Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Story of Cosmic Evolution, or This One Goes Out To Pachuco and Lil' Smokey in Rio Linda!

Stupid virus!

3:45AM and I can't sleep anymore, so here I am, wide awake, thinking about the cosmos and my own strange journey through its hidden arteries.

Way before I had ever conceived the idea of becoming a coonical pslackologist, I worked briefly in radio. Well, not exactly "worked," but I did have an internship. This was back when I was a film major for my undergraduate work -- a Radio-TV-Film major, to be exact. As a requirement for the program, everyone had to go through a semester-long internship. In my case, it was at KRLA radio in Pasadena.

At the time, I actually thought that radio would be much more suitable than film for my temperament and meager skills. I was especially intrigued by the free-form, underground FM deejays of my youth, who worked a three or four hour shift charged with the awesome responsibility of playing records of their own choosing while not even hiding the fact that they were often inebriated. I can do that!

Actually, I didn't really think I could ever be lucky enough to completely beat the system and become a deejay. That was too much to ask. But I thought that perhaps I could be a programmer. Luckily, my first assignment was as a go-fer to the assistant programmer.

Now at the time, KRLA was an oldies station that catered to the Hispanic population. To be honest, it catered to the gang population, but of course, the gangs were not nearly as vicious in those days (this was back in about 1980). This was way before rap and hippity hop. For some reason, these old school gang veteranos just loved listening to their oldies -- pre-Beatles stuff like doo-wop and early Motown -- while harmlessly cruising in their low-riders, drinking Colt 45, and spray painting their ubiquitous graffiti all over East Los Angeles.

Anyway, the assistant programmer didn't have much for me to do, but one day she asked me to man the "dedication line," on which listeners would call in and request particular songs for their novias. Without even thinking about it, I cheerfully responded, "Sure. Do I have to speak spray can?"

Ha! A little ethnic joke to lighten things up... you know, graffiti and all that...

The word "political correctness" didn't yet exist, so I didn't know what to call the distinctly hostile Nameless Presence that now dwelled between us. In any event, she looked at me as if, to paraphrase Bertie Wooster, I were a snake egg in the process of hatching. After that I was given the permanent assignment of monitoring the police scanner for traffic information.

Well, speaking of requests, today we have a request in the Cosmos! Trad-coon reader Joseph has asked me how I manage to reconcile the anti-evolutionary view of the traditionalist Guenon/Schuon school with my own belief in evolution. Upon superficial consideration, it seems like an either/or proposition -- either creation or evolution -- but I don't see it this way. Or at least I have tried to explain how the two can harmoniously coexist. In fact, I would go so far as to say that evolution must be a fact, not for scientific reasons but for a priori metaphysical ones.

Clearly, this was one of the main points of my book. When I use the word "evolution" I am not necessarily referring only to biology but to the phenomenon of progressive change itself. The local phenomenon of natural selection must be placed in the much wider context of cosmic evolution. This is not a static or mechanistic universe, but a dynamic and organismic one, as Whitehead so thoroughly articulated. This much is obvious. On every level we see cycles within cycles, from the subatomic to the cellular to the neurological and psychological to the spiritual.

Having said that, I do not believe that evolution is an open-ended process that starts from nothing and proceeds in a random way. Frankly, I think that such an idea is equally metaphysically absurd as the notion that the universe was created all at once in a static way. Rather, I share Sri Aurobindo's view that the existence of evolution must imply a prior involution. This is essentially what I was trying to convey in the opening passage of my book, using the idea of the Big Bang as a metaphor for God's simultaneous involution and creation of the cosmos. For example:

How Lo can he Go? How about all the way inside-out and upside-down, a vidy long descent indeed to the farthest reaches of sorrow and ignorance.... A self-willed division, expulsion & exile, and badda-bing, badda-BANG! a wondrous thunder rends it all asunder.... The molten infinite pours forth a blazen torrent of incandescent finitude, as light plunges an undying fire into its own shadow and F-A-L-L-S in love with the productions of time, hurtling higgledy-piggledy into jivass godlings and samskara monsters all the way down.

What does this nonsense mean? Simply that God, through the perpetual act of creation, involves himself in the cosmos like a seed in the womb of time. Evolution on a cosmic scale is the reverse of this, as the cosmos gradually awakens to its own divinity, what I call "cosmotheosis." Importantly, this is not to reduce God to the physical cosmos -- in other words, this is in no way pantheism. Rather, this fully comports with the Orthodox Christian doctrine of panentheism. Since I'm suffering from this virus and cannot think that clearly, I will just quote from the Wikipedia article on the subject, which seems to get it basically right (although my Orthodox readers may want to correct any errors).

Panentheism describes "the relationship between the Uncreated God (who is omnipotent, eternal, and constant) and His creation." This bears superficial similarities to pantheism, but maintains a critical distinction. That is, this doctrine does not teach that God is merely the deistic "watchmaker God" of the Enlightenment, nor "the 'stage magician God' who only shows up when performing miracles."

Rather, the idea is that "God is not merely necessary to have created the universe, but that His active presence is necessary in some way for every bit of creation, from smallest to greatest, to continue to exist at all." Specifically, God's energies "maintain all things and all beings, even if those beings have explicitly rejected Him. His love of creation is such that he will not withdraw His presence," which would end existence altogether.

Importantly, Orthodox Christian panentheism is distinct from the fundamentalist view, in that "it maintains an ontological gulf or distance between the created and the Uncreated." Creation is paradoxically not a "part" of God, and "the Godhead is still distinct from creation; however, God is 'within' all creation...."

Now, I find this view to be entirely compatible with the traditionalist doctrine of the cosmos as a "ray of creation" that emanates from the Creator outward, like a series of concentric circles, each circle representing another "world" -- say, matter, life, or mind. At the farthest reach of the divine ray -- i.e., the most distant from the "cosmic center" -- would be dead matter. Or at least dead matter is the last "congealed" aspect of the cosmos. There are presumably realms even beyond that, as the involutionary ray fades into darkness and obscurity. Sri Aurobindo called this the "unconscient"-- the seeming absence of conscousness which is actually a necessary result of the divine ray deploying itself infinitely into time and space.

In Orthodox Christianity, there is the idea of "kenosis," which refers both to God's "sacrifice" or "self-emptying" in creating the universe, as well has his sacrifice in becoming man. It is said that "God became man so that man might become God." Do you see how it all fits together? God becomes man -- i.e., he is involved in humanness -- so that humans might evolve to God, or achieve theosis. For me, this dovetails perfectly with the perennial doctrine that the One became many so that the many might become One, or Brahman became maya so that maya might become Brahman. Just substitute "evolved back to" for "became," and any odious implications of evolution are removed -- i.e., "the One involved itself in the many so that the many might evolve back to God."

Now, how does this apply to man per se? Is he evolving? Or is he an exception to the cosmic rule, a static entity created by God? The Bible teaches that man is the image and likeness of God. However, in Orthodoxy there is a clear distinction between image and likeness. They are not the same thing. The image is more like a seed; it is our divine potential, the spark of divinity involved in the core of our being. It is only a mirror in the way that an acorn mirrors the oak tree.

The purpose of life is to "actualize" the potential implicit in the mirror in order to become the image. Here again, simply substitute "evolve into" for "become," and any objections to evolution are eliminated. Naturally, we wish to "evolve" from fallen man and achieve our divine potential, do we not? Obviously this is not a reduction to mere Darwinian evolution, which it includes but clearly transcends. Again, the evolution of life itself can only mean that life was already "involved" in matter prior to its outward appearance -- as was mind and spirit. Thus, evolution is the ultimate cosmic reclamation project.

I could say a lot more, but I think l'll stop for now and see if there are any questions. In the mean time, Guadalupe would like to send out Angel Baby by Rosie and the Originals to Flaco in San Quentin. Little Flaco misses his daddy!

Hey, it's a joke, people!

Monday, January 08, 2007

What are the Best Political and Spiritual Operating Systems for Earthlings?

In a thought-provoking article entitled How to Think About the War, Herbert Meyer compares competing political systems to different computer operating systems.

At its foundation, politics is not "Republicans versus Democrats, or liberals against conservatives, or the looming scramble among Presidential contenders for their parties' 2008 nominations." Rather, as always, politics "is the relationship between the individual and the State. And for as long as human beings have walked the Earth, we have been struggling to get this right. We've tried everything. We've had kingdoms and empires of all sizes and flavors. We've had military dictatorships, and civilian dictatorships. We've had totalitarian states like fascism on the right, and communism on the left. We've had constitutional monarchies, republics and democracies."

In short, humans have developed countless operating systems to deal with the dynamic relationship between the individual and the collective. Part of the problem undoubtedly arises from the fact that any system we devise is going to be "unnatural," in the sense that it will be dissimilar to the way our upright furbears evolved in the archaic environment -- which is to say, in small groups of 20 or 30. Although evolutionary psychologists exaggerate the centrality of this, nevertheless, we always bear the stamp of our evolutionary past, and it would be foolish to try to deny its existence, as it does hold certain keys to our behavior.

Meyers notes what amounts to a common sense observation -- which in our time is sadly uncommon. That is, "when you look at history through the prism of operating systems, you find that one operating system has triumphed above all the others: Western Civilization. Its key features are the separation of church and state, the primacy of the individual over the State, the encouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, free enterprise, and a never-ending struggle to reach equality among the races and sexes. Like all operating systems, Western Civilization has its flaws, its shortcomings and its imperfections -- as will any operating system designed and run by human beings. But by any imaginable measure, Western Civilization is history's greatest achievement."

Exactly. It is amazing to me that this isn't something with which we can all agree. Yesterday we spoke of how "intelligent, virtuous, and mentally sound men" should be able to understand each other on this point. Which they do. It's the stupid, bad, and/or mentally unsound men who disagree. For example, there is the operating system of Radical Islam. Unlike our operating system, "Its key features are the combination of church and State, the submission of individuals to this combination, the discouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, the crushing of its people's entrepreneurial talents, and the treatment of women as though they were property rather than people."

Perhaps the Islamist operating system wouldn't be so bad if they merely wanted to impose it on themselves. The problem is, they are determined to impose it on us.

Worse yet, many if not most of our own elites in academia and the liberal media do not think there is anything so special about our operating system. Rather, they see only its flaws, largely because they have abandoned one of its key programs, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which causes them to politicize the psychological, spiritual and existential -- in a word, to "horizontalize" the vertical. And when reality is horizontalized, one not only misses its most vital aspect, but the system will begin to breed citizens who don't even know of its existence. They will be human freaks -- only "crippled inside," as John Lennon put it in song.

When reality is drained of its transcendent dimension, the world will be reduced from a field of spiritual liberty in which to actualize oneself, to a mere struggle for economic or political power. Out of its emptiness, the flight from verticality evokes envy. Thus, we constantly hear the horizontal folk complain about "gaps in income," as if this is all there is to our impossibly rich lives. I personally have never understood this complaint. Perhaps it's just my nature -- I'm pretty sure it is -- but from the earliest age, I have always been more concerned about gaps in slack. My car is six years old. I don't care. It never crosses my mind. But the horror of having insufficient time to commune with Dobbs!

Put it this way: I am a clinical psychologist. After some 23 years of education and a couple more for my post-doc internship, I was fortunate enough to be given a license to steal. At least hypothetically, I could easily earn more than I do, but it wouldn't be easy for me. FrankIy, I would have to be someone else. It would mean having to be more ambitious than I am and working more than I do, thus cutting into the reason for my existence. It comes naturally to me to live a simple, uncluttered life, but I hardly feel deprived. Rather, I would feel deprived if evicted from the vertical. Yes, the dopey CEO of Home Depot makes some outrageous amount of money. But would I want to be him? Would I trade my life for his? Is he having more fun than me? Please. No one has more vertical fun than a Raccoon. If so, show me this person. I want to meet him and appoint him the new Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler (sorry Petey).

No, all the money in the world could not be consolation for what I would have to give up to be King of Home Depot. I am enjoying my vertical liberty in my own sweet way, and I am acutely aware of how this is only possible because of our precious operating system called Western Civilization.

But our horizontal elites focus so much "on the flaws, shortcomings and imperfections of Western Civilization that they are blind to its achievements." This is another key point, for I am sure all Raccoons have had the experience of conversing with a moonbat -- the moonbat can be of superior or subnormal intellect, it matters not -- and being met with incredulousness, contempt, or sarcasm when the obvious superiority of Western Civilization is mentioned. "What about the Indians?!" "What about slavery!?" "What about the transgendered?!"

It is as if the anti-Western moonbat, because he has abondoned the concept of personal sin, transfers it to the collective. "Original sin? That's a primitive idea. People are good -- especially me. And transgendered Indian feminists. But you've got to be kidding. The United States is bad and unredeemably sinful."

This only demonstrates how the operating system of Western Civilization goes completely haywire in the absence of the religious program that made it possible. An interesting thought occurred to me while lurking at a new age website yesterday, and which answers the question of why "new age" almost always means "left," and even "America-bashing." I won't go into details, as they don't really matter. You are no doubt familiar with the type of person who rejects tradition in favor of assembling a melange of half-baked spiritual notions for the sake of egoic comfort rather than personal transformation.

To be honest, I more or less started out this way, as I am sure you probably did too. After all, in a certain way, it's the American thing to do. We're not Europe. No one's going to tell us who God is and how to worship Him. That's our business.

Which reminds me. When I was a kid, there used to be newspaper cartoon called "Rick O'Shay," which took place in the American West. My favorite character was the lone gunslinger, whose name was Hipshot Percussion. Not infrequently, the Sunday cartoon would feature a series of panels depicting Hipshot on his horse, high up in the mountains, worshipping God in his own wordless way. There would be no captions, but it might show Hipshot reverently standing by a mountain stream with head bowed. I think it conveyed a not-so-subtle message about the inevitable hypocrisy of organized religion, and about the new American experiment in radical spiritual liberty. But there was something very devout about these cartoon images. They weren't "in your face," and they certainly didn't imply atheism or radical secularism, much less "environmentalism" (in its narrow leftist connotation). They conveyed an important aspect of American spirituality.

I remember once in film school, the professor spoke of two quintessentially American archetypes that reappear in film -- call them the "drifter" and the "settler." One of America's ideals was of a place where one didn't have to settle down -- where one could continue roaming and exploring indefinitely, never putting down roots. The other ideal was of the person who owned his little portion of America -- a little piece of paradise -- living his freedom in the opposite way. But in either case, the emphasis was on different kinds of liberty, with deep spiritual implications.

It is said that reality consists of objects that object. In other words, we do not control them or produce them out of our own substance. They exist in their own right. They are real.

Being more of the Hipshot pursuasion, one of the most surprising and completely unexpected developments in my own life has been the discovery of the very real realities embodied in religious tradition. It is as if these are spiritual operating systems "authorized by heaven," so to speak, and something that humans could never have devised on their own. I have found that thinking about vertical reality from "within" these systems is profoundly generative, much more so than trying to do so outside them -- to try to invent our own operating systems.

Referring back to those new-agers with heads full of mush, such as our own recent persistent visitor. There is a reason why no deep spiritual thought emerges out of the "new age movement" -- why it is almost all bunk. It is because the operating system is wrong. These people can reject orthodoxy and tradition all they want, but there is a reason why the latter has produced hundreds and thousands of profound spiritual thinkers, from Origen, to Dionysius, to John Scotus Eriugena, to Eckhart, to St. John of the Cross, to Theophan the Recluse, to Teilhard de Chardin, to Valentin Tomberg. Imagine placing such individuals on the same plane as Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra, who have their own manmade operating systems which they will sell to you for just $1,500 at a dynamic weekend seminar!

Like the Left, it's just another case of horizontalizing the vertical. Or is it verticalizing the horizontal? Either way, it reflects another perennial American archetype: the salesman. For once you have abandoned the vertical, I can sell it back to you, like ice to Eskimos.

****

Or as Siggy put it today in his Religious Progressives, The Judenrat And Another Generation In Denial:

"[T]o be a radical ‘religious progressive’ that adopts the radical leftist agenda, faith has to be dispensed with. A believer who wants to espouse progressive ideology must accept that his religious beliefs and values are worth less than progressive beliefs and values. Believers must find a way to rewrite faith to accommodate progressive ideology, even if that means upending the very beliefs, values and principles of the faith they profess to be a part of.

"In the end, all radical ‘religious progressives’ are the Judenrat and kapos of their respective faiths and of our time. By accepting and ascribing to beliefs and ideologies of Leftism, ‘religious progressives’ have made a deal with the very devil that would destroy them. Disagree with a ‘religious progressive,’ and like their progressive masters, tolerance goes out the window because dissent cannot be tolerated -- because the ‘emperor has no clothes.’"

Hmm, where have I heard that line before?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Truth and How to Avoid it

If truth exists, it seems that it is something that we would want to align ourselves with, no? For truth is what works, isn't it?

Not necessarily. With psychoanalysis, Freud articulated an entire system of thought that essentially comes down to a means for investigating the many ways in which human beings lie to themselves. Thus, in a sense, these lies "work" -- i.e., they have a function -- or they wouldn't have been erected in the first place.

For example, one routinely sees adults who were abused or neglected as children by their parents. This is the truth. But this truth doesn't "work" for an infant, because it would make living intolerably painful -- impossible, really. Therefore, in order to go on living, the child erects the lie, "my parents love me. There is something wrong with me." Interestingly, on some level, one must know the truth in order to erect the lie. Psychoanalytic therapy, in its broadest sense, is simply a search for truth, or what Bion called O.

What is really going on between two people, beneath all the words we use to conceal things? One of Bion's maxims was for the analyst to "suspend memory, desire, and understanding" before each therapy session, in order to try to let the truth emerge of its own accord.

I remember once reading that Bion didn't even want to know if a patient was married or not, for this is something he would determine for himself. For many couples are "married," but not really. This word, "marriage" -- imagine the extraordinary range of situations it covers! My parents were married. I am married. But certain outward formalities aside, there is little commonality between the situations. In other words, to a certain extent, the word conceals more than it reveals. For example, in the case of my parents, to say that they had a longstanding and committed detente would probably be closer to the truth. Or at least not as misleading. In fact, another purpose of psychoanalytic therapy would be to help such people actually become capable of marriage, as opposed to remaining faithful -- 'til death do they part -- to their mind parasites.

Is truth something we are moving toward, or something we possess? Science operates by way of hypothesis and experimentation. It is never complete, so in a sense, it can only regard total truth as a distant possibility, something we hail from afar (nevertheless, a fascinating presumption rich with unarticulated metaphysical implications that converge upon religion).

Religion is the opposite. It presents us with Truth that is said to be a priori, including symbolized metaphysical truths that simply cannot not be. These perennial truths may be inferred from (or more properly "seen" in) the structure of Being itself, at least by some.

And yet, each of these situations may be turned on its head, both in principle and in practice. For science actually begins with certain immutable principles -- its own version of "revelation" -- such as the assumptions that the world is intelligible, that it obeys underlying laws that apply to all of creation, and that all of reality may be reduced to material processes.

For its part, religion has its own version of truth-seeking (as opposed to truth-possessing). It does not proceed along the lines of hypothesis and experimentation, but of purification, illumination, assimilation or interiorization, and union. Whereas the truth-seeking of science is more of a mechanical enterprise (at least superficial "worker bee" type science), religion is more of an organismic, or living process of metabolism and growth.

