Saturday, June 10, 2023

Nice While it Lasted

To put it briefly, civilizations always die of a drying up of their religious sap, of an antagonism which grows up between the fundamental aspirations of the human soul and the frameworks in which societies seek to confine those aspirations. --Henri Daniel-Rops

Yesterday was one of those days in which I thought to myself -- and said to my son -- Life would be great if it weren't for fucking history

Conversely, the flowchart which we are proposing must be in but not of history; responsible for change, but itself unchanging:

not in time, but above it, and, far from arresting the progress of history, rather accelerates its course and the progress of knowledge (Maritain).

Naturally, if your map is accurate, you'll get to your destination more quickly. It is at once why the United States progressed so rapidly when it was grounded in such principles, and why it is now well into decadence and decline.

I once comforted myself by saying that What can't go on won't go on, not realizing that what can't go on is in fact the ordered liberty of a nation founded upon immutable principles of natural law; that fallen humanity not only could but did upend paradise, every time. 

And that was way before the Bidens got here. Barbarians are not only inside the gates, they are inside every institution and holding all the reins of power against which truth...

They don't need no steenking truth!

Thaaaat's right Petey. 

After all,

To be a conservative is to understand that man is a problem without a human solution. 

Now I have to comfort myself by remembering that

The truth does not share the defeat of its defenders,

and that

Today the conservative is merely a passenger who suffers a shipwreck with dignity.

For under the best of circumstances 

Civilizations are the summer buzzing of insects between two winters.

don't hear any buzzing, and if this is global warming, why is it freezing in here? 

In place of the vertical cosmic flow chart, we now have the static two-tiered leftist system in which

Leveling is the barbarian's substitute for order.  

Now, it's not just the news of the day, year, or millennium that has me reaching for the black pill. I also happen to be reading a history of The Church of the Apostles and Martyrs, which takes place during the transition from a 200 year period of unprecedented peace, order, and (relative) tranquility, to an eerily similar period of cynicism, decadence, and decline. 

Yes, people are always comparing every period to the end of the Roman Empire, but someday someone will be right. Let me find a couple of passages that made my ears perk up.

One paradoxical point the author highlights is that -- I'll paraphrase here -- we usually think of a revolutionary situation occurring during times of tumult, chaos, and uncertainty. 

However, the seeds of revolution require stability in order to be sowed and nurtured. Think of our own recent period of unprecedented stability, and the destructive ideas that were being propagated and imbibed right under the surface. A

doctrine needs a certain period of stability in which to permeate society thoroughly. 

Here is one of the paradoxes of human government: by establishing order and peace within its boundaries a society makes it easier for forces within its bosom which are attempting its destruction to act, despite all the precautions it may take to prevent this (Daniel-Rops).

In hindsight, obvious. Liberal democracy, insofar as it remains liberal, sows the seeds of its own eventual destruction by its liberality toward the progressive and tyrannical enemies of liberalism. Should have seen it coming, but it's too late now. 

I was one of those people who scoffed 15 years ago, when we first heard rumblings about the left's assault on the first amendment. "Never happen," I said. "Stop sounding so paranoid, you're just giving ammo to the left to depict the right as a bunch of unhinged conspiracy theorists."

I don't know enough about history to know about the inevitability of these things, but this guy writes with a great deal of authority and confidence. He's clearly smarter than you -- just look at him:

And he says 

the fundamental causes which, later on, from the beginning of the third century onwards, were to push Rome more and more rapidly towards the abyss were already present in the Empire's Golden Age.

History is obnoxious enough, but does it happen faster in our day? This is what Terence McKenna thought in his chemically aided visions, and it sounds plausible. 

Certainly affluence cuts both ways, and not just today, for it

was to cause the disintegration of Roman society in exactly the same way as, fifteen centuries later, it brought about the collapse of Spain, after the American expeditions of the Conquistadores.

All that gold flowing in merely enabled people to stop working and

the idle rich to spend riotously on dwelling-houses, food and drink and material pleasures of all kinds.

But enough about the Bidens.

Well, a little more:

Cowardliness and cruelty went hand in hand.... Men no more wanted to defend their frontiers than to till their soil.... Roman society was attacked in its most vital spot, at the source which sustains all societies; the structure of the family was shaken to the roots, and the birth-rate began to fall.

Fourth trimester abortion was rampant, "the 'exposing' of new-born babies acquired terrifying proportions," and divorce "became so commonplace that no one attempted to provide reasonable justification for it anymore: the simple desire fore a change sufficed."

This French snob makes rather sweeping claims, but again, I don't know enough to refute him: 

States have always shown themselves completely incapable of restoring their moral foundations once they have allowed themselves to weaken. The Roman authorities were far from being unaware of the peril, but their good intentions were absurdly useless, in view of the forces which were driving their society to ruin.

Oh well.

With good humor and pessimism it is possible to be neither wrong nor bored.

Friday, June 09, 2023

The First Decision in the Cosmic Flow Chart

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we're trying to draw up a cosmic flow chart -- a vertical one, since we already have a good horizontal one, more or less. 

The details of the latter are always being tweaked and fine-tuned, but it begins 13.8 billion years ago. Highlights since then include the unexpected emergence of life some 4 billion years ago, followed by the equally sudden appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens as recently as 50 to 100 thousand years ago, an event so catastrophic that we're still getting used to it. I know I am, anyway.

Knowing what we know about this 13.8 billion year journey from nothing to Bob -- to this post -- the question is, in what do we situate it? 

You can't just say "nothing," i.e., the nothing that is "prior" to the Big Bang. From nothing, nothing comes. But look around, and I think you'll agree that, whatever it is, it isn't nothing.

Is this a conundrum, or worse, an absurdity? Or are we just looking at it the wrong way? 

The latter. For one thing, you need to open your cranium and look with both hemispheres. We just spent like SIX WEEKS explaining how and why you not only have to supplement an LH with an RH view, but how the RH is primary.

In my opinion, LH is to horizontal as RH is to vertical. The question now becomes whether vertical and horizontal are just Kantian projections of our neurology, or if LH and RH are adequations to a reality that is richer than what can be apprehended with one hemisphere alone.

Naturally we hold to the latter, since there is a more fundamental principle involved, this being the mind's adqeuation to reality as such. In other words -- speaking of the cosmic flow chart -- either we can or cannot know reality. 

If we can know reality, then this post continues. If we can't, then we shoot it in head and admit that we can never escape from our dreams of what is actually out there in the extra-mental world. 

If that's the case, then there is no controlling authority over our thoughts and perceptions, and all hell breaks loose:  the 2020 election wasn't rigged, Lia Thomas really is a man, and we have no rights the White House is bound to respect. Who can say otherwise, once there is no reality and no one to know it?

If we can't know reality, then unreality is not only in the driver's seat, it occupies all the seats of power. All this because of one little metaphysical choice at the top of the cosmic flow chart. Of course, for them it is the bottom of the cosmic flow chart, since there is no top. 

In a word, the tyranny of relativism which follows upon absolute subjectivism.

Let's call in some reinforecements from a book I'm reading called The Angelic Doctor, by Jacques Maritain. 

The greater grow the powers of illusion, the more will lovers of truth feel drawn towards the vast light of [Thomas's] wisdom [which] does not want to destroy but to purify modern speculation and to integrate all the truth that has been discovered since the time of St. Thomas.

It is an essentially synthetic and assimilative philosophy which attempts... a work of continuity and universality. It is also the only philosophy which, while rising to the knowledge of the supra-sensible, first requires from experience an unqualified adhesion to sensible reality. 

We'll get to the flow chart. I'm still workin' on it... 

