Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Never Make a God of Your Religion, or Free Your Madrasahs and Your Asses Will Follow

Yesterday we were discussing the cognitive pathologies of the Islamic world, before I was cut off by the dictates of reality. If only Muslims could be influenced by the dictates of reality. Instead, they are spurred by the inexorable demands of fantasy.

Among the ten commandments is the injunction that "you shall not make for yourself a graven image." Why would that be? And what relevance could it possibly have for contemporary people? We don't worship rocks or pictures (perhaps rock stars and moving pictures).

The purpose of this commandment is to check the human tendency to worship idols, the ubiquitous tendency to "bow down and serve" manmade gods, whether secular or religious. Idolatry occurs whenever one holds a value higher than God. Thus it is actually possible to turn one’s religion into a false god, and to value it above all else. Certainly in the Muslim Middle East, it would appear that the worship of God has been completely replaced by the worship of Islam.

For a person who is not operating in Piaget’s fourth stage of cognitive development, formal operations, it is almost impossible not to be an idol worshiper in some form or fashion. Only a person capable of abstract thought can understand that all religious talk is a symbolic representation of something that entirely transcends religious talk--that religion is not about religion, but about something radically beyond religion.

Thus, the injunction against worshipping graven images is an ingenious biblical device for saying, Thou shall not get stuck on stupid. That is, don’t get hung up in pre-operational or concrete operational thought. Rather, God can only be properly thought about and encountered in the more abstract regions of formal operations thought and beyond.

When we talk about the "third world," we are presumably talking about economic development, but there are also first, second, and third worlds of cognitive development. In fact, most of the Islamic world retains a retrograde cognitive style that features transparently infantile mechanisms such as paranoia, grandiosity, denial, and splitting. To the extent that they are literate--and even in a country as “advanced” as Egypt, some fifty percent of the women are illiterate--religious narratives are simply superimposed over a magical and mythological mode of thought. Thus, although they have a “written” religion in the form of the Koran, it is really treated more as an idol, fetish object, or graven image, as defined above.

For example, not only is no Muslim free to interpret the Koran in a symbolic or non-literal manner, but pathetic souls who spend their lives literally memorizing the Koran are revered as people of great spiritual achievement. They may not even understand what they have memorized--in that regard, they are more like idiot savants than anything we would recognize as a saintly person of spiritual discernment. Imagine revering someone who had wasted his life memorizing the Bible cover to cover, but never seeing into its wisdom.

Of course, the Koran is a wildly disconnected jumble of incoherent and contradictory sayings, dreams, visions, threats, and warnings. To a large extent, one may similarly regard the Bible as lacking innate coherence. The big difference is that Biblical exegesis has always involved trying to see through the contradictions to a higher unity, whereas this higher mode of cognition would be expressly forbidden in Islam.

It is almost as if Islam mandates that its followers remain mired in a lower level of cognitive development, where they cannot think abstractly and apprehend the hidden unity underlying the diversity of the world: thou shall get stuck on stupid. As is to be expected, in reacting so infatoddlerously to some silly cartoon images, they have taken an injunction against graven images and turned it into one.

Naturally, this developmentally earlier form of cognition also poses a great impediment to the emergence of scientific thought, since science always proceeds by reducing an outward multiplicity to a higher unity. But long ago, the Muslim world decided that if science discovered something that confirmed the Koran, then it was irrelevant, while if it discovered something that contradicted it, it was blasphemous. As such, they can only imitate science, but not think scientifically.

Concrete operations thought does not look for an overall unity in the universe--it doesn’t construct a logical analysis that makes all aspects of reality fit into a coherent system. Instead, it merely collects facts and tells stories. Facts that contradict the story are either omitted or else somehow fitted into the mythological framework. It is a fact, for example, that Muslim culture could not have discovered Einstein’s “Jewish physics” in a thousand years of trying. But the mad mullahs of Iran have no difficulty in being parasites on science and integrating atomic energy into the myth of inevitable Muslim superiority and entitlement.

The lower orders of cognition are inherently narcissistic and egocentric, in that the individual has difficulty decentering himself and adopting the point of view of another. Thus, in the Muslim countries reacting most violently to the cartoons of infamy, Christians and Jews have no rights at all, and are routinely depicted in the most degrading way. Throughout the Muslim world, their print and broadcast media feature the most lurid and grotesque anti-Semitic images the world has seen since nazi Germany. And yet, they are violently outraged by some comparatively benign images published in a country that isn’t even Muslim. What could be more childishly narcissistic and egocentric?

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the universalizing tendencies of formal operations thought is that it can lead directly to the modern cognitive pathologies of cultural and moral relativism. That is, the person in formal operations can see that there are always multiple perspectives, so why should one perspective be privileged over another? Islam, Christianity, wicca, what’s the difference?

The difference, of course, is that only someone in formal operations thought has the luxury of this kind of liberal tolerance that is unknown--and unknowable--in the cultures that he is elevating to the moral and intellectual status of his own. If there is one thing that is not tolerated in the Muslim world, it is tolerance. As such, the modern “tolerant” liberal equates intolerance with just another form of tolerance.

This is how the most sophisticated thinkers and wackademics of the West conspire with the totalitarian con-op thinkers of Islam, producing a new cognitive offshoot that hamstrings us in properly dealing with our sworn enemies: totolerantarianism, or the enforced tolerance of the intolerant. This politically and academically correct stance is the sine qua non of a graven image, for it involves bowing down before a manmade ideology that equates the lower and the higher.

Thus, there is a hidden unity between the postmodern left and the premodern Islamists: it is a tacit conspiracy between those who make a god of their religion and those who make a god of their irreligion, between the intolerable and the intolerant.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Concrete Operations Thought, Graven Images, and Islamic Backwardness

First of all, I'd like to thank Petey for taking the helm of the Cosmos yesterday and sharing his, ahem, subtle commentary with us.

But Petey's assistance notwithstanding, I'm still backed up and somewhat short on slack. I was planning on writing an interesting post on Piaget's concept of concrete operations thinking and how it relates to the Biblical prohibition against making graven images, and then tying this into the Muslim cartoon controversy. But I have to conduct a psychological evaluation in a godforsaken place called Ontario, which is situated right before you fall off the edge of the world. It takes a good two hours to get there, and now I have approximately 17 minutes before I have to hit the road.

For those of you who don't know, Piaget was a child psychologist who documented how our style of thinking develops from infancy to adulthood. He may have been the first to recognize that it wasn't just a matter of the content of our thought, but its very form, or structure, that changes. His four main stages are called sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operations, and formal operations (more on which later).

Concrete operations thinking usually emerges between the ages of seven and adolescence, when children become more aware of the differences between thought and reality. But they still interpret reality in a very concrete and literal way, and have only a limited ability to think abstractly. Suffice it to say that much of the Arab Muslim world is mired in concrete operational thinking. In other words, we err in thinking that we simply have some cultural dispute about the differing "content" of our thought. Rather, this dispute is much more over the very form of thought.

That is--and this is, of course, a sweeping generalization--the average person of the West is in formal operations thought, while the cognitive "center of gravity" in the Muslim Middle East appears to be mired in concrete operations. This is partly because the higher stages don't just emerge on their own. Rather, they must be modeled by the culture. We generally develop to a point allowed by the culture. After that, you're on your own. History shows time and again that more primitve cultures actually punish people for developing beyond the group, as they represent a threat to the myths and cognitive structures that serve to contain their collective anxiety.

In the course of writing my own book, I came across a book entitled Stages of Faith: The Co-evolution of Religious Thought and Science, By Michael Barnes. In it, the author demonstrates how our conception of God and religion necessarily change as we move through Piaget's cognitive stages. God is a very different reality for someone in a more developed psychological stage. In fact, thinkers such as Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo have outlined developmental stages beyond formal operations, which was Paiaget's final stage of development.

In the Islamic world, there is no room whatsoever for these higher stages with the exception of Sufism which, as we have mentioned before, constitutes a tiny fringe of Islam.

And that, my dear bobbleheads, is as much as I can say in 17 minutes. I don't even half tome to spiel-check what I wrought. I'll have to get back to it either later today or Tuesday morning, assuming I don't drive off the edge of the world.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Islam, the Liberal Media, and the Hard Bigotry of No Expectations

I'm taking the day off, so I'm letting Petey take control of the keyboard today. Oh sure, Petey likes to hide behind a facade of so-called spiritual detachment, but I can see that he's quite hopped up by this aptly named cartoon controversy, as it demonstrates the cartoonish and loony moonbat buffoonery of our out-of-tune goons living in their liberal media cocoon.

******

Here is the headline from the San Francisco Chronicle, taken from their website:

MEDIA AVOID UPSET BY NOT REPRINTING CARTOONS ON ISLAM

"American media outlets faced a dilemma Friday that underscored the sensitive nature of depicting Islam.

"Should they publish the satirical images that have offended millions of Muslims across the globe? Or should they censor themselves, denying a chance for readers and viewers to judge the cartoons for themselves?

"Most decided against reprinting the images."

Pathetic. Does this not underscore the vast difference between the politically correct--and therefore illiberal--MSM, and the free-thinking and truly liberal blogosphere? It is unimaginable that the MSM would ever refrain from offending any group upon which they have not contemptuously conferred victim status. But if you are one of their iconic victim groups, then it's hands off: blacks, feminists, homosexuals, Muslims. If the leaders of any of these groups were intellectually honest, they too would be offended by the media coddling and condescension. But they are not. Everybody knows that feminists are fragile little flowers that are easily offended--as in the Lawrence Tribe kerfuffle--and that you cannot just come out and confront them with uncomfortable truths. They might faint or go into hysterics.

Nor can you ever depict homosexuals in a negative light. If they are less healthy, more depressed, have shorter life-spans, and are more prone to suicide, it's our fault. And don't ever publicize the fact that children from intact black families with a mother and father do as well as their white counterparts. And religion is a stupid and pre-modern superstition for people too afraid to deal with reality, unless it's a third world or non-traditional religion. Then it's a venerable belief system worthy of our respect, even if we don't know what the hell its dopey adherents are talking about.

The article continues:

"As the news value of the cartoons increased, broadcasters and print publications had to decide whether their duty to inform the public would outweigh the potential for offending Muslims."

Why is that? What does one have to do with the other? Isn't the whole story about the fact that millions of religious idiots are offended by some silly cartoons? The issue is not whether or not they should publish satirical images. The real story is that millions of people in the world are so cognitively stunted that they don't even know what satire is. Nor irony, detachment, critical distance, and self-understanding, for that matter.

Now there's a story! "Islam Implicated in Middle East Failure to Launch: Millions Left Stupid."

This highlights another point: that the liberal victim is not really a victim, but an aggressor. Of course there are true victims, but officially sanctioned liberal victims use their victim status to generate real power in the world. Victims can say and do anything, and certainly do not shy away from throwing their weight around. They have real power and know it. And they are protected from consequences of using that power illegtimately, in ways that you or I could never be.

This is why liberal victims are always bullies. They don't have legitimate power or knowledge, only illegitimate power and knowledge. They can passive-aggressively end debate an a second by playing the victim card and knocking you over the head with it. Isn't this what these Muslim barbarians are doing, with the complicity of the MSM? Aren't they really just a bunch of pathetic losers immersed in a pseudo-religion that only deepens and justifies their moral, intellectual, spiritual and economic squalor? I think so. But if you point it out, you are the aggressor, so that any reaction on the part of the victim is given sanction.

Therefore,

"'CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam', the cable news giant announced Friday. CBS Evening News made a similar statement Thursday."

Yeah, right. In reality, CNN and CBS have chosen not to show the cartoons out of both cowardice and out of contempt for Islam, knowing full well that these are dysfunctional people whose feelings must be protected and given extraordinary deference, like a retarded person. These so-called journalists are cowards, bowing before the sacred icon that they have created. They worship at the altar of the Holy Victim, and thereby receive absolution for their sin, the sin of actually coming from a Judeo-Christian civilization that is superior in every way to anything Islam has ever created.

I wonder if the craven dolts at CNN even know about how other religions are regarded by Islam, how barbarously they are treated in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia?

"'We always weigh the value of the journalistic impact against the impact that publication might have as far as insulting or hurting certain groups'," said Chronicle Vice President and Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal. 'In this case, we described the cartoons and felt that was sufficient'."

Oh yes. The Chronicle would never publish anything offensive to evangelical Christians or to conservatives.

"The Associated Press also declined to use the cartoons. And because AP distributes photographs, text and video used by other news outlets, its decision had a broad effect. Speaking by phone, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll told The Chronicle, 'The cartoons didn't meet our long-held standards for not moving offensive content. The AP is not just an indiscriminate warehouse for information. We put a lot of care into what we put on the wire'."

How can that be? Oh sure, Gagdad Bob tries to hide behind a facade of so-called spiritual detachment, but I can see that he is offended every day by something printed by the AP. Have they ever once considered his feelings?

The liberal do-gooders of the MSM are enablers that create real monsters. For if you turn someone into a victim just to assuage your own guilty conscience, you deprive them of their humanity. They are no longer real human beings, just caricatures floating about in your liberal imagination. Freed of the burdensome expectations we have of civilized human beings, the victim's aggression is gloriously liberated. A bully has been created. A monster that has the instincts of an infant in the body of an adult.

But they are victims. Oh yes, they are victims of Western liberalism, of the hard bigotry of no expectations. Because with no expectations, they have no chance to become fully human.

UPDATE--

Why do I even bother? Classic Steyn:

... If I had a sudden yen to burn the Yemeni or Sudanese flag on my village green, I haven't a clue how I'd get hold of one in this part of New Hampshire. Say what you like about the Islamic world, but they show tremendous initiative and energy and inventiveness, at least when it comes to threatening death to the infidels every 48 hours for one perceived offense or another. If only it could be channeled into, say, a small software company, what an economy they'd have.

... we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags. When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith.

Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Religious Cartoons and Cartoonish Religions

"You'd complain if you were on fire." That's what my old gagDad* would good-naturedly say to me as a kid. At the time, I'm not sure I understood exactly what he meant. "Of course I'd complain if I were on fire. Nobody wants to be on fire." But it was his way of saying "better to light a single match than curse the darkness," or "stop whining and do something about it."

At least until the emergence of the modern left, America has never been a complaining country, but an action oriented one. It was considered weak and unmanly to complain, to whine, to blame others. Classical liberalism in no way resembled its modern leftist perversion, in that it emphasized individual liberty, following the rules, making one's way in the emporium of a free market, rising to the level of one's own abilities, and letting the chips fall where they may.

But more than differentiating between ideologies, I find that ideologies and political parties differentiate between "psychoclasses"--that is, different sorts of people reflecting different levels of psychological development. Of course, I am making a huge generalization, but the modern left is the party of complainers, while the modern conservative movement is the party of Doing Something About It. Importantly, the complainers are completely detached from the realm of solutions. No matter how much things improve, the improvement is never acknowledged. It is as if the original complaint is preserved in amber, like a sacred relic.

This applies to almost any issue you care to discuss--the environment (which has never been better), the economy (which is flourishing), the war, voting rights, whatever. Consider the civil rights movement. By all rights, it achieved its purpose 30 or 40 years ago, but it doesn't matter. It is now an institutionalized grievance department run by frauds, hustlers and race-baiters like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other Democrats who are adept at exploiting and nurturing this limitless pool of human grievance and converting it into personal wealth and power. Think of the collective reservoir of bitterness and resentment as analogous to any other human energy. It is "fungible"--that is, able to be converted into valuable cash prizes, no different than positive and pro-social attributes such as personal initiative, creativity, ambition and drive.

Look at the feminist movement. It is based on so many demonstrable myths, lies and distortions, but the myths create a sort of energy through which many people are ironically able to make a nice living--for example, Justice Ginsberg, who parlayed her fierce and uncompromising female envy into a seat on the Supreme Court. Feminists still promulgate the lie that women earn 59 cents to the dollar that men earn in equivalent jobs, but this has been thoroughly debunked. It doesn't matter. If you are going to parasitically exploit the grievances of a class of people, you first must indoctrinate the "host" by peddling victimhood to them. Then the parasite is able to ride the wave of resentment all the way to the bank, the political office, the academic position, or the judicial bench.

In my local paper the other day, there was a remarkable but typical lead story with the headline "County Failing Latinos." It purported to be an objective academic study about all the ways government is supposedly failing Latinos around Los Angeles. For example, Latinos are more overwwight, less healthy, and less likely to graduate high school. But naturally, there wasn't a single statement as to whether any of these problems have to do with self-defeating beliefs and behaviors of Latino culture. It's okay to call people fat, stupid and lazy as long as it's a liberal saying it, because to the liberal, none of these things are your fault. You're a victim of the government, and the liberal is here to help you.

Why not a different headline: "Latino Culture Dysfunctional Compared to Asian Culture," or “Problems of Black Community Solved by Inculcating Mormon Values.” After all, elite California universities are vastly over-represented by Asian Americans, and Provo, Utah is the safest place to live in the country. On the other hand, our prison system is conspicuously underrepresented by Asians and Mormons. Perhaps someone should introduce an an affirmative action program to place more Asians and Mormons in prison in order to achieve diversity. After all, our prisons ought to "look like America."

Come to think of it, we rarely even hear much about Asian culture. They don't seem to complain much, despite a much greater history of real discrimination. In fact, it wasn't too long ago that they weren't even allowed to own property in much of California. Even with the W.W.II internment, by and large they simply took their lumps and moved on. On the other hand, there is a serious movement among African Americans pushing for reparations for slavery, as if that will solve any of their problems.

Isn't this what's going in in the Muslim world? It is a world of perpetual victims who literally don't know any other way to exist. In over half a century it has never even occurred to the so-called Palestinians that instead of foolishly trying to eliminate Israel, they might imitate her. But Job One for the Palestinians has always been and will remain the extermination of Israel. Once that is achieved, then they can think about schools, hospitals, roads, and anything else that creates a decent society. Yeah, right, just like every other Muslim paradise. There is no question that if Israel never existed, its current geographical area would be a squalid and undeveloped piece of generally worthless land, occupied by gang of idle complainers blaming Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon for their plight.

