Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vindicating the Sixties: Throwing Out the Babies With the Bong Water

Nothing happened in the sixties except that we all dressed up. --John Lennon

When I write my posts in the morning, I just start writing--or typing, anyway. When I begin, I have no idea whether the topic that has chosen me will actually sustain an entire post, much less round itself out with a nice beginning, middle and end. But somehow, it usually does. I’m starting to realize that by working in this more spontaneous way I come up with better things than I could have if I had relied upon my conscious mind to think things out in advance.

Today is a case in point. I have just the germ of an idea that popped into my head yesterday, but I have no idea if I will be able to flesh it out into an entire post. It’s as if I picked up the end of a thread. If I follow it, will it lead anywhere? Or is it just a worthless piece of string? I guess we’ll find out. Petey will let us know.

The idea occurred to me while writing about the “seven deadly sins,” and associating these with a lot of the nonsense that was unleashed in the 1960’s: “Ideas have consequences, bad ideas as much as good ones. And toxic ideas that are hatched in the high country of the mind have a way of flowing downhill, trickling into the rivers, streams and creeks below.... One of the central psycho-spiritual ‘mind parasites’ that infected all of the water in the 1960’s was the idea that our outward, civilized personalities are inauthentic. Rather, the ‘real you’ is that repressed id, your undisguised animal drives and passions.... You can see just how pervasive this attitude has become. It gets to the heart of the ‘culture war,’ one side celebrating ‘authenticity’ and its close cousin, ‘attitude,’ the other side wishing to preserve traditional standards of excellence and decency.”

The problem here is that I consider myself a full-blooded “child of the sixties,” and I did not take away the above lesson. For just as there was an obvious shadow side of the 1960’s, the very presence of the shadow must indicate that there was light somewhere. In my case, I believe I absorbed a lot of the light, but instinctively rejected the darkness.

I think a lot of it has to do with my age. Most people would situate the “long 1960’s” between the date of JFK’s assassination in November of 1963, when I was just eight years old, and Nixon’s resignation in August of 1974, when I was still nineteen. Interestingly, Rudolf Steiner says that we do not become completely “ensouled” until around the age of nine, from which point on we have a more or less continuous recollection of our past. Before that, our memories are usually somewhat spotty.

That’s certainly how it was for me. My conscious mind started coming “on line” at exactly the same time that the 1960’s really got underway. I was still eight years old when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964, which for me was that “Wizard of Oz” moment when the world suddenly turned from black and white to color. I was just 11 during the “Summer of Love” (way too young to do anything about it but enjoy the spectacle), 12 when King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, 13 for Woodstock (thus greatly enjoying drugs without ever having actually tried any at that point), 14 for Kent State, and 17 when the draft ended, making for a particularly carefree senior year of high school. I was really not aware of the ugly politics of the era, except as a sort of dramatic backdrop. From my vantage point, it just looked like a lot of people trying to have fun vs. a lot of people trying to stop them from having it.

It is impossible to convey to someone who wasn’t there the importance of the Beatles. For me and for all of my friends, they were so far beyond music--they were like magicians or religious figures. There was simply no way that anything else in life could compete with them--not school and certainly not religion. By comparison--with the exception of sports--everything else in the adult world seemed comparatively “dead.” They seemed to be the only grown-ups who “got it” and were having fun. It’s as if they had seen through the cosmic joke.

You see this in the early press conferences, with the stiff, unhip, and clueless reporters--just like today--asking their inane questions. But instead of taking them seriously, the Beatles just made fun of them--not in the obnoxious, angry, profane, or self-righteous way that celebrities do today, but with wit and charm. The Beatles ran circles around them, but the reporters didn’t even know what was happening. It is obvious by their condescending attitude that they thought themselves superior to the Beatles, but the Beatles never responded in kind. They simply toyed with them and used them as props.

I suppose what bothers me is that the Left considers itself the heir to the 1960’s, when they are the actually the same clueless and tedious people who didn’t get it then and don’t get it now. We saw it just the other day with their reaction to the Stephen Colbert routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Bush, in the best irreverent Beatles-Monty Python tradition, ran circles around the clueless establishment press, but was followed by the scolding and sanctimonious Colbert, who threw water on the proceedings by being even more establishment than the conformist establishment press: the angry head sheep of leftist flockthink.

I suppose that’s the central issue: who is the repressive establishment, and who are the liberating revolutionaries? Who are the fun-loving, life-affirming bob vivants, and who are the sour, dogmatic, angry, no-fun-allowed crowd? Put it this way: have you ever read anything the least bit witty on dailykurse or huffingtonpissed? Of course not. Again, these are the same people I have objected to since 1964. One of the reasons I enjoy National Review so much is that it is so funny. But leftists, as usual, never get the joke. I subscribed to The Nation back in the 1980's, and I don't remember a single witty or lighthearted comment. It was like Katrina van der Heuvel with PMS, if that's not redundant.

