Saturday, December 07, 2019

Something's Happening: Creation, Ensoulment, and Transphysical Perception

Picking up where we left off, we suggested that creation must be the Mother of All Principles. We won't say God, because God is a person -- or so he says -- and not a principle. The principles are rooted in the nature of the Divine Person, and I always go back to the first three words of the Bible: Bereshit. Elohim. Bara.

Speaking of translation and interpretation, there is a multitude of ways to render that in English, but what's really going on down deep (or up high)? We have a person (Elohim) and an activity (creation). The latter occurs "in the beginning," but the beginning is always now. Indeed, not only can creativity only occur in the now, if you think about it, it is just about the most nowish activity we can engage in. It simultaneously -- and paradoxically -- makes us disappear while requiring all that we are. Neat trick. No wonder it's so addictive.

It reminds me of something the prophet Leonoard said about poetry: Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. And while looking up that one, I found this: How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?

You can't. Unless there is a vertical ingression from outside time. Animals can create nothing new because they are literally bound by their genetic yesterdays. Let me know if you ever see a bird's nest with a statue out front or a painting on the wall.

But as the Aphorist says, Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace. Do I believe this? Yes, but only absolutely. It is not only one of our non-negotiable principles, but one of the ways we may "participate in God," i.e., in his unending bara. There is no need to believe in miracles so long as you never stop relying on them.

A couple more aphorisms just to hammer the point home: The work of art is a covenant with God. And because this represents a divine-human partnership, Aesthetics cannot give recipes, because there are no methods for making miracles.

What? You're not creative? Neither am I, really. I'm not a writer. I just see things and write about them. Fortunately, I don't have to be creative, because I have other people doing it for me -- musicians, artists, film makers, etc. You needn't be a creator per se if it isn't your gift and your calling. In fact, if it isn't your gift, you'll just end up being annoying. Madonna and Miley Cyrus call themselves artists. 'Nuff said.

Nevertheless, you must be capable of perceiving and loving beauty. Again, that's non-negotiable, for it is one of the primordial emanations of God. Thus:

Without aesthetic transfiguration all of reality is pedestrian. And From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.

Conversely -- and lucky for us -- we can say that, thanks to the grace of aesthetic transfiguration, the world never gets old. Rather, it's always new, so long as we see things in their metaphysical transparency and follow them up to their source. Numinous footprints and fingerprints are everywhere!

Speaking of endless creativity, I'm thinking of the film (but not only film) composer Ennio Morricone. No one knows how many films he has scored, but the number apparently approaches 500. Consider just 1968: I count 26 films, or one every two weeks, but it looks like he's even more prolific in the 1970s. How is this even possible? He slows down a bit in the '80s and '90s, but in the 2000s he's still doing up to six a year. He's now 91, but imagine if he could live to 1,000.

My point is that man's creativity might as well be boundless, and it requires an explanation. If you are intellectually satisfied by natural selection, then your absence of curiosity is spiritually fatal.

Is there a more intellectually satisfying explanation? Yes. Yesterday I was watching Father Spitzer's Universe, and was surpleased to see that he puts forth the identical argument I do in Book Three of One Cosmos. He even drops the G bomb all over the primitive superstition of materialism: Gödel. For some reason, people just don't appreciate the explosive (and liberating) power of his theorems.

Click on the latest episode from 11-27-19, and start at about 30:30. He points out that although genetic human beings appear as early as 200,000 years ago, there is no evidence of interior humanness until about 70,000 years ago, when there is a veritable Big Bang of consciousness, or what we call psychogenesis. This is when ensoulment occurs, and with it, self-reflection, conceptual ideation, abstract math and logic, moral reasoning, a sense of religious transcendence, symbolic art, etc. It is also when and how the endless creativity gets underway. It hasn't stopped since.

So, natural selection is sufficient to account for the uncreative hominids who sit around eating bananas, smashing coconuts, and watching MSNBC. But it doesn't explain you, let alone one of those endless founts of creativity that pour down into this world.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

One Cosmos or No Cosmos

There's only one world. Why so many interpretations? It reminds us of the doctrine of sola scriptura, or one book, 36,000 denominations. Now, the one book was only rendered possible by the one church that wrote and assembled it. Remove the prior oneness from which the books were discerned in the first place, and the unity collapses into denominational fragments, each holding a piece of the whole.

Did something similar occur with the cosmos -- coincidentally, around the same time, or during the 16th century? While the Reformation begins in about 1520, they say the scientific revolution commences a mere 23 years later, in 1543. It makes one wonder if these two world-historical events aren't linked in some deeper way -- as if they're just bubbles on the surface of a much deeper continuum. Or discontinuum, as it were.

Unity. Now, this is something we insist upon, at every level and in every subjective modality and objective discipline. If this weren't the case, then neither this blog nor book would be called One Cosmos. The oneness is there, irrespective of whether we apprehend it or not.

And indeed, everyone short of the psychotic or demented apprehends it, at least on an implicit basis (and speaking as a psychologist, both psychosis and dementia are characterized by a painful psychic fragmentation, whether violent or passive, that can no longer be synthesized).

Another way of saying this is that everyone begins with an absolute, even if they pretend otherwise. Few people arrive at this realization in a straight line, and many people just call the oneness "God" and let him figure out how he is possible. Which is fine. A proper religious practice provides one with the means to articulate, approach, and assimilate the One.

In my case, I suppose I first arrived at it (i.e., the realty and not just the word) in several works by a philosopher named Errol Harris, in books such as The Reality of Time, Formal, Transcendental, and Dialectical Thinking: Logic and Reality, and the Restitution of Metaphysics (which I really ought to sell, since used copies are going for $329.13). I notice that he also has a title called One World or None, which looks to be political, in a bad way. Nevertheless, the title is sound, for either there is One Cosmos or there is none.

Why none? Because if there is no real oneness, no underlying order, then everyone is living in his own private Idaho, with no conformity or adequation to a real reality. Indeed, this is the modern and postmodern cosmos which we have inherited from Kant on down. Not coincidentally, it is the same cosmos we have inherited from Luther, who, not unlike Islam, demoted the intellect to a willful and pride-infused challenge to God and scripture. For example,

Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

Or, to be fair to Luther, he was at times on both sides of the issue, but that is going to happen once you have severed the underlying unity of faith and reason. Prof. Wiki:

Some scholars have asserted that Luther taught that faith and reason were antithetical in the sense that questions of faith could not be illuminated by reason. He wrote, "All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false," and that "Reason in no way contributes to faith.... For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things."

However, though seemingly contradictorily, he also wrote in the latter work that human reason "strives not against faith, when enlightened, but rather furthers and advances it," bringing claims he was a fideist into dispute. Contemporary Lutheran scholarship, however, has found that Luther rather seeks to separate faith and reason in order to honor the separate spheres of knowledge to which each applies.

So, separate or unified, one or many, syntheses or fragmentation? I think he wants to have it both ways in order to deny the dire implications of his epistemology, for if you deny the intellect, then to what or whom is scripture addressed? And why should we believe it? If we say "yes" to it, then it can only be with the will, not the intellect. Sad!

We're venturing far afield here. Back to unity. I haven't glanced at these books by Harris in a number of years. Let's cut to the chase and examine some of my crusty old notes to myself, as these are usually a good indication of what really stuck out for me. Examples:

--"The primordial nature of God is the ordering principle of wholeness."

--"Only the present has a vertical dimension through which floods being, consciousness, life, eternity, etc."

--"Biology embodies life; life presupposes wholeness."

--"The moment of eternity is the universal ordering principle which constitutes the processual flow into the serial structure of time."

--"History is the time it takes for humans to explicate humanness in its wholeness."

--"The reality of time establishes the reality of a whole which is nontemporal."

There's a lot more, but you get the idea. Or, if you don't, the idea is wholeness. Without it you have no idea. Literally. For without wholeness, any idea will reflect just a fragment of the intrinsic partness of things, so it will be reduced to Just Your Opinion, Man. That's how we descend from the lofty Idea of a University to the laughty reality of 36,000 grievance studies departments.

Now, why do I bring all of this up? Because just before this post got underway, I read one little line in Exercises in the Elements that reads as follows: "All understanding of the individual thing is dependent on understanding the whole." In short, this post was essentially a riff on that single sentence. Out of one bull, so much... fodder!

But how does this work, exactly? What is its Principle -- which surely must be the Mother of all Principles? For Pieper it is the principle of creation. We start here, because either the universe is created or it isn't. If it is, then that is the ultimate source of unity. If it isn't, then there is no conceivable basis for unity, say, the unity between intellect and intelligibility.

