Saturday, December 18, 2021

Vertical Causation and Absolute Stupidity

What is vertical causation, and does it exist?

Defined negatively, we could say it is any type of causation that isn't horizontal. Unless you wish to pretend that all causation is horizontal. Then again, to the extent that you're actually thinking and not just behaving like a machine -- and we're not ruling this out -- then you are partaking of vertical causation. 

What is the cause of a true thought? What is causing your thoughts right now? Your "brain"? What do you mean, "your"?  

There can be no greater category error than conflating material and immaterial realities, or subject and object. 

Think about thinking in the most abstract way possible, and where does it end? It ends in a mysterious property we call "subjectivity," beyond which we cannot venture. We know there are objects, and we know there are subjects, because the object is the very first property discerned by the subject. Although the subject is and must be ontologically prior, it is epistemologically later.

In other words, the human baby doesn't start with the infamous cogito -- I think, therefore, you know, the thing -- and take it from there. Rather, we start out life by discovering things. Still, the most interesting things are other subjects, especially the one we call m(o)ther. After that it's all downhill.

Now I'm thinking of the Absolute Principle incarnating as an infant, and before that, a fetus, embryo, zygote, and blastocyst. Is the principle of humanness found in that direction -- as if we could keep going until we find the human archetype down there somewhere? Did you look beneath the refrigerator? Under the cushions?

A similar massbackward approach characterizes physics: as if we merely have to keep dividing and subdividing matter until we reach rock bottom. But we can zee no bottom in that direction; rather, the exercise must end in finer and finer iterations of nothingness. 

Not to say that these little nothings do not exist. They do exist, just as do photons emanating from the sun.  No matter how dim the light, it's still light and not darkness, the latter being a total privation and literal nothing. No amount of shadows adds up to a quanticle of light.

Likewise, no matter how stupid the idea, it's still a thought and not clump of matter. 

These preluminary meditations are brought to you by the book Vertical Causation, by Wolfgang Smith. In it he expresses some ideas that are strangely similar to mine, but it's not so strange when you realize that I stole them from him.

Especially the one about physics and the insane spiritual quest to ground everything in nothing:

from the vantage point of the metaphysical traditions, their quest points "downwards" in reference to the scala naturae: from the pole of morphe to that of hyle, namely a descent which cannot but lead eventually to the "nothingness" of prima materia

I know: why all the pretentious Latinisms when plainspoken Thomism is tricky enough? 

Suffice it to say, there is an ascending and descending scale of being in the cosmos, and that one will not discover reality by fleeing down into matter, all the way to its necessary but inconceivable principle, in that formless matter can be posited but not understood. For prime matter is matter without form, which is to say, devoid of the very principle of intelligibility. 

In the material world, everything is hylomorphic, meaning matter + form. Again, we can posit formless matter, but that's not how the cosmos rolls, unless maybe we're talking about the Creator, who begins by creating the formless material to which he will give form. Even believing this in a naively literal manner is philosophically superior to the truly childish belief that form somehow could "evolve" from prime matter, which is to say from nothing.

Ontologically speaking, it thus appears that contemporary particle physicists are actually moving in the wrong direction: "away from reality," towards the nether pole of hyle, where nothing at all exists (Smith).

That's not quite true, for physicists are moving in the proper direction for physicists. They're only going the wrong way to the extent that they pretend to be philosophers. 

Conversely, the philosopher is always free to descend to the bottom end of the cosmos, and indeed, a complete philosophy must be able to account for it. But the lower is seen as an effect of the higher, not vice versa, for that would constitute a kind of absolute stupidity.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Many Rivers to Cross

Every day I try to read a little Schuon in order to supplement whatever else I happen to be reading, the reason being that he never fails to pull me back to Celestial Central, where one can abide in the Essence. There, the light of the essential helps to illuminate and integrate everything else. 

Out on the periphery, a lot of things about exoteric religion frankly -- and inevitably -- don't add up. But viewed from the center out, one can better appreciate the nature of these forms. 

