Monday, September 04, 2006

One Cosmos Under a False God

Regarding yesterday’s post, Grant has graciously conceded that, as Will put it, “obnoxiousness in the defense of the Spirit is no vice" (it certainly can be, but it is clearly not always).

“However,” notes Grant, “there remains the sticking point of unity. In most credible spiritual systems, and as implied by the title of your own book and blog, everything that exists is of one piece, making Springsteen, moonbat that he is, contiguous with you, me, and everyone else. There is an appearance of division among people into separate beings but it seems clear that there is no actual division at all on a deeper level.

“The implication I am making is that everyone is the Self, and therefore it is logical to treat everyone as least as well as one would treat oneself. Following this line of thought, would you call yourself a moonbat or a spokeshole if you found yourself wrong about something? [Er, yes. I have many times made reference to my youthful jackassery.] Suppose you were mistaken about certain things, and you wanted to firmly correct your own behavior or beliefs--wouldn't you handle your self-correction with love, consideration and respect, even while being firm and severe? [Not really. In these matters there is no higher consideration than truth.]

“People are harsh on themselves sometimes--they may have inner dialogues that are terribly cruel. As rocker Graham Parker put it, ‘nobody hurts you harder than yourself. This self-inflicted pain is counterproductive. Therapists inculcate self-regard whenever possible, along with an ability to critique oneself honestly but without rancor or shame. [This is not true. Self-regard is worthless, if not harmful, if it is not based on an accurate view of reality, both internal and external. Both spirituality and good therapy aim at truth, not “self-regard.” Likewise, we should not treat others as they want to be treated, but as we--and by extension they---deserve to be treated. ]

“To finish my argument, I just have a lingering 10% suspicion that obnoxiousness, while effective for fostering changes, is unhealthy for the human corpus at large, the group Self, and the purposes that obnoxiousness serves could be accomplished in healthier ways. Could not Springsteen be seen as a mistaken friend rather than an alien entity to be belittled and discounted? Does Self love preclude severity and the ability to critique others?”

There are several points to be addressed here. First of all, you are confusing the meaning of “one,” something that new-age types generally do (although I have no idea whether you are in that category). As Coleridge put it, "two very different meanings lurk in the word, one."

As I wrote some time ago, “it cannot be forgotten that the positing of the One is not merely a dogma, but an experience--an experience vouchsafed to Moses on Sinai, as well as others before and since. In this regard, it is very similar to Vedanta, in that the Upanishads simply record direct encounters with the ultimate Mystery.”

“Allegorically, we enjoyed a continuous oneness with the Creator in Eden. However, this was not unity but oneness, something clearly not as lofty as unity, for unity requires our separateness from God, but then reconciliation at a higher, more complex and differentiated level, not a lower one of mere undifferentiated blending.... The name of God is the Name of the Unity of All Being. (Unity, not oneness.)”

The analogy with your body is exact. Your body, with all of its inconceivable complexity, is somehow a unity (in fact, disease, both physical and mental, may be thought of as a breakdown of this unity). If it were merely one, then it would simply be a pile of undifferentiated protoplasm.

In another post, I wrote that

“The difference between spiritual progressives and secular reactionaries is that they worship different gods--or more accurately, they have entirely incompatible understandings of the meaning of One. There is an antinomy between these two Ones: there is a left one and a right One--or more precisely, a higher One and a lower one.

“The Christian hermeticist Valentin Tomberg uses a visual image to conceptualize the problem. Imagine two cones placed base to base. At the top there is a point, in the middle an ‘equator’ where the bases meet, and at the bottom another point. Now imagine this as a sort of crystal. At the top is the white point where pure light, which is the synthesis of all colors, enters.

“As the light moves down toward the equator it becomes more and more differentiated into the various colors of the spectrum, until they reach their maximum degree of separation and intensity at the equator. Moving further down, the colors begin to merge until, at the bottom point, they once again lose all of their distinction and become black, which represents the blending and confusion of all colors. There is one sort of synthesis or Oneness above (the white point) and an entirely different kind of oneness below (the black point).

“The white point is analogous to wisdom, for it represents the underlying unity of all the different types of knowledge available at the equator, where all of the individual colors represent various disciplines and sciences.

“Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this, for it touches on the central point of my book and of this blog. The synthesis of all our seemingly contradictory truths lies ‘above,’ toward the white light of wisdom. If two seemingly contradictory things are true, say, the Book of Genesis and the theory of evolution, then their common source of truth must be found above, not below. There is a way to resolve the contradiction, but not by finding a compromise between the two at the "equator" or by simply confusing and blending them together below.

“For example, teaching intelligent design as an adjunct or alternative to natural selection is simply adding another color to the equator. Even worse, teaching it as the only truth would take both the Creator and science down to the black point, merging and blending science and theology in an unhealthy way. In fact, this is what is done in the Islamic world. Yes, they have intellectual and spiritual unity there, but it is the bad unity of the black point: One Nation Under God’s Boot Heel, so to speak. The identical thing happens in secular totalitarian states, or on leftist college campuses, where intellectual diversity is not permitted. What we want is to allow maximum diversity but to synthesize it on higher level, not eliminate it on a lower one: this is the meaning of One Cosmos Under God.

“Ironically, the secular left in America regard their fellow religious citizens as an incipient Taliban that wishes to enforce a black-point unity, when the opposite is true. That is, to the secular left, there is no white point above or black point below. Rather, there is only the equator, where we all live in our beautiful, diverse cultures and subcultures, none better than any other: multiculturalism, moral relativism, no objective or ‘privileged’ truth. And yet, multiculturalism and diversity are enforced from on high despite the fact that the left supposedly does not recognize the existence of morally superior cultural perspectives. What’s going on?

“In reality, the left is enforcing their absolute black point god, but simply denying it. They don't really care what culture you're from, so long as you are committed to diversity itself, and intolerant of any other view. This is nothing less than the unholy god of the black point flexing its muscle while pretending to be just another beautiful color in the reignbelow.

“In reality, there is no absolute system at the equator that can synthesize knowledge and explain our existence. There is only diversity and contradiction there, which is as it should be. Otherwise there would be no creation, nothing separate from the Creator. However, it is only the white light above that illuminates and unites everything below. We must maintain a commitment to that absolute white light that is reflected in all the relative truths at the equator, not to this or that relative truth enforced absolutely from below.

“Or we may simply affirm the trinitarian root of all goodness that is found on any coin: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum.”

On this Middle Earth plane we inhabit, God’s very purpose--or so we have heard from the wise--is to create a Unity starting from scratch, or from “bang,” if you will. Human beings are central to this task, as we embody the full spectrum of cosmic existence, and serve as the very link between above and below, the celestial and the mundane, the one and the many. There are forces opposed to this evolutionary progress, and it is our task to correct them, occasionally with divine severity. So yes, ultimately I am “one” with Bruce Springsteen and other moonbats, only on a level of reality that is inaccessible to them by virtue of their own benighted philosophies.

For it is written, "sometimes you have to crack on a bad egg to make an Om alight." Zen masters do it all the time. WHACK! Speaking of which, here's a koan: who's buried in Grant's duum?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Higher Bobnoxiousness

Reader Grant writes, “Jeez Bob, in the course of this blogorama on music you have referred to Bruce Springsteen as a ‘moonbat’ and Ann Coulter* as spiritually and aesthetically ‘autistic.’ Even if elements of what you say are true, still it smacks of hyperbole and cuteness. I am willing to concede the existence of your much-bruited obnoxiousness at this point.

“The question which arises: can obnoxiousness and godliness coexist in an enlightened person, or is this combination diagnostic of a divided and egoistic persona? Have there been obnoxious seers and saints in history, or have they all been, like Jesus, invariably free from the tendency to noxious commentary?

“I request that the issue of obnoxiousness in spirituallity be taken out for a test drive in one of your blog entries, Dr. Godwin, if you don't mind.”

First of all, it’s somewhat difficult to nail down the precise meaning of this term. Webster's’ Dictionary defines obnoxious as “liable to a hurtful influence,” or “odiously or disgustingly objectionable,” while the Oxford simply says “extremely unpleasant.” However, in common parlance, the word usually just refers to a garden-variety jerk, like Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Randi Rhodes or Bill Maher. Sometimes it refers to people who don’t know how not to be a jerk--Jimmy Carter, Helen Thomas, Maureen Dowd, Ted Kennedy.

However, there is also a form of obnoxiousness that is both temporary and beneficial. It is something that comes into play in both psychotherapy and in spirituality, for both enterprises involve breaking through defenses and introducing unpleasant, sometimes even catastrophic, truths.

In this regard, all effective psychotherapists and true spiritual teachers had better be obnoxious at one time or another. A therapist who does not occasionally confront the patient with unpleasant truths is likely to be little more than a “hand holder” or “professional friend.” And a guru or spiritual teacher who does not point the finger directly at you and say, in effect, “You are one f***** up individual,” is not likely the genuine article.

In this latter sense of the term, I don’t have time to count the many obnoxious sayings of Jesus: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” He says that most people are incapable of walking his narrow path, refers to listeners as a “brood of vipers,” goes ballistic on the money changers, curses a fig tree, calls people hypocrites, characterizes the religious authorities as “fools and blind,” and frankly says that most people are headed straight for hell.

Likewise, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna repeatedly rebukes Arjuna for his cowardice, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness: “If you refuse to fight this righteous war.... you will be a sinner, and disgraced. People will speak ill of you throughout the ages. You will be like the mooonbats, like Bruce Springsteen.” “In every age I come back to deliver the holy” and “destroy the sinner.” “The ignorant, the faithless, the doubter goes to his destruction.” “The entire world is deluded by moods and mental states.... The evil-doers turn not toward me. They are sunk low among mortals. Their judgment is lost in the maze of Maya, until the heart is human no longer, changed within to the heart of a devil, like Jimmy Carter."

The Upanishads also make it clear that most people are idiots: “Rare is he who, looking for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self. Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death.” “Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.”

Shankara is particularly rough on the metaphysically ignorant, referring to them as “suicides” who “clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. What greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth... and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good?” “Know that the deluded man who walks the dreadful path of sense-craving moves nearer to his ruin with every step.”

I am also reminded of an obnoxious comment made by Sri Aurobindo about why most people are unsuited for his narrow spiritual path: "I do not readily accept disciples, as this path of Yoga is a difficult one and can be followed only if there is a special call." In another letter he balked at the notion of trying to create some kind of mass movement, because "For serious work it is a poison.... a movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence."

And Schuon probably made more obnoxious statements than even Jesus or Petey: “Contemporary man, in spite of his being marked by certain experiences due to the senescence of humanity, is spiritually soft and ineffective and intellectually ready to commit every possible betrayal, which will seem to him as summits of intelligence.... In a general way, the man of the ‘last days’ is a blunted creature, and the best proof of this is that the only ‘dynamism’ of which he is still capable is that which tends downwards, and which is no more than a passivity taking advantage of cosmic gravity; it is the agitation of a man who lets himself be carried away by a torrent and who imagines that he is creating this torrent himself by his agitation.”

So, am I obnoxious? I certainly hope so, at least to that brood of vipers out there who have somehow accidentally stumbled upon my blog.

*****

*Not quite accurate. I simply said, in response to someone's comment that Coulter was a "Deadhead," that I wasn't surprised, because she strikes me as somewhat spiritually and aesthetically "autistic." I meant this more in the technical sense of a mode of intelligence which is lacking or underdeveloped. Perhaps Grant reads Coulter for spiritual sustenance or aesthetic insights, but she strikes me as almost entirely worldly and political, at least based upon her written and spoken word. One could say the same thing about most political infotainers, both left and right. I readily acknowledge being autistic in certain areas in which they excel.

I do have high regard for, say, Mark Steyn's highly developed aesthetic judgment. If he were to somehow emerge as a Deadhead, then, out of respect for his authority, I might have to reconsider my stance. Likewise, I find Dennis Prager to possess unusual spiritual depth in a field not known for it.

On the other hand, Springsteen is an unalloyed moonbat--an arrogant, pernicious fool and useful idiot for the hostile forces intent on destroying even the possibility of truth and decency. He is much worse than an infotainer. He is a spokeshole for the other side.

******

On townhall.com today, Jesus, Jihadists and a Just War, by Doug Giles:

"There’s a prevalent perception among Christians that when it comes to conflict (like the War on Terror), Christ’s teachings go limper than an ED laden Pillsbury Dough Boy after six hours in a Sioux sweat lodge.

"Yeah, Jesus is seen in certain sectors of emasculated evangelicalism and in some spiritually castrated Catholic circles as an altruistic bearded lady who traipsed around Israel spitting out courteous clichés and nifty narratives like an over-medicated Garrison Keillor....

"When you take the accounts of Christ’s life straight... you come away with an entirely different picture.... You do not see Him as a passive peacemaker in the face of evil.

"So, what about all those “love your enemy,” “do good to those who harm you,” “turn the other cheek,” “howdy, bad neighbor” verses? Well, as far as I can tell, these passages apply to personal insults and injury... like the ones I get week after week from those who hate what I write....

"However, when it comes to terrorists sticking planes into buildings and blowing up trains, buses and Pizza Huts around the planet, I think the balance of the scripture and the common sense God’s given us show the multifaceted Jesus morph from being a gentle lamb into a rough lion....

"So. What do I suggest a Christian/Christian church should do? Try this... Drop the repellently corny “let’s love ‘em” slop. You sound, and are, ridiculous."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Circle Game

First of all, thank you for all the kind comments. I guess my audience isn’t very large, but very loyal. And obviously very hungry for a certain point of view that is not really available elsewhere. If it were, I wouldn’t need me. I could just be someone else.

It is true that when you submit yourself to a spiritual process, some strange and unpredictable things happen. In fact, I would say that that is one of the stamps of authenticity, because it makes you very aware of the fact that you are dealing with “the Other,” however you conceptualize that Other.

It is definitely a “spiraling” process as well. And what is a spiral? A deepening circle. You keep circling around the axis of yourself, but with each pass, hopefully you move a little deeper. You even keep encountering the same things--the same patterns, the same impasses, the same issues, both personal and existential--but you see them from a different perspective. What was above you is now below you. What contained you is now contained by you. But there are always new obstacles and vistas.

I was trying to convey this idea with the circularity of my book: “We make a detour around the universe to get back to the self.” But it is not the same self you started out with. While you have rearrived at the celestial resting place from which you started out, you may now know it for the first time.

Over the past year, I feel as if I’ve completed another go-round, developing and expanding some of the ideas in One Cosmos. But here I am, back where I started. It’s time for another cycle to begin, but there are cycles of input and output, cultivation and harvesting, reflection and expression.

I feel the need to cycle into the cultivation and reflection mode on pain of repeating the same cycle instead of taking it a notch deeper. I am presently working on a book proposal, and that requires some reflection and synthesis. If nothing else, I must pause and take a breath.

One of the reasons I removed the knowa's arkive, or bobblehead reliquary, is that I want to rummage through it in order to see what is useful for the next project, which will be to history and politics what One Cosmos was to science and theology. It will focus in on the microcosmos of our historical sprint down from the trees of Eastern Africa, into the historical flatlands below, and up the Upanishadic tree of life at the end of history, its roots aloft, its branches down below. I believe the outcome of our current crisis hinges on the mass of humanity making it safely to that other side of history.

In so doing, I will republish some of those things, only edited and reworked. Plus, I will post whenever the spirit moves me, instead of trying to post something every day. In short, I am stepping back into the unknown, hoping for some even stranger things to happen.

And yes, Phil, I will continue updating the musical recommendations (books as well).

Give Me My Rapture Today
(by Van Morrison)

There are strange things happening every day
I hear music up above my head
Fill me up with your wonder
Give me my rapture today.

Let me contemplate the presence so divine
Let me sing all day and never get tired
Fill me up from your loving cup
Give me my rapture.

Won't you guide me through the dark night of the soul
That I may better understand your way
Let me be just and worthy to receive
All the blessings of the Lord into my life.

Let me purify my thoughts and words and deeds
That I may be a vehicle for thee
Let me hold to the truth in the darkest hour
Let me sing to the glory of the Lord.
Give me my rapture today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Blog that Can be Blogged is Not the Eternal Blog

There are times that I think to myself that this blog has come to the end of the line, and that there’s nothing left to say but “any questions?”

After all, even the Bible, the Upanishads, and the Tao Te Ching don’t go on forever. Especially in the case of the latter two, they made their points in an extremely compact and pithy way, and then got out of the way. The fact that they are “closed” gives them all the more authority, for it forces one to look more deeply within the text (and the Self) than to keep looking beyond it. I’m trying to imagine Lao-tzu with a blog, but this would definitely fly in the face of his own counsel to

Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.

In fact, Lao-tzu tells us the score in the very first stanza of the Tao Te Ching:

The tao that can be blogged
is not the eternal Tao.

and in the last stanza:

True words aren’t bloggable;
bloggable words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t endlessly blogviate to prove their point;
men who endlessly blogviate to prove their point get on my nerves.

If Lao-tzu is correct, then instead of eloquently trying to prove my point, it may be time to shut up in order to facilitate some actual truth and wisdom. Seal the loose canon of the Blogavad Pete-a, so to speak, and move on to my next Mission Impractical.

So, what have I left out? Does anyone have any questions or ideas for future topics, or have we pretty much covered the weirderfront?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Evolutionary Politics: Conserving the Radical Spiritual Revolution of the Founders (updated 9.07.07)

Unfortunately, I started something I am unable to finish this morning. Hardly even enough time to spell-check, much less coherence check. We'll have to continue the discussion tomorrow.

I have noticed that many people reject religion on the basis of a fundamental misunderstanding of it, which is easy to do, given the way religion is depicted by its enemies in the liberal media and by our profane culture at large. If that were my only exposure to religion, I too would surely reject it.

A case in point is this editorial by Heather Mac Donald, a secular conservative woman who is very uncomfortable with what she perceives as the dominance of the modern conservative intellectual movement by the Christian right:

“Upon leaving office in November 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft thanked his staff for keeping the country safe since 9/11. But the real credit, he added, belonged to God. Ultimately, it was God’s solicitude for America that had prevented another attack on the homeland.

“Many conservatives hear such statements with a soothing sense of approbation. But others—count me among them—feel bewilderment, among much else. If God deserves thanks for fending off assaults on the United States after 9/11, why is he not also responsible for allowing the 2001 hijackings to happen in the first place?

“Skeptical conservatives—one of the Right’s less celebrated subcultures—are conservatives because of their skepticism, not in spite of it. They ground their ideas in rational thinking and (nonreligious) moral argument. And the conservative movement is crippling itself by leaning too heavily on religion to the exclusion of these temperamentally compatible allies.”

MacDonald provides a worthy and thoughtful critique, not at all like the angry and unsophisticated atheists of the secular left. Still, it seems that her only exposure to religion has been to the kooky and/or superficial kind, but it should go without saying that kookiness and superficiality are most certainly the norm in virtually all human endeavors. One might just as well reject music on the basis of the aural garbage one hears on the radio these days.

MacDonald seems to have the greatest difficulty in reconciling an omnipotent God with the existence of evil. For example,

“The father of Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City girl abducted from her home in 2002, thanked God for answering the public’s prayers for her safe return.... But why did the prayers for five-year-old Samantha Runnion go unheeded when she was taken from her Southern California home in 2002 and later sexually assaulted and asphyxiated?”

But this simply highlights the incoherence of a particular religious view that reduces God to an omnipotent anthropomorphism. This is closer to the unsophisticated manner in which Muslims view Allah, as “vertically” causing everything to happen on a moment by moment basis. I have heard many Christians of this temperament say words to the effect of “everything happens for a reason”--i.e., God caused it--which makes no sense whatsoever to me. Mac Donald is correct to reject such a simplistic view.

Personally, I am drawn to religion because it is a much deeper and more sophisticated metaphysic, and explains much more than any secular philosophy. It also illuminates dimensions of reality that will tend to go undetected or undeveloped in the absence of religion--the holy, the sacred, the existence of grace, etc. But the idea of an omnipotent personal God that answers to one’s beck and call seems to me fundamentally unchristian (and certainly un-vedantic). After all--one is tempted to add, “hello?!”--in Christianity, God himself is crucified in history. What do you think that means, that God himself fully submits to history, to the relative, to the temporal?

As I have emphasized before, a merely mental understanding of God is entirely insufficient in my view. Anyone who reduces religion to a mere literalism has given the game away to the rationalism of the ego.

In the past, I have attempted to discuss this dilemma in terms of the bi-modal logic of the mind. Our little surface ego moves and has its being in the bright and well-lit world of classical or Aristotelian logic. I will be the first to acknowledge that the world accessed by the ego represents a world. But by no means does it represent the world. Rather, the ego gives access to one plane of being. I won’t say that it’s a “low” flying plane, because, as a psychologist, I am fully aware of how many people fail to get off the ground and reliably enter it due to various developmental issues and fixations. But it is an intermediate world, with degrees of being both above and below.

In the esoterist view, the planes above the ego are developmentally later but ontologically prior, and therefore more real. Every below in the cosmos is “contained” within an above, while, at the same time, the above is uncontainable and is necessarily present “within” the below. To animals, the ego is clearly both “higher” and more inward.

But we must never forget that the epic story of cosmic evolution does not end with the ego’s exteriorization of its limited understanding--its colonization of a small portion of consciousness. Think of the ego as analogous to a bright flood light in the dark. Wherever the light turns, there is an area of bright illumination. But we must not be fooled into believing that the foreground of illumination--the little spot lit up by the ego--is all there is to reality.

As Kant properly noted, the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies. This is what it means to be a fallen ego in a fallen world. The fall is both literal (i.e., vertical) and metaphorical.

With the scientific revolution in full force, Kant saw what was coming and was actually trying to rescue the realm of religion from the predations of a cognitively greedy scientific rationalism. Since the ego ultimately has access only to its own phenomena, this left the infinitely greater reality of the noumenon untouched, unknown and unknowable. This is precisely where Kant erred, because in saying that the noumenon was unknowable, he essentially reduced religion to a mere sentimental fideism. It would simply be a matter of time before it became wholly irrelevant to “sophisticated” moderns.

Again, either religion embodies real knowledge that surpasses our egoic understanding, or it is simply an absurdity that is defiantly embraced in the teeth of reason and logic. But if it does embody real knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? Is it mere information, occupying the same horizontal plane as factual scientific information, like saying “water freezes at 32 degrees and Jesus walked on it,” or “the ribs enclose the chest cavity and women are made of one”? In my way of looking at things, this is a gross confusion that simply invites people not to take religion seriously.

Let us imagine that the totality of reality constitutes a vast field of consciousness. In navigating its dimensions and coordinates, there are two principle dangers. One involves being shipwrecked on the rocks of a rational but fixed and “frozen” mental conception that ultimately forecloses spiritual evolution. The ego stakes out its little piece of territory. It knows what it knows, and that’s all it wants to know. The vast majority of cultural and religious beliefs are of this variety. Some belief systems stake out a slightly wider area, but each, to one degree or another, places an arbitrary boundary around reality.

The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey.

Religions are indeed fixed, and must be so. But they are not fixed in order to reduce reality, but in order to navigate through it and ultimately to colonize more of it. They are not the destination, but the means of arriving there--at one’s deustination.

Therefore, the question is not, strictly speaking, whether or not this or that dogma is true or false, in a narrow, purely egoic way. I believe dogma is critical. Critical for the same reason that a ship is--not merely for the purpose of floating statically on the water, but moving through it.

So all you cosmic castaways,
we're here such a brief, short time.
We have to make the best of things,
thanks to Adam's crime.
But Petey and old Gagdad Bob,
will do their very best,
to make your journey vertical,
in this horizontal mess.
No angry trolls, no leftist loons,
no doctrinaire moonbats,
Like Dailykos and Huffington,
and other gynocrats.
So join us here each day my friends,
we'll sail right through the fog.
Obnoxious Bobservations,
here on Gag-a-dad's blog.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Higher Sanity (8.25.11)

Ahh, if only everyone were sane. But what does it mean to be sane? The dictionary is of little help to us--it simply says that to be sane is to be healthy, to be "free from hurt or disease," to be "mentally sound, especially able to anticipate and appraise the effects of one's actions," or "proceeding from a sound mind: rational."

First of all, it is not an either/or question. That is, there are clearly degrees of sanity, and therefore, degrees of insanity. Apparently--except at the extremes--all of is are more or less sane and insane at the same time, or sane about some things and less sane about others. This implies that there are degrees of reality, as opposed to the more stark dichotomy of reality/unreality.

Sanity cannot be reduced to merely being rational, for a rationalism pushed to the extremes becomes patently irrational. Rather, reason must always be in the service of something else--something called intelligence, and intelligence is beyond reason. In other words, no rational operation accounts for intelligence itself or is able to judge why and how some people are so much more intelligent than others. Only intelligence can discern and judge intelligence.

And what is intelligence? If intelligence is to be a useful or meaningful construct, it can only mean one thing: the mind's conformation to reality. For no matter how high someone's IQ, if their intellect isn't conformed to reality, how intelligent are they really?

But what is reality? Animals are beautifully conformed to reality, but does that mean that they are sane? No, because they are conformed only to the lowest degree of reality, the outer shell or "epidermis" of the cosmos, the material world.

Unlike animals, human beings are consciously aware of the paradox of inhabiting two worlds, an external world of objects and quantitites, and a subjective world of thought, imagination, values, feeling and will. Thus, if sanity is conformation to reality, what does this mean as it pertains to the subjective world?

We are currently in the midst of a triangulated war for the future of civilization between Islam, Western European Socialism, and American style liberty, free markets and individualism. Only one of them is sane, or at least more sane than the others, i.e., more adequately conformed to both external reality (the way the world works) and internal reality (the way humans are). However, it would be a mistake to view this struggle in terms of three competing ideologies on a horizontal plane. Rather, like most important historical events, this war is taking place in vertical historical space.

In this regard, you may view the United States and its spiritual allies as reflecting a transcendent position above, the Western Europeans occupying a fully immanent one on the two dimensional plane in between, and the Islamists down below, in a transcendently evil and infra-human space. Importantly, this infra-human domain is not to be confused with the animal realm, for there is no animal that would or could sacrifice its own life for a transcendently evil cause, as do Islamists.

Most of the real wholesale evil in history is caused by groups inhabiting this lower vertical area. Moreover, just as there are messiahs and avatars who can purportedly "come down" to the earth plane and embody the upper transcendent, there are avatars of evil who embody and give voice to the lower vertical: bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, et al. The awesome power of these men is trans-human (or infrahuman, to be exact), and cannot be explained by recourse to any mere human psychology.

If there is a purely animal-human realm lacking in transcendence, then it is actually the immanent-horizontal space occupied by Western Europe and the international left. Although they think of America as "selfish" because of our low taxes and smaller government, it is actually the other way around. While socialism may superficially appear to be more humane, Mark Steyn points out that "nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: Once a fellow is enjoying the fruits of government health care and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the broader social interest; he's got his, and if it's going to bankrupt the state a generation hence, well, as long as they can keep the checks coming till he's dead, it's fine by him." In this sense, social democracy is eventually "explicitly anti-social" (NR, 11-7-05).

There is a further corrosion of the soul that takes place with European style socialism, in that, because it elevates material desires to the highest, it cynically cuts the heart out of any transcendent view of the world, anything beyond one's immediate animal needs. As Steyn explains, it perversely elevates secondary priorities such as mandated six week vacations over primary ones such as family and national defense. And political change eventually becomes almost impossible, because the great majority have become dependent on government, which causes a sort of "adherence" to horizontal. You cannot rouse the ideals of a nation that has lost its ideals. Any politician who threatens the entitlement system cannot get elected in Western Europe. The situation is analogous to an addict who has given over his power to the pusher.

By attempting to create the perfect society on earth through government coercion, it actually diminishes our humanity, since it relieves human beings of having to exert the continual moral effort to make the world a better place, as this is only possible by maintaining contact with the realm of transcendent moral ideals. In other words, European socialism is actually a flight from morality, thereby making people less humane, not more. It is a bogus kind of freedom, because it merely frees one from the vertical while condemning one to the horizontal. As the new Pope has written, "I am convinced that the destruction of transcendence is the actual amputation of human beings from which all other sicknesses flow. Robbed of their real greatness they can only find escape in illusory hopes.... The loss of transcendence evokes the flight to utopia."

As Valentin Tomberg summarizes it, the human being is always faced with the choice between two basic attitudes or outlooks: that of existential being or that of essential Being. According to the choice he makes, he is either "orphaned" in the purely material, deterministic and horizontal realm with no reality higher than the individual self, or his individual being is grounded in the more essential, trans-subjective Being which is his true home. The European existentialist lives shackled in the Egyptian "house of bondage," in manacles forged by the deterministic/materialistic outlook, whereby one is situated in in a fully material reality in which the past fully determines the present and the present determines the future. That is, no vertical causes can arise in the closed chain of cause and effect, so that one is truly imprisoned as it pertains to the moral/spiritual realm.

From the existential outlook follows a host of disastrous ideas, such as class determines consciousness, poverty causes crime, free will is an illusion, private property is theft, hierarchy is evil, the vertical dimension is a hoax or "dopiate" for the masses to keep them oppressed, and worst of all, the idea that a coercive state is needed to enforce equality (vs. the American belief in a Creator who endows us with spiritual freedom which it is government's primary job to protect). The freedom of mere animal passion forges the fetters that bind Western Europe to the horizontal wasteland.

So, back to our original question: what is sanity? Sanity is not reason, but intelligence. And intelligence is conformity to the real--both internal and external--which is truth.

Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such. It is ipso facto discernment between the Real and the unreal--or the less real....

It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error. The paradoxical phenomenon of even a “brilliant” intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively “horizontal,” hence lacking all awareness of “vertical” relationships....
--Frithjof Schuon

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Islamists and their Symbolic Struggle Against Reality (and Real Struggle Against Irony)

As I have said before, the war on Islamo-fascism will be over the day Muslims can laugh at their dopey religion instead of seeing insults and slights everywhere and demanding respect that they have never earned.

Did you hear the latest horror (HT Dr. Sanity) about the two journalists kidnapped by the Palestinian beasts? According to the story, they were videotaped in long Muslim robes reading a statement announcing that they had converted to Islam.

If it weren’t so serious, what with two men’s lives at stake, you would almost have to laugh at the preposterousness of this stunt. It’s like a bad Monty Python skit. Imagine the brilliant discussion that went into it, probably not dissimilar to the dozen or so leftist revolutionaries in Life of Brian who spend the movie plotting how they are going to overthrow the Roman empire. In one scene, in the interest of diversity, they debate whether a man should be able to call himself Loretta and have babies:

LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.
 
REG: But... you can't have babies.
 
LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.
 
REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! -- Where's the fetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
 
LORETTA: [crying]
 
JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.
 
FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
 
REG: What's the point?
 
FRANCIS: What?
 
REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!
 
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
 
REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

****

PALESTINIAN #1: Let’s kidnap some infidel journalists and force them to convert to Islam on video!

PALESTINIAN #2: Why? What's the point?
 
PALESTINIAN #1: Huh?
 
PALESTINIAN #2: Oh, I get it. This is brilliant, Hassan. Just brilliant. Once they convert, the journalists can hold themselves hostage, so they can negotiate with themselves for their own release and leave us out of it. Maybe while they're at it they can hold a knife to their own throats unless the infidels vote for Ned Lamont.
 
PALESTINIAN #1: It is symbolic of our struggle against the Zionist occupation!
 
PALESTINIAN #2: Yeah, right. Symbolic of your struggle against reality is more like it.

*****

In a recent editorial, Roger Scruton suggests that the Muslims' habitual readiness to take offense is just one step removed from terrorism. It is

“not yet terrorism--but it is a sign of the deep-down insecurity of the Muslim psyche in the modern world. In the presence of Islam, we all feel, you have to tread carefully, as though humoring a dangerous animal. The Koran must never be questioned; Islam must be described as a religion of peace--isn't that the meaning of the word?--and jokes about the prophet are an absolute no-no. If religion comes up in conversation, best to slip quietly away, accompanying your departure with abject apologies for the Crusades. And in Europe this pussyfooting is now being transcribed into law, with 'Islamophobia' already a crime in Belgium and movements across the continent to censor everything at which a Muslim might take offense, including articles like this one.”

In short, seriousness is a serious problem for Muslims--and therefore, for us. Scruton concludes his piece by noting that “Whenever I consider this matter I am struck by a singular fact about the Christian religion..., which is that it is informed by a spirit of irony. Irony means accepting ‘the other', as someone other than you. It was irony that led Christ to declare that his ‘kingdom is not of this world,’ not to be achieved through politics. Such irony is a long way from the humorless incantations of the Koran. Yet it is from a posture of irony that every real negotiation, every offer of peace, every acceptance of the other, begins. The way forward, it seems to me, is to encourage the re-emergence of an ironical Islam, of the kind you find in the philosophy of Averroës, in Persian poetry and in ‘The Thousand and One Nights.’ We should also encourage those ethnic and religious jokes which did so much to defuse tension in the days before political correctness. And maybe, one day, the rigid face of some puritanical mullah will crack open in a hesitant smile, and negotiations can at last begin.

Amen. We can’t just smoke ‘em out of their holes. We have to joke ‘em out of their holes.

The comedic “hands off” attitude toward Islam betrays more than a "soft bigotry of low expectations.” Rather, it is a hard bigotry of no expectations toward the Muslim world. The Palestinians receive no criticism from the left (and the world community at large), not because they think so highly of them, but because they think so badly about them--in fact, they actually have no expectations whatsoever about them. In other words, it is not because the Palestinians are so wonderful that they are immune from criticism and mockery, but because everyone knows that it would be absurd to hold Muslims to the same standards as Christians, or Jews, or Zen Buddhists--to any standards of decency at all, really. No one is shocked at the barbarity of the Islamic world, whether it is committed by terrorists, or perpetrated in the name of the Saudi or Iranian governments.

Why is there a blackout on jokes about Palestinians, who are so eminently jokeworthy, perhaps the most laughably dysfunctional culture on earth? Likewise, the MSM goes out of its way to treat Islam not just the same as other religions, but better than other religions (and yet, somehow more fragile at the same time). This is so ironic, because it obviously has nothing to do with the secular left's affinity for religion, which they otherwise despise. In other words, Islam is not a protected species because it is a religion. It is protected because it is anti-Western, because its adherents tend to have slightly darker skin than caucasians, and because it has been granted victim status. Therefore it is untouchable.

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that we don't mercilessly make fun of our enemies is part of the same syndrome that has prevented Hollywood from making any movies about the war on terror, for fear of insulting Muslims (and, of course, because they don't want to show our military engaged in a heroic struggle against evil). We live in a morally upside down world, in which making fun of the Islamist ideology is forbidden, but committing mass murder in the name of Islam is explained away. Humorless bigots such as Juan Cole heap scorn on the United States but make every excuse imaginable for the moral failings of Islam. We will know that Muslims have come a long way when they can start making fun of themselves in the same way that Americans have always made fun of themselves, their institutions, their politicians, and their religions.

Oh well. What can you do but laugh about the situation, with a compendium pre-enjoyed One Cosmos gags from the past several months?

Do you remember when Arafat died, how his wife, Suha, rushed from Paris to be by his side? Turns out that was actually part of the pre-nup: they had agreed to be together over his dead body.

Jeopardy answer: "Thuggery, buggery, and skullduggery."
Question: "What were Yasser Arafat's favorite activities?"

At least the Palestinians are trying to do something to rid their classrooms of the psychotic anti-Semitism. I don't know if I like that idea. It means their children will end pick up bits and pieces of genocidal ideology from each other, instead of from an expert.

But anti-Semites have it so easy. If you want to boycott the Palestinians, what are you supposed to do, put off purchasing that new suicide belt? And now the Palestinians even use teenage girls for suicide bombers. In fact, the girls don't actually use suicide belts. Rather, they call them "chastity belts," because it's the only way to be certain they'll never be seen holding hands with a Christian boy.

Bottom line: in Palestine, it's every parent's nightmare to die before their children. But I give the Palestinians credit. They've evolved from primitive kinship structures to barbarous gang affiliations. With luck, they can eventually became a racket, and then perhaps a crime syndicate. Evolution doesn't happen over night.

Now the Palestinians are complaining that it's unfair for us to withhold funds until Abbas institutes some meaningful reforms. I guess they have a point. It's like we're biting the hand that steals from us. At least with Abbas, they finally have a moderate in there. Sure, he's a holocaust denier, but at least he's a moderate holocaust denier. That is, he believes that six million Jews were genuinely inconvenienced in WWII.

So much conversion to the Nation of Islam goes on in American prisons, it's more accurate to call it them "Islamic gated communities." It's making some judges a little concerned. One guy was sentenced to eleven years behind bars, double that for good Muslim behavior.

But we need to be fair. According to CAIR, when Muslims give money to charity that ends up in the hands of terrorists, it's no different than when charitable donations end up in the hands of the military wing of the Salvation Army. On the positive side, CAIR has issued a strongly worded statement that unambiguously condemns kidnapping journalists by either side.

But I think I have a solution to the problem: we could just kidnap one of their journalists, say, Christiane Amanpour, and arrange a hostage exchange. Of course, first we’d have to get her on video confessing her love for the United States.... but only as a symbol of our grasp of irony.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Humanism is Subhumanism

The noble man is one who is sovereign over himself; the holy man is one who transcends himself.... The spiritual man transcends himself and loves to transcend himself; the worldly man remains horizontal and detests the vertical dimension. --Frithjof Schuon

Another important post by Dr. Sanity (ricocheted off a post by ShrinkWrapped), entitled Getting to the “Root” of Root Causes. You might want to go over and read the whole thing while Petey and I wait here. But don’t take too long, since Petey has to be “elsewhere” in a bit. (I say that in bewilderment rather than just sarcasm, because I’m not sure what “elsewhere” means to a purely vertical being.)

Both Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped make reference to the willful misunderstanding and misappropriation of Freud’s ideas by the left. Specifically, since Freud argued that our behavior was determined by unconscious factors, free will is an illusion and no one is really responsible for their bad behavior. To a certain extent this misunderstanding is understandable, for there is no question that Freud was an anti-religious determinist and a materialist. However, as ShrinkWrapped points out, Freud also emphasized that behavior was “overdetermined,” meaning that a multitude of factors contributed to any particular thought or action.

Just as there are no Marxist economists outside academia, it is fair to say that there are virtually no strict Freudians outside academia either. At least for clinicians, Freud’s hydraulic model of the mind has been replaced by an emphasis on the self, which represents our total subjective experience of ourselves. By definition, it cannot be understood as an object, but as the subjective experiencer of experience, both internal and external.

Humanism always results in subhumanism, because, among other things, it denies the very free will that defines us as human. Interestingly, both Islam and the left share the common view of seeing man as determined rather than free. One of the impediments to development in the Islamic world is the concept of “fate,” meaning that Allah wills everything on a moment-by-moment basis.

This is radically different from the Judeo-Christian view, which sees God creating the universe but then “standing back,” so to speak, in order to facilitate and encourage freedom. While miracles still occur--indeed, must occasionally occur because of the vertical axis of reality--they are clearly the exception, not the rule. In Islam, it is as if every moment is miraculously caused by Allah in a top-down manner, with no horizontal causation at all. This is partly what accounts for the deep irrationalism of the Muslim world.

But while Islam is “subrational,” we might say that the left is “hyper-rational,” in that they categorically deny the vertical, which leaves them only with horizontal causation. Since free will can only be located in a vertical sphere that transcends horizontal causation, once you have successfully eliminated the vertical, you end up with the infrahuman, mechanical universe of the left. Bad behavior--as well as good behavior--is simply caused by some antecedent state, instead of being the free choice of an autonomous self that is situated above the stream of temporal cause and effect. This is why leftists believe such clichés as “poverty causes crime” instead of “bad values cause crime,” or “Israel’s existence is the cause of terrorism” instead of “delusional beliefs are the cause of terrorism.”

Another Freudian idea misappropriated by the left is the “superego,” which Freud felt was the source of morality. Since the superego is an internalized object based on family and cultural experience, this implies that there is an unavoidably arbitrary aspect to morality. One culture thinks it’s bad to eat people, another thinks that human flesh is delicious. Who are we to judge? One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, even if terrorists don’t believe in freedom. Whatever. Giant fans are no different than Dodger fans--they just express themselves by throwing batteries and used hypodermic needles at players instead of cheering and booing.

But morality actually has three sources: 1) revealed law, 2) the voice of conscience, and 3) the superego. In my view, Freud conflated the conscience--which is a living “revelation” of God implanted in our heart--with the superego, which is indeed a contingent mechanism of socialization that may or may not even be moral. The true conscience can only be located in the vertical, whereas the superego is wholly horizontal (or lower vertical). More often than not, it is actually a corrupt enabler of bad behavior than a source of objective morality. (I discussed this at greater length in a post entitled Conscience, Superego, and Huk al Berri.)

There I explained “why the emphasis on truth is so vital. For in the Arab Muslim world, they are so inundated with vicious lies about America and Israel that it would be ‘immoral’ for them not to hate us. In a racist or anti-Semitic society, the superego will actually demand that its members be racist and anti-Semitic. For example, the nazi movement in Germany was animated by extremely high ideals, without which they could not have engaged in their project of exterminating the Jews. Once the lie is established as truth, then the superego takes over, impelling the individual to act in a ‘moral’ way, consistent with the implications of the lie.”

Therefore, because of the truth-loving nature of the uncreated conscience, if you can establish a lie as the truth, the furtherance of evil will take care of itself.

What largely defines man is his free will, which implies both intelligence and objectivity, for if we aren’t free, then we cannot really possess either truth or goodness. Animals cannot leave the closed system of cause and effect, whereas human beings clearly can. In our vertical aspect, we can see a range of potential choices before us, whereas the animal is simply spurred by the demands of instinct.

Thus, to call free will into question is to make us less than human, which is why humanism is always subhumanism. The most subhuman places on earth are specifically those places where free will was and is denied or atrophied: in communist countries, in the Islamic world, and in urban areas where free will has been eroded by 40 years of leftist brainwashing and social engineering. In the latter case, you might say that poverty does indeed cause crime--the impoverished metaphysic of the left.

Liberty in itself is an aspect of divinity in which we may either participate or not participate. This is a truth that our founders found to be be self-evident, and we can be sure that, in their wildest nightmares, they did not anticipate an illiberal counterrevolution from the left that actually denied the entire basis of the American ideal.

Likewise, George Bush, who is in the philosophical mold of the founders, clearly did not anticipate the anti-liberty forces of the left or the Islamic world, who now work in concert to deny freedom to millions. Without freedom, there is no human existence--or perhaps we might say, no existence worthy of humans. For liberty is the very possibility of manifesting oneself to the utmost, of becoming fully human, of becoming what we already are--and of knowing the divine spark that manifests through us. Nothing is less human than the merely human. The “perfect horizontal man” of leftist utopian thought is simply a perfect animal or robot.

But even that isn't quite right, since there is an inherent dignity and nobility to animals in their natural state, whereas in its verticality, man's natural state is supernatural, so to speak. Thus, reduced to mere animality, man becomes lower than the animals.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Autobangography of a Small Cosmos

Dr. Sanity has a very eloquent piece today that touches on the mysterious relationship between mind and brain. I left a little comment, recalling the truism that “if the brain were simple enough to understand, we'd be too simple to understand it. Then again, the great mystery is how the virtually infinite complexity of the brain resolves itself into the simple, unitary experience of an ‘I.’ It doesn't get any simpler than that, and yet, what an extraordinary tangle of complexity to make it possible!”

I suppose that that dialectical tension between mind and brain, or subject and object, is what spurred me to write my book, for that’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? That is, how does matter give rise to consciousness? More generally, how does mere existence become experience? How is it that the cosmos has given rise to an interior through which it may experience itself?

To a large extent, a philosopher is somewhat like an annoying child who persists in asking “why” after others have stopped. Some people, like my father, just intuitively realize that such questions are ultimately pointless, that no matter how much we think about existence, no one will ever really figure it out. So why bother with such an impractical and ultimately fruitless endeavor? The history of philosophy is simply a chronicle of error on a particularly grandiose scale. As sometwo once said, it is “an an abuse of language invented for that purpose,” or “a journey of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.”

But some cosmonauts and vertical adventurers can’t help thinking about these things. For one thing, human beings have an intrinsic need for meaning. And what is meaning? Meaning is revealed when things come together in such a way that the union of particulars reveals what they are pointing toward or converging upon.

For example, the meaning of letters is revealed in the word, just as the meaning of words is revealed in the sentence. Once you know how to read, your mind doesn’t even notice the letters of which the words are composed. They fade into the background and become “invisible,” as your mind sees through them, to what they are pointing toward. Nor, as you read this, is your mind focussed on my words (at least until I brought your attention to them), but is instead focusing on the meaning I am trying to convey through words. Words and letter are simply the vehicles of meaning, not its creator. Or, you might say that words are necessary but insufficient to account for the meaning that transcends them.

The reason why human language exists--can exist--is that the cosmos is composed of language, or what is called the logos or Word. For example, astrophysicists search for the mathematical language that governs the big bang. Physicists have discovered the mathematical language that explains both the macro (relativity theory) and micro (quantum theory) realms, but cannot figure out how those two are related. In other words, they are searching for a “higher meaning” that would unify those two outweirdly incompatible theories.

Likewise, DNA is obviously a highly sophisticated language, a language that “speaks” biological organisms. But strict materialists are mistaken in thinking that any purely Darwinian paradigm is sufficient to account for life. For one thing, natural selection presupposes a very special cosmos in which one thing can stand for another and carry messages. In other words, before we even talk about the “message” of DNA, we must have a medium capable of carrying the message, just as, in order to write a book, you need something like rock and chisel, paper and a pen, or computer chip and bits. And no biological theory can account for the existence of biology, for the simple reason that biology presupposes the presence of biological entities, including the biologist studying them.

Furthermore, natural selection presupposes a wholeness of which the organism is an expression. In other words, wholeness is not an emergent phenomena, but an anterior one. Wholeness can manifest in organisms--or in the genome, or in human consciousness--because wholeness is somehow built into the cosmos. In a whole--as opposed to a mere agglomeration of parts--the parts are internally related to one another, so life and consciousness presuppose an internally related cosmos--which our cosmos just happens to be, based upon the testimony of quantum physics, which reveals a vast sea of entangled energy underlying our perception of clear-cut boundaries and separation.

Obviously the universe is ultimately “One,” for it cannot not be One and still be a cosmos. That is, if there is something that cannot resolve itself into the unity of our cosmos, then it is part of another cosmos, not this one. So no matter how “dualistic” things may appear on the surface, any dualism must ultimately spring from the same nondual source.

This nondual source has always been known and recognized, except perhaps in postmodern times. In Vedanta it is called Brahman. In Kabbalistic Judaism it is called the ain sof. Lao Tsu called it the tao. In Christianity it is called the “godhead” or “ground” (by Meister Eckhart). Steely Dan refer to it as the El Supremo at the top of the stairs.

But because the One is truly One, it necessarily contains the many. That is, the One, by its very nature, is a unity, not a sum. Therefore, while every part has its own relative existence, it is ultimately one with the ground.

As the One “blows itself out” or bangs into existence, it creates the ineluctable primordial dualities of subject-object, part-whole, form-substance, time-eternity, wave-particle, quantity-quality, vertical-horizontal, and others. Therefore, wherever you see one of these, you must see the other. If there are objects--which there surely are--then there must be a subject. And if there is a cosmos--which there undoubtedly is--there must be a Subject.

It is said in the Upanishads that this Subject is hidden in the universe as cream is hidden in milk. The cosmos is actually suffused with a subjectivity of which we are all the beneficiaries. You might say that we are all sparks of this divine Subject--not “I think, therefore I am,” but “I am, therefore Being is.”

Or, as I mythunderstood it in One Cosmos, there is only the

One brahman deathless breathing breathless, unknown origin prior to time and space, fount of all being, unborn thus undying, beginning and end of all impossibility, empty plenum and inexhaustible void. Who is? I AM. A wake. A lone. Hallow, noumena!

And that is the story of your cosmic birthday, my child. Now open His presence and report for karmic duty.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Envy and Gratitude (9.14.08)

Man is so caught up in the toils of mechanical life that he neither has time to stop nor the power of attention needed to turn his mental vision upon himself. Man thus passes his days absorbed by external circumstances. The great machine that drags him along turns without stopping, and forbids him to stop under penalty of being crushed.... Life passes away from him almost unseen, swift as a ray of light, and man falls engulfed and still absent from himself. --Boris Mouravieff.

“Zoom!" What was that? That was your life, mate. Oh, that was quick, do I get another? Sorry mate, that's your lot. --Basil Fawlty

We conclude our little tour of the inner meaning of the Ten Commandments with the tenth, “thou shalt not covet.” It is a fitting capstone to our journey, since the injunction against envy is really more of a reward for a life well lived than an ultimatum. For envy is the most corrosive of emotions (or perhaps more accurately, “mental states”), in that it undermines any possibility of personal happiness or spiritual fulfillment. While it often takes the form of longing for what one doesn’t have, it is usually built on an unconscious foundation of being ungrateful for what one has, or even actively devaluing what one has, so that one constantly feels deprived. Thus, envy is often the residue of the inner emptiness caused by unconscious devaluation, "spoiling," and ingratitude.

Ultimately envy is a self-consuming process that leaves nothing but itself standing, like Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather II or Charles Foster Kane at the end of Citizen Kane. Both endings represent envy triumphant. All that is left of Kane is a huge warehouse of meaningless objects frantically acquired during a lifetime spent trying vainly to fill a psychological and spiritual void with possessions. It is appropriate that they are consigned to the fire, as workers absently toss one after another into the flames.

Here we discover a certain confluence between Buddhism and the Judeo-Christian tradition, for Buddha is famous for his wise crack about desire being the source of our suffering. But actually, he was trying to make a point about attachment to desire. Desires will come and go, like smoke driven by wind. It is only when we attempt to hold on to them that they become problematic.

But even then, as I pointed out in One Cosmos, I find it useful to draw a distinction between appetite, which is natural, and desire, which is often mimetic, meaning that it is not spontaneous but prompted from the outside. Many people give themselves entirely over to this process, and lead lives of simply wanting what others seem to want. They are pushed and pulled around by fleeting desires, impulses and passions, but when one of them is being gratified, it gives rise to a spurious sense of “freedom,” when in reality this kind of ungoverned desire is the opposite of freedom.

It is very difficult to avoid this dynamic in a consumer-driven culture such as ours. It’s the kind of cliché that Petey detests, but we are constantly bombarded with messages and images that fan the fires of envy and mimesis. Sri Aurobindo referred to this as the “vital mind,” and the fundamental problem is that it cannot really be appeased. In other words, it doesn’t shrink when we acquiesce to it. Instead, it only grows, like an addiction or compulsion.

Importantly, the vital mind does not merely consist of impulses seeking discharge. Rather, it can take over the machinery of the host, and generate its own thoughts and rationalizations. We’ve all seen this happen in ourselves. Yoga in its most generic sense involves a reversal of this tendency, so that we may consciously yearn for what we actually want, rather than mindlessly willing what we desire. This tends to be a constant battle at the beginning. But only until the end.

I’m currently reading Peter Guralnick’s magisterial biography of Elvis, and it is amazing how elaborate the vital mind can become if left unchecked. It seems that someone can become so wealthy and powerful that they lose the friction necessary to distinguish between fantasy and reality. A sort of hypnotic, dreamlike imagination takes hold, which can become quite elaborate and unnatural. I am sure this accounts for the general nuttiness that comes out of the typical left-wing hollywoodenhead. They are so far from what you and I know as reality, that they are both ontologically and epistemologically (not to say spiritually) crippled.

“Job one” of the vital mind is to foster a kind of I-amnesia, so that we repeatedly fool ourselves into believing that fulfillment of the next desire will finally break the cycle and bring us real contentment, but most of us know that drill. For in that gap between desire and fulfillment lies the hidden key. In that gap there is both anticipation and hope. But like the referred pain of a back injury that we feel in the leg, this hope is misplaced onto a realm incapable of fulfilling it. For, as it is written--probably on a bumper snicker somewhere--”You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”

This pattern of desiring what we don’t really want or need is well beyond merely affecting our spiritual lives. Rather, it is starting to seriously compromise even our physical well-being. At some point in the last 10-15 years, affluence became a much more serious threat to health than poverty. The levels of obesity, type II diabetes, and other related health problems have become epidemic. Why? Because people are able to live in the vital mind as never before. The Western world is increasingly full of “poor” people whose bodies look like the most prosperous people of the past. They are still impoverished, but it is a spiritual impoverishment that causes them to try to fill the void with food and meaningless sedentary activities, such as television and video games. In a way, they are more poor--not to say pathetic and lacking in dignity--than the poor of the past.

Natural appetites can be satisfied, but the gods of abstract metaphysical desire are omnipotent and require constant tribute. That is one of the paradoxes, for one might think that the spiritually developed person lives in an “abstract” world, while the bovine, slack-jawed grazing multitudes live in the concrete world, but it is quite the opposite. The spiritual person becomes very concretely aware of subtle and fleeting little concrete joys on a moment-by-moment basis, where as the BSJGM’s are only tuned into the most gross forms of sensory overload, whether in music, entertainment, or food (and I imagine the porn industry taps into this same dynamic as well).

Here again we must bear in mind the limitlessness of the human imagination. We can always imagine something better, something that we don’t have. Any clown can do that. Much more tricky is being grateful for what we do have. Thus, the cultivation of humility and gratitude actively counter the vital mind and its constitutional envy. This may initially feel as if we are being deprived of our horizontal liberty, such as it is, and this is true. However, the whole point is to replace that with a more expansive vertical freedom that is relatively unconstrained by material circumstances, excluding the most dire cases.

And, just like my absurcular book, the commandments circle back around to the beginning, back to where we started, with the holographic first commandment that contains all the others: “The secular left turns the cosmos upside down and inside out. As a result, instead of being conditioned in a hierarchical manner from the top down, it is conditioned from the bottom up. This results not in true liberation, only in rebellion and pseudo-liberation, for there can be no meaningful freedom outside objective Truth. The left rejects top-town hierarchies as intrinsically repressive, but the opposite is true--only in being conditioned by the higher can we actually elevate and liberate ourselves from contingency and relativity.”

Or, as Will put it “Like any physical attribute, if the human intellect is not yoked to and governed by the Higher Intelligence, it runs amok and eventually goes crazy. It's taken some time to get there, but currently, the spiritually bereft intellect is basically in charge of most of the world's influential institutions, which of course means the world is in deep stew. As far as definitions of the Antichrist go, I think this would do OK.”

On the spiritual level, there is simply nothing more satanic than envy. The sword of gratitude is our only defense.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Live Them

That would be us. For, depending on how you look at it, God became man so that man might become God. Or, Brahman became Maya so that Maya might become Brahman. Or perhaps Truth became falsehood so that falsehood might become Truth.

The enigmatic Christian esoterist Boris Mouravieff wrote that “We live in a world ruled by lies. Lying and stealing are the dominant elements of human character whatever the race, creed or caste. Whoever says that this is not true simply tells another lie. Man lies because in a world ruled by lies it is not possible to for him to do otherwise.... [T]he progress of this civilization, which is the fruit of an intellectual culture, considerably increases the need for lying.”

I believe it was Burke who said that culture “reconciles a man to everything,” no matter how foolish or barbarous the custom. But some cultures are so immersed in the Lie that they cannot help producing lying liars, most dramatically in the Middle East, but obviously here in the United States as well, only in a more subtle form. For example, the pressure of political correctness is an instrument of coercion designed to reconcile you to the infrahuman lies of the left.

In conducting a psychological evaluation, patients are often motivated to lie--to make it appear that they are better off than they actually are, or worse off than they actually are, or that one thing is responsible for their distress when it is actually another. And yet, a part of them knows they are lying and is uncomfortable with the fact. In his heart, even absent a divine commandment, man (a normal man, anyway) knows that he should not lie. Why is that? Why this grudging respect for a thing called truth, even among cynical postmodernists who are too jaded to believe that such a thing exists?

We live in a world of forces. Just as human beings are tripartite entities consisting of body, mind and spirit, there are physical forces, mental forces, and spiritual forces. In the spiritual-intellectual realm, truth is a force. There is a counter-force which we call "lying," which, if you think about it for even a moment, has probably had a greater impact and influence on the world than Truth. Or at the very least, it is a constant battle. Truth is always embattled on all sides, just as light is surrounded by darkness. Darkness, on the other hand, is not necessarily surrounded by light. Not for nothing did Jesus crack that the adversary “was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own substance, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

This is an interesting statement, for it suggests that lies are somehow a "human substance," somewhat like a spider that spins a web out of its own body. Truth, on the other hand, is not, and cannot be of human origins. It is somehow anterior to us, and it is only for us to discover or remember it--what Plato called anamnesis. And oh what a tangled web we weave, compared to the spider.....

You'd think it would be uncontroversial to utter a simple truth, but you'd be wrong, wouldn't you? If you don't believe in the force of falsehood, try sharing a controversial but banal truth at one of our elite universities, such as "men and women are fundamentally different and, on average, excel at different things," or "children do better with a mother and a father than with two mothers and two fathers," or “racial quotas hurt blacks," or “some, if not most, cultures are patently sick." It seems that to carry Truth is to pick up a cross and paint a target on one's back.

Animals cannot lie. While they can have certain naturally selected mechanisms of deception, they cannot live a lie (actually, as an astute commenter mentioned the other day, it might be possible if the luckless pet has a particularly nutty owner, like James Wolcott). But living a lie is in the normal course of events for human beings. Talleyrand once remarked that language was given to man so as to conceal his thoughts. Interestingly, this problem is fully recognized in scripture, as the very first conversations recorded in the Bible are a tissue of lies. The serpent lies to the woman, the woman transmits the lie to the man, and the man lies about it to God. The very emergence of self-consciousness seems to be inseparable from lying. Isn’t that interesting?

A cursory glance at history--or at the idiotorial pages of the New York Times--establishes the fact that lying is absolutely fundamental to human existence, even though the idea wasn't systematized until the early 20th century, in the works of Freud (the good Freud) and his followers. In particular, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a sophisticated epistemology (or sophistemology, for short) showing how a vital lie is at the basis of most all forms of psychopathology. He made the provocative observation that the lie requires a thinker to think it, whereas the truth does not, for it simply is. We discover truth, but it takes a thinker to concoct the lie (and, I might add, a brilliant thinker such as Marx or Chomsky to create the most grandiose lies). And once the lie is in place, it causes the psyche to enter a sort of parallel universe, for it constructs itself on the foundations of that primordial lie.

In my own colorful terminology, I have called these internalized lies "mind parasites." I believe the term is an accurate one, for it is meant to convey the idea that a vital lie that lodges itself in the psyche is not static, but takes on the characteristics of the host, so to speak. I remember once discussing this with my analyst. I don't remember the exact context of the problem I was whining about (or if I’m lying about not remembering) but he said words to the effect of, "What do you expect? It's as smart as you are."

Ah ha! In other words, the mind parasite has at its disposal all of the marvelous hi-tech machinery of the mind. Therefore, it can easily justify itself, elaborate itself, gang up on the truth, intimidate healthier parts of the psyche. It's like a dictator who uses legitimate means to come to power, but then corruptly uses all of the levers of power to stay there and eliminate opponents--similar to how liberalism gradually morphed into the leftism which now controls the Democratic party.

Just as freedom and truth are necessarily linked--i.e., no one who is living a lie is actually free--those who are in thrall to the lie are slaves. While they may enjoy a subjective sense of freedom, it is an illusion. In fact, they have forfeited their freedom and are attached to a spiritually suffocating demon generated out of their own psychic substance, just like the above referenced spider.

Think of a vivid example that comes readily to mind--the Islamists. Is it not obvious to one and all (er, no) that they are absolutely enslaved by artificial beings of their own creation? And that they want everyone else to be enslaved by the same demon? Does this not demonstrate the insane power of demons and the lies they propagate? And how the liberal media simply treats the lie as another variety of truth? You know, who are we to judge? The Middle East is just too complex.

There are personal mind parasites and collective mind parasites. Many cultures revolve entirely around monstrous entities that have been engendered by whole communities, such as the Aztec. Here again, it would be wrong to say that the Aztec had a bloodthirsty god--rather, it clearly had them. Thousands upon thousands of human beings sacrificed to satisfy this god's appetite for human blood, elaborate mechanisms set up to supply fresh bodies, the heart of the sacrificial victim cut out by the officiating priest who would himself take a bite out of it while it was still beating. A whole society of Jeffrey Dahmers trying desperately to allay their existential anxiety by vampirically ingesting the life force of others. The head-chopping Izlambies are just the latest edition of this primordial anti-religion. But you undoubtedly know some people in your own life who do the same thing--hungry ghosts who "feed" on the spirit (or blog) of others.

In all times and in all places, human beings have looked for ways to objectify, worship, and appease their self-created demons. This is preferable to having them run around loose in one's own psyche. Take again the example of the typical beast of Islamist depravity. How would one even begin to tell him: "you have a persecutory entity inside of you that your life revolves around. You have placed it outside of yourself, in the 'infidels,' so as to make your life bearable, for it conceals a truth that is too painful to endure. Would you like to put down that meat cleaver and talk about it?"

To a large extent, this dynamic is at the heart of more mundane politics as well. For those who do not experience George Bush as a demon, it is almost impossible to understand those who do, any more than we can really understand the motivations of the Aztec. The collective mind parasite has a grammar and logic all its own, inaccessible to all but initiates into the Lie.

You don't actually want to get that close to an intoxicating Lie of that magnitude. It's not safe. Better to observe it from a respectful distance. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulled down into a false world of counter-lying rather than simple truth. You cannot create an artificial "good demon,” which is what secular leftists are trying to do when they aren't creating bad ones. Those critical critics who criticize my "negativity" probably think I am engaging in the former--heatedly countering the lie--when I am calmly engaged in the latter--simply affirming the truth. This is the inner meaning of "resist not evil." Resist it in the wrong way, and you come into its orbit.

For a demon operates through a combination of will and imagination. You may think of perverse will as the male principle and perverse imagination as the female principle. Together they beget the demon child that then controls the parents, taking over both will and imagination. Consider how so much art and academic nonsense is nothing more than the elaboration of the perverse imagination--ideological superstructures giving cover to lies of various magnitude. Think of how much "activism" is simply the angry agitation of the perverse will.

Truth is a living thing, a Being that cannot be reduced to the idolatrous systems of men, especially corrupted men who do not honor Truth to begin with. Most modern and postmodern ideologies and philosophies are opiates for elites too sophisticated for such nonsense as Truth. But like all misused drugs, “Lies gravely affect our mind; they distort the undeveloped organs of the Personality, upon which depends the effort that must lead us to the second Birth.... Even more, lying makes the man who aspires to evolution go backwards” (Mouravieff).

Why is that? Maybe because the Truth became falsehood so that falsehood might become Truth.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jesus Saves, Moses Invests, Mohammed Plunders

“Thou shalt not steal.” Why not? As always, the left has found a way out of this one by questioning its premise, i.e., the existence of private property. For one way to eliminate theft is to eliminate or at least question the legitimacy of private property, which naturally ends with one big thief called “the government.”

Property, according to Richard Pipes, is “the key to the emergence of political and legal institutions that guarantee liberty.” Look at most anyplace in the world where there is an absence of liberty, and you will find weak property rights.

Liberals--classical liberals, anyway, not the misnamed leftist kind--have always understood that property is much more than property. Rather, it is the cornerstone of freedom, its very enabler and protector. And underneath property is the use of legitimate violence to protect said property. For if ever there were “sacred violence,” it is the violence that ensures the protection of property, for without property, humans cannot become fully human.

For one thing, property is simply a free expression of “what people want,” and to a large extent, what you want is what you are, for better or worse. Therefore, property is an extension of the person. I once read a description of this by the outstanding psychoanalyst and writer, Christopher Bollas, who notes that the self can never be perceived directly, only indirectly, largely through its use of objects:

“Perhaps we need a new point of view in clinical psychoanalysis, close to a form of person anthropology. We would pay acute attention to all the objects selected by a patient and note the use made of each object. The literature, films, and music a person selects would be as valued a part of the fieldwork as the dream.” In so doing, we may “track the footsteps of the true self.”

For me, if I go to someone’s home, there are two things I am most curious about: the books and music it contains. And the medicine cabinet. Likewise, I should think that after I am gone, a psychoanalytic fieldworker would be able to construct a fairly accurate representation of me by merely rifling through my library. A person whose name I cannot recall referred to reading as “the mystery school of individuation.”

Just consider the odd assortment of books in my sidebar. I am quite sure that no one else on the planet has a matching list. There may not be another person in history who has read and assimilated those particular books. I am not saying that to boast, only to emphasize the amazingly unique alchemy of choices we all embody when given the opportunity to exercise those choices. As Petey once said, “freedom is eccentricity lived,” and he has a point. At the very least, freedom is individuality lived, and it is very difficult to live out your individuality without a range of choices before you.

I realize it’s politically incorrect to say this, but in the course of my work I have had the opportunity to evaluate a fair number of people from second and third world cultures, and what always impresses me about them is their essential sameness. Their life stories are all remarkably similar, almost as if they were the same person. And in a way they are, for they were not brought up in a cultural space in which they could develop their own metaphysical dream. Instead, their life is dreamt by others, either vertically by a ruling class or horizontally by the collective. What Bollas calls the person’s “destiny drive” has been almost entirely squelched. They do not live in a space of possibilities, only a sort of invariant and unchanging now.

Pipes notes that “while property in some form is possible without liberty, the contrary is inconceivable.” And this is one thing that frightens us about the illiberal left, for as we have said many times, if you scratch a leftist, he will probably sue you. But underneath the scratch, you will discover a conviction that your property doesn’t really belong to you, but to the collective. It is simply a variation of the bald-faced assertion that “private property is public theft.” itself the absolute inversion of the seventh commandment. For as we have also had occasion to mention before, Karl Marx was the great anti-Moses with the reverse Sinai revelation, and all forms of contemporary leftism may trace their intellectual genealogy to him; whereas the modern conservative intellectual movement is the current expression of an entirely different stream of thought, classical liberalism.

Our most precious property is, of course, our own body. However, it is amazing how late in history this idea emerged. For example, the Islamic beasts we are fighting have no such notion. In their cultures, your body belongs to the religious authorities, and only they can dictate what you can and cannot do with it. For example, a woman’s body is not her own. She has no choices (or only a narrow range of choices established by others) of how to express it, how to adorn it, and whom to share it with. (Memo to trolls--please don’t even bother. The moral issue behind the abortion debate is not whether a woman has a right to do whatever she pleases with her own body, but whether she has that right over another’s body. That’s the whole point.)

Slavery was still legal in parts of the Arab world as late as the 1960’s, and widespread virtual slavery still exists today. This is the ultimate theft, the theft of a human soul. But that is hardly the only sort of soul-theft that goes on in the Islamic world. Again, the idea that children are autonomous beings with their own inherent rights and dignity is a very late historical development that has yet to appear in most human cultures. Rather, children are “owned” by their parents, which is a great barrier to psychohistorical evolution. As a parent, your job is to create a space for your child’s true self to emerge, not to enforce your version of who you child is and what he should be. Naturally this does not exclude boundaries, discipline and values, but the point of these is to facilitate true freedom, not to suppress it.

Most religions conceive of a mythical Golden Age, an edenic past in which there was no private property. Likewise, they may speculate about a hereafter in which there is no need for private property because there is no lack of anything. But in between, in our embodied state, there is a me and therefore a mine, a you and a yours. And just as the development of individualism is facilitated by property, property benefits from the arrangement as well. That is, most people do not take proper care of things that do not belong to them. As they say, no one ever took it upon himself to wash a rental car. Likewise, “Primitive people are prone mindlessly to exterminate animals and destroy forests, to the extent that they are physically able, without any thought of the future” (Pipes). There is an obvious reason why the most affluent countries with the strongest property rights also have the best environmental records.

Likewise, only when one owns oneself will one feel compelled to improve oneself. Here again, we see the left undermining this fundamental assumption, with disastrous consequences. For the entire basis of leftist victimology is that you are not sovereign over yourself and are not responsible for your destiny. Rather, the doctrine of victimology maintains that your life is directed by others. If you are a woman, you are controlled by men. If you are black, you are controlled by racist whites. If you are gay, you are controlled by “homophobes.” In each case, personal agency is undermined and replaced with a collective that, in the long run, will further erode the liberty it claims to advance. Racial quotas simply displace the ceiling further down the road. For example, a recent study proved that easing the standards for admitting blacks to law school simply results in black lawyers with dead-end careers in which they never make partner.

There are many “social justice” or “liberation theology” Christians who maintain that Jesus was a sort of proto-communist, what with his counsel to give to the poor. But there is a big difference between voluntary renunciation of one’s wealth and government seizure and redistribution of one’s wealth. Just as one must first be a man before becoming a gentleman, one must first have sovereignty over one’s property before giving it away. And as a matter of fact, statistics demonstrate that there is an inverse relationship between high taxes and charitable giving. Those states with the lowest taxes give the most, while those with the highest taxes--”liberal” places such as Massachusetts--give the least. There is a reason why America is the most generous nation the world has ever known, both in terms of blood and treasure. For me, if I were ever to somehow become wealthy, one of the great privileges would be to give it away. It wouldn't be an obligation, but a joy.

And there is a reason why, say, China, has no qualms whatsoever about stealing billions of dollars per year in American intellectual property, for they now want the benefits of private property without the sacred duty to protect it. For a Marxist, private property is public theft, so when they steal American music, DVDs, and computer programs, they’re just doing what comes naturally to them. Clearly, this is a perversion of private property that perhaps even Marx didn't envision: “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine as well.” (Which reminds me--why are these so-called "shame cultures" always so shameless?)

Well, I can see that I’ve run out of time before I could come up with any snappy ending. Let’s just say this: in order to create a properly functioning society and a spiritually balanced person, “thou shalt not steal” (i.e., private property is sacrosanct) must be reconciled with “thou shalt not covet” (property isn't everything). We'll get to that one in a couple days, assuming I can steal the time that I so enviously covet.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Adultery is Adolescentry

Let the truth of Brahman be taught only to those who are devoted to him, and who are pure in heart. --Mundaka Upanishad

“You shall not commit adultery.” Like the other commandments, this one has an outward, exoteric meaning as well as an inner, esoteric one. After all, adultery is related to adulterate, which means to corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign or inferior substance. In this case, we are talking specifically about the purity of the soul, and avoiding activities that corrupt it.

This commandment goes directly to the heart of the mysterious bond between body and soul, that which distinguishes us from the beasts. According to Valentin Tomberg, “The power of mutual love unites soul and body. Life, which consists of the union of soul and body, is the marriage of soul and body. For this reason the commandment: ‘You shall not commit adultery’ follows from the commandment: ‘You shall not murder.’ For adultery is essentially a form of killing--of separating soul and body, whose union is the archetype of marriage.”

Jewish tradition regards the bond between Israel and YHVH as a marriage covenant; likewise the covenant between Christ and the church, or the mystical union between the soul and Jesus, or Shiva and Shakti.

Soul and body form a harmonious union, and the separation of the two in any sphere of activity is the equivalent of murder, since the higher life is not possible without their union. When we talk about the death culture, we are really talking about the soulless culture, because so much of our culture has become empty and soulless.

In adhering to the soul in all we do, we remain “faithful” to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. On the contrary, if we transfer our loyalty to that which corrupts us, we will soon discover that it clings to us as much as we adhere it it. The death culture begets death.

As we have mentioned before, depth is a dimension of soul, so that achieving depth is a pathway toward recognition of the soul’s existence. In the absence of soul, the world has no depth--everything is of equal importance, or else simply has the importance our feelings attach to it.

This is why the postmodern strategy of deconstruction is not just bad philosophy. Rather it is murder, specifically, soul murder. And this is why, to paraphrase Richard Weaver, all attacks on religion inevitably result in attacks on the mind itself. Deconstruction is “intellectual crack,” as someone once put it.

In fact, any kind of radical skepticism represents nothing more than an esoterism of stupidity: the lower mind’s ability to doubt anything is elevated to the central truth of our existence. It is the worst kind of soul betrayal, because it operates under cover of a counterfeit pursuit of truth.

Perhaps it should be emphasized that this commandment does not imply some sort of dry, austere, or anti-pleasure approach to life. Quite the opposite. In fact, in Jewish tradition, it is said that the first thing God will ask upon your death is why you didn't partake of all the permitted pleasures He so generously bestowed for your enjoyment.

The point is that existence is embodied, but not only embodied. There are two false paths; one is the descending path into hedonism, distraction, and other various soulless activities. But the other false path is the ascending one: going up the sacred mountain with the soul, but leaving the body behind.

This is a persistent message of both Judaism and Christianity. Both, in different ways, stress the embodied nature of existence, and the problem of how to sanctify our lives by remembering the soul in everything we do.

But clearly, if one stands back and looks at the historical situation from the widest possible vantage point, we can see a problem. Because the Judeo-Christian tradition regards the world as real and worthy of our attention, it can lead to an exteriorizing tendency that ends up severing soul and body.

On the other hand, if we look at the philosophies of the east, they have tended to regard the world as illusory, or as maya, unworthy of being taken seriously. Historically they have made the opposite mistake of becoming too interior: “Brahman alone is real.” Thus, Buddhism and Hinduism have a bit of an interiority complex.

I do believe that the evolutionary task of our age is to bring these two extremes back together--to fully reconcile soul and body and achieve the Life Divine in a monkey body. In truth, it is merely a matter of emphasis, for there is no question that this is at the heart of the uncorrupted Christian message.

Likewise, although Sri Aurobindo is responsible for correcting Vedanta’s overemphasis on otherworldly concerns, he too was simply going back to the original message of the Upanishads: “To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation,” says the Isha Upanishad. Rather, “Those who combine action and meditation cross the sea of death through action and enter immortality,” that is, through the sacred union of soul and body, spirit and matter, male and female, mamamaya and papurusha (for those who know their punskrit).

I once had a psychotic patient who took one look at my name--Godwin--and blurted out, “Godwin--is that like a combination of God and Darwin?” I thought about it for a moment and knew that he was right, for while he might have been crazy, he wasn't stupid. Because the whole point of my philosophy is to marry Adam and Evolution in such a way that they live happily ever after, both aspiring to the same nonlocal goal 'til death do us part. Like the song says, "We've only just begun..."