To be continued in the next post, assuming I can find this strange attractor again.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Translating the World into Reality

Continuing with the previous post, you could say that everything involves translation and therefore interpretation -- even when we are speaking the same language. I take an idea, translate it to English, pass it along to you, and then you have to reverse engineer it back into the idea. How is this even possible?

And it's not just oral and written language. What is physics but a translation of matter into mathematics? Likewise chemistry: note that we can, for example, translate water into H2O. Okay. But what happened to the water? It's gone. Obviously a new, large scale phenomenon occurs when H and O get together. What's more real, H, O, or Life? The answer may surprise you!

It's not just that water emerges. Think of all the things that are made possible by water, including life itself. H and O are useless to life unless they are in the form of water.

Think also of all the human meanings implicit in water, everything from watching a rainstorm out your window, to a cool drink on a hot day, to the vastness of the oceans, to baptism. All that -- and more -- when hydrogen and oxygen get together.

Yes Bob, that's nice and poetic and all, but does it really mean anything? Does what you're saying really have any cosmic implications?

This is indeed the nub of the gist of the crux of the matter, because I say Yes. There is a properly human world, and it is not reducible to the electrochemical, quantum, or physical worlds. Here is a vertical crossroads, and you really have only two choices: either the human world is real (I say more real than the others) or it isn't. And if it isn't, then you need to be intellectually honest, and not borrow from the illusory human world in order to sneak meaning in through the back door.

As we've said before, it ultimately comes down to God or nihilism. If you imagine there can be some middle ground, you're just fooling yourself and not to be taken seriously. I won't even argue with you, because either you see it or you don't. It's not negotiable. Truth is true even if no one recognizes it.

Nevertheless. Intriguingly, Genesis 3 implies that people don't wish to recognize this primordial truth, and that our first instinct is to try to build and inhabit that middle ground where we create the meaning. Likewise Babel.

And from the Christian perspective -- I heard this just last night -- the whole list of 613 laws in the OT is a kind of stopgap from the human side, until the gap is truly full-filled from the divine side. Obviously, no number of laws reaches infinity, just as no amount of hydrogen or oxygen has the qualities of water.

Translation. In the Incarnation, God is translated to man. His Word is translated to flesh. How is this possible? Well, first of all because translation itself is possible. Again, as indicated in the first sentence of this post, everything is translation, so why not? Who says Alpha can't be Omega, the first principle can't be last, eternal life can't take on finite life?

Recall the God-or-nihilism bifurcation mentioned above. From the nihilist perspective, any number of everyday miracles are rendered impossible, little things like life, beauty, truth, love, etc. Each of these is reducible to something less, something ultimately meaningless.

Note, however, that translation is still going on. It's just that you're translating meaning into meaninglessness. Neat trick. Do you understand the implications? If you do, you're lying to yourself, because there is no such thing as "understanding" in the alternate universe you have created. That horse left the barn once you pledged allegiance to nothing.

Anyone can get drunk on nihilism, and it's fun while it lasts. The problem is, you can never get drunk enough. Rather, sobriety -- or meaning -- keeps creeping in, which you have to knock back down with another sip of nothingness.

I well remember gulping down the existentialists -- Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Kafka, et al. So, Bob, why did you read more than one? Are you a slow learner? Or was there a Nothing beyond nothing you were seeking? Once you get it that existence is meaningless, why press the point? Why so thirsty?

The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored (NGD).

Camus at least got one thing right: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide." Sr. Dávila -- who combines the literary qualities of Nietzsche and Christ -- is on the same page: If the atheist does not commit suicide he has no right to be thought lucid.

It just now occurred to me how many Aphorisms go to our subject of Translation, especially the primordial kind that we scarcely think about but which undergirds a properly human life. How is this everyday translation from one realm to another even thinkable without God? One example is sufficient to make the point. Ten (which is where I'll stop) is just rubbing it in. Suffice it to say that the universe speaks; we have only to listen and translate:

--Things do not have feeling, but there is feeling in many things.

--Without aesthetic transfiguration all of reality is pedestrian.

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

--We are saved from daily tedium only by the impalpable, the invisible, and the ineffable.

--The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.

--Imagination is the capacity to perceive through the senses the attributes of the object that the senses do not perceive.

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

--The imagination is not the place where reality is falsified, but where it is fulfilled.

--Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge.

--Religion is not expressed very well in words. It is done better in architecture, sculpture, painting, and music.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Interpreting the World(s)

One thing leads to another, yada yada. Now that I'm thinking about solid rock -- foundational principles that cannot not be -- I keep running into them everywhere. The old Baader–Meinhof effect, whereby "a name, or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards."

They call it an illusion, but in this case it's the opposite: the dis-illusionment of perceiving the reality beneath appearances. The reality is always there. How could it not be? We just have to pay attention to it (or tweak our attentiveness).

I just read a recently republished book by Josef Pieper called Exercises in the Elements, and it's full of solid rock. First of all, what's with the title? What does that even mean? I'm pretty sure it means something more obvious in German, but Pieper explains in the preface that "elements" connotes elemental or elementary, i.e., foundational truths that do not "cheat us of things which are elementary and obvious."

For example, scientism obviously explains a lot, but at the cost of unexplaing a great deal more. And not only unexplaining, but then robbing us of the properly human meaning to which we are entitled. If I reduce you to a bag of chemicals, then everything that transcends chemistry vanishes. Why, it reminds us of an aphorism or three:

--With the categories admitted by the modern mind, we do not manage to understand anything but trifles.

--Scraping the painting, we do not find the meaning of the picture, only a blank and mute canvas. Equally, it is not in scratching about in nature that we will find its sense.

--The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.

And by "exercises," Pieper simply means something like "instruction"; so Exercises in the Elements is really about instruction in the fundamentals.

The first essay asks the innocent sounding question, What Does Interpretation Mean?, but it is full of provocative insights and insightful provocations. By the way, the writing is quite terse and unsaturated, leaving lots of space to fill in the blanks. The secret protects itself. But not from nosy Raccoons!

Pieper begins with Lonergan's answer to the question: "an interpretation is the expression of the meaning of another expression." As such, interpretation always involves translation, even if it is in the same language (for example, transglishing the Bible into plain English).

In a way, you might say that interpretation comes down to explaining what is really meant, from physics to theology and everything in between. It presupposes no less than two levels of meaning. For example, quantum physics interprets Newtonian physics at a deeper level. Likewise, for a Christian, Christ is the interpretative key for unlocking the meaning of the Old Testament. Christ is that to which the OT points.

There can also be pathological interpretations, which involve either a false analysis or synthesis -- say, Marxism, which interprets all of history as class struggle, or reduces economic activity to the labor theory of value.

Yes, it's a stupid theory, but it obviously appeals to a deep need on the part of its votaries to feel exploited and victimized (or it caters to those who harbor narcissistic fantasies of rescuing the exploited and victimized). A proper interpretation of Marxism must advert to permanent features of human nature such as envy, resentment, omniscience, and grandiosity; it conveys certain truths, but only inadvertently and ironically.

So, interpretation is a bridge between two realities. Which brings us to the question of scripture. What is it? Well, first and foremost it is a bridge between realities, not the reality itself. A fundamentalist bibliolater will conflate the two realities, thus defeating the purpose of scripture.

For example, the Garden of Eden story must be interpreted; and indeed, it even goes to the very existence of multiple levels, and to the gap between the way we are and the way we ought to be. "Original sin" means failure to conform to our divine archetype. This results in conscious or unconscious awareness of guilt. What to do with it?

Hmmm, let's see... how about a sacrifice! That ought to appease the the gods and purify us of our culpability! The rest is history (see Bailie here and here).

Some notes to myself: "nothing can free us of the need to interpret phenomena; the cosmos is not self-evident." As we know, no one has ever seen the cosmos; rather it is a metaphysical axiom that is promptly forgotten. But to say "cosmos" is to have interpreted the phenomena in a Big Way, indeed the broadest way immarginable.

In the case of atheism, there is no reality to which its interpreter is pointing; or, he interprets phenomena in such a way that interpretation is either impossible or meaningless. But to say that there is no need of interpretation is an interpretation.

Again, interpretation is a link between two worlds, but for the atheist there is only one, so what is the ontological status of his interpretation? It reminds us of another aphorism of solid rock:

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

No way around that one. Thus, if atheism is true, then it is unimportant, insignificant, trivial, and ultimately impossible to maintain with a straight face.

"[A]n utterance is significant and therefore able to be interpreted precisely because it points to reality." So, what I would ask the atheist is, What is the metaphysical significance of a contingent animal being able to utter statements that point to this thing you call reality? Things require a sufficient reason. What's yours?

Here's a good one: "All understanding of the individual thing is dependent on the understanding of the whole." Now, my metaphysic accounts for how and why it is possible for us to intuit this whole. But how does atheism presume to have knowledge of the whole? No mere animal knows that reality is the whole and vice versa.

