Thursday, May 31, 2018

Appearance and Reality, Mother and Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

In agreement with what was said above,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversely, Prakriti

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why a World?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help us out here, Don Colacho.

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

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

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

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