Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Trialogues with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be an entirely self-indulgent autobobographical post. Only the most fanatical of bobbleheads will be interested in reading it. It is a somewhat rambling response to another question posed by Sigmund, Carl and Alfred, which I never get around to fully answering, partly because I now have to get ready for work. I know what he’ll say: you’re being defensive. Why are you avoiding the question? To which I say: no I’m not. I’m being pretentious and windy. Can’t you tell the difference?

My advice is that you skip this one and come back tomorrow. I know I will.

Q: You are a clinical psychologist. How do your views on God and the cosmos influence your practice?

A: Yes, that’s true, I am a clinical psychologist, but I never intended to be. It’s just one of those things that can happen if you loiter around in school long enough. Believe it or not, I started off as a business major, but eventually flunked out. Or I would have flunked had I not simply stopped showing up at school. I had completed two years toward my BA, but the demands of the third year proved beyond my meager gifts. I had never been a good student to begin with, and had basically gotten by on my wits. Now that there were actual demands upon me, it went totally against the grain of my slack-worshiping personality.

You see, even then I was a seeker, in quest of that elusive source of cosmic slack. I knew that it existed, because I had felt it throughout my childhood. Not continuously, but more or less so. I instinctively recoiled at any enterprise that would rob me of my celestial birthright, my primordial slack. Yes, you could say that I was immature, but even if I had been more mature, I still believe that my basic temperament would have been driven to develop a personal relationship with slack.

So after "flunking out" (their words), I decided to leave business school to pursue other missed opportunities, and became a retail clerk. You could say it was a mutual decision made for me by the school. That was in late 1976. But in 1978 I talked my way back into college, this time making certain to study something that even I, a slack-seeking, beer-guzzling retail clerk, could master. At first I thought I would be reduced to majoring in P.E., and truth be told, I wouldn’t have minded being a PE teacher. Of all the adults I had personally encountered as a child, their job seemed to involve the most slack. They really didn’t do much of anything, and they got summers off. Plus I loved sports, so it seemed like a natural way to maintain the status quo for the rest of my life.

It was actually a new friend of mine at the supermarket who first alerted me the fact that it was possible to major in film. Film? You mean movies? At first I didn't believe him, but I checked it out, and it was true. “Radio-TV-Film,” to be exact. That was the first time the idea had ever entered my head. But I was soon able to capitalize on a natural ability to simultaneously watch movies and lower my expectations, and ended up earning my BA degree in just four terms--Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. (To be fair, it was only small parts of Nixon and Reagan.)

(By the way, the only other possible major for me was something called Leisure Studies, but even I had more self respect than that. I mean, who doesn't know how to absently flip through magazines or operate the remote control? Do you really need to take a class in that?)

As it happened, may plan to slide through film school with as little friction as possible was arrested by a particular professor, Dr. Schultheiss, who completely altered the course of my life. This professor did not teach any “hands on,” technical classes, but only theoretical and literary ones. And he was very demanding. No multiple choice tests, but lengthy essays that even I, with Petey's assistance, could not fake. He had a very interdisciplinary approach, bringing many different fields to bear on the analysis of film--philosophy, psychology, history, literature, etc. In his words, he stressed "extended, and documented analytical writing and other verbal expression" so as to "make the work of art and life itself comprehensible."

To say that I was unsuited for such a task in 1979 is an understatement. Again, I had never been more than a mediocre student prior to that, and regarded myself as thoroughly average, or perhaps a bit below, in every way, at least as it pertained to academics. I had always been above average in other ways--mainly sports, popular music trivia, making my friends laugh both at and with me, and a preternatural but seemingly useless ability to enjoy myself in the moment, whatever the circumstances, so long as no one was placing any demands upon me.

Perhaps I should note that this latter non-skill is still undiminished in me. I would guess that, on a bell curve, I would be in the 99th percentile of people who are perfectly content to sit quietly, doing nothing. My sense of boredom was apparently installed backward, because most things that people find pleasurable I find intolerably boring (or sometimes jarring). Only much later did I come to discover that many spiritually-oriented people are built this way. It wasn’t that I was introverted per se, in the sense of not needing people in my life. I would just say that I had more of an interior orientation than an exterior one. The imaginal realm was very real to me, I suppose in the same way that the musical realm is very real to a musician.

In my entire life up to that point, I had never had a teacher who was as passionate as Dr. Schultheiss about his subject. But that was not all. The way he could extemporize and pull various strands of an argument together, it almost looked as if he were in a trance, weaving the lecture out of his own psychic substance, right on the spot, somewhat like a jazz musician. This was so different than the typical robotic dullard that presided over a classroom, that it alone awakened something inside of me--call it an incipient sense of a love of Truth, if you want to get Platonic. Later in life I realized that when anyone does what he did in the classroom, it creates an automatic charisma, because one is literally "in-spired" or "en-thused" when speaking in that unscripted but highly informed way.

Although his writing assignments were far more weighty and demanding than any other teacher I had ever had, some theretofore unfamiliar impulse caused me to keep taking his classes--four or five, if I recall correctly. And that is what really began to turn things around for me, because not only did my papers get high marks from him, but on one memorable occasion he actually approached me and asked if I was an English major, because RTVF students normally don't write so well. (I still have some of those papers. It might be fun to post some excerpts later today, when I have time. Nothing earth-shattering, but I still don't understand where I came up with the understanding that I came up with--it sort of came out of nowhere. But it was obviously somewhere.)

You know how, when you look back at your life, you can see certain bends in the road without which you wouldn't be who you are? Looking forward they seem random, but looking backward they seem almost contrived. This was probably the first time any teacher had really praised me, and here it was coming from the only teacher I had ever really admired--as if our paths had somehow been destined to cross--as if my soul had conjured him up for its own needs (which were not the same as "mine").

I don't want to get all new-agey on you, but looking back, I can see a few other crossroads without which I would have seemingly become another Bob entirely, which raises the whole issue of inside vs. outside. I am perfectly willing to believe that our personalities are oriented in a teleological way toward what we are to become, and that something in us seeks out what we need--books, experiences, people, etc.--in order to complete that journey back to the self. But that is where slack and higher bewilderness come in, because this is not generally something that can be consciously imposed from on high, by the ego.

Rather, for most people, it requires a certain amount of aimless but expectant non-doing, allowing “it”--our future self--to come to us rather than vice versa. The Church of the Subgenius refers to this as “floating on the luck plane.” I believe there are the equivalent of mathematical attractors in the psyche, drawing us toward them. We can even feel the cosmic tumblers “click” when we know we are on the right path, like a key turning in a lock. The ability to feel this is one of the perceptual capacities of the human soul.

Still, after getting my BA I was really in a jam, because what was I supposed to do with a film degree and no interest whatsoever in working in the film industry? That was the day psychology entered the picture. I was reading the sports section one Saturday in December 1981, when I saw an ad for Pepperdine graduate school. That was without a doubt the first time it ever entered my head to 1) attend graduate school and 2) study psychology. (It would require another self-indulgent post to tell the story of how I snuck my way into graduate school. It is actually a bizarre story that involves the intervention of Dr. Laura, who was a professor at Pepperdine at the time.)

In the end, although I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in psychology, I was actually better prepared than my colleagues because of my background in treating "film as literature." Being that psychoanalysis is a heuristic science that analyzes character along different lines and dimensions, it came naturally for me to look at people as victims of their own bad movie that they themselves had unconsciously written directed, and starred in. Many of the directors I had studied were indeed influenced by psychoanalysis, and their best work captured that sense of the protagonist being pulled down into the "undermind," where a different sort of "night logic" presides. Suddenly the hero's life was entangled in forces that were beyond his control, leading him inevitably toward the abyss.

Life is no different. Therapy involves locating and interrogating the secret director or author of your life, and trying to figure out his point. To put it another way, who is the dreamer who is dreaming your life, and is it possible to wake him? For that matter, who is the Dreamer who dreams the cosmos? And are they related?

And now I must give myself over to otherworldly forces beyond my control, to the call of the horizontal, and end this desultory post before we have even unscrewed the author's inscrutable untention.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why are the Earth Monkeys so Out of Control? Answer Hazy, Click Again.

This is interesting. Amazon finally added the "search inside this book” feature to my book, so now the curious and sample-minded but fiscally prudent among you can actually see what it looks like and sample a few pages--the back cover, the table of contents, the first six pages, and a “surprise page," which turns out to be page... no, wait a minute. I just discovered that a different page comes up each time you click on “surprise me!” That’s surprising. I had no idea. I always thought it was just one page.

