Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pneumababble, the Crock in the Cosmic Egg, and the Word Made Fresh

I've descended into the living hull of the knowa's arkive and emerged with my olden pneumagain pick O the week, your molden oldie from a bygone daze.


Again we return to the Word, or the mystery of language. How to deploy language to achieve God as opposed to eclipsing God? How to use language rather than being used by it? For one can laterally talk of God all naught and deity without actually doing so, whether one is religious or very much so. This is why so much religious talk is precisely meaningless, because it attempts float on the ocean of Spirit with dinghy lingos that are allwetty fool of themselves. Pure pneumababble!

Almost as mythterious as language's ability to smuggle truth across the frontier of our skin boundaries is its capacity to institutionalize nonsense. One would think that "experts" in language would be immune to this problem, but expertise in any area often comes down to an agreed upon system of high-flown prejudices. It's more of an ideological hackupational gatekeeping system for the tenured than a kennel of truth. This can especially be embarked upon with houndsight. Naturally, materialistic (k)nines and lingy dingos enjoy ridiculing certain religious beliefs, but the catalogue of doggerel promulgated by these scientific yap dogs is no less flaw-bitten. Woof!

After all, science changes. It is one human activity in which you know ahead of time that you are wrong. Science deals in hypotheses and tentative conclusions, all built upon a convenient set of assumptions that are methodologically necessary but easily proven to be metaphysically incoherent. By definition these conclusions are bound to change. This is its virtue. In order to even think about reality, science must deal in models of reality, and it is always tempting to reify the abstract model and confuse it with the underlying reality. Real reality will always elude the grasp of science. But this hardly means that it eludes the grasp of Man, who always knows more than he can say, at least when he isn't saying more than he knows.

By contrast with science, religion deals with the timeless and eternally true. The problem is, how does one employ language in such a way that it does not relativize the absolute and reduce it to a "figure of speech?"

As Schuon wrote, "God likes to shatter and to renew forms or the husks of things; for He wants our hearts and is not content with our actions alone." You might say that God perpetually shatters speech, despite our best efforts to put it back together. Or as Joyce -- someone who knew an itsy bitsy about the allforabit -- put it, "And even if Humpty shell fall frumpty times as awkword again, there'll be iggs for the brekkers come to mournhim, sunny side up with care."

In an essay entitled The Gift of Language, the esteemed Theodore Dalrymple easily dismantles one of the orthodoxies of linguistics, the idea that language can be reduced to genetics. Here is a fine example of how an intellectually gifted outsider with common sense can see straight through the absurdity of this or that reigning dogma or catechism. The absurdity can be seen directly by the intellect, because the intellect is made of truth and for this reason can detect pure nonsense when it sees it.

Dalrymple's experience of performing psychiatric evaluations of certain less articulate souls exactly parallels mine. He writes that,

"With a very limited vocabulary, it is impossible to make, or at least to express, important distinctions and to examine any question with conceptual care. My patients often had no words to describe what they were feeling, except in the crudest possible way, with expostulations, exclamations, and physical displays of emotion. Often, by guesswork and my experience of other patients, I could put things into words for them, words that they grasped at eagerly. Everything was on the tip of their tongue, rarely or never reaching the stage of expression out loud. They struggled even to describe in a consecutive and logical fashion what had happened to them, at least without a great deal of prompting. Complex narrative and most abstractions were closed to them."

I am well familiar with the type of person he is describing. Now, both of us -- the patient and myself -- inhabit the identical reality, do we not? No, we don't. This is another area where multiculturalism crashes against the rocks of reality. As I have said before, mental illness is a private culture, whereas culture is more or less a public mental illness (I oppose culture, which is particular, to civilization, which is universal but can take various forms). Human beings are not the same, because although biology takes each of us to the shore of humanness, it is only language -- or, let us say, the Word -- that allows us to stand firmly on dry ground, continue the journey upward and inward, and literally "colonize" more of consciousness.

Consider the patient described above. Like all human beings, he is "conscious" and he possesses "speech." But how much consciousness has he actually conquered with speech? I would suggest that, just like a primitive people, he inhabits a tiny island that he confuses with the whole of reality -- at least until he encounters the wider world. Then he will either remain stupid -- with the assistance of liberals who tell him that his little world is as good as any other -- or he will try to get off the island.

Or sometimes the plantation. This is the vast difference between, say, a Thomas Sowell and a Jesse Jackson. Jackson is a bitter slave living on a tiny plantation, whereas Sowell has long since emancipated himself and hightailed it for the north (the vertical, as it were). Yes, both are "men," but this designation often conceals as much as it reveals. As Aristotle said, "the soul is all that it knows," which is another way of saying that a man is all the consciousness he has colonized.

When it comes to human beings, there are island men, citified men, worldly men, cosmic men, and fully bi-cosmic men, or Raccoons. Naturally, the island man has no way of knowing when he is dealing with one of the others, but the cosmic or bi-cosmic man knows in an instant the pneumagraphical boundaries of the person with whom he is dealing.

