Friday, November 10, 2017

What Privilege

Worth repeating: the sense of essentiality attracts us toward shores other than those of the limited plane of physical phenomena alone (Schuon).

Implicit in this statement is that our minds are attracted by and toward essentiality. Which is what? It is the nonlocal whatness of things. Animal intelligence can know that things are; but human intelligence is made to penetrate beneath thatness -- existence -- to whatness -- essence. Only humans are privileged to know the What of things.

No one knows how this is possible. No, check me on that; we do know how it is possible, but only with recourse to a trans-scientific, metaphysical foundation. Certainly science cannot explain how science is possible.

In this regard, it is difficult to say whether language is a cause or an effect, but either way, language is obviously central to the discernment of essences. It is like the shadow of essentiality. Not for nothing is it said that "In the beginning is the Word," yada yada.

Come to think if it, just as only human beings can know essences, only human beings can unknow or rebel against them. For example, we know that men are essentially men and women women. Indeed, this is why we have the words, the words following upon the essences. But what is the left but a rebellion against essentiality? We'll no doubt return to this subject... or maybe not, because the Aphorist can more than adequately summarize this diabolical inversion with just an astringent line or two:

Today the individual rebels against inalterable human nature [essence] in order to refrain from amending his own correctable [contingent] nature.

Boom! "I was born this way" is no defense for staying that way. It is the literal inversion of what Schuon says above, such that the rejection of essentiality compels man to remain landlocked on this shore, and to never set out for the other.

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors.

Inane if you're lucky, but usually tending toward the horizon of genocide. For ultimately, Humanity is the only totally false god (because, orthoparadoxially, we are the only essentially partial gods, so to speak).

Here begins the gospel of Hell: In the beginning was nothing and it believed nothing was god, and was made man, and dwelt on earth, and by man all things were made nothing. This reduces existence to a vapid monologue in the void, AKA tenure.

Which is why Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency. Truly truly, in order to understand what you are, you must begin by understanding what you are not. Which is to say, the uncreated Absolute. In the absence of the latter category, you can only imagine yourself to be man -- man being unthinkable in the absence of its eternal complement God. The mirror is not God; and yet, it is "not other than God" either.

At any rate, only the human being knows of essences and therefore appearances, and vice versa. But human beings can never penetrate to the essence of essences, or the holiest of holies, short of self-extinction. There is always a Mystery at the heart of it all, not in the privative sense of ignorance, but in the sense of radiating, or sometimes exploding, presence. Not too little light. Too much. One sees the glowing footprints, and knows they aren't just hanging there suspended by nothing.

"[I]f Being and the first principles which flow from it are incapable of proof, it is because they have no need of proof; to prove them is at once useless and impossible, not through a lack, but through a superabundance of light" (Schuon). If one sees, one doesn't have to prove the existence of sight. Besides, how would you prove sight to one who is blind? Nevertheless, reason can disprove anything -- for example, free will -- but that hardly means it doesn't exist.

Proving what cannot be is insane, humanly speaking. These self-styled free-thinkers only end up freeing man from freedom itself. But you cannot transcend freedom, only sink beneath it. Yes, an ant is free of humanness, while the leftist never stops trying.

Augros asks an intriguing question, which is to say, how is it that we can have five separate senses but experience their transcendent unity in our selves? From where does this unity come? Indeed, to the five natural senses I would add our transnatural senses of the personhood of others, of beauty, of truth, and of the Divine Presence itSoph.

Each sense involves increasingly subtle degrees of touch. We know, for example, that something can "touch our heart." Likewise, to be truly understood by another person is to be touched. We can all "sense" grace, even if most people allow their vertical sense detector to harden or dissipate through nonuse.

"Taken by themselves, the external senses are like five unrelated voices. Together they cohere into your universal sense, they interrelate and become integrated. They harmonize."

To which I would add that the unity is always at the top; if it weren't there, we could never achieve it. It reminds me of a good stereo that is able to reproduce an accurate 3D soundstage. This is only because the sonic unity is prior to the stereo separation (into two speakers) that tries to recreate it.

The senses are complementary. Think, for example, of what humanness might be like if we only had four senses, excluding vision. We are able to teach braille to the blind by transforming what is seen into what is felt. The point is, the higher or more subtle dimension is able to reach down into the lower, but what is the likelihood that a world of blind humans could ever have come up with braille? Braille is a way for fingers to see, but someone first needs to see in order to put sight into the form of touch.