In religion, truth is increasingly understood and metabolized, which has the practical effect of widening and deepening our being. Thus, to say that this or that person is "religious" is about as useful as saying that they are married. "Religious," like "married," embraces so many diverse states and stations that it is almost futile to use the word. Bin Laden is religious. George Bush is religious. To certain unsophisticates for whom the world of religious truth is a closed book, this amounts to the same thing. It is a lie, but not really -- more a simultaneous confession and confirmation of utter ignorance. For irreligious people to pronounce on religion is exactly analogous to pre-scientific people pronouncing on the structure of subatomic reality.

In an interesting article entitled Two Strategies for Avoiding Truth, Arnold King notes that people typically "highlight information and arguments that support their prior beliefs. When they encounter contrary evidence, they engage in 'motivated skepticism,' seeking to undermine the credibility or minimize the significance of the adverse information." Findings that confirm a hypothesis "are accepted more or less at face value," while those that don't are scrutinized and picked apart.

With regard to politics, King writes that "the great mass of people form their beliefs with little regard for facts or logic.... Most voters lack elementary knowledge of our political system, they hold views that are ideologically jumbled and logically inconsistent, and their opinions change over time in ways that suggest almost random behavior." This is most certainly true, but it simply mirrors the jumbled grab-bag of notions, hunches, ruling ideas, temperamental inclinations, rumors, prejudices, biases, and truth-avoiding mechanisms that constitute the riven mind of the typical person. Truth is not a high priority for most people, much less consistency.

To the contrary: for most people, it is fair to say that lying -- primarily to oneself -- is a matter of the utmost urgency. And one of the best ways to prevent truth from "coalescing" is to remain in a fractured, "two-dimensional" state. In other words, if you think of truth as something that emerges in a third dimension of the mind by coherently bringing together a mass of information, one way to prevent that from occurring is to simply stay down in the world of incoherent particulars, and then convince oneself that that is the real world. For such a person, you can point out their inconsistencies all day long, but it will have no effect.

This is something that all seasoned therapists realize. The truth is there staring you in the face, but it is of no use to the patient, because they don't yet have the mental space where it can be "entertained." It is analogous to watching a color film on a black and white TV. You can broadcast in color, but the set will simply transform it to black and white.

King notes something that leftist intellectuals do not wish to understand, which is that "markets process information more effectively than does the political process." He quotes the economist Tim Harford, who goes so far as to suggest that the market is the "world of truth." For example, King suspects that "it is easier for market forces to drive a bad firm out of business than it is for political forces to extinguish a policy that fails to meet the objectives that purportedly drive its enactment."

Why would that be? Because markets are simply what happens. They are a result of what people actually desire and what they are willing to do to fulfill that desire. There is not much room for a lie to enter the equation -- although that's not quite right, for it is fair to say that most human desires are inextricably linked to the avoidance of some vital truth; most of what people want is a pale substitute for what they actually want. But who am I to force people to want something other than what they want? That is the difference between a leftist and a classical liberal.

At the very least, the market represents the truth about what free individuals choose for themselves, which is certainly preferable to leftist economics, which is a lie about the unvarnished truth of what people actually want, for whatever reason, high or low. In other words, it is foolish to think that you can radically intervene in the market from the top down, in order to try to alter human nature, which is what it is -- at least when when it isn't being even less than that. But that is what politicians end up doing, both Democrats and Republicans, resulting in a "competition to promise the undeliverable," which in turn inevitably tends toward a "greater accretion of government power, giving the elites more to fight over."

Given the the profound need for humans to lie to themselves, there is simply no way to eradicate leftism at this time -- perhaps ever. For it is an inevitable reflection of the human state, at least at this point in our evolution. This is why the Republicans, when given power, behave almost as badly as Democrats. After all, both parties must market themselves to the identical human needs, which include the need for illusions. Have you ever thought about the fact that there is almost always a more or less 1:1 relationship between Democrats and Republicans? How can this be? Because both parties are constantly adjusting and adapting their message to the shifting emotional needs of the citizenry at any given time -- needs which are not rooted in reality, to say the least.

It is sometimes said that two persons "do not understand each other" or "are too different to be able to understand each other." Now such a thing does not exist when the two persons involved are normal, good, and think in accordance with the truth.

If two persons "do not understand each other," that means: that one of them is stupid; or that one of them has bad character, or in any case an inferior character; or that one of them is mentally abnormal. Or again, that both persons are in error, but in different ways; or that both of them are stupid or bad, or abnormal; or inferior in some respect....

Temperaments may be as different as can be, but intelligent, virtuous, and mentally sound men will always be able to understand each other; this possibility is in the very nature of man, who by definition is capable of thought since he has the gift of objectivity.
--F. Schuon

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Neo-Traditional Post-Postmodern Circle to Premodernity and Back

Yes, Yes, I hear you. I realize that there's a substantial proportion of the raccoon population that is sick of the word "Integralist." It was not my intention to spend several posts dwelling down there in that two-dimensional opinion space, but I do not plot these things out ahead of time, and I do require blogfodder for my daily brood. It has to come from somewhere. I no longer have time to read books, and once Future Leader wakes up, the daily distractions begin.

That's why I've come to enjoy blogging so much -- the silence and darkness of the early morning, sitting down and waiting for inspiration -- a little merciful K from O! I don't have much time to prepare, and there are no second drafts, so I pretty much have to light on the first thing that catches my attention. It might be a comment by a reader, or a post from one of my favorite sites, such as American Digest, Dr. Sanity, or American Thinker, or some kernel of an idea for an idea that floated into my noodle the day before, but I basically have to just grab it and run.

Now that I think about it, it's rather interesting, in a Polanyi-esque sort of way -- the idea that we are able to non-consciously intuit the full implications of the kernel of a potentially fruitful idea before we have ever worked them out in any conscious or explicit way. As philosophers go, I hold Polanyi in the highest regard, and believe him to have developed the only philosophy qua philosophy -- i.e., not a theology -- that effectively counters and transcends the plague of deconstuctionism, the latter of which I believe to be a somewhat inevitable, if malodious, development in man's cognitive tool shed. Deconstructionism is literally an adolescent phase in our collective evolution, a weed that sprouted up in the gap between man's pre-critical understanding of the cosmos -- which is to say, the underlying and overarching whole of reality -- and our post-critical understanding of it.

I am not a professional philosopher, so there may well be others, but Polanyi's is the most clear articulation of a post-critical philosophy that I have ever encountered. Furthermore, once you have understood Polanyi, you can then move on to a post-critical mystical theology in a rather seamless way -- which was perfect for the absurcular needs of my book. Because once you have a post-critical theology, then you may circle back to the origins of religion and understand it in an entirely new way -- you may, to paraphrase or possibly plagiarize Eliot, "return to the beginning and know it for the first time." I don't know what to call this new-old phase, because I'm not sure there is a name for it. Call it "neo-traditionalism."

This exactly mirrors my own personal evolution. I won't say that I was ever a deconstructionist per se. For one thing, looking back on it, I can see that embracing such a cynical philosophy that rejects absolute truth is entirely foreign to my nature. Nevertheless, throughout my formal miseducation, this was the backdrop, the culture, the milieau that one could not help imbibing.

Interestingly, this pernicious philosophy doesn't have to have any "content" for it to burrow its way into your soul and begin doing its damage. Rather, one must merely internalize the stance, which is skeptical if not cynical, world-weary, and always ready to prove the superiority of the mind that can disprove anything with mere reason -- a reason that is detached from intellection and thereby become infrahuman, or monstrous, killing God but destroying man in the bargain. Deconstruction is a magic tool that allows the most bovine intellect to imagine itself superior, merely because it can rebelliously dispute the adults on its own adolescent level. It is no wonder that most people don't know how to counter it except, for example, to hold up a cross and insist in the face of such perverse reason that "We preach Christ crucified! He is risen! Now get behind me, satan!"

Naturally, back when I spent my spore time in the moldy academic mildew, I would have probably contemptuously dismissed such an unfungal person to the mulchroom. But now that I have completed the cosmic circle, I understand them entirely. Now, if someone were to ask me if I believe in the literal resurrection, I could say "sure." And yet, somehow "literal" does not mean literal. Hard to describe -- call it "transliteral" or "metaliteral." But sure enough, when I circled back to the origins of Christianity, I found capacious souls that had already beaten me to it -- people such as Origen or Pseudo-Dionysius, who already had a very post-modern cosmic view of things. Thus, within the very heart of paleo-tradition I discovered the neo-tradition that had been there from the start! Such are the miracles of revelation.

Look at what Origen -- who lived between 180 and 254 -- had to say about the interpretation and understanding of scripture, for it is extremely subtle and sophisticated: "[T]o those who are at the stage of infancy and childhood in their interior life... it is not given to grasp the meaning of these sayings..." Later, he says that "divine scripture makes use of homonyms; that is to say, they use identical terms for describing different things." He then distinguishes this capacity from mere reason -- i.e., he is already postcritical -- by referring to the faculty of spiritual gnosis (not to be confused with gnosticism) "by which we go beyond things seen and contemplate something of things divine and heavenly, beholding them with the mind alone, for they are beyond the range of bodily sight."

But "the soul is not made one with the Word of God and joined with Him until such as time as all the winter of her personal disorders and the storm of her vices has passed so that she no longer vacillates and is carried about with every kind of doctrine." In short, being tethered to the Absolute, as reflected in scripture, is the cure for a hypertrophied and stupidly curious reason, a centerless deconstruction that "carries the mind about with every kind of doctrine."

Or consider the great Dionysius (c. 500 AD), who cautioned that the fruits of mystical contemplation are beyond the rationalizing intellect. They are protected from "the uninitiated, by whom I mean those attached to the objects of human thought, and who believe there is no superessential reality beyond, and who imagine that by their own understanding they know him who has made darkness his secret place."

