Saturday, August 19, 2006

Honoring the Authorized Deputies of Your Celestial Parent (8.23.08)

Never fail to respect the sages. See the divine in your mother, father, and teacher... --Taittiriya Upanishad

The fifth of the first five “vertical” commandments is “honor your father and your mother.” This is an important point, because the verticality of this commandment means that it is clearly not just referring to our earthly parents. At the very least, the commandment implies a link between the earthly and celestial dimensions, filtered through the family. The trinitarian family of father-mother-child is an intrinsic reflection of God's design, another instance of the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm (“as above, so below”). Also, being the last of the vertical commandments, it is somehow an important link to the next five "horizontal" commandments that allow the wider human community to function properly.

Naturally, a large part of the leftist project is to undermine this commandment and to de-sacralize the family, so that it essentially becomes "just anything." Thus, the vertical family that is ultimately oriented in a hierarchical manner toward the divine is reduced to a wholly horizontal unit in which the members are only oriented toward each other. A family is “any two or more people who love each other.” Not “honor your mother and father,” but “honor your father and father,” or worse yet, honor just earthly love. But earthly love alone cannot sustain a family, which is one of the reasons for the increased incidence of divorce. If you go into a marriage thinking that another person is going to make you happy and fulfill all of your needs, you are bound to be sorely disillusioned.

Some may think that the onus of this commandment lies with children to honor their parents. But I believe this is a misunderstanding of the total context of the commandments. For the burden is actually on the parents--especially the father--to be an earthly reflection of the celestial father. Indeed, this is a father’s only claim to legitimate authority--the extent to which he is a dignified and noble man through whom divine authority radiates “downward.”

Parents do not own children--this was one of the radical innovations of Judaism, in contrast to other ancient peoples who practiced infanticide and other forms of systematic abuse.

In raising a child, you are deputized by the divine to help usher your child from his earthly caretaker--i.e., you--to his celestial benefactor. Even if you are not particularly religious, this is still the aim of your parenting, but it will merely go by another name--for example, instilling good values. Few people outside the Muslim world actually consciously want to raise their children as antisocial, homicidal beasts. And even these Moloch-worshipping parents are under the delusion that they are on a divine mission to raise their children in this perverse way.

Arab parents are now naming their children “Hizb’allah” and “Nasrallah,” a genocidal group and a genocidal fanatic, respectively. These children will surely grow up to honor their father--the father of lies. These parents are spiritually unfit to bring children into the world, because they inflict the worst possible psychic injury to the child: failing to provide them with a parent worthy of honor. Like most any abused child, the child will still do his part--he will honor his parents--which will have the practical effect of making him lower than the beasts, unless the child somehow sees through his warped parents and locates his father “who art in heaven.”

In short, to the extent that our parents are worthy of of honor, it is because the archetypes of our otherworldly Mother and Father are revealed to us through them. Not only do many parents fail at this fundamental task, but they even usurp God’s rightful power, becoming bad gods and “lording it over” their children (as undoubtedly happened to them).

More generally, the pure love we receive “vertically” from our parents is like a seed that is planted deep within our psyche. Children can have no idea how much they were loved until they have children of their own. This is as it should be, because the task for the child is to spread this divine-parental love horizontally, out into the world. If children loved parents as much as parents love their children, it would be very difficult to break out of that closed circle and evolve psycho-culturally.

And just because we have left our earthly parents, it hardly means that we have no further need of parenting. Again, there is something primordially true in the trinitarian arrangement of father-mother-child. In order to continue to grow spiritually as adults, we must in some way "become as children" and establish an ongoing rapport with the divine masculine and feminine. As such, the commandment also implies that we should honor worldly representatives of the divine, for example, the avatars, saints, and spiritual masters who, just like our own parents, have made incredible sacrifices for our benefit, and who extend truly priceless wisdom, guidance, and even salvation. Thanks to them, the vertical hole in creation is always accessible.

