Friday, May 15, 2015

God Becomes Prisoner So that Man May Escape

About that prison discussed at the end of yesterday's post: we might say that everybody's got one, and that each is different from the other. Just as we are unique, so too are our prison cells.

Now, ever since man has been one, he has been plotting his escape from the prison. In other words, there is a profound paradox at work here, as humanness is obviously in one sense a "liberation" from mere animality, but in another sense just a transfer from one prison to another.

What makes it paradoxical², however, is that animals do not know they are in prison, which equates to not being in prison at all. But man, who has the nicest and roomiest prison of all, is the most aware of his confinement.

There is also the issue of our imagination, which ensures that there is always a gulf between what we have and what we can imagine. If we fail to discipline this space, it becomes perhaps the greatest source of existential misery.

I read somewhere that even the poorest American is still in the top 1% compared to the world as a whole -- i.e., Africa, India, the non-Jewish Middle East, etc. But this does nothing to extinguish the envy that is both a cause and consequence of leftism, nor to weaken the leftism that is a cause and consequence of envy. The left stokes what it promises to ameliorate, but envy doesn't operate on the same plane as Government Cheese. Rather, placating envy only feeds envy, which is why the War On Poverty is an absolutely self-perpetuating swindle.

A few posts back we spoke of the Rupture, and we could say that, among other things, this rupture causes a breach in the prison walls, opening out to a "circle" with "a far larger circumference than that of agnostic philosophy: it includes the more-than-human," but "it is up to us, through our passion, to unveil it" (Corbin).

Now, I do not believe we can break through the walls without the Aid of Heaven. Indeed, I would agree with Schuon that the human station is already a Divine Escape Hatch in its very essence: it is a door or window where the animal is walled in by its own genetics or neurology or ideology.

This is quite similar to John Paul II's theology of the body, wherein even the human body itself is the Way Out and Up. As Ratzinger describes it, "The body in its physical structure as such bears a vision of reality." It discloses "a theology, which indeed implies an anthropology or, better, a metaphysics rooted in the personal" (in Schindler).

Looked at this way "nothing is 'merely biological'" on the divine/human/personal plane. Rather, biology itself becomes an expression of the prior Truth; the body "is never, after the manner of Descartes, simply physicalist 'stuff,'" but "a new way of being in the world, a distinct way of imaging God and love" (Schindler).

In other words, you might say that the human form is made for love, truth, and beauty. It is not as if we accidentally stumbled up into these realities, for such a thing could never occur randomly, rather, only via a Mighty Strange Attractor or Teloscape tugging at our heart- and headstrings from above.

Thus, the body is "made for" the other, both horizontally and vertically; it always "opens out," beyond itself. This is why I made (in the book) such a Big Deal out of the "premature birth" that renders us so completely dependent in early childhood. This primordial state of radical openness and dependence reveals the most essential thing about us.

Think about the alternatives. What if, like the baby lizards that are hatching in my yard, we were born into a state of basic independence: you crack through your shell and there is no mother or father to be seen. Rather, it's go-time. You're on your own. Go find your own bugs to eat.

What if the reptile were an icon of God? That would be a very different God, not the trinitarian, relational God of eternal giving-and-receiving. And again, the reptile is completely enclosed in his reptilian nature. He can neither move forward nor rise above, because he is already full of himself.

Which goes to Jesus' emphasis on the centrality of "spiritual poverty," which comes down to making a space for God. Here again, this space is already a kind of escape, which reminds me of something Schuon says about the nature of prayer: "The remembrance of God is at the same tome a forgetting of oneself; conversely, the ego is a kind of crystallization of forgetfulness of God."

Thus, an Obama-level narcissist literally worships at the altar of his own ego: being full of himself, he is void of God. There is no exodus from such a personal hell -- which is precisely what makes it hellish.

What the Raccoon calls the Rupture is what Jews call the Exodus. It doesn't matter what you call it, so long as the Light breaks in and the path is revealed: "The fundamental structure of Reality" is then seen to be a "form of Descent and Return," or fall-and-redemption, or Egypt-and-Israel, or death-and-resurrection. It is how the Slack gets into the conspiracy, or how God hides the hacksaw in the birthday cake.

