Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Fall From Reality into Realism

Continuing from yesterday’s post, we are tracing the dialectic of nihilism in the postmodern world through the stages of liberalism --> realism --> vitalism --> nihilistic destruction, as outlined by Father Seraphim Rose.

(Probably going to be summer re-runs for awhile -- next week I have jury duty, unless I can convince the judge that I so loath criminal defense attorneys that I cannot be trusted to sit on a jury. Yes, yes, I know there are some ethical ones... By the way, be assured that each repost is carefully edited, often for the first time, with some additional giggles inserted here and there.)

As reader Alan pointed out yesteryear, hardcore traditionalists tend to prefer monarchy as the proper form of government, and although this is undoubtedly a nonstarter for Americans, the traditionalists have their reasons. I may discuss those reasons later, and although I must ultimately reject them, I certainly appreciate where they’re coming from.

Traditionalists are concerned with adamn ineveateapple dark side of democracy -- demagoguery, the tyranny of the stupid and emotional, the plummeting of standards, the loss of the spiritual center of civilization -- the horror of a huffing kosocracy run by hillariously obaminable olbermen without chests and other male organs, to be precise. The question of how we reconcile tradition and progress is an absolutely critical one, so perhaps I will address it after we rise from our four-part fall into nihilism. The future of civilization will depend upon how we balance the two -- which is to say, the One and the many.

Let us stipulate that religion deals with absolute truth, or at least purports to do so. In the end, in the absence of absolute truth, the only option left open to one is nihilism, because nihilism is simply the doctrine of relativity drawn out to its logical conclusion. There really is no middle ground. An honest nihilist such as Nietzsche realizes this: “God is dead and therefore man becomes God and everything is possible.”

In the final analysis, the existence of God is the only thing that prevents honestly dishonest human beings from inevitably coming to Nietzsche’s stark conclusion: “I am God and all is permitted.” Nietzsche also knew full well that once the appeal to absolute truth is vitiated, raw power comes in to fill the void. Such is the law of the Darwinner & loserman cosmic jungle.

Scientific or logical truth is always relative truth. Thanks to Gödel, we know that there is no system of logic that can fully account for itself or that can be both coherent and complete. Rather, completeness is always purchased at the price of consistency, while a rigidly consistent system will always be incomplete -- say, a consistent program of materialism or determinism. Such a philosophy will leave most of reality -- including the most interesting cats -- outside its purrview. This is why Marxism (and all the leftist ideologies that flow from it) is such an inadequate theory. In explaining everything, it explains nothing. But at least it’s consistent, like Darwinian fundamentalism, and provides a kind of insecurity blanket to the metaphysically blind and deaf.

But if there is no absolute there is only the relative, incoherent though that philosophy may be (for the existence of relativity, or degrees of being, proves the absolute, since the relative can only be assessed and judged -- or even perceived -- in light of the absolute). For example, in the face of the the absolute we are able to judge various cultures on the basis of their proximity to the ideal. But once we have effaced the absolute and descended into relativity, then what necessarily follows is multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, “perception is reality,” etc. All cultures become equally cherished, with the exception of the culture that believes some cultures are better. All truths are privileged with the exception of Truth itself. Belief in Truth itself is "authoritarian" or "fascist."

In the relative world of nihilism, the local and contingent I is necessarily all. The world literally revolves around me, since my truth is absolute. The ultimate questions have no answers except for those I might provide. This is why leftist academia has become so corrupt, for how can it not be corrupting "to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth?” “It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance” (Rose).

The emptiness of relativism evokes the next stage in the nihilist dialectic, realism. This is an entirely new kind of realism, for, prior to modernity, it had referred to any philosophy which affirmed the self-evident reality of transcendental categories such as truth, love, and beauty. In short, it testified to the reality of the vertical. But this new type of debased realism entirely excluded the vertical, and affirmed that only the horizontal realm was real -- that is, the material, external, and quantifiable world. In one fool swap, a philosophy of unreality became the parastigmatic lens through which mankind was now to view the world.

At the beginning of my book there is a relevant quote from Richard Weaver: “The modernistic searcher after meaning may be likened to a man furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence. But no synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed.” Nevertheless, it is in this downward direction that our fall inevitably takes us.

Here philosophy is officially replaced by modern misosophy: the hatred of wisdom. It is a childishly naive ideology that confuses what is most obvious with what is most true and what is most fundamental with what is most real. The cosmos is officially turned upside-down and inside-out, bizarrely elevating insentient matter to the the ultimate. This is certainly intellectual nihilism, but we have a ways to go before we hit bottom, which we will proceed to do in my next two posts.

As Father Rose writes, “Worship of fact is by no means the love of truth; it is, as we have already suggested, parody. It is the presumption of the fragment to replace the whole; it is the proud attempt to build a Tower of Babel, a collection of facts, to reach to the heights of truth and wisdom from below. But truth is only attained by bowing down and accepting what is received from above. All the pretended ‘humility’ of Realist scholars and scientists... cannot conceal the pride of their collective usurpation of the throne of God...”

Such an individual “becomes a fanatical devotee of the only reality that is obvious to the spiritually blind: this world.” Human beings are reduced to races or classes, spiritual love to animal sex, higher needs to lower desires, while the earth is elevated to Goddess, the dramatic to the significant, the celebrity to the important. Again, if God is dead, there is only this world, and all is permitted in it. A new kind of human monster is born, who takes his place a bit lower than the beasts. It is Vital Man, who would be surreal if he weren't so subreal, and whom we shall discuss in the next post.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Falling at the Speed of Politics

James Lewis pretty much nails it today at American Thinker: "A radical's beliefs are only on the surface. It is the personal psychology that is always the same, and it always hankers to break down whatever humanity has built to date."

And the personal psychology begins and ends with the battle cry that "Everyhing must be different!", starting with human nature itself. The deep structure of their psychology explains "why the same people can turn into anarchists or Nazis, Communists, or today, Post-Modernists, Deconstructionists, Radical Feminists, Socialists, Hillary followers, Islamo-fascists, you name it. It is why the ACLU chooses the worst criminals to defend; they secretly adore criminals, who are the ultimate rebels against society." While it can be a normal feature of adolescence to be frustrated with the world and to imagine that reality could be radically different than it is, most of us -- half of us, anyway -- well, in the United States, at least -- I mean, for the time being -- outgrow this wishful thinking.

Although the West "won" the Cold war, "What most conservatives don't understand is that the Left has reincarnated itself since the Soviet Union died. Conservatives think that obviously false beliefs should change; but that's not the way it works. Oppositional psychology is still at the core of the Left, and.... just mutates and breaks out in other ways, like some insidious virus."

A while back, I wrote that "One’s political philosophy, whether one acknowledges it or not, is going to depend upon one’s conception of human nature. And if your conception of human nature is wrong, then your philosophy is going to be warped and your system of governance is going to be dysfunctional. I believe leftism is rooted in a naive and faulty conception of human nature, which is why it does not work."

I think I'll just repost the essay in its entirety:

Dennis Prager recently spoke to this issue in reference to European socialism. The socialist countries of Westerm Europe are dying precisely because, within a couple of generations, they have produced a new kind of man: indolent, dependent upon the government, self-centered, spiritually empty, essentially nihilistic. Eventually a tipping point will be reached in which there will not be enough productive people to support the unproductive ones, and that will be the end of Europe as we know it. Islam will take care of the rest.

Thus, not only does your political ideology flow from your conception of human nature, but once in place, your ideology will produce radically different kinds of human beings. We don’t have to look very far to see how this has played out in the United States, for example, with respect to all of the Oh, Great! Society programs that had the cumulative effect of taking a wrecking ball to the black family, leaving it much worse off than before government butted in. One of the last great liberals, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, saw this coming in the 1960s, writing about the “tangle of pathology” that afflicted urban culture. If I am not mistaken, Moynihan was the very first victim to be unjustly victimized by the liberal meme of “blaming the victim.”

One of the central divides in the so-called culture war is the question of whether or not mankind is fallen. Actually that’s not quite right, because for at least half the country, the whole idea of mankind being “fallen” is precisely nonsense. To the extent that they give a moment’s thought to the question, it is only to mock and dismiss it. Modern secularists are way too sophisticated to ever believe in such crude mythology.

As I have mentioned a number of times, revelation contains timeless wisdom and objective metaphysics that must be “unpacked.” This can only be done through a combination of preparation and grace. No amount of study or of intelligence alone will help you finally “get” religion in the absence of grace. In fact, “getting it” is a fine example of the operation of grace. In this sense, the uncreated intellect -- that part of our being that may know divine truth -- is itself a supernaturally natural revelation of God (as Schuon has expressed it).

There are so many different ways to consider the question of our fallenness. Before he became the Russian Orthodox Father Seraphim Rose (1934-1981), Eugene Rose began work on a book that he never finished, entitled The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God. He completed only one chapter, on what he called “stages of the nihilist dialectic,” tracing modern man’s fall into the abyss of leftist nihilism. Because in the end, that is what the culture war is really about: objective truth vs. nihilism.

Rose saw our descent as happening in four stages that he called 1) liberalism, 2) realism, 3) vitalism, and 4) destruction. The first of these, liberalism, is already a sort of “passive nihilism,” because it opens the door to everything that follows -- it is a “breeding ground of the more advanced stages of nihilism.” Why is that? Partly because, under the guise of “tolerance,” liberalism slowly begins to distance itself from, and no longer take seriously, the very ideas and traditions that made liberalism possible.

You see this for example, in the vast rhetorical gulf that exists between the great classical liberal thinkers who founded America and the petty, small-minded leftist liberals who rule today.

