Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bring Out Your Dead!

The tricky thing about being alive is that it's a perpetual balancing act between catastrophe and doom. Being alive rests upon any number of cycles, processes, and rhythms at every level of our existence, including the mental and spiritual levels. Death occurs when any of these levels becomes a closed system. Thus, it is possible to be mentally or spiritually dead even while the body lives. Obviously.

I've never been that interested in biology per se. However, I've always been fascinated by the philosophical and cosmological implications of biology -- of the fact that we just happen to find oursophs in a cosmos in which Life is possible. Biology itself is a closed system that can only tell us about already living things, which is why these doctrinaire Darwinians are so grandiose and presumptuous in belowviating on matters above and beyond the narrow limits of their competence. Biology assumes the existence of living things, and attempts to describe their workings.

But biology cannot step outside itself and pronounce on the cosmic significance of Life Itself. Only a Raccoon can do that, bearing in mind the quasi-eternal semi-mystery that That which is called the Fraternal Order of Raccoons existed among the ancients, and never did not exist, from the planting of the human race until Toots Mondello arrived in the flesh, and the Lodge he founded with Herman Hildebrand in Bensonhurst, which already existed, came to be called the Raccoons.

A long time ago, back when I wanted to be an actual scholar instead of a guerilla ontologist, I published a paper called Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure. It had to do with analyzing the mind as an open system, and trying to understand the underlying structures and mechanisms that made its evolution possible. It was based upon Ilya Prigogine's revolutionary ideas about the dynamics of dissipative structures, which are open systems that operate in far-from-equilibrium conditions and exchange matter, energy, or information with the environment. I'd show you the paper, but I don't know how to upload a PDF file from my desktop to the blog.

Yesterday I was thinking about this in the context of our genes. Our genes don't really account for much that happens to us beyond the age of 20 or so. Or, to put it another way, they more or less determine everything that happens & unhappyns, unless we actively intervene with a different, non-genetic agenda. I say this because in the "archaic environment" in which our genes were selected, most people barely survived childhood, and you were very lucky if you made it to the age of 30 -- by which time you would be an old and crippled geezer because of the extraordinarily harsh conditions of the time.

So when you think about some of the troubling aspects of human behavior, they become more comprehensible if you understand that our genes are only really designed to get us to the age of reproduction. After that, we're on our own. For example, take the type of male aggression we were discussing yesterday. It is partly fueled by testosterone, which is also one of the main reasons women outlive men.

In other words, the same hormone that causes a man to fight other men for the privilege of getting his genes into the next generation, also causes him to die significantly younger once the job is done. Really, when we talk about any genetically caused disease that occurs after the age of 30 or so, we're dealing with something that didn't have much relevance in the archaic environment. For example, my diabetes -- which is completely genetic, as far as anyone knows -- didn't strike until I was 48. In the archaic environment it wouldn't have mattered, because I would have been dead by that age anyway.

But the whole point of human existence is that, unlike other animals, we don't merely live at the biological level. Rather, we mainly live on the psychological and spiritual levels, which are no less ontologically real than the biological level. In fact, as it so happens, they are more real, as they are closer to the source of existence, the Absolute Real.

That is, in order to have a cosmos -- any cosmos -- there must be order, and if there is order, there must be hierarchy. The realms of matter, life, mind and spirit (and there are additional degrees within each of these levels) are all reflections of this ordered hierarchy. It is not as if we begin with dead matter, to which life and mind are somehow magically added. This is an absurd proposition which denies the other half of evolution -- which indeed makes it possible -- which is involution. Involution is ontologically prior to evolution, and both sets its limits and determines its possibilities. This idea is captured in the ancient Christian formula that God became man so that man might become [or attain to] God. Another way of saying it is that the Absolute became the relative so that the relative might become the Absolute, or Brahman became maya so that maya might become Brahman. It is the underlying metaphysical principle that matters, not its exact formulation.

In such a cosmos, life and mind are not the impossible riddles of science, but inevitable mysteries rooted in "the nature of things." Yes, it's exceedingly weird that we are alive, but only if you detach yourself -- as modern people have increasingly tended to do for the past couple hundred years -- from the rest of the existentialada.

For this reason, modern sophisticates look down, say, on Christianity as an atavistic sort of fairy tale, which I suppose it is if you are only living at the biological level. For it is addressed to the Spiritual Man, not the animal man. In its own way, it is just as "scientific" as science, only with a science appropriate to the spiritual level. Not only can reductionistic science not ascend to this level (obviously), but it denies its existence. This is no less absurd than a physicist denying the existence of life just because it is impossible to derive biology from physics. It's true that you cannot get from physics to biology. Nevertheless life lives.

You also cannot get from biology to Truth, Wisdom, Beauty, or Virtue. Nevertheless, these transcendent ideals are real, in fact, among the "first fruits" of the involution of the Real. No truly human life -- either individually or collectively -- is possible without living in their light. Which is why scientism, materialism and atheism are such childishly monstrous philosophies.

Now, I have no idea where I'm going with this. Once again, the boy was up last night with a fever, and now he's starting to wake up. Therefore, to the extent that any of this has a point, we might have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it is. But at least I know I'm alive, since I'm sitting here amidst uncertainty and doubt, wating for a handout from Petey.

I guess these thoughts were provoked by reading a chapter in Kallistos Ware's The Inner Kingdom called Go Joyfully: The Mystery of Death and Resurrection. With respect to the spiritual level of our existence, Ware writes that "there exists, hidden within each one of us, a secret treasure house, an inner Kingdom, that is amazing in its depth and variety. It is a place of wonder and joy, a place of glory, a place of encounter and dialogue. If we will only 'dive' into ourself, then we shall each discover eternity within our own heart. Jacob's ladder starts from the point where I am at this very moment; the gate of heaven is everywhere. And this inner Kingdom, present within me here and now, is at the same time the Kingdom of the Age to come..."

But what makes things so confusing is that the Kingdom exists amidst such squalor, so to speak. Or at least human beings have made it so. It needn't be this way, but then again, I suppose it must. For just as Life cannot exist except as a perpetual balancing act that spans physics and biology, our spiritual life can only exist on a sort of uptightrope between man and God, relative and absolute, transcendence and immanence, O and (¶) (the latter symbol referring to the psychic being, the intellect properly so-called).

"You will be dead so long as you refuse to die," says Ware (quoting George MacDonald). "It is precisely the death of the old that makes possible the emergence of the fresh growth within ourselves, and without death there would be no new life."

Therefore, in a very important sense, death is in the service of life, and certainly did not exist prior to life (i.e., it is not real but a deprivation). We can certainly see how this is true of nature at large, which, if it were to become static, would be dead. It is only because it can constantly change and perish that it can be alive at all.

We can also see how the principle of death works on the psychological level. In order to become who you were meant to be, you must essentially kill off those parts of you that are interfering with the process and stand in the way between you and You. I see this especially vividly in my 28 month old, who is always at the boundary between past and future, between dependence and independence, between mastery of one phase and then leaving it behind in order to face a new unknown challenge. Therefore, Life itself is actually a life/death dialectic, or, you might say, death and resurrection.

Returning to the spiritual level, Ware points out how Christ's dying is a "life-creating death." In fact, this appears to have been the "take away message" of his mission. But it works on many levels. Last week we discussed Otis's spiritual impasse, which is a sort of death-in-life, not because he cannot live, but because he won't die. Or at least that's another way of looking at it. In order for us to grow psychologically and to mature spiritually, we must necessarily die, not just once, but repeatedly. As Petey quipped in One Cosmos, in order to become an extreme seeker, some disassembly is required. But only for the rest of your lifedeathlife.

Or as Ware writes, "True faith is a constant dialogue with doubt, for God is incomparably greater than all our preconceptions about Him; our mental concepts are idols that need to be shattered. So to be fully alive, our faith needs to continually die."

Monday, September 03, 2007

On the Repressed Violence of the Nonviolent

Didn't get much sleep last night. The boy spiked a 104 degree fever right before bedtime, so it took awhile to get it down, then we were up again at 3:00AM. Now it's 6:30, and I'm guessing he'll be up any minute.

Which reminds me of a bizarre development that occurred a couple of weeks ago, that I've been meaning to write about. That is, the mother of Tristan's best friend broke up with us (I know, it sounds like a Seinfeld episode) when she learned of Mrs. G's plans to write a children's book in praise of Modern Military Heroes. She abruptly cut off all relations, because she doesn't want her son to have any knowledge of, or contact with, things military. Not only does she not allow him to play with evil things like toy guns, she would never even allow him to wear so much as a camouflage t-shirt. She is horrified at the thought that he might become aggressive. Which of course anyone can see that he already is, being that he is a human being in general and a boy in particular.

I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but my ma won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but when I say I am, I get it
--Pete Townshend

This fear of aggression is an interesting projection. Based on what I can tell of her, she is troubled by unconscious aggression that she cannot express, so it comes out as an aggressive fear of aggression. This is a common pattern among "pacifist" leftists, who are always so passive-aggressively obnoxious. To imagine that you can simply eliminate aggression and violence from the human repertoire is pure fancy. In any event, you wouldn't want to eliminate them even if you could, any more than you'd want to dismantle the immune system because of the violent manner in which it deals with bacterial intruders. What are we supposed to do, love viral invaders into submission?

