Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Cultivating the Gene for Transcending Your Genes

Here is your weekly repost from 730 posts back, give or take. As mentioned before, Februrary '07 seems to have been a fairly fruitful month, so we may revisit another oldie tomorrow. As always, I base my selection on whether or not the piece holds my attention, whether it can be improved, and whether it provokes new thoughts, associations, or gags that can be inserted here and there.


As mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm in the midst of reading a relatively new and state-of-the-art book on human origins entitled Before the Dawn.

The book is full new factual information, which is always good. However, it is written from the perspective of a primitive New York Timesman (the author is a NYT science reporter), so that all of the facts are implausibly skewhorned into a bland and predictable materialistic paradigm. Therefore, there's a bit of inherent frustration in reading the book, because the writer is an unquestioned devotee of the Darwinian faith, so no matter what anomalies he discovers or mysteries he unearths, the simplistic a priori explanation is always the same: it's all genetics.

As always, all-powerful "randomness" is the omnipotent God-of-the-saps for the metaphysically blind. It explains everything, therefore, nothing. It is a perfect example of what I wrote the other day about the "demystification of the world," and the cardiomyopia that results. You know, hardening of he categories. Matherosclerosis.

But that's okay. Facts are facts, no matter how the simple devotees of scientistic magic or canard-carrying queeglings may try to spin them.

It reminds me of what an inebriated but wise friend of mine once said in the midst of enjoying a certain spirited musical performance in the American negro tradition: "If you're not dancing, you're wrong!" This is how I feel about the cosmos: if you're not in awe, you're just wrong. The world is charged with the grandeur of God (Hopkins). And if you intentionally try to eliminate the awe and the grandeur, well, you're like one of those Saudi pleasure-police who arrest people for having fun just because they've long since forgotten how.

Now, even in reading just the first few pages of this book, I can well understand how a traditionally religious person might regard the entire Darwinian enterprise (in its needlessly reductionistic bonehead form) as intrinsically luciferian, and toss the book aside.

But this is something the Raccoon should never do, for our perspective is both wider and deeper -- not to say, higher -- than that of mere science. Fitting science into a religious metaphysic should pose no difficulty whatsoever, or it's not much of a religion, is it? If science can't fit comfortably into a modest mansion or even double-wide trailer home of the Creator, what kind of God is that?

Two of my favorite pneumanauts were at bloggerheads on this issue. Frithjof Schuon had no use for evolution and rejected it outright. But Sri Aurobindo had no problem at all with it, perhaps even going too far in the opposite direction (as was true of Hegel). In his case, he had a very different personal history than Schuon, which no doubt accounts for their divergent outlooks. In the case of Schuon, he was a deeply alienated European who could not find spiritual sustenance in the decadent environment of 1920's Europe, and therefore looked to the East (including Eastern Christianity, Vedanta and Sufism).

In the case of Aurobindo, he was from exactly the sort of traditional culture that Schuon idealized (India), but received a marvelous education in the West, at Cambridge. This put Aurobindo in the rather unique position (at that time, anyway) of seeing how the decadence of India actually obscured the perennial message at the heart of the Vedanta. He knew that India needed to move forward, not backward, in order to actualize its spiritual destiny and manifest its inner potential. You might say that he saw how India needed to become more Westernized -- i.e., more focused on the material plane -- while the West needed to become more "interior" to balance its relentless exteriorizing dynamic.

This is exactly how I see it. I believe our conquest of the the external frontier must be followed by an exploration and colonization of the interior horizon. It is truly the "final frontier": vertical globalization.

And as a matter of fact, this is exactly what has been going on in the West -- albeit in fits and starts and with a lot of wrong turns -- since the time of the closing of the American frontier in the late 19th century. Just at that point, there was an "interior turn" throughout the West. We see this in art, literature, music, psychoanalysis, and the sudden interest in mysticism, theosophy and the occult (recall that Toots Mondello founded the Bensonhurst Raccoons around this time). Afterwards, the evolution of this inward turn was disrupted by cataclysmic world-historical events, including World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and Toots' incarceration.

Thus, it is no coincidence that we began to see this interiorizing impulse reappear as if from nowhere in the late '50s and '60s, but people such as Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley were just a continuation of what had really gotten underway with the American transcendentalists such as Emerson. Obviously, Emerson can still be read with great profit today, as many of his observations were quite prophetic and remain entirely fresh and contemporary, to say the least. Indeed, viewed from a cosmic-historical standpoint, Emerson is hardly "in the past." He is just yesterday. Or perhaps just up ahead.

The whole new age movement, which emerged out of 1960s style pagan spirituality, represents a false and intrinsically wrong turn in our evolution. It takes certain truths and distorts them, dabbling in things that are not necessarily harmful "from above" but "from below."