To reach the summit of our being we must "leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in world of being and non-being, that you might rise up unknowingly toward the union with him who transcends all being and all knowledge." Here is "where the pure, absolute, and immutable mysteries of theology are veiled in the dazzling obscurity of the secret silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories surpassing all beauty."

This, my fellow nocktrinical marysophicals, is a man who knew all about O-->K, a man who was post-postmodern before there was even modernity. Or to put it succinctly, a man, properly so-called, a Raccoon, a brother under the pelt! Woo woo!

A final orthoparadoxical Dionysian ode to O, only slightly altered:

"Ascending yet higher, we maintain that O is neither soul nor intellect; nor has he imagination, opinion, speech, or understanding; nor can he be expressed or conceived, since he is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; nor equality nor inequality; nor similarity nor dissimilarity; neither is he immovable, nor moving, nor at rest; neither has he power nor is power, nor is he light; neither does he live nor is he life; neither is he essence, nor eternity nor time; nor is he subject to intelligible contact; nor is he knowledge nor truth, nor kingship, nor wisdom; neither one nor oneness, nor divinity nor goodness, nor is he Spirit according to our understanding, nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not; neither does anything that is know him as he is... neither can the reason attain to him, nor name him, nor know him, for O is free from every limitation and beyond them all."

And yet, this inexhaustible void became flesh. And we speak of, in, and through it continuously. For how could it be otherwise, without being other than wise?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dodging Dupree's Question

Finally, perhaps we're getting somewhere. Dupree asked what I thought was a reasonable question of Integralist. As a matter of fact, it is the same question I asked myself at a certain point around 15 years ago, and which began an inevitable transformation in me. I actually remember the moment distinctly, as I was sitting in the the exact spot where I am now, working on a paper for a psychohistorical journal.

First, the question (actually, several related questions) Dupree asked -- by the way, have you noticed a certain growth in Dupree's own level of maturity since he moved in last year? -- anyway, the question (preceded by a comment) was:

"To the extent that you politicize problems that are existential, psychological, or spiritual, you are a member of 'the left.' How is your own life going in these here United States? Are things okay for you? If not, whose fault is it? What do you need to do to turn things around?"

Integralist's response -- wholly inadequate, even evasive, I might add -- was "you may be right that I am (overly) politicizing issues that are existential, spiritual, etc. But I am only of the 'Left' in relation to folks on this board; to some of my more leftist friends (and parents), I am more right. But, as my moniker says, I like to think that my worldview embraces both Right and Left."

As you can see, he began to answer the question, but does not seriously reflect on it before pleading "all my friends do it, and besides, it's all relative. I'm to the right of them and the left of you. Therefore I'm integral."

Integral or rudderless?

He continues: "As for my life, well that is a personal question!"

Yes, exactly. We are Raccoons. We have nothing to hide. What are you, and what are you hiding?

"It is a work in progress...why do you ask?"

I won't presume to speak for Dupree, but I think I can sense what he was driving at. He wants to know if Integralist has been able to make his own life fully functional before making sweeping judgments about how to solve other people's problems. Because, depending on how you achieve -- or fail to achieve -- your potential, there is a good chance that that is going to be your "recipe" for others. How can it be otherwise? One doesn't discover the key to the universe and not share it. To the contrary, everyone is full of advice on life and how to live it -- including the most clueless and dysfunctional people who have not come close to mastering their own impulses, let alone lives -- for example, the Hollywood nitwiteratti.

Integralist shares one last banality before ending with a rhetorical question: "I will say that as I have gotten older I have become more conservative (although still a raging bleedin' heart compared to most folks here! ;). So I understand the move from Leftism 'rightward' as a kind of maturation, but my own journey has been towards integralism, not the Right. But who knows what the future will bring?"

Spot the contradiction: 1) as I have gotten older I have become more conservative, 2) I understand the move from left to right as a kind of maturation, and 3) but my own journey has been towards integralism, not the Right.

Who knows what the future will bring? Why, Dear Leader does, of course. Obviously, if the same trajectory of maturity continues, Integralist will become, like us, more of a bleeding mind conservative but continue calling it "integralism." At least until he looks down at the ground upon which he is standing, and realizes he is in a new territory that is "against his religion" -- his real religion being leftism, not integralism. Religious conversions are very painful, and mine was no exception. Like virtually everyone of my generation, I had an extremely simplistic identification with liberalism that was about as sophisticated as "four legs good, two legs bad." Long after I began to realize that two legs weren't so bad after all, I still identified myself as a four legged. Then something finally "snapped," and that was it. I looked down at the ground upon which I was standing, and suddenly realized that it wasn't the same ground as Ted Kennedy, or Howard Dean, or Nancy Pelosi -- even though, by then, I was a continent away from them! Indeed, an entire cosmos away. It just took a long time to realize it and accept it.

It reminds me of a Jewish friend. As you know, Jews vote 90% Democrat, even though the Democratic party is no longer the repository of Jewish values -- indeed, it is now, along with academia, the main repository of anti-Semitism. I told him flat out: "You're not Jewish. You're just Democrat." For it was true. I think you'll find that almost all serious Jews are conservative. Its just that most Jews are not serious about their religion, but simply have the cultural identification. I know this because I married into a family of typical Jewish anti-Semites, bless their bleeding hearts.

But I digress. A recent poll by the AP shows the irrationalism behind the leftist critique of America. (By the way, if anyone should be aware of this, it is Jews, who have prospered in America like no other group. My father-in-law, for example, has had an extraordinarily successful and culturally rich life -- largely because he has Jewish values despite the absence of Jewish religion. What is his complaint? It is not a rational complaint, because in his case, it is simply derived from scripture -- scripture for him being the editorial pages of the New York Times. His life is fine -- better than fine -- but if the Times says this is the worst economy since the great depression, then it must be true. One is tempted to say: if gaps in income are such a terrible thing, just give some of yours away until you feel comfortable again. But please, don't ask the government to take mine away at the barrel of a gun!)

But I digress again. The AP poll shows the dramatic contrast between the personal satisfaction of the average American versus how they feel about the nation at large -- which, you might say, is the contrast between the ground under their feet and the false picture that is relentlessly pounded into us by our "two legs bad" MSMistry of Truth. The survey simply asked people how the year 2006 had been for them and their family. A remarkable 76% responded that it had been a good one. However, when asked the same question about the country, 58% saw the year in a negative light. How can this be? How to reconcile the contradiction? How does the personal 76% plunge to collective 42%? Again, partly it has to do with the unremitting negativity of the liberal media and its political action wing, the Democratic party.

It is a truism that if this were a Democratic administration the media would be ceaselessly touting the remarkable economic achievement of the past four years -- high employment, low inflation, soaring stock market, reduced taxes with record high government receipts, and a diminishing deficit which, in any event, is historically below average as a percentage of GNP. The percentage of Americans who own their own homes is at an all time high, and even the size of today's typical home is larger than ever. Leisure time -- a key component of Slack -- is at historically high levels, as is the percentage of household expenditures used to buy nonessential items (another key measure of Slack). "Poor" people today have things that were undreamt of even by the wealthy of just 30 years ago -- including this here internet. In a remarkable editorial in the WSJ, Brian Wesbury writes,

"In 1982, Time magazine’s Person of the Year was a machine -- the personal computer. Twenty-four years later, after being empowered by the computer, the 2006 Person of the year is -- 'You'.... The most interesting thing about this progression is that it did not result from consumer demand. Demand does not create wealth. Consumers were not marching in the streets 30 years ago complaining about the fact that there was no way to share their daily activities and innermost thoughts with thousands of their closest friends. People were not begging for personal computers, email, broadband, the Web, or blogs. Entrepreneurs, futurists, scientists and the very early adopters birthed this technology: Today’s average consumer was either clueless or still in diapers.

"Even though some of this technology existed in the 1970s, the economic environment of those times was not conducive to its rapid development or deployment. Tax rates were high and regulation was stifling. This held back innovation, creativity and productivity. To offset this malaise, many macroeconomists counted on the Fed to hold interest rates low by printing more money, which only stoked inflation. The resulting stagflation created a lousy environment for new inventions.

"In the early 1980s, tax rates were cut, government interference in the economy was reduced, and the Fed followed a tight money policy. As stagflation was cured, entrepreneurs got to work. In garages, basements and cinderblock buildings, today’s technology promptly came to life even before its full usefulness was understood. It took more than a decade for the Internet and email to become real consumer products. It was the supply of this technology that fueled its growth, not the demand for it."

Not the government, not leftists, not the relentlessly negative MSM, but the individual creativity of people who simply looked at the ground beneath them and took it from there. In 1980, if we had adopted leftist "solutions" to their perceived "problems" we would never have developed the remarkably innovative solutions to our problems -- many of which did not even yet exist. Rather, real progress would have been strangled in its crib.

For example, my mother had type I diabetes, as do I. Her's was extremely difficult to control -- she ultimately suffered a stroke -- while mine is relatively easy, so long as I am strictly disciplined, in the manner of a yeomanly Beaglehole. Imagine if, in 1980, to make my mother's life "easier," we had "compassionately" imposed socialized medicine on the land. This would have undoubtedly stifled the remarkable developments that have made my own diabetes so easy to manage. Perhaps today I would have "free" healthcare for my diabetes -- except that it would be the same lousy treatment that was available to my mother. No thanks! Yes, my health insurance is expensive, but I also know that the ongoing innovation of the free market will, at the very least, lead to an external pump that will be able to mimic the pancreas within the next five years or so. I do not want "free" health care at the expense of future innovation. Liberals talk about tax cuts "stealing from our children." To the contrary, if I selfishly demand socialized medicine today, it will in all liklihood delay an actual cure for diabetes should Future Leader ever develop it.

But the left, because it is not rational but a secular religion -- a raging bleeding heart instead of a compassionate bleeding mind -- never learns. It is a hateful religion, full of bile, venom and envy. Just listen to the tone of this recent piece by Bill Moyars, For America's Sake. He says that conervatism is just a "Trojan horse" that "disgorged" its

"hearty band of ravenous predators masquerading as a political party of small government, fiscal restraint and moral piety." There is "no end to the number of bodies" that neoconservatives "are prepared to watch pile up on behalf of illusions that can't stand the test of reality..." Contrary to the direct testimony of the vast majority of Americans who say that life is good for them, the real story of America is "the anonymous, disquieting daily struggle of ordinary people, including the most marginalized and vulnerable Americans but also young workers and elders and parents, families and communities, searching for dignity and fairness against long odds in a cruel market world.... Everywhere you turn there's a sense of insecurity grounded in a gnawing fear that freedom in America has come to mean the freedom of the rich to get richer even as millions of Americans are dumped from the Dream.... [B]ecause of the great disparities in wealth, the 'shining city on the hill' has become a gated community whose privileged occupants, surrounded by a moat of money and protected by a political system seduced with cash into subservience, are removed from the common life of the country. The wreckage of this abdication by elites is all around us."

Misery and cruelty everywhere you turn. Insecurity and wreckage all around us.

"In many ways, the average household is generally worse off today than it was thirty years ago, and the public sector that was a support system and safety net for millions of Americans across three generations is in tatters."

Really? Is this even possible? Of course not. It's just a false religion. He even says so, blasphemously comparing the struggle to impose leftism on America to "the mustard seed to which Jesus compared the Kingdom of God, nurtured from small beginnings in a soil thirsty for new roots, our story has been a long time unfolding."

So again we return to Dupree's observation: To the extent that you politicize problems that are existential, psychological, or spiritual, you are a member of "the left."

And to his question: How is your own life going in these here United States? Are things okay for you? If not, whose fault is it? What do you need to do to turn things around?

Integralist, we're waiting. Tell us about the ground under your feet. And remember, you're only as sick as your secrets -- irrespective of whether they are personal or political.

*****

Related this morning on Dr. Sanity: For the Children, So They Never Have to Grow Up.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Announcing My 'Coondidacy for President

Occasionally a Bob-intoxicated reader, overcome with enthusiasm over some nugget of common sense in one of Dear Leader's posts, will drunkenly shout something along the lines of "Gagdad Bob for President!"

While flattered by these overwrought displays of emotionality, I have always deflected such comments with a polite refusal accompanied by a swift back of the hand, occasionally directing Dupree to ban their IP.

But the more I considered it from various angles, the more I realized that the country really does need a third party candidate who can transcend the rancorous stalemate between right and left, Democrats and Republicans, "moonbats and wingnuts."

So today, I announce my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America, under the banner of the Raccoon Party.

The theme of my campaign will be "The Two Americas," for I believe this original slogan -- which was given to me in a dream by an androgynous looking angel with perfectly coiffed hair and a pleasant but vacuous courtroom smile -- to encapsulate all of our most vexing problems and issues. We must again aspire to be one America, the vertical America our founders intended us to be.

My fellow citizens, we can no longer afford to have two Americas, one so ignorant of rudimentary economics that they imagine poverty can be cured by raising the minimum wage or raising income taxes. We cannot tolerate half our citizenry frankly believing in monetary magic instead of the laws of supply and demand. For this reason, I propose a mandated class in basic economics, so that no longer will we have high school graduates who think you can make a man more valuable by paying him more than he is worth. My "No Left Child Behind" program will ensure that our children are not seduced by neo-Marxist ideas before they have the judgment to understand the implications of such a youthful dalliance, for research shows that these dangerous ideas can have a cult-like hold on the personality that persists well into tenurehood, arresting development at the age they first had intercourse with this ideology.

Today we have two Americas, one that can afford to send their children to be indoctrinated by agenda-driven radicals, aging hippies, and perpetual adolescents at our most prestigious and expensive universities. Therefore, with the exception of the hard sciences, we must withdraw all federal funding from these pernicious havens of PC voodoo, and subject them to a little market discipline, otherwise known as reality. Only then will their price come down in accordance with their value, which is approximately that of our great junior colleges. As you know, I myself am a product of our magnificent junior college system, which provides all the education and restrooms a motivated but mildly inebriated person requires, but without most of the hideous leftist brainwashing.

My friends, we cannot tolerate two Americas, one that participates in this grand experiment in spiritual evolution that our founders bequeathed to us, the other half lost and languishing in a meaningless wasteland of materialism, atheism, scientism, and the like. For this reason, I will be proposing a new Spirit Stamp program that will benefit our most spiritually disabled, soul-deprived, and vertically disadvantaged citizens. These spiritual food stamps will be "as good as money" in any house of worship, and can be used for collection plates, tithing, or other charitable forms of giving. We cannot have half the country failing to cultivate a charitable impulse because they have a political ideology that displaces it to the government. A country that consists of givers supporting takers will eventually become, like Western Europe, a debased culture of takers with a handful of gimme but not even so much as a mouthful of much obliged.

Today we have two Americas, one believing in the Constitution, the other in a "living Constitution." This latter misnomer is an oxymoron, for a living constitution is a dying constitution that leads straight down the path of judicial tyranny, as elitists in robes legislate their pet ideologies on the rest of us. My friends, the compromise position between what the constitution says and what judicial tyrants want it to say is a constitution that more or less says what the tyrants want it to say. Decent people can certainly argue over abortion without imagining that the constitution has anything to say about the matter. Likewise, we can all acknowledge America's past history of racism without imagining that the constitution sanctions it in the form of special rights for self-proclaimed victim groups.

In our two Americas, it seems that the benighted half wishes to have even more than two Americas -- a splintered America consisting of numberless groups categorized by race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. It is the opposite of the American creed -- instead of E Pluribus Unum, they offer us E Unum Pluribus, out of one, many (or to be perfectly pedantic, Ex Uno Plura, or something like that).

This is to misunderstand the very purpose of our freedom and the very mission of America. America is, in the words of John White, "a form of God-Realization." As he writes in his forthcoming book, The Pledge of Allegiance & The Star-Spangled Banner: A Patriot's Primer on the American Spirit, America was "predicated on a revolutionary political idea which had never before been tried: expanding the freedom of individual citizens while keeping governmental power to a necessary minimum and government employees as servants of we the people."

But we must lift up that "other America" which, in its spiritual darkness, believes liberty to be an end in itself. For ultimately, as my speech-writer, White, expresses it, "Enlightenment is the goal of human history, for the individual and for the race. The wonderful thing about enlightenment is that it is democratically available to everyone. We are evolving toward enlightenment, individually and collectively. God is drawing us all to His kingdom through a vast process involving all time and space."

Nope, we cannot have half of our citizens imbibing the toxic ideas of multiculturalism -- the notion that America is "just another country," no different -- or possibly worse -- than the others. Rather, being the first experiment in vertical government, America is the first truly universal nation embodying timeless truth. Our founders devised an evolutionarily advanced system, the purpose of which is to guide society "toward God-realization, the goal of life. That is the Spirit of Liberty in action -- not just political liberty but absolute truth and ultimate freedom itself.... Therefore, the essence of America is the future of the world, the goal of history" (and the goal of the cosmos, I might add).

It seems that half of America pledges its allegiance not to America but to that criminal syndicate known as the United Nations. This profoundly regressive and anti-evolutionary institution, which does not derive its powers from the consent of the governed, is literally a crime against humanity. As White writes, "The citizens of the world do not vote for their representatives to the UN in free elections, nor do the citizens of the world have the power to impeach unfit or undesirable representatives." Nevertheless, "membership in the UN obligates its members to abide by a set of international laws... which limit the rights of their citizens while pretending to grant them unlimited democracy.... The UN regards itself as the ultimate world authority and is answerable to no one! That is not 'the consent of the governed.' That is naked dictatorship and tyranny."

Furthermore, the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is hopelessly flawed and completely at odds with American ideals. Specifically, "There is no transcendent basis recognized in it on which our liberty, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity are established. According to the Universal Declaration, human beings have rights because 'they are endowed with reason and conscience.' The source of humanity’s reason and conscience is not named.... Nowhere is there recognition of God as the source of our existence and the goodness toward which humanity strives to build a peaceful world." In the view of these spiritual primitives, "government, not God, is the source of all authority.... Article 29 states: 'These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.' Article 30 states: 'Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.'”

This is utterly contrary to the spiritually enlightened words of Declaration of Independence, for "when government bestows rights, government can abolish those rights because they are not inherent and inalienable.... Throughout history, government has been the principal enemy of freedom. A world government which bestows rights would therefore be the world’s principal enemy of freedom. The UN way is the way to global tyranny. That's the way freedom will perish from the earth."

In conclusion, my fellow raccoons, since I am running out of gas, and I am already sick of running for president anyway, I will leave you with a few more plagiarized words from Mr. White. Perhaps we can just nominate him and leave me out of it:

"The War for Independence which founded our nation is over, but the American Revolution goes on because it is a spiritual revolution of global dimensions. Our revolution is unique in history: the proclamation of liberty, individual sovereignty, self-determination, inalienable rights, equality of opportunity, justice under the rule of law and human dignity for all, derived from God and guaranteed through constitutional republican government of the people, by the people and for the people -- all for the purpose of enabling us to find individual and collective happiness. Implementing that revolution is called the American Spirit.

"The call of that revolution speaks powerfully and positively to the full range of our human nature. It draws from us that which is latent, waiting to be unfolded. It urges us to strive for something better for ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, our world. It expresses itself physically, mentally, politically, socially and spiritually -- in all aspects of our lives. It taps our capacity for growth in a way which contributes to the good of everyone. It brings us to the realization of our own highest potential as individuals and as a society, and it urges us toward actualization of that potential. In short, it promises a better world of peace, prosperity and fulfillment for all."

And be sure and check out this CLASSIC video linked here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's All About Me and What I Love

Your Dear Leader is still mildly discombobulated (no pun intended) at the counter-revolutionaries who successfully managed to steal yesterday's post. And now Future Leader is sick with a new and improved virus, so there is no telling how far I will be able to get with this post should he suddenly wake up crying like a liberal at Saddam's funeral.

I don't even remember what yesterday's post was about, and that's the deuce of it, as Colonel Beaglehole might say. Had something to do with a comment left by Integralist... What was it... Oh yes, "Bob, what can I say... You put yourself out in cyberspace and seem to only appreciate adulation.... In other words you are a monologue, only taking in what agrees with you, trashing what disagrees with you. What does this sound like? You're a psychologist, you should know: EGO. Or to put it another way, a cult of personality."

Granted, Integralist is right about the cult of personality, but not even wrong about everything else. Once again we are left with the question of how to integrate bunk, especially after it has been debunked. For once bunk has been debunked, there's really nothing left to integrate. For example, since leftism itself has long since been discredited, it had to reinvent itself with new names and concepts such as multiculturalism, moral relativism, tolerance, deconstructionism, income gaps, "two Americas," self esteem, environmentalism, and the like, all enforced by the illegitimate, thought-blocking force of totolerantarian political correctness. Those of us who are beyond a certain age can see that it's the same old impulse, merely under a new guise. Old whines in new battles.

So, I am a "monologue" only taking in "what agrees with me?" To be honest, there was a time that I could say that I was solidly within the integralist camp. I no longer remember when I started writing my book -- it was probably in around '97-98 -- but it is fair to say that it was done so almost entirely from a yogic perspective that the typical new-ager would probably find acceptable. It was only after I had actually pretty much completed the book -- probably in around 2001 -- that I fell (or was he pulled!) into a profound dimension of Christianity that I had never before appreciated, to put it mildly.

Not too long thereafter I submitted the manuscript, but as I grew in understanding, I became increasingly concerned about what I had written. In a previous post I told the story of how I was somewhat miraculously given the opportunity, in a very limited space of time, to completely disassemble and rewrite the book - especially chapter 4 -- to reflect this new understanding. Even now the growth is obviously ongoing, so if I were to have another crack at it, it would be somewhat different. But it doesn't really matter, because I have the blog to correct any errors, to elaborate fine points, and to work out my own understanding -- which I essentially write about as it comes to me in real time.

In short, I am hardly a "closed system." It all depends on what you are open to. No disrespect to Ken Wilber, but to even mention him in the same breath as a Frithjof Schuon, Meister Eckhart, Pseudo-Dionysius, or Gregory of Nyssa, is somewhat preposterous -- not through any fault of Wilber's, but through the person who is incapable of perceiving the heat and light, the substance of grace, that is transmitted in the words of a genuine bearer of metaphysical truth. It is the difference between intellectualism and intellection, the latter of which being much closer to pure vision than thought. But to transmit this pure vision, language must used in such a way that it is "receptive" to these higher things. It is a very mysterious process, but nonetheless "realer than real" to those who are sensitive to it. There is a veritable flood of grace that emanates from the words of the true theologian -- who must be distinguished from the mere theodoxian, that is, someone who talks about the Divine as opposed to being in the Divine.

In my own limited way, I am always at least trying to be open to this dimension of existence. In my book (p. 222) it is symbolized by the downward arrow; I am sure that Wilber himself would agree that his work would represent a horizontal arrow, which is to say, information that can be unambiguously passed from mind to mind, like from his to Integralist's. This is not to put down Integralist. I myself began reading Wilber in the early 1980's and subsequently read every one of his books through Sex, Ecology and Spirituality in 1995.

Now, it is no exaggeration to say that as recently as 1984, when I met the future Mrs. Gagdad -- which had a strangely civilizing effect on me -- I was still half beast. Which is to say, I was a typical man. And yet, despite my lack of spiritual development, there was nothing in Wilber I could not understand. In fact, I took great pride in doing so, for I thought that understanding his theories was equivalent to being highly evolved, and therefore being better than others. Which was the important thing anyway (you are all well familiar with that smug and superior new age attitude of a Deepak Chopra and the like). I wrote a number of papers for various classes that I could easily submit today to any integralist journal or magazine, and I am sure they would be happy to publish them. They would not be able to tell that the man who wrote them -- who happily no longer exists -- was just a half-beast dabbling in spiritualistic ideas, perhaps well-expressed but ultimately devoid of O. Call it the Alan Watts Syndrome, bless his heart (and I'm not being sarcastic -- Watts was a hugely talented and entertaining man who motivated countless less cynical and manipulative people to pursue the real thing).

At the same time, if you had handed me a Bible in 1982, I would have handed it right back to you. No thanks. I'm an evolutionary integralist. I've transcended that primitive mythology. Not only would I have been unable to discern the difference between, say, Schuon and Ram Dass, I wouldn't have understood a word of the former. To be honest, even my first crack at Meditations on the Tarot lasted for about a chapter and a half. I simply wasn't ready for it. And yet, what force is contained in that book for those who are ready!

And how does one become ready? One thing is certain: it is not by becoming an egomaniac. In fact, you don't have to even worry about egomaniacs gaining access to this precious knowledge, for the simple reason that it is inaccesible to the ego. When Jesus says "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice," Pilate cynically asks the perennial postmodern question, "What is Truth?"

Now, knowing truth is exactly analogous -- for it must be -- to being virtuous. For to be virtuous means to align oneself with virtue. In so doing, we counter the selfish tendencies of the ego. The leftist engages in the absurdity of trying to do good without being good or cultivating goodness in others, for as a modern day Pilate might ask, "What is good? Your culture says this, my culture says that. How dare you judge others?! It's all good, dude." Or as Integralist said the other day, your Dear Leader's approach is "a rather narrow way" of looking at things. Instead, we should be asking, "can the world accommodate the vast diversity of expression that it manifests?... The world was made for everything that it has made." For Dear Leader to think otherwise is "arrogant self-delusion and ego inflation." You see? We must take the fallen world as it is and accommodate ourselves to it, rather than to the living logos that is anterior to it.

If leftists merely aligned themselves with the Good rather than trying to force their manmade version of goodness upon others, we wouldn't even need the left, would we? Empirical studies show that if liberals merely gave as much to charity as conservatives do, there would hardly be the need for a welfare state. In other words, the purpose of the welfare state is to cater to the selfish and egotistical leftists who make one necesssary.

Now, just as to align oneself with virtue is to counteract the ego, so too, to align oneself with truth is to diminish the ego. How could it be otherwise? To paraphrase Schuon, to know Truth is to die a little. And this process of aligning oneself with truth will be a purifying ordeal, as various unredeemed aspects of the self must be "burned out," so to speak -- karmic patterns, mind parasites, anything that is unworthy of cohabiting with the virgin Sophialogo for whom our dear Mysteress is named.

And now, perhaps another personal anecdote to remind you of the boundless compassion of your Dear Leader. Within a few weeks of submitting the final revised manuscript of my book, I was diagnosed with adult onset type I diabetes. Who knows why I burned out my pancreas, but I did. In any event, thereafter I sunk into a depression. I don't think it was because I was depressed over the diagnosis -- which I stoically accepted like a Beaglehole -- but because I was hormonally messed up, probably even mildly ketoacidotic. But with this depression came a renewed concern that I had done something bad with my book. "Have I made a metaphysical boo boo," I wondered? Had I written something unworthy of the Truth I love? I was especially concerned about the humor. Might people take it the wrong way?

The book then came out in early 2005. To be honest, the reason I started this blog in October of 2005 was because it was the only way I could think of to promote the book -- to try to change it from being the commercial catastrophe it was to the mere commercial failure that it is. But I still had no confidence that what I had done was a good thing. Not until I began receiving emails from satisfied customers, like this one that just came in: "Bob, I offer you my sincere gratitude. We are The Few, The Prideless, The Raccoons. Thank you for bringing us together once again in this lifetime. We are getting close to the Telos, the Eschaton, to Revelation, to Awe, to Realization, to Mashiach. And your daily infusion of Spirit propels us ever closer. All the glory belongs to God, who, by His Grace alone, radiates forth from your words."

Now, to suggest that I could somehow take this in the wrong way to exalt me is to thoroughly misunderstand everything I have just written. First of all, it comes as a relief that my writing is not taken in the wrong way. Secondly, it serves as a testimony or confirmation -- the only kind of confirmation that interests me -- that I am performing a useful service for others.

However, I would like to correct a certain misapprehension. The other day, Hoarhey -- Dupree's brash, fence-swinging assistant -- posted a screaming line-drive up the alley, in which he implied that your Dear Leader thanklessly slaves away at his keyboard each morning, getting nothing out of the process while having to tolerate the slings and arrows of malignant leftists and fatuous new agers. In reality, the blog has evolved into something I could not have foreseen at the outset, because it has become a "community of the like-spirited" that stimulates me to no end. At least I hope it doesn't end. Some people believe we are a "community of the closed-minded," which is patently absurd. For the whole point is that everyone who appreciates the blog does so because it helps them maintain contact with a Truth that transcends us.

I look at it in a thoroughly trinitarian way. Duality is the realm of conflict and contradiction, argument and endless debate. Furthermore, merely loving each other in a binary way is ultimately narcissistic. But a true community consists of anytwo who together love a third thing that brings and keeps them together. Therefore, you not only love the other person, but you love what they love. This makes the person all the more lovable, but only when they love what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful -- which also removes the ego from the love and makes it sustainable. So ultimately this is a dynamic community of love -- not of your Dear Leader, but of That which each of us recognizes and loves from afar. But getting closer all the time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Memo From Dear Leader (Updated)

Yes, that was going to be the title of today's entertaining post, but I can't freaking believe that I lost it again. I don't even know how it happened this time, but Mrs. G., my tech support, is trying to recover it.

My computer died a few weeks back, so I got a new one for Christmas. I hadn't installed word processing yet, so I was just writing my posts on the email, and then copying them to the blog. Unlike the last time I lost a post, I saved about a hundred times as I was writing it. Bottom line question: is my saved email somewhere inside my computer? Or is it lost forever? Mrs. G is currently doing a file search. Any other ideas? By the way, it's a Mac.

In any event, if I can't recover it, I'll just have to post a golden oldie.

UPDATE

I give up. For now. I'm just too busy to try it figure it out now, but I may still be able to recover it later, as your Dear Leader actually built the world's first computer out of used bottle caps and baling wire, even while shooting 19 in a round of golf (Petey distracted me on the 15th hole!) so this should be a snap.

Signed,

Dear Leader

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bounders and Luminauts

With dull eyes like fish they bump against the glass walls of their mental horizon.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

I was awakened by a thump-thump-thumping sound in the middle of the night, but had no idea what it was until I got up this morning and saw that it was an iamfibbingyous fish named Integralist bumping up against the walls of his mental horizon -- right up against the inside of my computer screen. As you know, this jnani one-gnote often comes here to remind me that I am not Ken Wilber -- as if I or even Ken Wilber could ever be Ken Wilber -- and to preach to us the absolute truth that no one can know absolute truth.

In his first of three composts, Integralist sets the tone by exclaiming "You gotta be frickin' kidding me!" and asks the question that has been on everyone's mind, "How arrogant is this Bob?"

I think I already addressed this question in yesterday's post about our absence of limits around here.

He then asks a trickier question, but it's actually not as difficult as it sounds: "Are you kidding or are you actually this self-deluded?"

I think it is fair to say that we are always kidding in the Cosmos, are we not? It even says so at the top of the blog, e.g., Stand-up Cosmology and Jehovial Witticisms in a Mirthful Atmansphere of Affable Transpersonal Gallantry. If we weren't joking, we wouldn't very well be bloody Raccoons, now would we?, as Colonel Beaglehole might say between puffs on his Victorian hookah.

Perhaps Integralist was asking a different question: "Are you frickin' serious?," which is an entirely different matter.

Yes, we are serious. We are seriously pulling your leg and goosing your egg, Mr. Integralist, for as the Master once upin a timeless put it, "my yokes are easy, my words enlight." I could be right, but you give me no reason to believe someone like you is timorously hardinough for the guffah-ha! experience of our inrisible mythsemantics. Or as a wise man or guy once remarked, "last rung in's a written gag, so your seenill grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for my laughty revelation."

In fact, I think it is unfair to avoid saying that this summarizes the essential deference with which you persistently remand us to your authority, thy wilber done. See if you can't clutch my daft: Don't worry, it's just aphasia go through before the noesis in your head becomes real. Ascent you a son, amen for a child's job! That's the New Man, we're just putting him on. When you reach a ribald age, you can grasp the wheel of this broken-down trancebardation. Wilber's theosaurus might help you circumnavigate, but you'll need a plastic exejesus for the darshan your vehicle, that's the crux of the master.

Salvarel pounds of no penurious interest annunciate themselves to hear. First, you seem rather jung and therefore easily freudened. This much is bobvious to the finnagling professional pslackologist. And as my fitfully growning minister of doctrinal enforcement put it to you in my sleep, "You've probably read enough Wilber and the like to intellectually grasp, at least on some level, what Bob is talking about. However, you are utterly without genuine gnosis. You aren't aware of this, of course; how could you be?"

If my Minister is wrong, kill him now, crasstalker! Show me the sword of your true gnosis! Prove where there is Will there is no wu-wei! Show me the phase before you were bearthed and begaialed! Show me Raccoon nature!

Mach Schau, little Beatle!

Ah ha! My marysophial raccoon nous could sniff you a smile away! Silent but deadly, like wind of ex-wife of Bob Dylan! You know something is happening, don't you, Mr. Drones on and on, and besides, we got your point already? But what is it?

Now you say: "Don't get me wrong -- I agree that your blog serves a purpose and one that may be, overall, 'upward serving' (in terms of what you call verticality). But this post, again, reveals the GLARING BLINDSPOT of this blog. Take that for whatever its worth."

We say this. All to gather now: what is upword serving verticalisthenics worth? It all deepens. For you? Nothing. For noble Raccoon? Deity bread before bleakfest, fertile ovasations sonny side up. A luxury corp at pentecost. Eloha, that's a good bye for the Love that removes the sin and other scars (speaking allegheirically). But nobody crosses the phoenix line 'til he be repossessed and amortized, so you go back and do more omwork, or you're not grounded. For life!

You say: "Don't kid yourself that you are a club of folks that are completely free and without pre-existing frameworks (and biases) by which you (mis)understand others. Otherwise you're putting yourself on a self-declared pedestal, above pretty much everyone else, and thus apart from everyone else. You will only ever preach to the choir unless you 'see and 'rectify' this blindspot."

Umm, get off pedestrial and remove preachy spleen blandspot from own I! No spiral, just circle drain. Beholied! I preach what I practice only to high flier choir on fire in aspiraling gyre! Practice make perfect, and vice versa!

*****

To summarize our differences: you conflate boundaries and limits. We adhere to God-given boundaries that may be used as springboards to the limitless, while you reject these absolute boundaries and replace them with your kenmade limits. Good luck in your quixotic endeavor to write without the eternal laws of grammar or to compose music without the scales and chords given to us by our Composer.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Take it to the Limitless One More Time

Once again I didn't intend to post. This may be a short one, unless I am unexpectedly seized by something from above... or beneath... or behind... or within... or yonder. Which, as a matter of fact, is the subject of the post: the essential limitlessness of the soul vs. the limits we place on it. These limits are not always the fault of the limitee. Some people are just not intellectually, or spiritually, or aesthetically, or linguistically gifted, so their minds will only take them so far. Their mental horizons are only so wide and not a millimeter wider. Nevertheless, almost everyone has some "point of entry" to the eternal, whether it is through music, or parenting, or a craft, something which either "dissolves" the ego or allows it to break through and connect with the wider world.

To briefly return to yesterday's post, I spoke of how scripture and revelation can be thought of as a reflection of the eternal within time. The genius of scripture -- something which no human could have accomplished, at least without divine assistance -- is that it speaks to men of all gifts and capacities, at whatever level. The other day, Petey made a cheap shot at one of those vacuous TV preachers, but don't get me, I mean Petey, wrong. Religion must meet a man where he is. It would be as absurd for me to appear on TBN as it would be for Joel Osteen to be the keynote speaker at the annual Raccoon Lodge convention.

But someone must speak the language of eternity in terms the average man can grasp. It's something that is actually quite critical to both the salvation of the individual and to the harmony of society, and is one of the things that makes America great -- i.e., its basic religiosity. I certainly relate to a simple person of faith much more than I do to a sophisticated yahoo such as Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, who actually have far more soul-deadening limits than those they mock. They truly "don't get it," but are nevertheless enormously proud of their spiritual autism -- technically known as Assburger's Syndrome.

I'm getting sidetracked. This post was actually inspired by a couple of comments made by Frithjof Schuon in reference to the painful struggles of his youth. For a time he was employed in a meaningless occupation that had nothing to do with his true vocation, which he had yet to discover. In dealing with a typical coworker, he had the sense that the coworker was "hemmed in by all the objects and mental images that surround him. I feel that these people adhere flatly to their mental images with all their soul, without any freedom of movement and without any possibility of taking up an objective attitude towards them."

He also observed that "When I speak with people I have the feeling that I can perceive their limitations physically; I see their limits almost tangibly before me and feel oppressed by the awareness that there is no entry and no key to their darkness, and that for them there is no exit, that with dull eyes like fish they bump against the glass walls of their mental horizon.

Now, one thing you must immediately bear in mind is that neither of these comments were intended to convey contempt. Far from it. Rather, they were expressions of a familiar kind of pain that apparently has no name, and which I myself had never adequately articulated until reading these passages. A decent person will not automatically blame the world for the fact that he doesn't fit into it. Rather, in the absence of some kind of emotional support from like-minded people, he will naturally blame himself: the world is right. There's just something wrong with me. I am a misfit. I need to change myself so that I can be like the others. But this is no solution. Rather, it will simply exchange one kind of existential pain for another. A lion can try to fit in with the other sheep by eating grass all day, but that is far from the ideal solution. But what can you do if you've never even met another lion?

The human world is an interpersonal world. It is a tapestry of humanness that comes at us from every possible angle, high and low. Each of us must find our place within this tapestry, but it is much easier for some than for others. An "average" person apparently feels "at home" in the world, for the simple reason that the world was made for him. But if you are far from average, the world is going to literally be an alien place. It is going to be much more painful -- even bizarre. To take a mundane example, the world was made for righthanded people. If you are lefthanded, you are going to have to deal with all kinds of trivial inconveniences for the simple reason that the world literally wasn't made for you. In the not too distant past, parents would even force lefthanded children to be righthanded, which would cause real damage, similar to "enlightened" parents who try to raise their children without a strong sexual identification.

The world was also made for heterosexuals. If you are homosexual, we can only say tough luck. We are not going to overturn the order of the cosmos just so you can feel more comfortable in it. This is such a narcissistic demand. Yes, the homosexual is "different," but not nearly as different as I or my fellow Raccoons are. And yet, we do not expect the world to conform to our needs. I don't expect that a certain percentage of television characters must be Bobbleheads, or that special accommodations should be made for us, or that ballots must be designed so that we can understand them, or that closed-captioning be furnished so that we can understand what the hell is going on on TV.

No, it is enough that we have found each other: a little community of the limitless. Back to Schuon's comment above: When I speak with people I have the feeling that I can perceive their limitations physically; I see their limits almost tangibly before me and feel oppressed by the awareness that there is no entry and no key to their darkness, and that for them there is no exit. I am eager to know how many readers have also felt this, for I certainly do. In dealing with someone, there is a sort of instantaneous -- and oppressive -- intuition of the exact limits of their horizons. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with education. More often than not, the highly educated person has simply internalized an officially sanctioned set of limits, beyond which their minds cannot venture. They are hemmed in by their education, not liberated by it. Imagine the frustration of dealing with the typical New York Times reader or NPR listener -- just incredibly narrow limits masquerading as sophistication.

This also has nothing to do with basic intelligence. Many intelligent people have drifted in and out of this site who have no idea what I'm talking about. People routinely leave comments that make it clear that they not only do not understand my post, but even the point of the blog. Often they will take something I wrote and merely fit it into their existing framework -- in other words, they place me within their own limits.

Let's take an obviously intelligent person, say, Christopher Hitchens. He is a good example, because he is clearly gifted in a sense, and yet, the iron bars within his soul are truly tangible. His gift has ended up sharply limiting his horizons, probably because it also happens to be in the service of a fair amount of narcissism. I would no more get into a debate with him about religion than I would debate my dog, because in both cases I would lose.

One of the persistent misunderstandings of my critics is that the people who agree with me are "followers" -- or that I could even have such a thing. Obviously, the "Bobblehead" designation is always used both ironically and affectionately, for the people who most agree with me are the ones who are probably the most fiercely independent, and who have spent their lives winning their personal insights from the formless infinite void in a world that was either indifferent or even hostile to them.

I met one of our regular readers several months before I started this blog. We engaged in a correspondence that was intensely stimulating on many levels, and now I know why: I had found a fellow Raccoon, a person with no limits! Just as I can instantly sense someone's limits, I now realize that I could sense her freedom. No matter where I went, she could follow -- and vice versa. A particularly brilliant psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas, refers to this as "the erotics of being," because there is such a tangible joy involved in connecting with someone on this level.

This morning I received an email. I hope he or she will not be embarrassed, because they shouldn't be. But in a perfect synchronicity, it articulates exactly what this particular post is about, and the cosmic service I wish the blog to provide. This person wrote, "The last week or so's posts have been giving me the sense that you were a couple steps ahead of where I've been wanting to [go].... [W]ith today's post I was sure with each word that you were about to completely say what I've been trying to get out and then some.... [It] really sent the neurons a-swirling. A strange thing this blogosphere, a very strange and wondrous thing -- the distance of entire continents is no obstacle for thoughts to bounce off each other and spark still other thoughts afire."

In fact, a couple of days ago, another emailer expressed it this way: "What do I see when I go to your blog? It's like traveling on a dark night, towards a bubble of light on the horizon. You know that once you are there, you can refresh yourself, rest, be edified, and continue the journey." You see? I cannot be a "leader," just a useful bloglight on the horizon of being.

Now, just as I do not have contempt for the person who does not understand me, I do not draw any kind of egoic gratification from these kinds of comments. For one thing, these people are my equals, undoubtedly gifted in certain areas I am not. The point is the same as with the correspondent alluded to above: the erotics of being, the liberating joy of finding another person to play with in hyperspace! We're not alone after all!

So if I am going to have "followers," it can only be in this sense: to help people vault themselves beyond their own limits in their own unique idiom. This is what my most esteemed teachers have done for me. I will always be their humble student but never their follower, or I will have both insulted them and learned nothing in the process. For there is none good but One; and to quote Schuon again, this One "wishes to be worshiped by every man according to the nature He gave him."

Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Meditation: Edges, Endings, and Eternal Beginnings

As we mentioned yesterday, human beings, unique among the animals, live in the relative world but can participate in eternity by aligning themselves with what Schuon calls the "relatively absolute" Truth of revelation, which reflects the Real. On superficial consideration, "relatively absolute" seems like a contradiction of terms, but it is the only designocean that adequately floats our skiffuation. Since the absolute is absolute, in order to know it, we must rely upon "reflections" of it in the relative.

Due to the law of analogy (as above, so below), these reflections are everywhere, but we must learn how to detect them. Hints of God are in literally everything, in the most mundane objects and activities, something that modern man has gradually forgotten, much to his spiritual detriment. Pre-Enlightenment man perhaps lived at the other extreme, a completely enchanted world in which nothing was merely what it was. Rather, everything -- mountains, rivers, trees, stars, etc. -- was an occasion for recollection of God. The universe was a theophany -- a garment, so to speak, that both concealed and revealed the naked God.

Now this "ground floor" of the human psyche still exists. We can pretend to ignore it, but it will be at our peril and to our spiritual detriment. For in reality, just as no person can actually successfully repress his unconscious, even the most devout materialistic atheist cannot actually treat the cosmos as a mere object. Look at Carl Sagan, for example. One of the reasons he was such a popular figure is that -- his doctrinaire atheism notwithstanding -- he successfully inspired a sense of wonder in science geeks about the cosmos. One would be wrong to conclude that this wonderment was simply a logical response to the objective science. Rather, this sense of wonder is what inspired Sagan to become a scientist to begin with, and it was infectious for billions and billions of nerds -- perhaps even increasing their reproductive fitness by making them slightly more appealing to women.

Here again we see that the roots of science extend into thoroughly alogical (not illogical) cognitive modalities. The true man of science confronts our numinous cosmos with the same awe and wonderment as the ancients, but simply takes it in a different direction. But in the end, wonder is both science's sufficient cause and its necessary end, for, despite a scientific revolution that has now been going on for well over 300 years, the cosmos is vastly more mysterious and wonderful than even the most imaginative ancient could have conceived. Wonders will never cease, even if our capacity for wonderment continues to be blunted by some of the other deleterious effects of modernity -- it's ugliness, its obsession with the transient and trivial, its elevation of our animal nature to an end rather than a means, etc.

But why a sense of wonder? On the one hand, animals -- and many animal-human hybrids -- have no sense of wonder. They have appetites, desires and impulses, but are essentially content when these are temporarily satiated. But the higher we ascend, the more preoccupied we are with this heightened sense of wonder. I am at the point in my life when I would be satisfied to spend my entire day in a state of contemplative wonder, just patiently waiting for my daily bread -- which always comes, if you wonder long enough.

For the functional aspect of wonder is to clear a space so that one may be shocked by the familiar. It seems that evolution built us in such a way that we can get used to anything. For you menfolk out there, never forget that in a bar somewhere, Billy Bob Thornton is saying, "Angelina? You find her attractive? That annoying drama queen?" And Brad Pitt is saying, "Jennifer? That clinging dolt? I couldn't look at her for another second." Yes, there is nothing we cannot get used to -- which is why we must counter this tendency by cultivating our sense of wonder (and its sister, gratitude). It is what allows us to recognize and escape through the numberless inscapes that dot the horizon.

Me? I am very happily married. Why? Because it never ceases to amaze me that any earth woman would have me. It's something I wonder about all the time. But I didn't intend to get tastelessy personal here, like Col. Beaglehole and Dame Edith.

The celebration of the New Year is a ritual we retain because it allows us to brush up against the eternal. Again, religions are languages of the absolute -- you might say that religious language is suffused with the light of the eternal, allowing us to recognize the "afterglow" from above. It is like a meteor shot down from heaven. Like the wind, we don't know where it comes from, but we can detect it as it whizzes by. By meditating on it, we may "prolong" eternity into time.

But there are "natural" ways to think about the eternal, and the New Year is one of them. How is that? Since I am running out of time, I will mostly quote from a very interesting (and now expensive) book called The Symmetry of God by Rodney Bomford, which does the best job of integrating sophisticated theology and modern psychoanalysis I have ever encountered.

Bomford notes that we cannot actually conceve of eternity, since it is both timeless and changeless, whereas thought naturally takes place in time. But we can grasp it through various analogies in the herebelow, for example, the "everlasting," which "provides the closest image of the timeless within time." Therefore, we gain a sense of timeless in proximity to things that are very old, like a European cathedral, or the Pyramids, or Wrigley Field -- anything "whose beginning is lost in the mists of time, the ancient and the ageless, for these approximate in feeling to the everlasting."

At the same time, at the other end of the extreme, we may also glimpse the eternal in the passing moment, "for such a thing is simultaneously whole and unchanging -- it has no time in which to change.... It is there in its fullness -- and it is gone again." Thus, a mystic such as William Blake could see eternity in a flower or grain of sand

Eternity can also be suggested "by the last event of a series." Bomford cites the example of an aging travel-writer "who had long before visited many places for the first time, and returned often, found a renewed significance in returning once more deliberately for the last time. Places regained the freshness of the first visit." Similarly, "the last words of the dying may be seen as a key to an understanding of a whole life. The last of the series completes the picture, ends the story, and thus hints at the instantaneous wholeness of eternity."

Think "it is accomlished." What was? Oh, I don't know, maybe a little bridge between time and eternity in the heart of the cosmos, making each moment an eternal new year where death touches Life and the former is tranfsigured by the latter.

Today we stand at the edge of time, and therefore, the edge of eternity, as we approach the "end" of one year and the "beginning" of another -- the uniting of old and new, as they touch tomorrow at midnight. The Book of Revelation captures this quality, when the enthroned Christ "announces himself as The First and the Last and the Lord God himself is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. Similarly, St. Augustine "addressed God as 'Thou Beauty, both so ancient and so new,' an expression of eternity which plucks at a deep unconscious chord in us."

O first and last truth of Self
Knowing without knowledge all that can be unKnown:
Existence to the end of the beginning.*
Unborn body of the bodiless one,
Dark rays shining from a midnight sun,
Your phase before you were bearthed and begaialed,
Empty tomb of a deathlaz child.
I am? That!
O me ga!
I can explain everything.
I know this place.
Been here before.
Where we started.
No it this time.
The word made fresh.
Telos when it's over.
Now. It is accomplished.
--Petey, with *HT to John Lennon and Jesus