I didn't get all of the details of the conversation, in part because Leslie was so stunned that she didn't remember all of it. But one thing the friend -- who is thoroughly secular and irreligious -- asked was "how can you be so spiritual and pro-military?" I think Leslie was so taken aback by the question that she hardly knew how to respond. She's not very confrontational most of the month, but of course the only appropriate answer is, "how can you be spiritual and not be pro-military, dumbass."

Naturally, it all depends upon which military you're talking about. The moral retardation of so many leftists just astonishes me. And it is literally retardation, for just as one may be mentally retarded but a decent person, one may be intellectually brilliant but a moral imbecile, as so many leftist professors prove (not that they're so brilliant, either). Violence is good or bad, depending entirely upon the uses to which it is put.

Which gives rise to an immediate corollary that even many religious people don't appreciate: that love can be good or bad, depending upon the use to which it is put -- or, to be more precise, the object to which the love is directed. For just as there is profoundly moral violence, there is profoundly immoral love, for example, the kind of corrupt and immoral love expressed by one of the most overrated human beings of all time, Mohandas Gandhi. Just as knowledge that knows falsehood is not really knowledge, love that improperly loves evil (for there are properly severe ways to love the evildoer) is a kind of hatred.

Regarding Gandhi's immoral pacifist-aggression, Richard Grenier notes that he wrote to Hitler and attempted to convert him to the ways of nonviolence. "'Dear Friend,' the letter begins, and proceeds to a heartfelt appeal to the Fuhrer to embrace all mankind 'irrespective of race, color, or creed.'" Gandhi naively thought that "Hitler's heart would be melted by an appeal to forget race, color, and creed, and... was sure the feelings of the Japanese would be hurt if they sensed themselves unwanted."

Yes, fighting fascists will only create more fascists! Until we kill all of them.

At a particularly dark time of the war, "when Germany's panzer divisions turned west, Allied armies collapsed under the ferocious onslaught, and British ships were streaming across the Straits of Dover from Dunkirk, [Gandhi] wrote furiously to the Viceroy of India: 'This manslaughter must be stopped. You are losing; if you persist, it will only result in greater bloodshed. Hitler is not a bad man....'"

In fact, The Great Soul also composed an open letter to the British people, "passionately urging them to surrender and accept whatever fate Hitler' had prepared for them": "Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds."

He also had good advice for the Jews, really no different than today's leftists who compare the fence to keep murderous Palestinian savages out to the wall that kept decent people from escaping communist tyranny:

"All Jews sitting emotionally at the movie 'Gandhi' should be apprised of the advice that the Mahatma offered their coreligionists when faced with the Nazi peril: they should commit collective suicide. If only the Jews of Germany had the good sense to offer their throats willingly to the Nazi butchers' knives and throw themselves into the sea from cliffs they would arouse world public opinion, Gandhi was convinced, and their moral triumph would be remembered for 'ages to come.' If they would only pray for Hitler (as their throats were cut, presumably), they would leave a 'rich heritage to mankind.'" Even after the war, when the unprecedented extent of the massacre became known, Gandhi callously insisted "that the Jews died anyway, didn't they? They might as well have died significantly."

Could Gandhi be as stupid as Jimmy Carter? It's possible.

Meanwhile -- and this is important -- "Gandhi's monstrous behavior to his own family is notorious." You'll have to read the article to find out how, but the point is how similar this is to the rank and foul Hollywood leftist, the kind of person who loves mankind but detests actual human beings. I am quite sure that this is one of the main appeals of radical environmentalism, because it allows the preening, self-absorbed narcissist to imagine he is a morally superior person merely by hectoring other people about their energy usage.

Look at the truly detestable Mark Cuban and Brian de Palma, whose new film smears American troops as rapists and butchers -- as if the actions of a few people are a reflection on the tens of thousands of others. Meanwhile, the same gentle and compassionate leftists will say that we cannot judge the Religion of Peace based upon "a few" people who take the Koran seriously in its persistent directives to murder infidels.

Again, if you naively deny your own aggressive tendencies, they will simply come out in an indirect manner. The angry projection of aggression is utterly palpable on websites such as dailykurse or huffingandpissed. These people deny that we are under attack by violent killers (their favorite candidate says that the war on global jihad is just a "bumper sticker"), but constantly fantasize that they are being attacked by President Bush, which leads to a heightened fear of him, and therefore the need for more violent projection to rid themselves of the irrational fear. This cycle is commonly encountered in clinical practice.

Regarding Gandhi's own denial, Grenier writes that it is not appreciated "how much violence was associated with [his] so-called 'nonviolent' movement from the very beginning." The poet Tagore astutely "sensed a strong current of nihilism in Gandhi almost from his first days, and as early as 1920 wrote of Gandhi's 'fierce joy of annihilation,'" which he feared "would lead India into hideous orgies of devastation -- which ultimately proved to be the case." Here is a description of the wages of Gandhi's "nonviolence," after the "violent" and oppressive British left India:

"The Indians -- gentle, tolerant people that they are gave themselves over to an orgy of bloodletting." Bloodthirsty mobs "surged through the streets from one end of India to the other, the majority group in each area, Hindu or Muslim, slaughtering the defenseless minority without mercy in one of the most hideous periods of carnage of modern history.... Blood-crazed Hindus, or Muslims, ran through the streets with knives, beheading babies, stabbing women, old people." Grenier notes that "we will never know how many Indians were murdered by other Indians during the country's Independence Massacres, but almost all serious studies place the figure over a million, and some... go to 4 million."

So, what have we learned today by this comparison of the microleft and macroleft?

I guess I've learned that I don't really want my son associating with dangerous pacifists. Or maybe he should just beat them up, so they can get it through their thick skulls that pacifism doesn't work.

Many on the political left are so entranced by the beauty of their vision that they cannot see the ugly reality they are creating in the real world. --Thomas Sowell

Let's just wish the inferno out with cold and soggy thoughts!

I don't think so. No heroes up in the firmament, no civilization down here on earth.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Last Year Around This Time: Scientists Locate the "Secular Spot" in the Brain

Since the seer's catalogue has become unmanageable -- over 700 posts now -- I think I'll start the habit of looking back at my posts from exactly one or two years ago (when we reach that millstone next month), and deciding what is worthy of a second look.

I know that for me, when I find a blogger I like, I appreciate it when they occasionally repost older essays, because it's often just too daunting to go through their entire archive. This one is from September 2, 2006.

*****

Dr. Sanity sent me this interesting link about the neurology of religious experience.

Meanwhile, in a parallel looniverse:

Imaging Study Shows that Atheistic Experiences Trigger a Network Within the Brain

Neuroscientists have identified a network of brain regions activated when people feel the illusion of being "skin-encapsulated egos" separate from the rest of reality. Artificially stimulating the brain in this way, they say, might allow people to have atheistic experiences without disbelieving in God themselves.

Lead author Rufus T. Firefly at the University of Feedonia says that he wanted to know what was going on in the brain during materialistic, secular or atheistic episodes because of his own personal experiences. During such moments, people have the illusion that they are separate from the source of being, and may feel existential anxiety, absence of ultimate meaning, and even a sense of absurdity.

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people.

The researchers found a collection of brain areas that were less active during the recollected autistic and schizoid experiences, they report in Neuroscience Letters. An area of the prefrontal cortex which is associated with problems of childhood attachment, for example, appeared less active during the schizoid memories.

The team also saw particular inactivity in regions thought responsible for the association of emotional feelings with the rest of the reality (the "poetic module"), which not only explains the perception that the scientists had become separate from the ground of being, but their persistent inability to get a date on Saturday night. They also found an increase in certain types of electrical activity associated with survival and sympathetic arousal ("fight or flight," or "publish or perish").

Earlier studies have suggested that such experiences might originate in one specific part of the brain. Work with autistic patients who are incapable of religious feeling has suggested that a hypertrophied region in the temporal cortex, dubbed the “secular spot” or “materialistic module,” could be largely responsible. There has been controversy over experiments suggesting that stimulating this area of the temporal lobes can induce the illusion of materialism.

The "Madalyn Murray O'Hair Switch"

Dr. Firefly says that it is already possible to use machines to mimic the type of brain activation that atheists experience. "It's feasible to bring people into such a state where the mind is reduced to such machine or robot-like experiences." This research might eventually be used to undo the deleterious mental and physiological health effects that various studies have linked to the absence of religiosity, he suggests.

But many secular scientists and people with materialistic beliefs would be opposed to such an idea because it suggests that the philosophy of scientific materialism is just "junk metaphysics," a stubborn but ultimately superstitious illusion rooted in our evolved nervous system, says Dr. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, professor of applied voodoo and witchcraft and an authority on authoritarianism at Dawkins College in New York.

