Thursday, May 23, 2019

Prisons of Knowledge and Adventures in Faith

We never did finish our discussion of Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery before veering into Hitler and the Germans, but the two are actually intimately related, in that Purcell's entire approach is deeply indebted to Voegelin, who is one of the most panoptic thinkers we've discussed here at One Cosmos.

One reason Voegelin is qualified to describe and analyze the spiritual and intellectual pathologies that made Hitler possible, is that he spent his life trying to understand the logospheric and pneumatic conditions that make humanness possible. Again: unless we know what health is, we won't be in a position to recognize, diagnose, and treat pathology.

Aphorism: The conservative is a simple pathologist. He defines sickness and health. But God is the only therapist (NGD).

Also, Voegelin himself embodied the very quest he describes, without in any way compromising his scholarship. Analogously, it takes a mystic to write about mysticism, which is precisely what is wrong with most academic works on mysticism, or even on religion in general. Certain topics -- indeed, the most important ones --- can only be discussed and described from the inside.

As described in the Coona Cosmologica, it is the difference between mere (k) and (n), or ego-based knowledge and nous-centered intellect-vision. Clearly, when it comes to religion, anything other than interior, experiential knowledge is a more or less distant abstraction.

This is not to say that certain things can't be a matter of faith, but faith itself is tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered realities. Not only can faith be verified, but one might say that the religious life consists in an unending verification of it. Schuon:

There is no faith without any knowledge, nor knowledge without any faith....

The mystery of faith is in fact the possibility of an anticipatory perception in the absence of its content; that is, faith makes present its content by accepting it already, before the perception properly so-called. And if faith is a mystery, it is because its nature is inexpressible to the degree that it is profound, for it is not possible to convey fully by words this vision that is still blind and this blindness that already sees.

Thus, a deep and secure faith is already a kind of confirmation that resonates through the being and yields a harvest of its own. In other words, it is creative -- one might say organic -- never static.

This is also the difference between good and bad dogma, or just dogma properly understood. Dogma is a tool, not just a static system to be superimposed on the intellect. It is a probe with which we poke around in the suprasensible dark, in the way a blind man uses a cane to visualize the space within which he moves.

Now, can dogma be misused and misunderstood? Of course. This is like asking if humans are human, which they tend to be. Everything touched by humans can be and is misused and abused -- science, art, religion, the Constitution, sex, grog, music, education, baseball (the DH), my comment section. There is no end of things that are goods in themselves until the moment human beings get their grubby hands on them.

Why is this? That would require a very lengthy explanation, hence the virtue of dogma, i.e., man's fallen condition, which is a kind of compact and shorthand wisdom that takes one straight to the bottom lyin'. Most people don't have the time or the mental capacity to think these things through on their own, which is unnecessary anyway if they just take it on faith that man is imperfectible and denial of this only makes matters worse.

To jump ahead a bit, Voegelin defines the essence of health as a condition of intellectual and spiritual openness. Just as there are intellectual illiterates, there are spiritual illiterates.

And when Voegelin uses the term "illiterate," he doesn't mean it in the sense of merely being unable to read. Rather, especially in a mass-educated society such as ours, the ability to read has little to do with actually being literate, as our troll [William] ably proves every day with the breezy self-assurance of the fully indoctrinated. For Voegelin, illiteracy isn't just the failure to assimilate good literature, but the inability to even recognize it.

And for the left, the mere possession of literary taste is sufficient to qualify one as a fascist. Nor can one merely have no taste; rather, one must have bad taste to be on the left. One must truly believe that "diversity" is a criterion of aesthetic quality.

For our troll, some cut-and-paste nonsense pulled up from the fringes of the internet is as deep and learned as, say, Voegelin, or Plato, or Eckhart, or Thomas, or Schuon, or the Upanishads, or Tomberg, or Balthasar, or the whole host of magnificent thinkers who have graced mankind by illuminating and mapping the transcendent order.

I was about to say that without them we'd be in a deep hole, but that wouldn't be quite correct, because in a two-dimensional world there are neither holes nor peaks, just... desires and fears, or pleasure and pain.

