Saturday, November 04, 2006

Loafing Around God's Vertical Bakery (updated)

It’s pretty simple, folks: either there’s a truth and therefore a way -- a doctrine and a method -- or there is ultimately only falsehood and confusion -- or relativity, contingency, and arbitrariness. The one follows from the other, for if there is Truth, then we are constrained to know it. Truth is what we must know, just as good is what we must do and beauty what we must love. These three activities distinguish us from the beasts, and constitute the human vocation. You cannot fail to know this unless you are highly educated.

As we were discussing the other day, the cosmogonic (“vertical”) order includes a center and a periphery, which may be visualized as a series of concentric circles with radii emanating out from a central point of zero dimensions. The only difference is that in euclidean geometry, the closer one gets to the center, the less space is occupied by each concentric circle. In the case of the spiritual journey, the opposite is true: the closer one gets to the center, the “wider” and more expansive the space.

This is why Ramana Maharshi never left his mountain cave, Sri Aurobindo never left his room, and St. Theophan the Recluse was a recluse. No one but the most metaphysically naive and unimaginative inhabitant of atheistic flatland would think of these celestial I-ambassadors as living a “restricted” lifestyle. You may know a false prophet by his fruits, but also by his number of appearances on the Larry King show.

In order to get the picture, you must also visualize the above-referenced circle as a cone, with the central point at the top. This is the most adequate image of the vertical, bearing in mind what I just said about the increasingly expansive world in each successive “ring.” A horizontal world -- of which there are many -- is going to be any of those rings mistakenly regarded as the whole of reality. To take just one example that comes readily to mind, there is the “New York Times” ring, a very narrow, parochial, unsophisticated, and naive world where the inhabitants paradoxically regard themselves as the opposite of these things: open-minded, sophisticated, cynical, worldly, and certainly superior.

Interestingly, in his lack of metaphysical sophistication, New York Times Man does not know the mountain, but knows only his own little enclosed citified world. And yet -- here is the inconsistency at the heart of any bad philosophy -- he secretly does believe in the mountain, because he knows that he is standing at the peak. This reflects the primordial “lie of the left,” which proclaims that “my relative is the absolute.” It is what allows them in good (meaning “consistent,” not actually good) conscience to betray the country by revealing state secrets to our enemies while attacking others for supposedly doing so. Like all bad and narcissistic prophets, they do not say, “I did it because it was right.” Rather, they say, “it was right because I did it.”

Now, we all know -- I am speaking to my Homo sapiens readers, so the rest of you Homos without sapiens can just ignore this -- that the exterior world reveals itself in two modes. There is the phenomenal world available to our senses and reason (reason in its restricted, mechanical sense, not in its more expansive “logoistic” sense). And “behind,” “above” or “beneath” that is the noumenal world -- that is, whatever reality actually is, unfiltered by our evolved nervous system. In short, there is a world of causes and effects, essence and existence, principles and their manifestation, brahman and maya, the One and the many, O and (k).

Correspondingly, there is an “outer” and an “inner” man. The outer man knows through reason and empiricism, while the inner man knows through the intellect in its traditional connotation (in other words, we are not talking about debased garden-variety “intellectuals”). Just as something is not true because it is logical but logical because it is true, the Inner Man does not “conclude” with logic but perceives with the intellect, the “heart-mind,” the nous, or “psychic being” (in Aurobindo’s terminology). The knowledge of the intellect (most of it, anyway) may subsequently be explained with logic, but it was not arrived at through logic.

When we speak of truth and method, we are specifically referring to the total, a priori truth of the principial world, not to the relative truth of the manifested world. Here again, all bad and naive philosophies -- meaning almost all philosophies -- turn the cosmos upside down and confuse principles with their manifestation. Scientism, atheism, objectivism, reductionism, existentialism, rationalism, and all forms of leftism habitually and necessarily do this, which ends up generating paradox and hopeless inconsistency.