"I don't know what useful information can be gleaned from this study," Wagstaff says. "Just because we have an advanced diagnostic technique doesn't mean we should use it on anything that comes to mind," he says. "People's beliefs are sacred, even if they're technically profane."

However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved.

If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. --J.B.S. Haldane

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Let's Play Who's the Victim?!

One of the appeals of leftism is that you can never be called a hypocrite. That is, if you have no standards, then there is no standard by which to judge you.

Why then are leftists so incredibly, gleefully judgmental? Because, as Polanyi pointed out, one of the defining characteristics of leftism is the subversion of traditional morality. But since you cannot eliminate the moral impulse, it ends up becoming unhinged, that is, uncontained by any transcendent moral boundaries. Therefore, the moral impulse "fuses," as it were, with what is below instead of what is above, and becomes a dangerous vehicle of the most base passions. This is why leftism is associated with the greatest mass murderers of all time -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al.

In a lengthy essay entitled Hitler Was a Socialist, John J. Ray makes reference to the notoriously "slippery standards" of the left, writing that they "have no fixed principles. If a principle suits their rhetorical needs of today they will proclaim their loyalty to it -- and then cheerfully adopt the opposite principle tomorrow if that happens to suit the rhetorical needs of that day."

Regarding the absence of fixed principles, I can remember on many occasions hearing liberals insist that Saddam was "our creation," and that, like the Shah of Iran or Marcos in the Philipines, we were morally responsible for him. If true -- which it wasn't -- then it would follow that we would be responsible for removing him and "restoring" freedom.

Since that is exactly what President Bush did, the left had to fabricate ulterior motives for the liberation of Iraq -- Haliburton, big oil, imposing theocracy in America, etc. Because of the traumatic cognitive dissonance of President Bush putting their vacant ideals into action, the left had to detach from reality and enter a parallel looniverse of political discourse, in which Bush was and is condemned on wholly fantasized grounds. This is what I mean about the fusing of the moral impulse with the unconscious "primary process," the latter of which is rooted in wish fulfillment rather than the dictates of reality.

In a passage that encapsulates volumes that could be written about the left, Ray discusses the deep structure of leftism, which is always the same, even while the surface content changes from era to era, year to year, day to day, and even moment to moment (as anyone knows who has tried to engage in rational debate with a leftist -- you can't do so, because the rhetorical ground keeps shifting under your feet). Like the borderline personality, they possess a kind of "stable instability" that is their only enduring structure:

"The political content of Leftism varies greatly from time to time. The sudden about-turn of the Left on antisemitism in recent times is vivid proof of that. And what the political content of Leftism is depends on the Zeitgeist -- the conventional wisdom of the day. Leftists take whatever is commonly believed and push it to extremes in order to draw attention to themselves as being the good guys -- the courageous champions of popular causes. So when the superiority of certain races was commonly accepted, Leftists were champions of racism. So when eugenics was commonly accepted as wise, Leftists were champions of eugenics -- etc. In recent times they have come to see more righteousness to be had from championing the Palestinian Arabs than from championing the Jews so we have seen their rapid transition from excoriating antisemitism to becoming 'Antizionist.'"

Which brings us to soon to be ex-Senator Larry Craig. What exactly was his crime? It was doing what homosexual men have always done, which is to compulsively seek anonymous sexual encounters in order to diminish anxiety (the anxiety has specific causes that we needn't get into here, but it usually has to do with a defective sense of masculinity and the need to primitively incorporate the male essence of another; this is just one possible explanation among many -- sexuality is a much more complex and nuanced issue than any doctrinaire leftist imagines).

The left would have you believe that only "closeted" gays engage in this sort of compulsive behavior because they are victimized by society, but any honest homosexual can tell you this is pure nonsense. If anything, it is the possibility of AIDs which put a damper on this kind of behavior. And now that AIDs can be controlled with drugs, we are indeed seeing a resurgence in the kind of compulsive anonymous sex that was responsible for AIDs to begin with.

In any event, how can Craig be homosexual? He obviously wants to be married to a woman. Why should he be defined as a "homosexual" just because he is compelled for unconscious reasons to seek a certain kind of sexual encounter? Because that is the extraordinarily simplistic understanding of sexuality promulgated by leftists. Similar to the "one drop" rule that mandated that one was excluded from being white if one had 1/16 or 1/32 "black blood," leftists believe that if one ever engages in a homosexual fantasy, impulse, or act, one is automatically homosexual. (Which is an especially cruel belief as it apples to adolescents, who are often confused about their sexuality. For the leftist, this confusion is redefined as normative, and the child is told that he or she must "accept" their homosexuality.)

Or I suppose one could also be "bisexual," but that is equally naive in positing a fixed "essence" for what is almost always a psychologically confused and conflicted person whose identity is anything but fixed. Indeed, that is usually the problem in such an individual -- the failure to achieve a mature sexual identity. I personally have not encountered a bisexual person who didn't have a deep boundary disturbance and identity confusion.

Remember a few years back, the celebration on the left when the Supreme Court overturned the sodomy laws in Texas? This was on the premise that sexuality is an entirely private matter, and that the state had no business legislating what people do with their bodies behind closed doors. Fair enough. Why then is it the government's business to target homosexuals who like to pick up men in public restrooms? On what possible basis can they object to this? They're not hurting anyone, right? After all, all he did was tap his foot and brush his hand. I don't like the idea of being propositioned in a public restroom, but why do leftists object?

Normally they wouldn't. Again, I think it's the unhinged moral impulse of the left, that has no traditional boundaries and no fixed standards. Therefore, they blindly lash out in an incoherent way, based upon the needs of the day. They say that they are offended by Craig's "hypocrisy," but the obvious hypocrites are the leftists who would normally see a homosexual being persecuted by the state as a quintessential victim.

The question of "who is the victim" is always the key to understanding the leftist dialectic. One of the reasons they have no fixed principles is that it all depends upon whom they can define as the victim. One could well imagine circumstances in which Larry Craig would become a cause s'lob in the struggle against a marauding, out of control police state persecuting homosexuals just because, say, they oppose President Bush's policies!

But Craig cannot be a victim because he is a conservative white male. In fact, in the economy of the primitive leftist imagination, the conservative white male is always victimizer, even when he is the victim. This is how someone ends up being gleefully stoned by the leftist mob merely for expressing a homosexual impulse.

*****

Dr. Sanity has a similar diagnosis of the left's meta-hypocrisy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

War, What is it Good For? Absolutely Everything (7.30.10)

Or at least struggling toward the Absolute which transcends everything.

If I had time to come up with a post this morning -- which I may still have, depending how long the boy stays asleep -- I was going to continue exploring the subject of Difficulties On the Path and the Hostile Forces that make it so, whoever or whatever they are.

In fact, yesterday I went through my liberary and plucked down any books that pertain to the subject, so I could brush up on my spiritual mind parasitology. To my surprise, I didn't have a copy of Unseen Warfare, which I thought I had read a few years ago, but I guess I hadn't. I must have just read excerpts in The Heart of Salvation: The Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse, so I ordered a copy.

It was originally written by a Catholic priest in the 16th century, but then edited and added to by St. Theophan, the great 19th century Russian Orthodox mystic theologian and staretz. On the back cover it quotes Theophan, who wrote that "the arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place, is our own heart and our own inner man. The time of the battle is our whole life."

I think that is a key idea, for there is simply no way to avoid the battle of a lifetime. Or, to be perfectly accurate, you can opt out of the battle on pain of squandering the purpose of your life. Look at Otis. His problem is not so much that life is a battle, but that he is shrinking from it. He is a conscientious objector in the war for his own soul. He's laid down his weapons, and is hoping that by appeasing the Adversary, he'll go away. Fat chance.

I think the purpose of spiritual combat is to transpose the constant battle of life to a higher key, so to speak. Just as, say, the sex drive is contained and transmuted through marriage, inner conflict is given new meaning by placing it on a higher spiritual plane, on which we polish and perfect our character against the rocks of adversity.

You don't really discover who you are or "what you're made of" until you're up against it. Therefore, to deprive man of adversity is to deprive him of the opportunity to grow and evolve, which is apparently the reason why we are here. Or so we have heard from the wise, the merciful, the obnoxious. As Petey has explained it, angels pretty much know everything, but within a limited domain, and that's it. They cannot evolve, because there is nothing to clash with. Their lives are entirely non-friction, so to speak.

Take, oh, I don't know, me, for example. At this very moment I am doing something I would have thought impossible just 28 months ago, which is to say, hatch a new thought and type a coherent sentence with a baby stirring in the next room. I often lament how little time I have anymore, and long for those times when I could spend an entire leisurely day parked in the hammock office and reading mystical poetry.

But the plain fact of the martyr is that I've somehow been far more productive over the past two years than at any other time of my life. Three years ago I was a sensitive genius who needed absolute silence in order to plumb the depths and share my gifts with an unworthy world, but now I just blather and bleat whatever comes out of my fingertips, and it surpasses what that pretentious windbag came up with before.

Have you ever noticed that for the majority of rock acts, their first album is their best? Once they become successful and have all the slack, their creativity goes in the dumpster. They have nothing more to say, and simply repeat themselves.

