Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Message of the Cosmos

Continuing with yesterday's post on the keys to existence, an amazon reviewer of Means to Message explains what Fr. Jaki means vis-a-vis the distinction between means and message:

The "means" are the objects of reality which act upon the knowing mind which receives and forms the "message," since reality and the cosmos as whole are rational (that is, can be known). Jaki shows that even science itself must begin with objects that exist apart from our minds, otherwise science and philosophy become just "talk about talk," thereby confusing both means and message. When the means and message are confused, the human mind alone becomes the sole arbiter of reality, plunging humanity into all sorts of metaphysical and epistemological problems.

And political, as we shall see.

In order to for existence to ex-ist, there must be this primordial distinction between means and message. Typically we think of the foundation of things as consisting of matter, or energy, or law, but these are all somewhat beside the point if there is no Message and no Means to encode and transmit it. This means, of course, that there must also be an encoder, but we're getting a little ahead -- or behind, rather -- of ourselves.

Suffice it to say that in order for us to know anything, there must be a cosmic structure of encoder --> message --> means --> decoder; or God --> truth --> medium --> man.

In a way, this corresponds to the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, meaning that God doesn't just formulate the message, but first creates the means through which the message will be conveyed. It is not as if the world already exists, so it is only a matter of superimposing a message. This explains why the world is so shot through with truth and beauty from the inside out. It is full of objects -- means -- that transmit truth -- the message. Vertical murmurandoms are everywhere!

There are diverse methods for unpacking these messages, from poetry to science, philosophy to theology, math to music. More generally, you might say there are qualitative ways and quantitative ways. In our Age of Stupidity, there is a widespread belief that only the quantitative ways are valid, but guess what? As soon as you say that, you've made a qualitative argument, one that obviously cannot be reduced to numbers. People such as Steven Pinker who naïvely promote logic as the last word in wisdom are obviously making an extra-logical (but in this case infra-rational) argument.

Wisdom. Is it a thing, and could it ever be expressed with mathematical precision? Obviously Yes and less obviously YES -- in a way. This for me is the appeal of the Aphorisms, which express a maximum of wisdom with a minimum of words. Here are some relevant examples; I've arranged them so they build to and convey a kind of meta-aphorism:

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

What is capable of being measured is minor.

Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

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

The natural sciences, where the process of falsification prevails, take only errors out of circulation; the social sciences, where fashion prevails, also take their achievements out of circulation.

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 (Dávila).

Jaki writes that "Concern for anything serious cannot be taught in a straightforward manner, if it can be taught at all." Rather, like painting, poetry, and composing, philosophy, if not "inspired by the love of truth," reduces to banality. Thus,

the scientist singles out what is quantitative in reality and therefore he deals with matter only insofar as matter embodies quantitative features. From there the scientist proceeds along a straight track which conceptually is also an extremely narrow track.... The scientist need not probe into the deeper origin of matter as quantitatively patterned...

In contrast, the philosopher -- at least one who is open to being as such, and not just a little corner of it -- must probe the "many other aspects of reality in which the true, the good, and the beautiful are intertwined as they reveal ever greater depths that cannot be fathomed quantitatively."

None of this is to denigrate science; rather, to simply describe it.

Science not only deals with material reality, but assumes it. But as Schuon writes, "Matter is the sensible manifestation of existence itself," such that it is immediately elevated to something much more than science can say about it.

Or, put conversely, if you were to consider all the things science says about matter, they wouldn't add up to existence itself, for existence is greater than the sum of its parts. Again, science simply assumes not only that "matter talks," but -- more bizarrely -- scientists can hear what it is saying!

Critical for our purposes is that "what holds true for the universe applies equally to the soul," for the macro- and microcosms mirror each other, because each is first a mirror of the Divine Mind, the Absolute Subject, the El Supremo at the Top of the Stairs. Oh? Tell us more.

The soul is "matter" by its existential substance, "form" by its individuality," "number" by its necessarily unique subjectivity; it is "space" by its expansion and "time" by its cycles. Or again it is "spatial" by its memory, since space conserves, and "temporal" by its imagination, since time changes and transforms; it could be added that reason refers to number, since it calculates, snd intuition to form, since it perceives directly and by synthesis (Schuon).

Hmm. I just thought of something. A conservative wishes to conserve our founding principles, so this reflects the spatial orientation referenced above. But progressivism -- it's in the name -- is not only temporal (i.e., oriented to an imaginary future), but in such a way that it cuts itself off from founding (spatial) principles.

Now, properly understood, our founding principles are both spatial and temporal, in that they are the operating instructions for a rule-bound dynamism, or ordered liberty. But progressives imagine we can have meaningful progress with no ground and no telos. In short, it is pure message, or abstract idea with no concrete underpinning. Being that they begin with their ideas rather than the world, it should come as no surprise that they end up shipwrecked on the shoals of reality -- the very shoals they deny up front.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How to Exist

No time to post, so blogging will resume tomorrow. However, if I did have time to post, I'd want to talk about the nature and conditions of existence, in other words, what must first exist in order for existence to exist.

For example, in order to exist, you need a body. But the existence of bodies is founded upon any number of prior, or deeper, or more universal principles and conditions. I touched on this in the book, for example, vis-a-vis natural selection. Sure, natural selection makes sense on its own level, but to treat it as an ultimate explanation, without need of much deeper supporting principles, is only to prove you aren't very evolved.

I suppose I first ran into this idea in a book by Stanley Jaki called Means to Message: A Treatise on Truth. If you're going to say anything useful about the world, you have to begin with what you are presently doing, which is, trying to say something useful about the world. How is this even possible? So many assumptions are packed into it, and yet, intellectuals of various kinds just proceed as if they're all self-evident.

All philosophers, intellectuals, thinkers, pundits, and professors, despite different conclusions, will agree on one thing (even if the are unaware of it): that "They all use tangible means for the delivery of their respective messages" (Jaki). In order to communicate meaning, there must be a means of communication:

Therefore, if philosophers are logical, their strictly primary concern should be about the extent to which their particular philosophy justifies the use of any such means, indeed its very reality and all the consequences, both numerous and momentous, that follow from this.

Take Darwinism, for example. Is there anything in this philosophy that permits the entities explained by it to explain themselves, with no remainder? I don't see how. At best, this metaphysic traps us in an inescapable tautology, such that there would be no reason to take seriously what such a restricted being says.

In a way, it's a variant of the old Epimenides gag about all Cretans being liars. For to say that all Darwinians are telling the truth is to transcend Darwinism. As we've put it before, if Darwinism is true, it can't be. More generally,

The perusal of representative selections from the works of modern or pre-modern philosophers hardly reveals on their part a sense of the need to justify thematically the means that carries their message. Yet only in the measure in which that justification is done, implicitly or, what is far better, explicitly, may the philosopher's message become truly about truth (Jaki).

Which means that 99% of philosophers imagine they are finished -- or close to it -- when they haven't actually even begun.

And now I have to get ready for work. To be continued....

Friday, March 16, 2018

Transcendence or Hand Grenades

In yesterday's post I did something I try always to avoid, in that I tossed out a lazy and inadequately supported statement. I hate it when others do it, because this endeavor -- the Raccoon project -- calls for precision, even if precision poetry. The last thing I want to do is deepak the chopra. Nor does it matter if what I said is true. It still needs fleshing out.

This is the statement: "the cosmos is in the soul, not the soul in the cosmos," and later "the cosmos is in us, and we are in God." Those are not the sorts of things you can just toss out there, unless maybe you're passing a joint while doing so. If truth is "just anything," pretty soon it is just nothing.

Yes, religion is often guilty of this sort of thing because of the I-AMbiguous nature of the subject. You might be tempted to believe that science is innocent of this abuse, but you would be wrong. If anything, it is the bigger offender, because nothing about science (or scientism) is grounded in anything (or everything grounded in nothing).

And that's just the metaphysics. Concepts such as "big bang," "evolution," "consciousness," and "person" are thrown around as if they are self-evident. Which they are, so long as you buy into the whole paradigm, but the paradigm is absurd if you take it seriously.

Truly, scientism isn't "in the world" but in its paradigm. Therefore, it sees what the paradigm allows it to see. As soon as we realize the paradigm is in us, we have transcended it, as outlined in yesterday's post. And then you have to account for how this inescapable transcendence has gotten into the universe.

But it cannot be a scientific account, because then you're back where you started, safe inside your little paradigm. This is part of what I mean by saying that the cosmos is in us rather than vice versa. However, I'm saying something a little more radical, because I don't merely mean our representation of the cosmos, but the cosmos as such.

As we've mentioned any number of times, "cosmos" or "universe" are already profoundly metaphysical concepts that assume the oneness of creation. Why should creation be one? Because we intuit it as such. Deep down we know there is an Absolute, and that it is a contradiction in terms to affirm two Absolutes. Reality is one, and we all know it, if not explicitly then implicitly.

