Wednesday, May 23, 2018

God Within Us, In Us, & Beyond Us

Continuing with the metaphysical basis of our "fallen" condition, Schuon describes in The Question of Theodicies how ambiguities and even absurdities arise because of -- and these are my words -- a failure to make distinctions within God.

In other words, all believers distinguish between Creator and creation, world and God, and indeed, this is often as far as Average Theology or Mainstream Doctrine goes. Most people don't want to be bothered with the details, but just get to the bottom line: that God Is and that he is both merciful and just. Being that he is merciful and just, we have faith that things will work out in the long run, if not in this world then in the next. We'll leave the details to him, but surely he cannot be less just than his creatures.

But again, in willing creation -- and in particular, free beings -- evil is baked into the cake, even if not willed by God. In fact, a specific purpose of revelation is to address this ineveateapple ontological rebound of evil. If evil is a side effect of creation, then revelation is like a remedy provided by God. Let me think of a good analogy...

Let's say I invent the automobile. The laws that allow it to work are entirely neutral, rooted in physics and chemistry. Nevertheless, what evils may come of this contraption! Injury, death, maiming, etc. Knowing this, I include as many safety features as possible -- seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes, etc. Nevertheless, you cannot simultaneously have automobiles and total safety.

Not for nothing has the Ten Commandments been called an "owner's manual" or field guide for the human race.

Back to the distinctions within God. First of all, is there any Biblical basis for these? We'll get back to that in a moment, but certainly there is a traditional basis, and tradition is prior to scripture. There is nothing about the Trinity per se in scripture, but it is nevertheless implicitly present from the start, and what is the Trinity but a way to talk about divine distinctions?

"The core of the problem here," writes Schuon, "is to be found in the confusion between Being and Beyond-Being," which essentially flattens the Divine Nature, thereby losing one or the other pole. In general, it seems that Westerners tend to anthropomorphize Beyond-Being, while Eastern approaches such as Buddhism tend toward the opposite, of annihilating God's being into the Beyond-Being of Samadhi or Nirvana.

But as far as I am concerned, we can't have one without the other(s), for both are necessary and exist in permanent dialectal tension. Moreover, I think this is something to which the Trinity alludes.

How's that, Bob? Let me see if I can enlist some patristic back-up. The easiest would be Eckhart, but he's not early enough. One of our foundational books is The Roots of Christian Mysticism. In it Clément writes of how "In God himself the One does not exclude the Other" but "includes it." This itself points to the existence of a Great Mystery within God, for the Other is necessarily a mystery, is she not? But this -- of course -- is a mystery-in-love, and thereby perpetually fruitful, you might say.

If the Father is the "principle of the Godhead," then the Son is the "manifestation." This manifestation is not only within God, but is the prototype of manifestation as such. In other words, creation down here mirrors the creation up there: as above, so below.

Therefore -- for example -- Gregory Nazianzen writes that "He is called Logos because he is, in relation to the Father, what the word is to the mind... The Son makes known the nature of the Father..." The manifestation manifests the unmanifest; or maya Brahman, the form the substance. Neither is prior, but rather, they coarise.

"In this wonderful unity of of the godhead the One is never without the Other. For God is the infinite Unity of Persons, each of whom is a unique way of giving and receiving the divine essence" (Diadochus of Photike).

"Thus the Trinity constitutes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the Unity. From the Trinity comes all unification and all differentiation" (Clément). This is what I would call a Divine Key or Master Idea, because it means that what we call analysis and synthesis, or catabolism and anabolism, have their analogues within God.

Science goes to analysis, but there is no analysis without a synthesis that must come from outside or beyond science. Which is why ultimately science points both back and toward God, who is its Alpha and Omega. Either you see this or you don't, but it is nevertheless obvious. If you don't see it, it's because you just don't want to.

An Aphorism is worth a thousand posts: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion (Dávila).

It's difficult enough to define experience, and yet, we're never not having one. And how on earth is it possible to share experience? And yet, this is what human personhood is; the mysterious intersubjective space of Love, which first abides within Godidude.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection" (Clément).

I could go on, and I have gone on in past posts, but you get the point. With this point in mind, it is perhaps not so shocking to read in Schuon that "we thus find ourselves in the presence of two Divine Subjectivities." While "intrinsically identical, they apply extrinsically to two different planes," which clears up an awful lot of theidiocy about theodicy.

