Friday, June 08, 2018

Deus-continuity Amidst Discontinuity

Yesterday's post didn't quite achieve Total Clarity on the subject of radiance and reverberation, no doubt because I'm not quite clear myself. Let's give it one more shot. One problem is that Schuon doesn't say all that much about these principles -- leaving them unsaturated -- so it's up to us to fill them with meaning.

First of all, Creation doesn't just occur 13.8 billion years ago (or whenever you posit the "beginning") but absolutely continuously. This is indeed orthodoxy -- not just for Christianity, but for thought. Put conversely, if your doctrine doesn't allow for continuous creation, then it's wrong at best.

So, how are we to think of the creation of this world? And when we refer to this world, we don't mean just earth, or the galaxy, or even the cosmos, but existence as such. In other words, how does existence exist? What is its source?

Again, religious doctrine -- just like any other map -- provides "points of reference" to approach this problem in a fruitful manner. For example, the Bible lets us know on the first page that existence is not self-sufficient, but dependent upon a higher principle. This dependency is perpetual, not a one-time event.

According to González, the doctrine of creation "stands at the root of the Christian understanding of the relationship between God and the world." The Creator, according to the creed, is the maker of all things, both visible and invisible. Perhaps you've noticed that no secular creation myth can even begin to account for the latter. Rather, they always try to swallow the invisible into the visible.

Think, for example, of Marxism and all its ghastly progeny, from feminism to climate hysteria. It rightly (from its own standpoint) sees religion not just as wrong, but as a kind of disease, wholly parasitic on matter. Religion is the opiate of the masses, when in reality Marxism is the pacifier of the tenured; the latter provides a kind of pseudo-heart in a heartless cosmos, or an archimedean vertical perspective in a world devoid of verticality. It is a view from nowhere by a bunch of nobodies.

Often a Christian doctrine is not just to posit a truth but to counter falsehoods. In order to understand certain doctrines, you need to appreciate them in the context of what they are arguing against.

In this case, González points out that the doctrine of creation "rejects two views that have repeatedly challenged it through the centuries: dualism and monism," the former positing two ultimate principles of creation, the latter denying the distinction between Creator and creation.

Both of these alternatives -- dualism and monism -- are heretical, not just for Christianity but for religion as such. In short, they are intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic heresies, the latter going to doctrines that only apply to this or that religion.

This heretical confusion persists to this day, in both religious and irreligious circles. Scientism, for example, begins with the inexplicable dualism of mind and matter, but then makes the dualism go away by reducing it to an absurd monism. I'm not sure if the pilgrimage from inexplicable to absurd represents progress, but there you go.

As for religious heresies, "creationism" comes to mind. Creationism is most definitely not synonymous with the venerable doctrine of creation, but rather, a kind of vulgar substitute that borrows from and tries to imitate scientism. You could say that it horizontalizes and temporalizes what is properly vertical and atemporal.

Interestingly, the doctrine of creation also set itself against another ancient idea (embraced by Neo- and Paleo-Platonists alike), emanationism -- the notion that

All things are derived from the first reality or perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine.

In other words, the doctrine of creation opposes the idea that the world is simply a kind of necessary side-effect of the One. Rather, it wants to emphasize and preserve God's freedom and autonomy in creating this world.

However, in emphasizing this one side, the doctrine of creation tends to obscure important truths conveyed by emanationism. In my opinion, the most fruitful approach is to see the two principles -- creation and emanation -- as complementary, not opposed.

For ultimately, creation goes to the discontinuity between Creator and creation, man and God; while emanation goes to the equally important continuity. Indeed, the principle -- or fact, rather -- of Incarnation seems to me to harmonize the two, i.e., Christ as simultaneously all God and all man. Come to think of it, there is a kind of discontinuity-amidst-continuity within the Trinity itself.

Note how different denominations tend to emphasize one side over the other. For example, Augustine highlights the discontinuity, what with our fallen depravity, whereas in the Orthodox east they have always emphasized the continuity with the doctrine of theosis (itself a reflection of the idea that man is a reflection of God).

We're almost out of time here, but Schuon relates this to the distinction between substance, which goes more to emanation and continuity, and essence, which would go more to creation and discontinuity:

The notion of essence denotes an excellence which is, so to say, discontinuous with respect to accidents, whereas the notion of substance implies on the contrary a kind of continuity...

Hmm. I'll bet radiance has to do with substance, reverberation with essence, but we'll have to wait until next week.

Just heard about Charles Krauthammer. Damn. That one hurts. There is a man.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

An Intense Beam of Darkness, AKA This Post

Yesterday's post ended before it was about to get underway, or at least left alert readers in a quandary as to what is so special about the principles Radiance and Reverberation.

To review, Schuon's metaphysic begins with the Absolute. However, the Absolute is not a featureless blob, but has certain implications or translogical entailments, among them Infinitude:

To speak of the Absolute, is to speak of the Infinite; Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute. It is from this "dimension" of Infinitude that the world springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude.

Can't get clearer than that, although we are playing rather high above the terrestrial rim, near the summit of abstraction, before God swallows himself in his own Beyond-Being. On a clear day you can see forever up here. Nevertheless, it is not possible to contain the Absolute in language, only to point to -- or perhaps better, from -- it.