The only exceptions to this are the mentally ill or brain damaged. For example, people who are subjected to early trauma, abuse, and deprivation often suffer from a kind of primordial rupture on the ground floor of their neuro-psyche. As such, they have difficulty with most any kind of integration, whether of emotions, thoughts, or actions.

I read a short book the other day that touches on this, God and Philosophy, by Etienne Gilson. To paraphrase and expand upon an amazon review, Greek philosophy was eventually able to arrive at That Which Is -- the objective Absolute, so to speak -- while it fell upon the ancient Hebrews to not only discover the subjective Absolute -- He Who Is, or I AM -- but to then put the two together in a daring cosmo-historical act of integration.

But then Uncles Rene (Descartes) and Manny (Kant) came along and ruined everybody's lives and ate all our steak by demolishing this unity with a "'purely rational' philosophy which holds nearly every intellectual today in bondage." This is the paradigm capture alluded to above, although the prisons are diverse, for truth is one while ideology is many -- a fractured fairy tale.

In any event, any metaphysic worthy of man must account for the IT IS as well as the I AM, i.e., objectivity and subjectivity. Sure, you can reduce the latter to the former, but that doesn't actually solve the problem, any more than throwing a hand grenade onto the board solves a chess problem. Frankly, you can eliminate any problem via reverse transcendence, or "transcendence from below," but this is always accompanied by a destruction of humanness.

For example, the male-female relation is a problem. There is a cosmically correct way to deal with the problem, and then there are the left's ways, which naturally end in more problems -- which is precisely why women are less happy today than when feminism got hold of them. It is impossible to be happy while living in defiance of one's archetype instead of in conformity with it.

So many aphorisms. Regarding what was just said in the paragraph above, Christianity does not solve “problems”; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level. Again, transcendence, not hand grenades.

About the futile attempt to enclose the cosmos in (lower case) reason, civilization is the irrational fusion of opposing terms. Those who aspire to a “rational” civilization plan slaughters. See 20th century for details.

About the metaphysical slide from oneness to diversity, After conversing with some “thoroughly modern” people, we see that humanity escaped the “centuries of faith” only to get stuck in those of credulity.

About the implicit oneness, Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities. It is not a conviction that we possess, but a conviction that possesses us -- from outside the cosmos. Faith is like an air hole at the top (in addition to letting in the light and warmth).

About reducing subject to object, One to many, soul to matter, He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself. Because The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

About being stuck in a paradigm and calling it freedom, The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

In philosophy nothing is easier than to be consistent. Rather, the trick is completeness! And no man can pretend to be complete without God.

As to our initial problematic statement about the cosmos being in the soul, Schuon writes that "the Intellect coincides in its innermost nature with the very Being of things." Or in other words, we are ultimately in conformity with reality. If not, then what is the point? This is the truth that sets us free. Every alternative places us in bondage: God or Egypt, transcendence or hand grenades.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

There's Room at the Top of the Cosmos

I caught an article the other day that depicts the entire known universe in a single image:

Boom. Or ¡BANG!, rather. There it is.

Three things: first, that's us in the center. Second, you have to imagine it as a three-dimensional cone, with the central point closest to us. Third, it is not to scale, since it would be impossible to depict the vast distances involved. If it were to scale, our sun, which you see at the center, would be so tiny as to be invisible.

Interestingly, it looks very much like any other mandala, which is a symbolic representation of the cosmos. I wonder if this is because it is a perennial nonlocal form to which humans have vertical access?

Also, the sphere has always been understood as the perfect form, and the cosmos must be a perfect sphere, since it is expanding in all directions from a central point at 68 kilometers per second.

So, what is it expanding into? That's a nonsense question, or at least beyond the limits of the model. Ultimately the mathematical model must be tautologous, forbidden by Gödel to step outside itself. Only humans can do that, not science.

Therefore, there is a strange loop involved in gazing at that model; or better it is like a Klein Bottle, in which yer inside is out and yer outside is in. Again, we are at the center of the model, implying that we are "contained" by it. And yet, we are looking at it from the outside, such that it is we who contain the cosmos, not vice versa.

Is this possible? No, it's necessary: the cosmos is in the soul, not the soul in the cosmos.

Again, consider the logarithmic scale of the image above, such that as one gets closer to the center, things get smaller and smaller. But that is only the "reality," not the Reality. For in real Reality, at the center is the largest imaginable thing in all of existence, which is to say, the human mind -- the same isness that transcends the whole business.

I've mentioned before that I read a novel some 35 years ago called Little, Big. I don't remember anything about it except that it depicts a world of concentric circles. However, unlike standard geometry, the closer one gets to the center, the larger the world, to the point of infinitude.

Here again, this is very much like our world, being that the infinitude is at the center, not the periphery. Think, for example, of childhood. On the one hand, it was a small world -- our house, our family, our neighborhood. Nevertheless, remember the infinitude? It was everywhere and in every thing.

The good news is that there's still room at the top, as man always "opens out" to infinity. As such, it is as if there is a pinhole at the center of the image, with Light streaming in -- the same light that illuminates the image. This pinhole is a window or a door, depending. Jesus said "I am the way," but he might have said ways, e.g., the gate, the vine, the light, the truth.

God has opened a door in the middle of creation, and this open door of the world towards God is man; this opening is God's invitation to look toward Him, to tend towards Him, to persevere with regard to Him, and to return to Him (Schuon).

It is the actual river that runs up Mount Improbable:

the human state is a gate of exit -- and the only gate for the terrestrial world -- not merely out of this world or the formal cosmos, but even out of the immense and numberless objectification that is universal Existence.

Maybe you can't see it, but at the very center of the center -- the beating heart of the cosmos -- would have to be the cross. God is "outside" the circle, but when he condescends to enter, he is cruciform.

Schuon often uses the image of the circle as a point of reference. God is at the center, radiating outward, with each concentric circle representing a world -- for example, worlds of matter, of biology, of mind. In one sense the material world -- or the world of the material ego -- is the most distant from the center, but it is possible for man to plunge right past it, into "negative" spaces of falsehood, evil, and tenure.

In any event, in this view, the spiritual adventure is a journey back to the center:

The subjective principle emanating from the divine Subject crosses the Universe like a ray in order to end in the multitude of egos.... Man marks the limit of the "creative ray" for the terrestrial world that is his; his sufficient reason consists in being this limit, that is, in providing a stop -- after the manner of an echo or a mirror -- to the "ray of exteriorization".... it is at the same time a door open toward the Self and immortality (Schuon).

So, where does this leave us vis-a-vis our picture of the universe? In truth, man cannot be enclosed in any system, whether material, mathematical, ideological, visual, biological, whatever. Rather, the cosmos is in us, and we are in God. And the higher you fly, the deeper you go. So c'mon!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Religious Dunning-Kruger

Yesterday the term occurred to me: "religious Dunning-Kruger." Certainly it applies to Pinker, who simultaneously overestimates what he knows about religion and underestimates what religious people know about his secular humanism. The following is adapted from wiki, but with certain relevant words changed or added:

The Religious Dunning–Kruger effect is a psycho-pneumatic bias wherein excessively rationalistic people suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their spiritual discernment as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metaphysical inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own spiritual ineptitude; without the self-awareness of metaphysics, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual knowledge or experience of the spiritual realm.

Conversely, spiritually gifted individuals may erroneously assume that principles easy for them to understand are also easy for other people to understand, or that other people will have a similar understanding of subjects that they themselves are well-versed in.

At the very least, an intellectually honest atheist will want to seek out the finest in religious thought in order to refute it. Instead, they either dismiss it out of hand with a wave of Dunning Kruger, or trot out the worst examples of religious thought in order to prove their phony superiority. But if all religious thinkers were Deepak Chopra I'd be an atheist, just as if all women were Michelle Obama I'd be gay. It proves nothing.

Much of what goes by the name of "thinking" is nothing more than a crude display of intelligence signaling. Ideology in particular is a cognitive system that allows idiots to have opinions.

Conversely, orthodox religious belief is often a helpful way for non-metaphysicians to have correct opinions about the foundations of existence. That is to say, when the average person starts thinking things through for himself from the ground up, disaster is just over the horizon. My entire generation (the boomers) was guilty of this, and look what ensued.

If you don't believe me, believe the Aphorist:

To educate man is to impede the “free expression of his personality.”


Educating the individual consists in teaching him to distrust the ideas that occur to him.

What, ideas like man is perfectible and government can solve social problems? The self-satisfied individual who believes his own interior propaganda "ends only destroying values higher than than those he is capable of aiming at and engendering evils greater than those he sets out to overcome" (Schuon). For proof, look at any Democrat-run city.

Where Christianity disappears, greed, envy, and lust invent a thousand ideologies to justify themselves.

Bernie Sanders in '20!

When man refuses the discipline the gods give him, demons discipline him.

Hollywood comes to mind.

An irreligious society cannot endure the truth of the human condition. It prefers a lie, no matter how imbecilic it may be.

Bernie Sanders in '20!

The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.

Pinker deserves himself, as Times readers deserve the Times and progressives deserve progressivism.

Nothing remains of Christianity when the Christian tries to seem to the world not to be stupid.

