Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Rights of Truth and Obligations of Man

Schuon often said something to the effect that there is no privilege higher than truth, all others being number two, or lower. And while unsuccessfully looking up the exact wording of that quote, I found a paper by Schuon called No Activity Without Truth, touching on many of the items on this morning's implicit agenda. For example:

In the face of the perils of the modern world, we ask ourselves: what must we do? This is an empty question if it be not founded upon antecedent certainties, for action counts for nothing unless it be the expression of a knowing and also of a manner of being. 
Before it is possible to envisage any kind of remedial activity, it is necessary to see things as they are, even if, as things turn out, it costs us much to do so; one must be conscious of those fundamental truths that reveal to us the values and proportions of things. 
If one's aim is to save mankind, one must first know what it means to be a man; if one wishes to defend the Spirit, one must know what is Spirit. "Before doing, one must be" says the proverb; but without knowing, it is impossible to do (emphasis mine). 

Bingo. This means that, practically speaking, the rights of truth are prior to the rights of man, for if there is no truth -- including the truth of man -- then natural rights go out the window, deprived of their sufficient reason. 

To put it inversely: supposing you have a real, unalienable right -- any right -- then God exists. And supposing truth exists, then we have a "natural obligation," so to speak, to know, defend, and adhere to it. It's the least we can do, given the great privilege of knowing it. Ingratitude is base.

Thus it is no coincidence that we see our rights eroding before our eyes due to the very nature of radical secular left. It's baked in, once you take that first step into the ontological swamp of the left. 

Recall that among our first principles is the controversial one indicating that what is is, and what is not is not. Schuon touches on it here:

In our time one has often heard it said that in order to fight against materialism -- or materialist pseudo-idealism -- a new ideology is needed, one capable of standing up to all seductions and assaults. 
Now the need for an ideology, or the wish to oppose one ideology to another, is already an admission of weakness, and anything undertaken on this basis is false and doomed to defeat. What must be done is to oppose truth purely and simply to the false ideologies, that same truth that has always been and which we could never invent for the reason that it exists outside us and above us. 

We don't need no steenking ideology, rather, just the universal and timeless truths that are prior to the fictive maps invented by pneumapaths of the left:

To cut off man from the Absolute and reduce him to a collective phenomenon is to deprive him of all right to existence qua man.

The left proposes to save mankind by denying what -- and why -- man is. That's not a bug, rather, an axiom.  "It is precisely" man's 

intellectual superiority that the social egalitarianism of the moderns fails to take into account.... to the objection that man is distinguished from animals by his "culture" we will answer that the completely profane and worldly "culture" in question is nothing more than a specifically dated pastime of the human animal; that is to say, this culture can be anything you please, while waiting for the human animal to suppress it altogether. The capacity for absoluteness which characterizes human intelligence is the only thing conferring on Man a right of primacy...

Recall what I said about the diabolical events of October 7 being like a giant sword cutting through history, perverse and malicious goats to one side, healthy sheep to the other. It's not as if this cosmic sword created the division, rather, only revealed -- and continues to reveal -- it. It's also generational, in that the younger the goat, the more cutthroat: among the 18 to 34 crowd, 73% are pro-genocide.

None of this is new, rather, just the actualization of one of man's permanent possibilities. If we can ascend, then we can also descend. In Vedantin metaphysics these vertical trends (or "gunas") go by the names of "sattwa" and "tamas," respectively. The latter

is the guṇa of imbalance, disorder, chaos, anxiety, impurity, destruction, delusion, negativity, dullness or inactivity, apathy, inertia or lethargy, violence, viciousness, and ignorance.

Is that a bullseye, or what? The question is the ontological status of the gunas: are they just a Hundu thing, or the Hindu way of speaking of a universal thing? I suspect the latter, as there's a lot of convergence with what we in the west have typically identified as "diabolical tendencies."  

Speaking of which, this post was partly provoked by an essay called "White Logic" and "Jew Physics", about the battle over language -- or rather, the left's endless war on language as such:

the battle for language is not restricted to governments. Newspeak develops wherever a totalist ideology emerges -- it is, in fact, a necessary characteristic of the ideology. Such battles for language dominance are ongoing all the time, and the chief locus for these battles is the university campus, that petri dish of leftist ideologies.

But the ideology has clearly escaped the petri dish and has spread into the deep state, into its journalist-stenographers, and onto the streets.  

