Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Miracle of Slack

Today of course is "Independence Day." From what? From Great Britain? Yes and no, in that the main purpose of our little rebellion was to restore the supernaturally natural rights to which an English gentleman is entitled.

I have a pile of heretofore unblogged books that touch on this subject, including The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom; Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy; and After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Views. Perhaps I can weave them into something appropriate for the occasion.

Independence is another word for freedom, or at least it presupposes free will.  Our freedom is prior to the state, such that "no one is entitled to take that freedom away," and "everyone is rightfully free of the violence of others."  "Liberty," writes West, "means being left alone, not being coerced by others."

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I had an unusually enslackened day. I was completely caught up with my work, while wife and child are on a parkouring adventure in Utah. As such, the day spread out before me like a vast and trackless mindscape, and I found myself slipping into eternity or something. A bit of satchitananda, AKA BeingConsciousnessBliss: Advanced Leisure Studies.

As it so happens, I'm reading a book that touches on this very subject, a biography of the mystical pioneer Evelyn Underhill, who wrote on the subject way before it became fashion- and profitable. And although there are significant differences, I was struck by the many ways in which her personality is similar to mine.

"Underhill's life was 'quiet'; it was not marked by adventurous acts and deeds." However, recall what was said yesterday about the "recovery of self" (and with it, God) being a kind of "vertical adventure."

Likewise, for Underhill "The adventure here is the inner one, the reconciliation of mind and heart, the development of individual consciousness and its ultimate transcendence." She regarded "the mystic life as the life of adventure with the Real."

I know of no more compelling adventure than extreme seeking. At least it's never boring.

By the way, there is a good line in the book by Nicholas of Cusa that goes precisely to what I mean by orthoparadox: "I have learnt that the place wherein Thou art found unveiled is girt round with the coincidence of contradictories; and this is the wall of Paradise wherein Thou dost abide." So, paradise is encircled by paradox.

For Underhill, perception of spiritual reality is more often "caught" than "taught." We "most easily attain it by sympathetic contagion." This is exactly how it is for me: two authors may discuss the same subject, but one is contagious while the other is... antiseptic.

I touched on this in the book, using the symbol (≈) to stand for the phenomenon. Certainly I always get lots of (≈) from Schuon, which suggests to me that he is a genuine man of spiritual stature (Although "suggests" is not quite right, being that it's an experience and not a thought.) Of course, I do my level best to transmit whatever little bit of (≈) I can to my readers.

Obviously it's not something I have control over, since it can only come through me, not from me. And I can never know if it has happened unless someone is a Witness and lets me know. In any event, I really want people to have an experience with my writing. I've never wanted it to be just about the transmission of information. I'm certainly no scholar, but not an artist either. Apparently there is no name for the practice. Although I suppose verticalisthenics and mental gymgnostics come close.

But Underhill was up to the same thing. She claimed that "she was not primarily a writer, that she was something more and something less." Her lifework (one word) "was a medium through which spiritual reality was revealed; and if that could be shown to be helpful to others, she wanted it made available." Me too! I just want to help. If it's not helpful, I certainly don't want to push it on anyone. As I've said many times, I never recommend the blog. I only offer it.

Underhill spoke "in ordinary language to ordinary people about the deepest human realities." Writing for her was only the means to an end, the end being "the development of a consciousness of the transcendent, the eternal, the absolute, the infinite."

When I speak of dwelling on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway and trying to peer over the subjective horizon, I mean something similar to Underhill: "Like a plain," her life "extends in all directions joining sky and mountains and the very edges of the land itself. It is open terrain across which the eye travels toward the outer boundary of vision where the visible and invisible meet."

And guess what? "The life of Evelyn Undersell points to this outer boundary and seeks to know what lies beyond. It is here at the edge that she camped out and took up her work, attesting that just beyond the seen lies the infinite..." It is "a landscape so rich and great that no one person can explore, apprehend, still less live in all of it." It is a kind of translation of O, which is what makes it similar to art.

Yesterday we spoke of the two worlds -- interior and exterior -- which are somehow One. That One is just over the walls of paradise, but we nevertheless get glimpses of unity all the time. Underhill "always looked for this unity of matter and spirit," which is both "beyond, but embodied in the ordinary."

Speaking of liberty, does religion detract from it? Hardly. It provides a map of vertical space, without which one is reduced to stumbling and bumbling around aumlessly. Just so, "One does not lose one's intellectual liberty when one learns mathematics, though one certainly loses the liberty of doing sums wrong, or doing them by laborious methods."

The trick is to discern, and live from, the Center: problem is, we spend "so much time in running round the arc" while taking "the center for granted."But "it is at the center that the real life of the spirit aims first; thence flowing out to the circumference..." -- a point we've been belaboring for several weeks now.

A fine Indepence Day post this turned out to be! Is there a way to rescue it? Let's just say that real freedom must be lived from, or in light of, the Center, or you're just fooling yoursoph.


julie said...

Yes and no, in that the main purpose of our little rebellion was to restore the supernaturally natural rights to which an English gentleman is entitled.

That's a good point. Had Britain's legal system been applied justly to the Colonies, they may well never have found reason to revolt. Thank God they had no such sense!

I've often thought, in recent days, that the particular system of government of any given place is less important for its people than that the people be governed justly, and also that they have a predominantly Christian cultural framework. Monarchy is fine if the King is a servant and the culture one of trust; democracy - or even a Republic - is terrible if the leadership is corrupt and neighbor distrusts neighbor.


Happy 4th of July, all you raccoons! May your beer ever be perfectly chilled.

mushroom said...

We should probably be thankful that the left doesn't know when to back off either.

Underhill sounds interesting. I have heard the name but can't recall reading anything by her.

julie said...

Mushroom, I'm thinking grocery stores everywhere will be reporting major shortages of popcorn in coming weeks. Reading the news this morning took me from perplexity to hilarity in record time. Thank heavens they still don't understand the power of the Streisand effect.

mushroom said...

It's sad. A friend of mine is upset with me because I'm not upset about Trump's "unpresidential" behavior. After Bill Clinton, among others, the bar is at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.