Friday, November 05, 2021

Meta-World & Meta-Man

Thanks to the luxury of time -- and the timelessness tucked away therein -- I've lately been engaged in what you might call a close reading of Schuon. Being that he already writes in such a compact style -- deploying a minimum of words to convey a maximum of meaning -- his works are uniquely suited to such a line-by-line...

I was about to say "analysis," but that would be inaccurate and misleading. More like a pondering-and-abiding, waiting for the associations -- the vertical ins & outs -- to stream into the cabeza. Lightning & thunder, respectively. 

Reminds me of what the rabbis say of scripture -- that a single blow of the hammer sets off a multitude of sparks. According to Schuon, this is because

the truth is above all in the symbol's effective power of illumination and not in its literalness, and that is all the more evident since God, whose wisdom goes beyond all words, puts multiple meanings into a single expression.

Yup. And speaking of up yonder, here's one to ponder:

The uncreated Word shatters created speech, whilst at the same time directing it towards concrete and saving truth (ibid.).

Sure does. But that's not our immediate focus. Rather, we've lately been pondering two subjects -- or questions -- 1) the ultimate ground of reality, or meta-cosmology, and 2) the ultimate nature of man, or meta-anthropology, i.e., What is reality?What is man?, and What the heck is the nature of the relationship between them? 

In knowing these we would pretty much know everything worth knowing, or at least everything we need to know, leaving it to our STEMitic friends to fill in the details. 

Yes, I've already read all of Schuon's books more than once, and several of them many times, but this is different. It reminds me of slow-motion weight training, whereby, instead of doing a lot of repetitions, you do just a few, but verrrry slowwwwwly. Instead of doing fifty push-ups in one minute, do a single push-up in 30 seconds or whatever. 

Recall what Schuon said in the previous post: that the Science of Fundamental Principles, AKA philosophy, "operates with intuition, which 'perceives,' and not with reason alone, which 'concludes.'"  

This is because man is an open system, which means open to being and truth (or, to the truth-of-being which is constantly being-spoken in our cosmos).

Come to think of it, what is reality but Being-spoken? And what is man but understanding-being? Intelligibility and intelligence, respectively. A single lightbeam split into subject and object and meeting in the conceptual middle.

Conversely, postmodern sophistry is "hardly concerned with 'perceiving' and taking into account that which 'is.'" 

Rather, it "reasons" in such a way that reason is sealed off from the outside, to say nothing of the above. It is the proverbial snake attempting to devour its own tail. Schuon refers to it as "the codification of an acquired infirmity," an infirmity acquired way back in Genesis 3, when our adamant protodope deicided to unfriend God.

This is in no way to deny or denigrate the importance of reason. It's just that -- at risk of belaboring the point -- the principle of reason is not located in man. Rather, it was here long before we arrived on the scene. We didn't invent it. If we did, then the primordial link is broken between it and the world. 

"Man is not a closed system," writes Schuon, "although he can try to be so." In other words, just as man is free to reject freedom, he may choose to inhabit his own hermetically sealed matrix, which is one of the central themes of Genesis 3. Human nature never changes, but it can look that way because of the diverse simulations he constructs and inhabits, taking them for "reality." 

For example, there is nothing remotely real about progressivism or its many tentacles such as feminism, CRT, AGW, LGBTWTF, etc. But this hardly prevents these clueless anti-STEMites from living in their ontological tent cities.  

As we all know, matrix is etymologically related to mother and to womb, and isn't that convenient, because you could say that there are two possible wombs. Let's call them the wombs of Eve and of Mary. 

This cosmos just got interesting. And the subject of this post just got much bigger, but let's see if we can tame it in the time remaining. 

Chapp writes of 

the deep anthropological and ontological implications of the fact that we were not lowered into this world by God on the end of a crane as some sort of angelic visitor to a foreign land....

Rather, 

we were created along with this world precisely as temporal beings whose existence is characterized by the dynamic of event and sequential becoming.

