Friday, January 22, 2021

Fallen Arches and a Flattened Cosmos

We've been discussing.... What have we been discussing, anyway? Mystery, discontinuity, and circularity, in the context of an unerring map of reality.  

Along these lines, let me tie up a few loose ends. I've been reading more books than usual lately, too many to blog about in detail, for example, The Last Things, by Romano Guardini. The book isn't required reading, but the following passage is: 

The shape of a man's life is not a growth and unfolding from within, culminating in a return upon itself; its figure, its symbol, is not the self-enclosed circle, but an arch that reaches out toward something that in turn comes to meet it (emphasis mine).

The symbol for man cannot be the circle, because man -- or better, the person -- is an open system, not just horizontally but vertically. Nor can we ever attain closure on pain of biological, psychological, epistemological, ontological, and/or spiritual death.  

To be perfectly accurate -- which is always our aim -- you will have noticed that it is very much possible for a man to be biologically alive while being intellectually starved and spiritually asphyxiated. Indeed, what is the plague of wokeness but a zombie apocalypse? 

Anyone can see that Joe Biden isn't exactly alive, but nor is he dead. His mind will be declared dead when he is no longer useful to the left, which I predict will be in less than one year. Change my mind.

Back to the symbol for man: not the circle, but rather, an arch reaching up and out toward something -- boo! -- that comes down and out to meet it. Let's just symbolize it (↑↓). There's no getting around this. Rather, only getting around in it. 

Again, the brightest animal remains enclosed in the circle of its nature. It can learn, but there is a strict limit to what it can learn, since its object is its immediate environment, whereas man's object is the limitless expanse of intelligible being. Big place. Many mansions. Circular stairway with no visible top floor.

Thenceforth the man has a new vision; and to acquire the habit of living in the new vision is intellectual conversion.  The new vision of the world includes a new vision of man. Man is no longer part of animate nature like all the rest, rooted and enclosed in his own nature.... Its movement, its growth, are directed from man to God and back from God to man (emphasis mine).

That's a bingo. Except the transpersonal arch is broken, and man -- this means you! -- broke it. And you see the sign: you break it, you pay for it. Okay, how much? That's the subject of a different post, but you get the point. Well, here's a hint from later in the book:

The arch we spoke of here appears again. Christ carries man's nature to God, and back again from God to man.

The arch restored and resurrected. And an invitation to become golden arches ourselves.  

Speaking of the Flat Cosmos Society of the left, let's lift a passage from a seemingly entirely unrelated book called The Church and State, by Thomas Molnar: the left

cannot comprehend its own fallacy because the worldview it professes does not recognize anything above the individual, except "culture" and "values," which are nothing but expressions of individual tastes and preferences.

Here we see a kind of "structural" Dunning-Krugery at play, since the leftist doesn't know what he doesn't know and thereby insists that what he doesn't know doesn't exist -- like a dog that can perceive a book but can never apprehend its interior meaning, or like a troll who reads this post and thinks it's about the fraudulent election.

Which it is, now that I think about it. 

In another book, Guardini writes that "The meaning of things lies beyond them. A thing exists beyond itself; its reality lies above it."  And as Balthasar writes, "The more a thing exists, the more it becomes essentially light." Meaning is light -- a light simultaneously shed on the subject and object; or from object to subject and vice-versa.  

Which brings us to the far more blogworthy Transcendence and History: The Search for Ultimacy From Ancient Societies to Postmodernity. It will require several posts to unpack, beginning with the next one.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Dude Abides Biden

In the previous post we spoke of the mystery of discontinuity. This cosmos of ours has numerous "joints" between quite different realties, and these transitional interstices are precisely where the mysteries lay. 

Let's take our most consequential mystery, that between being and non-being: things either exist or they don't. So, how did existence get here? 

You can say "it has always existed," but this only pretends to answer the question by placing it off in the distance. As if we can't see you hiding back there! "Infinite time" solves nothing, any more than infinitely long fingers explain how I'm banging out this post.

And yet, there must also be continuity, only not the narrow type of material continuity to which scientism is limited. For there is also an infinite gap between "potential being" and "non-being"; nothing cannot become something unless an inchoate something was potentially present in the womb of being.

This, of course, goes to the metaphysical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. Just because the Creator didn't use any existing material to bring the cosmos into being, it doesn't mean it wasn't present in potential. 

True, the Creator was and is free to create any cosmos he likes, but those creations too exist in potential. In other words, even the Creator cannot create something uncreatable. He can't make a square circle, much less a logical leftist. 

Before plunging forward, this goes back to that previous essay we were discussing, Man in the Cosmogonic Projection. "Cosmogonic projection" is another term for creation, i.e., how the immanent cosmos is a creative projection from a transcendent source. 

Hints and clues from this nonlocal source are everywhere; indeed, to be human is to have access to these transcendent murmurandoms. In their absence we would be like any other animal, devoid of concepts and bereft of understanding: no transcendence, no truth.

