Saturday, May 02, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Realizing

I'm glad that most of you seem to have appreciated the spirit of yesterday's post, because I think it discloses a more universal spiritual problem that seems unavoidable. That is, how does one affirm and embrace truth without saturating and smothering it in the process? It really comes back to the necessary relationship between letter and spirit, the latter of which gives life, the former of which kills.

But it's not so simple, because one could say the same of oxygen, or sunlight, or bacon. That is, we need oxygen to live, even while oxygen is toxic and eventually kills us due to oxidation. Metabolism is a kind of "controlled fire" that inevitably burns us up in the process. Thus, living is a kind of "slow motion dying." But it beats the alternative, which is not living at all.

So it seems that we must seek a proper balance between letter and spirit. Many people reject religion because of an early experience of too much letter, not enough spirit. But then they might get involved in some new age nonsense, which is all spirit and no letter. However, spirit itself, like any other energy, is neutral; if it isn't guided by a nonlocal structure of unchanging truth, it can just as easily lead down as up. You can find yourself on a slippery slope that leads all the way down to a slippery dope such as Deepak Chopra, who embodies the paradox of pure "slime without substance."

Put this way, organized religion itself is a "necessary evil," as it were. While necessary, we must not confuse it with that to which it points, or else we are simply engaging in idolatry by another name.

This reflects a more general principle in the cosmos. As HvB explains, our images of reality "must not be confused with the reality itself." They "must not be treated any differently from the letters in a book: you see them, you read them, and yet you are conscious, not of the written image, but of the sense that comes to expression in it." For any of you who have read the Polanyi books in the sidebar, you will appreciate the obvious parallels with his work, i.e., the "tacit knowledge" that evolves in the space between the exterior and interior worlds.

It's such a subtle balance that I find it difficult to describe. Like many complex skills, it's easier to demonstrate than elucidate. It reminds me of a story about Yogi Berra, who was trying to explain something to a young hitter, and finally in frustration grabbed the bat and said "ah hell, let me just show you."

Here is what makes it so subtle: "the signs in which being reveals itself must be simultaneously read and overlooked" (HvB; emphasis mine). Thus, we're talking about a subtle movement that leads us -- I would say pulls us -- through the word and toward the thing it embodies, a thing that we can never actually reach without killing it (and being killed).

I'm trying to keep this as "phenomenologically true" as possible, in other words, "experience near." This shouldn't be at all abstract, but quite concrete, even if this is a kind of concrete that can never dry. Rather, it's always being poured. But you could no more fill the transitional space with it than you could fill a hole at the beach with water.

That's a good analogy, because the space is obviously finite, and yet, infinite -- as space must be. But you wouldn't even know about space unless it had boundaries. In fact, the discovery of the boundary is the simultaneous discovery of space. Without the boundary, there is only nameless dread.

So images always "point beyond themselves to the mystery they harbor" (HvB). On the one hand, being moves in the direction of "inside out," while our understanding moves in the direction of "outside in," or re-collection. Again, movement. It can never be static, even though the static images are required for the movement -- just as we could not jump without a counterforce, i.e., gravity, holding us down to the earth.

Come to think of it, this is a fine way to think about the importance of being embodied. Among other inconveniences, without material bodies, we could not vertically "leap" into spirit. This is why it is said that angels cannot evolve, for they are like unchanging essences. It is also why we must spiritually keep busy now, for the night is coming when no man can work.

So, images "invite the spirit to a searching movement" (HvB). This is quintessentially true of religion, which, if it's not facilitating this movement, is just "wrong," no matter how right. < insert relevant scriptural passage from Nomo here >

Yesterday I came across a pithy passage in the Theo-Drama to the effect that -- now think about this -- from the perspective of man, Jesus serves as the "icon of God." But from the perspective of God, i.e., the Father, Jesus serves as the icon of Man.

Now, think about icons, i.e., sacred images: "they allow no simple rest in their significant content but stir up an unrest and levy a demand. It is not enough merely to acknowledge the mystery of which they are the external sign and to leave it undisturbed."

Rather -- and here is the key point -- "The truth is in motion, it presses upon the mind and calls the conscience to decision," which is an ontological scission, or cutting in two. Today we see the world being cut in two as never before. "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword," etc., etc. < insert Will comment here >

This, I believe, is the kind of surgical decision -- for it can only be elective surgery -- Magnus was talking about yesterpost, when he commented that,

"The thing is, once in my much younger years, I was sitting in a Christian meeting half listening to some doctrine. Then God said to me: 'Choose now. You can get the truth, even if you cannot handle it. Or you can forget that which is too much for you, so you can have a good conscience." (This was many years before the Matrix, btw.) Of course I replied "Give me the truth!' because that's the kind of guy I am. The overconfident kind. 'I thought you would say that,' replied God. And since then I have been this worm, a stranger in Paradise, completely inadequate to what I see all around me, a small dirty porcupine scuttling around in your beautiful cathedral. But just you try to get me out of there."

The beautiful cathedral is built with words and images in the space between us and God. But cathedrals are built for movement, which is the purpose of their great weight and stature. They "cannot move," so that you can.

I'm a hick. I never been to Urip. But I have seen the pictures, and when you sit in one of those magnificent "houses of God," you can feel how they lift you up and out. < insert purdy pitcher here > The movement is neither one of "compression," nor of "dispersal," but of radiation. In this context, images

are a sign pointing to the sphere of spirit. They point by means of their evident changefulness and transience, for in this... they are like the single words of a sentence or the notes of a piece of music, which must successively fade away in order that the coherent totality of an intellectual harmony can emerge. --Balthasar

Can't climb into space without a structure; or as Petey says, "no gravity, no levity":

Friday, May 01, 2009

Adventures in Christianity

Balthasar writes that "The knowing mind is no longer capable of being thrilled by anything that it has thoroughly penetrated, that lies open and unveiled before it without mystery. The mind feels superior to, and looks down upon, whatever it has penetrated in this way.... It has taken cognizance of the message, and, if the message is constantly repeated, it gets impatient. Its experience is like that of a pupil with whom the teacher wants to review the same material every day, even though he has already gotten the point long ago; he is sick and tired of hearing the same thing over and over again."