At Gates of Vienna there was a very illuminating discussion around a post by Ali Eteraz, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan. He describes his experiences as a child in Pakistan, and the traditional fatalism of Islam that was drummed into him. He grew up in a place "where the harshness of life has made the exterior of its citizens tough enough to withstand the heat of the desert. The spirits of its people, on the other hand, are not as taut and unbending as their bodies suggest." Rather, the man living under the weight of Islamic indoctrination "welcomes sorrow, relishes pain, and exalts suffering. For him there is no value in the success of his relationships unless they add to one's misery; there is no value in tears because they would mitigate the sorrows — and that is not wanted. The irony is that even if one comes to realize the unhealthiness of such a way of life, the impracticability of always being life’s martyr, one dares not let go of it, because being happy now, in this life, means being damned tomorrow."

Despite transplanting himself to America, Mr. Eteraz has struggled to slough off these unhealthy attitudes: "I became fatalistic and apathetic... I remained within the folds of Islam because it gave me a framework in which to be submissive; and in being submissive, remain static. It let me believe that my inertness was tolerable, if not altogether ideal.... I always chuckle when I hear the political pundits calling people like me... the 'saving force' of Islam simply because we are not firebrands like Bin Laden.... Many pundits... have rested their hopes upon us muted ones. They expect us to free global Islam from the Tazirs and Bin Ladens of the religion."

"Somehow we cows, chewing on the cud of our paranoia-stricken life have been labeled 'moderate' as if we offer a counterweight to the extremists." But "One of the chronic conditions of Islam, moderate or otherwise, is to blame non-Muslims for the problems afflicting Islam. It’s like the alcoholic who blames his wife’s behavior for his drunken binges. It’s time for Islam to live with the hangover and sober up. And, perhaps, go to an AA meeting and start on the first of the Twelve Steps."

Amen. So now, throughout the world, Muslim jihasbeens-that-never-were are expressing their murderous outrage over some silly cartoons. Truly, they'd complain if they were on fire. Yesterday Egypt refused Israel's offer of assistance to help out with the stricken ferry boat. At least Muslims are a diverse lot. They can also complain while drowning.



*Interestingly, my father served in the British Army in occupied Palestine, back when it really was occupied--by the British Army. He didn't talk much about his experience, but he was impressed--if impressed is the right word--by the barbarism of the local Arabs. He didn't have a bigoted bone in his body, but I remember him casually mentioning that they had the ability to steal your watch while your arm dangled outside the window of a moving train. A prescient comment in light of the uniquely criminal and murderous culture that continues to flourish there. As Mark Steyn has observed, they are "the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the planet" through no one's fault but their own, but with big assists from the U.N. and their Arab neighbors. The Palestinians are the all-purpose complaint department of the entire Muslim world. All problems are somehow related to them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bobsday, Temporal Resonance, and Building Your Own Portapew

It’s finally happened. I’m almost too busy to post. I don’t know what to do except to imitate Lileks and free associate about my day. But that guy is a real artist. In fact, I think that’s one of the definitions of real art--to take the mundane substance of the day and transubstantiate it into something higher. It’s like alchemy: somehow turning the boring lead of day-to-day life into the gold of eternity.

That’s what Joyce was trying to do in Ulysses. For those of you who don’t know, Ulysses, although it is some six or seven hundred pages long, takes place in a single 24 hour day, mostly in the life of a single person wandering around Dublin on June 16, 1904 (for Joyce lovers, this day is celebrated each year as Bloomsday, in reference to one of the lead characters, Leopold Bloom).

Ironically, the book is an “epic,” but obviously not in the usual way. Instead of a sweeping panorama of history with larger-than-life heroes, we are given minute details of the thoughts and actions of the three main characters as they go through a rather typical day. To make his point, the chapters of the book are structured so that the one day pilgrimage of Bloom resonates with the 19 years of wandering by Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey. Seemingly random occurrences throughout the day resonate on a deep, archetypal level with the myths of antiquity. Thus, Joyce is also saying something quite novel about the structure of time itself--that it is not mere empty duration, but full of rich archetypal resonance if only we learn how to see it.

Joyce was a loose proponent of the philosopher Giambattista Vico’s cyclical structure of history, which begins with the age of chaos, followed by the age of gods, then the age of kings, and finally, our present age: the age of mere men. But even in the secular, unheroic age of the Last Men, we still have access to everything that preceded us and lies beneath the surface flow of temporal events--again, if we know how to appreciate it. It’s as if time has its own unconscious.

That is, we now understand that our waking ego is surrounded on all sides by a huge reservoir of unconscious energies, both high and low. It is the same with time. If you cut across it vertically, it is hyperdense with multiple meanings. It is like a fractal, in the sense that any point of it contains the whole of it.

Here again, at the risk of belaboring a metaphor, this is what it means to live vertically. One of the purposes of any spiritual practice is to “dilate” time in order to enter its vertical dimension--to leave secular time and to enter sacred time. For Jews, this is what the sabbath is all about: exiting chronological time and entering a different space that is resonating with every previous sabbath, which are somehow all copresent. In reality, there is only the one eternal sabbath to participate in and partake of, where we may get off the endless merribundity-go-round, relux and rejewvenate.

Likewise, what is the Christian mass but an entrance into deep time, where you are sitting by the Lord and participating in the Last Supper? Isn’t this what it means to transform bread and wine into flesh and blood? This is where God is located, where we apprehend more than the cold hand of mechanical reason ever could.

So back to my day. I actually do, in so far as it is possible, try to live my life in this manner. I don’t imagine that there is some other, better life located somewhere else, either in the past, or in the future, or happening to someone else. There is only this life, which, like a machine, drags us along ceaselessly in the horizontal. We don’t have much control over that.

Where we do have control is in the vertical, but only if we work at creating a little space or “slack” from which to operate. We must learn to be the spacious and tranquil I of the hurrycon--the sinister conspiracy to make you hurry up and lose your center--and reverse figure and ground, so that time is seen as a sort of overflow, or “boiling over” from eternity into time, a dancing and ever-changing revelation of the eternal mind in the things of time.

To put it another way, we must build a sort of portable “internal monastery” that we carry with us. Regarding the world from this monastery, we see it not just as mere information to be processed, but as a marvelous gift capable of stimulating a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Leftists, Islamists, and Failure to Launch: It's a Peter Pandemic

Failure to launch is a big problem for humans. Not just on an individual basis--as in the case of the adolescent in an adult body who is still living with his parents, trying to figure out what to do with his life--but with mankind as a whole. Why are human beings--who have such incredible potential--such persistent underachievers?

To a certain extent, people remain stuck in adolescence because they can. It’s amazing what human beings can achieve when they don’t have a choice. Thankfully, when my father emigrated to the United States in 1948 after being discharged from the British Army at the age of 21, he didn’t really have any choice but to be an adult. Failure to launch was not an option. Although he had only an 8th grade education, he eventually became a corporate executive and sent all four sons to college.

Someone--maybe Petey--once said that “misery rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it.” This is one of the reasons why liberal programs don’t work. No matter how much better off people are, if they are unhappy and envious at their core, they will find a way to express it.

A corollary to this would be that “immaturity rises to the level of the means available to nurture it.” In this regard, historians now understand that “adolescence” is culturally constructed to begin with. You don’t have to go too far back in history to see that there was only childhood and adulthood, with nothing in between. Only when societies become relatively affluent can they afford a period of adolescence, during which time young adults toy with different identities and enjoy a life of leisure and extended learning before committing to an adult identity. But only when cultures become extremely prosperous is there no compelling reason for adolescence to end at all. You really can "die before you get old."

Today the transition to adulthood can be delayed indefinitely. In fact, children are not even taught that there is a “destination” or “goal” to life. Imagine, for example, a sex education class that taught children that marriage was the appropriate outlet and goal of sexuality--in other words, that sexuality had a meaning and an objective direction.

Of course, once you have chosen one option in life, all of the others are forever foreclosed. If you choose one career, it means all the other possibilities are ended. If you marry one woman, you are really denying yourself the rest of womankind, and who would want to do that? It seems that many people would prefer to live in the realm of infinite (but unrealized) potential rather than finite, but real, existence.

Could this be part of what drives the pornography obsession? Now, for the first time in history, human beings have access to this infinite storehouse of alluring images that provides a perverse illusion that the ideal is real. It is a pathetic state--an inherently adolescent one. Whenever someone is acting on a dark compulsion of this nature, it provides an exhilarating sense of spurious freedom. But because it is spurious it must be repeated again and again. It is entirely circular and self-enclosed. It goes nowhere.

But I am actually more interested in the more general failure to launch that afflicts mankind at large. What is the cause of this? For example, there is no question that this is the problem we face in the bulk of the Arab Muslim world. Something in their cultural DNA has left them mired in an historical and developmental eddy, sitting on the launch pad below, just where we left them 700 years ago. What happened? Why didn't they launch?

As I have discussed in a variety of contexts, humans inhabit a horizontal and a vertical world. Among other things, the vertical world is the world of psychological and emotional development. We are the only animal that comes into the world with an infinite potential that may or may not be fulfilled in this lifetime (actually, being infinite, it is never completely fulfilled). Other animals--assuming that they aren’t eaten or die prematurely for some other reason--inevitably reach their developmental goal and achieve maturity as defined by their species. But not humans. Yes, barring some kind of unusual disease, all humans grow to physical maturity. But it is fair to say that the vast majority of human beings down through history--right through to the present day--do not make it to psychological maturity: they do not come close to fulfilling their developmental potential.

