Wednesday, March 09, 2022

How to Tell a Worthless Layabout from a Serious Idler

 "To speak of the Absolute," writes Schuon,

is to speak of the Infinite; Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute. It is from the "dimension" of Infinitude that the world springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being as such, implies Infinitude.

I understand this description perfectly. But that doesn't necessarily mean it is correct. As it so happens, I believe it is correct "as far as it goes," but it doesn't go far enough, nor does it account for, or delve into, what I regard as the most important meta-principle of all, which is to say, Person, and all this implies (e.g., relation, love, intelligence, freedom, creativity, etc.).

We'll get into it more deeply as we proceed, but I don't see how we can ever arrive at Personhood unless we begin there. 

While I gather my thoughts, let's what Sr. D. has to say.

--If God were not a person, He would have died some time ago. 

--The existence of God is indemonstrable, because with a person the only thing we can do is bump into him.

--For God there are only individuals.

--The two poles are the individual and God; the two antagonists are God and man. 

--God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.

Perhaps it's a left brain-right brain thing, or words and music: Schuon's account is almost mathematical in its precision, whereas Davila is always more poetical.  

And while looking for those, I found an aphorism that touches on our primordial Slack, another important cosmic principle, or better, mode, since this mode apparently isn't for everyone:

Man needs a busy life. No one is more unfortunate than the idler who was not born predestined to be one. An idle life without boredom, stupidities, or cruelty is as admirable as it is rare.

I am one of those people who not only doesn't need a busy life, but would experience it as a living death. It's one of the reasons I could never be a proper psychologist. I literally cannot relate to the sorts of problems that beset the average man. I'm not bragging. After all, an autistic person could say the same thing, and we don't praise autism as the ideal way for a man to be.

But I must have been predestined to be an idler, since I'm never bored. Except when circumstances force me to be busy. 

As for stupidity, I was no doubt less stupid twenty years ago. They say a man reaches his intellectual prime at midlife. Well, first of all, I've always been a little behind my peers -- i.e., immature -- and second, I think I was actually kind of "brilliant" when I was 40 or so. Problem is, I was nevertheless an idiot. Defective software. In other words, I was still a liberal, among other defects. 

Along these lines, here's something from Rob Henderson's latest newsletter: 

According to both the Talmud and Solon, only at age 30 does a man attain full strength, and “plant his feet firm upon the ground,” according to Confucius. 
From 30 to 40, a man often has great strength and energy. But has not yet reached full maturity and wisdom.
 
And in the Talmud, 40 is the age for “understanding” and 50 for “giving counsel.”
 
From 42 to 56, says Solon, “the tongue and the mind are now at their best.” In the next phase, 56 to 63, a man “is able, but never so nimble in speech and in wit as he was in the days of his prime.”
 
Similarly, Confucius wrote, “At 40, I no longer suffered from perplexities,” and “At 50, I knew what were the biddings of heaven.” Although it was not until he was 60 that Confucius says he “heard them with a docile ear.”

Likewise, the Talmud states that the full wisdom and dignity of being an elder begins at 60. This is also the age, says Confucius, that men enter into a new relationship with life and death, with the ultimate source of personal values, and with the self.  

Back to the subject at hand, which comes down to a priori metaphysics vs. revelation. On the face of it, it would appear that man is in need of the latter because he is incapable of the former.

ALL men? Or are there a few serious idlers who retain the capacity for drilling right down to the core of things and envisioning the naked truth? This latter invites all sorts of frauds and abuses -- call it the yung pueblo syndrome, as discussed a couple of posts back. For it is easy to think one has all the answers. I certainly remember when I did. You know, back in my intellectual prime, when I was so brilliant and all.

Humility. In its absence you are most certainly headed for a fall. 

While we're idly milling around, how about we define some terms? For example, what do we mean by the Absolute?

If we were to be asked what the Absolute is, we would reply first of all that it is necessary and not merely possible Reality; absolute Reality, hence infinite and perfect, precisely (Schuon).

I agree with that: the Absolute -- whatever it is and however else we conceptualize it -- is that which must be and cannot not be, on pain of cosmic absurdity and performative self-contradiction. It's what is left when we eliminate all the bullshit: self-evident truths, and all that.

