Thursday, August 01, 2013

On the Nature of Our Prison

Man is obviously imprisoned, or chained to certain necessities, but people differ as to their nature. For example, in an ironic comment, Schuon said something to the effect that man is condemned to transcendence. Ho!

But for the materialist, this is utterly untrue. Rather, he is condemned to immanence -- i.e., to a completely intramundane existence -- and has no access to transcendence at all.

Which is funny, because if man really has no access to transcendence, he wouldn't even have a name for it. One might say -- no, one must say, in order to be consistent -- that if transcendence doesn't exist, man cannot know it. For to know it is to touch the very transcendence one denies.

Nevertheless, it is this question of transcendence that fundamentally divides left and right, or conservative liberals and illiberal leftists.

The question of transcendence is closely related to that of language -- or to symbolism more generally. When we were more animal than human -- remember? -- it was quite frustrating to be unable to symbolize our subjective states and communicate them to those around us.

But gradually we were inducted and plugged into our culture's symbolic matrix, which was a huge relief. No longer were we reduced to shrieking and throwing tantrums in order to get attention. In short, we were no longer leftists.

However, some people confuse this liberation with a new kind of prison. We call them "deconstructionists." True, language is a kind of prison, if you choose to look at it that way. It is clearly a limitation, just as musical scales are a limitation on sound. But if we deconstruct the scales in favor of producing random noises, is this a liberation? Or is a return to the anarchic prison from whence we came?

Just so with language. Or logic, for that matter. One can deny aristotelean logic, as does the postmodern rabble, but this only ends up creating a cognitive hell from which escape is impossible.

So yes, we are imprisoned. We have already stipulated that. I think Schuon has provided the most succinct description of the outlines of our cosmic prison. In fact, I posted on this subject about four years ago, and since I'm squeezed for time again, I think I'll just playgiarize with myself for awhile:

Schuon goes into what he calls four essential limitations or "infirmities" of the soul. The first is the Biggest, which is why it is enshrined in the First Commandment: sorry, but you are not God. You are "creature, not Creator, manifestation and not Principle or Being."

In fact, only the godless can be unaware of the fact that they are not God, which is probably the greatest source of their political mischief. As Obama might say, "if I had a God, he'd look like me."

Two, we are not angels. We are not celestial beings but mid-terrestrial ones. We are not at the top of the vertical hierarchy, nor are we at the bottom (unless we choose to fall even further than where we begin).

Rather, we are somewhere in the middle -- which, of course, goes to the issue of free will, as we are suspended halfway between our better and worse selves. A saint is a man who has more or less succeeded in elevating himself to the border between middle and top, or time and eternity. Thus, he is like an angel on earth.

Third, I am me and you are you. We are different. Thank God! And I mean this literally, for our individual differences -- at least for the Christian -- are not accidental or purely contingent.

Rather, our differences are essential; paradoxically, our contingency is a kind of absolute in miniature. For those of you with more than one child, this is obvious. The differences are a blessing, not a curse. Every face is unique, and yet, a member of the human family. God has counted every hair on your head. We're all different to him (which is the ultimate source of our differences, in that we are different ideas of God). And yet mankind is one.

Fourth are the differences that are not essential but contingent. These include mind parasites, which mostly result from the scars of misbegotten relationships and assimilations along the way. They are "accidental infirmities" that cause a man to either sink beneath himself or become someone else entirely. The problem with a mind parasite is that it's not you, only pretending to be. It is a difference that is peripheral, i.e., from earth (or lower), not from celestial central, i.e., the principial realm.

Now, anyone can see the bloody mayhem that results if we don't keep these categories straight. The leftist -- because he turns the cosmos upside down and inside out -- begins with #4, the wholly relative, accidental, and contingent, and then elevates it to the highest reality.

Again, this is why the Democratic party is the party of cranks, weirdos, freaks, perverts, misfits, losers, reactionary rebels, rebellious conformists, tyrannical punks, and the generally barbarous. (It also attracts -- let's be fair -- a great many basically decent but just LoFo and easily manipulated folks).

If you've followed me this far, then you will understand what Schuon means when he says that "Relativism engenders a spirit of rebellion and is at the same time its fruit. The spirit of rebellion, unlike holy anger, is not a passing state, nor is it directed at some worldly abuse; on the contrary it is a chronic malady directed toward Heaven and against everything that represents Heaven or is a reminder of it."

Tell me about it! The leftist is either in rebellion against God, and therefore human nature, or against human nature, and therefore God. Either way, he always confuses a prison break with solitary confinement for eternity. But why oh why does he want to force the rest of us to join him?

[T]he primordial and normative attitude is this: to think only in reference to what surpasses us and to live for the sake of surpassing ourselves.... Not to acknowledge what surpasses us and not to wish to surpass ourselves: this is... the very definition of Lucifer. --F. Schuon


Rick said...

Are you sure you're not reading my book(s)?

Hemingway was nearly right about war being the best subject for writing; because it is "life sped up."

But I think it is the prisoner as subject.

Related: A great scene from a must-see movie:
Of Gods and Men.

But wait! That movie's not about a prison!

It's not?

Open Trench said...

A fascinating post. Of interest are categories such as "leftist" or:

"...cranks, weirdos, freaks, perverts, misfits, losers, reactionary rebels, rebellious conformists, tyrannical punks, and the generally barbarous."

But it is true any of us can wear each of the labels for a few minutes each month.

Sit a "crank" down and unpack her baggage and you will find a scared human being trying to meet her needs for security, acceptance, etc.

Invariably, near the core people are deeply uneasy.

The job of religion is to reach this place and correct the basic defect and instill some trust and certainty down in there.

Daily, or if necessary, each hour or minute.

julie said...

Rick,exactly. And yes, I think that movie should be on every raccoon watch list. I'm pretty sure it's available for streaming from Amazon...

Skorpion said...

Raccoon rampage!

John Lien said...

julie and Rick, Thanks for the movie recommendation.

Just watched the clip and the Fr. Barron review. I don't know if I could handle watching it. Same reason The Passion of the Christ DVD is still sits shrink wrapped on the shelf.

Hell, I never fully recovered from the beginning of "Up"!

ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ted said...

Looks like most Raccoons prefer the country commonsensical good-old boy to the sophisticated urbanite :-).

julie said...

John, I know what you mean about "Up." Watched it once; don't think I could watch it again.

Gibson's Passion didn't sit with me the way it did for many; if memory serves, it actually left me a bit cold. I remember having the impression, at the time, that having been raised Catholic I didn't find the imagery quite as shocking as did most Protestants. If you go to a church that only features a stylized "t" as a crucifix, then actually seeing the Corpus being tortured and bloodied is going to be a shock. Even if you know how the story ends.

Conversely, if your church has all the scenes of the stations of the cross and a prominently-featured, crucified and bleeding Christ behind the altar, you're less likely to be surprised when a movie depicts the same things. Just my impression, years-removed, of course.

Of Gods and Men is a different type of sadness once again; in its way, it is also The Passion. It's a beautiful story, beautifully filmed; I'd be glad to be made sad that way again.

ted said...

Of Gods and Men was one of my favorite films last year.

I also recommend Mallicks's To The Wonder as one of the best films this year so far, IMHO. The subplot of a priest's struggle with faith fills in nicely with the main plot's story of a man's search for transcendence through romantic love.

Rick said...

If I might add, it's been awhile since I watched Of Gods and Men, but if memory serves, it is not graphic in the way The Passion is. Done as well, but differently.

Of Gods and Men is almost a retelling of what it may have been like for the disciples when Christ wasn't with them. Wonderful scenes too around a table.

Also, you see what you don't often see, especially in movies, which is men who live with and love their brothers as men, properly. As the disciples of Christ must have.

Rick said...

Thanks for that movie, Ted. Hadn't heard of it..

ted said...

Here's the trailer Rick. Majestically filmed, like most of Malick's films.

mushroom said...

No longer were we reduced to shrieking and throwing tantrums in order to get attention. In short, we were no longer leftists.

I knew it was coming and I still laughed.

I recall that the Decent Film Guide guy Stephen Greydanus spoke well of Of Gods and Men. I had forgotten about it. Thank you for the reminder. I don't know how many times I've watched Up, and I cry every time.

We are not celestial beings but mid-terrestrial ones.

We are the dual-sport models of the spiritual world, at home in the dirt or the heavenly highway.

Rick said...

Thanks Ted. I had seen the trailer but didn't recognize the title. It's now in my Netflix DVD list - next up.
I can't help wondering if the priest and Affleck are the same person, in a sense. Thought was provoked by the book "Beginnings..." I linked the other day about Genesis 1-3 in which there was speculation that there lies two Adams; each a different mode of man -- the soul and the body. Or something like that. Will have to re-view..

John Lien said...

Mush sez:

We are the dual-sport models of the spiritual world, at home in the dirt or the heavenly highway.

Now there's an aphorism I can relate to.

You're like, Don Rednecko.

Open Trench said...

You qualify as a redneck if you:

drink hard likker

consume deer meat

line dance

own any kind of ATV or tractor

grow crops for money

wear calico dresses

You qualify as an urbanite if you:

drink craft beer

have tats or piercings

grow MJ in your closet

slam dance

wear leotards

Everyone else: Suburban and glad of it.

mushroom said...

I own an ATV and a tractor among other things. But it's all right.

JP said...

I want to know what to do about the actual psychopaths.

Mind parasites don't seem to be their problem.

Bob said...

Very insightful and uniquely original observations, as alwyas.

Linked here: