Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cosmic Conservatism and the Politics of the Infinite (11.22.10)

Some thoughts invoked by the excellent book I'm currently reading, Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson, by Bradley Birzer. All of the quotes below are from the book.

Religion "is based on the recognition of a superhuman Reality of which man is somehow conscious and towards which he must in some way orientate his life." If man is the bridge between matter and spirit, then religion embodies the engineering principles, so to speak, of this bridge building. Far from being an "opiate for the masses," it is modern secular ideologies "which serve as nothing more than addictive drugs for decadent and lost peoples."

Revelation does not stop with the written word: "On the contrary, the whole history of Christendom is a continual dialogue between God and man, and every age of the Chruch's life, even the most remote and obscure, has some important lesson for us today." This would imply that the present is not "more important" than the past; but neither is it less so. I find that traditionalists have a sort of "inferiority complex" about the present, and conversely, tend to idealize the past.

But if each epoch of history is in some sense providential, then the question is, what is the purpose to the present time in which we are living? Perhaps it has to do with "sanctifying" the scientistic "reign of quantity" and bringing it back into harmony with timeless religious principles in a higher synthesis of spirit and matter. Which is to say, same as it ever was, for as Augustine wrote, to the extent that science and philosophy reveal truth about the world, "we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it."

In so doing, just as paganism was incorporated and sanctified by Christianity, perhaps our task is to sanctify these modern forms of neo-paganism. Certainly this is what I attempted to do in my book, which is hardly opposed to science, but rather attempts to place it in a context in which it "becomes" or "reveals" what it actually is in the larger scheme of things. Petey and I simply wish to bobtize science in the anamnoetic waters of eternity -- to cleanse it of its unnecessary cultural and temporal accretions.

Another way of saying it is that modernity has shattered the unity of the world into ever-smaller, disconnected and isolated fragments, in a process that is indistinguishable from decay. But this is not just a passive process; rather, the forces of secularism oppose any attempt to put the cosmic egg back together in a greater humptyarchy. Thus, on a very deep level, secularism tries to impose a religiously anti-religious lowerarchy on the rest of us, which is what liberal intolerance is all about -- diversity, moral relativism, multiculturalism, political correctness, etc.

In this specific sense, you cannot be "in love with the world" without hating God; for to love only the world is to reduce man to matter and therefore to a machine, and ultimately to a means rather than an end. But then secularism slips in its own teleology, converting man into a means of achieving wholly materialistic ends as defined by the "progressive" who substitutes material perfectibility for spiritual evolution. Thus, there really are "two Americas," the one that exists in reality -- i.e, the "shining city on a hill," and the one that exists in the fantasies of the left, or "Sugar Candy Mountain." Secular ideologies "promise much by taking much," which is to say, your soul.

Another important point is that the left must be intrinsically anti-family, since the family is the "first institution" and "precedes the state." As such, it is a competitor with the modern welfare state, something that has become obvious vis-a-vis Western Europe or the black family in America. Since man is a social animal, if his tightest bonds are not with the family, they will be with something less. Should the family collapse, "society itself must collapse or change in a fashion so drastic as to be no longer recognizable."

Indeed, this is what the whole debate about the re-definition of marriage is all about. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "homophobia," but with a prudent appreciation of the profundity of the issues involved -- i.e, not with homosexual "rights" but with heterosexual duties. It's like performing a needlessly radical experiment on a body that is already taxed and trying to maintain its health and equilibrium. Except the experiment is conducted by a handful of elite judges instead of doctors, so we can't even sue them for malpractice.

"There is a point at which the world of spirit comes in conscious contact with the world of matter. That point is man." Dawson felt that "most heresies have come from the inability to walk between the two extremes," so that "to privilege either the spiritual or material at the expense of the other is to verge into a modern form of Gnosticism." Man's "whole destiny depends on the proper co-ordination" of matter and spirit; since Man is a bridge, "the lower world is in some sense dependent on him for its spiritualization and its integration in the universal order." And man's true order does not come from the material and temporal world, but from the timeless and atemporal. To ignore this reality is essentially to commit cluelesscide as it pertains to one's genuine humanness.

