Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Stand by for Nous

Do you remember the original purpose of this blog? Because I don’t. Something to do with turning the cosmos upside down and looking at the news of the day through the lens of eternity. News, of course, happens in time. But since time is a function of eternity, it seems sensible to have one blog that tries to provide a Word’s-I-view of the eternal logos as it is deployed in time. Am I the person to do that? No, but at least there’s no competition. I don’t mind being a small fisher of men in the largest pond, so long as I’m the only fisher.

Temporal news is almost always bad news. That’s not a coincidence, because time itself is pretty much bad news. I mean, some good things obviously happen in time, but they are always followed by bad things. And then good things. And bad things again. So even good news is bad news in a way, because you know in the back of your mind it won’t last. That was the Buddha’s key observation, and who could argue with him? Copithorne, I guess.

Primitive people had a more direct understanding of the structure of time, which is one of the reasons they offered sacrifices when things were going well. They thought that by doing this--by giving up a little bit now--they could prevent the gods from forcefully taking it away later. It was a way to try to provide some air shocks for the cycles of time, to smooth out its rough edges. It worked, but only in the way liberal programs work. Which is to say it reduced anxiety and made everyone feel good.

As a matter of fact, according to Helmut Schoeck, this instinct is so deeply implanted in the human psyche that it prevented economic development for millennia. People were actually deeply anxious if times were too good, if there was too much abundance, so they would destroy surpluses in order to try to appease the envy of the gods. Now human beings have a more refined way of destroying surpluses, called “credit cards.” Paradoxically, it can be somewhat disorienting to be completely “in the black,” so to speak. For some reason it can make you feel more precarious and vulnerable, so people quickly go into debt to feel more secure. At least then your little surplus can’t be taken away.

I look at the DSM as a catalogue of psychological fossils. What we call a mental illness is simply an adaptation to the impossible conditions of being human, of being self-aware primates with a surprise expiration date. I believe that the further back in history you go, the more likely you are to find whole populations whose average mentality would meet the criteria for one of the mental disorders found in the DSM.

I honestly don’t know how historians and anthropologists interpret the crazy behaviors and beliefs of the past without recourse to knowledge of human development and psychopathology. Instead of calling it what it is, they bend over backward--and sometimes foreward, as in the case of Islam--to normalize any behavior they encounter, no matter how irrational or frankly crazy. Even as a kid I could never understand this, and now it’s only worse.

In California, for example, there’s a law that says that any textbook must depict any group in a positive light. Therefore, if, like me, you want to know why the Aztec ate people or Palestinians murder Jews, you can’t find out. You can’t even ask. Or if you do ask, you can only get an answer that puts a positive spin on it, like “the Aztec ate people because they thought they were occupied,” or “the Palestinians murder Israelis because they believe the sun will go dark without Jewish blood.”

Page 2

So time is the bad news for humans. On the other hand, religions are here to tell us the “good news.” This news is not really news, because it is not of time. Rather, it is of eternity, even though it takes time to hear it. And what is the good news? The good news is that, contrary to what our physical senses tell us, the cosmos is not a meaningless prismhouse, a nonstop colliderescape, a closed system. Rather, it has an exit and an entrance, a vertical passageway out of the transient world of decaying form, perpendicular to the inexorable march of time that is gradually making every day a more or less bad hair day for me.

Really? Yes, or so we have heard from the wise. To be “saved” specifically means to be saved from time and from what it is eventually going to do to you and to everything and to everybody else, even Cher. It’s obviously a delicate balance, because without time we could have no existence at all. But because of time--that baldheaded cheater--existence is irretrievably F.U.B.A.R.

Human beings are saved in the degree to which they conform themselves with their theomorphic, atemporal blueprint. Imagine a cross, if you will, with horizontal and vertical axes. The horizontal axis represents time, the vertical axis eternity. The miraculous now--the mysterious peep-whole through which the cosmos peers out upon itself--is actually the central point of the cross, where eternity pierces time and we are unborn again. It is where, like it or not, we are crucified, straight through the heart.

