Friday, January 07, 2022

Fried Day and the Big Spiral

I often seem to be in a more mystical mood on Fridays. Oh well. That's your problem. Unless you stop reading.  

Those cryptic symbols at the end of yesterday's post are intended to evoke several fundamental limits of thought -- or perhaps "limitless limits" -- including Beyond-Being, Absolute, Infinite (or All-Possibility), Trinity, and Incarnation (which may also be seen as the Last Word in the creative Godhead's Exitus-Reditus, or eternal respiralation).

Among these, the only one that is totally beyond our natural capacity to know is Trinity. It seems that no amount of thinking could ineluctably arrive at this, and yet, once known, it is perfectly compatible with the rest. In my opinion.

This is not to say that there are two, or three, or four ultimates. Obviously, that would constitute something that Cannot Be. However, who's to say things up there can't be a bit more complicated than we assume? In fact, the Trinity itself implies as much. 

For example, for St.Maximus,

the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is never an isolated theme within the context of his theology. It is precisely a dimension in it with repercussions and consequences all over the field (Thunberg).

A dimension with repercussions and consequences in a larger context. Exactly. 

One of the obstacles to envisioning this is the Greek idea of God's absolute immobility. Thank you, Greeks, but no thanks, for while immobility is important, it must be complemented by a kind of mobility (AKA change, gasp!), not as privation but perfection

This is just my opinion again, but I think the revelation of the Trinity is partly intended to help us wrap our minds around the idea that there is indeed a kind of "perfect change" within the Godhead; moreover, a kind of relativity, or indeed, what's the point? If a dynamic and relational Trinity is identical to an immobile monad, then big whoop.

I know we've been down this path before, but this time it will be different. It has to be, because this isn't some kind of axiomatic or deductive walk down from O, rather, an inductive and improvisational walk up from this side of manifestation -- not Can I learn metaphysics from you?, more like Can I buy some pot from you? Big difference. The fried day difference.

In any event, "God is not immobile in the sense that He cannot move." Rather, it is "possible to conceive of divine motion in terms of a free and creative activity," including "an expression of His condescension toward humankind, as already manifested in His creation and His subsequent acts of salvation" (ibid.).

Maximus maintains the general presupposition that God is essentially immobile, but he does not agree that this implies that motion in God is only a concession to a fall that has taken place in revolt against him.

In short, Maximus -- and eastern Christianity more generally -- emphasizes the Incarnation as pure gift as opposed to merely a response to our naughtiness. In fact, it takes place irrespective of the latter, in order to graciously include us in the Trinitarian party. 

This is a most (lower case o) orthodox notion. I'm rereading Garrigou-Lagrange's Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, and it doesn't get more orthodox. Yes, mankind is a rat bastard, and we mustn't kid ourselves about that. Nevertheless,

our interior life descends to us from on high, [and] can reascend even to God and lead us to a very close union with Him. 

Again, pure gratuitous gift, not just cure or response to sinfulness.

The result is a "growth of our supernatural organism." Sure, we inevitably fail to measure up, but God always builds back better: "Few men suspect what God would make of them if they placed no obstacle to His work" (St. Ignatius). So get out of His Way! 

"Just because there are stunted oaks, it does not follow that the oak is not a tall tree" (Garrigou-Lagrange). Likewise, just because so many men are closed and stunted jokes, it doesn't mean that man cannot embark upin an open relation with the Divine Life. If creation is a kind of  ex-spiralation, then the indwelling of the Holy Spirit facilitates the up- and inspiraling return: it is

not a repetition but a way of drawing near to circular contemplation..., which, like the flight of a bird, describes several times the same circle around the same point. This center, like the apex of a pyramid, is in its way a symbol of the single instant of immobile eternity...

Back to Maximus, there is 

a movement, divine in nature, which is not a decline or fall, but represents, on the contrary, a kind of perfection. God himself is mobile. He moves toward "multiplicity," thereby perfecting, or fulfilling, His nature....He expresses through that movement His own mode of perfection (Thunberg).

