Friday, January 07, 2011

Tilting the Cosmic Pinball Machine

On page 226 it is written that "even if you were to forcefully yank on the brake of the Karmic Express, its sheer momentum will continue to carry it down the tracks for a while."

Thus, one "shouldn't be surprised at the persistent weeds that will continue to sprout in your spiritual garden. These are the result of karmic 'seeds' you have mindlessly deposited throughout your life, each with a different life cycle (many seeds take years to sprout). They will continue to sprout up long after you've stopped being naughty, just as the good seeds you are currently planting will take some time to germinate and yield their sound fruit."

True in 2005, truer today, truest tomorrow.

I know that Bob hates to sound like some kind of hippy-dippy liberal, even though, in the final urinalysis, that is precisely what he is. No one is more surprised than he is over the fascinnoying spectacle of his supposedly liberal generational cohort becoming the leading edge of left-wing psychic conformity, state control, and spiritual materialism. But the reactionary rebel only rebels against himself, so it is easier to just cut out the middleman and identify with the Man himself -- the cause, not the effect.

Now, the idea of karma has become a kind of airy fairy, windy Hindi subject. Nevertheless, as mentioned a couple of posts back, the Bible is full of references to karma -- which is simply cause and effect on the moral plane -- to such an extent that the entire metaphysical system presented in its pages breaks down if we eliminate it -- just as the physical world makes no sense in the absence of horizontal causation.

However, causation on the moral plane cannot be as simple and linear as it is on the material plane. This is easy to understand, because it is true of most any phenomenon above the plane of matter, e.g., biology, history, economics, etc. Each of these is irreducibly nonlinear and non-deterministic.

In the Primordial Tradition of which Raccoons are a nonlocal branch (although we retain our autonomy), there are always no less than three degrees of being: the material, the psychological, and the spiritual worlds, corresponding to body, mind (or soul), and spirit (or intellect, i.e., the nous).

In turn, these three worlds correspond to the three main ways of understanding it, 1) empirical science (the eye of the senses), 2) philosophy (the eye of reason), and 3) theology and metaphysics (the contemplative eye of spirit, or pure intellection and understanding); one might also say fact-truth-wisdom, or observation-axiom-principle. (Ken Wilber does a good job of summarizing this perennial truth in his Eye to Eye.)

Of Aristotle's four causes -- material, formal, efficient, and final -- it is the latter which takes priority for human beings (at least in a free society). It is what organizes and enlists the other three, similar to the manner in which the design of a machine exploits the freedom left over by the boundary conditions of lower levels, e.g., physics and chemistry. We only have the freedom to create a machine because of stable and consistent laws (which is why leftist economics never works, and why transparent and unambiguous law and private property are necessary conditions for the generation of wealth and prosperity).

Now, reality is far too complex for one to ever have anything like complete control over one's fate. However, according to Bolton, "By keeping increasingly free from certain states of mind for long enough, one may exhaust the negative reactions from the world which would need to connect with such corresponding inner states in order to be manifest. In this way, the 'cosmic debts' incurred by the use of negative energies can be dissipated."

This is a critical point, one that Walt immediately picked up on the other day. Obviously the materialist will dismiss it a priori, as his conclusions are always buried in his premises. This is not to be confused with "thinking." We all understand that there are moral causes loose in the world -- think, for example, of Martin Luther King's crusade to make America live up to its first principles.

Partly because actions cannot be divorced from the state of mind -- even the total being -- of the person engaging in them, there is no guarantee that the same action will redound to the same personal consequences. In short, we just don't know, which is all the more reason to be virtuous for its own sake, not for any immediate karmic payoff or huge slackpot.

In turn, this is the benefit of understanding how the total system works, for, among other things, it gives us the patience to gracefully endure what we inevitably have coming to us -- our Cross to bear -- and to gratefully accept those injustices that we would probably deserve anyway in a just world.

To put it another way, in a just world, no man would escape a severe wedgie. Appreciating this is a fine psychic defense against the auto-victimization of the left, which makes a man powerless, resentful, irresponsible, and entitled to that which he doesn't deserve. It is also why we all feel compelled to give Dennis Kucinich the wedgie of his life.