The old coonerism that "words are not merely words" contradicts all linguistic orthodogmacy (a "coonerism" is something a Raccoon is born knowing -- it is part of his non-genetic "soul inheritance"). Our spacy-age linguistic elites maintain that "every child, save the severely brain-damaged and those with very rare genetic defects, learns his or her native language with perfect facility, adequate to his needs. He does so because the faculty of language is part of human nature, inscribed in man’s physical being, as it were, and almost independent of environment" (Dalrymple).

The expert linguisitors further proclaim that language "is an inherent biological characteristic of mankind rather than a merely cultural artifact. Moreover, language itself is always rule-governed; and the rules that govern it are universally the same, when stripped of certain minor incidentals and contingencies that superficially appear important but in reality are not" (Dalrymple).

It is this kind of thinking that inevitably leads to the idea that ebonics is as good as the language of Shakespeare. Why not? Who are we to judge? It's just hardware. Like opinions and a**holes, everybody's got one. It's standard issue.

Again, consider how educated one must be to adhere to such nonsense. Only someone very stupid or very educated could possibly believe such a thing. And yet, they do believe it:

"It follows that no language or dialect is superior to any other and that modes of verbal communication cannot be ranked according to complexity, expressiveness, or any other virtue. Thus, attempts to foist alleged grammatical 'correctness' on native speakers of an 'incorrect' dialect are nothing but the unacknowledged and oppressive exercise of social control -- the means by which the elites deprive whole social classes and peoples of self-esteem and keep them in permanent subordination. If they are convinced that they can’t speak their own language properly, how can they possibly feel other than unworthy, humiliated, and disenfranchised? Hence the refusal to teach formal grammar is both in accord with a correct understanding of the nature of language and is politically generous, inasmuch as it confers equal status on all forms of speech and therefore upon all speakers" (Dalrymple).

Here is a fine example of how leftists, as always, believe they are the magnanimous "liberators" when they are actually the oppressors of mankind. They have the idiotic notion they are somehow "anti-imperialist" or "anti-colonialist," when they are specifically colonizing these poor souls with their own parasitic postmodern ideology. By forcing people to live on their little cultural and linguistic islands, they aren't "liberating" anyone. Rather, they are enslaving them. Intellectually and spiritually, a Cornell West or a Harry Belafonte is an abject slave. Likewise, the purpose of an organization such as CAIR is to enslave Muslims, just as the purpose of the NAACP is to enslave blacks, largely through the use of an oppressive and narrow language that sharply limits, defines, and contains reality.

In his essay, Dalrymple proceeds to pick apart one of the world's leading linguists, Steven Pinker. Again, he is able to do this because the intellect can know truth directly. It does not require a study or a consensus of experts to do this. I do not believe Dalrymple is a religious man -- after all, he is European. Nevertheless, he is obviously a "Raccoon without portfolio," for he sees directly into the truth of complex subjects in such a way that he is able to bypass the "experts."

Science vs. religion. I ask you: what is more nutty, the statement, "In the Beginning was the Word," or “Language is qualitatively the same in every individual," or "men are as naturally equal in their ability to express themselves as in their ability to stand on two legs," or “once you begin to look at language as a biological adaptation to communicate information, it is no longer as tempting to see language as an insidious shaper of thought.” What is the kookier notion, the idea that man is made of truth because the primordial word is naturally capable of becoming flesh, or the statement that “When it comes to linguistic form, Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the head-hunting savage of Assam”?

Experts say that the idea of one form of language being superior to another is "a pernicious illusion.... Trifling differences between the dialect of the mainstream and the dialect of other groups... are dignified as badges of ‘proper grammar.’” To believe otherwise makes you a contemptible linguistic imperialist, no doubt a racist to boot. In fact, standard English is simply "one of those languages that 'is a dialect with an army and a navy.'” In other words -- in keeping with the abiding leftist faith that all relations may ultimately be reduced to blind power -- the grammatically correct schoolmarms to whom Pinker objects "are in fact but the linguistic arm of a colonial power -- the middle class -- oppressing what would otherwise be a much freer and happier populace" (Dalrymple).

Oh, expert texpert stinking Pinkers, don't you think the joker winks at you? Ho ho ho, he, he he, ha, ha, ha? See how we grin like Coons in a den, see how we smile!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Four-Dimensional Bowling, Sensible Footwear, and the Metaphysics of Death

What would be the nature of the resurrection body? What would it "look" like? Would it be me at 28? 49? 77? A combination of all multiples of seven?

One approach is to consider the nature of the self, which you might think of as a hyperdimensonal object that necessarily discloses its nature within the container of linear time, "one piece at a time." On a personal level, this soulprint is our "alpha and omega," the secret map of our existence. Maurice Nicoll has an interesting way of thinking about it, following along the lines of Hermetic tradition:

"think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave; grasp in your thought all this at once, all times and places, all substances and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God" (in Bolton).

Thinking of the problem in this way allows us to get beyond the veil of time and to catch a glimpse of what it would truly mean to be an image of the One who is beyond (and the source of) space and time. It is not so much that it is an either/or proposition; rather, this nonlocal and "universalized form of identity integrates our individual natures with a world of objective realities," and represents a "necessary supplement" to our natural, or local identity.

For one thing, it shows how the past can be preserved -- how "previous states of being still really exist in objective reality, even though they are not perceptible by our time-bound senses" (Bolton). Sense perception is what affixes us to the present moment, which "is why it is always deceptive if taken for anything like a complete representation of reality." We must use time, not be used up by it.

