Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ask Not for Whom the Trolls Yell

Dennis Prager has mentioned that one of the things that turned him toward religion was the experience of college. There he encountered, as have most of us, the utter foolishness -- the horror, really -- of secular liberal thought in all its ghastly maninfestations. Thus, to the extent that a modern (not classical) liberal education is useful, it is primarily as a bad example. Which is not nothing. We learn just as much from adverse experiences -- perhaps even more, in a way -- as we do from positive ones.

Another way of saying it is that the true path is straight and narrow. If we could imagine the Way as a line in space, arcing toward its nonlocal deustiny, then there is obviously a vast potential area for deviation. There is no way anyone makes it straight to the goal without deviations and mid-course corrections. But how does one know when one is actually making progress toward the goal?

I was reminded of this by our recent atheist trolls and the absurcular whirrledview they propagrate on the nerves, which is at turns stupid, monstrous or silly. Although we are always ridiculing them, hopefully it is in an instructive and good-natured way (despite their telling absence of humor). For example, the constitutionally impertinent Dupree made several surprisingly pertinent remarks yesterday, including the observation that "this is your brain on atheism." Thus, as it so happens, you can learn a great deal about God by listening to an atheist -- just as Dennis Prager learned a great deal about God by detouring through the academonic ivory tower of leftist babble.

I would even venture to say that we could learn a lot from someone as dense and unevolved as Herman, even though I let him know at the poutset that the bobverse was not true -- that there was literally nothing a man like him could learn about God from a man like me, at least in his present noncoonfiguration. That he confirmed this perception with over 100 comments (including the many comments that Dupree deleted because he felt they were so stupid as to lack even entertainment value) is in itself a powerful proof of the reality of coon scent.

Yes, in just his first few rudimentary grunts and gestures, this mothbreather to the One Cosmos flame was mysteriously able to provide a vivid clueprint of the dreary architecture of his soul -- or, shall we say, soullessness -- that let us know that we were dealing not just with a spiritual cipher, but someone who was -- for whatever reason -- resentful and hostile toward God. (Thus, the soullessness is entirely self-induced and, we pray, a temporary condition.)

Although I try to present these things in a lighthearted manner (i.e., "coon scent"), I am nevertheless talking about something real. There really is a "spiritual perfume" that is emitted by certain particularly lofty souls, just as there is a "soul stench" given off by others. In Herman's braincase, something tells me that we are also dealing with a closed head injury (er, figuratively), so it is unclear how much of his malevolence toward God is involumetary, if you cc what I mean.

That is, like a person who has been reduced to verbal "clanging," Herman kept repeating the same fragments of thought (fragments that in turn reveal a fractured existential state) to the effect that he would like for us to prove to him that God exists. Again, I knew that none of the kind advice that was offered to him would be of any benefit to him, since he lacked the underlying "qualifications," so to speak, for knowledge of God. In this regard, his story is a very old one, first recorded by Plato with his analogy of the cave. This analogy is so simple, and yet, it has never been surpassed, since it comes about as close to concrete and objective metaphysical truth as humans are capable of formulating.

Human beings live shackled in a cave that is illuminated by a light that comes from outside it. Thus, all they see is the play of shadows cast upon the wall, which they call "knowledge." One of the cave dwellers breaks free, turns around, and sees the actual source of light. He tries to tell the other cave-dwelling hermen about the light, but they don't want to hear it. Some think he's crazy, while others are outright hostile. And the rest is history -- or yesterday's thread.

Sri Aurobindo's simple formulation for seeing the light was aspiration-rejection-surrender, referring in a sense to the vertical, the horizontal, and the interior, respectively. That is, we aspire with heart, mind, and soul for that which surpasses us. At the same time, we reject the horizontal distractions and temptations that lure us down and out and cause us to deviate from our goal. And we humbly surrender, or empty ourselves before the object of our devotion.

I think you will see that Raccoons of whatever devotional stripe agree on the basics of this formulation, and it is one of the things that distinguishes us from the new-age sew-age. As I have mentioned before, for a number of years I tried to be a "do-it-yoursopher," as I was attracted to spirituality -- as indeed nearly all humans are - but biased against God, largely as a result of my postmodern brainwashing and souldirtying.

In ether worlds, I wanted to have the experience in the absence of its transcendent cause. Therefore, I was attracted to such approaches as Zen, since it seemed to be free of dogma -- and of God. Just sit, close your eyes, and wait for "liberation." Thus there was rejection and perhaps a little aspiration, but no true surrender, since there was no One to surrender to. I suppose you could say that you surrender to "it," but "it" doesn't come down and meet you halfway -- which is why you can sit for your whole life and probably not have the experience of moksha.

But for me, the key was surrender, for only in surrender does the grace even have a space to operate. And afterwards, it is the grace that does all of the work, not us. Or, to put it another way, our task is to do what we can to allow the grace to operate. We do not change or "grow" our spiritual selves, any more than we grow our own bodies. True, we can do certain things "at the margins" to make our bones stronger or our muscles bigger, but none of us could actually create a muscle or bone, much less the spiritual self which will grow under the proper circumstances. It is an organic or natural process -- albeit a supernaturally natural one.

I don't want to put words into his fingers, but in response to the Dense One, JWM essentially highlighted the truism that the only God that can be proven to exist is the God you are capable of experiencing (although again, it is the grace that makes the experience possible). Everything else is either speculation or dogma (the latter of which is a necessary but insufficient cause). As I pointed out in my worstselling book, all traditions recognize this spiritual truth in one way or another. Thus, in the words of Hieromonk Damascene, author of Christ the Eternal Tao, "the only way to get past religious words and concepts is to seek, without compromise and self-pity, the Reality behind them."

Or, in the words of another Orthodox monk, "without the experience and testimony of the saints about the reality of God, the Bible would be an empty letter." Similarly, Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote that dogmas "can only point to the mysteries of God" and "mark a way, not an end.... Dogmas are obstacles unless they serve as humble signposts along the way." The greatest pagan mystic, Plotinus, wrote that language must be cautiously employed "only to give direction, to urge toward that vision beyond discourse, to point out the road to one desirous of seeing," while the Vedantin Nikhilananda wrote that "conclusions of the scriptures... must be experienced by the aspirant himself" or not at all. I could go on and on like Herman, only in reverse.

Which is a yoke, but one that is easy, not to mention funny-side up. That is, Herman's evident "circularity" is there for everyone to see. In fact, if my sniffer doesn't lie, he will no doubt be back today, telling us all about the little world of dancing shadows he sees as he circles the drain in an ever-tightening spiral. But I can only repeat that there is nothing a man like me can convey of God to a man like him. For one thing, a man like me can't even convey anything of God to a man like me. Rather, only God can do that. And for that to happen, I actually have to get mybob out of the way. In short, never do as I say, but do as I do. Only then will you -- or I, for that matter -- understand the mutter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Infrahuman, Suprahuman, Human, and All Too Human

All Raccoons with an opened third nostril ("noustril") are aware of the distinked differences between the human, infrahuman, suprahuman, and various shades in between. Our recent atheist visitors were rendered hysterical at my tautologous statement -- a banality, really -- to the effect that atheists understand God like a dog appreciates Beethoven. But girlish hysteria is just one of the many ways to exhibit the infrahuman -- or to be fair, the "all too human." Infrahuman should be reserved for the truly malodorous, such as Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and other Nobel Prize winners.

"Be a man!" As soon as you say this to a boy -- which you must say or transmit in one form or another -- you are simultaneously saying to stop behaving like one. In other words, master yourself, transcend yourself, rise above yourself. Thus, there is hierarchy, or there is no man. The hierarchy is not merely about outward behavior. Rather, if one has truly transcended oneself, the behavior is simply the mark of an inner transformation -- or the failure of such.

Granted, there were and are times that this formula is abused. Naturally, it is possible for a bad man to imitate the gestures and bearing of the superior man, but he can only fool others who have not risen above themselves (the trousered apes of the U.N. come readily to mind). Again, if your coon scent is operative, you don't have this problem. You can smell one of these people a phony smile away. As I have said before, it doesn't just come through in the content of their communication, but through the essence of it. A person cannot really hide his essence except to people whose own essence is hidden from themselves -- which is a lot of people, by the way, certainly the majority. It is why people such as John Edwards or Hillary Clinton could ever even be considered to lead this great nation.

