Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gresham's Other Law: Bad Monkeys Drive Out Good (4.23.10)

I was moving some stuff around my office and found an old post-it on the floor, under the desk. On it was written the cryptic sentence, "I was beginning to sense that the night had written a check that daylight couldn't cash." Those aren't my words. I believe I lifted them from Lileks, but he was quoting another writer whose name I can't recall. Anyway, I found the sentence arresting enough to write down on a post-it. I wonder why?

In a way, that's the big question, isn't it? We're only alive for such a brief period of time between two dark slabs of eternity. As Basil Fawlty summed it up in a famous soliloquy, "Whoosh. What was that? That was your life, mate. Oh, that was quick. Do I get another? Sorry mate, that’s your lot."

So the question is, in being inexplicably conceived and burped out of the cosmic voidgin, has time written us a check that eternity cannot cash? Is no body allowed to cross the phoenix line, or may we purchase a luxury corps at pentecost? Is the rend redeemable on our mirromortal garment, or are we nilled to a blank?

Looked at strictly temporally, our lives are a culmination, the detritus left by of 13.7 billion years of meandering evolution, mere cosmic effluvia deposited along the banks at the terminal moraine of the now. If our existence were truly limited to this temporal line of credit, it is nigh impossible to account for the miracle of the human subject.

For really, all adolescent scientistic kidding aside, how, while drifting along in the stream of mere material shuffling, did the current somehow raise itself above the plane of matter, and awaken to a non-empirical dimension of immaterial idealism? That’s some evolutionary currency. The question is, is it backed by the full faith and credit of the Divine Treasury, or is it only a rubber check issued by the Bank of Darwin located in Fort Hard Knocks?

At some point in the cosmic stream, some 3.85 billion years ago, the stream defiantly wrapped around itself and created a tiny loopwhole amidst the greater whole. Up to that point, the cosmos was truly “one.” But it was a purely material one whose circumference was everywhere and center nowhere. With the emergence of life, the cosmos now had a center, a center with branches in every living thing.

For Life itself is not a spatial center but a hierarchical center. Whatever else Life is, it manifests something that mere matter does not. To paralagiaphrise E.F. Schumacher, it is probably easier to think of matter as “life minus x” than it is to think of life as “matter plus x.”

This is why it is hopeless to defer to biology as to the nature of life-its-own-darn-self. As I mentioned in the book, a biologist knows no more about the nature of life than a watchmaker does about the nature of time. As I have noted before, although it is obvious to me that the cosmos manifests intelligent design, I do not rely on this to inductively leap the conclusion that God therefore exists. This is like proving the existence of time by studying watches.

Etymologically, the word evolution is linked to the word for “unroll,” as in the way an ancient manuscript was unfurled. On the one hand, we see that the unrolling tide of evolution has been accompanied by increasing novelty and complexity which is eventually tucked away in that evolutionary data bank known as the genome. But where does the compound interest come from?

In other words, accompanying the horizontal course of evolution has been a vertical liftoff as well. As human beings, this is the only horizon we are really interested in. This vertical horizon is an area of increasing centration, following in the wake of that first declaration of vertical independence represented by life. Life is that narrow slot we have all leapt through in order to have our precarious existence, like a little eddy formed in the stream of time.

Instead of being swallowed up by the tide, that little primordial eddy grew in strength, widened, and gained increasing vertical centration. Still surfing atop the precarious flow of matter and information--a little whirling dance on the knife edge between immaterial being and material non-being--mere animals eventually awakened to humanness.

And that is not all, for the centration and widening of vertical evolution did not end with that first proto-human primate looking around and thinking to himself, “Hmm. I’m alive. I am screwed.” Rather, it seems that, immediately upon awakening to his humanness some 35 to 40,000 years, our distinguished furbear pledged allegiance to the vertical order that had sponsored him. Admittedly, he sometimes did this in awkward and gruesome ways, such as human sacrifice, self-mutilation, and suicide bombing. But he also did it in some preternaturally beautiful ways, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux and Alta Mira.

Which raises an interesting question. Just what was this new subjective dimension that human beings had stumbled upon? Most mysteriously, why was it not an empty vault? In other words, why did it contain such riches as aesthetic standards? What’s the point of beauty? For that matter, why is the world that we awakened to so beautiful? Is it really beautiful? Or do we just see it that way? If the latter, why?

So human beings erected an altar. The purpose of the altar was to further “widen” that same little slot that was initially opened up by life. By widening that slot, human beings obtained increasing awareness of other inexplicable vertical characteristics, forces, and luxury capaxities: a sense of the sacred, the penumbra of holiness, love of truth, right and wrong, refinement of the heart. Each of these represented a subjectively objective reality that was discovered, not invented.

For proto-man to become mankind proper, it was a matter of assimilating more and more of what was discovered in the vertical, all of these traits and capacities that have no Darwinian utility at all. For vertical evolution does not involve becoming a better animal, but a better human. And the standard of humanness is not found in the horizontal world bequeathed to us by Darwin, or by naive scientism in general. Mankind owes nothing to Darwin for those things that lift us above the tide of animal evolution.

For there are only two absolutes. Everything else is a matter of degree. At one end--call it the lower vertical--is pure insentient matter. The secularist Son of the Earth has pledged his allegiance to Mighty Matter, Mother of All Mamafestation. This is Horizontal Man. He is indeed made in the image of that which he worships. He is king of the lowerarchy, not because he knows about the logos, but because he knows how low he goes.

At the other end of the spectrum, at the toppermost of the poppermost of the cosmic hierarchy, is Beyond Being. This is the horizon toward which Sons of the Light fix their gaze. For we are neither dirt nor divinity, but somewhere in between.

And that is not all. For in reality, each created thing is superior to something below it and inferior to something above. As such, "ye shall be godless" is logically equivalent to the primordial lie, “ye shall be as gods." Thus, secular man is his own god, albeit the petty “flatland god” of an ontologically diminished horizontality. In his relativism he feels no better than anyone else, but in elevating his relativism to an absolute, he secretly knows that he is superior to everyone, especially God. He has no way of knowing his place in the cosmic scheme, his proper caste.

This represents a small triumph for darkness, the primordial darkness accompanied by belief in the serpent’s promise of horizontal self-sufficiency in the closed circle of animal existence. You may have noticed that the serpent has insufficient funds to back that check. As such, there's no way to amortize your life.


Spontaneous worship:

We bow before you, O exalted and blessed birthday cake, you who dissolves our crude and undeveloped standards of flavor and moistness with a single bite!

Friday, April 21, 2006

In the Name of Petey, the Merciful, the Compassionate!

Interesting that yesterday's comments should have veered into the topic of compassion, because that's exactly what I was about to discuss. Like everything else, it has an outward or colloquial meaning and an inner, esoteric one. More often than not, the former type of compassion is actually ego-driven and harms the recipient, whereas genuine compassion may not be recognized as such, and may even be misinterpreted as harshness or insensitivity. Any parent understands this, as does most any effective psychotherapist.

I remember studying the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg in graduate school, who is an extraordinarily lucid and deep thinker. A woman in class commented that he seemed rather cold, harsh and judgmental in discussing psychopathology. The brilliant Dr. Panajian was somewhat taken aback. How can truth be anything but compassionate? Truth precedes the good. Compassion is "doing the truth."

No, this does not mean that you clobber the patient over the head with it, with “sadistic interpretations.” Nevertheless, one of the enduring lessons I learned from Dr. Panajian is that in therapy you must always ally yourself with the epistemophilic part of the patient that deeply wishes to know the truth. For we have a healthy and uncorrupted part of our soul that yearns for truth, but other nocturnal parts that wish to deny it because they live by night.

A "good" (not in the moral sense) patient is someone who is so hungry for truth that they are able to tolerate its catastrophic impact without taking it out on the messenger. For others, it may take years of spadework to allow the truth to seep in. For them, unvarnished truth is not compassionate. But neither is allowing the Lie to stand, so it's a delicate balance. Obviously, many spiritual teachers run into this difficulty, because they necessarily have a "one size fits all" message. One person may respond, "how dare you say I'm a sinner?!," while another person drops to his knees and cries "you're right! How can I thank you?!"

In the case of Christianity, there are two supreme commandments: 1) to love the lord with all your strength, soul, and intellect (body, mind and spirit), and 2), to love your neighbor as yourself. The first of these--both ontologically and practically--is the supreme vertical commandment, while the second, which is subordinate and derives from the first, is the supreme horizontal commandment.

I believe you will recognize the fact that the leftist makes no apologies about elevating the horizontal commandment to the most high. In all seriousness, these are compassionate people, are they not? I do not judge their motives, nor do I believe that most leftists are bad people. But their policies follow from their ontology, and their ontology is deeply flawed because it denies the primacy of the vertical.

First of all, if you deny the vertical, your compassion will necessarily deny it as well. According to Webster’s, compassion is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Thus, to a leftist, a “homeless” person is simply a person without a home. He has no spiritual problem, much less a psychological one. We must simply give him a home. We have no consciousness of his spiritual state, so there is nothing there to alleviate. You have undoubtedly noticed how emotionally overwrought the leftist becomes over “faith based initiatives.” The whole idea is an insult--and a threat--to those who do not see the vertical or recognize any of its demands upon us.

What happens, say, if you give a vertically challenged person a home? Part of being vertically challenged may involve, for example, an absence of gratitude and an overabundant sense of entitlement. Indeed, it may be precisely these vertical factors that resulted in his lack of a horizontal home. Whatever. Stop being so mean-spirited and judgmental. You sound like Otto Kernberg!

As always, I am not making an either/or case. In almost every instance of such an antinomy, the wise course is to steer the middle ground. For I am not a mirror image of the leftist--I am not arguing for the pure reality of the vertical and the absolute unreality of the horizontal, as if it is nothing but maya. Again, real compassion is vertical truth in horizontal action. Everything depends on Truth, for there is no higher doctrine in all of spiritual life.

True compassion is actually calm-passion, because it should follow from simple recognition of what is called for. It involves disinterestedly giving someone what they need (sometimes good and hard, I’m tempted to say), regardless of whether they recognize that they need it.

Just as the horizontal is subordinate to the vertical, the passions must be subordinate to the intellect (once again reminding the reader that I am using the word intellect in its original spiritual sense). This is another way of saying that actions must be guided by the supreme virtue, prudence, for what is the sorry history of leftism but imprudent compassion run amuck?

But to say that the passions must be guided by the intellect is not to suggest that the passions are inherently bad or somehow to be eliminated--as if we are all to become like Mr. Spock. Come to think of it, there were a number of Star Trek episodes that dealt with this false dichotomy of pure vertical intellect (Mr. Spock) and pure horizontal passion (Dr. McCoy). Often, Captain Kirk was the passionate but wise hero who reconciled both, but not without a struggle.

In their proper spiritual context, emotions are not to be understood in their animal sense as mere outlets of affective energy. Rather, although subordinate to the intellect, they are powerful conveyors of information. Think of the analogy of music. Music is pure information, and yet, it cannot be comprehended with the mind alone. Take the emotional impact we feel when a song shifts from a major to a minor key. It’s quite mysterious. How does that happen?

I remember the first time I became consciously aware of it. It was in 1966. It was the song “Bus Stop” by the Hollies, which shifts from major to minor key in such a way that it creates a distinctly foreboding mood--even vaguely scary for a 10 year-old. The intellect alone can know nothing of this mood. It can only know the literal meaning of the happy pop lyric about a new relationship.

But there is a world of difference between using one’s emotions as subtle organs of perception vs. mere emotionalism or sentimentality. Here again, you will notice how the left always uses emotion in this manner. They want you to judge them by the purity of their emotions, never by the actual effect of this or that policy.

There are more examples than I can possibly provide here: mandating a “living wage” creates massive inflation and unemployment; rent control leads directly to housing shortages; the Kyoto protocols would so damage the global economy that it would kill far more humans right now than “global warming” ever will in the future; high taxes lead to tax shelters, black markets, reduction of investment, and less wealth for everyone; banishing “judgmentalism” and wrenching sexuality from its sacred context creates more personal and cultural pathologies than you can even imagine.

