Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spiritual Words and the Realities To Which They Refer

In the Book, I addressed the problem of language vis-a-vis Spirit, something that doesn't seem to trouble my competitors. But ultimately, this is the reason why I came up with those annoying pneumaticons, so that we don't pretend we know what we're talking about just because we have a word for it; or, alternatively, to avoid distorting the reality in question because of accretions and associations that eventually change or saturate the original meaning of the word -- the way the left, for example, has totally distorted the plain meaning of the Constitution.

Because of the fluid and dynamic nature of language, this happens all the time. Language is constantly adapting to new realities as they emerge. In a metaphor Terence McKenna once used, it is as if mankind pours language over the world it encounters, so there is a constant dialectic between language and world. But we can be forced to adapt to a world in such away that it eclipses other worlds.

This is especially problematic for domains that transcend the senses, since language is not necessarily well adapted to them. It is potentially well adapted (or at least adequately so), but again, it is entirely possible for a person to deploy religious terms and concepts without having had any experience whatsoever of the realities to which they refer.

And critically, this doesn't only apply to atheists, but to theists as well. For example, any yahoo can attend a theological seminary and learn the lingo -- i.e., memorize the map. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the person has actually experienced the realities to which the map refers.

Alternatively, it is possible for a person to have genuine contact with higher worlds, but to lack a stable and specific language to communicate it to others. When this happens, you can end up with occultists and cranks who come up with their own eccentric system to map the spiritual realm. There is often some truth to these maps, but they usually die with the person who came up with them, although a small and devoted cult may linger on. (Or sometimes they can just make the shit up, a la L. Ron Hubbard, in order to dupe people who know no better.)

In our materialistic and quantitative age, we see how language has adapted to this new reality to the exclusion of the real and enduring world of perennial human values. And while religion is supposed to be the guardian and transmitter of these values, it too has become increasingly materialized along with the culture, so that religion ends up in the polarized, worldly forms of "liberation theology," on the one hand, and a literal minded fideism on the other. Each of these is a result of the materialization of the psyche, so that this type of religion no longer refers to the transcendent source of religion (nor does it adequately map the familiar signposts and landmarks of the spiritual journey).

The symbolic scheme we have been discussing in recent posts -- Ø <-- (•) --> O -- goes directly to this issue. As I mentioned yesterday, the two sides of the schematic represent two completely different (but interpenetrating) worlds, Ø and O. You could say that science and logic map the left hand world, while theology, mysticism, ethics, intellection (gnosis), and aesthetics map the right. Naturally, a complete account of reality requires both sides. But unfortunately, most people seem to come down on one side or the other, and then use one side to map and describe the other.

Again, this generates foolishness for both atheists and theists. In short, materialists try to reduce O to Ø, while certain religious types try to map Ø with O, which just doesn't work -- cf. the Islamic world.

Having said that, the (sane) theist is always closer to Reality than the atheist, since the atheist doesn't even acknowledge Reality in all its fullness. Furthermore, to suggest that O could be derived from, and fully explained by, Ø is philosophical and metaphysical nonsense. Rather, Ø is clearly a creation -- or prolongation, if you like -- of O, although, at the same time, it is a relatively autonomous domain that is governed by its own set of rules.

But it should go without saying that these rules are not absolute, otherwise there would be no way to "escape" them. In other words, the cosmos would be a closed system with no interior. But because Ø is a prolongation or involution of O, the cosmos is a vertically open system that bears upon its transcendent source.

If this were not the case, then religion -- not to mention self-consciousness, truth, beauty, virtue -- would all be strictly impossible. Ø is ultimately in O, not vice versa. Or, to be precise, O is immanent in Ø, while simultaneously transcending it. Things can be no other way and still be.

Along these lines, Walt referred me to a statement by J.G. Bennett that conforms to this line of thought. He notes that in contemporary times, many people have lost their innate sense of the vast difference between Ø and O, and how our whole life depends upon whether we -- or (•) -- are oriented to one or the other. What this ultimately means is that contemporary horizontal man has lost the very point of his life, its sufficient reason.