And this leads me to the notion that faith is a way for the intellect to see what it cannot see -- not the intellect in its essence, for intelligence can know anything knowable -- but due to various contingencies. Just as blindness is an accident and not an essence, so too is atheism. If blindness were an essence, then we couldn't teach braille to the blind.

Analogously, think of teaching sign language to lower primates. This can only go so far, because lower primates do not have the essence of speech, and cannot really know essences. I suppose that the brightest among them can penetrate a bit beneath the surface, but no ape will ever be as wrong about existence as your average professor.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Cosmic Extortion and the Drunkard's Search

Yesterday I was thinking about metaphysical Darwinism. (Would a strict Darwinian say that "Darwinism was thinking about me?"; for to think about it is to have transcended and thereby escaped it, which the theory would say is impossible.)

Or better, call it Darwinian literalism. Yes, it is an explanation of how we got here, but it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that it is only scientific. The literalist will no doubt respond: "Only scientific? As if mythology trumps fact and reason!"

Well, yes and no. It is, for example, an undeniable scientific fact that your body is roughly 50% water and that 99% of it is composed of six elements.

But what relevance does this have for your humanness? After all, it's only science. You can't treat a person like a chemical. For practical purposes our chemistry is of no consequence, any more than it matters what typeface is used in writing a book. Imagine a review that begins and ends with a sober analysis of the size and style of font. You'd think the person was an obsessive-compulsive nut.

Darwinian literalism "is the classic example of the bias that invents 'horizontal' causes because one does not wish to admit a 'vertical' dimension" (Schuon). Now, I wonder what is the motivation for this denial? Whatever it is, it is a passion; which is not necessarily problematic, except that in this case it is a passion for something other than Truth.

But Truth is the first priority and prime objective of our little adventure. If it becomes the first casualty then dreadful consequences follow, all the way up to extinction.

The extinction may or may not be physical -- in the previous post we spoke of Christian Science, which may redound to personal extinction if followed to the letter. But certainly soul death follows the rejection of truth -- or at least asphyxiation, dehydration, or starvation due to failure of pneumosynthesis.

Yes, pneumosynthesis. Good word. In fact, I'm a little surprised it isn't a word. I mean it by way of analogy to photosynthesis, which is a real word but no less mysterious. Photosynthesis "is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities."

Okay. "A process used by plants." So, what process did the plants use before using photosynthesis? I don't know. It's a long article, and rather technical.

The geological record indicates that this transforming event took place early in Earth's history, at least 2450–2320 million years ago, and, it is speculated, much earlier..... Available evidence from geobiological studies of Archean sedimentary rocks indicates that life existed 3500 million years ago, but the question of when oxygenic photosynthesis evolved is still unanswered.

When does one begin the study of biology? Fifth grade? I distinctly remember learning about photosynthesis, and the teacher telling us that science didn't actually understand how it works. Is this still true? In my opinion, no one will ever understand how sunlight is transformed to life. And what would it mean for practical purposes? That our thoughts are nothing more than transformations of solar energy? If so, then the theory of photosynthesis itself would be reducible to a chemical belch.

There is a kind of knowledge that paradoxically diminishes us with its increase. However, you can't really blame the knowledge. Rather, blame the metaphysic that conditions it -- in this case, the above-noted exclusion of verticality. What conditions the choice of metaphysic? Two possibilities: truth or preference. Which is to say, objectivity or subjectivity, reality or passion.

In the case of a solely horizontal metaphysic, "one seeks to extort from the physical plane a cause that it cannot furnish and that is necessarily situated above matter" (Schuon).

Necessarily. Which is to say, objectively. Reality does not care about your feelings, even scientistic ones. Extortion is wrong. Using feelings to extort facts is the beginning of all mischief. You could even blame our primordial catastrophe (G3AOA) on it if you want to.

Scientists -- and we are speaking here of the scientistic type -- want to know, right? That's what they tell us, and we should believe them. But so too does the drunk man sincerely want to find his keys by searching for them under the streetlight. It's a real thing:

The streetlight effect is a type of observational bias that occurs when people are searching for something and look only where it is easiest. Another term for this is a drunkard's search.

So, the Darwinian literalist looks for man's origin where it is easiest, right under the scientistic streetlight. What makes this paradoxical -- or self-refuting, really -- is that light can only come from Light.

What I mean is that science incontestably furnishes light. But it only does so because of borrowed Light. If science is the light, then it is no light at all, and we are again reduced to cosmic indigestion -- a weird failure of entropy.

One reason I reread Schuon is that I always discover subtle points that may have been obscured by the bigger ones -- as in how the stars disappear in the presence of the sun, even though they may actually be exponentially larger. In this case, he writes that "the sense of essentiality attracts us toward shores other than those of the limited plane of physical phenomena alone."

Mm mm mm. This mysterious little "sense of essentiality" turns out to be everything, humanly speaking. What does it mean? It means that human intelligence is defined by the ability to see beyond appearances to the reality behind or below or above them.

Ironically, this is precisely the mission not only of any science, but any rational human inquiry whatsoever, from history to psychology to literature. Obviously it is the mission of art as well, only in reverse: to create a surface for the audience to unpack. Both are fun! Which is to say, the encoding and decoding of mysteries. If you fail to engage in this -- well, let's just say you're missing out on a damn good thing.

Switching gears -- or books, rather -- Augros writes that "we must think that the human mind differs from the animal mind in some way as the infinite does from the finite."

Even that sentence proves the point, because it contains the word "infinite," or at least presents us with the humanly intelligible antinomy of finite <--> infinite, which transcends animality. But only infinitely.

We'll continue down this path tomorrow. Or up, rather, where the light is better.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Ramblers Gonna Ramble

More off-the-cuff rambling.

One of the -- if not the -- ultimate complementarities is subject and object. Indeed, these two seem to define one another, such that it is difficult to conceive of one without the other.

Can you imagine a world without subjects? No, of course not. Prior to 4 billion years ago -- or whenever life appeared -- there was nothing and no one there to perceive anything. There would only be everything everywhere at once, AKA nothing.

And what would a subject be without an object? Seems to me it would also be nothing, for subjectivity is always of, or toward, or with, or some other preposition. It seems to me that this sheds light on the nature of God, which is to say, Trinity, for the structure of Father-Son-Holy Spirit can be seen as Subject-Object-Relation.

This reminds me of something Hartshorne says -- that God is not only relative, but the most relative thing we can imagine. Indeed, he is the very foundation and possibility of Relationship. This is truly flipping the metaphysical script, because it implies that God actually IS what would appear to be impossible, which is to say, Absolute Relativity. Absolutely!

What else could it mean to say that "God is Love"? When I was a kid, my mother used to drag me to Christian Science Sunday school (up to about age nine or ten at the latest). No, it never took root, and proved ultimately to form an early lesson in why religion makes no sense. Certainly there was no way to integrate it with the other 6.9 days of the week.

In any event, I remember a podium, behind which gold letters spelled out GOD IS LOVE on the wall. No one ever explained why and how this could be so, certainly not on any satisfactory metaphysical basis (I'm not even sure if Christian Scientists believe in the Trinity; I don't remember ever hearing the word mentioned). Especially in a Christianized culture, it shouldn't take a man fifty years to begin to figure it out!

Now I'm curious. Let's check in with Prof. Wiki for just a moment. I promise not to get even more sidetracked than I already am. The movement is rooted in

philosophical idealism, a belief in the primacy of the mental world. Adherents believed that material phenomena were the result of mental states, a view expressed as "life is consciousness" and "God is mind." The supreme cause was referred to as Divine Mind, Truth, God, Love, Life, Spirit, Principle or Father–Mother, reflecting elements of Plato, Hinduism, Berkeley, Hegel, Swedenborg and transcendentalism.

At the core of Eddy's theology is the view that the spiritual world is the only reality and is entirely good, and that the material world, with its evil, sickness, and death, is an illusion.

Okay then. Ms. Eddy was a dyed-in-the-wool-pulling Gnostic (in the bad and intrinsically heretical way). Ah, here we go: her theology "is nontrinitarian; she viewed the Trinity as suggestive of polytheism." So she was a theological ignoramus as well. Not surprisingly, she "viewed God not as a person, but as 'All-in-all.'" Whatever that is. Seems like she conjured an indigestible brew of idealism and pantheism.

The whole thing was bound to confuse a child whose mother was a bit of a hypochondriac by proxy. What I mean is, despite all the "illness is an illusion" bit, she didn't hesitate to take me to the doctor if my temperature climbed to 98.7

You may be wondering how this heretical nonsense ever entered the Gagdad strain. Haven't I blogged about this before? There was a time -- maybe in the 1930s -- that Christian Science became quite a fad among Hollywood airheads, no doubt because of its non-conformist appeal. I mean, look at this list. It was like the New Age movement of its day, a pseudo-Christian way to deepak the chopra. Christian Scientology.

My maternal grandmother was a gold-plated eccentric who settled in Hollywood. From what I understand, she was hit by a bus or something, and had what she regarded as a miraculous healing due to the ministrations of a Christian Science practitioner. I'm not sure if she or my mother took it completely seriously, in the sense of living the faith.

But how could you? How can anyone consistently live as if the world is an illusion? You have to be able to live your faith in a consistent manner. But Christian Science ultimately forces you to think one way and behave in another. When it came to a choice between doctrine and reality, my mother always chose the latter, which is to say, medicine.

Here at One Cosmos -- hey, it's in the name -- we insist upon a total integration of horizontality and verticality, with no loose ends dangling from the cosmos area rug. We do not want to believe one way and act in another. We are not Cosmic Hypocrites, but completely consistent on every level of being. If not, then we correct it as soon as it is brought to our attention.

Let's get back to the idea that the world is an illusion. Well, duh! But an illusion is not a hallucination. The bus is not ultimate reality, but you still need to get out of the way if it is about to run you down.

The world is, as it were, a "side effect" of God. If you believe it is the cause rather than an effect, you are bound to chase this fairy tail forever. Scientific explorers "may well plunge into the mechanism of the physical world" and "undoubtedly meet with a variety of instructive insights into the structure of the physical categories..." (Schuon).

BUT: they will never reach the end of their trajectory, for the simple reason that there can be no end in that direction. Like the rays of the sun, they just go on "forever," more or less. Only by proceeding in the other direction can we locate the central source and principle.

Schuon begins with the axiom that "all knowledge by definition comprises a subject and an object." This self-evident natural trinity consists of intelligence-intelligible-knowledge.

This -- it seems to me -- is a kind of projection or prolongation of the heart of the trinity, revolving around Subject-Object-Spirit, this latter taking the form of love, truth, beauty, goodness, creativity, and transcendental unity. Furthermore, the middle term -- Object -- is actually a subject in his own right: he is object to the subject but subject to himself. All in a manner of speaking. Think of our world, in which other persons are objects but obviously subjects as well.

This sure goes back to the subject of Incarnation, doesn't it? "There is a chasm between ourselves and God that we cannot cross by our own powers." Thus, "if man is the bridge between the visible and invisible worlds, then Christ became human to repair that bridge" (White).

Recall what was said above about God being the most orthoparadoxically "relative" thing we can imagine: "Christ is in truth the most human of all of us. In short, God has become the most human of us all so as to reveal to us who God is in a most human way." Absolute Relationship becomes Relative Relationship, such that the latter can become the former.

Now, man is not just subject pure and simple; rather, there are layers, dimensions, and modes of subjectivity, hopefully with a degree of harmony and integration. For example, our senses are subjective. But materialists essentially pretend they have the last word on What Is. However, the senses don't really "say" anything. Rather, they are purely receptive. It is up to the intelligence to weave them into something higher.

Likewise rationalists. Yes, the world is rational, but not only rational; it can by no means be enclosed in the categories of reason on pain of immediately devolving to irrationalism. It comes down to the question of whether reason is an instrument of the mind or vice versa. To believe the latter is to be enclosed in tautology.

There is reality and there is truth, but reality is always bigger. It is like the relation between being and knowledge. We can of course know being, but only God can encompass it with rooms and mansions to spare. He not only drew a circle on the face of the deep, but a sphere around the circle and a four-dimensional object around the sphere. Etc. No matter how high you go, he always goes one dimension higher. Just call it Beyond-Being and be done with it.

"The mechanism of the world," writes Schuon, "can be neither purely deterministic nor... purely arbitrary. In reality, the universe is a veil woven of necessity and freedom, or mathematical rigor and musical play." As such, "every phenomenon participates in these two principles, which amounts to saying that everything is situated in two apparently divergent but at bottom concordant dimensions..." (Schuon).

Everyone knows that music is a kind of math. What they fail to appreciate is the converse: that math is a kind of music. If it's just silent and static -- if it doesn't sing of the creation -- to hell with it.

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.... The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or poet's, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics. --G.H. Hardy

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