Friday, December 30, 2022

Words and Pointers, Word and Center

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But points are immaterial and dimensionless markers of position. A line between them reveals where they are, even though they’re not really there, a point not being a dot, for example. 

Now, take that crap you learned in high school and apply it to immanence and transcendence. These are like two points at either end of the vertical line of consciousness. And as human beings, we are always suspended in or on that line, even if we pretend we’re not. 

Marxism, for example, famously collapses transcendence into immanence, but this is supposed to result in “transcendence on earth,” AKA utopia, as seen, for example, in our Democrat run cities. 

Conversely, Islam recuces transcendence to a sensory and material paradise, what with the delicious food, carnal pleasures, rivers of milk and wine, beautiful gardens, and lots of sexually available doe-eyed virgins, very much like the opposite of any Muslim majority country. 

In any event, here on earth, the best we can do is acknowledge these two directional pointers without conflating them or reducing one to the other, or denying their existence. This according to Voegelin, anyway. But also Davila, as it turns out, even though I doubt the Aphorist ever crossed paths with the Political Philosopher.

By the way, this subject might seem arcane and abstract, but I’m pretty sure it’s as practical as can be, provided it is true. If it’s not true, then to hell with it. But if it is true, it will have both a normative function and a great deal of explanatory power, especially when things go wrong. 

Let’s begin with some aphorisms, for example, this extremely important one:
Atheism is the prelude of the divination of man.
And the abolition of man, up to and including genocide. Readers with ears, let them hear, because I won’t insult your intelligence with historical examples. 
The error lies not in dreaming secret gardens exist, but in dreaming they have gates.
Turns out these gates don’t swing wide open for the Islamist martyr, no matter how many Jews he blows up
He who speaks of the farthest reaches of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary.
My son is at that that skeptical and querulous adolescent age where it is easy enough to see the inconsistencies, absurdities, and contradictions. But I point out to him that one of the purposes of religious speech, categories, and symbols is to have a means to talk about this invisible and hierarchical reality. Analogously, no one has ever seen the quantum world, but it helps to have words like "quark," "lepton," and "boson" to talk about it.

Ours may not be the perfect language, but it’s the one our civilization developed and upon which our civilization was founded. If you want to understand the deeper meaning beneath the symbolic pointers, you can do that, but it requires aptitude, self-discipline, sincerity, persistence, and grace. Alternatively, one can take the easy way out and become an atheist, AKA terminal adolescent. No vertical development for you! 

Turns out the boy is a gifted musician, so I also tell him the spiritual dimension is much like music. We can speculate about it all day long, but in the end you have to pick an instrument -- or religion -- and play it. 

This is not to preach indifferentism, because some instruments are more adequate, plus the best virtuoso may or may not be an artist. Even more mysteriously, the greatest artist need not be a virtuoso. Analogously, think of all those dryasdust theologians who know all the words but not the music. Those with ears, let them hear.

By the way, these religious folk who have memorized the words give rise to another aphorism:
Nothing is more dangerous to faith than to frequent the company of believers. The unbeliever restores our faith.
My son is already quite familiar with this dynamic: being turned off by those fundamentalists, until encountering one of those even more dense and fundamentalist atheists. 
The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.
And our punishment if we don’t retain that theological map for the vertical dimension. Note that the point of this map is to explore the territory, and that this exploration is always “experiential,” or bound up with experiences of it. In other words, religious categories are like “pre-experiential” templates of what they signify. 

Analogously, think of the early explorers who did their best to empirically describe the “new world” they had discovered. Some found a temperate climate with palm trees and mangos, while others like de Champlain found a lot of snow, fur traders, and hockey prospects. Not until later did we develop a 3D map that could situate both extremes.

So much of the early debate about the nature of Jesus was in order to avoid the errors of what Voegelin would call ideological “deformation.” Various heresies ranged from regarding Jesus as purely divine (or transcendent) to purely human, when he was both. It is easy to reduce him to one or the other, harder to appreciate the tension  involved in being both. Come to think of, and speaking of geometry and pneumometry, 
Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference.

No time to get into the sphere. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Life Between the Two Omnis

We can argue about whether there is such a thing as “omniscience” -- infinite knowledge -- until we realize there is indeed such a thing as infinite knowability, the question being how this latter is possible, i.e., by virtue of what principle is this place -- our cosmos -- infinitely knowable?

I know — omniscience!

As usual, we’re just thinking out loud, but it seems to me that having only one of these characteristics would be like concavity without convexity, when the two define one another. 

Omniscience must be just the far side of omni… best I can do is cognoscibilis,  which the google machine says is Latin for “knowable”: the world is omnicognoscibilis, until  someone comes up with a more snappy term. 

As with the two omnis, so it is with man and God, however you define the latter. And former, come to think of it. I want to say that these are simply “terms” or “arrows” that point to and define one another. 

Don’t get me wrong: this is not to reduce God to man’s definition. Rather, only that, to the extent that we can think about Celestial Central at all... let’s just say you’re gonna need a bigger boat, and it will still never be big enough. What’s the word, Jeeves? Yes, asymptotic: concepts of God can only forever approach the target without ever reaching it. Nevertheless, the target is real. And some people just have better aim.

After a long life of writing longer books that few people will ever read, this was Voegelin’s bottom line, if I may be so vulgar. I keep on my desk a handy glossary of Voeglinian terms, which helps to reduce his sprawling corpus to borderline thinkability. We’ve discussed these before, but it can’t hurt to review them, partly because his way of thinking is close to my own. 