In his book on Manliness, Harvey Mansfield notes with irony that manliness may be "the only remedy for the trouble it causes." Analogously, we might say that religion is the remedy for the trouble caused by God, AKA the creation of this world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Exact Sciences vs. a Science of the Inexact

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots. --Dávila

Chesterton remarked that "The one doctrine of Christianity which is empirically verifiable is the fallenness of man." And yet, the doctrine is still a little vague, being that it is clothed in mythological terms. Which is fine. So long as you get the message and refrain from deifying man or trying to create heaven on earth.

However, a fair number of modern sophisticates, tenured barbarians, and credentialed riffraff reject the message because of the mythology. No doubt this is part of the appeal of Jordan Peterson, who reframes the myths in contemporary terms. At the same time, it is why he is so hated and feared by the left, which only attacks what threatens it:

Few public figures inspire more vitriol and mockery on Twitter than, you guessed it, Jordan Peterson. And never before have I seen vitriol so out of proportion to the “threat” of the man’s underlying message....

After all, if you’re a theologically conservative Christian or Jew -- a person who is Biblically literate and strives to live according to Biblical morality -- the flaw of the Peterson message is that it feels a bit basic. As I wrote in my review, “readers who are already grounded in a Biblical worldview will find some of the counsel extraordinarily elementary."

.... Peterson stands out because he is.... disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe....

When Peterson walks into a secular university or a secular television studio and addresses a secular audience by referencing ancient theological arguments, the effect is not unlike inviting a genderqueer women’s-studies professor to a Baptist Sunday-school class. Some things (in some places) are just not said (French).

French quotes Peterson to the effect that "We cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls,” and concludes that "ancient truth can indeed provide the seed for new beginnings."

This post is not about Peterson, but about the universal metaphysic disclosed by Christian doctrine. But while looking up the exact quote by Chesterton, I also bumped into this gem: "There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is, when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmospheres meet."

So our civil war is ultimately -- as is always the case -- a religious war, and both sides know it. The irony, of course, is that the left believes the religiosity is confined to one side: that it is a war of "secularism" or "reason" (or whatever they wish to call it) against religion. But it is nothing of the sort. Again, one reason Peterson so annoys them is that he exposes the truth about the left's religiosity. And if you think Christianity is rooted in some dodgy myths, just apply that same standard to the left!

The whole point of genuine religious doctrine is that the myth is verifiable, or discloses a higher or deeper principle. Conversely, in the case of the left, the myth is the myth, with nothing to back it up except force or power: for example, men and women are basically the same, or else! Or, people are basically good; or free speech is a tool of white privilege. Poke around for the ground or source of these myths, and that's when the fur flies.

Christians should never be like that. Rather, to paraphrase Paul, always be ready to rationally defend the reasons for your hope and faith. Don't be like the Times and merely smear your opponent. That is surely not a sign of confidence in the truth of one's doctrine, but of great cognitive insecurity.

We'll say it again, for it is one of the rock bottom principles of One Cosmos: all truth is of the Holy Spirit -- indeed, even those truths held by the atheist. For it is not so much that the atheist is devoid of truth. Godlessness forbid! Rather, that he elevates a fragment to the whole, while either denying or blending vertical levels. His mistakes are in his method, mode, and perspective, not necessarily in what he says per se.

For example, there is no God in science. But that hardly means there is no God, for that is merely to dress a methodological assumption as an ontological conclusion -- an elementary but nevertheless persistent error, especially among those who do not think, or who allow science to do their thinking for them. In the words of the Aphorist -- which are always the last word --

--Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

--The natural sciences can be adequately cultivated by slaves; the cultivation of the social sciences requires free men.

--Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

--Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

--The Christian who is disturbed by the “results” of science does not know what Christianity is or what science is.

--Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact.

Oh yes. I'm yoinking that one for the title.

Back to the universal metaphysic. Over the weekend I re-re-reread an essay by Schuon called The Question of Theodicies which, for my money, has the most lucid and far-reaching account of what the doctrine of man's evident fallenness must actually mean.

In fact, the essay is from the book Form and Substance in the Religions, and the title says it all: for example, the mythological account contained in Genesis 3 is a form, but the purpose of the form is to transmit the substance, especially to the "average man."

Which it surely did for some seventeen centuries or so, until the so-called "enlightenment," which lights certain areas while endarkening others, for metaphysically there is no free launch. Again, elevating a fragment to the whole is the road to hell. At best it is a game of whack-a-mole, in which no object can whack down that last fragment of subjectivity.

For those living in Rio Lindo or Manhattan, theodicy involves the attempt to reconcile God and evil -- or how and why a God who is a priori good can allow all this obvious evil to exist. Let's be honest: there is no question that something has got to give. Evil is evil, and God is God. But how?

