Saturday, August 01, 2009
Come to think of it, just like life.
But it's shabbat, so there's no pressure. We won't force things. We'll just let the cosmos come to us.
Indeed, that is the whole point, to relux and call it a deity. To quote myself, "Esoterically speaking, the sabbath refers to the OMnipresent 'hole' in creation that allows for (↓) and (↑) to enter and leave the 'kingdom of man.'" The point is to turn away from the world's "nihilocracy of urgent nonsense" and toward what is "behind," "above," or "beyond." As such, it is a time of vertical recollection, of time dilation, and of gnostalgia for paradise. It is a "memoir of the future."
Or you could say that it is a day to catch up with your verticalisthenic exercises, or O-->(n). I see that Maximus is right with us, as Balthasar informs us that he was quite concerned with "the 'realization' of theoretical knowledge," or what a Raccoon calls the distinction between (k) and (n). He also talks about the inner peace that counters those jarring worldly energies "that cloud or weigh down or tear apart the mind, in order to rob it of its freedom and self-possession."
In my book, I symbolize this attitude or stance as (---) and (o). You could say "calmness" and "openness," but it's obviously more than that, as it has an intrinsically sacred quality.
As Balthasar writes, "This calm is also [the] mode of entry into the mystery of God, which stands beyond the world. Only the spirit that has become pure and simple can encounter the transcendent One; the soul that has fully emptied itself, that has 'no song to sing,' becomes the place of revelation, the abode of the infinite God."
Ah, perfect: "Right through the middle" of our "hierarchically ordered universe cuts -- straight as an arrow -- the Alexandrian way of ascending from the sensible to the intellectual and ultimately to the divine world" (emphasis mine). For Maximus, this is the very axis of the world -- which it most assuredly is. Looked at in a certain way -- whether you are theist or atheist -- it is all we ever know, all we ever encounter directly, which is to say, "our" own consciousness.
This is surely not solipsism. Rather, it is the Darwinists and other materialists who are the crude solipsists, for they confuse their simplistic abstractions with the Real, which is always radically other, and certainly more than what a glorified ape can entertain in its head. The problem with atheists is that they don't know what they don't know, which, like dark matter and energy, is some 90% of reality.
I distinctly remember when I first began the systematic practice of (---) and (o). It was 1982. I was still working in the supermarket, attending graduate school for my masters degree, and living in a single apartment. I began studying yoga with a certain Yogi Raj, every Tuesday night I believe it was. I think my brain neurology was finally beginning to settle down on its own after an extended adolescence. Prior to that, I don't think I would have been capable of any kind of interior journey.
Anyway, I had all of the usual worldly troubles and worries at the time. But I decided that just once a week, while in the yoga class, I would completely forget about the world. Rather, all there was was the now, and it was up to me to mine out of it whatever I could. If I couldn't get anything out of it, then it was my fault, not the fault of the world. I decided that paradise was just a few microns away, but that I nevertheless had to make the first move. It wasn't going to come to me.
So that was the seed. Afterwards it just got a little out of hand, and here we are. In fact, I also distinctly remember when it began to "take," so to speak, both in thought and in action. You know it is "working" when you begin having thoughts and making connections that you couldn't before, and when this shift in attitude begins to manifest in behavior. Sri Aurobindo describes this as the "psychic being" coming to the "front" of the personality, as if you are now operating around a new axis. In Christian terms, it would simply be the perpetual event-process of metanoia, and the discovery and strengthening of the nous.
And of course, this is a new axis (¶), which in turn relates to the world axis alluded to above. As discussed in my book, (¶) is to O as (•) is to Ø. This is when you rediscover that human beings really are the "center" of the cosmos, just as God is the "center" of the meta-cosmos. And those two centers come together -- or reveal their prior unity -- in ʘ.
But Maximus is quite cautious as to the precise meaning of ʘ, and you might say that this is what all of the Christological debates were about. There are many intrinsically heretical ways to understand ʘ, and which lead to all sorts of problems -- e.g., relativism, fascism, totalitarianism, and other pathologies of the left. Indeed, you might even say that leftism itself is the "left hand path to god," for above all else it is a political religion, or a fully "horizontalized verticality." It is certainly where a Deepak Chopra is coming from, which is why his brand of spirituality results in such sinister nonsense and evil.
A key point to bear in mind is that ʘ is not "a 'mixture' of divinity and humanity," like a union "of two fluids blending with each other." In fact, this kind of indiscriminate mixture of essences is "far from the most perfect and intimate kind of union." Rather, it is "a reciprocal indwelling of two distinct poles of being." That little dot in the middle is "everything," including the essence of love, which requires two (actually, three, the lover, beloved, and the love that passes between them).