"All true progress comes from the proper use of language." As God "spoke" the cosmos into existence, man "speaks" culture into existence. If the family is the fist thing undermined by the left, then language is the second. What is always most startling about leftist discourse is the inebriated and intoxicated abuse of language. Call it discoarse, I guess. They truly are at war with the Word, so we can say that Word War I has been going on since the beginning of human time. The left is a new whine in a very old battle.

"The 'mastery' of professional historical methods and 'techniques will not produce great history, any more than a mastery of metrical technique will produce great poetry.' The true historian, or the metahistorian, will recognize that 'something more is necessary -- intuitive understanding, creative imagination, and finally a universal vision transcending the relative limitation of the particular field of historical study.'" Thus, the genuine historian must also be a poet in the true sense of the word.

History has both upper and lower vertical aspects, or unconscious and supraconscious: "What we see in history is only a partial and uncertain manifestation of the spiritual activity which is taking place at once below and above the level of historical study." "We modern sophists... are the ones being unscholarly in discounting a higher power, a power unseen and unknown through our five physical senses, but recognized by all human cultures prior to the advent of modernity."

"Christian culture is always in conflict with the world," whereas leftist culture is always at odds with reality, i.e., the realities from which the world derives its meaning and significance. This reality is what Augustine called the City of God, whereas we are merely brother-and-sista' sojourners in the City of Man, "nothing but a stranger in this world," as Van Morrison sang:

To be born again
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high
Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high
In another land
So far away
So far away
Way up in the heaven


Smoov said...

I love it when Bob uses Van Morrison references. It always prompts me to start playing some Van, and my day always improves considerably as a result.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Could it be that history just seems to the people in their present to be decaying because we are always surrounded by so much detail? We live within the detail of time – how can’t we? Only the more we pull back or out of the detail of time does the meaning of our own past become clear. Maybe that’s why the philosopher in his time prefers a time that came before him rather than his present – because the detail must be smoothed out to see the big picture. But we don’t have to “only” live within all this detail.

“same as it ever was”
reminds that,
heaven is a place where no thing ever happens.

Lisa said...

Wow! That'll teach me for missing a day at OC. Great set of posts here. I love how you talk about the Imagination being so unique among humans and positioning us between animals/material and God/spiritual.

You also mention how our mind/universe expands and contracts in accordance to our scope of vision. It gave me the image of a breath and how the lungs expand and contract propelling the respiratory system. I'm always amazed at how many people hold their breath when they are concentrating on a specific movement or thought when I am teaching Pilates. The breath and its proper usage actually facilitate movement with ease and a sense of effortless. I have also noticed that many people's vision becomes very hard and focused on a specific point, which actually causes body to stiffen and fascia to tighten in the physical body. I wonder if that is due to simplistic Yoga cues fed in masses? Really it is a balance of focus and periphery, much like life itself. When I remind them to breathe and soften the gaze, some people literally sigh and awareness returns to the body after they realize and feel the difference.

Not really too sure where I am going with this and I suppose it doesn't have to anywhere but I also get this picture of each human as a sphere or orb that is constantly expanding and contracting according to each individual will representing the many aspects of God and the infinite. One in the many kind of thing united yet individual and unique at the same time.

Thanks for such a mind expanding and contracting line of thought or is it a circle of thought?! This expansion and contraction is also the key to global climate patterns, what is the big deal anyhow?, it's natural cycles! ha ha. So simple, it's hard for most people to see.

Robin Starfish said...

old man contemplates
the first step into heaven
with or without shoes

julie said...

Smoov - this is in response to your comment on yesterday's post:
(Everyone else - sorry for the diversion)

"Has anyone else ever come to a career juncture and felt drawn into something they were not really considering before?"