This is a question that has always intrigued me, because it goes directly against the grain of any facile Darwinian explanation. That is, I believe that human development is guided by a telos or an end state that we are supposed to achieve. But unlike other animals, there is no way this end state can be accounted for by natural selection, because it never existed in the material world--it remains latent unless or until it is realized. In short, while we certainly have our genetic blueprint, we also have some sort of nonlocal “archetypal blueprint” that draws us toward it. But any number of personal, cultural and historical conditions can conspire to prevent us from realizing this blueprint. For example, if you are a woman in Saudi Arabia, what are the chances you will have the opportuntiy to become who you are? Approximately zero. But if women can't become who they are, neither can men--which is why there are so few adult men in the Arab Muslim world.

Another way of saying this is that human beings alone among the animals are somehow built for transcendence. Not only do human beings have the capacity to rise beyond and surpass themselves, but this is our essential nature. No one looks at a pig and says, “Why don’t you grow up and start acting like a proper pig?” But we ask this of humans all the time. In fact, it is the question that answers the question of what a human being is.

Failure to launch is ultimately failure to transcend. As Meister Eckhart wrote, “When the higher incorporates the lower into its service, the nature of the lower is transformed into that of the higher.” But it also works the other way around: when we fail to transcend, the higher is incorporated into the lower, creating a perverse version of itself. Thus, we have the counterfeit transcendence represented by radical Islam, which thoroughly conflates the higher and lower, so that the most bestial acts are celebrated as divinely inspired.

Likewise, here in the United States we have an entire political party that has been hijacked by children suffering from FTL syndrome: Dailykos, huffington post, the Hollywood crowd, Air America, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Cindy Sheehan, the perpetual adultolescents of leftist academia--all are in one way or another living in the bubble of immaturity that our affluent society provides. They are failures to launch, and they hate the symbolic parents that remind them that it’s time to move out of their childhood room, get a real job, and grow up.

ADDENDUM--

That's a coincidence. Today is Groundhog Day, the illustrious film of that name being one of the great meditations on emotional and spiritual Failure to Launch.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There

James--a One Cosmos Prayer Partner whose love offering has been received and whose book is on the way--is intrigued by Taoism. Although he does his best to put Taoist principles into practice, he is having difficulty understanding the idea of non-action. He is powerfully drawn to the idea despite the difficulty, and has asked if I or Petey have any thoughts on matter.

I have tremendous affection for Taoism, which is full of profound and universal wisdom that is easily compatible with Judaism, Christianity, or any other spiritual path. As a matter of fact, when I began my off-road spiritual adventure, it was initially as a Taoist, or perhaps a Zen-Taoist hybrid. This is because out of all the religions, these two are perhaps the most free of what most modern people would regard as “superstition” or “magic.” There is nothing in them that offends the rational intellect. The ego, yes--the intellect, no.

However, ultimately I could only get so far with Taoism, because it lacks a potent source of grace. In other words, it’s a “do it yourself” (or Tao it yourself) religion. In my case, my practice took a quantum leap forward once I obtained some nonlocal assistance. However, that by no means negates the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. Again, its insights can apply to most any spiritual (or even non-spiritual) practice.

First of all, for those of you who are out of the loop, wu wei is one of the central concepts of Taoism. Although literally translated as “non-doing” or “non action,” it is probably more accurately thought of as “not forcing.” The apocryphal writer of the Tao Te Ching, Lau-tzu, gained his insights by simply observing the way nature worked. Nature doesn’t “do” anything, and yet it gets everything done in a most efficient way. Non-action means living in accord with the way things are, for example, in the way that water naturally overcomes whatever is in its way and flows toward its destination. It doesn’t mean that you don’t cut the wood, but that you cut it along the grain--you don’t force things. Think of a blind man who moves in his environment by learning how to avoid obstacles.

Non-doing means not acting in the way you would like things to be, but in terms of the way they are. In other words, it means acting in accord with objective truth, with the natural order of things, not with mere opinion. It means living in alignment with with pre-existent reason--with the logos.

Non-doing is sometimes seen as passivity, but it is not that at all. For example, great athletes are in a state of non-doing, while mediocre athletes attempt to force things--they don’t allow the game to “come to them.” Great athletes don’t consciously deliberate about the many options available to them. There’s a saying in baseball, “don’t think. You hurt the ballclub.”

Similarly, great jazz musicians enter a state of non-doing during collective improvisation. There is no way they could respond as quickly as they must if their minds were thinking about all the possible directions they could take their solo. If the mind gets involved, it’s already too late--the moment is gone. By yielding to the moment, a sort of transcendent beauty, or pre-existing pattern becomes immanent and is revealed in the music. It cannot be imposed, only discovered.

The great jazz pianist Keith Jarrett might be the most articulate practitioner of musical non-doing. He writes that a jazz musician "goes onto the stage hoping to have an encounter with music. He knows that the music is there (it always is), but this meeting depends not only on knowledge but on openness.... It is a discrimination against mechanical pattern, against habit, for surprise, against easy virtuosity, for saying more with less, against facile emotion, for a certain quality of energy, against stasis, for flow..." It is "like an attempt, over and over, to reveal the heart of things."

Interestingly, this was the approach to psychotherapy recommended by one of my mentors, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion. His advice to the practicing therapist was to “suspend memory, desire and understanding” before each session. In other words, the idea is not to force things, but to allow them to develop of their own accord. Premature understanding of the patient is often a defense against depth, against the fear of not knowing, against the emotional turmoil that must be tolerated and allowed to evolve and coalesce. Each session with the patient is a step into the formless, infinite void that must be approched with faith. Out of that faith, understanding will emerge, but it cannot be forced.

The principles of the Tao are very much at odds with contemporary left-liberalism, which forever tries to impose order and outcomes, as opposed to classical liberalism, which trusts that the chaos of liberty spontaneously leads to a higher and much more robust order. For example, the Tao states, “I let go of economics, and people become prosperous.” “When taxes are too high, people go hungry.” “When the government is too intrusive, people lose their spirit.” “If you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.” “Try to make people happy, and you lay the groundwork for misery.” “Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.” Leftists hate the idea that there is infinitely more embodied wisdom in a free market than in the shrewd sophistry of Paul Krugman, and that most societal problems will solve themselves if you allow them to. Indeed, many of our most troubling contemporary problems are a result of some meddling liberal "solution" that was put in place 30, 40, or 50 years ago.

In many respects, President Bush governs in a Taoist way. For example, the Tao is deeply skeptical of intellectuals and abstract concepts: “The more you know, the less you understand.” “He who tries to shine dims his own light.” “The master doesn’t talk, he acts.” “True words aren’t eloquent; eloquent words aren’t true.” What could be more heretical to the silver-tongued devils at the New York Times? This is one of the main reasons they despise him, because his natural simplicity is a rebuke to their unnatural, convoluted, and "nuanced" complexity.

Perhaps the ultimate lesson of Taoism is that language can introduce all sorts of redundancies into existence. We do not “have” an experience. We are experience. Experience is an encounter between a knower and known, but in reality, knower and known are simply two sides of the same coin: there is no knower without a known, and no knowledge without a knower. External and internal reality are bound together by a mysterious process that we do not understand, and to which we add nothing by escaping into some symbolic representation of it. You do not live your life. Rather, life is lived through you. Thoughts arise. You don’t think them. But you can learn to let them go.

Jesus, at least in terms of his practical wisdom, was clearly of a Taoist bent: “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your stature?” “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” When he says “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” he is saying something analogous to living and being rooted in the Tao.

Oh, and what does Petey think? He agrees with Lao-tzu that if you try to be a Taoist, you're wasting your time:

My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.*


*All exerpts from the Tao Te Ching are taken from the excellent Stephen Mitchell translation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eating God, Draining the Swamp, & Movin’ On Up in the Inwardly Mobile Cosmos

TECHNICAL NOTE--I'M HAVING A LITTLE TROUBLE WITH MY COMPUTER, SO IF THE COSMOS DISAPPEARS FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS, DON'T PANIC. IT WILL REAPPEAR AGAIN EX NIHILO.

(Also, I may not be able to retrieve my email for a bit.)

*****

Reader Dilys made an excellent point a couple of days ago, noting that, "My working hypothesis is that repeated close encounters with age-ripened liturgies access far-reaching psycho-spiritual genius that drain the subconscious swamp." In other words, by immersing ourselves in certain time-tested vertical modalities, something very real and measurable happens to us. One thing grows. Another thing shrinks, or at least begins to lose its grip on us.

What is spiritual growth? What is it that grows? What does it “feed” on, since a living thing can only maintain itself if it is an open system that takes in energy or information? And what is the medium into which it is expanding? In other words, as a biological object grows, it obviously expands into physical space. Where do we expand spiritually?

