Thursday, July 16, 2009

All For One and One For Three

Before we get rolling into our strange attractor for the day, I just want to say that the book I'm currently reading, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, is highly, highly recommended. I'm not sure if or when I'll get around to writing about it, and even if I do, I won't be able to cover everything in it. There's just too much.

Gairdner writes in an exceptionally clear and compelling manner about what I regard as the Mother of all Mind Parasites, relativism in all its forms. You might say that it is the mind parasite that opens the bloodgates to all of the others, whether spiritual, political, moral, philosophical, or scientific. It shows with ironyclad logic how leftism (among other pathological isms) in all its ghastly mutations is just plain illogical, incoherent, and self-refuting. I love this book. It's going straight to the sidebar of perennial raccoomendations.

The bigbrained Roger Kimball nails it in his review: "A brilliant analysis of the chief intellectual pathology of the modern age.... Writing with wit and erudition, William Gairdner goes to the heart of the defining spiritual malaise of our time, showing (among much else) that relativism and tyranny, far from being opposing forces, actually collude to undermine genuine freedom. The Book of Absolutes is sure to emerge as a modern classic of political and moral maturity." Amen.

Now, back to John the Scot. I'm trying my best to make his ideas clear, but not sure if I'm succeeding. Let's just say that this topic isn't setting the site meter on fire. Sometimes I'll reread a post and think to myself, "now, that was a model of clarity." Then I can glance at it later in the day and think, "what a mess!" It was the same, by the way, in writing the book. Which leads me to believe that it's not just the writing, or even the subject, but the "set," as Timothy Leary -- of all people -- used to call it.

That is, in conducting psychedelic research, he talked about the importance of dose, set, and setting. Dose is self-explanatory, as is setting. With regard to the latter, don't take LSD or read one of my posts in a place teeming with negative vibes or uncool people. The vibes will just contaminate the post and give you a bad trip.

But "set" refers to "mindset." You have to approach these things in the proper frame of mind. True, to a certain extent the posts are designed to put you in the right frame of mind, but they can't do so completely. Rather, they can only meet you halfway. Even God can't -- or generally won't -- do that, which is why you don't go to church in Grand Central Station, but in a quiet and dimly lit sacred space.

So before we take another ego-flattening dose of John the Scot, let's get in the proper frame of mind, shall we? And I'll do my bit to calibrate the dose, so nobody ODs on O.

Let's begin where we lifted off yesterday, because it bears repeating: Thus, both the beginning and end of the world subsist in God's Word, indeed, to speak more plainly, they are the Word itself, for it is the manifold end without end and the beginning without beginning...

I hate to be so self-referential, but this is important, mainly because my book has fallen out of the top half-million on amazon, which is a bit embarrassing, so someone needs to step up and purchase a copy, pronto. But with the circular structure of >MY DAMN BOOK<, I wasn't just trying to be cute or different. Rather, I was attempting to elucidate something in a way that literally reflected the Something I was trying to elucidate, which is the "circular" structure of creation, of the eternal cosmic emanation and return to God.

It's one thing to talk about this, another thing to actually understand, experience, and convey it to others in a non-intellectual manner. And another thing entirely to do so in a way that actually makes people want to read the damn book. It's like the difference between a musical score and a performance. I was trying to perform this idea of the beginning and end of the world subsisting in the divine Word, which, from our relative standpoint, is finally "nothing."

But again, as John emphasizes, this is a very special type of nothing. It is not to be confused with the nihilism that (de)animates the left, or materialism, or radical Darwinism.

Rather, it has to do with what we discussed last Monday, that God is present in his absence and absent in his presence. If God could be "absolutely present" to us, it would be indistinguishable from nothingness, for we would be annihilated in the Light, i.e., no one sees my face and lives. (Remember what we said about dose! A little God goes a very long way, especially at first, as his bright purity collides with your dark impurities.)

Again you have to read what follows carefully, for it can sound like blasphemy and you'll end up miscoonscrewed. Basically, just add "so to speak" or "in a manner of speaking" after each sentence, so I don't have to.

McGinn writes that "If all things are God manifested, then humanity is God manifested in the most special way." That is, we know that we are the image and potential likeness of God, or a microcosm of the whole existentialada. Like the God-before-creation we spoke of yesterday, we know that we are, but not what we are until we create -- which is to say, draw a boundary and externalize ourselves.