You could say that time forms the basis of our local subjectivity, and moors it down below. I'm trying to think of an appropriate metaphor... maybe it will come to me later. But Bolton points out that "the illusion of temporality can be overcome when we perceive the passage of time as a movement through a fourth dimension" where "there are no distinctions between past, present, and future." It would be like, say, a history book, which externally looks like an object; but internally, you can see that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, all mutually copresent.

Indeed, human beings have their own history book, known as the unconscious. It is the unconscious that provides the deep continuity to our life, since one of its characteristics is that it is "timeless." There, hidden away in the unconscious, is our infancy, our childhood, every personally significant experience we have ever had. It is always holographically resonating with the present moment to produce -- or disrupt -- "meaning." (It is also what creates the "false meaning" of, say, an obsession, or paranoia.)

In fact, as I have written before, I think it is misleading to refer to "the" unconscious, since every waking moment is a product of the dialectic, or complementarity, between conscious and unconscious. For example, if you enter psychoanalytic therapy, you are basically talking to someone who is trained to observe and interpret the "underside" of your verbalizations and experiences, when you are accustomed to seeing only the "top." Materialists, atheists, and other shallow types are usually precisely the people who overvalue the surface and know nothing about their own unconscious (which again, extends both "up" and "down"; transpersonality extends in both directions).

Change is always relative. When we say we have changed, the question is, "relative to what?" Thinking again of psychotherapy, if it is successful, we want the person to be able to say that he has changed in such a way that he is "more himself." Here we can see that the change we seek is incomprehensible in the absence of the changeless, i.e., that personal blueprint alluded to above.

But at the same time, once we have made contact with this higher self and begun to live our lives from this new psychic center, time takes on more of a "flowing" quality, in that it becomes the mode of our actualization instead of the graveyard of our hopes and aspirations. It begins to be seen as the very substance of life, rather than merely the ineluctable train track to our doom.

Looked at in this way, you could say that we must not allow time to be our container. Rather, we must see that the real container is the nonlocal self. And since it is a higher dimensional object, it obviously cannot be completely contained within time, any more than a sphere can be contained in a plane. So it is not so much that time is the "great destroyer"; rather, as Bolton observes, "what is destroyed or ceases to be is only as much of the object as can be contained in the moment," which isn't much. The destruction "has no effect on this object in its other places along the fourth dimension." So, "not only are we invisible as spiritual beings," but "by far the greater part of our physical being is also invisible because only an element of it can be visible at any one time."

The only reason we have a personal memory is because it is a reflection of what you might call "cosmic memory." Science obviously operates on this basis, in that our cosmic past is encoded in the present, to such an extent that it can be interpreted so as to disclose "events" that took place all the way back to the horizontal "beginning."

Just so, the purpose, say, of Genesis, is to show that echoes of the vertical origin (as opposed to beginning) are everywhen and -where present: paradise, temptation, fall, talking snakes, etc. Genesis is a hyperdimensional text par excellence. How could it be otherwise?

Speaking of hyperdimensional books, Bolton notes that "Death, or what we call the end of life, could thus only be the end of a person in the way that the last page of a book is the end of the book." It is only the end of the line, not the sphere.

Even if we view the emergence of man solely in naturalistic terms, from "the bottom up," it nevertheless can be shown that the human mind is the cosmos' first hyperdimensional organ. To say that it is somehow the result of our linear senses is pretty much unalloyed lizard droppings. Rather, it's the other way around: the senses are always deployed by a subject who is their a priori unification in a higher dimension.

The point is that our mind is an "organism," but strictly a transtemporal organism that unifies "all our past momentary selves in both their mental and physical states" in order to "form a single continuous organism with what we are now." Which is why "our present psycho-corporeal state is in dialogue with all we have been before." And which is also why the past can be altered, as in psychotherapy. It becomes altered by properly metabolizing it in the present.

I see that Bolton gets the point: "We assume that the present state of the self can thus heal earlier ones because they really exist in union with what we are now." It obviously works in reverse as well, which is why our past can muck up the present and ruin our quality of life. It is also why you can kill your own future, even to eternity.

So, when we reach the end of the line, we exit, or "withdraw" from time. Which is apparently like removing a tight pair of shoes. Or so ve have heard from the vice.

Rishi does it. Take your shoes off and set a spell. Relux & call it a deity. --The Coonifesto

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It is Not Good that God Should be Allone

Just as creation, for Eckhart, is a continuous and eternal process, so too the Word taking on flesh is not a past event we look back to in order to attain salvation, but rather is an ever-present hominification of God and deification of humanity and the universe -- an incarnatio continua. --Bernard McGinn

Bolton notes that "it is generally agreed that the union of the soul with God is the goal of religion, and that its highest forms are the subject of mystical writings." However, "there is much less agreement about the exact nature of the union." Again, for monistic religions, the union could be represented by an equation to the effect that Reality = existence - you. In short, if you're not part of the dissolution, you're the problem. Not a very good deal, IMO.

But in Christianity, mystical experience represents "a union between real persons." In this case, the equation would be something to the effect that Father + Son = Reality. Or again, infinite + finite = true infinite.

