Thursday, April 28, 2022

New Writ Has Come to Light

Here's something: a newish book called Towards the Essential: Letters of a Spiritual Master. It consists of of letters from Schuon, mostly to folks asking for advice on how to proceed -- as in, I've read your book(s), now what? I'm here, God is there, and how do we tie the room together?

Over a third of the letters are addressed to Christian correspondents, followed by other miscellaneous paths, eg., Sufi, Hindu, Native American, etc. I'd skip ahead to the section on Buddhism, but the Chinaman is not the issue. 

Here's a timely passage which, although written in 1986, goes to our era of mis- and disinformation:

the devil is fond of inculcating in people predisposed certitudes that are unshakable but diametrically opposed to the truth; the earmarks of satanism are precisely this diametrical falseness and the obstinacy of error.

Say what you want about Satan: that creep can roll. Worthy f'ing adversary.

Good news / bad news:

There is no spiritual method that does not wound our nature. Spirituality is both the easiest and the hardest thing. The easiest: because it is enough to think of God. The hardest: because fallen nature is forgetfulness of God. 

So, you're entering a world of pain. Nor does Schuon care about your feelings, which are "a matter of indifference" and "a contingent matter without importance." Besides, 

The happiness of worldly people, if one may say, is that they do not see all their disharmonies; they dwell in an opaque and easy homogeneity; it is a harmony procured for a pittance.  

Sometimes I wish I could live in a place where there were more people like me, instead of none. Well, the world doesn't start and stop at our convenience: 

I know where the difficulty lies: it is easier -- or less difficult -- to be alone on a desert island, than to be among men who do not understand us....

Nevertheless, 

we are obliged to accept the destiny God gave us and do the best we can with it.

I get it, but California? Really?

The world is a battleground, and it is necessary that there be warriors of Light everywhere, if I may express myself thus. In the meantime, you are where Providence has placed you...

There are always ups and downs, strikes and gutters: one must

be mindful of the equilibrium of the soul so as to avoid the alternations between phases of enthusiasm and aridity. If we are indifferent to aridity, it will dissipate in the end.... 

Ups and downs are natural for the soul; everything that is situated in duration undergoes phases; every continuous motion contains rhythms.

In short, abide. Yeah, but it's complicated: lotta ins, lotta outs:

In the spiritual life, one must know how to simplify things, which presupposes that one be firmly conscious of the essential elements of the path.... 

A strict regiment to keep the mind, you know, limber: 

I like to repeat that one must avoid complications, and that the essential, of which one must never lose sight, is this: discernment between the Real and the illusory, between God and the world...

But we are surrounded by nihilists.

God owes nothing to sheep, nor to somnambulists.... 

You must not allow yourself to be discouraged.... this absurd ambience, though so full of assurance and arrogance, is monstrously abnormal, with regard to both its convictions and tendencies; these people may be unanimous in their errors and vices, but it is you who are normal; so remain imperturbable in the face of this collective hypnosis....  

A smarter feller than myself once said

Serenity is to be above the clouds, above the world; above oneself. Recollectedness and serenity: we must discover these in prayer, and through prayer.

Ever thus to deadbeats:

The very length of your letter proves your problems are artificial, thus illegitimate, for one does not need to write a twelve-page letter to outline real problems.

You think far too much, in an artificial manner that is both bookish and psychological.

Maybe, but at least it's an ethos. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Last Word on Freedom

We're still toying with the question of how and where man's freedom fits into the overall cosmic scheme of things. Literally: for how is free will possible, and why is it here? If it doesn't exist -- as believed by religious and scientistic determinists -- then at least this frees us of anxiety, since whatever happens must happen, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It also frees us of moral qualms and conflicts for the same reason.

If free will is just an illusion, then there are no such things as error or evil. So don't worry, be happy! And yet, despite the presence of more secularism than ever, there appears to be more anxiety than ever, so there's a disconnect somewhere.

Aphoristic pointers and clues:

If determinism is real, if only that can happen which must happen, then error does not exist. 

But error does exist, so... 

Error supposes that something happened that should not have. 

Something is supposed to happen, and we are supposed to make it happen. So responsibility and guilt are built into the fabric of existence? Not sure I like that idea. 

The stone is right, wherever it falls. Whoever speaks of error postulates free actions. 

Wait -- I think I found a loophole: belief in free will must be an error. 

To admit the existence of errors is to confess the reality of free will. 

D'oh! 

The prestige of freedom in a society that professes scientific determinism is a Christian holdover.

That's a low blow.

The determinist is impatient with his opponents, as if they had the freedom to speak as they wished to. Determinists are very irritable people.

Why not? Irritability is an effective defense against self-awareness.     

In any proposition about man its paradoxical fusion of determinism and freedom must emerge. 

Which leads directly to the irreducible paradox of personhood: 

The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

In this giant book I'm reading on metascience, the author points out that there are some eight different forms or schools of Thomism. This troubles me, since there is only one Thomas, and I even chose him for my confirmation saint. One reason I joined the church is to exit my own circularity and fragmentation, and now I find out that my own saint is riven by octupularity?

Of the eight approaches, I find that two or three of them speak to me; it's not that I ever intended to join a school of thought, rather, that these schools describe where I already find myself. 

For example, the school of transcendental Thomism revolves around the idea that "the ultimate root of all metaphysical inquiry" is "the drive to know and the intelligibility of being." It "argues that the human intelligence cannot be satisfied until it arrives at some 'Ultimate Reality' which is the 'Ultimate Good.'" This Ultimate Being "is implicit in all our thinking and provides the 'horizon' on which metaphysics is based."

So, I guess that makes me a transcendental Thomist. Except I equally relate to what he calls "Phenomenological Thomism," because this includes the personalism which for me holds the Key to Everything. 

Ironically, John Paul II is perhaps the most well-known personalist, despite the fact that he was a student of Garrigou-Lagrange, the latter representing an entirely different school of thought ("essentialist Thomism") which is much more objective, rigorous, and even hostile to the potential subjectivism of personalism. 

Maybe I'm a little slow, but I see the three approaches as complementary. A thought just floated by: it is as if Garrigou-Lagrange's essentialism is the Father, John Paul II's personalism is the Son, and Norris Clarke's dynamic transcendental horizon is the Holy Spirit.  

This may also be how and where the whole existentialada may be harmonized with Schuon, who writes that not only is there "no incompatibility whatever between the 'absolute Absolute,' Beyond-Being, and the 'relative Absolute,' creative Being," but "this distinction is even crucial." For the Divine Relativity

is the necessary consequence of the very Infinitude of the Principle: it is because God is infinite that He comprises the dimension of relativity, and it is because He comprises that dimension that He manifests the world.  

A world that includes free persons:

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. 

Only if the mind is rational is the will free, and both are rooted in the Person: 

Now one thing is the existential determination of man, which he shares with every pebble, and another thing is his liberty, which he owes to his deiform personality and which causes him to participate in the Divine Nature.  

Now, "The individual will is free insofar as it is real," for "if it were not in any way free it would be deprived of all reality." Rather, only the Divine Will would be free, and we would simply be necessary consequences of it.

I think I'll conclude with a passage from The Way Toward Wisdom:

Since, for Aquinas, the human person is the culmination of the visible universe, and the mediator between it and the spiritual realm, a good understanding of the human person can be considered the key to the knowledge of all Being for which the human person serves as the analogical microcosm. Thus personalism is central to a Metascience, since beings with intellect and will are the supreme form of Being (Ashley).

Concur. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Metascience and Metatheology

Neither science nor religion are possible in the absence of a sense or vision of the Absolute, whether implicit or explicit. 

Every special science, for example, has its material object, but these objects can't just be floating around independently in the cosmos. We separate them for reasons of convenience, but obviously they must be unified in some higher object, the highest and most general of all called being. Metaphysics is the study of being qua being, while every special science limits itself to an aspect of changeable being.

Is the same thing true of religions? In other words, is it possible that there is a metareligion of which diverse religions are exemplars? Here's a thought: according to Schuon,

Religions are cut off from one another by barriers of mutual incomprehension; one of the principle causes of this appears to be that the sense of the absolute stands on a different plane in each of them, so that what would seem to be points of comparison often prove not to be (emphasis mine).  

Compare this to the situation in science (or among scientific disciplines). Say we're looking at biology and physics and get into an argument over what is prior, life or matter. This won't be a fruitful debate unless we can arrive at a larger system in which to situate both life and matter on a vertical axis. 

Last I checked, people are still trying to reduce life to matter instead of realizing this is impossible in principle. A cosmos capable of hosting life -- let alone persons -- is utterly different from on that isn't. The least we can ask of a metaphysic is How am I even possible, let alone actual?   

I don't want to get sidetracked on this smaller (or is it larger?) issue, but here are some illustrative passages by our favorite theoretical biologist, Robert Rosen, from his book Essays on Life Itself

Any question becomes unanswerable if we do not permit ourselves a universe large enough to deal with the question.

In science, for instance, it seems patently obvious that, whatever living organisms are, they are material systems, special cases drawn from a larger, more generic class of nonliving inorganic ones. The game is thus to reduce, to express their novel properties in terms of those of inorganic subsystems.... 

[O]ne manifestation of this claim to the objectivity of reduction is that one must never, ever, claim to learn anything new about matter from a study of organisms. 

Nevertheless, 

Despite the profound differences between those material systems that are alive and those that are not, these differences haver never been expressible in the form of a list -- an explicit set of conditions that formally demarcate those material systems that are organisms from those that are not. 

The List does not exist because it cannot exist, and besides, we're looking for it in the wrong place (not to mention Gödel). We are free to dissolve organisms into "a presumptively larger universe of inorganic systems," but this -- in my opinion -- actually shrinks the universe down to one of our modes of comprehending it, resulting in a total conflation of model and reality, menu and meal. 

No wonder there is so much spiritual hunger among radical secularists: they try to subsist on the menu and wonder why they're malnourished.

Now that I'm thinking about it, we could say that such enigmas result inevitably from the elevation of science to metascience. This redounds to a scientism that can never even account for itself, let alone everything else.   

As it so happens, I'm reading a book called The Way Toward Wisdom: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Introduction to Metaphysics, which is all about metascience and the Unification of Everything more generally. My kind of book. Or at least I thought it was. Kind of a slog, actually. Someone needs to write the same book, only make it more irreverent, entertaining, and engaging. I know a guy, but he's a little lazy...

Here's a relatively straightforward passage:

Persons can be judged really "wise" only if, through reflection, they have become conscious not simply of what their worldview is but also of the bases on which it rests. Nor is anyone wise who is unable to enter into dialogue with those of different worldviews.  

Now, we all know there is by definition no wisdom on the progressive left; this in turn is both a cause and consequence of their hatred of free speech. They are trapped in their little model of the world, and repel any information that might help them escape from it. Could there be a theory less critical than critical race theory?

Yes! Because critical race theory is situated in a more general metaphysic of critical theory, exemplified by everything from feminism to Chicano studies to post-colonialism to queer theory. They could save a lot of money by merging these into one big Department of Angry Victims. 

Back when I studied psychology in grad school they just called it "paranoia." Now they call it psychology. In other words, psychology itself has become "critical" and therefore uncritical. Today I don't think a guy like Bob could ever pass the licensing exam except by concealing his true beliefs and toeing the party line.   

Headline I just now saw: Media Watchdog: Big Tech Stepped in to Censor News About Biden 646 Times in Just 2 Years. Pay no attention to that shuffling corpse and get back in the Matrix!

But let's try to focus on our original subject, that is, how and where to situate different religions in relation to one another.  

Nah, out of time.