Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And That's the Way It Isn't: News and Meta-News

In case you're joining us in mid-program, we've been chewing on Balthasar's Cosmic Liturgy. It's not the sort of book that you can just read, toss aside, and reach for the next one.

Rather, in order to get anything out it it, it must not only be chewed -- 40 times -- each page -- but swallowed, digested, and assimilated. And when I say "assimilated," I mean that it must either be used for energy or for renewing or filling out one's celestial form. The purpose is not just to make you intellectually fat and lazy with a lot of useless knowledge, like a tenured bore-belly or coldblooded faculty lounge liztard.

I hope that every book I eat will be this chewy and nutritious, but that is the exception, not the rule. Actually, that's not entirely true. In the evenings, I try to opt for somewhat less rich fare, since this type of book can only be understood with all one's faculties operating at maximum capacity: mind, body, and spirit. You need the cooperation of all three to benefit from this type of book.

For example, without the higher spirit (¶), I can't imagine how this book would make any sense at all. I have no idea what an atheist would think of it. I suppose it would be similar to what a dog thinks of a fire hydrant.

Which is unfortunate, because the subtitle of the book is The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor. In other words, it's all about the all and the everything, forever and always. I suppose the spiritually anorexic atheist might cleverly ask, "what could this man possibly know about the universe? He died in the seventh century, way before Bill Maher proved that God doesn't exist and that Obama is His prophet."

Let's just say that physics is derived from metaphysics, not vice versa, and that metaphysical truth is always true, and therefore always accessible to man -- not to his evolved mind but to his intellect, i.e., the nous. This is how a man who lived and died over a thousand years ago can be every bit as fresh and relevant as today's news.

In case you missed it, that was a little joke at the end there. The point is that almost all "news" is completely irrelevant, just a distraction that ultimately serves to obscure what I call The Eternals. It takes no intelligence whatsoever to be a producer or consumer of MSM "news."

When I began this blog, you might recoil that this was a major part of my mission: not necessarily to avoid the news, but to look at it in light of eternal truth, i.e., to illuminate it with timeless principles. And really, this is the only way one can understand the news, just as the only way one may understand the physical world is in light of certain mathematical constants. If the constants changed every day, it would be ridiculous to say that we "understand" the world.

And one of the major purposes of "news" -- and I am speaking here of the moonstream media, or MSMistry of Truth -- is to obscure the rules of reality, precisely, so that the impossible may seem possible, e.g., that it is possible for a man to marry a man, or that "experts" can predict the weather 100 years hence (but not next week), or that high taxes are good for the economy, or that providing more of something at less cost will cause people to consume less of it, or that arresting an obnoxious clown for being one is an instance of "racism," etc., etc., etc.

As Walter Cronkite might have said if he had had an ounce of irony or self-awareness, And that's not the way it is. Not at all. Not even close. Rather, this is just the current Liberal Truth, a cognitive pacifier for the spiritually dead, a fount of elite conventional wisdom for over- and undereducated rubes, which is to say no wisdom at all. Good night clowns.

Okay, back to the eternals. Balthasar points out that Maximus was able to serve as a living bridge between the scholasticism of the West and the mysticism of the East (yes, we are speaking in generalizations and of major trends). This naturally arrests my attention, because "scholasticism" is related to school, which was something I absolutely detested. And why did I detest it? I can't even necessarily blame school, not completely anyway.

Rather, it's an issue of temperament. I'm not sure if I want to get into all of the personal details at this juncture, but let's just suppose that God speaks in diverse ways in order to serve a diverse population. It is not that God is diverse. Rather, people are. Obviously. Therefore, the identical truth must be tailored, so to speak, to suit different people. This is why a certain amount of "fragmentation" of Christian truth is permitted at the human margin, but only up to a point.

For example, there are denominations of Christianity that cater to the sick, the perverse, the envious, the racially paranoid. These can never be true forms of Christianity, for they are well beyond the permissible human margin.

Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ would be a fine example. It is actually the Perpetually Divisive Bank of Racial Victimhood, and now we know that Obama wasn't just snoozing in the pews all those years. Rather, he absorbed and assimilated their template for interpreting reality, which is why he could reflexively come to the defense of his undignified friend from the prestigious Harvard Department of Race Hustling. And what happened to Gates doesn't hurt his business but helps it, for it allows him to sucker in more aggrieved customers at $150,000 per.

So Maximus speaks to me quite directly, especially in his cosmic vision. In fact, I have had to invent a new pneumaticon that I place in the margin of the book every time Maximus says something that mirrors the main idea presented in my book. I don't know if I can reproduce the symbol on my keyboard, but it looks something like this, for reasons we will get into later:

At any rate, Maximus clearly saw the importance of unity between dogma and experience, or what I would call (k) and (n). There is nothing wrong with (k) so long as it remains "within the orbit" of (n), so to speak. But I can't tell you how many Christians I meet who begin spewing spiritual (k) that makes no sense at all in light of eternal truth, and cannot possibly be true. It's all just man-made heresy. And it finds a home in people for the same reason liberalism does: because they have forgotten how to think metaphysically, which must always be simultaneously experiential.