Just as there is only one cosmos, there is only one Truth. Your mission --should you choose to accept it -- is to align yourself with this Truth. All attempts to do so place us in the realm of method. Method is any practice that helps us deepen our adequation to the Real. Therefore, we needn’t restrict ourselves to explicitly spiritual practices, but to anything that helps to make us deeper and more whole -- diet, exercise, adequate rest, psychotherapy, medication, etc.

First we must know the truth -- which is, in a certain sense, the easy part -- but then we must be this truth, which becomes “extended” in the manifested world by aligning our will and sentiment with it. This is one of the dangers of propagating such wisdom to the masses -- the well-known dilemma of casting pearls before swine -- because to merely understand these things with the ego is to misunderstand them. No one can quote scripture like you-know-who.

In other words, we all understand that it is possible to know the truth but to act contrary to it. You might say that this forms the essence of our fallenness: we know the truth but reject it, turn away from it, rationalize, blame, externalize, deny, etc. Why? Ultimately because to submit to a truth is to die a bit, and to submit to total truth is to die completely -- it is to be crucified, is it not? For if truth is what you must know, then the petty desires of the ego don’t enter into the equation. The ego is simply “in the way,” but will nevertheless defend its little thingdumb.

But thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Trancelighted into the terms we are discussing today: “let the truth of the celestial center manifest here at the periphery, and let me align my will with it so that the manifested world will be just a little more in accord with the principial world of the sovereign good.”

And while you’re at it, if you don’t mind, give us each day our daily bread. No, not horizontal bread but the vertical bread that feeds the Self but is indigestible by the ego. Personally, I never go to bed at night without first recalling the many ways in which this vertical bread -- or manna from heaven -- was indeed given to me during the day. It has to be a pretty bad day to have ended up with a handful of gimme -- like that terrible day in October of 1966, when Willie Davis made three errors in one inning of the World Series in what turned out to be Sandy Koufax's last appearance on the mound.

In fact, one of the reasons I bake these little loaves fresh each morning is because it is one way to make sure I get my daily bread. Furthermore, at risk of sounding grandiose, my hope is that these little loaves can serve the same purpose for others. To the extent that that happens, it actually makes the loaf bigger, not smaller.

This is because life at the periphery is a zero-sum game. But as you approach the center, scarcity is replaced by abundance, if only because envy is replaced by gratitude. Thus follows the spontaneous attitude of forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, which is to say, down the mountain and away from the center, where temptation naturally reflects the ontological emptiness of the ego. But deliver us from evil, or save us from the periphery! Because the periphery is maya, whereas the center is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Forever.

It cannot be otherwise, unless it is other than wise.

As I'm fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
Material world

From the spiritual sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the spiritual sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won't get lost
Or go astray
--George Harrison


What an excellent description of unsophisticated New York Times Man:

"A distinct subculture, a belief system if not a religion, exists in the United States. Its members draw their instruction on what to believe and how to live from the New York Times...."

New York Times Man "is a creature of human respect, although he doesn’t show it as much as he craves it. He sees nothing above his caste, and when he casts his myopic eyes downward, is assaulted by the visage of the common man. This explains his paternalism. He is also a creature of his age, being too disconnected from that which is ageless to transcend it. He is trapped in time and place, the servant who fancies himself a king, the simpleton posing as a savant."


ben usn (ret) said...

Fresh baked bread at its best!
Cousin Dupree style!

eWraith said...

Ramana Maharshi and George Harrison in the same post. That's nice!

AngloAmerican said...

Ultimately because to submit to a truth is to die a bit, and to submit to total truth is to die completely.

Is this another way of saying that truth removes all doubt making the Truth an end point? There is nothing beyond the truth. I fear that this philosophy's ultimate end is the end of questioning. Maybe being a questioner and a doubter is not so ignoble after all. The dwellers of the horizontal world are not necessarily blind to the ideas of the metaphysically minded it is just that there appears to be no practical application.

The horizontal has no end. We travel toward an ever-expanding horizon, the end of which we have no hope of reaching yet we accept that, even glory in that. The vertical has a peak - an end point. So I question who are the real cosmonauts?

