Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night (11.01.10)

Well, not last night, but yesterday. I'm trying to tear through this wonderful new book by Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, but it's got so much information and so many interpretations that it's a little difficult to assimilate and rewordgitate it in the usual way. These days, most books I read are of the metaphysical/theological/philosophical/mythopoetic variety, which requires an entirely different skill set, or at least approach.

In the case of the latter, you're sort of internalizing the Dreamer, and then trying to see what the world looks like through that particular dreamer's eyes, say, Frithjof Schuon or Sri Aurobindo, two of history's greatest and most expansive cosmic dreamers. The cosmic metaphysical dream colors all the particulars of our experience, and in fact, allows one to notice many particulars that would otherwise elude us, and place them in the context of a greater and more encompassing vision. Obviously, you're not going to get much of this in a typical secular education.

Rather, in the case of most books, you're only getting the dream content, and it's up to you to come up with the dream that will synthesize it and give it meaning. When a book is too long, or poorly edited, or becomes weak or boring as it goes along, it's often because the author insufficiently dreamt the material. But most conventional scholars are not proper dreamers anyway, or else they just interpret the material through the controlling dream of the day, say, secular liberalism or materialistic scientism.

In a secular eduction, whatever else you learn, the worst part of it is that you will have internalized the Secular Dream -- which is actually a nightmare, or at least a dream unworthy of Man and that which (or Who) dreams him. As such, you will have committed spiritual cluelesside without even knowing it. Satan works in mysterious ways, but this isn't one of them. The public education system has been doing his heavy lifting for some 40 years now.

Not sure if I'm making myself clear. Take the miracle of Life, which is to say, Life Itself. You can hardly expect some academic worker-beeologist to place life in its proper dream context (not that we don't need worker bees and other hivenauts). Rather, in order to succeed at science, you often must either be a person who is cut off from, or disinterested in, the depths of his dream life, or simply passively accede to the institutional dream of professional biology, which is that life is but a machine, with no sh-boom at all.

But in the real dream world,

Hey nonny ding dong, alang alang alay
Boom ba-doh, ba-doo ba-doodle-ay

Oh, life could be a dream (sh-boom sh-boom)
If I could take you up in paradise up above (sh-boom sh-boom)
If you would tell me I'm the only one that you love
Life could be a dream, sweetheart
(Hello hello again, sh-boom & hopin' we'll meet again)


Or, in the words of Sri Aurobindo,

Mystic Miracle, daughter of Delight,
Life, thou ecstasy,
Let the radius of thy flight
Be eternity
.

So at the moment, I'm trying to re-dream this book, or place it in the context of my own dream, since I naturally want my dream to encompass as much of reality as possible. Only the Dreamer can do this -- I mean, obviously machines can't do it. For example, supposing you knew every "historical fact" in existence, and then fed them all into a supercomputer. What do you suppose the computer would come up with? Would it be able to synthesize all the facts into a suitable dream? Of course not. Only a dreamer can historicize, even as history discloses the Dreamer Who Dreams It.

Of particular interest to me is the religious dream that has allowed the Anglo-American world to succeed where all other dreams failed, to such an extent that it is by far the most powerful dream the world has ever known. In fact, at present there are three primary dreams in competition for who will Dream history 1) American classical liberalism (i.e., conservatism), 2) European statist secular leftism (including its American variety), and 3) Islamism. The world is not big enough for all of these dreams, and yet, only one of these dreams is big enough for the world.

Mead's book is divided into five main sections, each of which is fascinating in its own right. But of particular interest to me is the third section, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, which gets into the religious metaphysics -- our metaphysical dream -- which allowed the Anglo-Saxons to come to dominate the world over the past several centuries. Seen in the light of Mead's explanations, the Marxist counter-dream just looks silly -- i.e., that our success is based only upon oppression, or violence, or exploitation, or class warfare. Rather, our success is because our dream is much closer to reality -- or our reality is much closer to the Cosmic Dream and its Author.

For example, Mead gets into a subject I discussed in the Coonifesto, which is that only open systems can evolve, both individually and collectively. In a closed society, adventure is exchanged for security. Everyone knows their place or role and the tyranny of custom and tradition are complete, as in the contemporary Islamic world, or, to a lesser extent, among the ironically named "progressives." Because of their dominance, there is no place less intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- free in America than on a leftist university campus. Likewise, they represent the main organized opposition to that which, more than any other factor, has created so much progress in the world, the free market, compared to which the progressive movement has contributed essentially nil to the betterment of mankind.

