Friday, June 15, 2018

Father, Son, and the Holy Post

This post is all over the place. Welcome to my mind!

As often happens with the blog, the subject under discussion is provoking an acute case of Baader-Meinhof syndrome, in that I'm seeing it everywhere, thus making it difficult to reduce to order. It reminds me of when I run into one of those apparent cosmic dead ends, but then bump into an author who opens up so many potential avenues that I have to read his entire output.

The same thing happens with music. I no sooner discover a new artist than I need to hear everything. This just happened a couple days ago, as a result of reading the Leonard Cohen bio. He is by no means a new discovery, but until now I thought a "best of" collection was sufficient. The book prompted me to order the complete works (although he fooled the record company and recorded three more after this came out). $21 for eleven CDs is an offer I couldn't refuse. "My only weakness is that I'm weak" (H. Simpson).

The problem is, everything about Schuon mirrors everything else. He even alludes to this in the foreword of another collection I'm re-re-reading, The Play of Masks. In it he points out that the book consists of "small independent treatises" that nevertheless "often summarize the whole doctrine." Boy and how. Fractal is what it is: each thread unravels the whole area rug.

I was actually trying to divert myself into a new subject while blogging about the present one, but this book is only aggravating the Baader-Meinhof. Turns out that "the play of masks" is just another way of looking at "little big self." In other words, little self -- the ego -- is of course a mask, but it turns out that God himself is a master of disguise, if I may put it that way. I'll explain as we proceed.

No, maybe I'll jump ahead to the explanation right now. I'll paraphrase, but Schuon maintains that the "reality-appearance" dialectic or reciprocity or complementarity may be followed all the way up and into God; it is "in divinas" before it is down amongus, and it is only amongus because it is first in Him. Without question -- in my opinion -- this is a mystery at which the doctrine of the Trinity is trying to hint.

Wait. Are you saying there is "appearance" or "illusion" or "contingency" in God? Well, yes and no. Let's just say "in a manner of speaking." But if you speak in this manner, it explains a lot; it clears up a great deal of pneumababbling yada yada that tends to deepak over the chopra just when you need more light.

The next paragraph of the foreword repeats what I just said in plain Schuonese:

Without a doubt, metaphysics aims in the first place at the comprehension of the whole Universe, which extends from the Divine Order to the terrestrial contingencies -- this is the reciprocity between Atma and Maya -- yet it offers in addition intellectually less demanding but humanly crucial openings; which is all the more important in that we live in a world wherein the abuse of intelligence replaces wisdom.

Metaphysics is like a map of the sky which includes holes so as to escape the limitations of the map. Light streams into the cosmos from above -- like pure light through a prism. The prism is metaphysics, spreading out into the spectrum of colors we perceive herebelow. A color is an "appearance," but nevertheless not other than the primordial light.

With that image in mind, compare with this passage by Schuon from a book we were plagiarizing with yesterday: "it is equally true that pure Intelligence exists and that its nature is to tend toward its own source." Maybe you don't see it that way, but here is some aphoristic backup:

Thought can avoid the idea of God as long as it limits itself to meditating on minor problems.

Meditating on minor problems is one way to remain locked into vertically closed Little Self. It's one of the main reasons I can no longer relate to my profession, in that so much of psychotherapy involves nothing more than exchanging one mask for another -- perhaps less painful, but a mask nonetheless.

Christianity does not deny the splendor of the world but encourages us to seek its origin, to ascend to its pure snow.

"Splendor" is really none other than the divine light alluded to above, shining through phenomena.

Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not adventitious to me.

For the Rio Linda contingent, "adventitious" means continent, or relative, or extrinsic. We could say also that it is Maya, or appearance. Thus, in the whole wide world, only two things are not Maya, which is to say, God and Big Self, the latter a prolongation of the former. So really, it comes down to the eternal dance of O and ʘ, or player, playmate, and holy game.

Or just say man is in the image of the Creator and have a nice weekend.

The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality. --Dávila

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Lazy Man's Way to God

Speaking of Little Big Self, a coincidence -- in the Leonard Cohen bio, his Zen teacher, Roshi, summarizes the doctrine in six words: "Destroy particular self and absolute appears."

Well yes, I suppose. I don't want to knock another fellow's merchandise, but is there a less... austere way? It reminds me of an aphorism:

I do not want to conquer serenity, like a Stoic, but to welcome serenity in, like a Christian. --Dávila

I might have said "like a lazy man," but I like the way Dávila puts it. It elevates my indolence to a virtue. Besides, I don't know if it's really laziness per se, more like an appreciation of the magnitude of the enterprise. How many birds on fire for Zen actually cross the phoenix line?

Analogously, if I don't become a nuclear physicist, it's not just because I'm a slackcentric gentleman loafer. There are also questions of aptitude, passion, and sustained will. It's hard to pretend to be interested in something that disinterests us, even if it's in our interest to be interested.

Now I'm reminded of the whole question of self-power vs. other power. Zen might be the quintessential case of the former. This is from a previous post on the subject:

The “power of oneself" is "that of intelligence and of will seen from the point of view of the salvific capacity which they possess in principle," such that "man is freed thanks to his intelligence and by his own efforts..."

Conversely, "other power" "does not belong to us in any way," but "belongs to the 'Other' as its name indicates... in this context, man is saved by Grace, which does not however mean that he need not collaborate with this salvation by his receptivity and according to the modes that human nature allows or imposes on him" (Schuon).

So, even the lazy man must cooperate with the Other, which, ironically, is more difficult for a certain type of person. Some people just don't like to submit or surrender to or even acknowledge a higher power. Others can't help it. Yokes and folks. Vines and branches.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Me? I gave up long ago. Of his own, Lil' Bob can do nothing. I wouldn't give him the slightest attention.

Getting sidetracked. I suppose this whole line of thought was triggered by a passage in an essay called The Two Paradises:

[T]here are in man two subjects -- or subjectivities -- with no common measure and with the opposite tendencies, though there is also, in some respect, coincidence between the two.

On the one hand there is the anima or empirical ego, woven out of objective as well as subjective contingencies, such as memories and desires; on the other hand there is the spiritus or pure Intelligence, whose subjectivity is rooted in the Absolute, so that it sees the empirical ego as being no more than a husk, that is, something outward and foreign to the true "my-self," or rather "One-self," at once transcendent and immanent.

This mirrors the primordial distinction between Creator and creation, or Absolute and relative, in that man has a subject (or subjectivity) corresponding to each. In the book, I symbolize these two subjectivities as (¶) and (•); the former relates to -- and is ultimately a prolongation of -- O, while the latter takes "the world" as its object.

Thus, in a broad sense, we can say that the dialectic between (•) and world is the realm of science, while that between (¶) and O is religion. The image of the first is concentric circles around a point, while the latter is the domain of continuous radii from the same central point.

So yes, Roshi is correct: destroy (•) and O appears. In other words, eliminate the concentric circles -- via self-power -- and only the Absolute is left. But there is always the other path of simultaneously radiant and attractive grace drawing us upward and inward, toward Celestial Central.

Along these lines, in another book Schuon says that "humility" is "awareness of our metaphysical nothingness," and that "to have a sense of the sacred is to be aware that all qualities or values not only proceed from the Infinite but also attract towards It (emphasis mine).

Back to The Two Paradises. Schuon notes that "pure Intelligence exists," and "its nature is to tend toward its own source."

Indeed, what is the alternative? Either the intellect is a prolongation, or radiation, from and to that central point, or it can do no more than chase its tail in one of those concentric circles. This latter is a vertically closed system from which the purpose of religion is to save us.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Little Big Self

The subject of this post strikes me as absolutely fundamental, bound to appear or reappear in some fashion, whether explicitly or implicitly, in any analysis of our existence, whether secular or religious.

Our subject is the "two selves" or subjectivities of every person; to be perfectly accurate, I should say "no fewer than two," but the multiple subselves that populate the psyche are generally on the same plane, and this post is more concerned with the dialectic of planes as opposed to the content of the fragmented selves of a single plane, i.e., with verticality rather than horizontality.

As alluded to in the first paragraph, everyone knows they are more than one self, because they experience the different selves from day to day and moment to moment. For example, our professional self is different from our family self, and this is different from our private self. There is no one to whom we say everything we are thinking, any more than civilization could exist if everyone walked around naked.

Speaking of which, I remember an essay by Schuon that describes our different subjectivities in terms of bodily location; here it is, in an essay called The Message of the Human Body. In it he describes various forms of our subjectivity, such as masculine and feminine, or adult and child. More generally,

The human body comprises three fundamental regions: the body properly so-called, the head, the sexual parts; these are almost three different subjectivities.

Indeed, think of how a good deal of "maturity" involves learning how to get these three on the same page and interacting harmoniously, both vertically and horizontally. As said in the bʘʘK, the vector of maturity is always toward actualization and integration. What's the alternative, regression and fragmentation? Sure. But this post is not about the left.

Note that you need both: actualization without integration leads to a kind of protean expressiveness with no center (a great many artists fall into this superficially open-ended but ultimately blind alley), while the converse would be a kind of static and repressive sclerosis. The first is all wet, the latter all dried up. You need both fire and earth. Not to mention wind.

