Monday, December 09, 2013

Freedom in the Kingdom of Necessity

"Freedom," writes Berdyaev, "is not a right, but an obligation." He's wrong about that, because it is a right and an obligation. It's just that liberals forget about the second part.

For if you fail at your obligation to be be free, then you oblige others to take care of you. Thanks to the left, man is born free but everywhere in debt, in that every man, woman, and child owes $190,000 to the federal government. Excluding those who will get off easy by dying, it's more like $400,000, mostly to subsidize people who have shunned their obligation to be free.

At the very least, we need to appreciate that freedom cuts both ways -- that it is something man wants in the abstract, but from which he often recoils when it comes right down to it. Liberals simply exploit this primordial dread of freedom.

This is again where Berdyaev's existentialism comes into play, in that we are "condemned to freedom," so to speak. For Berdyaev, "freedom is a bottomless well." It is an "abyss which preceded being" and which "is rooted in 'nothingness.'"

There is the Kingdom of Necessity and the Kingdom of Slack, and necessity cannot produce slack. Here again, this is why liberal schemes such as ObamaCare always fail, since they try to generate slack out of necessity: no, you won't be able to keep your insurance, you won't be able to keep your doctor, and you won't save $2,500 a year. The left simply sells necessity with meretricious promises of boundless slack. But the slack never comes. Just ask all the luckless blacks who imagined they'd get some slack back by voting Barack.

Again, the idea of freedom existing outside, beyond, or before Being is a controversial one, but for reasons I cannot fully put into words, resonates deeply in me. Therefore, since I cannot englishen it, it is an Optional Orthoparadox for members of our tribe.

Here is my best attempt at an explanation. I've always had this notion that God must have a portion of himself that is unknown even to God. It follows from the principle that man is in the image of the Creator, which, if true, means that our best shot at understanding God comes by way of analogy to man (up to a point, of course).

This, for example, is why I am convinced -- even setting revelation aside -- that God is a Three-in-One, or Whole-in-Three, since man too is an intersubjective unity right down to the ground. There can be no such thing as an isolated human monad. It is literally unthinkable, thinking being a dynamic relation between thinker, thought, and truth.

Likewise, because of my psychoanalytic training, I can't help thinking of man's consciousness as being the result of a conscious/unconscious dialectic. There can be no such thing as a "fully conscious" man, since there can be no conscious without the unconscious. The problem here is the word "unconscious," since there is nothing un- about the consciousness of the unconscious.

Rather -- and this understates the matter -- the unconscious shadows our existence in a most intimate, creative, and mysterious way. Far from being (in the words of James Grotstein) “primitive and impersonal” (although it surely includes primitive “lower vertical” elements as well), it is “subjective and ultra-personal,” a “mystical, preternatural, numinous second self” characterized by “a loftiness, sophistication, versatility, profundity, virtuosity, and brilliance that utterly dwarf the conscious aspects of the ego.”

This very much reminds me of this book I read over the weekend on the history of genius, Divine Fury. First of all, what is genius? No one knows, least of all the genius. So, where does extreme creativity and originality come from? No one knows. This book chronicles the attempts over the centuries to explain it, but all explanations fail in the face of -- take your pick: the Pieta? Beethoven's late quartets? The collected works of James Brown? You might say it will take a genius to explain genius. But then who will explain him?

Since this kind of extreme creativity cannot be explained or predicted in principle, it must mean that it is the result of an encounter with the great Nothingness that lies outside necessity. Therefore, all the education in the world -- which is from the land of necessity -- won't necessarily make one a creative individual. The creativity comes from somewhere else. It is an independent variable, but obviously somehow tied up with freedom.

Which again leads back to God. Remember, prior to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God wasn't thought of as the creator of the cosmos, of everything, both high and low. Rather, the gods were within an already existing, hence necessary, creation. But if God is quintessentially a creator, this must mean that he is the quintessential case, or the very principle, of... let us call it the logos <--> freedom, or word <--> play, trialectic.

Again, I don't expect anyone else to see it this way, but I can't help seeing it so.

