“The question which arises: can obnoxiousness and godliness coexist in an enlightened person, or is this combination diagnostic of a divided and egoistic persona? Have there been obnoxious seers and saints in history, or have they all been, like Jesus, invariably free from the tendency to noxious commentary?
“I request that the issue of obnoxiousness in spirituallity be taken out for a test drive in one of your blog entries, Dr. Godwin, if you don't mind.”
First of all, it’s somewhat difficult to nail down the precise meaning of this term. Webster's’ Dictionary defines obnoxious as “liable to a hurtful influence,” or “odiously or disgustingly objectionable,” while the Oxford simply says “extremely unpleasant.” However, in common parlance, the word usually just refers to a garden-variety jerk, like Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Randi Rhodes or Bill Maher. Sometimes it refers to people who don’t know how not to be a jerk--Jimmy Carter, Helen Thomas, Maureen Dowd, Ted Kennedy.
However, there is also a form of obnoxiousness that is both temporary and beneficial. It is something that comes into play in both psychotherapy and in spirituality, for both enterprises involve breaking through defenses and introducing unpleasant, sometimes even catastrophic, truths.
In this regard, all effective psychotherapists and true spiritual teachers had better be obnoxious at one time or another. A therapist who does not occasionally confront the patient with unpleasant truths is likely to be little more than a “hand holder” or “professional friend.” And a guru or spiritual teacher who does not point the finger directly at you and say, in effect, “You are one f***** up individual,” is not likely the genuine article.
In this latter sense of the term, I don’t have time to count the many obnoxious sayings of Jesus: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” He says that most people are incapable of walking his narrow path, refers to listeners as a “brood of vipers,” goes ballistic on the money changers, curses a fig tree, calls people hypocrites, characterizes the religious authorities as “fools and blind,” and frankly says that most people are headed straight for hell.
Likewise, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna repeatedly rebukes Arjuna for his cowardice, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness: “If you refuse to fight this righteous war.... you will be a sinner, and disgraced. People will speak ill of you throughout the ages. You will be like the mooonbats, like Bruce Springsteen.” “In every age I come back to deliver the holy” and “destroy the sinner.” “The ignorant, the faithless, the doubter goes to his destruction.” “The entire world is deluded by moods and mental states.... The evil-doers turn not toward me. They are sunk low among mortals. Their judgment is lost in the maze of Maya, until the heart is human no longer, changed within to the heart of a devil, like Jimmy Carter."
The Upanishads also make it clear that most people are idiots: “Rare is he who, looking for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self. Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death.” “Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.”
Shankara is particularly rough on the metaphysically ignorant, referring to them as “suicides” who “clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. What greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth... and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good?” “Know that the deluded man who walks the dreadful path of sense-craving moves nearer to his ruin with every step.”
I am also reminded of an obnoxious comment made by Sri Aurobindo about why most people are unsuited for his narrow spiritual path: "I do not readily accept disciples, as this path of Yoga is a difficult one and can be followed only if there is a special call." In another letter he balked at the notion of trying to create some kind of mass movement, because "For serious work it is a poison.... a movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence."
And Schuon probably made more obnoxious statements than even Jesus or Petey: “Contemporary man, in spite of his being marked by certain experiences due to the senescence of humanity, is spiritually soft and ineffective and intellectually ready to commit every possible betrayal, which will seem to him as summits of intelligence.... In a general way, the man of the ‘last days’ is a blunted creature, and the best proof of this is that the only ‘dynamism’ of which he is still capable is that which tends downwards, and which is no more than a passivity taking advantage of cosmic gravity; it is the agitation of a man who lets himself be carried away by a torrent and who imagines that he is creating this torrent himself by his agitation.”
So, am I obnoxious? I certainly hope so, at least to that brood of vipers out there who have somehow accidentally stumbled upon my blog.
*Not quite accurate. I simply said, in response to someone's comment that Coulter was a "Deadhead," that I wasn't surprised, because she strikes me as somewhat spiritually and aesthetically "autistic." I meant this more in the technical sense of a mode of intelligence which is lacking or underdeveloped. Perhaps Grant reads Coulter for spiritual sustenance or aesthetic insights, but she strikes me as almost entirely worldly and political, at least based upon her written and spoken word. One could say the same thing about most political infotainers, both left and right. I readily acknowledge being autistic in certain areas in which they excel.
I do have high regard for, say, Mark Steyn's highly developed aesthetic judgment. If he were to somehow emerge as a Deadhead, then, out of respect for his authority, I might have to reconsider my stance. Likewise, I find Dennis Prager to possess unusual spiritual depth in a field not known for it.
On the other hand, Springsteen is an unalloyed moonbat--an arrogant, pernicious fool and useful idiot for the hostile forces intent on destroying even the possibility of truth and decency. He is much worse than an infotainer. He is a spokeshole for the other side.
On townhall.com today, Jesus, Jihadists and a Just War, by Doug Giles:
"There’s a prevalent perception among Christians that when it comes to conflict (like the War on Terror), Christ’s teachings go limper than an ED laden Pillsbury Dough Boy after six hours in a Sioux sweat lodge.
"Yeah, Jesus is seen in certain sectors of emasculated evangelicalism and in some spiritually castrated Catholic circles as an altruistic bearded lady who traipsed around Israel spitting out courteous clichés and nifty narratives like an over-medicated Garrison Keillor....
"When you take the accounts of Christ’s life straight... you come away with an entirely different picture.... You do not see Him as a passive peacemaker in the face of evil.
"So, what about all those “love your enemy,” “do good to those who harm you,” “turn the other cheek,” “howdy, bad neighbor” verses? Well, as far as I can tell, these passages apply to personal insults and injury... like the ones I get week after week from those who hate what I write....
"However, when it comes to terrorists sticking planes into buildings and blowing up trains, buses and Pizza Huts around the planet, I think the balance of the scripture and the common sense God’s given us show the multifaceted Jesus morph from being a gentle lamb into a rough lion....
"So. What do I suggest a Christian/Christian church should do? Try this... Drop the repellently corny “let’s love ‘em” slop. You sound, and are, ridiculous."