Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Language Problem, Dude: THIS is what HAPPENS when you F*** with REALITY!

What is the deeper meaning of the controversy surrounding the manipulated Reuters loadocraps? After all, everyone knows Reuters has a leftist agenda and that it has been manipulating the news for years. It’s not so much that they manipulated the photos, but that the photos were intended to be manipulative to begin with.

In other words, the initial--and far more consequential--manipulation takes place when a Reuters idiotor decides to use this or that photo to encapsulate and illustrate his view of reality. If his initial view of reality is true, then the manipulated photo can only be more true, not less true, because it is doing a better job of conveying a truth that transcends material images: the truth that Israel is a genocidal aggressor that wantonly targets innocent civilians. To coin a phrase, the photos may be fake, but they are accurate--only more so.

That is certainly how the left sees it, which is why the controversy is of no consequence to them. For example, Right Wing Nuthouse surveyed the top 30 or so left wing blogs, and found that only four had anything to say about it, three of whom minimize or make fun of the controversy.

The comments to an editorial by Jeff Jarvis (HT/LGF) in the Guardian are instructive. I didn’t read them all, but here’s the gist:

“It's a gift to the swivel-eyed mouth-breathers who read LGF. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd almost think...oh never mind.”

“What difference does some news spin make to the reality of people dying in lebanon? People die in lebanon because israel is on a stupid, self defeating, senseless rampage and we do nothing about it.”

“Is it worse to doctor photos or to drop bombs on a city?”

“Whatever the role of Hezbollah in media management, there is no doubt that innocent civilians are being killed in large numbers. That's what is important, not what anybody does with Photoshop.”

“A picture with more smoke in it DOESN'T ALTER THE FACT THAT CLOSE TO A THOUSAND LEBANESE, MOSTLY CIVILIANS, HAVE BEEN SLAUGHTERED IN RELENTLESS BOMBING RAIDS NUMBERING IN THE THOUSANDS, EACH STRIKE 1 TO 4 TONS, THE BOMB TONNAGE DROPPED ON LEBANON TOTALING OVER 10,000 BY NOW.”

“How very strange, that the pro zionists hang on by their fingernails to one or two images... well maybe not if we are to consider the disproportionate killing spree that israel and its supporters cheer on.”

“It's shocking how these Zionists are trying to belittle the death of those children by mocking the pictures--it doesn't deter from the fact that the children are dead! These guys share the same moral compass as fundamentalists.”

*****

In short, reality doesn’t matter. There’s a greater truth involved, which you might say has been the motto of every leftist since Karl Marx. As I have noted before, “the moral and intellectual pathology of the left revolves around its misuse of language. It is not so much that leftist thought consists of lies, as that it is based on a primordial Lie that causes it to enter a parallel looniverse where, even if they say something that is technically true, they aren’t saying it because it is true, a distinction which makes all the difference. The primordial lie is the nullification of the covenant between language and reality, so that language is used for its effect rather than as a tool to convey truth. For the left, good language is effective language, whether it means ridiculously exaggerating the danger of heterosexual AIDS in order to increase funding, brazenly lying about George Bush supposedly lying about WMD, or blaming hurricane Katrina on Bush's environmental policies.”

So here we see a fine example of open endorsement of the nullification of the covenant, not just between language and reality, but between image and thing. It is a descent into a hellish, solipsistic realm of pure subjectivity, where one can make no rational appeal to an independently existing thing called “reality.” Do you see the danger? In reality, truth is a function of the adequation between some aspect of reality and our mode of knowing it. But in the leftist world, there is great enthusiasm for the philosophy of “perception is reality, and who are you to judge my perceptions or to say that yours are any higher or better than mine?” Doctoring the photos is just using an exclamation point or ALL CAPITALS TO GET THE MESSAGE ACROSS!

But visual images are highly deceptive to begin with. This is why television is the ideal medium to propagate liberalism, since it is so rooted in emotion rather than thought. Reading or listening involve entering a detached, abstract world of knowledge and meaning, whereas television is an immediate, concrete world of pictures and images. So often, television reports a story as news, simply because they happen to have some dramatic pictures to show you. On the other hand, important events with no pictures are not even recognized, much less reported.

Language is an abstraction from experience, while pictures are a concrete representation of it. Pictures do not show concepts, but things. As Neil Postman, author of The Disappearance of Childhood puts it, unlike sentences, pictures are irrefutable. A picture “does not put forward a proposition, it implies no negation of itself, there are no rules of evidence or logic to which it must conform.” Yet, these images provide a “primitive but irresistible alternative to the linear and sequential logic,” rendering “the rigors of a literate education irrelevant.” Watching television requires no skills and develops none. There is no one so disabled that he is disabled from staring at the TV or looking at an impropergandish Reuters photo.

