Monday, September 17, 2007

On Harmonizing Oursophs with the Vespered Strains of the Song Supreme

Later in the week, when I have less time and more timelessness, I will be getting into the questing of exactly how religious language accomplices its task of speaking to us on a level that bypasses the surface ego and goes straight to the deeper aspects of our being. In this regard, it obviously shares certain characteristics of poetry, which says in words what cannot be said in words, as some old poet-all once unsaid. Like poetry, scripture can make no literal sense, and yet, evoke a powerful response. How does it do that? And what is it inside us that is responding?

Let's compare it to music. By definition, music makes no literal sense. This is a tautological statement, since music is not semantic but pure sound. In fact, it is the only form of communication that is made of pure sound. And yet, people can be moved to tears by music.

Van Morrison is one of the few popular musicians who performs music with the specific intention of evoking a spiritual response. Especially between about 1979 and 1991, he entered a deeply spiritual period when he attempted to convey and facilitate spiritual experience through music. And yet, you can be sure that few people who heard the music responded to it in the intended way. For them it was just an oldies show or an exercise in nostalgia, like seeing the Strolling Bones at the Super Bowl.

I only subscribe to a few magazines. One of them is Stereophile, which is sort of the bible of hi fi enthusiasts. One of the enduring debates in the hi fi world parallels our frequent discussions of overmental language, translogic, and the vertical dimension of being. You could say that it's between the objectivists and subjectivists, engineers and enginees, ears and equations, scientists and mystics. This is the topic of the lead essay of a recent edition of Stereophile, entitled The Mystery of Music, by Jason Serinus.

I remember when I purchased my first CD player in early 1990's. I was a holdout in the digital revolution, and continued listening to vinyl exclusively long after CDs were available. I eventually purchased a good CD player, and yet, when I brought it home I was very disappointed with the sound. To my ears the music sounded superficially accurate, but it was flat, dull, lifeless, and lacking in warmth. It had a palpably hollow and somewhat shrill metallic edge and was missing a certain dimension of depth or presence that analogue brings out. (Just try listening to one of the first generation unremastered CDs that came out in 1985 or 1987, and you'll hear what I mean. They sound horrible.)

To try to address the problem, I purchased a pair of decent aftermarket cables to connect the CD player to my amp and replace the cheap ones that came with the unit. Voila! Suddenly there was an added dimension of warmth and presence -- of life -- that was lacking before.

Now, number-crunching engineers will assure you that this is impossible, that a cable is a cable is a cable. In fact, it is the official policy of magazines like Consumer Reports that there is essentially no difference in sound quality between one CD player and another. It's scientifically impossible, you see. You may think that you're hearing something different, but science says you can't be. If it cannot be measured by an objective test, then it doesn't exist. You are fooling yourself.

Sound familiar? This is a perennial debate in psychology as well. For example, science knows that the unconscious cannot possibly exist, and that Freud's ideas about it have been thoroughly debunked. But if you lie (in both senses of the term) on ShrinkWrapped's threadbare couch and aimlessly ramble for a few moments about this and that, he claims the ability to peer into your very soul and understand all sorts of secrets that you've been keeping from yourself. Just like the music lover, he will experience another dimension to your communications which entirely escapes the methods of science. Unless, like me and my expensive aftermarket cables, he's just pulling the wool over his own ears and charging his sheep for the fleece.

Back to religion. In Serinus' essay, he asks, "Is it possible that those who claim that some of us cannot possibly hear what we are hearing themselves lack the facility to comprehend what we're hearing in the first place?" For many listeners, music apparently registers only as rhythm and sensation assaulting the monkey brain, whereas others, for example, hear subtle shadings of color, emotion, and spirit. How can something made of sound contain colors or shades of light and dark?

Similarly, is it possible that those who claim to comprehend religion are experiencing an entirely real dimension that communicates its properties to those who know how to experience it, but doesn't exist for those "without ears to hear?"

Let's go back to the Freudian unconscious. Strictly speaking it does not "exist," if we take the word exist in its literal sense of "standing out from" (ex-ist), like an object in space. Nor does God ex-ist. But this doesn't mean that God or the unconscious aren't real.

For one thing, God is not found in space, because space is in God. Likewise, the unconscious -- or O -- is not strictly speaking in us -- ultimately, we are in it (more on this later in the week).

When we say that something is "real," are we talking about the atoms and molecules of which it is composed? Or the physical form that we perceive with the senses? Or the thought that is able to register and comprehend the perception? If only the subatomic or the physical are real, then there is no valid knowledge at all, for there is no knowledge at the level of the senses.

God is not that which "stands out," but That from which things stand out. Thus, "exist" is not the right word for God or for the unconscious. "In-sist," perhaps. That is, higher and more subtle realities do not stand out except to those who stand in them. How do you stand in a higher world? It has no physical existence, and yet, it can only manifest in the physical.

But only if you co-upperate. If you help bring it into being. If you make it present. If you act as midwife and give birth to the Word and the Melody. Which most people can do unless they unhappyn to be a hyper-rational soul in a midwife crisis.

Robert Frost once commented that the purpose of poetry was to help the reader "trip headlong into the boundless." Somehow, poetry jolts us out of the horizontal and into a vertical inscape. What can I say? I'm not a leuny poet. So you don't have to remand me. But I do my loveall best to be a hummin' being, and trip heartlong into the rhythm of the infinite. I prefer it to standing headwrong in the finite.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Verticalisthenics, O-robics, and Breathing in the Eternal

Let's see. What do we have here. There are objects and there is motion.

Revelation is like an intellectual cathedral that mirrors the hierarchical dimension of the vertical on this side of the manifestivus -- it is "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement -- an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.

In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant, who must combine "know how" with "be who."

We are fallen beings. Or, if you prefer, we are more or less exwholed and exiled from the vertical; we are strangers in this world, wandering in the desert of the horizontal, trying to find our way home. We go through books, experiences, teachers, trying to find Truth or Freedom or Happiness. Sometimes we catch a glimpse, only to see it recede into darkness, like a dream that fades upon awakening.

The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself, both in space and time. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed. Which is not me.

So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual blankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.

For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no -- we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.

Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths -- catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.

Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and establishing a little beachhead in the vertical.

In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host -- you -- and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.

For this reason, most anyone on a spiritual path requires some equivalent of psychotherapy in order to gain insight into the adversary within. The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.

However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is obviously not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?

Lies are the wisdom of the world. The world is immersed in, and ruled by, lies. Therefore, to the extent that you lose yourself in this world, you too will be lost in a sea of lies. For example, the war on Islamofascism is not ultimately a war against a physical enemy, but a war against the most outrageous and pernicious lies. Likewise, the "culture war" in America is not really about culture, but about truth and about unconsciously motivated lies. Much of Old Europe has already lost this war. Like the American left they have abandoned truth for comfort, happiness for pleasure, vertical liberty for horizontal license.

Birth is always a chaotic and painful transition from one mode of being to another. The seeds of our new birth are already present within us, in the womb of our being. What are the conditions that allow the seeds to grow and bear fruit? Hell, I don't know.

"Petey? What do you think?" Okay. How about the sunlight of truth, the water of grace, the fertilizer of ritual, and the loving assistance of an expert gardener -- who certainly need not be technically "living" in the biological sense of the term, so long as he or she be alive.

Well, the horizontal beckons me from the threshold of transdimensional doorway, so I bid you adieu. In fact, I will leave you with adieu and don't -- a verticalisthenic, if you will. Today, whenever you have a spare moment, instead of wasting it in idle mental wanderings, try silencing your mind and breathing in the eternal, drawing breath from above your head down into your heart, and then offering the breath back up again to your oldenew gardener.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dreaming of Reality from the Dark Side of the Moon

Now that my colonasscapade is behind me, it's time for a little reflatulating on the experience. I noticed that as I was coming out of the anusthesia, my mind wanted to make as if nothing unusual had happened -- as if there had been no gap or "crack" in my consciousness. As I looked over my shoulder at the doctor, my first thought was that I had been conscious throughout the grossedure. My second thought was "what an odd way to make a living."

The next thing I remember is laying there in bed with my clothes on. Only later in the day did I wonder how and when I got dressed. But that didn't stop me from murmuring a mild protest to the nurse to the effect that there was no need to call the wife, and that I was fine to drive.

I guess it's very similar to the lacunae in our field of vision. Each of our eyes has a hole where the optic nerve connects to the eye, but our brains fill in the visual gap as if it's not there.

As I've mentioned before, all of us do the same things with our lives, creating a coherent and linear narrative out of the chaos and randomness. While there is coherence in our lives, often it is unconscious rather than conscious. We superimpose a "likely story" on the outward events, but the real coherence is coming from below -- or above, as the case may be. People often enter pyschotherapy when their conscious narrative is being disrupted by an unconscious one. St. Paul is an example of someone whose narrative was disrupted from above.

In fact, it's very disturbing and disorienting to have one's narrative disrupted in this way. It is one of the big reasons the left is so crazy. For decades, their's was the official narrative of reality, enforced from on high by the media, academia, and other elites, and they just can't handle the fact that other narratives exist. So they hysterically "confabulate" like a psychotic or brain-damaged person, imagining events and perceptions in order to paper over the gaps in their narrative.

In Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus asks, "What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?"

This brings us to the heart of the matter concerning the different forms of logic that govern the finite world of the horizontal and the infinite world of the vertical. Everyday Aristotelian logic is fine when applied to the horizontal, but if applied to the vertical, it will simply make a senseless and incoherent absurdity of it. Again, in the vertical world -- both the unconscious below and the "supra-conscious" above -- we are dealing not with irrationality but a sort of patterned transrationality, similar to the logic of dreams.