You know what this means, don't you? It means that you can now use this function as a sort of “magic eight ball” to answer any cosmic or personal question you might have. You won’t need me anymore. Just approach your computer screen in a humble and submissive manner with head bowed--don’t intitially make eye contact with the screen. Meditate on your question while clicking on “surprise me,” and repeat the mantra, “Oh Petey, merciful and compassionate, [insert some sort of heartfelt blessing here], if it wouldn’t inconvenience you terribly, what is the answer I seek?”

Here, I’ll try it now. Let’s think of a question, something everyone wants to know the answer to.... Okay, how about, “What’s going to happen in the damn Middle East? Is this really WWIII?”

“Oh Petey, merciful and compassionate, panties be upon your enemies, if it wouldn’t inconvenience you terribly, what is the answer we seek?”

Click.

Page 73! Hmm. Hmmmm. Interesting. Very interesting. Let me just say that Petey sometimes works in mysterious and oblique ways that not everyone is going to understand. Perhaps some day you will understand, but not now. Nothing personal, but frankly, you may not even be worthy of knowing the answer just yet. Either way, the connection to your question will not always be obvious. Petey is not going to just hand you the truth on a silver platter. You probably couldn’t handle it anyway. You will first need to demonstrate that you are a worthy receptacle of truth. Hell, I don't know, you may even need to buy the book. That's between you and him.

But just in case there are some bugs in the system, let me try it again, same question. “Oh Petey, mirthful but curmudgeonate vertical ambassadoor, may a diseased yak squat in the sock drawer of your corner imam, if it wouldn’t inconvenience you royally, will you throw us a freaking bone and give us the answer we humbly seek?”

Mmmm, very interesting. Petey is showing us the settings on God’s Mixing Board, located on page 35. These are the narrow restrictions placed on every mathematical variable that governs the universe in order for a lawful and ordered, and yet unpredictable and evolving cosmos to exist. Knowing Petey as I do, I believe he is hinting that there is a similar but unknown mixing board that governs psychohistorical evolution. In the West, it took us hundreds and thousands of years to find those settings, e.g., free markets, democracy, individual liberty, science, rule of law, female literacy, humane child-rearing practices, the Bo Diddley beat, etc.

Unfortunately, the psycho-cultural console in the Muslim Middle East is completely out of whack. Just look at it--female literacy is set at only three, child-rearing at one. Liberty is at two, and in most places democracy is zero. But anti-Semitism is at freaking eleven. Apparently, this war is about recalibrating the dysfunctional Islamic consoul in order to set conditions that make historical, psychological, and cultural progress possible.

Thank you, Petey. May a love-starved fruit-fly molest the nectarines of your enemy's sister.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but if any of you out there are particularly lazy or cheap, or just don’t like reading, you could probably get the whole drift of the book if you just read and meditate on the Table of Contents very slowly and patiently. You will notice that each chapter is mysteriously titled, e.g., “Cosmogenesis: The Gospel of Matter,” or “Biogenesis: The Testimony of Life.” Meditate on these, as well as the cryptic subheadings, which include a short little quotation that tells the cosmic story with even more outlearndish bobfuscation.

If you read and deeply understand each of the quotations--provided you truly do so on a deep level--then you can probably skip the book. For example, this one, about the Big Bang, from Robert Wright: “In the beginning was, if not a word, then a sequence of encoded information of some sort.” Or this one, from Leo Tolstoi, regarding psychological development: “From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance.” Or this statement of theoretical biology: “Our universe is not contingent at all, but a necessary consequence of the fact that we are alive.”

Or how about this one--you can pretty much sum up the endless notmore! of human history with a single sentence: “This was a very nice neighborhood until the monkeys got out of control.” Of course, if you want to know why the monkeys are so out of control, you’ll have to read the book. And if you do go to the trouble, bless you. May a weird new-age holy man dangle his shrivelled figs into your mother-in-law's bisque.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In Search of the Lost Entitlement

We’re still discussing the issue of narcissism, in response to CY’s question about how it relates to evil in families and to society at large.

It is interesting that, at the same time psychoanalysts began noticing an increase in narcissism (as opposed to more analyzable, garden variety neuroses) among their patient population, there was a very influential movement in the wider field of psychology to eliminate the whole notion of psychological diagnosis or even of mental illness as such. This movement began just as leftist thinking started to insinuate itself into psychology, just as it eventually did into virtually every other academic discipline.

This is another sinister meme that has led directly to the “defining down” of deviancy, for if we cannot say what is wrong with someone, we cannot say what is right. Rather, everyone was free to selfishly “do their thing,” as the slogan went. Therapy often consisted in facilitating the doing of this thing without the inexplicable guilt that followed. Diagnosing was pejoratively defined as “labeling,” so that “patients” became “clients.” By the time I underwent my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital in 1986, violently psychotic patients who had to be drugged with major tranquilizers in order to prevent them from bashing their head on the floor were called “consumers of mental health services.”

I was interested in psychology long before I actually entered graduate school in 1981. Although I didn’t major in psychology for my undergraduate work, I read fairly widely on my own, and I can see now that so much of it was utter nonsense--people such as R.D. Laing, Carl Rogers, N.O. Brown, Thomas Szasz, and Eric Fromm. Laing, for example, thought that people weren’t actually mentally ill, but that their symptoms represented creative responses to an oppressive capitalist society. As I recall, he even considered schizophrenics to be mystics that can communicate great truths about reality. Szasz wrote a best-selling bunk entitled “The Myth of Mental Illness,” in which he “debunked” the idea that mental illness existed at all. This is a very appealing idea to a raging narcissist, or even just a raging, immature, beer-guzzling, post-adolescent lunatic such as myself.

“Diagnosing” someone with a mental condition became analogous to “judging” them, and judging is something we must never do (another strange perversion of Christianity). So this entire self-serving movement gave cover to a lot of narcissistic snookeroil salesmen. To this day, most self-help books basically involve one kind of narcissist helping another (probably healthier) kind by appealing to one of the two poles of narcissism discussed yesterday--grandiosity or idealization. The books either flatter your narcissism: “you’re great, you’re a giant, you’re enlightened!,” or allow you to merge with, partake of, and bask in, the teacher’s greatness, e.g., Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra, and the whole new age traveling salvation show. Billions of dollars are made in the gap between infantile entitlement and parental failure. In many ways, it is what makes the world go 'round--in reverse gear.

But once I entered graduate school, I became fascinated with the whole idea of psychopathology. In a certain limited way, the critics are correct in stating that there can be an arbitrary or culturally conditioned aspect to pathologizing someone. For example, I suspect that most little boys who are on ritalin or other drugs actually suffer from a disease called “being a little boy.” I remember how hyper I was as a child, especially in kindergarten and elementary school. Most boys simply weren’t designed to sit still in a classroom for six hours. I certainly wasn’t. I’m still not. Apparently, the whole educational establishment in America was designed in the early 20th century with the idea of training children to get used to the drudgery of factory work. Thus, the whole system revolves around punching in on time, suppressing your normal human impulses, sitting still, learning mindless drivel, and obeying authority. Your report card is your paycheck.

I eventually came to regard the mind as analogous to any other organ, except that it is a “virtual” organ that exists in a hyperdimensional manifold of holographic space. You might say that the mind is the first multidimensional organ in the cosmos. Natually, it still has a lot of bugs that must be worked out. Just like every other organ, it has a proper function--in fact, that is what defines any organ. Therefore, the properly functioning mind is designed to do and/or be something, and anything that interferes with achieving that process is a priori pathological (perhaps tomorrow I will delve into the question of what it is the mind was designed to do.)

Again, the infant cannot be studied in the absence of the “mothering person” or "caretaking environment." It is in the intersubjective space between mother (in the generic sense) and infant that our narcissistic needs for mirroring, idealization, and twinship emerge, and where empathic failures inevitably occur. Our mental pain is first discovered in this intersubjective space, but the question then becomes, what to do with it? For it is very difficult for the infant to bear this pain. Thus, it can be split off, projected, broken into disconnected bits, or somatized (projected into the body), and become a sort of semi-autonomous subjectivity within the psyche, something I have called a “mind parasite.”

Because of the nature of unconscious logic, the internalized mind parasite is always polarized, with an affective link between subject and object, so that, at different times, we may identify with either pole--e.g., we may become the “victim” in search of a victimizer, or the victimizer in search victims with whom to engage in the intersubjective dance of projective identification. This is the stuff of most dysfunctional relationships. We tend to think of the “abuser” as the sicker individual in such relationships. Not so. Their pathology is just more visible.

I can't tell you how many times I have evaluated a female consumer of mental health services who somehow managed to get involved in five consecutive relationships in which she was mistreated and/or physically abused by some brute. If you asked me how to locate and identify such a beast, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but these women seem to possess an unconscious “preydar” that assures they will repeatedly find their abuser. Am I blaming the victim? Er, yes. So she can actually be empowered in a meaningful sense, instead of just the leftist sense, which is only a defense mechanism that indulges collective grievance, teat for tot (if you're abreast of what feminists are mouthing).

Now CY made the important observation that “I'm still trying to crawl out from under” the “malignant influence” of a narcissistic parent: “Sometimes I feel beset by a sense of oppression or downright evil that's hard to define but feels very real, even though both of these people have been dead for several years. I suppose a Freudian would say it's either just signal anxiety or free-floating anxiety, but that type of ‘horizontal’ explanation just doesn't fit. I'm sticking my neck out and asking about this because you must have encountered some patients over the years who had to pick up the pieces of their lives after a relationship with a narcissist.”

I believe this phenomenon has to do with the internalized affective link between the child and parent--love, hate, anger, greed, rage, titillation, envy, etc.--which may at times become the “ambiance” around them--the very psychic air in which the narcissistically wounded person lives and breathes. Therefore, it is possible for us to enter--or, more accurately, to be engulfed by--eery mental states that can suddenly or subtly descend upon us like a cloud.

Everyone experiences these states at one time or another (often in a positive sense--for example, I often experience one of the mildly blissful ones around Christmas time), but some people live their entire lives immersed in a negative infantile mental state--say, bitterness and rage at symbolic stand-ins responsible for the Lost Entitlement of Infancy. I’m thinking, for example, of someone who wastes their life obsessed over “slavery reparations,” or “the right of return,” or “gender inequality.”

These people do not realize that they are indeed victims--victims of a mental state that actually represents the primordial link between them and their disappointing intersubjective Other. But it is only by reclaiming and becoming reunited with our lost selves that we may grow. We cannot grow by projecting them in relationships or acting them out politically or culturally. In my experience, most monomaniacal “activists” are lost in one of these mental states, looking for “payback” or cosmic justice. They are trying to balance the scales of infancy, but since the original injustice was "infinite," so too is the political solution. Leftists always want to put us out of their misery.

At the same time, in order to grow, we must forfeit our belief in omnipotence--or at least reserve it for its proper object. For both idealization or demonization are the “vapor trails” of infantile omnipotence. Omnipotence must be “mourned” as we gradually accommodate ourselves to the dictates of reality. But this is much more difficult to do if our normal need for omnipotence was never indulged, or if it was prematurely or traumatically impinged upon, or even if the illusion was allowed to continue, thereby interfering with the reality principle.

This seems to happen a great deal in Muslim culture, what with the narcissistic overindulgence of boys, which is likely where the idea of the omnipotently evil Jew is hatched. In attempting to genocidally eliminate Israel, Arabs are not trying to vanquish a state but a mental state. Unfortunately, they are centuries away from the independent discovery of psychic reality as enunciated by Freud and his followers. This is not to say that we cannot speed up the calendar, as we are attempting to do in Iraq. (Too bad--if only the mullahs were as eager to get their barbarous hands on modern psychoanalytic books as they are to parasitize our nuclear technology. They are trying to obtain the latter in the exact degree to which they desperately need the former.)

Well, I better end this prematurely. For whatever reason, the Gagboy is having a bad day, and it looks like I'd better help out. He’s had some kind of bug for the last couple of days, and it’s clearly interfering with his grandiosity. He’s in kind of a bad mental space that’s infecting the whole house. "If I can't enjoy my grandiosity, then neither can anyone else."

*****

More on narcissism today from the grandiose Dr. Sanity. (I guess it's not really grandiosity if she can back it up.)

*****

I was trying to come up with an accessible but still relatively deep book on narcissism. The best I can come up with at the moment is this one, "The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization":

In all honesty, it's been awhile since I read it, but I seem to recall this person having a pretty sophisticated and insightful grasp of the issues, especially for a layperson, although I would probably disagree with some of the spiritual implications, which at times seem a bit new-age cultish, and I don't believe the cure is quite as simple as I seem to remember him making it out to be. Nevertheless even if it is new age-y, it's still considerably deeper than the typical stuff of that genre.

And if you ever want to really get deep into it, not just into narcissism, but the whole enchilada, try my brand:


A more accessible summary:


Another good comprehensive survey, but without all the empirical science:

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Narcissism, the Grandiose Left, and the Missing Strawberries

We're continuing from yesterday with our discussion on narcissism. If it looks as if I’m not addressing the questions directly, it’s because I’m probably not. Gotta set things up first.

By the way, it seems to me that Both Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped have written some excellent posts on this subject. Perhaps I can just direct you to their sites and take the morning off. Let’s see.... This looks good. Here’s one from Dr Sanity, entitled Narcissism and Society. And here’s one from ShrinkWrapped, a little thing he calls Narcissism, Malignant Narcissism, and Paranoia: Part I.

Whew, after that, what’s left to say? I don’t know, because I don’t have time to carefully read them at the moment. Probably nothing. So here goes.

Besides trying to outdo Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped, what is narcissism, anyway, and why is it here? Obviously animals don’t suffer from it. It’s something that can only afflict humans, so there must be something about pathological narcissism that touches on the essence of our humanness. In other words, it must be a pathological transformation of something that, in itself, is healthy and normal.

Narcissism in itself is simply “self regard.” Seems like an obvious need, but it really wasn’t until the 1970’s that psychoanalytic theorists began to understand its developmental basis, and how the innate need for self-regard can go awry. There is still some confusion, because the same word--narcissism--is used to describe a fairly varied population. In my opinion, it is probable that the truly malignant, antisocial narcissist is explained by a different theory than the more garden variety narcissist. One way to think of it is that narcissism can be situated on a vertical developmental axis, with very primitive aggressive and antisocial types, borderline types, and neurotic types. Most people have some narcissistic issues, but they’re more of the neurotic type.

I hope this isn’t getting too pedantic, but the breakthrough in understanding narcissism came with the evolution away from "ego psychology" to a "self psychology" model. There was a time, not so long ago, when it was assumed that infants came into the world in a state of what is called “primary narcissism,” in which they are completely “self-absorbed,” so to speak, and incapable of relating to others beyond havng their immediate biological needs met. In part because of advances in infant observation, we now know that this is untrue. Rather, the baby is not only capable of relating to others from the moment it is born, but this is its primary need.

In the old model, it was thought that the baby was just a sort of instinct-driven machine, a matrix of primitive drives out of which the ego only later emerged. Now we know that there is a subtle “reciprocity dance” between infant and caretakers from the very beginning, and that the infant is building its model of internal and external reality based upon these interactions.

It seems that narcissism is built around two main axes: on the one hand, a need for grandiosity and exhibitionism; on the other hand, a need to merge or fuse with an idealized person. We now know that, unlike the adult narcissist, the baby is entitled to these things, just as he is entitled to food, warmth, and nurturing. Oddly enough, this means--especially from the infant’s point of view--that he owns the breast--as well as whatever it is that the breast happens to be attached to. (The word “breast” is a term of art to describe the infant’s perception of things. Do not think of it as a literal breast, but much more like the “source of life” or of “all that is good.”)

Given “good enough mothering,” the baby will be gradually “disillusioned” and be able to relinquish the breast, but only after it has been internalized, thus assuring a cohesive foundation in the personality. In other words, it is now understood that healthy narcissism is, ironically, built on a foundation of entitlement, grandiosity, and omnipotence, without which the self never becomes secure, vital and robust. Instead, the person may spend his or her life searching for what they missed out on in childhood: a sense of entitlement, mirroring of their grandiosity, omnipotence, etc. These are all things that the pathological adult narcissist craves or acts out in one way or another.

Although this is a simplification and there is much overlap, a neurosis is considered a psychological conflict that is more or less confined to one’s own head, whereas personality disorders, such as narcissism, always involve other people. In the case of pathological narcissism, it is thoroughly intersubjective, and therefore always involves disturbed human relationships. Because of the projective space we discussed yesterday, people with personality disorders are always looking for other people to enlist into their psychological dramas, with whom they can act out their conflicts (rather than simply being neurotically conflicted about them.)

Recall that the structure of our childhood narcissism involves the two drives described above--the need to have one’s grandiosity mirrored, and the need to fuse with a powerful, idealized other. Usually one pole or the other will predominate in a particular narcissist. However, because of the dance of projective intersubjectivity, he or she will often require the other type of narcissist in his life, in some form or fashion. For example, the narcissistically grandiose celebrity will require narcissistically damaged fans who wish to repair their own psychological damage by "fusing" with him. I’ve never thought about it before, but in extreme cases I imagine this can lead to an obsession, such as celebrity stalking. Often it is the dymamic between narcissitically driven politicians and the damaged hordes of people who idealize them. Bill Clinton comes to mind.

