Participating in the Eternal

Ted Keer's picture
Submitted by Ted Keer on Sun, 2006-10-15 06:43

On another string I was questioned as to what I meant by my use of the concepts of the eternal and the divine. I'll answer the easy one first.

Range of the moment beasts, as opposed to men educated in the liberal arts, experience only the now, a limited horizon framed by the range of their hearing and their unaided sight. For them the stars are points of lights fixed to a spherical shell named "heaven" born by the crown of a tree, or the peak of a mountain, or the shoulders of a titan.

Educated men, with their conceptual faculty and scientific instruments and theories can see the vastness of space, and through it to the microwave background horizon, 13 billion years or so away and ago. We civilized scholars can understand (or at least educatedly speculate about) the curvature of space-time in however many dimensions. We can date out solar system through radioactive decay to an origin 4,600 Million years back, and can trace life back through four fifths of that age. We know of the trilobites, of the dinosaurs (the dragons of our dark ages) and of the origins of our own species.

We know that in every breath we take we inhale thousands of oxygen atoms breathed by the first man to spark a fire, breathed by Aristotle, and Aquinas, and Rand. We can detect planets around distant stars, and, although we lack the will, we do not lack the knowledge or the means to reach them. We each know that we will die, but that the effects of our actions do not disappear with our deaths. Our page may turn, but the book of time remains.

The entire scope of time and space from the smallest to the largest scale lies within our grasp. We have reason to believe that the universe did not begin in time, but that time began with the universe. If an understanging of eternity escapes us for the moment, our scientists and theoreticians do not shrink from trying to grasping it or consign it to the mystics. Eternity is yours and mine to contemplate and enjoy, as we so choose.

© Theodore Keer, 15 October, 2006, NYC

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They Didn't Rise up for the Barbie-Doll of Democracy

Ted Keer's picture

Rand accepted the Aristotelian definition of man as a rational animal, which was posited within his theory of the tripartite soul. All life has vegetative functions, animate life is capable of self directed translation (movement from one location to another.) Rational life is capable of self-critical reasoned action. Man is defined as the rational animal given both the centrality and uniqueness among animals of reason to our natures. But most Greeks and, of course, Christians and Jews did not hold that humans alone belonged to the genus "rational." God, spirits, angels and so on were also rational, but not animals.

Rand objected to using expressions like "we're only human" or "to err is human, to forgive divine" on the basis that they demean humans. She also objected to the religious worship of the divine as belittling the human. She viewed the idea that human perfection was either impossible or impractical as vicious ideas. But the question then remains as to how to describe human perfection.

Given that the idea of the divine in its least objectionable form is nothing more than a personification of either Nature or Reason (Aristotle's Prime Mover, Spinoza's Natura Naturans) I would argue that it is permissible to use the term divine to refer to excellence in human accomplishment. Both the terms apotheosis and diva derive from roots referring to gods. We speak of divine music, divine physiques, we deify the human form in symbolic statuary (The Goddess of Democracy - AKA The Statue of Liberty.)

I'm not advocating promiscuous deification. But should not artists and parents see themselves as accomplishing sacred creations? Is the best that we can say about their works that they are "Humane?" Likewise, I do not share Rand's distrust of those who revel in the glory of the natural world. It is both the order of that world and our conception of it which I view as divine. Rand said that it is not the stars theselves but the act of raising one's head to look at them that makes the act significant? The two are inseparable, one does not raise one's gaze to glance on nothingness.

There is a reason why isl*m is so jealous of the reliquary of other cultures, and why if isl*m should ever gain world ascendancy incalculable human treasures, the canons of Western art, literature and music, and so much cultural achievement would be lost. All*h is a petty and jealous and hateful god who cannot bear competition. The Buddhas of Bamiyan did not have to go merely because they were icons, or bad art, but because they were a threat, an expression of the divine, however conceived or misconceived, that had to be made as if they had never existed.

Objectivism has to offer people an alternative to irrational religious mysticism, supernaturalism and faith if it will ever gain cultural ascendancy. It will not do so by stomping out religion and the trappings of our religious history. It will do so by providing a better alternative.

Ted Keer, [Originally Posted] 19 October, 2006

Casimir Pulaski at Czestechowa

Ted Keer's picture

The only information I can find is in Polish, and I cannot read it well enough to know what links to follow. I got the original art by google-ing "polish altar" for images. I got this painting, dated 1895, of Casimir Pulaski at Czestochowa, when I googled Jasna Gora. The beauty that you can find simply by usin the image search function at Google is overwhelming.



Ted Keer's picture


I'm no specialist on architecture or modern church history. I would have to look up the Jasna Gora Basilica on wikipedia. I would guess it was begun in the 18th Century. But I'm pulling that out of thin air. I became interested in the art of Polish Catholicism after watching a show on cable in Polish about the churches of Krakow and Warsaw, and seeing the almost fractal beauty of their baroque sculpture. I was watching the show just to listen to the language (I am a linguist by avocation) and found the art work stunning. Jasna Gora was not my favorite, but I have had a hard time researching the matter to find the one I thought was best.

As regards to "sympathy," I meant as in generous rather than pitying or partisan.

Here is the Altar of Notre Dame at Montreal.


Sympathy be damned!

Olivia's picture

I read it skeptically Ted, as religious topics deserve.

Like the dazzling altar-piece. How old is it?

Ad Maiorem Gaudiam Tuam

Ted Keer's picture


As ever, my thanks for your gracious comments. I find it fascinating from how many different backgrounds and circumstances people come to Objectivism. I always credited the fact that I took religion seriously, until I could do so no longer, as one of the fundamental reasons that I am an objectivist. Until 13, when I learned about "the birds and the bees" I took the teachings of the Catholic Church to be true, but figured that I just had bad priests who didn't interpret the message properly. Once I discovered the "pleasures of the flesh" and determined that I myself was not evil for having experienced them, I came to question more and more. But I also came to see that while I was paying strict attention to what was going on around me, it seemed that so many others were just going through the motions. "This isn't just a tea party people! It's a matter of heaven and hell!" By the time I read Rand at 16, I was basically a freethinking deist, with an emphasis on the thinking part. I had heard all the normal arguments for atheism, which were, for the most part, weekly put. "How do you know your beliefs are true when so many people believe otherwise?" Relativism? No thanks. "How can you believe in God when he doesn't stop evil?" Nihilism? No thanks. It was Rand's validation of value and her moral passion combined with her refusal to devalue "individual salvation" (as I would put it) that won me over.

As a Roman Catholic, baptized in the Byzantine Rite (a sect that follows the Pope yet uses the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy) I always found Protestant churches so sad and bland, with their earth-tone indoor-outdoor carpeting and their white-washed walls. My thanks again for your sympathetic reading. Here is an altar-piece from the Polish Basilica of Jasna Gora for your visual enjoyment.

Ted Keer, 07 November, 2006, NYC


Olivia's picture

I too had an upbringing steeped in religious expressions and concepts, though on the other side of the theological spectrum to your Catholicism - dull as dishwater Calvinism. Ironically, it was Calvin (and Luther) who impressed upon me at a young age the significance of Liberty of Conscience and the courage to stay the course.

I have a respect for the word divine. It evokes a certain awe in me. After I was introduced to Objectivism and when I finally took it seriously, the most glorious aspect to my mind was that it gave back to earthly Man all the divine attributes of god, namely; wisdom, power, omniscience, immortality and perfection. I certainly understand your use of words like divine and eternal, and can see that you are no pantheist anymore than I.

Rand did indeed give us a better "alternative" by defining the core needs and aspirations of a human being on earth, which, if frustrated, give rise to faith in something else... anything else... as a desperate form of escapism.

ps. I prefer the towers!

Assassinating Whose Character?

Ted Keer's picture


I am tired of hijacking my own thread, (something I try to avoid doing to others) and want people who might click here in the future to read my spiritual comments, not this sideline. So I am responding to you here instead.


what's the definition of IS,

JoeM's picture

what's the definition of IS? Let it drop.

What is the definition of Bunk?

Ted Keer's picture


My answer was two essays. If the definition of "bunk" is "two essays" then I get you. Smiling


Ted, your answer was not

JoeM's picture

Ted, your answer was not "ignored", I just didn't respond to it. You answered my question and I gathered enough from your answer to know that there's no point in discussing it. I should have said thank you for answering. So, thank you for answering.

That said, I think your answer was bunk.

No, I don't retract my smearing charge.

It was you who challenged me and then ignored my answer

Ted Keer's picture


This is the first acknowledgement I have received from you that I answered your original challenge to my sincerity, or what have you. You do remember saying that I "casually" (or some such adverb) mentioned my religious background? I had directed you to my profile (which says nothing more about explicit religion other than that I was raised Catholic - implying that I therefore no longer am Catholic) and to my many statements on religion here and you responded with questions on my true beliefs. It may have been you or someone else who asked whether I was trying to smuggle in Catholicism, and that I should declare my true colors. I sewed the flag by hand and shimmied up the greased flagpole naked to fly them for all to see.

