Sunday, July 02, 2006

If Only Mustachiod Homophobic Terrorists Drove Gas-Guzzling SUVs into Buildings In San Francisco, The Left Would See the Threat

What the heck... I guess I'll post something anyway. Don't worry--I can stop blogging any time....

Psychology is such a stupid field. You have no idea. A while back I read something to the effect that there were around 250 distinct schools of psychological thought, and my guess is that perhaps 240 of them are utterly frivolous, shallow, and generally silly.

This is especially true of academic (as opposed to clinical) psychology. The adult playground of academia generates kooky ideas in every field for the simple reason that it is so insulated from reality and from the implications of its ideas. This is why, for example, the only place Marxism is taken seriously is in academia. If a small business owner were to toy with the idea of running his business along Marxist lines, he would receive immediate sharp and corrective blows from economic reality.

Today’s L.A. Times features an editorial by a Harvard psychology professor, Daniel Gilbert, entitled If only gay sex caused global warming: Why we're more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat.

In it, Gilbert begins with the logically self-refuting claim that “NO ONE [emphasis his] seems to care about the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center site. Why? Because it won't involve villains with box cutters. Instead, [cue Simpsons anchorman Kent Brockman--ed.] it will involve melting ice sheets that swell the oceans and turn that particular block of lower Manhattan into an aquarium." Fully accepting the most hysterical prognostications of agenda-driven weathermen at face value, Gilbert says “The odds of this happening in the next few decades are better than the odds that a disgruntled Saudi will sneak onto an airplane and detonate a shoe bomb. And yet our government will spend billions of dollars this year to prevent global terrorism and … well, essentially nothing to prevent global warming.”

This is the first time I've ever heard someone refer to terrorists as merely "disgruntled." Obviously they are far from gruntled. That goes without saying. But they are also hideously evil beasts of depravity bent on destroying civilization as we know it. For starters. And I'm sure they don't give a hoot about the weather. They're obviously used to warm climates.

In any event, let’s try a little thought experiment. Let’s announce to the world that we are immediately suspending all efforts to stop terrorists from hijacking airplanes. It’s too expensive. It’s just not worth the time and trouble, considering Professor Gilbert's reasoned assessment of the incredibly low odds of an attack. Let’s stop airport security, baggage checks, profiling of any kind. You aren’t a sophisticated psychology professor at an elite university, so you’re probably too stupid to ask, but what do you think would happen? For that matter, what do you think would happen if Israel made no effort to stop suicide bombers from crossing its border?

Gilbert, the brilliant psychology professor, wonders “Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster?” Don’t worry, he has the answer: “Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features--features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.”

In other words, we really don’t have free will--except for Gilbert. Somehow, he managed to overcome natural selection and see beyond his genetic programming. Not so the rest of us trousered (as opposed to tenured) apes. We are just Darwinian machines, programmed to see enemies where they don’t really exist.

Professor Gilbert explains. You see, “global warming lacks a mustache. No, really. We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others.” So the reason why we are concerned with terrorism is simply because it has a human face (although technically it is an inhuman face). On the other hand, global warming has no human face, so we don’t worry about it.

Except for all of the hysterics who do, including Gilbert. Indeed, they even try to give it a human face, a face that looks just like George Bush. And we are presumably "frightened" of gay marriage because it too has a human face and mustache, although in fairness, not all lesbians have mustaches. Hasn't he ever seen Tammy Bruce?

Gilbert claims that “The second reason why global warming doesn't put our brains on orange alert is that it doesn't violate our moral sensibilities. It doesn't cause our blood to boil... because it doesn't force us to entertain thoughts that we find indecent, impious or repulsive. When people feel insulted or disgusted, they generally do something about it, such as whacking each other over the head, or voting. Moral emotions are the brain's call to action.”

Again, this is demonstrably false. Global warming is a highly charged moral issue to the left. Can anyone listen to Al Gore and not tell in an instant that his blood is boiling and that he's hoppin' mad? Gilbert writes, “Yes, global warming is bad, but it doesn't make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don't feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning.”

What? Has this man never heard of dailykos? When have they not been angry and nauseated by some abstract fear that somehow never materializes, like the imminent takeover of the country by homophobic gaia-hating theofascists?

Gilbert writes that “The third reason why global warming doesn't trigger our concern is that we see it as a threat to our futures--not our afternoons. Like all animals, people are quick to respond to clear and present danger, which is why it takes us just a few milliseconds to duck when a wayward baseball comes speeding toward our eyes.” But this simply contradicts his earlier statement that we are obssessed with things that pose no real or immediate threat at all, like terrorism. Which is it?

Finally, the fourth reason we don’t care about global warming is that “we barely notice changes that happen gradually, we accept gradual changes that we would reject if they happened abruptly.” I don’t know about that one. I’m not sure if I would notice the one degree increase in global temperature if it had happened in one minute instead of the one hundred years over which it has occurred. Then again, maybe Gilbert is more sensitive than I am.

Oh my: “The human brain is a remarkable device that was designed to rise to special occasions.”

What kind of nonsense is this? It’s the kind of nonsense that is taught in elite universities. The brain is a fancy gadget or “device.” It was “designed,” but not really, because there was no designer. Rather, it’s just a random reflection of the environment it evolved in. And it “rises to special occasions.”

Which begs the question. For me and for approximately half of the country, September 11 was a “special occasion.” But somehow, we are unable to convince the other half of the country--including Professor Gilbert--of its specialness. We see the evil as clear as day, while the other half--including Gilbert--doesn’t see the evil at all, regardless of whether or not it has a human face. Instead, they focus their attention on obscure and abstract future threats from the weather.

I am not an academic psychologist. I am a clinical psychologist. We have a well-worn word that applies to both Gilbert and his kind: denial. It is at the basis of the “culture of conniption,” that is, the hysterical left that is always having a conniption about some vague threat that never materializes, because it is much more comforting than having to face the real thing.

Lileks said it best:

“ABC news has asked viewers to send in evidence of global warming. How is it affecting your life? ABC news wants to hear from you. This is like Life magazine asking readers in 1952 to describe the communists under their beds. Bald?  Slavic? Ruddy? Drunken? Well, I can help. Naked hairless blistered ocelots prowl my yard; mutated day-bats flutter around the eaves, and the other day a polar bear got up on two legs and pushed around a fume-belching two-stroke-engine lawn mower as some sort of ironic protest....

“I am not susceptible to disaster scenarios. I do not believe we have ten years to prevent the inevitable collapse of civilization. As long as I can remember I have been fed end-times scenarios--death by ice, death by fire, death by famine, death by smothering from heaps of clambering humans scrabbling for purchase on an overpopulated world, death by full-scale nuclear exchange, death by unstoppable global AIDS, death by a two-degree rise in temperatures, death by radon, death by alar, death by inadvertent Audi acceleration, death by juju. Doesn’t mean we won’t die of juju. But somehow we survive. The only thing I take away is a vague wistful wonder what it would be like to live in an era when things were generally so bad that the futurists spent their time assuring us it would be better. Say what you will about the past, but at least they had a future. All I’ve ever had, according to the experts, is a grim narrow window of heedless ignorance bliss followed by a dystopian irradiated world characterized by scarcity, mutation, and quite possibly intelligent chimps. You have no future. Oh, and don’t smoke!”

“Bah.”

“I’m a stupid optimist. Either the vehicle that takes me to the boneyard will get six miles per gallon of processed dinosaur, or it will run for ninety days on a milliliter of Sea-Monkey urine. Either way, all in all, we’ll make it.”

*****

Here's an idea for Professor Gilbert. Write an article about why the disgruntled Islamo-fascists are more worried about infidels than the weather. They're almost as crazy as us!

Part 2: Write an article about what motivates an, ahem, sane and sober man such as Al Gore to produce a propaganda film about the weather that contains so many easily verifiable distortions and exaggerations that almost seem calculated to alarm?. Why does the left habitually sacrifice truth to activism? Is this distortion consciously or unconsciously motivated?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"If the Times Stops Helping the Terrorists, the Terrorists Will Have Won"

Our unelected Overlords at the New York Times have come out from under their cone of silence to reveal yet another secret, that is, When Do We Publish a Secret?

This ought to be rich. But what I really want to know is when the Times will publish a useful secret (useful to Americans, not terrorists), say, the exact deductions on your income tax returns that automatically trigger an audit? Nah, that might hurt the government’s war on your wallet.

“SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, newspaper editors have faced excruciating choices in covering the government's efforts to protect the country from terrorist agents.”

Oh yes, we can tell. They must weep every time they have to publish something damaging to the war effort. Weep, I tell you!