A purely scientific, materialistic, deterministic, and reductionist approach to the world will drain it of its vertical properties and create a sort of coherent but banal non-absurdity. Bonehead atheism is the quintessential example of this.

I am reminded of my first experience in psychoanalysis many years ago. I was laying on the couch and asked, "Am I making sense?" My cryptic analyst responded with words to the effect of, "Yes. Feel free to stop." You see, I wasn't really jumping into the uncharted world of the unconscious with both feet, but defending against it with a lot of surface rationalizations that made mere sense. Those familiar with the lingo of my book will understand that I was reducing O to (k) instead of allowing the evolution of O-->(k).

It is also possible to turn the world into an incoherent non-absurdity. This is what primitive cultures do, including most of the Mohammedan world. In other words, they create a world view that makes total sense to them and explains everything. Except that it is completely incoherent and actually explains nothing. It is a closed system that must repel any ideas that threaten it. Hence, their rejection of modernity and their consequent cultural Failure to Launch.

Finally, one can live in an incoherent absurdity. This is the world of the psychotic. It is also the world of hell, of a complete absence of logic or sense. Each moment of time becomes a calamitous novelty, as the psychotic mind perpetually disperses logic and meaning. To a lesser extent, this is also the world of deconstruction and much modern art, but for the denizens of that dark world, it is more of a contained process. For these modern sophisticates, it becomes a sort of parallel vertical world, superficially sharing certain characteristics with the religious. But it is an entirely counterfeit and ephemeral world of no lasting value.

Let us take two examples of the way language and logic are used to describe the horizontal and the vertical with regard to the origins of the cosmos. The horizontal view tells us that the universe is an Improvised Explosive Device that randomly banged into being 13.7 billion years ago. We know this because we can use logic and math to trace the outer edge of this explosion back to when it happened.

But this tells us nothing about the vertical. For that we need an entirely different kind of logic, something like this: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Now first of all, don't be like our trolls or like religious fundamentalists who get stuck on stupid and attempt to understand this vertical statement in the horizontal sense. In fact, the very point of the statement is to let us know that from the cosmic get-go "there is the vertical (heaven) and the horizontal (earth)."

As it so happens, if one is going to express the transcendent, the infinite, the eternal, one cannot do so without symbolism, paradox, myth, and wordplay. Wordplay? Absolutely. This is something that has long been known to the great rabbis, who "play" with scripture in order to mine it for its deeper meanings.

Now one of the reasons I like James Joyce is that he was fully aware of two things: that the world is made of language, of the word; and that our reduction of the richness of language to mere logical categories did violence to its creative potential for disclosing the nature of reality. For this reason, his last book, Finnegans Wake, consists solely of elaborate wordplay -- it is one long pun.

In Finnegans Wake, Joyce regards all of human history as one long dream in the mind of a single sleeping individual. Furthermore, the entire book is written in the vertical logic of the dream world, so that anything can symbolize something else and one person can stand for another or for an entire class of people. It is a timeless holographic world in which everything is internally related and happening simultaneously in the now of the dream. And, just as in a dream, there is no clear distinction between reality and imagination, nor is there the principle of non-contradiction that applies to the daytime vertical world of Aristotelian logic.

Unfortunately Joyce died shortly after Finnegans Wake was published, so he never had the opportunity to fully explain what he was trying to accomplish with his dense and seemingly impenetrable language. He saw that there was indeed coherence in the cosmos, but that it was the non-linear, vertical coherence of myth, poetry, theology, imagination, and dreaming.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This is Your Cosmos Calling: Bang, Bang, Bang on the Door, Baby!

So, our mundane lives are simply a meaningless journey, in which we are rudely ushered through the turbulent corridor of time in our personal reality tunnel, a lonely tunnel inhabited by no one else. As any materialist, secular humanist, atheist, or other assordid metaphysical yahoo can tell you, there is no ultimate meaning to the journey. Regardless of what your instincts may say to the contrary, a human being has no intrinsic value. Like Wile E. Coyote, we are simply free-falling toward the canyon floor. Indeed, our life is that brief free-fall, and it ends with a futile splat that gets closer each day.

In fact, for a strict metaphysical naturalist, a human being probably has less value than “the planet” or “biodiversity,” but even that is an unwarranted assertion based upon the underlying metaphysic. For if the underlying metaphysic is to be self-consistent, it must insist that any meaning we encounter is entirely self-generated and ultimately meaningless, including the statement that there is no meaning. (Don't ask the naturalist how that last absolute statement is possible -- how monkeys can know the Absolute, even if it is absolutely nothing. But they most certainly can know absolutely nothing, especially if they are tenured monkeys.)

What is meaning? Meaning has to do with information. Even if we remove humans from the deuscussion and vice versa, our cosmos is filled with information such as DNA or the handful of mathematical parameters that govern the nature of the whirled process. In order for information to exist, one thing must be able to stand for, or symbolize, another. In ether worlds, the symbol and symbolized must be of a different order, the former more abstract than the latter.

So before we can even say anything else whatsoever about the cosmos, we have to concede that it is the kind of cosmos in which some things can symbolize and stand for other things -- almost as if the cosmos were having some kind of complex conversation with itself even before humans arrived on the scene. No matter where we mind, information is everywhen and where. When they study creation, scientific Adams are simply eavesdropping on the conversation, trying to get the details right without distorting the message. If that weren’t true, there would be nothing we could say or know about the cosmos.

Normally, when we think of information, we think of communication. The purpose of language, for example, is to communicate from subject to subject, interior to interior. But the cosmos was full of information before there were supposedly any sentient beings to pack or unpack the message. Now that we’re here, we can do that.

For example, we can trace information from the very edge of the cosmos -- the red shift -- all the way back to the primordial event that gave rise to the cosmos. But even then, we cannot get back to a time that there was “no information.” Rather, the best science will be able to do is come up with a mathematical equation that unifies the four fundamental forces of physics -- a “theory of everything” -- but that will still be an equation containing information, and therefore, meaning.

Even leaving aside Gödels’ theorems -- which would make it impossible in principle to discover any complete and consistent theory of everything -- this would have to be a very special occquation, because it will have to account for our bearthday presence. Obviously, any equation that is incompatible with the evolution of living beings capable of comprehending it will be a nonstarter, since we are undeniably here. Therefore, quantum cosmology us ultimately constrained by the presence of human knowers.

Hmm.....

The paradoxes of quantum physics demonstrate without question that ours is a nonlocal cosmos that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Being that space and time are functions of each other, this must mean that the cosmos is not just spatially but temporally nonlocal, which helps to account for the mystery of memory, of the copresence of the past and present. Just as every part of the cosmos participates in every other part, all times are somehow copresent as well. This is reflected in dreaming, which may be a more normative form of thought than we appreciate. James Joyce certainly thought so.

Regarding the temporal entanglement of the cosmos, if you look up at a star in the night time sky, you are registering an event that likely took place before you were born -- indeed, perhaps before humans even existed. The sun, for example, happened eight or nine minutes ago. The nearest stars happened several years ago, while more distant ones happened thousands or millions of years ago. Quasars occurred so long ago that we are looking at an event from billions of years "back" in time. Britney Spears is so "yesterday," that her stardom might as well have been an eternity ago.

But what does it all mean? Oh, nothing. Just meaningless information. Or so says the slack-jawed materialist (which is an insult to Slack). Just meaningless information somehow entangled with a primate brain.

What's that? The cosmos gives you a sense of wonder? Oh, ignore that. “Wonderment” is not a source of empirical information, even though all great scientists have been guided by it. Awe? A sense of the sacred? Again, these are scientifically empty words that convey no information about the awesome adventure of scientific knowledge.

Okay, information is one thing. But why are the cosmos and the planet and some of the people on it so beautiful? The answer: they aren't, even though most any great mathematician would reject an equation out of hand if it were insufficiently beautiful, let alone a girl friend.

“Metaphysical naturalism” is so impoverished a philosophical view that it prides itself on its poverty. It denies itself all of the supernatural qualities that make the metaphysical naturalist possible. Could his impoverished philosophy possibly be true? Who knows, since his philosophy cannot make any meta-statement about itself. The most that the metaphysical naturalist can say is that his philosophy is truly not true, but that he’s working hard not to deny the illusion that it is true.

Since science cannot solve the really difficult philosophical coonundrums, it either eliminates the questions or reframes them in terms it can understand. Therefore, the metaphysic of scientific naturalism simply presupposes its own conclusions and omits the other 99% of reality, somewhat in the way that a neurotic individual reduces reality down to the scope of his compulsions and fixations. They don't live in the real world, but they do live in a secure and predictable, if rather crimped, one. To tell you the truth, it is a cosmos unworthy of man. As a matter of fact, it is a cosmos incapable of having given birth to man. At least a real man -- not the artificially intelligent kind.

Being that time is, as Einstein said, a "stubborn illusion," then if any part of the cosmos has ever been conscious at any time, then by definition it is as if all of creation has always been and always will be conscious at all times. I don't know if you can really prove that with airtight logic, but you certainly can by ironyclad translogical experience. It's another form of empiricism, but an empiricism that touches eternal objects, not just material ones. In fact, I'm touching one right now. Or vice versa.

When you boil it all down, the Cosmos is exactly as Petey has always said it is: a love shack, that is, a little old place where we can get together.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What Cosmos are You Living in? (10.05.10)

Where does the idea of a universe, or “cosmos,” come from, anyway? Why do we assume it exists? Animals don’t know anything about a cosmos, for they can't escape or transcend their sense impressions.