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God. -- Anonymous

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Devil's Third Commandment: All Metaphysics and God-Talk Shall Be in Vain (8.10.08)

One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage serious people to take religion seriously. I was once a person who didn’t take religion seriously, although even in my atheagnostic days, I probably wouldn’t have objected to being called “spiritual,” since it’s such a bland and neutral description that essentially means anything you want it to. I have observed that a lot of liberals feel this way. They will describe themselves as spiritual, but draw the line at religious, as if it is an insult.

But this type of unstructured spirituality usually amounts to either solipsism or narcissism, because it is wholly subjective and makes no demands at all on the person. Furthermore, it usually alienates the person from potent channels of grace that is the true catalyst for change.

In fact, authentic religions are frameworks for spirituality, in the same way that music theory is a framework for music. You can try to play music without it--you can be “musical”--but except for rare exceptions, you won’t be able to play much of interest. It will be a pretty vain endeavor. This is why, for example, regardless of what objection you may have to the Catholic church, they have produced more profound spiritual geniuses than the “new age” ever will. Frankly, there’s just no comparison in terms of depth, power and spiritual radiance.

I'm not taking a position for or against, but when you hear debates about whether or not the Ten Commandments should be displayed in schools or courthouses, you will often notice that liberals assume their typical superior tone of mockery and derision toward them--as if some arbitrary laws thought up thousands of years ago by primitive people have any contemporary, much less universal, applicability. While they will grant that it might be bad under certain circumstances to murder or steal, they especially dismiss injunctions against making graven images (discussed in yesterday’s post) or taking the name of the lord in vain. No one is going to tell a leftist what he can and cannot mock, since knee-jerk adolescent rebellion is at the core of leftism. If they can’t blaspheme, what’s left for them?

You will also notice that no one is more literal-minded or “fundamentalist” than the leftist who rejects religion. That is, they reject only a caricature of religion that they have concocted themselves. Or perhaps, as often happens, they had a bad experience with a dysfunctional version of religion as a child, and are in perpetual revolt against it. While perfectly understandable--in fact, to a certain extent, I was a victim of this myself--there is no reason why it should pose a lifelong obstacle to opening oneself to the boundless depths of genuine religion.

For the past couple of days we have been discussing how leftism (and remember, when I use that term, I’m generalizing about the deep structure of an entire philosophical attitude or temperament, not this or that particular leftist) represents an upside-down version of Judeo-Christian teachings, and how it manages to invert each of the commandments. In other words, they are not just against the Ten Commandments, but (whether wittingly or unwittingly) enshrine their opposite.

The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the lord in vain.” There are even many Christians who believe that this means nothing more than refraining from cursing. If so, what’s the point? If that were all it amounted to, then liberals might even be correct in mocking something so seemingly trivial in the overall scheme of things.

First of all, this commandment has something important to say about metaphysical vanity, specifically, vain and fruitless talk about God, of which there is an overabundance. Much religious talk is entirely vain, in that it serves no purpose--it is mere “pneuma-babble” emanating from the ego, not the spirit.

The omninameable One has revealed several of his names to mankind, perhaps the most important one being I AM. In fact, there are certain forms of yoga that consist of nothing more than meditating on the mystery of this I AM to which we all have magical access. To do so is to engage in the deepest form of vertical recollection, for this I AM is not located in the field of time. Rather, it eternally radiates through the vertical now to which humans have unique access. To dwell in the primordial I AM--or so ham in Sanskrit--is to reconnect with the eternal ground of being. It is anything but vain.

As I was at pains to point out in One Cosmos, the truths embodied in genuinely revealed religions must be experienced, not merely thought. This is really not much different than, say, psychology. You can read all about the criteria for a depression or panic attack in the DSM, but unless you have actually experienced a panic attack, the words don’t really convey the experience. If anything, they might even convince you that you understand it because you have the words for it, but the words are merely pointers or place markers.

Especially with regard to religion and psychology, words must be analogous to bank notes that one may “cash in” for their actual experiential value. Otherwise you are simply dealing with religious counterfeiters and with spiritual “funny money” that has no value at all. It is entirely vain. When you read Meister Eckhart or Saint John of the Cross, you know that their words are backed by the full faith and credit of the First Bank of Divine Reality. When you read Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins, you know that their words are backed by the full faith and credit of their rampant narcissism. But Gresham's law means that bad spiritual money tends to drive out good, which accounts for their vast personal fortunes.

