Saturday, January 27, 2024

Intersubjective Meta-Anthropology

Forget about that last post. This one will express the same ideas, only more clearly. They're from a book called The Openness of Being, which had little to do with the subject under discussion until taking a surprising turn in chapter nine -- also called The Openness of Being

To review, we are considering the possibility... No, we're way past considering possibilities, rather, are insisting in the most bobnoxious terms that the Cosmos is personal, or that personhood is the ultimate category, bearing in mind that persons are irreducibly substance-in-relation, or, in a word, intersubjective.

And the intersubjectivity starts at the top: metaphysics is meta-anthropology. 

My mother is not here to ask, but probably my first word was something like Mama! Certainly it was my first thought. What it really signified was something like YOU! And therefore ME! Then I started thinking about the space in between, but that wasn't until about thirty years later. I'll spare you a pedantic disquisition on infant development, but just cut to the chase.  

Now, intersubjectivity is a deep mystery, except it's not a mystery at all. For not only is subjectivity unthinkable in the absence of intersubjectivity, the discovery of the (m)Other is developmentally prior to the discovery of the self. Remama? Sure you do.  

We come into the world plunged into a kind of undifferentiated subjectivity, which is analogous to the wavelike field of quantum physics. The ego or self or I is the "particle" that emerges from this field, but in truth, the fluid dialectic between particle and field, or self and ground, is our permanent condition. 

Neurologically speaking it is much like the dialectic between right (wavish) and left (particulate) cerebral hemispheres, or in physicist David Bohm's terms, implicate and explicate orders, respectively.  

Even this post, if we're lucky, will be a crystallization of that dialectic -- similar to the way a dream is the explicate crystallization of implicate subjectivity. We never run out of posts for the same reason we will never run short of dreams. Except to stipulate that 

In other words, free will + implicate creativity = explicate post. Or song, poem, painting, whatever.  

At this point I will hand the wheel of the cosmic bus over to Mascall, and comment along the way like a slackseat driver:

The most terrible example of the incapsulated condition occurs on the human level, if man loses his openness not only to his fellow men but also to God. 

Which is simply say that man is an open system, both horizontally, to other subjects, and vertically, to O, the transcendent ground of subjectivity.

The special feature is that man, as rational and personal being, is capable of actualising his openness to a rational and personal God in a way that is impossible to beings devoid of rational personality.  

Which is to say that man is rational because relational and personal; infrapersonal beings do not reason. Which is not to say they are unreasonable per se, since their behavior makes sense in the context of instinct and environment. But they cannot think about their rational instincts, but rather, are enclosed within them. Conversely, man always transcends any attempt to enclose him in immanence.

Now, the intercourse of personal beings, even on the finite and created level, is characteristically one of conversation, of the mutual communication of thought and knowledge; this is why language plays such an important part in human society.

To con-verse means to "flow together," as you and I are doing at the moment. Which makes our communication -- to the extent it is successful -- deeply interpersonal and intersubjective, interior-to-interior. 

Just as the human baby comes into the world in a condition of neurological immaturity, it turns out that this "incompleteness" is actually our permanent state. Show me a "complete person" and I'll show you a saint or a dead man. Or a president, but that would take us far afraud.

[M]an, as a creature, is fundamentally open to God and capable of receiving fresh and unpredictable influxes of God's creative activity...

Which is to say, O and (). 

God and man are personal beings and therefore can enter into the intimacy of self-communication and mutual possession that is proper to persons.

Or not. For

God allows man to raise barricades against the invasion of grace.   

 A barricade at our northern border, so to speak. 

Supernature simply means nature supernaturalised by grace, and the possibility of this supernaturalisation lies in the openness of nature to God.... For a nature which is open in the Christian sense, supernaturalisation means expansion, development, perfection, a realization of hitherto unsuspected potentialities, a new infusion of the creative activity of God.

Well, good. This is different from mere (explicate) "knowledge of God," but rather, is knowing God: "And knowing God is sharing in God's life." God takes the initiative, but it is up to us to cooperate with it:

what makes this possible is the fact that God incessantly energises every finite being and in so doing gives it an openness for further influxes of his creative activity. 

Even better. The best? 

[I]f God became man, man must be the kind of being it was possible for God to become. 

What kind of being might that be? 