I am not one of those people who believe that political labels mean nothing, but they can be quite confusing. For example, in my lifetime, the word “liberal” has gone from meaning “liberal” to now meaning “illiberal.” In point of fact--with the exception of a relatively brief flirtation with true leftism while in graduate school in the 1980’s--I am the same liberal I’ve always been. It’s just that now classical liberalism is called “conservatism.” Don’t get me wrong--don’t confuse “conservatism” with “Republicanism.” Furthermore, there are certain annoying strands of conservatism that I don’t relate to at all. It’s just that if you are a classical liberal, there is no longer a place for you in the Democratic party, which is now a leftist, not liberal, party.

One of the great insights of psychoanalysis is that the surface structure---the conscious mind--might change, but the deeper structure of the unconscious endures and “calls the shots.” Now, one result of the 1960’s is that we do in fact have much more freedom in terms of lifestyle--sexual freedom, educational freedom, occupational freedom. There really is no limit to one’s lifestyle choices today, especially as compared to previous generations of Americans.

But this outward freedom can be deceptive, for if we are not inwardly free, then we will simply have a greater range of options with which to express our unconscious enslavement. What’s that, Petey? Yes, Petey says that the rest of this post is probably worthless, but that this is a key point, so I’ll say it again in a different way: the left confuses license with liberty, and resents any effort to link freedom and transcendence. In short, they want only more horizontal freedom with which to act out their mind parasites in good conscience.

Take the case of that all-purpose lowlife, Madonna, who, if you major in “Women’s Studies,” you will learn was a great liberator of female sexuality. But in reality, she’s just a pathetically sick soul, acting out her psychopathology for all the world to see. However, 100 years ago, she wouldn’t have had the freedom to act out her pathology in this way--much less be celebrated for it. Instead, she would have undoubtedly been a frustrated housewife or garden variety hysteric with strange physical symptoms as a result of “sexual repression.”

Today, unlike 100 years ago, psychotherapy is available to help such individuals resolve these issues. But at the same time, people are much more free to simply act out their conflicts and fixations in a multitude of unhealthy ways. Thus, nothing has changed for such a person. Although they do indeed have more “freedom,” the freedom is simply squandered, for freedom that does not converge on something higher is meaningless. People were also much thinner in the past, but that is only because less food was available. Calling Madonna sexaully “free” is like calling an obese person “healthy,” just because there are so many more ways to be fat today.

(By the way, it is the same way with religion. In the past, religious a-holes only had religion through which to express their repressive religiosity. Now they have so many other means available--atheism, materialim, leftism, scientism, feminism, Marxism, existentialism, etc.)

Obviously, freedom itself cannot be the goal of freedom, for that is a nonsensical tautology. But for the left, it is. This is why most leftist “liberation” movements quickly devolve into the liberation of one’s own inner slave master to further enslave them. Thus, the feminist movement has nothing to do with truly valuing femininity or allowing a woman to truly become herself in the deepest sense. In order to do that, you must specifically rebel against feminist dogma. Likewise, “sexual liberation” hardly leads to anything beyond self-indulgence. The civil rights movement which began with such noble ideals quickly became nothing more than an entrenched establishment platform for venal ethnic lobbying and special consideration. This reached another new low last week, with the massive criminal marches all over the U.S. Why does the left relate to these entitled narcissists? Oh, that’s why.

This comes back to Polanyi’s vital distinction between the open and the free society, which I discussed a couple of days ago. As a result of the 1960’s, we have much more freedom--which is all to the good--but also much more openness--which is bad. For the free society uses its freedom to aim at something higher. Paradoxically, freedom actually binds us in the same way that truth does. That is, since we live in a free society, we are free to discover truth. But if truth actually exists, isn’t that a contradiction in terms? In other words, while we may freely discover truth, we are, at the same time, bound by the truth so discovered.

We are also radically free to discover lies and even to live them. But what kind of freedom is that? Doesn’t real freedom imply acquiescence to reality, whatever reality is?

Because we live in freedom, we are free to discover the truth of ourselves. But for the left, our freedom is confused with relativism, and that is again the key point. For once you place freedom above truth, you have converted freedom itself to a massive lie and to another form of enslavement.