Anyway, Bennett wrote that "I suppose this is not a very serious conflict for most people," and that "they do not feel it matters one way or the other because life has to be lived just the same."

But (•) is confronted with this very choice; before him "there are two very different kinds of lives. Man is just a machine among machines, but a machine that can be free, can be not a machine. This would not be possible if there were not different levels of existence. On one level of existence, man is a machine living among machines; on another level of existence, there is the possibility of freedom. There are two worlds open to man -- not one world far away and one here, but two worlds both here."

This is why the theological virtues we have been discussing -- faith, hope and love -- only apply to O, not to Ø. Indeed, applied to the latter, they are no longer virtuous; and not just because horizontal man collapses spirit to matter, but because it represents a kind of ontological insanity to place one's hope in matter, or to have faith in natural man, i.e., the human animal.

Also, to collapse O to Ø is the end of the human journey, period. Of course there will still be "movement" -- or agitation -- but it would be absurd to suggest that it's ultimately going anywhere but sideways. Progress of any kind implies a nonlocal end, or telos, that guides the constituent parts toward their purpose, or reason for being.

For a proper human being, O is his telos, and life is unthinkable without it. All of the most interesting and rewarding -- thrilling, even -- features of reality are situated on the (•) --> O side of the oquation (living there also makes everything down in Ø much more interesting and meaningful). I can't even imagine what it would be like to be exiled from O and condemned to Ø . What a grind that would be, with no way to breath the cool, spacious, celestial mountain air of heaven.

But to paraphrase Schuon, it is as if modern man is compressed and frozen under a thick sheet of ice; or alternatively, his essence is dissipated outward toward the periphery. The only way out of this dilemma is to fasten the will to one's highest aspiration and to become a truly free and magnanimous spirit, a Cʘʘn among men.

To be continued....


Stephen Macdonald said...

Another post which has a distinctively musical feel to it. As Susannah said the other day, can't really add anything to it right now.

Stephen Macdonald said...

NYC last couple days -- events in US are becoming truly disturbing. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about to be delisted from NYSE, growing left-wing neo-Nazi movement which is spreading to (and from) Europe and Canada. A Canadian leftist politician this week pulled a Helen Thomas, blurting out her opinion that Israel should be dismantled - by force if necessary. The Left has always had a heavy appetite for authoritarianism and it is recrudescent as more and more people toss off remarks about how Obama should behave "like a dictator".

Really makes me glad I have a fairly self-sufficient rural place to get to if needed in the coming years.

Open Trench said...

It must be remembered in discussions of the schematic that their are two teleos, ours and 0's.

Our end is 0. 0's end is what exactly?

O made null 0 for His entertainment/expression/expansion/education?

So, if the creations entangled quite on purpose in null 0 should happen to wallow in it, is that something that should not be happening?

And how do we know that?

How do we know what 0 wants?

When we lay a judgement down that null 0 is not as good as 0, how can we justify it?

I say we can well sense that 0 wants people to move toward 0, but we don't know exactly who and at what rate he wants this done.

Until you can grok these with a sense better than the intellect, you are on shaky and uproven ground.

Gagdad Bob said...

And a hearty Ø to you too. Moron.

Open Trench said...

You have achieved an interview with 0.

GDB: I'm unsatisfied with people. Some don't believe in you, and that's bad.

0: What would you like me to do?

GDB: Well, what can you do? Don't those people have free will?

0: Do you think they should have free will?

GDB: Well, yes, unless they're going to be ninnies and not believe in you.

0: If you convince them to believe in me, will that please me?

GDB: Of course. Why wouldn't it?

0: Well, I don't know. Why not?

GDB: Well, give me the word-do it or not? I'd like some guidance here.

0: Do it.

Van Harvey said...

grunt maker said "You have achieved an interview w..."