Let's leave something for the next unpredictable influx.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Open Cosmos Society

So, the essence of both man and God is substance-in-relation; although supernaturally revealed, once revealed, it is very much susceptible to rational understanding -- or at least transrational understanding, for it goes to the reason why man cannot be enclosed in reason, and why reason always surpasses itself. 

Let's be reasonable!

Reason itself is already a revelation, especially once we we see its insufficiency, because the latter can only be seen from a position of transcendence. Gödel was a logician, not a magician. Nevertheless, he deployed logic to slip out of logic like Houdini. 

We left off yesterday with the axiomatic truth that we do not necessarily exist -- we are contingent, duh -- but supposing we do exist, then we necessarily exist as substance-in-relation. 

Nevertheless, I am always looking for the thinker who takes this idea as seriously as I do, but have yet to find him. Which makes me look like some kind of extremist on the edge of the Cosmos, even though from my vantage point I'm right here in the middle.  

Way back in the day, I made the joke that I searched and researched for my book, but couldn't find it, so I had to write it myself. And even though I found it, I'm still researching, and on a good day I refind it. 

To put it another way, I do occasionally find a fellow vertical traveler, but even the best one is somewhat on the periphery of what I am trying to say, or see rather. The book we're currently flipping through -- Theological Anthropology -- is full of such examples. So let's keep flipping and I'll explain what I mean.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I think the problem lies in the fact that similar thinkers have come up through a deeply religious context, whereas I did so from outside that context -- from one of pure metaphysics, or even just pure thought itself, whatever that is. It can't help sounding more than a bit pretentious, but it's the opposite -- postentious? 

Pretentious comes from pretend, i.e., to stretch forth or spread before; thus to post-tend would follow from God's stretching forth to us in the event of the Incarnation. I like to call it the Incarnotion, because the notion of trinitarian being is not only a heckuva notion, but the ultimate notion. Let's flip:  

being-as-relation is equally strong as being-as-substance. Hence, the absolute essence and the relational substance are equally important in both God and creatures (Wayte).

That's all I'm saying and everything I'm saying. "However, in creatures the relational subsistence is dependent on God as its transcendent origin." 

Even -- especially -- Jesus-as-fellow-man never stops revealing this dependence by praying to his Father, and we could do worse than imitating this attitude of pure receptivity, of Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

For it is through the infused contemplation of prayer that we enter the benevolent meta-Cosmic spiral of substance-in-relation, which we can only pretend to leave, e.g., back down in Eden. We are concretely in God, but abstractly outside. Your choice. My advoice? Just say Yes

"In the concrete, the person retains the integrity of substance or nature," meaning that we are "primordially constituted through relation with the creator" (emphasis mine).

Which implies that the Incarnotion is at once a radical novelty but a restoration and recapitulation of Adam, AKA primordial man. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen for a child's job, that's the crux of the Master! 


One of our top five theologians is Norris Clarke, and he shows up here in this essay, right on timeless:

Clarke demonstrates that substance is active and self-communicating. Being is not just static presence but active presence.... beings "necessarily generate relations." So being in its fullness can be described as "substance-in-relation" and this is the case for both God and creatures (emphasis mine).

Active Relational Presence. Which is how we may arrive there via the postentious Pure Thought referenced above, because all thought is already a relation and a presence, or rather, the presence of relation and relation of presence. If I'm not mistaken.

The mistaken view would involve the notion "of substance as something self-enclosed and cut off from any relational dimension" (ibid). Here is where postmodernism has a teeny tiny point, but in the absence of a trinitarian metaphysic promptly becomes pretentious nonsense, for it rightly sees things (and humans) as "mere bundles of relations" while throwing out that to which they are related. 

Now, I would say that God's Big Reveal comes down to the notion of relativity in divinas, which implies that relation (or relativity) is not a privation but a perfection of being.

The human person is unique, because the human person is constituted by a unique relation to God and carries a unique set of relations with all other persons. No other person can be or have my unique set of relationships. This constitutes my unique subjectivity in relation to others (ibid.).

That's good, and I'll say more about it in the next installment -- it goes pretty far, but still not quite far enough for my monkey. Here's another stab at it: "Christ is the eternal mediator with whom the human person in their relational core is united." 

This is not merely an epistemological or moral union but "an ontological union through the relational dimension of existence," through which 

human persons in their relational core are taken up to share in the divine perichoretic unity that has definitively broken into the world... 

Again, more to follow. Our re-search is from over...

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Your Outside is In When Your Inside is Out

Moreover, The deeper you go the higher you fly. In the end, 
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

The question is, what is this song doing in my head this morning? Petey?

