Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Believe in God when You Can Undergo Him?

Continuing with yesterday's line of thought, "discovery is not a matter simply of accurate sense perception." Countless people saw apples falling from trees before one of them apocryphally perceived gravity. A human being is someone who is (at least in potential) conscious of consciousness. But in the case of discovery, it is as if we perceive perception and thereby extend it.

I wonder if every discipline follows this bimodal pattern? For example, in psychotherapy the therapist monitors his own subjective flow of impressions: he listens to the patient while simultaneously listening to his reactions to the patient.

Or history: a mere chronicle of the past reduces to antiquarianism. Rather, the exploration of the past must be guided by some implicit vision. Of course, this vision can be on a higher or lower dimension (e.g., the meta-cosmic Arc of Salvation vs. Marxism and its retarded cousins of tenure).

Consider "Bullshit Bernie" Sanders, who looks at the American founding -- surely one of the most miraculous divine ingressions in history -- and literally sees a nation founded on racist principles. Well,

"Bullshit. The United States was founded on egalitarian principles which took a while to fully effectuate because the country was born in a world where slavery was common. (It still is, in many places where Anglo-American rule does not govern.) We fought a great civil war to validate the principles of our Constitution, whose promises of freedom had nothing to do with race, as Lincoln insisted. Granted, the Democratic Party fought a spirited rear-guard action on behalf of racism that lasted for more than a century. Bernie is an inheritor of that disgraceful history."

Not only that, but "racism" didn't even exist at the time of the founding. It was later invented by Democrats to legitimize the existence of slavery once the institution was under serious threat. Slavery existed always and everywhere, and no one needed to justify it with theories of racial superiority prior to the 19th century. True, coastal Africans assumed they were superior to the less developed interior Africans they captured and sold, but this obviously wasn't a matter of race.

Recall too that racial differences were and are a matter of empirical observation. No theory was required to see them. Rather, a theory was required in order to not see them ("all men are created equal") -- just as a theory is required to counter the empirical observation that the sun revolves around the earth.

The emergence of modern science did not involve coming to our senses, but coming from and through them into deeper and more integral dimensions. Science is a new way of seeing sight or perceiving perception that transforms the particulars into new meanings. (This is the whole basis of Raccoon Emeritus Michael Polanyi's philosophy.)

It is not a matter of looking carefully. Indeed, doing so can function to reify the misapprehension. Anyone can see that the earth is flat. Yet everyone knows it isn't. This is what we mean when we say that liberals are flat-earthers: that they are always trapped in their unexamined prejudices. Cultural Marxism is simply a catchall way to keep them gorounded in absurcularities of race, class, gender, sexual preference, Power Relations, etc.

"An observational discovery is a cognitive process, and not an instantaneous point-event." In addition to "the sensory aspect, there is also a nonsensory factor in cognitive perception" (Bortoft). A discovery involves a fusion or coalescence of the two, of sense and nonsense. It is analogous to a match striking the abrasive surface and producing fire. Either one alone keeps you in the dark.

If we naively begin with the fire, we will miss the components that go into it. Consciousness has always been analogized to fire and light, and it too involves one thing striking another to produce the flame.

As we have written many times and in many ways, the human person is not located in the head, but rather, in the space between persons (i.e., person is relation). You know the gag: there is no such thing as an infant, but rather, the transitional space between infant and mother. This space is where it all goes down -- and up. But it is also the space where nothing can happen, a kind of persecutory anti-space.

I've been thinking lately about what distinguishes the one from the other, and have come to the conclusion that it involves love and passion. Remove these and the space collapses into a dead zone of boredom, restlessness, ingratitude, anhedonia, envy, etc. But when they are present, then the space is full to the point of overflowing.

If you have the "one thing needful" (or it has you, rather), then various other things are added. But if you try to elevate the secondary things to the necessary one, you end up hollowing yourself out from the inside. So, I think Christianity is correct that it comes down to the metaphysics of love.

In keeping with what was said above vis-a-vis perception and vision, religion is obviously a way of seeing and organizing and relating to the phenomena.

Now, some things are only known via an orthoparadoxical absence. To cite an obvious example, in order to see that the world is round, you have to "void" your senses so as to open up the space of theoretical vision. You have to unknow what you know in order to make a little womb for the developing seed-idea.