Liberals just can’t help playing the victim card. It’s in their bones. Every day is an excruciatingly painful choice: shall we merely undermine the war effort, or actually assist our enemy?

“Each of us has, on a number of occasions, withheld information because we were convinced that publishing it could put lives at risk.”

Sorry. You don't get credit for common decency. What about the many other occasions you purposely chose to put American lives at risk?

“Last week our newspapers disclosed a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions. We did so after appeals from senior administration officials to hold the story. Our reports--like earlier press disclosures of secret measures to combat terrorism--revived an emotional national debate, featuring angry calls of 'treason' and proposals that journalists be jailed along with much genuine concern and confusion about the role of the press in times like these.”

Liberals cannot help thinking in terms of feelings. It most certainly is “an emotional debate,” in that it centers entirely around the Times’ visceral hatred of President Bush. Remove that from the equation and we wouldn’t be having this debate.

The Times, of course, is not angered by treason. They're above that sort of thing.

“We agree, however, on some basics about the immense responsibility the press has been given by the inventors of the country.”

What a monstrously pompous inversion. The founders gave no such special responsibility to huge, self-serving media conglomerates. Rather, they created a government whose purpose was to protect the rights of individuals, not “the press” and certainly not “The Times.” The Times has no special rights that any ordinary citizen doesn’t possess, but they obviously consider themselves above the law, including the constitution. If I did what the Times had done, I would be arrested, tried and jailed as a spy, and rightfully so. There is no fourth branch of government called “the press.” There are only people with blogs, most of them idiots, a few of whom go to the trouble of printing and distributing their blathering, like the Times.

“Make no mistake, journalists have a large and personal stake in the country's security.”

That’s true. Right through the heart.

“We live and work in cities that have been tragically marked as terrorist targets.”

Liberal always call evil a “tragedy.” Then they call tragedies, like Katrina, “evil,” at least if they can blame it on a Republican.

“Reporters and photographers from both our papers braved the collapsing towers to convey the horror to the world.”

Special pleading. How come they haven’t conveyed the horror every day since? Why the blackout? How come they don’t show the horrifying beheadings on the front pages, instead of conveying the horrifying inconvenience of Gitmo or Abu Ghraib day after day after day?

“But the virulent hatred espoused by terrorists, judging by their literature, is directed not just against our people and our buildings. It is also aimed at our values, at our freedoms and at our faith in the self-government of an informed electorate.”

How convenient. This is a new twist. When President Bush says that they hate us because of our values and our freedoms, liberals, including the Times, always snicker. For the Times, it’s always something we did to inflame the terrorists.

“If the freedom of the press makes some Americans uneasy, it is anathema to the ideologists of terror.”

What dopes. The issue isn’t freedom of the press. The issue is fifth columnists (all five now available through Times Select) within the press misusing their freedom to help the terrorists. The terrorists love that kind of freedom of the press. I can assure the Times that none of them are complaining about the invaluable assistance they are receiving from the Times.

“Our job, especially in times like these, is to bring our readers information that will enable them to judge how well their elected leaders are fighting on their behalf, and at what price.”

Sounds like this program was doing a pretty good job at a small price until you needlessly blew their cover.

By the way, as lowly readers, our job, in times like these, is to judge whether our unelected elites are fighting on our behalf or for the other side.

“If a war is being waged in America's name, shouldn't Americans understand how it is being waged?"

Er, no, not if the tactic in question it is perfectly legal, and if revealing it will undermine the effort and embolden the enemy. In any event, no one would ever accuse the Times of understanding how or even why this war is being waged.

“Government officials, understandably, want it both ways. They want us to protect their secrets, and they want us to trumpet their successes.’

It’s true. Strange as it may seem, Americans would prefer that you actually be on America’s side instead of revealing its secrets, trumpeting our failures, and exaggerating the successes of our enemies.

“How do we, as editors, reconcile the obligation to inform with the instinct to protect?’

Now you’re asking us? For starters, if a program is legal and effective, and congress is being fully briefed on it, why not overcome your perverse “obligation to inform?”

“Often the judgments are painfully hard. In those cases, we cool our competitive jets and begin an intensive deliberative process.”

Of course it's painful to needlessly reveal secrets that may result in the deaths of fellow citizens. Obviously you succeeded in overcoming the pain. Next time try respecting it.

“Finally, we weigh the merits of publishing against the risks of publishing. There is no magic formula, no neat metric for either the public's interest or the dangers of publishing sensitive information. We make our best judgment.”

In other words, we have no idea why we did it. We just did, knowing full well that it was a a legal and effective program and that disclosing it would assist the enemy and place American lives in jeopardy. Memo to the Times: that is a magic formula, in that it lacks all reason.

“We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices... ”

Precicisely. That's what makes us honorable. We fail to detect the honor in your utterly self-serving position.

“But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence.

The responsibility does not fall to a special breed of human beings called “editors.” Rather, it is a responsibility shared absolutely equally by all American citizens. In any event, you are trying to deflect responsibility for what you've done, or you would accept the consequences, including the legal ones.

“It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.”

Then you are not an American, for this is a representative republic in which we routinely “surrender” power to our elected representatives. It is not up to dictatorial elites, to the New York Times “editocracy,” or to unelected judges to arrogate that power from the people and their elected representatives. This is a power that free people take very seriously, and we cannot surrender it to a bunch of journalistic perverts who will do anything to weaken President Bush, even if it means giving aid and comfort to those who wish to destroy us.

Oh, and after all that, what is the answer to the question "When Do We Publish a Secret?"

"We're the Times, the fourth branch of government above the other three. Therefore, When we f***ing feel like it."

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Agony and the Apostasy: On Pulitzer Prizes and Prize Putz Louses

Sick are they always; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. --Nietzsche

Van der Leun has written a a piece about our elite media that is so psychologically and spiritually astute that there’s almost nothing I can add. Maybe I’ll try anyway.

The Times is the very definition of an “elite,” having “self-selected itself as a vehicle worthy of wielding a power we normally reserve for those named by our citizens in elections,” specifically, “the right to say what is and what is not in our public interest” and “to knowingly risk the lives and well-being of the soldiers and citizens of this Republic at will.”

Obviously, nothing could be more illiberal and undemocratic than a couple of wealthy and insulated pinheads lost in the 1960s--Pinch "Me? I'm Dreaming" Sulzberger and Bill Keller--taking it upon themselves to arrogate power that is only properly vested in the people and their elected representatives.

But these men are not just driven by the usual ideological or venal motives, which is what makes them all the more dangerous and all the more able to live in denial of what they do. That is, they are perverts who enjoy the thrill of betrayal and the rush of stripping away the veil--any veil, whether it is the veil of decency or a veil of security. As Van der Leun writes, they “really enjoy how it feels. And they enjoy it, they revel in the pleasure of it, at the level of bodily sensations parallel to that of the orgasm. In common parlance, ‘they get off on it.’” The joy obviously doesn’t come from the journalistic aspect--which is dubious at best--but from the transgressive component. It is the transgression that creates the perverse pseudo-journalistc thrill.

This kind of perversion doesn't qualify for a DSM diagnosis. It's worse than that. The DSM only deals with the mind, but this is a perversion of the soul. All perverts live for their perversion, and soul-perverts are no exception. Although they are enslaved by ther perversion, they rarely feel that way. Rather, they often feel superior to those who do not know the transcendent joys of their particular illicit pleasure. They might even feel sorry for those confined to the licit kind. Part of the purpose of the perversion is to transform shame into pride. But perverts often need the association of other perverts to accomplish this transformation--somewhat like the reverse of a 12 step program, a support group to support what is wrong in them and make them feel right about it. The first step is to acknowledge your helplessness before a power that is lower than yourself, but to elevate it to the Most High.

Thus, journalistic perverts everywhere are coming out of the woodwork to support their fellow perverts at the Times Two. The other day, I saw Tom Brokaw weigh in, assuring us that he didn’t know of a single person who actually thought that the terrorists didn’t know about the the SWIFT program anyway. If that is true, then why did Bill Keller say that he agonized over the decision to reveal the program? Why the agony if it wasn’t a secret anyway? Brokaw strikes me as more pretentiously (because stupid) stupid (because pretentious) than a pervert. In any event, he is denying Keller the very purpose of the story, which was the agony of journalistic longing followed by the ecstatic release of publication.

In truth, the non-pervert cannot understand the motives of the pervert, and the pervert long ago lost any ability to empathize with the lowly, bourgeois non-pervert. They live in two divergent worlds, with entirely different frames of reference. A couple of days ago I canceled my subscription to the L.A. Times, but in truth, I had canceled it long ago. I had only recently re-upped for the Sunday edition, after having not looked at the paper in years. Even before canceling it in the wake of the SWIFT story, I found the entire paper to be suffused with a palpable soul-creepiness--not just the editorial page, but the front page, the entertainment section (obviously), the book review, the business section, even the real estate and sports sections. All of it is colored by a strange world view that I and most normal Americans do not share.

