Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dreams of Reason and Nightmares of History

Hey, this book on Pope Benedict's Regensburg Lecture is pretty good.

Wait! Don't go away! It's not as dry as it sounds. Far from it. Rather, it provides something like a Master Key to understanding our whole civilizational decline, from Moses/Socrates/Jesus to Obama/Biden/Reid.

But before getting to that, a brief comment about the surprising architectural skills of the Dreamer. Now that Alexander has schooled me on what to look for, I can't help but noticing what a marvelous architect I am.

In your dreams!

Yes, in my dreams. I already conceded that.

The question is, how can this be? I don't have any architectural training, and probably not even good taste. Not so my Dreamer, who has an unerring sense of what goes where (unless he's just being ironic or trying to make a point).

Last night, for example, I somehow got through security and wandered into the most beautifully constructed high-end country club. Here words fail, since I'm not an architect or an interior decorator or a Lileks, so I am reduced to such feeble adjectives as "cool!" or "awesome!"

The thing is, I've noticed the phenomenon before, but I always marked it down to more of a literary/narrative/cinematic skill. But now I see that this cannot be the case, since it takes more than just glibness or a good eye to produce these fabulous sets (which are not copies of anything I've ever actually seen in awakeworld). Now that I know what to look for, I see that my Dreamer knows all about the 15 fundamental properties of life as elucidated by Alexander, e.g., strong centers, gradation, echoes, local symmetries, good shape, etc.

I have a feeling the dream might have been provoked by watching the popification on TV yesterday. Again, now that I know what to look for, I was noticing how the beautiful architecture in Vatican City manifests so many of the Fifteen Fundamental Properties.

Now, it may seem like a trivial observation to say that the Dreamer has "good taste" in architecture, but the implications are actually quite profound. For it suggests that, just as man doesn't invent logic but discovers it to be woven into the very fabric of his being, it also turns out that Good Taste isn't just subjective, but rather, that an aesthetic sense is also built into the f. of our b.

And this is indeed Alexander's point: that aesthetic reality is just as objective and as real as material reality. In fact, the two can only be artificially separated, because nature herself effortlessly tosses out beautiful objects, just as does the Dreamer.

Odd, but nature rarely makes ugly things. Rather, almost all of the ugliness in the world comes from man. Only man could makes a place as ugly and lifeless as, say, Lancaster, CA, or MSNBC. But the California desert itself -- unmolested by man -- has a kind of austere beauty thingy going for it.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Benedict's Regensburg Lecture, whatever that was? The LoFo world, if it remembers it at all, will have remembered it for accurately describing the problems of Islam, thereby earning the condemnation of the same LoFo world (which is led by the mullah-terror & nasty-old-leftist complex).

Alert readers will recall last Tuesday's post, wherein I mentioned the term "rapprochement." Now, how many times a year does one hear that word? And yet, I'm reading The Regensburg Lecture yesterday, and it must have turned up a dozen times. In the words of Beavis, this means something, numb nuts.

Remember what I said about my use of the term, which is intended in both its colloquial and human developmental senses? But my ultimate point was again to suggest that man begins his journey fused with nature, just as the infant starts out fused with the (m)other. Our separation from nature culminates in the scientific revolution, whereby we are able to study nature in a wholly objective, abstract, and quantitative way. But now it is time for a rapprochement of mind and nature, which is one of the themes of my book, of this blog, and of Alexander's whole approach.

It is also the theme of the Regensburg Lecture, but by now I'm accustomed to these dense synchronicities.

To preview where this post is headed, Benedict locates the ground of western civilization in a unique synthesis of revelation and (upper case R) Reason, which was achieved by the Bible being filtered through the Greek mind. This observation itself isn't new, i.e., the Athens-Jerusalem matrix.

What is apparently new is Benedict's suggestion that this syntheses, this "Greek turn" was providential, not just some random occurrence. Fascinatingly, he supports this through recourse to Paul's Dreamer, who tells him (see Acts 16:9) DON'T GO TO ASIA, but rather, MACEDONIA IS REALLY NICE THIS TIME OF YEAR!

Could it be that the whole of western civilization hinges on a dream?