Let’s begin with COSMOS:
The whole of ordered reality, including animate and inanimate nature and the gods. Encompasses all of reality, including the full range of the tension of existence toward the transcendental.
Now, the first thing to notice about this definition is that it includes the animate, not to mention the gods. My competitors are happy to talk about “the cosmos,” but you will have noticed that this cosmos not only cannot account for the cosmologist, it eliminates him altogether. 

In the past we have characterized such thinkers as “infertile eggheads,” or maybe they’re sitting on a cosmic egg that will never hatch because it’s really just a rock. Sad!

In contrast to the infertile egghead are the free-range jñānins who don’t define what they’re looking for before they look.  

Okay, but what about the gods? No worries, they’re kosher, or at least it isn’t difficult to render them so:
God does not die, but unfortunately for man, the lesser gods, like modesty, honor, dignity, and decency, have perished (Davila).
Or this:
When man refuses the discipline the gods give him, demons discipline him.
So, call them living archetypes, or something. Whatever we call them, we can’t really kill them, only try to ignore them. It’s a hierarchical COSMOS, we just live in it.  

Back to our definitions: first, this is a COSMOS, and it includes us. But what are we, and what are we doing here? For it is as if human consciousness is like an inexplicable light set in the middle of… of a black nothing:



Which is preferable to scientism, which can explain anything but the explainer in the middle, darkling:


In reality, there is the COSMOS and our EXPERIENCE, which is
The “luminous perspective” within the process of reality.
It’s simultaneously in the cosmos but feels like its coming from the outside; it is always between the two terms or poles mentioned above, between immanence and transcendence. Voegelin calls this space the metaxy, and it is where we live:
The experience of human existence as “between” upper and lower poles: man and the divine, imperfection and perfection, ignorance and knowledge, and so on. Equivalent to the symbol of “participation of being.” 
Oh my. Getting late. To be continued. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The First and Last Guffah-HA! Experience

Yesterday we  tossed out the half-baked idea that the principle of our peculiar capacity for insight might be anchored and mirrored all the way up and into the Godhead. 

This goes back to another brainwave, that anything we can do God can both do and do better -- especially the things that define us as human such as freedom, rationality, intersubjectivity, creativity, beauty, et al. 

Now clearly, in all of creation human beings and human beings alone have this immaterial capacity for insight, to "see within." 

From the human perspective, one of the effects of the Incarnation is to provide man with insight into who he is (the Image) and what he could be (the Likeness). And not just in a good way, because it also reveals man to be a deicidal maniac, and it doesn’t get worse than that. But that's the result of a privation, and we're talking about the upside:
Christ reveals to us, and we see in Christ, that perfect “image of God” after which we are fashioned, and which attracts us like a magnet.
Here Clément is speaking of the Divine Attractor at the toppermost of the vertical spectrum, and toward which this hierarchy is ordered; obviously there can be no hierarchy without a final term, otherwise our telovator not only doesn’t go to the top floor, but everything collapses to the basement, thereby forever swaddling us in absurdity and tenure.   
   
All of this is orthodox, more or less. That Christ provides man with ultimate insight into both himself and God is not contested. The question is whether the Son is the “insight” of the Father, and that sounds suspect. Half-baked. However, I do vaguely recall some of the early Fathers saying something similar. I can’t remember details, but I do know where to find them.

First of all, God goes to a great deal of trouble to correct possible misinterpretations of monotheism. For example, it is not to be confused with monism, to say nothing of pantheism (which is still one God), nor an impersonal acosmism (also one God, but with no one there to know him).

Christianity doesn't deny this mere oneness, but goes beyond or perhaps “inside” it to reveal “a mysterious exchange at the heart of the Deity”:
In God himself the One does not exclude the Other, it includes it. The Unity of God… is not solitude enclosed in itself, but rather fullness of communion. And thereby the source of all communion (emphasis mine).
The reason I emphasize that last part is to highlight what I said above about anything we can do God doing better, in this case intersubjectivity. Like the insight to which it is related, intersubjectivity is one of our most mysterious capacities, so it is not a big leap for me to accept the idea that it may be traced all the way up into the Godhead. 

As I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter how intelligent a creature is, for if we aren’t intersubjective we aren’t human. You could say it is the crack where the divinity gets in. 

Which also highlights the ontological centrality of love in all of this, for knowledge always rides shotgun with love. Put conversely, a thinker not in love with Truth is a menace to society at best, a monster or demon at worst. More generally, "intellect minus truth" is at once unthinkable and a pathway to worldly success.

Now, one of the reasons I blog is to find out what I think. Maybe God does something similar, only from all eternity. For "the Son"
is called Logos (Word) because he is, in relation to the Father, what the word is to the mind… The Son makes known the nature of the Father quickly and easily, because everything begotten is an unspoken definition of the one who begot it (Gregory Nazianen). 
So, we humans can gain insight in time, but God is eternal insight itself: insight into himself, or rather, his Other, as alluded to above. 

But this eternal insight proceeds in two directions: if the Son is the Father’s insight, the Father is the Son’s, both in the Holy Spirit (and vice versa):
only the Son knows the Father as the Father knows the Son, and as they are known by the Holy Spirit….
Indeed, these Three who are only One know themselves, and are known by one another.
So, lots of insight to go 'round. 

Back to our intersubjectivity: it arises in the context of early attachments, and represents the interior bond between people, or the “bridge” between subjects. 

What about God? The Spirit is said to be the “bond of the Son and the Father” and “is himself a Person,” for “nothing in God can be impersonal.

