Friday, November 17, 2017

Precision Poetry and the Bill of Responsibilities

In the previous post we touched on the mystery of how subjectivity enters the cosmos and existence becomes experience -- or, existence starts to experience itself. It seems to me that as soon as one begins using words to describe this development, one is vulnerable to misleading and/or being misled.

For example, in the first sentence above, I alluded to subjectivity "entering" the cosmos. I then referenced existence "becoming" experience. Neither of these can be accurate; they are loaded with preconceptions that will lead us astray if simply followed blindly.

They are similar to the mind-matter dualism, which is just a conclusion masquerading as a premise. The one is defined in terms of the other, but neither is defined in terms of itself. In other words, to say "mind-matter" is a way to conceal the fact that one has no earthly idea what mind (or matter) is. The terms are just placeholders for certain properties.

Only metaphysics can rescue us from this linguistic rabbit hole of mirrors.

Yesterday afternoon the term popped into my head unbidden: precision poetry. That's all. Just "precision poetry." It then flew away, only to return just this moment. What could it mean?

Well, in my experience, it brings to mind exactly two people: Schuon the Metaphysician and Dávila the Aphorist. There are better poets and there are more precise thinkers, but no one else in my world combines the two in such a powerful way.

I'll give you a counter-example. I'm reading a book about a subject near my heart, called Into the Mystic: The Visionary and Ecstatic Roots of 1960s Rock and Roll. Between the ages of, say, nine and twenty five, music was pretty much my religion, my savior, my point of reference. It was the only thing that made Total Sense to me -- and made sense of the world.

I'm sure we've discussed this in the past, but for me it was much more than merely "liking music." Rather, it was my gateway to ecstatic and mystical experience. In other words, daily lessons in transcendence. Given the routine experience of transcendence, the world couldn't possibly be reduced to its appearance. Flickering embers from the Other Side were scattered everywhere.

It also seems to me that I was more vulnerable than most to ecstasy -- which I mean literally, in the sense of ekstasis or "standing outside oneself." In turn, this contributed to my singular lack of ambition. I was never, ever lured by the rewards of a conventional life, because those rewards could never replace the intrinsic rewards of bare existence. For me, such a life would equate to death. (I should also emphasize that this can easily be confused with mere hedonism, another thing entirely.)

So, you can see why I was attracted to the title of this book. And while the author makes some good points, his language is so full of imprecise bloviating that it dulls the message. Frankly, this is the peril of any religious writing, especially before there is any canon or tradition within which to work.

Come to think of it, really productive religious writing must always navigate between two shores, dogma or doctrine on one side, and a kind of indistinct cloud on the other. Geometry and music. Default to the former, and language becomes dead and saturated; veer toward the other, and one is reduced to deepaking the chopra.

What is needed is... precision poetry. Here is an example of imprecise pseudo-poetry, or of Liking the Sound of One's Own Pen:

American children heard so much about this imaginary Britain that it was sometimes hard for them to tell as they grew up what were their real childhood memories and what came out of those stories. Without knowing it, their parents had initiated them into the British secret history.

Thus, when the Beatles arrived,

the American adolescents who responded to them already had a kind of interpretive framework with which to understand them. They instinctively understood that these young men, with their fascinating accents, their schoolboy hair, their air of cheeky panache, their dashing clothes, were not of the colorless present, but creatures of a story. They were envoys from the secret history....

They were a version of the protagonists of English children's stories, the ones who discovered phoenix eggs and secret gardens. The implicit idea was that childhood -- or certain things about childhood -- could become a way of life.

There may be a precise point or two buried somewhere within, but as the Aphorist might say: Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas. So, Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick.

Speaking of which, there is a particularly nauseating passage about the JFK assassination. If you want to be precise about it, he was killed by an unhinged leftist (but I repeat myself). End of story.

No no no. Here's the real story:

Something in the thousand days of Jack Kennedy put into the air a notion that a Kennedy America might be a place where the desires of the underground could be harmonized somehow with the desires of the country. Kennedy was, Norman Mailer said, a sheriff that the outlaws could respect. The idea of such an alliance of outlaws and sheriff was shattered by the assassination, never to recur.

Oof! I think I'm gonna hurl. It gets worse:

JFK had sometimes seemed like a presence that might graciously escort the country through the transformations that history was poised to rain down on it, to somehow manage it all -- a person who had one side of his head in the grace of the past and one side in the wild energy of the oncoming future. Now the people felt exposed to the fury of the storm.

That right there is some bad and imprecise poetry. And no, he wasn't just murdered by a leftist loon:

The consensus narrative was not able to comprehend the assassination.... The Commission's version of the story was finally not far enough from the id of America, the secret dark enflamed places where espionage, crime and reactionary violence [?!] crossed each other....

An impulse emerged, almost from the moment of the event, to see the assassination as part of a pattern, maybe an extension of the horrors coming regularly out of the South. It was American viciousness -- the spirit of the lynch mob -- seemingly carried to a sublimity of horror, the mask slipping from the awful face. A glimpse of the scale of the power that was keeping the country both placid and brutal.

Gosh. Why not just blame Trump and be done with it?

My point isn't to make you sick. I just wanted to again highlight the nauseating combination of obscure thought and bad poetry. To quote the Aphorist, Many a modern poem is obscure, not like a subtle text, but like a personal letter. As in, "What the hell is he talking about?"

Precision poetry is not only possible, it is necessary. This is because truth and beauty converge and are ultimately two sides of the same reality.

The other day it occurred to me that we really need a Bill of Responsibilities to complement our Bill of Rights. Indeed, the former must precede the latter, because only a responsible person can be given rights. Rights and responsibilities are grounded in free will, such that the free person has certain intrinsic rights only because he is presumed to be a morally responsible agent.

So, we have the "right to free speech." But this is only conceivable, let alone possible, because we have a prior responsibility to the Logos. In other words, we are obligated to speak truth. To bear false witness is not only wrong, it is cosmically irresponsible. It is to destroy the very reason why man was given speech at all. When you speak -- and write -- you have an obligation not only to be honest, but to at least try not to be ugly.

The writer arranges for syntax to return to thought the simplicity which words take away. And The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie. --Dávila

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The First and Last Now

When you think about it, the center is as mysterious as the now. Einstein famously remarked that nothing in physics could account for the now. The google machine suggests that it even kept him up at night:

Einstein said the problem of the Now worried him seriously. He explained that the experience of the Now means something special for man,something essentially different from the past and the future, but that this important difference does not and cannot occur within physics. That this experience cannot be grasped by science seemed to him a matter of painful but inevitable resignation. So he concluded 'that there is something essential about the Now which is just outside the realm of science.'

Nevertheless, the article goes on to take a stab at a lame scientistic explanation. Despite its lameness, the author breathlessly enthuses that "Now is an exciting time. We are on the threshold of possibly understanding both now and the flow of time."

Einstein is correct: there is indeed something essential about the Now which is outside the realm of science (and that realm is not a small area, to put it mildly).

There is, and will never be, a scientific understanding of the now, or of time more generally. For that one needs recourse to metaphysics. Science is far too narrow to contain time, let alone eternity. And these two are complementary and mutually defining, at least from the human perspective. Time is a function, or mode, of eternity.

Let's think about the now. Each now is a kind of center, only located in time rather than space. However, it is also a spatial center; it has to be somewhere, and that somewhere is in each conscious subject. (To be conscious is very much to be conscious of the now, isn't it?)

We're really talking about three irreducible mysteries: Center, Now, and Subject. And these three are clearly related. As we've discussed many times, remove the subject from the cosmos, and there is no space or time, just everything everywhere at once. The first living subject was also the first center and the first now.

Let's enter the waaaaaayback machine and try to imagine the first now. As a matter of fact, this is something I attempted to do way back when writing the book of the same name: one "moment" the cosmos is (apparently) non-living; the next moment it is alive. What happened? What does this signify?

We all know there is a bright line between life and death. There must be an equally bright line between life and pre-life. Unless you believe the cosmos is a living organism, which makes a lot more sense than the belief that life is 100% reducible to the inanimate.

The first living thing is also the first subject: it is literally the mysterious emergence of an inside in what had theretofore been outsides only. Is an outside without an inside even conceivable? Not really. It's like an up without a down or left with no right.

In metaphysical hindsight (or better, downsight) we can see that the inside had to have been there all along. But using scientific categories only, we have to pretend the cosmos was all-outside until the emergence of that first itsy-bitsy subject some 4.5 billion years ago. That's when

a luminous fissure breaks open in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle, the dawning of an internal horizon in a universe now divided against itself, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world, a wondrous strange mutation as unique, mysterious, and altogether surprising as our first bang into material space-time...

You could say that was the first rebellion and up-rising: we're not going to take it anymore! No more kowtowing to King Physics! We demand a biology department!

Interesting too that that was the last time radical equality existed in the cosmos. Pre-life, everything was truly equal. Nothing was above or below anything else. Without form, and as void as Nancy Pelosi's frontal cortex.

To continue plagiarizing with myself,

[P]ortions of the universe somehow declared their independence from the strict, physiochemical laws that had held matter in their death grip up to that time, and began exchanging energy and information with the "outside," so as to maintain and reproduce themselves through time. In setting up this dynamic exchange with the outside, the universe now had undeniable evidence of an "inside," with new, unprecedented categories of being, such as intention, perception, sensation, emotion, and eventually freedom, thought and moral and aesthetic judgment.

Put it this way: with Life, mere concrete EXISTENCE somehow becomes EXPERIENCE:

[A] new world literally came into being, outwardly dependent upon the previous one, but at the same time inwardly transcending it: a universe beyond itself, a restless declaration of subjectivity from the mute algorithms of opaque material repetition.

Etc. I had no intention of quoting myself ad such nauseam, but it still holds up. And always will. Not because of anything I personally figured out. God forbid! It's just the way it is, and you can't surpass what Is.

Let's climb down and refocus: Center, Subject, and Now. These are clearly related, or at least it is clear to me. But how? I mean, ultimately?