FREE SPEECH, FREE WILL, FREE MARKETS, and FREE THOUGHT in our FREE TIME (slogan for imaginary campaign)

But as Dávila says, The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.

Here are some of my bottom-line attributes of the Absolute: the Absolute is Person-Love-Creativity.

Okay, now do Infinitude:

the Infinite is that which, in the world, appears as modes of expanse or of extension, such as space, time, form or diversity, number or multiplicity, matter or substance (Schuon).

This certainly goes to the "many-ness" of things, where as Absoluteness goes more to their sheer existence -- moreover, their existence as this rather than either that or nothing; for "compared to empty space, each grain of sand is a miracle." And thanks to Infinitude, we'll never run out of grains of sand.

I don't recall Schuon ever discussing person or personalism. To the extent that he does, he regards the personal God as already a relative term, specifically, relative to the impersonal Beyond-Being. 

As we've discussed before, I like to look at these in a complementary way, similar to how we conceptualize the Trinity as being a single substance despite the relations of the three persons. Analogously, there is a relation between the impersonal and personal, but it's all one divine substance. 

In fact, I agree with Norris Clarke that God is ultimately substance-in-relation: there is no substance "behind" or "above" the relations, nor are there relations absent the substance. It's an irreducible complementarity, like man-woman, or time-eternity, or creator-creation. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Too Much Manichee Business

Some people say existence itself is a miracle, and they are most certainly correct: for the gap between nothing and anything, let alone everything, is infinite, and can therefore be mediated only by (an) infinite being.

However, I think we can all agree that even more miraculous is the consciousness that notices the miracle of being, AKA, the primordial WTF?!

Happily, the cosmos is big enough for both perspectives -- for the cosmic extrovert and the cosmic introvert. But best of all is to maintain a balance between these two perspectives, which is to say, cosmic ambiversion. 

Now, my nonlocal sources tell me that the Incarnation is the last Word in cosmic ambiversion, being that it -- obviously -- takes up both matter and spirit, exterior and interior. 

At the time, there was far less difficulty accepting God-as-consciousness than God-as-flesh, and in fact, there still is. There is something in us that more readily tilts toward a Gnostic, or Manichaean, or neoplatonic devaluation of matter. 

Put conversely, the resurrection of the body is still a scandal -- foolishness to the geeks and a bumble to the blockheads & tools. For it is, among other things, a way of descent -- or of ascent-via-descent, so to speak, more on which as we proceed.  

In contrast, for Plato, the way out of this mess is up, i.e., pure ascent:

Our physical, natural, material world, the world in which we live our lives and that we perceive through our senses, is a world of constant change, flux, and decay....

But there is another, higher world, Plato believed, where all exists in a state of eternal and changeless perfection (Markos).

The question is, how do we exit the former (becoming) and enter the latter (being)? Central to this approach is the image

of the golden steps that lead the initiate out of the world of illusion and error into a higher realm of light and truth. A rising path is also an ex-odus, a road out, a movement from slavery to freedom, ignorance to knowledge, darkness to light, the shadows on the cave wall to the piercing and revealing rays of the sun (ibid).

So yes, we can ascend out of the cave, and there are even said to be people who have accomplished it without drugs, although I've never met one.

But I don't think it ever occurred to Plato that the One ever could or would assume flesh and voluntarily enter the cave. Why would anyone do such a thing when the whole point of the philosophical life is to leave the shadows of the cave behind and below?

Shifting gears a bit, another way of conceptualizing the cosmic ambiversion mentioned above is to say that we are existentially amphibious, in that man qua man is always consciously aware of inhabiting two realms, whether we call them matter and psyche, nature and grace, flesh and spirit, tenure and reality, conspiracy and slack, etc.:  

Over our heads there hovers a perpetual question mark: What exactly am I? What shall I become? 

Unlike the beasts and the angels, who are fixed in their respective spheres, we belong to neither the earth nor the sky. We are truly amphibians, with a foot in each world, and so in our breasts there is a perpetual struggle, an agon [conflict]: down or up; lower or higher; fall or rise (ibid).

