Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Progressive Ban on Questions and Questioners

If I understand the previous post correctly, it put forth the paradoxical -- or at least convoluted -- idea that man is always in the form of a question, and that, in the Incarnation, the very God who is the answer to this question assumes the form of the questioner who seeks him.   

Clearly, the infinitely open question that we are points toward verticality and transcendence. No horizontal, terrestrial, or finite answer satisfies the Question of questions -- or rather, man has a habit of positing answers that are seemingly designed to make the Question go away, but are absurdly incapable of doing so, e.g., materialism, scientism, positivism, Marxism, progressivism, et al.  

Or just say ismism, or ismolatry, or craniorectal exploration.

Now yesterday, in my restless search for something to stimulate my head, I reread Voegelin's Science, Politics & Gnosticism, and couldn't help noticing certain parallels to this question of man the Question (and questioner).  

First of all Voegelin is famous -- or obscure, rather -- for the idea that the structure of being involves two poles -- immanence and transcendence -- and that we are always in between them. Always have been and always will be, because this is just the way Being is. If it weren't this way, we could never know it, period.

Yes, it's a mystery, but a infinitely fruitful one. Unless, of course, we stop asking questions, or worse, the Powers that Be won't permit questions. Then progress stops, at least until the vertical space reopens for isness, for example, as Elon Musk is attempting to do vis-a-vis the political space.

Why then is he being vilified for doing something that is intrinsically spiritually healthy? I mean this literally, in that the very essence of spiritual health involves maintaining an open system with verticality and transcendence, so vertical closure of any kind is inherently pneumopathological, for it results in spiritual malnourishment, asphyxiation, craniorectal occlusion, and/or death. 

Voegelin uses the term "deformation" 

for the destruction of the order of the soul, which should be "formed" by the love of transcendental perfection inherent in the fundamental tension [between immanence and transcendence] of existence (Eugene Webb).  

You could say that he regards the genuine philosopher as truly normative, as in lover of wisdom:

As Voegelin conceives it, philosophy is characterized by the realization that one does not actually possess transcendental truth but is oriented toward it through love [of wisdom, truth, beauty, goodness, etc.] (ibid.).

But you will have noticed that this is precisely what ismism and ideolatry don't do. Rather, they indulge in philodoxy, which is the love of, like, just your opinion, man: it

conceives of truth in immanentistic rather than transcendental terms and tends to claim a perfect correspondence between ultimate reality and ideas or interpretive models used to represent it (ibid).


whereas philosophy is inherently oriented toward further inquiry through openness to the Question, philodoxy is the expression of a desire to put an end to questioning and thereby escape from the "tension of existence" (ibid.).

Which isn't just obnoxious and annoying, but humanly catastrophic, as seen, for example, in the metastatic ideologies of the 20th century. As of 1991 (with the collapse of the Soviet Union) it looked as if the last of these cancers had been eradicated, but it is very much as if this spiritual retrovirus sleeps in human nature until opportune conditions allow it to reassert itself. 

Like now.

If you want to look for evidence of the retrovirus, one thing to monitor is attacks on free speech; it starts with certain forbidden questions, but again, has a tendency to attack and stifle the Questioner (and therefore human nature) as such -- perhaps seen most explicitly on our elite university campuses. One can only emit a laugh -- the hollow and bitter kind -- at Joseph Pieper's innocent description of the purpose of the university:

It means a refuge where discussion takes place, in total independence, on just one question: How are things?, "what are the facts"? 

This free space -- or space of intellectual freedom -- "must be safeguarded and protected" from interference by forces opposed to the open engagement with the transcendent truth of What Is.


One thing that occurred to me in rereading S, P & G is that we focus too much on this or that ideology instead of the deeper structure of ideology per se, which is again the expression of intrinsic pneumopathology -- which is why it is in the very nature of leftism to ban speech, because speech has a way of leading to forbidden questions and unlawful answers. 

