Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Mythology is Settled

To paraphrase the Aphorist, there are two kinds of men: those who believe man is fallen, and idiots.

I'm a stalwart of the former camp, which is small consolation, being that fallenness generally redounds to idiocy anyway. Indeed, there are some Protestants who maintain that the fall left us so thoroughly depraved, that our intellect was by no means spared. Therefore we are idiots either way you look at it.

Which is not so outlandish given man's track record. You have only to read a history book -- or the news -- to be overwhelmed with evidence that man is a hopeless case -- that he is fallen and can't get up.

Still, I think there is hope. No, not in man. Left to his own deivoices, Man is indeed a hopeless case, and when divorced from God becomes a monster. It is axiomatic that he cannot save himself. Therefore, he is in need of salvation, even if one doesn't believe in the possibility of salvation.

In reality, this deep structure of fallenness/salvation cannot be denied, only repressed, projected, or otherwise displaced. Marxism is a case in point: it begins with a primordial paradise of communal sharing, followed by a fall into private property and capitalism -- AKA history -- which eventually leads to the salvation of communism.

Most any political philosophy partakes of this structure: something or someone is to blame for our fall from paradise, and this or that person or policy will lead us to heaven on earth.

I want to say that when it comes to our fallenness, the mythology is settled. Or at least it was. But like so many other foundations of western civilization -- e.g., marriage, manliness, virtue, objective morality, etc. -- it has been denied and eroded, such that it threatens to topple the whole structure that is built upon it.

But just as marriage was settled so long ago that people have forgotten how to defend it, so too do people have no idea how to speak of our fallenness without fear of sounding like a literalist rube. But again: we begin with the axiom that it is the people that deny it who are a priori idiots, not us.

In a chapter conveniently entitled The Fall, Bailie speaks of the "hominization event" that distinguishes us from the beasts. Now clearly it is difficult if not impossible to shed light on this cardinal event, at least scientific light, because no one was there to see it. It is like trying to imagine the Big Bang, which is over the horizon of any kind of empirical knowability. Rather, it is just an abstract, backward projection of our current model -- like the models of climate science, only accurate.

The point is, the hominization event is beyond the human horizon; it certainly took place long before any written history, but more to the point, any explanation of it assumes the humanness that is precisely what is in need of explanation.

I first read of myth representing the edge of history in a book called The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, which I must have read some 35 years ago. I see it even has a chapter called Hominization.

Thompson writes that in the Age of Chaos -- that would be now -- "Myth is a false statement, an opinion popularly held, but one known by scientists and other experts to be incorrect."

However, in the Age of Heroes -- which is any time, or rather, outside time -- "Myth is an answer to the three questions: What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Here myth is a macrohistory giving humanity an answer to the basic riddle of the meaning of existence." And interestingly, "if a philosopher or even a scientist attempts to answer these three questions, then the organization of his data into a narrative falls into the mythic form."

Which goes to what was said above about the deep structure of myth conditioning forms of thought superimposed from above. We could even say that ideology is just the mythology of the modern idiot.

Ah. Here is the passage I was looking for: "The edge of history is myth. If we study myth in a scientific way, we miss the experience of moving into a mythopoeic mode of consciousness. A line of events has a beginning and an end, but the matrix out of which events arise does not appear to be an event at all."

Rather, this matrix is the container, not the contained. Matrix, of course, means womb. Even -- or especially -- God has one.

I don't want to get too far afield. Let's return to God's Gamble. Bailie alludes to the idea that the "hominzation event" -- whatever that was -- is "irreversible." You might say that once you wake up, you cannot go back to sleep. But you can certainly try. Think, for example, of all the ways we can try to make the conscience -- the conscience being prima facie evidence that hominization has occurred -- go back to sleep and leave us the hell alone!

Besides conscience, what else does the hominization event entail? Well, freedom: "For love to appear in creation, the creature in whom it appears had to be free, free in a way that no creature ordered entirely by instinct could possibly be."

