Thursday, March 04, 2021

Truth, Existence, and Certitude

Is there a pure metaphysics, accessible to man, that is prior to sense and reason? I've been struggling to reconcile esoterism and Thomism, and this seems to be the nub of the gist of the crux of the matter. Or at least one of them.  

The dimensions I've been exploring lately are so vast that it's difficult -- okay, impossible -- to wrap one's mind around them. No wonder people take this stuff on faith! And not just religious faith, either. For example, I have no earthly idea how a CD player works, but it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of music. 

And who knows, maybe the kind of technical intelligence that can dream up such a device displaces the kind of intelligence that appreciates other dimensions, from music to literature to comedy. Certainly our digital overlords don't have a sense of humor, or even common sense. And they want to restrict us to their little cognitive prison, just like any other religious fanatic.

Anyway, the intellect of a Fr. Garrigou is so imposing that one is inclined to simply nod in agreement and say "you know best." I suppose this is why some folks called him "the sacred monster or Thomism." Imposing. That's the word. When I question something he says, I feel slightly impudent.

Since God, His Existence and His Nature runs to 1,000 pages, it is literally difficult to wrap one's mind around it, figuratively speaking. It's like trying to capture water with a bucket in a rainstorm. But at risk of impudence, I think I've identified a flaw, or at least a fundamental area of disagreement, and it goes to this question of what the intellect is

We can further boil the question down to this: is the intellect radically separate from the divine principle? Or is it a prolongation of it? 

I notice that Fr. Garrigou, when he has occasion to mention him at all -- usually in a snarky footnote --  doesn't think much of Eckhart. But this is a central motif of the Meister, i.e., that there is something both uncreated and uncreatable in the soul -- or that we participate in the uncreated. 

Apparently this is a Big Heresy, and I can understand why. Taken out of context and without the appropriate paradox, irony, and playfulness, one can get the wrong idea and start thinking one is God. 

Nevertheless. Let's proceed logically. Let's say truth exists. Being true, it is both necessary and eternal. Assuming man can know this truth, this means that man must somehow participate in necessary and eternal being. Woo hoo!

But Garrigou begins the search for God at the other end, with the senses, which know only the particular and unique. Yes, we can prove the existence of God with certainty, but beginning with created things and ascending on up to their Creator. Thus, God is known a posteriori, not a priori -- or from the effects to the cause instead of the cause to its effects, reverberations, and prolongations herebelow.

At times it almost seems to me that Garrigou is protecting the dignity and majesty of God from our grubby intellects. Here again, I can certainly understand the reason for this. It's the same reason why real Jews don't even utter the word G-d, because it's presumptuous to name the Nameless. 

Moreover, giving something a name can fool us into thinking we understand it. After all, even liberals use the word "reality." 

Rather than arguing with Garrigou, I think I'll cut straight to what bOb thinks, which is more in align with Schuon and Eckhart, albeit with certain modifications. Nor should you care what bOb thinks, since he is just an impudent crank who is in way over his head.

Now, instead of starting with the senses, Schuon goes straight for the jugular of Absolute: boom! Maybe I'm missing something here, but this seems... absolutely self-evident to me. We're all familiar with Descartes' famous crack to the effect that He thought about stuff, therefore he existed

This is metaphysically backassward, precisely. Like Descartes, we too "begin" in thought, but not really, since thought -- to say nothing of true thoughts -- must have a sufficient reason. It's not just floating around in our heads with no explanation.

To jump ahead a bit, the correct formulation is: I think, therefore being is. Or better, I am because (not therefore) Being is:     

The certitude that we exist would be impossible without absolute, hence necessary, Being, which inspires both our existence and our certitude; Being and Consciousness: these are the two roots of our reality (Schuon). 

From this little seedling sprout all sorts of implications, entailments, and good tidings. 

Back to the question of beginning at the top rather than with the senses:

No doubt it is worth recalling here that in metaphysics there is no empiricism: principial knowledge cannot stem from any experience, even though experiences -- scientific or other -- can be the occasional causes of the intellect's intuitions.

So it's fine to start with the empirical world, if that floats your boat. But you're forgetting a little something that must be there before the beginning, AKA intelligence:

The sources of our transcendent intuitions are innate data, consubstantial with pure intelligence... 