Religious Dunning-Kruger assures this.

Back to Gnosis, which, as I mentioned in the previous post, has some really bad news for Pinker. Except it's not news, of course, but the most venerable things short of God, i.e., the principles that lead from and to him.

At the root of religious Dunning-Kruger must be a rational ego so hypertrophied that it not only obscures the intellect but appropriates some of its its function, which is precisely what allows it to pronounce on realities above its station:

[I]ntellectual genius should not be confused with the mental acuity of logicians: intellectual intuition comprises in its essence a contemplatively that is in no way part of the rational capacity.... it is contemplative power, receptivity toward the uncreated Light, the opening of the Eye of the heart, which distinguishes transcendent intelligence from reason.

For short, it is (o) and (↓).

Moreover, "Reason perceives the general and proceeds by logical operations, whereas Intellect perceives the principial -- the metaphysical -- and proceeds by intuition." Seeing is believing. Which is again where faith comes in, because believing is already a kind of seeing.

Precisely, it is a seeing-beyond-logic, through a window or door situated at the top of the vertical scale. Man is always an open system, both horizontally and vertically -- or at least is supposed to be.

But both history and simple observation of one's contemporaries show that human nature "tends to lock itself into some limitation," which is to say, man stops asking Why? at an arbitrary point, and calls it a metaphysic. Politically this metaphysic ends in a neo-barbaric atheocracy, while intellectually it ends in a prison of relativism, AKA ineradicable stupidity.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Science of the Inexact is an Exact Science

Continuing with the theme of the previous post, I reread a couple of essays in Schuon's Gnosis that turned out to be particularly apt. It's as if the Cosmic Mind directed me straight to them.

For example, we adverted to the limitations of mere fact and logic, when our adversaries seem to think that these things not only speak for themselves, but can say everything there is to say. But then Gödel comes along and says "no way," because the human mind is bigger than math and logic put together.

Schuon says something similar:

There is doubtless no truth more "exact" than history, but what must be stressed is that there is a truth more "real" than that of facts.... Historical reality is less "real" than the profound truth it expresses, and which myths likewise express; a mythological symbolism is infinitely more "true" than a fact deprived of symbolism.

Here we are really on to something, almost a kind of cosmic meta-law that transcends anything even Gödel might have ventured; for in the end, he was a mere logician, wasn't he?

The reason there is no truth more exact than history is because it happened. Exactly. And yet, what was it? What did -- or does -- it mean? The most exact representation of what happened won't tell you that.

This reminds me of what was wrong with my formal education. For example, I remember studying a different facet of history every grade: US history, California history, European history, world history, etc. There were countless facts and dates to memorize, but I don't recall anyone pulling it all together and explaining What That Was All About.

So, yesterday I randomed into an article called Education as Enchantment: Tolkien’s Essay “On Fairy-Stories.” In it, the author describes perfectly the distinction between mere historical fact and historical reality:

When we teach, our aim isn’t merely [heh] to relay a subject matter -- a curricular “story” -- that otherwise remains “out there” at a level removed from the student himself. On the contrary, our desire is to be so competent and compelling in our teaching-cum-story-telling that our students and children are able, by an act of what Tolkien calls “literary belief,” to enter into the subject matter fully, and “see” and “feel,” even “be” inside of it.

Exactly. Which is ironic, because we're obviously dealing with a higher level of exactitude than mere fact! More:

Yet in casting our pedagogical “spell,” of course, we understand that we are engaged in no mere [heh] game or play-acting; we are not trying to get our students to believe something that is false.

Rather, we are engaged in the perilously important task of trying to seduce -- or “delude,” as Tolkien has it -- our students out of the so-called “real world” that they think they already know by leading them into the even more real “Secondary World” that is being “weaved” by the teacher.

Understood as a form or state of Faërian drama, then, education is to be appreciated as no mere [heh] means to some other, ulterior end, but rather education seeks to bring about much the same effect that all our arts ardently long for (but which only God’s own Faërian drama of the Gospel most fully achieves). In sum, our teaching must strive to imaginatively substitute the existing world with a new and redeemed because enchanted view of the old one.

I don't think I have sufficient time to unpack all that, but perhaps it's unnecessary, for either you get the point or you don't, and certainly Pinker and his ilk don't.

One central point is that the world isn't flat but hierarchical, such that exactitude on one level may be blurry or misleading or meaningless on the next. Nor is it possible to transcend from below, although people -- especially leftists -- never stop trying.

Bob, why did you just throw in that gratuitous insult to the left? Because the left practices a perverse, counterfeit version of Faërian drama by superimposing an ideological superstructure over events, AKA the Narrative. In denying myth, they descend into a kind of systematic and rigid delusion.

In the words of the Aphorist, Nothing is explainable outside of history, but history is not enough to explain anything.

For Real history exceeds what merely happened. Therefore, Facts need the historian in order to become interesting. Unless the imagination refines it, every event is trivial.

No. Exactly trivial. For The event without an intelligent narrator dies in frustrated virtuality. What this ultimately means is that history is consummated in the soul; or rather, it is woven of fact and imagination, horizontal and vertical, but conditioned from above.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Bad Church of Mere Logic and Fact

I heard Steven Pinker on Dennis Prager's show yesterday, discussing his Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. I was expecting a high level debate on God, Man, and Everything, but was quite disappointed.

Pinker came off as someone who has never thought deeply about reason, science, humanism, progress, morality, or any other coordinate of existence. He had only the lamest responses to Prager's most mild challenges.

Indeed, Prager was polite and respectful with Pinker -- almost to the point of fawning -- I suspect because he is one of the few prominent liberals who is vocal in his opposition to the left. Evidently there is a lot of mindless conservative-bashing in the book, but Prager got him to acknowledge that liberalism shares much more in common with conservatism than with leftism.

I wonder if being a Beloved Professor rots one's brain? The adulation allows one to cut corners and substitute verbal wizardry for solidly anchored thought. I wonder if any amazon reviewers have noticed this? Let's check.

Hmm. Bill Gates says it is his "favorite book of all time." Kiss of death right there. Uh oh. More extravagant praise from the likes of Nicholas Kristof, Richard Dawkins, and David Brooks. Maybe I'm bigoted, but I would never even consider reading a book endorsed by these four, since it would indicate to me that the work is tainted by Deep Fallacy and Ineradicable Error.

Perhaps I should emphasize that I am in 100% agreement with Pinker that Things Are Getting Better, especially in all the measurable ways that things are getting better, such as longer lifespans, increased wealth, and less violence. The (or one) question is why -- not just proximally but ultimately.

For example, he will say because of the Enlightenment. Yes, but why did the Enlightenment only happen in Christian civilization? And I doubt he means the French Enlightenment, but I can't say for certain. His argument essentially reduces to "the stuff I like happened because of stuff I like."

He also seems to think that humanism and Christianity are antipodal, when in reality, genuine humanism is rooted in Christianity, whereas radically secular versions end in Nazism, Communism, or some other ideology that necessarily elevates man to godhood. If God is Necessary Being -- that which cannot not be -- then we can no more eliminate him than we can matter, or energy, or light. Rather, we can only deny and displace him.

Which is precisely what Pinker does. For example, he believes it is possible to ground morality in logic. Yes, I suppose that's possible, so long as you furnish logic with the correct premises! But logic alone obviously cannot provide those premises.

Remarkably, Pinker didn't seem to comprehend this when Prager pointed it out. For example, Pinker argued that it is logical not to murder children. But why should we be logical? What if I want to murder children? Who says logic is better than desire? Not Nietzsche, for one.

I'm sure Pinker's argument suffices in the academic lounge or on MSNBC. But logic has never stopped anyone from acting on a desire to commit evil. In fact, logic can obviously assist one in doing so. It is totally neutral. A Nazi might have asked, "what is the most logical way to liquidate the maximum number of Jews with the minimum expense?" Just because something is logical, it hardly means it is good, let alone true. Rather, a logical argument is only sound or unsound.

Speaking of disappointment, I recently read a book called Simply Gödel, and it wasn't especially helpful to the cause. However, it does at least agree with Bob that logic ultimately "consists of empty tautologies" -- of "rules or conventions for deducing sentences from one another, determining whether sentences are consistent with one another, and so on..."

Imagine a guy as bright as Pinker making a tautological argument. But there it is. It means he is saying "nothing," or conveying no information at all. In other words, if I excitedly tell you that 1 = 1, I haven't actually said anything of interest. More to the point, "lacking intuition, we would have no knowledge of existing things at all, only opinions" (Tieszen). And Gödel doesn't mean merely subjective intuition, but rather, something more analogous to the Intellect in Schuon's sense:

Just the opposite is true: intuition is required for objectivity. Without intuition of the objects or states of affairs that our thoughts are about, we would have only empty thoughts. Truth requires agreement between what is merely thought and facts that are intuited. Intuition fills in what is merely thought.

Merely thought. This should humble mere thinkers, but it rarely does.