Mere emotionalism of the leftist variety distorts reality, whereas genuine compassion does not. Genuine compassion for others follows directly from the vertical compassion we receive from God. Taken out of that context, mere horizontal compassion will be reduced to a purely egoic, “feel good” activity, as it cares not a bit for the deepest (vertical) needs of the recipient, while at the same time exalts the ego of the giver. Over the long haul, what is really accomplished by this metaphysical shell game?

By ridding our own soul of illusions, unhealthy passions and mind parasites, we create a space for God to operate, first vertically and then horizontally. If we don’t do that, then our compassion will inevitably be like that of the leftist, harboring the same secret poison that undoes the best intentions of the Great and Good Compassionate Liberal. It is very easy to hide our vertical blindness behind a superficially appealing veil of good works, as does socialist Europe. It takes an extraordinary amount of misplaced compassion to create such narcissistic self-absorption.

Which brings up an interesting point. I like to think of these little spiritual manifestos I send out every morning as a form of disinterested vertical compassion. And yet, no matter how hard I try, I get more out of it than I put into it. For example, some of the feedback I receive is so personally moving, that all I can do is thank you for being compassionate enough to help this humble seeker continue pretending to help others.


For horizontal man, vertical doors are experienced as persecutory walls.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Unholier Than Thou

In many ways, spiritual growth involves the acquisition--or reacquisition--of primordial simplicity. As we go through life, so many layers of complexity are added to our nature that this in itself becomes problematic. If I am recalling correctly, the Tao says words to the effect that every day the worldly man adds something to his stature, while the sage gives something up.

It occurred to me that in writing about gnosis and various subtle metaphysical principles, the reader may go away with the false impression that the spiritual enterprise is highly sophisticated and elitist. But that is not the case. In reality, the principles that govern both the world and the soul are rather straightforward and transparent.

It's very easy to be complicated. Come to think of it, almost everyone who comes into therapy, whatever their particular problem, is also plagued by the more general problem of complexity. Their minds are full of back alleys and dark corners, ulterior motives, hidden assumptions, ungoverned imaginings, simmering resentments, idle dreams, unacknowledged fears, unlived passions, etc. You might say that these various parts of our personality fall into two categories: the undead and the unborn.

As I mentioned in the book, everyone comes to therapy--and to spirituality--in a state of fragmentation. Becoming unified or "whole" is the goal of each. For example, yesterday we spoke of hysteria, which is one way to express one's lack of wholeness. Hysterics externalize their inner emotional fragmentation and are constantly "seduced" and hypnotized by one thing or another.

Complexity can be immensely appealing, because it provides convenient justification for sin. Yes, sin, understood in its widest sense as separation from the divine. For among other things, our fall from grace involves a fall from objective simplicity into subjective complexity. The way back is so simple--it's a straight line. And yet, the path has disappeared.

It reminds me of my bike ride in the hills yesterday. We've had a lot of rain recently, so the wild grass is growing very rapidly. As I continued on my path, I was soon hip deep in tall grass. The path had disappeared, even though it had been there just last week, and I knew that it was still somewhere down below where I couldn't see it. Ultimately, through an act of faith, I made it to the other side, but not without several ticks hitching a ride on my legs.

To one degree or another, we all live in sin--we all fall short of the Glory of God. However, the critical question is just how far we have fallen. For your answer to this question will determine whether you can make it through the parasite-infested tall grass back home, or whether you will even bother to try.

There are many religious thinkers whom I respect deeply--Father Seraphim Rose comes to mind--but with whom I disagree on this point. They maintain that our fall is so complete and final, that there is nothing we personally can do to reverse it. It's merely a matter of realizing the extent of our fallenness, the calamitous nature of our existential situation, and crying out to God for help.

But it is not metaphysically possible that our fall can be complete. Recall our post from a couple days ago, discussing how God is paradoxically both radically transcendent and yet fully immanent and "within" everything. Therefore, human beings can be no exception. No matter how far we have fallen, we will still have a spark of holiness connecting us to our source, even if the pathway back appears to be overgrown with tall grass--various accretions, mazes, dark spots and other samskaras that obscure our vision.

So we can be saved, because somewhere deep inside, God is what we are. But this is where I deviate from new age pagans, who generally do not believe in sin, in our inherently fallen nature. As a result, they approach spirituality through the fallen ego--in other words, they use as their vehicle of spiritual advance the very entity that is inherently separate from God. In this sense, the ego cannot save itself.

If you listen to any new age teacher, you will see that they commit this heresy. And I use the word "heresy" advisedly, because I am not talking about something that is heretical to this or that religion. Rather, I am speaking of intrinsic heresy that flies in the face of objective metaphysical truth.

For spiritual growth is not a colonization of Spirit by the ego, but a conquest of the ego by Spirit. It is the exact opposite of Freud's aphoristic formulation regarding psychological growth. He said "where id was, ego shall be," meaning that the purpose of analysis is to make more of the unconscious conscious, so that it comes under the purview of the ego. But in the case of spirituality, we might say, "where ego was, Spirit shall be."

Thus, the principle task of spirituality is not to acquire more land for the ego--that is the way of complexity. For the things we must "acquire" do not belong to us and cannot belong to us. Rather, they belong to God--to that part of us that is not fallen and is therefore not ego.

This is admittedly a razor's edge, as we must guide ourselves between the "rock" of a pious belief in too much sin and the "hard place" of new age or secular sinlessness. Interestingly, both extremes involve a certain kind of excessive pride and self-importance. In the latter case it is obvious, but the pious variety is a more subtle kind of spiritual affectation, of "I'm so bad I'm good." But you see, our faults belong to us, not to God. The more we make a big deal out of them, the more we inflate our own importance.

Furthermore, this kind of morbid obsession will simply reinforce our separation from God. And what is separation from God? Sin. Neither the sinning ego nor the sinful act are ultimately "real," and that is the problem. They must be "given up," not held onto and celebrated. It reminds me of those Muslim nutjobs who go about cutting themselves with knives and swords to prove their piety. Talk about a perverse celebration of ego: "bloodier than thou." This is not humility but obscenely egotistical false modesty.

