Saturday, April 25, 2009

Antichrist Update #9: The Core Assumption of the Morally Inverted Left (3.24.10)

The problem with the word "antichrist" is that you can't use it without people getting the wrong idea. But when I use the word, I am again trying to be quite precise, for if there is a metacosmic dimension we call "Christ," then surely there is a realm of the antichristic. I'm not really interested in mythological uses of the term, nor in locating "the" antichrist per se.

In my mind, it should be as uncontroversial as pointing out that there is a realm of science, and therefore anti-science, e.g., "climate change," metaphysical Darwinism, etc. However, in the case of the antichristic, we are not just dealing with negation or opposition, but inversion -- inversion of the good, true, and beautiful, among other transcendental categories.

Now, I do believe in all sincerity that the left is antichristic. This is not just my opinion, but theirs, since they are obviously deeply opposed to the transcendent -- i.e., the "permanent real" -- in general.

But as it pertains to Obama, the really frightening thing about him is his "superior ignorance" of that which he opposes (for example, his long-time membership in that racist, anti-American sect must make him believe that such views are normative for Christianity -- or even Christianity at all). What I mean by this is that Obama is our first postmodern president. True, Presidents Clinton and Bush were ivy league educated, but this was when it still meant something -- before the leftist takeover of higher education. This transformation began in the late '60s but was only complete by the 1980s.

Thus, by the time Obama attended college in the 1980s, it was possible -- even likely -- that one could pass through one's higher education without once encountering any serious conservative (i.e., liberal) oppostion -- like one of those subatomic particles that can pass through the earth without touching matter. Dennis Prager often mentions that when he speaks on college campuses, students routinely approach him and tell him that they have never heard conservative ideas in any of their classrooms, except perhaps in a caricatured, straw-man way.

As a result, the postmodern leftist lives in a kind of hermetically sealed ignorance that they call "education" or "sophistication." And this is why they feel no need to condescend to the level of those who disagree with them, since we are not just a priori wrong, but evil, misguided, and malevolent as well. Look at Miss Califiornia -- she is not just wrong for believing in traditional marriage, she is not even wrong. She is not to be argued with, nor even tolerated, but condemned. The only hope for her redemption would be in "reeducation," perhaps followed by volunteering at an AIDS hospice.

The whole thing is an interesting spectacle, because the last time I checked up on the leftist Truth of the Day, beauty pageants were intrinsically sexist, since they objectified the female form. But I guess it's now okay to do that, so long as the form in question has the correct politics inside. It's like saying to men: "Don't worry. It's still okay to be straight, so long as you're kind of homo about it." In other words, you can still objectify women, so long as you respect their leftism. But a conservative beauty queen is a different matter. She is just a whore by another name.

The point is that when we see Obama -- what's the opposite of strutting? Slinking? -- around the world stage, apologizing to all and sundry for the existence of the United States, it may make you or me want to vomit, but that's probably only because you either didn't attend an elite university, or else went to college prior to the leftist takeover. This is why Obama can be so simultaneously craven and grandiose, because by submitting to the abuse of the international left, he is demonstrating his moral superiority. In this context, crawling like Obama is strutting (while strutting like George Bush or Ronald Reagan is slinking like a snake).

It's the same with the "torture" debate. People who oppose enhanced interrogation techniques demonstrate their moral superiority over those of us who value innocent human life over making terrorists comfortable. But if they actually had strong arguments, they surely wouldn't have to lie about its effectiveness in saving thousands of innocent lives. The same people would no doubt be opposed to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, irrespective of how many tens of thousands of American and Japanese lives were spared as a result.

It's very easy to play this game with other people's lives. What these people have to ask themselves is whether they would waterboard a terrorist to save their own life, or their child's life. If they wouldn't, then they are just crazy. It's their choice, but they cannot be allowed to impose their madness on the rest of us. The vast majority of Americans do not hold radical left views on enhanced interrogation.

As Dennis Prager was saying the other day, I have no problem with crazy ideas, since one could no more eliminate them than one can eliminate all disease. My only complaint is when they try to impose their ideas on the rest of us -- especially when they declare evil good, lies truth, and relative absolute.

That latter one, of course, is the root of the spiritual pathology of the left, the "master key." For once you absolutize the relative, then everything else falls into place. Isn't this what the anti-enhanced interrogation people are doing, elevating a relative good to an absolute, so that we obscure the real absolute, which is the protection of innocent human life?

Indeed, isn't the protection of innocent life what justified airing out the skulls of the three Somalian pirates? As Walter Sobchak teaches us, there are consequences. Very simple consequences: This! Is! What! Happens! When! You! F*ck! A! Stranger! In! The! A**!

(Apologies for rolling out the profanity on Shabbos.)

I don't care if they release photos of the interrogations, so long as they show them side by side with people jumping from the top of the Twin Towers, or terrorists beheading Nick Berg, or Israeli convalescent homes for people brain damaged by Palestinian homicide bombs.

Last night I was reading in the Theo-Drama about how everything is either pre-Christian, Christian, or post-Christian. The post-Christians can imagine that they are free of the taint of Christianity, but you will always find it lurking somewhere in their metaphysic. Once you've heard the story, you cannot forget it, try as you might. For example, from where does the concern for victims come? From Darwin? Hardly. Consider what Keith Olbermann said the other night on Clowndown:

"The searing truth: that the moment of torture automatically makes the presumed bad guy recipient the victim, and makes the torturer into the evildoer."

This lunatic sentiment can only be understood as an inversion of Christianity. It would be as if Christ were a terrorist with the blood of thousands on his hands, instead of a sinless victim with the guilt of millions on his back.

Now Olbermann wants to pay Sean Hannity a thousand dollars for every second he undergoes waterboarding. One way -- among others -- we can know he doesn't believe what he is saying, is that it would be deeply immoral for him to pay to have someone tortured if it were actually torture -- for example, raping a child in front of its parents, or putting someone through a plastic shredder, or cutting them apart piece by piece, or crucifixion. (Although I do believe that this angry lunatic would actually like to see Hannity tortured, which is the unconscious point of the offer. Then again, by his own moral reasoning, it would automatically make Hannity the victim and Olbermann the evildoer.)

So, this is the realm of the antichristic. The appropriation and inversion of Christian values in the name of the Absolutely Relative.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On Thinking Your Thoughts and God Thinking His

Someone asked yesterday how I meant the term "intersubjective." That's a fair -- and important -- question, because I don't want to be like those other philosophers who throw out neologisms or use words in an arbitrary or idiosyncratic manner. Rather, I'm trying to be quite precise, even when I throw out neologisms and use words in an arbitrary or idiosyncratic manner. I'll give as brief a summary as possible, because I don't want to get all pedantic on your.