Regarding the sexual center, Schuon makes the point that it manifests, "quite paradoxically, a dynamic subjectivity at once animal and divine, if one may express it thus." Yes you may, because it certainly helps explain the deep pain and confusion -- to oneself and others -- that can result.

As it so happens, I'm reading a biography of Leonard Cohen, and this is certainly one of the central themes of his life. I'm only about halfway through, and he's not close to sorting it out, i.e., integrating the two. You can't say he didn't try, as he later spent many years (when he was in his 60s) in a Zen monastery. That is a way of detachment from various subjective centers in favor of identification with the One Center, i.e., the Big Self (which for Zen is No Self).

I'm not sure if this is the best way, but we'll return to the question as we proceed.

At any rate, an essential ambiguity is introduced into the subject because all selves are in relation, and to a certain extent determined by the relation. Who would you be if you had had a different mother and father? Or a different spouse? Or a different culture, i.e., different cultural objects available to discover and express oneself?

Impossible to say, but you would certainly be different, and yet, somehow the same. We are always woven of chance and necessity, or music and geometry, or freedom and determinism, and that's just the way it is down here. It's why the future is always different from the past, and yet the same old same old.

Who am I now?

Well, when I blog, I am definitely interacting with Big Self, however you wish to conceptualize it. I like to call it O, since we can posit its existence without necessarily knowing a thing about it until it manifests through us, which is to say Lil' Self.

What we're really attemting is a kind of open, dynamic, and flowing Center-to-center communication. But isn't that just another name for "religion" -- or better, religiosity? I think it is what we're doing when we do religion. I'm just doing it in a certain way with the blogging.

As usual, Schuon describes what's going on with adamantine clarity and precision:

[H]uman nature is made of centrality and totality, and hence of objectivity; objectivity being the capacity to step outside oneself, while centrality and totality are the capacity to conceive the Absolute.

As far as the blog is concerned, "totality" is the integration of the One Cosmos, interior and exterior, subject and object, vertical and horizontal. The Absolute is O, while objectivity is detachment from Lil' Bob. "Centrality" is the ongoing process of metabolism and assimilation of O, in the dialectical space between it and (¶). (This latter might go by the name of Intermediate Bob.)

This was just the first blast at the subject, so don't expect any final integration. We'll continue blasting tomorrow. For now I have to revert to Lil' Bob and get on with the day.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Deus-continuity Amidst Discontinuity

Yesterday's post didn't quite achieve Total Clarity on the subject of radiance and reverberation, no doubt because I'm not quite clear myself. Let's give it one more shot. One problem is that Schuon doesn't say all that much about these principles -- leaving them unsaturated -- so it's up to us to fill them with meaning.

First of all, Creation doesn't just occur 13.8 billion years ago (or whenever you posit the "beginning") but absolutely continuously. This is indeed orthodoxy -- not just for Christianity, but for thought. Put conversely, if your doctrine doesn't allow for continuous creation, then it's wrong at best.

So, how are we to think of the creation of this world? And when we refer to this world, we don't mean just earth, or the galaxy, or even the cosmos, but existence as such. In other words, how does existence exist? What is its source?

Again, religious doctrine -- just like any other map -- provides "points of reference" to approach this problem in a fruitful manner. For example, the Bible lets us know on the first page that existence is not self-sufficient, but dependent upon a higher principle. This dependency is perpetual, not a one-time event.

According to González, the doctrine of creation "stands at the root of the Christian understanding of the relationship between God and the world." The Creator, according to the creed, is the maker of all things, both visible and invisible. Perhaps you've noticed that no secular creation myth can even begin to account for the latter. Rather, they always try to swallow the invisible into the visible.

Think, for example, of Marxism and all its ghastly progeny, from feminism to climate hysteria. It rightly (from its own standpoint) sees religion not just as wrong, but as a kind of disease, wholly parasitic on matter. Religion is the opiate of the masses, when in reality Marxism is the pacifier of the tenured; the latter provides a kind of pseudo-heart in a heartless cosmos, or an archimedean vertical perspective in a world devoid of verticality. It is a view from nowhere by a bunch of nobodies.

Often a Christian doctrine is not just to posit a truth but to counter falsehoods. In order to understand certain doctrines, you need to appreciate them in the context of what they are arguing against.

In this case, González points out that the doctrine of creation "rejects two views that have repeatedly challenged it through the centuries: dualism and monism," the former positing two ultimate principles of creation, the latter denying the distinction between Creator and creation.

Both of these alternatives -- dualism and monism -- are heretical, not just for Christianity but for religion as such. In short, they are intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic heresies, the latter going to doctrines that only apply to this or that religion.

This heretical confusion persists to this day, in both religious and irreligious circles. Scientism, for example, begins with the inexplicable dualism of mind and matter, but then makes the dualism go away by reducing it to an absurd monism. I'm not sure if the pilgrimage from inexplicable to absurd represents progress, but there you go.

As for religious heresies, "creationism" comes to mind. Creationism is most definitely not synonymous with the venerable doctrine of creation, but rather, a kind of vulgar substitute that borrows from and tries to imitate scientism. You could say that it horizontalizes and temporalizes what is properly vertical and atemporal.

Interestingly, the doctrine of creation also set itself against another ancient idea (embraced by Neo- and Paleo-Platonists alike), emanationism -- the notion that

All things are derived from the first reality or perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine.

In other words, the doctrine of creation opposes the idea that the world is simply a kind of necessary side-effect of the One. Rather, it wants to emphasize and preserve God's freedom and autonomy in creating this world.

However, in emphasizing this one side, the doctrine of creation tends to obscure important truths conveyed by emanationism. In my opinion, the most fruitful approach is to see the two principles -- creation and emanation -- as complementary, not opposed.

For ultimately, creation goes to the discontinuity between Creator and creation, man and God; while emanation goes to the equally important continuity. Indeed, the principle -- or fact, rather -- of Incarnation seems to me to harmonize the two, i.e., Christ as simultaneously all God and all man. Come to think of it, there is a kind of discontinuity-amidst-continuity within the Trinity itself.

Note how different denominations tend to emphasize one side over the other. For example, Augustine highlights the discontinuity, what with our fallen depravity, whereas in the Orthodox east they have always emphasized the continuity with the doctrine of theosis (itself a reflection of the idea that man is a reflection of God).

We're almost out of time here, but Schuon relates this to the distinction between substance, which goes more to emanation and continuity, and essence, which would go more to creation and discontinuity:

The notion of essence denotes an excellence which is, so to say, discontinuous with respect to accidents, whereas the notion of substance implies on the contrary a kind of continuity...

Hmm. I'll bet radiance has to do with substance, reverberation with essence, but we'll have to wait until next week.

Just heard about Charles Krauthammer. Damn. That one hurts. There is a man.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

An Intense Beam of Darkness, AKA This Post

Yesterday's post ended before it was about to get underway, or at least left alert readers in a quandary as to what is so special about the principles Radiance and Reverberation.

To review, Schuon's metaphysic begins with the Absolute. However, the Absolute is not a featureless blob, but has certain implications or translogical entailments, among them Infinitude:

To speak of the Absolute, is to speak of the Infinite; Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute. It is from this "dimension" of Infinitude that the world springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude.

Can't get clearer than that, although we are playing rather high above the terrestrial rim, near the summit of abstraction, before God swallows himself in his own Beyond-Being. On a clear day you can see forever up here. Nevertheless, it is not possible to contain the Absolute in language, only to point to -- or perhaps better, from -- it.

Along these lines, Schuon adds that the Absolute is not any mere "possible Reality," but rather necessary Reality. I suppose you could say that if we eliminate all contingency, possibility, and appearance from the world, what we are left with is the Absolute -- which is the changeless ground out of which the contingency and possibility flow.

Ultimately, absoluteness is what distinguishes a thing from nonexistence. In other words, to even exist is to partake of absoluteness; as such, our existence is contingent, whereas God's is necessary: God is that reality which cannot not be.

We could also say that he is the person who who cannot not be, but that would take us away from the main thread. Suffice it to say, no Him, no you or I. Remove God from the equation and we are not even nothing.

Possibility and Necessity. Don't leave home without them. Or at least don't try to think seriously about existence without them, for you can't. You can try to eliminate one, but it will always return in unanticipated whys.

Now, if the Absolute is necessary reality, the Infinite is -- you guessed it -- possible reality. However, bear in mind that this possibility is necessary; possibility as such must be, even though this or that possibility may or may not be. Creators gonna create, and that's all there is to it. But no one knows what they might come up with next.

There are further implications. The Infinite, for example, "appears as modes of expanse or extension, such as space, time, form or diversity, number or multiplicity, matter or substance."

Looked at this way, space is the "conserving mode" of infinitude, while time is its "transforming mode" (for both good and ill, i.e., progress and decay). Likewise, there is a qualitative mode (form), a quantitative mode (number), and a substantial mode (matter). Taken together, these "are the very pillars of universal existence": space, time, form, number, (prime) matter.

These pillars of the cosmic community are always at play in all phenomena. They are simultaneously beyond and in the world, for example, in the practice of art. Indeed, I would say that in practicing art -- or indulging in creativity -- we are reflecting the Divine play-nature. It's probably why we tend to idealize great artists.