The really pernicious thing about images is that they convey the illusion that they are simply depicting reality, when they are actually deifying our most primitive way of knowing the world. That is, there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. Television replaces truth with facts, but as Richard Weaver pointed out in his Ideas Have Consequences, it is a characteristic of the barbarian to believe that it is possible to grasp the world “barehanded,” without the symbolic imagination to mediate what the senses are telling us.

The dramatic images coming out of Lebanon tell us absolutely nothing about the real source of the conflict between Hizb’Allah and Hizb’Yaweh. In this regard, it is precisely the gratuitous images of dead child porn that dehumanize and diminish their subjects, and strip them of any other trait, good or bad. They are simply victims of Israeli aggression. They are tools.

By portraying the Lebanese as impersonal, victimized automatons, the Islamo-nazis may engage their genocidal fantasies in good conscience. Since television images are atemporal, we do not see that the pictures are depicting something that is simply the inevitable consequence of a pernicious idea that is not visible on screen--specifically, the ineradicable belief that Israel has no right to exist and that it is a worthy target of genocide.

(Warning--vulgar profounity ahead. I do not want to alter the artist's intent.)

If I were in control of TV news, in between every one of those pictures of dead Lebanese, I would play the scene in the Big Lebowski, where John Goodman mutters “Fucking language problem, Dude,” pops open the trunk, pulls out a tire iron, and proceeds to destroy a new Corvette:

"YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY? (Crash!) YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS?! (Crash!) THIS is is what HAPPENS when you FUCK a STRANGER in the ASS! (Crash!) HERE’S what HAPPENS, Larry! (Crash!)”

Sorry for the profanity, dudes, but isn’t that the message we would all like to convey to Hizb’Allah, the army of Moloch? True, it would be a manipulated image, but hey, as a leftist might express it, WHAT’S WORSE, HURTING CARS OR TRYING TO EXTERMINATE A WHOLE PEOPLE?!

CRASH!

As for the righteous pummeling Reuters is receiving? THIS is what HAPPENS when you HIRE an Islamist STRINGER to propagate LIES!

CRASH!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Israel Has No Right to Exist (8.02.10)

Last question from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred: “Why have the Jews survived? Do they really need us, or do we really need them?”

These questions are at the core of the cataclysm that is occurring in the world’s consciousness today. As I have said before, this war is not just ideological, or about power, territory, resources, or any other tangible entity. Rather, this is a war that is taking place on a deeply spiritual level within the collective consciousness of the world. You needn’t believe me when I say this. Rather, just apply it to the situation as you would any mundane academic theory and assess it’s explanatory power. In my view, the models and story lines we are given my the MSM and by the usual leftist academics are ridiculously inadequate to explain what is going on.

Israel is surrounded by enemies, both literally, in the form of her bloodthirsty Arab neighbors, but ideologically as well. Many on the left are openly questioning Israel’s right to exist, deeming it an “historical mistake” (Richard Cohen) or the source of all Muslim grievances--as if Muslims wouldn’t simply be at each others’ throats if Israel were obliterated, or as if Israel has anything to do with Muslim violence in the Philippines, Darfur, Malaysia, Canada, India, Singapore, et al.

At bottom, the conflict between Israel and her enemies is easily explainable, and yet, this simple explanation exceeds the boundaries of human reason properly so-called, since it is infra-rational in its nature and infrahuman in its consequences. In other words, the explanation is not “beyond reason” but prior to it. Quite simply, it is because the enemies of Israel are absolutely steeped in lies. They believe things about Israel that are not only untrue, but cannot possibly be true, to such an extent that the word “lie” is hardly sufficient to describe the phenomenon.

In this case we are not simply referring to “erroneous information,” or to something that is susceptible to being corrected. Rather, we are dealing with an ontological and spiritual lie that is at the foundation of the very personality--and, by extension, culture. You might even say that we are dealing with “the father of lies,” in the sense that it is a primordial lie that then perpetually generates its own lies. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how many lies you dispute on the surface, because a new one will rise to take its place. One can well understand why the Passover Haggadah--the special prayer book for the Passover Seder meal--says that "In every generation there are those who rise against us to annihilate us... " Those are always different people but representatives of the same spiritual force.

Grotesquely anti-Semitic scholarship is routinely produced by the academic left--for example deconstructed historical narratives that blame Israeli actions for the irrational hatred directed it. But this worthless scholarship does not actually prove anything to anyone, any more than ideologues such as Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn proved that the United States was responsible for the Cold War. Rather, the only purpose of this propaganda is to serve up chicken soup for the anti-Semitic assoul. Anyone in their right mind knows that a Juan Cole is not a scholar, but that he simply fills a marketplace need for anti-Semitic “product.” In that regard he is more analogous to a pornographer, satisfying the market for anti-Jewish lust.

Let’s take the example of Mel Gibson. I don’t care about him as a person, and I have no interest in his particular case. Rather, I want to dispassionately focus more on the content of those things he uttered in his drunken rant. Where did they come from? How could such ideas even exist? But they do exist, and they have existed from the foundation of the world. It is not about the Jews, but about what the Jews represent and symbolize. Because of what they symbolize, they attract and literally generate their opposite, like a myth to defame.

“F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Again, not only untrue, but impossible. On the other hand, because of the thought-blocking effects of political correctness, it seems as if people are incapable of making the banal observation that Islam is quite literally responsible for almost all of the wars in the world. As Samuel Huntington observed a few years back in his Clash of Civilizations--and this was eight years ago, before the horrors that have been unleashed since 9-11--Muslims were participants in twenty-six of fifty ethnopolitical conflicts, and two-thirds to three-quarters of intercivilizational wars: "They also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142" between 1928 and 1979. Huntington concluded with the colorful statement that "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards.” But try saying that in a typical leftist university, and your career will be as dead as Mel Gibson’s.

Again, Israel is hated because its enemies are not just liars, but so immersed in the Lie that they might as well be demon-possessed. Consider the charter of the PLO, which reads that Zionism is a "constant source of threat" to the entire world, "racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods." It is "strategically placed" to combat Arab liberation and progress. During a typically psychotic televised sermon, a Palestinian cleric taught that among the evil deeds of the Jews was the Holocaust itself, which was "planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy" (courtesy of the indispensable www.memri.org).

Similarly, the demonic charter of Hamas informs us that wealthy Zionists have taken over "control of the world media... they stood behind World War I.... They also stood behind World War II.... They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council... in order to rule the world by their intermediary" and "liquidate Islam." I am sure that most Americans don’t even have a clue about how desperately sick in the soul these people are--including their morally twisted allies and supporters, such as CAIR.

One wonders if the average anti-Semite even knows that there are fewer than 15 million Jews in the entire world, which represents just .227% of the population. Look at Afghanistan. It’s probably safe to assume that they are just as anti-Semitic as any other Muslim country, and yet, there is exactly one Jew living there. His name is Sy Goldberg, and he is very lonely and frightened. And yet, he has complete control of Afghan banking and media, and nobody can get a decent pastrami on rye without going through him.

In a column a few months back, Dennis Prager cited perhaps the most tragic statistic that haunts the human race. Throughout history, so many Jews have been murdered for being Jews, that “While the world's population is about 30 times larger than 2,000 years ago, the Jewish population has barely doubled. Had Jews been left alone to procreate at the same rate as others, there would be about 180 million Jews in the world today.”

“So what,” you might say. “People are people. It’s a tragedy when anyone dies.” Yes, but not all tragedies are equal in their cost to mankind. No one but their immediate families would mourn if all of the Iranian mullahs, Saudi princes, and CAIR spokesholes dropped dead tomorrow. But in a recent post, I cited the evidence of Charles Murray, whose book Human Accomplishment demonstrates how, in nearly every important human endeavor--biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, medicine, visual arts, literature, music and philosophy--Jews are staggeringly over-represented given their small numbers. In mathematics the actual-to-expected ratio is 12:1. In philosophy it is 14:1. In physics 9:1. In medicine and biology, 8:1. Remember, these ratios are not just measuring the raw numbers of doctors, scientists and artists, but the number of truly great and significant ones.

So, what has the world lost due to its Jew hatred? Who knows? A vaccine for the AIDs that is killing tens of thousands of Africans? A key insight into the mathematical structure of the universe? A new source of energy? A cure for cancer?

Satan--or whoever is responsible for the primordial rebellion against the light--couldn’t be more pleased. Few things further his interests more than anti-Semitism.

Israel doesn't have the right to exist. Rather, it has the obligation to exist--not for her sake, but for ours. And yes, for the sake of the genocidal fanatics who wish to destroy it, for the sun shines even on the wicked. I mean, even Juan Cole and Pat Buchanan like polio vaccine, right?

*****

Nine out of ten jejune, tendentious and crackpot psychobloggers agree:

"Failing to support Israel is not a sign of mental illness; it is a sign of ethical, moral, intellectual, legal, religious, and characterological bankruptcy, however; but thats just my opinion."

*****

Related: Islam's Useless Idiots:

"Islam enjoys a large and influential ally among the non-Muslims: A new generation of “Useful Idiots".... This new generation of Useful Idiots also lives in liberal democracies, but serves the cause of Islamofascism—another virulent form of totalitarian ideology.

"Useful Idiots are naïve, foolish, ignorant of facts, unrealistically idealistic, dreamers, willfully in denial or deceptive. They hail from the ranks of the chronically unhappy, the anarchists, the aspiring revolutionaries, the neurotics who are at war with life, the disaffected alienated from government, corporations, and just about any and all institutions of society....

"Arguably, the most dangerous variant of the Useful Idiot is the “Politically Correct.” He is the master practitioner of euphemism, hedging, doubletalk, and outright deception.

"The Useful Idiot derives satisfaction from being anti-establishment. He finds perverse gratification in aiding the forces that aim to dismantle an existing order, whatever it may be: an order he neither approves of nor he feels he belongs to."