When I use this term I mean it in the (modern) psychoanalytic sense that human minds are "interior" to one another. If you have even a nodding acquaintance with psychoanalytic thought, you may recall that Freud -- who was as materialist and positivist as they come -- regarded the mind as a sort of instinct-driven machine. Thus, it's not even a proper subject at all, more like a pressure cooker seeking release (not to say that some infra-human people aren't unreasonable factsimians of such a model).

Some of the early psychoanalysts who couldn't go along with this view formed their own schools and schisms. However, psychoanalysis itself began to undergo a profound shift after World War II, especially in Great Britain. To make a short story shorter, it began to explore the earliest relationship between mother and infant for the source of our deepening subjectivity. Anyone who is interested in learning a little more about what I consider of central importance to any comprehensive view of the cosmos might begin with The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are.

It's been awhile, but my recollection is that this book does an able job of summarizing the most cutting edge research on the subject, including the work of Allan Schore, a remarkable polymath who synthesizes... well, I'll just quote one of the blurbs: "the depth and breadth of whose reading, bringing together neurobiology, developmental neurochemistry, behavioral neurology, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, developmental psychoanalysis and infant psychiatry, is staggering." "Staggering" is a good description. I definitely wouldn't recommend starting with him. It would be like giving Balthasar to Mtraven. He would only look for references to torture. But then he'd blame it on the Jews for occupying Roman land.

Here's a good summary by Dr. Grotstein, who was also nice enough to enblurb my book. Wordy but accurate. Skip ahead if you like:

"In this remarkable and unique integrative contribution on socioaffective ontogeny, Dr. Schore has assembled an incredible array of data that spans virtually the length and breadth of modern science, including neurobiology, developmental neurochemistry, behavioral neurology, evolutionary biology, sociobiology, developmental psychology, developmental psychoanalysis, and infant psychiatry. His aim in this work is to construct an interdisciplinary model for the attainment of optimum integration from all these disciplines so that we see a more transcendent picture of the emerging human infant as a neurobiological-social-emotional self. I believe that he has achieved his aim and, in so doing, he has lifted our neurobiological 'hardware' into a unique costarring role with our mental (cognitive/affective) software and has highlighted how our neurons become key players in the formation of our personalities. We can almost now see brain and mind in a paradoxically discontinuously continuous Möbius strip connection.... It fundamentally alters our traditional, fundamentalistic, cyclopean psychodynamic way of viewing infants and patients and dramatically informs a newer and much needed interdisciplinary perspective."

As Jerome Green -- rock's greatest maraca player -- famously said to Bo Diddley, "I can do what you do." Bo inquired, "then how come you ain't doin' it?" Jerome's condescending response was "because I got you doin' it."

So I'm not sure if I could do what Dr. Schore does, but it doesn't matter, since I got him doin' it for me.

But you don't really need to know all of the science in order to understand the truth of this worldview. For example, in my case, I merely had to be exposed to the ideas of Bion back in 1985, and I was instantly coonverted. He locates the roots of what we call "thinking" in the intersubjective space between mother and infant. You might say that when we come into the world, we are barraged by "thoughts without a thinker" (this is also summarized in my book). The (m)other serves as the "auxiliary cortex," so to speak, who will help the infant to think its thoughts (Bion called this "alpha function," the internalization of which will allow us to think our thoughts instead of simply being "subject to them," so to speak).

I'm afraid this is starting to sound overly abstract, but it's actually as concrete and empirical as can be. Mind parasites, for example, are internalized entities that thrive outside the bounds of our alpha function. They are not really just "thoughts without a thinker." Rather, the internalized mind parasite actually thinks thoughts that we do not authorize. Of course, there is always an unwilled flow of thoughts coming from various planes of consciousness, and depending upon the depth and integrity of our thinker, we will be able to organize them into higher and higher syntheses. But the mind parasite cannot be integrated, again, because it is split off from the central self.

This is all reviewed in my book, so I don't want to spend our limited time going over it again. See pp. 109-123, The Acquisition of Humanness in a Contemporary Stone Age Baby. Now that I've both had a baby and been one, I can recoonfirm everything presented there.

Our interest is in how all of this relates to the interior life of the trinitarian godhead, a life that we share, being that we are its image and likeness. We'll get into this in much more detail later, but I think it's entirely soph to say that "the world" comes into being in the space between Father and Son, or Ground and Word, Love and Wisdom, or O and (n).

You might say that the eternal generation of God's Word is the operation of his own "alpha function" (or perhaps alpha-and-omega function!) in the groundless ground beyond being. It is his own "self understanding," which is why to understand the Word is to understand God, since it is his own witness to himself. And of course, it is not an "it," but another Subject; therefore, the Word is the Other who is actually non-Other, or Love; no intersubjectivity, no love, which is why love is a true union that reveals the One beneath, or "above" the two. And the baby -- the "third" -- is the witness to this love.

Which is why "homosexual marriage" is an intrinsic cosmic absurdity, but I don't want to go there. I don't want to jeopardize my chance to be Mister California.

Whew, that was a long prelude. Which rhymes with quaalude. And gay dude. And très rude. I'm sure there's a limerick in there about Perez Hilton.

A silly and bitchy young gay dude
who invented supposit'ry quaalude...

What? No, Dupree, they're just saying B'ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhB.

Okay, back to Image and World. Now that you know all about alpha function, you are in a position to draw the obvious parallels between it and HvB's observations about the raw image-world that confronts us, which is very much analogous to "thoughts without a thinker":

"The images simulate something that they themselves are not: a world. They suggest the idea of essence and existence, but they are neither. They have no essence, because they are nothing but surface with no depth. They are mere appearance and are thus incapable of displaying any interiority at all.... They are what they are, nothing more, this sweetness, this noisiness, this quickness, this colorfulness... Their sheer superficiality conveys nothing of any hidden background."

In short, we can only deepen the images by "thinking them" as opposed to merely being subject to them. Again, look at how HvB describes it: "If they are to start making sense, the images must be lent an essence and existence that they do not possess themselves. To lend them essence is to interpret them as the appearance of a coherent but non-appearing sense..."

We must "think the world into being," so to speak, very much in the manner that the mother thinks the infant into being, so that the infant may discover-create its world. For to "think" is to first apprehend and then tolerate the mystery of the There that isn't there; in other words, we do not waste our time thinking about things that possess no mystery, like Mtraven's skull. The mystery is precisely what draws us in.