"Truth is, after all the same as reality coming into view" (Pieper).

Here is how we can not only know the whole, but the parts (for parts are only parts because they are part of the whole): "the things we find in the world, by their very nature, exist between two knowing faculties."

In short, we can only know things at all because God knows them first; our intelligence and the intelligibility of things both flow from God's prior act of knowledge. Conversely, atheists have no explanation for their uniquely human intelligence (which is not just more animal intelligence); nor can they explain how human intelligence is conformed to the infinite intelligibility of the world.

We might say that between intelligence and intelligibility is interpretation or translation. Again, there are always no fewer than two worlds, and language -- Logos -- is the link between them. Interpretation is a "living rapport" between things. Things like, O, Father and Son.

That's about it for today.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Throwing Rocks with Sr. Dávila

While on the subject of solid rock, I thought it might be fun to select some of Dávila's aphorisms that are built on or out of bedrock, such that they can't possibly get more aphoristic on Moh's scale of vertical hardness. They drill down to the essence and substance of things, so to deny them is to exit this cosmos and inhabit a parallel looniverse of lies and soph-deception.

As I've mentioned before, if I ever write another book, it would have to be as terse and pointy as Dávila, if only because there is way too much goround to cover. Each field, from cosmology to theology to physics, would have to be stripped down to the bare truth, with no excess verbiage or egocentric bloviating: just say it and get out of the way. If a truth can be reduced to a deeper truth, then the former is not strictly necessary. Let others emanate those secondary and tertiary penumbras from the deeper principles.

Some of the aphorisms apply to the subjective world, while others apply to the objective world. Nevertheless, both must be objective. What do I mean by this? Here is an example: Reason is no substitute for faith, just as color is no substitute for sound. Most people would regard faith as "subjective," which it is; it is nevertheless an adequation to reality and therefore partakes of the objective nature of things. Or in other words, Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities. Objects can't be faithful; subjects can't not be.

More deeply, if God is a person (a Subject to whom we'll return), then a subjective element is built into the cake. I know that my new neighbor objectively exists. But to say that my objective knowledge of his existence exhausts what can be known about him is just silly. Same thing with reality: to imagine it can be exhaustively described empirically is instantaneously self-refuting, otherwise, to whom is the world a mere object? Another object?

Now, is God a person? Well, do persons exist? If they don't, then you are dismissed. For you the denial of personhood is rock, and you have reduced yourself to it. "There are no persons, said the person." Okay Humer.

But if persons do exist, then what is their principle, their sufficient reason? In what are they grounded? Is human intelligence just "more" animal intelligence, or something else altogether? If you believe natural selection is a sufficient cause of human intelligence, then you are faced with a dilemma, because animals can know nothing of essences, principles, abstract categories, etc. How can natural selection transcend itself if it forbids transcendence a priori?

Here is an aphorism that goes to one of our rock-bottom principles, complementarity: Two contradictory philosophical theses complete each other, but only God knows how.

Now, when I use the term complementarity, I don't just mean it in the quantum sense, i.e., Heisenberg's uncertainty principle; rather quantum complementarity is just the residue of a much deeper complementarity that is built into the nature of things. What are some of our primordial, which is to say, irreducible, complementarities?

Let's see: subject/object; eternity/time; absolute/infinite; point/space; center/periphery; vertical/horizontal; creation/created; geometry/music; spirit/matter; form/substance; act/potency; existence/essence; quantity/quality.

There are no doubt more, but in any event, they are all synthesized and harmonized in God, both before and after the fact, since God is both outside and inside time. The reason why we can approach unity is because unity exists; we may know there is One Cosmos, even if we can never rearrive there in this life. Or as the Prophet Leonard says, the goal falls short of the reach, being that no earthly or finite goal can satisfy us because our reach extends to God, to infinitude.

So, God doesn't harmonize anything, since he is Harmony. In which we are privileged to participate, which is why we may attain integral knowledge of this One Cosmos, a vision of the All. Again, animal intelligence can't even know that it knows, let alone what it can never know.

A few more rocks, and then I gotta go:

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

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

God is not an inane compensation for lost reality, but the horizon surrounding the summits of conquered reality.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Standing on Solid Rock

This will be a very non-linear post, so heads-up. It's just that it's a big subject, and I've bitten off more than I can chew, so it will have to organize itself as it's being written. In other words, the whole isn't quite in view, even though I sense it's there somewhere pulling at the disparate threads.

I'm back to thinking about the Dunning-Kruger effect. In particular, this passage on "motivated reasoning" caught my attention:

Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals. Each of us possesses certain foundational beliefs... that essentially cannot be violated (emphasis mine).

Dunning goes on to say that these organizing principles demand fealty from other opinions, such that "any information that we glean from the world is amended, distorted, diminished, or forgotten in order to make sure that these sacrosanct beliefs remain whole and unharmed."

Sacrosanct. Dunning probably didn't intend that word in the way I'm reading it, but I take it quite literally, as it gives insight into the very nature and structure of modern political religions in which the secular is elevated to the sacred -- or, to be perfectly accurate, the sacred is dragged down into the mud of an unredeemed (and unredeemable because severed from the divine) human nature.

Ironically, political religions are founded on the Christian centrality of the individual, but unmoored from the very Christian principles that ground and give dignity to the individual. Just this morning I read something by Gil Bailie that goes exactly to this.

Entitled THE SOUL IS NATURALLY CHRISTIAN: The Mystery of the Person and the Crisis of the Self in a Post-Christian Culture, it touches on some of the themes of the book on which Bailie is working. You might call them sacrosanct and foundational propositions from and around which everything else is organized, from the macro-cosmic to the micro-personal:

[I]t has become increasingly obvious that the notion of autonomous individuality flies in the face of social and psychological reality. Once the West had made protecting the rights of the autonomous individual the engine of its historical reforms and reconfigured all its institutions accordingly, however, it was understandably in no mood to quibble over the psychological plausibility of what had become its organizing principle.

In other words, culturally we are living with the effect -- personhood -- severed from the cause -- Christianity. Balie quotes Romano Guardini:

The knowledge of what it means to be a person is inextricably bound up with the Faith of Christianity. An affirmation and a cultivation of the personal can endure for a time perhaps after Faith has been extinguished, but gradually they too will be lost.... As soon as the true value of the person is lost, as soon as the Christian faith in the God-man relationship pales, all related attitudes and values begin to disappear.

Again, I want to highlight both the content and the form of this latter statement: for not only is it true, but it entails, shapes, and conditions so many other related attitudes and values that are only true to the extent that they are emanations or entailments of that prior, foundational belief.

The image of rock-paper-scissors keeps breaking into my head... a fable, as it were. Let's say you're an atheistic materialist: your rock is matter and empiricism. Well, the belief in materialism transcends matter, so it's like the paper that wraps around the rock. Transcendence beats immanence! But then Kant comes along with his epistemological scissors and cuts transcendence to ribbons of neurology, just forms of our sensibility. Is there a rock that beats Kant's scissors? Yes: the person playing the game!

Ah, but what is a person? Jumping ahead (or above) a bit, we would say that there is not, nor can there be, any such thing as a person in the absence of God. For our purposes, there is only the irreducible God <--> man dialectic (much like the truism that there is no such thing as an infant, only the infant-mother dyad). This isn't so important for pre-Christian cultures that don't yet know about the ontological centrality of personhood. But:

Christ’s warning to his disciples applies in very real ways and most especially to those cultures which have fallen under sustained Christian influence: “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). If they can remain insulated enough, pre-Christian cultures can survive indefinitely. Not so post-Christian cultures. They cannot go back before Christianity, even if they try to do so convinced that they are advancing beyond it.

Once you wake up to personhood, you can't go back to sleep into collectivism. Well, you can, but only in an intrinsically pathological way. Socialism is resurgent among millennials because it is just a symptom of a much deeper soul-pathology, in which Christianity remains, but in an inverted way:

As our formerly Christian culture has declared both natural law and biblical anthropology to be insufficiently solicitous of an individual’s will-to-power, individual “rights” was adopted as the cure for every social ill -- real or imagined.

Alas, however, not only did the assertion of rights become cacophonous, but it soon metastasized into an instrument for silencing, shaming, and punishing those still animated by the religious tradition, moral commonsense, and anthropological realism which first endowed the rights discourse with its moral authority.

Cardinal Robert Sarah has recently written about how quickly the enemies of natural law and Christian anthropology “hurl anathemas at all those who do not follow their line of thought.” Cardinal Sarah referred to this impulse as irreligious secularism’s “theological hysteria.”