Richard Weaver saw this coming. In his Ideas Have Consequences--which was published in 1948--he discussed the effect of the new journalistic cosmology on the soul. As the medieval peasant might have looked up and seen “a revolving dome of fixed stars,” today we see something similar in looking at the daily newspaper; we see "the events of the day refracted through a medium which colors them as effectively as the cosmology of the medieval scientist determined his view of the starry heavens. The newspaper is a man-made cosmos of the world of events around us in time. For the average reader it is a construct of significances which he no more thinks of examining than did his pious forebears in the thirteenth century...” It presents “a version of life quite as controlled as that taught by medieval religionists, though feeble in moral instruction...”

When you uncritically read a newspaper or passively watch television news, you are participating in someone else’s metaphysical dream, not your own. And it is generally a sick dream with horrifying, infrahuman assumptions about reality.

You can be absolutely certain that Keller and Sulzberger are not only unashamed of their treason against the Good. Rather, they are proud of it. And as Augustine taught, “all the other vices attach themselves to evil, that it may be done; only pride attaches itself to good, that it may perish.” A normal soul loves what is good and therefore despises evil. The abnormal soul does not love what is good, but “the place of a suppressed devotion never remains empty.” Thus, the essence of perversion, on the soul level, involves passion and pride. Passion, in its classical sense, means to flee from God, while pride is to “rise up against Him” (Schuon). The proud man has “the propensity to brook no humiliations while readily inflicting them, upon others,” especially if they are Richeorge Nixbush and their illegal war on Viet Saddam. But don't ever question the Times' pervatriotism. They're better than patriots--they're dissenters!

The two--pride and passion--go together and are generally insatiable, thus the need to repeat the drill again and again. There is a reason why God shuns the proud. Pride is related to smug self-satisfaction, while humility is linked to honest and accurate self-assessment. The self-satisfied soul “is one who is saturated with his own imaginary worth which he projects onto his scanty knowledge and mediocre authority.” This is why they must give Pulitzers every year, so the biggest offenders may honor themselves again and again to keep the illusion alive. They can put this one right next to Walter Duranty's.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bellyaching about the Heartsick

Cosmonaught Lisa has been studying the enteric nervous system and came across the concept of the “abdominal brain”: “Studies have shown a vast overlap in neuropeptides of the brain and gut. This is a secondary autonomic nervous system that operates independently of the cephalic brain. Possibly more connected to the unconscious, and maybe even more directly connected to the divine because it does not have to think/do so hard because it just being/is. Perhaps when we feel something just isn't right and we feel it deep in our gut our enteric brain is working/being connected to the divine. Does this ring true?”

My gut instinct tells me it is true, although I can’t really explain why. Just sort of a fulness in my tummy.

I’m much more familiar with the idea of the heart-intellect, which is a universal spiritual archetype, than I am with the belly brain, but I can google as well as the next guy, and here’s what I came up with:

“In mammals there exist two brains of almost equal importance.... One is the cranial brain, the instrument of volitions, of mental progress and physical protection.  The other is the abdominal brain, the instrument of vascular and visceral function.  It is the automatic, vegetative, the subconscious brain of physical existence.  In the cranial brain resides the consciousness of right and wrong.  Here is the seat of all progress, mental and moral... However, in the abdomen there exists a brain of wonderful power maintaining eternal, restless vigilance over its viscera.  It presides over organic life.  It dominates the rhythmical function of viscera.... The abdominal brain is a receiver, a reorganizer, an emitter of nerve forces.  It has the power of a brain.  It is a reflex center in health and disease.... The abdominal brain is not a mere agent of the [cerebral] brain and cord; it receives and generates nerve forces itself; it presides over nutrition.  It is the center of life itself.  In it are repeated all the physiologic and pathologic manifestations of visceral function (rhythm, absorption, secretion, and nutrition).”

The author goes on to say that “the abdominal brain is centered in the solar plexus" and "is the primary control center of an extensive peripheral nervous system containing a number of ‘little brains.’” This is consistent with the idea that consciousness does not just reside in “our heads,” so to to speak, but that our bodies are permeated with it. Of course this makes sense, because nature does not know the artificial divisions we make, say, between brain and nervous system. Everything in our bodies is interconnected--both subjectively and objectively--in an inconceivably complex manner. That, by the way, is one of the reasons it is such a pain in the a** to have diabetes. Even if perfectly controlled, as in my case, you just don’t feel the same. One hormone changes all the hormones and enzymes in an irreducibly complex manner.

Interesting that in Zen, contrary to most other traditions, practitioners are advised to locate consciousness in the belly and to live from that region. In his magisterial Zen and the Brain, author James Austin notes that “The Zen Way plumbs depths that code for our strongest convictions,” including even the sense of taste. Eventually this primitive gustatory network "coordinates with other sensory impulses arising from the viscera.... Do you take a strong ‘visceral’ dislike to some things, find some person’s actions distasteful or disgusting? The links of taste-related circuitries may be compounding over more networks than you realize.... It is not the wisps of a few abstract thoughts which make us feel delighted or disgusted. The visceral roots of longings and loathings start very deep, even though they go on later to have extensive upward ramifications.”

By now, most of us are familiar with the yogic chakra system, as debased as the concept has become in popular culture. In talking about this system, you have to bear in mind that it was worked out in a pre-scientific world, so that the writings often include a lot of frankly mythological and fanciful speculations. But just like the ancient physicians who talk about the “four humors,” the ancient “chakrologists” were careful observers who were noting something phenomenologically real, even if they didn't necessarily understand its basis.

Running our of time here.... This is like a "speed-posting" competition.... Forgive any incoherence....

One of the reasons why psychoanalysis is so profound, is that it takes seriously the idea that we live and develop in a primate body. In other words, our consciousness is thoroughly entangled with our body. Immature babies interact with their mothers in such a way as to use them as an “auxiliary cortex” for the purpose of downloading programs from her brain into theirs. Interestingly,the latest research in attachment theory demonstrates that the right brain develops considerably ahead of the left brain during our first few years of life. Furthermore, the right brain has deep connections with the emotional limbic system, so that it is fairly clear that what we call the “unconscious” is located in the right brain. And this explains why most forms of psychotherapy are so ineffective, since they deal only with surface cognitions, when what you really need to do is “interrogate” the right brain and put its nonverbal reality into words. This is the basis of “free association” in psychoanalysis, which attempts to use language to bypass language. Our deepest traumas are literally encoded in the bodymind.

The Katha Upanishad states that “Radiating from the lotus in the heart there are a hundred and one nerves. The mortal in whose heart the knots of ignorance are untied becomes immortal.” By “a hundred and one,” the Vedic seers merely mean “a whole bunch,” which turns out to be true. In his book The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce cites research indicating how the heart “maintains an intricate dialogue with our brain, body and world at large.” He notes that half or more of the cells of the heart are neural cells like those that make up the brain. Furthermore, “the same neurotransmitters that function in the brain also function in the heart ganglia.” Pearce can sometimes be a little bit beyond the cutting edge, but he even cites research suggesting that heart transplant recipients occasionally pick up traits and idiosyncrasies from their donors.

In all esoteric traditions, the brain is felt to be an instrument of the heart, and the deepest aspect of our intellect is actually located in the left side of the chest. There is a constant dialogue going on between heart and head, likely mediated through the right brain. Which means that if you are sick “in the right brain,” you are likely to be heartsick as well.

Yesterday I was particularly heartsick upon learning of the fate of that beautiful Israeli boy who was kidnapped and butchered by bloodthirsty Palestinian savages. Naturally I thought of my own beautiful son, and the inconceivable depravity of a mind that would harm a hair on his head. And yet, such people exist. They exist in the millions. Like me, they are heartsick as well, but in a rather different way. They enjoy torturing our G.I.’s, cutting off heads, blowing up women and children. One can only wonder what sorts of parasites and psychotoxins, hidden away in the right brain and extending their tentacles into their cancerous hearts, make them enjoy the murder of children, including their own.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fourth Estate Fifth Column Deep Sixed

That felt good. I cancelled my subscription to the L.A. Times for, I don't know, the eighth or ninth (and now final time). The operator on the other end asked why I wanted to cancel the paper, and I said "because I'd like to drive over and make a citizens arrest of your editors for treason. Absent that, this is the next best option, although I'm not ruling out the former."

I was trying to think of something that would get her off the script. I think I succeeded. She seemed pretty rattled.

Interestingly, while waiting on hold, a voice came on, letting me know that my phone call might be monitored by Times management. But of course, that's for a higher purpose. It's been a very effective counter-subscriber program. It will allow them to come up with a new line in the script for when subscribers call in threatening to arrest their editors for treason.

The Infectiousness of the Morally Unrepressed

[Once again, “I” intended for this post to go in one direction, but “it” careened off course into another direction. It’s pretty much unedited free association, but it is free, for what it’s worth. It is possible that the post will strike me as trivial later in the day, when I am fully awake.... If you feel the same way, just attribute it to my charismatic lack of repression, or aesthetic “brake failure.”]

Woke up this morning, jinx all around my bed.

That’s the question, isn’t it? Is the jinx only inside our head or can it really be around our bed, in the air, the environment?

If you take the time to pay attention to subtle shifts in your own consciousness, you will notice that you are not just conscious of this or that. Rather, consciousness is a state that has “many mansions,” so to speak. Often, what we call stability of character is merely being stuck in one of these mansions.

One of the attractions of drugs--including legal ones such as alcohol and antidepressants--is that they serve the purpose of bumping us out of one mansion and into another. If you think of consciousness as a field in phase space, a particular state of consciousness is like an “attractor,” or indentation in the field. Some personalities are quite rigid, and seemingly live their entire lives in one attractor state from which they cannot escape--like a ball at the bottom of a deep valley. The subjective experience of being in the presence of one of these people is that of boredom. In other words, because of what is called counter-transference, you can feel what it’s like to be them.

There are people who have the opposite problem. In psychology, they generally fall under the heading of having “borderline personality structure,” which means that they are prone to rapid changes from one attractor to another. These people are not boring, but they are wearying. They can even be exciting, especially to the complementary type who is stuck in a rigid attractor. Often they seek each other out--one for stability, the other for excitement--usually with disastrous results.

Borderline personalities can be immensely appealing, because they give us a vicarious sense of danger and unpredictability. They can exude a kind of palpable charisma, an infectiousness that results from a pathological absence of repression. You never know what they might say or do.

In fact, this is the basis of the appeal of many musicians and movie stars. It is no coincidence that a fair number of these people are quite dysfunctional and would not be capable of dealing with the demands and responsibilities of day-to-day life. Think of a Marlon Brando, whose clearly borderline personality made him literally radiate a kind af animal intensity. I can think of any number of artists, celebrities, and stars who exude this kind of charsima, but whose personal lives are an absolute wreck. The two are not unrelated.

I just recently read the new biography of the Beatles, by Bob Spitz, and John Lennon clearly falls into this category. When you read about just how dysfunctional he was, you realize that he quite literally could not have functioned in society. When he wasn’t making music, he was dysfunctional in every way, with no inner stability at all. And yet, there is no question that he was the leader of the Beatles, at least until he began taking LSD on a daily basis for weeks on end in ‘66-’67. In the early days, the other members looked up to him as a sort of god because of what one person called his pure fuck all attitude. Without that defiant attitude, the Beatles would have gone nowhere.

When I was younger, I have to admit that I enjoyed being around people like that. I’m thinking of one friend in particular who was every bit as crazy as John Lennon. Something always happened in his presence because he would make it happen. Not only was he crazy, but his infectiousness made everyone around him crazy as well. He was like a reverse guru: he radiated a palpable vibration that could awaken something similar in the receptive follower. He crackled with impulsive, beer-fueled insanity. It even felt like a kind of salvation to be around him, because it was an escape from the mundane and routine--the tyranny of the normal. (Sometimes I wonder if Van der Leun wasn't one of these charismatic wholly men, only alive to tell the tale from the other side of it... )

Great leaders often have a bit of this insanity as well. For example, Winston Churchill was extraordinarily reckless and impulsive as a young man. Yes, you could call it courage, but it was clearly something else as well. One of the reasons he wasn’t trusted or listened to in the 1930’s is that everyone knew full well about his impetuousness and recklessness. And yet, it was exactly this “madness” that was required to rally civilization against an equally charismatic madman whose absence of repression was apparently intensely intoxicating. Don’t get me wrong--I am not equating Churchill and Hitler. It’s just that we required a sort of characterological “mirror image” of Hitler in order to defeat him.

Clearly, this is one of the problems we seem to be facing in our present war. Evidently, Osama bin Laden is an immensely charismatic fellow to great numbers of his fellow Muslims. Why is this? Probably--in its own perverse way--for the same reason the other Beatles were attracted to John Lennon and I was attracted to my friend. One of the reasons John Lennon was so attractive--and in a way, served a very functional purpose--was because of the deadness and oppressiveness of British culture at the time. Your life was completely planned out ahead of time, with virtually no chance to escape your destiny or express your individuality. Therefore, it took someone as ungovernable and irrepressible as John Lennon to break through that thick barrier.

I wonder if many Muslims don’t get the same vicarious thrill out of bin Laden’s exploits? Please, don’t get me wrong--I’m not trying to sympathize per se, just putting myself in their sandals and under their turbans. I wonder if I looked around and saw nothing but futility and hopelessness and repression, whether I would be in awe of an Islamic nihilist with an absolutely fuck all attitude? After all, there’s no middle ground in most of the Muslim world--there aren’t small degrees of rebellion built into the system, as there now are in the West. In the West, perpetual adolescent rebellion is now commodity and end-state lifestyle for millions of so-called adults. John Lennon’s very real and very desperate fuck all can now be purchased off the shelf.

But how does one express the primordial fuck all in the Muslim world? For many, it must feel like an “all or none” proposition. Why not blow up the whole system and take everyone with you? What difference does it make? Rock on!

So in the Palestinian terrortories, they treat suicide bombers as pop icons. When they chant “I hope I die before I get old,” they really mean it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Worlds There Are, Without Suns"

It is impossible to begin a discussion of ontological evil without first describing the vertical structure of the cosmos. That was the purpose of yesterday’s post. For the non-religious, my account will undoubtedly be irrelevant or worse, while for the faithful it might seem “gnostic” or overly mystical. I can assure you that it is not, and that in the absence of a similar metaphysic you will not be able to simultaneously account for both evil and God’s goodness, and thus avoid theidiocy.

In order to understand ontological evil we must first draw a distinction between God as the supreme absolute and the degrees of being that result from the inner logic of God’s creative activity. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we may think of creation as a “ray” of involution that descends from the absolute reality into degrees of increasing relativity below. What is unique about man is that we are situated roughly halfway between the absolute and relative domains, so that we partake of both. This is why human beings are able to know that they are composed of both spirit and matter. But it also helps to explain a lot of our perpetual conflict and trouble.

The soul is actually a point of divine light thrown off like a spark from the divine center. In reality, it is more like a line than a point, and, given our free will, it can either move closer or further away from its source. The visions of revelation are ways of describing in human terms the abstract spiritual reality in which the soul moves and has its being. Revelation is required for human beings, because it deals in archetypal truths that are buried deep within the heart-intellect, but which we cannot necessarily see with our natural reason. This is because as one descends through the degrees of being, the greater distance from God results in greater awareness of separateness and independence, as the universal “I” that undergirds our subjectivity becomes all of the individual “me’s” of relative existence.

There is natural, “structural” evil, and human evil, the latter of which is far worse. The structural evil is simply a consequence of the inevitable structure of vertical existence. Again, you can look at it as a “ray of creation” or in the Kabbalistic sense of God “withdrawing” in order to create a space for the separate existence of other sentient beings. Either way, there are going to be dark “worlds” where God is apparently absent.

Have you ever touched or been caught up in one of these worlds? If so, you might have felt the hair stick up on the back of your neck. In the novel Demian, Herman Hesse vividly describes the discovery of one of these dark worlds by the protagonist, Emil, as he finds himself losing his childhood innocence and being entangled in darkness. In general, innocence and light are opposed to darkness and a certain kind of forbidden knowledge, as exemplified in the Garden of Eden story. Humans, being what they are, are nevertheless going to choose the forbidden fruit. Frankly, I wouldn’t even trust someone who hadn’t given it a taste.

Just as there are regions in horizontal space where you wouldn’t want to live--Antarctica, Equatorial Africa, Berkeley--there are vertical regions that are unfit for human habitation. Nevertheless, just as there are humans who choose to live in Berkeley, there are rebellious humans who are drawn to these dark regions of the vertical. Again, on their own, these regions don’t pose much of a threat. But when a human being--or a group of human beings, an entire movement or culture--enters one, then we have trouble.