But some people do not intuit the mystery, which in turn causes their thinking to suffer in consequence. Here again, one cannot help thinking of the poor atheist, who sees only a wall where we see a window or even Door. What happened to their alpha function? And who really cares?

O "testifies" to its own existence in the form of our ceaseless thoughts. You might think of these as an infinite number of "views" of O. Here is how HvB describes it: images proceed "from a common, non-appearing center," and are "the exhibition of one and the same thing from various angles or in various phases..."

And here is how Bion described O (and I can't tell you how daring it was for a psychoanalyst to speak in this way back in the 1960s): "The central postulate is that atonement with ultimate reality, or O, as I have called it to avoid involvement with existing association, is essential to harmonious growth.... In short, the individual has, and retains, what religious people call a belief in God however much he denies it or claims to have become emancipated. The final relationship is permanent, though its formulation is subject to constant reformulation," or what I call O-->(n).

I'll leave you with one more quote from Bion to ponder, for it bears on what we might call the "negative intersubjectivity" of the left, as exemplified by one of its rank-and-foul, mtraven: "The link between one mind and another that leads to destruction is the lie.... The lie is not restricted, as the word 'lie' would ordinarily imply, to the domain of thought, but has its counterpart in the domain of being; it is possible to be a lie and being so precludes at-one-ment in O."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No-Man's-Land and Knowing Man's Land

Obviously our minds exist in a kind of "space," although this space cannot be like physical space (at least Newtonian space; quantum space is a different matter -- pun both intended and unintended).

As we have discussed in the past, the "space" of our conscious mind has some analogies with the Newtonian space of everyday life, whereas unconscious (or supraconscious) space is quite different (ultimately we are not just "in" this space but of it). However, we can only make an artificial distinction between conscious and unconscious minds, since each is always implicated in the other -- like the horizontal divide between right and left brain, or the vertical divide between neo-cortex and limbic system.

You might say that we are three (or more!) beings in one person. Somehow we have this unproblematic experience of a unified self (at least in mental health), despite the fact that it is constituted of so many innumerable parts.

In fact, as I outlined somewhere in my book, we can only have this unified sense of an individual self because we are intrinsically intersubjective -- just like the godhead.

So either the early church fathers who worked out trinitarian theology were proto-psychoanalytic developmental theorists, or modern psychoanalysis has unwittingly confirmed the intersubjective godhead. I obviously vote for the latter. The extraordinary implications of this have yet to be fully outlined by anyone -- i.e., the deep analogy between our intersubjective life and God's intersubjective life. Might as well start today.

What do we experience when we awaken to the world? For we never experience the world as such, only images of the world, like a multitude of snapshots. And yet, we again experience these images as a unity we call "the world." But we could never experience that unity unless we were first unified on an interior level.

In a certain very real sense, psychopathology consists in any breakdown of this interior unity. In extreme cases -- e.g., schizophrenia or real autism -- there is no longer any exterior unity, just one experience after another, with no way to synthesize them.

Ever had a panic attack? (You would remember.) Suddenly the world and/or the self are reduced to a blizzard of calamitous novelty. What happened to the unity? The containment? The coherence? The meaning? The future? The past? The depth? The surface? The other? For these are all aspects of one another.

In panic, there is no longer anything to cling to, no center, no axis. That's when you find out what it would mean if human beings weren't actually the center of the universe, because the alternative is too horrifying to conceive and tolerate, at least for very long. Suicide would probably be preferable for most people, because in such a hellish condition, death remains the only merciful boundary in the cosmos. At least it is an end.

Indeed, I recently evaluated a schizophrenic patient with just this problem. Although heavily medicated, he would nevertheless randomly cycle into periods of agitated depression for which the only solution was immediate suicide (he would have to be hospitalized on each occasion). You have to imagine yourself as utterly and irredeemably worthless, a complete burden on existence itself, an insult to the cosmos, a spit in the eye of God.

Thus, you can also see that a primitive form of justice remains: you shall die for this sin of existing! But that is all that remains: the sadistically omnipotent judge and the perverse satisfaction of executing oneself, either symbolically or literally.

As you can see, such a person is still "Three," but in an inside-out, upside-down manner, i.e., judge, criminal, and the unholy ghost of sadistic joy. You might think that this is an "extreme case," and it is. However, one thing I learned during my internship at a state mental hospital is that similar processes exist in the "normal" person, only in more subtle form.

To take an example that is readily at hand, Perez Hilton took perverse joy in executing the bitch/c*nt from California because she does not share his peculiar ideas about redefining marriage. Burn her! Death to the witch! He says that if he could have, he would have made her "the 51st runner up," i.e., a non-person symbolically outside the psychological bounds of the fifty United States.

Likewise, Obama and the insane left want to symbolically execute people who traded belly slaps and caterpillars for thousands of saved American lives. Madness. The secret psychotic madness of everyday life. Or "the left" for short.

Back to the images that confront us, through which we somehow intuit a cosmos, i.e., a coherent totality. Obviously, this is a kind of magic that the "raw stuff" of experience cannot pull off on its own. For example, Coondog knows nothing about any "cosmos." While she can judge, after her own fashion, she cannot judge her judgment, and that makes all the difference. She does not think to herself, "Hmm, that was a bit of an over-the-top reaction when the UPS man came to the door, wasn't it? Must check this tendency to bark first and ask questions later. I look as stupid as freaking Perez Hilton."

HvB writes that the image-world simulates "something that they themselves are not: a world. They suggest the idea of essence and existence, but they are neither. They have no essence, because they are nothing but surface with no depth. They are mere appearance and are thus incapable of displaying any interiority at all.... They are what they are, nothing more, this sweetness, this noisiness, this quickness, this colorfulness," etc.

A moment's introspection will inform you that this is how we come into the world (remama?), for HvB has just described the world of the infant, the inner coherence of which will only become apparent through the adventure of bonding and attachment with a sensitive and empathic other.

When you are consciously aware of this process, it makes parenting all the more fascinating, for you are not just watching a self come into being, but a -- the -- cosmos as well. No coherent interior self, no cosmos.

Again, one cannot help thinking of the intersubjective Word through which God eternally creates the cosmos. This "loving bond" between the two is prior to any creation -- just as it is with the human being. Or, one might say that it is creation. The great psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott wrote many papers on how the infant "creates" the world through the feedback loop of sensitive parenting.