Read it all.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Hauntological Foundations of the Psyche

I don’t know that I feel like blogging anything today. I’m still stinging from yesterday’s unfair wound to my vanity by the supposedly Vanity Fair Guy. I guess I’ll just wrap up the interview with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. They have a few more questions.

First up, “Are there patients that haunt you? Have any influenced you?”

A: First of all, I resent the question. That’s no mere “patient” haunting me, that’s my mother. And yes, as a matter of fact, mother was a big influence on me. Like me, she was a dated but full-bodied crackpot with a rustic, tendentious nose and a jejune, slightly fruity finish. She would go well with a soft, friendly muenster--not as soft as the Vanity Fair Guy's abs, mind you, nor perhaps as pungent on an August day in Manhattan.

Patients that haunt me.... No, not really. Maybe that one who never paid his bill.... Although I can say this: in order to really treat a patient on a deep level, you must allow yourself to be temporarily “haunted” by them--I hate to say “literally,” but I do mean literally.

You see, when someone comes in for treatment, they are obviously in pain. But they are unable to bear all of their pain. Rather, they have various defense mechanisms in place that shield them from it. However, the defense mechanisms are not entirely effective. The pain “leaks out” and can be picked up by those around them. As a psychologist, you are trained to pick up on the pain which the patient is unable to bear. Oddly enough, you will often be aware of the pain before the patient is. This is known as "counter-transference." Through it, you are able to give words to otherwise unglishable feelings that are beyond the patient's horizon of articulation.

I do not wish to engage in mystagogy--at least not at the moment. Perhaps tomorrow. But this capacity for detecting pain in another is not something one learns in graduate school. Rather, it is something possessed by most humans in varying degrees. For example, one of the things that makes a severely autistic person autistic is a compromised ability to “read” other minds.

This is actually referred to in the literature as our “mind reading” module, although it is not the sort of mind reading one sees on the Larry King show. Then again, who knows? I have no philosophical objection to the idea that consciousness is a field into which we tap. For example, imagine a lampshade with hundreds of pinprick holes. From the outside it will look as if there are many individual sources of light, when in reality, there is only the one bulb--the one source of light.

Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s any question that our minds are connected in ways that we do not understand. This is the whole basis of synchronicity, which allegedly reveals the nonlocal interconnectedness of the cosmos through meaningful coincidence.

Here again, I have no philosophical bobjection to this concept. For example, whatever else the cosmos is, it is ultimately One. Therefore, even though it appears from our vantage point that the cosmos has an “exterior” (matter) and “interior” (subjectivity), somehow these categories must resolve into a higher unity. I have always imagined it as a klein bottle (well, not always--starting in 1973, when I tried one of those herbal jazz cigarettes), which is a geometrical object that has only one surface, but still has an inside and an outside.

I have experienced many strange synchronicities in my life, but one of the weirdest occurred when I was sitting up in bed, thinking about this and that, while my wife was falling asleep. My mind was dwelling on nothing in particular, and I was thinking to myself about how a certain acquaintance sometimes called me “Bob,” other times “Robert.” Mrs. G.--who was sound asleep--then says, “Do you mind if I call you Bob?” Wo! (Feel free to share your synchronicity stories in this thread.)

I’m sure you married folks are aware of the nonlocal connectedness of you and your spouse. I can always tell if Mrs. G. is in a... is in... is in anything less than her typically cheerful and sunny mood even before she is. In other words, I can sense a disturbance in the force even before anybody is talking about some conversation with the flying plates.

So yes, in order to really get to know someone, we must allow ourselves to become haunted by them. Not only that, but in life in general we must decide what we are going to allow to haunt us. For I can assure you, a person is partly defined by what haunts them. Kos, Cindy Sheehan, and the Vanity Fair Comic Book Guy are haunted by some things, while you and I and other normal people are haunted by other things entirely. You, I assume, are not haunted by the prospect of a fascist-Christian theocracy in the United States. But in order to understand such a person, you must dwell in their emotional pain--which is real, if misconscrewed--and trace it back to its actual source. It is a transformation of some other pain that is haunting their house and making them belief the unbelievable--even fervently so.

But the fervor is a measure of the desperation, and ultimately ineffectiveness, of the defense mechanism. When dealing with emotions, there is both form and substance, and the outward form is often a second-hand smokescreen that conceals the actual source of the pain.

Let’s take The Comic Book Guy, for example. I haven’t read much by him, but it is as if everything he writes is in the same musical key--even the same note played over and over. What is this note? Contempt, pomposity, superiority, devaluation, envy. It would be a mistake to analyze his writing for its content---of which there is little--instead of the much more vivid unconscious message that always comes through. Through my studies with Milt Jung, the great chiropractor and second cousin of Melanie Klein, I learned that contempt--especially if it is dominant in the personality--is always a defense mechanism. It is always in the service of primordial envy, a topic I have discussed in the past. If someone is particularly insecure, they can unconsciously manage this insecurity, ward off depression, and elevate themselves through the constant operation of contempt. It is not voluntary, but compulsive.