This suggests that a dualism in God is simultaneously not enough and too much, for a third term is required to avoid a static or closed dualism. Down here we know dualism is a nonstarter, just as is monism. Nevertheless, our Finest Minds generally pick one or the other as a first principle, when a third option is literally staring us in the face. Boo! 

In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton highlight the importance of establishing a strict monotheism before the revelation of the Trinity, otherwise man would misinterpret it and descend back into polytheism:
It would actually have been dangerous openly to proclaim the Son while the divinity of the Father was not fully acknowledged, and then, before the divinity of the Son was accepted, to add as it were the extra burden of the Holy Spirit (Clément).
Obviously, people still have difficulty wrapping their minds around this, but it’s kind of important, nor does it help to simply characterize it as an impenetrable Mystery. It’s a Mystery alright, but a Mystery is a translucent window, not an opaque wall.

What does this trinitarian mystery tell us about the world? Well, it
constitutes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the Unity. From the Trinity comes all unification and all differentiation.
In case you were wondering about all this unity and diversity and how they relate. Which is only the first question of philosophy.

Father beyond us, Son with us, Holy Spirit in us. Each of these prepositions signifies a relation, and now we’re really getting somewhere, because God doesn’t so much “have” relations but is relation as such, i.e., irreducible substance-in-relation. 

In short, there was no time that God was not in relation, and no relation that doesn’t share the underlying substance.

Reducing this to a single Word, I suppose we could say love, or that Lover-Beloved-Love are as inseparable as Knower-Known-Knowledge. 

Okay, but what about God’s insight? Hmm. What is a moment of insight but a sudden ah-ha experience, as when we get the joke? Best I can do:
In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us (Eckhart).
In case you were wondering where humor comes from -- another one of those inexplicable human capacities that God can do better.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Insight into Insight, But Not Too Much

So: Homo quaestio and Homo interrogantis, man the questioner and questionWe question everything, including ourselves. 

This ability to inquire into ourselves is, by the way, proof of our immateriality, since no material substance can double back on itself and have a look. In order to look at ourselves physically we need a mirror. But in order to look at ourselves psychically we have only to… 

Just what are we doing when we do that, and how is it done, anyway? It’s not something we think about, rather, just assume its existence, but it is without a doubt one of the weirdest and most unexpected things we could possibly imagine, let alone with no explanation of what it’s doing here and why we have it.

Is it even functional? If so, why are the people conspicuously lacking in insight so successful at the polls? Joe Biden has no insight into anything, least of all himself.       

I don’t recall any deep discussion of the origins of insight in grad school. It is at once assumed, although one learns in Psychopathology 101 that it is one of the measures of health. That is, healthy people have good insight, while neurotic people have less and crazy people have none.  

I suppose insight is also central to Philosophy 101. Indeed, it’s hard to miss, since it’s inscribed right there above the entrance to the sanctuary at Delphi: Know Thyself

Interestingly, two other maxims were inscribed there, “nothing to excess” and “certainty brings insanity.” Therefore, know thyself, but let’s not get carried away; and what amounts to an early version of Gödels theorems, in that completeness is purchased at the price of consistency and vice versa. Or, just know you're not God.

Having known this, why then did Gödel go insane? Or did it take an insane person to see outside the matrix (and indeed, ideological matrices as such)? There’s something to the latter. But just because crazy people can see the world in novel ways, it doesn’t mean that people who see the world in novel ways are crazy.  

Of course, back in the 1960s there was a whole movement in psychology that pretended the insane are actually persecuted mystics with a higher vision of reality. Look up R.D. Laing, whose books I still own, having read them with approval back before I even imagined becoming a psychologist. Rather, I must have been attracted to the idea that I could be considered normal, the crazier the better.

Who would have guessed? "Politically, Laing was regarded as a thinker of the New Left. In other words, poorly developed insight:
If the human race survives, future men will, I suspect, look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable age of Darkness. They will presumably be able to savour the irony of the situation with more amusement than we can extract from it. 
The laugh’s on us. They will see that what we call "schizophrenia" was one of the forms in which, often through quite ordinary people, the light began to break through the cracks in our all-too-closed minds.
First of all, did he just assume the gender of future beings? That’s crazy!

We are at a crossroads. Actually, it’s more of a Y-shaped intersection: get back to the point; continue fumfering around; or end the post and start over tomorrow. Or maybe get a head start on tomorrow’s post:

In-Sight. What is its principle? I wonder if the Son is the Father’s insight into himSelf, so speak? Certainly it is His perfect “reflection." I recall one of the early fathers saying something to the effect that Jesus is simultaneously God’s icon of man and man's icon of God, and that's enough insight for one day. Nothing to excess, and no, I'm not totally certain. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Jnani Come Lately

As we’ve mentioned before, man is the only creature in existence who not only asks questions, but literally never stops asking them, journalists excepted. 

But this questioning applies to interiority as well, which is why man is equally a mystery to himself. A man who pretends to fully understand himself is swimming in the shallow end of the ocean of being. 

This is why ideologies proliferate, both for the exterior and interior worlds (ideology here defined as a manmade structure superimposed on the phenomena). Back in the day, I ended up with a PhD in one of these ideologies. My life would have gone in a very different direction had I taken the map for the reality.