Similarly, mere logic can prove all kinds of things, but that doesn't mean these things are true: "Formal provability is a purely 'syntactic' notion, which means it does not involve truth" (ibid.) It may or may not be true, but as we all know, semantics cannot be reduced to syntax. You can say something that is perfectly grammatical and yet be completely full of it.

Gödel once remarked that "Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine."

Well, mathematics is not too big for the human mind, so we are more than machines. QED. For "computers are just concrete syntax manipulators" incapable of standing outside or above their syntax. Which also means that "formal or computational exactness does not always yield certainty. To think otherwise is an illusion."

Mere thought, mere fact, mere logic, mere clarity, mere exactitude. None of these are goods (or truths) in and of themselves. Rather, they potentially cut both ways.

Gödel made a comment that applies perfectly to the Pinkers of the world: "ninety percent of contemporary philosophers see their principal task to be that of beating religion out of men's heads, and in that way have the same effect as the bad churches."

Monday, March 05, 2018

A Gloriously Translucent Cosmos

In a sense, necessity and possibility are another way of talking about the perennial question of the One and the many -- an irreducible reality that any metaphysic has to confront. How can the world be both one and diverse? Ah ha! Perhaps it is diverse because it is one, and vice versa: a diversified unity and unified diversity.

The Absolute is necessary-oneness, while the Infinite is diverse-possibility -- both in time and in space. If not for the oneness of time, then each moment would be a radical novelty, unrelated to past or future nows. Time would be atomistic. But like space, it is both continuous and discontinuous, a la quantum physics.

Thus, I am not surprised that physical reality turns out to be wave or particle, depending upon one's perspective. It is actually wavicle, but we aren't equipped to perceive it that way. Presumably only God can see the wavicle. And live.

All of this again implies some sort of "change" in God, but it doesn't mean that God changes. Possibilities simultaneously veil and reveal -- AKA reveil -- God; and what is "Possibility as such" but "the supreme Veil, the one which envelops the mystery of Unicity and at the same time unfolds it, while remaining immutable and deprived of nothing?" (Schuon).

So, in this context, change, or possibility, or diversity, are all veils of the One, so to speak. The thought just popped into my head of the veil dance. Phenomena are a dance of veils. You can remove one after the other, but never get to the unveiled, naked truth. Not for nothing is maya, or shakti, or prakriti, seen as feminine. It is as if Shakti dances before Shiva, the motionless male principle.

Recall the Vedantic trinity of being-consciousness-bliss. As Schuon writes, it is in the latter "that Divine Possibility overflows and gives rise, 'through love,' to the mystery of exteriorization that is the universal Veil, whose weft is made of worlds and whose warp is made of beings."

Bliss is the vision of all-possible Being. It's why God is never bored.

Before you ask if you can buy some pot from me, I was discussing just this subject yesterday with my 12 year old, who has taken up photography. Because of it, he now sees the world in a completely different way, looking at the infinite aesthetic possibilities that are always present each moment, but unseen unless we consciously notice them. Any fully-dimensional spiritual practice must discern beauty, right? And what is beauty but the divine bliss in response to radiant glory?

Yes, there's an Aphorism For That. Take your pick:

When religion and aesthetics are divorced from each other, we do not know which is corrupted sooner.

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

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

Without aesthetic transfiguration all of reality is pedestrian.

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

Only those who secretly propagate the admiration of beauty conspire effectively against today’s world.

I do not know whether in another world the devil punishes an irreligious society. But I see that here it is soon punished by aesthetics.

Hollywood be thy name. Except for Gary Oldman.

It is as if man lives between potential and necessity so to speak; or rather, between necessity and necessity. What I mean is that it is up to us to realize and perfect possibility, which is to say, return it to its source. And now that I'm thinking about it, this a way to think about Jesus handing over the whole of creation back to the Father.

Somewhere Schuon describes art in this way. Here it is; a perfectly lucid summary of everything said above:

The essential function of sacred art is to transfer Substance, which is both one and inexhaustible, into the world of accident and to bring the accidental consciousness back to Substance.

One could say also that sacred art transposes Being to the world of existence, of action or of becoming, or that it transposes in a certain way the Infinite to the world of the finite, or Essence to the world of forms; it thereby suggests a continuity proceeding from the one to the other, a way starting from appearance or accident and opening onto Substance or its celestial reverberations

Or this:

The Principle becomes manifestation so that manifestation might rebecome the Principle, or so that the “I” might return to the Self; or simply, so that the human soul might, through given phenomena, make contact with the heavenly archetypes, and thereby with its own archetype.

Which is why, to paraphrase the Aphorist, mere talent is to art what good intentions are to behavior. Each is a road to hell.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Coordinates of Existence

The following phrase popped into my head this morning: coordinates of existence. It must be the tip of a post, or at least of a Friday Ramble. Let's hope there is something beneath its provocative surface.

Clearly there are coordinates of existence, some of which are given and therefore absolute (at least relatively speaking), others manmade, conventional, and contingent. Often the former are expressed in terms of the latter -- in other words, different cultures have different ways of expressing the same underlying truths. More problematically, purely cultural coordinates are often conflated with ontological ones, which causes no end of mischief.

All normal people know that male and female, for example, constitute one of our given coordinates. This then expresses itself culturally in diverse ways. But note how the left takes a cultural stereotype and elevates it to a given. In other words, a man who imagines he is a woman is just identifying with a particular stereotype, the stereotype being contingent upon actual womanhood.

There are so many things wrong with this that one scarcely knows where to begin, but beneath it all is an absurd inversion of a given coordinate. It is no less absurd than exchanging north for south, or adult for child, or winter for summer. Some things just are. If they aren't, then neither are we. Literally, for we are no longer rooted in truth but in will (or worse, willfulness): I am what I want to be, which renders man an absurd tautology.

The ultimate coordinate is God -- or rather, the God <--> Man axis (and who is Christ but its fillfullment?).

Now, God is I AM. Our being is obviously contingent upon his ("God is, therefore we are"). But the false coordinate described above essentially identifies God as I WILL. Big. Difference. "I will, therefore I am" is bad mojo. Hitlerian, even.

Yes, there's an aphorism for that; maybe more than one. Note how each of these goes to the givenness of certain cOʘrdinates (all aphorisms are by the Aphorist, AKA Dávila). For example:

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

Again, so much mischief when we turn a complementarity into an opposition!

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

This reduces the vertical line to a point. Bad!

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

Here again, this reifies our opposition to God; really, it's just Genesis 3 All Over Again.

Modern man denies himself every metaphysical dimension and considers himself a mere object of science. But he screams when they exterminate him as such.

Exactly. Treat an atheist like the pointless agglomeration of matter that he is, and he won't like it. He might even scream that his "rights" are being violated. What rights?

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

That is a quite literal distillation of this post.

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.

The Church -- or the magisterium -- fleshes out (heh) the vertical axis. Does some of it pass over into the human margin? Yes, no doubt. There is no human without a culture. It's a question of whether the culture is in conformity with the nature of things, or in opposition to or rebellion against it.

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

There is nothing wrong with being-in-the-world (hey, it's good enough for God). Without it, we couldn't bloody well be, could we? Just don't amputate the world from its cause, or elevate the world to its own cause. That's just stupid.

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

Big Time. It is a vision -- or prevision -- of the nonlocal coordinates.

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself.

Right? Why on earth would an atheist believe in atheism, of all things, or a leftist believe in leftism? That makes no sense. If God doesn't exist, then only He can know it. So if you're going to be nonsensical, go all the way, like Venezuela, or California.

Getting back to the thread we've been on, two poles of existence are freedom and necessity. According to Schuon,

Now in things, the two poles are always present, but with either the one or the other predominating; in possible things, it is the aspect of freedom which veils the aspect of necessity, whereas in actual things, it is the aspect of necessity which predominates...

It's like the Tao, isn't it?

It may be difficult for human reason to reconcile these two poles, and the temptation to deny them is[sssss] great; the difficulty is not, however, greater than in the case of the boundlessness of space or time, which we are obliged to accept even if it is impossible for us to imagine it.

Exactly. No one knows what time -- let alone eternity -- is, and yet we all know. Indeed, I know I'm out if it, which is to say, my freedom is shading off into necessity. For no one can deny the SlackWork axis.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By and For the Useless

We've been discussing certain fundamentals and even requirements of existence, such as necessity and contingency, absolute and infinite, being and beyond-being, possible and actual, divine and human. Our existence is always a tapestry woven of these complementaries, i.e., the elusive (or was it stolen?) but ever-present cosmic area rug.

Requirements of existence. In the last couple of decades -- mirroring the new atheist movement -- there have been any number of books on the numerical coincidences necessary for humanness to have emerged, both on the biological (intelligent design) and cosmological (the anthropic principle) planes. Each of these uses numbers, i.e., quantities, to deduce the impossibility of randomness or coincidence explaining our existence; therefore GOD.

Eh. You can't actually get from quantity to quality. Or, maybe it's just because I'm a wordman and not a numbergeek -- a logovert -- but why not begin with qualities, instead of pretending numbers can take us to ultimate reality? It's just a matter of determining which qualities are fundamental, and which are secondary and derivative.

