Thursday, January 12, 2012

Evil is Necessary in a Cosmos that Isn't, but Woe to the Man who Messes with Sophia!

Is it possible that Truth, Love, and Beauty could have their "dark sides," so to speak?

Properly speaking, no; or perhaps yes and NO. For just as light casts a shadow, Truth seems to entail the lie (for the converse could never be true, and lies are obviously all around and often in us).

I am sure this is why Jesus said in the presence of his nonplussed audience, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Is this an argument against Jesus' divinity? No. Only the wrong kind of divinity, i.e., monophysitism.

Jesus' strictly orthoparadoxical formulation is somewhat of a self-tautology (for he was omschooled), like saying, "nothing is true but Truth alone." But it goes to the ineluctable fact that everything in the realm of manifestation or creation is more or less distant from its Principle or Creator, hence the existence of lies, evil, ugliness, etc. Thank God we can never measure up, otherwise we couldn't measure at all!

Only a fool or a downright decent person asks why there is evil in the world. Infinitely more mysterious is why there are good (or beautiful, or honest, or loving, or virtuous) people to ask the question.

To put it bluntly, evil is necessary (but not permissible!) in a cosmos that isn't. Thus, why do you say I am bad? Nothing is bad except separation from the Creator. All other sin is both unoriginal and derivative.

In other words, if the world were necessary and not contingent, evil could be readily explained without recourse to the Creator. Nothing would be a mystery, even though man couldn't know it. If good didn't exist, we would never puzzle over why things aren't.

But to ask "why is there evil?" is to implicitly recognize the priority of the good. No animal asks this question. Or perhaps only animals, depending upon the depth of their disingenuousness. Either way, in the absence of God, evil is pure illusion anyway, just a projection of animal fear and desire. Only an implicit theologian even asks the question. A true atheist or consistent Darwinian wouldn't waste a second puzzling over it.

But the world is creation, therefore "other" than Creator. It is this essential otherness that brings out the naughtiness in things. And the only cure for otherness is the "link" or bridge of love -- although love manifests in the forms of truth, beauty, and goodness. To deny these latter transcendentals is to pull up one's cosmic drawbridge and live in a dark and silent tomb.

For example, seeing my neighbor as myself overcomes the "otherness" between us, and therefore all of the falsehoods that tend to fill that intersubjective space: envy, paranoia, jealousy, aggression, etc. Love your God. And love the stranger. If I am not mistaken, this would be the essence of Torah.

To put it another way, as we have discussed before, the first five Commandments are "vertical," and govern man-to-God relations. The second five can be thought of as their horizontal prolongation in the world, governing man-to-man relations. The first five emphasize the closeness between man and God. This closeness, if it is "real," will result in solidarity with one's fellow man. In Jesus, this closeness between man and God is "perfect."

But it is a mistake, I believe, to emphasize the Godhood and not the closeness, for in a trinitarian metaphysic, the closeness is God, so to speak. In the above wise crack, Jesus is, among other things, counseling against idolatry.

"The dark side of the good" can also occur as a result of an imbalance or absence of harmony -- the over- or under-emphasis of a principle that can become "less than true" if stripped from its total context.

For example, let's talk about the dangers of beauty. I would say that on the whole, men are more aware of this danger than women, being that women are the primary danger.

Yesterday Mizz E left a comment that speaks to this subject, a "Decalogue of the Artist" as articulated by the Chile Bowl cook-off prize winner -- or possibly Chilean Nobel Prize winner, I forget -- Gabriela Mistral. For example, You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God 
over the Universe. Note the word shadow. Yes, beauty is "divine light," but not divinity itself, for that way lies idolatry:

Each act of creation shall leave you humble, 
for it is never as great as your dream and always 
inferior to that most marvelous dream of God 
which is Nature.

Here's how our unKnown Friend explains it: the good severed from the beautiful "hardens into principles and laws -- it becomes pure duty."

Likewise, "the beautiful which is detached from the good... becomes softened into pure enjoyment -- stripped of obligation and responsibility." This is the "art for art's sake" of an aesthetic hedonism that soon becomes luciferic at best. Mistral:

You shall create beauty not to excite the senses 
but to give sustenance to the soul. And You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury 
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.

"The hardening of the good into a moral code and the softening of the beautiful to pure pleasure is the result of the separation of the good and beautiful -- be it morally, in religion, or in art. It is thus that a legalistic moralism and a pure aestheticism of little depth have come into existence."

On the one hand, you can have the clenched religious type without joy or art (or, conversely, with a joy and art that are equally kitsch), who co-arises with his shadow, the increasingly antisocial artiste who has become more or less detached from objective truth and virtue (or, conversely, becomes a tedious purveyor of political correctness as a substitute for truth and decency).