I think it is accurate to say that Genesis 3 is mythological stab at answering this question. But what is the metaphysical substance beneath the mythopoetic form? I'm running out of time, so I'll just cut to Schuon's explanation and then comment upon it:

Infinitude, which is an aspect of the Divine Nature, implies unlimited Possibility and consequently Relativity, Manifestation, the world. To speak of the world is to speak of separation from the Principle, and to speak of separation is to speak of the possibility -- and necessity -- of evil; seen from this angle, what we term evil is thus indirectly a result of Infinitude, hence of the Divine Nature....
The bottom line is that evil must exist because the world is neither God nor paradise. But just because it must exist, that (orthoparadoxically) doesn't mean that God wills it per se. Analogously, I willed (so to speak) my son into existence, but I don't will him to be naughty. Or, America's founders willed the American government into existence, but that doesn't mean they willed the likes of Obama, Holder, and Brennan to be exponentially naughtier.

By the way, scripture definitely supports what Schuon says above. I'm thinking of two particular statements by Jesus (both paraphrased), 1) that evils must come, but woe to the fellow who commits them; and 2) why do you call me good, when no one is good but God alone?

We'll wrap things up with an aphorism or two:

--Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls.

--Hell is any place from which God is absent.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fridays with the Answer Man

Let's begin with some aphorisms that go to this idea of Christianity disclosing the universal metaphysic, i.e., What's Really Going On Underneath It All.

This is good: Genuine atheism is to man’s reason what the ten-thousand-sided polygon is to his imagination (Dávila).

In other words, a genuine and self-consistent atheism literally cannot be imagined. I was tempted to say that it can only be imagined, but that's giving it too much credit. Bear in mind that this doesn't imply that theism is the case, although it certainly points in that direction.

I suppose all rationalists believe they are being reasonable, but the moment you stop to think about it, you realize that reason cannot even function in the absence of something -- or, more to the point, someone -- transcending it. Restricted to pure reason, the mind would be enclosed in tautology. See Gödel for details.

In truth there is only one way out, and that is up. What is remarkable is that all people with adequate intelligence don't nod their heads in agreement instead of lifting their legs and leaving inane drive-by comments.

You know the old meme, "It is what it is." Well, yes and no. Remove human beings from the picture, and it is indeed what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

But humans introduce several new perspectives to existence, including the I (subjective depth and personhood), Am (being), and Ought (virtue), not to mention past and future. While we're at it let's toss in Beauty as well.

For example, right now I'm looking out my window and it is... beautiful. How did that get in and contaminate the tidy world of pure reason? For that matter, I am looking out. But from where? From inside, i.e., from the perspective of a subject. Now how did that get here? Some people say that life is just a parasite on matter, and mind a queer side effect of life. We have a better idea.

Better how? Again, who sees the most wins, and materialists do not see, precisely. In a remarkable case of auto-castration, they render their minds infertile, using spirit to deny spirit, or in other words, painting themselves into a coroner and spinning into obit.

Militant irreligion gradually transforms the one possessed into a simple imbecile convulsed by hatred. Simple imbeciles convulsed by hatred. Truly, what is the left?

He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary. True, but so too does he speaks of the soul, full stop. Or maybe you've never met a soulless person. I get it, but if you ever do decide to purchase a television or attend college, you'll see what I mean.

Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see. And The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.

So if someone tells me he is an atheist, I say "good. You deserve nothing less!" The world has no depth except insofar as it is perceived from the perspective of depth. Is this not obvious, even self-evident? This is the approach I take to my son's home schooling, in which we are instituting a new class called Fridays with the Answer Man. That would be me.

For example, the other day I was telling him about my primary education. I went to school like anyone else -- even in an "elite" school district -- and learned all that stuff.

Now, as it so happens, we have a hoarder living across the street. I told the boy that upon graduation my head was very much like her backyard: just a pile of indiscriminate junk that I had accumulated along the way. There was no organizing principle, nor did I have any idea what to keep or throw away. I didn't know why it was in my head, but there it was.

I want my son to avoid that fate, which will be one of the primary purposes of F's with the A. M.: to discriminate between the essential and the inessential, to discern the inner unity and coherence, and to see beyond appearances to the transcendent reality. That is indeed what the mind is for: ultimately for apprehending the One Cosmos.

Nor can it be accomplished without religion, although religion too must be subject to the same discrimination, discernment, unity, and coherence. You can't just superimpose religious dogma on the pile of junk and call it a collection of treasures.