By the way, numbers aren't completely futile in this area. For example, One. In a very real way, if you truly understand the meaning and implications of One, then you've not only proved the existence of God, but you are "in" God, so to speak. Certainly no other animal can understand, enter, or participate in oneness from the inside. (Which also proves that One has an exterior and interior; and that the former can never account for the latter.)

As alluded to above, two of our most important qualities are Being and Beyond-Being. Obviously these are not quantitative realities. At the same time, standard issue theology often gets bogged down in cosmic heteroparadox or absurdity because of the failure to distinguish between these two. Frankly, mosts religious folk don't seem to like the idea, since it seems to contradict, or interfere with, the Godness of God, which is fine. This blog isn't addressed to them.

Schuon lucidly breaks down the distinction between Beyond-Being and Being; the former

is "absolutely infinite" whereas the second [Being] is relatively so, which, while being tautological and even contradictory, is nevertheless a useful expression in a necessarily elliptical language; the gap between logic and transcendent truths permits the latter occasionally to override the former, although the converse is clearly excluded.

Check it out: he's essentially echoing exactly what was said above about quality and quantity: there is an inevitable gap between these two, but only from the bottom up. In other words, quantity cannot "reach up" to quality, whereas the converse is not only possible but necessary. Otherwise we wouldn't be here, let alone be here thinking about these qualitative realities.

You might also say that to conflate the conventional understanding of God with Beyond-Being is likewise "a useful expression in a necessarily elliptical language." Really, this goes to the time-honored distinction between apophatic and cataphatic theology. You can't go too far astray with the latter, even though -- somewhat like numbers -- it can only lead to the threshold of the unKnowable Godhead.

More clarity from Schuon:

If we set Beyond-Being aside, we are entitled to attribute Infinitude to Being; but if it is Beyond-Being that we are taking into consideration, then we shall say that the Infinite is in truth Beyond-Being, and that Being realizes this infinitude in relative mode, thereby opening the door to the outpouring of possibilities endlessly varied, thus inexhaustible.

Why is any of this important? Oh, no reason. Which is to say, the most important things are for their own sake -- human persons, for example. What is more useless than a baby? And yet, everyone short of a leftist knows babies are infinitely precious.

In another book by Schuon, I came across an intriguing and no doubt controversial claim, that "To understand a religion in depth, one must understand religion as such."

Here again, many religious folk will resist this idea, but it is "somewhat" inevitable (can anything be a little bit evitable?). For example, by what criteria does the Christian determine Christianity to be true? Protestants try to confine themselves to the letter of scripture, but still, someone has to decide what qualifies as scripture. Catholics will of course say the Church has determined what qualifies, but if you're following me, this leads either to an arbitrary stop or an infinite regress. Was man made for scripture or scripture for man? And how do we know, unless the truth is built into us?

I don't think it's useful for the average man to ask such questions, but again, this is a useless blog aimed at useless people.

Can we bring this discussion down a couple of notches, into more familiar territory? Sure, no problem. Let's turn to The Roots of Christian Mysticism, and see if we can come up with anything. I'm just going to thumb through and rely on providence.

"A life without eternity is unworthy of the name of life. Only eternal life is true" (St. Augustine).

"[T]heologians praise the divine Origin for having no name and yet possessing all names.... They declare, moreover, that this divine Origin is simultaneously at the heart of the universe and far beyond the sky, sun, stars, fire, water, wind, dew, cloud rock, stone, and in a word all that is and nothing that is" (Dionysus the Aeropagite).


"The infinite is without doubt something of God, but not God himself, who is infinitely beyond even that" (Maximus the Confessor).

Infinitely beyond infinitude -- which is to say, the absolute infinitude of Beyond-Being contains the relative infinitude of Being.

"God's transcendence eludes even our very idea of transcendence. God transcends his own transcendence, so that he may not be lost in abstract nothingness, but may give of himself" (Clement).

Which "is why the Fathers also speak of God as inaccessible, of God beyond God, in terms of a springing forth, a creative and redemptive leap outside his essence, following the eternal movement of the divine energies, but also in order to communicate these to creatures..." (ibid).

O --> (↓). Being marches forth from Beyond-Being!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Good and Bad Nothingness

Something that exists or has happened is a realized possibility, meaning that it must have been possible in principle. Moreover, it must mean that possibility as such exists in principle -- or that there is a meta-cosmic "principle of possibility."

Unless you are a nominalist, in which case each thing is a unique fact expressing no principle. The problem with this point of view is that it renders thought impossible. On the plane of thought, everything depends upon seeing generalities and extracting principles and essences. Indeed, any word is a general category, otherwise we'd have to invent new words each time we spoke.

Speaking of which, I can't tell if this line of thought I've been pursuing is of general interest, or just a private preoccupation. It feels quite essential to me -- in other words, like we're drilling down to the essence of things -- but maybe it strikes you as peripheral. I don't know what to do about that. A little secret: the bus is more or less self-driving. Although I am technically behind the wheel, that's just in case of emergency. Otherwise, the bus goes where it wants to go.

The following strikes me as an ultimate pole of thought, beyond which it cannot go; it is a truth of which there can be no truer, except in an extra-cognitive mode such as mystical union:

Beyond-Being is absolute Necessity in itself, whereas Being is absolute Necessity in respect of the world, but not in respect of Beyond-Being. Beyond-Being... possesses the possible as an internal dimension and in virtue of its infinitude; at this level, the possible is precisely Being, or Relativity, Maya. We would say consequently that Being is not other than possibility; possibility necessary in itself, but contingent in its increasingly relative contents...

This formulation resolves a lot of issues I have with exoteric religion. For example, perhaps trinitarian thought is a way of thinking about the same reality -- a point of reference, as it were. In other words, you are always free to think about God as a kind of indistinct blob of absolutely transcendent omnipotence and omniscience.

Islam tends toward this view, i.e., There is no God but God, full stop. Judaism does too, except in the case of Kabbalah, which is like an interior map of divinity with all sorts of interesting points of reference -- including the Ein Sof corresponding to the absolute ground of Beyond-Being. It

is understood as God prior to his self-manifestation in the production of any spiritual realm.... Ein Sof may be translated as "unending", "(there is) no end", or infinity.... Of the Ein Sof, nothing ("Ein" ) can be grasped ("Sof" -- limitation).

This is one of the reasons why the bʘʘk begins the way it does, with the black page that is even prior to nothing: Beyond-Being is orthoparadoxically beyond nothing! (Or nothing is beyond it.)

For which I do have some venerable back-up, mainly in the person of Meister Eckhart, who made many similarly strange claims:

God the ineffable one has no name. The divine one is a negation of negations and a denial of denials. God is nothing. No thing. God is nothingness; and yet God is something. God is neither this thing nor that thing that we can express. God is a being beyond all being; God is a beingless being.

Hard to understand. Easy to misunderstand. Again, it comes down to making distinctions within God, but -- consistent with trinitarian thought -- not separations. And what is a distinct without separation but a complementarity?

Which is why I would suggest that Being is not like an emanation from Beyond-Being, but its complementary mode. Somewhat as in how the Father engenders the Son, each of whom is nevertheless eternal. Father and Son are quite complementary, in that you cannot have one without the other.

An alternative perspective would be to say that the Trinity as already a kind of crystallization out of Beyond-Being. Looked at this way, it reminds me of a stable pattern of currents that is a function of the entire ocean. Yes, we can make out the contours of the currents, but can never pretend they could exist separate from their oceanic matrix. Rather, they are the ocean.

Analogously, the human ego could never exist outside its unconscious matrix; or, local consciousness floats on a wider sea of consciousness-as-such. We all have a kind of trinitarian structure, in that each moment our thought is flowing out of an implicate order which is unknown to us.

Where does creativity come from? Who knows? All we know is that we will never run out of poems, melodies, paintings, gags. How can this be, unless we participate in Infinitude, AKA divine possibility?

Speaking of art, another key point: due to the nature of Possibility, it is possible for possibility to detach from its divine source, and thereby careen toward impossibility.

Again, Contingency must be grounded in Necessity, prolonging the latter in diverse ways, without veering into pure contingency. Pure contingency is none other than the tyranny of relativism, AKA the absurdity of postmodernity, which like nothing so much as a counterfeit nothingness, or bad nothing. There is the good nothing of total possibility, and the bad nothing of total absurdity.

Friday, February 23, 2018

On the Necessity of Possibility

What is the best way to know whether something is possible?

Well, if something exists, then it was possible for it to exist. Likewise, if something is happening, then it was possible for it to happen. But where or what is this possibility before it exists or happens? Or is this a meaningless question?

More problematically, if something doesn't exist or hasn't happened, how do we know it is possible? Not to immediately pivot to the political, but it seems to me that one of the consistent characteristics of the left is to wish for things that never were and (more problematically) cannot be. And not just wish; rather, to try to compel them through force (since there is no other way).

It reminds me of a famous line by Robert Kennedy. Liberals no doubt hear it as "idealistic," while to conservatives it just sounds fruity: Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.

I say it is a rare achievement to see things as they actually are, a rarer one still to understand why they are the way they are.

For example, why are human beings sexually dimorphic and complementary? That's an important question to answer before you begin dreaming up other possibilities that never were and cannot actually be. Likewise marriage: what is it? Or an unborn baby, in which case, who is it? Might want to answer that question before taking its life.

You might say that conservatism is preoccupied with what is necessary, i.e., those things that cannot not be, especially on the human plane. This presupposes that there is a human plane -- or station, or nature, or essence -- and that failure to conform to this transcendent order is the sine qua non of what we call "psychopathology," or mental illness. It is our yardstick for knowing when a human being has gone off the rails.

Conversely, leftism appears to be preoccupied with the possible, but not really; for -- at risk of sounding tautologous -- a possibility, in order to be one, must be possible. Some possibilities are impossible, for example, time travel, or switching sexes. These may be possible in theory, but are impossible in reality. So we need another term for impossible possibilities, besides "Democratic platform."

What about things that are, but needn't be? At least for humans, there exists a large realm of contingency, if only due to free will. In fact, if we deny free will, then it begins to look like there is no space between what can be and what must be -- i.e., between the necessary and contingent. Free will is first of all awareness of necessity. If not for necessity there could be no free will, rather, just unpredictable chaos, or "pure possibility."

Now in truth, necessity and possibility must be complementary; however, of the two, necessity must be prior, even though the one is humanly unthinkable in the absence of the other. Orthoparadoxically, possibility is ultimately necessary; it cannot work the other way around -- i.e., that necessity is only a possibility. If that were the case, then it wouldn't bloody well be necessary, would it?

The above pre-ramble was no doubt provoked by an essay of Schuon's called The Problem of Possibility (in From the Divine to the Human). It is a fine example of what I was driving at in the previous post, about the human ability to know What's Going On in the cosmos, deploying everyday language as opposed to math, physics, or some other special science.

The words (or concepts) "necessary" and "contingent" are quite necessary in order to understand our existential situation. They are irreducible, except in the sense mentioned above -- that possibility must flow from necessity. It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that these two -- necessity and possibility -- are quite Real, except in different ways.

In what sense is the possible real? And is it as real as necessity? It's orthoparadoxical, or at least you can -- or must! -- look at it in two ways:

one may say that... what manifests itself is "real," and what can either manifest itself or not is simply "possible"; but in another respect, which erases this distinction, it is the possible which is real, manifestation being accidental or illusory...

This goes to the argument between Plato and Aristotle: what is more real, this local chair I'm sitting on, or its nonlocal archetype? The dual nature of Jesus is the final "answer" to this question, in that neither is more real than the other: we do not say that his human nature is just "maya," or "appearance" (one of the early heresies). Indeed, the whole point is that human contingency may now participate in metacosmic necessity.

Which of course goes to why science was stillborn in civilizations that regarded the world as pure appearance, which is to say, contingency. Rather, only the necessary was worth knowing, e.g., Brahman.

At any rate, if we trace these two rascals -- necessity and contingency -- all the way down -- or up -- to their root principles, we end up with the Absolute and the Infinite:

God is both absolute Necessity and infinite Possibility; in the first respect, He transcends everything that is merely possible, whereas, in the second respect, He is, not a given possibility of course, since He is absolutely necessary, but Possibility as such; this is to say, He is the Source of all that can be, or must needs be by relative necessity, therefore by participation in absolute Necessity. Possibility is potency at its root, and indetermination in its ever more far-reaching effects...

Which goes to a little problem I have with the traditional scholastic view, that God is "pure act" and therefore devoid of potency. I get what the doctrine is trying to say -- that God is unchanging and unchangeable, but still... It's like saying God is Absolute with no Infinite, which to me is no Absolute at all. Translighted to the human plane, it is like all necessity with no possibility, i.e., no free will.

More fundamentally, what does it mean to say that God is trinity? I say -- as it were - that the Son is the ever-realized (or real-izing) infinitude of the absolute Father, always and forever. Or something like that. The point is, it gives rise to a different vision from a static and absolute monad. That would bore even -- or especially! -- God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Circular and Absurcular Humanism

I guess you could say I am preoccupied with What a Man Can Know -- not through any special science or particular culture, nor in any certain time in history, but in any time or place, just by virtue of being a human person.

For me, this knowledge would constitute genuine humanism, in contrast to the cosmic heresy known as "secular humanism." This latter imposter denies God in the effort to elevate man, and so devolves to a circular -- or absurcular -- humanism. Literally! For it is written:

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

But an Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency. Otherwise we are trapped in a closed loop, or an ontological tautology.

Consider the following, which sounds cute or paradoxical, but is quite literal: Man is an animal that imagines itself to be Man.

In other words, remove God from the equation -- or deny the God/man complementarity -- and man is literally an animal, no better or worse than any other.

Maybe I'm just lazy. Or stupid. Otherwise, I'd go and get a Ph.D. in physics, which, if it doesn't yet have all the answers, someday will. It's just a matter of time. In other words, physics is the one and true faith, providing the kind of knowledge to which all other disciplines aspire.

Or, maybe it's just because I'm better at words than numbers that I nourish the delusion that, in the words of the Aphorist, Man is not educated through knowledge of things but through knowledge of man. And knowledge of man is unthinkable in the absence of knowledge of God.

In a purely horizontal universe, for example, aborting a baby is morally indistinguishable from kicking a rock. More generally, reality is reduced to an unrelieved and inescapable Is. Any Ought is pure fantasy. And any I is out of the question.

That's where physics leads. Because that's were physics starts. Again, this is the prison of circular humanism. Put it this way: is a human being without an Ought even thinkable? No, it is not. For in some sense, man is literally made of "oughtness," and we all know it. Man is an obligation that man often violates (Dávila).

How so? Well, everyone knows -- or used to know, anyway -- that we ought to know truth, i.e., distinguish between reality and appearances. It is why we have an intellect to begin with: to conform ourselves to reality, or knowledge with being.

Likewise, we ought to do good, which is to say, distinguish between good and evil. Imagine raising a child while systematically driving home the point that there are no such things as truth, virtue, and beauty. That's child abuse.

Now, imagine a liberal college campus where such destructive inanities are taught. That's adolescent abuse. Now, imagine paying a quarter of a million dollars to brainwash your child into believing he ought not pretend that any objective oughts exist. Rather, any and all oughts are just pretexts for blind power and unjust oppression.

That's not a university. It's certainly not a proper humanism. It's Monsters, Inc. Is it any wonder academia is so hostile to truth, sanity, and decency? Liberals in no way eliminate the Ought. Rather, they just replace the luminous and expansive God-given one with a squalid and petty manmade one.

Back to my main point. Not only do I believe man can know the truth of man, but I also happen to believe we are entitled to this knowledge.

Really, given what we have to put up with down here, it's not asking much, is it? Think about it from the other side. Would you go to the trouble of creating self-conscious beings, and then deny them the ability to know why they exist? That would be frankly sadistic. It would be as if the universe were a vast liberal campus -- an endless tapestry of grandiosity and bullshit. Life is hard enough. Impossibly hard if meaningless too.

There is a proper circular humanism, which takes place in the vertical space uniquely inhabited by man. I was reading about this just the other day, while looking up an unrelated factoid in The Orthodox Church. In it, Bishop Ware writes of how "The human being is a single, united whole; not only the human mind but the whole person was created in the image of God."

Moreover, it is as if "all creation is a gigantic Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed by the ineffable and wondrous fire of God's energies."

We can never know God's essence, any more than we can know the essence of any other person. But his energies are everywhere! "It is through these energies that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with humankind. In relation to us humans, the divine energy is in fact nothing else than the grace of God..."

Ultimately, this circle of grace takes place between the divine transcendence and the divine immanence. Indeed, one might say the circle is composed of grace, and that it is for us to leap in and take part in it. For if it's good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the alikes of us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Homo Mirabilis

Which means the "human miracle," or, more to our point, that the human station itself is our most concrete evidence of the miraculous.

And what do we mean by miraculous? Broadly speaking, I would define the miraculous as any vertical ingression that in principle defies horizontal explanation. Horizontality goes into the miracle, but cannot be its sufficient reason.

For example, the brain is a necessary condition for our humanness, but clearly not sufficient, not just on an individual basis today, but as a species in the distant past.

This latter is discussed in the bʘʘk, in the context of the sudden explosion of humanness that occurs around 40,000 years ago. Mere horizontal evolution, we are told, doesn't work that way. And yet, there it is. Something occurs vertically, and I know what it was: a vertical ingression, AKA miracle.

It's very much like Michelangelo's depiction of the creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, only in the immaterial realm: as with any myth, it is a local representation of a nonlocal truth. Only when hominid nervous systems became sufficiently complex were they susceptible to the divine touch, or vertical ingression.

Another reason why we know this is the case is that what is true today must have been true then. Humans today routinely experience vertical ingressions of various kinds -- Joy Behar notwithstanding, -- so there is no reason to believe our furbears were denied this logospheric manna from heaven. Indeed, there is evidence that they tended to conflate it with other immaterial influences (which we also still do today, most notoriously in the Islamic world).

Speaking of Islamists, note the inverse possibility: of receiving vertical ingressions even while denying the existence of God. This is the structure of leftism, as outlined by Michael Polanyi some 75 years ago, and nothing has changed in the meantime: that "despite its rejection of transcendent reality, it exhibits a high degree of moral passion."

No kidding. But never conflate moral passion and morality, especially the objective kind! There is plenty of moral passion -- even hysteria -- on the left, little in the way of detached and objective morality -- even an overt denial that such a thing exists. As such, their subjective and relativistic moral passion "is not a mark of honor -- instead, it is a mark of dishonor," for "here we have moral passion without any moral judgment":

"Polanyi maintains that a 'moral inversion' has occurred." This ontologically rootless moral passion "now invokes any means, however grotesque and immoral, to satisfy its longings. Under this guise, moral passion serves rather than spurns the cause of fanaticism" (from the foreword of The Logic of Liberty).

Which is how it comes to pass that we are ruled not only by our intellectual inferiors, but moral inferiors as well, AKA the Swamp.

Say what you like about our swamp-dwelling elites, but they are never short of passion, no matter how misguided. When one avenue is blocked -- say, "Russian collision" -- they pick themselves up as if nothing happened, and move on to the next unhinged passion. What will it be today? That's really what the FakeNews comes down to. Give me a hard-bitten cynic any day over a passionate moralist of the left!

We are still on the subject of the Human Station, and what it all means. Clearly, it must in a way mean "everything" on pain of meaning nothing, precisely. As we've put it before, the world cannot be a little bit pregnant with meaning. And the ONLY conceivable way it can mean anything is for it to be a reflection of absoluteness. Absent this, we are indeed plunged into relativity, AKA permanent and ineradicable stupidity. Who doesn't see it?

A free society is animated by transcendent beliefs -- or beliefs anchored in transcendence -- or it isn't free. And freedom is the miracle par excellence, for it has no conceivable horizontal explanation, to such an extent that those who are wedded to a materialistic metaphysic have no choice but to deny its existence. But the integral cosmic man -- AKA Raccoon -- recognizes and says from himsoph: I am free, therefore God is. Conversely, the credo of the left ought to be: I think, therefore I shouldn't. For whenever they try to think, mischief -- from simple theft to genocide -- follows.

Time out for some illustrative aphorisms:

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself.

Yes, literally, because why on earth would a tenured ape take himself seriously?

Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists.

And this division runs through the very heart of the liberal, who screams that only an evil conservative could believe in the fairy tale morality of good and evil. For truly, The progressive believes that everything soon turns obsolete except his ideas.

And passions. Condemnatory passions. Which is why, When the progressive condemns, every intelligent man must feel alluded to. Yes you, you deplorable racist sexist homophobic Islamophobic fundamentalist pig!

Enough with Homo diabolos. Back to Homo mirabilis. As usual, Schuon cuts through centuries of windbaggery, and right to the essence. What we call a miracle

has in itself nothing mysterious or problematical about it: the so-called natural laws of a lower degree of Existence can always be suspended through the intervention of a higher degree, whence the perfectly logical term “supernatural”: but this degree also has its laws, which means that the miracle is “natural” on the universal scale, while being “supernatural” on the earthly scale.

So, from the naturalistic perspective, the human person is a miracle. But from the perspective of the Divine Person? Eh, not so much.

The miraculous is that which is due to a direct, thus vertical intervention of a heavenly Power, and not to a horizontal progression of causality. If one extends the notion of “nature” to all that exists, miracles too are “natural,” but in that case words would become meaningless, as it would then be impossible to make the essential distinction between blind or unconscious causes and the supra-conscious Cause, the source of all consciousness and of all power. Scientists confuse the miraculous with the irrational and the arbitrary.

I wanted to throw in a discussion of what the Christian knows that the scientistic atheist does not and can never know, but we're out of time, so you'll have to think that through yourself. A hint: awareness of the Absolute, and the consequences flowing therefrom.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How to Fail at Humanness

The usual Friday ramble...

I have nothing concrete or practical to say about the recent school shooting. It does, however, remind me of something said in yesterday's post -- that alone among creatures, man may sink beneath himself and fall into a negative space of evil, absurdity, and nihilism: a creature no longer of God, but of what then?

This goes to the sufficient reasons for the human station, which are freedom, love, virtue, and truth: we are given freedom in order to conform ourselves to what is good, true, and beautiful.

If this is not the case, then to hell with it: the nihilist living in his negative space is no worse than the saint or scientist pursuing virtue and truth. We all just live our own peculiar way of being in error. In this context, to be an individual is to be uniquely as opposed to collectively wrong, since truth is inaccessible in any case.

At the same time, man can never attain his purpose alone. We are social animals before we are individuals, and the latter -- individuation -- is strictly impossible in the absence of the former.

This goes to the intersubjective and trinitarian nature of the human person, such that group and individual are always complementary and not opposed -- except in pathological situations, such as leftism, wherein the collective oppresses the individual, or libertarianism, in which the individual is an isolated monad abstracted from the group. Note that these two deviations are founded upon a systematic ignorance and denial of the human station.

Which, by the way, is why the natural family is the unit of human existence. It is the glue that binds people together, and consequently allows us to bond with people and groups outside the family. Strong and heathy families create strong and healthy individuals, at least most of the time. There's always a seemingly random, or at least unforeseeable, element in these matters.

But also, to paraphrase Dávila , sin "shuffles the cards." At any rate, if there were a pure cause-and-effect relationship between parental input and child output, we would be machines, not free beings.

President Trump is surely correct to call this a "mental health issue," but what can this mean in a culture that proudly transgresses all human norms and calls it freedom and progress? As said in yesterday's post, there is no progress beyond the human station: one can fail to actualize proper humanness, but no one can transcend it.

Which sounds arrogant -- as if humanness is a kind of perfection. Well, it is! But again, it is image, and it is up to us -- in freedom -- to move toward likeness. No conceivable anthropology can surpass this formulation. This is what is meant by the wisecrack that the only real failure and tragedy in life is "not to become a saint."

Why? Because this is the ultimate telos of our God-given freedom. Anything less "is to remain unactualized." Yes, almost all of us fail. But failure is only comprehensible in the light of possible success.

In this context, failure is a form of success, so long as it is aimed in the proper direction. In other words, man can improve in the trying, which is true of everything from science to sanctity. But in the absence of this telos, there is neither failure nor success, again, just the aimless drifting of cosmic flukes.

By the way, I would modify Bloy's crack somewhat, in order to allow for different types and destinies. Being that man is knowledge, sentiment, and will -- or truth, love, and virtue -- there is room enough for the sage as well as saint (not to mention artist or warrior or even merchant). Thus, if you are given the gift of intelligence and fail to actualize wisdom, then that is indeed a tragedy. Worse, it is tenure.

Precisely because man may conceive of the transcendent Absolute -- beyond which there can be no whicher -- he must be, as it were, immanent absoluteness; or again, a residue of absoluteness projected into time, space, and relativity.

Man cannot be intelligent "without an Intelligence 'in itself'" -- an Intelligence "which is both transcendent and immanent." This itself is a "quasi-fulgurating proof of the Omniscient, a proof almost too blindingly evident to be able to be formulated in words." Indeed, language is a shadow -- or better, image -- of the Logos, as is moon- to sunlight.

About the unsurpassable nature of the human station: "To say that man... is 'made in the Image of God'" is to say that human beings manifest "something absolute and for that very reason something unlimited and perfect" (Schuon).

Now, this kind of grandiose talk is liable to give a fellow a big head and lead to all sorts of mischief. But only if it is in the wrong metaphysical context.

For in a trinitarian context, our greatness is in our humility and self-giving: the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, are among those who gain entry to the vertical kingdom. These latter are receptive to God and thereby moving toward him, which is again the reason for the human station.

The animal, which can manifest perfections but not the Absolute, is like a closed door, as it were enclosed in its own perfection; whereas man is like an open door allowing him to escape his limits, which are those of the world rather than his own. --Schuon

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Apology for Anthropology

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but when I resume blogging after a couple days away, it's like waking up and trying to resume a dream. Hard to do. In a way, every dream is its own little world. When it ends, that world is over -- even though a dream is rarely "complete."

Nor do we ever remember the beginning of any dream; rather, we're just there, after it has begun, and usually awaken before it can have any neat and tidy resolution. Which is more than a little like life itself, no? We may have snapshot memories from age five, or four, or three, and then the temporal cliff. We must take it on faith that we were conceived born, nursed, weaned, etc.

Nor can there be any "completeness" at the other end. Yes, we can reconcile ourselves to death, but human potential can never be exhausted in this life. If Mozart were alive, he'd still be cranking out symphonies. Edison would still be inventing.