Which is certainly one way to order one's life, but it doesn't in any way correspond to the wider order of the cosmos, and the whole point of life, if we could express it in a single sentence, is to conform oneself to the transcendent order of reality. For what is the alternative? To order oneself to illusion? That works too, at least for a time, but reality has a way of breaking through the little manmade orders we impose upon it. And killing lots of people in the process.

Ironically, to think in so simplistic a manner -- i.e., God isn't real because science supposedly says so (itself a gross misunderstanding of, and insult to, science) -- is so deeply anti-human as to beggar belief, because in one cretinous wave of the hand it eliminates all that is best and brightest in man's 50,000 year quest to understand his ground and destiny.

This was Voegelin's main beef with academia. In his book Amanesis, he discusses this from up close, since he spent 50-odd years among the barbarian tribes of the tenured, and was in a position to know. He writes of how postmodern ideologues -- whether beholden to Marxism, scientism, evolutionism, feminism Freudianism, whatever -- all share the same characteristic of being closed systems which lose the ability to perceive reality over -- or under -- their own projections.

In other words, once one assimilates an ideology, percept follows concept, to such an extent that this second reality places a kind of blanket over first reality, which is never seen again. It is still there, of course, and continues to be unconsciously recognized. Thus, the ideologue senses this real reality -- in the same way that the person of faith senses real reality, except that the ideologue works feverishly to deny the perception. (It is why, for example, pro-abortion people are so frenzied about it; unconscious knowledge of guilt does strange but predictable things to a mind.)

This is why there can be no leftism in the absence of political correctness or some similar coercive structure to enforce its version of reality, since maintaining the second reality requires a kind of systematic advance-warning system to prevent people from traveling down certain chains of observation or reasoning. If that happens, the whole swindle collapses.

Voegelin asks -- and this was back in 1977 -- "Why do they [the tenured] expressly prohibit anybody to ask questions concerning the sectors of reality they have excluded from their personal horizon? Why do they want to imprison themselves in their restricted horizon and to dogmatize their prison reality as the universal truth? And why do they want to lock up all mankind in the prison of their making?"

This is not the open spirit in which this nation was founded, which was fundamentally a spirit of liberty, or one might say "spiritual freedom." Go north young man, into the vertical!

Now what is this "spiritual freedom?" Well, for any flatlander, such as our troll, it is a nonsense term. There's nothing we can do for him. But from the Raccoon perspective, it is all about vertical freedom, although vertical freedom is impossible, or at least quite difficult, in an atmosphere deprived of horizontal freedom. The damage that socialism, statism, and communism do to economic reality is one thing, but the more tragic and enduring damage is to the soul, which can again lose contact with the spiritual environment because of the systematic denial imposed by the regime.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are none other than the irreducible prerequisites of a spiritually and intellectually open stance toward the cosmos. The first two are obvious, since you won't get very far in your quest without your life and the freedom to live it in the manner you see fit.

But nor will you get very far without pursuing happiness, by which the founders certainly didn't mean just pleasure, or wealth, or notoriety. Rather, they meant it in the classic Greek sense of actualizing one's powers -- one's gifts -- in the direction of virtue. That is life. That is liberty. That is happiness. That is firing on all cylinders in hyperspace.

Because of so much time spent living in the Tenured Islands, Voegelin discovered a kind of restrictive horizon "similar to the consciousness that I could observe in the political mass movements" of the 20th century. Of course, one can only recognize the restriction if one is coming from a wider and more open horizon, which Voegelin surely was.

In the United States, he noticed "the populist expansion of the universities, accompanied by the inevitable inrush of functional illiterates into academic positions in the 1950s and 1960s." And now the ignorant beneficiaries of this academic inversion are in positions of power.

Regarding this openness to the subjective cosmic horizon, Voegelin writes that navigating it "is a ceaseless action of expanding, ordering, articulating, and correcting itself.... It is a permanent effort at responsive openness to the appeal of reality, at bewaring premature satisfaction, and above all at avoiding the self-destructive phantasy of believing" that reality "can be mastered by bringing it into the form of a system."

To say that reality is much richer than the ideological fantasies of the tenured is simultaneously obvious and yet necessary, since we are all victims of these fantasies in one way or another. Our human duty is to rebel against any system that attempts to imprison us in some manmode idiotolatry.