Again, this goes to the "uncreated" alluded to above. Conversely, if we begin at the other end, with empiricism or with reason, we will discover no immanent principle allowing us to transcend these. Rationalism, for example,

consists in seeking the elements of certitude in phenomena rather than in our very being. 

Or, let's say you want to skip all this philosophical nonsense and go straight to revelation. Let's say it speaks to you, and so deeply that you are just certain it is true. Question: by virtue of what principle is this certitude and this truth in us?

To be continued....

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Rights for the Victims of Stupidity

I don't like to play the IQ card, but sometimes you have to -- for example, with recalcitrant children or uncomprehending liberals. But I repeat myself.

Although our culture pretends to value intelligence, this is not only a transparent falsehood but an inversion of the reality. Elite liberal institutions such as academia or the MSM are aimed at stupid and/or deranged adolescents, not normal adults. 

Have you noticed how many cable channels are beamed into your home, and the number of them that are addressed to your level of intelligence? It always approaches zero. Show me the intelligence to whom Joy Reid speaks, and I will show you an intelligence that, for whatever reason, failed to actualize.

We don't appreciate the gulf that exists between the intelligent and stupid. Perhaps even more destructive is the abyss between the intelligent-and-educated and the intelligent-but-indoctrinated. 

The latter are the really dangerous ones, in part because they have just enough intelligence and more than enough obedience to quickly and unreflectively assimilate the indoctrination and then pass it along to the stupid. This is the role of the educational establishment in general and teachers unions in particular. And let's not forget the media.

How can one respect the intelligence of someone who can't even see that Joe Biden is an addle-brained zombie? Is this inability just stupidity? Mass indoctrination? Collective delusion? Negative hallucination? 

We are drowning in Dunning-Krugery. But this post is not supposed to be about politics and intelligence; rather, about God and intelligence. 

I realize you folks are, like me, just humble dwellers on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway, looking for a few handouts from Petey, but let's face it: if you enjoy reading this blog, and understand what I'm talking about, then you are pretty far to the right side of the Bell Curve, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. 

Not only are you intelligent, but intelligent enough to feel rather eccentric, although not necessarily lonely so long as the proper stimulation is provided. 

But you are bored stiff with the sorts of things that engage the interest of people situated to your left, and again, you have to face this fact. In your day-to-day life you don't run into the type of person who would ever read, much less understand, this blog. Rather, you mainly find them here, or in books, or in the vertical world, or in a few other thought spots of the internet.

Like I said, I don't like to play the IQ card, and certainly not the victim card, but c'mon, man! Intelligence has its rights! I'm old enough to remember when it was both respected and respectable, but nowadays you will be canceled for even saying something intelligent, and especially if it is both intelligent and funny. For the left, the latter has been totally off limits since the risible Obama came to town. 

I understand the left, and not just because I used to be one of them. Rather, I used to be that stupid as well. For autobiographical reasons I won't get into, my brain remained on the factory setting of ambient liberalism until I was into my 40s, so my intelligence was fine, just not conformed to reality: good enough engine, no steering wheel.

More generally, all the surveys show -- as if it's needed -- that conservatives understand liberalism, while the converse is not true. Which is why they used to just engage in slander, demonization, and projection, whereas now they're just censoring us altogether. They've never been able to answer our arguments, and now they're just being honest about it: no opinion for you!

It's the same with mental illness, by the way. I understand the mentally ill, and not just because I'm a clinical psychologist. More generally, the person who is emotionally well can understand the unwell -- at least in potential -- better than the unwell can understand the well. We can appreciate that he is delusional or hallucinating, while he can't appreciate that we're not.

Having said that, just as there is a "mystery of evil," there can also be a mystery of stupidity and mental illness, because it partakes of the absurd, and absurdity corresponds to the unintelligible, precisely. No one will ever get to the bottom of Keith Olbermann.

Mass culture is aimed squarely at the 100 IQ cohort, and you probably don't hang out with too many of them, although you no doubt encounter them all day long. 

You probably haven't done this in ages, but I dare you to turn on the local news for a few minutes. Stupidity can't really radiate. Nevertheless, you can feel it burning your skin. 

Alternatively, try watching a press briefing by Jen Psaki. They are fascinatingly stupid and almost mesmerizingly demented -- and yet, not nearly as demented as would be Joe Biden in a press conference spontaneously responding to hostile questions. I would pay for that. 