The discovery of the interior cosmos is also the discovery of law, both the laws of matter and the laws of the heart. Conversely, for the schizophrenic person referenced above, his is a lawless universe, with no consistency or coherence. He can "assemble" a cosmos, so to speak, but he cannot access its a priori interior unity. He will desperately search for patterns and regularities, and cling to them for survival, but it is as if he must live in exile from being.

Here again, there is something eerily similar going on with the atheistic materialist, who clings to the surface at the expense of the real depth. Why does he do it? Is it some sort of genetic defect? Childhood trauma? Stupidity? Conformity? Pride? Resentment? Who knows. I don't think there's any general rule.

Everything happens in the transitional space between subject and object, or what we might call the "intersubjective third." Without something like this, "the images float without fixity between being and nothingness, just as they float with no fixed residence in a no-man's land between subject and object" (HvB).

But this is hardly a "no-man's land." Rather, it is "man's land" -- or knowing man's land -- precisely.

Long day ahead. To be continued....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Truth as Mystery, Mystery as Truth

This ought to be good: Truth as Mystery. But if truth is the mystery, who is the mysterer?

Too easy. Well, perhaps not, for there are two broad possibilities: either mystery is an immanent property of truth, something that radiates from its inner core, or else just a kind of peripheral "noise" added by human minds.

Science (i.e., scientism) is about eliminating mystery. If we could only know everything, then all mystery would be eliminated, and the world would be... hell, in my opinion.

This problem starts to bear on Theo-Drama, and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves and spoil the surprise. But to live in a world bereft of mystery would be like knowing the end of every story, the punch line of every joke, and the hour of your own death. It would be a kind of prison of absolute jadedness.

Imagine if there were nothing to read except for The Nation, or Glenn Greenwald, or Richard Dawkins (meaning nothing but mindless atheism and soulless leftism). For it's not just the intrinsic lies, but the spiritual asphyxiation that kills you. To put it another way, only the spiritually dead can expose themselves to these kinds of things and fail to notice that "something's missing."

If you are at all familiar with the atheist literature, or even left wing cultural commentary in general, then you know what I mean. Because before all else, the left demystifies, but when one does that, one cannot help extracting the humanness along with it. This happens when one demystifies sex, or religion, or marriage, or childhood, or education, or art -- basically anything important to the soul.

Note that the troll will reflexively conflate "mystery" and "ignorance," when to live the mystery is to know the transcendental truth, precisely; for to dwell in the mystery is to belost & coonfounded in the state of higher bewilderness, or "upper Tonga."

For the belighted ones (i.e., those who are blinded by an excess of surface light), mystery is an annoyance, whereas for us it is the point. (And let us not give a pass to the spiritual materialists of the right who do the same thing with religion, i.e., reduce it to a kind of surface formula.)

I'm guessing that even the most doctrinairehead materialist isn't sufficiently delusional to imagine that we will ever reach this glorious state of fully saturated (k), which would represent the elimination of O, and delumenation of being.

Nevertheless, he believes we are approaching it, and that we should approach it. For as we have mentioned before, scientism is about the demystification of the world, whereas one of the essential features of Raccoon religion -- one of the six or seven "promises of Toots" -- is the remystification of the world. With bells on. (Of course, this also bears on the esoteric meaning of the Raccoon who has "gone on to Bismarck.")

Now, one of the keys to understanding truth is its relation to freedom; for if we are not free, then there is no truth, and if there is no truth, then there is no freedom. We must be free to discover truth, which, of course, also adds the ethical dimension, for truth is what we must know, just as good is what we must do. But if truth is reduced to pure quantity, then out the door go freedom and goodness as well.

Let me take a little break, and see what HvB has to say about it. He begins by noting that truth "transcends the predetermined outlines of nature," and that this transcendence is "an entryway into truth's character as mystery." And where there is mystery, there is interiority, in both being and in the subject who apprehends it.

Therefore, truth "emerges" from being, so to speak: being as such is pure mystery, even while it perpetually (and mysteriously) discloses itself in the form of truth. So if we are "reading being" properly, then the mystery should always be legible to us, along with the truth.

It would appear that "mystery" and "interiority" are almost synonymous terms; at the very least, you could never have one without the other. Furthermore, they always "co-arise." This means that the deeper one plunges into oneself, the deeper the "external world" will appear to us.

Now, this idea of "depth" is a particularly important one, for as I have noted in the past, depth is the dimension of soul in all human activities, and it is utterly inaccessible to any form of materialism (for how can matter possess degrees of ontological "depth?"). If you want to plumb the depth of someone, just find out what they consider "deep." To grab a particularly low-hanging fruitcake, consider the things that Mtraven considers "deep," and you pretty much know all you need to know about him.

More to the point, everything he considers deep, we know to be shallow. But since he will automatically reduce what is deep to his own soul's depth, one can again see the pointlessness of arguing with him. This is what the leftist does and cannot help doing, and it is critical to bear it in mind; in other words, they desecrate, they profane, and they blaspheme (proudly!).

Whatever delicacy you give to a dog becomes dog food. They have no way of knowing whether it came from a five star restaurant or the local Quickie Mart. Nor does the materialist, by his own acknowledgment, know what comes from God. Rather, for him, by definition, the finest soul food might as well come from McMatter. Which is certainly to put the nugget before the chicken, but we'll let it go.

Back to being, depth, truth, soul, and mystery. Again, all of these categories are intrinsically related. As HvB notes, the mystery at the heart of being is not an impoverishment but a wealth or "abundant fullness." It is not value subtracted, but value added. Indeed, you might even say that it is the addition of value, for value too lies on a vertical scale that can be known only to the soul.

HvB writes that "The truth of being can no more be without an indwelling mystery than being can be exhaustively unveiled to the eye of the intelligence. By its very essence, being is always richer than what we see and apprehend of it."

And just how do we know this? In other words, for the materialist, this does not count as "knowledge," only recognition of one's ignorance. But we know better, for we know that unKnowing the mystery is infinitely preferable to killing it with the trivia of materialism.

For again: mystery is not "beyond truth, but it is a permanent, immanent property of it. There is no aspect of truth that in any given act of cognition is ever so perspicuous to the knower that it contains nothing else to be known" (HvB).

There is always more: more truth, more light, more mystery, more depth, more life, until we know the Life Divine and therefore nothing at all. And this is the cerebration of the Voidgin Birth, one of the other seven or eight Promises of Toots.