Again we must refer back to the concepts of vertical and horizontal. Just as there is a horizontal evolution in the form of increased complexity through time, there is vertical evolution in the form of increased depth, or “degrees of being.” But in both cases, growth only takes place through metabolism. It is a process. Only open systems that are in disequilibrium are susceptible to evolution. For example, as a biological system, you maintain yourself by constant energetic exchanges with the environment in the form of food and oxygen. Being at equilibrium with the environment is also known as being dead. Ordered complexity can only be maintained in a state of dynamic disequilibrium.

It is the same way in the vertical--in the spiritual realm. In order for us to grow vertically, we must first realize that we are in need of nourishment. Then we must identify and eat the proper food. And finally, we must chew, swallow, metabolize, and digest. Not just once, but every day. In so doing, something within us begins to grow and develop, like a seed in the womb of being.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What does this mean? Outwardly or horizontally it means one thing. But inwardly and vertically it means something else altogether. I should emphasize that this is not a novel idea that I developed on my own. For example, Greek mythology recognized the existence of “ambrosia,” a celestial substance capable of imparting immortality. In the Vedas, it is called “amrita” or “soma.” It is an actual substance, although not in the material sense. It is fluid and energetic, and it is easy to see how it could be symbolized by wine, and by a mystical quest for the cup, chalice, or “holy grail” that might hold the wine.

This is also the symbolism of the Last Supper, of Jesus distributing the bread and wine--his body and blood--to his disciples to eat. What could this curious practice be but theophagy, or the eating of God?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” What could these mean? In my opinion, they are again referring to the vertical, not the horizontal. There is an exterior man and an interior man. The interior man is the astral fetus lying between our evolved nervous system and the transcendent Other. Spiritual work is oriented on the vertical plane, not the horizontal. To the extent that this fetus or “divine child” is not nourished, it will be spiritually stillborn--a celestial abortion. A tragic waste of a life.

Without a mirror to reflect it, reality disappears, does it not? What would the cosmos be without nervous systems to reflect it back to itself? Hot, cold, large, small, here, there, light, dark--these are all qualities of nervous syetems. Take away the conscious observer and the universe has no qualities at all.

It is the same way with the vertical world. Here again, to say that we are “the image of God” is to say that we are mirrors of the vertical. Without the human mirror, the divine disappears. Clean your mirror and it reappears “out of nowhere.” “I was blind, but now I see.” Or as it says in the little psychotic (or pneumotic) genesis myth at the beginning of my book, "He expectorated a mirrorcle, now you're the spittin' image."

I have no quibble whatsoever with science. It is one of the glories of mankind. But it only maps the horizontal, not the vertical. Spirituality, on the other hand, maps the vertical, the interior of the cosmos. In the horizontal world, things just happen. But in the vertical world they are made or created. And all true creation is a miracle from the standpoint of the horizontal.

In order to have a comprehensive view of the world, one must appreciate the vertical and the horizontal, the interior and the exterior. In fact, reality is a cross ( + ) where the vertical and horizontal energies converge. Each moment--the eternal now--is a sort of “whirlpool” that is created out of these dialectically related streams. Your body is actually the “rosy cross” that blooms around the area of the heart--if given the proper vertamins and heartilizer.

Ours is an inwardly mobile cosmos. Would you like to move on up in it? Then crucify your ego on that invisible cross where the vertical meets the horizontal in the now. Recognize your inner emptiness. Give yourself your daily bread. And don’t forget to chew.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dreams, Jewish Angels, and Vertical Recollection

This is Part 2 of yesterday's post about the structure of dreams and how it might relate to larger metaphysical questions, such as whether I exist as an independent reality or am merely a figment of Petey's overheated imagination.

*****
Okay, bearing in mind the problems with language we discussed yesterday, let's just suppose that there's a horizontal world and a vertical one.

This vertical/horizontal duality is just one of many ultimate antinomies in the universe, in the sense that you cannot have one without the other. Indeed, they cannot be defined except in reference to one other: subject-object, external relations-internal relations, mechanism-organicism, quantity-quality, time-eternity, part-whole, consciousness-matter, form-substance, life-lifeless, etc.

Let us further suppose that each of these antinomies is indeed ultimate--that each one represents a "horizon of knowabilty" for us. And that furthermore, these antinomies are related in an unsuspected way, as follows:

There is a horizontal world of matter, objects, external relations, mechanism, quantities, time, parts, substance, and lifelessness.

And a vertical world of form, subject, internal relations, organicism, qualities, eternity, whole, life, and consciousness.

Let us also stipulate that the causal influence of the horizontal realm operates on the basis of past, to present, to future. On the other hand, the vertical realm operates outside chronological time and has "top-down" causation. But knowledge in either realm involves a type of memory. Horizontal knowledge involves remembering the past so that we may understand the present and predict the future. Vertical knowledge involves remembering the "above" or "below" so that we may understand the now.

The horizontal discloses all sorts of facts. That is the domain of science. But scientific facts only reveal their significance in the vertical.

What is vertical recollection? What does it mean to "remember" what is above?

For human beings, remembering is to forgetting as waking is to sleeping and birth is to death. "Forgetting" the vertical reduces man to animality, just as sleep reduces us to vegetality and death to minerality. To sleep is to forget, to forget is to die.

To awaken to the vertical is to remember and to actually be alive, or "born again" from above.

The mind is an organ of truth. Just as the heart pumps blood and the lungs exchange oxygen, the mind functions to metabolize truth. In fact, human beings would cognitively and spiritually starve and suffocate--do starve and suffocate--without constant exchanges with the oxidized blood of Truth from above. Because of this exchange, the mind grows and renews itself.

(Of course, there are also false vertical words, such as the world of Islam. It is a "made up" vertical world constructed out of the fantasies and mental energies of its adherents. A real vertical world is a priori and antecedent to our discovering it, although it is more of a formless potential until we flesh it out and give it substance.)

In the outstanding little book on Jewish mysticism by Adin Steinsaltz entitled The Thirteen Petalled Rose, he points out that in higher worlds, time becomes "increasingly abstract and less and less representative of anything that we know as time in the physical world." Instead, it becomes something more like "the purest essence of change" or "the possibility of potential change." As one descends in the worlds, materiality and linear causation become ever greater. (Again, don't be too literal here--Steinsaltz points out that these "are nothing more than ways of representing an abstract formless spiritual reality in the vocabulary of human language.")

Steinsaltz notes that the soul should not be thought of as a "point" in space time. Rather, it is "a continuous line of spiritual being, stretching from the general source of all the souls to beyond the specific body of a particular person.... and because the soul is not a single point in space, it should be viewed not as a single existence having one quality or character, but as many existences, on a variety of spiritual levels..."

In the past, I have used the analogy of a lampshade with many pinprick holes in it. From the outside it will look as if there are many individual lights, but in reality, they are all coming from a single "nonlocal" source.

Now, I don't know if Petey is Jewish--he's never said so anyway--but Steinsaltz goes on to a brief discussion of what are called "angels." He says that an angel is "a messenger" constituting a point of contact "between our world of action and the higher worlds. The angel is the one who effects transfers of the vital plenty between worlds. An angel's missions go in two directions: it may serve as an emissary of God downward..., and it may also serve as the one who carries things upwards from below, from our world to the higher worlds."

I ran it by Petey, but he was, I don't know, noncommittal. But that's not unusual. It's more like he's disinterested, or at least pretends to be so. The roll of the eyes, the impatient, audible exhalation, the way his little wings flutter, as if he's got something better to do....

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Interpretation of Reality (and Other Dreams)

A while back, reader Penny asked, "So is Petey the voice in your head? The one that comes from the background processing going on in your brain, in your subconscious? The one that some people call intuition?"

I didn't really know how to respond to Penny's query, so I just provided a somewhat flip response off the bottom of my head: "You could say that. Or you could say that he's an angel, bearing in mind Rilke's perceptive crack that Every angel is terrible. Or you could say that he's a vertical courier transferring messages between the celestial and earthly realms. Or you could say that he's an amusing muse. Or you could say that he is the dreamer who dreams the dream. Or you could say that I am a bizarre figment of his imagination."

I couldn't answer Penny's question because it's something I myself have pondered. Let's get something straight at the outset: no, I can't just "ask" Petey. It doesn't work that way, any more than it works like that for anyone else. You try it. Walk over to your wife or kid and ask, "Just who are you? Where did you come from? What's your ontological status? Are you real? And what do you mean by real?" See how far you get. In Petey's case, he might say something sarcastic, like "What do you think, Swami Bobba Rum Raisin? Enlighten us."

As best as I can tell, my "flip" response wasn't too far wide of the mark. To avoid confusion, let's just take the word angel off the table right now. Petey hates the term--he thinks it sounds very "gay," not to mention new age, which he detests. "Rhymes with sew-age," he always says. And he wouldn't like the word courier either. Sounds too servile.

How about Vertical Emissary, Transpersonal Liaison, or Celestial Ambassador? Ah, that's more like it! I don't think he'd object to any of those.

Is it too basic to point out that the physical world in which we live and which we can observe is only a small part of the universe? That most of the universe is spiritual in its essence, and that the material world is simply the "crust" or "epidermis" of the interior cosmos?

