Monday, February 20, 2023

The Post From Nothing to Nowhere

A post of unalloyed free association, AKA compost. It came from nothing, and from nothing comes nothing. But a Coon will never ask for money, because free association is freeeee!

It’s difficult to talk about the “spark of divinity” at the core of each person without sounding as if one is on the new age spooktrum of oprified woowooitry.

This metaphor evokes the image of a central fire throwing off sparks of light, so it’s not bad for a folk metaphysic. “Light” is always featured in such mythopoetic modes of thought, as are such elemental things as fire, water, heat, wind, rock, rain, and thunder. So let’s try to dig beneath the veil of language and find out what’s going on with all these metaphors, similes, and allegories.

Regarding the latter, one of the scandals of Christianity is that it is all allegory at the foundation, or in other words, abstract principles embodied via history. 

Why not just give those of us on the right side of the Bell Curve the straight-up abstractions? Why the middle-man of history? Why the Jews? And before that, Abraham? And after that, Mary? And before any of them, I AM? 

Why present the beautiful abstractions of metaphysics via the crooked timber and dissonant timbre of a primate hurtling through time?  

Why the flying monkeys?       

Seriously, is there some reason why we have to swallow what sounds like a big myth? Certainly I can understand why God would want to condescend to the Peoples of the Left Side of the B.C. I get it. But why superior specimens such as ourselves?  

That’s why.


Those with ears, yada yada. We’re gonna have to move on.

Now, a spark is not substantially different from the fire, rather, just a smaller version, much like a fractal. Come to think off it, we had a fire last night, because global warming isn't happening fast enough in my corner of the planet. Seriously, it was freezing last night. 

Outside in the dark, I could see some sparks flying up and out of the chimney, and just now I thought of something Harry Nilsson said.

Good advice, but no, that's not it.

Late last night, in search of light, I watched a ball of fire streak across the midnight sky. I watched it glow, then grow, then shrink, then sink into the silhouette of morning. As I watched it die, I said, "Hey, I’ve got a lot in common with that light." That’s right. I’m alive with the fire of my life, which streaks across my span of time and is seen by those who lift their eyes in search of light to help them though the long, dark night.
That’s the one. But are we nothing more than little streaks of light to help the other little streaks see in the dark for as long as the streaks last? Is all of history nothing but a huge streak show?

Where do the sparks come from, that’s the question. From the fire? I can’t think of any other plausible answer, but what is the fire and how does it get here -- or anywhere?  

Just spiritballin’ here, but heat and fire can happen with enough friction. I just had an image of the perichoresis inside the Trinity happening so fast that fire breaks out, like a, like a Disco Inferno! 

Wait, what?

Why? What’s that supposed to mean?

I don’t know. Ask a rabbi.

Okay, I will, but in the context of an old post that streaked past us a decade ago:

"Man is human because he has a task in life to relate to the world, to raise it up and give it meaning and purpose. Otherwise the universe is an endless repetition, a question without an answer, a movement without a goal" (Steinsaltz, emphasis mine). A dead, because closed, circle.

In doing his cosmic duty, man elevates himself (and everything else) and is "lifted up out of the earth," such that "hidden sparks of holiness are released" to become "part of a higher level of reality" (ibid.).

About our material substrate. We are not wholly immaterial (angelic) beings. Rather, "the Divine soul of man had to be fastened to something firm and steady like the earth," for "man is also the lever and the hoist of all of creation, the factor that can raise the essentially inert parts of the world" (ibid.).

Yes, just like God. For what is artistic creation but essentially raising up inert parts of the world, whether color, sound, or rhyme? Man creates beauty, discovers truth, and embodies -- incarnates -- virtue and love. This is called "why we're here."

"A circle is thus formed; the end meets the beginning. Indeed, it would seem that the end and beginning have something in common that is of the very essence of the whole," for purpose "requires the simultaneity of both the end and the beginning. The end of the matter is in the nature of the beginning. The original idea contains the result; the final result contains the initial notion" (ibid., emphasis mine).
So, if I understand correctly, we are like a spark from the fire, only a spark capable of making a you turn -- from I to Thou -- back into the fire.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Cleaning Windows and Repairing Ruptures

Let’s start with some definitions, because Schuon uses the term “metaphysics” in a specific way:

For Schuon, metaphysics is not a branch of philosophy concerned with what lies beyond physics. Nor is it in fact a purely human knowledge bound by the context and categories of the human mind (Nasr).
Rather, it is 
the science of Ultimate Reality, attainable through the intellect and not reason, of an essentially suprahuman character and including in its fullness the whole of man’s being. 
The question is, 1) is this true?, and 2) if so, how might we understand it (if it is indeed understandable) in a Christian context?

First, is it true that knowledge of Ultimate Reality is accessible to us in a direct is way that isn't filtered through revelation? To put it another way, every Christian or Jew, by virtue of being one, would agree that we have knowledge of Ultimate Reality by means of faith. 

But even this is rather tricksy if we think about it, because is this faith actually in God, or in ourselves? In other words, suppose I have faith in God. Don’t I first have to have faith in myself in order to place it in God? 

For this very reason, it is said that faith in God is already God acting in us, thus bypassing, so to speak, the merely human element, in which we would have to be the ultimate source of authority.

But does this not imply that God is acting directly in us with regard to the presence of faith? Well, why limit this direct action to faith only? For once we have established the principle that God is present and acting directly in us, what prevents us from affirming that it manifests in ways other than faith, for example, via (lower case) gnosis, intellection, or the jñana of Vedanta?

I can think of one reason and that is the snare of presumption, hubris, chutzpah, and gnosis-all asshattery in general. 

Nevertheless, focusing on the Christian perspective, I have in my hands an everyday, mundane glossary of Essential Theological Terms by the Spanish Fr. Banálitar Innócuez Conventionál, in which there is a lengthy entry for Reason and Faith. 

Fr. Conventionál makes the commonplace point that this tired question of the role of reason and how far up it goes has been debated ever since it (the divine Logos) came all the way down into human nature. Nevertheless, some parties -- especially post-Luther party-poopers -- have insisted that revelation has nothing to do with reason, even though it is Reason Himself (AKA Logos) who has been revealed, precisely.

Perhaps I should emphasize before we go any further that the stupid, broken, ignorant, and crazy generally ought not push reason too far, since they will only push it that much further into error. Rather, it is precisely such people who should cling tightly to revelation as such. It will keep them out of a lot of trouble. 

Anyway, we might say that the two tendencies can be carried all the way to their extremes in both directions: one way points to an intellect so disfigured by the fall that it is better off not speculating about anything beyond this world. It sarcastically asks what Athens has to do with Jerusalem, while the other says God becomes man that man -- or Athens -- might become God -- or Jerusalem, so to speak

However, I think a more sensible way is to see these as complementary. And really, this complementarity is given to us in otherwise somewhat paradoxical mythopoetic terms, for on the one hand we are fallen, but on the other, the very image and likeness of the Creator. These extremes meet in the lowly omniscience or humble grandiosity of Petey, for example. 

Or Eckart, for that matter. Those who have committed our bOOk to memory will recall that passage by Eckart at the beginning, immediatly below the black page full of nothing:
There is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple, an absolute nothing: rather unnamed than named; unknowing than known…. higher than knowledge, higher than love, higher than grace, for in all these there is still a distention.
This may sound suspiciously nondualistic or acosmic, but bear in mind that Eckhart -- like Christ -- often uses hyperbole to make a point. He wants to shock the listener out of conventional modes of thought into the realm where intellection rules the night. 

I say this because even someone as sober as Thomas expresses the same point in a less extravagant manner than does Eckhart, much less that multi-undisciplined scoundrel Bob. Let’s see if we can find some examples. Here’s a good one:
Our intellect in understanding is extended to infinity.
But we could easily reverse the terms and say that the intellect is the Infinite extended to us

Here again, however, I should emphasize that there is both deuscontinuity and discontinuity, and that the ratio varies from person to person. The fall as such introduces a break in this ray of infinitude, but the very purpose of baptism is to repair the rupture and restore the continuity. Or at least provide a sacred truss.

This one is even better, and is quite similar to what Eckhart and Schuon say:
The intellectual light dwelling in us is nothing else than a kind of participated image of the uncreated light… 
So, we are a bit like the moon to the sun, and therefore more or less lunatic. Again, the stream of light itself is disrupted by the fall, and there are many in whom this redounds to a total Oclipse, or Ø.

But with God’s grace, we can do a lot to clean the mirror, wipe the windows, and widen the doorway. Grace, of course is a necessary condition, without which the mirror remains broken and dirty. 

But faith and effort on our part are the sufficient condition, and big Mr. Clean has even provisioned us with metaphysical Windex to help with the job.

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