Friday, October 27, 2017

The Throbbing Novelty of the Cosmos Hurtling Toward a New Post

Back when I was writing the book, I remember pondering the question of when man first appeared -- or appears, since it must recur in eachuvus -- in creation. But only for about five years or so. I read everything I could find that addressed it from an evolutionary, or anthropological, or genetic perspective, but still, there is an inevitable gap.

And when I say "inevitable," that is not a God-of-the-gaps dodge. Rather, it is true in principle, because man is something utterly sui generis, or unique, in all of creation. Although some antecedents can help account for man in retrospect, absolutely nothing could have predicted him. For how can one predict the radically novel? If one could, it wouldn't be novel.

To back up a bit, the same principle applies to existence-as-such (Existence) and to life-as-such (Life), in that both are necessarily presumed by science, not explained by it. Again, this is not a dodge: to ask why there is something instead of nothing is not a scientific question.

Although a more controversial assertion, it is also not (ultimately) a scientific question to ask about the origins of Life. Even if we could pinpoint the time and circumstances coinciding with its emergence, this still wouldn't account for the nature of Life, which is again entirely novel.

Indeed, one might say it is novelty itself. With Life we now have sensation, awareness, perception, interiority, presence, subject, each beyond the reach of even the most subtle materialism. A "science of the interior?" Yes, there is one, but it has nothing to do with science as we know it, but rather, with metaphysics.

Whitehead was all over this, so he was a big help. He thought about these ultimate issues in the Correct way, more or less. He suggests that Life "is an offensive directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe."

Life, you might say, is the life of the cosmic party. Instead of just going around in circles, it always aims beyond itself and thus has a circular pattern: "the aim is always beyond the attained fact. The goal is some type of perfected things," whereas "inorganic nature is characterized by its acceptance of matter of fact." Borr-rring.

Do you see the revolution? With Life, there is now a wedge between fact-as-fact and fact-as-aim, or process. All of a sudden Time takes on primary importance. By which I do not mean mere chronological duration, i.e., One Damn Thing After Another, but events tied together by an inner coherence from present --> future. For a living system is an anticipatory system, and what is that?! In other words, the now is now oriented toward the great not-yet. Here is where that thing called Hope first elbows its way into creation.

"In nature, the soil rests, while the root of the plant pursues the sources of its refreshment" (Whitehead). That is a typical example of Whitehead's epigramatical pithiness, but it makes me think of how the same image applies to the mind or spirit. Obviously, the mind does not seek its refreshment in matter, unless you are seriously autistic. Rather, it grows upward and inward, ultimately seeking its refreshment in... you geist it!

We'll come back to that later.

What I really want to say is right here in a marvelous marginalia I must have written over 30 years ago, possibly a direct quote of AWN: the creativity of the world is the throbbing emotion of the past hurtling itself into a new transcendent fact.

Whitehead goes on to say that higher animals seem to be "personal," in the sense that they are organized around a kind of inner center: "Thus in one sense a dog is a 'person,' and in another sense he is a non-personal society." Conversely, lower animals "seem to lack the dominance of [a] personal society," such that a tree, for example, "is a democracy."

I don't know about that. A tree must nevertheless cohere around some nonlocal essence, or it would dissolve into its constituents, as it does upon death. What really sets man apart from the trees -- some men, anyway -- is a conscious hierarchy, or better, hierarchy-become-conscious. Each of us is the king of his own castle, master of his domain.

Or ought to be, anyway. A sick person -- say, Dirty Harvey -- is indeed a democracy, in which the lowest impulse has the same rights as the noblest ideal. (If he has any ideals left -- in other words, if the bottom-up revolution hasn't been complete.)

By the way, you will have noticed how the Founders applied this same principle to politics, such that our system is neither a top-down aristocracy nor a bottom-up democracy. If it were the latter, we could vote for slavery, or for socialized medicine, or for limits on free speech.


We're getting awfully far afield this morning, for which I apologize. But this is the New Regime, and you might even say that it is more democratic than the old one, in that I'm simply allowing all the voices in my head a chance to speak. So there won't be as much coherence, or at least posts may not wrap themselves up as tidily as before.

Let me just get back to what started this post to begin with, which is a passage in White about the origins of man. He speaks of how "there is a kind of historical continuity between non-living things and living things, but also a differentiation and progression from one kind of reality to another, up the scale of perfection." (Recall the continuous/discontinuous chapters within the bʘʘk, and indeed of the b↻↺k itself.)

