Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time, Revolution, and the Healing of History (3.17.10)

When the inferior man hears talk about the Absolute, he only laughs at it; it would not be the Absolute if he did not laugh at it... the self-evidence of the Absolute is taken for a darkness. --Adapted from Lao Tzu, who obviously saw Bill Maher coming

Our ideological adversaries are not living in reality. Indeed, that is what makes them our adversaries. People who don't live in reality necessarily become frustrated, resentful, and aggressive, especially toward those who do live in reality. They think that by attacking reality and those who live in it, they can somehow transform their unreality into reality, but of course it never works. Reality always has the last word.

Mead writes that everyone in the Anglo-American world, whether secular or religious, is within the Abrahamic tradition, which is one of the things that sets us apart from unsuccessful cultures. Abrahamic religion "holds that history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end." In the Abrahamic tradition, history is "the name for a period in the human story in which certain problems need to be solved. History in this sense is not synonomous with the full term of human existence. History is a period and a process through which humanity solves (or is given a solution to) certain sets of problems before moving on to the next and higher stage in its existence."

Abrahamic ideologies "largely see the human story as consisting of three stages: prehistory, history, and posthistory." Seen in this context, history "is not just the passage of time" -- indeed, Abrahamic peoples are intrinsically "historical" and never really see time in this meaningless way. Rather, history involves "the accomplishment of a task. Something is wrong with the world; the world has been wounded. History is the process by which what is wrong is set right, what is broken mended. History may look chaotic and meaningless, but everything that happens is ultimately part of the healing process..."

Now, the main difference between Abrahamic religion and Abrahamic atheism or materialism is that the latter regards the former as just a stage on the way to the atheist's superior "post human" knowledge and insight, while the religionist would regard the atheist as existing at a sort of right angle to the stream of historical development, paddling around in an irrelevant little self-created eddy. He is like a drop critiquing the ocean and imagining himself superior to it. But the atheist cannot help thinking that existence and history have a purpose, thus the fervent attempts to evangelize their posthuman (in reality infrahuman) faith.

In the words of Schuon, such a person regards his own "extrinsic explanations as essential factors of truth," objectifying what is only subjective and dragging truth "down into the depths into which it has itself fallen." The whole enterprise is absurd, since "one cannot enclose the universe within 'human subjectivity' while at the same time allowing for a point of view beyond this subjectivity..." Man is either a fragment of the Absolute or he is nothing.

We can all agree that something is wrong with the world. In the absence of time, we could never set it right, so history is indeed an opportunity to mend what is broken and participate in what Jews call tikkun olam, the "repair" or "perfecting" of the world. In Raccoon parlance we refer to this ultimate Adventure of Consciousness as "Cosmotheosis," or the divinization of the lower world, which can only be accomplished through human beings, since only we have the freedom to do so (i.e., vertical freedom of movement). In other words, we are the "lens" through which the white light of the Absolute deigns to undergo the adventure of color, each of which is a fragment of the pure Light. If we could not suffer pain, falsehood, and color, we could not suffer pleasure, Truth, and Light. This is why human existence is such a guilty pleasure.

Mead writes that secular modernism "is the youngest member of the family of Abraham." With the exception of a personal God, it "faithfully reproduces the most important pieces of the Abrahamic paradigm," and believes that its version of the faith will prevail in the end. Secularists still "adopt the core structure of the Abrahamic idea of history to tell their own stories of the world." (Mead goes into considerably more detail in defense of this thesis, but to a Raccoon it is soph-evident.)

The other "master narrative" of our time is the sudden flowering of human potential of the last several centuries. As Mead writes, "nothing in humanity's past prepared it for change this dramatic in so many fields over such an extended period of time." Because we are a relatively young species and exist within the heart of this ongoing explosion, it is difficult for us to see it.

But don't worry -- Petey sees it just fine. He would disagree with Mead as to when the noospheric explosion (i.e., psychogenesis) commenced, situating it instead about 35-40,000 years ago, when merely genetic proto-humans suddenly and inexplicably began exhibiting distinct signs of humanness, such as the fully realized artistic images on the underground cave walls of Europe. While the explosion continued afterwards, we couldn't see it because it was happening so slowly, just as we can't see the Big Bang happening, even though we're right here in the center of this rapidly expanding cosmos.

