Monday, January 19, 2009

Drinking Diamonds From the Firehose and Swallowing the Mine

First a little housekeeping. I will be indisposed -- in-lawdisposed, to be exact -- this Thursday through Sunday. No, I'm not asking for your pity. I just wanted to alert you -- all nine of you -- that I'm not sure what you will see in this space. You may see nothing. You may see lightly soiled reruns. Perhaps you will see some spasmodic blasts, more in the fashion of a normal blogger who gives you the rudimentary courtesy of not taxing your time or attention. We'll just have to play it by ear.

Then, after that -- I have no idea, as usual. The thing is, as I said, I am bound and determined to make my way through Balthasar's sprawling -- and I do mean sprawling -- 15 volume systematics. I've almost breezed through volume one, and I have volumes two and three on deck. It's probably -- no, it is -- the most challenging thing I've ever attempted to assimilate, although I suppose truly assimilating Aurobindo would be equally, if not more, daunting, since he was less systematic to begin with. In reading his most recent biography, it seems that the majority of Aurobindo's writings, regardless of how public, were more like a running journal of his own experiences -- as if his attitude was, "If you want to climb aboard, fine, if not, feel free to stay down on the tarmac, but I'm not slowing down."

I'm sure that on a certain level, Balthasar's writings may be seen in the same way, except that he at least attempted with all his heart, soul, and mind to fit his expansive vision into the pre-existing archetypes of Christian dogma, whereas Aurobindo was constantly inventing new terms and categories for his.

Here we can appreciate the virtue of dogma, as it is again analogous to, say, a system of musical theory and notation that allows us to produce music that is both harmonically (vertically) and melodically (horizontally) complex, not to mention interacting (in other words, vertical and horizontal flow together like a wild vine growing up a fixed post -- or better, yet, a living tree -- with the passage of time).

To appreciate the depth of this truth is to know that no man could have invented these dogmas that are so adequate to the transdimensional object they disclose (or simultaneously veil and reveal). People ask why revelation has to be the way it is. The reason is that nothing less can begin to serve as an adequate image and container of the Divine. It's like asking Mozart why he couldn't express himself in the form of a three minute pop single. Not to knock the three minute pop single, since a great single is superior to a bad symphony, just as a healthy joke is superior to the entire works of Deepak Chopra, being that he is a sick joke.

The thing is, Balthasar doesn't give any consideration whatsoever to the reader. He just spews away with the firehose, while you've come in for a little spiritual refreshment. I wonder if this is because he started his own publishing house in order to publish his works? Most writers need an editor. They're not like me, compact and pithy 24/7/365/∞.

Come to think of it, not only is Balthasar the stylistic opposite of Schuon, I'm not sure I would even be able to "organize" Balthasar without having previously assimilated Schuon. Schuon is like a diamond cutter, producing these perfect little multifaceted gems of prose. I don't think I've ever read anyone who was simultaneously so precise and yet pregnant. Indeed, you could say that he is the perfect combination of male and female, absolute and infinite, spirit and letter, form and substance, container and contained.

Balthasar, on the other hand, is like the whole diamond mine. It's one thing to read him. That's the easy part. But how do you get your mind around it? How do you cut through it to find its organizing principle, its deep structure? How to trancelight him into plain Coonglish? It reminds me of something you cannot map, because in order to do so, the map would have to be equally as complex as the territory.

Imagine having to carry around a map as big as the cosmos in order to understand the cosmos. Instead, we can map it with a few equations. But the higher up the food chain you go, the harder this is to do. For example, by the time you get to a human being, it is absurd to think that even the most detailed biography would ever be an adequation to the person.

But what about God, then? How does one create a "theography" adequate to Him? Once again, I give you the miracle of revelation -- of God having the courtesy not just to reveal himself to man, but to reveal himself as a man. That's pretty freaking awesome, that the Ultimate Universal can be refracted through a particular existent in such a way that we can actually begin to grasp it, even if, simultaneously -- and of necessity -- it must always elude our grasp, on pain of not actually being God.

This, BTW, is what the atheists do not understand: that if they could comprehend God in some simple way adequate to their little minds, it would not be God. Rather, revelation must paradoxically combine knowability with unknowability, transparency with opacity, light with divine darkness, consolation with desolation. God cannot be analogous to a mathematical equation, which is necessarily true and therefore eliminates man's freedom.

In this regard, we see the implicit relationship between faith and freedom, which is why only the faithful are truly free. In other words, man is free to accept or reject God. He is not really free to reject gravity, or math, or physics, or the infield fly rule. But he can reject beauty. He can reject goodness. He can -- and therefore must -- reject the designated hitter. And he can reject the Truth of revelation -- which is an elliptical proof of its Truth. Nothing less than the sustained tension of this paradox would be faithful to its object, paradox being a threshold of truth.