I don't know. Ask Charlie Manson.

Very funny.

What is the difference between a monkey and a person? Why is a monkey not a person? Just how did we, in the course of evolution, draw three hearts -- a royal flesh -- in the genetic card game and thereby cash in our chimps? 

I suppose the mainstream view is that we didn't -- that the perceived discontinuity between man and monkey is just a pre-critical holdover from premodern times, when man sat atop the animal kingdom. 

Thanks to Darwin we know there's nothing special about man except for the persistent illusion that we are special -- the great Cosmic Exception.

Like everything else in the Cosmos, we are an accident. How then do we know necessity? 

the knowledge that we gather through the senses, transmuted into ideas, is an immaterial treasure which can nourish our spirits forever (Robert Brennan).

That's what we call a fact, but by virtue of what principle? Perhaps there's a clue in the title of the book just referenced: The Image of His Creator:

between the thing known and the knower there is a bond by which they are made one reality in the act of generating knowledge. 

There's another fact, but how? Here again the mainstream view is that our so-called knowledge is but the illusory form of our own sensibility -- the inside projected out -- but these tenured apes

remind us of a person who paints pictures on the windows of his house and then mistakes the pictures for the landscape outside.

Clearly, these monkeys need to get outside the zoo more often. Or even once. 

there are two surfaces to the human body: an exterior one which is usually call the outside of the body, and an interior one which is also outside the body.

In other words, even our inside is out, in the sense that that our bodies are just tubes with a surface "inside" ourselves. To the extent that our inside is out, that's just projection. But if it's possible for the outside to be in, that's what we call knowledge. 

Let's get back to our book on Theological Anthropology and try to figure out how the outside gets in (if it does). Again, we have senses which are ordered to the outside world, but there is no knowledge per se at the level of the senses. 

At the moment I am touching -- sensing -- my keyboard, but not only touching it. If I were, then -- speaking of Beats -- I would be no better than Jack Karouac, of whom Truman Capote said That's not writing, that's just typing

Yes, I am typing, but the typing is being conditioned from the top-down, in that I am somehow putting my interior thoughts into the keyboard, such that my inside is out. To the extent that you understand what I'm saying, then my outside is back in (in you, the reader). 

A monkey randomly banging at its keyboard might produce a coherent sentence, but doing so would require more time than the Cosmos has been in existence. Even the cleverest monkey couldn't actually produce even the first sentence of On the Road. Go ahead and try:

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split ux.

D'oh! So close. And even Kerouac couldn't type it with proper grammar. 

The classic definition of person -- courtesy of Boethius -- is an individual substance of a rational nature. That's good but not good enough, because it still encloses us in reason, and you know what Gödel says about that. 

Let's put our cards on the casino table and say that man is an individual substance of a relational nature, i.e., substance-in-relation. Which is how the outside gets in, via the mysterious category of relation -- specifically, of interior relations. 

Aquinas finds that in God the word "person" signifies a relation...

Well, good for God and Aquinas, but what about us?

while creatures are contingent and do not necessarily exist, if they do exist then they must be constituted relationally..., constituted by a relation to God that is analogous to the relational distinction between the divine persons.

Now, I exist. Even I know that. But prior to this -- or at least co-arising -- we exist. Coming full circle back to John Lennon, 

I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together.  

Or as an earlier -- the earliest -- Wordsmith put it,   

I am in My Fatherand you are in Me, and I am in you.

Either way, it seems that this is how the outside gets in -- whether it's I and my Father or me and my monkey or we and our walrus. We're in this together!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Beatnik Conservatism and Hippy Catholicism

We're just flipping through this book on Theological Anthropology, and will light on any passage that floats our metaphysical boat. Such as this:

In Christ, the taking up of human nature into the divine life is a double movement including both humanity's joining into God, and of God's universal offer of himself to man. 

A dynamic double movement -- like (↑↓) or something, implying that both O and man are open to each other in a living process. It is not as if there are 

two static objects becoming enjoined in a mysterious manner, but of two mysteries becoming united in a way that carries its own logic and order. 

I don't know about you, but I am a mystery to myself. For example, I have no idea where this post is coming from, nor where it's going. 

But again, a mystery is not an absurd or unintelligible nul-de-slack but an infinitely intelligible adventure; "adventure" is the form it takes -- the "logic and order" just mentioned.