Leftism is literally inconceivable without suppression of the very questions that discredit it. "The opposition becomes truly radical and dangerous"

when philosophical questioning is itself called into question, when doxa [hardened opinion] takes on the appearance of philosophy, when it arrogates to itself the name of science and prohibits science as non-science (Voegelin). 

As seen most vividly, I suppose, in the non-sciences of catastrophic global warming, transgender ideology, and experimental vaccines. In each of these conspicuous examples, Questions and Questioners are banned and punished -- not because of any confident and robust science, rather, the opposite, for such thinkers know that their construct "will collapse as soon as the basic philosophical question is asked," which "induces him to prohibit such questions."  

When "socialist man" speaks, man has to be silent (ibid.).

But not only socialist man, for Voegelin outlines "three major types for whom a human inquiry has become a practical impossibility," including also "positivist man" and "national-socialist man" -- to which we might add scientistic man, New Atheist man, transgender man, and various others. 

Each of these is founded upon a "resolve to ignorance, for arbitrary occlusion," and for a "defensive stand against much that is knowledge." In this pathological movement "man remains shut off from transcendent being. The will to power strikes against the wall of being, which has become a prison" (ibid.).

Or matrix, as we like to call it. The normal man becomes acutely aware of suffering in this matrix of "demonic occlusion. He is imprisoned in the icy light of his existence." Schuon often speaks of the modern mind being encased under a layer of ice.   

Is there hope? Yes, but mostly on a retail basis, as

No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crisis of a society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order (ibid.).

Which is to say, the open order -- or order of openness -- whereby man has the privilege of participation in the ground of being.

I'll stop now and pick up the thread in the next post.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Answer Becomes the Question that the Question Might Become Answer?

One more post on Foundations of Karl Rahner, and we're done. This chapter is on the Incarnation, and let's see what we can make of it. Apologies up front: the post is rather loose and free-associational, because the material is. We'll start with this:

By becoming incarnate, the Logos made the human reality God's own reality. When God took a human nature, human nature reached the goal toward which it had always tended. God "became" the human nature that God had prepared for the Logos, so that human nature might be divinized.

In this scenario, human beings must have evolved to the point that this two-way movement was possible; obviously, the Logos could not incarnate as a cow or chimpanzee, so there must already exist something about humans that makes them a fit receptacle for this divine indwelling. 

Humans must be sufficiently aware of reaching toward the transcendent before the transcendent can reach down to us. You can't have an answer if you don't have the question. 

It seems that the whole durn cosmos is evolving toward this point:

The ground of being becomes the one toward whom the person strives. It is a magnet that draws us, enabling us to transcend what we were and to become what we are called to be.... Persons are not just a product of the cosmos, but their union with God is the very goal of the cosmos.

So, we definitely got that going for us: "Because God became a human being, the gulf between divinity and humanity collapsed." It's a circular thing, with both ascending and descending currents, so to speak.

When we think of God assuming human nature, this implies that God also assumes the human being's very orientation toward the infinite mystery of God. "God has taken that orientation as God's own reality," as if to say that in assuming human nature, () assumes (). Come to think of it, why else would Jesus pray to his Father?

The potential to obey God is the human nature that God becomes. 

Now, how can the immutable "become" something? It is as if Being becomes becoming that becoming might become Being:

the Logos assumes the reality of something that is capable of becoming. That "something" is the human reality of Jesus. The one who is not subject to change (i.e., the Logos) can be subject to change in something else (the man Jesus of Nazareth). 

I call it metacosmic circularity: 

In the Incarnation, God "becomes" what has come from God... God "creates the human reality by the very fact that he assumes it as his own. "


God creates in order to make creatures who are capable of being assumed by God. God creates human beings who can become part of God's own history. 

Which I suppose goes to the finality of both creation and Incarnation; or rather, the Incarnation is the final cause of the creation, Bob asked?

Rahner makes the point that, prior to the Incarnation, man is already an "abbreviated word of God." Humanity is the "cipher" of God, which is to say, a sort of secret message. Of what? 

