Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Priori Nonsense and Ineluctable Truth (12.20.08)

Yesterday someone left links to some sort of psychological study that supposedly shows a correlation between political conservatism and such “traits” as fear, aggression, dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, “uncertainty avoidance,” and a need for cognitive closure. Ironically, the unambiguous conclusions of this dogmatic study were put forth by passive-aggressive liberal academics who are fearful of conservatism. Like so much academic nonsense, the study essentially came down to a self-serving expression of class interest -- the class of economic free-riders known as tenured liberal wackademics.

I didn’t engage in the ensuing debate because it’s another one of those things that’s not only wrong, but not even wrong. Few people are more hidebound, parochial, and unsophisticated than the typical liberal professor, who lives in such a small, closed circle that it’s pretty easy to “prove” whatever they need to prove in order to keep reality at bay.

Academia (as always, we are speaking of the humanities, not the hard sciences) has essentially been reduced to a domain of rationalism, which, in the absence of metaphysical truth, quickly becomes sub-rationalism and irrationalism. As I have noted in the past, there are only three methods of gaining knowledge about the world, 1) logic and empiricism (i.e., inductive and deductive reasoning), 2) revelation, and 3) pure intellection. Obviously, the vast majority of liberal academics categorically reject the latter two categories, which leaves only the reason, narrowly construed.

Now, reason is a method. It is empty until it is provided with content that has to come from elsewhere. In short, reason cannot provide its own content. So something other than reason has to provide it, and here you see at once the gap through which so much modern nonsense rushes in. Because these metaphysical yahoos of the academic left will rely on a sham substitute for revelation and intellection to provide the missing content.

Here we touch on the question of pure intelligence, for it is fair to say that the intellect itself is an interior revelation, while revelation represents exteriorized intellect. They are two sides of the same coin, and both flow from a higher source, which can be none other than Truth. But again, the liberal does not and cannot know any of this. However, sustained reflection should convince you that the intellect is a function of Truth, rather than vice versa -- just as something is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true.

It has always been understood that the key to being a great scientist is the ability to identify a promising and generative problem. Here again, this mysterious process is completely a-logical. We cannot say it is “illogical," but it definitely doesn't obey the formal operations of mere linear logic. Rather, the ability to “see” an interesting problem -- and its potential solution -- is much closer to the realm of aesthetics than to logic.

Einstein, for example, was a mediocre mathematician. He did not arrive at his revolutionary theories through any strictly logical process, but by applying pure intelligence to problems that intrigued him but not others. Not only did he “see” the solution to those problems before he worked them out mathematically, but he was one hundred percent convinced that what he saw was true, regardless of empirical studies that didn’t confirm his theory of gravitation until 1919. When asked what he would think if the empirical results did not support his theory, he replied, "I would feel sorry for dear old God. My theory is correct."

A couple of weeks ago I told the story of how I not only managed to bluff my way into graduate school, but once there, continue bluffing beyond the abilities of classmates who, unlike me, actually had undergraduate degrees in psychology. How did I do this? It took me a while in life to find my path, but once on that path, I definitely “knew” things that came to me in a non-empirical way. And in fact, looking back on it, I am quite sure that if I had begun studying psychology when in was 18 or 19, accumulating and memorizing what passes for psychological knowledge in academia, I would have in all likelihood buried this capacity for direct knowing under a load of received nonsense. Like so many academics, I would have been “educated” at the cost of my intellect.

Again, I always use the term “intellect” in its time-honored way, as that which allows the human being to distinguish between substance and accidents. Intellection is direct knowledge of reality, very much analogous to physical perception. If you see something with your eyes, no one will ask you to prove the existence of sight. But in our current anti-intellectual climate, if you perceive something equally vividly with the intellect, you will be asked to provide logical proof -- itself a wholly illogical demand.

In reality, only an intellect of equal or greater depth can judge the claims of the intellect. And there is no rational basis whatsoever for determining who has the deeper intellect. It is only something we can know with our own awakened intellect. I can assure you that, for example, Frithjof Schuon's intellect is infinitely deeper than, say, Richard Dawkins' -- indeed, it couldn’t be more obvious. But can I prove it with logic? Of course not, any more than one can prove the greater artistic depth of one musician over another.

So in approaching these studies that prove conservatives are somehow maladjusted, you must first try to imagine the puny intellects of the researchers, and the problems that intrigue them as a result of that puniness. Obviously, trapped within the constraints of their narrow vision, they felt that it was worthwhile to study the link between conservatism and maladaptive personality traits, because their little minds already saw the connection. Therefore, it was just a matter of confirming their prejudice.

A deeper intellect will see much different problems. Reality is hierarchical and layered, so that something that is true on a shallow level may be false on a deeper level. Again, academia confines itself to such a superficial level, that it ends up being a self-reinforcing enterprise. For example, few things are more fascinating to the bovine intellects of academia than diversity, a construct which holds not the slightest bit of interest to an intellect of greater depth. So how do you even debate a person who thinks that skin color is of vital importance? There’s nothing to discuss, because I honestly don’t remember how to be so stupid, whereas they frankly don’t have the capacity to be any deeper.

I saw a beautiful example of this incredible stupidity on dailykos yesterday. It was written by a couple who are deeply disturbed at the prospect of the Supreme Court putting an end to government mandated racial discrimination, because of the effect it will have on “diversity.” They are presently in the process of selecting a school for their kindergarten aged daughter. They have about seven schools to choose from and are weighing a number of criteria, including -- I kid you not -- “number of GLBT families and GLBT-friendly staff” and race: “Specifically, the balance of race.... We eliminate from consideration ANY school that has more than 60% of a single ethnic group.” Naturally, they have had to eliminate several “excellent schools,” but one wonders how they can be simultaneously excellent and insufficiently diverse?

