Saturday, February 15, 2020

The World Wide Cosmic Web

1. The unrestricted scope of the mind toward being; 2. Existence as the act of presence (and God as the act of being itself); 3. Participation and interiority; and now our fourth theme, Action.

By which Clarke means a kind of endlessly communicative universe in which the parts "pour over into self-expression and self-communication with each other." We've discussed this in many posts of yore, but the only reason a "part" can exist is because it constitutes its own "whole" in miniature.

For example, how can we look at a tree or dog or star, and instantly recognize its wholeness? I think because any recognizable thing partakes of the very wholeness that characterizes the cosmos itself. No one ever has or ever will perceive the cosmos -- obviously -- and yet, we all intuit its oneness, wholeness, and uniformity across space and time. Nah, it's stronger than "intuit," since the wholeness cannot not be.

In order to be a whole, the cosmos must be in contact with itself -- whole to part, part to whole, and part to part. And indeed, according to trinitarian metaphysics, even the whole is in communication with itself, without descending into partness! Rather, the trans-whole is a single substance of three eternally related and expressive persons.

At the bottom of the page I have a note to myself: "Does Jesus not bring a certain correction to the Jewish conception of God?" To say "correction" is to prejudge the case, but he certainly respects the radical oneness of the Jewish God while tweaking it in a wholly unexpected and seemingly paradoxical manner.

Chesterton wrote of how the former (oneness) was a prerequisite for the latter (threesomeness), in that the pagan cosmos had first to be cleansed of polytheism in order to properly approach the Trinity.

In other words, if the Trinity had been introduced in an extra-Jewish context, pagans would have undoubtedly understood it as tritheism rather than a deeper elaboration of strict monotheism. Moreover, they would have no doubt used it to explain how Jewish monotheism is all wrong.

Back to Clarke. As we've suggested on many occasions, going all the way back to the urtext itself, there is a big difference between a pile and a unity. We can recognize a pile of laundry as "one thing," and yet, it's really just a bunch of externally related but contiguous articles.

In contrast, a real unity -- such as an organism -- consists of internally related parts. My heart and lungs, for example, aren't analogous to billiard balls, but share a higher unity of relation and function. Thus, without this communicative interiority,

all we would have would be a collection of isolated beings, each a center of existential energy similar to all others, but totally bound up within itself, with no connection or communication with others, and hence no way of knowing them.

Each being would be plunged in total silence and darkness as far as the rest of the universe is concerned, a total "black whole," so to speak, except that it would not even exert any gravitational pull on the rest, as black holes do in our world.

Clarke's description is slightly misleading, in that there is literally nothing that could be said of any reality that weren't grounded in self-communicative interiority. There would be no "collection," no "beings," no "centers," no cosmos at all and no knowledge in, of, beyond, or before it; no darkness, light, isolation, unity -- just an inconceivable nothingness. You could say that this is either one cosmos under God or no cosmos under nothing. It's that stark a choice: God or tenure.

The vertical oneness of reality

enables beings to come out of their isolation, connect with each other, influence each other, and communicate with each other.... [It] truly allows there to be a universe, that is, a turning of all towards oneness, togetherness.

When anytwo are gethered in his name, there are -- boo! -- three. And this calls to mind a slightly cryptic aphorism: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion.

Get it? So simple and yet so fundamental. If not for this everyday miracle, we'd not only have no God, we'd have nothing (and no we to have it).

The Sovereign Good, because it is good, is radically self-diffusive, self-giving, and self-communicative. It is at bottom a radiant gift, so to speak. After all, it is free. And it does shine. And so do we. John Lennon was on to something:

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void / It is shining, it is shining

That you may see the meaning of within / It is being, it is being

That love is all and love is everyone / It is knowing, it is knowing

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Come Together Over Me Under I AM

We're up to number three of Clarke's six main themes of metaphysical reflection, participation, by which he means "the basic ontological structure of sharing in the universe." Each thing is participating in the All, as part is to whole; or, as Whitehead put it,

We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from an environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature.

No can be. Metaphysically speaking. Indeed,

Science is taking on a new aspect which is neither purely physical, nor purely biological. It is becoming the study of organisms. Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.

To which I would add -- not in any woo woo way, but literally -- the cosmos is the largest organism. And yet, it cannot be ultimate, because organicism is a function of personhood, not vice versa. We'll no doubt come back this principle, if not in this post, then in themes four, five, or six. But "participation" already hints at personhood, since it is an entailment of persons, and persons are by definition irreducibly intersubjective.

Whitehead blows up both biology and physics, at least the orthodox but incoherent view that ether subordinates the former to the latter, or that places a sharp line between them. For, example, the doctrine of evolution "cries aloud for a conception of organism as fundamental for nature." In other words, if organism is fundamental and not just epiphenomenal, then neither biology nor physics are what we (they) think they are.

Can't get more participatory than this: "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world" (ibid.).

By the way, I don't bring in Whitehead as some kind of appeal to authority. Rather, to common sense.

I suppose we could say that human beings are woven of the limitless and limited; or finitude and infinitude; or absolute and relative. Or, we could say that humans have the privilege of being finite and yet conformed to the infinite, which is what makes knowledge of totality possible but totality of knowledge impossible.

As Clarke describes it, "the immanent One in many is also a many from a transcendent One." This is a key, because what is knowledge -- of anything -- but a kind of participatory oneness-to-oneness in Oneness?

Is that obscure enough for you? If so, put it this way: knowledge of anything presupposes the existence of that single thing under investigation. But the investigation presupposes a single mind capable of knowing this one thing it has selected or abstracted from the whole. And the unification of these two -- intelligible object and intelligent subject -- presupposes a higher unity that is the source of these two, i.e., the unity of the object (that which makes it one) and the unicity (i.e., interior oneness) of the subject.

If things weren't structured in this way, then 1 + 1 would always = a pair of ones instead of a synthetic twoness, to say nothing of transcendent threeness (and all genuine creativity participates in a generative threeness).

The following sounds very much like Whitehead, and not just because it's a run-on sentence. The participatory cosmos

must be seen as a synoptic vision of the universe, in which all beings, from the lowest to the highest, come together to form a single great community, where each holds the common identification card of the act of existence, or active presence, plus its own individual signature as a distinct member of this ultimate club of real being, where everything has secret affinities with everything else from highest to lowest, where nothing real can ever be objectively alienated in any ultimate way (Clarke).

In short, "To be is to be together." And in the end, "psyche mirrors nature and nature mirrors psyche, each in its own way" (ibid.). This isn't a metaphor; rather it is why we have metaphor, or even language itself.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

It's All Too Much

For me, anyway. The more I learn, the less I know. At this rate, we'll know nothing by the end of this post, if not before.

Number two of Clarke's six main themes of metaphysical reflection is existence as the act of presence. This involves a shift of perspective from the Whatness of things to their sheer Isnsess; from the form of existents to existence itself,

seen as the radical underlying act of presence in each real being by which all beings are real -- i.e., actually present in the universe and actively present to all other beings.

This is the most general category we may conceive, surpassed only by the God whom we can never conceive; I like to think of God the Father as Beyond-Being, and Being as eternally conceived and begotten in his matrix/womb. I'm not saying this is correct, only that it helps me to think the unthinkable. Ignore the names and just think of an eternally generative perichoretical dance between....

Come to think of it, this gnotion can be fruitfully applied to any number of ultimate categories, from Beyond-Being <--> Being on down, e.g., eternity/time, whole/part, absolute/relative, personal/interpersonal, wave/particle, subject/object, etc. We can never finally come down on one side or the other without either denying half of reality, or illicitly smuggling properties of one complementarity into the other.

For example, you can't just eliminate truth or free will from the cosmos and then proceed as if nothing has happened. Because if there is no truth or freedom, there is no thinking, period. Conversely, if you are actually thinking, and your thoughts are conformed to reality -- i.e., disclose truth -- this alone implies a great deal, to put it mildly.

Truth and Presence. Can't have one without the other: for

the Absolute is either Truth or Presence, but it is not one or the other in an exclusive fashion, for as Truth It comprises Presence, and as Presence It comprises Truth.

Such is the twofold nature of all theophanies; thus Christ is essentially a manifestation of Divine Presence, but he is thereby also Truth: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No one enters into the saving proximity of the Absolute except through a manifestation of the Absolute, be it a priori Presence or Truth (Schuon).

In other words, we must know the truth, and the truth shall se us free, not as a horizontal "consequence" but because these are two sides of the same coin-cidence. Truth coincides with freedom and presence; not to mention love and beauty.

But let's not put words or thoughts into Clarke's mouth or head. What does he say?

The principle of existence is not a form or structure in things, a "what," but rather an inner dynamic act of presence that makes all forms of structures actually present as diverse modes of the radical "energy" of existence.

In short: existence is an inner dynamic Act of Presence.

It's difficult to put these things into words without sounding like one is high, or even Heidegger. But there it is, right here and right now: an interior dynamism presently acting as active presence of interiority-truth-freedom. Or something. Let's try to find some clarity here. We are fumbling around in the dark, but let us grope for the damn light switch!

Clarke:

every real being, in virtue of its in-dwelling act of existence, has the power to express itself, relate itself to the rest of the universe, communicate its own existential energy to other beings.

In other words, because the existence of the Cosmos is an Act of Presence, it is present before us as precisely that communicative Act. If this weren't the case, then the created world wouldn't speak to us so coherently and intelligibly, and to the extent that we "understood" it, we would be understanding nothing.

Bob, you are really on a roll this morning -- a roll of obscurity. You sound positively tenured. Another stab? I guess we're not alone:

this deep-lying act of existence at the core of every being, as the ultimate bond of union between all real things, does not come easily to a common-sense vision of the world, more concerned with what things are and how they act than that they are.

Mere common sense must be supplemented with uncommon nonsense. This requires a kind of "metaphysical conversion." I would say we must be born again, or undergo a metanoia, a "turning around" from existence to being; we have to get out of the tired rutness of Whatness and into the spirited business of Isness.

This latter is truly the business of God, or of God's first business: first and foremost he is busy with Isness.

Clarke quotes Shelley, who said that The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being. Note the irony: clarity can impose its own special kind of fog, which is surely the case vis-a-vis any ideology, from Marxism to Darwinism to atheism and All the Rest.

Indeed, there is a power of negative thinking, or better, a complementarity between apophatic (+) and cataphatic (-) theologies. Can't get more mainstream than Thomas Aquinas, whose "anti-doctrine" of God

never tells us what God is, only what God is not. His entire approach is to undermine all our idolatrous attempts to turn God into something understandable or controllable....

Well, if that's the way he feels about it, I'll just shut-up.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

The Marriage of Mind and Being

We're in the process of reviewing the six main themes that dominated Clarke's seven decades or so (he died at age 93 in 2008) of metaphysical reflection -- themes "that are central in my philosophical vision of the universe." These are irreducible, in that he couldn't boil them down any further without losing something vital.

Oh, and the reasons we're doing this are purely narcissistic, in that his whole approach is so similar to mine, even though mine has been going on for, I don't know, three and a half decades, but I didn't run into Clarke until -- let's make it official -- until May 30,2012. Which means that he plundered my ideas for over half a century before I even had the opportunity to think them. If this isn't a temporal injustice, I don't know what is.

The first theme, discussed in the previous post, is The Unrestricted Dynamism of the Mind Toward Being. Let's say a few more things about this before moving on the the second.

One thing that sets the human mind apart from the animal is our natural drive "to lay hold of intellectually and understand as far as possible the entire order of being, all there is to know about all there is" (Clarke).

More more more: this drive applies to "the entire life of inquiry of the human mind in any field," even though it is only properly realized in metaphysics (to which I would add the theology without which it can never be complete).

For example, consider my racket, psychology. As I've discussed before, I never intended to become a "psychologist." Rather, my curiosity simply got the better of me. But being crowned with a PhD hardly extinguished my curiosity! If that were the case, I'd be a poor excuse for a human being, let alone psychologist.

For a psychologist who is only a psychologist isn't even that. Which I mean 100% literally. If you fail to situate psychology in a hierarchical nest of diverse disciplines, you're just an ideologue, and your ideology is simply the disease that has killed your curiosity -- which is properly unlimited by anything short of God.

And even then, God can never be a human limit, since he is the Limitless, precisely. He is the sufficient reason of our own unlimited curiosity, which is the whole point of this first theme: "Mind is for being, and reciprocally being is for mind":

This absolutely fundamental mutual correlation of mind and being, mind for being and being for mind [is] a "nuptial relation," a natural marriage made in heaven, so to speak, where each partner completes the other (ibid.).

Yes, exactly. Not to get all political right away, but notice that ideology always results from an unnatural (or perhaps merely natural) redefinition of cosmic marriage, such that knowing can only be betrothed to knowing rather than being.

Is this clear? Kant presided over the official divorce of knowledge from being, and this was no amicable parting of the whys, since knowledge constantly stalks being while pretending to abide by its own self-imposed restraining order limiting it to visiting rights with childish phenomena. The noumena is supposed to be off limits.

Moreover, the marriage of knowing and knowing -- like the deconstructionist's marriage of language to language -- is literally a homotextual union. For

notice the appropriate roles in this marriage [of knowing to being]: the human mind is analogously like the female, or mother; reality is like the father. To know truly a reality that it has not itself made [i.e., the infertile union of knowledge with knowledge], the mind must make itself open to receive this reality, to be actively informed by it.

The mind, informed by realty, then actively responds, pours its own spiritual life into what it receives, gestates, then gives birth to the mental "word" or concept, which in turn flows over into the verbal word expressed to others.

Like right now. This is a family blog, so I don't want the be too graphic, but we symbolize the openness (o), and the reality to which it is open (↓). There is the even deeper mystery of (↓) proceeding from the womb of O, but we'll return to that later. Suffice it to say that Ultimate Reality is an eternal complementarity -- a relation -- of Father <---> Mother, of giving, receiving and giving back.

Not to be-labor the pain, but a con-cept is a con-ception. And guess what. Now that I'm plummeting down this rabbit hole, this notion was first born in me way back in 1985, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Clarke or even religion. Rather, the following -- written by a psychoanalyst -- rang a deep bell:

"Conception is that which results when a pre-conception mates with the appropriate sense impressions" (Bion). There is an inherent expectation of a union of two objects to make a third which is more than a sum of its two parts (Hinshelwood).

The interior union -- of preconception or archetype with reality -- gives birth to the baby concept. Of course it never ends there, because the concept then becomes preconception for a new generation of concepts. This is how science -- or any discipline -- proceeds.

But if it's just knowledge giving birth to more knowledge -- but with no intimate contact with father reality -- then it is again completely sterile. Indeed, this is what it means to be an Infertile Egghead, a subject about which I am reading at this very moment.

Well, I guess the second theme will have to wait until Tuesday. We'll leave off with this:

to know is for the mind to conceive and give birth to an inner mental word expressing the real that has informed it, and bearing the features of both parents -- reality and the mind. Thus theoretical intelligence (knowing the world as it already is) is more like a she; practical intelligence, on the other hand... is more like a he... (Clarke).

However, please bear in mind that these categories aren't naive and primitive psychological projections of human gender; rather, the reverse: we are gendered because reality is.

Friday, February 07, 2020

All There Is To Know About All There Is

So, metaphysics presupposes a passion for wholeness and an intuitive sense of deep harmony.

Wholeness implies "partness," but the parts reveal an inner harmony, very much analogous to an organism, which is a unified harmony of countless parts. And as we suggested way back when, it would be strictly impossible for organisms to exist in a non-organismic cosmos.

You can't really build an animal out of Legos, only Logos.

This is something we rarely hear, but it's as fundamental as the principle that intelligence cannot be derived from unintelligence, or information from non-information, or light from darkness.

For if this cosmos weren't interiorly related, it is impossible to explain how interior relations could somehow emerge later (to say nothing of the intersubjectivity that makes humanness possible). Indeed, how could interiority ever appear in a universe of exterior relations only?

But there's really no mystery (in the colloquial sense) if we ponder the meaning of wholeness and harmony, because neither is thinkable in a cosmos of purely exterior relations. The best analogy that comes to mind is music, to which I believe we are attracted because it reveals or mirrors something fundamental about the very structure of existence.

For to be aware of harmony is to be aware of vertical hierarchy (in musical space, so to speak), and to understand melody is to understand a serial wholeness (in time). A melody is "one thing" despite having many notes; and musical structure is one thing in space, despite being composed of diverse voices, say, saxophone, trumpet, guitar, and piano.

These diverse voices are harmonized into one, but by shifting one's focal awareness one can also listen in such a way as to enjoy the inter-play of individual instruments. Indeed, this is one of the keys to enjoying jazz: appreciating how the parts relate to the whole and vice versa, in both time and in space. No animal can do this, because no animal can "enter" music. An animal can hear the notes but cannot perceive (get inside) melody or harmony.

For Clarke, metaphysics is "the systematic effort to illuminate our experience in depth and set it in a vision of the whole."

I suppose it goes without saying that this requires a person, so it is a non-starter to embrace a metaphysic such as materialism that renders persons impossible.

Indeed, it turns out -- not to get ahead of ourselves, but it turns out that metaphysics doesn't just presuppose personhood, but that... how to put it... personhood is both the alpha and omega of metaphysics, a principle to which we will no doubt circle back.

But let's slow our roll. Clarke goes on to say that metaphysics involves "a person taking reflective possession of himself" and his "place in the universe as a whole." Metaphysics is

that part of philosophy which attends explicitly to the vision of the whole, which tries to lay out the great general laws and principles governing all beings and rendering them intelligible, including what it means to be real at all.

But let's go back to the first part of that definition: metaphysics involves a person... You can really stop there, or again, you must at the very least propose a metaphysic that makes personhood possible, and certainly doesn't render it impossible. However, some things are just so flat-out weird and unexpected, that what appears "possible" starts to look suspiciously necessary.

That probably wasn't clear. Let's suppose you get into a coin-flipping contest with Hillary Clinton. You flip the coin ten times, and each time it comes up heads for Hillary. Is this possible? Sure. But it's more likely that you are dealing with a weighted coin, so odds are that the outcome is actually necessary (relatively speaking, of course).

How many cosmic coin flips have to come up heads in order for persons to exist? Last I checked, there are something like 150 fine-tuned conditions necessary for just life to exist. But I find this whole approach somewhat tedious. For if you just understand the quality of interiority, the quantities no longer matter. No quantity leads to quality, for the same reason that no degree of exteriority results in interiority.

Let's move on. And in. When God reveals his name as "I AM THAT I AM," he is saying more than a mythful. Rather, he am being quite literal. In other words, the ultimate principle of existence isn't just interior but personal: AM (being) is an I (interior unity).

Clarke describes six central themes that have dominated his metaphysical reflections over the course of his life. Let's take them one by one, perhaps one day at a time.

On the first day, Clarke speaks of the unrestricted dynamism of the mind toward being. We touched on this in the previous post, but to me it comes down to the plain fact that nothing in this world is proportioned to the scope -- the height, width, and depth -- of our intelligence.

This is very much analogous to the obvious fact that nothing in this world can fulfill our desires, such that desire is eliminated. Rather, our minds are proportioned to something vastly transcending this world, despite having evolved (according to Darwinism) solely in the world.

Is the latter possible? I don't think it is, not even with an infinite number of crooked coin flips. Why? Because no number of coin flips results in a coin that starts to decide which way it will flip.

Do you see the point? Numbers don't add up to mathematicians, not even a bad one. Yes, God is a mathematician. But have you ever heard of a mathematician who isn't a person? Even AOC knows that it's literally impossible for us to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. Likewise, it is literally impossible to build a person out of numbers.

With this in mind, Clarke points out that human beings -- the metaphysicians among us, anyway -- have a drive to know

all there is to know about all there is. This drive knows no limits short of total understanding of all being, both in depth and in breadth.

Yes. That's a bingo. But consider the implications, or better, the underlying assumptions. For if man is to Know what Is, this presupposes a relationship between knowing and being.

Now, perhaps you haven't heard, but both modernity and postmodernity insist that there is no such relationship. Indeed, they don't even talk about being, even though this results in terminal incoherence. Nevertheless, ever since Kant, the Best Thinkers have been performing their cognitive tricks in a masturbatory cirque du jerque of inbred and sterile categories that prevent contact with "reality."

Like anyone could know anything while claiming to be out of touch with reality!

As we have been saying for I don't know how long, man can know many things about anything, but can never know everything about a single thing. This is strange but nevertheless absolutely true. By virtue of what principle is this not only possible, but necessary?

One word: creation (or perhaps better, Creator <---> Creature). Eliminate that word, and man cannot know anything about anything, and certainly nothing about everything. Yes, we are being quite literal.

Man is epistemophilic, meaning that he loves him some knowledge, which is what makes it such a passionate journey. On the other hand, a leftist is epistemophobic, or, to express it positively, "ideophilic," in that they love their ideologies, passionately. Which is why they hate us so.

But you can't hate real knowledge without hating being, AKA reality, and now you understand how and why the left is so passionate about so many impossibilities, whether economic, biological, anthropological, educational, meteorological, constitutional, etc. It's easy enough to blame that joker Kant. But he wasn't crazy, just ahead of the curve.

Anyway, being is not only "open" but radically self-giving, which is why our minds are able to intelligibly "receive" it. And this reduces to one circular and expansive dynamism.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

A Passion for Wholeness and a Vision of the Cosmic Area Rug

We left off the previous post with the idea that there are "two poles" in existence -- or better, one pole with two ends, i.e., the human person and God.

Each of these is a kind of absolute in its own way: God literally, and man vis-a-vis creation. God is the transcendent absolute, while man is a kind of "immanent absolute," in that he is the measure of all things down here. Nevertheless, man cannot not be this relative absolute unless he is understood to be a lawful deputy of the celestial sheriff, i.e, the absolute Absolute. If not, then man himself usurps the absolute, and you know the rest, at least if you're not a history professor:

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God and another who believes he is a god (Dávila).

From whence comes man's absoluteness? What is its basis, its origin or source? Again, it cannot be from within himself (cosmic narcissism), or from evolution (which is anchored in the gelatin of contingency), or from logic (i.e., in a naive pre-Gödelian tautology). Rather, it is because man

is essentially capable of knowing the True, whether it be absolute or relative; he is capable of willing the Good, whether it be essential or secondary, and of loving the Beautiful, whether it be interior or exterior. In other words: the human being is substantially capable of knowing, willing, and loving the Sovereign Good (Schuon).

For those living in Rio Linda, the S.G. is another name for God, which is another name for the Personal Absolute.

This being the case -- since man is essentially composed of intelligence, freedom, and beauty -- it follows that he

is made for the Truth, the Way, and Virtue. In other words: intelligence is made for comprehension of the True; will, for concentration on the Sovereign Good; and sentiment, for conformity to the True and the Good.

Let's get back to Clarke's Universe as Journey. Right away we see that the universe isn't a thing but a process, a process in which man is intimately involved. Indeed, as we shall see, man's involvement in the cosmic journey is the whole point of there being a cosmos at all.

Of course, you may not relate to what follows. If so, it is because, like most people, you don't have a metaphysical bent. It would be easy enough for me to tell you get bent, but it seems that, like any other gift, from math to music to humor, it is dispersed in a seemingly random way. Michael Jordan did nothing to deserve his basketball gift. He just ran and jumped with it. It's the same with metaphysics. Or certainly seems to be. I just run and jump with it, and slam-dunk on my detractors.

Clarke speaks of "a personal psychological predisposition toward metaphysical thinking." During the course of his journey, Clarke came to realize that "not everyone has the aptitude or the inner attraction to become a self-propelling, self-motivated metaphysician in the fuller sense."

I don't know about you, but I don't run into people who share my interests, certainly not with the same level of passion, intensity, and endurance. Irrespective of whether you think it says anything about reality, 15 years and 3,380 posts surely say something about me and my peculiarities -- peculiarities I was born with, since no one ever taught or encouraged me to be this way. To the contrary, my parents wanted normal children.

As to the metaphysical bent, Clarke cites two main constituents, each one as familiar to me as my own fingers. The first is -- and I've even used this descriptor myself --

A passion for unity, for seeing how the universe and all things in it fit together as a whole, a meaningful whole, a longing for integration of thought and life based on the integration of reality itself.

Love him or hate him, that's Bob. Like Bob, Clarke

always had to get away periodically by myself to think, always alone, and if possible, in the highest place around.

Drinking beer by the dilapidated satellite towers in Upper Tonga... so many vertical recollections and memoirs of the future. So many warnings by the police to "move along." So many beer cans hastily tossed into the brush. I wonder if they're still there?

"From higher up," writes Clarke, one can "see how it all fits together, making a single overall pattern." Up here we see how the cosmic area rug "weave[s] together to form a whole," such that "the higher viewpoint yields the unity."

By the way, in any materialist/scientistic/leftist worldview there is no up or down, which tells you everything you need to know about how their minds got so bent. For such an impoverished metaphysic denies "the inner spitiual synoptic vision of how all things in the universe somehow fit together to make an integrated meaningful whole."

The second metaphysical trait is "a sense of some kind of overall hidden harmony of the universe" that sounds suspiciously musical. Can one be predisposed to metaphysics without loving music? I don't really know. But Clarke was aware of

something great going on under the surface of things, some hidden kind of music, some harmony of all things that I could not quite hear but somehow knew was there and longed to lay hold of in my consciousness.

Ditto. "The philosopher seeks to hear the echoes of the World Symphony and reproject it into concepts (Nietzsche, in Clarke). Poor Nietzsche. He heard the music but imagined there was no composer. At any rate, I said something similar, albeit more fruity, on p. 23 of Raccoonica Esoterica, that

The universe is like a holographic, multidimensional score that must be read, understood and performed. Like the score of a symphony, it is full of information that can be rendered in different ways. The score can support diverse interpretations, but surely one of them cannot be "music does not exist."

Moreover, at the end of the deity,

we are each a unique and unrepeatable melody that can, if only we pay close enough attention to the polyphonic score that surrounds and abides within us, harmonize existence in our own beautiful way, and thereby hear the vespered strains of the Song Supreme.

(FYI, to clarify what might otherwise seem a stupid attempt at poetry, it's actually a stupid pun between end of the deity and vespers, the latter being the sunset evening prayer service that occurs at day's end.)

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Keys to Everything

Hmm. It can't be helped: an abrupt but brief change of subjects, the reason being that this involves the Subject of subjects, Principle of principles, and Meta of metas. Also, I read it just yesterday, so it comes to you fully half baked, straight out of the oven.

By way of background, I had already read everything by philosopher W. Norris Clarke but The Universe as Journey, which is out of print and a bit pricey. So when I found one for a mere five bucks, I snapped it up immediately.

Long story short, I don't believe I've ever encountered a thinker who so closely mirrors the Way of the Raccoon -- more than Schuon, more than Polanyi or Bion or Dobbs, perhaps rivaling only Dávila. (Aquinas via Pieper is another important channel.)

Others such as Hayek, Rosen, and Hartshorne provide critical pieces of the puzzle, but Clarke always speaks to the Whole, i.e., the One Cosmos Under God. I'm tempted to just get out of the way and provide excerpts, but these will no doubt provoke commentary.

The central essay is an intellectual autobiography called Fifty Years of Metaphysical Reflection: The Universe as Journey. In the introduction, Gerald McCool writes of Clarke's "inborn passion for unity and an ear for the inner harmony of the universe."

Ear and harmony. These strike me as critical, because they imply that the universe isn't just geometry but music; as the former is seen in space, the latter is heard in time. He who has ears to hear, let him listen up! And down. And all around, like a see-saw.

Also, harmony is vertical, whereas melody is horizontal. As in jazz, the melody is a kind of journey through the chords. In our cosmos the chordal structure is provided by God, whereas man is more or less free to "improvise" his personal melody through the chords. So, life is jazz.

By the way, what is metaphysics? Besides celestial mind jazz? It is

a vision of the world as an intelligible totality; its task [is] to spell out systematically the philosopher's vision of reality as a meaningful whole.

This resonates with me, because it is always "visionary." I mean this in neither a positive nor pejorative manner, rather, as neutral and descriptive. It's like a wide-angle lens on a camera. We don't say that it's intrinsically better or worse than a macro lens, just different.

Indeed, ultimately we need a dynamic and mutually correcting complementarity between the two views, otherwise we might default to rationalism or idealism at the wide end, empiricism or materialism at the narrow end.

Jumping ahead a bit, we might say that Person and Incarnation are the principles that mediate these opposite extremes or vertices. For what can be more comprehensive than Infinitude "within" finitude?

One of our first principles -- just try to deny it and see how far you get in your vertical sojourn -- is that the universe is intelligible to our intellect, and that these two reduce to one, AKA Intelligence. There is no intelligence in the absence of persons, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The deeper point -- or entailment -- is that human intelligence is unrestricted, or as Schuon would say, conformed to the Absolute. Nothing short of the Absolute satisfies our restless and mischievous minds. Well, maybe yours, but then you're not a Raccoon. We're talking less than 1% of the population here.

Now, of course we can never contain the Absolute, or we would be it; we would be God. But we can and must always approach it, or be oriented to it. This is philo-sophy, i.e., love of Wisdom. But it is also the wisdom of Love, and Love goes to the ultimate reality of Trinity.

As you can see, all of these principles are related and interrelated, both vertically and horizontally, such that it can be a challenge to describe them in a linear way.

It's analogous to trying to describe the parts of a face, when the face is what can only be seen as a whole, precisely. Left brain right brain. There's a reason why we have both, because the dynamic play of these two leads to a meta-stereoscopic vision of the whole -- like four-dimensional stereo.

Again, our minds are conformed to this hyperdimensional process: "the dynamism of the philosopher's own inquiring mind" justifies the "affirmation of Infinite Being as the ground and end of his ability to question" (McCool).

In this regard, bear in mind that the Absolute engenders the Infinite as the Father begets the Son from all eternity; thus, to say Absolute is to say Infinite, so our minds are conformed to both.

The "guiding image" that has directed Clarke is "the image of the universe as journey." No, not in some loosey-nousy romantic new age way, but rather, in a way that must be "worked out and justified with scientific and conceptual rigor."

Any and all truth is God's truth, for the very possibility of truth is and must be grounded in a transcendent principle. Deny this principle and nothing meaningful can be said, not so much as an atheistic peep. For if God doesn't exist, only He could know it.

The circular structure of this Cosmic Journey is as follows: all being goes forth from the One and returns to the One. Sort of. For in reality, it is not a closed circle but an open spiral, which is one of the Keys to Everything.

Sharing His infinite reality with a community of finite agents through continuous creative action, God [directs] this community of finite agents back to Himself as the final cause of their own activity (ibid.).

Alpha and Omega. True enough, but I don't like the word directed, because it implies a kind of top-down determinism, when that's just not the way the cosmos works, much less the human journey.

There is surely a top-down influence without which the cosmos would be drained of meaning -- it wouldn't even be a cosmos -- but it is more in the nature of an attraction or magnetism that manifests in us as our innate and unrestricted passion for wholeness, harmony, and totality; our desire for God is posterior to God's desire for us, again, in a spiraling goround of being.

Person and God. As with intelligence and intelligibility, these two resolve into one, i.e., substance-in-relation, or the ultimate three-in-one of Trinity. Ultimate reality is Person, but Person is relation, a relation of Love.

As Dávila says -- and feel free to take this literally -- Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not adventitious to me.

God is by definition necessary being, and therefore the one Cosmic Fact that cannot be adventitious. But to the extent that we are the (spatial) image and (temporal) likeness of God, it means that we have a share in his necessity. This is what it means to have an immortal soul, which is, as Dávila says, the Central Point of our consciousness: ʘ!

Likewise, Clarke's metaphysics centers upon "two poles," that is, "the human person and God," or "the link between the personal subject and the Being beyond finite beings reached through the unrestricted drive" of the human person. Grace forms the link and greases the skids between these poles.

Oh well. I can see this is going to be a multi-parter. Can't be helped. The cosmos is a big place. But don't worry. The mind is bigger, and God has given us the keys.

Monday, February 03, 2020

The Anti-Word Made Flesh

Toward the end of his piece on The Left's Great Lie and the pervasive threat it poses, Solway muses that

Sometimes I feel that evil is a reified force, not just a figure of speech or metaphor for affliction or a word to describe human malevolence, but an existential power that is discernibly afoot in the world.

Consistent with what we've been saying over the last several posts, this force "is implacably destructive in causing human misery through the operation of the Lie incarnate" (ibid.).

The Lie incarnate. We'll come back to that, because you will have no doubt noticed that lies -- or truth, for that matter -- are impotent unless they are embodied and therefore capable of action.

Let us stipulate that there is an existential power of falsehood afoot in the world. What shall we call it? I think "Satan" is a fine name, but it is so overloaded with preconceptions that I wonder if we need a new term?

They say that Satan's greatest trick was convincing people he doesn't exist. This is to not give him enough credit, for he has made his own name ridiculous, such that if you so much as mention it, you become the object of ridicule.

Indeed, this mechanism resembles an early form of political correctness, which is at bottom a war on noticing. If you do notice Satan, you thereby denounce yourself as a lunatic, or fanatic, or primitive. Neat trick! Through it Satan is able to marginalize anyone who takes him seriously.

This is critical, because Satan can accomplish nothing without human participation. He cannot be embodied unless or until a human being provides the meat and muscle. Though the body, the lie is enacted.

But just as there is a Body of Christ, we might say that there exists a "counter-body" of Lies. Human beings are irreducibly intersubjective, even if they pretend otherwise, so the Lie can't really ever affect just one person. Humans are compelled to communicate and share, which spreads the Lie like a virus; thus, "when the Lie becomes coterminous with the very world in which we have our being,"

in electoral politics, in education, in the entertainment industry, in the media print and digital, in publishing, in the censoring Big Tech platforms, in mass movements sweeping the planet like feminism and “climate change” and Islamic appeasement and identity politics and renewed socialism and Globalism -- and when it lays down the latitude and longitude of our thinking so that there is scarcely any place left to locate our inner coordinates, it forms, as the ancient Gnostics believed, a wholly demonic environment, a false Creation. It is no accident that the devil is called the Father of Lies (ibid.).

Yes, yes, and yes: a false "creation," a demonic environment, and a reality tunnel that we simultaneously project and inhabit (exactly like the structure of dreaming, whereby we are contained in our own container).

Note that we place creation in scare quotes, because Satan cannot create, period. Genuine creation is reserved for God only, so the best Satan can do is mimic it. He can only work with pre-existing materials, and the finest material available is obviously the human being.

People naturally wonder how God could become incarnate in Jesus. By virtue of what principle is this possible? We'll leave that to the side for the moment, but perhaps we can learn something about it by considering its perverse mirror image -- that is, how the Lie becomes flesh and walks around on two legs in our world. Jesus -- the Way, Life, and Truth -- is one with his Father. And Jesus himself calls Satan the father of lies, so this looks like more than a hint; rather, a 54 ounce hickory cluebat upside the head.

But again, "Satan" is so loaded a term. We might symbolize him (-T), in contrast to (T), but this poses the danger of setting up a cosmic dualism and elevating (-T) to equal status with (T). However, (-T) is not the opposite of (T), but a privation of it. (-T) is always a paradoxical "substance of nothing," which might explain why it so desperately needs our material substance in order to not just be something, but more importantly, to do something. Again, only man can do the bidding of (-T).

From the Satanic perspective, everything about the human is material to work with, grist for the dark mill. Thus, it is easy enough for him to hijack the virtues and turn them against the very good to which they are properly ordered. Dávila says it best:

The devil can achieve nothing great without the thoughtless collaboration of the virtues.

Boom. But this presupposes an ability for the Father of Lies to incarnate in human beings. No worries. The Aphorist has that covered:

Many think that the devil died, but he merely walks around today disguised as a man.

The leftist will insist that it is naive to believe in such childish terms as good and evil. Evil doesn't exist. Here is a fine example of how the cosmic heretic is half-correct, in that, as outlined above, evil doesn't properly exist. Rather.

Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls.

Thus, through embodiment in a human being, we might say that (-T) engenders (-R) -- i.e., the "minus reality" of the demonic environment mentioned above by Solway. (The thought occurs to me: One small misstep for Adam, a giant fall for mankind.)

The final irony -- the irony that cannot surpass its own irony -- is that

Where religion is secularized, Satan becomes the last witness to God (Dávila).

Now, leftism is the most successful political religion of all time. Remember what we said a few posts back: that belief in a materialist metaphysic is not a cause of leftist politics; rather the secular religion of leftism evokes the materialist metaphysic it needs in order to justify and sustain itself.

So, as Satan is the last witness to God, we could equally say that godless leftism is the last witness to the God-fearing republic created by the founders. Adam Schiff is the last witness to George Washington: as the Father of our country figuratively "couldn't tell a lie," the father of impeachment literally can't stop lying. Anti-word made flesh and beamed into your -- ironically -- living room.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Crime, Organized Crime, and Progressive Kingpins

When last we met, we were discussing the left's great lie and its pervasive threat to our culture. We believe that a Lie of this magnitude isn't just a random accident. Rather, it is analogous to organized crime, in contrast to a mere street criminal who snatches a purse or sells plastic straws in California.

Extending the analogy, what do the authorities do when they apprehend, say, a local gang member with known connections to the Mexican Mafia? They will try to induce him to turn state's evidence on criminals higher up the chain.

Too bad we can't do that with street-level progressives. It's not that they won't cooperate. It's just that they don't even know there's a hierarchy, and that they're being manipulated by a kingpin such as George Soros. These local pushers peddle his drugs without even knowing they're drugs or where they came from.

The even bigger question is, who is Soros' provider? Likewise academia: where are you getting your stuff?! Who's the supplier?!

But in the psycho-pneumatic world, this is like asking "what is your principle?" That is, what is the nonlocal principle from which you derive your criminal ideology? What makes you, Senator Warren, think you can use the power of the state to prosecute people with whom you disagree? From what principle do you draw the conclusion that we ought to defer to a mentally ill child in selecting a Secretary of Education?

We are entirely forthright about our ultimate principle; our penultimate principle is personhood, which is in turn grounded in the Trinity. Everything else is anchored in, or flows from, this principle. Certainly nothing may contradict it. To the extent something does (e.g., materialism, positivism, Marxism, logical atomism, et al), then we deem it untrue. To the extent that this untruth digs in its heels and persists, it takes on the contours of the Lie. It begins to look suspiciously diabolical.

Now, since our ultimate principle is personal -- an I AM -- we believe the ultimate anti-principle must also be a Who. Recall what John says of this personal anti-principle: he is a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Note how all the emboldened words are either personal pronouns or nouns that can only apply to persons (only persons can lie or murder).

Could this be true, Bob, or are you just being poetic?

No, we're being quite literal here. There is a -- the -- meta-cosmic person. Of this we are certain. Now, if you insist there isn't, this has no effect on his existence. It will, however, affect the mode of his existence in you. In this mode, denial of God becomes the affirmation of an anti-God. Importantly, this is not to set up a duality, since the anti-principle isn't any kind of equivalent power. Rather, it is wholly reactionary, always parasitic on the truth it denies (and implicitly knows).

Perhaps you watched some of the impeachment farce this week. If you did, you will have noticed how *skilled* is Adam Schiff in anchoring his attacks on the Constitution in fidelity to it. More generally, how can the left spend the last century attacking, undermining, and eroding the Constitution, only to spend the last week pretending to revere and defend it? The hypocrisy is breathtaking, in the sense that convulsive vomiting can leave one slightly breathless.

Sure, I'd like to arrest Schiff on charges of treason. But I have no interest per se in this bug-eyed lunatic, nor in his lowlife accomplices such as Nadler, Pelosi, or Schumer. I want, Mr. Big, the one who's really calling the shots.

However, as much as Dupree would like to conduct enhanced interrogation on these knaves, I don't think it would work, again, because they passionately believe the Lie, and have no idea as to its provenance. Solway:

The left will deploy an armamentarium of outright lies, dodgy statistics, and obscurantist dogma.... Of course, when any leftist spokesman is caught in a flagrant lie, the default position is to claim that the lie tells a greater truth. How often have we heard this canard? For the left, the lie has become a vestibule to the truth -- its truth.

Note that if they say something that happens to be true, they don't say it because it is true; conversely, if and when they lie, they do so because it reveals a Greater Truth. Likewise, if they defend the Constitution, they don't do so because they actually believe in it, or they would be the first to denounce people who wish to deny our natural rights protected by the first and second amendments, or who want to give special privileges to certain races, or who wish to abuse it to redefine natural institutions such as marriage.

And when they attack the Constitution, it is for a Deeper Truth. This attack began (at least explicitly) with Woodrow Wilson, who

"derided what he referred to as the 'Newtonian' underpinning of the Constitution.... Disputing the applicability of fixed laws (other than his own) to History, Wilson wound up opposing the concepts of limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances."

To quote myself, Wilson argued that

it was absurd to suggest that the Founders were dealing with universal truths and natural rights. Rather, they were just creatures of their times. We -- meaning state officials armed with Ivy League degrees and good intentions -- needed to toss aside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, if we really wanted to get things done.

For Wilson, the separation of powers prevented the state from doing what it needed to do for your benefit, you ungrateful peasant. As he said, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface" -- you know, all that abstract stuff about life, liberty, and natural rights conferred by the Creator instead of the almighty state.

Speaking of the personal nature of things, Bob writes of

Madison's gag about how government -- or, let's say "political science" -- is "the greatest of all reflections on human nature." The reason this is so is that if we don't get human nature right, then our political system will be either stillborn or monstrous; and if we don't get our political system right, then it will produce stillborn or monstrous humans.

A bug-eyed monster tried to take out my president, and all I got is this lousy t-shirt.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Leftist Lies and Bug-Eyed Lunatics

A liar and murderer from the beginning.

Speaking of which, here is a piece by one of our favorites, David Solway, called The Left's Great Lie is a Pervasive Threat to Our Culture. I haven't yet read it, but I'll bet it demonstrates how Big Lefty has also been a liar and murderer from the start. That being the case, it is natural to wonder if they -- Satan and Big Lefty -- are the same person. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

As Dennis Prager often says, truth is the most important "macro" principle. The same can't be said for the micro world, or maybe you've never been married. More generally, if we were always ruthlessly honest in all situations, I don't think civilization would be able to last 24 hours.

Conversely, governance -- the macro -- must be anchored in an accurate perception of reality. This goes to what is called the virtue of prudence. Bernie Sanders, for example, wants the federal government to provide "free" healthcare and college, while taking on 1.7 trillion dollars owed to us by people who blew the money on learning how to be embittered and entitled victims. Are these prudent policies?

In an essay called Reflections on Prudence, Pieper explains why prudence must be the cardinal virtue, since "only someone who is prudent can be just, courageous, and moderate." You can try to be good, but if you aren't prudent, then your goodness will likely backfire:

A person can be prudent and good only at the same time; prudence is part of the definition of a good action; there is no just or courageous action that could be called imprudent; and anyone who is unjust or cowardly is never prudent.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, this is because the intentions were imprudent, precisely.

In short,

doing what is good presupposes knowledge of reality. Good can only be done by someone who knows the real state of affairs.... An act is good if it is in accordance with things; and precisely this is what it means to be prudent: to let the situation, reality, dictate the course of action.

As an aside, I wonder how many students who understand this truth want or need to have their imprudent college debts paid for by the rest of us?

This being the case, what can you say about an ideology which proclaims at the outset that there is no "real" state of affairs, only opinions about it? Or that what we call "reality" is just a social construct rooted in power and oppression? Or that words do not refer to actual things, only to other words?

I call such an ideology straight-up diabolical. Even if you don't believe in Satan, this is nevertheless how he gets into everything.

Everything? Solway:

I have come to feel not only that lies are everywhere in the political and cultural world we live in, but that the Lie has become that world. We now live inside the Lie; it is the very air we breathe, the food that sustains us, the verbal milieu we communicate in, the dreams that disturb our sleep, the tastes and fashions we affect, the thoughts we think in our solitary moments.

My only quibble is the use of the first person plural. For they surely live inside the Lie. If we do too, then the End has truly arrived.

I'm thinking of how, for example, this isn't just our first purely partisan impeachment, but much more importantly, our first postmodern one. It is postmodern in the sense that the existence of an actual high crime is utterly beside the point. All that matters is that a bug-eyed lunatic and his slithering terrarium of dead-eyed political and media reptiles think there was one.

Takes one to know one. Solway was once on the left, until he realized -- just like your host -- that everything he'd imagined to be the case turned out to be

an outright lie and functioned as aspects of what Quentin Skinner... called “the potentially ruinous impact of rhetorical redescription,” that is, reframing something that is not the case as emphatically and undeniably the case.

Now, in order to do this one must -- ironically, I guess -- know the truth one is rhetorically redescrbiing. Satan -- the inventor of "spin" -- can only do so effectively because he knows the truth, at least within his limits to do so (there are certain truths -- certain inevitable blind spots -- that necessarily elude him).

I finally began to understand that what I’d taken for history was nothing but ideology and what I’d thought was truth was an order-of-magnitude lie. And that my political and cultural preceptors were, to a man and a woman, professional liars.

Why, that's just Genesis 3 All Over Again. For you may not believe in revelation, but it is timelessly true just the same.

Everything I’ve learned since I began paying attention has only served to confirm my conviction that we are living in unique times, an era in which lies come so thick and fast it seems like one is dodging bullets.

Here I'm not so sure about the uniqueness. The more history I read, the more I see that man is always man, and it doesn't get worse than that. Or better, depending upon the degree of prudence.

Well, that's about it. I want to see how the bug-eyed lunatic responds to questions.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Cosmos Fit for a Thing

Our adversary, says the apostle John, has been "a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Interesting. This implies a relation between lying and murder, since they coexist in the same person, and this person has been with us since "the beginning," which could be the beginning of existence; of history; or of humanness.

But in reality, these three amount to the same thing, since we now know that humanness cannot be approached or understood outside the total context of a cosmic evolution that has been occurring, on the one hand, for 13.7 billion years, and on the other, can only occur in this very moment -- God's own endless moment -- which is a circular descent-ascent from eternity to time and back again. "Thus, and not otherwise," writes Lewis, "the creation of matter and the creation of mind meet one another and the circuit is closed."

Let's focus on that last image, if only because we usually don't. That is, to the extent that we think of it at all, we might imagine the human world being infected by Satan's influence back in Genesis 3, beyond the horizon of history. But this is a kind of linear and left-brained view, with a causal chain extending from our primordial parents down to us.

This needs to be supplemented by vertical understanding that sees the same thing happening now. For example, yesterday I was having a conversation with Gagboy touching on various themes, included the idea that there is nothing at all wrong with pleasure, but that no terrestrial pleasure will ultimately satisfy us. I pointed out that it is even possible -- or maybe inevitable -- to return to Eden, to inhabit Heaven on Earth.

For awhile, anyway. But it never lasts. Why? Gagboy blurted out Casino!, which we had just viewed a couple of weeks ago. (I've been tutoring him on how to appreciate film on a deeper level; turns out majoring in film wasn't a total waste.) Good call, Gagboy! Indeed, the film gives itself away with Ace's opening narration:

When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And, for a while... I believed that's the kind of love I had.

What happened? What went wrong? Later Ace says something similar about his career as an oddsmaker for the mob:

I was so good, that whenever I bet, I could change the odds for every bookmaker in the country. I'm serious. I had it down so cold that I was given paradise on earth. I was given one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas to run, the Tangiers...

He was so good he was given paradise. So, what happened? What went wrong?

I wonder if the word "Tangiers" provides any clues? An etymology nerd relates it to "snake's tongue" and "to bite," which is too good to check any further.

Adam -- I mean Nicky -- tell us that this Eden

should'a been perfect. I mean, he [Ace] had me, Nicky Santoro, his best friend, watching his ass... and he had Ginger, the woman he loved, on his arm. But in the end we fucked it all up. It should'a been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were ever given anything that fuckin' valuable again.

Genesis 3 all over again. Despite the fact that "For guys like me, Las Vegas washes away your sins."

Let's try to puzzle this out. I recently read another collection of material by CS Lewis, which has the following passage:

Pleasure, pushed to its extreme, shatters us like pain.... When natural things look most divine, the demoniac is just round the corner.

That's a promise. And a threat. For if we could successfully recreate paradise on earth, it

would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God.... Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns [or hotel-casinos], but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

Some people are put off by my mixing religion and politics, but Lewis' observation goes precisely to where I draw the line: for I never pretend there are political solutions to spiritual problems, much less that politics can bring about heaven on earth.

However, these are central premises of the left (even if only implicit), so it is they who cannot help but drag religion into politics, every time. I'm just reacting to their false religion, which, like Old Scratch, is false from the beginning, and is responsible for more murder and mayhem than any other force in history.

Some additional passages, just to rub it in:

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in'; aim at earth and you will get neither.

I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning [there's that word again] a part of Heaven itself.

What does Screwtape say?

So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or 'science' or psychology, or what not.

Man comes factory equipped with a sense of the eternal, which politics exploits to its own ends by turning it upside-down and inside-out:

When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they'll tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now.

Or rather, they disrupt the divine spiral mentioned above in paragraph three, and insert the state in place of God, in an ever tightening noose instead of an ever expanding nous. For in the real world, "The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside" (Lewis).

Note too that adherence to a materialistic or scientistic cosmology is a consequence of political needs, not vice versa; in other words, in order for the left to succeed, people must be squeezed into a subhuman and anti-human cosmos fit only for animals.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Consequences Have Ideas

Everyone knows that ideas have consequences, and Satan is no exception. (To repeat what was said a couple of posts back, Satan may or may not exist, but he is certainly effective.)

As a matter of fact, in recent weeks, a consequential idea has been zinging around in my head: that perhaps we place too much emphasis on the cause of ideas, and not enough on their consequences.

A full discussion of this would require a different post, but I'm thinking in particular of faith. If we wait for an airtight and ironclad cause to believe, we will never find it; mere (lower case) logic will always come up short, literally, being that logic is tautologous, i.e., premise in / conclusion out.

Faith can never involve mere mathematical or logical certitude, in part because each of these excludes the will, and with it, no less than one third of the person (the other two thirds being intelligence and sentiment). Math and logic are automatic, and man is not a machine. And this is to say nothing of the translogical qualities that make a man a man, and that give man unique access to so many qualities in turn.

So, what "causes" a man to believe? Let's leave that question to the side for the moment, and ask a different question: what are the consequences of belief? Let's see; believers are happier and healthier, for example, than non-believers. Are such consequences a sufficient reason to believe? Notice how, in asking this question, the consequences are now a cause: believe this, and these will result.

But the consequences of belief obviously aren't limited to material and tangible benefits. Rather, a whole world -- or whole worlds -- opens up: through the lens of faith, we perceive any number of things that cannot be seen in its absence.

I can think of no more consequential realties than the ones discussed in the previous post, i.e., trinitarianism vs. logical atomism. More generally, a metaphysic is the most consequential idea of all, since it literally affects everything. Leaving aside the merits, atheism and theism have utterly divergent consequences (even though there can never be sufficient data to cause us to embrace one or the other).

If one is going to be intellectually honest and strictly consistent, a belief in atheism must redound to nihilism: there can be no ground for believing that anything is truly the case. There can be no objective truth, beauty, or morality, only as many opinions as there are assouls. If there is a "reality," we are permanently barred from knowing it. Indeed, even the word ("reality") would be inexplicable, as it implies a distinction we can never make between it and appearances.

Let us concede at the outset that there is no strictly (merely!) logical basis -- i.e., from the bottom up -- for believing in a trinitarian cosmos. However, at the same time, there is nothing whatsoever that is illogical (let alone anti-logical) about embracing it. To the contrary, it again opens up new vistas that are absolutely closed to the person who affirms a logical atomism whereby human beings are independent monads radically isolated from each other and from the world.

I'm probably an unusual case, because my prior explorations of reality placed me in a position of being totally prepared to accept a trinitarian view the moment I grasped it. It required no giant leap at all; rather, the doctrine made sense of a host of loose ends that would otherwise hang suspended in the cosmos, the most important of all being the human person.

Instead of trying to get from person to reality, it sank in that personhood is the reality, and that personhood is always an intersubjective relation (both horizontally and vertically, i.e., with each other -- our neighbors -- and with the source and ground of personhood -- the trinitarian God).

Anticipating bobjections, I am by no means pretending that I BOB UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY, full stop. Rather, I'm again highlighting the extremely fruitful consequences of belief.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Uncle Screwtape? Well, again, Screwtape knows as well as anyone that ideas have consequences, and the bigger the idea, the badder the consequence. Allow me to repeat a passage from the end of the previous post that goes to the metaphysic of logical atomism, i.e., Satan's ultimate truth, through which he views reality. In contrast, the Enemy's (God's) phony metaphysic

is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility he calls love.

Eww! Screwtape is correct: under a regime of logical atomism, there is no explanation of how oneness and maniness can coexist without one swamping the other. However, a simultaneous one-in-many and many-in-one is exactly what we would expect to see in a trinitarian cosmos. All of a sudden, everything makes sense, from the intelligibility of the world to our intelligence (which are now seen as two sides of the same reality), the possibility of organisms, the interconnectedness of human minds, and so much more: all the truly important -- consequential -- things.

Along these lines, we could even speak of the "metaphysics of Jesus." We naturally spend a lot time thinking about his moral teachings, or his theology, or his practical wisdom. But how about a woohoo statement such as "I am in the Father, and the Father in me"; and "I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." Employing a trinitarian perspective, such otherwise nonsensical statements come into view in an incomprehensibly comprehensible manner -- as do other *little* consequences such as Incarnation, redemption, grace, sacraments, infused contemplation, etc.

Screwtape:

Thus He [God] is not content, even Himself, to be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that his nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature. At the other end of the scale, He introduces into matter that obscene invention the organism, in which the parts are perverted from their natural destiny of competition and made to cooperate.

Don't believe it. Rather, know it. But even if you only believe it, you can know its consequences, and that's more than enough reason to believe.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Metaphysics of Hell

Interestingly, in letter 18 Screwtape lays out what we might call the "metaphysics of hell," i.e., Satan's ultimate vision of reality. This vision must not only be opposed to reality, but its very opposite: the cosmos turned upside-down and inside-out. It can't be just a little wrong. Rather, totally wrong. But for this very reason, it will, despite itself, inadvertently point to what must be the case.

Whatever it is, it must be totally reactionary, that is, parasitic on the very truth it denies. Satan cannot create but can only mimic: he is always the ape of God, which is part of his appeal (or seductiveness). In other words, Satan always promises what he can never deliver, but godless apes nevertheless put their heart and soul into the promise, and forget all about its delivery. They trick themselves into believing they are something more than tricky apes, conferring upon themselves a pseudo-divinity or even tenure.

This demonic dynamic applies to literally any subcelestial ideology. Atheistic materialism, for example, makes the outrageous promise of a total explanation of reality. But what does it actually deliver? A permanent and total cosmic stupidity, sealed in a clueless self-aggrandizement. For once you pledge allegiance to nothing, there's no explanation for anything, let alone everything. If nothing is your beginning, it is your end. But it can't really be your beginning, because the beginning is the knowing subject. How do explain that without painting yourself into a coroner?

It seems to me that Satan is a thoroughgoing advocate of logical atomism -- of a cosmos ultimately consisting of radically separate monads:

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specifically, that one self is not another self.

You could say that this is obvious to the senses, but what a lie nonetheless! For an axiom of Christianity is that we are members of one another and of God. This axiom follows from the principle of Trinity, through which ultimate reality isn't any radically separate substance, but rather, irreducible substance-in-relation. This cannot be "seen." It is, however, that through which we see. If this weren't the case, then we could only see like an animal, instead of being able to perceive through the eyes. See?

This next one is a critically important entailment, because it seems to explain the left-wing view of economics. In a free economic exchange, both parties benefit. For example, I'm in the market for a new subwoofer, and I want it more than the money it will cost, whereas the seller wants the money more than the subwoofer. Win-win. Unless I'm a compulsive audiophile, but we'll leave that to the side. My addiction is none of my business.

Why do leftists seem incapable of understanding such a simple truth? A couple days ago, AOC said something to the effect -- her usual blah-blah -- that all wealthy people are thieves. But this simply follows the perennial party line, ever since Marx and Lenin (and Genesis 3, really):

Lenin regarded all interactions as zero-sum. To use the phrase he made famous, the fundamental question is always “Who Whom?” -- who dominates whom, who does what to whom, ultimately who annihilates whom. To the extent that we gain, you lose. Contrast this view with the one taught in basic microeconomics: whenever there is a non-forced transaction, both sides benefit, or they would not make the exchange....

Lenin’s hatred of the market, and his attempts to abolish it entirely during War Communism, derived from the opposite idea, that all buying and selling is necessarily exploitative. When Lenin speaks of “profiteering” or “speculation” (capital crimes), he is referring to every transaction, however small.

Is that not a satanic idea? One needn't even believe in Satan to understand how it leads -- and led -- to hell on earth. Every time. It's certainly not very nice:

Basic books on negotiation teach that you can often do better than split the difference, since people have different concerns. Both sides can come out ahead -- but not for the Soviets, whose negotiating stance JFK once paraphrased as: what’s mine is mine; and what’s yours is negotiable. For us, the word “politics” means a process of give and take, but for Lenin it’s we take, and you give. From this it follows that one must take maximum advantage of one’s position. If the enemy is weak enough to be destroyed, and one stops simply at one’s initial demands, one is objectively helping the enemy, which makes one a traitor.

It's not enough to merely hate President Trump. But while they can't kill him -- or, more to the point, us -- they're attempting the next best thing: political decapitation.

Here's how Screwtape describes the same principle (did Satan plagiarize Lenin, or vice versa?): "My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses." Conversely, the enemy's -- God's -- metaphysic

is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility he calls love.

Indeed, he doesn't just call it love, he is love, which the Satanic mind literally cannot comprehend, for this mind is literally loveless. There was a time that even I, your preternaturally adequate host, didn't understand the necessary relationship between love and truth. But if you separate the two, you end up with, say, an Adam Schiff, who is at the moment treating the senate to 24 hours of hell. If you think that's bad, imagine what it must be like in his head. Now, imagine that for eternity.

That's enough hell for one day. To be continued...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Satan's Nightmare: The Presence of Truth and the Truth of Presence

A couple posts back we touched on the ontological structure of the now, and how it extends in all directions, i.e., forward, back, in, out, up, and down.

And just as I wrote that sentence, it occurred to me that we may combine these terms in various ways to signify different dimensions; for example, "past-out" refers to what I was doing in the past, whereas "past-in" involves who I was. Looking back, even though I can remember doing any number of things, it's much harder to remember who I was, i.e., who was the person who thought and did those stupid things. What an ass!

Anyway, Screwtape devotes a whole letter to this subject, -- the present -- giving some tips to young Wormwood on how to exploit it for diabolical ends. For example, he says that "Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind," as the former takes one out of the moment, while the latter strips the moment of all depth. And height. Stupid confidence, for example, is what makes an Obama or Krugman or Maddow (picking a few names at random) so small.

Apparently the depth of the moment varies, depending upon our capacity to take things in. Indeed, we have written about this subject in the past, i.e., the idea that the present is analogous to the aperture of a camera, which allows the light to stream in. Concentration must be analogous to a smaller f-stop, in that it is conducive to greater depth of field. Paradoxically, we can see much more this way; put conversely, it is possible to be blinded by the light.

"The humans live in time," writes Screwtape, but the adversary -- God -- "destines them to eternity."

He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point in time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.

Note how the moment is characterized by vertical extension. A human moment is very different from an animal moment, which is either no moment at all, or totally momentary. In other words, for the animal, there is no conscious presence, or no presence of presence. For the presence of presence is, if I am not mistaken, God. In other words, we can only be present because God is: we are because I AM.

Probably not clear. I remember Schuon writing something to the effect that God manifests as Truth and/or Presence. Some things just make sense the moment you hear them. This is one of those things:

The saving manifestation of the Absolute is either Truth or Presence, but it is not one or the other in an exclusive fashion, for as Truth It comprises Presence, and as Presence It comprises Truth. Such is the twofold nature of all theophanies; thus Christ is essentially a manifestation of Divine Presence, but he is thereby also Truth: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No one enters into the saving proximity of the Absolute except through a manifestation of the Absolute, be it a priori Presence or Truth (Schuon).

Getting back to Screwtape, I suppose he knows this as well as anyone. Since the last thing he wants is for people to be saved, it follows that the first thing he wants is for people to not understand the paragraph above: the presence of truth and the truth of presence. Why? Because

Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present -- ether meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure (Lewis).

Or sometimes just blogging, during which I am totally present to presence, for what it's worth.

Satan wants to scatter us from the present, or perhaps just scatter the present like a covey of doves. Anxiety.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human... to live in the Past.

However, "It is far better to make them live in the Future," which "inflames hope and fear." And unlike the past, which is at least knowable, dwelling in the future makes a man "think of unrealities":

In word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time -- for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.

I like to think that even God doesn't know the future, since the future is totally devoid of reality. He does, however, know every possible future (as well as the ultimate end). This is how I reconcile our freedom with God's omniscience. I know there are other ways, but I prefer mine.

At any rate, Screwtape mentions a number of ideologies that are very effective at ousting humans from the presence of eternity, such as communism, secular humanism, scientism. These and others such as feminism, progressivism, and radical environmentalism are all excellent escapes from reality. That's what Satan wants, "a man hag-ridden by the Future -- haunted by visions of an immanent heaven or hell upon earth."

We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

Millions of our fellow citizens are in total denial of the present and are filled with irrational anxiety and an even more irrational hope to eliminate the anxiety by giving more power to the state. So, Satan may not exist, but he sure is effective.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What Does Satan Really Want?

Just a short one this morning...

Since Satan cannot actually create, he must be a kind of pure reactionary, such that he simply wants for man the opposite of what God wishes; if God has a plan, Satan has an anti-plan; if God knows what's good for us, then Satan, by virtue of this knowledge, knows what is bad for us; for every virtue, there must be an equal and opposite vice. (This polarization is reminiscent of how the reactionary left reflexively hates whatever President Trump does, no matter how beneficial to the country.)

I'm just spitballing here, as usual. But Screwtape suggests we are on the right track; for example, "We [demons] want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over."

Moreover, while God ultimately wants individuals-in-communion with him and with each other -- AKA the body of Christ -- Satan wants to deny and eliminate distinction. While God wants particles within the wave, Satan wants the wave to obliterate the distinct particles. See college campuses, for example, where "diversity" is a word signifying its compete absence.

Apparently, hell is a kind of hive-like blob; which implies that when we encounter a hive-like blob on earth -- e.g., the liberal media, academia, National Socialism, Communism, etc. -- we are seeing a facsimile of hell.

This would also imply that it's not enough to merely eliminate individuality. To be on the safe side, Satan will want to undermine and erode any institution that leads to individualism, because once individuals exist, it's hard to eliminate them short of genocide.

"Give me liberty or give me death" really comes down to "I would prefer to die as an individual than to live as an ant." Freedom is individuality lived, as individuality is freedom lived -- bearing in mind that true individuality is always rooted in love, community, and intersubjectivity; it is trinitarian, not atomistic. Atomistic individualism leads to libertarianism or existentialism, and is but a step away from nihilism.

Interesting too that neither God nor Satan ever force the issue; both recognize and "respect" free will, but there must be something different in the way they understand it.

You might say that God attracts whereas Satan tempts. Temptation is obviously a kind of attraction, but it is "away" from what is good for us; or just say away from the good, true, and beautiful. How does that work? While the two movements are "opposite," they can't be equal, because again, the latter isn't really real, just a privation, ultimately the shadow resulting from the light.

Screwtape posits a theory of cosmic undulations, which makes sense as far as it goes. I first encountered this idea many years ago in a book or lecture by Alan Watts. Many New-Age types will say something similar, to the effect that "everything is energy," and what is energy but a wave with crests and troughs? Everything is in rhythm, from the seasons, to days, festivals and celebrations, etc. The Dude puts it best:

I remember Schuon saying something similar as well, about the inevitable dissonances, fluctuations, and enigmas in this world; which must be the shadows of harmony, rhythm, and mystery, respectively.

Let us not forget that God is necessary while we are contingent, and that it is always possible for contingency to detach itself from the very absolute that must be its source, and careen into a detached contingency, AKA the absurdity of absolute relativity. What is a leaf without the tree? An infant without a mother? A toe -- with nail polish even -- without the girl?

Anyway, Screwtape observes that God actually utilizes the troughs for his own ends. Indeed, you don't have to read too many spiritual biographies to see that it is often the case that the deeper the trough, the greater the sanctity. Dark nights of the soul, and all that.

Nevertheless, a trough is a trough, and the trough is where the temptations can be tempting indeed. Put conversely, souls in heaven are way beyond temptation, because they know that nothing promised by the Screwtapes of the world can hope to match the beatific vision.

Let us stipulate: virtues lure; vices tempt. Screwtape suggests as much: "He [God] cannot 'tempt' to virtue as we do to vice."

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Point of Usefulness is Uselessness

"Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man," writes Screwtape, "and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing." For to imagine that the world is its own end is to seal off the portals referenced in yesterday's post.

Importantly, the portals are bi-directional, such that they not only form our escape but God's own inscape. But "escape" may have the wrong connotation if it implies "escapism" or some kind of flight from reality.

Rather, it is a flight to reality, or sometimes just flight itself, i.e., vertical liftoff. Nor would we say that a child "escapes" into adolescence, or the adolescent to adulthood. Maturity isn't an evasion from, rather, an entrance to.

If there's any escaping going on, it's in the other direction: from maturity. If this weren't the case, then psychologists such as myself would be even more superfluous than we already are.

So, to say that the cosmos has escapes and inscapes is really a kind of banality. It's just the way things are. You can't even point at the world without having transcended it (the most intelligent animal cannot point at all, because pointing involves a trans-empirical from-to relation). If you imagine there can be objects without a subject, you are literally con-fused ("poured together") and evading the issue.

Human beings may not -- because we are free -- acknowledge portals and bi-directionality, but Satan surely does:

Humans are amphibians -- half spirit and half animal.... As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change.

With all due respect and sympathy, I would revise Screwtape's math just a little, because obviously there can be no "50/50" relation between spirit and flesh, or the immaterial and material, eternity and time. This is not to devalue matter, only to highlight the fact that there can be no common measure between the measurable and measureless. Eternity isn't just a lot of time, nor the cosmos a lot of atoms. No number of parts adds up to a whole, just as no number of days adds up to eternity.

Having said that, instants aren't additive in any quantitative way, the instant itself being precisely where the inscapes and escapes are situated. Obviously.

Nevertheless, humans, being human, have been known to project through these portals into the past and future. For example, we may project backward in a negative way (regret, flashbacks), a bittersweet way (nostalgia), or a positive way (that time I had a readership in the double digits); likewise, we may project forward in the form of hope or anxiety. But we can only do anything about anything now.

Think about the ontological structure of the now. It not only extends forward and back, i.e., into the past and future, but up and down. As to the former, time is a function of eternity, and is unthinkable in its absence. If you want to know where God is -- where he might be encountered -- he is now and nowhere else (he is the presence of Presence, without which there wouldn't be any). Likewise, we can only flee from God in the now. But the people who do the most fleeing often don't even realize what it is from which they're trying to escape.

The moment is where meaning itself is located. Go back to the first paragraph: Screwtape wishes us to escape from this intrinsic vertical meaning, and toward a worldly, self-enclosed, and ultimately meaningless end.

Pieper quotes Plato to the effect that "here a person feels life is worth living, where he contemplates the divinely beautiful: this makes him immortal." The larger point is that the now leads from us to God and back down again, in an inspiraling excircular movement or dance. Pieper:

wherever, when seeing, watching, contemplating... we make contact with the center of the world, with the hidden, ultimate meaning of life as a whole, with the divine root of things, with the quintessence of all archetypes..., wherever and whenever we turn in this way to reality as a whole, we are involved in activity which is meaningful in itself (emphasis mine).

Why do we work? I don't know about you, but in order to do something that is not work, such as what I'm doing right now, in this very instant. What I'm doing at the moment has no purpose beyond itself, although you might say it has a telos above itself. Although surely pointless, it isn't the same as "doing nothing," which is "just the opposite of leisurely activity" (Pieper).

Note how both Genesis 2 and the Ten Commandments emphasize this relation, in that the end of creation is the sabbath. The point of usefulness is uselessness. But this doesn't mean the point is pointlessness, because the point is to escape from appearance to reality. Yes, but how?

For starters, (o) and (---):

it is not possible to carry out an activity which is meaningful in itself unless one has an attitude of receptive openness and listening silence -- an attitude therefore, which is completely contrary to the attitude of labor, i.e., of strained activity.... It is a fundamental human experience that the great and fulfilling things in life... come to us only when we are able to receive them as a gift (ibid.).

Up shots:

--God is the guest of silence.

--In certain moments of abundance, God overflows into the world like a spring gushing into the peace of midday (Dávila).