I have always been easily bored. Boring people, boring places, boring routines. I'll never forget the feeling of being in school, which I absolutely detested. Waiting for that last hour to pass was literally painful. But I am never bored when my mind is free to ramble and roam.

It seems that the problem has to do with the mind being confined in someone else's little prison -- of being forced to adapt oneself to some little world, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with the living mystery of truth, and of encountering that mystery on a first hand basis.

Rather, real truth, which emanates from O, is a "perennially inexhaustible wonder" (HvB). It is permanently unmasterable, and anyone who says otherwise is a crashing bore, a jaded pinhead. This is because "As soon as we cut off the living world of signification from the ontological root that sustains it, it withers and dies" (HvB).

Pardon the self-indulgent musing. I'm just getting warmed up. But the other day, I was having a conversation with a friend who is a dyed-in-the-wool-over-his-own-eyes atheist -- one of those people who is just completely tone deaf when it comes to religion. I mentioned how I had long since abandoned philosophy for theology, and he asked why -- what do you get out of it?

Of course, I had no way to explain it in his earthly terms, i.e., to somehow fit it into his little world, which obviously excludes the realm of spirit. I mean, there is surely spirituality there, as there is in any normal person's life, but he doesn't see it as an autonomous realm, just a derivative one.

Oddly, this is obviously the real world in which humans live -- it is the quintessentially human world -- and yet, this type of person rejects the human world for a lower one, while still trying to maintain their humanness. I suppose this can work for a generation or two, but at some point, the thread that links us to our civilizational source will be snapped, and that will be the end. Then it will just be a matter of waiting for the Islamists to finish the job, as in Europe.

Anyway, this friend asked me what I "get out of theology," and I tried to answer. I pointed out that, first of all, the whole thing is an ongoing surprise to me, and that it is not even as if I chose it; rather, it has chosen me. I said that it was like entering this huge, magnificent intellectual cathedral that was perfectly adapted to the human psyche. I said that I am never happier than when I am wandering the halls of this cathedral, which is both "confined" and yet "infinite." Truly, it is like a kind of infinite and yet ordered space that fills us up without ever filling us up. It contains no truth that isn't beautiful, no beauty that isn't good, no good that isn't true... Who wouldn't want to spend as much time there as possible? It's certainly never boring.

That was pretty much the conversation killer. Which is kind of a general problem, and why I need the blog. I just don't meet many people upon whom I can inflict my true self. If you think of all the spiritual energy -- and it is energy -- that gets funneled into this blog, it wasn't too long ago that I didn't have this outlet. As a result, when I would find a remotely sympathetic listener, it would pour out of me like a torrent. I could talk and talk for hours. I didn't know where it was coming from, because it would seemingly "invent itself" as I went along. It was definitely an "altered state," in that it wasn't my normal state of mind. Mrs. G witnessed it countless times.

There is no question that something happened as a result of being in the presence of a sympathetic ear, almost like a sexual energy, if you will. Imagine someone who had never seen a female, so he is only aware of some kind of diffuse energy inside. Then he finally sees a woman, and the energy not only has an object, but is strengthened.

This is what the blogging has been like for me. All of a sudden, the energy has a focus and has been strengthened. It all happens in the space between you and me. And O.

I also want to mention something else that has been on my mind for quite awhile. I don't quite know how to formulate it without being misunderstood, but I was thinking about it yesterday while mountain biking. It's sort of provocative, so stay with me.

As you know, Mrs G has converted to Catholicism. Not only that, but quite a few of my readers have either returned to Christianity or undergone formal conversion, and for that I am humbled and eternally grateful. But what about you, Bob? What are you? And what are you waiting for?

I am not a Christian, in the commonly understood sense of the term. I have to acknowledge that up front. Now, some of you are no doubt thinking to yourself, "Ha ha. Yes you are. Stop kidding yourself. You just haven't realized it yet." I won't argue with that, but please indulge me. The point I would like to make is that, while not Christian per se, I am surely on a Christian adventure. An extraordinarily deep one, I might add. It has been ongoing for the past, I don't know, eight or nine years, and just keeps getting more compelling.

In a way, I feel like the earliest Christians, who, after all, were not "Christians." Rather, they were simply people having a Christian experience that later came to be known as "Christianity." In fact, I'm thinking of calling it that myself. But the point is, this is what makes these early writings all the more compelling. No one was telling them the "correct" way to think. They did not "believe" in religion, but were undergoing religion.

And yet, I hold back. Why? First of all, it's a process, an organic one. It reminds me of psychoanalysis, in which the candidate must undergo years of psychoanalysis in order to become an analyst. It's not like merely getting a Ph.D. or M.D., which anyone with adequate intelligence can do. Nor is it a matter of knowledge. Rather, it is a genuine transformation that must take place on the level of being, from which genuine psychoanalytic knowledge must flow. As is true of religion, psychoanalytic knowledge divorced from being is more or less worthless. It must always be backed by the full faith and credit of real experience. It is not abstract, but concrete. Or, to the extent that it is abstract, the abstractions must always be rooted in personal experience.

It is surely the same way with religion. I don't want to say that this should be a general rule for everyone, because not everyone has the same vocation. Some if not most people need to convert first, experience later. But my blogging, for example, is only possible because it is being done by someone encountering these ideas and realities for the first time, and spontaneously disclosing their effect on me. I must re-emphasize -- just in case it isn't obvious -- that I am hardly a scholar, much less a Christian theologian.

Rather, what you are seeing is a purely spontaneous production chronicling the encounter between me and Christian truth, which I believe, in a certain way, gives it more weight than it might have if I were simply reciting dogma as an "insider." While some of what I say might sound dogmatic or authoritarian, I must again emphasize that I am not in my right mind when I'm saying it. Rather, I not only try to write about what I know, but what I don't know. That is, I try to "write beyond myself," so to spook, so that I am as genuinely surprised as anyone else at what comes out. Boo!