Apparently grunt maker happened upon a Spiritual Words book of antonyms and mistook it for a lexicon.

Van Harvey said...

NB said "Really makes me glad I have a fairly self-sufficient rural place to get to if needed in the coming years."

Let me know if get any openings for someone to program the buterchurn or something.

julie said...

Bob, I really think you're being too generous with "moron." With each passing day, "imbecile" seems to be more fitting. Maybe his IQ is dropping? A side effect of the fall, perhaps? The further he delves into Ø and resists Truth, the dumber he seems to get...

Van Harvey said...

"Along these lines, Walt referred me to a statement by J.G. Bennett that conforms to this line of thought. He notes that in contemporary times, many people have lost their innate sense of the vast difference between Ø and O, and how our whole life depends upon whether we -- or (•) -- are oriented to one or the other. What this ultimately means is that contemporary horizontal man has lost the very point of his life, its sufficient reason."

I was thinking about this the other day when someone sent me one of those nostalgia emails... you know, pictures of smiling kids dressed neatly, adults in shirt & tie, riding bikes without helmets, milk bottles delivered to your door, etc, basically what I remember from the pre-1967 world.

And while the sappy stuff is of little or no interest, I do remember a time when the first response to an overtly heroic image... wasn't a snicker, whereas today, it is assumed that it's camp, a pose, a joke, or a fool. If you see one of the old time Superman images in an ad today, one with the serious and purposeful expression on his face, you know there's a sarcastic gag coming.

There was a time when you didn't expect that the first image to pop into someone’s mind when hearing the word 'Beauty', would be of a semi-porn photo of a babe with a deliberately world weary expression on her face.

"What this ultimately means is that contemporary horizontal man has lost the very point of his life, its sufficient reason."

Yeah. Sometimes it's heartbreaking.

Dianne said...

I don't know, but I think Grant sounds drunky.

Gagdad Bob said...

Who's buried in Grant's liquor cabinet?

Open Trench said...

Bob advocates all people advance towards 0 as rapidly as possible, and to make it a top priority, and whoever doesn't is a traitor to the species.

Someone should at least question this sweeping weltanshauung for possible caveats. It is all just a little too trite and that sets off my BS alarm because 0 is generally not trite.

Bob is a thinker. He is not a seer. He is not a mystic. His guide Petey he himself once dismissed as a joke. He seemingly has little trust in his own spiritual vision as far as it departs from conventional thinking.

Bob strikes me as not quite reliable. He is a gifted thinker and writer but he simply has not gone deep enough or high enough to get the correct vision.

I don't have it either, but Bob strikes me as a good candidate to get it but he's got to first realize where he stands is not the top of the mountain, but probably in the foothills somewhere.

And he's misleading the cubs. He should be telling you exactly how unsure he is of 0 and what we should be doing. Because he does not yet know and is whistling in the dark.

And I'm not drunk. Maybe later.

Stephen Macdonald said...

And I'm not drunk.

Too bad, really. At least you would have had an excuse for all the incoherent babble.

Magnus Itland said...

When I was young, there were many things I did not understand. There are still many things I don't understand, but at least some of them I am now aware of, rather than thinking that the theory is all there is.

Still, even at the very best it is like taking the plane to a foreign country, see some famous places and send postcards home, rather than living there and working there.

At least now whenever someone tells me that no, there is no such place, I can look at them with the certified "who let you out of the loony bin?" eyes. It does not really make the world a better place, but it does have some meager entertainment value.

I tell young people to listen to their heart, but then I remember that at least if you are a young man, there is a distinct chance that you will listen to your heart and all it says is "boobs" for a while.

Generally then, I recommend praying for a long life and trying to not get into a position of teaching or make any grand public statements until the dumb starts wearing off. There are better ways to wisdom than that, but I don't remember having walked on them. Well, apart from reading a lot of holy scriptures back while I still did not understand enough for them to hurt.

Susannah said...