“We hold these truth to be self-evident.” That phrase alone would be evidence enough to deny tenure to an aspiring political scientist or philosopher. It gets worse. In the Declaration of Independence, God is explicitly named four times: he is the One who has endowed human beings with unalienable rights that no government may trespass; he is the author of the laws of nature (meaning that our founders took “intelligent design” for granted); he is the “Supreme Judge of the World” and therefore the source of our objective morality (i.e., the founders were not modern liberal moral relativists); and he is “Divine Providence," the source and end of all our worldly activities.

This kind of intemperate language would never be tolerated by today’s leftist liberals. God? Judgment? Absolute truth? Intelligent design? Objective morality? Reliance upon God? Those white European males who founded America were theofascists, just like President Bush!

In recent weeks a couple of readers have suggested that I believe I am always right, and that I never acknowledge any errors. First of all, I acknowledge errors all the time, except that I simply call it “growth.” I don’t necessarily stop to chronicle how my thinking differs today from last week, last year, or five years go. But from my end, it feels as if I continue to get a deeper grasp of things as I go along, so that previously held “partial truths” may well be discarded.

One issue that I was very wrong about was that of “liberty.” This is such a transcendent spiritual value for me, that I mistakenly believed that it was implanted into the bosom of man, and that it was only for us to remove the obstacles -- say, in Iraq, or San Francisco -- and watch liberty blossom.

But I was wrong about that. Most human beings do not actually crave liberty. As a matter of fact, history demonstrates the opposite -- that human beings by and large find liberty to be repellant, and much prefer security. This is the difference between classical liberals and contemporary "liberals," and it is also the difference between Europe and America. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. True enough. But what about all those places where the Spirit isn’t? There you will neither find liberty nor the desire for it. I now better understand that liberty is a spiritual value that half the country and most of the world does not necessarily share -- certainly not the Islamic world. After all, the Islamists would rather kill every last Iraqi man, woman and child than allow them to live in freedom.

The modern liberal, in his descent into nihilism, values security over liberty, equality over freedom, “truths” over Truth. FDR, that patron saint of modern liberalism, unveiled a host of new “self-evident truths” that had somehow eluded our founders in a famous speech. Sunstein writes that “Now that the war was in the process of being won, the main objective for the future could be ‘captured in one word: Security.’”

Roosevelt argued that this actually meant something new and entirely unprecedented, that is, "economic security, social security, moral security." Classical liberalism, which had always been associated with negative liberties -- i.e., the right to be left alone by the government -- was to be replaced by a new vision of positive liberty that now forms the essence of modern liberalism. The government's job was now to even keep us free of fear, and “Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want." But since “want” is literally infinite, this sets up the need for a government that is infinite in its powers. For as the adage goes, any time the government does something for you, it does something to you. Since it now proposes to do everything for you... well, you figure it out.

In effectuating this new promise of security to all American citizens, Roosevelt argued for a new tax policy "which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate." Unreasonable profits. Obviously we are still having that debate today, aren't we? What is an unreasonable profit, and why is it unreasonable? Here you see how the anti-libertarian, pseudo-religious language of Marxism insinuated itself into our political discourse, further accelerating the Fall of liberal man: we "cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”

Sunstein continues: “At that point, the speech became spectacularly ambitious. Roosevelt looked back, not entirely approvingly, to the framing of the Constitution. At its inception, the nation had protected ‘certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures,’ he noted. But over time, those rights had proved inadequate, as ‘we have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.’”

Comes now fully fallen Leftist Man with a new revelation and a new Bill of Rights:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation.

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

The right to a good education.

Sounds good doesn’t it? No, better than good. It sounds positively utopian! Because now, with my new Bill of Rights in hand, my absence of responsibility and my victimhood are complete. The Government owes me a meaningful, well-paying job, fairness, a house, free medical care, an absence of fear, and full protection from my own bad decisions throughout life!

Obviously, many people want that new deal. But it is the quintessence of a Faustian bargain, in which you have traded God for government. You are now Horizontal Man. You have fallen all the way down.

Wait, that’s not quite right. We still have three more stages to go before man’s degeneracy is complete. To be continued.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Liberals and the Gift that Keeps Taking

While we're on the subject, yet another reason why I am not a leftist is that it is an ideology that undermines true brotherly love, which is to say, caritas. It is astonishing to me that the Democrats are able to fraudulently depict themselves as the "party of compassion," when their central program involves half the population voting to force the other half to give it stuff. You can be in favor of that, but just don't call it "charitable" or "compassionate." Call it what it is: a form of misguided self-interest.

It is misguided because, as Tom Nugent explains today on NRO -- repeat after me -- "tax revenues will fall -- not rise -- when an economy slowed by tax hikes produces lower tax revenues. In all of this, the little guy -- not the rich guy -- is the one who’s going to get hurt.... Windfall profits taxes, higher capital gains taxes, higher maximum personal-income-tax rates, a national sales tax -- each and every one of these tax increases will ultimately hurt the little guy whose lifestyle and livelihood are inextricably attached to the economy."

At the same time they strangle the economy with taxes and thereby hurt "the little guy," leftists treat the profit motive as if it were a morally dubious thing. But as Paul Driessen explains, companies profit because they provide "goods, services and technologies that society needs and values -- legally, ethically, and by offering superior quality, lower cost, greater reliability, outstanding customer care and other benefits, while protecting the environment. It thereby stays in business, earns profits, and rewards investors who made its innovations and products possible." He quotes Milton Friedman's adage that “The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits,” and highlights the truism that profitability is "the most fundamental way a company is socially responsible -- to employees, customers, families and communities that have been improved by the company’s actions."

I realize that all of this is common sense unless you happen to be highly educated. In fact, a WSJ editorial this morning points out that high school seniors have more economic common sense than liberal politicians. Unlike other forms of illiteracy, economic illiteracy can be acquired, usually from a tenured carrier.

True charity can never be compulsory. Like any form of love, it must be freely given on pain of self-contradiction. Furthermore, it cannot be motivated merely by the feelings of the giver, but by the objective needs of the recipient, otherwise it becomes an exercise in self-congratulatory narcissism. And recognizing the objective needs of the recipient must take into account his total humanity -- including his spiritual essence -- not merely reduce him to his animal appetites. Otherwise, you can turn the recipient into a sort of half-human cripple.

While charity "consists in abolishing the egocentric distinction between 'me' and the 'other'" and "seeing the 'I' in the 'other' and the 'other' in the 'I'" (Schuon), different egos are at different levels of psychological development, so that to treat all people equally is to efface these important differences and to fail to recognize the humanity of the individual. In its wider context, charity does not only imply "beneficial action in relation to those who need it," but consideration of others’ feelings. Therefore, it is possible to be charitable in a very uncharitable manner.

The Golden Rule is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, not necessarily as they would have you do unto them. The "doing" must flow from a "knowing," or from consciousness, not merely from one's feelings. As Schuon explains, the corollary of the Golden Rule is that we are not obliged to give our neighbor "what, in our opinion, we would not deserve if we were in his place." In short, in order to recognize what you deserve, you must simultaneously recognize what you most probably deserve good and hard, right in the kisser.

The Raccoon rule is that charity begins by lifting the world one a-hole at a time, beginning with oneself. Or, in the words of Schuon, "The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself."

In ether worlds, charity begins at OMMMMMMMM.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

How to Distinguish Your Friends From the Barbarians

I'm not sure if my intention was entirely clear, but in my book, I attempt to draw a distinction between "culture" and "civilization," the former being local and contingent, the latter nonlocal and universal. A culture can be good or evil, depending upon how civilized it is.

"Civilization" is an archetype that, by its very nature, can never be fully attained on earth. It is the perfection and the totality to which this or that culture -- to the extent that it is healthy -- orients itself. In a sense, you might say that it is analogous to Augustine's distinction between the "City of Man" and "City of God." Evolution and progress can only occur in light of the "movement" toward civilization, which is why "progressives" are so curiously named, since their earthbound ideology specifically eliminates the possibility of objective progress toward this nonlocal telos.

One of my many objections to leftism is that it eliminates the idea of civilization and replaces it with culture. Multiculturalism explicitly maintains that various cultures are uniquely beautiful and valuable, and that there are no objective standards -- i.e., civilization -- by which we may judge them. Thus, because of this metaphysical pathology at the heart of leftism, it is not possible for them to notice, for example, that Israel is civilized and that it is surrounded by savages. To any civilized person, this observation is a banality of the first rank, but one of the most pernicious effects of leftist political correctness is that it outlaws civilization, generally equating it with "racism" or some other form of oppression.

Obviously, the so-called "Palestinians" and other Islamic death cults are barbarians, but the fact that this is not openly recognized and discussed is a kind of collectively enforced insanity. The odd thing about it is that it is not enforced by the barbarians themselves, who have no power over our minds. Rather, it is enforced by leftist elites in the media and academia. As noted at Belmont Club the other day, the left is the most critical "force multiplier" for our uncivilized enemies to gain power over us. In a very real way, the left represent the only hope for these barbarians who wish to destroy civilization.

Schuon writes that "civilization only represents a value provided it is supra-human in origin and implies for the 'civilized' man a sense of the sacred: only peoples who really have this sense and draw their life from it are truly civilized. If it is objected that... it is possible to conceive of a world that is civilized though having no religion, the answer is that in this case the civilization is devoid of value, or rather -- since there is no legitimate choice between the sacred and other things -- that it is the most fallacious of aberrations." Again, this is because culture draws its objective value from the vertical realm which transcends local space and time. To recognize the sacred is to recognize this transcendent order and our obligation to it.