In other words, most of the new age blathering that goes by the name of "integralism" is nothing more than a co-opting of half-understood spiritual ideas for the purposes of narcissistic inflation (i.e., the lower seizing the higher instead of being transformed by it). These various approaches are spiritually vacuous to the Raccoon because they are generally detached from any timeless revelation and any true source of grace, without which one can only turn around in circles and exalt the self in compensation. "Followers" are required in order to create a space in which infantile omnipotence is projected onto the master, which then creates a belowback of pseudo-grace. This is the trick of the new age careerists. A normal person would be nauseated by such adulation.

My fellow 'Coons, do you think for one second that Dear Leader couldn't do this if he were possessed of a black heart? Naturally I could not do it with you, because you would see through me and flee in the opposite direction with vomit bags billowing in the wind. But I know full well that I am equipped with the minimum amount of charisma (I mean, more than Deepak!) -- if not the requisite sociopathy and narcissism (far less than Deepak) -- to open my little window in the New Age Traveling Salivation Show and promise things I cannot deliver -- to fleece all the Nobodies who want a relationship with an idealized Somebody in order to not feel like the former.

But the Somebody also needs to surround himself with Nobodies in order to not feel like the latter, which is what he actually is. As you may have noticed, only Somebodies are allowed to be Raccoons. Very substantial Somebodies, not fragile Nobodies. Needless to say, I have no desire to surround myself with Nobodies. Many people come here for the spiritual Somebody-ish comments of readers, not just my posts.

Back to the point of this post. Before the Dawn broadly confirms a number of important points discussed in chapter 3 of One Cosmos, Psychogenesis. Instead of looking just at the archeological evidence, Before the Dawn discusses all of the new research made possible by the Human Genome Project. The data can be studied in all kinds of clever and innovative ways in order to deduce various conclusions about our origins.

The book confirms the fact that there is a vast difference between "anatomically modern" and "behaviorally modern" human beings, the former of which appear as early as 200,000 years ago. And yet, truly human behavior does not emerge until as recently as 45,000 years ago. And it emerged quite suddenly, in such a way that it defies any traditional Darwinan explanation.

In fact, many traditional paleo-anthropologists reject the sudden emergence of our humanness, but only because their religion (strict Darwinism) makes it impossible. Therefore, they argue that the transition must have been gradual, even though this is not what the archaeological evidence shows. What do you call someone who maintains a belief system despite contrary evidence? I forget.

Anyway, genetics comes to the rescue, because the author of Before the Dawn says that Darwinian evolution must be able to occur much more rapidly than any of us had previously realized. Therefore, whether the transition from ape to human was slow or sudden, it's all good. Darwinism explains it.

What do you call a philosophy that is so elastic that it accounts for opposite scenarios? "I was for the gradual descent of man before I was against it." "Global cooling is a result of global warming."

You will never hear it come out of my mouth that genes are unimportant things. However, the author makes the point that our DNA is 99% identical to that of a chimpanzee. Oddly, he uses this statistic to emphasize the importance of genes, when to me it would appear to highlight just the opposite. I say this because a moment's reflection will reveal to you that the ontological gulf between a human being and any animal is actually infinite -- as infinite as the gap between truth and its countless alternatives.

Put it this way: how would you characterize the distance between an animal, whose every behavior is genetically determined, and a being who has transcended his genetic program to such an extent that he is able to pick and choose those aspects of it that he would prefer to ignore?

Again, being that he is a primitive New York Timesman, the author doesn't give any serious thought to religion, but dismisses it with a passing observation buried in a sentence to the effect that it was selected (of course) by our genes "as a means of social cohesion." If so, one can only wonder how he and all of his fellow Homo crapians among the secular left managed to escape this gene's influence?

Again, he seems to be arguing that genes are all-important, but not so important that you can't simply ignore them if you wish. In fact, you can even have contempt for your own genetic religious proclivities (projected onto others, of course), which is a rather odd thing. Ever heard of a chimp who had contempt for his banana?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The WholePoint of HisStory (2.20.10)

Who can hope to obtain proper concepts of the present, without knowing the future? --Johann Georg Hamann

If we consider the historical form of Jesus, we see that he cannot be understood in isolation, unlike, say, Buddha or Shankara, who divulge a message of purely vertical metaphysics which stands outside time. In fact, the same could be said of the Koran, and we can see how this leads to certain inevitable problems, i.e., either the devaluation of time (as in Buddhism), or else the attempt to cease it altogether, so that we might all live shabbily ever after in a 7th century caliphate worse than death.

But Jesus appears within a dense network of earlier truths, of which he is said to be the "fulfillment." Ultimately, as we shall see, his form is very much temporal as opposed to spatial.