Returning to my miseducation, you could say that my head was like a dictionary, which is to say, a collection of words. But what is a word without a sentence, a sentence without a paragraph, and paragraph without a Total Narrative and Universal Metaphysic? Indeed, The universe is a useless dictionary for someone who does not provide its proper syntax.

In short, things must be placed in order. But -- and this is critical -- there is a horizontal order and a vertical order. A materialist "orders" things by collapsing the upper into the lower.

You might compare this approach to the manner in which the terrorists on 9-11-01 brought order to the Twin Towers. Pure simplicity! And the tenured do to the humanities what Islamists do to tall buildings.

I am a clinical psychologist -- in California no less -- so I have first hand knowledge of the destruction of the mind to rubble. Psychologists are to the soul what the the Criminal Lawyers Association is to the law. Psychology is just one more malignant tentacle of the totalitarian left.

Just for fun and nausea, let's look up the California Psychological Association website. I don't know whether to vomit or projectile vomit:

In 2003, APA [American Psychological Association] put forth guidelines that reframed the role of psychologists as leaders and advocates of social justice and multiculturalism in all realms of their professional identity.

Specifically, APA Multicultural Guidelines identified foundational principles that “articulate respect and inclusiveness for the national heritage of all groups, recognition of cultural contexts as defining forces for individuals’ and groups’ lived experiences, and the role of external forces such as historical, economic, and socio-political events.”

In 2017, APA updated these guidelines, reconsidering diversity and multiculturalism by adopting intersectionality as it main purview and using a layered ecological model. An external force laden with oppression is immigration documentation status, and how it intersects with individuals’ many identities and aspects of diversity.

Liberation psychology suggests that these providers are overwhelmed with the tasks of actively working to decolonize their own political consciousness given their awareness of the limitations of western individualistic ideologies that favor the privileged, and concomitantly seeking new ways of working with marginalized communities and immigrant families.

Projectile vomit it is! In any event, if you want to be a psychologist in California, your brain will be washed. I'm only permitted because I've been licensed since 1991, so I'm grandfascisted in.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Nature of Transnatural Things

I don't know if this goes without saying, but if Christianity discloses a universal metaphysic, it can only be on an esoteric (inward) not exoteric (outward) basis; or better, a combination of the two. There are certain areas that are obviously to be understood symbolically -- e.g., the six day creation of the world, or yanking a rib out of Adam in order to create Eve -- others that can be interpreted on a vertical spectrum from literal to symbolic to mystical.

In the case of the latter, the exoteric doctrine provides points of reference between the local and nonlocal -- very much like a work of art, the purpose of which is to point behind its local surface to the nonlocal depth, or from appearances to reality, form to substance, accident to essence.

Having said this, esoterism is Not Just Anything, nor is it merely an excuse for loose and self-serving interpretations. But this is only because pure esoterism itself must correspond with, and be subordinate to, the inner nature of things -- of those things which cannot not be. This is the domain of the intellect, which in principle operates no differently from the lower mind vis-a-vis empirical science.

The practice of science is predicated on two ineluctable principles: the intelligibility of the world and the unique ability of human minds to discern this intelligibility. Or, just say Intelligence and Intelligibility. And if you think deeply for a long time about how these two relate, you will realize that they must be two sides of a single reality. Or, it can just come to you in a flash of certitude. Either way is fine.

Failing these -- the Flash of Intuition or the Slog of the donkey mind -- then you will have to "take it on faith," which is indeed a sufficient reason of faith, i.e., to convey the essential truths to people who have neither the time nor inclination to be metaphysicians or esoterists.

Especially prior to modernity (which of course includes now), this population consisted of almost everyone, being that everyone was preoccupied with merely staying alive. But all humans at all times are entitled -- yes entitled, for God is merciful and just -- to the Saving Truths in whatever form. God creates man in order to save him, not for the perverse pleasure of condemning him.

Back to the intellect. Merely take what was said about science and the sensory ego, and transpose it to a higher key, and you understand at once what is meant by man being made in the "image and likeness" of the Creator. Ultimately it means that the intellect not only knows God, but shares something of the divine substance -- which is precisely how and why this transformation in (n) can take place.

So right there we have a key principle of esoterism hiding in plain sight: not that the intellect is God, but it's not not-God either! Or, we might say that the intellect is God, but that God is (surely) not the intellect. Analogously, at this moment I am bathed in light and therefore "inside the sun." And yet, the sun is obviously way up there, nine million miles away. So, this light is the sun, but the sun is not (merely) this light.

