Friday, March 25, 2016

Truth and Incarnotion

I say that -- "incarnotion" -- because I'm reading in Balthasar how Christian contemplation is really a kind of enfleshment of divine energies and ideas, thus, incarnotion. But mainly I say it because the title just popped into my head before I wrote the post, and it is merely up to me to write a post in conformity with the title so given.

In contemplation we are "an open ear to the ever-new word of God," wherein "God is speaking to this person and no other; to this beggar at the Temple gate..." "The whole glory" of this exchange -- and this is the key point -- is that "the very same personal encounter is meant to take place as in the Lord's earthly life."

I read somewhere words to the effect that it scarcely matters if Christ was incarnated in Nazareth or Bethlehem 2,000 years ago if he isn't incarnated in you. The Light must be onglowing. The Incarnation is always present tense. It is a perpetual possibility. Otherwise, what's the point?

It is the same vis-a-vis crucifixion and resurrection. I suppose it's really all a single movement of Incarnation-Crucifixion-Resurrection; which must in turn reflect an even deeper principle about the very nature of God. Which is what this weekend -- this Season -- is all about.

A "vast, living kingdom of heaven watches over transitory time..." For us this certainly includes the communion of saints and other worthies, i.e., those nonlocal operators standing by ready to assist us.

What do they see? Not bound by linear time or by various urgently trivial agendas, they "have an entirely different view of things; what seems important to us is utterly insignificant to them, and vice versa. What we are at pains to avoid can be the very thing which they see as significant, profitable and necessary..."

Oh great. Let this cup pass!

"Sorry. You don't know what's good for you."

Given that more tears are shed from answered than unanswered prayers, the corollary must be that more joy is spread from unanswered than answered ones. Not to say that the latter don't evoke joy, only to put things in their proper perspective.

Do people still try to "find themselves?" In the absence of God, there is simply no there there. "The man who concentrates on himself in the attempt to know himself better and thus, perhaps, to undertake some moral improvement, will certainly never encounter God..."

Conversely, "if he earnestly seeks God's will," then "he will -- incidentally, as it were -- realize and find himself (as far as he needs to)."

So, "finding oneself" is a byproduct of finding God -- which is really a tri-product of God finding us. In other words, the individual person is really a unique incarnotion, i.e., an Idea of God. Otherwise we'd all be the same, like animals and leftists.

Compare with the following quintessentially antichristic response to the definition of sin: Being out of alignment with my values.

This is helpful, for it explains why Obama regards political opponents as evil, for being out of alignment with his policies is a mortal sin.

Back to the God <--> Man complementarity which is brought to a cosmic pinnacle in the Incarnotion of the Godman.

If you think about it at all, you will be struck by the fact "that there should be something else apart from the 'all,' apart from the ocean of Being, a kind of 'non-all,' an 'almost nothing,' something that is not Being and yet somehow 'is,' something whose existence is not necessary but 'accidental'..."

What I'm driving at is this striking differentiation-in-unity and unity-in-differentation which reaches a climax in man, except that man can't bridge the chasm between the differentiation and the unity without effacing the one or the other, i.e., without ascending into a Vedantic nondualism or descending into a pantheistic monism.

I suppose only the incarnotion of Christ can bridge that abyss.

In conclusion, if man is (?) then God is (!). We get a sense of this truism whenever we experience a little spontaneous (?!).

The creature is a perpetual question addressed to God.... Fundamentally, God is the 'Other' in every possible way, and so he is the answer to the question which I am. --Balthasar

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In My Womb

I think I'll try to do a short and concentrated post even when I don't have time to do a more sprawling and diffuse one. Like today.

As mentioned the other day, its seems that I feel better when I post than when I don't. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that communing with Ultimate Reality might be a "good way to start the day." Like planting good seed in the morning, or... I suppose it makes me feel like...

Petey, who was the fellow who said something about the point of life being to fire on all cylinders for something or other?

"I fancy the individual you have in mind, sir, is the philosopher Aristotle, who remarked that the Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue."

Yes, that's the one. I shall proceed to exercise the old faculties in c. with e. and v.

In any event, one way or another, this blogging business has become my primary Spiritual Practice, nor do I see it as something separate from prayer -- which is the subject and book under discussion. Mainly I pray for Light and the ability to reflect it, or pass it along to the Scattered Remnant.

