Friday, June 17, 2022

Cosmic Nothingbuttery vs. Open Vertical Borders

But. There's always a but:

In our own day, within the flattened-out worldview of secularized science and materialism, there is clearly no place for the conception of the human being as living on the frontier of matter and spirit: there is nothing there on the upper side of the border! It has all been leveled out and absorbed down into the material underside (Clarke).

Now, one thing I like about Thomistic psychology is that it simply describes what humans do, always do, and can't help doing, when we engage in intellection of any sort: to say intellection is to say transcendence, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, no matter how tightly we cling to the myths and superstitions of material scientism. Transcendence is. If it weren't, then no one could have poor taste:

The rhetoric that is in the worst taste is that which renounces transcendence without renouncing its vocabulary.

With apologies to Horace, you can drive out transnature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back. Imagine bothering to engage in thought only to promulgate a vulgar metaphysic that denies its real existence and even possibility: 

The vulgar epistemology of the natural sciences is a burlesque idealism in which the brain plays the role of “I” (Dávila).

But these earthbound factsimians are not abnormal, for they represent the spiritually untutored and untransformed mob. 

Rather, we are the weird ones. Which is one reason why the World -- the world of vulgar normotics -- hates us. Seems like a kind of envy, only displaced from the horizontal to the vertical, and which resents anyone who isn't as empty as your typical childless SJW Karenoidal wacktivist. 

Not only is transcendence a fact, it is the first fact encountered by the awakened mind. Without it, we are indeed plunged into the senses and imprisoned in matter. But thanks to it, we are vaulted into this luminous new dimension abiding at a right angle to mere existence. Speaking for mysoph, I would much prefer to be a pauper here than the King of all Flatland.

Trolls, of course, like to argue. But we never argue, only offer. Take it or leave it:

He who does not doubt the value of his cause does not need his cause to win. The value of the cause is his triumph (Dávila).

With regard to our abnormality, it reminds me of a point Alex Epstein makes in his excellent Fossil Future: Why Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas -- Not Less

I won't go into detail, but Epstein makes the obvious point that, thanks to fossil fuels, we live in by far the most abnormally pro-human time since human beings first appeared on the scene 50 or 60,000 years ago. It is because of fossil fuels that climate-related deaths have plummeted 98% over the past hundred years, that billions of people have been lifted from poverty over the past few decades, and that average lifespan has more than doubled. 

In short, it is natural and normal to die before the age of 30 due to disease, famine, cold, drought, and other various natural disasters. Untransformed and unmastered nature is not your friend! 

Excuse me while I think the following through out loud. Now, the lesson of the Genesis 3 is that supernatural grace has been withdrawn from man. Therefore, it seems to me that the fall must represent a kind of descent from supranature to mere nature. Not completely, of course, unless you're one of those Total Depravity advocates:

the new theology of Luther and Calvin taught that when the human race fell into original sin, human nature itself was not only weakened, as Catholic theologians had always held, but thoroughly and irremediably corrupted so that even justification by faith did not heal this corruption intrinsically but only "covered it over" with the merits of Christ (Clarke).

We won't argue the point, but such a perspective lands us in the same anti-transcendence ditch as materialism, and dismembers the cosmos at the source:

As a result, any singing of the natural dignity and glory of humanity was now deemed quite inappropriate. It was the misery of man, not his grandeur, that now deserved to be sung after the Fall (ibid).

As usual, it's not either/or but both/and: dignity and depravity, misery and grandeur. But in any event, no one here is bragging, if that's what you suspect: 

Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature, because I know myself.

Indeed,

We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the gaze of an entomologist (Dávila).

Now, we've all heard about Gregor Samsa, who woke up one morning from anxious dreams only to discover that he had been changed into a monstrous bug. But have you heard the one about the monstrous ape who woke up to transhumanness?

The question is, how? That is, how does the ape wake up to manhood, and how does the human being awaken to something transcending man? How convenient! The next chapter is called The Immediate Creation of the Human Soul. I suppose we'll discuss it in the next post, but meanwhile, let's suggest that 

Only the souls that are made fertile by a divine pollen bloom (Dávila).

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Bridges and Cliffs

Just a short post, in keeping with a promise I made a few months back to take a hint from Nicolás and Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick.

"In virtue of its very nature as embodied spirit," writes Clarke, human beings are "the high priest, the pontifex (bridge builder) of this whole material cosmos." 

Pontifex. That's an out of-town word we don't often hear in my neck of the woods, but one Schuon often springs on the reader. For example, man "is the center and opening toward Heaven, or pontifex." Elsewhere he writes that

the human norm is to be pontifex: it is to realize equilibrium between two poles of attraction; it is to connect two shores, the inner and the outer. 

But the bridge isn't made of concrete or steel; rather, it seems that it's frankly a bit wobbly, perhaps because it's made of flesh. This bridge, because it is

suspended between the Infinite and the finite cannot not be ambiguous, so much so that, inevitably, "offenses must needs come"; it is thus inevitable that man -- beginning with the original fall and passing from fall to fall -- should end up in rationalist luciferianism, which turns against God and thereby opposes itself to our nature; or which turns against our nature and thereby opposes itself to God.

In case you were wondering about the ontological origins of Pride Month, the celebration of sexual mutilation, and the joys of chemically castrating children. 

Secular humanism, good and hard: "nothing is more fundamentally inhuman than the 'purely human'" (Schuon). Or, in the words of the Aphorist, “Human” is the adjective used to excuse any infamy.

Pride?

The "dark" and "descending" tendency [alluded to above re the Fall] not only moves away from the Sovereign Good, but also rises up against It; whence the equation between the devil and pride (Schuon).

So, Devilry Month. Or perhaps Rob Your Children's Innocence by Forcing them to Watch a Tranny Show Month. As Nancy Pelosi said, it's at the foundation of what America means. Or else!

Dávila:

According to modern man, oppression begins when any filth is prohibited.

Modernity won for man the right to vomit in public.

It is not so much from the barbarity of this era that the cultured man has to defend himself today, as from its culture.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Great Area Rug

We're still pursuing the theme of man as microcosm and cosmic frontier. These two concepts relate to vertical/hierarchical space and pneumo-developmental time, respectively.  

In other words, in addition to its purely geometric setting, this cosmos we inhabit has upward and forward dimensions. It's why progress is possible, and why some people are better than others. 

Which, as usual, reminds us of a few zingers. Regarding hierarchy,

The noble one is not the one who thinks he has inferiors, but the one who knows he has superiors. 

Respecting our superiors is above all a proof of good taste.

There is something definitively vile about the man who only admits equals, who does not tirelessly seek out his betters.

So, if you're wondering about vertical directionality, nobility and good taste are up, vileness and self-satisfaction down

Regarding progress,

Men tend not to inhabit any but the ground floor of their souls.

The soul is the task of man.

The only possible progress is the internal progress of each individual. A process that concludes with the end of each life (Dávila x 6).

If you're wondering where to situate yourself in the dimension progress, that's easy: seek out and ask a better person. 

In this Cosmos -- AKA the Real world -- the human person is 

the bond, the nodal point, that gathers together the whole universe into unity. It thus becomes the symbol and expression of the unity of the whole of creation and so the unity of God, its Creator. 

Only a human being can do this, partaking as it does of both extremes, matter and spirit, and integrating them into unity within itself. Thus the human person becomes truly the center of the universe (Clarke).

Truly truly I say unto you: man is the rug that ties the cosmos together, both naturally (horizontally) and supernaturally (vertically), the latter thanks to the Incarnation. One can acknowledge the former without accepting the latter, at least up to a point. 

But if you keep thinking about it, you'll eventually realize that nature isn't self-explanatory. Rather, nature itself is supernatural; and that

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors (Dávila).

You'll know you're on the right track if the realization of man's centrality results not in pride and grandiosity but in humility and gratitude at the endless frontier.

Thus, today's bottom line is an upward spiral:

the human person becomes the mediator between the whole material world and its Creator, enabling it through him to complete its own return to God in the Great Circle of Being that pours out from God in creation and then strives, drawn by the pull of the Good, to find its way back home to him again (Clarke).

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Stuck in the Middle No More

It would appear that man was and is in something of an inescapable jam prior to the Incarnation. Let's say the A.I. people are correct that the human mind functions like a computer. Well, a computer must be programmed, and the program is a formal system. In a book called Brain, Mind and Computers, Jaki writes that

Gödel's theorem amounts in fact to stating a basic, insurmountable difference between the abilities of the human mind and of formal systems.... [A] machine, being a formal system, can never produce at least one truth, which the mind can do without relying on other minds....

 Moreover,

since machines are of necessity built of physical or chemical components, it also follows that the human mind cannot be fully explained in terms of physics or chemistry. 

In another book (Means to Message), Jaki observes that "As all artifacts, computers too are a sum of atoms." But 

If one's mental processes are equivalent to the actions of atoms, one can have no reason to assume that one's beliefs are true. Those beliefs may be sound chemically, but not intellectually.