"What this ultimately means is that contemporary horizontal man has lost the very point of his life, its sufficient reason.

Anyway, Bennett wrote that 'I suppose this is not a very serious conflict for most people,' and that 'they do not feel it matters one way or the other because life has to be lived just the same'"

That sounds almost exactly like a comment bh/anon left the other day. What's the point of O when you can still go on living life, marring, having kids, eating, drinking, making merry, etc.

I'm having trouble reproducing all the pneumaticons, so forgive, please.

Bob, when you talk about horizontal man, limited to the material plane, not having a serious conflict with the pointlessness of life on the other end of the spectrum...would you say that's akin to the NT designation "the world" used in the specific sense of the system in the world that is at enmity with God?

For example, in the admonition, "do not love the world," etc. that obviously doesn't refer to the created order, for how can we not love what's an extension of O? Rather, it refers to that aspect of fallenness in the cosmos which plants itself at the center as god.

Even when it comes to those who are simply as yet unaware of grace, the biblical idea seems to be that those who are not *for* are by nature *against.* In other words, dead is dead, spiritually speaking. It's just an incontrovertible fact that living purely horizontally is spiritual death, and only by changing the orientation can the person truly come to life.

I'm not sure if this is what you mean by it, however. I often try to translate into biblical terms to help my own understanding.

wv: wisetch, echoing Kurt from yesterday. :)

Van Harvey said...

grunt maker said "...and whoever doesn't is a..."

grunt is a dØØ-dØØ head.

walt said...

Bob, you're a tricky guy:

"...fasten the will to one's highest aspiration and ... become a truly free and magnanimous spirit ..."

You tossed that in right at the end, just for Grant, didn't you? After all his pleas for a precise "Raccoon Action Plan," you decided to Spell. It. Out. for him!

Very clever of you.

I liked it too. I'm gonna swipe it.

Also this:
Ø <-- (•) --> O
"...a complete account of reality requires both sides."

Something about ↓ ↑ requires the negative pole, or "no movement."
Now earlier today, I was stuck in a hospital waiting room, and the ever-present Television News subjected me to the Burning Issue of the Day, regarding Ms. Cyrus' lack of undergarments, as well as "her right" to that lack, or not, etc., etc. Personally, I could have easily done without it, but there it was.

julie said...

Hi Walt!
I had missed that news story. Why can't she learn from Lohan's example? Or conversely, why can't her dad lock her away from the limelight for about ten years or so? If he was any kind of responsible, he would have done it after that infamous photo shoot.

Re. the ER, I hope you & Miss V. are okay!

walt said...

Julie -

We're fine; I was just helping a friend. A few Ø stains got on me, but they'll rinse out.

It was a Catholic hospital, and the resident Chaplain got on the intercom and suggested a moment of prayer, offering a simple prayer of thanks to God. Folks around me continued to yap, however, and, you know: the TV blatt never stops.

Gagdad Bob said...

This is pretty funny. The left just never gives up -- sports is now the new opiate for the masses!

Gagdad Bob said...

Okay, if the Lakers win the championship tomorrow, I promise to get down to the real business of rewriting history with the blood of the ruling class.

julie said...

Hah - that guy obviously isn't privy to the esoteric secrets of Yottlism.

walt said...

Hmmm. Let's see ... which thought pattern to choose ...??

Modern societies deny men and women the experience of solidarity, which football provides to the point of collective delirium.

or ...

"...fasten the will to one's highest aspiration and ... become a truly free and magnanimous spirit ..."

Oh dear, which way? Which ...?

Gagdad Bob said...

You know what they say -- leftism is the opiate of the tenured.

Jack said...


Maybe I am wrong, but I think it's fairly safe to say, that the unofficial, far, far left "progressive" campaign against sports has been going on for a long time. It sometimes seems that the left would be okay with sports as long as one could remove all that nasty "competition" and "winning and losing" It's all,!!

How much more evolved we would be if we could only move past this obsession with winning and losing and hold hands as we dance in a circle with flowers in our hair!

The reality is that for a lot of people sports may be one of the few ways to learn to deepen and mold their character (witness John Wooden). Beyond that it may be one of the *only* ways to experience some sense of self-transcendence. You can almost see it in how someone carries themselves whether they've experienced any real athletic training.

What one learns when their is the ever-present risk of losing and one gives it all in spite of that fact...or maybe BECAUSE of that fact. And to do so with dignity and bearing (I think it used to be called "sportsmanship"...such a quaint notion!)

To watch others do the same at the highest level is ennobling...I am not surprised someone still blathering on about a marxist revolution doesn't understand that!

Gagdad Bob said...

It's particularly critical for developing boys. Without sports, they might try to exert power and dominance in inappropriate ways such as left wing politics.

Jack said...

Yes, I agree is *very* important for boys. I think, if done right, it is a path to Manhood...or at least a serious antidote to narcissism. Maybe that's part of it? Am I being too paranoid to see some relation between attacking sports and veiled attack on Manhood?

Gagdad Bob said...

No, not at all -- except that sports has become so contaminated by narcissism and the lust for personal glory, that it can just as well backfire.

Jack said...

Alas, are right. One might contrast a constrained vision of sports that focuses on developing and maintaining character--and that in the face of both victory and defeat and an unconstrained version that revels in the wondrousness of the undeveloped self that avoids any real challenge to its delusions.

Narcissism does sell. When does a touchdown dance go from exuberance to poor sportsmanship? Are we, as a culture, even able to make that distinction anymore?

Gagdad Bob said...

In Pieper's book he mentions a relevant quote by Nietzsche, to the effect that those who are addicted to honor are resistant to being loved. As such, they replace real love with the false adoration of the crowd, but it's a hole that can never be filled. No surprise that so many athletes and show-biz people have such disordered lives.

Gagdad Bob said...

Let us not leave out politicians!

Jack said...

So where do we then, as a culture, transmit and cultivate virtue? Or is that just an "antiquated" notion in a postmodern society? Have we replaced virtue with mere "preference" and "lifestyle"?

Without getting *too* dark can a free society survive when it stops even *talking* about Goodness, Beauty and Truth let alone doing what one can to cultivate these in one's own life?

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't see how. I mean, who will join the military in order to fight for the right of leftist Supreme Court nominees to ban military recruiting at Harvard?

Van Harvey said...

Jack said "Without getting *too* dark can a free society survive when it stops even *talking* about Goodness, Beauty and Truth let alone doing what one can to cultivate these in one's own life?"


Van Harvey said...

(How was that for pithy?)

wv feeling spooky again:

Van Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van Harvey said...

About the Sports issue, there's a danger of looking at playing sports in the same way that we look at getting an education. If you aren't particular about the sort of education you get, it is far more likely to destroy you, than develop you.

In the same way, Sports without an emphasis on Sportsmanship, is far more likely to lead you to become an O.J. Simpson, than a Lou Gehrig.

Supposedly Wellington said that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton"... presumably he wouldn't have said the same about playing fields filled with the likes of Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Plaxico Burress.

Jack said...


Excellent point. How is it that John Wooden emphasizes *character* above all and wins so many championships and yet we still emphasize cheap theatrics and self-glorification over sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is about facing one's limitations and yet choosing to continue in spite of them. Ironically the attack on competition as unhealthy and the self-esteem-"everyone gets a trophy"-mentality only seems to make one MORE selfish and LESS equipped to deal with reality.

The problem with not teaching boys (in particular) to deal with reality, specifically through sports, is that when reality comes knocking (and it always will, eventually) it's still going to deal with THEM.

Did Obama play sports?

Jack said...

Ah, yes...he plays Basketball. I wonder what he learned from doing so?

Van Harvey said...

Jack said "Ah, yes...he plays Basketball. I wonder what he learned from doing so?"

Uhm... that white men can't jump?