Friday, December 06, 2013

On Lighting a Match to Illuminate the Sun

All knowledge is conformity to an object. What is the object to which philosophy conforms? For Berdyaev, it "must commune with the primal source of life, and from this draw its perceptual experience." Er, that's a little evasive -- poetic even. Could you say more? "Knowledge is initiation into the mysteries of being, into the miracle-plays of life." C'mon. You can do better than that.

"It is light which blazes out from being and within being as well." That's better. Bi-directional primordial Light: philosophy sheds light on Light, making it an exercise -- or verticalisthenic -- in Light².

This would explain how we may "touch" God -- or rather, vice versa. I was just talking with the Gagboy the other evening about how it takes some nine minutes for the sun to touch us. Likewise, when you gaze at a star, you are being touched by an event that occurred before you were born.

Elsewhere Berdyaev writes that "Knowledge is the sunlight which causes being to develop. Knowledge is creative development, the growth of being in the sun." And since Berdyaev died in 1948, I'm benefitting from his light, which has been traveling since before I was born.

The primordial (upper case) Light alluded to above is God's "energy," so to perceive it is to perceive God, regardless of whether one is consciously aware of the fact. The ancients imagined it was the other way around -- that a beam of light streamed from the eye to its object. But this error didn't prevent them from seeing.

Or at least for that reason. As described in the prologue to John, there are times the light shines in the darkness, but the dorks can't see it. Can't or won't?

He goes on to tell of a man who "was not that Light," but rather, came "to bear witness of that Light." This is the very same Light "which gives light to every man who comes into the world." I don't know about your translation, but my copy respects the Light/light distinction made above, implying that light comes from Light.

So, was Jesus a philosopher? Yes, in the sense that he threw light on Light. But more than that, John appears to be saying he is philosophy as such -- the Word -- which would make him more like Light². If this is the case, then perhaps it might be said that the God/man distinction in him is (or manifests as) the Light/light distinction. Every man has immanent or horizontal light. But what he really needs is transcendent and vertical Light.

Berdyaev puts forth the controversial idea that freedom is prior to being. In fact, this is what makes him a "Christian existentialist," because this radical freedom is the same as the primordial nothingness of a Sartre. For Sartre, man is free, and freedom is nothing, in that it is completely unspecified. Thus, the same condition that makes us free condemns us to nothingness. Freedom is the gift that keeps taking.

Sartre, of course, was a halfwit. But more to the point, he was only half-lit, in that he eliminated -- or deluminated -- the Light. If one does that, one is left with only a tiny fleshlight to try to illuminate the upper vertical, which cannot be done.

In the same hot tub conversation with my son, I talked about how, if one points a flashlight into the dark, it illuminates everything within the beam, but also creates a boundary, beyond which is a black nothing. Not only that, but it can bleach out the subtle light from distant stars.

Doesn't this describe atheism? That is, it is an attempt to illuminate reality with light only. Furthermore, like old Prometheus, atheists are playing with stolen fire.

In any event, to adhere to the immanent light only is to be Prometheus Bound. Which is why scientism is "incapable of proving the very fact of science, the very possibility of man's knowing, for the very posing of the question takes us beyond the limits of science" -- or beyond the immanent boundaries of their little fleshlights.

But in real knowledge -- or knowledge of reality -- "freedom is conjoined with the Logos." And "the Logos is from God, while freedom is from the abyss.... In knowledge, freedom is enlightened by the Logos," the latter of which is also connected to Love.

Thus, "Knowledge completely separate from love is transformed into the will to power, and in this is a demonic element," "just as everything becomes demonic without freedom" (Berdyaev). As such, the Knowledge of which Berdyaev speaks shines in the dark, but the dimlits of the left don't see it.

I met myself in a dream / And I just wanna tell you, everything was alright / Hey now, baby, I'm beginning to see the light....

Here comes two of you / Which one will you chose?

There are problems in these times / But, ooh, none of them are mine / Oh, baby, I'm beginning to see the light...

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Signs, Nuggetz, and Hipsters

Gosh! Probably no time for a real post, but perhaps enough time to list my favorite music releases of 2013, which would in turn make great gifts for any lover of cosmoAmerican, cosmoLatin, or EuroCosmic music. Consider it an open thread.

You will notice that these selections seem to skew toward the 20th century, but that's not exactly true, because I never heard much of it prior to the 21st.

In particular, I'm thinking of the Los Nuggetz box set, a true labor of love consisting of 101 energetic slabs of punk, pop, psychedelic, and garage rock from Latin freaking America. Therefore, I never heard any of it, except that it includes a number of covers of '60s classics (you can check out samples here) such as My Generation, Wooly Bully, and Gloria, breathing new life into tunes you've heard a million times.

If you tried to collect this stuff on your own, you couldn't do it in a hundred years, which is what makes it una trabajo de amor, pardon my Spanish. There was a time that rock music wasn't just a corporate product aimed at young adolts anxious to be told what to like, but rather, a spontaneous, bottom up expression of youthful energy, and this captures that liberating spirit (also spiced with a fair amount of kitsch). Not only is it weird, but it's ge-level weird.

At the other end of the extreme, and also mostly new to me, is this box set put together by the founder of the legendary ECM records, Selected Signs. ECM is a European jazz label started in the early 1970s, its most famous artist no doubt being Keith Jarrett. The "ECM sound" came to embody impeccably recorded performances that blend American jazz with a European chamber sensibility.

This box has two discs of classical, two discs of jazz, and two discs of film music, but because of the ECM sound, it has a coherence and continuity despite the great diversity, from Arvo Part to Keith Jarrett and Bach again. Amazon doesn't have the track list, but you can see it (and hear samples) here (there is some talking at the beginning of a couple of the discs, because this was originally part of a museum exhibit in Germany). All very contemplative.

I mentioned this one the other day, the Original Mono Recordings of Miles Davis on Columbia Records. It includes every one of his releases between 1956 and 1961. John Coltrane is featured on six of the nine discs, while three others feature the big band modernist arrangements of Gil Evans. It really represents the core of the Miles Davis canon. Afterwards he put together a new quintet that produced extremely abstract "freebop," and then veered into fusion, neither of which will be to everyone's taste.

But this stuff is not only accessible, but was even marketed to non-jazz fans as a kind of adult-contemporary instrumental music. Columbia had the financial means to create the romantic image of the cool, handsome, and detached hipster of our collective retrocultural memory. In the '50s he became to music what, say, James Dean or Marlon Brando were to acting. But that's all peripheral to the music.

Why mono? Well, that is how it was recorded and mixed, at least until 1958, when Columbia began putting out mono and stereo versions. But back then stereo was more of a gimmick aimed at a niche audience. Not only does the mono have a more realistic soundstage -- instead of extreme left-right panning, which can detract from the power and coherence -- but it was beautifully recorded to begin with. It includes Kind of Blue, which is no doubt the biggest selling jazz album ever -- the jazz equivalent of Dark Side of the Moon -- or maybe Mount Rushmore, what with an all-star line-up including Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Cannonball Adderley.

I guess I'm already out of time. To be continued the next time I don't have enough.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I Loves Me Some Wisdom!

Back in Olden Times, philosophy wasn't the province of the tenured, but rather, of a special group of pneumanauts with the bright stuff, dedicated to the proposition that the unexamined life is not worth living. The operative word here is living, because philosophy was and is a way of life, not some static doctrine, let alone a state-sponsored gig for unfireable mediocretins.

You might well say that philo-sophy -- the love of wisdom -- is not a noun but a verb: it is a lifelong passion and pursuit. Here again, the operative word is love; thus, it is a living and loving of Truth above all else.

One might even say that it is the religion of pure truth. Truth is one of the names of God, and if we have faith in this ultimate truth, it does have the capacity to save. Of course, we also require revelation to fill in certain inevitable manmode lacunae, but if we aren't first oriented to truth we won't recognize it. In order for it to be assimilated, it requires "man's free perceptual reaction to revelation."

Very few great philosophers have ever been among the tenured -- certainly none of my favorites. Rather, they are usually gentleman slackers and men of vertical leisure with a passion for the eternal. No organization or institution would have them, nor is it likely that a philosopher would feel comfortable among credentialed idiots and tenured apes, let alone young adolts.

(I'm picturing Schuon, at the end of the term, solemnly leafing through his "student evaluations," or being forced to undergo sensitivity training for his views on homosexuality.)

"Philosophy cannot endure the herd," writes Berdyaev. Nor can it endure the immature, for which reason it generally wasn't considered an appropriate pursuit until one reached middle age, or before one had a few miles on the O-dometer. (There are exceptions, of course, Berdyaev being one of them. He had little interest in school, but in his free time blew through Kant and Hegel when he was around 14.)

So, Berdayaev is the traditional type of philosopher; he left no systematic doctrine, only his own pneumatic contrail, or logostream of contemplation: "Philosophical knowledge is a spiritual act, where not only the intellect is active, but the whole of man's spiritual power, his emotions and his will."

Now, what is a man but intellect-emotion-will, or head-heart-hands, or truth-love-freedom? "Only a free spiritual being whose roots go down to the bottomless depths of existence, can strive for final freedom, is able to fight for it: an un-free piece of nature would remain in slavery to the end of the ages..." If there is no freedom -- in particular, vertical freedom -- there is no philosophy.

Philosophy is vertical movement par excellence. Conversely, leftism is the quintessence of vertical stasis, or an exchange of vertical adventure for empty promises of horizontal comfort: the latter strives "to make men happy, to calm and organize them," so "they will forget their irrational freedom, will renounce their right to absolute, supra-mundane truth." Such "is the way of the Grand Inquisitor. It leads to the ant-hill where there will be neither freedom nor personality" (again, personality, or individualism, is freedom lived).

The Inquisitors of the left stand with one hand opening "the door to human happiness" while the other closes "forever the door to freedom." In reality, "we need relative, outward, social freedom for absolute, inward and mystical" freedom. Again, the horizontal is for the sake of the vertical, not vice versa, otherwise we mistake means for ends.

Man has inalienable rights to life and liberty. But what is life + liberty? Again, personality: thus, there is an "inalienable right of personality," of being, not just doing and having. You could possess all the world's riches, but what good will it do if you're not yourself? Rosebud...

Now, man's first property is himself, but it seems that this self actually belongs to another -- or is at least intrinsically ordered to the great notSelf, O: "In the creative, knowing act of philosophy there is an upsurge towards another being, another world, daring to approach the ultimate mystery."

The object of philosophy is the subject who pursues it, and all this implies. In this quest, reason is a tool, not the master. It applies without ambiguity only to middle earth, not vis-a-vis the Beginning or End. This is because reason is ultimately circular, and therefore not free; caught in its web there are no ends but arbitrary or false ones.

But intuition or gnosis cut through the muddle of the mount and go straight to the begending. One purpose of revelation is to provide symbols to kindle this direct intuition. Thus, "in philosophy intuition is the ultimate: logic, the penultimate." (To paraphrase Schuon, revelation is public intellection, just as intellection is private revelation, so to speak; or, something isn't true because it is rational, but rather, rational because it is true.)

Only intuition can reveal the meaning of being. If truth were confined to the necessity of logic, it would render meaning impossible, for necessity leaves no space for freedom. Man himself is living proof that 1 plus 1 sometimes equals 3.

Philosophy has always been a break-through out of this meaningless, empirical world that crowds and compels us from every side, to the world of meaning, to the world beyond...

(All quoted material from Berdyaev.)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Multiculturalism would be Unanimous if it Weren't for Your Damn Tribe of Individuals!

So, we've covered Berdyaev's thoughts on the Eternal Being and its image and likeness down herebelow. But herebelow the image can never be a solitary and isolated monad; rather, it can only exist in society -- which should not be surprising if the Eternal Being is a becoming society of three.

To quote the eternal being themself, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." And "let them..." Let them what? Doesn't really matter in this context. We're more concerned with the them and with the Us-them parallel clueniverses.

Thus we move on to the Social Animal -- who is also the political beast, or the mimetic subject, or the half-awake herdling, or the grumpy outsider, or the unassimilated crank. Unlike, say, ants or chimps or leftists, we have countless ways of expressing our groupishness -- even by denying it.

Bion, who wrote a book on the subject, situated man in the dialectical space between what he called our nariciss-ism and and our social-ism. Pathology lies at either extreme, i.e., elevating the individual at the expense of the group, or prizing the group at the expense of effacing individuality. Historically it has been almost impossible to maintain the ideal balance, as in the pre- or non-leftist United States.

A society is an organism. However, unlike other organisms, the parts retain their autonomy and identity (or at least have much more of each), and aren't completely subordinate to the whole. Indeed, they can even rebel against the whole. Of course, there are times that parts of a body rebel against the whole, as in cancer or any autoimmune disorder.

Is there a sociological analogue of cancer? Yes, of course. There is, for example, the unorganized cancer of criminality, and the organized criminality of leftism, which again destroys everything it touches. Under the best of circumstances leftism is an autoimmune disorder, in that (like Obama) it fails to recognize foreign invaders and instead attacks its own citizens.

But the left's worst crime is against freedom and therefore individuality, i.e., creative being -- which is why "political correctness" is not a glitch but a feature of leftism. It is essential to leftism, in that the latter simply cannot exist in the absence of ThoughtCrime. Individuals must not only be forced to do certain things, but to believe and even be certain things.

This follows the left's inverted metaphysic whereby essence is a function of existence. For example, a black person who has the incorrect beliefs -- say, Clarence Thomas -- revokes his blackness; or a woman who rejects the feminist agenda -- say, Sarah Palin -- becomes something other than a woman, just a dung-eating monster of the leftist imagination.

Dehumanization is at the cardiopathological heart of the left, since humans who do not conform to their image of the group are ostracized. You will no doubt notice that this is precisely what all primitive tribes do.

For the tribal mentality, "humanness" is defined as membership in the tribe, not as a universal essence. Those outside the tribe are barbarians, not quite human. Thus, the same rules of morality do not apply to those outside the group. Over the past five years, we've all seen this double standard play out, as Obama has been permitted to get away with things for which members of our tribe would be impeached. And rightfully so.

Eight years ago (or whatever it was) Obama and Biden claimed that ending the filibuster would be a crime against mankind. Now? Same thing. It depends on what you mean by "mankind," for a crime against non-leftists isn't a crime at all. Compare the media coverage of the false claims against the Duke lacrosse team vs. the true claims against their murderous accuser. It is as if the unreality really happened, whereas the reality didn't happen at all.

Another critical difference between left and right -- and this is something highlighted by Chesterton as well -- is that we include the dead in our tribe.

In fact, we also include the unborn, because our temporal space isn't confined to the moment. We don't assume we are the wisest generation in history -- the ones we've been waiting for! -- and are therefore entitled to fundamentally transform what it took generations of sacrifice to build. Nor do we consider it moral to force the unborn -- those we suffer to live -- to spend their lives paying off the debt for the leftist spending spree that has been going on since they took over congress in 2006.

An organism is distinct from a mere mass or agglomeration; rather, it is a diversified whole, with both horizontal and vertical organization. Just as the body has a head, a heart, and hands, society has its thinkers and doers, its priests and warriors, etc.; but we must be free to discover our particular destiny, our part in the whole. Thus, as Berdyaev observes,

"In the relationship of ethics to the social question, we meet the tragic conflict between the value of freedom and the value of equality." I have yet to meet the leftist who understands that freedom and equality are at antipodes, for absolute equality requires the obliteration of freedom, just as absolute freedom would redound to an absence of equality.

"Absolute equality would have left being in an unrevealed condition, in indifference, i.e. in non-being." Thus "the revolutionary demand for return to equality" results in a plunge into non-being and "the denial of meaning in the whole creative process in the world....

"The demand for a forced leveling, which comes out of the lower levels of chaotic darkness, is an attempt to destroy the hierarchic, cosmic order which was formed by the creative birth of light in darkness, an attempt to destroy human personality itself as a stage in hierarchy, as born of inequality."


Which is why the worst evils result from forced equality under the guise of "goodness." Evil goodness, thy (current) name is ObamaCare.

I believe Berdyaev would say that God is freedom-love-creativity; each of these transcendentals presupposes the others, and personality -- or personhood -- is a function of their dynamic play. Thus, "Personality is very closely linked with love. Personality is realized through love: by means of love solitude is conquered and communion is achieved."

Furtheramor, "Love presupposes personality: it is the relation of person to person: personality goes out of himself into another personality, comes to know this other personality and confirms it for eternity." In short, "The 'I' becomes a personality through love," as every baby knows (or fails to know) more deeply than knowledge.

For "Love is dual: it predicates two persons, and not some impersonal identity. And the secret of love is related to the fact that one personality is never exactly identical with another, that the other person is 'Thou.'"

Although elsewhere Berdyaev expresses some peculiar ideas about sex, here he affirms the Raccoon principle that "male and female are cosmic categories, not merely anthropological categories." There is a "cosmic mysticism of male and female," hence, what we call dilettrantic yoga, since we are all beginners at this -- or must always begin again, since no one else's yoga (union) can be ours.

(All quoted material from Berdyaev.)

Monday, December 02, 2013

Frankenchrist and Mankind v2.0

It has no doubt occurred to you that every monster you've ever seen in a movie is just man, or a symbol thereof. Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, the Werewolf, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Barack Lagoon (Chicago) -- each is just a symbol of what man is capable of.

We are all inhabited by monsters, otherwise we wouldn't recognize them. Hollywood depicts so many monstrous capitalists because these caricatures are a projection of liberal greed and envy. Greed and envy are interior monsters, but they haunt the exterior landscape of the left -- for which reason liberals always denounce someone else's greed, never their own.

You know what Barry says: "White folks' greed runs a world in need." Which begs the question, because why don't the victims of white greed just exercise their own? Then they can run the world.

But enough about ObamaCare.

Think of those classic monsters: Frankenstein, a grotesque experiment in living death, or of inserting the brain of a criminal into the body of a man; Dracula, a nocturnal predator who feeds on the substance of others and whose bite enlists one into his soul murdering cult; the Werewolf, who simply echoes the ancient truism that man is a wolf to man; the Mummy, a restless spirit swaddled in his decaying flesh; the Invisible Man, who can only be seen phenomenally but whose essence is nowhere; Obama, the cold, dead hand of collectivism calmly administering the anesthesia mask over your horror-stricken face.

Yeah, man is some piece of work, ain't he? Of this work-in-progess -- or regress, depending -- Berdyaev begins with the obviousation that he "is the meeting point of two worlds" -- although I think we need to widen this duality out into four dimensions.

In other words, just as the horizontal has a past and a future, the vertical has an up and a down. In nether worlds, a bad monster is the meeting point of an atavistic or barbarous man and the lower vertical -- which explains why no mere animal can be a monster, only a beast.

I suppose you could say that Jesus is another kind of monster, if we take that word literally, e.g., "something unnaturally marvelous," or "one who shows a deviation from the normal in behavior or character." Thus, Christology is really the last word in anthropology, revealing to us a divine-human attractor-destiny:

"Christianity recognizes the eternal significance and the eternal value of man, of the individual soul and its destiny." Thus, "the unique and unrepeatable visage of every man exists only because there exists the unique and unrepeatable image of Christ the God-man" -- in whom we see "the eternal image of every human being" (Berdyaev).

So, I suppose this means that man has the freedom to choose which kind of monster he will be, supernatural or subnatural. For "the very fact of man's existence is a break with the natural world.... As a being belonging to two worlds and capable of overcoming himself, man is a contradictory and paradoxical being, comprehending within himself diametric opposites," "capable of great love and sacrifice or of great cruelty and limitless egotism."

Ultimately, man "is both the child of God and the child of nothingness.... His roots are in heaven, in God, and in the deepest abyss as well." As such, this problem child cannot be solved "from the viewpoint of nature and only in relationship with nature." Rather, "we can understand man only in his relation to God."

To be sure, the world -- or nature -- cannot solve the riddle of man. Or, to bring in another monster, man is the Riddler supreme. Just when you think you have him figured out, he defies your logic and expectations -- which is why the the 20th century was such a monstrous surprise to the 19th.

Even in knowing damn well he is a creature of biology, man knows damn well he isn't, because knowledge transcends biology. Although rooted in biology, man "lifts himself above it, and finds within himself a higher element than the given world, another plane. Knowledge would be impossible if man were only nature, if he were not spirit also" (ibid.).

If we pursue this train of thought all the way to the station of wisdom, we see that "True human-ness is the god-like, the divine in man." And the bad monsters among us are the caboose.

So, here is the orthoparadox: "In order to fully be man, man must resemble God." Alienated from God, man tends not only to be un-human, but "even inhuman.... It is God who demands human-ness of man," man himself being "not very demanding in this connection." To put it mildly.

I think this is the point of Judaism also, i.e., the explication of man's higher nature, or the transformation of the lower via the higher -- almost as if Jesus himself were Jewish or something.

For the Christian, one might say that Christ is simply the actual incarnation of this striving, or its teleological end made fully manifest; again, rather than lower vertical made flesh (the bad monster), this is the upper vertical made so.

Or, to put it in plain coonspeak, the lumen being triumphs over the human beastling. And just as revolutionary leftism is a betrayal of the human state, Christianity is treason against the left. So, if you're not a monstrous Enemy of the State, you're doing it wrong. Thus, an IRS audit is the new martyrdom.

For "Caesar is the eternal symbol of authority, the state, the kingdom of this world." It's simple, really: for caesarian suckups of the left, we must render to Caesar what belongs to us, and render to the state what belongs to God.