Theological hysteria. That's a bingo. We all sense that a dramatic cultural change has taken place over the last decade or so. What is its deeper structure? The left has always been hysterical. But now, thanks to social media and cable news, it is able to crank up and amplify the hysteria 24/7. You've no doubt noticed that the news is no longer the news, but rather, the hysteria of the day. Check out this trivial but illustrative example at PowerLine. Part of hysteria is not knowing one is hysterical, as readily seen in these hyperventilating imbeciles.

Sacrosanct, as in:

Now, two aphorisms guide this blog: first, that In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter, and second, that As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock (Dávila).

Put them together, and we believe that every person, by virtue of being one, has access to the rock-like truths on which to found and secure a properly human life. I would even say that we are entitled to them, in the same sense that our bodies are entitled to food, water, and oxygen. Just as it would make no sense to have a body with no means to nourish and sustain it, it certainly makes no sense to have an intellect that can just as well thrive on lies as truth. If such were the case, it wouldn't deserve the name intellect.

Solid rock. Until we find it and build our lives upon it, we are essentially adrift in the cosmos, even -- or especially -- if we don't realize it. Postmodernism is founded on the belief there is and can be no rock. Their wretched rock is a reckless rocklessness.

Which isn't necessarily a bad idea if one takes it seriously. I am reminded of a Zen story to the effect that when we are born, we are thrown off a cliff with a boulder. Most people spend their lives clinging to the boulder, as if that will change the ultimate outcome. A first step toward enlightenment is to release the boulder.

Now, there are innumerable false boulders -- substitutes for the Rock -- some of them more or less respectable, such as education, doubt, or creativity, others that are harder to redeem, such as narcissism, power (for its own sake), and hedonism.

But the only proper and secure rock can be truth. For example, education in the absence of truth reduces to the tyranny of relativism and therefore power. Likewise, status in a criminal gang is quite different from status in heaven, which revolves around caritas and good works. And creativity in the service of ugliness, sadism, or popularity is just a clever or diabolical way to kill time.

But what if the ground is actually more squishy than petrine? To cite an obvious possibility -- for there can only be two -- what if it isn't an object but a subject? When we think of "subjectivity," we typically think of something that is quite the opposite of rock. When a person dies he turns rigid and re-turns to earth, but so long as he lives he is more of a dynamic flow.

Although this blog likes to found itself upon rock, we have four particular rocks in mind that strike us as deeper than rock; let's call them Gödel, complementarity, intersubjectivity, and the knowledge problem.

First Gödel. Gödel's theorems forever prove the insufficiency of mere logic being able to furnish our rock. Any conceivable logical system involves statements that cannot be proved by the system, even though these statements may well be true. The bottom line is that truth exists, that it transcends logic, and that it can never be reduced to logic. Logic is ultimately and necessarily circular, so to the extent that you attempt to make it your rock, it will be as if you have encased your head in stone.

To be continued....

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Satanic Eucharist : You Are What Eats You

More arresting passages from our reading of Ratzinger, presented with or even without comment if you're lucky:

When the eternal Word assumed human existence at his Incarnation, he also assumed temporality. He drew time into the sphere of eternity. At first it seems as if there can be no connection between the "always" of eternity and the "flowing away" of time.

But now the Eternal One has taken time to himself. In the Son, time co-exists with eternity.... In the Word incarnate, who remains man forever, the presence of eternity with time becomes bodily and concrete.

How is it possible for the infinite to "take on" finitude without obliterating it? How can the container exist within what it contains?

Well, I suppose finitude tried to swallow infinitude in the crucifixion, but fails in the resurrection. For

the historical does not serve the cosmic; no, the cosmic serves the historical. Only in history is the cosmos given its center and goal.

The Incarnation builds a bridge from the now to the forever. The "purpose" the cosmos is to actualize this in history:

The cosmos finds its true meaning in the Firstborn of creation, who has now entered history. From him comes the assurance that the adventure of creation, of a world with its own free existence distinct from God, does not end up in absurdity and tragedy but, throughout all its calamities and upheavals, remains something positive. God's blessing of the seventh day is truly and definitively confirmed.

For all time. And all time:

The centering of all history in Christ is... a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact, because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord.

History has a New Center "from which everything comes and to which everything tends." But recognizing this circular center requires a "new kind of seeing," a delivery "from that closure of the senses which perceives only the externals, the material surface of things, and is blind to the transparency of the spirit, the transparency of the Logos."

Any animal can see things. Only man can see through them.

The modern Problem of Knowledge in a notshall: as in thou shall not reduce reality to the means of knowing it. In another book, Ratzinger writes of the distinction

between ratio and intellectus, between reason in relation to empirical reality and man-made things and that reason which penetrates the deepest levels of being.

Reason reduced to the former (to mere ratio) is literally sick, and becomes sick because it is not and cannot be nourished by what it needs in order to flourish.

"Reason that can no longer recognize anything but itself and what is empirically certain is paralyzed and self-destructive." It is epistemological and even ontological clulesside, eagerly swallowing the satanic eucharist hook, line, and sinker. Genesis 3 all over again.

Nevertheless, the satanic eucharist is the opium of the tenured masses, giving strength to ratio-bound intellectuals. Hey, a man's gotta eat!

It gets worse, for the diabolical doctrine leads directly to progressive practice:

Revolution and utopia -- the nostalgia for a perfect world -- are connected: they are the concrete form of this new political, secularized messianism. The idol of the future devours the present (emphasis mine).

We are what we eat. Or what eats us. You decide. Or deicide.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Cosmic Liturgy

I want to take a side trip from our sidetrack into Dunning-Kruger because now I'm preoccupied with another book, Volume III of the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy. I'm 130 pages into this 600 page volume, and if I don't capture the sparks as they fly off the page and into my head -- i.e., blog about them in Real Time -- they'll likely just cool off and fade away.

I'm tempted to just highlight certain passages that banged my gong. I was in an unusual frame of mind while reading it, but I'm not sure if the space I was in made me read it in a different way, or if the material itself vaulted me into the space. Although the writing is "intellectual," like art, it has a kind of primordial power. Of course, the transmission of the power presupposes a receptor (not to mention a power line), which is one of the most compelling proofs of the higher Intellect.

Speaking of which, here is one description of how it might take place: "God wants to speak to every person" such that "his word becomes a light that enlightens every man." That isn't a poetic description, but nor is it literal, since the light of physics is not the Light of God or Intellect.

However, to the extent that it is a metaphor, its purpose is not "lateral," but rather, to deploy a lower reality to illuminate a higher one. Once that is accomplished, then we see that the lower is actually a descent of the higher -- that mere biological sight is a distant echo of Vision as such. For example, God obviously "sees," but not with material eyes. See?

"Neither reason nor faith can operate independently of the other and arrive at its proper destination. Reason and faith are preserved from dangerous pathologies by reciprocal correction and purification." Emphasis mine. Why? Because human intelligence, like any other organ, is ordered to a proper end; and failure to achieve that end is the very definition of pathology.

Which is precisely what renders pathology -- including both psychopathology and pneumapathology -- an objective study, not a matter of mere opinion. To cite one obvious example, relativism in any form is a mind and soul sickness. So too are materialism, scientism, Marxism -- anything that denies the Absolute, and therefore the ground and guarantor of truth. In short, deny intelligence its proper object, and it is ultimately just another form of stupidity.

Now, there is a kind of truth that results from logic or deduction; these are indirect means, just as proving the existence of eyes is not the same as seeing. And some truths -- the most important ones -- are seen directly with eyes not made of flesh. This comes to mind in Ratzinger's description of what occurs during the liturgy, through which "Christ unceasingly becomes contemporary with us, enters into our lives." Is this Presence something that is seen with biological eyes, something that could be photographed?

Schuon mentions somewhere that God (for us) is Truth and Presence. If you really dwell on the meaning and implications of these words, you'll understand what he means. Indeed, a person is someone for whom Presence is present. It's why with God, you're never really alone, even when you've abandoned him, for oneness is always threeness. Aphorisms:

--God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being. Therefore,

--God exists for me in the same act in which I exist (that act being I AM).

--God does not reveal with discourses, but by means of experiences. The sacred writer does not transmit a divine discourse; his words express an experience given to him (i.e., the Presence).

--In certain moments of abundance, God overflows into the world like a spring gushing into the peace of midday.

--If we believe in God we should not say, “I believe in God,” but rather, “God believes in me” (again, light from Light).

St. Irenaeus describes the Great Cosmic Circle: "The glory of God is the living man, but the life of man is the vision of God."

This one banged my gong so hard that I've made it a permanent comment above the comment box:

"The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history."

Later he writes that "For Christian thinkers, the circle is seen as the great movement of the cosmos," except that it isn't a closed circle, rather, more like "an upward flying arrow" spiraling toward a target the archer cannot see.

Another bang:

[I]n the Christian view of the world, the many small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one great circle of history as it moves from exitus to reditus. The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of movement...

In these circles, the mystery of beginning is repeated again and again, but they are also the scene of the end of time, a final collapse, which may in its own way prepare the ground for a new beginning. The two -- the great circle and the small circles -- are interconnected and interdependent.

Bottom line for today, courtesy of Sr. Dávila:

Everything in history begins before where we think it begins and ends after where we think it ends.

Friday, November 08, 2019

There is Always a Meta-

This observation by Dunning is right in the One Cosmos wheelhouse: "Some of our deepest intuitions about the world go all the way back to our cradles."

However -- or therefore? -- "not all of our earliest intuitions are so sound." No one is as omniscient as an infant (CNN hosts notwithstanding), and indeed, the pathological omniscience of adults is rooted in a prior age-appropriate infantile omniscience. No animal but man can simultaneously be such a know-it-all and know-nothing. I know you know such a person. Indeed, I even know you'll be conversing with such a person on Thanksgiving.

The concept of infantile omniscience isn't difficult to understand, as it is simply a function of coming into the world with no boundaries or conceptual limitations; it may be symbolized as a dimensionless point. To the extent that this undifferentiated space persists into adulthood, then it is considered to be a pathological defense mechanism, a regression to the comforting delusion of knowledge, in which case the personality develops

with omniscience and omnipotence as a substitute for the learning process and there will not be a function of the psychic activity that can discriminate between the true and false; there will also be an absence of thought capable of genuine symbolization (Introduction to the Work of Bion).

Could it be that Dunning-Kruger is rooted in such a developmental failure and regression? In any event, the thinking of very young children "is marked by a strong tendency to falsely ascribe intentions, function, and purposes.... this propensity for purpose-driven reasoning" is something that "never really leaves us" (Dunning).

Now, knowledge is knowledge of causes. As such, DK involves knowledge of false causes, or a false knowledge of causes. This is why the emergence of the scientific method was such an important development, because it provided a critical method with which to test our knowledge.

However, the scientific method is itself vulnerable to DK if and when it oversteps its boundaries. Put it this way: there is always a meta-, no matter how we might try to escape it. Once we have scientific knowledge, we have meta-science; likewise, historical thought coarises with meta-history, because to be aware of time is to be partially outside or beyond it. Dávila nails it in ten words:

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Indeed, without philosophy, no discipline knows what it knows. I remember back in grad school, getting into an argument with a behaviorist. Suffice it to say that he was innocent of any metapsychology to ground his otherwise circular epistemology. It never occurred to him that if behaviorism is true it must be false.

By the way, is there meta-religion? I suspect there is and must be, but that few people are interested in it. Or maybe it requires certain abilities and inclinations that few people possess, or I'd have more readers. But religious phenomena must be instances of religious principles, no? They aren't just ad hoc. In other words, if something is, then it must be possible for it to be. Even God can't accomplish the impossible!

A miracle, for example, still conforms to law, except the law must be vertical, implicit, and nonlocal. Indeed, this is why, for example, every miracle associated with Jesus isn't just for it's own sake, but to transmit a vertical teaching. Such miracles aren't just "magic," but lessons.

Now that we've ventured down this rabbit hole, it reminds me of how early Christians deduced -- if that's the right word -- the existence of the Trinity. It is nowhere mentioned explicitly in scripture, but is discovered as the principle that explains the otherwise irreconcilable data of revelation (not to reduce it to a mere principle of human reasoning).

No, this is meta-reason. As explained by Ratzinger, there is the lower "reason in relation to empirical reality and man-made things," and a higher "reason which penetrates the deepest levels being."

But nowadays, "only [the former] reason in the more restricted sense remains," which is precisely why there is so much religious Dunning-Krugery. The whole neo-atheist craze is founded upon a denial of meta-reason, and therefore a presumptuous attempt to deploy reason to explain what necessarily transcends it. Imagining that reason can contain what both transcends and grounds it is the height of irrationality. Might was well try to play basketball with a circle instead of a sphere.

So, just as, without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know, without Reason (meta-reason) reason doesn't know what it knows (let alone what it cannot know). But really, it all goes back to Gödel, because man always escapes and transcends his own foolish efforts to enclose himself in some manmade cognitive cage.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Ignorance, Meta-Ignorance, and Full-Blown Tenure

In many ways, the Dunning-Kruger effect simply ratifies common sense: that there are varying degrees of ignorance with corresponding degrees of virulence.

The first and most benign form is simply not knowing, but knowing one doesn't know. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, a prerequisite of learning is awareness of ignorance; or, put conversely, the presence of curiosity and wonder. And of love.

Never forget that philosophy is the humble and heartfelt love of wisdom. And while theology is "the study of God," God is love, so there's that.

But love is fundamentally a relation, and this relation is irreducible: there is nothing beneath, behind, or beyond it. For me, this is the whole point of a trinitarian metaphysic: God is love, but love is act-in-relation. As there is no Father "prior" to the Son, there is no subject of love prior to its object; this object can never be fully attained, much less dominated and controlled. Love is the proper form of oneness, whether of persons or of knowledge.

Now, God isn't only love, for he is also truth, beauty, goodness, and other qualities. But obviously he always loves truth, and we should do the same: philo-sophy is as much a way of life as body of principles. To know them is to love them and want to be them (i.e., I-AMbody them).

Wait. If God loves truth, doesn't this imply an absence or privation? Well, yes and no. While it may not be entirely kosher to say so, I like to think that God's absoluteness makes him the most relative (or relational) thing conceivable. Schuon insists that "absolute relativity" is the height of absurdity, and so it is, at least outside a trinitarian metaphysic. But if God is trinity, then you might say that the relativity is built into things, but without reducing to relativism per se. Rather, God's relatedness is imbued with an absoluteness. Or just say God is Love and be done with it. No need to overthink it.

Anyway, the second form of ignorance is what we might call "meta-ignorance," i.e., not knowing one doesn't know, or ignorance of ignorance. One thinks of the natural omniscience of very young children, who know too little to know how much they don't know. Only as their knowledge grows are children cognitively capable of conceptualizing how much they don't know. While most accomplish this, others will remain journalists for life.

A caveat -- or perhaps a sub-category -- is in order here, for in point of fact no man can actually conceptualize how much he doesn't know, for it is infinite. Literally. What we know is always and necessarily a small subset of what we can know: a drop in the bucket, except that, like a growing economy, the bigger the drop, the larger the bucket.

Analogously, imagine if we could snap our fingers and instantly double everyone's wealth. Everyone would be twice as wealthy, and yet, "income inequality" would be greater than ever. A conservative liberal will appreciate how the former (prosperity) is a function of the latter (inequality). Conversely, the leftist wants to rid the world of inequality, but at the cost of reducing affluence for everyone. Yes, but you can't put a price on how good it feels to act on one's envy!

Hence the perennial appeal of socialism, and it is no coincidence that socialism is founded upon a presumption of knowledge that is literally impossible to possess. Which means that socialism is, strictly speaking, impossible. It is impossible because the irreducible unit of economics is price, and price has a kind of trinitarian structure between an object (or good) and two subjects. The object has no intrinsic value, rather, only the value freely agreed upon by subjects of the exchange.

But that's not my point. Think of how much more we know about the cosmos now than 300 years ago, at the beginning of the scientific revolution. But think of how much larger the cosmos has grown with the knowledge: 300 years ago the size was manageable, which is to say, imaginable. But now its vastness is quite literally unimaginable. It's hard to imagine a single galaxy, let alone 200 billion. How about 2 trillion? Never mind.

It's no different with the mind: if we're honest -- or mature -- the more we know, the less we know. I earned my PhD back in 1988, since which time my ignorance has only increased, as it should. But "leftist psychology" is no less insane and dysfunctional than leftist economics, and the left has increasingly hijacked the discipline of psychology over the past thirty years.

Here's an example forwarded to me by a friend a couple of days ago, something called RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health. This is a fine illustration of the third and worst form of ignorance, which transcends both ignorance and meta-ignorance, and enters the realm of full-scale Dunning-Krugery. Such a mind

is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that is filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous....

These psychiatrists and psychologists -- credentialed idiots one and all -- are indeed embarrassing, unfortunate, and downright dangerous. So much for "do no harm."

Consider just the promiscuous use of the vacuous term "social justice," as if it has any meaning at all. In fact, it literally has no meaning except that which is imagined by its user. Or in other words, "social justice" is "what I want to happen." And what I want is a desire, not a thought. Moreover, it immediately -- and unthinkingly -- becomes "what I want the state to compel you to do for me." Social justice, good and hard.