The Center is where everything coheres and makes sense, but life is a constant struggle against the forces that conspire pull us down and out. It's hardly a new dilemma, being that it's been going on since man became man. In may ways it is what we are: analysis and synthesis, dissipation and coherence, every moment of every day.

Come to think of it, just as creation implies creator, man God, and contingency necessity, it's accurate to say that Celestial Central can only be understood dialectically -- or complementarily -- with the terrestrial periphery. If you prefer a geometric analogy, the circle has a central point and a peripheral diameter. Just like us.

Except to say that we are more spherical; plus we're situated in time, so the sphere is moving; plus the sphere is ordered to O, so it has direction and finality, a vertical telovator. 

Speaking of which, one of the characteristics of Schuon's writing is its sphericality. What? You heard me: 

[T]he sphere contains the greatest volume for a given area. Schuon's style likewise contains the maximum amount of meaning for a given expression. His language, at once symbolic and dialectical, always possesses a dimension of depth and is not exhausted by its surface (Nasr).

That's the good news. The bad news -- or maybe even better news, depending -- is that his writings aren't for everyone, but rather, "open their embrace only for those for whom they are meant" (ibid.). 

This is not meant to sound elitist. It's just that not everything is for everybody -- this blog for example.

Can you imagine? Not to sound tautologous, but I only write for those few, if any, for whom my writing is intended. It would never occur to me to make a general raccoomendation to all and sundry! It would be crazy for me to address my writing to people who would only regard my writing as crazy. Thus, we can confidently say to every troll: I wasn't speaking to you.

I had intended to discuss Smith's The Vertical Ascent, but now that we're down this rabbit hole, might as well see where it leads. 

There is actually a peripheral relationship to the book, in that Smith also uses the image of the circle to convey his metaphysic: think of the central point as God in his atemporal heaven, and the periphery as the material/sensible world of horizontal causation subject to time and space. Between the center and periphery are lines of vertical or nonlocal causation that characterize the intelligible world. 

In The Essential Schuon, Nasr makes a point with which we wholeheadedly cooncur, that

to read his works is to be transplanted from the shell to the kernel, to be carried on a journey that is at once intellectual and spiritual from the circumference to the Center.

But again, I would no more recommend Schuon than I would myself. I would, however, emphasize the need for something in your life that effectuates this phase transition from circumference to center. 

Individual needs and abilities vary greatly, but there's always something for everyone, because this is The Way It Is -- i.e., the way we're structured. It's also the way God is structured, and if it's good enough for the macrocosm it's good enough for the microcosm.

But your transition, in whatever form it takes, needs to taken seriously and engaged consciously. For the vehicle -- the spoke from periphery to center -- is not the destination, rather, only the means of getting there. As they say in Zen, once you cross the river you can ditch the boat.

Well, not really, because while there's only one ocean, every day is a new river.    

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Spiritual Intoxication and Bibulous Bobness

Continuing with yesterday's post, Bonaventure characterizes the contemplative life as a "twofold movement" of "ascending and descending." 

Which makes perfect nonsense, since we could hypothetically (but literally) ascend forever and not reach God, unless God condescends to meet us. In short, proving the existence of God is a matter of mere logic, but knowing him is a different martyr.  

On the one hand,

God, the Principle and the End of all things, can be known with certainty in the natural light of human reason from created things (Dei Filius).

But that's not the end of it, although it would be in the absence of a hand-Me-down from God. Thus, in addition to the natural way to God, "it has pleased His wisdom and goodness to reveal Himself" in "a supernatural way." 

Somewhat ironically, to deny the first more general revelation is an intrinsic cosmic heresy (i.e., in the nature of things) and an extrinsic Catholic heresy (i.e., specifically heretical to Catholic teaching). Thus, a person may have a valid excuse for the latter -- say, invincible ignorance, or end-stage progressivism

For example, I am of the belief that President FJB should be permitted to receive communion, so long as the Pope and bishops make it clear that such a recipient is not culpable due to advanced dementia. Same with Nancy Pelosi, who, in case you were wondering, is not spiritually intoxicated.