Western civilization begins with the vision of a rapprochement of God and Reason. As we proceed, we will appreciate just how different this is from the dreams of the left and of Islam, for in each case, no such rapprochement is possible.

Islam, for example has a strictly voluntarist theology (which is really no theology -- i.e., theo-logos -- at all), rooted in God's will, not his logos (Reason). This can be appreciated with reference to the differences between "Israel," which means wrestle with God, and "Islam," which means submit to Allah. In Islam no wrestling is allowed, except with others, who had better submit on pain of violence and death.

Likewise, for the leftist there can be no rapprochement of Reason and Revelation, since the latter is just a dream (heh). But as soon as you think about it, you realize that this is no different than Islam, for which there also can be no rapprochement of knowing and being. In both cases, there is no Logos/Reason lighting up the world from within.

As a result, all that is left is submission, either to Allah, or sharia, or the caliphate, or political correctness, or Obamacare, or the tyranny of relativism, whatever. What is not permitted is liberty in its classic sense, predicated on the individual's access to the Truth of Things. Authoritarianism to follow.


To be continued...


River Cocytus said...

By the way, George MacDonald understood this - aesthetic fabric - if you will. From "The History of Photogen and Nectyris":

But she desired, nevertheless, something more or different. She did not know what it was, and the nearest she could come to expressing it to herself was--that she wanted more room. Watho and Falca would go from her beyond the shine of the lamp, and come again; therefore surely there must be more room somewhere. As often as she was left alone, she would fall to poring over the coloured bas-reliefs on the walls. These were intended to represent various of the powers of Nature under allegorical similitudes, and as nothing can be made that does not belong to the general scheme, she could not fail at least to imagine a flicker of relationship between some of them, and thus a shadow of the reality of things found its way to her.

mushroom said...

OT, if GE happens by and hasn't seen this -- On the Road.

Gandalin said...

This is very good, Bob:

"This can be appreciated with reference to the differences between "Israel," which means wrestle with God, and "Islam," which means submit to Allah."

Although that's the way we understand it, it isn't clear with whom Jacob/Israel wrestled; some of the sages for example say it was with Esau's guardian angel.

However there are ample examples in Scripture of wrestling with, arguing with, and contending with God.

We are going to miss the Benedict of the Regensburg Lecture, I'm afraid.

mushroom said...

That's a good point about Jacob becoming Israel.

I am doubting that anywhere in Koran we read anything like "Come, let us reason together."

How do we often describe reasoning? That we have wrestled with a problem. God invites us to that. A few weeks back, I was down in the floor wrestling with the two grandsons. Besides the camaraderie, I'm making them stronger and quicker and more resourceful, better fighters, should they ever need it.

No wonder the modern Muslims like suicide-bombing so well.

Gagdad Bob said...

What do they say? Put two Jews in a room and you have three opinions.

On the other hand, put two Arabs in a room and only one leaves. Unless they're from the same clan.

ge said...

gracias OT mushroom---but i'm afraid the only movie that MAYBE shoulda been made of OTR was the one Kerouac envisioned in '50s with Brando & the real Cassady starring---
this article
goes into pretty much depth on Salles' sally, JK & film in general

Jim said...

OT, I think I'm going to like this new Pope's humility.

When Benedict left the Vatican, I was struck by the contrast with the Lord arriving in Jerusalem on an ass and the Pontiff leaving in a motorcade to a helicopter. Just struck by the contrast.

As a Church or a society we forget our roots to our detriment.

mushroom said...

I'm glad to hear your thoughts on it, ge. I saw the picture of Burroughs and Kerouac while I was reading about the dogs from the link on AD.

I love him, but Kerouac was, among other things, a right-wing zealot and a sentimental Catholic who supported the war in Vietnam.

He says that like it's a bad thing.

Surely, these guys were flawed, that's part of their appeal. It's only the morally bankrupt, pseudo-intellectual left that tries to turn their heroes into secular saints.

I kind of get the feeling that the writer might think believing in freedom and individuality is "right wing".

Chris said...


I presume that you disagree with Schuon and the Perennalist school's claim that Islam, as an authentic form of saving Truth, provides everything that its adherents need for salvation.

Or, am I off-base?

julie said...

Chris, if most Muslims understood Islam as Schuon did, the world would be a much better place.

julie said...

...aesthetic reality is just as objective and as real as material reality.

I've been thinking along those lines recently, as well. Specifically, about the fact that not only is beauty experienced by most everyone (and often quite objectively, not merely subjectively), but that beauty is experienced. Why should it feel so good simply to look at something or someone beautiful? Why should good music make the hair stand up and the body want to dance? It struck me that it goes beyond mere recognition that "here is something nice." It is as though the soul takes nourishment, and floods the whole being with the benefits of that nourishment.

Jack said...

It is a "discussion" I get into now and then with the postmodern lefty types. They invariably trot out the tired "beauty is subjective". Which means it is whatever one wants it to be...which means it isn't anything.

They seem to think that they are being deep and generous by saying so.

Beauty is subjective in that it is recognized within the subject. Otherwise it is objective though always mysterious. As if from another world. Or actually so.

Rick said...

The eye with which I call out to depth is the same with which depth calls out to me. My depth and God's depth is one depth.

Rick said...

"Why should it feel so good simply to look at something or someone beautiful?"

Why, indeed.
If we re-cognize beauty, is this akin to remembering it? How is it you can think beautiful a song you've never heard before; and instantly? Are we remembering something from before we became someone?

Rick said...

I felt a great giggle in the force...

River Cocytus said...


Sufism, perhaps.

Other forms of Islam, like certain forms of Christendom, have serious problems with being considered genuine traditions from that point of view.

Note. I am not a Perennialist; I am a Christian partisan. But I'm not here to undermine the stance of allies that stand against the Conspiracy to rob us of our slack.

Chris said...


I agree with you on Islam and certain forms of Christianity. I, personally, came to embrace the Christian faith via the writings of the Perennialists; however, I've been finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile the Incarnation and trinitarian theology with the central tenets of the Perennial Philosophy.

River Cocytus said...

Perennialism as I understand it tries to bring together the main points and characteristics of the ancient traditions of substance and fortitude and present what holds real Tradition together; it cannot substitute for real Tradition.

Perennialism is a right-wing form of comparative religion; it is a way of speaking about religion and understanding foreign and at times hostile belief systems, but it is not itself a substitute for them.

You might recall that all important Perennialists (as far as I know) were dedicated adherents of one of the great Traditions. If this seems odd, consider Don Colacho's take:

"No thesis is expounded with clarity except when it manages to be expounded by an intelligent man who does not share it."

As those of the great Traditions when faced with the howling insanity of Modernity saw, they would need more help than just their own strength to stand. So why not recruit your old enemies?

Chris said...


"A right-wing form of comparative religion"- I'm not sure I would put it as such. The Perennialist/Traditionalist school is largely apolitical. It is true that Rene Guenon's (Schuon's co-founder) writings have been influential among reactionaries of various stripes, but the Traditionalist School proper would be silent on such matters.

It is also true that Perennialism is not "another" religion or some kind of super-religion. The central idea of the Perennial Philosophy is that "Divine Truth is one, timeless, and universal, and that the different religions are but different languages expressing that one Truth."

I agree that an ecumenism based on resistance to the many headed hydra of modernity has merit.


I don't think that Schuon would have been likely to reject exoteric Islam. The whole point of Perennialism is that esoterism cannot exist in a vacuum- that it must "deploy" within the container of an orthodox Tradition.

julie said...

I'm not saying Schuon would reject exoteric Islam; only that I can't imagine he'd be in favor of the culture of death that mainstream Islam is in practice. For that matter, I find myself occasionally wondering how he reconciles much of Mo's behavior with an avataric ideal, but then a lot of biblical figures ostensibly serving god did some pretty terrible things; what do I know?

Anyway, having said that it's not at all my place to speak for Schuon. What I do know is that saints will find their way back om, either because of or in spite of the tradition they follow (though of course it's much easier the more reality-based the tradition is). God knows his own.

Chris said...

And well said.

Interesting though- I just got into it with an Evangelical who expressed a similar stance to the Catholic Church. I'm not a sola sciptura kind of guy.