Friday, August 17, 2018

Okay, but How Did Patient Zero Get Sick?

This post began with an innocent attempt to respond to a comment from yesterday, and just got out of hand. It's a little rambly, but it's too late to fix it.

The search for Patient Zero of our troubles inevitably leads to questions of how this patient got sick in the first place.

Genesis tells us that it started with a serpent, but that's frankly not very helpful. Or, conversely, maybe it's very helpful, in the sense that it is basically telling us to stop asking questions about something we'll never fully understand anyway.

Analogously, I've heard Dennis Prager say that this is the purpose of the very first sentence of the Bible, that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

The larger purpose there is to cut off our idle speculation at the outset, and to let us know that the transcendent divine principle is responsible for all of creation, so deal with it. It's supposed to be helpful, in the sense that we now have a kind of unchanging foundation on which to build our metaphysic.

Put it this way: either the world is created, or it isn't. Obviously there is no merely human way to resolve the issue. Therefore, knowing this world is created is a kind of liberation from truly pointless speculation. For if the world isn't created, then all speculation is utterly pointless anyway. So ultimately, the doctrine is a gift to our intellect.

For Whoever does not believe in myths believes in fables (Dávila). You might say that God gives us certain fruitful myths so we don't descend into the childish fables of the tenured.

Likewise, perhaps the "doctrine of satan" (or of the adverse cosmic power) is a kind of helpful gift. Just accept it, because it explains a lot, even if we can't quite figure out how the principle fits into the overall scheme of things.

I mean, if you think theological explanations of evil are naive, then try the psychological, or economic, or feminist, or Marxist explanations! They're way too stupid for any intelligent person to take seriously, and yet, these childlike fables are the psychic petroleum of the left.

Besides, the satan principle is not as much a straightforward answer as a mystery to be pondered. Therefore, it operates quite differently from those concrete answers of the left that unambiguously locate evil in white males, or class warfare, or misogyny.

Time out for more aphorisms, because I can always rely on Dávila when I'm flailing around. For example, He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary. For precisely this reason, speaking of the farthest reaches of evil also requires a theological vocabulary.

Some of the relevant aphorisms are a bit indirect or oblique, such as this one: When man refuses the discipline the gods give him, demons discipline him. So, demonic influences rush in when we close ourselves off to divine ones. This makes a great deal of sense. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum. But so too does trans-nature.

An irreligious society cannot endure the truth of the human condition. It prefers a lie, no matter how imbecilic it may be. Boy and how! Think of the crazy alternatives to the doctrine of creation alluded to above.

Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls. Its only real power is via privation -- like the way an air conditioner runs on heat-producing energy.

Have you noticed how every evil regime on earth derives power by pretending to be the opposite of what it is? For example, The Islamic Republic of Iran, or The Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea. Or even the Democratic Party, which has always revolved around racial division and hatred, from Judge Taney to Sarah Jeong. At least they're consistent.

There is something to be said for the idea that, in the words of Schuon, the devil is "the humanized personification –- humanized on contact with man -- of the subversive aspect of the centrifugal existential power."

Therefore, Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized, and Man will have created a world in the image and likeness of hell when he inhabits an environment totally fabricated by his hands.

More generally, Hell is any place from which God is absent. And only man can render God absent, at least in imagination. Thus, The proclamation of our autonomy is the founding act of Hell.

Tolerance? No one is more respectful of “others’ beliefs” than the devil.

The death of God? The greatest modern error is not announcing that God is dead, but believing that the devil has died.

Truly, this could be the motto of the left: The devil can achieve nothing great without the thoughtless collaboration of the virtues.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Patient Zero of the Left

Another idiosyncratic post that goes nowhere, but may get there tomorrow...

I'm starting to think there may be no longterm cure for liberalism, i.e., that it is fatal. If it were just an acute illness -- say, something that only emerged in the 1930s, or 1960s -- then it might be treatable. But what if we are in the end stage of a centuries-long disease process?

Judge Bork implies as much, suggesting that certain odious developments "have been coming on for a long time and may be inherent in Western civilization."

Usually I think of Western civilization as the solution, not the problem. But if it is the problem, then there is no solution.