There is certainly a place for righteous indignation and contempt--for example, toward an Arafat, toward Nasrallah, toward CAIR or the New York Times editorial board... no, wait, the Times is beneath contempt. But the habitually contemptuous person is almost always contemptible--in his own unconscious assessment. The object for whom he expresses contempt is simply a sacrificial victim that allows him to live another day under very difficult circumstances. You wouldn’t want to be that person, their petty little daily contemptuous triumphs notwithstanding. It can't be easy living in that body.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

We Are Not Worthy!

Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing for me as the honors continue to pile up. First, to be called the Most Obnoxious Man In AmeriKKKa by dailykos.

Then to be colorfully described by a wacky new age website as a "blue-orange rationalist with a vertical orientation" who is "endlessly frustrating in his limited thinking and belief that he, and only he, is right." What rational person, aside from a New York Mets fan, would walk around in bright orange and blue? Plus, I'm not always right. For example, I never would have predicted that infrarational crystal gazers would have any interest in a blog that caused them such endless frustration.

But now (along with Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped) to be acclaimed as a "tendentious," "jejune," and "dated crackpot" by the mansierre-wearing (or is it a "bro" "pec deck," or "Victor's Secret?") King of Combovers, that Cindy Sheehan with a thesaurus, the ad homanally fixated James Wolcott!

Getting called out by the pompous Vanity Fair Guy is eerily similar to getting called out by the sarcastic Comic Book Guy. As he might say, "Oh dear, it appears the witty barbs emanating from your general direction have nearly broken my skin. I may have to purchase some Bactine if this continues much longer."

Next time Wolcott wants to honor me, I just wish he'd link directly to my site. You know, let the folks decide for themselves how we stack up against the awesome intellectual depths of Vanity Fair.

By the way, Petey is all fired up about this. He wants to try for the next level of notoriety--a footnote in a book by Noam Chomsky!

Mama Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow up to be Babies (or Liberals)

Continuing with our interview, the nosy Sigmund, Carl and Alfred next want to know, “What are your politics, and why?,” and “Why have so many of us lost the will to fight and defend what we value or defend our beliefs? Is there a kind self hatred at work?”

I have answered that first question in so many ways, that I think I’ll refrain from doing so again. My political views are summarized in a couple of posts from last March, Political Seance, Parts One and Two. The rest is commentary, as they say.

As for the second question, I think I’ll try to address it from an angle I haven’t tried before, one that was provoked by Dr. Sanity’s eloquent and moving post yesterday, entitled My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys. If this turns out to be a short post, it’s because I’m thinking this through for the first time, and my thinking may or my not arrive at its appointed destination. In other words, it may go nowhere.

Dr. Sanity writes that “I grew up with cowboys. Not in real life, of course, but on the TV screen. My earliest heroes were those rough, tough shoot-em-up guys whose goal was justice and who seemed oblivious to their own tragic fate as they pursued that justice with single-minded efficiency.”

I can’t summarize, so I’ll just quote her at length: “The cowboy hero of my youth was a simple man who minded his own business and valued his freedom. It would take a lot to stir him up, but once aroused, he was unstoppable. His talk might be drawling or lazy, but not his principles; and the violence which was always there under the surface of his placidity could be called on to defend and protect that which he valued. Then he would ride out into the sunset; his job done, his duty fulfilled.

“He never turned away from what had to be done; and he never cared much for nuance or appeasement. He always understood and accepted the consequences of his actions, not caring if he was liked or loved; but doing what he thought was right, no matter what the cost.

“Today the American cowboy lives on in spirit in many aspects of our society. But if anything, there is even more contempt and anger heaped on him by our modern, cynical, and metrosexual society; who long ago stopped valuing the heroic and sees no need for cowboys in the new age.

“Today, any hint of unsophisticated cowboy heroics or clear talk of right and wrong, good and evil are met with scorn by the spoiled elites of the world, who perceive the modern cowboy as an unwanted anachronism and a genuine liability--his mere existence a frightening threat to the fantasy world of love and peace they have created in their minds.

“Still, it is lucky for us that our modern cowboys in the law and military continue to do what all real cowboys were born to do.

“Zane Gray and many other western authors understood that the only thing standing between civilization and the outlaws who preyed on the innocent were those few cowboys who held to the code of the west. Civilization might hate and despise them for the violence of their methods--but civilization most certainly could not survive without their moral clarity and protection.”

As it so happens, back when I was in film school, we studied various genres, one of which was the western, a form that is as uniquely American as jazz or baseball. I still have some of my old notes, outlining the classic structure of the western film:

1. The hero enters a social group.
2. The hero is unknown to the society.
3. The hero is revealed to have an exceptional ability.
4. The society recognizes differences between themselves and the hero.
5. The society does not completely accept the hero.
6. The villains threaten and eventually do harm to the society.
7. The villains are stronger than the society; the society is weak and ineffectual, unable to defend itself or punish the villains.
8. The hero initially avoids involvement in the conflict.
9. There is a past history, or some kind of symmetry or respect between the hero and villain(s).
10. The villains do something particularly evil or personal to draw the hero in.
11. A representative of the Democratic Party, I mean society, asks the hero to give up his revenge.
12. The hero fights the villains.
13. The hero defeats the villains.
14. The society is safe.
15. The hero gives up his special status, the society accepts the hero, and the hero enters society.

I remember as a kid, seeing the film True Grit, the one for which John Wayne received an Oscar. On the surface, it is only a mediocre film, but I saw it again on TV a few years back, and I remember being extremely impressed with what I realized was an entirely allegorical plot that touches in some way on most of the elements described above. I’ll just hit a few highlights.

The film begins with 14-year-old Mattie Ross looking for someone to hunt down the man who killed her father and bring him to justice. Initially the straight-laced and annoyingly sanctimonious Mattie wants to work within the system, and repeatedly makes reference to her fancy lawyer, who you might say is analogous to the entirely ineffectual UN, or to “international law.” Mattie could have had her pick of lawmen, but in the end chooses the aging Cogburn for the job, because she believes he possesses “true grit.”

Interestingly, Cogburn is depicted as someone who is entirely on the fringes of society--actually, beyond the fringe. Like Presidents Bush or Reagan, he would never be accepted by the elite and effete standard-bearers of society. While not a criminal, he is also not a member of society. In fact, he is a fat, one-eyed drunk who lives with a cat and a “chinaman,” playing cards all day. The obvious message is that society, in order to protect itself, may have to rely upon slightly unsavory people who are not properly members of it--violent and “uncivilized” men who care much more about freedom, honor and justice than mere law and order.

Cogburn’s exceptional ability is revealed during a drunken rant, when he pulls his gun and blows away a hungry rat in the far corner of the room. Mattie hires him to catch the killer, Tom Chaney, but only in order to bring him back alive so that he can be properly tried. As a typical liberal, she wants this to be a police action, not a war. For his part, Cogburn has no interest whatsoever in the legal system or in bringing Chaney back alive. He is his own justice system--in fact, he represents justice as such, and will be just as happy to blow Chaney away and be done with it.

An interesting father-daughter dynamic develops between Mattie, who represents law, and Cogburn, who represents primordial, pre-civilized justice. At first, there is even a pronounced gender confusion in the tomboy Mattie, who has a brittle sort of compensatory pseudo-masculinity symbolized be a ridiculously oversized and impractical gun that is "all for show," like the French army.

The transformational moment occurs in the plot when Mattie is captured by Chaney. I forget how, but she somehow falls into a snake pit, which obviously represents the underworld, or hell. In short, she suddenly finds herself in a dangerous and deadly place that is completely outside the illusory safety of society. Rooster--and only Rooster--can save her, by descending into hell and snatching her out. Sort of like a psychoanalyst, only with guns.

Here again, the allegory is clear. Only a complete man, someone who has “one foot in hell”--who knows the territory--is capable of going into hell and battling the demons. Only ShrinkWrapped can save us!

After Rooster pulls Mattie out, he has to make a mad dash back to civilization in order to get her medical assistance. Symbolically she has died, and Rooster’s regenerative act will be to bring her back to society, where she will be healed and “reborn.” In so doing, he replaces her worldly father and becomes the true father of her higher self--a self that is no longer naive, but integrates abstract law with the dirty reality of worldly justice.

For his part, Rooster is reborn as a father instead of the drunken bachelor who lives on the outskirts of society. The conclusion of the film takes place in the family burial ground, where Mattie has set aside a plot for Rooster, right next to her’s. The brutal and uncivilized Rooster is not only integrated into society, but has a place in eternity as well. How fitting.

So, where does this leave us? What was the question? Oh yes, “Why have so many of us lost the will to fight and defend what we value or defend our beliefs? Is there a kind self-hatred at work?”

Yes, there is surely "white guilt" and self-hatred on the part of the Left, which is not even as mature as Mattie in the beginning of the film. At least she wants justice. If she were a leftist, the film would end with her realizing that Chaney had killed her father because he was poor and her father was wealthy. She would realize her own guilt, and campaign to prevent Chaney from being hanged.

At least Mattie, like some Democrats, wanted to bring the killer to justice. But as the film unfolds, her naiveté is replaced by hard-won insight into the human condition, specifically, into the implacable nature of human evil. In the end, she can only be saved by the man who lives outside the pleasant and comfortable illusions of society, who has one foot in both camps, who is basically good but who has no self-deception about the heart of darkness within man.

Rooster has no pretensions about human beings. Before you can have a civilization, before you can have a justice system, before you can have peace, you must have the will and the capacity for raw, barbaric violence. Because if you won’t do it, someone else will have to do it for you--or to you. You can be a spiritually decadent pacifist, but only because there is a freedom-loving, civilized barbarian with a mailed fist watching your wimpy liberal Euro ass. Behind every thousand or so feckless liberal castrati is a man with true grit. And we want terrorists and their enablers to scratch their heads and never stop asking, "why does this gritty bastard hate us so?"

We'll close things out with a little tune. Glen? Glen Campbell? You wanna come on up? Good deal! Boy howdy folks, Glen Campbell live on the One Cosmos Frontierland Bandstand in Branson Missouri!

One day, little girl,
The sadness will leave your face,
As soon as you've won the fight
To get justice done.
Someday little girl,
You'll wonder what life's about,
But other's have known,
Few battles are won alone.
So, you'll look around to find
Someone who's kind,
Someone who is fearless like you.
The pain of it
Will ease a bit
When you find a man with true grit

One day you will rise,
And you won't believe your eyes,
You'll wake up and see,
A world that is fine and free.
Though summer seems far away,
You'll find the sun one day

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reincarnation: Haven't I Begged this Question Somewhere Before? (updated)

Continuing with the interview, here is another question from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. Hmm... Why do I get the feeling that I have begged this question before? Perhaps I can do a better job of equivocation this time around:

Q: Do you believe in reincarnation? Do we really get another chance to “get it right?” Why?

A: Why? Because let’s face it, Krishna was either liar, lord or lunatic. Krishna said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Actually, it is interesting that the Eastern, “right hemisphere” of the world regards reincarnation as a banal matter of faith, while it is a stumbling block for the Western, left hemisphere of the worldbrain. Is there a corpus colossum that can join the two hermetispheres and make sense of the concept?

As always, words are problematic and potentially misleading in discussing spiritual matters. In short, words are words, not the reality to which they point or the experience which they memorialize. To back up a bit, there is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern approaches to philosophy, in that the former generally begins and ends with knowledge by discernment, while the latter rests upon knowledge by identification.

For example, the touchstone of Hindu philosophy is the Upanishads, which were written by ancient rishis, or seers. As such, the Upanishads do not contain ideas that are argued but visions that were seen and experienced. Not only is the truth “seen,” but the seer comes to embody the truth so perceived. In other words, this is transformative truth--in knowing it, you are not the same. Naturally words must be used to convey the experience, but they mustn’t be confused with the thing in itself. This is a very different from Western philosophy, which mostly consists of ideas--however wooly or trite--that can be passed like an object from mind to mind.

The horizontal aspect of language is mostly reducible to a purely Darwinian explanation. But there is a very mysterious vertical aspect to language that cannot be so reduced, unless one wishes to be absurd. Most modern people don't mind being absurd, so long as they can imagine that they understand. Better to be absurd than to deal with the anxiety of not knowing.

It has been remarked that poets are metaphysicians in the raw, mediators between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the nighttime and daytime realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object.

Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am talking about involves vertical recollection, or anamnesis.

It is said that “that which is Night to all beings, that is Day to the Seer.” The typical soul is blinded by the bright and shiny objects of the waking world, while the seer is able to detect hidden connections in the night womb where events incubate before undergoing the formality of becoming in the external world.

There is a general stream of Life into which the particular stream of your life enters upon birth--your life is a little eddy in the stream of Life, so to speak, and is constituted by that larger Life. Once here, we see through a glass darkly: “on earth the broken arcs, in heaven the perfect round.” We ride atop the mortality-go-round, but the stream below is full of information that links us to the whole. There is a storehouse of collective memory to which we have access, and which can definitely give us the feeling that we have been here before, in particular, because spiritual growth always involves recollection--not horizontal recollection but vertical recollection. We are remembering something that is already inside us, in our deepest, most inward being.

I maintain that reincarnation is a way of talking about the two very different kinds of heredity that clearly operate in us: a horizontal heredity that is encoded in our genes, and a vertical heredity that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious--about that part of ourselves that not only has distinct inclinations and attitudes--even perhaps an earthly mission--but is also able to tap into a sort of knowledge base of which it has had no personal experience.

Are we really the product of two heredities? I don't know about you, but genes or no genes, I have no idea how I dropped into my particular family. I am amazingly incompatible with virtually all of my family members save for one--not necessarily to the point of open conflict (though there is that with one particularly polarized member who despises me), but mostly indifference and mutual incomprehension. I was born with very specific, not to say unusual, inclinations that I can find in none of my relatives, either living or dead. But I certainly see them in non-blood relations with whom I share vertical DNA.

*****

So, we apparently have a terrestrial heredity that extends back through higher primates, lower mammals, fish, plants, single cells, and across the dark abyss to insentient matter.

On the other hand, we have a vertical heredity that extends through various degrees of being--various powers, principalities, rulers, and thrones--all the way up until we reach Brahman, the Absolute, the One, The Father in Heaven, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and Uncreated Slack.