Interestingly, seeing God as creator opened up creativity for man. As McMahon describes it, "To create originally, without precedent, pattern, or model, was never the ideal of the ancient artist or sage, and indeed the ancients frequently denied the very prospect." Elsewhere he writes that "true originality" was "impossible even for a god."

"Mere mortals" had to "confine themselves to recovering and reproducing what already exists.... Rather than look to the horizon of the original and new, the ancient's gaze is focused instead on the eternal recurrence of perennial forms." The settled past is the thingdom of absolute necessity; in it is "the key to all understanding in the present and future.... In the past lie the answers to all questions."

I've mentioned before that one of my teachstone Bible passages is 2Cor:17, "Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The concord directs us to John 8:32, which reads that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," and to Gal 5:1, which recommends that we "stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage," and to 1:13, where it says that "you, brethren, have been called to liberty," so feel free to use it "through love to serve one another."

Now, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the Spirit is the Third that generates and is generated by Father and Son. It is what makes the love between them completely unnarcissary and free.

Which reminds me of a wisecrack to which Mr. Van der Leun directed me this morning: "When lost in a forest go always down hill. When lost in a philosophy or doctrine go upward” (Ambrose Bierce).

Now, being lost is indeed a kind of freedom, is it not? It is the freedom to which we are condemned by the existentialists. From it there is no escape but up.

And speaking of Van der Leun, this, yoinked from his snidebar:


julie said...

I've always had this notion that God must have a portion of himself that is unknown even to God.

Yes, that makes much sense, now that you mention it. Of course, it always made sense that there must be an unknowable by man center of the Absolute, but it never occurred to me that it would be unknowable even to itself. The ultimate unKnown unknown...

julie said...

Now, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the Spirit is the Third that generates and is generated by Father and Son. It is what makes the love between them completely unnarcissary and free.

On that note, here's a loverly tidbit from our old Unknown Friend:

"Love once born as substance and intensity, tends to spread, ramify and diversify according to the forms of human relationships into which it enters. It is a cascading current which tends to fill and inundate all. This is why when there is true love between parents, the children love their parents, by analogy, and love each other; they love, by analogy — as their brothers and sisters by 'psychological adoption' — their friends in school and in the neighborhood; they love (always by analogy) their teachers, tutors, priests, etc., through reflection of the love that they have for their parents; and later they love their husbands and wives, as their parents once loved one another."

(With thanks to Rick for the task of assisting in the Kindle translightion...)

vanderleun said...

"Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?"

-- The Waste Land

mushroom said...

That all makes sense to me. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You can have academic courses and analyses of creativity after the fact, but you can't teach creativity. You might be able to initiate someone into it -- that is, tell them enough to keep them from drowning if you throw them in the lake. Everybody has to swim on their own.

Gagdad Bob said...

Just read in Schuon: "But 'like God,' man is not merely logical, he is also artist, poet, musician; necessity is combined with freedom."

ted said...

Just came across an interesting book by Terrance Deacon. He posits that constraints (what is not there) is as important as what emerges. Costraints tend to force things into patterns. And these patterns (forms) can be independent of its substances.

As one Amazon reviewer mentions: So in Deacon's view, consciousness and subjectivity really exist and they have a genuine causal relationship with the physical world, but they are not themselves physical. Consciousness, along with information and other abstractions, are composed not of matter and energy, they are not composed of anything at all. Rather they are the "nothing", or the "absences" generated by constraints in dynamical physical systems. The genius of his account is that finds a causal role in the world for things "not present" in a physical sense, and does so without resorting to magical or mystical forces, or by positing substance dualism. What is absent in physical systems turns out to be equally, if not more important that what is present.

Gagdad Bob said...

He's still coming out of a reductionistic metaphysic, so I'm sure he's wrong: reduction in, reduction out.

Whitehead was the first to write about novelty as constraint on possibility, but in a more expansive way that didn't exclude divinity. Hartshorne picked it up from there.

"Possibility" is the freedom that cannot be reduced to anything else. To try to situate it in the kingdom of necessity is for me a non-starter.

ted said...

Yes, I see your point. I do think these reductionists can sometimes use their exploration to new ways of seeing reality as a gateway to divinity. I understand that Deacon practices Buddhism, so he may have some potential for greater openings.