Only through the Word can the cosmos be released from the world of literal matter, quantitative space, and historical time. Without this Presence the world is mute, faceless, collapsing forever downward to the level of object. With it, not just the human soul, but the world itself exists in a perpetual state of Resurrection. --Cheetham

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Anthropo-Cosmology or Something

Anthropo-cosmology. Or Cosmo-anthropology? Either way, it's what we've been doing here for the past ten years, trying to relate the one to the other in a way that actually makes sense.

There is the cosmos, AKA, the total order of interacting objects, events, and processes; and there is man, the most astonishing and unexpected fact within this cosmic order. Both are in need of explanation, but perhaps the same thing explains both.

In order to begin to comprehend the cosmos, we can't start with inanimate matter at the foundation, because doing so will exclude a priori matter's most important features, such as, I don't know, the capacity to suddenly COME ALIVE! and start thinking. Besides, matter cannot "contain" the cosmos, because it is the contained.

Therefore, my approach has always been to start with, say, me, and ask: just what kind of cosmos is necessary in order for this me to exist? And not just Me, as in the objective Me visible to the world, but the immaterial I whose boundaries disappear over the infinite subjective horizon.

How does subjectivity even get "into" the cosmos unless it has always been here? Furthermore, how does it gather itself into the concentrated and organized form of an individual self, each one being unique? Therefore, one's cosmology must also make room for this notion of "subjective uniqueness." In what kind of cosmos can such a weirdity occur?

The short answer: in a personal cosmos. We'll expand upon this as we proceed. But if we start with a foundation of Person rather than Matter, a lot of things start to make sense -- including Matter.

Now that I've had the chance to read and digest several books on Corbin, I think I can say that his supreme concerns were two: man and God. Most importantly, he wanted to know the latter without negating the former. Or in other words, he wanted to preserve the Absolute while elevating our own absolute individuality, or what the Raccoon calls our Holy Eccentricity or Sacred Weirdness. As Toots Mondello always said to new raccruits, Go weird or go home.

Clearly, what concerned Corbin about traditional religiosity was the danger of losing our individuality in God. I can appreciate that. Who hasn't developed a case of the Jesus Willies as a result of contact with some dogmatic religious robot? Nowadays they don't really bother me, but there was a time.

As we said a few posts back, our mission, should we choose to accept it, is "to make ourselves capable of God" (in Cheetham) -- with an equal emphasis on ourselves and on God. One of Corbin's books is called Alone with the Alone, and I'll go out on a limb and guess that this is what the title refers to: we want to know the one God, and God wants to know the one of us, so it's a win-win.

However, the whole adventure has a very different inflection if we speak of God as Trinity as opposed to monolith; or perhaps better, person, being that a person is both unique and related by definition. Therefore -- orthoparadoxically -- we are called upon to "imitate" God by being ourselves, i.e., individuals.

How can one simultaneously be "image" and one-of-a-kind? I would suggest that Jesus makes many otherwise inexplicable statements that go to this gnotion. Indeed, doesn't his whole mission involve being man and God? And not just some anonymous or mythic generalization of man, but a real, individual, flesh-and-blood, one-of-a-kind person. True, he is "everybody" (which is why everybody can "relate"), but he is also somebody. Have you ever met anyone like him?

Thus, as Cheetham explains, to become "capable" of God covaries with becoming "capable" of oneself. In other words, our unique personhood makes us a theophany of the personal God: "our most profound and essential function is theophanic: 'to manifest God'" and to be "the bearer of the Divinity."

Referring to our first paragraph above, we agree with Cheetham that this is "an anthropo-cosmology so grand in its conception, so all-encompassing in its vision that little in modern thought can rival it."

Or nothing, to be exact. Do you have something better, something equally intellectually satisfying and metaphysically thrilling? I'd like to hear it. In practice, all of the alternatives are either intellectually or spiritually crippling, and usually both.

"[A] scientific or rationalistic context for the events of the soul is insufficient at best and damaging at worst" (ibid.). Why? Because such "remedies" begin with the "implicit presumption that the prison in which the soul is trapped is the whole of reality."

In other words, they -- by which I mean the Conspiracy -- first place us in a prison, and then pretend to sell us the key. But in reality -- to paraphrase what I said on p. 182 -- these are really just fellow prisoners with their own dreams and delusions of escape.

Thus, philosophers wonder about the nature of the prison, while artists decorate its walls and scientists study the composition of its bars. Medicine secures a long life in prison, while the conventionally religious try to pray them bars away. But if I understand rightly, some eccentric individual actually broke into this prison in order to lift us out from above. Or in other words, there is a perimeter but no roof, so stop banging your head against the walls.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Where Did We Surf From and Where Are We Surfing To?

As mentioned at the bottom of yesterday's post, it makes more sense to me to regard our so-called celestial twin as a kind of vertical extension of the person.

In fact, by way of horizontal analogy, we could say the same of our embryonic self and our infant/child/adolescent/adult selves. It not only confuses the issue to see them as separate, but renders our existence absurd -- like Zeno's paradox applied to human development. (It is precisely this metaphysic that grounds the illogical belief that the fetus is somehow separate from his own personhood and telos.)

Also, as we have discussed in the past, although I believe we "have" an "unconscious," it is more accurate to say that personhood of its nature is necessarily constituted of conscious/unconscious, such that there is unconsciousness in every conscious thought or act, and vice versa.

We could never be "fully conscious" because there's simply not enough space in the ego or in the moment to contain it. As someone said, the purpose of time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

Analogously, you might say that the purpose of the unconscious is so that everything isn't thought at once. In every moment there is a complementary dialectic between conscious and unconscious; the latter not only in-forms the former, but will lend it more or less "weight" or presence. It is one reason why no computer will ever simulate the person.

Now, hold that thought and apply it to the upper vertical: if there is an unconscious, there must be a supra-conscious, for it would be absurd to maintain that the human ego constitutes the very apex of the cosmic hierarchy. To appreciate how absurd this is, just ask yourself what was at the top before human beings arrived on the scene. Pigs? Al Sharpton?

In other words, to say there is a top is to have a frame of reference, whether explicit or implicit. As it so happens, human beings are at the top of the cosmic heap, but this is only meaningful in reference to God. Outside God, it is bad nonsense, for there can be no top, bottom, or in-between, just endless iterations of vacuity.

We have always liked the Rabbi's way of putting it: imagine "a vast arc, curving from the divine source to oneself, which corresponds to the question, Where do I come from? while at the same time a line curving from oneself to Him corresponds to the question, Where am I going?"

And within this great circle, which includes all the levels of man, each person can discover the special lines of his own direction -- which again, are not simply random points in reality but are the expressions of his individual personality, the shape of his soul (emphasis mine).

I couldn't have put it better mysoph, which is no doubt why it is the penultimate footgnote in the bʘʘk (p.266). After that is just... nothing. Nothing expressible, anyway.

Elsewhere the Rabbi speaks for me in suggesting that the soul is "not to be conceived as a certain defined essence, caged in a body, or even as a point or immaterial substance, but rather as a continuous line of spiritual being, stretching from the general source of all the souls to beyond the body of a specific person." This explains how it is that we can rise above ourselves and sink even beneath our inner Sharpton.

We each have a divine spark -- or spark of divinity -- and you might say that the higher regions have more spiritual oxygen to fuel the spark. Conversely, the further down we sink, the dimmer our light. That nasty smell in hell is probably a result of the smoke from all those lights being extinguished in the muck, like a cigarette in stale beer.

Remember, properly situated, the arc of the soul stretches all the way up to the divine source. But "the sinner is perished by the closing of the circle, by being brought into contact with the domain of evil he creates."

One thinks of Michelle Obama, who, no matter how much worldly privilege, is still confined within the circle of her own wretched hatred, and then blames people of pallor for putting her there. In reality, all she has to do to escape her self-imposed nightmare is to click her heels three times and say "there's no place like reality."

Our esteemed Wizard of Jews makes another important point that goes to what was said above about man either being at the top of the (manifest) hierarchy or a complete bupkis:

"To call a world higher signifies that it is more primary, more basic in terms of being close to a primal source of influence..." Thus, the human being is higher than other animals because closer to God, while animals are lower because closer to matter. This is why, for the materialist, man must be the most distant thing from reality.

Which he actually can be, but only because there is a higher reality from which he may fallllllll. Strictly speaking, there can be no "reality" for the materialist, only appearances, all the way downnnnnn.

Steinsaltz would say that what distinguishes man from the angels is that the latter are "fixed" in the hierarchy, whereas man alone has the freedom to ascend or descend higher or lower. Only man can actually ride the waves of the divine plenitude, for we are at "the focal point at which the plenty rising from the lower worlds and the plenty descending from the higher worlds meet and enter into some sort of relation with each other." Surf's up. Or down, depending.

Back to Corbin, who says something similar, and then I gotta get outta here:

"If the possibility of encountering the Angel, the Lord, is eliminated, the human individual has no longer any celestial pole, no orientation, and thus no direction for its moral compass and nothing to guarantee its unique being -- 'there will no longer be persons,' only units in a totalitarian or totalizing regime of one form or another....

"We are powerless, lost in anonymity, rolled along like the foam in a torrent, and completely at the mercy of the social, biological, and political environments. This is the Abyss, the final loss of the soul in bitterness and helplessness, knowing ourselves to be only objects in a world where, in Charles Darwin's famous phrase, 'there is no higher or lower.'"

The Age of Obama is like surfing in a pool of mud.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Angelic Beings: We Report, You Decide

Just for fun I checked out the Catechism to see if there is any possibility of reconciling Corbin's take on angelic beings with the minimum demands of sanity.

The bare existence of angels is not at issue, for "the witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition." Rather, the question is, what do they do all day?

"Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels," such that "he has made them messengers of his saving plan.... for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation." And "From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession."

As it pertains to Corbin, it is noteworthy that the Catechism teaches that "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."

So, this is not too far from the idea that "Each human soul has a counterpart in Heaven, who is the eternal and perfected individuality of the soul" (Cheetham).

For Corbin, we have a kind of "dual structure that gives to each one a heavenly archetype or Angel, whose counterpart he is" (ibid.). (Reminds me of our bilateral cerebral hemispheres, only on a vertical spectrum.)

The more we are in contact with this transcendent self-other or other-self, the more real and more alive we are; conversely, the more alienated from it, the more life becomes a living death.

As such, "being a man is possible in many degrees, from being a demon with a human face to the sublime condition of being the Perfect Man."

This implies that we do not simply exist or not exist, but that existence has degrees of intensity. In turn, this "intensification of being is accomplished... through the struggle of the human person with and for the angel of its being."

The question is not "to be or not to be," but rather, to not be, to be somewhat, or to really be.

Note that this whole reality is eclipsed if we begin with the wrong cosmology. If we flatten the space of the vertical world, then "there is no way this contact with the Angel can occur."

It reminds me of what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven being both at hand and within -- or right now, if not sooner, just over the subjective horizon.

In any event, "there is quite literally no way home in a world without the Place where this encounter can occur." To the extent that we forsake our celestial pole, we are reduced to an aimless life "in vagabondage and perdition."

The following sounds like something Schuon might say: "It may befall a soul to 'die'... by falling below itself, below its condition of a human soul: by actualizing in itself its bestial and demonic virtuality.

"This is its hell, the hell that it carries in itself -- just as bliss is its elevation above itself, the flowering of its angelic virtuality."

You can't kill your angel, but you can make his life pretty miserable: "It is not in the power of a human being to destroy his celestial Idea; but it is in his power to betray it, to separate himself from it."

Then, upon your death, it is apparently a little like going to court and trying to be your own attorney: such a person stands before the Judge, and for the first time comes "face-to-face" with "the abominable and demonic caricature of his 'I' delivered over to himself without a heavenly sponsor." Habeas crapus!

The Picture of Dorian Gray comes immediately to mind.

Then you babble to the Judge, "I can explain," and the Judge says "go right ahead, I've got all the time in the world."

You think you're putting yourself across pretty effectively, but then he calls your Angel to the witness stand.

(Concluding afterthought: I would prefer to say that we and our angels are not two, but rather one. They are just two complementary aspects of one being, not two different beings.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Angelic Beings: Always in the Last Place You Look

When a human being is born-again-from-above, it follows that God is born-again-herebelow, since God will be known and expressed in a way that had previously been barred.