Naturally, language can be confusing. We often mistake a deficiency in language for a key to Truth. When we employ spatial metaphors like "inside," "outside," "above" and "below," these are obviously borrowed from the realm of the senses. Forget about spirituality for the moment. What does it mean for something to be "in" the unconscious? For the unconscious to be "below" the conscious mind? To "have" a dream that we are also "in"? To "possess" mental "energy"? To "push" something out of awareness? How can we say that there is no "time" in the unconscious, when we don't know what time is? Perhaps there is only pure time in the unconscious, a sort of non-linear, interpenetrating, co-present "all at once" that is closer to the actual nature of time.

These spatial metaphors are just frames of reference so that we can find our way about the interior, nonmaterial realm. Sometimes words can advance our inquiry, but sometimes they impede things and get in the way of new discoveries. It is no different than in any other field of study. In physics, for example, it was once thought that things were "in" space and time. Now it is understood that material objects are "of" space and time. Light waves do not propagate through a medium, but are the very medium through which they propagate. The "big bang" is not something that only happened "once upon a timeless" 13.7 billion years ago. Obviously, it's happening right now, in that the universe is still banging away and expanding. Etc.

As a result of the limitations of language, the inexhaustible reality of the world can slip through our theoretical fingers, and we can begin to inhabit a self-satisfied, circular world in which we are actually doing nothing more than ceaselessly chasing after our own tail. Facts that don't fit the prevailing paradigm are simply excluded.

Much of what we discover depends upon our frame of reference. In reality, there are no objects in the universe, only events. A "fact" is a relation between two events, but the events are relations as well. This is not to say that everything is relative, for there is an ultimate backdrop on which all of these events play out, a matrix or "container," as it were.

When we dream, we inhabit a multi-dimensional, holographic world with inexhaustible meaning. Somehow--we no not know how--we both dream the dream and are yet a subject within our dream. We create the reality of the dream, from the space in which it takes place right down to the most minute object we encounter in the dream--a red coffee cup, an office building, our childhood home, a beautiful natural setting, another planet altogether--and yet, we are also in the dream. Although we apparently create the dream world, we nevertheless encounter it as a "given" world, absolutely no different than the waking world we confront and with which we must struggle.

Hmm. Perhaps this is an important point. I can't tell you how many times a patient has come to me with a bizarre, elaborate dream that they didn't understand, asking "What do you think, Doc?," only for me to answer, "that wasn't a dream. That was your life." In other words, somehow the internal "dreamer" of the patient totally encapsulated their situation--their essential conflicts, dilemmas, and unconscious problems--in a beautifully scripted and wonderfully acted little play.

What I am suggesting is that the logic of our dream life reveals much more about the nature of reality than reality discloses about the logic of dreams. From an evolutionary standpoint, it has always been difficult to account for dreams--not just the fact that we dream, but the fact that we live within a larger space governed by a "dreamer" who understands us much more thoroughly than we understand ourselves.

Who is this Dreamer?

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

To be continued tomorrow....

ADDENDUM--What would Joyce say:

In the night of the mummery I have something inside me talking to myself. But I can't recoil it. I'm not meself at all.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Million Little Peteys: The Trueish Memoirs of a Young Man's Amazing Peccadillos With His Discarnate Friend Riding Shotgun

Amends. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Make a list of all the people you've harmed. Make direct amends.

I wake up cold and hungry. Shivering. I'm sitting behind the wheel of my '73 Pinto wagon. I look at my watch. It's five AM.

Where am I? I look around. The street is unfamiliar to me. I glance down at the passenger seat. There's a bag from Jack in the Box. I look inside. Jumbo Jack. Large taco. Onion rings. All uneaten. Untouched. And cold. So cold.

How did I get here? I turn the ignition. Nothing. Out of gas. That would explain part of my predicament. But only part.

It's November of 1978 and I'm a clerk. Retail clerk. Union local 1442. Santa Monica, Malibu, Venice Beach. I work in the Malibu Market Basket. A week ago, a new little gimmick hit the market. It's called "Miller Light." They say you can drink more and not get filled up. Sounds good to me. Me and my buddies pick up a couple cases. I polish off twelve or thirteen between 5:00PM and 2:00AM. Maybe sixteen. I don't remember. Tastes great? Not really. Less filling? Yeah, I suppose so, since 12 didn't fill me up.

But most importantly, just as tanked. And just as hung over.

Somehow I get to work at 9:00AM. I'm working back in the dairy cooler, and that's okay by me. The cold feels good.

But it gets busy up front, and I'm called to the checkstand. That's not what I want to hear. Not today. Not now. Not in my condition.

I stagger up, unhook the chain and give the lady one of my looks. You know, the disgusted kind. What are you doing here? Can't you see I've got work to do?

That was back in the days before scanners and all the high-tech digital stuff. They call us "semi-skilled labor." Yeah, right. You ever try memorizing the names and prices of 150 different kinds of produce? Nothing "semi" about that.

So I start ringing up the lady, and here comes the produce. Things I recognize. Green pippin apples? No problem. Naval oranges? Bueno. Russet potatoes? Swish.

Celery.

I said celery.

I know, I'm thinking.

I'm holding a stalk of celery in my hand, right in front of my face, waiting for the penny to drop. Yeah, it's celery. But I can't think of the freaking name.

Tastes great. Less filling. Sounds like a win-win, doesn't it? Except they don't tell you what sixteen of 'em do to your memory after a night out with the boys and three hours of so-called sleep. No, they don't tell you that. You have to figure that one out on your own.

A lot of times you see stuff you don't know the name of. Kohlrabi cabbage. Belgian endive. Haas vs. Fuerte avocados. There are some things a straight guy's not supposed to know. But that's okay. I just ask Gladys in the checkstand next to me.

But not this time. I don't know the name. But I know that I should know. And that makes all the difference. The part of the brain that recognizes objects is not communicating with the part that knows their names. I'm in some kind of timewarp. I'm so hung over that I can't think of the name of celery.

How do I get out of this? I can't exactly hold up a bunch of celery to Gladys and ask, "Duh, what's this? Never seen this before."

So I fake it. Yeah, I just make up a price. 49 cents. Whatever. I slide it down and move on, hoping the lady doesn't notice.

She doesn't.

It's all forgotten.

Except by me. I remember. I don't want to remember it, but it remembers me.

Yeah, I remember the retail clerks strike of 1979 too. Lasted only nine days. But a lot of things can happen in nine days. A whole lot of things. Things maybe you're not so proud of. Things you'd rather forget.

As the day of the strike approaches--August 17--I get one of my brain waves. Yeah, they happen sometimes, even back then. Was it Petey? Knowing what I do now, it probably was. But that's another story.

When the store manager orders a shipment of groceries for the next week, he slides a little wand over the UPC code on the shelf under the item. You've seen 'em. Everybody has. One swipe = one case from the warehouse. Two swipes, two cases.

A hundred swipes, a hundred cases.

And that's what gives me the idea. Our biggest selling item is Best Foods Mayonnaise. It's what we in the Grocery biz call a "loss leader." Get folks in the door for the 89 cent mayonnaise and stick it to 'em with huge markups on aspirin and tooth paste. Hey, it's capitalism. It's legal.

I've only been in the biz for two years, but there's already one thing I know: we haven't sold a case of beet aspic the whole time. Fact, I don't think we sold a single can of the stuff. Whatever it is.

So I take my box cutter, and ever so carefully, surgically remove the UPC code from the beet aspic and switch it with the Best Foods. Cold-blooded? Sure. Brutal? Maybe. That's the idea. Bring management to its knees and get that cost-of-living raise that I've already spent, oh by the way.

The strike goes down. The manager, Howard--he's a nonunion guy, so he's trying to keep things together in the store--does his usual order from the warehouse.

And what happens?

This is what, 2006?

It's 27 years later, and there are still 78 cases of beet aspic sitting in the back of that store.

But those are just numbers, and right now I'm just thinking of one number: number nine. I've got to make amends. I've got to buy all that beet aspic. All of it.

Not tomorrow.

Today.

Now.

To be continued.... if Oprah shows the slightest bit of interest....

ADDENDUM--what did Joyce say?

Ah, he's very thoughtful when he's not absintheminded, now that I come to drink of it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Pathetic Last Children of Nietzsche's Pitiable Last Men

Awhile back, I wrote a post entitled Divorce American Style, discussing how the American political system historically bifurcated into two parties more or less mirroring the archetypal maternal and paternal spheres.

As it evolved, the Republican party came to represent masculine virtues such as competition, maintaining strict rules (“law and order”), standards over compassion (i.e., not changing the rules for members of liberal victim groups), delayed gratification, and respect for the ways of the Father -- that is, conserving what had been handed down by previous generations of fathers, and not just assuming in our adolescent hubris that we know better than they.

(If you've recently read the Divorce American Style post, just skip down to the asterisks below. The Last Men in the title is in reference to this post from last week.)

The Democratic party, on the other hand, came to represent the realm of maternal nurturance -- compassion over standards (e.g., racial quotas), idealization of the impulses (just as a mother is delighted in the instinctual play of her child), mercy over judgment (reduced prison sentences, criminal rights, etc.), cradle-to-grave welfare, a belief that we can seduce our enemies rather than subdue them with strength, and the notion that meaning, truth and values are all arbitrary and subject to change (which is true of the fluid world of emotions in general).