Along these lines, Schuon adds that the Absolute is not any mere "possible Reality," but rather necessary Reality. I suppose you could say that if we eliminate all contingency, possibility, and appearance from the world, what we are left with is the Absolute -- which is the changeless ground out of which the contingency and possibility flow.

Ultimately, absoluteness is what distinguishes a thing from nonexistence. In other words, to even exist is to partake of absoluteness; as such, our existence is contingent, whereas God's is necessary: God is that reality which cannot not be.

We could also say that he is the person who who cannot not be, but that would take us away from the main thread. Suffice it to say, no Him, no you or I. Remove God from the equation and we are not even nothing.

Possibility and Necessity. Don't leave home without them. Or at least don't try to think seriously about existence without them, for you can't. You can try to eliminate one, but it will always return in unanticipated whys.

Now, if the Absolute is necessary reality, the Infinite is -- you guessed it -- possible reality. However, bear in mind that this possibility is necessary; possibility as such must be, even though this or that possibility may or may not be. Creators gonna create, and that's all there is to it. But no one knows what they might come up with next.

There are further implications. The Infinite, for example, "appears as modes of expanse or extension, such as space, time, form or diversity, number or multiplicity, matter or substance."

Looked at this way, space is the "conserving mode" of infinitude, while time is its "transforming mode" (for both good and ill, i.e., progress and decay). Likewise, there is a qualitative mode (form), a quantitative mode (number), and a substantial mode (matter). Taken together, these "are the very pillars of universal existence": space, time, form, number, (prime) matter.

These pillars of the cosmic community are always at play in all phenomena. They are simultaneously beyond and in the world, for example, in the practice of art. Indeed, I would say that in practicing art -- or indulging in creativity -- we are reflecting the Divine play-nature. It's probably why we tend to idealize great artists.

The point is, because of the structure of existence, you might say that there are things (quantities) and perfections (qualities). If you manage create a perfect thing, you qualify as an Artist. I know I qualify because of my son. Not unlike God.

Now, back to our words of the day, radiance and reverberation. Recall from yesterpost that

Absolute Substance extends Itself, through relativization, under the aspects of Radiance and Reverberation; that is to say, It [substance] is accompanied -- at a lesser degree of reality -- by two forms of emanation, one that is dynamic, continuous, and radiating; and the other static, discontinuous, and formative....

Expressed in geometric terms, the Substance is the center; Radiance is the cluster of the radii, and Reverberation, or the Image, is the circle. [Existence] is the surface which enables this unfolding.

Now we see that Infinitude redounds to possible reality which redounds to relativization, this under the auspices of two modes: radiance, which is dynamic and continuous, like radii extending from the cosmic center; and reverberation, which is static and discontinuous, like concentric circles around a central point.

Okay, but what does any of this have to do with just living your life? Well, let me think...

I know! We are situated at the periphery, which is full of change, dynamism, progress, and decay; but nevertheless partake of the center, which is transtemporal contemplation, prayer, serenity, and peace. Lines radiate from the nonlocal center, and this is grace or "divine attraction." We reverberate at the periphery, and these are degrees of being.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Re-verberations in the Logosphere

I'm always struck by how Schuon can use such ordinary words to disclose the most profound profundities: no mathematical equations, no specialized vocabulary, no idiosyncratic neologisms, and certainly no tenured flimflammery.


I can think of many, for example, center and periphery, radii and circumference, absolute and infinite, horizontal and vertical, inward and outward, possibility and necessity, geometry and music, or (as we've been discussing lately) form and substance.

Incidentally, you will notice that with each of these antinomies, one side goes with all the others. Thus, center, radii, absolute, vertical, inward, necessity, geometry, substance; and periphery, circumference, infinite, horizontal, outward, possibility, music, form.

And in my opinion, this is because each of these antinomies must be grounded in an (or the) ultimate Antinomy. Each is a reflection or fractal of the one Antinomy.

Which itself is (ortho)paradoxical, since "one" and "antinomy" would appear to be antinomic. In other words, One is one; or as they say in Islam, "there is no Allah but Allah." But if there is an ultimate antinomy, doesn't this imply a vicious dualism, as in Manichaeism?

Antinomy: a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles; a fundamental and apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction.

I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is here to rescue us from what is otherwise an insoluble metaphysical nul de slack. The problem is, if All is One, then all this many-ness is just an illusion and the world is reduced to insignificance, AKA mayaplicity. In my opinion, the antinomies in which we are plunged can only be resolved with recourse to an eternally dynamic threeness.

At any rate, I am no longer able to see how one could possibly understand the world without these ordinary words which clothe such weighty concepts. Indeed, how can one understand anything of consequence in the absence of just verticality alone? It's not as if one can rid the world of verticality, or reduce it to horizontality with no remainder.

Time out for aphorisms, for Dávila too discloses the deepest of truths with the plainest of words. I have taken the liberty of arranging them hierarchically in order to reveal the final (!):

The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths.

Often the simpler a truth is the more difficult it is to understand.

