Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Endless Revelation

The bottom line of the previous post was that "every scientific act is, ipso facto, an affirmation of God's existence" (Barron). But we knew this already. Still, it's nice to tramp around hyperspace with such venerable company. Barron continues:

to know anything at all is, implicitly, to know that God exists, for it is to accept the reign of the Logos or transcendental intelligibility.

This is one of those Yes/No questions: either you are arguing toward this logoistic principle or from it. In other words, you can begin, as we do, with transcendental intelligibility as an axiomatic truth; or you can track contingent truths up the epistemological mountain to the invigorating air of the logosphere, where all truths converge upon the One Truth from which they have descended. You might say that

Christianity does not deny the splendor of the world but encourages us to seek its origin, to ascend to its pure snow (Dávila).

It's cool but bracing. No one is obligated to live here, just as no one is obligated to live among the tenured apes, the media mob, the credentialed barbarians, all sunk in the urgent nonsense of the day.

Paradoxically, you're never more alone than when you're down among these babbling rabble, and never less alone than when up here by the waters of the crystal clear spring. How does this work, exactly? Well, on the one hand, to put it aphoristically, The most dispiriting solitude is not lacking neighbors, but being deserted by God (Dávila).

But come to find out that the "primordial intelligibility" of the world isn't analogous to just discovering an object or arriving at an abstract mathematical equation. Rather, it turns out -- SURPRISE! -- that it

is a being-with-the-other, or better, a being-in-the-other, a coinherence.... Therefore relationality, being-for-the-other, must be the form that, at the deepest level, conditions whatever is and the truth that satisfies the hunger of the mind (Barron).

Or, to put to put it aphoristically, To be a Christian is to not be alone despite the solitude that surrounds us (Dávila).

Allone in a crowd, twogather in God. For Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion (ibid.).

Indeed, if you closely examine the meaning of this mysterious word -- experience -- you may find the key to the whole existentialada, because "unshared experience" is a contradiction in terms. To put it conversely, at the deepest level of our being, experience is always experience-with; experience is with and with is experience.

Bob, I'm not saying you're full of it -- yet -- but could you say a little more about this?

Well, think about the principle of Incarnation. What does it imply? What does it presuppose, and what does it bring about? For me, it isn't just the most radical idea ever, but literally the most radical idea conceivable, because it is the con-ception of infinitude in the womb of finitude. Barron puts it more plainly (in reference to the prologue of John):

The primordial divine conversation partner becomes a creature in order to draw creation into the embrace of the divine life.... Through the incarnation, the coinherence of the Father and the Logos seeks to provoke a coinherence of creation with God and of creatures with one another.

Reality is a coinherence, and coinherence is an unending conversation; or better, a trialogue at the edge of the subjective horizon where Self and Other meet in a mutually indwelling I AMbrace.

This being the case, a philosophy such as atheistic materialism is still going to be a conversation -- for it cannot not be -- but the person engaging in it is simply talking to himself. Truly, it is a glorified cognitive onanism, which is precisely why they are such infertile eggheads even if they're master debaters.

Let's wrap this up:

any philosophy, science, or worldview that does not see relationality, being-for-the-other, as ontologically fundamental must be false.... what the mind correctly seeks as it goes out to meet the intelligibility of the real is always a form of coinherence (Barron).

Put it this way: when your intelligence goes out to meet the world, the world meets it more than halfway, and is pleased to engage you in nonstop conversation via its own intelligibility.

Indeed, the world never stops blabbering, not just truths about itself, but how about all the beauty? Sometimes we are tempted to say: okay, we get it. Awesome. Numinous. Marvelous. Can I just eat my waffle?

But the same principle applies vertically; and it only applies horizontally because of this. In other words, if you have ears to hear and eyes to see, the experience of revelation (and the nonlocal experience that is revelation) never stops.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Now Batting, Number Two, Jesus Christ

Continuing with Bishop Barron's mind-expanding take on The Epistemic Priority of Christ, note that the claim in the title has to do with knowledge of reality; not just any knowledge, but ultimate knowledge of ultimate reality.

Put it this way: no matter your metaphysic -- even something as stupid and primitive as atheism -- you have to start somewhere, and this somewhere is not given by mere reason or math (both or which are tautological), nor by empiricism (since no sensation can tell you what it is sensing; that requires a rational soul that knows essences).

Therefore, all we ask is an honest and transparent statement of how you got to first base. If you faithfully execute this demand, you will quickly realize that you've simply assumed your way to first, thus undercutting your metaphysic before you can get to second, let alone score. Or, assuming you do reach home, you have cheated, because every baseball fan knows you can't steal first base. The instant replay negates the run. Start over.

So, when our team -- the Tonga Raccoons -- steps into the box with a bat labeled the epistemic priority of Christ, we are first of all simply being honest. Nor is this bat "stupid," or "unsophisticated," or "superstitious." Or, at the very least, it is no more or less superstitious than the bat with which you swing, be it scientism, Darwinism, deconstruction, whatever. Rather, it all comes down to how far the ball travels when we hit it.

Indeed, there is a bat and there is a ball. The bat is our mind (AKA intelligence), and the ball is reality (intelligibility).

However, it is no exaggeration to say that modern philosophy begins with the Kantian anti-principle that our bats cannot make contact with the ball. Swing as we might, all we can ever hit is our own a priori categories, thus smashing our own balls. Even if our phenomenal bats could strike the noumenal ball, we could never know it.

In the argot of baseball, if you are unfortunate enough to strike out three times in a single game, it's called a golden sombrero; four times is a platinum sombrero. Now imagine a whole life spent striking out: this is called a tenured sombrero.

Back to our leadoff hitter, the Bishop. Here comes the pitch:

to acknowledge the epistemic priority of Jesus Christ is, first, to assume the intelligibility of all that is.

In other words, it assumes that we can actually see and hit the ball. This is called "common sense," but you don't have to have spent too much time in academia to realize that common sense is against the rules of their league -- much as how the designated hitter runs contrary to any sense of aesthetics or propriety. It's frankly disgusting.

More on the dimensions and properties of our epistemic ballpark:

Since all has been made through, and will be ordered by, a divine rationality, there must be a form in all finite being as a whole and in each particular thing that exists; what comes to be through Logos is, necessarily, logical.... there is an unavoidable correspondence between the activity of the mind [bat] and the structure of being [ball]: intelligence will find its fulfillment [reach home] in this universal and inescapable intelligibility [common sense].

Now, in reality, the conduct of science is just COMMON SENSE writ large. Why then is it so uncommon, historically and culturally speaking? Well,

it is no accident that the physical sciences -- astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology -- developed and flourished in the Christian West.

For in these parts, we stride into to batter's box with "the biblical conviction that finite reality is intelligible, made through the divine Logos," such that our scientific heavy hitters "rather naturally move out to meet the physical world with confident rationality."

Thus, our "investigations will proceed without hesitation to the farthest reaches of the macrocosmic and the microcosmic realms." In other words, we can hit any ball out of any park. If you build it, we will transcend it. For these are the implicit rules of science:

One could argue that the universality of objective intelligibility (assumed by any honest scientist) can be explained only through recourse to a transcendent subjective intelligence that has thought the world into being, so that every act of knowing a worldly object or event is, literally, a re-cognition, a thinking again of what has already been thought by a primordial divine knower.

Bottom line for today: "every scientific act is, ipso facto, an affirmation of God's existence." Or in other words, all along, science has been borrowing God's bat without acknowledging it. Which is why "natural reason is a participation in the pure intelligibility of the Logos and thus is necessarily congruent with the deepest perceptions of theology" (Barron).

I had also wanted to say something about how and why, in our *finest* universities, the common sense of STEM has become utterly detached from the coarse and common nonsense of the humanities. Who took the uni out of the university? Well, yes, diabolos -- i.e., scatterer and divider -- but we'll say more about this as we proceed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

If Jesus Didn't Exist, We'd Have to Invent Him

Truth is a person. --Dávila

In an otherwise somewhat undistinguished compilation called All Things Hold Together in Christ there is an outstanding essay by Bishop Barron called The Epistemic Priority of Christ, which is extracted from his book The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism.

Much in this essay provides independent confirmation of the venerable Way of the Raccoon -- or in other words, that we're not just making it up. Every page is full of highlights, not so much because the material is new as because it is familiar.