Not only is the left composed of boring lunatics saying tedious things, but they want to ban the intelligent people with interesting ideas. That's where I draw the line.

Stop it! 

That was addressed to me. 

Again, this post is supposed to be about God and intelligence. Now, consider the gulf between, say, Joel Osteen and Fr. Garrigou. I don't even know anything about the former, except that he's some kind of snake oil handler with a mega-church. 

If that were what Christianity is, then obviously no intelligent person would be or could be a Christian. Apparently this type of religiosity corresponds to a certain type of need in a certain type of person, but we are not that person and we don't have those kinds of needs. At all.  

Back to the essay on Esoterism as Principle and as Way. It is difficult for me to imagine someone situated to our left on on the Bell Curve understanding these Principles or engaging in this Way, for the same reason I can't imagine such a person performing surgery on my brain. 

Just because I won't let you open my skull, that doesn't make you a bad person. Likewise, just because I am not moved by your silly argument, nor does that necessarily make you a bad person. You only become bad when you make it against the law to reject your argument, or censor mine.

We're running out of time, so I'm going to jump ahead to a couple of passages that get right to the point:

"Metaphysical or esoteric doctrine is addressed to another subjectivity than is the general religious message," the latter taking what we might call the false-but-true form of a Joel Osteen or some other midlevel but high income spiritual adventurer. These latter speak "to the will and to passional man," whereas "esoterism speaks to the intelligence and to the contemplative man."  

And "only esoteric theses can satisfy the imperious needs for logical understanding that the philosophic and scientific positions of the modern world cause." We'll explain why in the next post.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Total Truth and Integral Intelligence

There's a clarifying essay by Schuon called Esoterism as Principle and as Way in his book of the same title. I've read it many times, but it always turns out different. Or rather, I come at it with a different Bob.

First of all, it speaks to me on a deep level. It is as if, on the one hand, I understand it, but on the other -- and more deeply -- it understands me. Which makes me "happy," in the manner described in yesterday's post: 

if one says all of this to me, then I pay attention, I understand something, I feel happy. I feel attracted to God, I attach myself to the Divine.

You'd think this would be sufficient, but nevertheless, it makes me suspicious. Yes, of the author, but mainly of myself. Just because I understand something, that doesn't make it true. But is it possible to understand something that is false? If so, what does it mean to "understand"?  (To be clear, I'm thinking of Blake's gag to the effect that Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not believed.)

Perhaps we need a different word. For example, I understand progressivism, and it doesn't get more false than that. What is actually going on when we understand something?  

By way of analogy, I can hear some pop music crap and know in an instant that it is indeed irredeemable crap, even though millions of people call it art. Conversely, I enjoy forms of music that the average listener would regard as chaotic noise. Which of us is perceiving things aright? Do we shrug our shoulders and concede that "there's no accounting for taste"? Or is beauty an adequation, as I believe?

That's the word we're looking for: adequation. All knowledge, to the extent that it is true, is an adequation. If not, then there is no such thing as knowledge, since it has no measure outside itself. As they like to say on the left, perception is reality, and we're off to the racists.

Enough preliminary noodling around. Let's get on with it, beginning, as we always must, with definitions:

It is necessary, first of all, to be clear about the meaning of the word "eosterism."  

As with everything else in life, error exists because it is parasitic on truth. Counterfeit money presumes the existence of the real thing. As such, our discussion

presupposes that one is dealing with authentic esoterism and not its counterfeits or deviations, which can compromise the word and not the thing itself, and which merely serve to flatter a propensity for extravagance.

Boy and how. In those old westerns, a cowboy would bite a coin to make sure it was made of real gold. Along these lines, I invite our trolls to bite me.

Jumping ahead a bit, it just dawned on me why this material seems different this time around. It's because I've spent this past Year of Our Lockdown fully immersed in scholastic thought, such that I can now see the parallels with Schuon's thought, but also the ruptures, so to speak. 

As such, I am confronted with the question: where is the disconnect? Must we stop at the limits set by Aristotle, or Thomas, or Garrigou-Lagrange? Or is it safe to continue tripping our way on up where the buses don't usually run?  Is this crazyland? Or a deeper form of sanity?

