Friday, December 30, 2011

Cool Fools and Foolish Tools

All of a suddenlike we're down to dealing the last two cards from the bottom of our deck of Meditations on the Tarot. This series began on October 5, which also marked the six year anniversary of the blog. This will be post #1853 for those keeping score, not counting a couple hundred that have been tossed overboard the Knowa's Arkive on account of being unfit for eternity.

This is good timing, since it means we can start off the new year with a new subject, the substance of which has not yet been revealed to us, if ever.

And this might be an appropriate time to thank readers for using the Cosmic Love Box and other links to amazon, for which we receive a modest kickback when you pull the trigger on a purchase of any kind. Do feel free to spring for that tropical island you've had your eye on, or even this understated Diamond Cluster Fancy Necklace for only $116,849.00. After all, Valentine's Day is right around the corner, not to mention MLK's birthday!

But seriously, you should know that 100% of the paltry proceeds from amazon are plowed directly back into the blog, in that they are mostly used to gamble on books that I would otherwise h-h-hesitate to purchase if I were frittering away my own funds. But since it's "house money," I can venture far afield, which every once in awhile pans out in terms of providing healthy blogfodder. This also provides an invaluable service to you cosmic explorers, as I am able to serve as an advance scout in hyperspace, letting you all know when a seductive little path turns out to be a disappointing nul de slack. In short, I do it all for you.

What kind of fool would do that? A wide-eyed fʘʘl, that's who!

Now, where are we? I mean temporally? Yes, we are "now," just as we are "here," but where is this now in relation to the totality of time? According to our unKnown Friend, "the trial of our epoch is that of Faust. It is the trial of the satisfaction of desires." How very true. But what does this have to do with the Fool?

[A brief sidebar -- just yesterday I read an intriguing comment by Samuel Beckett, who was discussing the Vico-dian temporal structure of Finnegans Wake, which takes us from necessity to utility, convenience, pleasure, luxury, and then abuse of luxury. Is not contemporary western man veritably dissipating in his own abuse of luxury? If not, why is -- are? -- the majority of "poor" people so fat? And why do they have widescreen plasma TVs to park their fat asses in front of? What about the tattoos and other body mutilation? That stuff's not free, is it? I mean, before Obamacare kicks in?]

[And in no way is this intended to apply to the deserving poor, who constitute only a small minority of the Liberal Poor, loosely defined as "people who don't have all the stuff they want."]

[Note that in an absurcular cosmos, "abuse of luxury" comes back around to "necessity," which is one of the motive forces of the OWSers, whose main complaint is that their desires are actually needs which others are obligated to fulfill.]

In contrast, unKnown Friend writes that the fʘʘl "teaches the 'know how' of passing from intellectuality, moved by the desire for knowledge, to the higher knowledge of love." This is "related to the transformation of personal consciousness, where the self (ego) is no longer the author of the act of consciousness but its receiver."

I don't know about you, but this fool can relate to that. Whatever wisdom our little ego can muster on its own is so limited as to be.... well, følly to God, that's for sure. Or, as Rick said in a comment, "it must be grace, because I'm not that smart."

There are two principle ways of dealing with that boastful know-it-all, the (egoic) intellect. One is to jettison it altogether, a la Zen; or, it may be "placed in the service of transcendental consciousness," which is of course the Raccoon way. This involves "the active surpassing of the intellect," which is also a kind of sacrifice. For it is the "method of sacrificing the intellect to spirituality in such a way that it grows and develops instead of becoming enfeebled and atrophied."

This involves a marriage of opposites, "namely discursive intellectuality and illuminative spirituality," the former being male, the latter the female we call Sophia. It is "the union of human wisdom, which is folly in the eyes of God, with the divine wisdom" which is folly in the eyes of the tenured.

Surprisingly, this doesn't produce some kind of hybrid lowbred fool, but rather "a single wisdom which understands both that which is above and that which is below." Again, this is the way of the good ship Raccoon, if your aye-aye be single.

UF then goes into a discussion of scholastic philosophy, which nobly aimed "at an as complete as possible cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality," or the marriage of the sun and moon discussed a few posts back.

Our mission -- i.e., our fʘʘl's errand -- is to advance the progress of this union of spirituality and intellectuality, which is none other than the "philosopher's stone," or the legendary "ark of the Raccoon" that is supposedly stored away somewhere in Toots Mondello's basement, amidst the sacred bowling trophies and beer bottle collection.

UF explains the centrality of (n) vs. (k) in this endeavor, or of be-who over know-how. Again, the whole project only works to the extent that the tradition is alive and one's knowledge is living: "the tradition lives only when it is deepened"; mere "conservation alone does not suffice at all," as it can all too easily be reduced to a kind of glorified mummification. We are not embalmers. Nor is it like operating on a corpse.

Reminds me of something Schuon said: "When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth.... the soul becomes impoverished, chilled, rigid and embittered, or it falls into a hedonism unworthy of the human state; moreover, the one does not preclude the other, for blind passions always overlay a heart of ice, in short, a heart that is 'dead'." (And this comes back to the "excess of luxury" which is needed by people so spiritually numb as to not notice the luxuries we take for granted, and what they're Good for.)

One must start with faithful reverence for the "heritage of the past," even while humbly bumbling to deepen and expand it. Since this verticalisthenic takes place at the innersection of the vertical and horizontal, it is always necessary to do the work of assimilating new "horizontal revelations" into Revelation as such, and working out their interior harmony. This is the fruit of "two faiths," of which Jesus is a quintessential archetype, that is, "the perfect union of divine revelation and the most pure humanism." To isolate one at the expense of the other is intrinsic heresy.

In fact, it is only because of this fusion that Jesus was uniquely able to combine a divine birth with a divine death, which is another thing entirely, isn't it? As UF states, prior to this, man "had only the choice between renunciation and affirmation of the world of birth and death," but now we may participate in its actual transformation, you know, one bloody fʘʘl at a time.

And it apparently renders death a kind of gnuclear fission instead of linear division, and initiates what we call God's "scorched birth policy."

The paradox of the human condition is that nothing is so contrary to us as the requirement to transcend ourselves, and nothing so fundamentally ourselves as the essence of this requirement, or the fruit of this transcending. --Schuon

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Floating on Truth while Watching the Lies Roll By

Chapter XX, The Judgement. Or as we say in America, Judgment.

We remember Schuon writing something to the effect that there is birth, death, and judgment. Elsewhere he writes that "Human life is studded with uncertainties," and that "man loses himself in what is uncertain instead of holding onto what is absolutely certain in his destiny: death, Judgment, Eternity."

But there is a fourth certainty, always accessible to man, that partakes of the other three. It is none other than "the present moment, in which man is free to choose either the Real or the illusory..."

Thus, in our fractally organized cosmos, each moment is birth-death-judgment-eternity, rooted in Freedom and Truth (which are two cidens of the same coin-).

Yes, it would take a whole lifetome to do justice to judgment, which I suppose is why we have one. It's difficult enough to know what happens when we live, let alone when we die, and we claim no first hand knowledge of the latter -- although we did the other day catch a glimpse of Barbara Walters on TV. Rumor has it she uses Larry King's mortician.

Still, if we were to say anything more definitive about the post-biological judicial system, we would be pretending, which would make us be no better than our grubby competitors. It would violate the sacred trust with readers if we were to merely spookulate and call it truth.

There are more than a few dilettantric yokers who obtain a nugget of genuine occult (which simply means "hidden") knowledge, and then proceed to fake the rest, sometimes without even being consciously aware of it. The result is that truth is mingled with falsehood in an indiscriminate manner, making it impossible to separate the ice cream from the pøøp.

The One Cosmos flavor may not be as exo-tic, but we use only ingredients that can be independently and esoterically tasted by readers.

To put it another way, we eliminate the oogedy-boogedy factor, but try to compensate by emphasizing the guffah-HA! experience of the Ho-ho-holy jest -- and laughter is the best medicine for a dedalus nightmare, so long as it's not the hollow and bitter kind.

Theology is formally no different than any other field, in which so-called experts routinely exceed the limits of their competence and bloviate on all sorts of subjects, thereby rendering themselves buffoons -- Paul Krugman, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, movie stars, MSM journalists, etc. Likewise, for every one of these secular unworthies there is a Spongworthless Rowan Williams or Jeremiah Wright.

It's quite easy for intelligence to be hijacked by narcissism in the service of omniscience. I could do that! But being a master of one area confers no guarantee of competence in another. And this is news?

Much of what our unKnown Friend says about the Akashic Record makes sense, but for us personally it is nevertheless (k) and not (n). While there is nothing objectionable about the idea that all of history is somehow "preserved" in a manner we cannot comprehend -- indeed, this was one of Whitehead's conclusions, and it is certainly true of biology -- we are content to leave it an unsaturated mystery.

The bottom line is that since we have a memory, there is no reason why the cosmos shouldn't. In fact, if memory weren't woven into the fabric of reality, there could be only a random chaos. Memory, among other things, always unifies the disparate strands of existence, both in space and time.