Space travel is a horizontal activity. I questioned yesterday whether there were any practical benefits of being vertically minded manifesting themselves in the horizontal world. Higher level of awareness may reveal secrets that will be useful to astronauts interested in pushing out into the galaxy. Could transcendent individuals be useful in developing a hyper-reality warp drive to use in the spaceships with which we dream of galactic conquest, oops, I mean discovery? It is probably a myth that the first cosmonaut said, "I didn't see god" yet he was a non-theist which is significant.

The first cosmonaut, ironically, was a horizontalist.

cousin dupree said...


You misunderstand. We necessarily live in the relative and the contingent, on pain of not existing. It is simply a matter of putting things in their proper place. The vertical does not exclude the horizontal, while the reverse is not true.

AngloAmerican said...

It seems to me that the horizontal plain is ever expanding but the vertical ‘cone’ reaches an end point although I am still unsure as to what is supposed to be waiting there for him. A man could start to ascend the vertical at almost any time during his history and indeed ‘primitive’ man may well have been more suited to this activity than modern man.

Ascending the vertical appears to be quite natural. It is enough to sit in a cave for a while or chant or be one with nature yet an ever-expanding flatland absolutely requires one unnatural thing unique to man and that is tools. Tools like axes, arrows, language, writing, metaphors, ships, computers, spacecraft, bulldozers, radio etc have all contributed to expanding the horizon and connecting the vast plain of flatland. All tools have contributed to man’s progress but probably none more than language and writing which have linked the past with the present and enabled accumulated knowledge to be available to all. Printing and now the Internet has greatly enhanced our abilities to spread information and yes, expand our horizons.

I believe it is not man’s spirituality that makes him different but his ability with tools. This is why I am asking questions about the usefulness of transcendence – you never know what useful tool may be hiding away here.

Some people think that such things as empathy, sympathy and love are a manifestation of the divine yet they are manifestations of the natural world. They are not tools made by man so people think they are made by divine entities. We also call these things natural but we could also call them animal instinct. The equation is now and I hope this is not too upsetting a thought:
The Animal = The Divine.

Animals are truly without sin and pure yet man is constantly striving to overcome his animalness or if you like his divinity. So man transcends the divine and he does this with tools. Man, the only truly tool making animal – this sets him apart more than anything else and transforms him. Now he knows things that he could never know before and can do things that were once unimaginable.

cousin dupree said...

Let us stipulate that yours is "one way of looking at it" and that, as always, it takes all kinds to make a world. If this philosophy is sufficient for your cognitve and spiritual needs, then who are we to argue?

David S. said...

angloamerican --

By saying that man distinguishes himself from animals by his tool-making, you are absolutely right. But you see, this is a function of an intellect, and therefore the soul.
Alot of talk nowadays about spirituality and the soul ends up leaving metaphysical realities behind and becomes this wishy-washy land of feeling, which is anything BUT spiritual. The higher soul, as Aquinas defined it, is the intellect and the will (whilst others also included the memory as a separate function).
Also, you mentioned the Truth as an endpoint. Indeed, there is nothing beyond Truth. But consider this: what if Truth itself is infinite? Then and only then could humanity find its satisfaction therein. It's in our nature that, whatever we have and enjoy, we want more. So logically, we could only be satisfied by an infinite good (aka, God).
Read some Aquinas; I truly believe that if, in our childhood, we studied Aquinas instead of the liberal nonsense they teach our children now, we would have never come to the current crisis in the world; because, at the very least, people would know how to think.

Philip said...

"For if truth is what you must know, then the petty desires of the ego don’t enter into the equation."

Can we get this printed on a wholly card?

Aside from that, I have a question which may be tangential. You also wrote:
"First we must know the truth -- which is, in a certain sense, the easy part ...."

Is it possible to have a true opinion or is that opinion necessarily knowledge, if it is true? Or is that opinion in some way false, because it is opinion rather than knowledge?

