Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Happy Hour is Now

We're almost finished with the the subject of faith, which is a good thing, because I gotta get out of here on time. No time to even spielcheck.

Yesternow's takeaway point is that just as nature speaks to man in the form of scientific knowledge, being speaks to him in the form of revelation.

And the latter speaks to us specifically because we are creatures, and therefore "receive" our being from elsewhere and elsewhom. Obviously, we do not create our own being, for only the Creator can do that. To be sure, we can create, but we cannot create something from nothing, or being from non-being.

As soon as I start talking about "being," I feel as if I'm heading into fog-enshrouded Heidegger land, so let's be more clear. No, let's allow Pieper to be more clear: creaturehood means "to be continually receiving being and essence from the divine Source and Creator..." I would trancelight this to mean that our formal and final causes are vertical, while our material and efficient causes are horizontal, more or less.

This is one of the things that distinguishes Judeo-Christian metaphysics from, say, Islam, where there is only vertical causation, or bonehead atheism, where there is only horizontal causation.

In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that cause and effect needn't be linear, as in past-to-future. I think this confuses some people who have difficulty grasping the reality of the vertical, where cause and effect are simultaneous, "as when the stories of a building, or rungs on a ladder, or books in a pile each rest on the one below it" (Kreeft).

Not all causes are prior in time. While they are in time, their source is in the timeless. This is how I would regard the vertical transmissions known as revelation, which are really interoffice memos from Self to self, i.e., higher to lower. Thus, in reality, "revelation" is occurring all the time, nor could it ever not occur. The only way it could not occur would be to detach existence from being, but that is like trying to remove the waves from the ocean. Good luck with that.

Conversely, it is possible, in a certain sense, to "remove the ocean from the waves," but that is not the Raccoon way. The idea is to articulate and enjoy our full waviness, and to know that we are dependent upon the ocean without dissolving into it.

This task is never complete, for the reason that existence can never become being -- or, creature cannot become Creator. Pieper: "Unlike the works made by man, which at some given moment are 'finished,' creaturely things remain infinitely malleable because they can never become independent of the force of the Creator who communicates being to them." At no point do we cease being "clay 'in the potter's hand.'"

Which is a critical point vis-a-vis Genesis 2 in particular and revelation in general. God forms man from the "dust in the ground" now; he gives him the "breath of life" now; he makes him a living being now. Again, as we have said on many occasions, scripture is not just about what happened "once upon a time," but what happens every time, which is to say, every moment, i.e., once upin a timeless.

This is where a great deal of confusion enters, but as indicated above, revelation is primarily about vertical causation, not horizontal. As we were saying yesterday, man has no need of God's direct intervention where his own faculties suffice. Being that we are horizontal creatures, we have no great difficulty discerning horizontal causes.

Indeed, we can trace them all the way back to the first moment of creation, with the Big Bang. But that is only the first horizontal moment. It has nothing to do with the vertical causation that continues taking place at every moment. An exclusive focus on horizontal causation can be extremely misleading, to say the least.

It is only because of vertical causation that truly fundamental change is possible. Let's take, for example, Alcoholics Anonymous, which is able to save hopeless drunks when nothing else works. What are its first principles? I forget. Let me look them up. Here:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Look at what this means, and how beautifully it lines up with everything we have been saying. The person first acknowledges that they are completely lost and helpless in the world of horizontal causes. But they place their faith in a vertical cause that can "restore them to sanity," or wholeness and harmony.

Note that they do not even name it at first. Rather, it is just pure O, a "power greater then ourselves." But this first step is necessary in order to re-establish that vital link between the above and below, and to get things flowing again. No coincidence whatsoever that booze is called "spirits." That being the case, one must be respectful of this God-given slackrament, and never make of it a god in itself. It is only a means, not an end. Do as Toots says, not as he did.

Now, this communication, or vertical causation, of which we speak is none other than grace in the broadest sense, or (↓). Please note that this is also the "cause" of our wholeness, or "oneness." Cut off from grace, even if we are not an animal, we will be riven by splits in the psyche, and perpetually driven or pulled this way and that.

In this regard, I was intrigued by this lengthy meditation on Christopher Hitchens by David Horowitz. I have no interest in kicking a man when he is down, even though Hitchens took great sadistic pleasure in doing so to others. Rather, I just want to make a greater point about what happens to someone who declares war on vertical causation.

Although Hitchens aspired "to moral authenticity" in his own way, he actually wanted to "have it both ways": “It is as though he sees his own double-dealing as a rather agreeable versatility -- as testimony to his myriad-mindedness rather than as a privileged, spoilt-brat desire (among other things) to hog it all.... Characteristically, Hitchens embraces the contradiction, making no effort to hide his desire to have it both ways, and making constant references to his 'two-track system' and 'double-entry books.'"

Come to think of it, we're also talking about an alcoholic, aren't we? I'm guessing that alcohol temporarily healed the splits in his psyche, so that his "double entry books" were briefly reconciled at the end of the day -- right around happy hour. But the unhappy hour of horizontal exile always returns. See Genesis 3 for details.


mushroom said...

Thus, in reality, "revelation" is occurring all the time, nor could it ever not occur.

I was reading something by Madame Guyon the other day that made me ask: How can a person ever NOT be in the presence of God?

Magnus Itland said...

This is the problem with and for atheists: That they are right. Watching along the fourth dimension of time, linear causality is all there is. Turtles all the way down.

Spirituality is the "fifth dimension" and can be entered by the most minimal and simplistic self-reflection imaginable. It is a completely different axis from the time time axis.

This means that by simply turning around, you can stare straight into eternity! Without even a telescope. The only limitation being that the Light grows ever more blinding the further you look, unless you get used to it by becoming brighter inside.

mushroom said...