4 comments:

julie said...

For Voegelin, illiteracy isn't just the failure to assimilate good literature, but the inability to even recognize it.

Discussing with a Tae Kwan Do instructor the other day, he noted that while most instructors consider adults to be easier/ better students, he often finds them more challenging, as they must be willing to "empty their cup" - unlearn what they already know or *think* they know - in order to do things properly according to the style. Many adults don't realize just how full their cup already is, and so continue in error for much longer. Kids, on the other hand, are relatively empty to begin with.

Van Harvey said...

"...In other words, once one assimilates an ideology, percept follows concept, to such an extent that this second reality places a kind of blanket over first reality, which is never seen again. It is still there, of course, and continues to be unconsciously recognized. Thus, the ideologue senses this real reality -- in the same way that the person of faith senses real reality, except that the ideologue works feverishly to deny the perception. (It is why, for example, pro-abortion people are so frenzied about it; unconscious knowledge of guilt does strange but predictable things to a mind.)..."

I used to shake my head at Kant and the modernist's philosophy that's developed in his wake, and wonder how anyone could believe such stuff... didn't they realize what a hell it would make of life, if that philosophy were 'true'? It occurs to me that they don't think of that, in much the same way that fish don't think of water. As ideology, particularly leftist ideology, is the interface to the philosophical that makes a virtual reality, out of your actual reality, which you step into without so much as a wave goodbye to the real thing.

Sad.

Van Harvey said...

"...In other words, once one assimilates an ideology, percept follows concept, to such an extent that this second reality places a kind of blanket over first reality, which is never seen again. It is still there, of course, and continues to be unconsciously recognized. Thus, the ideologue senses this real reality -- in the same way that the person of faith senses real reality, except that the ideologue works feverishly to deny the perception. (It is why, for example, pro-abortion people are so frenzied about it; unconscious knowledge of guilt does strange but predictable things to a mind.)..."

I used to shake my head at Kant and the modernist's philosophy that's developed in his wake, and wonder how anyone could believe such stuff... didn't they realize what a hell it would make of life, if that philosophy were 'true'? It occurs to me that they don't think of that, in much the same way that fish don't think of water. As ideology, particularly leftist ideology, is the interface to the philosophical OS that makes a virtual reality, out of your actual reality, which you step into without so much as a wave goodbye to the real thing.

Sad.

Van Harvey said...

I was chasing down some wacademic twists of 'logic' yesterday, and came across this article by Peter Kreeft (I think you read one of his books on Aquinas?), and he does a good job of showing how & why modern 'Logic' makes modern thought so anemic. It's well worth reading in full, but here's a couple snippets from it:

"...Aristotle never intended his logic to be a merely formal calculus (like mathematics). He tied logic to his ontology (metaphysics): thinking in concepts presupposes that the world is formed of stable species"

...Symbolic logic is mathematical logic. "Modern symbolic logic has been developed primarily by mathematicians with mathematical applications in mind," says one of its defenders, Henry C. Byerly in A Primer of Logic (Harper & Row, 1973).

Mathematics is a wonderful invention for saving time and empowering science, but it is not very useful in ordinary or philosophical conversations. In fact, the more important the subject matter, the less useful mathematics seems to be. Its forte is not quality but quantity. It is the only totally clear, totally unambiguous language in the world, but it cannot say anything very interesting about anything very important.

...Symbolic logic, in contrast, is a set of symbols and rules for manipulating them without needing to know their meaning and content, or their relationship to the real world, their "truth" (in the traditional, commonsensical sense of "truth"). A computer can do symbolic logic. It is purely quantitative, not qualitative. It is digital, it is reducible to zero-sum mathematics.

Symbolic logic is also called "propositional logic" because it begins with propositions, not with terms. For terms like "man" and "apple" and "mortal" express universals, or essences, or natures; and to admit that these are real would be to admit the reality of universals (metaphysical realism), and that we can know them as they are (epistemological realism).

... Symbolic logic has no way of knowing, and prevents us from saying, what anything is! But that was the essential Socratic question about everything. Symbolic logic would make Socrates impossible...."