Friday, January 10, 2014

One Truth, One Cosmos, One Transdimensional Lodge

Warning: this highly praised book on the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation is a bit of a slog. Which is unfortunate, because it's an extremely important subject. The author shows how everything we -- by which I mean Coons and Coonistas -- despise about modernity are the stalks, shoots, and then leaves of seeds shot by philosophical, theological, and metaphysical snipers some 500 years ago.

Could the crockup have been avoided? Well, to even posit this question is to wonder if history is inevitable, which it clearly is not. And yet, one of the consequences of post-Reformation thought is a kind of implicit historicism that parcels out history into discrete developmental stages, one atop the previous. The author calls it "supercessionism," which I suppose is a handy word to have around. It's just that it takes him 100 pages to say it.

But because of this implicit historical mythunderstanding, modern atheists, for example, imagine they have nothing to do with premodern deviant theists, e.g., Occam and the rest of the nominalists.

In a comment the other day I mentioned the well known scandal of there not being one church. But the scandal goes way beyond that, for why isn't there One Truth in general? Other animals are guided by one truth -- each lives in its own truth, from aardvark to zebra. Only man can have fundamentally different ideas about how man is supposed to live. Almost like we have free will or something. Or as if our lives are dictated neither by suprahuman forces nor subhuman farces, e.g., "selfish genes."

I suppose the every-man-for-himsoph approach wouldn't be so problematic if these fascist völkers didn't try to impose their authoritarian ideas on the rest of as, as do Islamists and leftists. I mean, by definition, Obama believes he knows more about how we should conduct our lives than we do. Frankly, I doubted this idea the moment I laid eyes on Michelle, but found it impossible to believe once she opened her mouth.

But how is this different from, say, some church telling me how to run my isness? Prior to the Reformation, we had "more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West." But how much choice did people really -- not just theoretically -- have?

A better question than Could the modern crack-up have been avoided? is Could we have proceeded on a trijectory leading to all the good things about modernity, minus all the fragmentation, polarization, alienation, and homicideologies?

From our historical standpoint, it seems almost inconceivable, because modernity seems to be built from bricks of skepticism, suspicion, cynicism, irony, and doubt. Seen in this light, the pre-Reformation world seems to us impossibly innocent.

I personally don't think we could ever recover and restore such historical innocence, probobly because I personally couldn't (maybe you can). I don't see how one can put the truthpaste back in the tube, so gnostalgia is futile.

But the ambient culture is spiritually intolerable -- so toxic as to asfyxiate the soul. So, we can't go back and we can't stay here, shipwrecked in the present. Where does this leave us?

Yes, a March 4th into higher unity, into a recovery of wholeness, which just so happens to be the mission of this blog, i.e., One Cosmos. Under God. With liberation and joycetice for all. It even says so in the Coonifesto -- at least I think that's what it says:

Take us before & beyond this womantary maninfestation, reveal not the horizontal but our inmost upmost vertical bigending. Here, far from the twisted reach of yestermorrow, we are finally cured of plurality -- plurality being a symptom of feeling down in the humpty dumps.

Gregory likens history to a river with many tributaries. If we examine the river here and now, there is no way to disentangle the waters and identify where they came from. We know for certain that their source is upstream somewhere, but it seems impossible to be any more specific than that.

For which reason he reminds us of Faulkner's well known wisecrack that "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

This is an important truth, for it renders any kind of literal supersessionism -- i.e., compartmentalization of history -- absurd; but it also renders both atheistic and theistic predetermination impossible -- which is no coincidence, because Gregory traces both to the same upstream tributary. Prior to the Reformation, it was understood that history had a meaning and a purpose that was partly determined by human choice.

Why can't we just agree that truth cannot contradict Truth, and get one with it? Is it really that painful? Which is to say, is the Adversary really that powerful? Are you really paralyzed in plurality, unable to pull yourself together?

