Friday, March 05, 2021

Only God Goes Up to 11

Often, after writing another perfect post, I will *randonly* bump into something that speaks to it -- like a NONLOCAL AUTHORITY confirming it with ABSOLUTE CERTITUDE.  

Well, yesterday the exact opposite occurred: after writing the post, the very first thing I read told me why I am so wrong. Not necessarily in the head. In the heart, rather. Whatever that's supposed to mean. 

It was in Fr. Garrigou's Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, chapter VIII, The True Nature of Christian Perfection. You'd think such a brilliant guy would be on my side, but no. 

Perfection. What is it? We all implicitly understand the term, but how and why? 

Lng stry shrt, because perfection is one of the principle attributes of the Absolute, such that we see its shadows in diverse modalities and dimensions down here. We all tap into this implicit standard, which is how and why we can rank things on a vertical scale. No dog says to itself, now this is the perfect bone, probably the best one conceivable! 

But it is routine for humans to recognize when they are in the presence of perfection. Perfect 10s are everywhere. But this can only be because God goes up to 11. 

Indeed, think of what befalls people who imagine they are the source of their own perfection -- "artists" and "intellectuals" of various kinds: it always ends in self-beclownment in one form or another.   

Schuon discusses this in an essay called Dimensions, Modes, and Degrees of the Divine Order: the Supreme Principle, or O, in addition to being Absolute Reality and Infinite Possibility, is Perfect Quality.

You could even say that this constitutes a -- or maybe the -- fundamental trinity, for it covers everything: everything that exists, can exist, and will exist.

Come to think of it, you can even see how the Trinity lines up with this more abstract conceptualization: if the Father is the Absolute, then the Son and Spirit must be Perfection and Radiation or something. We'll have to circle back to this subject in a later post, as it's only half-baked at the moment.

In any event, we can agree that not only is God perfect, but he alone is perfect, since he is outside manifestation. 

Or, to put it conversely, even the best things down here are slightly imperfect, not that we're complaining. However, if we fail to appreciate this, we may spend our lives in a vain pursuit of perfection on earth. This is how one ends up a leftoid cult member, and the result is a perfect hell.

What did Jesus say? Why do you call me perfect? This is actually an ambiguous question. I used to think it simply meant that Jesus was acknowledging that only God is perfect. 

More cleverly, it could be a rhetorical question meaning: how did you know I was perfect? It wasn't via your natural perception! In other words, it's a testimony of the Holy Sprit about the Holy Spirit -- or something proceeding from and returning to God, in a perfect circle. 

But let's get back to Garrigou's essay, because the clock is ticking down. In it he addresses the proper end of the Christian life, which is, of course,  perfection -- as in Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven. Never mind that this is impossible. It's the process that counts.

Now, in God, perfection is perfection, full stop. But down here we can appreciate several modalities, in particular, with regard to truth, beauty, and virtue. In yesterday's post we presented an argument for perfect truth. Apparently this is not enough for the Christian. And, when you think about it, it's not difficult to see why.

Think of the other virtues. One can be, say, courageous, but still rotten. Likewise, one can be brilliant, a genius even, but a sick lunatic. Chuck Schumer, for example, is said to have obtained a perfect score on his SAT, way back when it meant something. But whatever it means, it hardly means a perfect man, to put it mildly. A perfect RAT is more like it.

More generally, since Jesus did not leave us with a written doctrine, that's either inexcusably careless or maybe the whole point. He didn't speak much about intelligence, but about a whole lotta love on the stairway to heaven. Garrigou:

A philosopher with a powerful intellect, though he has a correct idea of God, First Cause of the universe and Last End, may not be a good man, a man of good will. At times he may even be a very bad man. That which is true is the good of the intellect, but it is not the good of the entire man, not the whole good of man (emphasis mine).

 Ouch. So close. Yet so far. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Truth, Existence, and Certitude

Is there a pure metaphysics, accessible to man, that is prior to sense and reason? I've been struggling to reconcile esoterism and Thomism, and this seems to be the nub of the gist of the crux of the matter. Or at least one of them.  