Truly, a world comes into being with the cognitive development of each person. And each person is a fresh perspective on being -- like a pinhole in a lampshade, in which there is one central light and innumerable "openings" for it at the periphery.

You could take that more or less literally: that there a single Subject grounding our otherwise inexplicably diversified subjectivity. To express it pneumo-metrically, the cosmos has a center and a periphery, just as it has a beginning and end. The center is God (or O if you prefer), to whom everything is more or less peripheral -- like rays of light in relation to the central sun.

Along the way there are what we might call "stations." Imagine these as circles of varying sizes around the central point from which they radiate. What we perceive as "matter" is just such a circle, as is the realm of biology as such, the latter closer to the Center than the former.

In this context, man is in an ambiguous situation indeed. For exactly what is the human station, and how does it relate to the Center? That question has a number of answers, or at least can be approached from various angles. But if you ask the typical tenured drone to define the human station, he'll say: "Easy. There isn't one."

There isn't one (for the McTenured) because there is no cosmic center and no periphery. Rather, there is only periphery with no center (an impossible formulation). Truly, we are as parasites on existence, or barnacles on the ship of matter. But there is still a kind of "center," because man cannot not have one.

In other words, even the person who exiles man from any contact with the Center is nevertheless speaking from a center. Indeed, no coherent speech is possible in the absence of a center from which it proceeds. Otherwise it would be just random babbling.

The same sort of incurious dullard who reduces life to matter is likely to reduce person to biology. Thus, it's easy enough to critique reductionism, but you need to replace it with the proper metaphysic. Again, the reason why reductionism fails is because it denies the Center from the center.

Not the Center as such, but a reflection of the Center, which goes precisely to the human station; for what is man but the Center at the periphery? Or in other words, to say that man is in the image and likeness of the Creator, is to say that he is a temporal reflection of this eternal image.

Except to say that there is image and there is likeness, two very different things. Yes, we've discussed this in the past, but there may be some new riders on the bus. I can't see them unless they comment, but travelers must be getting on and off all the time. Unless I'm only losing riders, which I don't rule out.

Man is stationed at the periphery. However, life is a pilgrimage from periphery to Center. This Center is always available to us, since we are prolongations of it. To be precise, in one sense we are discontinuous with it -- think of the rings around the Center -- but in another sense continuous with it -- as in the rays proceeding from the Center.

Not only that, but man is uniquely able to move away from the Center; (ortho)paradoxically, he is "free" to fall past the outer periphery, into... what exactly?

Truly, this latter is a kind of "negative" space to which no other animal has access. Every other animal is enclosed in its archetype, with no freedom of vertical movement. Pigs don't think about becoming better pigs, nor can a pig sink beneath itself and become, say, Adam Schiff. But Adam Schiff can become a pig or even Pelosi, which reveals a central truth about the human station.

"Anthropology." I've studied a fair amount of it, but the whole discipline is rather peripheral to what is going on with anthropos. For it typically places man at the periphery of natural selection, which it regards as the true center of things. Psychobiology and evolutionary psychology are of this nature, ultimately using the mind to deny itself and leaving nothing standing but a blind and deracinated tenure.

There is of course a Christian anthropology, which is a whole different martyr. In my opinion it is the true anthropology, or a view of man from the Center, as opposed to a self-negating peripheral view. This true humanism opposes a false secular humanism which

forgets that once man abandons his prerogatives to matter, to machines, to quantitative knowledge, he ceases to be truly “human.” What is most totally human is what gives man the best chances for the hereafter, and this is what also most deeply corresponds to his nature (Schuon).

About our capacity to exit the human station through the back door, Schuon correctly notes that

human animality is situated beneath animality as such, for animals innocently follow their immanent law and thereby enjoy a certain natural and indirect contemplation of the Divine Prototype; whereas there is decadence, corruption and subversion when man voluntarily reduces himself to his animality.

Here Schuon outlines in more detail what characterizes the human station:

When we speak of man, what we have in mind first of all is human nature as such, that is, inasmuch as it is distinguished from animal nature. Specifically, human 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.

So, man is uniquely able to understand his nature and transcend it. The human station itself cannot be transcended, in that we cannot become angels, let alone God. Nevertheless, whereas the angel -- like the animal -- is enclosed in its nature, man can transcend his, since it is in his nature to transcend. It's what we do.

Here is how Schuon describes it: "Man comes from God and he goes towards God," such that "his 'becoming' bears the imprint of a 'being'; he is that which he becomes, and becomes that which he is." Again, this is unique to the human station, and is the ground floor of the True Anthropology.

To be precise, the human station is characterized by "objectivity of intelligence: the capacity to see things as they are in themselves; next, objectivity of will, hence free will; and finally, objectivity of sentiment, or of soul if one prefers: the capacity for charity, disinterested love, compassion" (Schuon).

Obviously, of no other animal can it be said that it is on a mission or pilgrimage toward truth, love, and beauty! Bottom line for today:

Quite paradoxically, it is only in transcending himself that man reaches his proper level; and no less paradoxically, by refusing to transcend himself he sinks below the animals which -- by their form and mode of passive contemplatively -- participate adequately and innocently in a celestial archetype; in a certain respect, a noble animal is superior to a vile man.

Today's dream is over, if not ended per se.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In Search of the Missing Cosmic Trust Fund

We're all familiar with the mystery of dark matter, which only constitutes, oh, 84.5% of the total mass of the universe, but is nevertheless missing in action; combined with dark energy, 95.1% of mass-energy is unaccounted for.

In reality, dark matter is simply an epistemological placeholder; it is where the theory -- not the matter -- "goes dark," so to speak. Which is the case with all scientific theories, especially when they touch upon origins. In short, it is easy to conflate where reality begins and where one's theory ends. It's like refusing to leave the theater, because you want to find out what happens after the movie is over.

For it is written: Every beginning is an image of the Beginning; every end is an image of the End (Dávila), and these two -- Beginning and End -- are outside time. Thus, We call “origins” the limits of our science. If you only remember these, you will be less prone to confusing your model with what it is modeling.

One could as readily refer to consciousness as dark matter, on the presumption that we aren't yet able to reduce it to a material explanation, but eventually will be. Materialism is the god of secular gaps; but it reifies the gaps, since only wholeness can account for their transcendent unity.

(Incidentally, apropos of nothing -- or possibly everything -- it occurs to me that consciousness isn't so much dark matter as bright immateriality; and that if something appears dark to us, it is only in light of -- or relative to -- consciousness.)

In this regard, all forms of materialism, scientism, naturalism, etc., are merely postdated checks drawn against future (omniscient) explanations. It's a bit like a Ponzi scheme, in that the presumptive wealth is enabled by new investors, as the illusion of materialism is sustained by freshly indoctrinated graduates.

Have you ever tried to fill your swimming pool by pouring buckets of water from the shallow end to the deep end? Or maybe you didn't attend college.

At any rate, another missing reality is the organism. Yes, you can explain it in reductionistic terms, just as you can, as a commenter put it the other day, reduce Hamlet to a box of Scrabble letters. In which case, to be or not to be is simply a matter of correct spelling: being is just the ultimate spelling bee.

What am I buzzing on about? About chapter 6 of No God, No Science, called The Mystery of the Missing Organism. Yes, all of the above is the same old nous for senior Raccoons, but it's always nice to have some scholarly hollering and academic backup for my more visionary and prophetic stylings.

As Hanby explains, the unity of the organism "transcends and, thus, ontologically precedes the coordinated interaction of its parts as the principle and subject of their interaction, though the full manifestation of this unity in this coordinated interaction awaits the organism's historical development and maturation."

This passage highlights an important orthoparadox that makes sense of the whole human journey, indeed, of the human station: that man is always on the way to his own antecedent unity. Note that this is the inverse of what was said above about writing rubber checks against imaginary future wealth, because the wealth in this account is real.

For in this case, we are drawing against a kind of atemporal treasure -- an inheritance, as it were -- that is deployed in time; yes, an eternal Trust fund, which of course brings to mind the investment advice of Jesus:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"A transcendent order of being, form, and finality," writes Hanby, is intrinsic to the "identification of entities and to the intelligibility of history." He cites Ratzinger, who "regarded the reduction of being to history as perhaps the principal factor responsible for the eclipse of even the idea of truth."

Several aphorisms come to mind: for example, that Truth is in history, but history is not truth. For if historicism is the case -- if history is truth -- then no one could know it, because we must await the end of history to reveal it. Besides, if social and cultural phenomena are determined by history, then this must include the idea that social and cultural phenomena are determined by history, so the theory falls by its own hand.

But Real history exceeds what merely happened. Ho! History transcends mere history, in the same sense that the meaning of Hamlet transcends the letters used to compose it.

Are you -- your organism -- merely an epiphenomenal placeholder for an evolutionary process that will some day exhaustively explain you and eradicate all mystery? Are you the frozen sum of a litany of accidents? A soft robot animated by selfish genes?

Can't be. For if the Word isn't in the beginning, nothing can be written.

Nor can anything more be written until Thursday, since it's a busy week, at which point we will dig a little more deeply into this line of thought.