Friday, September 02, 2016

The Cheap Splendor of Liberal Lies

There is no way to know with certainty that we have "made contact with reality." Even if all other knowers agree with us we could still be wrong; and no one might agree with us, yet we could still be right. Therefore, our conviction that we have reached truth "is always a fiduciary conviction, as are also the convictions of other people seeking to evaluate our vision" (Prosch).

Fiduciary is another word for trust, which is in turn closely related to faith: we trust what we have faith in, and vice versa. Whom do you trust? I, for example, no longer trust the left, to put it mildly. This is because I naively trusted them for half my life, and it turned out that most everything they told me was a lie or distortion or half-truth. They abused my trust. Which is a sin, especially when done to a child (which is more or less always, because it renders adults childish). As we said once before, liberalism is a Peter Pandemic

A passage in this article on feminist indoctrination reminded me of how it felt to be a leftist. It's important, because one reason why leftist thought takes root in the psyche is that it mimics truth in a compelling way.

As the author puts it, "When I first discovered women’s studies, I was lulled into a comforting sense that I had discovered the 'truth.' It was as if my veil of ignorance had been yanked away, and I was blissfully seeing the world for what it really was."

Exactly. Any intelligent person realizes -- for it is built into man -- that appearances are not reality. Indeed, what is intelligence but our ability to see beneath the surface of things and know their deeper principle? Science, for example, reduces multiplicities to unities, and the deeper the theory, the more phenomena it unifies. Quantum physics unites more than its Newtonian forerunner, as Darwin unites more than Lamarck or other purely biological alternatives.

Just so, it is not only that the left lies; rather, it must be the type of lie that mimics truth in bringing together disparate phenomena, providing us with a kind of counterfeit aha! experience. This is no doubt how all those intellectuals were pulled in by Marx. Here was a theory that explained everything (except how Marx could transcend class and know unconditioned Truth).

Freudian psychoanalysis accomplished the same thing. Speaking of Darwinism, it also serves this purpose for flatland ideologues such as Richard Dawkins and the like. There is something positively thrilling about a theory that liberates one from the appearances of things, and gives access to a deeper reality that "explains everything."

For this is precisely what truth is supposed to do: you know, set us free. Free from what? Well, from appearances, for starters. Truth is surprising, as we've been suggesting over these past several posts. It is not merely a logical operation, or deduction from first principles. To quote Dávila, Faith is not assent to concepts, but a sudden splendor that knocks us down. You could say that real truth palpably defeats our efforts to resist it.

Continuing with the article, "I have taken seven women’s studies classes.... After taking those classes, I realize that not only was I deluded, but I was led into an absurd intellectual alcove where objective truth is subordinate to academic theories used as political propaganda."

Yes: deluded and used. Weak and malleable women serve this purpose for the left, but not nearly to the extent that blacks do. Women of all ages are more likely than men to be on the left, but for blacks the ratio is usually higher than nine to one.

How is that? Again, it must be the satisfaction, the counterfeit thrill of a theory that explains everything. All you really need to know is that you are black, and all life's mysteries are revealed to you. Such is the meretricious beauty of identity politics, whether one is female, homosexual, Hispanic, Aryan, whatever. It is the key that opens the Cosmic Door.

Now, the real splendor is a prolongation of truth, as light rays are to the sun. Faith is its mode of receptivity -- like one of the five senses, only on a higher plane. How to tell the difference between this and its phony substitutes? Hmm, let's see. Let's think back to when Bob was a liberal.

Surely it must be important that I was not only irreligious but anti-religious, such that I explicitly excluded myself from any real graces, except the ones that could get past my defenses. Therefore, the only splendor available to me would by definition have to come from the left. And that it did.

Even today, for example, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is the bestselling work of history on college campuses. Thirty six years after its initial publication it is still #227 on Amazon, and must have made its Marxist author a small fortune (the wiki article on Zinn says it routinely sells in excess of 100,000 copies a year). Not bad for a torrent of lies.

In any event, I still remember the feeling upon reading Zinn and others like him. Again, like any good conspiracy theory, it explains everything. It also has a gnostic appeal, because now you are in on the secret. And it has a religious appeal, both because it saves (to be on the left is to be Good and therefore absolved of sin) and liberates one from appearances. It also provides meaning from evangelizing and converting those still living in darkness. Not incidentally, it also makes you a Superior Person, so the appeal to narcissism is transparent (no doubt accounting for its appeal to the featherbrains of Hollywood and the MSM).

