Yesterday we took a peek from behind the veil that separates us from five years ago. Today -- since I am once again pressed for timelessness -- we shall dial the time machine back four years, to March 2008, in order to examine the state of the cosmos at that particular moment.
Since this blog is an exercise in vertical downloading -- or verticalisthenics -- time should be of no consequence anyway.
I'm not saying they always succeed, but even stale bobservations are supposed to retain a degree of freshness, since things that are temporally distant in the horizontal are co-present in the vertical -- just as in our hyperdimensional dreamspace, where past and present blend into the eternal yesternow.
Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the previous 1,899 posts -- like them or hate them -- have been "the work of a moment," that moment being the now. As such, in addition to revealing whatever they do about this and that, perhaps they also reveal something about the contours of the now, i.e., the form and not just the content.
After all, the aperture of the now is all we have -- it is our only opening on eternity, from which we must gather those rays of light into a coherent picture. Yes, there is Tradition, but Tradition can only be vivified in the now, otherwise it is a corpse.
So, what is the form of the now? Well, for one thing, it is not reducible to efficient causation, since that specifically runs past-to-present, and is the domain of science. Rather, this is a vertical causation that runs from the top down. You might say that, of the four forms of causation, material and efficient are in the horizontal, while formal and final are in the vertical.
Anyway, on to the post:
[R]eligion translates metaphysical or universal truths into dogmatic language. Now, though dogma is not accessible to all men in its intrinsic truth, which can only be directly attained by the Intellect, it is none the less accessible through faith....
[I]ntellectual knowledge... proceeds neither from belief nor from a process of reasoning, [but] goes beyond dogma in the sense that, without ever contradicting the latter, penetrates its "internal dimension," that is, the infinite Truth which dominates all forms. --F. Schuon
As we've discussed in the past, what makes man unique is not just his capacity for knowledge, but his capacity to know so many things that are manifestly false. To call this latter thing "knowledge" is a perversion of the term, for knowledge that isn't true isn't proper knowledge at all. Then what is it? Why are human beings so prone to believe nonsense?
Even (especially?) for most so-called intellectuals, most of what they know is not necessarily knowledge. Rather, it is plainly "belief." Belief is knowledge once or twice removed, for it means we are placing our trust in the experience of another, or participating in the knowledge of another knower. We don't really know, but somebody does, and we trust them.
For example, no one asks if you "know" about global warming; rather, they appropriately ask if you "believe" in it. And whether you believe in it depends upon whom you trust. In my case, I have enough common sense not to trust those who claim to know what the weather will be like in 100 years. The world will not end in 11.5 years, nor do 97% of scientists believe it will. QED.
So much of what people think they know -- but which they really don't know at all -- comes down to whom they trust. For example, with regard to economics, I trust, say, Thomas Sowell, but regard Paul Krugman to be not only untrustworthy, but mentally (and spiritually) ill. I say this as a psychologist, but any normal person can see there's something wrong with him.
But it's much deeper than that, because one's understanding of economics is always shaped by one's values. For example, I value individualism, low taxes, the rule of law, and a limited government regardless of the economic implications, because I believe these values are in accord with human nature and result in better human beings. The best economic theory in the world is pointless if, like Marxism, it only applies to a different species.
On the other hand, the leftist values collectivism, dependency, big government, high taxes, and an extremely elastic law interpreted by elites, depending upon the needs of the state. I derive my values from religious metaphysics and natural law, whereas the leftist derives his from... from what? From his feelings, I suppose. Or the feelings of his professors and preferred journalists.
For example, if an economist came along and "proved" that slavery created more wealth and affluence, I would still reject that economic theory on deeper grounds. Likewise leftists who reject the principle of non-discrimination, and insist that the law should discriminate on the basis of race. I am against discrimination for the same reason I am against genocide or child abuse. Even a little of it isn't a good thing.
Belief cannot establish its own legitimacy, but derives its legitimacy from someone who either knows, thinks he knows, or pretends to know. In this sense, it is superficially similar to faith.
However, belief is generally a static thing. It takes the unknown and superimposes the known upon it, thus foreclosing the unknown. Once one believes something, the issue becomes settled, even if in reality it isn't.
Again, for those who do believe in global warming, "the science is settled." But it's actually the reverse -- that is, the science is only "settled" because they believe in the theory. Nothing is truly settled until we have arrived at first principles, axiomatic truths, or empirico-sensory bedrock. Anything short of this is just arbitrary. (Climate models, for example, are entirely circular and cannot arrive at anything the believer hasn't plugged into them; conclusions are fore-ordained.)
Secular fundamentalism has certain superficial similarities to religious belief -- for example, our faith that the universe was created. For me this is indeed a "settled" matter, and no amount of sophistry could change my opinion, because it is a necessary (not contingent) truth. But that isn't to say my opinion is "static."
To the contrary, with the exercise of faith -- which is to be distinguished from mere belief -- one's understanding will deepen and deepen, in a kind of endless spiral. Looked at in this manner, faith is merely a placeholder for the accumulation of meaning along a gradient of depth and coherence.
This is again because profane belief is foreclosure of the known, whereas living faith is a dynamic engagement with the greater unKnown (ultimately with a person). Faith, properly understood, is not a cognitive structure or grid to be superimposed upon reality. Rather, it is a psychospiritual probe with which to explore transcendent reality -- somewhat like the way a blind person might use a cane to to construct an internal image of the dark space around him (to borrow an analogy from Polanyi).
Furthermore, unlike mere belief, faith should be convertible to real, i.e., "eternal" knowledge. It is actually a subtle and sophisticated way to gain knowledge that transcends the senses, not a means to provide false but comforting answers and to vanquish curiosity.
Scientific knowledge, by definition, is always relative, whereas religious knowledge is the closest human beings can come to knowledge that is absolute. In fact, religious knowledge partakes of the Absolute; or, to be exact, it is "infused" with the Absolute, such that any part of revelation mirrors the whole, so to speak, as in a fractal. (It reminds me of how Christ is entirely present in any part of the host, at any time or place.)
Thus, many people of faith are actually "people of (implicit) knowledge," whereas many so called intellectuals are actually no more than simple "people of faith." You can really see what little genuine knowledge people have when the discussion revolves around something you do happen to know about, whether it is quantum physics or plumbing repair.
For example, in my case, I happen to possess a lot of theoretical and first hand knowledge of psychology. Most intellectuals who claim to know about psychology don't actually have this kind of first hand knowledge. Rather, they have simply placed their trust in an expert whom they choose to believe. In so doing, they have placed the will higher than the intellect; or, at the very least, the intellect is in service to the will to believe.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as the will is in the service of Truth. But most of the really serious problems of mankind -- the real wholesale evil -- are a result of the will in service to falsehood, e.g., communism and national (or "democratic") socialism.
I remember having a number of discussions with a world-renowned leftist historian who shall go unread. His historical thinking presumed a great deal of psychological knowledge, for how can one claim to study human history without some kind of implicit or explicit theory of human development and motivation?
And yet, his psychological ideas were so outdated (meaning absolutely up-to-date) and unsophisticated as to be laughable. Yes, he had his own psychological "experts" whom he relied upon -- fashionable ideas he picked up here and there from fellow leftists in the faculty lounge -- but I knew that his faith in these experts was entirely misplaced.
For example, he thought it outrageously presumptuous of me, not to say reactionary, to suggest that men and women are fundamentally different. Now, imagine studying history on the assumption that men and women are identical. Everywhere you look, differences appear. But instead of appealing to nature, you will require an alternate mechanism to explain the differences, such as The Patriarchy. All because of your stupid faith.
Ironically, it is just so in any debate between an obligatory atheist, or secular fundamentalist, and a man of genuine faith or gnosis. True, many people of faith simply place their trust in someone who knows -- or claims to know -- and leave it at that.
But others do know. They know directly, in the manner of vision or hearing. How then to discuss this knowledge with the obligatory atheist -- that simple and unsophisticated secular man of faith -- who has placed his childlike trust in those who not only do not know but obnoxiously insist that there is nothing to know and no way to know it anyway?
Imagine, say, an 18th century medical expert, the kind of quack that killed George Washington. He has internalized all the latest knowledge on disease. He knows all about the four humors, about the proper placement of leeches, about how germs are spontaneously generated by bad air, etc. Someone comes along and tells this arrogant fellow that germs aren't spontaneously generated. Rather, there are invisible microorganisms covering his hands, living things that he is actually unwittingly transmitting to his patients. Would this doctor not be far closer to the truth if he ceased believing his experts and stopped trusting his self-confirming personal experience?
As expressed by Josef Pieper, "belief has the extraordinary property of endowing the believer with knowledge which would not be available to him by the exercise of his own powers."
This is the point of practicing a proper religion.
Furthermore, "being wise with the head of someone else is undoubtedly a smaller thing than possessing knowledge oneself, but it is far to be preferred to the sterile arrogance of one who does not achieve the independence of the knower and simultaneously despises the dependence of the believer."
Since we begin the spiritual path without explicit knowledge, we must inevitably place our faith in the testimony of someone who does (or did) know (or who is perhaps knowledge itself). Ah, but how do we know that this person isn't a mere believer himself? How do we assess their credibility and trustworthiness? By what signs do we judge the false from the true prophet? It can't be turtles all the way back. Can we get a witness?
Human beings are equipped with means (i.e., senses) to apprehend exterior reality. But we are also curiously equipped to apprehend the interior reality of persons. It is said that a sophisticated scientist, strictly speaking, doesn't only judge the merits of a scientific theory on the basis of whether it is "true" or "false." Rather, he does so (at least partly) on the basis of its generativity, that is, by how much it explains, how well it ties together various other facts and observations, and the extent to which it gives rise to new and "interesting" problems.
Have you ever known a generative person in whose presence you experience the bracing flow of "life" along your keel? Have you ever been in the presence of a stagnant and lifeless person in whose psychic presence you feel your soul being sucked out of your body? Perhaps you've never read our comment section.
The spiritually generative lumin being doesn't merely report reality. Rather, such an individual imparts reality. They know. And we know that they know. And soon enough, we know too. Put it this way: we are equipped with the authority to recognize Authority (someone authorized by the Author himself).
An esotericism is addressed precisely to those "that have ears to hear" and for that reason have no need of the explanations and "proofs" which may be desired by those for whom esotericism is not intended.... Christ necessarily spoke from an absolute standpoint, by reason of a certain "subjectivization" of the Absolute.... --F. Schuon