Thursday, December 02, 2021

Satan' s Limits

I recently rereread Schuon's last book of essays, The Transfiguration of Man (after that he published only poems). 

It's more of the same, although generally more compact, which is understandable, being that it is backed by lifetime spent thinking about these subjects, including all the Big Ones, e.g., God, Man, Truth, Thought, Art, Virtue, Sacrifice, Mysticism, etc. The book itself is short (125 pages) and some of the essays are a page or less. 

As always, Schuon expresses alarm at the degraded state of Man, in particular, the effect of the Modern World. But the latter is just an effect of man, one of his dreadful -- or, to be charitable, ambiguous -- possibilities. Predictably, human nature is full of surprises, but surprisingly, these are wearily predictable. 

This, from the Foreword, is a key point:

The image of man presented to us by modern psychology is not only fragmentary, it is pitiable (emphasis mine).

Being that psychology used to be my racket, I can confirm the truth of this statement. The fragmentation isn't a bug but a feature; this defect has been transformed -- transfigured if you will -- to a virtue. Somehow, the discipline of psychology distinguishes the psyche from every other organ, insisting that it has no formal telos, i.e., no objective end.

It would be as if we could no longer define a normal heart, and instead maintain that pathologies such as hypertension, arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, cardiomegaly, stenosis, etc. were all just different and equally precious forms of normality. 

This intrinsically heretical fragmentation of man goes by the name "diversity" -- or multiculturalism, "inclusion," "tolerance," equity, etc. 

In addition to meaning what they mean, even worse, these terms mean the opposite of what they mean. Ultimately they mean whatever the liberal wants them to mean, so "tolerance," for example, means both state-sponsored Drag Queen Story Time and a state-sponsored ban on conservative speakers on campus. It amounts to obligatory craziness, accompanied by the marginalization and persecution of normality.

Yes, human nature always disappoints, but I think it needs help from below in order to disappoint this badly. 

It reminds me of something Rob Henderson said about our genetic predilections. These might be necessary but are not sufficient conditions, for example, vis-a-vis criminality. Criminality is undoubtedly genetically loaded, and yet, most would-be criminals will exert remarkable self-control in the presence of a police officer.  

You've probably noticed that neither the left nor Satan respect formal logic -- or, they obey it to the letter. Regarding the latter, recall Chesterton's gag about the madman having lost everything except his reason. Thus, it is difficult to say if St. Fauci is merely a madman or in the grips of someone worse.

It's the same with regard to the law, which is why the QAnon Shaman gets 41 months in prison for wandering around the capitol building, while the worst among us, from Darrell brooks to George Floyd to to Kyle Rosenbaum to Hunter Biden to Barack Obama, run loose. 

As to ignoring logic altogether, this is the ultimate source of the left's ubiquitous "hypocrisy." One can point to their hypocrisy all day long long, but it is wholly ineffective and beside the point -- the point being that they are ultimately motivated by power, not by truth, standards, merit, logic, consistency, order, decency, or objectivity, so of course their logic, such as it is, will be subordinated to expediency. 

They can of course be "intelligent," but you will have noticed that their intelligence is always an accomplice of something less. In a properly human world, nothing is more privileged than truth, so this makes them anti-human at best.

This came up yesterday in the Supreme Court. Obviously, Roe v. Wade is no more logical than Dred Scot v. Sandford, and one will search in vain for any principle underlying these judicial... abortions, much less a constitutional one. The exorcist Clarence Thomas, in the role of Supreme Court justice, asked the Devil's Advocate a simple question:

"Would you specifically tell me, specifically state what the right is, is it specifically abortion? Is it a liberty? Is it liberty? Is it autonomy? Is it privacy?” Thomas asked.

"[I]t is specifically the right to abortion here, the right of a woman to be able to control, without the state forcing her to continue a pregnancy, whether to carry that baby to term,” one of the lawyers challenging the Mississippi law said.

"[I]f we were talking about the Second Amendment, I know exactly what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about the Fourth Amendment I know what we’re talking about because it’s written there. What specifically is the right here that we’re talking about?”

“It’s the right of a woman prior to viability to control whether to continue with a pregnancy.”

Similarly, the Dred Scott case hinged on the right of the slaveowner to exercise control over his property. Just as Sandford owned Scott, the mother owns her child.

When did my mother stop owning me? I don't know. Probably when Dred Scot was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments. 

In a recent newsletter on the nature of evil, Rob Henderson writes that 

Evil begins when someone crosses a moral line. Therefore, anything that makes the line fuzzy or unclear can promote evil.

In this regard, "ambiguity is a key factor in the escalation of violent acts," and "is centrally involved in getting someone started in harming others."