If the U.S. fails, then mankind fails. And if conservatism fails -- i.e, if we fail to conserve the vision of the founders -- then America fails.

Interesting how extremes meet. The left would agree with Bork that Western civilization is fatally flawed, but for very different reasons. Indeed, for Bork, the left's devaluation of Western civilization -- its self-loathing -- is just a symptom of the real problem.

Just this morning I was reading of how our whole sinister regime of state-mandated racial discrimination ("affirmative action") was created via an executive order by LBJ in 1965. Thus, it could be rescinded with the stroke of a pen.

In the presidential campaign of 1980, Ronald Reagan promised to do just that. Which, of course, he never did. Why not? How can something so intrinsically un- and anti-American, something so fundamentally at odds with our values, survive?

That's a somewhat rhetorical question. The answer is, violence on one end, cowardice on the other. Prior to Trump, no president has been willing to so subject himself to the violent and hateful rhetoric of the left. But to my knowledge, even Trump has never spoken of undoing this indefensible injustice.

How can we tolerate federal funds going to universities that openly engage in racial discrimination, and which systematically violate the right to free speech? What's the problem here? What is our major malfunction? Why is this happening in America, of all places? That modern liberalism "is intellectually bankrupt diminishes neither its vitality nor the danger it imposes" (ibid.).

And a central reason why it is so dangerous is precisely because it is so intellectually bankrupt. In short, like any other cultish ideology, the progressive left is a closed system that is impervious to evidence, fact, and logic. And vertical closure = hell on earth.

I mentioned this passage a few posts back, but it is certainly worth repeating, because it goes to the essence of the problem:

Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. The response of liberalism was not to turn to religion, which modernity had seemingly made irrelevant, but to abandon reason.

And once the left abandoned reason, it rendered reason impotent in defending us from the left. Brilliant! In a diabolical way.

When truth is eliminated, what's left to arbitrate disagreements? Just power. What, for example, keeps the state discrimination regime thriving? Power. Absolutely no different from the days of Jim Crow, showing once again how Democrats never change. They never change because they are animated by certain false principles that can be traced back hundreds of years.

Thus, what we call "modern liberalism" is more like terminal liberalism. It is, as Bork says, just "the latest stage of the liberalism that has been growing in the West for at least two and a half centuries, and probably longer."

Is there a patient zero? I tend not to think of this in strictly historical terms. Rather, I've long interpreted Genesis 3 as a fable about "patient(s) zero," only repeated ad nauseam through history; the story brilliantly reveals timeless archetypes that play out in time. Every time.

What are the lessons of this complex archetypal narrative? What it is trying -- desperately! -- to convey to us? We've probably posted on this subject dozens of times, so I won't re-belabor the point. But at the very least, it is telling us something about human nature, about male-female relations, about divine-human relations, and about human intercourse with certain "lower-vertical" energies symbolized by the serpent.

What does it tell us about human nature? To me it goes to a certain unavoidable "design flaw" in man; not to say that the Designer erred; rather, that in creating a creature with free will, certain adverse developments are inevitable (or, inEveateapple, as we always say). These adverse possibilities range along a vertical spectrum from venial misdemeanors to felonious plunges into auto-divination.

Another lesson is that man is in permanent exile, and that utopia is no longer an option. That ship has already sailed. The horses have bolted and it's too late to close the barn door. We are all "wandering Jews" who will not return to any terrestrial promised land. It's a vertical diaspora, and the Raccoon has no place to lay his head. Life itself is a mid-life crisis, just as history itself is an endless cosmic war -- or the shadow of one, anyway. Can't you hear the echoes?

All of this was brought home to me in an unlikely way, when I first encountered Joyce some 35 years ago. Let me see if I can explain what I mean without excessive bloviation.

First of all there was Ulysses, which tells the story of an Any- and Everyman wandering through the corridors of archetypal time, such that 24 hours is as if 24 centuries (and vice versa). In short, every day is a kind of "structured eternity" telescoped into a human framework. But then Joyce did himself one better, and situated our Everyman in the historical dreamscape of All Time.

