Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Course in Hallucinations

Another attempt at a brief and pointed post. Otherwise I won't be able to post until Wednesday, and I want to maintain contact with my nonlocal sources before they become impatient and maybe leak to someone else. I want them to know I am reliable and not some kind of flake who doesn't take the voices in his head seriously.

Voices in the head. Don't pretend you don't hear them. For what is life but an unending commentary on existence? You could say it's a monologue, but in reality there is no such thing, for language itself is irreducibly dyadic and intersubjective, in that its reason for being is communication from party A to party B, even if both parties are in the same being. (The Trinity, for example, involves a kind of perpetual exchange between persons inhering in same substance.)

Therefore, the voice in our head must have a from --> to relation, but from Who to Whom? Moreover, there are diverse modes of speech, from the literal to the allegorical to the poetic, so the voice must be interpreted in terms of both content and mode or genre.

And even literal speech is never actually literal, because a word is a symbol, and a symbol points to something other than itself. If I write "chair," I don't mean the letters that constitute the word, but that thing over there that you can sit on. Now, what if I say something more abstract, like "justice" or "being" or "God"? To what am I pointing? Language is still mediating, but from whom to what?

There's another twist: that one must be adequate to interpret the message. Someone could relate a perfectly sound mathematical equation to me, but I would have no way of knowing whether or not it is true. Rather, I'd have to take it on faith.

Now, what if existence itself is a message? To turn it around, how could it not be a message, for everything we do, all day long, involves, or may be traced back to, the interpretation of the world. For example, at the moment I'm typing on a computer keyboard, which presupposes a computer science rooted in various related disciplines such as information theory and digital transmission.

The so-called "scientific revolution" was revolutionary precisely because we began listening to the world in a specific way and interpreting the message. To everyone's surprise (boo!) it spoke in pure mathematics, to the point that it was eventually forgotten that it doesn't only speak in terms of abstract quantities.

Soon enough there was a counter-revolution (Romanticism) that felt the math nerds were totally ignoring the aesthetic message of the world. Positivists insisted that math is the only message, while our existentialists and deconstructionists maintain that there is no message at all. The latter are essentially saying: there are no voices in my head, and I obey them implicitly! Come to think of it, that's what leftists say as well.

For example, the message of biology is that you are a boy or you are a girl. Period. DNA has spoken! If you go the ER with a serious medical problem, they're going to want to know: man or woman. It will be of no concern to them what you think you are, or what you want to be. If they do care about that, then you are in the wrong ER. Unless it is a psychiatric emergency, which is another matter entirely. As a psychologist, my stock in trade is what people feel is the case as opposed to what is actually the case.

Is the truth true if we don't want it to be? No, truth must by definition be what IS, regardless of how we feel about it. Same with reality: it doesn't disappear just because we're not in contact with it.

Some people on the left -- the Deepaks of the world -- will tell you that "perception is reality." Indeed, Deepakrat presidential candidate Marriane Willamson is a student and teacher of the Course in Miracles, which started off as a voice in the head of a psychologist named Helen Schucman, which she presumed to be Jesus. Strangely, despite the voice insisting that illness is an illusion, she died anyway of pancreatic cancer. Now, who are you going to believe, the voice in this lady's head or your own lying eyes?

Yeah, you could say that death is a Course in Reality. It has its downside, but think of how little we could understand of reality in its absence. Why would we need to learn anything about the world if we were immortal?

For example, the word from reality is that we shouldn't jump off buildings or walk in front of buses. But if doing so didn't result in injury and death, we'd have no reason to learn about gravity, or the physics of collisions.

Besides, if everything is love, then nothing is. And if perception is reality, that's another way of saying that there is no such thing as reality and therefore nothing to perceive. Nevertheless, you have to pay for such wisdom with real money. Try paying for it with LUV and see how far it gets you.

Which leads to the question: who is really saying this, and why is anyone listening? Examples:

"It [the Course] states that everything involving time, space, and perception is illusory."

"Healing is accomplished when the sufferer no longer sees any value in pain."

"A mind and body cannot both exist."

To this latter I would say that man is by definition both material and spiritual at the same time, which is kind of the Whole Point, certainly of the Incarnation. If this weren't the case then God would just incognate as a voice in our head.

A voice in my head once remarked that the two essential principles of Christianity are Incarnation and Trinity, and that everything else is, as it were, an entailment of, or commentary on, these. I believe it.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Tao of Fredo

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

Einstein said that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is its comprehensibility. Well, yes -- if one doesn't believe the world is created, in which case there is no principle that can account for all these layers of intelligibility, everywhere we look.

Of course, when it comes to the big wide world outside physics, Einstein was no Einstein. He became Einstein because of his preternatural ability to focus so narrowly on that little world. Or maybe it was just autism.

Wait -- little world? Let's see you make a revolutionary breakthrough in physics, Bob! Last time I checked, you flunked out of business school during the Carter administration because of "math and stuff." What makes you qualified to judge Einstein?

I'll tell you what makes me qualified: the same thing that makes you qualified, which is to say, common sense. For the plain fact of the matter is that the world is comprehensible. (Or to back up one step, either it is comprehensible or it isn't; and if it isn't, you may -- must -- stop thinking now, assuming you ever started, because your "thinking" will bear no knowledge-relation to the world.)

For those of us with common sense, the world is plainly comprehensible. Now, why is it comprehensible? The first thing you must comprehend is that this is not a scientific question. Rather, the intelligibility of the world is a scientific assumption, or an implicit axiom without which the conduct of science is impossible.

Here again, in order to even begin to answer this question, one must exit the narrow world of physics, because no answer(s) will be found there. Sure, you can pretend physics holds the answer, but mere physics can't even account for itself, let alone anything transcending it. Which is why this polemical sounding aphorism isn't really polemical at all:

Why deceive ourselves? Science has not answered a single important question.

This is literally true, in the sense that the very concept of "importance" is an extra-scientific value judgment. The other day I saw Fredo Cuomo on CNN, a man who pretends to be Catholic, aggressively insist that only science could (some day) determine the morality of abortion. Until it weighs the evidence and renders its judgment, it's like, just your opinion, man.

Here we see how science, far from answering (or even being able to answer) important questions, renders one stupid by attempting to rely upon it to answer those very questions. Again, don't believe me, believe the Aphorist:

Fredo vividly demonstrates to his airport audience how Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.

For just look at how Fredo's Stupidity appropriates with diabolical skill what science invents.

Indeed, Fredo shows us how Scientific ideas allow themselves to be easily depraved by coarse minds.

And What is more irritating than [Fredo's] stupidity itself is a scientific vocabulary in [Fredo's] mouth.

Now, If good and evil, ugliness and beauty, are not the substance of things, science is reduced to a brief statement: what is, is.

THEREFORE, Whoever appeals to any science in order to justify his basic convictions inspires distrust of his honesty or his intelligence.

In the case of Fredo, honesty AND intelligence.

Hmm, I got a little sidetracked with the Fredo bashing. However, I think we're almost finished anyway.

I suppose we've left out one other possibility, that the world is comprehensible but not created. What would this imply, and why does it make no sense?

Well, for starters, the world's comprehensibility would be anchored in no principle; nor would its intelligibility to our intelligence have a sufficient reason. As Pieper describes it, this would reduce to a "total lack of orientation," because we would deprive ourselves of any and all possible support, whether from inside or outside ourselves, i.e., subjectively or objectively.

Existential freedom? Yes, "this is precisely that famous kind of freedom to which one is not called but condemned." It is not freedom as the Christian understands it but as the nihilist understands it: it is reduced to being irretrievably lost in the cosmos, as opposed to being given a teleological freedom, the purpose of which is theosis, or participation in, and assimilation of, divinity. "God becomes man that man might become God," as the Fathers say.

