Friday, May 04, 2018

Crystallizations of Light & Coagulations of Darkness

I'm guessing Tallis, despite his atheist credentials, would endorse the following:

Scraping the painting, we do not find the meaning of the picture, only a blank and mute canvas. Equally, it is not in scratching about in nature that we will find its sense. --Dávila

How does the sense -- the meaning -- find its way into the cosmos? Not to mention the truth, freedom, beauty, inwardness, and depth? For the Raccoon, this is a false problem that results from inverting the world (and/or ourselves) and viewing it from the wrong end -- both upside down and inside out.

For if there is an outside, then there must be an inside. But clearly the latter must be prior, because pure outsidedness could never redound to insidedness: as said in yesterday's post, you can't get here (inside) from there (outside). Rocks don't one day start thinking, although there are thinkers whose heads are full of rocks. Likewise, no amount of down will result in an upside. But in a hierarchy there is always a down because there is first an up.

This may sound like so much wordplay, but it's not. It is principial. It is the Way Things Are because the Way They Must Be. If they weren't this way, then there could be no way, period.

These principles are not falsifiable, only truth-ifyable, but it is nevertheless up to us -- for we are (in principle!) free -- to realize them; this realization is, as Schuon puts it, "a matter of intellectual capacity, good will, and grace." For the restavus faith fills in the inevitable gaps and vacates the false connections and just-so-stories of scientism.

Here, try this aphorism on for size:

The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.

Thus, it makes no sense to rummage around the basement searching for the meaning of the house. No matter how thorough the search, we will never find it there. It reminds me of a line by the cynical Capn. Renault in Casablanca, when he's trying to impress the Nazi dignitary: "Realizing the importance of the case, my men are rounding up twice the usual number of suspects." But no amount of quantity leads to quality. You can round up all the matter in the world without identifying the party responsible for its Life.

Truly, it all comes down to the complementarity of Form and Substance. Again, as in all primordial complementarities one must be prior, in this case substance: the purpose of the form is to manifest, symbolize, and transmit the substance; or, form is a local manifestation of the nonlocal substance.

I hope this is clear. As Schuon explains, "The fundamental nature of our intelligence, quite evidently, is discernment between what is substantial and what is accidental..." In the final analysis -- or synthesis, rather -- "The substance of knowledge is the knowledge of Substance," ultimately the Divine Substance, or substance of divinity.

Thus -- this time in the words of Dávila -- "The natural and the supernatural are not overlapping planes, but intertwined threads" -- threads of substance and form.

I can't help thinking this might all sound a bit woolly-headed. Let me track down an aphorism or three that bring it into focus. Indeed, note that the aphorism itself is a form of the substance, which is what makes it so powerful. It's what they po↑nt to that counts:

In order to speak of the eternal [the Substance], it is sufficient to speak with talent of the things [forms] of the day.

The transcendence [Substance] that permeates things is the salt that seasons their blandness.

We are saved from daily tedium only by the impalpable, the invisible, and the ineffable [Substance].

The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles [the forms] are the appearance.

This also helps to shed light on who, what, and where we are. We cannot answer these questions via mere introspection, and certainly not via any outward material analysis. Rather, it is more subtle and (ortho)paradoxical than that. The following aphorism captures it perfectly:

I am merely the place from which I perceive -- not the object of my interest but what it is that interests me.

Clearly, this means that the self (or better, person) is not somehow "inside" the brain, much less identical to it (as Neuromaniacs and Darwinitics would have us believe). In the past we have called this "the erotics of being," borrowing the term from Christopher Bollas.

As Prof. Wiki explains, each individual (for this is the substance of our individuality) has his "own idiom for life -- a blend between the psychic organisation which from birth forms the self's core, and the implied logic of the familial way of relating into which we are then raised" (to which I would add the cultural, social, educational, and historical contexts, each providing a range of forms through which to express our being-substance).

This is the irreducible space in which human persons live: clearly, we do not fully live in the "material world," for life itself transcends matter. But nor do we occupy a world of pure transcendence. Rather, we must deal with this potential space on its own terms.