As a brief aside, we've lately been discussing -- and will get back to -- Tallis' Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Again, he is unique in my experience in championing the utter ontological uniqueness of man, but without anchoring this in any principial reality. In short, you might say that for Tallis, man is in the image and likeness of the Creator, minus the Creator; or there is no God, and man is just like him.

So, Tallis wants to have his crock and eat it too, which is impossible, for this is a Communion of Nothing. Indeed, speaking of which, the other day I was trying to explain the esoteric meaning of Communion to the boy, but what is Communion but an example of pure esoterism? It makes no sense in any other way, Thomas Aquinas' attempt to tame it with reason notwithstanding (i.e., "transubstantiation").

It is not that Aquinas is wrong, only that he's trying to reduce an esoterism to an exoterism, when real understanding must proceed in the other direction, such that the outward is a prolongation of the inner principle.

Nor can any esoteric explanation "contain" such a mystery, which is one of its purposes: to extinguish mere intellection, or better, to show what intellection is, which is nothing less than the metabolization of the Divine Substance, from the mind right down to the cells. We are what we eat, on every plane. I would say that Communion is a quintessential vertical re-collectiom and con-centration, i.e., from dispersal to unity and from periphery to center.

But Bob, that's a hard saying! Yes and no, for His yoke is also easy. Communing with God is at once -- and by definition -- the hardest and easiest thing that can be. Why easy? Because in truth, you are never not communing with God. The hard part is realizing it, and in depth: all the way down to the cells, as it were. That would be a "perfect faith" but also a perfect knowledge, or perfect conformity between mind and truth or Is and Ought.

But again, esoterism cannot merely be an excuse to deepak the chopra. This is what distinguishes it from mere Gnosticism (the bad kind) which is always partial and (more or less) of man instead of God.

One way to avoid this is to understand that esoterism and exoterism are not opposed, but rather, complementary. It is not as if the former is superior to the latter, but rather, must always adopt an attitude of humility toward it. This is why, if you can't anchor your esoterism in tradition, it is probably wrong. For example, I suppose Scientology is simultaneously 100% esoteric and 100% bullshit. It is anchored in nothing but L. Ron Hubbard's cynical and drug-fueled imagination.

Schuon uses the analogy of the pure light of non-formal truth passing through a prism. The former is esoteric, essential, or principial; passing through the prism is analogous to manifestation on the terrestrial plane. Thus, the exoteric is by no means "not light," rather, light made visible. How else -- by what other principle -- could the eternal Logos become flesh?

Let's go back to the very beginning, or beginning of the beginning, AKA Genesis. What does it say there? In the beginning God creates the heavens and the earth (creates, because God transcends time). While looking up various translations, I see that the Latin Vulgate reads in principio creavit Deus caelum et term. Thus, we could reduce this to: In principle the Creator eternally creates, from the toppermost of the poppermost to the bottom of the world.

Putting this together with what was said above, we are in the image of this eternal principle.

And the clock on the wall says we're flat out of time, so to be continued... but not before wrapping things up with an observation by Schuon: Authentic esoterism stems from the nature of things... its seeds are everywhere present, sparks can flash from every flint...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Does Christianity Disclose a Universal Metaphysic?

Which is to say, the universal metaphysic, being that there can be only one. I suppose most Christians will affirm that Christianity is true, but true because revealed, as opposed to being revealed because true. In other words, its ultimate truth must be taken on faith.

Is that true? That ultimate truth is a matter of faith? This would imply that faith is higher than truth, but that can't be, because the merit of faith derives from its object. Faith in, say, Hillary Clinton, is not a meritorious faith.

And yet, there are exceptions. I was reading somewhere... Here it is, in an essay by Schuon called The Sense of the Absolute in Religions:

Normally it is the object that has precedence over faith since it is what determines faith and provides it with a sufficient reason; but from a certain point of view and in certain cases, faith can be more important than its content and can "force" the gates of Heaven despite the insufficiency of some immediate objects of belief.

In other words, God doesn't leave you hanging just because the details of your theology might be a bit off. He doesn't expect you to have a PhD in religious studies, but rather, assumes you are as confused as any religious studies professor.

Think, for example, of slaves who may have received a garbled version of Christianity, in which they nevertheless believed with all their hearts. Would God hold this against them? Indeed, the history of Christianity -- or, go all the way back to Adam if you like -- is a history of mangled doctrine and partial understanding. It's always Light + shadow down here.

