Friday, May 28, 2010

Cardiomyopia and Cosmic Nearsightedness

I was just reading yesterday in Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues -- about which we will be blah-blah-blogging next week -- of how odd it is that for humans, and humans alone, there is such pleasure associated with the senses. The pleasure of taste is perhaps not difficult to understand, as most animals seem to enjoy eating (although they certainly don't linger over it), and my dogs obviously get a kick out of going on a walk and sniffing the latest pee-mail left by their fellows.

But what about the intense pleasures of sound and sight? The lion is no doubt "attracted" to the form of the gazelle, but no one imagines that the pleasure is in any way aesthetic. However, for human beings, sound and vision provide our primary access to the realm of beauty. And there is such a gulf between this quintessentially human concern with beauty, -- which is so distant from the vital needs of the body -- vs. the practical uses to which animals put their eyes and ears, that it makes any Darwinian explanation risible.

Here's how Pieper describes it: "In the case of animals... no pleasure is derived from the activity of the other senses, such as the eye and ear, except as they affect the satisfaction of the drives of hunger and sex; only because of the promise of food is the lion 'happy' when he spies a stag or hears his call."

However, "one frequently reads and hears that in intemperance man sinks to the level of the beast," but this makes no sense, since a beast cannot be intemperate.

Only a human being can sink beneath himself (or his archetype, his reason for being), so that intemperance takes on not just moral connotations, but more importantly, psycho-spiritual/developmental ones. Intemperance is self-destructive because it relates all of man's higher possibilities to immediate sensual gratification, thus foreclosing any access to more subtle senses and sentiments (which of course correspond to and disclose more subtle realities), and ultimately his reason for being.

As we have mentioned in the past, one of the marks of spiritual development is a "subtle-ization" and refinement of senses and emotions. One thinks of our trolls, whose coarseness of affect and intellect always precedes them and infuses their every utterance.

Just as the higher realities may be known by their "spiritual perfume," the lower ones may be detected by that unmistakably acrid scent of miasmal swamp gas given off by the unwashed troll. Thus the truism that "only those who look at the world with pure eyes can experience its beauty" (Pieper).

Consistent with what we were saying yesterday about the relationship between time and music, Schuon writes that hearing "reflects intellection not in its static and simultaneous, but in its dynamic and successive mode..." As such, it "plays what could be termed a 'lunar' role in relation to sight; and that is why it is linked, not to space, but to time, the audible being situated in duration." Note also that "in a certain sense, the sun makes known space and the moon, time."

Now, that is an interesting observation because it implies that the ears are more "feminine," while the eyes are more "masculine" (bearing in mind that the one is always present in the other).

Clearly, men are more visual beings -- think of their fixation on the female form, for example, -- whereas women tend to be more auditory, hence the well-known ability of even gargoylish men to attract women with an appealing line of bullshit. For this reason, men are most often deceived by the beautiful form, while women are most often deceived by the seductive BS.

Note also that "female porn," such as harlequin romances, is primarily verbal, not visual. Also, single women (and feminized men) overwhelmingly vote Democrat, another instance of the tendency of our less evolved sisters to fall for the superficially appealing but vacuous rhetoric of seducers such as a Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or John Edwards. Truly, leftism is "political porn," just as materialism is a kind of crude "cognitive porn" (and just as porn represents the domain of sexuality wholly exteriorized and materialized).

So sight can indeed become quite cramped and body-bound if it remains entirely invested in sensual pleasure. But in potential, it is the least "self interested" of the senses, for as Schuon writes, "Sight alone communicates to us the existence of immeasurably remote heavenly bodies that are perfectly foreign to our vital interests, and it could therefore be said that it alone is essentially 'objective.'"

And since objectivity is in many ways synonymous with truth, it makes perfect sense "to compare light to knowledge and darkness to ignorance" (Schuon), a metaphor that is present in virtually all traditions.

Furthermore, "the eye becomes the metaphysical center of the world, of which it is the same time the sun and the heart" (Schuon). Just as Eye and Light are complementary, so too Knowledge and Reality, which is why the sage is "illuminated by wisdom."

But the latter is again radiant "heart knowledge," like, say, the icon at the right. This "heart of Christ" is therefore the center of the individual and of the entire creation. Thus, it is "the Eye that sees God -- and that consequently 'is' God -- and by which God sees man" (Schuon). To see God with this heart is equally to be seen, but with an inward sight.

I'll leave you with a provocative quote by Schuon: "The two eyes represent a bipolar projection of the brain into a [horizontal] domain of lesser possibility; the brain is thus the intermediary between the analytical vision of the eyes and the synthetic vision of the heart."

