Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Society of God

Let's review: because ultimate reality is personal substance-in-relation, it is also the "absolute relative." 

This latter appears to be a contradiction, because the Absolute is precisely what is not relative. How then can relativity be absolute? In response to which we say: how could it not be?  

In the Bible, the first clue of this absolute relativity is in Genesis 1, where God creates man "in Our image, according to Our likeness." Some say this is a misreading of the passage, but I say, if the clue fits, wear it. 

This is followed immediately by "male and female He created them," which implies (in my opinion) that the intrinsic relationality of God is at once mirrored in the irreducible relationality of male and female. 

Just as God is not a solitary monad, nor are human beings exteriorly related, atomistic units. Rather, like God, we are a deeper and dynamic unity of interpersonal intersubjectivity.

Alternatively, we could begin at our end, in that we know that a solitary and isolated human being could never attain to humanness. Supposing then that we are in the image of the ultimate principle, then the latter must share this primordial and irreducible characteristic.

I'm just flipping through a book by Charles Hartshorne called The Divine Relativity, and while I have problems with his theology as a whole, on this we agree, for example, that 

A personal God is one who has social relations, really has them, and thus is constituted by relationships and hence is relative -- in a sense not provided for by the traditional doctrine of a divine Substance wholly nonrelative toward the world, though allegedly containing loving relations between the "persons" of the Trinity.

As we've said on many occasions, I don't see why God would go to all the trouble of revealing the Trinity to us unless it truly revolutionizes our default metaphysical setting of God as absolute and unrelated Oneness, and instead reveals something totally unexpected and counter-intuitive about the nature of ultimate reality.

Just my hunch. 

What is a person if not a being qualified and conditioned by social relations, relations to other persons? And what is God if not the supreme case of personality? 

What if "sociality" becomes more intense as we ascend the vertical hierarchy? Then "God, if social, is eminently and supremely so," the last (and first) word in social relations. If this be the case, then God's immutability is transposed to a different and higher key, to the immutable mutability (so to speak) of eternal substance-in-relation. Which again seems paradoxical, but let's try anyway.

For Hartshorne, the Absolute is not something more than God, rather, something less. This is in contrast to, say, Schuon's view that the Absolute is prior, and that the diverse revelations symbolically express this Absoluteness a posteriori. But for Harshorne,

The Absolute is God with something left out of account. God is more than his absolute character.... I am arguing that the absolute is, rather, an abstract feature of the inclusive and supreme reality which is precisely the personal God.

Here again, Schuon would say that the personal God is but the "confessional face" of what is ultimately impersonal and "beyond-being." It is a way for us to relate to God, even though, in the ultimate sense, it is more for our convenience than going to God's ultimate nature, which is supra-personal.

Eh, I don't buy it. What if we turn things around and see the relative as inclusive of the absolute, rather than vice versa? Is this possible? Harthorne thinks so: "Maximizing relativity as well as absoluteness in God enables us to conceive him as supreme person." Conversely, 

If God be in all aspects absolute, then literally it is "all the same" to him, a matter of utter indifference, whether we do this or do that, whether we live or die, whether we joy or suffer. This is precisely not to be personal in any sense relevant to religion or ethics (emphasis mine).

Here again, "it is the divine Person that contains the Absolute, not vice versa," for "God merely as absolute is nonactual; God as personal is at least actual." 

A wholly absolute God is power divorced from responsiveness or sensitivity.... A wholly absolute God is totally beyond human tragedy, and his power operates uninfluenced by human freedom...

"A wholly absolute supreme being is a contradiction in terms," since it would imply that "relativity is as truly good as nonrelativity," but we say relativity and responsiveness are perfections, and eminently so in God. Likewise, a closed and unrelated human being is as inconceivable as a closed and unrelated God, and for the same reason. 

Again, just my opinion. But you will notice a comment by Robert Barron in the sidebar:

No, the perfect, unchanging God of whom Thomas speaks must be a gyroscope of energy and activity and at the same time a stable rock.

A fine example of orthoparadox.

Friday, May 10, 2024

The World is Rated X

Let's think this through: man is an animal, but then again, the meta-animal, or animal + (x). Alternatively, we could say that the animal is human - (x). Now, what is (x)? 

In our age of stupidity there is no (x). Rather, Darwinian orthodoxy maintains that there is an absolute continuity between animal and man, but even Darwin had his doubts:

with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.

