Friday, December 01, 2017

I Loved a Zombie

The purpose of freedom is to enable us to choose what we are in the depths of our heart. --Schuon, To Have a Center

Now, man is never radically free, obviously. We are not free to rewrite the past or be another gender. Unless you are on the left, in which case you are free to do these things. But is this actually freedom, or flight from it?

Yes and no. Just as we cannot be radically free, nor are we totally determined. Rather, a mixture of each: freedom and necessity, which -- it seems to me -- are like prolongations of infinitude and absoluteness on the human plane.

In this context, necessity consists of all the things that Must Be, whereas freedom is an orthoparadoxical realm of things that might be, AKA potential. But freedom itself is a necessity, nor can it ever be radically excised from Necessity itself, AKA the Absolute. Indeed, to do this -- to treat freedom and necessity as separate things -- is the essence of diabolical freedom.

As Schindler explains, "The moment the will becomes an expression not of goodness but of arbitrary power, an essential opposition is introduced."

In paradise -- or, if you prefer, the upper vertical realm from which we are an ontological declension -- the will is not separated from its telos in the good. To turn it around, to rejoin the will to the good is the royal road back to said paradise.

The point is, freedom is always relational. This is precisely what you would expect in a cosmos that is likewise relational -- AKA trinitarian -- right down to the ground. Therefore, diabolical freedom occurs the moment we descend into an atomistic universe, which is to deny God. Three times, as it were.

You can get this principle via Christian doctrine. That is not how I first encountered it. Rather, I cobbled it together from several sources, and only later realized I had stumbled on something Christians had been teaching for almost two millennia. For me, one big hint was the irreducible intersubjectivity of the mother-infant dyad. It's not that we are intersubjective because we were all once helpless babies.

Rather, the converse: ultimately, this dyad -- and the natural family -- is an icon of the interior life of the Trinity. Thus, just as it is a Christian heresy to posit a Father-God separate from the Son-God, it is a cosmic heresy to atomize man. Other heresies follow from this, such as pretending it is possible for a man to marry a man, or that it is possible to choose one's gender, or the belief that one can have a natural right to murder one's baby.

For which reason you could say that Satan's own definition of freedom was perfectly articulated by the Supreme Court: "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." That case is called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but it would be more accurately called SCOTUS v. Man, God, and Reality itself.

In reading that wacky opinion, there is just enough truth in it to make it appear plausible to the unreflective. We do indeed have the "freedom of meaning," but again, if we separate freedom from its proper telos, then it immediately reduces to mere willfulness and power. It then commits the cosmic inversion of placing man in charge of defining reality, instead of being an adequation to it -- in other words, a complete rejection of human privilege and a denial of the human station. From there, hell is right around the corner.

Literally. For just as reuniting freedom with its telos is the royal road to paradise, dividing them is the cosmic U-turn in the other direction: the progressive path of Good Intentions animated by Strong Feelings. And in fact, "reuniting" is itself a misleading term; analogously, you wouldn't say that you need to "reunite" the first and second persons of the Trinity, but rather, see that they can never be separated to begin with.

Back to how Bob stumbled upon all of this. It must have been providence as reflected through the holy happenstance of amazon surfing, which puts one in contact with books one would have never encountered in a thousand years prior to the internet.

Back then, your best shot at widening your world -- or rather, gaining access to the Wider World -- was via independent bookstores run by intellectually and spiritually curious and capacious (and inevitably eccentric) people. And even then, the Search was bogged down by a lot of randomness, AKA cosmic noise.

I'll try to be brief, so as to not get too sidetracked. The author in question was an apparently obscure philosopher named Errol Harris. I see he has a wiki page, so I am about to learn some things about him I never knew -- for example, that he was from South Africa. He wrote a lot of things with which I disagreed or were irrelevant to me, but perhaps the most useful was his critique of logical atomism, which might as well be another name for the metaphysic that gives rise to diabolical liberty.

Ultimately, Harris

concludes that science supports a worldview that is relativistic, holistic, organicistic, teleological, and hierarchical in character -- a worldview contradicted by the unconfessed atomistic, mechanical, and pluralistic metaphysical presuppositions of formal and mathematical logic that are wrongly privileged by philosophical empiricism.

