Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tongaling With a Devout Euratheist

The Shallow Mind of an Intellectual Imposter. Unfortunately, that would be me and mine. I can't really tell what this fellow's agenda is, because he rarely communicates in plain English. Much of what he writes might as well be Swedish, for all I know. Then again, I see that the länkar to his bokhylla features most of the middlebrow anti-theist screeds such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith. Furthermore, the glowering expression of this sour Swede tells me that he takes himself, I mean his atheistic faith, very seriously.

Therefore, I will proceed to bring this grumpy nederföcker down, baby. Down to Chinatown. Point by point.

"The blogger is Robert W. Godwin, a psychoanalysist and self-appointed spiritual guru, who runs One Cosmos."

First of all, I am not a psychoanalyst, only a psychologist. And I am certainly not a "self-appointed spiritual guru." Rather, I was appointed by Petey.

Mr. Karlsson avers that we must first "remember that the very definition of a fact is 'Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed.' A fact is not a part of a theory but the foundation on which every scientific theory is built. A fact is also a thing on which we have universal agreement, or at least theoretically so."

This is an epistemologically naive definition of "fact," as no significant fact speaks for itself in the absence of a theory. Not only is there no such thing as an isolated fact, but we would not know how to recognize important facts unless we have a theory that tells us where to look for them, i.e., what is important. Furthermore, a fact is not -- and cannot be -- perceived by the senses, but only by the intellect. A fact can only be recognized by something that transcends the senses. No experience can tell us what we are experiencing, nor can perceptual experience interpret itself.

For example, as a psychologist, I observe the facts of a patient's psychic life as he free associates. But these facts will not be accessible or observable to someone who is not trained in psychoanalytic therapy. In short, any "fact" emerges in the transitional space between nervous systems and the world they encounter. A fact is not unambiguously "in the world" or "in the observer," but in the space in between, as outlined by Michael Polanyi, who compared scientific theories to probes which extend our senses into the unknown, similar to the way in which a blind person might use a cane. In so doing, the blind person does not attend to the raw sensations ("the facts") of the cane against his hand. Rather, the cane becomes an extension of the nervous system in space, allowing him to "visualize" what is beyond the hand. Only by internalizing the "subsidiary knowledge" of the senses will it lead to "focal knowledge" beyond them.

Karlsson suggests that "A fact is not a part of a theory but the foundation on which every scientific theory is built." This is manifestly false, as it promulgates the naive idea that science is a wholly "bottom up" affair that operates through pure induction -- as if disinterested minds merely survey the landscape and notice things labeled "facts," and then put them together to create a thing called a "theory." I don't think that any philosopher of science has taken the idea of pure induction seriously since Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (I might add that there are many aspects of Kuhn's philosophy that I reject, but not the general idea that the paradigm we use shapes the facts we see.)

I might also add that if the world were actually structured in the logically atomistic manner suggested by Karlsson, minds -- which are the quintessence of a priori cosmic holism -- could never have evolved in the first place. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. A mind is not a pile of neurological facts.

Here is another whöpper: "Since there are no facts (at least not if the word shall retain a fragment of its normal semantic meaning) that can fall outside the frame of scientific investigation I assume that Mr. Godwin means something else, probably conjectures."

"There are no facts that can fall outside the frame of scientific investigation." I would ask Mr. Karlsson: is that a factual statement? If so, would you be so kind as to point out where this fact is labeled in the world? Obviously, this is an assumption, not a fact. And if your perceptions are limited to that assumption, then yes, you will perceive none of the infinite facts that lay outside your blinkered materialistic worldview. Truly, Mr. Karlsson is like the Frenchman at the bottom of the well who imagines that the sky is only as big as the little circle of light at the top.

Of course there are facts that fall outside the frame of scientific investigation. These are called "qualities." Qualities are facts, no less than quantities. But science reduces qualities to quantities, because that is all it can do. It is a fact that Sun Ra was a great composer. But this cannot be proven scientifically. Similarly, "life" is a fact, but life is not equivalent to the quantitative facts of DNA. DNA is a function of Life, not vice versa.

