Saturday, July 26, 2008

Little Queeg's Footballs and the Coon Mutiny

Within each of us is the blueprint of the universe. We are of it. It is of us. And that universe from the beginning to the end of time is the body of the Holy Ancient One.... And as each cell carries sealed within it the genotype of itself, so each of us is the whole universe. --Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock: Visions of Jewish Mystical Renewal

As Dupree mentioned yesterday -- and I don't know what makes him think he's authorized to disclose our private conversations -- I'm not sure what this post will be about, but I like the way the title rolls off the tongue.

First of all, why am I involving myself in this ugly bidness of Charles Johnson's public auto-Sullivanization? Why do I care whether LGF or any other blog goes off the rails into the weird personal obsession of its improprietor? Why all the UGLY, FANATICAL, VICIOUS, and UNHINGED attacks on someone who THREATENS my crumbling worldview?

I'll tell you why: because I happen to feel very passionate about doing what comes naturally. In short, I have to blog about something, and this is about as easy as it gets. Low-hanging strawberries, as it were. A slack attack. Yes, the Raccoon is a strange animal, in that, when attacked, it will defend itself. But always in a light and cheerful manner, because as Sir Winston said, it costs you nothing to be polite when shooting the other fellow. (And Charles really needs to stop the whining. He sounds like Ibrahim Hooper, who is also constantly under vicious attacks.)

But I'm not going to continue in this vein, because the last thing I need is to draw attention to myself and have a bunch of humorless Liztards coming over and stinking up the joint. I get enough supportive emails and comments to know that I'm performing some kind of public service in articulating a widespread perception of the deterioration of what was once a Good Thing. But unlike other blogs, our desire is to keep this one a bit of a secret, and hide out in our little cooncoon slacktuary. No one is banned, but few are invited.

The problem is, when discussing these matters, you can kill a person over and over, but if they're too dim to understand that they're dead, where's the bloody satisfaction in that? This is why I don't argue with these people, because who argues with a zombie? I like the clean kill. But you can generally only get a clean kill with a noble and uncorrupted spirit who wishes to die to his lower self. Until that lower self is either dead or circling the drain, we don't have much to discuss. In opposing God, you'll just end up feeding and puffing up the very pride and hubris that causes your transtemporal myopia.

There's nothing I can say that would arouse these souls from their metaphysical slumber that I haven't said in the previous 1030 posts. As Roger Kimball wrote about some Darwinist nonsense, "one recalls David Hume’s remark about the absurdity of calling a difficulty what pretends to be a demonstration and endeavouring by that means to elude its force and evidence.” We can demonstrate again and again, but the Darwinian faithful will just talk about "'difficulties,' or 'anomalies,' or perhaps even 'problems' for the theory." But Darwinism can never be falsified for the True Believer.

We are mistaken to imagine that we can share the understanding of higher worlds with those who have remained behind. This is because the awareness of holier worlds shatters earthenware vessels unable to withstand the light.... It is as if there were gateways. And at each one there stands a guard who wants nothing from you. Except that you go away. He will do all in his great power to foil your ascent. But his power is only the evil in you. --Lawrence Kushner

Speaking of which, many people have noticed and commented upon Charles' strange choice of personal demon-guradians. I mean, who cares if some people believe that evolution reveals cosmic intelligence instead of unintelligent randomness? Charles suggests that he's concerned that such a belief will poison the minds of children and destroy science education.

Whatever. Surely it cannot have escaped his attention -- but I guess it has -- that there is not a shred of evidence to support his delusion, and abundant evidence for the opposite proposition: that loss of religious principles renders people shallow, stupid, and uncurious. If you can't look at what has become of our university system and see that, then you are just too committed to your delusion. Like I said, I enjoy the clean kill, so I'm not going to press the point.

In my opinion, our educational standards have plummeted largely as a result of the attempt by leftists -- who have obviously taken over the educational establishment -- to impose their radical secular values on impressionable children. These values are not inspiring, to say the least, unless you are one of those odd people who draws sustenance from the idea that humans are merely clever animals, that objective truth is a hoax, that absolute morality is a fraud, and that Darwinism provides a remotely aequate account of the human state.

In this context, for Charles to cast his lot with the monolithic left and shout down the opposition takes about as much courage as it does for Dan Rather to Speak Truth to Power by being critical of President Bush, or for a college dean to ban Daniel Pipes from speaking. Like Rather, he vows to never give up this battle for Truth and Decency, and to vanquish the shills and frauds who wish to brainwash the Children, who are our future!

As Theodore Dalrymple points out, for some reason these pompous atheistic types always flatter themselves "that they are saying something new and brave" when they're just trucking in well-worn philosophical cliches. They take themselves so seriously, and yet exhibit "sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruple, with the assumption of certainty where there is none," combining it "with adolescent shrillness and intolerance." That perfectly describes the coarse mentality of the neo-Liztard, does it not?

I wonder if Charles would feel differently if he actually had a child, and saw the kind of scientific garbage they are exposed to in our public schools? Because it's all of a piece, and it all pivots around the idea that man is not only nothing special, but a kind of pernicious aberration, a demon-spawn of Mother Nature. We're not just Darwinian machines, but not even good machines. We poison the planet! We're racists! We plunder the world's resources under the guise of capitalism!