As such, as I mentioned in the new testavus, apprehending his form is much more analogous to hearing a symphony, which must be listened to in its entirety before we can know what it was about. You might say that the "future" of the symphony illuminates its past, and reveals the necessity of various passages which can only be tied together and "resolved" within time. (cf. The Tristan Chord for the most extreme case.)

This is quite unique among the world's revelations, because it is so entangled with history, which means that it somehow renders history -- which would otherwise be purely horizontal -- an extension, or expression, of the vertical. You might say that at the center of Jesus' mission, as it were, is the verticalizing of the horizontal, whereas for Buddha or Shankara, it would be simply escape from the horizontal. Whereas Jesus is like a symphony, Buddha would be like a great painting.

(This is not to criticize the latter, just to highlight the differences; also, the later Bodhisattva principle involves a certain horizontalizing impulse, in the sense that the liberated person forgoes the vertical for the horizontal in order to devote his life to saving the damned, those deluded souls who are marooned in the purely horizontal. Thus, the Bodhisattva is in the world, but not of it.)

As Balthasar explains, Christ's form is embedded "within a context of events which partly condition Jesus' historical person and which are partly conditioned and prompted by it." This is a rather interesting observation, because it means that, in the Incarnation, there is a certain "random" element. In other words, if God is going to submit himself to man, it means going the whole hog, and submitting himself to time, to history, and even to the random element that intrudes in the herebelow.

Indeed, without submitting to this random element, one would not be truly submitting to the real conditions of mankind. As Balthasar writes in A Theology of History, "In order to become manifest, the absolute uniqueness of God, uniting itself with the humanity of Jesus, makes use of the relative uniqueness of a particular historical personality..."

This then leads to the interesting question of how one conveys intrinsic and unchanging Truth within the context of change? Think about it. It would be analogous to incarnating as a metaphysics professor in a liberal university, where the only truth is that truth does not exist. But that would be the one place that would be most aching for the appearance of Truth, would it not, even if it meant being crucified by the inquisitors of political correctness? Indeed, how else to teach these devils that the crucifixion of Truth is the central truth -- and therefore, lie -- of the left?

It gets even more complicated, because if we are to believe the totality of revelation, then Jesus is the Total Truth who appears in the historical context of his own "partial truths" that had to first lay the groundwork for his own reception. Here, I see that Balthasar is on the same page with me thus far:

"A statue can be placed anywhere; a symphony can be performed in any concert hall; a poem of Goethe's can be understood and enjoyed without any knowledge of its biographical context." But the form of Jesus "cannot be detached from the place in space and time in which it stands. He is what he is only by fulfilling, on the one hand, all the promises that point to him, and, on the other, by himself making promises which he will at some time fulfill."

Again, this is a fascinating thing to contemplate. It reminds me of how you can trace your family tree back so that it looks as if you are the final cause, the meaning, the fulfillment, the "end point" of all of those previous generations.

At the same time, you could reverse the image, so that a family tree grows into the future from your single point of departure. Thus we have the image of a point in the present, with two trees growing from it, one into the past, the other into the future. Therefore, you are the cause of both your ancestors and descendants.

It is as if Jesus does the same thing, except with all of history and all of mankind. In other words, all of history leads to his "point," and then flows into the future from that point. But where is the point? Is it his birth? His life? His teachings? His resurrection?

It is somehow all of these things, not to mention the fact that, once he enters history, his causal power is far from over, as he continues to exert a profound effect on people and events. The "whole line of development in the history of salvation is ordered toward himself as its climax and subjected to himself as the meaning which fulfills it..."

In this regard, Jesus doesn't just give meaning to history, but somehow "is himself history," or "the living center of history itself." Again, think of how different this is from situating the center in a point in space, such as Mecca, or the Scientology Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood.

As I have mentioned before, Jesus is more like a vertical depth charge dropped from on high into history, which then causes a kind of temporal tsunami, so that the waves from the original impact continue to lap upon the shore of the present. And the waves will bear the "imprint" of the original event, just as we can trace the present background radiation to the "big bang" at the origin of the horizontal cosmos.

This is again only fitting, if "the Word becoming flesh" implies the vertical becoming horizontal. For, as Balthasar explains, "To the horizontal power with which he encompasses all time and rules all space 'even to the ends of the earth,' centering world history on himself, there corresponds the vertical power with which he makes the Father visible and with which he makes present, in his witness concerning the Father, the Father's witness to him."

What a marvelous paradox! Just yesterday I was thinking how different Christianity would be if, instead of truly submitting to the world, Jesus tried to "conquer" the world, à llah Mohammed. Obviously it would no longer be Christianity, for central to it is this idea that the Word becomes flesh not to overpower the world in the horizontal sense, but to redeem it.