Schuon adds that "Faith includes two 'poles,' one objective and dogmatic and the other subjective and mystical," such that "the ideal is perfect faith in an orthodox truth." Nevertheless, there are cases of the pole of faith taking precedence over the idea; for example, the Tibetans claim "that a dog's tooth which is mistaken for a relic and becomes the object of a sincere and ardent faith actually begins to shine."

Still, there can obviously be a malignant side to this process: the cult of celebrity, political messianism, romantic idealization in all its gruesome iderations. Or just violent religions, which is to say, religions in which faith is tied to the mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering.

Now interestingly, Christianity is all about that "mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering," isn't it? Indeed, some Christians have even been known to wear necklaces bearing the image of a man being tortured to death. However, the purpose of the image is not bring about more of this; rather, to atone for having had a hand in it.

So, there can be no question of a pure faith in an evil object. In such a case, faith is tainted by the object and loses all merit. Yesterday I was reading about the naive progressive faith of the folk music boom of the early 1960s. Many of those people are still with us, and just as naive today as they were then. Except that a naivete this antiquated becomes a kind of malignant soul rot. I have one that lives down the street -- a seedy looking 70 year old aged hippie and Bernie Bro.

I'm enjoying the musical history, even if passages about the politics make me nauseous. Example. "[M]uch of the socially conscious progress set in motion by young people in the 1960s -- antiwar activism, championship of civil rights, personal and sexual liberation, a questioning of authority, and determination to enjoy life rather than merely get on with it -- was fueled, directly or indirectly, by folk-rock."

In other words, the decade of 1960s has bequeathed to us the social justice bulliers, Blame America Firsters, Black Lives Matter, AIDS, rampant bastardy, moral and intellectual relativism, and mindless hedonism as compensation for a suffocating political correctness. And those are only the good things.

Back to the subject at hand: that universal metaphysic. Now, it is critical to bear in mind that no metaphysic can absolutely model the Absolute, or it would be the Absolute: the map is still a map, no matter how accurate. As Schuon writes -- and this should be obvious to believer and unbeliever alike, but it never is to the latter --

there is inevitably a separation between the thing to be expressed and its expression, that is to say, between the reality and a doctrine. It is always possible to fault an adequate doctrine for being inadequate, since no doctrine can be identified with what it intends to express; no single formulation could take into account what the innumerable needs for causality might demand...

For "If the expression of a thing could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view," then "there would no longer be any difference between the image and its prototype..."

For which reason the Bible sternly warns us against idolatry, which essentially happens when people conflate the image and prototype, or form and substance, or spirit and letter. Nevertheless, idolaters gonna idolize, which is to say, men will be men.

But again, the worst offenders are the votaries of scientism, Darwinism, materialism, etc. They are the literalists, not us. I do not think God created the cosmos in six days, but they actually believe their theories map reality, when we know ahead of time that they do not, cannot, and never will.

Again, the map is not the territory. But this hardly means the map has no purpose, even a vital one. As to the religio-metaphysical map, its role "is to provide a set of points of reference which, by definition, are more or less elliptical while being sufficient to evoke a mental perception of specific aspects of the real." This is all we ask of the map: to show us where we are and to show the way to where we would like to be.

To be continued, but possibly not until Thursday...

Friday, May 11, 2018

My Point Being?

I've been dealing with a cold since Tuesday, hence the temporary suspension of logorrhea. A cold affects all systems, including the delicate blogging system.

Nevertheless, there is ultimately a lesson to be learned from this, or a lesson about ultimacy: that the body is to the mind as the mind is to spirit: in health, each points beyond itself to the next level. But in illness -- even with something as trivial as a cold -- the arrows are reversed, and everything points back to the body.

For example, Tuesday night I don't think I slept more than five minutes at a stretch. I was up all night, but why? Because of my stupid body: sore throat, sneezing, coughing, congestion, etc. I couldn't escape the planet of the apes, AKA the primate body.

Even now my mind is still hovering too close to the body for a full on plunge into the abyss. Let's stick with this subject of bodies and truth. A while back I read Tallis' Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence, which goes exactly to our subject. My cold, for example, was an exercise in everyday... immanence, I guess -- whatever is the opposite of transcendence.

The book is about the mundane reality of pointing, which is not only much more consequential than we realize, but in many ways goes to the essence of what man is. It is one of the reasons I don't think we'll ever discover our kind of intelligent life elsewhere, because no matter how intelligent the species, if it can't point, then it falls far short of the human standard.