There are different realms of evil, each representing the privation and sometimes reversal, or counterfeit expression, of some divine quality. Thus, as Will mentioned a couple of days ago, the Soviet Union may have represented “the satanic inversion of the universal brotherhood concept that was (is) communism.” Likewise, one can find in contemporary Islam many similar “inversions” of religious truths. One can certainly see it in secular leftism, which is deeply parasitic on Judeo-Christian truth and virtue, almost like a man-made “shadow.”

If there are higher worlds--which there obviously are--then there are lower worlds. And if there are inhabitants of higher worlds--again, an obvious proposition--then there are inhabitants of lower ones. The difference is that the higher worlds are real, while the lower ones are contingent, reactionary, and ultimately “empty.” Since they are realms of privation, the humans that inhabit them have a sort of “empty fulness” that they must repeatedly recharge. Furthermore, since they live in a sort of existential “wrongness,” they must induct others into their world in order to extinguish their conscience (which remains annoyingly linked to God, like the “line of light” alluded to above).

Thus, evil movements tend to be inherently rebellious and expansionary. On the other hand, for most of its existence, the most good and decent nation that has ever existed was fully content to let the rest of the world go to hell in a handbasket. Indeed, we would still do so if it weren’t for the fact that the world wants to bring its hell to our shores. Thus, we have to travel to hell and fight demons.

Although the people of Kosland would undoubtedly regard our kind as “reactionary,” anyone with spiritual vision can see that the reverse is true, that they inhabit a false and empty world that is filled with anger, intoxication, inflation, and rebellion. If you are remotely sensitive--even if you are one of those on “the other side”--you may recognize that you actually receive your vital power not from within, but through an intoxicating “charge” you receive through the drama of your anger and rebellion. You actually enjoy "politics" and you like having enemies. It helps make up for the fact that, in your rebellion, you are punished by the closing of the cosmic circle, like a noose around your neck. Your struggle only tightens the noose, but at least there is a certain perverse thrill in the asphyxiation that ensues.

Evil has a role in the world, at least for the uncorrupted soul. For such an individual, evil is its own punishment, because it cuts you off from your transcendent source. Therefore, it is self-correcting in a way. But one can fall so far--one can be so intoxicated with rebellion--that one supports and nurtures an entire parallel world of evil that then becomes parasitic on man.

In other words, it is not just that human beings are afflicted with “mind parasites,” which every cosmonaught should know. Rather, these parasites can then go on to create the very worlds required to allow them to flourish. Such a pathological world is the Muslim Middle East, which perpetually recreates its own evil world, especially through the barbaric treatment of women and girls. The parasites also prevent them from seeing the problem. Like a mentally ill individual, they will externalize blame and look everywhere but at the source, which is, of course, within.

Obviously, “the West," much less tiny Israel, has nothing whatsoever to do with this spiritual sickness that pervades the Middle East. And yet, these parasites now have full control of the host, not just in individuals, but entire cultures that would rather murder and torture Americans and Jews than stop torturing their own women and children. This is how evil can become an end in itself, which it clearly is in the case of Islamaniacs. They live in a hell that they have created, and then blame us for it. But they also want to impose it on us. Very odd.

To a lesser degree, the "progressive left" represents another entirely contingent existence that is incapable of knowing spiritual happiness, so it escapes this fact by trying to feel the rush of righteous rebellion along one’s keel, so to speak. The moment one realizes that one actually enjoys the misery of this pathetic and illusionary existence, one has begun to wake up from the leftist dream. It is a painful realization though, for it means going from the question, “why is the world so messed up and miserable?,” to “why am I so messed up and miserable?” There are impersonal, ontological reasons why conservatives are so much happier than leftists.

Now, please don’t get me wrong--this doesn’t mean that “Republicans” are the saviors of the world. Far from it. What it means is that there are spiritual interstices in the murky world of politics where the light can enter and have an influence. One of them is not the illiberal left. Nor is it necessarily the “right,” at least not in its conventional sense. But at least the right has an “up,” whereas the left has only a “forward,” which is actually a backward and regressive flight from transcendence and its replacement with false, spiritually deluded, and ultimately destructive visions of utopia. Someone else always has to die or be killed to maintain these delusions.

As usual, this post has rambled into unanticipated areas. I’ll try to regroup and refocus tomorrow. If there’s any interest in this topic.

Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self. --Isha Upanishad

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Darwhiggian Evolution and Supernatural Election

Although it really makes no sense to our natural reason, Big Bang cosmology describes an event some 13.7 billion years ago that brought everything into being by expanding outward from a central point of imarginable nothingness. Among other things, scientists deduce that primordial event from the fact that it is still happening now. The cosmos is still banging away, expanding into....

Actually, no one knows what it’s expanding into. It’s a nonsense question, since cosmology only describes the cosmos, not the metacosmos in which it is embedded. That goes without saying, which is to say that it is an unsaid assumption of science.

For the same reason, cosmology cannot answer the question of “what was before the big bang?,” since the big bang brought the modality we call time into existence. “Before” that, there was only eternity and perhaps duration, but not physical time. To ask what was before the big bang, you might just as well ask what your phase looked like before you were bearthed and begaialed, for the answer is roughly the same.

Science adequately describes the horizontal cosmos, which is to say, inadequately. In order to acquire an integral understanding of reality, the linear/temporal/horizontal view must be supplemented by the vertical, which is where revelation, myth, and metaphysics take over. Only these modes can take us beyond the horizon of knowability that afflicts your and myopic little ego. Myth and revelation bypass the ego by making an appeal to our lower and higher intuition, respectively, while metaphysics speaks directly to the timeless intellect which may know absolute truth absolutely, since it is in the image of the divine. These are built-in ways for us to see beyond the temporal illusions of our womentary maninfestation.

We might visualize reality as a circle containing a cross. Science describes the horizontal vector, but there is a second “ray of creation” that extends from the top down and then back up again. The downward descending energy is called the “ray of involution,” while the upward ascending one is called the “ray of evolution.” Of course, this is not the same as Darwinian evolution, which only describes change--but not progress--in the horizontal.

On the strict Darwinian view there is, of course, no such thing as progress, which is as it should be. While technically a “true” theory if we limit ourselves to the horizontal, it is obviously a false and limited understanding if we don’t supplement it with the vertical view of spiritual evolution. Strictly speaking, I can assure you there are no strict “Darwinians,” for even the belief in strict Darwinism takes one out of the strictly horizontal stream of Darwinism, into the realm of transcendent ideas. In short, the theory of pure Darwinism finds itself in the embarassing position of having to express itself in a medium it cannot account for, and make its appeals to a judge that cannot exist. D'oh!

Paradoxically, in order for us to exist and possess our own free will, God cannot exist. But it is not really a paradox, for a moment’s reflection will inform your intellect that if God doesn’t get out of the way, there can be no creation separate from him, no free beings. In other words, at the top of the vertical ray is God. Even that is a bit misleading, for the top of the ray has a “face” we can see from our relative position, as well as an "interior" or "dark side" we cannot see (dark because the light would be too blinding).

Imagine a solar system, if you will, with God at the center. We all have a certain view of God, but “within” God there is the God-beyond-God that trails off into eternity. That is the temporal horizon of God’s intellectual knowability (and here I am again speaking of the higher, faith-infused heart-intellect, not the lower egoic mind).

The vertical “ray of creation” therefore extends on one end from the God-beyond-being to our world “below.” But it doesn’t stop here. Rather, just like the sun’s rays, they go one “forever,” becoming increasingly faint to the point of apparent “nothingness.” But the nothingness is only apparent, since God can only be “relatively absent” from his creation. (Keep that point in mind for later, when we discuss evil and the hostile forces.)

The Kabbala is especially precise on this point, and does an excellent job of objectively describing God's "withdrawal" and the various degrees of being in the vertical ray of creation that "reveil" him. To a certain extent, these degrees are inevitably arbitrary, as are the divisions between the colors of the rainbow. All are an aspect of “pure” white light taking on different properties as one color shades into the next.

God is like the white light who “withdraws” so that color may exist. As different as they may appear, the colors are all internally related to one another, just as the degrees of being interpenetrate and shade into one another. The real world is the entire rainbow and ultimately the white light, although each of us tends to live in just one of the colors, confusing it with the primary reality.

As an aside, I should also say that there is a pure “black” reality at the other end of the ray of creation. It is the absence of light and the blending of all of the colors into an indistinct blur. This is the leftist/totalitarian dream of E Unum Pluribus, in which a false, descending, material "one" is imposed upon reality. It is the basis of multiculturalism, moral relativism, and secular fundamentalism, for it represents a flight form the real One that unifies and transcends, toward division and rule by a secular elite.

