Friday, May 18, 2018

Fridays with the Answer Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Nature of Transnatural Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Does Christianity Disclose a Universal Metaphysic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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