If you emphasize one pole over the other, then you are bound for trouble. You end up in a realm of pure subjectivism on the one hand, or a kind of abstract system on the other, detached from the Real and then infused with human passion. You know the type.

Ironically, this is where the deep structure of liberal fascism meets up with religious fundamentalism. The former is religious passion in the absence of religion, while the latter is religious passion in the absence of intellect. As we know, whatever the leftist accuses someone else of may be interpreted as projection. This is why they are so preoccupied with the "religious right" in general and Sarah Palin in particular. Pure projection.

Now, scholasticism is all about fine distinctions within the One, whereas mysticism is all about unity amidst multiplicity. Or, you might say analysis vs. synthesis.

Here again, you can't really have one without the other, for they are analogous to anabolism (building up) and catabolism (breaking down), which constitute metabolism. Since bodily metabolism is a declension from spiritual metabolism (not vice versa), I think you see the point. Ultimately, the "purpose" of scholasticism must always be unity -- or to better understand the nature of unity -- which, of course, Aquinas himself proved in the mystical experience he was granted near the end of his life. This in no way contradicted his magnificent system of thought, but sealed it.

"... [D]ogmatic theology and the spiritual ascent to God, according to Maximus, offer each other no opposition.... the ultimate and highest degree of reconciliation occurs only within the active range of clear, discerning, and decisive intelligence. The power of thought is the force that transforms the world" (Balthasar).


Alan said...

"Now, scholasticism is all about fine distinctions within the One, whereas mysticism is all about unity amidst multiplicity. Or, you might say analysis vs. synthesis. "

Nicely memorialized by Raphael with Plato and Aristotle at the center of this painting: School of Athens

Magnus Itland said...

It is indeed obvious to the discerning eye that the news are selected and presented to inflame passion, not to inform according to a coherent worldview. Anger and fear primarily, but also envy, hope, smug superiority and sometimes even lust. For a man to have his life filled by the news must be like walking through a land of ever shifting dreams, frequently nightmares, over which he has next to no control.

Of course, to many people this makes little difference from the life they already live.

Karzai said...

Speaking of news that never makes it to the mainstream:

In the summer of 2000, the Taliban banned opium production. By 2001, the area of land allocated to growing opium poppies fell by 91 percent and the production of fresh opium went down by an unprecedented 94 percent, from 3,275 tonnes to 185 tonnes. With the fall of the Taliban however, the U.S. worked with local drug lords to increase opium production exponentially. The opium harvest rose from using 7,606 hectares of land in 2001 to 193,000 hectares by 2007, a remarkable 2,437% increase.
Currently, Afghani opium accounts for 79% of the global supply.
Opiates are essential for producing morphine, codeine, thebaine and papaverine. From these substances, sythentic opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone are produced.

Rock on!

Magnus Itland said...

On a different note, I find it mildly amusing that your book was plagiarized already in the depths of the dark ages. That's the risk of reaching out for the future, I guess, the further you reach out that way, the further you will reach into the past.

Malcolm said...

"Witnesses are inherently reliable," he (Officer Crowley) said later. "She told me what she saw."


All depends on the perception of reality you are trying to promote.

In an interview last night, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas said it was ac curate that Whalen did not mention race in her 911 call. He acknowledged that a police report of the incident did include a race reference. The report says Whalen observed “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the front porch’’ of a Ware Street home on July 16.

Larry said...

Why the economy grows amid high taxes:


Cousin Dupree said...

Economics Does Not Lie. But economists certainly do.

Hello Larry said...

Exactly. You should try some Robert Higgs on for size.

Van said...

Larry, Curly & Moe are calling.

The good that the 'Austrian School' lends upon Higgs, the 'libertarian anarchist' one taketh away.

Van said...

"I suppose the spiritually anorexic atheist might cleverly ask, "what could this man possibly know about the universe? He died in the seventh century, way before [insert irrelevant discovery here]"

Sadly that type of view is not limited only to the spiritually anorexic atheist, but is common to nearly all temporal provincials, which is to say, those with a public 'education'. But as a pro-quantity over quality, it is at root anti-conceptual, anti-vertical.

Van said...

Allan, the link you added isn't linking... here's another for Raphael's School of Athens as a whole, and numerous details of it (seems appropriate) here.

Petey said...

"Temporal provincials."

Heh. That's what I call 'em too!

Anonymous said...

Libertarian anarchism is not the same thing as political anarchism. We could use a dose of it right about now. But, if you prefer the statism of the past 21 years, then, well, you asked for it!

Gerard said...

I'm takin' the pledge!

Magnus Itland said...

Google is catching on: They sent me an update alert and included an ad for "Vertical Traceability -
link your design decisions from requirement to code". That sounds like a plan for intelligent design, but not quite the kind of vertical traceability I need. I like the phrase though.

Northern Bandit said...