Nazism, communism and Islamo-fascism represent “pure black” in the ray of creation, while leftism represents a degree or two or three above that. But leftism tends toward the all-black, for it is a descending theology that has no means to elevate itself, having rejected the cosmic eschatolator at the outset. Therefore it “falls” and descends at the natural rate encoded into our existence, which is 32 feet per second per second.

By the way, this is why spiritual practice requires effort. True, all things are possible with grace, but grace only operates in the cosmos as given to us by God. There are readers who don't want to believe me on this point, and I have no desire to get into an argument with them yet again. But for most of us, our “fall” must be actively countered on a day-to-day, even moment by moment basis. It is not as if you are “saved” and born again, and that's the end of it. Rather, that is only the beginning of it. It represents the formal acknowledgment of the ascending cosmic winds that one will heretofore spend one’s life trying to navigate back up toward the One at the father shore. In the formula of Sri Aurobindo, it is Aspiration-Rejection (of the lower)-Surrender (to the higher) 24/7/365/13.7 billion.

I’m still trying to get to a discussion of the hostile forces. We’re getting there, but I needed to present a bit of background in order to have an implausible framework to discuss them. Plus, I realize that most people tend to just skim blogs and have little patience for anything longer than a bite-sized paragraph or two. So I'm also trying to break it down and make it real for these omies.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pickin' Up Bad Vibrations

Hostile forces? Such talk undoubtedly tests the limits of most readers’ credulity. However, this untoward reaction may represent a measure of the degree to which one's mind has become devitalized by the ravages of scientism--of a strictly mechanical, material, and quantified view of the world.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to conduct psychological evaluations of a number of people from formerly communist countries, mainly the USSR. Uniformly, what has been so striking about them is a certain palpable absence of soul, which was one of the most damaging consequences of communist totalitarianism. For the ban on religion also amounted to a ban on the deepest and most vital regions of Being itself. After a few generations of malign neglect, the damage becomes incalculable and sometimes irreversible in this life. These people are alive, but somewhat like a palm tree that manages to survive in Alaska or a pine tree at the equator. They are surviving, but in an environment not fit for, or worthy of, humans.

Admittedly, it’s a somewhat small sample--perhaps a dozen or so--but not only were these people not religious, but they were literally incapable of being so. It was not that they were hostile toward religion, as is the American left, which represents another type of soul deviancy. Rather, it was just meaningless to them--like someone who didn’t care for opera but allowed that other people might.

But it also left them very empty and devoid of meaning. There was a depression about them, but it had a rather different feel than a psychological or biochemical depression. It was actually a little spooky, as if they had been the victims of “body snatching.” Like Vulcans, it was as if they could operate in the realm of logic, but something vital at their core was missing. They were hollow--in a way, not even like animals (which have an animal soul), for they were more like soulless machines. It also made them very comfort-seeking, very hedonistic--not in the grandiose and narcissistic American way, but in a petty way, as if life consisted solely in stealing whatever small pleasures were available.

Obviously, Europe is well down this bright and shiny secular path, as is half of America. Western Europe is getting to the point that it no longer comprehends religion, as is true of secular America (which is why they are so allied in their contempt for American values). If we do not reverse this trend, we’re going to lose something so critical to our psychic substance, and yet, not even know what hit us. Secular Americans are genuinely clueless in their ignorance of how much they benefit from the thoroughly Judeo-Christian milieu in which they were raised. Like those atheistic Soviets, they really don’t get it, and are largely incapable of doing so.

My point is that the human mind is a religious mind. If you like, you can say that this is simply because of the way we’re built biologically, although I don’t believe that. That is simply a theory advanced by scientific Vulcans trying to understand human beings in terms of their own limited metaphysical framework.

So when I talk about “hostile forces,” I’m talking about something that you know exist, even if you don’t know that you know. I could also affirm with equal certainty that you believe in attachment theory, even if you’ve never heard of it, for infant and childhood attachment is the axis of human psychological development.

But just as you generally cannot “see” the effects of your own attachment history until you undertake some form of psychotherapy and systematically uncover it, you will not really get a sense of the hostile forces until you undertake a serious spiritual practice. This is really an area in which all traditions agree. Some sort of resistance is provoked when we try to advance spiritually. This is not speculation but empirical observation. “Hostile forces” is simply a term used--it is Sri Aurobindo’s term--to give a name to a well-known phenomenon.

You can think of the human soul as a sort of ground station for a whole host of collective, individual, personal and impersonal psychic influences from various levels. In other words, there are degrees as well as modes, the former a measure of verticality, the latter its horizontal manifestation. You may think of it as analogous to radio transmission, which has both variety (i.e., modes) and hierarchical degrees (ranging from the sublime to the infrahuman, as in the case of most rap, say, or Air America).

Different traditions have developed different maps to describe the vertical realm, and those from the East are generally more complicated and detailed than those of the West. This is primarily due to our more externalized consciousness. If you like, you can visualize a “global brain” with a right side and a left side that split in two and took divergent paths some 3,000 years ago. In the West, we came to regard matter as ultimately real, whereas in the East, consciousness was regarded as ultimate.

But let us not forget that Christianity was originally an Eastern religion that only later became westernized by the Latin church--not an altogether bad development by any stretch, the reason being that truth is One, and ultimate or integral Truth must subsume both the interior and exterior of the cosmos.

Material development was delayed for hundreds of years in the East because of the overemphasis on the interior dimension and a misunderstanding of the nature of maya, for it is true that the material world is “illusion,” but it is not only illusion. It is only ultimately illusory in comparison with the Absolute, with Brahman itself. The relative is obviously quite real, only in a relative way.

As a matter of fact, this is one of the main innovations of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, which to my mind represents a reunification of those two streams that split apart some 3,000 years ago. It is the historical task of Eastern religions to become more exterior, while it is the task of Western religions to become more interior. Interestingly, if one travels all the way back to the origins of Christianity, to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, one will find that it is already quite interior, easily the equal of any yogic tradition.

This is why a fair number of modern people are pushing into the future by building a bridge to the first century--by embracing the earliest forms of Christianity, as opposed to modern deviations such as fundamentalism which are in fact extremely exteriorized. There is really nothing “fundamental” in fundamentalism. Certainly early church fathers such as Origen or Denys the Areopagite wouldn’t recognize it.

Not to go all summer-of-love on you, but whether you are a scientist or a religionist, in the final analysis, reality consists of vibrations, some good, some bad. Have you ever picked up good vibrations in a religious service? Or how about after one of my posts, or reading my book? In so far as it was possible for me to do so, I quite consciously endeavored to fill my book with good vibrations that would literally resonate in the sensitive reader. Just so you don’t think I’m being a completely silly ass, a number of readers have informed me that, at least in their case, I succeeded. But it wasn’t really me. Rather, at each step along the way, I was simply attempting to retransmit things that had been transmitted to me and which had awakened some sort of “soul response” in me. Everything was personally tried and tested.

The point is that human beings are open systems, both on the horizontal and the vertical planes, and this is how to begin to understand the hostile forces, those bad vibrations.

This is beginning to run a bit long, isn’t it? We’ll have to continue with this nonsense tomorrow. Same time, same station, same frequency. Oh--and don’t try to understand what I’m writing about while wearing a tin beanie--the vibrations will bounce off.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Hostile Forces and Their Allies

The devil [is] the humanized personification--humanized on contact with man--of the subversive aspect of the centrifugal existential power... --F. Schuon

What is it with these hostile powers? Why are they afflicting so many spiritually sensitive souls at this particular time? What do they want and when will they go away? Why am I and so many other cosmonaughts experiencing these bizarre dreams and inexplicable physical symptoms?

In World War II, millions of good men traveled to hell in order to fight the latest incarnation of evil. What was going on then--not politically, but cosmically? No mere human psychology can explain the level of pure evil embodied in the Japanese and German governments that inflicted such infra-human brutality on their millions of victims.

I just finished an excellent new history of the Cold War, and it is the same story. I mean that literally, for history itself is the same story. The drama of exterior, or "horizontal" history can obscure the deeper reality of interior, or "vertical" history. Outwardly it looked as if a “world war” had ended in 1945, but nothing could be further from the truth. If it is possible for pure evil to surpass itself, then Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot did so. And they did so not only “under the radar,” but aided and abetted at every step along the way by an elite anti-divine spiritual movement called “the international left.”

Thankfully, this movement did not fully insinuate itself into the Democratic Party and hijack liberalism until the early 1970’s, so it posed no existential threat to our ability to name and extinguish evil, for evil cannot triumph so long as virtuous and courageous men can recognize it and mercilessly burn it from our midst.