I read Horowitz's article yesterday. I remember well that alcohol is very handy for bringing the horns of a dilemma to a single point.

Magnus Itland said...

Sorry mushroom, I did not mean to answer your question. I just tried to comment on today's feast, and it just happened.

Incidentally, I have Madame Guyon to thank for most of the good things in my life, indirectly. Regardless her own status, she was a major inspiration for Johan Oscar Smith, who established the small group of Christian mystics here in Norway who taught me to love God and not hate people as I used to. The Light moves in mysterious ways.

Nova said...

Hitchens described himself as "drawn to the Janus-faced way of life". He is an archetypal alcoholic, not so much in the mundane details of how much he drinks or how drunk he gets, etc., but rather in the flamboyance of his many, many highly obvious mind parasites. Like virtually all drunks, the parasites are in the cockpit and hailing on all frequencies. Of course the other side of the coin is that drunks very often manage not only to recover, but to become spiritually reborn in a manner which can *only* be effected through Grace. No honest therapist I've ever met would claim that there isn't something going on in AA (and similar programs) which is far beyond mere clinical treatment.

Despite his arrogance and spiritual idiocy, I've always had a soft spot for Hitchens and generally hope and pray that he not only has the best possible outcome from the cancer, but that he somehow manages to have that initial glint of the presence of God, as I did some years back while living a life not entirely different from his in many respects.

Open Trench said...

Self mood-regulation with subtances is an attempt to "storm the gates of heaven" and become whole.

It is futile. In fact, any form of resistance to life is futile.

Surrender is the way, and a human being will be forced to submit sooner or later. Sooner is better.

Van Harvey said...

"Not all causes are prior in time. While they are in time, their source is in the timeless.'

Seems as if often they are simply of the form of things... thev shape f things to come. It may take you time to get to the bottom of the bottle, but it was already there even before you opened it.

Nova said...

Marxist talk of the "internal contradictions" of capitalism. Hitchens is living proof that this is yet another example of projection on a grandiose scale.

Who is more internally conflicted than the leftist, who simultaneously claims staunch feminism and tolerance for "female genital cutting", homophilia and tacit support for the gay-butchering Islamists of Gaza?

"Two sets of books"? Try two hundred. The cacophony and arbitrariness of the purely horizontal life... no wonder they're always depressed and whining. Or drinking.

mushroom said...

Don't apologize, Magnus. I am always enlightened by your comments.

I was only familiar with Madame Guyon in a historical sense until I ran onto Fénelon a few years back and more or less worked by way backward. Whether she is right about the end result, I do not know, but there is truth in the method.

Susannah said...


Love it.

"And the latter speaks to us specifically because we are creatures, and therefore 'receive' our being from elsewhere and elsewhom."

This is the *only* perspective that allows for human freedom.

"cause and effect needn't be linear"

Which is why God can do in a moment what years of experience cannot effect (often because the "mind parasites" mitigate against the breaking in of reality). It's amazing how encountering "O" can simply unplug them.

My hubby's only quibble with AA is the identity crisis part, but naturally that can only change in Christ. I prefer Neil Anderson's "Who I Am in Christ" approach, appropriating our "O"-given identity, which means we have victory over sin, rather than identifying perpetually with our "old man." However, those first three steps are the right path to it.

Re: Hitchens, it's rare to meet a lefty who's at least up-front about being double-minded. Not that it sanctifies his deliberate moral obtuseness in any way. An honest scoundrel is still a scoundrel. Yet, I adopt the same approach as NB...not just to wish, but pray for total healing of his person.

Susannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susannah said...

I meant to say that this is another brilliant title.

Susannah said...

Grant, you're not too far off this time. In fact, what Bob said about "spirits" is so true. What hubby says is that it's a substitute for the presence of God. Once you've tasted of that presence, you realize it's the "real thing."

wv is cracking me up lately: twayall

(The South assimilates the Scotsman)

Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

I was delighted to see you reference the principles behind the work of A.A. Although I do not have any personal experience with this group, I have known fine people who were re-fined by this practice. I have for a long time wanted to work through the process, but I am not sure if it can be done alone. I think A.A. represents a practical, powerful spiritual method or discipline in the highest sense.

You know I like to quibble with you, though, so let me refine your introductory point.

Alcoholics Anonymous is NOT able to save hopeless drunks when nothing else works . . . but Who can, and does, is indicated in those first 3 pellucid statements you quote.

Take care,


I think i

julie said...

(Nothing to add, but wv now says "bless.")

Aloysius said...

I can't accept creation from nothing. God creates out of divine substance. We have a spark of divinity. See Keys of Gnosis by Robert Bolton.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not sure what you're referring to. Perhaps you could you be more specific. Also, it would also help if you could explain your understanding of the principle of creatio ex nihilo, so we can know exactly what it is you are rejecting. But if you are suggesting that God fashions the universe out of a pre-existing and eternal substance, that's pretty much of a non-starter in these parts.

Gagdad Bob said...

Also, the fact that we have a spark of divinity seems to me irrelevant to the issue, so you'll have to explain the connection.

Rick said...

"I can't accept creation from nothing."

I'm not crazy about the idea either.
But it wasn't my idea.

In other words, one can recognize such a truth without understanding how it is possible. I find this issue very interesting and hope you spend some time on it Bob -- and it may be somewhat if not precisely central to the discussion lately: the edge of logic's capability. Where the horizontal ends and vertical takes off. Or where they meet.

Rick said...

Then again, it's all we talk about :-)

Gagdad Bob said...

I believe the early fathers were trying to distinguish their meyaphysics from the Greek idea of a mere demiurge who fashions pre-existing matter.