Well, for one thing, a capacity to "bear" the Incarnation. Again, cows and reptiles and monkeys couldn't very well bear the strain, but we are already the image and likeness prior to the Incarnation, so we definitely got that going for us. 

In other words, humans qua humans exist "because there was to be a Son of Man," and "are a 'shorthand' expression for God's Word." Well, cool. But the (longhand?) Word then "shows us the human nature to which we are called," such that "the human being 'participates' in the mystery of God." Specifically,

we participate in God's mystery in the same way that a question participates in the answer to that question. 

We said in the previous post that man is a Question -- an open-ended one that can never be exhausted by any finite, terrestrial, scientific, or manmade answer. No, this is truly a Question that is superior to any answer we could ever provide.

But is there even an answer to this Question we are? For Rahner, 

God answers that question in the Logos. The question (i.e., human being) participates in the answer (i.e., God's Logos).

This Question (Bob) has a question: it seems that anthropology is theology, and vice versa? In a manner of speaking?

Anthropology is the theology that God speaks by uttering the Word as human flesh. Anthropology is our theology when we seek Christ and God via the human being. In Christ the finite has received an infinite depth.

So, Christ is the answer to the infinite question we are? "God has spoken the ultimate word as the truth of human life," so there you go.

It seems it's a matter of inserting ourselves into the metacosmic circle by means of faith. There it is again: 

Jesus leads us back to God in an ascending motion, a motion initiated by God.

God is one of us?! Or, God becomes the Question that the Question might become Answer? "Humanity finds in Jesus the one by whom God intended from all eternity to reconcile us to the divine self." But

The Christian is always in the process of becoming a Christian.... A person is always a Christian in order to become one.

And Christ is "not only the eternal Logos, but also the 'first fulfillment' of humanity. He was the first to fulfill the promise which life with God holds for every person." 

I think I strained a muscle in my head. The end.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Experience of Experience of the Mystery of Mystery

Or something. This book on Karl Rahner turned out to be a bit of a chore. Seems rather disjointed and repetitive, plus the attempt to translate English into English renders the prose hardly less annoying. I'll salvage what I can. 

This chapter -- Man in the Presence of Absolute Mystery -- begins with a meditation on the very meaning of the word "God." What if the word were stricken from the dictionary? For an atheist, I suppose nothing would be lost, since the word refers to nothing anyway.

But even then, it must refer to something, even if only to a universal subjective experience, since there is no language that doesn't have an equivalent term for the ultimate transcendent ground of reality. 

Either the word will disappear or it will survive as a question..., a question about the goal and meaning of life. 

This is why I came up with the idea of using a semantically unsaturated symbol (O) for what the word "God" represents to different people -- and the symbol (?!) for the spontaneous irruption of the Experience.

Problem is, if everyone has their own idiosyncratic meaning, then no communication is possible. Rahner seems to have similar concerns, so "instead of a concept," he

uses the phrase "holy mystery." He calls it the "term" of transcendence. Term is related to terminus, end, or goal. This term is both present in transcendence and as the way to transcendence. 

Which very much reminds me of Voegelin, since he too sees transcendence as a term or pole of the great In Between we inhabit -- more like an arrow pointing toward a reality we can never reach: human experience is between the poles of immanence and transcendence. Moreover, the QUESTION is Voegelin's term for 

the transcendental pole of truth as such: "not just any question but the quest concerning the mysterious ground of all being." 

Clearly there is mystery at both ends of the tension (ours and God's), and it seems to me that the majority of mid-to-lowbrow cultural activity is designed to deny the mystery, to make it go away, or to distract us from it. But there it is. It's not going anywhere. Indeed, Rahner refers to it as a permanent existential, and why not? It is "a part of who we are," but

The discovery of this experience itself is a mystery. The mystery is not reducible to what we can say about our transcendental knowledge. 