Switching seers for a moment, Schuon says in various ways that metaphysics isn't for everyone. Indeed, I can hardly affirm a metaphysical certitude without being misunderstood by someone somewhere. Which is probably why the blog seems to always attract more grumbling trolls than groveling admirers. 

Put conversely, there is nothing so freaking obvious that it triggers no oblivious freak. Perhaps you think I'm weird, but you have no idea how much weirdness I must suppress in order to be even minimally misunderstood. Truly truly, the sons of Toots have no place to lay their heads!

"For the inferior man," writes Schuon, "only what is contingent is real." However, if all men were metaphysicians there would be no atheists and certainly no anti-Bob contingent. But that's not the human world we live in, where God has ordained that It Shall Take All Kinds.

Similarly, coming at it from a Christian perspective, Fr. Joseph Fenton writes that the pure metaphysics of, say, the Upanishads, is "far too abstruse and esoteric to influence the thought of most men." As such,

Apart from the influence of divine revelation, the general run of mankind has never had the complete and accurate knowledge of God which is necessary for the perfect enjoyment of the cultured social life. 

In other words: no revelation, no civilization, and soon no fun on pain of cancellation. In case you were wondering about the pervasive decay and rot. 

Which is always with us, so don't get me wrong. It is always the end of times and the beginning of times, the latter thanks to the ceaseless vertical ngression in the absence of which we would quite literally sophicate. Or, as the Aphorist has written,

Every beginning is an image of the Beginning; every end is an image of the End.

But thankfully, amidst the ups & downs, the strikes & gutters, the old still point of the turning world is still here & now, where it's always bein', nor would I

live for even a fraction of a second if I stopped feeling the protection of God’s existence.

For 

Even in the immensity of space we feel caged. Mystery is the only infinity that does not seem like a prison.

Bonus quote from Schuon:

Metaphysics has as it were two great dimensions, the one “ascending” and dealing with universal principles and the distinction between the Real and the illusory, and the other “descending” and dealing on the contrary with the divine life in creaturely situations, and thus with the fundamental and secret “divinity” of beings and of things....

By comparison with the first dimension, the second is mysterious and paradoxical, seeming at certain points to contradict the first, or again, it is like a wine with which the Universe becomes intoxicated.  

Speaking of the perfect enjoyment.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

St. Obvious, Pray for Us!

Sometimes our bottom line is an analytic proposition such as "all bachelors are unmarried." 

In other words, the truth of this statement is vouchsafed by the meaning of the terms. This truth is a priori, in that one needn't examine every or even any bachelor in order to know it. 

At any rate, our point this morning is that analytic propositions are rest stops of the intellect, or at least used to be. Now that the cancer of deconstruction has spread throughout the body of language, it is as if there can be no peace of mind with regard to even the most trivial of tautologies, such as female athletes are women, or inflation is a monetary phenomenon.

Other cognitive rest stops are synthetic propositions such as "all progressives are little girls." This isn't self-evident on the face of it; rather, one must examine a sufficient number of progressives in order to arrive at the conclusion that they are indeed both immature and dickless, therefore girls, and not proper women or men.  

But all vulgar insultainment aside, that's not what this post is about. Rather, it's about another kind of rest stop. I don't know if it has a name, but it is quite familiar to me. 

For it is as if it is a self-evident truth, but not necessarily to everyone, only to me: cosmic O-mail addressed to Bob. While it could be self-evident to others, it may or may not be, depending on a host of factors and variables. I may be able to talk you into it, but I'm not sure about that, since no one talked me into it. Rather, the moment I heard it I knew it was true. 

Then again, sometimes there had to be a great deal of preparation prior to acceptance of these truths. For example, I remember trying to read Schuon 25 or 30 years ago and getting nowhere. Whereas once the ideas and principles bounced off me like tennis balls off a battleship, at some point they penetrated my shell and caused a great joyful disturbance. But now I read them and quietly nod to myself, "of course. What could be more obvious?"  

