesting posts along the way.

Some random sentences, sentence fragments, questions, and partial answers from 2007 that I still like, or at least don't totally get on my nerves:

A clue that it isn’t the ultimate explanation is that you can fully comprehend it.

One can’t write anything on the subject of reality without saying something that isn’t true.

What kind of cosmos gives rise to Subjects who may know Truth?

It is somewhat bizarre to think that our own thinking could solve the problem; but even more bizarre to think that it couldn't.

There is something in the human mind that wants to contain novelty and demystify the world -- to make the anxiety of not-knowing go away. In a sense this is perfectly understandable. Ironically, it is a legacy of our evolved genotype which, after all, was not designed to ponder the mystery of being but to survive and obtain tenure.

If intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this.

As far as we know, information is something that must be stored in a differentiated and stable physical substrate, but the Big Bang had no time to store anything and no place to store it, since time and matter didn't exist.

The wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. An organism is not just a sack of genetic material, and a mind is not a pile of neurological facts.

All other animals merely inhabit a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world. Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally didn't come into existence until human beings happened upon the scene. Prior to subjects there is nothing.

Given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible.

While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to engage with Being as a whole.

Science can never be complete or exhaustive because "it explains things in terms that are themselves left unexplained," and is therefore inevitably circular.

Of course, it is always possible that the scientific ideas capable of being hatched in the mind of man just so happen to coincide with ultimate reality. But the chances are so remote that we may dismiss them out of hand. In a way, the atheist is asking us to believe something far more unbelievable than religious revelation, which is that the cosmos reveals its true inner and outer nature to man just by sheer luck.

As Magee points out, "The only plausible possibility of a reality completely corresponding to our conceptions of it rests on the possibility that reality itself could be mind-like, or could be created by a mind, or by minds."

The existence of man's mind tells us much more about the nature of this cosmos than does the cosmos itself.

Subject and Object are irreducible existential categories, and we can burrow into the cosmic mountain from either end. Clearly, no cosmos is possible without both. Science -- for reasons it never examines -- disregards the Subject, which ineluctably ends in metaphysical absurdity, since it leads to a situation in which it explains everything except the mysterious one doing the explaining.

You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." One might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.

There is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.

To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.

Science can never arrive at any ultimate explanation, because the scientist doing the explaining will always defy quantification. For he is an irreducible subject, an ontological category that slips through the coarse cognitive nets of science like a herd of cats trying to nail Jello soup to the wall with a fork.

Steinsaltz: "Man's question should not be how to escape the perpetual struggle but what form to give it, at what level to wage it."

I'm waging it against my own years of logorrhea.

UPDATE

This was also mildly amusing:

Neuroscientists have identified a network of brain regions activated when people feel aa if God doesn't exist. Artificially stimulating the brain in this way, they say, might allow people to have atheistic experiences without disbelieving in God themselves.

Lead author Rufus T. Firefly at the University of Feedonia says that he wanted to know what was going on in the brain during materialistic, secular, or atheistic episodes because of his own personal experiences. During such moments, people have the illusion that they are separate from the source of being, and may feel existential anxiety, absence of ultimate meaning, and even a sense of absurdity.

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people...

Earlier studies have suggested that such experiences might originate in one specific part of the brain. Work with autistic patients who are incapable of religious feeling has suggested that a hypertrophied region in the temporal cortex, dubbed the “secular spot” or “materialistic module,” could be largely responsible. There has been controversy over experiments suggesting that stimulating this area of the temporal lobes can induce the illusion of materialism.

The "Sam Harris Switch"

Dr. Firefly says that it is already possible to use machines to mimic the type of brain activation that atheists experience. "It's feasible to bring people into such a state where the mind is reduced to such machine or robot-like experiences." This research might eventually be used to undo the deleterious mental and physiological health effects that various studies have linked to the absence of religiosity, he suggests.

But many secular scientists and people with materialistic beliefs would be opposed to such an idea because it suggests that the philosophy of scientific materialism is just "junk metaphysics," a stubborn but ultimately superstitious illusion rooted in our evolved nervous system, says Dr. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, professor of applied voodoo and witchcraft and an authority on authoritarianism at Dawkins College in New York.

"I don't know what useful information can be gleaned from this study," Wagstaff says. "Just because we have an advanced diagnostic technique doesn't mean we should use it on anything that comes to mind," he says. "People's beliefs are sacred, even if they're technically profane."

However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Little Something About Nothing

Here is the procedure I am following: 1) skimming each and every post; 2) extracting any passage that strikes me on any level for any reason; 3) placing it in file for that year (or sometimes half-year, since there's too much); 4) subsequently reviewing (and re-reviewing and re-re-reviewing) the material for each year in a more ruthlessly critical way, tossing out the fat, i.e., the transient, trite, repetitive, cute, clever, facile, pompous, BoBastic, etc.; all the while waiting for the deeper organization to emerge from the fog.

I've sketched out a crude cosmic map on a large piece of cardboard, roughly three by four feet. Naturally it has God at the top, with all the rest flowing down and out from that absolute principle (and then back up). Problem is, there are dozens of categories which I need to tighten up in a more coherent way.

Hmm. I notice there are many trinities, such reason-empiricism-mysticism, sense-knowledge-presence, truth-will-beauty, order-disorder-chaos, and a lot of complementarities too, such as self-other, male-female, world-God, ascent-descent, vertical-horizontal, whole-part, time-eternity, etc. Perhaps the music of the cosmos is played in 3/2 time.

I just now realized I need a "higher" or deeper" category above, behind, within, or at least in dialectic with God, AKA Beyond-Being, the apophatic God, Eckhart's ground, etc. This principle is not nothing!

Well, to be perfectly vague, it is nothing, but only from the finite perspective (with which it is always in dialectic). But it is critical to bear in mind that its shadow runs through everything, all the way down. It is why, in reality, no man knows anything about anything.

In other words, no matter how much we "know," it's all still a Great Mystery, and a big part of spiritual life is the (vertical) recollection of this Primordial Fact, thereby "withdrawing" all of our day-to-day projections that create and sustain the various pseudo-realities we otherwise inhabit.

For truly, without this vertical recollection we are like spiders who spin webs out of our own psycho-pneumatic substance, and then inhabit the webs. It is very easy to see another person's web. A psychologist does this -- or used to do this, anyway -- on a professional basis. But now psychologists actually help to maintain the web(s), such that the person who spun it can't even stand back from and examine it! (In other words, it is the same war on transcendence common to all forms of fascism.)

Consider the following headline from the I-Can't-Even Department: American Psychological Association Labels 'Traditional Masculinity' as 'Harmful'. I'm not going to bother reading the story, but I can assure you the real problem is the toxic femininity that has infiltrated and devastated the entire field, such that it has become such a joke. If that is psychology, then we have to invent a new word for what Jordan Peterson and I and a few other outlaws are talking about.

Anyway, this morning, while doing a re-review of 2006, I found the following passage by Roger Kimball, in reference to Roger Scruton:

Scruton comes bearing news about permanent things, one part of which is the evanescence of human aspiration. Hence the governing word "loss." There is a sense in which conservatism is anti-Romantic, since it is constitutionally suspicious of the schemes of perfection Romanticism typically espouses.

But there is another sense in which conservatism is deeply Romantic: the sense in which it recognizes and embraces the ineradicable frailty, the ultimate futility, of things human. "And so," Scruton writes, "I acquired consciousness of death and dying, without which the world cannot be loved for what it is. That, in essence is what it means to be a conservative.”

Scruton writes that, “without the consciousness of loss, there is nothing a conservative would find worth conserving. It is only by facing up to loss... that we can build on the dream of ultimate recuperation.” As such, “one of the most harrowing depredations of the modern world is to rob us of the religious sense, which is to say the sense of loss.” Too often, Scruton notes, “there is neither love nor happiness -- only fun. For us, one might be tempted to suggest, the loss of religion is the loss of loss.”

So, recollection of Death is one way to stay in dialectic with the Nothing referenced above.