Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Free Will, Authentic Evil, and The Infectiousness of the Morally Unrepressed

Bolton points out that "the last animal of a species spends its life doing exactly the same things as were done by the first one. Only man does not have to keep doing the same things ad infinitum, regardless of their value."

But it wasn't too long ago that human beings were caught in that same evolutionary rut (and most still are). As I wrote in the book, one of our immediate predecessors, Homo erectus bumbled around the evolutionary stage for a million and a-half years with no evidence of change in the archaeological record, despite having a bigger brain than most Raider fans. As one scholar put it, "As a whole, the archaeological record between 1.4 million and 100,000 years ago seems to revolve around an almost limitless number of minor variations on a small set of technical and economic themes." Imagine the numbing repetition of hip-hop, only for a million years instead of 20.

But this is how mere Darwinian evolution works. With the exception of modern human beings, all animals are trapped in an evolutionary rut. Animals find their successful adaptations, and stick with them. That's called "winning the Darwinian lottery."

But to what is free will an adaptation? First of all, as we touched on yesterday, if it is adapted to bad ideas or to a faulty conception of reality, it "will result in changes which would be for the worse" (Bolton). As such, although this gives the superficial appearance of freedom, it cannot really be free in any useful way, "because it is worse than no change at all."

No, freedom, if it is to be truly free, must be an adaptation to Truth. Truth must be anterior to freedom, or there can be no real freedom. More pointedly, to the extent that you have internalized bad ideas, you are a slave, even though you probably feel subjectively free. But that's just the pseudo-freedom of a kind of reactionary rebellion. You are still bound to the truth, but in revolt against it.

Materialism necessarily results in loss of liberty, because in identifying with matter, the mind inverts the cosmos and shares in the materialistic mode of being.

But if for no other reason than the fact that we have two cerebral hemispheres which regard the world and process information in radically different ways, we cannot really identify with the material mode. As I have written before, human beings are bi-logical; it is not so much that we operate with two different modes of logic, but that, in a healthy person, we synthesize those two modes into a "higher third," or what Grotstein calls the "transcendent position" (and Ogden calls the "historical position," more on which later, as it has important implications for the eradication and control of mind parasites).

What this means in reality is that human consciousness is proportioned to the "transcendent object," which necessarily bifurcates into the two modes of logic in the herebelow (or herewithin). In other words -- or symbols -- you could once again draw a triangle, with the transcendent object at the apex, which in turn bifurcates into right and left hemispheres, and all they imply (or better yet, Matte Blanco's symmetrical and asymmetrical logic, respectively). In short, you need no less than two brains to know the One. Which is why reductionistic Darwinians and other materialists are such half-wits.

It's way too vast a subject to get into in detail at this point, but Balthasar's magisterial Glory of the Lord only spends about 10,000 pages going into why it is necessary to understand God in this more hyperdimensional, aesthetic manner, and conversely, how we are foredoomed to failure if we attempt to comprehend God and revelation in solely naturalistic terms. In short, theology becomes positively deranged in the absence of the third transcendental, beauty. He has so many arresting passages that illuminate this point, that it's difficult to just pick one or two. Here are a couple of random quotes:

"Will this light not necessarily die out where the very language of light has been forgotten and the mystery of Being is no longer allowed to express itself?... The witness borne by Being becomes untrustworthy for the person who can no longer read the language of beauty."

Or better yet, "Whoever insists that he can neither see it nor read it, or whoever cannot accept it, but rather seeks to 'break it up' critically into supposedly prior components, that person falls into the void and, what is worse, he falls into what is opposed to the true and good."

Do you see the problem? God is not only whole, but the very condition and possibility of wholeness. Therefore, to treat God as, say, a biological object that one dissects on a table, is to kill the very object one wishes to understand. God cannot be understood from the bottom up, only the top down (and only then from the bottom up). The apprehension of God is like a "form" that radiates celestial beauty that is inseparable from its truth and goodness. "If form is broken down into subdivisions and auxiliary parts for the sake of explanation, this is unfortunately a sign that the true from has not been perceived as such at all." The form is seen first, just as a biologist must first be able to apprehend life before dissecting it into parts

But it is no different with man. To treat a man as an object is to have failed to understand what man is. Likewise, to treat scripture as a literary form to be deconstructed is to have failed to see the object one is so casually dismembering. One must first see the "whole," and then understand how it radiates into all the parts. If you don't first "see" Jesus, you can't possibly begin to understand him, for "the Incarnation uses created Being at a new depth as a language and a means of expression for the divine Being and essence."

As I said, that's a topic for another 100 posts. Back to Bolton. He points out that "the lack of free will which can be seen in animals results from the fact that their wills relate only to objects in the outside world." Now, don't you know, it is the same problem vis-a-vis mind parasites and man. This is another huge topic, and I'm not sure I can do justice to it in such a short space, but a mind parasite essentially comes down to an unconsciously internalized relationship with the environment, that then goes on repeating itself in a circular way.

For example, say the infant is abused or emotionally abandoned by a parent. This relationship -- which consists of two subjects and an affective link between them -- is internalized, say, into an oppressor-victim constellation. Later in life, the person will unconsciously re-enact the mind parasite, but due to the magic of symmetrical logic, he or she can at times sadistically identify with the oppressor in relationship to a projected victim, or masochistically identify with the victim in search of a persecutory oppressor.

Thus, in a perverse way, victims need their oppressors and cannot live without them. The Democrat party is proof of this. Many blacks, for example, are "addicted" to racism, just as so many Muslims are addicted to "Islamophobia." Again, because of the magic of symmetrical logic, they convert their own bloodthirsty impulses into the insane idea that 10 million Jews control and persecute a billion Muslims. Madness. A "proportionate response" would actually to be to nurture genocidal impulses toward Muslims, so Muslims should be careful what they wish for.