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Prolegomena to a Cosmic Flowchart

That term just popped into my head, but what exactly is a flowchart? It has something to do with business, but I flunked out of business school, and besides, I'm thinking more of isness. 

The first definition that comes up calls it "a diagram that illustrates the steps, sequences, and decisions of a process or workflow." However, mine will be a verbal diagram, plus we're talking less about work- than slackflow: what is its principle, and what steps does it take to end up down here?  

I guess we're talking about an actual map of the vertical, but I certainly wouldn't be the first to take a crack at this. 

Over the centuries there have been any number of vertical cartographers, but most of their maps turn out to be pretty unhelpful as far as I am concerned. They range from the complex to the simple (which I don't mean pejoratively) to the simplistic (which I do mean pejoratively) to the annoyingly baroque and idiosyncratic (by whom I mean a Ken Wilber).

I just googled "ken wilber map of reality," and look at this hideous thing. At least it's not in English, so we don't have to endure his hamfisted prose:

An example of the simplistic would be a one-substance and single-level pantheistic monism, but nothing is that simple, let alone everything

An example of the simple kind would be a straight-up two-storey Creator / creature version of Islam or various strands of evangelical Christianity. In the words of the song,

Well, me and Jesus got our own thing goin'
Me and Jesus got it all worked out
Me and Jesus got our own thing goin'
We don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about

Problem is, I guess I'm just not that simple. Sometimes I wish I were, but then there would be nothing to blog about. 

Back to our flowchart. In a sense, we're talking about "the flow of flow," so to speak. I'm thinking of the gramatically unflowing Dr. Csíkszentmihályi and his theory of flow: 

flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. 
In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one's sense of time. Flow is the melting together of action and consciousness; the state of finding a balance between a skill and how challenging that task is. It requires a high level of concentration; however, it should be effortless (wiki).

Sounds very much like slack, but there are important differences. In my map, Slack is anterior to flow; it is something like the Tao, or the Chinaman's wu-wei, or maybe the Oriental Jazzman's favorite record, Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys, by Tony Scott.  

Now, the more I write about this, the more I think it actually deserves a serious post. Let's consult a book we were discussing before McGilchrist came along and diverted our attention, one called Philosophy of Science in the Light of Perennial Wisdom, specifically, chapter 3, The Degrees and Modes of Reality

I like what the authors have to say, because they strike a balance between the excessively complicated and the overly simple.

Some, considering the essential identity of Creation with the Principle, may describe total reality as being one indivisible Unity.

For example, did you ever read or listen to, say, Krishnamurti? I dabbled in his ideas back in the day, but ultimately found them to be unhelpful. And irritating:

I'm also distracted by the flow of his combover.

As alluded to above,

Some may divide it up into two degrees, the Divine Order, and that of all that is created, namely, Creation.

At the other end, "some have proposed forty states," but there has to be an easier way. I actually have to think about this, so we'll try to plot it out in the next installment.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Beyond Speculation

As the late fifth-century mystic Dionysius the Areopagite says, God is "the cause of being for all, but is itself nonbeing, for it is beyond all being" (McGilchrist).

1) I couldn't agree more, and 
2) Like anyone could even know that.

Well, which is it, and why? 

It sounds like some kind of annoying koan. Is Denys speaking sense, nonsense, trans-sense, metaphorically, literally, or what? 

Let's find out! Or try, anyway, for there are still readers to alienate. 

Schuon would say literally, such that even God -- or the One whom we call God -- is its product, or emanation, or first determination, similar, in a way, to how the Son is the one & only begotten of the Father: 
It should not be forgotten that God as Beyond-Being, or suprapersonal Self, is absolute in an intrinsic sense, while Being or the divine Person is absolute extrinsically, that is, in relation to His manifestation or to creatures, but not in Himself, nor with respect to the Intellect which “penetrates the depths of God” (Schuon).

Let's suppose the Father is Beyond-Being, the Son Being, except eternally, such that there is no Beyond-Being without Being, and vice versa. 

The main problem with Schuon's formulation is with the adjective "suprapersonal." Is this adjective gratuitous or essential? Or is it contradictory to say that the Self could be suprapersonal? What I am asking is: is person a species of self, or vice versa?

I'm gonna go with the ontological priority of Person, except that Personhood implies its Other, such that the ultimate Ground is this very relationship. 

This notion of primordial Relation is difficult to describe and hard for people to conceive, so they -- at least implicitly -- think of it as Beyond Being (or at least beyond words and conception), but such a designation is nominal and not ontological.

What I mean by that last crack is that the ontology of Beyond-Being is Substance-in-Relation. 

Now, this Substance-in-Relation appears to be a closed circle or private party, but it seems that the Relation itself is a Person too, and that this is our point of entry into the Mystery. 

The purpose of the Incarnation is clearly to introduce us into this Mystery via the Spirit:

It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

That's pretty clear. 

Then, "when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth" -- the metacosmic inter-Personal Truth of "I in them, and You in Me." 

In the final analysis of the upshot of bottom line, I would speculate that RH is to Beyond-Being as LH is to Being, but that the mysterious Relation between is equally important, i.e., the Holy Corpus Colossum, or something, all chasing each other in a dynamic perichoresis in which dancer, dance, and music interpenetrate one another. Or something.

Well, at least we're finished with this 1,579 page beast. What next?

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Stalking the Wild & Watery Godhead


[T]he word God is obfuscated and overlaid with so many unhelpful accretions in the West that it is not surprising that people recoil from this idol (McGilchrist).

Solution? He doesn't give one vis-a-vis the need for a new & unsaturated un-language for Celestial Central (see yesterpost), but he does advocate an apophatic theology.  

Now, apophatic theology has always been with us, and not just in the East (e.g., Tao, Moksha, Nirguna Brahman, et al, each of these being translinguistic experiences that shatter or repel speech). 

For example, real Jews don't say the G-d name for fear of idolatry, and for Thomas,

This is the final human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know.

I read somewhere that Thomas never deploys irony -- hey, nobody's perfect -- but that right there is a pretty ironic statement. He also speaks of "the necessity of calling God by many names," 

since we cannot know God naturally except from his effects, so it is necessary to designate his perfection by different names.... If, however, we were able to comprehend his essence in itself and give him a name proper to his essence, then we would express him in a single name.

Now, we can certainly know of God's essence even if we can never comprehend our knowledge of this bare fact, i.e., truly know what we're talking about. 

On the one hand, we all know that God's essence is to exist. But what this essential existence means from the inside out, God -- or whatever -- only knows. 


Damn right:

That which is incomprehensible increases with the growth of the intelligence.

There are hints, however, and these hints are situated in such a manner that we can -- or rather, must -- spend our lives endlessly deepening them, if only because compared to this vertical adventure, anything less is a little borr-rring. 

Religious thought does not go forward like scientific thought does, but rather goes deeper.

This is just another way of saying that the depth -- the very depth that makes life worth living, or even a truly human life -- is real, and at a right angle to things (this is indeed what's The Matter With Things, insofar as they become mundane things only).   

Let us trot out a few more aphorisms, which, if nothing else, disprove the arboreal principle that no-one else I think is in my tree, because someone else is out on a limb with me after all:

The moment arrives in which one is only interested in stalking God.

I do not speak of God in order to convert anyone but because it is the only subject worth speaking of. 

If is not of God that we are speaking, it is not sensible to speak of anything seriously. 

Put conversely, show me what you take seriously and I'll show you your religion. 


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

Oh. Well, look again, waaay up there. No, not at my finger. That:

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

I get it: a nonlocal map. Just don't confuse the cataphatic LH map with the apophatic RH territory. But you need both words and grammar, which is to say, semantics and syntax:

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

Now, what is the proper cosmic syntax? 

He doesn't say, because an aphorism is not a dissertation or even a blog post. Therefore, I'll say it: the grammar of the universe is hierarchical in the same way language is, e.g., letters tacitly point to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, paragraphs to story, story to theme, all conditioned from the top down, even though we can't communicate anything in the absence of those downright letters.

It's almost like everything alludes to something vertically adjacent, or something. Thus, 

What I say here will seem trivial to whoever ignores everything to which I allude.

Speaking of trolls, this reminds me of something I read yesterday, that Thomas's philosophical output includes no less than 10,000 objections. Best auto-troll ever!

I too anticipate objections, except in my case I lived them. In other words, I used to be all the things I now hope to ridicure. But I must not have been rotten to the core, or I wouldn't be here laughing at myself. Oh well. The Mystery works in mysterious ways.

Speaking of boredom, you're starting to get a bit repetitive.

There is no spiritual victory that is not necessary to win anew each day. 

Meanwhile, stay thirsty my friends:

The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored.  


Thirst runs out before the water does.

Monday, June 05, 2023

In the Beginning is the Un-word

"Being," says McGilchrist, "is mysterious."

"McGilchrist," says BOb, "is durn tootin'."

We always know more than we did the day before, but we are nevertheless as plunged into mystery as we were the decade, century, or millennium before, which is to say, always. If anything, the world just keeps getting weirder, and yet, people behave as if all this is normal. 

This is your excuse?  


Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge.

Bum? Underachiever? Goldbricking deadbeat? I think not:

The mystic is the only one who is seriously ambitious.

In other words, a hee-ro. For our times. And at least I'm housebroken.

Mystery is less disturbing than the fatuous attempt to exclude it by stupid explanations.

Problem is, the remystification of the world really is a kind of full-time job. But truly truly, someone has to do it, no? Most everyone else is employed to demystify things, and I thank them for their service, I really do. But what would happen if the world -- and human beings -- really were totally demystified? 

Seriously, think about it. Would that not be another name for hell? At the very least it would make for a good Twilight Zone episode -- a reverse Kafka, in which everything makes perfect sense:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneventful dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an innocuous professor of entomology. 

Who wants to watch The Fully Illuminated Zone? 

I like daylight as much as the next guy, but what if there were no night? Some people are afraid of the dark, and I get it, but what about those monsters of the light, e.g., rationalism, scientism, Marxism? Exponentially more people were murdered in the broad ideological daylight of the 20th century than in the so-called Dark Ages.

It's like we need an explicit program for the remystification of the world. In the larger scheme of things this is what the sabbath is about: like the Creator, we devote one day a week to... to what exactly? 
The problem is that if we are to say anything about it, we still need some sort of placeholder, within language, for all those aspects of Being that defy direct expression, but which we sense are greater than the reality which language is apt to describe, almost certainly greater than whatever the human mind can comprehend (McGilchrist). 

Hmm, a placeholder for noplace, an empty variable for the Mystery of Being, an unsaturated translinguistic pneumaticon to say what can't be said and unsay what can...


I like it. It simultaneously conveys the no-thing of zee-ro and the eternity & everything of the complete circle. It is like an endless spiral of nothing and everything and nothing, etc. 

What we need, in fact, is a word unlike any other, not defined in terms of anything else: a sort of un-word (ibid.).


Here is the dilemma, and why I speak of an un-word: if we have no word, something at the core of existence disappears from our shared world of awareness; yet if we have a word, we will come to imagine we have grasped the nature of the divine, pinned it down and delimited it, even though by the very nature of the divine this is something that can never be achieved (ibid.).

Agreed. Even the greatest achiever can never achieve divinity. 

But an un-word is not enough. Rather, someone needs to develop an unsaturated un-language in order to map what goes on up there... someone who perhaps can look back on a life of achievement, but whose career has, uh, slowed down a bit lately... not a goldbricking deadbeat, exactly, but not an everyday achiever either...

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