Balthasar: "Love, which is the highest level of union, only takes root in the growing independence of the lovers; the union between God and the world reveals, in the very nearness it creates between these two poles of being, the ever-greater difference between created being and the essentially incomparable God." This is "the mystery of a polarity that can never be seen in anything like a final vision," but is instead perpetually ascending toward, and being drawn into, the divine ground.
In short, we do not confuse God's aseity with the hole in our ground.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The same people who successfully curtailed nuclear power in America are now insisting that we must be “energy independent.” The same people who argued that Reagan’s tax breaks would destroy the economy enjoyed a quarter century of economic growth. The same Democrat party that accommodated southern and northern racists for decades continues to argue that race is all-important and that government should be engaged in the task of dividing people by race and gender and giving special privileges to some groups. And of course, the international left is now the main repository and champion of mankind’s most ancient and vile prejudice, anti-Semitism.
One of the greatest conceits of the Left is that they are “intellectually curious,” “open-minded,” or “reality based,” when it would be difficult to find minds more parochial, narrow-minded, and hermetically self-enclosed people than those responsible for the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, or NPR, or CNN, or virtually any MSM outlet.
Why are they stuck? In my view, this is not a psychopathology but a pneumapathology -- a disease of the soul. Since leftism is a faux religion, they really need something closer to cult deprogramming. This is why conventional psychology is powerless to explain it or to do anything about it.
In a way, it is analogous to addiction, another problem of the soul that psychology is generally powerless to remedy. I don’t know if it’s the same way now, but when I was in graduate school, I was even taught that it would be unethical to try to treat alcoholism with psychotherapy alone. By far the most successful approach is the 12 step program, undoubtedly because it addresses the underlying soul pathology at the heart of addiction.
Perhaps we need a 12 step program for leftists, Apparatchiks Anonymous.
1. We admitted we were powerless over the intoxicating dreams of socialism, and that our lives and governments had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power far greater than our own omnipotent little egoic fantasies of total control could restore us to the true classical liberalism of the Founders.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the Creator and Guarantor of our Liberty.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the well-intentioned failures and frank evils of socialism.
5. We admitted to the Creator of our Liberty, to ourselves, and in a live phone call to C-SPAN, the exact nature of socialism’s wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have the Creator of Our Liberty remove all these defects of ideology.
7. We humbly asked Him to cancel our subscription to the Times.
8. We made a list of all races, genders, and classes our government programs had harmed, and became willing to make amends by leaving them the fuck alone.
9. We made direct amends to such people by switching parties.
10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were again tempted to abuse ideology for the purposes of blotting out reality, promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through prayer, meditation, and reading the Constitution, to improve our conscious contact with the Source of our Liberty, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Leftists, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
As we sit here thunderstruck, there is "a bolt of lightning that discloses, in a single flash, the overwhelming contemporaneity of all realms of being, down to the very elements of matter themselves -- of their layers and interconnections, their approaches to, and descents from, the invisible peak of all things -- revealing a picture of stability and majestic peace such as has never been glimpsed before in Christendom."
More: the "dynamic insight... into the evolution of all things, step by step, from the primeval potency, is turned here into a picture of a reality that radiates outward, flows downward from above. It is not a cosmos frozen into [an] icon so much as a life that generatively streams and pulsates," something like a fountain consisting of bowls atop one another, so the water overflows down from realm to realm.
As Magnus calmly said yesterday, "Yes. That's it." Nevertheless, two things. One, why did no one ever tell me about this in Sunday School? Two, the whole durn thing thing reminds me of --->
The thing is, this is not just a poetic vision, even though it is one. As I mentioned a while back, the best one can do is try to pour language over the divine being, in the hope that its contours will emerge like an object beneath a veil. So on the one hand, the vision is unavoidably "poetic," even while simultaneously being, as implied by Magnus, rather "exact," evoking a simple "Yup. Bingo. That's the one."
And although the vision is "ecstatic," at the same time, "one's knowledge must possess, in the highest degree, that joyous calm that expresses the peace of this contemplative vision" (emphasis mine). I think this corresponds to the highest degree of transcendence -- which takes us beyond oursleves -- and immanence -- which paradoxically locates this beyond "within." Truly, the closer you get, the further away you are. Virtually all saints affirm this in one away or another.
This is not a "paradox" but a precise account and description. It is "intimacy-distance," or "twoness-oneness," or "union-separation." Only at the very point of ultimate intimacy does one discover the abyss of infinite Otherness. And it is only in this very gap that Love abides, and without which it could not Be, for love is the identity of identity and non-identity.
Just don't say that to your wife on Valentine's Day, because it doesn't sound very romantic. And while I'm thinking of it, don't give her a Garden Weasel either.