Still, there are enough people with a subcoonscious sniffer to know what's in the air, which is why, say, Hillary Clinton's "negatives" and Rudy Giuliani's "positives" are so high. As frightening and destructive as Clinton's policies are, her negatives have nothing to do with that. Rather, they are a response -- instant feedback, as it were -- to the state of her soul, which is getting very close to Nobel territory. Likewise, no matter how negatively the liberal media tries to depict Giuliani, normal people have a positive reaction to him (as they did with Reagan).

Just as we are aware of the infrahuman, we are aware of the suprahuman, for the one implies the other. Just as you can fail to achieve proper humanness, you can surpass it. In fact, speaking only for myself, I am perhaps even more "suprahuman oriented" than I am "God oriented." Or, I find the most direct and vivid evidence of God in the form of certain particularly lofty souls who directly transmit the realm of the suprahuman. Apparently, this is a controversial claim in Protestantism, but not so in Catholicism and certainly not in Orthodoxy (much less, Vedanta), where there is very much of an awareness of how extraordinarily helpful the saints can be to us. Again, not just in a didactic or educational way, but in the form of a direct spiritual transmission. And it is a guruvy two-way transmission, as in Father so-and-so, pray to God for us!

I judge religious writings solely in non-discursive and "suprahuman" terms, by the spiritual "perfume" they emit. If they aren't readolent with this written fragrance, then they are not likely to be very helpful, much less transformative. This is why I dismiss the Deepaks and most of the other new-agers as frauds. It's not out of any maliciousness, but because I just can't stand the smell. It's the same with atheists. Again, as always, not the ones who, for whatever reason, are simply indifferent to the spiritual realm. Rather, the ones who are passionately hostile to it. How could they not be lost and tangled in the web of the infrahuman?

I'll tell you how. As someone -- it might have been Will -- pointed out, for a serious seeker, atheism is quite frequently a "stop along the way," as it was for me and I imagine the majority of Raccoons. In a certain sense, giving oneself over to atheism is a spiritually generous act of kenosis, or complete self-emptying, analogous -- roughly, of course -- to Christ's descent into hell. In Balthasar's unique interpretation -- which is controversial -- Christ does not enter hell "triumphantly" trailing clouds of glory, but as part of his complete identification with fallen man and his ultimate fate. Only upon hitting rock bottom does the true transfiguration of man become a possibility in the divine-cosmic economy.

So one of the reasons Raccoons do not take atheism seriously -- why we do not argue with you, but laugh at you -- is because we have been there. Truly, there is nothing you can say that we haven't heard before. And besides, whatever you say is so thoroughly tangential to our personal experience that all we can say is "if it pleases you, go nuts." One of these atheists made the bizarre accusation that I was "attacking" them, which can only be maintained if you nurture a very special kind of narcissistic need for persecution and self-victimization. How can you feel persecuted by a group of crazies having a private conversation amongst themselves? I do not write for an atheist audience, any more than Beethoven composed his symphonies for canines. (Not to make the unfair comparison of a musical dawg such as myself to the suprahuman Beethoven.)

Sorry. That was just a bunch of unfocused rambling. Let's get serious, and try to determine what a human being actually is, for only in so doing will we be in a better position to discuss the infrahuman and the suprahuman. Sri Aurobindo maintained that the human being was not a fixed entity but a possibility; not an island but a bridge; not a wall but a door or window. But this is really no different than the distinction between the mirror and the image. In this sense, developmental time is simply the distance between what we are and what we are to become.

And that we ought to become something automatically implies that there is something that we ought not be. For example, even the breathless atheists maintain that I ought not be such a bigot. There is nothing in their ontology that can explain why I shouldn't be one if I prefer to be one; nor is their anything in their ontology that can account for the free will with which I could make such a choice, but metaphysical absurdity can pose no barrier to a self-refuting ontology which is the essence of absurdity anyway.

(Speaking of which, Mackenzie, this month's reserpient of the One Cosmos Trolls Royce award -- the wiener by a nose over his fulsome friend Cline -- just left a comment at 6:21 that is so stupid as to be beyond disbelief. To think that such malicious stupidity is susceptible to reason, fact, or logic is beneath a proper Raccoon. Again, any Raccoon should be able to smell the realm from which this troll is operating. It is hardly "neutral," but lucilphuric.)

Here is a typically gem-like quote from Schuon that shall be our starting point: "There is a great deal of talk these days about 'humanism,' talk which forgets that once man abandons his prerogatives to matter, to machines, to quantitative knowledge, he ceases to be truly 'human.'" Furthermore, "nothing is more fundamentally inhuman than the 'purely human,' the illusion of constructing a perfect man starting from the individual and terrestrial; whereas the human in the ideal sense draws its reason for existence and its entire content from that which transcends the individual and the earthly."

Obvious, no? But would it be possible to make this so obvious that even the atheist could understand it? No. It is already as obvious and clear as it is possible to be. The fault, or "lack" is not within the message but the recipient, who is incapable, for whatever reason, of elevating his mind to the realm from which spiritual truth arises. Indeed, rather than merely "understanding" it, he is offended by it. In this regard, he experiences the open hand as a fist. Which I suppose makes sense. Bacteria are not big fans of Lysol.

Here is another, more subtle observation: "There is nothing human which is not an evil from some point of view: even tradition itself is in certain respects an 'evil,' since it must handle evil things in man and these human ills invade it in their turn, but it is then a lesser evil, or a 'necessary evil,' and, humanly speaking, it would obviously be far truer to call it a 'good.' The pure truth is that 'God alone is good' and that every earthly thing has some ambiguous side to it."

Thus, all Raccoons are fully aware of their lower nature, which automatically coonfurs protection against the kind of religious authoritarianism envisioned by the atheist trolls. If we are "better" than others, it is only because we are worse, and have had to repeatedly surpass ourselves. I am not nearly grandiose enough to claim that I am the worst of all. That designation is reserved for the true saints. That the atheists could see me in such a light is the highest flattery, if only I were thurstoning for such magooey blindishments, not to mention howeling for such maroonic loveys.

Now, here is how you end up being lojacked on the infrahuman plane. The miracle of our humanness has "a reason for being that is proportionate to its nature, and it is this that predestines -- or 'condemns' -- man to surpass himself; man is totally himself only by transcending himself. Quite paradoxically, it is only in transcending himself that man reaches his proper level; and no less paradoxically, by refusing to transcend himself he sinks below the animals which -- by their form and mode of passive contemplativity -- participate adequately and innocently in a celestial archetype; in a certain respect, a noble animal is superior to a vile man" (Schuon).

What a mean thing to say about Mackenzie, whose comments continue to frantically stink beneath themselves, and he with them.

I'm running out of time, so I'll just leave you with another observation which I think you'll agree is the esscence of claritin for your stuffed up nous:

"In a word, there is nothing more inhuman than humanism, by the fact that it, so to speak, decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal; not all at once -- because it has the fragmentary merit of abolishing certain barbaric traits -- but in the long run, since it inevitably ends by 're-barbarizing' society, while 'dehumanizing' it ipso facto in depth."

Who could say it isn't so?

You know who. Let's just say they're not heaven scent. Hey Mac, open another window!

Smell ya' later.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sacrifice, Transcendence, and Vertical Recollection

Memorial Day -- like any holy-day -- is not a remembrance of things past, but of things present; specifically, it is a remembrance of things surpassed, or of the things that surpass us. Specifically, it is an occasion for vertical recollection of a divine archetype that is present now -- can only be present now -- but requires the substance of ritual in order to vividly apprehend and renew it.

We remember our heroes because they illuminate the eternal realm of the heroic, a realm that we must treasure and venerate if we are to survive as a culture. Not only is the hero a transcendent archetype, but he is only heroic because he has sacrificed something in defense of another archetype -- truth, liberty, beauty, the good, etc. In the absence of this true formulation, neither the heroic nor his sacrifice make any sense at all. This is why to "deconstruct," say, George Washington, is not just an attack on the father of our country, but on fatherhood, God, and the realm of transcendent (i.e., the Real) in general.