Our "frontal self" comes into the world the usual way, while another part of us is imaginately conceived, or "word made flesh." Unlike the horizontal word of DNA and natural selection, this is the vertical word of "supernatural" election. (I put supernatural in quotes, for nature herself is supernatural, as anyone who appreciates the transcendental beauty of the mythematical equations governing the big bang can tell you.)

There was a time, not too long ago, when human beings were not aware of their vertical descent from above, any more than animals are. Again, if you think of our humanness as situated at the innersection of the horizontal and vertical, it took some time for Homo sapiens to realize their place in the vertical.

One cannot even know of the horizontal until consciousness has lifted above it. Otherwise we are simply immersed in our perceptions and engulfed by the senses. But as consciousness ascends, one begins to realize that the vertical is also a world in its own right.

After all, Homo sapiens was genetically complete by as long ago as 200,000 (or as recently as 100,000) years. And yet, either way, we don't see much evidence in the archeological record of "vertical liftoff" until about 35-40,000 years ago, with the sudden appearance of beautifully realized cave paintings, body decoration, musical instruments, statuary, widespread burial of the dead, etc.

Clearly, vertical liftoff had begun, into a nonsensuous dimension of transcendental Love, Truth and Beauty that was anterior to our arrival there. For what would motivate an erstwhile ape not just to paint, but to do so with such refined delicacy of line, shade, and contour? Why bother?

But vertical progress for humans is frequently stalled--both collectively and individually. Human beings have reached many historical impasses, or crossroads (frankly, we are in a somewhat nasty one right now). In reality, these are not horizontal impasses. Rather, they are vertical impasses. Overcoming these world-historical obstacles is not a matter of additional horizontal evolution. That process is basically over, although recent research seems to demonstrate that some additional evolution has been going on at the margins.

But even if certain brains have been getting a little bigger or smarter, it is not our hardizontalware, but our vertical software--or aloftware--that counts. You can have a gifted IQ but still languish below on the vertical launch pad, a point that is obvious if you consider the sorry state of contemporary academia. Plenty of big-brained primates there, all messed up with no place to grow (up, that is).

As such, past historical impasses have been broken through in one of two ways: either a vertical ascent by some great hero from this side of manifestation, or a descent of the divine energy into time or into a particular person (technically known as a "avatar," this happens much more often than you might realize).

The vehicle of both ascent and descent is said to be a "resurrection body," the perfected self, unencumbered by the accidents and distortions of horizontality. It is actually already there calling you--wherever there is--just waiting for you to catch up.

Have you ever been acquainted with your resurrection body? I'll bet you have. Again, this is one of the main purposes of religious language--to provide a means for talking about an otherwise immaterial and nonsensuous dimension. Light, transparent, bright, freely coursing energy... these are all gladjectives that apply.

In the gospels, it says that Jesus gave a few disciples the privilege of seeing his vertical body of light. What must that have been like? First, of course, the disciples had to "ascend" vertically, "high upon a mountain." There, within the orbit of their highest aspiration, Jesus' face "shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Then Jesus held a summit conference with two other luminous bodies, Moses and his shadowy double, Elijah. Wo! What was that all about?

Our physical body is on loan from nature, whom we must repay at the end of our days. "Thou owest nature a death." But looked at vertically, the body is descended from the spirit, not vice versa. Death, or disincarnation, involves separation of the vertical from the horizontal. Reincarnation is simply a way to talk about their mysterious union down here in 4D.

Let me conclude by saying that this is one of those topics which I am happy to throw open to debate. My responses are meant to provoke thought, not to be the last word.

*****

UPDATE

That was sort of a lame post. When SGA asked about reincarnation, I should have just said “Hell, I don’t know,” and left it at that. Believe it or not, I hate to speculate. For one thing, it makes religious metaphysics look subjective and conjectural, like theories of global warming. My whole point is that religions not only reveal objective truths, but a core of truths that cannot not be.

True, there is a penumbra around any religion (or any science, for that matter), a dark area encircling the light, into which we can project anything we choose. This is where occultists and mere theologians rush into the breach and spookulate about what they do not know. Properly speaking, this is not theology but theodoxy, or “opinions about God” rather than “knowledge of God.” Such vain chatter is nothing more than an agitation in the cosmic void--as Whitehead called it, “the fallacy of vacuous actuality.” Religion is then reduced to philosophy, little more than idle deidreaming, the codification and fetishization of the lower mind’s ability to doubt anything.

Interestingly, the one thing that I wasn’t speculating about probably seemed the most speculative, and that was my crack about the “astral body,” or “body of light.” All traditions speak in their own way of some such similar experience--again, don’t get hung up on the words--and I think I have some idea of what these traditions are talking about. Many people who undertake a spiritual practice--apparently some more than others--are subject to all sorts of sometimes bewildering (and not always pleasant) physical sensations and experiences. This is something I haven’t specifically posted on in the past, in part because I am still in the thick of it and haven’t figured it out myself. It would be nice if it were a stable phenomenon, but it is anything but, so there is no stable conclusion I can draw at the moment--religious or otherwise.

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):