The writer claims that “we want [our child] to learn that the real world is one of many different types of people of different races, sexualities, ethnicities, languages, etc., to learn not to make judgements based on race or religion or ethnicity.” But by indoctrinating their daughter to believe that race determines anything, aren’t they teaching just the opposite? That we should by law be forced to make such odious distinctions? They also say they want their daughter “to learn that many different viewpoints can come to the truth better than just a few.” How can this absurd statement possibly be true? Truth is true, irrespective of whether a million people believe it or no one believes it. But for the multiculturalist, all falsehoods are equally true.

Which comes back to my original point about the silly studies linked to yesterday. From the moment I entered graduate school, one of the issues that most fascinated me was this question of psychopathology. We all know that mental illness exists -- although even then, there was a big movement among leftist psychologists in the 1960’s arguing that mental illness didn’t really exist, and that it was essentially a designation assigned by the powerful to the powerless.

But to say “mental illness” is to say “mental health,” and to say “mental health” is to say design and function. In short, the mind, just like any other organ, was designed to do something. To the extent that it fails to achieve this end, it is in a state of pathology, or ill health.

So before we address the question of whether conservatism is a form of mental illness, we must first determine what the mind was designed to do. I didn’t read the studies, but I seriously doubt that the researchers took it upon themselves to do this. Nor will I be able to do so today, because I’ve just run out of time. Perhaps tomorrow, if anyone’s interested.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Progressivism in Three Easy Steps: Seduction, Hypnosis, Regression

Now, we all know -- half of us anyway -- that of all the forms of maya, the beauty of woman is supreme. My son is what, 19 months old now? And yet, I’ve already drilled this important life lesson into him. “What is nice from afar may be far from nice,” and all that.

But just to show that biology isn’t destiny, there is a different half of the population -- comprised of both male and female -- who know that, of all the forms of intellectual illusion, the beauty of liberalism is supreme. These two forms of maya are not unrelated; you might say that heathens have two mamamayas.

Being that I was once a liberal, I am now fully aware of just how seductive their ideas are. It is a commonplace to point out that liberalism is felt and not thought, but it’s worse than that. Liberalism seduces the mind by appealing to weakness and to a desire to regress, while conservatism imposes itself on the mind with ineluctable truths. Liberals very much resent this imposition, as it feels “aggressive” to them. On the other side, conservatives resent the seductiveness of liberalism, as they know it is manipulative.

Now this principle of seduction is something that Genesis, in its uncreated wisdom, has been trying to warn us about through 3000 years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax. It’s the first thing that really “happens” to man, and coincides with his awakening to self-consciousness. Let’s call them “Wanda” and “Duane” to protect the innocent. The snake -- the perfect symbol of an earthbound horizontality -- seduces Wanda, Wanda seduces Duane, and gravity takes care of the rest, down through the ages.

So a troublesome principle of seduction seems to be woven into the fabric of our existence and is deeply implicated in our primordial calamity.

It is a banality to point out that satan -- or whoever this rascal is -- never “forces the issue.” He never relies upon the principle of conquest. Rather, he is a seducer. A tempter. A flatterer. A genial chap. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste... my name is Kofi Annan. He actually has two powers, the seducing principle and a hypnotizing principle. Thanks to the latter, you “won’t feel a thing,” so to speak, as he lays your soul to waste. For one thing, you’ll do it to yourself, because his only power over you is your own temptation externalized.

The fall into error begins with seduction and hypnosis, but ends in a forfeiture of freedom that has the appearance of adolescent, pseudo-manly “rebellion” as a consolation. This rebellion is associated with intoxication, which is why you see the same pattern over and over with regard to the left: hypnotized hordes intoxicated by the spirit of rebellion.

You may remember that last week I stumbled upon the Mother of all Moonbat Psychobloggers. Well, this week I may have chanced upon the Father of all Anti-Idiotarian Psychiatrists, Dr. Lyle Rossiter, who has written a book entitled The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. From some of the excerpts posted on his website, it looks quite promising, a bit like Dr. Sanity after a night of shoooting limoncellos with George Clooney, when she'll say anything.

In a recent editorial, Dr. Rossiter describes the unhappy psychological world of the liberal, which is

“filled with pity, sorrow, neediness, misfortune, poverty, suspicion, mistrust, anger, exploitation, discrimination, victimization, alienation and injustice. Those who occupy this world are.... poor, weak, sick, wronged, cheated, oppressed, disenfranchised, exploited and victimized."

But here we see the principle of seduction in all its naked glory. For as Dr. Rossiter writes, these victims are sympathetically assured by Wanda and the snake that they "bear no responsibility for their problems. None of their agonies are attributable to faults or failings of their own: not to poor choices, bad habits, faulty judgment, wishful thinking, lack of ambition, low frustration tolerance, mental illness or defects in character. None of the victims’ plight is caused by failure to plan for the future or learn from experience. Instead, the ‘root causes’ of all this pain lie in faulty social conditions: poverty, disease, war, ignorance, unemployment, racial prejudice, ethnic and gender discrimination, modern technology, capitalism, globalization and imperialism. In the radical liberal mind, this suffering is inflicted on the innocent by various predators and persecutors...”