Gosh. It reminds me of something I read last night in the book Puritan's Empire, which looks at American history from a Catholic perspective. 

In it he says something I've often mentioned, that the "beats" of the 1950s and hippies of the 1960s were not completely wrong about the soul-deadening aspects of our simultaneously technofascist and puritanical culture. Assholes, maybe, but not wrong. I mean, Here We Are. And I still call myself a conservative hippy.

the "Beats" rebelled against the dull, gray, conformism of the 50s -- which, after all, was only the standard American Calvinism made triumphant...

True, they were mostly a bunch of reprobates, but I still get a kick out of Alan Watts and Terence McKenna. Vanderleun (of blessed memory) definitely knows what I'm talking about. 

The Beat Generation's solutions to the dryness and deadness of American life were often bizarre to say the least, and often involved a great deal of incoherent poetry and "alternative" lifestyles, unemployment, Eastern religions, drugs, and alcohol.

Not that there's anything wrong with it. But "In a word, they offered rebellion, pure and simple."

Nevertheless, "much of the criticism of American society which they expressed was quite valid" -- a rage against the machine, to coin a phrase. Who would have guessed that the correct response to our secular Puritan killjoys is Orthodoxy? Certainly not me. In any event, they'll pry my Zyn from my cold dead hands!

If their solutions were mad, the problems they posed were not.

They're still not. 

Each day it becomes easier to know what we ought to despise: what modern man admires and journalism praises.

As for the hippy phenomenon, 

Much of this was simply nonsense, but some of it was not. Putting to one side the drugs, free love, and crazed politics, what are we left with? A realization on the part of many Hippies that there really was something deeply wrong with America.

Only deeper and wronger today.

[T]he movement at its best was an attempt to break through the arid, dry machine-age and Calvinist culture of the time.... much of what was valuable in the Counter Culture was simply a spiritual (if unguided) rejection of the technocracy.

An unguided vertical missile, as it were. Wrong telos. Or no telos at all rather. 

Coulombe cites the ironic example of an obscure book called The Lord of the Rings, which the hippies elevated to mass popularity:

in veiled form, via Tolkien, the Hippies found the elements of Catholicism compelling indeed, in the face of the materialism and drabness with which they were brought up.

Obviously, the book spoke to the desire for spiritual adventure and the "rejection of the technocracy" represented by "the evil dark lord, Sauron." 

It is indeed. Now back to our trinitarian meta-anthropology, which is the real answer to the hippy quest. 

For our struggle is not just against the nihilists, Puritans, and techno-oligarchs of the left, but is part of "a vaster and more mysterious conflict in the unseen world," and for which there can be no conscientious objectors. Like Smokey, you may not care about this conflict, but it cares about you. The outcome is assured but this doesn't mean our battle is over.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

I. Am. Adequate!

We begin with three aphorisms:

1. Reality cannot be represented in a philosophical model.

2. An adequate theology would be unintelligible to us.

3. Today we require a methodical introduction to that vision of the world outside of which religious vocabulary is meaningless. We do not talk of God with those who do not judge talk about the gods as plausible.

The first is a consequence of Gödel: as one fellow put it, all models are wrong, but some are even useful.

The second is a consequence of O, being that it is Infinite and we aren't. Again, we are conformed to it, but we can't be it without falling into the ontological beclownment described in Genesis 3.

But a vision is not exactly a model, and here we are: we need a cosmic vision in which to situate and make sense of revelation -- in particular, God's two big reveals, which is to say Incarnation and Trinity, the rest entailed in these.

Back to #2 for a moment, perhaps we should say fully adequate, because our lives come down to an unending, dynamic adequation between intellect and being. We're always on the way to the latter, AKA homo viator. There is a truth and a way, or to hell with it. 

Am I wrong?

The second aphorism also goes to apophatic theology, whereby, in the words of Thomas,

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

So, in the final unalysis, God is the known unknown or unknown known. Which is very different from the unknown unknown or the unknowable unknown, since we do at least know that we don't know, as per aphorisms 1 & 2.

I don't know, therefore I know. Which is better than knowing nothing at all. 

Before we venture any further, another key principle is the doctrine of creation, which accounts for both the hole in our soul and the whole in the soul. No, we're not just being cute, because the same principle -- creation -- accounts for both the intelligibility of being and its ultimate unintelligibility. 

As we've said before, we can know anything about everything, but we can never know everything about a single thing. Especially ourselves, for we are like unto a hole in the fabric of the whole. An undying fire -- like a burning bush that is never consumed or something. Speaking of visions.