Workin' on a mystery. Let's hope he never gets to the bottom of the big one:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Partial Truth Abortions and Full Term Children of of the Light

And so we turn another page of the Theo-Logic. Meanwhile, the tension is beginning to ratchet up in the Theo-Drama, as HvB has set the cosmic stage and cast some of the most important roles. But at this pace, Obama will be out of the White House before we get to that, because each page or two of the Theo-Logic inspires a whole post.

I don't know if you appreciate how freakish this is. I remember reading Edward Oakes' intro to Balthasar a number of years ago, thinking that that would get me up to speed -- you know, just give me the bottom line. At the time, I thought it was a pretty good book. Only now do I realize how hopelessly inadequate it is, probably through no fault of Oakes. Rather, he was engaging in a truly impossible task, i.e., trying to contain the uncontainable.

But if we're talking about "reality," then obviously any book will be hopelessly inadequate. Our words are always shattered by the Word, thank God, because if that weren't the case, we'd all be as boring, predictable, and narrow minded as Queeg or Mtraven.

But more generally, since I only deal in the high end, I can't help being amused by the professional atheist crowd, who can only remain so smugly self-satisfied by discharging intellectual aggression toward religious straw men at the low end. But you have accomplished nothing in besting a yahoo.

Again, take the example of Catholicism, since that is what we're dealing with here. Instead of, say, condemning abusive homosexual priests, why not pick on someone your own size? Why not plunge into the world of HvB, and engage that? In short, why not deal with the best and strongest arguments of the opposition, instead of making fun of the worst? Isn't this the minimum requirement of intellectual honesty? Obviously, the Catholic church must serve a billion souls, and it would hardly be appropriate to feed them all on a diet of HvB, MOTT, or Meister Eckhart, when only 1% might be capable of digesting it.

I'm traveling back in time to my atheist phase, in order to try to understand their motives. Let's see.... Well, first of all, let me be the first to admit that I was a smug and arrogant prick -- in short, the same person I am today from the perspective of our trolls -- but that isn't enough to explain the dynamic.

Also, like any liberal, I had no understanding of the implications of my views, nor did I ever articulate any consistent first principles. That goes without saying. And there was surely an element of sadism, in that I enjoyed prevailing in arguments for its own sake, rather than for any truly higher purpose -- no different, really, than the talking heads on TV.

To be charitable, I suppose that if we take the long view, I think we can say that I was ultimately motivated by love, or else I would have remained a liberal for life. Rather, it was a nasty phase I had to go through in order to get to where I am today, just as today is a gnosty phase I have to go through in order to arrive at where I'll be a year from now.

The question is, how would I have responded at the time if I had somehow had the good fortune to run into a religious genius on the order of HvB or Schuon? How would I have reacted? Well, as a matter of fact, I did run into Schuon, probably as early as 1982 or so. But it had no real impact. He was just one name among others. I certainly wasn't able to place him in any hierarchy, and if I had, would have undoubtedly placed him below an Alan Watts, Ken Wilber or Ram Dass. In other words, I would have entirely conflated my own ignorance and inadequacy with his, as if it was in him and not me.

So I think that must be the main factor: adequacy. The intellectual, mainly due to the contamination of pride, only engages in ideas with which he is capable of comprehending, because that is what intellectuals do: play with ideas. But as soon as an idea is "understood," then the intellectual has elevated himself above it. I'm guessing that most intellectuals pride themselves on the notion that, as intellectuals, the entire world of thought is accessible to them, and that there is nothing they cannot potentially understand.

Which, of course, is arrant nonsense, for when it comes to the sorts of ideas discussed by an HvB, to understand them is to be a believer. To put it another way, if an intellectual does not believe what HvB is saying, then he hasn't understood it -- no different than if someone were to say that he doesn't believe in the law of gravity. If that is the case, it simply means that he hasn't understood it. You can try to explain it to him again, but obviously it would be a waste of time to descend to his level and argue on his own terms about the existence or non-existence of gravity.

Now, here is another critical point: religious truths can never actually be "comprehended" in the way that profane truths can be. To cite an obvious example, a sixth grader can easily comprehend the relative truth of natural selection, being that such a simple idea can be printed on a tee shirt or reduced to a tattoo on Charles Johnson's concave chest. But just try explaining to him the truth of Theo-Logic. Here, let's begin with the first paragraph:

To talk about truth means more than merely to ask whether or not truth exists and, perhaps, to answer in the affirmative. This particular question -- whether or not truth exists -- is the principal concern of critical epistemology, and it is certainly serious enough to warrant a thorough investigation of its own. Ontology, too, should have pride of place in dealing with this issue, because truth is not just a property of knowledge but a transcendental quality of being as such.

For a senior Raccoon, this amounts to a cliche. But what can it mean to a sixth grader, or a bonehead atheist, or a 25 year-old unBob? Pretty much nothing, I guess.

Again, the point is that HvB's corpus is sufficient proof of the -- to coon a phrase -- "generative uncontainability" of God. In other words, it seems that the closer one gets to the truth, it simultaneously in-forms and shatters. I

t reminds me of a truly generative artist, such as Bob Dylan, who is already off to the next project by the time the old one hits the marketplace. In contrast, the inferior artist will sing the same hit song in the same way for the rest of his life. And most people who call themselves "intellectuals" are analogous to one-hit wonders who really have only one "big idea" that they replay over and over on the oldies circuit known as academia.

But only a handful of intellectuals can play true mind jazz -- and spirit jazz -- in the manner of HvB. There are people who can play the former, and others who can play the latter, but not too many who are equally comfortable in both realms. What I mean is that HvB is without a doubt the most cultured and erudite author I think I've ever encountered. But at the same time, he is obviously a mystic of the first rank, a combination that places him miles above the vulgar atheist or common intellectual.

I didn't intend to ramble so much. This post all started as I contemplated HvB's next sentence, which I haven't yet reproduced: "Every abuse of truth consists in making the fragment self-sufficient to the detriment of the totality."

Right? Right. To say that atheists are guilty of this amounts to a cliche. However, he's also talking about "religious" people who foreclose the living God by clinging to some partial formulation. Again, one can't help thinking of so many members of the "religious right." This is not to condnemn them -- indeed, they are simply behaving in a predictably "all too human" manner, as is the atheist. What unites the two is this emotional/intellectual need to seal off and enclose transcendental being, as if it could ever be tamed.

Nevertheless, HvB points out that "the possibility of this abuse is the root of scandal," which immediately makes one wonder if it may be implicated in our fallen nature. For "Men are scandalized whenever there is a closure to the absolute, encompassing truth from the standpoint of some partial truth."