My own life was pretty enslackened four or five years ago. But it was also at something of an end. I am quite sure that this went into the decision to have a child, which, in its own way, is as momentous as the earlier decision to have a body. One does so knowing full well that one is jumping feet first into a catastrophe, with no assurance of a happy outcome. It's a total gamble. I mean, I could complain about my parents, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I could have landed a few feet to the left, next door, in which case there would have been dead bodies involved.

I just can't believe what a high-wire act having a child is. I would never give him back -- ask me again tomorrow -- but at the same time, I'm not sure I would have taken this on had I appreciated the stress beforehand. There are no doubt dark times when one could say the same of life itself: all things considered, would I really have chosen this over the timeless bliss of nonbeing?

Apparently so. Petey says that folks on his side are pretty damn bored, and that the competition for bodies is quite fierce. To the extent that they have any stress there, it's over the chance to incarnate and take a stab at evolution, which is to say, spiritual combat.

This morning, Dr. Sanity has a relevant post entitled A Generation Destroyed by the Madness of Postmodernism. You wouldn't think it's related, but it is, because it has to do with the West's shirking from spiritual combat, specifically, my own generation's idiotic and cowardly belief that war has somehow been transcended or become unnecessary. She links to an interview with Victor Davis Hanson, in which he criticizes academia for its neglect of military history.

Hanson cites several reasons for the neglect, including the conflation of war and amorality, "forgetting, for example, that chattel slavery, Nazism, fascism, and Stalinism were ended by arms or military deterrence. Second, multiculturalism -- no culture can be any worse than the West -- has redefined the history of Western arms as exclusively in the service of racism, colonialism, and imperialism that in turn were unique to the West. And lastly, the advent of postmodernism... into the arts and sciences meant a general disdain for, and absence of mastery of, names, dates, personalities, facts themselves -- the stuff of military history -- in favor of seeing all of the past as a morality tale to be deconstructed on the basis of preconceived (and often anti-empirical) gender, class, and racial oppression."

My guess is that this rejection of external combat is simply a mirror of the prior wimpified rejection of spiritual combat. As Hanson says, "there is still this crazy notion that anyone who studies war does so not to understand and thus often mitigate its effects, but rather out of a sort of repressed or even overt desire for bloodletting -- as if an oncologist likes tumors or a virologist is de facto an advocate for AIDs."

Real warriors understand the spiritual nature of combat -- you might say that they have heroically transposed the unseen combat of the spirtual world to the material plane -- which, I might add, is hardly less spiritual: "War by nature involves the ultimate sacrifice of soldiers, usually of a rare segment of the general population willing to die for an idea, an order, a good or bad cause, to inflict havoc or save humanity."

Ironically, a clueless amazon reviewer of Unseen Warfare wrote the following: "As a Christian pacifist, I'm extremely wary of militaristic language, in either common speech ('bullet points' or 'I got bombed last night') or allegedly spiritual discourse ('Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war...'). So I was initially put off by the title Unseen Warfare."

I'll have to read the book and decide for myself, but here is what it says in the book about Saint Theophan:

It was Saint Paul who repeatedly said that the Christian life is an athletic contest, and that we must always train for this contest. He also first likened the Christian life to a battle, and the Christian to a soldier; he described the discipline appropriate to such a warrior; his armour, his offensive and defensive weapons, and the internal and external enemies against whom he has to fight. The Bible is full of this doctrine and its related disciplines.... Most of these combats occur during purification, when man is divided against himself, the old man against the new.

Here's a bullet in: being a spiritual wussifist will not do. Rather, you must choose sides, declare war on yourself, and terminate your mind parasites with extreme prejudice. You can "study war no more," but you'll end up sombody's slave one way or the other.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Being a Cosmic Fugitive From the General Law (7.29.10)

I don't know if I even have time to carefully read, much less assimilate, all of those responses, much much less come up with a thoughtful, non-repetitive one of my own. I'm guessing the big O is probably feeling the same way right about now.

I thought I'd turn to a couple of the experts, and see what they have to say, beginning with Schuon. In a letter to a disciple, he talks about the moment in life when a man makes the decision "to realize a permanent relationship with his creator" and "to become what he should have been" all along, whether we call this state "salvation" or "union."

But after the initial enthusiasm subsides, in many cases "the aspirant is unaware that he will have to go through difficulties he carries within himself which are aroused and unfolded by the contact with a heavenly element." Very similar to what Sri Aurobindo taught, the "lower psychic possibilities -- quite evidently incompatible with perfection -- must be exhausted and dissolved." This is known as the "initiatic ordeal," the "descent into hell," the "temptation of the hero," or "spiritual combat." In Vedanta, it is called the fire of "tapasaya," which refers to the burning that accompanies the dissolution of these patterns and knots.

And as I mentioned yesterday about discerning the plane from which the difficulty is arising, Schuon says that the psychic elements that are unfit for consummation can be "hereditary or personal." Or, they can result from our own will, or, conversely, pressure from the environment. In any event, they generally take the form of "a discouragement, of a doubt, of a revolt," and the important thing is to not further empower them by "embarking on the downward slope of either despair or subversion." One must detach and fight back, not build an errport for these parasitic thoughts to land.

In an essay on Trials and Happiness, Schuon points out that "a trial is not necessarily a chastisement, it can also be a grace, and the one does not preclude the other. At all events, a trial in itself not only tests what we are, but also purifies us of what we are not." Just think of all the things you thought you wanted at the time, but which would have been disastrous if you had gotten them.

Who we are is up ahead, not behind. It reminds me of mountain biking. In order to avoid a crash, you should generally not look down at what you're trying to avoid, but up ahead ten or twenty feet. By focussing on where you want to go, you'll keep your balance and automatically avoid the obstacles.

Similarly, as Schuon says, "we have to avoid becoming hypnotized by the surrounding world, for this reinforces our feeling of being exposed to a thousand dangers." It is as if we are on "a narrow path between two abysses; when looking to either side one risks losing one's balance." Instead, one must "look straight ahead and let the world be the world," or "look towards God, in relation to Whom all the chasms of the world are nothing." This is the meaning of Jesus' statement that "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Schuon also talks about the distinction between the "trial by water" and "trial by fire," the former essentially involving the siron song of temptation, hypnosis, and seduction, the latter the dragons of the unconscious mind and the dreaded General Law.

I first came across the idea of the General Law in Mouraviaeff's Gnosis. I don't know if there is actually a General Law in the cosmos, but there might as well be. He begins with Origen's comparison of the cosmos to a living organism, the soul of which is God, the "soul of souls." He then asks what the purpose of human existence could be. On the one hand, it could be "an element of the universal organism," serving its aims; or "an isolated individual" pursuing his own aims.

If we compare the human being to a cell in the body, the cell is subject to two categories: "The first keeps the cell in its place. In esoteric science we call it the General Law. The second leaves a certain liberty of action for the cell, and is called the Law of Exception." I'll skip some of the details, but as it pertains to humans, the General Law allows man a certain margin for free movement. Although objectively limited, the limits appear subjectively vast to horizontal man, who "can give free rein to his fantasies and ambitions" within their bounds -- what you might call "bourgeois happiness":

"As long as man accepts the principle of the final annihilation of his personality without a fight, he can carry on in life without attracting the increasing pressure of the General Law upon himself."

Ah ha! This would explain why the sub-Raccoon population seems so blandly content. They have no idea that their lives are subject to the General Law. They don't rock the cosmic boat, and therefore do not attract the attention of the authorities.

But dash it all, wouldn't you know "the case is totally different if he struggles to surpass the limits which [the General Law] imposes.... It acts simultaneously on several planes: physical, mental and moral. Its action on the moral plane is conceived by man, since time immemorial, in the form of a personification: the Devil."

Now, in the Orthodox Christian tradition -- which I suppose we'll be getting into later -- there is much practical consideration and advice about how to deal with the provocations of the General Law, i.e., how to wage hand-to-hand combat without hands. In any event, it is a commonly encountered pattern that "once positive results are obtained," the seeker will "unmistakably run up against the opposition of the law and the game of the Crafty One."

Pleased to meet me, hope I guess my name!

Again, you can debate about the ontological basis of all this, but as far as the phenomenology goes, it is identical in form to the resistance that is universally encountered in psychotherapy. As soon as you make a move toward health, a legion of internal propagandists and saboteurs will be aroused from their slumber to block the way. Likewise, by "placing himself under the aegis of the Law of Exception, man goes against the General Law, which he is even called upon to overthrow, if only on an individual scale." The seeker must remember -- "under penalty of surprise attacks" -- that "salvation depends on victory over the Devil," which "is the personalized aspect of the General Law."

In other words, as I wrote in One Cosmos, in the words of Zimmerman, to live outside the law, you must be honest. Whatever you do, don't engage in autokidding, or pulling the wool over your own I's. You must show proof, including three forms of disidentification, that you are a worthy candidate to defy the authority of the General Law, because as soon as you defy it, you'll get it from all sides, brother, including your own family, for as Jesus said, "a man's worst enemies are those of his own household" (Matt 10:36).