Better than "relativistic" would be relational, but you get the point: the world doesn't consist of unrelated monads bumping around together in the void; rather, reality is, as Norris Clarke puts it, substance-in-relation. Being is communion. You could even say it is intimate communion. Some might even say it is love, but here again, that cannot be severed from truth and beauty. Indeed, when you so much as bear witness to a beautiful sunset, you are quite obviously on unspeakably intimate terms with the universe. You are knowing it in the biblical way, pardon my French.

I didn't start to "get" this stuff until I was well into my 30s, and even then only in a piecemeal fashion. I didn't yet see the One Cosmos. My son is on much more intimate terms with reality than I was at his age (12). For example, he has taken up photography, not just to shoot snapshots, but with a real awareness of beauty. If you had asked me about beauty at his age, I would have wondered if you were doubting that I was all boy (to put it euphemistically).

We are getting rather far afield this morning, aren't we?

I'm going to dive back into Schindler and double-check, but it seems to me that he keeps saying the same thing in a thousand different ways -- that freedom severed from its telos devolves to its diabolical counterfeit. Everything becomes a cheap shadow of itself, while swallowing up the reality to which it is supposed to point.

I suppose the final common pathway of the illness is the creation of counterfeit humans, AKA zombies. Which puts our present politico-cultural divide in a deeper context. Yes, we are experiencing a zombie invasion, with President Trump standing between us and a full-on zombie apocalypse.

This reminds me of something I want to mention before sliding into the weekend. I received an email from a reader asking me for advice on how a Christian is supposed to love our zombie invaders. It's an excellent question about which I have a lot of thoughts. I don't have time to spill them right now, but perhaps this will spark a conversation over the weekend. Here are some excerpts from the letter:

In the past few years it's become more and more clear to me that some animals are more equal than others, and some populations are being asked to adhere to a higher standard than others....

It's so blatant now; professors as well as the unwashed on places like Twitter are openly saying white people should be exterminated; they say this with absolutely no fear of sanction or consequence. We are told that for the good of the planet we shouldn't have children, but then we're told we must bring in millions of nons to buttress (replace) our aging workforce.

It's all around us everyday. It's all bullshit, this moral demand for egalitarianism coupled with constant anti-white sentiment. And it's here where my excruciating dilemma comes in. How do I hold in one hand what I know; and in the other hand hold my desire to draw close to God, who demands that I love my enemies, and treat everyone with compassion, as He treats us? Is there some way to balance this and keep my integrity, to not lie to myself or God?

.... So there it is, the splinter in my mind. I guess if I could encapsulate my problem it would be to ask how can I resist society's demand that I engage in genetic self-loathing and suicide and at the same time obey God's commands to love my neighbor (and enemies)?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Diabolical Freedom and the Fall into Ismism

Before we begin, a benediction ("good words") from the Aphorist:

The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.

Feel free to take that literally. Feel enslaved not to.

We are discussing the book Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty. That is a loaded title, since it contains a number of words that need to be defined before any meaningful analysis can take place: freedom, reality, diabolical, modern, and liberty.

Let's begin with the first: what is it? Can we even know what freedom is? Or is it just a placeholder for an unknowable reality -- a container with no content, like "death." We throw that word around too, but no one can conceive of his own death, at least while alive. In other words, if you're conceiving it, you're not dead.

Perhaps the most misleading way to conceptualize freedom is to separate it from other primordial realities. Indeed, I think Schindler would agree that this is the first act of diabolical freedom: in scholastic terms, to divide act from potency, and to then elevate the latter to priority. Doing so separates freedom from its telos, which leaves us in a nihilistic flatland, devoid of hierarchy and purpose.

Wha? Can you explain that in plain English?

Edward Feser -- I think -- says what amounts to the same thing, that "abandonment of final causes" is "the original sin of modern philosophy," to such an extent that "the whole history of modern thought" can be seen "as an overlooking of the distinction between potency and act.”

That reminds me of Whitehead's gag that the history of Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. At least up to Aquinas. After that, it's a series of footnotes to... I don't know, William of Ockham? He is the father of nominalism, and therefore the inventor of stupid.

I guess it would help to be a philosopher, which we are not. But we do remember reading Ideas have Consequences, the most adversely consequential idea of all being the abandonment of universals, and the fall into modern misosophy in all its diabolical and even tenured forms.