Ultimately, "the concept of God is not a concept we can grasp. It is, rather, what grasps us." It is always over the subjective horizon, while at the same time being the ground of subjectivity. 

It reminds me of the Big Bang, only on the inside, in that consciousness too forever expands and differentiates. But from what and into what? It's a mystery, but not the unintelligible kind, rather, the infinitely intelligible kind. Like an owl staring at the sun, there's not insufficient but too much Light.

That's me talking. Or at least the caffeine. What does Rahner say? 

transcendental experience allows us to know ourselves as finite beings -- finite beings who can transcend their finitude.

And -- me talking again -- it seems that experience as such is always transcendental. Which is why it is impossible to describe or define, since any description or definition presupposes experience. It seems that experience as such is a rock-bottom, permanent existential -- that it is a ceaselessly flowing Mystery, and that this is simultaneously the least and most we can say about it.

Geez, I hope I'm not turning all Germanic on you, but wading around down here at the bottom of subjectivity is tricky. Here is Voegelin's stab at defining EXPERIENCE: it is "a 'luminous perspective' within the process of reality." And EXISTENTIAL CONSCIOUSNESS is

the reflective self-awareness of human existence in the metaxy, i.e., between poles of immanence and transcendence, finitude and infinity, imperfection and perfection, and so on. See also "truth of existence." 

Okay, don't mind if I do. This latter is "transcendentally oriented conscious existence" and 

involves the experience of: (1) finiteness and creatureliness; (2) dissatisfaction with imperfection and a sense of transcendental perfection; (3) the luminosity or manifestness of such experience in consciousness; (4) the self-transcending tendency of consciousness seeking fullness of truth.

Sounds like a luminous movement toward perfect truth, goodness, and beauty, or something.

For Rahner, 

transcendental knowledge comes from a direct contemplation of the source of transcendence. We contemplate it and call it "God."  

The problem -- or temptation -- is that

by speaking of God, we might lose sight of what we mean. What we mean is the source of the experience of transcendence, the holy mystery. It might be obscured by the concept we use to express it. If we try to describe the source as "absolute being," we might settle for an abstraction, not the source itself.

Now, the Big Question is whether this post is getting anywhere, or if we're just going around in circles on some kind of wild nous chase. I can't answer that, but Rahner "proposes that we call the source of our original experience of transcendence the 'holy mystery,'" so as not to confuse it "with a stereotype, a myth, or a conventional image."

Certainly we can agree that "Anyone searching for God 'contained in' reality seeks a false God." But not so fast, because "Those searching for a God wholly other and distant will never know God or themselves" either.

So, it seems we can say a lot about God, but we can always say more: "that is why we acknowledge that God is infinite, indefinable, and ineffable." 

It's repetitive, but maybe it needs to be:

The experience of transcendence opens up to us the holy mystery. It is a "mystery" because we cannot fully fathom it.... Rather, holy mystery is what we encounter in the experience of transcendence. Transcendence moves us in freedom and love towards its goal.  

Which we never reach. For again, "We human beings are the tension"

between our categorical statements about God and the transcendental reality itself.... it is the experience of all people who know themselves as being constantly in a relationship with a mystery....

Instead of being an object we know, God is what allows any knowledge whatsoever to take place.

I'll buy that, but I'll tell you what: wouldn't it be nice if God himself could accommodate us and just incarnate as the Mystery or something? That would be a big help. Perhaps we'll tackle this subject in the next post. Or move on to a less annoying subject.

Friday, September 15, 2023

I Am the Question

The previous post ended with a description of our politico-cultural matrix, and the image comes to mind of a Roach Motel. If you're a roach, the best policy is to not venture in at all, because if you do, you're not coming out. 

You could say the motel is "designed to trap prey," but not really, because at least the predator has a use for the prey. Spiders don't catch insects just for the hell of it. Snakes only eat when they're hungry, which is only every week or two.

But it seems this Predator does enjoy trapping and toying with its prey just for the hell of it. I wonder what Uncle Screwtape would say? Not sure, but while looking it up I found this:

There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan (Lewis).

