Friday, June 24, 2016

Summa Vocation

Yesterday's post quoted from one of my favorite books by Schuon, Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can write of the Invisible Real with such precision, lucidity, and brevity, with no wasted words, no wooliness, and no sentimentality. Rather, just pure light.

Reading him is accompanied by a very distinct "feeling" or sensation in me -- a paradoxical combination of freshness and recognition achieved by precious few other writers. Thus, for me it is a gymnostic exercise in vertical recollection, i.e., learning what I somehow already know deep down.

I'm looking at the foreword, written by Bruce Hanson, and it pretty much summarizes the Quasi-Venerable Way of the Raccoon. "At the level of being we are, of course, human; which is to say, every child who is born of human parents comes into the world with a human essence."

In this highly qualified sense we are "created equal."

However, "it is quite another matter to achieve our humanity in our existence; that is, to realize to the fullest degree the very promise which is already in our nature" (ibid.). Thus the gap -- or abyss, depending -- between what we are and what we are supposed to be -- between Is and Ought.

This also goes to both the source and end of our freedom: the very reason for the existence of the human station "is to choose, and to make the right choice" (Schuon).

Think of yesterday's Brexit from Big Brother's room: Great Britain chose freedom, or at least freedom for the possibility of freedom; they have reclaimed the title deed to their liberties. Now it all depends upon what they do with it.

"So, to become human is the religious task of humankind. Biological nature develops us only up to a certain point, and then we must individually, with great deliberation and full consciousness, seek the rest" (Burton).

This can sound like new age do-it-yoursophistry, but "Schuon is quick to point out that it is not through our own efforts, ultimately, that we become ourselves." We cannot pull ourselves up by our own buddhistraps.

Rather, he emphasizes our dependence upon grace, i.e., "that energy which embodies the will of Heaven. If we are to individually fulfill and express our nature, we must first recognize our radical dependence upon that Power which constituted us in the first place" (Burton). Certainly Christianity teaches the hidden power of abandonment to Divine Providence: like Father, like Son, like us. A blestavus for the restavus!

"If the human person will unconditionally make himself available to the work of that Power we call grace, grace will do the rest." It seems to me that this involves an undoing of the Fall; or, the insinuating Fall of evening was precisely adamn doing of the opposite of what we ought to be doing. And eating.

Thus, "insofar as we conform ourselves to our original nature, we participate in the divine life. As we conform ourselves to our original nature, God expresses God's self as us." Burton cites the old patristic gag that "The Spirit became flesh that the flesh might become Spirit." In between the two is the Cosmic Adventure.

I love this summary: "Schuon invites us to take seriously that the life of spirit is the fountain from which our scriptures have come to us, and to take seriously that we too can become explorers, trace the scriptures upstream, drink from the same waters and understand their meaning firsthand through the very source that inspired these scriptures" (ibid.).

Through this daily verticalisthenic exercise we may gradually "become the concrete expression of what we understand" (ibid.).

Amen for a child's job.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Crossing the Phoenix Line

I like this winged thoughtlet found at Happy Acres:

The Fire Bird,” wrote Chambers, “is glimpsed living or not at all. In other words, realists have a way of missing truth, which is not invariably realistic.” The “Fire Bird” refers to the classical myth of the phoenix, a bird composed of fire that, since it was consumed by flames as it flew through the air, left no body. Its existence therefore could not be proved empirically, by finding its body; it had to be seen alive or not at all. Chambers’s meaning is that Burnham’s worldview demanded empirical proof for things that by their nature could not be proved but were nevertheless known to be true by those who had seen—or felt or intuited—them.

Things that by their nature cannot be proved but are nevertheless known to be true. That goes directly to the Gödel enigma we were discussing a couple posts back. You could say that Gödel proved the existence of the Fire Bird -- or that there is a category of real things (odd birds though they might be) that must exist but can never be proved.

This is all covered in The Soul's Upward Yearning, but it also reminds me of Schuon; for example,

"It is indispensable to know at the outset that there are truths inherent in the human spirit that are as if buried in the 'depths of the heart,' which means that they are contained as potentialities or virtualities in the pure Intellect: they are the principial and archetypal truths, those which determine all others."

Truth flows downward -- for it could never be the converse -- and breaks into its variegated modes (e.g., empirical, rational, mathematical, aesthetic, moral, spiritual), just as white light refracted through a prism reveals a spectrum of colors. Just as no one can say exactly when violet becomes blue or blue becomes green, no one can identify a strict demarcation between matter and life, or life and mind. This is because the whole spectrum of existence is being illuminated from above.

The white light from above cannot be seen directly, only in its reflections; reason is like the moon that is illuminated by the sun of Intellect. Thus, "if there were not pure Intellect," writes Schuon, then "neither would there be reason, for the miracle of reasoning can be explained and justified only by the miracle of intellection."