I'm not saying I ever understood the book, but I did spend many months trying. Or better, it was like trying to understand one's dreams. Rarely do I truly understand one, but I very much enjoy dwelling in their protean creative mystery.

Let's try to narrow down our exegesis of the Wake to what went wrong and to what has gone wrong with liberalism. Interestingly, Joyce frankly doesn't pretend to know the details. On nearly every page we are reminded that something has gone wrong, but it is exceedingly difficult to find out what it was. Rumors abound. There are plenty of opinions. You could call it "original sin," which is a little bit like how liberals talk about "structural racism" -- which is to say, racism without any actual racists.

Analogously, original sin is a little like a structure in which we are situated, even if there were no sinners per se. Down here, even perfection is imperfect.

Which of course reminds me of what Schuon says about the subject: something to the effect that existence itself is the most consequential sin. Er, why? For reasons alluded to above: in the very act of creation, God creates something separate from God (even while not radically disconnected, for this would be impossible). The rest is history. Literally.

As Campbell and Robinson write in the Skeleton Key,

The Wake, at its lowest estimate, is a huge time-capsule.... If our society should go smash tomorrow..., one could find all the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake. The book is a kind of terminal moraine in which lie buried all the myths, programs, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millennium. And here too will be found the love that reanimates this debris.

And as Joyce "never tires of telling us, 'The same returns.'" Which means the same bad stuff. But if he is correct, it also means the same good stuff. I suppose our theological hope is that this is a spiral and not just an endlessly recurring circle, much less an entropic decay into oblivion.

The radical error -- the deification of man -- does not have its origin in history. Fallen man is the permanent possibility of committing the error. --Dávila

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Center Cannot Hold if the Top Can't Rule

Slouching Toward Gomorrah begins with a passage from Yeats' The Second Coming, which is so often repeated -- by left and right -- that it has become a cliché. You know, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold, so mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Welcome to Any Day, Every Year.

I'm pretty sure humans have been thinking this from the beginning. Written in the wake of WWI, it could equally apply to the fall of Rome, or the wars of the Reformation, or the French Revolution, or, for an ahistorical leftist, the election of Trump. Leftists may be ignorant of history, but they feel like the world is ending, and that's what counts.

Another frequently cited line is The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity. You often hear a passionately intense cretin -- say, Bill Maher, or Michael Moore, or MSNBC hosts -- complain about how timid and reasonable their side is. The absence of self-awareness makes me lightheaded.

By the way, because of the Dávila influence, I find that I've begun thinking in terms of spontaneous aphorisms. Often they float into my head fully formed, although sometimes I have to tweak them a little for that extra tang. I'm not saying they're as penetrating as his, but you have to start somewhere, right? For example,

If you're not a liberal at 20 you have no self-righteousness, and if you're not a conservative at 40 you have no self-awareness.

Or, Ideology fills the vacuum created by tenure.

--The news is a commercial for liberalism. The commercials are news about capitalism.

--Anything deep and true is conservative.

--A "male feminist" is either a wolf in sheep's clothing or a sheep in sheep's clothing. Useless either way.

--The cogito of the left: "I envy, therefore RACISM!"

--Universal human nature and self-evident truth are two sides of the same coin; likewise, identity politics and the tyranny of subjectivism.

--Since progressivism is a state religion, public schools should be abolished on 1st amendment grounds.

--The concept of "cultural appropriation" was invented by white Marxists, so blacks & Latinos need to stop appropriating it.

--Capitalism is unfair to people who want power but have no talent.

--Say what you want about the liberal arts, but they've found a cure for common sense.

--All socialists have to do is stop pretending to be God. But then they wouldn't be socialists.

I'd like to move more into the aphorism department, if only because it is a great courtesy to the reader. As I've said before, the world is filled with 400 page books that contain one idea. Conversely, Dávila has thousands of aphorisms that could be expanded into a book, -- or, better yet, are the distillation of that book, so it needn't be written in the first place.

Think too of all those books that contain one idea, but the idea is totally stupid (or monstrous). For example, the most popular history book on college campuses is Howard Zinn's History of the American People. Let me summarize it for you: America (and capitalism, and white males) is evil. There's no clever or witty way to say that, so he had to write the book.

Back to Yeats. When the center can't hold, why not? Is it because there are no centrists? That can't be right, because to be a centrist is to compromise with evil. There is no centrist position between conservative classical liberalism and Antifa fascists. A leftist would no doubt respond that there is no centrist position between them and white supremacism.

Which is a red herring, since the latter doesn't exist in any meaningful way, and certainly wields no political power whatsoever. And this leaves aside the fact that all wholesale racism comes from the left, not from conservatives. Conservatism is founded on ideas, not on blood or identity.

In the margin I have a note to myself: "The center cannot hold because the top cannot rule." That might qualify for an aphorism, except that it actually needs to be fleshed out in order to be understood, at least by most people. Very senior Raccoons might get it right away, and see all the implications, but our culture has been so saturated by egalitarian thinking, that Absolute Authority sounds downright un-American.

But if there is no absolute authority, then there is no center. Note that this vertical authority bisects reality, which is precisely what creates the center: you might say that "truth" is anywhere verticality bisects horizontality.

This verticality is also the source of legitimate order, organization, and hierarchy. Now, hierarchy is the opposite of anarchy; put conversely, the only cure for anarchy is hierarchy. I don't mean this in a polemical way. Rather, it is just the literal truth. For example, the campus anarchy of the 1960s was a result of administrators abandoning hierarchy and placing themselves on the same level as the rioters.

Obviously, anarchy cannot be cured by anarchy, because horizontality cannot transcend horizontality. Which is precisely why leftism always ends in tyranny. It is baked into the cake. As Dávila says, When the exploiters disappear, the exploited split into exploiters and exploited.

Thus, the immediate result of the communist revolution of 1917 was a two-tier society. This was the new order, the new center, the new verticality. And No social class has exploited the others more brazenly than the one that today calls itself “the State.”

Now, man is the center of the world. Indeed, you could say he is the center of creation. This is a literal truth, and it is uncontroversial. It can only be denied from the standpoint of the center which it denies, thus refuting itself.

Besides, leftists are forever making pronouncements that could only emanate from a vertical cosmic center, even if they deny any ground for this center. Here is a typical "activist scholar" who is full of passionate intensity about denying normality and deconstructing reality (check out her CV: madness!).

So, don't ask why the center cannot hold. It can't hold because the top -- AKA truth -- can't rule. Therefore, the bottom dwellers fill the vacuum. Which is why leftism always comes down to rule by sociopaths.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Locating Supernatural Resources in the Extra-Cranial World

Two bits of housekeeping: 1) Posts may at times be shorter, in order to put less pressure on readers and on myself. There's no reason to make every post so damn long and burdensome every time. 2) They may get more eccentric, just me wandering around in my own head. Or, they may be less obviously "coherent" and finished, more free-associational and ramblin'.

Therefore, they may seem to lead nowhere, at least on the surface. But today's topic, for example, is a big subject to which I couldn't possibly do justice in the allotted time -- which is less than an hour -- but here it is anyway, half-baked and undigested. It has a point -- I know, because it is pulling me -- even if I haven't yet arrived at it.

To say that our current civil war results from a psychic rupture some three or four centuries ago seems so abstract, not to mention pointless. Besides, who said there's such a thing as a human norm? Unlike weather -- which leftists believe has an unchanging preindustrial standard, a "right way" to be -- they believe no such thing vis-a-vis human beings.

One reason why they get away with so much is that their only standard is the absence of standards, AKA defining deviancy down. Then they pretend to be surprised at the emergence of deviant behavior -- say, of a Harvey Weinstein operating in a sexually antinomian Hollywood (where else would such a person choose to operate? A place with no standards is a perfect fit for the man without any). And yet, people with no proper morality are shocked! at his lack of morality.

For in the words of the Aphorist, Human nature always takes the progressive by surprise.

Man is no exception to the rule that in order to exist, something must have a form. We are not just a psychic version of prime matter -- of an infinitely malleable and unformed potentiality.

Nevertheless and everthelouse, Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists.

And usually the dichotomy somehow exists in the same head -- as in, for example, "it is wrong to hold blacks responsible for their disproportionate involvement in crime" and "Trump's tweets are worse than Hitler!" Lack of principles applied to certain groups, hysterical enforcement of them in others. Or maybe you've never seen MSNBC.

At any rate, if we're going to say mankind took a wrong turn a few centuries ago, we have to posit a correct turn rooted in What Man Is. So, what is he?

The question goes back to our first philosopher, or to philosophy as such, which is to say: "know thyself." In philosophy, this question lost all interest and attention somewhere in the 19th century, with the emergence of antihuman thinkers such as Hegel and Marx, followed by such misosophic nul-de-slacks as analytic philosophy.

But then it returned in the 20th century with such developments as phenomenology and existentialism, only detached from everything that had come before. Now we had, for example, an existentialism rooted in an ontological materialism, when this sterile connection is by no means necessary. (Conversely, a young Saint Pope JP allied phenomenology to Christianity to come up with a fruitful Christian personalism.)

The point is that a Christian metaphysic can by definition take on board anything thrown at it, from Darwin to quantum physics (so long as it isn't an intrinsic absurdity such as Marxism or behaviorism). It can baptize anything, even, say, "materialism." For as Aquinas realized, you can have a material cosmos if you like, so long as you don't imagine it can be metaphysically self-sufficient.

Put conversely, there is no way for the finite mind to determine if the material world has a temporal beginning or was always here. But in either case, it must have a vertical source, or your metaphysic falls into incoherence and absurdity. Remember, Aquinas's "first cause" is not in time but outside it -- which is the whole point. To ask what was "before" the first cause is to not know what the first cause is.

Back to our human norm. At the moment, several recent books are in the process of converging and melding in my head. It is an unlikely confluence, consisting of several books that were read back-to-back-to back with no plan, and yet, are disclosing a plan.

Not to veer off course right away, but it reminds me of the Bible. A couple days ago my son mentioned that an evangelical friend of his thinks the Bible was essentially dictated by God, like the Koran or Dianetics. I reminded him that no one wrote the Bible, nor did any of its authors know about the others who would be included in this compendium we call the Bible. Rather, it was chosen and assembled long after the fact. The hidden coherence was only discovered after its contributors had completed their parts.

Which is not to say there is no such thing as a unitary Bible. Indeed, that is what makes it so endlessly mysterious -- that its authors were explicating a hidden coherence of which they knew nothing.

Ramping it down a few notches, it is equally certain that Judge Bork had no idea he was slouching into the same cosmic attractor as Matthew Crawford twenty years later (and vice versa), but here they are, touching hands in my head (or heads in my hands).

To this I could add the book When Harry Became Sally, because all three books, in different ways, speak to an enduring extracranial world that is thankfully independent of our desires -- in the latter case, not just the desire of Harry to pretend he is Sally. Who really cares, since it's a free country?

The problem is that Harry wants to enlist the state to coerce the restavus to say that Harry is Sally. Then we've not only rejected the human norm, but are forced at gunpoint to believe things that cannot be. Which is the endpoint of the wrong turn of a few centuries back, into a total subjectivism anchored in nothing outside the skull (and yet, compelled by the state).

But it's not the end. Things can and will inevitably get worse if we don't rediscover the correct path found in the extracranial world. There is a perennial vertical invasion from below, but we have to recognize it in order to repel it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Politics is Downstream from Culture is Downstream from Crazy

If not for eyes, we'd have no idea there's something to see. But we do have eyes, therefore, -- wait for it! -- there is something to see. More generally, every sense is ordered to what it senses -- to something external to itself.

The Root Problem of postmodernity (which is just the the logical entailment of certain errors of modernity) is the inversion of this home truth, such that the object is made subordinate to the subject: the world is conditioned by consciousness rather than vice versa.

In reality, the sensed is prior to sense, just as the known is prior to the knower. Such observations used to qualify as banalities, the main point being that if knowledge is to be possible, then the object must be prior to the subject.

If the subject is prior, then the result -- either immediate or long term -- is a swamp of subjectivism from which there Is. No. Escape. You've made yourself into a god, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

We see a lot of this diabolicality in the New Age movement. For example, -- I knew Deepak wouldn't let me down! -- "since the human world is entirely mind-created, the [human/cultural] problem comes down to not knowing how our reality is made." So, in reality, "reality" is just a mental projection from the inside out:

The play of consciousness is how reality is made, both personally and for the entire human race.... We believe that gluons, quarks, galaxies, stars, force fields, even bodies and minds are “real” but they are human constructs for modes of perception and their interpretation in consciousness.... The next step in our evolution as a species is to become conscious creators of this reality, which can be called the evolutionary leap from human to meta-human.

So, if you think things are bad now, just wait until the arrival of the meta-humans!

Notice the hope for a miracle. The impossible kind. Or, if not impossible, then a radically dystopian kind, in which every person is a monad who is freed to inhabit his own private Idaho. What Deepak regards as the final liberation is a total narcissism.

For as a far wiser man once said, Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything (Dávila).

Back to what was said above in paragraph two: when I say "logical entailment," what I mean is that the current cultural crisis -- our civil war -- has been long in the making, and is not going away any time soon. Rather, it will continue to worsen as a result of a split -- a violent rupture in reality -- that occurred several hundred years ago. War is inevitable given this maiming of reality.

Inevitable in the absence of a miracle. The good kind. Which I do mean literally, in the sense of a vertical intervention. Which has of course occurred at many hinge points in history, so there's no reason for hopelessness.

Aphorisms come to mind; for example, Intelligent optimism is never faith in progress, but hope for a miracle. Perhaps it helps to bear in mind that None of the high eras of history have been planned. Thus, In history it is sensible to hope for miracles and absurd to trust in plans.

I mean, if Trump isn't a miracle, then there's no such thing.

Back to our main point, which is the inevitability of our current civil war. This was brought home to me by an unexpecected source, as I finally got around to reading Judge Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, which provided me with a slightly different angle on the subject. Normally I just trace the issue back to Genesis 3 and say to hell with it: man is what he is, and always will be.

That's fine as far as it goes, but Bork traces a specific intellectual genealogy that starts about a quarter century ago and leads straight to Ocasio-Cortez (or to the latest malevolent idiot of the day).

So, what happened? What went wrong? As Bork says, "politics is a lagging indicator" of certain baleful developments that "have been coming on for a long time and may be inherent in Western civilization" (emphasis mine).

At this late date, the error has been thoroughly embedded -- like a pneuma-cognitive virus, AKA mind parasite -- in the culture, which is why Breitbart was correct to say that politics is downstream from it. If we are downstream, where is the source of this toxic spring? We're already running out of time, so I won't be able to do justice the subject. Let's just hit some highlights.

(By the way, while reading the book, it occurred to me what a "Catholic mind" Bork had. An atheist at the time of his confirmation hearings, he entered the Catholic church a few years after the publication of this book. So, he didn't "convert" to Catholicism, but rather, discovered he already was Catholic. This is another iteration of the object being prior to the subject, only on a higher plane. In other words, the object is God.)

Here's a passage that lays out the source of the trouble:

Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. The response of liberalism was not to turn to religion, which modernity had seemingly made irrelevant, but to abandon reason.

Hence, there have appeared philosophies claiming that words can carry no definite meaning or that there is no reality other than one that is "socially constructed." A reality so constructed, it is thought, can be decisively altered by social or cultural edict, which is a prescription for coercion.

And here we are, in a fight to the death between people who believe in reality and people who believe reality is what we wish it to be -- between truth and power, intellect and will, knowledge and tenure. Our hope is that what cannot continue will not continue, and that reality will ultimately Bork these tyrannical fantasists from our midst.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Sensing God

Let's stipulate that we cannot literally prove the existence of God, since infinitude by definition escapes finite logic. Adequate proofs, of course, abound, but only for people who don't need them. Why don't they need them? Well, for one thing, because there are other modes of proof besides mere logic.

For example, no one needs to prove the existence of vision in order to see. Explicit science has only existed for a few hundred years, but this doesn't mean man wasn't aware of countless scientific facts and principles. The world is what it is, regardless of what we think about it.

