Friday, July 13, 2018

A World of Language and the Grammar of Being

Continuing with the previous post... yes, it was an idiosyncratic one, but what am I supposed to do? Refuse it before it comes down? Mark it "return to sender"? Tell it to find another stenographer? You can't do that, because you don't know what you have until you have it. Yes, but prepositions? Do they really have anything to do with anything, let alone everything?

My first impulse would be to say "nah," but the more I think about it, the more central they are -- beginning with the more general idea that this is not just a logocentric cosmos but a grammatical one, because words are of limited use if they aren't ordered. My dogs, for example, know a few words, but they don't know any sentences.

Now I'm in the wayback machine, remembering when I used to work the graveyard shift in a supermarket. While stocking the shelves I'd listen to an esoteric radio program that was on from midnight to 5:00 AM, that broadcasted lectures by a spectrum of eminent spiritual, psychological, philosophical, and scientific cranks and geniuses. One of my favorites was Terence McKenna, and he used to go on about how the universe was not made of atoms, electrons, or quarks, but of language. It seemed daring and revolutionary at the time, but now strikes me as duh!

Let me see if I can find an exact quote. Speaking of downloading posts, McKenna writes of his own experience, "as though my ordinary, rather humdrum personality had simply been turned off and speaking through me was the voice of another, a voice that was steady, unhesitating, and articulate..."

Indeed, sometimes I understand something only because of a kind of "unhesitating authority" with which I say it. In other words, the authority doesn't come from me. Rather, I myself assent to this authority, whatever or whoever this "Petey" is. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Often you don't know what you really believe until you blurt it out. When you do, it is as if it comes from your center, and vanquishes -- at least temporarily -- all doubt.

[T]he normally invisible syntactical web that holds both language and the world together can condense or change its ontological status and become visible. Indeed, there seems to be a parallel mental dimension in which everything is made of the stuff of visible language... (McKenna).

A syntactical web that holds both language and the world together. Before you ask yourself if there could be such a thing, ask yourself how there couldn't be. Moreover, being that the grammar is universal, "organisms have enfolded" in their structure "a message about the structure of the larger universe" (ibid.).

In a very real sense, this is completely uncontroversial, for if the human intellect can accurately describe the nature of reality, it means that this nature is in us. Animals certainly can't do anything remotely similar. It brings to mind the words of Schuon:

Being total, the intelligence takes cognizance of all that is, in the world of principles [vertically] as well as in that of phenomena [horizontally].... Every man can do so in principle, whereas animals cannot.... To say that man is endowed with a sentiment capable of objectivity means that he possesses a subjectivity not closed in on itself, but open unto others and unto Heaven...

These are such key ideas that we could spend the rest of the post unpacking them. Perhaps the Key of keys, however, is that while all living beings have a subjectivity, ours is not -- or should not be -- closed in on itself. To the extent that is closed, then it is or becomes dead -- either horizontally or vertically.

This is the deeper principle to which "free speech" appeals. Both freedom and language are nothing if they do not converge on something higher, and they cannot do so unless they are open. Which reminds me of some good news I saw at Ace of Spades this morning:

Indeed, if you went to commit cognitive, spiritual, and civilizational suicide, just ignore this important study. In Civilization: The West and the Rest, Ferguson writes of how this befell both Asia and the Islamic world, and not just "in a manner of speaking," but quite literally, for they deliberately chose vertical and horizontal closure.

China, for example, by 1500 "became willfully hostile to other people's innovations," thereby condemning itself to centuries of stagnation and shrinkage. Likewise, so fearful were the Ottomans of opposing points of view that in 1515 Sultan Salim "threatened with death anyone found using the printing press." Ultimately, the willful "failure to reconcile Islam with scientific progress was to prove disastrous."

"Horizontally," writes Schuon, "the Truth concerns the cosmic, hence phenomenal order," while vertically "it concerns the metaphysical, hence principial order." The world is a tapestry -- a vast area rug -- of principles and phenomena. This is true for believer or unbeliever, clued in duddhist or dead-end clueless alike; it's just that the latter either reduces the vertical to horizontal, or elevates the horizontal to vertical. Both approaches generate incoherence and absurdity. Immediately, if you're paying attention.

Put conversely, the only way to pull this off is to not pay attention to what you're doing: to pull the wool over your own eyes, or to pull the rabbit out of your own head. To what, for example, is the leftist appealing by the desire to shut down free speech? Free speech? No, that can't be. Likewise, to what does the left appeal in its objection to a SCOTUS judge who pledges to be constrained by the plain meaning of Constitution? The Constitution? No, can't be either.

Speaking of witch, to what principle does the "democratic socialist" appeal, democracy or socialism? That's easy: "free stuff" (AKA bribery) before the witch has fifty percent, "democracy" afterwards. Then democracy can be deployed to deny and overturn our liberal order, i.e., private property, the rule of law, and unalienable rights.

It has also occurred to me that the free market economy, a la Hayek, is actually a giant information processing system. Everything we need to know about this system is encoded in the price mechanism, which tells us in an instant about supply, demand, scarcity, availability, etc. Therefore, perhaps the biggest reason why we should object to socialism is on free speech grounds, since it absolutely prevents the economy from transmitting accurate information about supply and demand.

