Friday, March 29, 2013

Mozart Denied Tenure for Teaching Dangerous Doctrine that Most Music is Pretty Lame

Flip. Flip. Flip.

Just flipping through The Luminous Ground to see if there's anything we need to discuss.

Here -- something about the primacy of SLACK in the Timeless Way of building.

I just looked it up, and the first answer claims that building one of those timeless cathedrals took between 25 and 600 years, proving once again that timelessness takes time.

By way of comparison, starting next week we'll be doing some major remodeling around here that will take just a couple of weeks or so. Imagine if I said to the contractor, "hey, just take all the time you need to get it right. If I -- or my grandchildren, for that matter -- don't live to see it, that's okay. God will see it."

So, think of the thousands of artists and craftsmen who worked on those things, but who never lived to see the finished product. Then again, they must have "seen" it in some sense, or they wouldn't have known how to proceed.

Anyway, Alexander writes of "the matter of pace. The essence of these works, made in a devotional atmosphere, was that the maker had time..." Actually, what he had was a timelessness that empowered him "to see wholeness and to act accordingly."

You can't see wholeness when you're being rushed. Rather, the window of time-dilation closes up, and we are exholed from the inspiraling goround of Slack. It's the same with the Timeless Way of Blogging.

For this reason, Alexander feels that the mystico-religious setting nurtured "the conditions for the perception and creation of buildings which were profoundly connected to the human self."

But again, the nature of the self and the nature of reality are one and the same thing -- or converge on the same thing, anyway -- so Alexander is suggesting that it is literally true that these works reflect the actual nature of the universe.

Which reminds me. Liberals love diversity, right? And Alexander taught at one of the most liberal universities on the planet, Cal State Berkeley. So they welcomed his ideas, right?

Well, maybe after he lawyered up. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, he thanks his attorney, who "spent seven years helping me solve (through the protection of my first amendment rights) the nearly disastrous political problems which occurred at the University of California."

The tolerant faculty there "did their best to prevent the teaching of this material and to close my mouth..." But he expresses gratitude for their "unrelenting hostility" over some twenty years, because it confirmed in his mind that he must be on to something. Liberals only attack what they fear.

This explains why these liberals -- who express fawning admiration for such monsters as a Castro, a Chavez, an Arafat -- would regard a single architect as such a threat. It must be because he is not a relativist, but rather, someone who believes there are right and wrong ways to build.

Just as the left doesn't hate evil, but hates those who hate evil, they also hate people who hate falsehood and ugliness. Or in short, "God is the impediment to modern man" (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

Reminds me of another A by DC: "All truths converge on the one truth, but the routes have been barricaded." And nowhere are they more heavily barricaded than in a liberal fascist university.

Back to the flipping. I remember another aphorism by Don Colacho to the effect that "the honest philosophy does not pretend to explain but to circumscribe the mystery."

The mystery is O. In truth we cannot circumscribe it, since it always circumscribes us. Alexander describes it as the "something" that "lies in me and beyond me." One can only live a full life -- or be alive, really -- to the extent that one circumnavelgazes or strikes an ombilical chord with this Mystery:

"[T]he essential point concerns the existence of some realm, or some entity, variously referred to as the Void, the great Self, maha-Atman, God, the Friend," such that "human life approaches its clear meaning when, and only when, a person makes contact" with it.

This is an example of the kind of "naturally supernatural" religion that can be easily proved just by paying close attention to our subjective responses to things, as halfbaked in yeasterday's loaf.

Alexander cites the example of Mozart, who "had a clear and unshakeable faith in God as a real and definite thing." His music was "written in the context of this concrete and sublime faith." Did that make it worse? If he were in the music department at UC Berkeley, would they have persecuted him for making the atonalists sound bad?

Nah. They'd probably get him for using racist and sexist stereotypes in his operas.