Ambiguous, like a constitutional right to do anything one wants with one's body. Islamists would like to blow up their bodies in public. Some pregnant woman would like to put fentanyl in their bodies, but this isn't allowed. By virtue of what principle? 

"Dangerous ambiguities can become apparent in the absence of clear laws," adds Henderson. "For instance, we in America take our Constitution and laws for granted. In the Soviet Union, judges operated without clear or explicit laws."

Yes, the Soviet Union had a living constitution, good and hard. But if the constitution is alive, then the rule of law is dead. Besides, it's not the constitution that's alive, rather, the scheming minds who will read into it what they need in order to justify the exercise of power.

Here is a note to myself that says -- and I don't know how I would know this, but here it is anyway --
Fortunately, there is not only spiritual warfare between good and evil, but within evil itself.  

This is apparently because evil must be subordinated to its own principle of fragmentation. It explains why the office of the Vice President is in such disarray.

I have to drop off the boy somewhere, so to be continued. I'll leave off with a few tweets from Happy Acres Guy that pushed me down this rabbit hole:

The incoherence we see around us is the direct consequence of multiculturalism (aka no culture)

Be assured that this madness will change -- progs in their restlessness tire quickly of things; tomorrow they could be saying the opposite

The Left pattern of denouncing money while demanding more money has always caught my eye

The Left doesn't know what it wants, believe it or not

(https://twitter.com/HappyHectares?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1230904238407991296&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Famericandigest.org%2Flinkskrieg-politicians-price-tags-and-the-great-black-nope%2F)

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Post-postmodernism

We didn't get very far in the desk-clearing exercise, did we? So let's bear down and try to tie up some loose bleeping ends.

What could this note to myself mean?

Just say reality and appearances, and draw the implications therefrom.

I think I know: both are grounded in a principle: in the Absolute and Infinite, respectively. Reality is one but appearances are many, because of the intrinsic Infinitude of the Absolute. 

More generally, to say "appearances" is to say "reality," and vice versa

A dog, for example, dwells in a sensorium of instinct-bound appearances, but knows nothing of this -- i.e., that appearances are but the vehicle and veil of something deeper and/or higher. The dog does not say to itself: it looks like A, but on a deeper level it is really an instantiation of B

To say, with our postmodern fiends, that "perception is reality" is to say, 1) that appearances are reality rather than of reality. Thus, they are literally stupider than our canine friends, because at least dogs don't grant each other tenure and Pulitzers for barking at shadows and calling them an "insurrection" or "Russian collusion."

Come to think of it, postmodernists have given postmodernism a bad name. For example, Michael Polanyi is one of my favorite philosophers, and he retains the good things about postmodernism while ignoring all the pratfalls.

What do I even mean by this, and do I really want to write a whole post about it? Might that not require some actual work? Here, this guy seems to understand exactly what I mean, and he's already done the hefty riffing: https://isi.org/intercollegiate-review/beyond-post-modernism-via-polanyis-post-critical-philosophy/

Virtually the entire body of philosophical work by Michael Polanyi was published prior to the emergence of postmodernism. As much of Polanyi’s work was devoted to criticism of some of the most fundamental assumptions at work in modern intellectual culture, it would seem reasonable to locate Polanyi as postmodernist or allied with postmodernism in some sense of the word....

Though he did not live long enough to be exposed to and become acquainted with the principal expressions of postmodernism, Polanyi’s work properly understood is, I believe, directly addressed to the core issues at stake. I think that Polanyi’s coinage of the term “post-critical” is an extraordinarily apt designation of what can move us beyond the dead ends and stalemates of post-modernism.  

Don't ask me how that reversal happened. This is key: the writer correctly alludes to a constructive postmodernism and a destructive one. Here at One Cosmos, for example, we are very much in the former camp, which is precisely why we are at times so bleeping campy.

But (ob)noxious postmodernism is like catabolism with no anabolism, i.e., pure destructiveness -- like the Biden administration. Resident Biden himself is nobody nowhere, the appearance of a deeper reality; we're talking about whoever it is that is actually pulling the strings and causing all the damage to the economy, the border, education, law and order, supply chains, election integrity, race relations, ad nauseam). 

I suppose we could say that Polanyi rescues us from postmodern idiocy, not by reverting to the modern intellectual dead-ends of positivism, empiricism, and reductionism, but by blowing past them to what he calls a "post-critical" philosophy -- one that is actually (although this was not his goal) compatible with the Aristotelian Thomism we should never have abandoned to begin with. 

We might call this latter a "critical Thomism" -- as if Thomas weren't already the most scrupulously critical of thinkers anyway.  