Mariani refers to "Christ's Great Sacrifice, the ramifications of his radical self-emptying and humility, not grasping after what was his by right, but returning everything to the Father in an act of total self-emptying, even unto a criminal's death on the cross." What a strange God! Who would ever invent such a counter-intuitive story?

For the man who is spiritually existent, who is directed upon the whole of reality, in other words, for the man who philosophizes, this question of the end of history is, quite naturally, more pressing than the question of "what actually happened." --Josef Pieper, The End of Time

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where the Buoys Are

I feel as if I'm starting to repeat myself. Which I guess shouldn't be surprising, since Balthasar spends volume one of The Glory of the Lord laying out the argument in great detail, then the subsequent six volumes supporting it in even greater detail. But at some point you have to let it go. I mean, what comes after ad nauseam?

The problem is especially pertinent to the dialectical jazz metaphysician and improvisational pneumanaut, who never likes to play the Cosmic Suite the same way twice. So I might pick up the tempo a bit, and see if we can't at least get our TOE tapping (Theory of Everything).

There is the cosmos. And then there is the cosmos of revelation. Both are worlds, the former exterior, the latter interior. The exterior cosmos is obviously dependent upon the interior, which is why a total knowledge of the exterior cosmos would reveal nothing of its interior dimension.

Indeed, the mere fact that the cosmos may possess knowledge of itself is far more interesting -- shocking, really -- than any of the knowledge itself. Those blunted souls who are unable to appreciate the miracle of subjectivity are analogous to someone who jumps over a quarter to save a nickel.

In fact, James touches on this very issue this morning. That is, he essentially asks us to meditate on the absurdity of exterior revelation being completely identical to interior revelation. If this were the case, then to know the science would be to know the Creator. But so what?

"This way of proceeding, while initially impressive and useful, is ultimately ridiculous. God goes to all the trouble to reveal himself and he ends up saying that? It would be like someone handing you DVD saying 'this is what God himself has revealed about your life', which, when you watched it, was a short documentary narrating all the basic facts of your life. With revelation like that, who needs revelation? If that were all God did, who needs God?"

When we say "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," I'm pretty sure this is what we're talking about -- about the gulf between the two worlds. Science can only reveal how things are on the surface, not how they are supposed to be deep down. The same with any discipline, really.

For example, a historian can only tell you what happened, not what was supposed to happen (although every historian, no matter how secular, always sneaks in his implicit idea of what was supposed to happen, but without ever justifying it. The next time one of them glibly suggests that Bush was an awful president because x number of people died in Iraq, calmly ask him how many lives will have been saved -- let alone made meaningful -- in the next 100 years because of the liberation of Iraq).

So with the aid of the interior revelation, we discern the meaning and trajectory (which amount to the same thing) of history, and therefore see how, in fulfilling itself, it is transcended. In other words, to say that history has any meaning whatsoever is to immediately lift the raw facts of history beyond themselves to a plane higher than history. The problem is, the secular historian has no rational basis for doing this, no defensible grounds for saying that history is anything other than one damn thing after another.

Again, consider James' analogy of a complete DVD of someone's life. You could sit through the whole production and not understand a single thing about the meaning of the life in question, because meaning is always an interior phenomenon. Ultimately it is the organizing principle, the lens through which we can understand all the "parts" of one's life. Thus, to say "meaning" is to say "interior."

In my case, as I sit here typing, I am "effortlessly straining," so to speak, to make out the contours of a nonlocal object that is just beyond the subjective horizon. It is my "meaning," my north star, except that this star is in the invisible firmament of the celestial realm. I know when I am in its orbit, because it confers a kind of spontaneous interior coherence that must then be deployed in a linear fashion, which I call O-->(n). This is how Balthasar describes the world of revelation, through which

"meanings come together to build but one faultless and yet effortless equilibrium: they had all been harmonized into a sovereign unity before we ever perceived them. The strange aprioristic certainty dawns on us that in this cosmos of revelation we can always press forward with our investigations and discover new connections and proportions...."

In other words, this is a kind of truth that is simultaneously "created" and "discovered" -- in fact, not discovered unless it is created. Otherwise, we fall into the danger of regarding revelation in the same way we do scientific knowledge, which again can be passed from mind to mind like an object, with no loss of information.

But to pass along religious truth in this manner is to miss its most important dimension. The externality of religion is analogous to a system of buoys over the sea. You might say that the buoys tell us where to dive in. But mere knowledge of the whereabouts of the buoys tells one nothing about the depths below.

And this is the bumbling block of the mere natural man, who is not just exterior to the cosmos, but exterior to himself. All he can legitimately say of religion is that "I know something is happening here, but I don't know what it is, do I, Mr. Jones?"