Then again, even a defective map is generally preferable to no map at all, for it is written:
Ideologies are fictitious nautical charts, but in the end they determine which reef one is shipwrecked on.
In the previous post we alluded to the Total Basic Inquiry; it is not so much that we “have” as are this inquiry. We exist as this Total Basic Inquiry, which is an inquiry into the totality. We encounter it first on our end, but we assume there is a reality which corresponds and answers to it, i.e., that our knowing is reflected in being, and that the infinitude proceeds in both directions.

The upshot is that the Total Basic Inquiry is correlative to knowledge of Everything About Everything: right down (and up) to the last answer to the last question, so to speak. 

Now, what if the Incarnation represents the last answer to the last question (or total answer to all questions)? 

If so, we will first need to properly formulate the question, and we’re not there yet.

Homo sapiens means “wise human.” We are a subspecies of this, called Homo sapiens sapiens. I frankly don’t believe the old homos were worthy of the sapiens, since they were a pretty unimpressive bunch. Nothing resembling wisdom comes onto the scene until we arrive around 60,000 to 75,000 years ago.

Matter of fact, among the gifts Santa brought me was this book called From the Dust of the Earth: Benedict XVI, the Bible, and the Theory of Evolution, which helpfully reviews the latest findings on our horizontal origins. 

I did the same in my book, but these things are always subject to tinkering, nor do the details matter in any ultimate sense, since they can only hint at our vertical origins. Vertically speaking, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away, no matter what the fossil record says. In other words, we explain it more than it will ever explain us.

In any event, the present evidence suggests that primates got here 65 million years ago, and that we split from the chimps about 6 million years back. Bipedal ancestors show up at least 4 million years ago, and 2 million years later we see evidence of tools. Don’t get excited, though. It’s not as if we find a fully stocked Homo Depot, rather, just a sharpened rock department.

Our direct ancestor, Homo sapiens, doesn’t appear until 200,000 years ago. You could say he’s just like a man, only minus the abstract symbolic thought, art, religion, culture, and ceaseless innovation. In other words, more like a liberal than a fully functioning human.

As we’ve said so many times and in so many ways, the appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens is another Big Bang, only an interior one, or an explosion of interiority. And like the other one, it will never stop expanding. Or, if these explosions do ever stop, knowing when is way above our pay grade.

Anyway, with that little review, we’re in a better position to situate man the question and questioner, AKA, Homo quaestio and Homo interrogantis, and consider whether the Incarnation has anything to do with these.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

And Several Billion Watts of Ultraviolet Radiation Shine in the Darkness

Yesterday’s post was derailed after the initial observation about specialists and general practitioners, the point being that “metaphysics underlies all other departments, because all other departments are specializations of the total basic inquiry” (Lonergan). 

I’ll bite: what’s the Total Basic Inquiry?

Thinking back on it, I don’t recall any of my teachers beginning with this question. But certainly through my entire elementary education the question echoed in my head: "why are we learning this? Why is it important? What’s the point? And how does it fit together? It all seems so random and disjointed.” 

The smart kids mastered it all without bothering to ask why, while the stupid ones either couldn’t master it or rebelled against the idea of trying because it would reveal their stupidity. Then there were a few people like me, AKA my friends, who grudgingly did the minimum needed to get by and promptly forgot it.  

But I never forgot the question: what the heck is the Total Basic Inquiry? Of course, I didn’t put it in those words, but it revolved around an implicit sense that there is more to reality than its appearances. 

Which turns out to be the essential function of intelligence as such: “discernment between the Real and the illusory, or between the Permanent and the impermanent" (Schuon).

We all know the patristic gag to the effect that God becomes man that man might become God. Schuon makes the more general (or particular, depending on how you view it) point that “the Real entered into the illusory so that the illusory might be able to return to the Real.” 

Speaking for myself, this certainly helps me understand the metaphysics (or “meta-theology” or something) of the Incarnation. I say this because as a lad, Christianity was explained to me no better than anything else, leaving me with so many unanswered -- and seemingly unanswerable -- questions that I jettisoned the whole thing. 

For if one truly understands something, one should be able to explain it to a ten year old. Which is different from treating the student like a ten year old. Such patronizing explanations do more harm than good, in large measure because they aren’t explanations at all, just assertions. And assertions without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

Now, it’s one thing to step outside Plato’s cave and squint at the sun, another thing altogether when the sun ventures into the cave and becomes one of the dwellers. Nevertheless, that’s the point of December 25 -- that the sun that lights our world from afar descends right down into it.

“After a fashion” and “so to speak.” Not to place human limits on what transpired, but there were human limits, in the sense that human nature was the lens or prism through which the Light shone. 

I’m probably not explaining it well, but I’m thinking of something Schuon wrote, that if God had fully entered our world full stop and without qualification, “the effect of His birth would have been the instantaneous reduction of the universe to ashes.”

First of all, like anybody could know that. Then again, it reminds me of what Fr. Spitzer says about the traces of the Resurrection left in the Shroud of Turin (there is a whole chapter devoted to this subject at https://www.crediblecatholic.com/big-book/):
The image was not formed by dyes, chemicals, vapors, or scorching. The only known explanation for the formation of the image is an intense burst of vacuum ultraviolet radiation (equivalent to the output of 14,000 excimer lasers) emitted from every three-dimensional point of the body in the Shroud.
The ultraviolet light necessary to form the image exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.... It would require “pulses having durations shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and intensities on the order of several billion watts.”
Now, no one’s faith should stand or fall based on scientific speculation, but such a finding is consistent with what was said above about what happens when this inconceivably intense Light is let loose in our little cave. So have a safe Christmas. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Metaphysician Heal Thysoph

Just as there are medical specialists and the general physician, there are diverse academic specialties and the general metaphysician. Except we are suffering a severe shortage of the latter, at least qualified ones.