Freedom, truth, knowledge, intelligibility, virtue, science: each of these is impossible in a world that isn't created -- not "in the past," but in each and every moment. If the world isn't created, then not only are we all condemned to Fredohood, but inescapably so.

Although creation as a process and event necessarily remains inaccessible to our knowing faculties, still it can be said that it must be at any rate a non-temporal event which transcends all succession in time....

Our routine "awareness of going beyond the 'here and now'" will be dismissed "as unreal and poetic idealization... to those who do not see or admit to the true situation of man within the whole of reality." But for the restavus, this vertical awareness "is nothing other than the simple description of reality."

Bottom line aphorism: modern physics PROVES that the cosmos is vastly larger than we had ever imagined. And yet:

The distances of the physical universe are those of a prison.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Meta-Critical Thinking

Just a quick post unless things get out of hand.

Critical thinking. You will have noticed that leftists -- largely because of rampant Dunning-Krugery on the left -- congratulate themselves on engaging in it. Well, if AOC is a critical thinker, then I am a bubbleheaded yokel. And vice versa: if I am the critical thinker, then AOC is a credulous buffoon.

Suffice it to say, we can't both justifiably strike down with great vengeance and furious anger those who would poison and destroy our brothers with sloppy thinking.

How convenient that the next chapter in Exercises in the Elements is entitled Two Ways of Being "Critical." First of all, why do we want our thinking to be the critical kind? Defined negatively, it is to ensure "that something which too easily happens to the uncritical mind does not also happen to" us.

What is this "too easy" thing? It is prematurely accepting an obvious or superficial explanation without sufficient testing to make sure it is valid. We all, secular and religious alike, have faith in things. But

Neither the philosopher nor the believer is allowed to ignore problems and counter arguments: both have the duty to be "critical," though each in his own way.

For the scientist, the focus is more narrow and analytic, "in short, not to let anything slip through unchecked."

In the case of the philosopher and believer the task is very different, in that it is more vertical and synthetic, so to speak. Here the challenge is "not to leave anything out and not to neglect anything that belongs to the totality of the world," not excluding revelation -- the whole existentialada, top to bottom, inside and out, in all its depth, width, height, and power.

This is a Tall Order, but it is precisely this integrated totality to which man is uniquely ordered. Along these lines, just yesterday I thought of a "proof of God," which I place in quotation marks because as always, proofs of God abound for those in no need of them.

The short (because I want to move on) version goes like this: if you understand man, then you understand that man has god-like abilities. But we are not God. Therefore God exists, because there can be no other explanation for the source of our godlike abilities. They are not something that could have ever "evolved" in the natural sense, because they are by definition transnatural. Even a human baby can know things in a way no mere animal could ever do.

You could say that encountering the totality of being requires the totality of ourselves. But if we weren't born with this preconceptual ability, it isn't something we could ever acquire or even conceive (no animal wonders about the cosmos because no animal could ever conceive it).

Imagine a pig saying "in order to fly in the air for long distances, we need wings." Conversely, a bird doesn't have to say this. Rather, it just flies. Likewise, man comes into the world ordered to the Absolute, before he has ever experienced a thing in this world. It's not something we need to learn. It just is -- and is, by the way, the necessary condition for learning any truth.

Oh. That's the end of the chapter. Only two pages. Therefore, I've succeeded in dashing off a quick & dirty drive-by post.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Only a Story

Pieper has a brief chapter on Socrates, who emphasizes a point that is often forgotten by modern (let alone postmodern) sophisticates: that language is only a means to a message. If we get hung up on the means, then we can miss the message. Forest and trees.

This is no less true for science than theology, because it's true of everything. For example, what is the message of the cosmos? That may sound like a nonsense question, but it really isn't, because most everyone has an answer, even if they never explicitly formulate the question. But it really (and truly) comes down to this:

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

Or in other words: the cosmos is meaningful if it is a means (to the message), insignificant if it is the message.

But the cosmos can't be the message, or we couldn't be here to decode it. The fact that we may do so indicates that something transphysical is going on, in that there is means, message, receiver, and decoder. These cannot be reduced to the physical cosmos without negating the reducer.

Similarly, what is the message of history? Of man? Of life?

Regarding the first, if history is the message, then the bard was right: sound + fury signifying nothing. Or, to put it in more simple terms, history = Ø.

Interestingly, this is the conclusion of both premodern and postmodern mentalities, in that the former believed in a cyclical time that goes nowhere, whereas the latter insist that we simply invent and superimpose meaning in order to justify power.

These are equivalent barbarisms, which is why you shouldn't wonder at the barbarity of precivilized tribes nor be surprised at the neobarbaric tribalism of the postcivilized left. For what is the message of the left? Never be distracted by the literal narrative, for it is always much ado about nothing but power.

As to the message of history, aphorisms:

--Real history exceeds what merely happened.

--History would be an abominable farce if it were to have a worldly culmination.

So anyway, in one of the dialogues, Socrates says (in reference to a venerable myth) "You think it is only a story, but I think it is true." Why? Because the story is essentially a temporal means to a timeless message.

Take Genesis: is it the message, or only the means to a message? Here again, both religious and scientistic fundamentalists will tend to see it as the message and thereby miss the truth.

For example, it scarcely matters whether God literally breathes the breath of life into our nostrils so long as we understand that we are animated (given life) by the spirit of God. His pneumatic exhalation is our inhalation, and vice versa. Every sigh is a prayer, and every in-spiration a bene-diction.

Speaking of Christmas, that same spirit is received by Mary, but in a different way. Yes, you can try to figure out the biology of it all, but you won't get far, plus it's like trying to ascertain the color of three or the square root of cauliflower. Category error, big time. Pieper:

Neither the material from which the message is composed, nor the form in which it is couched is a decisive factor. What is decisive is the message itself.... Only the message is important. This alone is what Socrates considers to be true, and indeed, so true and valid that one can and must live one's life according to it.

This principle came up just last night, after we saw the highly raccoomended Richard Jewel. There's a scene in which a skeevy journalist sleeps with an FBI bully in exchange for a tip that Jewel is the prime suspect in the bombing.

Afterwards my son wanted to know if that "really" happened. I pointed out that it didn't matter, and that the truth was much worse -- that MSM journalists are a bunch of sleazy whores who couldn't care less about the truth, much less about the people they harm.

The film could scarcely be more timely. You could say it's only a story, but don't confuse its means with its message. As if the FBI would never be in bed with the MSM!

Eh, that seems like a logical place to stop. Merry Christmas, which is to say, listen carefully to the Christmas message in the Christmas story.

If history made sense, the Incarnation would be superfluous. --Dávila

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Another Obsolete, Immature, and Trivial Post

I'd like to finish our review of Exercises in the Elements, partly because I have two more newly reissued books by Pieper in the piepline (Traditional Truth, Poetry, Sacrament and The Weight of Belief: Essays on Faith in the Modern Age), and there's no sense in starting them until this one has been digested. Otherwise it's like Chinese theology: read it and you're hungry an hour later.

No disrespect to Mr. Pieper, but we really think alike. Same attractor, same approach. You might call it novelty within tradition, or creative thinking within the constraints of sacred doctrine. Anyone can be creative without constraints, but then that's not really creativity, or rarely so, anyway. To live outside the law you must be honest, and to live outside tradition you'd damn well better be a spiritual genius. And even then, a spiritual genius will probably do better by working with traditional materials.

It makes sense that the most fruitful approach is to confine oneself to the constraints handed to us by God himself. Conversely, just look at what happens to thought when these constraints are ignored, or we imagine we can do without them. In so many ways, the culture war comes down to a bifurcation between these two visions; DSIB (Davila says it best:

--The modern desire to be original makes the mediocre artist believe that simply being different is the secret to being original.

