Friday, July 07, 2017

The Latest in Boredom Extension

I overslept for some reason. However, I awakened with a post on my mind. Or at least I thought it was a post. As it stands, it's more of an idea for a post, with insufficient time to flesh it out. If only I had endless time!

Instapundit often links to articles on the latest ideas in life extension. I'll admit to having dabbled in it since my early 20s, ingesting various antioxidants, phytochemicals, anti-inflammatories, microbrews, and other magic potions.

Do they work? Well, it's difficult to conduct a randomized double-blind controlled study on oneself. But I mainly do it for reasons of general health and hypochondria, not because I want to live forever. Also, I try to do anything that can give the old melon a boost, even if it's at the margins.

It seems to me that the desire to live forever must relate to the decline in religiosity. There is a widespread belief among atheists that people are religious mainly because they fear death -- or in other words, it's just a secret desire to live forever, or life extension by another name.

I can say without hesitation that if I were given the choice of a greatly extended life without God, or of the usual four score and change with God, I would choose the latter. Why?

Because a life without God, no matter how long, would be intolerably boring. Nothing would mean anything. The life of the spirit, which is the most interesting adventure there is, would be off the table. Therefore, what would I do with myself?

By the way, this presupposes that if I were an atheist I would be an honest one. I would understand the implications, which, if seriously entertained, lead to futility, despair, and pointlessness. Basically you are reduced to a life of raw sensation. Anything above that would just be pretending. But that gets boring rather quickly.

Interesting how that works. I'm a big baseball fan, and the Dodgers are having their best year since I've been alive. In fact, they're doing so well that it's almost... boring, something I would never say if they were in second place, or a few games out of a wild card spot. Similarly, pursuing terrestrial immortality can be interesting. But having it? Boring!

What would I do with my mind if I couldn't use it to explore the wild Godhead? I have a painfully low threshold of boredom. Frankly, almost everything bores me. And yet, I am almost never bored. But that is thanks to God. So, if there were no God, I would die of boredom. In that context, life extension would only rub it in.

Put it this way: because God exists, I'm getting a kick out of this terrestrial life. But for the same reason, I wouldn't want it to go on forever. Conversely, if God didn't exist, life might not go on forever, but it would sure feel that way.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

A Preposterous Cosmos and How it Gets that Way

It seems to me that one cannot begin to understand the nature of reality without recourse to the principles of horizontality and verticality. These two are very much like the Yin and Yang of the Tao, and just as primordial. In truth, every phenomenon partakes of both.

Are they iterations of something else, or are they truly fundamental? Just off the top of my head I would say that verticality implies absoluteness, interiority, form, and essence; while horizontality goes to infinitude, exteriority, (prime) matter, and accident.

Other ways of expressing this complementarity are male/female, wave/particle, heaven/earth, purusha/prakriti, noumena/phenomena, brahman/maya, semantics/syntax, container/contained, etc. I'll bet you a dollar you can't even think without partaking of both.

And always, if we attempt to understand the world with only half the complementarity, its partner will inevitably slip in through the back door. It's like the old gag that you can throw nature out with a pitchfork, but she always returns, probably in a bad mood and looking for vengeance.

Speaking of which, what is the left but an organized movement with degrees instead of pitchforks, trying vainly to remake nature into what it isn't? Redefining marriage, for example, is throwing out nature with a blow torch.

As we've mentioned before, what we call "science" is the method par excellence for investigating the horizontal. But to imagine this can be accomplished in the absence of verticality is preposterous.

Which I mean literally, for pre-posterous means to reverse the order of pre and post -- in this case elevating the material world above the mind that comprehends it. Only a human being can engage in science, but a human being cannot be reduced to the horizontal categories of the scientific method.

Conversely, religion as such is all about verticality. But if it forgets horizontality, then it too becomes idiotic. You will notice that dopey religion is often a reaction to dopey science. For example, the fundamentalism of the early 20th century was a reaction to equally kooky scientific ideas, e.g., that Darwinism is adequate to explain man.

But this descent into metaphysical dopiness should not be unexpected, because man is man, irrespective of whether or not this man calls himself religious or irreligious. Indeed, if I were irreligious I would nevertheless call myself religious just to avoid grotesque metaphysical errors. I would search out my own covert religiosity, because I would know it's hiding in there somewhere.

Yesterday I was listening to Rush on the way to work, and he brought up the case of Stephen Hawking, who ought to get some kind of prize for simultaneously being the Smartest Man in the Universe and the Dumbest Ass in Creation. Here is what he was referring to:

On his 75th birthday, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC that President Donald Trump’s climate policies could permanently destroy the Earth’s livable climate. “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” explained the world’s most famous scientist. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250º” C (482°F).

I can't even. Or won't, at any rate. I'm almost out of time. Only three years left to blog before Trump burns us all alive.

The other day I read something equally foolish from Einstein, who said a lot of foolish things. Outside physics -- and sometimes even inside -- Einstein was clearly no Einstein.

Anyway, all of the above was provoked by a brief passage by Schuon. I began discussing it a couple of posts back, but here it is in toto:

There is, in man, a subjectivity or a consciousness that is made for looking outwards and for perceiving the world, whether this world is earthly or heavenly; and there is also a consciousness that is made for looking inwards, in the direction of the Absolute or Self, whether this vision be relatively separative or unitive.

In other words, and more to our point about verticality and horizontality, "there is in man a consciousness that is descending and obeys the creative intention of God, and another that is ascending and obeys the divine intention that saves or liberates."

I don't know of a more concise way to symbolize these two directions than (↑) and (↓).

In short, if there is a vertical dimension in the cosmos, then there is an up and a down. Because of this, we can be closer or more distant from truth, from beauty, and from virtue. Furthermore, verticality is precisely what entails the category of obligation or duty or loyalty.

For if there is truth, then are we not obligated to know and conform ourselves to it? If there is beauty, oughtn't we do our best to create and celebrate it? And if we have the gift of distinguishing between good and evil, don't we owe our allegiance to the former?

Out of time. To be continued...

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.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Is There Anyone In Here?

I'm not sure how many people are reading the blog anymore, but it seems like Not Many.  Therefore, if the writing seems more introspective, it is probably because I'm mostly talking to myself, just drilling down to see what I can find.... Of course, you are welcome to listen in.

It is difficult to conceive of something more miraculous than the emergence of consciousness in a theretofore non-conscious cosmos -- unless it's the emergence of life in a theretofore lifeless cosmos (we don't say "dead" because death presupposes life).  Every subsequent miracle -- and prior, come to think of it -- is an iteration or fractal of these two, of... what to call it... "living truth."

Wait -- I saw that.  You just conflated consciousness with truth.  Why?

Because consciousness is proportioned to the truth which is its sufficient reason.  In other words, even if we can never say what consciousness "is," we can know what it is for: to know truth. Therefore it must be a kind of prolongation of truth from the center to the periphery;  you could call it the Spark of Divinity at our core -- our terrestrial pilot light.

On the one hand, we possess "a subjectivity or a consciousness that is made for looking outwards and for perceiving the world, whether this world be earthly or heavenly" (Schuon).  At the very least we have consciousness of ponderable empirical realities and of invisible rational ones (e.g., the worlds of logic and mathematics which transcend the senses).

However, note that we can never have "raw" empirical knowledge. Indeed, that is an oxymoron, for sensation is not knowledge.  Rather, we have sensations that are spontaneously "taken up" into knowledge, usually in a completely non-conscious way.   Our five senses work together harmoniously to present us with a World Sensorium, an image of the totality.

That's weird enough.  Weirder still is that "there is also in man a consciousness that is made for looking inwards, in the direction of the Absolute or the Self."  First of all:  how can this be?  A metaphysical Darwinian, for example, regards consciousness as an adaptation to the exterior world -- a world that is obviously prior to the consciousness that somehow emerges out of it.

But Schuon implies that there is also an interior world that is prior to consciousness, and to which we must adapt.  The main point is that consciousness is not just a kind of "empty space."  It is a space, to be sure, but it is an ordered space.  In some ways this order is explicit -- for example, vis-a-vis gender (male or female) -- while in other ways it is implicit.

Regarding the implicit (or implicate) order of the mind, much of this cannot be grasped outside the temporal dimension.  In other words, there are permanent elements in the psyche that nevertheless require time in order to unfold.   Indeed, Raccoon doctrine insists upon the orthoparadox that the ultimate purpose of Life is to become who you are.   This is simultaneously a discovery and recovery, the former going to a vertical excavation, the latter to a horizontal adventure.

So, life is a kind of archaeological dig.  Except this dig extends up and down, inside and out.  You could say its image looks like this: (†).   Except in time:  it is dynamic, not static;  in four (at least) dimensions, not just two or three.

These two worlds -- the interior and exterior -- are quite incommensurable, in the sense that there is no way -- Darwinism notwithstanding -- to derive the former from the latter.   Darwinism can only presuppose a consciousness it can never explain.  Even so, "there is a region between" the two worlds "in which they overlap and give rise to a single subjectivity, and to an existential equilibrium between the two diverging consciousnesses."

In other words, despite the radically incommensurate nature of these two worlds, we somehow experience a unity, at least much of the time. But there are problems, both personal and collective.

For example, Modern Man can't figure out how these two worlds could be unified, so he bifurcates them, AKA dualism.  But this doesn't solve anything, for reality is nevertheless one, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

But that is just an example of a more pernicious tendency on the part of man to superimpose his own fantasies upon reality, AKA ideology, AKA Genesis 3 All Over Again.

Let's see how Schuon gets  us out of this existential corner.  "[T]he spiritually realized man can see God in things, and also the principial prototypes of things in God. The psychic and mental consciousness perceives appearances; intellectual or heart consciousness perceives the Essence."

In other words:  to "see God in things" is to see the interior in the exterior, while to "see things in God" is to see the exterior in the interior.   In ether worlds, there exist archetypes and principles that are as it were "two way" phenomena that simultaneously illuminate the inside and out, upside and down.

I'm probably still not explaining it adequately -- whatever "it" is supposed to mean.  Put it this way:  "the purpose of human subjectivity," writes Schuon, is "to be, in relativity, a mirror of the Absolute, at the same time as being a prolongation of Divine Subjectivity."

You could say that the "purpose" of the Son is to be a mirror and prolongation of the Father.  Therefore, the purpose of the Incarnation is to allow us to participate in this circular prolongation-and-mirroring. Which is to say, "To manifest the Absolute in contingency, the Infinite in the finite, Perfection in imperfection" (ibid.).

Not to mention Eternity in time, objectivity in subjectivity, Spirit in matter, Light in darkness...

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