I would say that, just as subjects are inconceivable in the absence of the Divine Subject, nor are the Center and the Now conceivable without recourse to that same Subject.

"There is only one Center," writes Schuon, "but the phenomenon 'center' nonetheless exists in the spatial universe..." Sure does. I'm in one now. This is because our center is a projection, as it were, of the Center, or let us say the Principle of Centration. Every living thing embodies this principle:

"[T]he divine Center is necessarily reflected diversely in creation which by definition is the mirror of the Creator." Traces of this Center are every where and every when. Indeed, it is precisely why there are wheres and whens, which is to say, centers and nows.

"Wherever God is reflected, there is a center." This center is a presence -- or rather, presence as such -- and you would be far from wrong if you think of this in terms of Father <--> Son, or Being <--> Logos. I would turn it around and say that these points of reference are given us in order to think about this transtemporal Center-to-center and Now-to-now structure of things.

One cannot conceive of space without a center. What would space be without a center? Because we are the center, we can conceive of the space surrounding it. Likewise the now. Because it is now, we can conceive of the time surrounding us, of past and future. If there were no now, then the question would never arise.

So, the now is indeed a mystery. It is the only mystery, or one reflection of the Absolute Mystery that connects Subject, Center, and Now.

But it doesn't end there, because this Subject is a Person, not just an empty space, so to speak. And personhood brings with it such irreducible categories as freedom, creativity, truth, beauty, virtue, and relationship (the nonlocal touch of intersubjectivity). None of these are reducible to lifeless matter. Rather, they emanate from the top, and are reflected in the herebelow.

But you are always free to be cosmically stupid, in which case it is an exciting time, for you are always on the threshold of possibly understanding everything even while knowing nothing.

It all reminds me of something Petey once said, that yesterday is our birthday, today is our life, and tomorrow we are gone. So we have just one day to learn all we need to know, and that day is today. And that's enough.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Does Everything Evolve?

I used to believe it did, until I realized that change must be in reference to something changeless. If man is pure contingency, then he can know only the contingent (without even knowing it is contingent).

But every instance of real knowledge is "sponsored," so to speak, by a kind of implicit grasp of the Absolute. Without the Absolute, we would be submerged in a world of absolute relativism -- the impenetrable darkness of unrelenting tenure.

There are obvious instances of human knowledge that will never be surpassed, for example, pure math. But there is also a realm of "pure" morality that can never be surpassed. For example, it will never be moral to murder, or steal, or bear false witness (within the bounds of prudence, or practical wisdom).

There is also a political philosophy that can never be exceeded or bettered. That would be the philosophy enshrined in America's founding, whereby the purpose of the state is to protect our God-given natural rights.

Which is another reason why self-styled progressives are so ironically named: the right to free speech is infinitely -- literally -- more important than a so-callled right to not be triggered or offended by it.

Obvious, no? It's what the Fathers would call a "self-evident truth," being that it is more the product of vision than argument. Can you really argue with someone who wants to use free speech to eliminate it? Similarly, can you really argue about the second amendment with someone -- the state -- holding a gun at you?

"The principle of relativity," writes Schuon, "categorically demands the concurrence of the principle of absoluteness, on pain of giving rise to a chaotic and as it were 'headless' and atheistic cosmology."

Indeed, that is no cosmology at all, but rather, a chaology pure and simple, with no reason, purpose, orientation, direction, origin, center, coherence, unity, or any other attribute this side of an ignorant herd of black cows clashing by night.

The thing is, we can obviously never know the Absolute in any direct or fully comprehensible way. Among other reasons, this is because the Absolute is infinite, while we are not. In short, the finite can never contain the Infinite.

Nevertheless, the finite contains points of reference, so to speak, such that it may more than adequately map the Infinite (for human purposes). In short, man can actually know everything he needs to know about the Infinite, thanks to revelation. The rest is none of our business.

Here I want to insert a Most Excellent Quote that really etches into logos-bearing granite the principle we are discussing. It is universal, timeless, true, and therefore vital for you to assimilate if you are going to make even rudimentary sense of your human journey:

To affirm that there is a cosmos is to say that the latter necessarily includes within itself manifestations of that which it manifests by its existence (Schuon).

This is necessarily true by the force of logic: in knowing there is a cosmos -- which BTW we implicitly know with any coherent utterance of any kind -- we simultaneously (if implicitly) know its nonlocal source.

Or, put it this way: to even say "cosmos" is to have manifested the unity and coherence that transcend it. This is what it means to be in the image of the Creator. We are most assuredly not the Creator, but there are Points of Contact.

Now, these points of contact are obviously everywhere. Indeed, they are nothing less than every thing, if you know how to look. This is why every thing is intelligible, on pain of not being a thing. A thing is always an intelligible thing, or it is no-thing, precisely.

Nevertheless, this is not enough. I want to say that the creation is like a tree reflected in a lake, such that we see the leaves and branches before the trunk and roots. Man is in need of points of reference that reflect these latter, hence the sufficient reason of revelation proper (as opposed to the general revelation of sheer existence-from-being). Revelation is here to provide points of reference to the roots hidden beneath the divine ground.