As we know, everyone is a metaphysician, nor can man not be one short of a literal psychosis that results in no order to anything, both inside and out. 

The qualified metaphysician is simply someone who reflects on this implicit order, not just of this or that aspect of reality, but of the totality. Metaphysics "aims in the first place at the comprehension of the whole Universe” from top to bottom, i.e., "from the Divine Order to the terrestrial contingencies” (Schuon).

Not so fast, Gagdad: isn’t that a bit presumptuous? Who said anything about a Divine Order?

Fair enough. We may or may not call it this at the end of our discussion, but for now it’s enough to call it the “vertical dimension,” or just “verticality.” But so long as you are truly open and minded, you will realize that this verticality is neither self-explanatory nor reducible to something else. 

Indeed, the very first thing we know is actually two things that necessarily coarise: objects and our knowledge of them. 

This is in contrast to animals, who perceive a world of objects which they cannot penetrate. They see only surfaces where we perceive essences. A man who sees only unintelligible surfaces would be a severely autistic nominalist. 

Man as such turns walls into windows. But only because there is a skylight, more on which as we proceed.

So, it’s not possible to say or know anything about anything without presupposing this verticality. To say “there is no verticality” would be as nonsensical as saying “I am not speaking.” 

Whence the desire of our class of pseudo-intellectual imbeciles -- or worse, intellectual imbeciles -- to bury the vertical, and metaphysics along with it, over the past few centuries? Why? What’s the motivation? And what’s the payoff?

I don’t recall ever posting about this question, but I suppose I have only to interrogate my former Bob to find out. 

For example, if you had asked me back in the ‘90s what the conscience is, I would have assured you that it’s just a colloquial way of talking about the superego, which is a kind of internalized voice that punishes us for not going along with the more or less random rules of this or that culture, and rewards us when we do.

Morality itself is relative, but the superego makes it feel absolute, almost like “the voice of God,” if such a thing existed. Indeed, the existence of the superego is a big reason why people believe in God to begin with, since it is as if we are under the judging eye of an interior Other.  

And if you had asked me about the ultimate source of the superego, I would have said something about the introjection of the father. Come to think of it, this is why people refer to God as “father,” since he’s mostly the projection of a big superego in the sky

It wasn’t until I started listening to Dennis Prayer in the 1990s that I realized how ridiculous this was. Take an obvious example: is murder wrong, or do we just imagine it’s wrong because our superego says so? 

As obvious as that is, it couldn’t penetrate my stupidity at first, because there were other, equally important factors at play — all the usual leftist ones such as social status, moral and intellectual superiority, secular gnosis, class conformity, etc.  

It’s almost Christmas, so I’m giving you a break: a short post.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Victims All the Way Down

In one of his unintended aphorisms, Whitehead observed that intellectual antagonists of a particular era will generally share some unconscious or implicit presuppositions about how the world functions:

Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them. With these assumptions a certain limited number of types of philosophic systems are possible, and this group of systems constitutes the philosophy of the epoch.
Im old enough to remember when left and right in America shared some underlying assumptions, e.g., the Constitution, freedom of speech, equality under the law, Judeo-Christian values, etc. Now what do we share? I can’t think of a single principle we can all rally around, nor a single person we can all revere as a Superior Specimen. 

For one thing, to even recognize such a specimen is to acknowledge hierarchy and telos, which is precisely what their ontology denies at the outset. 

For us Washington is the greatest American, and worthy of our eternal gratitude; for them, a self-interested slaveholder. No need to review the list of similar heroes felled by the axe of cultural Marxism. You need only one grievous example to get the point:
Those who profess that nobility is vile end up preaching that vileness is noble.
For example, groomers, trannies, criminals, really, all the special pets of the left, who are special not by any merit or achievement, but only because of some immutable trait or correctable defect.         

Not only do we have different political philosophies, there is no longer a shared ontology. We literally live in different realities, but the first thing to know about reality is that there’s only one. Of course, there are different views of this single reality, but the left elevates the view to the viewed, AKA My Truth. 

Which for us translates to no truth and no possibility of truth. Nor can there be any compromise between what reality is and what I want it to be. At least after age ten or eleven.

Why can’t they understand this? It’s not necessarily stupidity, which leads to the corollary that not only is intelligence not enough, nothing good comes of it when it is unhinged from reality:
Compared to so many dull intellectuals, to so many artists without talent, to so many stereotyped revolutionaries, a bourgeois without pretensions looks like a Greek statue.
Second look at my entirely ordinary and unpretentious parents? Perhaps, but that’s another post. Besides, I was looking for a different aphorism. Here’s one that reminds me of the state-media-big tech gaslighting that has become so perversive in recent years:
Propaganda in Russia and in China selected such intentionally crude arguments and obvious falsifications that we must attribute the triumph of communism to the disdain with which it treats the intelligence of the masses.
There’s a subtle point in there, because the citizen who participates in the gaslighting at least gets to share in the disdain for the restavus, both the normal and superior. Is there a matrix-media journalist out there who doesn’t ooze this disdain from every pore? And not just disdain, but genuine hatred, contempt, dehumanization, etc. 

We’ve mentioned before that the people who are subject to these feelings may deceive themselves into believing they are “unpleasant,” when the opposite is the case: not only is self-righteous disdain pleasant, it’s addictive. Ultimately it's a form of "downward transcendence," or elevation from below. 