It is very important to me that I reach people who aren't religious, but still have an impulse to be -- especially people with the "Jesus willies." I think that I would be less convincing if I were simply coming from a Christian perspective. In other words, perhaps I can be analogous to the disinterested scientist who explains how global warming or reductionistic Darwinism are bogus. People get enough of the normal evangelizing, and, as often as not, it backfires. But when a disinterested person with no vested interest is doing the selling, it may be more effective. You know, Coonsumer Reports.

As I have mentioned, although I am still blogging about the Theo-Logic, I am already well into volume three of the Theo-Drama, which is said to be Balthasar's greatest work. I am quite sure I've never read anything so rich, and I'll probably have to spend a year blogging about it.

But one thing that struck me with great force yesterday while contemplating a passage, is how the West has virtually taken a wrecking ball to its own priceless cathedrals. This is our home, the source of our civilization. It is where we were meant to live. It's just so achingly true and exquisitely beautiful, that it makes you want to weep at man's arrogance and folly.

What reveals itself is so rich that it satisfies his entire need for truth; what remains hidden is so mysterious that he knows he is sheltered within its veiled womb. Everything that exists is allusive, is a pointer and a reminder, and any conceptual clarification of univocal definition of these infinite significations would appear to him an impoverishment, perhaps even as a profanation.... To say explicitly what their wordless song tells us would be presumptuous, if it were not altogether futile. --Balthasar


As Saint Augustine might have said, "what I was out there tryin' to find, I done had it right here all the time." (See p. 261, line 7)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama, the Avatar of Anti-Slack, or Sales of a Deathman (3.24.10)

While I'm warming up here, I just want to say that Obama is the messiah of false slack. I say this because, as a coonical pslackologist, I have spent a laughtime studying the source of human slack, and Obama -- and the left in general -- embodies the opposite principle.

As I explained in my book, as recently as a few hundred years ago, mankind at large was mired in a slackless existence that hadn't changed all that much for the average geezer in thousands of years. It was war, famine, plague, tyranny, oppression, stupidity, poverty, illiteracy, backbreaking toil, early death, very bad smells, and repeat as unnecessary.

However, one place on earth took a great leap forward into the realm of slack, a realm that too many medullards take for grunted today. The engine that drove this expansion of our slack was the free market, accompanied by its enablers such as private property, civil rights (founded upon the sanctity of the human person), and the rule of law.

There are a number of good books that analyze this miracle, so I don't want to review the whole story here (for example, Macfarlane's The Riddle of the Modern World: Of Liberty, Wealth and Equality, or Mead's God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, the latter of which I discussed over several posts in 2007). The point I would like to make is that slack is the awesome and numinous "something-for-nothing," or the "free launch" we all long for. Some say it doesn't exist, and that we are condemned to a world in which everything averages out to zero. This is the attitude of atavistic leftists who constantly whine about "tax cuts for the rich" or "income inequality." As a result, they know nothing about creating wealth, only redistributing it.

But the magic of the free market is the engine of slack, since it endlessly creates wealth that wasn't there before, simply as a result of people doing what they do. Leftists are again opposed to this notion, since they think slack results from you doing what they want you to do. But clearly, this eliminates your slack right up front.

Dennis Prager cited a typical example the other day. Let's say I need brain surgery. I want my brain surgeon to be self interested, not motivated by kindness or empathy. After all, if I just want sympathy, I could have my neighbor do the job for free. Rather, I want a surgeon who cares about his reputation and wants to make a good income. And I certainly don't want a surgeon who is bitter about how little Obama is paying him to cut open my skull.

The penultimate lie of the left -- following on the heels of absolute relativity -- is that the state is the source of our slack, or that it can even create slack, which is an odious metacosmic blasphemy. Look at Obama's oft-cited claim that he is going to create or save x number of jobs. But the government can only "create" jobs by taking money out of the job-creating private sector, so he is truly selling us false slack, an entirely meretricious something-for-nothing, or "turd made flesh."

The state can surely protect slack. In fact, that is the president's primary job. His oath is to preserve and protect the Constitution, which is the guarantor of our pursuit of slack. But with FDR a line was crossed, and people began looking to the state as the source of slack, and we can all see what has resulted. And it's only going to get worse, because the state can only transfer slack that it has been appropriated from someone else. Thus the preposterous lie that Obama is going to cut taxes for 95% of Americans, when some 50% don't pay any federal income tax at all.

So he's not giving them a tax cut, only purloined slack. But when people depend upon the state for their slack, the pool of slack is gradually dissipated in one way or another. For the state only has three sources of slack: taxation, printing money (as if slack grows on trees!), or borrowing. Two of these come down to outright theft, while the third is simply deferred theft from future generations. My son will have less slack because of Obama's larcenous actions today.

The bottom lyin' is that Obama is trying to increase the slack of the left by stealing it from the right. This was obviously the point of the Porkulus bill, which is the greatest transfer of stolen slack in human history, most of it to liberal interest groups. Note the fiendishness of the plot. The economy will recover on its own, unless Obama does too much damage to it at the outset. Therefore, the Porkulus project steals most of the slack in future years, after the economy has recovered. Obama and the left will then claim that Porkulus saved the economy, when the great slack robbery is just about to get underway. Brilliant!

In the real slack-generating economy, nothing happens until someone sells something. But in the anti-slack world of the left, nothing happens until some clever pinhead has sold you a bill of goods. You get stuck with the bill, while someone else gets the goods.

< abrupt but then surprisingly smooth segue >

That went on longer than anticipated. Back to the subject at hand. Which was? That "mystery is an abiding property of truth itself" (HvB). In other words, the possibility of knowledge depends upon there being a mysterious "gap" between being and appearance. This gap is hardly unrelated to my opening blast, since it is the ontological source of slack. Without it there would be no slack at all, because we would not be separate from the environment, but at one with it. Yes, we all want at-one-ment, not with matter, but with God, or O -- the cause, not the effect.