Back to something touched on in the first paragraph: to say that the finite cannot contain infinitude is already to have an intuition of the Infinite. And then you're off to the races! For the Infinite is one of our most important cognitive placeholders. It is always there, implicitly undergirding our thought, as the ocean is beneath the ship. Remove the ocean and ships not only won't sail, but no one would have bothered to invent them.

Or perhaps a better analogy is wind, since it is invisible. It blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but can't tell from where it comes or where it's going. And yet, we -- at least in premodern times -- were absolutely dependent upon it, what with sailing, windmills, and free air conditioning.

In the previous post we touched on a couple of ways God can be spontaneously "sensed" -- for example, vis-a-vis piety, which "is essentially the sense of the sacred, of the transcendent, of profundity," or of humility, which is awareness "of our metaphysical nothingness." To put it the other way around -- or First Thing first -- the Divine Presence is the sufficient reason for sanctity and humility.

If one denies God a priori, then these very human responses lose their sufficient reason. You have to deny them altogether, reduce them to irrelevance, or invent some other reason for their existence. For example, a Freudian might say they are the shadow of some infantile memory of omnipotent parents, while a Marxist might say they are class weapons to keep you in your place.

Religion is full of similar "responses" to "presences"; the response proves the presence -- unless you are too blunt to sense the latter, or if they are inconvenient barriers to one's own auto-deification.

As we know, one of the primordial trinities within God is Love-Truth-Beauty. Take just the latter, beauty. To deny that man senses beauty is to deny man. And yet, this is one of the major projects of postmodernity -- to entirely subjectivize beauty, such that it is located in us, not in the world. In this cosmic inversion, beauty is just a meaningless projection of the human psyche. It is reduced to an opinion or illusion.

Note that with this inversion, beauty loses its sufficient reason. On some level the barbarians are aware of this, so they try to come up with new sufficient reasons for its existence. These reasons are too stupid to seriously consider, but evolutionary psychologists, for example, pretend that beauty is reducible to some genetic advantage.

Come to think of it, a great many aphorisms go to exactly this subject. Not only do they say it better than I can, but they do so more succinctly. Let's dig out some examples.

As to our sense of beauty, The existence of a work of art demonstrates that the world has meaning. Even if it does not say what that meaning is.

You could say this meaning is a power before it is refined into a thought: thus, Strictly speaking, the work of art does not have a meaning but rather a power.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. And no, they don't belong to Charles Darwin. Likewise, The steps of grace startle us like the footsteps of someone passing by in the fog. Boo!

Damn. I've had the sudden realization that half the aphorisms come down in one way or another to "sensing" God:

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace. Boom.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says. Boom².

I could spend the rest of the post on beauty, but let's give equal time to truth, since I'm running out of it (of time, never of truth, since the latter is infinite).

I only contemplate wisps of truth that twist in the night gusts. Wisps of truth. They're out there! And they enter through the eyes, ears, mind, and spirit. But only if these gates are open. Vertically.

Only in prostration is the truth of man expressed. Because God is not an invention, but a finding. And if you're not rendered humble by the finding, then you've found the wrong guy -- an impersonator and imprisonator, so run in the opposite direction.

Of what is important there is no better proof than the fact of the well-born soul liking it.

So, what is man -- the well-born kind, AKA my readers -- but the sensory membrane between Creator and creation?

To be continued Wednesday...

Friday, August 03, 2018

Spheresville, DaddiO

Man today does not live in space and in time. But in geometry and chronometers. --Dávila

Quality is reduced to quantity, placing man behind bars of math and physics. Then, like a frog at the bottom of a dark well of tenure, we can never perceive where we are actually situated in the wider context of things.

One popular way to discover where we are in the world -- meaning existence itself -- is to consult our desire. It's far from the best way, but at least you know where you stand: relative to what you want.

In our consumer culture, it seems that many people unreflectively order their lives in this way. I probably sound like a 50s beatnik, but it's true that this kind of shallow materialism gets you nowhere, since it involves one relativity in relation to another, and then one acquisition followed by another until death do you depart. Squaresville.