Page 3

JWM made a pertinent observation yesterday, writing that,

“The whole question of the soul brings up a peculiar thought. I'm thinking of feral children. There have been a few cases of children raised by animals, or otherwise separated from human contact during their developmental years. They never learn to speak, or think. They are human insofar as they have human DNA, but they never become fully sentient beings. They remain at a subhuman level mentally and emotionally. Feral children never learn to speak.”

Exactly. I actually discuss these feral children in my book. While they are genetically no different than you or I--i.e., their hardware is fully human--they have no access to the vertical, and as such, are not really human at all. The human genome only accounts for our horizontality. In the absence of the vertical, we would all be Dennis Rodman or Paris Hilton. In the absence of the vertical, a human being is not an animal but a monster.

This is one reason why artificial intelligence will never succeed, because it will never, ever, encompass vertical intelligence. Rather, it will simply be a mirror of the type of intelligence possessed by the nerds who believe in it. Just warped and hypertrophied MENSA-type intelligence--MENSA machines without the social graces.

Page 4

JWM goes on to note that,

“In the beginning was the word... It's as though an infant has only the potential to become fully human; if the potential is squandered, something less than human is the result.

"I wonder if it isn't the same with the soul. I've been reading the gospels, and I notice the oft used metaphor of plants bearing fruit. I am beginning to wonder if the soul itself isn't that fruit. That a soul isn't automatically implanted into a body at birth, but only the potential to grow a soul, just like there is only a potential to acquire speech and a fully developed human mind. Perhaps some of the deadly, or internally dead people who are identified as sociopaths, are soulless in a very literal sense of the word. Like the feral child.”

Yes. The soul is indeed a seed, a seed that is subject to growth, depending upon the conditions it encounters. Some of these conditions are karmic and out of our hands, while other conditions are malleable because of the inexplicable gift of free will. The soul is in the image of God, but only in the way that an acorn is in the image of the oak. The image is potential, not fulfillment. The purpose of life is for the image to become the likeness. It is paradoxically for us to become what we already are.

“Walking on water wasn’t built in a day,” as some beat up old poet put it. In short, timelessness takes time. And that’s the good news/bad news of existence. Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

The bad news? The bad news is that we’re stuck here together in time, drifting away alone alost along the riverrun to an unknown but ultimately calamitous destination.

The good news? The good news is hidden in the title track to the film Easy Rider, written by Roger McGuinn with a little assistance from Bob Dylan:

The river flows
It flows to the sea
Wherever that river goes
That’s where I want to be
Flow, river flow
Let your waters wash down
Take me from this road
To some other town


good Day!

26 Comments:

Anonymous practicing psychiatrist said...

are you a licensed therapist or a member of scientology. Or do I misunderstand this ?:


"I look at the DSM as a catalogue of psychological fossils. What we call a mental illness is simply an adaptation to the impossible conditions of being human, of being self-aware primates with a surprise expiration date. I believe that the further back in history you go, the more likely you are to find whole populations whose average mentality would meet the criteria for one of the mental disorders found in the DSM. "

Are biploar disorder, depression, and scizophrenis to mention a few disorders in the dsm not caused by chemical imbalances Is the whole field of psychopharmacology a hoax ? (tom cruise certainly thinks so). Should the mood disorders clinical research institute and Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA and elsewhere be shut down and patients referred to you and similar thinking colleagues ?

6/13/2006 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous The Oracle said...

Excellent post, you have a talent for explaining the mystical in simple non-mystic terms. Thank you.

I have a question about time being presented as a cross. The past and the future on the horizontal and the vertical crossing at this moment, the now, is a very useful image. After reading your post I was struck by how much this image ties directly into my study of meditation, or more properly my practice of meditation.