But because we are only machines, our leftist masters may remake us with proper incentives put in place by the state. It's such an intrinsic assault on human dignity, so unworthy of Man, that any spiritually normal person would resist -- again, unless you believe there is nothing intrinsically noble in the human state. Raccoons would much prefer to die in the wilderness than serve these academonic Egyptians.

Darwinist tautology can normalize virtually anything. But once you understand that truth -- not to mention, virtue and beauty -- is real and that man is free, you are no longer a Darwinist. Man is only free -- and intelligent -- to the extent that he is free to choose truth. If, like the Darwinist Liztard, he is condemned by natural selection to understand only what his genes have been selected to understand... well, you figure it out.

As I said, I don't expect these immature folks to be able to connect the sociocultural and psychohistorical, let alone, cosmo-spiritual, dots. For whatever reason, Charles has decided to alienate the grown-ups and gear his message to an adolescent mentality for whom anti-Muslim sentiment provides a good outlet for their hypertestosteronic predickament. But you all know how difficult it is to argue with an omnipotent college student with just enough philosophy to render himself loud and stupid.

Charles persistently reduces this dispute to a bad-faith, false dichotomy that reveals a kind of blind hubris and profound absence of intellectual curiosity. That is, either you are a reductionist Darwinist or you are a young earth creationist, no matter how much you protest to the contrary. But in reality, it is a matter of two competing visions of evolution, one of which is complete and consistent, the other of which is of necessity neither. Nor can Darwinism ever be consistent and complete, for reasons that are intrinsic to its erroneous metaphysical assumptions.

Like all science, Darwinism attempts to unify multiplicity on a "deeper" or more interior plane, even while it can never account for such things as interiority, depth, and unity -- let alone interior depth or absolute unity. This is why whatever truth Darwinism is able to disclose fits easily into the paradigm of perennial religion, whereas Darwinism could never account for those religious truths that "cannot not be," since they abide on on eternal, interior and archetypal plane that obviously transcends Darwinism. Darwinism cannot address this plane without maiming and ultimately destroying Man: again, reductionistic Darwinism is a form of nonviolent resistance to transcendence, or intellectual fascism. Thus the totalitarian streak at LGF, whereby Charles, like Kos or Huffpo, bans heretics from his blog.

As I have mentioned in the past -- and this is only half-ironic -- perhaps this dispute between Raccoons and Darwinists is a result of both parties being in the right, at least insofar as the Darwinian theory applies to those who adopt it and thereby cash in their humanness. In other words, Darwinism does seem to adequately explain the simple mind of the Darwinist, just as it does any other animal. After all, a "reduced mind" would apparently call for a reductionistic explanation. If they want to say that they cannot know truth, who am I to argue?

The Liztard wishes for us to be as cynical and disillusioned as they are. But worse yet, they want to foist this toxic attitude upon innocent children. But I believe we should do the opposite, and cultivate the innate spirituality and mysticism of childhood. Instead of throwing cold water on their spirits, we should assist them in developing "in the direction of the true reality which the ordinary world calls illusion":

"This is what it should be, instead of making children ordinary, with that dull, vulgar common sense which becomes an inveterate habit.... This is like an acid, a destructive acid in the being, which takes away hope, certitude, confidence in future possibilities.... And if you [avoid] this when you are very small, you have much less difficulty than if later on you have to undo all the bad effects of a bad education, undo that kind of dull and vulgar common sense which makes it insipid, boring, and contradicts all the hopes, all the so-called illusions of beauty..."

I know that Future Leader will not only have an adequate scientific education, but he will appreciate the magic and mystery of science -- the extraordinarily weird privilege of living in a light-filled cosmos that is intelligible to human intelligence in such a way that it shatters any and all materialistic assumptions, which are just pernicious roadblocks to the discovery and development of our divine-human potential. The relationship between Reality and the Liztard's cold and desiccated version of scientistic half-truths is analogous to that between pornography and love. It is devoid of interior beauty, and therefore cannot be true, nor can it touch the soul of man.

Ordinary souls like you and I are the link between this world and the higher ones, shuttling back and forth, carrying buckets of light in our heads. --Lawrence Kushner

Charles gots no bucket.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Missing Strawberries, or Ten Vicious Attacks on Charles Johnson Before Breakfast

Sources inform me that I have been banned from commenting at LGF for making a vicious -- vicious, I tell you! -- comment about Charles the other day. BabbaZee linked to the post, the hyper-vigilant Charles noticed it, and he immediately capped his most amusing and self-aggrandizing commenter. So at least old yellowstain puts principle -- or paranoia -- above self-interest, as his blog continues to auto-Sullivanize into a monolithic frat of anti-intellectual gee-howdies who know as much about theology and metaphysics as I do about web design and bicycling.

Imagine if I banned all of the people who make vicious comments about me, such as, "Bob, I disagree with you." To be honest, I've never banned a single person, although I have asked a couple of them to go away, mainly because they are just too stupid and/or annoying to understand what is going on here. I've never banned anyone for criticizing me, because in nearly every instance, the criticism is self-refuting, especially as it moves up the hysteria scale or down the materialist scale. As I've mentioned before, I don't even like it when other Raccoons reflexively defend me from these folks, unless they do so in a way that is funnier than the criticism -- which is almost always intrinsically funny if looked at from a sufficient height. In fact, I would be honored if Charles would link to this post, so we can see on a first hand basis how funny his dopey commenters would be!

Being that cyberspace persecutors are everywhere sapping his precious bodily fluids, Charles is a busy man, and can't possibly have noticed my previous vicious comments about him -- about his increasingly anti-intellectual rabble of illibertarian commenters and about what LGF has turned into, with its irrational lurch into a scientistic wacko chamber of substitious idolaters. Therefore, I've extended the courtesy of assembling them all in one place, so he can ban me retroactive to June 14, 2008, when I began addressing the subject. This is only the first ten. I'll post some more on the weekend.

1) As Charles Darwin wrote, "While nature, making procreation free, yet submitting survival to a hard trial, chooses from an excess number of individuals the best as worthy of living, thus preserving them alone and in them conserving the species, man limits procreation, but is hysterically concerned that once a being is born it should be preserved at any price."

Nah, just pulling your leg. That was Adolf Hitler explaining his values -- which he derived from immanent nature, not the transcendent Absolute -- in Mein Kampf. As someone once said, fascism in all its forms is the violent resistance to transcendence. Therefore, Charles at LGF, or the goons at dailykos, or any other flatland guardians, are not Nazis, since they engage in non-violent resistance to transcendence, as do the ACLU, or People for the American Way, or any other anti-religious activist and/or bigot or plain old ignoramus.

2) You see, the blinkered Lizard thinks that life only points down and back to the dead matter out of which it was magically given birth. But for the Raccoon, life is a symbol (symbol meaning "thrown across") that again points "up" and "in." We do not see life as a circular series of lateral mutations, but an open spiral that ultimately rejoins whole and part, absolute and relative, time and eternity, center and periphery, man and God.

And human beings are the "axis" or "pivot" of the whole existentialida. Deep down we all recognize this, albeit often in a garbled and perverted manner, for example, the environmental hysterics or the pompous and deluded LGFers who know they are superior to biology, but have no idea how or why.

Life! If Darwinism is all there is, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. I have no respect for a reductionistic Lizard who is not a nihilist and a sociopath, for he is merely a weakling and coward who lacks basic intellectual honesty and the courage of his convictions. He has his feet planted in the soil of Judeo-Christian values, even while he has his head planted in his ass.

3) Again: to have the courage of one's convictions and to fully inhabit the Darwinist world of the scientistic imagination would be to live as an animal, not a human. Remember, to a Darwinist, a human being can be nothing other than an animal, pure and simple. Along the lines of our last couple of posts, there can be no radical discontinuity between human and animal -- or matter and Truth, behavior and Virtue, accident and Beauty, etc. It is a subhuman world unfit for Man. Which is again why none of them actually live there. They're all frauds, phonies, and crude loudmouths, including, sad to say, the Head Lizard.

4) Any Lizard who claims their life is meaningful in the context of reductionistic Darwinism is strictly fooling themselves. I won't argue with them, because there is no reason to take them seriously for even a single moment. If they don't understand this, they are either stupid or intellectually dishonest. The same applies without qualification to morality, beauty, and truth. Obviously, I will not waste my time "debating" someone who simultaneously believes in Darwinism and truth, as if the latter could ever be derived from former.

I notice that the unsophisticated commenters at LGF also have a caricatured view of the scientific endeavor, as if it is a strictly mechanical process that results from "facts + induction" -- as if it requires no imaginative leaps, or an overarching paradigm in order to even perceive a fact! I cannot see that any of them are the least bit acquainted with the philosophy of science, e.g., people like Whitehead and Polanyi.

One stupidly arrogant Lizard even said in response to one of my queries that he believed in "absolute facts" but not "absolute truth." How to even begin to respond to such sophistry? There is no fact that "speaks for itself," no experience that tells us what we are experiencing. To paraphrase Weaver, only by knowing little may we know much; logic depends on our "metaphysical dream," not vice versa. And it should go without saying that it is this Dream that unites men, not the logic. Nazis and Islamists are rational within the logic of their sick dreams.

5) Horizontal folks -- flatland materialists, secular pneumapaths, left-brainers, MENSA members, Lizards, et al -- love to sneer at religion and exalt the superiority of science or mere reason in understanding the world. But when they do this, they always deal with a caricature of religion based upon their own limited horizontal understanding. In this regard, they are very much like children or primitive people who cannot transcend their narrow cognitive horizons, and mock what they do not understand.

Science can never account for the scientist, that is, for the human subject capable of knowing real truth. Again, it simply assumes the existence of truth-bearing scientists, as if this is not deeply philosophically problematic. How can the watered-down evolution of reductionistic Darwinism ever account for that? It can only pretend to do so, again, by confusing the rays with the sun. But to understand Darwinism is to have transcended it.

6) The problem is, Darwinism should be taught as science, not metaphysics, but virtually all of the middlebrow Lizards absurdly elevate it to a quasi-religious metaphysic that is logically self-refuting at every turn. In turn -- and I have noticed this, for example, in many threads at LGF -- militant atheists do indeed confuse Darwinism with metaphysics, and blindly defend it with the same belligerence as any "fundamentalist." Light simply cannot break through their hardened defenses.

Religion easily accommodates science, while the reverse can never be true. Religion accommodates science for the same reason that our minds do. For our minds are designed to know truth, pure and simple, whether it is empirical truth, rational truth, artistic truth, moral truth, or metaphysical truth. Intelligence itself is prior to what it knows, and what it knows is truth (otherwise, “knowledge” is a meaningless, even absurd term). Therefore, intelligence is truth itself implanted within our being, or a prolongation of the Absolute within the relative.

7) Yesterday while commenting at LGF, I couldn't help noticing how the reductionistic Darwinists practice a sort of inverse mysticism, in that they elevate what can only be ceaseless change into eternal truth. With reductionistic Darwinism, all is change; everything is "on the way" to something else that is equally temporary. In such a paradigm, not only can truth not exist, but we couldn't know it anyway; the quantification of knowledge undermines its only meaningful measure, which is the intellect in light of the Absolute.

In a way, this is a caricature of Buddhist metaphysics, as it too advances what amounts to a paradox, i.e., "all is flux," so that it is folly to become attached to the passing stream of maya. However, the ignorant Lizards are missing a very important point, that being that it is possible to escape maya both from "above" and "below," and this makes all the difference, as the latter is actually a deeper plunge into its snares, a point that the -- let us say, less spiritually gifted -- LGF commenters never stop proving.

8) In other words, the Buddhist transcends the flux of maya in order to know the eternal, the transcendent Absolute, whereas the Darwinist Lizard goes the other route and identifies eternity with matter. Naturally this makes no sense in a cosmos that is itself contingent and evolving, but there you go. Metaphysically consistent they are not. There is a rebellious streak in them that is very similar to the left (who also escape reality from "below," except in their case, instead of becoming Darwinist "monotheists" they descend into the fragmented polytheism of multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, etc.).

In reality, they are two sides of the same worthless coin, just as, say, the Semitic and Eastern religions are two sides of an infinitely precious coin. I am disappointed that Charles can fall for this junk metaphysics -- just as he expressed disappointment in me -- but in my case I have an excuse, because I only want to be disappointed by the best. I do note that he clearly possesses a kind of peerless left brained, technological kind of lizardy wizardry, and that may be the issue, for every gift carries a potential curse. Every savant is an idiot in certain areas.

9) The scientific reductionist, like a machine, "has reversed the roles, turning its creators into its own creatures; it escapes the control of intelligence as such from the moment that it claims to define the nature of intelligence from the outside and below" (Schuon). People forget that the quantification of all knowledge "necessarily entails an inward impoverishment, unless accompanied by a spiritual science that re-establishes unity and maintains equilibrium."

This is one of the points I attempted to make at LGF, but to no avail. The bulk of commenters there seem to think that the "wall of separation" between church and state (itself a willful disunderstanding) must somehow extend to science and religion. Talk about a "wedge strategy"! But American schools are not failing because of "too much religion" (and by this I do not mean a religion, but simply a more sophisticated transcendental viewpoint that easily accommodates religion as such). To the contrary, our schools only began to fail after they were taken over by the radical secularists of the left. It could hardly be otherwise. What did you expect, wisdom?

10) Scientistic materialists -- including Lizards and other radical Darwinists -- are like defoliants, or people who would take an axe to this beautiful tree that has organically grown over the past 2000+ years. When you mess with the fundamental vision that holds a culture together "from the inside," you are messing with the equivalent of nuclear physics on the collective human plane: an Adam smasher, if you will. You just have no idea what you will unloose from the bowels of hell.

Human beings do not live in world of sense-data. But the postmodern vertical barbarians do. In their small Lizard minds, they are "liberated" from the "childish mythologies" of the past. In my opinion, Charles is quite naive about the inevitable implications of such an intrinsically anti-human ideology. The other day, one of the mutual readers of LGF and One Cosmos was also commenting on the increasing lurch into anti-intellectualism of the former, noting that his rabbi -- an eminent scholar -- had spent his entire life studying the Torah, and yet, had not even scratched its surface.

But it takes no learning -- let alone, wisdom -- for a jackbooted mob of metaphysical yahoos to, as the reader put it, "pontificate with grand self-assuredness that they know fully what is meant in all the intricacies and layers of Torah and the rest of us believers are a bunch of deluded dummies. There's nothing to be said to such people." Indeed, like gleeful, deicidal three year-olds, these Lizards can tear down in the space of five minutes what it took 3000 years of spiritual genius to build, from Moses to Sandy Koufax.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You

Squeezed for time again. Another speed post.

Plotinus provides an interesting example of the cross-fertilization of the world's religions, being that he not only represents the convergence of 800 years of Greek thought, but is also known to have studied the philosophies of India at some point (although details of his life remain sketchy, since he thought them unimportant). In turn, as Andrew Louth writes, from Plotinus "issues a new current destined to fertilize minds as different as those of Augustine and Boethius, Dante and Meister Eckhart, Coleridge, Bergson, and T.S. Eliot." Not to mention Toots Mondello, even if he was unaware of the coonnection. Although he obviously had a public school diploma, he was not what we would call a "learned man."

Again, it is not so much that the early Christians were neo-Platonists per se; rather, they simply knew the latter to be the pinnacle of human thought, so they naturally wanted to understand or frame their own new ideas within its context. Hadot points out that ancient philosophy was very different from contemporary philosophy, in that tradition and continuity were valued, whereas novelty and innovation were distrusted and even scorned. Therefore, one did not gain prestige by being the latest innovation, but by association with established truth. For example, Plotinus would not have considered himself a "neo-Platonist," but simply a Platonist.

But what were the earliest Christians? Obviously Christ gave us the theos, but not the -ology, so to speak. He left that for others to work out. Or, you could say he gave us O "in full," plus quite a bit of (n), but not in any systematic way. Rather, most of his comments are like sparks emanating from a central fire, as opposed to being meta-level statements on the nature of sparks, fire, and eyes (although one suspects that he did this with his inner circle, much of which is preserved in tradition).

In the case of Plotinus, he begins with three main principles, 1) the One, or the Good; 2) Intellect, or nous; and 3) Soul, or psyche. I don't think we do any violence to this formulation to say that it exactly corresponds to the symbols used in the Coonifesto, that is O, (¶), and (•), respectively. Furthermore, just as I explain in the book, each of these is an emanation from above, not "from below," which would be strictly impossible. In other words, there is simply no way that (¶) could arise from (•). Rather, (•) is like a "satellite" of (¶); where (•) is local, (¶) is nonlocal, just like the cosmos it mirrors. Or, you could day that (•) is particle while (¶) is wave, just like the quantum realm which is its inverse image in the material.

I will let you argue amongst yourselves whether O is the "end of the line," or whether it is an emanation from "beyond-being." Personally, I don't think it particularly matters, as it really comes down to the necessary distinction between nirguna brahman and saguna brahman, or Godhead and God, or apophatic and cataphatic theology. In my view, being that humans are in the image of the Creator, the law of inverse analogy tells us that the structure of our minds reveals something about the Divine Mind (and about the relationship between quantum and Newtonian reality, as hinted at above).

Being that humans have a conscious and unconscious mind (which are really one, just looked at from different angles), I speculate that the Creator has what might be called Mind and Supramind; which is to say, just like a person, there is a face we see, animated by hidden forces that we don't. But a person without a face would still be a person, just as God is still God irrespective of his public persona. I suppose you could say that there is "God for us" and "God for himself." It's just that the nature of the latter makes it almost necessary that he would wish to communicate the former; thus, you might say that human beings are the last word in the "self discovery" (so to speak) of God's creative "idiom," in the sense discussed a few posts back.

In fact, it would probably be fair to say that this is the innovation Christians brought to neo-Platonism. That is, for Plotinus, the One is indifferent to the world. It is completely static, simple, beyond the duality of knower and known (or any other duality). It is the source of everything, and yet, outside everything. Now that I think about it, this is what distinguishes Greek emanationism from Christian panentheism, in that the God of the former would never sully himself with the world, whereas in the latter view, God very much gets down and dirty; in the Christian view, every thing is God, even while God is not everything. In Plotinus' view, there is much more of a bright line between God and world, or O and Ø.

Now, as it so happens, Origen, one of the most brilliant early fathers, studied under the same teacher as Plotinus, a fellow named Ammonius Saccas. However, as Louth explains, unlike Plotinus, who studied him as a pagan, Origen studied him as a Christian. Thus, he was one of the first -- if not the first -- to regard scripture as a special language having to do with facilitating spiritual ascent, or the soul's journey through purification, illumination, and union, or from (•) to O. But instead of being a mere "emanation" from the One, we are in the image of it, which makes a huge difference, for it means that we retain -- and perfect! -- our essential humanness on the way to divinization, or theosis.

I could be wrong -- again, I never claim to be a scholar on these matters -- but I don't think Plotinus would ever have considered human beings to be in the image of the Creator, nor would it be conceivable that the Creator would ever deign to actually become one of us. In short, it would be our job to ascend to O (↑), not the place of O to coondescend to us (↓).

Indeed, as Warren pointed out yesterday, it was none other than Augustine who worked this out to its fullest. It turns out that he was also deeply -- and quite personally -- influenced by Plotinus, except that "in his hands," the "longing for God is transformed from a human restlessness [for our homeland] to our response to the incredible love and condescension of God, indeed is the movement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts."

Louth says that this represents "an extraordinary break with Plotinus," in that "what for Plotinus is the culmination of the soul's experience is for Augustine only the beginning of the way." This is because of the Christ-principle, which "comes from our homeland to us in this world, who can enable us to pass from hence to there. He does this by making available a wooden vessel which can traverse the sea" between us and O. In the plotinian vision, we have to do all the work, whereas in the Christian view, God throws us the ultimate bone, if we may so express it.

You might say that Plotinus had too negative a view of matter, in that the very first sentence in Porphyry's biographical sketch says he appeared "ashamed to have a body." Obviously, some of this attitude crept into Augustine, but one wonders if this is more Greek than Christian? Or perhaps it is just a reflection of a certain archetypal reality, i.e., the beauty of the eternal vs. the corrupt and decaying world of time. I suppose it's a matter of emphasis, or inflection, for as Schuon wrote,

"For Plato, matter -- or the sensible world -- is bad [only] in so far as it is opposed to spirit, and in this respect only; and it does in fact oppose the spirit -- or the world of Ideas -- by its hardened and compressive nature, which is heavy as well as dividing, without forgetting its corruptibility in connection with life."

However, "matter is good with respect to the inherence in it of the world of Ideas: the cosmos, including its material limit, is the manifestation of the Sovereign Good, and matter demonstrates this by its quality of stability, by the purity and nobility of certain of its modes, and by its symbolist plasticity, in short by its inviolable capacity to serve as a receptacle for influences from Heaven."

So there can be a world-denying strand of Christianity, just as there can be a world-affirming strand of pagan thought. To emphasize one or the other is a "dangerous disequilibrium," and it is precisely this disequilibrium that would seem to be resolved to the fullest with the Incarnation -- or with the avatar principle, if you like: God became man so that man might become God.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keepin' it Real with the Old School Raccoons

A few words about my favorite pagan, Plotinus. Being that I am hardly an expert on ancient philosophy, I can say with total confidence that he represents the summit of pagan wisdom.

Furthermore, since I don't have time to check my sources, I can also spread the rumor that his thinking found its way into Christianity, first through Origen, then to Dionysius, on to John Scottus Eriugena, over to Meister Eckhart, and then on up to us. Therefore, like, say, Hermes -- even if the thrice-great one didn't undergo the formality of actually "existing" -- one could go so far as to say that Plotinus is one of a handful of Uber-Coons. Each of these men kept the Raccoon dream alive and passed it forward, preserving and prolonging the vertical in the horizontal, so that it would always be accessible to later generations, including our masters, Herman and Toots. That's pretty much all you could ask of a fellow.

Being that Plotinus represented the best of the world Christians came to inherit, it makes perfect sense that the early Christians would make some attempt to reconcile their new understanding with his, just as we would like for Christianity to make sense in the modern world in which we find ourselves. This does not mean that we reduce religion to the passing fashions of the day; rather, the opposite. Real religion is always capacious enough to make room for anything humans can throw at it, whether natural selection, psychoanalysis, heliocentrism, whatever.

Religion can and must be "flexible" without ever being amorphous or unprincipled, just as it must be uncompromising without being rigid. You could say that it must always retain both its geometrical and musical aspects, on pain of becoming sclerotic and deathbound. When that happens, it's always the fault of the humans, who kill the nonlocal spirit with the local letter, or the free-ranging music with the static geometry. New age types do the opposite, spoiling the beautiful geometry, or architecture, with bland muzak.

Here is why we love Plotinus: unlike, say, Alan Watts -- to pick a name out of thin air -- Plotinus' overriding concern was to embody his realization and to bring it down into the world. If your realization is real, you can do nothing less, because, on the one hand, "wisdom begins with awe of God," but it also works the other way around: awe of God is one of the first fruits of true wisdom, since we know without a doubt that this wisdom did not come from us. So if you think you inwardly "know God," and yet, nothing about your outward behavior changes, then you have to question your realization.

In short, if you don't walk it like you talk it and run it like you spun it, then you're probably just an enchanting or seductive gasbag at best. If your words do not come from realized wisdom, then what good are they? They will mimic the form, but they will be lacking the substance that gives them life and makes them real. In one sense this is a "subtle" difference, but in another sense, it is as obvious as the difference between.... between everything, vertically speaking.

What I mean is that there is scale of hierarchical values in the cosmos, and this scale is proof enough of the Divine, at least for people who are able to perceive it in all domains. As we move up this scale, things become simultaneously "lighter," and yet, have more existential heft. They are lighter because they specifically preserve and convey the celestial light that transcends them, but heavier because they endure, being that they partake of the eternal.

Most of the profane art that dominates our age has the opposite structure -- a thick surface that repels spirit and reflects only the lower human realm, accompanied by a gloomy kind of heaviness that "falls" or drags us down, rather then helping us "stabilize," like an axis. To the extent that it is "alive," it is only alive with the creepy-crawly things of the unconscious, so it is more like "living matter" than matter come to Life. Look at one of Michelangelo's statues and you see the miracle of matter come to life: again, geometry + music. This is to mimic the Creator. The other way is to mock him.

In Plotinus' metaphysics, the summit of reality is the One, which, for reasons we will get into later, is necessarily good (and the source of goodness, just as it is the source of all unity). In turn, the purpose of life is to 1) realize the One, and 2) crystalize this realization in the herebelow. This formula actually works both ways, so that the cultivation of virtue leads toward the vision of the One, while vision of the One should result in purification and unity of the Self. If this purification does not occur -- either as cause or effect -- then the whole exercise serves no useful purpose, either for the individual or the collective.

Hadot points out that for the ancients, philosophy was not the cold and dead, dryasdust academic game it has become for most moderns. To the contrary, it mainly connoted a way of life. Studying under a venerable philosopher was much more analogous to converting to a religion and delivering oneself into the hands of a spiritual master; its ultimate purpose was transformation of the self, not merely filling one's head with lofty ideas. The ideas are only useful to the effect that they serve as enzymes or catalysts that bring about real change.

Here you can clearly see that Plotinus drew a sharp distinction between (n) and mere (k). As I wrote somewhere in my book -- here it is, p. 211 -- "(n) has a transformative effect on the person who understands it, as it raises and expands the level of being, which in turn 'makes room' for more (n)." Therefore, if "understanding" only takes place in the mind, then it is again of little use. (n) is obviously quite different from profane knowledge, which can be passed from head to head without regard for qualifications. Again, so long as you aren't mentally retarded, you can understand Darwinism or other purely mental abstractions.

To know God means to do so with one's whole being -- body, mind, and spirit. It is knowledge of a totally different order. In fact, a spiritual practice will again primarily involve the gradual transformation of the self, as the light and warmth of (n) does its purificatory work. (Indeed, to know Darwinism "body, mind and soul" -- if such a perversity were possible -- would be to renounce one's humanness and to render oneself lower than the beasts.)

Look at it this way: philosophy is love of Sophia, or wisdom. And if you really love someone, you don't just do it with words. In fact, as often as not, words can conceal an absence of love. Real love is action is it not? We show our love in a multitude of nonverbal ways that give it real substance and depth. Look at liberals. They "love" their country, but not enough to put the words into action and actually defend it. Rather, for them, the essence of love is to criticize our country ("dissent is the highest form of patriotism"). This is like saying that the highest form of coonjugal love is for Mrs. G. to nag me.

I am reminded of Bion, who didn't even want to know if a patient was married, for he would decide that for himself. In other words, it is common for people to be "married," which only obscures the fact they they aren't, not really really. This is no different than someone who has a Ph.D, but isn't actually educated, or someone like Keith Olbermann, who is a "journalist," but not really. You know what they say: language was given to man so as to conceal his thoughts. Note that the very first words out of Adam's mouth are lies. And you tell me that Darwinism has more wisdom than Genesis!

This is why a Plotinus and an Alan Watts represent philosophical antipodes, despite any surface similarities in language. For Plotinus, "the practice of the virtues ensures a connection between the ecstatic and the everyday" in an entire style of life, and in particular, in one's relations with others. It is "the transformation of one's whole being, a practice of virtue and contemplation that makes one present to Spirit while not excluding the presence of other people, the world, and even the body."

This is absolutely in contrast to Alan Watts, who used Zen as a pretext to argue that morals were just repressive forces of social control. True, the conscience can be transcended, but from above not below. In the case of the former, one becomes conscious of the reality from which morality flows, so that the actions of the sage are at one with it. One no longer has to think about whether one is doing the right thing. It hardly means that one is free to do "just anything," or that anything the sage does is by automatically moral. But almost all cults and fraudulent gurus rely on that (lower) self-serving formulation.

To know God means that "we are never quite the same again." True, the intensity of the experience may ebb and flow, but we organize our lives "in such a way that we are once again prepared for contemplation." In other words, we prepare ourselves to be receptacles of grace: "We must concentrate ourselves within, gathering ourselves together to the point that we can always be ready to receive the divine presence when it manifests itself again." Con-centration -- i.e., to gather oneself around the center -- is the very reflection and vehicle of Unity on the human plane.

In contrast, dispersal of one's energies toward the periphery automatically results in alienation from God. So to focus upon God is nothing less than dwelling in our own ultimate unity -- body, mind and spirit. This is why Plotinus "exhorts us to a conversion of attention.... If we wish to be conscious of those transcendent things already present in the summit of the soul, we must turn inward and orient our attention toward the transcendent."

Thus, we are constantly preparing the temple for God, the temple being our minds and bodies. When he sweeps in and makes himself known, it is a grace, but if the grace is truly appreciated for what it is, we never cease attempting to make ourselves worthy of it. It is not a denial of life but a "lived plenitude," "not a means of escape, not a way of evading life but of being absolutely present to it."

Never stop sculpting your own statue. --Plotinus

(All quoted material taken from Plotinus or Simplicity of Vision)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Proof of Proof is Proof of God

Oops! I was suddenly called away early to work. I'm going to quickly skim this to make sure it makes minimal sense, then I'm outta here. Forgive typos and other infelicities.


First some unfinished isness before we begin. It's too short a subject to justify a post, but probably too important to warrant just a comment. But the other day, a commenter suggested that I was being a little unfair about Alan Watts. So let's put it this way: if you folks discovered that I was actually an alcoholic and an indifferent and irresponsible father with a spanking fetish, would it make any difference to you?

Would you look at my writings in a different way, if my main purpose in composing them were to trawl for Raccoon chicks and impress them with my continental charm and buoyant repartee? If I enjoyed going on speaking tours of college campuses not because that's where the ignoramuses are, but because that where the nubile babes are?

Here's the point: what I write and who I am are absolutely of a piece. In fact, if they weren't, I would have no right to say them. You will never learn anything about me that surprises you in a negative way, unless it is something that happened 30 years ago, which I enjoy writing about anyway, since it's mostly just funny rather than malicious.

Everything I write is a realized and assimilated truth (or at least "on the way" to it), not just "intellectually," but in terms of being. For better or worse, the writing comes from who I am, not what I think -- which is the only way I can do it on a daily basis. Along these lines, I'm currently reading an excellent book about Plotinus, and he clearly had the same attitude -- more on which later, because this is starting to turn into a post, when I just meant for it to be a quick thought.

I wanted to offer some reflections on something I read at Just Thomism, entitled Evidence For God. I'm going to expand upon it a bit for the purposes of drawing attention to myself and impressing the chicks, but if you read the post, you will see that I am largely playgiaphrasing with the original.

If someone asks what the evidence is for the expanding universe, one could give a simple three word answer: “the red shift.” However, this answer is unlikely to be persuasive or even make sense to someone who doesn't already have a background in science. For example, if you say it to a primitive person, or to someone with a high school diploma from one of our liberal-run schools, they will probably just give you a blank stare.

Furthermore, even if you ask the average person why they believe in the big bang, or global warming, they won't be able to tell you. Rather, they will simply be relying upon authority, or "thinking with the head of another." Suffice it to say that you are in much safer hands if you are "thinking with the head of Aquinas" than with the head of Dawkins. To "think" in the latter manner is to accept materialism on faith and authority -- except that there is no "truth" or "understanding" at the end of the line, just incomprehensibility and absurdity. This is "stupidity as such" masquerading as wisdom.

You could go on to provide a basic explanation of the red shift based upon the behavior of light we see from distant parts of the universe, but this is again unlikely to be convincing enough to overturn the common sense and everyday empirical observation of a scientifically untutored person who can see with his own eyes that the universe is obviously not expanding.

In an analogous way, if someone asks for evidence of God, we might say "truth," or "beauty," or "virtue." For a soul of sufficient purity and depth, this will be an adequate argument, especially once the implications are fully appreciated and worked out in an ontologically consistent manner. However, materialists, Darwinists, Lizards, and other metaphysical yahoos imagine that they can reject the whole of religion based upon a single argument taken out of context, just as a savage could reject the big bang based upon the obvious empirical evidence that refutes it.

Thus, as Just Thomism explains, both types of primitives "want more than evidence; they want the whole science by which their mind could be moved by the evidence" (emphasis mine). They essentially want to see the tree that will prove the existence of the forest, when the forest is on a different ontological level than the tree.

Do you see the dilemma? We get the occasional materialistic barbarian who demands "proof of God," but this is certainly no less difficult to provide than proof of the Big Bang to an eight year-old, which, even if you accept it, doesn't mean you actually understand it. Rather, you are accepting it based upon the authority of hordes of scientists who have worked out the math and physics to come up with the theory, a theory that is also grounded in a paradigm full of assumptions about how the universe works. In turn, many of these assumptions cannot be accounted for by the paradigm, as per Gödel, but the experts don't concern themselves with that. Science is science, not metaphysics, so few scientists care that their paradigm is irrevocably incomplete or inconsistent.

Bear in mind that we are usually dealing with an unintelligent person who is demanding evidence that would satisfy his intellect. Now, this is something I could never do, as I have long since forgotten how to be so stupid. In this regard, I take full responsibility for my failure to persuade trolls that the Permanent Real necessarily exists as a first principle. Likewise, in order for my intellect to be persuaded by the arguments of Dawkins, or Harris, or Charles Johnson, I would have to extinguish my intellect and become stupid, plus ignore years of experiential/phenomenological evidence.

First of all, mere logic and evidence are going to be insufficient for these people, being that they are not inclined to accept it to begin with, nor are they willing to undergo the traditional means of verifying the truths of religion. Furthermore, Just Thomism makes the key point that "what is usually meant by evidence" for the flatland materialist is evidence that will be persuasive to a hostile opponent in the heated context of a verbal combat or short debate -- or “evidence that I can just look at and immediately understand the whole scientific or religious structure in which it reveals itself as evidence.”

As Just Thomism properly notes, "Under this restriction, there is no 'evidence' for God’s existence, or for any other scientific, mathematical, logical, or academic truth." Also, Schuon notes that "in the spiritual order a proof is of assistance only to the man who wishes to understand, and who, by virtue of this wish, has already in some measure understood; it is of no practical use to one who, deep in his heart, does not want to change his position, and whose philosophy merely expresses this desire."

But this is true of all proof. O.J. is innocent to those who wish to believe it, just as "Bush Lied" is a dogma for the liars of the left. You could go so far as to say that truth only applies to good and honest people, but that doesn't mean that we don't hold the bad and dishonest ones to account, or invent a new truth that conforms to their wishes and doesn't bruise their feelings. But this is the essence of the compassionate left: truth as comforter, rather than truth as True.

Thus, logical "proofs of God" aren't really necessary. For example, it is more common for people to arrive at God through "spontaneous intuition which, if it is authentic, necessarily contains in an infused manner the certitude transmitted by the proofs of God or of the supernatural" (Schuon). Again: something is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true, especially when we are dealing with truth of this order.

Another important point is that human intelligence "coincides in its essence with certainty of the Absolute." The existence of the Absolute is the first principle of any coherent metaphysics, whether "secular" or religious, as it is the condition without which there can be neither coherent thought nor communication of truth. But for the average man, "awareness of 'accidents' has stifled the intuitive awareness of 'Substance'; hence an intelligence that is systematically superficial, fixed upon a fragmentary reality."

Now, I have no objection to the existence of these people. They are often the "intellectual worker bees," and they have their role to play in elaborating the periphery of this or that relative domain. Again, the problems begin when this relativity is absurdly elevated to the Absolute, which ushers in the wrecking ball that brings down both religion and intelligence. These tenured children are completely blind to the fact that if their stance were correct, "we could never prove anything at all."

In a certain sense, proof itself is proof of the supernatural, being that it obviously exists in a realm above matter. The metaphysical transparency of the world is all the proof the Raccoon requires, but all men are not Raccoons, and I do not write for the wider non-Raccoon world. In short, while truth is surely unqualified, it takes a qualified person to realize that.

There is a translogical component to acceptance of any truth. We are not merely "logic machines." In other words, we must make a free act of assent to truth, and this cannot be reduced to the principles of logic. For example, there is no logical proof that one should abide by logic. What if I want to live a life a life guided by absolute spontaneity and transgression of logic, like people who live in San Francisco?

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