In the past -- and in the book -- I've discussed this in the context of our irreducible intersubjectivity: there is no human individual beneath the social animal, because the two co-arise in infancy: our individuality -- our twoness -- emerges out of the prior infantile oneness. But once we are two, we can then "rediscover" oneness in a variety of ways, via knowledge, love, beauty, etc. Love, for example, is the rediscovery of oneness out of twoness.

Knowledge too is only possible because of the unity of subject and object, or of intelligence and intelligibility.

Conversely, think of unsophisticated epistemologies that haven't individuated from their cultural matrix. American Indian tribes, for example, are opposed to genetic research because it disproves their cultural fantasies about having been in America "forever," instead of having been recent immigrants. Barbarous feminists feel the same way about sexual differences.

So, it turns out that what really defines the uniqueness of human subjectivity is its aboutness or "intentionality." It is a big problem for materialists, so they naturally want to try to stuff it back into the brain -- as if mere matter can be "about" anything but itself.

Materialism is about matter, without explaining how matter can be about anything. I say materialists just have to accept the cold hard facts of life, no matter how joyous and liberating.

The simple act of pointing points to the realities of intentionality and intersubjectivity. I, as pointer, have to first put myself in your psychic shoes, and imagine what you can't see or don't know. You, as beneficiary of the point, need to adopt my perspective and imagine a line running from my mind, through my eyes, down my arm, and toward its terminal point. That is something no other animal can do.

And it is a metaphor for every transmission of knowledge. This post is not only pointing to various things, but the words and letters themselves are instances of pointing: letters point to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, etc.

To deploy a well worn analogy, you won't get the point of this post by pointing back to the letters of which it is composed. Those are just forms, and it's the substance that counts.

The entire human world -- truly, the whole existentialada -- is an instance of pointing. You will also have noticed that the reality of pointing defines the civil war between left and right.

For example, for us, the Bill of Rights points to irreducibly real realities such as freedom of speech, religion, and self defense. For the left, these realities don't actually exist except insofar as we agree they exist. I can point to the self-evident truth of free speech, but the leftist merely smells my finger.

So, pointing is our "passport out of nature." More generally, it is like a vector pointing from a center to the periphery.

Now, this center is quite mysterious, but again, it can't be properly understood outside the context of its pointing, its aboutness, its intentionality.

I find it quite intriguing, to say the least, that the Trinity provides a metaphysical ground for this. The Son does not "reduce" to the Father; rather, although the Father is in one sense "prior," the two nevertheless eternally co-arise, the one pointing to the other. A meta-cosmos that intrinsically points beyond itself, and it back to us. Damn convenient.

Other animals are enclosed in their neurology, but intentionality is "a uniquely human breach in the solitude of sentient creatures" that "takes us decisively out of our solitary, transient bodies, subject to the laws of nature."

In another book, Tallis describes how sickness and death reverse the pointing, such that everything points back to our mere embodiment: "Dying takes you deeper into the inscrutable, lampless hinterland of carnal being." It is "a world whose horizons are drawn ever tighter, to the final collapse of space that had been opened up..."

Not to be a drama queen, but the same thing happens to me when I have a cold: I lose my point.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Who Sees the Most Wins

Let's play a game: "Let us suppose," writes Tallis, that "we accept biologism in full." Which is only right and proper, being that man deserves, and always seeks at any rate, an integrated and consistent worldview. What are the implications of taking biologism -- and materialism and scientism and neuromania -- seriously?

Well, we would have to tell ourselves a very different story about ourselves, one that excludes freedom (and with it, responsibility), truth, hierarchy, and anything else that transcends matter:

to be identified with our brains is to be identified with a piece of matter, and this, like all other pieces of matter, is subject to, and cannot escape from, the laws of material nature.... [our actions] are wired into the endless causal net, extending from the Big Bang to the Big Crunch, that is the history of the material universe.... Our destiny, like that of pebbles and waterfalls, is to be predestined (Tallis).

Does this even sound plausible in theory, much less workable in practice? It makes no sense, even on its own terms. It self-destructs upon contact with intelligence.

But the science is settled! Tallis quotes the eminent neurophysiologist Colin Blakemore, who insists that the brain is simply a machine that gives rise to the illusions of consciousness and free will: "All our actions are products of the activity of our brains," such that it is nonsensical "to try to distinguish sharply between acts that result from conscious attention and those that result from our reflexes or are caused by disease or damage to the brain."

Say what you want, but there is an intellectually consistent man, one who draws out the inevitable implications of materialism and sticks to his guns even if it means shooting himself between the eyes: the philosophy of materialism -- or any other philosophy -- is indistinguishable from a hole in the head. Which begs the question of why we have a category called "brain disease," but we'll leave that to the side.