And now we have an anthropological context to understand such upper vertical counsels as forgiving, turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, etc. Obviously these have to be given from a supernatural source precisely because they do not come naturally. What comes naturally is tribalism, envy, scapegoating, human sacrifice.

In other words, what comes naturally is the left. The world of the modern left is an invention of Queen Karen for the benefit of their stupid, perverse, and criminal kings such as George Floyd. 

It's really an inversion of Christ's inversion alluded to above. But just because the ultimate victim of human depravity was God himself, this does not mean that any old Democrat-approved victim is the ultimate god.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Concrete Principle and Abstract Entailments

Lonergan characterizes metaphysics as 

the department of human knowledge that underlies, penetrates, transforms and unifies all other departments.
In short, it involves the integration of “the totality of the objects of knowing” with “the totality of knowing”; ultimately, the diversity of objects is reconciled in the one Subject, irrespective of whether or not we are consciously aware of it, for every act of knowing is a participation in this Principle. Change my mind. On second thought, don't bother:
The foundation of metaphysical certitude is the coincidence between truth and our being; a coincidence that no ratiocination could invalidate (Schuon). 
We’ve written before of this primordial distinction of Subject <--> Object, and of how it must be the first meta-cosmic bifurcation. Different religions handle this bifurcation in different ways, but we may have to put them all together in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding. 

This is because Big Box religion tends to operate on a “need to know” basis, with this need being different, or at least a different aspect of the One Thing Needful being emphasized. 

For example, in Christianity it is salvation, but this hardly excludes growth in charity or all-around saintliness. Judaism emphasizes holiness, freedom (AKA exodus), and moral actions, while Vedanta hammers home the distinction between reality and appearances.

Those are simplifications, and one could go on, but this question of the One Thing Needful is rather large. Come to think of it, it’s got to be the largest thing conceivable, since, you might say, it is the very actualization of God in man, and nothing is bigger than God.

Think about the Incarnation, both as concrete fact and in terms of its many entailments. Of note, these entailments proceed both “up” and “down,” so to speak. For example, let’s say the Absolute Principle assumes human nature. So what? What's it to me?

Obviously a lot, only it’s not necessarily self-evident, hence the role of a teaching institution to draw out the implications, which are more or less endless. 

At the same time, proceeding upward, what does the bare fact of the Incarnation say about God? In other words, supposing the Incarnation occurs, it must be possible for it to occur, and by virtue of what principle?  

Long post short, I want to say Trinity. As we know, this word is nowhere found in scripture, and yet, it is the simplest way of talking about the up & down entailments of the Incarnation, if you’re following me. For what else can it imply when Christ says something like, for example, I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you? Moreover, he frames this not in terms of belief but knowledge.

What kind of strange knowledge is this, and how is it possible, because it doesn’t seem to follow Aristotelian logic or the usual scientific categories. Anything is a thing precisely insofar is it is this thing and not that thing. But here Jesus implies a world in which it is possible for one thing to be in another while not losing itself. Indeed, this is the ultimate context in which one finds oneself.

Slept late. To be continued... 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Light Shines in the Darkness, But Give Us a Break

It’s Christmas week, and we should be blogging about happier subjects. Yes, we’re still in a civilizational nosedive, but we can always return to that catastrophe in a week or two, assuming we don’t hit the ground first. And despite the left's best efforts, destroying civilization isn’t as easy as it looks.  

Moreover, even the leftist doesn’t really want to live in the violent, repressive, and, worst of all, humorless world his theories and policies bring about, right? Right? RIGHT?!

I heard somewhere that old John Cleese is finally waking up to wokeness, after 83 years of making a nuisance of himself (he actually offered to be a speechwriter for Obama, and not because he saw that Obama himself is capable only of cliches, smears, and straw man arguments).  A reminder that
The leaden prose of the Marxist offers an irresistible attraction to leaden minds (Davila).
Unfair, or too fair? Cleese recently described the Republican Party as the "most disgracefully immoral people I've ever come across in a Western civilization. 

On second thought, the perfect speechwriter for Obama! I mean, I can’t stand Republican leaders either, but Cleese will be surprised to discover that Western civilization has actually seen worse.  

"The progressive," writes Sr. D., "travels among literary works as the Puritan did among cathedrals: with hammer in hand.” Until the hammer is turned on him. Then it's not so fun being the Nail of the Day.

Nevertheless, it’s not a virtue to defend yourself from being clubbed to death. Then again, discovery of the survival instinct is a very good place to begin one’s meditation on politics and human nature.

In any event, I predict Cleese will not live long enough to undergo a full-monty Alec Guinness:











But again, tomorrow it will be the eve of Christmas Eve Eve Eve, so let’s keep it light despite the darkness. 

And for once, no pun intended: let's cerebrate this idea of the Light shining in the darkness, because if it’s true, it’s not just good news for sinners and even the IRS, but equally for thinkers, given all the bad and destructive ideas to which man is inclined (see above).  

Oh, by the way, if we don’t get more than the occasional comment, I’m going to be forced to turn off comments. Too humiliating! I recall a deal we made several years ago, when far-flung members of the vertical diaspora promised to check in once a year. Perhaps they no longer exist, or have passed on to Bismarck. If you're dead, then never mind.

Our subject today is metaphysics. But really, we’re just going back to the previous discussion of Lonergan’s Understanding and Being, which took us through Lecture 7. How convenient that Lecture 8 is called A Definition of Metaphysics. It probably won’t be my definition, but that’s okay. Iron sharpens irony.