My husband graduated from a good law school with 15 book awards. He wanted to take on a federal clerkship for a couple years to gain some experience before joining a firm. With his grades and some good recommendations, we figured he'd have his choice of available jobs.

We sent out a lot of applications (maybe between 50 and 100 - we knew there would be a lot of competition). Out of all those applications, only maybe three even netted an interview. Only one wanted to hire him.

My husband was bitterly disappointed at first. It was a federal clerkship, but at a bankruptcy court. He wasn't really interested in bankruptcy, had never even considered it as a serious specialty. Still, the judge was a great guy and it was a job.

As it turns out, like at many pivotal points in our lives it was the best thing that could possibly have happened. Had he gotten what he thought he wanted at the time, I'm fairly certain he would be miserable now.

So in answer to your question, yes. Thank God.

Mizz E said...

Please EXCUSE THIS INTERRUPTION, but I want everyone to know I just talked to Ben! Their phone was reconnected this morning and they are both well.

If you'd like to call him, please send me an email: mizze (at) and I'll give it to you.

Praise and Thanksgiving!

Smoov said...


Thanks for that inspiring answer. It is hard to know for sure when things are happening "for a reason" and when it is one's imagination. Recently I met a woman online and we progressed to talking on the phone -- sometimes for hours. I was convinced I had met a "soul mate". I had her picture and she had mine, and we both seemed happy about that part. Then finally I met her in person. It was bizarre -- not only a lack of real physical chemistry, but actual negative chemistry, at least on my part.

I had convinced myself that I was being "guided" by a higher purpose, but now it feels more like a cosmic joke. Look, I'm not one of those naive Christians who prays to find my car keys, but I do often think about how our destinies mesh with the Divine will.

I'm sure glad things worked out for you and your hubby. I should not complain because by most standards I am tremendously blessed (for which I am deeply grateful). I am interested in any other thoughts you (or other raccoons) have on this whole matter, viz. does God guide us? If so, do we only know this in hindsight? Can we really pray for understanding of His intentions for us, if such intentions exist at all?

Thanks again, Lisa.

Smoov said...

Sorry, in previous post I meant "Thanks again Julie."

Although thanks for your post, too, Lisa! I enjoyed it as well.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Thus, there really are "two Americas," the one that exists in reality -- i.e, the "shining city on a hill," and the one that exists in the fantasies of the left, or "Sugar Candy Mountain.""

Yes indeed!
Our city shines more brightly despite all the mud, because our city, in reality, isn't material or visible with the naked eye.

Our shining city on the hill is within the hearts of all who embrace Reality; the Good, True and Beautiful!

I have seen that city in every person have met these last 12 days, most of whom have lost there houses, cars, and material possesions.

And yet, they...we all are helping each other, and Hope springs eternal from every heart!

This isn't happening in the big cities populated mostly by the regressive seculurists.

They cry and whine while we laugh and help each other.
To be sure, we have tears, but our tears are tears of joy.

As my friend Barry, a vietnam vet put it, and he lost his home, cars and business, "This is the best Christmas ever! Everyone here is helping each other, and we are all so...alive! The flood has only amplified everyone's desire to give and help! No disaster can destroy our Hope!"

We live in the True America, and for that I am grateful beyond words!

Great post Bob! I have a lot of catchin' up to do, and I look forward to it!
Thanks, to everyone, for your prayers. They helped more than you can know.
I'll attempt to reveal just how much in the coming days.
Revelation abounds!

I love you guys. God bless y'all!!!
It's sooo Good to be back! :^

coonified said...

"Could it be that history just seems to the people in their present to be decaying because we are always surrounded by so much detail?"

When you say people, your mean traditionalist in general. Right? I'll assume you do.

I think your right Mr. Racoon. It's because traditionalist in general are preoccupied and submerged in the particulars of their experience that history seems to being winding down. I imagine humanities experience like this: before the 'fall' there was light, but something happened and everyone had to enter into a dark tunnel, where afterwards the entrance was sealed shut so that the only choice was to move forward. In complete darkness there is only the memory of light, and so does history proceed with this longing and reminiscence. Eventually, some souls get far enough into the tunnel to see the light at the end, wherein a radical reevaluation of the whole journey through darkness takes place, since the light is not just memory anymore.

Wait a minute. I just told Plato's cave allegory with a twist. Ha!

smoov said:

"I am interested in any other thoughts you (or other raccoons) have on this whole matter, viz. does God guide us?"

"A fool who persist in his folly will become wise," (Blake) which is to say, sure God guides us, through our own pitfalls until we're intelligent and grown up enough to guide ourselves, or at least recognize the Divine will. That's my opinion,of course.

Happy weekend :)

Ricky Raccoon said...

Welcome back, brother!

Ricky Raccoon said...

Actually I meant, ‘just people who think it’s decaying’. I tend more toward Bob’s idea which I think is that it is both decaying and progressing. I know in my case my horizontal life is not as good as it used to be, but I know I care less about that now than I ever did. So things are looking up :-)

Lisa said...

Any time, smoov, plus you can always mix up me and julie. I take it as a compliment! The online dating world surely is a trip. I think it is on the one hand great because you don't have to leave your house to meet people yet on the other hand horrible and strange because it can create a false sense of intimacy. It really comes down to a face to face chemistry in my book. The problem is finding it on more than one level. Here is a question for coons: Do you think there is one and only one person meant for every person such as a soulmate or do you think it is possible to have a few key connections each special in their own unique way throughout one's life/lives...?

Lisa said...

PS. Welcome back, Ben! Glad to hear you and Patty are safe. Hope the clean-up is easy. Just think of it as a forced way to downsize and get rid of old clutter! A new day dawns...

will said...

>> . . if each epoch of history is in some sense providential, then the question is, what is the purpose to the present time in which we are living?<<

I would think that certainly our age is challenged by the need to sanctify the "reign of quantity".

I admit that I'm still on the fence as to whether or not this age of machines and high-tech is spiritually oppressive to the extreme or whether it is highly providential in spiritual opportunity. Could be both, of course . . .

Material want does have its disadvantages. One can't be too concerned with one's personal spiritual progression if one is hungry, constantly looking for food, constantly battling the elements. Our machine age has alleviated those probs to a great degree (in the west, at least), giving us the space to pursue our spiritual goals. The India of Buddha's time was relatively wealthy, and Buddha himself was fabulously rich - he had the luxury of time, so to speak, that allowed him to contemplate human spiritual destiny. Augustine, too, was well off by the day's standards. Now, just about everyone in the west has at least some free time and the material comfort to pursue personal spiritual goals. Plus, just about everyone can go to B & N and buy information and wisdom hitherto available only in the Mystery Schools.

Another thing - machines now utilize energies once considered esoteric/divine, the hidden energies of the cosmos: Electricity, electromagnetism, (and who knows, maybe in time, the use of etheric energies). It would seem that the very manifestation of these energies would by itself evoke constant spiritual wonder . . . . however . . .

Machines are material, after all, and they produce quantity to the extent that quality of life becomes very secondary. Still, they are human creations by way of human imagination, which is to say, divine imagination - they must contain divine sparks awaiting release.

will said...

Lisa -

>>Do you think there is one and only one person meant for every person such as a soulmate or do you think it is possible to have a few key connections each special in their own unique way throughout one's life/lives...?

Yes and yes.

Anonymous said...

Ben! I was looking for you on 1C @ C and here you are! LOL

Can't wait to tune in for the stories of the great and terrible flood. But there was a little too much suspense for in real time!

Glad to see you and Patti are in such good spirits and hopefully insurance will cover the rest,

Smoov said...


Soulmate Dropped For New, Better Soulmate

18-Year-Old Miraculously Finds Soulmate In Hometown

Smoov said...


If there is anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to contact me (I think you still have my email address).

I will never forget the kindness of strangers I experienced 15 years go. I had just moved to a new city in flyover country with my young (then) wife. Within a few days of moving into our apartment the neighbors left a pot on the stove too long and burned the building down. We had not even had time to activate insurance. Within the next few days the people where I worked poured donations, clothing, furniture -- you name it. These were people I had not even met in most cases! This would never happen in New York or Boston, but I thank God that people like that are out there.

Like I said, Ben. Just email me if I can help.

Cousin Dupree said...

I think I would like some help moving out of Bob's garage. He's been dropping little hints -- like changing the locks on the house.

Lisa said...

I knew you coons would have clear concise answers. I have been convinced by reason and Ratherian proof! Thanks.

Smoov said...

Cousin Dupree:

From what Bob tells me, I think I would be wiser to help him than you.

Do you know what it costs to get all that stuff out of the walls?

Cousin Dupree said...

Well... in that case, maybe you could just give me Shantisha's phone number. I think she might be my soul mate....

Smoov said...

She's got soul, mate, but to roll with Shantisha you gotta be able to cater to her taste for Louis Roederer Cristal.

Somehow I don't think the disability benefit check is going to suffice...

Cousin Dupree said...

Sounds like someone's jealous that someone else chats online with babes all day on the library computer.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Lisa!
Thanks! It's funny, how we downsized some things, particularly our car, but we upsized our heart and souls in ways I never imagined! :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Rick!
Watch out for that Noreaster comin' yer way! I don't wanna be on the other side, waitin' to hear if yer okay! :^)

Cousin Dupree said...

Ben, you're in for a tasin' for worrying me so.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Smoov!
Thanks bro! That means a lot to me!
Do you got any really cool cars you're tired of? Ha ha!
Seriously, I really can't thank you enough for all the help you have already given me.
God bless you and all you Raccoons for all your prayers and material charity! :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Cuz!
I hear that tasin' is an electrifyin' experience. That's what Skully said, but his advice isn't always empirically accurate.

Didn't you get my psychospiritual P-mail? Or is it R-mail? Maybe
O-mail is a better description.

walmart shopper said...

Speaking of same as it ever was, here's a musical moment that will give your goosebumps goosebumps, courtesy of the Talking Heads:

The whole clip is good but the chills start around 4:08 when the overdriven B3 kicks in, the backup singers resurrect, and David Byrne looks like he's preaching into a hurricane headwind.

Gagdad Bob said...

That was a great film. It's just too bad that he's such an insane moonbat.

ximeze said...

Benster! Great to have you back!

Is Oscar ok too?
Heard somethin 'bout them weener-dogs not floatin so good...

julie said...

Ben! If I could I'd give you a huge hug and a great big smooch! I'm glad to hear you and Patti are okay :)

Smoov, I agree with Lisa - to be confused with her is a huge compliment. As to being guided by God, all I have to do is look back at my life: there are far too many serendipitous moments for me to chalk it all up to happenstance. I have more thoughts on that, but I have to run - Dh's office Christmas party is tonight, so preparations are in order. I might have something more to say about it tomorrow...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Ximeze!
Yes, Oscar is quite well, although he didn't much like getting soaked, I carried him through the deep waters.
Now he is dry, warm and happy!!:^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Mrs. G!
We had some harrowing moments, but we are both doin' okay after our little adventure.
It was kinda like "Deliverance" without the psychotic hillbillies.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Julie!
I'll gladly accept a virtual hug n' smooch! :^)
Your detective skills are second to none, ha ha!

Smoov said...

Sippican Cottage has a delightful -- and tongue in cheek -- post about the Staples Singers.

Good stuff!

Tara Volcano Girl said...

"Since man is a social animal, if his tightest bonds are not with the family, they will be with something less." If that's the case, what if the whole thing with same-sex (scare quotes) marriage (/scare quotes) isn't so much about helping the left redefine society as it is with same-sex couples finding domestic partnership schemes inadequate for taking care of each other instead of having to depend upon the state?

