Saturday, May 27, 2006

Words and How they Get that Way

To post or not to post.... Sometimes I wonder if I should continue posting something every day, especially on a holiday weekend, when there will be fewer readers anyway. A number of people--both readers and fellow bloggers--have counseled me to slow down, predicting that I’m going to burn out. Plus, if you post less often, the posts will have more impact.

However, I’m afraid that the reverse will happen--that if I slow down, then I’ll burn out. For one thing, it would give me too much time to ruminate about what I’m writing, and probably paralyze me. There’s something to be said for just sitting down at the same time each day and banging something out--just making it a part of life, like flossing or exercising.

The disadvantage I have, of course, is that I am not actually a writer, nor would I ever claim to be. Nor are most bloggers writers (not that there's anything wrong with that). In my case, I simply try to convey ideas as clearly as possible. I have too much respect for real writers to call that writing. Lileks is a writer. Van der Leun is a writer. Iowahawk too. They are exceptions. For example, because Lileks is a writer, he can write about the most mundane and trivial details of his life and lift them to a higher plane, making them humorous, touching, provocative, even spiritual--all those magical little things that writers can do with words.

And when I say “magical,” I mean that literally. This was one of the themes of Joyce’s work: that through the magic of language, we can alchemically transmute the lead of our mundane, day-to-day existence into the gold of transpersonal experience. Perhaps more than any other writer, Joyce realized that the world is not made of atoms, or quarks, or molecules. Rather, it is composed of language. Therefore, changing our relationship to language can change everything.

“Epiphany” was Joyce’s word for those everyday moments when we are able to perceive the rays of the transpersonal sun shining through an object or experience. In reality, it is happening all the time--it can’t not happen--but we can miss it depending on the depth of our relationship to language. Without language, experience simply rolls off of us like water off a duck. (See--if I was a real writer, I could come up with a fresh metaphor.)

Language deepens our subjectivity, which paradoxically extends both within and without. For example, when you learn the language of psychoanalysis, you have tool for extending your consciousness into the deeper regions of the great within of consciousness, both in oneself and in others. It allows your own consciousness to literally extend like a probe into the recesses of another person’s mind.

But there is nothing special about psychoanalysis. In reality, any genuine expertise involves esoteric knowledge that allows the person to see and experience things that the uninitiated cannot. For example, when I had my stress treadmill done last week, the doctor obviously saw things in the EKG which mean nothing to me. For him, a whole world of meaning opens up before his eyes, whereas for me, it’s just squiggles on a piece of paper. For me, it is an impenetrable object. For him, his subjectivity extends into the squiggles and illuminates them from within.

I guess I’m writing about this subject because it came up just last night. Up until then, my son--who is now thirteen months old--pretty much treated the world as an object. Toys--any toys, no matter how complicated or elaborate--were merely for banging or “throwing overboard.” He was basically confronted by a world of endlessly diverse noisemakers.

But last night something suddenly “clicked.” I suppose most parents notice the obvious external markers, such as when a child first crawls or walks. But I am always on the lookout for interior markers--those signs that show that his consciousness is extending, both within and without.

Anyway, last night he suddenly got the point of one of his toys, and sat there mesmerized by it for about fifteen minutes, quietly playing by himself. Normally he’s incredibly restless, active and energetic, but suddenly he was calm, focussed, and attentive. This is a microscopic version of what it means for our subjectivity to deepen.

Theoretically, there is no limit to this deepening process. In my opinion, growth--especially spiritual growth--involves an ever-deepening extension of this interior horizon. Again, this horizon extends in both directions, inside and out. The deepening connections in my son’s mind allowed him to see the deeper connections, or “withinness,” of the external world. Subjective growth involves "colonizing" more and more of this withinness.

For again, what is the external world if it isn’t language? It’s just nothing, a brute object that confronts us. Even the most materialistic science is nothing more than a special language that allows a physicist to peer more deeply within the realm of matter. This is never something the scientist sees with his physical eyes. Rather, the equations of quantum physics are a probe, analogous to the stick that the blind person uses to navigate while walking. The blind person deploys the stick forward into darkness, and it sends messages up his arm and into his brain, allowing him to form a picture of the space around him. It is no different with physics. Physics is just a stick in the dark, like reaching around for your shoes in the back of a dark closet.

