Saturday, June 03, 2023

I Believe in Miracle

 We left off yesterday with a little problem:

Just as the emergence of consciousness is a miracle, brute emergence of Being from non-Being is either the miracle of all miracles or a straight impossibility.

The problem is where to situate our miracle. 

What exactly is a miracle? Whatever else it is, it usually involves a violation of the known laws of nature. Now, even the existence of laws of nature violates the known laws of nature, since there is no law that can explain how they got here.

Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

On a more or less serious note, it seems to me that whatever your metaphysic -- from religious nut at one end to atheistic nut at the other, and everyone in between -- you will have to sneak in no less than one axiom or principle that cannot be reduced to anything else, and just is. For a theist it is God (whatever that means); for a materialist it is matter (whatever that means). 

Just as no one knows what God is, nor does anyone know what matter is. Regarding the latter, it seems the more we know, the less we know:

Matter itself is an abstraction that no-one has ever seen: we have only seen elements of the world to which we attribute the quality, within our consciousness, of being material.... 

Materialism derives the only thing we undeniably know, the concreteness of experience, from an unknown abstraction: matter (McGilchrist).

He quotes a physicist on the matter:

Materialists appeal to physics to explain the mind, but in modern physics the particles that make up a brain remain, in many ways, as mysterious as consciousness itself. 

And another:

On many matters, such as experience, physics is simply silent. If you're not clear on this limitation, you have no idea what physics is. 

At this point in my cosmic adventure, I find such arguments boring and tedious. Of course materialism, naturalism, and physicalism are irredeemably stupid and inadequate. The question remains--

What are you gonna do about it? 

You asked that yesterday. This predictable and unproductive argument between matter and consciousness has been going on since the second philosopher arrived on the scene to disagree with the first. Is there anything new we can add, a novel way to approach the question?

Yeah, what he said!

Challenge accepted. As alluded to above, people who claim to be materialists presumably do so because it is less weird and miraculous than religion, but it turns out to be equally weird. It makes me want to elevate weirdness itself to a principle, and why not? 

In the beginning was the Weird, and the Weird was with God, and the Weird was God. 

Something like that. 

What some call religion hardly astonishes us more than what others call science.

There are two ways of going about this: there is the ascending (or analytic) approach that proceeds from the senses to the Principle (we won't yet say God, because it assumes too much, and is too saturated with arbitrary and idiosyncratic meaning); then there is the descending (or synthetic) approach which begins with the Principle and deduces consequences and entailments therefrom.

Hmm. It makes me think that the first is an LH specialty, the second an RH. In fact, this seems pretty clear, since the LH specializes in analysis, the RH in synthesis and integration. And let's not forget the mysterious third, the corpus collosum that unites them.

Now, although we can tackle it from either side -- top or bottom -- the fact remains that reality is one. This suggests that there is only one miracle, the rest being consequences of it. It makes no sense to situate the miracle at the bottom, because, supposing you do, it's not going to be enough; rather, you will need a multitude of miracles.

For example, the first miracle will be that there is something instead of nothing. I say "miracle," because you simply have to assume it as first principle. But then, after a few billion years of so-called matter just doing what it must, it suddenly comes to life. How did that happen? Miracle, I guess.

Okay, but then rational souls appear on the cosmic stage. What explains this miracle? 

Nothing explains it. It's a miracle!

What about the principle of parsimony -- the one that says we shouldn't multiply hypotheses? Occam, and all that? 

Why don't we reduce all the miracles to one big one -- one that is, say, eternally subsistent -- alive, conscious, intelligent, free... one, true, beautiful, creative... intrinsically related in love to its consubstantial other...

Sure, it's a little weird, but is it weird enough?

This leads to a related subject, but it's different enough to deserve a post of its own.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Original SINO

 "To be human," writes McGilchrist,

is to feel a deep gravitational pull towards something ineffable, that, if we just for once get beyond words and reasons, is a matter of experience..., something outside our conceptual grasp, but nonetheless present to us through intimations that come to us from a whole range of unfathomable experiences we call "spiritual."

This is a superficially attractive view of religiosity, and it comes close to what I might have said a couple decades ago. But is it true, and is it enough? For it places the primacy on our end of the deal, with "experience," rather than the reality of the object of experience, and the next ineluctable cosmic bus stops are subjectivism --> relativism --> nihilism --> tenure.

On the one hand, "experience" is unarguable -- unless you want to argue that it should be spelled inarguable. 

But what if one's experience suggests that murdering Jews is the shortest path to paradise? Or that the "something ineffable" toward which we are drawn is called Gaia, or that maybe the Aztec were onto something with their system of human sacrifice? 

No, there's gotta be something objective in the equation, otherwise it's SINO: Subjectivity In, Nihilism Out. 

I have a better idea, or rather, Dávila does

In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter.

Now, I believe this aphorism with ALL MY FEELINGS, but this doesn't matter if it isn't true that man may know truth, i.e., that what we call Truth consists mainly of three things: first there are the universal metaphysical principles, or the first immutable truths of common sense, which inhere in intelligence as such.

Second -- because it is one of those first immutable truths -- is the principle that truth is the adequation of mind to world, not merely of mind to "experience," which can literally be anything. For example, I can experience myself as a woman, but that doesn't make it so, because it does not conform to reality. 

(Thus, as an asnide, one can appreciate the centrality of a metaphysics of subjectivism and relativism for the left: everything for them hinges on the non-existence of objective reality and our ability to know it. Ironically, for them subjectivism is objectively necessary, otherwise they will inevitably fall into reality.)

The third Truth comes to us directly from God, i.e., revelation. It is at once more controversial than the first two, but no less necessary, for if there is no communication of truth from outside the closed circle of human opinion, then we are well and truly f.... subject to the tyranny of relativism.

In another aphorism which I feel is totally correct, Dávila suggests that 

Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow is to make fun of the rest.

He has too much respect for our intelligence to name them, but maybe he gives us too much credit, so I will: these must include, at a minimum, the principle of identity (or non-contradiction), of sufficient reason, and of efficient causality. 

Is it asking too much that a theory not contradict itself, and be adequate to explain the phenomenon without resorting to magic?

Magic, for example, that the human intellect just sprouted from matter (boo!). Unless we revise our opinion of what matter is. But if matter is both material and immaterial, it violates the principle of non-contradiction, and renders reality unintelligible at the foundation.

But wait: matter is both material and immaterial at the foundation, otherwise it would be unintelligible. 

Which is another way of saying that we never encounter matter in the raw, rather, as form + matter. If there exists formless matter, then truly truly, it is none of our isness. 

Literally, for it can have no innersection with Being. Formless matter is the first word of non-being, therefore no word at all, in a language no one can speak or hear.

Let's get back to what McGilchrist says up there in paragraph the second: is there some way to preserve what is helpful, or perhaps to tweak his conclusion to render it sound? 

Let us flip ahead a couple of pages, to p. 1198, where there is a section called Denying the Ground of Being, which he claims not to do: 

ultimately there must just be an uncaused cause, or an ungrounded ground....

OK Thomas. 

In whatever way we recast it, we are faced with an exception, and an exception that cannot be rationalized so as to be safely packed away again within our familiar categories. 

I'm not entirely sure what he means there by "exception," for surely the Ground of Being must be the rule. Nor can we be an exception to the rule, rather, an adequation to it (otherwise we couldn't even know if it).

To his credit, McGilchrist rejects scientistic McMagic -- i.e., "brute emergence" -- as some kind of plausible escape from God, as if Being -- which is to say, intelligible reality -- just 

emerged out of Nothing: nothing here to explain.... in this strategy the miracle is not denied, but confirmed: one miracle is simply recast as another.

It's just substituting one word -- "emergence" -- for another -- "God" -- and certainly attributing godlike abilities to a supposedly godless process:

Just as the emergence of consciousness is a miracle, brute emergence of Being from non-Being is either the miracle of all miracles or a straight impossibility.


Well, what are you gonna do about it? 

Oh, we'll do something about it alright. Tomorrow.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

A Few Words by the Graveside of Anyone Who Dares to Disagree With Me

Given how much time we devoted to it, I feel like we haven't given a proper sendoff to The Matter With Things, and that maybe we ought to say a few words and give it a decent burial, or at least a Celebration of Life, before moving on to the next same old thing. 

There are certainly many points on which I agree with McGilchrist, even if we part ways in the upper pneumasphere, he stopping at a monistic evolutionary panentheism, I proceeding to infinitude and beyond, toward a more traditional metacosmic trinitarian creationism (minus the "-ism"). 

Regarding the latter, Thomas speaks for me:

An error concerning the Creation ends as false thinking about God.

Elsewhere he maintains that

an error regarding creatures reacts in a false knowledge of God. 

So, one can begin at either end -- with creatures or creative Principle, with little nounlings or Big Verb, AKA creative Logos -- and rearrive at the same nobodaddy noplace.

For in the end -- of my bOʘk at any rate -- reality ultimately ascends to the same Principle from which it descends: there is () and there is (), but these are a continuous spiral, not two discontinuous lines. 

If Creation is synonymous with the world, then God is synonymous with... well, technically with nothing, but I was thinking of "source of the world." 

The divine trifurcartion is a firstandlast principle, by which I mean that any thinking, to the extent that it deserves the title of Thinking, and follows itself all the way up, ends in a conception -- whether implicit or explicit -- of the Absolute.

Truth the Second: you needn't think long about this Absolute to understand that it is of necessity Infinite, i.e., unbound, and admitting of no limitation or final determination.

Where the Absolute excludes nothing, the Infinite includes everything, and yes, these are subtly different -- why, as different as LH and RH, respectively, come to think of it (LH : Absolute as RH : Infinite).  

Concur with Schuon:

To say Absolute, is to say Infinite; Infinitude is an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute. It is from this “dimension” of Infinitude that the world necessarily springs forth; the world exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude.

This doesn't imply that this world is necessary, since it is obviously contingent; rather, that there is a "necessary" principle of creativity in God, and that to say necessary is to say eternal. I won't say this is a mandatory Raccoon principle, only that it sure makes a lot of sense. To me.

And while looking up the above comment by Thomas, I stumbled on some additional relevant one- and two-liners to help light the Way, for example,

Each single being is perfect in the measure in which it reaches up [] to its own origin [O].

The highest perfection of human life consists in the mind of man being open [o] to God [in his mode of  ()].

Every rational being knows God implicitly in every act of knowledge [truth = Truth, so be careful what you believe].

The natural desire for knowledge cannot be satisfied in us until we know the first cause.... God, however, is the first cause. Hence, the last end of the creature endowed with a spiritual intellect is to see God in his essence.

O and ʘ:not one, but not exactly two, either. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Pebbles in Your Pond

I'm a little burned out, and I blame McGilchrist. For those of you keeping score at home, we began our review of The Matter With Things on April 27, over a month ago, only for it to end in a whimper of indiscriminate new age panentheism. That's it?  

Anyone feels suffocated inside anyone else’s intelligence.

I'm aware of this, for which reason I try to leave a little air for readers, and not fill every cavity with my idle speculation. Not only is this blog inneractive,

Sentences are pebbles the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric ripples that spread out depends on the dimensions of the pond. 

The last chapter is called A Sense of the Sacred, and along the way there are references to folks I haven't taken seriously since I first got involved in this racket, such as Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Rupert Sheldrake, Wendell Berry, and Teilhard de Chardin, sprinkled in with Hegel, Spinoza, Whitehead, and especially Bergson. 

Now, Bergson is as wrong as wrong can be, even though I understand the appeal, since he offers an intellectual cure for scientistic reductionism and atheistic spiritual retardation. 

Except it's not a true cure, since the fundamentally untrue can never be a permanent cure for anything. I suppose it's more of a palliative: an opiate for the tenured, or for folks trying to extricate themselves from scientistic LH capture.

Again, I can relate. You first have to think your way out of materialism and give yourself permission to believe. Then you start embracing socially acceptable things such as Yoga or Zen, the latter so totally free of dogma that all you have to do is pay attention to your breath for the rest of your life. 

After you've fooled around with your breath for a few incarnations, you can dive into gloriously unhinged countercultural practices such as orthodox Christianity, and let God do the heavy lifting:

Nothing attracts me as much in Christianity as the marvelous insolence of its doctrines.

Some people say you can't prove the existence of God. Maybe you can't prove it to them, but you can certainly prove the existence of the left, and the left hates Christianity. Now,

Evil has only the reality of the good that it annuls.

Therefore, without us -- without Racist White Supremacist Christian Patriarchal anti-LGBTQ+ Haters -- their whole universe collapses. No wonder they can't leave us alone.

What does that have do do with anything? 

I don't know, but if we've learned one thing from The Matter With Things, it is that the LH is ground zero of Dunning Kruger, in that it is insanely confident about what it thinks it knows (which mostly consists of abstract models of reality) and totally dismissive -- not to say ignorant -- of what it does not and even cannot know, e.g., nonlocal wholeness, nonlinear complexity, metaphor, and the vertical more generally.

This principle of verticality is of critical importance, because -- among other reasons -- it was here before we arrived on the scene fifty or a hundred thousand years ago; it is not something "invented" by the RH, rather, discovered by it. 

Ultimately it is why we have this bilateral asymmetry of the hemispheres in the first place. But reality is one, so in spiritual health both hemispheres should be dialectically involved with one another. 

True, it is far worse to have a missing, underactive, or dysfunctional RH, but it's a little like choosing between sight and hearing when health, or normality, means possessing both. 

Nor is there Sightworld separate from Soundworld, rather, one world with sights and sounds: the five senses are integrated by a higher one called common sense; likewise, we might say that the RH and LH are unified in a higher hemi-pneumasphere called intellect.

The closest McGilchrist gets to the intellect is Bergson's intuition, which is a very different function in a radically different system -- a system of pure becoming rather than being. I don't know how much time I want to spend on the primordial incorrectness of this view. Of Bergsonian evolutionism, Garrigou-Lagrange writes that it

is true from the perspective of the senses. However, from the perspective of the intellect, it remains true that the imperfect exists and is determined only in view of the more perfect.

Bearing in mind that ultimate reality is Absolute-Infinite-Perfect. 

Evolutionism turns the cosmos upside-down, such that

self-creative evolution is ascending, and then, in it, the more comes from the less, the more perfect from the less perfect. It rejects the mystery of creation..., in order to substitute absurdity for it, now placed at the root of things...

God "goes from surprise to surprise" while being fully plunged into and identified with the surprises, as opposed to being -- in my view -- the very principal of Upside Surprise, AKA Continuous Creation. 

Panentheism is okay but Creation is better. Having said that, the former at least "represents an admirable reductio absurdum proof of God's existence, for it leads one to choose between the True God and radical absurdity" (ibid.). 

The above noted cosmic ne'er-do-wells such as Alan Watts often appear on the same page with luminaries such as Dionysius, Augustine, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Pascal, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Josef Pieper. (I suppose I shouldn't hit too hard on this, since I used to be prone the same indiscriminate approach to the vertical.)

Some of these thinkers are not like the others, and in more ways than one. Yes, the Catholic ones listed in the paragraph above are members of an organized religion which McGilchrist otherwise rejects. They are also much deeper and more serious thinkers than the others, and I wonder why? 

Many aphorisms came to mind. I'm looking for one in particular but can't find it -- something to the effect that modern man seeks a religion without grace. To which I would add the original sin which is the shadow of our original grace and justification.

Now that I think about it, I would have absolutely loved The Matter With Things back in the 1990s, when I was just kid with a crazy dream, a suburban shaman wingin' it in the vertical and trying to invent his own religion. But now I say:

Originality must adhere to the continuity of a tradition.

There's a particular kind of music I like, which is... how to put it... right on the border between adventurous post-bop and avant-garde free jazz, structure and chaos, a musical now out of which novelty flows. 

Now that I think about it, it's also between LH and RH, memory and anticipation, being and becoming -- like the religion the Almighty & me works out betwixt us, it is endlessly becoming but always in the orbit of the celestial attractor in vertical phase space, the Being Without Whom....

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Time Sickness and Historical Consciousness

The nature -- or at least appearance -- of time changes as a result of certain temporary states, but also certain acquired traits. 

By the latter, for example, there is "historical consciousness," which animals do not possess, and which some humans barely possess at all. Or, to the extent that they do possess it, it's a kind of expansive projection of the momentary. 

Like journalists, who simultaneously know nothing while pretending at omniscience. Which is one of the reasons why they are so irritating. Reason for hope, however: a majority of Americans now agree that the media is an "enemy of the people," the rest being bereft of historical consciousness themselves.

Imagine someone who watches a national news broadcast and doesn't want to vomit. What a strange person, almost a different species of human!

Symmetry: note how, for the left, history is an enemy of the people. Which is why they're forever rewriting (or better, de-writing, censoring, and distorting it based again on the Fierce Urgency of the Now, or what we call Historical Retardation). 

Just to reset, we're up to chapter 22 of The Matter With Things, called simply Time. I have my own ideas about the subject, but we'll never finish the book if I go off on every tangential squirrel.

Now, history is in the right hemisphere, journalism (or the Narrative) in the left hemisphere. That's a good example of a tangential squirrel in Bobville, since McGilchrist doesn't say that. But he makes me think it when he discusses these two modes of time:

In the first, time is frozen, and spatialized in its representation by the analytical intellect and by language, delivering a world which is sliced and fragmented; in the second, it is forever presencing to our intuition and our embodied cognition.... 

In the first, time is effectively denied, and life drained of meaning; in the second, both time -- and, with it, life -- are affirmed and celebrated.

Again, LH and RH, respectively. 

This is another one of those concepts that I've thought about before, but just never thought about grounding in neurology. 

More generally, I think we're talking here about a convergent reality that different thinkers simply approach with different vocabularies and nomenclatures. Way back in grad school I learned to characterize this distinction as PS <---> D, and it is central to what we call "psychological maturity."

I shall be brief: you could call PS <---> D a kind of metabolism of the mind that forms the basis of insight: the movement from PS to D "gives coherence to what is dispersed and introduces order into disorder," and represents an integration of more fundamental or primordial elements.

Now, imagine someone -- a journalist, for example -- inhabiting some rigid and dysfunctional D-world narrative. For him, he will have to undergo a period of confusing PS in order to reassemble himself (and reality) at a higher and deeper level. In short, he'll have to get worse before getting better.

Then (we're still back in grad school) I stumbled upon another thinker who applied this scheme to historical consciousness. Long story short, this is why a mature person will have a much more accurate and integrated narrative about his own past, but also (I think) about history more generally (at least in potential).

For certain immature patients, "History is instantaneously rewritten" and "The present is projected backward and forward, thus creating a static, eternal, nonreflective present" -- which sounds exactly like what McGilchrist would characterize as an RH ---> LH movement. Sorry about all these symbols, but it is very much as if PS <---> D = LH <---> RH.

Come to think of it, the D in PS <---> D actually stands for Depressive, and McGilchrist also happens to situate both subclinical (or realistic) and clinical depression in the RH. 

Why might this be? I would say because reality is a bit sobering, to say the least, if not a bit depressing per se. My people (psychoanalytic folk) would say that maturity involves tolerating depression as opposed to running away from it (which is called mania, or a manic defense).

And sure enough, McGilchrist notes that in mania, "the left frontal pole is dominant," "whereas in melancholy... the right frontal pole is dominant." So, neurology confirms the folk wisdom of my people.

Conversely, PS may be more "persecutory," but it is preferable to tolerating the depression that would occur if the person were honest with himself. You've no doubt noticed the emotional immaturity of progressive activists of various kinds, from Greta Thunberg to AOC to Keith Olbermann. 

Yes, they are constantly paranoid and persecuted and angry (PS world) but imagine what would happen if they were to stop projecting their primitive psychic elements and had to tolerate them instead: depression.

That's enough of that squirrel.  

In another passage, McGilchrist compares time to music, which we've done on many occasions. In fact, I've likewise suggested that we are drawn to music because it reflects the nature of temporal reality. Think of how each note

is only understandable as part of a melody or musical sequence which is appreciated as whole, and where any one note, and those before and after, interpenetrate (McGilchrist).

It's as if the individual notes are PS, the melody D. And yes, music appreciation is very much an RH affair. People with RH damage may even have difficulty recognizing melodies. Which I suppose is why the Narrative is so jarringly discordant to folks like us with sensitive RH hearing.

Theme Song

Theme Song