Is it true that the Book of Life is the "moral memory of the world?" This also makes sense to us, but we are content to know that the purpose of life is to hold fast to truth, beauty, and virtue, and know that there will be post-mortem consequences for how poorly or how well we have accomplished this. As Schuon writes,

"If someone asks us what are the most important things a man should do, placed as he is in this world of enigmas and fluctuations, we would reply that there are four things to be done or four jewels that should never be lost from sight: first, to accept the Truth; second, to keep it in mind continually; third, to avoid what is contrary to Truth... and fourth, to accomplish whatever is in conformity with Truth."

The unredeemed assoul has an impulse born of narcissism to make life more complicated than it actually is, and then to swim "in the water of worldly agitation."

Conversely, "instead of swimming in the water of illusion, the saint himself becomes spring or stream; illusion swims in the stream of his knowledge, and not the other way round" (Schuon).

So, either you're drowning in lies and grasping at straws of truth; or, floating on truth while watching the lies drift past like bits of straw. If memory surfs.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Post of Christmas Past & Presence

Last night we attended the family mass. While wife and child are fully immersed members who are completely afloat there, we remain a half-civilized wolf of the steppes -- a little jangled by the commotion, but curious enough to sniff around.

In the priest's homily he touched on some themes that were right up our alley, lujah! We wonder if he knows he was talking pure Eckhart -- proBobally, no?

He reminded us of why we cannot make a big deal out of Christmas per se. Don't get us wrong -- we get into the Christmas spirit just like anyone else. But that's more of a cultural thing, not the essence of the point of the gist of the crux of the martyr.

For if we heard Father Bill brightly, on Christmas we remama the eternal birth of the celestial Word in the terrestrial flesh. The whole thing is a silent nought unless we do the same, and give birth to the Word in our own ground, heart, matrix, womb, or what have you, and then grow our own Mary way.

But this is not, and cannot be, something that happens just once a year. Rather, it must be a perpetual labor; or really, conception-gestation-labor-birth, in a kind of continuous cycle.

Esoterism can apparently sound cold or excessively abstract to some. We understand. But for us, it is the other wayround to the same end: straight exoterism with no esoteric chaser always leaves us a little too sober. More blood, please!

Out of our own dark voidgin soil, two irreconcilable realities somehow become one. In short: no conception, no birth -- especially again.

And there are any number of spiritual verbicides on the cultural market, which either prevent or terminate the union of Word and flesh. All of them result in a mourning after pall being cast over everything.

Christmas wasn't celebrated -- at least by Christians -- for the first 400 years or so of Christianity's existence. One way or another, it grafted itself onto pre-Christian celebrations of the winter solstice, which, coincidentally, marks the moment when the world arrests its descent into cosmic darkness and imperceptibly moves toward a new life of spring in its step.

But this hardly makes the essential cerebration of it any less Christian. Rather, it simply makes Christianity the most adequate expression of permanent truths that have always been intuited. As Warren mentioned in a comment the other year,

"Basically, everybody more or less knows this stuff. It's the wisdom and experience of the entire human race speaking here. The only people who claim to deny it are a few little fringe modernist groups (materialists, certain fundie Protestant sects, etc.).

"In fact, this is a big reason why some fundie Protestants view Catholics as 'pagans.' In a way, they're quite correct, because the Catholic tradition includes much wisdom from the pagan world, while trimming away (ideally) the false and/or devilish elements in it. Rejecting the entire pagan worldview, as certain Christians do, is to needlessly throw out a large chunk of the human race's traditional wisdom, thereby making oneself much more clueless than is strictly necessary."

This is correct. Most of the things we call heresies are not so much flat out wrong, but involve doctrines taken out of the context of total truth, and then either over- or underemphasized.

The rank-and-foul try to derive metaphysical truth solely from phenomena and/or history, but in reality, what we call "salvation history" (or salvolution) involves the serial conception and fruition of certain meta-cosmic seed-principles -- which is why they are living truths that must beleafed, topped, baked, and smoked each morning. In a manner of speaking, bongbrain.

Furthermore, the Creator is a person. Thus, he has principles. But unlike leftists, his principles are not just convenient fig leaves to obscure or lend legitimacy to a tawdry snakedown operation.

Remember, although Jesus is "Word made flesh," this does not mean that the eternal Word was nowhere to be heard in this vale of ears prior to the Incarnation.

Rather, we would say (with Augustine) that the Word and Wisdom of the Christic principle were (and are) always here, and couldn't not be here; again, where there is Truth there is God, and vice versa. Tear down your temporal and he can build an eternal One in three deities, see?

We would go so lo as to see that the affirmation of anything is the affirmation of God, and therefore the negation of "nothing" (nothing being the absurd affirmation of a blind nihilism that can affirm nothing at all, not even itself). Otherwise there is no firm ground for any of your flimsy affirmations.

If, as Eckhart suggests, God ex-ists (for us) because he under-stands, it means that the poor toolish trolls who don't understand these truths don't even properly exist. Or, alternatively, they only exist. And existence without Truth is.... well, first of all it's an absurdity, but more to the point, it is hell. Which is why they refuse to put us out of their misery. The bad word must be shared, for it is lonely at the bottom.

But to know that one is a real idiot is to at least know a genuine truth, and thus nurture an inchoate conception that may eventually come to full term in the light of deity. We ourselves were once (okay, more than once) just such an idiot, and were only saved, if at all, by a much greater and wide-eyed fʘʘlishness.

So, I guess this is just our peculiar way of saying Merry Christmas 24/7/356/∞, and back roundagain...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mary Chrysalis & the Midwinter Sun

Our nonLocal Friend next discusses the "mystery of the star" that guides us on our nighttime journey back to the Self.

If you don't realize that it is late in the day and that it is getting dark.... well, let's just say that the sun can't help you, since it will soon be halfway around the world. Daytime logic doesn't apply to dreamworld, just as dream logic doesn't illuminate the day. Well, it does, but only for specialists.

But more importantly, because there are so many stars, no one can show you yours. Just as there is a single sun that also rises on the billions, there are billions of stars, only one of which has your name on it. You cannot purchase a map to the stars from some filthy hobo on the corner, unless that filthy hobo is Cousin Dupree hawking stolen copies of my book.

We must follow our star without reserve, for "a whole world is at stake" -- the resurrected world of our interior being. This world is "there," but needs to be illuminated in order to be seen.

unKnown Friend cites the example of Jung, with whom I have some problems, but who nevertheless, it is true, followed his star "all his life, and followed the 'star' alone." He was no slithering Deepak, that's for sure.

It's just that, in my opinion, he ultimately confused his star with the sun, but that's a subject for a different post. In any event, it's a common temptation for intellectuals who isolate themselves from the sun of tradition. The more brilliant, the greater the temptation to do this.

And because of the childish cult of genius that has developed in our post-religious culture, you might say that we live under a garish firmament of diverse and irreconcilable third-rate stars -- kind of like the Vegas strip at night -- each claiming to be the sun. I mean, Darwin can easily illuminate a college biology course. But the whole cosmos? C'mon. He couldn't even be the Creator's opening act.

In any event, Gödel proved, among other things, that no star can be the sun, and that the sun exists even if man cannot prove it with mere logic.

The point is, the star should lead to the sun, not away from the sun, nor be an end in itself, for then you are dealing with narcissism or idol worship. For example, in the case of those three mages from the east, the star led them to the Christ. They did not worship the star, nor did they presumably elevate themselves for being such fantastic astrologers, much less open a Psychic Shoppe in West Hollywood.

unKnown friend agrees with our assessment of the ultimate value of Jung's work, but notes that his method has much in common with the humble way of the Raccoon, in that it partakes of "concentration without effort" (i.e., playful free association), "interpretation of dreams and spontaneous fantasy," cooperation between "the fertilizing sphere (outside of and beyond the normal consciousness) and fertilized consciousness," "the amplification of immediate data from the manifestation of the unconsciousness by means of alchemy, myths, and mysteries belonging to mankind's historical past," using the unconscious (I would say "supraconscious," or just vertical consciousness) "as guide and master," and most importantly, "not identifying oneself with the superhuman forces of the archetypes -- not allowing them to take possession of the individual consciousness (so that the latter does not become a victim of inflation)."

That paragraph was a mythful to digest, but I think that you could reduce it to the idea of sincerely playing in that expanding transitional space between O and (n), but with the fixed archetypes of tradition, which are not arbitrary or accidental, but as objective as the nighttime sky. Nevertheless, each person necessarily has a slightly different view of them, simply by virtue of existing. After all, to exist is to exist somewhere, i.e., to have a perspective. This is the correct part of postmodernism, as far as it goes.

