Friday, August 10, 2018

Locating Supernatural Resources in the Extra-Cranial World

Two bits of housekeeping: 1) Posts may at times be shorter, in order to put less pressure on readers and on myself. There's no reason to make every post so damn long and burdensome every time. 2) They may get more eccentric, just me wandering around in my own head. Or, they may be less obviously "coherent" and finished, more free-associational and ramblin'.

Therefore, they may seem to lead nowhere, at least on the surface. But today's topic, for example, is a big subject to which I couldn't possibly do justice in the allotted time -- which is less than an hour -- but here it is anyway, half-baked and undigested. It has a point -- I know, because it is pulling me -- even if I haven't yet arrived at it.

To say that our current civil war results from a psychic rupture some three or four centuries ago seems so abstract, not to mention pointless. Besides, who said there's such a thing as a human norm? Unlike weather -- which leftists believe has an unchanging preindustrial standard, a "right way" to be -- they believe no such thing vis-a-vis human beings.

One reason why they get away with so much is that their only standard is the absence of standards, AKA defining deviancy down. Then they pretend to be surprised at the emergence of deviant behavior -- say, of a Harvey Weinstein operating in a sexually antinomian Hollywood (where else would such a person choose to operate? A place with no standards is a perfect fit for the man without any). And yet, people with no proper morality are shocked! at his lack of morality.

For in the words of the Aphorist, Human nature always takes the progressive by surprise.

Man is no exception to the rule that in order to exist, something must have a form. We are not just a psychic version of prime matter -- of an infinitely malleable and unformed potentiality.

Nevertheless and everthelouse, Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists.

And usually the dichotomy somehow exists in the same head -- as in, for example, "it is wrong to hold blacks responsible for their disproportionate involvement in crime" and "Trump's tweets are worse than Hitler!" Lack of principles applied to certain groups, hysterical enforcement of them in others. Or maybe you've never seen MSNBC.

At any rate, if we're going to say mankind took a wrong turn a few centuries ago, we have to posit a correct turn rooted in What Man Is. So, what is he?

The question goes back to our first philosopher, or to philosophy as such, which is to say: "know thyself." In philosophy, this question lost all interest and attention somewhere in the 19th century, with the emergence of antihuman thinkers such as Hegel and Marx, followed by such misosophic nul-de-slacks as analytic philosophy.

But then it returned in the 20th century with such developments as phenomenology and existentialism, only detached from everything that had come before. Now we had, for example, an existentialism rooted in an ontological materialism, when this sterile connection is by no means necessary. (Conversely, a young Saint Pope JP allied phenomenology to Christianity to come up with a fruitful Christian personalism.)

The point is that a Christian metaphysic can by definition take on board anything thrown at it, from Darwin to quantum physics (so long as it isn't an intrinsic absurdity such as Marxism or behaviorism). It can baptize anything, even, say, "materialism." For as Aquinas realized, you can have a material cosmos if you like, so long as you don't imagine it can be metaphysically self-sufficient.

Put conversely, there is no way for the finite mind to determine if the material world has a temporal beginning or was always here. But in either case, it must have a vertical source, or your metaphysic falls into incoherence and absurdity. Remember, Aquinas's "first cause" is not in time but outside it -- which is the whole point. To ask what was "before" the first cause is to not know what the first cause is.

Back to our human norm. At the moment, several recent books are in the process of converging and melding in my head. It is an unlikely confluence, consisting of several books that were read back-to-back-to back with no plan, and yet, are disclosing a plan.

Not to veer off course right away, but it reminds me of the Bible. A couple days ago my son mentioned that an evangelical friend of his thinks the Bible was essentially dictated by God, like the Koran or Dianetics. I reminded him that no one wrote the Bible, nor did any of its authors know about the others who would be included in this compendium we call the Bible. Rather, it was chosen and assembled long after the fact. The hidden coherence was only discovered after its contributors had completed their parts.

Which is not to say there is no such thing as a unitary Bible. Indeed, that is what makes it so endlessly mysterious -- that its authors were explicating a hidden coherence of which they knew nothing.

Ramping it down a few notches, it is equally certain that Judge Bork had no idea he was slouching into the same cosmic attractor as Matthew Crawford twenty years later (and vice versa), but here they are, touching hands in my head (or heads in my hands).

To this I could add the book When Harry Became Sally, because all three books, in different ways, speak to an enduring extracranial world that is thankfully independent of our desires -- in the latter case, not just the desire of Harry to pretend he is Sally. Who really cares, since it's a free country?

