Friday, October 15, 2010

A Child of the Moment, Living Without a Why

Since religion must deal with the whole man (who is not just afflicted in one isolated part), it is addressed to his intellect, his will, his body, and his emotions -- or in terms of truth, love, beauty, and virtue.

But for some reason -- especially lately, i.e., the last couple hundred years -- the general message has become more narrowly focussed on the will and the sentiments, excluding -- and sometimes even being hostile to -- the intellect.

In turn, this has only cleared the way for anti-intellectual modernists and postmodernists to perversely dominate the field of intellect. This leads to the intolerable situation of religion addressing one part of man, "science" another. This creates an existential or even ontological split in man, where no such split actually exists (or could exist).

This is quite insidious, because it violently estranges man from himself, and then posits the resultant alienation as normative. But to the extent that it is normative, it is only a result of our contingent "fallenness" and not our essential being, the latter of which is possible to recover (or, to be more precise, to re-member).

For not only is man whole, but he is the terrestrial refleshion of wholeness, i.e., the microcosm. At risk of being willfully misunderstood, we are "gods in the making," which is sort of the whole point of this verticalisthenic exercise. If "we must be careful not to attribute to God the limitations of men," it is equally true that we must not attribute to man the limitations of the self-styled godlings of atheism, materialism, and ideological Darwinism.

For the soul is all that it knows, which is all that is potentially knowable. And only nothing is not knowable. Everything real is.

Schuon agrees that Westerners tend not to "have a sense of the metaphysical transparency of phenomenon," and instead "insist as a matter of preference on penitential means" of religious practice. In short, they emphasize the "moral alternative, not that of contemplative participation." But as a courtesy to other spiritual types, "if these fideists have no wish to use their intelligence, at least they should not forbid others to do so" (Schuon).

There is of course nothing wrong with the penitential path so long as it is not forgotten that man is (potentially) whole, and that any single path should encompass the others. To say that man is fallen is not just to say that he is prone to moral corruption, but that he is also -- and perhaps even more fundamentally -- susceptible to intellectual betrayals of every kind.

In other words, man transgresses against truth just as much as he does virtue. To not know reality is to not know how to behave. But proper behavior implies some awareness of truth, even if it is only subconscious and not explicitly formulated.

Indeed, truth is nothing more than the inward virtue of the intellect, while morality is the exterior truth of soul. To artificially separate these various modes and functions cannot but help lead to incoherence, confusion, and absurdity. For if man is not whole (both spatially and temporally, vertically and horizontally), there is truly no escape from cosmic absurdity. Then it's just my surd against yours.

One might say that there is an inverse relationship between wholeness and absurdity. This occurred to me yesterday, while thinking about how much sense existence makes to my son. Nothing is yet absurd. We're trying to hold off that realization for as long as possible, while simultaneously nurturing the tools -- or better yet, the unThought deep structure -- to cope with the pressure (and the pressure to conform is intense) society will bring to bear on his spiritual innocence and wholeness.

Culture does one of two things: it compresses us into a dense and spiritually closed metamorphic rock, or disperses us into spiritually impotent fragments. Reversing the former condition requires love, beauty, slack, and dilation, while the latter requires self-discipline, rigor, severity, and boundaries. Or say music and geometry, female and male, mother and father.

Of course we ultimately need both. When both are operative and relating harmelodically, the partition between the upper and lower waters becomes more permeable, so that we may grow with the flow.

Also, as Schuon formulates it, "the psycho-spiritual is exteriorized to the extent that the believing mentality is interiorized." What this means is that if our ¶rimary Orientation is to the "above" (as in ↓↑) and not the "outward," the latter begins to be conditioned by the former, and "paradise" begins to emerge from the fog. Or at least there is an intuition of heaven, so to speak.

To live without a why and to be a child of the moment is very much as I described the situation with my son, except that he has a couple of deputized parents to help ensure the coontinuity. As adults we must rely upon, and place our faith in, the actual Source, i.e., the Father of fathers and Mother of mothers, and thereby be adopted sons after the Son, if one may put it thus.

This was kind of short, but a voice upside my head is saying "the end." I guess that's all for today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Inversion, Subversion, and Perversion of the Left

I really like Schuon's compact description of the purpose of sacred art: "the return of accidents to Substance."

It's actually a two-way, or circular, process, very much like Creation itself (which is obviously no coincidence, given our theomorphism): "Art expresses this relationship in a movement that is at once descending and ascending, for on the one hand it reveals the Archetype in the form and on the other hand it brings the form or soul back to the Archetype."

