Friday, June 24, 2022

Friday Fun and Metafun

I believe more in God's smile than in His wrath. --Dávila

More than a few tenured apes deny the possibility of any top-down causation via the soul, first, because it doesn't exist, and second, because 

any exercise of efficient causality on a material system requires a new input of energy into the system, and this would violate the sacrosanct physical principle of the conservation of matter-energy.... Hence no intrusion on the material system from an outside nonmaterial agent is possible (Clarke).

Well, they have a point, but only within the limited universe studied and disclosed by physical science. However, everyday science in principle either ignores or is totally ignorant of the Total Universe in which our universe is embedded, and of which it is an expression (or creation). 

Total Universe? What's that supposed to mean? We'll get to that in a moment, but first let's knock down the strawmanure argument from the conservation of matter & energy. In the words of Clarke, 

What is needed for the soul to influence the brain and body is not more material energy; it is only a change in the information pattern governing the flow of energy in the brain...

And while information may require a material carrier, it 

is not itself spatially extended material stuff, but of the order of form, and the transformation of form and information is precisely what the mind is equipped to do. 

So, we're not talking about efficient cause from without, rather, formal (and final) cause from within. Therefore, in addition to just not liking the idea of the soul, they -- whoever they are -- reject two out of four types of causation.  

Yes, you are always free (really!) to limit yourself to material and efficient causation, but bear in mind (really!) that doing so makes it literally impossible to explain how you are able to understand the truth (really!) of material and efficient causes. Suffice it to say that the truth of matter is not a material object, but is in the object -- and in our minds in a different mode, i.e., as immaterial form, AKA knowledge.

As it so happens, right now my intellect is using my material body to type these immaterial thoughts, as your senses are translating the material patterns on your computer screen into immaterial ideas. It's astonishing to me that there are people who prefer to hold a metaphysic that renders this miracle inexplicable and impossible. Why?

We'll get to that discussion as well, but it will have to get in line behind the Total Universe alluded to above. Think about it: any discussion of the Total Universe must account for the intellect contemplating the Total Universe, so that much is obvious. 

As usual, let's first begin with a few aphorisms, since these are a good warmup for the nonlocal muscles of the soul.

Appearance is not the veil, but the vehicle, of reality.

That is to say, 

Scraping the painting, we do not find the meaning of the picture, only a blank and mute canvas. Equally, it is not in scratching about in nature that we will find its sense.

As such,  

The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.

Therefore, 

The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality.

Perhaps you respond: Like anyone could even know that! 

Okay, let's humor the worldlings and pretend this isn't necessarily true, only possibly true: or that there's a 50-50 chance the universe is totally random and contingent. 

Well, it is written into the bylaws of the Benevolent Order of Transdimenional Raccoons that, all else being equal, we will always choose the cosmic vision that is more fun. And Metacosmic Meaning is more fun than infracosmic meaninglessness. 

Back to the Total Universe: Schuon has some helpful -- and fun -- observations to share on the subject: 

Modern science, which is rationalist as to its subject and materialist as to its object, can describe our situation physically and approximately, but it can tell us nothing about our extra-spatial situation in the total and real Universe.

Sounds like a Gödelian challenge has been issued. What is our actual situation? Astronomers, for example, can pinpoint exactly where we are in space, but where is this in relation to the vertical space of the total Universe? For example, if I'm sitting here with a rock in my lap, am I and the rock in the same "place"? 

Yes and no. For we are in the same place physically, but certainly not metaphysically. Yes, I am here, but if I were only here, then we couldn't be having this conversation. Rather, it would be as if my rock were here and your rock there, with no possible communion between rockheads.

Where and how is this contact taking place? Here's a clue:

Everything has a center; therefore the totality of things -- the world -- also has a center. We are at the periphery of "something absolute," and that "something" cannot be less powerful, less conscious, less intelligent than ourselves (Schuon).

Sounds fun. But we want proof.

[W]hat proves the Absolute extrinsically? In the first place the relative, since it is meaningless without the absoluteness it restricts, and in the second place the "relatively absolute," that is, the reflection of the Absolute in the relative (ibid.).

I was discussing this subject just yesterday with the Gagboy, in the context of how we are able to discern beauty in an objective sense. We are able to do so because, although we dwell in a Shadowland of fissures and fluctuations, so things aren't always completely clear, we can nevertheless affirm, for example, that the music of, say, Duke Ellington, is objectively superior to that of Miley Cyrus. How do we know this, and why isn't it just your opinion, man?  

Because beauty, like truth, is an adequation. More generally -- whether we're talking about the true, the good, or the beautiful -- 

Certitude exists in fact, or else the world would not exist; there is therefore no reason to deny it on the plane of pure intellection and of the universal. 

The universe certainly exists, and in it we discern a circular flow from its nonlocal Source to us and back -- like a fountain, as it were. 

Thus, there are descending and ascending energies, although not reducible to the mere efficient energy of physics. First there is a descent "from the Principle to the manifestation," followed (ontologically, not temporally) by the movement "from manifestation to the Principle."

And here's the important point:

there is unity "from the point of view" of the Principle and diversity or separativity from the point of view of creatures inasmuch as they are only themselves.

Thus, you and I, for example, are as separate as two rocks but as unified as one intellect, insofar as we are unified in the Universal Intellect -- the very source, ground, and principle of unity as such.

Or not. But it's fun to think so.

In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us. --Meister Eckhart

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Living with Ambitious Buffoons, Grab-tailing Weasels, & Tasteless Matrix Dwellers

We're still on the subject of the soul, about which Clarke observes that

the lower cannot be the active source of higher actions proceeding from it; but the higher can well be the source of lower level actions. The lower can't contain the higher, but the higher can contain the lower without violating any principle of sufficient reason. 

The first sentence goes to Sherlock Holmes' gag about ruling out the impossible, the second to whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. Okay, but how is it true? By virtue of what higher principle? 

Note that Clarke is not defending any kind of mind/matter dualism here, rather, a hierarchy of levels which necessarily starts at the top or else loses its own sufficient reason. The Absolute is, and cannot not be. It is our ultimate container, but it is critical to understand that it is not an empty container, like abstract geometrical space.

Support for this view comes from an unlikely -- or likely, depending on how you look at -- source, this video of Terence McKenna posted by Vanderleun. I recommend watching the whole thing for its pure innertainment value, but several points stand out for me (https://americandigest.org/to-dream-perchance-to-awaken).

First, he alludes to alienation from the Matrix (which, if you don't feel, then don't worry about it, because you're not a thinker, just a utensil of the hivemind); second, that the final call is aesthetic, i.e., that "we live out the consequences of our taste"; third, that language (Logos) is the code for hacking virtual reality; and lastly, that "when we free ourselves we are not freed into a void," rather, into a dimension of great and even infinite beauty that serves as a compass pointing toward Truth.

Obviously, we are surrounded by bad taste -- not just in art but in culture more generally, in entertainment, politics, religion, everything. But it's worse than that: for we are not just victims of poor taste, but of human beastlings with no taste, and who are thereby lost in the cosmos because they've disabled the very epistemophilic compass mentioned in the paragraph above. 

Sr. Dávila has many aphorisms that go to this unappreciated (in our time) dimension of reality, more than I could possibly track down. Indeed, it is one of his central preoccupations (as it is for Schuon and Balthasar, among others), although I don't believe we've ever explicitly discussed it. I'll limit myself to ten wise cracks:

Without aesthetic transfiguration all of reality is pedestrian.

Today having taste is enough to qualify one as a puritan.

The existence of a work of art demonstrates that the world has meaning. Even if it does not say what that meaning is.

The work of art is a covenant with God.

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.

When religion and aesthetics are divorced from each other, we do not know which is corrupted sooner.

Only those who secretly propagate the admiration of beauty conspire effectively against today’s world.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.

I do not know whether in another world the devil punishes an irreligious society. But I see that here it is soon punished by aesthetics.

A key point is that this truly represents a new dimension of the cosmos, one which mankind definitively enters around 70,000 years ago, with the Big Bang of the soul. Not only do we see the sudden ingression of art and beauty, but abstract concepts, mathematics, discovery of the afterlife, and transcendence more generally.

So as Terence says, we are not freed into a void, but into a transcendent dimension -- which, if you are awake, should be a source of perpetual astoneagement. Again, this can't come from below, but rather, must somehow radiate from above, for

The laws of biology in themselves do not have sufficiently delicate fingers to fashion the beauty of a face (Dávila).

I'm just about out of time, so let's conclude by translating this trippy post into some practical advice, for example, follow the beauty (and unfollow the ugly); be in the horizontal but not of the horizontal; let the dead bury the tenured, and use the entrails of the latter to strangle the last gaslighting journalist; and although the spiritually impoverished matrix dwellers will always be with us, it is our duty always and everywhere to share the good, true, and beautiful nous in order to help them climb up and out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We Can't Reach God, but God Can Reach Us

I just had the image of man as a kind of whirlpool produced by currents emanating from heaven and earth -- horizontal and vertical, celestial and terrestrial -- circling around a personal center. 

It's not that farfetched if you think about it; indeed, it is even a little near-fetched, since -- according the theories of Ilya Prigogine -- any biological system is a dissipative structure that exchanges matter, energy, or information with the environment.

If we could cleanse our windows of perception -- or at least take enough LSD -- then living things might appear as fantastically whirling process structures, or dynamic tornadoes of information. We're not in Kansas anymore! 

That image popped into my head upon reading this passage from Clarke regarding the soul, i.e., our mysteriously embodied spirit:

Unlike any animal or lower being on earth, it derives from the direct collaboration of both heaven and earth, so to speak. On the one hand, the human body results from the long slow evolution of life on our planet from the tiniest one-cell creature to the highest, most complex body that nature has so far been able to produce.  

But then evolution runs into a wall, which is revealed by the fact that Homo sapiens is genetically complete as long ago as 200,000 years, and yet, there is no evidence for the human soul until much later, around 70,000 years ago. Wha' happened? Or failed to happen?

In principle we can rule out any notion that material evolution can produce an immaterial soul. As mentioned a post or two back, there's not even a theory of how that theory could be possible. Perhaps, since material nature "can go no further," the Creator infuses 

a spiritual soul directly into this long-prepared living body, to take over and make its own, to live out its unique new mode of life as an embodied spirit -- a human person, a unique fusion of the two great domains of reality in our universe, the spiritual and the material -- "man the microcosm," a single being summing up all the levels of being in the universe itself, and so pointing to the unity of its Creator...

Hmm. I don't know. It still sounds a little ad hocky or God-of-the-gapsish to me. Can we do better? Or is it one of those things whereby if we were capable of comprehending it, it would be too simplistic to give rise to beings capable of comprehending it? In other words, above our praygrade, and that's all there is to it. 

As if God tells us: Best I can do is offer you a mythopoetic vision. Take it or leave it.

Perhaps our friend Nicolás has some ideas. Can't hurt to ask. Let's start with myth. What can you tell us, Nick?

The bridge between nature and man is not science, but myth.

Whoever does not believe in myths believes in fables.

Myths, like the aesthetic presentation, can be truths without being realities.

Every mythology is true in a certain way, whereas every philosophy is false in a certain way.
What about what we said above about man's ideas being too simplistic to give rise to man?

Happily, the world is inexplicable. (What kind of world would it be if it could be explained by man?)

Touché. More generally, man's intellectual systems can never climb over Gödel's wall:

“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism.

Therefore,

There are truths that can only be expressed in formulas that are evidently false.

In other words, we can know the truth even if we can never reduce it to a formula.

And there is no reason whatsoever to feel inferior to the scientist when discussing these lofty matters:

When it comes to knowledge of man, there is no Christian (provided he is not a progressive Christian) who anyone has anything to teach.

Besides, 

Man calls “absurd” what escapes his secret pretensions to omnipotence.

Now, I'm a pretty skeptical if not cynical if not totally disillusioned guy. Is that bad? No, not necessarily, for

There is some collusion between skepticism and faith: both undermine human presumptuousness.

Indeed, 

Two skeptics fit into every great Christian with space left over for Christianity.

We can try to account for the soul without revelation, but the bottom line is that

He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary.

Concur. You can't reduce it to science, for

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

This post didn't actually end, we just ran out of time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Ancient Faith and Modern Woo

Just the usual Coon pr0n freshly half-baked for your vertical innertainment...  

The relationship between self and consciousness has always reminded me of the particle / wave complementarity in physics. We are always conscious, but at any given moment only conscious of a tiny fraction of what is potentially present to the conscious mind. 

It reminds me of the Trinity, which is substance-in-relation, i.e., one substance in three persons. Thus, the substance is analogous to wave, the person-relations to particles. 

But just as in physics, the parts are by no means separate from the substantial field, any more than the water of the ocean is radically distinct from its waves; there is always a relation of parts within a unity of substance.

Reminds me of Whitehead:

Things are separated by space, and they are separated by time: but they are also together in space, and together in time, even if they be not contemporaneous (Science and the Modern World).

This is because in this here cosmos -- the one disclosed by modern physics -- "there is no element whatever which possesses this character of simple location." Ultimately, nothing is here without being everywhere because of the field aspect.

For a book that was published almost a hundred years ago, he gets pretty woo-woo: "every volume mirrors in itself every other volume in space"; and

Exactly analogous considerations hold with respect to durations in time. An instant of time, without duration, is an imaginative logical construction. Also each duration of time mirrors in itself all temporal durations.

You might be tempted to think such metaphysical spookulations have no practical utility, but such a paradigm might help us understand how, for example, everyday vertical causation works. Dávila:

Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference.

Always above and in time. Likewise, short of an appeal to ad hoc magic, it would be difficult to explain, say, transubstantiation, in a machine or clock universe. But in a nonlocal organismic cosmos it is eminently reasonable. (This is not to stake religion on science, because truth is true regardless of the current state of any particular  science.)

Again, a geometrical point might be here locally, but it is also "everywhere" in its wave or field-like aspect. Such a consideration helps us make sense of the following aphorism:

God is infinitely close and infinitely distant; one should not speak of Him as if He were at some intermediate distance.

To say the cosmos is like a machine or clock may well be useful, but these are mere abstractions from a concrete reality that cannot be contained by any image, model, or mathematical equation. The model is not the reality, nor can you eat the menu. But climate hysterics never stop trying.

About the cosmic complementarity, Dávila suggests that

Two contradictory philosophical theses complete each other, but only God knows how.

We can't understand how something can simultaneously be particle and wave, but fortunately, someOne knows. Nor do we understand how our freedom gets in here, but that hardly makes it any less real:

Determinism is a verbal generalization; it is concretely unthinkable.

No, we haven't forgotten about our search for the source of the soul, and the following aphorism might furnish a clue: 

The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.

In Christian metaphysics, only two things are special and immediate creations: the world itself (or better yet, Being as such); and the individual soul. Both are said to be created from no pre-existing materials.

Being is very wavelike, isn't it? For it consists of every conceivable event, thing, and thought, now and forever, and yet, all of these put together don't add up to Being, nor do they add to Being, since it's already always everything everywhere every time. 

And again, the soul situated within Being has a kind of particle character, even though it could never be a closed monad, but rather, is connected to the whole of Being.

For which reason Thomas could say that the intellect is "naturally capable of knowing everything that exists," and "in understanding is extended to infinity." How is this possible if we aren't somehow connected to all of Being in a wavelike manner? 

For ultimately, "Every rational being knows God implicitly in every act of knowledge" (ibid.). Again, we are parts but the part is always connected to the whole. Which helps us make sense of this last aphorism:

Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not adventitious to me.

Point and sphere... ʘ....

Since God is the universal cause of all being, it is thus necessary that wherever being is found, God is also there present (Thomas).

 We are always a substance-in-relation, like God himselves.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Confused Possibilities & Clear Impossibilities

A reminder that we're on a mission to discover the source of the soul, or better, the human person. We left off the previous post with Sherlock Holmes' epistemological dictum that "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." So, let's eliminate some impossibilities and bat away some absurdities. 

According to Dávila,

A confused truth is worth less than a clear error.

In that spirit, let's stipulate that a confused possibility is worth infinitely more than clear impossibility

It's interesting that we are no closer to understanding the origins of the soul than we were, say, 500 or 2,000 or 10,000 years ago, and probably farther away, for

The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man.

This because our official collective metaphysic took a wrong turn some time back. Opinions diverge as to exactly when this was; Richard Weaver thought it was with the retreat of Thomistic realism and the upsurge of braindead nominalism after the 14th century or so. Schuon had a beef with Renaissance humanism. Others blame the scientific revolution -- not science per se, of course, but scientism -- for which reason

Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot.

Or better, like a blunt autist treats blind date. But in just the past couple of decades we've learned that there exist ideo-pathologies even more impossible than scientistic autism, i.e., the whole twisted menagerie that comes under the heading of Wokeness. Fortunately, this postmodern hysteria may fade into history before we've even had the chance to figure out what it was.

What it was was just man -- man minus his divine source, who will necessarily veer in all sorts of unpredictable ways, since it leaves him deprived of his center, his source, and his direction. And you will have noticed that the in the late stages of this chaotic descent,

Militant irreligion gradually transforms the one possessed into a simple imbecile convulsed by hatred.

Now, neurdoscientists like to call our quest the "hard problem of consciousness," when they actually mean the impossible problem -- for it is soph-evidently impossible for them to solve or even properly formulate the problem while limiting themselves to the tools and categories of neuroscience. Aphorisms, each going to a certain kind of metaphysical impossibility: 
The psycho-physical parallelism is not a theory, but rather a manner of avoiding the problem.
Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.
What is capable of being measured is minor.

 There isn't even a theory of how the first theory could work. Dualism is not an option. Or, if you're stuck in one, keep thinking, for there is light -- the One Light -- at the end of that manmode unreality tunnel. 

As to the second, it too is obvious. The real problem is that so many scientistic beliefs aren't even falsifiable, and therefore not even science -- e.g., climate catastrophism, gender ideology, Brandonomics, etc.

As to the third, consider, on the one hand, man as man, and on the other, man as measurable -- say, his weight, or his percentage of H2O, or his bodily temperature. Put conversely, the soul cannot be measured because it is the measurer. Ah, but who or what is the measure of the soul? Schuon:

To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative....

Once man makes of himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all his meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses.

 Then, deprived of this God <--> Man tension, 

Man is an animal that imagines itself to be Man.

And 

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

Let's try another tack before we close out this post. It touches on proper pronouns, intrinsic order, and the metacosmic logos:

The universe is a useless dictionary for someone who does not provide its proper syntax.

A useless dictionary. What would make a dictionary useless in the ultimate sense?

I know: postmodern deconstruction, whereby words are detached from their objects and refer only to other words.

Speaking of clear impossibilities.

Here's another clue:

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.

Ontological levels. Why not? We all recognize them. It's merely a matter of recognizing them as real.


Then, once you've done that, 

He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary.

Conversely, you can collapse the hierarchy into a horizontal flatland, in which case  

The modern aberration consists in believing that the only thing that is real is what the vulgar soul can perceive (all aphorisms by Sr. Dávila).

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Clues to the Provenance of the Soul

Our subject is the special or "immediate creation" of the soul, about which I've always been a little ambivalent, since it seems a bit ad hoc. In other words, reason can't penetrate it, because God did it, and that's all there is to it. But how and why and when, and all that?

Some souls don't even believe in the soul, much less its immortality:

For the man who lives in the modern world, it is not the soul’s immortality in which it is difficult to believe, but its mere existence.

Others say 

We have fewer solid reasons to anticipate that there will be a tomorrow than to believe that there will be another life.

 Either way, 

What is difficult is not to believe in God, but to believe that we are important to Him.

How important?

Man is important only if it is true that a God has died for him.

Pretty important then. Conversely, if natural selection is man's sufficient reason, then we are literally of no importance -- and no conceivable importance -- whatsoever.

But no one short of utter psychosis believes man is unimportant, no matter how strenuously he argues otherwise. Which reminds us of another aphorism, that

We believe in many things in which we do not believe we believe.

No one here would dream of denying the truth of natural selection. However, 

It is not the false idea that is the dangerous one, but the partially correct one.

The other danger is a "total truth" that presumes to enclose man in relativism or reason, for 

A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery (Dávila x 7).

As Schuon says, there is no -- nor could there ever be any -- "common measure between" the "wholly contingent movement" of natural selection and the "sudden burst of intellectual and moral" -- not to mention aesthetic -- flowering that occurs some 50 or 60,000 years ago (more on this pneumatic Big Bang as we proceed). 

Clarke writes of how JP II encouraged us not to avoid Darwin's theory, but rather, to "integrate it into an enriched vision" of the cosmos, culminating in "humanity as the crown of the whole process."

No one needs to advise me to do this, because it's one of my innate preoccupations. Much as I've sometimes longed to be normal, it's my nature, and I'm stuck with it. I couldn't not try to weave the Area Rug that pulls the entire cosmos together. If I were a transcendental Thomist, I would go so far as to say that my inborn conformity to the nonlocal Area Rug is sufficient proof of its existence. In the words of Schuon,

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, no God, no us. Which, now that I'm thinking about it, is an elegant way of talking about the necessity of the special creation of the soul. 

In other words, assuming an awareness of the soul's immaterial nature and capacities, there is literally no other conceivable explanation, even if we couch it in mythological terms so it can be understood and assimilated by HCE (Here Comes Everybody).

Besides, scientism is too easy, and we enjoy the challenge of synthesizing seeming opposites -- which, more often than not, are complementarities. Thus, it would be accurate to say that here at One Cosmos we are always fishing for complements.

Now, God and man can't actually be complementary, being that there can be no common measure between them. Unless....

Yes, unless Incarnation, in which case man is able to truly participate in God's own tri-complementarity, but that's probably getting ahead of ourselves. Let's slow down and stick with Clarke's article. 

In discussing the soul's immateriality, he writes of "our ability to meaningfully say 'I,'" which involves "no dispersal of parts-outside-of-parts that is characteristic of material bodies with their spatial extension."

I was thinking about this just this morning, in that every morning, upon waking up, I review the previous night's productions of the Dreamer -- plots, characters, sets, dialogue, themes, etc. 

Even if you insist that the dreams are somehow purely material, the Dreamer who dreams them can't be, much less the one who remembers, interprets, and maybe even understands them. Suffice it to say that matter can't fold over and see itself, let alone see itself seeing itself. Rocks don't wonder about their rockhood, nor can they even ride a bicycle.

Another important feature of the "I" -- related to its conformity to the Absolute -- is its "unlimited openness." We -- at least I do, anyway -- "desire to know all being without limit, which is impossible for any material being limited to space and time." Thus,

the soul, the principle of intellectual life, must itself be spiritual in nature. The higher cannot proceed from the essentially lower; this would violate the principle that the effect cannot be greater than its cause.  

We'll deal with the nature of "emergence" in a subsequent post. Meanwhile, this all reminds me of that wise crack of Sherlock Holmes to the effect that "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." We'll eliminate some additional impossibilities as we proceed, and then consider what's left.