Once Life appears, there is a kind of "foundation for the emergence in human beings of specifically rational, spiritual activities of language and complex technology." Again, this emergence of human personhood cannot be reduced to antecedents, but is a Novel Thing that is "inserted," so to speak, in this new space:

At a given time, then, we can postulate that due to a new initiative of God, animals were elevated to a higher level. God began to create spiritual souls in human animals, and so the human adventure begins. There was a passage from the "merely animal" world of homo sapiens to the specifically spiritual world of the human person.

This is the passage where God initiated the new project of humanity, by creating the spiritual soul, and infusing it as the "form of the body" in what constituted the first human beings. (We might hypothesize that this took place around 50,000 years ago, given the evidence of human culture provided by paleontology.)

Agreed! What could go wrong? A note in the margin says Fall situated here. If I know myself, it must mean that if man appears at around noon, 50,000 years ago, then the fall occurs at around 12:01 PM.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Adult is a Myth of the Child, and Vice Versa

I think that for the time being I'm just going to continue ranting about whatever pops into my mind.

I know: how is this different from the previous 3,000 posts?

Well, sometimes, without even gnosising, I start to put pressure on mysoph to stick with a certain subject or do things in a specific way. Come to think of it, it reminds me of a musician who just loves playing whatever comes into his instrument, but then accidentally has a hit song. Then, for the rest of his life he not only has to play that stupid song, but do so in the same way every night.

This is why I admire, say, Van Morrison. He's had some accidental hits along the way, including Gloria and Moondance. To this day he still plays them in concert, but always with different arrangements, tempos, instrumentation, solos, and styles -- anything from jazz to country & western. What a nightmare to be trapped in a single version! That's not music, it's architecture.

Sour grapes, Bob? I don't think so. My only concern is that there must be a fair number of people who would benefit from the blog but will never know of its existence. If I were more ambitious -- and grandiose -- then maybe I would try reach them.

But then I'd have to deal with the far greater number of people for whom the blog is not intended -- not just trolls, but normals. I can't function with those people in my head. Rather, it only works if I pull out all the stops and let it flow where it will. (For example, over at Instapundit I will occasionally make a religious comment, which only ends up offending the other mostly religious commenters. All good people no doubt, but normals through and through.)

So, today's rant will be about... I have no idea! I have a few notes to myself... let's see. The other day I was looking for a particular Aphorism, and as usual, was arrested by a hundred others I wasn't looking for. For example, The adult is a myth of the child.

Think about that: when you were a child, didn't you think of grown-ups as having all the answers and having everything under control? But how many grown-ups do you know who have all answers and have everything under control?

What an excellent cosmic joke! Look at Hollywood. Are there any adults there at all? It's easy to point to Dirty Harvey as the infant in the room, but that's just a simplistic projection. The whole place is filled with infants, just different kinds. It takes two to enact a psychic dance. Not to blame the victims, but there actually is such a thing a strong woman who would have kicked him so hard in the balls he would have choked on them.

Maybe it's easy for me to say, since I don't have a daughter. But if I did, and she were in that situation, she would hear her father's voice saying Field goal time. Kick him in the balls!

Now, just because the adult is a myth of the child, it doesn't mean there are no adults. Even so, think of how God had to get personally involved and send an actual adult down for our edification. A real man. The real man -- not just in terms of content, but especially in terms of form.

Indeed, that is the big difference: if Christ were only about the content, then he would be similar to any other teacher or prophet with some good ideas to relate. But Christ is relationship as such. Wha?

God, says White, "is a mystery of relational persons.... Thus, the ultimate foundation of all reality is both personal and interrelational. If this is the primary truth that is behind all other truths, then it casts a theological light upon all else that exists," such that "the physical cosmos ultimately exists for spiritual persons and for relational love."

This is to dis-invert the cosmos and put it back right-side up: "The nonliving things exist for or are relative to the living things" (emphasis mine). This is not a myth -- not of a child or anyone else. Rather, the alternatives are, in all their metamythological translunacy.

In a comment to yesterday's post I mentioned that man is a bridge, not a destiny. White agrees that "The human being is the 'bridge' between the spiritual and the physical world in a twofold way." Here we can see how the earliest Christians committed anticipatory plagiarism against me:

In the ascendent [↑] direction, the physical world mounts up toward God, or "returns" to God through human actions of knowledge and love.... In the descending [↓] direction, man is the "place" that the spiritual world is made visible or manifest in the cosmos.

