Saturday, April 27, 2019

Progress is an Open Spiral, Progressivism a Circular Prison

Just more of the same:

When progressives talk about "progress," they cannot mean the same thing we do, for objective progress is precisely what is rendered impossible in their metaphysic. Rather, progress for the progressive always involves compelling others to the yield to the opinions and desires of the progressive. But real progress can never result from bypassing freedom and truth (i.e., truth freely accepted).

One can approach this from various angles, but the result is always the same, for a determined stupidity at the start of a journey assures stupidity at the end -- like insisting that if only one travels far enough, one can prove that parallel lines meet. Sleep with a premise, wake up with its conclusions.

Since there is no "fixed point" in leftism, it can claim no truth and hence no measure of progress. Schuon hits the troll on the head in his usual pithy style: "To claim that knowledge as such could only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute."

Either that thought will appeal to you, and be used as a stepping stone to higher things, or you will literally find it "repulsive," in that it will repel you onto a relative and therefore subjective, idiosyncratic, and ultimately arbitrary path. You will go back to sleep, which is not quite as effective suicide, but a pretty good defense mechanism against transcendent truth.

Once on that false path, no matter how rigorously one otherwise applies reason, one will be in a world that is fundamentally unreal. Therefore, one will be apportioning clouds, nailing Jello, sowing wind, spanking the monkey, etc. That is the bad kind of cosmic circle, i.e., self-enclosed circularity.

The cosmos is, of course, "structured," so to speak, as a circle, but it is a benignly inspiraling one, not a viciously repetitive one, i.e. an eternal return (as feared by Nietzsche). When I first realized this, I thought I had hit on something kind of original. Now I wish I had compiled all of the statements I've subsequently stumbled upon that affirm the same thing.

For example, this one, by Schuon: "There are basically but three miracles: existence, life, intelligence; with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring which in reality has never parted from the Infinite."

In fact, even prior to the establishment of the first Raccoon lodge on March 4, 1355, Thomas Aquinas had used exactly this organizational structure for the Summa -- a chain of interior and exterior certitudes forming a Great Circle of Being:

In the emergence of creatures from their first source is revealed a kind of circular movement, in which all things return, as to their end, back to the very place from which they had their origin in the first place.

There is a two-way journey; one can call it out and back, or down and up, or many and one, or conspiracy and slack, or fall and redemption, or just ø and O.

In any -- and every -- event, there is a

Journey away from Home, where creatures actively unfold their diverse dynamic natures as finite participations in the divine perfection and as centers of self-expressive and self-communicating action and interaction with each other, thus forming a universe, that is, a system of many real beings joined together by their interaction to form the community of all existents -- the ultimate of all communities. This part of the journey was called the exitus (journey out) (Clarke).

This is accompanied by the journey back toward the Great Attractor, O, whereby creation is "drawn by this same Source through the pull of the Good built in to the very nature of every being through the mediation of final causation," or what Bob calls the the personal telovator or cosmic eschalator.

The upshot is that this "ultimate One now appears as both the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and End, at once the Source and the Goal of the restless dynamism of all nature, of all finite beings."

It's just that in human beings, this restless longing, this passion for wholeness, has become conscious, and this consciousness, you might say, is the initial "spark" that occurs when two tingles intermingle and spark in the dark, i.e., the Divine and human:

There is religious conversion which is 'being grasped by ultimate concern. It is an other-worldly falling in love....' The outcome of such conversion is that the Holy Spirit and the human spirit encounter profoundly (Norris).

Love at first Light.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

No Principles, No Problem

The problem with the left is not so much bad philosophy as no philosophy at all.

Progressives are truly "post-philosophical," which is what allows them to routinely hold views that are internally and externally inconsistent, and more generally, to appeal to "expedient principles" -- an oxymoron -- as the need arises to defend what can only amount to raw power and self-interest. (In other words, truthlessness actually has a purpose, and this purpose is to serve the acquisition and maintenance of power.)