"Reason cannot contemplate the phenomenon as it were from the outside and the inside at the same time. To want to see the stained-glass window from the inside is already to believe." For it is to be drawn into the realm of the thing itself, the Divine Attractor at the end of history, which Balthasar describes as "an ontological gravitational pull like that of the part for the whole or the finite for the infinite." Importantly, this longing for the infinite whole preserves the finite part, since it is an intrinsic and "beloved" reflection of the Divine Beauty, even unto death. For

"this supratemporal beauty is able both to contain and to vindicate the death of the beautiful, because death, too, belongs to the form in which immortal beauty becomes manifest, and it is dying which in the end truly impresses immortal beauty upon the spirit that contemplates it."

Dialectic jazz?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

His Master's Voice (9.24.12)

Still feeling slightly discoonb'obulated with the manflu. I am, however, full of ideas -- or, an idea, to be precise -- except that the idea is not yet fully half-baked, and therefore not ready for posting. It first needs to be put away and composted in the darklight of the over & underconscious mind. It's difficult for me to blog about anything other than what's not on my mind at the moment, but I shall try, or at least give up.

A question: do kaliblind atheists have a point when they say that there is no evidence of God, and that if there were such evidence, then they would be believers? By "evidence," they usually mean something along the lines of magic. That is, they want to see something that is utterly inexplicable and defies all logic and reason -- you know, pink fairies under the bed. A miracle.

Let's look at it from God's point of view. Does he want to be known? Does he want people to know of his existence? So we have heard from the wise. But how does one reveal evidence of a person, especially if that person abides in a higher dimension, so to speak?

For example, how could I prove to my dog that I as a person exist? It's not as easy as it sounds, because dogs only experience you in dog categories. They might see you as the alpha dog, and respond accordingly. But they can't really conceive of your interior personhood. It is a dimension they cannot enter. I suppose they can apprehend some of its "energies," but never its essence, to throw a bone to one of man's best palamas.

Balthasar asks, "How, then, can we speak of the 'form of Christ' when most things about him -- the essential: his divinity and all the mysteries connected with it -- remain hidden and unfathomable in their internal depths of meaning?"

He responds that "We must begin by replying that the first and pre-eminent intention of the self-revealing God is, precisely, really to reveal himself, really to become comprehensible to the world as far as possible." In other words, we have to assume that God really is "putting himself out there," and that, for whatever reason, this is how he feels the climb can best be accompliced.

Again, we have to put ourselves in the position of a dog trying to understand our master. A lot of what the master does is going to be incomprehensible to us, even though that is never the point. Likewise, if God's intention "were to make those who believe in him assent to a number of impenetrable truths, this would surely be unworthy of God and it would contradict the very concept of revelation" (Balthasar). In other words, we can't really call it "revelation" if it doesn't reveal something of God's interior, something we are capable of fathoming.

However, at the same time, we cannot pretend that we could ever fully comprehend God, any more than we could ever comprehend even another human being. Thus, "a necessary part of this manifestation is his eternal incomprehensibility."

But here again, this "incomprehensibility" is by no means synonymous with "ignorance." Rather, it is to apprehend the divine from within the mode of mystery; as such, it is more like a direct transmission of the myster-er to the myster-ee, or contained (♂) to container (♀).

I'm sure you're all well aware of this feeling. We call it (≈). One of our tasks is to "amplify" (≈), which is hardly to increase our ignorance, but to sensitize our receptor, or (¶), so as to transduce (≈) into (n). Thus, as Balthasar observes, this paradoxical communication is not "a negative determination of what one does not know, but rather a positive and almost 'seen' and understood property of him whom one knows."

And once you begin to familiarize yourself with this property, you begin to realize that it is an enduring characteristic of the "divine object," similar to the familiar "vibe" one gets in the presence of anyone. You know what I mean. Someone once said that you can really understand how you feel about someone if you pay attention to the feeling you have when you receive a letter addressed from them. It's like that. Communiques from God will carry that familiar vibe. But only if you pay attention to the return address.

The same holds for a great artist. The totality of an artist's work will transmit a sort of consistent vibration. It reminds me of the book This is Your Brain on Music, in which the author pointed out that every great rock artist has a certain distinct and unique timbre that lets you know in an instant that you are listening to them and no one else.

Think about it for a moment. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Beach Boys, Byrds, Zombies, Animals, Creedence, Roy Orbison, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin -- each has a quite distinct "sound signature" that exists over and above the music itself. You know it's them from the first note.

In fact, one of the problems with modern recording technologies is the homogenization of sound, so that most contemporary music sounds rather bland and uniform. Few artists have that unique and inimitable sound signature anymore. To the contrary, radio stations actually want to have a kind of uniform vibe from artist to artist, so that when you tune into the station you know it's them. In other words, the timbre is no longer in the music, but the station.

And it's not just rock. For example, the timbres of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, and Patsy Cline are all quite distinct. But if you played them on a contemporary country music station, they would all sound quite out of place.