But things are different today. Once again the same evil--the same hideous death-worshipping ontological evil that lived through men like Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Tojo--has now lodged itself into the heart of a religion and a region of the earth. But like any other parasite, the evil that animates this movement has adapted and learned from its mistakes. It knows that its only hope of success is to convince sophisticated and cultured men that it does not exist.

Perhaps you remember the absolute outrage among sophisticated leftists when Ronald Reagan acknowledged and named this evil in June of 1982. Not only did the left dismiss him as wrong, but, just like President Bush, he was regarded and reviled as the real source of evil in the world. You may think that we ultimately won that particular linguistic battle once and for all, but the opposite is true. As I have had occasion to mention before, the left learns nothing from history--that is not its role in the cosmic drama. Rather, it exists to obscure those lessons, for they issued the identical howls of outrage when President Bush recognized and named the most recent incarnations of ontological evil.

Here is what President Reagan said, updated with some obvious edits. You tell me if the left wouldn’t react identically today if these words were uttered:

“I've often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for the ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world....

“If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma--predictions of doomsday, anti-American demonstrations, a terror war in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course?... Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?

“We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings....

“All the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So, let us ask ourselves, ‘What kind of people do we think we are?’ And let us answer, ‘Free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well.’

“What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term--the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Islamo-fascism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people....”

*****

Those who lived through it well remember how Reagan was absolutely despised and reviled by the left. Their hatred of this particular speech was not the issue. Nor was Reagan himself the issue, any more than Hitler or Stalin were the issue. Reagan was simply a vehicle of much larger forces, and was opposed by the identical impersonal, anti-Divine forces that would oppose him today.

One again, our brave men are in hell, fighting satan. But the morally twisted left, which cannot recognize evil, sees the opposite. Dennis Prager routinely asks callers opposed to the liberation of Iraq if they can at least acknowledge one thing: that we are fighting evil. Not only will they not concede this point, they are outraged and insulted by the question. Rather, America is the aggressor imposing its will on patriotic insurgents.

Here is what a clear mind, uncontaminated by the toxic thinking of the left, sees:

“In the overheated exchanges that too often substitute for reasoned political discourse, definitions and distinctions can blur. But there is a huge difference between Coalition forces and the wanton, sociopath terrorist with no vestige of honor, who knows nothing but destruction and has no plan for the future other than the subjugation of others while on the path to some psychotic pathology inured by tribal culture and carcinogenic beliefs that will, if left untouched, leave people living in mud huts and slitting throats of historical enemies for another thousand years, or, if slightly more science-minded, leave them seeking nuclear weapons to reach out and destroy the world.

“We did not create this evil, although it does reveal itself more sharply by comparison in the presence of decent people. When the tactics of an enemy cross the line, sentient peoples recognize that they are no longer entitled to be called opposing forces, insurgents, freedom fighters, revolutionaries, or Jihadists--they are terrorists.

".... No living creature is safe while a rabid predator roams. No. Our people who have truly stared into the face of this terrorist demon have seen the ruby glow in its eyes. This is not a myth. This is not a politically contrived caricature, this demon is real. It usually stalks the easy prey--children, women in crowds, families focused on prayer, rescue workers responding to people in need. Some terrorists manage to get our soldiers.”

****

But what I really wanted to touch on in this post was the nature and role of this ontological evil, and the effect it is having on spiritually sensitive souls at this particular time, as it wells up from the bosom of the earth-consciousness, opportunistically roaming about, looking for minds to colonize. I’ll have to get to that tomorrow.

There is another type of vibration, remarkable for its suddenness and violence; the seeker literally feels these vibrations swooping down upon him.... These are what Sri Aurobindo called the adverse forces. They are highly conscious forces whose sole aim, apparently, is to discourage the seeker and divert him from the path he has chosen. The first sign sign of their presence is easily perceptible: joy is clouded over, consciousness is clouded over, everything becomes shrouded in an atmosphere of tragedy....

Thus there is kind of threshold to cross if we want to find the true life force behind the troubled life of the frontal man.


--Satprem

PS--For trolls who will remind me that Schuon was a Sufi, he was unambiguous. There is a reason why his books are banned and Sufis are persecuted in the Muslim world:

"In some cases, the end justifies the means; in others, that of terrorism for example, the means compromise the end. In the first case, the means are ennobled by the end, since their nature enables them of being so, and assuming of course that the end be noble; in the second case, the end, even when noble, is debased by the means since, precisely, its nature excludes them."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Facts of Life, Raw and Unedited

Once again I find myself exinspirated by reader Copithorne, who mocks the need for metaphysics by asking,

--Do you have an explicit or implicit metaphysical framework when you are not talking?

--Do you have one when you are sleeping?

--Do you need one to shoot a gun?

--Does a plant require an implicit metaphysic to grow towards the sun?

--Does a dog require an implicit metaphysic to make puppies?

--Do you have one when you are talking about cooking or chores? Or is it just when you are making non-trivial statements about reality?

--At what age or developmental level do humans require an explicit or implicit metaphysical framework? And before that, it isn't necessary?

Copithorne was responding to my statement that “It is not actually possible to make any nontrivial statement about reality without an implicit or explicit metaphysical framework." If nothing else, Copithorne proves the corollary of this, that in the absence of sound metaphysics, one can only make trivial and/or incoherent statements about reality.

Religion often involves implicit metaphysics without explicit knowledge. What I mean by that is that embedded in any religious tradition are all sorts of metaphysical insights that are expressed in an obscure, ambiguous, symbolic, or mythological way. Thus, they have to be unpacked and understood.

Metaphysics, according to Schuon, is the science of the Absolute and of the true nature of things. It is that which allows us to discriminate between the Real and the apparent, between Atma and Maya. Metaphysics transcends philosophy because it transcends mere reason. Rather, metaphysics proceeds directly from the divine intellect, the part of us that may know absolute truth absolutely. For if we can know anything at all, we can potentially know everything. Once we acknowledge that it is possible to know truth, any limit we set on that capacity is entirely arbitrary.

In what follows, I attempted to bring together some fragments of past posts that touch on metaphysical questions. However, I ended up not having enough time this morning to truly bring them together into a coherent unity, so there is some repetition and some awkward editing. It would have been shorter and snappier if I had had more time. Oh well. I’ll let you figure it out.

*****

When we say that something is "real," are we talking about the atoms and molecules of which it is composed? Or the physical forms that we perceive with the senses? Or the thought that is able to register and comprehend the perception? If only the subatomic or the physical are ultimately real, then there is no valid knowledge at all, for knowledge would be purely epiphenomenal.

"Exist" is not the right word for higher realities known by the intellect. "In-sist," perhaps. That is, higher and more subtle realities do not "stand out" except to those who "stand in" them. How do you stand in a higher world? It has no physical existence, and yet, it can only manifest in the physical. Furthermore, it can only do so with your coupperation--if you act as midwife and give birth to it. Which is difficult to do if you are a hyper-rational soul in a midwife crisis.

*****

All exteriors have an interior, however attenuated. Consciousness is the interior of the cosmos. It has been co-evolving along with the exterior for the past 13.7 billion years. Our self-consciousness lives in the dialectical, generative space between the nonlocal, noumenal ground of consciousness-as-such and our evolved nervous system.

In the West, it is said that God operates through the Word. In the East, they say that the world is God's play, or lila. Thus, reality from God's perspective is a lot of extraordinarily clever wordplay. The world is actually made of language, but the language is not of this world. Nor is our ability to comprehend language. Both arise from the nonlocal Word--the world is intelligible because we are an image of the linguistic process that made it so.

*****

The deeper meaning of the "fall" involves our entrance into the dimension of time. Time is not actually possible without eternity, but evolution is not possible without time. Therefore, we need to be saved from our apparent separation from the eternal, as we engage in our evolutionary sprint from monkey mind to divine mind.

For example, it is quite easy to fit Jesus into this paradigm. Adam's fall is the fall from timeless communion with God into the separative consciousness of duality and strife. Jesus represents the Universal Principle--the abstract absolute outside time and space--taking on particular form, the "concrete absolute." Thus, Jesus is the Ultimate made Particular, or word made flesh.

However, the Bible clearly teaches that we may share in this process--that it didn't just happen once upin a timeless to one person. Rather, it perennially occurs in the eternal ground in which we participate at the deepest level. We may be sons of God "through adoption," and thereby be saved from the ravages of time, here and now. We may make the eternal present in us. But it must be "realized," because it is anterior to our surface being.

The Upanishads discuss the problem in a slightly different way, but I think it's the same idea: to disidentify with the local personality and see that Atman and Brahman are not-two.

The fully realized person has reversed the fall, or turned figure and ground inside out. He has reversed the vector flow that misleadingly draws consciousness downstream to the objects of the senses. In short, he has realized that the cosmos is tree with its roots aloft, its branches down here below. It's a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.