That's how I see it, anyway. Revelation is not God, but rather, points back to God. It's like any other language: don't get hung up on the finger pointing to the moon. Rather, look at the moon.

And it goes without saying that more than one finger can point at the same moon. Indeed, the Infinite cannot be any single finger, which would be the very definition of idolatry. Idolatry is to invest one finger with infinitude, which is to give the finger to the Infinite.

Having said that, it is the central claim of Christianity that the Infinite does indeed incarnate as one finite man. But there are so many ways this can be misinterpreted that it required centuries for the Church to sort it out. And even then, it didn't so much sort it out as exclude interpretations that are total non-starters -- for example, that Jesus is all God or all man.

The takeaway is that in Jesus there are two natures in one person. Complicating matters is that one of these natures consists of three Persons (of the Trinity). You can only push words so far -- remember, they are only points of reference -- but this means that the one person Jesus is half one and and half three.

Does that make any sense? Er, I think so. At least to me. If these are all points of reference, to what are they referring? I can only say what I see, which is an eternal perichoretic dance between the O, 1, 2, and 3. You might even say it is spelled out below the icon in the sidebar, where it says that

The empty center is Beyond-Being. The circles are dimensions of Being. Your life is a path for the Spirit to pass from periphery to center. Thoughts and choices -- truth and virtue -- are the paving stones.

"Beyond Being" is Eckhart's Godhead, the Ain Sof of Kabbalah, the Nirguna Brahman of Vedanta. However, I do not place this at the "top" of some vertical emanation.

Rather -- and this is just, like, my opinion, man, or better, vision -- it is always in complementarity with the Trinity. As such, not only are the Persons of the Trinity "relative" to one another, the Trinity is also eternally relative to the Ground. But to reiterate, the Ground is not chronologically or even ontologically prior. One is no less eternal than the other(s).

Is there any reason to believe any of this aside from Bob Sees It? Not really, unless you see it too, or because my points of reference happen to work equally well for you.

Back to the O, 1, 2, and 3; these are, respectively, Beyond-Being (and infinitude), Unity (and absoluteness), Relationship (love, knowledge, truth), and Synthesis. Taken together, I see them as perpetual Love-Truth-Creativity, always surpassing itself and yet orthoparadoxically unchanging. The Infinite Delight of Divine Plenitude Flowing from one shore to the other and

Just as God breaks through me, so do I break through God in return.... --Eckhart

So yes and no: everything and nothing evolves.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What Privilege

Worth repeating: the sense of essentiality attracts us toward shores other than those of the limited plane of physical phenomena alone (Schuon).

Implicit in this statement is that our minds are attracted by and toward essentiality. Which is what? It is the nonlocal whatness of things. Animal intelligence can know that things are; but human intelligence is made to penetrate beneath thatness -- existence -- to whatness -- essence. Only humans are privileged to know the What of things.

No one knows how this is possible. No, check me on that; we do know how it is possible, but only with recourse to a trans-scientific, metaphysical foundation. Certainly science cannot explain how science is possible.

In this regard, it is difficult to say whether language is a cause or an effect, but either way, language is obviously central to the discernment of essences. It is like the shadow of essentiality. Not for nothing is it said that "In the beginning is the Word," yada yada.

Come to think if it, just as only human beings can know essences, only human beings can unknow or rebel against them. For example, we know that men are essentially men and women women. Indeed, this is why we have the words, the words following upon the essences. But what is the left but a rebellion against essentiality? We'll no doubt return to this subject... or maybe not, because the Aphorist can more than adequately summarize this diabolical inversion with just an astringent line or two:

Today the individual rebels against inalterable human nature [essence] in order to refrain from amending his own correctable [contingent] nature.

Boom! "I was born this way" is no defense for staying that way. It is the literal inversion of what Schuon says above, such that the rejection of essentiality compels man to remain landlocked on this shore, and to never set out for the other.

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors.

Inane if you're lucky, but usually tending toward the horizon of genocide. For ultimately, Humanity is the only totally false god (because, orthoparadoxially, we are the only essentially partial gods, so to speak).

Here begins the gospel of Hell: In the beginning was nothing and it believed nothing was god, and was made man, and dwelt on earth, and by man all things were made nothing. This reduces existence to a vapid monologue in the void, AKA tenure.

Which is why Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency. Truly truly, in order to understand what you are, you must begin by understanding what you are not. Which is to say, the uncreated Absolute. In the absence of the latter category, you can only imagine yourself to be man -- man being unthinkable in the absence of its eternal complement God. The mirror is not God; and yet, it is "not other than God" either.

At any rate, only the human being knows of essences and therefore appearances, and vice versa. But human beings can never penetrate to the essence of essences, or the holiest of holies, short of self-extinction. There is always a Mystery at the heart of it all, not in the privative sense of ignorance, but in the sense of radiating, or sometimes exploding, presence. Not too little light. Too much. One sees the glowing footprints, and knows they aren't just hanging there suspended by nothing.