Furthermore, once seduced and under the hypnotic spell of regressive progressivism, Duane is freed from the need to achieve emotional maturity, and “is instead invited to begin a second childhood.  Like the child at play, he is given, or at least promised, ultimate economic, social and political security without having to assume responsibility for himself.  The liberal agenda requires him to remain in an artificial environment -- the daycare program of the grandiose state -- where he need not become an adult, take responsibility for his own welfare, nor cooperate with others to achieve what the state will give him for nothing.”
Like me, Dr. Rossiter traces these regressive liberal impulses to their origins in infancy: “These longings to be taken care of, to be relieved of the responsibilities of adult life.... are properly satisfied in the dependent attachments of children to their parents.  They are not properly satisfied in the dependent attachment of adults to the state.  Instead, the gradual replacement of the dependency longings of the child with mature capacities for competent self-reliance and cooperation with others, as opposed to parasitism on the state, is a critical developmental goal.  Whether or not that goal is achieved has profound implications for the nature and extent of government in a given society.”

Once again we see the deep irony in naming their movement “progressive,” because this is an agenda that specifically prevents it. Rather, it facilitates “denial of personal responsibility, encourages self-pity... fosters government dependency, promotes sexual indulgence, rationalizes violence, excuses financial obligation, justifies theft, ignores rudeness, prescribes complaining and blaming, denigrates marriage and the family,” and so much more.

Hmm, we’ve probably exceeded the fair use limit in quoting Dr. Rossiter. Perhaps we can make it up to him by purchasing his book. I know I will.

Humanism is the reign of horizontality, either naïve or perfidious; and since it is also – and by that very fact – the negation of the Absolute, it is a door open to a multitude of sham absolutes, which in addition are often negative, subversive, and destructive....

In a word, there is nothing more inhuman than humanism, by the fact that it, so to speak, decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal...
--F. Schuon

Monday, December 04, 2006

Complements Will Get You Everywhere

Some philosopher or physicist -- possibly Neils Bohr -- said words to the effect that the opposite of a true statement is a false one, but that the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth. I find that I am constantly teetering along the precipice of this profound truism. In fact, there is no question that it formed the basis of the compulsion to write my book.

I actually have a photo -- one of these days I’ll transfer it to digital so you can all see it -- of the day I set out to write the book... Gosh, I was such a different person back then... Hey, out the window, a squirrel! Wait, I’m getting distracted here... The photo shows me in my office liberary with I don't know how many books from various disciplines strewn all over the floor. I'm standing there in my magic robe, brooding over them, trying to figure out how they all fit together.

Anyway, as I think I pointed out in the autobibliography of the book, I have the type of mind -- if it is a “type” and not just a quirk or something worse -- that just doesn’t like the idea of all these competing truths hovering about in an unsynthesized manner. I don’t like it when I see that truth of science over there in the corner smoking a cigaret by itself, and that truth of religion over there against the wall, hanging out with its little clique. My impulse is to get the two together and try to show how they are related -- how they reflect a higher truth.

I was fortunate in my choice of psychoanalysts, because he had a very capacious mind that always emphasized the importance of complementarity and paradox. People in the West don’t realize the extent to which they have internalized a wholly rationalistic, Aristotelian framework to understand the world, but rationalism can only get you so far. In its either/or default setting, it can reduce the intellect to a computer and reality to a machine.

But especially in more profound matters, it’s almost always more of a “both/and” situation. For example, one of the issues I constantly struggle with is the tension between tradition and modernity, which has countless ramifications, depending on how you resolve it. It is easy to come down on one side or the other, but I think victory of either side would result in a catastrophe for mankind.

Obviously, I have the highest regard for Frithjof Schuon, who is without a doubt the most articulate spokesman for the traditionalist school. But my spiritual life only began to take wing under the auspices of people like Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin, who are both unabashed “evolutionists.” Schuon detested both of them because he felt that the great revelations were essentially timeless and set in stone, and that they addressed primordial “man as such,” not “evolving man.” His view may sound severe or simplistic, and while it may be the former, it is not the latter. As spiritually elevated as he was, he could not help seeing the absolute horror of the modern world. And it is a horror. The more I grow, the more vividly I see this. I do not believe it is going too far to call it a spiritual atrocity.

But what to do about it? The paradox, or “complementarity” at the heart of the modern conservative movement is the tension between tradition, which preserves, and the free market, which relentlessly destroys in order to build. While individual conservatives may or may not contain this tension within themselves, the conservative coalition definitely does, with the “religious right” on one end and libertarians and free marketeers on the other. People wonder how these seeming opposites can coexist in the same tent, but the key may lie in their dynamic complementarity, for freedom only becomes operative, or "evolutionary," when it is bound by transcendent limitations -- which, by the way, is equally true for the individual.

The ironically named progressive left is an inverse image of this evolutionary complementarity. This is because it rejects both the creative destruction of capitalism and the restraints of tradition. Therefore, it is static where it should be dynamic, and dynamic where it should be static. It is as if they want to stop the world and “freeze frame” one version of capitalism, which is why, for example, they oppose free trade. While free trade is always beneficial in the long run, it is obviously going to displace some people and some occupations. It is as if the progressive is an “economic traditionalist,” transferring the resistance to change to the immament realm of economics instead of the spiritual realm of transcendent essences.

I know this is true, because it is what I used to believe when I was a liberal. For example, I grew up at a time when most people worked for large corporations that gave their employees generous pensions and health benefits. As such, it seemed "natural" or normative. In reality, this was just a brief phase of American capitalism, lasting from the mid-1950’s through the 1970’s. But backward looking progressives act as if this aberration was “in the nature of things.” They have a similar attitude toward factory jobs in heavy industry, as if we could somehow go back in time and preserve these high-wage, low-skill jobs.