Now you see why I don't trust myself. Yes, I'm driving this bus, and yes, I see the road clearly, and I see that ditch on one side and the cliff on the other. But crazy people see all sorts of things clearly, from microaggressions to white privilege to global warming. I don't exclude myself from mankind's universal tendency to see things that aren't there, or to look for the keys under the streetlight.

About those connections mentioned above:

Certainly all esoterism appears to be tinged with heresy from the point of view of the corresponding exoterism, but this obviously does not disqualify it if it is intrinsically orthodox, hence conforming with truth as such...

How do we know a theory is a good one? I can think of three main ways: first, it will connect to and organize our observations and experiences of reality; second, it will connect to other theories (or sometimes transcend them); and third, it will connect to as yet undiscovered observations.  

For me, esoterism does all these: it provides a framework to illuminate spiritual data and experience; it illuminates other frameworks; and it is expansive enough to account for new data as it comes along. 

If we're on the right track, then nothing should contradict our interpretive framework. This is what the mind wants and demands. The question is, are we entitled to such an explanation? In any event, 

only esoteric theses can satisfy the imperious needs for logical understanding that the philosophic and scientific positions of the modern world cause.

And "Just as rationalism can remove faith, so esoterism can restore it." 

We want answers.  Not absurd ones, crazy ones, partial ones, self-serving ones, or fashionable but ridiculously self-refuting ones such as materialism, scientism, metaphysical Darwinism, et al. And let's not give a pass to all man's goofy religious beliefs either. They may not be as silly and destructive as materialism, but they're still wrong (or partial). 

Do the answers exist or not? If not, then let's embrace nihilism and let the war begin: ignorant armies clashing by night, to the end of time. 

Again it comes down to something mentioned in the previous post -- that the conventional choices on offer "underestimate God just as they underestimate men." 

These two poles are complementary, because if one is detached from the other, we end in a monstrous and depraved humanism at one end, or a kind of mental slavery at the other. And extremists meet, as we see in our grotesque secular religion of soul-dead wokeism.

We never quite defined esoterism, which I think is a loaded term. I prefer truth, or let's say total truth in conformity to integral intelligence: this intelligence is proportioned to something vastly transcending, and it is the function of esoterism to illuminate these connecting links, symbolic points of reference, and universal principles.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fun with God and Man

Lately I've been pondering the question of esoterism, about which I've developed a certain ambivalence since I began blogging 2005. Back then I was just a kid with a crazy dream. Now we're living in a crazy dream with the kids in charge. 

Since 2005, I've become more conventional in my thinking, partly because I've discovered how unconventional Christianity is. Truly, it already is an esoterism, especially compared to the other monotheisms, or to Vedanta or Buddhism, which are more like metaphysical-therapeutic doctrines with a religion attached.

Schuon calls Christianity a "relative esoterism" expressed via its symbols, dogmas, and rituals. You might say that these are one degree removed from a pure esoterism, but for this reason can run up against certain contradictions. 

But the average person needn't worry about these loose ends, nor would he even care. Rather, not only is faith sufficient to carry him over the divine-human abyss, but faith itself is a kind of gnosis par excellence (as in the old gag about believing in order to know).

(Backing up a bit, Schuon equates esoterism with nothing more than [lower case] gnosis, which is to say, knowledge of higher realities.)   

Anyway, while trying to figure out just what it is that bugs me about Thomas in general and Garrigou-Lagrange in particular (this despite the immense, indeed, priceless light they furnish), I came across a letter from Schuon that precisely describes my sentiments. I won't quote the whole thing, but he first briefly summarizes his metaphysic before observing that 

if one says all of this to me, then I pay attention, I understand something, I feel happy. I feel attracted to God, I attach myself to the Divine.

That's me: I get it, it makes me happy, and I feel drawn into the vortex of O. 

Now, happiness is not the measure of truth. Then again, they say that happiness is a consequence of a desire meeting its end, and that's what it feels like to me: intellection resting in peace, which is to say, extinguished in union with its proper object. 

Conversely -- and this goes to my trouble with more conventional approaches -- 

When on the contrary I am told: a God, who owes me nothing because He is almighty, gives me this or that command, and that my intelligence is only there to carry out this command as well as possible, and other things of this kind -- when I am told this, I do not understand anything, I feel unhappy, I do not feel attracted to religion, I no longer know what I am, nor why I am a human being. But this is what theologians too often reduce religion to, as if they could please God thereby! They underestimate God just as they underestimate men.

