Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sola Meta-scripture?

 "There is," writes the Thomist philosopher Walter Farrell,

an infinite chasm between the unspeakable things that are too base, too irrational for words and the ineffable things that are too high, too intelligible for the framework of speech.

Heights and depths, with a vertical abyss in between. And here we are. 

Speech, it seems, is too rational to reach down to the infrarational or up to the transrational. It only works in the temperate zone in between.  

Now, math is a language, but Gödel forever proved its insufficiency in mapping -- in a way that is both consistent and complete -- anything beyond itself, for any formal system contains assumptions that cannot be justified by the system. 

Does this mean we are sealed in tautology and absurcularity? In other words, is knowledge just the expansion of an otherwise closed circle?

As part of my continuing education, yesterday I read a book called Ideas at the Intersection of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Theology, hoping for some answers. Lately we've been talking about psychic integration, and the author -- who is both Christian and a mathematician -- was troubled by the lack of integration between the two:

There just had to be fruitful ways for either bringing Christian faith to bear upon the math I was learning in college or for bringing the math I was learning in class to bear somehow on my faith. 

However, there are "relatively few people interested in finding places where the Christian faith might intersect with mathematics." 

Concur. Most mathematicians -- like most people -- just breeze past Gödel as if nothing has happened: "the philosophy of mathematics has little or no influence upon 99% of mathematicians."

Am I the only one who cares about the rules?! 

Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of the book, but the author does bring Gödel to bear on the impossibility of sola scriptura, and you can probably see how. He begins with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which claims that  

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.

But supposing the inviolability of the incompleteness theorems, no formal system can be self-justifying, independent of other axioms from outside the system: "the whole counsel of God cannot be deduced from an enumerable set of axioms allegedly given expression by scripture." 
when a person is going to begin talking about his or her formal theory in a meta-theoretical way, then that person will either have to begin saying things that are untrue or things that are unprovable -- at least from within that formal theory. And this uncanny property is not restricted to arithmetical systems. 

As it pertains to sola scriptura, "the proposition that one is being asked to confess" 

must be added as an additional axiom -- to those propositions that are said to be expressly set down in scripture, except this one will not be set down in scripture... 

I don't blame anyone for saying So what?, but that's all I got this morning.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Self-Help and the Devil's Menu

Speaking of integration around the good -- and the impossibility of integration around its converse -- the following words popped into my head this morning. No, they are not original to me:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.

Once again we see a whole metaphysic expressed in narrative and dialogical form: on one side integration and harmony, on the other dis-integration and dissonance.

Now, we live in disintegrating times, but then again, it seems that all living systems at all times work against entropy, from biology on up. Where is the Center, and how do we keep things from flying apart -- from the same old anarchy being loosed upon the world? Another unbidden thought comes in for a landing:

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

To repeat in other words what was said yesterday,

On Aquinas's views, the internal integration necessary for closeness, union, and love is possible only in integration around the good (Stump).

If dis-integration is a kind of disease, then integration is the cure. And for Thomas, sanctification and justification are "the remedies for the psychic sickness whose source is the human propensity to evil." And "without these remedies, even God cannot be close to a human person or united to him."

We've suggested before that every religion proposes a cure for the disease it diagnoses. And for Thomas, "all human beings have a sort of latent disease in the will." Give it sufficient oxygen and "In the right circumstances, it blows up into moral monstrosity." 

How do we integrate if it is not around the Good? Perhaps it's easier if we consider how it is possible for the intellect to be integrated if it is not around the True. Wouldn't integration around error and falsehood be disintegration, precisely? Or an a priori impossibility of integration?

But the mind, being a dynamic system, doesn't achieve integration in a static way. Rather, it must be an ongoing process. I am not the first to suggest that truth is to the mind as nutrition is to the body; thus it is a question of ongoing metabolism, whether speaking of biology or psychology: the mind needs truth, and in its absence cannot flourish. 

We might also say that the soul needs beauty as the will needs virtue; each of the latter terms is the telos of the former. Intellect, will, and sentiment must be conformed to the true, good, and beautiful, respectively, otherwise to hell with it.

Some people are just un-willing to be integrated, meaning that they must implicitly will to be dis-integrated. In such a case, "the defect in the will is such that it could be fixed by the person who has it only if she did not have the defect." 

Which is contradictory: a divided will trying to unite itself will redound to nothing more than an ad hoc patch-up job, like trying to repair your car while driving it. 

Which, if I am not mistaken, goes to the function of ideology, which is a kind of exterior and top-down structure the person takes on board in order to exert a faux integration. This is who we're dealing with. Prior to the content of the ideology is the existential desperation of the person who has adopted it. As with any delusion, the head-on attempt to disprove it only makes you part of the proof. For example, if you're not a racist, this only proves you are one.

In the past I have also suggested that the patient, in order to be healed, must relinquish the effort at self-healing, which is a symptom of the very dis-ease it is attempting to cure. And the means of self-healing on offer are too numerous to list, but everyone has their favorite. Truly truly, the Devil's Menu is endless.

Incoming again:

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Hmm. An alignment of wills, as it were. 

In Aquinas's terminology, this is cooperative grace, because in giving it, God is cooperating with a person's own higher-order desires....

By desiring a good will, she desires a good that God himself desires -- that is, her internal integration and with it the possibility of her union with God.  

The higher-order, meta-desire for the Good? 

The process in which God cooperates with a human person's higher-order desires for a will that wills one or another particular good is the process of sanctification.... By this means, [the person] will make progress in integrating her will around the good.

Progress, integration, sanctification, the latter of which "is not finished during a person's lifetime." It seems that the disease cannot so much be cured as treated. Then again, we do not call "hunger" a disease, rather, just a signal to seek nourishment. Likewise the hunger for the true and good. There is no "final meal" unless you're already on death row.

Stop resisting!, as they say on Cops:

Surrender of resistance and quiescence of the will are the start of the moral and spiritual regeneration required for internal integration, and for all the things for which internal integration is necessary...


In the surrender of sanctification, a person lets go of the effort to bring her will through her own activity into the state she wants to have. Instead, she seeks God's aid for her will, to strengthen her will in the good she herself wants to will.  

Oh, and "Both justification and sanctification are therefore also relational, and so is their goal," but that's another post.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

God Needs a Few Integrated Men?

Any shared experience ends in is a simulacrum of religion. --Dávila 

The meaning of that one is not self-evident, partly because the meaning of simulacrum is equivocal: 1) An image or representation, 2) An unreal or vague semblance, 3) A likeness; a semblance; a mock appearance; a sham; -- now usually in a derogatory sense.