F'rinstance, there was this matter of California county assessors going to court to scotch the state tax board's rule preventing a property tax reassessment when a surviving partner inherited the couple's home upon the other partner's death. Given the decades-long run-up in California residential property values, denying this protection could double or triple property taxes (like those I pay) on someone now alone as well as retired and on a limited, fixed income.

Now, was the county assessors' suit about maintaining essential societal definitions, or about looting? Hmmmm ... And what decent arguments (or arguments by decent people) are there that a bereaved survivor should just suck it up and get looted for the good of society?

So, might not the best defense against efforts to "redefine marriage" be viable, enforecable civil unions or domestic partnerships with legal teeth? Is it that hard to understand that, for the many, this is about providing for and taking responsibility for someone loved so deeply as to pledge to a life together and mutual support?

Are you really surprised that some folks might see you as the boys who throw rocks at frogs in jest, and themselves as the frogs who die in earnest?

I'm just sayin', is all.

corn fed and ready for slaughter said...

Smoov: Regarding your experiences with the anti-chemistry of your prospective soul mate, viz a viz the intentions of God and guidance of same--

You just never can tell. The outcome of things can't be controlled or the "meaning" or lesson at first grasped. If you stand back, stand quiet, the true lesson or key insight of the event may occur to you.

Always trust that God is guiding you and it will be so. Like the Stones said, you don't always get what you want, but you will get what you need.

My intuition of the situation is that your soul-mate will not be chosen by you but will instead be given to you by God in the form of an irrestistible convergence of events. You may not even like your soul mate at first. You may even say, "ick."

shantisha said...

If he be sayin' "ick" then I KNOW you ain't talkin' bout me!

River Cocytus said...

same-sex couples finding domestic partnership schemes inadequate for taking care of each other instead of having to depend upon the state?

The question here is 'as much' and the answer is still a speculation. The same-sex marriage is unnecessary to achieve this stability. A partnership can already be formed. The 'marriage' idea is to undermine actual marriage.

Basically, implicitly the idea is that we're making a de facto sinful relationship state-sanctioned. We're also associating Marriage - which is by most common understanding chaste - with something that is by common understanding unchaste. And at the very least even if people don't typically think so, any who are religious will run into the various verses condemning homosexual conduct and fleshly lusts. It is or will be cognitive-dissonance inducing.

This is probably why it would ultimately open the door for polygamy and such, as there are certain other people who [Find] domestic partnership schemes inadequate for taking care of each other instead of having to depend upon the state?

The argument has never been one of compassion but one of law and order.

River Cocytus said...

Smoov: I'd just say you can't form Eros over the internet. It can only be formed through personal contact. The fact that Friendship can be built over the internet (I believe) fools us into the false notion that other kinds of Love can be. So really though you knew her personality you did not know her. The first meeting vis a vis Eros was a literal first meeting. It as well have been a blind date.

Ricky Raccoon said...

RE the Talking Heads, I’m glad I never cared to find out more about him – which is fine. I mentioned this to you once before about artists and not wanting to know more about them – certain ones anyway. Don’t want to spoil it. I’ve been disappointed like that before – and that’s my fault. Love some of the Talking Heads music – some it. I think it proves that the spirit isn’t denied to anyone. Our equipment is designed to plug into the same standard jack. What we choose to do with the electricity is up to us. But it doesn’t change the electricity. When someone truly submits to the true spirit of creation, which is what an artists does when he’s truly trying to tap-in, the spirit takes over. This changes the artist for that moment but not the spirit. The artist is no mach for it.

Here’s another that I was hinting about yesterday:

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

...and the one that exists in the fantasies of the left, or "Sugar Candy Mountain."


Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Smoov re Soulmates (TM) --

Two things I have found about Soulmates (TM):

1) Your Soulmate (TM) is NEVER the one you're married to; it's ALWAYS the one your screwing on the side.

2) Nothing triggers the "OOOO! MY SOULMATE!" reaction in a woman faster than an abusive creep with drug problem/criminal record/trail of offspring by his previous punching bags.