What postmodernists forget is that we all have a perspective on reality, and that "reality" isn't simply the sum total of perspectives. Lacking in irony -- or failing to surpass it -- they forget to place their own perspective in perspective, which is one of the typical complications of tenure, usually fatal.

unKnown Friend also cites Teilhard de Chardin as someone who was unwaveringly faithful to his star, but in his case, he attempted to do so while remaining faithful to the Church-sun. Ultimately he was unable to square that circle, or to make both ends meet in the muddle, I think partly because of a certain lack of sobriety on his part, and perhaps some excessive sobriety on the part of the Church.

Today, I think there are some more sober Teilhards, on the one hand, and a little more buzzed Church, on the other. Call it "sober intoxication," if you like. It's certainly the unebriated balance I always shoot for.

There was a time that I was very much attracted to Teilhard's thought, if only because there was no one else attempting to go where no man had gone by reconciling modernity and tradition in such a bold manner. I wanted his breadth of vision, which was truly meta-cosmic in its scope -- in both time and space, subject and object, interior and exterior, Kirk and Spock.

As unKnown Friend describes it, Teilhard followed his star on a long trek "through the paths of the universal evolution of the world throughout millions of years. What did he do, properly speaking? He showed the 'star' above the universal evolution of the world, in a way that the latter 'is seen to be knit together and convulsed by a vast movement of convergence... at the term of which we can distinguish a supreme focus of personalizing personality."

In short, Teilhard re-cognized the star above mere natural selection, demonstrating how God and Darwin are as compatible as Adam and Evolution -- just as, in a post-quantum world, atoms and ovulation aren't as far apart as you might think.

I guess you could say that my wild nous chase of the Bobstar was (and is) completely soph-interested, in that I wanted to know how this vast universe resulted in, well, Bob. Not just me per se, but the very possibility of something as unexpected as a me (or you), or what Teilhard refers to above as the "personalizing personality" -- by which he means a local cosmic area of increasingly complex and centrated subjectivity.

What I really wanted to understand was the how the expanding human subject fits into the whole existentialada, and in just what kind of cosmos is such a superfluous and some would say pointless emergence of me even possible? Whatever else the book is -- appearances to the coontrary notwithstanding -- it is also a very personal journeyall that chronicles my attilt to bring together all the loose threads of my life without drowning in the quixocean of it all.

Of course I would like my ideas to be universal, but even if they were, it would nevertheless be necessary for each person to write their own book, i.e., to have the tome of their life. Somewhere in the book it says that we must all compose a symphony out of the notes and chords of our lives, and that no one's loony tune is identical.

But that is what we are after: ultimate co-herence and reconciliation of inner and outer, time and eternity, spirit and matter, faith and reason, intelligence and wisdom, science and religion, for that constitutes peace. And one way or the other, that coherence can only come from the top. Any alternative is a non-starer.

I will conclude by suggesting that this is indeed our cross to bear, but that, as luck would have it, someone else has done most of the heavy lifting for us. Which is the ultimate point of Christmas, the day on which we are simultaneously furthest from and closest to the newborn sun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Love that Moves the Sun and Other Stars

No time this morning. Only time for a short post.

Whereas the Moon has to do with reflected, i.e., lunar, knowledge, the Sun has to do with direct perception of truth or reality (which amount to the same thing). Obviously, we can see much better when the sun is out and shining.

Or can we? If the sun is too bright, we cannot see at all, as in snowblindness. At the very least, it overpowers more subtle sources of light -- other heavenly bodies that are present but hidden.

After all, it is not as if the cosmos is simply divided into God/not-God, or Creator/creature. Yes, you can certainly look at it that way, and it is not *absolutely* false to do so. But in so doing, you will miss all of the details in the cosmic hierarchy.

In a way, this is the inverse error of logical positivism, whereby the person only accepts scientifically verifiable statements. Do this, and you cut yourself off from the wealth of truth that may be found in literature, art, music, poetry, and religion.

You might say that "religionism" focuses on the absolute sun to the exclusion of the relative moon, while relativism focuses on the relative moon to the exclusion of the absolute sun. The latter can have no real truth, since lunar light presupposes the sun.

One can even extend this into politics, in that moonbats need conservatives, whereas conservatives have no need of moonbats. It is not a reversible relation, since moonbats need the wealth of productive citizens in order to redistribute it, whereas productive citizens do not need unproductive parasites in order to create wealth. The left eventually runs out of other people's money, but we will never run out of people who want other people's money.

Regarding those lesser cosmic lights between sun and earth, you may recall that in the bʘʘk I made reference to "the helpful nonlocal operators standing by, ready to assist you." How does that work? UF explains in the following extended passage, which might be one of the reigning dogmas and catechisms among Raccoons:

"You venerate (i.e., love and respect) a non-incarnated being -- a departed person, a saint, a hierarchical being -- in a disinterested manner. Your veneration -- which includes love, respect, gratitude, the desire to conform, etc. -- cannot fail to create an invisible link of sympathy with its object. It may be in a subtle and dramatic way, or rather in a slow, gradual and almost imperceptible way -- this does not matter -- the day will come when you will experience the presence."

This is nothing like a "phantom," "ghost," or some other apparition, but rather, it is "a breath of radiant serenity, of which you know with certain knowledge that the source from which it emanates is not at all in you. It influences and fills you but does not take its origin in you; it comes from outside you. Just as in drawing near to a fireplace, that the warmth that you feel does not arise from you, but rather from the fireplace, so also do you feel that the breath of serenity in question is due to an objective presence."

Once this nonlocal relationship is established, "it is up to you to remain silently concentrated so that the relationship established is subsequently developed, i.e., that it gains in intensity and clarity -- that it becomes a meeting in full consciousness."

Protestants do not accept the possibility of multiple nonlocal relationships, which is fine. For you, Christ is your master, and that's that. In contrast, Catholicism and Orthodoxy provide numerous other nonlocal operators to light the way toward the Light.

Recall what was said yesterday about the person internalizing a relationship between two poles. For just as a relationship can be mediated by love, two can be bound by hatred. Just as, say, a sexually repressed man may chose to be around women who reject him (so as to externalize the conflict), a dysfunctional people, such as the Palestinians, have formed an unbreakable bond with Israel. They do not hate Israel because of "X." Rather, they believe "X" because of their hatred, which is the real driver. Hatred makes one believe insane things (think, for example, of all the insane things trolls believe about me.)

For the neurotic person, such a bond can be every bit as strong as a healthy one; in fact, in a sense, even stronger, since healthy love eventually transcends its immediate object and leads all the way back up to its divine source, whereas the unhealthy kind is solely focused on its local object, which leads to all sorts of other secondary and tertiary pathologies. (It is the same with art, by the way -- the real thing automatically transcends itself and provokes a love of the beautiful per se.)

Sorry to end so abruptly, but I'm already late. To be continued.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mental Masturbation and the Fertile Marriage of Faith and Science

Let's pick up where we left off last Friday, with the distinction between the solar, lunar, and celestial sources of light (and therefore truth). Solar corresponds to creative light, lunar to reflected light, and celestial to revealed light (as outlined in chapter XVIII of MOTT).

Note that these are not three "different lights," but the one light present in three modes. In turn, this is why there cannot be any ultimate conflict between religion and science, because truth is truth, whatever the medium. If you think there is a conflict, this only means you need to think again -- more deeply, more broadly, and more integrally. If the One Light didn't exist, man would go mad, for he would be permanently riven by thoughts, impulses, and desires from all the planes of being, with no possibility of deep interior unity. Frankly, he wouldn't know whether to sh*t or wind his wristwatch.

That there is "one light" has its analogue in the realm of physics, where it is understood as a deeply interconnected wavelike field. Likewise, the human mind shares this feature of field-like oneness. While we use terms to describe mental functioning which make it sound as if one part can be isolated from another (e.g., projection, splitting, compartmentalization, repression), these are just ways to think about something that otherwise cannot be thought about.

For example, when we use the term "projection," what we really mean is "projective identification." The former implies that we may rid our minds of painful and unwanted content by placing it elsewhere -- in other people, in the environment, in conservatives, whatever.

But in fact, whenever we project, it is from one part of our mind into another part of our mind, or from one subject (or sub-self) to another. To take a common example, let's say Mr. X has developmental issues with a chronically intrusive and controlling mother. As a result, he doesn't just internalize an object, but a dipolar relationship -- let us call it the aggressive intruder linked to a violated intrudee. Should Mrs. X begin nagging Mr. X, it is likely that his mind will switch into this earlier object relation. Either he will feel intensely persecuted in a way that goes beyond what the situation calls for; or, he will identify with the other pole of the object relationship, and lash out in an aggressive and intrusive manner.

Have you ever seen Fawlty Towers? You will have noticed that Basil basically has two interpersonal modes: in short, as Winston Churchill said of the Hun, he is either at your feet or at your throat. He devalues half the world with contempt and scorn, but when in the presence of a social superior, he "switches" and identifies with the contemptible object. Thus we see that contempt and fawning or groveling are really two sides of the same coin (or, think of the Cowardly Lion, who is just the other side of the Bullying Lion).