So there is simultaneous participation and detachment, even to their ultimate terms. As Maximus explains, "The first concern must, then, not be to speak as others speak, but to conceive the word of truth with understanding and exactitude.... It is not a matter of refuting the opinions of others, but of presenting one's own; not a matter of contesting some aspect of the teaching or behavior of others..., but of writing on behalf of truth" (emphasis mine).
Now that we have described this cosmos, what is it good for, besides sex, thrills, and rock 'n roll? Well, one might say that it is a kind of "divinizing machine," except that it is obviously not a machine.
Looked at in purely linear terms, you might say that you insert matter and energy (which amount to the same thing) on one end and ultimately end up with God at the other. In between you have such interesting features as biology, anthropology, politics, history and all the rest, some of it "progressive," most of it just meaningless eddies off to the side of main cosmic stream, such as "progressivism." This is such a profoundly misleading term, that only Satan himself could have invented it!
As we have discussed on a number of occasions, the whole idea of progress is absurd in the absence of the Absolute. To put it another way, it is only because of the a priori "existence" of the Absolute -- i.e., GOD -- that progress is possible, since "progress" is measured in terms of proximity to the Absolute, precisely. (And we put the qualifier "existence" in quotes, since the Absolute is obviously beyond existence; rather, existence is derived from the Absolute.)
This is why -- and I really can't recommend Liberal Fascism highly enough; I think it's actually much, much deeper than generally understood by both critics and fans -- "progressivism" is just another name for barbarism. It is the rule of the beasts, the infrahumans who have no desire to become human. For them the state is the absolute, and metaphysical gravity takes care of the rest. See Barack fall!
So Maximus envisages the cosmos "as the supporting ground for all supernatural divinization." The first thing that occurs to me is that this idea is mirrored at all levels of creation. For example, you might say that a solar system is a supporting ground for "biolization," or that biology is a supporting ground for "psycholization," or that psychology is a supporting ground for spiritualization.
You have to look at the whole, in both space and time, horizontally and vertically. If you do that, then you see that this is simply "the way it is." It is just an empirical description of "what happens," cosmically speaking. Nor is it anything that human beings -- let alone Darwin! -- could ever "make happen" in the absence of divine intervention, or let us just say a "vertical descent" to avoid saturation. Nature is supernatural, or it is nothing. Literally. But more important, figuratively.
Thus, this vision establishes the infinite value of the creation, since it is not only infused with potential divinity, but its very purpose is tied in with divinization. This is why Maximus "may be considered the most world-affirming of all the Greek Fathers." The world is not some big mistake or simple illusion that one must escape by any selfish means narcissary. Rather, not only is it a source of wisdom and revelation, but it is again the very "means" of divinization.
Man is not driven to contemplate nature for its own sake, but because it is "a kind of initiation into the knowledge of God," something which more and more physicists and cosmologists appreciate, even while fewer and fewer biologists do. For "the stars in the heavens are like the letters of a book." "The wise person stands in the midst of the world's realities as in an inexhaustible treasury of knowledge... everything provides food for his intellectual nourishment." Mmmmm, reality (Homer).
But only if you are sufficiently awake to be aware of your divine intellect (¶), so that it has emerged to the front of the personality. For the awakened intellect, the world is a ladder, "a hoist to higher intellectual insight." For the unawakened, it is merely a stool.
Last rung in's a written gag! --The Wholly Coonifesto
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It reminds me of Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game, which, if I recall correctly (it's probably been 30 years), is about a league of gentlemen slackers who play a sort of game in which the point is to unify diverse strands of knowledge, say, a Bach fugue with the laws of physics.
Here, let me look it up... Yes, here's the description: "Hesse's final novel is set in a 23rd-century utopia in which the intellectual elite have distilled all available knowledge of math, music, science, and art into an elaborately coded game."
Another review says that it is "about humanity's eternal quest for enlightenment and for synthesis of the intellectual and the participatory life. Set in the 23rd century, the novel purports to be a biography of Josef Knecht.... Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy. This he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi," or Master of the Game.
I have been very aware of playing the Glass Bead Game for, I don't know, 25 years or so, and unconsciously playing it for longer than that. This is what I was alluding to in a recent post, when I mentioned my distaste for school.
The bottom line is that the liberal educational establishment interfered with my Glass Bead Game, and mostly just got in the way. It essentially consisted of transferring "finished products" of other people's thought into my dome in a wholly linear and atomized manner. Or, you might say that it consisted of giving me the "final scores" of other games, but not allowing me to play my own. I suppose some of it was useful for the Game, but other aspects can put an end to the Game altogether if you take them seriously -- for example, radical Darwinism.
The radical Darwinist eliminates himself from the Game, and imagines that those who play it are only doing so at the behest of their genes. In reality, the only entities in the cosmos that get to play at all are the genes. We are simply the byproduct of their unconscious play. Love? Beauty? Truth? All just tricks of those mischievous genes. And there is no point to their play. It's just what they do, so don't ask. It's for them to know and you to find out.