Good news/bad news for Chuck: the good news is that the convictions of man's mind are of indeed of value and trustworthy (at least in potential). The bad news is that this trustworthiness invalidates his theory, which can in no way account for the new properties -- (x) -- intrinsic to human nature. 

It's still a good theory as far as it goes, but it doesn't go to (x), which requires an altogether different theory or principle to account for it. This principle is expressed by the Aphorist with his usual astringency:

The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician's rule book.

This being the case, Darwin is a magician, albeit one who has horrid doubts about the existence of magic. 

But he's really like an other stage magician who knows his magic isn't real, rather, a sleight of hand enabled by distracting the audience. In order for Darwinian magic to succeed, the magician must essentially trick the audience from looking at (x). 

Conversely, to debunk the trick, we merely have to show that (x) was there all along: that the card was up his sleeve or the rabbit already in the hat.  

So, what is (x)? Whatever else it is, it includes the innate ability to know essences: by knowing essences man gains access to both universals and the universe. After all, no one has or will ever perceive the universe; rather, it is the ultimate -- or penultimate -- abstraction, i.e., the interiorly ordered totality of the Cosmos.  

An animal's perception is incapable of reaching the universal essence of things, and precisely for this reason is the animal bound and limited to a small and specific sector of reality (Pieper). 

But our mysterious (not magical!)

ability to recognize the intrinsic nature of things provides a perspective from which the all-including totality of the world as a whole becomes accessible and discernible (Pieper). 

In the words of Thomas, "Because the spiritual soul can grasp universal essences, it possesses a potential unto infinity." 

This being the case, then (x) must be an immaterial soul ordered to immaterial essences, which is to say, the truth of being, which in turn extends to infinity. And we're back to Schuon's unavoidable conclusion:

One of the keys to understanding our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing

In the same book (Echoes of Perennial Wisdom) he utters many similar pithy wisecracks, for example, 

The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute.

Man is made for what he is able to conceive; the very ideas of absoluteness and transcendence prove both his spiritual nature and the supra-terrestrial character of his destiny. 

So, another aspect of (x) is consciousness of the transcendent Absolute. Which I say is the very ground of the ability to think. This consciousness is either explicit or implicit (i.e., subconscious), but truly truly, in its absence we can't say a damn thing about reality, nor can we know of the Cosmos. 

We just have to accept the reality of (x), irrespective of how pleasant the implications, for example, that "All things are true" and that "they are known and knowable to the human mind."

this is a statement not only about the essential structure of all things but about their "intrinsic openness..., which causes all things to be and to be translucent, making them real and therefore knowable (Pieper).

Surprisingly, the Cosmos is open at both ends -- in the things that constitute reality, and the intellect's ability to know them. This is a supremely strange situation, but there it is: "the human mind, by its very nature, is ordered toward the totality of all that exists."

If not, to hell with it, for we are indeed enclosed in animality and worse, i.e., in the tenebrous bowels of tenure. To be "subhuman" is not to be a mere animal, rather, something far worse: it is to sink beneath humanness into a kind of unnatural and totally avoidable darkness. Nevertheless, here we are.

I want to say that (x) is also a kind of light that gives access to the light that lights up the Cosmos from the inside-out. In other words, it radiates from the interior of things to our interior. Pieper agrees:

the mind's inborn ability to "reach the whole" is actuated already in each single instance of cognition; for the light that makes any individual object intelligible is the same light that permeates the universe. 


Never will man be able to comprehend fully -- that is, know totally and perfectly -- the inner nature of things.

This is to say, we can know a great deal about anything and everything, but we can never know everything about a single thing, because we are not angels, much less God: in the words of Thomas,

Our cognitive power is so imperfect that not even the nature of one single gnat was ever entirely understood by any philosopher [or scientist].

But this does not imply that our knowledge is nothing. Rather, it's a pretty big deal, for "any cognitive effort will indeed always be a positive advance" -- ironically, a progressive evolution -- "but only like a step on a longer journey."

Man, therefore, is by nature someone who always, and ever anew, can reach for higher perfection, someone endowed with limitless potentials.... Yet those potentials, the moment they become real, already point to to new horizons that point beyond (Pieper).   

With apologies to Marvin Gaye:

Nor are we "lonely lovers," philosophically speaking -- because otherness and relationality are built in -- but that's a different song.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Open for Isness

Man is the great exception to animal nature, being that he is not limited to the senses and enclosed in instinct. Now, how to account for this aberration, and does it make him superior to the beasts, or in a way more pathetic?