"Knowledge of Divinity is an endless movement of the spirit. But a mystery always remains, which can never be plumbed to the bottom. And this is expressed in symbol: it cannot be expressed in concepts" (Berdyaev).

O. I see.

'Symbol'... means both 'sign' and 'union.' Symbol and symbolization predicate the existence of two worlds, two orders of being. If there is only one world, one order of being, symbol has no place. Symbol tells us that the meaning of one world lies in another, that signs of meaning are given from this other world. Symbol tells us, not only that another world exists, that being is not all-included in our world, but that connection between the two is possible, the union of one with the other. --Berdyaev

ʘ. 1C.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Trouble in Paradise: In Spite of My Awesomeness, I'm Still a Little Narcissistic

It seems that dogmatic and mystical theology have often been regarded as antagonistic, when they should be seen as complementary. They are two sides of the same coin-cidence, perhaps a reflection herebelow of form (revelation, dogma) and substance (experience, being).

Berdyaev suggests that "where mysticism begins, there is the end of the realm of dogmatic clarity," but must this always be the case? No doubt it is sometimes or maybe even often true, what with various suburban shamans, dime store gurus, and cracker barrel gnostics hocking their counterfeit upperwares.

The difference, I think, is between a kind of grasping at spirit -- a storming of heaven, or attempting to pull oneself up by one's own buddhastraps -- versus an infusion or acquisition (not possession!) of something that is always "other" -- a pneumatic "third," as it were.

Regarding this third, it is either "acquired" via human effort, and is therefore simply human; it is loaned, in which case it is repaid upon death; or it is a gift, free and clear.

The moment someone begins taking credit for the process, we're going to have problems, e.g., Andrew Cohen and all the rest of the self-styled new age saviors.

I mean, show me the genuine saint who boasts of his enlightenment. To the extent that he is enlightened, the only valid recognition is the testimony of others. And even then, one would be embarrassed. What's that word? Starts with an h... humility?

Speaking of whom, now he tells us: "I’m fifty-seven years old and currently find myself facing the biggest challenge of my life."

Oh? The Enlightened One is facing a challenge? What, parenthood? Having to make an honest living? The other messiah canceled your health insurance? Ken Wilber won't return the lawnmower? Do tell.

But first: does everyone get their money back?

Just kidding! Besides, not only can the Enlightened endure good-natured mockery, but they are known to have a refreshingly self-effacing sense of humor. They don't take themselves seriously.

"I’ve been a teacher of spiritual enlightenment for twenty-seven years."

You sure about that? Enlightenment? Is that really something one can teach? I mean, I know you can charge for it, but is that the same as teaching it?

And would an "enlightened" person charge big bucks for the secret, or would giving it away be one of its seals of authenticity? Because I'm with Captain Beefheart on this question: I want to give it away, because where I got it, it didn't cost me a thing.

I know what you're thinking: "Bob, you're just jealous. Plus, you're using reverse psychology on us, trying to plant the seed that since you don't profit from your prophetry, ergo you must be the enlightened one. You are Neo!"

Well, I'm not Neo. Like you, I'm just Morpheus, looking toward Neo while trying to extricate myself from the Matrix. You can comb through all 2,500 posts for the merest suggestion that I am some sort of enlightened evolutionary being, the next phase of cosmic evolution incarnate. What an obnoxious -- and fascistic -- idea. From the Raccoon perspective, there are plenty of infrahumans, that is, people who sink beneath their humanness. But there are no suprahumans, with only one possible exception.

As I've said before, if there are suprahumans among us, then anyone less than the Übermensch is just a means to a superior end, thus rendering his own life as meaningless as that of a drone to the queen bee. Or, to quote the Sphinx,

"Enlightenment has always been and always will be about transcending the ego."

Or not. Perhaps it's about infusing the ego. Or maybe it cannot be understood in such an intrasubjective manner, and is fundamentally intersubjective, i.e., about relationship. If this is the case, then the most transcendent ego in the world is just wrong if it is not properly attuned to the Other -- both horizontally and vertically.

