But it did put a crimp in Project X. Then again, sleep deprivation provoked some intriguing new angles on the whole thing. One thought that came to me is that -- as was the case before tackling the first book -- what I'm actually looking to write is what I need to read, and vice versa: I am in desperate need of a book, and the book doesn't exist. That's where I apparently come in.
Then another phrase popped into my head: metaphysical Catholicism. Which would be Catholicism aimed at people like me, of which there may well be as few as one. Nevertheless, if God made me this way, then I say he has an obligation to get me out of this mess I am. There ought to be a form of his Divine Message addressed to our sort, unless our sort is completely illegitimate.
Surprisingly, I both googled and searched Amazon for "Metaphysical Catholicism," and nothing came up; or rather, lots of stuff about Catholic metaphysics, but my interest is more along Schuon's lines -- of seeing Catholicism as in instantiation of universal metaphysics sprinkled with a few mysteries that are of necessity above our paygrade. (My approach would also be somewhat different from an esoteric Catholicism along the lines of Meditations on the Tarot.)
No, I do not intend to subordinate revelation to some manmade system. I'm not that clueless. After all, a God we could totally comprehend would be unworthy of worship. Worse yet, it would elevate man to the level of godhood, and that is always the recipe for hell on earth.
At any rate, my quest is probably totally inappropriate from a purely Catholic perspective, but it still interests me. What can I do? I feel that if I can "metaphysicalize" my way through certain stumbling blocks, I won't have to force myself to believe things I don't really believe. And why fool ourselves? God knows when we're pretending, so we might as well admit it upfront.
As it so happens, some of the material I'm about to repost touches on the above. This one begins in mid-thought:
Ah. Now I remember why I was intrigued by Maritain's The Degrees of Knowledge back in the day, when I was working out the Raccoon metaphysic....
As I have mentioned before, I didn't initially come at this huge mythunderstanding from a Christian perspective. Which was ultimately a good thing, because frankly, I never could have done what I did had I known what I was doing. Because I didn't know any better, I was free to violate disciplinary boundaries, blend irreconcilable thinkers and doctrines, engage in friction-free leaps of logic, and obey revealed hunches as demanded by expediency.
Now comes this Maritain fellow who claims to have accomplished the same thing from a Catholic standpoint! In 1932! Why didn't I know about this? Indeed, the Thing had essentially been accomplished some 700 years ago, and only required some touching up and tinkering at the edges in order to make it fully conversant with the scientific progress that had taken place in the interim. Here was no apologetic Uncle Thomist, but a Thomist apologetic capable of speaking to our age of stupidity.
When we talk about "the degrees of knowledge," we implicitly acknowledge the degrees of being that correspond to them. In my case, I divided these into the convenient categories of matter, life, mind, and spirit, each reflecting a different mode of being and requiring a different manner of knowing.
For example, one cannot know spirit empirically. However, one can know matter spiritually, being that truth emanates from the top down, not the bottom up.
When we speak of these essential distinctions, we're really talking about the vertical. As Maritain says,
"Every attempt at metaphysical synthesis, especially when it deals with the complex riches of knowledge and of the mind, must distinguish in order to unite." What is necessary above all is "to discriminate and discern degrees of knowing, its organization and its internal differentiations."
Looked at in this manner, any form of scientism, for example, is a non-starter, because it reduces the hierarchical complexity of the world to a vulgar monism. In so doing, it reduces reality to our most simple way of knowing it, and in the process denies any reality outside its narrow scope. "Leveling," says Don Colacho, "is the barbarian's substitute for order."
In the past, I have discussed the idea that the measure of soul is depth. To put it bluntly, a developed soul will see much more deeply into the nature of reality, whereas a shallow soul is satisfied by skirting along on the surface of things. The deep soul knows that no merely scientific explanation can ever satisfy man, whereas the shallow soul seems content to play in the little blandbox of efficient causes.
However, Maritain adds to this the dimensions of length, breadth, and height, which I had basically subsumed under depth. In any event, when we refer to these categories, we are referring to hidden or implicit dimensions of reality that are just waiting to be unpacked by man, and man only. No other species has access to these, in fact or principle. Indeed, access to them defines what it means to be a human being.
In a phrase I am very much tempted to steal, Maritain refers to the fundamental fact of a cosmos that is boundlessly intelligible. But it is only boundlessly intelligible to the extent that there exists an unbound soul to witness and testify to it.
To cite an obvious example, for the Marxist, the world is surely intelligible, but not boundlessly so. Rather, Marxism serves the function of placing sharp boundaries around reality. Dialectical Materialism explains everything, with no remainder. Indeed, if you deny it, you are actually an instance of it: "false consciousness," which has latterly morphed into our toxic identity politics.
I came across an unintentionally funny example of this at HotAir this morning, Does college really turn people into liberals? The authors cite some silly studies to deny the obvious, and conclude by stating that if you believe otherwise, then it's only because you are trying to protect "economic power." In other words, they trot out a classic Marxist explanation to deny their own Marxism, reducing great complexity to a simple pseudo-economic explanation!
A lexicon of ten words is sufficient for the Marxist to explain history. --NGD
This dismissal of an argument by projecting bad motivations into it is the cognitive Swiss Army Knife of the left. Any idea that threatens them is instantly attributed to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.
Back to the hidden dimensions in the soul. For Maritain, "length" bears upon "the manner in which the formal light that characterizes a particular type of knowing falls upon things and defines in them a certain line of intelligibility."
For example, in my case, I attempt to trace things back to (and before) the big bang, or forward, through the realms of matter, life, mind, and spirit. To put it another way, to deny this line of continuous development is to deny and even maim a vital dimension of the soul.
"Breadth" has to do with "the ever-increasing number of objects thus known." As such, a truly all-purpose metaphysic that is worthy of man, will explain the material world as well as the subjective world, without reducing one to the other. But to reduce mind and spirit to matter is the ultimate case of denying the breadth of the soul.
"Height" involves distinguishing the "different sorts of knowing" and "the degrees of intelligibility and immateriality of the object." In other words, it deals with vertical differentiations in the hierarchy of existence and being.
Finally, "depth" speaks to all those "hidden diversities," i.e., those relatively autonomous sub-worlds which are constantly disclosed to the mind that is free -- i.e., the liberal mind, as opposed to one that is servile to ideology.
To be continued...