Eight year olds, Dude: 

Because this childlike assertion is nowhere acceptable for modern discourse, an entire vernacular is constructed to prop it up, and mantras are repeated ad nauseam to establish a faux legitimacy. In fact, the endless repetition of bombastic assertions is characteristic of all social-justice themes. 

And while they deny God, they cannot live without a Devil: they

generate a “devil word” to represent (or constitute) a ubiquitous enemy. This enemy is defined only by the fact that it opposes the totalist orthodoxy. Political scientist John Wesley Young characterized this as a technique to “coin or borrow a devil-term and tack it on indiscriminately to all of one’s adversaries.” He also noted that “the technique involved here requires little sophistication but much malice.”

You can't say it doesn't work. But only on the bovine and/or cunning:

it attracts and works for only two types of people -- those stupid enough to actually believe it (the storm-trooper class) and those who don’t believe it but see it as a useful tool to achieve their vision (vanguard puppeteers)....

The dullards and malcontents among us are always anxious to acquire by coercion and bullying what they cannot gain by merit. Because of this, their simple-minded doctrine is attractive for a certain type of disaffected bureaucrat. Today’s enemies of science, logic, reason, and progress have established beachheads on almost every campus in America.

It's "the critical-racialist oeuvre of paranoia, hyper-narcissism, pseudo-science, and magical thinking that would take us back to a pre-medieval world of superstition, sorcery, and shamans" -- which tracks with what was said above about those descending tamasic energies.

I'm going to pause here, because this has gone on a bit long already. 

Friday, November 10, 2023

Ontological Laughter is the Best Medicine

 Shall I compare thee to a Sumerian deity? Nah

A new examination of skulls appears to support a more grisly interpretation than before of human sacrifices associated with elite burials in ancient Mesopotamia. Palace attendants, as part of royal mortuary ritual, were not dosed with poison to meet a rather serene death. Instead, a sharp instrument, a pike perhaps, was driven into their heads.

The recovery of about 2,000 burials attested to the practice of human sacrifice on a large scale. At or even before the demise of a king or queen, members of the court -- handmaidens, warriors and others -- were put to death. 

Having said that, "Shoving a pike into someone's head does seem like an effective way to kill them, though." 

The point is, there are religions that are not at all funny, without even the possibility of being so. Why is this? What went wrong?

I wonder: do religion and humor coevolve? For laughter coincides "with an openness to the unlimited." In the Ultimate Joke, "What laughs is That which transcends all limitations by its utter superiority":

laughter may be a spiritual door by opening onto a level of reality that shatters the illusions of egoic self-importance.... the capacity to be able to laugh at oneself presupposes at least a minimal degree of dissociation from the ego, and this dissociation must presumably involve a self-transcendence of some kind (Laude). 

So, verticality. But there is also "transcendence from below," and one is reminded of how the Islamists laughed while committing their sadistic atrocities on October 7. According to Rob Henderson,

Sadism is sincere enjoyment from inflicting harm.

Baumeister writes, “The question of whether people enjoy harming others -- and, if they do, the question of how much evil can be explained by this pleasure -- is the single most elusive and vexing problem in the entire topic of evil....  for sadists, they derive pleasure from using power to hurt others. When they inflict pain, the victim’s cries serve as validation of their own being, their importance, their power.

But a "Christianized" sense of humor is precisely an inversion of the sadistic power-driven Islamist kind: most conspicuously, the Beatitudes
almost exclusively focus on this spiritual reversal, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted, blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." This aspect of inversion of terrestrial values and “wisdom according to the flesh” is eminently highlighted by St. Paul’s admonition concerning the “foolishness” of the world and the “foolishness of the Cross”...

The wisdom according to the world is nothing but “self-deception” because it is based upon an illusory identity, that of the “old man,” an identity that is constructed out of the nothingness of the world. Christian “foolishness” is the first phase of a therapeutic treatment that aims at the restoration of true wisdom.

Laude asks "How can Christians be both 'in this world' and 'not of this world'”? The answer is "intimately connected to a sense of play and folly," like an ontological pun, or something. 

What about ontological sickness? Sounds serious. What is it, and is there a cure? "What could be called 'ontological sickness'" is

the association of other realities to God with all the spiritual and moral consequences that this association involves... 