I never expect agreement, but when I do spend time in good faith answering someone's objections, someone's ouright explicit questions, I do like to get a simple, "okay, I guess we don't agree on this" in return. All I said today was that if I was going to bother to defend myself against a charge of smearing Peikoff, that I was also going to have to make a point of honor of this until-now defunct string.

Can I take your smearing charge as retracted, or rhetorical, or should I answer?* You have done what I asked - simply finally acknowledging that I answered you here after two-plus weeks of getting silence. (And the silence was not only from you.) I had let this pantheism issue drop, since I think my stance was clear when posted, and I usually prefer to concentrate on such things as my reviews. But a matter of honor is a matter of honor. And frankly, I do enjoy a challenge - just not an unanswered response to that challenge. If it suits you, (or anyone here) I like being called to account on my statements.


*BTW, Unless you wish, this is not a challenge to answer me further here unless there is more you want to say. I'll post later on Peikoff after I finish retyping my Theophrastus analogy.


JoeM's picture

If I didn't say it elsewhere, I should have. I said it today. I don't wish to engage you on religion, because we're not on the same page and don't accept your explanation.

Joe (and Linz)

Ted Keer's picture

I don't really mind, but neither of you ever did respond to my apologia on my "pantheism." Given that I took your challenges (of being a closet theist, a new-age wishy washer, etc.) in good faith, and followed up over several days and at the cost of several hour's time (time which I don't begrudge though) it only seems fair that at least Joe acknowledge my effort and arguments, since Joe is now accusing me of smearing Peikoff. Smears usually consist of unspecific allegations of immorality a la "To Whom it May Concern" or "which I have sworn not to divulge" and so on. My statements on Peikoff have been quite specific, and, although they do "psychologize" they do not distort or refer to irrelevancies, like appearance, personal life, etc. I'll gladly respond to the charges of smearing, if I know that I will at least be acknowledged, if not understood or forgiven.

Please, at least acknowledge the fact that while I have "defended" myself against your charges I have received no response from you whatsoever until this point.

Ted Keer

They didn't Rise up for the Barbie-Doll of Democracy

Ted Keer's picture

[Original Text moved by Ted Keer to top of Blog on 17 November]

For whatever it is worth...

jtgagnon's picture


If YOU - of all people - are a beast, I'm of the opinion that the world needs more beasts.


Dan Edge's picture

You're definitely a beast!  Or so I've heard...

--Dan Edge

Ok. Guess my education in

Marnee's picture

Ok. Guess my education in Engineering makes me a beast. Great.

So tired, so only for you, Marnee

Ted Keer's picture

the uneducated savge or ignorant child doesn't have the conceptual faculty to grasp that thos points of light above are actually millions of years away, they think that they are campfires or holes in a tortoise shell, or some such. A liberal arts education is the education appropriate to a free (liber) man who wants the proper skills (art) by which to live. He learns philosophy, science, the fine arts, athletics, history & statecraft, and he knows that he is part of a whole that stretches from the Caves of Lascaux to the Ode to Joy, from the next town to the next galaxy, that the world was not created in 4,004 BC and that dinosaur bones are real fossils, which he himself may one day become, not forgeries put in the ground by a vengeful and jealous god to test our faitrh in the inerrancy of some Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic manuscripts.


liberal arts

Marnee's picture

'Scuse me. I meant beasts. I think it was a joke. But I still dont get it.

It is the intention, not the word that matters, but

Ted Keer's picture

Marnee, I can agree with sublime, but like the word divine for its connotations. I am working on the second part still, I'll try to address this explicitly.

As for barbarian, I supose anyone whose last name doesn't end in -opolous or -ides or the like might qualify as a barbarian. When asked for religion, I have sometimes specified "Born-Again Celt."


I think it must be reversed.

Adam Buker's picture

I think it must be reversed. Men educated in the liberal arts are barbarians. I ought to know, I'm a barbarian myself! Smiling

Adam Buker


Marnee's picture

If you were to replace devine with sublime, I think it would be more precise.

Also, "men educated in the liberal arts..." What does this mean? Men educated in other things are barbarians. Is this a joke? I'm confused.


Jeff Perren's picture

If Linz is looking for a referent for the concept 'divine' in reality, that painting by Vermeer is a good example.

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