Our intuition of the sacred -- without which we cannot know of true civilization -- is also our innate consciousness of the Divine. It is, according to Schuon, "a kind of universal respect, a kind of circumspection before the mystery of animate and inanimate creatures; and this without any favourable prejudice or weakness towards phenomena which manifest errors or vices, and which for that reason no longer present any mystery unless it be that of the absurd."

As such, while culture is -- given the very structure and possibility of universal existence -- no doubt necessary and inevitable, we owe it no fundamental allegiance or intrinsic respect. It is only valuable to the extent that it reflects "the immutable in the moving," or "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..." (Schuon).

What applies to culture equally applies to the individual. Yes, in one sense, people are of infinite value, but only to the extent that they embody the infinite. Which is why there are so many "worthless" people, so to speak. We can only recognize their worthlessness to the extent that we recognize their (potential) divinity. Otherwise, we are in the absurd situation of suggesting that everyone is unconditionally of infinite value, which is logically indistinct from saying they are of no value, since there are no objective values by which to measure them. Only in such a pathological frame of mind could one award a Nobel Prize to a Yasser Arafat or Jimmy Carter, one of whom embodied evil, the other error, weakness, vanity, and resentment of the good -- not divine values, to say the least.

Now, the left wishes to cure mankind in the absence of a proper diagnosis of the individuals who constitute it. In fact, due to the very nature of the left, they cannot diagnose the illness because they cannot recognize it. That is, they are "humanists," an intrinsically anti-human ideology, since it specifically forbids the human individual from transcending himself and becoming truly human (since transcendence is believed to be fanciful). For them, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the human being that a little coercive, top-down social engineering cannot cure -- not that there's anything to cure, since all cultures are beautiful, except maybe southern Christian culture, and all people are beautiful, except maybe wealthy white people... or conservative blacks... or people who listen to talk radio....

But as Schuon correctly states, the world is not a wreck because there is too much self-transcendence and not enough social engineering. Rather, "the world is miserable because men live beneath themselves." The fundamental error at the heart of the left is that it wishes "to reform the world without having either the will or the power to reform man, and this flagrant contradiction, this attempt to make a better world on the basis of a worsened humanity, can only end in the very abolition of what is human, and consequently in the abolition of happiness too." To truly reform man can only mean what it has always meant, which is to re-establish the broken link between the celestial and the mundane, the vertical and horizontal, cultures and the civilization they must embody.

It is a commonplace to point out that the left are hardly "liberal," meaning interested in liberty. Rather, as they have taken the wrecking ball to Spirit, they have simply replaced the internal law written in the heart of man with so many external laws written by the legislature. Thousands and thousands of laws to bind us to the leftist conception of the "good." But the good man -- the man who has transcended himself -- is not in need of this burdensome yoke.

There are Children of the Earth and Children of Light, and if your cOOnvision is awakened, you can distinguish one from the other in a nanosecond. The latter, "though he be a king, lives as if in the antechamber of Heaven; on this very earth and in his carnal body he has attached himself to Heaven and enclosed himself in a prolongation of those crystallisations of Light that are the celestial states" (Schuon). As implied in yesterday's post about the awakened sense of wonder, they live simply from day to day, but never in a repetitive way, for "the Lord makes all things new."

As above, so below; analogously, a culture is a sort of collective individual, while an individual is a private culture. True civilization is a sort of “mystical body" -- or, as Schuon describes it, "in so far as that is possible, a collective contemplative." And a Raccoon is none other than a private civilization.

One may define a person, if one allows oneself a somewhat permissible simplification, as a being that exists for the sake of its own perfection. --Josef Pieper

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wondering Through the Bewilderness

I don't know if this is still valid, but I remember learning in graduate school that the EEGs of extreme extroverts and thrill seekers are unusually flat, which is why they seek thrills -- in order to stimulate their brain. In the absence of a vivid assault on the senses, they just feel kind of dead.

Conversely, more quiet and introverted people showed a great deal of brain activity even while resting and doing nothing. Often, such a person can feel overwhelmed by too much external activity -- it overloads their nervous system, so to speak. I definitely fall into that latter category, in that I have always required very little stimulation in order to feel hyper-stimulated. For me, one is often a crowd. O is enough to deal with.

I was thinking about this while reading Pieper's For the Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, in which he discusses the meaning of philosophy. He quotes Socrates, who remarked that "the sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin."

But contemporary philosophy does not begin with a sense of wonder, nor does it attempt to cultivate it. Rather, it begins with the capacity to doubt, and then aggravates it, eventually turning a good servant into a tyrannical master, for there is nothing that cannot be doubted by doubt. It takes no wisdom or skill at all.

One reason I could never be a secular leftist is that it is a cynical philosophy that drains everything it touches of the dimension of wonder. For atheists and other philistines, the world loses its metaphysical transparency; surface is reality and everything is self-evident. They elevate our crudest way of knowing the world to the highest wisdom, and their self-satisfaction ensures that no spiritual growth can occur. They are a closed system.

The sense of wonder is not merely a useless "luxury capacity" that serves no human purpose. Rather, it is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the cosmos. In fact, like a divining rod, it tells us where to look for the water. It senses those "holes" in the landscape through which the wondrous spiritual energies gently bubble forth to the surface.

The flatlander who is confined to the everyday, proximate world can never really philosophize, whereas for the person who has been arrested by a sense of wonder, "the immediate necessities of life fall mute, if only for this one moment of impassioned gazing at the wonder-inspiring physiognomy of the world." I suppose the atheist might object that he too wonders at Being, but he would never agree that wonder is a spiritual sense that discloses valid information about the object that has provoked it.

Pieper points out that it is not the abnormal, the sensational, and the exciting that provoke the sense of wonder. Indeed, this is the whole point. Many people compulsively seek out the abnormal and the sensational in order to simulate a dulled sense of wonder that is incapable of perceiving the wondrous in the commonplace:

"Whoever requires the unusual in order to fall into wonder shows himself by virtue of this very fact to be someone who has lost the ability to respond correctly to the mirandum of Being. The need for the sensational, even if it prefers to present itself under the guise of the bohemian, is an unmistakable sign of the absence of a genuine capacity for wonder and hence a bourgeois mentaility" (emphasis mine). This highlights the fact that the weirdest people are usually the most banal underneath their weirdness. And the far left is nothing if not a collection of weirdos, misfits, rejects, losers, crackpots, kooks, "rebels," poutliars, and boo-hoomians hiding behind their "authenticity."

A genuine sense of wonder preserves the extraordinary in the familiar, and is therefore a key to happiness. Pieper notes that for Aquinas, it was one of the indirect proofs of God, in that "in the very first moment of wonder man sets his foot on the path at the end of which lies the visio beatifica, the blissful perception of the ultimate cause." In this regard, you might say that wonder is a way of "metabolizing reality," in that it involves both digestion and resultant growth.

(By the way, for those of you with my book, much of what we are discussing here dovetails nicely with pp. 215-16, in which I point out that a goal of the spiritual life is "to be in a mild state of (?!) at all times.... It is a matter of removing obstacles to its reception, not setting up elaborate, complicated, or expensive situations to trick the ego into relaxing its death-grip for awhile." In fact, to further quote my bobself, "All of us can, with even unschooled intuition, receive these transitory, partial, and mixed messages from O, the flotsam and jetsam that whoosh up from the father shore.... [But] only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something felt as a continuous presence.")

Now, our sense of wonder ultimately answers to the Mystery of Being, and a mystery is not an annoygma to be solved but a riddle to be enjoyed and even played with. And all of this falls under the heading of "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." As Pieper points out, our higher bewilderness is not to be coonfused with resignation, despair, or hopelessness. To the contrary, our engagement with the mystery of being is generative and therefore filled with hope and joy, because it brings us closer to the ultimate cause of our wondering.

What actually provoked me to wonder about wonder was an essay by Dennis Prager on how Excitement Deprives Children of Happiness -- which is another way of saying that immersing children in over-stimulating activities will inevitably lead to an atrophied sense of wonder. As Prager writes,

"because we parents so delight in the excitement we see in our children at those moments -- because they seem so happy then -- we can easily fall into the trap of providing more and more exciting things to keep them seemingly happy at just about every moment. And they in turn come to rely on getting excited to keep them happy and to identify excitement with happiness. But excitement is not happiness. In fact, it is the ultimate drug."

Never before in history has so much excitement been available to people, but are they really any happier or fulfilled? I agree with Prager that "all this excitement is actually inhibiting our children's ability to enjoy life and therefore be happy." It "renders young people jaded, not happy.... That is why the frequent complaint of 'I'm bored' is often a sign of a jaded child, i.e., a child addicted to excitement and therefore incapable of enjoying life when not being excited."

Yes, it's the simple things, like playing under your puppy,

talking to your best girl on the phone,

or eating a golf ball:

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Spiritual World and the Animal Environment

I may actually be able to write something new today. During the past month or more, I've been waking at 6:00 instead of 5:00, and the loss of that little hour makes all the difference. But this morning I woke up at 5:15, giving me a little window of uppertunity.

So, what does it all mean, anyway? Alfred North Whitehead defined philosophy as the pursuit of that question. As I have mentioned before, I'm not a bitter person, but I do still mildly resent what leftism has done to our educational system, because it took me half my life to unlearn all the leftst brain-washing and soul-dirtying and rearrive at where my philosophical endeavors should have started to begin with. I wasted so much time learning things that are not only wrong but harmful to the soul and incompatible with true happiness or fulfillment.

I hate to say this, because it sounds immodest or presumptuous, but these outwardly unpleasant little transitional phases I go through always have an implicit lesson, in that they 1) teach me not to take my (ab?)normal state of mind for granted, and 2) reacquaint me with the flatland world in order to better comprehend those souls who are stuck there permanently and have never been lifted above it. I don't know how anyone can stand to live there. It's just so... cramped... and ill-furnished.

