Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Civilization, Humanization, Divinization

If man is just another animal, then most everything about civilization is artificial and unnatural. It cannot in any way be normative; rather, civilizational norms will ultimately be as arbitrary as shaking with the right hand or removing one's hat in a restaurant.

At best such norms might be neutral, but more likely they will simply be Masks of Power. For example, holding a door for a lady will be an instance of misogyny. Besides, there are no ladies. That term was invented by the patriarchy in order to control Dangerous Female Sexuality.

To say there are no civilizational norms is also to say that there is no correct way to be human. Many on the left fervently embrace this idea (which they must do if they are to be intellectually consistent). When my former leftbob first became interested in psychology, he read insopherable authors such as R.D. Laing, who argued that the insane were really sane, and vice versa. Likewise philosophers such as Foucault -- which is quite convenient for someone as insane as Foucault.

If you're going to have a Revolution, then you need to delegitimize the current state of affairs. The left is able to accomplish this in a stroke, since all hierarchies are bad and oppressive.

In practical terms this translates to the obsessions with "income disparity" or "marriage inequality," but it all reduces to the injustice of any delay or discrepancy between What I Want and What I Have, or between desire and reality. (Note the key point that such a system derives its infinite energy from the lower vertical, a subject to which we will return.)

Now, to say civilization is to say order. There is horizontal order and there is vertical order, and no system can have only one and remain a system. Or in other words, there is no system without verticality. An automobile engine, for example, harnesses the horizontal laws of physics for the vertical purpose of -- well, of anything, since purpose as such is intrinsically vertical. It cannot be reduced to physical law.

If we consider Aristotle's four causes -- material, efficient, formal, and final -- the first two are horizontal, the second two vertical. On the human plane, we might say that the body is horizontal and the soul vertical, even though the two can only be separated in the abstract.

However, there is a kind of fractal organization, in that the body itself has any number of vertical hierarchies, just as the soul has its efficient causes.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is how all systems are susceptible to vertical influences, which is what makes the cosmos go. For example, the entirety of human art and invention is a result of mind putting its stamp on matter.

This is a very queer situation when you think about it, because why shouldn't a lawful cosmos simply result in a monotonous, predictable, and eternally recurring series of cycles? Instead, these cycles "jump" to higher levels, as if guided by some nonlocal hierarchy drawing them upward.

This is one of the themes of The Experience of God. For example, "God is not a God who merely preserves the world in a cyclic form, but a God who is at work now, in our time and space, and who calls humanity and creation to the fullness of life."

As a result, nature is structured in such a way that it leaves a space for the interventions of free human decisions that further shape matter -- or where human freedom and divine freedom touch and create yet another something from nothing.

In other words, God is the Cause of vertical causes, the very principle that explains why systems do not simply repeat or dissipate. You can understand this in very practical terms. For example, why don't all marriages end in repetition, boredom, and ennui? That many do, there is no doubt. But what is really missing? In my opinion, it is the continuous renewal that can only occur when there is the vivifying ingression of vertical energy, i.e., grace.

More generally, every system needs something from outside itself in order to keep going. For example, your automobile needs gasoline, just as your body needs food. But what does the soul need? Yes, it absolutely needs God's grace, even if you don't realize it or recognize that that is what is going on.

"Expressed another way," writes Staniloae, "what was created from the beginning was also created by God as capable of receiving the power through which new orders might appear." And "creation does not reach its completion until, in humanity, God has revealed its meaning."

In other words, meaning is revealed to man in man via Incarnation and Resurrection. Thus, "the road to God passes through our humanization" -- the latter being the singular form of the process of civilization.

So "By creating human beings, God has committed himself to lead them to deification," and I am holding him to that commitment.

Christians hold that without spirit the world would be enclosed within the automatic repetition of certain monotonous cycles.... Only the spirit, through the agency of its own freedom, leaves such repetition behind and can cause nature to leave it behind as well. --Dumitru Staniloae


julie said...

To say there are no civilizational norms is also to say that there is no correct way to be human.

I was reading something along those lines this morning, in re. the old "Comic Books Code," and how it steadily first softened, then was abandoned altogether, partly as the culture changed, and partly because the nature of the change was such that it was no longer socially acceptable to have actual standards and ideals for heroic behavior, because it reflects poorly on those who fall short of those standards. In other words, "What we saw in the 1990′s, in comic books and elsewhere — and it has yet to lose momentum, even this late — is a cultural phobia against true heroism."

mushroom said...

Right off the bat, this bangs the gong. This whole "unnatural" thing goads me. Where did humans come from?

ted said...

So "By creating human beings, God has committed himself to lead them to deification," and I am holding him to that commitment.

I found another reference, where he adds:

Man becomes more and more like God without identifying with Him. Man will continue to become like God forever, in an ever fuller union with Him, but never will he reach full identification with Him; he will be able to reflect God more and more, but he will not become what God is.

The Holy Fathers emphasize that deification is by grace and not by man's own effort or nature. When deified man's nature remains the same. He does not become a source of divine energy, like God. He receives God's energies though grace. Man only reflects God's energies. He never assumes the role of the source.

We never receive the totality of God's energies. Through our efforts in preparation we make an ascent and as we grow spiritually God's energies descend on us granting us increased powers.


Gagdad Bob said...

I just now got this book in the mail that I am about to crack, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong, and it's the zactsame thing on a more horizontal-economic level -- but still, it reflects the principle of the mind endlessly rearranging matter.

julie said...

Along those lines, Kevin Williamson has another good article taking the Church - and other religious groups - in America to task for essentially supporting socialism:

"You cannot redistribute what you don’t have — and that holds true not only for countries but, finally, for the planet and the species, which of course is what globalization is all about. That men of the cloth, of all people, should be blind to what is really happening right now on the global economic scale is remarkable, ironic, and sad. Cure one or two people of blindness and you’re a saint; prevent blindness in millions and you’re Monsanto."

julie said...

Or as I see it, in many ways religious organizations often fail to see the ways that modern life, and the remarkable achievements in improving the lot of mankind as a whole, are a reflection of god's grace in the world.

ted said...

Julie, I think that is a good insight, and I often wonder if it's our inability to emotionalize great numbers on the good or bad scale. In the inverse, it goes back to Stalin's famous line: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

Gagdad Bob said...

Ted: something tells me you'd also like this new Graham Parker & the Rumour Official Bootleg Box, with concerts from 1976, '77, '78, and '79, and one from the 2012 reunion. Bastards know just how to bait me.

Gagdad Bob said...


ted said...

Thanks, I will check it out. Have to admit that Parker never entered my musical purview that much, although he falls into my affinity for the British indie post-punk sound. Elvis Costello are others became more popular and digestible for me at the time.

Gagdad Bob said...

His first two albums in particular are fantastic -- Howlin Wind and Heat Treatment. Start with those. He was a lifeline in that godforsaken disco era.

mushroom said...

"Hotel Chambermaid" was played frequently in KSHE's rotation in '77, '78 -- back in the day when "classic rock" meant something.

I don't know why they picked that one. There were better songs on that album.

Also, my earlier comment kicked off a T.Rex earworm. So I listened to it again. I think you could make a reasonable argument that the ultimate fall of western civilization can be traced to the moment in 1971 when "Get It On" hit the airwaves.

Gagdad Bob said...

I place it more toward 1972. The dropoff in album quality from 1972 to 1973 shocks the conscience. And things really crater in 1974.

Gagdad Bob said...

As an indication, I have some old amazon widgets linking to my favorite albums. There are 20 each for 1971 and 1972, but it was hard to come up with 10 for 1973. I had to cheat by throwing in some soul albums. A lot of the decline had to do with Big Money and Harder Drugs.

Gagdad Bob said...

It makes sense if you consider that the 1960s begins with the death of JFK in 11/63 and ends in 12/72 with the discontinuation of the draft. Maybe the idea of Death infused the music with more urgency or something.

mushroom said...

I can see 12/72.

That last week of April, 1975 would be another candidate. I remember being out in the hallway with some other guys, feeling sick and saying cynically, "Well, we finally won."