The "inner Trinitarian movement... marks the perfection of a living circle, the dynamics of a divine Being who makes Himself personal" (ibid.).

We are personally invited to participate in the mystery of Big Spiral, of "man's perfection in deification" and through man "the fulfillment of the destiny of the whole cosmos."

If there's something better than that, then God is keeping it to himselves.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Preliminary Sketches of Eternity

We think of the Incarnation as the ultimate vertical ingression, the purpose being to facilitate the redemption and divinization of man, AKA theosis

However, it is simultaneously the hominization of God, and I don't know which notion is more shocking. Each is Peak Weird: theosis and... homosis?

In any event, if hominization may be symbolized (), then divination is (). The former is complete -- an actuality -- while the latter is ongoing -- a possibility, so perhaps a more adequate pneumaticon would be (⇡). 

Common sense tells us that if something happens, then it was possible for it to happen -- that there is a principle, a sufficient reason; or in other words, impossible things can't happen. In the case of our sanctification, it is possible because of the actuality of the Incarnation: it is accomplished, and then some.

Usually when I come up against an apparent duality, it turns out to be a complementarity. I haven't yet thought this through -- I'm doing so right now -- but it occurs to me that Incarnation and theosis,  () and  (↑), must form a kind of eternal complementarity that may be depicted as (⇅), or better yet, (↺), since even the faith that gets the ball rolling uphill is a divine gift.

Now, they say that Christ's sacrificial redemption is something God cooked up before even the creation of the world. I don't know if that's true, but I don't find it particularly helpful. Among other things, it not only presupposes the fall, but "simultaneously" (since God is said to be timeless) provides the cure.

This seems like a lot of needless trouble. No offense, but it's like giving credit to a scientist for simultaneously inventing a disease and a drug to treat it. Like the Chinese. 

I'm no doubt too pinheaded -- i.e., too partial to abstraction -- but I'm always put off by religious formulations that sound ad hoc, or like a Rube Goldberg metaphysics. Nor do I like the idea of trying to escape from one absurdity by positing another, as so often happens in exoteric approaches. Rather, I like things to be consistent. Unified. Tidy. No loose ends. 

But it seems that Christianity is not, and cannot be, like this. Why? Because it's ultimate category is person(s) as opposed to, say, the abstractions of Vedanta.

Hey, here's an idea: is there some way to reconcile the two, the abstract and the personal? A voice in my head is saying Yes. Why, it's the voice of the Aphorist! Hello, Aphorist!

Hello, Bob. It sounds like you already know that Two contradictory philosophical theses complete each other, but only God knows how.

But did you know that The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason?

Well, maybe I didn't know it, but I certainly suspected it. Would you care to add anything else before I flesh out my suspicions?

Yes, here's a hint: In order for a multitude of diverse terms to coexist, it is necessary to place them on different levels. A hierarchical ordering is the only one that neither expels nor suppresses them.

Okay, but what if the top of the hierarchy isn't a static one, but a dynamic three? Better yet, what if there is a kind of complementarity between the one and the three? Wouldn't that make everybody happy? 

Then again, I don't like "one." It's misleading. Nor "three," since it implies quantity as opposed to Relation. How about something like this:

•    ∞  ⟷      ⟷  (↺)


Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Insults to Unintelligence

As mentioned yesterday, Schopenhauer sought the sufficient reason for things, i.e., a reasons proportionate to the phenomena. Of course he failed miserably, and was famously miserable besides, but this isn't to say that he achieved nothing.

Rather, Schopenhauer's greatest achievement was the fine insultainment he spewed at philosophers whose reasons he considered insufficient, for example, Hegel, whom he described as an "impudent and cocky gasbag,"  

a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. 

Harsh but fair. Moreover, Hegel's misgeisted followers   

mistake the hollowest verbiage for philosophical ideas, the most miserable sophisms for sagacity, childish absurdities for dialectic, and their heads have been muddled by absorbing crazed word-combinations which torture and exhaust the mind that tries in vain to extract some meaning from them.