And that is a key: yes, we are the image and likeness of God. But God is incomprehensible. Therefore we too are an unknown known or known unknown. Nevertheless, the mystery of man tells us a great deal about the mystery of being. 

I apologize for being so irritating this morning, but there is no end to the cosmic mischief that results from failure to remember this simple truth -- that we do not and cannot know ourselves.


Backing up a bit, we are currently reading a book called Theological Anthropology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium. We're only about a quarter of the way through, but it already has a number of good insights that go to the unless. Perhaps we can assemble these insights into a vision. 

If "humans are made in God's image, then our Christian task is to recognize this mystery, and to articulate it for our age of immediacy." I say there's no perhaps about it, and that we require a methodical introduction to that vision of the world outside of which religious vocabulary is meaningless.

Saint Augustine, are you thinking what I'm thinking? "His whole task" was

to know "God and the soul" and nothing more. Augustine thought that to know something of God was to appreciate more of the soul, and also that understanding the soul led to greater understanding of God.

Right on: same attractor. For "Augustine stressed a deep kinship in creation, and particularly between human persons," emphasis on the (great) In-Between. For example, 

it turns out that between friends who do not agree on things divine there cannot be a full and true agreement on things human either.

Which goes to the mysterious Third that draws two persons together:

Augustine thinks that the hearts of Christian friends can beat in accord, because they are in harmony with the love between the Persons of the Trinity. 

More generally, my friends, if someone loves the same things we do, this draws us closer together. Conversely, if someone hates those things we love... but enough about the left. For now, anyway. 

Let's brake for a vision: the vision of a Christological meta-anthropology revealing a relational ontology.  

The first essay of the book sketches out this imaginative vision, for "God did not accomplish the salvation of his people through dialectics." The author cites John Henry Newman, who

offered an "epistemology of the imagination" as a "key mediator between theology and spirituality."

He "always proposed the integration of rationality, heart and imagination, seeing the whole self as an instrument of truth." 

I would say not only the whole self as an instrument of truth, but the self as such -- which includes the faculty of visionary imagination, and the comm-unication of this vision to others.

In a way, this involves left and right cerebral hemispheres, so long as we bear in mind that neurology is a consequence of ontology, not vice versa: our brains are the way they are because reality is the way it is. We are conformed to being, not the other way around, or we are sealed in Kantian tenure.

Here's a comment by Ratzinger that goes to aphorism #1 above:

a philosophy that would insist on remaining a "pure philosophy" would be untrue to itself and would cease being philosophy.

The soul is not just rational, but because it is rational it is relational, which is to say, open. One author speaks of "the fundamentally relational character of the imago Dei," which "constitutes its ontological structure" and goes to "the roles of relationality and receptivity within the imago Dei.

Openness and relationality, which is to (un)say O, (o) and (↑↓).  This is where we weave the cosmic area rug whose warp and weft are vision and intellect.

We'll keep weaving it in the next post.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Waiting for Gödel

It is a fact that no amount of facts can contain or enclose man. We are always more than any sum, because we are conformed to the Infinite. And faith is a name for the modality that conforms us to the Infinite; it is the vertical bridge between -- to keep things strictly scientific -- (¶) and O.

Science cannot do more than draw up the inventory of our prison.

Harsh but fair; for science becomes a prison should we make the rookie error of imagining it can possibly contain us, for again, man is uncontainable. 

With one exception: if, say, the Infinite somehow "incarnated" as finitude -- as human nature -- then it would be as if the Uncontainable became that which contains it. But supposing this happened, the result would be something like, I don't know, "resurrection," which is the ultimate FAIL of containment, so to speak.

Analogously, imagine the Author descending into and submitting to his own narrative. Let's suppose that his own characters even conspire to kill him. It's rather like when we die in a dream. This has happened to me on a few occasions, but I'm here to tell you that I survived the ordeal.

The stories we tell ourselves!

That's a good point, Petey, for we always assemble the facts into a more or less compelling narrative, but the storyteller always transcends the narrative. 

Tell us a story about stories. 

Okay. Once upon a time there was an author with an endless supply of stories. The end. Or rather, there can be no end, because there are always more where that came from. No one will write the last poem or post. 