Remember, there is a healthy aspect to all of this. We never completely outgrow our narcissistic needs. We all need idealized heroes, people we can look up to. One of the baleful effects of modern education is that everything and everyone is deconstructed, leaving nothing left to idealize. Thus, the cynical drive toward deconstruction itself can be seen as a narcissistic mechanism that flows from bitter childhood disappointment and traumatic disillusionment. Likewise, if we do not give children heroes and institutions to idealize, we are actually committing child abuse--literally. The leftist is doing to them what was done to him. (I am especially thinking of "civil rights leaders" who teach black children that America is a racist country, that white people hate them, that they are victims, etc. This is a profound assault on the child's healthy narcissism.)

Obviously, this is a pervasive problem on the left, which cynically devalues everything it touches. Religious ideals are “fairy tales.” Marriage is an economic agreement. Sex is just an animal act with no spiritual connotations. Human beings are just motivated by material needs. The founding fathers were self-interested slave owners. America is a colonial empire. With everything spoiled and nothing left to idealize, the Left can rush into the void to save the day, so we can merge with the Great Collective.

That is one aspect of the Left’s narcissism. The other aspect is its grandiosity--its impractical and unworkable dreams of utopia, of a heaven on earth that is actually only possible (or desirable) in the eden of infancy. The great James Taranto had a hilariously astute take on this yesterday, John Kerry and the Problem of Evil:

“U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her reelection bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

‘If I was president, this wouldn't have happened,’ said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

“Now, our first thought when we read this was: Yeah, if Kerry were president, he wouldn't spend his days moping around some bar in Detroit. But then we realized that's not what he meant. He meant that if he were president, Hezbollah wouldn't be waging war on Israel. Just like, as John Edwards said in 2004, ‘we will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases. . . . People like Chris Reeve will get out of their wheelchairs and walk again.’

“If Kedwards have the power to eliminate war and disease, why don't they use it? This is the age-old problem of evil:

“Why does John Kerry allow evil? If He is all powerful, then He should be able to prevent it. If He is omnipotent and does nothing about evil, then we suspect that there are limits to His goodness, that there is something wrong with Him, that He is not all good. Perhaps He has an evil streak, or is truly malicious and we are merely His toys--expendable and counting for nothing.”

******

What a beautiful description of John Kerry’s--and the left’s--malignant narcissism, always disguised as empathy or caring. There is an extremely silly book out now by an extremely silly man, John Dean, entitled Conservatives Without Conscience, that naively attempts to psychoanalyze the conservative movement, "proving" that conservatives and neoconservatives are all authoritarian, bigoted, irrational, amoral, and steal all the strawberries....

".... You know, we liberals tried to run the ship of state properly by the book, but selfish conservatives fought us at every turn. If conservatives want to walk around with their little flags on their lapels, that's all right, let them! But they encouraged the right wing talk show hosts to go around, scoffing at me and spreading wild rumors about contradicting myself. And then 'Old Yellow stain.' They said liberals and their appeasement were to blame for the rise of al Qaeda. President Bush was the perfect Commander in Chief, oh, but not Lieutenant Kerry. Ah, but the hat! That's, that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with, with geometric logic, that, that I was in Cambodia. And I would have produced that hat if only they hadn't Swiftboated me... and stolen the key to the Diebolds... I-I-I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow Skull & Bones guy and.... Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory... If I've left anything out, why, just ask me specific questions and I'll be glad to answer them... one-by-one..."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Exploring the Overundersidewaysdown of Mental Space

Being that I’m already short on time, I thought I would try to tackle a couple more reader questions from a few weeks back. That way I can save time and avoid the middle man by not having to think up my own question to ask Petey this morning. We probably won't have time to finish, but at least we can open the discussion. These questions touch on some vitally important issues that can be very difficult to sort out, both in the individual and the collective.

The first one is from Bubba, who asks, “as a ‘spiritual psychologist,’ how do you clearly identify what is your patient's ‘stuff’ vs. your ‘stuff’ (i.e. how do you avoid projection)? I think this is especially important in the blogosphere as we comment on other's writings."

A related question was asked by CY about “the relationship between narcissism and evil in families (not just society at large). I grew up in a nuclear family with one parent who met the DSM-IV criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.... I'm still trying to crawl out from under (or recover from--maybe a better metaphor) their malignant influence. Sometimes I feel beset by a sense of oppression or downright evil that's hard to define but feels very real, even though both of these people have been dead for several years. I suppose a Freudian would say it's either just signal anxiety or free-floating anxiety, but that type of ‘horizontal’ explanation just doesn't fit. I'm sticking my neck out and asking about this because you must have encountered some patients over the years who had to pick up the pieces of their lives after a relationship with a narcissist.”

In order to understand or even properly think about such questions, we must have a reliable model of the mind--an accurate way to “think about thinking,” without which many subtleties will elude our grasp.

First of all, as discussed a few days ago here, it is a mistake to think of the mind as being confined to individual heads. If the mind worked that way, we could never have become human to begin with. But at the same time--except for purely genetic and biological brain conditions--it is specifically within the realm of our intersubjectivity that virtually all psychopathology lies.

(I’m having to simplify matters a bit here, so I am specifically excluding a couple of important areas, first, purely existential issues that afflict every sufficiently conscious human being, plus purely spiritual issues that arise from our “fallen” nature.)

It is difficult to say what consciousness is. As you know, any two philosophers or psychologists will have three opinions on the matter. But one thing we can say with certainty is that consciousness is not a bag. And yet, many people naively picture it as such, either explicitly or implicitly. Even many psychologists have only a slightly more sophisticated view, picturing the mind as a bag, only with some of the most important contents hidden from view--i.e., the unconscious.

That’s true as far as it goes, but the mind is much more analogous to a multidimensional projective space, with content constantly flowing up and down, inside and out. And perhaps “flow” is the wrong word, because it’s closer to the mathematical concept of transformation, through which, in the flow of content, some things are altered while others remain constant.

For example, when you are looking for evidence of projection in a patient, you are looking for something that has obviously “escaped,” so to speak, from his or her mind to the outside world or into other people. But it is not a literal projection. It’s more like, say, an abstract impressionist painting.

For example, place one of Van Gogh’s paintings side by side with what it was he was painting. The painting is in some sense a projection of the scene, filtered through the artist’s mind. In examining the two, you will notice a correspondence between them, but it won’t be a “one to one” correspondence. Rather, the scene will have been transformed, sometimes in obvious ways, other times in very obscure ways. You might say that the psychotic mind is like an extremely abstract painter, so much so that you can no longer recognize what it is that the artist was trying to paint.

But one of my mentors, W.R. Bion, believed that we are all inhabited by a more or less psychotic painter. One of the purposes of therapy is to understand this painter and what it is he is painting. Often it is like going to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. You look at a piece and say to yourself, “that’s supposed to be flower? I don’t get it. It just looks like an explosion in a paint factory to me.”

The truly psychotic mind is an explosion in a paint factory. So too is the infantile mind. You can see this in interacting with an infant. They have 1) no fixed boundary between inside and out, and 2) no way to modulate their intensity. Imagine such a world, and you can imagine the parents’ role in helping their infant learn to contain and adapt to that frighteningly infinite space.

For the space is literally infinite, or as close to infinite as we are capable of imagining. It is within this space that the most basic mechanisms of the mind are rooted: projection, splitting, projective identification, envy, greed--as well as empathy, love, and fusion.

You know what? I am plumb out of time to get any further into this discussion. I have to be in Ontario in a couple of hours, and it’s probably already 80 degrees outside. I better get moving.

In the meantime, here is your scrawny old Gagdad trying to keep cool while joyously fused in the infinite space inhabited by him and his psychotically happy Gagboy (don't be fooled, people. Like Barney Fife, it is all muscle):

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fighting With Terrorists Mano-a-Monologue

You know what? It’s entirely possible that it’s just too hot to come up with anything new to post today. No, check me on that. It is too hot. Yesterday it actually reached 119 degrees in these parts, but it felt like 120. I walked the dog at 7:00 last night as the sun was over the horizon, and it still felt as if the rays were burning some of my parts.

I was going to get away from politics and post an old “weekend sermon” from the past--you know, one of those occasional raids on the wild godhead. But as I was rummaging around looking for a suitable one, I came across some old gags that gave me a chuckle. Some of them have never appeared here, having been left as comments on other sites by me or Petey.

What is it with the Left, anyway? Why is there so much worldwide sympathy for the terrorists? Everyone thinks Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex." Not true. What he said was "beware of the mullah-terror and nasty-old-leftist complex."

Amazingly, a lot of these terror supporters are Jews, like Noam Chomsky. At least if Chomsky becomes a little more self-hating, he won't recognize his own right to exist, and then we'll be rid of him.

