The Fall into Mere Reality (10.01.08)
Incidentally, as reader Alan pointed out yesterday, hardcore traditionalists tend to prefer monarchy as the proper form of government, and although this is undoubtedly a nonstarter for Americans, the traditionalists have their reasons. I may discuss those reasons later, and although I must ultimately reject them, I certainly appreciate where they’re coming from. Traditionalists are concerned with the inevitable dark side of democracy--demagoguery, the tyranny of the stupid and emotional, the plummeting of standards, the loss of the spiritual center of civilization, etc. The question of how we reconcile tradition and progress is an absolutely critical one, so perhaps I will address it after we complete our four-part fall into nihilism. The future of civilization will depend upon how we balance the two.
Let us stipulate that religion deals with absolute truth, or at least purports to do so. In the end, in the absence of absolute truth, the only option left open to one is nihilism, because nihilism is simply the doctrine of relativity drawn out to its logical conclusion. An honest nihilist such as Nietzsche realizes this: “God is dead and therefore man becomes God and everything is possible.” In the final analysis, the existence of God is the only thing that prevents honest human beings from inevitably coming to Nietzsche’s stark conclusion: “I am God and all is permitted.” Nietzsche also knew full well that once the appeal to absolute truth is vitiated, raw power comes in to fill the void.
As a brief aside, we are all aware of how petrified the left is of religious Christians. I was thinking about this yesterday, and it occurred to me that this speaks volumes about the nihilistic temperament. For to be truly religious is to be humble, to be humble is to pray, and to pray is to think on one’s knees. While I am not literally on my knees as I type these posts, I can assure you that I am figuratively. But this is the one thing you cannot imagine a leftist doing. Can you picture a truly arrogant nihilist of the left--say, Randi Rhodes or Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann--ever humbling themselves before God prior to a show and asking for the light of truth and the ability to express it? Of course not. Otherwise they wouldn't conduct themselves the way they do. The essence of being fallen is the pride that comes with one’s utter independence from God. (And no, I am not saying there are no arrogant demagogues of the right. I am speaking in large generalizations about the wider philosophies and what they imply.)
Yesterday Dennis Prager was on the Larry King program, and made, of all things, a truthful statement about the Foley scandal. King, speaking for fallen man and media, responded with words to the effect of, “forget about that. What about the perception. Isn’t that what counts?”
Scientific or logical truth is always relative truth. Thanks to Goedel, we know that there is no system of logic that can fully account for itself, or that can be both coherent and complete. Rather, completeness is always purchased at the price of consistency, while a rigidly consistent system will be woefully incomplete--say, a consistent program of materialism or determinism. Such a philosophy will leave most of reality--including the most interesting parts--outside its purview. This is why Marxism is such an inadequate theory. In explaining everything, it explains nothing. But at least it’s consistent, like Darwinism.
But if there is no absolute there is only the relative, incoherent though that philosophy may be (for the existence of relativity, or degrees of being, proves the absolute, for the relative can only be assessed and judged--or even perceived--in light of the absolute). In the face of the the absolute we are easily able to judge various cultures on the basis of their proximity to the ideal. But once we have destroyed the absolute and descended into relativity, then what necessarily follows is multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, “perception is reality,” and Larry the Lizard is King. All cultures become equally cherished, with the exception of the culture that believes some cultures are better. All truths are privileged with the exception of Truth itself. Belief in Truth itself is "authoritarian" or "fascist."
In the relative world of nihilism, I am necessarily all. The world literally revolves around me, since my truth is absolute. The ultimate questions have no answers except for those I might provide. This is why leftist academia has become so corrupt, for how can it not be “corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth?” “It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance” (Rose).
The emptiness of relativism evokes the next stage in the nihilist dialectic, realism. This is an entirely new kind of realism, for, prior to modernity, it had referred to any philosophy which affirmed the self-evident reality of transcendental categories such as truth, love, and beauty. In short. it testified to the reality of the vertical. But this new type of debased realism entirely excluded the vertical, and affirmed that only the horizontal realm was real--that is, the material, external, and quantifiable world. In one fell swoop, a philosophy of unreality became the paradigmatic lens through which mankind was now to view the world.
In my sidebar you will see a relevant quote from Richard Weaver: “The modernistic searcher after meaning may be likened to a man furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence. But no synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed.” Nevertheless, it is in this downward direction that our fall inevitably takes us.
Here philosophy is officially replaced by modern misosophy: hatred of wisdom. It is a childishly naive ideology that confuses what is most obvious with what is most true and what is most fundamental with what is most real. The cosmos is officially turned upside-down and inside-out, bizarrely elevating insentient matter to the the ultimate. This is certainly intellectual nihilism, but we have a ways to go before we hit bottom, which we will proceed to do in my next two posts.
As Father Rose writes, “Worship of fact is by no means the love of truth; it is, as we have already suggested, parody. It is the presumption of the fragment to replace the whole; it is the proud attempt to build a Tower of Babel, a collection of facts, to reach to the heights of truth and wisdom from below. But truth is only attained by bowing down and accepting what is received from above. All the pretended ‘humility’ of Realist scholars and scientists... cannot conceal the pride of their collective usurpation of the throne of God...”
Such an individual “becomes a fanatical devotee of the only reality that is obvious to the spiritually blind: this world.” Human beings are reduced to races or classes, spiritual love to animal sex, higher needs to lower desires, while the earth is elevated to Goddess, the dramatic to the significant, the celebrity to the important. If there is only this world, I’m going to get mine and have a good time. A new kind of human monster is born, and takes his place a bit lower than the beasts. It is Vital Man, whom we shall discuss in the next post.
Which may not be until Monday. Due to popular demand, I may cut back to five posts a week, so that people may have a bit of time to chew, swallow, metabolize... and flush if necessary.