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).

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Man is a Portal Beyond Himself

In the previous post we discussed how logic is to be avoided in attempting to turn the soul from God, if only because it is illogical to pretend the existence of logic requires no explanation. Bare logic is ultimately tautologous, and only operates on premises that cannot be furnished by logic. Who selects these premises, and on what basis? Don't ask!

Likewise, Screwtape warns his protege that he won't get far with science either, because this will only "encourage him [the mark] to think about realities he can't touch and see."

Screwtape mentions that "there have been sad cases among the modern physicists," which is entirely true. For example, the book Quantum Questions has essays by such luminaries as Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington, all explaining how their understanding of physics led them away from a materialist view of the world.

Let's briefly flip through the book and see what has Screwtape so exercised. Here's an awkward question posed by Heisenberg: "was it utterly absurd to seek behind the ordering structures of this world a 'consciousness' whose 'intentions' were these very structures?"

No, it's perfectly sensible, even inevitable if one simply listens to the evidence dispassionately. Or, one can dismiss the question as nonsense, as do positivists, but such a threadbare metaphysic leaves us "with completely uninteresting and trivial tautologies." To which Screwtape might say: "Exactly. What's your point?"

Tautologies. This can't be sufficiently emphasized, because either man is self-enclosed, and therefore a cosmic tautology, or he is a vertically open creature, open to a hierarchy of influences that must ultimately be grounded in what we call God. You needn't call it God at this point, but you must logically posit a ground and source -- a sufficient reason -- for this vertical hierarchy.

In short, things have reasons. Of course, one popular way to ignore the reasons is to deny the reality of the thing. For example, if "consciousness" doesn't really exist, it requires no explanation. Likewise free will, morality, evil, beauty, etc. Most people will see something dodgy about this kind of pseudo-thinking, but it takes a genius to turn it into a school of philosophy.

James Jeans writes that our universe "appears to have been designed by a pure mathematician," such that "the mathematics enters the universe from above instead of below." No doubt true, but in the end this only gets us so far. Yes, it lifts us up and out of materialism, but we nevertheless hang there suspended unless our ascent is touched by a descent from the other side.

In other words, no amount of answers to our quantum questions can lead us beyond deism. Deism is a bit of a no-brainer. But why stop there? I don't recall if Screwtape says so, but I imagine he'd be perfectly content if we stop our explorations at the horizon of natural theology, because we will still be self-enclosed and cut off from the transnatural energies we call grace. Grace can be deflected by deism as easily as it bounces off inanimate or tenured objects.

So, we don't need physicists to tell us about the limits of physics, although it is nice when they acknowledge them, since many if not most are too incurious or too indoctrinated to wonder about such things. And Satan detests wonder, since it is the basis for philosophy, which is in turn the gateway to theology. Then you're hooked.

For too many scientists, their assumptions about the world are dressed as conclusions, such that their narrow method is elevated to an all-encompassing doctrine: what science can legitimately say about the world is conflated with all that can be said about the world. It's hard to think of a more stupid philosophy. Unless it's deconstruction, which is the equal and opposite absurdity of scientism.

It reminds me of the film Sully, which I watched last night. The NTSB investigators into his actions proved with computer models that he could have safely landed his plane at the airport instead of having to make an emergency landing in the Hudson. The models worked perfectly, so long as one ignores an irrelevant variable called the human being.

But this is literally what all infra-divine misosophic tautologies do, and must do, not based on the evidence, but because their a priori assumptions cannot escape their own absurd and self-negating entailments: garbage in, tenure out.

The most important things don't need to be proved, but rather, are the proof. And the most important of all -- because most all-encompassing of all -- is the person, because a person is ultimately not a "thing" but a kind of portal between them.

In other words, ultimate reality is not a substance but an irreducible substance-in-relation. So a person who isn't a portal beyond himself isn't a person at all, for all of the important properties and capabilities that define personhood come from an intersubjective openness to what transcends us, e.g., love, truth, beauty, grace, virtues, and all the rest. The human being is an open system the moment he becomes human, and couldn't be human absent this openness.

Conversely, if you can seal off the portals and enclose the world in itself, "you have almost won your man," says Screwtape, "and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing." It's not so much that Satan is the Prince of This World, but the Prince of only-this-world, or of this-world-only, with no doors, windows, skylights, ladders, or towrope from above.

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