So, idolatry? Thou shalt have no other gods before me, because supposing you do, you're entering a world of pain, and one that isn't remotely funny. Unless you think there's something amusing about inflicting suffering upon others, as with the Sumerians or Islamists. 

Some other passages from the book:

laughter may specifically serve as a weapon in a kind of moral and spiritual warfare. The devil can laugh at those whom he misleads, and the saint, too, may laugh in return at the devil’s final discomfiture...

He who laughs last will be the one who first laughed: Alpha and Omega. Which reminds me of the clown:

the clown is the human locus of an electrifying meeting of opposites. These extremes may be situated on the same level of existence..., [but] they may also be vertically connected, as the highest and the lowest, the noblest and the vilest.... The clown is a celestial being who reflects the heavens in a reverse way, as if in a grotesque mirror...

Extremes may be vertically connected, as the highest and the lowest. Does this not describe the Incarnation?

Does this imply that salvation, or redemption, or awakening, is comedy gold? "Such an understanding of laughter is apparent"

particularly in Zen where illumination is not infrequently connected with laughter.... there is probably no higher recognition of the spiritual dimension of laughter than that which associates it with a coincidence between the outburst of laughter and the shift in consciousness itself.... laughter may erupt simultaneously with the springing forth of an insight into one’s relativity, and into the ridiculousness of one’s ordinary existential “posturing.”

In this connection, the experience of satori is often associated with a loss of equilibrium that is akin to burlesque and bursting laughter...

More generally -- and tying the room together -- 

On an essential level, this funny, paradoxical, and often violent junction of opposites and disparate realities is nothing less than an esoteric allusion to the confrontation of the individual limitations entailed by the human state with the Absolute....

[I]ndividual existence, because of its radical distinction from “nothing,” tends to vest itself with a sense of absoluteness. Nearly every human falls into the trap of usurping the throne of the One...

Back to the sickness that has no name, or rather, many names, from original sin to avidyā to being stuck inside Plato's cave: the soul, "divorced from the spirit or disconnected from intelligence,"

absolutizes the individual status of man and the passions that ensue from it, thereby severing him from his Creator by claiming an illusory metaphysical independence. All disorders, imbalances, and forms of degeneracy result from this existential error and, in a sense, all sicknesses are manifestations or symbols of it.

Ontological laughter is the best medicine, or something.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Laughter and Spiritual Warfare

Been diving into Divine Play, Sacred Laughter, and Spiritual Understanding, and I think I'll just pull out some quotes and comment on them. Or not, depending.

This first one is interesting, because it reminds us that the whole of salvation history begins with a laugh -- with an epic guffaw-HA! experience:

upon hearing from God that he will be given a son, Abraham “fell upon his face, and laughed”.... 

Moreover, "The anglicized name 'Isaac' is a transliteration of the Hebrew name יִצְחָק (Yīṣḥāq) which literally means 'He laughs/will laugh.'" One scholar

considered Abraham’s laughter as an “axial” experience, that is, a mode of direct awareness of God’s transcendence, a laughter quenched at the very source of the divine.... Such laughter involves an abrupt shift of metaphysical level...

I used to always laugh at inappropriate times. Maybe I was on to something, for 

The relationship between laughter, metaphysics, and mysticism is a rich and fascinating domain that has been little studied. One of the reasons for this situation lies in the fact that religious phenomena are most often considered as a “serious matter” while laughter is often thought to be mere entertainment and is not usually envisaged by the majority as bearing any relationship to religion. Laughter smacks of profanity, and even profanation. 
Now, this conventional understanding of the matter is, as has already been indicated, highly partial. As with all other human phenomena, and in fact more than most, laughter opens onto the realm of spirituality.

So there. And I'm not the only one, for 

Christ’s teachings are indeed imbued with a sense of humor that permeates the entire worldview that he imparted to his disciples.

How so? The argument 

lies in stressing the nonliteral character of many, if not most, of the Christic teachings. This nonliteral and parabolic mode of expression is consonant with certain modalities of humor... Christ’s way of understanding the world and expressing spiritual truths presupposes a radical distancing from immediate, conventional, and literal perception. Now this is precisely the hallmark of a comic apprehension of reality that is in conformity with a sacred perspective.

A nonliteral and parabolic mode. This would explain why literalists and fundamentalists of any kind -- whether secular or religious -- are never funny.

As alluded to in yesterday's post, humor itself is very "incarnational," in that it reaches deeply into the body, resulting in an involuntary physical release. Well, 

inasmuch as the Christ takes flesh, he must be witness to the ambiguities of the human condition and thereby indulge, albeit moderately, in the humor of terrestrial existence.

Can't be human without humor. I wonder: can AI ever be truly witty? I don't know the answer, but it's hard to see how, since wit always takes place at a meta-level of language, and therefore transcends any programming. And  

if humor and laughter can be defined as the “awareness that nothing is important in an absolute way,” the man who recognizes that the Absolute, or God, is “no-thing” is in the best possible metaphysical situation to smile with sparkling wit and to engage in hearty laughter at the foolishness of earthly “trade."

This implies a kind of ambiguous, Gödelian condition of simultaneously being inside and outside the linguistic system: we are always immanent and transcendent, whereas AI can't transcend its immanence.   

“The Christian (for Erasmus) is touched by the Infinite and will not only have the last laugh at the end of time: even now he laughs more insanely than the worldlings.”

More generally,

Laughter is therefore indicative, or symptomatic of the sudden encounter between the esoteric and exoteric dimensions of the religious universe.... spiritual laughter may be deemed to result from an incongruous encounter between two different levels of subjectivity, the divine and the human.  

Could AI laugh at its own nothingness in the face of the infinite? Can it transcend the finitude of its programming? Can AI be mentally ill, or perhaps just a little nutty?   

Nuts [the edible kind, but then again...] tend to be associated, in mystical language, with the distinction between the essential core and the accidental shell, thus corresponding to the Gospel’s differentiation between the spirit and the letter.

Which again goes to the gap between the literal and meta-literal, the appearance and the reality:

To see Mâyâ [appearance] as exclusively real amounts to idolatry, fanaticism, and a radical lack of sense of humor.... The notion of Mâyâ -- or its equivalents outside of India -- is thereby central to an understanding of the jokes and tricks that are integral parts of the metaphysical perspective and the esoteric outlook.

So, the ultimate possible joke is the distinction between God and world, Creator and creation, Necessary and contingent being, etc. 

Now, what happens when the Creator himself participates in the joke?

In the spiritual reciprocity between the Divine and the human, the divine “folly” of the Cross -- that is, God’s allowing Himself to be humiliated and persecuted for the sake of men -- is to be responded to by the human “folly” of Christian life.

Folly to the wise, and all that: 

Although the figure of the holy fool has been highlighted in nearly all spiritual traditions, it can be argued that it bears a particular affinity with the Christian spiritual perspective on the basis of the inversion of values that is at the core of the Christic teachings.

But this laughter is also a serious business, because the devil -- in whatever form, but especially progressivism -- hates to be laughed at. Thus, "the fool’s perspective bears a profound kinship with that of spiritual warfare."

As Israel is having to smoke the barbarians out of their holes, we ought to be joking our own barbarians out of theirs, before the problem becomes even more serious. If wokeness is (among other anti-human impulses) a war on humor, then humor is a war on wokeness. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Silly Discoveries and Important Jokes

Good news on the divine comedy front: I procured a cheap copy of a book called Divine Play, Sacred Laughter, and Spiritual Understanding. Bad news: I'm only a few pages in, not far enough for a post. 

However, it looks like we're onto something with our comment yesterday to the effect that the ultimate basis of humor must lie in the distinction between God and man, or Reality and appearances, and related antitheses such as life and death, health and illness, youth and age, pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, etc. According to the the lone reviewer on amazon,

Laude shows that the comic is integral to religious consciousness because it is founded on a sense of the discrepancy between the absolute and relative, the divine and the human.

Yesterday, commenter Randy highlighted the ultimate gag of the omnipotent Creator incarnating as a helpless infant. Whether atheist or believer, that's a hoot. Or at least folly to the wise, while God himself laughs at the wisdom of the world. For Him -- like us -- academia is Comedy Central. Although lately, Koranimal Planet.

Best I can do at the moment is republish some of the material that followed yesterday's repost, although edited and updated in order to meet the current standard:  

It's odd enough that life should suddenly arise in a lifeless universe, but what about laughter? "On the evolutionary level where laughter arises," notes Koestler, "an element of frivolity seems to creep into a humorless universe governed by the laws of thermodynamics and the survival of the fittest."

Which leads to the question: is humor essential to man's nature, or an accident? Put conversely, is an intelligent being without this thing called "humor" conceivable? If Koestler is correct, it would appear not, since it is so bound up with the logic and structure of scientific discovery and artistic creation, and certainly the latter two are essential to man. But is humor just an unintended side effect of these -- a mere spandrel?

If so, the spandrel must have arisen quite early, being that it is so woven into the nervous system. As Koestler writes, "Humor is the only domain of creative activity where a stimulus on a high level of complexity produces a massive and sharply defined response on the level of physiological reflexes. This makes me think of the Law of Inverse analogy, whereby the highest is reflected in the lowest -- as in how, in the reflection of a tree at the far end of a lake, the top will appear closest to us.

Koestler assures us that while the idea "that the Jester should be brother to the Sage may sound like blasphemy, yet our language reflects the close relationship." 

In a too-good-to-check footnote he elaborates on that etymological relationship, suggesting that "wit" is cognate to videre and to the Sanskrit veda, which is in turn related to the ultimate knowledge and the biggest joke of all, which is that Atman is Brahman (or at least not not Brahman), i.e., Moksha-ha-ha.

Koestler writes of "a continuous series" that stretches "from the pun through the play of words to the play of ideas." 

The play of ideas. 

Oh, but it is a game! Only vertical one. 

At any rate, it seems that "getting the joke" is very much related to "solving the problem." I suppose you could say that a joke is a discovery, just as a discovery is a joke. Which makes me want to revisit Polanyi vis-a-vis the logic of scientific discovery, not to mention Bernard Lonergan's Insight.

One difference, according to Koestler, is that the joke generally involves a collision of matrices, whereas a discovery will result from their fusion. Thus, a really important discovery will involve a "permanent fusion of matrices of thought previously believed to be incompatible."

In contrast, the really important joke... 

Could there be such a thing as an important joke? 

Two words: Joe Biden

But seriously.

The first thing that occurs to me is how, in the Soviet Union, it was only possible to discuss certain important truths in the form of generally mordant humor, e.g., "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

And now that I'm thinking about it, the same would be true of certain vital truths that are not to be discussed or even noticed under a logophobic regime of political correctness.

Note also that "the history of science abounds with examples of discoveries greeted with howls of laughter," only later to be confirmed. You know, they all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round, just as they snickered at Marconi that wireless was a phony. Same with Whitney and his gin, Fulton and his boat, and Hershey and his bar. 

Someone -- was it Whitehead? -- made a point about the scientific revolution really being the "discovery of discovery." Analogously, it seems we're looking for the punchline of punchlines, the merry Mother of All Gags -- or ho ho ho, who's got the last laugh now -- and always?

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Post

Putting the wit into Wittgenstein, 

A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.

Why not? Maybe because "serious" and "joke" are contradictory terms -- unless you're the kind of person who jokes around due to anxiety or awkwardness when things get serious. In other words, humor as a psychological defense mechanism. I've never seriously looked into the dynamics of it, nor do I recall any particularly witty patients. Excuse me while I do a quick search.

Says here that

Historically, psychologists framed humor negatively, suggesting it demonstrated superiority, vulgarity, Freudian id conflict or a defense mechanism to hide one’s true feelings. In this view, an individual used humor to demean or disparage others, or to inflate one’s own self-worth. As such, it was treated as an undesirable behavior to be avoided. And psychologists tended to ignore it as worthy of study. 


Humor and laughter were not seen as valuable topics for philosophical or scientific study until the 1980s, perhaps due to their assumed connection to body instead of mind and because laughter, like other bodily functions, is often difficult to control. Humor is also often thought of as “low”-- that is, enjoyed by the people as opposed to the elite.

But "Recently, scientific research on the neuroscience of laughter has showcased the potential intellectual benefits of a brain wired to find humor and the connections between humor responses and common biases and heuristics."

The following explanation of the form of humor may explain why it can be applied to philosophy; in order to "To be in on the joke," one must "Detect an incongruity in its multiple interpretations" and "Resolve the incongruity by inhibiting the literal, nonfunny interpretations and appreciating the meaning of the funny one."

Hmm. I guess this means that the possibility of metaphysical humor is grounded in the inevitable incongruity between reality and appearances, or one appearance and another. The

currently most broadly popular of the major philosophical theories of humor is the incongruity theory, developed by Immanuel Kant. 

Now that's funny. 

Later adherents included Arthur Schopenhauer and Søren Kierkegaard. This theory holds that humor results when our brains perceive two things as coexisting in a manner that does not at first appear to make logical sense and that laughter or humor occurs when the discomfort caused by this incongruity is resolved in some way. 
A simple example of this is a pun. Humor results when we discover that a word that initially appears incongruent in the context in which we first encounter it has another meaning that makes logical sense when a different context is revealed.

Back to the basis of philosophical humor, or humorous philosophy: two things coexist in a manner that doesn't appear to make logical sense, but then a sudden resolution of incongruity results in the guffaw-HA! experience. It seems that in the absence of verticality -- i.e., different planes of being -- humor would be strictly impossible, since there could be no clash of planes. 

Then again, even my dog has a rudimentary sense of humor, because at the moment she is playing with her three-foot long squeaking snake, and for her the squeak never gets old. 

What are some of the most serious -- and therefore potentially humorous -- ontological and existential incongruities we confront? Well, there's the fact that we are alive but someday won't be. That's a rather shocking incongruity. Then there's sickness and health, youth and age, pleasure and pain. There's a lot of humor around sex, because of its many incongruities. There's also civilization vs. barbarism, knowledge and ignorance, in-group vs. out-group. 

How about God and man? In a way, the first joke recorded in the Bible is when God asks Adam "Where are you," and Adam improvises the totally implausible response that "I was afraid because I was naked so I hid myself." As if God hasn't seen you naked.

Death. I'm thinking of a morbid joke about two Jews facing a Russian firing squad, and one of them asks for a blindfold. The other Jew says to him, "Shh! Don't make trouble!"

Considering that Jews are the most persecuted people in history, perhaps this is why -- certainly pound for pound -- they are the funniest, because there's the most potential for incongruity.

Is there humor in the Palestinian terrortories? That doesn't involve persecution of Jews? It reminds me of the old saying that peace will come to the Middle East when Palestinians love their children as much as they hate the Jews. It will also come if they can ever laugh at their own pathetically self-defeating culture, one that "never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity," and that has no idea how far to go in going too far.

The guy quoted above who says humor wasn't subject to serious study until the 1980s is wrong, because I remember blogging about Arthur Koestler's book on the subject, which was published in 1964. It's been almost ten years since that series of posts, long enough to revisit it. The following is from a post that asks, Is God Laughing At Us or With Us?

Does the Creator have a sense of humor? I don't see how one can avoid the conclusion, or humor would be deprived of its sufficient reason. It certainly has no Darwinian utility.

According to Koestler, there are exactly 29 references to humor -- or at least laughter -- in the Hebrew Bible. Interestingly, only two are "born out of a joyful and merry heart," while thirteen "are linked with scorn, derision, mocking, or contempt" -- with the sarcastic ha ha of Nelson Muntz.

I've been reading Koestler's The Act of Creation, which regards humor as the equal of scientific discovery and artistic creation. You might say that each of these three quintessentially human activities has the identical deep structure.

Many people have noticed, for example, that the theory of anthropocentric global warming is a joke. Problem is, it is a bad joke, because instead of seeing an implicit connection between two frames of reference -- in this case, weather and human activity -- it just makes one up. So the humor is forced and not spontaneous. 

Or sometimes the PC [now woke] world forbids seeing the real comedic connection, therefore barring certain subjects from ridicule for the purpose of avoiding threats to power. This article, for example, explains why comedians have somehow failed to exploit the comedic goldmine that is Obama:

We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime Saturday Night Live specialist in political japery: "If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10...

“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto -- certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature."'

Not a single flaw -- for example, the gulf between his pompousness and vacuity, or between the form and content of his platitudinous pronouncements. Let us not forget 

The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is 'Austrian,' that you pronounce the p in 'corpsman' and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time 'behind enemy lines.' The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. 

Not to mention the smokin' hot wife, the mom jeans, the intellectual laziness, the corruption, the provincial liberal insularity, the straw man arguments, the thin skin, the media sycophancy, the fascination with celebrity trash, etc.

Anyway, Koestler's book is the only one I know of that gives humor its proper due, and treats it with the metacosmic seriousness it deserves (which itself is kind of funny).

The frontispiece of the book has a helpful (?) cosmic cartography that looks like this:

Koestler suggests that "all patterns of creative activity are tri-valent," in that they may "enter the service of humour, discovery, or art" (left, center, and right, respectively), or from the "absurd through an abstract to a tragic or lyric view of existence."

Which I guess goes to the observation by Goethe in the sidebar, that The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. 

Monday, November 06, 2023

Language and Existence

As we've been saying these last few posts, is is the soul of judgment: that which is, is, and that which is not, is not.

I know -- complicated!

But it does highlight a critical point, the relationship between language and being, existence, reality. 

Language communicates to us what is, but what is language? This question is somewhat above my praygrade, so let's consult some experts. Better read s-l-o-w-l-y:

Like Universal Existence, which is its prototype, language encloses us ontologically in the truth, whether we wish it or not: before all words, its all-embracing meaning is ‘Be’; it is Divine in its essence. ‘In the beginning was the Word'” (Schuon).

I was about to say "in other words," but I don't know that there are other words. Let's try the same words in a different order.

"Universal Existence" is the prototype of language; language encloses us in the truth of being, and is itself Divine; for which reason John's affirmation that (in the present tense) in the beginning is the Word, that the Word is with God, and the Word is God.

Well, clearly, something important is being conveyed here vis-a-vis speech and ultimate reality.

In fact, John's conscious mirroring of Genesis 1 highlights the same thing, what with the relationship between God's "saying" and his creating, i.e., bringing into being.

Now, the closest we come to deploying speech to "bring into being" is poetry. In other words, everyday speech is usually deployed to refer to what already is, like "what is the temperature outside?" But poetry... 

Damn. It takes a poet to say what poetry is, and I'm not one. I know it when I see it, and I also know that, in addition to being merely creative, it is a mode of speech for communicating the isness of transcendent truths -- the business of higher isness. I really only knew one poet: Vanderleun, help us out here!  

Really? Just google it? Okay.

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him. --Dylan Thomas

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. --T.S. Eliot

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. --Emily Dickinson

I have a book of poems by Schuon. From the Foreword:

It seems that mystical experience almost inevitably leads to poetry. The great mystics all over the world used the language of poetry when trying to beckon to a mystery that lies beyond normal human experience...

Which doesn't necessarily make it "abnormal," rather, trans-normal (although there are plenty of abnormal poets, or people who hijack language to express their sub- or abnormality -- those lousy little poets comin' round tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson --Leonard Cohen). But

the poetical word can more easily lead to the mystery that is hidden behind the veils of intellectual knowledge and which cannot be fettered in logical speech.

Which again doesn't make it "illogical," rather, trans-logical.

Now I'm looking at a book called Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry. In the preface, it says that

Just as it is the ordering principle of the Logos which enters into manifestation and allows us to realize that God is immanent, so it is the Logos, understood as Sound and Word, which is reflected in the prosodic norms of all authentic spiritual poetry.

The poet is 

a mediator or a channel between the essence of things and the magic of words, crystallizing his perceptions into sounds and images that pierce through the veil of trivial usage and bring miracles out of language. 

I'll buy that. Also this, which reflects some of the things said at the top of the post: 

[T]he Greek word poiesis literally means "creation," and specifically refers to creation in the realm of the logos.


The human ability to "name" beings clearly pertains to the Word as point of junction between the Divine and human. The Logos is the nexus between these two realms, and thus the means of communication par excellence between the two; it is both divine Revelation and human Invocation. 

In this sense, Man as such is a poem -- a nexus -- and "the prototype of the whole Creation."

We're getting pretty far afield. Let's re-ground ourselves in some plain-speaking aphorisms:

The work of art is a covenant with God.

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

Aesthetics cannot give recipes, because there are no methods for making miracles.  

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

One can only reread what suggests more than what it expresses.

Metaphor supposes a universe in which each object mysteriously contains the others.

Words do not decipher the mystery, but they do illuminate it.

Poetry is God's fingerprint in human clay.

Not sure how to wrap this one up, but I remember back when my book was published, and I gave a copy to a friend at work. I was warning him about the unorthodox language of the opening and closing sections, and he said something to the effect of "Bob, that's poetry!" 

I was taken aback and a little embarrassed, and responded that poetry was the furthest thing from my mind, and besides, what on earth makes you think I'm gay?!

Thinking back, I guess it is "poetic" in some sense, but I was really just trying to have a good laugh with and about God -- like "observational comedy," only observing something on a higher plane. I'm also thinking of Wittgenstein's comment that 

A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.

One can dream, anyway.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Escape From Planet IS

Apologies for that sprawling post yesterday. Must be concise. It's our adversaries who conceal their vacuity under all that verbiage: The deluded are prolix.

About that philosophical wrong turn western civilization took with Kant, which separated us from contact with reality and confined us to phenomena: 

the objects of experience are mere "appearances." The nature of things as they are in themselves is unknowable to us (Prof Wiki).

Like anyone could even know that. I wonder: did Kant have any real idea what he was rejecting with his "critical" philosophy? How much actual acquaintance with Thomas did he or anyone else have at the time? Did he know what he was criticizing? What if, in pursuing a perfect philosophy, he rejected the damn good enough? 

Again, there can be no perfect philosophy, because the map can never be the territory:

Nevertheless, there are good and bad maps -- of extra-mental reality, otherwise they're not even maps, just the doodles of tenured children.

Note that Kant begins with the map -- with our own a priori categories. Whether, or to what extent, they map the extra-mental world is unknowable to us. 

Of course, no one actually lives as if this were true, barring psychosis, which is precisely living as if one's interior world were real, with no ability to distinguish between hallucinations and reality. It doesn't help such a person to tell him that "you're just living in your own subjective categories projected onto the noumena, like anyone else."

Recall Garrigou-Lagrange's concise formula, absent which you are entering a world of pain:

That which is, is; that which is not, is not.

Since I am one of those pre-critical trailer Thomists, I have no difficulty recognizing that the hallucinating patient just mentioned is affirming that which is not, and failing to conform to that which is. Put another way, I am sorry to inform you that a gulf exists between your truth and the truth. If this makes me a fascist, then so be it.

It is for similar reasons that we can affirm that the progressive left is not living on Planet Is, but let's lay some additional groundwork before getting to the insultainment portion of our program. 

For a naive "pre-critical" philosopher, Thomas sure makes some subtle points about the possibility of our contact with reality. 

For example nowhere does he say that our minds provide a simple and direct reflection of the world. Yes, truth is the conformity of our judgment with extra-mental being; BUT our mental representations are not precisely what is known, rather, "that by which something extra-mental is known," and that's a subtle distinction. 

Our mental representation is only "material preparation for the act of knowing," not yet knowledge itself. Nor can there be "right judgment unless it can be traced back to the sense," this latter being what we meant when we said that our ideas must be fungible to the extra-mental world, i.e.,  backed by the full faith and credit of the First Bank of Reality: from the coin of the senses, to abstract ideas, back to the senses, only now informed by that abstract knowledge.

I say, those post-critical sophisticates are the naive ones, for "the purely imaginary vision terminates at an object within." Again: Kantian philosophy begins and ends with our map of the world, whereas common sense realism begins with our sense impressions of the world and abstracts from them, while never severing the abstractions from the extra-mental world.

Otherwise, truly truly, to hell with it. I mean, if we're not arguing about reality, then what are we arguing about? My hallucination is better than your hallucination?

Lately we've seen the progressive blob attacking speaker Mike Johnson for his "biblical worldview." Well, his metaphysic is not my metaphysic, but on what metaphysical basis can progressives say that they are in contact with reality, while Johnson isn't? Because that philosophical horse left the barn a few hundred years ago. You can't appeal to an extra-mental reality unknown and unknowable by man.  

Conversely, Thomas insists that any proper vision of the world terminates with the world, not with our vision of the world:

for St. Thomas bodily vision is distinguished from imaginary vision insofar as it terminates at the very thing that is being sensed, or at least at its real influx into a sense organ. 

Is this too much to ask? For

it is exactly this question that is at stake: Is it possible or contradictory properly to see that which really is not, for example, properly to see a non-existent ray of a star and properly hear a non-existent sound? 

Can we really see or know "that which is not"?

Of course we can. Otherwise the Democrat party would be out of business. They say Jefferson was their founder, but it would be more accurate to say it was Kant. Or before him, the ancient sophists and skeptics. And before them, the serpent who promises Ye shall be as Gods. 

I suppose the new speaker understands that literally. But at least he understands it.

Theme Song

Theme Song