Well, there's a better way. First of all, we can't consider our amphibious nature in a linear manner, as if there are two disconnected lines, one leading up & out, the other down & in. Rather, what if the two lines are actually a single continuous line, so that down is up and up is down? (I might suggest reviewing the Sermon on the Mount ⇆ Plain for the orthoparadoxical details.)

Plato's conception of God as removed, immutable, and wholly untainted by contact with our shifting corporeal World of Becoming cannot, finally, be reconciled with the biblical revelation of a merciful Savior-God who so loves humanity that he willingly leaves the World of Being, takes upon himself the "prison" of human flesh, and suffers a very physical and bloody death.

Plato would regard such a scheme as nonsensical ("a great plan, Walteus, f-ing ingenious, if I understand it correctly, an Athenian f-king sundial"). 

Let's stop ramblin' and get to the point:

man is by definition situated between an Intellection which connects him to God and a world which has the power to separate him from God (Schuon).

Certainly prior to the Incarnation, this kind of dualistic Manichee business makes perfect sense. But not afterword. For as Thomas noted, man is a substantial unity of matter and spirit, such that he

exists on the brink of two worlds, the spiritual and the corporeal, combining the qualities of both; he is their horizon, their common frontier.

So, if we are to be saved, we can't actually flee from matter into divinity, since our nature is a substantial unity of both; rather, matter itself must somehow be divinized. I guess we'll leave off with this passage by Richard De Smet:

(N)othing was healed by Christ that was not assumed by him. To maintain this position against Marcion and the Manichees had meant accepting man's vegetable life as an essential part of him.... it had meant understanding man as at once body, soul, and spirit, a natural unity of the spiritual and the psychical and the physical....

Thus like every man (Jesus) is a microcosm and a frontier being but... he is the horizon and the bridge between the created macrocosm and the uncreated Divinity.

Hmm. Looks like this rescue mission involves a kind of ever spiraling dual-teleology, in that God becomes the perfect man in order for man to become a more perfect likeness of God; Jesus is simultaneously God's icon of man and man's icon of God, and we are situated somewhere on that spiral betwixt & bethreen.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Hot Dog, Love's a' Winnin'!

In turning our gaze within and rummaging around for an a priori metaphysic, I found an example -- and what is a bad man but a good man's teacher? -- that makes us want to scurry back out in the opposite direction. 

I stumbled on it while idly surfing around amazon. It has the pretentious title Clarity & Connection, by the even more pretentiously named yung pueblo. You might want to skip the bio if you gag easily:

During a silent Vipassana meditation course in 2012, he saw that real healing and liberation were possible.

Woo hoo! Then what?

He became more committed to his meditation practice while living in New York City. The results he witnessed firsthand moved him to describe his experiences in writing.

Five stars on 3,848 ratings?! Could I have written this book? Absolutely. As you could have, although it would pose a challenge to appear so stupid and banal. That's hard to fake. Nor do I have reason to believe mr. pueblo is faking it. His idiocy appears genuine:

The pen name yung pueblo means “young people” and is meant to convey that humanity is entering an era of remarkable growth and healing, when many will expand their self-awareness and release old burdens.

A new enlightened era of universal wokeness, as it were. What could go wrong?

Let's look at a few excerpts, so we too can experience some real growth and healing, expand our self-awareness, and release those old burdens:

it is not easy

healing yourself

building new habits

observing reality without projection

Now you tell us! 

Here's a riddle: what do you and Vladimir Putin have in common?

all human beings

are united by

birth,

life,

death, and

every emotion

in between 

Dude. Forget the Vipassana. Can I buy some pot from you? 

Again, we're reviewing this masterpiece in the context of the possibility of an a priori metaphysic. Have we come to the right man? More to the point, does he have strong enough pot?

the biggest shift in your life happens when you

go inward

I suspect the biggest shift in yung pueblo's life would be the discovery of the shift key. 

Anyway, what happens after we look inward? Easy, just

step in and observe all that you find with 

acceptance;

the love you bring lights up your self-awareness;

you start seeing how the past is packed into your

mind and heart --

patience, honesty, and observation start the

healing process.

And we're off to the races: look inside with love and acceptance, and before you know it, the healing process has begun.