Call it a "personal bottom line." This is in contrast to a collective bottom line such as "all men are created equal." At least for actual Americans (i.e., deplorable insurrectionist homophobic white supremacists), this is essentially an analytic proposition. We can't not look at human beings this way. It's what makes us Americans. 

Nevertheless, roughly half the country rejects this proposition, self-evident though it may be, in favor of the proposition that the most important thing to know about people is their race, or gender, or sexual proclivities. 

Let's get down to cases. In fact, this book on St. Bonaventure is full of statements to which my response is simply of course. It is as if these statements only affirm what I already know in my heartmind, AKA nonlocal intellect (the intellect being our vertical organ, or organ of vertical cognition).

Examples.

The triad of Trinity-creation-humanity manifests the dynamism of God's self-communicative love whereby creation and humanity spiral forth from the overflowing goodness of God.

Ho hum. Tell me something I don't know.

In a sense the new birth of creation and the destiny of history are contingent on the freedom of the human person.... one's relationship with God influences the destiny of creation and the consummation of history. Our lives not only make a difference but a cosmic difference.

Anything else, St. Obvious?

Again these aren't statements of which one may convince others with argumentation. Rather, one either sees the point or one doesn't. It is much more akin to perception than to discursive reason, although by no means contrary to reason. Those with ears, let them see!

God is not simply Being but God is that Goodness which is beyond Being, and which gives rise to Being.

Like anyone could not know that.

if there are only two divine persons, there could only be love for one another.... the highest perfection of love demands that each of the two persons in love share that love with an "other."

That's actually more of an analytic statement, in that if one understands the meanings of the terms, the conclusions follow. 

a world that manifested the glory of God but did not include some creature able to perceive and revel in that glory would make little sense.

Wrong: no sense.

O?

[T]he figure of the circle attests to the perfection of bodies both in the macrocosm and microcosm.... But this figure is not complete in the universe. Now, if this figure is to be as perfect as possible, the line of the universe must be curved into a circle.... Therefore, when God became man, the works of God were brought to perfection. This is why Christ, the God-man, is called Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end.

Thus, "the final end of the universe has been realized." And of this post.

Wait -- an encore that brings the post full circle:

there is a light within the human soul that enables one to know things with certainty; it is a divine light which illuminates the truth of things and allows one to judge the certitude of things.... In fact, it is because of this light that humans have knowledge of things they have never experienced through the senses... 

A stounding O!

One more:

contemplation is that resting in God whereby one's entire life is centered in God.... For Bonaventure, contemplation is the goal of Christian life.

Mission accompliced. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Physics ≠ Metaphysics

Waaay back when I knew everything about everything and nothing about anything, I published a lengthy scholarly article with the portentous title Wilfred Bion and David Bohm: Toward a Quantum Metapsychology

Says here it was published in 1991, Volume 14, Number 4 of the prestigious journal Psychonalysis and Contemporary Thought.

Hmm. I wonder if the journal still exists, or if it sunk under the weight of its own self-importance -- me along with it? 

I don't like to look back, so we'll make this brief. Here's a link to what was going on in the journal that year (https://pep-web.org/browse/pct/volumes/14): similarly life-saving breakthroughs such as Psychoanalytic Life History: Is Coherence, Continuity, and Aesthetic Appeal Necessary?

I'm gonna say No to the first two, Yes to the last. After all, I severed relations with that prior Bob a long time ago, and haven't spoken to him in years. So much for continuity. 

On the other hand, there does appear to be an implicit order of continuity, AKA the Dark Side of the Rug. It seems that this order is more quantum in nurture, in that there are instantaneous leaps from there to here with nothing in between, more on which as we proceed. (Hint: vertical causation.)

Here's a doozy: On the Phylogeny of the Oedipus Complex: Psychoanalytic Aspects of the Ethology of Anthropoid Apes. Dr. Holmström no doubt thinks he's illuminating man when he's merely anthropomorphizing apes. Been there dumb that.  

That website only goes up to 2003, at which time there was still a great deal of intellectual bullshit, but I don't yet see signs of highly advanced anti-intellectual woke bullshit. Let's try to find something more recent.

I give up. It must no longer exist despite my association with it.  

The reason I bring this up is because I hadn't thought about theoretical physicist David Bohm in a long time, but he figures prominently in this book I just read, The Vertical Ascent: From Particles to the Tripartite Cosmos and Beyond, by Wolfgang Smith.  

There once was a time when -- like any other contemporary western egghead on the make -- I assumed that the latest science discloses the foundations of reality, and that physics not only informs metaphysics, but ultimately is metaphysics. 

Thus the spate of books in the '60s and '70s on the Vast Spiritual Implications of the Transformative and Empowering New Quantum Paradigm, such as The Tao of Physics, The Holographic Universe, The Physics of God, Quantum Spirituality, and other sub-juvenilia. Embarrassing, but you gotta start somewhere, even though it's like starting with Toni Morrison instead of Shakespeare.

I could still be writing that new-age nonsense today, but for whatever reason I was spared popularity or even basic appeal, and I aim to keep it that way.  

As alluded to above, the most perfect physics conceivable does not equate to metaphysics. Indeed, it's in the name: after physics. After we're done playing around with physics, we turn to deeper things -- for example, the principles by virtue of which physics, and especially physicists, are even possible

As we've said before, supposing physicists discover the final Theory of Everything, it won't account for the consciousness of even the most literal-minded physicist, for subjects aren't objects, qualities aren't quantities, and I is not just another It, although progressives never stop trying.

Science as such is the search for causes. It proceeds in the direction of multiplicity --> unity, but the unity is ontologically prior, nor can science ever account for the nature of this unity, rather, it is a necessary condition for the very existence of science. 

In other words, even if whole and part are complementary -- for you never see One without the others -- the whole must be ontologically prior, since no amount of parts adds up to a whole (>insert adolescent joke about a-holes<).

Well, we didn't get very far, so we'll continue later. I do have a life, even though it may not look like it from the view outside my head.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Cosmic Christology and the Last Go-Round

We're juggling two books at the moment, one on Bonaventure, the other on the nature of vertical causation, and as usual, connections are forming like filamentous hyphae in the great underground Mycelial Network. Let's formally introduce the two and check out the mushrooming conversation under my cap. From the first:

The pattern of Bonaventure's thought is "circular" -- we come from God, we exist in relation to God, and we are to return to God (Delio).

Agreed. Strange things are afoot in the Circle of (k). But they certainly beat the familiar existential alternative, which is to say, we come from nothing, exist in relation to nothing, and return nothing, i.e., that All we are is dust in the wind, dude.

Ontologism or existentialism,  being or nothingness, open or closed cosmos, red- or bluepill, O or Ø.

The basis of this "circle" is the Trinity in which the Father who is the fountain-fullness of goodness communicates goodness to the Son who, in turn, loves the Father in the Spirit (ibid).  

This also checks out, although one could describe this meta-cosmic spiral in more abstract terms so as to not shock the squares.

Just as the Father is the source and goal of the immanent emanations of the Trinity, so too the Father is the source and goal of all created reality. Thus, everything flows from the Father and ultimately returns to the Father (ibid).

Although that's a slightly linear way to describe the circle, since its beginning has no beginning and the end has no end. 

Therefore, it is literally the case that any point on the circle is both beginning and end, source and goal; after all, there was never a time that the Father had no Son or the Son no Father; to which I would add that there has never been no Creator, Creativity, and Creation, but that's just my opinion. It's not mandatory, but nor is it entirely bogus

It reminds me of modern physics, which tells us that because space got bent, a straight line will eventually wind up where it started. Except the real world isn't just two- or three- or four-dimensional; rather,

like water, it has many qualities and dimensions. Like the water of the ocean, the world has an overwhelming fullness as it flows from the depths of God. 

Like the ocean, it is deep and contains many levels of meaning. Like the water of a river, the world flows in such fluidity and richness that it cannot be contained in any one form or category (Zachary Hayes, in Delio).

Be water, my friend! 

Created existence, therefore, is a dynamic reality, directed in its inner core to a fulfillment and completion which is to be the mysterious fruit of its history (Hayes).

Wait. Why mysterious? Looks pretty obvious to me. 

Get a clueprint, people!

The Trinity provides a "blueprint" for creation since the relationship between the Father and Son/Word, united in the Spirit, is the ground of all other relationships (Delio).

As Petey so often says, The ultimate ground is the final goround

Cosmic Christology. A Raccoon has only to hear the term to know it's true. 

Bonaventure offers a rich anthropology that is grounded in a cosmic Christology. His theology of Incarnation is much closer to the cosmic Christology of the Greek Fathers than to Anselm's doctrine of satisfaction, as he highlights the Incarnation as both a work of redemption and cosmic completion.

There's obviously nothing wrong with the former unless it is wrenched from its total metacosmic context and seen as the sole "motive" of the Incarnation -- as if the whole ongoing adventure of the Godman is because man was naughty. That's a little narrow-minded and self-interested, doncha think? 

We'll resume the conversation later, but meanwhile, 

Party on, Coons, and be excellent to each other. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

When Films Collide: The Big Matriski

Continuing with yesterday's unfinished symphony of nonsense, later in the day confirmation came in the form of chapter 9 of Wolfgang Smith's The Vertical Ascent, entitled Vertical Causation and Wholeness. 

By way of context, we've been pondering the First Question that occurs to man qua man the moment he is capable of considering matters beyond immediate biological imperatives -- which is to say, whether our cosmos is open or closed, self-sufficient or grounded in something or someone transcending it.

(Bear in mind as well that to even say cosmos is to have uttered a mythful, as it is an implicit metaphysical conclusion about the transcendent order of reality.)

[B]y the time of the Enlightenment, something altogether unprecedented had taken place: as Huston Smith points out, it happens namely that "the modern West is the first society to view the physical world as a closed system" (emphasis mine).

So, for roughly 50,000 years we inhabited a vertically open system, but then we decided to take the blue pill, and for the past 300 years the cosmos has been closed for isness. 

Wait, what? When was this debated, and when was the vote held? I demand a recount!

"Never before," adds (W.) Smith, 

had mankind in general -- and the intellectual elite especially -- forgotten so completely the existence and function of what, from time immemorial, mankind had conceived as "higher spheres."

Okay, now I get it: intellectual elites. F***ing tenured. Nothing ever changes. We can be certain these perverts never conducted an honest debate on the subject, but they're sure the ones who voted on it, am I right?

This reminds me of the fact that the United States is explicitly founded on the principle that this is an open cosmos, and that the very purpose of the state is to protect rights that come to us not from anything within the cosmos -- much less government -- but from its Creator. Am I wrong?

Conversely, the French revolution and all its warped frogeny insist that this is a closed cosmos, beginning with the laughably pompous Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen:

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation....

Law is the expression of the general will. 

Rousseau. Is this your handiwork? Is this your handiwork, Jacques? 

F***ing language problem. 

Look, JJ.... Have you ever heard of Vietnam? No? How about Dr. Guillotine? Is that your carriage outside?

In the closed world of the left, religion is fine, so long as it doesn't disturb the Public Order established by the General Will. Free speech? Go right ahead, so long as you don't offend the General Will, the tech oligarchs, and media gatekeepers.

In other words, Closed System: the original blue pill, at least in terms of modern politics. 

France was soon to enter a world of pain that was quite different from the American experience.

But as we know too well, government is powerless to stop deadly viruses -- or illicit pills -- from spreading across manmade boundaries, so the progressive pandemic reached our shores by the early 20th century. 

In an ideal world, someone would have stopped Woodrow Wilson from studying Hegel and publishing all his progressive bullshit, but for your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint. 

There's a kind of paradox built into our system, in that an open system permits closed minds that may ultimately destroy it, while the closed system does everything in its power to marginalize and thwart open minds.

I have something I need to attend to, so the end.