Karlsson -- who describes his own faith as "humanist och militant ateist" -- then states that "it is also only in a trivial sense that science requires faith. Science requires faith in the operation of your senses and the basic laws of logic.... No other 'suspension of disbelief' is necessary, or allowed! to make good science, and in no way are you allowed to “unknow' things known, only to test and investigate them. I cannot see that the this kind of necessary faith (necessary for survival and mental health) can be equated with a faith in an 'aesthetic or spiritual world' nor does Mr. Godwin supply any reason for us to accept that notion. But his own crude grasp of science might to some degree explain this misapprehension."

Let's break this down. "Science requires faith in only a trivial sense," which is to say, faith in one's senses and the basic laws of logic. This is false on its face, and ignores the historical conditions that brought about the rise of science, which was associated with a unique religious metaphysic not shared by other cultures. For example, Professor Rodney Stark's work (e.g., The Victory of Reason) has demonstrated that Islam lacks

"a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science... Allah is not presented as a lawful creator, but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah's freedom to act." Not surprisingly leading historians and sociologists of science have concluded ' is indisputable' that modern science -- an organized, empirically directed effort to explain natural phenomena through theory construction and testing -- that modern science 'emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.'"

Why is this? If science is so natural, as suggested by Karlsson, why wasn't it obvious to everyone? Why did the 99.99% of other cultures in the world fail to notice these obvious things called "scientific facts?"

Karlsson's faith informs him that "science only requires faith in the operation of your senses and the basic laws of logic." However, it is actually a huge leap of faith to suggest that mere "sense + logic" will disclose a thing called "truth" or "reality." In any event, it is an untrue faith, because reason alone does not disclose the Real, since logic is a circular operation. Logic can only draw conclusions from premises. Furthermore, logic cannot furnish its own materials. Rather, that requires a mind. A thing is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true. Is this not obvious?

Faith, as I understand it, represents the existence of what Schuon calls "anticipatory perception in the absence of its content; that is, faith makes present its content by accepting it already, before the perception properly so-called. And if faith is a mystery, it is because its nature is inexpressible to the degree that it is profound, for it is not possible to convey fully by words this vision that is still blind and this blindness that already sees."

In this sense, atheistic materialism, no less than religion, is an "anticipatory perception" that determines what the atheist may perceive of reality. Which frankly isn't much.

I guess I'll continue with this tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Bestialization of Intelligence

When we were old as Abraham & young as a babe’s I AM and the world was fresh anew, Heaven touched the earth and angels whispered their secrets to us through the wind, rivers, mountains and stars. But as we are cured of our infanity and lose our unknowsense, the world is increasingly demystified and we become subject to the brutal “reign of quantity” inside the prismhearse of the senses.

Life at the center is exchanged for life at the periphery. It is as if we are trapped below a sheet of ice: “Mistaking the ice that imprisons us for Reality, we do not acknowledge what it excludes and experience no desire for deliverance; we try to compel the ice to be happiness” (Schuon). A strange new world is created, built from the bottom up rather than the top down. But since this barren world contains no real Truth, it cannot satisfy the exiled soul, which begins its endless quest for greater thrills and excitement to fill the void. New. More. Faster. Rage Against the Machine -- not up, but further down and out, where only one last barrier remains: blasphemy and destruction, or nihilism in action.

The Vital Beings are the ones who do not wish to recover their humanity and who are fully at home in this alien world. Breaking through the ice would involve surpassing themselves, the one thing the vital man is loath to do. For he loves the world with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind -- which is precisely to lack heart, soul and mind, or at least to deny their provenance. It is to be “born again from below.”

Father Rose, who wrote his piece on nihilism in the late fifties, prior to the vast explosion in crime caused by lenient liberal social policies and a forgiving attitude toward evil, observed that “Crime in most previous ages had been a localized phenomenon and had apparent and comprehensible causes in the human passions of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, and the like; never has there been anything more than a faint prefiguration of the crime that has become typical of our own century, crime for which the only name is one the avant-garde today is fond of using in another Nihilist context: ‘absurd.’”

That is an excellent point, for the absurd sadism of so many contemporary crimes matches the absurdity of an art that celebrates ugliness or “authenticity” and an educational system that promulgates the lie that truth does not exist. When your elites spend several generations creating an absurd world, don’t be surprised if you end up with absurd people and meaningless crimes.

“When questioned, those apprehended for such crimes explain their behavior in the same way: it was an ‘impulse’ or an ‘urge’ that drove them, or it was a sadistic pleasure in committing the crime, or there was some totally irrelevant pretext, such as boredom, confusion, or resentment. In a word, they cannot explain their behavior at all, there is no readily comprehensible motive for it, and in consequence... there is no remorse.”

I just flipped on the news today, oh boy, while giving a bottle to His Majesty. A 22 year-old man arrested in Iowa for murdering his parents and three sisters. Family of four in Florida murdered. High school football players remove their helmets and use them as weapons to beat their opponents. In my own neck of the woods, a jealous boyfriend murdered his girlfriend's six year-old son with a meat cleaver.

As a brief aside, I remember studying film noir back in film school. The professor divided it into several sub-genres that evolved -- or devolved -- over the years, and which seemed to reflect the societal degeneration of which Father Rose speaks. I won’t get into a whole dissertation here, but early film noir such as Double Indemnity depicts a man who is pulled down into circumstances beyond his control due either to bad luck or some identifiable human motive such as greed or lust.

But in late film noir, the entire world has become corrupt, both the criminals and law enforcement. In fact, every human institution has become corrupt. In such a world, the antihero or outlaw becomes the hero with whom we identify. The corruption extends even into the family, which becomes a breeding ground for psychopaths, as in White Heat (starring James Cagney) or The Godfather saga. In these films, evil merely fights evil, so we inevitably find ourselves identifying with evil. There is no “good.” There are only hypocrites.

In the Real world, Spirit is substance, matter is accident. Spirit precedes matter, the latter of which is the final deustination of God’s involution into time and space. A corresponding world of the senses arises, but this shifting realm is hardly the world of ultimate reality. Rather, the uncorrupted intellect knows objective reality as the Spirit.

As mentioned in a previous post, a counter-religious movement gained steam in the 1950’s, led by the “Beats,” by confused psychoanalysts such as N.O. Brown, and by charming rogues such as Alan Watts or frank sociopaths such as Timothy Leary. Just as N.O. Brown wrote that repression was the essence of pathology and that we would live in a sort of eden if we would merely express our lower instincts in an unmediated way, the new age teachers created bastardized forms of zen and taoism to exalt “spontaneity” and “naturalism” so as to obscure the deeper desire to stay high and sleep with coeds under a veneer of spiritualism. (Ironically, Rose was a student of Watts at the Academy of Asian Arts in San Francisco in 1955.)

The human being has an animal nature which is not by definition beneath him. It only becomes so “when man renounces his humanity and fails to humanize what he shares with the animals” (Schuon). To humanize is to spiritualize, which is to “open the natural to the supernatural whence it proceeds ontologically.” In other words, this hardly represents repression, but a recovery of our true being. If anything, the uninhibited and shameless vital man represses his humanness, for one can just as easily repress what is higher as what is lower.

Interestingly, just as sexuality, in order to be properly human, must be spiritualized, Schuon notes that intellectual (i.e., spiritual) knowledge has an ecstatic dimension to it, if for no other reason that it is known with the heart (or "mind in the heart," the location of the higher mind): “There is a spiritualization of sexuality just as there is, conversely, an animalization of intelligence [what we are calling the vital mind]; in the first case, what can be the occasion of a fall becomes a means of elevation; in the second case, intelligence is dehumanized and gives rise to materialism, even existentialism, hence to ‘thinking’ which is human only in its mode and of which the content is properly subhuman.”

But then, these subhuman philosophies become the justification to fall further into vital animality and animal vitality. Postmodern philosophies absurdly use the spirit to deny the spirit, leaving us with a wholly horizontal wasteland of matter and instinct. This intellectual operation is a complete success, even though the patient -- the human qua human -- does not survive it. A new kind of infrahuman is born, forgetful of his fall and “at ease in a world that presents itself as an end in itself, and which exempts man from the effort of transcending himself ”-- which is to have shunned and bypassed our reason for being here.

The fall is nearly complete. But not before we drag this whole despiritualized existentialada down with us, which we will do tomorrow in discussing the final stage of the nihilist dialectic: destruction.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Signposts on the Road to Nihilism

As mankind falls from plane to plane, we can see how realist man opens the door to vital man, for as Peggy Lee sang in one of the most weary and cynical lyrics of all time, If that's all there is my friends / then let's keep dancing / let's break out the booze and have a ball / if that's all there is.

Yeah boy, let’s have a ball! There is an age when doing so is appropriate and even inevitable. You don’t want to prematurely disillusion a child or adolescent's pure vitality and joyful engagement with the world. They’ll become disillusioned soon enough, as they mature. If not, they will become pathetic, as they fall into the vital as a means of escape from boredem, meaninglessness, and the emptiness in the heart of one who has severed their contact with the divine planes.

I'm finding that Judaism has many important ideas about this as I travel on the road with Rabbi Steinsaltz. There are so many examples; he talks about how his own search began when he determined that "this world was not enough," but how tradition maintains that there are 600,000 gates into the divine, including a "private gate" for each of us. While everyone "has some capacity for making contact with a world above the concrete world," we must struggle to find it: it "has so many locks. It has so many keys. And there is a key that is mine alone. And there is a door that is mine alone. And that is the door made for me." People can wander aimlessly because they are travelling on someone else's pathway, not their own.

He writes that "the individual journey begins when a person tears himself away from the state of aimlessness," and of the effort required to "get beyond the mental constructions, the words, and ideas" devised by others. He laments "those of us who waste our time seeking peace of mind. The spirit is at war, as its natural state": "Man's question should not be how to escape the perpetual struggle but what form to give it, at what level to wage it.'" One must be obstinate and tenacious; in the spiritual life "you don't have any charmed gateways. But you are given some kind of path, and you have to work your way up." "The feeling of 'behold, I've arrived' could well undermine the capacity to continue, suggesting that the Infinite can be reached in a finite number of steps."

I can tell in an instant if I am dealing with a vital man, but it happens on such an intuitive level that I’ve never really put words to it. But the more you develop spiritually, the more you will recognize a gulf between yourself and this kind of person. Incidentally, it doesn't matter whether this person is outwardly “religious,” because there are plenty of vital types who get involved in religion -- and not just exoteric religion. Even creepier are the vital beings who get involved in esoteric religion, for then you start to touch on the demonic.

If, like me, you are intuitively repelled by Bills Clinton or Maher, this is probably why. Now, I am the first to admit that there was a time that I was not repelled by Clinton. The repellence has only come with spiritual development. And it has nothing to do with ideology per se. After all, he largely governed as a rudderless, poll-driven moderate, and he seems to have no ideological core that isn’t negotiable anyway. I was certainly never a Clinton hater, nor am I now. Rather, he radiates a very specific essence that bears on what we are discussing today. For Clinton is a purely vital man in all he thinks and does.

Clinton is obviously not an unintelligent man, but that doesn’t matter either. For as Sri Aurobindo noted, there is a realm of the psyche called the “vital mind,” so it is not at all uncommon to encounter a vital intellectual, just as it is not uncommon to encounter a noble and light-filled common laborer. It’s all about the light, not the intellectual content. If you were to attempt to slog through Clinton’s 1056 page autofellatiography, I believe you would find it tedious beyond belief, and this is why. For although he is a passionate man, his passions are on a very low “earth plane,” while spiritual development specifically involves the “subtilization” of emotions.