In order to mediate this deuspute, we must meditate on the true meaning of union and of person, for union cannot merely be an indistinct blending of substances, nor can it come about as a result of the elimination of persons. Let's say I build a nuclear device powerful enough to utterly reduce the world to its molecular components. Would the result be "closer" or more distant from God? After all, in so doing, we've gotten rid of all the egos, and made the world truly "one."

Or, consider how they treat women in the Islamic world. Being that the face is the externalization of our unique interior soul, those cultures attempt to suppress this uniqueness by concealing it in a black bag. As a result, any woman becomes all women, and all women are any woman. Is this denial of uniqueness and individuation a good thing?

On the other hand, in the West, we have gotten to the point that we vastly overvalue the existentially detached individual who has lost contact with his archetypal, or principial, manhood. In other words, mere individualism is also of little use if it devolves into a hypertrophied cosmic narcissism existing for its own sake. Rather, the true meaning and purpose of individuation can only be appreciated in a dialectical relationship with God, the Subject of subjects and Person of persons.

This is not that different from the manner in which the child can only flourish and actualize his humanness in the dialectical space between child and adult. Child and adult are not merely "stages of growth," nor is "adult" a kind of isolated endpoint of development. Rather -- and this has become much more evident to me with fatherhood -- child and adult mutually define and amplify one another (which is one reason why teen motherhood is generally such a catastrophe, because it is a relationship between babies).

In having a child, I have become more "adult," even while -- or because of -- actualizing a kind of deeper contact with my own inner child. A parent who cannot tolerate his inner child, or who has lost contact with it, will be a poor parent. Equally destructive are parents who cannot tolerate their children's separation, so the child is not allowed to discover himself and individuate from the parent.

I see this all the time -- parents and children who are "one," but in an entirely pathological way. I am reminded of Deion Sanders, who was going through a divorce a few years back. A sportscaster asked him if it would be a distraction during the season, and he responded with words to the effect of, "Nah. It ain't like it's family or nothin'."

This is no joke, because healthy parenting will actualize a real person who is separate from you, partly because the good parent recognizes from the outset that their child is an autonomous soul who must be treated with the intrinsic dignity owed to a person.

But the bad parent sees the child as an extension of him- or herself, and doesn't permit real individuation. This reverses the flow of evolution and leads to psychohistorical stagnation. After all, if children loved their parents as much as parents loved their children, that would be the end of development, because everyone would marry their mother (or compulsively rebel against her, which amounts to the same thing). And of course, many, if not most, people symbolically do just that, as Freud discovered over a century ago.

Transposed to the key of Spirit, perhaps we can learn something about the relationship between Father and Son, who are "one" and yet distinct. Bolton notes that "Union is by definition only possible between similars, not between things which differ absolutely, and in the present case, the difference between God and creature is more extreme than between any two finite entities." Again, the easy way out is to just eliminate that which is "not God," but that "is merely a denial of the real problem, because on this basis, union qua union [of persons] would be void of content."

Bolton sees the solution in a distinctly Raccoonish sort of way, basing it on two interrelated principles, first, that the Whole is present in every part, and second, that every level and possibility of God will be actualized (i.e., in God there is no distinction between his potentiality and actuality). Therefore, if man is the image of God and a microcosm of being, he is ultimately.... darn, I wish I could reproduce that symbol in my book. But just imagine O with a point at the center. That's us. Note that each of us connotes a remote little boat afloat upon the wider moat of Universal being, quote unquote.

But before we gloat, we must remember the goat of the story, Adam. As a consequence of the Fall, Bolton says that man's "individual created nature was no longer integrated with its spiritual center." However, "despite the consequent corruption of human nature, the divine spark was not affected in itself, but only in its relation to the personality." But luckily for us, "grace is always able to reactivate it," thereby resuscitating our little mystical-intellectual pilot light.

Now, this movement represents nothing other than our evolution to God's involution. Other animals do not really evolve, but remain fixed on their particular archetypal plane. They participate in God's "procession," but not his "reversion." As Bolton explains, "Only the power of reversion can balance procession and liberate the being from the entropic current of time. In other words, procession alone ultimately negates itself," as it proceeds all the way to the "relative nothingness" at the vertical periphery of existence.

But reversion preserves the being, and results in "something far more complex than what originally proceeded," that is, the union of God and man, joined in love, i.e., "a free union between two real beings." Sort of like the Trinity, only "actualized" down here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spiritual Indigestion and the Gastronomics of Eternity

I'm afraid that with this post, I've bitten off more than I can possibly chew. As a psychotic patient of mine once said, "my eyes are bigger than my head." We're getting into matters which are far too deep to be given their due in a mere blog post. Call it the Balthasar Effect. I need a few thousand pages to flesh things out, so I apologize in advance for the deep superficiality....

Now we get to the heart of the subject: that is, what's in it for me? Remember, the whole point of Self and Spirit is to disclose the cosmic significance of the personal self. It's pretty easy to prove that there is an abstract subject shared by all human beings, and which survives our death, since it was never "alive" in the biological sense.