This is indeed God's Gamble, because it can -- does -- turn out either way: "the great danger is that the freedom necessary to the fulfillment of the creature's vocation in love" will be exercised in the wrong ways. Broadly speaking, instead of being ordered to O, it will be ordered to Ø:

"[H]uman goods depend on order, and it is the nature of the order to which our lives are sub-ordinated that is decisive." It seems that the primordial unhappitants of paradise impulsively grasp at Ø. As did Adam and Eve.

"For Satan, divinity is something to be snatched at, and he inspires his imitators to acts of self-assertion.... That which can be received only as a gift was despoiled by the surreptitious attempt to purloin it by an act of will."

This represents the great cracking of the cosmic egg into numberless fragments. Desire, which is infinite and ordered to God, expresses its infinitude on this plane, setting up a compulsive dynamic of fleeting fulfillment of impossible dreams. "The gift of free will -- intrinsically ordered to the true, the good, and the beautiful -- thus dissolves into a cacophony of mimeticism..."

Frankly, I don't think the mimicry of others is even required. The infinitude and insatiability of godless desire is sufficient to set the world aflame.

Bailie makes an interesting point about death entering the cosmos with the Fall. It doesn't necessarily imply physical death, but rather, the death-haunted psyche that results from the radical separation from God: "The man and the woman didn't die, but they lost touch with that within them that cannot die, and -- existentially -- that is a living death."

What to do about this existential condition of living death?

Hmm... I know! A human sacrifice! Let someone else take the fall for the Fall -- that will make things right!

"That is exactly what ritual sacrifice does in primitive religion, in which the only possible cure for death is death."

But even if we manage to forego human sacrifice, it is much more difficult to give up the Joy of Blame, of guilt and punishment, of scapegoats and exile. It doesn't surprise me that liberals cannot stop doing this. But I get nervous when so-called conservatives fall into the same trap. A genuine conservative knows this isn't paradise, and that any attempt to make it so will only pave the way for a fresh hell.


julie said...

It is like trying to imagine the Big Bang, which is over the horizon of any kind of empirical knowability. Rather, it is just an abstract, backward projection of our current model

Much like the way scientists try to envision how a eukaryote first came to live inside a prokaryote. There are lots of theories, but since it mysteriously only seems to have happened that one time there is no way to show how it happened.

"For Satan, divinity is something to be snatched at, and he inspires his imitators to acts of self-assertion.... That which can be received only as a gift was despoiled by the surreptitious attempt to purloin it by an act of will."

My daughter was watching what I thought was Disney Jr. today (it's not as bad for commercials and content, to some degree), but was actually a regular Disney channel. It had some promo animated music video for one of their older kid series which features a bunch of hooched-out teenage girls who are supposed to be the descendants of various Disney villains and princesses. They were singing, repeatedly, "bad is the new good, good is the new bad, call it good, call it bad, it's the best you've ever had."

And people wonder why Miley turned out to be such a mess. Walt must be spinning so fast in his grave you could use him in place of a wind turbine.

Tony said...

speaking of graves, what happened to happyacres? did tumblr delete it?

Gagdad Bob said...

No idea. Could well have been targeted by Big Brother.

julie said...

That's disappointing; I hope it was just a mistake and fixable. Consider that it's Tumblr, though, I wouldn't be surprised if he was purged.

He had a post up this morning at 10:11, according to my feed reader.

julie said...

Speaking of wombs and matrixes, apparently some scientists have finally noticed that pregnancy changes women's brains.

"Furthermore, the GM [grey matter] volume changes of pregnancy predict measures of postpartum mother-to-child attachment and hostility. These results indicate that pregnancy changes the GM architecture of the human brain and provide preliminary support for an adaptive process serving the transition into motherhood."

But I'm sure plenty of people will still insist that these changes don't really matter, and mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

Gagdad Bob said...

When I think of what my son would miss out on if he had only me and not his mother, it's pretty overwhelming. I can give him what I can give him, but I can't give that.

Gagdad Bob said...

And it looks like Happy Acres was indeed banished. Too much truth.