Becoming. What, like in a womb?

Yes.

I'm a bit distracted this morning, since I have one ear on the Rittenhouse trial, which sucked me in. We'll try to refocus tomorrow. 


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Focus on Man

That's an order!

Sometimes it helps to know what something is by knowing what it isn't

For example, we say that God is infinite. However, this is a wholly negative, apophatic characterization, since it simply means not finite: in other words God can't be finite, therefore he's infinite. Which we can't ever wrap our minds around, even though we know with 100% certitude that it is true.

Which is an intriguing proposition, because it means man can know with certitude things he can most certainly never understand. Call it a primordial orthoparadox if you like. 

Similar examples abound, and I've been thinking about them since March of 1985, although I don't recall if I've ever posted on the subject.

For example, man is the being who knows he will die. But what is death? We can't say. Or, we can say (similar to in-finite) that it's not-life, but what is life? Life is the transcendence of matter, so is death the transcendence of life?

There's another one: tran-scend. What's that? To climb across, surmount; to rise above or go beyond the limits of: exceed. We can scarcely be human without the word transcend or some equivalent to it. So, humans routinely travel across and rise above & beyond. Yes, but to where? To in-finity, and beyond!

Back in March of 1985 I was in grad school, where I was learning all about the unconscious. What's that? Easy: un-conscious. Oh. Like, in-animate? No, inanimate things are not conscious. Okay, like death? No, that's... we don't know what that is. See paragraph six.

Eventually I realized that conscious / unconscious isn't a dualism but a complementarity. Nor is it an antithesis, like, say, good and evil, for in that case, evil is a privation. As mentioned in a comment yesterday, it has no positive ontological reality, but is only parasitic on it.

The unconscious isn't like that. It's not a privation or negation of consciousness. Rather, it's more like the dark side of the moon: we know -- with certitude! -- it's there. We just can't see it. 

Likewise the unconscious, which, in my considered opinion, bears the same relation to consciousness as does Beyond-Being to Being, or perhaps even Father to Son, being that the latter is a kind of "specification" of the former.

Analogously speaking, of course. But again, if God goes to all the trouble of revealing his trinitarian innards to us, I think we should take it seriously as a way to deepen our understanding of what's going on down here. We need to use it as a way to bust out of our habitual approach to things, which is -- at least for pinheads -- too linear and rationalistic.

I see. So we should be ir-rational or anti-rational? No, not at all; rather, trans-rational. God is telling us what he's like, which is a good thing, because we can't get there via mere reason. Reason, limited to its own devices, leads to inevitable impasses and absurdities, if only because reason can never furnish its own premises. Theology -- at least trans-natural theology -- really comes down to reasoning about premises furnished by God.

Looked at in this manner, there is nothing irrational about trinitarian metaphysics, even though reason could never arrive at it unaided. But once it is revealed to us, we can reason about it all day long.

Focus! Yes, back to man. What can reason tell us about the nature of man? Not much, except to say that man is the rational animal, which is a tautology, unless we can track down the actual source of reason. 

Revelation, which is trans- (not anti-!) rational, tells us we are in the image of the Creator, and now we're getting somewhere. To put it conversely, we can't get anywhere with a false image of man, and any image that excludes the Creator is a false one. 

Certitude. 

Human beings are uniquely able to stand aside, above, or beyond themselves and observe their own existence, and only a fundamentally im-material being can do this. Rocks can't escape themselves. They are incapable of ec-stacy. 

Change my mind:

the Trinity is eternal, but not in the sense of being indifferent to or opposed to time. Rather, it is supratemporal and includes the reality of time, analogously, within itself. Thus, the Trinity is not merely timeless or atemporal. If it were, then eternity would be opposed to temporality as its transcendent negation (Chapp). 

Just kidding. Some things will never change, and this is one of them. I want to say Bob's mind is made up, and it is, but that's merely the effect of a deeper cause. For example, if I look out my window and see a tree, I don't say, "My mind is made up: that's a tree, and you can't talk me out of it."