That right there is a pure expression of the Gödel enigma -- that we are always above and beyond the reason we deploy to comprehend lesser realities. For example, in this post, the writer gets a lot right but arrives at the wrong ultimate conclusion.

Yes, it is true that science cannot inform our values, that logic has fallen out of use, and that liberals argue in a circular fashion from their own false premises. However, the writer illogically concludes that "the solution is LOGIC, yes, Vulcan, Star Trek, fucking, logic."

This cannot be the case, because something outside logic must furnish the premises for logic to operate upon. And those premises must ultimately come from above, i.e., those principial and archetypal truths which determine all others. Otherwise you are trying to resuscitate a dead parrot of truth inside an oxygen deprived tautology.

A certain kind of logic presumes to tell us we are nothing more than animals. But animals do not reason. And it's not just because they aren't smart enough, rather, because they cannot conceive of the Absolute in which reason is grounded, AKA the Logos: "in other words, if man possesses reason, together with language, it is because he has access in principle to the suprarational vision of the Real and consequently metaphysical certitude" (Schuon).

This is how we can be certain the Fire Bird exists, even if we have never seen the body.

Thus the decisive error of materialism and of agnosticism is to be blind to the fact that material things and the common experiences of our life are immensely beneath the scope of our intelligence. --Schuon

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Righteous Nobility and Lefteous Pride

We left off yesterday with affective and spiritual consolation and desolation (making four distinct categories). Being that we only touched on the subject, we may have left the impression that spiritual growth comes down to good feelings, when that is not at all the case. (Redemptive suffering is a vast subject in itself.)

For example, "the evil spirit will try to give feelings of elation and excitement about ideas that are evil" (Spitzer). It's very much like those old cartoons with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other: "the evil spirit attempts to coax, persuade, urge, and support with false justifications and feelings of excitement," which the Holy Spirit might counter "by presenting feelings of guilt, alienation, discord, and agitation..." It's a little like living between two lawyers.

Come to think of it, that must be why we instinctively detest trial lawyers. We all know what they're up to.

But this is the 21st century. Isn't all this premodern talk of angels and devils just the anthropomorphizing of neurological activity? I am reminded of a remark by Schuon, that "there are two pitfalls that must be avoided: to maintain that there are two gods, one good and one evil; and to maintain that evil does not exist, either objectively or intrinsically."

In other words, in evil we are dealing with a phenomenon that is both intrinsic and objective, but nevertheless not ultimate. And if we don't recognize its objective existence, we end up like Loretta Lynch, who yesterday claimed that the most effective way to deal with ISIS is through "compassion, unity, and love."

This is a fine example of the Evil One provoking a false affective consolation in Lynch. You could say that he is exploiting her untutored desire to do and be good.

That is, we are all born with a conscience that helps us distinguish good from evil. But like any other faculty, this innate conscience must be formed and developed, not just left alone like an empty field. As Spitzer writes, "the vast majority of people know general precepts by nature, but must be taught more specific precepts."

I first encountered this concept back in graduate school, where it went by the name of a "corrupt superego." The superego is essentially Freud's term for conscience, so a corrupted one converts evil into good (and vice versa), and ends up punishing the person for doing good and rewarding him for doing evil. This is how we end up with morally upside down ideologies such as communism, Nazism, and leftism more generally. Such individuals experience a subjective reward for doing bad or evil.

Indeed, what we call "leftism" (as distinguished from liberalism!) is precisely this moral inversion. It has great explanatory power -- for example, it explains why no one is as morally righteous as the leftist fighting on behalf of his demons, whether it is the redefinition of marriage, forcing us to allow men into girl's restrooms, guaranteeing to women the right to a dead baby, wrecking the world economy and forcing millions into poverty based upon inaccurate but cherished climate models etc.

"We love and are drawn to the good before we do it, and feel noble and at home within ourselves after we do it." Thus, it seems that there is a built-in moral hazard here (literally), in that we can put the cart before the horse and conflate feeling good with actually doing good. But isn't this what the left is, AKA the Intracosmic Good Intentions Paving Company?

How do we get around this moral hazard? It must be in the distinction between nobility and pride -- which can look similar but are quite opposite. Scratch a leftist and you will find that they are motivated by ungoverned pride, whether it is the intellectual pride of the tenured or the conspicuous virtue of the campus crybullies and other morally dysfunctional types.

What we want is nobility without pride. The leftist -- you will have gnosissed -- has pride without nobility. Ever see a gay pride parade? Wouldn't it be nice instead to see a gay nobility parade, with no public nudity and defiant expressions of deviance from cultural norms? One from which you wouldn't need to hide the children? Or better, no parade at all. Just a little discretion, dignity, and taste.