Say what you want about yung pueblo, it's not easy to make even Deepak cringe or Oprah gag.

He makes Frank Costanza's serenity now!!! sound complicated: "next time you feel agitated" 

remember that simply being aware

that you are repeating the past

is a sign of progress

Oh: stagnation is progress. If only I had known this when I was a psychologist...

Scrolling down through the sample, it actually gets worse, but I'll spare you. 

The question is, where do we begin if we want to tap into this vast audience?

Obviously with a gimmick. I know: instead of no caps, ALL CAPS. 

I'll also need a pen name.

How about... OLD BIRD. 

TIMELESS PLATITUDES from an OLD BIRD channeled through GAGDAD BOB

Let the healing begin!

TRULY TRULY 

THE OLD BIRD 

DOES NOT KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.

FOR HE WHO BEGAN THIS BOOK

PARADOXICALLY NO LONGER EXISTS

BY VIRTUE OF 

HAVING WRITTEN IT. 

BUT WAIT -- 

HE CAN ALWAYS REREAD & EDIT 

WHAT HE WROTE BEFORE --  

YOU KNOW, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER AUTHOR -- 

NO NEED TO BE SO FUCKING POMPOUS ABOUT IT.

End of channelling. For now. The OLD BIRD has MUCH MORE to say. But I want to return to a less serious subject, that is, the possibility of an a priori metaphysic, which would be as close to a universal religion as we could imagine. 

My other question is whether revelation would have to be subordinate to it, or vice versa. I could go either way, depending on the day.  

Anyway, according to Schuon,

If one starts from the recognition of the immediately tangible mystery that is subjectivity or intelligence, then it is easy to understand that the origin of the Universe is, not inert and unconscious matter but a spiritual Substance which from coagulation to coagulation and segmentation to segmentation -- and other projections both manifesting and limiting -- finally produces matter by causing it to emerge from a more subtle substance, but one which is already remote from principial Substance.

That is one looong sentence.  I am tempted to simplify it. Or as the OLD BIRD might put it,

THE MYSTERY OF SUBJECTIVITY

IS LIKE AN INFINITE HORIZON

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE

GRAND CANYON

LEADING INTO THE

RABBIT HOLE

OF CONSCIOUS SUBSTANCE

BETWEEN THE DREAMER WHO DREAMS THE DREAM

AND THE ONE WHO IS

DREAMT. 

I CALL IT THE RELIGION 

THE ALMIGHTY AND ME

WORKS OUT

BETWIXT US. 

AH, LITTLE COONS,

I SEE YOU'RE STARIN' AT MY FINGERS.

SHALL I TELL YOU THE STORY OF RIGHT HAND - LEFT HAND --

THE TALE OF GOOD AND EVIL?


 

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Just How Screwed Are We?

Once again I don't have much time this morning. Best I can do is raise a bunch of questions that we'll have more time to properly unpack tomorrow, when things will return to normal around here, and the usual vast, untracked panorama of slack will unfold before us. 

In short, we have sufficient time to pull out a lot of toys and make a big mess, but not nearly enough time to clean up after oursoph.

As to the title of this post, what we mean is: to what extent are we able to think our way out of this mess, this mess being Life Itself, specifically, human life? 

If not for human beings, there would be no problems in the cosmos. Certainly if not for me, I would have no problems. Does this mean Camus was correct when he made that crack about suicide being the only serious philosophical problem? Or Stalin: no man, no problem.

They're wrong about that, but why are they wrong? Then again... 

Folks like the Buddha took the question seriously but not literally. You could say that for Buddhism the only serious metaphysical question is whether or not to commit ego death. 

But that question is also very much at the forefront of Christian metaphysics, in that the whole point of Baptism is to die with Christ and be reborn in him.

As it so happens, yesterday I was re(rerere)reading Meditations on the Tarot, because I'm still waiting for the postman to bring me a new book to sink my teeth into. Tomberg says that our rebirth reestablishes "the state of consciousness prior to the Fall," and why not? "This is Christian yoga," which "does not aspire directly to unity, but rather to the unity of two."

Anyway, Change My Mind: man is always and by definition the only problem in all of existence. Except for the Godman. He is supposedly man's solution to the problem of man. 

Now, what is it that constitutes man, i.e., sets him apart from every other being in existence? That's right, thinking; we are the "rational animal," meaning not just that we reason -- every animal has a crude or inchoate version of reason -- but that it is self-reflexive. Humans alone are Life ², in that we are able to think about thinking and know about knowing, not to mention love beauty and virtue, discern good from evil, inquire into the causes of things....

That's what we're driving at: causes of things, not forgetting the cause of causation. Being that this is a hierarchical cosmos, there are degrees and modes of causation. You could say that science investigates the little causes while metaphysics investigates the big ones, including the causes of science, i.e., conditions by virtue of which it is possible. 

Conditions such as, oh, an intelligible cosmos. Science can't take a single step in the absence of intelligible being, but nor can it take a single step in addressing the question: hey, why is being so darn intelligible? In particular, why is it intelligible to us, i.e., to our intelligence? These two -- intelligence and intelligibility -- are so perfectly matched that it looks like a conspiracy between them.

It reminds me of Gondwana. I remember in grade school, looking at the coasts of Africa and South America, and noticing how well they fit together. But I was just a moronic kid with more important things to think about, mostly having to do with music and baseball. 

I just googled the subject, and it was first hypothesized by Dr. Suess back in the mid 1800s, but the later theory of continental drift (proposed in 1912) had to await confirmation by the science of plate tectonics. If my grade school teachers ever discussed the latter, I wasn't paying attention. 

Anyway, they no doubt laughed at Dr. Suess, just like they're laughing at me, but again, I can't help noticing how well our intelligence is fitted to the deep intelligibility of the cosmos. Is there a reason?

Or no reason at all? And if the latter, like anyone could know that.

Here are some leftover nuggets from brother Lao-tzu: 

--In the beginning was the Tao. All things issue from it; all things return to it.
--How do I know this is true? By looking inside myself.
--To those who have looked inside themselves, this nonsense makes perfect sense.
--Without looking out your window, you can see the essence of the Tao.
--The unnameable is the eternally real.
--The Tao is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.
--All things are born of being. Being is born of non-being.
--When a foolish man hears of the Tao, he laughs out loud. If he didn't laugh, it wouldn't be the Tao.
--The Tao gives birth to One. One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three. Three gives birth to all things.
Next, a passage from the Gospel of John (from Christ the Eternal Tao, by Heiromonk Damascene):
In the beginning was the Tao, 
And the Tao was with God,
And the Tao was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him....
And the Tao became flesh,
And dwelt among us
In the previous post I alluded to an unwritten book that ascends to, and descends from, the middle/top. Well, according to Schuon,
Metaphysics has as it were two great dimensions, the one “ascending” and dealing with universal principles and the distinction between the Real and the illusory, and the other “descending” and dealing on the contrary with the divine life in creaturely situations.

Let's toss a few observations by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner into our metaphysical crockpot: 

Every mystery points to a higher reality. / The first mystery is simply that there is a mystery. 

The Hebrew word for universe is Olam. / Comes from the word for hidden.

There is no place on earth without the Presence.

From the notebooks of Petey: Strictly speaking, we do not comprehend religious truths; rather, they comprehend us. Nor do we so much look at these truths but through them in order to see what religion is all about; we apprehend an intelligible truth by looking through it and gnosising what it pulls out of an otherwise 2D blandscape.

Knowledge is a relation between knower and known; a fundamental change in the knower changes the known far more than changes in knowledge change the knower. 

There are only two points in the cosmos: man and God, or person and Person, respectively. The shortest line between them is a spiral. 

Now,

When God commands Abraham, "Go forth to the land I will show you," the Zohar insists on reading the words hyperliterally: "Go to yourself," search deep within and thereby discover the divine.

What are the very first words of the Bible? Everyone knows that: In the beginning God created.... But for the Zohar, which insists on interpreting the original Hebrew words in their precise order, the verse means something radically different: With beginning, It [Ein Sof] created God (Daniel Matt).

In the beginning God creates; with beginning creates God. I like to look at these in a complementary way:

To be continued....