Apparently, there are Hizballah cells all through America. And not just in the prisons, er, Islamic gated communities. I say the FBI needs to infiltrate some of these radical mosques and do some basic ignorance gathering. Maybe its a cliché, but the federal pen is mightier than the jihadi sword.

I don’t know. If Gaza and Lebanon feel so threatened, here's an idea: why not just build a big fence to keep all the Jews out?

All the liberal boneheads are talking about sending some kind of high-level emissary to the region to broker a peace deal, like Jimmy Carter. Ironic, because we wouldn't be in this mess with Iran if it hadn't been for Carter's little pills back in 1979.

I hate to say ayatollah ya' so, but it looks like Iran is well on their way to having a nuclear weapon. Frankly, I wasn't so worried until they detected large shipments of leather crossing the border. This can only mean one thing. The mullahs are trying to build a suicide belt large enough to deliver a bomb.

But at least the nuclear watchdogs at the UN are on the case. After much debate, they told Iran in no uncertain terms that if they should ever develop a nuclear suitcase bomb, it will have to be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of them.

It's pretty odd when you can be less than five years away from the nuclear bomb but more than five centuries away from the nuclear age.

Of course, some people say that Israel has nukes, so why can't Iran? Yes, but blurring the distinction between terrorists and their victims is clearly anti-semantic. Or is it allahgory? Anyway, it's a farce only a mullah could love.

But at least this is triggering a debate in the Muslim world. Mainstream Muslims are outraged that so-called moderates are trying to hijack Islam and reduce jihad to a mealy-mouthed internal struggle with oneself instead of a glorious war of conquest and colonization to impose a worldwide caliphate.

Don’t you think we need a moratorium on the inane "hijacking Islam" phrase? Instead, we ought to consider LoJacking Islamists, so we know where they are at all times.

People say that Islam and Judaism are similar, since they're both based on the inerrant word of God, but I'm not so sure. After all, thinking critically about the Torah makes you Jewish, whereas thinking critically about the Koran makes you dead. Apparently there are other differences as well. I saw a sign at a pro-terror demonstration that read "Jesus saves. Moses invests. Mohammad plunders."

Some people say we need to be more culturally sensitive, perhaps teach the Koran in our schools. After all, it's only fair, since they teach Mein Kampf in every Muslim country. I have a better idea. I think we might begin by showing deep respect and sensitivity to the Islamic tradition of blowing up people with whom we disagree.

Personally, I do think we've got a wrong-headed approach. Instead of questioning terrorists and flushing the Koran down the toilet, how about questioning the Koran and flushing terrorists down the toilet?*

And Kofi Annan is very concerned about the situation in Lebanon. This is bad, because you know what happened the last time he was this upset--he nearly skied himself senseless in Switzerland. Plus he's already busy dealing with his son's misbehavior. The other night he had to send Kojo to bed early without his oil-for-food. And of course he denies any knowledge of his son's misdeeds. In fact, Annan acknowledged that "I got my Kojo workin', but he just don't work for me."

What good is this Kofi Annan? Someone asked him about the allegations of UN peacekeepers trading candy to children for sexual favors, but he said he didn't know anything about the oral-for-food program. Much less any UN piece-copping mission.

And France? Forget about it. Everyone thinks they're anti-Semitic, but they're actually quite evenhanded toward Jews and Palestinians. True, they want the Palestinians to have a homeland, but they also clamored for the return of Jews to their homeland in Germany during W.W.II.

Hey, at least we won’t have to suffer through "Gunga Dan" Rather popping up in Lebanon, doing a kiss-ass interview with the head of Hizballah. You know, after he was fired from his anchor job, CBS said they'd let Rather do sixty minutes. Yes, and not a second more.

Too bad, we almost got "number two" in al Qaeda, the infamous Dr. Zawahiri. He's an Islamic pediatrician, which means that he cares for children from the time they're born until the day they blow up. He still gets the occasional call from a worried parent, asking for a psychiatric referral for a teenager obsessed with not killing himself. He usually just offers reassurance, telling the parent, “don’t worry. He’s probably just a late kabloomer.” If it’s worse than that, he always has the same prescription: "Take out two infidels and call me when you're mourning." By the way, did you know that Zawahiri graduated summa boom loudly from Holy Martyr Medical School?

Speaking of which, did you know that when the kids "play doctor" with each other in the Arab world, the little boys perform mock clitoridectomies on the girls? I read a study that says that in some Muslim countries, sixty percent of the girls are forced to undergo clitoridectomies. I like to look on the bright side. This means that forty percent of the girls can run faster than their brothers.

They recently held a counter-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia. In fact, they say that never has so much evil been arrayed at one table since Yasser Arafat dined alone. Where else can the president of Libya hobnob with the president of Iran? "Mr. Gadhafi, meet Mr. Godawful." They're calling it an "Arab think tank." Now there's an oxymoron. Shouldn't it be "rage tank," "seethe tank," or maybe "shark tank?" Or how about "whine cellar?" I wish Muslims would have a civil war with each other, but all they ever do is snivel more about Israel.

But I don't know if they can solve the terror problem so long as Saudi banks are funding it. That's right: the loan arranger is a mosqued imam. Where else but a Saudi bank can you visit your moolah and mullah at the same time? True, Muslims are not supposed to charge interest, but their loans have cost many people an arm and a leg. In order to get one, you have to provide a lot of collateral. Damage, that is.

That Ahmadinejad is a few goats short of a harem. Either that or a few nails short of suicide bomb. Amazingly, he doesn't believe the Holocaust happened. That's right, he even recently suggested working with Germany to investigate the matter. He's actually open to a change of heart. If their scientific conference “proves" the Holocaust really happened, he'll be saying "hey, I think I can work with these people."

I read a story the other day about China selling arms to the Sudan, which, last time I checked, was committing genocide against Christians. That reminded me of some of the lost sayings of Confucius:

--Confucius say Chinese government like peeping Tom--enjoy watching Christians get screwed.

--Confucius say Euro who feed allahgator get eaten last.

--Confucius say man who do business with Muslim must beware of evil in tent.

Unfinished song parody: In the Ghetto, by Elvis Presley:

As the sand blows
On a hot and gray Ramallah mornin'
A poor little Muslim Boy is born
In the ghetto
And his mama schemes
Cause if there's one thing that she sure wants
Its another little suicidal dunce
In the ghetto

People, don't you understand
The child needs a crazed imam
So he'll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
Are we just too PC,
Do we simply turn our heads
And look the other way?

Well the world turns
And the Jew-hating beast dressed all in black
Lobs rocks in the street as his dad hides back
In the ghetto

And his anger burns...

And new lyrics for an old Neil Young song, Ohio:

Tin beanie on Neil Young's noggin,
He’s finally off his nut.
Big bummer his mind is crumblin’,
Brain dead old stoned psycho.

Crosby warned Neil 'bout it,
Agents are tapping his phones,
Should have been stopped long ago.
But now that Bush found him, and
Put a chip in his brain,
How can he sleep when it glows?

Tin beanie on Neil Young's noggin,
He’s finally ‘round the bend.
Much dumber'n a bag of hammers,
Poor dude’s an ol' psycho,
Poor dude’s an ol' psycho,
Grandpa is plum loco,
Old geezer is stone wacko,
Gray doddering AARP nutso,
Old babbling freak schizo,
Self-meds don't work no mo',
Gives ammo to all drug foes,
Steals lyrics from dailykos...

Etc.

*Yes, I know we didn't really flush any Korans down the toilet.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Mythol-Gap Between Left, Right, and Wrong

I’m still thinking about the broken moral compass of the Left, and where it actually comes from. I think it’s very important to emphasize at the outset that the Left is not morally confused. Hardly. They are very sanctimonious and morally sure of themselves, as we discussed yesterday. They have a moral compass. It’s just that it points due south instead of north.

In other words, there is a deep structure of leftist morality that is the cause of moral choices made on the surface. Ironically, this deep structure is specifically Christian, even (or especially) for irreligious secular fundamentalists. It’s just that it is a twisted version of Christianity--literally a religious perversion. It is a perversion (please don’t get me wrong--I mean this literally, in the clinical and descriptive sense, not as an insult) that could only occur in a society that is thoroughly infused with Christian morality. (There is also a twisted version of Judaism that I don't have time to get into; suffice it to say that Karl Marx was the great anti-Moses with the reverse Sinai revelation.)

If one is going to engage in comparative religion, one needs to exit history and take a martian's-eye view of the situation. From that much wider trans-historical viewpoint, the Judeo-Christian tradition emerges not as religion, but the cure for religion--including the religion of atheism or “secularism.” Allow me to explain.