Exactly what is nobility in the spiritual sense? It is readiness "to sacrifice one’s interest to the truth," and "to see things 'from above' and without any baseness" (Schuon).

Thus, "Man has the right to be happy, but he must be so nobly and, what amounts to the same thing, within the framework of the Truth and the Way.... It has been said that nobility of character consists in putting honour and moral dignity above self-interest, which means in the last analysis that we must put the invisible real above the visible illusory, morally as well as intellectually" (ibid.).

In which case we come back around to discernment, i.e., between reality and appearances, creator and creation, up and down. And pride goeth before that last one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Discrimination with Deference

I suspect that blogging will be light to sporadic for the remainder of June. To return to matters at hand, we're still pondering the question of whether the "atheist New Ager who meditates and claims to be enlightened is accessing" the same reality we are, and "is there a dark side to this practice?"

Again, it comes down to discernment. Yes, of spirits, but also just plain discernment, as in discrimination, distinction, and differentiation. For what is it we are attempting to discern? In the end, just truth, and truth is found everywhere, i.e., in every nook and cranny of existence.

To paraphrase Schuon, our task, always and everywhere, is to distinguish reality from appearances, no less in science than in religion. That we can even do this at all is a statement about something extraordinary in man. No other animal can discern the reality beneath appearances. That we can do so is already evidence of the spirit we seek.

Or in other words, while animals are essentially proportioned to their environment, man alone is proportioned to something far greater than the material world -- to the totality of existence and beyond, to the Absolute ground of things: "the sense of the Absolute" -- of God -- "coincides with totality of intelligence" (Schuon).

Which is why nothing short of God satisfies the intelligence, not excluding the intelligence of the godless. That is to say, the godless simply substitute a faux absolute to serve as the ground of their own intelligence, not knowing that this is a tautology; in other words, they implicitly project something of their own intelligence to serve as its own ground.

Spitzer has a good explanation of how this works in his The Soul's Upward Yearning. In fact, there is a whole chapter devoted to proving the existence of God by just this means. It's about 50 pages long. Not sure if I can condense it into a paragraph or two.

I suppose it ultimately comes down to what he calls the "Gödel enigma," which goes to how it is that human intelligence is always "beyond any set of predescribed rules and algorithms." It accounts for why any form of rationalism is simply swallowing its own tail. There is no way to get beyond it without at least implicit awareness of a truth from outside or beyond the system. That's the enigma. And thank God for it, because without it we would be as enclosed as any other animal. True, our prison pod would be slightly larger, but still a prison.

It turns out that this little enigma is the key to Everything. As Spitzer puts it, we "have the capacity to see any mathematical theory in light of the horizon of 'mathematical intelligibility,'" which simultaneously "reveals limits to our current knowledge and points to higher-level solutions within the horizon of intelligibility."

Thus, our intelligence can never be explained from below; rather, intelligence always transcends any "below" it posits out of its own substance. Human intelligence, free will, and creativity come from above and beyond; we are "the only transcendental species tacitly aware of a horizon of complete and unrestricted intelligibility," such that "God is notionally present within our consciousness, making possible free inquiry and creativity." This "implicit God" is what I mean by O. A spiritual practice is what renders O explicit.

But revelation also comes into play here, for revelation is O rendering itself explicit to and for us. Human intelligence can only approach O in an asymptotic manner, for again, our intelligence always surpasses any system it can come up with. Which is why manmade religion -- no less than rationalism -- necessarily chases its own tail. Scientology and Scientism are twins brought up in different families.

It is stupid to defer to any manmade idol. Rather, it only makes sense to defer to God.

Back to discernment of spirits. Here is the bottom line: "The most important rule is the following: if a particular spiritual idea, decision, or direction leads in the long term to an increase in faith, hope, and love, it very probably is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but if it leads to a decrease" in these, then "it probably comes from an evil spirit."

In the past I have likened it to driving an invisible car into the (equally invisible) Great Attractor. We must guide the vehicle by "feel." What is it we are feeling? Spitzer explains that we are guided by affective and spiritual consolation and desolation.

Affective consolation "refers to an experience or feeling of peace, joy, love, mystery, transcendence, sacredness, awe, glory, and ultimately home (being)."

Conversely, affective desolation is "precisely the opposite: it is a feeling or experience of being alienated from the Divine or not being at home in the Totality."

However, there is more to it than this, because sometimes God uses affective and spiritual desolation for his own ends; for example, think of the desolation you feel upon exposure to someone deepaking the chopra. If you were to experience affective consolation upon such exposure, that would be an example of the Evil One seducing you with a meretricious imitation of the real thing.

We're outta time here. To be continued...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Open Thread

Still squeezed by the conspiracy this week, so insufficient timelessness for a new post. Therefore, open thread.

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