In fact, you will notice that some exoteric paths involve the repression of emotion rather than its transformation. I am afraid that I have noticed this pattern on a fairly widespread scale in the religious movement of which Clinton is a part. This is not to tar everyone with the same brush, as the exceptions are obvious and many, but there is an aspect of southern Christianity that seems to almost express itself in a bipolar way, going from vital expression to vital guilt and manic reparation and then back again.

I recently got an intimate glimpse into this dynamic in reading the outstanding biography of Elvis, who was a profoundly spiritual man in the sense we are discussing. Same thing with Johnny Cash. So too Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and so many others. They never really escaped from the vital, but instead swung from pillar to post between expression and repression.

But true spiritual growth involves a spiritualization, transformation, and subtilization of emotion. Emotion becomes “finer,” lighter, more translucent. I am now at the point that I have some difficulty being around crowds of vital beings, such as a sporting event. But part of the problem is that the teams now increasingly pander and cater to vital beings.

For example, I used to love to go to Dodger Stadium, because it was like going to a park. It was positively edenic. No loud and annoying rock music blaring from the speakers, no ads filling every square inch of unused space, and a certain gentility among most of the fans. But now, they literally don’t give you a silent moment to ruminate and enjoy the natural rhythm of the game.

And the fans are much more loud, vulgar and animalistic. When I was a kid, no one cursed in public at a game, but now it’s constant. I sensed a real shift about a decade ago, when they had a baseball giveaway promotion. The umpire made a bad call in the seventh inning, at which point baseballs rained down of the field, endangering the umpires and players. Fans wouldn’t stop, so the Dodgers had to forfeit the game.

You may think this is a small thing, but on a cultural level it is huge. When I attended games in the 60s, 70s and even 80s, this type of behavior among Dodger fans would have been unthinkable. Perhaps they would have done something similar in San Francisco or Oakland -- Giant or Raider fans always attract and celebrate the vital -- but not in the Sacred Temple of Dodger Stadium.

Something “tipped” in the 1990s, and hasn’t stopped tipping ever since. No one set fire to their city after winning a championship until what, 1991, with the Chicago Bulls? Now it’s a barbaric tradition. You can easily hear the same phenomenon in music and see it in TV, movies, and modern "art," as our culture becomes increasingly crude and falls into the vital. Here we are at the cusp where vitalism slides into destruction, the fourth stage of the nihilist dialectic.

Father Rose points out that the fall into vitalism is at the heart of the reverse utopias of the left, which immamentize Christian hope and try to create a “vital heaven” on earth. For if higher truth is eclipsed as a result of “realism,” then leftism results from the flight from despair that such an erroneous and infrahuman metaphysic entails.

Bear in mind that, as we discussed a few days ago, the spiritual impulse remains, but now it is no longer guided by traditional channels. It becomes “unhinged” so to speak. I am quite sure that most of you bobbleheaded Children of the Light can read dailykos and know exactly what I am talking about. The well attested creepy feeling one gets from any writer or commenter on that site is your own higher mind sensing the unbound vital, completely detached from more refined emotions and from the intellect properly so called (i.e., the nous or noetic faculty). On dailykos you will find nothing that elevates, only that which pulls the soul downward.

As Father Rose points out, “there is no form of Vitalism that is not naturalistic,” which again goes to the many pseudo-religions that are an expression of vitalism. Here again, if you are remotely sensitive, you will notice this with regard to most “new age” spirituality, which is vital to the core, a cauldron of subjective fantasies, a “rootless eclecticism” of half-understood fragments, earth worship, narcissistic "realizationism," and sometimes frank satanism (even if unwitting). In reality, these pseudo-religions are “a cancer born of nihilism.”