The point is, because of the structure of existence, you might say that there are things (quantities) and perfections (qualities). If you manage create a perfect thing, you qualify as an Artist. I know I qualify because of my son. Not unlike God.

Now, back to our words of the day, radiance and reverberation. Recall from yesterpost that

Absolute Substance extends Itself, through relativization, under the aspects of Radiance and Reverberation; that is to say, It [substance] is accompanied -- at a lesser degree of reality -- by two forms of emanation, one that is dynamic, continuous, and radiating; and the other static, discontinuous, and formative....

Expressed in geometric terms, the Substance is the center; Radiance is the cluster of the radii, and Reverberation, or the Image, is the circle. [Existence] is the surface which enables this unfolding.

Now we see that Infinitude redounds to possible reality which redounds to relativization, this under the auspices of two modes: radiance, which is dynamic and continuous, like radii extending from the cosmic center; and reverberation, which is static and discontinuous, like concentric circles around a central point.

Okay, but what does any of this have to do with just living your life? Well, let me think...

I know! We are situated at the periphery, which is full of change, dynamism, progress, and decay; but nevertheless partake of the center, which is transtemporal contemplation, prayer, serenity, and peace. Lines radiate from the nonlocal center, and this is grace or "divine attraction." We reverberate at the periphery, and these are degrees of being.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Re-verberations in the Logosphere

I'm always struck by how Schuon can use such ordinary words to disclose the most profound profundities: no mathematical equations, no specialized vocabulary, no idiosyncratic neologisms, and certainly no tenured flimflammery.

Example.

I can think of many, for example, center and periphery, radii and circumference, absolute and infinite, horizontal and vertical, inward and outward, possibility and necessity, geometry and music, or (as we've been discussing lately) form and substance.

Incidentally, you will notice that with each of these antinomies, one side goes with all the others. Thus, center, radii, absolute, vertical, inward, necessity, geometry, substance; and periphery, circumference, infinite, horizontal, outward, possibility, music, form.

And in my opinion, this is because each of these antinomies must be grounded in an (or the) ultimate Antinomy. Each is a reflection or fractal of the one Antinomy.

Which itself is (ortho)paradoxical, since "one" and "antinomy" would appear to be antinomic. In other words, One is one; or as they say in Islam, "there is no Allah but Allah." But if there is an ultimate antinomy, doesn't this imply a vicious dualism, as in Manichaeism?

Antinomy: a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles; a fundamental and apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction.

I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is here to rescue us from what is otherwise an insoluble metaphysical nul de slack. The problem is, if All is One, then all this many-ness is just an illusion and the world is reduced to insignificance, AKA mayaplicity. In my opinion, the antinomies in which we are plunged can only be resolved with recourse to an eternally dynamic threeness.

At any rate, I am no longer able to see how one could possibly understand the world without these ordinary words which clothe such weighty concepts. Indeed, how can one understand anything of consequence in the absence of just verticality alone? It's not as if one can rid the world of verticality, or reduce it to horizontality with no remainder.

Time out for aphorisms, for Dávila too discloses the deepest of truths with the plainest of words. I have taken the liberty of arranging them hierarchically in order to reveal the final (!):

The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths.

Often the simpler a truth is the more difficult it is to understand.

Every truth is a tension between contradictory evidences that claim our simultaneous allegiance.

The man does not escape from his prison of paradoxes except by means of a vertical act of faith.

There was never any conflict between reason and faith, but between two faiths.

Truths do not contradict each other except when they get out of order.

The two poles are the individual and God; the two antagonists are God and man.

As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock.

If it is not of God that we are speaking, it is not sensible to speak of anything seriously.

Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.

Therefore,

We've gotten far afield, because I wanted to discuss two of those ordinary words, "reverberation" and "resonance." According to Schuon,

Absolute Substance extends Itself, through relativization, under the aspects of Radiance and Reverberation; that is to say, It is accompanied -- at a lesser degree of reality -- by two forms of emanation, one that is dynamic, continuous, and radiating; and the other static, discontinuous, and formative.

If this were not the case, then quite frankly, "the world would not be."

Bold statement!

Later in the same chapter he says, "Expressed in geometric terms, the Substance is the center; Radiance is the cluster of the radii, and Reverberation, or the Image, is the circle." What we perceive as Existence "is the surface which enables this unfolding."

We'll continue to unfold this tomorrow, as we're out of time.

Condolences to Ted for the loss of his feline friend. All loss is the image -- or reverberation -- of Loss.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Deadly Consequences of Relativism

In the previous post we discussed form and substance. Knowledge is a form, and either it is a form of the substance or just a form of appearance, in which case it is severed from substance and therefore nothing.

Do you see the problem? Either knowledge is actually knowledge, or it is that arbitrary dream about the impenetrable cloud, in which case epistemology (knowledge) floats free of any ontology (being).

And that is what we call the Cosmic Divorce. One is either a relativist or an absolutist, but each position entails immediate and irrevocable consequences. You can only pick one, but you have to pick, either implicitly or explicitly.

One problem with the left -- maybe the source of their problems -- is the wish to have it both ways. Everyone knows the left is "unprincipled," hence what appears to be a steaming pile of contradictory policies. But they do have a principle: the principle of relativism.

Think of some of the many ways the left is at cross purposes with itself: it wants more immigration to America, even though this will (according to their theories) result in catastrophic global warming; females have an absolute right to abortion, and therefore no right to live to exercise the right; racial discrimination is wrong, and the state should do more of it; don't judge people by their immutable racial characteristics, but White Privilege!

We could go on past the ad of nauseam, so I won't regurgitate myself. The credo of the left is always: There is no Truth and We are its Messengers.

The immediate consequence of relativism is a kind of faux freedom. At first this freedom is intoxicating, and indeed I remember it well. Wheeeeeeeee! Oof.

The problem is, a freedom with no ground or telos is like an unstable element: ultimately radioactive. What would happen if all elements were unstable? Don't ask me, I got a gentleman's D in high school chemistry. But surely not life or anything else more complex than unstable elements.

Now, what are the consequences of absolutism? People -- or at least Americans -- instinctively recoil from that word, as if it implies a black-and-white authoritarianism. It can imply that, but only from the left, i.e., "absolute relativism." When relativism usurps absoluteness, violence and oppression are sure to follow. Relativism redounds to the exercise of absolute power, since there is no appeal to truth.

But there is nothing to fear from a proper absolutism. For example, our Fathers tell us that we are absolutely created equal, and that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness absolutely flow from this happy fact. What's to fear?

Well, obviously, many people fear the consequences of freedom, but only about half the nation and maybe 90% of the world.

At any rate, if there is by definition only one Absolute, how do we end up with "absolute rights" down here in the terrestrial world? Isn't that a contradiction? No, not at all. Rather, a necessity. Again, absoluteness has certain necessary consequences.

Schuon explains it more lucidly than I can:

To speak of the Divine Substance is necessarily to speak of its ontological prolongation, since we, who speak, derive from this prolongation which is Existence -- Relativity in its manifested mode...

To put it conversely, if we begin with the principle of relativism -- of the many -- then there is no way to get back to the Absolute, or to the One.

However, if we begin with the principle of oneness, then we are necessarily its prolongation. At once this resolves the knowledge problem, for there is no longer any real division between the One and many.

As Schuon says, even -- or especially -- we are its prolongation. This allows us to fruitfully cope with a whole lotta static paradoxes, bad infinities, infertile mysteries, and cosmic nul de slacks.

Yes, we are inevitably form, not substance. But again, forms of the substance, and therefore substance (or better, not not-substance, to keep things on the apophatic side).

This is a quintessential orthoparadox, the very same one expressed in the mytho-metaphysical gnotion that man is created in the image and likeness of his Creator. I mean, either he is or isn't, but please be consistent and accept the consequences. Don't....

Here, the Aphorist, as always, says it best with his linguistic shivs to the ribcage; each conveys a necessary truth:

Either God or chance: all other terms are disguises for one or the other.

Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance.

The human has the insignificance of a swarm of insects when it is merely human.

If the soul is a myth, genocide is a simple problem of effective anesthetics (Dávila).

If you're a garden-variety Democrat, maybe you're not clever enough to understand that sequence. Don't worry. Marx gets it, and there's always another one of his acolytes waiting in the wings to seize absolute power. In which case count yourself lucky if you get the anesthetics.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Appearance and Reality, Mother and Father

The marriage of appearance and reality is always present in the exercise of human intelligence, irrespective of the discipline. Not only is discernment between them the function of intelligence, but it is human intelligence that brings the distinction into being. No other animal knows of it.

You might be thinking to yourself, "thanks, Captain Obvious," but as we know, the consensus of the tenured is that we cannot know "reality," only appearances. This has been the case since Kant's division of the world into phenomena (our forms of perception or concepts of understanding) and noumena (the thing itself independent of our big ideas).

However, this is just a trick, because he's still dividing the world into appearance and reality, just calling them by different names. What he really did was divorce appearances from reality, such that instead of being appearances of reality, the appearances float before us untethered to any ground of which they are the outward expression. Properly speaking, they are no longer appearances; rather, more like inescapable illusions. Whitehead expressed it well with his gag about the bifurcation of the world into a cloud at one end and a dream at the other.