It reminds me of an essay I read a couple weeks ago on the subject of "malicious storytelling," or what we might call bullshit with malice aforethought:

Most obviously, stories wield power because they mirror back to us our own experiences and shadows. Story is a magic mirror. Whether we realize it or not, what story shows us has the potential to profoundly affect our perception of ourselves and the world.

Back when I was a psychologist, patients would tell me stories about their lives. The stories weren't going well, but it was as if they were trapped in their own little dramas, much like the author who submits to his own creation.

What, after all, is story showing you? When a story is not finely wrought -- when it is sloppy or inaccurate in its portrayal of the form and therefore of life -- it fails as a faithful mirror. To the degree audiences are willing to accept an unfaithful mirror, it creates the potential for imbalance both within individual lives and society as a whole.

A faithful mirror. Now, we accept it as axiomatic that man is a finite mirror of Infinitude. Therefore, any story we tell that fails to take this into account is going to not just be inaccurate but damaging, like a procrustean bed that requires us to lop of various body parts in order to fit into it.

Well, there is no finite bed that can accommodate us, not even a kingsize one.

Academics, journalists, and politicians all have one thing in common: they are bed salesmen. And most of them are lousy storytellers, while some are outright malicious:

when I say a “malicious” story, I do not mean one that is written poorly due to the author’s lack of practice. A poorly written story is not a malicious nor even an evil story; it is a story told by someone who did not have the toolkit or skills to properly execute the vision he had in mind. 
“Malicious” writing in the sense that I use the term, however, is wicked writing. Its intent is to lead the audience to view life in a negative rather than a -- for want of a better term -- balanced manner. 
In this case a “balanced” view of life in fiction acknowledges (1) that there is evil in the world, (2) it will maim, tear, destroy, harm, and even kill to accomplish its ends, (3) evil is not the most powerful force in the universe or human life, (4) good may not win in the heroes’ lifetime but it will win, and (5) those who side with or try to placate evil will be devoured by it.

She's just talking about authors of bad fiction, but I would apply the same principles to stories falling under the heading of HISTORY. I won't belabor the point, because I'm currently reading a book that belabors it for me, called Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World. You could say it deconstructs the deconstructors down to the foundation:

Was America really “stolen” from the Indians? Was Columbus a racist? Were Indians really peace-loving, communistic environmentalists? Did Europeans commit “genocide” in the New World?

It seems that almost everyone -- from CNN to the New York Times to angry students pulling down statues of our founders -- believes that America’s history is a shameful tale of racism, exploitation, and cruelty.

Not Stolen... systematically dismantles this relentlessly negative view of U.S. history, arguing that it is based on shoddy methods, misinformation, and outright lies about the past.  
America was not “stolen” from the Indians but fairly purchased piece by piece in a thriving land market. Nor did European settlers cheat, steal, murder, rape or purposely infect them with smallpox to the extent that most people believe. No genocide occurred -- either literal or cultural -- and the decline of Native populations over time is not due to violence but to assimilation and natural demographic processes. 
Fynn-Paul not only debunks these toxic myths, but provides a balanced portrait of this complex historical process over 500 years. The real history of Native and European relations will surprise you. Not only is this not a tale of shameful sins and crimes against humanity -- it is more inspiring than you ever dared to imagine.

In short, a good story that by no means denies or glosses over the genuine evils that occurred. Conversely, our malicious storytellers expand those evils out of all proportion, while denying the evils committed by Africans, Indians, and other (projected) historical NPCs in order to advance a sick agenda in the present. 

Before we run out of time, let's get back to the cryptic title of our post and try to figure out what it means. Let's consider the scientific story of physical cosmology, of how we got here:

Can this physics give us an understanding about the cosmos which is a priori, that is, the necessary form of understanding and by inference of physical existence?

It's a compelling narrative, to be sure, but

The answer to this question can only be negative as long as Gödel's incompleteness theorem is true..., [that] no sufficiently broad (non-trivial) set of arithmetic propositions can have its proof of consistency within itself (Jaki). 

Thus, any "scientific cosmology" or "cosmological model" falls short of the reality that is what it is, and thensome. If you haven't slipped the surly bonds of scientism, you're just not trying. You need a better story. And a bigger bed.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

I Am Weird, Therefore I Am

Do you believe in aliens? I do, because it takes one to know one: "man is the only alien creature, as far as we know, in the entire Cosmos" (Percy).

Certainly man is the only alienated creature, and what happened there? Why is he not at home in his only home? Why the restlessness, the neurosis, the mischief, the endless wacktivism?

Death and denial thereof?