Now that I'm thinking about it, the Christian timbre is quite distinct from the Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist timbre. Here again, this timbre exists apart from any specific content. Balthasar observes that God "has offered himself to the gaze of mankind from every possible angle, and this gesture of self-disclosure... was part of his fundamental mission to manifest and explain God to man."

The musical timbre alluded to above is more than the sum of the parts. This is why, for example, after the Beatles broke up, none of the individuals ever sounded like the totality. A Paul McCartney solo album sounds nothing like the Beatles, to put it charitably -- for the same reason that Joel Osteen sounds nothing like Thomas Aquinas.

In other words, the "form" of God is a kind of totality that cannot be understood outside the fullness of the revelation. Thus, within the perception of revelation "we can distinguish two elements which belong together: the apprehension of a wholly unique quality, to be ascribed particularly to the supernatural origin of the light of faith, and the apprehension of an interior rightness (which is precisely where this quality of uniqueness proves and manifests itself), that is, of the objective, demonstrable beauty of all proportions.... One aspect of the form always points to and supports the others."

And this is why it is perverse for us to mix revelations "from below." One can hardly imagine the monstrosity of, say, Pink Floyd performing Twist and Shout, or the Beach Boys singing Communication Breakdown, or Led Zeppelin doing Yellow Submarine. It might sound something like this:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Darwinian Gene Gnome Project to Ban the Most Liberary Books

The Absolute bears witness to itself in the form of Christ. I notice that this is a formulation Balthasar refers to number of times throughout The Glory of the Lord. He contrasts this with Eastern religions, "the essence of which is to give practical training in how to transcend one's own consciousness, how to make the finite spirit a vessel of the infinite Spirit -- a flute through which the inspiration wafts --, how to educate the spirit to renounce its own designs in order that the infinite designs may be realized through it."

I don't know how to reproduce the appropriate pneumaticʘʘns, but this difference would correspond to the symbol O with the upward ↑ or downward ↓ arrow inside, the former denoting the saint or mystic, the latter the Christ -- or, if you want to be a bit more general about it, the messiah, avatar, or God-man.

But to his disciples, the saint will become a kind of (small g) god-man, or flesh-made-word, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this so long as we maintain our perspective and do not absolutize the relative.

For just as the Absolute bears witness to itself in the form of Christ, the saint or mystic bears witness to the Absolute. Like a written text, we must "see through" and beyond him to that which he points. His sanctity or holiness or nobility are like windows through which the light of the Absolute radiates into the herebelow.

Since Balthasar is dealing with a theological aesthetics, the discernment of spirits is an irreducibly qualitative matter, analogous to discerning great beauty in a poem or painting. While he obviously regards dogma as indispensable, in another sense, merely being told, say, that Jesus was "the Word made flesh," can be as cold a proposition as being told that Bach was the greatest composer, but never actually hearing the music; and not just hearing it, but hearing it deeply, on an interior level -- on a level adequate to its composer's interior state.

So how does one "judge" the Gospels beyond mere circular arguments from authority? For Balthasar, it is "by the quality of this Word as one which bears witness to itself... by the fact that here it is not a case of a man 'transparent to God' who proclaims the wisdom he has learned [the circle with the upward arrow], but that from this man's mouth divine authority speaks from the I-form [the circle with the downward arrow]." You could say that only discernment of extrinsic qualities can lift us out of the intrinsically closed circle of mere quantities.

In short, Christ is "God speaking man," while the mystic is "man speaking God." Thus, "at the point of closest similarity we find the sharpest distinction" -- which is why, for example, Jesus is totally acceptable to Muslims so long as he is regarded as just another prophet -- like Mohammed, only with a less perfect message. The perfect message is the Koran, which is really a form of bibliolatry, of Word made paper instead of flesh.

But it is one thing for the Word to become paper, another thing entirely for it to become flesh. For we are told by biologists that the simplest human cell contains more information than all the books in the New York City library.

No. Actually, a quick google search establishes the fact that this is far too modest a claim. For example,

“The information content of a simple cell has been established as around [ten to the twelfth power] bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins acknowledged that the cell’s nucleus 'contains a digitally coded database larger, in information content, than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica put together. And this figure is for each cell, not all the cells of a body put together.' Dr. Sagan estimated that if a person were to count every letter in every word in every book of the world’s largest library (approximately 10 million volumes), the total number of letters would be [ten to the twelfth power], which suggests that the 'simple cell' contains the information equivalent of the world’s largest library!"

So truly, compared to the most complex book, the human being is infinitely more complex. And what would it mean for each and every one of these cells to be infused with the divine light? Hard to say. For starters, probably something like this: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Who knows. Might even explain the nuclear scorch marks on the Shroud of Turin as well.