Will just left a lengthy comment that touches on many of the things I wanted to write about this morning. I will simply quote him:

"Memorial Day is certainly for honoring the fallen heroes of our military, and John Edwards' attempt to bastardize it for political ends is cheap to the point of 'deconstruction' profanity. Like most leftist stunts, it focuses on something that is, in the highest spiritual sense, truly ceremonial and attempts to tear away its divine resonance.

"So I was thinking, in what way is Memorial Day larger than it is -- as all spiritual ceremonies truly are? Well, as has been pointed out here, it's obvious that Memorial Day is a day for celebrating, honoring, remembering what heroism really means -- courageous self-sacrifice in the name higher ideals, principles, which are, to be sure, *spiritual* ideals and principles. So in one sense, our fallen military heroes are symbolic of this ideal. They are the most vivid, the most tangible representation of this ideal that we have before us. There are others, of course, who likewise are vivid, in-the-flesh symbols of this spiritual ideal: police, firefighters, the occasional citizen who rises to the heroic occasion and is so publicly honored. There is no hero, however, quite as vivid, quite so symbolic of self-sacrificing virtue than the military hero.

"The great wonder of it, of course, is that our fallen heroes are not paintings, statues, images -- they were and are human. They are us. And still they are symbols, ideals in the flesh -- destiny selected them to serve this role. That role is to remind us that we all are potential self-sacrificing heroes, that we all are of divine essence. Somehow, on some level, we must realize this, otherwise we wouldn't have a day for honoring our fallen heroes.

"The other day Bob alluded to the some of the symbolic threads in the Wizard of Oz. Overview-wise, I have long seen WoO as a tale of a journey into the Realm of Divine Archetypes wherein we (through Dorothy) see ourselves, and others, in our real, divine essence. In her eyes, her Kansas friends and acquaintances became Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man -- became, in effect, their true selves, all on a heroic quest to reclaim their spiritual birthright. In Kansas, they were just dusty average Joes. In the Higher Realm, they were their real selves, knights, heroes.

"Most of us are Kansans. We do not have a symbolic public role to play. And yet there are countless souls who commit unseen (by the public) acts of tremendous self-sacrifice and heroism, whose deeds will never be acknowledged -- in some cases, not by a single other -- in this world. Our military heroes remind us that such heroism is possible. The secular attempt to 'deconstruct' military heroism is no less than an attempt to sever us from our Oz, our spiritual reality. We need daily remind ourselves that we are on the yellow brick road of our personal heroic quest. And we need to remind ourselves that, though our personal acts of heroism may never be acclaimed in this life, we will, in the fullness of time, be acknowledged as the heroes we imagine ourselves to be."

*****

About the only thing I can add is that John Edwards is a yellow prick load.

As a prelude.... I guess it's not a prelude anymore.... But anyway, I am reminded of a couple of particularly resonant lines in Van der Leun's beautiful piece yesterday, Small Flags: "These days we resent, it seems, having [cemeteries] fill at all, clinging to our tiny lives with a passion that passes all understanding; clinging to our large liberty with the belief that all payments on such a loan will be interest-free and deferred for at least 100 years."

Elsewhere he writes, "It is not, of course, that the size of the sacrifice has been reduced. That remains the largest gift one free man may give to the country that sustained him. It is instead the regard of the country for whom the sacrifices were made that has gotten smaller, eroded by the self-love that the secular celebrate above all other values" (emphasis mine).

*****

Ven der Leun touches on many themes that could be expanded into entire posts: the desperate clinging to our tiny lives; the earthly passion that passes all understanding since it denies transcendence; the notion that liberty is free (even less costly than air or water, which at least require the sacrifice of toilet tissue); that death is the greatest gift one man can give another; and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it expands in every other way.

Sacred, sacrament, and sacrifice are all etymologically linked; all are derived from sacer, or to the holy and mysterious. This itself is interesting, for holy, of course, implies wholeness, and wholeness is indeed a portal to mystery, just as "partness" is a perpetual riddle that verges on the bizarre. For example, a psychotic person lives in a bizarre world of disconnected objects and experiences that he cannot synthesize into unity, or wholeness. Often he will superimpose a false unity in the form of paranoid delusions -- something we transparently see in a collective form on the left. Paranoia is "a false wholeness," but it is never far from the nameless dread that sponsors it.

A couple of days ago I noted the truism that leftist thought -- even more than being ruled by emotion -- is primarily iconic. Or one might say that the left simply has very passionate feelings about its icons, which they confuse with "thoughts." You can see this same phenomenon in our recent deust-up with the atheist folks, who are also (ironically, but not really) ruled by overpowering feelings about their own sacred icons. Point out where they are wrong, and they hysterically accuse you of calling them animals and depriving them of the humanity which they deprive themselves. Rational they are not. Or, at the very least, the more sober among them prove the adage that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything with the exception of one's reason.

Back to the leftists. A disturbing number of them not only believe that Islamic terrorists are not engaged in a global war against Western civilization (or "civilization," for short), but that the United States government itself engineered 9-11. Van der Leun alludes to this, where he writes of how increasing numbers of American asses with Rosie-colored glasses prefer "to take refuge in the unbalanced belief that 9/11 was actually something planned and executed by the American government. Why many of my fellow Americans prefer this 'explanation' is something that I once felt was beyond comprehension. Now I see it is just another comfortable position taken up by those for whom the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular."

Yes, the left is insane, but exactly kind of insanity is this? How have they become so detached from reality?

It has to do with the specific reality from which they have become detached. As another fine example of the shallowness and naivete of atheist thought, one of them writes that

"Millions and millions of people died in Russia and China under communist governments -- and those governments were both secular and atheistic, right? So weren't all of those people killed in the name of atheism and secularism? No. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness."

This looks like a banal statement -- which it unavoidably is -- and yet, it is quite sinister in its implications, and illuminates all of Van der Leun's points mentioned above. First, atheism is petty and unworthy of man. No one would kill for it, just as no one would die for it, since it is the substance of meaninglessness, precisely. Why sacrifice one's life for the principle that there are no transcendent principles worth dying for?

The least of atheism's baleful effects is that it automatically makes the hero a fool because there is nothing worth defending. The more catastrophic effect is that it leaves the field open to evil-doers who are openly hostile to the transcendent principles that animate our uniquely decent and beautiful civilization. This is why you see an Old Europe that is supine before the barbarians in its midst who wish to destroy it. Socialism has nothing to do with "generosity" or selflessness; rather, it is the quintessence of selfishness, and diminishes a man down to the conviction that his animal needs should be provided for by someone else. The only thing that can rouse his passion is a threat to his entitlements. Only if the Islamists were to threaten their 12 weeks of paid vacation would they be taken seriously by socialist EUnuchs.

This is also why, as Ven der Leun writes, the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular. As I noted yesterday, this is the complete and utter cynicism that results from destroying the reality of the vertical and clinging to one's puny life with the passion that passes understanding.

For just as wholeness, the One, is associated with the peace that passes understanding, the exile from this real human world into the bizarre and fragmented world of the secular left brings not so much the passion that passes understanding, but the passion that cannot comprehend itself because it has no vector or direction beyond the self. In fact, nothing can be understood in the absence of that which it is converging upon, which reveals its meaning. To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life.

Only in such a debased and (literally this time) subhuman world can a truly malevolent soul such as John Edwards be considered fit to rule, for there is nothing odd about cannibals electing a cannibal king -- or of the utterly cynical and self-absorbed voting for one of their own.

Of the sacred, Schuon writes that it is in the first place "attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred."

Again, the message is sacred and holy because it is transcendent and relates knowledge of the whole.

Therefore, the sacred also represents "the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity." (Never again wonder at the profound lack of diginity of the left, for it is intrinsic and inevitable.)

Another way of saying it is that the sacred relates to the world as "the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator."

Yes with regard to the latter, be careful, because I might just drop a house on you!