Humans imagine there is a cosmos, but what do we really mean by the word? Is the universe the sum of things, or the whole of things? -- for these are two very different ideas. If it is merely the sum of things, there’s really no way to understand it, because each part is more or less independent of the other parts. But if it is the whole of things, that must mean that there is an underlying wholeness that somehow transcends and yet participates in each of the parts. Thus, to say "cosmos" is to say "unity" -- which is to say "the One," no matter how you say it.

Insofar as the universe is a whole, science cannot speak of it consistently. In other words, science, in order to be science, must treat the universe as a collection of objects, and simply assume their underlying unity -- if only to separate the scientific observer from what he observes. Like the mind itself, wholeness cannot be observed, only inferred. This leads me to believe that there is some hidden relationship between the mysteries of consciousness and wholeness. In short, the one cannot exist without the other -- they are somehow reflections of each other.

Every sense perception is an act of division within prior wholeness. Only the particular is ever observed, and there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. But every mental act is an act of synthesis and integration -- of bringing particulars together into a wholeness that reveals their meaning. Thus “the cosmos” is the ultimate scientific act of mental synthesis, very much the material equivalent of conceiving of God -- who also represents an absolute integrity and cohesion that we can never perceive in its a priori fulness with our senses.

For this reason, we can say that the cosmos is the exterior of God, while God is the interior of the cosmos (while not limiting God to that). Conceiving of either is only possible because human beings are able to intuit both the wholeness and withinness of things. We are able to conceive the Absolute not because it is a fanciful wish, but because it is the inner reality that subtends everything; in other words, the Absolute is the necessary condition for conceiving it.

All bad philosophies -- which is to say, almost all philosophies -- take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events (much less how we can know that it exists).

The religionist doesn’t have this problem. Judeo-Christian traditions affirm that “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, there is a prior unity called “God” underlying the apparent division between the celestial and earthly realms -- the vertical and the horizontal, consciousness and matter, whole and part, knower and known, yin and yang, guys and dolls. Religion teaches: where there is apparent duality there is wholeness and unity, whatever the duality. Even life/death. Woo hoo!

The Mundaka Upanishad takes the story of existence back even further than Genesis, affirming that “Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.” In other words, the creator God -- Yahweh, Brahma, the Father -- is himself an aspect of an even deeper unity, called Brahman, the Ground (by Meister Eckhart) or the Ain Sof (in Judaism), for even God (like the youman beastlings that mirror him) must possess a relative outside but an infinite inside.

In the absence of revelation -- either “given” or “intuited” -- there is no way to know about either the cosmos or its "parent," or source. Reduced to natural reason, human beings are like spiders spinning concepts out of their own substance and then living in and crawling about on them, catching the occasional meal. In fact, if the secular black window spider is going to be honest, he will have to admit that all he can ever know is his own web, which was Kant’s point. Kant took profane philosophy as far as it could go, which is why most philosophy since has merely been a footnote on Kant.

For you have a choice that you must make at the outset: either we live our lives in an illusory, phenomenal universe, cut off from the noumenal reality. Or, because we are made in the image of the Creator, we can know the absolute in both its material and immaterial, supernatural aspects. The former aspect of the absolute subtends science, while the latter makes it possible to know transcendentrialities such as love, truth and beauty, being-conscousness-bliss, father-son-holy spirit, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, kether-hokmah-binah, or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Thus, secular philosophies create a problem where there is none. First, they exile us from the cosmos, and then complain that we can’t get back in. True, we are exiled in maya. But religion goes to great lengths to explain that as well, including how to cure us of that particular metaphysical illness. Scripture fully anticipated Kant and all of his followers in the allegory of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, you have free will, so you are therefore free to nourish yourself from that particular tree. But just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of spiritual malnutrition.

Of course, this doesn’t stop scientists from talking about the universe and making all sorts of absolute claims about it. In fact, science has hijacked the universe concept, and will permit no one else to make statements about it on pain of ridicule, ostracism, and ACLU lawsuits. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki writes, it is as if all of the central banks had been taken over by counterfeiters. So much of scientific epistemology and ontology is based on intellectual “funny money” that is not fungible into any underlying reality.

Like leftists who are only concerned with the distribution of wealth rather than its creation, secularists are only concerned with the propagation of "truth" rather than the specific metaphysical principles that make Truth itself knowable.

For example, science assures us that their model of the cosmos truly accounts for the strict totality of interacting objects and events. But how can the model contain the proof of its own claim, since it is part of that totality, not outside of it? The question is, can we take a scientific dollar bill and cash it in for real Truth? We can, but only if we realize that there is indeed a central bank that ensures the value of each of those scientific bank gnotes.

Yes, there is a cosmos. For the same reason there is a God: you kant half one without the under One. As a matter of fact, the same thing holds true of biology. Say what you want about natural selection, but it presupposes something that its theory cannot account for: the wholeness of the genome and the organism, which is a reflection of the primordial wholeness of Being. Natural selection operates on entities that are living benefactories of a prior wholeness, without which Life itself could not be.

Knowledge is simply adequacy between subject and object. We can know the Absolute because our intelligence is mirroculously proportioned to it.

The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature capable of conceiving the starry heavens is more than the space and the stars so conceived.... It is precisely in virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and therefore the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine. --F. Schuon

Sunday, September 09, 2007

All Your Islamophobic Joke Are Belong to Us!

In Albert Brooks' film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, he imagines himself given a special assignment by the U.S. government: "Maybe the only way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laugh," he is told. "Go to India and Pakistan, write a 500-page report, and tell us what makes the Muslims laugh."

As a matter of fact, my associate, Petey, has been looking for comedy in the Islamist World for six years -- to be precise, since 9-12-01 -- but in a different way. That is, he thinks the best way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laughable. He makes no bones about his belief that the Islamists and their sympathizers are both evil and insane, and that they are much more worthy of mockery and ridicule than fear or respect. The "war on terror" would end tomorrow if these jihadis would just wake up, have a big laugh, and realize what perfect asses they are. A "normal" Muslim will be able to laugh at himself, just as a normal Christian or Jew. After all, it was a Jewish comedian who said that it didn't matter what your religion, so long as you were ashamed of it.

Something is terribly out of joint if comedians feel free to ridicule conservative Christians or President Bush or Catholic priests, but never "conservative" Muslims, crazy imams, or corrupt Palestinian leaders. It's like a symptom of the disease we are trying to eradicate. Can't we all just make fun of each other? It's a much healthier way to express aggression.

But who has ever seen a jihadi laugh, except for one of those hollow, bitter, mocking ones, like Dr. Evil? Have you ever seen a Palestinian having fun except after they've murdered some Jews or watched the Twin Towers come down?

For example, if I were to run into bin Laden, I might wink and let him know that I actually understand why he needs so many wives. After all, if you're going to play by Taliban rules, you never know what sort of beast lurks beneath that burqa. Who wants to make a lifetime commitment to the child bride behind cave door number two, sight unseen? There's safety in numbers, nudge nudge.

I read somewhere that Mohammed "is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence." Oh really? What about all the flying concrete? Not to mention glass and steel?

And the Palestinians? Forget about it. They finally have their own state in Gaza, but I don't know if they're going to be able to do much with it. It can't be easy dedicating your whole life to destroying something constructive, only to see it in danger of being rebuilt before your eyes.

Did you know that none of the maps in the Palestinian terrortories show Israel? That's what they mean when they refer to the Arab "roadmap to peace."

Did you know that part of their strategy involves having so many children that they can eventually overwhelm Israel with their population? However, demographers are worried that if the Palestinian baby boom continues, there won't be any babies left to boom.

They say the martyrs are just like every other kid, obsessed with sex. But their parents tell them "Be patient. There'll be plenty of time for girls when you're all blown up."

Hey, at least you don't hear about the Palestinians flushing Bibles down the toilet. That'll have to wait until they develop indoor plumbing.

Personally, I think we've got a wrong-headed approach. Instead of questioning terrorists and flushing the Koran down the toilet*, how about questioning the Koran and flushing terrorists down the toilet? [*Yes, I know, Newswack made up the story.]

And state or no state, Palestinian women won't have a prayer. Literally. They don't allow them to even pray with the men in the Mosque. I can't say I blame them. Who wants to go to the mosque expecting a perfectly sublime Day of Rage, only to have these women turn it into a sleazy Day of Lust? The men are naturally confused and conflicted by standing behind a woman while she’s bowing and kneeling. Rather, women are supposed to face their husbands while bowing and kneeling. When it comes to praying with women, sharia law is quite adamant about it: "You can't join 'em, beat 'em!"

But I guess the battle between the sexes runs pretty deep over there. In the Palestinian territories, women don't have the right to bare arms, only the right to bear armed children. And when the children "play doctor," the boys perform mock clitorectomies on the girls.

I read a study that says that in some Muslim countries, sixty percent of the girls are forced to undergo clitorectomies. I like to look on the bright side. This means that forty percent of the girls can run faster than their brothers.

And how about the wild anti-Semitism they teach in their schools? Somebody called Abbas on it, and he said he was shocked that they were teaching this virulent hatred of Jews to children. In an interview in Throwing Stone magazine, he said that in the future, students will be taught to murder Jews and just leave their feelings out of it.

But what's really depressing is their class reunions. They're so sparsely attended. I don't know why they should be surprised, when their best schools boast of a 90% detonation rate.