And "if the heart and the brain be represented as two extremities of a vertical element, and the eyes as the extremities of a horizontal element," "we obtain the form of a T," which "symbolizes the relationship between two dualities" -- vertical/horizontal, analysis/synthesis, celestial/terrestrial, form/substance, etc. It's as if we are crucified to the senses, and only by losing the life of the lower do we gain the life of the higher -- and thereby transfigure the lower.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sights and Sounds in the Upper Atmasphere

How are we to conceive and perceive the great vertical realms that transcend the senses? In fact, that very sentence betrays a contradiction, since conceiving and perceiving are two very different modes. Do we merely conceive these realms? Or do we actually perceive them? And with what senses, exactly?

When we turn the world upside down -- which is to say, right side up -- we understand that our five empirical senses have their source above, not below. Not only does this make sense -- and make sense possible -- but it immediately resolves a host of mysteries that will forever evade any Darwinian, materialistic explanation. "Seeing," "hearing," "touching," etc. -- each of these has its analogue in the higher worlds, without which, the lower corporeal mode could not exist.

As Schuon explains, "the eye, owing to its particularly adequate correspondence with the Intellect, lends itself spontaneously to traditional symbolism, and is to be found... in the symbolic language of all Revelations." For example, you've no doubt seen this symbol on the back of our legal tender, minus the descending Arrow of Toots (the founders didn't want to give the whole game away).

Why is the eye -- or vision -- so central to spiritual gnosis? Well, think of it: unlike, say, hearing, which is unavoidably in time, vision takes in an entire landscape in an instant, so it is closer to the timelessness of the principial realm.

Now, all of the senses are in the end more or less refined forms of touch. Sight, for example involves touching photons, while hearing involves touching air molecules. But if we could rank the senses by their level of subtlety, they would clearly descend from sight (light), to sound (upper atmosphere), to smell (lower atmosphere), to taste (upper terrestrial), and lastly, to touch (lower terrestrial).

And yet, it's not so simple and straightforward as that, in that, say, the delicate pianistic touch of a Bill Evans reveals that he had "ears in his fingers," so to speak, while a gifted photographer like Robin can touch the subject -- which is to say, the cosmic interior -- with his lens. Thus, through the law of inverse analogy, all senses are principially vision but manifestly touch.

It is also critical to bear in mind that the senses are always knowledge as well. In the metaphysics of Vedanta, for example, the senses are a descent from Buddhi, or the higher intellect. If I remember correctly, the cosmic descent -- the downward arrow into the whole existentialada -- goes something like this (and I'll skip a few stages): Brahman (the apophatic God without attributes, i.e., Godhead) --> Ishvara (God with attributes, the Creator) --> Prakriti (which is maya on the one hand, but the infinitely creative power of Brahman on the other) --> Mahat (cosmic intelligence) --> Buddhi (intellect) --> Ahamkara (individual egoic I-consciousness) --> five senses.

But again, as Schoun explains, "the correspondence between sight and Intellect" is "due to the static and total character of the former." As such, it also corresponds to space rather, than time, and of the two -- time and space -- the latter would be closer to the Principle, since time is, in a way, the serial presentation of space.

Vision also tends to be less "self interested" and more objective and detached than the other senses. Think, for example, of taste, which takes in what it likes and spits out what it doesn't. You can't really do that with vision. Rather, reality comes into the eyes, warts and all. You can't take in the beautiful landscape and spit out the ugly billboard or powerline.

But in its own way, hearing is as exalted as vision, for it is to time what vision is to space. For those of you who have a dog-eared copy of the The Coonifesto, you know that I carry a soft spot for the ears (see pp. 44-46).

It seems to me that on our side of manifestation, the ears rather than the eyes are the quintessential sense, for to properly "hear" time is to trace it back to its vertical source. "A true image of time must be an image for the ear, an audible image, an image made of tones.... Thanks to music, we are able to behold time" (Zuckerkandl).

What I really mean to say is that for anyone on the "descending path" of the Raccoon, through which we do not wish to escape the manifestation but to spiritualize it, music -- and ears -- takes on that much more significance. You might say that for the Raccoon, our ears are our eyes in the herebelow, so that we may not always see the signs of the times, but we can certainly hear the melody of the timeless.

Think of the principial basis of Christianity, which begins with Word, a word that must be heard. Hence, "you who have ears, listen. Be attentive!" (that means you Rick). "Eyes made new," indeed.