I don't want to get sidetracked, but I couldn't help noticing a conspicuous version of this in Christopher Hitchens, who was so brimming with anger, narcissism, contempt, and (intellectual) class consciousness. I fully agree that it was quite bracing to see him bully someone who deserved it, e.g., Saddam, Khomeini, Milošević, Clinton. But he could just as easily flip -- and flip out -- by training his rage and contempt on obviously decent and good people such as Pope John Paul or Mother Teresa.

I looked up an example and found this, when he "erupted into a drunken rage at a recent promotional event for his book. Hitchens reportedly descended from the stage, visibly inebriated, approached a Roman Catholic priest (Rev. George Rutler) in the audience, and began shouting at him, only inches from his face. Hitchens’ manner appeared so physically menacing, witnesses say, that a plainclothes bodyguard on duty at the event rushed in and escorted the drunken scribe from the room."

Then, “At the end of the event as he staggered, sweating and red faced, out of the room, he [Hitchens] advanced on Father Rutler in a threatening and physical manner, screaming that [he] was `a child molester and a lazy layabout who never did a day’s work in his life’.... Several of the event organizers then escorted Hitchens to the men’s room and when he emerged he continued his psychotic rant, repeating the same calumnious and baseless screed (sic) as before."

Now, a normal person -- once he sobers up -- would regard such an incident as a serious wake up call. He would be filled with shame, remorse, and self-loathing, and understand that he needs help. But the alcoholic essentially disables the idiot lights on his dashboard, and doubles down on his dysfunctional lifestyle. I've known several people with the identical dynamic.

Because of this cold, I can see that I am rambling. Let's get back to the "three lights" discussed above. As unKnown Friend explains, science is essentially lunar, in that it seeks to "reflect" the natural world. Which is as it should be. Scientific knowledge is always reflected knowledge (although, at the same time, it is always rooted in a tacit metaphysic that borrows from the other two sources, for example, the imaginative "solar" creativity that fuels scientific advance, or the abiding celestial faith in the rationality of reality).

The lunar mode can only comprehend that which is discontinuous, never that which is continuous. One persistent fallacy that results from this is the attempt to treat continuous and wave-like systems in a discontinuous and atomistic manner. But just because we can dissect an animal, it doesn't mean we understand the phenomenon of Life, which is the quintessence of wholeness and deep interior relation.

The celestial knowledge embodied in the Gospel of John reveals to us the creative Word, "which is the light and life of men." Here, intelligence "has the task of understanding the whole world as the organisatory act of the Word and Jesus Christ as the cosmic Word made flesh."

Whereas lunar intelligence seeks to understand "that which is," this logocentric mode seeks to participate "in the becoming of that which is to be." It is not just to be "born again," but to give birth -- which is to participate in the intrinsic and eternal creativity of the Word. (Note the dipolarity of giving and receiving birth, which is very much emphasized by Eckhart. It's easy to misunderstand -- and how! -- the subtle point he is making, when he says words to the effect that in giving birth to the living God, he gives birth to us.)

Real solar creativity is a kind of higher life that is continuous with, or a mirror of, the divine activity. The point is, on the intellectual plane, approaching God doesn't just require a leap of faith, but a leap of imagination or of creative activity -- which is also its seal of authenticity. It is one of the things implied by the symbol O--> (n), which is a continuous flow, "or river of water of life," not something fixed and dead.

UF writes that the latter involves the true union of intelligence with the intuition of faith. If these two are alienated or estranged, they need to be reconciled in true marriage and become "one flesh." It is not simply one mode added to the other, but a real harmonious -- and creative -- union. (There is much more on this union in the following letter, The Sun, which we'll no doubt get to soon.)

UF singles out several thinkers whom he believes approached or achieved this fusion of faith and intelligence, including Origen, Denys, Aquinas, Jacob Boehme, Berdayev, and Teilhard de Chardin. He contrasts this with the circularity of lunar logic, and the need to break out of its closed world, citing a passage by Bergson:

"If we had never seen a man swim, we might say that swimming is an impossible thing, in as much as, to learn to swim, we must begin by holding ourselves up in water and, consequently, already know how to swim. Reasoning, in fact, always nails us down to the solid ground."

This type of earthbound intelligence is in servitude to that which is infinitely beneath its scope and station: "It looks to the least developed and the most primitive for the cause and the explanation of what is most developed and the most advanced in the process of evolution.... it retreats into matter. It does something with regard to the world which would be absurd with regard to a work of art.... Intelligence which prefers retreating to flying must inevitably arrive at the impasse of absurdity.... And the absurd... this is suicide for intelligence" (MOTT).

Bergson continues: "But if, quite simply, I throw myself into the water without fear, I may keep myself up well enough at first by merely struggling, and gradually adapt myself to the new environment: I shall learn to swim.... if the risk be accepted, action will perhaps cut the knot that reasoning has tied and will not unloose."

So our intelligence must take the plunge in order to leave the prison of materialism: "[L]eap it must, that is, leave its own environment. Reason, reasoning on its powers, will never succeed in extending them, though the extension would not appear at all unreasonable once it were accomplished." For example, one could publish thousands of studies on the nature of walking on solid ground, but they "will never yield a rule for swimming: come, enter the water, and when you know how to swim, you will understand how the mechanism of swimming is connected with that of walking. Swimming is an extension of walking, but walking would never have pushed you on to swimming."

That is a critical point, for from the perspective of walking, the leap to swimming looks "discontinuous." But from the perspective of swimming, one can appreciate the continuity, which is none other than "the God of the gaplessness" of reality. Science sees "gaps" that it imagines the religious believer fills in with "God." But it is actually the other way around. Once one leaps into the Word, one sees how there cannot be any radical gaps at all.

This, in case you didn't know, is the reason why I arranged my book so that the chapters are both continuous and discontinuous, from nothing (or beyond-being) to being, matter to life, life to mind, and mind to spirit (in other words, there are distinct "chapters," even though the sentences that link them run together). Only from the point of view of the first half of each pair does the second look discontinuous. But from the point of view of the second, one doesn't just "see," but one unproblematically lives the continuity. One swims.

After all, doesn't your body easily unify matter and life without you having to think about it? And doesn't your mind easily unify -- well, most of the time -- intelligence, emotion, will, and desire? And doesn't the Raccoon naturally live the unity of matter, life, mind and Spirit, or O? Of course. And there is no "technique" for doing so, accept for aspiring (↑) and submitting to the nonlocal Grace (↓) that meets us more than halfway. This is not something any mere animal could do, not in 13.7 billion years.

The unity comes from the top, not the bottom, of the cosmic hierarchy. Which is why it is indeed One Cosmos Under God.

The harmonious union of higher and lower:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Do All Planets Have Moonbats?

Well, that's disappointing. For the first time in like five years, I accidently deleted the whole post. If I can only relocate the tracks, I think I can reengineer the train of thought, more or less, but not in this slightly sour mood. Therefore, we'll continue with the next letter of Meditations on the Tarot, the Moon, and see what its made of. As always, your pre-enjoyed post has been outdated with new material and substandardly edited.

I suppose The Moon is always timely, since it also happens to be the Moonbat card.

That is, it is a meditation on the proper task of human intelligence, which is to liberate man from the type of magical enchantment that afflicts the secular world in general and the left in particular.

There are indeed "root causes" of such systematic blindness, applied stupidity, and moral idiocy, and they obviously have nothing to do with poverty, humiliation, or lack of education, since most of the bleeding blights of the left are conspicuously affluent, educated, and proud.

And these self-styled leaders, despite their tingle-inducing oratory, have always had difficulty selling their agenda to its so-called beneficiaries, which is why the agenda must always be forced upon the ungrateful bastards.

I'll be honest, if I may. Not only do we not know what is good for us, but I am beginning to seriously wonder if we are even worthy of Obama's generosity.

So, just how does one become an arrogant and sanctimonious buffoon of the left? One does it through considerable movement, but it is a retrograde movement, away from the nonlocal source and ground of vertical evolution.

As UF puts it, the Moon(bat) card "evokes ideas, feelings and impulses of will relating to the inversion of the evolutionary movement of life and consciousness, i.e., to their envelopment, arrest of movement, and retrograde movement."

Just as there are principles of growth, there are principles of existential shrinkage, the result being, by George, that the world isn't all it could be and should be -- and more!

In, say, Deepak's case, he obviously fancies himself to be some sort of fount of spiritual creativity (what other excuse could this windy Hindi have for gifting us with over sixty books?), but he is actually trapped and enveloped within a stagnant and predictable world view.

Admittedly, I've only seen samples, but I've never known him to express an original thought, only grammatically mangled banalities such as this week's steaming pile of sacred cow manure: "Everyone, I think, wants a better future, even when troubled times arise and a better future seems far away."

[The original post had a detailed example of Deepak's vileness, but I have excised it for the sake of speeding things along. I'm sure you get the idea.]

Such a mind does not radiate, but envelops; instead of a flowing current, it is a stagnant swamp. Hence, the perfect breeding ground for Monsters of the Id, or projected mind parasites. The problem is, leftist parasites always suck our blood, e.g., through taxes.

We couldn't care less if they sacrificed their own blood to their collectivist god. But why must we be forced to obey their state (as) religion? Isn't that unconstitutional or something?

Now, unKnown Friend points out that God has created -- or results in -- three sources of light: the sun, the moon, and the stars; or, creative light, reflected light, and revealed light; or again, intellect, matter (by which we mean the natural world), and revelation.

With regard to the moon, it is obviously inseparable from the earth around which it revolves (i.e., matter), so that lunar intelligence must be a kind of "reflection" of the material world. In itself, this is not problematic. But when isolated from the Sun of creative evolution and the Stars of revelation -- well, that is how you create the loony moonbat or the farking atheists who bark at the dark and call it light.

Because materiality has only to do with the more or less mechanical and repetitive aspects of the world, to be a moonbat is to exalt matter and convert oneself to a predictable machine that is its servant.

Now, such a thought machine knows nothing of starlight or sunlight, only the relative darkness of matter. And so the intellect is extinguished and "filled with dirt." It becomes as solid and impenetrable as rock, as our dirt-napping trolls mechanically and repetitively prove to us day in, day out.

Again, this is hardly to say that reflected moonlight is unnecessary or worthless. To the contrary, as UF points out, "if deprived of the environment of the material world," we would be "incapable of separating out particular things from their enduring totality and grouping them into categories and classes" (because of the divisibility and malleability of matter), but also "powerless to manufacture the implements and machines" which supplement our "organs of action and perception."

In other words, as we have discussed in a previous card, the radical transcendental realism of a Plato also results in a partial and therefore dysfunctional intelligence, because it regards the material world as totally in flux and therefore incapable of yielding any enduring truth.

Likewise -- or unwise -- the "illusionism" (if that's the proper word) of a Shankara, who regards the phenomenal world as pure maya, or illusion. One reason that there was no development in the Buddhist and Hindu worlds was because of this illusionism. Now that they have imported more realistic ideas from the west, they are taking off economically.

Now, if the Chinese could only find the Sun...

As we noted in that earlier post, both Christianity and Judaism specifically sanctify matter, so that we may develop the proper relationship to it, neither elevating it to a god (pantheism, materialism, atheism, Algoreism) or dismissing it as a kind of evil illusion (manicheism, gnosticism, and many strands of new-ageism, i.e., "The Secret").

Most moonbats are an incoherent combination of the two, in that they absurdly worship a world that is ultimately devoid of meaning. They are the inverse of the Islamists, who wish to destroy a resistant world that doesn't conform to their omnipotent infantile fantasies. Either way, the result is the same: if reality fails to conform to their ideological fantasy, then so much the worse for reality.

Life is ontologically anterior (but existentially posterior) to biology, just as consciousness is prior to matter. Matter is a kind of "congealed intelligence," which is why it is intelligible, precisely.

But it is not a "transparent" intelligibility, since it is always reflected intelligence, and if we identify our own intelligence only with it, we will be unable to leave its sphere and "leap" into the pure intellect -- just as life could never have inscaped matter if it only obeyed the laws of physics.

This latter intellect isn't quite so limited by reflected intelligence, so it sees into metaphysical principles more transparently. There went one just now!

Now, the Gospel of John urges us -- and I'm paraphrasing UF here -- to transpose intelligence from the domain of the created (i.e., the reflected intelligence of matter) to the domain of the creative Word. This is the difference between mere knowledge and true understanding, or between (k) and (n), respectively. The former is always "dead knowledge" (unless we give it life) that is bound to cause confusion and absurdity if we try to apply it to the living Knower.

But the latter is living knowledge, or wisdom, which is also integral knowledge of the whole. It is the knowledge that is "in the beginning," and is therefore always creative and always now. You will have noticed that the radical atheist has no coherent or even minimally credible explanation for the genesis of the knower -- and why anyone, himself included, would care what he thinks -- which is again why his knowledge is both dead and deadening.

Well, that post actually touched on some of the points I made in the Great Lost Post. Careful now: Save. Save again. Copy. No, copy, moron! Paste. Publish. There.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Word is a Bird: Forging our Feathers from Poetry

Back to Whitehead tomorrow. Today we'll wrap up The Star, part of our premeditated ascent on Meditations on the Tarot.

The next major theme discussed by unKnown Friend is poetry. As he puts it, "One cannot pass by poetry if one attaches value to tradition. The whole Bible breathes poetry -- epic, lyric and dramatic..."

Now, poetry is one of those quintessentially human modes that frustrates the reductionistic instincts of scientistic barbarians. To try to contain poetry within materialism is to kill it, for poetry is to language as life is to matter or mind is to life. A "scientistic poet" is a contradiction in terms, for poetry involves the use of something lower in order to express something higher. Poetry highjacks words and then uses them as the vehicle for a climb.

I happen to be reading a lightful little book called Riverrun to Livvy: Lots of Fun Reading the First Page Finnegans Wake (heretofore FW), which has a lot of material related to the mystical and translinguistic properties of language.

In FW, Joyce endeavored to exploit these properties, but only for all they're worth. Indeed, FW is intended to be nothing less than "a working model of the universe," something that is only possible and perhaps even sane because the universe is composed of language (in the sense discussed in yesterday's post).

As wonderful as language is, it can also become diseased, pathological, enfeebled, dead. Consider Marxist or Nazi rhetoric, which are only extreme cases.

But there are also subtle ways in which our minds become hostage to noughty words that really only shoot blanks. This undoubtedly contributed to Joyce's effort to escape the limits of language via his "Wakese." For just as poetry deploys language to express what cannot be said with words, Joyce left conventional language behind in order to express what only words can say.

However, Joyce was only doing "at an accelerated rate what the English language has been doing for centuries" (Cliett), which is to say, stealing, incorporating, morphing, poaching and playgiarizing with other tongues. Cliett notes that English has "accumulated three times the number of words of the next closest language." But Joyce still needed more. As. Do. I. After all, if the existing words were sufficient, we wouldn't be here.

Far from being some sort of superfluous or stupid human trick, poetry is essential to understanding the world. Only dumb-as-a-post modern prejudice tries to convince us otherwise, for poetry "gives wings to imagination, and without winged imagination... no [spiritual] progress is possible" (MOTT).

But this cannot be the undisciplined imagination that seeks only egoic (at best!) self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement -- you know, all those lousy little poets tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson -- but "an imagination that loves truth" and is in conformity with the hyperdimensional Real.

This is why poetry "is not simply a matter of taste, but rather one of fertility (or sterility) of the spirit. Without a poetic vein there can be no access to the life of the Hermetic [i.e., esoteric] tradition" (ibid.).

Poetry defies the law of gravity, and represents "the union of the upper waters and the lower waters on the second day of creation." The poet operates at "the point at which the separated waters meet" and converge, which facilitates a "flow" between realms. Surrealism meets at the other end -- where the lower waters of the unconscious meet with the ego to produce mostly nightmares.

Being that nothing human should be alien to us, surrealism (which is really subrealism) has its place, but real overmental poetry is like a window on the world from which it descends. It has light, power, and truth, because it is written with a combination of "warm human blood" and the "luminous blood of heaven." Such poetry casts a bright bloodlight over the mindscape to reveal things that would otherwise glow ungnosissed.

It it interesting to me that two of my favorite 20th century 〇lymen, Frithjof Schuon and Sri Aurobindo, relied solely on poetry in their later years, abandoning prose altogether. As Aurobindo wrote, "the poet's eyes perpetually go behind the thing visible to the thing essential, so that the symbol and significance are always in a state of interfusion."

In other words, poetry directly transmits something of which it is attempting to describe with words. To get lost in the words can obscure that to which they are pointing, which infuses their very substance. One has to let oneself go and allow the words to lift one up to the realm from which they are a descent.

Poetry transforms language from the closed circle to the open spiral. Note that deconstruction does this as well, but in that case, it is a death spiral that goes straight down into the infrahuman muck of the tenured. It is a result of the naturally supernatural desire of the soul to break free of language, but in the absence of recognition of the Divine hierarchy. Therefore, it is like the exchange of one hell for a worse one, for anyhell involves a closed system from which one cannot escape. The security just becomes tighter the lower one goes from the Logos.

Truly, we can forge our fetters out of language, which results in the flightless turkey of radical secularism. Conversely, we may forge our feathers word by Word to achieve a kind of verbical liftoff.

Of course, some thinkers take the contradictory position, and maintain that the bird is the word:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One + Many = Three

Continuing from yesterday's post, in which we posed the question: is it possible to use Whitehead's process philosophy to illuminate traditional theology, but without doing violence to the latter and descending into an intellectually feeble and metaphysically incoherent moonbattery?

As we have discussed in the past, there has never been a time that Christianity hasn't been in dialogue with philosophy, which is as it should be. Indeed, if one excuses oneself from this dialogue -- as if theology can stand on its own, with no input from the empirical or intellectual worlds -- then one will necessarily revert to an unarticulated and usually naive metaphysic, very much like scientists who unthinkingly conflate scientific method with ontological fact.

Either way, it is not as if you will have avoided metaphysics, only denied it. As Whitehead writes, "religion is among the data of experience which philosophy must weave into its own scheme":

"Philosophy frees itself from the taint of ineffectiveness by its close relations with religion and with science, natural and sociological. It attains its chief importance by fusing the two, namely, religion and science, into one rational scheme of thought..." (in Epperly).

As we know, the early Fathers were influenced by Platonism and neo-Platonism, while the scholastics brought in Aristotle. Up to that point, philosophy was far more unified than it is today. Not to exaggerate, but prior to Kant, one could discern a kind of linear path of philosophical development.

But post-Kant -- in large part because he essentially detached thought from reality, allowing it to become a monument to nothing -- philosophy ramified into the countless rivers, streams, creeks, eddies, gutters, and sewers we see today. Nowadaze -- or so we are asked to believe -- there is no philosophical unity, just a multitude of unprovable opinions. In such a timid and confused climate, it is no wonder that a bloodless scientism is able to carry the day. It is as if these people -- like New York Times readers -- are capable of trusting no source of information above the lowest and most coarse.

Although Whitehead's formal philosophical writing (e.g., Process and Reality) is known for its abstruseness, he was at the same time a memorable quipmeister or gagdad (for a few samples, see here). So, why didn't he write in this clever style all the time? Probably for the same reason that no respectable person would ever take me seriously.

A clash of doctrines is not a disaster--it is an opportunity. It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. Seek simplicity, and distrust it. The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy. The future belongs to those who can rise above the confines of the earth. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

I am not surprised to discover that there is a whole book devoted to The Wit and Wisdom of Alfred North Whitehead. But we're getting off track. I was just searching for a particular comment of his, to the effect that the history of Western philosophy is but a footnote on Plato.

This implies that Whitehead perceived a much deeper unity -- or at least source of unity -- beneath appearances, and indeed, his whole philosophy might be thought of as a search for unity -- not just of the natural world, but of various irreducible antinomies that confront us, such as exterior / interior, subject / object, and consciousness /world. In his description, metaphysics is "a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted" -- a true, and not just tenured, Theory of Everything.

This being the case, it is no wonder that a number of Christian theologians were immediately attracted to his thought, even though, as far as anyone knows, Whitehead himself did not become formally religious.

Now, back to Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. Yesterday we discussed Whitehead's appreciation of the cosmic complementarity of permanence <---> flux. In one sense, religion as such is the "vision," or apprehension (often via faith), of that "which stands beyond, and within, the passing flux of immediate things" (this and all subsequent quotes are in Epperly unless otherwise noted).

Whitehead describes with perfect nonsense the orthoparadoxical nature of this thing we call O: it is "something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest."

This is precisely what motivates your quest, -- your own adventure of consciousness -- whether religious or secular. If it isn't what drives -- or pulls -- you forward, then what the hell are you doing, just going around in meaningless circles? What, did you or someone else perform a logotomy on you? Are you trapped in the I AMber of Groundhog Day?

Then you have failed to assimilate cosmic lesson #1, that "ultimate reality" is (among others) the creative principle, accent on the second word.

Now, how can creativity -- which is always novel, unique, and unprecedented -- be a principle, which is presumed to be a kind of timeless archetype? How can that which can only take place in time be a reflection of the timeless? Because, for Whitehead, "the process itself is the actuality" -- which is somewhat like saying "the noun is the verb," or perhaps "the particle is the wave."

Ultimately, one might say that this is a reflection of the dialectic of Absolute and relative, or of O and Ø. The question is, is Ø "in" O? Yes, of course. Well then, is O in Ø? Again, yes, of course.

This is none other than panentheism, which is apparently more prevalent in Orthodoxy than in the West. For Epperly, this trans-complementarity, as it manifests in theology, "is reflected in the dynamic interplay of the apophatic, 'without images,' and the kataphatic, 'with images,' approach to understanding God."

Here again, this innerplay is "ultimate" insofar as humans are concerned. I suppose one could, in Buddhist fashion, annihilate the creative image-maker, but this only results in a God with no humans, which, as soon as you think about it, is no God at all (which in turn is just another form of God; and no, I'm not just trying to be cute: for the Buddhist, God is no-God, and vice versa).

Instead of seeing the mind as an inexplicable and ultimately irrelevant appendage to reality, Whitehead turned the cosmos back bright-side up, so that both the interior and exterior worlds share the same ultimate principle.

In this regard, he deviates from both scientistic nihilists and from traditional theologians. The former position is not worth refuting, but for the latter, it is the logos which is responsible for both intelligence and intelligibility -- which are two sides of this same Word.

As alluded to yesterday, there are certain aspects of Whitehead's thought that seem to conflict with tradition, but which I find myself embracing. An essential one would involve the nature of this Logos. Traditionally it is indeed understood as word or reason, the former implying a kind of static entity, the latter a mechanical process.

But. What if we tweak that formulation a little, and instead trancelight the two -- word and reason -- as language and creativity, which automatically and continuously create three? If nothing else, at least it would explain everything. So I got that going for me.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Whitehead, Blockhead, Wholehead

Having digested yesterday's post, you may ask yourself: why is Bob not -- or is he? -- a formal Whiteheadian? You know, a process philosopher, or, more to the point, a champion of process theology?

That's actually a fair question. I recently asked it of myself while tending my little amazon kindle garden and noticing the titles under the heading Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.

At the moment there are only two. One of them is The Complete Works of Dostoyevsky, an author to whom -- along with William Shakespeare, Michel de Montaigne, and Maya Angelou -- I am often compared.

The other book is Whitehead's Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy: An Argument for Its Contemporary Relevance.

While that last one may or may not sound intriguing, there's a problem: David Ray Griffin -- probably the most well known process theologian -- is a Category 5 loonibrain and 7.1 assoul on the sphincter scale.

For starters, he is a 911 truther and all-purpose moonbat. He is also co-conspirator of the Center for Process Studies, where kindred spirits talk to each other about such charming subjects as divinity and diversity, the trinity from an eco-womanist perspective, Cornel West’s postmodern theology, process theodicy from an African Perspective, and post-colonial critiques of theopolitical synergies of power.

So there is something about process theology that either turns the mind to mush or attracts mush-heads. I mean, what kind of person takes Cornell West seriously? What next, Whitehead, Sharpton, and Process Poverty Pimpin' ?

Back in the day, I read a fair amount of process theology, but everything I encountered was academic, jargony, coldly technological, politically correct, and devoid of sanctity. Very insular and college campus-y, if you know what I mean, in the same way that the only place one finds Marxists is in universities. Real people don't talk, much less think, like that.

Although one of the premises of process theology is the unification of science and religion, I found that their real objection was to theology, and that they simply misused or misunderstood various scientific principles in order support a secular agenda more to their liking.

As I've said before, a leftist anything is always a leftist first, the whatever a distant second, and this applies perforce to leftist theologies, which in the end (and beginning) attempt to bend theology to the contours of their collectivism, not to derive political philosophy from transcendent truth.

This got me to thinking: surely there must be someone who has used process philosophy to illuminate traditional theology? The closest I've been able to find is a Jesuit professor of theology by the name of Joseph Bracken, but I couldn't get through the first book I tried, which mostly consisted of obvious points couched in unnecessarily technical language, mingled with other apparent points he is unable to express in plain english. Much of it sounds frankly tenured.

So I guess it's down to me again. In order to acquaint myself with the perplexing lay of the scholarly land, I read a book called Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, despite knowing in advance that the book contains some unalloyed moonbattery and theological error, such as the assertion that "process ethics" sees rights as "relational and contextual" rather than absolute or individualistic.

But why? There is nothing in process thought that mandates such a conclusion.

"Further, process theology does not privilege human experience in terms of possessing absolute value." Nor does "being human" "set us apart from from the rest of creation." Again, these erroneous conclusions in no way follow from a process-view of the cosmos.

Speaking of conflating politics and theology, consider the following gem, which is devoid of theology but full of leftist mischief: "economic decision-making must be for the sake of human beings and the whole biosphere." Nice rhetoric, but how would that work in practice? Like Stalinism, or more like Maoism?

"The goals of justice and planetary sustainability are one and the same." Really? Are you sure about that? A lot of things that sustain the planet strike me as more than a little cruel and unjust.

It indeed reminds me of Chairman Mao's excuse for starving tens of millions of peasants: there are too many people on the planet! It is somewhat appalling that any self-styled theologian would try to derive his ethics from nature, for the biosphere indeed has an ironclad will to sustain itself via death, without the slightest concern for the individual.

How do these people take a perfectly fine philosophy and arrive at such nonsense? Or am I missing something, and is the nonsense built into the philosophy? I don't think so, because it is entirely possible to derive political nonsense from sound philosophy, theology, and metaphysics, e.g., the doctrine of predestination or the divine right of kings.