And this:

In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. 

So, the Motel is on the inside? And locks from the inside? Hell is

the outer rim where being fades away into nonentity.... the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end... the doors of hell are locked on the inside....  

Now, what does this have to do with the book I began reading yesterday, The Foundations of Karl Rahner: A Paraphrase of the Foundations of Christian Faith? Maybe we could start by asking why the human head is such a battleground, with claims and counterclaims.  

For Rahner, human beings are the "universal question." This being the case, I suppose there will always be bad, superficial, partial, and dysfunctional answers. The deeper point is that our unlimited questioning implies our own unlimitedness, i.e., transcendence:

we, in the very act of reflecting on our limitations, overcome those limitations.... We know ourselves as capable of knowing more, of transcending what had limited us before. This experience of transcendence provides an indirect knowledge of God... 

This is very much reminiscent of Voegelin, in that we are always situated between the poles of immanence and transcendence, and that's just the way it is: "the human being is open by nature," which is the key to transcendence:

We know ourselves as capable of knowing more. That is the essence of transcendental experience.

In realizing this, God is implicitly present: 

present as mystery, as the absolute and incomprehensible source of all that is. What we know, in knowing anything, is that our knowledge is a small vessel in a vast sea of mystery.


this is what makes us human. We have been created with the ability to encounter the transcendent God in the experiences of daily life.

Or not, which I suppose goes to the battlefield alluded to above. Which further implies that the real battle is between openness-to-transcendence vs. enclosed-in-immanence, no matter what form it takes. Could it be this simple? Or is it simpler?

As persons we are hearers, and

Hearers recognize that they are limited. But in that very recognition, they begin to imagine how they might surpass their limits. That is the first step to actually transcending them.

This will become clearer as we proceed, but this ability to hear is key, for

the philosophy that presumes that the human being is able to hear is not absolutely free of theology. In fact, it is implicit theology.

I would go so far as to say that human personhood presupposes God, for the human being

is capable of transcendence, responsibility, freedom, honesty, and openness to mystery. The Christian message presupposes that its hearers are people with these capacities -- in a word, are persons.

However, there is always the temptation to forgo the mystery in favor of something less, "to shift responsibility for their choices to something else -- to history, let us say, or to nature." Nevertheless, persons qua persons are always "more than what a mechanistic anthropology says we are":

The sciences tempt us to think that we can fully explain ourselves. But this is illusory. Transcendental experience suggests that I myself encompass every effort by science to explain me. The person transcends all attempts to reduce him or her to a system or to full comprehension. 

 So, lead us not into temptation, especially that one.

It's all very Gödelian, for again, "By reflecting on our limits, we begin to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and to transcend our limits" -- a bit like reversing figure and ground. We have plenty of answers, but they never provide a complete answer to the Question we are. Sorry for the repetition, but maybe you didn't hear it the first time:

Whenever a person affirms the possibility that he or she can question things, even in a finite way, that person surpasses the finitude. Why? Because the horizon of finitude is always receding as one discovers more. And as the person experiences that horizon receding, the person experiences himself or herself as spirit. One is spirit whenever one acknowledges one's limits. In that acknowledgement, one has already surpassed the limits...

On the other hand -- again, going to the battle -- 

one can dully and unimaginatively "accept" one's existence without curiosity. This happens when we acknowledge that existence poses a question, but nevertheless refuse to pursue it.  

But just because you are not interested in the battle, it hardly means the battle isn't interested in you: "we are ourselves limited. But in our limits, we are connected to what is absolute," and "We transcend what we are by being open to to what being offers."

one can try to to evade responsibility and pretend that one is merely a product of forces outside oneself. But that is a lie. 

Now, just "Who is the other who enables us to transcend ourselves? We call that other the ineffable mystery." I call it O, but that's the end of chapter one. Tomorrow we'll delve into chapter two, Man in the Presence of Absolute Mystery. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Horizontal Absurcularity in the Matrix of the Predator

As mentioned in yesterday's post, if the human subject is a miraculous gate opened up in the middle of creation, then so too is the object. We often speak of the irreducible intersubjectivity of human beings, but in Thomist metaphysics there is also a kind of "inter-objectivity" that renders knowledge possible.

That is to say, objects have a kind of dual existence outside and inside our heads. The latter is not the former, but nor is it not the former; specifically, "a thing is the object of the soul in a double way," and "knowledge takes place in the degree in which the thing known is in the knower" (Thomas). 

it is evident that extra-mental realities cannot be in the mind of the knowing subject per se, but they can be there by representation (Garrigou-Lagrange).

In other words, something of the object exists simultaneously in both the object known and in the intellect that knows, AKA the intelligible essence. If not, then to hell with it: there is no knowledge of reality, rather, just an ephemeral dream of a transient hallucination.

Again, "Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and object coincide" (Schuon). If ideas just relate to other ideas and not to intelligible reality, then Kant is correct: man "is imprisoned in his subjectivity" and "has no way to know if these things have objective existence or not" (Bina & Ziarani). 

Now in reality, it is precisely because of the intellect 

that man can recognize the truth independently of his own subjectivity. The very fact that men communicate with one another, and understand each other, is indicative of common, universal truths, to which all men have access (ibid.). 

This is not to say that man does not enclose himself in matrices of pure subjectivism and relativism: for obviously there are "Those who seek to enclose the Universe within their shortsighted logic" and who fail to understand "that the sum of possible phenomenal knowledge is inexhaustible":

In all this wish to accumulate knowledge of relative things, the metaphysical dimension -- which alone takes us out of the vicious circle of the phenomenal and the absurd -- is expressly put aside; it is as if a man were endowed with with all possible faculties of perception minus intelligence (Schuon).  

It is as if we place arbitrary limits on the limitless, and "Outside its self-imposed but unrecognized limits," intelligence "remains more ignorant than the most rudimentary magic":

One tries to explain "horizontally" that which is explainable only "in a vertical sense".... Such a science is assuredly cut to the measure of modern man who conceived it and who is at the same time its product (ibid.). 


Really, it's just Genesis 3 All Over Again: "The world becomes increasingly a system of stage-settings" while "imposing upon it an unshakeable conviction that all this is 'reality' and that there is no other." 

A note to myself in the margin says THE MATRIX, and just this morning I read a good description of how it works these days -- and it seems to be working better than ever. The author says that sometimes

I can see it all around me: the grid. The veins and sinews of the Machine that surrounds us and pins us and provides for us and defines us now. I imagine a kind of network of shining lines in the air, glowing like a dewed spiderweb in the morning sun. I imagine the cables and the satellite links, the films and the words and the records and the opinions, the nodes and the data centres that track and record the details of my life....  
I see this thing, whatever it is, being constructed, or constructing itself around me, I see it rising and tightening its grip, and I see that none of us can stop it from evolving into whatever it is becoming. 
I see the Machine, humming gently to itself as it binds us with its offerings, as it dangles its promises before us and slowly, slowly, slowly reels us in. I think of the part of it we interact with daily, the glowing white interface through which we volunteer every detail of our lives in exchange for information or pleasure or stories told by global entertainment corporations who commodify our culture and sell it back to us. I think of the words we use to describe this interface, which we carry with us in our pockets wherever we go, as we are tracked down every street and into every forest that remains: the web; the net.

I think: These are things designed to trap prey. 

Same: I see it too, and where there is prey, then surely there is a predator. To be continued...

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Objectivity and Intersubjectivity

Some excerpts from (and comments on) a somewhat One Cosmos-ish article called The Natural Path to the Transcendent, by George Stanciu:

The great discovery of ethology is that animals do not perceive what things really are; an animal’s perception is limited to a few key elements that will cause it to act.... An animal’s world is not the world we see but more closely resembles “a small, poorly furnished room.”

