Friday, July 20, 2018

The First Freedom

In the previous post we were discussing the abilities that not only elevate man over animal, but truly define him, those being an intelligence that discerns between reality and appearance; a will that chooses between good and evil; and sentiment capable of disinterest -- "of looking at itself from without, just as it can put itself in another's place" (Schuon).

Note that these three are necessarily entangled with one another -- distinct but never radically separate, like... like a great a jazz trio or something.

For example, if we cannot distinguish reality from appearances, then it will be difficult to discern good from evil. Instead of choosing the actual good, we might be attracted to what looks or sounds good. In other words, we might be seduced by leftism, which, you might say, is the Doctrine of Good Intentions. But intentions are situated in a temporal chain of cause and effect, and if you champion the cause then you own the effect.

For it is written:

Liberal ideas are congenial. Their consequences are disastrous.

Because The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them (Dávila).

So, if you think the left has ever solved a problem, just wait. Progressives deal only in appearances and therefore symptoms, such that the real problem always returns.

For example, Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. So, what's the real problem? Likewise, New York and San Francisco have the most stringent rent control laws in the country, and are two of the most unaffordable places to live. What happened? Or, cities such as Seattle and Portland mandate that employers pay employees more than they're worth, which leads to businesses closing and increased unemployment. I wonder why? Are there laws of economics or something?

More generally, we see that freedom, although one of our most precious birthrights, can become worthless or harmful if detached from its telos in the true and good. If freedom is just freedom, then to hell with it. It is then indistinguishable from nihilism, or even the last word in nothingness. And if you don't understand this literally, then you're not paying attention. You've missed a step somewhere.

More ineluctable truth from the Aphorist:

Freedom is not an end, but a means. Whoever sees it as an end in itself does not know what to do with it when he gets it.

Freedom is not the goal of history but the material that it works with.

The price of absolute freedom would be a vulgarity without limits.

I know, Alex! What is Hollywood?

It get's worse, because freedom misunderstood and misused transforms into a kind of Nameless Dread -- or to what Sartre rightly called existential nausea: total freedom = comprehensive meaninglessness. Which is ironic, because denial of freedom also = comprehensive meaninglessness. Why? Because, although they appear opposite, they are unified in their rejection of our divine-human telos.

I don't mean to lean so hard on the Aphorist this morning, but when you're right you're right, and who else can be so right with so few words?

Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

And if you want to understand this principle all the way down -- or up -- you have to understand it in terms of following in the footsteps of our first father, Adam. His kind of willful "bad liberation" liberates us from what protects us, precisely.

Liberation. One could veer off into a whole new post with the misuse of that word alone! "Women's liberation." "Black liberation." "Gay liberation." "Palestinian liberation." And other traps:

Today what is called “intellectual liberation” is a change of prisons.

Total liberation is the process that constructs the perfect prison.

What is our "first freedom?" -- the freedom that renders man possible? Or, without which no other freedoms can be actualized? I'll let you think about your answer, while I think about mine.

Freedom of speech? Property? Association? Self-defense?

Nah, I don't think those drill all the way down. The first freedom must be... from oneself! This goes back to what Schuon says above about the ability to adopt a disinterested perspective, to look at oneself as if from the outside, and to put ourselves in the place of the other.

This puts a whole new spin on Jesus's reduction of the Law to the love of God and of neighbor, both of which require and perfect self-transcendence. A man who cannot transcend himself is not only not worthy of freedom, but can't really exercise it in its real sense.

For true charity -- AKA caritas -- "consists in abolishing the egocentric distinction between 'me' and the 'other'"; it "implies seeing ourselves in the other and the other in ourselves; the scission between ego and alter must be overcome, that the cleavage between Heaven and earth may be healed" (Schuon).

So, the first freedom and the first charity involve the elimination of an assoul -- a self-centered assoul called I.

The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God (Schuon).

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Essential Truth & the God of Gaplessness

The end came abruptly this morning, so let's hurry! Not you. Just me. You are free to read as slowly as usual.

Schuon has a way of reducing complex realities to their essence, but this essence then rebounds and causes its own explosion(s), expanding outward (and inward), as it were.

I suppose it's not dissimilar to scientific theories -- for example, the theory of natural selection, which reduces the entire biosphere to a simple formula, which then leads to explosive insights -- to seeing the world in a new way.

I studied a great many psychological theories back in the day, but none were as pithy -- nor as essential -- as this: that man is intelligence, will, and sentiment, and that's about it. Actually, that's only a partial description, because any mammal has intelligence, will, and emotion/sentiment. What then sets apart and defines man?

Let's begin with the first, intelligence -- after all, we are the sapiential homo, i.e., the wise ape. What makes us wise, at least in potential?

One could characterize human intelligence in several ways: it is objective, i.e., capable of detachment and disinterest; it is transcendent, i.e., immaterial, or distinct from the matter it considers; and it is total, i.e., capable of comprehending anything susceptible to comprehension, from the empirical below to the rational, mathematical, and principial above.

These capabilities are -- literally in this case -- a quantum leap above the animal domain. Problem, is, orthodox biology does not permit of leaps, so there must (for it) be a continuum between ape and man, and therefore (to take just one example) embodied intelligence and transcendent, disembodied intelligence.

But that's a tough argument to make. As we've said before, devotees of scientism like to ridicule the "God of the gaps," but a much more serious problem is their primitive god of gaplessness.

Why? Because the gaps are ineluctably real, and you can't make them go away by a simple wave of the tongue. Some of the more important gaps are between necessary being and contingent existence, matter and life, and life and consciousness.