How about that ultimate act of "self sacrifice," the suicide bomber? It is actually the ultimate act of ego-aggrandizement, carried over into the next world. The mother of the latest suicide monster says her son is a hero. No person of humility could ever so hate the world that they gave their only egotistical son, that whoever believes in his narcissistic act should get their own state.

For submission to truth is both simplicity and humility. According to Frithjof Schuon, "to submit to truth is the best way to be humble," because humility is nothing more than an accurate self-assessment. No need to make a big deal out of it. It is what it is. The cause of our calamity is engraved in our existence. But this knowledge is the key to ungraving our dead selves, for the cause of our salvation is also inscribed somewhere below the tall grass of our meandering lives.


That's a coincidence. In her most recent column, Ann Coulter writes,

"But we're all rotten sinners, incapable of redemption on our own. The liberal answer to sin is to say: I can never pay this back, so my argument will be I didn't do anything wrong.

"The religion of peace's answer is: I've just beheaded an innocent man--I'm off to meet Allah!

"I don't know what the Jewish answer is, but I'm sure it's something other than, 'therefore, what I did is no longer bad behavior'--or the Talmud could be a lot shorter.

"The Christian answer is: I can never pay this back, but luckily that Christ fellow has already paid my debt."

Although I enthusiastically endorse what Coulter is saying, I think you can now understand the subtle 1% of it with which I would disagree.


Keep it simple and you won't get swallowed up by the tall grass. You can't fall any further if you're already on the ground.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Indifferent

I was going to write about the spiritual virtue of calm detachment, but somehow this post was quickly hijacked by an incendiary remark by Petey. However, I like the title, so I think I’ll keep it. It actually has some relevance to what we’re about to discuss, but I will probably expand upon that tomorrow.

Perhaps you have noticed--how could you not--that the Left and the MSM are always in full hysterical mode. One day it's this, the next day it's that, but it's always something. It is what I call the "tempest of the day," and I myself try to avoid it except to view it from afar with bemused detachment.

You can tell it's hysteria, because as soon as the hysteria dies down, you may ask yourself, "what was that all about?" A few weeks ago it was the vice president accidentally shooting his friend. Yesterday it was the moonbat generals. Whatever it is, the hysterical press will quickly move on to something else, just like a woman.

I didn't say that!

One of these days Petey is going to get me in real trouble. Now I've got to try to explain what he meant--if I can figure it out myself. And to the extent that I can't, I'm going to rely on some self-aware female readers out there to back me up.

Let me first say that traditional metaphysics views sex and gender in precisely the opposite way as do modern secularists, who regard sex as an objective biological fact and gender as an arbitrary and superficial cultural invention. In the traditional view, gender is actually a universal property that inheres in every created thing. It is antecedent to biology, so it is quite natural that it should appear in a complementary way in biological organisms.

One of the first things you learn in graduate school when studying hysteria is that it is derived from the word for "womb" (think of "hysterectomy.") In the ancient world it was thought that the cause of hysteria--which involves a rapidly shifting and often shallow display of affect--was caused by a "wandering womb." That is, instead of staying put in one place, the womb roams throughout the body, causing various physical symptoms and “affect storms.” The ancients believed that the "cure" for hysteria was pregnancy, as that caused the womb to "settle down" and remain in place.

Of course, this theory sounds hysterical to us now. But bear in mind that Galen was actually a careful observer. Ancient physicians were empiricists who paid close attention to phenomena. It's just that their theories of the phenomena fall short in light of modern scientific explanations. But the phenomena are nonetheless real and in need of explanation. After all, we still use the same word--hysteria---with the same characteristics, etymology and connotations.

Call Galen’s theory foolish, but it is well understood that a woman will become more conservative if she has a child--provided she is not an unwed mother, which may simply make her more female, er, I mean liberal. The key is actually to have an appropriate relationship with her complementary gender--just as it is with men. For a man who is not tempered by his complementary opposite will either be a beast or a shemale.

This, by the way, is the reason why a woman can make a baby but not a man. For a boy to become a man, he will require “male mothering” from a manly role model. It is very rare that a boy will be able to obtain this from his mother alone, no matter how hard she tries. This explains why the plague of unwed motherhood leads directly to the plague of barbarous boys in the body of a man.

So please, do not misunderstand--when Petey talks about female energy in a seemingly disparaging way, bear in mind that he is specifically referring to what happens when it is wrenched from its natural context, which is in relationship to male energy. A different, but equally noxious, pathology results from unhinged male energy, as we see in the Arab world, where females are degraded and devalued. (I was about to say "unmoored" male energy, but that's the problem... It's definitely Moored.)

I am hardly the first to notice that the man-woman gender complementarity spontaneously appears in the political field. Republicans are the Daddy party, Democrats the Mommy Party. If you don't already clearly see that, I'm not going to try to convince you. I've discussed it in the past.

This bipolarity is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it is the natural and inevitable thing, just as marriage is. Speaking of which, you will notice how man-hating feminists, unwed single mothers, and feminized men are perhaps the largest constituency of the Democratic party. Each of these, it should be emphasized, represents a perversion of female gender. For they represent "pure" or unbalanced female energy in the absence of its complementary opposite. Thus, I hope you understand what Petey means when he says that Democrats and the liberal media are just like women, only worse.

It seems that when a woman marries--or simply even has an appropriate relationship with her complementary gender--she automatically becomes more conservative. But here again, marriage itself is not the necessary variable. For example, a girl who feels loved by a strong, virtuous and noble father has almost zero chance of becoming a leftist. Nor will she have any interest in marrying a fe-man such as Jimmy Carter or John Kerry.

I accidently caught a bit of Jane Fonda on Larry King last night. Not surprisingly, her dysfunctional father was a big liberal. Equally unsurprisingly, she has married two of the bull goose loony leftists of all time, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner. If I were Noam Chomsky, I'd ask for her number. (Interestingly, she now claims to be a Christian, so long as it does not clash with the deeper truth of feminist dogma. Having struggled with bulimia for some 25 years, I suspect that she will have the same ambivalent relationship to God as with lower forms of nourishment.)

I also heard some of the Rumsfeld press conference yesterday, and it was a fine example of a proper man engaging with histrionic liberal energy in an appropriately calm and detached way. As a matter of fact, the man who is foolish enough to "take the bait" and engage with the histrionic on his or her own level falls very far indeed. He will enter the murky world of the "purely female," where he cannot win. He has recapitulated Adam's big blunder.

You will notice this whenever you try to debate a leftist. You will notice it when you read dailykos or huffingtonpost or the New York Times op-ed page. Vanderleun has referred to the pathetic men of these worlds as our "modern castrati," but I would fine-tune that assessment, for these are not so much men without a phallus but women with one (or who imagine that they have one). A Maureen Dowd and a Kos What's-his-name are actually the same monstrous hybrid gender.

A few months back there was an excellent piece by Vasko Kohlmayer at American Thinker, entitled Gallantry: What Liberals can Learn from George W. Bush (in what follows, my comments are in brackets). In it, he writes how "The other day, the American people saw George W. Bush once again addressing his critics in connection with the NSA’s surveillance program. Despite the fact that he has been [histrionically] accused of the worst of possible motives--of willfully and deliberately breaking the law to spy on his fellow citizens--the President tackled this and other gratuitous charges without a trace of anger or bitterness [i.e., in an appropriately manly way]."

Kohlmayer continues: "A relative few presidents in this country’s history have endured the kind of vicious and spurious attacks that have been leveled against George Bush. Completely abandoning any sense of decorum or statesmanship, some of the highest officials in the Democratic Party have repeatedly called him a liar, a loser, an election-thief, an airhead, and a fraud. Regularly likened to Hitler, there have been books discussing his assassination. Recently he was even dubbed the world’s greatest terrorist by one of America’s once-prominent entertainers.... Sadly, such views are increasingly becoming part of the mainstream liberal outlook."

Nevertheless, "no matter how malicious they have been, George Bush has always faced his critics with affability and goodwill. Even his most bitter enemies--hating him as they do--would be hard pressed to fault him for being uncivil or personally unpleasant [i.e., for being like them]. He displays none of the [hysterical] unkindness, harshness or anger one would normally expect from someone engaged in a political struggle against those who frenziedly seek his destruction."

In fact, "Bush’s gallant manner has become something of a trademark. His comportment has served him well, for he has triumphed in almost every great battle he has fought, including two heatedly-fought national elections. His successes tend to drive his opponents into what can only be called spasms of political hysteria [emphasis mine], and not knowing what else to do, they crank up even further their already outlandish rhetoric. Their near-madness is indeed a sight to behold."

Kohlmayer points out that "liberalism’s present day haplessness is not primarily due to a lack of argumentative skills on the part of its advocates." Rather, it is a deeper predicament, for their "real and ultimately insurmountable problem is that most of their beliefs and positions are inherently indefensible," for example, multiculturalism, higher taxes to help the economy, socialized medicine, an ever larger and suffocating state.

However, contemporary liberalism is not based on thought but on feeling. Give them credit: at least the feelings are very strong ones. Nevertheless, "So profound is [liberal] desperation and impotence that often they can think of nothing better than heckling, throwing, and squirting salad dressing at conservative speakers. It is both telling and ironic that this often happens in universities which are supposed to serve as forums where opposing points of view are freely and openly discussed."

It should come as no surprise that this histrionic attitude prevails in the gynocracy of wackademia. Manly virtues are utterly alien in that ovary tower of feminist experiments against reality. If you accidentally act like a man--take the case of Lawrence Summers--you will be mercilessly castrated, even if you cravenly apologize and immediately close your eyes and revert back to liberal hysterical blindness, as Summers attempted to do.

Thus, the only hope for liberalism "lies in deception and personal attacks. They must lie about what they believe and demonize those who disagree. Over time this tends to make them vicious, bitter and hateful. One needs to look no further than Howard Dean, Teddy Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, Michael Moore, Harry Reid and the aging Jimmy Carter for confirmation that this is indeed the case."

"What a glaring contrast with the gracious deportment of George W. Bush. In him we see the human aspect of conservatism at its best--kindly, affable and good-natured," similar in a way to Ronald Reagan. How do such men do it?

They do it because they are not merely men in a state of nature or the phallic women of the left. One major reason is that they have (and had) appropriate and psychologically generative relationships with their complementary gender. As a matter of fact, both Reagan and Bush were vertically transformed in part by women--real women.

As was this barbarian.

Petey? I don't know. I think he's still single. That would explain a lot.


Natural man vs. semi-civilized beast (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mr. Gnosis All (or, Physician Get Over Thyself)

Is there "saving knowledge?" I get some occasional mild flack about this, and I can understand why, because it's a concept that can be easily misunderstood. (Some of you may be inclined to personalize this message, but don't worry, you're not alone. It's an important issue.)

As a matter of fact, the idea that there is some kind of hidden knowledge accessible only to "special people" is immensely appealing to unredeemed rascals and hideous narcissists like Madonna or Deepak Chopra. I would venture to say that 99% of the interest in kabbalah or yoga is of this nature. It's not a statement about kabbalah but about those barbarians who would eagerly seize upon it in order to further aggrandize themselves (or enrich themselves in the case of Chopra and his sleazy brethren of The New Age Treedwelling Salivation Show).

Some intellectual types who come to faith do so precisely because they are tired and weary of the predictable games of the intellect. They know full well how the debased intellect builds castles in the air, how it lives in its own fantasies, the arrogance it displays in its empty claims to know so much about reality. They are aware of the solipsism and self-centeredness it engenders. Better just to defiantly believe "because it's absurd" and impenetrable, and leave it at that.

Of course, you may have noticed that people who are in possession of the "saving faith" can be just as tedious and arrogant as the spiritual gnosis-alls, whether Christian, Jewish, or obviously Muslim. In fact, we've even had an arrogant and pompous Aurobindean and Spinozean pantheist who have condescended to offer their pearls to the rest of us benighted One Cosmonauts.

Do you not see, my dear bobbleheads, that faith deployed in this manner is nothing more than mere "special knowledge" by another name? In other words, faith can be used by a blunt intellect to aggrandize the self and to feel superior to others, just as knowledge can be. "X said it, I believe it, that settles it. Oh, and by the way, you're going to hell." Thanks for the tip!

I do not believe that God gave us our intellect merely to shut it down when we come to faith. Rather, we are to love the lord not only with all our hearts, but with all our minds as well. For all truth ultimately emanates from the same source.

Normally I don't lay down the law, but I will say this: you must never reject a truth merely to preserve your faith. Rather, you must widen your faith to encompass all Truth. For I AM that Truth.

Of course, I get the opposite complaint as well---not a complaint really, more of an urgent request--"Bob, stop beating around the burning bush. Just give us the damn secret." Of course I can't do that, for although I believe there is "saving knowledge," as I tried to explain in the book, it is not the type of knowledge that can be passed like an object from mind to mind.

It is actually paradoxical, for I believe the type of knowledge I am talking about is objective. And yet, it must be subjectively discovered or realized for it to bear fruit in the rocky fields of the soul.

We're going to be hearing a lot about this issue in coming weeks, what with the recent bogus controversy over the "Gospel of Judas" and with the dopey Da Vinci Code. In order to insulate yourself from this nonsense, you must draw a sharp distinction between gnosticism and gnosis.

Gnosticism refers to a group of early Christian heresies that had some very specific ideas and doctrines, while the latter simply refers to the activity of the higher mind, or what used to be called in the Christian West intellection. As I mentioned yesterday, ever since the Enlightenment, there has been an unfortunate conflation of soul and spirit, so that the intellect has been appropriated by mere secular intellectuals.

But it was not always so. For example, when Aquinas refers to the intellect, he is specifically talking about that eternal part of us that can know the divine, not about the reason, which is the province of what we now call intellectuals.

Can you see the problem? Those who would suspect me of being a gnostic in the pejorative sense are themselves fully caught in the enlightenment trap of conflating intellect and reason. Gotcha! Some falls are a result not of pride but of misplaced humility.

One of my nonlocal friends says "Knowledge saves us only on condition that it engages all that we are: only when it constitutes a way which works and transforms, and which wounds our nature as the plough wounds the soil." Right there we have a key to the type of knowledge I am discussing: rather than aggrandizing the self, it pierces the self--it does not elevate you but humbles you.

There. You now have some saving knowledge of your own, for in knowing it, you are in a position to identify both false prophets and true profiteers.

Here is the potential problem with "saving faith." Yes, of course it is true, assuming it comes from an authentic revelation. However, we are created beings who live in time and space. The spiritual life is a journey, a sojourn from truth to Truth. Truth must be the basis of the journey, but it is also the end, the telos drawing us toward itself. For that matter, it must also be every step along the way. If you merely "possess" truth in the usual way, I'm afraid it won't be operative in your life in the manner I am discussing.

For the depth and breadth of truth are only revealed in the fulness of time. Otherwise, the understanding received by your next door neighbor who was saved in church last Sunday morning is absolutely no different than the understanding of Meister Eckhart, or St. Theophan the Recluse, or Shankara, or Denys the Areopagite--someone who has been wounded by the truth for many years and has been bringing forth sound fruit. Even after they're technically dead.

Perhaps you believe there is no room for improvement on the spiritual path. What you know now is what you will always know. The knowledge has no instrumental purpose within your soul--it performs no work, engenders no transformation, drains no psychotoxins, dissolves no clots or hidden complexes. It is entirely static, reducible to a slogan on a t-shirt or a sign held up at a sporting event.

On the other hand, perhaps truth is an arrow, spiritual practice the bow. What is the target? That very same truth, only understood with the whole self--not merely the mind or heart but the mind in the heart--body, mind and spirit.

Certainly faith confined to the heart is preferable to gnosis confined to the head. In the latter case, the so-called gnosis will be inoperative anyway. It won't do anything or go anywhere without being leavened by the heart. It will indeed be vain conceit.

Here's how to tell the difference. True comprehension will not merely be passed off at the head. Rather, comprehension will lead directly to spontaneous conformation with the divine, for these are two sides of the same reality. Truth is the virtue of the mind, while virtue is the truth of the body, of action. Knowing the one will entail being the other: know how = be who.

Let's bring it down to a personal level. Although I have come to enjoy getting up early in the morning and sending my little spiritual bobservations out into cyberspace, I do so with the greatest trepidation and humility, and sometimes wonder whether I should be doing it all. So you don't need to remind me of the potential pitfalls. I am well aware of them. One false move, and whatever genuine assistance I am able to offer would dry up in a nanosecond. Yes, I could probably still fake it. But I would know it, and that would be extremely disturbing. (And if you are foolish enough to believe I make money off of this or my book, I respond with a hollow and bitter "ha!")

For gnosis is not so much a noun but a very special verb. Ultimately it is lived and not thought. You might say that it resolves the tension between "faith" and "works," for works will actually become a form of gnosis, while gnosis will lead directly to actions, not in a "top down" moralistic way, but in a spontaneously insightful way. "Goodness" will come naturally, for, in the words of Frithjof Schuon, “he who possesses Truth must nonetheless merit it, although it is a free gift.... If we want the truth to live in us, we must live in it.”

So, as I hope you can see, I am not some kind of spiritual “know-it-all.” Rather, I am insufferably self-righteous.


Stand upright and humbly pass along what has been given to you:

Monday, April 17, 2006

Vertical Respiration and Spiritual Asphyxiation

First, everyone should go and read Vanderleun's latest essay over at American Digest, Judas: A Saint for our Seasons. Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back....

It is inconceivable that one could find writing or thinking of this quality in the MSM. I mean imagine--imagine!--that our so-called newspaper of record even employs someone as dense, vulgar, spiritually perverse, and bereft of talent as Maureen Dowd, let alone elevates her to the status of "star columnist."

These are not serious people. Imagine paying millions of dollars to an airhead such as Katie Couric just for reading twenty-three minutes of liberal news to people too lazy to read it themselves? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for capitalism. But what is going on when you can get something of infinite value for free, but mediocrity is really going to cost you? Fortunately, that situation is not going to last--in fact, it's crumbling before our eyes.

It's the same way with the education establishment, and they know it. If vouchers were available, there would be such a mass exodus from the public education system that it would actually be dangerous, like opening the Walmart door on the day after Thanksgiving.

Metaphysics is the study of the real. It deals with truly perennial truth that is not subject to change--the objective principles that underlie this or any other possible reality. I have said before that I believe that religion, under the surface, is pure metaphysics. Although it is accessible to anyone, you certainly don't need to know about it to have a fruitful spiritual practice. Faith is entirely sufficient.

For me, powerful confirmation of metaphysical principles has come in the form of independently discovering them, only to later find out that many other people, both past and present, have discovered the exact same things. I now know why this is the case, but at the time, it was a shock. After all, for yourself, you're setting out on a spiritual voyage into uncharted waters, into the unknown. You come back with certain ideas, observations, experiences. Are they real?

I think one of the attractions of this blog is the joy (and relief) of finding other people who have similar intuitions or experiences of higher reality. Even--or perhaps I should say, especially--for me, the feedback I receive is a powerful kind of confirmation that this reality is "subjectively objective." We're both staring at the same thing, right above our I's.

People ask how one can prove the existence of God, and this is one of the ways: people who independently discover the same thing, with the same details, the same landmarks, the same stumbling blocks, the same fine points.

Anyway, back to Vanderleun's essay. In examining the motivations of what I call the secular fundamentalist mind, he writes of how they obtain "a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, 'stuck it' to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured."

For all I know, Vanderleun was merely being hyperbolic in deploying this extremely arresting and memorable imagery. And yet, metaphysically speaking, he was being absolutely literal. For human existence in exile from the divine is literally a state of spiritual asphyxiation.

Again, in the traditional view, human beings have a tripartite structure of body, mind and spirit. Because the modern world thoroughly conflates soul and spirit, much confusion results. One of the problems is that different traditions have different words for the same thing, or else use the same word, e.g. "soul" for very different aspects of our being.

For me, whatever terms you use, the easiest way to conceptualize the difference it is to say that we have a horizontal aspect of ourselves, the "ego," and a vertical aspect, or "spirit." The ego is an open system horizontally. It deals with human relationships, feelings, information, etc. But the spirit is--or should be anyway--an open system vertically.

Here is a perfect example of something that is simply true. You are free to argue why it is true, and you are even free to live your life as if it were not true. But in the latter case there will be easily identifiable consequences, just as there would be consequences if you decided one day to stop treating your body as an open system. In that case you would starve, or die of thirst, or literally asphyxiate.

Likewise, there is a common, well-know psychological type who attempts to live life as if the horizontal self were an emotionally closed system. For whatever developmental reason, the "schizoid" personality cannot form deep and meaningful relationships. As such, they cannot be emotionally nourished. They dry up from the inside out, becoming a shriveled husk of a human being. There are many examples of such character types in film and literature. Ebeneezer Scrooge comes immediately to mind.

Other people, "compulsives," often become closed intellectually. Terrified of novelty, they develop a small map of reality and never stray from it. New information is threatening, so they keep rediscovering the same thing over and over. They are not really alive, because only an open system is alive.

There are more horizontally closed people than you care to imagine. Next time you are unfortunate enough to get into a discussion with a leftist, observe the horizontally--not to mention, vertically--closed system that ensnares them. That is why it is pointless to talk to them, not because of this or that detail or disagreement.

Consider "baptism." There is a reason why spirit is spoken of in terms of water, of something that flows, that cleanses, that cools, that nourishes. But most critically--here again, I am sure you will know exactly what I'm talking about--it liquefies and dissolves the congealed, ossified, and hardened lower self.

One of the effects of modernity, what with its emphasis on the individual self, on science and on empiricism, has been to lock people within their body and/or mind. In the words of René Geunon, "Modern man has become quite impermeable to any influences other than such as impinge on his senses; not only have his faculties of comprehension become more and more limited, but also the field of his perception has become correspondingly restricted."

The lower, empirically "opaque" horizontal world eclipses the metaphysically transparent reality that is revealed only through faith and vertical knowing. Hypnotized by secondary phenomena, many modern people become alienated from the primary noumenal reality. For them, life is lived at the fragmented periphery rather than the unitive heart of being.

Think of a physical analogy. What happens when you add water to dry dirt, which actually consists of innumerable individual particles? As it liquifies it becomes one. It is just so with spirit. Only the "waters" of vertical engagement can begin to dissolve and unclot an ego that has become hard as stone, and begin to harmonize its existence with a greater One.

In speaking of vertical respiration and asphyxiation, there is both an upward and a downward movement. The downward movement, or "inspiration," is called grace ("spire," of course, meaning both breath and spirit). The upward movement is called prayer, or ex-spiration. Prayer therefore connotes a state of inner emptiness, or "self-offering," so that one may then receive the oxidized blood of spirit. You cannot fill something that is already full of itSelf. You must exhale occasionally.

The essence of spirituality is vertical respiration, of exchanges that go on between "above" and "below." According to Valentin Tomberg, "Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practice some form of prayer; he who practices it receives vivifying benediction in some form." Furthermore, "respiration is the state of the soul that the apostle Paul designated as 'freedom in God.' It is a new way of breathing. One freely breathes the divine breath, which is freedom."

What spiritually in-formed person could say it isn't so?


I had also wanted to get into the topic of destructive and malignant spiritual envy raised by Vanderleun's piece, the "onanistic pleasure," the "dark thrill of denigration" that "has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming" horizontal man in his very own self-worshipping "Church of Zero." For it is an error to think of spirituality as "good" and secularism as "bad." Rather, there is merely good and bad spirituality, and, as I have written before, there are very specific symptoms that go hand in hand with the spiritually dry and asphyxiated state of secular alienation from the vertical. Perhaps tomorrow.


It occurred to me on yesterday's bike ride, while on top of the world lookin' down on creation, that the earth itself is a spontaneous prayer rising upward. It's the only explanation I can find. Especially in spring, after the waters have come.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hooray! Surrection!

What can one possibly say about Easter or the resurrection that hasn't been said in the past 1973 years, give or take? In particular, what can I say that hasn't been said by various church doctors, saints, popes, priests, and simple people of faith?

Well, for starters, I'd like to see the Pope come out on his balcony, pump his fist in the air, and start chanting, "Hooray! Surrection! Hooray! Surrection! Hooray! Surrection!" That's certainly what I would do. Then again, that's the difference between me and the Pope. He's God's pit bull. I like to think of myself as his rodeo clown.

As I have mentioned before, this is what is so fascinating about scripture--and personally, I am not just talking about the Gospels, but about the Torah, the Upanishads, or the Tao Te Ching--that it is so inexhaustible. This is why, despite all that has been said about it for hundreds and hundreds of years, there is always more to say. It is incapable of becoming saturated. You think you're looking at it, but it is always looking through you. It is actually a means with which to look at the the world, especially the deep interior world.

And yet, because of its specifically unsaturated quality, we can never really comprehend scripture, in the literal sense of "wrapping our understanding" around it. Rather, try as we might, it is always comprehending us. Furthermore, paradoxically, the more of it we comprehend, the more it comprehends us.

How can this be? It is the reverse of becoming an "expert" at something. An expert knows everything about something that is ultimately about nothing. But to become a spiritual "expert," you are constantly rediscovering the fact that you know what amounts to nothing about the ultimate something. You are a lifetime apprentice. It is constantly instructing you.

Two of the very greatest biblical exegetes, Meister Eckart and Moses Maimonides, adopted the same scheme in interpreting scripture. They indicated that there were four main ways: the literal, the moral, the allegorical, the purely spiritual. Now, this point is subject to misunderstanding, so listen closely. I used to be one of those people who would have resented dogma, whereas now I fully understand why it must be preserved. And yet, if we adopt the approach of traditional metaphysics, there are always degrees of being, and the material is considered the lowest degree, the furthest in distance from God.

Perhaps this in itself might provide a key--for some bobbleheads, anyway--to understanding the resurrection. As we discussed yesterday, God is both pure existence beyond being and pure potential, compared to which we are but nothing. According to Frithjof Schuon, since nothingness cannot be possible within God--i.e., God is the one thing that cannot not be--"it is necessary that this 'possibility of the impossible' should be realized in an 'internal dimension' which is 'neither real nor unreal.'"

In other words, the ephemeral world of illusion--of maya--that surrounds us "represents the possibility for Being of not being." This is somewhat similar to the Jewish concept of tsimtsum, which means that, in order to create a cosmos separate from himself, God must first generate a void and then withdraw or contract from it. Otherwise, creation would be identical to God, and we would be left with simple pantheism.

This is precisely why and how God "reveils" himself through creation: it both discloses and veils God at the same time. As Schuon put it, "Reality has entered into nothingness so that nothingness might become real."

Therefore, existence itself is problematic, in that it represents an inherent separation from God. "There is none good but God," or something like that. To exist at all means to be other than God. Truly, you must grasp this existential fact: we are darkness visible and nothingness tangible. In diagnosing our own bare nothingness, we can have no disagreement with a naughty existentialist such as Sartre or Nietzsche.

But this is also where we part ways with them. Because for Sartre and his ilk, there is truly no exit. The cosmos is a closed circle with no doorway in, up, or out. Or perhaps a doorway in, but certainly no way out short of death.

But death is not so much a way out as a simple end of the line, a final closing of the circle, a period at the end of the death sentence. Period.

Who was Jesus? In manifesting his celestial nature on earth, he did not seem particularly concerned about making it fully intelligible. After all, that's why we're still talking and arguing about it two thousand years later. He simply incarnated his cosmic destiny and largely left it for others to figure out. What did it mean? What could it possibly mean?

Rudolf Steiner wrote that "the secrets of the Mysteries became manifest in Christianity." What secret? What mysteries?

Here I don't want to dwell on the literal aspect of resurrection, but how it might pertain to consciousness. Jesus was a divine "depth charge" dropped not only into history but into consciousness as well. It is said that his atonement (at-one-ment) was a reversal or undoing of mankind's original fall. That fall, in my view, was the fall alluded to above: the fall of God within himself into the possibility of non-being and nothingness, from symmetry to asymmetry.

Clearly, knowledge played some role in the fall, for it was specifically a type of knowledge--i.e., eating from the tree of good and evil--that precipitated it.

Therefore, the "fall" into the world of asymmetrical knowledge and finite being must be reversed as well; our consciousness must be raised up, back to its source. How do we eat from the Tree of Life and return to the symmetry of the infinite One beyond being?

Today marks a transhistorical, metacosmic day, a day to meditate on timeless truth in its metaphysical transparency. An anonymous Greek Orthodox theologian remarked that "We do not ask whether or not the resurrection happened. It is the horizon in which we live." Dwelling within this vertical horizon is a way to contemplate reality at its deepest level--a level that is well beyond mere discursive thought. For the Father is the transcendent aspect of God, the Son the immanent aspect. How to reconcile them?

Perhaps they were only ever separated by the veil of death. It is said that upon Jesus’ death, the temple veil was rent vertically from top to bottom. The resurrection is reality unveiled, which is to say reveiled, for it is a mysterious new veil with which to think about reality and to reconcile its ultimate terms. For if your powers of deception were cleansed, nothing would appear as it isn't.

O Death, you old mahahasamadhi, show us your secret mannascrypt, your Divine Cosmodeity. Take us before and beyond this womentary maninfestation, reveal not the horizontal but our inmost upmost vertical bigending at somarise.

Insinuate! Now put down the apple and back away slowly, and nobody dies. Ascent you a son, amen for a child's job. Reset your chronescapes and preprayer for arrisall, beyond the phoenix line. And you shall never grow so old again.

A hoppy yeaster to ale. Whorise? Ourrection! For He is accompliced.


Just for kicks, absolute consciousness becomes its opposite and plays at being trapped in the closed circle of manifestation.