Ultimately, then, "the human being is meant to be a special 'location' of grace in the cosmos, where the spiritual gifts of God descend through human reason and human freedom," into "a human common life based upon truth, moral goodness, and beauty."

And that is no myth, although children of the dark imagine it so.

Monday, October 23, 2017

What Does It Say It Is? Or, Who Do You Say I Am?

Yesterday it occurred to me that a liberal who is truly interested in equality would, more than anyone else, want children to benefit from a religious education, being that a religiously informed soul is one of the great equalizers.

But that is in the ideal world. In the real world, liberals have no interest in equality (envy is another matter), while religion as often as not stultifies the intellect.

Somewhere there is a note dashed off to myself. Here: "absolutism protects the below average & ungifted, allowing them to know and assimilate truths they could never acquire independently."

The sense of "absolutism" used here has nothing directly to do with politics, but rather, metaphysics. I was thinking of Schuon, who said something to the effect that if you must label him, then call him an Absolutist, since his first principle is knowledge of the Absolute and the human consequences flowing therefrom -- moral, social, metaphysical, and mystical.

If you fail to give children a sense of the absolute -- worse yet, take it away! -- then they will spend the rest of their lives searching for it, running from it, or pretending they already have it. Nor is it possible to advance Godward without a theological vocabulary that includes words like grace, atonement, sanctity, demon, logos, etc. It would be like trying to practice science without a vocabulary of concepts such as quantity, measurement, and law.

Marx is undoubtedly the most catastrophic exemplar of someone absolutely secure in his possession of a false absolute. Everything else is commentary, right down to today's headline, whatever it may be. In other words, the contemporary left carries on the tradition of being crocktroops of the false absolute -- or of absolute relativism.

This absolute relativism is the very quintessence of metaphysical impossibility. Unless you understand this literally, then you haven't understood it at all. You must understand that the left is animated by a fantasy of what never was and can never be. Ever. Period.

Coincidentally, a deep awareness of the distinction between Absolute and false absolute (or absolute relativism) is precisely what motivated St. John Paul in his struggle against communism. The outer or surface political struggle was just the side effect of an infinitely deeper and inner metaphysical one. Like secular saint Breitbart, he knew that politics is far downstream from culture, and that it was necessary to penetrate to the deep structure of culture to generate real change and progress. And hope. The proper and permissible kind.

Reality is a person or it is nothing. Scientism, of course, has the virtue of clarity. But even an unclear sense of God (so long as it isn't upside-down, as in the case of Islamists) is superior to clear error.

For JP2, it came down to person or matter. His first principle is the former, while Marx's is the latter. Ultimate reality is a person, or even the very possibility of personhood.

Obviously there is no possibility of personhood in materialism; rather, in this view, persons are simply side effects of matter and may be treated as such. From Lenin to Bernie Sanders, human beings are just bags of wet cement to be arranged this way or that by the state. In this context, a fascist is anyone with rudimentary taste and decency.

Along these lines, another note to myself: every so-called revolution is a counter-revolutution. Specifically, it is a reactionary rejection of Christ (or the meta-cosmic Person, to keep things ecumenical). For truly truly truly (or truly³), there is and can be no progress beyond the recognition of Absolute-as-Person. Who do you say that I AM is always the relevant question.

Another note, this one a little more cryptic: Apartheid of: class, ideology, religion.

If you think South Africa was an apartheid state, try being an absolutist on a liberal campus (or newsroom), where only the false absolute is permitted. What is the Leftopolis but a homeland for mediocrities, misfits, malcontents, and other assorted materialists, all convinced they have the Answer? This tribe does't circumcise. Rather, decapitate.

The liberal unintelligentsia does not represent the disadvantaged, but rather, consists of emissaries from the land of bad ideas; and bad ideas have a disproportionately catastrophic impact on the poor and disadvantaged, whose margin of delusion is much narrower than it is for a wealthy person. No one is crazier, for example, than Lawrence O'Donnell, but he can afford it. As can Bernie Sander, Keith Olbermann, Nancy Pelosi, etc.

You will have noticed that Satan is far too intelligent, let alone subtle, to be a materialist. However, he has no compunction about enlisting them into his service.

ProAM-tip: don't trust people, including me or Petey, who try to convince you of anything. Rather, trust what is self-evident, luminous, and intelligible -- that little truth which lights the way to infinitely more truth. Chase Truth until He catches you, and then keep chasing.

In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter. --The Aphorist