Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Cosmos and Person

I'm rereading another one of my favorite books, Person and Being, by W. Norris Clarke. "Favorite" isn't quite the correct word; "ultimate" is more like it, because it grounds the mystery and miracle of human subjectivity in the nature of things. 

After all, this is what we really want to know, isn't it? Putting it personal terms, how am I even possible, and what does my existence mean in the ultimate scheme of things? How does I -- or I-ness as such -- matter?

Although it has only 113 pages of text, no other book of which I'm aware expresses my views so clearly and coherently. A couple of posts ago I alluded to how Schuon so often "verbally actualizes what is latent in my own intellect." Same with this book, such that when I read it, I find myself saying to myself, Yes, Yes, Precisely, Exactly, Couldn't have said it better, Preach brotha' Clarke!, etc. 

Not only does he articulate what I believe, but what I must believe. Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean it's true. It does, however, mean it is deeply true for me, for what that's worth. 

For example, I couldn't agree more with him that Christian thinkers have tended not to adequately appreciate the revolutionary metaphysical implications of the Trinity. 

Put conversely, if ultimate reality is trinitarian, then we've got a lot of explaining to do. Seems basic, and yet, here we are. He quotes an excellent article by Ratzinger from 1990, which we'll also get further into as we proceed: "In the relational notion of person developed within the theology of the Trinity" 

lies concealed a revolution in man's view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality (Ratzinger). 

Jumping ahead a bit, our nonlocal sources now confirm that Ultimate Reality is not substance and not relation, but rather, a complementarity of the two. Again, this has extraordinary implications, none of which, by the way, negate what science reveals about the world, but extend and perfect it. We might say that man is the measure of things, in so far as Person(s) is the measure of man. Ratzinger:

person must be understood as relation.... the three persons that exist in God are in their nature relations. They are, therefore, not substances that stand next to each other, but they are real existing relations, and nothing besides.

In God, person means relation. Relation, being related, is not something superadded to the person, but it is the person itself. In its nature, the person exists only as relation.

The metaphysical implications are breathtaking. For example, through them we could understand a priori that the Newtonian paradigm of reality, useful as it was, had to be wrong in the ultimate sense, since the universe does not and cannot consist of externally related atomistic units. For the same reason we can say on the political plane that Lockean individualism is way off, since its anthropology is a non-starter.

I'll resist the temptation to veer into political insultainment vis-a-vis gender theory, but let's just say that man refers to woman (and vice versa) and that mother refers to baby (and vice versa). Come to think of it, Schuon has an important essay called The Message of the Human Body that we may toss into the mix later. Or now. For example,

The human form cannot be transcended, its sufficient reason being precisely to express the Absolute, hence the unsurpassable. 

Note that the mentally ill gender theorists imagine that one can transcend by transitioning. They have the prefix right -- trans -- but are quite confused about how to go about it. To put it mildly.

Back to Clarke: there is an "indissoluble complementarity" with regard to an "in-itself dimension of being" and a "towards-others aspect." And back to Bob for a moment, I am predisposed to this view, since my graduate training in modern psychoanalysis focused precisely on the nature of human development in the matrix of relationality -- only now, via a trinitarian metaphysic, there is an ultimate grounding for human development, instead of human subjectivity being an inexplicable cosmic aberration. 

Clarke begins with being itself, which is intrinsically diffusive and self-communicating. Ultimately, this is why the universe is intelligible to our intelligence. These two -- intelligence and intelligibility -- are intrinsically related. If this isn't the case, them we end up in a closed, Kantian universe of metaphysical onanism.

Reality is an ec-static process of self-communicative being-in-action. Which not only explains a lot, but explains everything -- literally, because it explains how we can explain anything. What's the alternative?

Suppose a being that really exists, but does not act in any way, does not manifest itself in any way to other beings. There would be no way for anything else to know that it exists; it would make no difference at all to the rest of reality; practically speaking, it might just as well not be at all -- it would in fact be indistinguishable from non-being.

If this were the nature of reality, then each existent thing "would be locked off in total isolation from every other. There would not be a connected universe." There would be substance but no relation, or particles with no wave.

Let's conclude this post by shouting vive la différence! -- between Begetter and Begotten, or I and Thou.


julie said...

Let's conclude this post by shouting vive la différence! -- between Begetter and Begotten, or I and Thou.

So much of mental illness seems to stem from a profound disruption in the formative years of the proper relationships between father, mother and child. It only seems to get worse with each broken generation.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. I'm reading a book called Unraveling Gender: The Battle Over Sexual Difference that goes into exactly that.

Gagdad Bob said...

Happy Acres:

--Democrats have used student loans to finance the culture war through the Universities, and now they want all of us to pay for it. Brilliant.

--A college degree that can't pay back its debt is a worthless degree. So we're being asked to pay for precisely worthless degrees.

--It's kind of weird how we have a shortage of something that like 95% of mothers can produce for free.

julie said...

Re. the gender issue, prior to clown world the few men I knew of who really struggled with it had serious issues with their mothers, usually some combination of being forced to dress like a girl combined with molestation - just a really massive level of trauma. Which would also explain why it was so vanishingly rare.

julie said...

Re. the formula crisis, some of my family spent this weekend hunting down sources of hypoallergenic formula for a baby who is allergic to everything else including breast milk. Over $30 a can for the powder, & stores are rationing it. Horrible thing is, for every baby that has enough another baby might actually be suffering. I’ve known a couple kids with that problem; scary situation.

Gagdad Bob said...

Really well written article on what's wrong with existentialism and relativism as applied to psychology:

My psychologist is implying something more radical when he insists on the pivotal importance of choosing your own values. When he claims that “values are subjective,” he is painting a picture of the world according to which the only values that exist are ones we have created. To say values are subjective is to say there is nothing independent of our own minds that answers to our talk of right and wrong. It is to say that our ethical beliefs do not track a reality which is “there anyway.” According to his picture, values are determined, not discovered, and selfhood -- what it means to be a person -- is therefore fundamentally about choice, not vision. It is about picking a course of action arbitrarily, not about seeing a reality that transcends you -- goodness -- and integrating with it.

.... the hospital’s therapeutic regime forecloses that search for meaning by denying the reality or importance of objective, transcendent truths by which men and women have historically navigated their lives. The provision of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy whets patients’ appetite for meaning only to deprive them of real nourishment by extracting the very substance on which meaning depends: its orientation toward the absolute.

julie said...

Wow, that is really crazy. And awful that this is how people are "treated" when what they need more than anything is a foothold on reality.

Great article.

julie said...

Over at Vanderleun's, in his post today On Stupidity, there's a headline in there which sounds incredibly stupid, but at the same time touches on this discussion:

"How Do I Define my Gender if No One is Watching Me?"

On the one hand, yes, this is an incredibly stupid question because who one is, materially, does not change whether one is being observed or not. You is what you is.

On the other hand, in the absence of adequate role models and healthy relationships, how does a person develop a healthy sense of self? If it doesn't happen in childhood, does it ever happen at all?

julie said...

Broken link; here it is: On Stupidity

Anonymous said...

Good God. The very least free people I can think of are religious conservatives.

Witness how frightened they are of that miniscule percentage of citizens who proclaim themselves Muslims, trannies and Marxists. Even if those three combined forces they still wouldn’t make up 5% of the general population and residing within that poorest and least powerful part they’d be. What makes it all so bizarre is that even with a so-called supreme being on their side, these religious conservatives still can’t find enough things to be afraid of.

So many demonically possessed boogeyman they’re always finding under their beds, which were always (or never) there until some anointed demagogue proclaimed how scary they be.

God knew that Genesis 3 would happen. And the flood. And the pharisees, the Romans and Jesus too. Why is it never enough to just embrace the freedom that comes from knowing that God is in your corner and that doing as Jesus instructed is all a material self ever really needs?

Nicolás said...

Thought depraves the imbecile.

Ace of Spades said...

I denounce myself for forgetting, for one split second, to keep the almighty transgender community top-of-mind at all times, as I am legally required to do now.