No, this isn't just polemical, because this is precisely what the more sophisticated among them aver: to disagree with their relativism is to render oneself an authoritarian or fascist. We are indeed living in a "post-metaphysical" age, which is indistinguishable from a post-philosophical age, which in turn redounds to a post-serious thinking age, or even a "post-adult" one.

Things become stupid and childish when principles are absent. For, Intelligence is the capacity for discerning principles. Indeed, Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.

Which is why, by the way, Engaging in dialogue with those who do not share our assumptions is nothing more than a stupid way to kill time (NGD). You will have noticed that the only way the left can get around this truism is to ban our assumptions wherever they have the power to do so, e.g., on college campuses.

When the tenured break out the "post-metaphysical" canard, what they really mean is post-Western civilization in general and post-Judeo-Christian in particular. The only way to jettison those two obstacles to power is to discredit them entirely. Not to seriously engage them, because to engage them would be to leave oneself beclowned (just as engaging rather than ignoring the Constitution would put an end to the left's schemes).

Therefore, our bedrock principles must be dismissed with a kind of a priori contempt, as if man learned nothing about the nature of man during his first 200,000 years on the planet. Now, the mere presence of a species for 200,000 years argues for an essence or nature that defines the species. But this isn't a problem if one's post-philosphical and post-intellectual outlook tosses aside the whole notion of essence: if human nature is a an obstacle, just deny it up front.

Here metaphysical Darwinism comes in handy, for if man is but the effect of wholly random causes, then he has no essence. This being the case, we are free to turn man into anything we wish. For example, if we raise a boy as a girl, he will become one. For the left, the only thing in man that is absolutely fixed is homosexuality. That and the right to a dead baby. Unless the baby is homosexual. Then it's murder. And murder is a sin. Except there's no such thing as sin.


The only way to overcome what man has learned about himself over the eons -- much of it rather unflattering -- is to adopt an attitude of abject cynicism. Now, as we see in our troll [William], this attitude is one of extreme corrosiveness, in the sense that it naively prides itself on being able to dissolve any argument before reaching its conclusion. This is why I refer to it as "negative omniscience."

Unlike positive omniscience, or "knowing everything," this is the negative capability of knowing nothing, but in a way that renders oneself superior. One routinely encounters it in clinical practice, among paranoiacs (in a more crude form) and narcissists (in more subtle forms).

As Clarke discusses, "The very notion of constructing a unified systematic philosophical inquiry into being as a whole... has been abandoned by contemporary philosophers." An exception to the rule is Whiteheadian process philosophy, which is how I initially got into the racket. In fact, I don't think he can be surpassed if one is attempting to construct a metaphysic on merely scientific grounds, i.e., to draw out the metaphysical implications of modern science.

But man is obviously not restricted to the scientific mode of knowing (to believe otherwise is to have internalized an implicit principle before the investigation has even begun). Rather, as Schuon writes, "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence." For "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing."

I don't regard this statement as remotely poetical, or romantic, or "in a manner of speaking." Rather, everything must have its sufficient reason, and the only sufficient reason for man's restless search for Absoluteness is the Absolute. This is the real reason why science never rests content with any hypothesis (with the exception of manmade global warming, which, like homosexuality and the right to abortion, is another absolute).

But if man were only provoked to seek out the Absolute from the relative end of the cosmos, this would be a cosmic itch he could never scratch, for it is not possible for a finite being to reach or even know of the Infinite; to say finite is to implicitly know infinitude.

Therefore, just as man is on a perpetual search for God, history reveals God's perpetual search for man. If one prefers, one may express it in abstract terms and say that man, everywhere we find him, is characterized by (↑). But likewise, culture, everywhere we find it, is imbued with traces of (↓).

In the end -- as we shall see -- man's search for God is God's search for man, for there is no other way of looking at it, assuming God is God (in other words, transcendence necessarily spills over into immanence, as immanence points back and returns to transcendence).

To put it another way, every culture is characterized by a search for the ground, source, origin, or center -- the unchanging, or Ultimate Principle. Norris calls this the "search from below." He references Cardinal Newman, who remarked that "all the nations" seek God, and that "by feeling their way toward him, succeed in finding him." However, it is necessary to discern the principial truth within "the corrupt legends" with which it is inevitably mixed.

The story of the people of Israel isn't just another story of (↑), but more importantly, a -- the -- story of (↓): "it is not we who seek God, it is rather God who seeks us out." And for Christians, (↑) and (↓) meet -- or Cross paths -- in the person of Christ, who is both ground and destiny: "Here the human search from below, in its many different modalities and incarnations... effectively meets the divine descending search..."

Thus, "the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face." More to the point, "dialogue" becomes the possibility of "union" when the Absolute crosses "the ontological abyss separating the infinite and infinite." Again, to say that man cannot accomplish this union in the absence of (↓) is a truism.

Which is where I would say the Holy Spirit comes in, for he may be fruitfully thought of as an ongoing form of (↓), so that our sincere search is never in vain. The Holy Spirit "is the finisher and polisher of divine revelation with regard to us." Norris references an illuminating passage by the Orthodox bishop Ignatios of Latakia:

Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away, / Christ stays in the past, / the Gospel is a dead letter, / the Church is simply an organization, / authority a matter of dominion, / mission a matter of propaganda, / the liturgy no more than an evocation, / Christian living a slave morality.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Intelligibility and Freedom, Absurdity and Compulsion

Just another post that held my interest...


One of the perverse characteristics of our age is that the world is simultaneously regarded as exquisitely intelligible and yet completely absurd.

Which is itself absurd, because it is impossible to understand how these two can be reconciled. I would go so far as to say that if the world were absurd, we could never know it; and that to think the world absurd results from an implicit expectation of non-absurdity.

When I say that the world is seen as exquisitely intelligible, what I mean is that we just assume -- correctly so -- that whatever or wherever we investigate in the cosmos, it will make sense -- that it will speak to us and disclose its secret. Intelligible order is everywhere (which is one of the operating assumptions of science). Faith in the rationality and intelligibility of the cosmos is a faith in God once removed (non-Judeo-Christian cultures have no such faith, unless it has been imported from the West).

As it bears upon ultimate questions, science is every bit as "faith based" as is religion (except in a naive and uncritical way). What I mean is that, for example, science actually has no idea -- nor will it ever, on its own terms -- how a supposedly dead universe suddenly sprang to life 3.85 billion years ago.

Nevertheless, most scientists (if they think about it at all) seem to have a serene confidence that this ultimate discontinuity is unproblematic. Which is why I felt so fortunate to encounter the brilliant Robert Rosen during the years I spent puzzling over the problem of Life Itself (can't really recommend him to layfolk; he didn't live long enough to maybe dumb it down a notch for our benefit).

Likewise the transition -- or leap -- from (mere) animal to man. You will have noticed that in facing this question, science doesn't really work inductively from the actual evidence. Rather, it begins with a Darwinian conclusion -- for them, an axiomatic truth -- and deduces how this or that human trait must have come about via random copying errors naturally selected.

Yes, the results are comical -- for one thing, any properly credentialed mediocrity can play the game -- but no more so than a religious person who, say, begins with the axiomatic truth that the world is 6,000 years old, and then tries to cram all the empirical evidence into that hypothesis. Both can be done, but only badly.

We endured an example of this type of pseudo-analysis the other day, with reader William's appeal to cosmic ignorance in support of his negative omniscience (similar to how scientism marshals intelligibility in support of absurdity). That is, in response to our belief that the universe must in principle be finite, he commented that he is

limited in [my] perception of the observable universe by the space time continuum in which [I] exist, and that [I am] able to perceive and theorize"; [and that] the particle horizon -- the maximum distance from which particles can or have traveled in the age of the universe -- represents the boundary between the observable and the unobservable universe.

Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. An intrinsically absurd way. For example, is it even remotely true that man's understanding is limited to the laws of physics, or to what is empirically present to the senses? If this were true, then we couldn't even know the laws of physics, for we would merely be an expression of them; the answer to every human problem would be E = mc2, or Planck's constant.

More to the point, man is capable of pondering universal truths that operate in the realm of existence as such, in any conceivable cosmos. It isn't as if these universal truths are reducible to physics; to the contrary, physics must be a prolongation of metaphysics.

In other words, in order for something to be intelligible at all, it must share certain characteristics (which I will discuss in a subsequent post). Therefore, to the extent that there are things outside our "space-time continuum," if they are intelligible, then we can understand them. If they are absurd, then we can't.

However, there is every reason to conclude that "existence" and "intelligibility" are so intimately related that to exist is to be intelligible. To put it the other way around, it is obviously impossible for us to conceive of something that "exists" in an unintelligible way.

We can go so far as to say that the cosmos is "fulfilled" in knowledge of itself -- which is simultaneously man's fulfillment, at least on the natural plane (i.e., that being ends in contemplation of itself).

But even then, there can be no contradiction between Reason and Revelation, since both are creations of the same Author. Thus, in the face of apparent contradiction, we must re-examine and rethink the matter through. Atheists and other trolls never tire of raising such contradictions, precisely because they haven't thought them through. In other words, they take note of the contradiction and stop right there, instead of discerning the unity from a higher perspective.

While it is no doubt true that in premodern times epistemology was subordinated to metaphysics (or, more likely, theology), in our day it is the converse, such that metaphysics is subordinated to positivistic science, a strangely oedipal scenario in which the child (science) murders its parent (natural theology).

Norris Clarke writes that man innately possesses an "unrestricted drive" to know "all that there is to know about all that there is."

Good credo for the masthead: All There is to Know about All There Is.

As such, our mind is by its nature "oriented toward the totality of being as knowable, as its final goal which alone can satisfy its desire to know." Further, this is a kind of "natural hope" -- to go along with our natural faith -- "in the radical intelligibility in principle of all real being."

Blah blah yada yada, if you pursue this line of thought to its inevitable end, you are faced with a choice: "Either the universe is unintelligible," in which case you free -- or compelled, rather -- to wallow in your own absurdity.

If not, then "there must exist one and only one Infinite Source of all other beings, both of their actual existence and all the perfections (goodness) within them.... Our journey of the intellect, in search of the full intelligibility of what it means to be, has now finally arrived at the single Infinite Source of all beings, of the whole community of real existents."


The original desire for the good takes its energy from the ever-pulsating momentum of that Origin in which man, answering the creative call of God, flew across the abyss which parts nothingness from existence. It is the moment with which the possible bursts forth with a roar into the radiant dawn of its first realization: the swift current of a stream that originating in the bright darkness of mere Nature and steadily fed by its source, crosses by the dictates of innate conscience into the realm of freedom (Josef Pieper).

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Body, Soul, and Divinity of Truth

Just a couple of old posts strung together. I have to put them someplace, and this is the place...

This post is about Truth and Freedom, since we can by no means have one without the other. For who could argue with the following proposition, that

The actualization of truth is no mere natural process but a spiritual event, which takes place only in the lightning-like encounter and fusion of two words -- the word of the subject and the word of the object. Outside of this event, there is no truth" (Balthasar, Theo-Logic).

Nature may embody truth, but it takes a supernatural act to pull the truthy rabbit out of its material hat, to quote Aquinas on one of his rare off days. No: "The truth of the object exists only so long as infinite or finite spirit turns to it in an act of knowing; the truth of the subject exists only as long as it abides in this act" (ibid.).