Which brings us back to Will's riff on the Wizard of Oz. On the one hand, the United States, more than any other nation, is flat and dusty old Kansas. But at the same time, it is Oz, the vertical and shining Emerald City on a hill. We must never forget either fact, one of them Real, the other only merely real.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On Remembering the Heroic Sacrifice to Vertical Principles

In the space of just a generation or two, we have gone from the cultural ideal of the hero to the ideal of the antihero, the former being a rebel with a transcendent cause, the latter being a rebellious person without one. In light of this, Memorial Day almost seems quaint to many people, while for the left, it can only be a day of perversion and/or frank rebellion. John Edwards' attempt to turn the day into a protest against the military is about as cynical and low as it gets. Might as well turn the Martin Luther King Holiday into a celebration of petty racial divisiveness instead of the universal heroic struggle for human liberation.... Oh, wait a minute....

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.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Deep Stupidity and the Medicine for a Nightmare (5.13.10)

Unintelligent people are usually just plain wrong, so we don't have to worry much about them. On the other hand, in order to attain truly deep stupidity, one must generally be of above average intelligence. Therefore, in a certain very real sense, intelligence does not vary inversely with stupidity, but directly with it. Not for nothing has it been said that so much philosophy is simply "error on a grandiose scale."

A prime example of deep stupidity and grandiose error is Marxism and all of its many polluted streams, branches, creeks and crocks. That variants of this falsehood still proliferate on the left today means that, as always, intelligence alone is no unknowculation against evil, darkness, and error. Hardly.

For conservative "classical" liberals, we are generally faced with an odious choice between the stupid party and the evil party. We generally align ourselves with the former, since the former is at least susceptible to our influence, whereas the latter is not. Someone who has truly given himself over to evil is not going to be persuaded by truth. His intelligence is in the service of forces he neither sees nor understands, and there is just no point of entry in dealing with him, since he is not lacking information as such but light. Truly, you can hand them the truth on a silver platter, and they will not only reject it but be quite hostile to it.

There are many way to react to truth, only one of which is quiet acceptance. Truth is not just true, but a force. This is why it elicits such strong reactions in people. You will have undoubtedly noticed that when you comprehend a deep truth, there is a pleasant physical sensation that goes along with it -- hard to describe (Christopher Bollas calls it "the erotics of being"), but if you could amplify its vibrations, it would feel like getting the punch line of a joke, or the parts of your being lining up like iron filings, or perhaps properly hitting a baseball. If you hit the ball too close to your hands or too far toward the end of the bat, it's an unsatisfying feeling even if you get a base hit. But there is a feeling of deep satisfaction if you smack a troll right on the "sweet spot" of Hoarhey's cluebat.

Another way of saying it is that Truth is a presence. This is something all Raccoons will know by experience, but will make no sense to the leftist -- for whom it will literally be a meaningless statement. To suggest that Truth once dwelled among us -- and still does -- is the height of absurdity. But truth is the link between Being and knowing. Thus, to say, for example, that Christ is the truth is to say that he is a humanifestation of the divine presence, and vice versa. It's actually very simple, but simple isn't easy, much less simplistic.

Truth is not only not accepted by most people, but it seems to engender a counter-force that is actively hostile to it. This may seem like a controversial statement, but it is the stock in trade of psychoanalysis, which essentially comes down to a study of the varieties of self-deception, or the ways in which one part of the mind pulls the wool over another part. Think about that for a moment, and I think you'll agree that it is quite remarkable -- how the left brain literally doesn't know what the right brain is doing.

I say "literally" because there is good evidence that what we call the unconscious is actually "lodged," so to speak, in the nonverbal -- but also transverbal -- right brain. Every patient comes into treatment with what I call a "likely story." This explicit story is located in the left brain, the seat of language, aristotelian logic, and linear time. However, the right brain has its own story to tell, but how do you tell a story in the absence of verbal language? You do so in the form of symptoms, or quirky character traits, unexplainable likes and dislikes, unaccountable mood storms, obsessions, compulsions, or self-defeating behaviors that the left brain is powerless to stop. This is because every self-defeating behavior is ipso facto a self-fulfilling behavior for a part of the mind of which we are not consciously aware. "There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all," sang Zimmie.

Freud stumbled upon the method of free association with which to try to understand the various agendas of the mind that ran counter to truth and were the source of psychological pain and dysfunction. There is no great mystery to free association, in which the patient lies down and tries to say whatever comes to mind without censoring it. It is simply a way to try to lull the left brain to sleep and allow the right brain to come out of the shadows. Sounds easy, but every step along the way is met with resistance which can become labyrinthine in its ability to prevent the discovery of the truth.

Here again this is remarkable, for it means that the part of the mind that is resisting must know the truth on some level, otherwise there would be no reason to resist it. Therefore, as Bion pointed out, the truth is prior to the lie, just as light must be prior to the shadow. Indeed, Bion went so far as to say that only the Lie requires a thinker -- and actually brings the thinker into being. On the other hand, truth requires only our accession to it. We simply "bow before reality" -- which, when you think about it, is an excellent way of putting it, for reverent bowing is one of the appropriate responses to the force, or presence, of truth.

Schuon said something similar when he wrote that "A truth is efficacious to the extent that we assimilate it; if it does not give us the strength we need, this merely proves we have not grasped it. It is not for the truth to be 'dynamic,' it is for us to be dynamic thanks to the truth. What is lacking in today’s world is a penetrating and comprehensive knowledge of the nature of things; the fundamental truths are always accessible, but they could not be imposed on those who refuse to take them into consideration."

Ho!

Among other responses, truth engenders a dynamic sense of veneration -- a sense of the sacred. And this is why you will have noticed that the left attempts to surround so many of its moldy lies with the penumbra of sanctity. But the sanctity is entirely bogus -- it readily slides into the sanctimony that is intrinsic to the left. In a perverse way, this sanctimoniousness answers the human need for the sacred, but in an alternatively crudely sentimental or authoritarian manner enforced by the many varieties political correctness. (You will notice that the left's confusion of sentimentality with moral/religious depth is just as evident as their totalitarian mind control; they are not opposites but complementary -- like Hitler's sentimental love of dogs.)

This is why the left doesn't really have ideas but icons -- including "iconic ideas." It is an insidious and sinister process, because there is great psychological pressure on all us of to bow down before these false gods, as if they were actually sacred (for example, the many fawning MSM tributes to "the Goreacle"). And there is absolutely no symmetry in this. For example, if a conservative steps in one of the left's many sacred cowpies, there is a good chance that his career will be ruined. But if a leftist offends what is actually sacred, he will be praised as someone who "speaks truth to power." It is inconceivable that the media would trot out some moral equivalent of Christopher Hitchens to blast Martin Luther King on the occasion of his death because of the latter's embrace of dangerous socialist ideas. For one thing, few conservatives are so tasteless, not to mention enraged.

The point is that nearly every one of the leftists's core beliefs is not a proper idea but an icon, whether it is manmade global warming, being "for the little guy," affirmative action, abortion, homosexual behavior, "peace," "progress," multiculturalism, diversity -- in fact, "progressive" is the quintessence of a meaningless icon, since it bears no relationship to progress and promotes economic and social policies that ensure not just a lack of progress, but regression. For example, the "peace movement" can only bring about more war, just as affirmative action can only bring about harm to blacks.

And this is why it is so easy to be a conservative, because you no longer have to contort yourself with so many lies in order to be thoroughly consistent, both internally and externally. The left confuses their contortions with "nuance," but nuance is simply the left left brain's feeble attempt to keep reality at bay, which inevitably seeps in through the walls, ceilings, and floorboards. Or as Randy Newman sang,

Guilty, baby I’m guilty
And I’ll be guilty the rest of my life
How come I never do what I’m supposed to do
How come nothin’ that I try to do ever turns out right?

You know, you know how it is with me baby
You know, I just can’t stand myself
And it takes a whole lot of medicine
For me to pretend that I’m somebody else

This medicine is called leftism, but it has never actually cured anyone, much less a nation of people. Instead it rapidly worsens the disease it is intended to cure, so that greater and greater doses are required until the patient perishes -- if not literally, then in spirit, as we see in western Europe.

