Friday, October 04, 2013

The Transformative Fantasy of Leftism

In his analysis of the Devil Card, our Unknown Friend (UF) writes that the excesses of the left are always "owing to an intoxication of the will and imagination which engenders demons." So, Will + Perverse Imagination = Demon.

For example, if Marx and Engels had simply behaved as good Jews or Christians and "defended the interests of the industrial workers without having let themselves be carried away by their intoxicated imagination" (ibid.), then their ideas wouldn't have been so apocalyptically destructive. After all, every normal person wants to help the poor and needy, but it is axiomatic that helping the human animal while killing the human soul is not the best way to go about it.

Further, as Schuon commented, "Progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes..." To paraphrase him, the leftist wishes to make himself as useful as possible to a collectivity which renders the individual as useless as possible. Thus, measured in terms of the number of useless people he has enabled (i.e., wards of the state), Obama has been our most indispensable president ever.

What is worse, the left always couches its so-called empathy for the downtrodden in fantastically broad and sweeping generalizations of historical "and even cosmic significance, such as the statement that God does not exist, that all religion is only the 'opium of the people,' [and] that all ideology is only a superstructure on the basis of material interests" (MOTT). UF wrote that in the early '60s, but it is no different today, with the intoxication that fuels and pervades the Obama campaign:

"What we hear from Obama is the eternal mantra of the socialists; America is broken, millions have no health care, families cannot afford necessities, the rich are evil, we are selfish, we are unhappy, unfulfilled, without hope, desperate, poverty stricken, morally desolate, corrupt and racist. This nihilism is the lifeblood of all the democrat candidates.... When Michelle Obama claims she is only newly proud of her country, she does not exaggerate. In her world as in Obama's, they believe we are a mess, a land filled with the ignorant and unenlightened, filled with despair" (Fairchok).

As UF writes, it is always a "matter of excess -- a going beyond the limits of competence and sober and honest knowledge" -- and no leftist doubts his superior competence, knowledge, and intentions -- "having been carried away by the intoxicating impulse of radicalism, i.e. by a fever of the will and imagination to change everything utterly at a single stroke."

It is this fever dream of sweeping existential change that animates the left no less than the Islamists. As Lee Harris has written, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is obviously not a rational response to the world, arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy.

In other words, belief in the fantasy is an end in itself -- it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality, as if it might actually be true. Looked at this way, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization, which is not going to happen (unless we do it to ourselves as a result of our own fantasy ideology). Rather, it was for the Islamists to deepen their trance and make the fantasy seem more real.

It's the same with leftist economic policies, which don't just fail, but backfire. They cause all sorts of unintended consequences that the leftist never connects to the original policy -- e.g., how the welfare state eroded the structure of the black family, how racial quotas inevitably harm blacks, how rent control causes housing shortages, how subsidizing higher education simply drives up the cost, how nationalized health reduces quality and leads to rationing, how forcing banks to make bad loans to unqualified people was at the epicenter of the meltdown of 2008, etc.

The irony is that socialists aren't even good socialists. In this piece at American Spectator, Kaminsky notes that if Obama is really interested in helping the poor and disadvantaged, he's going about it in an entirely counter-productive manner. But if socialism is just a transformative belief for leftist, then actual success is entirely irrelevant. Rather, the only relevant factor is whether the leftist feels more secure in his delusions of magnanimity, compassion, and generosity.

As Kaminsky suggests, let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt and not go all conspiratorial, imagining that his destructiveness is intentional. It's tempting to think it is, but "sometimes incompetence is just incompetence." However, I would add that incompetence is not just incompetence if it is impervious to feedback from reality:

"After all," writes Kamnisky, "the people Obama most claimed to want to help, namely the lower rungs of the American income ladder, are stuck in a swamp of the president’s creation with only more punishment in sight. Median household income has plunged under this president, with a devastating 11 percent drop among black Americans. Obama has indeed redistributed our money: to unions, bankers, and political donors. He’s not even a good socialist."

Except that he's a great socialist, if we regard socialism as a transformative fantasy, not an actual theory of reality. Looked at this way, success for socialism is measured by the intensity of belief in it, and Obama's faith shows no signs of wavering. Rather, he is more pompous, smug, and condescending than ever.

Now, UF explains that the virtue of temperance protects us from the intoxicating counter-inspiration of radical fantasies -- including religious fantasies, which are not actually religious but manmade. As such, it is foolish to blame God or religion for things that emanate from the lower vertical in man.

UF makes the subtle point that one cannot engender a positive collective mind parasite. This is related to the principle that the mind parasite is an effect of "congealed" or "coagulated" psychic energy. As a result, it always "enfolds," whereas the good radiates. The former is an inward, contracting movement, whereas the latter is an expansive, radiant movement.

This may sound overly abstract, but we are all familiar with the intellectually and spiritually closed world of the left, whether it is their elite university campuses or the op-ed page of the New York Times. If you pay close attention, you may be aware of this "inverse radiation," which feels like an attack on the intellect. There is no resonance at all, only a kind of psychic vampirism.

Now, why did people respond to, say, Ronald Reagan? For the opposite reason -- the radiant positive energy which citizens were able to perceive directly. This only became more apparent when placed side by side with Jimmy Carter's withered and constipated presence.

I suppose the only novel thing about Obama is that he is selling the same constipation, but with a shallow "celebrity radiation" that one must be intoxicated (or just stupid) to appreciate. Indeed, as Fairchok writes,

"That is his appeal; he is [ironically] an actor, a performer, a cinematic presence that stirs simple emotions, emotions that have little grounding in truth. His speeches are the inane lyrics to a popular song that endures only because it has a great beat. One must not think too deeply on what Obama says, for it turns to smoke and disappears in the light of day. Ezra Klein is correct [see the bottom of yesterday's post], Obama's speeches do not inform, they pander, they propagandize, they harmonize with the mythology of despair and the chimera of entitlement. As his hagiographies proclaim, he represents a new Camelot, but one that does not hold America quite so precious, a Camelot of globalists, moral relativists and communitarians."

Now, how to drive out a demon? Easy. But hard. The easy part is that "Light drives out darkness. This simple truth is the practical key to the problem of how to combat demons. A demon perceived, i.e. on whom the light of consciousness is thrown, is already a demon rendered impotent.... A demon rendered impotent is a deflated balloon" (UF).

The hard part is that the institutions that are supposed to throw a little light -- i.e., the media-academic complex -- instead cast an intense beam of darkness. I suppose our best hope is that the left will be so successful in implementing their fantasies, that their destructiveness will finally be undeniable to a critical mass before it's too late.

Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic. --Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Obama, Messiah of False Slack

Now, when I say the left is antichristic, this isn't just my opinion, but theirs, since they are defined by their rejection of transcendence in general. But this isn't just a negation or opposition, but rather, an inversion -- an inversion of the good, the true, the beautiful, and the One, among other transcendental and archetypal categories uniquely accessible to man (and without which man is not man).

In fact, yesterday I started watching this new lecture by Evan Sayet (posted at Ace of Spades), whose "grand unified theory of liberalism" exactly comports with this assessment. He attributes the pathology to their absence of discrimination, which results in seeing all differences as invidious. It's a very efficient way to commit intellectual and spiritual suicide, because it turns false to true, bad to good, ugly to beautiful, and divisiveness to unity.

Perhaps it's less inflammatory to identify Obama as a messiah of false slack. Obamacare, for example, is the greatest theft of the nation's slack since its founding. I say this because it diminishes not just our liberty, but assumes control of our lives and our most sacred property, i.e., the body. Let's face it, it's difficult to pursue happiness if the death panel decides you've had enough.

The slack that Obama pretends to give us is entirely false. The state cannot produce slack, but can only steal one person's slack and give it to another. James Taranto has pointed out that Obamacare will work beautifully, so long as people ignore its incentives -- that is, so long as the young, healthy, and stupid pay too much for their health insurance in order to subsidize the old and ill. And if they refuse to behave irrationally, then the state appropriates their slack in the traditional way, by fining -- er, taxing -- them at the point of a gun.

The really frightening thing about Obama is the "superior ignorance" nurtured by his confinement to the leftist looniversity bin, which encouraged him to regard unfounded opinions as inerrant truths. For example, his long-time membership in that racist, anti-American religious sect can only mean that he must take this diseased Marxist aberration for normative Christianity -- and take normative Christians for noxious and ignorant "bitter clingers."

But I think the real source of Obama's omniscient ignorance is that he is our first postmodern president. True, Presidents Clinton and Bush were ivy league educated, but this was when it still meant something -- before the leftist takeover of higher education. Also, the fact that Obama was a benefactor of the "diversity" fraud, means that he had even less cognitive equipment than the typical student to resist the neo-Marxist indoctrination he was about to receive.

In any event, by the time Obama attended college in the 1980s, it was possible -- even likely -- that one could pass through the university without once encountering any serious opposition to leftist indoctrination -- like one of those subatomic particles that can pass through the earth without touching matter. Dennis Prager often mentions that when he speaks on college campuses, students routinely approach him and tell him that they have never heard conservative ideas in any of their classrooms, except in a caricatured, straw-man way.

Is it any wonder that this remains Obama's primary mode of argument when it comes to addressing conservative objections? You know, "some people say that we should hunt down children of the poor and bury them alive in shallow graves. But Democrats don't believe that. We have a better idea."

Weak-minded postmodern leftists live in a kind of hermetically sealed ignorance that they call "education" or "sophistication." And this is why they feel no need to condescend to the level of those who disagree with them, since we are not just a priori wrong, but evil, misguided, and malevolent as well. These haters project their hatred into us, and then react to the hatred.

As recently as a few hundred years ago, mankind at large was mired in a slackless existence that hadn't changed all that much for the average geezer in thousands of years. It was war, famine, plague, tyranny, oppression, cruelty, poverty, illiteracy, backbreaking toil, early death, very bad smells, and repeat as unnecessary.

However, one place on earth took a great leap forward into the realm of slack, a realm that left wing medullards and proglodytes take for grunted today. The engine that drove this expansion of our slack was the free market, accompanied by its enablers -- i.e., necessary conditions -- such as private property, civil rights (founded upon the sanctity of the human person), and the rule of law.

Some say this slack doesn't really exist, that it's all a big con job by the powers that be, and that we are condemned to a world in which everything averages out to zero.

Thus, for example, the only way to have health insurance for all is to charge too much to some and not enough to others -- as if the problems of shortage and price aren't a result of government interference with the free market. Healthcare costs only began spinning out of control after massive state interference in the marketplace.

Linear-thinking leftists never understand the non-linear system of incentives they are putting in place when they enact complex legislation, so they inevitably must introduce more legislation to deal with those baleful consequences. Never forget that the government programs of the 1960s were sold as a way to end poverty, not to make it a permanent feature to justify the need for more big government.

The penultimate lie of the left -- following on the heels of absolute relativity -- is that the state is the source of our slack, or that it can even create slack, which is an intrinsic metacosmic heresy. Look at Obama's oft-cited claim that he created or saved X number of jobs. But the government can only "create" jobs by taking money out of the job-creating private sector, so he is truly selling us false slack, an entirely meretricious something-for-nothing, or "turd made fresh."

The state can surely protect slack. In fact, that is the president's primary job. His oath is to preserve and protect the Constitution, which is the guarantor of our unencumbered pursuit of slack. But with FDR a line was crossed, and people began looking to the state as the source of slack, and we can all see what has resulted.

When people depend upon the state for their slack, the pool of slack is gradually dissipated in one way or another. For the state only has three sources of slack: taxation, printing money (as if slack grows on trees!), or borrowing. Two of these come down to outright theft, while the third is simply deferred theft from future generations. My son will have less slack because of Obama's larcenous actions today.

The bottom lyin' is that Obama is trying to increase the slack of the takers by stealing it from the makers. This will never work, because in the real slack-generating economy, nothing happens until someone sells something -- until there is a voluntary exchange of value resulting in an increase in slack for both parties.

But in the anti-slack world of the left, nothing happens until the government forcibly takes something from someone. Thus, the whole foul enterprise is rooted in involuntary transactions masquerading as slack.

However, this can't go on forever, because the problem with leftism is that you eventually run out of other people's slack.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Don't Worry, Obama is Not the Antichrist

Well, first of all, I have a cold. Thus, no can blog. Yesterday was the worst, but I think I've turned a coroner. Still plagued by low physical and mental energy, however.

But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun at Obama's expense! Back in 2009, you may recall that we posted the occasional "Anti-Christ Update" to gauge Obama's progress in wrecking the greatest nation on earth. I'd like to reviscerate some of these old eviscerations, just to see how well they hold up in light of his holdup of the country.

In general, there are always going to be problems when infantile omnipotence collides with the reality principle. In fact, Obama addressed this just yesterday, comparing the trainwreck of Obamacare to a bug in an Apple product. Rrrright: when you think of the federal bureaucracy, isn't the first thing that comes to mind the most successful company in the world?

Given the level of unsustainable fantasy that was projected into Obama prior to actually doing anything, we knew the country was going to be in for a screwed aweakening when this Nobody from Nowhere underwent the formality of actually existing as Someone doing Something.

In short, we are now living in the dark future of which these blognostications were shadows. Here are some excerpts:

First of all, let's get this out of the way at the outset. Are we calling Obama the antichrist?

Yes, of course.

Nah, just kidding. Let's just say an embodiment of the antichristic principle. Please, let's be mature, and discuss this in terms of abstract cosmic principles, without getting personal. No need to demonize someone just because he's an instrument of satan. Besides, he's just the vehicle, not the driver. The surfer, not the wave. The bong, not the smoke.

Now, what do we mean by "antichrist?" I would say that, as Christ is Word-made-flesh, the realm of the antichristic would analogously represent the "lower principle" made flesh -- the instantiation, as it were, of the energies of the Fall (speaking of apples and bugs).

So first of all, one must believe that man is in some sense a fallen being with a built-in design flaw. You don't have to be a fanatic about it. You only have to know that "something ain't right" with the earthlings, however you wish to conceptualize it.

Being aware of this principle is our greatest inoculation against utopian leftist schemes to perfect mankind, which always -- always -- result in unanticipated cosmic belowback. We might think of the left as the Good Intentions Paving Company, and we all know where that road leads.

Secondly, you would have to believe that it is possible for the energies responsible for the Fall to be personified -- or, let us say, both focused and dispersed like a beam of darkness through the concavity or convexations of man's heart. As Christ is a blinding light, antichrist would be, oh, darkness visible. Thus, to those who live in spiritual darkness, it might appear as a false light -- as, say, a single match is brighter than the sun in an enclosed room, cut off from the real source of light.

The Serpent -- to paraphrase our Unknown Friend -- symbolizes advanced intelligence ("the most cunning of the beasts") turned wholly toward the horizontal. Thus, it is a perversion of man's intellect, as it represents a self-sufficient naturalism and total (small r) realism that betrays the vertical source of human intelligence. As such, we would expect one aspect of the antichrist to be high intelligence combined with extraordinary vapidity, at least for those with spiritual discernment.

But this cannot merely be the philosophical vapidity of the doctrinaire atheist or scientistic materialist, or it could never gain traction in the human heart, which always hungers for Spirit, even (or especially) if it is the false kind. Rather, it would have to come cloaked in some sort of seductive or hypnotic faux verticality. It would indeed have to be charismatic and charming, bearing in mind the root meaning of former, which is "divine gift," and of the latter, which is "incantation" or "magic spell."

A spiritually normal person would be alarmed if he possessed this kind of influence over others, for it is always a great danger to mess with the destiny of others. At the very least, it would be an occasion for the deepest humility, combined with concern over the precarious state of the souls under his influence. I mean, if someone were inclined to worship me, the first thing I'd want to say is, what the hell is wrong with you?!

Most people, if they knew the implications, would not want this power, because they would know that they are neither worthy of it nor competent to deal with it, any more than they are competent to perform brain surgery. But a person with narcissistic issues will be too intoxicated by the power and adulation to care about the souls with whom he is toying. They are just props, part of his psychic furniture.

This power is a heavy responsibility and is not to be taken lightly. The spiritually normal person knows that any charis is only on loan to him (or courses through him locally from a nonlocal source), and that he is not free to use it as he will.

Rather, one is only free to use this power if it is aligned with its vertical source and with vertical principles, i.e., Truth, Love, Beauty, and Unity (not relativism, idiot compassion, aesthetic barbarism, and diversity). There is something coming through the charismatic, not from him, and as soon as one realizes this, it is an occasion for, yes, gratitude, but also fear and trembling. It is analogous to the power to send men to die for their country, only on the vertical plane. It is the ability to inspire selfless martyrs, but for what purpose? Our satanic Islamist enemies are clearly selfless idealists under the influence of charismatic leaders. So what?

Our Unknown Friend asks the questions, "Can one produce artificially intellectual, moral or spiritual inspiration? Can the lungs produce the air which they need for respiration?" No, of course not: "the very process of breathing teaches the laws of obedience, poverty, and chastity, i.e. it is a lesson (by analogy) of grace. Conscious breathing in of the reality of grace is Christian Hatha-yoga. Christian Hatha-yoga is the vertical breathing of prayer and benediction -- or, in other words, one opens oneself to grace and receives it."

Unknown Friend goes on to say that the antichrist represents "the ideal of biological and historical evolution without grace." This is a key idea, for what is a progressive? A progressive is someone who believes fervently in progress while fanatically denying its possibility, since progress can only be measured in light of permanent truths and transcendent ideals.

The antichrist "is the ultimate product of this evolution without grace and is not an entity created by God," since divine creation is always a vertical act or descent. Yes, all things ultimately "come from God," in the same sense that all light comes from the sun, but think of all the infernal uses to which man may put the light, darkling!

Now, in this closed and absurcular dialectic, Obama is ultimately a creator of those who created him. Unknown Friend writes that, just as there are spiritual beings who reveal themselves "from above," there are what he calls egregores, which are "engendered artificially [and collectively] from below."

Thus, "as powerful as they may be," they "have only an ephemeral existence," the duration of which "depends entirely on galvanising nourishment on the part of their creators." (As Obama's projected power begins to fade and the illusion is punctured, we'll see more and more people publicly asking, "what was I thinking?" in supporting this intellectual cypher. The answer is, "you weren't. You were fantasizing." Of course, others -- the true believers -- will "dig in.")

As such, the really frightening thing about these kinds of amorphous demagogues is that they are given life and nourished by the rabble they nourish and to whom they give faux life, in a spiritually barren cycle. The result is either spiritual asphyxiation or starvation, or probably both. And starved and suffocating men are capable of anything.

Ultimately, the antichrist is the shadow of the totality of mankind, as Jesus was the immanent shadow, so to speak, of the transcendent Divine Principle. The antichrist represents all that man is, and can be, in the absence of divine grace. It is he who transported Jesus to the highest earthly mountain "and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" and said to him All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.

The secular extremist or fanatical progressive worships his own creation, and in so doing, gives birth to the antiword. Materially, it results in a statist Tower of Babel, whereas spiritually it results in a gelatinous tower of leftist babble (i.e., the vacuous but seductive demagogue who will lead the people in the direction of their most base impulses and envious desires).

We'll leave you with this classic from Ezra Klein, just to remind you that we're not exaggerating:

Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.... The tens of thousands of new voters Obama brought to the polls tonight came because he wrapped them in that experience, because he let them touch politics as it could be, rather than merely as it is.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Dreaming Along with God: To Infinity, and Beyond!

There's a helpful chapter in this book on Hartshorne's theory of order and disorder -- helpful because it speaks to our recent discussions of information theory, in particular, the differences between order, chaos, and information, and how they work together to produce meaningful change.

For example, "to deny the meaning of chaos is also to deny the meaning of order." This is an example of what Hartshorne calls "the logic of ultimate contrasts," a subject to which we will return momentarily. In a very real sense, the seeds of order are impotent in the absence of a fertile soil of chaos.

Furthermore, "The theological consequences of making order absolute would be that the Cosmic Orderer is responsible for all evils."

We might say that evils take place "due to the chaotic element. And if it be asked, 'Why does God not eliminate the chaos entirely?', the reply is, 'Because this is meaningless.' Order is just the limiting of chaos, as a river is the channeling (not the absence) of water."

In short, even God's power cannot be exercised on something that does not, and cannot, exist, i.e., order without chaos: "In this context, we might well think of evil as the overflowing of the banks," as "typified in the destructiveness of a flood."

However, there are also evils that result from too much control, as in the left's coercive, top-down approach of trying to solve problems by eroding liberty. Thus, both excessive and insufficient order can contribute to evil, and if chaos and spontaneity are covalent, these two "must be protected against by being overwhelmed by order."

Hartshorne's novel solution to this conundrum "is to grant everything, including God, some measure of both order and chaos." Again, an absolute order or an absolute chaos would both negate information, creativity, and novelty. For example, an accomplished musician always plays on the boundary between order and chaos; he does not simply reproduce the piece in a rote manner, but allows for creativity and surprise.

Theologians have typically ascribed the order of the cosmos to God, and then puzzled over the disorder. But what if the ultimate category is not order or chaos, but order and chaos? This immediately reminds me of the Jewish principle that the unit of mankind is not male or female, but male and female.

Which brings us back to the logic of ultimate contrasts. What are some of the ultimate contrasts that characterize existence? Let's see: Time/Eternity. One/Many. Absolute/Relative. Wave/Particle. Continuous/Discrete. Subject/Object. Transcendence/Immanence. Form/Substance. Freedom/Necessity. Abstract/Concrete. Whole/Part. Finite/Infinite. Individual/Group.

How are we to understand these pairs? It seems to me that the traditional way is to emphasize one to the neglect of the other -- as if one may be derived from the other, say, relative from absolute.

But what if these are not static dualities or polarities, but rather, ultimate complementarities? What this would mean is that, for example, Absolute + Relative is somehow "more" than Absolute alone, or One + Many is "more" than One alone.

In turn, this would go to the question posed in yesterday's post, Does God suffer? If we respond "yes" to this question, the suffering can be explained with recourse to the logic of ultimate contrasts -- that change and changelessness in God are somehow more than changelessness alone.

In the past, I have viewed the same principles in a modified vertical-emanationist way, a la Schuon. In other words, in his system -- which he regards as the "universal metaphysic" -- you might say that there is the changeless, apophatic God at the top, which in turn gives rise to the confessional/cataphatic God of religion, the God whom we may know and relate to.

This latter God -- say, YHVH -- is not the Absolute, but rather, the "relatively absolute." The true Absolute is beyond anything we can say about it, e.g., the ain sof of Kabbalistic thought, or the nirguna brahman of Vedanta, or Eckhart's unknowable grunt (ground).

But here again, what if -- to continue with the above example -- YHVH and ain sof are not two levels, but rather, a single reality that necessarily includes both poles, i.e., more horizontal/complementary than vertical/emanationist?

In the past, I have borrowed an analogy from psychoanalysis to illuminate this idea. If you've studied a little psychology, you've probably learned that we have a conscious mind (the ego) and an unconscious mind (the id). Typically, this is visualized as a kind of space with a horizontal boundary, with conscious above and unconscious below.

But this isn't how it actually works. Rather, you have to think of conscious/unconscious as a true complementarity that is present in all mental occasions. In other words, there is unconsciousness in every conscious act or thought or feeling, and consciousness in all unconscious ones. No one could possibly know themselves entirely; this is a literal impossibility, and if you don't realize this, just pay attention to your dreams.

Speaking of which, I think the dreamer/dream relation can be a useful way to think about God. The dreamer, for example, is inexhaustibly creative. It is not as if you can have one last dream and be done with it. Rather, dreaming is what the dreamer does -- just as creation is what the Creator does.

Or, as Whitehead put it, The many become one and are increased by one.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Does God Suffer?

It is a commonplace that Christian theology evolved in an intellectual matrix of Greek thought. This is not surprising, since this latter tradition was -- and in many ways, still is -- the most complete and consistent system of thought available, and the early fathers wanted their new sect to benefit from the prestige of such an association (the same can be said for making clear the continuity with the venerable Hebrew Bible).

The Catholic church considers the Greek matrix providential, but in the past we've speculated on whether this connection is truly necessary or perhaps contingent, and how Christianity might have developed in a different intellectual climate -- most recently with regard to our series of posts on Jesus Purusha, i.e., Christ incarnating as a Hindu instead of a Jew.

More to the point, if Christ is "universal," then it seems to me that so too should his "metaphysical penumbra" be universal.

In other words, there really shouldn't be "Greek way" or "Hindu way" or "Chinese way" to understand him, but just one way -- which should in turn reflect a universal metaphysic. A universal metaphysic is one that cannot be reduced to anything more basic or fundamental, and is discernible in every event or occasion of reality.

The process theologian John Cobb writes of how "Philosophical theology has been deeply influenced by Greek thought," which in turn "reflected Greek values. These values included the appraisal of eternity as superior to time, and of being as superior to becoming."

Thus, this presupposes an ultimate reality that is essentially static, since movement implies change, and if something is already perfect, then change can only diminish it.

For this reason, God is considered "pure act," with no possibility of anything being added to or subtracted from him: "For the divine perspective change does not occur, since the whole temporal process is always co-present." Our distinctions of time past, present, and future "hold only from the creaturely point of view."

A corollary of this is that God's perspective is "real" whereas ours is fundamentally unreal. Here we see an implicit connection with Hindu-Buddhist theories of maya, of the essential unreality of the manifestation, of appearances. (Then again, the compassion of the bodhisattva impels him to forgo nirvana in favor of a return to the world of suffering and change, implying that compassion is superior to -- or perhaps covalent with -- enlightenment.)

It also means that what we believe we are free to choose has somehow already been chosen, and that "our sense of creativity, of rendering determinate what was, prior to that act, not determinate, is an illusion." Thus, "our sense of responsibility is undercut."

You can't pretend this isn't an issue, for the Protestant split obviously produced various theologies of predestination (both religious and secular/scientistic), and we routinely hear the phrase "everything happens for a reason" -- as if God designed the Holocaust for reasons known only to him, or even just gave some little girl leukemia.

Many people who are otherwise positively disposed toward religion cannot get past this hurdle of the simultaneous existence of divine omniscience and evil (and let's face it, there's plenty of evil that isn't just attributable to human freedom).

Perhaps we need to rethink what we mean by the idea of "perfection." To take one obvious example, a "perfect lover" is not unchanged by our love for him or her, just as we are not unchanged by their love for us. Is it possible to conceive of a "higher" and more "perfect" kind of love than this, in which the participants are completely unchanged by the experience? I don't see how, without love turning into something it is not.

A related issue is whether God suffers. We all want to believe he does -- that he suffers with us -- and I think it takes a skilled theologian to prove he doesn't. For example, "The early church knew that Jesus had suffered death on the cross, and there were those who drew the conclusion that God suffered in Jesus's suffering. But the church drew back from from this conclusion," as "'God the Father' could not suffer."

This again parallels the Greek idea that it "is a mark of weakness and inferiority" to be acted upon, and to thus "be vulnerable to the actions of others over which one cannot exercise control." Rather, the Greek ideal emphasized "the basic invulnerability necessary to excellence."

Let's again toy with the idea -- or principle -- that man is in the image of the divine. What this means is that our accidents and contingencies do not reflect the divine reality, but rather, only our essence. In other words, what truly and necessarily defines us as human -- or, let us say, persons -- would have to have some divine analogue.

Now, what truly and necessarily defines a human? What are the conditions without which we cannot be persons? I think, prior to everything else, we must be intersubjectively open systems. Clearly, the notion of God-as-Trinity reflects this principle, in that the Trinity is not static at all, nor is it closed. Rather, it is the very essence of dynamism, of self-giving, and of receptivity.

Likewise, Cobb notes that "True human excellence does not involve insensitivity or indifference to others, but rather empathy with them.... This is especially important when others are suffering."

If we were to transpose this imperfect ability of ours to the divine plane, it would imply that "the divine perfection means that God perfectly receives all that happens in the world and perfectly responds to it. Far from being unaffected by our suffering and joy, God suffers fully with us and rejoices fully with us" (emphasis mine).

Importantly, this does not represent an anthropomorphization of God, but rather, a divinization of man. The same can be said of all man's divine qualities, prerogatives, and responsibilities, including his obligation to truth, his capacity for beauty, his striving for nobility, not to mention all the various flavors of love, e.g., philia, agape, caritas, eros, etc.

Well, all of this is still quite preliminary. Maybe I can dive into the heart of the matter tomorrow.

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