It has become a banality to point out that something seems broken in our political system, in that the two parties not only cannot "work together," but seem to inhabit alternate realities. Pundidiots tell us that the tension and paranoia between the parties has never been this intense. Even if this is an exaggeration, it nevertheless reflects the psychological reality of the situation -- that people feelthis tension and bitterness in ways they didn’t before.

What is really going on here? One way of looking at it is that we are seeing a collapse of the covenant between mother and father as represented in the previous maternal/paternal two-party system. It is as if we are children living in a home where mother and father no longer get along and are bickering constantly.

In fact, that is probably putting it too mildly, because the current situation has gone beyond mere arguing, to the point that the masculine and feminine spheres are no longer communicating at all and are going through a very messy and acrimonious divorce. Both sides are lawyered up and ready to go for the throat.

I believe we may trace this divorce to the 1960’s, when mother government started to become so all powerful that there was almost no role for father. Of course, this began to change in the 1980’s, when father began reasserting himself because of the cultural, political and economic chaos that hit bottom in Jimmy Carter's rudderless gynocracy, but by then, something else had happened. That is, the age old distinctions between mother and father and adult and child had begun to attenuate, leaving many people confused about their primordial identity.

For example, the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s had very little to do with honoring femininity, but generally degraded and devalued it. It largely became a vehicle for the expression of female envy, giving angry and maladjusted women license to imitate the men they envied. After all, few women are less feminine than the typical NOW activist. Nor are they masculine, however. A woman cannot actually become a man, but can only an infrahuman blending of male and female.

Importantly, this is not to suggest that a woman cannot develop her masculine side or a man his feminine side. What we are talking about is a complete nullification of sexual polarity, a kind of magical, self-imposed blindness, so that these critical differences are blended, not truly recognized, valued, and integrated.

The other main psychological mutation that occurred beginning with the 1960’s was the eradication of the differences between adult and child. Up to that point, there had been a clear difference between the spheres of adult and child, and everyone knew it.

For example, when I was growing up in the 60s, I had my interests and my parents had theirs, and there was relatively little intersection between the two -- for example, baseball with my father. But we dressed differently, listened to different kinds of music, enjoyed different activities, read different literature, liked different movies, etc.

I knew that I wasn't a man but that some day I would have to become one -- someone like my father, who worked hard, supported a family, didn't whine, had honor and a sense of duty, and had feelings but didn't necessarily give them much weight, at least outside the private sphere.

But that has all changed now. Here again it is critical to point out that there is nothing at all wrong with an adult maintaining contact with the child part of himself. In fact, doing so is vital for love, creativity, spontaneity, and play.

However, as in the blending of male and female, problems arise when the differences between adult and child are obliterated, which creates a hybrid monster that is neither adult nor child but both at the same time. This affects both adults and children, for our society has become a plague of adult children and childish adults -- that is, prematurely sexualized children who are burdened with all kinds of inappropriate concerns, and childish adults who psychologically do not grow beyond the age of 21 or so, and never enter the realm of the truly adult.

As a result, what our two-party political system has now come down to is a battle between the “blenders” and the “separators.” Nothing bothers the blenders more than adult males such as Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or John Roberts -- remember Diane Feinstein, who couldn't vote for Roberts for supreme court justice because she wanted to know how he "felt" about the law? In short, she wanted him to be more of a male-female hybrid, like herself and her constituents. Simply applying the rule of law is too masculine. We need some female “wiggle room” in the constitution.

The modern conservative movement is not just trying to preserve the traditional male element, but the traditional separation of the various spheres in general -- civilized / barbaric, animal / human, adult / child -- while the Democratic party is the party of mannish women (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Gloria Allred), feminized men (e.g., Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore), adult children (Howard Dean, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, et al), and even animal humans (PETA members who believe that killing six million chickens is morally indistinguishable from murdering six million Jews, radical environmentalists, etc.).

And it is almost impossible to engage in rational debate with the adult child, who has the cynicism of a world-weary grown up but the wisdom of a child, or with the male-female hybrid, who possesses a weakly anchored reason that is easily hijacked by the passions. This is not so much a disagreement between the content of thought as its very form.

***

This divorce and blending of the male and female produces a new kind of child, one who is neither male nor female, adult nor child, religious nor rational. A recent case in point was brought to our attention in the figure of Joel Stein, an L.A. Times columnist who penned a now infamous piece about his moral contempt for our troops fighting in Iraq.

As Stein put it, it is wrong to blame President Bush for their moral turpitude. Rather, "The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying." In his magnanimity, Stein is "not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea."

Vanderleun has written an outstanding, insightful piece that absolutely eviscerates the hapless Stein. Entitled The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land, it penetrates beyond the vapid and vile (if it's possible to be both) content of Stein's essay in order to describe a much wider and more troubling cultural phenomenon. He refers the reader to a radio interview of Stein conducted by Hugh Hewitt. I actually heard the interview in real time, and Vanderleun is exactly right that Stein's hollow and lilting voice is the voice of the neuter.

Vanderleun describes perfectly the flat, affectless tone of so many of Stein's generational cohort that "tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences." Neither identifiably male or female, "there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise."

But "above all, it is a sexless voice. Not, I hasten to add, a 'gay' voice.... No, this is a new old voice of a generation of ostensible men and women who have been educated and acculturated out of, or say rather, to the far side of any gender at all. It is, as I have indicated above, the voice of the neutered.... "

Here, Vanderleun seems to be describing one of the inevitable consequences of the sexual and generational blending alluded to above. This "new voice that we hear throughout the land from so many of the young betokens a weaker and less certain brand of citizen than we have been used to in our history. Neither male nor female, neither gay nor straight, neither.... well, not anything substantive really. A generation finely tuned to irony and nothingness and tone deaf to duty and soul."

Reading this fine analysis by Vanderleun immediately brought to mind an article I read in the Claremont Review of books a few years ago, Wimps and Barbarians, by Terrence O. Moore. Moore addresses the question of whether or not our most important institutions of moral instruction are failing boys in turning them into responsible young men.

Moore observes that "Young men today have both hearts and minds that are in chronic need of cultivation. Specifically, they need to realize what true manhood is, what it is not, and why it has become so difficult in the modern world to achieve the status and stature of the true man."

That is, "Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word 'virtue' is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be 'manly'."

Instead of a centered and grounded masculinity, our culture produces two extremes: "One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies." Conversely, "the other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don't be a barbarian. Don't be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man."

Stein is one of the wimps, or what C.S. Lewis called "men without chests." Moore notes that while "barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world."

Naturally, "Wimps make worthless watchdogs. But their failure as watchdogs or guardians has nothing to do with size or physique.... Many of today's young men seem to have no fight in them at all. Not for them to rescue damsels in distress from the barbarians. Furthermore, wimps vote. As Aristotle pointed out, to the cowardly, bravery will seem more like rashness and foolhardiness than what it really is. Hence political and social issues that require bravery for their solution elicit only hand-wringing and half-measures from the wimps. Wimps are always looking for the easy way out."

Moore ties the phenomenon of wimps and barbarians directly to the culture of divorce and the absence of male role models in boys' lives: "Half of American boys growing up do not live with their natural fathers. The sons of single mothers lack strong men to usher them into the world of responsible, adult manhood. Divorce, whether in reality or in the acrimonious rhetoric of the mother, impresses upon the boy an image of the father, and therefore of all men, as being irresponsible, deceitful, immature, and often hateful or abusive towards women. For sons, the divided loyalties occasioned by divorce actually create profound doubts about their own masculinity. As the boy approaches manhood, he is plagued by subconscious questions which have no immediate resolution: 'Will I be like Dad?' 'Do I want to be like Dad?' 'What is a man supposed to do?'"

It is almost impossible to believe that Joel Stein had a father. Or if he did have a father, he surely wasn't a man. Stein is said to be a graduate of Stanford, so he apparently sailed through the academic ovary tower without making any testosteronic waves.

Likewise, he is a perfect fit in the hysterical precincts of the Los Angeles Times, which has been reduced to doing little more than reporting the temperature of today's unhinged liberal emotionality. According to the radio interview, his piece went through the usual layers of editors without eliciting a single untoward comment. No evidence of masculine energy or input anywhere. Not a single man to rise up and confront the boy, asking, "Do you have any idea how cowardly and dishonorable this piece you've written is? What are you thinking? Do you not know that you are unfit to polish the boots of these men you call murderers?"

How dare you stink up this place of honor, you yellow bastard! *SLAP*

Not surprisingly, Stein's piece is an out-and-out assault on masculinity, on men with honor, on men who fight, on men who make sacrifices for a higher good in order to protect the ungrateful children of a lesser godlessness. Thus, the wimp is not just a wimp. Rather, just as the barbarian always hides the wimp, the wimp always conceals a barbarian.

And with his brave little pen he shall enviously attack the virtues he lacks, and for perhaps a fleeting moment experience a spurious sense of manhood.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kundalini & Kinda Loony

We start today's session with just your average anonymous kundalini question, Suppose a person came to you for treatment of troubling mental symptoms resulting from the spontaneous awakening of kundalini. Would you consider his case to be a psychotic episode, a spiritual emergency, or a combination of the two?

First of all, for those who are out of the loop, kundalini is the "spiritual energy" that supposedly lies dormant at the base of the spine. Various spiritual practices--in particular, tantric yoga--are designed to "awaken" this dormant energy, sending it upward through various chakras or spiritual centers. The centers are located in the genital area, the belly, the heart, the throat, the area between the eyes, and the top of the head (there are also "sub chakras" in other areas, for example, the hands).

Spiritual energy is real, but it is conceptualized in different ways by different traditions. One might think that the concept would be foreign to Christianity, but perhaps you haven't seen a frenzied Pentecostal all cross-eyed & painless, speaking in in tongues with a twelve inch diameter pool of saliva on the floor below his mouth. Perhaps you haven't seen the Reverend Al Green give himself over to some other-worldly force in his gospel excursions. Can I get a witness?! Perhaps you haven't read descriptions of the saints such as John of the Cross or Teresa, with her ecstatic swooning in the presence of the holy spirit. For that matter, perhaps you haven't seen the Chabad Telethon, with the rabbis ecstatically dancing around on your TV screen.

Having said that, I must confess that I've never treated someone wherein the process went "haywire" and they needed help. In fact, if someone came to me with such symptoms, I would be much more likely to view it as a garden-variety hysterical reaction that falls well within the bounds of psychoanalytic explanation. Over the years, you wouldn't believe range of somatic disorders I've seen.

A somatic disorder occurs when the individual unconsciously converts emotional pain or conflict into somatic pain or dysfunction. I've seen 'em all, and I can well imagine how a spiritual practitioner with a latent psychosis could unleash a somatization process and then call it an awakening of kundalini, featuring all sorts of bizarre symptoms. For example, I remember reading about some of Krishnamurti's experiences after he broke away from the Theosophists, which struck me more as psychotic separation anxiety than enlightenment.

What sort of therapy do you feel would be most helpful in this instance? Do you feel that most licensed mental health professionals are qualified to provide this type of care, or would he need to be referred to someone who specializes in treating such complications of meditative practices as he's experiencing?

As a matter of fact, such individuals are notoriously difficult to treat. They have no insight into the somatization process--technically, it's a psychotic process, except that it takes place in the body rather than the mind per se (actually the infantile bodymind). It cannot be communicated symbolically, because the body is the symbol. Indeed, that's the crux of the problem. The word has been made flesh. Except in a bad way.

Petey is hardly the only one who says that it is always important to work within an established tradition with a real teacher in order to avoid these types of problems. Better yet, avoid it altogether. Let your spiritual growth be the leading edge, and the energies will follow. Don't try to imagine that you can merely unleash some sort of magical energy and that enlightenment will somehow follow. As I mentioned, the descending spiritual approaches are much more organic, allowing the energy to gently come in from above and transform you, rather than you trying to seize the tiller of spirit and storm the gates of heaven.

Michael asked, Can the 10 commandments be put into evolutionary perspective?

You bet! In fact, I did exactly that on pages 231-244 of my book, where I demonstrated that the commandments have both an exterior and an interior meaning, and that each of them can be reconciled with the Upanishads (that's why I call them the Ten "Commanishads" or "Upanishalts"). Importantly, the interior meaning by no means contradicts or cancels out the exterior. It just adds an extra dimension of depth to it.

Much of what you say seems like an exercise in linguistic metaphysics. 'Thou shall not murder' is direct as God can be. Does the understanding change or does God's word stay the same today and always? When Christ says, He and He only is the Way, how can one be reconcilable to your 'one cosmos'? Can you give an example of the evolving Word? Maybe I misunderstood your point?

I specifically take care to avoid what you call "linguistic metaphysics." Metaphysics is a dead letter without the light of spiritual experience or the testimony of the saints. I want to help people have the experience, not simply play around with words and concepts. To the extent concepts are used, they must be analogous to bank notes that are backed by the full faith and credit of spiritual experience, and can be "cashed in" at any time.

You asked how Christ's statement that "He and He only is the Way" can be reconciled with my approach. It depends on how you understand Christ. If you understand Christ the way that he and the enlightened saints down through the ages understood him, then there's no problem. The Christ is eternal, outside space and time. He antedated the historical Jesus--in fact, antedated time and history: "Before Abraham was, I AM." The eternal I AM is perpetually given birth in the ground of being, and we may participate in that birth. It is now standard Catholic doctrine that one may know Christ without literally knowing Christ, so to speak. It's not the ideal, it just means that Christ can be working through someone without that person even being aware of it.

An example of the "evolving word." This is really very simple. Words are containers that accumulate meaning through experience. You could say, for example, that you understand the word "swim," although you have never personally been in the water. Will the meaning of the word not evolve once you take a dip?"

How about a more complex word? A child knows what marriage is. But what is it really? For that matter, plenty of adults are married. But are they really? In what sense?

Yes, God's word stays the same today and always. Except that it's a holographic word hyperdense with meaning, not a linear word with the type of one-to-one correspondence that is adequate to describe lower orders of being, such as brute matter.

Certainly there are multiple layers to Bible verses and education matters. One can be misled with false teachers.

Ah, but you shall know them by their fruit of the looms. They're always washing their dirty laundry in public. If you squint a little with your third eye, you can see it.

We should all be careful to pinhole 'fundamentalist'. Many of them know this already to be true and love the duality of word and verse meanings and many fundamentalist teachers readily use this device of teaching to peel away layers of understanding. But its not some type of gnosis or esoteric understanding that is required.

Beg to differ. What does the Bible mean where it says that Jesus did and said many things to his inner circle that "opened their eyes?" What is the holy spirit, why did he send it, and what does it do? Is spiritual vision really as mundane as scientific knowledge, involving no gnosis at all? Is there a difference between knowing and understanding?

There are very simple laws for a reason such that - 'a child can understand them'.

Of course. But when I was a child, I understood as a child. Scripture also allows for personal growth, so that an adult may understand as an adult. Again, it doesn't contradict the earlier understanding--it transcends and embraces it. It's a more expansive understanding.

I agree in response to secular humanist uprisings, a new Christian fundamentalism is arising as well. But this also is due to new avenues in media savvy by the old guard of Christian fundamentalist. They're learning how to fight fire with fire and are not afraid to do it. This battle is as old the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Yes, but I'm afraid that fundamentalists are fighting fire with fire--scientific materialism with spiritual materialism. It's just a fight as to whose literalism and materialism will prevail. Fire needs to be fought with water.

Personally, I've never been one to accept all religions/one cosmos theory movement.

I don't either. I'm polymonotheistic. I don't believe in blending but correlating or cross-fertilizing. Mainly, I want to help people get more out of their own tradition. This is a genuine stumbling block for many modern intellectuals who don't see how they can reconcile modernity and traditional religion.

I definitely think that some traditions ar better than others, but I would rather not get into that, because I don't want to alienate people. Also, It's not always cut and dry. For example, a deeper version of one religion might be superior to a shallow version of another, and vice versa.

But let me again re-emphasize that if your approach is working for you, I have no desire to question or change it. The key for me is whether or not someone's approch is working--that is, whether or not it is resulting in real change, real understanding, and real growth.

I cannot talk for others, but in Christian doctrine and Judaism there is only one God and those who worship idols(i.e. wooden, gold and ornamental renderings made by the hand of man) are a clear abomination to God the Father of Torah and His Son, Christ Yeshua of the Gospels. There is no sharing amongst the religions. God is a 'jealous' God. And while some see this as 'fundamentalist' thinking, really its just the pure acceptance of belief in the teachings of Christ. Christ never said go and seek other ways to God.

Christ never said a lot of things, like "go and cure polio," or "the scientific method is the best way to understand the material world," or "always remember that inflation is tied to monetary policy," or "harsh parenting is just going to create a neurotic adult." I find that the greatest error committed by fundamentalists is that Christ is often reduced to an informational teacher as opposed to the transformational teaching.

How do you reconcile such language Or, do you ignore it? Do you teach that such language does not matter? Do you address such concerns at all?

Yes, like the constitution, there are aspects of scripture, such as "You shall not murder" that are analogous to clear statements in the constitution requiring a two-thirds majority. But what does "cruel and unusual punishment" mean?

Again, even seemingly unambiguous scriptural statements contain an exterior and interior meaning. Do you not understand more of the inner meaning of scripture as you develop and grow spiritually? Is there such a thing as spiritual growth? If spirit is alive--indeed, if it is life itself--how can it not grow?

Why did Jesus speak in parables? Is there only one way to understand a parable? If so, why didn't he just skip the parable and say what he meant?

What does it mean, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?" Could it mean that in the perpetual beginning that is happening right now, God creates the vertical and the horizontal?

John says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." How can the Word simultaneously be God and with God? "In him was the life and the life was the light of men?" What's that all about? Mere biological life? I don't think so. The light waves described by quantum physics? Hmm, I think not. The darkness didn't comprehend it? How can darkness comprehend anything?

That's the point, isn't it? Scripture must be trancelighted in order to be understood. Call it gnosis if you want. I call it seeing the light with the eyes Darwin didn't give you.


***And don't forget to see what Joyce says about the matter, over on the sidebar.

+++Oh, and be thinking of questions for the next round, maybe this Saturday.