As Mead writes, "the journey from East to West is a journey from relatively closed to relatively open society," both historically and geographically. For example, even in contemporary America, the world of the New York Times is the quintessence of a closed, parochial, backward-looking world view, especially as compared to the view here from Raccoon Lookout in Upper Tonga. But further east from New York to Paris, the view gets even more closed and crimped.

Later Mead notes that "History is in large part the record of efforts, more often successful than not, of the advocates of closed society to shut down open societies." For example, what is the contemporary culture war but the effort by leftist elites to strangle debate with political correctness and to enforce their narrow views on the rest of us, through the news media, through Hollywood, through acedemia, by packing the Supreme Court, etc.? Mead writes that "History may be understood as a series of efforts to tame the disruptive intellectual and political forces of an open society and restore the closed society with its stability and reassuringly eternal and absolute qualities."

Now obviously, it isn't just secular leftists who want to shut down progress and create a closed society. In the past, traditional religion has most often been the main adversary of the open society, and therefore progress. A large section of Mead's book is devoted to explaining how we in the Anglo-American world got it just right in terms of religious metaphysics, in such a way that progress not only became possible, but inevitable. But it is always a very tricky balance, and it's not something we should take for granted. Rather, as we shall see, it involves a "trinity," a three part dynamism that Mead calls tradition-revelation-reason. Societies that move too far in one of these directions become dysfunctional, and either cannot endure or cannot evolve.

I'm unfortunately running out of time here, but in a subsequent post, I especially want to get into an idea that I believe will be of particular interest to Raccoons, which is the distinction between what Mead calls static religion and dynamic religion, for this is a key that unlocks many cosmic doors -- perhaps all of them.

VOTE quickly, before the arrival of the Blue Celephalapodians.

28 Comments:

Blogger NoMo said...

Although he’s an easy rider, thankfully Bob’s no one-hit-wonder like the Electric Prunes (for those of you younger viewers)…

Now back to the program which is already in progress.

11/07/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Everyone who is not “bound” by God-made True Freedom (“dynamic religion”), by nature gravitates to man-made false freedom (static religion). I’m probably somewhat off track here, but that is what I dreamed.

I also dreamed that I voted repeatedly.

11/07/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"The public education system has been doing his heavy lifting for some 40 years now. "

So what would be your proposals to change the public education system?

11/07/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Freedom + competition, i.e., vouchers.

11/07/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Cryptic – Public education? Here’s a good place to start. You’ve got a lot of stone to tear down and documents to shred if you’re going to deny it.

11/07/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger vogz said...

Gagdad,

Speaking of the leftist university campus, have you been following the recent fiascos at the University of Delaware? I take the postmodern mindset of our universities for granted, but at the same I'm amazed at how brazen their program is (interestingly, the program is a part of Residence Life, not a curriculum determined by faculty).

11/07/2007 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Vogz, I was just about to provide some links about that. Here's the F.I.R.E. page with all of the major links, and there's a good summary at Minding the Campus.

11/07/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Cryptic, as Gagdad already said vouchers I'll just add disbanding teacher's unions and dumping tenure. When good teachers can be rewarded for their efforts and bad teachers expediently fired for their screw-ups, the students will be far better served.

11/07/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

"Rather, in order to succeed at science, you often must either be a person who is cut off from, or disinterested in, the depths of his dream life..."

Wapiti
four legged ostrich
undeterred by bad cliche
nose to the grindstone

11/07/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

I hope you'll continue with your impressions of God and Gold. Having recently read parts of an interview with Mead, I would have likely had no interest in it -- but now I'm intrigued! And I really agree with this:

"I'm trying to re-dream this book, or place it in the context of my own dream, since I naturally want my dream to encompass as much of reality as possible."

That is our Work!

11/07/2007 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

This seems like the perfect post to update ya'll on my flying trapeze lesson this weekend! It was dreamy! I actually got up there and did it. I even hung by my legs and let the other guy grab me. I didn't have the skills required yet to get back to my trapeze but that's what the belt is for! Funny enough, the scariest part of the whole experience was letting go and trusting the net and belt. I can't wait to try it again this week plus I am determined not to go hungover this time! The night before I got invited to go to an October 34th party at this cool special effects studio in Pacoima. I think it was called Todd Masters Effects. We even got to meet the guy who was the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Guy in Ghostbusters. He had another costume though. I was my usual evil demon self. Although I did have the wings and wig on for the party. Open bar, it's always dangerous...;)

11/07/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Allow me to summarize today's topic if I may:

God is down (way down).
Gold is up (way up).
We're all pretty much screwed as a result (spiritually speaking).

wv: poapk (exactly)

11/07/2007 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I agree with establishing vouchers or some other system of choice in schools, getting rid of or significantly weakening the teacher's union, and at least altering the system of tenure.

nomo,

That seems to be mostly an assertion that America was founded "under God". It gives no specific suggestions for changes to the public education system.