When I say that this space is the source of our slack, what I mean is that it is the place -- the only place -- in the cosmos where truth, or beauty, or goodness, or liberty, or harmony, or love, or unity, can take place. Consider beauty, for example. HvB says that it is "the inexplicable active irradiation of the center of being into the expressive surface of the image, an irradiation that reflects itself in the image and confers upon it a unity, fullness, and depth surpassing what the image as such contains" (emphasis mine).

You see? There it is again, that divine something for nothing. Can this be created by the state? No, of course not. Look at the monstrosities funded by the cretins at the National Endowment for the Arts. Most of them demoralize and denigrate. They do not elevate and liberate, which is the very purpose of art.

Ah, here you are -- great minds think alike (by which I mean HvB and Schuon): "because of beauty, truth is always intrinsically a matter of grace. Something of this grace surrounds every truth insofar as it is an original disclosure of being. It is lacking to purely logical truth, which has been explicitly siphoned off from being; the truth it contains is altogether finite and perfectly comprehensible...." (HvB).

Thus, we see that Obama and the left will lavishly waste more money on the dysfunctional educational establishment, so long as all of the funds go to programs that explicitly siphon off truth from being, i.e., the absecular brainwash we are all subjected to by the state "for free" (to be exact, it only costs you your soul).

This is also the nature of anti-intellectual Queegism, in that the essence of metaphysical Darwinism is its "cheap comprehensibility," which only comes at the expense of any deep understanding of man as such. Again it is false slack, for it gives its nerdish bearer a totalistic vision of man, but no genuine understanding at all. It does not liberate, but saturates. It is intellectual security at the price of spiritual liberty, a fatal form of cardiomyopathy. It is a heart attack, which is to say, an attack on your own heart resulting from hardening of the categories.

HvB perfectly describes the ontological dimension of primordial slack (emphasis mine): "The excess transcending all that we can grasp by conceptual analysis, delimitation, and cataloging, this eternal "more" belonging to every being, saves the revelation of things and the knowledge of of them from immediately becoming insuperably boring."

And Obama, the Avatar of Anti-Slack, is nothing if not insuperably boring. But don't let that fool you. Passive boredom is only the residue of active Death. When I am in the presence of a boring patient, I always know that a soul murder has taken place.


More on the left's sinful theft of slack from our children:

"The Left rules by constant fear, but none of its predicted catastrophes come true. Ever notice that? Instead, we do have real things to worry about, all right -- but half of them are the results of the Media Pandemonium Machine itself. Like one third of the little kids in our world who are now convinced -- by cynical or deluded adults -- that they won't live long enough to enjoy a healthy adulthood. That is a terrible burden imposed on little children by the Left, in its never-ending grab for power.

"There is an element of sadistic cruelty in the Leftist Pandemonium Machine. "Pandemonium" is the imaginary Hell of devils, and there is something truly demonic about the torrent of media madness we have to tolerate every day."

Again, this is why we must laugh at them. It is usually the only appropriate response.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Am I Here to Amuse You?

We've had a formal request from reader "H" that I eliminate the humor -- even that I ask God to cleanse me of "the need for associated highs and tickles, and to make room for the growth of some new dimension of my repertoire."

I must make my choice. Wise man, or wise guy. I can't be both.

Okay, I'll try to play this one straight. Old school. Fire and brimstone. No easy yokes, no guffah-ha! experiences, no laughty revelations.

Now, let us try for a moment to realise, as far as we can, the nature of that abode of the damned which the justice of an offended Gaia has called into existence for the eternal punishment of Climate Change Deniers. Hell is a strait and dark and foulsmelling prison, an abode of demons and lost souls, filled with fire and smoke and the stench of Rush Limbaugh's old cigars. The straitness of this prison house is expressly designed by Mother Earth to punish those who refused to listen to Al Gore. In earthly prisons the poor captive has at least some liberty of movement, were it only within the four walls of his cell or in the gloomy yard of his prison. Not so in hell. There, by reason of the great number of conservatives stacked atop each other like cordwood, the prisoners are heaped together in their awful prison, the walls of which are said to be four thousand miles thick: and the damned are so utterly bound and helpless that, as a blessed saint, Saint Anselm, writes in his book on Similitudes, they are not even able to remove from the eye a worm that gnaws it.

Actually, as you probably know, that was a playgiarised excerpt of the famous sermon from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. On Earth Day, I was going to do a schtick on the whole sermon, and about how fire-and-brimstone religion has now lodged itself in the left (and in hysterical Darwinians such as Queeg), but I'm just not that fired up about Earth Day or about Queeg.

The point is, some people prefer fear as a goad to religion. Others -- or I, anyway -- use humor. Who's right? If the following passage moves you, then my style probably won't:

"The torment of fire is the greatest torment to which the tyrant has ever subjected his fellow creatures. Place your finger for a moment in the flame of a candle and you will feel the pain of fire. But our earthly fire was created by God for the benefit of man, to maintain in him the spark of life and to help him in the useful arts whereas the fire of hell is of another quality and was created by God to torture and punish the unrepentant sinner. Our earthly fire also consumes more or less rapidly according as the object which it attacks is more or less combustible so that human ingenuity has even succeeded in inventing chemical preparations to check or frustrate its action. But the sulphurous brimstone which burns in hell is a substance which is specially designed to burn for ever and for ever with unspeakable fury. Moreover our earthly fire destroys at the same time as it burns so that the more intense it is the shorter is its duration: but the fire of hell has this property that it preserves that which it burns and though it rages with incredible intensity it rages forever."

This is not to suggest that the stakes aren't high, or that you aren't playing a dangerous game in shunning your human vocation. But my writing is aimed at people who already know that. They don't need to be reminded. Or remanded.

Back to signifier and signified. One of HvB's key points as it pertains to epistemology is that, at first sight, it may appear that images themselves are self-sufficient, or that they reveal their own significance. However, a moment's reflection will inform you that "what expresses itself in the image must be nonidentical with the image itself." In other words, there is this mysterious breach -- that transitional space again -- where it all goes down.