Obviously this absence is not nothing. I read somewhere that there are two kinds of empty. There is the empty like the inside of a basketball, and there is the empty like the inside of your stomach. Your head should be empty like your stomach (or better, a womb).

We'll leave off with some observations by David Schindler that might help pull this womb together:

"The term 'life,' rightly understood, indicates more than bare physical existence.... [I]t signifies an ordered power that comes from within, a power bearing interiority and hence depth.... Human life, whose interiority takes a spiritual form, manifests the fullest richness and intensity of life among the beings of the world....

"It is passion and interior power, then, that enable human life and action to be truly dramatic. But what is it, concretely, that gives passion and interior power their substantive content?

"To be a creature is... to bear a relation to God that presupposes a 'space' inside what is deepest and most original in the creature, one that reaches from within the roots of the creature outward.... toward the highest heights, infinitely beyond us....

"Passion and interiority, in short, disclose the deepest truths of what characterizes our creaturely openness to the infinite. They indicate the human receptive capacity for relation to God."

The point is, you don't believe in God, you undergo God. You know, like an experiment.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Now Presenting, God!

God is not here. Rather, we here God. In other words...

Better start with something that came out toward the end of yesterday's post, that

"ideas are active, in that an idea about reality brings about the reality the idea is about. This is similar to how God works: he 'speaks' his ideas into creation, whereas it is down to us to hear [and thus 'here'] them. Remove the ideas, and there is no there to be perceived. There is raw sense perception, and that is all. But raw sense perception doesn't disclose reality. Rather, limited to our senses, real reality would be foreclosed."

Now, this sounds suspiciously like the popular new age perversion of quantum physics, such that we literally "create reality" via perception. That is not what we are saying. Rather, the reality is implicitly there. We cannot create it, only bring it to the surface, so to speak: "What we are concerned with here is the emergence of organization rather than its imposition" (Bortoft).

He continues: "The 'organizing' of the organizing idea is an act of distinguishing which is simultaneously an act of relating." These are not two different acts, but two sides of the one act of "here-ing" something. Thus, "the primary act of distinguishing does not point out something which is already 'there.' It 'theres' it!"

Or, you could say the idea presences itself in our act of distinguishing it. For example, I'm looking at a chair in the back yard. Now, the idea of a chair is unitary, and yet, it may take on an infinite number of specific forms. How do I know it's a chair at all? I didn't consciously think about it, and yet, there it is. A chair has come to be.

Think of a dog, who has no idea of a chair. For it, the chair might be a meaningless obstacle on the way to that nice peeing spot, if it is seen at all. Conversely, the dog perceives many things we don't, but are these ideas? If so, they are quite narrow in scope and limited in number.

To here something is to idea-ate it, so to speak. This process of instantiation quintessentially involves placing boundaries around something. Or in other words, to idea-ate is to bound or contain. Without the boundaries, the something will be nothing (or at least perceived as such). This is a point Judaism has always emphasized, i.e., the importance of fundamental (God-given) distinctions such as sacred/profane, male/female, creator/created, man/beast, etc.

Think of the chaos that ensues if we forget or ignore these boundaries. For example, ignoring the male/female distinction leads to the possibility of "homosexual marriage." But that is no longer marriage, since one has effaced its terms. Rather, it is a regressive descent back to the primordial chaos and darkness.

Likewise, atheism hardly elevates man into the light. Rather, it again blurs the distinction between light and dark and reverts to relativistic chaos -- moral, intellectual, and aesthetic. Eliminate the gulf between man and beast and we end up with PETA fanatics who (literally!) equate Corporal Hitler with Colonel Sanders. After all, they both targeted specific populations for death.

So, it's not a question of whether or not chairs exist. I see a book, whereas an aborigine would see just a bunch of random squiggles.

Which leads to the question of how we perceive God. Now first of all, God, by definition, cannot be an object of perception. Rather, he would be the principle that allows objects to be perceived -- bounded and presenced -- to begin with. You might say that he is the principle of distinguishing and presencing, which is none other than creativity.