Bing! This uncharacteristically personal disclosure rang my nonlocal gong. It reminds me of when we were scouting guitars for my son. We saw a video that recommended purchasing a beautiful instrument, because the beauty would provoke the desire to hold and play it. Somewhat like choosing a wife. 

Come to think of it, way back when I was around ten years old, my mother forced me to take piano lessons. Even she could see that I was musically inclined, so it seemed like the proper bourgeois thing to do. I don't recall how may lessons there were -- maybe half a dozen at most -- but I hated it. 

Now, if she had handed me a starburst Rickenbacker electric like George Harrison played, then I'm sure things would have turned out different. I'd have been a rock star, and long dead by now. Thanks mom!

Back to what Schuon said above: the irony is that the conventional (non-esoteric) approach underestimates man and God. I think we can stipulate that if you're on the esoteric path and you're not humble, then you're not only wrong, but probably dangerous -- certainly to yourself, but to others as well if you presume to instruct them.

Humility as at once a cause and consequence, or pre- and post-requisite.  

In that same letter, Schuon asks himself why he's dwelling on this subject: possibly because of 

the constantly recurring confrontation with the moralistic one-sidedness of exoterism and its exaggerations, which one encounters at every turn, but which, God be praised, one can also forget.


Now, if exoterism can be annoying and sometimes tedious, esoterism has its own dangers and pitfalls, as alluded to above. 

In fact, this may be part of the reason why Schuon always emphasized the necessity to situate esoterism within exoterism, and to give oneself to a legitimate tradition; for the former is a deepening of the latter (or conversely, one could say that exoterism is a divinely authorized and instituted prolongation of esoteric principles onto a more approachable plane). 

For exoterism is nonetheless -- to put it mildly -- not only wholly legitimate on its own plane, but a God-given means for man to know the essentials, even (and especially) if he isn't cut out for gymgnostics and verticalisthenics.   

Which is not grandiose, just objective, no different from seeing that this person is cut out for music or math or baseball, but for that person it's sufficient to enjoy music, balance his checkbook, and participate in a softball beer league. 

There are degrees of everything, nor is the esoterist better or even necessarily more intelligent, God forbid. I mean, it would never occur to me that I am more brilliant than St. Thomas! I wish. 

Perhaps you've noticed that in the best theological authorities there are "incidental openings to gnosis,"  but at times frustrated by the need to contain or rein them in by doctrine. 

Thus, "elements can be found in their teaching which in fact transcend it." Isn't this precisely what happened to Thomas at the end of his life, big time? Or Big Timeless, rather.  His exoteric efforts were crowned by an experience that utterly transcended, but by no means negated, them, since they provided the launch pad.

That's about it for today. We're not close to finished with this subject.  

Friday, February 26, 2021

Squaring the Absurcular

There is no doubt that religious doctrines confront the modern mind with certain difficulties. Is the difficulty in the doctrine or the mind? 

In the spirit of compromise, let's meet in the muddle and stipulate that it's both: on the one hand, messages addressed to, and formulated by, a premodern mentality may not speak as clearly to modern ears. 

At the same time, a horizontal mentality enclosed in this or that ideological deformity exiles itself from the dimension from which revelation proceeds. 

More imaginative types are able to appreciate the transparency of revelation; instead of staring dumbly at the concrete symbols, they are able to intuit the reality to which the symbols point (and from which they descend).  They are able to grow with the flow of a simultaneously descending and ascending grace, and see the totality of revelation as a transdimensional map with points of reference corresponding to this or that vertical tourist spot.

Again, there is only one Ultimate Reality but countless views of it. This goes to the old problem of the one and the many, which is one of the first questions that confronts the philosophical mind. 

Some ancient thinkers argued that reality is ceaseless change, while others argued that change is an illusion. In other words, it comes down to whether the universe is the moving image of eternity, or just eternally moving images -- one or many, respectively.

Such ultimate antinomies usually turn out to be complementarities that are united on a higher level. In this case, Aristotle solved the problem of the one and many with the principles of potency and act. Being, which is one, actualizes latent potentialities in time. Thus, for example, the acorn is both different and not-different from the oak tree; there is both continuity and discontinuity.

Or, just consider yourself and your own potential. On the one hand, you are who you are. At the same time, you can only actualize so much of your latent potential in this life. 