Thus, it is a literal (↓↑), like an exteriorization of the interior followed by an interiorization of the exterior. And clearly, the descending or involutionary arrow must be prior in this relationship, one more reason why scientism and metaphysical Darwinism are such absurdities.

If you consider history, it obviously reveals a great deal of accident and contingency, which, of course, it must. This is not heaven.

However, looked at in another way, its most important features are nothing less than exteriorizations of the soul, which are in turn interiorized by those who come later. And when I say "interiorized," I mean that these past exteriorizations are precisely the Archetypes that awaken both the intelligence in general but also its specific contours and forms.

This used to be the grand meaning of a "liberal education": in the words of Matthew Arnold, it was to familiarize oneself with "the best that has been said and thought in the world."

But today, to obtain a liberal education is to familiarize oneself with -- and internalize -- all that is petty, envious, egalitarian, mediocre, bureaucratic, aesthetically toxic and spiritually corrosive, even while elevating oneself for being so destructively cynical toward all that is properly human. Cynicism instantly converts the inferior man to a superior man (in his own mind, of course.) It is a kind of "negative omniscience," like the infantile Power of No!

The pathological combination of cynicism and contempt is the mother's milk of the leftist, which we are now seeing in all its disturbing transparency due to the rabble's rejection of our elite masters.

Narcissists never take rejection well, but this is more than mere rejection. It is a dramatic repudiation of a whole worldview that is upside-down. Leftists don't realize it, but they literally cannot function in a world that is right-side up. To put it mildly, there is no place for a lowlife, thuggish, anti-intellectual, spiritually barren community agitator in the real world, much less as its leader. To put it another way, leftism is an employment program for the unemployable. Imagine Al Sharpton actually having to function somewhere!

And while looking up the exact wording of that quote by Arnold, I found another that equally applies: "Culture is properly described as the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection."

Now, what is perfection? It is something free of defect. In a way, it is to say that every part is necessary to the whole, and not contingent, which is another way of expressing Schuon's formulation above. Thus, to quote Arnold again, "Greatness is a spiritual condition," and creative life is "Waiting for the spark from heaven to fall."

Last week I considered writing a post about the importance of envy and contempt in the psychospiritual economy, but I refrained from doing so because I thought it would be too technical. But it just keeps coming up, as the left deals with its ongoing implosion. Taranto touched on it yesterday, quoting a typically clueless moonbat who cannot even consider the possibility that her leftist worldview is defective. The problem for poor progressives, you see, is that they are "partisans of reason and rational choice" (!).

As always, the problem for the left is Americans; but really, it's human beings, since their metaphysic does not apply to us. Which is why it never works. Especially in practice.

I won't dwell too much on envy and contempt, only to say that they are an important component of what Melanie Klein called the "manic defenses." Basically, you may think of the manic defenses as ways to deny an impending reality.

Let's suppose "4" is a disturbing reality. Therefore, just as you are about to realize that 2+2 = 4, the manic defenses come to the rescue to deny 4. How do they do it? Well, one way is to devalue or destroy 4 through contempt and envy. In colloquial terms, you might think if it as "sour grapes." But unconsciously, the person realizes -- or fears -- that the grapes are not sour at all.

So I am seeing this defense every day, multiple times a day. If the left knew what they were doing -- or had any control over the process -- I don't think they'd do it. Or at least they wouldn't publicly engage in it, because it is so personally unflattering, and so alienates normal Americans -- the very Americans whose lives these elites wish to control! And no wonder they wish to control us, since we are all racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and all the rest. How could such monsters be capable of self-government?

Klein writes that the purpose of the manic defenses is to deny a psychic reality, usually as a result of a significant loss of some kind. The loss for the leftist is not just in the exterior "political" world, but more importantly, in the interior world, since for the leftist, his identity is much more bound up with his politics than is the case for the spiritually normative person. The leftist is a "superior person" -- more wise, noble, tolerant, and intelligent than the rest of us -- so that to have his politics repudiated is a personal affront.

I think I'll move on. But this sidebar into politics is not entirely irrelevant to our discussion of art, since, as Schuon points out, "the return of the accidental to the Substance, of the formal to the Essence, amounts to the reintegration of plurality into Unity."

Thus, it is possible to deny this higher unity, which is what the left does a priori, what with its multiculturalism, moral relativism, egalitarianism, "tolerance" of the intolerable, deconstructionism, etc. As we have discussed before, leftism is the doctrine of ontological multiplicity and its implications, so that the only way out is down, into the black night where all is just another kind of one -- the bad and ultimately fascistic kind.

I'm running out of time here, but to say unity-multiplicity is also to say center-periphery. Now, the further from the center we fall, the less of the divine influence there is. At the extreme periphery there is a privation of the Good, but it is possible to crash through even that, and into the realm of cosmic subversion.

You might say that the upcoming election will result in a subversion of all the perversion, except that it will actually represent a supraversion of the left's cosmic inversion -- which is to say, a vertical ingression. God wi↓↑ing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reality and Illusion in Science and Religion

Continuing along the lines of whatever line we were on yesterday, here's something you don't often think about: the relationship in religion between the necessary and the possible.

This distinction, according to Schuon, "concerns all domains of the universe," whether scientific or religious. After all, science only developed after it was understood that aspects of the universe could be abstractly described by excluding whole dimensions of contingent being e.g., the laws of physics.

For example, it is possible to describe, say, an apple, with mathematical equations, but at the cost of ignoring what an apple tastes like, let alone how Eve was tempted by one.

It seems that there are two types of uniqueness, one essential and the other accidental. A thing, in order to exist, must be something and not another. Every rock is different, but the differences don't amount to much. They don't add to or detract from the rockiness of the rock.

Similarly, we can talk about "humanity," even though each human being is unique. However, this raises the interesting point that among all existing things, only for human beings is their uniqueness essential (or is their essence unique) and not accidental.

In other words -- and this is the original sin of leftism -- the unique individual is prior to the abstract and anonymous group/state. (And mother-infant and husband-wife are the prior groups upon which the larger group is founded; here again, the left wishes to destroy this truth, and impose their own warped version of reality on the rest of us.)

As we have discussed before, there is the essence and the form. God is essential being, but in order to communicate himself to man, he must take form.

Now, exoteric (or conventional) religiosity tends to overvalue the form, sometimes to the exclusion -- or at least occlusion -- of the essence. This is why it can be difficult to relate to theologians who only think "mythologically," which is somewhat like trying to do physics without math.

But again, this was the situation before the development of modern science.

Consider medicine, which revolved around Galen's ideas about balancing the four humours, or theories of classical alchemy involving earth, water, air, and fire. These terms are too concrete to do the descriptive work required of them. Instead of being explanations, a deeper theory was needed that explained their existence.

This is not to say that a conventional theologian cannot be inspired; but there is inspiration and the form taken by the inspiration, two very different things, one vertical, the other horizontal.

Schuon writes of how "religious enthusiasm, coupled with a thirst for information about heavenly things and a quasi-conventional over-estimation of religious mythology as such, cannot but give rise to a margin of dreams, not to say illusions."

This would explain my discomfort with the so-called "religious right." These are usually nice people, even though I cannot relate to their theology.

Schuon notes that "Christian theology rightly teaches that such mirages are not opposed to sanctity as long as they are simply human and not diabolical." Nevertheless, they are mirages, or "pious fantasies," in the same way that water is a kind of mirage for the chemist who understands it as H2O.

But again, there is much more to water than what can be captured or conveyed by H2O, so in reality, there is a kind of epistemological dialectic between water ←→ H2O. Clearly, the chemist would know nothing of H2O if he weren't first confronted with the reality of water. So which is more "real?"

This is about the best analogy for the exoteric-esoteric dialectic that I can imagine. In other words, as applied to the higher world disclosed and described by religion, esoterism is analogous to science, whereas exoterism is analogous to empiricism.

And just as we would know nothing of H2O without first experiencing water, we can know nothing of esoterism (or a limited amount) without the exoteric clothing, or "veils" of religion.

Thus, pure esoterism in and itself could never "be" a religion, any more than one can take a shower in the equation H2O. Schuon says that esoterism is actually "without a homeland," and that it simply tries to establish itself "wherever it can."

I believe this was the attitude of our Unknown Friend, who was a Catholic -- and probably became Catholic -- in order to have a proper "home" for his esoterism. And he emphasized that not only were both necessary -- rigid skeleton and beating heart, Peter and John, spirit and letter -- but that the institution was by far the more important of the two.

And this is because holy water is not just H2O, just as the communion wafer is not just a quantity of carbohydrate. Call them mirrorages, in which you may see yoursoph.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reason and Revelation: The Blind Reading the Blinding

Somewhere in the Coonifesto I mentioned that not only can religion sound absurd, but sometimes it is necessary -- or at least expedient -- that it do so.

Here it is, p. 204: "Most any spiritual tradition asks us to believe things that may at first seem implausible. However, some degree of 'belief in the unbelievable' may actually be a necessary component of deconditioning ourselves to the narrow and restricted consensus reality of our particular culture." One reason I believe secular people care so much about movies, fiction, modern art, and other trifles is that they are the only means they have to temporarily escape from the nightmare of their soul-crushing egoic existence.