I was wondering about this a few weeks ago, but here you stress both 'must' and 'know' at different times in the phrase "must know."

Eeevil Right Wing Nut said...

AA –

”Animals are truly without sin and pure yet man is constantly striving to overcome his animalness or if you like his divinity. So man transcends the divine and he does this with tools. Man, the only truly tool making animal – this sets him apart more than anything else and transforms him.”

If man is just an animal with intellect and tools and there is no Truth, then there is no moral right or wrong. If there is no moral right and wrong, then all the laws we have on the books prohibiting murder are only man made restrictions. If the laws prohibiting murder are just man made restrictions, why do we as humans feel shock and revulsion when faced with brutal sadistic serial killers who have no remorse for their actions? Once the killer has been caught, convicted and sentenced to death or live in prison, legal justice has been served. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we feel aghast at unremorseful killers is because we expect them to feel remorse for their actions because they have violated a transcendent code of law?

Chimps know how to poke a stick into a termite mound so that the termites crawl on to the stick and the chimp can then pull the stick out and eat the termites he wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Thus chimps have the rudimentary intellect to use tools. We don’t expect chimps to feel remorse if in establishing dominance over the group one chimp kills another chimp. The other chimps do not seek justice for the slain chimp. Why? To kill without remorse is "animalistic" and if we use your standard of measurement, if chimps can use tools, then shouldn’t they also have a code of justice or a sense of moral right and wrong?

I questioned yesterday whether there were any practical benefits of being vertically minded manifesting themselves in the horizontal world.”

Building nuclear and conventional bombs is a horizontal activity. They are tools, are they not? If we (we being the west) had wanted to, we could have taken care of the problems in Iraq, Iran and North Korea in about an hour with the launch of a few well placed nukes but we didn’t. We could have bombed Iraq into ashes and dust with conventional bombs in our effort to take Saddam out but we chose not to. Instead we chose to put our own troops at greater risk and conducted the war in such a way as to minimize innocent civilian casualties. There has been little demonstrable benefit for us to conduct the war this way so why do it?

Do not kid yourself into believing that we refrain from using nukes on the islamo-fascists in hopes that they will not use them against us or our allies should they get them. They’ve already made it perfectly clear that if they had nukes, they would not hesitate to use their nukes achieve their goals. Iran has promised to wipe Israel off the map should they get a nuclear weapon and the terrorists would be more than happy to set off a “dirty bomb” in a Western city if they ever develop the technology to do so.

It seems to me that the desire to harm as few innocent lives in conducting a war is an excellent example of practical benefits of being vertically minded manifesting itself in the horizontal world. If there is no Truth and thus no moral right or wrong, what does it matter if hundreds of thousands or millions of innocents die as long as we achieve our goals? Our revulsion of killing innocent people unnecessarily has driven us to create weapons, weapon deployment and guidance systems and war tactics to achieve our goals with as little loss of innocent life as possible. It has also caused us to refrain from using our most powerful weapon (nukes) even though this restraint comes at the cost of our own lives.

Being vertically minded does not unlock secrets to develop horizontal technologies but it does drive and guide our use of horizontal technology.

jwm said...

Angloamerican said:
Maybe being a questioner and a doubter is not so ignoble after all. The dwellers of the horizontal world are not necessarily blind to the ideas of the metaphysically minded it is just that there appears to be no practical application.

There is nothing at all ignoble in question and doubt. As I have mentioned here often, my own spiritual quest has more closely resembled a wrestling match than a journey toward enlightenment.

Is there a practical application?
It depends on what you mean by 'practical'. I'm sort of like the student at the back who is always trying to catch up with the rest of the class, here, so consider the source- but I can tell you this much. Spiritual 'knowledge' isn't like an instruction manual or a set of socket wrenches. It won't help you assemble a barbeque, or make you a more competent mechanic. Scripture, religious teachings, metaphysical Truth etc. add more than breadth (knowledge) to the sum of who you are. They add depth as well. We've used this analogy before: it's like looking at a stereogram, you know- one of those Magic Eye pictures. At first glance it looks like visual noise- random blotches of junk on the page. You have to train your eye to see the real image. Sometimes you can strain at it and strain at it and nothing seems to come into focus. It's easy to draw the conclusion that there is really nothing there to see. But you have to give some credence to the zillions of people who claim there is a star on the page.
You obviously have some desire to see the star, or this stuff wouldn't bother you. You'd write us off as a bunch of kooks and let it go at that. There is something in us that hungers for depth. For that metaphoric bread of today's post. You can't find it on the horizontal page. Getting a glimpse of the star feeds that hunger. And makes you hunger for more.


Anonymous said...

Yo, I'm hoping y'all can get an appointment with Cheney so you can explain all this to him. Once he's had a stroke, walk to Georgie's office and make him listen to it again. After they take the gibbering chimp away, you can go home.

Nancy Pelosi can take it from there...


Eeevil Right Wing Nut said...

Anon –
Why don’t we just skip Nancy and hand the reins straight to the Mullahs in Iran. I’ll pass on the Dhimmicrats and go straight for dhimmitude.

fergus the cat said...

Hmm, we do get a lot of tools in here from time to time.

ben usn (ret) said...

Methinks thou art the tool thou dost seek.

Listen to yon Fergus the Cat!

sehoy said...

These posts keep reminding me of "Babette's Feast", a very well done movie made from an Isak Dinesin short story, that is also good.

A great French chef named Babette is forced to flee France and asks to become a servant to two sisters who belong to a remote and dying religious community in Denmark.

These sisters and the members of the religious community have no idea who Babette is and they take her in as a servant. After about ten years of working as a cook to the two sisters and the members of the community, Babette asks to prepare the next dinner in honor of the religious community's founder.

Babette prepares a feast for these people. The kind of feast she would have prepared for the aristocrats of France, who would have understood her skill and worth of the meal she prepares.

For reasons which are laid out in the story, the sisters and the members of the community can not understand or appreciate the skill and worth of the meal that is being given to them.

And yet they are lifted up and transformed by it, none the less.

The movie really fits with much of what is being discussed right now. I just wanted to recommend it.

I'm glad y'all are back, where ever it was you went.

dilys said...

A response to the certainty feared/demanded by AA, refining the ongoing discussion:
There is an argument that goes, "One should not believe anything that can't be proved by logic, or proved by science." (Usually said of religion by the village atheist.) John Henry Newman explained that this is a false argument. Almost everything we know we accept by adding together probabilities."
Discussed more fully here.

The Razor'd discussion of probabilities becomes infinitely more interesting, bringing in the wider range of data William James identified as being arbitrarily excluded by a bare scientism, and necessary to a truly scientific investigation of reality.

As an "engineer of the journey," Bernadette Rogers, whom I heard speak yesterday, offers an extremely interesting topography of how to really investigate matters Vertical.

AngloAmerican said...

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion and time devoted to answering my comments - although the comments by fergus and ben simply reinforce my claim that there often is precious little observable difference between the ‘enlightened’ and the unenlightened and where there is a difference, it is often not in the direction one might expect.

My thinking on the significance of tools was that philosophy and religion are tools too and thus possibly creations of man but this is, of course, coming from an extremely horizontal perspective

When it comes to morality it seems to me that the universal niceness we see all around us today is a product of modern times where technologically expanded horizons have brought such notions to the masses. In the olden days morality may have been more tribe-centric. Read the tales of conquest, slaughter and sacrifice in the Old Testament for examples. Morality is completely rational and not particularly mysterious. The fine details are not set in stone and change with the ages – IMNSHO.

I do see the point though that people will never see eye to eye on these matters and what’s good for me is not necessarily good for you. I am interested in where this writing is leading and what end game is envisaged - salvation or damnation, eternal life or blissful non-existence or maybe something new. These are questions for another day and I will endeavour to keep any further comments of mine, if there are any, low key.