--Originality must adhere to the continuity of a tradition.

--Conformity and nonconformity are symmetrical expressions of a lack of originality.

--Ideas less than a thousand years old are not fully reliable.

--Nothing is more outdated at any moment than yesterday’s novelty.

--Nobody thinks seriously as long as originality is important to him.

--Unless what we write seems obsolete to modern man, immature to the adult, and trivial to the serious man, we have to start over.

As I said a couple weeks ago, I'm going to just highlight some passages that stood out for me, and then try to stop myself from adding too much nauseam:

[I]n the midst of the evolutionary process the human spirit is not something developing like everything else but is incomprehensibly a new reality which is not undergoing transition, and which does not "become," but emerges "finished" from its origin in the creator and remains directly connected with it.

This is such a fundamental and consequential point that I could indeed expand upon it for the rest of this post. The point is that in the midst of a cosmos in which everything is evolving, has appeared a being who cannot be a mere product of contingent evolution. Early in my vertical career I was lumped in with the evolutionary mob (in fact, Prof. Wiki says I still am), even though I wouldn't be caught dead with most of them.

(Brief asnide: Trump and a Post-Truth World? Bitch please. What a self-beclowning tool Wilber has become. But that's what happens when one omnisciently presumes to ignore the God-given constraints referenced above. An exercise in grotesque egotism masquerading as egolessness peddled to a spiritually obtuse crowd of spiritual retards, self-righteous narcissists, and postmodern ignoramuses.)

Human beings are not going to "evolve" into something beyond human; we are not merely links in the evolutionary chain between us and something better, as we are already conformed to the Absolute, and there can be by definition nothing beyond the Absolute. It doesn't mean we can't more adequately conform to it, and this is indeed the point of the spiritual life. DSIB:

--The mind of the individual does not “evolve.” We only orchestrate with greater or lesser talent the themes we are born with.

Theology is translation from infinitude to finitude. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is impossible, at least for man:

"[T]he business of the theologian necessarily requires 'bilingualism,'" a translation from and to. A "literalist" collapses the two, or pretends that no translation is required, no familiarity with the two worlds. You will notice that atheists are as (if not more) prone to this as are fundamentalists, as they insist on treating scripture as the "thing itself" instead of being a translation about the thing itself. The thing itself (O) surely exists, but the scriptural map is not the divine territory.

The divine authors "speak," but we must hear through them "what cannot be fully and adequately expressed in any historical language." As Schuon would say, the language provides "points of reference" between the two worlds, very much in the manner of a beautiful painting, which is obviously a two-dimensional rendering of a three (or more) dimensional reality. I say "more" because the gifted artist is also able to convey interior realities, e.g., the inscape of a landscape or the soul of the person. How is this even possible? And yet, there it is.

At any rate, "it is clear that theology, strictly speaking... by its very nature exceeds the capabilities of any individual, no matter how gifted" -- any more than the gifted artist could depict visually the "place" from which art pours into our world.

Nor can theology be done in the absence of "loving faith," because what's the alternative? Hateful cynicism? That's not going to get you far, because ultimate knowledge of God must involve conformity to him, and God is not a hateful cynic. "Theological knowledge cannot be fruitful except as

knowledge based on fundamental solidarity, even loving identification, by virtue of which the infinite object appears not as something alien but is directly one's own.

In this regard, love is less a sentiment than a link between two subjects, through which divinity flows. DSIB:

--We only love in our life the presences that cross it like messengers from other worlds.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Really Really Important Post

I'm going to begin with some random thoughts provoked by Josef Pieper's provocative Exercises in the Elements. Perhaps one will veer off into a post. If not, it will be up to you to discern the hidden unity beneath the multiplicity.

Which is again (for example) what the Church did in selecting the books of the New Testament. Their selection was guided by a prior wholeness rooted in doctrines and practices handed on from Jesus to the apostles, whereas sola scriptura attempts to discern the wholeness via a kind of induction from the parts. Even by its own lights it doesn't work, what with 36,000+ denominations (and I don't say this to start an argument with Luther, only to make a wider point).

Clearly, in all endeavors, from theology to cosmology to physics to biology, wholeness is a prior condition that renders these disciplines possible. For example, in my racket, psychology -- which tends to attract the dimmest bulbs this side of education majors -- the interior wholeness of the mind is simply assumed, and sometimes even explained away via that same interior wholeness!

Indeed, I was fully indoctrinated in this approach, at least initially, before making my vertical escape. But for a while there my mind (and soul) was ensnared in theory, doctrine, and ultimately ideology, which is at once comforting -- since it explains everything (woo hoo!) -- and depressing, since it renders life meaningless (d'oh!).

For if you can explain everything, you've explained nothing. Why? Because you've left out the most important part: the explainer. Of course, back then I didn't know about Gödel, whose theorems permanently liberate us from our own ceaseless efforts to entrap ourselves in theory and ideology. Theory can do a lot, but it can never contain the human -- let alone divine -- subject. More generally, I would say that ideology is always ideolatry, a false religion from which only true religion (not anti- or irreligion) can save us.

Speaking of importance, how exactly do we know what is important? It's one of those words we casually use, and yet, there is obviously no empirical or scientific basis for doing so. What I mean is that importance implies an abstract vertical ranking of priority, in a universe that materialists insist must be flat. Ask an atheist if atheism is important, and watch his head spin up his lower digestive tract!

But as Raccoons well understand, in the absence of God, literally nothing is important, so the godless should stop abusing the word. There exist complementarities in this world such as male/female, time/eternity, and whole/part, but God/nothing isn't one of them.

Rather, the latter is a radically binary choice: one or the other. And each precludes the other (except in the higher sense of our apophatic and cataphatic approaches to the Godhead, which is simply the acknowledgement that God always surpasses any positive statements about him, including this one).

Back to importance. We don't want to waste our lives on unimportant things, now do we? So, what is important? Hmm, let's see. I would say that importance = conformity to reality. Unimportant things aren't really real, much less important, whereas important things are really really real. Yes, but this begs the question, for how do we know what's really really real?

First of all, we have to be honest. A materialist will (must) say that matter -- whatever that is -- is so really really real that relative to it, everything else is really really illusory and therefore unimportant. But in reality no one lives his life this way.

Rather, we all know that -- for starters -- our own lives are really really important, and that job one is preserving it. We also know that the lives of our loved ones aren't only as important as our own, but often -- especially in the case of children -- more important.

Now, as I've discussed in the past, I don't begin with a blank world and try to figure out how or whether it is important or meaningful. Rather, I begin with the universal apprehension of meaningfulness, and then try to understand how a cosmos can be so transparently pregnant with meaning, and with it, importance, intelligibility, beauty, unity, and all the rest. To deny the endlessly dense and varied meaning embedded in the cosmos is to affirm it, and if you don't see that, I won't waste time trying to explain a necessary truth, i.e., a prior Truth that makes true statements possible.

"A significant utterance," writes Pieper, "is essentially concerned with reality" (emphasis mine). Again: significance (or importance) varies with reality. And Truth as such is "the same as reality coming into view." So, importance is a function of reality, which is a function of Truth. It must be this way, for the converse cannot possibly be true: in other words, we couldn't ascend from reality to truth unless the truth were already there.

Or, put it this way: we are always faced with the complementarity of reality <--> truth. However, as with all complementarities, one of them must be prior, because there will always be one side that can't properly account for the other. For example, in the time/eternity complementarity, the latter must be prior because no amount of time adds up to eternity (i.e., timelessness), even though we humans can never experience these two apart from one another.

Same with truth/reality. No number of encounters with reality adds up to the Truth of reality -- just as no number of empirical scientific facts adds up to the cosmos. Rather, the cosmos is the prior condition for there being any coherent facts (and coherent fact finders) at all.

Listen! If you have ears to see my point:

Perhaps that seems very obvious. However, the reality is that in the average case of dealing with important philosophical and literary utterances... what happens is the opposite of "listening." The utterances are received very attentively, but without the references to reality that they contain, i.e., without consideration of what the author primarily meant -- without really listening to him.

Note that this attitude of nonlistening is worse than an error, it's a downright dogma among the tenured. For deconstruction denies the possibility of discerning an author's meaning, and instead claims that everything is just a function of power.

Which is actually true in the case of the left: anything they say and everything they do -- no matter how crazy and unintelligible -- indeed becomes intelligible with the magic key of power. For example, we endured a concentrated stream of applied nonsense in yesterday's impeachment farce, in that the Democrat's argument may be reduced to: we must destroy the Constitutiom to save the Constitution that we despise anyway! That's an important statement, but not in the way the left means it.

"[O]nly the person who listens to his author is in a position to interpret him. To quote Rudolf Bultmann: 'Interpretation always presupposes a living rapport to the things' being dealt with."

Things such as, oh, God. If one lacks this living rapport, what can one sincerely say about him except that he doesn't exist? Atheism is true for the atheist, but in a way that reduces truth to a triviality.

Same with the Constitution. Note that a "living rapport" is by no means synonymous with the intrinsic heresy of a living constitution, the latter of which being simply a mask for power, since the leftist sees in it what he wishes to see, thereby reducing to desire -- for example, a desire for slavery, or infanticide, or "homosexual marriage."

No, a living rapport is a dialogue between partners, not a mere projection of the interpreter into the interpreted.

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

Sr. Pedro: If God isn't, then I am not. No him, no us. But here we are.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Where is Everybody?!

We will soon if ever resume our discussion of the subject at hand -- whatever it was -- but at the moment I've got a conceptual earworm tunneling around in my head, and the only way to eliminate it is to write about it. For me, this process serves as a metaphysical exterminator. Or nonlocal ghostbuster.

It reminds me of a patient who was suffering from PTSD as a result of experiences in Iraq, including multiple roadside bombs. Especially when he was tired and laying in bed, he would see horrific and monstrous images emerging from the patterns in the ceiling. These weren't hallucinations per se, more dreamlike projections of unmetabolized experience. In any event, he was a skilled artist, and dealt with the flashbacks by drawing and thus externalizing them. So long as he could fleshout the flashbacks, they'd settle down and stop bothering him. At least for the night.

Well, I can't draw. So here we are.

It started a couple of days ago, when a friend mentioned that a spiritual-but-not-religious atheist friend of his gives great credence to the Fermi Paradox, or the Where the hell is everybody? problem.

For me it's not a problem, because I don't expect human intelligence to exist elsewhere in creation, although I don't rule it out. But if it does exist it can only have a transphysical source, and would not in any way prove that the existence of human beings is a random occurrence explicable by chance. Metaphysically this is a total nonstarter, so long as one understands what human intelligence is.

At bottom, the Fermi Paradox is just another iteration of the 100 Monkey business, i.e., that with enough random typing on an infinite number of typewriters, everything will occur, including us. Any plausibility in this idea was given the kibosh with the discovery of the Big Bang, which limited our monkeys to 13.7 billion years of typing. That's a lot of years, but not enough for randomness to produce an amoeba, much less a me Bob (and this is leaving aside the ontological leap from animal to human intelligence, unbridgeable by any material explanation).

I used to accept the Fermi Paradox, although I wasn't familiar with the name. To the metaphysically untutored, it has a kind of prima facie plausibility. You know what they say: a little philosophy inclines one to atheism, while a lot of it lands one in the lap of God. That's not an insult. It just means that you need to be intellectually consistent and rigorously follow your metaphysic all the way to its principal source and its logical entailments.

But let's just focus on our earth. First, it hasn't been here for 13.7 billion years, only 4.5. Moreover, life appears around 3.7 billion years ago, leaving a window of only 800 million years for our primate typing pool to get the job done (exact numbers subject to change without gnosis).