Thus, we very much need the world in order to find out and become who we are. We could never exist as disembodied brains-in-a-vat, as in The Matrix. Rather, as explained by Bollas "we spend our time looking for objects of interest -- human or material -- which can serve to enhance our particular idioms or styles of life -- perpetually 'meeting idiom needs by securing evocatively nourishing objects.'" We must always stand prepared to "be metamorphosed by one's interaction with the object world."

Now, as far as I'm concerned, this all goes back to the metaphysical implications of a triune Godhead. The Father "finds himself" (so to speak) in the Son, as the Holy Spirit finds himself in their mutual knowledge-and-love.

The world speaks to us continuously. However, it says different things to you than it does to me -- or, to be precise, we "hear" and "see" different things, based upon our idiom needs, AKA who we are. In the case of my son, for example, he has discovered his idiom(s) in photography and parkour. No one forced these upon him. Rather, they are purely spontaneous attractions -- forms -- through which he discovers his own substance. For me, it is this blog: it is the form of my substance and substance of my form. Cut it and it bleeds his bObness.

So, the world can be an adventure in the crystallization of Substance. Or a kind of trap involving the psychic coagulation of nothingness. Your choice. For

At a given moment, the most important place on earth can be a palace, a pigsty, or a cell. --Dávila

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Mystery and Presence, Truth and Person

Continuing with the theme of yesterday's post, I want to begin by highlighting some additional passages indicative of Tallis' highly unusual hafraccoon ethnicity -- i.e., how he is a passionate advocate of human transcendence and uniqueness, but without grounding this in anything beyond itself. He is quick to acknowledge that the question of consciousness is "more than a problem," and even "more than 'a hard problem.'" Rather, "It is a mystery."

Well, yes. Except that a mystery is not just a riddle or conundrum but a mode; not an absence but a presence; not a rupture but a link. Just yesterday I was re-re-re-reading (at least) a book by Schuon in which he makes the following observation:

By "mystery" we do not mean something incomprehensible in principle -- unless on the purely rational level -- but something that opens on to the Infinite or is envisaged in this respect, so that intelligibility becomes limitless and humanly inexhaustible. A mystery is always "something of God."

Precisely. Understood this way, a mystery is not a problem but a portal; not a wall but a window. Not to say there aren't walls and problems! Just don't conflate them with mysteries.

Example. If one adopts a materialist metaphysic, then consciousness -- and life, for that matter -- is indeed a problem. An absolutely insoluble one. And look what you've done in the process! You've boarded up the window, nailed the door shut, and painted over the mirror. Now, why would you want to do that? Intellectual consistency? Yes, that's a fine thing, so long as it doesn't result in intellecticide.

But this is just what virtually every modern and postmodern ideology results in, from Darwinitis to Deconstruction. In fact, the death of the intellect is just collateral damage resulting from the death of the person: abort the person, and you knock out the intellect with it.

Unlike most atheists, Tallis realizes this and doesn't like it one bit. Indeed, he clearly deplores it as much if not more than your typical believer who isn't intellectually sophisticated enough to appreciate what the tenured are up to.

Here is a passage by Tallis that is indistinguishable from something you might find at One Cosmos: some 50,000 years ago -- or whenever it was -- merely genetic Homo sapiens crossed an invisible line and

woke up from being organisms to being something quite different: embodied subjects, self-aware and other-aware [THAT LAST ONE IS KEY -- God] in a manner and to a degree not approached by other animals. Out of this, a new kind of realm was gradually formed. This, the human world, is materially rooted in the natural world but is quite different from it.

That is correct as far as it goes, but one must be quite precise in these matters. It certainly helps to be a fine wordsmith, as Tallis clearly is, but then one must avoid the problem of language getting ahead of itself. Rather, it must be purely objective and descriptive, while not excluding poetic expression, in the manner of Schuon or Dávila.