Is the Aphorist knocking shared experience? Because developmentally it co-arises with "personal experience," in that the first experience is the discovery of the (m)other. At least that's the way it was with me: we are thoroughly intersubjectively entangled on the ground floor. It's how and why we're human.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering about the mysterious presence of the third Person of the Trinity. Could he be a "consequence," so to speak, of the joint loving attention of the first two, bearing in mind that the Trinity does not "develop" in time (as is the case for humans), but has always been?

In the book we're looking at -- Wandering Through Darkness -- Stump writes of "joint attention," or of what is called "triadic attentional engagement," the "triadic shared attention" which joins "two people's attention upon a 'third' element or target": it

"occurs when an individual is psychologically engaged with someone else's psychological engagement with the world." Another researcher says of the two subjects engaged in joint attention directed toward some third object that "each subject is aware, in some sense of the object as an object that is present to both subjects."

It's a rather mysterious thing -- how two interior subjects can share awareness of a third in what is called "transitional space." But 

somewhere in the period between 9 and 12 months of age, most infants begin spontaneously to use a pointing gesture to call things to the attention of their care-givers and to share attention directed toward the object with the care-giver.

Remama? Probably not, but it is recapitulated in the shared experience we have with our own infants. Unfortunately, "Autistic children show significant deficits in the triadic form of joint attention," and before this, in "dyadic shared attention":

It is now apparent that triadic joint attention is a development of dyadic attention-sharing, which begins much earlier in infancy, in mutual gaze and in gaze-following.... By as early as two months of age, infants already have some sophistication with regard to dyadic attention-sharing.

I don't like the implications of being born with an attenuated ability to engage in this intersubjective mutuality, but I suppose that if it is possible for things to go right, it has to be possible for them to go wrong. And, last I checked, early intervention in autism can have a major impact on outcomes. Moreover, we're all a little autistic. But in any event, 

for mentally fully functional adult human beings, full-fledged dyadic joint attention is required for significant, as distinct from minimal, personal presence.

And God's own

direct and unmediated cognitive and causal contact with everything in creation is still insufficient for God's being omnipresent. In order for God to be omnipresent, that is, in order for God to be always and everywhere present..., it also needs to be the case that God is always and everywhere in a position to share attention with any creature able and willing to share attention with God.

God needs a few integrated men in order to be present to them? Or, some assembly is required of us?

while God has the power to produce unilaterally some kind of personal presence, for significant personal presence even God's power is not sufficient. Significant personal presence of God to a human being requires mutual love and mutual closeness, and what is mutual cannot be produced unilaterally. 

This reminds me of God's first statement to Adam after the nasty business in the garden: Where are you? In other words, where did you go? It can't be referring to.a spatial location, because that's no way to hide from God, rather, to an ontological location, in that Adam is no longer present to God, even while God is as present as ever.

Speaking of which, it is also noteworthy that Adam feels shame, about which Stump says is "another route to internal fragmentation." And again,

unless the beloved person is internally integrated, even God is kept from closeness and union with the person he loves.

And for Thomas, "the internal integration necessary for closeness, union, and love is possible only in integration around the good." Put conversely, no one can be truly integrated around evil -- there will always be cracks, fissures, hypocrisies, inconsistencies, lies, self-deception, and multiple wills at odds with each other. 

So God apparently needs a few integrated men who are integrated around the Good (leaving the True and Beautiful to the side, although they are equally central to integration, and in fact, are themselves integrated at the top, in God).

  • Monday, April 15, 2024

    Integration and Presence

    Still slogging my way through Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. If it hadn't set me back thirty bucks, I would have given up by now. Why all the five star reviews? Maybe it's just me.

    In fact, there's a chapter on why it might be me, called Narrative as a Means of Knowledge: Francis and Dominic. It seems that the book may be aimed more at the former than the latter: the Dominican approach 

    is helpful for making clear distinctions, especially distinctions focused on details, about which argument is possible and often frequent. 


    The Franciscan approach is not much help with definitory details or crisp distinctions, but it can be evocative, memorable, and illuminating.

    The first is more philosophical and metaphysical, the second more embodied in story, myth, and narrative. The Franciscan would say that There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, while I say Try me. 

    The Franciscan type says 

    that there are things we can know that are philosophically significant but that are difficult or impossible to know and express apart from stories.  

    I appreciate the sentiment, but for me the narrative contains and expresses an implicit metaphysic that we can unpack and explicate, which goes to its value, precisely. For example, Schuon writes that 

    Revelation is none other than the objective and symbolic manifestation of the Light which man carries in himself, in the depths of his being; it reminds him of what he is, and of what he should be since he has forgotten what he is.  

    The Bible, for example, "expresses complex truths in a language that is indirect and full of imagery":

    its source is neither the sensorial world nor the psychological or rational plane, but rather a sphere of reality that transcends these planes and immensely envelops them, while yet in principle being accessible to man through the intellective and mystical center of his being, or through the “heart,” if one prefers, or pure “intellect.”

    The Bible itself is the multiple and mysterious objectivation of this intellect or Logos. It is thus by way of images and enigmas the projection of what we carry in a quasi-inaccessible depth at the bottom of our heart; and the facts of sacred history -- where nothing is left to chance -- are themselves cosmic projections of the unfathomable divine truth. 

    The Franciscan approach is also more personal in nature: it is not knowledge that, but of -- of other persons. It is intersubjective, relational, and participatory, or knowledge by acquaintance. 

    I get it, but for me the ultimate metaphysical principle is the intersubjective Person(s) -- i.e., substance-in-relation -- so my approach is able to handle the Franciscan with ease. For me, the two are deeply complementary. I would be the first to confess that we can know a great deal about God without knowing God. But I don't need a narrative to tell me that. 

    The next chapter is called Narrative and the Knowledge of Persons, and it goes to the various pathologies that can interfere with this knowledge, especially autism, which represents "a disruption in the system of child-in-relation-to-others." 

    We touched on this in yesterday's post, which comes back to the question of subjective openness, or of openness to other persons, which is to say, "the knowledge of persons and their mental states." To repeat:

    To be emotionally connected with someone is to experience someone else as a person. Such connectedness is what enables a baby... to differentiate people from things.... It is through emotional connectedness that a baby discovers the kind of thing a person is. A person is the kind of thing with which one can communicate (Hobson). 