But not only am I not a philosopher, neither am I a historian of ideas. Therefore, I don't attempt to locate the Error at some specific point in history. Rather, the Error is somehow built into man, which is the whole point of Genesis 3: our diabolical turn is an ontological possibility, for every man at every time.

This turn can be considered from various angles, for example, the existentialist error of elevating existence over essence, which, for my money, is the same as giving priority to potency over act. It ultimately means that we have no essence; we are not created -- or worse, we create ourselves. We are "nothing" until we make the choice. You may pretend that makes you something, but you are still nothing, only a delusional nothing.

Clearly, this is the basis of the gender insanity, in which one's gender isn't given by reality, but rather, is chosen from a menu of, what, 52 flavors? The list is literally endless, because it involves the turn to a Bad Infinite. The real Infinite is of course located above, AKA God. Pursuing the infinite in the other direction only results in more fragmentation, or mindless Diversity for its own sake. This is yet one more instance of how the left is literally diabolical.

Now, the diabolical involves a primordial rejection of the Real. Okay. What is the Real? That sounds like a difficult question, but I don't think it is, because it really involves nothing more than a deep meditation on what you always already are, what you always already are doing, what you always already know (in any act of knowing), and cannot help being, doing, and knowing.

To back up a bit, when I wrote the bʘʘk, it was really a form of autobobography. I mean that literally, because the implicit question motivating the whole existentialida was How did I get here? Or, more to the point, How is Bob even possible? Or again, What must the cosmos be like in order for such a thing as Bob to exist?

These might seem like stupid or frivolous questions, but not to me. Don't we all want to know the answers to these? Indeed, everyone has some sort of answers, only bad, silly, or inadequate ones. Scientism, for example, combines all three, but it is hardly alone. Indeed, any "ism" you care to name is going to be wrong. I lump them all under the rubric "ismism," and just move on. You could say that ismism encompasses all of the diabolical alternatives to reality.

For Schindler, "Modern liberty is, in sum, a deceptive and ultimately self-destroying illusion, which cuts one off from, and indeed sets one in opposition to, God, the world, other people, the community as a whole... and even oneself, so that one's inner being, in its congenital blindness to the inner reality of everything else without exception, is smothered by endless layers of dissemblance."

Again, quite literally. Lately I've been thinking about the distinction between information and noise in scripture. Some people think there is no noise, but that is impossible, so long as humans are human and God is God. But when Jesus says that

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

You can sheer any mythological noise from that, and see it as a quite literal metaphysical description of diabolical liberty. Indeed, just prior to it, Jesus makes the famous crack that "the truth shall make you free," which is so familiar that people may not realize the metaphysical significance. It really goes to the subject of this post, which is that to imagine that liberty can exist without truth is to fall into diabolical freedom, which is another word for slavery.

Freedom from reality is not freedom, but bondage. So, feel free to take the Aphorist quite literally when he says:

The freedom to which modern man aspires is not that of the free man, but that of the slave on a holiday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Assault on Mount Liberty

Because that's what it feels like. I'm talking about D.C. Schindler's Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty, which is so sprawling and full of implications that it is impossible to wrap my mind around it. As mentioned a few posts back, in terms of style, he is the anti-Schuon, such that it is up to the reader to try digest it all.

Having said that, I am absolutely convinced that Schindler has identified the central problem with man, with history, and with the world in general. You might even say that what he calls "diabolical liberty" is simply another name for the fall of man. In a way this is self-evident, because most all human problems are caused by the misuse of freedom, right? But this presupposes a proper use of freedom.

However, one of the defining characteristics of modernity has been to detach liberty from any intrinsic good, thus reducing the will to pure power. Another strand of modernity denies free will altogether, which only drains the world of any possible meaning whatsoever. If man is not free, then he is completely detached from transcendental reality, i.e., truth, beauty, virtue, and unity. Either of the modern options is not only diabolical, but the essence thereof.

This is certainly not the book I would have written on the subject. Being that I am not a scholar, I would not have spent the first 100 or more pages on a tedious deconstruction of John Locke as a representative of the philosophical turn to diabolical freedom. Why not just say why he's wrong and get on with it? I could do that in a page or so.

Come to think of it, as we proceed through the book, every once in a while I will consult Dávila or Schuon for a bracing blast of fresh air -- to call the meeting back to order and re-orient ourselves to first principles. Each of these authors slices like an effing hammer through reams of bullshit, without trying to impress academics who will never agree with them anyway.

For example, this aphorism, in a way, summarizes the whole book:

Liberty is not an end, but a means. Whoever mistakes it for an end does not know what to do with it once he attains it.

Boom! Now, that is 100% Obviously True. But this truth must be seen with vivid immediacy. If it isn't seen, then no amount of argument will convince the person who doesn't see it. For the sake of argument, let's concede that John Locke is Much Smarter than we are. So what? If that is the case, it only highlights the relative unimportance of intelligence in understanding primordial truth.

Even Dr. Strange knows this. My son is very much into Marvel Comics these days, and he convinced me to watch it with him. What an unexpectedly enjoyable film! Dr. Strange is a gifted neurosurgeon who is quite full of himself, before he has a career-ending accident that permanently maims his hands. I don't want to give the whole thing away, but at one point his spiritual guide says something to the effect of, "Your intellect has taken you this far. It will take you no further."

That's a bingo. I first encountered this vertically liberating truth many years ago, in reading Sri Aurobindo. Here's the exact passage... better yet, here is an excerpt from a post on the subject from over 10 years ago, called The Descent of Mind:

Wait a minute. I was a bit startled when I reread the first sentence, which is all about the subject under discussion: "our historical understanding and appreciation of liberty may have followed from actually living it in the form of free markets as opposed to thinking about it abstractly. In academia there is a huge bias toward the latter view, because intellectuals always want to believe that they are more important and influential than they actually are."

A synchronicity is just God punning, in this case across a decade. Back to the Passage:

Obviously, intelligence itself in no way correlates with truth. Look at Noam Chomsky, for example. He is obviously at the summit of intelligence. You can even say he's genius if you like. But what good is the intelligence, when it exists in a parallel looniverse of lies, hatred, and paranoia? The smarter the person, the more catastrophic will be their error!

.... Something similar to a descent of pure intelligence occurred to Sri Aurobindo. In his case, he didn't remain stuck there, but immediately saw through its limitations. He did not see it as an end, merely a realm that had to be infused with a higher spirit in order to attain its proper end.

The best introduction to Sri Aurobindo is The Adventure of Consciousness, by Satprem. In it, Satprem describes Aurobindo's recognition of the limits of the intellect:

"The day came when Sri Aurobindo had had enough of these intellectual exercises. He had probably realized that one can go on amassing knowledge indefinitely, reading and learning languages, even learning all the languages in the world and reading all the books in the world, and yet not progressing an inch. For the mind does not seek truly to know, even though it appears to -- it seeks to grind. If by chance the machine were to come to a stop because knowledge had been obtained, it would soon rise up in revolt and find something new to grind, just for the sake of grinding and grinding."

Critically, "That within us which seeks to know and to progress is not the mind, but something behind it which uses it: 'The capital period of my intellectual development,' Sri Aurobindo confided to a disciple, 'was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said might be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justified was true and its opposite also was true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it.... And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone!'

Some interesting comments there too, 68 in all, out of which only Julie, Van, and Joan remain. I wonder how I successfully drove away so many readers? Oh well. Here is a timeless truth from the comments: "You need, silence, aspiration, surrender, and a source of genuine grace, in a serious way. That's the only way out of the closed loop." Indeed, that is the only way to seriously deal with freedom! Anything short of it results in catastrophes of various kinds, for example, attaining what your will desires, AKA getting what you think you want.

Back to Schindler. It's hard to know where to begin -- which is ironic, isn't it, because that is the whole problem with liberty. Let's begin with a Completely Crazy opinion by the Supreme Court in 1992 (Planned Parenthood v. Casey), in which the Court attempted to nail down the meaning of liberty. After all, protection of our natural liberty (along with life and property) is the very reason our government exists, so it must be pretty important. Here is what these flaming idiot-geniuses actually said:

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." (By the way, I highly recommend Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived, which contains numerous instances of fine insultainment where he tears this diabolical idea of liberty to shreds.)