In my case, it's probably a good thing that I was able to intuit these things before I was able to express them. Truly, I can't even say that I was once a "terrible writer." Rather, I wasn't a writer at all. I like to think I'm still not, in that the Idea is always the primary thing. Over the years I think I'm getting better at clothing the thing in more felicitous language, but as Dávila says in so many ways with so few words,

Wordiness is not an excess of words, but a dearth of ideas. Indeed, perhaps you've noticed that The deluded are prolix. (Ever watch Rachel Maddow?)

Moreover, Only ideas save us from adjectives. Save, as in salvation, more on which as we proceed.

For Words do not communicate, they remind. It's called vertical recollection, which is the cure for spiritual I-amnesia.

And The idea that does not win over in twenty lines does not win over in two thousand pages.

And how appropriate and timely: Words do not decipher the mystery, but they do illuminate it.

And if you do want to mix in a little poetry, just remember that Poetry is God’s fingerprint in human clay, not just humans magically transforming our clay into spirit, or flesh into Word.

Which of course goes to the idea and principle -- the mystery! -- of Incarnation. And this I think is where Tallis goes off the rails, because it is as if he is a champion of the notion of incarnation without the Principle to explain and back it up.

Look, nothing comes from nothing, however much you wish it were otherwise. Nor can the greater come from the lesser, let alone the infinitely greater. How can the Infinite come from the finite, the Absolute from the relative?

You've probably heard the old joke about the traveler who asks the local for directions to some town. He thinks for a second and responds with words to the effect of "I wouldn't start from here." A variant is that "you can't get there from here." Analogously, you can ask a Darwinitic for directions from animal to man, but truly, you can't get here from there. Rather, you can only drag here to there, and with it I (truly) Am to it (merely) is.

And I use that little word "here" advisedly, because it is loaded with (ultimately personal) significance. Do animals know about here? In other words, are they conscious of the here and now? No. We know they're here and now, but they don't.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was reading a book by Schuon called Form and Substance in the Religions. The first chapter is called Truth and Presence. In it he highlights the relationship between these two, noting that "The saving manifestation of the Absolute is either Truth or Presence," although not necessarily exclusively, being that truth is a presence and presence comprises truth.

We might say that the truth of presence is the presence of truth, and that this goes to the Incarnation of the Mystery of Personhood, right here and right now. To be continued....

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Can Raccoons and Humans Mate?

Vomit alert: the Times ran an editorial yesterday called Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right! Bearing in mind the adage that Defeating a fool humiliates us, we Won't Even. The author does, however, confirm exactly what was said in yesterday's post about the left's fundamental impulse to destroy.

So, "what lessons might we draw from [Marx's] dangerous [he means this un-ironically] and delirious [ditto] philosophical legacy? What precisely is Marx’s lasting contribution?"

Let me guess. Helping the mortuary industry flourish?

No. Marx bequeathed to us the "critical weapons" for undermining western civilization. Yes, "The key factor in Marx’s intellectual legacy in our present-day society is not 'philosophy' but 'critique,' or what he described in 1843 as 'the ruthless criticism of all that exists.'"

Okay. And replace it with what? Well, opinion here is divided: "let’s be clear: Marx arrives at no magic formula for exiting the enormous social and economic contradictions that global capitalism entails." Rather, he offers only a magic formula for destroying All That Exists.

Compare to what I wrote yesterday. Perhaps you suspected I was exaggerating or being polemical. No, just literal, as usual:

[Progressives] are essentially addicted to "revolution" for its own sake. Like Tallis, they tear down every institution, but replace them with nothing. Instead of creating their own left wing versions of the Boys Scouts, or the university, or marriage, they just destroy ours. They create nothing but strife.

Truly, their destructiveness is not a bug but a feature. And the existence of Trump has turned this feature up to 11.

Moving on. I've now read several more books by Tallis, including The Black Mirror: Looking at Life through Death, Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence, and I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being.

Despite profound disagreements, I can't help liking the guy. He reminds me of Spock, who is half human and half Vulcan. In Tallis' case, he is half human and half Raccoon, or hafraccoon. He's got the analysis down cold. But this is followed by no synthesis, which is of course the sine qua non of Raccoon style thought, i.e., one cosmos in both objective fact and subjective metaphysic.