The problem is that Harry wants to enlist the state to coerce the restavus to say that Harry is Sally. Then we've not only rejected the human norm, but are forced at gunpoint to believe things that cannot be. Which is the endpoint of the wrong turn of a few centuries back, into a total subjectivism anchored in nothing outside the skull (and yet, compelled by the state).

But it's not the end. Things can and will inevitably get worse if we don't rediscover the correct path found in the extracranial world. There is a perennial vertical invasion from below, but we have to recognize it in order to repel it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Politics is Downstream from Culture is Downstream from Crazy

If not for eyes, we'd have no idea there's something to see. But we do have eyes, therefore, -- wait for it! -- there is something to see. More generally, every sense is ordered to what it senses -- to something external to itself.

The Root Problem of postmodernity (which is just the the logical entailment of certain errors of modernity) is the inversion of this home truth, such that the object is made subordinate to the subject: the world is conditioned by consciousness rather than vice versa.

In reality, the sensed is prior to sense, just as the known is prior to the knower. Such observations used to qualify as banalities, the main point being that if knowledge is to be possible, then the object must be prior to the subject.

If the subject is prior, then the result -- either immediate or long term -- is a swamp of subjectivism from which there Is. No. Escape. You've made yourself into a god, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

We see a lot of this diabolicality in the New Age movement. For example, -- I knew Deepak wouldn't let me down! -- "since the human world is entirely mind-created, the [human/cultural] problem comes down to not knowing how our reality is made." So, in reality, "reality" is just a mental projection from the inside out:

The play of consciousness is how reality is made, both personally and for the entire human race.... We believe that gluons, quarks, galaxies, stars, force fields, even bodies and minds are “real” but they are human constructs for modes of perception and their interpretation in consciousness.... The next step in our evolution as a species is to become conscious creators of this reality, which can be called the evolutionary leap from human to meta-human.

So, if you think things are bad now, just wait until the arrival of the meta-humans!

Notice the hope for a miracle. The impossible kind. Or, if not impossible, then a radically dystopian kind, in which every person is a monad who is freed to inhabit his own private Idaho. What Deepak regards as the final liberation is a total narcissism.

For as a far wiser man once said, Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything (Dávila).

Back to what was said above in paragraph two: when I say "logical entailment," what I mean is that the current cultural crisis -- our civil war -- has been long in the making, and is not going away any time soon. Rather, it will continue to worsen as a result of a split -- a violent rupture in reality -- that occurred several hundred years ago. War is inevitable given this maiming of reality.

Inevitable in the absence of a miracle. The good kind. Which I do mean literally, in the sense of a vertical intervention. Which has of course occurred at many hinge points in history, so there's no reason for hopelessness.

Aphorisms come to mind; for example, Intelligent optimism is never faith in progress, but hope for a miracle. Perhaps it helps to bear in mind that None of the high eras of history have been planned. Thus, In history it is sensible to hope for miracles and absurd to trust in plans.

I mean, if Trump isn't a miracle, then there's no such thing.

Back to our main point, which is the inevitability of our current civil war. This was brought home to me by an unexpecected source, as I finally got around to reading Judge Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, which provided me with a slightly different angle on the subject. Normally I just trace the issue back to Genesis 3 and say to hell with it: man is what he is, and always will be.

That's fine as far as it goes, but Bork traces a specific intellectual genealogy that starts about a quarter century ago and leads straight to Ocasio-Cortez (or to the latest malevolent idiot of the day).

So, what happened? What went wrong? As Bork says, "politics is a lagging indicator" of certain baleful developments that "have been coming on for a long time and may be inherent in Western civilization" (emphasis mine).

At this late date, the error has been thoroughly embedded -- like a pneuma-cognitive virus, AKA mind parasite -- in the culture, which is why Breitbart was correct to say that politics is downstream from it. If we are downstream, where is the source of this toxic spring? We're already running out of time, so I won't be able to do justice the subject. Let's just hit some highlights.

(By the way, while reading the book, it occurred to me what a "Catholic mind" Bork had. An atheist at the time of his confirmation hearings, he entered the Catholic church a few years after the publication of this book. So, he didn't "convert" to Catholicism, but rather, discovered he already was Catholic. This is another iteration of the object being prior to the subject, only on a higher plane. In other words, the object is God.)

Here's a passage that lays out the source of the trouble:

Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. The response of liberalism was not to turn to religion, which modernity had seemingly made irrelevant, but to abandon reason.

Hence, there have appeared philosophies claiming that words can carry no definite meaning or that there is no reality other than one that is "socially constructed." A reality so constructed, it is thought, can be decisively altered by social or cultural edict, which is a prescription for coercion.

And here we are, in a fight to the death between people who believe in reality and people who believe reality is what we wish it to be -- between truth and power, intellect and will, knowledge and tenure. Our hope is that what cannot continue will not continue, and that reality will ultimately Bork these tyrannical fantasists from our midst.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Sensing God

Let's stipulate that we cannot literally prove the existence of God, since infinitude by definition escapes finite logic. Adequate proofs, of course, abound, but only for people who don't need them. Why don't they need them? Well, for one thing, because there are other modes of proof besides mere logic.

For example, no one needs to prove the existence of vision in order to see. Explicit science has only existed for a few hundred years, but this doesn't mean man wasn't aware of countless scientific facts and principles. The world is what it is, regardless of what we think about it.

Back to something touched on in the first paragraph: to say that the finite cannot contain infinitude is already to have an intuition of the Infinite. And then you're off to the races! For the Infinite is one of our most important cognitive placeholders. It is always there, implicitly undergirding our thought, as the ocean is beneath the ship. Remove the ocean and ships not only won't sail, but no one would have bothered to invent them.

Or perhaps a better analogy is wind, since it is invisible. It blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but can't tell from where it comes or where it's going. And yet, we -- at least in premodern times -- were absolutely dependent upon it, what with sailing, windmills, and free air conditioning.

In the previous post we touched on a couple of ways God can be spontaneously "sensed" -- for example, vis-a-vis piety, which "is essentially the sense of the sacred, of the transcendent, of profundity," or of humility, which is awareness "of our metaphysical nothingness." To put it the other way around -- or First Thing first -- the Divine Presence is the sufficient reason for sanctity and humility.

If one denies God a priori, then these very human responses lose their sufficient reason. You have to deny them altogether, reduce them to irrelevance, or invent some other reason for their existence. For example, a Freudian might say they are the shadow of some infantile memory of omnipotent parents, while a Marxist might say they are class weapons to keep you in your place.

Religion is full of similar "responses" to "presences"; the response proves the presence -- unless you are too blunt to sense the latter, or if they are inconvenient barriers to one's own auto-deification.

As we know, one of the primordial trinities within God is Love-Truth-Beauty. Take just the latter, beauty. To deny that man senses beauty is to deny man. And yet, this is one of the major projects of postmodernity -- to entirely subjectivize beauty, such that it is located in us, not in the world. In this cosmic inversion, beauty is just a meaningless projection of the human psyche. It is reduced to an opinion or illusion.

Note that with this inversion, beauty loses its sufficient reason. On some level the barbarians are aware of this, so they try to come up with new sufficient reasons for its existence. These reasons are too stupid to seriously consider, but evolutionary psychologists, for example, pretend that beauty is reducible to some genetic advantage.

Come to think of it, a great many aphorisms go to exactly this subject. Not only do they say it better than I can, but they do so more succinctly. Let's dig out some examples.

As to our sense of beauty, The existence of a work of art demonstrates that the world has meaning. Even if it does not say what that meaning is.

You could say this meaning is a power before it is refined into a thought: thus, Strictly speaking, the work of art does not have a meaning but rather a power.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. And no, they don't belong to Charles Darwin. Likewise, The steps of grace startle us like the footsteps of someone passing by in the fog. Boo!

Damn. I've had the sudden realization that half the aphorisms come down in one way or another to "sensing" God:

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace. Boom.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says. Boom².

I could spend the rest of the post on beauty, but let's give equal time to truth, since I'm running out of it (of time, never of truth, since the latter is infinite).

I only contemplate wisps of truth that twist in the night gusts. Wisps of truth. They're out there! And they enter through the eyes, ears, mind, and spirit. But only if these gates are open. Vertically.

Only in prostration is the truth of man expressed. Because God is not an invention, but a finding. And if you're not rendered humble by the finding, then you've found the wrong guy -- an impersonator and imprisonator, so run in the opposite direction.

Of what is important there is no better proof than the fact of the well-born soul liking it.

So, what is man -- the well-born kind, AKA my readers -- but the sensory membrane between Creator and creation?

To be continued Wednesday...

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