Again, we can never grasp the essence behind the image. Rather, we can only know the essence by or through the image. Conversely -- and this is something Schuon often discusses -- a focus on the image to the exclusion of the essence tends toward a shallow "art for art's sake," or mere aestheticism instead of aesthetics. Naturally, this divorces beauty from the true and good, and here we are in the aesthetic wasteland of postmodernity.

HvB points out that the image is the way it is because it is a creation, not a thing in itself. If it were the latter, it would contain its own being, so to speak. But the image "cannot itself be the depth.... In other words, it expresses something that it is not, because it itself is only the expression of something else." Indeed, it is this very image-making power of being "that enables the image to be an image in the first place."

So, being is a ceaseless con-versation, which literally means "flowing together." It flows into us, we flow into it. But this flow takes place both horizontally and vertically -- or should, anyway. In the absence of a vertical descent of the upper waters, you do indeed end up in that dry and humorless desert of postmodernity.

O, how terrible is the lot of those wretched beings! The blood seethes and boils in the veins, the brains are boiling in the skull, the heart in the breast glowing and bursting, the bowels a redhot mass of burning pulp, the tender eyes flaming like molten balls. (Joyce again. That was for H.)

What is the significance of significance, anyway? HvB writes that "it requires an appearing surface upon which a non-appearing depth expresses and indicates its presence." Obviously this is an irreducible mystery, the perpetual mystery of self-disclosing being. For how is it that the surface of being doesn't "come apart at the seams," so to speak? How does it fit all that infinite meaning into such a small suitcase?

We obviously confront the same mystery in contemplating the infinitude of the human subject. How does all that infinitude fit into our finite brains? I suppose that's why time is necessary, so everything doesn't happen at once. It seems that time really is the moving image of eternity.

If we are im-pressed by being, it is because being "ex-presses" itself to us. But this may erroneously convey a sort of mechanical imprint, when there is again a creative response in between. I suppose this is where I depart -- with fear and trembling -- from most other theologians. And it actually bears on H's complaint about the humor.

That is, in order to make religion "come alive" for me, I need to engage it in exactly the manner we are discussing here -- not as a kind of dogmatic imprint on my purely receptive psyche, but as a creative response to it, in the same we we respond to any other reality. We are not mere copy machines.

Importantly, this does not eliminate dogma, any more than a jazz musician does away with chords and rhythm. Rather, the jazz musician will take the fixed structure of a song, and improvise over it. Importantly, the improvisation is not possible in the absence of the fixed structure. Indeed, without structure, it is just "noise," not music.

But clearly, not everyone is a jazz musician. In fact, there are very few real masters of the art. Nor are many people attracted to the jazz aesthetic. Rather, they prefer their songs played straight, the same way every time. This is not only true of popular music, but of the classical canon as well. I may be wrong, but it seems that few people want to hear the pianist do his own improvisations over a Mozart sonata, even though this is probably what Mozart himself did.

So, is there a place in the world for jazz theology? I'm thinking of someone such as John Coltrane, who could take an old chestnut such as My Favorite Things, and turn it into something else entirely. He discovered some hidden potential in the chordal and rhythmic structure of the song that no one else had noticed, and transformed it into a hypnotically suspended polyrhythmic vamp that leads into a kind of soaring spiritual release. Note also the eery snake-charmer timbre of the then novel soprano sax, and how he is able to make waltz time swing. I wonder how Rogers & Hammerstein felt about his meddling with their work?

Dear Mr. Coltrane:

Improvisation is a wonderful thing, and we all have God to thank for the many genres of musical expression enabled by the human personality. However, subsequent to sufficient experience of personal gifts for particular genres of music, and our experience of various highs and "tickles" that come with our exercise of said gifts, it is possible to develop an attachment to the genre that stunts our musical growth.

And here's a Coltrane-inspired waltz-time vamp featuring one of my favorite guitarists, the incredibly gifted Derek Trucks. Note the drama in the solo, as it slowly builds toward its fiery climax:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cut Out That Signifyin' Jive, or Don't Make Me Come Down There!

Good news / bad news. The bad news is, I slept a little late again. The good news is, I dreamt about cruising around with Rush. He was behind the wheel, and we were headed over to Malibu, and then over to LA for a function of some kind. Nice guy.

So, just what signifies, anyway? What I mean is, in standard semi-idiotics, you've got your signifier (the word) and signified (what it points to, or that to which it refers). It's very much like the dynamic between Bion's ♀ and ♂, or container (i.e., signifier) and contained (signified). Let's just say "word" and "thing."

I'm simplifying here in order to be abusive, but those naughty French folks responsible for deconstruction turned reality upside down by suggesting that the signifier did not point to any objective reality, -- any ontologically real signified -- but instead creates the signified. This obviously blows a huge crater in the middle of reality. However, as a consolation, it means that The Tenured™ get to usurp unprecedented power, since they are the ones who now interpret reality with their endless verbal games of deconstruction.

Here again, this is one of the master keys to understanding the postmodern left. In order for leftism to be effective, it must first dissolve the sacred covenant between word and thing -- which is where truth resides -- and replace that bond with mere power.

This is the magic through which they can make the Constitution mean anything they want it to mean, or redefine marriage, or say that the Geneva Convention applies to terrorists, or that rough interrogation intended to save lives is torture, or that Israel is responsible for Muslim terror, or that Boy Scouts are bigots, or that there is a constitutional right to abortion, or that Porkulus is stimulus, or that terrorists are freedom fighters, or that Gitmo is a gulag, and on and on and on.

< insert standard diatribe here >

The point is, we know better. No, we are not Platonists per se, but we do know that objects take precedence over the words we use to describe them, that the purpose of language is to be adequate to reality, and that reality has many objective gradations and dimensions which can be disclosed and memorialized through the proper use of the word.

Yes, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but they are not the tyrannical dictators of the world. They disclose the rule of cosmic law, not the anarchy of goofy French linguists.