"[I]f Being and the first principles which flow from it are incapable of proof, it is because they have no need of proof; to prove them is at once useless and impossible, not through a lack, but through a superabundance of light" (Schuon). If one sees, one doesn't have to prove the existence of sight. Besides, how would you prove sight to one who is blind? Nevertheless, reason can disprove anything -- for example, free will -- but that hardly means it doesn't exist.

Proving what cannot be is insane, humanly speaking. These self-styled free-thinkers only end up freeing man from freedom itself. But you cannot transcend freedom, only sink beneath it. Yes, an ant is free of humanness, while the leftist never stops trying.

Augros asks an intriguing question, which is to say, how is it that we can have five separate senses but experience their transcendent unity in our selves? From where does this unity come? Indeed, to the five natural senses I would add our transnatural senses of the personhood of others, of beauty, of truth, and of the Divine Presence itSoph.

Each sense involves increasingly subtle degrees of touch. We know, for example, that something can "touch our heart." Likewise, to be truly understood by another person is to be touched. We can all "sense" grace, even if most people allow their vertical sense detector to harden or dissipate through nonuse.

"Taken by themselves, the external senses are like five unrelated voices. Together they cohere into your universal sense, they interrelate and become integrated. They harmonize."

To which I would add that the unity is always at the top; if it weren't there, we could never achieve it. It reminds me of a good stereo that is able to reproduce an accurate 3D soundstage. This is only because the sonic unity is prior to the stereo separation (into two speakers) that tries to recreate it.

The senses are complementary. Think, for example, of what humanness might be like if we only had four senses, excluding vision. We are able to teach braille to the blind by transforming what is seen into what is felt. The point is, the higher or more subtle dimension is able to reach down into the lower, but what is the likelihood that a world of blind humans could ever have come up with braille? Braille is a way for fingers to see, but someone first needs to see in order to put sight into the form of touch.

And this leads me to the notion that faith is a way for the intellect to see what it cannot see -- not the intellect in its essence, for intelligence can know anything knowable -- but due to various contingencies. Just as blindness is an accident and not an essence, so too is atheism. If blindness were an essence, then we couldn't teach braille to the blind.

Analogously, think of teaching sign language to lower primates. This can only go so far, because lower primates do not have the essence of speech, and cannot really know essences. I suppose that the brightest among them can penetrate a bit beneath the surface, but no ape will ever be as wrong about existence as your average professor.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Cosmic Extortion and the Drunkard's Search

Yesterday I was thinking about metaphysical Darwinism. (Would a strict Darwinian say that "Darwinism was thinking about me?"; for to think about it is to have transcended and thereby escaped it, which the theory would say is impossible.)

Or better, call it Darwinian literalism. Yes, it is an explanation of how we got here, but it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that it is only scientific. The literalist will no doubt respond: "Only scientific? As if mythology trumps fact and reason!"

Well, yes and no. It is, for example, an undeniable scientific fact that your body is roughly 50% water and that 99% of it is composed of six elements.

But what relevance does this have for your humanness? After all, it's only science. You can't treat a person like a chemical. For practical purposes our chemistry is of no consequence, any more than it matters what typeface is used in writing a book. Imagine a review that begins and ends with a sober analysis of the size and style of font. You'd think the person was an obsessive-compulsive nut.

Darwinian literalism "is the classic example of the bias that invents 'horizontal' causes because one does not wish to admit a 'vertical' dimension" (Schuon). Now, I wonder what is the motivation for this denial? Whatever it is, it is a passion; which is not necessarily problematic, except that in this case it is a passion for something other than Truth.

But Truth is the first priority and prime objective of our little adventure. If it becomes the first casualty then dreadful consequences follow, all the way up to extinction.

The extinction may or may not be physical -- in the previous post we spoke of Christian Science, which may redound to personal extinction if followed to the letter. But certainly soul death follows the rejection of truth -- or at least asphyxiation, dehydration, or starvation due to failure of pneumosynthesis.

Yes, pneumosynthesis. Good word. In fact, I'm a little surprised it isn't a word. I mean it by way of analogy to photosynthesis, which is a real word but no less mysterious. Photosynthesis "is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities."

Okay. "A process used by plants." So, what process did the plants use before using photosynthesis? I don't know. It's a long article, and rather technical.

The geological record indicates that this transforming event took place early in Earth's history, at least 2450–2320 million years ago, and, it is speculated, much earlier..... Available evidence from geobiological studies of Archean sedimentary rocks indicates that life existed 3500 million years ago, but the question of when oxygenic photosynthesis evolved is still unanswered.

When does one begin the study of biology? Fifth grade? I distinctly remember learning about photosynthesis, and the teacher telling us that science didn't actually understand how it works. Is this still true? In my opinion, no one will ever understand how sunlight is transformed to life. And what would it mean for practical purposes? That our thoughts are nothing more than transformations of solar energy? If so, then the theory of photosynthesis itself would be reducible to a chemical belch.

There is a kind of knowledge that paradoxically diminishes us with its increase. However, you can't really blame the knowledge. Rather, blame the metaphysic that conditions it -- in this case, the above-noted exclusion of verticality. What conditions the choice of metaphysic? Two possibilities: truth or preference. Which is to say, objectivity or subjectivity, reality or passion.