What would he have said about Foucault or Derrida? Kant also got the needle: he is like 

a man who at a masked ball flirts the whole evening with a masked beauty under the illusion of making a conquest, until at the end she unmasks and reveals herself -- as his wife.

Remind me, what is our subject? 

Oh yes: reasons, in particular, sufficient ones. Put conversely, I suppose the great majority of reasons we are given for things -- both visible and especially invisible -- are ridiculously insufficient. They are ultimately as rooted in authority, custom, and tradition as any religious dogma.   

I well remember the drudgery of school five days a week, broken up by the drudgery of Sunday School once as week. Not only could the reasons given in the former not be reconciled with the latter, nor were they even sufficient on their own terms. 

First of all, it is illogical in the extreme to posit two "ultimate explanations," but in both cases a simple Why? was sufficient to render the grown-ups either silent or irritated.     

The Aphorist has a number of sharp objects that go to just this point, so there's no need for me to reinvent the needle:

In philosophy a single naïve question is sometimes enough to make an entire system come tumbling down.

In the end there is only one Because that is impervious to every Why: necessary being, AKA the Absolute, or what most folks just call God.

Ultimately, 

Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

Bearing in mind that "mystery" is not synonymous with absurdity, ignorance, or unknowability, but rather, is a palpable and fruitful presence. I'm touching it right now!

A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery.

You know the type: intelligent enough to obtain an advanced college degree but not smart enough to be ashamed of it.  

Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

To not know this is to practice a primitive religion called Scientism.

The definitive scientific sum will never be anything more than the prejudice existing at the moment when humanity becomes extinct.

In other words, science necessarily and literally goes on forever, while never in principle being capable of arriving at its object. This is so because the universe is created. If it weren't created, then this asymptotic convergence would be strictly impossible. Besides, Gödel

Philosophy gives up when one stops asking simple questions.

Simple questions such as, If consciousness is just a meaningless epiphenomenon, why do you believe that, or anything else?

Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.

Such as? Oh, the principles of identity (AKA non-contradiction), of causation, of the correspondence of intelligence and intelligibility. Come to think of it, 

All truths converge upon one truth, but the routes have been barricaded.

What's on the other side of the barricade? I don't know about you, but my trinoculars see intelligible being enshrouded by Beyond-Being. After that, Nothing. Or All-Possibility.

Nearly every idea is an overdrawn check that circulates until it is presented for payment.

For example, try demanding a Real World from the equations of physics. It's like the old joke about the atheist who bets God he can explain the world without him. The atheist starts by picking up a handful of dirt, and God says, "not so fast -- get your own dirt!" Likewise, get your own math!

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

This metaphysical scientism constitutes Begging the Question on steroids. It is hardly worthy of a serious insult.

Philosophy ultimately fails because one has to speak of the whole in the terms of its parts.

True, but it succeeds when it gives equal timelessness to the Whole, AKA, the ground of being. This ground is not God, rather, his first fruit, i.e., the Logosphere. It's a little mysterious, but to be perfectly honest,

The honest philosophy does not pretend to explain but to circumscribe the mystery.

That's our excuse and we're sticking to it. At least we're not like those deadbrained abracadavers, for

The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

Aren't we leaving something out? Yes, we can't end this post without some gratuitous political insultainment:

The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them.

Insufficient persons necessarily have insufficient reasons, the most sufficient reason of all being the category Person, all three of them. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Please Go All the Why!

Continuing with the theme of metaphysical happiness, there is something definitively irritating about any theory or vision -- whether secular or religious -- that fails to "go all the way," or that arbitrarily stops before tracing out all its entailments and implications. 

I suppose I first ran into this notion in reading Schopenhauer, who made a big deal out of it, and with good reason:

What, indeed, is an explanation, any explanation? An attempt to answer that question is the natural starting-point of [Schopenhauer's] enquiry, and as such the subject of his first book (Magee).

So, before you proffer an explanation, you need to explain how you know your explanation is sufficient. 

Some readers will say, "ah, now I remember why I hate philosophy." But this isn't just some pedantic question like how many pinheads can dance on the heart of an angel, but rather, goes to the question of how we can know anything about anything.  

It is possible to for us to pose some sort of Why? question with regard to anything.

Yes, but Why?

Stop reminding me why I hate philosophy! Can't be helped. For

we simply cannot imagine anything objectively of which no "why" could be further demanded (Schopenhauer).

To put it logically, anything that can be formulated can be questioned. To put it psychologically, the status of anything that can be perceived, or thought, or understood, can be queried (Magee).

Except, of course, the 2020 election.

Besides that, is it possible to have an explanation to which we don't respond with another annoying b-b-but Why? 

Such an explanation must simply be. Or, it simply Is. It must be the Being of being, such that our response to it must essentially be Oh. Okay. That settles that. Let's eat! 

I'm going to jump ahead of myself and just blurt out what I think must be the Sufficient Reason of Everything and Anything: Beyond-Being. This would constitute not even the first principle, rather, the ultimate reality that engenders principles. 

I don't yet know if this is correct, but then again I do, because thought itself can go no further than this, the question now being whether the limits of our epistemology actually correspond to ontology per se, and I'm gonna say Shit yeah!, because to say No would ultimately mean that we can't really know anything about anything.  

What I mean is that if we can know anything -- which we can -- then there is a principial reason for this, and it is the metacosmic descent from Beyond-Being --> Intelligible Being --> Intellect. Beyond-Being is not an un- or anti-Christian principle, and indeed, I was just reading about it yesterday in a couple of books about Maximus Confessor (born 580) and Eckhart (born 1260).

The latter, for example, "insists that God is above being," and that there is a corresponding "uncreated something in the soul," a "little spark" where "the Godhead becomes God in the flowing out of creation."

These are somewhat dangerous waters for those who do not know how to swim or to ask annoying questions, so proceed with caution, for this is an "endless ocean" and "bottomless abyss" about which Eckhart -- like someone else we know -- fools around with "word games that are meant to be both playful and serious," including "paradoxes, contradictions, oxymora, and other forms of wordplay in speaking of the ground."

As for Maximus, he characterizes the "Trinitarian movement" as "the perfection of a living circle, the dynamics of a divine Being who makes himself personal."

I prefer to think of the Three and the One as the ultimate complementarity as opposed to one reducing to the other. Maximus seems to agree, in that "God is Monad according to the principle of His essence" and "Triad according to his mode of existence." 

But as we all know, God's essence and existence are not-two, and there is no questioning beyond a being who's essence is to exist. Or, in the words of the Aphorist -- and this is most definitely not a childish tautology, much less a full-groan tauntology -- 

The sole proof of the existence of God is His existence.

"Ah, now I remember why I hate this blog." 

 

Monday, January 03, 2022

The Endless Post

Why does the passage at the top of yesterday's post make Bob happy? Let's break it down point-by-point and try to figure out why.

But before doing so, let's consider another passage that hits the spot, also from a previously unpublished letter:

The human state is a central state, and consequently man's intelligence, his will, and his soul have a central character, in other words a character of totality, hence also of objectivity (emphases mine).

Which is precisely why the passage from yesterday is able to describe meta-reality in an objective and total manner via the human subject. Not to brag, but human intelligence isn't just anything. It is not just another animal "point of view," even -- or especially -- if one is, say, a metaphysical Darwinian or scientistic reductionist more generally. 

The point is, reality is a sum of things, but prior to this it is the whole of things, the former being more peripheral, the latter central. For example, where is the "center" of your body? Somehow it is in every part, and you are certainly more than the sum of your parts. "Wholeness" is something we can't do without, even if it has an unavoidable penumbra of mystery. 

The reductive biologist or physicist can only pretend to ignore Schuon's description while making a special exemption for themselves. For there is certainly no principle in Darwinism or subatomic physics that permits human beings to know objective and disinterested truths about the totality of biology or of the natural world.

Why this urge to insult and marginalize man's intelligence? 

I think I get it, for it is at once on target and also perverse. 

It is on target for the same reason Genesis 3 is on target: man is a Piece of Work, and we have every right, if not obligation, to be skeptical of his projects and pronouncements. It's a big reason we are not progressives.

But the key is to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, not innocent as rattlesnakes and wise as birdbrains.   

Continuing with the letter,

Human intelligence is total, for it can conceive of the Transcendent, the Absolute, or the Substance; and it is objective, for it can conceive the relativity, or accidentality, of the subject, hence that of its own empirical envelope. The intelligence is made for total Truth: both absolute truth and relative truth; metaphysics and cosmology, objective as well as subjective, including degrees of absoluteness -- or of relativity -- in the one and in the other.

That covers much the same ground as yesterday's letter, going to ultimate realities and our ability to know them. For either man can or cannot know reality; and if he can't, then we're done here, for there's nothing left but the will to power, AKA hammer & anvil, Dems & deplorables, boots & faces, Who & Whom.

About man's centrality, I read something similar in Thomistic Psychology -- that 

Man is a person. When we have said this much about him, we have paid him the highest possible tribute that can be given to a cosmic creature. He is, so to speak, the top rung on the ladder of corporeal substances.

This hierarchy is so obvious that one must be highly educated in order to not see it. At the same time, not only is there no hierarchy without a top, the hierarchy is conditioned from the top down via the vertical causation consequent to its wholeness. So,

Everything that is good and excellent in the visible cosmos points to the person of man as the crown of corporeal perfection, since everything is integrated in his person.

You'd think that this would provoke a little curiosity as to the nonlocal Principle of personhood, but no. I don't recall it ever being mentioned during my eight years of grad school. While one occasionally ran into a thinker who took a slightly more cosmic view of things, not one followed the evidence all the way up to its origin and destiny.

As a being who can think and will, [man] is a person, the only person in the material universe.

You can say with the Magisterium that  man is a "special creation" and stop right there. You won't be wrong.

Or, you can meditate on the question of what type of cosmos this must be in order for persons to exist in it. For necessities imply possibilities: if man exists, it first must be possible for him to exist, and how are we possible?

We've all heard the cliche about mankind supposedly being "traumatized" as a result of being displaced from the center of the cosmos because of heliocentrism and Darwinism. 

But guess what: only a "central" intelligence could even know of such realities. The fact remains -- and will always remain -- that "the person of man is the very center of the cosmos" (Brennan). No, not analogous to the center of a circle or even sphere; rather, more like the tip of an upward facing cone.

Another key is our immateriality, or our share in it:

because the mind of man is able to understand the determinate nature of all corporeal substances, it cannot, itself, be a corporeal substance (ibid.).

If you believe a body is a mind and vice versa, what won't you believe? In reality, 

the human mind knows corporeal substance precisely by abstracting from accidents that make them concrete and individual, removing them out of the dimensions of space and time, considering them according to their forms, absolutely and universally (ibid.).

This is not an opinion, rather, a description. And you'll just have to deal with the implications, no matter how pleasant.  

Instead of thinking of this as an "incomplete post," think of it as an endless post divided up in 24 hour increments. Like your life. 

Sunday, January 02, 2022

How to Make Bob Happy

"If I am told," writes Schuon,
here is the Absolute, there is All-Possibility radiating out from the infinity of the Absolute; here is the Supreme Principle, God, there is Manifestation, the world; here is the archetype of the Manifestation in the Divine Principle, there is the reflection of the Principle in Manifestation; here is the radiating Creative Maya, there is the attracting, liberating Maya; and Maya is nothing other than the radiation of Atma, caused by the nature of Atma to be the purest and highest Good, for it is in the nature of the Good to impart itself...

If I, Bob, am told all these things, then I too

pay attention, I understand something, I feel happy, I feel attracted to God, I attach myself to the Divine. 