Soon enough beauty slips down the wayslide as well, so that art no longer even justifies its existence, for man has no cosmic right to produce ugliness. Or, he is always free, but never at liberty, to be such a thugly assoul. We have all heard the expression "shit masquerading as art," but this is only possible because there are shitheads masquerading as artists.

You will recall that when the Creator enjoyed the First Weekend after six loooooong days of creation, he said to himsoph, it is good. For Sophia was light there withim as he drew that *circle* on the face of the deep (Proverbs 22). Which is why this beautiful creation is infused with so much inexhaustible -- and beautiful -- truth. Which is none other then the Divine Light in all its metaphysical transparency.

So, the arcanum of The World is here to offer a gentle warning to those who would mess with the Creator's woman, because she is your sister (Proverbs 7), not your wife. So back off before you commit the oedipal crime of the ages.


Verdiales said...

And she's not your mistress, either, despite her many obvious attractions.

Gagdad Bob said...

Or mysteress. And we know what happens when one tries to marry mamamaya!

julie said...

Either way, in the absence of God, evil is pure illusion anyway, just a projection of animal fear and desire.

I always find it a little sad when would-be atheists pout that the presence of evil means that if there is a god, he's mean, so screw that guy. It never occurs to them that the way of base nature is a very cruel way, and that the only reason there's any good at all is because God Is, and Is Good.

Yes, beauty is "divine light," but not divinity itself, for that way lies idolatry

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about flowers is how so many of them act like stained glass. That is, they both reflect light and allow it to pass through so that they appear to shine - but of course, only when they are working with the sun. They don't create their own light, they just draw attention to that which is already present in abundance.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"For example, let's talk about the dangers of beauty. I would say that on the whole, men are more aware of this danger than women, being that women are the primary danger."

You know, this is why I say "O nothin', Love," when Patti asks what I'm reading.

However, sometimes she'll press the issue.

"Well, it must be interesting," she may say. "And funny."

"Aye, that it is. It's One Cosmos. You know, Bob's blog. Want me to send you a link?" I ask.

"Oh no. No," she replies, perhaps a little too hastily.

She rarely calls my bluff when it comes to OC. Thankfully. Dodged another bullet there.

It's not that she doesn't like OC it's just that...well, I'll let her explain in her own words.

"I don't get it. He uses words that aren't in the dictionary, and I get enough puns from you to last a lifetime. If you see something really interesting...and short," she adds under her breath, "just read it to me. Quickly."

Now, there are times Bob manages to get a laugh outta Patti or pick her interest, regardless. And if it ain't too long she'll add it as a signature.

But I learned a long time ago it ain't good to push this stuff (particularly when Bob says stuff like I quoted) past a certain point.
The truth can be imflammatory and I'm all out of aspirin.

Besides, I kind of like not inviting any additional pain at times. And believe me I would only make things worse by trying to explain.

I don't take it personally and I'm certain Bob doesn't either.

Verdiales said...

Julie, both those bits are beautiful and true. The whiners who put God in the dock over evil in the world are like teenagers who wreck themselves and their houses and then complain that mom and dad never stopped them. Then they go out and without a second thought deify any whoremonal urge, which wrecks things again.

A kind of perpetual idolescence.

I'll remember that about flowers and tell my kids about it. Thanks.

Sow a mysteress, reap a missedheiress. Mammamaria!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

A quicker way to say it is: the truth hurts.
Yes, of course it can and does! The question is: who, or whom does it hurt the most?

In many cases the messenger.
Loose lips sink ships...and knots on the head.

This is yet another reason why mystery is good!

Gagdad Bob said...

Sounds like your head travails at about 40 knots.

Gagdad Bob said...

We call those knots "coontusions," and we are proud of each and every one.

Gagdad Bob said...

I really like butterflies, too. If ever there were an example of divinely gratuitous beauty -- like flying flowers. Or maybe flowers are stationary butterflies.

julie said...

Re. butterflies, O indeed! If only I could get them to sit still long enough for a photo or two...

Reminds me, I'll have to take the boy to the local botanical garden in a couple months. They have a butterfly exhibit in the spring, with a big tent full of butterflies so you can get a little closer.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
Sounds like your head travails at about 40 knots.

Aye! Cavitation speed.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Verdiales said...

"Then they go out and without a second thought deify any whoremonal urge, which wrecks things again.

A kind of perpetual idolescence."

And women don't think men know anything aboute whoremones.
Thankfully, in my case it wasn't perpetual.
I had a hearsetowrecked-a-me.

Verdiales said...

The Field Museum in Chicago has a room full of preserved butterfly carcasses. They are arranged by color and size, such that one case, for example, will house fifty pinned and symmetrical carcasses, all the same size and color. Then you go to the next case, which will all be another group of a different color.

It is really kind of depressing.

For some reason, the skies overhead have been unusually beautiful at dawn and dusk. Magnificent huge gradients, light hanging in the trees like an ambient haze, and chiseled edges to the clouds, way way up there with the wind.

It's hard to mind this warm gray fog too, even though it's 40 degrees, i.e. the cruellest temperature.

Verdiales said...

"I had a hearsetowrecked-a-me."

So you were lying prostate on the ground, but not down and out? Hooah!

julie said...

I would say that on the whole, men are more aware of this danger than women, being that women are the primary danger.

It occurs to me that men must experience beauty in a different way than women do, for if they saw women as women so often see themselves, the human race would never have stood a chance...

Gagdad Bob said...

Dennis Prager often says that many men are afraid that if their wives or girlfriends knew what they are actually like, they would be disgusted, so they end up splitting off a vital part of themselves in order to maintain the relationship. But including the primitive in one's life is critical. I think one needs to have a kind of caveman-cavewoman relationship, upon which the rest is built. It doesn't work in reverse....

Gagdad Bob said...

At least for men...

mushroom said...

I was thinking about this sometime back. Saying that evil is necessary is an awkward way to put it, but it's right. It is a functional specification intrinsic in the design of the world. are more aware of this danger than women, being that women are the primary danger...

If they weren't so pretty I would have had a lot less trouble in life. She's everything I am not, and she's not what I am. It seems to work out. I sure would hate not to be able to handle the difference, to be a lover of sameness. It seems so sad.

Gagdad Bob said...

Absolutely. I can't imagine living with someone like me. The horror!

julie said...


Verdiales said...

Men particularize, women generalize.


I'm with Bob. If the caveman/cavewoman thing isn't basic and integrated into the rest, the whole thing is vapor.

Splitting is a big problem. The number of wedges that can be driven into love is seemingly infinite, many of them subtle and insidious.

The best marriage I'v seen is founded on a startlingly complete transparency, *especially* about the things one would expect someone would keep secret, like fears and secret desires.

Utter, complete union, and drawing a sacred, inviolable circle around it, is the only way to go. Admit divisions and they will only widen. At the first sign of them, RUN toward your spouse and talk about it. Then do something about it.

Protect the marriage by marrying not only your spouse, but marriage itself.


John Lien said...

The fact that butterflies like to congregate on piles of manure makes me laugh. Not sure if there is deeper meaning to be garnered from that fact.

mushroom said...

I have a nephew who, when he was little, came into the dairy barn one night and asked his dad if he could "play in the cow piles".

He's now a professor at Texas A&M. [Insert Aggie joke here]

Gagdad Bob said...


"Men particularize, women generalize."

I've often thought that to myself -- that in order for a marriage to succeed, the man must appreciate the general in the particular, i.e., that this woman must stand for all women; and that the woman must see the particular in the general, i.e., that this one isn't just any man, but a particular individual. It explains how a man can have the perfect woman and not be satisfied, and how a woman can become attached to the perfect loser despite having plenty of options.

Or something like that. Might need more thought.

Gagdad Bob said...

You might say that for men, the solution is "all women are alike," whereas for women the problem is "all men are alike."

Van said...

"Likewise, "the beautiful which is detached from the good... becomes softened into pure enjoyment -- stripped of obligation and responsibility." This is the "art for art's sake" of an aesthetic hedonism that soon becomes luciferic at best."

And of course, detaching the one, doesn't leave the others intact. Detach Beauty from Good, you also detach Truth from both, and from your regard for it.

Someone made a comment elsewhere that Oaths in general, and an Oath of Office in particular "Just doesn't have the same meaning today, as it did back then.", as if they thought they had escaped a silly procedure.

Just as it isn't the Beautiful, that is reduced when detached from the Good and the True, only your ability to appreciate it in its fullness, the Oath remains as sacred today, as it was then, but having dis-integrated the Good, the Beautiful and the True, the person is no longer capable of comprehending it.

If Beauty is "stripped of obligation and responsibility" for you and 'your people', it is no surprise that an Oath means little or nothing to you as well, but that says far more about you, than it does about the Beauty of the Oath.

Peyton said...

Julie, I was watching a butterfly last summer -- on a butterfly bush no less -- and got a few photos. Unfortunately, I also saw the praying mantis, but didn't see the strike (it was so fast!). About ten minutes later the wings hit the ground. A fascinating reminder of, well, the non-godessliness of nature.

Might you say, in this case, the good was detached (or rather, eaten) from the beauty?


julie said...

Yikes - you might say that! Then again, for both flowers and butterflies part of the wonder is that their beauty, so vivid and wonderful, is also given a certain amount of depth simply by virtue of how ephemeral they are.

Although I have to admit I'd be fascinated by the mantis, too...