The Law of Exception is a narrow way, more difficult than a Camel passing through the lips of the surgeon general, but it's where the razoraction is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Lord Don't Move My Mountain, But Give Me the Strength to Climb"

The same day I read the story about Mother Teresa's little... dry patch, I received an email from a longtime reader who is experiencing a similar Dark Night, although it hasn't yet lasted 50 years. He is asking for feedback, so I thought I'd throw it out to the wider Transdimensional Order of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons, and see if we can't put on our collective coonskin thinking caps and come up with something useful, or at least not completely useless. I'd like to offer some meditations on the topic, but I have a feeling that you-know-who is going to wake up any minute, so it may have to wait until later in the week for a more fulsome evasion.

I'm going to change the name -- let's call her Otis -- and some of the details to protect anonymity of this sin-drenched rascal. And don't even try to guess who it is, because you'll be wrong.

Otis begins by conceding that "I haven't read OneCosmos for a while, which happens to be a symptom of why I'm writing you now."

Ahem. I think we've identified the problem: insufficient bobtizement in the daily weird.

"For the past year or so I've been spiraling down the Rabbit Hole.... I feel like my mind is embroiled in a battle of psycho-spiritual attrition. I feel immobilized on every front -- spiritually, creatively, socially, financially... everything. Nearly every practical effort of my rational mind triggers a rabid, debilitating tantrum by counter-protesting, well organized mind-parasites (who might as well be funded by George Soros). And I mean every action. Something as benign as returning a phone call from a friend, mustering the energy to get to the gym, taking the basic steps to finding work."

Now first of all, raise your hand if you've been in this situation. One, two, three.... I see that many of you can relate. Naturally, the first question is to determine what plane this is arising from, broadly speaking: physical, bio-psychological, mental or spiritual. Naturally you want to first rule out any medical issues, anything from diet to allergies to an underactive thyroid. Usually it's not that, but still, you want to begin with a clean bill of health.

And before considering the question of mind parasites, you want to determine if this is more of a biochemical dysregulation issue as opposed to a purely psychological or spiritual one. Superficially this sounds like depression, but depressive symptoms are only the "final common pathway" of a host of possible causal factors, from the purely biological to the purely psychological to the existential to the spiritual, i.e., activated kundalini (although the psychological naturally causes chemical changes, and vice versa, so it's never completely clearcut). For the same outward symptoms, there are times that medication such as an SSRI can be a "magic bullet," other times that it will have no effect at all. (I should probably add the disclaimer that I am not attempting to diagnose or treat here, just offering up some general advice that would essentially apply to anyone.)

"Mind parasites" is essentially my colorful term for unconscious complexes. We all have them and can't avoid having them. It's just one of the prices of being human. The idea is to "contain" them, rather than them containing you. More on this later.

Ms. Otis continues:

"I'm in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Perhaps the worst part is that I can't even take the solace I once did in spiritual matters. It's as if I've exhausted my thirst for knowledge, since it seems the abstractions no longer digest. I don't want to say I know it all (if I did believe that I obviously wouldn't be writing this). However, I do feel that my rational mind has a good enough grasp of the abstract ways of the world. Still, all such 'knowledge' or 'understanding' is pretty worthless if I can't apply it to my own life. So this frustration has lead to a visceral aversion to deep spiritual writings (Sadly, this includes OneCosmos, The Bible, the other sacred texts). I think I'm become terrified of genuine knowledge (K). Perhaps the power and responsibility intimidates me."

It's difficult to give an opinion on this without some wider autobiographical context. In short, it's hard to say whether this is a deviation from the spiritual process, or a part of it. This is something I will get into in more detail later in the week, since Future Leader is now officially awake. But with regard to both psychological and spiritual growth, pain is involved. The question is whether it is productive pain (e.g., "burning off old karma") or useless pain.

I remember Dennis Prager once throwing out a similar question to his radio audience, essentially asking, "what do you do when God withdraws?" For him, this was one of the appeals of Judaism, since it consists of so many concrete actions that are intrinsic to the religion. Jewish religious paractice may be somewhat unique in emphasizing the primacy of doing over being: the being follows from the doing, rather than vice versa. I was just reading about this the other day in a passage by Steinsaltz.... Now that I'm looking for the passage, I see another relevant one, where he quotes an eminent rabbi, who wrote that "There is nothing more whole and complete than a broken heart," which obviously resonates with Christ's paradoxable about the poor in spirit inheriting the earth -- it is the cracks that allow the light in.

Let's continue with the letter, in which Otis discusses practical steps he has already taken: "I've tried many times to develop a routine practice, based on insights shared by you and others. Meditation has been a struggle. Following all sorts of advice on breathing exercises, yoga, mind games, visualization, creative immersion, and onward. I suppose I've always looked for/expected revelation from everything -- books, films, conversation, travels -- and now I'm waking up to the blunt truth that knowledge alone will not save me. It's going to take more commitment, responsibility, intuitive, maturity, and a strong will to break through. But I'm, ultimately, still a child. And that stubborn child isn't willing to give up it's hope for an easy way, a short cut."

Yes, superficially this sounds like a bit of a cafeteria approach, when for most people, the best way is to immerse yourself in a single tradition. One of the reasons for this is the grace such a tradition affords -- not to mention the "spiritual protection" -- again, more on which later.

Interestingly, there are hints that Otis is in the twilit realm between one world and another, between death and rebirth:

"Still, my escapes and crutches are all cut off. Spending time with friends, losing myself in casual conversation, music, film, following sports or politics, just sitting back and enjoying a fine day. Over the years my body has gradually come to reject all of my old vices. Drugs are a bust, mere alcohol no longer moves me at all, eating is now mostly utilitarian. I have difficulty relating to people. "

This can be a difficult and disorienting phase, for the simple reason that we rely upon what gives pleasure to provide us with a sort of instantaneous meaning and orientation. To the extent that previously pleasurable activities fail us, we can feel adrift, with nothing yet to replace those old reliable "pointers."

"I'm not living up to my commitments.... One of my concerns in looking for work is that while I can always sell myself -- I make a powerful first impression -- I'm not confident that I'll live up to my potential.... Of course I can -- but my track-record shows that I don't, no matter how good my intentions. What makes this so frustrating and confusing is that this aversion is not limited to droll obligations like getting a job or paying rent. It extends to taking advantage of opportunities that are wholly positive..."

This sounds more personal/psychological to me; however the "in between" phase can lead to a sense that reality is completely absurd, so that nothing is really worth the effort. Reminds me of this essay by Van der Leun the other day. Sometimes the realization that I just can't do it anymore is the most honest thing you can say about your present life.

"I've lost my fire, my passion, my will. I'm a stove clicking, waiting on a match. Again, I know I need to suck it up and do what must be done. But when the time comes I get dizzy, disoriented, and overcome with anxiety.... As my various delusions of stumbling into some road to Damascus moment melt away, I'm left wondering how one develops The Will to overcome these forces. Is this a normal phase of spiritual development? Are there simple methods to ease into a practice? My mind is too cluttered to activate my imagination, or, perhaps I've become too frightened to let go and connect with the vertical or non-local. Still, through it all I've been blessed beyond reason; repeatedly, often inexplicably, rescued from dire circumstances of my own doing. In a way this increases my frustration, since my squandering of such gifts can only be seen as a slap in the face to God."

*****

I really haven't had time to address the writer's concerns in much depth, but before I do so, I would be very curious to know what others think. Again, these are generally universal issues, and to a certain extent, the way you deal with them depends upon the tradition you're in. For example, in Volume III of Sri Aurobindo's Letters to disciples, he has a whole section dedicated to Difficulties of the Path, and a related one entitled Opposition of the Hostile Forces.

The former chapter begins with a letter that reads, "All who enter the spiritual path have to face the difficulties and ordeals of the path, those which rise from their own nature and those which come in from the outside. The difficulties in the nature always rise again and again till you overcome them; they must be faced with strength and patience. But the vital [emotional] part is prone to depression when ordeals and difficulties rise. This is not particular to you, but comes to all sadhaks [practitioners of yoga]."

In another letter he speaks of "the resistance of the Universal Nature which does not want the being to escape from the Ignorance into the Light. This may take the form of a vehement insistence in the continuation of the old movements, waves of them thrown on the mind and vital and body so that old ideas, impulses, desires, feelings, responses continue even after they are thrown out and rejected, and can return like an invading army from the outside..." (By the way, one encounters the same sort of "internal saboteurs" in psychotherapy, only from a different level.)

Anyway, let's hear some honest and creative responses to this dilemma, and perhaps some testimonials as to how you made it through your own Time of Darkness. Feel free to post anonymously if it's too personal.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Swimming With the Big Fishes in the Ocean of Being (3.15.12)

A quick but cooncentrated Saturday post...

Now, as I said, the human being is faced with a range of phenomena of which he needs to take account and make sense... of. And if he is to comprehend the totality of existence, then the True Philosopher, the extreme seeker after knowledge, the ardent lover of wisdom, the off-road spiritual adventurer, must exclude nothing (including, of course, nothing).