Others have done the math, so I won't bother you with the details, but it is mathematically impossible. Add to this the fact that for most of those 800 million years the planet was too hot to host life. If I recall correctly, life appeared within a window of something like 130 million years, and there just aren't enough monkeys or typewriters.

Ah, but that's the point! Yes, it is impossible for life to have occurred by chance in such a short time. But the problem disappears if we posit enough galaxies and planets. Perhaps life appeared on another planet, but their sun went supernova on them (d'oh!) propagating its elements hither and yon. Some of this fairy dust landed on earth, and here we are.

Of course, this just pushes the essential problem further back without addressing the real question, which is the generation of extraordinarily complex information content in lifeless matter. If this is even possible, then it is necessarily possible in principle. So, by virtue of what principle is it possible for matter to leap across the exterior horizon and organize itself around a subjective center? I know how it's possible. But I would like to hear how the materialist explains it without negating the explainer -- you know, climbing into a metaphysical hole and pulling the hole in after him.

Is there extraterrestrial life? Yes, of course. For life itself -- and in principle -- is extraterrestrial, i.e., transphysical. If it is wholly terrestrial then it reduces to matter, but in so doing eliminates everything that is distinctive about life. It reminds me of the free will problem: if one believes in predetermination, then our individual existence is illusory, and we are but mere extensions of God (or of matter, depending on your god).

What about planets other than earth? What is the earliest conceivable time that planets could have formed and cooled sufficiently for life to magically appear? I don't have time to look it up, but there's much more to the problem than mere statistical likelihood. For example, given the fact that the NBA has existed for some 70 years, the Clippers should have won several titles by now. And yet they've won none. Paradox! The Boston Celtics must have drafted players from other galaxies!

Obviously there are other factors than pure probability. In the case of life, the number of factors necessary for life to exist are too numerous to catalogue here. So long as you set no conditions on planets, and assume that every planet is habitable, then the emergence of life seems superficially plausible.

But in fact, there are so many necessary conditions -- leaving aside the sufficient condition -- that the real probability approaches zero. And indeed, if we leave out the sufficient condition, then the probability is in fact zero, because no number of necessary conditions adds up to a sufficient condition.

Here again, I won't bore you with all the necessary conditions, but these include size (too much or too little gravity causes the wrong molecules -- e.g., methane and ammonia -- to remain at the surface or the right ones -- e.g., water and oxygen -- to dissipate), distance from the sun, axis of rotation, a perfectly situated moon, the existence of a planetary wingman like Jupiter, whose much stronger gravitational field pulls in all the meteors that would otherwise strike the earth, etc.). Last time I checked, the number of such necessary conditions surpassed 150, which works out to something like one chance in 10 the 73rd power.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking:

I see your scientistic faith is strong, but no, there is no chance. We haven't even addressed the sufficient condition for human intelligence, and as we've pointed out so many times, no amount of animal intelligence adds up to human intelligence or even human stupidity (for example, there are no Marxist or deconstructionist animals).

The gap between animal and human intelligence is literally infinite, even though, from our perspective, we can see numerous analogues between our intelligence and animal or tenured intelligence. But the most intelligent animal lacks the transphysical soul whereby we effortlessly navigate an immaterial world of abstract concepts, essences, logic, truth, beauty, compassion, humor, inexhaustible creativity, and so much more. No animal can conceive oneness, let alone conceptualize the One.

One question addressed in the bOOk is how prehuman primates came to inhabit this mysterious intersubjective world in which we have our being. Here again, no amount of intelligence can result in this leap into the transitional space of intersubjectivity.

Nor is it likely to occur, even on earth. Last time I checked, some 50 billion species had arisen on earth. And yet, we are alone. Then again, being human means we are never actually alone, or we couldn't be human. But that's the subject for a different day and a different earworm. I think I killed this one.

In conclusion,

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.

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