Here, look at what Balthasar says: "The person who prays not only stands before truth and contemplates it objectively," but tries to live "in the truth" itself:

"Praying within the truth" means that we stand before "something pre-existing from time immemorial." This is what we are built for, as Aristotle says above: "Anything in us that runs counter to this is therefore merely a belated denial of what is our real truth, and hence nothing but a self-contradiction" (HvB).

Instead of horizontal intimacy with another person, it is vertical intimacy with the Metacosmic Person(s):

"Thus the union of the human being in grace and the Holy Spirit yields an ineffable fruit... in which it is impossible to say what comes from man and what comes from God. The 'fruits' of the Spirit in the receptive soul arise from the union of God's life with man's..."

These fruits, "once they have come to maturity, to our astonishment leave the 'womb'..."

Yes they do.

A dream. Last night. I'm explaining to someone that I'm trying to write a book. There's a huge wall before me -- like the Wall of Reality -- and I study parts of it with a monocle-like device, one part at a time. I explain that I'm trying somehow to assemble or synthesize the whole out of all the parts; or rather, waiting for the Spirit to show me how all the partial views through the monocle add up to the whole.

Am I wasting my timelessness?

"Intimacy with the Holy Spirit of truth... cancels out the spectator's uninvolved objectivity, with its external, critical attitude to the truth, and replaces it with an attitude which one can only describe as prayer."

So, is God telling me I don't have a prayer, or at least the right one?

"This prayer is total." It involves "our receiving and self-giving, our contemplating and our self-communication, in a single, undivided whole."

Reminds me of what our Unknown Friend says about how concentration without effort is putting unity into practice...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Absolute Relative Absolute

Continuing with yesterday's discussion of faith as making a space for knowledge, Bion doesn't regard it (faith) as mere passive forgetting, but rather, "a positive act which restrains active memory and desire and provides a mental state which he represents by the term faith. It will allow him to approach the psychic reality that cannot be known but can 'be been'" (Grinberg, et al).

Analogously, as we've said before, God is not something known, but something undergone (or sophered). The only way to approach the I AM is via our own Be: I AM, therefore WE ARE. Balthasar: "To believe and to hear the word of God are one and the same thing."

"Bion uses the term faith, act of faith, and mystery in many of his papers to refer to a mental activity which operates in a non-sensuous dimension" (ibid.).

So, faith is the perfect way to know and understand nonsense; and God is the apex of the nonsense world (for spirit is immaterial). Without him we would be enclosed in an omniscient nightmare world of completely intelligible surfaces with no depth dimension, i.e., no mystery:

"For this voice from eternity whispers and breathes right through everything that exists in the world... and, without depriving the things of this world of their meaning and value, it lends them a bottomless dimension, exploding whatever is closed, relativizing whatever seems ultimate, revealing hidden depths in what seems simple..." (HvB, emphasis mine).

Woo hoo! A gnosis-all is never a know-it-all; nor is he a know-nothing, but rather, an unknow-everything.

Why are things This Way?

Evidently, the "divine plan" is "to lift the creature beyond himself and ennoble him..." (ibid.).

If that's not the plan, it's a hell of thing to happen in a random universe, i.e., a creature built to transcend itself. Why would such a being exist in a Darwinian world? Forget the order, information, and intelligence. How does the relentless transcendence get into the cosmos? How does perpetual being toward contaminate the pure being?

As far as I know, Christianity provides the only metaphysic that explains this mystery, for ultimate reality -- the Trinity -- is always and irreducibly a being-toward.

"In the Son, therefore, heaven is open to the world. He has opened the way from the one to the other and made exchange between the two possible..." (HvB). The Father "transcends" the Son, as the Son is Father-made-immanent. Immanence and transcendence are not a duality but a complementarity, the one always facing -- and nourishing -- the other.

Thus, "the One is accessible without our having to leave behind the many, the world..." The Son is "both ultimate and not ultimate. As God, he is absolute; and yet, as absolute, relative: as the Son who is a relationship proceeding from the Father and returning to him" (ibid.).

It's a Christian rac-koan: as Absolute, He is Relative; and as Relative, He is Absolute.

Furthermore, it's a single tripartite movement: "the sending of the Word of God (the Son) and the lending of the divine Spirit are only two phases of a single process in which divine truth and life are offered to man" (ibid.).

Moreover -- to return to the perfect nonsense -- "The withdrawal of the figure of the Son from sense-perception 'frees' the Spirit..." Only the Spirit "can cause the word of God to penetrate man, history, nature; only in the Spirit can man receive, contemplate and understand the word" (ibid.).