The default religion of human beings is the practice of human sacrifice. This pathological virus planted deep in the heart of the human species has been given insufficient attention by scholars. Virtually all primitive cultures and ancient civilizations engaged in it. For reasons I try to explain in my book--a book that I promise never to mention again once I rid myself of the dreaded 100 copies--there is something spontaneously but perversely "holy" or "sacred" in the taking of innocent human life.

Obviously, the foundation stone of Judaism is the injunction against human sacrifice, when God tells Abraham not to kill him a son out on highway 61. Superficially, Christianity may be seen as a resuscitation of the sacrificial motif, with the murder of the innocent Jesus, but in reality, this is clearly intended to convey the idea that when we murder innocence, we murder God. The crucifixion of Jesus is meant to be the last human sacrifice, with Jesus standing in for our own murdered innocence (and our own murderous selves). (I actually heard a leftist the other day on Err America argue that embryonic stem cell research is morally justified because the great lesson of Christianity is that it is good for fathers to kill their sons, and therefore, to destroy human embryos.)

Unfortunately, Islamism (if not Islam itself) clearly involves a reversion to the sacrificial impulse and a return to "mere" religion. If one reads the Koran, one is struck by how frequently Allah instructs his followers to murder in his name. While Christians have obviously behaved badly in the past, there is nothing in the actual Christian message that justifies it, i.e., witch hunts, pogroms, etc. As such, the Biblical text is ultimately "self-correcting" over time. Apparently not so with the Koran. Far from engaging in some kind of aberration, the Islamists are following the letter of the law. There is nothing in the Koran that categorically forbids them to do what they do, and much that encourages it. They can quote chapter and verse from the Koran much more effectively than any provincial liberal who naively believes “all religions are the same.”

Aztec religion centered around the sacrifice of something like 50,000 innocent human beings a year. As such, like many religions, it was the very disease it sought to cure. If Jesus had appeared there, he would have simply been told to "take a number" and get in line. Again, taking the martian's-eye view, humans are a sick and troubled species. They especially need a cure for their primordial religiosity.

Here is the point: what we call political correctness is a specifically Western perversion of Christianity, since Christianity is the religion that elevates the ultimate victim to the status of Godhood: God is the innocent victim and the innocent victim is God. (Perhaps I should note that these arguments are drawn from a wonderful book entitled Violence Unveiled, by Gil Bailie. Highly recommended. Ironically, Bailie is now engaged in trying to fend of the politically correct hijacking of his ideas.)

Therefore, improperly understood, this Christian cognitive template puts in place a sort of cultural "race to the bottom" in competition for who is more oppressed, and therefore, more godlike.

People who actually practice Christianity--real Christianity--don't generally have this confusion. Rather, it is only secular types who are nevertheless parasitic on the deep structure of a specifically Christian phenomenology (as well as horizontal "social justice" or "liberation theology" Christians who "immamentize the eschaton.")

Once victim status is secured, then any behavior is excused and sanctioned. This is how, say, the Palestinians (and the left in general), always get away with such bad behavior. Once you are the victim, you are virtually omnipotent and can do anything. Like O.J., you can murder someone, but if you can manage to depict yourself as the victim, you are innocent. Try reading your newspaper and looking for this prominent subtext on a daily basis. It won't be hard to find. Often the political battle on any given issue comes down to who can successfully depict themselves as the victim. For example, who is the victim: the aborted fetus or the woman who cannot abort her fetus? Whoever is the victim, wins.

Check out Dr. Sanity’s little moral Rorschach Test from yesterday. Just like the Left, the Islamists are parasitic on Christianity, knowing full well that we value their innocent children more than they do. They know that if they deliberately cause as much suffering among their own people as possible, then the perverse conscience of the international Left will award them the ultimate “Christian” prize of victim status and blame Israel.

In a sick way, it’s a beautiful strategy. But it’s all manipulation. Islamic culture prizes only the “strong man” and the oppressor, not the victim. They’re just playing a game with the deep Christian structure of the international Left, and get away with it every time.

Pacifism is another sinister meme that is a perversion of Christianity. This week, that king of all metaphysical hucksters, Deepak Chopra, wrote an idiotorial for the Chronically San Franciscan newspaper. As you may know, these primitive new-age folks automatically tilt way left and therefore tend to be deeply morally confused. For example, Chopra asks, “Did Christ teach love or is that just a liberal bias? In the current climate, it's hard to remember.... The reversal of Christianity from a religion of love to a religion of hate is the greatest religious tragedy of our time.”

This statement is so stupid on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Chopra goes on to say that enlightened beings such as himself “can't join any sect that preaches intolerance, yet we can't fight it, either, because by definition fighting is a form of intolerance.” Do you see the perversion? Fighting of any kind is forbidden because it is automatically intolerant, and intolerance produces victims. Naturally, it is exactly this kind of sick morality that allows evil to flourish, while, at the same time, allowing Chopra and his ilk to feel superior to the brave and virtuous people who actually name and fight evil! Breathtaking, really. Like all pacifists, Chopra is actively and enthusiastically working for the other side: the side of evil.

As I wrote in a past post, Chopra “reminds me of no one so much as Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most overrated human beings in history. Gandhi also thought that it was evil to fight the great evil of his day, Hitler--in other words, Gandhi wasn't just morally confused, but morally deranged." Again, I mean this in a literal sense, because how else can you describe someone who passionately urged European Jews to surrender to Hitler and accept whatever fate Hitler had prepared for them? Likewise, Gandhi told Churchill and the British, "Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds."

Later, Gandhi wrote two letters directly to Hitler, addressing him as "My Friend," and fawning over him like Jimmy Carter might fawn over Kim Jung Il or Yasser Arafat: "That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed." To Gandhi, British colonialism was no different than Nazi totalitarianism. He wrote that "If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war."

As such, regarding the Holocaust, Gandhi wrote that if he were a Jew in Germany, he would challenge the nazis "to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength."

According to one scholar, "Even after the war, when the full extent of the Holocaust was revealed, Gandhi told one of his biographers, that the Jews died anyway, didn't they? They might as well have died significantly." This is sick.

Compare the morally confused Gandhi and Chopra to another Hindu who has had a profound influence on my own life, the morally lucid Sri Aurobindo. Aside from Winston Churchill, as far as I know, he was the most vociferous public opponent of Hitler in the 1930's, when few others recognized the nature and extent of his evil. Many in India were actually supportive of Hitler's aims, since they so hated the British. But Aurobindo wrote that such individuals "have no idea about the world and talk like little children. Hitler is the greatest menace the world has ever met." Later he wrote that the struggle against Hitler was not just war, but "a defense of civilization and its highest attained social, cultural and spiritual values and of the whole future of humanity."

What Sri Aurobindo wrote in the early 1940's could be equally applied today, with not one word altered: "You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others... It is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realize itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind.... It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance... It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them, and to grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit. There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth, and the [spiritual] work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not dream of and cannot yet realize."

It may sound polemical to call someone like Chopra a moral idiot, but there are surely moral idiots, just as there are intellectual idiots. How could there not be? Half of mankind is, by definition, below average in whatever particular area one is assessing. Moral idiocy simply means that the person in question is unable to reason coherently within the realm of good and evil, and to make sound moral distinctions. In this regard, they might as well be working for the other side, because they are.

******

UPDATE:

Many similar examples of insane leftist morality on LGF today. Note the utter cynicism and the frighteningly unbound moral fervor, as discussed yesterday; and the twisted "reframing" of who is the real victim:

"This is a declaration to fight ethnic clensing and genocide whenever and where ever it happens.

As painful as it is to point out, and as much of a bald faced abomination as it is, I would be nothing but a damned hypocrite if I did not speak out and say “Never Again” now.

The statement is without equivication or loophole.

It’s not:

“Never Again - unless there is communist threat”,
“Never Again - unless there is terrorist threat”,
“Never Again - to Jews”,
“Never Again - unless the U.S. President says it is within his authority to authorize”,
“Never Again - unless the victims are ’fill in with your favorite sub-human group“

So this is what I will continue to argue-

1. Palestine is an Israeli administered concentration camp.
2. Israel (with U.S. funding) is conducting ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
3. The Governments of the United States and Israel should be in front of the World Court in the Hague and (if convicted and given the harshest penalty) be executed."

Another:

"If the U.S. were just out blocking the passage of toothless U.N. ceasefire resolutions, you could ask the question “why do ‘they’ hate us?” But with the U.S. actively sending fuel and missiles to Israel in the midst of a shooting war, a war producing hundreds of victims..., we’ve moved way beyond that. The United States is now a legitimate military target in that war. That includes factories making the missiles or any parts or materials that go into them, refineries making aviation fuel, and trucks and railroads and ports and ships and planes being used to transport any of those things, not to mention any of the people involved in those activities."

MY COMMENT: You see? The morally omnipotent victims are now free to discharge their violence against the real victimizers, the U.S. and Israel! The complete Christian inversion. Sick, sick, sick.

*****

More darkness visible at huffingandpissed. Beyond sick. (HT LGF)

Friday, July 21, 2006

What's With the Left's Broken Moral Compass?

As a courtesy to you leftists out there--both of you--I’m warning you not to read beyond this point. You literally won’t understand what we are talking about, and you’ll just overreact and be pissed off again at your poor old Gagdad. While you will undoubtedly disagree with what we say, you literally won’t understand what we (including the comments to come) are talking about. Folly to the Greeks, and all that. We’re not really talking about you anyway. Rather, we’re talking more about an impersonal spiritual movement on the earth-plane of consciousness that you and your thoughts are caught up in. You cannot see the plane for the same reason why the fish doesn’t know that it lives in water. Being that I and many readers used to swim there, we know all about those murky waters, and even Who fished us out.

Anyway, on Dennis Prager’s radio show yesterday, he asked an interesting question. Unfortunately, I arrived at my destination before I could hear the answer, but he was wondering why it is that the moral compass of the international Left is so fundamentally broken. Does socialist thought break the compass, or does one have to have a broken moral compass to begin with in order to embrace socialism?

Of course, the world is filled with moral ambiguity. But Prager was making specific reference to one of the most morally clear issues of our day, that is, the moral gulf between Israel and her diabolical enemies. Why are conservatives able to see so very clearly that Hizballah is evil and that Israel has every right to eliminate it from the face of the earth? Please, this is not an exercise in moral preening. I’m not patting myself on the back for being able to make such a rudimentary moral distinction. I'm just very thankful that someone is taking out the garbage for me and for the rest of mankind.

But the Left, as a whole, is absolutely unable to make this distinction--presumably because they genuinely do not see it. Because of America’s fundamental decency, our own anti-Semitic Left (which, ironically, includes many Semites, another riddle pointed out by Prager) is not nearly as bad as the international Left, but still, it’s here. Charles at LGF has been running a series he calls “Protocols of the Daily Kos,” with many choice examples of crude anti-Semitism from America’s most popular left-wing website--you know, the one that regards me as the Most Obnoxious Man In AmeriKKKa. To them I say: “Hey buddy, who are you calling Jewish?!”

Here are a few loathsome examples provided by Charles: “OK, so Israel has terrorized half a million people out of their homes to run for their lives, shooting them as they flee to other countries?”

“Israel has imprisoned people without ever charging them for decades at a time, and engage in torture and apartheid as state policy.... Israel ignores the UN’s attempts at peaceful resolution.... Israel consistently violates the sovereignty of it’s neighbors..... Why isn’t the American media and and administration talking about invading Israel?”

“Is Israel trying to give the US an excuse to invade Syria and Iran? To paraphrase, as Prof. Chomsky says--’Is Ford and Chrysler involved in a conspiracy to sell cars?’”

“Israel owns America lock, stock and barrel. They dictate what the United States will do and when it will do it. Our politicians are only too happy to do whatever is asked of them, no matter what the cost is to the United States or its people.”

In other words, we are controlled by.... THE JEWS!

Even as bland a mainstream liberal knucklehead as Richard Cohen of the Washington Post could write last week that the creation of Israel was a “historical mistake,” blaming it for “a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hizbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.” Wouldn’t it be a more interesting question to ask--if we are going to ask sweeping counterfactual and hypothetical historical questions--whether Islam was a mistake? Seriously, imagine what the world would be like if only Islam didn’t exist. Would it be a better or worse place? I'm just asking, Abdul, so keep those damn thoughts of yours out of my head. But what would happen if Cohen had asked this question in his column? Perhaps he would learn a valuable personal lesson in the moral gulf between Israel and her enemies.

If America only sides with Israel because it is controlled by the Jews, how does one account for the fact that conservatives in other parts of the world see the situation as clearly as we do, e.g., John Howard in Australia or Stephen Harper in Canada?

Yesterday a typically clueless reporter asked the great John Bolton, our ambassador to the Turtle Bay Crime Family, to break it all down for him (via powerline): “... It is more and more apparent now that many... are accusing the U.S. and the Security Council of being the obstacle to a real ceasefire immediately... Could you explain in a couple words what is really your position about this?”

Bolton’s priceless response: “Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hizballah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hizbollah. How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained.... Are there any activities that Hizballah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of its activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire.... How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire? What does a terrorist group think a ceasefire is? These are--you can use the words ‘cessation of hostilities’ or ‘truce’ or ‘ceasefire.’ Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire.”

*****

Back to the question before the Cosmos: why is the moral compass of the Left so broken? Why can they not see the obvious? I’ve written on this in the past, and to my mind, the philosopher Michael Polanyi has provided the most satisfactory answer. I remember the first time I read it, perspiring, trembling, and vigorously nodding in agreement at his metaphysical insight. (Real Truth is felt throughout the entire bodymind.)

People typically think that the Right represents the party of sanctimonious, judgmental morality police, while the Left is the hang-loose, live-and-let-live crowd. Not so. In fact, this is an exact reversal of the situation. The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftist thought in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. (This is all explained very clearly in a nice introduction to Polanyi’s thought, entitled Everyman Revived.)

The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation. This materialistic skepticism is then combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind. However, being that the moral impulse remains in place, there is no longer any boundary or channel for it. One sees this, for example, in college students (and those permanent college students known as professors) who, in attempting to individuate from parental authority and define their own identities, turn their intense skepticism against existing society, denouncing it as morally shoddy, artificial, hypocritical, and a mere mask for oppression and exploitation. In other words, as the philosopher Voegelin explained it, the religious hope for a better afterlife is “immamentized” into the present, expressing the same faith but in wholly horizontal and materialistic and terms.

What results is a moral hatred of existing society and the resultant alienation of the postmodern leftist intellectual. Having condemned the distinction between good and evil as dishonest, such an individual can at least find pride in the “honesty” of their condemnation. Since ordinary decent behavior can never be safe against suspicion of sheer conformity or downright hypocrisy, only an amoral meaningless act can assure complete authenticity. This is why, to a leftist, the worst thing you can call someone is a hypocrite, whereas authentic depravity is celebrated in art, music, film, and literature. It is why, for example, leftist leaders all over the world were eager to embrace a nihilistic mass murderer such as Yasser Arafat--literally. Yuck.

All emotionally mature people understand that sexuality, for example, can be a dangerous and destructive force when unhinged from any moral framework. But few people seem to understand that the same type of destruction can occur when the moral impulse is detached from its traditional framework. We can see the deadly combination of these two--“skepticism and moral passion,” or “burning moral fervor with hatred of existing society”--in every radical secular revolution since the French Revolution--from the Bolsheviks to nazi Germany to campus unrest in the 1960s. If society has no divine sanction but is made by man, men can and must perfect society now, while all opposition must be joyfully crushed--with moral sanction, of course.

Although Polanyi was describing communism and fascism, the same formulation equally applies to the Islamists, who detest everything about modernity and are convinced that the total destruction of existing society and the establishment of their own unlimited power will bring total happiness and harmony to humanity. Again, this must be sharply distinguished from the Judeo-Christian tradition, which holds that fallen mankind can never bring this transformation about on its own. Rather, this type of perfection is discussed only in eschatological or messianic terms, something each individual most work toward. The moral imperative to do this cannot be shifted to the collective.

You often hear it said (in the MSM) that suicide bombers are not immoral, that they are simply operating out of a different moral code. This only highlights the point that, just because you have a moral code, by no means does it mean that you are moral. In fact, the moral code may be entirely corrupt, in that it allows one to behave immorally, all the while being sanctioned by the code itself. This is similar to primitive societies that operate “logically” within a cognitive system that itself is illogical. These primitive individuals can reason perfectly well within the idiom of their beliefs, but they cannot reason outside or against their beliefs because they have no other idiom in which to express their thoughts. Logic doesn't help; it can prove anything, so long as the conclusion follows its premise. If the premise is faulty, then so too will be the conclusion. Likewise, if I believe that murdering infidels will gain me instant access to heaven, it is perversely logical and thoroughly “moral” under such a system to murder infidels.

One can be so enmeshed in the system that, for example, a woman might confess to having ruined her neighbor's crops through witchcraft, just as a a university administrator may confess to crimes against womankind for uttering a banal truth that is forbidden in the cognitively closed, tribal system of the contemporary feminist Ovary Tower. The intellect no longer serves Truth, but is in the service of the ideological superstructure, so that freedom of thought is bound by the confines of the system---by political or academic correctness.