Gosh! Out of time. To be continued...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the Subject of Objects

Another quick and dirty post. Pressed for time this morning....

Continuing with our discussion of the bifurcation of reality into subject and object, the reason why the subject may know -- and the object may be known -- is that they descend from a Oneness that is anterior to them. If this were not the case, then there would be no possibility of real knowledge, or truth, or cosmic intercourse.

A critical point is that we begin with the idea that the world is true because created, and that it in-forms the subject for the very reason that it is an ex-form of the Cosmic Subject who bears the objects within. This is very much in contrast to Eastern religions that regard the world as maya, or something from which we must escape (which in itself is a misunderstanding of the maya principle, since maya is real and even necessary on its own plane, just not the "ultimate Real").

Nevertheless, the human subject is not nothing -- as if its only function is to be a mirror of the object world. Rather, as Schuon points out, "it bears the element object within itself, in the sense that pure subjectivity potentially contains the metaphysical essence of the knowable."

This is reminiscent of the idea that God is not in the cosmos, but vice versa. Being that we are mirrorcles of the Absolute, we can equally say that we are not in the cosmos, but vice versa, hence, the possibility of the actualization of real knowledge. In other words, the soul is not in the cosmos, but vice versa.

Furthermore, no object is merely an object, or it couldn't properly exist (for it would be like an outside with no inside). Rather, every object -- if it is an object -- has the potential to be known by a subject. In other words, to say that there could be objects that cannot be known is an absurdity. An object is by definition "on the way to" knowledge, like an arrow shot toward the subject who "completes" it in slackful contemplation.

Now, subjectivity comes to us in two modes, one unconscious, the other conscious, which is to say Life and Mind, respectively. Life itself tends toward conscious mind, while the conscious mind obviously has deep roots in unconscious life. One can draw no fundamental line between life and mind, at least for embodied humans (angelic beings are another matter).

This is another dialectic, or complementarity, that prevents consciousness from coagulating into the dead letter of rationalism. Rather, consciousness is always nourished by waters from above and below, which is why man is "condemned to transcendence." Thank God reality is what it is, on the one hand, but always more, on the other!

Schuon points out that the word "objectivity" has moral connotations, which is entirely appropriate, since it is really another way of saying "truth." To know truth we must be objective, impartial, and dispassionate, and overcome petty self-interest.

But at the same time, "subjectivity" has wrongly taken on negative connotations, as if it is a "defect" -- you know, "pay no attention to Bob's ranting, it's all subjective nonsense."

It is obviously possible for subjectivity to become imbalanced and disproportionate, but Schuon says that this ought to be called "subjectivism," just as the scientistic rationalist who pretends that reality can be stripped of the human subject ought to be called an "objectivist" (he wasn't referring to Randians).

Schuon says that ideally, "objectivity" ought to imply "conformity with the nature of things," which comes very close to the cardinal virtue of prudence, pieperly understood (more on which later). And "subjectivity" ought to convey on the one hand the idea that "the kingdom of God is within you," but also that in encountering the object world, we ought to do so with a view to interiorization and a return to our Self.

In other words, the object world is not like a flat, two-dimensional surface; rather, it has a degree of metaphysical transparency that can only be known by a human subject. It radiates not just truth, but beauty and other spiritual essences, from Subject to subject, or O --> (¶).

I am reminded of a commenter at American Digest -- I think that's where it was -- who asked why all of those Hubble photos of stars, planets, and galaxies are are so beautiful. I mean, that's the first thing you notice, isn't it? It's such a strange property to be present in a cosmos, and yet, almost a mundane observation. "Another beautiful galaxy. Whatever."

The Beauty of Woman is quite easy for the Darwinian to explain, since he can assure us that the attraction is just an illusion created by our genes in order to compel us to drag her into the nearest bush and dispatch our genes into the next generation. But this is to put the immanent ass before the transcendent horse, as if the horse's ass is the first and last word of this marvelous cosmos. Which is of course the quintessence of a backassward metaphysic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Family Reunification in the Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Only time for an abbreviated post....

Unity bifurcates into subject and object, without which there can be strictly nothing and no one to know it. But both subject and object reflect the primordial Unity from which they arise.

As Schuon explains, "under the influence of the principle of Unity, the subject isolates itself and becomes a manifestation of the unique Self, thus of the Divine Subject, which obviously has no partner."

I would interpret this to mean that the human subject is an interior fractal , so to speak, of the Divine Subject, hence our unity, totality, and absoluteness, looked at from one angle. For this reason, each human being is radically complete and infinitely precious, so that, say, to murder one innocent human being is to murder all mankind. In other words, each stands for the Whole.