In this regard, we have the empirical testimony of countless sages and mystics of the East who have achieved moksha, nirvana, or samadhi, i.e., liberation. In those approaches, it's not quite correct to say that one is liberated, since it is specifically one's personal identity that must be effaced in order to achieve the liberation. Indeed, you become "the face before you were born."

But what if you want to be there after you die?

Bolton writes that "immortality can be real in a true but trivial way which confounds it with the immortality of the essence of any consciousness." But unlike the Eastern approaches, a Christian gnosis can never be anti-somatic. Rather, in order to be kosher, it requires "both poles of consciousness," by which he means a unification and harmonization of the infinite and finite, form and substance, abstract principle and phenomenological content. In short, "belief in the Incarnation does not allow that the manifest personality is only a ladder to be kicked away when some unspecified entity has identified with the Nous or Atman." Otherwise, who is saved? And for what purpose?

Again, the Incarnation represents the union of finite and infinite -- it is the pouring out of the Infinite, the total self-abandonment of the Infinite into the finite. Indeed, you could say that God "surrenders" to man -- which is why it is for us to return the favor. After all, it is the finite part of us that requires salvation. The infinite part can take care of itself. The reduction of man to only the impassive and unchanging infinite, i.e., Brahman, "is really a denial of the idea of salvation in any meaningful form."

Truly, God "crucifies" himself in order to be -- and to be here -- at all; in other words, to become "limited" and contained within existence. Just so, man must crucify his horizontally enclosed self in order to unite it with the eternal. Bolton: "This lies at the heart of the cosmic function of spirituality. It is the realization of the function of uniting the worlds of spirit and matter, by which man is the uniquely necessary bond of union between God and nature" (emphasis mine).

Here is where freedom comes in, including the freedom to reject eternity: "Although this mediating function is a potentiality of the rational soul, it is one which it is under no necessity to realize" (emphasis mine). Rather, it can obviously confine itself to the horizontal, although, in my experience, such beings typically do so in a sort of compulsive manner that ends up further entangling themselves in appearances and dissipating the soul.

In other words, the soul isn't static; it is always either moving "toward" or "away" from God. It is as if -- no, we are situated between two attractors, "world" and "spirit." Again your mission, should you choose to accept it, is not to plunge yourself one way or the other, but to harmonize them at their innersection, AKA, the cross.

As Bolton observes, "when this truth is ignored... the result can only be a reduction of religion to forms of social behavior... the opposite of which is the purely soul-centered perspective of the New Age religion." People tend to be inclined in one direction or the other, but our task is to resolve these oppositions "in the light of the assimilative principle." I don't know about you, but when I think of the "assimilative principle," I immediately think of the theophagy of Holy Communion. But maybe it's just because I haven't had breakfast yet.

Take, eat. This is my body. This is my blood. Wo, dude. You're freaking me out. No, it's true. This esoteric coonibalism is the transformative principle through which "the naturally unspiritual becomes spiritual by collaboration with a divine inspiration which involves the whole being, acting between soul and spirit and between body and spirit by means of the soul." In short, you must feed your soul and eat a lot of truth and beauty in order to grow the thing that unites time and eternity.

Regarding free will, "if the whole person is 'converted' voluntarily to his inner principle, and the not-necessarily immortal participates in the necessarily immortal, the effect is one of regeneration," AKA, salvation, or "eternal life."

Conversely, you can spend your life slowly killing your soul by eating a lot of junk food and blowing the uppertunity of a lifetome. And to paraphrase Clint, "dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy."

On a less lofty plane, Bolton quotes Plato, who spoke of how, "if a man is entirely dedicated to appetites and ambitions and devotes all his energies to these, all his thoughts must needs be mortal, and he cannot help but become altogether mortal (so far as that is possible) since he has fostered the growth of his mortality." Hence the various paradoxables of Jesus, to the effect that dying to this kind of dispersive and ultimately meaningless activity is when the real living begins.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Caught in the Cross Fire

The highest beings hear God not only through and in existence, or through and in life, but through and in understanding itself. In that realm, understanding and speaking are the same. --Meister Eckhart

I'm afraid my wires are getting a little crossed. I'm trying to finish up our little review of Bolton's Self and Spirit at the same time I have begun fulfilling my new year's resolution, which is to complete Balthasar's sprawling 15 volume systematic theology, consisting of the aesthetics (seven volumes), theo-dramatics (five volumes) and theo-logic (three volumes; most of the volumes are 500-600 pages).

In the past, I've only read him in dribs and drabs, plus a fair amount of secondary literature, but now I'm diving right in. You could say it's overloading my circuits. I don't recall ever reading anything so dense. I can't really make a general raccoomendation, any more than I would recommend climbing Mount Everest. The best available introduction, by Oakes, says that writing a one-volume book on him was "like trying to fit the Mediterranean Sea into a child's pail." That's a bit of an exaggeration; I would say "thimble." I have no idea how I'm going to boil it all down to wisecrock of a post or two.

Interestingly, I am noticing many connections between Bolton and Balthasar, which suggests to me that the plane of exoterism becomes an esoterism if you simply pursue the former all the way down -- or up. I first ran across Balthasar's name because he had written the afterword for the highly esoteric Meditations on the Tarot. And yet, he was nominated by Pope John Paul to be a cardinal, which again highlights the hardy-harmonic coonvergence between exo- and esoterism. (Oddly, Balthasar was born in Switzerland a couple of years before, and 40 miles away, from Schuon; must have been something in the holy water.)