The trailer for the documentary itself indicates that the intent is to keep the two institutions (government and religion) separate, but not to prohibit influence. I'm not sure how one could prohibit influence anyway, and as it is all but one member of Congress professes a religion, so religion has plenty of influence. Atheistic objections to religion in schools tend to be centered around things like intelligent design in science classes and overt attempts at proselytization.

11/07/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Everyone knows their place or role and the tyranny of custom and tradition are complete, as in the contemporary Islamic world, or, to a lesser extent, among the ironically named "progressives.""

This brings to mind the current problems in Pakistan, and how tyrannical mere "democracy" is in the Islamic world (where it exists).

Because if a democracy doesn't include liberty, and a Republic, that guarantee's at the very least, basic God-given rights to every citizen, it is a tyranny by mob rule (see the Palestinians for another clear example).

This is exactly what the leftists want, unless the majority doesn't happen to agree with them.
Tyranny is still their ultimate goal, nevertheless, be it implicitely or complicitely.
They may not all see it, but that is the result of mere democracy.

11/07/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

CrypticLife said..."So what would be your proposals to change the public education system?"

I rather like H.L. Mencken's advice which I noted, "A startling and dramatic improvement in American education requires only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools."

11/07/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Hmmm... Vouchers would be an improvement... sort of like escaping the clutches of Jack the Ripper by getting Vito Corleone rub him out "If I do this for you, some day you'll do a favor for me" - they'll come with strings attached, either on your end, or on the schools end in order to be able to receive them. Tax Credits would be a better route.

Of course the Best route would be to have the gov't completely out of the picture, but I'm afraid that's way down the line.

The Schools were where the progressives first got their claws into America, they'll be the last part of America that we wrench them out of.

11/07/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Lisa said "...hungover this time! The night before I got invited to go to an October 34th party..."

I see 'hungover' and "October 34th party" as being integraly tied together.

Tied up and pre-hungover is the only way you'd get me up on a trapeze - and then I'd advise clearing the spewage zone below.

Yikes!

Pictures?

11/07/2007 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"... every "historical fact" in existence, and then fed them all into a supercomputer. What do you suppose the computer would come up with? Would it be able to synthesize all the facts into a suitable dream? Of course not. Only a dreamer can historicize, even as history discloses the Dreamer Who Dreams It."

For proof, open any history textbook from any school at any grade. About as informative and inspiring as reading the ingredients on a box of cereal:
"Columbus 1492,
Founders 1776,
Civil War 1861–1865,
Warning: The NEA has determined that ingesting American values is hazardous to your health."

11/07/2007 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous JohnR said...

Oh, Bob, the muse is back upon you! What a great post. I am off the buy the Mead book this weekend. Are you familiar with his paper on the Jacksonian tradition in US history?

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2751/is_1999_Winter/ai_58381618/print

11/07/2007 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous dilys said...

There's something amazing about the Anglosphere, and Sr. D. & I were wondering at dinner about how shaky and complicated, and more dynastic than "spiritual," was the English shift into Reformation mode.

As an extremely American convert to Orthodox Christianity, I am on something like Lisa's trampoline, doing an ungainly cultural split: The pure and untampered-with Revelation of the Trinity is indispensable; but without the adjunct of Good Common Sense and decentralization by English faithfulness to their own political and imperial self-interest, and a period of ruthless altar-stripping, there would be no American Experiment. I imagine a New World in servile amber, being plundered by the self-satisfied ossified-ecclesiastical Old.

A narrow escape, at times.

And for a joinder of science and spirit, I enjoyed this, finding in the very atoms of the dusty earth a Holy Grail of "invisible power....as the mysterious holiness of the world, as the power of life, as the fire in which the world will be transfigured into a new heaven and new earth.”

11/08/2007 01:38:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Dilys – Thanks for the link – definitely have to get my hands on Bryson’s book and revisit “First Things”. Pondering again the breathless mystery took me back again to “even angels long to look into these things”.

11/08/2007 06:53:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

It is interesting that Anglo-American topic would circle into public education. My recent study indicates that those promoting Anglo-American dominion were the same forces behind universal government sponsored education. They simply couldn't tolerate creative individuals wrecking the system they had worked so hard to establish by 1920. The best solution, therefore, was to develop an education system that was mind-numbing and would produce mediocrity, obedience, and apathy. It worked. The worst has certainly been the last 40-50 years, but the program was in place long before that. It all hangs together.

11/08/2007 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

I'm not sure about Joseph's point. I suppose Anglophilia along with generic European nostalgia appeals to a lot of latterday snobs (moi???) and elitists interested in sedating the unwieldy masses....