You might say that man is a partial-truth abortion, in that this ontological foreclosure results in a failure of the "second birth." And the tenured hold the vacuum that sucks the spiritual embryo out of its developing womb.

Naturally, the idea of the Fall has many different angles, but I believe we've hit on a key one, the idea that we "take refuge" in a finite perspective, and that to cling to the finite means to reject the infinite. Rather, we are to cling to the infinite -- or rather, to be "contained" within it, so to speak.

The operative word is "contained," for the atheist, since he doesn't believe in the container, can experience only the terrible "silence of the infinite spaces" when he contemplates this infinite reality. No wonder he plugs the hole with Marxism, or Darwinism, or Obamaism, and other masturbatory forms of spiritual nOnanism.

Ah, here is the clincher: "Man's guilt consists, not in the fact that he knows only a sector of the infinite truth, but rather in the fact that he becomes content with it, blocks himself off from enlarging and complementary vistas, and thus severs himself from the living source of truth."

But just try telling this to 25 year-old Bob or sixth grade Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris.

Thanks to the movement of self-surrender, love is given a flood of truth, whose chief characteristic is a fullness that never fits completely into any human schema.... No truth proceeding from the center of self-revealing being is ever exhaustible; it carries the promising hint of ever new and deeper truth. --HvB

Below, an uncontainably joyous little feller on the occasion of his fourth birthday:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Guilty With An Explanation: Defending My Indefensible Blog

You see? I told you they can't stand lighthearted ridicule. This one's a keeper:

"So long as you define 'funny' as laughing at someone rather than with them. How original! How clever! How... individual.

"How juvenile and ego-bound.

"As a bunch of back-thumping holymen, you coons sure are passive-aggressive and insecure, a sort of Amerikan Taliban, costumes and all. If you're so convinced you're all that, why aren't you peddling your hatred cum self-aggrandizement out in the world instead of festering in this islolated little pustule you've created? Oh, of course. That would be to profane the occult. (Tasty Kool-Aid, Gagdad Jones! Secret recipe?) Not to mention that your 'self-evident truthiness' won't stand up to unbiased discussion. Despite all the yipping about individualism, you jaccoons pack up more easily than teens on myspace.

"Unlike many postings here, little in this post carries the weight of truth or peace. Only bitterness and pride. Keep your noses to the ground, jacoons. You aren't in the clear yet, despite what your own leftist (gasp! who, ME?) packthink brain is whispering in your brother's ear.

"BTW, not that you are interested, but then again you keep asking: I come here as a field test for my own BS detector. There are few places where feast and feces are mixed so freely. It takes a real big ego to toss a salad with this much nutty flavor. Bon apetit."


I wonder if this troll even knows why s/h/it is so angry? Why waste one's time getting angry at an isolated little pustule such as mine, when there are so many larger pimples and carbuncles to drain? That being the case, this person must be in a 24/7 tantrum.

Nor will the world ever be short of "back-thumping holymen." However, to compare us to the Taliban, or to Jim Jones' leftist Peoples Temple, again reveals one of the ubiquitous features of the left -- that is, since they are so naive about the nature of evil, they elevate the patently non-evil to the status of evil. Imagine if leftists were as angry with the real Taliban, or with real torture! That's what's so ironic: they make excuses for the actual Taliban (or terrorists and other monsters in general) and then refer to us as "Taliban," as if that's a bad thing in their world. Why don't they really honor me, and call me a Palestinian, or Castro lover?

The cognitive dissonance with the left is always cranked up to 11. Just a couple of weeks ago, they were blaming conservatism for the murder of three officers in Pittsburgh, on the same day they were lamenting the cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal's loss before the Supreme Court. Every leftist knows him on a first name basis, but how many know the names of Daniel Faulkner and the widow he left behind?

As for why I'm not peddling my self-aggrandizement out in the world, that's a fair question. After all, being so self-aggrandizing and all, it makes no sense for me to prefer anonymity. Why not adopt the sophisticated marketing strategy of Peter Russell, which is the page the troll's name is linked to?

I read -- tried to, anyway, for it was tedium on stilts -- one of this man's unreadable books a number of years ago. I don't want to be mean about it, but it was called The Global Brain. Let's just say it's a mish-mash of Deepak-approved pneuma-babble and new-age cliches marketed to the bottomless self-regard of the baby-boomer generation. I guess I'd better resist the impulse to fisk the man within an inch of his life, and move on to today's post. Maybe some other time, when I'm in a more loving mood. Being that it's endorsed by Ted Turner, I suppose it's self-fisking anyway.

Speaking of "spiritual circumspection" and not tossing out what is holy to the dogs, HvB writes that "Merely knowing about something is never a sufficient reason also for unveiling it." For example, Christopher Buckley has written a "tell all" memoir of his parents. Why? Why is this not a matter for him to discuss with his analyst? Rhetorical question. Must resist impulse to fisk. Moving on. I'm sure it's endorsed by Ted Turner anyway.

The point is, merely having some sort of spiritual experience is never sufficient justification for broadcasting it to the world. For one thing, it must be given time to mature and really take root. But even more importantly, if it is not accompanied by a sense of deep intimacy and sacredness, then YUR DOIN IT RONG. It's like telling the world all about your sex life.

Which reminds me of something I once read by a very astute psychoanalyst writing about film. I don't have time to dig out the book, but he mentioned that if you notice the kind of sexuality that is shown in movies -- especially as they have become more sexualized -- it's not so much that they really depict only lust. Nothing is easier than depicting some sort of "edgy" sexuality, as that is about as emotionally threatening as a teenage boy looking at Playboy. It's titillating, not "dangerous." The point is, despite imagining that they are so open about sexuality, they never depict anything resembling real marital intimacy, because it would be "unbearable" to do so.

In other words, there is a veil around that level of real intimacy that would actually be "creepy" to intrude upon -- like watching your parents have sex. No one would want to see it. They would prefer to see most any kind of perversion than to have to bear witness to real sexual intimacy. It's called the oedipus complex, and it is still the Law of the gLand, especially in those who imagine they are immune to it. People who imagine they are the most sexually "free" are usually just dancing to the tune of old Mister Oed: lust as a defense against intimacy.

So the above-referenced troll is surely on to something when he makes reference to the dangers of spiritual communication, but he is again inconsistent in criticizing us for being circumspect about it.

As HvB writes, before unveiling oneself before the world, one must naturally ask if it is serving any "other purpose than to proclaim one's own superiority." The troll is also surely correct that such a disclosure can actually have covert motivations, including the desire to wound others "under the mask of innocent remarks.... Often we present roses while we really mean the hidden thorns."