However, not always. Desire is situated on a vertical scale, and some desires are closer to the absolute than others -- for example, a desire for aesthetic beauty. As Schuon describes it, "Human will is, virtually and vocationally, the tendency toward the absolute Good." And "secondary goods, whether they be necessary or simply useful, are determined indirectly by the choice of the supreme Good." It's a matter of putting things in order.

The will cannot determine the good, only pursue what the intellect and/or sentiment have placed before it. Whereas the intellect is ordered to (ultimately) absolute truth, the sentiment is ultimately "love of the Sovereign Beauty and of its reverberations in the world and in ourselves."

Now we begin to see how the soul is oriented in the immaterial spacetime mentioned in yesterday's post: in this space, truth and beauty are vertical dimensions.

In the novella Flatland, its citizens inhabit a two dimensional world, such that the third dimension becomes a source of mystery and wonder for some, irritation and threat for others -- for example, seeing a point transform into a circle, then back to a point before disappearing. This must mean that something like a sphere exists and moves in a higher dimensional space, even though inhabitants don't have direct access to this space per se.

It's the same here in our world, only constantly. That is, we are routinely visited by angelic presences and specters from nonlocal dimensions. Like a Flatlander who denies the existence of spheres, we can always insist that this world alone is a sufficient explanation for everything that goes on in it. What is a materialist but a man who claims there's no such place as Spheresville? And what is a mystic but a man who has been there?

Once returned to Flatland, the [mystical] Square cannot convince anyone of Spaceland's existence, especially after official decrees are announced that anyone preaching the existence of three dimensions will be imprisoned (or executed, depending on caste).

Eventually the Square himself is imprisoned for just this reason, with only occasional contact with his brother who is imprisoned in the same facility. He does not manage to convince his brother, even after all they have both seen. Seven years after being imprisoned, A Square writes out the book Flatland in the form of a memoir, hoping to keep it as posterity for a future generation that can see beyond their two-dimensional existence (Prof. Wiki).

Huh. A prophet is without honor in his own dimension.

Continuing for the moment with Schuon, he mentions that piety "is essentially the sense of the sacred, of the transcendent, of profundity." In other words, the sense of piety is a real sense that senses real things, only in vertical space. This is what the Square would say about Spaceland: no, it is not some kind of an illusion or escape from reality, but an actual place.

Reducing Spaceland to Flatland is exactly like reducing transcendence to immanence; and with it, absolute to relative, truth to opinion, beauty to accident, mind to matter. It is to put a lid on the spirit, so as to bar it from contact with its own source and sufficient reason. In other words, in this scenario, the soul is not permitted to know where it came from and where it is going, i.e., its origin and destiny, ground and telos.

"My kingdom is not of this world." To the gallows!

A little threatened?

All wars are about territory. Our present culture war is no exception, except that it involves vertical territory. True, you could say it involves horizontal territory in the sense that, for example, the left wants to overrun the country by an invasion of illegal immigrants.

But this is not really the case, or the underlying motivation. The left doesn't care about illegal immigrants -- or any other human beings, for that matter -- except insofar as they are illegal Democrats. They would have built a wall long ago if our shores were being invaded by illegal conservatives.

The point is, the illegals are just a proxy for the conquest of a vertical psycho-political, cultural space. Otherwise immigrants are as useless to the left as anyone else.

As piety is a spontaneous sense of transcendence -- of height, depth, and sanctity -- humility is spontaneous awareness "of our metaphysical nothingness." Not nothingness relative to itself, which would simply be nihilism. Rather, nothingness relative to God.

In other words, to sense God is to be aware of our own relative nothingness. Who wouldn't be humble in the face of such a perception? It's really just another name for sanity. What's the alternative?

There are alternatives, and not just a crude denial of Spheresville. You don't have to just become the village ideologue or materialist. For example, as the Aphorist says, Man inflates his emptiness in order to challenge God. Like how an animal can make itself look larger in the face of a threat.

However, notice that when the animal does this, it is because it perceives a real potential threat. Likewise the atheist. Which is why Eckhart cracked that he who blasphemes praises God. Just so, what more proof do you need of God than the existence of atheists?

As to our sense of Spheresville, a few aphorisms (emphases mine):

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.

The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored.

Nevertheless, the Creator made us free, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Thus,

Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see.