The dimensions I've been exploring lately are so vast that it's difficult -- okay, impossible -- to wrap one's mind around them. No wonder people take this stuff on faith! And not just religious faith, either. For example, I have no earthly idea how a CD player works, but it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of music. 

And who knows, maybe the kind of technical intelligence that can dream up such a device displaces the kind of intelligence that appreciates other dimensions, from music to literature to comedy. Certainly our digital overlords don't have a sense of humor, or even common sense. And they want to restrict us to their little cognitive prison, just like any other religious fanatic.

Anyway, the intellect of a Fr. Garrigou is so imposing that one is inclined to simply nod in agreement and say "Father know best." I suppose this is why some folks called him "the sacred monster of Thomism." Imposing. That's the word. When I question something he says, I feel slightly impudent.

Since God, His Existence and His Nature runs to 1,000 pages, it is literally difficult to wrap one's mind around it, figuratively speaking. It's like trying to capture water with a bucket in a rainstorm. But at risk of impudence, I think I've identified a flaw, or at least a fundamental area of disagreement, and it goes to this question of what the intellect is

We can further boil the question down to this: is the intellect radically separate from the divine principle? Or is it a prolongation of it? 

I notice that Fr. Garrigou, when he has occasion to mention him at all -- usually in a snarky footnote --  doesn't think much of Eckhart. But this is a central motif of the Meister, i.e., that there is something both uncreated and uncreatable in the soul -- or that we participate in the uncreated. 

Apparently this is a Big Heresy, and I can understand why. Taken out of context and without the appropriate paradox, irony, and playfulness, one can get the wrong idea and start thinking one is God. 

Nevertheless. Let's proceed logically. Let's say truth exists. Being true, it is both necessary and eternal. Assuming man can know this truth, this means that man must somehow participate in necessary and eternal being. Woo hoo!

But Garrigou begins the search for God at the other end, with the senses, which know only the particular and unique. Yes, we can prove the existence of God with certainty, but beginning with created things and ascending on up to their Creator. Thus, God is known a posteriori, not a priori -- or from the effects to the cause instead of the cause to its effects, reverberations, and prolongations herebelow.

At times it almost seems to me that Garrigou is protecting the dignity and majesty of God from our grubby intellects. Here again, I can certainly understand the reason for this. It's the same reason why real Jews don't even utter the word G-d, because it's presumptuous to name the Nameless. 

Moreover, giving something a name can fool us into thinking we understand it. After all, even liberals use the word "reality." 

Rather than arguing with Garrigou, I think I'll cut straight to what bOb thinks, which is more in align with Schuon and Eckhart, albeit with certain modifications. Nor should you care what bOb thinks, since he is just an impudent crank who is in way over his head.

Now, instead of starting with the senses, Schuon goes straight for the jugular of Absolute: boom! Maybe I'm missing something here, but this seems... absolutely self-evident to me. We're all familiar with Descartes' famous crack to the effect that He thought about stuff, therefore he existed

This is metaphysically backassward, precisely. Like Descartes, we too "begin" in thought, but not really, since thought -- to say nothing of true thoughts -- must have a sufficient reason. It's not just floating around in our heads with no explanation.

To jump ahead a bit, the correct formulation is: I think, therefore being is. Or better, I am because (not therefore) Being is:     

The certitude that we exist would be impossible without absolute, hence necessary, Being, which inspires both our existence and our certitude; Being and Consciousness: these are the two roots of our reality (Schuon). 

From this little seedling sprout all sorts of implications, entailments, and good tidings. 

Back to the question of beginning at the top rather than with the senses:

No doubt it is worth recalling here that in metaphysics there is no empiricism: principial knowledge cannot stem from any experience, even though experiences -- scientific or other -- can be the occasional causes of the intellect's intuitions.