Maybe the posts are too long? I’m not aware of any other blogger who burdens the reader with such endless circumnavelgazing on a near daily basis. 

As always, my excuse is that I do it for no one’s benefit but my own, because how can you help anyone else if you can’t help yourself? Supposing we are in a nosedive, it’s the only sensible thing to do: secure your flask first, and then assist the other person with a taste. 

Let me back up a moment, and ask the question of whether Christianity has anything to do with metaphysics? I, of course, believe it does, but this places me in an apparently small and shrinking minority. 

But if Christianity is true, and the truth sets you free, surely this can’t be just a helpful tip, another piece of the puzzle, a "department" like any other, only revolving around the Great Unprovable? Rather, it must be the epistemological key to the whole existentialada, no? 

Is it all the made up words? 

Or, do reverence and irreverence just not go together? Besides, you’re not as funny as you think you are, Gagdad. Keep your day job. Or rather, beg them to give it back. 

We have so many departments of learning, is it really possible that a single idea or principle or being could unify them all? For this is the promise of any metaphysic, and not just the Christian kind.

I know -- maybe I should leave readers in suspense, so they have to tune in tomorrow for the next installment. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Crystalized Stupidity

So, the plane is going down and the dials on our console have become useless, either spinning like Adam Schiff in a tornado or stopped altogether. Progressives have succeeded in dismantling all our standards, measures, and landmarks, leaving us literally dis-oriented. 

Violence is not enough to destroy a civilization. Each civilization dies from indifference to the particular values that founded it. --Dávila
So, there is a kind of speech that equates to violence. It’s called deconstruction, or any academic discipline ending in "Theory" or "Studies." It never stops destroying, but the tenured ape "cannot lament the disappearance of what he is ignorant of."

It wasn’t that long ago that the West oriented itself to little things such as God, truth, liberty, family, equality under the law, freedom of speech & assembly, etc. Meantime -- sing with me -- The blizzard of the world / Has crossed the threshold / And it’s overturned / The order of the soul (Cohen).

Yes, there are always countercultural pockets of resistance, islands of sanity, and bunkers of Slack, but we’re talking about the culture at large, both where it is and where it is headed. And it doesn’t take a prophet to read the signs of these times, because even if the progressive flight panel is useless, ours is working just fine.  

For the Lie is parasitic on Truth, in that the most consequential liars do so because they are clever enough to know the truth. 

However, the more stupid among them simply embrace the Lie with no reflection whatsoever. What is a progressive NPC but a sponge that sops up random drops of ideology? Or maybe you have no extended family.

It’s the difference between, say, Hillary Clinton and Sandy Cortez. Both never stop disseminating the Lie, but only one has some murky sense of the truth in her gutsies. Speech was given to one type of leftist in order to deceive, the other type in order to be deceived, and together they make an extremely effective team. At least until they reach the finals: 
Cynical skill progresses from victory to victory until the final victory, which annihilates it.  
Obviously, in order to maintain our flight, we must have a sense of up and down, just as every culture must have it in order to function, even if its standards are not our standards, to put it mildly. No, we are not relativists -- up is up and down is down. Rather, we’re thinking of something Dávila says about even a bad order being preferable to no order at all.

Elsewhere he says There are a thousand truths and one error. I’ll bite: what’s the one error? 

He’s too respectful of the reader’s intelligence to come out and say it, but it must be the same as Chesterton’s one thought that ought to be stopped, the thought that stops thought: the ultimate stupidity of absolute relativism.

Progressives who complain about the present forget that it is the very crystallization of their dreams come true:
Two hundred years ago it was legitimate to have confidence in the future without being totally stupid. But who can believe in today’s predictions since we are yesterday’s splendid future?
Identity politics is about more than identity, it’s about joyfully participating in one’s own exploitation: 
In order to exploit a man peacefully it is convenient to reduce him beforehand to sociological abstractions. 
But EQUITY! Precisely, for  
Homogeneity drives out God.
At the same time, godlessness drives out hierarchy, so it's a win-win for the left. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Transcendental Flight and Vertical Orientation

Wait, I think the metaphor is still moving -- better club it again!

Yesterday we spoke of the various instruments arrayed on our flight panel, and of which one might be the most important. We decided to go with man’s knowledge of himself, in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions, AKA science and wisdom. 

However, although the two can't actually be separated -- man by definition partaking of both -- a purely horizontal view of man inevitably leads to the slaughterhouse, which is why the 20th was by orders of magnitude the bloodiest in man’s long and lamentable catalogue of crimes against his own kind.

God is probably not the first and certainly not the last to wonder if the creation of man might have been a bit overly optimistic. Man is such a reliable underachiever, and each generation falls for the same old errors painted a new color. No wonder the left wants to lower the voting age, so they can bake in the cosmic stupidity: in the Kingdom of the Retarded, AOC is queen. 

My point is this, and if you don’t believe me, believe Davila: 
Without philosophy the sciences do not know what they know.
As a corollary, with a bad or implicit philosophy, scientism knows a great deal that cannot be true, and knows nothing at all about things that must be true -- including ones that make the practice of science possible. So perhaps you've noticed that
Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.
Like, say, the Incarnation of Science itself, Dr. Fauci.

This systematic amnesia or ideological repression of what man knows about man is a major part of Lonergan’s whole... thing. “Our century [referring to the 20th],” he writes, 
is merely the most recent moment in a cycle of decline in which our self-understanding [read: knowledge of human nature] and our understanding of our common situation have become ever less comprehensible, and our capacity to respond to the challenges posed by this situation has become more and more restricted [not just forgotten but censored and exiled beyond the virtual pale, a la Twitter].
As alluded to a couple of posts back, since we are always situated in the vertical, we can fall into an ever-tightening graveyard spiral, or be drawn upward into the ever-widening gyre of the Divine Attractor.