However, if you are remotely intellectually sophisticated -- or if your intellect has not been completely extinguished by this asinine sort of radical secularism -- then you see in an instant that the Darwinist is just playing a very bad form of the Glass Bead Game. For he too wishes to distill all knowledge into one vast (or tiny) system, except that in his case, it is not a system of thought, nor is it a product of the nonlocal intellect, only of the local ego.
In fact, thought -- and therefore truth -- is precisely what is eliminated in the Darwinist's game, reduced to a side effect of genetic competition. Yes, it is -- and they are -- absurd, but if you ask a terminal Darwinian how a Bach fugue and the laws of physics are related, he might say something like, "well, to be honest we don't yet know. But we think it has something to do with gene #5043-K. The main point is that there is a genetic explanation."
Intellectually speaking, this is like borrowing a huge amount of money because one thinks one will receive a windfall in the future in order to pay back the intellectual loan. But in reality, it is like the real estate bubble, except that it is a cognitive bubble that will eventually go bust. The truth of Darwinism is all "on paper" that can never be cashed in for real wealth.
Now, I think it is obvious to one and all that my book is the preluminary result of my own Glass Bead Game. However, the Game obviously continues, as evidenced by the past 1,300 or so posts.
But a couple of points to bear in mind. When I wrote the book, I tried to do so in such a way that my later play would not fundamentally contradict anything in the book. I don't like to be so self-referential, but I frankly don't know who else I can refer to here. But one of my purposes in writing the book was to do so in such a way that reading it would not be at all like my bad experience with education, in which someone else's finished products were simply funneled into the Gagdad melon.
Rather, what I wanted to do was create a book that would allow others to play the Glass Bead Game. In other words, it's really meant to be a sort of template one can use to play the home version of the Glass Bead Game. I believe this is most obvious in book four, with all of the symbols I use for the spiritual life. That practically ensures that I am not "giving you the answer," but showing you how to play the game. In order accomplish my goal, the book had to be simultaneously "fixed" and yet "open." But this is just an analogue to how life, mind, and spirit -- the cosmos itself -- operate.
These thoughts were provoked yesterday in reading Jonah Goldberg's great Liberal Fascism at the same time I am pondering and blogging about Balthasar's Cosmic Liturgy.
Now, I would be willing to bet folding money that I am the first human being in history who has ever read these two particular books at the same time. That is not a comment about me, just about the uniqueness of the individual human, and how each of us uses such different material to play the Game.
Anyway, in reading these two works simultaneously, some cross-pollination is bound to occur as a result of all the bees buzzing in my bonnet. So yesterday afternoon, as I was reading Liberal Fascism, I was furiously making all of these margin notes about the connection between the two -- connections that I imagine that no other human being has previously noted in this exact way, and yet, are just "there," waiting to be noticed by someone.
Therefore, are the connections manmade? Or are we simply the middle man needed to bridge the connections that are already there? And assuming that the connections are already there -- which I believe they are -- what does this say about the mutual "object" they are illuminating?
Well, for starters, it cannot be anything like a three-dimensional object in time and space. Rather, this would obviously have to have more dimensions than three, and it would have to be non-linear. In reality, I believe that it is -- to borrow a term from Terence McKenna -- a "hyperdimensional manifold," a subjective topology which human beings have the unique privilege of "entering" and exploring.
"Hyperdimensional" simply means that it possesses more than four dimensions, while a manifold is a special kind of mathematical space. I call this space O, and I believe that it is ultimately in the form of a complex Klein Bottle (see illustration), in which the outside surface is the inside, and vice versa.
In my particular version of the Glass Bead Game, this is how I understand the distinction between subject and object, spirit and matter, potential and actuality. You might say that consciousness is the "interior" of the cosmos and matter the "exterior." However, theses are simply two sides of the same surface, like the Klein Bottle. We live "inside" the Klein Bottle, while the world we interact with is the "outside" of the Klein Bottle. But on pain of absurdity, object and subject are ultimately "one." The world is infused with intelligent consciousness, while human beings prove that matter can "think."
As I said, that's how Gagdad plays the Game.
It is also how Maximus played the Game, which is why I find him so compatible. For example, Balthasar notes that it is ridiculous to think that two "ways of conceiving the universe can stand in [such a] contradictory relationship to each other that no power of the intelligence will ever be able to remove the contradiction by creating a higher, third possibility."
That is, Maximus was a "creator" who worked with "traditional material but who also [knew] how to arrange the pieces according to their own architectural design." Again, as we mentioned before, he was able to unify -- or to see the hidden unity of -- "five or six intellectual worlds that seemingly had lost all contact," bringing to light "new connections that gave rise, in turn, to unexpected similarities and relationships."