In Keys of Gnosis, Bolton points out that "it is mainly because of the wide variations among these time intervals that the succession of action and reaction passes unnoticed. A major factor here is the degree to which true values inform one's life.... The return of reactions rapidly enough for them to be recognized as such is a sign of closeness to the truth" (italics mine).

This is analogous to what we were saying the other day about how proximity to O effectively "thickens" time, so that we begin to take notice of the nonlocal web of causation that permeates our life. Indeed, it is difficult to ignore. Reminds me of a couple of tunes from Van Morrison's Poetic Champions Compose:

There are strange things happening every day / I hear music up above my head / Fill me up with wonder / Give me my rapture today (Give Me My Rapture), and

I began to realize the magic in my life / See it manifest in oh so many ways / Every day is gettin' better and better / I wanna be daily walking close to you (Did Ye Get Healed?)

Conversely, "the long or indefinite delay of [reactions] is a sign that one has strayed too far from the truth to be able to atone for wrongs in this life." We want to believe we can instantaneously turn things around and realize the magic in our life -- to "see it manifest in oh so many ways" -- but that can't possibly occur without undermining the logic of the whole system. It's not that easy to create a moral universe. You try it.

Just as in science, many things are known to be true by virtue of the fact that if they weren't, then a multitude of other truths would be nullified as well, and the whole existentialada would fall apart. It's no different on the metaphysical plane, where most things are known to be true because they must be. The karmic web of cause and effect is one such example. To say I AM is to implicitly say I AM TRUTH and I AM GOOD, and therefore I AM the WAY.

This is why, unlike those new age frauds, Bob doesn't make the absurd claim that if you read his book you will somehow achieve "instant enlightenment." Rather, he makes the much more humble guarantee of eternal life while you wait. (Waiting times may vary. Claim has no caché value. Tenured not eligible for this offer. Void where prohibited by left.)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

There's One in Every Cloud

That might be the most star power I've ever had in one dream -- a cavalcade of marginal talent, including Jennifer Aniston, Robert Redford, and Sally Field. Why my Dreamer cast those three in particular is something of mystery, but at one point Redford mentioned that Joe Biden had suffered a disabling stroke. My kneejerk reaction was "how can they tell?"

Which I immediately regretted, because I'm not normally like that in mixed company. I live in a liberal state and in a liberal city, and work in a liberal if not completely gay profession. I'm used to stifling my thoughts and maintaining a discrete silence in such a hostile environment, since it is pointless to argue with a liberal. To do so is to not know what a liberal is. Liberalism can only be "awakened from," not argued out of.

Yes, on the blog I often have the needle out, but that's because it is addressed to like-minded people, so it's all in fun. I am not here to argue but to help, and I am not presumptuous enough to imagine that I could help you, of all people. If the blog doesn't benefit you, then there are no hard feelings. You may go your way and zen no more. But many people are attracted to what they hate, thus the trolls. If you search your past, perhaps you may have once been like this yourself -- looking for conflict as a way to externalize your own absence of tranquility.

I know I was. I used to enjoy the bracing sensation of verbal aggression along my keel. In this regard, it is important to examine the feelings one is experiencing amidst aggression, whether it is verbal or physical. You may notice a primitive sensation that is pleasurable even though it is being destructive. Our trolls generally drip this from every pore. Which is why I counsel readers to respond to them with good humor and to always leave a quip, otherwise there is the danger of being enlisted into their angry little drama.

Now, back to our transconscious journey through the hidden arteries of the cosmos to look for the meaning and purpose of free will, which otherwise hangs suspended from our official scientific paradigm like a loose shirttail with no footprints in the air.

Either human freedom is significant, or it is not significant. But if it is not significant, then it is difficult to account for how only the existence of freedom makes possible something as manifestly significant as science.

And how can one promulgate a Science that is unable to justify the necessary conditions for its own practice, i.e., minds that are free to discover truth? If you don't see that freedom and truth are necessary conditions of each other, then you just don't see, period. You are metaphysically blind. I'd say get lost, but you already are. So get found!