*****

Let's begin with two stipulations, treating them not as religious statements per se but metaphysical ones:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,

and

In the beginning was the the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

In the spirit of multiculturalism, and in the effort to increase our depth of vision with an extra I, let's toss another bon mot into the mix, this from the opening of the Isha Upanishad: In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.

What does it mean, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? As I have mentioned before, I believe that it has to do with the creation of the most fundamental duality of the cosmos. This duality can be viewed from many angles, but it can be summarized by saying that "in the beginning God created the vertical and the horizontal," for this duality subsumes the irreducible (irreducible in terms that can be thought about) categories of quality and quantity, interior and exterior, eternity and time, whole and part, implicate and explicate, subject and object. In each instance we are dealing with a "limit case" beyond which thought cannot traverse. In fact, the one side of the dualism necessitates the other and represents the conditions of thought. Nothing "mental" can be made without the vertical/horizontal duality as a precondition.

With the second statement we introduce an unexpected twist: In the beginning was the Word, or Logos. Moreover, this Word was with God, implying that it was there "before the beginning," before the great dualistic creative activity of the first statement. Indeed, if the Word is God, this can be the only logical conclusion.

This then apparently raises language to a most exalted status. But clearly not if we merely look at it in the usual way. It's so easy to take language for granted, when in reality we are dealing with something that is frankly magic. In fact, the very same Biblical passage cautions us about this, pointing out that the light of the Word "shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Or, to put it in the slightly saltier terms expressed in the Book of Petey, "the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't get it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos."

One additional point would appear relevant. From Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read "Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." We are particularly interested in how our capacity for creativity might mirror the primordial creative activity of the Divine Mind.

So, what is language, anyway? What is a word? As a matter of fact, a word is a very special thing, because only it has the capacity of bridging the dualistic worlds introduced by primordial creation. Apparently words can do this because they are somehow prior to the great duality and therefore partake of both heaven and earth, above and below, vertical and horizontal.

The literal meaning of the word "symbol" is to "throw together" or across, as if words are exterior agents that join together two disparate things. But the Biblical view would suggest that language actually has this "throwing together" capacity because it somehow subtends the world on an interior level: language is what the world is made of, so it shouldn't surprise us that with it we can see all kinds of deep unities in the cosmos. The unities are there just waiting to be discovered, and language is our tool for doing that.

"In the beginning" of human consciousness there is also a fundamental duality--or dialectic--between the conscious (horizontal) and unconscious (vertical) minds. It is incorrect to visualize the mind in spatial terms as a sort of unconscious space below, with a line separating it from the conscious mind above. In reality, each moment of consciousness involves a generative, ceaselessly flowing "translation," or unfolding, of multidimensional, nonlocal mental space that cannot be thought about, into a local, linear, and particularized expression that can be thought about.

Again, in a healthy person there is a fluid and generative dialectic between these two realms. But many things can go wrong with that process--in fact, most forms of psychopathology have to do with the person being caught up and entangled on one end or the other. There are some people--let's call them the obsessive-compulsives--who live their lives wading in the shallow, rocky shoreline of the conscious side, while others--let's call them hysterics and borderlines--get lost in the storm-tossed sea of the unconscious side. Again, the key is a dialectical rapport between the two dimensions. That's where you are really "alive." And much of that aliveness has to do with language, that secret key to the universe.

For what is a word? What is so special about language? Again, a word easily serves as an emissary between the two worlds. On the one hand, a word refers to something particular in space and time--a cup, a tree, a dog. On the other hand, a word is by definition an abstraction with no localized or localizable being: we only recognize cup or tree or dog because they are a function of cupness, treeness or dogginess. Therefore, words are the local tools of the translating function of vertical into horizontal being, of infinite into finite, of eternity into time and back again--if we know how to use them. If we do not live in the dark.

*****

There are objects and there is motion. Religions are like intellectual cathedrals that endeavor to mirror the father shore of the vertical hierarchy on this side of mamafestation--they are "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement--an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.

In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant.

*****

The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed.

So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual blankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.

For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no--we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.

Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths--catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.

Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and setting up shop in the vertical.

In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host--you--and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.

The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.

However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?

*****

Why does religion always come pouring back in, despite the best efforts of secularists to do away with it? It seems that religion is just like nature, which, as we know, can be driven out with a pitchfork, and yet will always hurry back. It will return for the same reason that the unconscious will always return in a neurotic individual who tries to repress it. You cannot cut off a part of yourself and pretend it doesn't exist. This is the source of a great deal of comedy--the tension involved in pretending to be hyper-rational while the unconscious is leaking in everywhere--like George Costanza or Basil Fawlty.

Science, as we have mentioned in the past, deals with a particular aspect of reality, the quantitative, the outwardly extended universe. Religion, on the other hand, deals precisely with other aspects of reality that are excluded by science--the qualitative and internally extended universe, those inscapes known as the soul.

Traditional cosmologies posit a three-tiered cosmos of matter, life and spirit. Science studies the lowest order, matter, and concludes that only it is ultimately real, a self-negating philosophy that appeals only to the intellectually uncurious and metaphysically blind. Instead of "in the beginning was the word," secular science has its own creation myth that says, "in the beginning was a single blind substance, mighty matter, mother of all, both visible and invisible. All things were made through it, and without it nothing was made. Out of it comes life and the light of the mind. But the material darkness fully comprehends the light, which is just an illusory side effect of whirling matter."

It is said that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. What does Petey say about materialism and positivism? "If you believe that, you'll believe anything." Which is it? Do we comprehend matter? Or does matter comprehend us? Or does matter comprehend itself? If so, how? That's pretty impressive for mere matter.

In order to study the physical universe, western science drew the distinction between res cogitans and res extensa--between matter and mind. So successful was the enterprise that it eventually reified this methodological distinction into a metaphysical absolute, and then concluded that only the material side was ultimately real. This has led to a host of unnecessary philosophical conundrums since then. To paraphrase Whitehead, the universe was reduced on one side to conjecture, the other side to a dream.

But if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a pitchfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floor boards, and down from the ceiling. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it. In fact, it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that knows itself in the act of knowledge.

When science sets its compass on the face of the deep, the depth disappears. Science tries to confine the universe to its own derivative categories of space, time and motion, but the real uncontainable universe always returns. Life--much less consciousness--will never be reduced to physics. In fact, physics will never be reduced to physics either. This is the real lesson of the quantum world, which leaks like water through any attempt describe what occurs there with the porous equations of linear reason.

Although I am sympathetic to the efforts of intelligent design theorists, ultimately they are looking for God in all the wrong places. Of course the universe is intelligently designed. God has always been self-evident to uncorrupted natural reason. Everywhere you look you will find irreducible information, complexity, and beauty betraying the light of the divine mind. So what? You can study a human brain, but it will tell you nothing about the consciousness of the person to whom the brain belongs--it is not as if you can "know" someone by looking at a CT scan of their skull. You will know a brain, not a person. Knowledge of a person is "inside information"--as is knowledge of God. But you have to be an insider to know that.

There is another kind of truth in the universe that can only be known from the inside, from the within. This within operates along very different lines from the without, and cannot be comprehended by applying the same principles used by science. Religions are very special languages that we employ in order to talk about, understand, and deepen our experience of the greater within of the cosmos.

If we try to talk about this within using the methods and language of science, we will get nowhere. For example, eternity cannot be discussed by reducing it to something within time. If we are going to discuss eternity at all--one of the prime characteristics of God--then we will have to use language in a very special way so as to convey the feeling without reducing it to something merely rational and temporal.

Look at it this way. We live on the shoreline between two worlds, one extending infinitely within, the other extending infinitely without. But actually, we are more like an island surrounded on all sides by the watery deep. Science, you might say, studies the island. The non-dual mystic dives into the ocean and disappears into oneness. But metaphysics plays along the shoreline where waves of the infinite are constantly lapping onto the conscious shore. Religions are ways of talking about what it is like to live on that shoreline between the finite and infinite--which is where we live anyway, crucified, so to speak, on the cross of vertical and horizontal energies.

It is here that we find the meta-cosmic and trans-historical source of time, being and self. As best as I can describe it visually, the cosmos is somewhat like a Klein bottle, which has an inside and an outside but only one surface. However, this Klein bottle is in the shape of a toroid, similar to a donut, except that the hole in the middle is our solid world, while the donut is a whirling process that tosses up temporary forms that arise and pass away, like so many grains of sand on the shore. As such, the conventional world of the senses looks real and solid, but it really is an empty hole. The real action is taking place where the hole meets the Whole and partakes something of its abiding reality.

Or as one wag put it:

In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo