Friday, September 01, 2023

A Five Story Split Level Cosmos

One of the traditional proofs discussed by Garrigou-Lagrange is based on the degrees of being. Just look around, and what do you see? I'll give you a hint: inanimate objects, living things, and rational beings, which means that this cosmos must have at least three likely storys. 

But where's the foundation? And even supposing we agree on the foundation, the foundation is not the plan. Rather, the plan, as they say, is first in intention but last in execution. So if the plan involves rational corporeal beings, these latter must be closer to the real foundation of things. Seen this way, matter is but a means to an end.

G-L writes that if we widen our view and 

consider the being that is the foundation of truth, there are various degrees for, "the things that are greater in being, are greater in truth"; that which is richer in being is also richer in truth.

Again, there are, for example, contingent truths, as well as those truths that are necessary, universal, and eternal, such as the principle of identity, the latter therefore being situated higher on the scale of truth and being. I'll jump to the bottom line:

"When there is greater or less, when there are degrees in anything, then the perfect also exists; if, then, a certain being is better than a certain other, there must be one which is perfect, and this can only be the divine" (Thomas, in G-L).

Considered from another angle, we could say there is reality and there are appearances, the former being of a higher order than the latter. 

Otherwise, we are in the position of attributing equal value to dreams and hallucinations as we do to science and logic. And if this were true, then progressivism would be no better or worse than any other delusion. It would mean that we might even end up being ruled by a class of mentally ill people -- decroded gerontocrats and developmentally arrested adultolescents pulling their strings -- and that could never happen.  

In the first paragraph we alluded to three of the most obvious degrees of being, but how many are there in reality? It depends on which way we look, from the bottom-up or the top-down, and even then it's a bit like asking how many colors there are in the spectrum. A good answer might be three primary colors, but a better one would be the infinitude of shades ranging from Aero to Zaffre, and Zomp back to Aqua.      

As to the cosmos, we used to have more levels prior to the Reformation, which left us with two: God and world. In so doing, it eliminated intellect and intellection, relying instead on faith. This left the field wide open for the further scientistic reduction of the cosmos to the single level raunch-style home of postmodernity.

Conversely -- I'm looking at a book called Frithjof Schuon and the Perennial Philosophy, by Harry Oldmeadow -- I see that Schuon lives in a rambling five-story cosmos ranging from Beyond Being (or Godhead) at the top to the Corporeal Realm at the bottom; in between are Being, Spirit, and Soul. 

Now, one intriguing point that may give rise to difficulty is the division, not only in the human realm, but in the divine one as well; just as there are degrees of being in man, so too are there degrees in divinas, but here again, this is not an obstacle for traditional orthodox Christians who have no issue with the existence of angelic beings and intelligences. We never left the old five-story cosmos, so it's more of a problem for Protestantism, which banished all intermediaries between man and God. I say, the more the merrier.

Schuon often discusses the difference between ego and intellect, which correspond to the levels of Soul and Spirit, respectively. Here again, Protestantism essentially collapses these two levels into the Soul alone. If there's an Intellect, it's too warped and attenuated by the Fall to be of much use anyway.  

As Oldmeadow describes it, the Intellect is "the faculty which perceives the transcendent." It is conformed to the latter in the same way our senses are conformed to the material world: "The Intellect receives intuitions and apprehends realities of a supra-phenomenal order." 

It is, in Schuon's words, "a receptive faculty and not a power which produces." Rather, "it receives and transmits; it is a mirror," in the same way lower degrees of knowledge more or less adequately (but never perfectly) mirror the world.  

It is "that which participates in the divine Subject," that which in man is "most conformable to God," the "transpersonal essence of the subject." Intellection is a "naturally supernatural" grace...

Going back to our month long review of McGilchrist's The Matter With Things, I think we might agree that the mode of intellection sounds very right-brainish, such that folks with a high degree of intellection probably have a highly functioning right cerebral hemisphere, but we'll leave that to the neuropsychologists. Here we are practicing pneumopsychology or something.

At any rate, Schuon points out that the transcendent faculty of Intellect is "capable of direct contact with Reality," which is precisely how McGilchrist characterizes the RH, in contrast to the LH, which lives within its maps, abstractions, and ideologies. Nothing wrong with that, but its a lower story.

This must mean that standard-issue exoteric theology is more of an LH undertaking, but recall what was said yesterday about the x-factor that must enter the (LH) system from outside and above, and it is the Intellect that is more directly in contact with this, indeed, may even be a kind of local prolongation of it, speaking of continuity and discontinuity. 

It is also noteworthy that Intellect is often spoken of as "heart" as opposed to "head" knowledge, and if I recall correctly, McGilchrist said something about the RH literally being more directly and richly connected to the heart, but in any event, let's not collapse our five storys into a house of neurology.  

We shall resume our real estate inspection tomorrow... 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Prove the Existence of God With This One Easy Trick!

The simple trick is to flip ahead to page 372 of God: His Existence and His Nature, where there is a summary of the classic attributes of God; these include unmoved mover, necessary being, and ground of intelligence, yada yada. 

The various ways to God are interrelated in complex ways, but for me, the way of intelligence is the most persuasive, or at least the most ready-to-hand. We're always using our intelligence, and it must come from somewhere and know something. Conversely, if it comes from nowhere and knows nothing, we'd all be tenured. 

Therefore, in order to keep the mind limber, I'm going to flip back to a subsection called The first intelligible, the first truth, source of truth, and maybe, like yesterday, weave it together with Schuon's essay on the proofs of God.  

Schuon mainly deals with the ontological, cosmological, teleological, and mystical proofs of God. Like Garrigou-Lagrange he also touches on the proof via miracles, but this I find the least persuasive, at least a priori. Once everything else falls into place, then it is easier to accept the miraculous a posteriori, since, once we establish his existence, God can do whatever he feels like he wants to do, gosh!

Lazy man though I am, I wouldn't necessarily want to begin with the exceptional or inexplicable, and from this deduce the existence of God. In an age both scientific and scientistic, I don't think this works, especially in world full of people who have been educated -- or indoctrinated, rather -- beyond their intellectual station.  

Better to wield a proof that goes to the heart of the scientific enterprise itself, which prides itself on its great *intelligence*. That "all truth comes from God" is in a way the least and greatest miracle -- least in the sense that it is so common, greatest in the sense that it leads all the way to the toppermost of the cosmos.

As Schuon says,

The first thing that should strike a man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of the miracle of intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- whence the incommensurability between it and material objects, whether a grain of sand or the sun, or any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

It doesn't get easier than that, but then again, not everyone is capable of abiding in this simple truth, which we might call the "mysticO-intellection" of pure metacosmic Dudism. 

In fact, while looking up that passage, I stumbled upon this one:

A proof is not convincing because it is absolute -- for this it could never be -- but because it actualizes something self-evident in the mind.


To prove the Absolute is either the easiest or the most difficult of things, depending upon the intellectual conditions of the environment.  

Also, when speaking of logic, to say proof is to say premises and therefore Gödel, from whom there is no escape in this or any other world. 

In other words, we cannot use logic to prove that which escapes logic, let alone that which is the very ground, source, and possibility of logic. Otherwise we are in the position of someone who searches in time for the origins of eternity, when the actual relation is the converse (eternity being the source and goround of time). 

Now, Gödel's theorems do not say that man is confined to what logic can prove, rather, that we can know truths that are unprovable. This is because, as Schuon writes,

Correlative to every proof is an element eluding the determinism of mere logic and consisting of either an intuition or a grace; now this element is everything.

Why everything? Because it is precisely this x-factor which allows man to slip through the web of his own definitions, this because the intellect is ultimately conformed to nothing less than the Absolute.

Schuon provides a good segue back to G-L, writing that

Nothing is more arbitrary than a rejection of the classical proofs of God, each of which is valid in relation to a certain need for logical satisfaction. 

But because of the x- or (↓) factor just mentioned, "this need increases in proportion to ignorance, not in proportion to knowledge," to the point that the people most in need of proof will be unaware of any need at all, because they are sealed in their own matrix of assumptions and premises: a vertically closed system. But Genesis teaches that God never premised a closed garden.

For to deny its vertical source is like intelligence slitting its own throat. Which is not very intelligent, but there it is.

The argument from intelligence ascends through the degrees of being "not only to a first being, but to a first truth, which is the ultimate basis of all other truths" (G-L). 

Let's start with the truism that things are more or less true, i.e., that there are contingent truths and there are necessary truths, the latter of a higher order than the former. For example, it is 83° outside, but it didn't have to be. Conversely, the principles of identity and sufficient reason must be, in this or any other cosmos. 

G-L writes that "Contingent truths or facts are of the lowest degree [of truth]; above these rank the necessary conclusions of the sciences, and in the highest place are the first principles," or what Schuon calls the "principial" realm -- although here Schuon departs in important ways from G-L, and perhaps this would be a good place to discuss those differences.

Basically, G-L follows the the classic formulation of the three levels of abstraction, from the scientific to the mathematical to the metaphysical, each less material and contingent on the way up. But Schuon doesn't leave it at that, rather, with further degrees of being in divinas, which is to say in God.

Not to say that he's correct, but he does have a point. To make the point, I'm going to transition over to a very compact summary of the degrees and modes of reality contained in a book called Philosophy of Science in the Light of the Perennial Wisdom.

One way or another, there's no way to avoid a confrontation with the degrees of being. Most obviously, we know that there are things and that there are minds (or subjects or consciousness), and what are we going to do about it? We can live with the dualism, or we can (for example) default to an unsatisfactory material monism that again essentially slits the throat of intelligence, but what's really going on in the cosmos? 

I guess we'll find out in the next post.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Idiot Until Proven Intelligent

I mentioned that I've been rereading Garrigou-Lagrange's God, His Existence and His Nature, and it's a tough one, again, not because it's confusing or ambiguous, but because it's so lucid. The man never lets up, so it requires intense concentration to keep up with him. 

I suspect that most philosophers who have rejected the proofs have done so based upon ignorance, a garbled half-understanding, or a determined effort to not actually engage them, AKA intellectual inadequacy or dishonesty. Certainly I've never seen any refutation remotely equal to this level of demonstration. 

The aphorist reminds us that 

The text that admits of paraphrasing is a minor one. 

I guess that makes this a major text, since I'm finding it difficult to locate a convenient point of entry in order to cut it down to my (fun)size. Then again, there must be an easier way for the determined and resourceful lazy man.

Ah, perhaps here, on p. 251, section 35, which is conveniently entitled General proof, which includes all the others. Afterwards he examines Thomas' five ways in detail, but here he provides a view from the top, and perhaps this will be sufficient for those of us who don't need no steenking proof, just a little common sense and intellectual consistency. For, to paraphrase the Aphorist, proofs of God abound for those in no need of them.

Here G-L conveys the essential point which the two volumes explicate in detail over 900 or so pages. 

Come to think of it, Schuon has an essay called Concerning Proofs of God, and he gets the point across in just 16 pages! I realize there are a lot of ins & outs, to say nothing of what-have-yous, but Schuon manages to tie the cosmos together with less than 2% of what our esteemed priest expends. Seems Father Reggie just isn't into the whole brevity thing.

Besides, at a certain point there's a methinks thou protest too much thingy going on. Complicated, is what I mean. If the plan gets too complex, something always goes wrong. Besides, there's a saying, -- to paraphrase the Aphrorist again, The idea that does not win over in 16 pages does not win over in 900.

And in a way, since the summary takes less than a page, and so long as it registers in the cranium, perhaps our work here is done. You don't need to prove the existence of vision once you open your eyes and look. I got neurologists doing that for me. 

Perhaps I'll go back and forth between Garrigou-Lagrange and Schuon, and deploy them as warp and weft to weave our own cosmic area rug. 

"The greater cannot proceed from the less," condenses into one formula the principles upon which our five typical proofs are based (G-L).

Okay, but 

In order to clarify the function of metaphysical proof, one must start from the idea that human intelligence coincides in its essence with certainty of the Absolute (Schuon).

Now, the Absolute is precisely the greater from which intelligence proceeds, for to affirm the contrary -- that the principle of intelligence is the absence thereof -- is to say that intelligence is but the appearance of a reality called metacosmic stupidity or lifetime tenure. Frankly it's like saying light is parasitic on the principle of darkness, or what we in the isness of philosophy call reductio impossibile

The five proofs (Thomas calls them ways) "may be stated as follows":

Becoming depends upon being which is determined; Conditioned being depends upon unconditioned being; Contingent being depends upon necessary being; Imperfect, composite, multiple being depends upon that which is perfect, simple, and one; Order in the universe depends upon an intelligent designer.

Or, just say any being is dependent upon Being as such, or in a word, creation -- for creation is the nexus between appearance and reality, time and eternity, accident and substance, etc.

But in our day, in which science is superimposed over reality -- or left brain over right -- if these principles do not

appear as self-evident to the majority of our contemporaries, that is because for them awareness of "accidents" has stifled the intuitive awareness of "Substance"; hence an intelligence that is systematically superficial, fixed upon a fragmentary reality (Schuon).

Such people will in fact have to read the whole 900 pages, and even then, this may not be sufficient. For if someone insists upon denying "the innateness of metaphysical ideas," this is "equivalent to the destruction of the very notion of of intelligence," which if true, would mean "our intelligence could never prove anything at all" (Schuon).

Once upon a time I recall writing a post called something like Proof of Proof is Proof of God, and why not? If the meaning of the title isn't soph-evident, what it means is what Schuon just said.

Can we prove anything? If so, how? By virtue of what principle? We'll wait. But not long, because I don't have all morning. Or rather, I have only the morning.

Intelligence -- on pain of another reductio impossibile -- "is at the root of every intellectual and mental operation, man being obviously incapable of 'starting from zero' since this 'zero' is nonexistent" (Schuon), and if I recall my Yiddish correctly, from bupkis bupkis comes.

But "the skeptic starts, of course, from the idea that the normal man is an atheist, and from that deduces a kind of one-way jurisprudence" -- as if to say we have the presumption of idiocy and have to prove we're not guilty of it. 

Well, some people are guilty of idiocy, but only literally, as in idiota, "without knowledge." 

It's not that simple, Bob.

Agreed, it must be simpler. To be continued...   

Monday, August 28, 2023

Looking into Yesterday's Crystal Ball

They say the world underwent a fundamental change in 2012, and that ever since then we've been living in the shadow of this metastatic ideological cancer of wokeness (  

Among other factors, the author cites the marked increase in mental illness and suicide among both adults and teens, a decline in reading and math skills, a plunge in the US birth rate, a new obsession with racism despite having less of it than ever, and a great increase in popular songs that use s'many cuss words. All of these things coincide with the growth and dominance of Wokeness -- which, in 2012, we just called political correctness.

I distinctly recall something unprecedentedly weird happening during the Obama years -- weird times call for a weirder man -- and I wrote of it often, since insultainment never goes out of style. 

Since I have nothing else on my mind at the moment, I thought I'd travel back to 2012 and take a peek at how things looked on the goround. This exercise will serve a second purpose, in that it will help me determine if anything down there is worthy of being resurrected for the sequel that is always being written and never completed.

I see that in January 2012 there was a rant on the subject of Occupy Wall Street, which was like a minor league Antifa or budding BLM: these misguided assouls 

and other radical leftists imagine that retrieving their missing slack is somehow dependent upon stealing the slack of some other arbitrarily defined group. They absurdly call these targets of their own hatred and envy the "one percent" -- as if the latter have somehow stolen all of the slack for themselves!

Wait. Isn't slack just some dollar figure? And isn't there a finite amount of dollars?
Please. This is like saying that homelessness is caused by a shortage of inches and feet. If we could just distribute more rulers and tape measures to contractors, they can start using them to build houses!
You don't see Korean or Vietnamese immigrants risking their lives to make it to America, only to complain after they get here that all the slack is gone. Why? Because they appreciate slack and know how to use it. Indeed, if not for state sponsored racial discrimination, most of the students in the UC system would be Asian.
In a free society such as ours, slack theft is usually an "inside job." In short, it is a result of mind parasites, the internal saboteurs that covertly appropriate our destiny and subject us to fate.
Eh. Standard issue rant. Here's something on the growing political divide between conservative liberalism and progressive tyranny:

Underneath it all, the fundamental division among Americans is between relativists and absolutists.

Then again, Bob asked,   

who is more certain of the truth of his convictions than the sanctimonious liberal who knows all conservatives are racists, or the naive Darwinian who can explain everything but the explainer, or the hammerheaded atheist who regards God as the big nail in the sky?
So the real division is between absolutists and people who pretend not to be. Which means that there is always this make believe element to leftism, in that the leftist must pretend to not know things one cannot not know. In many ways, a college education -- I mean a thorough one -- systematically trains one to deny the undeniable and therefore promulgate the unthinkable. By which I mean sling the bullshit.
But "absolute relativity is a contradiction in terms, because the relative is always testimony to the absolute."
The moment one realizes this -- assuming one really and truly does -- one understands that the human state is not and cannot be any kind of Darwinian "extension" of the animal state, but is something fundamentally irreducible to any materialistic terms.
Yes, there is continuity, of course, and it is the task of science to explain this continuity. But there is also irreducible discontinuity, and to the extent that science ignores this, it will generate ambiguity, absurdity, and paradox.
For example, let us say that man and chimp share 99.6% of their DNA, or whatever it is. Far from explaining the continuity, this only shows how DNA is powerless to account for the shocking discontinuity between man and beast -- unless one wishes to argue that all the painting, poetry, and music, all the novels, symphonies, games, and jokes, all of the science, religion, mathematics, and genetics, is in that little accident of biology.
Is the study of genetics genetic? No, of course not. Humanness is in fact the gate of exit out of mere animality -- indeed, out of the relative cosmos itself. Humans are the "hole" in creation that permits knowledge of the whole of creation; in our heart is a mysterious absence that potentially holds all the Presence. To put it another way, man is an "incomplete completeness," which is another term for our neoteny, or endless childhood (or limitless potential).
There is this critical relationship between the absence and the Presence, the relative and the Absolute. Animals do not know this absence, which amounts to the recognition of one's relativity, hence one's dependence. But to be aware of absence is to know in an instant that one stands in relation. To what? Or, more to the point, to Whom? I AM, for starters.
Having said that, it is eminently possible for human beings to deny the absence, which results in two conditions, both fatal. First, it forecloses knowledge of the Absolute; second, it inserts a false absolute in the space the real one should occupy. In short, this is the zone of the graven image that exiles one from eternity.
For in knowing the Absolute, human beings may participate in eternity on this side of manifestation -- in the relative world. We do this by 1) aligning ourselves with truth, and 2) assimilating truth.
Looking back, it seems like my voice has changed. Did I, between 2012 and 2023 finally attain adulthood or something? I remember being baptized and even confirmed in April 2023. Perhaps that did the trick.

Here's something on what I called the cheap grace and cheaper intelligence of the left, Perhaps it will shed some light on the burgeoning weirdness they had in store for us.

one of the central appeals of modern liberalism for the dead-from-the-neck-up is the cheap grace it offers via its institutionalized political kitsch.

As we all know, in order to be considered moral or intelligent by the left, one simply has to conform to their ideological template, e.g., top-down economic planning, global warming, women as victims, political opponents are racist, etc.

There was apparently a Republican debate the night before, and, based on the hysterical liberal reaction, we predicted that 

This is a preview of how the upcoming presidential campaign is going to be all about race, despite the fact that we specifically elected a "post-racial" president in 2008.
Indeed, despite his spectacular failures, if Obama had only delivered on this promise, his presidency might have been worthwhile, since it would have at least neutralized this most poisonous and destructive of the left's dark arsenal of verbal weaponry.
Called it.
But alas, it was not to be, and we have the most race-conscious and race-baiting administration since perhaps Woodrow Wilson, that father of modern progressivism.... 

This chart from the article linked above documents the sharp increase since 2012 of progressive delusional ideation regarding racism, misogyny, "homophobia," "transphobia," and all the rest: 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Faith and Verification

 It is not believing in God that is important; what is important is that God exists.

In my desperation for something to read around here, I picked up Garrigou-Lagrange's The Existence of God, which I first read two or three years ago, but don't remember blogging about. That was right in the middle of my Garrigou-Lagrange phase, and this one may have slipped through the crock.

Garrigou-Lagrange is a confusing writer, in the sense that he's so damn clear:

To cause confusion, ambiguity is more than enough; clarity is enough.

He's never ambiguous, that's for sure, and I think I know why. The following happened while he was studying medicine in 1896, and that? was that!

I was able to glimpse how the doctrine of the Catholic Church is the absolute Truth concerning God and his intimate life and concerning the human person, his origin and his supernatural destiny. I saw in the wink of an eye that it was not a truth relative to our time and place but an absolute truth that will not change but will become more and more apparent up to the time when we see God face to face.

The wink of an eye, eh? That checks out, for 

Truth convinces with a wink; error needs speeches. 

Wait, there's more to the (?!): 

A ray of light shone before my eyes and made clear the words of the Lord: "The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." I understood that this truth must bear fruit like the grain of wheat in good soil...

The rest was commentary, I guess. Including this book, which absolutely proves the existence of God, bearing in mind that logical proof is a modest thing compared to the experience described above. 

The Church doesn't only teach that it is possible to prove the existence of God, but that it is anathema to believe otherwise: let not the village atheist come along and pretend the Creator "cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things" (First Vatican Council). After all, logic is logic, and if it's not, then we are all condemned to eternal tenure. 

But even then,

The books of the unbeliever constitute the true apologetics for the Faith.

According to Schuon, there are two ways to prove the existence of God, "one in an upward and the other in a downward direction"; or one via direct intellection, the other via standard-issue rationalism available to anyone at any time.   

I suppose we could say that the first is top-down, center-out, or synthetic, the second bottom-up, outside in, or analytic. Or, we could even say right-brain vs. left brain. Of course, it's best to max out both sides of the brain, as does a Schuon or Garrigou-Lagrange. 

At any rate,

We understand more easily from the top down than from the bottom up -- the reverse of what they claim.

The truth can also be known more or less directly via intuition, which is not quite intellection; or perhaps intellection for regular folks. I remember the comedian Norm MacDonald saying he just knew Christianity is true, even if he didn't know how. Maybe similar to how we know a joke is funny. 

No doubt one can immediately accept the supernatural and have no need of such proofs (Schuon).


The following seems to apply to G-L's experience, which was more a function of grace than intellection per se:

To be sure, one must not underestimate the possibility of a spontaneous intuition: if authentic, it necessarily contains in an infused manner the certainty transmitted by the proofs of God or the supernatural... (ibid.).

It's the infusion (↓) that counts, even supposing logical proof: 

The “proofs” of Christianity are attempts to leave out grace.

Or at least can be, supposing they ignore or usurp the x-factor that can only enter from outside the human system -- in other words, something breaks into what is otherwise an absurcular existence. The aphorist is raising his hand. Yes, Nicolás?

Christianity is the paradigm of the gratuitous insertion of axiological flashes into time.

Correct: vertical flashes () into the horizontal (← • →).

Now, all the (↑) in the world can never result in (↓). You can't storm heaven or force God's hand or take enough LSD.

But man moves in a shadow pierced by splendors.

Especially an upright man (← ↑ →) who takes the trouble to at least knock. For in the Ultimate Sense of things,  

Religious history ascends to a point from which it descends.
And that includes your own personal religious history, because only persons have a history. The point here is that (↑) must already be a form of (↓), and likewise the proofs of God (i.e., no one sets out to prove the impossible, or something of which he hasn't the slightest intuition). 

Which is why, or so it seems, the proofs may not be convincing to the intransigent or frivolous flatlander (← • →), much less the man who is in rebellion against reality.

Come to think of it, nor will the proofs be of much consolation to the person feeling spiritually desolate or abandoned, or to anyone in whom (↓) is inoperative, or is veiled, or has been withdrawn, hopefully just for routine maintenance.

Failing the sort of experience G-L describes above, it is hardly unreasonable to politely ask for a little proof, please. Even The Aphorist says

Believe in God, trust in Christ, and be suspicious.

So, trust but verify. The file isn't closed on this one. To be continued....

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