But while the progressive is thoroughly backward looking with regard to economics, he is the opposite with regard to the spiritual realm. For him, mankind was basically worthless until the scientific revolution, mired as he was in myth, magic, and superstition. Rather, the only reliable way to understand the world is through the scientific method, which has the effect of throwing overboard centuries of truly priceless accumulated spiritual wisdom. It literally severs man from his deepest metaphysical roots and ruptures his vertical continuity. In reality, it destroys the very possibility of man in the archetypal sense -- i.e., actualizing his "spiritual blueprint."

A new kind of man is born out of this progressive spiritual inversion. Yesterday we spoke of castes and of “spiritual DNA.” Progressives, starting with Karl Marx, waged an assault on labor, eliminating its spiritual significance and reducing it to a mindless, collective “proletariat.” You might say that the left honors labor in the same way they honor the military: both are losers.

Again, it is amazing how much things can change in a mere generation. It’s not as if I grew up that long ago -- the 1960’s -- but I didn’t know anyone who obsessed over what he was going to do for a living when he grew up, nor did anyone care what anyone’s father did for a living. There was much more of an idea that it didn’t really matter what you did for a living, and that all work was noble. Maybe I was naive, but I never gave it a second thought that my friends’ fathers included a plumber, a retail clerk, a lawyer, a janitor, an accountant, a bricklayer, a liquor store owner, and various other occupations.

Today it’s as if there is shame attached to some of these professions, undoubtedly due to the abiding progressive contempt for those they presume to speak for. I personally cannot say that I’m any happier as a psychologist than I was as a retail clerk those 12 years. In many ways, I preferred manual work because it freed up my mind for higher things, while being a professional clogs up your brain with annoying "intermediary" trivialities. I am generally lost among the intellectual proletariat that takes this intermediate realm seriously. Yesterday someone characterized my caste as “priest artisan,” but perhaps “laborer priest” is more like it -- a blue backward collar worker.

Ever since it came into existence, the United States has been the key to the material and spiritual progress of mankind. The founders were well aware of this fact, having chosen the image of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt as the state seal. Clearly, Moses was not merely leading the Jews from physical slavery to economic freedom, but from spiritual shackles to the higher possibility of vertical liftoff in the desert.

But there's no such thing as a free launch. While there are obviously wonderful individuals, mankind as a whole is a pretty hopeless, often despicable, case. Here in the United States, thanks to our truly avataric founders, we discovered a way of life that could balance the complementarities of the spiritual and material, of tradition and progress, of science and faith, of liberty and constraint, of self-interest and charity.

At the conclusion the Constitutional Convention in 1787, someone asked Ben Franklin what sort of government had been decided upon. He famously replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." But it’s much more than that. It is also a freaking paradise -- or the closest thing you’re ever going to get to paradise on this earth -- but only if we can keep it. And we can only keep it by consciously cultivating the complementarity between the spiritual and the material, between tradition and capitalism, between liberty and transcendent obligation, between vertical and horizontal.


This post began as a comment on this related article, but never quite got there: Dear Muslims: Which "House" is America to you?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Know Your Caste

The great metaphysician René Guenon once mentioned that one of the problems with the modern world is that so few people are “in their proper place.” He made the remark in reference to something that we in the West categorically reject, the caste system, so it should not be surprising that people have no idea what caste they belong to.

But natural castes exist, and if you try to eliminate them, they will just return in a perverse form -- just as you can try to eliminate sexual differences but will end up with weird sexual hybrids and a lot general confusion -- confusion that is then institutionalized and taught as “wisdom” in our universities.... but only because there are so many academics who are in the wrong caste and have no business being in academic life! (As a brief aside, you will also notice that when I have a troll problem -- or more accurately, a “problem troll” -- it is always a caste issue, so that there is really little Dupree can say aside from “pipe down and keep pulling the rickshaw!”)

Let’s review our castes, shall we? But before doing so, let us remind ourselves that this is not a matter of equality under the law, much less before the eyes of God. To be honest, it is actually an issue of compassion, for it is difficult to be happy if one spends one’s life on the wrong path. As the Buddhists say, “another man’s dharma is a great bummer,” or something like that. I hope it goes without saying that I am not advocating some sort of imposition of the caste system, any more than I would advocate stratification of society based upon Jungian typology. Having said that, there is a good chance that you will be happier in life if you know your Jungian typology -- your “psychological DNA,” so to speak -- and pursue a career consistent with it.

In fact, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, let’s just stipulate at the outset that we are speaking “mythologically,” in a Jungian sense of the term.

There are five main castes; the priest, the knight or warrior, the merchant or artisan, the laborer, and the “untouchable.” The priestly, according to Schuon, is “the purely intellectual, contemplative and sacerdotal type.” In a manner that comes to him quite naturally, his mind is focussed on the transcendent -- you might say that he is born with a vivid “sense of the eternal.” There will be something about him that is “not of this world.” It is as if there is a reversal of figure and ground, in that the noumena will stand out from (or “shine through”) the phenomena, rather than vice versa. There will be a natural aversion to the things of this world -- which is not to say “disgust,” only that, for the sage, any created paradise is a prison compared to the eternal and changeless. For a person who is truly of this caste, they will be a natural renunciate -- which is a rapid way to distinguish between true and false prophets, so to speak (or at least degrees of such). Perhaps one major qualification is in order, because attraction to beauty is central to this caste, but only insofar as it serves as a reminder of its transcendent source.