In a way, just as leftism is degenerate liberalism taken to absurd extremes, so too is destructive postmodernism just a decadent entailment of modernism (see Father Rose's Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age for the grusome details: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1887904069?ie=UTF8&tag=onecos-20&camp=1789&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=1887904069). 

Or, just look at California for the Newsom details and lootsome retails.

There's no need for me to reformulate all of this in my terms. Just read the whole essay, because I didn't. Nevertheless, Petey gives it his Good Bleeping Guess Seal of Approval.

I've already moved on to the next bleeping squirrel, and am thinking to myself: how about a post-critical Christianity? But then I'm pretty sure that's what we already do around here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Missing Links, Light Privilege, & the Cosmic Catechism

It's the end of the month: time to clear the desk -- in particular, of all the books I've recently read but which failed rise to the lofty threshold of blogworthiness. That is, they may have contained a good point or two, but not enough of them to justify an entire post.   

Month. Say it quietly to yourself. It's a funny word: month. It just occurred to me that it must come from "moon." Cap'n Bobvious!

Speaking of astronomy, let's begin with this one called The Destiny of the Universe: In Pursuit of the Great Unknown, by a prolific fellow who calls himself Gerald Verschuuren. I probably bought it on the strength of that insolent title alone. Sounds veryschuuren himself.

Did it deliver on that bodacious promise? If it had, you'd have already read about it in this space. 

I see that it did prompt some interesting notes to myself, even a kind of poem on the inside front flap:

Humanness: a window, a door, a ladder, an escape hatch;

 a maze, a snare, a greased pole, a booby trap

an illusion, a nul de slack.

Now, if I could only get William Shatner to read it.

More noetry:

We cannot be "from" DNA unless we are "to" something.

Yes, go on, Cap'n Kirk.

Man is a message addressed to God

We all know that natural selection involves descent with modification. Well, spiritual growth must be... ascent with modification, or something. After all, we are ultimately descended from God. I read something about this just yesterday.... what was it?

Here it is: it's from another one that didn't make the cut, this one by Fulton Sheen. The particular passage is a riff on the missing link between man and our immediate descendent, whomever he might be. But even supposing we could locate him, it wouldn't do anything to resolve the mystery.

Well, I have good news: the real missing link has been identified, a "link suspensed from Heaven, which binds us unto God":

Christ is the link between the finite and the infinite, between God and man, because finite in His human nature, infinite in His Divine, and one in the unity of His Person; missing, because men have lost Him...

In yesterday's post we spoke of the bi-directional vertical arrow, and one might say that Christ is the very Incarnation of it:

His mission is to do two things: to bring God to man by the infusion of Divine Life []; and to bring man to God [].... This Our Lord declared was the double purpose [of His coming into the world.

Back to the Destiny of the Universe. Here's another note, although I'm not sure what triggered it:

If you don't know language can be abused, you're probably abusing it. Language has rights!

To say that language -- which is an emanation or prolongation of the Logos -- has rights is to say that man has verbal and even transverbal responsibilities, am I right?

But you only have to spend a few minutes listening to politicians, professors, and pundits, oh my, to realize that most of our societal problems are aggravated if not caused by language abuse. Which in turn is another instance of crucifixion, AKA the logicide of which we spoke just last Thursday.

Man has rights, obviously, and the source of these rights is our Creator. But no one -- least of all the Creator -- is stupid enough to give unalienable rights to a fundamentally irresponsible creature. Therefore, our rights don't just co-arise with the responsibilities, but rather, our duties, obligations, and responsibilities are ontologically prior to the rights.

If only people understood this, it would clear up so many problems! It needn't even be taught in a Christian context, because it can be conveyed in terms of pure metaphysics -- as an aspect of the Cosmic Catechism, which is the owner's manual of Homo sapiens

My son, for example, is so well grounded in the Cosmic Catechism that I've literally never caught him in a lie. He knows that language has rights that confer responsibilities on those who are privileged to use it. I want to say light privilege.... Hmm, I read something alluding to this yesterday.

Here it is, from Schuon: 

A noble animal or a lovely flower is "intellectually superior" to a base man.

God reveals himself to the plant in the form of the light of the sun. The plant irresistibly turns itself toward the light; it could not be atheistical or impious.

The infallible "instinct" of animals is a lesser "intellect," and man's intellect may be called a higher "instinct."

One reason we could never be a Calvinist is because of the manmade and cosmically heretical concept of "irrestible grace." I have it on personal authority that grace can indeed be resisted; or lost, stolen, and strayed from.