Yes, there's that, and indeed, it is very much bound up with the vertical events of Genesis 3. We'll let that one macerate while we distract ourselves with other mysteries -- for example, the mystery of language: "most people don't even know there's a mystery," but "the use of language"

appears to be the one unique phenomenon in the universe [and] the single behavior that most clearly sets man apart from the beasts.... Yet it is the least understood of all phenomena. We know less about it than about the back side of the moon or the most distant supernova (Percy).

Language. By virtue of what cosmic circumstances is it even conceivable? What can we say about language without using language, thereby sealing us in absurcularity?

It reminds me of a skit in which a man called a phone number and was placed on hold. He was irritated by this, so he struggled his way out of hold and reconnected with the receptionist, who again put him on hold, which he struggled even harder to escape. 

Are we all permanently on hold? God will be with you shortly. You are #6,084,236 in line.

On the first page of Percy's Lost in the Cosmos is a list of subtitles such as

Why is it that of all the billions and billions of strange objects in the Cosmos -- novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes -- you are beyond doubt the strangest[?]


Why is it possible to learn more in ten minutes about the Crab Nebula in Taurus, which is 6,000 light-years away, than you presently know about yourself, even though you've been stuck with yourself all your life[?]

Now, if there is an answer to the question of WTF am I, and besides, how?, it is only conceivable if we are an open system -- not just horizontally, since that is equivalent to being placed on hold, but vertically. If there is no vertical -- no transcendent object -- then we are waiting and waiting... for Godot, frankly, 

in which two characters engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting the titular Godot, who never arrives. 

We wait and wait, and yet, the waiting is far from fruitless. For my money, Voegelin's characterization of the metaxy -- the great In Between -- is the most non-inaccurate account of our existential situation, i.e.,

the experience of human existence as "between" lower and upper poles: man and the divine, imperfection and perfection, ignorance and knowledge, and so on (Webb). 

We are -- both in experience and in fact -- vertically open: "consciousness is consistently and unreservedly oriented toward truth and toward the transcendental pole of the tension of existence," and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Except deny the fact and thereby put ourselves on hold:

CLOSED EXISTENCE, 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 (ibid.). 

But this open existence makes us analogous to a process structure, in which the form is a consequence of the flow, like a whirlpool or eddy. Stop the flow, and the form dissipates. The soul dries up.

Percy's Big Idea is that 

Extremely recently in the history of the Cosmos, at least on earth -- perhaps less than 100,000 years ago, perhaps more -- there occurred an event different in kind from all preceding events in the Cosmos.

Like another Big Bang, as it were, only this one an explosion into interior, subjective space. Gosh. Someone ought to write a bʘʘk about that, where 

there's another startling explosion -- or perhaps implosion -- this one into a subjective space that was somehow awaiting the primate brains that had to learn to navigate, colonize, and eventually master it.  

And Here We Are, in

a trans-dimensional subjective space refracted through the unlikely lens of a primate brain..., a multidimensional landscape unmappable by science and unexplainable by natural selection (Bob).

Eh. Who would buy it?

Percy conceptualizes this novel development as a transition from dyadic to triadic being. Again, I think he's on to something, since man is irreducibly triadic, for example vis-a-vis the endless cycle of Knower-Known-Knowledge. Obviously, all three are needed in order to know anything, but can we know the Knower? If so, it can't be in the same way we know immanent knowledge.

Nevertheless, Percy says that people "don't have the faintest idea what sort of creature man is," and for "the layman, language is a transparent humdrum affair. Where is the mystery?" 

It's here, and furthermore, we've got to do something about it!

But what? 

Grrrunt. I'm fighting my way out of hold. 

Not working. Could there be an easier way?

Signs point to Yes. 

The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.

In the face of "this disintegration" resulting from "atheistic ideologies," we must recover "a kind of 'recapitulation' of the inviolable mystery of the person (Wojtyla). 

That's a problem for Future Bob -- i.e., tomorrow's post -- but let's finish with Percy if we can.

"My feeling is that the only way to get a hold of any 'science of the psyche' is to approach it through triadic theory," instead of the usual modality, which comes down to "a triadic creature making dyadic theories" -- which works fine for everything short of the triadic creatures we are.

That's the reason I keep harping on it: the only way to get at the psyche is through a study of triadic behavior.

Which I will study today and get back to you tomorrow. Meanwhile, consider yourself on hold.

Theme Song

Theme Song