Just as the priestly caste is poorly understood by our culture, so too is the knightly. This is reflected in idiotic sentiments toward the military that are routinely expressed by the left -- such as Jon Carry’s remark a few weeks back. In fact, a couple of days ago, an anonymous troll left the following comment:

“Meanwhile dreadfully sane peace loving ‘christian’ America accounts for 48% of world wide armaments trade. It is easily the largest maker,owner,seller and user of weapons of all kinds including and especially WMD's. Its dominant institution is the Pentagon and its associated military industrial complex. The ‘values’ of the Pentagon permeate every aspect of USA ‘culture’. The ‘culture’ of death literally rules. Brought to one and all by over 700 foreign military bases” (sic).

This troll’s fulsomely idiotic comment is a fine example of Guenon’s remark about no one knowing their place. To jump ahead a bit, the problem is actually the opposite of what the troll suggests. Because of an aggressive imposition of egalitarian ideals, this results in the “leveling” of the higher castes, so that the society ends up with a collective soul that is roughly half merchant and half laborer. Not only that, but, as we shall see, through the magic of “inverse analogy,” the society ends up “worshipping” the outcast -- the transgressor, the outsider, the person “above” (actually beneath) the law.

You see the same foolishness in the MSM’s coverage of the war in Iraq, which comes down to a running tally of how many "ultimate losers" have died in the battle. In short, in their liberal “sophistication,” there is not the merest appreciation of warrior culture -- of a caste that is higher than those common leftist intellectual laborers and liberal media drones who dismiss it with such contempt. Deep down they know this, which is why, after they express their contempt, they must always qualify their statement with an expression of how much they “support the troops.” Whenever they say this, what they really mean is, “ignore what I just said.”

In fact, the knightly or warrior type is analogous to the priestly, except that their keen intelligence “is turned towards action and analysis rather than towards contemplation and synthesis.” Their strength lies especially in the area of character. The warrior “makes up for the aggressiveness of his energy by his generosity, and for his passionate nature by his nobility, self-control and greatness of soul." Action rather than contemplation is valued, for it is through action that honor and glory are attained.

The nobility of the warrior caste is something that, as a boy, it was impossible to "not know.” This heroic ideal was reflected in movies, in television programs, in the media, and in my grade school text books. Now it is the opposite. Our elites believe that warriors are “losers,” a message that has been ubiquitous since the Vietnam war. An entire generation of Americans was brought up to believe that warriors are either “victims” or “baby killers” and that the cowards who characterize them as such are “heroes” -- courageous “activists” who “speak truth to power” -- itself a pale imitation of the real warrior who puts his life on the line to confront evil.

For the moment, I want to skip over the merchant and artisan castes and discuss something I touched on above, that is, the moral inversion that places the “untouchable” or “outcast” at the top of society. Schuon mentions it somewhat in passing, but in giving it some thought, it occurred to me that he hit on something rather consequential -- at least it was for me when I was growing up.

First, it needs to be said that the man “without caste,” like the others, is a natural type, or “basic human tendency.” He possesses a “chaotic character”; in modern psychological parlance, you might say that he has poor boundaries. He will exhibit “a tendency to realize those psychological possibilities which are excluded for others: hence his proneness to transgression; he finds his satisfaction in what others reject.”

There is a mythological explanation -- do not necessarily take it literally --- that the “chandala,” or casteless person, is the product of the maximum of differences between the parents -- say, a noble brahmani mother and a common shudra (laborer) father. The idea is that there is a maximum of “impurity” introduced by the incompatibility of the parents. Food for thought.

In any event, what intrigues me is the notion that the outcast “constitutes a definite type which normally dwells on the fringes of society and exhausts those possibilities that no one else is willing to touch. When he has talents -- and one might say he is then capable ‘of anything and nothing’ -- he often appears equivocal, unbalanced, sometimes simian, and protean if he is gifted....” He will often be drawn to “illicit occupations; in a word he shows a tendency either to follow bizarre or sinister activities; or simply to neglect established rules, in which he resembles certain saints, though of course by inverse analogy” (emphasis mine).

When I read this, I immediately thought of the many celebrities, actors and rock stars who clearly fall into this category -- chaotic and unbalanced people who “live on the fringes,” and whose neglect of rules and boundaries can be confused with some sort of liberation or transcendence.

Now, I am not ashamed to admit that when I was younger, I was unquestionably drawn to this type of individual, for lack of any other model of transcendence in our society. For example, John Lennon was undoubtedly of this type -- a perfect example of the “gifted and protean” outcast. He didn’t transcend anything but he transgressed everything, which is why he is practically elevated to sainthood by the left. This is an example of the “inverse analogy” alluded to above. As a human being, Lennon was so dysfunctional that it is hard to imagine what he would have done with himself if the Beatles hadn’t become successful. Bear in mind that it took a good seven years -- from 1956 to 1964 -- to achieve this success. But in the case of Lennon, those seven years cannot be thought of as any kind of patient “laying the foundation” for a career in music. Rather, he was mostly driven by sheer drug-fueled desperation, because, given his many personal problems, he literally had no other options.

To a large extent, this is what the art and entertainment worlds have become -- refuges for desperate outcasts, most of whom have no talent, much less Lennon’s prodigious gift. Instead, we end up with people whose only talent is their ability to transgress or to shock -- or, to be perfectly accurate, their juvenile inability to not transgress. What would be left of Madonna without the childishly obligatory transgression?

Schuon points out that this pariah type is “without center and so lives on the periphery and in inversion; if he tends to transgression, that is because in a sense it lends him the center he lacks and thus in an illusory way frees him from his equivocal nature. His is a decentralized subjectivity, centrifugal and without recognized limits; he flees from the law, the norm, because that would bring him back to the center which by his very nature he avoids.”