As such, it would have made no difference to us if God had incarnated as an atom, chemical, book, or computer program. Rather, in order to span all levels of creation, he had to do so as a person.

This is not to say we can accomplish nothing from our end. Rather, we can and do transcend ourselves, but only so far. For example, the ancient Greeks arrived at the 

conception of the human as common boundary between animal and divine existence, the middle of the cosmos, neither raising himself in hubris to a superhuman existence, nor debasing his life in an attitude of cynicism, but revolving in the vital spheres to which man is bound by natural law (Werner Jaeger, in Clarke).

In other words, stay in your lane: you're not an animal, and you're certainly not God! The human lane rises above the animal lane, but it nevertheless ends in a cosmic nul de slack.  

For the early Fathers, this Greek idea of "the human person as frontier being, living on the edge of time and eternity, matter and spirit, was assimilated easily enough into Christian thought." Only now the road leads all the way up, plus it's a two-way street. Ontologically speaking, how convenient is that!  

This is a totally new development and novel principle, for not only is man the microcosm, but he is now, as it were, the micro-metacosm: not just a little cosmos but a participant in the living source of the cosmos. This source is revealed to us as metacosmic trinitarian personhood, for lack of a less cumbersome term, and it encompasses everything from the first Adam right down to the last atom. 

Among other pleasant consequences, there is a

positive valuation given to the human body and to the whole material world along with it.... Now the body is no longer something to be looked down upon, to be escaped from and left behind as soon as possible (ibid.).

Compare this attitude to the the preeminent neoplatonist, Plotinus. His crony, Porphyry, wrote that he "seemed ashamed of being in the body." Perhaps today we would say he had something similar to Gender Dysphoria, except he didn't want to just transition to a difference sex, but ascend out of the body altogether (indeed, transexuals probably suffer from something similar, only they conflate it with sex). 

But for the Christian,

the human person now becomes a microcosm in a new and richer sense than in the Platonic tradition: it incorporates into itself all the levels of the universe and all its values, stretching from the lowest levels of the material universe all the way up to the highest spiritual level, the divine itself....

All come together in a new unity in a single type of being, the human person who now becomes the center or middle point, the "middle being," of the universe in a new, enhanced sense.

Not just the soul, as in neoplatonism, "but as the whole human person, body and soul together." 

To be continued...

Monday, June 13, 2022

Little Big Cosmos

Apparently, one of the oldest ideas in man's mythic talebox is that he himself is a lil' cosmos -- a microcosm, or "cosmos in miniature." 

Imagine a group of cavemen sitting around the campfire, and one of our venerable furbears puts forth the idea for the first time:

A human person unites in itself all the levels of the universe from the depths of matter to the transcendence of spirit and is capable of union with God himself and thereby mirroring the unity of the cosmos itself (Clarke).

The verdict of his astoneaged listeners is immediate and unanimous: CAN WE BUY SOME POT FROM YOU?!

It seems to me that this primordial notion is carried forward in the principle that man is somehow created in the image of his Creator -- or that the part mirrors the Whole. Every part must do so to some extent, but in the case of man, 

The complete perfection of the universe demands that there should be created natures which return to God (Aquinas).

If Thomas is correct, it means that we are not so much mirror as mirroring, or better yet, both verb and noun, process and substance.

Hence it comes to pass that the intellectual soul is said to be like the horizon or boundary line between corporeal and incorporeal substance... (ibid.).

This being the case, 

the ultimate perfection to which the soul can attain is that in it is reflected the whole order of the universe and its causes. This also, they [the philosophers] say, is the last end of man, which in our opinion will be attained in the vision of God (ibid.). 

You will have gnosissed that the intellect is indeed ordered to the Absolute, and that it is restless until it rests there, and even then, continues in its vertical movement, since we are not God.

Our intellect in knowing anything is extended to infinity. This ordering of the intellect to infinity would be vain and senseless if there were no infinite object of knowledge (ibid.).

Or, in the words of Schuon,

The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute.... the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing. The Absolute alone confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish and to be wholly what it is.

So near and yet so far:

In fact, what separates man from divine Reality is but a thin partition: God is infinitely close to man, but man is infinitely far from God (ibid.).

D'oh! Well, what are you going to do about it? 

The way towards God always involves an inversion: from outwardness one must pass to inwardness, from multiplicity to unity, from dispersion to concentration, from egoism to detachment, from passion to serenity (ibid.).