Ah, now I remember where we left off -- and how appropriate for this inaugspecious day!: 

the worst of perversions is that of man because [the corruption of the best is the worst of all]. The "dark" and "descending" tendency not only moves away from the Sovereign Good, but also rises up against It; whence the equation between the devil and pride (Schuon, emphasis mine).

We have discussed the circular nature of reality on many occasions -- to be exact, our participation in, and conformity to, the spiral of 

exitus-redditus, an exit from and a return to God, Who is both Alpha and Omega. God is the ontological heart that pumps the blood of being through the arteries of creation into the body of the universe... (Kreeft).

Arteries and veins, if we want to be technical. And let's not forget the capillaries, which allow the ittiest bitty to simultaneously receive and transmit the divine light, indeed, the meeker and more humble the brighter.

Which brings us back to the highlighted bit above, for there is but one beast in all of creation that is not only free to exit the circle of being, but rise up against it. We call this beastling Man, albeit with a big assist from forces that ape the divine energies in this diabolical up-rising. 

"[T]he great evil for man is not only to move away from God" but "to overlook that at the very depths of the abyss the lifeline is always there" -- on condition that "we have the humility and the faith that allow us to grasp it."

Deep abysses. Like today. It is at once a breathtaking movement away from God, "but this movement can have nothing absolute about it; the Center is present everywhere." The Dude abides.

Monday, January 18, 2021

True Obscurity and False Clarity

Might as well continue where we left off. Speaking of which -- continuity -- man always lives amidst both, i.e., continuity-and-discontinuity. Which seems contradictory, -- indeed, to violate the law of non-contraction: for how can something be continuous and discontinuous at the same time and in the same respect?

On the one hand, we don't know. Then again, we do, for hints and clues and even fingerprints are everywhere: for example, the quantum realm cannot be reduced further than to the seemingly contradictory descriptions of "wave" and "particle." 

In other words, the particle isn't a function of the wave, nor vice versa. Call it "exact inexactitude." It's not something we can picture in the head. But it nevertheless is.  

As we all know, I'm not one of those new age bunk peddlers who like to pretend that a woo-woo interpretation of quantum physics is THE KEY to ABUNDANCE and IMMORTALITY or something. We leave the deepakery to those counterfeit mystery mongers and grotesque chopresque slack merchants.  

We'll just rewordgitate a line we swallowed long ago: that quantum physics is the way it is because it is a mirror of the Real. It is not reality itself, obviously. And importantly, this is a two-way mirror, AKA the mirror of intelligence-and-intelligibility. 

Consider the latter: are these two (world and knowledge) discontinuous? Yes. Are they continuous? Yes. If they weren't both, then neither would be possible.

Perhaps you don't know exactly what I mean. Let me try to spell it out briefly, because it's only peripheral to the subject of this post, but nevertheless foundational: what I mean is what St. Thomas means when he says that the knower is, in a certain manner, able to become other things

This latter goes to what knowledge is, precisely: something of the object inside the subject, but without damaging or destroying the former, as in chewing and digesting (or, on a lower level, how leftist historians destroy the object of history, or leftist psychologists the psyche). 

The process does, however, share the form of digestion, in the sense that, just as the pizza you eat mysteriously transforms into your material body, so too does the world mysteriously transform into knowledge of itself in the knower -- without destroying the world (leftism and other destructive ideological deformities notwithstanding).

Let's not pretend we understand either mystery. But let's also not pretend a mystery is just an indigestible absurdity or impregnable wall of stupid. Let's put it this way: mystery is present at the hinge points within the cosmos, and also at its edges. 

For example, we know that the cosmos is neither self-explanatory nor self-sufficient; rather, it is ontologically dependent upon another principle. We can deploy physics to map our universe all the way to its beginning in time -- or even (so they say) to the beginning of time -- but then... mystery

And where does the cosmos end? 

Same. Same mystery? Yes -- or so we have heard from the wise: we exist between Alpha and Omega, which are discontinuous here but continuous hereafter.

Not so fast. For what does it mean to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand? Does it not mean that the Kingdom of Continuity reveals its presence here and now in our vexatious Prison of Discontinuity?  

Or I am the Alpha and Omega. Logic -- or bi-logic -- would seem to entail the converse: that Alpha and Omega are I AM.  Which makes perfect nonsense to me.

We're rapidly losing track of the main point, which is this: that we are necessarily immersed in mystery, which is to say that mystery is for man absolutely necessary -- again, not mystery-as-ignorance, but rather, mystery as presence. Man himself is a mystery -- to both himself and others -- and thus always more (not less!) than we can specify.

Let me throw out some of these complementary and/or transitional mysteries off the top of my head: intelligible being and intelligence, being and non-being, sense and intellect, matter and life, life and mind, freedom and necessity, appearance and reality, one and many, origin and end, prehistory and history, being and beyond-being. 

In each case the two terms are related in an obscure way. Which is absolutely the clearest way to delineate such absolutely necessary mysteries. 

The end. And beginning.