What is the ontological nature of this potential? It's rather ambiguous, isn't it? It's not yet something, since you haven't actualized it. And yet, it's not nothing either, since it's there waiting to be actualized. It's on the border between nothing and something: not nothing but not yet something. 

Now apply this same principle to all of reality.  For me, this touches on the touchy questions of freedom, predetermination, and God's omniscience. A perfect intelligence can be omniscient about the past, since it happened, and about the present, since it is happening.  

But the future is another thing entirely, since it hasn't yet happened, nor is it determined. Rather, billions (megatrillions if we count their mutual interactions) of free decisions will go into constituting it, in each and every moment. 

That's a big epistemological problem. Except, of course, for socialist central planners, who combine the omniscience of a god with the ineradicable stupidity of the godless.

About the one God and many views. While it is true that Protestantism has aggravated this problem, since every man becomes his own theologian, it seems to me that it's essentially unavoidable, given the human condition. 

Orthodoxy (lower case o) tries to limit the diversity by proclaiming certain interpretations necessary and others off limits, but each person nevertheless understands things in his own way. How could it be otherwise, unless man were like an ant or a bee, with no individuality?

Now, is it possible for man to overcome his own subjectivity and see the principles as they are, in all their naked objectivity, without so much as a fig leaf of myth? Yes and no. Yes, because we are the image and (potential) likeness of God; no, because the reflected image, no matter how alike, is not the thing reflected. 

Schuon presumes to elucidate the eternal Principles by virtue of which the doctrines of this or the religion are true. This raises an important question. 

That is, on the assumption that Christian doctrine is true, is it true in itself, or true because it exemplifies higher principles? If it is the former, then it will confront us with things that we can only take on faith, because they can't be resolved into, or harmonized into, higher principles.  

Along these lines, it seems to me that even the best exoteric theologians kick the epistemolgical can more or less up the road, until they stop at a wall called Mystery, or Because God Said So, or Tradition, or Faith. Is this truly the end? Or is there intelligibility beyond these limits?

I haven't formulated it all that well, but that's the question. Again, what are the legitimate rights of intelligence -- bearing in mind that it can have no rights without prior obligations, one of which is humility, not to mention sanctity.  

We're running out of time, but Schuon describes the problem this way: the form is not the substance; form implies a diversity of manifestations -- for example, there are many men but mankind is one. If there is no human nature (the form) then there are no humans either, since each is his own form (which is nominalism, i.e., the denial of essential forms).

Now, revelation is a form, and it must be distinct from the substance, or we descend into idolatry. Likewise, Jesus the man was on the one hand unique, on the other, a manifestation of the Logos, which is to say, the Form of all forms.

All this thinking is making me dizzy. To be continued...

Thursday, February 25, 2021

What's the Speed of God?

I read an essay this morning called Apologetics in the Age of Cancellation that adds another dimension to the esoteric angle we were discussing in the previous post, i.e., trust. (The link is at the bottom because I still haven't figured out how to embed them & I don't want to clutter the text.)

After all is said and done, who ya' gonna trust? Your parents? Your teachers? Your friends? Your church? A book? The government? Science? 

Among others, I trust Sr. Dávila, who observes that
There are arguments of increasing validity, but, in short, no argument in any field spares us the final leap.

Irrespective of one's philosophy, there will be an element of faith, which is to say, trust -- even if it means merely trusting one's own mind and senses.

The essay mentioned above suggests that, "Due to increasing skepticism and secularism," 

contemporary apologetics should prioritize the personal testimony, or witness, of the apologist over the content of his arguments. This testimony... is best supported by the personalist philosophy expounded by Pope St. John Paul II. By focusing “on the aspirations of the human heart for communion with the divine,” apologists can more effectively persuade “readers who suffer from the anonymity of contemporary collectivism or the isolation of contemporary individualism.”

I suppose we could say that we have to trust the messenger before we believe his message:

Apologetics succeeds, in this view, when trust develops between the apologist and his interlocutor, who accepts the testimony only when he comes to trust the apologist as a person. As such, converts will often name the apologist instrumental in their conversions before naming specific arguments. By contrast, “to reject the message is to withhold confidence in the witness.”

We live in a paradoxical age which combines a maximum of skepticism and credulity. For example, the typical member of the lunatic left is far too skeptical to believe in invisible sky gods and so forth. 