As we have been saying in recent posts, man is -- somehow -- open to the world, to the whole of being, but is this openness a purely negative thing, like freedom in the absence of a telos or intelligence in the absence of truth? 

If so, then the existentialists are correct -- just as freedom equates to nothingness, so too does our "openness" reduce to a cosmic fluke with no sufficient reason. 

Pieper touches on this possibility in Living the Truth, citing a certain philosopher who
misinterprets man's openness to the world as an expression, even a consequence, of man's organic imperfection and a "lack of specific natural means" and so as a "basically negative reality."
This is something I touched on in my own way in the Book. Supposing there is a natural explanation for our freedom and openness, why should it be that the resultant "space" isn't empty, but rather, is full of objective values -- of truth, beauty, goodness, language, creativity, ideals, etc.?

Why do we discover things in this space, and not simply imagine them? 

Well, I suppose that's a question for those sub-philosophers who insist that the open intellect is not ordered to objective realities, but rather, enclosed in its own structures and categories. Such thinking essentially deploys transcendence in order to deny transcendence. 

Rather than being a mistake or a fluke, Thomas maintains that "The spiritual soul is the most perfect soul of all," and that, "being able to know the essences of things, [it] possesses a potency unto the infinite." 

Other animals are constrained by "specific instinctive attitudes or with specific endowments for defense or protection," which may make man look comparatively bereft. But in place of the specific, we specialize in  generality, so to speak, for
man is naturally endowed with reason and furnished with hands, which together are the ultimate tools of all tools, allowing man to fashion instruments of any kind and for an infinity of purposes.

Again, the point is that this human space isn't empty but filled with interesting stuff -- essences, universals, transcendentals, logic, mathematics, beauty, science, history, necessary metaphysical truths, et al. What a place, and what a privilege!

Nor does it ever run short of interesting stuff, which is another feature of this space. Rather than just wanting to know what we need in order to survive and reproduce, we want to know it all. We have an unlimited desire to know everything there is to know about everything there is, or in other words, are ordered to the infinite object, O.

We all know there is a "biosphere," and underneath this a subatomic field of energy vibrations. But what is above these two? Teilhard de Chardin called it the "noosphere," which is again not "invented" by man but discovered. Or better yet, a kind of "co-creation" that takes place between immanence and transcendence, a la Voegelin or Polanyi.

Other animals live in an "environment" to which they are adapted. What is man's environment? Reduced to an animal environment the human being would scarcely be human, because there would be no way to actualize his infinite potential. For

It is not merely the "totality of all things" but equally the "nature of things" that constitutes the realm of the mind. We are able to reach -- which does not mean comprehend -- the essence of things, and because of this we find ourselves empowered to attain the totality of things as well (Pieper).

Otherwise, truly truly, to hell with it.

One of the keys to understanding our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing (Schuon).

So, pick one: God or radical absurdity.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

The Tension Goes All the Way Up

Objects don't relate to subjects in the same way as do subjects to objects, but this is not to say that objects don't relate to subjects at all, otherwise they would be unintelligible. Between knower and known there is a relationship -- of truth -- and

the spirit-based self, the highest form of being..., must have the most comprehensive domain of relatedness: the universe of all existing things (Pieper).

We are related to everything, which is to say to being itself. Existing things are related to us in terms of their intelligibility, whether potential or actual: "the human mind is ordered toward the totality of all that exists" (Pieper), and according to Thomas,

Spirit-endowed beings possess a higher affinity to the whole of reality than other beings. Every spiritual substance namely, in a certain sense, is all in all, insofar as it is able, through its cognitive power, to comprehend all there is.

Well, good. At the very least this gives us something to do: to comprehend all there is to know about all there is. It is in the soul's nature to be 

directed toward universal knowledge. In this manner is it possible for the perfection of the entire world to be present in one single being.

Nobody's perfect, but  

the highest perfection attainable for the soul would be reached when the soul comprehends the entire order of the universe and its principles...

This is "the ultimate end of man." Bob is a man. Therefore, this is the ultimate end of Bob. 

D'oh! There's a catch: this "will be realized in the beatific vision," which is apparently unavailable this side of the grave.  

Then again, "beings endowed with cognitive ability somehow resemble God himself," which I suppose is why it's so easy to pretend to godhood. It seems that we are forever situated in Voegelin's tension between immanence and transcendence, but this is by no means a static situation, rather, it constitutes nothing less then the dynamism -- the very life -- of the mind.

And now that I'm thinking about it, any dissipative (i.e., process) structure requires a polarized tension in order to go on being. 

An ancient thought (from grad school) pops into my noggin, about how our brains contain billions of electrochemical neurons that -- help me out here Professor Wiki -- "have intrinsic electroresponsive properties like intrinsic transmembrane voltage oscillator patterns," meaning that they ceaselessly charge and discharge electrical energy.

This is one of those things that I simultaneously understand and don't understand at all, like how computers work. I mean, I understand the words, but WTF? The point is that life itself is tension and release, while death is release from the tension. And the TENSION isn't just present horizontally but vertically, as characterized by Voegelin:

A condition of tending toward a goal. Voegelin uses the term especially to refer to what he calls the "tension of existence," the fundamental experience of longing for transcendental fulfillment, the Beyond, the summum bonum (Webb).

This latter for Thomas being the beatific vision. But whatever we call this ultimate telos, it accounts for the TENSION which proceeds all the way up. Unless you just give up and disembark at some provincial bus stop along the way. 

What is the ground of this tension? Must be in the Trinity, i.e., in the tensional energy (so to speak) between the Persons. They say this energy is none other than the LOVE which "powers" it (so to speak), but this is above my praygrade. Still, it makes sense to me, or at least I can't think of anything that makes more sense of our exceedingly strange cosmic situation.

We can express it via our annoying pneumaticons, what with the vertical tension between O and (¶), the space between them being where intellection (n) occurs.

The animal is adapted to a specific environment and so also limited by it; man's environment, in contrast, is the totality of all that exists, so that man, by his nature, is... oriented to "the world" (Pieper).

Or, in the words of Thomas, "The spiritual soul, being able to know the essences of things, possesses a potency unto the infinite." And this potency is none other than the TENSION between finitude and Infinitude, the many and the One, time and Eternity, the relative and the Absolute, etc.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

I Can Relate, or There's a Little Interiority in Everything

So, to lift off from where we left off: 

All reality is actually or potentially mind-related, inasmuch as its intrinsic essence is actually or potentially incorporated into the knowing mind (Pieper).

If reality is mind-related, then the mind is reality-related, in a kind of inspiraling mutual indwelling. There's a little bit of mind in everything, or as Thomas says, "The essence even of a lifeless thing has life in God's mind."  

All that exists, because it exists, is ordered to a knowing mind.... This means: not only is the eye sun-related, the sun as well is eye-related; all that has being is mind-related in its most intrinsic core. Mind and being are interconnected (Pieper).

Weird, but what's the alternative? An intellect that doesn't know being, or that "knows" only non-being? Doesn't work for me. "Rather, it is part of a thing's essence to be intelligible; that is, to be ordered... toward a knowing mind"-- as in how speech is ordered to the ear, or message to recipient.  

Things are not mute. They merely select their listeners.  


Things do not have feeling, but there is feeling in many things.

Reminds me of what Schuon calls the "metaphysical transparency" of being, but perhaps translucency might be closer to the mark, for as Thomas says, "The reality of a thing, in a way, is itself its light."

Does this mean reality is a giant vertical murmurandom? "Reality in itself is oriented toward man's perceiving mind," and "moreover, the human mind in turn is ordered toward the realm of existing things." 

This "intrinsic correlation between mind and reality always precedes any actual cognition." It is an explicit or implicit axiom of the very possibility of thought, am I wrong?!  

If our mind were not by its nature already in touch with reality, it would never be able to reach reality at all.

As proven by all post-Kantian philosophy, for anyone can sever the mind from reality, but no one can reunite them if they aren't united to begin with. I can think I am all day long, but the solipsistic subject can never cross the bridge back to It Is unless the bridge is already there in the thinking. 

Or in other words, thinking is the very link between I Am and It Is, for "truth is the conformity of an object to its idea," and "conformity of being and knowledge is called 'true.'" 

But I want to get back to this whole question of relatedness, of a relational cosmos, because that's the key. It's a tricksy concept, because it's not something you can ever know from the outside, rather, only from the inside. Therefore, there is an intimate... relationship between interiority and relationality. 

the concept of transcendental truth affirms the relatedness of every being to the inner core of another being, the knowing mind... 


It is essential for any genuine relationship to originate from an inside and extend toward an outside. The pebble in a brook, in itself, does not "relate" to its surroundings... 

Rather, we relate to it because we have an interior that can know the attenuated interiority of the pebble, which is its knowability -- its intelligibility -- precisely. Thus,  

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

So, I can relate to every it:

The world of the spirit-endowed self, a person's "I," spans the totality of all that is; the world of the spirit is the universe of being.

I'll say it only once: the cosmos has an interiority complex, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it but endlessly relate to it, interior to interior, intelligence to intelligibility.

Monday, May 06, 2024

The Truth of Being and the Dream of Existence

That's what it comes down to: a binary choice, except in choosing the latter, it immediately fragments into 8.1 billion opinionated dreamers competing for top dogma. 

I'm just flipping through a book by Josef Pieper called Living the Truth, which is -- in my opinion -- about nothing less than waking from the modern dream and the postmodern nightmare:

With the expression, "All that exists is true," Western philosophy for almost two millennia intended to make a statement not only about reality as such but no less about the nature of man.

The statement is this: that being is intelligible to the intellect, and that truth is the conformity of the latter to the former. This is the "principle of the truth of all things." 

It was once uncontroversial to affirm that "all that is real, is true." It meant that we started with the reality of being rather than with the content of the mind.

But Enlightenment thinkers "despised and eliminated the principle of ontological truth, together with metaphysical ontology as such," making them "among the first to reject the principle of the truth of all things" and to "even deny that it expresses anything meaningful at all."

Which means that there is no truth in things, and that supposing there were, we could never know it. Rather, we are sealed off from the thing itself, and therefore enclosed in our opinions and dreams about what's going on with them, i.e., with reality.

Pieper quotes Spinoza to the effect that "Altogether in the wrong are those who consider truth to be a property of being," but here again, to say that truth is not a property of being is to say that there is no truth. 

Likewise, "Kant explicitly denies truth to be a property of reality as such." He sought to "discredit once and for all the basic concepts of traditional ontology," and boy did he succeed. 

Except to say that there's no failure like success, in that it has successfully redounded to an "abyss separating the intellectual giants of the High Middle Ages from the pedantic philosophical systematists of the Enlightenment," and here we are.

With the jettisoning of ontology came the rejection of the very principles of thought, among which are non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and of rationality itself: "The opposite of transcendental truth would be a dream mistaken for reality. A string of dreams would be a fairy tale world." 

And what is the contemporary multiversity but a fairy tale world of academic division, fragmentation, and disunity, detached in principle from the one thing that could integrate them, AKA being? Pieper quotes the philosopher Christian Wolff, who speaks for me:

The truth that is called "transcendental" and is conceived as inherent in reality as such... is the ordered structure governing existing things.... a dream, in contrast, means inconsistency in the transformation of things. The truth implies order, the dream disorder.

Reject the truth of being, and the world dissolves "into a fairy tale, the equivalent of a dream." Now, I have nothing against dreams, I just don't want to be ruled by them, which is to say, enclosed in the dream of dreamers with more power than I have, i.e., people with the power to impose their kooky dreams on the restavus. 

We've mentioned before that one of the primordial divisions between contemporary leftism and conservative liberalism is this question of contact with reality -- the transcendental reality of Permanent Things. 

Russell Kirk, for example, writes that "conservatives generally believe that there exists a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society." But this presupposes a nonlocal order -- the order of being -- in which the good, true, and beautiful converge.

It's never too late to admit that we took the wrong fork in the road, and to make a u-turn back to the reality from which we diverged, as articulated by Thomas:

All existing things, namely, all real objects outside the soul, possess something intrinsic that allows us to call them true.

I personally made the u-turn a couple of decades ago, and I highly commend it, because it gives us the best of both worlds:

In created things there is truth on two levels: in the things themselves, and in the perceiving mind. 

In other words, we get to save reality, with the salvation of our minds tossed in for free: again, an infinitely intelligible world of being, intelligible to an equally infinite intellect, and how convenient is that!  

"'All things are true' means that they are oriented toward a knowing self." Thus "every being, as being, stands in relation to a knowing mind." This is fundamentally a relational cosmos, such that

"To be," therefore, means the same as "to be oriented toward a knowing mind."

"No existing being is without such relational orientation," and "this relationship is actualized in the process of mental perception or intellection." Otherwise you're just dreaming a dream detached from being, and you can't argue with a dreamer, rather, you can only try to wake them up. 

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