21 August 2009

EPH–1 / PHILSOPHIA FUTURIS: MEDITATION AND AFTERWORD












It appears now that nothing is a proof of a man being wise, unless he can foresee the future.
M.T. Cicero, Oration for C.R. Postumus










I. When a gentleman of the Faith retires after the toil of another day, when that leaden sky of unbounded atmospherics which the German poets praise gives him an idealistic stomach ache, and when he ruminates upon the unmitigated materialism of today’s man of action, he will speak internally: “Yes, these ways pervade the world. There is an imbalance. The Fall has occurred”. Afterwards, our gentleman will make himself a cup of coffee and sit down at his simple and durable dinner table. His eyes will subsequently focus directly and intensely to the cup of coffee atop the table. Then releasing a sigh which eventually translates into a minimalistic smile, and with a sense of a quiet, metaphysical knowingness, two more words come to him: “It is.”

II. He knows... He is still astonished by the existential reality of the thing.

III. Now our rather somber man is not of the fatalistic type. Though his day may have been plagued by unexpected eventualities, regardless of the global apocalyptic scenarios which his mind seems to unceasingly concoct for he knows not where they originate; and irrespective of his foreseen clamor and nihilism which the next day will bring to his complete amazement all of these will perhaps affect him momentarily. But only momentarily. For some peculiar reason the man in question in no manner has acquiesced to defeat. He refuses absolutely to escape reality absolutely like the Buddha. The gnosticism of the present day cosmologist is to him only an ephemeral annoyance. Thinking of Kant’s “Second Critique” of Practical Reason, he will at least laugh in agreement with Heinrich Heine’s zinger: “the farce after the tragedy”.

IV. Clearly, our fellow affirms reality as such. A painstaking and sometimes beleaguering reality it may be, but it is the only one he has and it is the only one that there is. Signs and symbols in themselves, and the mind working unto itself, will just not do. He knows too well of the irrealities that have resulted therefrom. Perchance it is safe to assume that the man in question is no friend of the Prussian philosophers and their forward thrusts to futuristic horizons, always promised and envisioned, yet never to reach fruition.

V. Let us say that our hypothetical fellow is immensely interested in knowledge and learning. This, however, is not really necessary to indicate because, by his very instinct and faith, he is always open to, and adequately studied in, the intellectual foundations of his belief system, including those of his opponents. He is wideeyed, his mind is agapé to the world as it were.

VI. As a result of this mindset, he has, over the years, accumulated a copious array of books which glut the shelves of his private study; and although the intensity of the day has made his body weary, his intellect nonetheless screams quietly for nourishment. He requires encouragement and inspiration. Yet on this particular evening he possesses not the endurance or the patience to peruse a book not amenable to his current state of mind.

VII. He now begins to scan the ensemble of works, and his eyes immediately catch the name Dostoyevsky. His mind is already in motion. He imagines the great Russian novelist is somewhere overhead, observing and assessing the countenance and thoughts of our fellow. Dostoyevsky is eating brown, Russian bread and drinking a bottle of vodka as he watches, endeavoring wholeheartedly to withhold with what seems to be laughter. At last, unable to contain himself, an admixture of bread and vodka spews out of his mouth, portions of it dribbling down his beard. Dostoyevsky belches and says in a loud, almost angry voice: “Young man! I have already tried. I have asked and probed everything. Do not even try. Do not contaminate yourself because the territory you are heading towards is very unstable and dangerous. You will soon realize that you are out of your league. Your opponents are formidable, as well as sinister. But if you do enter the fray, young fellow, you must continue to look forwards and never look back. Never! This is because the past will vanish. And, young fellow, if you are courageous enough to go onwards I warn you be prepared for the unthinkable, the unspeakable. Good luck, young man.”

VIII. But even Dostoyevsky knew, in his heart of hearts, that all answers and the Truth are to be found in the GodMan, Who was nailed at the intersection of two wooden beams.

IX. Dostoyevsky was a great writer, one of his favorites. But he can take only so much of that incessant anxiousness which runs the mind down; and all of those cries of impending and unnamable cataclysms or utopias to “soon arrive” are so commonplace that they only induce boredom in him. He has become very proficient at recognizing the deception involved: the Protestant fundamentalist screeching about the nearness of Antichrist’s arrival; the gnostic cult leader hailing the dawn of the “new age”; the atheist astronomer’s hope for the evacuation of the human race to distant planets; the liberation theologian’s oration on the Marxist dystopia; the astrologer’s foretelling of events to come; the flying saucer to land on earth to save humanity from itself. These threats and promises, and so many more, always bespeak of the “out there”. All of them, even when disguised under the false intellectualism of the philosopher, manipulate a person’s future and hence his freewill. Promises never kept. Hopes to be dissolved.

X. His eyes start to scan again.

XI. He passes over the disciples of Darwin, Marx and Freud. He gazes at the Humean skeptics, the German pantheists, and the alpinesoaring Nietzscheans. For a quick smirk, he randomly opens to a page in a book on deconstruction and reads: “...the coextensive anteriority of the demodulated and hyperretrogressive existent, collaterally, with the consideration of the Nubian shorelines, engenders a dipolar and dexterous coagulation in the thing’s propension to...” quickly, he puts the book back into the chaos from which it originated, regretting the loss of money that could have been spent on a pack of smokes. Next he finds a book he received from a former girlfriend. Apparently, the thesis of the text, written by an ecofeminist influenced by liberation theology, claims that the evils of the world can be halted if only the West would consider a reconciliation between Mother Earth and Marxist sexuality.

XII. His stomach contracts. The reaction is visceral.

XIII. Yet this cast of philosophers and tragedians, in our man’s depths at the point where man meets his final answerability to God, are proven to be alien to him. Their immanentist territories are but reiterations of the sophisticates and solipsists. Different grammars, same erroneous ideas: exclusively temporal, vague, ridiculous, mechanistic and chimerical. Expressions of a false transcendence. They wail over the gods, engage in textual hedonism, and praise the unheavenly Faustian heights. Their anticipations and despairs reside solely in prognosticated futures which never arrive, while their universal view of becoming dissipates into that from which it came: negation. The great gift of the present is ignored, wasted. The minds of impressionable and uninstructed readers are robbed and taken into landscapes of the profane and transient and all of this in the name of not liberty, but of license.

XIV. Stepping back from his bookcase our man makes a more expansive visual swath, opening up his mind to the universality of being and truth. He briefly deliberates upon rereading Being and Time but decides otherwise, not wishing to lock himself inside the temporal prisonhouse of a former Jesuit novitiate who made ontological gnosticism into an intellectual fashion.

XV. He decides to go home.

XVI.
Newman’s Grammar of Assent, Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, and Maritain’s Trois Reformateurs require further investigation. Not this evening, however. He needs something more apologetic. The Summa Theologica? By no means! “On the contrary”, as St. Thomas repetitiously dictated to his four secretaries. An examination of Q. 94, Art. 2 of the first part of the second part will have to be delayed for another time. Sheen’s God and Intelligence is also out of the question. He has read it five times, nearly memorized.

XVII. He relents, almost succumbing to the signs of the times. Yet as this happens the gleam of an author’s name invades his dreariness. For amid the cacophony of abomination and unsuredness which now displays itself; midst the shattered remnants of fallen Babels; between the fragments of the preSocratics and the postmodernist semioticians he sees the name of not a scholarly man, not a man of systematic treatises. Instead, the name reminds him of wit, paradox and disinterested irony, which are the stereotyped trademarks of the Englishman. Once again, he envisages what this man of letters might express upon the realization of our gentleman’s almost defeatist condition: “My good fellow. Have you forgotten Exodus 3:14? What fool existentialist has claimed to counter that? Find the rascal and throw him to the Thomist dogs.”

XVIII. We are speaking, obviously, of a certain Mr. G.K. Chesterton, Esquire. The immovable next to the Immovable Himself… So now our man resigns to the truth, the everlasting. He sits down in his somewhat gaudy yet comfortable chair and begins to read a book entitled The Everlasting Man.
AFTERWORD: This short, fictional meditation was written for two reasons. The first being to emphasize that one need not be a scholar per se to defend or combat (whether it be in formal debate or in the everyday happenstance) an opponents claim that Roman Catholicism is mere myth or superstition run amuck. Usually, the scoffing apperceived by the believer is the consequence of an unconscious envy or the scoffer’s unquestioning acceptance of slander perpetuated about the Faith. The second reason relates to the sense of an inner and quiet relief which one periodically undergoes following a long day of being in a world of becoming (this piece was written after a rather trying day of work). For you will hear in the world that whether from the literary critic or the social engineer, the reactionary or the journalist, the scientist or the social theorist all which is, becomes. Essentially, it is propounded that morality, law, society, culture, even God Himself, are, in every way, in flux, that they incessantly change and “progress”.