This would explain the inverted hypocrisy of the psychological left. Although this type of person superficially appears to be the most “liberated” and without boundaries or limitations, in reality, they are desperately in need of the “cultural center” to rebel against. Like a child, they are most in need of what they most protest against. Since they are chaotic souls with no center, they gain a spurious sense of internal coherence by rubbing up against, or breaking through, a boundary. Thus, the transgression eventually takes on a wearily compulsive quality. They rapidly become caricatures of themselves.

Looking back at my own life, I can clearly see that I have always sought transcendence. But again, in the absence of any models for such, I was initially attracted to transgressive sociopaths -- the "beats,” or Timothy Leary, or John Lennon and other rock stars. I remember when I was 19 or 20, my circle of friends included such an individual. At the time, we were in awe of him, although now I can see him as he was: pathetic and desperate. He had what Paul McCartney described as Lennon’s “fuck all” attitude, as if there were literally nothing he wouldn’t do. It was quite bracing to be around him, to say the least. I have a vivid recollection of sitting around a pool with the guys, drinking beer. A lizard had fallen into the pool. My drunken outlaw friend impulsively reached in, grabbed it, and bit off its head.


I sometimes wonder where he’s buried....

***All quotes taken from Language of the Self, which I do not necessarily recommend as an introduction to Schuon's thought.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Will Stem Cell Research Lead to a Cure for Progressivism?

As anyone who’s read my book knows, there’s not much politics in it -- at least nothing explicit. Regarding economics, I can only think of a single paragraph. And yet, it’s probably all you need to know about economics. On page 149 it reads,

“For millennia -- until quite recently -- human beings struggled to rise above subsistence because of a stubborn inability to recognize how wealth is created. Certainly into the late 18th century, people mistakenly believed that there was simply a fixed amount of wealth in the world, and that it was left to individuals and governments to fight over their share. Not until Adam Smith was it recognized that wealth can grow without limits, but obviously even now people have a hard time wrapping their minds around this idea.”

In my view, one of the central mechanisms that kept mankind in its rut of subsistence was the expression of constitutional envy. In past posts I have theorized that envy was actually selected by evolution because humans evolved in small groups where it functioned to create harmony between members. Humans were group animals long before they ever became individuals. Like an ant hill or bee hive, the group was the unit of survival, not the individual. Individuation is a very recent historical phenomenon, at least on any kind of widespread scale. It is accompanied by a new type of mental disturbance, the neurosis, which is a “private culture,” so to speak.

The further back in history you travel, the less individual neurosis you see. Instead, the whole group is nuts. But from the standpoint of the group, the “nut” is the one who will not or cannot conform to the crazy group -- like that decent Muslim who was kicked out of his mosque in Omaha last week for writing an editorial that was critical of Islam. To us, he is “sane,” but to his primitive co-religionists he is “crazy” or “evil.” You see similar phenomena in other primitive groups such as the progressive nutroots vis-à-vis their treatment of Joe Lieberman. Here was a fellow who had a near perfect liberal voting record, but he took one step outside the closed circle of the group mind, so he was banished.

To further quote myself -- I’m almost done -- “One of the things that makes the creation of wealth possible is the accumulation of surplus capital to invest, but here again, for most of human history this was quite difficult to accomplish because of envious mind parasites that could not tolerate the idea of one person possessing more than another.” Thus, envy “was one of the psychological barriers to material development that humans have struggled to overcome.” Everyone thinks that primitive groups were egalitarian and that all of their members got along beautifully. Actually, the opposite is true. Because of completely unregulated envy, individuals would rather part with their possessions than to live with the anxiety of the envious “evil eye” being directed at them. Thus, primitive groups are not envious because they are primitive, but primitive because they are envious.

Which brings up a fascinating irony about so-called progressives. Now, it is a truism that progressives are not just ignorant of economics, but that they confidently embrace and promulgate what can only be called economic innumeracy. Why is this? How can people be so confidently and yet demonstrably wrong?

Comes now an article forwarded to me by reader Brian that breaks it all down for One Cosmonauts. Entitled The Economy Revealed: Why Understanding Economics is Hard, the article reveals.... why understanding economics is hard. “It's not because of complexity. The rules of supply and demand aren't inherently more difficult to fathom than those that apply to, say, politics, or cooking, or sports. Yet while most people have no trouble wrapping their brains around these subjects... few have a similar appetite for economics.”

Cassell refers to a theory by anthropologist Alan Fiske, to the effect that the deep structure of human relations involves only four kinds of interactions which he calls 1) communal sharing, 2) equality matching, 3) authority ranking, and 4) market pricing:

“Communal sharing is how you treat your immediate family: All for one and one for all. Or as Marx put it: From each according to ability, to each according to need.

“Equality matching, by contrast, means we all take turns. From kindergarten to the town meeting, it's all about fair shares, reciprocity, doing your part.

“Authority ranking is how tribes function, not to mention armies, corporations and governments. Know your place, obey orders, and hail to the chief.

“Market pricing, of course, is the basis of economics. It's what we do whenever we weigh costs and benefits, trade up (or down), save or invest.”

Economic conflicts arise when one group or person is operating under a different type of interaction than another. For example, if you are a primitive progressive operating under the aegis of small group “communal sharing,” you may well believe that higher education, healthcare, housing, tattoos, tattoo removal, and gender reassignment surgery should all be granted to you by the government free of charge.