Really, he was just accurately describing the hyperdimensional manifold of O: "His ecstatic vision of a holy universe, flowing forth, wave upon wave, from the unfathomable depths of God, whose center lies always beyond the creature's reach; his vision of a creation that realizes itself in ever more distant echoes, until it finally ebbs away at the borders of nothingness, yet which is 'brought home,' step by step, through the ascending unities of an awestruck love..."
Maximus was a Master of the Game.
And if it's all the same to you, I would prefer that you address me as the Maestro.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Rather, in order to get anything out it it, it must not only be chewed -- 40 times -- each page -- but swallowed, digested, and assimilated. And when I say "assimilated," I mean that it must either be used for energy or for renewing or filling out one's celestial form. The purpose is not just to make you intellectually fat and lazy with a lot of useless knowledge, like a tenured bore-belly or coldblooded faculty lounge liztard.
I hope that every book I eat will be this chewy and nutritious, but that is the exception, not the rule. Actually, that's not entirely true. In the evenings, I try to opt for somewhat less rich fare, since this type of book can only be understood with all one's faculties operating at maximum capacity: mind, body, and spirit. You need the cooperation of all three to benefit from this type of book.
For example, without the higher spirit (¶), I can't imagine how this book would make any sense at all. I have no idea what an atheist would think of it. I suppose it would be similar to what a dog thinks of a fire hydrant.
Which is unfortunate, because the subtitle of the book is The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor. In other words, it's all about the all and the everything, forever and always. I suppose the spiritually anorexic atheist might cleverly ask, "what could this man possibly know about the universe? He died in the seventh century, way before Bill Maher proved that God doesn't exist and that Obama is His prophet."
Let's just say that physics is derived from metaphysics, not vice versa, and that metaphysical truth is always true, and therefore always accessible to man -- not to his evolved mind but to his intellect, i.e., the nous. This is how a man who lived and died over a thousand years ago can be every bit as fresh and relevant as today's news.
In case you missed it, that was a little joke at the end there. The point is that almost all "news" is completely irrelevant, just a distraction that ultimately serves to obscure what I call The Eternals. It takes no intelligence whatsoever to be a producer or consumer of MSM "news."
When I began this blog, you might recoil that this was a major part of my mission: not necessarily to avoid the news, but to look at it in light of eternal truth, i.e., to illuminate it with timeless principles. And really, this is the only way one can understand the news, just as the only way one may understand the physical world is in light of certain mathematical constants. If the constants changed every day, it would be ridiculous to say that we "understand" the world.
And one of the major purposes of "news" -- and I am speaking here of the moonstream media, or MSMistry of Truth -- is to obscure the rules of reality, precisely, so that the impossible may seem possible, e.g., that it is possible for a man to marry a man, or that "experts" can predict the weather 100 years hence (but not next week), or that high taxes are good for the economy, or that providing more of something at less cost will cause people to consume less of it, or that arresting an obnoxious clown for being one is an instance of "racism," etc., etc., etc.
As Walter Cronkite might have said if he had had an ounce of irony or self-awareness, And that's not the way it is. Not at all. Not even close. Rather, this is just the current Liberal Truth, a cognitive pacifier for the spiritually dead, a fount of elite conventional wisdom for over- and undereducated rubes, which is to say no wisdom at all. Good night clowns.
Okay, back to the eternals. Balthasar points out that Maximus was able to serve as a living bridge between the scholasticism of the West and the mysticism of the East (yes, we are speaking in generalizations and of major trends). This naturally arrests my attention, because "scholasticism" is related to school, which was something I absolutely detested. And why did I detest it? I can't even necessarily blame school, not completely anyway.
Rather, it's an issue of temperament. I'm not sure if I want to get into all of the personal details at this juncture, but let's just suppose that God speaks in diverse ways in order to serve a diverse population. It is not that God is diverse. Rather, people are. Obviously. Therefore, the identical truth must be tailored, so to speak, to suit different people. This is why a certain amount of "fragmentation" of Christian truth is permitted at the human margin, but only up to a point.
For example, there are denominations of Christianity that cater to the sick, the perverse, the envious, the racially paranoid. These can never be true forms of Christianity, for they are well beyond the permissible human margin.
Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ would be a fine example. It is actually the Perpetually Divisive Bank of Racial Victimhood, and now we know that Obama wasn't just snoozing in the pews all those years. Rather, he absorbed and assimilated their template for interpreting reality, which is why he could reflexively come to the defense of his undignified friend from the prestigious Harvard Department of Race Hustling. And what happened to Gates doesn't hurt his business but helps it, for it allows him to sucker in more aggrieved customers at $150,000 per.