Consider the three areas of the economy most distorted by socialist policies: medicine, college, and housing. Why is a house, of all things, so freaking expensive in California? Because the Democratic socialists who run the state will not allow the economy to speak freely about the subject.

Here is the quote I was looking for, but now we're out of time:

I don't believe that the world is made of quarks or electromagnetic waves, or stars, or planets or any of these things. I believe the world is made of language (McKenna).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Cosmos: A Dream in the Space Between Prepositions

I have no idea where this post came from. Truly -- for good or ill -- I just started typing, and it wrote itself. It must have been triggered by those prepositions in the title of the previous post, In, Of, and Out.

How is it that prepositions even exist? There are said to be 80 to 100 of these mysterious little words in the English language, including from, to, in, out, under, behind, beneath, above, within, beside, between, etc. The way I learned it back in grade school, a preposition is anything we can say in relation to a house: you can be on it, in it, under it, etc.

You'd think that grammar doesn't reveal anything about the nature of reality, or that there's no particular relationship between it and metaphysics, but then, you'd be wrong, if only because we need language to embody and convey metaphysics. But according to primordial metaphysics, there is something magical per se about language itself, and there is no language without a grammar. Semantics may not be reducible to syntax, but we still need one to express onesoph, let alone three.

Here again, just the fact that revelation can be adequately expressed via language makes language a rather special activity. God can presumably express himself any way he likes -- and he does express himself in diverse modes -- and yet, we all understand that language is privileged, perhaps because it is at once so expansive, precise, and creative. It is infinite, and yet, bound. Or better, infinitude is somehow "in" it.

Note that a universe of prepositions presumes a universe of subjects. Put conversely, in a monadic universe -- whether scientistic or religious -- there can be no prepositions, because nothing can be in relation to anything else. This is the problem with determinism -- again, whether scientistic or religious -- because it eliminates all spatial and temporal relations: if determinism (or predeterminsim) is the case, then if "I" do something, it's really God (or material causes) doing it.

Not to belabor the point, but I find it interesting that prepositions can actually be traced all the way up and into the Godhead: to say that the latter is an irreducible relation of three is to say that God has prepositions.

Think, for example, of the prepositional words of Jesus: "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me," or "you are in Me, and I am in you." On the surface these appear paradoxical, because normally if you are in something, than that thing is outside you. For example, I am now in my coon den, and my coon den is around me. It can't be in me.

Having said that, the classical view holds that knowledge of any kind is only possible because of a kind of inside-to-inside transmission. In order to apprehend an object of any kind, one must first recognize it as an object, which involves an instantaneous recognition of its essence.

For example, when I look outside and see a tree, or bird, or rock, I have unproblematically categorized them by a transcendent essence. If we couldn't do this then we couldn't think, because everything would be a particular case or unique instance. There would be no generalizations.

Getting back to the primordial nature of prepositions, the prologue to John provides some clues: the Word was with God, and yet was God. Big time orthoparadox there: herebelow, where Aristotle rules the day, if A is with A, then A cannot be A. Not so with the nighttime logic that prevails in the Godhead.

Along these lines, I have long felt that the logic of the dream is not peripheral or irrelevant, but is here to tell us a thing or two about reality. For example: I am in my dreams. But wait -- aren't my dreams in me, i.e., in my head? Who's dreaming whom?

Not to go all woo woo on you, but this can lead to some fruitful cogitations. For a Sufi might tell you that "So-called 'reality,' the sensible world that surrounds us and which we are accustomed to regard as 'reality,'" is "but a dream." But a dream is not just anything! For example, only dream logic can explain how knowledge is possible: how it gets from "inside" the object to "inside" us. Are we in the object? Or is it in us? Again, both must be true in order for knowledge to be possible.

So when a Sufi says something like "the whole world of existence is imagination within imagination," that's not just nonsense, but perfect nonsense. For "imagination" doesn't imply "something valueless or false; it simply means 'being a symbolic reflection of something truly real.'"

Recall Dávila's gag that the universe is important or meaningful only if it is an appearance -- a dream, you might say. If it is the reality, then it is as insignificant as a swarm of insects.

Significance itself is a kind of dream, isn't it? But dreams need to be interpreted, and some interpretations are better than others. There are, as Izutsu puts it, "veridical dreams," for there are prophets and visionaries who see them: "Thus, a prophet who lives his life in such an unusual spiritual state may be said to be in a dream all through his life. 'The whole of his life is nothing but a dream within a dream'" (emphases mine, to highlight the prepositions).

Now, the question is, how does all of this get off the goround? In other words, how do humans get this way? How do we leave the mere (material) oneness below and enter the (human) world of threeness above?

People talk about "intelligence" as if it's just a matter of information going from here to there, but the whole process is predicated on a prepositional cosmos and prepositional humans, the latter impossible if the former isn't the case.

What do I mean? I'm not sure I have sufficient time to lay it all out, but it's something that dawned on me back in graduate school, in my study of what is called "object relations," or human development in the context of modern attachment theory.

Where to begin such a large subject? Really, it's laid out in Book Three of the Coonifesto, but that was before I tied it all together into the Trinity. Now I understand that infancy is the way it is because the Godhead is the way it is. You might say that to be human is for humanness to be in us, and that the link between these is love. I'll explain tomorrow... But note that Christ himself is impossible if the cosmos isn't structured in this way... Or, to put it conversely, it helps explain how God can be in human nature and vice versa....

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