Does this mean I am simply inventing a religion that is acceptable to Bob, such that the ways of God must pass muster with the whims of man?

In the first passage, Schuon sketches out Universal Metaphysics in as compact a manner as is possible. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I believe he would say that there exists a hierarchy of truths that simply must be true; that these truths are uniquely accessible to the intellect (understood in the traditional sense); and that authentic religion exists in part in order to convey these truths to the Average Man.

Now, this can't help but sound elitist, which may be true, but which doesn't necessarily invalidate the message. Can there be such a thing as a "spiritual elite?" Even the term itself provokes a rise of nausea, but everyone recognizes the category, even if it's a category of one

For example, even the most unfun fundamentalist and unlit literalist will agree with the proposition that Jesus was a "spiritual elite" (certainly in his human nature). He will likely agree that so too was Paul, and come to think of it, you can't leave out Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the other apostles. Except for Mary. That would be idolatry or something. But Moses probably gets grandfathered in, likewise the prophets.

Fasting forward, Martin Luther obviously makes the cut; and/or Calvin, Zwingli, and King Henry, being that these elites literally invented the doctrines in which so many millions put their faith. Others put their faith in one-off spiritual elites such as Joseph Smith, William Miller, Charles Taze Russell, Lyman Stewart, Mary Baker Eddy, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, etc.

Catholics and Orthodox obviously widen out the category to include a crowd of witnesses to help us along our vertical journey. One of the first was said to have been the vertically perceptive Roman centurion present at the Crucifixion, while the most recent was someone named Margaret of Città di Castello (1287 - 1320). 

I count hundreds of names in this comprehensive list -- and that's just the A's!:

https://www.catholic.org/saints/stindex.php 

I have my own list, which could no doubt be much longer, but who has the time? It would probably take your whole life just to make it to B.

But as things stand, my list... at least according to how often I turn to them for advice, must include Schuon, Dávila, Thomas, Garrigou-Lagrange, W. Norris Clarke, Josef Pieper, and Popes Benedict & John Paul II; this is not counting certain mere "intellectual elites" such as Polanyi, Voegelin, Hayek, and P.G. Wodehouse, without whom the Cosmos wouldn't be complete.

But put all those names together, and you have a pretty good idea of Where We're Coming From.

Now, getting back to that quote at the top: if someone says those things to me, then Bob is happy. The Cosmos makes sense, or at least it places all the nonsense in a larger context.

But would you like to make Bob unhappy? Here's how:

When on the contrary I am told: a God, who owes me nothing because He is Almighty, gives me this or that command, and that my intelligence is only there to carry out this command as well as possible, and other things of this kind -- when I am told this, then I do not understand anything, I feel unhappy, I do not feel attracted to religion, I no longer know what I am, nor why I am a human being. 

But this is what theologians all too often reduce religion to, as if they could please God thereby! They underestimate God just as they underestimate man.

I know what you're thinking: isn't Bob's happiness a rather thin reed onto which ultimate reality should hang?

Which misses the point entirely, in part because whatever happiness this entails is waaaaaay downstream from the humility upon which the whole thing is predicated. I think it comes down to what intelligence is -- and must be -- why we have it, and what it is for. On the one hand one shouldn't make more of it than there is to it, but one certainly shouldn't make less of it, if only because it is that to which God addresses his revelation(s).

This is a Big Subject, so I'll leave off with a couple of quotes, first this one by Schuon:

God did not create an intelligent being so that the latter might grovel before the unintelligible; He created him in order to be known starting from contingency, and that is precisely why He created him intelligent. If God wished to owe nothing to man, He would not have created him.

Otherwise chimps and liberals would have been sufficient.

The following passages are from Bernard McGinn's The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany:

[I]t is in the human intellect understood as the ground that we find a relation to God that surpasses analogy (McGinn).

Nowhere does God dwell more properly than in his temple, the intellect... (Eckhart).

The intellect... has no existence apart from its inherence in the Word... (McGinn).