Rather, it is necessary that each plane in the cosmic hierarchy be explicated separately, but in such a way that it does not contradict first principles. One cannot simply blindly apply first principles to every situation, for this ends in a dogmatic and false absolutism.

This is, for example, what creeps people out about Ron Paul. He says plenty of things -- derived from first principles embodied in the Constitution -- that make perfect sense. However, he always goes too far, in that half of what he says results from a blind application of first principles, irrespective of empirical reality.

The same moral confusion afflicts leftists who wouldn't waterboard a known terrorist with information about an imminent attack, owing to an unthinking allegiance to the principle of "non-torture" -- which any normal person shares, up to a point, the point of suicidal insanity.

So let's think through some of Whitehead's first principles, and try to understand where his wackolytes go off the rails. There is much in Epperly's book with which I am in complete sympathy. Indeed, it is because of Whitehead that I have some views -- or at least suspicions -- that would be considered quite non-traditional, more on which as we proceed.

To put it another way, there are certain principles of process theology that allow me to understand aspects of theology that I otherwise wouldn't be able to accept, because they seem to violate common sense principles I am unable to reject.

For example, if theology posited that gravity doesn't exist, I could only pretend to agree with it -- just as I could only pretend to agree with any young-earth scenarios. If I were forced to choose between these two positions, I would have to reject theology in favor of science. But this is an artificial choice rooted in a false premise. Nevertheless, there's a lot of that going around, e.g., either intelligent design or evolution.

Here is an example of a principle I can wholeheadedly embrace: "Process theology describes the dynamic interplay of permanence and flux, evident in the universe and our own lives" (Epperly).

The critical subtext of this sentence is complementarity, in this case between permanence and flux, which might also be called eternity and time, implicate and explicate, potential and actual, one and many, Godhead and God, etc. I do not come down on either side of the complementarity, but rather hold the complementarity to be key.

To cite one conspicuous example, this is how I approach the Trinity, wherein it makes no sense to say that the Father is prior to, or above, the Son. Rather, there is no Father in the absence of Son, and vice versa.

Furthermore, they are, as in Whitehead's scheme, interiorly related, or intersubjective. The one is "in" the other, and vice versa. In normal logic, such an arrangement would be impossible, while in process metaphysics it is necessary, since the process is the reality.

Clearly, we must all grapple with the undeniable flux of things. This is not only an unavoidable conclusion of thought, but seems to be the very occasion for the dawning of thought (or of thinking, to be precise, since it is posterior to the thoughts it thinks).

As we have discussed before, the infant has no need of thinking so long as the mother is present and the two are merged in such a way that he needn't be aware of need or absence. (You can take this literally, figuratively, or mythopoetically.) But something changes. The Great Mother, the source of all warmth, comfort, and nourishment, is missing!

This is the First Thought. You'd be surprised how often people never get past it.

But that is only one side of the psycho-cosmic economy, for as Whitehead writes, "The other notion dwells on permanences of things -- the solid earth, the mountains, the stones [minus Brian Jones], the Egyptian pyramids, the spirit of man, God." Thus, "in the inescapable flux, there is something that abides; in the overwhelming permanence, there is an element that escapes into flux" (Whitehead, in Epperly).

This is one place where the above-referenced theologians go off the rails, for it seems that they embrace the flux part but cast aside the permanence part. Only in so doing could one affirm (absolutely!) that "there are no absolutes."

At long last, sir, have you no irony?

Yes, relativity is (relatively) real. But only because it is a kind of prolongation of the Absolute, a complement, not a competitor -- any more than God's transcendence competes with his immanence.

I'd better stop. To be continued, if there is sufficient interest.

Complementary -- you know, like ebony and ivory:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is God a Verb or a Noun?

For you newly puzzled readers out there or in here, we've been psychopompously conducting a chapter-by-chapter meditation on one of the classics of Christian meta-thought, Meditations on the Tarot. We are now up to XVII, The Star.

This is the aracanum of the evolution of life and of consciousness, which are two phenomenal slides -- or better, mayafestations -- of the same noumenal cosmic process.

To say that life or consciousness "evolve" is equally to say that evolution is none other than life and consciousness deployed on the planes of matter and time (which is why time takes time, especially if it's going to get anywhere meaningful).

As the previous arcanum speaks to the problem of construction (of the Tower), this one discloses the secret of growth, a very strange and surprising property to find in a supposedly dead cosmos.

Whatever else growth is, it is spiritual through and through. To meditate deeply on the nature of growth is to meditate on the workings of the Spirit (without which spiritual growth would obviously be impossible, for it is not something a mere man could ever accomplish or even conceive on his own).

Exactly what is growth? Growth in the sense we are discussing is always a process of complexification of interior relations, whereas construction is an exterior phenomenon only. The tower is built by laying autonomous brick upon brick, but this is clearly not how a body (much less, mind) grows. And as it so happens, it is not this latter type of growth that is the cosmic anomaly.

Rather, just as the mechanistic and atomistic plane of Newtonian physics is a local phenomenon floating atop the deeper processes of the subatomic world, the simple world of Aristotelian logic and linear relations is a kind of local exception to a more fundamental world of process, nonlinear causes, interior relations, and wholeness.

In other worlds -- the real(er) one, to be precise -- biology and evolution presuppose a nonlocal and internally related cosmos, otherwise life -- let alone mind -- could never get off the ground. If Darwinian dogma fails to acknowledge this antecedent principle of nonlocal wholeness, it is a metaphysical house built upon sand, for interior wholeness cannot somehow be shoehorned into an atomistic and materialistic paradigm after the fact.

Indeed, we can only "com-prehend" evolution at all because of the interior cosmic wholeness that permeates both mind and matter, for to understand something is to see into the deep unity beneath its appearance.

A machine has a oneness of function, but no interior unity. In contrast, the body and mind have an essential wholeness which permeates each of the parts (for example, each cell in the body contains the genetic blueprint for the whole).

Furthermore, you can take away many of the parts of a human being -- legs, eyes, pancreas -- and it is still a whole human being. But if you take away the wheels, seat, and handlebars from a bicycle, it isn't a bicycle anymore. This is because the human being is animated by a nonlocal essence, which is his true form (i.e., the soul is the form of the body).

A living thing is full of innumerable flowing circles (both interior and exterior), whereas the tower is static and "dry," so to speak. And even if it requires some exchange of energy -- like an internal combustion engine that requires gasoline -- the engine obviously doesn't engage in autocatalysis. It will always remain an engine no matter how much gas you put into it. (I should add that to grow is to convert the circle to a spiral, more on which in the following card, the mʘʘn.)

UF has a lot of regard for the philosopher Henri Bergson, with whom I have only a nodding acquaintance. I tried, but found him a trifle too French. However, Bergson's ideas have some overlap with Whitehead's, and I prefer my philosophy to be made in America anyway, if possible.

Whitehead was at Harvard (which at the time was still in America) when he switched in his mid-60s from mathematics and physics to philosophy; his metaphysical cosmology wouldn't have gone over in Great Britain, where they were stranded in the nul de slack of logical positivism; and his serious interest in religion would have consigned him to irrelevance in that endarkened intellectual atmosphere. Nor did he fit in with Eliot, Lewis, Tolkien, Dawson, and the rest, since his interest was more scientific and metaphysical than mythic and theological.

I note that the wiki entry says that "prior to World War I, he considered himself an agnostic. Later he returned to religion, without formally joining any church." What is interesting about Whitehead is that he is the first person, to my knowledge, to seriously and fundamentally "think his way" back into religion via modern (post-Einstein and Darwin) science.

As kooky as things are today among the tenured, the 19th century was actually the pinnacle of simplistic scientific mechanism, determinism, and reductionism. Partly because he was one of the few people capable of both understanding quantum physics and grasping its deeper metaphysical implications, Whitehead eventually made the grand Round Trip back to Cosmic Religion (albeit in a somewhat ex-centric manner, more on which later).

Like Whitehead, Bergson recognized that "the essence of duration is to flow," and "the fixed [or externally related] placed side by side with the fixed will never constitute anything which has duration" (MOTT).

In other words, what Bergson calls "duration" is a result of dynamic flow, not of any static extension in time and space. Thanks to modern physics, we now understand that even the most solid-looking object is a flowing iteration of subatomic processes; likewise, if you look close enough at your body, you will see that it is a hive full of billions of buzzing cells going about their quirky business. Just don't do it on acid.

As mentioned the other day, it is absurd to speak of growth in the absence of final causation, or teleology, for that way lies only Cosmic Cancer, i.e., disorganized and self-interested blobs in rebellion against the Whole.

For Teilhard de Chardin -- who is right about some things, wrong about others -- the final cause of the world is what he calls the "Omega point," but we prefer to call it O (or on an individual level, ʘ). It is "that toward which spiritual evolution is tending," which would constitute "the complete unity of the outer and inner, of matter and spirit" -- whom he believes to be none other than the resurrected Jesus Christ (which is, appropriately enough, getting beyond our current head light; like Tebow, we'll comeback to it later).

As Omega point, Jesus is the cosmic archetype, or logos, who both participates in history while transcending it and "luring" existence in his wake. Thus, he is simultaneously -- and necessarily -- fully present in the diverse modes of past, present, and future, each an inevitable reflection of the other. History "drew" God into it (so to speak) in the fullness of time, just as God draws history back to Him in the fullness of eternity. More on this later, since I am pressed for time at the moment.

Here is how UF expresses it, speaking from the First and Final Person perspective: "I am activity, the effective cause, who set all in motion; and I am contemplation, the final cause, who draws towards himself all that which is in movement. I am primordial action; and I am eternal waiting -- for all to arrive where I am."

Which is why we live "outwardly" in a world of dualism, but "inwardly" (or inwordly) in a nonlocal spiritual sensorium that transcends and heals the wound(s) of duality, seen in light of the future unification (not unicity, which destroys distinction) of all -- which is always available now.

This is to unify science and religion, evolution and salvation, or what we call salvolution. It is similar to what Whitehead is trying to convey in the following:

"God and the world are the contrasted opposites in terms of which Creativity achieves its supreme task of transforming disjointed multiplicity, with its diversities in opposition, into concrescent unity, with its diversities in contrast."

Or, call it the transition from an alienated static duality that can never reach O, to an inspiraling complementarity that never really left. This latter (or ladder) is pretty much the purpose of Stayin' Alive, gosh!

Assume the Raccoon position: on the ground but happily looking up:

Vs. static duality:

Friday, December 09, 2011

You Can't Grow a Tower and You Can't Build a Tree

So: specialization can result in a kind of hypertrophy, or imbalance, that leads to a spiritual impasse. In most people the imbalance is obvious, in others more subtle. One often sees this in athletes who have devoted their entire lives to one stupid human trick, such as remaining buoyant in water or hitting a golf ball. Often, the more freakish the skill, the worse the case.

The list is endless, but think of, say, Tiger Woods, whose mastery of the links surpassed any previous golfer, but whose personal life -- such as it is -- was reduced to wallowing in the compulsive iderations of preadolescent sexuality.

It is very much as if only the single meaningless skill sits atop the tower, while the rest of the personality remains below, not only undeveloped but free to act out its primitive dramas because of the vast accumulation of false slack.

unKnown Friend mentions the guru or fakir who indulge in stupid human tricks we cannot or will not do, such as laying on a bed of nails or walking on hot coals.

I am reminded of this fellow, who can supposedly make his brain waves stop when he meditates, for what it's worth. Which apparently isn't much, since he can't even recognize the elementary fact that Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra are grotesque con artists who take advantage of lost, stupid and vulnerable people. As such, one must ask: if this be enlightenment, then truly -- truly -- what is it good for?

"Judge them by their fruits." That is: be skeptical. This should be one's default position vis-a-vis spirituality, otherwise it's too easy to be taken in. The ultimate fruit is sanctity, or saint-making. Therefore, in approaching a religion, sect, or teaching, always ask: where are the saints?

Excuse me?

I said, could you please show me the saints? What, do you think I'm going to commit my life to something without evidence that it actually works?

Importantly, sanctity manifests in a variety of ways, both subjective and objective, but in either case is mediated by "light." Nor are we referring only to the light of virtue, which is how we generally think of the saint.

Rather, there is also sanctity of intellect, which comes down to a "mind of light" (AKA the "good egghead"). Truth is to the mind of light as morality is to the actions of the virtuous. But the mind of light has other characteristics as well, for it is clean, chaste, well-ordered, lighthearted, radiant, generative, magnanimous, and never petty, narrow, self-serving, expedient, or stupidly curious.

This is not to say that there is no darkness in the light. UF writes that the Cross is "mortifying and vivifying at the same time," for it represents the law of evolutionary growth, which is none other than "perpetual dying and becoming." It leads not to "impasses of specialization, but rather 'throughways' of purification -- which lead to illumination and end in union."

The Raccoon chooses the transmutation of perpetual death and rebirth over the folly of mechanical tower-building. The growth that results is a side effect of a life properly lived, not something one attempts to impose upon life from the outside, or with "techniques" or "secret knowledge" or "expensive platitudes."

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how (Mark 5:26, cited in MOTT).

That being the case, anyone who teaches "techniques" for knowing God (with the exception of planting, cultivating, and harvesting) is lying. For how does one teach real sincerity, real aspiration, real surrender? Each of these is both a cause and consequence of interior transformation, but the ultimate cause is from "above."

Even if it should appear to be self-generated, that is already evidence of contact with something higher. As UF puts it, the "lotus centers" awaken naturally "in the light, warmth and life of the true, and beautiful and the good, without any special technical method being applied." There is a naturalness about it, like a key fitting into a lock.

Similarly, there is no place for "ready made answers to all questions," in that a genuine spiritual quest-ion is a crisis and the answer is "a state of consciousness resulting from the crisis" (MOTT).

This is a point worth emphasizing: spiritual growth is consciousness of a reality; it is a new "container," not merely a different content in the same old container, or new wine in the same old skin. But the new container will transform -- either suddenly or gradually -- the old content.

Have you noticed how all of the false stupid, or petty questions instantly evaporate amidst a genuine existential crisis? (Yes, a question can surely be false and even dark -- consider the ones posed by liberal moderators to Republican candidates.)

This is why we know that the "global warming crisis" is anything but. A real crisis has a liberating quality, in the sense that it liberates us from all of the petty concerns that usually rule our lives. It reminds me of when a professional athlete suddenly dies for some reason. Teammates will all comment about how it puts things in perspective and makes them realize that "it's only a game." Which lasts for two or three days before it's back to the Tower.

It makes me wonder if this isn't one of the reasons why there was so much more wisdom in the past, and why our universities have become such flagrant bullshit factories. I suppose that if one is a lifetime tenured ward of the state, it "liberates" one to spend all of one's time fantasizing about the evils of George Bush, or manufacturing crises about "torture," or going on about the urgent need to confer civil rights upon terrorists.

It's almost as if the absence of real existential crises causes the subRaccoon to invent them. Alec Baldwin is incapable of introspection -- the horror! -- so he turns a trivial airplane rule into an epic clash of principles. Flying used to be an elegant experience!, he wails. Yes, until you stepped on the plane.

This was one of the purposes of the symbol system outlined in chapter four of the bʘʘk -- to avoid impasses that can result from religion becoming a kind of mechanical system. The point is not to replace religion, but merely to help prevent it from becoming saturated with a fixed and predigested meaning.

This is something that human beings habitually do, that is, attempt to circumnavelgaze reality within their own little manmade containers, when that is strictly impossible. The moment God becomes contained and saturated, then you're no longer dealing with God, but with your own belly button, or graven image, whether an innie or outie it doesn't matter.

This is why the very last thing John says is a caution to the reader that if one were to attempt to chronicle the whole story of Jesus, "even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). Is this not a severe rebuke to the fundamentalist bibliolaters? In other words, the number of potential books exceeds the carrying capacity of the world container itself.

To a large extent, it comes down to the error of seeing the world atomistically instead of holistically (or rather, as a dynamic complementarity of the two). This also leads to the ideas of psychic "surgery" and "divorce," or, in psychoanalytic parlance, splitting and projective identification (i.e., fantasied evacuation of the contents of one's own mind, either "out," "below," or "off to the side").

As UF writes, "it is the marriage of opposites and not their divorce" which constitutes the proper approach to the altar. Importantly, this is not a "compromise," but a true union. UF notes that "the 'lower self' is the cross of the 'true Self' and the 'true Self' is the cross of the 'lower self.'"

This reminds me of Wilde's comment that the only cure for the senses is the soul, and the only cure for the soul is the senses. Each might well say of the other: can't live with her, can't live without him.

It is easy enough to simply project and dissipate the higher Self, or to split off and repress the lower self. But we want to transform and divinize the lower self in a harmonious union of mind and matter, or spirit and biology. In the absence of this fluid and dynamic union, the mind hardens into a static tower.

It is the same with the marriage of science and religion. I have no trouble marrying the two in such a way that each benefits from the union and produces particularly beautiful and high-functioning children.

Just yesterday I read about one of Chesterton's novels, in which a thief disguised as a priest is eventually discovered. When the thief asks how he sniffed him out, Father Brown answers with words to the effect of, "Easy. You attacked reason. It's bad theology."

But one could say the same of the modern atheist. We know they are thieves because they attack sound theology, which is bad logic. Although in their case it's grand larceny, because they steal from our priceless western tradition in order to destroy it.

Yes, those confined to the tower of scientism have "divided the clothing of the Word and they dispute amongst themselves for priority in the application of the universal principle" (MOTT). They attempt to absolutize their little corner of His tunic, still fresh with warm blood.

In contrast, we do not "in any way take part in dividing the clothing of the crucified Word, nor in drawing lots for its tunic." Rather, we strive "to see the crucified Word clothed in appearance by the mechanical world"(ibid.). Which is where the Word is sufficient to our whys. The deepest ones, anyway.

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