Even more than this or that policy, this is what makes the left so frightening. Because of their vast influence, there may come a point when vitalism swamps the light of the collective higher mind, as it has already done in academia and the mass media. The prospect of an awakened multitude animated by the “terrible simplifiers” of the left is not a sanguine one... then again, "sanguine" comes from the French word for blood.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ordained and Tenured Apes of God and Science

Dr. Sanity has a fascinating post this morning on the obstacles to Islamic science, entitled Scientific Progress Goes Boink! It contains excerpts of an interview with an Egyptian scientist:

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: The centrality [of Mecca] has been proven scientifically. How? When they traveled to outer space and took pictures of the earth, they saw that it is a dark, hanging sphere. The man said, "Earth is a dark hanging sphere -- who hung it?"

Interviewer: Who said that?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: [Neil] Armstrong. Armstrong was basically trying to say: Allah is the one who hung it. They discovered that Earth emits radiation, and they wrote about this on the web. They left the item there for 21 days, and then they made it disappear.

Interviewer: Why did they make it disappear?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: There was intent there…

Just read the whole thing and come back. (What follows contains some old and new reflections.)

Although the Islamic world can ape science, it could never have developed it indigenously, since it cannot tolerate the structural prerequisites of science. They can only steal and imitate science, just as they can only imitate and ape democracy, liberty and equality. For science developed only in one time and place on earth, because a precondition of science was the Judeo-Christian ideal of liberty -- something like 99.98 percent of all scientific inventions and discoveries have occurred in Western Christendom.

Science is the exact opposite of a topdown enterprise: all of the hundreds and thousands of little discoveries that made space flight possible could only have been made by hundreds and thousands of scientists freely investigating reality -- pure and unfettered curiosity about the way the world works. People argue that science emerged in the Islamic world, but that is my whole point. It emerged once upon a time, but was then snuffed out by the religious authorities. In the meantime, they have gone from A to C, but will not tolerate the kind of society that allows B -- truly free scientific research -- to take place. They merely steal third base from us, but think they have hit a triple.

If human beings are not free to discover truth, then neither freedom nor truth can exist. These two categories are fundamentally intertwined, and any diminution of one leads to a diminution of the other. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a philosophy such as leftism, which does not value liberty, should be permeated with so many lies. And it is not just as if these lies represent bad or faulty information. Rather, these are vital lies which one is compelled to believe. In other words, one is not free to believe otherwise.

Imagine funding a philosophy department with the mission that they must elaborate and defend this or that position, instead of freely exploring wherever truth leads. It sounds absurd, but this attitude already prevails in our illiberal leftist universities, where, for example, "diversity" must be achieved. This represents death to thought because it is death to the freedom without which thought cannot function.

Any time thought is in the service of something other than Truth, then it is no longer thought. I don't think we have a word for what it is, but it certainly should not be associated with the beautiful word "liberalism," because it is essentially servile. The typical leftist wackademic is hardly a proponent of the "liberal arts." Rather, no matter how "intelligent," he is a drone practicing the servile arts, since his conclusions are preordained. He might as well be flipping burgers, except that at least no child is harmed in the process of burger flipping.

Don't believe me? Here's a typical example from my own field, published in the July 2007 Clinical Psychiatry News:

Suicide bombers are completely normal: "There is no real psychopathology for these people. They are not mentally sick.... They are a heterogeneous population that can be from any race or nationality" "Although many Americans associate suicide bombers with Islamic fundamentalism [ya' think?], suicide bombers come from virtually every religious group." Indeed, "for some, it is a practical choice; they see no alternative that will correct injustice... these people are rational; terrorist groups would reject as unreliable anyone who appears mentally ill [!]." [This is bad news -- it means that mainstream Muslims are even crazier than the terrorists, since the terrorists carefully screen for mental health.]

Nor are religious beliefs a "driving force." These are not "irrational fanatics," but simply regular folks who "have concluded that suicide bombing is the best way to coerce the occupier [Jew, I mean, who, might that be?] to leave their nation [what nation?]." "Except for the level of violence [?!] suicide bombers are not very different from their more moderate neighbors..."

Right. Reminds me of Charlie Manson. Overlook the psychotic bloodlust, and he's pretty much the same as everyone else.