What in the world is the world? Or, to put it another way, what kind of world is the world of man, and is it the same as the world? These questions are addressed in an enjoyable book I'm currently reading, For Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, by Josef Pieper. One of the themes Pieper develops is the idea that all other animals merely live in a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world.

For example, many people assume that all animals with eyes see the same object, when this is patently untrue. Pieper cites the example of a certain bird that preys on grasshoppers, but is incapable of seeing the grasshopper if it isn't moving. Only in leaping does the grasshopper become distinct from the background -- which is why many insects "play dead." In their resting form, not only are they "dead," but they are literally invisible. It is as if they drop into a hole and no longer exist in the world of the predator. Even if the bird were starving, it could search and search, and yet, never find the unmoving grasshopper right under its beak. In short, the animal cannot transcend its biological boundaries, even with an organ -- the eye -- seemingly equipped for the task.

Pieper quotes the biologist Uexküll, who distinguishes the animal's environment from the actual world. As he writes, "The environments of animals are comparable in no way to open nature, but rather to a cramped, ill-furnished apartment." Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally did not come into exstence until human beings happened upon the scene.

But given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible. Like the bird looking for the immobile grasshopper, we could find neither "the world" nor "God," despite diligent searching. But if science is possible, then God is necessary. Or, to put it another way, since God exists, science is possible.

Pieper writes that the human spirit is not so much defined by the property of immateriality as it is "by the ability to enter into relations with Being as a totality," in a way that clearly transcends our mere animal-environmental boundaries. (Interesting, isn't it, that the cult of global warming mostly appeals to those flatlanders who elevate the environment to the world? It is very much a religion for the folks mired down in 2D.)

Now, as Schuon always emphasized, the intellect properly so-called (i.e., nous) is not restricted to an environment. Rather, it is "relatively absolute" and therefore able to know the world. As Pieper writes, "it belongs to the very nature of a spiritual being to rise above the environment and so transcend adaptation and confinement," which in turn explains "the at once liberating and imperiling character with which the nature of spirit is immediatly associated."

This is what I was driving at on p. 92 of my book:

"Just as first singularity was an explosion into (and simultaneous creation of) material space-time, and the second singularity a discontinuous 'big bang' into the morphic space of biological possibility, the third singularity was an implosion into a trans-dimensional subjective space refracted through the unlikely lens of a primate brain. Up to the threshold of the third singularity, biology was firmly in control of the hominids, and for most of evolution, mind (such as it was) existed to serve the needs of the primate body. Natural selection did not, and could not have, 'programmed' us to know reality, only to survive in a narrow 'reality tunnel' constructed within the dialectical space between the world and our evolved senses."

But then suddenly Darwin was cast aside and "mind crossed a boundary into a realm wholly its own, a multidimensional landscape unmappable by science and unexplainable by natural selection"; humans ventured out of biological necessity and "into a realm with a vastly greater degree of freedom, well beyond the confining prison walls of the senses."

I suppose natural selection can explain our adaptation to an environment, but it cannot explain our discovery and comprehension of the world. Pieper quotes Aristotle, who wrote that "the soul is in a way all existing things." What did he mean by this? What he meant was that the soul is able to put itself in relation to the totality of Being. While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to grasp Being as a whole.

Thus -- running out of time here, but thus -- to be in Spirit is "to exist amid reality as a whole, in the face of the totality of Being." Spirit is not a world, but the world. Or, to be precise, "spirit" and "world" are reciprocal concepts, the one being impossible in the absence of the other. Science itself is a completely spiritual world, or it is no world at all, only an environment. Usually an academic environment.

Friday, August 03, 2007

We Are Not Worthy of Being So Unworthy!

Ah, here’s a good question from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred:

Q: You said, "the more human we become, the more divine, and the more divine, the more human -- and humble." Are you saying that there is a kind of "yoke" we must assume, to move ahead?”

A: Well, first of all, I am so exceedingly humble or possibly ingratiating that I am not worthy of this question, for a good question is superior to any answer that can be given. Furthermore, the answer is the disease that kills curiosity, so bear that in mind. I never want to cure anyone's curiosity, only aggravate it.

Now, it is not so much the Great and Powerful B'ob who is suggesting that humility is a requisite of the spiritual path, as that nine out of ten saints, mystics, sages and assorted holy men agree that this is true. At least the ones in my revere view mirror. I believe that one can always tell a false teacher or cult leader by their hubris, grandiosity, presumptuousness, and narcissism. And their fee, for real truth is free, in that it will only cost you your worthless and blankrupt life. While there is a cover charge for entry into God's naughtclub, it is sincere repentance. (For the three of you who have my book, this is what I was trying to unsay in the bobscure passage on pp. 252-253: "Either pay your deus or be nilled to a blank.... Eloha, that's a good bye for the Love that removes the sin and other scars, speaking allegheirically." You will gnotice that my yokes are actually pretty easy, if not cheesy.)

As implied by your question, the equation works both ways. In order to know the divine, humility is a key that opens many mysteries. But as we begin to receive genuine gnosis (which simply means spiritual knowledge), we are humbled by it. At least in most cases. There are definitely situations in which an authentic spiritual gift is combined with unresolved narcissistic issues to produce a hugely (and dangerously) inflated ego. You saw this phenomenon a great deal in the '60s and '70s, in which Buddhist or Hindu gurus who had achieved genuine spiritual attainment in an isolated ashram setting were suddenly placed in a situation where attractive young devotees were throwing themselves at their feet. Oh, mama!

Maharishi, you broke the rules / You laid it down for all to see / Maharishi, oooh you broke the rules.
Maharishi, you'll get yours yet / However big you think you are / Maharishi, oooh you'll get yours yet.

Of course, John Lennon later changed the lyric from “Maharishi” to “Sexy Sadie.” In Lennon’s case, it seems that he first projected his own unresolved messianic grandiosity into the Maharishi, and was inevitably devastated when he turned out to be all too human, unlike Yoko, who was not human enough.

It is also important to point out that humility hardly equates with “low self esteem” or being a shrinking violet. To the contrary, low self esteem is just the other side of narcissism, and will likely produce similarly bad results. Humility is really just accurate self assessment. It is seeing oneself as one is, not better or worse than one is.

There are spiritual types who mistakenly believe that by utterly abasing oneself or taking aseticism to absurd lengths, one can know God. Again, it is simply the reverse side of the same worthless coin: “Look at me -- I’m so much worse than you, I must be the world’s greatest sinner ever!” (I detect this dynamic in Mel Gibson -- ”I am God, I own Malibu” conjoined with “I am sick, the worst sinner ever, the man who pounded the first nail into Christ.”)

This is also not to say that some humans aren’t better or higher than others. Again, very much to the contrary. The distance between a great saint and the average person might be as great as the distance between us and a dog. However, the distance between the saint and God is even greater -- the saint knows this better than we do, hence, the humility.

Nevertheless, the great saint is also a warrior, a master of the art of spiritual warfare, of hand-to-hand combat without hands. I have no hesitation in spontaneously bowing before these great souls, for they are earthly reflections of something much greater -- like the night time moon that reflects the sun’s radiance. The real saint will not take advantage of your bowing before them -- rather, they will bow even lower. In truth, every spiritual crown is a crown of thorns.

God is a fisher of men, but first there must be a fissure in man where God can operate. Man is not a given fact, but a possibility, and the possibility of a divine-human partnership takes place in the transitional space between you and your highest aspiration -- between you and your future self. This is a polarized space, and it is the polarization that creates the dynamic electricity. If you like, you can think of it as analogous to the sexual tension that fills the space between man and woman. There is a spontaneous, natural, innocent, and idealistic form of this energy, as well as many perverse and deviant versions.

In the past, I have written of religious perversions, of which Islamism is a particularly vivid example. However, political correctness, multiculturalism, liberal victimology, and the counterfeit virtue of “tolerance” are similarly destructive spiritual perversions that cause just as much damage in the long run -- perhaps even more, since the process is more subtle.

For example, the cognitively and spiritually bereft idea of multiculturalism causes Western intellectuals to defend and even honor totalitarians who embrace or condone polygamy, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, political autocracy, homosexual persecution, honor killings, female circumcision, and a host of other barbarisms.

At risk of pointing out the obvious, is it not clear that tolerance is hardly “humility” or “accurate self assessment?” Rather, it is a wildly inaccurate assessment of the obvious superiority of Western civilization over the Islamic world and other primitive and tribal cultures. Tolerance is indeed (to paraphrase someone) “the virtue of the man with no convictions.” It is not humility but moral cowardice, and as such, opens up a free space for infrahuman bullies to operate unhindered. This is why the left is a "force-multiplier" for our enemies (as put at Belmont Club).

There is an increasingly overt unity between the postmodern left and the pre-modern Islamists, a tacit conspiracy between those who make a god of their religion and those who make a god of their irreligion, forcefully ill-luminating the emptiness at the rotten core of contemporary liberalism (yes, on the spiritual plane it is possible to be simultaneously empty and rotten).

Perhaps you have heard that the devil is not an atheist. Rather, he knows better than anyone that God exists. It's just that he refuses to bow. In a similar way, the leftist reformer who wishes to save humanity easily succumbs to the temptation of exalting himself in godlike fashion above others whom he presumes to save or instruct, but always through coercion. As an Unknown Friend puts it, the leftist always creates a rigid tower, not a tree, and the tower enfolds and encloses while the Tree of Life radiates. There is no harvesting without cultivating the tree. Hey, I don't make up the rules, I just follow them. God is a gardener, not a mason.

A properly functioning mirror is a humble object, for it reflects everything while “containing” nothing. But the mirror is also a marvelous thing, for without it, the reflected object seems to disappear. In some way, the object relies upon the clean mirror to reflect it and give it existence. Thus, the mirror is both exalted and humble. Much of the spritual life consists of polishing one's mirror.