Indeed, I think it's entirely fair -- mandatory, really -- to ask what the B'ob is getting out of this exercise. Money? No. Fame? No. The esteem of his colleagues? No. I could have published half a dozen books by now if I had wanted to. The adoration of his minions?

Well, perhaps a little, despite my continuous efforts to deflect attention from me to the real source(s). It reminds me of when someone -- I think it might have been James Cutsinger -- went to Schuon to be a student. Far from being any kind of new age cult, Schuon required all of his students to be members of orthodox traditions. In this case, Schuon asked the person what his religious affiliation was. "Orthodox Christian." "Good. Then Christ is your master."

Christ is your master. Or Torah. Or the Vedas. The point is, despite -- or perhaps because of -- his spiritual luminosity, Schuon did not wish to be "worshipped," to say the least. True, he wanted people to approach him with the proper attitude, but that is simply a matter of objectivity, not self-aggrandizement. "Humility" has nothing to do with underestimating oneself, but accurately estimating oneself -- and others. So I do want to be "accurately known," most especially to myself.

It reminds me of my best teacher back in graduate school, who said that he didn't allow patients to call him by his first name. Rather, it was "Dr. P----," not because he was "full of himself," but for the patient's benefit. That is, he did not want patients to reduce the relationship to one of "equals," which conceals a subtle defense mechanism in which the child elevates himself to parent (or reduces the parent to a child, which in turn always leads to anxiety, as you might well imagine, what with no adults around).

Ah, here is a beautiful point: "We are not speaking here of falsehood as the perversion of truth but the abuse of the truth itself through lack of love." In other words, as Bion also described, there is truth and there are the uses to which it is put, which are two very different things. For clearly, the truth can be in the service of the lie, as the left never stops proving.

So before you blather on about spiritual matters, by all means do ask yourself why you are doing so, "for every unveiling that does not serve love is comparable to an exhibitionism that offends against the intimate laws of love" (emphasis mine).

That about sums it up, does it not? Talk about a "BS detector," or a spiritual discernment mechanism. More: "This point makes it clear how the truth serves love, while love embraces and transcends truth. Truth is the unveiling of being; the laws of love are its limits and measure."

Again it reminds me of Mrs. G., who one day made the conscious decision to resist the idea that I had any desire to hurt her, and to simply assume that I meant her well, irrespective of how it felt. Like magic, the clouds dispersed. Of course, this is not to suggest that you should open yourself up like this to "just anybody." Rather, you must be sure that the person has no personal agenda, and that they only have your self-interest in mind -- which is none other than love.

So in the end, love can be the only adequate excuse for inflicting one's "spiritual truth" upon the world. For love never "forces," nor does it invade or coerce the other. True, I sometimes perform surgery, but it is always elective surgery. In my case, I just put the scalpel out there. It's up to you if you want to plunge into it. I have no desire to make the trolls so angry, for if I did, I would seek them out. Rather, they are the one's who seek me out, and then complain when they get cut.

Well, that's about all the time we have left for today. We didn't get far, but I think there are some sharp points in there. So don't cut yourself on them unless you want to.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Unevolved Factsimians and their Low Fidelity Ears (11.30.12)

Needless to say, I am not impressed with the cognitive firepower of the militant atheist crowd, who strike me as being a few nails shy of a Palestinian ghetto blaster. In fact, in the absence of God, there is no reason to be impressed by anyone or anything, since 1) there is nothing we can know with certainty, 2) loveliness and beauty are simply illusions of the nervous system, and 3) believing untruth is morally indistinguishable from believing truth, since there is no ground for truth or morality anyway.

Cicero wrote that to not know what happened before you were born is to remain a child forever. Likewise, the ubiquitous problem with these clever atheists is that they haven't read the minutes of the last philosophical meeting -- or any meetings, for that matter. They actually believe that they are starting their inquiry into existence afresh, with no preconceptions borrowed -- or stolen is more like it -- from religion and metaphysics. They might look clever, but they are actually what I call "factsimians," that is, humans who reduce truth to fact and therefore sink beneath their humanness and try to pull you down with them.

Now, as I mentioned at the top, I am not impressed by the intelligence of the atheists or queeglings, the reason being that intelligence is not intelligent where it "knows" falsehood. Nor am I moved by their arguments, which are necessarily "beneath" the level of that which they are discussing. In other words, we are dealing with the question of "adequation," since the basis of all knowledge is conformity between subject and object (or subject and subject). There are empirical questions for which adequation is not particularly problematic, although there are obviously areas where our senses do deceive us -- for example, the sun does not circle the earth.

Oh, really? True, our naked sense impressions suggest that the earth is the center of the universe and that the sun does indeed circle it. And it is equally true that rational scientific knowledge tells us that the earth actually revolves around the sun. However, if we adopt a post-Einsteinian view, it would be equally accurate to say that both views are correct -- just as it is equally correct to say that the earth "falls" to the apple, or that when we drive someplace, our destination arrives at us.

Thus, the rational (perhaps I should say "rationalistic") view insists that man cannot be not the center of the universe. However, if we transcend 19th century scientific rationalism and consider the "post-rational" metaphysics of quantum cosmology, then we understand that the mystics are correct in their unanimous view that the center of the cosmos is both everywhere and nowhere -- or that the cosmos is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.

Philosophically, this is an instance of "returning to the beginning and knowing the joint for the first time," for this premodern view is perfectly in accord with postmodern quantum theory (not that we should ever require science to confirm what amounts to metaphysical common sense, for in the vertical sense, man cannot not be the central axis of manifest existence).

If we wish to approach God -- or, let us just say the Absolute, to avoid saturation -- we can just as well "cut out the middle man" of all of the intervening "-isms" down through the centuries -- empiricism, rationalism, positivism, materialism, Darwinism, what have you -- and use pure metaphysics to arrive at universal theological truths that cannot not be. This is why no discovery of science will ever disprove the existence of God. To the contrary, to the extent that science converges on truth, then it is converging on Truth, which is to say, God. God does not embrace falsehood, whether scientific or religious.

(A point of order: while I believe metaphysics adequately proves the existence of the Absolute, only revelation discloses its nature, which surely makes sense; for example, I can prove that you exist, but I cannot say "what you're like" unless you tell me, or unless I have highly advanced cʘʘnvision -- in which case you are merely "telling things" of which you are not consciously aware. In short, it takes two to Tongan.)