    Now, if God is a person, then the same principle applies, only on the vertical plane. Simple as. Here again, no narrative is needed. I get it. As does Aquinas: "if real love has its way and is not somehow driven off course, it will eventuate in shared union with God" (Stump). It seems to me that this principle is embodied in a more narrative form when Jesus says  

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    Vertical and horizontal, respectively, while anchoring the latter in the former. These are primordial complementarities, but the vertical is prior. 

    Stump does have some interesting things to say about what interferes with this relation, mainly a failure to integrate, i.e., a subjective fragmentation in which we are inhabited by multiple wills at cross-purposes with one another. Aquinas, for example, 

    thinks that there is no peace for a person who is internally divided in herself, since, if she is divided against herself, she will have some unfulfilled desire no matter which part of her conflicting volitional states she acts on. The good of the person thus requires internal integration (emphasis mine).

    Which goes to what Jesus just said about all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. What part of All do we not understand? Well, there is the little matter of our fallenness, which is the ultimate ground of this division, am I wrong? 

    This is addressed later in the book, but here's a preview: "all human beings have a sort of latent disease in the will," and Thomas "takes this defect to be part of the universal post-Fall human condition"; "it follows that all human beings in the post-Fall condition lack internal integration to some degree."

    This reminds me of something I proposed in the book -- that the objective measure of "cultural health" is the degree to which it facilitates both the actualization of our latent potential and of our subjective integration. Nor can these two be separated, since the more the person is integrated, the more they can actualize their potential, the ultimate potential being nothing less than union with God. For example, Stump writes that

    Even God cannot be united to [for example] Jerome if Jerome is alienated from himself. Insofar as Jerome is resistant to internal integration, he is in effect also resistant to union with God. 

    After all, God is omnipresent, while we may be more or less present to this Presence, again, because we are divided against ourselves and not integrated.

    Good place to pause.

    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    The More Things Change

    To write for posterity is not to worry whether they will read us tomorrow. It is to aspire to a certain quality of writing. Even if no one reads us. --Dávila 

    I would like to someday publish another book. But what would be the point? It's all here -- and thensome -- and besides, who would be the potential audience? 

    Some authors have to first create the audience for whom they write, and at this point in -- approaching 5,000 posts deep -- it would be a real challenge for me to write for any other audience. 

    For one thing, I don't like to argue. Rather, I'm just trying to help. If the reader doesn't find it helpful, the last thing I want to do is to try to talk him into it. 

    We're just articulating a vision, take it or leave it, and no hard feelings. Still, it would be nice to reach the anonymous Raccoon who doesn't know he is one. What a sad and lonely life! Surely they're out there, but

    We need to write simultaneously as if no one whatsoever will read us and as if everyone will read us.


    To write honestly for others, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

    Turns out that I am the first member of the audience I have had to create in order to write. This may sound circular, but over the years I have indeed become increasingly influenced by my own writing, to the point that I actually assimilate my own vision as it sinks in post by post. 

    Looking back on it, the vision was first articulated as long ago as 1988, in my doctoral dissertation. 

    Every writer comments indefinitely on his brief original text.

    I just pulled my dissertation from the shelf, and it begins with a quote by F.L. Kunz:

    There is in the modern mind a growing wonder at the baffling depth and immensity of the perspectives being opened up by science, and a growing sense that they are somehow grasped together within a supremely intelligible context having more dimensions than space-time -- a context which man is perpetually engaged in reconstructing from the glimpses afforded him by the play between reality and understanding. 

    The more things change. Flipping to the end, I see there's another quote by the same F.L. Kunz:

    There is one universe, and modern understanding requires that all experience and knowledge be seen as a consistent part of the whole. Unity is possible because the reality is non-material and continuous and therefore universally present.

    Good times. And here we are. 

    My dissertation had an audience of four: me, my chairperson, and two advisors, but I have serious doubts about the last three. Rather, I suspect they gave it a glance and concluded that this guy seems pretty serious about what he's saying, so let's give him a pass. They were not members of the audience I hadn't yet created.

    I mean, woo woo: how did I get away with this?

    Just what exactly is a human? Where did we come from? What is consciousness?  

    One must bear in mind that human beings are only in the initial stages -- the first 50,000 years or so -- of the process that a species goes through in evolving to a level of complexity which includes the capacity for self-reflection. 

    If you say so, Bob. 

    But ironically, the book I'm currently reading -- Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering -- actually reviews some of the same findings discussed in my dissertation. The author is a theologian, but there is a whole chapter devoted to the evolution of persons within the dynamic space of the mother-infant dyad:

    Central to mental development is a psychological system that is greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts. The parts are caregiver and infant; the system is what happens when they act and feel in concert. 
    The combined operation of infant-in-relation-to-caregiver is a motive force in development, and it achieves wonderful things. When it does not exist, and the motive force is lacking, the whole of mental development is terribly compromised (Hobson, in Stump).

    That is precisely what I said in my dissertation. Even "a pre-linguistic infant can know her primary care-giver as a person" and "read the mind of her primary care-giver to some limited extent" (Stump).

    To be emotionally connected with someone is to experience someone else as a person. Such connectedness is what enables a baby... to differentiate people from things.... It is through emotional connectedness that a baby discovers the kind of thing a person is. A person is the kind of thing with which one can communicate (Hobson). 

    Stump continues:

    it has become clear that a pre-linguistic infant's capacity for social cognition is foundational to the infant's ability to learn a language or to develop normal cognitive abilities in many other areas. 

    She even correctly relates this to the right cerebral hemisphere, which is a pretty good guess for a theologian: "left-brain skills alone" will not

    reveal to us all that is philosophically interesting about the world.... Breadth of focus is a right-brain skill. So are many abilities useful in interpersonal relations.... those who are impaired with respect to right-hemisphere functions have an "inability to give an overview or extract a moral from a story... or to assess properly social situations."

    I'm still not sure where she's going with all this, but I guess we'll find out.

    Saturday, April 13, 2024

    The Structure of Scientific Retrogressions

    As part of my self-imposed continuing education requirement, I read a book called Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. It came highly recommended from some random blogger who said it was the best book on the subject by far.

    Meh. I'll stick with Michael Polanyi, Stanley Jaki, Errol Harris, and the rest of my crew.

    Can I even pull a post out of it? The chapter on Feminism and Science Studies might yield some fine insultainment, but it wouldn't be gentlemanly. Too easy. 

    Suffice it to say, if you want to become a living exemplar of the retrograde belief that women are incapable of science, logic, and accountability, by all means obtain a degree in Feminism and Science Studies. Its very existence is an insult to women. To paraphrase the Aphorist, 

    When the progressive condemns, every intelligent woman must feel alluded to.  

    Do they actually condemn real science?

    many began to treat science as part of a larger, multi-tentacled political structure that acts to reinforce subtle forms of exclusion and coercion.... The anti-authoritarian image of science came to be seen as just "good PR." 

    Mansplaining in disguise:

    some feminist epistemologists have argued that even our most fundamental concepts of reason, evidence, and truth are covertly sexist.... The idea of a single "true" description of the world that transcends these different perspectives [of race, class, and gender] is a harmful illusion.

    All perspectives are equal, except for that of Marginalized Peoples, who have a special and superior insight into reality than do the Privileged. You'd think that no cognitively functioning person could believe this premodern nonsense, and you would be correct: the White House has decreed that

    Indigenous Knowledge is a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, innovations, practices, and beliefs developed by Tribes and Indigenous Peoples through interaction and experience with the environment. 
    The Biden-Harris Administration has formally recognized Indigenous Knowledge as one of the many important bodies of knowledge that contributes to the scientific, technical, social, and economic advancements of the United States and our collective understanding of the natural world.

    In other words, watch for falling planes. 

    When “following the science” becomes pure quackery dressed up in cutting-edge native garb:

    Without anyone seeming to notice, then, governments in the United States, Canada, and other Anglo settlement countries have become institutionally committed to medieval quackery, notably on the watch of left-wing governments that claim to be “following the science.”

    The big bull of indigenous knowledge has turned into the very sort of mysticism that its advocates claim to oppose. Like most aspects of native identity, it has grown up on a rich manure pile of European romanticism and Marxist oppression narratives. It has become an evil spirit, and we desperately need a vaccine against it.

    There is a chapter on Popper, who famously argued that scientific theories can never be proven in an absolute sense, but rather, must be capable of falsification. 

    For example, what would falsify the theory of global warming? Correct: nothing, which is why it does not qualify as science. Indeed, everything proves it:

    In properly Popperian science, 

    We take a theory that someone has proposed, and we deduce an observational prediction from it. We then check to see if the prediction comes out as the theory says it will. If the prediction fails, then we have refuted, or falsified, the theory.

    Catastrophic global warming excepted: not just some, but "all of the models yielded more warming than actually occurred, most to an absurd degree."

    A model is a hypothesis. Like any scientific hypothesis, it is confirmed or refuted by observation. A model that is refuted by observation is worthless. And yet, these models, which have repeatedly been shown to be wrong, are the basis for enormously destructive policies that have been adopted across much of the western world.

    It comes back one of my ontological bobbyhorses, man as open system:

    For Popper, science is characterized by permanent openness, a permanent and all-encompassing critical stance, even with respect to the fundamental ideas in the field. 

    There are a couple of chapters on Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, probably the most influential book ever on the philosophy of science. While reading them, I couldn't help noticing that such a revolution has occurred right under our noses, and here we are. Certainly it has happened in my own racket, psychology. I wonder what's happening with the American Psychological Association?

    Psychologists Persevere in EDI Work Despite Growing Backlash Against Racial Equity Efforts 

    There was never a debate about this. Rather -- in my professional lifetime -- just a sweeping away of the old liberal paradigm and its replacement with the new leftist one. It reminds me of when Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality was summarily removed from the DSM, not because of any scientific breakthrough, but by fiat due to the pressure of activist groups.   

    Abortion Bans Cause Outsized Harm For People of Color 

    Indeed, they lead directly to more People of Color suffering the outsized harm of being born. 

    Speaking of suffering, I'm already on to the next book, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering, but thus far it is rather slow-going. It also comes highly recommended, but the degree of pedantry is causing me a lot of suffering. I'll report back tomorrow.

    Friday, April 12, 2024

    Linking, Verticality, and Symmetry

    Because we are so immersed in it, it's hard to say exactly what time is. In this regard it is like the words "experience," "consciousness," or "self," none of which can be defined without presuming their existence. But Thomas is onto something when he suggests that 

    The soul is on the horizon of eternity and time, existing below eternity and above time (emphasis mine).

    Now we've got something, because we have three terms in which to map things out. We are surely in time, but only partly so, because we can be aware of its flow -- like standing on the bank of a river and watching it go by. Thus we can be aware of past and future, since we are not totally immersed in time. If we were, then we couldn't be aware of it. 

    In short, transcendence trumps time, and proceeds all the way up to eternity. Although we partake of transcendence, we are not totally transcendent, otherwise we would be angels. We always have a dry foot in the land of immanence. 

    The human person, whatever else it is, is a Link between various terms, for example, between intellect and being, between material and spiritual, or between other subjects. Without this primordial betweenness, we could never be.

    This is not natural. Or rather, there is no purely natural -- or immanent -- explanation for such a strange condition. This condition at once "reaches down into matter" while "lifting up matter into the light of consciousness and enabling the material world to return to God in the great circle of being" (Clarke, emphasis mine, because this is the same below and above cited in the first quote).

    Above and Below, Up and Down. Is it even possible to think about the human condition in the absence of these terms, or in other words, without positing verticality, whether implicitly or explicitly?

    And is it possible to posit Verticality in the absence of the Link referenced above?

    Here again, man is the Link between terms, but how? By virtue of what principle?

    By virtue of the triune God, of course. For the Godhead consists of irreducible links between the divine persons, like so:

    Does this not violate the principle of non-contradiction, since Is and Is Not are claimed to be equally true?

    Nah. We have only to partake of Matte Blanco's symmetrical logic in order to see why. Or just use the dream logic of the right cerebral hemisphere. 

    Can you back that up?

    I can try. Let me flip through Bomford's The Symmetry of God.

    Ontology failed to make rational what the doctrine of the Trinity asserted, that there could be absolutely and completely one, and yet be distinctly, also, three. Symmetric logic, however, has no difficulty with this problem whatever.... Symmetric logic makes unities out of things apparently different.

    Things like Father and Son, or, for that matter, God and human nature, AKA the Incarnation, not to mention our unity with the latter: "The identification of the believer with Christ may... be seen as effected by symmetric logic."

    Perhaps you could define "symmetrical logic"?

    Asymmetrical relations are relations that are nonreversible. For example, “Jack reads the newspaper” cannot be reversed to the newspaper reading Jack. In this way, asymmetrical relations are logical relations and underlie everyday logic and common sense. They govern the conscious sphere of the human mind. 
    Symmetrical relations, on the other hand, move in both directions simultaneously.... Matte Blanco states that the symmetrical, unconscious realm is the natural state of man and is a massive and infinite presence while the asymmetrical, conscious realm is a small product of it. This is why the principle of symmetry is all-encompassing and can dissolve all logic, leading to the asymmetrical relations perfectly symmetrical....

    Matte Blanco gives this mixture of two logics the name bi-logic and points out that our thinking is usually bi-logical, expressing the both types of logic to differing extents (Wiki).

    Always both. Here again, I suspect this is why we have right and left cerebral hemispheres that give access to both modes. In short, they are complementary. But denial of half this complementarity results in the Flat Cosmos Society whereby

    there is clearly no place for the conception of the human being as living on the frontier of matter and spirit: there is nothing there on the upper side of the border! It has all been leveled out and absorbed down into the material underside (Clarke, emphasis mine).

    But how can there be a down without an up? This violates everyday cutandray logic, let alone dreamtime symmetrical logic.

    This could veer into any number of directions requiring posts of their own. But this post is apparently done.

    Thursday, April 11, 2024

    Thoughts on a Nonlocal Cousin

    One Cosmos -- literally, while you wait: the material and spiritual, horizontal and vertical worlds are harmonized in the human person, who "now becomes the bond, the nodal point, that gathers together the whole universe into unity (Clarke, emphasis mine). The person

    thus becomes the symbol and expression of the unity of the whole of creation, and so of the unity of God, its Creator. Only a human being can do this, partaking as it does of both extremes, matter and spirit, and integrating them into unity within himself. Thus the human being becomes truly the center of the universe.

    Very much in contrast to the secular view that pretends to displace us from the center of the cosmic action to the galactic hinterlands. Truly truly, we're still big, it's the metaphysics that got smaller. 

    I suppose this represents my ultimate argument, after which there's not much to say except Wake the f*** up, people

    Of course, I've made the same point in many ways and from diverse angles, beginning with the book, so have we really made any progress?

    Yes, in the sense that there is Doctrine and there is Realization, or Getting It Into Our Thick Skulls. Or in other words, timelessness takes time.

    So, does this mean we're finally done here? I suppose I could try my hand at mystical poetry, as Schuon did in his dotage. Not a big fan of that part of his oeuvre, but my own puny efforts would be comedic by comparison.

    So, no change.  

    Come to think of it, one reader compared the opening and closing sections of the book to poetry, but that was at first glance, nor do I believe he got the jokes. Was part of me really making a stab at poetry? Certainly not consciously. Rather, it's just a kind of an experiment with language, trying to say what can't be said -- to eff the ineffable. 

    Oh, by the way, at the end of the book Remaking the World, there's a discussion of an 18th century German thinker I'd never heard of, Johann Georg Hamann, who very much sounds like Coon material: his writings are "fragmentary" and "baffling,"

    peppered with allusions, riddles, jokes, epigrams, parodies, parables, and pranks, often in multiple languages.... The results can be anywhere between idiosyncratic and impenetrable. Reading him is like reading Ulysses in German.

    This guy -- sounds likes my kind of guy. He

    hides behind the appearance of a madman, painting the doors of his writings with bizarre signs, allusions, and ciphers -- not out of mere eccentricity, but as an appropriate, calculated posture before a proudly rational audience... a faithful enacting of divine folly in an age that proudly considered itself the age of "Enlightenment."

    Same. Minus the audience.

    He affirmed a number of conclusions that we can get behind, for example, that the philosophes of the so-called Enlightenment 

    claim to be skeptics, but when it comes to their own beliefs they are nowhere skeptical enough. Only by genuinely humbling themselves, admitting their ignorance, and doubting their doubts can they gain self-knowledge...

    Or again, beginning with what we don't know

    He also agrees with us that the Incarnation is a big deal metaphysically speaking, in that it resolves

    the most sticky Enlightenment dilemma: how to reconcile idealism and realism, form and matter, subjective and objective, reason and experience.

    Although he was friends with Kant, he politely blew him out of the wasser.  

    He also highlights the importance of speech -- or of the reality of interpersonal communication -- in the cosmic scheme of things:

    Every time we we speak to each other, we participate in a process that is both rational and empirical, involving abstract concepts on the one hand and sensations on the other.... And ultimately, the reason why sensibility and understanding come together in words is because they come together in the Word... in whom Value becomes fact, Reason is experienced by the senses, the Ideal becomes real, and the Word is made flesh. 

    A few posts ago we wrote of how Kant's philosophy cannot justify the success of its own communication and comprehension. Rather, he just assumes this mysterious intersubjective phenomenon, which amounts to stealing first base, even while pretending to have hit a home run. Which is of course against the rules!

    In reality, language itself "gives us the finest example of the hypostatic union of the sensible and intelligible natures." Concur. 

    Why, he even prefigureGödel in his "demonstration that reason cannot provide the grounding for itself." As one fellow put it, "It takes a prophet to contribute to debates two hundred years before they start." 

    There's also this, in that 

    Hamman's way forward is very different from the postmodernists'. They would reject all metanarratives and move toward nihilism; he rejected all metanarratives except one, and embraced Christianity. They thought the alternative to self-illumination was darkness. He thought the alternative was illumination from somewhere -- or Someone -- else. 

    Back to Clarke. We'll conclude with this:

    the human person becomes the mediator between the whole material world and its Creator, enabling it through him to complete its own return to God in the Great Circle of Being that pours out from God in creation and then strives, drawn by the pull of the Good, to find its way back home to him again.

    To paraphrase Babe Ruth on the occasion of his 60th home run, Let's see some other son of a bitch top that!

    Wednesday, April 10, 2024

    The Monkey in the Middle and Freak at the Frontier of the Cosmos

    I guess it's fair to say that I am a single issue voter: against insanity.

    Ah, but in a groundless world of radical subjectivity and pure relativism, what is insanity?

    Supposing the latter exists, it must have something to do with persons, since only a person can be insane. Everything else in nature is what it is and does what it does, but we don't say that gravity or entropy ought not happen.  

    What even is a person? This would seem to be a good place to start. 

    Here's a thought: the person is a "frontier being"

    living on the edge, on the frontier, between matter and spirit, time and eternity (Clarke).

    But looked at another way, this edge is the center. Certainly it's where all the action is. This is the idea of the human person as microcosm "or small cosmos, the cosmos in miniature":

    A human person unites in itself all the levels of the universe from the depths of matter to the transcendence of spirit and is capable of union with God himself and thereby mirroring the unity of the cosmos itself (ibid.).

    And why not?

    the early Christian thinkers transformed the concept [of the microcosm] to celebrate the great dignity and glory of the human person as the central piece, or "lynchpin," of the universe (ibid.).

    Plato too 

    describes the human soul as a "middle being" situated between the pure upper world of soul and ideas and the lower world of matter and body, linking the two but also pulled in opposite directions by both (ibid.). 

    Verticality, with attractors at both ends: one is 

    upward toward the world of Ideas, guided by reason; the other, guided by irrational appetites, looks toward the earth...

    Thus "the center of gravity of this composite being, the 'location' of the frontier point, is not fixed but movable" within this vertical phase space. Obviously I'm trotting out a very old idea, but am I wrong?!  

    the human soul is the "traveler" of the universe. All other kinds of being are fixed by nature in their paths; only the human soul can choose to be, to live, on whatever level it wishes, from total absorption in matter to the highest spiritual union with the One (ibid).

    This situates the question of "pathology" in a much wider context, in that the upper movement symbolizes our proper telos:

    The human soul is truly a being that "lives on the edge," on the frontier, between matter and spirit, time and eternity (ibid.). 

    We are in a sense the center at the periphery of being, or the periphery at the center, depending on how we look at it. Either way, we cannot do without these two terms or poles, since we always dwell within them. Which is Voegelin's whole point: since it is the reality of our cosmic situation, denial of which being a kind of ontological pathology he calls DEFORMATION,

    the destruction of the order of the soul, which should be "formed" by the love of the transcendental perfection inherent in the fundamental tension of existence.

    Formed -- in my opinion -- in the manner of an open system or dissipative structure. The intrinsically pathological alternative is CLOSED EXISTENCE or CLOSURE

    the mode of existence in which there are internal impediments to a free flow of truth into consciousness and to the pull of the transcendental.

    Conversely, properly OPEN EXISTENCE is  

    the mode of existence in which consciousness is consistently and unreservedly oriented toward truth and toward the transcendental pole of the tension of existence.

    Again, it is important to start with what we don't know, and yet is infinitely knowable, AKA O, or what Voegelin calls the Apeiron, which is 

    Unlimited, indefinite, unbounded...., the "unlimited" source of all particular things. Because it transcends all limits, it is in principle undefinable.

    Nevertheless, here it is, since it is both everywhere and everywhen; for it is truly APODICTIC

    Certain or necessary. Used to refer to knowledge of what must be, as compared with what can be (and may even be).

    We should be able to stipulate this much: that you and I may or may not be -- we are contingent -- but that the Ultimate Reality of O cannot not be. Man is situated between the Necessary and the contingent, but here again, we have the great privilege of participating in the former -- which is another way of saying that the Center is at the periphery, and that we peripheral persons participate with, or have access to, the Center.

    Especially since the Incarnation, but let's hold off on that and talk about our mysterious PARTICIPATION in Celestial Central, which 

    Refers to sharing the qualities of the supreme exemplar, in which they are present in their perfection.

    Again, supposing the Incarnation of this Supreme Exemplar -- of its participation in us -- that's a rather big deal. For it 

    merges with the old idea of "man as microcosm," already present in pre-Christian Greek and Roman thought, so that the latter takes on a whole new richness (Clarke).

    It actually represents quite a metaphysical advance, in that it overcomes older dualistic Manichaean and Gnostic views that devalue the immanent pole of bodily being; rather, there is "a more positive valuation given to the human body and to the whole material world along with it."

    Now the body is no longer something to be looked down upon, to be escaped from and left behind as soon as possible....

    the human person now becomes a microcosm in a new and richer sense than in the Platonic tradition: it incorporates into itself all the levels of the material universe and all its values, stretching from the lowest level of the material universe all the way up to the highest spiritual level.

    Bottom line for today: the human person

    now becomes the center or middle point, the "middle being," of the universe in a new, enhanced sense.... [as] the whole human person, body and soul together, embodied spirit (Clarke).

    Tuesday, April 09, 2024

    I Am Ignorant, Therefore I Am

    I have nothing new to report. I was hoping to squeeze another post or two out of Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West, but not that much of it is Coonworthy. It's a moderately interesting book, but here at One Cosmos we like to keep things highly interesting. 

    A few random points. As we've been saying, man is an open system. This being the case, then the culture that is equally open will best conform to man's nature, and therefore be more successful. 

    As such I was struck by a letter written by the Chinese emperor to King George III, that helps to explain why the Chinaman fell so far behind while Christendom zoomed ahead:

    Strange and costly objects do not interest me.... we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country's manufactures.... Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There is no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce.  

    Okay, if you say so. This difference in outlook -- a closed vs. open economy -- "would shape the next two centuries in profound ways," and you know the rest. 

    Yesterday we touched on our WEIRDERness, i.e., Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, Ex-Christian, and Romantic. Regarding that last category, Wilson cites eight alliterative elements that shaped our culture, calling them Inwardness, Infinity, Imagination, Individuality, Inspiration, Intensity, Innocence, and Ineffability.

    For example, inwardness is the idea that the most important things come "from inside a person rather than outside," while individuality focuses on the "specific rather than the universal." These two in particular

    are so central to our understanding of identity and the self that we cannot fathom how people in previous centuries could possibly have thought about personhood differently.  

    Seems to me that the 1960s were nothing if not a resurgence of unalloyed romanticism, and I have only to think of my own father to highlight the difference in sensibility. I doubt if he spent a moment wondering "who he is." If asked, he would have said "a salesman." Or an American, or husband, or father. No need to complicate matters.

    But in the span of a couple of generations we've reached the point that various obscure identities are everything, so much so that "disagreeing with them is viewed as hate speech or even violence in some quarters, since it strikes at the heart of who they are." Thus, identity has gone from an objective banality to the sacred category around which progressive politics revolves.

    There's also a chapter on how the West became so wealthy and affluent, which economic historians call "the great escape," "the great divergence," or the "European miracle." 

    That is to say, prior to the industrial revolution "the living standards of the average human had hardly changed" in a thousand years. No wonder the mass of people had no time to indulge in neurotic questions about identity.

    gross domestic product per person when Shakespeare wrote his plays, estimated at about $550 per year, was barely higher than it was in the time of King David.

    Problem was, we were trapped in the "Malthusian trap," whereby increased productivity resulted in a higher population which consumed any increase in productivity.

    But quite suddenly the flat line becomes a true hockey stick, and "productivity outstripped population growth by an order of magnitude":

    Today, human beings consume around seventy times more goods and services than we did two centuries ago -- an increase not of 70 percent but of 7,000 percent. 

    I'm with Thomas Sowell: the question isn't why people are poor, since this is the norm. Rather, the question is how we escaped this universal condition. Wilson trots out the usual suspects, which include good institutions (e.g., rule of law and secure property rights), but 

    Institutions do not spring up out of nowhere; they are products of long-term social, cultural, theological, legal, and economic developments. 

    So we need a deeper Why. A progressive might say greed, but that's just a universal feature of the human nature they deny. I'm as greedy as the next guy, but so far it hasn't resulted in being a billionaire.

    Part of the answer comes down to the closed systems alluded to above, for 

    Historically speaking, virtually all cultures put a higher value on tried and tested ancestral wisdom than on newfangled, unproven contemporary innovation.... What needs explaining is why early modern Westerners started doing the opposite.

    "Three factors were particularly significant," beginning with -- surprise surprise -- Christianity, "whose influence on the psychology, sociology, eschatology, and theology of Western Europeans over the course of a millennium can scarcely be exaggerated."

    We have devoted many posts to this subject. Is there anything new to add? Whitehead spoke of this radical change in the European mind, which must ultimately "come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God."

    We have also in the past spoken of the incredible importance of ignorance, i.e., of starting with what we don't know, which can, of course be traced all the way back to Socrates. This is nothing less than "the discovery of ignorance" whereby

    we encounter entirely new things that we know nothing about and that appear to be surprising and/or important [and] are driven to investigate.

    But here again, I would say that this comes back the the question of man as open system, whereby

    The more people knew, the more they realized they didn't know, and the more motivated they became to find out. 

    We are only properly human when we are open systems, both horizontally and vertically. So again, nothing new to report. 

    Monday, April 08, 2024

    Why Us?

    In yesterday's post we reviewed Norris Clarke's Person as Being, and let's extract a few bullet points:

    --Ultimate Reality is neither substance nor relation, but an irreducible complementarity of the two. 

    --There is an "indissoluble complementarity" with regard to an "in-itself dimension of being" and a "towards-others aspect." 

    --The higher the form of existence, the more developed becomes the relatedness to reality, also the more profound and comprehensive becomes the sphere of this relatedness.

    --The human mind is an open system, and most states of pathology can be traced to the question of how open or closed the system is.

    These are all metaphysical statements, but how do they apply on the ground, i.e., in the contingent realms of culture and historical flux? I'm reading a book that implicitly touches on this, called Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West. Superficially the book has nothing to do with Bob's airy abstractions, but looked at another way, it confirms them. 

    I say this because if our notion of person is correct, then the most functional and successful civilization will be the one that most conforms to what it means to be a person. 

    To cite some obvious counter-examples, the Marxist notion of personhood has had catastrophic results wherever it has been implemented, from the USSR to North Korea to the American university. It seems that bad anthropology results in bad everything else.

    The same could be said for the Islamic notion of personhood, which is why Muslim countries bottom out the scale in terms of human flourishing. 

    The founding principle of our own nation is that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights. The left is systematically opposed to this metaphysic, and if we were to hold a constitutional convention today -- the horror -- they would come up with something more like the following:

    We hold these truths to be historically conditioned.... [that we] derive rights that are alienable and transferable depending on the larger question of needs.... that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, the people will refrain from appealing to self-evident truths, there being no original self to which truth must be true....

    We submit a list of grievances knowing full well that our dispute... may only be a matter of language and communication.... To prove this let all our opinions, our deeply felt sentiments and emotions, be submitted to a candid world not in the form of a declaration but a message whose meaning will require interpretation by historians of future generations....

    Whereas the very identity of Americans lies in their symbol-forming, language-using nature, whereas we the colonists have no recourse to God, nature, or history to guide our actions, and whereas, therefore, we must rest our case on language and its context...

    Not a joke! For we are living through the most left-wing government in modern American history, a grotesque experiment in which 

    For the first time in their lives, a truly radical socialist program would supposedly fundamentally transform the way America dealt with the border, immigration, the economy, race relations, foreign policy, energy, law enforcement, crime, education, and social questions such as religion, gender, abortion, and schooling.

    In a sense, we were all to be lab rats of sorts, to be experimented on by the radical left and their various critical theories. Now in the last year of the Biden term, we can see the results of that experiment -- and the unfortunate disasters that followed.

    Again, these are not just different policies, but they presume -- and enforce -- a different anthropology.  Hence the civil war. We are close to Orwell's prophecy that "History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

    One of the recurring themes of the book is just how we became so much WEIRDER than the rest, which is to say, Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, Ex-Christian, and Romantic. 

    I am happy to be WEIRD, but I find the -ER to be problematic. The progressive left in particular is not only aggressively -ER, but has appropriated the EI, what with the florid pathologies of academia and woke capitalism. 

    I'm old enough to remember when literacy and education didn't serve politics, but rather, we learned "things simply because they interest us and expand our horizons." 

    We once saw "learning for its own sake as integral to human flourishing" instead of integral to envy, grievance, auto-victimization, and identity politics. That this has happened in the span of a generation is head-spinning, but there were warning signs along the way, and this book documents them.

    Think of how in psychology there is no longer a place for psychologists, hence Canada trying to yank Jordan Peterson's license. I can relate. Wilson writes of how

    Society was individualized; the individual was psychologized; psychology was sexualized; sexuality was politicized.

    And here we are, with Transgender Visibility Day displacing the most consequential event in all of history (irrespective of whether or not one is a believer).

    Back to the -ER, to say "ex-Christian" is not to say "un-Christian," because the former borrows liberally from Christianity. For example,

    Ideologically, it draws heavily from the Christian moral imperative to exalt the humble and humble the exalted, as reflected in Christ's teachings... 

    Such a stance would be incomprehensible in a pre- or truly anti-Christian civilization. It's just that

    The diffusion of a few drops of Christianity into a leftist mind transforms the idiot into a perfect idiot.


    In the Christianity of the leftist Christian, one of the two elements sooner or later eliminates the other.


    The Christ of the Gospels is not concerned with the economic situation of the poor, but with the moral condition of the rich. 

    And it is this warped form of post-Christianity that

    reflects deeply Romantic convictions -- channeled and reinterpreted through Marx and Freud in particular -- about innocence, pity, freedom, and the corrupting effects of society.

    To be continued, depending on the level of interest, beginning with mine.

    Sunday, April 07, 2024

    The First and Last Miracle

    I was going to top off yesterday's post with a review of Norris Clarke's Person and Being, but since I slept late and I've already written about it, why not dive into the archive and see what's down there? What else is it for, if not to plagiarize myself? I won't so much repeat it as dialogue with it and see what emerges.

    We are all persons, but what is a person? And how is such a thing possible? By virtue of what principle? Physics? Biology? No, in neither case can you get here -- especially in here -- from there. Yes, we're talking about the Miracle of Subjectivity, and without which no other miracles could be known:

    The first ascertainment which should impose itself upon man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of that miracle that is intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- and consequently the incommensurability between these and material objects, be it a question of a grain of sand or of the sun, or of any creature whatever as an object of the senses (Schuon).

    This is what we really want to know, is it not? Putting it personal terms, how am I even possible, and what does my existence mean in the ultimate scheme of things? How does I -- or I-ness as such -- matter?

    No other book of which I'm aware expresses Bob's views so clearly and concisely -- in particular, about what on earth Bob could be. A couple of posts ago I alluded to how Schuon so often "verbally actualizes what is latent in my own intellect." Same with this book. 

    For example, I couldn't agree more with him that Christian thinkers have tended not to adequately appreciate the revolutionary metaphysical implications of the Trinity. He quotes an article by Ratzinger, who wrote that "In the relational notion of person developed within the theology of the Trinity"

    lies concealed a revolution in man's view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality (Ratzinger). 

    Jumping ahead a bit, our nonlocal sources can now confirm that Ultimate Reality is not substance and not relation, but rather, an irreducible complementarity of the two. 

    Again, this has extraordinary implications, none of which, by the way, negate what science reveals about the world, but extend and perfect it (not to mention explaining how the scientific enterprise is even possible). Ratzinger:

    person must be understood as relation.... the three persons that exist in God are in their nature relations. They are, therefore, not substances that stand next to each other, but they are real existing relations, and nothing besides.

    In God, person means relation. Relation, being related, is not something superadded to the person, but it is the person itself. In its nature, the person exists only as relation.

    A great many metaphysical implications follow. For example, through them we could understand a priori that the Newtonian paradigm of reality, useful as it was, had to be wrong in the ultimate sense, since the universe does not and cannot consist of externally related atomistic units. 

    For the same reason we can say on the political plane that Lockean individualism is way off, since its anthropology is a non-starter.

    Schuon agrees that "The human form cannot be transcended, its sufficient reason being precisely to express the Absolute, hence the unsurpassable." 

    In an abstract sense, there is an "indissoluble complementarity" with regard to an "in-itself dimension of being" and a "towards-others aspect" (Clarke),  

    This extends to being itself, which is intrinsically diffusive and self-communicating. Ultimately, this is why the universe is intelligible to our intelligence. These two -- intelligence and intelligibility -- are intrinsically related. If this isn't the case, then we end up in a closed, Kantian universe of metaphysical ønanism.

    Reality is an ec-static process of self-communicative being-in-action. Which not only explains a lot, but explains everything -- literally, because it explains how we can explain anything. What's the alternative?

    Suppose a being that really exists, but does not act in any way, does not manifest itself in any way to other beings. There would be no way for anything else to know that it exists; it would make no difference at all to the rest of reality; practically speaking, it might just as well not be at all -- it would in fact be indistinguishable from non-being.

    If this were the nature of reality, then each existent thing "would be locked off in total isolation from every other. There would not be a connected universe." There would be substance but no relation, like particles with no wave, so to speak.

    The full meaning of "to be" is not just "to be present," but "to be actively present" (Clarke).

    The relationality of this active presence "is a primordial dimension of every real being, inseparable from its substantiality." Being is an act, and the act of being is relational

    it is turned towards others by its self-communicating action. To be fully is to be substance-in-relation (Clarke).

    But why? Because every being -- every existent that partakes of being -- is an image of the very trinitarian God who too is irreducibly substance-in-relation. That every lower being has both an in-itself and towards-others dimension finds its ground and principle in the triune godhead. 

    The alternatives don't work. For example, Buddhism and process philosophy posit a universe of pure relations with no substance. But a relation is precisely between substances, not between nothings. A relation between nothing and nothing is just more nothing: śūnyatā yada yada.

    Josef Pieper (cited by Clarke) agrees that to exist

    means "to be able to relate" and "to be the sustaining subject at the center of a field of reference." Only in reference to an inside can there be an outside. Without a self-contained "subject" there can be no "object." 

    We might say that subject is to interiority as object is to exteriority, and the two are always related or linked. Moreover -- and this has important implications for the definition of psychopathology --

    The higher the form of intrinsic existence, the more developed becomes the relatedness to reality, also the more profound and comprehensive becomes the sphere of this relatedness: namely, the world (Pieper).

    Back in another life in the mid-1990s I published an article ponderously titled Psychoanalysis, Chaos, and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative StructureI won't bore you with pedantic details, but in this article young Dr. Bob suggested that

    While many may consider it a truism that the human mind is an open system, this is not always so, and we may trace many states of pathology to the matter of how open or closed the system is.

    Among others, the article mentions schizoid states, autism, narcissism, and "false self" or "as if" personalities. But nearly every diagnosis I can think of involves either pathological closure (too rigid boundaries) or openness (relative absence of boundaries). 

    Later it dawned on me that the human person is an open system both horizontally and vertically. And if this is the case, then it accounts for spiritual pathologies -- pneumopathologies --  ranging from atheism (i.e., self-sufficient vertical closure) to full blown demon possession (vertical invasion) and everything in between (e.g., metanoia, prayer, grace, communion, sanctity, infused contemplation, etc.).

    What did Jesus say? Two rules: love God (vertical openness) and love your neighbor (horizontal openness). 

    This openness is bi-directional: there is an outward facing communicative pole and a complementary pole of receptivity. These function analogously to metabolism on the biological plane.

    With this in mind, we now have a conceptual basis for understanding the receptivity and relationality in and of God. Is God related to us? How could he not be, if God is the very principle of substance-in-relation? 

    Moreover, this divine receptivity "should be looked on not as essentially a sign of imperfection [or] poverty," but rather, as a "positive aspect or perfection of being."

    In the absence of this perfection of receptivity, "authentic mutual love would necessarily remain incomplete -- and love is of itself a purely positive perfection." 

    We'll conclude by suggesting that "all being tends naturally toward self-transcendence," and that our cosmos may ultimately be regarded as "an immense implicit aspiration towards the Divine."

    Like the whole creation groans with labor pains or something. 

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