Ironically -- or not -- it was the opposite path for Unknown Friend. He pursued esoterism to its limits, and it brought him right back to the Catholic Church! So it seems that extremes truly do meet, so long as we really take them to the extreme, and don't stop at some arbitrary point.

And because it has been around the humans for so long, it's easy to forget how extreme and extremely esoteric Christianity was at the time of its appearance. As always happens, the container ends up domesticating the contained, in whatever arena. There is a downsde to dogma, and that occurs when it becomes stagnant and loses it generativity. It's not so much the fault of dogma as its interpreter. A Meister Eckart can come along and unsaturate the dogma in shocking ways -- which is why his writing is still refreshing today.

In a way, it is up to each generation to rediscover the uncontainable within the contained. If we can't do that through official channels, schisms inevitably form, because man was made to know the Absolute, and won't be satisfied with anything less. In turn, follow the schism to its logical limits, and it will (hopefully) lead you back to orthodoxy, only in a revitalized way. It is fair to say that one will return to the beginning, and know the place for the first time. This is what it has been like for me. To immerse oneself in the wor(l)d of Balthasar is like being shocked by the scandal of Christianity all over again for the first time. And what a shock to the system!

First of all, the man is a genius, which is obvious. Second, just this one trilogy consists of what, 8,000 pages? As I think I've mentioned before, I believe genius is genius. This or that genius will simply find a medium, or "idiom," for the expression of their particular genius. For one person it will be music. For another, physics. For another, theology.

I take the example of Bion, another obvious genius. In his case, he expressed his genius through the discipline of psychoanalysis. In order to appreciate him, one must, to a certain extent, obscure the particulars in order to see how "genius itself" approaches the world and its problems. In other words, you must look at it from a meta-level and not only see what genius "knows," but what it does. And what does it do?

For one thing, it always sees beyond the exterior, to the "within of things." Over at Just Thomism, James has one of his typically elliptical and Bionically unsaturated posts on Difficulties in Understanding Abstraction. As with Bion, I'm often not quite sure I understand what brother James is talking about, but he nevertheless provokes a flurry of my own untamed thoughts, which is a rare quality in a teacher. Good teachers always "disturb the peace" -- which eventually allows for a deeper peace that surpasses understanding.

In my comment, I mentioned that what he wrote about the "unimaginability" of the intellect reminded me of mountain biking, in which, if you want to avoid crashing, you don’t look down at what you're trying to avoid in your path, but look ahead about 20 yards, to where you want to go. Similarly, the intellect is always reaching “beyond itself.” Eliminate the beyond, and your intellect will lose its balance and crash in the dirt.

A narrow and mediocre intellect -- let's say, oh, Queeg -- is fixated on the Darwinian rocks in his path, and therefore stumbles on them. He can't ride his intellectual bike any further than that, but then leaps to the wholly unwarranted conclusion that the path doesn't continue infinitely beyond the rocks. Just because he got bent, it doesn't mean that we have to. I mean his bicycle got bent.

Again, the real genius takes the facts of Darwinism, or psychoanalysis, or theology, and sees "through" and "beyond" them, to something far deeper. And you may think that this has nothing to do with yesterday's post, but you'd be wrong. Because yesterday we left off with the idea that the Incarnation signifies the union of the infinite and finite, which is precisely why the there is an unlimited "depth" to reality accessible to the deep thinker. The depth, AKA the metaphysical transparency, is only there because it is the infinite shining through the finite. This in turn resonates with Balthasar's emphasis on the aesthetics of theology as of equal importance as the Good and True.

Theology is never "merely true," like, say science. Rather, to the extent that it is "truly true," then it will also be infused with, and radiate, the divine glory, which is none other than beauty itself. And what is the "sense" with which we appreciate divine beauty? To try to answer that question is a little like trying to avoid the rock in the bike path. In order to answer it, you must look ahead -- or above -- to where the trail of beauty is headed -- which is the very purpose of the trail.

Bolton cites a passage by Plotinus, who wrote that we mustn't "complain about the lower in the higher; rather, we must be grateful to the higher for giving something of itself to the lower." Thanks to that, our minds are on fire, but never consumed, for we exist in that sinaiptic gap where the divine grace touches our aspiration. And our as-piration is God's in-spiration, or the breath of grace by another name.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Creator: Just How Lo Can He Go?

Today's invocational blessforme:

Because God's ground and the soul's ground are one ground, the human intellect is not other than the Only-Begotten perfect Image in the Trinity... --Bernard McGinn

In Self and Spirit, Bolton discusses the influence of Greek thought on the development of Christian theology, which I think is often misunderstood, being that it was more a case of the latter "baptizing" the former (just as I bobtize Darwinism, big bang cosmology, neurodevelopmental psychoanalysis, or anything else that tries to get between me and O).

In any event, Bolton argues that Pythagoras, in effect, set off an epistemological revolution with deeply ontological consequences. If you learn nothing else today, just remember that last phrase, because you can whip it out during arguments in order to rattle your opponent.

The point is, the discovery of these mathematical theorems revealed "whole classes of problems capable of the same methods of solution." In turn, this began to liberate knowledge from the purely concrete, the result being that "problems which had once seemed quite different from one another could now be seen to be subject to a single principle valid for all of them." (Remember what we said yesterday about both science and religion reducing the world from multiplicity to unity.)

This new mathematical approach to reality had a "purifying effect" on on the mind, in that it allowed it to "contact," as it were, essences of things. Afterwards, Plato would expand and market this idea, which resulted in "a new meaning and value for the individual," what with man's unique ability to mediate "between two different orders of reality." Once this connection was made, a whole occident was just waiting to happen, what with the idea of the logos, which "signifies an absolute reality which is also inseparable from its productions and manifestations."

And here's the ontological part: the logos "is a reality in which transcendence and immanence are specially combined, and are fused but not confused" (emphasis mine). In short, we now have a kind of paradoxical duality, in that "the terms of the duality are united in the operating Logos itself," so that One is always two and two are always One. Again, if this were not the case, both scientific and religious knowledge would be strictly impossible, for they partake of the sophsame and selfsane principle.

Now, if Man is the being who knows the logos, this means that the logos must in some sense be recapitulated in Man. As a result, we now have the precursor of the idea that man is the "image and likeness," since it is clear enough that he is the microcosm that potentially embraces all levels of reality within himself. Each person is a microcosmos who is "in some sense equivalent to the world."

Here again, to affirm any scientific truth at all, one must implicitly have the underlying faith that mind = reality, otherwise there is no possibility of truth. And this is why it is so absurd for scientific fundamentalists to deny this implicit reality in order to discredit religion, being that the latter is rooted in the same idea that man may know the Real.

Here again, this logoistic balancing act is unique to, or at least uniquely emphasized in, Christianity (also in Aurobindo, but that's the subject for a different post). For example, Bolton points out that for Shankara -- the undisputed godfather of Vedanta and hardest working manas in moksha business -- "this idea of God as being a mediator between Himself and creation must be meaningless, because it recognizes no reality between the Godhead and the realm of Maya; it can thus have no place for the Divine Logos or for the Trinity."

In other words, Christianity brings with it a new dignity, both for the creation and for the individual, and therefore the finite, which is not some kind of accident or mistake, but a reflection of the Creator. The infinite implies the finite, which now gives us a context within which to think about the idea of how the Word could become flesh, God could become man, and the Universal could become the particular. Indeed, in a sense, the infinite would be less than infinite if it did not take on the finite, would it not? For this would mean that the finite possessed something that is lacking in the infinite, which is impossible.

In ether worlds, "if God were solely a pure spirit, man would in some sense be more than God, since he he is a spirit who is also united with all the material levels of being." This would be absurd in light of the idea that we are made in the image of the Creator. In reality, "what is a mediating function in man between the intellect and the natural order is, in Christ, a mediation between God and the whole of creation." Christ "awakens the Logos principle in the individual person, saving it from being a mere potentiality."

No longer is God an intrinsically hidden God who cannot be known so much as apophatically unknown. Rather, in the Incarnation, we have the very archetype of the Creator within the creation and the Absolute within the finite. We also have the eshcaton, or cosmic end, appearing within this "middle" that we call "history," but that's another story.

This antinomy of finite-infinite is not a pernicious dualism but "a generative principle by which the Good brings about all the lower orders of being without any direct or substantive transfer from itself." The ontological and epistemological consequences are "momentous," "since the supremely other-worldly reality now becomes the source of innumerable other realities... which are not simply the play of illusion, because all degrees of real being are distributed in them." The barrier between God and man is bridged, but in a way that avoids pantheism and/or materialism, even while allowing for the partial truths necessarily embedded in each.

Oops. Out of time. To be continued. (All quoted material taken from Self and Spirit.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Childlike Faith of the Scientific Fundamentalist

Today we will review the question of evolution in light of the antinomy of faith vs. reason. It's a subtle issue, so it's easy to misunderstand where I'm coming from. It is not quite accurate to say that I reject literalism -- in fact, not accurate at all, because the higher reaches of the spiritual life are built on a stable foundation of dogma, just as the ability to communicate requires fixed rules for spelling and grammar. You can eliminate the rules of spelling and grammar, but you won't be able to say much of substance. But at the same time, you don't just idealize good spelling as sufficient in itself to convey wisdom.

The whole point of theology -- as opposed to revelation -- is to create a consistent and comprehensive system of spiritual, or metaphysical, thought. In order to do this properly, one must exclude nothing. There is no right superior to truth, so wherever we find truth, we must respect it and find a place for it in our theology. Otherwise, as mentioned yesterday, we will have unintegrated gaps in our being, when the whole point of spiritual practice is to become whole -- for thine I to become single. In the language of Godel, the I of the literalist (whether scientific or religious) will be highly consistent, but at the price of serious incompleteness.

As I have mentioned in the past, I regard religion as the science of the ultimate, or absolute, Subject, and science as the religion of the ultimate object -- the physical cosmos. Both are methods to gain knowledge, the former operating through faith, the latter through doubt. Another way of saying it is that religion involves the exercise of faith as applied to the vertical, whereas science restricts itself to doubt in the horizontal.

Looked at in a certain way, science is simply the systematization of doubt. Unlike animals, we can doubt the evidence of our senses and inquire into the true cause of things. But the universe is One, and whenever we try to draw a bright line between two manmade categories, aspects of one side will inevitably creep into the other. For example, we divide the world into categories of "matter" and "mind," whereas the underlying reality knows no such strict boundary. We have a problem understanding how truth can emerge from a nine pound piece of meat, but only because of our preconceptions. The cosmos does not have this problem.

We can easily show that science, especially in our time, has become a faux religion. This is because, in maintaining the bright line between religion and science, a lot of religion ends up on the science side. Thus, while the father of empirical science may be doubt, its mother is unabashed faith. For example, in the words of our Unknown Friend, "Newton doubted the traditional theory of 'gravity,' but he believed in the unity of the world, and therefore in cosmic analogy. This is why he could arrive at the cosmic law of gravitation in consequence of the fact of an apple falling from a tree. Doubt set his thought in motion; faith rendered it fruitful."

Now, that is a point worth dwelling on: Faith rendered his thinking fruitful. As I have mentioned a number of times, this has been one of the genuine surprises of my life. I think, based upon my understanding of Polanyi, I already understood that our implicit scientific models of reality are always rooted in a type of unarticulated faith about the nature of things. What I did not realize was the extent to which faith in traditional revelation could be such a fruitful and generative way to think about reality in its deeper sense. In other words, I allowed for scientific faith; it was religious faith that made no sense to me.

And what is scientific faith? What is the credo of the materialist scientist? Again, our Unknown Friend provides an excellent summation (which I have paraphrased) of the reigning dogma and catechism of science. Let us place our hand on a copy of Sam Harris's The End of Faith, and solemnly affirm:

I believe in a single substance, the mother of all forces, which engenders the life and consciousness of everything, visible and invisible. I believe in a single Lord, biology, the unique son of the substance of the world, born from the mother substance after centuries of random shuffling of material: the encapsulated reflection of the great material sea, the epiphenomenal light of primordial darkness, the false reflection of the real world, consubstantial with the mother-substance. It is he who has descended from the shadows of the mother-substance, he who has taken on flesh from matter, he who plays at the illusion of thought from flesh, he who has become the Human Brain. I acknowledge a single method for the elimination of error, thus ultimately eliminating myself and returning to the mother substance. Amen.

Now clearly, the scientist has faith that the unique mother-substance must be one beneath its superficial diversity. Furthermore, he must have faith that the human mind is capable of reducing this outward multiplicity to unity, which is how science proceeds. He must also believe that the mind, although a product of evolution, is somehow its master. In other words, in knowing it is a product of evolution, the human mind transcends evolution and stands outside or "above" it.

Wait, how can that be? I thought the mother substance was the ultimate reality? How can it be transcended? If it is true that matter is the ultimate reality, it cannot be true, because truth is superior to matter. If matter is the ultimate reality, then there is no way to get around Haldane's remark that "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."

But show a little tolerance. You must understand that the scientific literalist is a simple person of faith. Don't ask for his faith to be complete. Like the religious literalist, his faith is consistent, but at the price of completeness. It must exclude much truth in order to maintain its consistency.

There is a horizontal world of quantities and a vertical world of qualities. The scientific fundamentalist reduces quality to quantity and calls it "knowledge." The religious literalist subsumes quantity into quality and calls it "faith." Is it really necessary to reduce the one the to other, or can they coexist harmoniously?

Viewed from a certain angle, the story of Genesis can be seen as the chronicle of man's fall from verticality to horizontality. The serpent promises us that if we open our eyes to the horizontal, we will be as gods. With the scientific revolution, mankind fully opened its eyes to the horizontal, but at what price? It is at the price of obscuring the world's inconceivably rich qualitative aspects. "The more one has 'open eyes' for quantity, the more one becomes blind to quality. Yet all that one understands by 'spiritual world' is only quality, and all experience of the spiritual world is due to 'eyes that are open' for quality, for the vertical aspect of the world." And the supreme quality -- or value -- "is the supreme Entity -- God.

What does it require to be a religious scientist or a scientific believer? Easy. Just imagine a cross. The vertical axis is called religion, the horizontal axis science. To quote our Unknown Friend again, we must

"Crucify the serpent. Put the serpent -- or the scientific creed -- on the cross of religion and science, and a metamorphosis of the serpent will follow. The scientific creed then becomes what it is in reality: the mirroring of the creative Word. It will no longer be truth; it will be method. It will no longer say: 'In the beginning was substance or matter,' but it will say: 'in order to understand the mechanism of the made world, it is necessary to choose a method which takes account of the origin of matter and of that which set it in motion from above.' And it will no longer say: 'the brain produces consciousness,' but it will say: 'in order to understand the function of the brain, it is necessary to consider it in such a way as if consciousness is caused by it."

This will "neutralize the poison of scientific faith and transform it into a servant of life," perhaps making the way for some Raccoon to come up with "a light-filled vision of the world evolving through the impulse of the serpent towards a final aim set by providence."

One Cosmos, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberation and Joyousness for All!

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