Let’s bookend this post with another quote from John Lennon, who said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination." This is exactly right, but it all depends on what you mean by the term “imagination.” For as applied to spirituality, imagination is a term of art, not to be confused with the lower, dreamlike imagination. This lower form of imagination is somnolent, passive, and present in beasts. Much spiritual warfare specifically involves the struggle against this hypnotic state in which most human beings will spend their entire lives. The noetic use of imagination is oriented in a direction diametrically opposed to this, and involves actively gathering and assimilating forces and influences emanating from a higher world, not the lower one. Dwelling in religious symbolism is specifically a way to imaginatively engage in pure intellection of higher realites.

So reality does leave a lot to the imagination, if by reality you mean the mere horizontal wasteland where we are enslaved by our meaningless freedom. “Imagine there’s no heaven, it isn’t hard to do.” Indeed. Nothing above and no one below--except for those who believe there is something above. They're the lowest, because they remind the rebellious ego of the illusory, shadow side of freedom.


Who am I? One hand on my entitlement, the other hand hammering away at the foundations.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Classical Mind Parasitology: The Seven Deadly Sins (or Seven F***ing Awesome Virtues)

In the latter times the man of virtue appears vile. --Tao Te Ching

After my recent post on the envy of the left, a number of readers suggested that I do a series on the other “deadly sins.” One reader in particular observed that the left not only rejects the entire concept of sin--much less “deadly sins”--but that they actually seem to elevate these sins to virtues. Before even thinking it through, I knew that the reader was right. Just one of those instantaneous insights provided by Petey.

As a matter of fact, in the past, several readers have asked me if it might be possible to correlate my concept of “mind parasites” with the deadly sins. I said “sure,” even though I had never thought that out either. But if two things are true, then they can’t contradict each other, even if they might appear to on the surface.

It reminds me of when I was frantically trying to finish my book exactly two years ago. The deadline was approaching, and at the last minute I had disassembled the entire last chapter and was in the process of trying to put it back together again. I was trying to come up with a suitable ending, and I thought to myself, “why not show how the Ten Commandments and the Upanishads, understood esoterically, convey the identical perennial psychospiritual know-how to serious seekers? Call them the ten ‘Commanishads’ or ‘Upanishalts.’”

As soon as I thought of it, I knew that it was possible. But I needed help. At the time, I happened to be on a plane flying back from New York to L.A. I was on the right plane, because I needed a rabbi in a hurry. Normally I’m not the kind of guy who just walks up to to a total stranger and introduces himself, but something came over me.

I had seen this guy enter the plane, and if he wasn’t a rabbi, then he was hardcore Orthodox, and that was good enough for me. I walked down the aisle to where he was sitting, absently flipping through a magazine, and blurted out, “are you a rabbi?” He seemed a little disconcerted at first, but he could see that I wasn't Arab and I explained to him that this was a spiritual emergency and that I needed some immediate assistance. He didn’t know anything about the Upanishads, but when I mentioned that some people believe that “Abraham” and “Brahman” might be etymologically related, he was intrigued. I have no idea if that’s true, but at least it got the conversation going. I knew we were on the same wavelength when he started his discourse by saying that the first five commandments have to do with man’s relationship to God, while the second five govern man’s relationship to man. “Hey, vertical and horizontal! You 'da mensch!” And now you know the rest of the story.

So anyway, at the moment I am in need of priest or a Jesuit. Not having one around, I’ll just have to do my best to cobble this together with the assistance of Petey, who, like Muhammad, has passing, if often rather garbled, acquaintance with many other traditions.

“The Greek monastic theologian Evagrius of Pontus first drew up a list of eight offenses and wicked human passions. They were, in order of increasing seriousness: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Evagrius saw the escalating severity as representing increasing fixation with the self, with pride as the most egregious of the sins. Acedia... denoted ‘spiritual sloth.’

“In the late 6th century, Pope Gregory reduced the list to seven, folding vainglory into pride, acedia into sadness, and adding envy. His ranking of the Sins' seriousness was based on the degree from which they offended against love. It was, from most serious to least: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust. Later theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, would contradict the notion that the seriousness of the sins could be ranked in this way. The term ‘covetousness’ has historically been used interchangeably with ‘avarice’ in accounts of the Deadly Sins. In the seventeenth century, the Church replaced the vague sin of ‘sadness’ with ‘sloth.’”

So first we have to decide which system we’re going to use. I think it makes sense to merge vainglory and pride, and we certainly want to keep envy in the mix. But I think we lose something by conflating sadness and acedia. In fact, sadness belongs to a special category, since there are definitely times that it is self-indulgent (more often than you would think), other times when it is clearly a clinical condition outside the person’s control. So I’ll go with pride, envy, anger, acedia (encompassing sloth), avarice, gluttony, and lust.

Bill Clinton is adored by the left. In fact, in his new book, Manliness, Harvey Mansfield calls him “the envy of vulgar men.” How true. For Clinton embodies so many of these sins as character traits, including pride, gluttony, lust, and acedia, while Mrs. Clinton complements him and rounds out the mix with anger and envy. As a team they are quite nakedly avaricious, certainly for power. Thus, a complete set. The perfect liberal couple.