Perhaps the worst way of taking the name of the Lord in vain--and the most spiritually catastrophic for the person who does so--is to use the name of God as a pretext to commit great evil, as do the Islamists. I’m trying to think of a worse sin, but I can’t at the moment. What the Islamists are doing is beyond evil, for they are committing evil in the name of God, thus undermining the very possibility of the good.

Contrary to popular understanding, these monsters of depravity are worthy both of divine wrath and our own unyielding holy anger, even hatred. True, under most circumstances it is appropriate to “hate the sin and not the sinner.” However, it is entirely legitimate to despise the sinner to the extent that he has not only completely given himself over to sin, but fully identifies with it in an implacable way.

In other words, the Islamo-nazis are not just committing evil, they are willfully identified with evil--more, they are absolutely committed to violent overthrow of the very possibility of the good. It is our sacred duty to hate these monsters in the proportion to which we love the Good. In no way does this mirror the illegitimate, passionate, and sadistic hatred of the Islamists themselves, for holy anger is dispassionate and does not surpass the boundaries of its cause. Americans do not chop off heads for fun; they only do what is necessary to stop the evil.

It is not only a spiritual error to think otherwise, but the failure of a basic societal defense mechanism. We did not win World War II by not hating Hitler, who was also entirely worthy of our divine anger. Again, like an Arafat, Nasrallah, or Ahmadinejad, he was not a mere sinner but the embodiment of sin. Woe unto spiritually depraved groups such as CAIR that align themselves with these embodiments of evil. As Jesus might say if he were here, "somebody needs to grab a whip and go seriously money-changer on those creeps." It's the Christian thing to do.

If you don't despise the vile people who rejoice and dance in the street upon hearing this, then there's probably something wrong with your soul. Or how about people who would use their baby as a liquid bomb? Oh well, all cultures are equally beautiful, I suppose.

There is one additional aspect of the third commandment that I had wanted to get into, but I can see that I won’t really have timelessness enough to expand upon it. That is the possibility of metaphysical knowledge which is both objectively true and operative, or fruitful, in the psyche. Virtually all postmodern thought is in agreement that metaphysical knowledge is not possible--that it is “vain.” Here again we see an exact reversal of the reality, for the religious view is that human beings most definitely have access, through the uncreated intellect, to objective truth. There are eternal truths that man may not only know, but without which man would not be man.


Oh, there are so many, I don’t know where to begin. How about this one: “semantics cannot be reduced to syntax.” Because it can’t, language is not just a vain epiphenomenon produced by a modified primate brain, including the mathematical language that governs the physical universe, the language of DNA, the language of music, or the language of Shakespeare. Ultimately, it means that meaning is indeed meaningful and not merely a vain irksomstenchial pursuit. The cosmos is not just a tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying short hours and a nice paycheck. Rather, it is a valhallicle of Ultimate Meaning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Devil's Decalogue: Shackle Number Two

In the past, we have had occasion to note that the first five commandments govern man’s relationship to God, i.e., the vertical, while the second five govern man-to-man relations. However, these second five do not so much represent the horizontal as they do the vertical emanating downward and then radiating outward into all of creation, but especially toward other human beings. Thus, if, and only if, the commandments were actually followed by everyone, it would be on earth as it is in heaven.

Yesterday we discussed the secular leftist project of undermining the first commandment and replacing it with its counter-commandment (“there is no God, and we are his angry clowns”). This has the practical effect of turning the cosmos upside down and absolutizing the relative, thus shackling us in the Egypt of ontological flatland. Sounds like a good deal, but in the end, you're going to be e-gypped. Big time.

The first commandment is actually a fractal that contains all of the others, so once you eliminate it, a host of disastrous implications follows in its wake: the reign of quantity, the tyranny of the horizontal, the subversion of truth, the devaluation of beauty, and the loss of the quintessential categories of the holy and the sacred through which celestial energies radiate into our world. In short, hell on earth.

The reason why it is necessary to acknowledge the Absolute prior to the relative is that, in the absence of the Absolute, all transcendent values are bleached out and ultimately wiped away. Values can only exist in a hierarchy (i.e., some things are more precious and valuable than others), and any hierarchy is conditioned from top to bottom. There can be no higher or lower in an infinite horizontal wasteland. Rather, in such a case, the world is simply a brute fact, with nothing to spiritualize it. Matter is elevated to the “ultimate,” so that the world shrinks down to our most primitive way of knowing it. In fact, it is precisely because there are degrees within the relative that we may prove the Absolute, in that these degrees of relativity reflect the Absolute either more or less adequately.

Although secularists like to think that their's represents a sophisticated view of the world, in reality, no philosophy could be more provincial and monkey-bound. As Richard Weaver has noted, it substitutes facts for truth and logic for wisdom, elevating the world of the senses above the antecedent reality that can only be known by the intellect. Man becomes the center of authority, which makes him no authority at all, for no fact speaks for itself and no experience can tell us what we are experiencing.

The secular materialist attempts through endless induction to assemble the cosmos from the bottom up, but you can never get there from here. No one has ever seen this thing called “cosmos,” and no one ever will. Rather, it is accepted on faith, as it is an inevitable shadow of its unitary creator. In other words, we all intuit that there is a strict totality of interacting objects and events because we were built to do so (unlike any other animal). To say “cosmos” is to say “God,” for God is the cosmos, even though the cosmos is not God. It is a "reflection" of God, and therefore cannot help but to be One.

Haven’t you ever wondered why the cosmos is so beautiful? Why should it be? Why in the world should there be a category called “the beautiful?” Where is that beauty? Is it actually in the cosmos? Or is it only in us? If so, how did it get there, and what is its purpose?

In reality, beauty is another inevitable “residue” of its source, an exteriorization of the Universal Mind. To the extent that ugliness exists--and it surely does--it does not represent a fundamental reality but a deprivation of such. It is a measure of distance from the divine archetype, the full brunt of which reality could not bear. Thus we have degrees of beauty just as we have degrees of goodness and truth. And no one could plausibly argue that this beauty is perceived by the senses, but only by the uncreated intellect that mirrors it.

Two things that the uncorrupted mind cannot not know: that the world is intelligible and man is free. Take away either, and the world is simply an absurdity, a monstrosity, a mistake. For to say that we may know is equally to say that we are free, otherwise it is not knowledge at all. Knowledge proves freedom, freedom proves knowledge, and both prove the Creator, for the hierarchy of being disclosed by the free intellect leads back to its nonlocal source above.

Therefore, the second commandment follows logically from the first: you shall not turn the cosmos upside down and inside out, and worship created things. There are, of course, many parallel injunctions in the Upanishads: “He alone is the reality. Wherefore, renouncing vain appearances, rejoice in him.” Because of our uncreated intellect, humans, and only humans, are able to discern between the Real and the apparent, maya and Brahman, the Absolute and the relative, the transient and the eternal.

Behind the idolatrous secular impulse is a persistent, vulgar materialism that collapses the hierarchy of being and reduces the Absolute to some tangibly manifest idea or object that can be “contained” by the lower mind. But these are truly “mind games” for the childlike secularist, for no fragmented detail at the periphery of existence can explain the mysterious whole, much less the infinite interior center that represents its beating heart.

Life, for example, is not a function of DNA. Rather, the reverse is true. Likewise, consciousness is not a product of brains, but vice versa. For at the tip-toppermost of the poppermost, reality is sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss. Or so we have heard from the wise, from Petey, the merciful, the compassionate, the tendentious, the obnoxious!

“The universe is a tree eternally existing, its root aloft, its branches spread below.” So says the Katha Upanishad. We know that tree, for it is the same tree that appears in Genesis. It is a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf. For the grazing herdhearted woodenheads who wouldn't, they are the sap.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Ten Commandments of... Satan!

One thing that has really surprised me about the spiritual path is that no matter how deeply you get into it, you keep discovering others from the past who have visited the same place, as well as contemporaries who know exactly what you’re talking about when you discuss it--just as if you were both viewing the same garden or landescape. And I’m talking about very minute, subtle things that one can only discover for oneself, not objective or “exterior” dogmas that can be disclosed to anyone. This leads me to conclude that the world of Spirit--which can only be revealed to subjects--is actually a thoroughly objective world.

Take, for example, yesterday’s post on The System of the Antichrist. It’s fair to say that for most people--certainly the secular left--such a topic would generate nothing but howls of derision. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I write the way I do is to undercut the cynical and ironized left by anticipating their every move and going them one further. It helps that I used to be one of them, so I am wearily familiar with the grooves in which their little minds run. At One Cosmos, we are always laughing at our ideological opponents, but never in the angry and destructive ways of the left. For their part, they either do not get the humor or they take it personally.

Reader Jacob C. made exactly this point yesterday, quoting Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: "Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it."

Exactly. I believe it was Jonah Goldberg who pointed out that the left has been been brought so low intellectually that its greatest thinkers are comedians: Bill Mahar, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Al Franken, Janine Garofolo, Larry David, Margaret Cho, Garrison Keillor, and on down. Their biggest website--huffingandpissed--is mostly comprised of vacuous celebrities who are just like the comedians, only funnier (albeit unintentionally so). You could never win a debate with such an individual, because their primary weapon is a sort of mocking tone that undercuts any serious discussion. A mere raised eyebrow or roll of the eyes incites the “woo woos” from the knowing audience, who are trained to know exactly what they are supposed to gleefully mock.

As Hoarhey put it yesterday, “It seems to me that the left tends to enviously block access to those higher planes for anyone trying consciously or unconsciously to reach them. Then once the higher planes are touched upon and the process of assimilation begun, the mocking and ridicule begin.” Yes. Exactly. You might say that this kind of derision is one of the “satanic defense mechanisms,” as it serves to repress and deny the higher vertical, as opposed to the lower vertical, as does a conventional defense mechanism.

And this is the real reason liberals detest a Rush Limbaugh--not just because he runs circles around them, but because he does so with humor and derision. He mocks their sacred cows, which is when you realize that the secular left is every bit as devout as you are, except that they have transferred their allegiance from the things above to the things below. Piss Christ? That’s just free speech. But don’t ever refer to a bitter, man-hating moonbat activist as a feminazi! Don’t ever mention that a “home” is at the end of a long list of virtues and attributes that are generally missing in the person without one! Never make fun of the sacred Person Without Health Insurance, even if he is an addle-brained 21 year-old who chooses to spend his money on other things. And never, ever make fun of that Pied Piper in Diaper, Mahatma Gandhi, as I did the other day, because he was for peace!

The list of liberal icons and sacred cows is endless, for the very reason that it partakes of time and not eternity--of the many and not the One. I don’t know if anyone has really noticed, but the reason I entitled my book One Cosmos Under God is to emphasize the hierarchical nature of the cosmos, and the fact that the cosmos only makes sense because it is conditioned from the top down. Although it is a banality to point out that we live in the relative, there is no such thing as the “absolutely relative” for the very reason that the relative partakes of the Absolute. The Absolute is anterior to the relative, whether conceived of as ground (at the base) or source (at the apex) of creation; it is actually both, resulting from the fact that the Absolute is necessarily both immanent and transcendent. For the same reason, the relative necessarily and inevitably contains degrees of being, with the last degree known as “God.”

Thus, Satan’s first commandment is really just a reversal of the actual first commandment. Instead of “I am your God and you shall have no other gods before me,” the parallel looniverse of the secular left begins with “there is no Absolute and you shall bow down before all of the sacred relativities we have inserted in His place.”

From this commandment follow many implications. In fact, reader Gumshoe touched on a number of them yesterday, quoting the author Eric Raymond. For example, “There is no truth, only competing agendas,” “All Western claims to moral superiority are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism,” and “There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.” All are repressive absolutes disguised as relatives, and in fact, designed to undermine and subvert the Absolute.

Reader Will also touched on this first commandment, noting that an intrinsic part of the secular left's agenda is to reduce Intellect (which is the means by which human beings may know Truth) to mind and mind to brain, making it a wholly material epiphenomenon. However, “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.”