Let's be honest: social justice is the pursuit of raw power masquerading as a disinterested love of truth. That's called "doing Satan's heavy lifting."

Hayek: "the people who habitually employ the phrase [social justice] simply do not know themselves what they mean by it and just use it as an assertion that a claim is justified without giving a reason for it." It "embodies a quasi-religious belief that has no content whatsoever and serves merely to insinuate that we ought to consent to a demand of some particular group..."

Better yet, Dávila: “Social justice” is the term for claiming anything to which we do not have a right.

(To be continued; I think I'll reread Hayek's essential The Mirage of Social Justice and return in a couple of days, as it has tremendous implications for the eradication of so much wackademic Dunning-Krugery.)

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Truth Doesn't Need You to be True

Continuing on the theme of Dunning-Kruger, being that humans tend to "overestimate their competence by a long shot," the campaign to instill (even) higher self-esteem is yet another progressive policy that not only flies in the face of human nature, but aggravates it. You might say that someone with inflated self-esteem is like a human, only worse.

Now, there's nothing wrong with "self-esteem" per se, although the term itself is rather stupid; better ones might be self-respect, dignity, or integrity.

For one thing, people with excessive self-esteem are always vulgar and undignified, not to mention the vertical truism that "pride goeth before a fall." If you inflate a man, you're just setting him up to be deflated when the balloon is pricked by reality -- for example, via the phenomenon of "mismatch," which places black students in academic milieus which only ensure failure a little further down the lyin'.

Note that "affirmative action" pretends to be about increasing black self-esteem, but the whole corrupt exercise is actually in the service of making white liberals feel good about themselves at the expense of their black pawns -- about boosting white self-esteem.

How to tell when your self-esteem is excessive and on the way to DKville? By way of prelude, ever wonder why the Bible makes such a big deal out of humility? Not only is it exalted, but it is apparently something that doesn't come naturally to man. What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Likewise the Sermon on the Mount, which is only the source of the cosmos telling us how it's supposed to done, e.g., meek, pure in heart, poor in spirit. In a word, humble.

Nocoincidentally, there are a number of synchronistic passages in Esoterism As Principle and As Way that touch on the theme of self-esteem and humility, which are by no means opposites or inversely related. Rather, the question comes down to objectivity, which is always necessary, but most especially toward oneself.

Now first of all, is objectivity even possible? Well, the whole premise of postmodernity is that it is not, and that all statements are perspectival -- just your opinion, man -- i.e., self-interested and ultimately about power, not truth. Therefore, one certainly cannot be objective toward oneself. And besides, the self doesn't even exist! So these dumb-as-a-post modernists are essentially saying: the self is an illusion, and it's special!

Utter nonsense, but there it is.

To back up a bit, there is an Absolute, which is the ground of the very possibility of intelligence. Remove the Absolute, and man is sealed in permanent and ineradicable stupidity. If you don't believe me, just try to make a true statement divorced from the Absolute. We'll wait.

Here is the reality:

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul.

Bing. Bam. Boom. These are things that you will either understand immediately; or fail to understand. But your failure to understand does not effect their truth one iota. The truth doesn't need you to be true.

Consider the second, freedom of will. How is this possible? It is possible because we are able to discern between good and evil. An animal cannot do this. But man can know the truth and thereby will the good. Simple as. If we cannot know the good, then morality is indeed illusory and arbitrary: perception is reality, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and there is no such thing as error, evil, or ugliness.

"Objectivity," according to Schuon, consists of "grasping the object as it is and not as it may be distorted by the subject."

Again, is this possible? It's a catch 22, because if you say it isn't, then you presumably mean it in an objective way. Note that this whole question is again tied in with Genesis 3, because -- it seems to me -- our fallenness has much to do with subjective passions distorting our ability to apprehend objective reality, to the point of disabling the fruitful and in-spiraling dialectic between the two (subject and object). "Adam and Eve," writes Schuon, "attributed to the relative the rights of the Absolute."

How does one square humility with being in the image and likeness of God? Wouldn't the latter be the ultimate pretext for grandiosity and self-inflation? Yes, it might be if God weren't at such pains to demonstrate humility for all the world to see. I mean, crucifixion?

Running out of time here. I'll just get to the point and let you figure out how it relates to DK:

"[N]obility of character consists in putting honor and moral dignity above self-interest," while "Detachment entails objectivity with regard to oneself."

Which is another way of saying that the noble man transcends himself, detesting what is bad in him and loving what is good. So you should never tell a person to just love himself, full stop. Rather, one must love only what is lovable, just as one should know only what is true, for knowing falsehood is another name for DK.

The essence of dignity is not only our theomorphism, but humility together with charity; these two virtues compensate for the risks stemming from our quality as image of God.... This theomorphism could well make us arrogant or egoistic, but when we grasp its true nature we see that it obliges us, on the contrary, to heed the perfections not only of the Lord but also the servant... (Schuon)

Aphorisms:

--Self-satisfaction is pathetic proof of lowliness.

--The noble one is not the one who thinks he has inferiors, but the one who knows he has superiors.

--Justifiable pride is accompanied by profound humility.

--Secular morality exudes pride (NGD).

Friday, November 01, 2019

Society for the Prevention of Dunning-Kruger

A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery. --Dávila

It's no doubt accurate to say that everyone is subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect (heretofore DK). The problem is, there is an inverse relationship between its effects and awareness of its presence: in other words, the less we know, the more we think we know.

Now, we all like to think we're immune to the effect, but it seems to me that it is built into the nature of things. Literally. For as we've discussed before, it is only possible to know anything about anything because we cannot know everything about a single thing.

In other words, our finite intelligence is, as it were, an echo of God's infinite intelligence. That being the case, one could define God as the one being who necessarily doesn't suffer from DK but makes it inevitable (or in-Eve-ate-apple) for the rest of us. Awareness of this principle makes a man humble. Denial of it makes a man proud. See Genesis 3 for details. Indeed, you could say that DK is merely a form of idolatry (or maybe vice versa).

Is there more DK these days than in the past? The answer may surprise you. But first I have to think about it.

I was about to say there is more of it, but it's much like trying to determine if there is more greed, cowardice, lust, or envy than in the past. All we can say is that these are all permanent features of human nature, so they will always be present to one degree or another. We do, however, agree with Sr. Dávila that

Modern stupidities are more irritating than ancient stupidities because their proselytes try to justify them in the name of reason.

Modern sophisticates like to imagine that people of the past were immersed in a religious worldview that caused them to think they knew much more than they did -- in other words, that religion is just a cover for ignorance. But again, the temptation to idolatry is ineradicable, such that we have any number of ideologies (or better, ideolatries) that serve the same function, e.g., scientism, Marxism, Darwinism, and all the rest.

Science? Please. We love science, but to think that it can provide any kind of comprehensive explanation of the world is the purest DK. No one can can be a great scientist -- or thinker at any rate -- who is only a scientist. Consider:

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession.

--Stupidity appropriates with diabolical skill what science invents.

--Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

--What is capable of being measured is minor.

Exaggerate much? No, not at all, because Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

In other words, once you've reduced to the world to a calculation or quantity, you'll still have to account for the calculator and quantifier. And there is -- literally -- an infinite distance between the two. This distance is -- literally -- unbridgeable from the bottom up. Conversely, from the top down it is not only explicable but even necessary, in the sense that it is necessary for the Creator to create.

Which is another way of talking about the complementary principles of immanence and transcendence. Scientism imagines the world can be intelligible without intelligence, which is to say, immanent without transcendence. But if intelligence isn't transcendent, it isn't intelligence, precisely.

Or, put it this way: if there is no transcendence -- no vertical inscape hatch -- then all statements are ultimately tautologies. To take an obvious example, if we are explained by our genes, then we couldn't explain our genes. Rather, the explanation would be genetically caused and therefore circular.

Only recourse to transcendence accounts for both the continuities and discontinuities of the world. Again, from the bottom up -- from any materialistic standpoint -- intelligence and intelligibility, mind and matter, must be discontinuous. And if they are purely discontinuous, then there is no accounting for knowledge. Knowledge could only be an illusion of continuity, just a projection of our own psychic categories. Taken to the extreme, it would mean we can know everything about nothing. Terminal DK.

In truth, there are real continuities and discontinuities built into the nature of things, the former being radial, the latter circumferential. Imagine a circle with a point at the center: ʘ. That's God (or Creator) at the center, world (creation) at the periphery. However, there are multiple worlds, e.g., metaphysics, physics, chemistry, biology, et al. As such, we have to imagine a series of concentric circles, each corresponding to a particular world.