Mary's Yes to the Spirit "is the origin of all Christian contemplation"; like her, we must provide the ready -- which to say, empty -- womb in which to develop into fertile eggheads.

It is said that, 'Nature has a horror of emptiness.' The spiritual counter-truth here is that, 'the Spirit has a horror of fullness.' It is necessary to create a natural emptiness... in order for the spiritual to manifest itself. --Meditations on the Tarot

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

So, What Did You Learn From All that Education? O, Nothing

I just wanted to finish up my little review of the prolix pentalogy of Balthasar books I've recently read. As I mentioned in a comment, the resonant bits are a bit few and far between, but I shall endeavor to retrieve them anyway, because I have nothing better to do, and it seems that I feel better when I blog than when I don't.

Continuing with Prayer, Balthasar makes an exceedingly important point about faith, which is not analogous to credulousness or precritical thinking, but rather, "the ability to go beyond our own human intramundane and personal 'truth'...." It posits that 1) truth exists, and 2) that it is beyond us. That being the case, how else but in the reaching-beyond of faith can we contact it? Faith is the vertical bridge between finite and infinite.

Truly truly, it is a bridge to Owhere.

It's really not fundamentally different than, say, scientific faith. We've discussed this in the past, but scientific discoveries are not made through mere logic, otherwise reality would simply be an iteration of what we already know. Note too that the tiniest error at the beginning will be magnified exponentially the further you try to take it.

For example, Newtonian physics is quite accurate, accurate enough to get you through life. But if you try to use it to describe the entire cosmos, it's all wrong. At a certain point the anomalies become too obvious. Which is where Einstein stepped in in 1905. But even then, no matter how accurate quantum and relativity theories are, they cannot literally map reality without reminder. A model is not the thing itself. Except in climate science.

In any event, my point is that the scientist can't just extend an existing theory, but rather, has to wait in faith for reality to "speak" to him.

I might add that this is especially true of persons (and it turns out that reality is personal, as we'll get to later). There is no shortage of psychological theories, but not one of them actually describes, or can possibly describe, a real flesh and blood individual. In fact, by definition there can be no general theory of the individual, right?

This takes me way back to graduate school, and my discovery of the obscure psychoanalytic theorist W.R. Bion. He wrote of how, in the presence of a patient, the therapist must suspend memory, desire, and understanding, and enter a state of mind he called.... faith!

This attitude is so far from a medical model of the mind, that I immediately thought to myself, "how can you charge good money for systematically knowing nothing?" Frankly, I've never gotten past that question (imagine explaining it to an insurance adjuster). It's just a contingency of history that psychotherapy became medicalized -- for which reason it will always be full of pseudo-scientific quackery. Might as well try to medicalize religion (which is what Scientology effectively does).

For Bion, therapy "is a dynamic and lively interchange between two people who listen and talk to each other in a particular way, and not merely an intellectual and sophisticated adaptation between a 'psychoanalyst' and a 'patient'..." Therefore, "the therapist's fantasies of omnipotence, and this tendency to cling to theoretical a priori knowledge are the analyst's chief reactions in the face of something new and unknown that appears in every analytic session."

Think about that one: your job is to forget everything you think you learned in graduate school, and instead, simply be with this stranger, in the faith that Truth will eventually emerge in the space between you. The state of "not knowing" is not the same as mere ignorance; it is a state of active-passivity, or perhaps giving-receptiveness. It obviously combines male and female. It is allowing the space to become pregnant with truth, and eventually give birth to it. Let your will be done!

One reason you do this -- that is, "turn off" primary modes of knowing, is to "turn on" the more implicit ones. You might say that you have to disable the left brain in order to activate the right. Think of how one detects, say, anxiety.

Anxiety cannot be touched, or seen, or heard, or smelled. Or, let's just say "pain." How does one detect areas of psychic pain in an individual, especially when the individual is in denial about them? Often times the pain is "dispersed" in such a way that the therapist must be able to detect some small fragment of it and trace it back to a more primordial experience. Furthermore, the pain is dispersed in both space and time -- within the personality, and along the personal-historical timeline.

This is how I came up with the idea of O applied to God: I didn't just borrow it from Bion, rather, I stole it outright. For him, O is the unKnown reality between two persons in the analytic situation. I simply transposed it to the unKnown reality between two persons in the religious situation.