Indeed, in the Raccoon tradition this is rule number one: all other rules are number two or lower. In concrete terms it is reducible to the formula: love the lord (↑) and love the neighbor/stranger (↳) -- which is really one and the same spiro-paracletic movement.

"Over the last several years, some of my closest students have tried to make it apparent to me that in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well."

Ah, the students have surpassed the teacher! Isn't that a good thing? You know what they say: if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him! Or at least stop paying him.

You know Taranto's running gag about the Butterfield Fallacy, e.g., Crime Down Despite Increased Prison Population? Well, here's one for the book: "in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well."


"I’ve understood this simple truth -- that we all have egos no matter how enlightened we may be..."

Er, shouldn't that realization come at the beginning, not the end? Because if not, then you can be quite sure that

"when I was being asked to face my own ego by those who were nearest and dearest to me, I resisted. And I often made their lives difficult as a result."

I know people like that. Except I don't call them "enlightened." Rather, I call them "patients."

"I’m aware that many of my students over the years have also been affected by my lack of awareness of this part of myself."

Part, eh? Okay. But I think it's a little like dieting: you can't spot reduce.

And to paraphrase the Sphinx, you need to know that the Adversary has many weapons. To defeat him you will need to have more than just flunkies and flatulence.

In any event, what is mankind to do in your absence? Will you send a helper?

Orthodox mysticism is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit -- a mysticism of the Holy Spirit. In it human nature is transfigured and illuminated from within.... Christ enters the heart, and by this 'christ-ization' of the heart the whole human nature is changed: man becomes a new creature....

The grace of the Holy Spirit is acquired by means of humility.... We may establish three conditions for Christian mysticism, three marks or signs of it: personality, freedom, love.... [It is] at once more involved in the world, and more free from it. --Berdyaev

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Slowing Time and Standing Fast

If this post seems different, it's because it's the first time I've tried to write one standing up as straight as a post.

For a couple of years I'd been thinking about getting a stand-up desk, but the Paleo book convinced me to make my move, for it seems that no caveman ever conducted his business without one. I even figured out something that no caveman could have known -- that all you have to do is place a flat object on top of your existing desk, and there's your "stand-up desk." Idiots.

It's surprisingly comfortable, even natural. I was able to adjust it by half-inches by stacking some unused shelves underneath, and 48" seems just about perfect.

So, here we go. Feet don't fail me now!

Yesterday we touched on the subject of mysticism, and were wondering if it is analogously to spirit as science is to matter. Petey once quipped that religion is the science of spirit, whereas science is the religion of matter. His wisequack may sound just ducky, but how do we say it without tainting proper science and religion?

I would say that religionism is the scientism of spirit, whereas scientism is the religionism of matter. Expressed this way, it recognizes the imbalanced application of science and religion. Religion, for example, is "about God." But it is quite common for religion to be about religion, and to forget all about God, except in the form of dogmas, rules, and formulas.

Likewise, science is supposed to be about the natural world. But it easily slips into its own abstractions, and becomes about science. Global Warming is a fine example, but there are many others. For example, there is the joke about the two economists. One says to the other, "Yes, it works in reality. But will it work in theory?" That is not an economist speaking. Rather, that is a purveyor of... economicism, AKA a Krugmaniac.

We all know the globe hasn't gotten warmer over the past fifteen years. Ah, but does that make sense in theory? No way!

Once you see how the game is run, you can distinguish real science from scientism. For example, the gap between man and ape is infinite -- as infinite as the difference between truth and falsehood. True enough, but it just doesn't work in theory -- the theory that there are no discontinuities in nature. But if there are no discontinuities, how is it that an ape is presuming to utter the absolute truth of existence?

Easy: shut up.