Which brings us to the very special language of religion. For religion is also a probe that we, in our metaphysical blindness, may use to illuminate the space around us. In fact, if your religion is “working” for you, this is what is happening. Naive secularists always think that the primary purpose of religion is faith or comfort or morality. Yes, it is all of those things, but for me anyway, it is primarily a way of knowing. By immersing oneself in it, it extends in magical ways into regions that are otherwise inaccessible to the psyche--for example, into the realm of the sacred or holy. The realm of the sacred that is illuminated by religion is every bit as real as the weird quantum realm that is illuminated by modern physics. Except that it is more real. Indeed, the conviction of the ontological priority of the sacred is one of the things that accompanies the experience of it.

In certain respects, the invocations in the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of John are parallel commentaries on one another. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The former statement has to do with ontology, the latter with epistemology. For the separation of the heavens and the earth forms the deep structure of all being; it is the separation of the horizontal and vertical, thereby making the experience of experience possible. Without this primary duality, there is only God. But with this bifurcation, the world is split down the middle into object-subject, quantity-quality, eternity-time, form-substance, and other primordial complementarities.

But the divide between these complementarities is not unbridgeable. This is because the the Word is anterior to that primordial creative act of God (it was "with God" and "was God"), and is therefore present in each of the complementarities. The world is intelligible because it is thoroughly infused with the same Word that inheres in our consciousness. Thus, the world is structured as a pair of mirrors reflecting back upon themselves through a deepening relationship to language.

This is what is meant when it is said that we are “made in the image of God.” This is the anthropology that inevitably follows from the above ontology and epistemology. This is why the more human we become, the more divine, and the more divine, the more human. And it all happens in the magical space between the two mirrors, where language carries messages back and forth, in an ever deepening and ascending spiral. We don’t evolve. The Word does.

And the Word is God.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Poison Ivy League*

(Now updated, edited, and even spell- and grammar-checked!)

I learn a lot from Dennis Prager. Like me, he is considers himself a classical liberal, so he is very hard on the left for their hijacking of liberalism. However, he always emphasizes that his contempt for leftist ideology doesn’t mean that individual leftists can’t be fine, albeit misguided, people. Nor does it mean that all conservatives are somehow good and decent people. Prager always tries to make it clear that when he is talking about leftist thought, he is making generalizations about an ideology, not making judgments about individuals in an ad hominem way. There are liberals whom one would be happy to have as neighbors, and conservatives that one wouldn’t want to touch with a barge poll.

Living in a very blue state near a bluer city, marrying into a blue-blooded family, working in a deep blue profession, I am very used to this idea. The majority of people I deal with on any given day are going to be liberals, and they obviously aren’t monsters. Most conservatives simply believe that liberal thought is rooted in emotion, illogic, hysteria, rebellion, and a lack of wisdom. It doesn't necessarily make you evil, even if the consequences of your ideas would be catastrophic if enacted.

But the reverse doesn’t seem to hold true. Rather, liberals do not believe that conservatives are merely wrong. In fact, they rarely engage conservative ideas at all without first caricaturing them. Instead, they believe that conservatives are evil. I consider this a sort of ironic boomerang effect of rampant secularism. Since the secular left denies real evil, such as Saddam or communism, it locates it in the patently non-evil, such as President Bush.

Wait here just a minute. I’ll go fetch an example from one of them big ol' liberal websites. I’ll be right back.

Perfect. This one is by Philip Slater, former Harvard sociology professor. His brilliant and subtle piece on puffingtonhost is entitled “Understanding Neo-con.” For a neo-con, the word “morality” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Rather, “it is just as likely to embrace hating and killing your neighbors, particularly if they are gay, Arab, or physicians who perform abortions.” Furthermore, “it means the suppression of sexual desire. And since sexual restrictions the world over have invariably been applied primarily to female sexuality, it requires no great leap [no, none at all] to realize that ‘morality’ in Neo-con means the suppression of women. Neo-con ideas about the proper role of women in society vary little from those of the Taliban.”

American conservatives. Taliban. What’s the difference? True, American conservatives and their allies are actually the mortal enemies of the Taliban and their ilk--the only ones actually willing to extinguish their ghoulish existence from the face of the earth and make certain that they tally their awful bans no more. Whatever.

Likewise, “patriotism” for a neo-con means “giving unconditional support to the nation's political leaders even if their policies are undermining the nation's future, plunging it into debt, polluting its land, water, and air, alienating its friends, and multiplying its enemies." In the twisted logic of Neo-conese, "those who died in the bunker with Hitler were more ‘patriotic’ than the generals who tried to save Germany by getting rid of him; Poles who supported the communist leaders in Poland were more ‘patriotic’ than members of Solidarity; Serbs who supported Slobodan Milosevich were more ‘patriotic’ than those who wanted to see him tried for war crimes.”

Bear in mind that this man is a professor who has taught at many of America’s elite looniversity bins. He teaches young adults that American conservatives represent a loathsome combination of Talibanism, nazism and communism. If he were half as clever as Petey, he might call them "totalibanazinarians."

I don't know if any word has fallen further in esteem in my lifetime than "professor." Perhaps "judge." Hard to believe now, but these were once by and large considered to be disinterested and wise people to whom one would look up, not down. Now when you hear the word "professor," the first thought that comes to mind is "fool." There are so many aspects of "the left"; in fact, the "economic left" is almost irrelevant compared to the cultural left, the entertainment left, the judicial left, the media left, the educational establishment left. The incredible damage they have done to our educational system alone is reason enough to oppose them.

Here’s another foolish wackademic, Jan Clausen. She teaches, ahem, creative (as if we can't tell) writing at the New School. She was the proud organizer of the protest by students, faculty, and staff in response to university president Bob Kerrey's choice of Senator John McCain as their commencement speaker. It was an odd choice to begin with. Why a U.S. senator? What, were there no b-list actors available, no heterophobic rappers?

Clausen poignantly describes the compelling reasons for the students' “brave decision to challenge Senator McCain's condescension to the graduates and his championing of an illegal war.”

I suppose creative writing can only be so creative before it falls off the map into mere psychotic babbling, or what we in the psychology biz call "word salad." “Brave decision?” Yes, these students agonized over the implications of obnoxiously disrupting McCain’s speech. Once the decision was made, there would be no turning back. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, they sweated blood and prayed to their pagan god to let this cup pass from their pierced lips.

After all, it wasn’t just about the illegal war. In fact, the war is not illegal anyway, so that’s just stupid. Rather, there was a “range of reasons” for the courageous and difficult decision, “widespread consternation and a sense of helplessness. ‘It's awful--but what can we do?’ seemed to be the dominant sentiment."

A liberal, America-trashing movie star is unavailable to speak at our commencement, and we are rendered helpless with consternation. Yes, we are deeply consterned. What are we to do? How can we even be expected to commence without the proper polemical commencement advice?

The illegal legal war is one thing. But this beast McCain is a man who “hurt the school's queer community [in asking them] to join in honoring a politician who has supported a range of homophobic legislation”--you know, like opposing legislation granting special rights to homosexuals.

All those months McCain spent being tortured by the North Vietnamese? Hello?! That didn't advance the homosexual agenda one iota. That was just his own narrow and selfish will to survive. Perhaps it would have been better if the Vietnamese had succeeded in killing him. At least he wouldn’t be around to hurt the feelings of the New College queer community.

According to Clausen, “The actual speech was, predictably, so lacking in analytic rigor that it would have gotten poor marks from any composition teacher for its weak argumentation, though not its rhetoric.” That is, McCain “wrapped a hard little nugget of violent nationalism in yards of fluffy platitudes that obscure the ugly reality of an invasion based on lies, greed, and disregard for the basic humanity of ordinary Iraqis.”

Professor Clausen? She’s the opposite of McCain. Her creative writing combines yards of fluffy analysis with impenetrably hard little pellets of bombastic rhetoric.

Not brave, you say? Ha! Unlike McCain in Vietnam, many students had their orange protest fliers confiscated. Those were the orange protest fliers, dammit--you know, the ones with the hardest nuggets of fluffy platitudes! "One student was threatened with arrest for trying to enter the building with his fliers[!]" Or maybe he was almost threatened with arrest. Or maybe his fly was open. Whatever. Either way, the threat was real.

Unlike the threat of Islamo-fascism. But the Islamists do get high marks for their little hard nuggets of violent rhetoric. So long as they don’t miss the big picture and hurt the feelings of the New College queer community.


Related: James Taranto's take.

Prelated: Van der Leun's Bad Thoughts.

Incestuously interrelated: Looniversity Memories.


*Elvis Presley - Poison Ivy League lyrics (excerpt)

The ra-ra boys will
go to bed so early tonight
Before exams they need a lot of rest
They gotta make good for dad
They gotta make good so bad
They'll even pay someone to take that test

[Very prescient. This song was written before Ted Kennedy was busted for that.]

Poison ivy league, boys in that ivy league
How can they flunk, they're so full of bunk
That poison ivy league

[It's true. If you regurgitate the leftist bunk, you cannot flunk.]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Freedom, Truth, and Objectivity (5.28.08)

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul. --Frithjof Schuon

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Forget the blather about a “Creator.” Could nonsense such as this ever pass muster in a contemporary leftist university, where the only self-evident truth is that there is no truth, self-evident or otherwise?

This imaginary “Creator” supposedly endowed us with “liberty,” which is to say free will. But every leftist knows that we don’t really have free will. Rather, we are victims of our environment and our genes. For example, poverty causes crime. Unless you happen to be rich. Then greed causes crime. Unless you haven’t committed any crime. Then it’s just a crime to be rich. But don’t be confused--there’s no objective right or wrong anyway.

Multiculturalism is the doctrine that race, not values, determines consciousness. For example, there is “black consciousness.” Perhaps you didn’t know this, but blacks are born leftists. However, occasionally you will see a conservative black person such as Thomas Sowell or Ken Blackwell or Shelby Steele. One is tempted to say that these deviants represent birth defects, but they are probably just trying to imitate “white consciousness.” Whites are inherently racist, so in a weird way, these self-hating black conservatives are also racist.

What about white liberals, you ask? Since liberals represent all that is good and decent, how have these white people transcended their own inherent racism? And since it is fair for liberals to attack black conservatives for “acting white,” is it fair for conservatives to attack liberal caucasians for “acting black?” Try it some time.

“There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence.” “There is no freedom without objectivity of the will.” Freedom is a paradoxical thing, for if it simply means that we are subjectively free to do or believe whatever we want, what good is it? It’s just another, more subtle form of tyranny, the tyranny of unconstrained, ultimately meaningless choice on the horizontal plane.

The classical (not contemporary) liberal draws a sharp distinction between freedom and liberty. Freedom is the mere absence of constraint, the right to do whatever one wishes. It implies no verticality at all. Liberty, on the other hand, is constrained by Truth, both as it applies to knowledge and our will to act.

In fact, what good is academic freedom unless it is actually converging upon objective truth? One of the problems in the Arab world is that they have neither freedom nor liberty. They are obliged to believe lies--lies about Israel, lies about America, lies about women, lies about Christianity. But it is possible to have the opposite problem, the obligatory belief that truth doesn’t exist, so that one person’s belief is no higher or better than another’s. Moral and intellectual relativism are not just forms of tyranny, they are a manifestation of hell, for hell is any place where one cannot appeal to Truth.

Ironically, the person who believes that truth exists and that he is free to discover it is far more constrained than the person who either doesn’t believe in objective truth or who lives in tyranny. For example, if you read, you will see that in the Arab world you are absolutely free to believe the most vicious and vile lies about Jews. Likewise, on American college campuses, you are free to believe the most brazen lies about American history, or about President Bush, about religion, or about capitalism.

But the person who believes in truth doesn’t have that kind of freedom. For he is only free to believe what is true, and what kind of freedom is that? In other words, such a person is not free to believe that 2+2=5, or that men and women are identical, or that children do just as well with two fathers as a father and mother, or that objective truth doesn’t exist, or that natural selection alone explains human consciousness, or that high taxes are a good way to reduce poverty, or that we have no transcendent moral obligations. And yet, the truth supposedly "sets you free.” How does that work?

It seems that objective truth is the key to true freedom, both as it pertains to knowledge and to action. Objectivity is often thought of as empirical knowledge of material reality, but this is a misleadingly narrow definition. Rather, according to Schuon, objectivity must be understood not as “knowledge that is limited to a purely empirical recording of data received from outside, but a perfect adequation of the knowing subject to the known object.”

In other words, objectivity has to do with aligning our understanding with what it is we wish to know, whether it is a rock, a mathematical equation, or God. “An intelligence or a knowledge is ‘objective' when it is capable of grasping the object as it is and not as it may be deformed by the subject.” It is “conformity to the nature of things,” independent of interference by individual tendencies or tastes.

As such, objectivity is even a kind of “ego death” in the face of the reality of the object. But there is a payoff, in that “the subjective compensation of this extinction is the nobility of character,” a vertical nobility that is our true human birthright. Moreover, in our logoistic cosmos, the transcendent Object (Brahman, the Father) is ultimately the immanent Subject (Atman, the Son). Therefore, in the final analysis, objectivity is none other than the ultimate Truth “in which the subject and the object coincide, and in which the essential takes precedence over the accidental--or in which the Principle takes precedence over its manifestation--either by extinguishing it, or by reintegrating it.”

Thus, through objectivity, we actually become who we are, undistorted by the accidents and contingencies of existence. "Without objectivity and transcendence there cannot be man, there is only the human animal; to find man, one must aspire to God.”

In short, because we have the capacity for objectivity, we partake of the Absolute, which is absolute freedom. We are not really free to know God. It is only God who is free to know himself through us. Deny this truth, and we live in another absolute--the false absolute of arbitrary and unlimited horizontal freedom. The purpose of freedom is to enable us to choose what we already are in the depths of our being. This is that famous point whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere: there is only this one center, and you are it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Unhappy Kampfers

In case you didn’t make it all the way through yesterday’s post, it ended with the following paragraph: “So are One Cosmos readers intolerant? You bet--if they agree with me, they are. Intolerant of the totolerantarianism that masquerades as ‘unconditional positive regard,’ the horizontal license that mocks vertical liberty, and the tyrannical absolutism that passes itself off as moral and cultural relativism. The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction: E Unum Pluribus, out of One, many. Gravity takes care of the rest.”

Sometimes I wonder if some of my most important points aren’t buried in a post. When you’re dashing about cyberspace, going from blog to blog, you probably just skim around, looking for the essence of what the blogger is saying.

Anyway, I want to focus on those last few sentences “The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction.”

There are two ways to misunderstand what I wrote. One is to imagine that I was just being poetic or metaphorical, when I was actually being quite literal. The other is to be offended by it, when I was simply being descriptive about what I regard as the deep structure of all leftist thought. In other words, it’s not meant as an insult. Rather, an honest leftist should nod his head in agreement and say, “yes, exactly. That is how we differ. You believe in some imaginary transcendent unity, while I am a hardheaded realist who honors the obvious diversity of human beliefs. There is no ultimate truth, and if there were, human beings could not know it.”

As I hinted at in the post, thinking either ascends toward a transcendent unity that is actually the organizing principle and substrate of thought; or, alternatively, it descends into a bewildering multiplicity and fragmentation, where the unity of thought is lost. Genesis treats this critical existential choice with the symbol of the tree. There are two, and only two, trees from which we may “eat.” Depending upon which one we choose, there will be predictable results. One leads to ascent and union, the other to descent, fragmentation, and illusion. And with illusion comes all sorts of secondary and tertiary ill effects, because one’s existence will be organized around a primordial lie.

This may appear overly abstract, so I thought I would provide a concrete example, taken from a prominent left-wing website. I don’t think I’ll even provide a name or a link, because the purpose of this is not to insult or ridicule the person. Rather, I just want to demonstrate the frivolousness of leftist thought as it pertains to metaphysical questions. Whenever the “reality based community” discusses religion or spirituality, you can bet that they will do so in a way that is far more naive and silly than the most unfun fundamentalist.

This writer begins his meditation by saying that “We are programmed. Programmed by our DNA to act as we do. If we had the DNA of a turtle we would move slowly and have a shell. If we had the DNA of a horse, we would be sleek and sinewy and have the unremitting urge to gallop.”

Stop right there. If we are merely programmed by our DNA, is this statement an exception? Or is this writer somehow violating his own DNA by communicating something called “knowledge?” Conversely, if he is only programmed to say what he is saying, why should we believe him? Do we have a choice as to whether or not to believe him? Or are we programmed by our DNA to believe or disbelieve him? Why even write an article and try to prove a point to someone, when the reader doesn't have a choice to agree or disagree with it anyway?

The writer acknowledges that “there is some little thing inside us that allows us to choose from option A and option B. It is not a random decision guided by a random switch.” He confusingly suggests that this little thing is “life. Its essence.”

In other words, there is nothing special about human beings. Rather, this “life essence” is “shared by the turtle, the horse and me. The other animals appear to be happy to ride the DNA treadmill. But it is maddening for us--how can we think and know but still share the same essence as the dumb turtle? How can we be so much smarter and it doesn't affect our essence?”

Hmm. Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. Has he proven the point that there is no relationship between human intelligence and human essence? In fact, the ontological gulf between humans and animals is so wide, that no materialistic or deterministic philosophy could ever bridge that chasm.

He goes on: “The turtle is so content because he is unaware there is a riddle. We don't have a choice stronger than the turtles; we are simply more aware of the choice we have. Aware enough to know awareness, but not aware enough to understand it.”

Further confusion. Free will is an illusion--”We don't have a choice stronger than the turtles.” Rather, we are just turtles who are aware of the "turtle choices" facing us. Does that make any sense at all? Isn’t a turtle who is aware of choice a fundamentally different creature than a turtle who isn't?

No. There is really no choice, only “internal will. It is the strongest of all forces [emphasis mine] and it is so plain that it can fit into the turtle just as well as the horse. It does not distinguish between tortoises and porpoises, different looks and purposes. It does not care that we have toes or tails. It does not seem to be effected by our knowing glare. We sit outside its window and look at it in the darkness--and amused by our shape and struggle, it sits unmoved.”

This is exactly what I meant by leftist thought descending downward until it reaches its logical limit. This is the same limit reached by Nietzsche and Schopenhaur: if God is at the ascending limit of the arc of thought, pure will is at the descending limit. We are not really alive, we are simply “lived” by an impersonal will that blindly expresses itself through us. Therefore, we might as well admit this, and realize that the struggle of the will is all. My will over yours, or yours over mine. That is the epic struggle--the unholy political kampf--in which the leftist is engaged.


Tomorrow, time permitting, I think I'll discuss Schuon's statement that "there is no freedom without objectivity of the will," for that is a key that opens many mysteries.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Transcendent Unity of Mankind

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul. --Frithjof Schuon

I just finished reading a lengthy piece at New Criterion, The Treason of the Intellectuals and the Undoing of Thought, by Roger Kimball (HT: Van der Leun). Like Van der Leun’s essays, this is not ephemeral bloggeralia but serious thought that should be reflected upon and not merely skimmed.

In fact, this is one of the themes of Kimball’s piece--that in contemporary culture there is no difference between high and low, trite and serious, deep and shallow. Now, with the advent of blogs, the problem is only heightened. Or let us just say that blogging is a double-edged sword. As small as my audience is, in the past, there would be no way I would have any audience at all. However, because of Petey’s meta-law--”bad ideas drive out good”--the worst people with the most dangerous ideas now have giant platforms to propagate their pernicious nonsense.

This came up in our recent drama involving a reader who writes that, “I assumed that because you and the rest of the One Cosmos community were obviously so intelligent and articulate, there would be an openness to discussion to political and religious perspectives differing from your own.” He claims that his perspective “is not readily subject to definitive labels but is fluidly transforming into something that increasingly draws from all aspects of the political spectrum,” and that “whatever one's religion or spiritual path might be, compassion, kindness, and what one famous psychotherapist called ‘unconditional positive regard’ should ideally inform one's every interaction with others, even when we don't like what they believe or have to say.” (Just so it's clear, I was not making reference to this reader with my comment above about "the worst people with the most dangerous ideas.")

This is a fine example of how the Left is always able to play the “compassion card” in order to promulgate ideas that are patently absurd and/or dangerous. For I do not say that I possess objective truth. Rather, I say that objective truth exists, and that I attempt to align myself with it. Now, to even suggest that objective truth exists places you in diametrical opposition to the entire project of the intellectual Left, which is to say that truth is relative, that no culture is better than any other, that “truth” is simply a function of power, that "perception is reality," etc.

I think I can speak for all One Cosmos readers--at least those readers who understand my message--that it is a gross distortion to suggest that we are not open to “a discussion of political and religious perspectives differing from our own.” My book alone disproves such nonsense, as it draws upon virtually every discipline and religion known to man. By comparison, leftist thought is ridiculously hidebound and parochial. What we are absolutely closed to is any discussion that suggests that truth is relative and that all points of view are of equal value.

For the most part, One Cosmos readers seem, like me, to be classical liberals (classical liberalism has an entirely different intellectual genealogy than contemporary leftist liberalism). My philosophy is precisely the opposite of this reader, who says that his “is not readily subject to definitive labels but is fluidly transforming into something that increasingly draws from all aspects of the political spectrum.” In other words, his philosophy is not grounded in anything permanent or transcendent, but simply in whatever various people happen to believe at the moment, no matter where they are in the political spectrum: presumably left, right, Marxist, socialist, radical environmentalist, feminist, homosexual activist, whatever.

Our reader is certainly free to believe any and all fashionable political ideas he wishes to believe, but he cannot do so and call himself American (and please, I do not mean this primarily in a patriotic, but a philosophical sense). For our founders most definitely believed in permanent and transcendent values that it was the purpose of government to protect and conserve. In other words, they did not cobble together an ad hoc philosophy based upon whatever ideas were floating around at the time. Rather, they deeply meditated on our human nature and our divine blueprint, and tried to design a political system that accounted for the former but facilitated the latter. They would have been appalled by any philosophy that denied antecedent truth or elevated the relative to the absolute.

But our reader is not in accord with our Founding Fathers. Rather, he holds the deviant postmodern view that “whatever one's religion or spiritual path might be, compassion, kindness, and what one famous psychotherapist called ‘unconditional positive regard’ should ideally inform one's every interaction with others, even when we don't like what they believe or have to say.”

This is leftist thought par excellence. While it sounds generous and compassionate, nothing could be more tyrannical and totalitarian, for this type of pseudo-thinking begins in amorality but inevitably ends in immorality. How can it not? To give “unconditional positive regard” to everyone? Who is worthy of such an attitude except for an infant? Furthermore, to value everything without condition is logically to value nothing, for it obliterates the very hierarchy that informs you of what is worthy of value.

This type of sinister piffle goes directly against the idea of the transcendent unity of mankind. In other words, I believe that because Truth is one, so too is mankind. Take away the notion of transcendent truth, and we are left with a bunch of warring tribes, all with their relative nonsense--as Kimball says, “African knowledge,” “female language,” “Eurocentric science,” or “the idea that history is a ‘myth,’ that the truths of science are merely ‘fictions’ dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth--more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals.” “Whether working in the academy or other cultural institutions, they bring us the same news: there is ‘no such thing’ as intrinsic merit; ‘quality’ is only an ideological construction; aesthetic value is a distillation of social power; etc., etc.”

"Unconditional positive regard" is the Ultimate Value for a person who has none. Does it include respecting “those religious codes which demand that the barren woman be cast out and the adulteress be punished with death? What about those cultures in which the testimony of one man counts for that of two women? In which female circumcision is practiced? In which slavery flourishes? In which mixed marriages are forbidden and polygamy encouraged? Multiculturalism... requires that we respect such practices. To criticize them is to be dismissed as ‘racist’ and ‘ethnocentric.’”

Leftist thought is actually profoundly anti-Enlightenment, for it fosters a spurious freedom: “Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value. Questions of ‘lifestyle’... come to occupy the place once inhabited by moral convictions and intellectual principles. For the postmodernist, then, ‘culture is no longer seen as a means of emancipation, but as one of the élitist obstacles to this’.... In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises--freedom understood as the emancipation from values that transcend the self--culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary ‘options.’”

So are One Cosmos readers intolerant? You bet--if they agree with me, they are. Intolerant of the totolerantarianism that masquerades as “unconditional positive regard,” the horizontal license that mocks vertical liberty, and the tyrannical absolutism that passes itself off as moral and cultural relativism. The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction: E Unum Pluribus, out of One, many. Gravity takes care of the rest.


UPDATE--Beautiful example from LGF of metaphysical gravity pulling leftist thought all the way down:

" A Keller school district parent said political correctness has run amok [i.e., exists] at her daughter’s elementary school, where the principal chose to omit the words 'In God We Trust' from an oversize coin depicted on the yearbook cover.

"Janet Travis, principal of Liberty Elementary School in Colleyville, wanted to avoid offending students of different religions, a district spokesman said. [You know, all those religions that distrust God.]

"Michael Linz, a Dallas attorney with the American Stifle Liberties Union, said the district’s move was appropriate, sensitive and constitutional. [Well... sensitive, anyway.]

"Ackerman suggested that the school could have used a different symbol for liberty, such as the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty, if it was concerned about giving offense. But Gardner said those symbols may not be acceptable to everyone, either."