I have no idea what an atheist would think of it. I suppose it would be similar to what a dog thinks of a fire hydrant.

I nominate that for coffee-through-the-nose moment of the week.

Van said...

Anonymous said "Libertarian anarchism is not the same thing as political anarchism."

Yeahhh.... I read Rothbard, Rockwell & others, but sorry, no... libertarian anarchism is a nice utopian image they like to dream, but if put into practice (God forbid), the nightmarish reality of good ol' fashioned anarchy, and worse, would quickly follow(Btw, their error has similar roots to the subject/object error Gagdad has been reviewing). I'm working my way up to dealing with this in my series of posts on Justice, probably another two posts down the line.

It’s a political perpetual motion machine of competing govt’s fueled by a power that never has, can or will exist (for some reason war doesn’t enter their minds).

von Mises was a great economist, but his human action axiom, mostly appropriate for economics, break down as an axiom for a political philosophy. Von Mises realized that, but his followers (Rothbard, etc) didn't, and he didn't approve of their anarcho-whateverist ideas, as he notes here (a longish quote I’ll have to slice and dice as a comment, full version at the link),

" However, in order to preserve peace, it is, as human beings are, indispensable to be ready to repel by violence any aggression, be it on the part of domestic gangsters or on the part of external foes. Thus, peaceful human cooperation, the prerequisite of prosperity and civilization, cannot exist without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without a government…. In cognizance of this fact some people have called government an evil, although admitting that it is a necessary evil….

Government as such is not only not an evil, but the most necessary and beneficial institution, as without it no lasting social cooperation and no civilization could be developed and preserved. … If all men were able to realize that the alternative to peaceful social cooperation is the renunciation of all that distinguishes Homo sapiens from the beasts of prey, and if all had the moral strength always to act accordingly, there would not be any need for the establishment of a social apparatus of coercion and oppression. Not the state is an evil, but the shortcomings of the human mind and character that imperatively require the operation of a police power. Government and state can never be perfect because they owe their raison d'être to the imperfection of man ….
… The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state. ….

A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples' long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members.… They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man's or a group's interests in the short run and those in the long run.."

Von Mises made some errors, but mostly minor and he didn’t stray too far from his specialty. His errant students however, Rothbard and others, in gov’t and law, risk corrupting all that is good in the capitalism von Mises so forcefully championed. None of their epi-cycles of anarcho-capitalism, syndicalism, etc, would be any less utopian (and yes I know ‘utopia’ is irritating to liber’s), and they’d quickly sink into gang warfare, then anarchy, and wind up in full fledge tyranny.

curly said...

This from the man who loves Ayn Rand. In any case, it is nonsense to conflate Higgs with Rothbard, as if he did not realize men were not angels. Just note his writings--it's all about men not being angels.
Nonetheless, I prefer Rothbard, and Rand for that matter, to Hank Paulson and the Bush Family, not to mention, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Van said...

Curly said "This from the man who loves Ayn Rand"

Not quite sure what that means in context with the rest. Admire and respect, yes, love... perhaps going a bit far. I suspect that if Ayn Rand suspected someone of associating her with libertarians, she'd remove their liver, cook it & feed it to her cats before they could even hit the floor.

"In any case, it is nonsense to conflate Higgs with Rothbard, as if he did not realize men were not angels."

Associating is not conflating. I have not read much of Higgs', and that has been quite a while, my recollection though is that he was at least sympathetic to some variant of the anarcho's... if I'm wrong, please correct me and point me to where I can verify that, if I'm right, then the association and criticism stands.

Rothbard is easy to 'like' on the surface, but dig just a little bit deeper and he undermines everything he claims to believe. Von Mises towers over those who trail on his name.

However, I would also take Rothbard over Paulson. I would take Fred Sanford over Paulson. Bush I respect as a President who loved his country and respected his office and as a person who tried to do good... but he flubbed it too often. I appreciate his determination to fight the war, and not to cave, but his 'religion of peace'ism's, and bowing to politically correct or diplomatese... hurt us bad. I cannot forgive him his attempt to 'save the free market' by destroying it.

Jimmy Carter & Bill Clinton are welcome to clean my sewers... if they'll stay in them.

Moe liked Shemp best.

Why I'm awake right now... I haven't a frickin' idea. I suppose I should remedy that.

Alan said...

Thanks Van - I linked too deeply and wikipedia didn't like it!

Susannah said...

NB--I had the same reaction to that one. :) Van--I have a libertarian anarchist pal, and I just can't wrap my mind around how it's all supposed to work in practice. I'm sticking with the founding fathers. I think they were onto something.

S said...

Going on a long road trip. Need some racoomendations for a book on tape. Thanks.

Van said...

S, if you're going on really looong road trip, 'Atlas Shrugged' might be appropriate!

Gagdad Bob said...

Here's a good book on tape: Tape: An Excursion Through the World of Adhesive Tapes.

S said...

Currently out of stock. But not too far behind OC in sales Rank.