And yet, he easily believes in lies so outrageous that they verge on the hallucinatory, such as the Russia hoax, the plague of White Supremacism, the ludicrous Insurrection, or thousands of innocent black men being gunned down by police.

Well, who ya' gonna believe, your lying eyes or a dimwitted barmaid from the Bronx? Crime statistics or a nursing home escapee mumbling about his hairy legs?  

Regarding this strange admixture of a simultaneously maxed-out skepticism + credulity, Dávila alludes to the possibility of another way, in that

There is some collusion between skepticism and faith: both undermine human presumptuousness.

Note that this collusion undermines both human presumptuousness and human presumptuousness. Failing it, we are all-too-human and therefore all-too presumptuous, in the tediously predictable manner of Genesis 3 All Over Again. 

In the absence of conscious awareness of his own inclinations, man will confuse his downward flight with "progress," merely because he's moving. Wheeeeeee! 

This ends in pseudo-religious secular cult that shares most everything with religion except for a little thing called Truth, e.g., faith, salvation, purification, sanctity, ritual, and an imaginary choir of devils singing Heil MAGA! around the exalted throne of the eternal Orange Man. 

Anyway, trust. Ultimately, in one way or another, you're still going to have to trust yourself. For example, even if you decide to put all your faith in science, it's still you who must do so, and why trust yourself, of all people? 

For our purposes, the question is, just how much can we trust our own minds? You could say that this is the first question of epistemology and of critical thinking more generally. Indeed, it is the basis for a properly functioning skepticism that ultimately goes to what is real, and, even prior to this, on what basis man can even know the real.

This no doubt sounds rather basic and stupid. I was trying to explain it to my son a couple of days ago, in the context of a wide-ranging discussion of philosophy, theology, and science. 

Specifically, I was trying to explain to him that modern critical philosophy begins with the idea that man has no access to reality, only to his own mental concepts. This naturally leads to additional novelties -- progress! -- such as the absence of free will, the impossibility of truth, the destruction of language, the relativization of morality, the denial of meta-narratives, and the death of the intellect and common sense.

In short, the modern left. It's so stupid, it's almost embarrassing to call oneself human. Nevertheless, it's something we have to face. 

In the course of my diatribe to my son, I was reminded of God's death 139 years ago, when Nietzsche gave us the word (or anti-word). I thought of the analogy to a dead star. Supposing a star dies, we might not get word of it for many lightyears later. Indeed, even our sun is old news -- nine minutes old by the time it reaches us.

Which leads to the question: what's the speed of God? Supposing he died in 1882 or thereabouts, how long does it take for the darkness to reach us?  

The darkness is here, to be sure. It seems to me that it must be a gradual thing. A star doesn't turn off like a light switch, but goes through a process. Come to think of it, this process can even become an inversion of itself: instead of radiating light, it can suck it and everything else into a black hole.

Is this where we are -- on the cusp of a black hole? It feels that way to me, at least collectively. Having said that, I have no faith whatsoever in this so-called death of God, nor in the resultant black hole. It's happening, but I'm not taking part in it, just watching the spectacle from a disrespectful distance. In the world but not of it, and all that.

Sorry about the derailment. We'll get back to the necessity of esoterism in the next post. It really does tie the cosmos together in a way nothing else can.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Path Unravelled

We know that things happen. The question is, why they happen. As we've said before, this ability to ask Why -- or WTF?! -- so characterizes man, that we might well call him homo curious if that term didn't have certain distasteful connotations. 

Now, this blog never stops asking questions, i.e., interrogating reality at every level and in diverse modes. Still, it's One Cosmos; every thing requires a cause, and this ultimate cause is what folks call God, i.e., the intelligent cause of intelligible being. If, in your philosophical wandering, you haven't yet bumped into the Uncaused Cause, just keep wondering and blundering. You'll get there: (?) and you shall (!).

The Uncaused Cause is Necessary Being; being necessary, it is eternal. Put conversely, anything contingent is strictly unnecessary and timebound; being bound by time, it has a beginning and an end. 

Still, we want details. When things happen down here -- especially bad things -- it doesn't appease the intellect to dismiss them with an empty cliche such as "it's God's will." If this is the case, then God has an awful lot of explaining to do. 