Now this whole fiasco of the Philosophy of Becoming has its root in The Fall of Modern Philosophy as it were, viz. the confusion of the mind (the sign) with the world (the thing). The error is easily traceable to Immanuel Kant (17241804), and runs through the majority of the German philosophes ever since. We could even go further back in the time and trace the origin of this epistemological bonanza to a very loud Augustinian monk of the 1500s but that is another story (see H-1, paras. LXXV to CII). The Philosophy of Becoming, however, and the subjectivist worldview to which it attends, has always been with us in greater or lesser degrees. From the Greeks and Romans, as with Marcus Aurelius (121180 AD): “…all actions [are] in a perpetual change; and the causes themselves, subject to a thousand alterations, neither is there anything almost, that may ever be said to be now settled and constant” [1], to the droll ruminations of the mythographer Joseph Campbell (19041987): “The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not a world of solid things but a world of radiance.”[2]

The aim here is not to comment on epistemology, however. TH2 only recognizes the aftereffects of the Philosophy of Becoming, of that forward thrust to the future for future’s sake. For example, Marxist’s predicted that the glorious revolution of the proletariat would be the final and inevitable consequence of bourgeois capitalism. Heinrich Heine (17971856) hailed that “to us belongs the future, and already the morning glow of victory is dawning.”[3] So what was the outcome of this philosophia futuris? Stalin sends millions upon millions to extermination. There was no “glow of victory” in Germany after the Nazi atrocities... In that despair which negates redemption, what does Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s (18211881) Underground Man cry after the most existentially devastating of monologues addressed to humanity?: “Last of all, gentlemen: it is best to do nothing!”[4] Total inertia. Astonishment at existence. “Why is there something rather than nothing?”[5] asked Gottfried Leibniz (16461716). Silence. The brilliant Frederick Wilhelmsen (19231996) wrote: “Silence without God is intolerable. This is why atheists talk so much.”[6]

TH2 spoke briefly on alleged revolutions and cataclysms to eventuate in the future because, in the midst of the turmoil and strife in the early part of the last century, inside that fantastical world of Herbert Spencer’s (18201903) social Darwinism and the annihilationism of H.G. Wells (18661946), there arose a chivalrous man of whose pen inscribed words which became a sort of waystation which readers could stop at after departing from that Ship of Becoming which the daily toil presents; and where this ship was symbolic of the universal flux which pervaded, and still does pervade, the way in which the modern world thinks out, interprets and acts its existence. This man was G.K. Chesterton (18741936). Reading GKC’s works is an excellent prescription to prevent oneself from being overwhelmed by the crisis of the signs of the times. C.S. Lewis, a fan of Chesterton himself, wrote: “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”[7]

GKC books from Ignatius Press. See also Gilbert! Magazine.


NOTES / REFERENCES

1. The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius, trans. M. Casaubon (London: J.M. Dent & Company, 1906), Book XIX, p. 52.

2. B. Moyers and J. Campbell, The Power of Myth, ed. B.S. Flowers (New York: Doubleday Books, 1988), p. 285. Campbell rejected his Catholicism as a young man in the mid1920s, then coming under the influence of Hindu paganism.

3. H. Heine, Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, trans. H.H. Mustard (New York: Random House, 1973).

4. F. Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground / The Double, trans. J. Coulson (London: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 43.

5. G. Leibniz, “The Principles of Nature and of Grace, Based on Reason” in Philosophic Classics, ed. W. Kaufmann, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, Incorporated, 1968), vol. 2, p. 217.

6. F.D. Wilhelmsen, "The Good Earth" in Citizen of Rome, Reflections from the Life of a Roman Catholic (La Salle, IL: Sherwood Sugden & Company Publishers, 1980), p. 146.

7. C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), p. 9.

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2 comments:

Mary said...

HH2,

I, for one, could benefit from more of your "short, fictional meditations". Beautifully written, and I love the Wilhelmsen quote. GKC's brilliance fills me with wonder AND makes me laugh.

THE HERESY HUNTER said...

Thank you Mary. Much appreciated.

If you are interested, you can listen to a few of Wilhelmsen's lectures (audio files) here:
http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=speaker&SFor=wilhelmsen

If you like the "fictional meditation" style, check out the blue "H-1" link in this post, which is another article you previously commented on. Scroll down or do a search for "Man in a Sphere", which is a philosophical narrative of the implications of the Reformation, in relation to the Transubstantiation, under the Section entitled: "Transubstantiation and its Historical Echoes"

Also, soon I will have another piece, in this same style, called "The Conspiracy Theory as Secular Gnosis". The link will be in the "Fiend Folio".

God bless...TH2/

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