Therefore, whether they care to hear it or not, the scientist's passionate quest for truth is an explicitly religious one, so in any honest debate on the existence of God, God always wins. Of course, sometimes there are dishonest debates, so that it is possible for theists to "win" but for God to lose -- for example, theists win every debate in the Islamic world, thereby defeating God. Likewise, any small victory of Reason in the Islamic world constitutes a rare victory for God in that God-forsaken part of the world.

Now, the fact of the matter is exactly as Schuon says it is: if everyone were capable of understanding metaphysics, there would be no atheists. But they aren't and there are. The problem is that in the present age, with its egalitarian emphasis on "education," many people are educated beyond their intelligence and their actual station. And with no understanding of the vertical, you end up with someone like, say, mtraven, trying to talk about the roof from down in the basement.

But this is what atheists do -- the clever ones, anyway -- for it is what all intellectuals do. Because they are clever, they are very good at understanding and internalizing the fashionable abstractions of the day. As a result, they tend to live in their abstractions, and there is no theory more abstract than atheism, for it superimposes an ultimately sterile dogma over the living mystery (for every real mystery is a sign of divine life) of real being. While this ground of being is a mystery, it is not an absurdity because it is infused with the very same logos that illuminates the mind and allows us to comprehend it. We see beauty or know truth because both are logos calling out to logos.

To paraphrase George Steiner, if all of the religious loans made to science were called in at once, there would be no science left standing -- it would be a catastrophic collapse of the epistemological bubble of scientism, so that countless intellectuals would "lose their life savings." Most notably, science cannot operate without the principles of transcendent truth and the objective mind capable of knowing -- and loving -- it, for truth is not pursued for its own sake, but because it partakes of the beautiful and the good. It is good to know truth, entirely apart from any pragmatic considerations, just as "doing good" is indistinct from "being truth."

Atheism is not just "ignorance of God," but it inevitably redounds to ignorance of everything, since God is the seal of truth. To cite several obvious example, scientific materialism cannot tell us anything about what energy, or life, or consciousness actually are -- but this doesn't mean that these phenomena do not exist or that humans cannot know what they are by other means, for we have reliable testimony that they are three aspects that converge upon the same entity, sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss. You could proclaim this to a scientific audience, but it would have no meaning within the constraints of the abstract paradigm they superimpose upon reality in order to reduce it to scientific understanding -- which is to say, measurable quantities. You could also say that life is to matter as mind is to brain as God is to existence, but it wouldn't mean much to a scientistic atheist.

In his Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver summarizes the situation; I am paraphrasing from memory, but he wrote that without imagination the world is simply a brute fact -- there is nothing to spiritualize it. In the scientistic flight from the cosmic center to the material periphery, one becomes lost in details which cannot be integrated in a holistic way.

This "downward pull" puts an end to ideational life, as the resultant fragmentation leads to an obsession with parts, and with it, an inability to intuit the whole. Hyper-specialization leads to a kind of cognitive deformity, as the world shrinks in proportion to our quantification of it. As a pathetic compensation, modern man is puffed up with the vanity of being able to describe some minute portion of the world, but this is merely postmodern provincialism of the most naive sort. In the end, the separation of knowledge from religion is the separation of facts and knowledge from the metaphysics that explains them and gives them meaning.

Elsewhere Weaver observed (it is possbible that these are my own notes, not his exact words) that “Truth is an antecedent reality perceived by the intellect and not the senses," and that "immersion in matter makes man unfit to deal with the problems of matter. Facts are substituted for truth, but there is no knowledge at the level of sensation. Facts do not speak for themselves and experience cannot tell us what we are experiencing. The world is our primary datum, but we do not end our days with a wealth of sense impressions.”

But this is how science -- which should be the pursuit of universal truth -- evolves into metaphysical scientism, which denies universals transcending experience, and therefore ends in bonehead relativism. Put another way, science reduces the world to a coherent absurdity, while metaphysics elevates it to a coherent non-absurdity. And there is no reason to take anyone seriously who believes existence to be absurd, since anything they can say will be equally absurd. And no one is more proudly absurd than the atheist.

Now, one of the reasons it is pointless to debate the existence of God is that higher realties do not stand out except to those who stand in them. Perhaps an analogy will be helpful. I subscribe to Stereophile magazine, which is the Bible of high-end audio. Some of the equipment they review is insanely expensive, and there is a never-ending debate in the audio community between the "ears" and the "engineers" as to whether the sonic differences detected by the reviewers actually exist.

For example, the official view of a rag such as Consumer Reports is that there is no discernible difference in sound quality between a cheap CD player and an expensive one. Rather, the only issue that counts are price and reliability. Otherwise you're just wasting your money. Not only that, but you're probably either a fool or a mystagogue -- just like someone who believes in God without any empirical evidence.

In many ways, a debate between atheists and theists is between the ears and engineers. Regarding the audio debate, the engineers imagine that there must be some kind of formal test or instrument that can objectively measure and quantify the supposed musical differences. However, as John Atkinson notes in the latest issue, "the very act of such testing appears to minimize the listener's detection of things that can be disturbingly audible under more relaxed conditions." In other words, "too often it is as if the listener is being asked to distinguish between subtle color casts on photographic prints while a bright light is shone in his eyes."

You could set up a double blind study, and rapidly shift back and forth between one sound system and another, but this hasn't the slightest relevance, because this is not the way we listen to music. While you might be able to detect sonic differences between the two, you would probably not be able to detect musical differences -- and those are the only ones that matter. To really tell the difference, you must immerse yourself in musical experience, which means "spending ample time engrossed in music that stirs [your] soul."

Since I know a little bit about audio and most people know nothing, friends will occasionally ask me for recommendations when they want to purchase a component. But I can no more answer this question than if someone were to ask, "how should I pursue religion? I don't want to waste time looking for God. Just tell me where he is, so I can get on with it."

But just as you can have sound with no musicality, you can have religion with no God. The other day I did an audio comparison between the new CD reissue of the American version of Rubber Soul and my audiophile vinyl pressing. But there was "no comparison." While the CD sounds very good, the vinyl just came alive. It did something to me, something tangibly real but undoubtedly immeasurable. There was an additional dimension that I am quite sure no scientific instrument would ever be able to detect. For it was a vivid quality of "life" or "presence" that I felt in my rubbery soul, not in my concrete ears.

Atheists try to listen for God with their scientific instruments, when He can only be heard with discerning ears.

Here's another little hint: if you're working on your house, you've already transcended it, which is why if you can explain Darwinism, it can't explain you -- and conversely, why, if you could understand God, he would not exist. Thus, only atheists truly understand God.

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