Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Review

I’m thinking about cutting back my blogging from seven days to five, writing new posts on weekdays and then posting edited versions of older material on weekends. I intend to return to a discussion of Wilber’s Integral Politics, but it can’t hurt to begin with a review of what I believe and why I believe it.

As it so happens, there is an interview of me in the new issue of What is Enlightenment? magazine, with which Wilber is closely associated. The interview doesn’t delve into politics, so I am quite sure they are going to receive a flood of angry and alarmed letters from people who check out the blog and discover to their horror that, not only am not a leftist "progressive," but that I consider leftism the greatest danger and impediment to the type of integral spirituality discussed in the magazine.

A few readers have already found their way here after reading the interview, and, to their credit, have kept an open mind. One of them in particular has asked me to clarify the difference between classical liberalism and leftism, which I am happy to do. This is a key distinction, because without it, you simply will not be able to think clearly about politics, for leftism, as it relates to classical American liberalism, is an illiberal philosophy. Therefore, it is quite confusing to call leftists liberals.


Let’s begin with some definitions. Spirituality is the quest to understand the Truth of our existence (“doctrine”) and to align our will and our being with that Truth (“method”). Politics has to do with one's philosophy of government, and more generally, of the relations between men and society. Economics, in the words of Thomas Sowell, has to do with the allocation of scarce resources which have alternatve uses, and more generally, with laws governing the creation of wealth.

There have obviously been countless political philosophies down through the ages, mostly bad ones. For that matter, there have been countless false or partial religions. Sometimes religion can swallow up politics (as in the case of Islam), while some bad political philosophies, such as Leftism, attempt to do away with religion and drain the world of its transcendent dimension, either in subtle ways, such as various "liberal theologies," or in more ham-handed ways, as in the case of the secular fundamentalists and metaphysical yahoos at the New York Times or ACLU. Once you have drained reality of its transcendent dimension, there is only a horizontal struggle below for mere animal existence. Their only ideal is that there are no ideals except that people with religious ideals are dangerous.

However, one cannot actually do away with religion, one can only displace it and insert false religion in its place. For example, to paraphrase an anonymous friend, if you are a secular leftist who sees reality as nothing more than a class struggle between exploiter and exploited, victim and oppressor, you are in fact a worshipper of an idol named Mars. This is nowhere more obvious than in the unrelieved rage of a light-free, ghost-dancing spiritual community such as dailykos or huffingtonpost. (A critical point: do not ever equate “spirit” with good; clearly, there is good spirituality and bad spirituality, i.e., Aztec, Nation of Islam, Scientology, etc.)


At the foundation of the secular leftist revolt against God is the attendant idea that there is no such thing as absolute Truth, for God, among other things, is the ground and possibility of Truth. One of the benefits of religion -- properly understood -- is that it prevents the mind from regressing into the magical worldview, the circular maze of pagan thought that preceded the major revelations. Sophisticated postmodern secularists believe they are making progress by leaving the "superstitions" of religion behind, but this is rarely the case. Instead of believing “nothing,” they tend to believe in “anything,” which is where the pseudo-religion of contemporary liberalism -- that is, leftism -- comes in. Secular leftists simply elevate relativism to the status of an absolute, and thereby circle around from “post-” to “premodern” in their thinking.

In genuine liberalism the emphasis is on liberty in its deepest spiritual sense, whereas in leftism the emphasis is on equality in a blandly horizontal, exterior, and ultimately soul-destroying sense. The purely secular world is a “flatland” prison where the human spirit is confined as a result of having foreclosed the wider world of vertical liberty. It is an elaborate cognitive system that has been constructed for the purposes of living in this man-made Dark Age. Its language is a sort of braille, it's ideology a cane for moving about in this subterranean world. Only the recovery of spiritual vision confers true freedom, because it allows one to move vertically.

Contrary to what you may have been taught, America’s truly liberal founders were steeped in Judeo-Christian metaphysics. As such, they did not believe in mere license, which comes down to meaningless freedom on the horizontal, exterior plane. Rather, they believed that horizontal history had a beginning and was guided by a purpose, and that only through the unfolding of human liberty could that vertical purpose be achieved. Our founders were progressive to the core, but unlike our contemporary leftist "progressives," they measured progress in relation to permanent standards that lay outside time -- metaphorically speaking, an eschatological "Kingdom of God," or "city on a hill" drawing us toward it.

Liberty -- understood in its spiritual sense -- was the key idea of our revolutionary founders. This cannot be overemphasized. According to Michael Novak, liberty was understood as the "axis of the universe," history as "the drama of human liberty." Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time." It was for this reason that Jefferson chose for the design of the seal of the United States Moses leading the children of Israel out of the death-cult of Egypt, out of the horizontal wasteland of spiritual bondage and into the open circle of a higher life. America was quite consciously conceived as an opportunity to "relaunch" mankind after so many centuries of disappointment, underachievement, and spiritual stagnation.

Now the lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. 2 Cor 3:17


As the contradictory ideals of liberty vs. equality began to ramify through history, it resulted in the very different nations and societies we see today, for the more liberty a nation has, the less her people will be equal, while the more equality is pursued by coercive state policy, the more liberty will necessarily be attenuated and diminished.

The nations of the European Union are, of course, the embodiment of the perennial leftist dream of a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But in order to achieve the goal of radical equality, the Europeans must maintain a confiscatory tax system that undermines liberty, since they begin with the assumption that neither your property nor the fruit of your labors belongs to you, but to the state: to the collective.

This flawed understanding of equality is an atavistic and deeply pernicious holdover from our most primitive social arrangements. While it might have made sense in the archaic environment of psychobiological evolution in small face-to-face groups, in order for human beings to evolve psychohistorically, it was necessary for human beings to overcome their "envy barrier" and to tolerate the painful idea that some might possess more than others.

Human beings evolved as a group animal long prior to ever producing “individuals” with their own unique interior. All primitive cultures have collective defense mechanisms that prevent individuation, but these defenses are also present in more subtle form in modern societies.

In his classic work, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior, Helmut Schoeck notes that our most persistently misguided economic ideas stem from the futile attempt to eliminate envy. In order to placate the envious individual, government must intervene with policies that do achieve the desired end of of creating more equality, but at the cost of inefficiency, lack of economic growth, and ultimately far less wealth for everyone.

Only by tolerating one’s envy is economic development possible: "the more both private individuals and the custodians of political power in a given society are able to act as though there were no such thing as envy, the greater will be the rate of economic growth and the number of innovations in general." A society is best able to achieve its creative potential if it functions "as if the envious person could be ignored." Likewise, well-meaning leftists who seek the completely "just society" are doomed to failure because of an implicit belief that it is possible to eliminate envy. But human beings will inevitably find something new to envy.

Ironically, the pursuit of equality achieves its goal in a perverse sort of way, by dragging everyone down to a lower level of prosperity. In the Fall 2005 Claremont Review of Books, an article by Gerard Alexander spells out some of the dire results of the pursuit of equality over liberty. For example, on average, U.S. per capita income is 55% higher than the average of the 15 core countries of the European Union. In fact, the largest E.U. countries "have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states." Alexander points out that if France, Italy or the U.K. were admitted to the American union, "any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana." Ireland, which is currently the richest E.U. country, "would be the 13th poorest state, Sweden the 6th poorest.... 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards."

In addition to impeding a nation's wealth-producing capacity, the mindless pursuit of equality results in chronically high unemployment. France has lived with unemployment between 8-12% for some 25 years, and if anything, this underestimates the true figure because of forced early retirement and extensive but futile job-training programs. And there is a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest sectors of society, since a high unemployment rate pushes aside the least skilled workers first.

But the narcissism that is nurtured in the entitlement society means that its victims will inevitably feel entitled to more entitlements, thus resulting in even worse conditions. This is just part of the underlying dynamic of what we saw with the Muslim riots in France. Attempting to “buy them off" with yet more social programs will only result in a greater sense of entitlement and more unrest, since, once the spigot of a person's unlimited sense of entitlement is opened, it is very hard to shut it off. This is partly because our sense of entitlement is rooted in the earliest infantile experience, when we are, for the only time in our lives, actually "entitled" to mother's magical ministering of our every need and whim. The universe revolves around the moment-to-moment needs of the baby, which is as it should be. For a baby.

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

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

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

Part Two tomorrow.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thy Wilber Done

I don’t know. As soon as I start getting didactic, I get bored. It seems that I can only keep blogging on a daily basis by spontaneously posting whatever pops out of my cabeza in the morning. If I start thinking or planning ahead of time, it sort of dries up -- if not the words, then the music. That’s the reason I may suddenly veer into what seems like a different direction.

Many people -- or at least a couple of you -- have asked me to comment on the work of Ken Wilber. This isn’t easy to do for a number of reasons. First, we’re talking about almost 30 years of books, articles and interviews. Plus, he’s a moving target, as his ideas are constantly evolving. (By the way, I just heard a rumor that he is sick again, so it would be nice if we could offer a get well prayer in his general direction.)

