Thursday, May 13, 2021

Fooling Around with Ultimate Reality

Here are some timeless bon mots from Thomas, which may or may not provoke additional commentary on my part, depending on your luck. I've selected them on the basis of being 1) the foundation, or beginning of proper thinking, and 2) the end of thinking. How can they be both? Let's find out!

Our intellect in understanding is extended to infinity.

In other words, there is nothing man cannot understand, supposing it is in accordance with reason; things not in accordance with reason are called absurd, and even God can't understand the absurd, e.g., a "square circle" or "a woman in a man's body."  

On the one hand, the intellect is (potentially) in conformity to everything that exists; or, you might say that it is "pre-conformed" to existence. Everything out there is just waiting and hoping to be known by us!

At the same time, nothing in existence conforms to the infinitude of the intellect, which is the last thing we would expect of a wholly material and contingent being. For which reason Thomas says

This ordering of the intellect to infinity would be vain and senseless if there were no infinite object of knowledge.   

This infinite object of knowledge is also the object of infinite knowledge, which folks in the celestial lOʘp typically call God.

Here things get a little tricky, for the object of infinite knowledge is also the object of absolute knowledge, or knowledge of the Absolute. This implies that all knowledge reduces to knowledge of the One (who is surely simple but not simplistic). What? Schuon has asked me to hold his beverage:

The idea that the Supreme Principle is both Absolute Reality and, for that very reason, Infinite Possibility... contains everything, notably the necessity for a universal Manifestation.

Or the manifestation of a universe, if you like. It didn't have to be this universe, but it has to be something, for it is written: Creators gonna create, and the Creator who doesn't create is a contradiction in terms.

Principles. As we've said in the past, there is nothing quite like a principle for tidying up around the Intellect and its Cosmos, and what else is there? About them, Thomas writes that "The principles of reason are those which are conformed to nature," i.e., to the nature of things. In a word, to reality.

How do we know a Principle when we find one, especially if we've never seen one before? For the simple reason that "it is not even possible to think it can be false" (Thomas).  They are self-evident, meaning that they cannot be understood without being believed (in other words, if you understand them, your mind spontaneously assents to them).

Name one!

Okay, the principle of non-contradiction, which is equally the principle of identity. This may not sound like much, but it is the root of anything we can say of being and reality: a thing either is or is not, and these are truth (if it is) and falsehood (if it is not). 

Bottom line: being is, things are, and we can know them. This reduces to intelligence and intelligibility, which further reduces to Absolute Intellect and Infinite Intelligibility. If there's something better than that, God keeps it for himselves.

Come to think of it, there is something better, or at least higher, or maybe that's not the best way to express it. It's the idea that there is a Beyond-Being.

In the traditional view, God is Absolute Being or Pure Act. But there's another way of looking at it: that Being itself is a function of Beyond-Being. The natural born mystic will have no difficulty swallowing this, where as the more conventional type may prefer to stop chewing with Being. 

As I've mentioned before, I prefer to think of it as a -- or the -- eternal complementarity between Being and Beyond-Being. 

Moreover, I would situate the Trinity on the Being side, but this doesn't in any way diminish it; rather, it is to say that the Trinity is the first fruit of Beyond Being, with which it is in an eternally creative and renewing trialogue on the horizon of Absolute and Infinite. It's why things are never boring.

Since things tend to be fractally organized in this cosmos, is it possible to find some kind of trinitarian analogue within Beyond-Being? Yes, in the sense that anything that Is must first be Possible. Such mysteries are above our praygrade, and it is somewhat vain to think about things which thought can never adequately formulate, for the simple reason that the Formless surpasses any Form we might give it.

The best we can do -- or the furthest we can go -- is to say with Schuon that there is a primordial trinity (leaving aside the specifically Christian formulation) that comes down to the Absolute, the Infinite, and the Perfect. Everything that is participates in these.

Absoluteness of the Real, infinitude of the Possible, perfection of the Good; these are the "initial dimensions" of the Divine Order.

Just for kicks, what if we were to attempt to translight this into Christian terms?

Let's say the Absolute is the Father. "The Absolute is infinite; therefore it radiates, and in radiating, it projects itself; the content of this projection being the Good." This latter sounds to me like Logos or Son, and the radiation between reminds me of the Spirit. 

All in a manner of speaking.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Medium is the Message

In the previous post we discussed Thomas' conclusion that each of our senses is a kind of touch ordered to different objects; and that "among men, those who possess the more refined sense of touch have the best intelligence." In short, who touches the most wins.

Sort of. Because while there is knowledge in the senses, this knowledge can never be known by the senses. The eye, for example, sees color as a consequence of touching photons. But the eye has no idea of this. It cannot abstract from the colored shapes it apprehends. It doesn't know "what" it sees or even that it sees.

The eye cannot reflect upon what it sees, much less the meaning of sight. These latter reflections are wholly immaterial processes, whereas objects of the senses are material, e.g., surfaces, air vibrations, lightwaves, etc. 

Notice, however, that we still had to deploy a concept rooted in materiality -- reflection -- in order to make the point. The eye sees reflections of things, and our mind transposes this material process into a higher key in order to conceptualize its own functioning, which is again immaterial: senses reflect things, and thought reflects on what is sensed (and ultimately on itself).

Insofar as humans are concerned, we occupy an ambiguous space in the cosmic scheme, precisely halfway between.... 

Before jumping to conclusions, let's just say halfway between, full stop. Or better yet, just between, since we have no way of knowing whether we're 1% or 99% of the way there -- wherever " there" is. The Great Between is necessarily a relation, but of what?

Materialists pretend we're 100% there, but this actually reduces to 0% if you give it any thought whatsoever, being that abstract thinking transcends matter. To be a materialist is to say we know nothing and always will. Like anybody could know that! They're just jealous that I've been offline chatting with Petey all day.

Again, we occupy this ambiguous space between. Among other things, it is the space of freedom; and now that I'm thinking about it, what is space but a kind of "stage" upon which our freedom plays out? Here is how Thomas describes it:

To judge one's own judgment: this can only be done by reason, which reflects on its own act and knows the relation between that upon which it judges and by which it judges. Hence the root of all freedom lies in the reason  (emphases mine).

If you're paying attention and not spacing out, this means that freedom itself occupies the ambiguous space between our judgment and that which it judges. Oddly enough, this seems to mean that the purpose of freedom is its elimination (or collapse, so to speak) via judgment.

That probably wasn't clear, so let's analogize to knowledge. We all know that keeping an open mind is a good thing, but not for its own sake; rather, the purpose of an open mind is to close it upon arriving at truth. I remember Chesterton making this point:

Merely having an open mind is nothing [literally!]. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

Now, it is written (in the sidebar): 

You see this cat Bob is a bad mother. Shut your mouth! But I'm talkin' about Bob. Then we can dig it!

What this means is that there are two distinct ways to be open or closed-minded, one good, one bad, or one Bob, one anti-Bob. As always, it depends upon the nature of the object (not on the nature of Bob!). 

For the truth or falsity of an opinion depends on whether a thing is or not. 

Right? Which means that any post-Kantian philosophy is just your opinion, man, and can never be anything but.

Aw, look at me, I'm ramblin' again. We'll continue this line of thought further on down the trail. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Vertical Pleasure and Pain

For Thomas, "The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth." 

Of course, this presumes the man in question has satisfied the purely biological needs he shares with the beasts. The question is, what happens afterwards? Do we just go back to sleep like animals and liberals, or is there something more, i.e., a trans-biological appetite?

The latter. It takes several forms which reduce to truth, love, and beauty. It's difficult to further reduce these, being that they converge on one another. For example, in exposing my young 'un to music, I train him to listen for the truth. The great majority of music is phony, counterfeit, hollow, an imitation of the real thing. It's a lie. 

Same with people, although in that case it's more a matter of sensing the light. Should you lose contact with this trans-biological sense, you're entering a world of pain. You'll have no idea whom to avoid, believe, or run from as fast as you can. 

Regarding the latter, it is also possible to "hear" the light, so to speak. Come to think of it, you will notice a kind of musicality in the voice. 

Likewise, its absence is striking. Just listen to, for example, mumbly Joe or mechanical Psaki or bullshit Barry. It's not so much that they lie; rather, the lie is waaay downstream from a prior ontological rupture. The vacuity is palpable. Same with journalists. Is there a more vacuous class of human beings? 

This all goes back to the sense of touch, except the sense is again trans-biological. Here's what Thomas has to say about it:

All the other senses are based on the sense of touch.... Among all beings which have sense perception, man has the most delicate sense of touch.... And among men, those who possess the more refined sense of touch have the best intelligence.

This sense of touch is a truth detector, but it is equally a BS detector, and the two naturally covary. For example, if you can believe Critical Race Theory, what can't you believe? The same can be said of multiculturalism, deconstruction, socialism, catastrophic global warming, transgenderism, et al. Is it any wonder that belief in one of these absurdities is correlated with belief in the others? 

This sort of crude credulity is analogous to neuropathy on the biological level, which results in the inability of the nervous system to properly transmit sensations to the brain. At the same time, the nervous system transmits noise to the brain, in the form of numbness, tingling, burning, etc. I suppose these are analogous to "sensory hallucinations," e.g., burning with no source of heat.

Which is why the mind of the trans-biologicial sense-deprived liberal is never filled with just "nothing." Rather, you will have noticed that it is filled with pain, but instead of neuropathic pain it is psycho- or pneumo-pathic pain. Pneumopathy. 

Like what? Oh, say, "microagression." This is precisely consistent with what Thomas says about man's exquisite sense of touch, only in a totally assbackward way. Obviously, the touchy snowflake has access to a world of psychic and spiritual pain that is inaccessible to us. We're no different from them, in that we can obviously sense "hurtful" words. It's just that we don't respond by rolling around on the ground like a soccer player. It's like we have callouses or something. Or at least skin.

Then there is the totally imaginary pain analogous to neuropathy, for example, the feminist's pain at being a woman, or the BLM person's pain at being a target of genocidal police. The pain is real, only the object is imaginary.

Thomas notes that "In us there is not only the pleasure which we share with the beasts, but also the pleasure we share with the angels."

This checks out. No animal, for example, has access to the truth of music or beauty of truth or love of virtue. 

The corollary, however, is that man must also share the pleasures of the demons, so to speak. Such as? Here again, it's a long list, but at the top must be envy, followed by resentment, insatiability, paranoia, hatred, turbulence (absence of peace), etc.  Just because there are vertical pleasures, it doesn't mean they're all "positive." 

For example, what is progressive victimhood but the perverse pleasure of participation in one's own subjugation? That may sound bad to you, but it presumably beats responsibility, initiative, and self-awareness every time. 

The left is built upon responding to such psychic needs, which comes down to the provision of condescending lies that simultaneously persecute and comfort. And shield the person from even more painful truths.