So Maximus speaks to me quite directly, especially in his cosmic vision. In fact, I have had to invent a new pneumaticon that I place in the margin of the book every time Maximus says something that mirrors the main idea presented in my book. I don't know if I can reproduce the symbol on my keyboard, but it looks something like this, for reasons we will get into later:
At any rate, Maximus clearly saw the importance of unity between dogma and experience, or what I would call (k) and (n). There is nothing wrong with (k) so long as it remains "within the orbit" of (n), so to speak. But I can't tell you how many Christians I meet who begin spewing spiritual (k) that makes no sense at all in light of eternal truth, and cannot possibly be true. It's all just man-made heresy. And it finds a home in people for the same reason liberalism does: because they have forgotten how to think metaphysically, which must always be simultaneously experiential.
If you emphasize one pole over the other, then you are bound for trouble. You end up in a realm of pure subjectivism on the one hand, or a kind of abstract system on the other, detached from the Real and then infused with human passion. You know the type.
Ironically, this is where the deep structure of liberal fascism meets up with religious fundamentalism. The former is religious passion in the absence of religion, while the latter is religious passion in the absence of intellect. As we know, whatever the leftist accuses someone else of may be interpreted as projection. This is why they are so preoccupied with the "religious right" in general and Sarah Palin in particular. Pure projection.
Now, scholasticism is all about fine distinctions within the One, whereas mysticism is all about unity amidst multiplicity. Or, you might say analysis vs. synthesis.
Here again, you can't really have one without the other, for they are analogous to anabolism (building up) and catabolism (breaking down), which constitute metabolism. Since bodily metabolism is a declension from spiritual metabolism (not vice versa), I think you see the point. Ultimately, the "purpose" of scholasticism must always be unity -- or to better understand the nature of unity -- which, of course, Aquinas himself proved in the mystical experience he was granted near the end of his life. This in no way contradicted his magnificent system of thought, but sealed it.
"... [D]ogmatic theology and the spiritual ascent to God, according to Maximus, offer each other no opposition.... the ultimate and highest degree of reconciliation occurs only within the active range of clear, discerning, and decisive intelligence. The power of thought is the force that transforms the world" (Balthasar).
Monday, July 27, 2009
So many philosophical disputes down through the ages are simply a result of failure to appreciate the irreducible complementarity -- not duality -- of being. A duality is an unproductive sort of stalemate, whereas a complementarity is a productive interplay that generates the "higher third" alluded to above.
Individual examples are too numerous to chronicle here, but failure to admit complementarity not only creates impasses between disciplines, but within them as well. For example, in science, there are materialists and idealists, or Aristotelians and Platonists. In psychology, there are behaviorists and depth psychologists. In religion, there are the mystics and dogmatics.
I no longer remember the details, but about 20 years ago, I was complaining about some quandary to my analyst, and he said something to the effect of, "why does it have to be either/or? Why not both/and? After all, it always is."
The idea of complementarity is one of those things that you realize is true the moment you hear it, and yet, must be relearned again and again. As we now know, it is woven into the very fabric of the cosmos, as elucidated by the physicist Neils Bohr (the "complementarity principle").
That is, in subatomic physics, it literally makes no sense to ask if one is dealing with a wave or a particle, for it is always both/and. Yes, you can pretend that reality is particle-like, but then you're excluding half the story. Or, you can pretend it's wavelike, and you miss the other half. If you know where a particle is, then you don't know its velocity. If you know the velocity, then you don't know its location. I understand that batting against Sandy Koufax posed a similar problem. On one occasion, after the umpire called a strike, the batter asked, "are you sure? That sounded outside."
Now, many new-age types try to use the facts of physics to build "upward" and justify a mystical view of the cosmos, e.g., The Tao of Physics. But it doesn't work that way. We don't have a left and right brain because the cosmos is simultaneously particle- and wavelike. Rather, vice versa. And our analysis cannot end with man. Rather, man has this intrinsic complementarity because he is in the image of the Creator.
Again, creation could not occur if there were only a uniform "oneness." Rather, there must be distinction. But this is never a radical separation from the Principle; rather, it is always multiplicity within a prior unity.
Oneness could never be achieved on any level -- material, biological, psychological or spiritual -- if it weren't latent within creation to begin with. In other words, in the absence of oneness, we could not have objects, organisms, egos, or selves, each of which reflects the principle of wholeness within its particular domain (i.e., matter, life, mind, and spirit).
You might say that as one becomes many, it breaks out into the absolute and infinite, which would correspond to particle and wave (or left brain and right brain, male and female), respectively. Thus, whenever we see the apparent multiplicity of duality, we must "recall" the prior complementary oneness that actually joins them together in wholly matterimany.