I didn't intend to go in this direction, but here we are. Let's conclude with some aphorisms:

The only man who saves himself from intellectual vulgarity is the man who ignores what it is fashionable to know.

To feign knowledge of a subject, it is advisable to adopt its most recent interpretation.

Great stupidities do not come from the people. First, they have seduced intelligent men.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

One Man's Floor is Another Man's Ceiling

Yesterday we came to the surprising conclusion that not only is a good problem already implicit foreknowledge of its solution, but that all knowledge is of this nature.

That is, any knowledge is a stepping stone to deeper comprehension, thus pointing beyond itself in ways we cannot fully predict or render explicit.

Indeed, "if all knowledge is explicit, i.e., capable of being clearly stated, then we cannot know a problem or look for its solution."

A good problem is a function of simultaneously not knowing and yet implicitly knowing: "somehow we are able to appreciate the wealth of its yet undiscovered consequences." If we knew its consequences explicitly, then it wouldn't be a problem.

Know them by their fruits: good problems are fruitful, whereas bad ones are like that barren fig true that irritated Jesus.

Again, the process of discovery doesn't function like a linear machine, or we'd already know everything. It would just be a matter of drawing conclusions from premises.

Having said that, this is what many thinkers do. For example, we can trace the known laws of physics back to a singularity some 13.7 billion years ago. That requires no "discovery," just an application of the math.

If we do treat this as a discovery, what exactly have we discovered? What we've actually discovered is that mathematics has built-in limits, and that we shouldn't confuse these limits with the limits of existence or being. In other words, just because math "ends" at the singularity, don't think this this means existence does. Please. Have a sense of proportion.

Even religious folk make this error, confusing the Big Bang with God's creation as such. But God's primordial creativity operates vertically, no less today than 13.7 billion years ago. This transcendent creative source is a metaphysical necessity irrespective of whether the cosmos is eternal or came into being at a specific point in time. If the Big Bang theory were disproved tomorrow, this would do nothing to negate the necessity of God.

Yes, the Big Bang was and is a creative act. But so too is everything else. Moreover, the Bang is still banging, and from God's perspective, it occurred just now. And now. And now.

Think of God's creativity as a lamp held at the end of a chain. No analysis of the chain will explain how it is held to the ceiling. God is the ceiling from which existence hangs, every moment, before, during, and after the so-called Big Bang.

The Big Bang is indeed a very curious event, such that it no doubt "points" to a Creator. But what isn't a Curious Event? Events themselves are curious. As Einstein said, physics has no explanation for why there is a Now from which to perceive these Events.

This is what I was trying to drive home in the book, that the sudden appearances of life and mind are no less mysterious and in need of a deeper explanation than can be provided by mere physics or biology. As with the Big Bang, we can trace the origins of life back (as of today) 3.7 billion years ago. Now, exactly what does this prove -- I mean in a meaningful sense, not just in terms of an abstract number?

For the researchers, whose minds are confined by their data, this pushes "the established fossil record more than 200 million years deeper into the Earth’s early history," and provides "support for the view that life appeared very soon after the Earth formed and may be commonplace throughout the universe."

Whoa, slow down, partner! It does no such thing, for shaving off 200 million years does nothing to alter the inexplicable suddenness with which life occurred on earth. And the notion that life "may be commonplace throughout the universe" is really an assumption masquerading as a conclusion. What they're really saying is that there wasn't sufficient time for life to develop as a consequence of chance, therefore it must be built into the nature of things.

Well, yes. It might be a "cosmic imperative," as one person puts it. But what does this even mean? That it necessarily and inevitably appears, like an output from a linear machine or program?

Again, compare it to tracing physics back to the singularity. Biology can trace life back to an outer limit, but do not confuse this limit with the origin, which must be vertical. Life, like existence, is held by that same chain affixed to the ceiling.

We know this, because it is quintessentially true of the Mind that engages in physics and biology. Nothing about the mind makes sense if it isn't dangling, so to speak, from the Absolute. To remove God from the equation is literally like removing the ceiling and expecting the lamp to remain suspended in mid-air.

Now, the mind is what explains everything below itself -- for example, the Big Bang and the origins of life. Furthermore, this mind is explained by the God without whom the mind explains nothing, precisely. Our minds can peer downward and skirt around "origins" of various kinds. But in order to make sense of these, it must look "upward," on pain of the ceiling being indistinct from the floor, and therefore having no "space" for humanness to flourish.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Endless Search for Questions to Our Answers

Reader Ted alerts us to this piece by Robert Barron on why the Catholic church continues to bleed souls: "for every one person who joins the Catholic Church today, six are leaving," many of whom are young, and often due to "intellectual objections."

Which is interesting in itself, because that cannot be literally true. Rather, it is simply exchanging one vapidity or superficiality for another; or fleeing the non-intellectual for the anti-intellectual. Really, it is leaving the surface of a bottomless ocean for the surface of a desert. But whatever it is, it isn't "intellectual" -- unless one is using that word ironically or as an epithet.

My wife tried to raise this issue with the parish priest (a very nice man), but he waved it aside, essentially saying that the heart is all that matters. Well, yes. Not the heart of sentiment, but the heart-intellect, two very different things. True, the heart of sentiment is sufficient for the bhakti, and there's nothing wrong with that form of practice.

But not everyone, to say the least, is a born bhakti. The intellect has its legitimate needs and rights, and it is wrongheaded and ultimately oppressive to reduce a full-service religion to just one of the items on its celestial menu. If the intellect cannot find satisfaction in religion, it will simply look elsewhere. It will continue searching for truth, but in all the wrong places.

But to say that "X (e.g., science, philosophy) is for truth, while religion is for Y (e.g., consolation, anxiety, meaning)," is to guarantee the development of Split Cosmos Syndrome. It creates an insurmountable bifurcation in the world and in the soul. One becomes an implicit or explicit cartesian, with no way to reunite body and soul, matter and psyche, subject and object.

This goes directly to what we've been saying about the imaginal realm. Corbin notes that "there has ceased to be an intermediate level between empirically verifiable reality and unreality pure and simple."

In other words, the three-storey cosmos of empirical-rational-imaginal has been reduced to a one-storey empirical shack surrounded by unreality. The latter is no longer a cosmos at all, or at least not the cosmos -- rather, just an impoverished declension from the real deal: "between the sense perceptions and the intuitions and categories of the intellect there has remained a void" (Corbin).

You could even say that sensory fullness equates to spiritual emptiness. Think of lower animals, for whom there is no space between perception and reality; or rather reality is perception.

This is never true of human beings, and Gödel forever liberated us from that nonsense (or puresense) in proving that we always transcend whatever empirical or rational box we try to enclose ourselves in. There is and can never be any manmade "theory of everything," for it can never account for the man who makes it. Rather, there is only one rational theory of everything, in the absence of Whom we plunge into un- or anti-reason.

This whole subject is fraught with paradox, but it is orthoparadox, which is really another way of saying that what appear to be irreconcilable opposites are really harmonious complementarities. If anyone is keeping track of the various Raccoon Principles I have annunciated over the years, Bohr's principle of complementarity, filtered through Hartshorne, would be one of them.

Actually, it goes back to my days in psychotherapy. My analyst was a brilliant but quirky punster with a deep appreciation of paradox, who helped me realize that the most important things tend not to be conflicts but complementarities. Indeed, if you try to resolve such a complementarity, you're setting yourself up for a life of conflict!

Transforming conflicts into complementarities. That's one of the tasks of cosmotherapy.

You can come at the problem via the path of science or of religion. Polanyi, for example, "thought a false idea of science has left us with a skepticism about the nature of man and his works. We must, therefore, revise one to restore the other." In short, man cannot be treated, or even diagnosed, with a false idea of science.

One complementarity that unites Polanyi and Corbin is that of invention and discovery, or of reality and imagination. For example, "there are no explicit rules for making a discovery and since no discoveries can be made 'without creative passion,' the individual scientist cannot be directed in his work by other authorities."

Discovery is obviously not merely a logical extension of what is already known, or we would already know everything. Rather, by dwelling in the known, we make leaps -- not into the dark, but into a twilit world of possibility. The scientist must start with a good problem, but there is no logical operation that can distinguish between good and bad (i.e., fruitful and unfruitful) problems.

Indeed, "there seems to be a *paradox* involved in the very notion of a 'good problem,'" first gnosissed by Plato. That is, "To search for the solution to a problem... would seem absurd, since, if you know what you are looking for, then there is no problem." And if you don't "know what you are looking for, then you cannot expect to find anything."

Paradoxically, to (explicitly) conceive a good problem is to already (implicitly) perceive its solution: "to see a problem is to see something that is hidden. It is to have an intimation of the coherence of hitherto not comprehended particulars." It is as if the right brain runs ahead of the left, the latter of which searches for confirmation of what the former has intuited.

It gets more paradoxical, for "if all knowledge is explicit, i.e., capable of being clearly stated, then we cannot know a problem or look for its solution." So again, to recognize a good problem is already a kind of deep (fore)knowledge of its solution. Ultimately -- and this is pretty weird -- "all knowledge is of the same kind as the knowledge of a problem." Thus, there are no "solutions," only better or worse questions!

Can this possibly be the case? Well, as Dávila said in yesterday's post, Christianity does not solve "problems"; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level. Furthermore, Catholicism does not solve all problems, but it is the only doctrine that raises them all.

In any event, you will have no doubt noticed that most of our political problems are a consequence of good answers to bad questions and bad answers to good ones.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Middle Earth and the Cosmic Palace

It just popped into my head that "middle earth" would be a good name for the imaginal world discussed yesterday.

Again, there is the empirical/material world we encounter via sensation, and the intelligible world we negotiate via math and reason. In between is the imaginal world where vision, gnosis, theophanies, and other *interesting* phenomena take place. Just as the physical world is disclosed by (and clothed in) our senses, the imaginal world comes to us in the form or our religious sensibilities (in image, myth, archetype, etc).

This is really quite similar in structure to how Polanyi envisions science. One of the points of his philosophy is to demonstrate that the ideal of strict objectivity is an unrealizable abstraction, and that we can only know that from which we are not detached.

Rather, the object of knowledge emerges "only through our actual dwelling in its particulars," i.e., its subsidiary clues. There is no mechanical operation that can accomplish this. Rather, it requires a subject in order to dwell in and integrate the clues.

Yesterday I cited a few aphorisms that reflect this same approach, thus making for a surprising Polanyi-Dávila-Ibn Arabi nexus. Indeed, we might even surmise that if we dwell in all three long enough, perhaps a new reality will emerge from their joint integration, a la Polanyi.

Let's first dwell in a few more aphorisms. From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. Or in other words, it is as if one has "touched" (or been touched by) the noumenal, which is clothed, as it were, in the art form. This is identical to how the imaginal works, in that, just as no one "sees" the realm of art as such, likewise no one sees God face-to-face. Rather, in both cases we have access to the forms which testify to the Formless.

Allusion is the only way to express what is intimate without distorting it. Allusion has a from-to structure, in that dwelling in the from gives access to an implicit and unstated to. This is precisely the structure of poetry, and why poetry reduced to prose generally becomes banal.

Ah, Nothing is more superficial than intelligences that comprehend everything. Such an intelligence consists of explicit knowledge only. It points to nothing and nowhere; it is enclosed within itself, or rather, it is the precipitate or crystallization of a mind that has closed itself to reality. Consequentially it is both dead and endeadening. It is experience reduced to a dogma -- or scientism elevated to religion.

Related: Man believes he is lost among facts, when he is only caught in the web of his own definitions. Has this ever happened to you? It happens to stupid people, but may become aggravated in bright people like yourselves who are more capable of abstraction. They are perhaps capable of building a bigger prison, but it's a prison nonetheless.

There's a gag by Kierkegaard to the effect that the philosopher builds a beautiful palace but is condemned to live in the shack next door. This goes to the essential grandiosity of such factsimians, whose imaginative eyes are always bigger than their existential stomachs. There is a palace, but you can't reside there without God's Moving Company.

Speaking of which, Christianity does not solve "problems"; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level. Or in a bigger house, as it were.

Nor does Christianity deny the splendor of the world, but rather invites us to search for its origin, to climb towards its pure snow.

That is straight-up Ibn Arabi, for it is "the world to which the ancient Sages alluded when they affirmed that beyond the sensory world there exists another universe with a contour and dimensions and extension in space, although this is not comparable with the shape and spatiality as we perceive them in the world of physical bodies."

It is not that this higher world is "in" the lower, rather, the converse. The ontological direction -- involution you might say -- runs from imaginal, to rational, to empirical.

And that is all we have time for this morning.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Direction of Truth

Meaning "is always lost, sometimes for good, when in order to inspect them [tacit particulars] focally, attempts are made to withdraw ourselves from those feelings and perceptions, those particulars, within which one is dwelling in an act of knowing" (Prosch).

In other words, by rendering what is implicit explicit -- by turning it into the object of perception -- its meaning is lost: we see at instead of through, like a pair of dirty eyeglasses.

An aphorism or two pop into mind: for example, There exists no truth in the humanities that does not need to be rediscovered each week. And When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they appear to be even less.

Consider the first: it explains why religious truth can never be discovered just once; rather, faith is more like a continuous process of discovery; indeed, you could say that the endless discovery is the discovery, right? You can never really arrive at the (explicit) place toward which the (implicit) clues are pointing, or you would be God. Thinking otherwise is a little like looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Likewise, consider the second: to focus on the appearance instead of the reality toward which it points is to literally reverse the direction of the human vector. It is the quickest and most efficient way to bar or undo meaning. Not to bag on the left, but this is what they do, and why their worldview is so unavoidably nihilistic (because it flees from real meaning).

In fact, it brings to mind another aphorism: The left's theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them. They must not go to where the facts and clues lead, or they would be paralyzed. Thus, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Period.

"B-b-but..." Zip it!

Along those same lyin's, The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than to forbidding Him to exist. For one thing, it is strictly impossible to disprove the existence of God, so why waste time trying? This is why atheists construct their false gods which they then go about disproving. But in reality, if God doesn't exist, only He knows it.

While looking for those aphoristic nuggets of joy, I found several others, each looking at the phenomenon from a different angle:

To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which the poet sang. The scientistic/materialistic type must believe that the photograph is more "real" than the poem, but this only testifies to their own inadequacy, or lack of conformity, to the nonlocal object. It's like dogs, who presumably cannot hear melodies, rather, just noise. They cannot perceive, let alone appreciate, what the noise is pointing to.

Here is another malady that afflicts the left: Reducing another's thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it. Misunderstanding is one thing. That is obviously susceptible to correction. Disunderstanding is another thing entirely, and it is what the left specializes in. It is why they do not deal in arguments, only slander.

Here is how it works, courtesy Happy Acres:

Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure. Again, the adventure takes place in the space between tacit and focal knowledge, or between matter and (ultimately) God, if you like. As it so happens, this is precisely Ibn `Arabî's view, albeit expressed in slightly different terms.

That is, there is the empirical/material world and there is the intelligible/rational world. In between is what Corbin calls the imaginal world, and this is the space were religion "takes place," as it were. Importantly, it is not "imaginary," for which reason Corbin coined the term "imaginal."

We don't have sufficient timelessness to give a full airing of the subject -- that's a coming attraction -- but this space is where spiritual knowledge, visions, and theophanies take place. It is where (k) shades off into (n). And no, you cannot take a photograph of it. However, icons, cathedrals, and sacred music, for example, point to it. As does scripture, of course.

Which is why scripture functions in a manner similar to the Aphorisms: My brief sentences are dots in a pointillist painting. The difference is that no single mind can comprehend -- i.e., wrap its mind around -- scripture, and "see it whole," like a painting. Again, it provokes an adventure of endless discovery in its imaginal space.

Humanizing humanity again will not be an easy task after this long orgy of divinity. Oh my! You could say that when human beings are seen as merely human, they soon become even less. There is a kind of infinite space -- the imaginal space, to be exact -- between merely biological human beings and our innate deformity. But the distance between man and beast is but a single step. Or vote.

To deny God is to divinize man, because again, only a being with divine capacities can know that God doesn't exist. But man without God is no longer man, rather, just a randomly evolved primate. Man "takes place" in the space between biology and O. Which is why anti-religion leads to a toxic and destructive religiosity, every time. It brings about another kind of dystopian imaginal space we call Hell.

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