III. Holroyd’s case for Gnosticism remains nevertheless a measured one. Unlike Pagels, Holroyd’s attitude is not, against Orthodoxy, an angry one. In Elements, Chapter 1, in setting forth the common propositions of the numerous Gnostic systems, Holroyd remarks that “the idea that the world was the work of an incompetent or malevolent deity” figures among them. He adds that, “stated thus baldly, it seems a merely perverse idea, or an attempt to exonerate human iniquity by putting the blame on God.” He immediately tries to downplay the perversity by explaining that the Gnostic systems posit two deities: The inferior Demiurge who, envying the creative potency of the superior deity, authors the botched world; and that selfsame superior deity, sometimes referred to as the Father. Holroyd notes that the “transcendent God does not, and never did, act, in the sense of willing something and bringing it about.” Rather than create, as does the God of Genesis, the Father emanates the lower levels of the metacosmic hierarchy in which he dwells, whatever that means. Thus, to think like the Gnostics, “we have to substitute the idea of divine emanation, or ‘bringing forth,’ for the idea of divine action.” In Gnostic rhetoric, the Demiurge is the “abortion” of Sophia or Wisdom. When the Demiurge came forth from Sophia, then, in Holroyd’s words, “he imagined himself to be the absolute God.” Holroyd makes a good job of conveying to his readership the baroque complexity of the Gnostic myth, with its many levels of divine and demonic beings and its multi-stage causality that brings about the world as men know it.
If as nominalism supposes there are no objective universals, then there are no objective truths. Then there is no objective reality. There being no objective reality, there can then be no way that one man might understand or speak of reality more truthfully than another. So there can be no such thing as authority. Authority then is ipso facto null, and wherever asserted, is false and unjust. If authority is unjust per se, then justice might be possible only under conditions of anarchy, wherein each man rules his own life absolutely, and is free to make up his mind and shape his acts in whatever way he pleases.
Nominalism carried into practice then is liberalism: the thoroughgoing rejection of authority.
There are many sorts of liberalism: political, economic, grammatical, theological, liturgical, legal, sexual, aesthetic, gastronomical, cultural, architectural, academic, and so forth. All of them are subjects of discussion here, and at other orthospherean sites. All of them have in common the rejection of all authority other than the authority that imposes upon all men the requirement that they reject authority.
The project of authoritatively imposing the rejection of authority is of course incoherent. That doesn’t stop liberals from propagating liberalism. But it does stop liberalism from ever working.
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.
These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.
The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded. Continue reading
To my friend Paul Gottfried, by far the most learned man in my ken, and the uncrowned monarch of the American Right.
Like everything by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 – 1831), the Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics require from the reader no little patience. Originating as actual lectures – which Hegel delivered to his students at Heidelberg between 1820 and 1826 – the posthumous booklet, edited by H. G. Hotho and first issued in 1835, can nevertheless claim the virtue of brevity, and perhaps beyond that a prose-style as close to accessible as its author ever came. On the one hand then, the reader’s patience will likely reap him a reward; on the other hand, however, the reader might come away from his exertion slightly disappointed. The science of aesthetics has to do with art, to be sure, and the Introductory Lectures certainly address the topic of art; but art has to do with beauty, and the Lectures, after a sequence of promising paragraphs in the First Lecture, seem as a whole to give rather short shrift to the topic of beauty. In the second sentence of the First Lecture, for example, Hegel asserts his remit to be “the wide realm of the beautiful,” whose “province,” he adds, “is Art,” or rather “Fine Art.” Yet this artistic beauty is not to be confused with “beauty in general,” nor with “the beauty of Nature.” The latter, Hegel insists, counts only as a “lower” type of beauty, a thesis well calculated to offend the Twenty-First Century’s prevailing “Gaian” view of life – the universe – and everything. Fine art, by contrast, constitutes the higher type of beauty for the important reason, as Hegel puts it, that fine art “is the beauty that is born – born again, that is – of the mind.” In consideration of the fact that “the mind and its products are higher than nature and its appearances,” it follows that “the beauty of art is higher than the beauty of nature.”
Hegel continues his argument by elaborating a crucial difference: “Even a silly fancy such as may pass through a man’s head,” he writes, “is higher than any product of nature.” The most fleeting and unserious of mental, or more properly of spiritual, actions participates in freedom and qualifies itself thereby, even though in a trivial degree only, as self-determining. The appearances of nature share in no such freedom, but, being as they are “absolutely necessary” and yet at the same time “indifferent,” take their meaning only to the degree that they refer to something else. Hegel offers as his example the sun, whose pleasant usefulness men acknowledge and praise and in whose lavish light the other manifestations of nature appear to them and become useful, but with which they have, and can have, no spiritual traffic. The sun remains incapable of acknowledging the men who acknowledge it, however much they might enjoy basking in its effulgence. Nature is the realm of matter — and matter, eternally mute, never communicates with consciousness but only stimulates the suite of sensuous effects with which consciousness is familiar. Thus for Hegel, the quality of consciousness makes whatever is truly beautiful, beautiful; and it does so both by imbuing matter with the order that originates in consciousness, including the element of freedom, and by placing the material or sensuous part of the art-object into parenthesis, so that the object becomes a pure image in the spectatorial mind just as it was, before its incarnation in the plastic medium, a pure image in its creator’s mind.