Note that a strict materialism has no Ought -- for example, a healthy brain -- only the almighty Is, and one Is is as good or bad as any other. Again, it reduces the I Am to It Is; if the God of Matter could reveal his eternal name, it would surely be It Is What It Is. This is not even nihilism.

And yet, its shadows -- shadows of the Great Nøthing -- are everywhere. Few people draw out the full implications as does Blakemore, but the left in particular relies upon materialist arguments while drawing short of the abyss. As Davila so accurately says, The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them.

In truth, the materialist merely wishes away God. However, this doesn't necessarily imply that God exists by default. Rather, we need to think this through and determine what makes the most sense. I say existence is a game, the object of which is to see and integrate the most truth. And who sees the most wins. Or rather, seeing is analogous to having men on base. You still have to knock them home, which is to say, integrate them.

For example, there is Matter at first base after hitting a bloop single to left field. Then Mind comes to the plate and hits a liner up the middle, driving Matter to third. How do we get both home safely? If you only drive in Matter and leave Mind stranded on base, you're likely to lose the game.

Boy, that was a strained metaphor. Let's move on.

Tallis has a better analogy. Imagine you have a complete printout of your friend's genome. Would this be identical to the experience of knowing what it's like to be with your friend? Well, Barbra Streisand seems to think so. She cloned Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, her dogs.

Or, does knowing that water is H2O tell you what it's like to be all wet, which is to say, Barbra Streisand?

Neurologists can wish away God. But no matter how hard they try, they cannot wish away the person. And the person, don't you know, leads straight back to God. Tallis, being an atheist, accepts only the first part -- the real existence of persons -- but not the second -- their rootedness in God:

Those of us who are not brainwashed into thinking that they are brains washed by the laws of physics might be tempted to hazard a daring suggestion: that it is a person, or something like a person, that looks out at, peers into, interprets and shapes the world.

Remember, once you eliminate the person, he's gone, and there is no getting him back. But it is literally impossible to do this without self-contradiction. For among the things one must jettison along with the person is any distinction between past, present, and future, which, as Einstein famously asserted, is just a "stubborn illusion." Tallis draws out the implications:

It is important to appreciate that, in the absence of an observer, time has no tenses; not only does the physical world not have a past and future in which events are located but... it doesn't have the present. For an event to count as being present, there has to be someone for whom it is present, for whom it is "now" as opposed to "then" or "not yet."

Hmm. Where does this leave us? Nowhere? Everywhere? Is it really possible that reality is a view by nobody from nowhere? Well, that is the scientistic ideal. But does it make any sense?

In order to deal with this question, I'm going to shift gears to a challenging essay I read yesterday by Schuon, called Substance: Subject and Object. He'll get us out of this mess!

First of all, as we always say, Subject and Object are not a vicious and sterile dualism but a friendly and fruitful complementarity. The complementary dance between them proceeds all the way up and all the way down. But of the two, the Subject is obviously prior:

The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature able to conceive the star-filled heavens is greater than space and the heavenly bodies...

Carl Sagan can talk all he wants about those billions and billions of stars, but all of astronomy pales in significance next to the astronomer. Ultimately we are not contained by the galaxies, but rather, vice versa. The cosmos itself isn't even big -- or small -- except in reference to us:

Man is situated, spatially speaking, between the "infinitely big" and the "infinitely small"..., so that it is his subjectivity and not a quality of the objective world that creates the line of demarcation. If we have an impression of being tiny in stellar space, it is solely because what is big is far more accessible to us than what is small, which quickly eludes the grasp of our senses... (emphasis mine).

So, man is situated between -- and defines -- the Very Big and Very Small. And not only. For he is also the "point of junction between two infinitely more important dimensions, namely, the outward and the inward." Indeed, "it is precisely by virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and so onto the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine."

That's a bold statement. And yet, ultimately soph-evident. There is a world and there are witnesses, "otherwise the Universe would be an unknown space filled with blind stones and not a world perceived under a multitude of aspects." For

Where there are objects, there must also be subjects: creatures that are witnesses of things form an indissoluble part of creation.

There exist not only "knowable things" but "beings endowed with knowledge in varying degrees." And whether you like it or not, "the summit-degree is man, at least for our world," behind or before or above which is "the absolute Witness -- at once transcendent and immanent -- of all things..." There is nothing magical or miraculous per se about this assertion. Again, it's just a matter of returning the cosmos to bright-side up.