Other animals essentially live in their neurology, which provides only a kind of crude model projected onto the world. One might say that their engagement with the world is on a need-to-know basis. 

Frogs, for example, don't even need to know about insects per se, but only "small moving objects." The frog "will starve to death surrounded by food if it is not moving. His choice of food is determined only by size and movement." 

How did -- and do -- human beings escape from this representational sub-world? Of course, Kant maintained that we do not and cannot. Rather, just like any other animal, we exist in our own projected categories. They may be more subtle or sophisticated, but we are ultimately no more in touch with reality -- itself unknowable -- than any other animal.

Well, first of all, like anyone could even know that:

If man is subjective and has no way of knowing anything objectively, then how did Kant come to know that man lives in his own subjectivity and is confined to it? In other words, how can a man imprisoned in his own subjectivity proclaim an objective truth about everyone, including himself? (Bina & Ziarani)

As Schuon rightly says, 

The first ascertainment which should impose itself upon man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of that miracle that is intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- and consequently the incommensurability between these and material objects, be it a question of a grain of sand or of the sun, or of any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

But the second -- or maybe even tied with the first -- would be the miracle that is objectivity, which is to say, the conformity of our own intelligence to the objects of the world.   

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity.... The intelligence is objective to the extent that it registers that which is.

Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and object coincide... (ibid.).

Back to Stanciu: 

Of all the natural creatures, only human beings can grasp the whole. The study of animal perception re-discovered the spiritual nature of Homo sapiens -- the capacity to be connected to all that is, a fundamental principle of every wisdom tradition.

Also true, but by virtue of what principle? For Schuon,

God has opened a gate in the middle of creation, and this open gate of the world towards God is man... 

Agreed, but how did and does the gate open? Stanciu affirms the One Cosmos view that it has to do with the unique conditions of earliest childhood: 

as the human infant emerges from the womb, it looks for a human face and listens for a soprano voice. Nature directs the infant to seek its mother. The very first experience in a person’s life is connecting himself or herself to another person.

In short, it is precisely our neurological immaturity that becomes the means of induction into the world of intersubjectivity and relatedness to others, eventually mediated by language:

Without language, without others to learn language from, the mental capacities that Ms. Helen Keller, you, and I were born with would not have developed, and our lives would not have been much higher than that of a chimpanzee or a bonobo.

Being subjectively "open systems" is precisely what lifts us out of the condition of being trapped and confined to our own subjective perceptions, which is the fate of other animals. 

But even then, it is possible to reify our own subjectivity and confuse the particular with the universal, which goes to the problem of mind parasites: 

The curse of social living is that every society implants ideas and instills habits of thinking and feeling that limit its members to a particular perspective, one that, as a general rule, is contrary to human nature and destructive to neighboring societies. The paradox is that social living greatly extends our capabilities and yet limits us.

Which is why "Homo sapiens is the only species that can act contrary to its nature." 

Running low on time, but this vertical enclosure is a Big Problem, and it is symbolized by the timeless events of Genesis 3, whereby man foregoes relationship with God in favor of sealing himself in his own pseudo-absoluteness. Is there a way up and out? Yes, but only one assoul at a time:

Of course, the unborn within me, my true self, was a complete mystery, so after stumbling around for years exploring Hinduism and Buddhism, I turned to the deepest understanding of the human person that Christianity offers.

To be continued... 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The World, the Adversary, and the Divine Presence

Unlike artificial intelligence, human intelligence is and must be aware of its limits, on pain of enclosing itself in unintelligence -- or in an intelligent stupidity. Not only is the history of philosophy a history of models of reality, so too is each and every person such a model. 

I suppose the average person has an implicit model composed of fragments and contingencies that one more or less tries to force reality to be; but reality is what it is prior to our thinking about it.

The Existential Climate Emergency is an example of a model that wants to be the reality. And for some reason, people want to be terrified by this model. Indeed, those of us who aren't terrified are lying dog-faced pony soldiers. 