So it's fine to start with the empirical world, if that floats your boat. But you're forgetting a little something that must be there before the beginning, AKA intelligence:

The sources of our transcendent intuitions are innate data, consubstantial with pure intelligence... 

Again, this goes to the "uncreated" alluded to above. Conversely, if we begin at the other end, with empiricism or with reason, we will discover no immanent principle allowing us to transcend these. Rationalism, for example,

consists in seeking the elements of certitude in phenomena rather than in our very being. 

Or, let's say you want to skip all this philosophical nonsense and go straight to revelation. Let's say it speaks to you, and so deeply that you are just certain it is true. Question: by virtue of what principle is this certitude and this truth in us?

To be continued....

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Rights for the Victims of Stupidity

I don't like to play the IQ card, but sometimes you have to -- for example, with recalcitrant children or uncomprehending liberals. But I repeat myself.

Although our culture pretends to value intelligence, this is not only a transparent falsehood but an inversion of the reality. Elite liberal institutions such as academia or the MSM are aimed at stupid and/or deranged adolescents, not normal adults. 

Have you noticed how many cable channels are beamed into your home, and the number of them that are addressed to your level of intelligence? It always approaches zero. Show me the intelligence to whom Joy Reid speaks, and I will show you an intelligence that, for whatever reason, failed to actualize.

We don't appreciate the gulf that exists between the intelligent and stupid. Perhaps even more destructive is the abyss between the intelligent-and-educated and the intelligent-but-indoctrinated. 

The latter are the really dangerous ones, in part because they have just enough intelligence and more than enough obedience to quickly and unreflectively assimilate the indoctrination and then pass it along to the stupid. This is the role of the educational establishment in general and teachers unions in particular. And let's not forget the media.

How can one respect the intelligence of someone who can't even see that Joe Biden is an addle-brained zombie? Is this inability just stupidity? Mass indoctrination? Collective delusion? Negative hallucination? 

We are drowning in Dunning-Krugery. But this post is not supposed to be about politics and intelligence; rather, about God and intelligence. 

I realize you folks are, like me, just humble dwellers on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway, looking for a few handouts from Petey, but let's face it: if you enjoy reading this blog, and understand what I'm talking about, then you are pretty far to the right side of the Bell Curve, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. 

Not only are you intelligent, but intelligent enough to feel rather eccentric, although not necessarily lonely so long as the proper stimulation is provided. 

But you are bored stiff with the sorts of things that engage the interest of people situated to your left, and again, you have to face this fact. In your day-to-day life you don't run into the type of person who would ever read, much less understand, this blog. Rather, you mainly find them here, or in books, or in the vertical world, or in a few other thought spots of the internet.

Like I said, I don't like to play the IQ card, and certainly not the victim card, but c'mon, man! Intelligence has its rights! I'm old enough to remember when it was both respected and respectable, but nowadays you will be canceled for even saying something intelligent, and especially if it is both intelligent and funny. For the left, the latter has been totally off limits since the risible Obama came to town. 

I understand the left, and not just because I used to be one of them. Rather, I used to be that stupid as well. For autobiographical reasons I won't get into, my brain remained on the factory setting of ambient liberalism until I was into my 40s, so my intelligence was fine, just not conformed to reality: good enough engine, no steering wheel.

More generally, all the surveys show -- as if it's needed -- that conservatives understand liberalism, while the converse is not true. Which is why they used to just engage in slander, demonization, and projection, whereas now they're just censoring us altogether. They've never been able to answer our arguments, and now they're just being honest about it: no opinion for you!

It's the same with mental illness, by the way. I understand the mentally ill, and not just because I'm a clinical psychologist. More generally, the person who is emotionally well can understand the unwell -- at least in potential -- better than the unwell can understand the well. We can appreciate that he is delusional or hallucinating, while he can't appreciate that we're not.

Having said that, just as there is a "mystery of evil," there can also be a mystery of stupidity and mental illness, because it partakes of the absurd, and absurdity corresponds to the unintelligible, precisely. No one will ever get to the bottom of Keith Olbermann.

Mass culture is aimed squarely at the 100 IQ cohort, and you probably don't hang out with too many of them, although you no doubt encounter them all day long. 

You probably haven't done this in ages, but I dare you to turn on the local news for a few minutes. Stupidity can't really radiate. Nevertheless, you can feel it burning your skin. 

Alternatively, try watching a press briefing by Jen Psaki. They are fascinatingly stupid and almost mesmerizingly demented -- and yet, not nearly as demented as would be Joe Biden in a press conference spontaneously responding to hostile questions. I would pay for that. 

Not only is the left composed of boring lunatics saying tedious things, but they want to ban the intelligent people with interesting ideas. That's where I draw the line.

Stop it! 

That was addressed to me. 

Again, this post is supposed to be about God and intelligence. Now, consider the gulf between, say, Joel Osteen and Fr. Garrigou. I don't even know anything about the former, except that he's some kind of snake oil handler with a mega-church. 

If that were what Christianity is, then obviously no intelligent person would be or could be a Christian. Apparently this type of religiosity corresponds to a certain type of need in a certain type of person, but we are not that person and we don't have those kinds of needs. At all.  

Back to the essay on Esoterism as Principle and as Way. It is difficult for me to imagine someone situated to our left on on the Bell Curve understanding these Principles or engaging in this Way, for the same reason I can't imagine such a person performing surgery on my brain. 

Just because I won't let you open my skull, that doesn't make you a bad person. Likewise, just because I am not moved by your silly argument, nor does that necessarily make you a bad person. You only become bad when you make it against the law to reject your argument, or censor mine.

We're running out of time, so I'm going to jump ahead to a couple of passages that get right to the point:

"Metaphysical or esoteric doctrine is addressed to another subjectivity than is the general religious message," the latter taking what we might call the false-but-true form of a Joel Osteen or some other midlevel but high income spiritual adventurer. These latter speak "to the will and to passional man," whereas "esoterism speaks to the intelligence and to the contemplative man."  

And "only esoteric theses can satisfy the imperious needs for logical understanding that the philosophic and scientific positions of the modern world cause." We'll explain why in the next post.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Total Truth and Integral Intelligence

There's a clarifying essay by Schuon called Esoterism as Principle and as Way in his book of the same title. I've read it many times, but it always turns out different. Or rather, I come at it with a different Bob.

First of all, it speaks to me on a deep level. It is as if, on the one hand, I understand it, but on the other -- and more deeply -- it understands me. Which makes me "happy," in the manner described in yesterday's post: 

if one says all of this to me, then I pay attention, I understand something, I feel happy. I feel attracted to God, I attach myself to the Divine.

You'd think this would be sufficient, but nevertheless, it makes me suspicious. Yes, of the author, but mainly of myself. Just because I understand something, that doesn't make it true. But is it possible to understand something that is false? If so, what does it mean to "understand"?  (To be clear, I'm thinking of Blake's gag to the effect that Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not believed.)

Perhaps we need a different word. For example, I understand progressivism, and it doesn't get more false than that. What is actually going on when we understand something?  

By way of analogy, I can hear some pop music crap and know in an instant that it is indeed irredeemable crap, even though millions of people call it art. Conversely, I enjoy forms of music that the average listener would regard as chaotic noise. Which of us is perceiving things aright? Do we shrug our shoulders and concede that "there's no accounting for taste"? Or is beauty an adequation, as I believe?

That's the word we're looking for: adequation. All knowledge, to the extent that it is true, is an adequation. If not, then there is no such thing as knowledge, since it has no measure outside itself. As they like to say on the left, perception is reality, and we're off to the racists.

Enough preliminary noodling around. Let's get on with it, beginning, as we always must, with definitions:

It is necessary, first of all, to be clear about the meaning of the word "eosterism."  

As with everything else in life, error exists because it is parasitic on truth. Counterfeit money presumes the existence of the real thing. As such, our discussion

presupposes that one is dealing with authentic esoterism and not its counterfeits or deviations, which can compromise the word and not the thing itself, and which merely serve to flatter a propensity for extravagance.

Boy and how. In those old westerns, a cowboy would bite a coin to make sure it was made of real gold. Along these lines, I invite our trolls to bite me.

Jumping ahead a bit, it just dawned on me why this material seems different this time around. It's because I've spent this past Year of Our Lockdown fully immersed in scholastic thought, such that I can now see the parallels with Schuon's thought, but also the ruptures, so to speak. 

As such, I am confronted with the question: where is the disconnect? Must we stop at the limits set by Aristotle, or Thomas, or Garrigou-Lagrange? Or is it safe to continue tripping our way on up where the buses don't usually run?  Is this crazyland? Or a deeper form of sanity?

Now you see why I don't trust myself. Yes, I'm driving this bus, and yes, I see the road clearly, and I see that ditch on one side and the cliff on the other. But crazy people see all sorts of things clearly, from microaggressions to white privilege to global warming. I don't exclude myself from mankind's universal tendency to see things that aren't there, or to look for the keys under the streetlight.

About those connections mentioned above:

Certainly all esoterism appears to be tinged with heresy from the point of view of the corresponding exoterism, but this obviously does not disqualify it if it is intrinsically orthodox, hence conforming with truth as such...

How do we know a theory is a good one? I can think of three main ways: first, it will connect to and organize our observations and experiences of reality; second, it will connect to other theories (or sometimes transcend them); and third, it will connect to as yet undiscovered observations.  

For me, esoterism does all these: it provides a framework to illuminate spiritual data and experience; it illuminates other frameworks; and it is expansive enough to account for new data as it comes along. 

If we're on the right track, then nothing should contradict our interpretive framework. This is what the mind wants and demands. The question is, are we entitled to such an explanation? In any event, 

only esoteric theses can satisfy the imperious needs for logical understanding that the philosophic and scientific positions of the modern world cause.

And "Just as rationalism can remove faith, so esoterism can restore it." 

We want answers.  Not absurd ones, crazy ones, partial ones, self-serving ones, or fashionable but ridiculously self-refuting ones such as materialism, scientism, metaphysical Darwinism, et al. And let's not give a pass to all man's goofy religious beliefs either. They may not be as silly and destructive as materialism, but they're still wrong (or partial). 

Do the answers exist or not? If not, then let's embrace nihilism and let the war begin: ignorant armies clashing by night, to the end of time. 

Again it comes down to something mentioned in the previous post -- that the conventional choices on offer "underestimate God just as they underestimate men." 

These two poles are complementary, because if one is detached from the other, we end in a monstrous and depraved humanism at one end, or a kind of mental slavery at the other. And extremists meet, as we see in our grotesque secular religion of soul-dead wokeism.

We never quite defined esoterism, which I think is a loaded term. I prefer truth, or let's say total truth in conformity to integral intelligence: this intelligence is proportioned to something vastly transcending, and it is the function of esoterism to illuminate these connecting links, symbolic points of reference, and universal principles.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fun with God and Man

Lately I've been pondering the question of esoterism, about which I've developed a certain ambivalence since I began blogging 2005. Back then I was just a kid with a crazy dream. Now we're living in a crazy dream with the kids in charge. 

Since 2005, I've become more conventional in my thinking, partly because I've discovered how unconventional Christianity is. Truly, it already is an esoterism, especially compared to the other monotheisms, or to Vedanta or Buddhism, which are more like metaphysical-therapeutic doctrines with a religion attached.

Schuon calls Christianity a "relative esoterism" expressed via its symbols, dogmas, and rituals. You might say that these are one degree removed from a pure esoterism, but for this reason can run up against certain contradictions. 

But the average person needn't worry about these loose ends, nor would he even care. Rather, not only is faith sufficient to carry him over the divine-human abyss, but faith itself is a kind of gnosis par excellence (as in the old gag about believing in order to know).

(Backing up a bit, Schuon equates esoterism with nothing more than [lower case] gnosis, which is to say, knowledge of higher realities.)   

Anyway, while trying to figure out just what it is that bugs me about Thomas in general and Garrigou-Lagrange in particular (this despite the immense, indeed, priceless light they furnish), I came across a letter from Schuon that precisely describes my sentiments. I won't quote the whole thing, but he first briefly summarizes his metaphysic before observing that 

if one says all of this to me, then I pay attention, I understand something, I feel happy. I feel attracted to God, I attach myself to the Divine.

That's me: I get it, it makes me happy, and I feel drawn into the vortex of O. 

Now, happiness is not the measure of truth. Then again, they say that happiness is a consequence of a desire meeting its end, and that's what it feels like to me: intellection resting in peace, which is to say, extinguished in union with its proper object. 

Conversely -- and this goes to my trouble with more conventional approaches -- 

When on the contrary I am told: a God, who owes me nothing because He is almighty, gives me this or that command, and that my intelligence is only there to carry out this command as well as possible, and other things of this kind -- when I am told this, I do not understand anything, I feel unhappy, I do not feel attracted to religion, I no longer know what I am, nor why I am a human being. But this is what theologians too often reduce religion to, as if they could please God thereby! They underestimate God just as they underestimate men.

Bing! This uncharacteristically personal disclosure rang my nonlocal gong. It reminds me of when we were scouting guitars for my son. We saw a video that recommended purchasing a beautiful instrument, because the beauty would provoke the desire to hold and play it. Somewhat like choosing a wife. 

Come to think of it, way back when I was around ten years old, my mother forced me to take piano lessons. Even she could see that I was musically inclined, so it seemed like the proper bourgeois thing to do. I don't recall how may lessons there were -- maybe half a dozen at most -- but I hated it. 

Now, if she had handed me a starburst Rickenbacker electric like George Harrison played, then I'm sure things would have turned out different. I'd have been a rock star, and long dead by now. Thanks mom!

Back to what Schuon said above: the irony is that the conventional (non-esoteric) approach underestimates man and God. I think we can stipulate that if you're on the esoteric path and you're not humble, then you're not only wrong, but probably dangerous -- certainly to yourself, but to others as well if you presume to instruct them.

Humility as at once a cause and consequence, or pre- and post-requisite.  

In that same letter, Schuon asks himself why he's dwelling on this subject: possibly because of 

the constantly recurring confrontation with the moralistic one-sidedness of exoterism and its exaggerations, which one encounters at every turn, but which, God be praised, one can also forget.

Same.

Now, if exoterism can be annoying and sometimes tedious, esoterism has its own dangers and pitfalls, as alluded to above. 

In fact, this may be part of the reason why Schuon always emphasized the necessity to situate esoterism within exoterism, and to give oneself to a legitimate tradition; for the former is a deepening of the latter (or conversely, one could say that exoterism is a divinely authorized and instituted prolongation of esoteric principles onto a more approachable plane). 

For exoterism is nonetheless -- to put it mildly -- not only wholly legitimate on its own plane, but a God-given means for man to know the essentials, even (and especially) if he isn't cut out for gymgnostics and verticalisthenics.   

Which is not grandiose, just objective, no different from seeing that this person is cut out for music or math or baseball, but for that person it's sufficient to enjoy music, balance his checkbook, and participate in a softball beer league. 

There are degrees of everything, nor is the esoterist better or even necessarily more intelligent, God forbid. I mean, it would never occur to me that I am more brilliant than St. Thomas! I wish. 

Perhaps you've noticed that in the best theological authorities there are "incidental openings to gnosis,"  but at times frustrated by the need to contain or rein them in by doctrine. 

Thus, "elements can be found in their teaching which in fact transcend it." Isn't this precisely what happened to Thomas at the end of his life, big time? Or Big Timeless, rather.  His exoteric efforts were crowned by an experience that utterly transcended, but by no means negated, them, since they provided the launch pad.

That's about it for today. We're not close to finished with this subject.