Actually, we prefer to employ the word liberty, since mere freedom is neither here nor there. Animals are free of constraint, but so what? We do not advocate a radical bewilderness oddventure in which every spud is free to live in his own private Idaho. Just as knowledge can only exist in a universe of unconditional truth, liberty must be oriented around the Good. Otherwise we merely have the tyrannical freedom discussed by bedwetting existentialists such as Sartre, i.e., a freedom indistinguishable from nothingness.

The whole purpose of traditional metaphysics is to show us what must necessarily be concretely true, despite appearances -- not only what is true in this particular cosmos, but in any hypothetical cosmic maninfestation. Traditional metaphysics deals with the very conditions of existence. Period.

On a deeper level, religion discloses this objective metaphysics through its symbolic forms. The fact that scripture does this in such a way that it transcends whatever its writers thought they were writing about, leads to the conclusion that it is at the very least "inspired," but "revealed" is probably more like it.

Interestingly, Dennis Prager was discussing this the other day, in his "ultimate issues" hour. For the remainder of 2011, he plans to use this hour to explain why the Bible is the wisest book ever written, irrespective of whether one is religious or atheist. Rather, he is going to discuss the book on its own merits, and subject it to the same critique one would any other work of philosophy. (In this regard, his approach is similar to Kass's The Beginning of Wisdom.)

But as we were saying yesterday, if you think about the barbarity of the Hebrew tribes that were handed the Jewish revelation, you know that it couldn't have sprung from the unaided mind of man as such. At best, they could have come up with transparently childlike and speculative myths and fairy tales, not any kind of transcendent wisdom that would fruitfully attract and occupy the sharpest human minds for the subsequent three or four thousand years.

It is difficult to imagine any of the new rabble of atheistic sods expressing a single thought that won't be forgotten just as soon as they're safely beneath the sod, let alone pored over thousands of years from now. In a way, these flatulent earthbounders are just the inevitable shadow given off by the light, parasightless Nietzschean leeches on the inner reaches of primordial speechings and celestial teachings.

Let's look at it -- or listen to it -- this way. Think of the thousands of musical sophisticates who have obtained Ph.D.s in music in the past half century. How many of them have written a single note of music that will be remurmured by thousands of lips hence?

Flatlanders do not see the secret because it is not at the bottom of the cosmos, where they are constrained to live, but at the top. And one cannot disclose its existence by pulverizing matter into smaller and smaller bits with bigger and bigger hammers.

Since existence is a hierarchical manifestation from above, it is as if each level is "stamped" by the level immediately above. As such, there is inevitably some information that is "lost" with each successive level. Thus, the higher can disclose the lower, but the lower can only partially disclose the higher. As we have said, life isn't the secret of DNA; rather, DNA is the secret of life. And sow on and sow on, if you seed what we meme. That's the harvest part.

Do letters cause words, or vice versa? Do words cause sentences? Don't be an idiot. Yes, letters are more "fundamental" than words, in the same way that physics is more fundamental than biology. But to employ Ken Wilber's nomenclature, fundamental does not mean significant. Significance is at the top, not the bottom; or, to be precise, significance is located along the vertical spectrum.

This is why, no matter what you say about the Creator, it is both too much and never enough, because it can't possibly "contain" him without distorting him. Human language can contain what is lower than language, but never what is higher. It can only symbolize or indicate the higher -- which, I might add, is completely adequate for the spiritually normal.

That is to say, the higher dimensions may be spoken of in a poetic, symbolic, elliptical, or suggestive manner, through which the symbol implicitly resonates with much more than we could explicitly say.

I suppose it's somewhat analogous to opera. In opera, the story line is usually rather lame and skeletal. It only hints at the real action, which is taking place on a purely musical level. If the libretto were less lame -- i.e., more saturated and detailed -- this would obscure the much deeper level of transverbal meaning which the music is disclosing.

