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.


Anonymous said...

This post makes for some very good reading. Thank you. I agree with all of the assertions made therein.

Man is a composite item; there are all of the usual atoms and compounds of the physical stuff, then there are the biologic tissues (including several trillion bacterial passengers), the "energy sheath" (emotional charge, aura, etc), then the mental (the mind, thoughts, etc), and then the soul (about the size of a thumb, glows, various colors, different dimension, does not die), and then the spirit (element of a man still occupying "heaven" as it were, watches from a different location, does not come to Earth, but still is part of the individual man).

As you pointed out, more like a ray from, rather than a circular disc around God. However, as to falling "below animality," I would suggest parts of a man could do that, but certain parts have a lodgement nearer the center that are not really portable in that manner.

Therefore I conclude all dips into depravity must need be temporary sessions, wherein the errant parts "snap" back into place after the horrid experience is ended, whether by death or by repentance.

neal said...

Heh. Death and repentance. There is also storage, and repurposing. Sometimes cognitive, sometimes everything at once.
Probably some snapping. Sparks, and such. Sometimes just orbital. Lazy, and forever.

It is interesting that cognitive and physical terraforming seem to inhabit some place that possibly does not encourage lines or recurves.
But does not do anything but take the waves where they will.

julie said...

Indeed, no coherent speech is possible in the absence of a center from which it proceeds. Otherwise it would be just random babbling.

Considering the comments on most any news article pertaining to Christianity, the commentary by atheists usually does qualify as random babbling. Or considering the howls this week that prayer does nothing, sometimes it amounts to incoherent gibbering.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Whoever wants to know what the serious objections to Christianity are should ask us. The unbeliever makes only stupid objections." --NGD

Gagdad Bob said...

Also, to paraphrase another, the atheist forgets that we are lapsed unbelievers.

Anonymous said...

This has a tangential connection to the post, which deals with depravity.

I know Raccoons typically don't discuss positions on the issues du jour. But today, I'm putting out a call for brain-storming. I'm talking about our nation's sorry descent into mass shooting hell.

Does anyone have ideas on how our country might proceed to curtail mass shootings? Revisit gun control? I know, groan, no, anything but that. But really, should we put some additional controls on that sh*t or what?

Mental Health. It has so many facets, its hard to even consider where to begin.

Sexual Frustration. A common denominator in the shootings has been the disrupted romantic/sex life of the perpetrator. Would sex prevent mass shootings? This sounds crazy, but perhaps a government program (yes! a government program! I said it.) to ensure everybody is getting laid might do the trick. The new vitamin, vitamin "S", vital for health. Just like vitamin D to prevent rickets, and vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Vitamin S to prevent males from becoming assaultive. Go ahead and call it loony. Fast forward 100 years, and you might call it visionary.

That's the best I've got. What've you got? Please have something. Anything.

julie said...

You may find this hard to believe, but sex is not the answer to all of society's problems. The only true answer is to choose life, as God instructed when He brought the Israelites out of the desert and into the promised land. (See Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 for details.)

Gagdad Bob said...

"Sex doesn't solve even sexual problems." --NGD

Van Harvey said...

aninymouse said "Does anyone have ideas on how our country might proceed to curtail mass shootings?"

Shoot back.