Which is an even bigger shock. It's always that way when you bump into someone wandering around in the same attractor, especially when the attractor is otherwise so sparsely populated. God gives us this vast open space, and yet, so few people care to hike around in it.

Indeed, Barron is even in the same attractor as it pertains to the existence of attractors, which we might characterize as the teleological lures that shape our thought and even our lives. Being that we inhabit a vertical hierarchy, there exist attractors at various levels, with God being the ultimate attractor, and indeed, the Attractor without whom there can be no attraction, least of all to such intrinsic realities as truth, beauty, and virtue.

And of course, the Trinity is none other than the doctrine of attraction within the Godhead. This is not only a mind-blowing concept, but the only concept adequate to describe our terrestrial situation, in which there are attractors everywhere, on every level.

Now, an attractor isn't merely analogous to a magnet, or like gravity, through which things pull together in an exterior way. Rather, the whole point is that it is an interior attraction, more like love. And yet, gravity resembles love, which is why Dante could speak of the love that moves the sun and other stars.

Speaking of which, there is also repulsion, which goes to what we've been saying about rightly ordered disgust. For we should -- duh -- love what is lovable and hate what is hateful. Some people hate what is lovable, but I don't want to get political this morning. Although we may get back to the subject of Satan later in the post. Suffice it to say that God is the transcendental condition of our disgust (Dávila) as well as our... eu-gust, or something.

Imagine a purely exterior attraction which pulls all matter together. For example, they say that if the rate of expansion of the Big Bang were one iota different, the cosmos would have instantaneously collapsed back into oneness or nothingness, which amount to the same thing.

Fortunately, the rate of expansion is such that literally everything in the cosmos is attracted to everything else, but not so as to be static or to pull itself backwards. For now at least. We don't know if or when the process will reach an outer limit and head back to the womb of spacetime. Big Crunch or Big Freeze, not really interested.

Back to the Big Attractor. In the case of vertical attraction, it leads to higher levels of wholeness, harmony, and integration; it results in a unity-in-difference, not mere unicity.

Unicity is death. It is assimilation of the many into the one, whereas Life is preservation of the many in the one. This is what an organism is: a harmony of parts within the whole, such that the whole is somehow present in each part (think, for example, of how the genome for the whole organism is present in each cell).

Life. Jesus makes a number of seemingly paradoxical statements to the effect that he isn't just alive, but "the" life. Wha'? Actually, it makes perfect nonsense. Barron:

Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another.... Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets, and the stars -- all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him (emphasis mine).

Harmony is a unity of individual notes, not everyone singing or playing the same note. I love harmony. Now I know why. Existence itself is symphonic, and life is a melody. Or, life is a movie accompanied by a soundtrack. The important question is, what is the genre of your film? It can be drama, tragedy, adventure, horror, suspense, visionary, or one of those tedious or pretentious foreign films... Or, worse yet, a non-binary SJW superhero sub-farce.

Mine? I would say it's an unending quest. What kind of quest? A divine comedy, I guess. With a soundtrack consisting of spontaneous improvisation situated on the living border between order and chaos.

"Jesus," writes Barron, "is before, during, and after all finite existence, creating, surrounding, and pulling it to completion" (emphasis mine).

In fact, if we reverse imagineer existence, we will inevitably arrive at an X-factor that just so happens to be in the shape of the missing Jesus, or better, the Christ Mind.

Of course, you can pretend the x-factor isn't there, but this is why your metaphysic can't even account for you, let alone everything outside and beyond you. Materialism is, among other things, cosmic narcissism. Personality is still (implicitly) at the center of things, only it's your own little personality disorder -- or dis-ordered personality -- instead of a cosmically healthy one.

And what is a healthy personality? Certain deuscriptors apply, such as wholeness, harmony, radiance, integration, actualization, objectivity, etc. Conversely, the unhealthy person is fragmented, at odds with himself, unactualized, enmeshed in radiant darkness, and sunk in subjective emotionality. But again, I don't want to get political or demonological this morning.

To be continued tomorrow. We don't need no steenking Chinese virus to get us to thinking about the Tao.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face. --Dávila

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Peptic Justice and Other Alimentary Principles

The effect of liberal rhetoric on taste is called nausea. --Dávila

Continuing with our theme of rightly ordered disgust, it seems that we (Dávila and I) are not alone in believing that sensitivity to our digestive system may be a reliable source of information about the immaterial world.

Lewis notes that Aristotle, for example, maintained "that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought":

When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.

Wrong abdominal sensations, wrong ethics.

Note that there can be no "social justice" in the absence of gastric justice -- or rather, if one's gastric sentiments are unjust. This no doubt sounds a bit silly, but think about it: "just" has to do with what is fitting, or what is right and proper. Suppose I think it's fitting to conduct human sacrifice in order to ensure that the sun has sufficient nourishment. Imagine how disordered one must be to not feel the injustice of this in one's gut.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we see an everyday example of this with regard to the abortion debate. Irrespective of one's position, every rightly ordered person is disgusted by the practice. Bill Clinton attempted to square this circle by saying it should be "safe, legal, and rare." Why rare? In order to acknowledge a disgust that is universally felt in the rightly ordered soul.

But we have made great digestive progress in the two decades since Clinton left office. At least Democrats are consistent. Back in the early to mid-19th century, they developed the "positive good" theory of slavery, in contrast to the general sentiment of the framers, none of whom argued that it was moral or just. Jefferson would later write that

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism.

In other words, while he of course owned slaves, he had sense enough to recognize that the institution was evil and intrinsically unjust. Compare him to this nasty piece of work, who argues for the positive good of abortion:

Prior to 1830 or so, you didn't hear Democrats shrieking that

Here I was, sitting in Virginia, in my beautiful plantation, so I could have sufficient time and leisure to focus on politics. And I have all of this -- ALL OF IT! -- because! BECAUSE! BECAUSE! -- I was allowed to own human beings! I will not be shamed into being quiet! I WILL NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT MY SLAVES, OR MY PLANTATION, OR MY WHITE PRIVILEGE!

Back to Lewis. He writes that St. Augustine too spoke of "the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded the kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it."

For example, it turns out that we should not only allow our children to live, but even accord them the love to which they are entitled. Moreover, we should teach them "to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likable, disgusting and hateful":

In [Plato's] Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one 'who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it...

The human soul is properly nourished by truth, beauty, justice, and other transcendental food. Children should be taught gastric justice, or rather, one might say that recognition of justice -- and injustice -- should reach into one's bones and viscera. If it's only a mental abstraction, it's not going to be very reliable. I'm thinking, for example, of the horrors that have resulted from the rigorous application of abstract political ideologies disconnected from somatic awareness of evil.

This isn't to say that untutored disgust is a reliable compass. The key is to properly link psyche and soma. For example, in Iran they're disgusted by dogs, while in China they're not disgusted by eating bats.

Closer to home, millennials in particular aren't properly disgusted by socialism, and are instead disgusted by positive goods such as the free market, fossil fuels, free speech, and disinterested racial colorblindness. If this doesn't disgust you, you have no ontological taste.

I would go so far as to say that "social justice" is peptic injustice. If you're not disgusted by SJWs and their unjust ethic, there's something wrong with your brain-intestine network.

Here are a couple of closing aphorisms that go to the subject of rightly ordered disgust:

Each day it becomes easier to know what we ought to despise: what modern man admires and journalism praises.

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.

At the other end of the spectrum,

The intelligent idea produces sensual pleasure.

The intelligent man quickly reaches conservative conclusions.

Conservatism should not be a political party but the normal attitude of every decent man.

Perhaps these sound like unseemly self-flattery or unearned auto-congratulation. However, we're the ones who not only reject the whole self-esteem and give-everyone-a-trophy ethos, but first train our disgust on ourselves. We are proponents of the self-disappointment movement, which is the other wing that allows the self to take off in vertical space.

It may have been Chesterton who said that God doesn't love us because we are particularly lovable, but because he wants to help make us lovable. He doesn't just hand out trophies for nothing, but makes it possible for us to receive one by cooperating with his grace. Thus,

Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature, because I know myself.

No one who knows himself can be absolved by himself.

We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the gaze of an entomologist (Dávila).

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