But Before I Go

by Circle or Line

Gagdad Bob:

This guy Benedict — the former Cardinal Ratzinger — was once quite the daring metaphysician and theologian. Clearly he’s had to dial it back since becoming Pope, being that he is now responsible for making things crystal clear to the 99% who don’t have the time, inclination, or capacity to think these things all the way through to the ground and back up again.

But back in the day, he was publishing opinions that just a generation before might have landed him in the soup (despite their intrinsic orthoparadoxy).

Personally I would find this quite frustrating. I just couldn’t do it. Not that anyone has asked me to be Pope. I mean, I put in my application and they said they’d get back to me, but you know how that goes. Turns out they also discriminate against non-Catholics, but let’s just move on.

Besides, blogging is the ideal medium for me, because it allows me to utterly be myself, with no compromises. I can say what I want, when I want, in the way I want, with only Petey as my infallible guide and no readership to get in the way.

I just finished a book of Ratzinger’s called Credo for Today. Its subtitle is What Christians Believe, but I’m pretty sure that this is not what most Christians believe. If they did, then the information here would be superfluous.

I’ll just speak for myself, and say that the cosmology Ratzinger lays out is much closer to the Raccoon metaphysic than it is to the worldview of most Christians of my acquaintance.

He begins with the observation that in the Bible, “the cosmos and man are not two clearly separable quantities, with the cosmos forming the fortuitous scene of human existence, which in itself could be parted from the cosmos and allowed to accomplish itself without a world.”

This may look like a banal consideration, but it goes directly to the philosophical problem of dualism that infects most all science (that is, when it attempts to be more than a method that is rightly predicated on this instrumental dualism).

Ratzinger’s view is obviously in accord with modern physics, which reveals the deep “oneness” and inseparability of all reality. Whitehead was perhaps the first philosopher to understand the metaphysical implications of modern physics. I am reminded of a comment from Science and the Modern World, to the effect that,

“each volume of space, or each lapse of time, includes in its essence aspects of all volumes of space, or all lapses of time,” so “in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world.”

I am also reminded of a circular comment rolled out by the physicist John Wheeler, that “It is not only that man is adapted to the universe. The universe is adapted to man.”

And this is true in more ways than one, for example, the manner in which the deep mathematical structure of the cosmos is mirrored in the psyche.

Finally, I am reminded of another misleading dualism that affects our ability to “think about thinking.” I’m not going to have time to rehearse the whole argument here, but if you search the blog for the name “Matte Blanco,” you will see that this is a topic we have discussed on numerous occasions in the past.

In particular, I was thinking of the implicit, folk-psychological notion that the mind is something like a “bag full of stuff,” or in other words, a kind of empty space that harbors thoughts and such.

But in reality, the space — the container, or (♀) — cannot be separated from the thoughts — i.e., the contained (♂). Yes, thoughts are from Mars and the thinker is from Venus, and their relationship in many ways determines the quality, depth, and fruitfulness of mental activity.

Being that “all is one,” what we call “history” can only be separated from cosmology in the abstract. The fact is, thanks to modern (post-Einsteinian) physics, we now understand that everythinghas a history, and that everything is situated in the larger cosmodrama, i.e., the whole existentialada.

Here is how Ratzinger describes it:

The cosmos is “not just an outward framework of human history, not a static mold — a kind of container holding all kinds of living creatures that could as well be poured into a different container.”

Rather, “the cosmos is movement… it is not just a case of historyexisting in it,” because “the cosmos is itself history.”

Another critical point: thanks to the tenured boobs of multiculturalism, we now have multiple histories — feminist history, black history, queer history, Chicano history, etc.

But in truth, “there is only one single all-encompassing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes ‘forward.'”

But this direction can only be seen from a higher perspective, just as a person struggling in the rapids can’t see the mountainous source and oceanic destination of the river.

And if we do manage to float our boat above the currents of time, we see that “spirit is not just some chance by-product of development, of no importance to the whole; on the contrary…, in this movement or process, matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind” (Ratzinger).

For any transrational person, this metacosmic march forth — for which reason March 4th is the Oliest and most slackful day of the Raccoon calendar — is undeniable. Nor is it intelligible in the absence of a “point” — an Omega point, if you will.

What — or who — is this point of existence?

First of all, we can all agree that existence either has or doesn’t have a Point. However, this does’t necessarily imply that we could know — or not know — it.

In other words, existence might have a Point we can never know. Conversely, we could mistakenly believe that it has no Point when it actually has one.

But if you have the intuition that it does have a Point, that intuition may ultimately be traced back to God — or let’s just say O to keep everybody honest.

In fact, human reason is powerless to determine whether or not there is a Point, first, because reason can only work with the premises it has been provided from elsewhere, and second, because it cannot adopt a stance from outside the total cosmic system, and render judgment on the totality of which it is only a part.

More generally, people will deploy reason to prove the truth of this or that intuition, the latter of which can emanate from spheres above and below the realm of reason per se.

The latter is called “rationalization,” and is only a caricature of proper reason. The former is called various things, including intellection, infused contemplation, and riding the currents of the slackstream.

This just highlights the fact that we have various sources of information, interior and exterior, subjective and objective, empirical and suprasensible, that we draw upon to toss into the cognitive hopper and come up with the Answer.

Revelation is one such source we may draw upon. In fact, it is the only source that is presupposed to emanate from outside the total cosmic system, and therefore the only information that can truly bear upon our opening question about the Point of existence.

Now, if this point is truly the Point, it won’t just appear at the “end” of the cosmic process. By way of analogy, the point of a novel doesn’t just abruptly appear on the last page, disconnected from everything that has preceded it.

Rather, in hindsight it will be seen that the end was there all along, shaping the narrative and infusing it with drive, coherence, and purpose. Again, there are hints along the way, but only at the end do we acquire the area rug that pulls the whole room together.

Think, for example, of the first generation of Christians who were shocked to discover the abundance of meaning in the “Old Testament” which had eluded them before. In this way, the novel events of those three days in particular had the effect of utterly transforming the past, so to speak.

But this is only an extreme case of what history always does. Since the present is always changing, this changes the meaning of the events leading up to it. One can only understand the meaning of something by allowing its effects to play out.

In the margin of Credo for Today “I” wrote a note to “myself” — or was it the other way around? — that Anthropology + Cosmology = Christology. Colloquially speaking, this is the equation of our cosmic birth (see p. 15 of the Encirclopedia).

This inburst of data is an example of what was stated above about the different sources of information. For what is the ultimate source of this “fact,” if that’s what it is?

Yes, it’s from “me” — with a big assist to the Cardinal — but that just begs the question, because it isn’t anything I thought out ahead of time.

Rather, the reverse: the moment it entered my head — or broke into my sphere of conscious awareness — it was accompanied by the thought that this was something I needed to think about.

These types of thoughts occur all the time, but I only began noticing them when I began paying attention to them. Now they occur so frequently that I must write them down, as in the case of the above. I compare it to seeds falling from the sky. First you have to catch them. But then you need to plant them. Yes, occasionally one will randomly fall into fertile soil and flower on its own, but why waste the bounty?

One question we need to address is whether any musings about the totality of the cosmos are just forms of anthropology dressed up as cosmology. For any discipline short of traditional religion, thismust be the case, because for the secular atheist it is quite impossible for man to know anything outside his own neurology and cognitive categories — including that!

Ratzinger notes that for Christianity, the convergence of person and cosmos, of anthropology and cosmology, is the end of “the world.” The revelation of the unity of the two reveals that this unity has been the goal all along, precisely:

“Cosmos and man, which already belong to each other even though they so often stand opposed to one another, become one through their ‘complexification’ in the larger entity of the love that… goes beyond and encompasses bios.”

That was already more than a mythful, but allow Ratzinger to continue before we add our own commentary:

“Thus it becomes evident here once again how very much end-eschatology and the breakthrough represented by Jesus’ Resurrection are in reality one and the same thing; it becomes clear once again that the New Testament rightly depicts the Resurrection as the eschatological happening.”

In other words: the Resurrection is the unsurpassable end and meaning of existence. It certainly meets the criteria mentioned above, in that it is not something we could ever accomplish on our own, and it is indeed an ingression from outside the total cosmic system, and one that has the effect of transforming the cosmos, in the same way that the passage of time always reveals the purpose of what went before.