At the same time, the object pole of the primordial bifurcation exhibits a radical unity as well, without which science would not be possible. The scientist has a (well placed) faith in a cosmos that is not just lawful, but whose laws are consistent and applicable to all time and space -- in short, that the cosmos is radically One, just as is the subject who may know this unity.

Thus, real knowledge is a kind of divine re-union of subject and object; or, knowledge is the legitimate child of their fruitful union. Let's not talk about all those illegitimate and bastardized forms of knowledge.

As Schuon describes it, the object pole of the primordial bifurcation "becomes a participative reflection of Divine Being," thus a reflection of the "objective aseity of the real."

This is an area about which modern science is quite confused and contradictory, but the main point is that reality really does exist and that man may really know it. But to affirm this reality is to transcend any possible scientific explanation of how this miracle actually takes place -- the miracle of the Real object revealing its secret truth to an equally Real subject.

Schuon also explains that there would be no possibility of real contact between these two realms if it weren't for the fact that each "contains" a trace or echo of the other, like the famous yin-yang symbol. In fact, here's one that depicts the single eye with which we see God and vice versa:

Now, even if the Subject is without scientific knowledge, it nevertheless contains all it needs to know, at least in potential -- again, because it is a reflection of the Absolute Real. And this in turn is why scientific knowledge comes and goes and is subject to constant change and revision, while we're still talking about permanent truths arrived at by human subjects, especially in the axial age in which the Jewish prophets, the Upanishadic sages, Buddha, La- Tsu, Socrates, Plato, Zoroaster, and other pre-eminent religious thinkers suddenly appear on the world stage.

"Axial" is indeed an excellent metaphor, for it is as if each of these thinkers discovered the vertical axis of the cosmos, but from slightly different vertices. But again, it's a case of the reunification of knower and known, just as in profane science, except as applied to the vertical instead of horizontal worlds.

Also, please note the different "directions" of the knowledge, in that vertical knowledge leads from the center to the periphery, from principle to manifestation, whereas with science it is the opposite movement, from phenomena back to principles, or to Unity (I believe it was Huxley who said that science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity).

You might say that religion begins where science must inevitably end, except that the scientist again starts -- and must start -- his investigation with traces of that very end, e.g., a unified human subject who may potentially know all there is to know about a cosmos that is truly One. Problems only occur when this lil' subject is detached from the Divine Subject that is its source, which then leads to Cosmic Narcissism and the Bloated Ego of the tenured.

I suppose it's easy to fall into this trap, since, as Schuon writes, "pure subjectivity potentially contains the metaphysical essence of the knowable." For a spiritually normal person this is an occasion for deep humility and awe before the Divine Mind, but something goes awry in the wiring of the clueless radical secularist who blithely takes all of this fantastic knowledge for granted -- as if it requires no metaphysical explanation.

As we can see, it's really an irreducibly trinitarian process of knower-known-knowledge, or, more fundamentally, subject-object-link. The passionate link between subject and object (or subject and subject) may be knowledge (K), but it may also be love (L) or hate (H).

When the link between subject and object is hate (H), this is the formula for psychosis in the individual and madness in the group, for it is an attack on reality and on the links that reveal it. The most common contemporary form of group madness is leftism, for it is beholden to a philosophy which a priori denies such vital categories as absolute truth, vertical hierarchy, the human subject as divine analogue, etc.

As such, the leftist cannot submit himself to reality (in all its degrees and modes) but instead must project a purely manmade version of it (which is no reality at all). In short, he must negate the divine reality and replace it with human fantasy, which his philosophy gives him no right to do anyway, since it denies transcendent truth. It is the dysfunctional philosophy of permanent divorce between Father and Mother, or Subject and Object, Purusha and Prakriti, Shiva and Shakti, Witness and Mayafestation, and can produce no healthy and viable children (cf. the dying, infertile EUnuchs). But the real harmonious cosmic yinfolk might look something like this triyangle:

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Trinitarian Structure of Humanness

Traces of oneness are everywhere, for "Unity is the first principle that penetrates and regulates manifestation, in the sense that it projects its reflections everywhere, and on the other hand brings phenomena back to Unity, symbolically at least" (all of the quoted material in this post is from the essay Concerning Pythagorean Numbers from Schuon's The Eye of the Heart: Metaphysics, Cosmology, Spiritual Life).

