Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mystical A-theology and the Experience of Godlessness

I mentioned in a comment yesterday that Hart really elevates his game in the second section of The Experience of God, dealing with consciousness.

However, the first section, on being, is nevertheless a highly insultaining takedown of atheism in all its forms. Upon reading it -- assuming he is capable of understanding the arguments -- no intellectually honest atheist can remain one. Or, at least he can have no rational basis for clinging to a doctrine that explains nothing, not even itself.

Which brings up an interesting point. Atheists -- very much like liberals -- naturally believe they have a rational basis for their beliefs. This is not only untrue, but not even untrue, since these beliefs do not meet the minimum standard of being susceptible to falsification (e.g., global warming, Keynesian economics, socialized medicine, etc.). Hart demonstrates how easy it is to obliterate the childish arguments of, say, a Stephen Hawking, who is so brilliant when confined to his own wheelhouse of mere physics.

Speaking of which, it reminds me of coach-pitching in little league baseball. My son is in his first season of all kid-pitch, which can be a difficult adjustment, since the pitches aren't all right in the hitter's wheelhouse each time. You might say that atheists have no trouble hitting fat, lazy tosses right down the middle of the plate. But they are utterly baffled by a metaphysical curveball.

However, any half-educated psychologist -- as most are -- can confirm that David Hume was correct in characterizing reason as a "slave of the passions" which "can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

I wouldn't go quite that far, since it is indeed possible to detach reason from emotion and think in a purely abstract and disinterested manner, mathematics being the quintessential example. Likewise, the pure metaphysics of a Schuon is bracingly free of sentiment, like climbing to the peak of a bare and majestic mountain.

But this is not the manner in which most people approach religion, or science, for that matter. Rather, these enterprises are filled with passion, commitment, and adventure.

Thus, as Sarah Ruden describes it in the October 28 National Review, "for the great mass of the religious and nonreligious alike, these debates are not about pure, abstract intellection, but about making sense of experience -- which is to say, personal experience, because what other kind is there?"

Which is the point I made in yesterday's post, that there is no way to avoid the fact that we begin in experience, not with logic per se. That is, logic is obviously powerless unless there first exist experiencers to experience it. In short, experience is prior to logic -- although it does follow a subtle logic of its own, which I summarized in the post.

Again, that logic reveals experience to be intrinsically temporal, and shows the experience of time to essentially be a function of memory. Thus, the past contributes to, and is retained in, the present, as it hurtles toward the novelty and surprise of the future. In this movement nothing is lost, since everything contributes to the present moment, just as everything in the present moment contributes to the future

So, there is experience as such, and there is personal experience, which is experience inflected through a person. And any philosophy that fails to illuminate personal experience is going to be a nonstarter for the vast majority of persons.

This is why the arguments of atheists are irrelevant to a person who has experienced God, just as the abstract theological arguments of a Hart or Schuon will make no sense to an infertile egghead who has deprived himself of such an experience. Rather, based upon his own sterile experience, materialism "makes sense" to the materialist, irrespective of the deficiency of the logic.

In a way, it comes down to natural theology vs. mystical theology. Mystical theology is very much rooted in experience, so it turns out that materialism, scientism, and Darwinian fundamentalism are really forms of "mystical a-theology."

Thus, the only way these latter doctrines can prevail in the culture war is not through argument, but rather, by depriving people of the experience of God. Which is why, at the nasty core of leftism, there is always soul murder. How could this not be the case, when leftism involves systematically seeing the world as it isn't in order to bring about a world that can never be? Assuming they could accomplish this impossible project, there would be no souls left to experience reality.

My son, for example, attends a religious school, and it is not so much that he is learning some religious doctrine, but rather, that his day-to-day life is enriched beyond measure by being suffused with a constant awareness of the divine (even -- or maybe even especially -- if it is a non-conscious awareness). Rather than being something imposed from the outside, it is in the very air he breathes, in an experiential way.

Thus, for example, he experiences Christian love (agape) in the way his teachers relate to him, whereas liberals have succeeded in criminalizing the very thought in public schools. Now that I think about it, I don't so much want to thank his teachers for teaching him, but rather, for really loving him.

But I don't see how real education can take place outside this loving context, being that love and truth converge on the same object. Sadly, I can already see the coarseness setting in and the light being extinguished in some of his public schooled friends. It's kind of creepy, really. I do see how good parenting can compensate, but for the kids with coarse and lightless parents, there is no escape from the slide into barbarism.

Well, I had wanted to get into the second main section of The Experience of God, on consciousness, where Hart really takes flight. The flight has been postponed until tomorrow.


Van Harvey said...

Still Hatin' Android.
(Can't connect by phone again, can't subscribe without leaving a comment... sooo... here's a comment)

mushroom said...

That's right, true education must be a function of love. It reminds me a little of the saying: People won't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Gagdad Bob said...

That was the Plato-Socratic understanding, and as Whitehead remarked, all of western philosophy is just a footnote on Plato.

ge said...

here i am me again
feeling [being]
this joy that's been mine for a millions of years

like the injuns say
I am me,
I am knowing [quite sure of] it and all is bliss


[jotted/sang that a few weeks ago]

James said...

I remember growing up and watching the children around me change, becoming courser, harder. That was the first time I remember feeling dread. At the time I thought it was just growing up, and I would succumb myself. I came close I even pretended for while to fit in, but I hung on by the grace of God. Looking back I understand now that what I was seeing was soul murder and not just a part of growing up. Which makes me feel a little better, but there is a whole lot of soul murder going on.

Gagdad Bob said...

In Hesse's Demian, there is a memorable account of the main character becoming aware of darkness entering his previously light-filled childhood. I actually talk to my son about this, so he has a vocabulary for it, and have asked him to let me know when he becomes aware of its presence. If you don't have a name for it, it's hard to see it or defend against it.

ted said...

That darkness entered me around adolescence and didn't let go until my early thirties. Some of us are late bloomers to experience.

JP said...

"Which is the point I made in yesterday's post, that there is no way to avoid the fact that we begin in experience, not with logic per se."

I still need to know what it means that I walked through the gate at age 35.

Granted, I didn't know that there was a gate there.

Although, I do realize that this places me in the minority, but that's normal for me.

However, I will say that I was somewhat non-plussed after I went through it.

JP said...

Tomberg recommends scholasticism over mathematics for people who want to breath crisp clean air.

I suppose that's like the Schuon comparison that you made.

Gagdad Bob said...

Very much so. There is no better disinfuckedup.

Van Harvey said...

Yep. Of course math can be an excellent means to seeing concepts in action, the word made real before your eyes, but that's rare; more likely it's used either to separate you even further from reality, or, through mere calculation, as a means of trivializing the mind.

I'm on a tablet with no means of getting to my handy dandy links, but Google "The education of the Founding Fathers of the Republic" by James Walsh - the scholastic method of disputation was what made the Founders fierce understanding and passion for truth possible, nothing else would have made America possible. Nothing less well sustain it.

And considerably less; quantified testing of textbook answers and calculative math, are what we've delivered ourselves to today's world through.

Oh, and darn it Cardinals! But congrats Red Sox, it's good to see winners win.

Van Harvey said...

... even bearded ones....