Note, by the way, that the Palestinians can never recognize the right of Israel to exist, because that would spell the death of their mind parasites -- a kind of "interior auto-genocide." They would rather physically die than allow their parasites to perish. Which again puts an interesting spin on the Darwinian aspect of all this, because the so-called "Palestinians" are not adapted to external reality; rather, they must bend reality to the will of their mind parasites, even at the cost of their own physical survival. Nor can you grant them "freedom," because they will only use the freedom to enslave themselves, as they have done in Gaza.

Morality -- i.e., conformity to the Good -- can only enter in the space between freedom and necessity. Free will is actually "movement" in a higher dimension, and one of those dimensions is the dimension of objective morality. Are Palestinians free to choose the Good? Hardly. If you do that, you will be murdered by another Palestinian.

Ironically, Bolton points out that in Islamic terminology, such beings are known as "saints of satan," that is, "authentic beings who are either evil or deranged, or both, but who have all the self-assurance of those who know themselves to be authentic."

In America, our problem is that half our population has no such-self assurance. For these totolerantarians reject the beautiful moral basis of our own civilization, but identify with the monstrous "authenticity" of the Palestinians. There is nothing like the "infectiousness of the morally unrepressed" (Becker) to get a liberal's heart pounding, since they are so free of everything liberals despise about themselves and their civilization.

Long day. Gotta run. Vote (remember, you can vote once a day):

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Only You Can Prevent the Apocalypse

Today's highly orthoparadoxical invocation:

For in the same being of God where God is above being and above distinction, there I myself was, there I willed myself and committed myself to create this man. --Eckhart

To summarize Bolton's position, the creation bifurcates out into fate (or nature) and providence, so that man represents the possibility of their re-union. In turn, man bifurcates out into body and intellect, the union of which is the soul.

Now, one way to understand cosmic evolution -- which recapitulates in miniature in man -- is to see it as the gradual mastering of fate (and the conquest of dimensionality, more on which later). As Bolton writes, "the moment when man arrives on earth he belongs to Fate, which leads him captive for a long time in the vortex of fatality." You might say that, with the Fall, we are cast naked into the fate stream with no canoe. Still, man "bears a divine seed within him which can never be entirely confounded" by fate.

Nevertheless, it will take mankind countless generations to master fate and slowly discover its destiny, both individually and collectively (individuals were able to do it long prior to any large collectives). From the Raccoon perspective, we look to history for certain easily identifiable points at which there was a tremendous influx of vertical energies to help lift us from fate to destiny. Some of these would be Abraham's failure to sacrifice Isaac, the downloading of the Torah, the Incarnation, the emergence of free markets, the American revolution, the Beatles' first appearance on Ed Sullivan, etc.

Eventually man is able to discover that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to life and liberty, which is to officially plant our colors on the side of destiny. It is to say that we are no longer controlled by fate. Leftism is, of course, the atavistic embrace of fate, i.e., passive victimhood, so it is hardly as if fate has been vanquished.

When the left talks about "freedom," it is necessarily in a highly limited way that paradoxically frees one to abandon oneself to fate. In other words, since they deny the higher realm -- the true object of our free will -- will is reduced to mere horizontal willfulness. It is will with no real freedom, since it denies the sufficient reason for our freedom, which is to know the absolute and govern ourselves accordingly. A will that is not lured by the good, true, and beautiful is not actually free, but a plaything of fate.

So, each of us "has the means to unite himself or herself in an equally natural way to either the Providential or Fatidic order" (Bolton). But again, genuine free will cannot belong to nature, but can only be understood as a gift of Providence. Therefore, our Founders were correct to insist that to deny God is to deny freedom. And as we have mentioned before, it is also ipso facto to deny the mind, which is the "internal space" of freedom's possibilities.

Which invites another paradox, in that only by becoming a "slave" to providence are we actually free. But really, this is no more paradoxical than saying that only by becoming a slave to truth do we gain wisdom. No one has ever gained wisdom by declaring his independence from truth, a sad fact to which our liberal universities offer abundant testimony. No. "The soul which aligns itself with Providence, and therefore with freedom, will thus be the one which realizes the possibilities of the spiritual nature to the fullest extent possible for the individual concerned" (Bolton).

Consider our dispute with the reductionistic Darwinians, who specifically deny Providence and believe they can fully account for man with recourse only to the realm of fate, or nature. Since real ontological freedom is necessarily abolished in this crude reduction, then so too is the possibility of truth -- which is again dependent upon freedom. In other words, if we are not intrinsically free to discover truth, then we can only know what we are fated to know -- which is no knowledge at all, just an extension of necessity.

Again, it is by aligning ourselves with Providence that we actualize our true freedom. This is why the "perfect prayer" includes the formula thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That's what it really really says. It even outlines the way in which this free will is actualized, that is, by assimilating each day our daily vertical bread.

In turn, this is why we must "resist temptation," which specifically refers to the horizontal world of fate, which operates through hypnosis, seduction, and temptation of those parts of ourselves that remain mired in fate, i.e., mind parasites. Again, a mind parasite is like a closed, unevolving, circular entity that goes on being by borrowing a piece of our subjectivity and "going into hiding" below the threshold of consciousness. It then enlists the objects and experiences it needs to continue its viral pseudo-life, or "living death." Only when you start to feel enslaved by your mind parasites are you beginning to break free of them. The most unfree people generally feel quite free, since they don't stir up trouble their mind parasites.

A truly free will would have to be "one," would it not? Since Wisdom is one, it can do all things (Wisdom 7:27). So long as one is inhabited by various sub-wills at cross-purposes with one another, that's a kind of perversion of freedom. It is as if the one will is "broken" into fragments that are then purloined by various subpersonalities. Generally speaking, the sicker the individual, the more autonomous and split off are the subpersonalities. Likewise, the healthier the individual, the more unified the will -- and therefore, the more real the freedom.

Looked at in this way, one can easily see how "the truth sets you free," because freedom is really a prolongation of truth. Again, if there were no truth, there would be absolutely no possibility of freedom, any more than art would be possible in the absence of beauty. Is an artist less free because he is a slave to beauty? Hardly. Beauty is a kind of breach in the fabric of nature through which celestial energies flow, and which always carry with them an ability to "transport" us to their source. In short, beauty is liberating. Haven't you ever noticed how enclosed and "hemmed in" you feel in an ugly environment?

This is also how I would feel in typical university -- and also, sad to say, in a typical church. If a church service doesn't give access to real truth, real freedom, and real beauty, then something has gone wrong. Its only reason for being can be to facilitate an experience in O, which is much deeper than any mere (k). Reduced to (k), religion is hardly better than scientism. Which is one reason why I prefer so many of the premodern theologians, whose minds and beings hadn't yet been hijacked by the cultural demands of a spiritually desiccated scientism.

Speaking of which, contemporary man stands at a crossroads. Which is nothing new, since we are always at that crossroads between fate and destiny, whether we know it or not. However, just as there are historical ingressions of vertical energies, we can equally see periods in which the tiller of history is seized by the horizontaloids. When that happens, the center cannot hold (the interior center being a reflection of the One), and a kind of hell is unloosed from below.

Here's how Bolton describes it: "as mankind fails to realize the role as Mediator, natural forces grow increasingly violent and chaotic, and disasters become more frequent. The Apocalypse is the final extreme of this disorder."

Don't think "it can't happen here," since it can only happen here. And only we are free to prevent it, since the unfree are its architects. (BTW, I'm using "apocalypse" in a more colloquial sense, as "ultimate cataclysm.")

Voice your support for cosmic freedom:

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Monday, January 05, 2009

On Being a Cosmic Bridge to Gnowhere (1.06.10)

Today's up-and-invOcation:

Human destiny is to hear and respond to God's speech in creation and thus, as the principium in the created universe, to draw all things back to their ultimate source. --Bernard McGinn

Back to our free associations on Self and Spirit. Just remember, these associations are going to be exceptionally free, and you get what you pay for. So don't compare me to all those merely conscious bloggers when you vote today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

Bolton puts forth the perennial idea that mankind is the mediator between God and nature, or creator and creation. Therefore -- this is me talking now -- human beings are surely creatures, but they cannot only be creatures, since we transcend our creaturehood even while being rooted in it. Transcendence is an ineluctable cosmic category that pretty much blows Darwin out of the water. Gosh!

That is, our transcendence of nature would be an inexplicable absurdity, not to mention a bizarre nuisance, if it were not connected to, and explained by, its own source, which is "above" not below. In other words, we cannot begin our metaphysics with human consciousness somehow "hovering over the face of the waters," like God in Genesis. That's just stupid.

You could say that in man there is a union of two natures that produces a third thing.

Now, at this point I am going to ask you to use your imagination, since I don't know how to reproduce the images in the book. Just imagine a triangle, with the base at the bottom and apex at the top. At the top is the divine-human archetype, or the One if you like. This bifurcates into the other two points of the triangle, which are male and female. In turn, the union of male and female produces a fourth thing. Thus, draw another triangle, this one the inverse of the above, with the apex now at the bottom. If you're still with me, God should be at the top and the baby at the bottom.

As I wrote in my book, the neurologically incomplete baby is not just the hinge of cosmic evolution, but the very point of entry for our humanness, the narrow neck through which we must all pass on the way to maturity.

As such, we have a novel way of understanding Bolton's observation that "the fourth element is in a sense a recapitulation of the first on a lower level, which also has some bearing on the meaning of childhood in relation to God." For the baby -- the divine child, as it were -- is indeed a sort of earthly analogue of God, in that he knows no boundaries, is innocent and "omnipotent," and embodies a kind of infinite potential. I don't think it is any coincidence whatsoever that the baby Jesus is so central to Christian iconography.

Another way of considering the same triangle is to place God at the top, only now bifurcating into providence (or destiny) and fate, or perhaps freedom (or chance) and necessity. Once again, place a second triangle below, with man representing the union of fate and providence.

Here again, this encapsulates the irreducible irony, as it were, of the human condition, which makes us simultaneously apes and/or gods, so to speak. How could one not laugh at the predicament? But once again, we see that the man below is an earthly analogue of God above. Man is the "cosmic baby," with all that implies. Like a baby, we are born with a kind of infinite potential (relatively speaking) that we may or may not fulfill. And to fulfill it, we must indeed "imitate the Creator," moron witch later.

Either way, we must somehow reconcile fate and providence. As Petey mentioned yesterday, "the stars incline, but do not compel." However, the Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement immediately stepped in to remind us that they do indeed compel in the absence of insight, or self-understanding. In short, as we discussed at length a couple of weeks ago, fate is precisely what interferes with our destiny. Or, to put it colloquially, if you remain on the path you're on, you're liable to end up where you're headed. Which could very well be a waste of a perfectly good cosmos. So if you see a fork in the transdimensional road, by all means take it.

Now, Bolton makes the interesting observation that Adam and Eve are created on the sixth and final day of creation, after the rest of the creatures (which, when you think about it, is entirely consistent with an evolutionary worldview, only in a higher key). As such, "on this basis, the human being can be taken to be resultant of divine action and the created natural order as a whole." Human beings are last because they are first; or first because they are last.

In any event, the point is that humans, and only humans, recapitulate the whole of creation within their very substance, which you might say is "two creatures" in one being. We are simultaneously fully animal and man, with two distinct wills with which we must grapple and try to reconcile. I forget the words they use, but Jewish metaphysics articulates this very precisely.

Which may well be why Freud came up with the idea of id and superego to talk about the lower and higher selves. "Id" is simply the German word for "it." We are all inhabited by the It, are we not? Usually, a mind parasite is a kind of unholy union of the It and a purloined piece of our subjectivity. Come to think of it, you could draw another triangle on that basis, which is why our mind parasites become the equivalent of "unconscious gods," if you will, or even if you don't.

There you go: Bolton notes that the lower realm (remember, human beings necessarily embody all realms) "represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul." In short, we must baptize the It (or make it kosher, I suppose).

Now, you could say that man was and is a cosmic necessity, in the sense that only he binds the higher and lower. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it: "Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another." Man's primary vocation is therefore "bridge builder," or "universal pontifex," "so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization."

Where does this leave Christ? I know, I know! Pick me!

Yes Dr. Bolton?

"[T]he mediation of Christ as Redeemer is both the prototype of man's cosmic mediation, as well as being the revealed basis of salvation."

It is in the cosmos of natural kinds that the fulness of the Being of the world must needs unfold and manifest itself, and man is the being in which this fulness becomes fulfilled and comes into its own. This is precisely the reason why God's absolute fulness of Being can choose man as the being and the vessel in which to reveal his own inner fulness to the world. --Hans Urs von Balthasar


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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Who Died and Left the Holy Spirit in Charge?

Since yesterday's repost promised "more on which tomorrow," here is the post that followed, now reedited with the magic of 20/∞ handsleight. Sorry about the length. What can I say? I'm just following orders.


So many interesting and sometimes touching comments yesterday. I can see that we'll probably dwell on this topic for awhile, because in a way, it is "everything." For if there is no vertical, no human ascent, and no divine descent, then there is no way out of this absurd and meaningless existence.

But thankfully, the cosmos is not a closed loop but an open circle -- or spiral -- with a way in, up and out: “The ‘good news’ of religion is that the world is not a closed circle, that it is not an eternal prison, that it has an exit and an entrance.... ‘Perdition’ is to be caught up in the eternal circulation of the world of the closed circle... [whereas] ‘salvation’ is life in the world of the open circle, or spiral, where there is both exit and entrance” (Meditations on the Tarot).

What do we mean by "vertical" and "descent?" When you think about it, most of our knowledge falls into the "as if" category. For example, we really have no way to visualize what's going on in the quantum world, but it is "as if" it sometimes behaves in a wave-like manner, other times like particles, depending upon how we look. In reality it is neither. These are just analogies to try to wrap our minds around what's going on "down" there.

"Down" is another one. Why is the subatomic world "below" our macro world? For that matter, why is the unconscious mind "below" the conscious, or the past "behind" the present? Sometimes merely tweaking your analogy brings new understanding. What if the unconscious is the past within the present, the realm of the unthought known? Is the mind a computer? Or is it a hyperdimensional organ? Is Iraq Vietnam? Or is radical Islam nazi Germany? Different analogy, different reality.

The fundamental axiom of esotericism, "as above, so below," actually applies to most of our knowledge, in the sense that, without even thinking about it, we resort to analogy to understand realms that are inaccessible to our senses. For example, there isn't really a genetic "code" or "blueprint." In reality it is neither of these manmade categories. Rather, it is what it is, which is entirely mysterious -- impossible, really. Likewise, time is a "river," but what is it really? Who knows? How can there be anything other than eternity?

It gets even more problematic when we try to discuss something as mysterious as the mind, for how could the mind -- which is the unThought container of everything -- ever contain itself? Here we can only use analogy -- which means in a sense that, on a meta-level, the mind is an analogy-making organ, or the very "link" between various dimensions and realms.

However, just as in religious disputes, you would be amazed at the academic fights that go on between people and their beloved analogies. It's easy for an ignoramus to ridicule the Christian world, which formally split in 1054 over the filioque controversy, but that is nothing compared to what goes on in the reified airheads of academia.

I got a real taste of this in my psychoanalytic training, a discipline that has many religious trappings. It has a founding prophet (Freud), a group of original disciples, a dogma, an orthodoxy, evangelism, a method of salvation, and various initiatory rituals. It eventually split into various hardened camps that were, for a time, quite hostile to one another. I've been out of that world for awhile, so I'm not up to date with the politics, but there was a time when the members of one school would dismiss the other school by saying that their members were "insufficiently analyzed" -- in short, that they only believed what they did because they were more or less crazy. This is very similar to one sect of Christianity saying that another is damned to perdition over this or that doctrinal difference.

And yet, it would be completely wrongheaded to take this as an excuse to descend into a wimpy syncretism or odious relativism. For I think we can agree that, whatever the mind is, it is what it is. It isn't any single one of our models, but neither is it all of them put together, i.e., integralism. The truth is nevertheless out there (to employ another analogy).

Yesterday I spoke of the "descent" of intelligence that occurred in me at age 29. Fortunately, it occurred at exactly the same time that I discovered the works of the British psychoanalyst W.R. Bion, which assured that my intelligence became a fluid thing instead of hardening into this or that dogma. For there is no end to the mischief created when intelligence mingles with some narrow and hopelessly partial viewpoint. When this happens, it is almost always for extra-epistemological reasons, usually narcissistic in nature, other times having to do with an emotional need for security or a failure of imagination. One way or another, mind parasites are providing the energy.

Human intelligence can only go so far before it becomes detached from imagination, so that people at the extreme high end of the IQ scale often lack imagination and become unbalanced spiritual cripples. Think of the typical proud MENSA type, whose IQ may be higher than yours, but who knows nothing about Spirit. They are essentially "idiot savants" with a warped and specialized perspective on reality. The same thing can happen in the other direction with an artist who has a brilliant imagination unmoored by the intellect or morality. The greatest art, such as Shakespeare, is infused with both the highest intelligence and deepest imagination.

But so too is the greatest science, for what is science but a "probe" that extends into the unKnown and allows us to think about reality in a fruitful and generative way? Good science makes you feel more alive to the mystery, whereas bad science always demystifiies the world. Remember, "mystery" is hardly an absence of knowledge. Rather, it is a means and a mode of knowledge, precisely. To be immersed in the mystery of being is not to be lost in an obscure cloud of ignorance. Rather, this mystery is the generative ground of all -- it is O.

As I have said before, most narcissists feel that they are in some way "special," and better than others. But the fact is, they usually are special in some area, whether it is looks, or musical skill, or academic brilliance. One's narcissistic pathology can easily attach itself to any of these gifts, so there are plenty of intellectuals whose intellect is more or less in the service of their narcissism and exhibitionism. As applied to spirituality, this combination is particularly deadly, for it ultimately means that one is covertly co-opting God for the glorification of one's own ego.

Now, it is axiomatic that God resists the proud. To a certain extent, those who know don't speak of it -- or do so with reluctance, or at least discretion -- and those who blab about it to just anyone don't know. There is even empirical research documenting the fact that people who truly have had transformative "peak experiences," or full on, life-changing ingressions of the vertical, rarely speak of them. For one thing, they have a sacred quality that brings with it an instinctive reluctance to cast pearls before swine. But this cannot be an absolute rule, or no one would speak of God! Nevertheless, it is a good rule of thumb. Those who eagerly and recklessly presume to speak for God are most likely talking through their hats. For one thing, one must be authorized to do so -- not by some earthly religious body, but from above. Here again we are touching on the subject of "descents."

The Gospels tell us almost nothing about Jesus' education, but it seems doubtful that he received any formal theological training. Nevertheless, when he first encounters the religious authorities, they are astounded by his ability to speak as "one who knows" -- with such intrinsic authority. From whence did this authority come? Clearly not from man or from any manmade institution. Rather, he was authorized "from above" (to say the least).

Now, you might ask, where does this leave Bob? Where does he get off speaking of these things? Who gave him the authority? That's a very good question. In my case, I am very aware of my limits. When my descent came, it came in the form of understanding. Suddenly, I understood spiritual reality in a way that I had previously only understood intellectually -- which is to say, did not understand. However, the only "authority" I possess is your understanding, as both come from the identical Spirit.

Thus, I do not feel that I am overstepping my bounds by merely trying to share -- never force, and never argue or try to convert -- my understanding with others. This is why I say it is more like singing. Not to say that I am an "artist," or anything like that. Rather, merely to say that it's not an intellectual thing. It just is what it is, and I'm glad some people enjoy it. If they don't, that's fine too. That's why I don't want to get into arguments with trolls. Nor do I wish to become known, except by a very narrow group of people. How to reach that group without exposure to the wrong types is an inevitable problem, but so far I can't really complain. We only get one or two trolls at a time, and the wrong types rapidly lose interest.

I might add that I certainly realize that I am not vertically authorized to be any kind of direct transmitter of grace -- a "guru" type person, as it were. Yes, you could say that this is like conceding that I am not God, but obviously, untold spiritual mischief is caused by people who overstep their boundaries and do just that. It's not so much that I am tempted to do this, but there is something within many people that tempts them to confer this gift upon others, which many spiritual frauds are quite happily identify with. There is no question that there are beings who are authorized to do this -- genuine saints and true theologians who are themselves transmitters of grace. But they are on an entirely different plane, and they are not to be confused with a money-grubbing psychopath such as Deepak Chopra.

But me? I humbly pray only for a deepening understanding and the ability to express it to others who might benefit from it -- to be the discussion leader. That is more than enough for me, because it keeps the descent alive by "prolonging" it into the horizontal on a daily basis. Plus, the feedback and comments flesh it out and make it all the more vividly present and real.

Speaking of my abject humility and desire for anonymity, don't forget to vote early and often, starting tonight at midnight (voting lasts for a week, and I think you can vote every day). Don't worry, we won't win, but we don't want to embarrass ourselves. Plus, at least a couple of those blogs are downright evil, from what I've seen. Let's just say "moral equivalence."

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

On Surrendering the Mind to its Source

Yesterday in a comment, I mentioned that our historical understanding and appreciation of liberty probably followed from actually living it in the form of free markets as opposed to thinking about it abstractly. In academia there is a huge bias toward the latter view, because the caste of the idle tenured can't help regarding itself as much less useless than it actually is.

You routinely read, for example, about how Descartes was responsible for our Western "body-mind dualism" because of his wisecrock, "I think, therefore I am" -- as if this abstract philosophical meme somehow trickled down to the masses, so that the farmers, artisans, and serfs all thought to themselves, "damn, the man may be French, but he's got a point. There's an extended substance. And a thinking substance. I guess the world is hopelessly fractured, since none of us are naive enough anymore to believe that God reconciles these two categories."

No, the reason the body-mind duality spread throughout the West is because that is what it feels like to have a mind! If you don't have much of a mind, then it's not going to be a problem, is it? Instead, you will likely resonate more to Popeye's ontology, i.e., "I am what I am."

As I've mentioned before, I've done psychiatric evaluations of people from all over the world, and there is no question that in certain cultures the individual barely emerges out of the collective -- even out of their own body, to be honest. They don't have the problem of the body-mind dualism because they don't possess the latter. They are shockingly free of what we would call insight, reflection, interiority, detachment, irony, etc. It's as if they do not live in their minds, but in their bodies. They are amazingly content to perform the most mindless and repetitive work -- in fact, in many ways, they are probably happier than the average American. They essentially don't think about things until something goes wrong with their body. Otherwise, "no brain, no problem" (like the old baseball adage, "don't think -- you'll hurt the ballclub").

[The other day, I had an interesting conversation about this very topic with an interpreter. She was from Buenos Aires, and quite sophisticated, but her job usually involved translating for the above type of "pre-mental" person. She enthusiastically agreed with my observations.]

I don't know about you, but I can think back to my own childhood, when this unified condition was the natural state. One just felt the conflict-free bliss of being alive, especially between, say, 7 and 12. By this time, your nervous system has completely come "on line." You can speak, you can play, you have an imagination, you have friends, and if you have good enough parenting, you have no problems except for the mindless drudgery of school. Existential problems don't really emerge again until puberty. Just when you get used to the world, you're plunged into a new one, with new thoughts, new relations, a new body.

[I read a beautiful passage by Balthasar yesterday: "At dawn, heaven and earth are still one. Earthly things are transfigured and become celestial, while the light of heaven has not yet appeared in all its particularity. Such is the dawn of youth, in which the spirit plays in the body unselfconsciously. When the sun climbs to the very zenith of midday, heaven and earth are fully separated." Of course, the goal of the Raccoon lifestyle is to reintegrate heaven and earth at a higher level.]

The latest research in developmental neurology explains why adolescence can be so difficult. As it so happens, it doesn't just feel like your brain is being disassembled. Rather, that's actually what happens. The brain literally disassembles and reassembles during the teen years. A particular problem for boys is that the part of the brain that you might label "impulsivity" or "risk-taking" is temporarily unplugged (or at least attenuated) from the higher part of the neocortex where the thing called "judgment" resides. Like the infant, the adolescent goes through life at the same time his brain is being rewired together. Throw in the surge of hormones -- which is especially powerful in girls -- and you have a potential recipe for disaster. In my case, I don't think "judgment" and "impulse" were fully reintegrated in my brain until I was about 26.

Now coincidentally, Will mentioned in a comment yesterday that "most people are not really ready for college until they're about 24 - 26 years old. That's the age when the 'I-relate-everything-to-myself-and-my-emotions' fixation starts to dwindle. A bit." As it so happens, that is exactly how it was for me. Although I started college at 17, I couldn't have been less prepared. I faked my way through five semesters of junior college, but when I transferred to the state university, the game was over. I struggled through one semester but just stopped going in the middle of the second.

Around the same time, I had begun working as a retail clerk, which I continued doing for the subsequent 12 years, until 1988, the same year I completed my Ph.D. In between, I returned to college when I was 23. Looking back on it, I can see that a certain intellectual "awakening" was beginning to dawn, much to my surprise. It became markedly stronger when I was 26, but was like a sudden explosion at 29. By that time I was in graduate school, but it is important to point out that this explosion had nothing to do with school.

Furthermore, it had nothing to do with me, and was something over which I had no control, any more than I controlled the rate of growth of my body. Rather, it was the emergence of an independent and relatively autonomous developmental line, a process unto itself, one that I imagine most people ignore, either because by that age they are already on a fixed career path, or because their life became derailed much earlier.

It was literally an "opening" in my soul, accompanied by a flood of ideas, insights and connections that went well beyond anything I had formally learned in school, or any capacities I had even remotely possessed up to that time. It was really a new way of life and of Being. To a certain extent, if you can picture it, it was like a descent of pure intelligence without form or content. Naturally, given my meager academic history, this was totally unexpected, but I see now that it was precisely the absence of content that contributed to my plasticity in assimilating this force. [Indeed, it reminds me of Future Leader's freakishly good memory, which I imagine is partly a result of the fact that his brain is so empty and uncluttered, like a brand new computer.] I began reading voraciously and widely in the effort to provide some "content" to this seeming "force." I needed my mind to catch up with my new-found intelligence. [Only then did I start importing a lot of nonsense along the way!]

Why am I bringing this up? Several reasons. First, I'm wondering if anyone else out there has had similar experiences of "descents" and "awakenings?" I'm guessing that many Raccoons have similar stories to share.

I think it is fair to say that by this time, I had reached the "summit of intelligence." Now please, don't get me wrong here, for I am hardly making any special claim for myself. I think most "intellectuals" reach the summit of intelligence by one path or another, meaning that there is essentially nothing in the realm of worldly ideas that they cannot understand. The world of profane "intelligence" is basically open to them. Much will depend upon the character of the person, the content with which they fill out their intelligence, and their motives in doing so. For intelligence, more often than not, is in the service of a bad end or a bad egg. Obviously, intelligence itself in no way correlates with truth. Look at Noam Chomsky, for example. He is obviously at the summit of intelligence. You can even say he's genius if you like. But what good is the intelligence, when it exists in a parallel looniverse of lies, hatred, and paranoia? The smarter the person, the more catastrophic will be their error!

Throughout history people have reached the summit of intelligence, just as countless artists have achieved the summit of beauty. This is why the ancient Greeks still intrigue us. Someone like Plato was already at the summit of intelligence over 2,000 years ago. As Whitehead said, Western philosophy since then is basically a footnote on Plato -- which is not so much a tribute to Plato as an ackowledgement that pure intelligence, like artistic perfection, cannot surpass itself. One person becomes a Hegelian, another becomes a logical positivist, another becomes a deconstructionist. It doesn't really matter. It's just pure intelligence imagining it can surpass itself and know the one truth on a plane where it is intrinsically impossible to do so.

Something similar to a descent of pure intelligence occurred to Sri Aurobindo. In his case, he didn't remain stuck there, but immediately saw through its limitations. He did not see it as an end, merely a realm that had to be infused with a higher spirit in order to attain its proper end.

The best introduction to Sri Aurobindo is The Adventure of Consciousness, by Satprem. In it, Satprem describes Aurobindo's recognition of the limits of the intellect: "The day came when Sri Aurobindo had had enough of these intellectual exercises. He had probably realized that one can go on amassing knowledge indefinitely, reading and learning languages, even learning all the languages in the world and reading all the books in the world, and yet not progressing an inch. For the mind does not seek truly to know, even though it appears to -- it seeks to grind. If by chance the machine were to come to a stop because knowledge had been obtained, it would soon rise up in revolt and find something new to grind, just for the sake of grinding and grinding."

Now, notice two things; first, Aurobindo had achieved the summit of intelligence, which essentially leaves one on a plane where the endless circles of deconstruction and synthesis are inevitable, with no nonlocal vector to guide them to their proper end in Truth as such. In other words, deconstruction is simply intelligence playing with the same facts to come up with radically disparate conclusions. Equally intelligent people can easily be on one side or the other of a particular dispute, or even arrive at opposite ideologies. For the "integralist," the task is to admit the truth of each and to "integrate" them. Thus, for example, we must integrate "left" and "right," since plenty of equally intelligent people adhere to each.

But this is not the path to truth. Unless intelligence is infused with the descent of a higher light, it will forever remain on its own partial plane. More on which tomorrow. In any event, I am curious to hear from others who have had this experience of a sudden opening, or "descent," of intelligence, followed by the descent of something surpassing it, and which begins to shape and reform intelligence for its own higher ends.

Here again, just yesterday I read a relevant passage by Balthasar, who speaks of "the moment when one's own inspiration mysteriously passes over into inspiration through the genius, the daimon, or the indwelling god, a moment when the 'spirit that contains the god' obeys a superior command which as such implies form and is able to impose form." This is impossible in the absence of true faith (o), through which the person divests himself "of any intent to give himself shape, who makes himself available as matter for the divine action."

Friday, January 02, 2009

When Two Tingles Intermingle (1.03.10)

Today's meisterful invOcation:

Poised between two forms of nothingness, the nihil by way of eminence that is God, and the nihil that marks the defect of creatures, Eckhart's mystical way will be an invitation to the soul to give up the nothingness of the created self in order to become the divine Nothing that is also all things. --Bernard McGinn

Continuing with yesterday's post, Bolton concludes that "dualism would appear to be an intellectual image of the cosmic order." I would prefer a term such as "generative complementarity," which is to be distinguished from a static dualism by virtue of the fact that the former is capable of evolving into the "higher third," thus converting existence from the closed circle to the open spiral, or.... what's the word, Jeeves? Yes, an asymptotic gyre.

In most cases, we can see that a stubborn dualism that we'd like to get rid of is a complementarity that we need to work with. Of course, that is not always the case, for one side of a duality can be a negation, rather than complement, of the other; for example, leftism is the negation of classical liberalism, not its complement, much less any kind of "progressive" integration. Similarly, feminism ends up creating masculinized women and feminized men, and is the death of the dynamic tension that.... that.... Let's just let Frank describe it:

How little we know / how much to discover / what chemical forces flow / from lover to lover / How little we understand / what touches of that tingle / that sudden explosion / when two tingles intermingle

Indeed. That is an example of complementarity. But we all know that relationships can descend into the static dualism, or "drama," that many people confuse with generativity:

The broken dates, the endless waits / the lovely loving and the hateful hates / the conversation with the flying plates / I wish I were in love again / Believe me sir, I much prefer / the classic battle of a him and her / I don't like quiet and I wish I were / in love again

Yes, who among us hasn't had the conversation with the flying plates? Isn't that why the trolls come here? They're not here to con-verse, which means to "flow together." Rather, they are here to stir up contro-versy, which means to "flow against" in their characteristic unDude manner. Our most recent anonymous troll couldn't stop throwing around the plate in his head.

The possibility of knowledge hinges on the dualism of phenomena and noumenon. To "know" means to shorten the distance, or close the gap, between appearances and reality. (As we shall see later, the reverse is true for "spiritual progress," in that the closer one draws to God, the more one appreciates the distance.) It seems that Truth bifurcates into these two realms, which it must do on pain of having no creation at all. Paradoxically -- but not really -- you could say that existence itself is the first "fall," since it is a descent from the Principle. But don't sweat it. Eternity is still in love with the productions of time.

Obviously, it is impossible for us to imagine what the cosmos looks like "with no one there." The possibility of knowledge presupposes not just a knower, but a particular point of view, a "separation of the subjective and objective components of perception" (Bolton).

But this split is not a pernicious one, nor can science ever heal it. Rather, I agree with Polanyi that the separation of subject and object creates a generative transitional space in which our understanding may evolve into deeper and more comprehensive syntheses of reality. Thus, the practice of science can be seen as a kind of shadow of infinite truth, except that, unlike mysticism, it can never reach the goal.

Still, as Bolton says, dualism "enables us to go abroad while staying at home. All that is 'out there' is at the same time 'in here,'" meaning that science is simultaneously a deepening of the objective and subjective horizons -- so long as one doesn't regard the external world in the naive manner of the bonehead materialist or reductionistic Darwinian. As we always say, consciousness reveals more about Darwinism than Darwinism will ever reveal about consciousness. If you remember this, you can accept any findings of Darwinism without being caught in its pneumacognitive nets.

Bolton agrees that representation "commits us to the idea of a Representer, and this is what is normally identified with the soul." Furthermore -- and this is a key point -- "for the soul, the body and the whole physical world which the body belongs to, appear as content. While the body is essentially something contained, the soul is essentially a container of phenomena." As such, the "complete I" includes "the world-containing and world-representing soul," and "the world, as it appears from one's own unique point of view, is in a real sense a part of one's identity" (emphasis mine).

This makes perfect sense to me, because we all know how dramatically different the world appears when we are depressed, or in love, or an atheist. Each of these conditions allows one to "see" realities that might otherwise be foreclosed. For example, I do not deny that atheism discloses something about reality, just as does depression. If nothing else, they teach us that we always transcend the content of experience, for when we return to normal, we see that we had been living with blinders on, which is another way of being dead.

One thing we must be aware of is the ubiquitous societal pressure to see and experience the world in materialistic terms, which is to die to God for the sake of the world, rather than vice versa. Balthasar:

"[N]aked matter remains an indigestible symbol of fear and anguish. Since nothing else remains, and yet something must be embraced, twentieth-century man is urged to enter this impossible marriage with matter, a union which finally spoils man's taste for love. But man cannot bear to live with the object of his impotence, that which remains permanently unmastered. He must either deny it or conceal it in the silence of death."

God gives himself to man as far as that is possible, and it is only possible to the extent that the individual being is a world-containing entity with endless extension described above.... In short, there must be some common measure between the recipient and the received. When the human state is seen in this light, it will not be difficult to proceed to the idea of man as God's mediator in the world. --Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit

Then again, as Saint Teresa of Ávila might have said of the Groom, So long as you kiss me / and the world around us shatters / How little it matters / how little we know.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

None of This Post is True! (1.01.10)

Just a dashed-off verticalisthenic that I didn't think I'd be able to finish. But the boy slept in until 8:30, so here it is... It's a bit rambly, but then again, you can be sure that it's Oven fresh...

We'll start with a couple of pneumanautical observations:

God is distinguished by his indistinction from any other distinct things...--Meister Eckhart

"Eckhart was obviously fascinated by the question of what we think we are doing when we attempt to speak about God. In one sense, his whole surviving corpus is an exploration of this issue. Why is speech necessary when silence is more fitting?" (McGinn).

You might say that Eckhart picks up where Aquinas himself left off, in the abysmal silence at the beginning and end of all verbalization; which is why he could say that "the Word which is in the silence of the fatherly Intellect is a Word without word, or rather a Word above every word." In the beginning -- or at the Origin, to be precise -- is the wordless Word, or pure spirit-breath hovering over the face of the deep.

Now, is this true? No, not really. It just removes some of the barriers to falsehood.

I was reading some Balthasar again yesterday, and he was essentially emphasizing a point also made by Schuon, to the effect that if you do not first appreciate the infinite chasm between you and God, you cannot possibly appreciate the unity; for the difference is a fact, while the similarities are merely analogical. In other words, there is always an "as if" component to our divine likeness. To deny this is to engage in a monstrous breach of spiritual etiquette, to say the least. After all, even to say "I and the Father are One," is to equally say "One is I and the Father." Or, you could say that "three's company and One's a crowd."

Here again, the metaphysical implication of this would be a kind of irreducible dualism, as argued by Bolton in Self and Spirit: "Arguably the duality of soul and God could be an ultimate reality.... There are in fact profound reasons for the duality of God in relation to the soul, which are only ignored because of prevailing habits of thought."

I always chuckle when someone expresses the cliche that we only believe in dualism because of what some philosopher said 400 years ago. It's like arguing that we only believe in, say, the reality of time, because Hegel said it was a mode of the infinite. That's giving way too much credit to intellectuals. But that's what intellectuals do -- i.e., give way too much credit to themselves and each other. For example, as I have argued in the past, liberty had to first be "lived" before it could be discovered and developed as an abstract value. Here you see an important point, that incarnation precedes cogitation.

Bolton agrees that "when we attribute the influence of Dualism to Descartes, we are implicitly attributing to him the power of imposing his peculiar way of thinking on a whole civilization for three centuries.... In reality, this kind of power is so rare that it is usually considered an attribute of the founders of religions, not of philosophers."

Rather, Descartes simply identified "a certain element in the way in which human minds have always worked, and create[d] a system around it." After all, consciousness and matter are so profoundly different, that no one has to press the point. The trick is in trying to understand how they relate.

This reminds me of something Richard Weaver wrote, to the effect that the denial of religion always conceals a denial of mind. Here again, Bolton agrees that "the denial of Dualism means in practice a denial of consciousness itself, and the modern philosophers who argue for this are arguing for something which not only most people do not believe, but which they themselves do not believe except, perhaps, in the lecture room."

In reality, as it pertains to the manner in which we actually live, consciousness is quite literally everything, for "it is the container and basis of phenomena as such." No "theory of everything" will ever account for the person who understands it, why he wants to tell others about it, or how it is even possible to cause "understanding" in another subject -- whatever that is. The moment you understand the theory, you've breached the unity.

If we are going to ditch dualism, then we had better come up with a more adequate substitute, not merely a philosophy that unexplains everything dualism explained. After all, we only know that there are objects of consciousness because there are objects and consciousness. Therefore, any denial of dualism necessarily begins in dualism, or else there is no knower and no possibility knowledge, "as if the Cheshire cat's grin really could remain when the cat was gone" (Bolton).

Still, there is a way out of this duality coonundrum. In my view, there are certain irreducible dualities in the cosmos. Furthermore, I have always suspected that they are all somehow related, or perhaps reflections of some primordial meta-duality. I am thinking of the One and many, time and eternity, absolute and infinite, male and female, wave and particle, part and whole, form and substance, individual and group, subject and object, conscious and unconscious, and a few others.

Some might suggest that the brain is therefore a kind of "duality generator," but Bolton argues that the brain evolved long before we had anything to say about it, "under cosmic conditions which had the power to determine the form of the brain in accordance with their own nature." In short, the objective structure of the brain reveals something objectively true about the subjective nature of reality -- or about the inner nature of the ultimate Subject.

To be continued....