The purpose of true spirituality is to become deep. As a matter of fact, “depth” in any domain is a measure of soul and nothing else. To become deeply humble is simply to crucify what is base and unworthy in the psyche and to create a space that will be filled “from above,” for while nature abhors a vacuum, God evidently requires one. It is the crack in the cosmic egg that lets in the light. This is the real meaning of humility -- of spiritual poverty. So if we want to know God, the yoke's on us.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Where the Spirit of the Creator is, There is Liberty"

And the next question from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred is, “By what mechanism does free will overcome instinct?”

A: Good question, but let me first, like a politician, go back to yesterday’s question, which I didn’t get a chance to completely evade. You asked about how my spiritual views influence my practice. It is not so much how my spiritual views influence my practice as how my spiritual practice influences me.

And even that is an unsatisfactory way of expressing it, because one's spiritual practice is one thing, while the process it gives rise to is another thing entirely. There are, of course, degrees of spiritual commitment, and if you are committed “mind, heart, and soul,” then you have given yourself over to a process whose outcome you do not control.

This is similar to the deeper forms of psychoanalytic therapy, in which you do not necessarily confront a well-defined problem that you try to resolve in a few sessions. Rather, you are willfully dismantling your surface personality in order to plumb the depths of your being. In that case, you do not control the process -- which would be a form of resistance -- you more or less surrender to it. You will come out a changed person, but you cannot predict ahead of time what type of change it will be. There will be surprises. And there will be pain that must be borne. This is why one of my supervisors said that he would never recommend psychoanalysis to anyone -- he only offered it.

It is the same way when you truly submit -- surrender -- to the spiritual process. As a matter of fact, this is one of the ways you can tell the false teachers from the true ones. The false teachers will make all sorts of promises about what “you will get from God,” when, first of all, it is much more a question of what you can do for God (in the sense of "aligning yourself" with the Creator). Secondly, once you give yourself over to the process, changes will take place that cannot be predicted, much less controlled.

This has always been known. It is why serious teachers don’t generally go out looking for students, but turn them away, because most people are motivated by some ulterior egoic reason to try to usurp the prerogatives of spirit. Even if you want to convert to Judaism, by tradition the rabbi will initially turn you away. Likewise, Jesus makes many statements about the level of commitment required and degree of submission involved.

So how are my spiritual views influencing my practice? By encouraging me to give it up and move on to the next stage, whatever it is. I would love to phase out psychology in the next couple of years. It seriously interferes with my real work -- or perhaps I should say, it interferes with whatever it is that is working on me. It’s very real and it’s very intense, and it’s not always pleasant, especially when you have to resist it for whatever reason. As you may know, in that regard, the spirit is no respecter of persons.

Again, I can only say that it’s analogous to the unconscious. In my view, the vertical extends both above and below -- down into the unconscious, but also up into higher regions. Furthermore, I have come to believe that there are defense mechanisms that operate in both directions. In other words, just as we routinely repress the unconscious, we also repress the “supraconscious,” so to speak. And just as weakening the membrane between ego and unconscious will bring forth a burst of material, weakening the membrane between you and God will cause a surge of energies from that direction. And contrary to popular belief, the energies are not always pleasurable and they certainly aren’t predictable.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading biographies about people of genuine spiritual accomplishment, because it is comforting to know that this unpredictable transformative process is always the same and yet different. No one describes it as a walk in the park, much less a way to "Harness the Infinite Power of Coincidence!,” or “Awaken the Giant Within!,” or “Achieve the Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire!" Wha' deepak of lies!

Now, about free will -- by what mechanism does it overcome instinct?

As is the case in most ultimate antinomies, the question of free will vs. determinism is not an either/or issue. Rather, we can possess "more or less" free will, depending on various circumstances. But by and large, our free will is squandered and given away. As Dostoyevsky wrote, man has "no more pressing need than the one to find somebody to whom he can surrender as quickly as possible that gift of freedom with which he, unfortunate creature, was born."

As I noted in my book, discovering what a human being truly is is the key to fathoming the mystery of the cosmos itself. In my view, the presence of self-conscious human beings with free will explains much more about the cosmos than the most complete understanding of the material universe will ever explain about human beings. And the existence of free will is one of the most compelling clues for comprehending the cosmos, for it is utterly inexplicable on any purely scientific grounds.

If we are not free, then time is merely duration and life can obviously have no intrinsic meaning. But once you acknowledge the vertical in any form or fashion, you have left the horizontal behind -- that is, the purely material and rational -- as any kind of comprehensive, all-encompassing explanation of existence.

For example, if you acknowledge the existence of free will -- which, by the way, some people don't... then again, I suppose they have no choice -- you have already conceded that we move and have our being in a mysterious "hole" in creation, a hole known as the "now." By all rights, this "now" should not exist at all.

Einstein was particularly baffled by its existence, to such an extent that he thought the present moment in which we exercise our free will was only a stubborn illusion. This is an example of how science reaches a metaphysical dead end once it begins to ponder the vertical.

I have a conscious thought: I am going to make a fist. I do so. I sneak up behind Einstein and give him a serious nuggy. No one can tell you how I did so -- how consciousness -- whatever that is -- exerts an effect on matter in this way, even leaving a slight bruise on top of Albert’s head.

One of the cultural problems that has arisen since the 1960's is a persistent misunderstanding of the notion of freedom. For example, if you ask me if I am free to play the saxophone, the answer is "no," the reason being that I have not put in the requisite time to study music and practice the instrument. Of course, I am "free" to pick up a saxophone and randomly blow into it, but what kind of freedom is that? Only through intense discipline and long years of practice am I free to produce something musically satisfying on the instrument, that is, to achieve aesthetic depth.

All meaningful human freedoms are analogous to that. Freedom is not just the absence of constraint or the ability to indulge one's whims in an aimless fashion. Rather, real freedom always involves discipline, boundaries, and most importantly, a higher goal or standard toward which the freedom is directed. Otherwise, mere freedom itself is by no means a morally or spiritually constructive thing. In the absence of higher goals and standards, people are abandoned either to a passive, rudderless, aimless existence or to a more impulsive acting out of various psychological patterns.

In order to understand our situation, we must imagine a cross with a horizontal and a vertical arrow. We live at the point of their intersection. The horizontal line has to do with heredity, with Darwinian evolution, with the transmission of culture, etc. If this were all there were, we would be no different than animals -- like just pigs or other members of CAIR. We would not live in a cognitive space of spiritual freedom, routinely exerting a topdown influence on our horizontal selves. We would not possess this inexplicable capacity called "free will."

But not everyone seems to have the same degree of topdown influence over themselves -- of free will. In fact, it is a capacity that varies quite widely.

According to an Unknown Friend, "there are strong -- i.e., creative -- souls, and there are weak -- i.e., imitative -- souls. The stronger a soul is, the greater the independence from the semi-hypnotic influence of the model presented by the preceding generations of family chosen for the soul's incarnation."

We have heard from the wise that a Creator supposedly endowed us with “liberty,” which is to say free will. But every leftist knows that we don’t really have free will. Rather, we are victims of our environment and our genes. For example, poverty causes crime. Unless you happen to be rich. Then greed causes crime. Unless you haven’t committed any crime. Then it’s just a crime to be rich. But don’t be confused -- there’s no objective right or wrong anyway. Multiculturalism is the doctrine that race, not values, determines consciousness and truth.

In reality, as expressed by Frithjof Schuon, “There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence” and “no freedom without objectivity of the will.” Freedom is a paradoxical thing, for if it simply means that we are subjectively free to do or believe whatever we want, what good is it? It’s just another, more subtle form of tyranny, the tyranny of unconstrained, arbitrary, and ultimately meaningless choice on the horizontal plane.

The classical (not contemporary) liberal draws a sharp distinction between freedom and liberty. Freedom is the mere absence of constraint, the right to do whatever one wishes. It implies no verticality at all. Liberty, on the other hand, is constrained by Truth, both as it applies to knowledge and our will to act.

One may well ask: what good is academic freedom unless it is actually converging upon objective truth? One of the problems in the Arab Muslim world is that they have neither freedom nor liberty. They are obliged to believe lies -- lies about Israel, lies about America, lies about women, lies about Christianity. But it is possible to have the opposite problem, the obligatory belief that truth doesn’t exist, so that one person’s belief is no higher or better than another’s. Moral and intellectual relativism are not just forms of tyranny, they are a manifestation of hell, for hell is any place where one cannot appeal to Truth. Thus, many college campuses have become intellectual and spiritual hells. Truth be told, they are places where Death himself saunters from class to class in the cool of the evening breeze.

Ironically, the person who believes that truth exists and that he is free to discover it is far more constrained than the person who either doesn’t believe in objective truth or who lives in tyranny. For example, if you read memri.org, you will see that in the Arab world you are absolutely free to believe the most vicious and vile lies about Jews. Likewise, on American college campuses, you are free to believe the most brazen lies about American history, or about President Bush, about religion, or about free enterprise.

But the person who believes in truth doesn’t have that kind of freedom. For he is only free to believe what is true, and what kind of freedom is that? In other words, such a person is not free to believe that 2+2=5, or that men and women are identical, or that children do just as well with two fathers as a father and mother, or that objective truth doesn’t exist, or that natural selection alone explains human consciousness, or that high taxes are a good way to reduce poverty, or that we have no transcendent moral obligations. And yet, the truth supposedly "sets you free.” How does that work?

It seems that objective truth is the key to true freedom, both as it pertains to knowledge and to action. Objectivity is often thought of as empirical knowledge of material reality, but this is a misleadingly narrow definition. Rather, according to Schuon, objectivity must be understood not as “knowledge that is limited to a purely empirical recording of data received from outside, but a perfect adequation of the knowing subject to the known object.”

In other words, objectivity has to do with aligning our understanding with what it is we wish to know, whether it is a rock, a mathematical equation, or God. It is “conformity to the nature of things": “An intelligence or a knowledge is ‘objective' when it is capable of grasping the object as it is and not as it may be deformed by the subject.”

As such, objectivity is even a kind of “ego death” in the face of the reality of the object. But there is a payoff, in that “the subjective compensation of this extinction is the nobility of character,” a vertical nobility that is our true human birthright. Moreover, in our logoistic cosmos, the transcendent Object (Brahman, the Father) merges with the immanent Subject (Atman, the Son). Therefore, in the final analysis, objectivity is none other than the ultimate Truth “in which the subject and the object coincide, and in which the essential takes precedence over the accidental -- or in which the Principle takes precedence over its manifestation -- either by extinguishing it, or by reintegrating it.”

Thus, through objectivity, we actually become who we are, undistorted by the accidents and contingencies of existence. "Without objectivity and transcendence there cannot be man, there is only the human animal; to find man, one must aspire to God.”

In short, because we have the capacity for objectivity, we partake of the Absolute, which is absolute freedom. We are not really free to know God. It is only God who is free to know himself through us. Deny this truth, and we live in another absolute -- the false absolute of arbitrary and unlimited horizontal freedom. The purpose of freedom is to enable us to choose what we already are in the depths of our being. This is that famous point whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere: there is only this one center, and you are it. Or, to be perfectly accurate, not distinct from it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Child Sacrifice and the Default Religion of Mankind

The grueling three-headed interrogation by Sigmund, Carl and Alfred continues.

Q: You said, "The default religion of human beings is the practice of human sacrifice. This pathological virus planted deep in the heart of the human species has been given insufficient attention by scholars. Virtually all primitive cultures and ancient civilizations engaged in it." You state further, "Obviously, the foundation stone of Judaism is the injunction against human sacrifice, when God tells Abraham not to kill him a son out on highway 61. Superficially, Christianity may be seen as a resuscitation of the sacrificial motif, with the murder of the innocent Jesus, but in reality, this is clearly intended to convey the idea that when we murder innocence, we murder God. The crucifixion of Jesus is meant to be the last human sacrifice, with Jesus standing in for our own murdered innocence (and our own murderous selves)."

Was Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to the one God, a shortcoming? Did Abraham “pass the test” or did he fail? Does God have a sense of humor?

A: First of all, I should say that this particular view of the sacrificial motif in Christianity is not original to me, but is outlined in a wonderful book entitled Violence Unveiled, by Gil Bailie (who in turn was deeply influenced by the work of by René Girard). A number of readers actually contacted me for clarification of my view, because I didn’t make it clear that Bailie (who is Catholic) is not talking about Christian theology per se, but about the unconscious anthropological implications of Christian theology, as it seeps into the culture at large. In short, Christian cultures are going to have a much greater capacity to identify with the victim, which has both a positive side (empathy for true victims) and a potentially negative side (the whole dysfunctional leftist victim culture that shadows and parasitizes Christianity).

Now, “was Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to the one God, a shortcoming?” And “did Abraham ‘pass the test’ or did he fail?”

Like all biblical stories, this one operates on no less than four levels -- the literal, moral, symbolic, and mystical -- but actually several more than that, including psychological, metaphysical, meta-historical, and cosmological. These stories are like multifaceted little holographic jewels -- turn them just a bit, and you can unlock an entirely new dimension. But the main idea is that scripture embodies both an exterior/horizontal and an interior/vertical dimension.

So what is this story telling us? What is its point? I’m not sure if what follows is a kosher exegesis, but it is my own attempt to square the story with psychological truth.

The first question we must ask is, who was that voice in Abraham’s head telling him to murder his son? Was it really God? Or was it something else? In his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes put forth the intriguing idea that ancient man lived in a state of psychological fragmentation, almost like what we would now regard as a multiple personality, or perhaps like Mel Gibson after a night out with the goys. He deduces this from a great deal of data, but concludes, for example, that what modern people experience as a relatively integrated conscience, or superego, ancient man experienced as a sort of command hallucination.

Child abuse has always existed. As a matter of fact, the further back in history you go, the more child abuse you discover. Except that it goes unnoticed, because it is simply embedded in the culture, just as it is today in the Islamic world. I would go so far as to say that mistreating, rather than loving, children is the “default” setting of human beings. As a psychoanalytically informed psychologist, I have no hesitation whatsoever in making this statement. Childhood is filled with trauma that is internalized, only to be acted out later in life in various relationships -- including with one’s own children.

Nowadays a person just lashes out at their children without the verbal middleman. They don’t generally hear a voice telling them to do it, as did, for example, Andrea Yates. But the internalized unconscious entity that compels the abuse is still there. If we could put the abuser on the couch, have them free associate, and take the deposition of this split-off sub-personality, we might well be able to give voice to the entity that wishes to harm the child. It is very likely an internalized sadistic object lashing out at a projected, devalued, masochistic part of the abuser's own self. In other words, it is an entirely internal psychological drama into which the child has been inducted to play a role.

I have seen this dynamic play out in dozens, probably hundreds of clinical histories. I remember one case of a woman who was sadistically and arbitrarily abused by her mother. She remembers asking her mother why she beat her, to which her mother responded with words to the effect of, “when I was a little girl, my mother beat me. When you grow up it will be your turn.”

So breaking the cycle of acting out our “mind parasites” on children is one of the keys to both individual and collective psychohistorical evolution. It is well understood by historians of antiquity that the Jews were exceptional in this regard. (I had a recent series of posts on this topic.) One of the things that set the ancient Jews apart from their contemporaries was their more humane treatment of both women and children, in particular, female children (who were greatly devalued in the ancient world, just as they are today in the Islamic world). It is not so much that their standards were higher as compared with the modern West, but by the incredibly cruel standards of the day. I believe that this is one of the factors that allowed the Jews as a group to vault ahead of others despite the constant vilification and scapegoating that has dogged them right up to the present day's New York Times editorial page.

In my opinion, it can surely be no coincidence that the most humane place in all of the Middle East is surrounded by barbarians who wish to extinguish it in the exact degree to which they systematically abuse their own children.

As a matter of fact, a couple of days ago a reader sent me this link to a piece in the Claremont Review on child sacrifice. In it, the author recalls Golda Meir’s famous remark about how “peace with the Palestinians will be possible when they love their own children more than they hate the Israelis. In saying so, she touched upon a fundamental difference between pagan and biblical religion: the presence or absence of child sacrifice.... Many ancient peoples believed in sacrificing a child to an angry god like Moloch or Baal in order to avert misfortune. Today, thousands of Muslims believe that sacrificing their children as ‘suicide’ bombers in a crowd of people pleases their God Allah. More, Islamic terrorists invite the death of children by placing their military and political headquarters in residential areas which they know their enemies will strike.”

Folks, is this not an obvious, if horrid -- and therefore denied -- truth about fallen mankind in general and the Islamic world in particular? The author concludes his piece on a pessimistic note, speculating that “if the current intellectuals’ project of undermining the Biblical traditions of the Western world continues unabated, [instead of] embracing some new, ‘enlightened’ philosophy which previous generations were supposedly too dull to conceive or practice, likely we will wind up with ancient paganism instead.”

This is exactly what I have stated in the past. Naive secularists believe that if we can only eliminate religion, then we will end up with a scientific and rational worldview. Not so. Eliminate religion -- specifically, Judeo-Christian religion -- and pagan magic rushes in to fill the breach. If your three eyes are opened, you only see it everywhere, for example, in the faux religion of global warming hysteria.

As the writer puts it, “Paganism has the advantage of being older than Christianity, the faith which arouses most of the hatred of the pseudo-intellectuals of our time.... Much of Islam today seems to have more in common with the pagan religions which preceded its founding in the seventh century. No clearer case of child sacrifice exists now than radical Islam’s cult of suicide bombings...” So who is that voice telling Muslims to murder children -- both their own and others'? Could it be the same voice that told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? No: could it possibly not be the same voice?

Here's one of Moloch's stenographers, speaking live to you from the pre-Abrahamic bowels of history -- from the contemporary Muslim Middle East: "What else is there for a man but to sacrifice his son for his religion?" Hizb'allah is actually Hiz'baal.

Now, I realize there are other interpretations, but as a psychologist, I see the story of Abraham and Isaac as a primordial, archetypal tale of how barbarous pagans stopped listening to their psychotic, child-hating "god," and instead took a right turn in history, discovered the God of Love, and became the Jews that we know and love. That little crack of light and Life that opened up in antiquity runs in a straight line to us. Another line -- a line of Death -- leads to contemporary Islamism and its allies among the international Left. It is so obvious, and yet people do not see. This occasionally causes me real despair, as if the foundations of the West are being eroded in plain sight, on one side by Islamic do-badders, on the other side by leftist do-gooders.

Oh, by the way. You asked if God has a sense of humor. I don’t know how that question got mixed in with this one, but the answer is yes, which is one of the things I try to bring out in my blog. Speaking of which, we all know that Jews are staggeringly over-represented among the greatest comedians of all time. Likewise, this whole global jihad nightmare would be over in a second if Muslims could just laugh at how silly they are, instead of killing people. But the god of jihad and child sacrifice is not the God of Groucho Marx or Rodney Dangerfield. Well, maybe Rodney Dangerfield, in that they are obsessed with being granted the respect that they haven't earned -- probably because it was never given to them by mullah or fatwa when they were infatoddlers or jihadolescents.

There is an old joke: “It doesn’t matter what religion you are, so long as you’re ashamed of it.” Islam is supposed to be a “shame culture.” If so, one wonders why they always behave so shamelessly. Perhaps because they are angry victims of their own childhood shame -- projected onto the West that "shames" them -- and the Left is always willing to assist a fellow self-made victim.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What'd I Say?, Part 2

The innerview with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred continues. I don’t know that all the answers will be as windy as the first, but the windbag bloweth where it will, so we’ll see. Fortunately, he doesn't charge by the word.

Q: Are morals and ethics really “moving targets”?

A: No, I think they are stable targets toward which we are drawn. Spiritual evolution -- or devolution -- is a measure of how close or distant we are to these ideals.

The concept of objective morality confuses a lot of people, because they conflate the realm from which morality arises with the realm in which we physically exist. But the two realms are clearly not identical. Rather, part of the “human project,” so to speak, is to bring these two worlds into accord. This is the meaning of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In the esoteric understanding, the dichotomy of heaven and earth symbolizes the ontological vertical divide, without which we truly would be condemned to a meaningless flatland existence: a journey from nothing to nowhere with a handful of gimme in between.

But the essence of our humanness involves our ability to intuit the realm of the real -- to distinguish between appearance and reality (or what are called maya and brahman in Hindu metaphysics). Remember, in genuine philosophy, the "ultimate real" does not refer to the constantly changing material world, but to the abiding reality behind it. Platonic realism refers to any school of thought that attributes reality to general ideas that are considered universal.

For example, most truly great mathematicians, if they are of a philosophical bent and reflect upon what they do, are more or less Platonists. Although great mathematicians possess a promethean creativity, at the same time, they know that they are not “inventing” anything. Rather, there is a deep and abiding sense that they are discovering permanent truths that exist in a mind-like dimension of the cosmos.

But where are these truths before the mathematician discovers them? Not only are they real, but in a certain sense, they are somehow more real than the world to which they give rise. In other words, these equations reflect the enduring reality behind shifting appearances. A cosmos -- which means "order"-- is not possible without them.

It is the same with modern physics. There is a helpful little book entitled Quantum Questions: The Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists, compiled by Ken Wilber, who, by the way, has been stalking me for years and tapping my phones, but I really don't want to get into that right now. The book demonstrates how all these formidable scientific minds -- Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Planck, Pauli, Eddington, et al -- arrived at a mystical or transcendental world view that regards the world as ineluctably spiritual and conscious rather than merely dead and material. Among other things, they could not reconcile the awesome beauty of the timeless mathematical world they had discovered with any deity-free cosmos.

Again, as I mentioned yesterday, this kind of natural theology only gets you so far, because one cannot necessarily equate the “God of the philosophers” with the God of the Bible or the Upanishads. But it is certainly enough, in my view, to grant that latter God an interview. After all, it’s a pretty impressive resume. If he wrote the laws of physics, who's to say that he couldn’t have inscribed the moral law within our hearts?

Again we return to the question of objectivity. Either morals are objectively true in the sense described above, or they are merely human agreements with an "enjoy by" date stamped onto them. But even when people have bad morals, such as the Islamists, they never regard them that way. Nor, as everyone knows, does the secular leftist ever regard his morality as an ephemeral thing of convenience. To the contrary, because the leftist collapses the vertical hierarchy of heaven and earth, he embarks on the urgent project of enforcing his morals by any means necessary, even if the means are grossly immoral, as history demonstrates ad nauseam with any leftist regime. The further left, the more immoral the government, all in the name of superior morality.

To point out a banality that may be news to some, both nazis and communists are left wing, in that they are both polar opposites of the classical liberalism of the American founders. What we call the modern conservative intellectual movement is specifically attempting to conserve the revolutionary spirit of our liberal founders, whereas what we call contemporary liberalism has an entirely different intellectual genealogy, in that it is always traceable to some form or aspect of Marxism. And as I have pointed out a number of times, please do not equate the conservative movement with “Republicanism,” as (tragically) there are very few philosophical conservatives among our elected representatives.

So the question is, who moves? Humans, or their moral targets? In the West, our primordial moral target is known as the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, which were appropriately engraved in stone by God. Nowadays, many secularized folks obviously have difficulty accepting these commandments as anything other than a quaint, antiquated, and somewhat arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts. But in my book, I have a section in which I attempt to demonstrate their vital contemporary relevance, not just in their exterior aspect, but in their inner significance. For not only are the Commandments horizontal rules for governing man-to-man relations, but they also have an interior dimension that communicates timeless, state-of-the-art advice on how to achieve spiritual progress.

In that section of the book, I outline the universal applicability of the Ten Commandments for extreme seekers, off-road spiritual aspirants, omsteaders, and cosmonauts of whatever vertical path. In other words, we are again dealing with something that partakes of timeless truth. This in itself is a rather profound mystery, because how, in the absence of divine intervention, could a primitive and barbaric tribe of nomads possibly have come up with these timeless truths that would still apply some 2,500 years into the future?

You try coming up with something that will still be relevant in a few years, let alone a few thousand, like the Honeymooners or the Andy Griffith show with Don Knotts. It's not easy. In all honesty, the gap between man in his barbaric and pre-civilized state vis-à-vis the sublime moral and psycho-spiritual laws encoded in the Commandments or the Andy Griffith show is essentially infinite and unbridgeable by any mere Darwinian “just so story.” I mean, if you can believe that, what won’t you believe? (As implied in the descryption beneath the title of this blog, I believe in both Darwinian [horizontal] and Darwhiggian [vertical] evolution.)

This reminds me of when I was frantically trying to finish my book, just over three years ago. The deadline was approaching, and at the last minute I had disassembled the entire last chapter and was in the process of trying to put it back together again. Among other things, I was attempting to come up with a suitable big bang-up ending, and I thought to myself, “why not show how the Ten Commandments and the Upanishads, understood esoterically, convey the identical perennial psycho spiritual know-how and be-who to serious seekers -- that they represent two independent views of the same transcendent reality? Call them the ten ‘Commanishads’ or ‘Upanishalts.’”

As soon as I thought of it, I knew that it was possible, although don’t ask me how I knew that I knew. However, I needed help. At the time, I happened to be on a plane flying back from New York to L.A, after having visited my brother-in-law and nephew. I was on the right plane, because I needed a rabbi in a hurry, and there is always a rabbi on a flight from New York. Normally I’m not the kind of guy who just walks up to to a total stranger and introduces himself, but something came over me. Being Jewish, I knew that he would have no choice but to be kind to this cosmic stranger on the esoteric plane.

I had seen this fellow enter the plane, and if he wasn’t a rabbi, then he was hardcore Orthodox, and that was good enough for me. Nobody dresses like that on a slightly sweltering plane. I walked down the aisle to where he was sitting, absently flipping through a magazine, and blurted out, “are you a rabbi?” He seemed a little farmisht at first, but he could tell at a glance that I wasn't Arab, and I explained to him that this was a spiritual emergency and that I needed some immediate assistance. He didn’t know anything about the Upanishads, but when I mentioned that some people believe that “Abraham” and “Brahman” might be etymologically related, he was intrigued. (I have no idea if that’s true, but at least it got the conversation going.) I knew we were on the same wavelength when he started his shpiel by saying that the first five commandments have to do with man’s relationship to God, while the second five govern man’s relationship to man. “Hey, vertical and horizontal! You 'da mensch!”

So to sum it all up, no spiritual progress is possible without the cultivation of virtue, the closing of the gap between us and our highest ideals. "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." But not arbitrarily. Timeless moral truths are the luster of the eternal target to which our lives are properly aimed. Or as some old seerslacker said, "Affix to the Upanishad, the bow incomparable, the sharp arrow of devotional worship; then, with mind absorbed and heart melted in love, draw the arrow and hit the mark -- the imperishable Brahman."

Say, did I mention that Brahman and Abraham are etymologically related?

Damn, that’s only the second question. Nine more to go. I don’t mean to be so verbose, but... To tell you the truth, Doc, this is one of the reasons why we’re here to see you. Frankly, Petey thinks I talk too much, especially for someone who “knows so little,” as he puts it. He recently alerted me to this new feature on amazon. It supposedly shows that only seven percent of the books in the world have more words per sentence than I do, and apparently most of them are written by a guy named Heidegger, which, I must tell you, is a bit of an insult, because I always thought Heidegger was a sort of mystagogic blowhard, not at all like me, whom in all modesty I consider a model of brevity compared to that Teutonic freak who goes on and on and on about the being of being and the nothingness that nothingness nihilates and how the self creates both the absence it presents and the presentation from which it is absent and how the self is both nothingness and the source of the nullity it embodies in public space and how the nothing "nothings" and how only the nothing nothings and how nothing can derive from something as if by a slow decay of the ding an sich or whatever you call it. Go ahead, Doc. You tell Petey. I don’t write that way, do I? Do I? Well?

Monday, July 30, 2007

What about Bob?

While I ponder the future of the blog, and vice versa, I think I'll just repost this interview of me. That way, I won't have to pretend to not be repeating myself.


Petey and I have been bickering again, so we decided to consult a professional about it. ShrinkWrapped won’t return our calls and Dr. Sanity wants to charge us double for "multiple personality," but Sigmund, Carl and Alfred at least consented to interview us and ask a few preliminary questions.

Q: Your book, One Cosmos Under God, has been very well received. One reviewer wrote, “Daring to venture where language cannot go, One Cosmos Under God actually begins in the 'mind of God' prior to creation, and culminates in the 'mind of the saint' who has transcended the culturally conditioned ego, awakened from the nightmare of history, and merged with the divine mind."

Did you wish to look into the mind of God, or converse with God? Did you accomplish either?

A: First of all, I would say that I suppose the book has been well received where it has been received. Then again, if it were to fall into the hands of the unreceptive, it would undoubtedly be poorly received, so I suppose I should be grateful for its limited exposure.

At any rate, it is very difficult to get the word out about a book when you have a relatively small publisher. They pretty much rely on the author to publicize it, which was one of the original limited purposes of the blog -- to somehow spead the weird so it wouldn’t just die a completely anonymous death and be buried in a pauper’s grave of remainders, right alongside John Kerry’s remarkably acrobatic work of autofellatiography, A Call to Service Myself.

Which would be a shame, because there is a narrow segment of the population for whom my book will be just what they have been searching for, if only they could somehow stumble upon it. But as is often the case, if this Bob-person person who wrote the book were capable of marketing it, he couldn't have written it.

One of the central purposes of the book and blog is to give intelligent, sophisticated, and even thoroughly ironicized postmodern folks a way to think about religion instead of dismissing it out of hand. To paraphrase the inimitable ethnobotanist and psychedelic mushroomologist Terence McKenna's reaction to his mother upon reading The Doors of Perception as a 10 year-old boy, "if just ten pecent of this is true, we've got to do something about it!" This appreciation of traditional religion has been one of the great surprises of my life, and to a certain extent, the structure of the book reflects this. It begins with an exhumination of the scientific evidence, which leads to the ineluctable conclusion that there is some sort of transcendent, nonlocal intelligence undergirding the cosmos, but what kind?

It’s pretty easy to prove the existence of this intelligence, or transcendent logos, at least if you are inclined to believe the evidence, although no amount of reason or evidence will sway the person who is truly hostile to religion. Militant atheists are generally obligatory atheists, meaning that they are driven by an unconscious agenda that is unknown to them. For whatever developmental reason, they are anti-theists, hung up on their absentee God, the empty space where God should be but isn’t.

I was once an atheist, but not the obligatory kind. Rather, I was open to the evidence and eventually realized that, in order to discover God, one must respect the tome-tested means for doing so. In other words, many people believe that you need to first believe in God in order to be religious. However, it’s generally the other way around. In order to know God, you must be religious. Religion -- real religion -- is a way to make the reality of God present in your life.

In a way, it's similar to psychoanalysis, at least as understood by one of my mentors, W. R. Bion. Scholars can argue back and forth about whether or not the unconscious exists, and make plausible arguments on both sides. But the only way to really find out is to undergo some form of psychoanalytic therapy, in which you personally “discover” the unconscious. Psychoanalytic therapy is a way to make the unconscious present in a stable circumstance, so that it can be “observed,” so to speak. It will inevitably appear in the transitional space between patient and therapist. But in reality, the same unconscious, just like God, is always popping up “wherever two people meet.” In this regard, the unconscious cannot not be. It’s just a matter of whether or not you’re going to pay attention to it.

It is the same with God. As a matter of fact, God also cannot not be. People generally begin at the wrong end of the teleoescape, trying to prove to themselves whether or not God exists. That’s not the problem. The problem, which some astute philosophers have realized, is whether or not, and to what extent, we exist. For example, there are still many philosophers who will argue that free will doesn’t exist, or that the mind is merely a computer, or that knowledge is not possible. If any of those statements are true, then human beings don’t actually exist except as an illusion, or perhaps only in a strange and ethereal tenured form that somehow collects a paycheck while actualy doing nothing.

An even better analogy would be music. As a matter of fact, I employ many musical analogies in the book. As an aside, it’s just amazing how many mysteries of the cosmos are unlocked by the existence of music. I have always been a great music lover, and now I see that, even in my atheistic days, it was one of the things that kept me connected to Spirit, for music is a spiritual transmission, pure and simple. Great music casts a luster of noetic light from one world into this one, somehow riding piggyback on vibrations of air. No one knows how or why this should be so in a species that was simply selected by evolution to hunt for food and sexual partners. Why on earth should vibrating air molecules be beautiful, even to the point of moving one to tears or to ecstasy?

Imagine two deaf people arguing over whether or not music exists. Perhaps one of them even discovers a musical score and considers it proof positive that music must exist. He decides that this musical score represents the inerrant notes of the great God-musician, and founds a musical school based on the score, in order to transmit the musical teaching to others.

But the point, of course, is not to study the score but to be moved by the music. The score is pointless unless it achieves the purpose of making music present. It must be read, performed, and understood experientially, not theoretically. Where was music before humans made it present? Roughly speaking, it was in the same place God is before you make him present. I don’t mean to sound flip, but this is why it is so easy to find God, because the finding is in the seeking. Don’t worry. If you seek earnestly and sincerely, you will soon enough find, just as, if you pick up a guitar and learn a few chords, you will soon be able to play Smoke on the Water. You will be able to start making music present, in however a limited degree. And as you practice, you will be able to make more and more music present -- music that would not have existed had you not gone to the trouble of practicing and bringing it into being.

So orthoparadoxically, the living God cannot exist unless we give birth to him (which is why we are here -- or so we have heard from the wise). Just as there are a few musicians who stand above the rest in terms of “making music present,” there are people known as saints, sages, avatars and gurus who are, for whatever reason, much more able to “make God present.” To a certain extent this is a matter of taste. This is not to say that revelation is arbitrary or relative, any more than great music is. But in my case, for example, I really cannot tap into the depth of classical music. Although I can "know" that Beethoven’s late string quartets contain unfathomable, even superhuman, depth, it is inaccessible to me. In my case, the spirit comes through loud and clear in Van Morrison or in certain post-bop jazz artists such as John Coltrane, the latter of whom many listeners might categorize as “noise.”

One of the innovations of Christianity was to present the reality of God in such a way that people could wrap their minds around it. The Jewish God was so utterly transcendent as to be inaccessible to the average Joseph. Most of us need the Abbasolute to be made accessible to us in a relative form, so that we may think about what is otherwise unthinkable. Of course, Judaism accomplishes this in a different manner, through the study of Torah, which you might say is the Word made word instead of flesh.

Given the fact that well over ninety percent of people in the ancient world were illiterate, one can well understand how God might have conceived the idea of extending the courtesy of making himself available to the everyone in a more direct and unmediated manner. Although inter-religious dialogue can obviously be a sensitive area, I happen to know some Jews who are able to reconconcile Judaism with Christianity by viewing it as the ideal way to have spread Jewish monotheism.

Likewise, many Christians recognize that Jesus could only have appeared in Jewish culture. He would have made no sense whatsoever to the ancient Aztec, to polytheists, or the New York Times editorial board.

Back to your first (!) question, “Did you wish to look into the mind of God, or converse with God? Did you accomplish either?”

Terence McKenna also once said that “it is no great accomplishment to hear a voice in the head. The accomplishment is to make sure it’s telling you the truth.” When you come right down to it, all revelation -- whether personal and idiosyncratic or collective and canonized -- originates in a “voice in the head,” so to speak. Behind the Biblical canon are a bunch of very special loose cannons to whom God revealed himself. How do we know it’s true or reliable?

This is an epistemological question that really applies to all knowledge, whether secular or religious. How do we know it’s true? What reason do we have for relying upon it? Here again, we are confronted with an inevitable degree of subjectivity. But that doesn’t mean that we should equate “subjective” with “arbitrary” or “unprovable.”

There is a story about one of the great Hindu sages of the 20th century, Sri Krishna Prem. He was plowing through a number of books that had been sent to him, each expressing this or that writer’s particular teaching. He tossed one of them to a disciple, and said “Take a look at that.”

When the disciple finished reading it, Krishna Prem asked, “Well, is it there?”

“Is what there,” the disciple fumbled.

“The thing,” Krishna Prem replied. “Is the thing, the spirit, in that book?’

“How should I know?,” the disciple countered.

“But you must know. You must be able to recognize whether he is writing from experience or whether it’s just words, hearsay.”

“Some of the things he says seem true,” the disciple ventured.

The disciple continues: "Krishna Prem’s reply was devastating. ‘One can’t write anything on this subject without saying something that isn’t true. What you must see is whether the truth shines through the words or whether they are platitudes, words repeated by rote. Look behind the words. Feel!'”

“I felt as might a man blind from birth suddenly ordered to see.... He might as well have said ‘fly.’ That was the way he treated me, forcing me to see that it was not just a matter of having a superior mind or of my not knowing the jargon, but that there was a range of perception of a different order which he had and I had not. And since he never pretended to be anything other than an ordinary man, I could not take refuge in the plea that he was extraordinary and that nothing could be expected of ordinary mortals like me.”

So, back to my book. Petey and I are obviously ordinary men, no different than anyone else, except that one of us is disembodied. And yet, we tried very hard to accomplish what Sri Krishna Prem is talking about, not by being extraordinary, but mostly by getting out of the way. I, in particular, wanted the book not just to be about ideas conveyed from mind to mind. Anyone can do that. Rather -- especially in certain parts -- my goal was to “make present” that which I was writing about, just as if I were performing music.

Did it work? I suppose for some readers. I’ve received enough “personal testimony” to know this. And this, much more than any material success (which the book will probably never really achieve), is profoundly gratifying to me, for it means that I am no longer just a music aficionado. To some limited extent I am actually able to play it, and no one is more surprised about this than I am. Not to say humbled. But it did take a lot of practice. To the extent that I am able to help people, I like to think that it's just because I've already taken the next music lesson, so I'm maybe a week ahead of my readers. But don't tell anybody. I need to preserve a little mystique.

Wow. That’s only the first of eleven questions. I’m not sure Sigmund, Carl and Alfred know what they’ve gotten themselves into. No wonder ShrinkWrapped won’t return our calls.