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.