"It takes a whole lot of medicine for me to pretend I’m somebody else." Yes, it takes a whole lot of affirmative action for the leftist to pretend he's not a racist, and a whole lot of diversity to pretend he isn't intolerant of dissent. It takes a whole lot of coddling illegal immigrants to pretend they don't just want the votes, and whole lot of global warming to pretend they don't want to undermine the engine of global capitalism and progress. It takes a whole lot of outrage at President Bush to pretend they aren't allied with the Islamo-fascists, and a whole lot of talk about the "little guy" to pretend they aren't filled with class envy. And it takes a whole lot of multiculturalism to pretend they don't hate American culture and values, and a whole lot of fearful talk of separation between God and state to pretend they don't hate the former and love the latter.

Yeah boy, it takes a whole lot of moral relativism to pretend they're not immoral, and even more education to pretend they're not wrong.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Truth About the Truth About Truth (5.12.10)

One problem with the postmodern world is that even if people do believe that truth exists, they often have a very limited conception of what it entails -- basically empirical or rational truth. This, despite the fact that logical positivism and scientism are totally discredited philosophies. You would be a terribly crippled human crapling if you were to try to live your life as if there were a perfect correspondence between the True and the merely empirically true.

As there are diverse forms of beauty and goodness, there are diverse forms of truth. That itself is a true statement, but what sort of truth? Another way of asking it is, "what is the truth about Truth?" There is empirical truth, rational truth, artistic truth, personal truth, revealed truth, even a person who claimed to be Truth. Given these diverse expressions, are we really dealing with the same thing? Or is it some kind of failure of language that causes us to confuse these categories?

Obviously, there must be some relationship between truth and intelligence. As we have noted before, if intelligence does not know truth, then it is not very intelligent. And yet, we know full well that there is generally a disconnect between human intelligence and truth. Most intellectuals not only believe things that are untrue, but things that could not possibly be true.

Naturally, the intellect must be subordinate to truth. Thus, intelligence should always engender a spirit of humility. But due to a number of character flaws -- mostly pride -- the intellectual may come to value his own intellect more than the truth that may be known through it.

This is again why we should value good character over intelligence, since good character implies a kind of intelligence that is faithful to the transcendent object of human existence, whereas intelligence alone assures no such concordance. The former implies "cardiac comprehension," or intellection, which transcends mere mental knowing. And as we mentioned yesterday, a truly intelligent person is a humble person, since he does not fundamentally seek recognition but transcendence: "he is interested in surpassing himself; hence in pleasing God more than men" (Schuon).

Schuon summarizes what has gone wrong with the "unintelligently intelligent" person, whereby "the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error":

"The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships; however, the definition 'intelligence' still applies, because there is still a discernment between something essential and something secondary, or between a cause and an effect." But the systematic, even intentional, exclusion of the vertical -- and we see this all the time, especially on the left -- "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill."

Ho!

And this is why irreligious people tend to be so extraordinarily irrational in their beliefs. It is not that religious people cannot be irrational; that would be a completely foolish thing to say. But that is the fault of the individual believer. Ultimately it is the fault of fallen humanity as such. A proper Christian is never surprised when he encounters someone who believes nonsense -- whether religious or irreligious, it doesn't matter. Indeed, he expects it, since his religiosity both predicts and accounts for it. But secular extremists such as Dennett, Harris and Hitchens are surprised by irrationality -- as if human beings are not fallen and not prone to inhabit illusions (secular extremism being one of these pernicious illusions).

Because to be a secular extremist is to be a fully horizontal man. It is the ultimate cosmic inversion, for it is to elevate our fallen state to the highest virtue. It is "to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path," to be "exteriorized," and to "love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values." Ultimately it is "to sin against transcendence, thus it is to forget God and consequently the meaning of life; and outwardness is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation." And finally, it must be insisted that this willful horizontality engenders a kind of uniquely "human animality" that all persons with activated cOOnvision can see "is situated beneath animality as such, for animals innocently follow their immanent law and thereby enjoy a certain natural and indirect contemplation of the Divine Prototype; whereas there is decadence, corruption and subversion when man voluntarily reduces himself to his animality" (Schuon).

(Which is undoubtedly why PETA people value - and perhaps should value, in an ironic way -- animals more than themselves; but they shouldn't value animals more than normal people.)

Schuon points out that there are four functions of intelligence: objectivity, subjectivity, activity, and passivity. In the human mind, these correspond to reason, intuition, imagination, and memory, respectively. To be “objective” -- as in everyday science -- means that our knowledge "is inspired by data which are exterior to it." This is referred to as the "correspondence" theory of truth, as if the essence of knowledge is simply a mirroring of the external world. But to remain mired on this concrete level of reality is to codify stupidity in the manner of the devout atheists referenced above. It is to elevate a small portion of truth and intelligence to the totality.

But there is also subjective intelligence, which "operates through existential analogy," as in, say, scripture ("as above, so below"). Scripture is only "effective," so to speak, because it is not ultimately about "the world" but about us. You might say that it is the truth about humans, including the world humans inevitably create in the absence of this saving knowledge. The capacity to know this kind of truth is not fundamentally different than our ability, say, to know the subjectivity of another. For example, as a psychologist, my primary data is never merely rational, empirical, or objective. Rather, it is direct and intuitive, mind-to-mind. Only here do we begin to enter the specifically human world.

For example, an autistic person -- the real kind, not the newer variants that may or may not be related to true autism -- is specifically barred access to this human world. A severely autistic person is a true materialist, in that he lives in a bizarre sea of objects from which he cannot escape "upward" or "inward," so to speak. This transition was captured vividly, if apocryphally, in the film The Miracle Worker, when Helen first makes the connection between water and wetness. Suddenly she gains access to a whole new world: the human world. (And for you film buffs out there, Helen's infant sister is played by none other than Mrs. G. A coincidence? Yes.)

But something equally dramatic happens -- does it not? -- when we suddenly gain access to the "divine world" through our comprehension of revelation. As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, "there is definitely a 'phase transition' in spirtitual growth, where one rather suddenly goes from knowledge to understanding (i.e., the 'second birth'). To realize that this understanding will continue to deepen and grow is the thrill of a lifetime."

Ho!

Who could say it isn't so!

As water leads to wetness, the experience of the divine (or the sacred, the holy, the transcendentally beautiful) leads to Divinity. All are passages out, up, and in, however you wish to conceptualize it. But the exact word is not of fundamental importance. Rather, the experience is. Let your words be anchored in the ground of Real experience, or of O-->(k).

Now, in its active mode, intelligence "relives, recreates or combines the possibilities which are known to it, and this is the imagination." Conversely, in its passive mode, the intelligence "registers and preserves the data which present themselves to it." Thus at once we see the subtle balance of, on the one hand, fixed dogma and orthodoxy, and on the other, our active engagement of it with our higher imagination.

I believe you will find that all of the greatest true theologians are great precisely because they respect and maintain this subtle balance. To default on the side of dogma creates a sterile conformity with no possibility of organic spiritual growth watered by the grace of personal understanding; while to default in the other direction places one in the solipsistic and narcissistic realm of the new age fantasists such as Deepak and Co. The latter approach may "feel" like movement, but it is vertically sterile -- again something that any awakened person can discern within reading just a sentence or two of Chopra's banal and/or frankly luciferic writings* (or Tony Robbins and the rest of the New Age Traveling Salvation Show).

Incidentally, only a troll could possibly think that the last sort of statement is made out of bitterness, much less "envy," as opposed to joyous good cosmic humor. I am laughing at these clowns, not angry with them. So I leave you laughing. And if you don't get the joke, it's only because you don't know about jehovial wetness.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God...

Eh mon, can I get a wetness?

*No, I haven't actually read any of Deepak's crass and vulgar books, only the grotesque and evil things he pens on Huffingtonpost; that he is capable of such alternatively sinister or crazy thoughts proves that Truth is not operative in him and that his books can only be harmful and certainly devoid of grace. By the way, he has called me much worse -- not by name, of course, but "the crowd I run with," since he is a paranoid, anti-American, barking moonbat with a terminal case of BDS. A recent sample:

"There is no viable peace movement presently, thanks to a thirty-year rise of military-industrial interests. America sells more arms around the world than any other country. We are in the forefront of inventing new means of mechanized death, including futuristic robot armies. We betray tenuous alliances, like the one with Russia, by proposing new missile defense systems that directly threaten them."

For Deepak, America, not radical Islam, is at the forefront of death and destruction. We even threaten Russia! (As if we didn't spend 50 years and billions of dollars liberating them.)

He's also a crude anti-Semite of the Jimmy Carter variety; thus, Israel's recent defensive war against Muslim barbarians "was an exercise in pure arrogance, a devastating assault on a defenseless neighbor, with the pretext being the capture [not kidnapping!] of two Israeli soldiers."

And he is not displeased that we are struggling in Iraq, because "both of these wars have deflated Israel and the U.S., and there is little doubt that the future will hold much less aggression, particularly of the unilateral kind, from either country."

Like the rest of the left, he actually wants America and Israel to lose. As I said, evil. A Rosie by any other name would smell as foul.

Can you even imagine the bottomless ingratitude of this windy Hindi?

Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Intelligence of the Stupid and the Stupidity of the Intelligent

One of the most common logical flaws of the left is the dismissal of religion based upon the fact that so many stupid people believe and practice it. Frankly, I've never understood this argument, since it's not really an argument anyway. It's quite easy to dismiss anything based upon what its most unintelligent adherents believe about it. For example, I would also reject the constitution of the United States if my understanding were based only upon what dopey leftists say about it. After all, they think our constitution sanctions racial discrimination, murder, prosecution of thought crimes, government hostility to religion, and censorship on college campuses.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of bright and intelligent people who believe in nonsense. In a way, they are much more problematic than the mentally diminished religious believer, since one would think that the former's intelligence -- if it were truly intelligence and not something less -- would inevitably lead them down the path of truth. But to point out that this isn't so is a monumental understatement. If anything, the person who explicitly rejects religion is generally the most philosophically confused. Unmoored from perennial truth, they go on a wild nous chase that we know ahead of time will never lead anywhere.

In short, there is no necessary connection between intelligence and truth. At first blush this seems odd, but at second blush I think you can see why. It has to do with the two aspects of our intelligence, one natural (or animal), the other supernatural (or divine). For example, at this moment I have a nine week-old puppy playing at my feet. She is obviously very intelligent, but no matter how intelligent she becomes, she will never know truth. This is because she has only natural intelligence -- the sort of intelligence that can more or less be explained by natural selection (not really, but we'll let it slide for the moment).

But why can Coondog's intelligence never know truth? Yesterday a commenter who is himself brimming with rudimentary intelligence took issue with my statement that "either natural selection explains our intelligence, or our intelligence explains natural selection. You can't have it both ways." Instead, the commenter declared that "natural selection is the cause of our intelligence; in turn, our intelligence provides the written and/or verbal explanation of natural selection. Problem solved; now we have it both ways."

The tail-chasing circularity of this dogomatic barkument should be evident to all coonines. It is logically equivalent to saying that truth and intelligence do not exist, since they may be reduced to blind natural selection. With such a view, there is not even an ontological basis to draw a fundamental distinction between animal and human intelligence, much less between the evolved brain and the uncreated intellect.

Now, the above commenter may be excused, since his sort of metaphysical nonderstanding is obviously a "sign of the times." In most men of our age, the intellect has been reduced to a shadow of itself. In most people it is more a virtuality than an actuality, encased as it is under thick sheets of higher education. Even so, it is difficult to completely kill a soul while its body still lives. As Schuon observes, there is no watertight partition between the intellect and the reason, "for a sound process of reasoning indirectly transmits something of the intellect." Nevertheless, "the respective operations of the reason -- or the mind -- and of the intellect are fundamentally different," irrespective of "certain appearances due to the fact that every man is a thinking being, whether he be wise or ignorant."

In other words, you can't actually stop thinking, despite what the occasional Tolle-troll drops by to tell us. As a matter of fact, their insipid thoughts make the case, don't they? If they were actually coming from the plane Tolle thinks he has achieved, their thoughts would be luminous and clear instead of murky and new-agey. Furthermore, they would be "generatively resonant" for the person reading them, not dense and stagnant. And finally, you could not build a financial empire around them, a la other new age hucksters such as Deepak Chopra. The secret protects itself, something proven every time Chopra opens his ghastly piehole or sets his beastly fingers to the keyboard.

Schuon writes that the lower mind is analogous to the intellect "insofar as it is a kind of intelligence." However, at the same time, it is opposed to the intellect "by its limited, indirect and discursive character." Clearly, the reasoning of the lower mind cannot determine its own limits or provide its own materials, which are "exterior" to it. On the other hand, knowledge of the intellect is interior to it, but externalized, so to speak.

For example, Polanyi has written extensively of how the intellectually gifted scientist (as opposed to the typical "worker bee" scientific laborer) employs a kind of translogical vision in order to identify a fruitful problem that will then be susceptible to conventional reasoning. But this vision can never be reduced to some mechanical or deterministic rational formula (any more than great songwriting can be reduced to knowledge of musical scales). Rather, it is much more analogous to artistic vision, to a sort of holistic seeing, than to scientific reason. It is a kind of "seeing within," or into the "withinness of things." It is what Einstein meant when he said that he wanted to understand the mind of God.

Frankly, I do this all the time with my posts. I can often read a single sentence and intuitively know that this sentence can be expanded into an entire post. But if you are an "expert" at anything, I think you will see that you routinely do it as well. For example, I am quite sure that a successful businessman such as Smoov can peer into the marketplace and intuitively see things that are completely invisible to me, just as Dupree can look at a pro wrestling match and see all sorts of subtleties that elude me.

Another way of saying it is that the limits of the lower reasoning mind are inherent and intrinsic, whereas the apparent limitations of the intellect "are merely accidental and extrinsic." No, the intellect cannot know "total truth," for that would be equivalent to being God. Nevertheless, the formula "as above, so below" means that it is possible for the intellect to, as Schuon describes it, "establish certain points of reference which are adequate and sufficient," somewhat analogous to the way in which "it is possible to represent space by a circle, a cross, a square, a spiral or a point and so on." One immediately thinks of how scripture -- say, Torah -- is intended to function as a perfectly adequate "representation" of the eternal.

In any event, "there is no difficulty in the fact that pure intelligence -- the intellect -- immensely surpasses thought," even if we do not possess God-like omniscience. Philosophers and scientists habitually try "to enclose everything in the cogito alone," which is a fool's errand, for there will always be areas "which exceed the possibilities of reason" but "none that exceed those of intelligence as such."

For what is human as opposed to animal intelligence? For starters, it is objectivity, or the ability to consciously transcend self-interest, something no animal can do. Is is also discernment, or the ability to pass "from appearances to reality, from forms to essence, and from effects to cause." And beyond objectivity and discernment is faith which, according to Schuon, "is the propensity to pass from the concept to the thing itself, or from knowing to being." Faith is specifically a mode of knowing nonlocal realities, or an unknowing that clears a space for the supernatural ingression of real transhuman knowledge (which is always a grace).

At risk of championing the obvious, this kind of faith-lit intelligence far exceeds the animal intelligence of the Darwinians, let alone the lowbrow atheistic ravings of the Dennett-Harris-Hitchens crowd. After all, "intelligence is the perception of the real and not the 'intellectualization' of the unreal." The former not only gives rise to discernment of the higher realities of which it is an adequation, but "to the awareness of our superiority in relation to those who do not know how to discern."

All Raccoons know that this sober attitude is not to be confused with the smug sanctimony of the new-age Chopras on the one hand and the religious nuts on the other (for these are simply two sides of the same worthless coin). Rather, as Schuon points out, this awareness "is not in itself a fault, for we cannot help being aware of something that exists and is perceptible to us thanks to our intelligence."

But at the same time -- and this is the key -- awareness of this "superiority" -- if that's what we're going to call it -- automatically engenders humility, since it brings with it awareness of hierarchy, and therefore, our own relative inferiority to those -- and that -- who vastly surpass us. It is why it would never even occur to me -- or to any Raccoon, for that matter -- to pose as a some sort of spiritual master, as do the lowerdown Chopraesque darklings who fleece the grazing multitude of spiritually bereft sheep.

I don't mean to rely upon Schuon so much, but he wrote so many wonderfully lucid things about human intellegence, plus, as you know, I'm writing these posts under adverse circumstances that make it more of a challenge to dwell in the infinite in the usual leisurely way. Besides, I'm hardly inventing truth, but simply passing along the Truth as it is given to me, hopefully in a way that is not too distorted by my own bobliviousness.

As I have mentioned on many O->ksions, if I can simply redirect people back to the extraordinary richness of their own authentic spiritual traditions without being too much of a muddleman, then I will have accompliced your climb. That's enough for me, and nothing gives me more metaphysical joy than to hear testimony to this effect. For it means that it is not about me, which is naturally a great comfort. To know God is to know oneself, which is simultaneously an exalted privilege and a humbling diminution. Again, man is the measure of all things except for that which takes the measure of man.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ransacking the Cosmos and Vandalizing the Pages of History (5.17.09)

For the more one discovers of God, the more one finds one has to learn. Every step in advance is a return to the beginning, and we shall not really know him as he is, until we have returned to our beginning, and learned to know him both as the beginning and end of our journey. --Fr. Bede Griffiths, The Golden String

Several months ago, I came across this oddity that I tucked away for future use:

"Recently, the comedian and movie star Sinbad had to announce that he was not, in fact, dead of a heart attack at age 50, as his Wikipedia entry claimed. Somebody vandalized the page, claimed Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez."

"Vandalizing the page" is an apt metaphor for the secular misuse of language, which culminates in the unholy quadrivelum of multiculturalism, moral relativism, tolerance and diversity. It also forms the basis of left-wing guru George "rhymes with" Lakoff's Orwellian theory of "framing," which progressives employ to try to make their tasteless ideas even more palatable to the indiscriminate. And of course, the horizontal barbarism of deconstruction is the quintessence of the nihilistic ransacking of history.

When we refer to intelligence, we are ultimately talking about meaning. And when we refer to meaning, we are ultimately talking about the human event. No, not this or that finite human life, but the entire meaning of an anthropocentric cosmos that was once dead and unconscious but has awakened to its own hidden meaning in the form of the human subject.

This mysterious subjective center has appeared "out of nowhere" and cannot -- and will not ever -- be explained on any purely naturalistic grounds. But at the same time, the human center will not always be here. The cosmic "I" only fully opened around 40,000 years ago, and it will close again at some point in the future, one way or the other. The cosmos, let alone our solar system, will not always be fit for life, even if Sheryl Crow uses no toilet paper at all on her private jet.

Therefore, all meaning must be placed in the larger context of the meaning of meaning, or the Human Event. In the words of theologian Thomas Torrance,

"The fact that the universe expanded in such a way that the emergence of conscious mind in it is an essential property of the universe, must surely mean that we cannot give an adequate account of the universe in its astonishing structure and harmony without taking into account, that is, without including conscious mind as an essential factor in our scientific equations.... Without man, nature is dumb, but it is man's part to give it word: to be its mouth through which the whole universe gives voice to the glory and majesty of the living God."

Any philosophy that falls short of this is simply vandalism, not to mention blarney, since it has the effect of reducing the reality of our cosmic situation to rubble. All varieties of materialism fall into this category, as they begin their exploration by turning the cosmos upside down and inside out in order to try to understand it.

And any philosophical understanding that flows from such a backward approach begins with inversion but ends in perversion. I say this because the universe itself is an expression of the Human Event, not vice versa. Any true humanist understands -- either explicitly or implicitly -- that reality is a result of the irreducible hypostatic union of subject and object in the human person. The cosmos is actually an "outgrowth" of this fundamental reality, which is why we can affirm the truism that man is the measure of all things, with the exception of that which takes the measure of man, which is to say, God, or the Absolute.

Within the "Human Event" is the "God event." We call this latter event revelation, which includes the Incarnation. But in reality, the human event is itself a revelation and an incarnation. Specifically, the intellect -- no, not the puny intellect of the secular intellectual, but the nous, or intellect properly so-called -- is revelation "subjectivized," just as scripture is the intellect, or Word, objectivized. So if one affirms that scripture is the "word of God," it is another way of saying that the intellect through which scripture is understood is also the word of God.

But not exactly. Rather, the first and last Word of God -- the Alpha and Omega -- would have to be the hypostatic union of those two words in the human person. Again, the Human Event is ultimately the unification of the cosmic Subject and Object, and its highest expression -- at least from the human side of the Divine-human divide -- is what is called in the Orthodox Christian tradition theosis.

Thus, theosis is the ultimate meaning of cosmic evolution, a subset of which is the biological evolution that the Darwinians, in their metaphysical blindness, attempt to reduce to random mechanical changes. Here again, while I do not believe that "intelligent design" should be taught as science -- since it obviously transcends science -- to teach natural selection as metaphysical truth represents the most crude sort of intellectual barbarism imaginable. As Schuon writes, this kind of shallow secular intellectualism

"cannot fail to engender errors. It confers self-complacency and... introduces a sort of worldliness into the intellectual domain. Its good side is that it may speak of truth; its bad side is the manner in which it speaks of it. It replaces the virtues it lacks by sophistries. It lays claim to everything but is in fact inoperative. In intellectualism a capacity to understand the most difficult things readily goes hand in hand with an inability to understand the simplest things" (oomphasis mine).

Put another way, science is simply one of the diverse possibilities of intelligence as such. If, like the Darwinian vandals, we ransack the cosmos and turn it upside down, we place ourselves in the absurd position of using our intelligence to prove that it doesn't actually exist.

In other words, either natural selection explains our intelligence, or our intelligence explains natural selection. You can't have it both ways. Likewise, either intelligence explains the big bang, or the big bang explains intelligence. In reality, no matter how far "back" we search, we find only more divine-human intelligence, the radiance of which is the beauty, truth, and harmony of the mathematical equations governing the physical world.

But even then, "govern" is not quite right, since the big bang is in reality a backward projection of the Human Event, and without which it would be inconceivable. The equations governing the big bang are not the meaning of existence; rather, human beings are the meaning of those equations. The meaning of anything is not found in its constituent parts; reducing something to its constituent parts is how you destroy meaning, precisely. Rather, meaning is only discovered by understanding what the parts are pointing toward and converging upon.

This brings us back around to the ironically named "progressive" movement, ironic because it excludes the very possibility of progress. Progress, to the extent that it exists -- and it does -- can only be understood in light of the Absolute. Otherwise, how do you measure it? Easy. For the progressive, you simply "make something up." You create some admittedly arbitrary standard out of thin air, and then determine whether or not reality comports with your fantasy of how things should be.

But in the end, the progressive is hoisted on his own petarded philosophy, which insists that there is no ultimate meaning or truth anyway. Which is why progressivism is such a shallow politico-intellectual game of spiritually stunted adultolescents.

Real progress occurs when the human event inches closer toward its nonlocal goal, which is to say, its theomorphic center. Probably the single greatest leap in human progress occurred with the founding of America, and we can see how this is opposed on all sides by forces of darkness that would undo or arrest its further advance -- including the Islamists, leftists, progressives, scientific materialists, and other cosmic vandals.

As I wrote in the Coonifesto, the end is always here, because the end of the Human Event occurs any time one of its individual expressions passes from fragmented multiplicity to true unity-in-diversity, in a neverunending process. This is the cosmic Omcoming we all seek.

Meaning is the golden thread which leads us ever-upward, beyond the subjective horizon, through to the foundation and destiny of the world. This is where the divine substance returns to itsource and God offers the creation back to himSelf in an act of Divine Thanksgiving. This is the cosmic eucharist, the consecration of existence, the wholly communion of a part so ptee doing deuty for the holos. It is not a nothing but a transformational plenitude where the human subject is perpetually transfigured at the crossroads of the vertical and horizontal.

Sinbad lives!

The intellect knows through its very substance all that is capable of being known and, like the blood flowing through even the tiniest arteries of the body, it traverses all the egos of which the universe is woven and opens out “vertically” on the Infinite. In other words: the intellective center of man, which is in practice subconscious, has knowledge, not only of God, but also of man’s nature and his destiny; and this enables us to present Revelation as a “supernaturally natural” manifestation of that which the human species knows, in its virtual and submerged omniscience, both about itself and about God. --F. Schuon

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Don't Get Stuck on Smart!

This topic of intelligence has stimulated more interesting and provocative -- even poignant -- comments than I might have predicted. It really is a big problem in a secular society, because it means that we begin to venerate intelligence instead of truth. And by extension, it means that we begin to exalt the genius instead of the messiah or savior (and I don't necessarily want to reduce this to a Christian understanding, but look at it in more general terms. As always, we want to know "by virtue of what principle" any particular instance is true).

We have now endured six or seven years of disparaging references to President Bush's intelligence. First, these references are generally from boneheaded liberals who are intrinsically less intelligent than President Bush, but let's leave that aside. Obviously, the question is not whether someone is intelligent, but whether they are correct -- and probably even more importantly, whether they are good. But once you have acceded to the cult of intelligence, then questioning someone's intellect serves the same purpose that questioning someone's faith did in an earlier age.

Think of all the left-wing "geniuses" who excoriated President Reagan, not just during the eight years of his presidency, but from the 1960s right up to the present. Does Christopher Hitchens have an IQ higher than president Reagan? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it certainly didn't stop Hitchens from devoting his intellect and talents to a stupid and evil ideology, Marxism, while Reagan was devoting all of his gifts -- heart, mind and soul -- to driving a dagger through its vampiric heart. That one was a God lover, the other a God hater, is certainly not incidental to their ability -- or lack thereof -- to spontaneously apprehend reality and know moral truth.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my blog to a colleague. Usually I keep it a secret, since I don't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, and psychologists are nearly always leftist and irreligious. In the course of the conversation, she said words to the effect of "so smart!," but I immediately said, "no, that's not the point. If it were just about being smart, about displaying my intelligence, I would have no interest in it. Rather, it's solely about truth, and about my being subordinate to that. Yes, I want to be entertaining and amusing, but mainly I want to be elevating. If I fail at that, then any intelligence that went into it will have been wasted. It's certainly not about any kind of ego gratification, or exaltation of me."

Interestingly, I had a somewhat similar conversation with a staff member who is not a psychologist. However, she is religious, and she seemed to understand in a nanosecond where I was coming from. You will notice that many of our trolls complain that I am only here to strut and preen before my audience of adoring Coons, and to devour their slavish compliments in order to glorify my ego. As a result of your charcoal activated cOOnvision, every single one of you knows that that is not true and that it could not possibly be true. For one thing, if it were true, there is simply no way I could write about the things I do. The moment it were to become about me, the source of my inspiration would close tighter than a leftist's mind on Sunday. Likewise, if I were to ever become "popular," I would know that something had gone terribly wrong.

To put it another way, I guarantee to all Coons here and now, that if the tentacles of fame ever come close to me, you will see someone torpedo this opportunity in the most stunningly self-defeating way you have ever witnessed. For example, I've imagined once or twice what it would be like to be interviewed by Larry King. At some point, I promise to say, "Larry, I can't answer your questions because I've forgotten how to be so stupid."

There is no philosophy more anti-human than humanism, since, as Schuon puts it, it exalts fallen man and not man as such -- the latter being pre-fallen man, which is to say, our divine blueprince. Thus, "the humanism of the moderns is practically a utilitarianism aimed at fragmentary man; it is to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible" (emphasis mine).

Think about the implications of that last Wise Crack, for it "explains everything" and pretty much embodies the doctrine of the whole existentialada. From the viewpoint of the left, mankind is indeed useless -- except for the purposes designated by the left. It has no higher, intrinsic purpose whatsover. In fact, we see the naked expression of this odiology in the fanatical environmentalism of Al Gore and other greenhouse gasbags, who believe that we are here to please the earth rather than vice versa. In reality, we have reversed cause and effect: the barbarism of radical environmentalism is the logical outcome, the "final common pathway," of a soul that has long since abandoned God.

Schuon makes reference to the truism that "every soul contains two poles, but normally they are complementary and not divergent." The two poles can be conceptualized in diverse ways, but ultimately it is a matter of horizontal and vertical. To overvalue one at the expense of the other will lead to an imbalance and loss of one's "transcendently immament" center. Nor can one have "two centers," for this is functionally to have no center.

No. The task in this life -- at least for a Coon -- is to embody unity in diversity, the archetype of which -- at least for Western man -- is Jesus Christ (I am quite sure there is a Jewish equivalent, but I don't have time at the moment to elucidate; in fact, balancing these two poles forms the essence of Jewish spiritual life, which addresses the issue in the most beautifully comprehensive manner).

Immediately we appreciate the problem of the "decentered genius" of modernity, and why genius in the absence of spiritual grounding tends twoard the duomonic. You will have noticed that America has never trusted the intellectual, and with good reason. It is one of the reasons why America is the greatest nation the world has ever known. In Europe and South America, things are different. There, intellectuals wield great power, and with disastrous results that are there for everyone to see. For there is no idea so stupid or evil that has not been championed by some prominent left-wing intellectual.

And now you are in a position to understand the great gulf that exists between lefitst academia and normal Americans with traditional, classical liberal American values. In reality, we shouldn't wonder why these ghastly pinheads hate America so. They hate America because Americans don't take them seriously, as they do in Europe.

In Europe, Noam Chomsky is a "rock star," whereas in America he is a paranoid crank embraced only by empty-headed celebrities, addle-brained kids, and their developmentally arrested professors (although in the past decade or so, we have also seen a marked deterioration in our MSM, to the point that there is no longer any discernible difference between, say, a Chomsky and the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, which is the real reason for the latter's economic failure and increasing irrelevance).

Schuon had some very astute things to say about the modern cult of genius, which, in the postmodern world, has replaced the saint and hero. He writes that the genius is "all too often a man without a center, in whom this lack is replaced by a creative hypertrophy." Again, think of the prolific Chomsky, who writes one book after another, each more worthless than the last.

This attitude also embraces the "art for art's sake" credo. That the lives of these so-called artistic geniuses are so full of decadence and strife is of no consequence. I have mentioned before that when I was in a rock band, I could see that I lacked the requisite "desperation" to succeed in that world. I simply had too many other options. Which in turn explains so much of the darkness that comes out of the pop music world. With notable exceptions, these are often desperate losers, any accidental genius notwithstanding. The list is far too long to chronicle here.

But as Schuon says -- and he was referring to the wider artistic trends of the 20th century -- "That geniuses of this kind have often been unfortunate and desperate persons [whose lives] have ended in disaster, does not deprive them of any prestige in public opinion; quite the contrary, people find them all the more interesting and 'authentic,' and let themselves be attracted by the seduction, indeed the fascination, which emanates from their siren songs and tragic destinies." Just yesterday I read a quote from some musician - the name escapes me at the moment -- who was wondering when and why music became so ugly. Life is ugly enough. The purpose of art should be to elevate us above the ugliness, not wallow in it.

The so-called genius who is alienated from the higher planes will tend toward materialism and self-indulgence: "as an intellectual, this man will forge a philosophy, but it will be determined by his materialism and his love of pleasure." But these are not actually joyous people who take pleasure in "the simple things." Rather, you will often see that their pleasure-seeking takes on a compulsive quality. At best, they become an epicure or an aesthete who is often reduced to making ultra-fine distinctions in the realm of what displeases him, to the point that the capacity for true innocent pleasure is lost.

I see how this absurdity operates in my own hobby as a hi-fi enthusiast. I can chase better sound until the day I die, but I know in my heart that music will never sound better than it did when the Beatles were coming out of the AM radio of our 1964 Ford Country Squire. To put it another way, I can always get better sound, but it will never sound better.

American movies have always recognized the demonic possibilities of the horizontal or inverted intellectual. Villains are routinely depicted as off-kilter geniuses, and with good reason. As Schuon writes, "it is not astonishing that a man who is at once a man of genius and lacking a true center should easily become a psychopath -- and this is precisely on account of his unbridled subjectivism -- whether he be a schizoid artist, a paranoiac politician or some other caricature of grandeur."

There is much, much more to say about this topic, but I'm running out of time here, so we we'll continue this line of thought tomorrow. Just remember: don't ever call me an intellectual, much less an artist. Them's fightin' words.