For a while, civilization was able to withstand the skepticism unleashed by the enlightenment, by benefitting from the momentum of the traditional moral framework that gave rise to science to begin with (for example, the use of our God-given free will in pursuit of objective truth in a rational world made so by a beneficent creator who wished for us to know him through his works). But this could only go on for a few generations before it began detaching itself from the religious morality that underlie it. Since no Christian society can ever live up to its ideals, it wasn’t difficult for the skeptics to begin the process of hammering away at the foundations of tradition.

Similarly, for a while, America escaped this destruction because it had a very different intellectual genealogy, having been much more influenced by the skeptical enlightenment of Britain and Scotland rather than the radical enlightenment of France. In addition, America never lost touch with its Judeo-Christian ideals, which inspired individuals to to work to improve and humanize society without violent disruption of traditional ways or heavy-handed government intervention.

Since we see only “through a glass, darkly,” sometimes Truth is most conspicuous in its absence. With rare exceptions, we cannot see Truth “face to face” under the conditions of human existence. But we can see evil face to face, just as we can see the palpable consequences of the absence of Truth, both in individuals and institutions. I think about Polanyi’s simple formulation every time I wade into the left-wing blogosphere. The utterly sad and destructive cynicism. And the boundless moral fervor. Its mantra is “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” For it is purely mindless and reactionary: no digestion at all, just chewing up and spitting out, repeated ad bulimeum. In short, one is not enough and a hundred is too many when you partake of the Satanic Eucharist of primordial envy.

******

UPDATE: You must see Dr. Sanity's simple moral Rorschach Test. Seriously, I believe a 10 year old would be able to easily pass the test, whereas the typical leftist professor would struggle mightily to comprehend its meaning, which speaks volumes about the moral corruption of academia.

While you're at it, another brilliantly lucid diagnosis by Dr. Sanity.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Postmodern Prometheus: A God of the Saps

As we were discussing yesterday, consciousness is not merely localized in brains, but is necessarily intersubjective. Without the anterior condition of intersubjecivity, subjectivity could not emerge. As infants, our consciousness is thoroughly entangled with that of our caretakers, and we only eventually--and to varying degrees--wrestle individuality from this primordial matrix of (un)consciousness.

You could almost think of this conscious/unconscious or individual/group duality as anlogous to the wave/particle complementarity in quantum physics. With normal “wideawake and cutandry” logic, something is either a wave or a particle, but cannot be both. The former is a collective phenomenon, the latter an individual one. But it is well understood in subatomic physics that the question of whether something is a wave or particle depends upon how you look at it.

This hardly means that reality is not objective. Both new-age errheads and postmodern solipsists take quantum indeterminacy to mean that, in one way or another, reality is created by observing it--that perception really is reality. This sinnerster meme has somehow trickled from the high country of middlebrow philosophers all the way down into the water supply below. Pick up most any new-age type book, and it will explain to you how, since quantum physics proves that reality is created by observing it, reality is only limited by your dreams!

Therefore, as Anthony Robbins teaches, you can AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN and TAKE IMMEDIATE CONTROL of your MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL and FINANCIAL DESTINY! Yes my friends, YOU TOO can be as MALIGNANTLY NARCISSISTIC as TONY ROBBINS or even DEEPAK CHOPRA! Just like a baby, you can have the UNLIMITED POWER of MANIPULATION. Robbins will teach you the SEVEN SECRETS to GETTING WHAT YOU WANT and WHEN YOU WANT IT, although my 15 MONTH OLD could probably teach him A THING OR TWO about THAT! Deepak will reveal to you the MAGICAL SECRETS of achieving SPONTANEOUS FULFILLMENT by harnessing the INFINITE POWER OF COINCIDENCE! Yes, during the $1,500 POWER WEEKEND SEMINAR, Deepak will show you the HIDDEN RELATIONSHIP between HUMAN GULLIBILITY and his powerful BANK ACCOUNT!

The secret is to employ RIDICULOUSLY OVERBLOWN RHETORIC, just like ROBBINS and CHOPRA and make INSANE PROMISES that cannot possibly have any BASIS IN REALITY, quantum or otherwise. Then you can have a BESTSELLER on amazon.com, while books like ONE COSMOS that GUARANTEE ETERNAL LIFE WHILE YOU WAIT just LANGUISH at NUMBER 354,009! IT’S FUNNY because some of my new-age CRITICS think that I am some kind of budding CULT LEADER with a bunch of fawning BOBBLEHEADS! HA HA HA!

{inhale and let out another} HA HA HA HA HA! {you know, the HOLLOW and BITTER kind}

Where were we? Yes, the complementarily between our conscious and unconscious selves. In fact, in my view, this is how best to understand the idea of the unconscious mind. We tend to visualize the mind like an iceberg or archaeological dig, with the conscious ego “above” and the unconscious “below.” I would suggest that this is a rather unsophisticated view that mirrors the linear way we perceive the material world.

In my view, there is an element of unconsciousness in most every conscious act or thought, and vice versa. In other words, consciousness is not linear but holographic; the conscious and unconscious minds are complementary and indespensable to one another. Furthermore, consciousness is a spectrum, like a rainbow. You might imagine it as a sort of pure white light that is refracted through our evolved primate prismhouse. It is all one light, but we can discern many different shades and colors. While there is a hierarchy of color, the hierarchy is only possible because it presupposes the unity of the white light.

Thus there is infrahuman consciousness and what Aurobindo called “supramental” consciousness running along a continuum. There is no one who can become “fully conscious” under human conditions, although it is certainly possible to let in more or less of the light.

If we apply this principle to spiritual gnosis, it means that consciousness of God could not occur unless, so to speak, we were in God and God were in us--not equally, of course, for if that were the case, then we would be identical to God. Here again, because of the inexorable conditions that make human existence possible, any knowledge is necessarily going to be relative. But not only relative, and certainly not equally relative.

As a matter of fact, there is even knowledge that is relatively absolute, although there can never be knowledge that is absolutely relative, otherwise it is not knowledge at all. In other words, the entire concept of “knowledge” presupposes that it is possible to possess it, and knowledge is not synonymous with error, otherwise knowledge truly would be circular and meaningless, as it is in leftist academia. Listen carefully here, folks, Petey is speaking: this is precisely why the literally diabolical philosophy of deconstruction inevitably leads to the destruction of thought--no, the destruction of man--because it specifically destroys the hierarchy of consciousness that we are discussing here: no hierarchy, no knowledge. Period.

At the top of the hierarchy of knowledge lies revelation, the “relatively absolute.” The error of fundamentalists is to regard revelation as the absolutely absolute, which also makes no sense. If revelation were absolutely absolute, it would be inaccessible to us. The whole point of revelation is that it is the absolute presented to us in human, and therefore relative, terms. But again, being relative, it cannot be the absolute. But it is as close to the absolute as the human mind is capable of knowing (leaving aside nondual mystical states, which are more in the realm of being than knowing).

And even then, as with everything else, there are degrees of knowing. This is where authentic gnosis enters the picture. Many people object to the idea of gnosis, as if it connotes some “secret” knowledge that is separate from, or “higher than,” revelation. No. Gnosis simply involves depth of understanding, which tends toward the infinite. That is, our necessarily relative understanding of the absolute lies on a vertical plane with degrees of depth, and therefore, height. The saints are better than you and I because they are deeper and higher than we are. But they are only deeper and higher because they are much lower, which is to say, more humble than we are. Always mindful of the hierarchy of being, they are aware of the infinite gap between the absolute and the relative. The cosmically narcissistic postmodernist eliminates this gap, and therefore, in his exaltation of relativity, makes himself an absolute god: all hail the Awakened Giant, the Postmodern Prometheus, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and the rest of the New Age Traveling Salvation Show!

In reality, any genuine expertise--spiritual or otherwise--involves some kind of “esoteric” knowledge that allows the person to see and experience things that the uninitiated cannot. Theoretically, there is no limit to this deepening process. In my opinion, any genuine growth--especially spiritual growth--involves an ever-deepening extension of our interior horizon. This horizon extends in four directions, up and down, inside and out. Subjective growth involves "colonizing" more and more of what is, in the final analysis, the Great Within.

In the absence of this hierarchical and evolutionary view, the world is ultimately nothing, just a brute object that confronts us. Even the most materialistic science is a special “relatively absolute” language that allows, say, a physicist, to project his mind and peer more deeply within the realm of matter. This is never something the scientist sees with his physical eyes. Rather, the equations of quantum physics are a probe, analogous to the stick that the blind person uses to navigate while walking. The blind person deploys the stick forward into darkness, and it sends messages up his arm and into his brain, allowing him to form a picture of the space around him. It is no different with physics. Physics is just a stick in the dark, like reaching around for your shoes in the back of a dark closet.

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

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

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

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

And the Word is God. Speaking relatively. If you gno what I meme.