Being that he did not bearth or begaial himself and stands in a venerable stream of tradition, he will especially avoid dissing in it and dismissing the illustrious minds that went before, most of whom found the existence of Spirit to be soph-evident. If embracing the superfishy smells of a Dawkins or Dennett means rejecting the oceanic depths of Plato, Aquinas or Augustine, then so much the worse for the modern misosophers who are blind to the big lebowskis that exceed the limits of their reason, the denizen cohns of the deep that cannot be landed with their teeny poles.

Those who "go off the deep end" receive all of the attention from mental health professionals, but it is also possible -- more common, actually -- to fall off the shallow end, "to lose everything but one's reason," as someone once said. These people can't really be helped, since they find the shallow end to be quite congenial to their simple souls. They know how to wade, to tread water, to dog-paddle, and that's all they want or need to know. This blog is not addressed to them, so I don't know why they keep returning. They'll just keep crapsizing unless they overcome their dysluxia and learn to god-paddle in the bobtismal waters.

The materialists propose what amounts to an absurdly false hierarchy with man at the top, but no way to explain how he got there (since there can be no objective progress in a random and meaningless cosmos). As Schuon explains,

"To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative, or again, that the universal Intellect is the measure of individual existence.... Once man makes himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses."

This is why there can be no philosophy more anti-human than humanism; you cannot turn man into a god without placing him beneath himself, for you simply create a demon who is beyond good and evil.

"Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such" (Schuon). Therefore, intelligence is the ability to discern the Real from the unreal, or from the "less real."

Furthermore, intelligence itself must share something of the substance of the Real, or it could not possibly know it. Ultimately, Truth and Intelligence must be two aspects of the same thing, or both are meaningless, at least as far as humans are concerned.

As Schuon explains, "the sources of our transcendent intuitions are innate data, consubstantial with pure intelligence." This is a key insight into how and why the intellect "resonates" with divine revelation and with the "inward appearance" of things in general. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, just as our physical eye perceives empirical reality, our spiritual vision is able to perceive the vertical realm. Or, to paradoxaphrase Eckhart, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

To put it another way, Intelligence itself is proof of eternal values, since man's intellect would be inexplicable -- for it would lose its sufficent reason -- if deprived of "its most fundamental or loftiest contents," which include Truth, Reality, and the Absolute.

Conversely, you can say -- as do postmodernists and other tenured apes -- that objective truth doesn't exist; but if so, then neither does intelligence, so there is no reason to pay any attention to their avowed lack thereof.

Scientific materialism provides us with facts and details, but no wisdom as to what they mean, or even whether it is worthwhile to know them. Philosophy, in the words of Josef Pieper, is simply "the hunt for that which is worth knowing, for that wisdom which makes one unconditionally wise..."

In fact, Pieper's conception is quite similar to Schuon's, in that he regards philosophy as being concerned with reality as a whole and with wisdom in its entirety, which can be seen as two aspects of the same underlying unity. He quotes Plato, who wrote that the lover of wisdom seeks not this or that part, but "integrity and wholeness in all things human and divine."

Clearly this is not so of science (nor should it be), which explicitly limits itself (or should, anyway) to this or that aspect or part of the cosmos, not its totality. It does, however, assume that there is a totality, even though this totality can obviously never be observed or proven empirically. No one but the Creator has ever seen the cosmos. In fact, one could say that Cosmos and Creator are also two aspects of a single reality. There is no cosmos that cannot be known, nor knowledge in the absence of a hierarchically structured cosmos. Again, Being is Truth, at least around these parts.

Pieper agrees that "it is downright unphilosophical" to arbitrarily "exclude formally any attainable data concerning reality," including sexy bartenders and all they don't know. To reduce reality to what may be clearly and unambiguously known through the scientific method is to in effect say that "I want to know only what can be made compellingly obvious and is thoroughly demonstrable." Such an approach is not worthy of the name "philosophy." Philosophy begins where science ends, which is to say, at the edge of the known, where it shades off into the vast unKnown that shines forth with a dark light visible to the eye of the soul.

Which is why man is the pascally whybit who "transcends himself to an infinite degree." This is only possible in d'light of d'vine Absolute.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Religion of Science and the Science of Religion: In Search of the Missing TOENAIL

If I have time, I want to expand upon something I mentioned a couple of posts back about the structural similarity of science and religion, to the extent that both are systematic forms of understanding a world or "plane" of phenomena. In that post I made a bobscure reference to

"the transitional, generative space that exists between revelation and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study, for example, has the identical structure of science, the latter of which you might say has a 'written revelation' and an 'oral revelation.' The 'written revelation' is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the 'oral tradition' -- takes place in the space between the exterior Object and our own interior Subject, which mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels, as if the one were a deep reflection of the other. Which of course it is."

Now, I sympathize with people like our recent euranatheist, who don't "get" religion, and thereby imagine they've gotten it. It is a prideful stance of abject know-nothingness, in that it openly embraces the idea that there is nothing to know about Spirit. Therefore, it can promote ignorance as a kind of superior knowledge, if not wisdom, wisdom being impossible under such closed circlestases.

The reason I sympathize with the people who don't understand religion is that true religion, like real science, is difficult. Oh sure, most anyone can go to college and learn the basics of science, but there are relatively few truly creative and gifted scientists in proportion to the legion of worker BAs and other intellectual hivenaughts who only toil away at the shell of the cosmic taco and never trouble themselves with the whole existentialida. Only rarely does a scientist such as Michael Polanyi become a great philosopher. There is a world of difference between the intellectual visionary who intuits the whole vs. the mere thinker whose mind incessantly grinds away at facts.

In my book, Petey made the cryptic and possibly craptic -- you never know -- remark that "Science is the religion of the ultimate Object, while religion is the science of the ultimate Subject."

This is true as lo it gos, in that Subject and Object are irreducible existential categories, and we can burrow into the cosmic mountain from either end. Clearly, no cosmos is possible without both. Science -- for reasons it never examines -- disregards the Subject, which ineluctably ends in metaphysical absurdity, since it leads to a situation in which it explains everything except the mysterious one doing the explaining. Science necessarily begins with the assumption that there is a Subject who may know Truth, but then forgets all about it. Since the Subject remains inexspookable, he is simply errflushed out of the picture and down the brain.

But what an ass of an umption with which to burro into the cosmos like some mooronic donkey oldie! What kind of cosmos gives rise to Subjects who may know Truth? Aren't they even just a little bit curious?

This is another characteristic that always strikes me about these deiceased souls sophering from materialitis or reductionosis, that is, the lack of intellectual curiosity. Are there religious people who are intellectually incurious? Of course. But it's not a product of religion, at least properly understood. It is always tempting to cling to some easy formula in order to make the pain of not-knowing go away.

In my role as psychonautical travelguide, I find that most people have internalized a fundamentally faulty map of reality. I think this is for reasons of Darwin, not religion. That is, evolution selected us to simply adapt to an environment -- including an "interior," subjective environment -- not to know reality. (Our ability to know Truth is not, and could not be, explained by any Darwinian mechanism in a way that is not logically self-refuting.) Therefore, most people simply settle into a facile cognitive groove with which they are comfortable, and never venture beyond those boundaries. Furthermore, they defend their interior cognitive turf with the same sort of ferocity lower animals do on programs such as Meet the Press or Larry King.

Let's get back to my boundless sympathy for those who do not "get" religion, since I used to be one of them. The world of Spirit, no less than the world of Matter, confronts the human being with a welter of seemingly disconnected facts, or phenomena.

In fact, the rise of modern science some 300+ years ago simply represented a systematic way to organize all of the diverse and contradictory facts that appear before us. Eventually "laws" were discovered that explained seemingly unconnected phenomena, i.e., the "force" of gravity explaining the fall of the apple and the continuous "fall" of the earth around the sun. Science is a function of intelligence, which is the ability to know the substance in the accidental -- to literally escape the deceptive world of phenomena and know the principle in its manifestation.

Another way of saying it is that (to paraphrase Aldous Huxley) science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. Science seeks increasingly deep unities to explain the outward phenomena. Presumably this will end with a big TOE, a Theory of Everything, the equation of our cosmic birth, a simple formula for generating this cosmos and everything in it.

But even if we do stub this TOE on our mental furniture, ultimately it would be no less painfully naive than the attempt to find the "cause" of God, for we would still need to know who or what devised the equation, and it could not be something less than intelligence. And it would indeed be the "ultimate intelligence," since it would be the ultimate case of Unity beneath diversity.

As intellectually OMniverous Raccoons, we want nothing less than the TOENAIL: Theory of Everything: Nous, Atman, Intellect, and Logos included.

In chapter four of my TOENAIL, I attempt to deal with the plane of "religious facts" in the same manner science deals with the plane of "scientific facts," that is, by seeking the laws beneath the phenomena and reducing multiplicity to unity. For surely there are religious facts. This is something even the atheist must acknowledge. It is just that he reduces them to a materialistic theory with which he is more emotionally comfortable. But the reason atheism will never be a popular religion is that the atheist is the rare person who either has no access to the world of religious facts, or if he does, simply explains them away. They are of no interest to him. He is incurious. But this is no less dysfunctional than primitive people who explain away the material world and live in "dream time."

Now in the final analysis, philosophical materialism is profoundly unscientific and unintelligent, since it is a stance that negates the very aim of science, which is to say, it grounds its certitude in appearance rather than reality, accident rather than substance, manifestation rather than principle.

Well, I was interrupted, and now I've lost the thread, so I'll continue tomorrow. Let me leave you with a relevant passage from Schuon's Language of the Self:

Logic can either operate in accordance with an intellection or on the contrary put itself at the disposal of an error, so that philosophy can become the vehicle of just about anything.... When unintelligence joins with passion to prostitute logic, it is impossible to escape a mental satanism which destroys the very basis of intelligence and truth....

When a man has no "visionary" -- as opposed to discursive -- knowledge of Being, and when he thinks only with his brain instead of "seeing" with the heart, all his logic will be useless to him, since he starts from an initial blindness.... Closing itself, above, to the light of the intellect, it opens itself, below, to the darkness of the subconscious.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Leftist Faith, Ecstatic Moral Inversion, and the Substance of Nothing

Mankind’s deepest problems are universal and existential. But solutions to these will problems vary from individual to individual and culture to culture, based upon insight, emotional maturity, depth and breadth of intelligence, spiritual perception, and other factors.

It is a truism that ideas have consequences, but even ideas must take a back seat to the unexamined values that shape the ideas one is capable of thinking. As Camus once said, no one became a communist from reading Marx. Rather, first they had an emotional, psuedo-spiritual conversion, then they read the unholy scriptures in order to deepen their faith. And as Tom Sowell writes (quoted in today's outstanding diagnosis by Dr. Sanity), progressives don't really have any genuine interest in actually helping the poor, since victims are their most important constituency. Quite simply, fewer victims means less power for leftists:

"Despite whatever the left may say, or even believe, about their concern for the poor, their actual behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left's denunciations of society.... When the poor stop being poor, they lose the attention of the left. What actions on the part of the poor, or what changes in the economy, have led to drastic reductions in poverty seldom arouse much curiosity, much less celebration."

One is reminded of St. Augustine's comment that while to err is human, "to persist in error out of passion is diabolical."

One of the greatest benefits of a proper religious grounding is that very early on you internalize the value that your problems are largely your own fault, and that it is wrong to externalize blame onto others. This is one of the sharpest divides between classical liberals and leftists, the latter of whom propagate the doctrine of victimology, i.e., the systematic shifting of blame to others. For the leftist mind, to the extent that your life -- or country -- is a wreck, it is never your fault, but because of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, white European maleism, whatever.

The point of this exercise is not to identify any real cause (and therefore, cure) but to create a locus of blame, so that one’s existential problems may be externalized and spuriously relieved. The more mature culture is the one that produces individuals who locate existential problems within, and who can both tolerate and transcend them -- for example, tolerating instead of acting on the constitutional envy we discussed a couple of days ago. There is no way to eliminate envy “from the outside,” which, after all, is why it is addressed by one of the Commandments. The Commandment does not say, “you shall try to eliminate envy by empowering a massive government to coerce the envied to give to each envious person according to his insatiable needs.”

The envious person unconsciously says, “if I can’t have it, then no one can. Therefore, I will destroy the object of my envy.” Thus we can see how unhinged envy is at the basis of pure nihilism, and why our enemies are so frightening. Think of Hitler’s scorched earth policy of destroying every square inch of land as his armies retreated. If he could not rule the world, then he would take the world down with him. This is what is so frightening about the prospect of Islamic nihilsts with weapons of mass destruction, for they truly do not care about the world so long as the world does not comport with their fantasies of how it ought to be.

Clearly, the Islamists operate by this principle, and one naturally worries about the extent to which normative Islam is informed by the same toxic attitude. For even if we were to disregard all of the hideous violence that emanates from the Religion of Peace, we would still conclude that this is a religion of perpetual outrage and compulsive lying, based upon the behavior of its most visible and risible spokesholes such as CAIR or Juan Cole.

The constant perception of victimization -- even amidst the outrageous and widespread victimization of others -- must emanate from something deep within Islam itself, unless this is merely a modern deviation. Despite it all, I am still open to that possibility, although I haven’t been able to find a single example of a truly interior Islam outside Sufism (which in my view is more Vedanta than Islam). In proportion to the billion or so normative Muslims, there are only a handful of Sufis, and frankly, even many of them tilt toward the dark side.

The gaspiel of nihilism is in fact a war against truth and therefore a war against the Creator, even though it is fair to say that few nihilists are aware of this fact. But the only reason we have a word called “truth” is because it is a reality that is over- and underwritten by God. Being that we are in the image of God, we are informed by an intellect that may know truth, a will that may choose the good, and an interior “eye” that may perceive beauty. The leftist attacks and undermines all of these things, and in so doing, destroys both man and God. Leftism is ultimately a program of radical immanence that cuts us off from our transcenent roots -- which, as expressed in the Upanishads, are aloft, not below.

For to say that absolute truth does not exist is to say precisely that human intelligence does not exist. To say that morality is relative is to say that anything is permitted and that man is therefore nothing, for he has no essence. And to create new forms of merely human “art” that celebrate ugliness, depravity, and naturalism is to sever mankind from the higher planes that distinguish us from the beasts and make us human. It is to reduce man to his animal nature -- except he becomes a pathetic animal with no nature, truly a nothing. (Excellent piece yesterday at American Thinker on Diversity, Nihilism, and the Anti-Rational Mind.

In this regard, the existentialists were correct in drawing out the radical implications of their "esoterism of stupidity." To return to our original point about values, every man is faced with two, and only two, choices that will determine everything else: essence or existence. For the spiritually inclined "interior" man, essence, or real being, is prior to, and determines, existence. But for the hexteriorized leftist, existence determines essence. You are a cosmic fluke. You have no a priori transcendent essence, much less purpose. Rather, your essence is determined by contingencies such as race, class and gender. For example, this is why the left is obsessed with race, whereas it is irrelevant to the conservative classical liberal.

It is no coincidence that the largest constituents of the left always include the young and unmarried. As one matures, gets married, and has children, one naturally tends to evolve away from leftist ideas, obviously not everyone, but a clear majority. This is because concrete reality has a way of clearing aside so much abstract intellectual theory. There is a reason why Marxism only exists in universities, and that you will never find a businessman who operates his business along the lines of Marxist doctrine. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "liberals read Marx. Conservatives understand him."

It is one thing for an adult to believe such leftist claptrap. If they want to ruin their lives in their adolescent rebellion, that’s fine by me. But to ruin a child’s life by inculcating him with their dysfunctional values really is an unforgivable sin. For example, to raise a black child in contemporary America to believe that this is a racist country, that white people hate him, that he is a victim from the start, and that his efforts will be for naught, is soul murder pure and simple.

Likewise, to brainwash an Arab child into believing that 15 million Jews in the entire world are the cause of a single problem among the world's billion Muslims -- let alone all their problems -- is an outrageous form of abuse, because when you create a victim, you create a nihilist. Why? Because once victim status is secured, then you are no longer burdened by a conscience. You are sanctioned to abandon yourself to your most primitive instincts, because the order of the cosmos is unfair and illegitimate, so anything you do to set things right is inherently moral, no matter how immoral. And the violence will not end until the Old Order is overthrown and the New Man is created, free of the existential categories that define man to begin with.

Meaning has been vanquished. Man is liberated from himself. The Triumph of the Will and the Reign of Nothingness are complete. God and man are dead. Long live the Beast!

And whoever must be a creator in good and evil, verily, he must be an annihilator and break values. Thus the highest evil belongs to the highest goodness: but this is creative. --Nietzsche

Nothing makes me more certain of the victory of our ideas than our success in the universities. --Adolf Hitler

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blinded by the Light & Dreaming by Day (7.28.10)

In his book From the Divine to the Human, Schuon has a chapter entitled To Refuse or Accept Revelation that is pertinent to some of our recent transatlandish disgustings. He points out that the reason people freely accept revelation is obviously not on empirical or (merely) rational grounds, but because man is a form of Truth, and therefore disposed to comprehend the divine message in spite of the objections of his own ego. In a way, the fact that we may comprehend revelation so deeply, proves the deiform nature of man and the divine object of which he is a distant reflection.

Schuon points out that in all orthodox religions there are two domains, one which "must be," and one which "may or may not be," and therefore doesn't necessarily have to exist. The former is that of dogma, the latter interpretation and elaboration. For example, just yesterday I was reading in Steinsaltz's In the Beginning about the distinction between the written Torah and the oral Torah.

In kabbalistic terms, the written Torah corresponds to wisdom, the oral Torah to understanding. The former is a numinous flash, a "nucleus" of all knowing, but only in potential. "Only afterwards does Understanding clothe this insight with the length and breadth of reason and make it comprehensible and communicable."

Steinsaltz writes that "the process is not unlike conception and giving birth: the original fertilized cell contains all, but it has to be lodged in the womb and developed." Similarly, Schuon thinks of revelation as a vertical ingression into time, while tradition is its horizontal extension or prolongation within the womb of time.

This is why, while dogma must be preserved, it must also be interpreted. Otherwise, it would be analogous to trying to take the fertilized cell and grow a full-sized human being in a petri dish, which would be meshuginah. As Steinsaltz writes, "Written Torah needs endless amplification, study, and clarification. There are infinite layers of meaning, depthless beauty," and new modes of experiential comprehension to be revealed: O-->(n).

While one receives the written revelation passively, so to speak, the oral revelation "proceeds to act on it, engaging in critical thinking" and "deep experiencing." And unlike the written Torah, which is fixed and not given to change, the oral Torah "can be altered and improved and is constantly being enlarged, added to, re-created, and enhanced by ever higher levels of experience."

This is precisely what I meant when I made reference to the transitional, generative space that exists between revelation and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study has the identical structure of science, which you might say has a "written revelation" and an "oral revelation."

The "written revelation" is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the "oral tradition" -- takes place in the space between the fixed Object and our own Subject, which mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels, as if the one were a deep reflection of the other. Which of course it is.

Now, the written revelation may be thought of as "day," the oral as "night." The wisdom of revelation manifests itself in the light of day, but may only be understood in the darkness of consciousness. In short, there is "daytime" knowledge and there is "nighttime" knowledge, and one must understand the distinction.

As Steinsaltz says, "the day is the time for receiving the light, and the night is the time for creating. There is a time to perceive, to look out and absorb things, and there is a time to develop what has been absorbed and even to fashion new things out of this knowledge." Steinsaltz compares it to a photograph, in which the film of the camera absorbs a bit of the light. But then you must enter your dark room in order to "develop" it.

It is no different with the pneumagraph of our indvidual lives. For genuine knowledge can only be gestated in the nighttime womb of the soul. Our Swedish visitor clearly has a bit of daytime knowledge (k) of Spirit, but his night vision is severely lacking, to say the least. Sounds like a serious case of slackular degeneration.

For the Raccoon is a gnocturnal creature, don't you know. For us, the daytime light is so intense, that it can be a bit overwhelming. We actually "see" the light better in the dark. Conversely, many anal-type materialists reject religion because they are simply night-blind or afraid of the dark. They may have understanding, but in the absence of wisdom.

The day and night also correspond to "outer" and "inner," part and whole, letter and spirit. Paradoxically, wholeness can only be seen by night, when all of the apparent, well-defined parts blend together and interpenetrate. By day, we see only fragments, but by night we are able to intuit the whole and dream the metaphysical dream by which the day may be creatively illuminated by the higher darkness.

Here is the essential difference. The spiritually attuned person, the poet, the true artist, all live by night and communicate their vision by the light of an intense beam of darkness. Coonversely, the atheist, the materialist, the radical secularist -- all live by day and are blinded by the light. And being that they cannot think by night, they dream by day -- which is to say, sleepwake -- through their lives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Atheists Sentenced to Life in Prison

Well, at least while waiting around in the jury room, I had time to write today's post. It's an irrevocable verdict against materialists, anti-theists, and other pseudo-rationalists, such as our Sweden sour shrimp. They are guilty as charged of holding intelligence up to ridicule by "representing the commonest stupidity as intelligence and disguising it as philosophy," as Schuon once put it in a cranky mood. This unanimous verdict will serve the purpose of freeing me of having to respond to every half-educated intellectual papsquawk who deicides to take an ill-advised potshot at Dupree and "the twins." --->

We begin with Schuon's unassailable point that the effectiveness of metaphysical reasoning depends upon two principal factors, neither of which is reducible to "empirical facts" or the mechanical logic to which our minds have access (and therefore transcend). First is the depth or profundity of the intelligence in question. To cite some examples that come readily to mind, the depth and perspicacity of a Frithjof Schuon or Adin Steinsaltz or Unknown Friend far exceeds that of a Dawkins, Dennett, or Harris.

How do I know this? Easy. I've read and understand all of them. But can depth of soul be quantified like an empirical or logical fact? No. Rather, it can only be known because intelligence calls out to intelligence in a direct manner. Intelligence resonates with one's own depths, which is why metaphysical knowledge has always been associated with vertical recollection, as opposed to profane knowledge, which involves the mere passing of horizontal information from mind to mind.

If, as suggested by materialists and positivists, intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this. As Schuon writes, "reason always stands in need of data that it cannot provide or extract for itself."

The anti-theistic materialist would have you to believe that he begins his disinterested analysis "from zero," so to speak, completely free of dogma, but this is demonstrably false, for it is no less a dogma to irrationally affirm that no knowledge exists except for that supplied by reason in conjunction with sensory perception. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki has written, all bad philosophies begin at second base, but have no theory that can explain how they arrived at first. There's no stealing in philosophy (although it happens all the time).

In addition to intelligence, the second transrational condition of metaphysical reasoning is "the worth or amplitude of the available information." For example, our Swedish friend undoubtedly excludes revelation as a source of information with which to engage our reason, but only on alogical and a priori grounds, for there is no cosmic condition that forbids the Absolute from communicating itself to human beings in human terms, which is the essential definition of revelation (including the revelation of Being itself). You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." As Schuon points out, one might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.

Just as the senses conform to the material world and our reason to the world of math and logic, our intellect -- or supralogical intelligence -- conforms to a realm of suprasensory phenomena. Here an analogy might be useful, for there is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.

This is especially pertinent in childrearing, both in the way the infant can read the mother and vice versa. Many adult psychopathologies are rooted in the "narcissistic injuries" and "empathic failures" of inadequate or distorted mind-reading. As you might expect, this results in split off, unintegrated parts of the psyche that are "unthinkable" because they were "unknown" by an empathic other. These often form the basis of mind parasites that dwell in a kind of infinite negative space -- a psychic "black hole," as it were.

Now, a gifted rabbi such as Adin Steinsaltz would, in all humility, say that in endeavoring to discern the meaning of this or that Torah passage, he is attempting to "read the mind of G-d." So too a Christian meditating on scripture. It is an elementary error of rationalists to equate the religious person's generative and fruitful dogma with their own reigning dogmas and catechisms.

In the case of tradition, we begin with what Schuon calls "an instinct for that which surpasses us," and which apprehends transcendent realities through their "superabundance of clarity." These are inclinations and perceptions that the anti-theist either lacks or is in rebellion against, which leads to the autodivinization of his own narrow ability to reason about the data given to his senses. The central difference is that traditional dogmas are not static, but furnish "pointers or keys," so that "the inward discovery" of their truth cannot be given but only discovered: O-->(n).

The materialist essentially reduces Truth to method and proceeds to close up intellectual shop, as his soph-satisfied soul has reached its carrying capacity. When "thinking" about religion, you will notice that he doesn't actually engage the object of religion, since he illogically rejects this object on a priori grounds.

To the extent that the atheist does think about the object of religion, he will simply supplant intellect with ego -- which is to say, he will try to operate in the absence of indispensable data that can only arise in the transitional space between O and our contemplation of it: "Just as it is impossible to reason about a country of which one has no knowledge, so also is it impossible to reason about suprasensory realities without drawing upon the data which pertain to them," which are supplied by 1) revelation, 2) intellection, and 3) grace.

Revelation is truly universal; it is about mankind as such -- a memo from Man to men, so to speak. But profane systems of thought are inevitably individualistic and idiosyncratic. They may convey a glimmer of transcendent truth, but it is always a partial picture, as a result of the warping of integral intelligence.

And what is intelligence? Intelligence is that which may know Truth. Likewise, Truth is that which the intellect my know with certitude. To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.

No. As Schuon writes, "either the intelligence by definition comprises a principle of illimitability or liberty," or it comprises "a principle of limitation or constraint, in which case it no longer admits of any certitude and cannot function any differently from the intelligence of animals, with the result that all pretension to a 'critical philosophy' is in vain."

I fully acknowledge that the materialist's intelligence leads him to the inevitable conclusions it does. But those conclusions are hardly inevitable to one with a wider and deeper intellect -- to those with more capacious and discerning souls. Countless human beings down through history have been aware of materialism and rejected it on the grounds that it excludes far too much of what we know to be the case.

Therefore, I pronounce atheists guilty as charged with intellectual cluelesside, and sentence them to life imprisonment down in flatland -- which has bars as strong as iron but weaker than the Love that removes the sin and other scars, speaking alighierically.

This brings us to another explanation of the term "idolatry," [which] refers to that which simply insists on the absolute independence of a self that is not the one God. When one sees himself as altogether independent of the absolute, he is in Galut, a state of being or place of banishment called exile.... It is not unlike captivity or subjugation, since there is no freedom to choose. --Adin Steinsaltz, In the Beginning

*I am indebted to Schuon's Logic and Transcendence for this post... both literally and figuratively.