I can't recommend this book on Genesis, although the author does make some helpful points. For example, we could reduce the bottom-line point of Genesis 1 to Creator-Creates-Creation. These three are distinct, and yet, always one, or part of a single eternal movement. And since we are in the image of this movement, we do (and are) the same thing.

I mean, in my own little way, I am doing it now. I, the Creator, am Creating something, but I have no idea what it's going to be until it presences itself. Then, like God, I stand back and determine whether or not I can pronounce it Good.

At this point I really don't know. Could be a lot of deepaking the chopra. If I'm honest, something in me is saying that I need to tie this together on a higher plane. In other words, the post is not yet fully half-baked. When it is, the same little voice tells me to stop, usually quite abruptly.

For the Christian, Jesus is the presencing of God. John, of course, makes this quite plain. Looked at one way, Jesus is just a man, like any other. As John says, some people saw him in the flesh but didn't perceive the divinity. They did not presence God.

Note that God "presented himself," but this wasn't sufficient. Rather, each man must do his part to render God present. You might even say that we each must incarnate the divinity. I mean, if we don't, who will?

Note that in God, there are distinctions but no divisions. This is another way of saying that God is relationship, such that living in relationship is living in a state of distinction-unity, with neither being prior to the other.

Now, if Jesus is who he says he is, then he is one with mankind. And yet, he is distinct from mankind, since he is God and we aren't. But by relating to him, we presence his divinity. The word becomes flesh -- in us.

"Just as creation, for Eckhart, is a continuous and eternal process, so too the Word taking on flesh is not a past event we look back to in order to attain salvation, but rather an ever-present hominification of God and deification of humanity and the universe -- an incarnatio continua" (Bernard McGinn).

Every time a form is generated and comes to perfection in the natural world, and even the artificial world of human creativity, we can catch a glimpse of the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father taking on flesh (ibid.).

"Okay, you can stop now."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Out of My Head

In yesterday's post we pondered the question of how the whole can be "contained" in one of its parts: "How is it that something vastly smaller can contain what is immeasurably larger?"

For example, what is Paul talking about with his Christ-living-in-me isness? That idea is fundamental to Paul, but it is rooted in a more general biblical metaphysic that doesn't necessarily obey Euclidean geometry and Aristotelian logic.

So, what kind of logic does the Bible reflect? This is important, because if one doesn't understand the logic, one might be tempted to think something in it is illogical when it is merely obeying a different and possibly higher logic -- perhaps even the Logic of logic.

Barron suggests that "When Christ is the center of one's life, then all the elements that constitute the self" will "tend to fall into an ordered pattern around it." Thus, the Christ-principle is the magnetic center, or the person-to-person call that pulls order from chaos.

Which is not too far from our very first description of the Creator in Genesis 1, where he hovers over the dark and formless void. Nor is that too far from its sister passage in John 1, where we read that nothing is created without God's Logos, his creative word-logic. This implies -- sort of -- that there are things in the world that are not created by God.

This is an ill-sounding assertion, but what I mean is that, just as creativity is a signature of God, un- (or better, anti-) creativity would be its counter-sign. For practical purposes it would mean that where we see the trite, the trivial, the banal, the lifeless, the boring -- you know, leftworld -- God has been exorcised from the persons involved. Say what you want about God, he is never boring. Rather, the boredom is in you.

As you probably know, "sin" is etymologically related to "missing the mark" or target. What target? "Because we are, by nature, supernaturally oriented toward intimacy with God," deviation from our target "results in the disordering and disintegration of the entire self: mind, body, spirit, and passions." In short, sin "involves the unmooring of the self from its properly divine origin and telos."

Thus, when we are not aimed at our proper telos, our prior wholeness breaks up into its constituent parts. You might say that when we fall, we fall apart. Instead of pneumanauts orbiting around the central sun, we are like those stranded astronauts in the film Gravity.

In that situation, the astronaut discovers that all of his usual gifts -- from physical strength to training to intelligence -- are precisely worthless. He is missing the one thing that would render all the others efficacious: connectedness.