Our encounter with the object world releases the truth of the subject into being. This is why we all respond differently to different objects -- and subjects, i.e., persons -- which have a way of giving birth to a latent part of ourselves. This has much in common with the Platonic idea of education, the purpose of which is more to draw out what is within than to shove into us what we lack ("doctor" is cognate to docer, to "draw out.")

One cannot get to the freedom of truth unless one first appreciates the unfreedom that often surrounds it. The spirit must first apprentice itself to the object world before it can "attain to itself." This is similar to the manner in which one must first master scales and chords before one is truly free to play a musical instrument. In fact, for a true master, the unfreedom and freedom will live side by side for the remainder of one's life. John Coltrane used to practice eight hours a day long after he attained virtuosity.

Things are more than things, and facts are more than facts. If this weren't the case, then knowledge of them would be strictly impossible.

For human beings, facts are always enshrouded in mystery, for they are an occasion to know the great Mystery of Withinness. Facts speak to humans, again, in ways that engage us in particularly intimate ways. Take the simple example of this book we're discussing today. Not a single person in the world would have highlighted the exact same passages I have, either because it speaks to me or I hear it in a uniquely individualized way. So are the facts in the book? Or in me? Or in the space between?

If it weren't for the erotic mystery that enshrouds truth, we'd all be singing the same tune from the same boring hymnal. "The event of knowledge would cast a cold, pitiful, shadowless light into every corner, and there would be no possibility of escaping this scorching sun. Being, stripped of mystery, would be, so to speak, prostituted" (ibid.).

This epistemological ambiguity is the precise opposite of a cynical relativism or spiritually barren deconstruction. Rather, "radical cynicism only becomes possible wherever man no longer has a flair for the central mystery of being, whenever he has unlearned reverence, wonder, and adoration, whenever, having denied God, whose essence is always characterized by the wonderful, man also overlooks the wondrousness of every single created entity" (ibid.).

There is a perverse joy in this radical cynicism, which is just the negative form of omniscience. Nor is it difficult to trace its roots, now that I have a four year old boy who likes to build things, but not nearly as much as he enjoys tearing them apart, knocking them down, or disassembling them to see "what's inside." But of course, there is no inside without the outside. The outside is the manifestation of the inside, just as the inside is the invisible "essence" of the outside. Jettison either, and the cosmos is reduced to a flat and empty place.

The outside reveals the inside, just as the downside reveals the upside.


The human being is faced with a range of phenomena -- both exterior and interior, i.e., thoughts and things -- of which he needs to take account and make sense. And if he is to comprehend the totality of existence, i.e., the Kosmos, then the True Philosopher, the extreme seeker after knowledge, the ardent lover of wisdom, the off-road spiritual adventurer, must exclude nothing (including, of course, Nothing; in other words, he must also be mindful of non-being, or more or less complete privations of the Good and True).

If embracing the fancies of a Dawkins or Dennett means rejecting the oceanic depths of an Aquinas or Maritain, then so much the worse for the modern misosophers who are blind to any reality that surpasses the circular limits of their projected models. For example, reader William, as usual, turns reality on its head by appealing to what he calls "the infinite" in order to maintain his rigidly finite, parochial, and earthbound attitudes.

What he forgets is that to posit the Infinite -- which only man can do, and which in a certain sense defines him -- carries with it certain immediate implications. If nothing else, to take seriously the principle of the Infinite is to to have left vulgar materialism behind and to have entered the realm of pure metaphysics. If the Infinite "exists," then it is obviously a first principle, since it cannot be surpassed. By definition nothing can surpass infinitude.

Looked at from the other end, "To say Absolute, is to say Infinite" (Schuon). "Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute." As such, "It is from this 'dimension' of Infinitude that the world necessarily springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude."

Now, we all know the cosmos is "expanding," for that is an implication of Infinitude. Schuon:

The Infinite is that which, in the world, appears as modes of expanse or of extension, such as space, time, form or diversity, number or multiplicity, matter or substance...

In other words, and to be more precise: there is a conserving mode, and this is space; a transforming mode, and this is time; a qualitative mode, and this is form, not inasmuch as it limits, but inasmuch as it implies indefinite diversity; a quantitative mode, and this is number, not inasmuch as it fixes a given quantity, but inasmuch as it too is indefinite; a substantial mode, and this is matter, it too being without limit as is shown by the star-filled sky. Each of these modes has its prolongation" in our world, "for these modes are the very pillars of universal existence.

Those who "go off the deep end" receive all of the attention from mental health professionals, but it is also possible -- and more common, actually -- to fall off the shallow end, "to lose everything but one's reason," as Chesterton put it. These people can't really be helped, since they find the shallow end to be quite congenial to their desiccated souls. They know how to wade, to tread water, to dog-paddle, and that's all they want or need to know.

Materialists propose what amounts to an absurdly false hierarchy with man at the top, but no way to explain how he got up there (since there can be no objective progress in a random and meaningless cosmos). As Schuon explains,

To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative, or again, that the universal Intellect is the measure of individual existence....

Once man makes himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses.

This is why there can be no philosophy more anti-human than secular (as opposed to Christian) humanism; you cannot turn man into a god without placing him beneath himself, for you will simply create a demon who is beyond good and evil.

"Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such" (Schuon). Therefore, intelligence is the ability to discern the Real from the unreal, or from the "less real."

Furthermore, intelligence itself must share something of the substance of the Real, or it couldn't possibly know it. Ultimately, Truth and Intelligence must be two aspects of the same thing, or both are meaningless, at least as far as humans are concerned.

As Schuon explains, "the sources of our transcendent intuitions are innate data, consubstantial with pure intelligence" (emphasis mine). This is a key insight into how and why the intellect "resonates" with divine revelation and with the "inward appearance" of things in general. As mentioned a couple of posts back, just as our physical eye perceives empirical reality, our spiritual vision is able to perceive the vertical realm. Or, as Eckhart says, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

To put it another way, Intelligence itself is proof of eternal values, since man's intellect would be inexplicable -- for it would lose its sufficent reason -- if deprived of "its most fundamental or loftiest contents," which include Truth, Reality, the One, the Infinite, the Absolute. To recognize the Infinite is to reject all idols and graven images, including those of science.

Conversely, you can claim that objective truth doesn't exist; but if so, then neither does intelligence, so there is no reason to pay any attention to your avowed lack thereof.

Scientific materialism provides us with facts and details, but no wisdom as to what they mean, or even whether it is worthwhile to know them. Philosophy, in the words of Josef Pieper, is simply "the hunt for that which is worth knowing, for that wisdom which makes one unconditionally wise..." "Without philosophy," aphorizes the Aphorist, "the sciences do not know what they know."

In fact, Pieper's conception is quite similar to Schuon's, in that he regards philosophy as being concerned with reality as a whole and with wisdom in its entirety, which can be seen as two aspects of the same underlying unity. He quotes Plato to the effect that the lover of wisdom seeks not this or that part, but "integrity and wholeness in all things human and divine."

Clearly this is not so of science (nor should it be), which explicitly limits itself (or should, anyway) to this or that aspect or part of the cosmos, not its totality. It does, however, assume that there is a totality, even though this totality can obviously never be observed or proven empirically. No one but the Creator has ever "seen" the cosmos. We only know of it because of our deiformity.

In fact, one could say that Cosmos and Creator are two aspects of a single reality. There is no cosmos that cannot be known, nor knowledge in the absence of a hierarchically structured cosmos. Again, Being is Truth, which is why knowledge is possible.

To reduce reality to what may be clearly and unambiguously known through the scientific method is to in effect say that "I want to know only what can be made blindingly obvious and is thoroughly demonstrable to the densest man."

The modern man only admits the evidence that the vulgar perceive. For the objective, as well, he limits it to the consensus of dull minds. --NGD

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