For what is civilization -- all of it, all of the art, science, literature, and everything else -- but the exteriorization of Man's soul? And what is the soul but the interiorization and assimilation of civilization? This is why it is said that to be ignorant of the past is to remain a child forever. To be educated in the "humanities" is to become a (more) fully formed human, precisely. This is not to be confused with being educated in the subhumanities, which is what occurs at elite universities.

John's negative theology is obviously rather daring, but again, I caution you to try to appreciate its ultimate orthodoxy: "Humanity does not know God, but God does not know God either (in the sense of knowing or defining a what); and humanity does not know itself, nor does God know humanity insofar as it is one with the divine mind that is the cause of itself."

What this means is that there is a part of human beings which is of the same essence as God. As such, our knowledge of God is again God's own self-understanding: it is God contemplating God through the medium of divine-human sonship: To quote John (speaking for God), "It is not you who understand me, but I myself who knows myself in you through my Spirit, because you are not the substantial Light but a participation in the Light that subsists through itself." Thus, "to know humanity in its deepest hidden darkness is to know God" (JSE).

McGinn goes on to explain that creation (so to speak!) "occurs in two 'places': first, in the second Person of the Trinity; and second... as a thing made, in human knowledge." And the identity of these two modes is none other than the God-man "who restores the whole of creation to its ultimate origin." "Man and God are one in that they are dialectically united in the concealing/revealing dynamic of the Word."

So, if I'm following him, John is essentially saying that as a result of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, human beings may participate in the eternal creativity and endless self-understanding of intra-trinitarian life.

What this ultimately means is not so much that we "become God," but much more importantly, that we become real persons through the imitation of, or participation in, the Real Person -- who simultaneously is and is not God. Or to express it affirmatively, we are talking about love, which requires difference and sameness, for it is the recognition of the sameness beneath the difference. All is One, but only because One is Three. Now and always.


slackosopher said...

As for the Book of Absolutes...I read it a few weeks back, and really, really loved it.

Unfortunately, I live in one of the bastions of unthinking lefty relativism, in this case of the "burning man" stripe. So it was a lonely book to read, in a lot of ways...nobody around to really talk about it with.

I really should move. :)

Aquila said...


Another "closet 'coon" Burner here. Enjoy the creativity and fun of that scene, but dislike the political and philosophical barbarism of 99% of its adherents.

Here's a related topic for discussion:

What's the role of "self-medication" with LSD, X, cannabis, etc., in the growth of the kind of intellectual and moral bankruptcy probed by the author in both artistic subcultures, and the culture at large? Is it possible that forty-odd years of millions of people happily abusing their neural hardware without the solid academic direction or psychological grounding of the original psychedelic researchers has created a huge cohort of media- and academia-influencing people who have grafted the monism and depersonalization of tripping to their lives in general, and are literally brain-dead in matters of discernment or judgement?

Gagster, since you're in the Psych biz, I'm especially interested in hearing your take on the (possible?) connection between mass (ab(use) of hallucinogens, and the seeming inability of "intelligent, creative" Westerners to think in any real sense of the word.

Gagdad Bob said...


I've never really thought about it, but I think it's more a matter of bad software -- e.g., relativism -- than drug-damaged hardware. Truly, relativism is a disease. To the extent that the hardware is damaged, I believe it comes about more as a result of things like extended daycare, dysfunctional parental attachment, absence of fathers, etc.

Van said...

" The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals"

That looks right up my alley, thanks!

slackosopher said...

I am a musician and though nominally part of the local "burner-esque" music scene...I am "in the music scene but not of it".

I agree with GB, as relativism is the default "philosophy" of those in and around the deeply and blindly assumed to be quite obviously "true" that pointing out the contradictions has rarely had any noticeable effect on thought or behavior. The virus has all but completely taken over the host.

Let's face it, relativism is a lot more "FUN"!! Because that way nobody can judge "my truth" no matter how absurd or idiotic. Not only is bad behavior not seen as such but is frequently rewarded.

Save for one thing: in such a situation it's considered poor form and in bad taste to point out the poor form and bad taste of others. Usually I just smile and keep my mouth shut.

I really should move. :)

slackosopher said...

Relativism is *the* default view of the vast majority of the people around me that pointing out the contradictions doesn't even register. The requisite level of abstraction to comprehend seems to be lacking. Are they going to believe me or what their professors told them? Really, why would their professors have lied to them?

Besides isn't logic, reason etc just tools of the white male oppressors?? Not even to mention the possibility of their being an "Intellect" (in the traditional sense). Everybody knows, that there is no capital-t Truth!!