Why diabolical? Let us count the ways! It is very much as if the Court consists of four people with rudimentary contact with Reality, and then five Deepaks for whom reality -- including the reality of the Constitution -- you know, their Only Job -- is literally whatever they want it to be. For these robed tyrants, the essence of liberty involves defining reality any way one chooses. Is it any wonder these demon-inspired nihilists find whatever they want to find in the Constitution? Schindler:

[T]his claim to power is a devil's bargain: it comes at a cost, and the price paid is the elimination of precisely what is promised. One can have the absolute power to determine the meaning of existence as one wishes only on the condition that one's determination of that meaning amounts to nothing at all.... you and I can both have the absolute power to determine the meaning of existence only if your determination means absolutely nothing to me...

So, -- unless you are a Supreme Court justice, in which case your goofy private opinion is backed by the violence of the state -- this power to define the meaning of reality turns out to be simultaneously omnipotent and impotent. It is not freedom toward reality, but freedom from reality, which would be a good title for a book.

To be continued, likely for several weeks. We'll leave off with a few zingers from The Aphorist:

The people today do not feel free except when they feel authorized to respect nothing.

The price of absolute freedom would be a vulgarity without limits.

Man today is free, like a traveler lost in the desert.

Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Man is to Animal as Infinite is to Finite

Continuing with our re-view of The Immortal in us... speaking of which, who is reviewing whom, the mortal the immortal, or vice versa?

This is not a trick question, nor a nonsense one either, unless you mean perfect nonsense, which is what immortality is. So yes, it is perfectly nonsensical to posit an immortal soul, but mere nonsense to deny it. I will explain what I mean. At some point in this post.

Take, for example, universals, which uniquely characterize human intelligence. They are a necessary condition for abstract thought, being that they form the basis of abstraction. Frankly, one cannot say anything without deploying universals, since words are already universals.

Augros makes the point that universals cannot possibly exist in the physical structure of our brains, any more than they could on a sheet of paper. You cannot draw a universal -- say, a tree -- without particularizing it. But the fact that you can particularize it means you possess implicit knowledge of the universal.

Indeed, the drawing is proof of this pre- or trans- or foreknowledge -- a three-way knowledge between the idea, the drawing, and the third party who can see that the drawing is of a tree, and thereby retrieve the universal from the particular.

No universal could fit into the brain, since the brain is finite, while the universal is infinite: "every universal enables its possessor to know things about an infinity of individuals." Thus, our minds differ from the minds of animals "as the nonmaterial from the material." Critically, "this is no mere difference of degree," but rather, of kind.

Again, man is not a new animal, but a new reality -- very similar to how life is not just a new kind of matter, but a new world, the biosphere. Imagine reducing life to matter and calling yourself a biologist. Now, imagine reducing mind to brain and calling yourself a psychologist. Congratulations! You're tenured.

The next step is to realize that, not only can universals not be stored in the brain, they cannot be a product of the brain:

Your intellect is not a power in your brain or in any bodily organ. It is incorporeal. Accordingly, it does not depend on your brain or on any part of your body as a power depends on an organ to host it.


your intellect is to your brain as your sense of sight is to visible objects. Without visible objects, your sense of sight can exist, but it will have nothing to do. Without your brain, your intellect can exist, but it will have nothing to do.

Bottom line: your intellect "depends on your brain only for its objects, not for its power." It is in, but not of, matter. To understand the material world is to have transcended it.

Clearly, the Incarnation emphasizes this reality. In Genesis, there is the general creation, followed by the special creation of man in the course of day six. Just as Jesus is two natures in one person, so too, in a sense, are we all. In our case, clearly, we have bodies and intellects, and yet, we are one person. But Genesis 3 suggests that we have become divided -- against the world, against, ourselves, against others, and against the Creator.

"You are part body and part spirit, a mammal with a nonmaterial mind capable of knowing eternal truths. Where in the world can a being like you have come from?" Is it even possible that we came from "within" the world, a la natural selection? How can the world transcend the world? Or, how could finitude give rise to infinitude?

This infinitude of the soul converges on the Absolute, for "Cosmic evolution cannot surpass intellectual souls. They represent a destination more than a middle of the journey. They are evolution's end." And as we know, the end is chronologically last but ontologically first, i.e., the telos of material and efficient causation.

Eh. I just go back to Schuon, since he's so concise and pointed. The whole shocking Doctrine in a sharpshorting paragraph:

All the knowledge the brain can hold is nothing in the light of Truth even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view. Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it.

The imprint of the divine Light in human darkness, the passage from the Infinite to the finite, the contact between the Absolute and the contingent -- this is the whole mystery of intellection. --Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts