Monday, November 13, 2017

Does Everything Evolve?

I used to believe it did, until I realized that change must be in reference to something changeless. If man is pure contingency, then he can know only the contingent (without even knowing it is contingent).

But every instance of real knowledge is "sponsored," so to speak, by a kind of implicit grasp of the Absolute. Without the Absolute, we would be submerged in a world of absolute relativism -- the impenetrable darkness of unrelenting tenure.

There are obvious instances of human knowledge that will never be surpassed, for example, pure math. But there is also a realm of "pure" morality that can never be surpassed. For example, it will never be moral to murder, or steal, or bear false witness (within the bounds of prudence, or practical wisdom).

There is also a political philosophy that can never be exceeded or bettered. That would be the philosophy enshrined in America's founding, whereby the purpose of the state is to protect our God-given natural rights.

Which is another reason why self-styled progressives are so ironically named: the right to free speech is infinitely -- literally -- more important than a so-callled right to not be triggered or offended by it.

Obvious, no? It's what the Fathers would call a "self-evident truth," being that it is more the product of vision than argument. Can you really argue with someone who wants to use free speech to eliminate it? Similarly, can you really argue about the second amendment with someone -- the state -- holding a gun at you?

"The principle of relativity," writes Schuon, "categorically demands the concurrence of the principle of absoluteness, on pain of giving rise to a chaotic and as it were 'headless' and atheistic cosmology."

Indeed, that is no cosmology at all, but rather, a chaology pure and simple, with no reason, purpose, orientation, direction, origin, center, coherence, unity, or any other attribute this side of an ignorant herd of black cows clashing by night.

The thing is, we can obviously never know the Absolute in any direct or fully comprehensible way. Among other reasons, this is because the Absolute is infinite, while we are not. In short, the finite can never contain the Infinite.

Nevertheless, the finite contains points of reference, so to speak, such that it may more than adequately map the Infinite (for human purposes). In short, man can actually know everything he needs to know about the Infinite, thanks to revelation. The rest is none of our business.

Here I want to insert a Most Excellent Quote that really etches into logos-bearing granite the principle we are discussing. It is universal, timeless, true, and therefore vital for you to assimilate if you are going to make even rudimentary sense of your human journey:

To affirm that there is a cosmos is to say that the latter necessarily includes within itself manifestations of that which it manifests by its existence (Schuon).

This is necessarily true by the force of logic: in knowing there is a cosmos -- which BTW we implicitly know with any coherent utterance of any kind -- we simultaneously (if implicitly) know its nonlocal source.

Or, put it this way: to even say "cosmos" is to have manifested the unity and coherence that transcend it. This is what it means to be in the image of the Creator. We are most assuredly not the Creator, but there are Points of Contact.

Now, these points of contact are obviously everywhere. Indeed, they are nothing less than every thing, if you know how to look. This is why every thing is intelligible, on pain of not being a thing. A thing is always an intelligible thing, or it is no-thing, precisely.

Nevertheless, this is not enough. I want to say that the creation is like a tree reflected in a lake, such that we see the leaves and branches before the trunk and roots. Man is in need of points of reference that reflect these latter, hence the sufficient reason of revelation proper (as opposed to the general revelation of sheer existence-from-being). Revelation is here to provide points of reference to the roots hidden beneath the divine ground.

That's how I see it, anyway. Revelation is not God, but rather, points back to God. It's like any other language: don't get hung up on the finger pointing to the moon. Rather, look at the moon.

And it goes without saying that more than one finger can point at the same moon. Indeed, the Infinite cannot be any single finger, which would be the very definition of idolatry. Idolatry is to invest one finger with infinitude, which is to give the finger to the Infinite.

Having said that, it is the central claim of Christianity that the Infinite does indeed incarnate as one finite man. But there are so many ways this can be misinterpreted that it required centuries for the Church to sort it out. And even then, it didn't so much sort it out as exclude interpretations that are total non-starters -- for example, that Jesus is all God or all man.

The takeaway is that in Jesus there are two natures in one person. Complicating matters is that one of these natures consists of three Persons (of the Trinity). You can only push words so far -- remember, they are only points of reference -- but this means that the one person Jesus is half one and and half three.

Does that make any sense? Er, I think so. At least to me. If these are all points of reference, to what are they referring? I can only say what I see, which is an eternal perichoretic dance between the O, 1, 2, and 3. You might even say it is spelled out below the icon in the sidebar, where it says that

The empty center is Beyond-Being. The circles are dimensions of Being. Your life is a path for the Spirit to pass from periphery to center. Thoughts and choices -- truth and virtue -- are the paving stones.

"Beyond Being" is Eckhart's Godhead, the Ain Sof of Kabbalah, the Nirguna Brahman of Vedanta. However, I do not place this at the "top" of some vertical emanation.

Rather -- and this is just, like, my opinion, man, or better, vision -- it is always in complementarity with the Trinity. As such, not only are the Persons of the Trinity "relative" to one another, the Trinity is also eternally relative to the Ground. But to reiterate, the Ground is not chronologically or even ontologically prior. One is no less eternal than the other(s).

Is there any reason to believe any of this aside from Bob Sees It? Not really, unless you see it too, or because my points of reference happen to work equally well for you.

Back to the O, 1, 2, and 3; these are, respectively, Beyond-Being (and infinitude), Unity (and absoluteness), Relationship (love, knowledge, truth), and Synthesis. Taken together, I see them as perpetual Love-Truth-Creativity, always surpassing itself and yet orthoparadoxically unchanging. The Infinite Delight of Divine Plenitude Flowing from one shore to the other and

Just as God breaks through me, so do I break through God in return.... --Eckhart

So yes and no: everything and nothing evolves.


Anonymous said...

This was a insightful, well thought-out post. Good fare for the philosophically inclined person.

However I must add an observation, that the cosmos is dreadful in some respects. It seems categorically inclined to molest the peace and well-being of the inhabitants thereof.

What is God up to, that the scriptures aren't telling us? What is the deal here? Why did you do this thing, Sir?

Since God is a person, I believe the question can be addressed directly to the entity of choice, whether you prefer to talk to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit.

I think the Father would be the authoritative Person to ask, as the buck most assuredly stops on His desk.

Cheers, tenured professor T. Apple-Bottom

julie said...

Back to the O, 1, 2, and 3; these are, respectively, Beyond-Being (and infinitude), Unity (and absoluteness), Relationship (love, knowledge, truth), and Synthesis. Taken together, I see them as perpetual Love-Truth-Creativity, always surpassing itself and yet orthoparadoxically unchanging. The Infinite Delight of Divine Plenitude Flowing from one shore to the other and

Just as God breaks through me, so do I break through God in return.... --Eckhart

So yes and no: everything and nothing evolves.

So here's an odd thought. I was just reading Scott Adams' blog post on hypnotism. This bit struck me as interesting and related:

"The hypnosis technique involves demonstrating that I know what you are thinking at the moment you are thinking it. If I guess right, this creates a little bond between the author and the reader because it feels like I know you as well as I might know a friend. It’s like I’m in your head. That type of personal connection makes whatever I write seem more interesting to you because you naturally care more about a friend than a stranger.

Hypnotists use the same method to create a quick connection with the subject. If I tell you what you are thinking at the exact moment you are thinking it, I can create the illusion that our minds are somehow connected."

Now why in a Darwinian world (Adams is an atheist) would people want to feel as though their minds are literally connected to someone else's? Unless that sense of connection reflects both a possibility between persons - experienced in the mother-infant dyad, if nowhere else - and a Trinitarian reality.

People long for connection. Not just the mere presence of others (who here hasn't felt profoundly isolated in the midst of a big crowd?), but the experience of knowing and being known. We are made for it, so much so that it is easy to subvert the process for less than holy ends.

julie said...

Or in other words, much as a counterfeit coin only works because real coins exist and have value, the illusion of connection is only effective because true connection is not only possible, but one of the primary attributes of being human.

Gagdad Bob said...

That's part of how psychotherapy works: merely being in the presence of an empathic listener opens all sorts of byways and connections.