This piece was not published in politically oppressed Saudi Arabia but in politically correct America -- which leads to the oppression of thought. Murderers are normal, suicide is rational, terrorist groups are careful about screening out crazy fanatics, terrorists are not motivated by religion, and all religions have suicide bombers -- Mormons, Lutherans, Scientologists.... then again, Tom Cruise seems to be committing career suicide with a few of his recent bombs....


As Schuon writes, a proper human being is one who “knows how to think." Conversely, "whoever does not know how to think, whatever his gifts may be, is not authentically a man; that is, he is not a man in the ideal sense of the term. Too many men display intelligence as long as their thought runs in the grooves of their desires, interests and prejudices; but the moment the truth is contrary to what pleases them, their faculty of thought becomes blurred or vanishes; which is at once inhuman and 'all too human.'”

One of the reasons Islam is so irrational is that it denies the horizontal. A while back at American Thinker there were a pair of excellent articles about this, one entitled What is Islamic Philosophy, the other Islam and the Problem of Rationality. I don’t have a lot of time this morning, but if you read these articles, you will see that the fundamental problem with Islamic thinking is that it is wholly vertical and devalues or completely disregards the horizontal.

Poole cites their belief in "volunteerism,” which maintains “that rather than created objects having inherent existence, Allah [vertically] constantly recreates each atom anew at every moment according to his arbitrary will. This, of course, undermines the basis for what Westerners understand as natural laws.” Furthermore, there is the belief in “occasionalism,” a doctrine maintaining that “in the natural world, what is perceived as [horizontal] cause and effect between objects is mere appearance, not reality. Instead, only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allah's habits, for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will.”

Carson notes what amounts to the same thing, that “[horizontal] causes and effects are inadmissible... because causes limit the absolute [vertical] freedom of Allah to bring about whatever events he wills. Effects are brought about, not by causes, but by the direct will of Allah.” Obviously, “Without a notion of cause and effect, science is impossible, and “If the true cause of events is the will of Allah, and if the will of Allah is inscrutable, then the causes of events are inscrutable and science a vain pursuit. The issue is ultimately whether the universe and its creator are in any way intelligible. The West, with its traditions of natural law and natural theology, agrees for the most part that the universe is astonishingly intelligible and God somewhat so. Islam, at least at its most rigorous, denies any intelligibility whatsoever to either.”

Now, bear in mind those last three sentences. What they clearly highlight is that the development of science in the West was characterized by a unique appreciation of both the horizontal and the vertical, which intersect in natural theology and in natural law -- in a greater (capital R) Reason. One could also say that they intersect in the whole Judeo-Christian worldview, which regards the world as intelligible to intelligence precisely because both are a reflection of the same divine logos that infuses all of reality, both vertical and horizontal, which together constitute Being. In Islam, Allah is so radically transcendent that he cannot be known, while in the West, one may know God in a multitude of ways both horizontal and vertical, for example, by mapping the human genome, by enunciating relativity theory, or by simply becoming more virtuous -- since humans, in their vertically ascended state, are a mirror and image of the divine.

Now all forms of leftism, secularism, or materialism are every bit as logically incoherent as Islam, and will sooner or later lead to tyranny over the mind, spirit, and body (which history demonstrates time and again). Since these philosophies deny the vertical a priori, they actually run counter to that which makes us human: our access to the realm of vertical values that illuminate and give meaning to our humanness.

What is political correctness but an assault on the ability of people to arrive at certain unwanted conclusions? What is deconstruction but a frontal attack on any meaning that places western civilization in a positive light? There are no conservative deconstructionists, because what is specifically being deconstructed -- that is, attacked -- is the truism that America is a good and decent nation, that western civilization is a uniquely precious gift, that America is not a racist-sexist-homophobic society, etc. None of these conclusions are permissible on the left.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Fall From Reality into Realism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Falling at the Speed of Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right of every family to a decent home.

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

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

The right to a good education.

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

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

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