What happened with modernity is that we became aware of the exploding noosphere, since time suddenly "sped up," but mainly in the Anglo-American world. With the arrival of free market capitalism, for the first time "history became a real presence in human lives" (Mead). For example, the Muslim world is still stagnating back in that earlier time, so that to them, we are aliens from the future bearing weird and often threatening gifts such as computers, airplanes, and antibiotics. While they eagerly accept most of these gifts -- i.e., bin Laden is never far from his computer or dialysis machine -- they would like to pull the future back into the past, when none of these gifts existed, but still keep the gifts. Thus, they are not just premodern, but pre-ironic.

As for the left, they simply want to pull us all into a weird future which cannot exist except in the form of a projection of fantasy. They are post-ironic.

Mead writes that "Marx is to progressivism what Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism," in that he explicated "the fullest and most systematic expression" of the secular leftist myth that still animates them today, even (or perhaps especially) if only unconsciously. Again, it shares the deep structure of Abrahamic religion, including a romantic "garden of innocence" (i.e., the classless society of early humans), the fall into oppression, exploitation, and class warfare, Marx's revelation of the true laws of history, and the culmination of "the establishment of a higher, final way of life that fully meets human goals and needs," i.e., the triumph of the working class. Thus, Marx didn't so much turn Hegel as Abraham on his head.

But having turned Abraham on his head, leftists also turned Brahman upside down, i.e., the Cosmic Tree. Its roots were now down below, mayared in matter. Having literally transplanted the tree of life into sterile soil, they accomplished a feat of clay, eliminating all the O-lumination in one fallen swoop, subverting That which makes man Man, and embracing the fantasy that they could build a new and improved reality "from the bottom up," absurdly beginning with matter. They could force their vision on a recalcitrant mankind in the same way one can mold matter. But in order to do this most effectively, a large and coercive state was required to do the molding and speed history along toward utopia. Needless to say, there is a big difference between pushing time and being pulled or lured by the eschaton.

Mead writes that "Americans have a hard time realizing this, but they need to." That is, we are faced with the eternal choice of the Glorious Revolution and its descendent, the American Revolution; or the French Revolution, and all its misshapen descendants. Our cosmic duty, as it were, is to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of America's founding seers, as we heal the wounds and wound the heels that history has made.

32 Comments:

Blogger James said...

Awesome.

11/13/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob, your posts just keep peeling back more and more layers of the Cosmic O-nion!

Just one example - This was probably the least profound thing stated today...:
"People who don't live in reality necessarily become frustrated, resentful, and aggressive, especially toward those who do live in reality."

...but it caught my eye, because I had earlier seen what's below in the NY Post, about the "important issue" of deciding who will be Time's Person of the Year; and this is how the elites describe our existence:

"...the cataclysmic confusion, stress, worry and resulting triviality of this stressed beset age, a time affected by instant technology. There is no downtime anymore from the worship of celebrity and trash. People always wanted to be famous and to know others who were famous. But now we have a super examination of celebrity 24/7, and there is no optimism or expectation except of the next scandal. Technology in instant messaging, bloviating opinion and the Internet's sprawling speed and ubiquity have forced real changes..."

And yada yada, plus yada! Not even gruel...

Tut! Tut! Mustn't let myself get into their tree! But they really do take "the self-evidence of the Absolute is taken for a darkness" to the extreme!

As always, grateful to have OC, to calm my nerves!

11/13/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

More on the spiritual, moral and intellectual vacuity of the left by Dennis Prager.

11/13/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Pitfalls
secret of the stars
new improved reality
drink it upside down

11/13/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

Bob,
I would be curious if you believe you can reconcile the "dreams" of Schuon and Mead.

I am pretty sure Schuon would have vehemently disagreed with Mead, and I know of key disciples, like Tage Lindbom, for example who wrote counter arguments to this line of reasoning. I don't think they were attacking "reality", however. I simply don't think they viewed historical success, primarily, financial success, as a useful measure of "God's" view of things.
Rather, Schuon looked for wisdom, beauty, sanctity, stability, metaphysics, and greatness.

11/13/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have no doubt that Schuon wouldn't have wasted a moment with Mead and that he would have regarded me as insane.

11/13/2007 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But yes, I can reconcile anything with everything, and vice versa. It's the Raccoon way.

11/13/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kaffepaus said...

I have followed these posts regarding Meads book with great interest, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Bob, it's really fantastic reading!

A few pennies on this line:

"Abrahamic religion 'holds that history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end'"

History is a story, and the Cosmos is The Story. We are part of as well as creators of history. We are history and we are storytellers.

As Donald T. Williams' puts it in "Mere Humanity": We love to tell stories because we are made in the image of the greatest Storyteller of them all, "whos creation is in fact the story we call: 'History and Redemtion'".

J.R.R. Tolkien understood this very well, and Williams quotes Tolkiens anwer to a friend who asked why "modern men" needed myth:

"Dear Sir," I said - "Although now long and estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed,
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons - 'twas our right
(used and misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made."

/Johan, the cosmic coffee-swede

11/13/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"Now, the main difference between Abrahamic religion and Abrahamic atheism or materialism is that the latter regards the former as just a stage on the way to the atheist's superior "post human" knowledge and insight, while the religionist would regard the atheist as existing at a sort of right angle to the stream of historical development, paddling around in an irrelevant little self-created eddy. He is like a drop critiquing the ocean and imagining himself superior to it. But the atheist cannot help thinking that existence and history have a purpose, thus the fervent attempts to evangelize their posthuman (in reality infrahuman) faith. "

I find this an extremely odd paragraph. Atheists do not subscribe to this idea of "post human" idea -- that's really your own concept, Bob. Atheists do think their knowledge is "superior", as in "correct". Of course they do, as anyone who holds an opinion does, but I don't know of atheists who feel this makes them somehow more than human.

I also don't really agree with your characterization of religionists. While you may view atheists as paddling around in an irrelevant eddy, most religionists view atheists as a danger to be destroyed, or at least vilified.

Atheists also may not think existence and history have a purpose. People have purposes they choose; history itself does not. If one believes in absolute morality (some atheists do, some do not) there can potentially be progress or retrogress.

11/13/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous coondog said...

Woof!

11/13/2007 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Which religionists, Crypt?

11/13/2007 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"religionists" is pretty vague, isn't it? Obviously Muslims have a doctrinal directive to kill unbelievers. However, Christians generally are not too positive towards atheists either. Do I really need to find examples illustrating the reaction of Christians towards atheists? You may say the reaction's not correct or in keeping with Christianity (and may be right), but if we're just talking about what most actually do. . .

I'm not all that sure how Jews feel about atheists.

I think most other religions aren't important for this point, but feel free to bring them up if there's relevancy.

11/13/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

Oh, and coondog, don't feel obligated to write out the whole word. You can just abbreviate it to "W!"

11/13/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous dilys said...

"Schuon looked for wisdom, beauty, sanctity, stability, metaphysics, and greatness."

In this catastrophic historical moment (like perhaps all others not rotting and static), I think the argument is that liberty and prosperity best create the tear in the collective-illusion fence for humans at all levels to resort to Schuon's Virgin's Garden, if one is so disposed. At this point freedom is a necessary, or at least contributory, condition, though never a sufficient one. And arguments about misused freedom, 24/7 celebrity culture etc., do not demonstrate that un-free is better.

Enforced communalism, or the tribal scheme in which resources, time, and prestige are scarce and rationed, offer no such opportunity to the ordinary man, though aristocrats might be better placed. Those arguing for the now-imaginary traditional arrangements I believe imagine themselves stationed among the privileged, not the slaves.

11/13/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous joseph said...

I seriously doubt that Schuon could be convinced that medieval Christians, or American Indians, or Hindus of most any time, etc. were somehow lacking in freedom. There is often a strange confusion among people between "free will" and political freedom.
If the aim of the human state is salvation, then freedom is, by definition, the ability to persue that aim. And, since salvation is, by definition, an inward state, then no outward impediment can prevent one's pursuit. Certainly, one's outward circumstances can be an aid on the path, but they could never be essential.

11/13/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous joseph said...