Every truth is a tension between contradictory evidences that claim our simultaneous allegiance.

The man does not escape from his prison of paradoxes except by means of a vertical act of faith.

There was never any conflict between reason and faith, but between two faiths.

Truths do not contradict each other except when they get out of order.

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

As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock.

If it is not of God that we are speaking, it is not sensible to speak of anything seriously.

Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.


We've gotten far afield, because I wanted to discuss two of those ordinary words, "reverberation" and "resonance." According to Schuon,

Absolute Substance extends Itself, through relativization, under the aspects of Radiance and Reverberation; that is to say, It is accompanied -- at a lesser degree of reality -- by two forms of emanation, one that is dynamic, continuous, and radiating; and the other static, discontinuous, and formative.

If this were not the case, then quite frankly, "the world would not be."

Bold statement!

Later in the same chapter he says, "Expressed in geometric terms, the Substance is the center; Radiance is the cluster of the radii, and Reverberation, or the Image, is the circle." What we perceive as Existence "is the surface which enables this unfolding."

We'll continue to unfold this tomorrow, as we're out of time.

Condolences to Ted for the loss of his feline friend. All loss is the image -- or reverberation -- of Loss.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Deadly Consequences of Relativism

In the previous post we discussed form and substance. Knowledge is a form, and either it is a form of the substance or just a form of appearance, in which case it is severed from substance and therefore nothing.

Do you see the problem? Either knowledge is actually knowledge, or it is that arbitrary dream about the impenetrable cloud, in which case epistemology (knowledge) floats free of any ontology (being).

And that is what we call the Cosmic Divorce. One is either a relativist or an absolutist, but each position entails immediate and irrevocable consequences. You can only pick one, but you have to pick, either implicitly or explicitly.

One problem with the left -- maybe the source of their problems -- is the wish to have it both ways. Everyone knows the left is "unprincipled," hence what appears to be a steaming pile of contradictory policies. But they do have a principle: the principle of relativism.

Think of some of the many ways the left is at cross purposes with itself: it wants more immigration to America, even though this will (according to their theories) result in catastrophic global warming; females have an absolute right to abortion, and therefore no right to live to exercise the right; racial discrimination is wrong, and the state should do more of it; don't judge people by their immutable racial characteristics, but White Privilege!

We could go on past the ad of nauseam, so I won't regurgitate myself. The credo of the left is always: There is no Truth and We are its Messengers.

The immediate consequence of relativism is a kind of faux freedom. At first this freedom is intoxicating, and indeed I remember it well. Wheeeeeeeee! Oof.

The problem is, a freedom with no ground or telos is like an unstable element: ultimately radioactive. What would happen if all elements were unstable? Don't ask me, I got a gentleman's D in high school chemistry. But surely not life or anything else more complex than unstable elements.

Now, what are the consequences of absolutism? People -- or at least Americans -- instinctively recoil from that word, as if it implies a black-and-white authoritarianism. It can imply that, but only from the left, i.e., "absolute relativism." When relativism usurps absoluteness, violence and oppression are sure to follow. Relativism redounds to the exercise of absolute power, since there is no appeal to truth.

But there is nothing to fear from a proper absolutism. For example, our Fathers tell us that we are absolutely created equal, and that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness absolutely flow from this happy fact. What's to fear?

Well, obviously, many people fear the consequences of freedom, but only about half the nation and maybe 90% of the world.

At any rate, if there is by definition only one Absolute, how do we end up with "absolute rights" down here in the terrestrial world? Isn't that a contradiction? No, not at all. Rather, a necessity. Again, absoluteness has certain necessary consequences.

Schuon explains it more lucidly than I can:

To speak of the Divine Substance is necessarily to speak of its ontological prolongation, since we, who speak, derive from this prolongation which is Existence -- Relativity in its manifested mode...

To put it conversely, if we begin with the principle of relativism -- of the many -- then there is no way to get back to the Absolute, or to the One.

However, if we begin with the principle of oneness, then we are necessarily its prolongation. At once this resolves the knowledge problem, for there is no longer any real division between the One and many.

As Schuon says, even -- or especially -- we are its prolongation. This allows us to fruitfully cope with a whole lotta static paradoxes, bad infinities, infertile mysteries, and cosmic nul de slacks.

Yes, we are inevitably form, not substance. But again, forms of the substance, and therefore substance (or better, not not-substance, to keep things on the apophatic side).

This is a quintessential orthoparadox, the very same one expressed in the mytho-metaphysical gnotion that man is created in the image and likeness of his Creator. I mean, either he is or isn't, but please be consistent and accept the consequences. Don't....

Here, the Aphorist, as always, says it best with his linguistic shivs to the ribcage; each conveys a necessary truth:

Either God or chance: all other terms are disguises for one or the other.

Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance.

The human has the insignificance of a swarm of insects when it is merely human.

If the soul is a myth, genocide is a simple problem of effective anesthetics (Dávila).

If you're a garden-variety Democrat, maybe you're not clever enough to understand that sequence. Don't worry. Marx gets it, and there's always another one of his acolytes waiting in the wings to seize absolute power. In which case count yourself lucky if you get the anesthetics.