Friday, December 09, 2016

In the Beginning was the Word... or the Deed. Your Call.

What a piece of work is a man!

How so? Well, for starters, "Making gods by killing victims is the human gesture par excellence..." (Girard, in Bailie).

It's what humans do. Does anyone else do it? If we discovered intelligent life on another planet, would we find that they too engaged in the practice?

"The killing of victims produced the false gods of pagan antiquity, but in killing these victims our ancestors took part in the murder of the true God" (Bailie).

I was just thinking of how Finnegans Wake -- the Book of Everything -- has the recurrent motif of human sacrifice.

Bishop writes that "consciousness of death and consciousness as a totality cannot be disentangled: one is the condition of the other." And "The further out of consciousness one keeps one's own shady account of the wake, the more bearable life in its middle may be."

Death -- although it is "nothing" -- has a kind of real power over the living. What to do about it?

Of the gods of antiquity, Bailie notes that they "were for the most part dreaded figures that had to be kept from visiting their worshipers with scourges by ritual offerings of blood, which reenacted the darkly veiled event that gave rise to both the gods and the worshipping community in the first instance." Thus, "archaic religion was both the absolute antithesis of Christian salvation and a crude groping toward it."

Death and sin are entirely bound up together. This is clearly conveyed in Genesis, in which death follows directly on the heels of sin, i.e., separation from God. Man qua man cannot be unaware of sin; it is only a matter of what he does with the awareness: deny it? Repress it? Project it?

Yes, that's the ticket -- project it!: "In myth, the victim is 'guilty' -- that is, the victim's death is justified -- and the victimizing community is exonerated."

Conversely, "In the Gospel... the victim is innocent and the community culpably oblivious -- 'they know not what they do.'" This recognition of the scapegoat mechanism "represents the single-most historically significant anthropological breakthrough in human history."

Indeed, it has been so successful that we have a hard time entering a state of mind in which victims are contemptible and unworthy of our sympathy. Today we recoil at the idea of slavery, but slavery was once universal. It provoked no moral qualms whatsoever.

Again, SJWs have veered so far in the opposite direction that victims have become their divinity. To claim victimhood is not only to be above moral reproach, but to authorize a violent reprisal. Think of Black Lives Matter, which provokes the murder of innocent police officers based upon the lie that blacks are victims of police.

So BLM is really a lie that obfuscates sacrificial murder. But this is nothing new; indeed, nothing is older. For Girard, "the beginning of human culture must have been a murder concealed by a lie." For which reason Jesus calls the devil "a murderer, a liar, and the father of lies, 'from the beginning.'"

Does this all seem a little reductive? That's something I struggle with. It almost seems too simple, and yet, it accounts for some mighty strange data, i.e., the ubiquity of scapegoating and sacrifice.

I look at the phenomena through a slightly wider-angle lens. That is, the transition from animal to man -- from instinct to freedom, from unself-conscious to self-awareness, from merger with the environment to detachment from it -- must have been a catastrophe of the first order.

Indeed, not only is it by definition the first catastrophe, it is the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen. The magnitude of this break -- which Genesis tries to convey -- is literally beyond conception.

And, like the Big Bang, this primordial he & shebang is still going on. We all repeat the primordial event through the individuation process, and we all must find a way to "adapt to mindedness," so to speak.

Or to paraphrase Bion, there is the thinker and there are thoughts. How does the former manage the latter? What do we do with these thoughts? Yes, "think them" would be a good idea. But there are a multitude of alternatives to thinking painful thoughts, including thoughts of death.

Consider just our Islamist adversaries. What is going on with their thoughts? Why, instead of thinking them, do they insist on acting them out on innocent victims?

So it's hardly as if the sacrificial mechanism has disappeared. Islamists want to sacrifice innocent victims in order to redeem their own guilty selves, while leftists seek redemption by elevating "victims" such as Black Lives Matter to engage in the sacrificing. However, I'm not so sure they know not what they do. Or at least they have no excuse for not knowing, having presumably been exposed to the good news.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

What Does Desire Desire?

What exactly happened when man became man? How do we mark the transition?

Among other things, we now had an assoul released from instinctual programming running lose in the cosmos. All other animals do what they are constrained to do, and any "thinking" that goes on is related solely to those fixed and predetermined ends.