Now, no doubt life itself -- at least in the human mode -- is an unending Emergency. People talk about "identity crises, "midlife crises," and "existential crises," which are somewhat beside the point in the face of the Crisis. 

What is this crisis? Here again, there are as many ways to symbolize it as there are people. Most people don't think it through to the foundation, for which reason a variety of retail crises are available to purchase off the rack, as it were. Higher education, for example, has become little more than the internalization of various crises, which again symbolize and conceal the crisis.  

For example, adolescence is always a crisis, the crisis of the loss of childhood and the uncertainty of what it means to be an adult. Back when I was an adolescent I assumed that attainment of adulthood would end the crisis, but it just replaces one with another.  

Come to think of it, I also assumed that acquisition of a Ph.D. would end the crisis of epistemology -- or, in the parlance of the times, of being an idiot, and I suppose it worked for at least a couple of weeks before I came to my senses and realized the models weren't the reality. 

It was around that same time that I was in my phase of peak leftism, which again allows one to project and externalize one's existential crisis into those various off-the-rack concerns alluded to above, from structural racism to nuclear power to American imperialism, et al. 

You can deny a lot of personal problems by pretending that we're all gonna die from, say, a nuclear power plant meltdown. I suppose you had to be there, but the hysteria worked, since it resulted in the abolition of nuclear power in California. Apparently there's one plant left, scheduled to be shut down in 2025

And yet, people are no happier, since one crisis is just replaced by another (and the "solution" to one crisis often causes the next one). Similarly, the moment homosexuals are allowed to marry, we find ourselves in a crisis of "transphobia." 

Along these lines, Schuon writes that 

Serenity is to keep oneself so to speak above the clouds, in the calm and coolness of emptiness and far from the dissonances of this lower world; it is never to allow the soul to immerse itself in impasses of disturbances, bitterness, or secret revolt....

The man who is conscious of the nature of pure Being willingly remains in the moment that Heaven has assigned to him; he is not feverishly straining towards the future nor does he dwell lovingly or sadly over the past. The pure present is the moment of the Absolute: it is now -- neither yesterday nor tomorrow -- that we stand before God.

In the same book (Echoes of Perennial Wisdom) he writes that

The habitual dream of the ordinary man lives on the past and future; his heart hangs, as it were, over the past and is carried away by the future at one and the same time, instead of resting in Being.

This is not what you would call practical or pragmatic advice, but then again, the most important truths are for their own sake, not for the sake of any lesser end. It seems that the implicit motivation for all those Practical Concerns is to finally abide in Being. Is it possible to bypass the middle man and proceed straight to Being? Asking for a friend.

Whatever may be the phenomena and whatever their causes, there is always That Which Is; and That Which Is, is beyond the world of tumult, contradictions, and disappointments.... Nothing can tarnish It, and no one can take it from us.... the accidents pass, the Substance remains (ibid.).

Sounds good! Where do we sign up? 

Let the world be what it is and take refuge in Truth, Peace, and Beauty, wherein is neither doubt nor any blemish.

Easier said than done?

there is in every man a tendency to attach too much to this or that element of passing life or to worry about it too much, and the adversary takes advantage of this in order to cause troubles for us.

Probably to understand the nature of this adversary is to stop externalizing him into all those myths provided by the world to explain and justify our unhappiness. Rather, it is necessary to 

not allow ourselves to be excessively troubled by the things of the world, seeing that dissonances cannot but exist, the world being what it is.  

Life would be great if it weren't for... the world.   

Now, the world -- our world, anyway -- is person, time, and place; I mean everybody has to be someone somewhere at some time. 

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to being what one is, and on the other hand one has to become a place of the Divine Presence....

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to being where one is, and on the other hand, one has to turn this place into a center through the remembrance of God....

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to living in the moment in which one lives, and on the other hand one has to turn this moment into an Eternal Present, which every present moment becomes through the Remembrance of God... 

So, we got that going for us.