In the case of a solely horizontal metaphysic, "one seeks to extort from the physical plane a cause that it cannot furnish and that is necessarily situated above matter" (Schuon).

Necessarily. Which is to say, objectively. Reality does not care about your feelings, even scientistic ones. Extortion is wrong. Using feelings to extort facts is the beginning of all mischief. You could even blame our primordial catastrophe (G3AOA) on it if you want to.

Scientists -- and we are speaking here of the scientistic type -- want to know, right? That's what they tell us, and we should believe them. But so too does the drunk man sincerely want to find his keys by searching for them under the streetlight. It's a real thing:

The streetlight effect is a type of observational bias that occurs when people are searching for something and look only where it is easiest. Another term for this is a drunkard's search.

So, the Darwinian literalist looks for man's origin where it is easiest, right under the scientistic streetlight. What makes this paradoxical -- or self-refuting, really -- is that light can only come from Light.

What I mean is that science incontestably furnishes light. But it only does so because of borrowed Light. If science is the light, then it is no light at all, and we are again reduced to cosmic indigestion -- a weird failure of entropy.

One reason I reread Schuon is that I always discover subtle points that may have been obscured by the bigger ones -- as in how the stars disappear in the presence of the sun, even though they may actually be exponentially larger. In this case, he writes that "the sense of essentiality attracts us toward shores other than those of the limited plane of physical phenomena alone."

Mm mm mm. This mysterious little "sense of essentiality" turns out to be everything, humanly speaking. What does it mean? It means that human intelligence is defined by the ability to see beyond appearances to the reality behind or below or above them.

Ironically, this is precisely the mission not only of any science, but any rational human inquiry whatsoever, from history to psychology to literature. Obviously it is the mission of art as well, only in reverse: to create a surface for the audience to unpack. Both are fun! Which is to say, the encoding and decoding of mysteries. If you fail to engage in this -- well, let's just say you're missing out on a damn good thing.

Switching gears -- or books, rather -- Augros writes that "we must think that the human mind differs from the animal mind in some way as the infinite does from the finite."

Even that sentence proves the point, because it contains the word "infinite," or at least presents us with the humanly intelligible antinomy of finite <--> infinite, which transcends animality. But only infinitely.

We'll continue down this path tomorrow. Or up, rather, where the light is better.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Ramblers Gonna Ramble

More off-the-cuff rambling.

One of the -- if not the -- ultimate complementarities is subject and object. Indeed, these two seem to define one another, such that it is difficult to conceive of one without the other.

Can you imagine a world without subjects? No, of course not. Prior to 4 billion years ago -- or whenever life appeared -- there was nothing and no one there to perceive anything. There would only be everything everywhere at once, AKA nothing.

And what would a subject be without an object? Seems to me it would also be nothing, for subjectivity is always of, or toward, or with, or some other preposition. It seems to me that this sheds light on the nature of God, which is to say, Trinity, for the structure of Father-Son-Holy Spirit can be seen as Subject-Object-Relation.

This reminds me of something Hartshorne says -- that God is not only relative, but the most relative thing we can imagine. Indeed, he is the very foundation and possibility of Relationship. This is truly flipping the metaphysical script, because it implies that God actually IS what would appear to be impossible, which is to say, Absolute Relativity. Absolutely!

What else could it mean to say that "God is Love"? When I was a kid, my mother used to drag me to Christian Science Sunday school (up to about age nine or ten at the latest). No, it never took root, and proved ultimately to form an early lesson in why religion makes no sense. Certainly there was no way to integrate it with the other 6.9 days of the week.

In any event, I remember a podium, behind which gold letters spelled out GOD IS LOVE on the wall. No one ever explained why and how this could be so, certainly not on any satisfactory metaphysical basis (I'm not even sure if Christian Scientists believe in the Trinity; I don't remember ever hearing the word mentioned). Especially in a Christianized culture, it shouldn't take a man fifty years to begin to figure it out!

Now I'm curious. Let's check in with Prof. Wiki for just a moment. I promise not to get even more sidetracked than I already am. The movement is rooted in

philosophical idealism, a belief in the primacy of the mental world. Adherents believed that material phenomena were the result of mental states, a view expressed as "life is consciousness" and "God is mind." The supreme cause was referred to as Divine Mind, Truth, God, Love, Life, Spirit, Principle or Father–Mother, reflecting elements of Plato, Hinduism, Berkeley, Hegel, Swedenborg and transcendentalism.

At the core of Eddy's theology is the view that the spiritual world is the only reality and is entirely good, and that the material world, with its evil, sickness, and death, is an illusion.

Okay then. Ms. Eddy was a dyed-in-the-wool-pulling Gnostic (in the bad and intrinsically heretical way). Ah, here we go: her theology "is nontrinitarian; she viewed the Trinity as suggestive of polytheism." So she was a theological ignoramus as well. Not surprisingly, she "viewed God not as a person, but as 'All-in-all.'" Whatever that is. Seems like she conjured an indigestible brew of idealism and pantheism.

The whole thing was bound to confuse a child whose mother was a bit of a hypochondriac by proxy. What I mean is, despite all the "illness is an illusion" bit, she didn't hesitate to take me to the doctor if my temperature climbed to 98.7

You may be wondering how this heretical nonsense ever entered the Gagdad strain. Haven't I blogged about this before? There was a time -- maybe in the 1930s -- that Christian Science became quite a fad among Hollywood airheads, no doubt because of its non-conformist appeal. I mean, look at this list. It was like the New Age movement of its day, a pseudo-Christian way to deepak the chopra. Christian Scientology.

My maternal grandmother was a gold-plated eccentric who settled in Hollywood. From what I understand, she was hit by a bus or something, and had what she regarded as a miraculous healing due to the ministrations of a Christian Science practitioner. I'm not sure if she or my mother took it completely seriously, in the sense of living the faith.

But how could you? How can anyone consistently live as if the world is an illusion? You have to be able to live your faith in a consistent manner. But Christian Science ultimately forces you to think one way and behave in another. When it came to a choice between doctrine and reality, my mother always chose the latter, which is to say, medicine.

Here at One Cosmos -- hey, it's in the name -- we insist upon a total integration of horizontality and verticality, with no loose ends dangling from the cosmos area rug. We do not want to believe one way and act in another. We are not Cosmic Hypocrites, but completely consistent on every level of being. If not, then we correct it as soon as it is brought to our attention.

Let's get back to the idea that the world is an illusion. Well, duh! But an illusion is not a hallucination. The bus is not ultimate reality, but you still need to get out of the way if it is about to run you down.

The world is, as it were, a "side effect" of God. If you believe it is the cause rather than an effect, you are bound to chase this fairy tail forever. Scientific explorers "may well plunge into the mechanism of the physical world" and "undoubtedly meet with a variety of instructive insights into the structure of the physical categories..." (Schuon).

BUT: they will never reach the end of their trajectory, for the simple reason that there can be no end in that direction. Like the rays of the sun, they just go on "forever," more or less. Only by proceeding in the other direction can we locate the central source and principle.

Schuon begins with the axiom that "all knowledge by definition comprises a subject and an object." This self-evident natural trinity consists of intelligence-intelligible-knowledge.

This -- it seems to me -- is a kind of projection or prolongation of the heart of the trinity, revolving around Subject-Object-Spirit, this latter taking the form of love, truth, beauty, goodness, creativity, and transcendental unity. Furthermore, the middle term -- Object -- is actually a subject in his own right: he is object to the subject but subject to himself. All in a manner of speaking. Think of our world, in which other persons are objects but obviously subjects as well.

This sure goes back to the subject of Incarnation, doesn't it? "There is a chasm between ourselves and God that we cannot cross by our own powers." Thus, "if man is the bridge between the visible and invisible worlds, then Christ became human to repair that bridge" (White).

Recall what was said above about God being the most orthoparadoxically "relative" thing we can imagine: "Christ is in truth the most human of all of us. In short, God has become the most human of us all so as to reveal to us who God is in a most human way." Absolute Relationship becomes Relative Relationship, such that the latter can become the former.

Now, man is not just subject pure and simple; rather, there are layers, dimensions, and modes of subjectivity, hopefully with a degree of harmony and integration. For example, our senses are subjective. But materialists essentially pretend they have the last word on What Is. However, the senses don't really "say" anything. Rather, they are purely receptive. It is up to the intelligence to weave them into something higher.

Likewise rationalists. Yes, the world is rational, but not only rational; it can by no means be enclosed in the categories of reason on pain of immediately devolving to irrationalism. It comes down to the question of whether reason is an instrument of the mind or vice versa. To believe the latter is to be enclosed in tautology.

There is reality and there is truth, but reality is always bigger. It is like the relation between being and knowledge. We can of course know being, but only God can encompass it with rooms and mansions to spare. He not only drew a circle on the face of the deep, but a sphere around the circle and a four-dimensional object around the sphere. Etc. No matter how high you go, he always goes one dimension higher. Just call it Beyond-Being and be done with it.

"The mechanism of the world," writes Schuon, "can be neither purely deterministic nor... purely arbitrary. In reality, the universe is a veil woven of necessity and freedom, or mathematical rigor and musical play." As such, "every phenomenon participates in these two principles, which amounts to saying that everything is situated in two apparently divergent but at bottom concordant dimensions..." (Schuon).

Everyone knows that music is a kind of math. What they fail to appreciate is the converse: that math is a kind of music. If it's just silent and static -- if it doesn't sing of the creation -- to hell with it.

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.... The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or poet's, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics. --G.H. Hardy

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Anchored in a Cloud and Soaring Toward A Dream

Another rambling post. What can one do? It's a jungle in here, and some days the best you can do is hack away.

Instability. It is our lot. On this side of life we're always in critical condition. But don't worry -- you'll be stable when you're dead.

Well, not really, if you believe, as I do, in purgatory. But the point is that this instability isn't a bug but a feature having to do with the very essence of man.

Note that in the case of God, his existence and essence are one; or, his essence is to exist. That's real oneness, baby!

Conversely, man has to be the most irritatingly paradoxical creature in all of creation, being that our essence is to change. Or, to express it in terms of perfect nonsense, the point of life is to become oneself. We are condemned to transcendence, and the man who doesn't surpass himself sinks beneath himself, yada yada. You are a child of God, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

As to the reasons for the instability, "the human being is a kind of bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world" (White). The bridge is solid at both ends but spans over an abyss, such that the middle part has a great deal of sway; think of a suspension bridge made of flexible materials over deep ravine.

That's you, on the bridge. There is security at either end, but of very different orders. Both are rock, you might say, one physical, the other metaphysical. Both are solid-as. Only one is dumb-as.

"[M]an can tend upward -- ordering all things to the creator -- or downward into the exclusive pursuit and domination of visible, created things."

So in reality it is a vertical bridge, one end grounded in the Absolute, the other end grounded in... Actually, the other end isn't grounded per se. Rather, I would say that the Absolute radiates toward infinity, so the only thing holding the bridge up at the far end is the linear momentum of the Divine Plenitude tending outward toward nothingness; like an airplane, it only stays up because it's moving.

Think of a ray of light extending out from the sun -- or better, the Big Bang, which is of course still banging. From what? Or, more mysteriously, into what? No one has any idea. What is the leading edge of the bang? Can it really be exploding into, and surrounded by, "nothing"?

That is a different question, and it is unanswerable. As the politicians like to say when they are dodging a question, Let's talk about what we know.

What we know is that irrespective of whether the cosmos is "eternal" or had a beginning, it must have a vertical cause that is always present. It is this cause that extends down and out "forever," or has a tendency toward Nothingness without ever arriving there. It is like numbers; each number is a multiple of one (absoluteness), but they go on forever (infinitude).

In any event, for our purposes, the "tension inscribed within humans marks us with a deep spiritual restlessness and instability, since we cannot live rightly either as angels or mere nonrational animals" (emphasis mine). One can of course tend toward nonrational animality, but no one short a Stalin or Mao becomes a perfect leftist.

The absoluteness of God seems to be mirrored in the black velvet nescience of Death: "Human beings are marked simultaneously both by immortal longings and by the certainty of death."

Now, a total cosmic inversion results in Death being the only certainty, "God" being the illusory byproduct of our fear, uncertainty, instability, etc. In this regard, Nietzsche is "absolutely" correct, which is why he will always be the favorite philosopher of bright adolescent counter-revolutionaries of all ages. He was certainly mine!

Let me drag out my dogeared copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and recall what appealed to me back when I was a 30 year-old teen -- back when God spoiled everything, and I enjoyed the cheap omniscience of the dimestore atheist.

Can't find it. It isn't amongst the usual suspects. However, I looked up some quotes, and it is interesting how he is such a perfect mirror image, or inversion, of the truth, even using the identical language and images in some cases:

Become who you are!

Man is something that shall be overcome. Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman -- a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.

But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthword, downword, into the dark, the deep -- into evil.

Bravo! He is Satan's Aphorist -- which, in a way, makes him second best. Heresy and orthoparadoxy aren't strangers but cousins. Or twins, even. To err is human. But to invert reality and call it truth is diabolical. Some beliefs must exist, even though they have no right to. This is the true meaning of "tolerance."

BTW, Schuon writes that "Of course, a mature man ought to be 'adult,' but he can be so otherwise than by plunging into forbidden abysses..." Granted, Friedrich is a genius. But just because he jumps off the cosmic bridge, does that mean you should?

Anyway, those two rocks -- our "immortal longings" and the "certainty of death" -- "form a crossroads between God and the whole material creation." There are attractors at each end -- O and Ø -- such that "the devil, in his revolt against the wisdom of God, seeks to wrestle humanity away from God..."

The image comes to mind of a tightrope walker, or maybe just a bicycle rider. In either case you are stable so long as you are moving, but unstable when at rest.

Interesting paradox there, in that complete stability results in utter instability. Oh well. That's life. No, literally: what is life but change-in-service-of-conservation? Speaking of which, what is conservatism but the proper recipe for collective life? "The art of progress," wrote Whitehead, "is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."

Now we have to switch gears on our bike for a slightly different view of the same phenomena. Let's say God goes to the trouble of incarnating as man.

This changes (?!) everything, in that it now means the Center -- the Unmoved Mover -- is here among us. It is available in a way it never was before: indeed, they will call him Immanuel, which means "God with us" -- and withinus -- no longer just without us. The transcendent becomes immanent that the immanent my become transcendent; or, God becomes bridge that the bridge may actually get somewhere.

Reality and appearances. It seems that our bridge is somehow suspended between these, even though it isn't really possible to anchor anything in illusion. Nevertheless, the tenured have been explicitly attempting to do this ever since Kant, who suspends us, as it were, between the illusory and the unknowable, or between a dream at one end and a crowd of witlessness at the other.

My apologies for this post getting nowhere. We'll leave off with a Whiteheadism:

Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.