To be perfectly accurate, the latter is at once both ever-widening but focused around God, which seems paradoxical but not at all, since God is analogous to a dimensionless point, which is therefore Infinitude itself. At any rate, very roomy. 

Since we’re all sailing through the nonlocal ether, how do we know whether we’re pointed up or down? Recall JFK Jr., who wasn't instrument trained and was therefore among the last three to find out the hard way he was probably flying upside down when the flight came to a sudden end. By then he had probably lost all spatial and visual orientation, so flying wasn’t the problem, rather, avoiding obstacles such as, oh, the earth.

Analogously, supposing we’re up in the air of transcendence, how to we maintain our vertical orientation? What are the cues and landmarks we can use to gauge our direction and our progress?

Well, for starters, there is capital-T Tradition, which consists of a body of wisdom resulting from hundreds of generations who have confronted the same situations. You could say that much of it is “unexamined” or “precritical,” but then again, Death, Misery, and Dysfunction are pretty effective means of finding out you probably shouldn't have done that. In the words of Amy Winehouse, I Told You I was Trouble, but she didn't listen.

Anyway, let’s continue with Lonergan’s description of the ins & outs of our death spiral:  
In this cycle of decline our horizons contract, our language is devalued, our questions are brushed aside, and our experiences become a flow of alienating absurdity.
Gosh. That sounds… familiar.  
Moreover, these “facts” about ourselves descend like an iron curtain and cut us off from the realization of our potentialities; they provide ready-made justifications for the views of those who would see us as little more than animals in a [horizontal] habitat…
Lonergan saw very clearly where the plane was headed, since he was instrument trained: "At the root of this crisis is a crisis in our knowledge of ourselves.” 

Which reminds me of what Dennis Prager says about feminism, that the average postmodern toxic female knows far less about human sexuality than did her great-grandmothers. These spiteful mutants are the very image of naivety posing as sophistication.

Having said that, Lonergan is not a reactionary. He knows that the only way out is forward, and that airplanes cannot fly in reverse.

I suppose that’s a good place to pause. 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Functional Cockpits and Progressive Crockpits

In executing our civilizational graveyard spiral, what is the most important instrument we are ignoring? I’m an analog guy, so my console has a dozen or so cool looking VU meters, much like a McIntosh sound system:

There are meters for Science, History, Genetics, Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Logic, Epistemology, Cosmology, Linguistics, and more, but if I can only choose one, it would have to be Human Nature. 

However, this is impossible, since there are actually two meters for Human Nature, one horizontal and one vertical. This itself is an important clue about man, since it is strictly impossible to talk about or even conceive man without reference to both. Man as such is as cosmically unique as is such and such a man.

Which, of course, is the first thing modern man forgets: our vertical nature. However, despite living in a thoroughly scientific age, close behind is the forgetfulness -- or denial or repression -- of our horizontal nature.

For example, what is transgender ideology but a disabling of the VU meter for human nature in its horizontal/biological sense? It is very much as if we are no longer permitted to even look at that meter, and ignorance has consequences. The same can be said of feminism, which is the denial of female nature and a celebration of toxic femininity.

Again, because of the cosmic uniqueness of man, disabling the horizontal meter will result in a malfunctioning of the vertical. For human nature is an integrated whole; it is not as if it is the sum of body and mind, but rather, a soul that is the form of both. Nevertheless, although the two cannot be separated, they can certainly be distinguished. 

Moreover, although the soul is prior, it needs a body to function; this also goes to our paradoxical union of freedom and determinacy, since freedom is not possible in the absence of order, otherwise it is just entropic wandering.

Get to the point!

Okay, you don’t have to yell. My point is that we cannot properly fly the plane of civilization without paying attention to the Human Nature meters, for if we get our anthropology wrong, then everything else follows, all the way to the graveyard. 

For example, everyone knows Marx was wrong about economics, history, and religion, but he wasn't even wrong about human nature. And yet, his distorted vision of human nature pervades the left in its contemporary cultural guise.  

And yes, it is possible to say it more succinctly, but even the Aphorist wrote 10,000 aphorisms. This one goes to why knowledge of human nature requires both meters:
If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors.
Then man becomes "the most contemptible refuge of men."

It’s easy enough for the Ought to hide behind the Is meter:
Today the individual rebels against inalterable human nature in order to refrain from amending his own correctable nature.
Again, if there’s no vertical meter, then man is just man, and it doesn’t get worse than that:
“Human” is the adjective used to excuse any infamy.
If you are a devotee of metaphysical Darwinism, then there is and can be no essential distinction between man and beast, or in other words,
Man is the animal that imagines itself to be Man.
If you can believe that, what can’t you believe?
To have “faith in man” does not reach the level of blasphemy; it is just one more bit of nonsense.
Suppose we have only the horizontal meter. What could go wrong?
The modern aberration consists in believing that the only thing that is real is what the vulgar soul can perceive
Again, freedom is vertical. A merely horizontal freedom is just an uncaged animal. This kind of man believes himself free when nothing drags himself against the current of his own instincts, desires, and ideological fantasies.

Let’s take one more look at those two meters. What do they tell us? For starters, that
Man is not educated through knowledge of things but through knowledge of man.
Could you make it a little less wordy?
The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man.