Also, Schuon, so far as I am aware, was never a proponent of "going back". He wasn't a traditionalist, but and Absolutist and a perennialist. In this regard, he was a proponent of going "in". For him, the history of the world was headed into dissolution. But the solution was not a "traditional arrangement", but an essential engagement with a reality that is inward.

11/13/2007 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Petey aligns himself with the remarks of the gentlelady from... from Dilysville.

11/13/2007 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, he is this blog's mystic ruler. I would align myself with Dilys if I were him too!

11/13/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

cl - What is love?

11/13/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

nomo -- That's an interesting question, though I'm not sure how it's relevant to the views somewhat ill-defined groups have towards each other. Can you explain?

11/13/2007 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

The Anglo-American sphere is wonderful, but it is not the entire human story--or even close.

Neither America nor England can contain France or Italy (for example). Not historically, not culturally, not artistically, not even philosophically.

The cathedral at Bourges, the Last Supper in Milan -- these are vital aspects of our humanity which make us what we are. They are part of Western Civilization, which is more than just England, and certainly much older and deeper than America.

I certainly agree that the Anglo-American sphere represents a cultural and political apotheosis in many ways, but to suggest that this way of being somehow exhausts human potential is something I would find hard to swallow.

Raccoons can come visit me near Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes in March, and I'll show you what I mean. No better place exists on this planet for sipping ichor while re-reading One Cosmos Under God in the limpid Printemps premier!

11/13/2007 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Cryptlife said "I find this an extremely odd paragraph. Atheists do not subscribe to this idea of "post human" idea -- "

Crypt, the goal of leftatheists is to assert and enforce acceptance of the idea that thinking is but the deterministic result of outside conditions, that collective political power must be brought to bear in order to force conditions favorable to the process of approved thinking, therefore arriving at acceptable and inoffensive outcomes which will affirm each citizenbot's expressions of self esteem made in a uniform community of secure comfort.

This is to supersede the defective, outdated, superstitious conservative beliefs in the soul, free will and their oh so dangerous sense of self assured and independent thinking.

Now tell me, how is that not post-human, and how is Gagdad's paragraph odder?

11/13/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

If Christians don't look too kindly on Atheists its because they're human, not because they're Christian. No doctrine in Christianity tells us to hate Atheists. Perhaps, feel sorry for them. Though -- I don't feel sorry for some of them. A few seemed to get the idea even if they wouldn't use the specific words. Unusual, that. But it's rare. Jesus said, "The way is narrow, and few find it."

(What I mean is, if those Christians were Atheists, they would look unkindly on Christians. It's a difference in opinion thing - not everyone is diplomatic about it.)

As for freedom, there is an aphorism which says, "Do not use poor instruments." Don't take pride in the fact that you succeeded with very crappy instruments or conditions - use the finest available. I can tell you from experience that the inward journey is related to the outward one. I would say more precisely that the number of different expressions of the faith that can exist is based on the real liberty of the people in which the faith is. If the only expressions that exist are Martyrs and Hesychast Monks, you're coming up short for the fullness of the body.

If we really do 'heal the world' in the truest sense; undoing the ancestral sin that pollutes it - which can mean on any level - then societies will be better as a result. But, they will not be 'fairy tale good', but better like all things degree by degree.

In this way, I think, we will see the fullness of God in each other, through truth, goodness and beauty.

The freedom is like the Orthodox idea of baptism; it creates a potential. Will we realise that potential or squander it? Everyone gets to choose.

11/13/2007 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Cryptlife said " However, Christians generally are not too positive towards atheists either. Do I really need to find examples illustrating the reaction of Christians towards atheists? "

It would be no less an unfair point to note that of modern gov't's, it is the avowedly atheistic ones of the USSR, China, North Korea, Camobdia, and so on, who have put people in prison or to death for holding religious beliefs, whereas withing the scope of Western Civilization, I know of no concerted efforts to return the favor to atheists in their midst.

Cryptlife posted an evaluation of the D'Souza vs Hitchens debate he attended, though I didn't have time to comment, I did read his evaluation with interest. Particularly amusing was his comment:
"...also caused some friction as D'Souza accused Hitchens of using excess time at one point, exclaiming, "See, that's what atheists do! They hog the public square!" I take it the irony of saying this at Kings College, a Christian school where religious statuary adorned the walls, did not occur to him."

Apparently the larger irony was lost upon Crypt, that this debate was in fact occuring in Kings College, a Christian school where they have every right to display and adorn their walls with religious statuary - and are under no obligation whatsoever to give equal time to atheists who believe them to be useless, foolish and dangerous and borderline illegal - and that Hitchens was, in fact, hogging time (thank you C-Span).

11/13/2007 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

cl - Here is a clue. Love has a little something to do with the "healing of history"...which makes the question more than "interesting". Many believe it holds the key to a Reality that extends far beyond "interesting". Without God, there is no love - only self-interest. That said, how could it possibly be in anyone's self-interest to give up one's life so that another might live on? Now, what is love?

11/13/2007 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Smoov:

I'm quite sure nothing Mead writes is meant to diminish the aesthetic or cultural achievements of other countries and civilizations. He's mainly dealing with the question of the values and attitudes that lead to affluence and progress.

11/13/2007 09:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Formula x said...

God requires about a 25% mix of atheists to leaven the dough of our culture;

Atheists are created randomly; some souls are given an extra dose of lethe to bring a very thick curtain around them.

Underneath this curtain of ignorance, they perform certain indispensable functions for humanity.

So, whereas we don't everyone to be atheists, we do want about 1 of every 4 people to profess atheism.

The reasons for this are somewhat inscrutable but they are there.

11/13/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Smoov said "Raccoons can come visit me near Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes in March, and I'll show you what I mean. No better place exists on this planet for sipping ichor while re-reading One Cosmos Under God in the limpid Printemps premier!"

I'll Go!
er... can you spare round trip tickets?...um... for 5?... and uh... accomodations?

Sheesh. Reality is so annoying.

11/14/2007 05:43:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Details, details Vanster.

Question is: don't the natives require lots of silly paperwork, forms, permits, etc. before we can lob the first water balloon? Will the grounds be suitable for this all-important activity?

Getting hauled off to the Bastille in chains would kinda put a damper on our Raccoon fun.... Course, Sarkozy did have a few nice things to say about us......

11/14/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Hay from TX to you, too, Petey. The etheric cheque is in the mail.

Lest I be misunderstood by the corporeal (which interpretation I prefer to the haunting pianissimo strains of The March of the Straw Men), admiration of the Anglo-American heritage does not contradict anyone, anywhere, spending his well-earned fortune in aesthetically informed neo-aristocratic conspicuous consumption at UNESCO heritage sites. Nor awe at Leonardo (and other treasures of autres temps, autres moeurs). It does not conflate money or the vote with the path of salvation. I praise it only in its own realm, as River suggests, an inspired and effective opening the door to admit more than the tribal-status-privileged. Precious, somewhat fragile at its roots, without which the world would be unimaginably impoverished.

As a temperamental template on this question, I commend again Clarence Thomas' My Grandfather's Son. The interweaving of the spiritual and the practical political are iconic.

11/14/2007 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Smoov,
"I certainly agree that the Anglo-American sphere represents a cultural and political apotheosis in many ways, but to suggest that this way of being somehow exhausts human potential is something I would find hard to swallow."

(Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding the points in question, but) I don't think anyone has suggested that the Anglo-American sphere can exhaust human potential; I don't know if that's even possible, really. Rather, I think the point is that the AA sphere, compared to all other cultures in human history, provides the most fertile ground for human potential to be realized, in both the horizontal and the vertical. That is not to say that other cultures haven't also provided fertile ground, nor is it to suggest that there is not still much or sometimes even more work required from the seedlings planted therein to grow to fruition. Rather, it is the simple result of a culture in which people, by and large, succeed or fail in life entirely by virtue of their own behavior and choices, as opposed to the circumstances of their birth and inherited position in society.

11/14/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger phil g said...

"Thus, they are not just premodern, but pre-ironic.

As for the left, they simply want to pull us all into a weird future which cannot exist except in the form of a projection of fantasy. They are post-ironic."

BRAVO, BRAVO...ENCORE, ENCORE!!!!

Get the man some butter 'cause he's on a roll.......

11/14/2007 06:14:00 PM  

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