It reminds me of what Justice Scalia said about people who argue for a constitutional "middle path," say, between a Gorsuch and a Ginsburg. What, to paraphrase Scalia's rhetorical question, is the compromise between what the Constitution says and what liberals want it to say?

It would have to be a modest wish or a slight fantasy or a mild delusion. This doesn't actually eliminate the gap between Is and Want, or Truth and Desire, but just papers it over with what Bion calls hallucinosis:

In other words, the patient... has to deny the existence of an external reality that restricts, oppresses and threatens him with the pain of frustration. Therefore, the only "reality" in which he "believes" is the "reality" generated by himself through the method of hallucinosis.

Indeed, this is why Bion maintained that only the Lie requires a thinker, whereas Truth simply is. This idea made perfect sense to me when I first encountered it some three decades ago, and now I know why. For The truth does not need the adherence of man in order to be certain (Dávila).

Man, for example, is endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights. This will always be true, even should the left stack the Supreme Court with enough Ginsburgs to deny it.

Other aphorisms come at the same truth from different angles:

Truth is never a definitive conquest. It is always a position that has to be defended. This is our vocation and our lot. On the positive side, they say a defensive war is always easier than an offensive war.

The truth does not share the defeat of its defenders. This is why the left must be tirelessly hyperactive, even in "victory." See how quickly the redefinition of marriage morphed into the transgender nonsense.

Man goes out hunting less for truths than for loopholes. Again, this requires a thinker, or even worse -- a constitutional scholar!

Truths are whatever any imbecile refutes. As you no doubt know from speaking with liberals, A few lines are enough to demonstrate a truth. Not even a library is enough to refute an error.

Truly, you can't win, unless you are dealing with a person who loves truth for its own sake, but then you're getting into the third human trait mentioned above, disinterested sentiment. For It is the truth of an idea in which we must rejoice, not in its victory. Because no victory lasts.

To be continued...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fake Nous

The world of fake news encompasses an area far more vast and problematic than just the idiots of the MSM. For really, it goes to the essential dilemma facing man, i.e., the discernment between reality and appearances. The sufficient reason of the intellect (nous) is to know truth. If not, then it -- and man -- is a superfluous absurdity.

The Bible rightly traces the issue back to the very (vertical) beginning: the serpent delivers fake news to Eve, who in turn passes it on to Adam. God then asks Adam "what's new?," and Adam proceeds to lie to God. What else is new?

Now, God is the very source and possibility of truth. Lying to him is like... oh, exiling oneself from paradise. Lies not only fail to attract heaven, but actively repel it. The heavenly presence flees before journalism and tenure. Every bit of fakery retraces the fall.

But the problem goes much deeper than mere bad information, because we live in an age in which "truth" has been subjectivized and is therefore no longer true, precisely. In order to understand this, we need to go back about, oh, 500 years, when it was understood that what we call truth involves adequation of the subject to an object. There is really no other alternative, at least if you want to preserve the category of truth (instead of mere "truth").

For if truth isn't adequation to an objective reality, then it really is just opinion -- which immediately devolves to a situation in which the opinion with the most muscle wins, AKA power prevails over truth.

The left, of course, likes to pretend it "speaks truth to power," but in reality it always speaks opinion backed by power. What is the left but a medley of policies so attractive that we are compelled to assent to them under the threat of state violence?

Truth isn't like that. Rather, truth attracts before it compels. To the extent that it compels, it is like math: if we say two plus two must equal four, that's not a coercion, much less a threat, but a liberating realization.

Likewise, on another plane, if we say there are two and only two genders, that's not slavery but liberation. The whole of science -- or technology, rather -- is based on the idea that bowing to nature on one level leads to mastery of nature on another. You can prefer magic to science, but it will get you nowhere.

The bottom line is that, as Schuon says, "truth comes in a sense from the outside, presenting itself to the subject who may or may not accept it." We are "free" to reject truth, at least in the short term. But truth will always have its vengeance.

Indeed, what is "the fall" but truth avenged? Sure, the contingent can usurp the role of the Absolute, the finite the infinite, man God. For awhile. The cosmos is either a spiraling message from God to himself -- from Alpha to Omega -- or it is a closed and meaningless tautology that man fashions from his own delusions.

Ideology -- which is a substitute for truth -- always devolves to ideolatry. This is because man is always homo religiosus, which is why he instinctively reveres truth, even when it is a lie. Yes, many leftists (especially at the top) are cynical manipulators, but the really dangerous ones are those who are sincerely passionate in defense of their delusion, i.e., in their ideolatry.

Again, the "transition from objectivism to subjectivism reflects and renews in its own way the fall of Adam and the loss of Paradise" (Schuon). Where did paradise go? It was swallowed by the Lie. For the Light still shines in the darkness -- the Truth in the false, the reality in the appearances -- but men neither see nor comprehend it.

Therefore, the celestial world, the Kingdom of Heaven, "is shut off from above without our noticing the fact," but this is compensated for by the (or a) world -- as in the old gag about losing one's soul but gaining the world. Or, you could say, gaining the horizontal at the expense of the vertical, but it is only the latter that gives meaning to the former. In the absence of verticality, man and world are nothing, just a brief swarm of insects.

Yes, the world becomes like a giant roach motel: attractive and enticing, but not the least bit liberating. You check in at birth, but in so doing, you check into a prison. With postmodernity, we reach a stage in which "human measures are replaced by infra-human measures until the very idea of truth is abolished" (ibid.).

Mission accompliced, in that Satan could never achieve such a grand finale without his favorite accomplice -- i.e., without man's tireless cooperation.

But not to worry. The truth does not share the defeat of its defenders (Dávila). And I AM -- the ultimate truth, or Truth of truth -- has overcome the world.