But there is also continuity, which can be conceptualized by imagining an arrow (or arrows) emanating from the center. And guess what: you -- your soul -- is one of those arrows, precisely. This is what it means to be in the image and likeness of the Creator (the center), and why we can have real knowledge of the other circles. Each circle discloses truth, but only because they are linked (via the arrows) to the Center.

DK prevention, right there.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dunning-Kruger of the Spirit

Time only to lay a foundation...

The other day I read an essay on the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is without question one of the most important drivers of history. It is probably accurate to say that more things happen because of what we think we know than what we actually know, but who knows? The upshot of Dunning-Kruger is that man -- both individually and collectively -- is shadowed and haunted by "false knowledge" -- i.e., the whole category of things we know that just aren't so.

Let me highlight some passages from the essay that stuck out for me:

In one study, roughly 90 percent [of respondents] claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fictitious concepts we asked them about. In fact, the more well versed respondents considered themselves in a general topic, the more familiarity they claimed with the meaningless terms associated with the survey.

In short, confidence and cluelessness are directly proportional, at least in many people much of the time. And it seems that the unearned confidence prevents people from seeing how clueless they are. One thinks of Michael Scott in The Office, "the world's best boss." Or, in a more comedic vein, one thinks of the breezy confidence and utter vacuity of an Obama, "the world's greatest president," or of most any mainstream journalist or pundit.

Speaking of which, has any man in history exposed more political and journalistic Dunning-Krugery than Trump?

For more than 20 years, I have researched people's understanding of their own expertise -- formally known as the study of metacognition, the processes by which human beings evaluate and regulate their knowledge, reasoning, and learning -- and the results have been consistently sobering, occasionally comical, and never dull.

As a fellow once said, "being educated means 'being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.'" But "this simple ideal is extremely hard to achieve. Although what we know is often perceptible to us, even the broad outlines of what we don't know are all too often completely invisible. We fail to recognize the frequency and scope of our ignorance" (emphasis mine).

Bottom line: "in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize -- scratch that, cannot recognize -- just how incompetent they are..."

But why? Well, for starters, recognizing "their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack." Boom: the ignorant are too ignorant to appreciate how ignorant they are. Thus, "the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge" (emphasis mine). Ignorance can feel just like knowledge. Or maybe you were never a liberal.

I'm thinking back on when I was young enough to know everything. Naturally I was a liberal, because -- as formalized by Hayek -- liberalism (or leftism, to be precise) is founded upon a pretense of knowledge that is strictly impossible for anyone to possess. At its extreme it leads to a kind of omniscience that serves as the pretext of the totalitarian state.

Example, plucked from this morning's headlines: former California governor Jerry Brown "told Congress on Tuesday that President Donald Trump and the Republican Party were responsible for the ongoing California fires because of their opposition to drastic climate change policies."

"California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all,” Brown told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday... “The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up. Because this is not politics, this is life, this is morality... This is real."

While it's nice to see a leftist acknowledge the reality of the soul, California is not burning because of Trump, much less because of the failure to enact any conceivable climate change policy. That's just clueless omniscience made even worse because it is enlisting the conscience to make its case. From this it is but a step to righteous violence -- to violence sanctioned by the conscience because the people who disagree with Brown are willfully and ineradicably evil. No wonder the left sympathizes with al-Baghdadi: professional courtesy.

Now, is there a solution to this perennial problem of ignorance-as-knowldege? We haven't yet finished laying our foundation, but I don't want to end on a pessimistic note, so I'm going to jump ahead with a passage by Schuon that goes directly to the question:

whoever wishes to use his intelligence without risk of going astray must possess the virtue of humility; he must be aware of his limitations, must know that intelligence does not come from himself, must be sufficiently prudent to make no judgments in the absence of adequate information.

Pride goeth before a fall into Dunning-Kruger.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Less is More, More is Less

As usual, an improvised post that is recommended to no one and not recommended to anyone.

Let's go back to the essay we were discussing a couple of posts back, on What Sincerity Is and What It Is Not. First of all, what is it?

Just spiritballing it here, but it seems to me that it would constitute an alignment between one's surface and depth (itself an acknowledgment of vertical degrees of human being-ness). We all have a "social self," or surface ego, with which we get through the day; and a more personal self which we share with others along degrees of intimacy. There are a few people in our lives with whom we can let it all hang out, and others with whom we must more or less tuck it in.

For example, living in a deep blue precinct of California, I must be extremely selective in revealing my scarlet (R) letter, just as a Jew living in Nazi Germany would have been ill-advised to advertise his religion. Am I comparing Nazi Germany to California? Of course I am. For the former is to the latter as psychosis is to neurosis, or as vivid is to subtle. I don't start from the principle that everyone is sane; rather, with the principle that everyone is more or less deranged in some way or to some degree.

Now, no one is more sincere than the sincerely crazy person. Generally, the more crazy the more sincere. But the same can be said of stupidity and ignorance. The more intelligent one is, the more qualifications, reservations, and exceptions one will have, at least in the great middle area between metaphysics above and empirical sensation below. (Remind me to get back to my as-of-yet unwritten post on Spiritual Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, whereby the most ignorant know the most, whether the D-K victim is religious or secular.)

In other words, there are principles at the top that cannot not be; and there are experiences at the bottom that are what they are. For example, right now I'm feeling this keyboard in front of me. Although a wholly contingent experience, it nevertheless partakes of a kind of absoluteness, because it is absolutely and undeniably happening.

In general, the problem with any form of empiricism, rationalism, or materialism is that it covertly (and absolutely) elevates the relative to the absolute. While it is true that "what is, is," it really depends upon the meaning of "is."

That is, you can't deny the irreducible isness of the subject up front, and then use it to affirm the fundamental isness of the object. Rather, once you eliminate the former, then nothing can be said of the latter. So, "He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself" (NGD). It's just common courtesy.

Regarding those qualifications and exceptions pertaining to the vast middle area of the cosmos, I have arranged the following aphorisms in stepwise fashion so as to arrive at the final point:

1: Anyone can learn what it is possible to know, but knowing it intelligently is within the reach of few.

2: It is not the one who answers the questions, but the one who complicates them, who knows the subject.

3: As long as we can respond without hesitating we do not know the subject.

4: That which is incomprehensible increases with the growth of the intelligence.

5: To mature is to comprehend that we do not comprehend what we had thought we comprehended.

6: Erudition has three grades: the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia says, the erudition of him who writes what an encyclopedia says, and the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia does not know how to say.

7: We do not know anything perfectly except what we do not feel capable of teaching.

Therefore, it seems that who knows the most says the least. I know what you're thinking: Bob, you are SO BUSTED, with exhibit A consisting of the millions of words you have inflicted upon us over the past 14 years.

And I plead NOT GUILTY, first, because I said long ago that I only blog for myself while permitting others to look in on the process if they care to do so; and I have never once posed as a teacher. As always, I never recommend the blog to anyone. Rather, I only offer it. I have no control over the rest.

But am I sincere? Yes, I can promise you that. I would never knowingly lie or mislead, because the stakes are too high. Why pretend that you can lie to the one person to whom it is impossible to lie, i.e., God? Rather, one must approach God with total sincerity, i.e., with a perfect alignment of heart, soul, and mind; or will, sentiment, and intellect; or virtue, truth, and beauty; etc. The whole existentialada. Leave nothing out. Schuon:

man must firstly "unite himself with God" in his heart, secondly "contemplate God" in his soul, and thirdly "accomplish in God" with his hands and through his body.

Doctrine, method, will. Or truth, way, freedom. You can hand someone the truth on a silver platter, and even show him the way, but he is always free to reject it. Scratch this person and you will always find pride -- the pride of Genesis 3 All Over Again. Conversely, humility is both a cause and effect of approaching God, in that the more we know of what infinitely surpasses us, the less we know, until finally we know nothing about everything and can't possibly explain how we can be so full of it.

Friday, October 25, 2019

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Cause

If one believes it possible to deny that one is a man or a woman -- i.e., to affirm the possibility of "transgenderism" -- it is only because one must first believe it possible to deny one's humanness. In other words, the denial of the sexual form of one's humanness is rooted in an antecedent denial of the human essence per se (form being an expression of the essence).

Once you think about it, it is obvious: all post-Enlightenment anti-religious secular misosophies deny the reality of essences, and gravity takes care of the rest; once something isn't what it is, it is anything we wish it to be: garbage in, tenure out.

The above thoughtlets occurred to me in reading a passage by Schuon, wherein he describes the contemporary

philosophical and artificial dehumanization of man, which proves, not that man is something other than he is, but simply that he is capable, precisely because he is man, of denying the human without however really being able to succeed in this aim. He can deny himself because he is a man, yet it is for the same reason that he fails finally in so doing (emphasis mine).