One critical point to bear in mind is that the principle of complementarity applies to both the object and subject. That is, just as physics proves the existence of material complementarity, psychology proves the existence of subjective complementarity. As I have discussed before, it is a bit old-fashioned to imagine the mind in 19th century mechanistic terms, perhaps as an archaeological dig with the older material "below," or maybe a bag with "stuff" inside, or perhaps a pressure cooker that needs to let off steam in the form of "instinctual energy."
Rather, just as the Trinity is entirely intersubjective, each being a member of the other, the mind consists of "parts" that can only be artificially separated from the whole. Therefore, while we can talk about "ego" and "unconscious," we must always remember that these are no more real than "wave" and "particle."
Rather, it all depends upon how we look at it. In reality, there is no conscious act that doesn't have unconscious roots, and no unconscious fantasy that isn't infused with the conscious. And we have no idea how this actually works, any more than we have any idea how a dream is produced. In order to think about anything at all, we must resort to dualism. Just don't confuse method with truth, for the truth is always the complementary whole. A physicist doesn't actually know what matter or energy are, any more than a biologist knows what life is, or a psychologist knows what consciousness is, or a priest knows what God is.
But in each case, we do have means of finding out. In other words, there are specific methods for disclosing the truth of matter, life, mind and spirit. However, just don't confuse the means with the underlying truth, which is to confuse epistemology -- what we can know -- with ontology -- what actually is.
In fact, that is another false dualism -- ontology and epistemology -- that is resolved in Christian metaphysics. If I discuss this now, I'll be getting wayyy ahead of myself, but this was very much emphasized by Symeon the New Theologian, who you might say unified doctrine and experience within his own person (which is what made him so New). But I want to finish with Maximus before moving on to Symeon.
Indeed, in many ways, Symeon is just a restatement of Maximus, only in a more highly personalized manner. Remember what I said about complementarity having to be rediscovered again and again, perhaps by each generation; thus, you can draw a more or less straight or crooked line from, say, Denys to Maximus to Symeon to Gregory Palamas to Toots Mondello to me.
So Balthasar talks about some of the polarities that are unified in Maximus, such as that "between the impersonal religious thought of the East and the personal categories of biblical revelation," or "between a religion of nature [↑] and a religion of self-communication and of grace [↓]," between "narrative thought" and "analytic thought," between schoolroom and monastery, or between mythos and logos.
For me, the important point is that Maximus straddled the gulf between God's transcendence and immanence, which is a complementarity that can only be "resolved" within the human subject. Although he ultimately chose the Western tradition, he did so in such a way that he "imported" the Eastern conception. In other words, he brought in "the whole Asian mystique of divinization," or theosis, "on the higher level of the biblical mystery," as opposed to "the lower level of natural dissolution and fusion."
Do you see the point? It all turns on the meaning of One. Symbolically, you could say that it all turns on O vs. ʘ. That little point in the middle is you. Either that dot is o-bliterated in egoic dissolution, or it is "preserved" as one of God's precious "parts." If you think you must choose between the two, I think you're caught up in one of those false dualities. For in reality, there is the eternal complementarity of O and •, which is none other than infinite and absolute playing along the shoreline of the aeon. So enjoy your praydate with O. You only get ʘne.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I don't know if this is still valid -- probably not, since I learned it in college -- but I remember reading about how the resting EEGs of extreme extroverts and thrill seekers are unusually rather flat, which is precisely why they seek thrills -- in order to stimulate their brain. In the absence of a vivid assault on the senses, they just feel kind of dead. Such individuals can also be drawn to stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine in order to gain a spurious sense of life without having to do anything. But that just burns out the synapses, leaving them even more endeadened in the headend.
Conversely, more quiet and introverted people showed a great deal of brain activity even while resting and doing nothing. Often, such a person can feel overwhelmed by too much external activity -- it overloads their nervous system, so to speak.
I definitely fall into that latter category, in that I have always required very little stimulation in order to feel hyper-stimulated. For me, one is often a crowd. O is enough to deal with. It took many years for me to finally be comfortable about being uncomfortable in my own skin. These types of individuals are often attracted to the more calming type drugs. Back in my undergraduate days, I remember feeling as if I were always two beers shy of normalcy, so to speak. Let's just say I occasionally overshot the mark.
I was thinking about this while eyeing Josef Pieper's For the Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, in which he discusses the meaning of philosophy. He quotes a fellow named Socrates, who remarked that "the sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin."
But contemporary philosophy does not begin with a sense of wonder, nor does it attempt to cultivate it. Rather, it begins with the capacity to doubt, and then aggravates it, eventually turning a good servant into a tyrannical master, for there is nothing that cannot be doubted by doubt. It takes no wisdom or skill at all. You can take any buffoon with a capacity to doubt, and make him, I don't know, the Alphonse Fletcher chair at Harvard.
One reason I could never be a secular leftist is that it is a cynical philosophy that drains everything it touches of the dimension of wonder. For atheists and other philisophostines, the world loses its metaphysical transparency; surface is reality and everything is self-evident. They elevate our crudest way of knowing the world to the highest wisdom, and their self-satisfaction ensures that no spiritual growth can occur. They are a closed system.
The sense of wonder is not merely a useless "luxury capacity" that serves no human purpose. Rather, it is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the cosmos. In fact, like a divining rod, it tells us where to look for the water -- the baptizing Waters of Life. It senses those "holes" in the landscape through which the wondrous spiritual energies gently bubble forth to the surface. Look, there's one now! Which reminds me of one of the mysterious Sayings of Toots: Why listen to me? I'm all wet.
The flatlander who is confined to the everyday, proximate world can never really philosophize, whereas for the person who has been arrested by a sense of wonder, "the immediate necessities of life fall mute, if only for this one moment of impassioned gazing at the wonder-inspiring physiognomy of the world." I suppose the atheist might object that he too wonders at Being, but he would never agree that wonder is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the object that has provoked it.
Pieper points out that it is not the abnormal, the sensational, and the exciting that provoke the sense of wonder. Indeed, this is the whole point. Many people compulsively seek out the abnormal and the sensational in order to simulate a dulled sense of wonder that is incapable of perceiving the wondrous in the commonplace:
"Whoever requires the unusual in order to fall into wonder shows himself by virtue of this very fact to be someone who has lost the ability to respond correctly to the mirandum of Being. The need for the sensational, even if it prefers to present itself under the guise of the bohemian, is an unmistakable sign of the absence of a genuine capacity for wonder and hence a bourgeois mentaility" (emphasis mine).
This highlights the fact that the weirdest people are usually the most banal and predictable underneath their weirdness. And the far left -- you know, soak-alled liberals -- is nothing if not a collection of weirdos, misfits, rejects, losers, crackpots, kooks, "rebels," outliars, and auto-victimizing boohoomians hiding behind their "authenticity." You know, the "herd of independent minds."
A genuine sense of wonder preserves the extraordinary in the familiar, and is therefore a key to happiness. Pieper notes that for Aquinas, it was one of the indirect proofs of God, in that "in the very first moment of wonder man sets his foot on the path at the end of which lies the visio beatifica, the blissful perception of the ultimate cause." In this regard, you might say that wonder is a way of "metabolizing reality," in that it involves both digestion and resultant growth.
By the way, for those of you with my book, much of what we are discussing here dovetails nicely with pp. 215-16, in which I point out that a goal of the spiritual life is "to be in a mild state of (?!) at all times.... It is a matter of removing obstacles to its reception, not setting up elaborate, complicated, or expensive situations to trick the ego into relaxing its death-grip for awhile."
In fact, to further quote mybob, "All of us can, with even unschooled intuition, receive these transitory, partial, and mixed messages from O, the flotsam and jetsam that wash up from the father shore.... [But] only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something felt as a continuous presence." God is a presence. Nonetheless, we have to open it in order to have our second birthday.
Now, our sense of wonder ultimately answers to the Mystery of Being, and a mystery is not an enigma to be solved but a riddle to be enjoyed and even played with. And all of this falls under the heading of "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." As Pieper points out, our higher bewilderness is not to be confused with resignation, despair, or hopelessness. To the contrary, our engagement with the mystery of being is generative and therefore filled with hope and joy, because it brings us closer to the ultimate cause of our wondering.
What actually provoked me to wonder about wonder was an essay by Dennis Prager on how Excitement Deprives Children of Happiness -- which is another way of saying that immersing children in over-stimulating activities will inevitably lead to an atrophied sense of wonder. As Prager writes,
"because we parents so delight in the excitement we see in our children at those moments -- because they seem so happy then -- we can easily fall into the trap of providing more and more exciting things to keep them seemingly happy at just about every moment. And they in turn come to rely on getting excited to keep them happy and to identify excitement with happiness. But excitement is not happiness. In fact, it is the ultimate drug."
Never before in history has so much excitement been available to people, but are they really any happier or fulfilled? I agree with Prager that "all this excitement is actually inhibiting our children's ability to enjoy life and therefore be happy." It "renders young people jaded, not happy.... That is why the frequent complaint of 'I'm bored' is often a sign of a jaded child, i.e., a child addicted to excitement and therefore incapable of enjoying life when not being excited."
So, what have we learned? It's the simple things of life. You know, like extreme seeking, off-road spiritual adventures, verticalisthenics, gymnostics, isness ministration, neurocosmology, coonical pslackology, applied non-doodling, nonlocal dot connecting.... and a couple of beers.