What this means is that the One is both the origin and destiny of the Many, and that reality, even though it may appear to be broken into infinite fragments, is always simultaneously on the way from and back to Unity. Thus, "Unity tends everywhere to overcome Duality," which is another way of saying that Three leads back to One (or, to be precise, Three is the return of the One under a new guise, so to speak).

For example, "masculinity and femininity seem to form an irreducible bipolarity"; however, in order for the transcendent third of Love to manifest, it obviously requires Two (and from the other end, the immanent child -- the trinitarian baby -- represents the return of Duality to Unity, because now the couple has a common enemy).

Thus, as explained in the Wholly Coonifesto, the primordial human is father-mother-baby, in an irreducible trinity in which each shapes the other.

Furthermore, masculine and feminine aren't a duality but a complementarity, that is, reflections of the Real as seen from different vertices, which is to say, absolute and infinite, contained and container, child and womb, point and space, ʘ.

Also, another key point is that this Father-Mother-Baby triad is not to be understood as merely exterior. Rather, these categories are intrinsic to human psychological development at the deepest level. I think Bion appreciated and explicated this most clearly, showing how thinking represents the ongoing harmonious interplay of container-contained (which he conveniently symbolized ♀ and ♂).

When we first come into the world, we are unable to contain, regulate, or understand our own thoughts -- in other words, thoughts (or ♂) precede the thinker -- so that we require the (m)Other to serve as our "auxiliary cortex," or container (♀) to help us think and understand our own thoughts.

I'm afraid this may sound overly abstract, but you have only to observe the subtle intersubjective dance of mother and infant to see this going on, the constant transactions of meaning flowing back and forth. For this reason, D.W. Winnicott said that "there is no such thing as an infant," which goes back to Schuon's observation about duality reverting to unity.

The oneness a mother feels toward her infant is so deep as to be well beyond mere words. Rather, words must be used as containers to ferry the meaning back and forth in intersubjective space, which the infant comes to feel as the deep connectedness of love. And although the infant is also transmitting love, he doesn't know it until he is in a harmonious relationship with a sensitive (m)Other who receives the love and returns it to him.

Thus, between mother and infant there is actually -- or should be, anyway -- a continuously expanding feedback loop in which the infant is learning to think his own thoughts, which is to say, give meaning to existence.

Which is why the deepest meaning -- or meaninglessness! -- is well beyond the reach of words, since all of this hyper-sophisticated exchange of meaning occurs before the child is even fully aware of his twoness, let alone of words as symbols radically separable from that which they symbolize. The infant lives in a kind of "poetic" world, in which words are that which they convey. Thus the special musical tone of voice with which mothers speak to their infants, which transmits love both directly and symbolically.

Bion termed this thinking process between mother and infant alpha function. Again, the purpose of alpha function is to transform sense impressions, emotional experiences, and proto-thoughts into meaning. A child with a disturbed attachment to its primary caretakers will eventually internalize a disturbed alpha function, and in one way or another be hindered in the ability to "think his thoughts" and "feel his emotions."

But what happens to the unthinkable thoughts? Let us count the ways: they may be repressed, split off, denied, projected and attributed to others, acted out, sent into exile, placed into others for safekeeping, contained in an obsession or compulsion, dispatched into the body to become a somatic symptom, drowned in drink, etc. The main point is that they don't just go away. Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker.

Depending upon how you look, the human being is one, or two, or three. Obviously a human being is "one," or we couldn't even say "human being." But in order to truly become human and to actualize our potential, we require the Other (and the accumulated otherness of civilization).

However, the Being of the human being is always on the way to its own true Being, which is to say that we are constantly becoming what we are meant to be, which again goes to the one --> two --> three of our cosmic structure. We are constantly "giving birth" to ourselves.

I notice this about my son. At any given moment -- or stage - of psychological development, he is a whole person, a complete being in his own right, lacking nothing. For example, when he was a baby, I didn't think of him as a defective three year old, and now that he's five, I don't think of him as a retarded adolescent. Rather, each stage has its own absolute validity. Nevertheless, you will notice how many parents -- especially more affluent ones -- treat each stage as only a weigh station for the distant goal of, say, going to the right college.

One thing I can say about my parents is that they really let me be a child, with little pressure about the future. In other words, they gave me my slack rather than projecting their own unthought agenda into me before I could even know what was going on. Many "ambitious" people are simply living out the ambitious mind parasites of their parents.

I'm trying not to do this with my son, which is to say, allow him to live in the fulness of the present, but most importantly, to develop the alpha function to be able to explicate the impossibly rich meaning that is always already here, and can only be here. For if it isn't here it is nowhere, or merely projected into a future that never arrives.

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