However, now that I'm thinking about it, the George Clooney character does accomplish one thing, which is to mysteriously transmit something of himself into Sandra Bullock. This is depicted as a kind of dream-hallucination, but this whole scene is riding piggyback on our still (albeit distantly) Christo-centric culture, such that she assimilates and "contains" his spirit in order to summon the skill, creativity, and presence of mind to save herself: not I, but Lieutenant Kowalski in me.

Gravity indeed: something organizes her hysterical, deathbound fragmentation before it takes her life. Something pulls her together, such that she rises above slavery to her dysfunctional passions into a higher freedom.

Now, I think you'll agree that this is weird. I just looked up the film on wikipedia, and it says this: "Some commentators have noted religious themes in the film." Oh? Like who?

"For instance, Fr. Robert Barron in The Catholic Register summarizes the tension between Gravity's technology and religious symbolism. He said, 'The technology which this film legitimately celebrates... can't save us, and it can't provide the means by which we establish real contact with each other.... there is a dimension of reality that lies beyond what technology can master or access... the reality of God.'"

If this were a movie, Fr. Barron would no doubt be sitting next to me in a spacesuit.

The "real contact" to which he alludes is not surface-to-surface, as in two contained substances coming into contact. Rather, we must abandon the "language of substance" in favor of a "sheer relationality and other-orientation, the coinherence of love."

Referring back to the meta-logic of our cosmos, we see that the principle of coinherence cannot even be expressed in the language of Euclid or Aristotle. And yet, if we fail to apprehend (and express) it, we are missing its most important feature.

As Bortoft puts it, if we begin our analysis with the "self-conscious subject, conceived as a self-entity," we are actually beginning at the end, which is therefore literally pre-posterous.

Rather, we must begin with coinherence and intersubjectivity. In practical terms we must "go to the stage prior to our usual awareness, which has the effect of reversing the direction of our thinking so that we can recognize that we usually begin from what is, in fact, the end." This is what it means to reverse worldward descent and cross the bridge of darkness to the father shore (p. 256).

All of this suggests that ideas are active, in that an idea about reality brings about the reality the idea is about. This is similar to how God works: he "speaks" his ideas into creation, whereas we hear them. Remove the ideas, and there is no there to be perceived. There is raw sense perception, and that is all. But raw sense perception doesn't disclose reality. Rather, limited to our senses, real reality would be foreclosed.

Bottom line for today: "We are accustomed to thinking of mind as if it were inside us -- 'in our heads.' But it is the other way around. We live within a dimension of mind which is, for the most part, as invisible to us as the air we breath. We usually only discover it when there is a breakdown" (Bortoft).

Which is to say, when we lose contact with the nonlocal source that is simultaneously beyond and within.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And the Melody Became a Note, But the Other Notes Didn't Hear It

Speaking of wholeness, Barron implies that Thomas was one of the most holographic thinkers in history, in the sense that "it is usually quite possible to show the variety of ways that any one section of the Summa relates to any other." It's a micro-cosmos, a uni-verse (one turn) in itself.

Now, I don't want to pretend I've read the whole thing. That's not my job. But I am intrigued by this vast nocean of the wave being contained in its particles. Indeed, a fundamental orthoparadoxical question is how the whole can be "contained" in the part. How is it that something vastly smaller can contain what is immeasurably larger?


I can think of many ways, and we're not even talking about the eucharist. For example, a library that has one good book -- say, the Bible -- contains something infinitely larger than itself. Indeed, perhaps this is one of the appeals of libraries per se: the illusion that we can somehow contain and assume mastery over knowledge which is in reality infinite.

Back when my brain was coming on line and I was randomly reading everything in sight to try to catch up with mankind, I even read some of the fiction of Jean Paul Sartre, including Nausea. In it there is a character, the self-taught man, who spends all of his time trying to read everything that exists.

Beyond that I don't exactly remember the point, but it must be that the autodidact is trying to make up for his -- and our -- intrinsic incompleteness by swallowing the entire library -- as if this will redeem and render him whole. But this would merely lead to a bad case of existential indigestion.

One suspects that tenured ideologues attempt to do something similar, but it is essentially the opposite movement, in that they elevate a trivial part to the whole. This is what the left always does, despite the fact that it cannot be done.