This is the proximate source of any nonsense that claims "my truth," or "perception is reality," or "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." In other words, it is the "principle" -- whether explicit or implicit -- behind any and all forms of relativism.

But again, the very purpose of intelligence -- its sufficient reason -- is to distinguish appearances from reality; therefore, relativism is a kind of counter-revolution that endeavors to abolish intelligence and return man to the condition of total stupidity. It is the first and last (anti-) word in cosmic inversion.

With this context in mind, we are in a position to understand what Schuon means when he claims that "The substance of knowledge is Knowledge of the Substance." Again, there is form and there is substance, and the latter is prior and "possesses every right." An appearance is always a form -- as Kant says -- except that it is a form of the substance, not just a futile dream about the impenetrable cloud.

In agreement with what was said above,

The fundamental nature of our intelligence... is discernment between what is substantial and what is accidental, and not the exclusive perception of the accidental; when intelligence perceives the accident it does so, as it were, in relation to the substance that corresponds to it.

Reminiscent of Helen Keller's breakthrough as depicted in The Miracle Worker, "who sees the drop sees the water." Or, in Helen's case, to feel the water is to plunge into the ocean. The rest is herstory.

How and where do we root this unavoidable union of form-substance and appearance-reality? Clearly it cannot be anchored in form, or appearance, or contingency, because if it is, there is no exit: again, one is sealed in permanent ignorance and tenure.

Maybe you don't like the word "God." Fair enough. Let's just call it "O." O is not something you can ever avoid and remain human. Rather, the essence of the human station involves the ceaseless dialectic between O and what we will call Ø. Now, Ø is not the opposite of O -- that way lies Manichaeism and other cosmic nul-de-slacks -- but its complement, or consort, if you will.

And certain mytho-metaphysics do indeed see her as consort, most notably Vedanta, in which there is the complementarity of Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha

is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.

Conversely, Prakriti

refers to 'the material world, nature, matter, physical and psychological character, constitution, temper, disposition.' Purusha is the principle of pure consciousness, while Prakriti is the principle of matter.... where Purusha is the masculine in every living being as consciousness, Prakriti is the feminine and substrate which accepts the Purusha.

Is there an equivalent in Christian doctrine? I don't know if there is a direct one, but allusions, hints, and clues are tucked away and scattered everywhere. To take the most obvious example, God and Mary. Or, prior to this, in Proverbs we have numerous references to wisdom as divine consort, and she is conspicuously female.

The Church too is regarded as the female consort (in a manner of speaking) of Jesus, or how about going all the way back to the beginning, in Genesis 1, where God is "hovering over the face of the waters." Suffice it to say that water is quintessentially feminine. We'll leave off with an illuminating passage from Joseph Campbell's Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake:

Earwicker has a wife, the psyche of the book -- bewitching, ever-changing, animating, all-pervading. She appears typically under the name of Anna Livia Plurabelle [ALP]. Just as Earwicker is metamorphosed into Adam, Noah, Lord Nelson, a mountain or a tree, so ALP becomes by subtle transposition Eve, Isis, Iseult, a passing cloud, a flowing stream. She is the eternally fructive and love-bearing principle in the world.... the entire book, in fact, is but a dreamlike emanation of this "untitled mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest."

.... But above all, Anna is a river, always changing yet ever the same, the Heraclitean flux which bears all life in its current.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why a World?

The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality. --Dávila

This seems important, which is to say, fundamental and universal: that "every religion," according to Schuon, "has a form and a substance." Traditional religious forms are local vestments of this nonlocal substance, and although the two are complementary, obviously substance must be prior.

Is there a substance without form? Apparently yes, in that "beyond-being" transcends all limitation, and a form is a limit. However, I suspect that being and beyond-being go together like Creator and creature.

Nevertheless, "Substance possesses every right," being that "it derives from the Absolute"; whereas "form is relative," so "its rights are therefore limited."

I remember studying Carl Jung back in the day. His one Big Idea was psychological archetypes, which he called forms without substance, or psychic patterns awaiting experience. They are analogous to animal instincts, only on the human plane.

If the archetypes are the forms, what's the substance? That's a problem, for it seems to me that Jung subordinates substance to the forms, which is precisely what we are not supposed to do, according to Schuon. This must be why Jungianism devolves to a kind of pseudo-religion.

I actually applied to the Jung Institute in Los Angeles for post-doctoral indoctrination. Anyone can complete a PhD, but that hardly means you are complete! I knew I wanted to go on to some form of psychoanalytic training, and Jung's school of thought appealed to me because it is the weirdest. In other words, it seemed the most "open-ended," so to speak.

But upon going through a couple of preliminary interviews with experienced clinicians, it dawned upon me that any real weirdness had been contained -- that I was confronting a new orthodoxy, and that I would have to shave off my rough edges in order to fit into it.

This is an ongoing problem. Or issue. I can't seem to find a form adequate to the substance of Bob. As we've mentioned before, the Sons of Toots have no place to lay their heads! For as Schuon says, "The Spirit can be manifested, but It cannot be enclosed."

Compare this to beauty: it too can be manifested but not enclosed. What we call "art" is none other than the manifestation of beauty. It is also the attempt to "enclose" or "contain" beauty, but you could say that a genuine work of art can be identified by its failure at containment.

In other words, in a masterpiece -- say, Michaelangelo's Pieta -- the divine beauty completely overflows the form, despite -- or because of -- the perfection of the form.

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

Aesthetics cannot give recipes, because there are no methods for making miracles.

Strictly speaking, the beauty of the work is in what exceeds any definition of the critic.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says (Dávila).

This quintessential orthoparadox also apples to music and language. As the form approaches perfection, it becomes more transparent and translucent. It makes you wonder if the perfect form would simply disappear. Which suggests that Nothing is the perfect expression of Everything.

Again, the Transfiguration is another example of the phenomenon. What was -- is -- that?! It seems to be the manifestation or revelation of the ultimate substance beneath or beyond the form.

All of this goes to the very function of intelligence, which is to discern the essence beneath the accident, the reality beneath the appearance, the absolute beneath the relative. In each case the former takes precedence over the latter, even though we never see the two apart. It's almost like we need the world in order to...

Yes, why must we have a world? It seems like a nuisance. Why not just create pure spirits?

The world is quintessentially a form -- or a hierarchy of forms. What's a hierarchy for? For climbing, I suppose. (Unless you are on the left, in which case it is for abolishing.)

Help us out here, Don Colacho.

I do not belong to a world that perishes. I extend and transmit a truth that does not die.

Christianity does not deny the splendor of the world but encourages us to seek its origin, to ascend to its pure snow.

The Church’s function is not to adapt Christianity to the world, nor even to adapt the world to Christianity; her function is to maintain a counterworld in the world.

Ah, a counterworld to the world. You could say the world descends from God. The counterworld ascends to God. But these are not-two.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Something Stupid This Way Comes

In the previous post we explained why it is that evil is simultaneously necessary and forbidden, rooted in the ontological distance between the Principle and the Manifestation, or Creator and Creation. For the very same reason, we would say that stupidities must proliferate. Like disease, we can never eradicate these mind parasites, only try to identify and control some of their main types and vectors.

On the one hand we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which seems to work pretty well. You will note the modesty of the name: control and prevention as opposed to elimination or eradication.

Conversely, thanks to Jimmy Carter we have the federal Department of Education, when it would be preferable to imitate the CDC model and simply try our best to prevent the most common stupidities on a pandemic scale. Instead, the DoED -- like all leftist projects -- ends up spreading the pathologies it presumes to cure. Democrats have for decades been living off the messes they make, whether the question is race, poverty, crime, energy, education, gender, whatever.

Why must wackiness this way come? Because, as Schuon explains, "there is inevitably a separation between the thing to be expressed and its expression, that is to say, between reality and a doctrine."

Nor does it matter one whit whether we are speaking of a scientific doctrine or a religious one: in the final analysis -- assuming one wishes to be intellectually honest -- both necessarily fall short of the mark, since "no doctrine can be identified with what it intends to express" (emphasis mine). No matter how accurate the map, the map can never be the territory. If it is the territory, then it is no longer a map.

Most religious folk intuitively understand this. It's those naive devotees of scientism we have to keep an eye on. Hayek in his way and Gödel in his are two of the main inoculations against scientistic presumption and stupidity. For example, thanks to Hayek, we know that rational planning is impossible under socialism, for the information is infinite while the minds of the planners are finite.

In short, finite minds do not possess infinite knowledge. Ah, but they can always force the issue, which is why on the left power is substituted for knowledge:

Hayek argued that all forms of collectivism could only be maintained by a central authority of some kind..., and that such planning in turn leads towards totalitarianism.... a central planning authority would have to be endowed with powers that would impact and ultimately control social life, because the knowledge required for centrally planning an economy is inherently decentralised, and would need to be brought under control.

It's the same with science more generally: scientism reduces a complex reality to a linear equation, for example, vis-a-vis climate change models that pretend CO2 can be turned like a knob on a thermostat to control temperature. But we know full well that CO2 levels have been much higher in the past, with no corresponding increase in temperature.

This post is veering and even careening into the Great Unintended. Focus!

So, how do we preserve truth while minimizing stupidity? Back to what Schuon was saying: "If the expression of a thing could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view," then "there would no longer be any difference between the image and its prototype," with the result being that "it would be pointless to speak of thought or even simply of language."

It sounds obvious, and yet, this is another one of those Keys to Everything. Moreover, every inadequate doctrine gets this wrong, which in turn causes our necessary and inevitable stupidity to become "crystalized," so to speak; instead of a way to truth, it becomes an infirmity, a stumbling block.

Hovering over the whole thing is the principle of creation. Tweaking what Schuon says above, if our expression could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view, then we would be the Creator, not the creature. Rather, there is an absolutely necessary gap between Creator and creature, and it is precisely this gap that simultaneously facilitates both our quasi-divine knowledge and our ineradicable ignorance.

Thus, our knowledge always faces in two directions. Scientism, of course, faces only down, and thereby negates itself. Likewise, there are stupid form of religiosity that face only up, thereby negating the world, or at least rendering it completely unintelligible.

No one has expressed this orthoparadox more clearly than Josef Pieper. In a passage called Things Are Unfathomable Because They Are Created, he writes that

it becomes evident that being true and being unfathomable go together, and that the comprehensibility of a thing can never be fully exhausted by any finite mind -- for all things are created, which means that the reason they are knowable is also the reason they are unfathomable....

For this reason our questing mind in its search for the essence of things, even of the humblest and simplest things, finds itself perforce on a path without an attainable destination. This is so because all things are created; it is so because the inner lucidity of all things flows from their original in the infinitely radiant fullness of the Divine Mind.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

God Within Us, In Us, & Beyond Us

Continuing with the metaphysical basis of our "fallen" condition, Schuon describes in The Question of Theodicies how ambiguities and even absurdities arise because of -- and these are my words -- a failure to make distinctions within God.

In other words, all believers distinguish between Creator and creation, world and God, and indeed, this is often as far as Average Theology or Mainstream Doctrine goes. Most people don't want to be bothered with the details, but just get to the bottom line: that God Is and that he is both merciful and just. Being that he is merciful and just, we have faith that things will work out in the long run, if not in this world then in the next. We'll leave the details to him, but surely he cannot be less just than his creatures.

But again, in willing creation -- and in particular, free beings -- evil is baked into the cake, even if not willed by God. In fact, a specific purpose of revelation is to address this ineveateapple ontological rebound of evil. If evil is a side effect of creation, then revelation is like a remedy provided by God. Let me think of a good analogy...

Let's say I invent the automobile. The laws that allow it to work are entirely neutral, rooted in physics and chemistry. Nevertheless, what evils may come of this contraption! Injury, death, maiming, etc. Knowing this, I include as many safety features as possible -- seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes, etc. Nevertheless, you cannot simultaneously have automobiles and total safety.

Not for nothing has the Ten Commandments been called an "owner's manual" or field guide for the human race.

Back to the distinctions within God. First of all, is there any Biblical basis for these? We'll get back to that in a moment, but certainly there is a traditional basis, and tradition is prior to scripture. There is nothing about the Trinity per se in scripture, but it is nevertheless implicitly present from the start, and what is the Trinity but a way to talk about divine distinctions?

"The core of the problem here," writes Schuon, "is to be found in the confusion between Being and Beyond-Being," which essentially flattens the Divine Nature, thereby losing one or the other pole. In general, it seems that Westerners tend to anthropomorphize Beyond-Being, while Eastern approaches such as Buddhism tend toward the opposite, of annihilating God's being into the Beyond-Being of Samadhi or Nirvana.

But as far as I am concerned, we can't have one without the other(s), for both are necessary and exist in permanent dialectal tension. Moreover, I think this is something to which the Trinity alludes.

How's that, Bob? Let me see if I can enlist some patristic back-up. The easiest would be Eckhart, but he's not early enough. One of our foundational books is The Roots of Christian Mysticism. In it Clément writes of how "In God himself the One does not exclude the Other" but "includes it." This itself points to the existence of a Great Mystery within God, for the Other is necessarily a mystery, is she not? But this -- of course -- is a mystery-in-love, and thereby perpetually fruitful, you might say.

If the Father is the "principle of the Godhead," then the Son is the "manifestation." This manifestation is not only within God, but is the prototype of manifestation as such. In other words, creation down here mirrors the creation up there: as above, so below.

Therefore -- for example -- Gregory Nazianzen writes that "He is called Logos because he is, in relation to the Father, what the word is to the mind... The Son makes known the nature of the Father..." The manifestation manifests the unmanifest; or maya Brahman, the form the substance. Neither is prior, but rather, they coarise.

"In this wonderful unity of of the godhead the One is never without the Other. For God is the infinite Unity of Persons, each of whom is a unique way of giving and receiving the divine essence" (Diadochus of Photike).

"Thus the Trinity constitutes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the Unity. From the Trinity comes all unification and all differentiation" (Clément). This is what I would call a Divine Key or Master Idea, because it means that what we call analysis and synthesis, or catabolism and anabolism, have their analogues within God.

Science goes to analysis, but there is no analysis without a synthesis that must come from outside or beyond science. Which is why ultimately science points both back and toward God, who is its Alpha and Omega. Either you see this or you don't, but it is nevertheless obvious. If you don't see it, it's because you just don't want to.

An Aphorism is worth a thousand posts: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion (Dávila).

It's difficult enough to define experience, and yet, we're never not having one. And how on earth is it possible to share experience? And yet, this is what human personhood is; the mysterious intersubjective space of Love, which first abides within Godidude.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection" (Clément).

I could go on, and I have gone on in past posts, but you get the point. With this point in mind, it is perhaps not so shocking to read in Schuon that "we thus find ourselves in the presence of two Divine Subjectivities." While "intrinsically identical, they apply extrinsically to two different planes," which clears up an awful lot of theidiocy about theodicy.

In his book on Manliness, Harvey Mansfield notes with irony that manliness may be "the only remedy for the trouble it causes." Analogously, we might say that religion is the remedy for the trouble caused by God, AKA the creation of this world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Exact Sciences vs. a Science of the Inexact

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots. --Dávila

Chesterton remarked that "The one doctrine of Christianity which is empirically verifiable is the fallenness of man." And yet, the doctrine is still a little vague, being that it is clothed in mythological terms. Which is fine. So long as you get the message and refrain from deifying man or trying to create heaven on earth.

However, a fair number of modern sophisticates, tenured barbarians, and credentialed riffraff reject the message because of the mythology. No doubt this is part of the appeal of Jordan Peterson, who reframes the myths in contemporary terms. At the same time, it is why he is so hated and feared by the left, which only attacks what threatens it:

Few public figures inspire more vitriol and mockery on Twitter than, you guessed it, Jordan Peterson. And never before have I seen vitriol so out of proportion to the “threat” of the man’s underlying message....

After all, if you’re a theologically conservative Christian or Jew -- a person who is Biblically literate and strives to live according to Biblical morality -- the flaw of the Peterson message is that it feels a bit basic. As I wrote in my review, “readers who are already grounded in a Biblical worldview will find some of the counsel extraordinarily elementary."

.... Peterson stands out because he is.... disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe....

When Peterson walks into a secular university or a secular television studio and addresses a secular audience by referencing ancient theological arguments, the effect is not unlike inviting a genderqueer women’s-studies professor to a Baptist Sunday-school class. Some things (in some places) are just not said (French).

French quotes Peterson to the effect that "We cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls,” and concludes that "ancient truth can indeed provide the seed for new beginnings."

This post is not about Peterson, but about the universal metaphysic disclosed by Christian doctrine. But while looking up the exact quote by Chesterton, I also bumped into this gem: "There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is, when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmospheres meet."

So our civil war is ultimately -- as is always the case -- a religious war, and both sides know it. The irony, of course, is that the left believes the religiosity is confined to one side: that it is a war of "secularism" or "reason" (or whatever they wish to call it) against religion. But it is nothing of the sort. Again, one reason Peterson so annoys them is that he exposes the truth about the left's religiosity. And if you think Christianity is rooted in some dodgy myths, just apply that same standard to the left!

The whole point of genuine religious doctrine is that the myth is verifiable, or discloses a higher or deeper principle. Conversely, in the case of the left, the myth is the myth, with nothing to back it up except force or power: for example, men and women are basically the same, or else! Or, people are basically good; or free speech is a tool of white privilege. Poke around for the ground or source of these myths, and that's when the fur flies.

Christians should never be like that. Rather, to paraphrase Paul, always be ready to rationally defend the reasons for your hope and faith. Don't be like the Times and merely smear your opponent. That is surely not a sign of confidence in the truth of one's doctrine, but of great cognitive insecurity.

We'll say it again, for it is one of the rock bottom principles of One Cosmos: all truth is of the Holy Spirit -- indeed, even those truths held by the atheist. For it is not so much that the atheist is devoid of truth. Godlessness forbid! Rather, that he elevates a fragment to the whole, while either denying or blending vertical levels. His mistakes are in his method, mode, and perspective, not necessarily in what he says per se.

For example, there is no God in science. But that hardly means there is no God, for that is merely to dress a methodological assumption as an ontological conclusion -- an elementary but nevertheless persistent error, especially among those who do not think, or who allow science to do their thinking for them. In the words of the Aphorist -- which are always the last word --

--Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

--The natural sciences can be adequately cultivated by slaves; the cultivation of the social sciences requires free men.

--Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

--Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

--The Christian who is disturbed by the “results” of science does not know what Christianity is or what science is.

--Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact.

Oh yes. I'm yoinking that one for the title.

Back to the universal metaphysic. Over the weekend I re-re-reread an essay by Schuon called The Question of Theodicies which, for my money, has the most lucid and far-reaching account of what the doctrine of man's evident fallenness must actually mean.

In fact, the essay is from the book Form and Substance in the Religions, and the title says it all: for example, the mythological account contained in Genesis 3 is a form, but the purpose of the form is to transmit the substance, especially to the "average man."

Which it surely did for some seventeen centuries or so, until the so-called "enlightenment," which lights certain areas while endarkening others, for metaphysically there is no free launch. Again, elevating a fragment to the whole is the road to hell. At best it is a game of whack-a-mole, in which no object can whack down that last fragment of subjectivity.

For those living in Rio Lindo or Manhattan, theodicy involves the attempt to reconcile God and evil -- or how and why a God who is a priori good can allow all this obvious evil to exist. Let's be honest: there is no question that something has got to give. Evil is evil, and God is God. But how?

I think it is accurate to say that Genesis 3 is mythological stab at answering this question. But what is the metaphysical substance beneath the mythopoetic form? I'm running out of time, so I'll just cut to Schuon's explanation and then comment upon it:

Infinitude, which is an aspect of the Divine Nature, implies unlimited Possibility and consequently Relativity, Manifestation, the world. To speak of the world is to speak of separation from the Principle, and to speak of separation is to speak of the possibility -- and necessity -- of evil; seen from this angle, what we term evil is thus indirectly a result of Infinitude, hence of the Divine Nature....
The bottom line is that evil must exist because the world is neither God nor paradise. But just because it must exist, that (orthoparadoxically) doesn't mean that God wills it per se. Analogously, I willed (so to speak) my son into existence, but I don't will him to be naughty. Or, America's founders willed the American government into existence, but that doesn't mean they willed the likes of Obama, Holder, and Brennan to be exponentially naughtier.

By the way, scripture definitely supports what Schuon says above. I'm thinking of two particular statements by Jesus (both paraphrased), 1) that evils must come, but woe to the fellow who commits them; and 2) why do you call me good, when no one is good but God alone?

We'll wrap things up with an aphorism or two:

--Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls.

--Hell is any place from which God is absent.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fridays with the Answer Man

Let's begin with some aphorisms that go to this idea of Christianity disclosing the universal metaphysic, i.e., What's Really Going On Underneath It All.

This is good: Genuine atheism is to man’s reason what the ten-thousand-sided polygon is to his imagination (Dávila).

In other words, a genuine and self-consistent atheism literally cannot be imagined. I was tempted to say that it can only be imagined, but that's giving it too much credit. Bear in mind that this doesn't imply that theism is the case, although it certainly points in that direction.

I suppose all rationalists believe they are being reasonable, but the moment you stop to think about it, you realize that reason cannot even function in the absence of something -- or, more to the point, someone -- transcending it. Restricted to pure reason, the mind would be enclosed in tautology. See Gödel for details.

In truth there is only one way out, and that is up. What is remarkable is that all people with adequate intelligence don't nod their heads in agreement instead of lifting their legs and leaving inane drive-by comments.

You know the old meme, "It is what it is." Well, yes and no. Remove human beings from the picture, and it is indeed what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

But humans introduce several new perspectives to existence, including the I (subjective depth and personhood), Am (being), and Ought (virtue), not to mention past and future. While we're at it let's toss in Beauty as well.

For example, right now I'm looking out my window and it is... beautiful. How did that get in and contaminate the tidy world of pure reason? For that matter, I am looking out. But from where? From inside, i.e., from the perspective of a subject. Now how did that get here? Some people say that life is just a parasite on matter, and mind a queer side effect of life. We have a better idea.

Better how? Again, who sees the most wins, and materialists do not see, precisely. In a remarkable case of auto-castration, they render their minds infertile, using spirit to deny spirit, or in other words, painting themselves into a coroner and spinning into obit.

Militant irreligion gradually transforms the one possessed into a simple imbecile convulsed by hatred. Simple imbeciles convulsed by hatred. Truly, what is the left?

He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary. True, but so too does he speaks of the soul, full stop. Or maybe you've never met a soulless person. I get it, but if you ever do decide to purchase a television or attend college, you'll see what I mean.

Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see. And The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.

So if someone tells me he is an atheist, I say "good. You deserve nothing less!" The world has no depth except insofar as it is perceived from the perspective of depth. Is this not obvious, even self-evident? This is the approach I take to my son's home schooling, in which we are instituting a new class called Fridays with the Answer Man. That would be me.

For example, the other day I was telling him about my primary education. I went to school like anyone else -- even in an "elite" school district -- and learned all that stuff.

Now, as it so happens, we have a hoarder living across the street. I told the boy that upon graduation my head was very much like her backyard: just a pile of indiscriminate junk that I had accumulated along the way. There was no organizing principle, nor did I have any idea what to keep or throw away. I didn't know why it was in my head, but there it was.

I want my son to avoid that fate, which will be one of the primary purposes of F's with the A. M.: to discriminate between the essential and the inessential, to discern the inner unity and coherence, and to see beyond appearances to the transcendent reality. That is indeed what the mind is for: ultimately for apprehending the One Cosmos.

Nor can it be accomplished without religion, although religion too must be subject to the same discrimination, discernment, unity, and coherence. You can't just superimpose religious dogma on the pile of junk and call it a collection of treasures.

Returning to my miseducation, you could say that my head was like a dictionary, which is to say, a collection of words. But what is a word without a sentence, a sentence without a paragraph, and paragraph without a Total Narrative and Universal Metaphysic? Indeed, The universe is a useless dictionary for someone who does not provide its proper syntax.

In short, things must be placed in order. But -- and this is critical -- there is a horizontal order and a vertical order. A materialist "orders" things by collapsing the upper into the lower.

You might compare this approach to the manner in which the terrorists on 9-11-01 brought order to the Twin Towers. Pure simplicity! And the tenured do to the humanities what Islamists do to tall buildings.

I am a clinical psychologist -- in California no less -- so I have first hand knowledge of the destruction of the mind to rubble. Psychologists are to the soul what the the Criminal Lawyers Association is to the law. Psychology is just one more malignant tentacle of the totalitarian left.

Just for fun and nausea, let's look up the California Psychological Association website. I don't know whether to vomit or projectile vomit:

In 2003, APA [American Psychological Association] put forth guidelines that reframed the role of psychologists as leaders and advocates of social justice and multiculturalism in all realms of their professional identity.

Specifically, APA Multicultural Guidelines identified foundational principles that “articulate respect and inclusiveness for the national heritage of all groups, recognition of cultural contexts as defining forces for individuals’ and groups’ lived experiences, and the role of external forces such as historical, economic, and socio-political events.”

In 2017, APA updated these guidelines, reconsidering diversity and multiculturalism by adopting intersectionality as it main purview and using a layered ecological model. An external force laden with oppression is immigration documentation status, and how it intersects with individuals’ many identities and aspects of diversity.

Liberation psychology suggests that these providers are overwhelmed with the tasks of actively working to decolonize their own political consciousness given their awareness of the limitations of western individualistic ideologies that favor the privileged, and concomitantly seeking new ways of working with marginalized communities and immigrant families.

Projectile vomit it is! In any event, if you want to be a psychologist in California, your brain will be washed. I'm only permitted because I've been licensed since 1991, so I'm grandfascisted in.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Nature of Transnatural Things

I don't know if this goes without saying, but if Christianity discloses a universal metaphysic, it can only be on an esoteric (inward) not exoteric (outward) basis; or better, a combination of the two. There are certain areas that are obviously to be understood symbolically -- e.g., the six day creation of the world, or yanking a rib out of Adam in order to create Eve -- others that can be interpreted on a vertical spectrum from literal to symbolic to mystical.

In the case of the latter, the exoteric doctrine provides points of reference between the local and nonlocal -- very much like a work of art, the purpose of which is to point behind its local surface to the nonlocal depth, or from appearances to reality, form to substance, accident to essence.

Having said this, esoterism is Not Just Anything, nor is it merely an excuse for loose and self-serving interpretations. But this is only because pure esoterism itself must correspond with, and be subordinate to, the inner nature of things -- of those things which cannot not be. This is the domain of the intellect, which in principle operates no differently from the lower mind vis-a-vis empirical science.

The practice of science is predicated on two ineluctable principles: the intelligibility of the world and the unique ability of human minds to discern this intelligibility. Or, just say Intelligence and Intelligibility. And if you think deeply for a long time about how these two relate, you will realize that they must be two sides of a single reality. Or, it can just come to you in a flash of certitude. Either way is fine.

Failing these -- the Flash of Intuition or the Slog of the donkey mind -- then you will have to "take it on faith," which is indeed a sufficient reason of faith, i.e., to convey the essential truths to people who have neither the time nor inclination to be metaphysicians or esoterists.

Especially prior to modernity (which of course includes now), this population consisted of almost everyone, being that everyone was preoccupied with merely staying alive. But all humans at all times are entitled -- yes entitled, for God is merciful and just -- to the Saving Truths in whatever form. God creates man in order to save him, not for the perverse pleasure of condemning him.

Back to the intellect. Merely take what was said about science and the sensory ego, and transpose it to a higher key, and you understand at once what is meant by man being made in the "image and likeness" of the Creator. Ultimately it means that the intellect not only knows God, but shares something of the divine substance -- which is precisely how and why this transformation in (n) can take place.

So right there we have a key principle of esoterism hiding in plain sight: not that the intellect is God, but it's not not-God either! Or, we might say that the intellect is God, but that God is (surely) not the intellect. Analogously, at this moment I am bathed in light and therefore "inside the sun." And yet, the sun is obviously way up there, nine million miles away. So, this light is the sun, but the sun is not (merely) this light.

As a brief aside, we've lately been discussing -- and will get back to -- Tallis' Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Again, he is unique in my experience in championing the utter ontological uniqueness of man, but without anchoring this in any principial reality. In short, you might say that for Tallis, man is in the image and likeness of the Creator, minus the Creator; or there is no God, and man is just like him.

So, Tallis wants to have his crock and eat it too, which is impossible, for this is a Communion of Nothing. Indeed, speaking of which, the other day I was trying to explain the esoteric meaning of Communion to the boy, but what is Communion but an example of pure esoterism? It makes no sense in any other way, Thomas Aquinas' attempt to tame it with reason notwithstanding (i.e., "transubstantiation").

It is not that Aquinas is wrong, only that he's trying to reduce an esoterism to an exoterism, when real understanding must proceed in the other direction, such that the outward is a prolongation of the inner principle.

Nor can any esoteric explanation "contain" such a mystery, which is one of its purposes: to extinguish mere intellection, or better, to show what intellection is, which is nothing less than the metabolization of the Divine Substance, from the mind right down to the cells. We are what we eat, on every plane. I would say that Communion is a quintessential vertical re-collectiom and con-centration, i.e., from dispersal to unity and from periphery to center.

But Bob, that's a hard saying! Yes and no, for His yoke is also easy. Communing with God is at once -- and by definition -- the hardest and easiest thing that can be. Why easy? Because in truth, you are never not communing with God. The hard part is realizing it, and in depth: all the way down to the cells, as it were. That would be a "perfect faith" but also a perfect knowledge, or perfect conformity between mind and truth or Is and Ought.

But again, esoterism cannot merely be an excuse to deepak the chopra. This is what distinguishes it from mere Gnosticism (the bad kind) which is always partial and (more or less) of man instead of God.

One way to avoid this is to understand that esoterism and exoterism are not opposed, but rather, complementary. It is not as if the former is superior to the latter, but rather, must always adopt an attitude of humility toward it. This is why, if you can't anchor your esoterism in tradition, it is probably wrong. For example, I suppose Scientology is simultaneously 100% esoteric and 100% bullshit. It is anchored in nothing but L. Ron Hubbard's cynical and drug-fueled imagination.

Schuon uses the analogy of the pure light of non-formal truth passing through a prism. The former is esoteric, essential, or principial; passing through the prism is analogous to manifestation on the terrestrial plane. Thus, the exoteric is by no means "not light," rather, light made visible. How else -- by what other principle -- could the eternal Logos become flesh?

Let's go back to the very beginning, or beginning of the beginning, AKA Genesis. What does it say there? In the beginning God creates the heavens and the earth (creates, because God transcends time). While looking up various translations, I see that the Latin Vulgate reads in principio creavit Deus caelum et term. Thus, we could reduce this to: In principle the Creator eternally creates, from the toppermost of the poppermost to the bottom of the world.

Putting this together with what was said above, we are in the image of this eternal principle.

And the clock on the wall says we're flat out of time, so to be continued... but not before wrapping things up with an observation by Schuon: Authentic esoterism stems from the nature of things... its seeds are everywhere present, sparks can flash from every flint...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Does Christianity Disclose a Universal Metaphysic?

Which is to say, the universal metaphysic, being that there can be only one. I suppose most Christians will affirm that Christianity is true, but true because revealed, as opposed to being revealed because true. In other words, its ultimate truth must be taken on faith.

Is that true? That ultimate truth is a matter of faith? This would imply that faith is higher than truth, but that can't be, because the merit of faith derives from its object. Faith in, say, Hillary Clinton, is not a meritorious faith.

And yet, there are exceptions. I was reading somewhere... Here it is, in an essay by Schuon called The Sense of the Absolute in Religions:

Normally it is the object that has precedence over faith since it is what determines faith and provides it with a sufficient reason; but from a certain point of view and in certain cases, faith can be more important than its content and can "force" the gates of Heaven despite the insufficiency of some immediate objects of belief.

In other words, God doesn't leave you hanging just because the details of your theology might be a bit off. He doesn't expect you to have a PhD in religious studies, but rather, assumes you are as confused as any religious studies professor.

Think, for example, of slaves who may have received a garbled version of Christianity, in which they nevertheless believed with all their hearts. Would God hold this against them? Indeed, the history of Christianity -- or, go all the way back to Adam if you like -- is a history of mangled doctrine and partial understanding. It's always Light + shadow down here.

Schuon adds that "Faith includes two 'poles,' one objective and dogmatic and the other subjective and mystical," such that "the ideal is perfect faith in an orthodox truth." Nevertheless, there are cases of the pole of faith taking precedence over the idea; for example, the Tibetans claim "that a dog's tooth which is mistaken for a relic and becomes the object of a sincere and ardent faith actually begins to shine."

Still, there can obviously be a malignant side to this process: the cult of celebrity, political messianism, romantic idealization in all its gruesome iderations. Or just violent religions, which is to say, religions in which faith is tied to the mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering.

Now interestingly, Christianity is all about that "mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering," isn't it? Indeed, some Christians have even been known to wear necklaces bearing the image of a man being tortured to death. However, the purpose of the image is not bring about more of this; rather, to atone for having had a hand in it.

So, there can be no question of a pure faith in an evil object. In such a case, faith is tainted by the object and loses all merit. Yesterday I was reading about the naive progressive faith of the folk music boom of the early 1960s. Many of those people are still with us, and just as naive today as they were then. Except that a naivete this antiquated becomes a kind of malignant soul rot. I have one that lives down the street -- a seedy looking 70 year old aged hippie and Bernie Bro.

I'm enjoying the musical history, even if passages about the politics make me nauseous. Example. "[M]uch of the socially conscious progress set in motion by young people in the 1960s -- antiwar activism, championship of civil rights, personal and sexual liberation, a questioning of authority, and determination to enjoy life rather than merely get on with it -- was fueled, directly or indirectly, by folk-rock."

In other words, the decade of 1960s has bequeathed to us the social justice bulliers, Blame America Firsters, Black Lives Matter, AIDS, rampant bastardy, moral and intellectual relativism, and mindless hedonism as compensation for a suffocating political correctness. And those are only the good things.

Back to the subject at hand: that universal metaphysic. Now, it is critical to bear in mind that no metaphysic can absolutely model the Absolute, or it would be the Absolute: the map is still a map, no matter how accurate. As Schuon writes -- and this should be obvious to believer and unbeliever alike, but it never is to the latter --

there is inevitably a separation between the thing to be expressed and its expression, that is to say, between the reality and a doctrine. It is always possible to fault an adequate doctrine for being inadequate, since no doctrine can be identified with what it intends to express; no single formulation could take into account what the innumerable needs for causality might demand...

For "If the expression of a thing could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view," then "there would no longer be any difference between the image and its prototype..."

For which reason the Bible sternly warns us against idolatry, which essentially happens when people conflate the image and prototype, or form and substance, or spirit and letter. Nevertheless, idolaters gonna idolize, which is to say, men will be men.

But again, the worst offenders are the votaries of scientism, Darwinism, materialism, etc. They are the literalists, not us. I do not think God created the cosmos in six days, but they actually believe their theories map reality, when we know ahead of time that they do not, cannot, and never will.

Again, the map is not the territory. But this hardly means the map has no purpose, even a vital one. As to the religio-metaphysical map, its role "is to provide a set of points of reference which, by definition, are more or less elliptical while being sufficient to evoke a mental perception of specific aspects of the real." This is all we ask of the map: to show us where we are and to show the way to where we would like to be.

To be continued, but possibly not until Thursday...

Friday, May 11, 2018

My Point Being?

I've been dealing with a cold since Tuesday, hence the temporary suspension of logorrhea. A cold affects all systems, including the delicate blogging system.

Nevertheless, there is ultimately a lesson to be learned from this, or a lesson about ultimacy: that the body is to the mind as the mind is to spirit: in health, each points beyond itself to the next level. But in illness -- even with something as trivial as a cold -- the arrows are reversed, and everything points back to the body.

For example, Tuesday night I don't think I slept more than five minutes at a stretch. I was up all night, but why? Because of my stupid body: sore throat, sneezing, coughing, congestion, etc. I couldn't escape the planet of the apes, AKA the primate body.

Even now my mind is still hovering too close to the body for a full on plunge into the abyss. Let's stick with this subject of bodies and truth. A while back I read Tallis' Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence, which goes exactly to our subject. My cold, for example, was an exercise in everyday... immanence, I guess -- whatever is the opposite of transcendence.

The book is about the mundane reality of pointing, which is not only much more consequential than we realize, but in many ways goes to the essence of what man is. It is one of the reasons I don't think we'll ever discover our kind of intelligent life elsewhere, because no matter how intelligent the species, if it can't point, then it falls far short of the human standard.

In the past -- and in the book -- I've discussed this in the context of our irreducible intersubjectivity: there is no human individual beneath the social animal, because the two co-arise in infancy: our individuality -- our twoness -- emerges out of the prior infantile oneness. But once we are two, we can then "rediscover" oneness in a variety of ways, via knowledge, love, beauty, etc. Love, for example, is the rediscovery of oneness out of twoness.

Knowledge too is only possible because of the unity of subject and object, or of intelligence and intelligibility.

Conversely, think of unsophisticated epistemologies that haven't individuated from their cultural matrix. American Indian tribes, for example, are opposed to genetic research because it disproves their cultural fantasies about having been in America "forever," instead of having been recent immigrants. Barbarous feminists feel the same way about sexual differences.

So, it turns out that what really defines the uniqueness of human subjectivity is its aboutness or "intentionality." It is a big problem for materialists, so they naturally want to try to stuff it back into the brain -- as if mere matter can be "about" anything but itself.

Materialism is about matter, without explaining how matter can be about anything. I say materialists just have to accept the cold hard facts of life, no matter how joyous and liberating.

The simple act of pointing points to the realities of intentionality and intersubjectivity. I, as pointer, have to first put myself in your psychic shoes, and imagine what you can't see or don't know. You, as beneficiary of the point, need to adopt my perspective and imagine a line running from my mind, through my eyes, down my arm, and toward its terminal point. That is something no other animal can do.

And it is a metaphor for every transmission of knowledge. This post is not only pointing to various things, but the words and letters themselves are instances of pointing: letters point to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, etc.

To deploy a well worn analogy, you won't get the point of this post by pointing back to the letters of which it is composed. Those are just forms, and it's the substance that counts.

The entire human world -- truly, the whole existentialada -- is an instance of pointing. You will also have noticed that the reality of pointing defines the civil war between left and right.

For example, for us, the Bill of Rights points to irreducibly real realities such as freedom of speech, religion, and self defense. For the left, these realities don't actually exist except insofar as we agree they exist. I can point to the self-evident truth of free speech, but the leftist merely smells my finger.

So, pointing is our "passport out of nature." More generally, it is like a vector pointing from a center to the periphery.

Now, this center is quite mysterious, but again, it can't be properly understood outside the context of its pointing, its aboutness, its intentionality.

I find it quite intriguing, to say the least, that the Trinity provides a metaphysical ground for this. The Son does not "reduce" to the Father; rather, although the Father is in one sense "prior," the two nevertheless eternally co-arise, the one pointing to the other. A meta-cosmos that intrinsically points beyond itself, and it back to us. Damn convenient.

Other animals are enclosed in their neurology, but intentionality is "a uniquely human breach in the solitude of sentient creatures" that "takes us decisively out of our solitary, transient bodies, subject to the laws of nature."

In another book, Tallis describes how sickness and death reverse the pointing, such that everything points back to our mere embodiment: "Dying takes you deeper into the inscrutable, lampless hinterland of carnal being." It is "a world whose horizons are drawn ever tighter, to the final collapse of space that had been opened up..."

Not to be a drama queen, but the same thing happens to me when I have a cold: I lose my point.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Who Sees the Most Wins

Let's play a game: "Let us suppose," writes Tallis, that "we accept biologism in full." Which is only right and proper, being that man deserves, and always seeks at any rate, an integrated and consistent worldview. What are the implications of taking biologism -- and materialism and scientism and neuromania -- seriously?

Well, we would have to tell ourselves a very different story about ourselves, one that excludes freedom (and with it, responsibility), truth, hierarchy, and anything else that transcends matter:

to be identified with our brains is to be identified with a piece of matter, and this, like all other pieces of matter, is subject to, and cannot escape from, the laws of material nature.... [our actions] are wired into the endless causal net, extending from the Big Bang to the Big Crunch, that is the history of the material universe.... Our destiny, like that of pebbles and waterfalls, is to be predestined (Tallis).

Does this even sound plausible in theory, much less workable in practice? It makes no sense, even on its own terms. It self-destructs upon contact with intelligence.

But the science is settled! Tallis quotes the eminent neurophysiologist Colin Blakemore, who insists that the brain is simply a machine that gives rise to the illusions of consciousness and free will: "All our actions are products of the activity of our brains," such that it is nonsensical "to try to distinguish sharply between acts that result from conscious attention and those that result from our reflexes or are caused by disease or damage to the brain."

Say what you want, but there is an intellectually consistent man, one who draws out the inevitable implications of materialism and sticks to his guns even if it means shooting himself between the eyes: the philosophy of materialism -- or any other philosophy -- is indistinguishable from a hole in the head. Which begs the question of why we have a category called "brain disease," but we'll leave that to the side.

Note that a strict materialism has no Ought -- for example, a healthy brain -- only the almighty Is, and one Is is as good or bad as any other. Again, it reduces the I Am to It Is; if the God of Matter could reveal his eternal name, it would surely be It Is What It Is. This is not even nihilism.

And yet, its shadows -- shadows of the Great Nøthing -- are everywhere. Few people draw out the full implications as does Blakemore, but the left in particular relies upon materialist arguments while drawing short of the abyss. As Davila so accurately says, The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them.

In truth, the materialist merely wishes away God. However, this doesn't necessarily imply that God exists by default. Rather, we need to think this through and determine what makes the most sense. I say existence is a game, the object of which is to see and integrate the most truth. And who sees the most wins. Or rather, seeing is analogous to having men on base. You still have to knock them home, which is to say, integrate them.

For example, there is Matter at first base after hitting a bloop single to left field. Then Mind comes to the plate and hits a liner up the middle, driving Matter to third. How do we get both home safely? If you only drive in Matter and leave Mind stranded on base, you're likely to lose the game.

Boy, that was a strained metaphor. Let's move on.

Tallis has a better analogy. Imagine you have a complete printout of your friend's genome. Would this be identical to the experience of knowing what it's like to be with your friend? Well, Barbra Streisand seems to think so. She cloned Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, her dogs.

Or, does knowing that water is H2O tell you what it's like to be all wet, which is to say, Barbra Streisand?

Neurologists can wish away God. But no matter how hard they try, they cannot wish away the person. And the person, don't you know, leads straight back to God. Tallis, being an atheist, accepts only the first part -- the real existence of persons -- but not the second -- their rootedness in God:

Those of us who are not brainwashed into thinking that they are brains washed by the laws of physics might be tempted to hazard a daring suggestion: that it is a person, or something like a person, that looks out at, peers into, interprets and shapes the world.

Remember, once you eliminate the person, he's gone, and there is no getting him back. But it is literally impossible to do this without self-contradiction. For among the things one must jettison along with the person is any distinction between past, present, and future, which, as Einstein famously asserted, is just a "stubborn illusion." Tallis draws out the implications:

It is important to appreciate that, in the absence of an observer, time has no tenses; not only does the physical world not have a past and future in which events are located but... it doesn't have the present. For an event to count as being present, there has to be someone for whom it is present, for whom it is "now" as opposed to "then" or "not yet."

Hmm. Where does this leave us? Nowhere? Everywhere? Is it really possible that reality is a view by nobody from nowhere? Well, that is the scientistic ideal. But does it make any sense?

In order to deal with this question, I'm going to shift gears to a challenging essay I read yesterday by Schuon, called Substance: Subject and Object. He'll get us out of this mess!

First of all, as we always say, Subject and Object are not a vicious and sterile dualism but a friendly and fruitful complementarity. The complementary dance between them proceeds all the way up and all the way down. But of the two, the Subject is obviously prior:

The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature able to conceive the star-filled heavens is greater than space and the heavenly bodies...

Carl Sagan can talk all he wants about those billions and billions of stars, but all of astronomy pales in significance next to the astronomer. Ultimately we are not contained by the galaxies, but rather, vice versa. The cosmos itself isn't even big -- or small -- except in reference to us:

Man is situated, spatially speaking, between the "infinitely big" and the "infinitely small"..., so that it is his subjectivity and not a quality of the objective world that creates the line of demarcation. If we have an impression of being tiny in stellar space, it is solely because what is big is far more accessible to us than what is small, which quickly eludes the grasp of our senses... (emphasis mine).

So, man is situated between -- and defines -- the Very Big and Very Small. And not only. For he is also the "point of junction between two infinitely more important dimensions, namely, the outward and the inward." Indeed, "it is precisely by virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and so onto the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine."

That's a bold statement. And yet, ultimately soph-evident. There is a world and there are witnesses, "otherwise the Universe would be an unknown space filled with blind stones and not a world perceived under a multitude of aspects." For

Where there are objects, there must also be subjects: creatures that are witnesses of things form an indissoluble part of creation.

There exist not only "knowable things" but "beings endowed with knowledge in varying degrees." And whether you like it or not, "the summit-degree is man, at least for our world," behind or before or above which is "the absolute Witness -- at once transcendent and immanent -- of all things..." There is nothing magical or miraculous per se about this assertion. Again, it's just a matter of returning the cosmos to bright-side up.