My favorite book on meditation is Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He stresses that meditation is paying attention to the now, or giving each moment your full attention. This is not easy; my mind wonders much of the time. I don't think I have ever experienced the vertical, or had a mystical experience. I have always viewed meditation as a way to relax and remove some illusions. Reading this post suggests that meditation is also a way of opening up to the vertical. Honestly, I've never really considered this. If true I have another reason to sit still for awhile, and not to feel so foolish while doing it. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

6/13/2006 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

"This is one reason why artificial intelligence will never succeed, because it will never, ever, encompass vertical intelligence."

One way of looking at this is that AI is Aristotelean and we are both Aristotelean and Platonic (look at the painting of the School of Athens)

*********

The soul is like the lotus that grows up through the mud and flowers in the light of Christ.

However, in us, the mud gradually becomes less muddy as the soul grows until we reach our potential where we are in full flower, the water is crystal clear, the sun shines, and darkness reigns no more.

6/13/2006 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Bro. Bartleby said...

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." These words of Jesus always re-centers me, halts me in mid-path, stills my tongue, long enough for me to ponder how exactly can one communicate the most with the least?

6/13/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous primal_john said...

Oracle,
Most meditation helps us defend against the early pains which we have repressed, but a Buddhist variety (vipassana) can help us retrieve those early hurts.
John

6/13/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Practicing psychiatrist:

"Scizophrenis." Is that how they spell it in Guatemalan medical schools?

Don't worry, no one is going to reduce your meds.

6/13/2006 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous practicing psychiatrist said...

excellent bob, latch onto a typo and don't address the criticism...brilliant.

What state is your license in ?

Do you ever work with MDs in your practice ? Have you ever read a journal of psychiatry ? Or just the collected works of L Ron Hubbard ?

oh yes, see if you can catch a typo instead of responding.

previous posters were correct about your use of sarcasm.

Yes you should stick to theories of metascience because you clearly are lacking of knowledge of the biology related to your field.

Perhaps call the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA or their mood disorder clinic and see if they can offer you a brief description of their science to partially lift your fog.

Or did I misread you sarcasm for agreement with me ?

6/13/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, you certainly did misread my comment. How you thought I might be a scientologist, I have no idea. I fully agree that you need to up your meds for the anger problem. However, as I'm sure you know, medication will do nothing for the projection and other characterological issues.

6/13/2006 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Andreyakovich said...

Bob: The mistake is easy. Scientology is a crackpot religion that splashes New Age neologisms around like Jackson Pollock at a urinal. Your attempt to synthesize a coherent thought system from Eastern and Western schools of thought sounds suspiciously similar to him, especially when you revert to jawing in Joycean jargon and talking about mental illness as a reversion to a more primitive system of thought.

6/13/2006 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I would agree entirely, except that he's just pretending to be a psychiatrist in order to advance his usual agenda. By now I'd know that garbled syntax and rustic manner of expression in my sleep.

6/13/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Just to get in a word edge-like:

re: the formation of the soul - there may be a "genetic" component that has much to do with the soul's innate capacity to grow, remain in stasis, or atrophy. Just as in bio-genetics, the meta-genetics of the family tree probably has its considerable influence.

Nothing, however, can overcome the desire and will to transcend spiritually.

6/13/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Andreyakovich said...

Bob: Indeed, such relentless misunderstanding. I think that now, perhaps, I understand why William Burroughs considered language itself to be the ultimate mind parasite.

6/13/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous psychiatrist said...

just answer the question about psychiatric science vs. your statement(sic) about the dsm in today's post, instead of flaming nonsense.

Interesting that you agreed with michael that your Joycean jargon serves to make your thoughts appear Hubbardian.

What in the world does "I look at the DSM as catalogue of psyhologial fossils mean in non joycean jargon (as michael labels your prose) ?

Hubbard has a museum devoted to psychiatry as hoax.

You call the dsm a calogue of psychological fossils etc.

both statements are alot closer to each other than they are to neuropsychiatric science

answers please

adolescent flames are just a reflection on you, not me

6/13/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hmmm, maybe Ron was right... Psychiatrists are crazy.

6/13/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

everyone has a soul, but many do not have the spirit...