Wolfgang Smith agrees that what may strike the modern rationalist as "categorically absurd" is just the thing that might "serve as a bridge that leads beyond the phenomenal realm." One way of bypassing -- or shattering -- one's habitual and saturated way of thinking is to properly immerse oneself in the highly resonant, mythopoetic language of religion, which doesn't necessarily rely upon conscious understanding to transmit its truth, but rather, activates perennial truths that are latent within us.

I've noticed that there are certain aspects of Christianity that you simply cannot get your mind around, and this may be the point. Not for nothing are they called "mysteries." However, it is critical to bear in mind that a mystery is not a wall but a window or perhaps bridge. Only at the lowest level of understanding -- e.g., existentialism, scientism -- does mystery shade off into absurdity. In that realm, one will indeed simply go around in circles, with no possible resolution to the world enigma.

Schuon says something similar, writing that in the realm of spirit, "coherence of the literal wording is not a criterion or guarantee of truth or sanctity." In certain respects, sacred language may serve as a "shock therapy," which always "contains infinitely more than ordinary language." Not only is it the opposite of saturated, but it is incapable of saturation. Indeed, this is the very reason why we are still fruitfully talking about events and texts from two or three-thousand years ago.

Schuon goes on to say that it is obviously possible to speak of the highest things in a logically consistent and coherent manner -- Thomas Aquinas alone is proof of this. At the same time, actual contact with the Absolute may cause one's consciousness to "shatter," so to speak, and here again we might point to Thomas' last experiences of infused contemplation.

So it should go without saying that "the spiritual worth of a man" is not "always a guarantee of his dialectical powers." However, this is not to say that the spiritual message must necessarily be expressed in an illogical manner; in other words, it is not a duty of the theologian, only a right.

Indeed, the Raccoon demands logical coherence. But at the same time, he does not demand that religion be expressed in this manner to the Normals, because if it were, it would mean nothing to them. In an interview, Schuon was asked why religion must embody metaphysics, and he responded, "because there are metaphysicians." Simple as.

It is also important to note that there are obviously different modes of cognition aside from mere reason: intuition, inspiration, intellection, etc. Of inspiration, Schuon writes that it is analogous to revelation, in that it is a "divine dictation," except that it is not a "lawgiving and obligatory Message," but rather, "plays an illustrative role within the framework of the fundamental Message."

Here again, this is why the Message of revelation is so fruitful and unsusceptible to saturation, since it provokes endless inspiration to those who contemplate it. This is why we can say that revelation is at once Absolute -- it does not change -- and thus necessarily Infinite, in that it flows ceaselessly like the Sacred River of your choice.

Also, just as we have an empirical ego that is conformed to -- and in many respects a product of -- the external, phenomenal world, we have a deeper subject -- call it what you want, but I just call it (¶) -- which is conformed to, and a product of, the higher, noumenal world. This is the Divine Spark of which you've heard so much. And where there is a spark, there is a central Fire.

Is it possible for the empirical ego, or (•), to approach O? Yes, of course, but it will inevitably generate what appear to be absurdities, in the manner described above. One can certainly try to apply profane reason to the higher world, but Schuon likens this to a blind man groping in the dark. For him, it is accurate to say that touching will be a form of seeing.

However, unlike proper vision, it will not take in the whole panorama. Instead, his knowledge will be fragmentary and linear, as he moves from object to object. Interestingly, the blind man can even feel the heat of the sun, so he can reason about the source but not experience its light directly. This is precisely the situation of the man who employs reason only to approach O.

You might say that faith is a conscious act of will designed to pre-emptively say Yes! to a reality to which the ego says No! By saying Yes!, you are getting on with the journey, and jumping into that mystery which the ego can only see as an absurdity. If you wait around for the ego's assent, you will wait forever.

To paraphrase Polanyi, faith is the tacit foreknowlege of an as yet undiscovered truth. Although he was talking about scientific discovery, one could equally apply this to spiritual discovery. Really, you won't discover anything without that leap of faith, just as a scientific discovery doesn't just "happen" to a closed and unprepared mind.

So the purpose of revelation is not necessarily to "give orders to the intelligence" in some sort of rigid, top-down manner. Rather, it should awaken the intelligence and "remind it what it is" (Schuon). For an intelligence that is proportioned to the divine message is necessarily of the same substance.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Drunk on Truth and Lit Up From Within

I try to read a little Schuon every day. Why? Because there is simply no other author who in-spires and speaks to me the way he does: straight through the peripheral bobscurities and directly to the center. My center, anyway. Obviously I don't agree with everything he says. But that's no different than not liking every performance of a musical artist I otherwise love.

