Saturday, April 03, 2021

Prolegomena to a Christian Dudeism

A short post. For a change.

Unless and until the dictionary folk decide to redefine the term in keeping with the dictates of the left, abide can be a transitive verb meaning

1: a: to bear patiently: TOLERATE

   b: to endure without yielding: WITHSTAND

2: to wait for: AWAIT  

or an intransitive verb meaning

1: to remain stable or fixed in a state 

2: to continue in a place: SOJOURN

Now, it is axiomatic that the Dude abides, but in various ways and in diverse circumstances throughout history -- and, in the archetypal sense, throughout metahistory.

Genuine abiding is always in the context of a sojourn, which is to say, a spiritual journey, and this journey is ultimately the return to God, i.e., to the ultimate principle that ties the cosmos together.

In the Hebrew Bible, the most extreme case of patience in the face of unchecked aggression is in the book of Job. Despite being a blameless and upright dude, he enters a world of pain, only for things to work out pretty good in the end.  

There is a great deal of abiding in the New Testament as well, especially in John:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Because some of the apostles were out of their element, Jesus explained further:

I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

John writes that although "the world is passing away," "he who does the will of God abides forever." Likewise, Peter says pretty much the same thing, that the word of God "lives and abides forever." This implies that abiding is the nexus of time and eternity.

Now, one of the four cardinal virtues is fortitude. However, there is the active fortitude required to, say, check the aggression of worthy adversaries in a war without rules, but there is also a passive form of fortitude that is not to be confused with pacifism, the latter being just a nihilistic pose for fragile people with emotional problems to hide behind. Am I wrong?

As it pertains to the interior sojourn, Fr. Reginald explains that the virtue of patience

is the most frequent form under which fortitude of the soul is exercised in the vexations of life. 

In the tournament of life, there are the inevitable ups and downs, strikes and gutters, but both forms of fortitude helps us to "to bear the evils of life with equanimity of soul" and "ascend toward the same summit."   

Conversely, "the impatient man, no matter how violent he may be, is a weak man." Though he may claim to be perfectly calm -- even calmer than you are -- "when he raises his voice and murmurs, he really succumbs from the moral point of view." 

Now, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is Holy Saturday, which Pope Benedict called a “'no man’s land' between the Death and the Resurrection." It seems that between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is the abiding.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You

Back in the day, I used to occasionally dredge the arkive and pull up a moldy artifact worthy of a re-read. 

After, all, these posts are never intended to be timebound, otherwise why bother? Nothing is more disposable than yesterday's news, so even when a post is oriented around the hysteria of the moment, it is in order to elucidate a deeper principle. If they're only about the left's daily tantrum, to hell with it. Who needs another voice yelling at you about things you can see with your own three eyes?

There were other excuses. For example, presumably few folks read the blog every day, let alone every year or decade, so for them an old post will be as new. 

For that matter, these decroded posts might as well be new to me, since they're banged out spontaneously in a certain frame of mind. Reading is very much a different mode, i.e., receptive but critical vs. expressive and perhaps a tad forgiving. 

Rereading a post allows me to view it with more critical distance and see if it passes the current sniff test. If something smells off, I can excise the rotten part and perhaps save the rest of the post from infection. Moreover, I inevitably encounter cringworthy passages I can blot from the Akashic record. 

The bottom line is, I really have no idea what's down there, so I'm as surprised as anyone else.

And frankly, at the moment I have nothing new to report, just the same old counter narrative. When this occurs, I never know if it's the end of the blog or just the end of a cycle. In any event, it affords me the opportunity to look down and back. Gnostalgia. 

Now, these are dark times. But so too was Obama's previous reign -- or incarnation, rather -- so I thought to myself, why not go back exactly 12 years and see what we were going on about? Maybe we can learn something, if only this too shall pass. No doubt into something even worse.  

Here it is, March 30, 2009:  Surfing the Eternal Waves of Novelty to the Sands of Time

We were discussing the freedom of the object -- which in itself is a strange sounding notion, being that we usually think of freedom as residing only in the subject, if indeed we acknowledge spiritual freedom at all. 

To put it another way, if the subject weren't free, then it would not only be an object, but we would have no name for it. Or any other names, for that matter. Bottom line: to say object is to say subject. Now, one of these must be prior, and it surely isn't the former.

The infinite plenitude of the object world reminds me of something I once read on the back of a Sinatra album by the king of comedically bad liner notes, a man named Stan Cornyn. 

For you youngsters out there, vinyl albums used to have an essay on back about the music thereinsometimes by a critic or celebrity, other times by an obsequious PR flack such as Cornyn. Although Frank -- overly harshly, in my opinion -- dismissed the song as "a piece of Shit," Cornyn enthused that Sinatra's phrasing   

comes out mmmmmmmmm all the way. If he runs out of gas on a phrase, which is a very rare bird for the man, then he runs out of gas two-and-a-half miles after anybody else would. He sings like he's got an extra tank of Texaco in his tummy (emphasis mine).

That's the point we're driving at: the object world always appears to us as if it's got an extra tank in its tummy: no matter how much we know, there's always more to be known. The tank never reaches empty, or we would be as God.

When we look at the world "the possibilities of life are infinitely more abundant than what is actually on display.... There is an incomprehensible prodigality in the very essence of life" (Balthasar). 

I remember something Whitehead said along similar lines -- that out of the infinite pool of possibilities, only a relative few undergo the formality of becoming. Potential is infinite. Reality is finite. Or, time is the serial crystallization of possibility.

Of course, the higher up the ladder we ascend, the more this becomes apparent. For example, one of our unavoidable limitations -- or sad conditions of existence -- is that a single lifetime can never be sufficient to actualize all that is latent within us. D'oh!

In the words of the Aphorist: The intellectual capital of the adult is often restricted to a small lottery he won in adolescence.

This is an odd situation that should be noticed by more people, but I think the problem is that most people foreclose their infinite potential so early in life, they don't really feel the sting, except in a vague or displaced manner. 

Then again, it would be a waste of timelessness to dwell on this inherent lack, because life itself floats atop this infinite sea of potential. Imagine if existence were as simplistic as imagined by the metaphysical Darwinist or bonehead atheist, deprived of its intrinsic mystery. 

This is indeed one of the purposes of a spiritual practice -- not to sit safely on the shore like the village atheist, nor to drown oneself in the ocean like the nondual mystic, but to ride these ceaseless waves of novelty from the depths of being to the shore of existence.

As Balthasar expresses it, we cannot look at the reality of undeveloped possibilities as "a realm of limitation and poverty." Rather, "the very purpose of this fullness in the womb of life is to illustrate life's richness and superabundance. It would betoken the poverty of being, and ultimately of the Creator, if everything possible were also actual" (emphasis mine).

Imagine the alternative: some musician might come along and write the last song, or a poet might compose the last poem: "That's it. We're done here. We've run out of songs and poems." 

But this can never happen. You can call it a privation, but it's also a mercy, for it means existence is a gift that never stops giving. The cosmic tank is always half full. 

Which is no doubt why we often inappropriately idealize artists, who seem to live on that shoreline between infinite potential and finite actuality. This is the dreamscape between thought and expression. To paraphrase someone, the Aeon is a child playing with colored balls along the shore.

In turn, the purpose of a secular indoctrination is to crush this natural mysticism and to replace the infinite world with godless abstractions and progressive concretions. Then, once the soul is sophicated, it projecst the "missing infinity" into time. Thus is born every spiritual perversion from leftism to scientism to liberation theology to gaia worship. It is the elevation of Ø to O.

However, it isn't exactly correct to say that the infinite cannot be found in the finite, for in truth, this is the only place it can be found -- just as it is impossible to locate substance in the absence of form. Rather, form is precisely where you will find the substance, and vice versa. 

Thus, "the finite appearance as such is the coming to light of a certain infinity." The realization of finitude is at once the "revelation of its intrinsic infinity. This infinity truly becomes visible in its appearance as the excess that does not become visible." Again, finite reality always sings to us as if it's got an extra tank of Texaco in its tummy.

As such, any knowledge is surrounded by a penumbra of mystery, which gives it its... tang. Again, imagine how dreadful life would be if there were some one-to-one correspondence between object and subject. Obviously, subject and object are stuck with each other until death do they part, but a statically bi-polar situation would be a marriage made in hell.

And that's no joke, for Raccoon Hell is a place where everything simply is what it is, with no remainder. Knowledge of any kind is always surrounded on all sides by the great unKnown.

This latter is surely "known," only not in an explicit manner. It is this unKnowledge that allows us to tend toward the actualization of a self which can never be fully known to us. It is reminiscent of the "luminous darkness"of faith, which allows us to approach the unKnown God who is increasingly known without ever exhuststing his knowability.  

Thirst runs out before the water does. --NGD

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Top Doc Reveals the Secret of Endless Creativity!

The previous two posts promised to reveal the One Weird Secret, but got sidetracked along the way. In order to prevent this from happening again, I'm going to reveal the secret at the beginning and take it from there: relativity in divinis

I'm not sure why Schuon translates it into Latin. To make it sound more venerable, I suppose. There's a tendency among traditionalists to root their ideas in antiquity, when they are actually quite modern and even postmodern -- in a manner of speaking -- bearing in mind that this designation has nothing to do with the calendar per se. "Transmodern" would be a better term, for transcendence is timeless. 

For this reason, you will search in vain for a "premodern" traditionalist. For one thing, no one in the premodern world knew of other traditions, at least in any deep and intimate way. Or, there was a name for other traditions: wrong; or ignorant, barbaric, heathen, haram, not exactly kosher, etc.  No one attempted to delineate the abstract and nonlocal metaphysical principles of which this or that religion is the local expression. 

Some thinkers touched on it, but didn't pursue it very far -- Augustine, for example, who claimed that "that which is known as the Christian religion existed among the ancients and never did not exist." In short, the principles have always been present, but known implicitly and imperfectly. 

Thomas too gets close but then pulls back. Let me see if I can find a quick example without getting lost in the weeds. This one is pretty darn abstract:

Intellect is the first author and mover of the universe.... Hence the last end of the universe must necessarily be the good of the intellect. This, however, is truth. Hence truth must be the last end of the whole universe.

For which reason Schuon often repeats the gag that "there is no higher privilege than truth." Wait -- what about love? I appreciate the sentiment, but unfortunately man is able to love wrongly while still loving. Don't even get me started on my first girlfriend. In other words, we can love the wrong persons, ideas, or things. We can also have a disproportionate love, as Jesus often reminds us.

But intelligence is the conformity of mind to truth. We cannot know truth wrongly. Of course, we can know it partially, but we can't literally "know falsehood," because this is the opposite of knowledge. This latter occurs because the intellect is clouded by passion, or interest, or pride, or leftism, or some other crosscurrent. 

There are also levels of truth -- recall the image of the concentric circles -- but these are nested in higher truths (ones closer to the center) that determine the lower. No lower truth can fundamentally contradict a higher truth, despite the efforts of atheists and progressives to anchor their truths in something lower than Truth itself.

A few weeks ago I was discussing some of my reservations regarding Garrigou's strict Thomism, which characterizes God as immutably immutable, AKA radical changelessness. For me, this creates a host of problems, some intellectual, others more personal -- for example, how does one relate to a God who cannot relate to us (for to "relate" is to be relative to)? Why pray to a fixed God, and how can "create" and "immutable" be reconciled?  How can there be something other than God?

Of course, there are attempts to explain these things, but they remind me of the effort to save the appearances of geocentricity with an appeal to epicycles within epicycles, or the Newtonian system that eventually had to posit unknown variables to make it work. 

Maybe the truth is more prosaic -- that everything (every positive reality) has its analogue in God, only preeminently. Come to think of it, what is creativity but a kind of eminent change? Certainly it isn't difficult to understand it as a "perfection" in which we have the privilege of participating. Otherwise all change is bad, including the creation. But God himself said it was good!

Anyway, I had a fruitful back-and-forth with a reader on this subject, and I couldn't express it more eloquently than he did:

Well, the relativity of God is, precisely, what makes the world possible, along with a human consciousness that renders it intelligible. Of course, that does not preclude a non-relative dimension to the Absolute which is also necessary. The challenge is not to confuse metaphysical levels. 

Clearly there is a mutable aspect to the Divine, without which the relative could never arise (along with the imperfection we find in the world). But if the essence of God were only mutable, then the traditional notion of deity would go out the window. As Schuon remind us, we have to accept that there are two phases to ultimate reality -- an unmanifested mode and a manifested one (the latter being a necessary and ‘dynamic’ consequence of his infinity). 

Therefore, there must be attributes and qualities of God that do not change (His goodness, mercy, beauty, eternity, beatitude etc.) -- without which we cannot meaningfully speak of an Absolute at all -- but, at the same, we cannot deny the reality before our eyes that discloses a world that is evidently not God (“My Kingdom is not of this world”) but which, in the final analysis, cannot be other than God (i.e. in a limited or privative mode). 

Accordingly, any kind of ‘radical immutability’ is not tenable. We must, therefore, only speak of a qualified immutability that allows for the relative ontological reality of the world and man (which remain divine manifestations). Otherwise, one is left with the unsatisfying Vedantic notion that the created order is nothing but an illusory maya which is equally untenable.

To be continued...