Precisely. Again, 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. Are there repressive hierarchies? Of course. But almost all of them come from the left, in the form of various socialist schemes, or from Muslim fanatics, in the form of totalitarian Sharia law. America is an experiment in ordered liberty oriented toward an explicitly spiritual telos, not a satanic workshop to explore and celebrate the numberless dead ends of mere horizontal freedom.

Well, that covers just Satan’s First Commandment. As I will attempt to demonstrate in subsequent posts, each of the commandments of the secular left represents an inversion of the actual commandment, the world turned upside-down and/or inside-out.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The System of the Antichrist, Revealed!

I was thinking about writing a post with the colorful title, "The System of the Antichrist," in response to how intellectually hamstrung we have become in our ability to think about and confront evil. I was inspired to reflect further on this topic by one of Dr. Sanity's posts a couple of days ago, entitled The Surreal Rules of Modern Warfare. In it, the bad Doctor (urbonically speaking) concludes that,

"As long as we play by their specially designed postmodern--and hence, irrational, anti-western, anti-freedom--rules; and accept the underlying premise that all the values of the west are inherently oppressive and evil; then it will impossible for us to win any battle of this war."

In response, I left a little comment mentioning that I too had been thinking about "how it's like an intellectual chess match, in which we have become cornered by the many pathological assumptions that have insinuated themselves into our discourse over the past 30-40 years. If these types of ideas had entered the body politic in the 1930's, we would not be having this conversation. Or at least we'd be having it in German."

So the idea is, let's just suppose--for heuristic purposes only, mind you--that there is a demonic force in the world that seeks to undermine the possibility of the good, almost analogous to Freud's notion of the "death wish" in the individual psyche. How does it operate? What are its main methods? How do we combat it? What is its appeal? How does it hijack minds that are otherwise perfectly intelligent? Has it already colonized too many leftist minds, or is there reason to hope that we can turn things around?

All very provocative questions, but I have to leave for an appointment in Santa Barbara in less than an hour, so you'll have to figure it out for yourselves. On the positive side, whenever I'm in Santa Barbara, I always make it a point to visit the Vedanta temple nestled up in the mountains above Montecito, overlooking the Pacific. If I were ever going to be a monk, that is where I would prefer to be stationed. I'll bring my camera and take a few pictures, so you can get the idea. I'll also go into the temple and put in a few good words for bobbleheads--and even the far more numerous antibobbleheads--everywhere. And, of course, I'll make sure their bookstore carries my book.

In the mean time, to set things up, I will rebroadcast this review of Stephen Hicks excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Both Dr. Sanity and I have found this book to be extremely useful in analyzing the deep structure of the Left. For me, it is a good point of departure for discussing The System of the Antichrist, because you may not be able to prove that God exists, but you sure can easily prove that his opposite exists. Or perhaps we might say, "there is no satan, and Mike Wallace is his stenographer."


Surely you have wondered why the academic left is not just foolish, but completely out of touch with reality? In a mere 201 pages, author Stephen Hicks efficiently accomplishes exactly what is promised in the title of his book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Not only is there hardly a wasted sentence in the book, but Hicks writes in an exceptionally clear way about some rather difficult and abstruse thinkers and concepts. For example, I have never before encountered such a lucid discussion of the inane pseudo-profundities of that uber-charlatan, Heidegger. He is a key postmodern figure, one that many of the lesser lights and dimmer bulbs fall back upon, mainly because his writing is so appallingly obscure that no normal person can see through his portentous vacuities. This kind of bluff writing usually signifies that the author either wishes to conceal the banality of his thoughts behind a cloud of jargon and neologisms, or that he is simply talking out of his hat and doesn’t really understand what he is writing about.

I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but the purpose of Hicks’ book is clearly to answer the questions: What has happened to our looniversities? Why do the humanities departments of our elite universities teach such unalloyed leftist nonsense? In short, why is the left so bereft? Hicks makes the critical point that, if we were just dealing with generic nonsense, then we might expect about half of it to result in left wing nonsense, the other half in right wing nonsense. But practices such as deconstruction result in almost 100% left wing nonsense, meaning that, whatever theoretical or methodological cover these academics are taking behind their high-flown rhetoric, it’s all just a smokescreen for the promulgation of leftist ideas.

And that is exactly what Hicks concludes. He chronicles the utter failure of socialist ideas in the past three centuries, beginning with pre-Marxist leftists such as the odious paleofrog Rousseau. But the key figure in the descent into modern irrationalism and illiberal leftism was the figure of Immanuel Kant, for it was Kant who divided the world into phenomena (what is accessible to our senses and categories of thought) and noumena (the ultimate reality behind them). By closing off the noumenal reality to reason, Kant thought he had spared religion from the onslaught of scientific skepticism, when he had actually opened the door to all the baleful forms of irrationalism that followed. For in the Kantian system, all we can really know is our own nervous system--reason and science merely toy with the phenomena, leaving the deeper reality unknown and unknowable. The next time some cliche-ridden boob says to you, “perception is reality,” know that they are a metaphysically retarded son or daughter of Kant.

As an aside, one can trace the history of philosophy in a pretty straight line from the ancient Greeks to Kant. But Kant represents the end of that line and its subsequent ramification into the many streams, creeks, drainage ditches and sewer lines that reach us today. Virtually every philosophy since Kant has been either a rational extension of his ideas (Schopenhaur, structuralism, phenomenology), an irrational exploration of his ideas (e.g., reality is absurd, we are impotent to know anything, feeling and instinct trump reason, the irrational yields more valid insights into reality, etc.), or attempts to undo his ideas (e.g., Hegel, who reunited noumena and phenomena in his notion of the Absolute Subject, and Hegel's upside-down disciple, Marx).

Postmodernism involves a smorgasbag of these various reactions to Kant. Ever wonder why leftists are so irrational and unreasonable? According to Hicks, postmodernism is “the first ruthlessly consistent statement of the consequences of rejecting reason.” This is why leftists routinely resort to ad hominem attacks, extreme hostility to dissent, speech codes, and authoritarian political correctness.

Ultimately, according to Hicks, postmodernism is “the academic left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in both theory and practice.” Ironically, they have an a priori and unfalsifiable belief in the moral superiority of socialism over capitalism. But since capitalism has repeatedly disproved every one of socialism’s predictions, postmodernism provides the “skeptical epistemology to justify the personal leap of faith necessary to continue believing in socialism.”

Ironically, Kant was trying to save traditional religion from being eroded by scientific skepticism, but his ideas are now used by the secular left to shield the false religion of socialism from rational scrutiny. The choice for leftists is simple: either follow the evidence and reject their utopian ideals, or hold to their beautiful ideals and undermine the notion that logic and evidence matter. Obviously they have chosen the latter course, which is why a casual stroll through the halls of academia, the editorial pages of the New York Times, or the darker corners of the internet reveals that language is no longer being used as a vehicle to understand reality, but a rhetorical club with which to beat opponents. In this context, “Bush bashing” can be seen as a completely impersonal and inevitable phenomenon, for if your only tool is a rhetorical hammer, you will treat everything as an ideological nail.

And this also explains the common observation that the left is devoid of constructive ideas, for without logic and evidence, leftism has been reduced to a knee-jerk critique of Western civilization. It is essentially irrational and nihilistic, because language is not about reality, but simply about more language. Therefore, language cannot build anything but illusions.

Moreover, this explains why the left is so incoherent and contradictory--why, for example, all truth is relative but leftism is absolute, why all values are subjective but homophobia and American exceptionalism are evil, why tolerance is the highest ideal but political correctness is higher still, etc. Leftism is simply an absolutism masquerading as a relativism.

The only problem with Hicks’ book is that he stops short of explaining how to overcome what I call the logopathologies of the left. This is because he appears to be an objectivist or secular libertarian, and seems vaguely hostile to religion. In reality, there is no defense against these destructive ideas within the bounds of common reason--as soon as you descend into mere reason, you have already given the game away, for there is almost nothing the human mind can prove that it cannot equally disprove. In a subsequent post I will explain the only way to combat the left's hijacking of the higher planes.