He speaks with such clarity and force about matters that are unclear to -- or at least expressed unclearly by -- others. For example, he states that any cosmos -- which is to say, any ordered totality -- "reflects the homogeneity of the principial order," but that the manifest universe "is woven of necessity and liberty, of mathematical rigor and musical play, of geometry and poetry."

Come to think of it, most theologians tend to give you one or the other, but any discussion -- or "performance" -- of (or in) O clearly requires both: words and music, melody and harmony, spirit and letter, rhythm and surprise.

Revelation is both "systemic" and beyond any system. Somehow one needs to balance both. He writes that a particular religious doctrine is like "a crystal that captures the divine Light, refracting it in accordance with a language that is at once particular and universal."

How precise! The Light is one thing, the form another. The Light descends and vivifies the doctrinal form from within, a within that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Faith is like the light that causes a reflector on the back of a bicycle to become luminous in the dark.

As we have said before, religious literalists at both extremes -- atheists on one side, "fundamentalists" on the other -- cannot see this. But "in reality, a theoretical expression can only be an 'allusive indication,' the implications of which are endless" (Schuon).

It's quite the opposite of the linearity of science -- which is not to criticize science, which has every right and duty to be so. But it has overstepped its rightful bounds when it suggests that religion should reduce itself to the cognitive modalities of science.

And this is hardly to say that science is objective and true theology isn't. Rather, as Schuon says, objectivity is not only the true essence of intelligence, but its moral imperative: to see and describe something "as it is" is to be objective, whatever the domain.

Conversely, to see something "as it isn't," is a kind of lying, or bearing of false witness. But how easy to see a rock or tree as opposed to seeing God!

Note also that God is by definition "in the rock," even though we can still speak of rocks as if they have some sort of independent existence. But if we forget this -- if we separate intelligence from its ground and source -- it devolves to mere cleverness, which is in turn conformed to pride, power, or some other passion.

In short, intelligence detached from its principle and sufficient reason is no longer objective at all. Which is why scientism, atheism, and materialism are all pure subjectivity. Only the mystic or sage is truly objective, since only God is necessary. All else is contingent in his Light.

Another subtle point: as we have discussed in the past, language cannot possibly be what bonehead Darwinians and other materialists imagine it to be. Not only does it usher us into a world that is above and beyond the call of matter, but it is an emanation from that world. Truly, the medium is the message and the message is Truth!

According to Schuon, the prototype of language as such is "universal Existence," so that we are ontologically "enclosed," so to speak, in both.

Wish all you like, but you cannot wish yourself out of Being, short of suicide. Nor can you wish yourself out of language and remain human, short of cluelesside.

Thus, to undermine the foundations of language -- as do deconstructionists and other postmodernists -- is to attack the basis and possibility of human being itself. In other words, to injure language is to damage being (not Being, of course, which is impervious to the petty insults of the tenured).

Think about that: we are enclosed in truth by virtue of being enclosed in language, which is enclosed in Being. This is precisely in conformity with the existence of a logoistic principle that is prior to manifestaion and "with God" from before the beginning. Every thing is made of it, and not a thing can be made -- or thought -- without it. Man is condemned both to be and to know, but these are just two sides of the same coin: He exists -- or I AM -- therefore we think.

Everything short of God is woven of essence and contingency. Only God is pure essence with no accident. Thus, although we have an essence, or essential being, it is necessarily veiled and obscured by layers of contingency, and not just mind parasites.

Rather, there is the time into which we are born (since we are not eternal), there is culture, there is our particular language, there is our family of origin, and there are genetic quirks. Man is a "fragmentary totality" (•••) on the way to totality. To paraphrase someone, our task and duty is to heal the inevitable wounds made by history.

Thus, it is our earthly duty to realize our essence, which is to simultaneously realize our origin, our destiny, and our vocation. It is to realize the soul, which is to realize God, the one being literally un-thinkable without the other. To know the soul is to know that God exists, and vice versa.

It is not just love, truth, and beauty that connect us to our source, but pleasure too. I don't think it is accurate to say that animals experience pleasure in the way human beings do. There is analogy, of course, but not identity. For example, no animal knows the pure joy of learning, or the tingle of aesthetic arrest, or the unalloyed bliss of coming into contact with truth.

For Schuon, any normal pleasure "is a kind of reverberation and therefore anticipation -- quite imperfect, no doubt -- of a celestial joy..." This is the ananda of pure being. In Vedanta, the oneness of God, or ultimate reality, breaks into the trinity of sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss. Or, one could say existence-truth-joy. Or Father-Son-and the Love that flows between. It's all Good.

Gotta run.

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