True, you can't talk me out of it, but that's because no one talked me into it. Rather, the tree is just there prior to my thinking about it. You are free to argue about whether the tree is really there or not there at all, but I've accepted its ex-istence and moved on. I'm out of here.

To Be con-tinuous...


Monday, November 01, 2021

Trans-Cosmic Meta-Anthropology

I've read about certain bands that don't write songs in the usual way. Rather, they just jam and fool around until they stumble upon something that sounds like a song. Then the jam begins to suggest what it's about lyrically, and eventually crystallizes into a composition. The Rolling Stones sometimes did it this way. R.E.M. too. 

If it's good enough for ancient man -- i.e., Keith Richards -- then it's good enough for me. I'll just start jamming and see where it goes. 

What is man that man should be mindful of him? Other animals don't give a hoot, honk, or hiss about their nature. But humans never stop hollerin' about it, especially the ones who insist there is no such thing. Hee-haw!

If these asses are correct, then Homo sapiens is the animal whose nature it is to deny its nature. 

Moreover, we are the only such animal, since human beings -- even young children -- easily recognize the nature of other animals. We don't confuse dogs and cats, or snakes and birds -- nor, for that matter, do we mistake a cock for a hen. If we take a bull for a cow there will be serious consequences. Yes, that's a warning.  

Here again, Homo sapiens is the only species that can make systematic -- not merely accidental -- mistakes about its own nature. For example, from time to time we hear rumors of this or that animal that engages in same-sex behavior, but no animal does so systematically or it wouldn't exist. 

To put it another way, homosexuality is obviously contingent; if it were essential, then it would place an absurdity at the foundation of our nature. If we can't agree that sex has a telos, then we might as well say that babies come from storks, or that two men can marry.

The moment we say Everybody Knows this or that, Somebody will insist otherwise, hence the existence of tenure. 

As the cliche goes, there is nothing so stupid that a professional leftist hasn't believed it. It's their nature to believe the unbelievable. Credo quia absurdum, and the more absurd the more credible. Some on the left still believe the conspiracy theory that Biden legitimately won the election, albeit fewer every day.

But let's try to stay focused. Better yet, what is the focus of this post? I would say human nature, which, first of all, either does or doesn't exist. We, of course, believe the former, although we do not necessarily believe it's a slam dunk. The reason I say this is that I am still waiting to meet someone who reminds me of me, i.e., who shares my nature. Am I my own species? Or are there others? 

Yes, there's obvious overlap. But never a perfect fit. This is probably what Sartre meant with his crack about hell being the existence of other people. 

However, in his case the operational term is existence, being that he was an existentialist, and the essence of existentialism is the denial of essence, precisely. Therefore, each person is not only an island monad cut off from all the others, but man invents himself -- makes it up -- as he goes along. Which is why his most famous work of philosophy is called Being and Nothingness

(Spoiler alert: being is. You, on the other hand, are nothing.)

Believe it or not, this is one of the first philosophy books I ever read. It would have been back in the late '70s, when I assumed that philosophy, like science, must be progressive, so why not just skip ahead and get to the point? Reading Aristotle or Thomas to learn about man would be as anachronistic as reading Galen to learn medicine or Ptolemy to learn astronomy.

In reality, some things progress, some remain the same, and some deteriorate. Confusion enters because man is indeed capable of "progress," but only in certain areas. 

More to the point, the principle of progress is not, nor can it be, change or progress. Rather, the very possibility of progress is rooted in and oriented toward something that does not change. Call this principle what you like -- even just an empty placeholder such as O -- but without it, we are Ø. Without a paddle.

Well, that was fun. And easier than digging up quotes from other experts. I think we have the outlines of a melody. With any luck, the words to the song will further reveal themselves in the next post. But this I know: there is an objective and universal anthropology, and it is rooted in a trans-cosmic meta-anthropology. That's for certain.