On Remembering the Heroic Sacrifice to Vertical Principles
Although I revere Frithjof Schuon (among other men of singular spiritual genius), obviously I cannot go along with his total condemnation of modernity. And yet, I do wonder: is man becoming -- or has he already become -- something he was never intended to be? Are we, as a result of liberty, democracy, and especially the free market, achieving our potential, or are we deviating further and further away from it? Undoubtedly it is a bit of both, and it is critical that we understand which is which -- or, to ask it another way, what are the novel developments that bring us closer to our divine archetype -- that "please God," if you like -- and what are those that pull us further down into the mud?
I would never argue against the freedom of the free market; and yet, at the same time, it does need to be acknowledged that the radical transformations brought about by the market create a new kind of environment which no human actually created but to which we must nevertheless adapt. The things to which we must adapt range from being annoying to vacuous to satanic, and it is important that we not confuse who we are eternally with the transient conditions to which we must adapt. This is surely one of the purposes of religion: to show us the real human ideal and to keep the enduring goal of life in view, irrespective of the local conditions in which we find ourselves.
Indeed, one of the many miracles of scripture is that it somehow equally applies to barbarian nomadic tribes 3000 years ago as it does to modern people today. It is analogous to a great work of art, which is characterized by three things: universality, timelessness, and inexhaustibility. First, great art is universal -- it is trans- and cross-cultural, in such a way that any human being can love and appreciate it. This is why, for example, the moment man became man, he was capable of memorializing that fact with the artistic perfection seen in the cave paintings at Altamira or Lascaux. Our culture could not possibly be more different from their's, and yet, we are still astoneaged by the transcendent beauty that radiates from their hands.
Just as art and scripture are universal, they are timeless. Another way of saying it is that they partake of eternity, or that eternity radiates or is "transmitted" through them. This reminds me of our recent bonehead atheist visitors, who would undoubtedly say, "Duh, Bob, can you prove that?" To which I can only say, "yes, but not to you." All Raccoons are lovers of art, but not just any art. Rather, art that specifically transmits implicit knowledge of eternity and of eternal things. That the atheist is mired down below in the material mind is "not our problem." It would only become a problem if they were to somehow become the majority and therefore enfarce, even if unwettingly, their dryasdust infrahuman (and as always, I mean this literally, not as some sort of insult) voyage on the ocean of being.
Finally, great art and scripture are inexhaustible; which is to say, they partake of the infinite. What intrigues me, as a music lover, is how this quality of inexhaustibility can even be mysteriously present in a three-minute pop or blues number that was never intended to be more than jazz-age diversion or hippie FMera. I will admit that I am unable at this point in my life to truly appreciate the bottomless depths of Bach or Beethoven, but frankly, this is because I am still too distracted by lesser music that, in a way, is more mysterious for being so simple.
I don't want to get sidetracked into a musical discussion here, but an example that comes readily to mind is, say, the beautiful timbre of Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar. Not the fluid virtuosity, the speed, the spontaneous creativity, just the pure sound itself. I am aware of at least one Raccoon who knows exactly what I'm talking about with regard to SRV's unique sound-signature. This tone cuts straight through to the soul (one of the ways we know we have one), but one wonders how? The same can be said for Van Morrison's growl, or Brian Wilson's blend of harmonies, or Sonny Rollins' sax tone, or the suspended silence between Bill Evans' piano notes. These are inexhaustible mysteries to which I can be exposed again and again without boredom or "saturation" ever setting in. It is always new -- which, of course, is one of the primary characteristics of the Old One.
God makes all things new -- which is why boredom is impossible on the spiritual path, or the "adventure of consciousness." This is yet another completely obvious statement that the atheist cannot possibly know (or he wouldn't be an atheist). And although this is a spiritual truth, it is actually something I discovered during the course of my psychotherapy, in particular, a period that lasted for several years in the late '80s and early 90s. I had finished my Ph.D., was married, and had finally left the supermarket for a "career" as a psychologist. I had even begun to publish papers in professional journals. And yet, something was wrong. I won't go into all the details, but the point is that I was unable to "renew my mind." Instead of the open spiral -- the adventure of consciousness -- I was on the line or circle. I had taken things as far as I could on the "human plane," so to speak, and I suppose it was pretty far by conventional standards. However, if I had stayed on that path, my life would have been more or less of a waste.
Not until I discovered the open circle of the higher life -- the divine-human limited lieability partnership -- did things really take off. But here is what I mean about the dangers of the modern society to which we must adapt. The only way you can vault yourself into this open circle is by detaching yourself, in one way or another, from the "world" as it is given to us. Thus, to an outside observer, it probably looked as if less and less were happening in my life, when the reverse was true: more and more was happening, only on a different plane.
The Orthodox Way begins with an anecdote about one of the Desert Fathers who went on a pilgrimage to Rome. There he "was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life -- for he was a great wanderer -- he called on her and asked: 'Why are you sitting here?' To which she replied: 'I am not sitting. I am on a journey.'
"Every Christian may apply these words to himself or herself. To be a Christian is to be a traveller.... We live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time into eternity."
Damn, I had intended this post to delve more deeply into the spiritual meaning and significance of the heroism of the men who have fought and died for our liberty. Let us just say that there are many Americans who maintain that the person who risks his life in defense of a transcendent ideal that doesn't actually exist can only be a fool, a loser, a victim. This is what the leftist means when he affirms his support of the troops. Our fighting men and women are too stupid to even know that they are simply being used by George Bush and his cronies -- which is a transparent projection of the utter cynicism, the complete spiritual vacuum at the heart of the left.
For if you have rejected God and cut yourself off from the transcendent plane, you must be a cynic. Or put it this way: you are either a believer or you are a cynic, and if you are a cynic, you are condemned to a plane in which the mind and spirit cannot renew themselves, for the simple reason that you are not an "open system," open to the source of our being. Therefore, among other things, you must compensate for the renewal of your mind with manic and pointless activities and pursuits. You may think you are excitedly "running to," but you are simply running from. You are not an activist but a lacktivist. Raccoons certainly see it, even if you can't. Frankly, you are pathetic -- which we say with empathy, not hostility.
The reason the cynic is cynical is because he has cashed in transcendence for immanence. Therefore, his cynicism is simply a natural reflection of his flatland existence. Just as hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, cynicism is the backhanded tribute immanence pays to transcendence -- or perhaps a sort of petty pleasure one takes in one's own self-imposed hexisle in the horizontal. And for the same reason these people are so cynical about weighty matters, they are the most gullible in their acceptance of shallow trivialities which rush in to fill the void, such as Al Gore's weather hysteria.
But the point of today's holiday is to honor those heroes who are heroic because they embodied and fought for the transcendent ideal of spiritual liberty -- not for the United States per se, but only insofar as the United States is the embodiment and realization of a spiritual ideal. Their lives and deaths have only been in vain to the extent that we squander our own God-given liberty and abandon the spiritual principles upon which this country was founded. Can you imagine the pain of thinking you had given your life for Paris Hilton or Bill Maher? I know that Raccoons know that this is not said in bitterness, but to illuminate a critically important principle.
To put it another way, although we can never repay the debt of gratitude we owe to these men and women, the only way we can begin to make it up to them is by living the transcendent ideal for which they gave their lives. It is the only way they -- and mankind -- can fulfill their spiritual mission in the divine spiral. So long as your life is not spiritually in vain, then neither will theirs' have been. It is something I never allow myself to forget.
(By the way, if there are any vets or active military out there -- or family -- who would like a free copy of my book, just drop me an email.)