The latest is that Abbas wants to enlist the terror groups for security operations. That makes sense, since the Palestinian police can't be expected to prevent law and order all on their own. And making them police does solve the terrorist problem. Next week Abbas plan to conquer disease by renaming hospitals "health clubs."

But I don't know if they can solve the terror problem so long as Saudi banks are funding it. That's right: that mosqued imam is the loan arranger. Where else but a Saudi bank can you visit your moola and mullah at the same time? True, Muslims are not supposed to charge interest, but their loans have cost many people an arm and a leg. In order to get one, you have to provide a lot of collateral. Damage, that is.

But it doesn't matter. There's always some Jew-hating American like Rachel Corrie who will take the terrorists' side. Her parents should be quite proud. There aren't many parents who can honestly say that their child was just as useful an idiot in death as they were in life. But still, that doesn't make up for the loss. They sued Caterpillar because one of their bulldozers accidentally turned into her and flattened her. In fact, this was the first known case of a Caterpillar turning into a bitterflake.

How about Iran? They may be the first culture to skip the toenail clipper stage of technological development and go straight to nuclear power. I understand it's taking some time because they're trying desperately to develop a weapon that will destroy New York but leave the Times building unharmed.

Anyway, we've got our own problems in America, what with these Wahhabi-lobbies like CAIR that supposedly represent decent Muslims. Well, I guess they do speak for rank-and-foul Muslims.

In fact, those Muslim doctors in the UK botched the terror operation so badly, CAIR is going to sue them for malpractice.

Me, I don't get it with these Muslim doctors. If they wanted to destroy western civilization, why did they spend all that time in medical school? Why not just go to journalism school, like everyone else?

And the U.N. is no bargain. They sent those Jordanian troops on a peace keeping mission in Timor, and they ended up abusing the children. Apparently it was a big misunderstanding -- the Jordanians thought it was supposed to be a piece-copping mission. D'oh! From what I understand, the men offered the children candy in exchange for sexual services, in what is already being called the "oral for food" scandal. Personally, I say "U.S. out of the U.N., U.N. out of Timorese boys!"

This was actually going to be a big story in the New York Times until further investigation revealed that the Jordanian peacekeepers weren't even Catholic, much less priests.

But as usual, the U.N. is pulling the wool over our eyes. If only it were wool panties, this story would would be huge in the MSM.

Do you hate the MSM as much as I do? I remember when journalism used to be the first draft of history. Now it's the first draft of rewritten history. Ever wonder how the New York Times always gets it so wrong? Believe me, it's not easy. They can only do it because they've got a highly trained team of dedicated fact chuckers.

Still, I love New York, showing once again that one rotten bunch doesn't spoil the whole Apple.

But no matter what happens, the media never report anything positive coming out of Iraq. There's a term for this: Reuters' block.

Could the MSM be any more clueless? Their motto ought to be, "Always the last to know, so you won't have to be." They're always looking for "the roots of terror." What do you need to know about the roots of terror except that the average Muslim roots for terror?

That was some election in Iran, a show of real democracy. Iranian elections? That's what you call a farce only a mullah could love. Speaking of farces, they even had elections in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the winners were serenaded with chorus after chorus of Wahhabi Days are Here Again.

One good thing about democracy in the Islamic world is that Muslim politicians all promise to bring less pork to their constituents.

And did you hear the new president of Iran was one of the American hostage takers? That's no surprise. Obviously they wanted to elect a man who was there at the time of their founding fatwas.

I hate to say ayatollah ya' so, but the Iranians are still pushing ahead with their Manhattan Project. I don't know. I think they should come up with a different name, since there's already been an Islamic Manhattan Project. It was called 9-11.

Frankly, I wasn't so worried until they detected large shipments of leather crossing the border into Iran. This can only mean one thing. They're trying to build a suicide belt large enough to deliver a bomb. As usual, the UN is helpless to do anything about it. On the positive side, they did agree that nuclear suitcase bombs must be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

Of course, they say they're only developing nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Personally I'd feel better about it if Muslims had figured out peaceful applications for rocks and belts. For them, it's a wardrobe malfunction when some boob doesn't explode out of his vest.

And Kofi Annan was very concerned about the situation. In fact, when he found out about it, he nearly skied himself senseless in Switzerland. Plus he's already busy dealing with his son's misbehavior. The other night he had to send Kojo to bed early without his oil-for-food.

Hey, if Iran feels so threatened, here's an idea: why not just build a big fence to keep all the Jews out?

People say that Islam and Judaism are similar, since they're both based on the inerrant word of God, but I'm not so sure. After all, thinking critically about the Torah makes you Jewish, whereas thinking critically about the Koran makes you an infidel. Apparently there are other differences as well. I saw a bumper sticker that read "Jesus saves. Moses invests. Mohammed plunders."

It's pretty odd when you can be less than twelve months away from the atomic bomb but more than twelve centuries away from the atomic age.

I guess we shouldn't worry, because the countries of Western Europe are unified in their opposition to Iran obtaining nukes. In fact, they're calling it the Eunuch Pact.

But the Euros have Muslim problems of their own, like in Holland, where they murdered that film maker, and any politicians who stand up to the Islamist threat have to have 24 hour security. Now if someone mentions the Dutch Masters, I'm not sure if they're talking about painters, cigars, or Muslims.

And the loony left? Forget about it. Why do they always want to burn the flag at their demonstrations? I'm all for flag-burning, so long as the protester first wraps himself in it. Their big champion is Ted Kennedy. The Move-On crowd is probably too young to remember that Kennedy has always had an unwavering commitment to a woman's right to snooze. Under water.

Then you've got the ACLU fighting to put up a blatantly anti-American monument to the victims of 9-11. I guess they have a point, since the monument will be a real time-saver. I mean, imagine the inconvenience of having to track down 3,000 individual grave sites in order to piss on them. Then again, since the monument will be on sacred ground, perhaps the ACLU can sue themselves to get themselves removed. If not, maybe we can all file a classless action suit against the ACLU.

And the ACLU is always protecting Muslims, trying to ensure that they are never, ever offended or inconvenienced in any way, even if doing so would stop terror attacks on our soil. I can see their point. It's racist to discriminate against Muslims just because their skin is thinner than ours. And it's these crazy ACLU types who try to compare Gitmo to the Gulag. I guess in certain respects the Gulag was better than Gitmo. At least in the Gulag, nobody had to read the Koran.

How about Saddam? One of Saddam's lawyers was quoted as saying, "I don't mean to play devil's advocate... oh, wait a minute, yes I do." Pretty weird that a guy who has a taste for putting people through plastic shredders also enjoys eating children's cereal. I guess it's no surprise that he likes Froot Loops, since we know his favorite journalist is Dan Rather. I'm kind of surprised not to see "Gunga Dan" doing a kiss-ass interview with President Ahmadinejad. You know, after CBS canned Rather for making up damaging stories about President Bush, they said they'd let him do sixty minutes. Yes, and not a second more.

Amazingly, the president of Iran doesn't believe the Holocaust happened. That's right, he's even suggested a "scientific conference" to investigate the matter. He's actually open to a change of heart. If their scientific conference "proves" the Germans really did perpetrate the Holocaust, he'll be saying "hey, I think we can work with these people."

But I just don't think this Ahmadinejad is going to back down. I'd say he's a few goats short of a harem. Either that or a few nails short of a suicide bomb. Give him credit, though. He's one ghoul under fire.

Bumper stickers seen in the Palestinian territories: "Practice premeditated acts of violence and gratuitous cruelty." "My Other Car is a Truck Bomb." "Jihad is not healthy for infidels and other vile creatures." "Follow me, I'm lost." "My son graduated summa boom loudly from Arafat Hi." "Pray for world conflagration."

Top ten -- well, seven anyway -- ways you know Hamas and Islamic Jihad have become too moderate:

7. Nobody cares that they're running out of rocks.
6. Days of Rage downgraded to Days of Irritation.
5. People go to car swarms just to pick up chicks instead of body parts.
4. Starting to ask themselves, "are you sure this is how Gandhi did it?"
3. Layoffs at the bomb lab.
2. Hamas and Islamic Jihad putting on delightful joint production of Fiddler on the Roof.
1. Nobody buying the autobiography of Arafat's widow, A Goy Named Suha.

Before he became a Muslim, Cat Stevens wrote the music for the film Harold and Maude, the story of a morbid, death-obsessed young man bent on killing himself to get back at others. The more things change....

How about Ward Churchill? The fact that this America-hating academic fraud was drawing a six-figure salary at taxpayer's expense brought to mind the words of another Churchill: "Never have so many owed so much to a faux Sioux." By the way, Churchill never said he was an Indian -- what he said was that he had "a patchy work history." Either way, I knew the leftwing blogosphere would turn him into their latest Kos s'lob.

Did you hear about the uproar over the Pakistani woman refusing to wear a two-piece bathing suit in the Miss World contest? Well, they agreed on a compromise. She's actually going to wear a two-piece after all: a burqa with a snorkel.

I thought I saw a wet burqini contest on al Jazeera the other day. But they were just sweating from the heat.

I don't know. I think we need a moratorium on the inane "hijacking Islam" phrase. Instead, we ought to consider LoJacking Muslims, so we know where they are at all times. (Hey, it's a joke, people. More or less.)

But at least this is triggering a debate in the Muslim world. Traditional Muslims are rightfully outraged at so-called moderates trying to hijack Islam and reduce jihad to a mealy-mouthed internal struggle with oneself instead of a glorious war of conquest and colonization to impose a worldwide caliphate.