This, of course, is why Jesus speaks in parables. For one thing, being who he is, he cannot speak in any other way (since his being vastly transcends the human container, which includes language). But even on a purely talktical level, this is the only way to ensure that his words will have a timeless and transcultural relevance. He only says enough so that you may participate in the transcendent reality he is talking about. Say too much, and the listener is stuck in religio-scientific fundamentalist flatland. Say too little and he is alone in a cloud, fruitlessly deepakin' the chopra.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Why Good Things Happen... At All

When last we spoke, we were discussing the cosmic Law of cause and effect, or of moral causality -- the latter of which exists, but not always as rapidly and efficiently (as compared to material causes) as we would like. But this has always been known; some version of The wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine has been making the rounds since antiquity.

Likewise the flusteration and doubtrage when the blue meanies seem to triumph -- for nothing provokes doubt more than the appearance of injustice. Justice is implanted in our hearts, but only the childish, the stupid, and the left (I repeat myself) imagine that perfect justice can be achieved on earth.

But most people ask the wrong question, or look out the wrong end of the teloscope. As far as we are concerned, the question is not why good things happen to bad people, but why good things happen at all. Of course pleasant things must happen, but good things ought to happen, and the world of the ought begins where natural science ends -- the latter of which deals with the is only, and even then, the manner in which the Is appears to our senses.

Thus, if one is a flat cosmos materialist, then there is no mystery, since the only question is why pleasurable things happen, and pleasurable things happen because certain subjective sensations were selected by evolution in order to tell us when we are engaging in some life-enhancing activity that increases our chances of passing on our genes, like bashing in someone's head when they don't see things our way, or raping the next attractive woman who comes along.

But every conscious being knows that the moral order cannot be reduced to neurology and genes, any more than a great work of art can be reduced to its molecular components. Thus, if one is a materialist, then one must necessarily be a cynic, as the cynic is able to see through the naive people who believe in a fixed moral order. The cynic knows that these people are just fooling themselves -- or worse yet, just trying to manipulate and control others -- and that good and evil cannot actually exist.

Deep -- or even not so deep -- down, we all know that there are objectively bad behaviors, which negates the materialist's frivolous argument, but this has no impact upon him, since for him truth cannot exist either.

If the materialist is intellectually honest, he will have to acknowledge that Bach was just a musical con man, what with his sinister idea that the purpose of his music was to reveal the divine order, or that Abraham Lincoln was just a tyrant and demagogue who used the slavery issue to consolidate presidential power in unprecedented ways, or that Christians only pretend a fetus has some intrinsic value in order to gain control over women's bodies.

O, what is a troll but the lice on Bob's transdimensional vapor trail? But enviously suckling on the creativity of another feels good, so it must be right. We wouldn't know, but biting ankles must feel like an accomplishment to someone who has never seen a calf, knee, or thighbone.

Now, as far as we can tell, one of the intrafamilial squabbles between Judaism and Christianity -- but not really, as we shall see -- is over the value of action in isolation from the state of the soul engaging in it. We have heard Dennis Prager (Medved too) speak of this on numerous occasions, that in Jewish thought, the overriding concern is the value of the action, not the motivations of the person engaging in it. Thus, bad people can do a lot of good. "Charity and pride have different aims, yet both feed the poor," say the rabbis.

There is obviously some real truth to this, but I think that overall, taken in isolation, this is a morality intended for an earlier age. It is certainly not invalid, but incomplete for the spiritual aspirant who wishes to ascend beyond moral convention toward the source of morality itself.

Clearly, Judaism was a covenant with a people, a collective. This is perfectly appropriate, being that the individual as we understand it simply did not exist at the time of the Jewish revelation, which we believe was vitally necessary in order to create the context for the interior individual to later emerge.

This is not to say that the Jewish approach is negated by Christianity. To the extent that it is "transcended," it is only because it must be included in the Christian approach, just as Jesus said, i.e., that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

In our view, truly fulfilling the law would be to merge action and intention, heart and body, spirit and letter, words and music, man and God. There remain Christians who emphasize works, others who emphasize faith, but to the extent that we wish to become "perfect," there should really be a marriage of the two.

Nevertheless, man's capacity for autoflimflammery, or pulling the wool over his own I, is more or less infinite, so it is morally perilous to operate without the sort of external guide rails provided by a revealed moral code filtered through contemplative generations of The Wise.

Or, as Rabbi Zimmerman expresses it, To live outside the law you must be honest. Virtually all people need to be shown the good before they can see and know the good -- even though the good must already be "inside" in order to recognize it "outside." A life spent contemplating the Law in the manner of a Jewish sage no doubt has a transformative and purifying effect on the soul, for as the Yiddish saying goes, Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.

I can see how this operates in real time, since my five and a-half year old attends a Catholic school where his fresh dough is being baked in a really wonderful way.

This has direct relevance to our discussion of free will, for a good action that is forced is just as servile and unfree as a bad action, just as a dog that is trained to assist a blind person isn't really "choosing" the good. The dog could just as easily transfer its loyalty to Kim Jung Il, assuming he didn't eat it first.

Similarly, memorizing truth in a rote fashion can never be the same as possessing wisdom, no matter how true. To quote another rabbinical quip, "he falsifies who renders a verse just as it looks." Indeed, "for every answer you can find a new question." Thus the ironyclad Bionic adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.

So intentions do matter, especially when it comes to the modern self, which is much more "interior." In a way, this is more challenging than merely engaging in outwardly good deeds, for it adds a whole new world in need of purification and sanctification.

For no sooner had this new interior self emerged, than a whole host of new evils flooded into the psychospiritual world, or at least exacerbated the old ones. With the modern self came the appearance of the kind of unlimited evil we witnessed in the 20th century, and which we now see in Islamofascism. Islam becomes combustible when merged with certain "ideals" imported from the modern West, among them, fascism and scientific technology. Imagine if, say, the ancient Mesopotamians had had access to weapons of mass destruction, and not just the modern ones.

Bolton agrees that "physically similar actions can differ internally." Perhaps most importantly, "the actions of conscious agents owe so much of their true nature to the beliefs and intentions with which they are performed." And it is on the level of intention that the Law (discussed yesterday) really becomes apparent and that "like attracts like."

This is why people are not united by common actions, but by a common spirit that draws them together into the same spiritual attractor. Even the blatantly anti-spiritual left operates out of a debased spiritual attractor that will be well familiar to Raccoons. We understand them perfectly, but they cannot understand us.

In turn, this is why there is a "culture war" in America, and why the frumpy no-labelists who complain that there is "too much divisiveness" are missing the whole point. John Edwards is correct: there are two Americas -- the material flatland of his Marxian fantasies, and the real one. In his world, theft is moral because it is detached from the moral order that he doesn't recognize to begin with. Which is how he became wealthy.

Bolton says that it is on the interior plane that we will especially see the effect of the Law, as we attract people and things into our life which share a similar "spirit."

For example, Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here, "attractor to attractor," something that becomes increasingly clear as one's internal attractor develops in time. Why the trolls are drawn here is a different matter entirely, although for some, there may actually be a latent good spirit that was attracted here but which is concealed by their envy and intellectual deadness. For them there is hope yet, so long as the pilot light isn't extinguished.

Bolton goes on to emphasize that "interior" does not necessarily mean "private," and that the interior does affect the exterior:

"By virtue of the Law, actions and orientations are never merely private, despite appearances. Consequently, a manner of being which deepens the relation to God and universal values, and so identifies with a more concrete reality, thus interacts with the ambient world simply by being a part of it. This is to be the instrument of an action of presence which necessarily attracts proportionate positive action from the world, and so liberates potentialities within it which increase its order and stability."

Which is why the rabbis teach that a minimum of 36 righteous souls in each generation is required to sustain the world. Yes, that's all it takes to keep all the leftist do-gooders in check.

When the great Tao is forgotten, goodness and piety appear. --Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Spiritual Conspirators and Atheistic Lone Nuts

If we're going to try to understand free will and its limits, then we had better try to understand the nature of causality, especially as it applies to realms above matter.

The horizontal and linear causation of natural science (at least above the quantum level) is fairly well understood, if not in essence, at least for practical purposes.

In the last two or three decades, science has also developed a greater appreciation of chaos and complexity, i.e., dynamic systems that are intrinsically unpredictable. Because of the multitude of variable causal inputs -- not to mention random noise -- there is no way to predict the behavior of the system in a deterministic way (for example, the weather, or the human brain).

The situation only becomes more challenging when we toss vertical causation into the mix, since science has no idea how the mind can affect the body in a top-down manner (let alone how the soul affects the mind), nor how the material body interacts with the immaterial mind. (And this is leaving aside the impossibility of natural processes ever being the "cause" of infinitely higher realities such as truth; nothing can be the cause of what transcends it.)

In fact, because of its own self-imposed limitations, this is an area that science as presently conceived will never understand. As it stands, science mostly deals with the problem by treating mind as an epiphenomenon of genetic and electrochemical processes.

In short, researchers apply what they think they understand to what they clearly don't, which ends in a mythological pseudo-science more primitive than phrenology. One thinks of the tenured mechanics who attempt to identify the "god part" of the brain. Why not the "bogus science part" of the brain?

Not only does the brain qualify as a quintessential dynamic system, but it contains so many billions of causal links that only a fool would suggest that it can be understood deterministically. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter remains that my immaterial self can conceive the idea of making a fist, and it happens. Somehow the idea is translated to will, which somehow enlists billions of nerve cells to get organized and instantaneously do its bidding.

In contrast, if I notice that my hand is in the shape of a fist, this does not send a signal to my brain that I should punch someone. Human beings are not causally closed systems. Nevertheless, there is clearly a two-way channel between psyche and soma. In fact, at birth -- and for a couple of years thereafter -- we do not have a clear concept of self. Rather, we start with a "body ego" that is more or less merged with the (m)other (or maternal environment).

Only gradually, through the slow process of separation and individuation, do we (some of us) develop an autonomous and unique self (note also that human uniqueness is absolutely inconsistent with any kind of reductionistic causality). But even then, the conscious self forever remains in a dialectical relationship to its unconscious -- or supraconscious -- ground. It's not as if we can ever leave the orbit of that wi(l)der world.

In his Keys of Gnosis, Bolton describes another dimension of causality, the cosmic law of "action and reaction," and how this relates to providence and fate.

Until modern times, religion often had more to do with the attempt to magically control external circumstances, an idea which became increasingly untenable with the rise of science. As a result, religion became more of an interior pursuit for extreme seekers, dealing less with material than spiritual reality.

Bolton provides a useful way to think through this dualism, and to steer a course between what amounts to deism -- that is, an impersonal God of the philosophers and mathematicians who merely got the universe underway, but has a hands-off policy thereafter; and the "cosmic bellhop" of popular mythology, i.e., a God who magically fulfills our every infantile wish like a liberal politician.

As Bolton points out, one cannot deny the fact that scripture makes numerous references to the law of action and reaction (henceforth, "the Law") -- that is, the idea that we reap what we sow, that those who live by the sword shall die by it, "forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors," etc. In a word, karma. The Bible is filled with references to karma -- that what goes around comes around, and that evil will be punished and good rewarded.

Obviously we all want this to be true, but is it true in fact? It seems that most people conclude that it can't possibly be true -- that everywhere the wicked flourish and the decent are punished. Therefore, in order to maintain the belief in a just cosmos, reward and punishment must take place on some post-mortem plane.

More generally, if the very nature of the universe proves to us that it must have been created, and that its creator must be good, then goodness must somehow prevail "in the end." Thus, the cosmos must be moral through and through, even if it's often in a very obscure way due to the hierarchical complexity of manifest existence, both spatially and temporally.

Furthermore, the cosmos is obviously not a machine and man is clearly free. If the cosmos were a machine, then we would see an immediate relationship between cause and effect on the moral plane. You'd do something bad, and a lightning bolt would come down and strike you from the sky.

But if morality operated in this instantaneous manner, then we wouldn't actually be morally free in any meaningful way. Rather, we'd just be good to avoid the punishment. We would not inhabit a moral space in which we are free to choose between good and evil, and no one would be good for goodness' sake, so there would be no Christmas presence.

It is interesting that materialists naturally accept the existence of cause and effect on the material plane. And yet, they deny the possibility of anything similar on the moral plane, which is one more reason why their metaphysic is so feeble.