This, I think, is the nub of the crux of the gist of problem. There is no question that reality is "ambiguous" and subject to multiple interpretations. However, that should not be taken as an excuse to believe that all interpretations are of equal value. Nevertheless, this latter belief is the hateway drug into the various pneumapathologies of the left, e.g., multiculturalism, moral relativism, the "living Constitution," etc.

Again, if there is no objective way to arbitrate between competing versions of reality, then it comes down to a matter of raw power. Or, as Obama put it, "I won."

This is obviously how political correctness has slithered its slithery way into every corner of reality. In the world of political correctness, it is always 1984. Take the example of Miss California. Because even beauty pageants are run by tyrannical leftists, all points of view are of equal validity. However, if you voice the incorrect truth, then you are punished. You see? Perfect nonsense -- not the liberating kind, but the oppressive kind, AKA hell.

And it is hell, quite literally, for hell is anyplace that is beyond the rule of reason -- where reason, quite simply, does not apply. It is a world in which a person cannot simply say, "b-b-b-but a man can't marry a man. It's impossible."

Actually, it is possible, so long as you create an impossible world. And the world of the left is most assuredly an impossible world, since it is literally detached from its source, its archetype, its origin, and therefore its purpose. To put it even more simply, the "absolutely relative" is an ontological impossibility, and is therefore guaranteed to generate absurdity.

Are we all together so far? Anyone missing? Let's do a head count. One, two, three.... There's McCraven off by himself again, brooding in the back. Skully! Where's Skully! What? There are no liquor stores out here. Someone go get him and bring him back.

Now, HvB notes that truth "does not lie in the appearances as such," but nor does it lie "behind" them, for this "background" never actually appears to us. It is like O, which never shows itself -- never could show itself, since it contains us, not vice versa. However, you know it when you're in it. To evoke a palamine, you might say that you can know its energies, but never its essence. But as one draws closer to it, it is as if its essence spills more and more of itself into, or "through" one, i.e., O-->(n).

Yes, you could say that there is no O, but this is not the same as saying that there is nothing but Ø. Rather, to coin a phrase, (n) is O's witness to itsoph.

Again we return to the idea of the "transitional space" between objects and nervous systems: "Truth can be found only in the floating middle between the appearance and the thing that appears. It is only in the relation between these two things that the empty mystery becomes a full, perennially self-replenishing mystery" (HvB).

This is a critical idea, because it transcends the bipolar notion of signifier and signified, and introduces the transcendent third into the mix, and it is within the dynamic space of this transcendent third that truth "takes place," so to speak.

To cite an obvious example, this is the "space" where religion "takes place," for it is the space in which we encounter God. When one engages in this multifaceted thing called "religion," whether it is through prayer, or meditation, or lectio divina, or blogging, or eating bacon, one is specifically attempting to enter and deepen this space that exists between us and God. We are endeavoring to create an open system between us and our source, so there can be a free exchange of energy, information, subtle emotion, and other valuable prizes.

Right? Right.

Excuse me. Future Leader just woke up and broke the trance. That's what I call a "spellcheck." He checked the spell.

Back again. Okay, we now have the idea of this intersubjective third, or transitional space, where the human rubber meets the road of reality. But right away you can understand that this can equally be a road to hell that is paved with good intentions. For obviously it is the space of freedom -- the freedom highway, as it were -- but it is supposed to actually lead somewhere, not merely be a land of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Rather, it is supposed to lead in and up. We know this, because this space itself is "in and up" in relation to animals. In ether worlds, the hard part was finally entering this space, which took 14 billion years. We have it relatively easy, because all we have to do is sprint from one end of it to the other. But God made it even easier when he decided to personally come down and show us how it's done, since too many people were just brooding at the bottom of the space, or using it to wander off to the liquor store and suchlike.

Better stop. Long day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Subjectivity, Objectivity, Intersubjectivity, and Knowledge

Slept late. Must hurry. I don't even remember where we left off on Friday. Yes, truth, lies, Lies, intersubjectivity, and thinking one's thoughts.

I don't have time to flesh out some of these ideas, so I'll trust you to use your imagination to fill in a few blanks and angry diatribes.

James has a couple of interesting posts about subjectivity, objectivity, and knowledge. Perhaps we can include them in this party while my brain is still coming on line. He points out that the distinction between objective and subjective "is not as clear as the easy use of the terms would suggest. The terms are adjectives, after all, but it's not entirely clear what they modify."

Indeed, what do they modify? What is the difference between "subjective" knowledge and "objective" knowledge? James writes that "the subjective and the objective don’t appear to be two different kinds of knowledge, since objective knowledge seems redundant and subjective knowledge impossible." Yada yada yada, he concludes with the observation that "subjectivity is more in the order to appetite than knowledge, and so would be secondary to objectivity."

Obviously, only subjects may possess knowledge. Then again, the knowledge they are able to possess must somehow be "in" the objects that are known by the subject.

It's too early in the morning for this.

I would just say that truth is the cause and substance of knowledge, and that love is the cause of truth. Hear me now, believe me later. Love comes into the picture with intersubjectivity.

I don't mean to keep harping on this, but it was one of the novel -- by which I mean kind of, you know, "scientific" even -- coontributions of my book, being that I don't know of anyone else who discusses it.

But one of the most important reasons why Darwinism cannot account for our humanness is that no matter how big a brain were produced by natural selection, it could never have gained access to humanness (which is one pole of the divine-human, which now renders the theory "unscientific") in the absence of intersubjectivity -- of human beings being members of one another. And this only occurs due to the unique circumstances of human infancy. Remove or alter those circumstances, and no subject will come into being. Or, to be precise, it will be there, but like a seed that is never given sunlight and water.

What is the sunlight and water for the human infant? Duh! It is Luv. You don't have to teach an infant anything for it to bloom. Rather, all you have to do is water him with love, and voila! You've got an annoying little narcissist on your hands.

Which is where fathers come in. Father love is quite different from mother love. I was in awe of the power of mother love, or at least pretended I was so that I didn't have to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of him. Now that he's four years old, Mrs. G is in awe of the power of father love. Each can do things the other cannot, for they are like night and day, and it would be a very loooong day around here without paternal boundaries around the Beast of Narcissus.

< insert diatribe about redefinition of marriage here >

< insert diatribe about implications of destroying unit of civilization, which is unity of male-female >

< insert diatribe about trinitarian basis of civilization, i.e., mother-father-baby: see Spengler for deep relationship between this naturally supernatural trinity and economics. Link not working. >

Now, just as it takes a subject to know another subject, it takes a subject to see beyond the appearance of objects and reach into the essence. Here again, we can only do this because it was done to us as infants. In the book, I summarize this with the adage that "if you weren't read (as in infant), then you are cognitively dead (as an adult)."

This is actually the basis of modern psychoanalytic psychotherapy. When someone is acting out their mind parasites, it is partly because they are unable to "read" them. Mind parasites always operate below the radar of conscious cognition. One of the primary tasks of the therapist is to read what the patient cannot read -- the same way the mother "reads" her infant, or "thinks his thoughts."

When a patient comes in for treatment, he always presents with a mystery. The problem is, he is a mystery to himself -- either some aspect of his behavior, or emotions, or ideas. Why am I doing this? Why do I feel this way? Why do I keep having these unbidden thoughts? Why can I not stay away from One Cosmos, in spite of myself?

This is why it is a truism that the neurotic is more healthy than the person with a personality disorder, for in the case of the latter, his pathological actions, emotions, and ideas will often be concordant with his pathological sense of self. For example, the pathological narcissist can be oblivious to his grandiosity and entitlement so long as it is mirrored by the people around him.

Thus, in his case, the absence of pain is the symptom that needs to be addressed. But since he is unaware of the pain, he will not seek treatment. Or, his treatment will consist of bolstering his narcissism -- for example, through drugs -- or else getting new mirrors -- e.g., a new trophy wife. A pathological narcissist such as Bill Clinton only feels shame after he is busted, but it's not real shame. Rather, the narcissist "suffers" from what is called "shame dysregulation," meaning that shame -- the pain of shame -- is precisely what they cannot tolerate. This is why it is no mystery whatsoever why so many politicians are conspicuously shameless, since it is their pathological narcissism that impels them into politics to begin with.

< insert diatribe about preposterous narcissism of Barry O and media enablers; media as maternal mirror of infantile grandiosity >

< conservative radio as "father media" >

< disturbing "sexualization" of president, even by so-called "heterosexual" liberals. President as penis-breast. No joke. Term of art: see zonal confusion, Donald Meltzer.

Back to subject and object. Again, only the subject can "reach into" the object and "extract" its essence, so to speak. So where is the truth in this dynamic? You could say that it is "extended" in intersubjective space, which is why the "deeper" you become, the more access to truth you will have. As it pertains to religion, this is more or less "everything," and why it is impossible to prove the existence of God to someone with insufficient intersubjective depth, for depth is the "field of God."

The two dangers to be avoided are "empiricism" on the one end, and impersonal mysticism on the other, for both are wiped clean of your humanass. The one is surface with no depth, while the other is depth with no surface. Christianity, of course, resolves this dilemma in the form of the Incarnation, through which the universal and particular, or absolute and relative, are reconciled -- again, reconciled in love, for only love could accomplish this harmonious intersubjective union between Father and Son.

Which is also why God cannot be mother and Jesus could not be wo-man, for then the whole thing would get confused with biological fecundity instead of spiritual fecundity.

< insert diatribe against feminists and liberal theologians here >

< insert comical diatribe about how President Penisbreast's wife looks more masculine than he does: first lady Phallic Mother. No joke. Term of art. Hey, I didn't bring up her appearance. I'm happy to leave it alone, while the liberal media is obsessed with it. But I question the privileged heteronormativity of men who find her "HOT" or something. >

< Tasteless. Apologize for dragging James into this. Insert this joke instead about first 101 days between Obama and liberal media >

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Tax

Since American style liberty was conceived primarily in negative terms, it is either unappreciated or wasted by anyone without a spiritual grounding. This is because our political liberty is not fundamentally "freedom to" but "freedom from," specifically, from the coercion of government. However, at the same time, if it is only freedom from, then it can quickly descend into mere license, or nihilism, or anarchy.

In turn, this is why religion is always the enemy of the state (but not vice versa), and the real reason for the left's antipathy to it. The elimination of religion is always at the heart of the leftist project, whether we're talking about communists, fascists, or the ACLU. The antipathy is not accidental, but essential, for the religious person is intrinsically at odds with the goals of the state, which is an autopoeitic system that, left to its own devices, slowly gobbles up more and more liberty; this system "eats" freedom and dissipates wealth, as we see in Obama's unprecedented expansion of government. (Insert countless other historical/contemporary examples here ________.)

[And please do not caricature our position, as we strongly believe in the necessity of the state, specifically, the one envisaged by our Constitution.]

This conflict has to do with the fundamental dialectic between our individual-ism and social-ism. There is nothing wrong with the latter, as we cannot be an individual in the absence of the group. The problem with the left is that they replace the "interior we" with the "exterior us," which means that they replace spontaneous civil society with state coercion. This is how to best understand, say, the attempt to undermine marriage (the fundamental "we" of civilization), or destroy the Boy Scouts, or eliminate conservative radio, or reduce the deduction for charitable giving. The left wants you to always look first to the government for help (and information, which is the purpose of the moonstream media), not fellow human beings.

Again, when I use the word "left," I mean it as a shorthand to designate any philosophy that conceives of our liberty in the opposite way -- as only freedom to -- say, to get an abortion, or to be paid a "living wage," or to receive free health care, or to "marry" someone of the same sex. These are not real freedoms, if only because they involve coercion of someone else. For example, a "living wage" simply means that the government must force someone to pay you more than you are worth, while "free" healthcare simply means that you want to force someone else to pay for it.

Likewise, the absolute "right" to abortion can only be grounded in a metaphysic that maintains that human beings are literally worthless. The absurd outcome for the leftist is that human rights are more precious than human beings (which we see replayed in the interrogation debate). For the leftist, the right to abortion is sacred, while the human being to whom the right is owed is of no more value than a decayed tooth. But stranger beliefs can be found on the left, the reason being that it is fundamentally rooted in the absolutization of the relative, which is the very essence of the absurd.

Furthermore, when I discuss leftist philosophies, I am not trying -- or only trying -- to be insultaining, but as accurate as I can be, so I don't know why anyone should take offense. It is simply a fact that if you believe you are entitled to "free" healthcare, then you have a very different conception of freedom than I do or than the American founders did.

Likewise if you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to make it a crime to be racially colorblind, then you have a very different conception of liberty than I do. Or if you believe unlawful combatants are entitled to Geneva Convention rights, we differ. All we can do is acknowledge our differences and go our separate ways.

I am hardly offended if someone simply describes my views accurately, so I don't really understand why leftists don't feel the same way. For example if you express the truism that Democrats wish for us to surrender in Iraq, they go ballistic [which they apparently no longer wish to do, now that George Bush is not president]. They seem to have a fundamental difficulty in simply saying what they believe in a straightforward manner.

But it's not really a mystery why they are so deceptive, for if they came out and said what they believed, they could never get elected. For example, if citizens are actually given the choice, they are overwhelmingly against the idea of a few elite judges redefining the fundamental unit of civilization, marriage. Likewise, sensible people have no objection to rough treatment of terrorists if it can save American lives.

In any event, assuming we have the "freedom from," what is freedom for? This question is at the heart of philocooniosophy ("The Mondello Sutras"), which has a very different answer than any illiberal leftist philosophy. For example, the so-called integralists commonly express anger at me because I am not "integral," meaning that I do not integrate left and right.

But here again, this is an incoherent philosophy, because it absolutizes the relative, placing "integralism" above Truth. In other words, I do not consider it a sophisticated philosophy that maintains that integrating truth and falsehood somehow leads to a higher synthesis. This is not integralism, it is merely incoherence.

Here's how one new-ageist describes me, and it is typical of the genre: "Godwin is a neocon of a particular nasty variety, his blog basically a place where he spurts acid at the much-demonized 'Leftists,' who are at the root of all of the world's problems.... Godwin's vitriolic hatred is to the point that he seems a borderline personality."

Since the writer puts "leftists" in scare quotes, one can only assume that he doesn't believe they actually exist. On the other hand, he calls me a "neocon" (without the scare quotes) while never defining the term. I personally don't believe it means much of anything. Rather, it has become a saturated term of abuse for anything leftists don't like -- like the word "fascist."

How could one not see the writer's projection? I precisely define the term "leftist" and describe why I think it is a dangerous and destructive philosophy, while he simply tars me with the meaningless term "neocon" in order to demonize and dismiss the substance of my ideas.

Elsewhere, the writer suggests that my "war against Leftism" is simply a "shadow project" representing an unconscious "hatred of where [I] once came from." Not only that, but my ego is "too densely opaque" to consider other points of view (which contradicts the first charge, since I obviously had to consider other points of view in order to slowly evolve from left to right, or down to up; likewise, if I were to believe the same things I did when I was in my teens and twenties, it would indeed constitute a kind of dense opacity).

The writer then preposterously suggests that Raccoon philosophy is "not that different from radical Islam, actually, where non-believers are infidels." So now I am a genocidal maniac who wants to murder people with whom I disagree. Again, who is doing the demonizing? Who is filled with hatred? Who is "spurting acid?" Indeed, who is taking acid? And Dupree wants to know if he can have some.

Then there is the ultimate non sequitur, the inevitable passive-aggressive namasté that always follows the "fuck you": "Anyways, thanks for the engagement. Even if we disagree on many things, and in spite of some seemingly harsh words, I appreciate many of your views and your overall offering."

The incoherence of this writer's mind is par for the coarse and unrefined. I have never read one integralist who is as angry at any leftist as they are at me. One would think that if they were truly integral, then they would either embrace my philosophy and integrate into theirs, or their anger would be split 50-50 toward leftists and classical liberals, but clearly it isn't. Show me the integralist who rages at the pathological lies of Al Gore or Obama.

So, when I use the words "left" or "leftist," I mean something very precise. If it doesn't apply to you, then you needn't get angry. Rather, just silently say to yourself, "I don't believe them things. The B'ob is not talking about me. Therefore, I'm in the clear. I am not being demonized."

Here is what the Raccoon believes, and it is very different from what the secular leftist believes: knowledge of absolute truth constitutes the mind's freedom. Therefore, if you adhere to any philosophy that maintains at the outset that transcendent truth does not exist or that man cannot approach it in knowledge, then freedom also cannot exist, or it is meaningless.

Thus, it is no coincidence that the same people who have undermined the concept of free will systematically undermine the quintessentially human capacity to know truth. For although truth is defined as that which we are compelled to believe, if we do not arrive at it freely, then it cannot be truth.

If you survey the history of philosophy, it can be seen as a sort of stream that split in half with modernity, each side going its separate way. You can conceptualize the split in many ways, but it ultimately comes down to realism vs. naturalism, or transcendence vs. immanence, or absolute truth vs. absolute relativism.

I came across a very pithy comment by HvB yesterday, to the effect that modernity is under the sign of the Promethean, which inevitably devolves to the Dionysian. That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? (See paragraph 1 above.)

One cannot integrate absolute truth with absolute relativism, for it is impossible. On the other hand, you can do what intelligent minds have always done, which is to integrate partial, relative truths into the whole, in light of the transcendent absolute. But what you cannot do is throw these relative truths together and imagine that you have integrated anything, or that their sum constitutes the total truth. No one engaged in "deconstruction" more than a Moses Maimonides, or Meister Eckhart, or even Saint Augustine, but they always did so under the presumption that it is simply a tool for arriving at a deeper truth, not a thing in itself -- not the ultimate reality, but a means toward it.

Once it is forgotten that knowledge of truth constitutes the mind's freedom, then we will no longer know what either word means, for freedom in the absence of truth is absurdity, while truth in the absence of freedom is hell.

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