Now, back to Clarke. In the Platonic tradition, man as such isn't a mirror, rather, only the purified soul that transcends and escapes from its entrapment in materiality. Neoplatonism culminates in the ascent to the One, whereas Christianity inverts this one-way cosmic path and involves a descent from God all the way down into matter. 

Such divine coondescension would be inconceivable for Plato, and we ourselves would have difficulty believing it if it didn't happen and weren't happening. Thus, 

the early Christian thinkers transformed the concept to celebrate the great dignity and glory of the human person as the central piece, or "lynchpin," of the universe...

And again, we are in (vertical) motion: 

the human soul is the "traveler" of the universe. All other kinds of being are fixed by nature in their paths; only the human soul can choose to be, to live, on whatever level it wishes, from total absorption in matter to the highest spiritual union with the One.

Man is avant garde, as it were, "truly a being that 'lives on the edge,' on the frontier, between matter and spirit, time and eternity."

To be continued...

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Stop History with this One Weird Trick

This article by Norris Clarke looks like One Cosmos material: Living on the Edge: The Human Person as "Frontier Being" and Microcosm. Let's find out what it says.

The title alone reminds me of something Schuon writes, except somewhat in reverse, with a focus on the origin rather than the frontier: two key ideas dominate "the peoples of antiquity," that is, "the idea of Center and the idea of Origin":

In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested Himself in order to pour forth his grace. And it is the same for the Origin, which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and terrestrial things were still half-celestial...

Which reminds us of the innocent, prelapsarian situation of our primordial parents, strolling around with God in the garden in the cool of the day, in that happy time before time. Good times!

The question is, who caused time -- or history, rather -- and is there anything we can do about it? Many people blame the Jews, and they're not wrong. Rodney Stark, for example, writes that

With the exception of Judaism, the other great faiths have conceived of history as either an endlessly repeated cycle or inevitable decline (The Victory of Reason).

Schuon himself is very much inclined to this pessimistic view, whereas both "Judaism and Christianity have sustained a directional conception of history" (Stark). Ironically, "That we think of progress at all shows the extent of the influence of Christianity upon us," for

Christianity was oriented to the future, while the other major religions asserted the superiority of the past. At least in principle, if not always in fact, Christian doctrines could always be modified in the name of progress as demonstrated by reason (ibid.).

Hmm. Looks like one purpose of Christianity is to heal the inevitable psychic wounds of time, which mere animals don't have to deal with. 

Now, this is not to say that Christianity forgets about the Origin, only that it is present at the frontier, to the point that the Alpha (origin) is the Omega (end), and vice versa. However, they are not identical, or time would indeed be an illusion.  

Anyway, for the Man of Antiquity, 

To conform to tradition is to remain faithful to the Origin, and for this very reason it is also to place oneself at the Center; it is to dwell in the primordial Purity and the universal Norm (Schuon).

Again, the focus is back, I suppose in order to awaken from the nightmare of history. Or perhaps fall back to sleep. Either way, just make it stop!

But Christianity is relentlessly forward looking. Except there's a bit of an orthoparadox involved with the Messiah principle, AKA the Incarnation. That is to say, the latter means, among other things, that the End has been made Middle, and this Middle is always now (i.e., the Kingdom of God is at hand). Strange, yes, but strange things are bound to happen when eternity enters time.

Now, while science has its roots in the temporal rupture opened up by the Judeo-Christian stream, it has lately redounded to a banal scientism that is ashamed of its provenance and pretends it was immaculately conceived and born of the Virgin Reason. As Clarke writes, this paltry metaphysic

has flattened out our world vision to a single this-worldly dimension of physico-chemical and biological forces where spirit has been banished as unreal or inaccessible.

That's okay: more Spirit for the restavus:

Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see.

And

The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment (Dávila).

When we think of a frontier, it is typically with regard to horizontal space -- as in the close of the western frontier of the U.S. in 1890. But here we are speaking more of a vertical frontier, as the human person lives

on the edge, on the frontier, between matter and spirit, time and eternity. The diverse pulls of these apparently conflicting dimensions within a human person create tension for it, while it freely shifts its conscious focus between these dimensions, either upward or downward...

Tension. Yes, this is the same tension described in so many ways by Voegelin:
A condition of tending towards a goal. Voegelin uses the term especially to refer to what he calls the "tension of existence," the fundamental experience of longing for transcendental fulfillment, the Beyond, the summum bonum (Eugene Webb).

The Beyond?

That which is ultimate and itself indefinable because it surpasses all categories of understanding. The proportionate goal of the fundamental tension of existence (ibid.).

O.

As to the idea of the human person as micrʘcosm, let's continue this discussion in the next installment.