Faith is two things at once: an act and its object.... In more concrete terms, it is the grace which comes to us in God's self-giving and enables us to give ourselves to him in return. --HvB

Monday, March 21, 2016

Listening Past the Grooveyard

For some reason, I've been reading a lot of Balthasar lately. However, he is so windy and turgid that it just ended up adding to my ongoing bewilderment.

True, there are always scattered passages that speak directly to me, but these are punctuated by lengthy stretches in which he seems to be talking to himself. Thinking out loud. I want to say, "Okay, now review those last ten pages and condense it down to a sentence or two."

I remember Voegelin having the same problem. I suppose it's a Germanic thing. Schuon, who is the model of concision, spoke both German and French, but wrote all of his books in the latter, because he didn't think it possible to express them in German. If I recall correctly, he regarded French as the perfect vehicle for philosophical and metaphysical precision, whereas German was too... something. Maybe Twain was right: "Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp."

We're talking about five books, beginning with The Christian and Anxiety. Turns out it's not really about anxiety, but angst: according to the translator, "Although neither 'anxiety' nor 'anguish,' 'insecurity' nor 'fear' by itself fully captures the range of connotations of the German word, 'anxiety' and 'anguish' have generally been employed for direct translation of angst."

So, we need a term that combines anxiety, anguish, insecurity, fear, and angst. How about impending doom? Nameless dread? Lost in the cosmic bewilderness?

I shall now flip through the book and recall any highlighted passages that spoke to the Bob.

"Anxiety finds its ultimate meaning in the fact that the Word of God has taken it upon himself" (Yves Tourenne, from the foreword). So, Jesus doesn't just take on physical affliction but psychological affliction as well. The Word doesn't only become flesh; or flesh implies both soma and psyche. You could say that the Divine Slack became angst so that human angst might become slackful.

In any event, "God could not become man in any other way than by coming to know human fear and taking it upon himself" (HvB). But "human fear has been completely and definitively conquered by the Cross. Anxiety is one of the authorities, powers, and dominions over which the Lord triumphed on the Cross, and which he carried off captive and placed in chains" (ibid.).

So we got that going for us.

Next I read a book called Christian Meditation. The following makes perfect nonsense: "directions for meditating always begin by requiring us to create inner stillness and emptiness as a means of making room for what is to be received." In the form of pneumaticons, it means that we practice (o) and (---) in order to facilitate the descent of (↓).

When we "meditate on God," it is much more a case of God meditating on -- or in -- us: "We seem to be far from God, but he is near us. We need not work our way up to him.... God's plenitude is available without passing through antechambers. The way 'up to heaven' does not entail a long journey or descent 'down into the depths.'"

In short, God has already done the heavy lifting. Or rather, our ascending is just the back end of his descending, in one continuous spiraling movement.

A word from the Word is "like the point of a triangle on the ground that opens out upward into the infinite. His word is only the opportunity offered for ascending into this opening."

It reminds me of a diamond stylus in a record groove, which can generate as much as 35,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. In so doing, it -- so to speak -- throws out passages of timeless musical beauty. In the same way, via "borings vertically into the depths," the "vistas of God's word unfold to the meditating Christian..."

Next I read a book called Prayer, which covers a lot of the same ground as the above. Prayer is simply "a conversation between God and the soul..." It is a dialogue, for "there is no such thing as solitary speech," but rather, always an implicit Thou.

Thus, it seems that our listening is much more important than our speaking: "The essential thing is for us to hear God's word and discover from it how to respond to him.... God's word is the rope ladder thrown down to us so that we can climb up into the rescuing vessel."

This I like: "Man is the creature with a mystery in his heart that is bigger than himself." As such, no matter how much we know about ourselves, the unKnown -- or that known only by God -- is always greater.

This is one of the things that turned me from psychology to theology, metaphysics, and mysticism, in that the area described by psychology is so modest (and yet the field is so immodest in its claims).

The reason why the unknown always dwarfs the known is that our personal subject is ultimately rooted in the divine Subject. As we've said before, "He is, therefore I am" (or better, I AM, therefore we are). There is no other explanation. God "is in the 'I,' but he is also above it; since, as the absolute 'I,' he transcends it, he is in the human 'I' as its deepest ground, 'more inward to me than I am to myself.'"

And "scripture is not some systematic wisdom; it is an account of God's meeting with men" -- again, like the stylus in the groove. In contemplating it "we learn how to listen properly, and this listening is the original wellspring of all Christian life and prayer."

Theme Song

Theme Song