6/13/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah yes...brilliant response to a challenge by a non acolyte

Are there biological sources of psychiatric disorders described in the DSM that can be treated medically ?

yes or no ?

6/13/2006 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sounds like you haven't had much success, but don't give up.

6/13/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

"Do you remember the original purpose of this blog? Because I don’t. Something to do with turning the cosmos upside down and looking at the news of the day through the lens of eternity. News, of course, happens in time. But since time is a function of eternity, it seems sensible to have one blog that tries to provide a Word’s-I-view of the eternal logos as it is deployed in time. Am I the person to do that? No, but at least there’s no competition. I don’t mind being a small fisher of men in the largest pond, so long as I’m the only fisher."


That's really good. Really, really good.

We need that. It is needed.

Keep doing it if you can. But don't let ot go to your head.

6/13/2006 09:33:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Ah, Easy Rider.
One of those movies that left such a deep impression on so many of us- despite the fact that it wasn't all that great of a film. It was a dream that I kept in the back of my head for many years. In '91 I made it come true. Got the Hog. Tricked it out (no bags or windshield, though). I crossed the continent ten times on that machine. I went to Sturgis three times, and rode into Radid City So. Dakota behind ZZ Top, Willie G. and pacing a pack of close to a thousand bikes behind me. In '93 I actually met Peter Fonda. I have a picture of him sitting on my bike.
Good times. Different kind of journey now. Different sort of adventure. Oddly enough I don't miss the bike at all.

(But I wonder if a maybe a little prozac wouldn't have stopped the Aztecs from ripping out human hearts- Do ya' think?)

JWM

6/13/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Are there biological sources of psychiatric disorders described in the DSM that can be treated medically ?

yes or no ?


Uh, they are being treated medically so what's your point?
Question is are they being cured medically?

Anon., practicing psycho, whoever you are when you read this; a medical/psychological question for you today if you don't mind.

Why is it that almost all the trolls who come here seem to have the debate skills and emotional maturity of much younger people (16 is an age which comes to mind) yet when they are traced back to their holes are men in their 50's, living somewhere in California, claiming to practice some variation of Eastern religion which, by the way, hasn't advanced them very far and are born either in the year of the sheep or the snake? Is it biological or environmental? Or better yet, got a cure?

6/14/2006 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A song for the troll whackers, bob bless em all!

Every bob has his day, and some blogs have their hor. hey.


Name's hor, what a bore.
I act like I got no woman no more.
Bones to pick,
wounds to lick,
How can I project my flick?

I'm my own hero
in my own mirro
I'm the uber projectionist
and the under reflectionist.


I'm the one to point the finger,
in front of your mirror while I linger.
see? there he goes
he must be the one
that aging reject
aint havin no fun
Thank Bob I'm here to help grease the wheels.
All circuses need a dog yappin at your heels,

and that's me, Bob's dog.
Call me hor. Hey, that's me
What a lonely fella won't sell for some cyber company.

Try getting some sleep, mirror man.

6/14/2006 01:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

As if we needed more proof of the adage, "all bad poetry is sincere."

6/14/2006 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Spomer said...

"Poetry--even bad poetry--may be our final hope."

or..

"Despair leads to boredom, electronic games, computer hacking, poetry, and other bad habits."

Cactus Ed

6/14/2006 06:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

You didn't answer the question.

6/14/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Sal said...

Late to the party, as usual -

Oracle,
Certainly, meditation is a means to an experience of the vertical.
I am not sure what your practice entails, so I have no specific advice, sorry.

As a Christian, I am supposed to meditate *about* something, rather than just let the brain go blank. We use Scripture, theological concepts, etc. as sources.

Others may have suggestions from different traditions.

6/14/2006 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sorry, Oracle, I didn't see your question at the end. Meditation is not an end but a means. It is whatever you do to silence the mind and surrender it to something higher. It is a way of opening and aspiring, but openness, aspiration and surrender should be your constant companions, not just practiced episodically. Meditation is basically an exercise, a calisthenic--a verticalisthenic--to facilitate these.

6/14/2006 10:46:00 AM  

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