But the Anglosphere politically and culturally has matched order and creative ferment more symmetrically than any other historic undertaking I know. The Anglosphere has always accommodated a good lashing of independent thinking, Wycliffe and Whitechapel and Jacksonians, not just elder sons of peers. Read about the Scots-Irish and don't miss John R's link. Mind-numbing conformity is not on the same planet as that lot.

Otherwise, sir, please flesh out "my recent study indicates...." (I'd write the challenge in Cockney if only I were that agile, with rhyming slang in the school of Burke.) 

11/08/2007 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I'm just excited to see what happens as the greatest nation on earth comes into full contact football with the Old Church. Will it be too late?

As an extremely American convert to Orthodox Christianity, I am on something like Lisa's trampoline.

Likewise... For me, the theology, while complex, is intellectually satisfying. My problem is that there is some anti-American residue here and there, partly because of America's Protestant/R.Catholic/Restoration church history.

Also, 1880-1920? Not our glory years. But I think America is steps closer to being a place where the only problems are human ones and not systematic errors.

As for Joseph's cited anglo-philes, I think it was simply a bit of racism on their part; What I love about the anglos isn't their skin or traditions, but their ideas. And those anglos with a bit of foresight wanted to 'teach the world to fish' as it were.

Some wanted to go back to being the ones handing out fish....

11/08/2007 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Must-read, coons!

11/08/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Like River, I think the challenge in some quarters is to maintain the human enhancement of true virtuous liberty in harmony with the radical/catastrophic truths of doctrine, meanwhile ducking the pull-a-cord potshots as to "consumerism" from a variety of not-so-deep-thinking pulpit exercises.

Searching study of the virtues is the ticket, regrettably but predictably then loosing the usual suspects' toboggan down the greased chute of oversimplified railing as to the inadequacy of "works."

[lying here on the church steps, exhausted, taking a vow of silence as soon as I'm done at the dressmaker's...]

11/08/2007 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

OT -

Bob a quote from physicist
Freeman Dysoni thought you might enjoy:

"Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.

Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions."

i particularly enjoyed the
image of
"[Science and religion are]...two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe."

11/08/2007 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Joseph,
"My recent study indicates that those promoting Anglo-American dominion were the same forces behind universal government sponsored education."

As Dilys noted, that's quite a broad statement - and any such statement that could easily be construed to lump Edmund Burke, Dewey, and Woodrow Wilson together is beyond too broad... even beyond three broad. As it is, I'll feel free to assign my own interpretation of it, and assume (ever mindful of what those first three letters can do to u and me) you meant something similar.

As with most progressives (so tempting to say all progressives... so tempting in fact, I will say all, all) all progressives make a point of speaking as if their concern and earnest best wishes are for all mankind, especially those who are so far beneath them, but in fact they are rigidly opposed to any change in the makeup of (their) class, professions, and (their) neighborhoods. For a fine example, look into Woodrow Wilson a true exemplar of the narrowed intelligence of incredibly stupid progressive intellectuals. You'll find eugenics and even climate change front and center in their views.

"They simply couldn't tolerate creative individuals wrecking the system they had worked so hard to establish by 1920."

No... they couldn't tolerate anyone muscling in on the seeds of corruption they were finally reaping some payoff from, and yes, it most definitely entered us through the educaitonal system. Following their favored methodology, they took what was viewed as an unquestioned good, and used that angle to corrupt it into the poison that is currently killing us. The link to the posting on my site hits the highlights from Jamestown to Ourtown.

I don't mean here to say that Classical Liberals are somehow exempt from prejudice and other forms of stupidity, only that theirs is do their own bouts of shallow emotional thinking and not due to the conclusions inherent in their common ideology.

I endorse the anglosphere and related modern western european cultures (where most of my family tree comes from), in the same way I endorse the Greeks, Romans & Jews (neither of which I'm aware of having any known roots in) and for the same Reasons - their Ideas, Traditions and concepts of Religion and Science are visibly superior to the other cultures of the world, Confucious notwithstanding.

I believe that there is zip, nada, nothing of it which exists in the bone and blood of the race (except perhaps for auburn haired nordic/celtic women ... of course that may have more to do with personal opinion than demonstrable fact), and all to do with the accepted traditions and manner of thinking associated with the West in general and America in particular.

Dwight Eisenhower and Adolf Hitler, Thomas Sowell and Kanye West, Joe Dimaggio and Al Capone... these people are not differentiated by race, heritage or even nationality, but by the ideas they've adopted as theirs. The West resides in the heart and mind, not the bone and blood.

11/08/2007 07:24:00 PM  

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