The explanatory buck must stop somewhere, or it will have no cash value.
I suggested a few weeks ago that perhaps the reason Lucifer maintains his hopeless contest with God on the battlefield of the created order – being a seraph, shouldn’t he know better than to keep at it? – is that, in his initial turn from God he ipso facto turned from a full apprehension of the whole of Truth, which is to be found only in God, as God; and that this turn from Truth effectually blinded him, totally and permanently, to the whole Category of the Ultimate (which consists entirely of God), so that his thinking was thenceforth subtly and profoundly disordered. He would thenceforth have apprehended YHWH as merely a seraph like himself, and nothing anyone told him to the contrary could ever possibly penetrate his intellect and reform his understanding; for, the Category of the Ultimate having been excised from his intellectual toolkit, any inditia of Ultimacy would forever pass him by, completely unseen for what they were. They would be to him, wrongly, inditia of creaturity, or else simply meaningless nonsense.
Modern people say: “Everything is changing all the time.” They apparently believe it.
A guest of The Orthosphere made this error recently in one of the threads on atheism by claiming that language “is changing all the time.”
Languages indeed change, but it appears that they change abruptly rather than gradually and that the hiatuses between such changes tend to be long. On good evidence, for example, Anglo-Saxon was a stable language for at least five hundred years and maybe as much as a thousand years. The events of 1066 AD destabilized Anglo-Saxon, which, in the course of the next hundred years, fused with Norman French to create the Anglo-Norman tongue, which reached its perfection in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Modern English speakers can understand very little of Anglo-Saxon, but they can grasp eighty-five or ninety per cent of Chaucer’s verse. Chaucer wrote in the Fourteenth Century, which means that English has been quite stable for some seven or eight centuries.
Similarly, Thirteenth-Century French is comprehensible, with some effort, to Modern French speakers, who, however, might well be baffled by the Latin precursor-language.
For discussion: Atheism is a strictly derivative proposition. If every single theist of every kind were at last one day to die off, leaving a human population of atheists only – the atheistic proposition would still, historically, conceptually, and grammatically be a strictly derivative proposition. Being a derivative proposition, atheism is necessarily prone to resentment, and what atheism resents is the originality of theism, or theism’s firstness, whose status it can never usurp. Indeed, atheism can have no status at all, not even its derivative status, except for the prior existence of theism. Whereas atheism is clearly derivative of theism, it is difficult to imagine how a subsequent theism might ever derive itself from an original atheism. There would be nothing, in the first place, to negate, and therefore nothing to serve as the basis for a derivation. Such resentment, attaching necessarily to its embarrassing structural character, would explain the vehemence and petulance of atheism. Lucretius, following Epicurus, was probably wise to reject outright atheism for his brand of theistic minimalism, never denying the being of the gods, but declaring their non-intervention policy with respect to humanity. Even for Lucretius, however, imitating the gods – following the model of their blitheness – remained a desideratum.*
Atheism’s debt to theism resembles the debt of any attempt to dethrone metaphysics to the selfsame metaphysics that it would dethrone. The abolition of the axioms is left finally with its own lame axiom, just the one, complete with the embarrassing negation, dangling from the proposition like a wet tail. Nietzsche’s God who is Dead, for example, must previously have been Alive, an irritation concerning which Nietzsche seems to have been aware, to credit him with that much, at least. (Was Nietzsche really an atheist? In his own description he was a Dionysiac, pitching Dionysus against Christ.)
In their pursuit of firstness, derivative propositions are always-already checked.
Of course the bland terms theism and atheism, to put them in their proper order, are not quite adequate. The Theos against which atheism pits itself is never Huitzilopotchli or Istustaya, Sol Invictus or Domna Luna; it is invariably the Christian Trinity. The atheism of our age (and it is not clear that atheism can claim any previous age) is simply another form of the pervasive and resentful anti-Christianity, which spurns the Christian remonstrance to give up resentment, and which has been angrily present in Western society since the Parisian Blutrausch of 1789.
[*A minor mystery of antiquity is the sudden disappearance of the Epicureans, who had constituted a major segment of the Imperial citizenry all over the Empire, in the middle of the Third Century. The most plausible explanation for their abrupt departure from the scene was offered by Walter Pater in his novel Marius the Epicurean (1885): In rejecting the sacrificial gods, the Epicureans were already extremely close to Christianity, to which they converted very nearly en masse.]
Where is the past? Everything we apprehend is of the immediately past moment, to be sure; the inputs to our mind now are the outputs of what happened then, are as it were the outward, objective “surface” of the past. So we could answer with a wave of the hand, “It’s right there!” We can notice where things are in relation to each other within that past moment. But where is that moment located? Where likewise is the unrealized future, or for that matter, where is this present moment? Where is its space?
Evil is conserved. Particular instances of evil can be ameliorated, to be sure. But this can happen only by way of a redistribution of the evil thus salved. Think of salve, applied to a wound. Better to salve the wound than not. But the salve and the salving impose costs. Resources devoted to healing – including the healing resources of the body – are lost, and cannot be invested elsewhere. When we salve and heal a wound, then, we have not reduced the suffering in the system of the world, but rather only spread it around a bit.
Evil is conserved. It can increase, as entropy increases. But it can’t be got rid of. Not even a little tiny bit of evil can be destroyed.
Why doesn’t Satan throw in the towel? He’s a seraph, so he must know better than any other sort of creature ever could that God is doomed to crush him, and that he himself is doomed to fail. Why does he then keep roaming the world seeking the ruin of souls? Why doesn’t he save himself the trouble?
In commenting on my recent post Atheism is Not Strictly Conceivable, readers Vishmehr, Cincinnatus and Leo all pointed out that the Principle of Sufficient Reason [PSR] appears to rule out freedom for God, or for creatures, or for any sort of being. Leo provided a link to a short review of arguments that the Principle of Sufficient Reason entails necessitarianism.
It does not.
This is a good thing! If we were not free, then we would not be free to understand or intend anything. But if the PSR were not true, then everything would be unintelligible, and we could not understand or intend anything. Either way, as Vishmehr pointed out, we – and all other minds, including the Divine mind – would not actually exist. In order for minds actually to exist, the PSR must be true and minds must be free.
Fortunately, this is possible. Freedom and intelligibility are compatible.
“God does not exist” turns out to make as much sense as “2 + 2 = 5.” You can string the symbols together, but you can’t get a concept out of that string.
Two of three parts of my essay on “Lewis Spence, True Myth, and Modernity” have appeared at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. Part I is “The Atlantis Myth – Its Pedigree.” Part II is “Will Europe Follow Atlantis?” Part III, “The Table Round of Atlantean Eccentrics,” will appear next Saturday. The essay explores Scotsman Lewis Spence’s lifelong meditation on the meaning and probability of Plato’s Atlantis Myth.
I offer an extract:
Spence resembles William Blake, William Butler Yeats, perhaps even Arnold Toynbee, a bit staid in style but hardly so in content, in his visionary proclivity to see local events in the largest possible context, as participating in the cycles of a Platonic Great Year, or something like it; and as boasting always and everywhere a metaphysical-eternal as well as a physical-temporal meaning. So too Spence resembles Joseph de Maistre on the French Revolution, who grasped the Jacobin uprising as an ultimately self-punishing recrudescence of idolatry and human sacrifice, as both insufferable profanation and sanguine atonement all at once. Spence, who referred to himself as a ‘British traditionalist,’ prefigures later Traditionalist figures like John Michell (1933 – 2009) and Geoffrey Ashe (born 1923), whose thought goes perpendicular to anything established. Michell’s View over Atlantis (1969) and Ashe’s Camelot and the Vision of Albion (1975) follow in the eccentric path first trail-blazed by Spence. Their eccentricity – and Spence’s – likens itself to the fortuitous topography of the Nile Delta according to the Egyptian priests in Plato’s Timaeus, sheltering the adytum of insight-in-eccentricity from the deluge of opinion in conformity. The discussion must return to this topic of eccentricity, closely related as it is to the opposition of myth and poetry to economics, and to the much-underrated value of eccentric people and their views under a conformist regime; but for the time being let Spence’s marvelous tome be to the fore.
PS. I would like to thank the thoughtful and charitable party who sent me the set of beer-mug coasters. Any other gift that I might receive during the Christmas Season will pale, I fear, next to them.