Some people say we need to be more culturally sensitive, perhaps teach the Koran in our schools. After all, it's only fair, since they teach Mein Kampf in every Muslim country. I have a better idea. I think we might begin by adopting their tradition of blowing up people with whom they disagree.

And the Democrats are still calling for us to surrender in Iraq. Then again, they do support the troops. In fact, if their support gets any stronger, the troops will have to obtain a restraining order.

Everyone thinks the Left is just being cynical in their relentless attacks on the war effort, but there's a greater principle involved. That is, if they change their normal behavior and stop trying to weaken America, it will be as if the terrorists have won. Making us less safe is the Democrats' way of sticking it to the terrorists.

Of course, if only Kerry had been elected, none of this mess would have happened. Unlike Bush, he promised to bend over forwards to rebuild our alliances. In fact, if Kerry had been elected, France would never have left Americans' behind. Nor, with John Edwards by his side, would we be living in "two Americas," one that can afford the finest hair care products, the other living in constant fear of a bad hair day.

But at the moment they're stuck with Howard Dean at the helm of the DNC. He works so closely with the a-holes at dailykos and moveon.org, that after his chairmanship is over he'll be able to switch his specialty to proctology.

And why should the the Left stop attacking the Boy Scouts? After all, the ACLU just wants to make sure that the Boy Scouts will always be a safe place to scout for boys.

I guess what really disgusts the Left about the Boy Scouts is their policy of racial profiling. You know, helping little old ladies cross the street but not Muslim men in their twenties.

Then again, I have an idea for how the Boy Scouts could get around the the ACLU's attempts to bar them from using public property. Just have the boys run around naked in the woods and smear each other with chocolate syrup, and then give them an NEA grant.

Or, maybe the Boy Scouts could strike a compromise with homosexual activists and allow a merit badge for fabulous makeovers.

Personally, I think it would be a good idea for the Scouts to begin awarding a merit badge for keying an ACLU attorney's BMW.

I guess I just don't get it. Why do these leftists need to change the Boy Scouts so that they'll fit in? If they want to be part of a group of atheistic, morally relativistic, America-hating adolescents, they can always join the Democratic party.

I don't know how you feel about Bush spying on the terrorists, but I'm all for it. They need to monitor these mosques and do some basic ignorance gathering. But these Muslim groups like CAIR are always complaining, deflecting responsibility. It's like they're raising an entire not-me! generation.

I read a story the other day about China selling arms to the Sudan, which, last the time I checked, was committing genocide against Christians. That reminded me of some of the lost sayings of Confucius:

--Confucius say Christians pay arm and leg for Chinese arms sold to Sudan.

--Confucius say Chinese government like peeping Tom -- enjoy watching Christians get screwed.

--Confucius say man who feed allahgator get eaten last.

--Confucius say man who do business with Saudi must beware of evil in tent.

It's too bad, we almost got "number two" in al Qaeda, the infamous Dr. Zawahiri. He's an Islamic pediatrician, which means that he cares for children from the time they're born until the day they blow up. He still gets the occasional call from a worried parent, asking for a psychiatric referral for a teenager obsessed with not killing himself. His prescription is always the same: "Take out two infidels and call me in the morning."

They recently held a counter terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia. In fact, they say that never has so much evil been arrayed at one table since Yasser Arafat dined alone. Where else can the president of Libya hobnob with the president of Iran? "Mr. Gaddafi, meet Mr. Godawful." They're calling it an "Arab think tank." Now there's an oxymoron. Shouldn't it be "rage tank," "resentment tank," or "seethe tank?" Or how about "whine cellar?"

When I heard that Muslims were burning cars in France, I was initially sympathetic, since burning a car is sometimes the only way to make sure it won't be driven by a female. Plus, I think something good could eventually come of all this, if we could just find a way to cross-pollenate the French and Muslims, and create a hybrid race of Muslims who surrender.

Speaking of France, everyone thinks they're anti-Semitic, but they're actually quite evenhanded toward Jews and Palestinians. True, they want the Palestinians to have a homeland, but during WWII they also assisted in the return of Jews to their home in Germany.

Well, I guess the big question is why the Islamic world hates us so much. True, if it weren't for US interference, the they wouldn't be stuck in the fourteenth century. Instead, they'd be mired in the twelfth. And they're always boasting about how great Islamic culture is -- you know, that they had mathematical geniuses who supposely discovered zero over a thousand years ago. That's fine, but the problem is, they've been discovering zero ever since. And that's no joke.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Mullah Terror & Nasty Old Leftist Complex

We often hear leftists speak of the dangers of the military industrial complex, but a far greater danger is the mullah terror & nasty old leftist complex, which was demonstrated once again this week with Osama's open embrace of the left's bull goose loony, Noam Chomsky. It's a marriage made in hell between the moonbats and moongodbats.

PowerLine notes that the allahiance between Islamists and leftists "has never been so clearly displayed. Bin Laden sounds for all the world like a Marxist. He praises Noam Chomsky as one of the 'most capable' of American war opponents. Over and over, he attributes American foreign policy to 'the owners of the major corporations.' In bin Laden's view, '[t]hose with real power and influence are those with the most capital,' and 'the essence of man-made positive laws is that they serve the interests of those with capital and thus make the rich richer and the poor poorer.'"

Osama-lama-ding-dong might as well be working for the New York Times useful idiotorial board, since he has all their barking points down pat: "Thus, 'all of mankind is in danger because of... global warming.' The Kennedy assassination finds its way into the story: it was ordered by 'the owners of major corporations who were benefiting from [the Vietnam war's] continuation.'" (He knows this meme appeals to the left, given their cognitive dissonance over the fact that JFK was killed by a pro-Castro leftist, just as RFK was killed by a Palestinian savage. And I'm guessing that MLK was killed by a southern Democrat.)

Speaking of JFK, Osama's still a little peeved that Oliver Stone hasn't gotten back to him about the screenplay he submitted, a light summer romp called How to Stuff a Wild Burqini. Don't get the wrong idea. Yes, it has that provocative scene of a Muslim woman waxing her burqini line, but it's only her monobrow.

With regard to Iraq, Osama might as well be Keith Olbillmaher or Cindy Seanpenn: "Iraq is a 'civil war'; America's involvement was fomented by 'neoconservatives like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Richard Perle'; 'American statistics' say that 650,000 Iraqis have been killed; the justifications for the Iraq war are 'based on deception and blatant lies'; the war was 'entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports'; war opponents have denounced the conflict in 'eloquent terms' like 'no to spilling red blood for black oil'; 'thinkers' world-wide have predicted the imminent collapse of the 'American Empire'; Bush's problem in Iraq is that he 'refused to look at the facts on the ground.'"

In a direct appeal to 9-11 "truthers," Osama also said that Bush would have brought down the Twin Towers if he hadn't thought of it first.

A while back, Noam Chomsky published a typical irant entitled A Negotiated Solution to the Iranian Nuclear Crisis is Within Reach. Naturally he blames the United States and Israel for the problem. Unlike us, the "sophisticated Iranians" are “surely not as willing as the west to discard history to the rubbish heap.” That is, “They know that the United States, along with its allies, has been tormenting Iranians and stealing my precious bodily fluids for more than 50 years.” Only unsophisticated Iranians who don't live on planet Chomsky think that the totalitarian regime that rules their lives is a tad oppressive.

Because he is a "leftist thinker," Chomsky doesn’t technically “think” so much as apply a leftist template over reality so that it always comes out looking the same: U.S. bad, enemies of U.S. good. Any questions?

On the adoltolescent playground of elite college campuses, Chomsky's books are always among the biggest sellers. In the course of his career, like the left itself, he has only been wrong about everything (most egregiously, our previous generations-long battle against communist tyranny), but that doesn’t matter, since the purpose of socialism -- like Islamism -- is not to be effective or to describe reality, but to transform the consciousness of the person who believes it. Therefore, it would be a waste of time to analyze the substance of Chomsky’s ideas, which are frankly bizarre. He is much more of a religious cult figure and should be regarded as such. He cannot be discredited.

Religion is the realm of ultimate values. I was intrigued by a passing comment at the top of Chomsky’s editorial that reveals his: “The urgency of halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and moving toward their elimination, could hardly be greater. Failure to do so is almost certain to lead to grim consequences, even the end of biology's only experiment with higher intelligence” (emphasis mine).

So here we have a literal inversion of reality on every level: political, historical, ethical, epistemological, theological and ontological -- a cosmos inside out and upside down.

The classical liberalism of American idealism is implicitly religious, even if it doesn’t explicitly favor one particular Judeo-Christian denomination over another. Clearly, there was a coonsensus among our founders that human beings, and only human beings, were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that are rooted in our very humanness. Liberty is meaningless without both free will and a proper transcendent end for our resultant liberty.

In the absence of a free will that transcends biology, meaningful liberty is obviously impossible. And in the absence of the Good and True, both our behavior and our thinking can have no meaning that isn’t ultimately arbitrary. (In other words, thinking, in order to be worthy of the name, must converge on truth, just as behavior must converge on virtue.)

This is the “American experiment”: it was an experiment in the adventure of consciousness to see if would be possible to facilitate psycho-spiritual evolution by setting up the appropriate framework -- to unleash human potential, in part by starting out with a more accurate anthropology and ontology. For if you get either of these wrong at the outset, then your political philosophy will be hopelessly dysfunctional.

Adam Smith’s ideas are infinitely more effective than Marx’s (or Mohammed's) ideas because they begin with a very accurate and concrete assessment of human psychology, whereas Marx (and every leftist since him) begins with abstract and general ideas that are superimposed on reality. What doesn’t fit into the framework must be attacked, denied, belittled, and eliminated in order to preserve the framework. Thus, the origins of the hauntological house of the perpetually “angry left.” How could they not be angry? It’s inherently painful when reality doesn’t conform to your fantasies.

The mullahs and Islamonazis have their own dysfunctional version of reality, while Chomsky and the left have another. In the end, one is no worse than the other, which is probably why they find such common ground in their opposition to liberal America.

In Chomsky’s religion, matter is God. A nuclear holocaust would be tragic because it would end “biology's only experiment with higher intelligence.” Turning the cosmos upside down, human intelligence is subordinate to biology. The human mind is simply an “experiment” of biology. Could this possibly be true? I don't know. You would have to ask biology. It’s her experiment, not ours.

Stripped of their illusions of divinity, humans are then free to be what they are, with their biology unbound:

Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, a universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey
And last eat himself up.
--Shakespeare

Osama lauds Chomsky, which is only fitting, since this nasty old leftist has long been one of the West's most visible apologists for the ravenous wolves of Islam -- just as he was unable to perceive the moral gulf that existed between America and the monsters of depravity who enslaved the communist world. He has to see things this way. It's his theology. Or biology. Same thing. Probably no coincidence that he was named after that talking monkey, Nim Chimpsky.

Friday, September 07, 2007

And the Cool Became Flesh, and Dwelt Among Us

Many people reject religion on the basis of a fundamental misunderstanding of it, which is easy to do, given the ucool way religion is depicted by its enemies in the liberal media and by our profane culture at large. If that were my only exposure to religion, I too would surely reject it. It took me many years to undo this pernicious influence, and even now I struggle with it from time to time. For example, believe it or not, I can still feel a slight hesitation in saying I am "religious" rather than "spiritual," or conservative as opposed to classical liberal.

I think one of the main reasons for this is that, just as, say, much of the Islamic world is a "shame culture," we in the United States have a "cool culture." To put it another way, we are terrified of appearing uncool. Uncoolness is a shameful state. There is no question that this is a powerful motivator. Indeed, many liberal stances can be comprehended on the basis that the adherent believes it would be uncool to believe otherwise. Gay marriage? Cool! The military? Uncool!! Environmentalism? Cool!!!

Back when I was a liberal, I basically adhered to the cool agenda. I thought the US and USSR were morally equivalent empires, that corporations were bad and greedy, that guns were evil, that capital punishment was murder, etc.

As far as I can tell, the coolness fetish began in the 1950s as an adolescent phenomenon, and then spread to the culture at large in the 1960s and '70s. By the time I was around ten or eleven years of age, I began to see that religion was very uncool and therefore to be rejected. The phenomenon of Christian rock is a very uncool attempt to make Christianity look cool. But Christianity is way cool already, if you know where to look.

A case in point is this editorial by Heather Mac Donald, a secular conservative woman who is very uncomfortable with what she perceives as the dominance of the conservative intellectual movement by the Christian right. You know, those uncool nerds like John Ashcroft:

“Upon leaving office in November 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft thanked his staff for keeping the country safe since 9/11. But the real credit, he added, belonged to God. Ultimately, it was God’s solicitude for America that had prevented another attack on the homeland.

“Many conservatives hear such statements with a soothing sense of approbation. But others -- count me among them -- feel bewilderment, among much else. If God deserves thanks for fending off assaults on the United States after 9/11, why is he not also responsible for allowing the 2001 hijackings to happen in the first place?"

Being detached, skeptical and ironic is the essence of cooless, so it is understandable that the above approach to religion doesn't pass the coolness test: “Skeptical conservatives -- one of the Right’s less celebrated subcultures -- are conservatives because of their skepticism, not in spite of it. They ground their ideas in rational thinking and (nonreligious) moral argument. And the conservative movement is crippling itself by leaning too heavily on religion to the exclusion of these temperamentally compatible allies.”

You can see this battle in miniature, say, in the difference between an uncool conservative such as Sam Brownback and a cool one such as Giuliani. Interestingly, the cool liberal media are convinced that conservatives are way too uncool to vote for a cool guy like Giuliani. But at the same time, liberals are about to reject a cool black guy and nominate one of the most frigidly uncool women you could imagine. Go figure.

MacDonald provides a worthy and thoughtful critique, not at all like the angry and unsophisticated atheists of the secular left. Still, it seems that her only exposure to religion has been to the kooky and/or superficial kind, but it should go without saying that kookiness and superficiality are most certainly the norm in virtually all human endeavors. One might just as well reject music on the basis of the aural droppings that deafecate from the radio these days.

LIke many reasonable people, MacDonald seems to have the greatest difficulty in reconciling an omnipotent God with the existence of evil. For example,

“The father of Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City girl abducted from her home in 2002, thanked God for answering the public’s prayers for her safe return.... But why did the prayers for five-year-old Samantha Runnion go unheeded when she was taken from her Southern California home in 2002 and later sexually assaulted and asphyxiated?”

But this simply highlights the incoherence of a particular religious view that reduces God to an omnipotent anthropomorphism. This is closer to the unsophisticated manner in which uncool Muslims view Allah, as “vertically” causing everything to happen on a moment by moment basis. I have heard many Christians of this temperament say words to the effect of “everything happens for a reason” -- i.e., God caused it -- which has never made any sense to me either. In my opinion, Mac Donald is correct to reject such an uncool view.

For my part, I am drawn to religion because it is a much deeper and more sophisticated metaphysic, and explains much more than any secular philosophy. It also illuminates cool dimensions of reality that will tend to go undetected or undeveloped in the absence of religion -- the holy, the sacred, the existence of grace, etc.

But the idea of an omnipotent personal God that answers to one’s beck and call seems to me fundamentally unchristian (and certainly un-vedantic). After all, in Christianity, God himself is crucified in history. What do you think that means, that God himself fully submits to history, to the relative, to the temporal, but is ultimately victorious over it? The whole point is that The Cool became uncool so that the uncool might become Cool.

As I have emphasized before, a merely mental understanding of God is entirely insufficient in my view. Anyone who reduces religion to a mere literalism has given the game away to the cool rationalism of the uncool ego.

In the past, I have attempted to discuss this dilemma in terms of the bi-modal logic of the mind. Our little surface ego moves and has its being in the bright and well-lit world of classical or Aristotelian logic. I will be the first to acknowledge that the world accessed by the ego represents a world. But by no means does it represent the world. Rather, the ego gives access to one plane of being. I won’t say it’s a low flying plane, because, as a psychologist, I am fully aware of how many people with weak and undeveloped egos fail to get off the ground due to various developmental issues and fixations. But it is an intermediate world, with degrees of being both above and below.

In the esoterist view, the planes above the ego are developmentally later but ontologically prior, and therefore more real. Every "below" in the cosmos is contained within a more expansive above, while, at the same time, the Absolute above is uncontainable and necessarily present “within” the below. To animals, the ego is clearly both “higher” and more inward. This is why dogs think humans are so cool.

But we must never forget that the epic story of cosmic evolution does not end with the ego’s exteriorization of its limited understanding -- its colonization of a small portion of consciousness. Think of the ego as analogous to a bright flood light in the dark. Wherever the light turns, there is an area of bright illumination. But we must not be fooled into believing that the foreground of illumination -- the little spot lit up by the ego -- is all there is to reality.

As Kant properly noted, the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies. This is what it means to be a fallen ego in a fallen world. The fall is both literal (i.e., vertical) and metaphorical.

With the scientific revolution in full force, Kant saw what was coming and was actually trying to rescue the cool realm of religion from the uncool predations of a cognitively greedy scientific rationalism. Since the ego ultimately has access only to its own phenomena, this left the infinitely greater reality of the noumenon untouched, unknown and unknowable. This is precisely where Kant erred, because in saying that the noumenon was unknowable, he essentially reduced religion to a mere uncool sentimental fideism. It would simply be a matter of time before it became wholly irrelevant to cool and "sophisticated” moderns.

Again, either religion embodies real knowledge that surpasses our egoic understanding, or it is simply an absurdity that is defiantly embraced by uncool people in the teeth of reason and logic. But if it does embody real knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? Is it mere information, occupying the same horizontal plane as factual scientific information, like saying “water freezes at 32 degrees and Jesus walked on it,” or “the ribs enclose the chest cavity and women are made of one”? In my way of looking at things, this is a gross confusion that simply invites cool people not to take religion seriously.

Let us imagine that the totality of reality constitutes a vast field of consciousness. In navigating its dimensions and coordinates, there are two principle dangers. One involves being shipwrecked on the rocks of a rational but fixed and “frozen” mental conception that ultimately forecloses spiritual evolution. The ego stakes out its little piece of territory. It knows what it knows, and that’s all it wants to know. The vast majority of cultural and religious beliefs are of this variety. Some belief systems stake out a slightly wider area, but each, to one degree or another, places an arbitrary boundary around reality.

The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey.

Religions are indeed fixed, and must be so. However, they are not fixed in order to reduce reality, but in order to navigate through it and ultimately to colonize more of it. They are not the destination, but the means of arriving there -- at one’s deustination.

Therefore, the question is not, strictly speaking, whether or not this or that dogma is true or false, in a narrow, purely egoic way. Dogma is critical for the same reason that a ship is -- not merely for the purpose of floating statically on the water, but moving through it.

As you x-seekers know, vaulting yourself off the virtual ramp of dogma and getting some sick air in hyperspace is very cool.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On Giving the Finger to Atheist Wonkers

Yesterday reader Magnus made an excellent point: "On the commute I read an article about the co-evolution of the dog. It seems man's best friend has lost a part of its brain that kept much of its wolf instincts. On the other hand [paw?], it has gained the ability to understand pointing. When we point at something, a fellow human automatically transfers its attention to the object we point to, rather than just staring at the hand. So does a dog with just a little training. Wolves do not, and neither do chimps or any other species known to man.

"I wonder if 'religiosity' is not something equivalent. We have gained an ability to understand God's pointing and this alone can replace a multitude of instincts that would be necessary if living apart from God.

"Imagine a dog trying to explain the concept of pointing to a wolf. The wolf would just look dumbly and say: 'It's a hand. No matter how it moves, it is still just a hand. Can we eat it already?'"

I replied that, in a way, the capacity to point and to understand pointing is everything, for it is what lifts us out of our engulfment in matter and imprisonment in the senses. It is the essence of Polanyi's philosophy, what he calls the distinction between subsidiary (the finger) and focal (the moon) knowledge. The obligatory atheist is essentially fixated on the finger while barking at the moon.

Continuing along the lines of yesterday's theme, how does one establish faith, anyway? For me, it really started not so much with me knowing, but knowing with increasing certainty that someone else knew. By immersing myself in that person's knowledge and reading their wrotetrails, I eventually came to assimilate a bit of personal knowledge, but that's another storey of a complex ediface.

When you think about it, most of our knowledge of reality ultimately falls into this category. For example, few of us really have much personal understanding of economics, so we put our faith in someone else who seems to know, and who appeals to our Reason. A leftist will put his faith in a Paul Krugman or Robert Reich, while I put my faith in Tom Sowell or Friedrich Hayek. Immediately you realize that many people who profess to know what they are talking about, really don’t -- not just the “followers” (necessarily) but the experts themselves.

Thus, despite my rudimentary knowledge of economics, if Tom Sowell is right, then I know much more about economics than Paul Krugman does. (Here I am using “know” in the naively old-fashioned way of connoting truth; we need a different word for all the untrue things that people, especially experts and wackademics such as Krugman, “know”... maybe the opposite of know, which is w-o-n-k... Krugman is not a knower, but a big wonker. But you knew that already.)

Given what I have outlined, if the Creator exists, then the most humble and unsophisticated churchgoer who has an intuitive acceptance and understanding of that to which faith points, knows infinitely more -- literally -- than a Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, to cite a couple of famous godless wonkers.

But atheism is an outrageously grandiose enterprise. One thing you notice immediately is the false humility of the atheist, who at once ridicules the notion that human beings are of any cosmic significance whatsoever, and then proceeds to confidently reveal the Ultimate Truth of existence to the rest of us. In my view, any being that may possess Ultimate Truth -- even if it is only to set Ultimate Limits on what the Mind may know, as does the atheist -- is pretty special. Such a being is most definitely “the center of the universe,” but only if we shift our perspective from a horizontal to a vertical view -- which is demanded by the atheist’s own metaphysic.

That is, if you begin with the premise that all is random and that everything is equally meaningless, then you truly have a horizontal cosmos with no possibility of rising above it and knowing any objective truth. Not only are human beings not the center in such a flatland cosmos, but there is no possibility of a center or of knowedge. Nothing points to anything else.

However, verticality implies hierarchy, origin, and increased centration as we ascend the scale. Imagine a pyramid, with each level representing a new degree of complexity and depth in the cosmos. On the bottom floor there is mere matter or energy. On top of that is a second floor, biology. Obviously biology is a narrower subset of matter, but it is not “off to the side” like a little growth, but right at the center -- if viewed vertically.

Likewise, human psychological and spiritual development represent increased degrees of both verticality and centration, which is why God is the only entity that can truly say “I AM” with a straight face. According to Rabbi Mo, we cannot see this face -- and therefore know I AM -- and live.

And this is why the key to spiritual growth -- and vision -- is to “die before you get old and die,” so Pete Towenshend was half right. In ether worlds, ego death -- or transcendence, if you prefer -- is the road to the toppermost of the poppermost of the universe, the center and Origin of existence, the mysterious within of withinness, the Truth of truth, the El Supremo at the Top of the Stairs, the Starman Waiting in the Sky, for all hierarchies are conditioned top to bottom, and there is no incomplete hierarchy.

Atheists are bothered by such ideas. Again, they do not merely reject metaphysics, they are hostile to it. An anonymous poster on Dr. Sanity confessed that “this is something which never ceases to bug me”:

“While it is true that this universe is indeed marvelous, beautiful, coherent and logical, vast and detailed, and so on, it is also very clear (or at least should be by now) that it's not set up for our benefit. Mankind is not the center of the universe. We're not it's focus. (Every time people stumble over this fact, they react in shock and indignation). It is not adapted to suit us. Rather, mankind is adapted to be able to survive in the universe.)”

I would respond: who says the universe is beautiful? Is that true? Why should a universe in which we are completely beside the point convey its beauty to us? In order for something to be beautiful or true, mustn’t there be a subject capable of knowing those things? In other words, the cosmos is neither true nor beautiful without a subject that may love beauty and know truth. If we are not the focus - -and therefore center -- of the world’s beauty and truth, what is? As Magnus suggested yesterday, the cosmos is always pointing at something else, and only humans are able to discern the direction and content of this pointing. For example, other animals merely see a world, not the beauty or truth that radiate through it.

It reminds me of what liberals say about Iraq having nothing to do with the war on global jihad. Oh really? Then why are terrorists from all over the world flocking there? You may not think it is the center of the war on Islamofascism, but Islamofascists certainly do.

Likewise, you may not think that human beings are the center of cosmic truth and beauty, but the cosmos clearly feels otherwise. You are the only way for the cosmos to say "I AM... and damn, I sure am beautiful. And dignified. And coherent" (and whatever other category you choose to add). Our ways of knowing the the cosmos are freakishly adapted to the way it is -- unlike other animals, who cannot escape their subjectivity and know objective truth about existence.

Another commenter on Dr. Sanity said that “My schema starts with the fact that the Universe -- a concept of the Everything, not just our little Steven Hawking, Big Bang Universe -- is infinite.”

Hold it right there, wonker. Your schema actually begins with the faith that there is a cosmos -- a strict totality of coherently interacting objects and events, despite the fact that you have never seen it -- and a mysterious ability to know the truth of this cosmic order, to have a tacit vision of where the cosmic finger is pointing.

As I have mentioned before, the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki pointed out that philosophers constantly get into trouble because they try to get to second base before they have gotten to first. As all baseball fans know, “you can’t steal first base.” But this is what philosophers habitually do.

Therefore, once this larcenous wonker has assumed first base, he proceeds to steal second and third: the cosmos “never ‘began’, and nothing can be ‘outside’ of it. So I consider the concept of the ‘Supernatural’ to be literal nonsense -- a connection of words which look sensible, but are not, unless the term refers to something actually going on within the Universe. Or unless it refers to the Universe itself.”

There you go. He has stolen home without ever having hit a real ball. He possesses Truth -- which is by definition supernatural -- without having to acknowledge that inconvenient fact. For every physicist worth his NaCl knows that nature herself is supernatural. Every great mathematician is a platonist, either explicitly or implicitly. This is the great truth disclosed by Gödel’s theorems, which demonstrate that any logical system can be either complete or consistent, but not both. But Gödel never intended for this fact to be used as a blunt instrument by deconstructionists to undermine the reality of truth. Rather, he was merely attempting to account for the obvious fact that human knowing vastly exceeds the limits of reason. Duh!

Most of the comments left by angry atheists yesterday (actually, it was now last year) on Dr. Sanity -- for example, those of the aptly named "Arational Human" -- were either logically self-refuting or were adequately addressed by other commenters. There was one other comment by Lionel, who wrote that,

“The concept of god is a grab bag of inconsistent floating abstractions that is intended to stop thought and rational discussion.... That is what I hate and will do whatever I can to undercut its existence. I hate it because its anti-mind, anti-reason, anti-human, and anti-life. Reason, reality, and logic are of prime importance to me. Emotion is simply the way we experience our values. God, being a nonexistent, has nothing to do with it one way or the other.”

If Lionel wishes to be logically consistent, then he must concede that his hatred of God is nothing more than “the way he experiences his values.” He claims to hate God because the concept is “anti-mind, anti-reason, anti-human, and anti-life.” In each case, his emotional rejection of God causes him to invert reality and to believe things that are patently illogical and untrue.

For reason is only a faculty of knowing something indirectly in the absence of direct vision, while God is known directly, the same way one knows one is alive, perceives reality, or is aware of free will. In order to see something, it is not necessary to logically prove the existence of sight. Many of the most important truths are known simply by their “superabundance of clarity,” by pure intellect, not by the reason which us its servant. Reason is not Intelligence in itself, only an instrument of intelligence. Few things create more mischief than reason in the hands of an unintelligent or immoral wonker.

Likewise, any form of pure rationalism is an attack on mind itself, because it reduces the cause -- intelligence -- to an effect -- reason. In the words of Schuon, rationalism is “perhaps the most intelligent way of being unintelligent.” For “Existence is a reality in some respects comparable to a living organism; it cannot with impunity be reduced, in man’s consciousness... to proportions that do violence to its nature; pulsations of the 'extra-rational' pass through it from every quarter. Now religion and all forms of supra-rational wisdom belong to this extra-rational order, the presence of which we observe around us, unless we are blinded by a mathematician’s prejudice; to attempt to treat existence as a purely arithmetical and physical reality is to falsify it in relation to ourselves and within ourselves, and in the end it is to blow it to pieces.”

Not for nothing did Richard Weaver say that “every attack upon religion is inevitably an attack upon mind.” Naturally there are many forms of stupid religion, for there is nothing touched by humans wonkers that cannot be made stupid. But at least religion as such does not exclude the possibility and priority of Intelligence, and therefore, Truth.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

100 Million Americans Living in Spiritual Poverty!

In an interview a couple of years ago, the impertinent Siggy asked the estimable Dr. Sanity if she was a believer, and her response was, “I guess I have to say that I’m an agnostic and don’t take a position on whether God exists or not. I am aware of a very strong emotional part of me that wants very much to believe in an all powerful and all good deity that cares about me and all of humanity. But I also a very strong scientific and rational part that demands objective evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being. These two parts of me exist in a sort of dynamic tension right now and I expect that some day I might find a way to integrate them. Or, maybe not.”

In a post last year, she wrote that this “dynamic tension remains and the struggle continues unabated. I don't seem to have progressed too far along in resolving that conflict, but I have progressed. And, it is reassuring to realize that Siggy is correct when he says, To struggle with faith is as much a part of faith as anything else."

I think that last statement is quite accurate, in the identical sense that one could say that “to struggle with knowledge is as much a part of truth as anything else,” or “to struggle with love is as much a part of relationships as anything else," or "to struggle with virtue is as much a part of being good as anything else." In each given case, the struggle is founded upon the faith that truth, love, or goodness exist, and that it is worthwhile to struggle toward them. I think we are simply built this way, in the same way that the flower is built to turn toward the sun. The flower never stops to think about whether it is worthwhile to do so, nor should we stop to wonder whether the True, Good and Beautiful exist. Just bend your will in their direction, and be nourished by their transparent light.

Humans, by definition, are fated to inhabit the vast middle realm between being and nothingness, the absolute and the relative, matter and spirit, time and eternity. The paradoxes of human existence are impossibly difficult if you give them even a moment’s reflection, but they all result from this I-AMbiguous in-between realm in which we pass our days. A human being is the only thing in the cosmos that is both a fact and a possibility -- even an infinite possibilty, more or less. But from here to there is a struggle.

Despite all of our scientific and technological advances over the past 300 years, I see no evidence that human beings are any happier than they have ever been. If anything, happiness might be even more elusive, because life is so much easier than it was for past generations. We expect things to go well and are devastated when tragedy and disappointment hit, which they inevitably do. To paraphrase or possibly plagiarize Theodore Dalyrmple -- and this is something no liberal understands -- Misery rises to the level of the means availible to alleviate it.

Repeat after me, lurking lefty: I am an unhappy person and there is nothing Mommy Government can do about it, because my misery will just rise to the level of Mommy's efforts to alleviate it. And soon my misery will sink even beneath that level because of my frustrated sense of infantile entitlement and my abiding belief that someone else should make my life pain-free. Amen.

No one in the past felt they were entitled to the things we take for granted -- health, plentiful food, absence of physical pain, a long life, thriving children, a foolproof plan, an airtight alibi, Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number, a Las Vegas wedding, a Mexican divorce... Thus, it was no doubt easier not to become overly attached to the temporary and transient. Death was a constant reminder of the fragility and fickleness of existence. (In fact, this proximity to death probably conributes to the fact that the Islamists are willing to die for their insane beliefs, while so much of the West cannot even muster the enthusiasm to defend its rare and precious civilization.)

Last week the census bureau informed us that there are 37 million Americans living in poverty. First of all, they're only talking about material poverty, not the millions of leftists who waste away in spiritual poverty, which is a far greater existential threat to the union. But even then, as Robert Rector explains,

"The typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR, or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians."

Furthermore, the majority of true poverty is behavioral and can be explained by two factors: "Their parents don’t work much, and their fathers are absent from the home.... Nearly two thirds of poor children reside in single-parent homes; each year, an additional 1.5 million children are born out of wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, nearly three quarters of the nation’s impoverished youth would immediately be lifted out of poverty."

But over the past 35 years, the left has done everything possible to trivialize and disincentivize marriage. In fact, it is in their interest to undermine marriage, because the disaster that results benefits them politically. Much of the Democrat base is composed of the victims they help create, such as single mothers and "helpless" blacks. "Although work and marriage are reliable ladders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid continue to reward idleness and penalize marriage. If welfare could be turned around to encourage work and marriage, the nation’s remaining poverty could be reduced."

A more realistically stoic attitude -- to put it mildly -- prevailed in the West through the great depression and World War II. For example, as recently as the 1970’s, inflation was completely misunderstood by economists, and therefore untamable. The “boom or bust” business cycle really only began to seriously flatten after the Reagan revolution, in that our inevitable recessions are far less severe than in the past. What was once a plague is now a common cold, and yet, leftist econmanists such as Paul Krugman are more hysterical than ever.

Similarly, I am blessed to have diabetes at a time when it is so easy to control it with different types of insulin and instantaneous digital readouts of my blood sugar, but my mother, just one generation before, had no such control, with devastating results. LIkewise, my father died at 58 of an abdominal aneurysm that is easily detectable today with a $35 exam at a health fair.

Given these profound existential changes, I think it is natural that westerners began to focus on this side of the “time-eternity” divide, and look for their spiritual sustenance in the things of the world, so to speak -- relationships, possessions, experiences. But does it work? I suppose for some. For others -- perhaps we’re just neurotic, I don’t know -- there is nothing in the field of time that will suffice or answer to this deeper call of the Spirit. It is a part of us that cries out for something that is not found in the objects of the world, and is only satisfied by one thing.

Is it real, this part of us that cries out for transcendence? I don’t know if that is the proper question. It’s somewhat analogous to falling in love and asking yourself if love is real or just an illusion, a trick of the nervous system. I’m imagining the Gagboy 10 or 20 years down the line, when he is at the peak of his enchantment with the opposite form of the complementary gender:

“I know it looks like women are attractive, but don’t be fooled. It’s just Darwin playing tricks on you, trying to get you to reproduce. In reality, woman aren’t attractive or unattractive. To the extent that you find them alluring, just remember that it’s just an illusion programmed into you by evolution. In short, I am only looking at this Victoria's Secret catalogue for its scientific value. Now run along and mind your own business.”

“Gee, thanks, gagDad!”

Isn’t this the same kind of “sophisticated” advice we might receive from the typical college professor regarding the spiritual dimension? “God? Nothing more than an illusion programmed into our nervous system. Just ignore it.” But doesn’t that just beg the question of whether everything is just an illusion built into our nervous system, including the statement that everything is? That way madness lies. But also tenure, so there are compensations.

If we consider religiosity on a continuum from extreme atheism on the left side (“zero”) to mystical union on the right (“one hundred”), let us suppose that Dr. Sanity is at 50. Well, probably more like 40. I myself started at closer to zero, or at least veered in that direction after an initial interest in Eastern religions prompted by the Beatles’ (especially George’s) adoption of yoga. But I became seriously interested in philosophy during my college years, and virtually all modern philosophy is essentially atheistic, whether existentialism, positivism, phenomenology, what have you.

Just recently I have begun to think of religiosity as simply “the right way to live,” so to speak. After all, these are traditions that somehow nourished the human soul for hundreds and thousands of years, almost as if we were made for them and they were made for us. Regardless of whether or not we may attribute these traditions to a creator, I find that there is a wisdom in authentic religion that far surpasses what any single mind could have come up with.

It’s a bit like marriage and the family. No one “invented” either, but for most people -- clearly not everyone, but for most -- it is simply the “right way” to live. Sure, you can experiment with other ways. Like Bill Maher, you can date porn stars, substitute dogs for children, and worship the earth, but is this really the way we’re built? Does he look happy or well adjusted to you?

I didn’t actually dive headlong into spirituality until 1995. In my case it was yoga, but once I did, the part of me that was hungering for transcendence all along began to “grow.” It reminds me of what they say about babies -- ”sleep begets sleep.” That is, if they nap more during the day, they sleep better at night. Likewise, faith begets faith. Just by taking that leap and living in the way humans have always lived, something automatic seems to kick in, an innate, uncreated wisdom.

I don’t mean to trivialize it, but it reminds me of sports. I think it has to do with the arrival of the Gagboy three seasons ago, but before that, I was an absolutely fanatical Dodger fan. To be honest, the spell started to be broken when they were purchased by Fox from the O’Malley family, but from the age of nine, I lived and died with each win or loss. I would listen to entire games on the radio even after the team had been mathematically eliminated from the pennant race, apparently hoping that they could somehow overcome the rules of arithmatic. And yet -- especially as an adult -- I would sometimes reflect on the absurdity of my devotion. As Seinfeld said, when it comes right down to it, since the players constantly change, you're essentially rooting for laundry. But was I any happier when I thought this way? No, not at all. In fact, it just spoiled the fun.

There’s an old saying in baseball: “Don’t think, you’ll hurt the ballclub.” I think most secular philosophy falls into this category. There are ways to think that will be metaphysically fruitful and add to your fulfillment, other essentially abcircular forms of thought that are spiritually barren and go from nowhere to nothing (and certainly won't help you hit a curveball). To be honest, they aren’t worthy of man, itself a statement that touches on the mystery of what man actually is.

The "good news" of religion is that the world is not a closed circle, that it is not an eternal prison, that it has an exit and an entrance.... "Perdition" is to be caught up in the eternal circulation of the world of the closed circle... [whereas] "salvation" is life in the world of the open circle, or spiral, where there is both exit and entrance. --Meditations on the Tarot