Think about that one: because man is man, he is able to deny that he is man. In other words, denial is part of the human package. And yet, denial cannot be an independent, free-floating principle. Rather, denial is always of a reality the person doesn't wish to acknowledge. One could even say that it not only has a perfect right to exist, but is a divine mercy, precisely. It is only when it exceeds its limits that it becomes pathological.

To back up a bit, denial isn't just one of our most fundamental psychological defense mechanisms, I would suggest that every other defense mechanism, from the primitive to the mature, partakes of it. Every patient I see is in denial of something; acknowledgement of that something would provoke psychic pain, which is why it is denied.

But again, defense mechanisms aren't pathological per se, any more than our immune system is. However, both physical and psychological defenses can go too far and end up attacking and weakening the host, thereby undermining their reason for being.

For example, across the street from us lives an elderly hoarderess who mindlessly putters around her yard all day, unloading worthless junk from her truck, washing it, adding it to the pile, rearranging the pile. All. Day. Long. Her solipsistic existence has been reduced to her mechanical and self-enclosed obsessions and compulsions. But she's just a vivid example of a more subtle process. Indeed, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What? No, that's not original to me. Heard it from some guy who claims to be the quintessential human. (In translation: where your obsessions are, there your compulsions will be.)

Now, the heart is the "location" of our vertical transnatural intellect. And our design is such that it should conform itself and be attached to its proper treasure. Or at least detached from the trivial and worthless. Schuon:

Detachment: first it should be noted that attachment is the very nature of man; and yet, he is asked to be detached; the criterion of the legitimacy of an attachment is that its object should be worthy of love, namely that it should transmit something of God, and, even more importantly, should not take us away from God...

Our hoarderess, for example, is deeply attached to countless objects which are subjectively imbued with with some sort of magical -- perhaps even "saving" -- value. It goes without saying that these treasures are not only worthless, but less than worthless because they plunge her into a "minus space" that distances her from the divine realty and (as an immediate consequence) from her own reason for being. But again, this is really just an iteration of Genesis 3.

You could say that at one end of our vertical bi-directionality is "ye shall be as gods," at the other, "seek ye first the kingdom of God." All the movement -- and drama -- takes place between these poles, i.e., O and Ø. Reality is at one end, illusion at the other.

Now, one can look at the latter in two ways: for appearances can be severed from reality, in which case they eventually reduce to absurdity. Or, appearances can be seen as a mode of reality, which is the Christian view, i.e., that the local things of this world are a visible expression of their invisible and nonlocal Creator.

If all this is true, then the so-called Fall is the ultimate cause of most of the trouble in this world. Or, if you want to take a logico-empirical approach, you could say that history is one long train of horror, sadism, and stupidity, which therefore requires a cause sufficient to explain the baleful effects -- a kind of ineradicable X-factor. X is a perpetual cause of the diverse effects that ceaselessly appear. So:

what good is it to eliminate effects if the cause remains and continues to produce similar effects over and over? And even more urgently: what is the use of eliminating the effects of evil to the detriment of the elimination of the cause itself?

What's the use? Well, for starters, it will get you elected, since vulgar politics generally comes down to an argument over how to remedy the effects without discussing the causes, or at any rate misidentifying the causes.

Speaking of which,

what is the use of eliminating [the effects] while replacing the cause by another for more pernicious one, namely the hatred of the Sovereign Good and passion for impermanent things? In a word: if one fights the calamities of this world outside the total truth and the ultimate good, incomparably greater calamities will be created, beginning, precisely, with the negation of this truth and the forfeiture of this good...

Botton line: our self-styled liberators liberate us from God -- the Absolute -- and thereby from our essential humanness, which is proportioned to truth, virtue, and beauty. Which only deprives us of our cosmic birthright, i.e., those vertical treasures alluded to above.

(All of the Schuon quotes are taken from different essays in Esoterism as Principle and as Way.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

If Transcendence is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Transcend Themselves

Yesterday I read a short essay by Schuon in this new translation of Esoterism as Principle and as Way, called What Sincerity Is and What It Is Not. In so doing, I found that I highlighted nearly every sentence, which means that the essay is unusually dense with meaning, even for Schuon (whose writing is already as compact as can be). So, now we're going to review the essay and figure out out why I found it so provocative.

As I've mentioned before, most authors take a whole book to transmit a single idea or two, which is, among other things, a discourtesy to the reader. For we don't read merely to pass the time or to distract ourselves from more important things, but to track down and concentrate on the most important things, precisely. And nothing is more important than truth.

We all know people who are sincere, but sincerely wrong. These useful idiots are to be distinguished from the cynical asshat, who may or may not be wrong, but is insincere in any event. AOC, for example, is wrong about nearly everything, but seemingly sincere. It is appropriate that she should throw her support behind a Bernie Sanders, who is invincibly wrong and yet insanely sincere. Same with Marianne Williamson or Tulsi Gabbard.

Conversely, Obama was a calculating cynic. As is Kamala Harris. Biden is a congenial cynic who will pretend to believe anything, whereas Beto is just an irritating fool. The other clowns are a mixture of calculation, foolishness, ignorance, arrogance, vulgarity, hatred, envy, and sincerity. Clinton, of course, is pure cynic.

Clearly, sincerity is of no value in and of itself; rather, its worth is determined by its object. Indeed, a sincere socialist is more dangerous than an insincere one. At the other end, Jesus warns us about the dangers of a lukewarm faith, implying that sincerity has a critically important role to play, so long as it is in service to the proper ends and true interests.

Now, in a postmodern and therefore post-truth world, what becomes of sincerity? I rarely get into internet debates these days, because the people with whom I disagree are nearly always sincere, and therefore unpersuadable by truth, fact, or logic, much less intellection.

Our erstwhile troll William comes to mind. I remember him making the sincere argument that Hitler was a Christian, based upon several statements Hitler had (cynically!) made in order to manipulate the German public. In short, William not only sincerely embraced Hitler's cynical manipulation, but fought for it as you and I would fight for the truth. Remarkable, but quite common. All day long, people sincerely repeat ludicrous talking points.

What's going on here? I mean, besides mere stupidity? Again, human beings are irreducibly epistemophilic, and will therefore fight for truth even when it is a lie. Not to be flip, but you might say that this war between truth and its alternatives is the engine of history -- bearing in mind always that while truth is objective, humans are always an admixture of truth and falsehood, light and dark, good and evil. If only the neo-Marxist progressive could appreciate the following:

No paradise will arise within the framework of time. Because good and evil are not threads twisted together by history, but fibers of the single thread that sin has spun for us (NGD).

It is accurate to say that sincerity minus truth descends into the kind of rocket-fueled subjectivism that defines the left. The impeachment effort, for example, is a howl of pain in search of a cause for it: impeach first, find a reason later. Just make the pain stop!

With "modern subjectivism," writes Schuon, "the most contingent of subjectivity takes precedence over objectivity, even in those cases where the objective is the very reason for being of the subjective, thus determining its worth." The alphabet soup gender madness of the left is a quintessential example of subjectivism entirely displacing the object that determines its worth. In other words: what came first, biological womanhood or the feeling that one is a woman?

To believe the latter is to literally turn the cosmos upside down. No problem! For if your metaphysic abolishes the vertical, then there can be no upside down. Nor any right-side up, which tells you everything you need to know about the left, i.e., the enthusiastic abolition of human norms, archetypes, and standards. (Which is impossible to do, by the way, for they just covertly slip in new absolutes via the back door, and enforce them with an iron fist: you will believe a man is a woman, or else!)

To paraphrase someone, fascism is the violent rejection of transcendence. Now, abolishing the vertical is another name for rejecting transcendence. Individuals are free to do this, which is fine. Indeed, this is one of our reasons for being: ultimately the freedom to choose or reject God.

Problems arise when the rejection is aligned with the state, which has the coercive power to enforce the rejection. So in New York City, for example, one can be fined $250,000 for "misgendering a transexual" or using the term "illegal immigrant."

Note that if one outlaws transcendence, then only outlaws will transcend themselves. That might sound cute, but consider Beto's threat to eliminate the tax exempt status of any church that doesn't pretend that men can be women or that members of the same sex can marry.

Now, any real religion requires us to dominate and transcend ourselves, including our sexual nature. Like all normal men, I am attracted to every attractive woman I see (which is why they are called "attractive"), but this hardly means I act on the attraction. Marriage, among other things, is the transcendence and sanctification of the merely natural. But what is marriage to the progressive? Yes, just a manmade right divorced from any transcendent or objective reality.

Dávila: Modern man inverts the rank of problems. Everyone pontificates about sex education, for example, but who is concerned about the education of the sentiments?

Wow, it's late. Gotta run. We didn't get past the first paragraph of Schuon's essay, which shows how dense it is with meaning.