Though really, that may be giving to much credit...I think it's simply the fact that relativism is a whole lot more "FUN"!! You can do whatever you want and nobody is supposed to judge!! Jackpot!!!

Save for one rule: It is considered bad form and poor taste to point out the bad form and poor taste of others. Usually I just smile and keep my mouth shut.

I really should move. :)

Anonymous said...

whoops...sorry for posting twice. It told me the first didn't go through.

Oh well.

will said...

>>Let's just say that this topic isn't setting the site meter on fire . . don't take LSD or read one of my posts in a place teeming with negative vibes or uncool people<<

Well, that's just it as of late - the needle on the negative vibe-ometer is off the scale. There is not one person of spiritual sensitivity I know who is not now brought low and burrowing deep.

Considering that the relationship between the USA gov and the American people is about to be radically changed, considering that the N. Korean chia-head is dying and contemplating a gotterdammerung, that the Israelis are being forced into a conflagration in the Mideast . . . there's a fog of astral soot in the air. Those who are in tune are ailing.

It will get better. Then it will get worse again. Then better. Back and forth, until the Denouement .

slackosopher said...


I have been in an extra-special foul mood and feeling the need to break out of it somehow. I have been feeling at odds with "the world" as of late.

I thought I was just extra cranky...

Van said...

"Thus, both the beginning and end of the world subsist in God's Word, indeed, to speak more plainly, they are the Word itself, for it is the manifold end without end and the beginning without beginning..."

Ever notice that in the best of stories, the key plot twists catch you unexpectedly, but looking back on the story, it becomes clear as day that it just had to happen that way?

Maybe kinda like the Jews looking for a Superman Messiah to destroy their enemies, but instead they got 'only' a sOn of Man instead?

You know, I've been thinking about the quote above today... and while listening to Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics driving home (yeah, there's a reason few like to drive with me), struck a nice (as in excruciatingly pointed) harmony with it,

"With those who identify happiness with virtue or some one virtue our account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But it makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief good in possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For the state of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting, and acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete (for it is some of these that are victorious), so those who act win, and rightly win, the noble and good things in life. "

As Burke supposedly said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." How precise.

If God 'requires' existence, to become (keep those "so to speak..."'s coming), following the 'As above, so below' principle, physically we’re already here. The Word already IS, as God could have sat around non-existing un-eternally, we could do the same. We can think thoughts without end, but remaining but thoughts within, isn't that our form of non-being?

"Like the God-before-creation we spoke of yesterday, we know that we are, but not what we are until we create -- which is to say, draw a boundary and externalize ourselves."

To manifest ourselves, we need choice, decision, action, to bring the word into existence in our lives, emphasis on Our... without that, we would not know us. Not just action, but Good action, Virtuous, Love (in the non-mushy, less cherub, more fierce avenger, sense).

Contemplating the ending of the world about us, it is as if we who know better, simply know we should do, and yet do not do. Yet there is nothing (literally) keeping us from acting, nothing at all, but we, in multitudes, do nothing. And of course it all begins to fall apart.

What is the nothings power over us? Our belief that we can do nothing to stop it. Ya gotta love good comedy.

Frustrated, we watch it happen around us, I write, and speak out... but the illusion ‘s spun so convincingly “nothing we can do”, the insignificantly numerous meaningless steps required, hoops to be jumped – rules, regulations, permits, petitions, fees, reservations, calls, doors shut in faces...- just the thought of it, and so in the end; nothing) - to officially DO something, is so daunting in its cumulative nothingness... that nothing is the result.

"... he will rise out of the endless sea..." - of nothingness.
"... the mark of the beast will be upon them..." animal actions, sniffing, eating, living as any beast naturally does, forgoing the effort of inspired actions... in favor of doing nothing.
Oh... to let this all go because nothing is easier than sOmething.

As that other wise man, Dumbledore, once never said 'Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.'

What haven't I done, because nothing stopped me? Apocalypse... indeed... it needn't be spectacular, nothing will accomplish it just fine. And I think woe be it to us, who have nothing but excuses.

More foul moods.

mushroom said...

It's not so much a foul mood on my part -- at least in the beginning -- as it has been like living in an incessant hailstorm. I haven't had a day in the last month when I'm not getting pelted (or skinned, perhaps). I might be getting a mite irritable.

robinstarfish said...


wv: cratersho