The problem -- as I touched on in my book -- is that the primitive progressive is operating under an economic theory that is not so much cognitive but genetic. In a way, it’s deeper than thought, since it was programmed into us for survival in small groups (obviously, natural selection did not anticipate a high tech, competitive, free market global economy). Thus, Fiske confirms my speculation that the logic of market pricing was a very late development which is not at all “hard wired” -- and even goes against our genetic programming.

Cassell agrees with me that this “makes sense. For hunter-gatherers in small bands, sharing, matching and ranking were probably as fundamental to survival as eating and breeding. But market pricing involves complex choices based on mathematical ratios.... Commerce and global trade, of course, require a finely honed version of the market-pricing model. But if humans developed this model relatively late, it might well be less than universal, even today.”

The money money quote:

"In other words, to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder."


In short, to cure yourself of progressivism -- or any other kind of atavistic primitivism -- you will have to grow and evolve. This is exactly the problem we are facing in the Islamic world, for if we cannot even lift our own tragically backward progressives out of economic magic and superstition, imagine the difficulty of doing so with an explicitly tribal and authoritarian mindset. Imagine flying over dailykos headquarters and dropping thousands of copies of the works of Friedman or Hayek. Would it help? Probably not. Genes are powerful things.

Brian emailed me a related article, Progressives Come Out! Against Progress! It basically reaffirms what I wrote in my book. The author used to think of freedom "as being something that people... naturally want, which accounts for my tendency to dismiss Marxism and socialism as abnormal systems which have to be imposed by external authorities (generally called 'the government') upon people who only desire to be Left Alone.” But Fiske’s theory accounts for the fact that “there might be people who find the idea of being left alone to be culturally repugnant.”

“Even now, the word ‘progressive’ is often used in praise of backward economic systems.... If we use the evolutionary model, I wonder whether the emotional appeal of Communism might have represented an evolutionary step backwards, repackaged rhetorically so that its proponents could pat themselves on the back and maintain they were moving forward.”

Ya think?

The author brings up the recent example of a student who had applied to MIT with a perfect SAT score of 2400. Nevertheless, an admissions expert was quoted as saying that “I am not convinced she's a shoo-in -- I'd want to see more evidence that she's giving back to the community."

The author acknowledges that the communal sharing mindset naturally has its place. "But to inject the idea of ‘giving back’ in the case of a person whose obvious merit has been earned is another example of human progress being attacked by backward thinking primitivism -- smugly masquerading as modern sophistication. Progressives who place primitive principles first tend to be consumed by childish notions of what is ‘fair’ -- which they cannot keep to themselves, but which they must project onto other people. In their minds, success in anything (even at math) means ‘taking’ from someone else.”

From there, it is but “a small step from saying that a person should ‘give back’ to saying that ‘we’ should ‘take it back’ from him.”

Yup, “If the most progressive people are those with a concept of market economics, one of the great tragedies of the modern age has been their systematic destruction by less progressive people who call themselves the most progressive.... I'm wondering whether there might be a basic, persistent inability to distinguish forward from backward. I used to think that ‘progressives’ imagined themselves to be forward in their thinking, but I'm now thinking that ‘scientific Marxism' might have been grounded in an unacknowledged need for primitivism.”

Would this explain how leftist economic theory functions as a sort of seductive door through which all sorts of other barbarisms rush in? To put the answer in the form of a bumper snicker, “Come for the egalitarianism, stay for the bestiality and tyranny.”

Friday, December 01, 2006

Driving Truck Bombs Through the Gaps in Leftist Logic

Back when this blog was knee-high to a site meter, I wrote “Historically, wars have been fought over territory and resources. Now the human mind is the turf, and the battle is being waged on a vertical dimension in order to ‘colonize’ as many noggins as possible. In other words, our task in the ‘war on terror’ has nothing to do with land, oil, or territory per se, but with the inevitable problems caused by a more primitive mode of psychological development that has access to weapons that, on its own, it could never have developed (because of its primitiveness). This is a war between different levels of psychological development.”

In our triangulated global war between Islam, the left, and classical American liberalism, it seems that we and the Islamists are fully aware of their alliance with the left. Only the clueless left are in the dark about this dynamic. Since they flatter themselves with the designation “progressive,” they literally cannot recognize their deep alliance with the most backward and regressive force on the planet, radical Islam. But the Islamists are a bit more sophisticated than the left -- just as the Palestinian PR machine has always been more sophisticated than the liberal media, and has been relying upon these useful MSM jihadiots to propagandize on their behalf for 30 years.

Dr. Sanity addresses this in her post today, Systematic Subversion and the Ultimate Triumph of Freedom, in reference to Ahmadinejad’s “Letter to my American Moonbat Brothers and Sisters.” Why shouldn’t those who are sworn to the destruction of America celebrate the electoral victory of the Democrats? It's not an insult. It just is. After all, as Vasko Kohlmayer writes (linked to Dr. Sanity’s piece), Democrats

-- have tried to prevent us from listening on terrorists' phone calls
-- have sought to stop us from properly interrogating captured terrorists
-- have tried to stop us from monitoring terrorists' financial transactions
-- have revealed the existence of secret national security programs
-- have opposed vital components of the Patriot Act
-- have sought to confer unmerited legal rights on terrorists
-- have opposed profiling to identify the terrorists in our midst
-- have impugned and demeaned our military
-- have insinuated that the president is a war criminal
-- have forced the resignation of a committed defense secretary
-- have repeatedly tried to delegitimize our war effort
-- want to quit the battlefield in the midst of war.

“To see just how bad things really are, ponder this question: If the terrorists were represented by a party in our political system, how would their foreign policy program substantially differ from that of the present-day Democrats? By effectively becoming a political arm of our sworn enemy, the Democratic Party has staked out a position that is unparalleled in our country's history” (Kohlmayer).