Now, the divine-human book is far too deep for human beings to fully fathom, which is a kind of seal of its authenticity, is it not? "But here 'incomprehensibility' does not mean a negative determination of what one does not know, but rather a positive and almost 'seen' and understood property of him whom one knows" (Balthasar).

In other words, "the more a great work of art is known and grasped, the more concretely are we dazzled by its 'ungraspable' genius. We never outgrow something which we acknowledge to stand above us by its very nature" (emphasis mine).

Compare this formulation to that of the metaphysical Darwinists, the liztardian queeglings who regard man is nothing more than matter made flesh. For them, this is all a human being is and can ever be: a series of transient adaptations to an arbitrary exterior environment. But for the Raccoon, man is an interior adequation to the Absolute, by any memes necessary.

Evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists assure us that any human capacity, no matter how interior, sacred, beautiful, or intimate, is just an illusion -- a trick of the genes. Yes, goofy as it may sound, it takes more information than the world’s largest library just to spur you to enjoy coonjugal relations with your mate. Talk about overkill!

In the end, metaphysical Darwinism is the worst kind of crude anti-humanism, for it destroys the intrinsically human and drags everything down to the level of a meaningless competition for genetic survival. One can absolutely prove that metaphysical Darwinism is false simply by apprehending a single instance of absolute meaning.

For example, to know the simple but absolute truth that thou shalt not murder is to overturn that whole bloated Darwinian library. And if we can so easily invert that voluminous library, doesn't that imply something unique about the human station and its true liberary source?

Real human love is a greatway drug to the Divine plenitude, is it not? As Balthasar describes it, "Even the figure of a person whom we love and know well permanently remains for us too wonderful to exhaust by description, and, if we were truly lovers, we would be incensed if someone offered an account of the loved person which resolved all the mysteries about him."

I have to disagree. I never become incensed by the bonehead Darwinians and their insane reductionism. I just laugh at them. At least for now. But if they should ever prevail in their truly genocidal mission to obliterate the human station, that would probably be enough to tick me off.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pulling the Cosmos Together with All the Eternity that's Fit to Print

Something's going around here in Tonga. Been fighting off a cold since Friday, and at the moment it's pretty much of draw, which for me is a victory. I've been using Zicam religulously, and so far it's working. My colds used to be much more unpleasant before I discovered this highly effective placebo a couple of years ago.

Still, there is a subtle effect on the body, mind and spirit, so I'm not sure how far we'll get today. I remember Sri Aurobindo mentioning that he was actually able to transform any sensation into a pleasant and/or interesting one, just by hovering above and observing. Until he shattered his thigh bone in 1938. He said he wasn't able to detach himself from that one. Must have been like Spiderman 2, when Peter jumps off the building and lands on a car below. Even the b'atman has his limits.

So, diving right back into the Balthasar may be temporarily beyond my capacities. At least until I'm warmed up. Anyway, at the moment, I'm pondering something James wrote about, Atheism as Negation. Which, leaving its intrinsic merits aside, is an interesting thing in itself, for why waste your time trying to negate that which does not exist?

I remember when I started doing this blog, it was with the idea of turning the cosmos upside down and inside out (back to its proper orientation), and then publishing "All the Eternity That Fits." I mean, we are not just totally saturated with news sources, but with news itself. In other words, it is not just the epistemology of news that concerns us, but the ontology. "The news" -- at least in its present configuration -- would have to represent the polar opposite of "the eternals." It fixes us to the transient in the same way that Sri Aurobindo's broken leg fixed him to the body.

But just as the body has a soul (or rather, vice versa), the "news" is a function of eternity (for the converse could never be true). And if we ignore the eternity pole of the dialectic, news turns into what it has become, a kind of "reverse mysticism," a hypnotic fascination with the transient and trivial, so you end up leaving the frontier of O, the wild godhead, for the disjointed necropolis of Ø. Good luck with that.

Of course, it is always possible to sift through the news for its eternal patterns and lessons, but how often does that occur? Not often, because you can't just be a journalist, but an artist, seer, or visionary of some kind. I think of James Joyce, who demonstrated in Ulysses the "temporal resonance" that occurs on a moment to moment basis, as the otherwise banal events of daily life resonate with our metamythological and transtemporal substrate. That's always occurring, but it takes activated cʘʘnvision to see it.

I believe I touched on this in the new testavus -- something about how the modern world and its nihilocracy of urgent nonsense forces us to dance to its jagged rhythms instead of abiding within the dudely hammock of eternity. For let's face it: to recoil from one of Petey's parables, "only the rug of eternity can pull your temporal room together." (Image courtesy Ace of Spades.)

Think about it. To the extent that you cannot do that, I think you'll find that it is because you've likely internalized "the world," which in turn displaces vertical reality. Hence the children's nursery rhyme, "there's nothing wronga' / than exile from Tonga."

The bottom lyin' is that if you live at the periphery instead of the center, the finest area rug in the world cannot redeem time and coordinate it with eternity. It has never happened, and never will happen, with any manmade philosophy. Only God can do that, through us. You might even say that we are God's cosmic "area rug," in that only human beings have the unique capacity to span all of creation, from the highest state of consciousness to the lowest state of queeghood.

Speaking of which, can Darwinism do this -- pull the cosmos together? Don't make me laugh! Darwinism tries to coordinate the world by making it all black. So yes, it does "pull the room together," but at the cost of making it a colorless, two-dimensional room that is no longer fit for human habitation.

For the metaphysical Darwinist forgets that the human subject requires a human environment in order to thrive and evolve. Or, to turn it around: fail to raise humans in their proper soul-environment, and they will internally die (and quite possibly kill, as a way to obtain a spurious, vampiric sense of life). Or, to put it another way, they will die to eternity and therefore chuck their very reason for being. This, my friends, is the evil of Queeg. Yes, his intentions are good, like a legally blind man doing his best to drive an automobile. But he is without a doubt a tool and puppet of the adversary, the hostile forces: →(¶)←.

Now, back to James' and his ponderful little post. You often hear atheists -- in fact, a number have left such comments here -- saying that they are atheists for the simple reason that they do not believe pink fairies live under their bed, or some similar barbarism. But as James writes, "Consider an atheism that is just the absence of God from one's normal everyday consciousness. In my own case, this would involve giving God no more thought than pink elephants, Zeus, or the genocide in Burundi."

Think about that for a moment. I also don't believe that pink fairies live under my bed. Frankly, I never think about pink fairies, and to the extent that other people believe they exist, I would just conclude that they are crazy, and leave it at that. I would hardly waste time writing lengthy treatises on why pink fairies do not exist, largely because mental illness is not susceptible to reason. If you fail to understand this, then you could certainly never be a psychotherapist. The whole point of mental illness is that it involves self-defeating beliefs, actions, traits and emotional states that persist outside any conscious control.

Sure, I could get into an argument with my patient, and try to "prove" to him that his thinking is all wrong. But this would get me precisely nowhere. In fact, this is the whole reason why psychoanalysis developed to begin with, because of a new appreciation of the irrational in human life, smack dab in the middle of the new positivistic "age of reason" that should have eliminated it.

In fact, this is also why the Romantics began to romanticize mental illness, for at least it was preferable to living like a Darwinian reason-machine, divorced from the deeper wellspring of our humanness. It's also why so many people reject Darwinism -- not because of the science, which is what it is, but because of the infrahuman metaphysics they're always trying to ram down our throats.

In truth, no amount of Darwinian magical thinking can eliminate that deeper -- and higher -- wellspring of our humanness. But it can never stop trying, precisely because of the persistence of that wellspring. This is why you should never believe one of these atheists who says he doesn't believe in pink fairies, for in fact, he can't stop thinking about them. It is the properly religious person who has left such childish beliefs behind.

One other point I'd like to make, although I'm not yet sure how it ties into the above. But James Cutsinger has a blog (if you go there, be very quiet -- I get the sense that, like me, he doesn't really want to publicize it that much and attract the wrong types).

As I have mentioned, a fair number of people contact me, asking about this or that spiritual technique, but my answer is always the same. I'm not saying that mine is the only way, but I always let them know that I made no progress until I abandoned "self power" for "(O)ther power." In other words, I finally surrendered and turned myself in to the authorities.

Now, to reference the aforementioned atheist, you could say that I effortlessly think about "pink fairies" all the time. It doesn't require any effort, but the abandonment of effort. In this regard, Cutsinger advises his correspondent to give up his intense effort and to "to escape the illusion that everything somehow depends on us." He then quotes Schuon, who wrote in a letter that,

“What matters a priori is not that we know how to concentrate; what matters is that we love to practice the Invocation…. It is better to invoke with joy while being a little distracted by harmless thoughts than to invoke without joy because the effort of concentration prevents one from being happy. It is necessary to guard against a perfectionism that is angry and ambitious, and basically individualistic; it is necessary to guard against all ‘zeal of bitterness’. It is better to invoke with carefreeness, like a bird which sings or like a child at play. Holy carefreeness readily combines with the sense of the sacred, thanks to confidence in God. Metaphysical knowledge and holy childlikeness must go hand in hand: ‘extremes meet’."

So, to tie it all together: stop trying so hard to tie it all together. You can't do it anyway. Plus, it's already tied together. You don't have to create God, any more than you have to beat your heart or digest your food. Just relux and call it a deity. Abide. Soon enough the pink fairies will roost in your back yard.

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