But if we turn the cosmos upside down -- which is to say, right side up -- then we can see that material cause and effect is simply the "residue" of the first cause, which must be above, not below. One cannot derive free will from materialism, but one can derive matter from a freely willed universe. And as Bob mentioned yesterday, humans can only exercise freedom in a universe that has a stable foundation, so to speak, i.e., predictable boundary conditions (which include moral laws).

I think most senior Raccoons will have noticed that as one comes into closer proximity to O (so to speak), one also "shortens" the distance between cause and effect on the moral plane.

As one is drawn more deeply into the Great Attractor beam, the web of synchronicities becomes more dense, and the Law becomes more apparent. Something happens to time, whereby it "thickens," and we begin to intuit all sorts of causal connections operating along different, immaterial timelines. Eventually it begins to look as if our life were more of an airy-tale conSpiracy (↓↑) than the breathless workings of a lone nut (•).

To be continued....

Monday, January 03, 2011

Cosmic Freedom and Inward Mobility

It's interesting that your "new year" follows on the heels of the cosmic renewal of Christmas. Since pagans lived in cyclical time, it was thought that one could actually have a fresh start with a new temporal cycle -- which is undoubtedly why we retain the atavism of "new year's resolutions" and why they usually don't work. As a psychotic patient of mine once said, "karma has a way of coming back and biting you in the ass."

The lesson of Christmas is that a much more radical intervention is necessary for fundamental change to occur, and that to change anything, we only have to change everything, i.e., repent, which simply means to "turn around" -- or do a I80 and revolve in order to resolve and evolve.

True, since Jesus was born in the spring, Christmas was grafted onto pagan winter festivals. However, this was not in order to imitate them, but to sanctify them -- to cleanse them of their pointless cyclicality and to introduce some linearity and teleology into the situation.

Once the implicit idea is promulgated that a single human life forms the axis of history and the center of the cosmos, then we are no longer half-conscious, quasi-animal beings embedded in the rhythms of nature, but awake to the irreversible, future-oriented nature of time and therefore life. We are aboard the cosmic telovator.

Yes, this does merge with our discussion of free will, for free will is an irreducibly spiritual faculty immaculately dropped from above into voidgin nature. You might say that free will is like the seed that makes our lives potentially fruitful. But like any seed, the proper conditions are required for it to grow and thrive.

And speaking of free will, a book we discussed a couple of days ago, Hans Jonas' The Phenomenon of Life, has a chapter on the subject that summarizes the absurdity of denying it. Not to beat a dead nag, but it's an important subject, since it is both a necessary and sufficient cause of our humanness -- in other words, a condition with which the soul -- and without which it cannot -- finds expression. In short, if there is a soul there is free will, and vice versa. They are two sides of the same coin.

Jonas adopts the same perspective we did in the book, of the "martian's eye view." Imagine explorers from another planet investigating the biosphere and trying to ascertain the presence of "men." What would be their criteria?

"Our explorers enter a cave, and on the walls they discern lines or other configurations that must have been produced artificially, that have no structural function, and that suggest a likeness to one or another of the living forms encountered outside." Even "the crudest and most childish drawing would be just as conclusive as the frescoes of Michelangelo."

Of what, exactly? Of a relation to ideas that have no direct bearing upon purely biological ends. Here is evidence of an exit from the world of mere life, and entrance to the world of mind.

Thus, "just as a footprint is a sign of the foot that made it," a picture is not a sign of the hand that made it but of the mind that conceived it -- and that abstracted some essence from the object before representing it. In order to depict the essence one must first perceive the essence. This implies the ability to distinguish form from substance or mind from matter.

Painting involves a transformation and preservation of essence from one medium to another. Obviously, no animal can do this. Rather, they confront only a world of objects. To the extent that they perceive interiors, it is only through invariant signs, not symbols -- and a sign is really closer to an exterior (like a stop sign, which doesn't reveal anything about the person who made it).

Now, to know the distinction between form and substance is to be capable of distinguishing between appearance and reality, or surface and depth. And as mentioned the other day, to know that appearances are deceptive is to know that truth exists, for truth is simply the splendor of the Real (just as beauty is the splendor of the true).