More basically, why posit a God who is less moral than we are, and who is responsible for things we would never dream of doing? Some things shock the conscience, and what is the conscience but our divine radar for distinguishing good from evil? If something offends our sense of decency, then God must be beside himself. Constantly.

Have you ever noticed that even the best theologians can start to get slippery at certain inflection points, just when you want the details? As mentioned above, anyone with a triple digit IQ can work his way up to the Uncaused Cause. We get it. How then do things get so fouled up between there and here? 

Sometimes, when you get close to one of these soft spots, the theologian will get all Wizard of Oz on you: pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! They start blowing smoke or squirting ink like an octopus, enveloping you in a cloud of mystagogy. Others get impatient or irritable, but the worst ones start issuing threats -- as if our God-given curiosity is somehow blasphemous or sacrilegious.  (That's a good thing about Judaism: it positively encourages arguing and even wrestling with God.)

I guess the question is, just what are the rights of our intelligence? It is not uncommon to hear that God owes us absolutely nothing, and that, on the contrary, we owe everything to God. Okay, I get it. God is the cause, we are the effect, and the effect owes its existence to the cause.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that if you're gonna go to all the trouble of creating a being with intelligence and freedom, then certain obligations and rights go along with these. With regard to the intellect, we are obliged to seek truth because we have the right to seek it. If we don't have the right, then we have no obligation. 

Bottom line: if God gives us an intellect, then he is obliged -- in a manner of speaking, and with all deus respect -- to furnish the means to satisfy it, on pain of his own arbitrary incoherence. 

No, we're not tempting God. Rather, honoring him, for it dishonors God to characterize him as illogical, unreasonable, and inconsistent. Besides, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

So, we're just askin'. 

What is this all about, Bob? You sound vexed.

Well, I did become a little miffed this weekend, in the course of plowing through volume II of God, His Existence and His Nature. I won't bore you with details, but let's just say that with any purely exoteric approach to religion, you're going to be left with certain loose ends and sometimes downright absurdities that you are forced to accept because of Mystery, or veiled threat, or just shut-up. I don't like that. That's the sort of response one expects from climate science drama queens, not the Queen of Sciences. 

I don't like to characterize myself as an "esoterist," because it sounds pretentious, and people get the wrong idea. Nevertheless, there is an inevitable layer of esoterism between God and revelation, and if you ignore it, then you will be forced to accept a degree of contradiction and absurdity. The Infinite necessarily veils itself in finitude, but a nearsighted focus on the veil will obscure what it's veiling in the distance. I suppose we could say that it will appear "solid" to the many but transparent to the few, i.e. those blessed with 20/∞ vision. 

Fr. Reginald -- or Thomas more generally -- occupies a space of what I would call "mid-level esoterism"; or, it's as if it sometimes penetrates all the way through to the core, but then draws back from its own implications, because those implications will contradict scripture exoterically understood, or violate some a priori deduction of what God must be like. 

For example, they say God must be utterly immobile and immutable, and can derive absolutely nothing from our existence, since he lacks nothing and therefore can receive nothing.

Okay, I get that too, but still: some father. And speaking of which, as alluded to in the previous post, doesn't the idea of a trinitarian godhead evoke something analogous to, I don't know, giving and receiving, loving and being loved, knowing and being known?  

This is way too large a subject to fit into a post. But to help reorient myself, I reread some Schuon, who says this:

partial or indirect truth can save, and in this respect can suffice for us; on the other hand, if God has judged it good to give us an understanding which transcends the necessary minimum, we can do nothing about this and we would be highly ungracious to complain about it. Man certainly is free to close his eyes to particular data -- and he may do so from ignorance or as a matter of convenience -- but at least nothing forces him to do so.

Not everyone wants or even needs the whole existentialada. Strokes & folks. Exoterism is apparently fine for most, but there are always certain aspects that make me wince -- and I think cause the typical midwit to turn away from religion, because it sounds stupid to these indoctrinated and credentialed yahoos.

"Exoterism is a precarious thing by reason of its limits or its exclusions," such that we are eventually faced with a choice: "escape from these limitations by the upward path, in esoterism, or by the downward path, in a worldly and suicidal liberalism."

Isn't this precisely what has happened? It seems to me that the present culture war has its roots in an inherently unstable religious exoterism at one end, and an intellectually and civilizationally suicidal liberalism at the other. Only one path can save us: the in- and upward one.