I'll be skipping around a lot from book to book, but I want to turn to the coda of his auto-obituary, The Black Mirror. In a chapter called Afterlife, he hedges his bet just slightly, almost as if his Raccoon wings are beginning to sprout:

Is that it then?

There are reasons for thinking that it is. But there are also reasons for thinking that it might not be.

This is his first concession that our self-evident transcendence might not be nothing after all. I mean, if humans can transcend physics and biology, what can't they do? And why should we jump to conclusions? Why not keep an open mind? Of course, this open mind is what we call "faith," but let's not scare him off with such a loaded word. Let's just call it (o) for now, AKA vertical openness, or openness to vertical energies and murmurandoms.

Tallis continues:

It is also difficult to imagine a boundary, however impenetrable, that does not have something beyond it, that doesn't have two sides facing into different territories.

Damn straight. Notice in the following passage how he actually brushes right up against Raccoon doctrine, or ventures close to the orbit of the great nonlocal Attractor, O:

And the idea of an end that was not also a beginning, or at least the possibility of a beginning, of an exit that was not also an entrance elsewhere, had also been beyond the reach of thought.

No it's not! You just thought it. Later he expresses this remarkably Coonish sentiment:

One of his [referring to his formerly living self] most enduring preoccupations had been a mighty gap in our understanding, namely that we have no idea how consciousness, mind, self-consciousness, the sense of the past and of the future, could have arisen out of, fitted into, and acted upon the physical world to which his body belonged.

A scientist, he had early accepted that science would not be able to offer any explanation of this.... Physical laws could not explain how one bit of the material world had formed the concept of "matter" and uttered the word "world." And it seemed to him that mankind could not be entirely a creature of thermodynamics if it had been able to conceive the notion of "entropy."

Well, yes. That is what you call a "good start," not a conclusion to arrive at on one's deathbed.

Given the infinite distance between man and chimp (and everything else in the cosmos), perhaps we ought not so hastily close the debate on man's trans-incarnate possibilities, no?

We have reasons, perhaps, to entertain the idea that our possibilities are different from those available to pebbles, trees, or even chimps.

We should not under-estimate our ignorance.

That's the spirit! Utilize (o) to unsaturate your (k) and make a space for (n). Tallis,

in utero in 1946 had had no idea of the world he was about to enter and strut about in, so knowingly, for a while. It is not impossible that this world has itself been another womb whose walls successfully muffle the rumours of another kind of reality, one perhaps that is even wider and even brighter.

Wo. Can I buy some pot from you?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Creative and Destructive Tension

Not much time, so let's get busy....

Well, I finished Aping Mankind over the weekend. The letdown was anticipated, because I knew in advance that Tallis is all offense and no defense -- literally, in that he demolishes materialism, but when it comes time to proffering a replacement, he's got nothing.

And no one can survive on nothing. Human beings require meaning; even a false religion such as materialism will have more allure than no religion at all. The atheist does not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of godlessness. It's why leftists embrace envy, feminists bitterness, and environmentalists trees.

I was thinking about this while walking the dog yesterday. For us it goes without saying that there is a creative and fruitful tension between faith and reason. Moreover, reason requires faith, while faith is a kind of reason -- not to mention that theology involves reasoning about the data of revelation.

Tallis doesn't seem to understand this, and would no doubt reject it if he did. And yet, he makes a number of unusual points that I've never heard an atheist make, and which sound more like they came from this blog or some other dodgy source.

For example, he insists that human beings "transcend apehood to the same degree by which life transcends mundane chemistry and physics" -- which is to say, infinitely. And yet, he makes nothing of this remarkable fact. He doesn't find it ironic that this is not only what the Judeo-Christian tradition has always taught, but that no one else is teaching: that man's creation is of a different order from everything else in the cosmos.

Of course this is expressed in mythic terms in Genesis, but anyone short of tenure understands that the function of myth is to convey metaphysical truths in a manner assimilable by the multitude. Few people have the time or temperament to be metaphysicians. And even then, left to their own devices, most self-styled metaphysicians will get it wrong.

Again, faith and reason create a fruitful tension, analogous to poetry, in which adherence to a form -- such as a rhyme scheme -- forces one to reach into the unfamiliar in order to reconcile the terms. Analogously, just think of Man and Woman, and how marriage corrals these two into a fruitful tension -- as opposed to feminism, which either denies the tension or renders it toxic.

Speaking of witch, on the same dog walk, after dwelling on the absence of the faith-reason tension in Tallis' thought, it occurred to me that this is true of the left in general. It explains how they are essentially addicted to "revolution" for its own sake. Like Tallis, they tear down every institution, but replace them with nothing. Instead of creating their own left wing versions of the Boys Scouts, or the university, or marriage, they just destroy ours. They create nothing but strife.

In short, Whatever the Left Touches it Ruins, from academia, to art, to sports, to religion, to race and sexual relations, to the Constitution:

The only way to save Western civilization is to convince more people that leftism -- not liberalism -- is a nihilistic force. Quite literally, whatever the left touches it ruins....

The most obvious -- and, therefore, the one more and Americans can resonate with -- is the near destruction of most American universities as places of learning. In the words of Harvard professor Steven Pinker -- an atheist and a liberal -- outside of the natural sciences and a few other disciplines (such as mathematics and business), "universities are becoming laughing stocks of intolerance."

If you send your children to a university, you are endangering both their mind and their character. There is a real chance they will be more intolerant and more foolish after college than they were when they entered college.

When you attend an American university, you are taught to have contempt for America and its founders, to prefer socialism to capitalism, to divide human beings by race and ethnicity. You are taught to shut down those who differ with you, to not debate them. And you are taught to place feelings over reason -- which is a guaranteed route to eventual evil.

Etc. No need to repeat the whole essay. Besides, Davila has many pungent aphorisms that go to just this subject:

The left is made up of individuals who are dissatisfied with what they have and are satisfied with who they are.

In other words, they have the necessary tension between immanence and transcendence backward! A virtuous individual wishes to transcend himself, not compel his neighbor to subsidize his failure to do so. Thus, “Social justice” is the term for claiming anything to which we do not have a right.

When one does not concede to the leftist all that he demands, he proclaims himself the victim of an institutional violence that is licit to repel with physical violence.

Again, the tension is displaced and projected into others; or, the other is involuntarily enlisted into the leftist's psychodrama. The leftist knows (without knowing us) that we are racists (or misogynists, or anti-science), even though we (the only ones with first hand knowledge) know we aren't.

Marxism turns the intelligence that it touches to stone. Stone, because it is rendered lifeless due to the absence of intrapsychic disequilibrium. Thus, The leaden prose of the Marxist offers an irresistible attraction to leaden minds. Like seeks like; progressive man is the mirror of the faux absolute he fashions for himself.

If the leftist is not persecuting, he feels persecuted. Here again, the intrapsychic tension is externalized into political space. This is psychopathology 101.

The left calls a critique of capitalism what is merely a lawsuit for possession. In other words, intellectualized envy. Until envy is transformed into admiration, the psychopolitical illness will continue (think of how the Palestinian terrortories would be utterly transformed by emulating instead of envying Israel; or how urban America would be transformed by emulating Asian Americans instead of discriminating against them with racial quotas).

In order to educate the people, liberalism pampers them until they have been turned into dissolute adults. A liberal education appeases the creative tension by, for example, promoting unearned self-esteem, or awarding trophies to everyone, or via affirmative action or grade inflation.

Again, misplaced tension: The left claims that the guilty party in a conflict is not the one who covets another’s goods but the one who defends his own. The leftist's tension is painfully real, its object a hallucination. The progressive cannot progress until he learns to tolerate, master, and transcend his envy.

Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists. Both stances deny the tension; which is to say, that wickedness exists and is (humanly) incurable. It's why the past is so tense.

It is not enough for the progressive that we respect what he wants to do with his life; he also demands that we respect what he wants to do with our life. He wants to compel away the tension by law -- for example, by forcing Christian bakers to participate in a homosexual marriage, while excusing themselves from involvement with people they deplore.

So many more, but we're out of time...