If we inquire as to why most modern works fail to achieve this deeper meaning, one obvious reason is that they do not try. Our secular flatland is governed by an entirely different set of values that often comes down to a meaningless "originality" for the purpose of ego inflation and other valueless prizes.

Didn't get very far today, but the Window of Slack just closed, so we're out of timelessness.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Turning Faint Signals into Cosmic Vibes

The redemption of reality is the function of the imagination. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

So: human beings are constantly attending and responding to a spectrum of information that is somehow "embedded" in the cosmos and "radiates" outward.

Conversely, a mere animal attends only to things that have a direct bearing on survival or pleasure. A dog, for example, will just fall asleep if there are no walks or no food in the offing.

In my opinion, this capacity of ours is rooted in developmental psychology, specifically, the vicissitudes of attachment in the neurologically incomplete infant. As a result of this, our very being is intersubjective right down to the ground.

Of course, this still begs the question of how intersubjectivity could get into the cosmos to begin with. In my view, it is because ultimate reality is irreducibly trinitarian. We are members of one another because this is a reflection of the interior economy of the Godhead.

I think Alexander errs in attempting to hitch his empirical / phenomenological findings to a scientific metaphysic. I can see that by the fourth volume he begins to slip in the G-word, but it is almost in an apologetic way.

Nor does he do so in the context of any actual theology, just in a vague sort of mystical way. I'm not necessarily criticizing him, because there was a time that I might have attempted the same thing, i.e., to toss out religion and tradition but retain God (or at least the experience of this thing people have historically called "God").

The bottom line is that Alexander is often speaking of God -- or better, O -- without seeming to realize it.

For example, he describes the feeling he is looking for in an effective design: "It is some ultimate, beyond experience. When I reach for it, I try to find -- I can partly feel -- the illumination of existence, a glimpse of that ultimate. It is always the same thing at root. Yet, of course, it takes an infinite variety of forms."

This is O, as it undergoes transformation from eternity to time. Or, just say "transformation in O."

He even speaks of how the most sublime examples of what he is talking about have occurred in a mystico-religious context, but he doesn't seem to put one and one and one together -- as if there is no transhuman input (↓) going on, and that, say, the designers of Chartres just had really good taste.

Similarly, he speaks of encountering the "I" "in a work of art, or a work of nature, which makes one feel related to it." This "I" is none other than the personal / intersubjective nature of existence, as alluded to above.

We all recognize it, for the simple reason that we are persons. It is nothing that anyone needs to "prove," because the experience of it is as constant as it is unavoidable. It is never not happening, unless one is autistic, blunted, or soul-damaged in some other way.

Nevertheless, there are obviously degrees of sensitivity to it. But in any event, atheism is not something anyone can ever experience. Rather, it is a mental abstraction that can only be imagined, never lived.

What Alexander has attempted to do in his life and work -- and I'll let others decide whether he has succeeded -- is to "amplify" the sense of personhood that is provoked in these architectural encounters with O. In this regard, I don't think he's doing anything different from an expert or connoisseur in any field. It certainly pertains to the religious matters we discuss here.

I spoke of this in the book, for example, with respect to the symbol (), which stands for the sympathetic resonance that occurs between us and a more evolved human fleshlight. This resonance "amplifies" our own signal, and as we grow spiritually, we are better able to receive the signal.

In other words, the communication is occurring all the time. The limiting factor is our capacity to receive it. Alexander wants to amplify our ability to receive and create beauty.

I'm just flipping through the book page by page, so this post may be a bit disorganized.

On page 8, Alexander mentions one of his key findings, that "it is in the nature of matter, that it is soaked through with self or 'I.'"

I agree entirely, but he seems to think he can better articulate this via science than religious metaphysics. I disagree. Science is posterior to metaphysics, and I think he's falling into the very trap he decries by trying to subordinate his ideas to science.

For example, you wouldn't say God is nonlocal because the quantum world is. Rather, vice versa: the world is nonlocal because God is. Likewise, we don't say that God must be love because human beings are capable of love. Rather, we love because God does.

Alexander wants to heal the "bifurcation of nature" (into the object/subject duality) that occurred with the scientific revolution, but you don't do that by trying to force science into being something it isn't. Rather, you do so by putting everything in its proper place in the scheme of things. Obviously, science is not, and can never be, at the top.

Little time this morning. We'll leave you with another aphorism or three by Don Colacho, a cosmotherapist who finally gets me:

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors. And

The natural and supernatural are not overlapping planes, but intertwined threads. And

The scientific proposition presents an abrupt alternative: understanding it or not understanding it. The philosophical proposition, however, is susceptible to growing insight. Finally, the religious proposition is a vertical ascent that allows one to see the same landscape from different altitudes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Will You Please Hold For Mother Nature?

Proofs for the existence of God abound for those who do not need them. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

Yesterday we discussed the Astonishing Hypothesis, which, it turns out, isn't so astonishing after all. Rather, it is the first principle and final consequence of scientism -- just a typical tall tale of tenured tautology.

I hate to belabor the point -- or anything else, for that matter -- but if the hypothesis is "true" then it can't be, because there is no way for us to escape the closed loop of our genetic programming. "Knowing" itself would take on an entirely different cast, because so-called knowledge would reduce to mental masturbation, i.e., the meaningless friction of neurons rubbing together.

It reminds me of a comedy bit I once heard on the radio. A man called a company about some sort of issue, and the operator put him on hold. We then hear some grunting and straining on the caller's part, and he's once again speaking to the operator. She says, "How did you get here? I just put you on hold."

"I fought my way out of hold. Now please connect me to the manager."

It goes back and forth like this, with the operator putting him back on hold and the caller struggling his way out again.

So, according to the astonishing hypothesis, Darwin has put all of us on hold. Forever. We cannot speak to the manager of this place, nor can we even get a human being on the line.

What I don't understand is how Darwin got through. How was he able to fight his way out of hold, and speak directly to Mother Nature? Is it because he's some sort of god or something? Is he magically exempt from the implications of his own theory? I guess so.

That would actually qualify as astonishing, if a single human being somehow embodied the word of God and shared it with the rest of us. But who would believe that?

You may recall my post of two days ago, Putting the Cosmos on the Couch. If not, consider yourself reminded.

In it I mentioned the evolution of psychoanalysis, from a one-person psychology to a two-person psychology. I'll try to avoid the pedantry, but by the 1940s, leading theorists began to reconceptualize the mind, and regard it as thoroughly intersubjective. In turn, this had revolutionary implications for the treatment of mental illness.

It all revolves around the concept of "counter-transference." Most of you are probably familiar with the term "transference." In the old, pre-intersubjective days, the analyst was supposed to be a "blank slate" for the patient to project his unconscious fantasies on. That's transference.

The key point is that any emotional reaction or involvement on the part of the analyst was considered a bad thing, analogous to contamination in a lab experiment. Indeed, just think of so-called "climate science." The problem with it is that its practitioners so contaminate their models and findings with subjective preferences and biases, that the science is less than worthless, i.e., harmful.

But again, the mind is not an object, so it cannot be treated as such. Not only is it a system, but an open system with interior relations to other human beings. This is what makes possible such things as love, or communication, or reading of facial expressions.

Bottom line: with the change in perspective toward intersubjectivity, counter-transference was no longer considered a "contamination," but a form of unconscious intersubjective communication. As soon as you think about it, you realize that it's a kind of truism. In any human-to-human contact, we are witness to all sorts of moment-to-moment reactions, a kind of interpersonal stream of consciousness, as it were.

Thus, nowadays a properly trained psychoanalysis doesn't dismiss his counter-transference, but uses it as primary data about the patient. Two things to bear in mind: first, the counter-transference occurs at multiple levels, from the very primitive on up.

To put it another way, a very primitive patient (i.e., one with a lot of primitive developmental issues) will evoke primitive reactions on the part of the analyst. These reactions may appear in the form of images, spontaneously recalled dream fragments, past experiences, anything.

The second point is that one doesn't just take the counter-transferential reactions at face value. Rather, one examines them in a detached way, to see how they relate to everything else about the analytic situation. For example, sometimes they are telling you about the patient, but other times they might only be telling you about yourself, and you have to try to discern the difference.

I hope this isn't getting too pedantic, but think of an everyday situation between a couple. Or just me, even. I come home from work. I felt pretty good all day, but as soon as I walk in the door, I sense a Vague Foreboding. Not necessarily a Nameless Dread, but some sort of distinct change in the emotional weather pattern.

What's going on here? Is it her? Or is it me? It seems like her, but let's not jump to conclusions. Then I'll really make a mess of things. Maybe it's something I said last night, or maybe she's just having a bad day that has nothing to do with me. Maybe I need her to be a certain way, and she's not being that way, so unconsciously I'm getting angry.

Etc. You know how it goes.

All of the above blather about counter-transference is just prelude to something I wanted to address in The Nature of Order. The way my mind works -- or doesn't work, depending on your counter-transference -- is that I'm always seeing connections in things. And what I'm seeing here is that Alexander has essentially developed a sophisticated theory of counter-transference, not just vis-a-vis our unconscious reactions to architecture, but toward the whole cosmos.

Jumping ahead a bit, you might say that, just as psychoanalysis evolved from a one-person to a two-person psychology, Alexander does the same thing with existence itself. Therefore, if Alexander is correct -- which he is -- our constant stream of interior reactions to the world is a source of objective data about the world. Yes, it is also "subjective," in that we are obviously subjects. Nevertheless, the information is objective and verifiable.

Let's go back to the question of whether or not we are forever on hold. If we are, then we have no access to valid information about the nature of reality. But if somehow -- mirabile dictu -- we are in touch with Mother, then we aren't just restricted to scientific truths, but to all sorts of interesting information.

For example, Alexander would maintain that when we look at, say, Yosemite Valley, and we exclaim to ourselves, My, what breathtaking beauty!, the beauty is a fact, not an opinion. I mean, who says it's ugly? Indeed, there is more inter-rater reliability for such an opinion than there is for most scientific questions.

Out of time. To be continued. But I'll leave you with the coonsolation prize of a couple of aphorisms of DC:

"Intuition" is the perception of the invisible, just as "perception" is the intuition of the visible. And

The subjective is what is perceived by one subject. The objective is is what is perceived by all subjects.

All normal subjects, anyway. Obama, for example, is objectively creepy. Those who disagree need therapy.


Beautiful or ugly or just meh?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

You Can't Have Your Crick and Eat it Too

The problem of pseudo-significance is strange: What do we believe we say when we say what signifies nothing? --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

About 20 years ago Francis Crick -- whom we mentioned in yesterday's post -- published a book called The Astonishing Hypothesis, to much acclaim by his benaughted coreligionists. The banal hypothesis goes like this:

"A person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them."

Two things. First, could I buy some pot from you? Second, a scientific hypothesis isn't just anything, but analogous to a legal argument, in which you state the conclusion and proceed to demonstrate why it is true.

But how could one ever demonstrate the truth of such a comically Astigmatic Hypothesis? (See #2.) It reminds me of that crack by Haldane:

"For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true." And if the mind can arrive at truth, then there is no reason to believe the mind is reducible to atoms, molecules, and nerve cells.

Besides, there's nothing astonishing about a human being dressing up his conclusions as arguments, his prejudices as principles. A little irony, please. Human beings engage in this fallacy all the time. BFD. We've all been to college. We know the secular drill.

On second thought, I think Crick needs some stronger pot. Or at least something to get him out of his pneumacognitive rut. Fifty years is a long time between ideas. But if the rut is genetically determined, there is no way out. Man is then reduced to a broken record, condemned to repeat the same foolish things over and over, with no contact with reality and a Nobel Prize to prove it.

I know. Astonishing. Like this aphorism by Don Colacho: "Nearly every idea is an overdrawn check that circulates until it is presented for payment." I dare you to try to convert Crick's rubber check into real money. The teller at the First Bank of Perennial Truth will just laugh at you.

I have an even more astonishing hypothesis. It actually consists of a dense network of hypotheses, each supporting the others. Furthermore, if the hypothesis is untrue, then it "unexplains" so much about the world, that reality becomes completely absurd and unintelligible. Symbolically, it reduces to O or Ø.

In plain English, the hypothesis goes like this: man is created in the image of the Absolute. This being the case, it explains how and why we, of all people -- middling relativities that we are -- nevertheless have access to a transcendent and unchanging realm of love, truth, beauty, virtue, and much more -- to everything, in fact. For to paraphrase Aristotle, "the soul is all it knows," and nothing exists that cannot be potentially known.

It reminds me of a remark by Arthur Koestler, that "The evolution of the brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use."

Crick and other victims of scientism especially prove the latter half of Koestler's hypothesis, for "The world is explicable from man, but man is not explicable from the world" (DC). In short, as it pertains to truth, you can't have your Crick and eat it too.

Here is an even more astonishing hypothesis, which follows from the first: ultimate reality isn't just personal, but a person (for there is no other way to have the former unless it is via the latter).

Well, there is one other way: scientistic magic. For one can only explain the higher from the lower via magic, or voodoo metaphysics. Conversely, every time the higher makes an ingression into the lower, it is a miracle, not magic.

In other words, pretty much everything is a miracle -- i.e., an instance of vertical causation -- although there are, of course, degrees of miraculousness, and with them, degrees of astonishment.

All of this leads to yet another hypothesis, this one articulated by Don Colacho: "That which is not a person is not finally anything." Do you see why?

Examining our web of hypotheses, we find another: "Love is the act that transforms its object from a thing into a person." And coming full circle (I'm paraphrasing DC here), "to love a person is to discover the reason God created him."

Put -- or pull, rather -- it all together, and what do we have? Ultimate reality is a cosmic area rug of "loving personhood." Can we prove that? Yes we can. At least to the extent that such things can be "proved." Demonstrated or lived is more like it, for this pertains to the realm of being per se, with the knowledge flowing from that.

Hmm. I never got to my main topic, which is Alexander's truly astonishing hypothesis about the personal nature of reality, and how we may tune into its frequency. Now, he's probably got some good pot. But we'll have to wait until tomorrow's post to inhale.

We'll end with a little rejoycing:

--Ore you astoneaged, jute you?

--Oye am thonthorstruck, thing mud.

(Stoop) if you are abcedminded, to this claybook, what curios of signs in this allaphbed!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Putting the Cosmos on the Couch

Is the world crazy? Or is it just you?

And if it is crazy, how could we ever know?

I'm just thinking of this essay by Roger Kimball, What Philistinism Looks Like.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Ironic? No, not ironic. Predictable, rather. For it is written: when religion dies, it is simply replaced by something that is not religion. As a result, it doesn't really die at all, but simply takes a new and perverse form. In our day and age, the most common forms are leftism, AGW, and scientism.

Please bear in mind that these human foibles do not actually become religions, which is to say, become religions, any more than, say, a transexual actually becomes an opposite member of the contradictory gender. Rather, it is only in make believe that a man can become a woman, two men can marry, or science (and political) fiction can become a religion.

This is not to say that a real religion cannot become pathological. But a false religion is intrinsically pathological, with none of the benefits of true religion.

A case in point is this very naughty witch Thomas Nagel, who, in the words of Kimball, is the recipient of "we-now-cast-you-into-outer-darkness treatment" by his inquisitorial peers.

Yes, "the orthodox high priests of the neo-Darwinian consensus -- chaps like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins -- have read Nagel out of the fraternity of OK people for daring to question the tenets of their faith" (ibid.). You will have noticed that this is not even a parody of the Catholic faith.

Which is unfortunate, because baptized pagans such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Matthews, and the entire Kennedy gang should be excommunicated for their open contempt of Church doctrine. To paraphrase Taranto, there's a very easy way to protest the Church. It's called becoming a Protestant.

Kimball highlights E.O. Wilson's unwise crack to the effect that "an organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA." Really? I dare him -- and the rest of the Darwinist faithful -- to have the courage of his convictions, and act on that belief. Come to think of it, that would be a very efficient way for all Darwinists to receive Darwin awards. Problem solved.

But wait a minute. Why would DNA have any convictions at all, and why should we care?

I know. The whole thing's crazy. But so is Islamism. Just because something is a fantasy, it hardly means it has no real world consequences. Hitler, for example, had some fantasies about Jews. Obama has some fantasies about economics. (I am Godwin, so I'm exempt.)

Kimball cites another wisecrock by Francis "rhymes with" Crick -- you may recall that DNA discovered him about 60 years ago, hanging around the lab -- who claimed that "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons."

Excuse me, but how the fuck do you know that? I mean, if we're just a meaningless side effect of buzzing nerve cells, then isn't it true that we couldn't even know we don't know shit?

I don't get it. Why this hatred of our humanness? It very much reminds me of the pathology of liberalism, whereby the liberal is too broadminded to take his own side in a dispute. Muslims want to murder our children? Why, they must have done something to deserve it. Oh, but don't smoke cigarettes in the same zip code as a child. Might harm them.

I'm going to assume you've read the whole piece by Kimball, but there's one more passage I need to highlight:

"The idea the Cricks and Dennetts and Dawkinses of the world wish us to take on board is that really, at bottom, our experience of ourselves and the world counts for nothing. That flowering crab apple outside your window, for example, is not really a beautiful celebration of spring, but merely an agglomeration of biological processes."

This is indeed key. I just finished reading 1,000 or so pages of text that directly refutes this crazy view of the world. I'm speaking, of course, of Alexander, who certainly has no religious agenda -- or at least, like me, didn't start out with one. Rather, he was ineluctably led in that direction by the facts of existence.

What facts are those?

That's an entirely fair question: what is a fact? It is a fact that my body is a flittering pattern of subatomic activity.


It is a fact that the sky is blue.


There is no such thing as blue. What we experience as this thing you call blue is just an illusion produced by light striking the retina at a certain frequency.

Again, if you actually attempt to live in this bizarre way, you are either crazy or will soon be certifiably tenured.

I need to switch gears for a moment, but I'll try to be brief. Psychoanalysis is my racket. I mean, it's what I was actually trained in, for what it's worth. As we all know, this discipline was discovered -- or invented, if you prefer -- by Freud back in 1899. This was at the height of 19th century positivism, at a time when aberrations like determinism, reductionism, and atheism -- in short, naive materialism -- actually seemed philosophically plausible.

Being that Freud was very much a geist of that particular zeit, he conceptualized the mind in wholly mechanistic / deterministic / reductionist terms. The mind was treated as an object, which is again not even ironic, because the one thing in the world that is most certainly not an object is the subject, but whatever. Science!

These pseudo-scientific assumptions prevailed until the 1940s, when a few psychoanalytic heretics made a startling discovery: the mind is not an object, and cannot be treated as one. Rather, the mind is intersubjective, which means that we are subjectively entangled with one another. No man is an island, and all that.

But it turns out that the cosmos too is intersubjective, which is why it speaks to us of so many realities on so many levels, not just of scientific truths but aesthetic beauties and ethical values (not to mention scientific beauties, aesthetic values, and ethical truths).

I'm running short on time, and I probably shouldn't rush this along too quickly. To be continued...

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