That's an example of biologism, I guess you'd call it. There is also psychologism, a practice with which I am sadly familiar, since it pervades my field. In fact, I try to stay away from psychology for that very reason, and was recently reminded why when I read a biography of the dissident psychoanalyst Otto Rank.

I won't bore you with the details, but what a crock. Rank essentially tried to decrock Orthodox Psychoanalysis just a little bit, for which reason he was defrocked and treated like Judas -- smeared, vilified, excommunicated, libeled. He was literally called insane, and even psychoanalysts who had been successfully analyzed by him had to be re-analyzed by an orthodox Freudian in order to undo the success -- or to be convinced that they weren't really healthy, just imagining it.

And Rank was no prize either. Yes, he grasped some important truths, but they are only important in light of what he was up against. He was more courageous than brilliant, or at least he was willing to burn his bridges in pursuit of truth. He's more like a Palestinian who wonders if Jews aren't actually pigs and dogs, or a liberal who thinks that maybe conservatives aren't evil.

At any rate, I would go so far as to say that there is no religion in the absence of mysticism -- or, let us just say a mystical experience, in order to make it more concrete.

Mystical experience involves direct perception of a spiritual reality. Thus, the Bible is obviously pervaded by such experiences, for example, the disciples witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus, or Saul falling from his horse, or John, who writes of how "we beheld his glory" -- glory being the Divine Beauty.

So, I think we need to broaden out what we mean by "mystical," since "spiritual experience" is wide, varied, and deep. It has different modes, essentially corresponding to love, truth, and beauty -- or to heart, mind, and will. Thus, there can be mystics of the intellect -- e.g., Schuon or Aquinas -- mystics of beauty -- e.g., Bach or Arvo Part -- and mystics of the will -- e.g., Bonhoffer and every other martyr. Each, in his or her own way, comes into contact with an absolute truth and absolute reality.

That being the case, mysticism can only be "individual" -- in that only the individual can experience it -- but not "individualistic" -- in that it is not arbitrary or idiosyncratic.

Rather, in the words of Berdyaev, "We must insist that mysticism is not a subjective condition," for in reality "it is an escape from the very contrast between the subjective and the objective." Again, as we were saying yesterday, it is a kind of "cure" (or at least treatment) for the very divisiveness and dis-unity we harbor.

For it is easy to forget that dis-unity is also "just an experience." Monistic theories of existence are not so much wrong as merely partial. Looked at in a certain way, existence is by definition "one," or we wouldn't have the word "existence" (or uni-verse). But the mere fact that we can experience the unity introduces twoness into the mix.

Once we are in this devilish twoness, there are two ways out. One way is heralded by Buddhists, Vedantins, and non-dualists of various stripes: just dissolve twoness back into primordial oneness.

Yes, but to reverse-paraphrase Woody Allen, I don't mind ego death -- I just want to be there when it happens.

The second way is up and out of twoness, into a dynamic threeness. This threeness, of course, is a higher and deeper form of oneness. It is trickier to attain, so it is understandable that so many people prefer the two and the one.

The reason it is trickier is that it does not reject the world. Indeed, it doesn't reject anything, for which reason its central icon is of the Godman, i.e., the Absolute incarnate. Thus, God "experiences" humanness, which permits human beings to experience God-ness.

Despite its radical nature, this is just making explicit what is implicit in every human being. For anyone who says... Better yet, I read something in Vanderleun's sidebar (traceable back to here) that goes to just this subject:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Placed in context, we read that this "standing fast" and being "of the same mind in the Lord" results in divine peace.

I don't know about you, but I am standing as fast as I can, but now it's time to move.


Some people thought the title of this song was derived from the acronym G-O-D:

Monday, January 06, 2014

Go Out of Your Mind and Come Back to Your Senses

Chaos this morning. Grumpy boy back to school + painters and tilers, the latter making big noise with their angry saw. We'll do what we can, but don't expect much. That's right: the usual, only more so.

I used to think that mysticism is to the cosmic interior as science is to its exterior: two methods for two modes of reality. Is this too fossile a banalogy? And do I still fall for it?

"Through all human history," writes Berdyaev, "mysticism has revealed the world of the inner man in contrast to the world of the outward man."

And when we say "world," we mean the whole world, inside and out, upside and down, not just, say, an experience of one's own neurology. No mystic interprets the mystical experience as nothing more than a transient and idiosyncratic episode, but rather, an insight into the whole of reality. This doesn't mean it's true, but it is interesting that the experience is accompanied by certainty of its truth content, as opposed to, say, daydreaming, or hypnosis, or imagination.

Thus, "mystical revelations of the inward man have always taught of man's microcosmic quality," for mystical experience reveals "the cosmos within man, the whole immense universe."

You could even go all Kant and say that this whole I-AMmense universe is just a form of our sensibility. Except that little word: just? The soul of man just happens to conform to the whole of intelligible reality, easily containing everything within its boundaries? This is not a demotion. It's a miracle.

Which is certainly how the most illustrious early scientists understood this freakish ability. We won't rehearse that whole argument, but look at Zack Newton, the icon of genius prior to Einstein. Although materialists naturally want to claim such a singular genius as one of their own (since by definition, geniuses cannot be religious), Newton's ultimate goal was to explicate "such Principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity."

And according to Professor Wiki, Newton "saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation." In short, one might say that he was an early advocate of the One Cosmos approach of regarding spirit and matter as complementary, but seeing spirit as the more encompassing of the two. Which it obviously must be, since spirit may contain matter, but not vice versa.

However, one can well understand how Newton's ideas were easily co-opted by atheistic types, essentially due to the Unintended Consequences of his Protestantism. That is, the Newtonian system eventually reinforced "the deist position advocated by Leibniz. The understanding of the world was now brought down to the level of simple human reason..."

Which wouldn't necessarily be a disaster, except that -- and we'll have to save this argument for another day -- Protestantism inevitably redounds to scientism, since the latter is simply a more parsimonious version of the former. Once you become your own priest, it's a simple step to being one's own god, and then chucking the ladder entirely.

This is why so many liberals mistakenly regard the American founders as somehow irreligious, since they simply project backward their own infertile sensibilities into the more deistic among them, such as Jefferson. So scientism is deism minus deity, i.e., a completely rationalized world without Reason(er).

And I'm not suggesting that Protestantism is necessarily a "bad thing." As you know, I am not a formal member of any church except for this one. Being deusluxic, I don't have a God in this fight. But it's like any knowledge: once you understand the secrets of the atom, you end up with the atom bomb. Mankind cannot unknow or cover up what it dis-covers. Knowledge has its own momentum, its own necessary implications.

So, the -- or one -- question is, how do we unbreak the eggistenshell after it has suffered its great fall? I don't know. What would Joyce say? Let's see: The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice... that the humptyhillhead of himself sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes.

Wha'? Big help.

Let's just say that for Joyce, Humpty's fall is built into the cosmic system. Youfall, Ifall, we allfall from the ovary tower, which results in some awful offal. Thus, the broken fragments were there in what Protestantism hoped to put back together, just as they are present in Protestantism. The crackup cannot be avoided, for the Fall of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all Christian minstrelsy.

Back to this morning's mynstrelcism. It seems to me that the mystical experience represents one type of treatment for the wounds inflicted by existence, for it "is in profound contrast to every kind of closed-in individualism, isolated from cosmic life."

In other words, as we have been saying, individualism is, or can be, interpreted as a rebellion against the group, so here again there is built-in fragmentation. So, how do we restore our oneness?

Well, I give up. Too noisy in here. Eck! I'll leave you with this bit of healthy meistercism:

Mystical submersion... always means going out of oneself, a breaking-through beyond the boundaries. All mysticism teaches that the depths of man are more than human, that in them lurks a mysterious contact with God and with the world. --Berdyaev