Oh, and speaking of Schuon, in the previous post we mentioned the jazzy nature of vertical and horizontal inneraction, and later in the day we ran into this confirmatory passage by Norris Clarke, one of our favorite theologians. I'll just let it speak for itself, because I have to make my weekly run to Trader Joe's:

But the future as future does not yet have any real existence in itself. So Thomas does not hesitate to say that no mind, not even the divine, can know with certainty the future as future, since there is nothing there yet to know. God, and we, too, can know the future actions of a non-free cause, because they are already determined as flowing necessarily from its own nature.

But this is not the case with free agents, like ourselves. As free, the action is not yet determined until it is actually decided on by a real agent; but it is then no longer future but present.

In fact, God

might be said -- in an at first perhaps shocking, but to me illuminating meaphor -- to be the Great Jazz Player, improvising creatively as history unfolds....

The complete script of our lives is not written anywhere ahead of time, before it happens, but only as it actually happens, by God and ourselves working it out together in our ongoing now's.

Kind of blue, really. No, really:

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a "take" (Bill Evans).

First take last take. Like this post. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Rendezvous with Truth

The head is loaded and ready to fire. In other words, I just read a brief and compact essay (not even two pages) by Schuon, and will proceed to disgorge what it triggered in me. Better back away from the screen.

Oh, by the way, lately I've been mildly susceptible to "automatic writing," or something. I first noticed this a few weeks ago, when I thought I was making some notes to myself, but it was as if my hand was hijacked and made notes to me. There was a clear sense of just surrendering to it and completing the sentences as they were given to me. 

Let's think about the minimum number of tools we need to think about ultimate reality, and where we stand with it. 

In order to do this, we need the most abstract possible terms or symbols, which cannot be reduced to anything more fundamental. 

These terms must also be imbued with certitude, which means, among other things, that we cannot explicitly deny them without implicitly affirming them -- for example, the statement that "man cannot know absolute truth," which is what eggheads call a performative contradiction: if it is true that man cannot know truth, then he absolutely can.

Let's begin. First and foremost we need a symbol for ultimate reality, and O seems to be as serviceable as anything else. Similar to the gag above about truth, who is bold enough to say that ultimate reality doesn't exist, even if we can't exhaustively describe it? 

Next, we'll need a symbol for man. I'm partial to (  ), reminiscent of O, but like an incomplete echo of it -- an image, perhaps, but not (yet, anyway) a likeness.  

Next, we definitely need two axes, a horizontal one and a vertical one.

Let the vertical axis stand for space, or the simultaneous copresence of everything, so to speak. If we could somehow stop time, then everything would be here and now. Am I right?

But we need to supplement this static axis with a horizontal, dynamic one, which encompasses time, and with it, development; which in turn involves the movement from potential to actualization, but also deterioration, death, and leftism.

In a certain sense we could think of the vertical axis as the Absolute, the horizontal as the Infinite. 

These two -- Absolute and Infinite -- are the first fruits, as it were, of O. They also suggest masculine and feminine, respectively, and all this implies, for example, principle (abbasolute) and mamafestation. This latter is as ambiguous and mystifying as any woman, and can be an obstacle and snare on the one hand or a vehicle and ladder on the other.

Somewhere in another essay Schuon alludes to maya as a both light veiled and a veil of light. Or maybe it was the Sphinx.

I'd like to think that all the time I spend collecting and listening to music isn't a total waste, rather, that it has genuine spiritual importance. Perhaps this contributes to my suspicion that the horizontal is melody while the vertical is harmonic structure. And life is jazz, baby, i.e., improvisation.

Here is a passage by Schuon that reminded me of jazz: 

Everything is in reality like a play of alternations between what is determined in advance -- starting from principles -- and what is incalculable and in some way unforeseeable (syncopation mine).

For "principles" substitute chordal structure, and for "incalculable and unforeseeable" say improvisation, AKA spontaneous composition. 

Reminds me of something maestro Keith Jarrett said the other day in some liner notes:

A master jazz musician goes onto the stage hoping to have a rendezvous with music. He knows the music is there (it always is), but this meeting depends not only on knowledge but openness.

There's no doubt that it's a spiritual practice: 

It [music] must be let in, recognized, and revealed to the listener, the first of whom is the musician himself.

Tell me about it -- about how this resembles blogging, I mean.  

The structure -- the basic form of the composition -- only

provides a layer of substance above or beyond which the player [blogger] intends to go. It's also possible to do this by going deeper into the material.

Since we're talking about the vertical, there is both height and depth. And certainly shallowness, which covers about 99% of the musicians and bloggers.

I guess this will be a short one, because I have something else I need to do. So we'll summarize by saying O, (  ), ↕, and ↔, bearing in mind that the dynamism of the vertical and horizontal results in a spiral. Whether it spirals up or down, in or out, depends upon how you exercise your freedom, which exists in the vertical space between O and (  ).