Which is interesting, because when I say it cannot be done, that is an absolute, isn't it? Therefore, it is an example of containing the uncontainable in a healthy and realistic way. To be aware of Hayek's knowledge problem is to be aware of the limits of knowledge -- just as to be aware of Gödel's theorems is to be aware of the limits on man's theorizing. Conversely, to not be aware of Hayek and Gödel will lead to unlimited delusions of containment and mastery.

To put it another way, man can contain a lie or a partial truth. But he is always contained by Truth. Which is not the same as relativism; yes, man is always relative, but relative to the Truth that precedes and transcends him.

The two errors are 1) rejecting Truth, as in moral relativism, academic diversity, and multiculturalism; and 2) imagining one contains or possesses it in the absolute sense. Again, to the extent that we possess Truth, it is only because it has first possessed us. Numerous biblical passages reflect this metaphysic, and indeed, the experience of metanoia -- repentance -- involves being turned inside-out in this holo-fractal manner.

I suppose what I want to emphasize is that you can know a lot by knowing a little. In fact, I am always on the vertical trail of that itsy bitsy that is the key to the whole existentialada.

Again, the Way of the Self-Taught Man is a non-starter, because no matter how much one knows, it is always a tiny fraction in comparison to what can be known: you may know a lot, but only about a little. I guess you could say that a headfull of the things that happen to be true is no replacement for a soph-taught heartfull of things that must be true.

Or as it says plain as night in Finnegans Wake, when a part so ptee does duty for the holos, we soon grow to use of an allforabit. I suppose I'm always on the lookout & -in for that allforabit. Conversely, Somedivide and sumthelot but the tally turns round the same balifuson. A bally ball of confusion I'm tempted to sing.

Again, the holos is always grander than the summa the parts. It's why in marriage, for example, 1 + 1 = 3, whereas in its homosexual counterfeit 1 + 1 = 1. Unity without unification. Big difference!

Barron comes at the knowledge limit from another angle, noting that although "truth concerning God can be discovered through metaphysical speculation," this truth is always asymptotically over the subjective horizon. "Thus, paradoxically, both the mind and the will need to be drawn beyond their own powers in order to realize their proper ends..."

Here again, it is a relationship with Truth, through which the supra-stance of Truth is assimilated into our own finite sub-stance; it is part-icipation in that which con-tains us -- something no part could do in the absence of the transcendent whole of which it is a part.

As Bortoft writes, "the plot is not another detail in the story and the tune is not just another note..." But what if the cosmic plot could become one of its characters, or the Song Supreme one of its notes? What if the Absolute could become relative, or eternity enter time, or Creator enter his own creation, or theory assume its own facts?

We might say that the facts speak for himSelf: "The theory is the facts when these are seen in another dimension.... This transformation from an analytical to a holistic mode of consciousness brings with it a reversal between the container and the content" (ibid.).

We can all agree that facts are external. But external to what? Which is to say, whom?

"[I]n science, as in art, truth is active and not passive, as the dogma of factualism implies.... The scientist is an active participant in scientific truth, but without this meaning that truth is thereby reduced to a merely subjective condition" (ibid.).

Monday, September 14, 2015

What To Do When History Breaks

We are juggling with three diverse texts, hoping to keep them all vertical: specifically, we've been reflecting on a ravaged 20th century while exploring Catholic theology in light of the wholeness of nature. Is there something that ties these three together -- these three being metaphysics, theology, and history? Or of which each is a reflection? Are they quasi-necessary reflections of one another?

Probably the latter. I would say that theology is concrete where metaphysics is abstract, or that theology is metaphysics concretized: the nonlocal Truth taking local form.

And history? That would be the God-man whirlpool (i.e., the mysterious transcendent Third Space inhabited by man) extended in time. Recall the timeless words of Professor Commentbox: The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable.

Therefore, history itself -- the historical quest -- is a kind of concretization, for the one thing we can agree upon about the past is that it happened. Nor did it have to happen, so it is a movement from possibility to actuality, or again, abstract to concrete.

Obama, for example, famously promised those beautiful abstractions while delivering all these ugly concretions.

The past is what it is, as is the present. Only the future changes. Which of course changes what the past and present are "about," i.e., what they converge upon. To read the signs of the times is to see the cheesy future hidden in the creamy present -- or what events are converging upon if our craniorectal extraction should fail. (Think too of how the New Testament is "hidden" throughout the Old, such that everything old is made pneumagain.)

As with Friday's post, this one will careen forward in a quest for its own hidden unity. There are no guarantees except the quest for wholeness. In other words, same as it ever was.

Speaking of wholeness, Barron notes that the Bible "ought never to be read simply as a congeries" -- a collection -- of diverse texts from various sources (which it must be to the uninitiated). Rather, "the Bible is a symphonos, a sounding together of tones and melodies, under the direction of the supreme artist."

And importantly, part of the symphony involves man, because revelation is not the word of God per se, but obviously the word of God in the words of man. If it were literally the words of God it would be too hot to handle. "In authentic scriptural exegesis, the primary focus is on the manner in which God has used a human instrument to communicate his meaning."

Note also that since "God is the author of both the Bible and history itself, we shouldn't be surprised to find a whole set of figural or typological correspondences throughout the scriptural witness. We should expect that God will speak in a distinctive accent and according to certain characteristic patterns and rhythms."

Yes to the latter, although I would take issue with God as sole author of history. Rather, as with scripture, he must be the secret co-author or holy ghostwriter. Or, might we say of history: the acts of God in the acts of man, so to speak? In other words, God has a plan, but the plan must largely be executed via men who are free to ignore the plan. Is this not the whole drama of history, whether personal or collective?

Barron implies as much. He cites the early father Irenaeus, who wonders if God didn't allow our archetypal parents to fall "so that through the pain of sin they might come to a deeper life." In any event, "the rest of the biblical story" -- the adventure and quest -- "is the account of the process by which the Father, using his two hands, the Son and the Spirit, shaped the descendants of Adam and Eve back to friendship with God."

In this description there is no sense that God forces the history. Rather, he conditions it by shaping the people who respond to the shaping -- beginning with the shaping of Abraham followed by the shaping of Israel, to say nothing of the shaping of Mary and the apostles. It seems that the overall pattern is from part to whole to part -- right down to individual baptism into the body of Christ.

The culmination of this process would have to be the God-in-man of the logos incarnate: "Jesus is, in person, the recapitulation of time and history." He "draws all the strands of history and revelation together in himself, preserving and repeating them even as he brings them to fulfillment." Furthermore, "he draws all that was implicit and potential in Adam" -- man-as-such -- "to completion."

Now, that is concrete theology. But it is also abstract metaphysics, or at least can be abstracted so as to sound more plausible to modern ears. In other words, it can be expressed in the form of principles and possibilities in archetypal man -- at least so long as he remains engaged with the Object of transcendence, without whom man is nothing, precisely. Only God can show us what we are, in principle and in fact.

Grinding gears over to Bortoft -- just to make the quest more challenging -- we read of how "It is a superficial habit of mind to invent the past which fits the present" -- which reduces the past to an extrapolation or backward projection of the present.

But in reality, each past-present was pregnant with possibilities, such that it is almost impossible to put ourselves there in its infinitude. In other words, we reduce history to a kind of line, when it is more like a rolling catastrophe (as in catastrophe theory) in hyperdimensional phase space. And if we weren't lured by God -- the nonlocal attractor -- history would break down completely.

As it has on numerous occasions, most infamously in that recent ravaged century Conquest writes about. Seriously, why was it so ravaged?

Conquest writes of how one of the attractions of collectivism is "an economy without sin." In Marxism it boils down to "a society without capitalists," while for Nazism it was a world without inferior races. Either way, it starts with a crude denial of the archetypal history that shapes all men.

God lures history, while orthodox Marxism reduces it to a mechanical clash of economic classes. But the clash-machine didn't work as predicted, so history had to be forced from above (the opposite of God's soft-sell approach):

"Lenin saw that history was not behaving in accordance with Marxist theory, so he decided to force it to do so by subjective effort..." For the leftist, history has been a very bad boy, and must be punished! You in particular are grounded, mister, until the arrival of utopia!

This pathological and dysfunctional attitude -- get this -- "still affects the mental atmosphere even in circles that repudiate it at a conscious level."