For me, what immediately comes to mind in attempting to correlate the deadly sins with mind parasites is the theoretical system of the great psychoanalyst R.D. Fairbairn. Here again, his ideas, like those of Michael Polanyi discussed yesterday, are so simple, and yet profound and far reaching. For Fairbairn was the first psychoanalyst to move away from Freud’s “drive model” of the unconscious, to an interpersonal and intersubjective model that now goes by the name of “object relations.” The nomenclature is confusing, because in Freud’s model, the “object” refers to the aim of an instinct--for example, the instinct of hunger seeks out the breast as its object.

But Fairbairn turned this theoretical formulation on its head, and regarded the object as primary, not something we seek simply for the purposes of instinctual release. In other words, we come into the world human beings and not just animals. As such, from the moment we’re born---and probably in the womb as well--we primarily seek relationships, not with “objects” but with other subjects. Therefore, it would have been less confusing if the new theory had been called “subject relations,” but what can you do? Just as early Christians went to great pains to link their new theology with the more established and venerable tradition of Judaism, Fairbairn didn’t want to appear too radical, and wanted to demonstrate the continuity with the established orthodoxy of Vienna.

Freud actually developed two different models of the mind, first the topographical (conscious, preconscious and unconscious), later the structural (id, ego and superego). But in each case, the implicit assumption was that human beings were fundamentally animals with a veneer of civilization on top. In order to be civilized, we had to repress and sublimate our animal instincts (the id), while internalizing the sometimes arbitrary restrictions of civilization (the superego). (I’m simplifying and streamlining things for the sake of moving the argument along.)

Now interestingly, Freud was immediately seized upon by the Marxist left as an adjunct to their diagnosis of human alienation, especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in the form of very popular (but now completely irrelevant) thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse (e.g. Eros and Civilization) and Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death). These vulgarizations were not really fair to Freud, who was both a genius and a subtle and hard-headed thinker who would have been deeply skeptical of their left-wing utopian nonsense.

But ideas have consequences, bad ideas as much as good ones. And toxic ideas that are hatched in the high country of the mind have a way of flowing downhill, trickling into the rivers, streams and creeks below. So one of the central psycho-spiritual “mind parasites” that infected all of the water in the 1960’s was the idea that our outward, civilized personalities are inauthentic. Rather, the “real you” is that repressed id, your undisguised animal drives and passions: “If it feels good, do it.” “Love the one you’re with.” “Do your thing.” Why don't we do it in the road?" “It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want.” "Looking out for number one." (There were so many others, but I can’t think of them at the moment. However, the lesson was obvious to all who heard it: express yourself and let your freak-flag fly!)

I think you can see just how pervasive this attitude has become. It gets to the heart of the “culture war,” one side celebrating “authenticity” and its close cousin, “attitude,” the other side wishing to preserve traditional standards of excellence and decency. In fact, this is where it is almost impossible to even have a meaningful conversations with someone who has been contaminated by the toxic water of the vulgar Freudians: So what if Janet Jackson exposed her breast on national TV! She was just expressing herself! So what if Bill Clinton was serviced by an intern in the oval office! At least he’s not a hypocrite!

Here we truly do see a monstrous moral inversion at the heart of the left, in which our animal nature is exalted above our higher human strivings, while the realm of the truly human is devalued and denigrated as hypocrisy. This, by the way, is why there is so much cursing on the left. It seems like a small thing, but it’s not. On most any left-wing blog, you will see that they can rarely express themselves without cursing, as profanity is a sort of “stamp of authenticity.”

Now the truth of the matter is that pervasive cursing is a helpful shorthand that allows us to discern those people who are incapable of expressing themselves without it. Therefore, we needn’t take them seriously. As one blogger expressed it today on huffingtonpissed, “If you don’t like obscenity, you don’t like the truth.” What he means is, “I’m so angry I can’t even express it, but you will know the emotional truth of my omnipotent anger by my profanity.”

In fact, there is another story there of Madonna’s recent performance last weekend, she being the poster child for barbaric crudity masquerading as daring and courageous authenticity. “During an energetic rendition of her song I Love New York, Madonna roared, ‘Just go to Texas and suck George Bush's d**k.’”

Of course, I suppose it could be argued that she is simply extolling the virtue of thoroughness to her fans, since even Madonna can't be everywhere, and Bush’s is one the few that she personally overlooked.

Well, with that, I’ve run flat out of time. More tomorrow on Fairbairn, sins, virtues, mind parasites and the left.


"Mmmmm,shiny.... I want, therefore I am."