Now.... now what? Yes, might as well wrap up Bolton. We were discussing salvation and the personal self, and I think I see a connection with what we've been discussing above. Bolton writes that "What we call the completed life is the sum total of all the person's being, as a single organism extending from conception to death" (emphasis mine).

Here again, this is why you could never create a biographical map adequate to the person. For one thing, note the above emphasis on being. If we equate "being" with those moments when we have been truly "alive," how could you ever capture this in a book? The secret autobiography of our life -- and its real continuity -- is written with the ink of Self on the pages of Being, is it not?

Yes, to the extent that we survive what is called "death," this would be what survives, the being we have assimilated into the Self, and the Self we have assimilated into being. After all, it would be absurd to believe in life after death if you were never alive to begin with.

Thus we see that "in heaven, memory is swallowed up in reality," the reality of eternal being.


M said...

Back in the day I had this *gut feeling* about things see, but no words to DO anything with it. Then in '05 I began reading OC, Dr. Sanity and Thomas Sowell on a daily basis. This triple-antibiotic for the soul created what I can only describe as The Ultimate Reality Bitch-Slap. Best thing that ever happened to me.

Just thought I'd share.

julie said...

I like the title; it's something that should be done only by the man with the (big) trained belly. :)

The secret autobiography of our life -- and its real continuity -- is written with the ink of Self on the pages of Being, is it not?

I like this concept. One of the things that bothers me about the idea of all things being one (and essentially, ultimately then all the same in some kind of blissful unity) is the idea that in eternity, I will be everybody (and vice versa). I can't begin to express how unappealing that is; I really just want to be myself, though hopefully someday it will be my best Self. And while I'd like to know in the best sort of sense, as someone said this morning that's not really the same thing at all.

hoarhey said...

"Balthasar, on the other hand, is like the whole diamond mine."

It's also amazing what can be found in the tailings pile after the initial dig.
Thanks for the subsequent siftings of previous posts.

Robin Starfish said...

picking away at
the big rock candy mountain
priceless wedding ring

Alan said...

Thanks, Bob, for always sharing where we should be digging.

Can you write a post tomorrow that takes, oh, about the length of an inauguration to read?

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel like I'm in some twisted version of American Idol.

Jim said...

Is it just me or does anyone else hear "Seig Heil" when BO starts his "Yes we can" anthem? Just asskin'

bob f. said...

"we are the only humans who, for genetic reasons, instinctively recoil at being a member of a species that would have us."
(from yesterday's post)

Does this mean that coons are Marxists? Or just Grouchoists?

Robin Starfish said...

Bezoonc! [wv]

We have nothing to bezoonc but bezoonc itself.

Ask not what your bezoonc can do for you but what you can do for your bezoonc.

We are all Bezooncs, we are all Federalists.

The mystic chords of memory...will yet swell the chorus of the the better bezooncs of our nature.

How can Obama add to that, huh?

NoMo said...

Re the inauguration hoopla, as an alternative I'm considering my own Firesign Theatre marathon...just to help maintain perspective.

I will definitely include:

"Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him"

"How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All"

"I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus"

"In The Next World, You're On Your Own"

...and perhaps most appropriately,
"Forward Into The Past"

If one isn't completely
"regrooved" by the time they've listened through these, as an encore, one might throw in:

"The Tale Of The Giant Rat Of Sumatra"

"Nick Danger: The Case Of The Missing Shoe"

or, in memory of our long lost jester, "Eat Or Be Eaten"

Oh yeah - Thanks! for the diamonds today Bob. Carry a few in your pocket when visiting with the inlaws. You never know when someone might want a sip.

Van said...

"It's like asking Mozart why he couldn't express himself in the form of a three minute pop single."

Or as in the movie when the pompous prince says something like "Your symphonies... there are too many notes" and MOzart replies "Which Ones should I remove?"

rods and cones?... all that glitters is not diamonds... beware of the the deepak zirconia's.

Gecko said...

Speaking of inlaws and atheists,
"In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days. The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring,"Case dismissed!" The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, "Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no> such holidays." The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, "But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant." The lawyer said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.." The judge said, "The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God. Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day.
Court is adjourned."

ximeze said...

I'm planning to seal all the hatches & portholes and spend the next few days drinking diamonds, first with one group of friends and then another.

What's that wv? Oh yeah, hope we're not too ketsers to give a very special guest a warm welcome.

ge said...

re Maps big as the area they represent:

M. Foucault's 1st book was a very pithy loving study of the wordgame-obsessed French novelist-playwrite-genius zillionaire nut R Roussel, and he reminded [similarly to your example] that there are many homonyms and homographs in a language for the same reason: If there were a unique word for each & every thing, language would become as 'cumbersome' as the world it is there to manage, serve! [seems I brought that book with me, let me quote the translated master]:

"...This solar void is neither the psychological background of the work [a meaningless idea] nor a theme that coincides with his illness. It is Roussel's linguisic space, the void from which he speaks, the absence which binds and mutually excludes his work and his madness. It is the insolvency of words which are fewer in number than the things they designate, and due to this principle of economy must take on meaning. If language were as rich as existence, it would be the useless and mute duplicate of things; it would not exist. Yet without names to identify them, things would remain in darkness. This illuminating flaw of language was experienced by Roussel as an anguish..."

ps to NoMo: Sirefine's much recenter albums are swell tambien, ['case you, the gang didnt know re them]

jwm said...

Yeah, he's making me xysc, too.

I'm divorcing my interest in politics. I will not ruin what's left of my mental health in despising the President, as the left has done for the last eight years. Besides, The great Religious Question is more intresting, and more fun. My loathing for the MSM, however, grows in geometric progression with every fawning, drooling lickspittle leftard comment, article, story, and pic on the annoited one.
By the way, did you know that Barack Obama will be the nation's first black president? I hadn't heard until today.


Martin the Troll said...

Nick Danger: Third Eye:
Out of the fog and into the smog, Ruthlessly ("I wonder where Ruth is?)
Doggedly (bow, wow, wow)

He walked 13 steps into the grey sandstone building (sound of him hitting his face on the building).

No, never heard of Firesign Theater. How about "The Fourth tower of Inverness"

ximeze said...

Hey! You got your cool avatar JWM, and a blog for added cool. Coongrats

julie said...

We've been watching I Claudius this past week; tonight's episodes were the ones where Caligula becomes Emperor and declares himself a god (purely happenstance, I'm certain it doesn't mean a thing).

Of course, if a horse were to be made Senator these days it could only be an improvement...

Anonymous said...

Bob wrote:

"After all, it would be absurd to believe in life after death if you were never alive to begin with."

More like, it is absurd to believe in death after life if you were never dead to begin wtih.

Regressionist hypnotists tease out the inbetween life stuff and it's fairly fascinating. There's a book called Soul Destiny that lays it out for examination.

Boxer The Horse said...

I’d much prefer to be judged on the content of my character, thank you. But it may be why my platform collapsed during the last campaign. To make mudders worse, I told His Majesty Reid I would not vote any worse than “pin the tale on the donkey”. He replied that made him way too nervous and would never seat such an unreliable beast. The nerve.
I got out of the race at that point, and insteed, voted for Colonel Pecking Rooster. You know, the former meteorologist. I wonder what became of the chap…
Well, gotta run. Time for my crossword puzzle.. Why don't they put those on the front page?

Ricky Raccoon said...


“I'm divorcing my interest in politics. I will not ruin what's left of my mental health …my loathing for the MSM, however, grows in geometric progression.”

I don’t like saying this, or hearing it maybe especially from me, but I haven’t read more than half an article even on American Thinker the past couple of months. At least it seems that long. This is not a proposal. It’s just I’ve read them ten times ten before. Even tomorrow’s. Lately I just can’t bring myself to read more than a headline even if I had the time. While other things, such as “The Parables of Our Lord” by Arnot 1874, is such a pleasure I’ll read it a few minutes at a time if that’s all I have.

What creeps into my mind lately, and I have a difficult time talking myself out of it is: where is the new world waiting, to separate to, when this one goes Marxist. I suppose it won’t matter where you live as all the countries will be in essence the same more or less at that point. I had no problem with them raising themselves up to our level. I am still all for it. Why couldn’t they just do that to achieve their sacred fairness? We did not get in their way, nor need them to stay down in order for us to continue the climb.

What so far has been able to talk me out of throwing it in, is when the little guy on my shoulder whispers, “Would the Founders have given up here?” I know, I know, I answer. He’s cute like that. But they were surrounded by honorabble men such as themselves, with either a combination of position, treasure and a will to do something about it, or half a nation of like-mind, but for the position and treasure. I don’t want to throw it in. It’s against my nature.

So for the time being I will only read what I can withstand, and check the funny pages now and then for another episode of “welcome back Reagan” right after this tired old rerun of “welcome back Carter”.

wv: lifre

julie said...

"...where is the new world waiting, to separate to, when this one goes Marxist."

There is only one place we can go, Ricky, for now at least: Inwards and Upwards. There is no unexplored physical frontier to which we can escape (unless some raccoon manages to buy an island and form a sovereign nation), so as long as we are able we'll have to cultivate a Liberated State of Mind, and protect it from all enemies domestic and parasitic.

I'm with you on the news stuff. I only have a vague impression of the details of all the latest scandals; it's enough to know that those in power continue to abuse that power with impunity, and there's nothing I can do about it. Wallowing in the details becomes something of a sickness after a while - either it makes you sick with grief or sick with prurient fascination, but either way it does the soul no good.

Van said...

Ricky said "Would the Founders have given up here?” I know, I know, I answer. He’s cute like that. But they were surrounded by honorabble men such as themselves..."

Course those founders were also surrounded by the likes of Benedict Arnold, 3/4 of whom didn't measure up to his contemporaries, and of course Aaron Burr who didn't have a shot at measuring up to them. No time is really any different from any other, only the stories they choose to pay attention to.

The news will continue to be the same old same olds, until the people learn to seek a bit more after things that are worth knowing. That's where the stealth raccoon contingent comes in. Speak what's worth saying, teach what's worth teaching... future history books will abound with trivia about how one of the Re-Founder's were first inspired by what he heard when some neighbor kid passed on a tail he heard from his Dad's odd friend who came to dinner one night, and then and there he began surfing the net for something other than glitz, seeking out bits of fabled raccoon lore from here and there, and helped spark the re-founding.

Never forget how momentous an insignificant moment can be.

Zoltan said...

To the general tone and import of JWM, Julie, Ricky and Van above, this perhaps might also be appended:

Yes, avoid the "news" and in addition ride out the storm. Do not fight the gale, protect as best possible from it and ride it out. It will blow itself out because it is adharmic, without self-sustaining power.

Recently I forwarded approvingly an American Thinker oped to an orbit of mine and immediately our daughter, an MI Officer, "Replied to All" to the effect that anyone to believes what they hear, read or see in the media is a damned fool. It is ALL uninformed and untrue, including the so-called alternative or conservative media. Pajamas Media is exhibit A.

In other words, she called down her old man to his own circle -- and she was right, and I told the circle that she was, swearing never to forward a "news" or media "opinion" article again.

Now, Bob, this post reminds me of an old issue among those who knew both Tillich and Barth.

The issue was, what is the real or most important difference between these two titans of their era?

The best answer to that question I heard, and the truest, most telling and most useful to a young theologian, was this, from one (my Systematics Prof.) who was a student of both:

When a student asked Tillich a question, Tillich answered in the student's terms.

When a student asked Barth a question, Barth answered in Barth's terms.

Although not a student of Tillich's and not trying to compare his pedagogical method with that of Barth, Bonhoeffer confirms that Barth answered questions in Barth's terms ... and Bonhoeffer was not pleased with Barth in consequence.

Strong argument can be adduced that the catastrophe which has overwhelmed our nation was set in train by Neo-Orthodoxy's divorce of the world from revelation and the Christ which Barth and to a lesser extent Brunner created and Niebuhr, Herbert Humphrey and a then-renowned cabal of schoolmen and journalists propagated by founding Americans For Democratic Action.

ADA was the spiritual inspiration for SDS and its schismatic, such as WeatherUndergound, whose driving figure was and remains a brilliantly wicked female, Bernadine.

I scoff at the attention to Bill Ayres. Bernadine is the driver there, as Michelle, Bernadine's disciple and heiress, is in circle of Fraud.

Finally, JWM, I take your point about the first black president, but I want to comment on the phrase as if it were meant straightforwardly, as the duped understand it.

The Fraud is neither black, president nor president of this nation.

S/he is mixed-breed.

S/he is a Fraud and therefore cannot be a President of this country.

(Carter was an ignorant dimwit and ADA disciple, but he was what he was -- and is -- not a fraud. He is stupid and arrogant and stupid into the bargain, but not a fraud, not a liar, like John Kerry, who is a tame liar compared to this one now hag-riding Washington D.C. Carter graduated at Annapolis. He is a bad man but not fraudulently so. You can see him, he does not hide it. He is not consumed by and immured in secrets.)

S/he has no intention of being president of the United States, so s/he is not President of this nation.

S/he intends to be ruler of a Union of North American Socialist States that has had its last election, and that one fraudulent, as s/he is personally and intentionally.

We are looking at the gale of civil war. Protection as best possible from that gale is the counsel of this theologian.

As Julie et al agree, it is not the part of wisdom to oppose it, at least not the part of Coondom.

There are those whose responsibility and delectation is to oppose the gale ... at the right moment. They will succeed.

The Kaurava Clan has laid hands on the machinery of the government of the United States, to destroy her, not to govern her. They are misogynists, like Mohammedans.

Rely on God. He will not desert the good and will prosper the cause of Dharma in the day of battle, which is coming, and the day of reckoning, also coming.