Cheetham calls this the "paradox of monotheism," but it's only paradoxical if we conceive of God as having no relations. If God has -- indeed, is -- relations, then every relation will be unique. Everything both IS and is WHAT it is because of this relation to the Absolutely Unique. Otherwise everything would be the same, as in multiculturalism.

For Corbin, the Holy Spirit is the "Angel of Individuation." Where things get a little weird is in his belief that each of us has a nonlocal celestial twin to whom we are attracted. You might say that this attraction, or the voyage from one to the other, constitutes the drama of our existence.

I have frequently written about this subject, except that I never thought of our true self as an Angelic Being. However, it doesn't really matter what you call it, so long as you recognize this gap between Who We Are and Who We Were Meant to Be, or between (•) and (¶).

Then again, this does raise the question of the ontological status of the latter. If it's not here, where is it? And how did it get there? And why is it so organized and so specific in its attractions, its abilities, its revulsions? Whatever the case, it is certainly as if we have a "double" or "eternal twin" toward whom we are "battling to return." Specifically,

"We are battling to unite with the Figure who completes our being..." It is as if we are forever "lagging behind" ourselves and trying to catch up. Thus "the earthly soul lives in nostalgia and anticipation, in exiled incompleteness, in longing and hope."

Or, you could just say that man is always proportioned to something transcending himself. Analogously, think of how any animal is always growing toward, or on the way to, its final mature form. The difference is that the animal or vegetable form can be attained on this side of eternity.

For man it is the same way, except that our "final form" is not to be fully realized in this world. Rather, it is always just over the subjective horizon, as we chase after our better half. What distinguishes man from the beasts is that we reach toward our nonlocal Form without ever grasping it.

However, according to Corbin, we do actually have the opportunity to meet our Celestial Twin. When we die.

Here I don't want to get bobbed down in Corbin's particular way of looking at this, but is it possible that he is conveying an essential truth that can be expressed in a more straightforward way? For it seems to me that when our soul is "weighed" on the occasion of our vertical autopsy, it cannot only be weighed on a universal scale that rigidly applies equally to everyone.

Rather, surely there must be some consideration given to who we are, and of what we were reasonably capable -- you know, to the way God made us. As one chap put it "to whom much is given, much is required."

There are also no doubt cultural considerations, for in some cultures it is easy to be good, whereas in others it is darn near impossible. For me, reading a book on theology is a joy. In the Soviet Union, or in Iran, or in China, it might get you killed.

For some reason, Corbin misses the whole christological angle in all of this. He seems to think that Christian orthodoxy obscures the truths he is trying to express, whereas I see it as the perfect expression thereof. That is, just because Christ is Objective Fact he is nevertheless known only via relationship, each relationship being unique because each person is.

Corbin even suggests that "the Supreme Being has an Angel," but I think this is another unnecessary I AMbellishment. As he puts it, the function of Angels is to "go out ahead" and "eternally manifest new horizons, open up new distances within Eternity itself."

The reason I think this is redundant is that the Trinity takes care of this issue in a more elegant way. The Trinity is forever surpassing itself because of its unending love-and-creativity.

As we mentioned a couple of posts back, this is the archetypal "timeless time" of which our "temporal time" is an image. God has a "past" and a "future," except that his past never degrades, his present is always perfect, and his future is just a novel perfection -- like an artist who never peaks out and never repeats himself. For God, it's one masterpiece after another.

Lest you be tempted to think that none of this sounds very orthodox, I've been reading another book by the theologian David Schindler, and much of what Corbin says can be translated into his more familiar idiom.

For example, "each being truly participates in [the] creational love of God, even as each does so in a way proportionate to its distinct way of being."

He quotes Ratzinger, who writes of "the inherent existential tendency of man, who is created in the image of God, to tend toward that which is in keeping with God.... If he does not hide from his own self, he comes to the insight: this is the goal toward which my whole being tends, this is where I want to go."

"Hiding from oneself" is like rejecting and cutting off relations with one's Angel.

The vertical recollection of our deeper self -- OM, now I remurmur! -- "is identical with the foundations of our existence, is the reason that mission is both possible and justified.... [M]y ego is the place where I must transcend myself most profoundly, the place where I am touched by my ultimate origin and goal."

To deny this is Genesis 3 all over again.

Theme Song

Theme Song