A lion, after satisfying its biological needs, doesn't gaze up at the stars and wonder what it's all about. Nor does it ponder things from the gazelle's rather different perspective. And it certainly doesn't sacrifice another lion in order to appease the Lion God and keep the gazelles coming. Rather, it just goes to sleep. Why don't we do that? It would solve a lot of problems.

By the way, some people say -- or everyone, rather -- that human thought is an extension of animal thought. Can't be. I think it's the other way around: whatever goes on in animal brains is an attenuation of properly human thought. Indeed, we see the same principle at work within humanness: smart people aren't simply an extension of the stupid ones. Rather, the stupid ones are missing something.

In the book, I touched on the distinction between appetite, which is biological, and desire, which is metaphysical and more or less infinite. It was the latter to which Buddha referred with his crack about desire being the root of all suffering. That makes perfect sense, as far as it goes. But what if the desire is here for a purpose? What if, like intelligence, it is proportioned to its proper object?

Analogously, think of all the terrible things that have been done with human intelligence. Would it then be fair to say that the root of all suffering is intelligence? Well, animals in the wild don't become neurotic. They aren't conflicted. Perhaps the road to nirvana is unpaved with the transcendence of desire and intelligence. Or could all those Marxists be wrong? In a Marxist paradise there is no reason to think or want, since the state takes care of both.

Central to Girard's theory is the idea that "above and beyond instinctual appetite or what the philosophical tradition calls natural desire is a form of desire that profoundly shapes and fairly defines human motivation, namely mimetic desire, desire aroused by another's desire and that easily leads to rivalry with the model whose desire one imitates" (Bailie).

Respectfully, I'm not so sure. It is no doubt a partial explanation, but is it really sufficient to account for the pervasive violence that erupts with the emergence of man? I suppose I come at it from a different angle than Girard, since he looks at the phenomenon through an anthropological lens, while I look at it more from a developmental-psychological perspective (a subject to which we will later return; for now let's just stick with Girard's view).

The question is, when does man begin to display his propensity for violence? If we take Girard's idea literally, it is when one man sees that another man desires something, which makes it "desirable" to the first. In short, it provokes envy. And this in turn leads to an inevitable crisis, what with everyone wanting what everyone else has.

Now, Girard's theory explains a lot. Along similar lines is one of our Coon Classics, Helmut Schoeck's Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. Envy is indeed a key to human behavior, and managing it is central both to human happiness and even the possibility of human cooperation. We've spoken in the past of how human groups had to transcend the "envy barrier" in order to evolve into higher and more complex forms. Put conversely, envy is one of the primary mechanisms that keeps primitive groups primitive.

Nor can we eliminate it from the human repertoire, any more than we could eliminate lust, or jealousy, or greed, or pride, or sloth. Nevertheless, the entire appeal of leftism is rooted in the placation of envy. Likewise all this talk of "income inequality," which is just a modern way to express and externalize envy.

This is well known, and many wise humans have pointed it out -- for example, Churchill, who said that "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." But what if the other guy's stuff is none of my damn business? Is it even possible for a liberal to imagine such an unenvious state of mind?

Jumping waaayyy ahead in the book, to p. 144, Bailie makes the profound point that -- quoting Aquinas here -- "The nearer any nature is to God, the less inclined it is to be moved by another and the more capable it is of moving itself."

Bailie elaborates: "the more open to the divine one is -- the unsurpassable height of which is the co-existence with Christ's own co-existence within the Trinity... -- the less mimetically promiscuous one will be, the less easily one is drawn off balance by the mimetic influence of others."

You might say that you will be yourself instead of someone else. Which you'd think would be easy, but first you must differentiate your own desire from what everybody else wants. Bailie adverts to the Serpent -- and we'll get back to him later -- who first triggers mimetic desire by tempting Eve. What is going there, i.e., what principle is the story trying to convey? It is that we do indeed have a kind of infinite desire but that it is proportioned to the infinite God. Detach this desire from God, and what happens?

Yes, history, most especially the bad stuff. All hell breaks loose. This is a huge subject to which we will return in due time, after laying the foundation.

You won't hear me denigrating the free market, nevertheless, it does unleash mimetic desire like nothing in history. It is as if it serves to pander to our infinite desires, detached from God. All day long we are bombarded with images of Things To Want. People order their whole lives around obtaining these Desirable Things, only to find out -- repeatedly! -- that none of them can scratch the itch of mimetic desire, at least for long. One desire simply displaces another.

Not to give undue credit to myself. Rather, it is simply in my nature to be a neo-traditional retro-futuristic bohemian fringe-dweller. Nevertheless, I have to say I saw through this cycle of desire rather early in life. I concluded that there was nothing there for me in conventional aspirations. Only later did I put one and one together and consciously aspire to the third, which is what the blog is all about.

Anyway, back to Desire Unhinged. For Bailie, "culture" is the mechanism that emerged in order to manage it: "culture became necessary for survival precisely when the instinctive dominance-submission mechanisms that served to curtail violence in the animal kingdom proved inadequate to that task of a creature endowed with seemingly insatiable, metaphysical, and fickle desires."

Mimetic rivalry. Is it any wonder the first thing that happens upon our expulsion from paradise is an envy-drenched murder over whom God likes best? How can a culture of cooperation ever emerge out of such a matrix? "How can such violence be transformed into the nascent social consensus upon which conventional culture depends?"

The short answer is that "Archaic religion, the emergence of which marks the birth of culture itself, was born of the transfiguration of violence into religious awe and holy dread..." Our furbears projected violence "onto expendable victims... thereafter ritually reproducing the catharsis with which the original violence was concluded, thereby rejuvenating the social solidarity it produced."

Maybe you have a better idea for why human sacrifice was so ubiquitous. Certainly their gods appeared to demand blood: "Ritual sacrifice was clearly how the world worked."

Think about that one: how the world worked. It's like a scientific theory. And guess what: it did work, certainly for much longer than our democracy has worked. We are the ones in uncharted territory, not them. We are the ones who have to try to figure out how culture can exist without scapegoats.

Or maybe you don't know about the 20th century, with its 100 million victims sacrificed to pagan ideologies...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Does Leftism Feed on the Blood of Innocents?

Almost no time this morning to make any vertical progress. Therefore you get this half-baked and unfinished post:

Have you ever read James Frazer's classic The Golden Bough? He was apparently the first to notice all the human sacrifice going on, and is considered one of the founding fathers of anthropology. I read the abridged edition many years ago. I mention it because it was a major influence on Girard.

The Golden Bough attempts to define the shared elements of religious belief and scientific thought, discussing fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat and many other symbols and practices whose influence has extended into twentieth-century culture. Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. Frazer proposed that mankind progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought" (Prof. Wiki).

So Frazer was a positivist. Which is why he committed the ontological booboo of conflating Christianity with pre-Christian myths. For Girard, it is the other way around: the myths prefigure the reality.

I refer you to chapter XXIV, The Killing of the Divine King. "Now primitive peoples, as as we have seen, sometimes believe that their safety and even that of the world is bound up with the life of one of these god-men or or human incarnations of the divinity."

But of course the god-man is nothing of the sort. Eventually he shows signs of mortality, even if only aging. Have you ever seen The Man Who Would be King? In it Sean Connery becomes the god-man for a pagan tribe. When he is seen to bleed, he is chucked down a mountain gorge while his pal, Michael Caine, is crucified.

In order to avoid this eventuality, Frazer says that "the man-god must be killed as soon as he shows symptoms that his powers are beginning to fail.... The advantages of thus putting the man-god to death instead of allowing him to die of old age and disease are, to the savage, obvious enough."

There's a lot more. The condensed version is over 800 pages. But you get the idea. As did primitive man, since the practice was so widespread. Even so, it is difficult to wrap our minds around the subject -- Bailie would say because we have been Christianized and therefore "treated" for -- if not wholly cured of -- the sacrificial virus.

Even so, the sacrificial motif clearly survives into contemporary times, only we have to look for it under the surface of things. It's even a kind of lens you may use to interpret the news of the day: the news often comes down not only to identifying today's sacrificial victim, but creating the victim. Whose life will the media destroy today?

For pre-Christian savages, victims are just victims. However, in a Christianized culture, we have sympathy for them, which is precisely why leftism involves the unedifying race to the bottom of victimhood. Just as primitive peoples have a garbled and half-digested message, so do leftists. In short, because the divine -- Christ -- was a victim, they deploy unconscious logic and conclude that victims are therefore divine.

You simply cannot understand contemporary leftism outside this twisted logic. Their whole appeal is to Sacred Victims, including everyone from women to blacks to Muslims to Hispanics to the elderly to "LGBT people." Add them all up and it probably comes to, I don't know, 85% of the population. The only people who aren't victims are white males.

In this scenario, it is as if we -- white males -- are the corrupt priesthood sacrificing all these innocent victims. I suppose Trump would be the alpha priest. Who's on his altar today?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Emergence of Man: Who is to Blame?

This next chapter, The Emergence of Homo Sapiens, gets into one of our favorite subjects: exactly how and when did man become man? We have a religious explanation -- sort of -- and a scientific one -- kind of -- but neither, taken at face value, is remotely satisfying. Both are more than a little vague at the edges.

C'mon. What really happened? How did the merely animal escape animality and enter this new world of truth, language, meaning, love, beauty? Any purely scientific account ends up negating what it needs to explain, while a purely religious account tends to overlook everything leading up to it. Each, in its own way, forms man from the dirt and leaves it at that, leaving aside the question of how dirt can come alive to begin with. Godlike magic or magical God isn't much of a choice.

As we know from our reading and even writing of One Cosmos, there are four major discontinuities in existence, and it's hard to say which is the most queer.

First there is existence itself arising out of "nothing" from a primordial explosion that is still exploding as we speak; then this explosion suddenly comes to life some 3.8 billion years ago (suggesting, among other things, that it must have been alive all along); then, around 100,000 years ago, portions of this biosphere are "catapulted into the status of a metaphysical being"(Bailie), and begin thinking, speaking, inventing, and so on; and finally, the story loops back around on itself, and these latter beings break through and commune with their ultimate ground and destiny.

The whole thing is just too weird, except it really happens.

But right now we're focused on the third explosion, anthropogenesis.

By the way, instead of seeing these as four separate mysteries requiring four separate explanations, I tend to think of them as variations on a single explosion. Furthermore, since the whole thing is circular, we can't necessarily locate the point of origin on a line; in other words, nothing compels us to begin with lifeless matter and somehow try to figure out how it came to life.

Rather, we can, for example, begin with Life (as did the theoretical biologist Robert Rosen). As Rosen put it, there is no reason we have to begin with physics instead of biology as our paradigmatic science. Or, to paraphrase Whitehead, biology is the study of the larger organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller. And perhaps cosmology is the study of the largest. Unless you want to raise that and say that the Trinity is the largest, an idea to which we will return.

Alternatively, we can begin with man. What if man is the key to the whole existentialada? Not just in the sense that he is the "measure of all things," but that he is the reason for them? This would explain a lot. But let's not get out on front of our headlights.

Now first of all, how do we know when man has become man? This is impossible to say with scientific certitude, because we have access only to physical clues, including DNA, but not to what was going on in their heads.

In my book I looked to the Paleolithic cave paintings as definitive evidence of humanness; I also touched on the universality of human sacrifice, but Bailie, in following René Girard, emphasizes the latter. For Girard, it is a kind of "grand unified theory" of anthropogenesis, enculturation, and more.

Certainly we need to account for the universality of such a seemingly absurd and brutal practice: why human sacrifice? Why, when humans become human, do they begin sacrificing one another to their "gods?" Indeed, why do some of them still practice it to this day? Why haven't they gotten the message -- the Good News, as it were?

Girard's simple explanation -- although full of implications -- is that it is in order to maintain culture. We know that man is prone to violence, to put it mildly. How did early man prevent it from spinning out of control and engulfing these proto-cultures in a downward and dis-integrating cycle of bloodletting?

Here we must emphasize that this is not only a legitimate question, but an absolutely essential one: how on earth do we domesticate such a violence-prone being? For Girard the answer is: human sacrifice. Via this mechanism, the group essentially projects its psychological toxins into a scapegoat. Why? Because it works. At least for a while. It doesn't really solve anything in a final way, so must be compulsively re-enacted, eventually by a professional class, a priesthood.

"Quite logically, the beneficiaries of this blessed peace replicate as best they can the process that produced it. They reenact the drama in rituals of blood sacrifice; they recount the event that turned madness into peace in their myths, and they establish taboos to prevent the spontaneous eruption of this crisis. Archaic religion is born."

Now, we know that the Abrahamic line begins with a human sacrifice. Or rather, the prevention of one. The rest is history -- or salvation history, to be precise. As it so happens, it also ends in a human sacrifice -- or again, the failure of one, AKA the Resurrection.

Not much time this morning, only enough to sketch a crude and preliminary outline. To be continued...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Freedom From and Freedom For

We are about to embark on a very close reading of God's Gamble -- no more than a chapter at a time, and possibly even less. I don't think anything short of this can do it justice.

*****

Land of the free, home of the brave. The former isn't of much use without the latter; it is no coincidence that college campuses are the most ideologically unfree places in the country; and that it is difficult to conceive of a group more cowardly than college deans.

"Academic freedom." What is it for, anyway? Like any other form of freedom, it cannot merely be "freedom from." If it isn't simultaneously freedom for, then it is worthless. It equates to nihilism, or freedom to be absurd (which is no freedom at all).

Toward the beginning of God's Gamble, Bailie cites an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine (which you may recall from the fourth to last paragraph in this post), called In the Age of Radical Selfishness. In it the author speaks of how our "freedom from the gravity of age-old constraints" has been "accompanied by a weightless feeling that attached itself to even the most fundamental human decisions."

Even? How about especially? For in order to achieve the kind of Timesmanian weightlessness he's talking about, one would require a radical, ontological freedom. It is beyond anything conceived by America's founders, who bequeathed to us an ordered freedom-for, not merely a rootless and chaotic freedom-from.

Given the latter kind of freedom, the author asks: "Why bother? Why get married? What are families for? What was new about these questions was that they didn't have answers, or that the answers they did have were so multiple and contingent and arbitrary that they never felt like answers at all."

Multiple, contingent, and arbitrary. That is the way it must be if there is no One at the heart of it all -- which is to say, no ground and no telos. Bailie is not criticizing the writer per se. Rather, he is to be congratulated for his honesty, for having the courage of his lack of convictions. Thanks for nothing!

But can someone really live from that place? Is this really how humans are made -- for nothing? To know nothing, be anything, and end nowhere?

Possibly. Indeed, there are only two possibilities, and that is no doubt one of them.

No, I should amend that. There are three possibilities: nihilism, religion, and Christianity. (I won't speak of Judaism, which wouldn't exactly be a fourth, but rather, a different take on the third.)

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but one of the themes of God's Gamble is that Christianity is the cure for primitive -- which is to say, pre-Christian -- religion.

Remember when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery and into the desert bewilderness? For 40 years they lived in this in-between state, but it was always with the faith that there was a deustination. But what if the bewilderness is all there is? Taking the long view, it is as if we were liberated from slavery into spiritual freedom, only to be condemned to a vast prison of postmodern nothingness. At least the slaves lived in hope for freedom! But for what does the nihilist hope? A lost paradise that never existed?

"It is a world in despair even when it remains unconsciously so. It is a world of weightlessness, of 'the unbearable lightness of being,' a fragmented world characterized by what... de Lubac brilliantly termed 'the waning of ontological density.'"

Or, looked at from a different angle, we might call it a loss of metaphysical transparency -- thus, a loss of weight and an occlusion of vision, the former going to absoluteness, the latter to infinitude. You might say that infinitude without weight -- without a center -- reduces to a kind of absolute diffusion. And absoluteness without transparency is like being encased in ice, or released into a null-de-slack called Death Circle.

It reminds me of, say, behaviorism, which explains everything about man, and therefor nothing. Everything is simply a conditioned response -- even language -- so there is nothing that isn't determined. Which certainly cures the disease of freedom. Although the patient doesn't survive the operation.

"Whatever the putative benefits of having been freed from tradition, that freedom has been accompanied by the loss of a sense of being part of a larger story in the context of which one's life might make sense, a story about why we're here and what we should be about while we are, a story that demands something of us and situates our lives in a living historical drama in which what we do has both meaning and consequence" (ibid.).

Well, progress has its costs, right? Perhaps the existentialists are right, that the cost of freedom is absurdity, precisely.

It scarcely needs to belabored that this goes to the unbridgeable divide between Red and Blue. As far as I can tell, most Red Pill People are still rooted in -- or have returned to -- tradition, while our Blue Pill coastal elites have extricated themselves from anything as naive as "meaning," and wish to drag us with them into their cold and dark echo chamber. Perhaps if everyone believes in nothing, it's not quite so lonely in there. But if just one person escapes the Matrix -- AKA Plato's cave -- then that unsettles the herd. The left hates no one as much as the runaway slave.

It's the same vis-a-vis primitive religion, by the way. It only takes one awakened conscience to ruin a human sacrifice for everybody.

Which is an important point, because if Bailie is correct, we all have a deep structure of pre-Christian religiosity. We can jettison Christianity, but don't be surprised when this unleashes a hunt for victims.

About our postmodern idea of freedom-from. Bailie points out that it is "based on a very weak understanding of freedom and its spiritual depth. Our civilization rests on the strength of the natural family and on the willingness to sacrifice freedom, understood in adolescent terms, in favor of freedom freely subordinated to the responsibilities of loving service."

That is a loaded paragraph. The other day we spoke of the energy released from the fission of Trinitarian love. This love is the glue that binds the family, which in turn is the incubator of human personhood. The family isn't just anything, let alone nothing. The Christianized family was a long time coming. It didn't happen overnight, but only after centuries of leavening by the Christian message. Thus, we know there can be Christian individuals. It remains to be seen if there can be any other kind, because the experiment is ongoing.

But if this were real science, the experiment would be suspended on the ethical grounds that it's causing too much harm to the subjects.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Scientific Faith and Religious Hypothesis

Can one posit a "religious hypothesis?" Normally we think of science as promulgating hypotheses and religion relying upon faith or belief. However, we know that scientism or leftism are faiths, and conversely, that at least some religions can begin with hypotheses. Regarding the former, I found this at Happy Acres:

Interestingly, socialism combines a stupid metaphysic with a childlike faith. And the left typically projects this childishness on to Christians, as if we share the same stupid immaturity. No doubt some do, but the difference is that at least Christianity has the possibility of a deeper understanding, whereas with socialism it's stupidity all the way up.

Who is one of their cognitive elites? Paul Krugman? Who can forget his uncanny prediction upon Donald Trump winning the election? As to when the stock market would recover from the electoral trauma, Krugman's assured us that it would be never.

Any idiot can be wrong about the economy, but it takes someone with a Nobel Prize in economics to be that far off. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that his hypothesis proved wrong. But will that falsify his theory of reality?

Ha! The leftist emulates the devout who continue venerating the relic after the miracle has been proved to be a hoax (NGD).

Now, it seems to me that God's Gamble revolves around a kind of explanatory hypothesis, that "the truth revealed by Christ is the anthropological key for understanding the human drama and deciphering the postmodern malaise."

We can't say this is a properly scientific hypothesis, because for one thing it is too loaded with assumptions -- such as "human drama," the "postmodern malaise," and the "truth revealed by Christ."

But this is always the case as we proceed up the epistemological food chain. Down at the bottom it is easy to define and quantify things; or at least it was before quantum theory re-fuzzified everything. But the central principle nevertheless applies: increasing precision correlates with less depth of understanding.

You could even say that this is an extension of Gödel's theorems, such that the more complete your explanation, the more inconsistent, and vice versa. At the end, scientism can explain everything about nothing.

We -- along with Bailie -- are looking for a complete explanation, the most complete explanation available to human beings, so there are bound to be inconsistencies along the way.

Conversely, scientism tries to confine man to a consistent explanation from which he always escapes. Man can no more be trapped in quantity than the meaning of a poem can be reduced to grammar. The most important things in life always slip through the cold, grasping hands of the tenured, e.g., truth, love, beauty, sanctity, music, poetry, and the Dow Jones average.

So, let's dive into the meta-Christian hypothesis and try it on for size. How much does it explain? Equally important, what does it unexplain? Many hypotheses are rejected on the basis of how much they would unexplain if true -- for example, phrenology. If phrenology is true, then we have to rethink everything else we know to be true of neuroanatomy.

As alluded to above, there are certain assumptions we have to maintain even before we start, most notoriously the idea that truth exists, and even more preposterously, that it is accessible to man! It is literally pre-posterous, in that it reverses cause (pre) and effect (post). Even worse, the same Truth is both before and after, as suggested by a couple of provocative quotes "before the beginning" wink-wink of the book.

The first is by Charles Péguy: He was at the very end and here at the same time... / He was in the middle and simultaneously at one and the other end....

Another is by Jean Daniélou: he is Alpha and Omega, the last end of the world as he is the spring of its eternal youth.... For Christians, the structure of history is complete, and its decisive event, instead of coming last, occupies the central position.

This sounds similar to the quote from Eliot "before the beginning" of a long-forgotten book of mine: Or say that the end precedes the beginning, / And the end and beginning were always there / Before the beginning and after the end.

There are other hints, such as this one from Terence McKenna on p. 185: When we reverse our preconceptions about the flow of cause and effect, we get a great attractor that pulls all organization and structure toward itself over several billion years.

And this equally preposterous one by Bede Griffiths: Every step in advance is a return to the beginning, and we shall not really know him as he is, until we have returned to our beginning, and learned to know him both as the beginning and end of our journey.

Yes, I wrote a book. But I'm an awful salesman. I don't encourage people to buy it, because it contains Error, but a charitable view would see that it is not so much riddled with errors as errored with riddles that lead to the threshold of a truth that is Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by. A Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes.

Prophetic, if you will, at least for me personally. You just need to read the tealeafology.

Back to our hypothesis, that "the truth revealed by Christ is the anthropological key for understanding the human drama and deciphering the postmodern malaise." Now, first of all, either there is a truth and a key; or a truth with no key (e.g., Kant); no truth but lots of keys (e.g., deconstruction and relativism); or no truth and no key (e.g., existentialism and nihilism).

For Christians there is a truth (Christ) and a key (the Holy Spirit).

I think it is fair to say that any of the other three options result in futility and despair, at least for the intelligent person, because they essentially come down to having no access to a truth that probably doesn't exist anyway. And as a psychologist I am well aware of people being depressed or anxious for "unconscious" reasons.

Let's say you are depressed and don't know why. Perhaps there is an unconscious idea assimilated from childhood that you are stupid or unloveable. But what if you have an unconscious idea that life is meaningless, and that there is really no point to it all? Perhaps you will compulsively engage in all sorts of frenzied activities to try to wring meaning out of things, only to return to that baseline of depressive futility when they're over.

In the past I have written about feeling this way when I was younger and under the influence of existentialism, Freudianism, and a kind of unreflective leftism. I became "depressed." But in hindsight, it seems to me that the depression was not so much a "symptom" as an accurate reflection of my implicit beliefs. It was an honest assessment from a deeper part of me. It was a vertical memo from my future self.

This post has probably gone on too long. To be continued. Meanwhile, you might want to get the book so you can join us on the bus for this readalong to parts unKnown.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Fission for Love in All the Wrong Places

Goodnews badnews: The emergence of the individual "can be traced to the Enlightenment and its rejection of traditional authorities and beliefs, which were replaced by a high valuation of the power of reason..." (Hollander).

However, while "the release of the individual from traditional ties of class, religion, and kinship" has liberated us, this freedom "is accompanied not by the sense of creative release, but by the sense of disenchantment and alienation" (Lisbet, ibid.).

Hollander speaks to "the difficulties created by a liberating individualism in establishing and maintaining committed personal relationships," but also -- *ironically* -- "in developing and maintaining a satisfactory sense of identity."

I would suggest... well, insist rather, that radical individualism necessarily leads to a complete loss of identity. But so too does a radical "communitarianism," or collectivism, or whatever one wishes to call it.

The truth is found in the complementarity between the two, beginning with the most intimate two of all, mother-infant, much more on which as we proceed down this path. Both "reality" and "human reality" are wave-particle -- or wavicle -- all the way down (and up). The individual is a local particle of the nonlocal wave, and neither is prior. Humanness is inconceivable from any other metaphysical standpoint (e.g., atomism, materialism, idealism, etc.).

I am tempted to get straight to God's Gamble, but I first want to make sure I've plagiarized with Extravagant Expectations for all its worth. It really sets the stage for the wrong turn we've taken these past...