I must have discovered Wilber in the early 1980’s, when I read his first book, the Spectrum of Consciousness. I read every subsequent book through what is considered his magnum opus, Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, which was published in 1995. Since then I have had only more of a passing acquaintance with his work, which seems to have shifted into a more public phase.

I went over to his website and saw that he is at work on a new book on “integral politics,” The Many Faces of Terrorism. Although it is nonfiction, it sounds like Ayn Rand’s nonfiction, in the sense that it is basically a format to express his philosophy. The website has a couple of chapters, including one entitled "Integral Politics, Or, Out of the Prison of Partiality...." Let’s just read what he has to say and see how it squares with our views of things. I’ll pull out whatever passages intrigue me and seem worthy of comment.

Most of this chapter is in the form of a press conference in which one of the main characters, Charles, outlines the theory of “integral politics,” the central idea being that any political philosophy will have to address “all quadrants and all levels” in order to be truly effective. Those who follow Wilber’s work know that there are four quadrants and approximately 1,817 vertical levels and stages of human development.

The quadrants, if I remember correctly, are interior individual, interior collective, exterior individual, and exterior collective. I’m oversimplifying here, but “interior individual” has to do with realms of the mind, soul and spirit, while “interior collective” has to do with cultural beliefs. The “exterior collective” has to do with political and economic organization, while “exterior individual” has to do with our body, brain and neurology.

At the press conference, Charles first describes what he regards as the essential difference between Democrat and Republican, or Left and the Right: “Here’s an easy way to tell. If you ask the simple question -- Why do human beings suffer? -- you will get two major answers. The Right will say, You suffer because of yourself; the Left will say, You suffer because of someone else."

I think this is a fair characterization, as I have said the same thing myself on a number of occasions. However, the first thing that occurs to me is that the answer to the question depends upon where you were lucky or unlucky enough to have been born. In my case, since I was fortunate enough to be born in the United States in the second half of the 20th century, I am privileged to know that almost all of my problems have been self-inflicted (either for conscious or for unconscious reasons rooted in childhood; technically the latter ones aren’t my fault, but they would have become my fault if I had done nothing to address them, i.e., seek psychotherapy). Also, a certain unlucky roll of the genetic dice gave me diabetes, but this is easily compensated for by other genetic blessings, such as a relative absence of back hair. When it comes to the exterior individual, if it's not one thing, it's another.

Where I have been a “victim,” it was generally because I was a victim of bad information from people I unwisely trusted -- the overwhelming majority of which having come from the left -- especially in college. Yes, I was a victim of progressivism in college. There I learned such drivel as that men and women are basically identical, that religion has caused more death and violence in the world than secular philosophies, that capitalism is fundamentally unfair, that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic, and imperialist country, that all truth and morality are relative (except for that absolute statement), and that all cultures except ours are equally beautiful and that it is wrong to judge them (that’s only a partial list of the nonsense that an educated person must unlearn).

Much of our suffering is simply the result of the existential circumstances of being human. In the latter case, as Zorba said, “Life is trouble; only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.” In fact, I believe that radicals and “progressives” are often motivated by a profoundly immature belief that it would somehow be possible to eliminate these inevitable existential tensions -- as if anything straight was ever made from the crooked timber of mankind. Of course life is unfair. Of course life is full of risk. Of course you cannot fulfill all of your desires or get everything you want. For one thing, the human imagination is infinite and insatiable. You have only to read a few biographies of the rich, powerful and famous to know that even everything is not enough. In fact, having everything is often an occasion for despair, for one finally realizes that fulfillment does not lie in that direction.


Here in the United States, it is simply a banal empirical fact that most people’s problems are self-inflicted and not amenable to government intervention. But that is a painful realization, so it is quite understandable that a large percentage of the population is going to deflect responsibility outward. Indeed, the merest acquaintance with psychology will show that this is inevitable. In order to maintain self-esteem, people habitually externalize blame. It is one of the most ubiquitous defense mechanisms, which is why it is such a cruel and destructive thing to legitimize and elevate this defense mechanism to a political philosophy -- Churchill referred to it as the “philosophy of failure” and “gospel of envy." Nurturing primordial lies is not an act of compassion except in the case of very young children -- and perhaps very elderly progressives. Let them die in peace before riding off with old Boxer to Sugar Candy Mountain.

But I think there’s an even deeper divide between Left and Right than the question of “Why do people suffer?” That is, the more fundamental divide is over the question of whether or not human beings are basically good. Contemporary liberals -- which is to say leftists -- believe that people are basically good, from which follows all sorts of disastrous, unworkable, and self-defeating policies. You will note that the classical liberals (i.e., contemporary conservatives) who founded America were quite jaded -- not to mention sophisticated -- about human nature, which is why their whole system revolved around the decentralization of power, so that one sphere of power could check the others. Our founders knew that human beings were neutral at best, constantly tempted by bad and evil choices.

The conservative or classical liberal is not naive enough to believe that people are basically good. This is not to say that they are basically bad. Obviously, human beings are capable of great heights of goodness, but it goes without saying that they are also quite capable of the depths of savagery, barbarism and depravity. This is because classical liberals believe that human beings possess free will, while contemporary leftist liberals are much more likely to believe that people are like machines whose behavior is determined by external forces, and that they can be manipulated though various policies into doing what the leftist wants them to do. This follows from erroneous Marxist ideas about existence determining essence, rather than vice versa.

Thus, a variety of kooky ideas follows from this initial incorrect premise, such as the notion that “poverty causes crime.” It’s ironic that leftists, of all people, would believe such a thing, since they believe that the biggest criminals in the world are wealthy men such as George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Now naturally, there are many places on earth where human suffering is primarily a result of “someone else.” In my opinion, one of the definitions of the good society is that it is a place which allows you to realize that your problems are self-generated, and to actually do something about it. Here in the United States, once you come to that essential realization, your options are wide open.

Not so, say, in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians are probably the most comprehensively depraved people on the planet, truly one of the worst cultures that mankind has ever produced. But there is little the individual can do about it, because the essence of their cultural pathology revolves around the delusional idea that the existence of Israel has something to do with their problems. In short, they do not just hate Israel because they are so backward and barbaric; rather, they are backward and barbaric because they are obsessed with hatred of Israel.

Thus, the Palestinians have created a sick culture in which it is strictly impossible to realize -- literally “unthinkable” -- that the source of their suffering is within. A Palestinian who comes to the realization that the Jews are not the source of their problems -- and is foolish enough to speak up about it -- will soon find himself dangling upside down in the town sqaure with his testicles missing and a couple of lumps obstructing his breathing. Mental health is not allowed in much of the Islamic world.

Wilber makes another critical point with which I agree entirely, that is, “when it comes to social change, the Republican recommends interior development (character education, family values, God values, industriousness, self-responsibility, work ethic); the Democrat recommends exterior development (material improvement, economic redistribution, universal health care, welfare statism).” Therefore, we can see how the contemporary leftist liberal -- because he too externalizes blame -- falls for Palestinian propaganda, crook, slime and stinker. Most recently, we have seen this disgusting view expressed in a hideous new book by America’s worst president and even worse ex-president, Jimmy Carter.

Wilber writes, “When you ask Republicans what could possibly cause the militants themselves to engage in such desperate acts, they will not hesitate to ascribe virtually all blame to the terrorists themselves: they are evil, they are subhuman, they lack any sort of values, they lack character, they lack the true God, they lack something or other, but in every case, it’s their fault, period. It’s an interior problem -- their interiors are fucked up real good.”

Yes. I wouldn’t put it exactly that way -- these are terrorists, not militants, and their acts are hardly “desperate.” Rather, they are mostly educated, middle class or wealthy, and operating out of a well-articulated theological philosophy. But they are evil -- on both an individual interior and collective interior level -- and it is their fault. You don’t see Christian Palestinians blowing up innocent women and children, and they’re just as “occupied” as the Muslims.

Wilber then points out that “the typical Democrat will go to the other extreme and blame the exteriors: yes, the terrorists are responsible for these acts, but it’s something horrible in their environment that made them do it. And in this case, that something horrible is a four-letter word: the West.” Bingo. In excusing the bogus victim, leftists blame the real victim. Or in the words of the Talmud, those who are kind to the cruel will be cruel to the kind.

It seems that in the desire to account for all quadrants, one can miss the more important point that one of them may offer a better explanation than the others. This doesn’t imply reductionism, just appropriateness. For example, if someone is experiencing hallucinations (i.e., a problem of the interior individual) but also has a brain tumor (a problem of the exterior individual), it isn’t going to do much good to provide psychotherapy to deal with the hallucinations. The problem is obviously primarily on the exterior individual level, so not every problem is amenable to a strict balancing of the quadrants, as if all are contributing equally. This is not a critique, as I’m sure Wilber realizes this.

On a more mundane level, I cannot even imagine teaching my son that the source of his problems is external to him. I would not just consider this bad philosophy, but child abuse that would hinder him for the rest of his life.

Well, this has already gone on a bit long. To be continued... Maybe...

Ah, no. Obviously they're fraternal twins. Savannah is a girl.

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.