The Soul Pathology of the Beast With Red Cheeks
I realize that characterization sounds harsh, but there is a sense in which you can think of human beings as a weird disease of the biosphere. However, you can also think of life as a sort of runaway cancer on the body of matter, and existence itself as a blight on the body of nothingness. After all, if there were no existence, there would be no problems either. To exist is to have a problem, if only because existence implies separation from the Source of our being. And that’s a big problem--a problem that it is the purpose of religion to redress.
The local manifestations of life and mind are relatively recent phenomena in the cosmos. The cosmos is at least 13.7 billion years old, meaning that it did just fine, thank you, for about 10 billion years without any creepy living things slithering about and mucking things up. And after that, the cosmos went another 3.84 billion years or so without any of these animals getting a big head and thinking that they knew better than the cosmos that had bearthed them. Although modern human beings have been genetically complete for as long as 200,000 years, we really don’t see any evidence of what we call humanness until its sudden emergence about 40,000 years ago, for example, in the beautiful and fully realized cave paintings at Alta Mira and Lascaux.
As I pointed out in One Cosmos, once you have these new modes of locally concentrated Life and Mind, you also have the entirely new existential category of pathology. In other words, prior to the emergence of life 3.85 billion years ago, there were literally no problems in the universe. Nothing could go wrong because nothing had to go right. But every biological entity is composed of various functions that must achieve their end in order for the organism to survive. In a human being, there are thousands of large- and small-scale things that have to go right in order for us to be free of pathology. Our lungs must exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the environment; our heart must circulate blood; our pancreas must produce insulin (d’oh!), etc. All of these things have to go right for life to continue. Anything that interferes with the ability of an organ to accomplish its end is called “pathology.”
But this leads to an interesting question, for what is the proper end of human consciousness? Because of we don’t know what consciousness is for, we can’t very well say that this or that individual is pathological, can we?
Now, if you adopt a strictly Darwinian, materialistic view, then the answer to this question is obvious: a healthy person is simply one who survives, because that is the whole point of natural selection. Thus, Stalin was more healthy than the 20 to 40 million people he murdered, just as Hitler was clearly more healthy than the 6 million Jews he slaughtered. Survival of the fittest is the final arbiter in nature. You may think that I am being a bit polemical, but this was the philosophy of one of the forerunners of postmodernity, Nietzsche, who believed that the whole idea of “God” was a pathological meme that simply protected the weak and infirm from the harsh judgment of nature.
No matter who you are, you will have something inside of you that makes a judgment between psychological health and pathology. A lay person generally does not make their criteria explicit, but clearly, you cannot say what is pathological unless you have some idea of what a human being is for, and what the pathology is preventing it from accomplishing.
For example, without ever deeply considering the reason why, most people would say that a pedophile is a sick individual. But why, really? If you are a materialist, you would have to say that the sex drive has a purpose, and it is clearly a deviation from that purpose to direct it towards children. But what is the actual purpose of the sex drive? Is it only to reproduce? If that is the case, then any non-reproductive sex would have to be deemed equally pathological, because reproduction is the only concern of natural selection. If we draw our lessons from nature, then the strongest man with the most wives and children would be the healthiest one, even if he had a few child brides in the harem.
But back to our original question: what is a human being actually for? Is there a reason for our existence? If you are any kind of materialist or secularist, you must be intellectually honest and affirm that there is no such reason aside from those that we simply make up. And this is precisely what the secular left does. The doctrines of “diversity,” multiculturalism and moral relativism all insist that there is no proper way for a human being to “be,” and that any judgment we make about other people and cultures is not only wrong, but probably racist as well.
Completely lost on the postmodern left is the irony that this itself is a very strong statement about the ultimate purpose of human beings, which is to not make judgments unless it is to harshly judge those who judge. This is what we call a sophisticated “postmodern” belief, which is to say that it is a limb on the tree of western civilization that its inhabitants have cut from the trunk, so that they mysteriously hang suspended in thin, irony-poor acadanemic air with no visible means of philosophical support. It makes no sense at all--certainly less sense than the religious traditions they deride and dismiss--but that’s an intellectual for you. They always believe that their abstractions are more real than reality, and that reality itself is a diseased deviation from their beautiful ideas. It’s one of the reasons they detest liberty, because they cannot accept the idea that the robust “bottom up” order produced by chaotic liberty surpasses their own beautiful ideas of how the good society should be imposed by leftist elites from on high.
I do not derive my ideas of human health and pathology from nature. Nor do I derive them from culture. Rather, I do so from religious tradition, which I believe speaks to Universal Man--not to such and such a man, but to man as such--to all men at all times and in all cultures, without exception. The man who fails to achieve these ends is more or less sick in the soul, psyche or brain, while the culture that fails to produce these kinds of men is a sick society.
Man was created in the image of God, so he therefore has an uncreated intellect that may know truth, and know it absolutely. He may distinguish between the Real and the unreal, between the transient and the eternal, and between principles and their manifestation. No mere animal can do any of these things, nor can any materialist philosophy account for them in a manner that is not logically self-refuting.
Man has an uncreated conscience that may distinguish between objective good and evil, and do so reliably. This is not to say that I do not believe in situational ethics. Rather, it is to say that in each situation there is an objectively good choice, even if we must struggle to discern it.
And man has an aesthetic eye that may distinguish between beauty and ugliness, and therefore pursue degrees of material perfection that are measured in light of the Absolute. Aesthetic perfection does exist, and cannot surpass itself. Postmodern art makes a virtue of its failure to even acknowledge these transcendent degrees of perfection.
In short, man is man because he may know the True, the Good and the Beautiful, and act upon that knowledge with a will that is free. Any man who does not achieve these ends is a sick man, and any culture that does not produce such men is a sick society.
Judged by these criteria, academia is by and large a very sick place, at least as it pertains to the humanities (we are naturally excluding those noble and truly liberal universities such as Hillsdale College whose very mission is to preserve the ideals of which we speak). On what elite campus do the professors speak of timeless truth, or objective morality, or of transcendentally real beauty? To the extent that they do, we have no quarrel with them.
Our enemies in the Muslim world are our enemies precisely because they are sick men from sick societies who wish to spread their disease to the rest of the world. But in our own world, approximately half of the population suffers from a soul pathology that prevents them from making judgments on, or even perceiving, the soul pathology of our external enemies. Thus, there are no feminist groups who have rallied behind George Bush, who has liberated more Muslim women than perhaps any other human being in history. Likewise, I know of no leftists who celebrate the achievements of the great liberator Ronald Reagan, who gave millions of victims of a satanic ideology the opportunity to become human again. For if leftists were to acknowledge these achievements, they would no longer be leftists. They would be cured.