Clearly, in order to distinguish between appearance and reality, there must be a kind of "space" in between. This is the middle earthspace inhobbited by human consciousness. Just as animals live in a world of appearances, God is the being who lives in truth and reality -- or is not different from them. And the human station is in between these two, God and nature, the One and the many.

Note that in Genesis man is given the power to name the animals. As Jonas explains, "the giving of names to objects is here regarded as the first feat of the newly created man and as the first distinctively human act." It is a "step beyond creation," or liberation from being plunged solely into the world of matter. In order to name something, we must be above it, and be capable of perceiving the unity beneath the multiplicity (which is another way of saying the reality behind appearances).

As Bolton points out, there can be no such thing as absolute freedom on the human plane. Given what we have stated above, such an idea is metaphysically absurd, since freedom can only meaningfully exist within a context of restraint or limitation. To exercise freedom is to transcend limitation, not to abolish it or pretend it doesn't exist. It is to use limitation as a springboard to vault oneself "higher" or "deeper" into this thing we call reality -- just as a boat doesn't deny water but floats atop it.

For example, let's say we wish to be radically linguistically free. We will not advance our freedom by abolishing the limitations of alphabet and grammar, but rather, simply destroy our ability to speak meaningfully.

If you do manage to abolish alphabet and syntax, you will not be more free but less so, since you will have no freedom to move about within the higher dimensional semantic space that is disclosed by language, but built upon stable rules. At best, you will have a meaningless sort of horizontal freedom in which you are only at liberty to rant and gesture, like our trolls.

This is why, in order to properly speak the Raccoon language of Obonics, linguistic precision is so necessary. You will notice that when you pick up most any "new age" type book -- in fact, unfortunately, many conventional religious books as well -- the language conveniently goes wobbly just at that critical juncture when you most need it to go Bobbly.

These frauds use language in such a way that they make you feel as if the fault is within you, not them. Philosophers and academics pull the same cunning stunt all the time.

But if you truly understand something, then it shouldn't be difficult to find the words to convey that understanding to another, at least assuming adequate communication skills and good faith in the reader. (I might add that where the new agers use fuzzy language to conceal their ignorance, the conventionally religious often fall back on overly rigid and saturated formulas to cover over their lack of understanding.)

As Polanyi explained, true freedom results from a higher level exploiting the freedom left over by the boundary conditions of a lower level. This is why even a machine cannot be reduced to a machine.

Rather, in order to create a machine, we employ the boundary conditions of physics and chemistry to manufacture something with a purpose, say, an automobile engine. With the engine, we are free to travel from here to there, but only because of the stable and deterministic boundary conditions of physics and chemistry. Without them we'd be nowhere. And nobody.

Speaking of which, one of the reasons the Mohammedans are so unfree is that their metaphysics does not permit the existence of unvarying boundary conditions free from Allah's constant meddling.

In other words, instead of a rational universe that operates along the lines of fixed principles, they imagine that Allah is intervening "vertically" at every moment to directly cause everything. This is also why they are so fatalistic, which only undermines everything that religion is here to mitigate, which is to say, fate. The purpose of religion is to make us more free, not less free. Truth has a way of doing that.

(One is reminded of Obama's heavy-handed approach -- and FDR's before him -- to economics, which creates so much uncertainty in investors. He's like an economic Allah whose daily whim is the new law. Which is no law at all.)

Yes, as much as we might resent those middling relativities and sin-laws that cramp our style, we really can't do without them. Freedom can only exist in a cosmos with predictable boundary conditions with which to build upward and inward.

By the way -- and I suppose this isn't a peripheral point -- this is why it is so absurd to suggest that liberals are "pro-freedom." I mean, we already know this isn't true, what with speech codes, political correctness, racial quotas, confiscatory taxes, etc.

But these things only flow from the fact that liberalism is anti-freedom in principle, since it celebrates the elimination of all the time-tested boundary conditions -- i.e., spiritual values -- that have made Western civilization so extraordinarily successful in beating back the darkness and vaulting us into the Light.

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