It's tempting to try to pinpoint an exact year or epoch, but I think it's more fruitful to locate the wrong turn in vertical space, as does Genesis. This potential turn is always before us, and you could say that the Serpent is always there bidding us to take that forked tongue in the road.

Before the rise of individualism, "Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation -- only through some general category" (Burkhardt, in Hollander). But especially in America, we hatched the radical idea that everyone is unique: "This uniqueness is the principal foundation of [our] self-esteem and sense of identity, which cannot and should not be reduced to a social role."

Now interestingly, leftism -- which flatters itself with the idea that it is "progressive" -- is actually the leading edge of a trans-historical regress to a more primitive identity rooted in race, ethnicity, gender, (non-Christian) religion, or some other general category. This is in no way "liberal," which embodied the opposite trend, toward the unique individual.

Thus, strictly speaking, the Cosmic Raccoon is neither liberal nor left, i.e., neither reduced to the group nor radically excised from it. Rather, we are proudly tripolar, vibrantly existing in the living space between the two. It is the only place to "be" -- and become.

We hear from the pundits that one reason the Democrats lost the election was their descent into tribalism and identity politics. In their reflexive flight from individualism they are truly the reactionary party, in that they are bereft of any functional ideas, but can only resort to cobbling together a ragged coalition of victim groups. We know that leftism eventually runs out of other people's money; it also runs out of victims. For now, anyway. They'll try again in 2020.

The problem is not individualism per se, but secular individualism. Consider the fact that individualism only emerged in the Judeo-Christian west. To keep the individualism and throw away the Christianity is truly analogous to dismembering the roots and expecting the leaves to thrive. Individualism must be "nourished" by a nonlocal source, or it is just Nothing writ small -- to paraphrase Don Colacho, it is just man puffing up his emptiness in order to challenge God.

Which brings to mind another Aphorism or two: "The importance it attributes to man is the enigma of Christianity." And "Man is important only if it is true that a God has died for him."

Ultimately, what makes the individual so precious is that he is loved by God. If not, then to hell with it. Democrat politicians affirming our existence by feeling the pain of our victimhood is a pathetic substitute.

One of the central themes of Extravagant Expectations -- it's in the title -- is that the lurch into secular individualism has placed a tremendous strain on marriage. Because this type of person is cut off from the very roots that made him possible, he tries to recover the connection with another person, but the relationship cannot bear the strain: "people demand from personal relations the richness and intensity of a religious experience" (Lasch, ibid.).

Thus, "Family instability has been a major outcome of individualism as it has replaced the traditional collectivism of the past. Traditional societies demanded loyalty to time-honored, prescribed social roles and social bonds, a sense of duty, and absence of concern with 'self-fulfillment'" (ibid.).

But here again, Christianity actually exists between these two extremes, as it is essentially a formula for relatedness, such that the Self individuates via Love.

Think of the idea of a Trinity of love; love is the very "glue" that binds it in oneness. Or in other words, absent love, the Trinity would be three separate ones instead of a oneness-in-three and threeness-in-one. Three is a quality, not a quantity.

Compare this to nuclear power -- the power of which comes from the bond between the particles. Destroy that bond through nuclear fission, and tremendous power is unleashed. The resultant power is a reflection of the force that had held the particles together in nuclear love.

Is it possible that something analogous happens when we break apart the Trinity? We might think of secular individualism as a kind of ontological fission that releases tremendous destructive power. But doesn't this go all the way back down to Genesis 3, which speaks to our fusion with God, followed by the primordial fission?

We'll have much more to say on this as we proceed through God's Gamble, which I highly recommend to all Coons and Coonettes. I'm only up to page 85, but there is already enough to provoke a monthsworth of posts.

At any rate, one thing that can occur as a consequence of our fission expedition through history is a crisis of identity: "Americans regularly experience identity crises, that is to say, at times they are not sure who they are, astonishing as this may sound to those who did not grow up in this society" (Hollander).

Indeed, over the years I have conducted countless psychological evaluations of second- and third-world types, and not once has one of them had anything resembling an "identity crisis." For most of them it is because they are still rooted in more primitive modes of identity, or fusion with the group. Fission has yet to occur. Which, of course, is why Democrats want them to flood the country. They are needed to complement their herd of rootless pseudo-individuals.