Now, I am the last person in the world to be surprised by this alliance between modern Islamist primitives and primitive postmodern progressives. Their interests are identical, in that both believe that the West is fundamentally flawed, and both call for a destruction of the contemporary order and its replacement with a fantasized utopia.

In both cases, their respective philosophies are deeply irrational, which represents another area of convergence. In any number of past posts, I have enunciated my own ontology and epistemology, demonstrating that in order to understand the whole of reality, we must recognize two realms that are not reducible to the other, the horizontal world of quantities, of asymmetrical logic, and linear causation, and a vertical realm of ascending qualities that can only be understood in light of the Absolute.

One of the reasons Islam is so irrational is that it denies the horizontal. Today at American Thinker there are a pair of excellent articles about this, one entitled What is Islamic Philosophy, the other entitled Islam and the Problem of Rationality. I don’t have a lot of time this morning, but if you read these articles, you will see that the fundamental problem with Islamic thinking is that it is wholly vertical and devalues or completely disregards the horizontal.

Poole cites their belief in "volunteerism,” which maintains “that rather than created objects having inherent existence, Allah [vertically] constantly recreates each atom anew at every moment according to his arbitrary will. This, of course, undermines the basis for what Westerners understand as natural laws.” Furthermore, there is the belief in “occasionalism,” a doctrine maintaining that “in the natural world, what is perceived as [horizontal] cause and effect between objects is mere appearance, not reality. Instead, only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allah's habits, for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will.”

Carson notes what amounts to the same thing, that “[horizontal] causes and effects are inadmissible... because causes limit the absolute [vertical] freedom of Allah to bring about whatever events he wills.  Effects are brought about, not by causes, but by the direct will of Allah.” Obviously, “Without a notion of cause and effect, science is impossible, and “If the true cause of events is the will of Allah, and if the will of Allah is inscrutable, then the causes of events are inscrutable and science a vain pursuit.  The issue is ultimately whether the universe and its creator are in any way intelligible.  The West, with its traditions of natural law and natural theology, agrees for the most part that the universe is astonishingly intelligible and God somewhat so. Islam, at least at its most rigorous, denies any intelligibility whatsoever to either.”

Now, bear in mind those last three sentences. What they clearly highlight is that the development of science in the West was characterized by a unique appreciation of both the horizontal and the vertical, which intersect in natural theology and in natural law -- in a greater (capital R) Reason. One could also say that they intersect in the whole Judeo-Christian worldview, which regards the world as intelligible to intelligence precisely because both are a reflection of the same divine logos that infuses all of reality, both vertical and horizontal. In Islam, Allah is so radically transcendent that he cannot be known, while in the West, one may know God in a multitude of ways both horizontal and vertical, for example, by mapping the human genome, by enunciating relativity theory, or by simply becoming more virtuous -- since humans, in their vertically ascended state, are a mirror and image of the divine.

Put it this way: the scientific revolution occurred just once, in just one civilization -- something like 99.98 percent of all scientific inventions and discoveries have occurred in Western Christendom. Everywhere else, science either never appeared, or it petered out after some initial advances -- for example, in China and the Islamic world. And the reason science could not be sustained in these civilizations is specifically religious.

Judeo-Christian metaphysics facilitated science in several unique ways. Remember, the practice of science is based on a number of a priori assumptions about the world that cannot be proven by science. Rather, they must be taken on faith -- indeed, it would not be going too far to say that science is based on a foundation of revelation.

In short, Christianity depicts God as a rational being who created the universe in a rational, predictable, and lawful way that is subject to human comprehension. In other words, science is based on the faith that the world is intelligible, that human beings may unlock its secrets, and that doing so actually brings one closer to God.

Now all forms of leftism, secularism, or materialism are every bit as logically incoherent as Islam, and will sooner or later lead to tyranny over the mind, spirit, and body (which history demonstrates time and again). Since these philosophies deny the vertical a priori, they actually run counter to that which makes us human: our access to the realm of vertical values that illuminate and give meaning to our human journey.

The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftism in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values (the vertical) with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection (which amounts to a coerced “horizontal verticality”). The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation -- a complete materialistic skepticism combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to horizontally transform mankind.

However, being that the moral impulse remains in place, there is no longer any boundary or channel for it. One sees this, for example, in college students (and those permanent college students known as professors) who, in attempting to individuate from parental authority and define their own identities, turn their intense skepticism against existing society, denouncing it as morally shoddy, artificial, hypocritical, and a mere mask for oppression and exploitation. This is why, in their rhetoric, they sound so much like the Islamists -- why Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore or Dailykos sound no different than bin Laden.

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

Unlike Europe, America has thus far managed to escape this destruction because it has a very different intellectual genealogy, having been much more influenced by the skeptical enlightenment of Britain and Scotland rather than the radical enlightenment of France. America never lost touch with its Judeo-Christian ideals, which inspired individuals to work to improve and humanize society without violent disruption of traditional ways or heavy-handed government intervention. Science and faith could not just co-exist, but thrive in their dynamism.

But at the foundation of the secular leftist revolt against the vertical is the attendant, deeply irrational idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth, for God, among other things, is the ground and possibility of Truth. The death of God brings with it the death of the living Word, or logos. The official name of this death of the Word is "deconstruction," although it is really more of a murder (or perhaps suicide), with murderous consequences. For if truth is relative and perception is reality, then no one’s ideas about the world are any better than anyone else’s -- including Islamists. And this creates a gaping cognitive and spiritual chasm big enough to drive a truck bomb through.