Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Ontological Divide Within the Liberal West (3.16.10)

Although my visiting father-in-law thinks he knows the reasons for his devout atheism, he has no idea that he is actually immersed in a discredited metaphysic that he simply "assumes," and therefore requires no defense. It's just "common sense." In his view, it is incumbent upon believers to prove to him the existence of God -- even though he is the one making the extraordinary claim, given the relatively tiny number of doctrinaire atheists who exist and who, for whatever reason, are unable to apprehend the spiritual dimension. The average person obviously doesn't have this difficulty, even if he cannot articulate why with reasons that could satisfy the pneumacognitive idiosyncracies of the atheist.

Polanyi felt that the contemporary madness of postmodernity began with the idea of a complete and perfect objectivism, which is supposed to be the ideal of science and of all reliable knowledge in general: "All personal and subjective elements came to be regarded as disturbances to the attainment of this perfect objectivity. Every effort therefore had to be made to eliminate them." It was as if Nature spoke directly and unamibuously to us, and that all we had to do was disinterestedly listen to her without any preconceptions.

This ideal, which may at times be appropriate for certain limited, very simple domains, eventually insinuated itself into most fields of knowledge. But this epistemological revolution had anthropological consequences, as it served to undermine traditional authority and create a kind of hyper-individualism operating outside the domain of any legitimate authority.

As Hoarhey mentioned in a comment yesterday, this irrational-rational revolt reached a kind of peak in the late 1960s. In other words, the "rational" rejection of religion in particular and tradition in general facilitated an absurd leap into what amounts to romantic irrationalism. Since there is no legitimate authority, each person become a law unto himself: do your own thing, and all that.

For example, marriage is better then living together? Prove it. A fetus is a human being? Prove it. Beethoven is better than rap? Prove it. Heterosexuality is preferable to homosexuality? Prove it. Men and women are fundamentally different? Prove it. One is obligated to tell the truth? Prove it. Etc., etc. In each case, the moral truth is accessible to human beings, but not through the application of mere reason.

This kind of nihilistic thought eventually overcame continental Europe (e.g., communism, fascism, nazism, deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.), but not the Anglo-American sphere, where there was "an alogical reluctance to pursue the accepted philosophic premises to their ultimate conclusions." In turn, this reluctance seemed to be rooted in "the distinctive religious character of Anglo-American liberalism" (or what is now confusingly called conservatism).

But on the Continent, there were no such restraints against unalloyed skepticism. Rather, "the movement there was antireligious from the start.... When a feudal society, dominated by religious authority, was attacked by radical skepticism, there emerged a liberalism unprotected by either a religious or civic tradition against destruction by a logical extension of the philosophic skepticism to which it owed its origin." In short, in old Europe, universal standards of reason could not be reconciled with their radical skepticism, whereas Anglo-American liberalism maintained a balance between reason and tradition.

This dichotomy is still present today in the vast differences between conservatism (i.e., real liberalism) and liberalism (i.e., illiberal leftism). Leftism continues to be riddled with contradictions that are rooted in its initial philosophical error. For example, one of their rock-bottom beliefs is that there is no rational or universal way to arbitrate between the values of one culture or nation and another. Therefore, it is wrong to stand in the way of any nation that wishes to realize its powers, say Iran. But when America exercises its power, there is universal condemnation from the left. How can this be?

Once again it has to do with the unhinged morality of the left. Being that their skepticism bars them from the spiritual dimension, they are unable to reliably distinguish between good and evil -- i.e., these are simply arbitrary categories. Reduced to flatland materialism, they instead divide the world into visible, empirical categories such as have and have-nots. As such, they conceive a material explanation onto which they graft their unhinged moral passion. They do the same thing with other material categories, such as race, gender and "sexual orientation." As such, all of the moral energy which, in a spiritually normal person, is reserved for distinguishing between good and evil, decent and indecent, is ruthlessly, even sadistically, applied to these meaningless substitute categories.

This explains the grotesque and perverse moral passion of the left, for example, the condemnation of the Duke lacrosse team by dozens of leftist professors who do not see good and evil, only "white and black" (and they still haven't apologized, since the "narrative" or template they imposed on the situation cannot be falsified). Likewise, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the left obviously cannot see the moral gulf between Israel and her barbarous enemies. Rather, they only see "whiteness and indigenous-ness," or something along those lines.

In old Europe, "the replacement of moral ideals by philosophically less vulnerable, because more basically animal, objectives was carried out in all seriousness. Human appetites and human passions were actually substituted for reason and for the ideals of man in this framework of thought." "Begun in the name of reason, they ended by reducing reason to a caricature of itself: to a mere rationalization of conclusions predetermined by desire and eventually to be secured and held by force.... If thought and reason are nothing by themselves, if they are only the effects of social causes, then it is meaningless to demand that they be set free."

Slavery is freedom, lies are truth, amorality is morality. Memo to old Europe: a civilization not in contact with the Real will eventually perish. As it should. To put it another way, dying on the vine is a possibility, but dying off of it is a certainty.

*All quotes taken from Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Minus Religion (-R) of the Left: Passion, Cynicism, and Moral Inversion

I don't know how I can top Dr. Sanity's post today on The Postmodern, "Present-Tense Culture", just as I don't know how I can come from behind and pull out the Best Religious Blog award (vote here). But we shall try.

Exactly how and why did we get to the pathological situation described by Dr. Sanity? Her diagnosis is accurate, but what is the exact mechanism of this spiritual disease of illiberal leftism?

The "present-tense culture" described by Dr. Sanity (and by Mark Steyn in the essay she cites) is surely one of the most prominent symptoms of the disease, for it represents the very opposite of the deep and perennial truths disclosed in the course of man's 40,000 year old sojourn from pre-human to nearly so. In reality, present-tense culture is already outmoded the instant it appears. Since it is "of the moment," the moment has already passed by the time this offal stuff reaches the consew(m)er -- that "muddy stream where only monsters can swim," as Alan Bloom wrote (quoted in the Steyn piece).

Not so when a genuine artist or intellectual is able to transmit a bit of the noetic light of the Real through sound or object. Exactly why is the wisdom of the Bible so much deeper than any silly atheist rant against it? Because, as Schuon explains, those who articulate the perennial philosophy, "even if they wrote two thousand years ago or lived at the utmost ends of the earth, always have the freshness and perfect 'timeliness' that comes from truth expressed with intelligence; real wisdom does not fade with age any more than does real art." But spiritually crimped and time-bound postmodern relativists abolish truth "in order to set in its place a blind and heavy" pseudo-reality that collapses and crushes the hierarchy of being under the dead weight of its existential blandfill.

Or as Steyn describes it, "A classical education considers society as a kind of iceberg, and teaches you the seven-eighths below the surface. Today, we live on the top eighth bobbing around in the flotsam and jetsam of the here and now. And, without the seven-eighths under the water, what’s left on the surface gets thinner and thinner."

So what is most "up to date" is already old and faded, while what is old and venerable, or Ancient of Days, is quite literally ever-new and, more importantly, ever-renewing, Rocky Mountan fresh from the spring. It is of coors "prior to thought, by the headwaters of the eternal, the fountain of innocence, the mind shoreless vast and still, absolved & absorbed in what is always the case, face to face in a sacred space," in Petey's psychobobbling glossolalia.

Back to our discussion of Polanyi, whom I believe nailed the causes of the problem. As we were discussing a couple of posts back, the materialist metaphysics of logical positivism -- even though such a philosophy is riddled with self-contradiction -- undermined any claim to an objective moral order. But the destruction of traditional moral ideals in no way abolishes the moral impulse, any more than the destruction of sexual mores eliminates the sexual impulse. Rather, it leaves the impulse there, but with no wisdom to guide or channel it. Thus, the radical secular modman is a dangerous combination of fanatical passion and hard-headed, biting cynicism, ahistorically focused like a laser on the now, which can never, ever, live up to his unhinged moral passion.

Steyn describes it perfectly: "By using the now-common relativistic formula, all individuals and thinkers in the past are ridiculed, demeaned, and scorned because they fail to live up to postmodern and politically correct standards of conduct. Thus, their ideas are considered meaningless and described as 'hypocritical' -- the absolutely worse possible sin from the leftist perspective."

That the Founding Fathers "could not entirely break out of the culture of their time, but still could push the envelope of civilization forward is irrelevant to the postmodern left. From the left's perch of moral superiority they blithely dismiss these 'white males' as hypocrites with no moral standing. Thus are the foundations and the generationally built constructs of civilization invalidated and destroyed....

"By disgarding reason and reality; by abandoning the past and embracing moral and cultural relativism, the left has brought us to this place where we are morally and physically paralyzed.... This is their quest. To establish themselves as the arbiters of moral behavior by behaving immorally; of being 'reality-based' without the necessity of having to acknowledge reality; of speaking 'truth' to power, without being capable of recognizing truth (isn't all truth relative, after all?)." (Please read the whole thing -- it is filled with similar gems.)

We have seen this pattern again and again since the French Revolution, and it never changes. Today we recognize it as the leftist assault on liberalism, but the deep structure is always the same, for it is also the now attacking the past, a false rationalism assaulting tradition, narrowly construed "facts" undermining wisdom, and ultimately the oedipal triumph of children abolishing parents. One of the lessons of history is that, in order for culture to function, children cannot succeed in their perennial effort to overturn the world of the parents. That the baby boomer generation was the first to accomplish this mission only explains everything about their politics, for it is nothing less than the impossible Triumph of Infantile Fantasy.

Again, the problem with the left is not its "immorality," but precisely its unhinged, out of control morality. There is no sanctimonious moral scold like leftist moral scold -- for example, you are the moral equivalent of Hitler if you don't believe in Al Gore's weather hysteria. Today at American Thinker there is an excellent article on how the left has used the bogus issue of torture as a platform for their insane moralizing. And because of their insanity, they have defined torture down -- tortured its definition, as it were -- so that they could use it as a bludgeon to sadistically attack the country they despise so much.

By redefining torture, the left is able to disable its own collective superego, which would normally prevent the naked expression of their death wishes. But if you brand something evil -- even if it is not -- you can essentially express your most base impulses with moral impunity. And of course, part of the unconscious game is to project this into conservatives, as if they are the violent ones. The left does the same thing by defining down rape, racism, "homophobia," anti-Semitism, etc. Do you see how it works? A couple of weeks ago Ann Coulter was a victim of the leftist hate machine for simply echoing Christian doctrine. They falsely labeled her an "anti-Semite," which then sanctioned -- literally -- the same moral outrage that would normally be reserved for an Adolf Hitler. Of course, they did the same thing to the Dartmouth lacrosse team and to Rush Limbaugh with the phony "phony soldier" controversy. Truly, it happens every day.

And "sadism" is the precisely correct word, for it represents the opposite of sublimation, which is the transformation of a lower impulse into something socially beneficial. In Polanyi's analysis, the left systematically engages in the opposite, or what he called moral inversion, "a condition in which the passions for high moral purposes operate only as the hidden force of an openly declared inhumanity."

In other words, the "passion for high moral purposes" is necessarily hidden by the leftist from himself, who would otherwise regard himself as a hypocrite for holding such sentimental and unprovable ideals -- no better then the religious person he despises! So the leftist is barred from ever examining the source of his own moral passions, allowing them to perpetually operate in the dark. This explains so much -- including why left wing talk radio is so boring, not to mention unsuccessful (since they cannot give reasons for their irrational convictions, and thus appeal to the mind), why they do not learn (since they are always in the now and under influences unknown to them), and why they never need apologize (since they are by definition operating out of their intrinsically superior morality that is guided by unexamined good intentions, which are by definition good).

This means that leftists can never be bad, no matter how much untold damage they cause. They always mean well. And they can never recognize the actual Good, since it can never live up to their unhinged and unexamined moral fantasies of the way things ought to be.

So, what is the specific source of the left's moral passion? Polany felt that it originated with Christianity, which introduced an entirely new kind of morality into the world at large. I don't have time to do justice to the subtlety of his argument here, but if you take the deep moral passion generated by Christianity -- for example, for justice, equality, fraternity, liberty, etc. -- and remove the Christianity, you're going to have problems. Essentially it is the problem that Voegelin called immamentizing the eshchaton, which is a fancy way of saying tyranically imposing the vertical on the horizontal, thereby destroying both. This happened all over Europe in the 20th century, causing millions upon millions of deaths.

As Polanyi described it, "Since no society can live up to Christian percepts, any society professing Christian percepts must be afflicted by an internal contradiction, and when the tension is released by rebellion its agents must tend to establish a nihilistic Messianic rule.... It can then only hold on by proclaiming itself to be the absolute good: a Second Coming greater than the first and placed therefore beyond good and evil. We see arising the 'amoral superman'" (or woman, as the case may be; click to enlarge).

It would undoubtedly surprise the proudly infrahuman, anti-Christian rabble of dailykos that they are actually messianic Christians, but there you go. They fall into the category of (-R), of fanatical Christianity with the Christianity removed. It is the subject of another debate whether our Islamist enemies are Muslims with the Islam removed or reinserted.

To be continued....

MEMO -- We're now mischieviously sneaking toward second place. Victory is achievable, but it will require a two-day surge with more paws on the ground, so get out and vote. The comedic possibilities of a Raccoon winning this contest are truly Infinite.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Big Coonversion, Week II: Between Two Worlds (by Leslie)

I went to church again today. This time it was just me and Tristan. Last week felt like a holiday. Today, I feel like I am following through on my commitment. It's always more of an effort to go somewhere with Tristan. I have to be ready to leave at a moment's notice, for one thing. I have to pack snacks, a few small toys, and diapers. And I have to be able to handle whatever he throws at me... going limp in the parking lot instead of walking holding my hand, throwing a toy at another child during services, or screaming at the top of his lungs about whatever is on his mind. Once again, my experience with yoga and meditation comes in handy. I'm much more able to be in the moment, detach from my preferences, and be thankful for any blessings that appear suddenly, like a smile from Tristan that lights up the place during the closing song.

I'm surprised that I feel so committed to becoming Catholic. It is a relatively new concept. Bob gave me quite the scare last night, though! There was a moment where I thought he was hinting that I had moved too quickly to settle on Our Lady of Malibu as our family church. To me, Bob is the spiritual head of the household, so this would have been a big problem, especially since I've now dedicated myself to convert to Catholicism. Thankfully, he was only commenting on the gap between the ideal experience of faith and the reality of an actual church attended by humans. I feel pretty resolved about that now that I've made the commitment to OLM, but it was a big issue for me when I was casting around, wondering where we'd land.

Since I'm more involved in schlepping Tristan around and getting out among the people, I ended up choosing the specific church after Bob commented that Catholicism might work for us. Bob and I balance each other out really well and always have. I get an idea and obsess about it, do a ton of research and then jump in. Bob waits til he sees clearly what to do and then it seems like he knew what to do all along. So there have been a few occasions in our 23 years together where he made an innocent remark and the next thing he knew, I had taken it to its "logical" extreme.

One other thing that's been on my mind this week. It's an interesting spot, being between two faiths. I've been practicing yoga for 12 years now and often wear an "OM" necklace that Bob got me. If I'm in a tight spot, I immediately say a mantra that I've used for many years -- "Om Sri Aurobindo Mother." I thank the Mother and bow my head when I look at Sri Aurobindo's photograph many times each day. I don't feel conflicted, at least not yet, but I have stopped wearing the "OM" necklace for the moment and asked Bob to get me a cross for Christmas. (Can you wear a cross before you fully are converted... like an engagement ring?) And I guess I'll make the sign of the cross at some point. These are little things but I realize they're important. I'm surprised I don't feel more self-conscious, actually.

I don't think it's right to blend all monotheistic religions together and say that it doesn't matter if I address Sri Aurobindo, Krishna, or Jesus. I don't believe they're one and the same, but I don't know exactly how this all fits together. I will ask Bob what he thinks and contemplate that. And I'll pray for answers... and see who answers.

Any and all comments are welcome!

Leslie

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Probing the Vertical Unknown of the Expanding Cosmos

First of all, don't forget to vote for One Cosmos for Best Religious Blog right here. Remember, cheating is mandatory, since you can vote every 24 hours until November 7. We got a bit of a late start and missed two days of voting, so stand up for our kind and strike a blow against the Normals!

Well, here I am again, blogging on the weekend. I've got a lot of thoughts running around my head, and it feels like if I don't get them out, they'll either get backed up or off-loaded to make room for fresh ones. Then they go back into general circulation in the pneumatosphere, where one of my competitors for Best Religious Blog might steal them, and this mission is too important for me to allow them to jeopardize it. I know Dave and Frank are planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen. Although they took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing them, Petey can see their lips move.

Anyway. This new book I'm reading about Polanyi discusses ideas with which I'm already familiar, but looks at them from a slightly different angle, so it's quite stimulating. You might have noticed -- especially with particularly deep truths -- that you have to keep learning them over and over, partly because they have so many ramifications, but also because of the human tendency to "overrun" the truth even after we've stumbled into it. In addition, Polanyi, like Bion, is very "unsaturated," so that his ideas provoke or stimulate more than they indoctrinate; in fact, I always try to accomplice the same climb with my writing.

This idea actually goes to the very heart of Polanyi's critique of positivism in particular and of scientism in general, something I'll be discussing in more detail in subsequent posts. That is, he did not regard scientific theories as objectively true; but nor are they merely subjective. This represents a false dichotomy. In actuality, subjective and objective are complementary and operate in a dialectic fashion to extend the human mind into the unknown, thus expanding the interior (and therefore exterior) horizon of the cosmos.

That might sound overly abstract, but it's not. Polanyi compared scientific theories to the cane of a blind man. Imagine if you suddenly lost your sight and had to explore your surroundings with a cane. At first you would be very aware of the sensations of the cane in your hand. In a sense, your world would be very "cramped" and up close. But with time, the cane would begin to be an extension of your hand, so that you could "feel" things beyond your hand by essentially ignoring it.

In other words, if you focus on the hand, you specifically lose "sight" of what the cane is touching. Eventually the hand's "touch" would extend as far as the cane. Polanyi called the "hand knowledge" tacit and the "cane knowledge" focal. He also called it from ---> to knowledge; however, he felt that all meaningful knowledge shared this from ---> to structure. It doesn't mean that the knowledge isn't "real." But there is no way to conceptualize it in the absence of an active subject who evolves by converting more and more focal (to) kowledge into tacit (from) knowledge, thereby expanding the space in which he lives. For example, various scientific canes have allowed us to "see" all the way back to the origins of the cosmos, just as psychoanalytic canes allow us to peer into the unconscious.

(Interestingly, the latest scientific theories expand the cosmos "without limits," into a false infinite, in that it literally cannot be conceived; one of the purposes of religion is to provide a limit with which to think about the infinite and the eternal, and without which there can be no ultimate meaning.)

Can you see how this works? I'm not sure if I'm being clear. I am certain that all of my readers are experts at something. As such, you might remember what it was like before you knew anything about your area of expertise. As your expertise has grown, you have internalized more and more tacit knowledge which you no longer have to even think about -- indeed, might not even be able to explicitly think about anymore. For the true expert, most of his knowledge has become tacit and no longer capable of being made wholly explicit. It reminds me of something Yogi Berra said about hitting a baseball: You can't think and hit at the same time.

The difference between a good teacher and a bad one is often the ability to remember what it was like to not possess the tacit knowledge that constitutes your expertise. In short, even more important than being smart, you have to remember what it was like to be so stupid. This, of course, is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to argue with leftists, since Raccoon elders no longer remember what it was like to be so stupid. And if we do remember, it generally makes us cringe, so we don't really like to go there.

Now, there is a vertical reality just as there is a horizontal one. Obviously. And just as -- by the way, this is my idea, not Polanyi's -- just as scientific theories extend our cane into the horizontal unknown, religion is here to extend our cane into -- you guessed it -- the vertical.

I'm already sidetracked, and this is such a rich subject that it would be worthy of a month of posts, but take the example of Torah study. The Torah is considered the timeless "vertical blueprint," so to speak, of vertical reality. And if you read the words of a great rabbi -- say, Abraham Heschel or Adin Steinsaltz -- you can readily see that their greatness lies in their ability to employ Torah as a cane with which to probe the Divine interior. Either you "get" this or you don't. But if you don't get it, you are "vertically illiterate" in the same way that someone with no knowledge of math is "horizontally illiterate." This is what an atheist is: a verticilliterate, nothing more, nothing less. But so too is the "fundamentalist" who gazes at the cane but not that to which it points.

So real knowledge can only point, not "contain" -- but it can point further and further, without ever arriving at its deustination. Again, there is no word that is identical to what it designates. Thank God! For the space between words and what they designate is the evolving transitional space inhabited by human beings. When a word loses its "carrying capacity" and becomes overly saturated, language -- and therefore, reality -- can no longer evolve. This problem can afflict religion no less than science.

For example, there was a time when science became overly saturated with the mechanistic model. By the early 20th century, scientists were "trapped," so to speak, within this mechanical, deterministic world. It took that great unKnower, Einstein, to probe beyond the finite machine world into the infinite sea of energy that underlie it. Even so, many westerners are still ghosts in the machine, not realizing that they have been set free and that the spiritual limits that constrain them are entirely self-imposed.

I keep some of my favorite "vertical probes" in the sidebar of foundational raccoomendations, such as Meditations on the Tarot, or Schuon's various works. The author of Meditations will show you how to use scripture to think vertically; if you meditate along with him, you will be vaulted into a vertical world that is every bit as real -- more so, actually -- than the bizarre and literally unimaginable world of quantum physics.

Likewise, I find that Schuon is the vertical pneumographer par excellence. Sometimes his writing is so clear it is unclear, being that it is the purest essence of pure vertical thought. For rank and file humans, it is generally necessary to have this essence clothed in something more recognizable, such as scripture, myth, or art, especially since God wishes to be known by all men, not just metaphysicians. But scripture is equally adequate -- to say the least -- in disclosing the vertical, especially for those of an essentially bhakti, or devotional, temperament. But for those of a more jnani temperament, knowing the Real also requires a kind of head-in-heartfelt devotion that easily provokes feelings of awe, wonder, and gratitude.

O, we forever thank you for your vertical I-amissaries and alluminated mannascrypts, without which we would be schmendwrecked and moroned with the verticilliterates & other unfundies!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cosmopathology and the Descent of the Left (3.15.10)

Yes, yes, I realize that some people don't like it when I write about politics, and that my political philosophy condemns me to alienation from what would superficially appear to be my key demongraphic, Brother Deepak's Spiral Dynamic New Age Traveling Salvation Show. But these ideas are absolutely critical to the evolutionary health and well being of the cosmos, and follow quite naturally from the nonlocal principles that (vertically) structure reality.

As we have discussed before, leftism is by definition a perpetual rebellion against these principles -- against the Real. Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often rooted in a psychological one. It amounts to a sort of nihiljerk paranoia toward reality -- a cynical and worldly suspiciousness -- that excludes any real explanations, "since these in their turn fall under the same law of suspicion, which drags everything down and which is the end of truth" (Schuon). Sophisticated secular man proudly avoids falling for anything and thus triumphantly plunges into nothing, the only alternative. Detached from the Real, he either drifts or bolts from it 32 feet per second per second.

Continuing with our discussion of Michael Polanyi, one puzzling thing he noticed -- discussed a few days ago in this post -- was that intellectuals were not only responsible (obviously) for the most destructive ideas and ruthless political movements of the 20th century, but that they embraced them despite the fact that these ideas, if implemented, would spell the end of the intellectual class. That is, they undermine the very liberal ideal of freedom of inquiry guided by the pursuit of truth.

Prosch writes that "It was the intellectuals of [the last] century themselves who played the largest part in destroying those very things that they needed and that were already theirs. Such operative perversity as this must lead one to suspect the operator's mental health, a mind blind to that which it wants and needs." Indeed, a mind which "proceeds on a path toward its own destruction, may surely be suspected of suffering from obsessions that are pushing it to such nonadaptive behavior."

As we shall see, Polanyi's analysis explains why the cognitive and spiritual pathology of political correctness emanates from the left, and could only emanate from the left, despite the fact that it makes a farce of their vaunted ideal of "academic freedom." And it is the very definition of pathology, since it causes great damage to the mind and soul of the person afflicted with it. And once the pathology has taken over whole institutions -- i.e., leftist academia, the MSM -- it becomes a truly dangerous pathogen that systematically infects those who pass through its environment (again, unless they have a very robust spiritual immune system rooted in the Real).

We see the same thing occurring with Islamic fascism, which is not -- as leftists cluelessly, but necessarily, believe -- a result of poverty, but of affluence. It is rooted in the ideas of intellectuals, who then -- just as leftists do in the west -- try to demagogically propagate these ideas to the ignorant masses to explain their misery. The only thing that has kept America (its better half, anyway) immune from this process is its strong foundation in an alternative metaphysic, which we call the Judeo-Christian tradition. Likewise, the reason why continental Europe fell to the viral song of leftism is that it had already gravely weakened its own natural defense mechanism to it.

The book I'm reading on Polanyi has an interesting explanation for this, and it makes a great deal of sense to me. That is, in continental Europe, their political liberation was inseparable from their religious liberation, i.e., from the Catholic church. However, in Protestant England and America, the break from religious tyranny had already been effected, so that political liberation was not conflated with a rebellion against God. Thus, the Founders were able to formulate the ideal of separation of church and state, not for the purpose of ending religion's influence, but strengthening it.

Conversely, in Europe, their separation of the two spheres inevitably led to the destruction of religion and the deification of the state. No properly religious person could ever deify the state, which is why leftism is excluded for the spiritually attuned but just about mandatory for the spiritually blind (objectivists and contemporary libertarians represent insignificant and ultimately self-refuting exceptions to this rule).

Being a scientist, Polanyi noticed a connection between the ideals of logical positivism and the nihilism of the left. Even today, despite the fact that positivism has been thoroughly discredited, it remains a kind of tacit metaphysic for both scientists and for much of the educated public. In other words, there is a widespread assumption that "only scienctific theories [are] capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles [are] essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference." But Polanyi saw that there was a deep relationship between the very possibility of science and certain metaphysical ideals and principles "that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." And just because the ideals which underlie science could not be proved, it hardly meant that they were unworthy of belief.

This tacit acceptance of positivism ramifies in interesting ways. On the one hand, there is the scientific worker bee who supposedly only believes what his experimental data tell him. But this is indeed a cold, dead, airless, and ultimately infrahuman spiritual environment into which the passion for nihilism rushes to fill the void. In this regard, it seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, and therefore filled it with a void -- the nihilistic void of the secular left.

Now it is surely noteworthy that the only organized opposition to liberty comes from intellectuals, who supposedly hold their own liberty -- i.e., "academic freedom" -- to be sacred. How could someone who would instinctively rebel at the idea of centralized "planned culture," embrace the idea of a centralized, planned economy?

Good question!

As Prosch writes, "much of the dissatisfaction with the present order of the economy came from intellectuals, from people not under these immediate threats and whose professional life would derive little benefit from scrapping the system. Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy." And a planned economy eventually entails a planned culture, something which is quite evident. That is, the more left the country, the more laws must exist to constrain and control the people, exterior laws which displace the interior law written in the heart of man.

Yes, but what are the exact dynamics of this irrational leftist nihilism, and what caused it to reject the liberal foundations of the Christian West?

That's enough for today. Next post.

Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a collectivity.. --F. Schuon

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pathological Science and the Crisis of Modernity (3.14.10)

Excellent rant over at American Thinker on Global Warming as Pathological Science. It's not just about global warming, but about the hijacking of science for political ends, almost always leftist ones.

Which is why it is so incredibly moironic that the left are always so hysterical about a few Christians who believe the universe was created in 144 hours 6000 years ago, when they themselves are responsible for almost all of the wholesale misappropriation of science for magical ends, global warming just being the most visible example. Ultimately, depending upon which way you look at the evidence, science can either support or not support the existence of a Creator. But either way, it has no effect on the actual conduct of science, so long as it is guided by one question: what is true?

I'm sure there are exceptions, but I know of no believer who doesn't believe that God, by definition, wishes for us to know the Truth about reality. Indeed, if God did not exist, then neither could Truth. It's ridiculous to have to even to say this, for a God who wanted to hide the epistemological ball from us would hardly be a God worth paying attention to. It's why we know that this surly and controlling Allah fellow -- at least as widely understood in the contemporary Islamic world -- cannot possibly be "God." I am told that God desperately wishes to be known, and that all these misunderstandings, misquotations, and misapprehensions drive him a little nuts.

All of these problems with the left hijacking science were recognized by my favorite philosopher, Michael Polanyi, as early as the mid-1940s. I just started reading another book on him yesterday, and so far it is the best introduction I've found. I can't give it an unqualified endorsement until I finish it, but if it keeps up this pace, it will definitely be a foundational raccoomendation.

The question is, why is pathological science not only inevitable on the left, but intrinsic to it? The short and cryptic answer is that leftism itself is essentially a minus religion (-R) deeply rooted in minus knowledge (-K) about a reality that doesn't ultimately exist, ø. Allow me to explain.

In a minute. But let me first cite some examples from Lewis' article at American Thinker. He writes that "When the scientific establishment starts to peddle fraud, we get corrupt science. The Boomer Left came to power in the 1970s harboring a real hatred toward science. They called it 'post-modernism,' and 'deconstructionism' -- and we saw all kinds of damage as a result," including systematic nonsense about the dangers of heterosexual AIDS, DDT, and Mad Cow Disease, lies about civilian casualties in Iraq, and destructive theories about whole-word reading, to which I might add outrageous lies about the reality of sexual differences, about the damaging psychological effects of daycare, about the importance of fatherhood, and about the causes of homosexuality. Lewis writes that

"Modern science fraud seems to come from the Left, which makes it especially weird because the Left claims to be all in favor of science. Marxism itself was a scientific fraud, of course. In 1848 Marx and Engels claimed to have a 'scientific' theory of history. They predicted that communism would first arise in England, because it was the most advanced capitalist nation. (Not.) They predicted that centralized planning would work. (Not.) They predicted that the peasants and workers would dedicate their lives to the Socialist State, and stop caring about themselves and their families. (Not.) They predicted that sovietization would lead to greater economic performance. (Not.) And then, when seventy years of Soviet, Chinese, Eastern European, and North Korean history showed Marx's predictions to be wrong, wrong and wrong again, they still claimed to be 'scientific.' That's pathological science -- fraud masquerading as science."

As alluded to above, Polanyi noticed all of this going on by the mid-1940s, and was puzzled by it. Perhaps it should be noted that he had a rather unique resume, in that he started out as a medical doctor but later became a professor of physical chemistry, with many important papers to his credit. His last scientific paper appeared in 1949, but he had already begun dabbling in philosophy by the mid-1930s, mostly in what we would now call economics (being Austro-Hungarian, he was very influenced by luminaries such as Hayek and von Mises, and early on formed a deep understanding of the critical importance of liberty to both science and economic development -- he is a classical liberal par excellence).

Polanyi didn't turn full time to philosophy until the 1950s, and his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, wasn't published until 1958, by which time he was already 67 years of age. I must have discovered him in the early 1980s, and agree with Prosch's assessment that

"no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities [emphasis mine]; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant [so much for being 'a little bit pregnant' -- GB] suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties." Although his writings are free of any overt religiosity, I find that they most adequately support my view of a universe that is both absolute and evolving, as it must be; or evolving toward an Absolute that is orthoparadoxically both its origin and its destiny, alpha and omega (more on which below).

The important point is that I believe Polanyi provides the best framework for an enthusiastic and unambiguous embrace of both science and traditional religion -- which is why the essence or O-sense of Coonism is what we might call "Integral Neo-Traditionalism," or something along those lines. In turn, you might say that Polanyi is the unfortunate philosophical "wedge" between me and Schuon, who had no use whatsoever for modernity. In my view, Polanyi saves modernity from itself -- hence the subtitle of his book, Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy. To put it another way, Schuon felt there as no way out of our modern mess but back -- i.e., pure traditionalism -- whereas I believe Polanyi shows us the way forward, out of the darkness of postmodernity -- but not if we abandon tradition.

Perhaps it was because of his medical training that Polanyi began with a diagnosis of the modern world, which he regarded as more or less psycho-spiritually sick. Now, in my view, it has always been sick, consistent with our primordial calamity back in the archetypal garden. But Polanyi noticed that the world seemed to be sick in new and unprecedented ways. Indeed, this is probably among the first things that crosses one's mind as one is fleeing the coming European apocalypse in the 1930s, "matchbox holding my clothes," as Ringo sang (a "matchbox" is an improvised suitcase made of cardboard, favored by blues musicians who must "grab the first thing smokin'," probably because of a jealous husband on their trail).

One thing Polanyi noticed is that modern man tends to externalize the source of his own illness, which is, of course, a specialty of the left. Dennis Prager has mentioned that perhaps the greatest divide between left and right is found in the religious education he received as a child. As a result of it, he internalized the message that, to the extent that he has problems in life, they are overwhelmingly self-generated.

Speaking of blues, notice the wisdom embodied in these lines, as compared to those of modern sociopaths such as Sharpton & Jackson:

Mother, she taught me how to read
Mother, she taught me how to read
If I don't read my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but mine

I have a Bible in my home
I have a Bible in my home
If I don't read my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but mine

Now the gift-curse of self-blame may not be widely available in the non-Western, non-liberal world, but it is surely available here in the modern West, where it is a great thing to be able to proclaim, "my life is f*cked up and ain't nobody's fault but mine" -- something which a leftist can never, ever say. But statistics bear out this truth again and again, that in America, you are free to succeed or fail, based upon your beliefs and concrete behaviors. It is what makes us great.

The left reverses this great truth and disempowers its victims by teaching that your problems are not your responsibility. Rather, you've been screwed! It's a conspiracy! The cards are stacked against you, the dice are loaded, and it's not your fault! The left will cite different reasons for your failure, based upon the political needs of the day, but the main point is that you are a victim and that its not your fault. As such, this represents an overturning of the principial order of the cosmos, the sanctioning of soul-corroding envy, and the denial of liberty. Mankind isn't fallen at all. That's just religious dopium to keep you down! No, earthly perfection is possible if we just eliminate freedom and impose our leftist agenda!

Well, this little prelude has gone on longer than I had anticipated. To be continued....

Nobody's fault but Bush
Nobody's fault but Bush
If I don't read my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but Bush
--lyrics by Blind Lemon Sharpton

*****
In America, the son of a retail clerk can grow up to be Ricky Bobby:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How Thoughtless of Me!

Not much time. Picking up where we left off yesterday, Schuon was explaining the difference between thought and intellection, or what I symbolize in the new testavus for the rest of us as (k) and (n). I employed these "empty categories" so that they might attract meaning based upon personal experience, since a word such as "thinking" is so saturated with meaning that people imagine they know what it is just because they have a word for it. But they don't know what thinking is, nor what thinking about thinking is, let alone thinking the unThinkable.

Even worse, people who think they know what thinking is, also assume it is identical to intellection, since they don't even allow for the latter anyway. This is why, when atheists talk about "God," they are actually talking in their own private language about nothing. Yes, it is nonsense, but give them credit: it is strict nonsense.

As we have said many times (that's the royal pain-in-the-ass "we," meaning Petey), there is no problem with reason so long as it is limited to its own domain. But the problem with all forms of "terminal rationalism" is that they illogically foreclose any reality that transcends mere reason. As Schuon explains, rationalism "seeks the culminating point of the cognitive process on its own level," which is ultimately as illogical as searching "for a word that is entirely what it designates."

Here again, we see the problem between the abstract and the concrete, as if abstract words could ever completely exhaust the concrete without remainder. But thinking is like pi in sky, which goes on forever. Or as Jethro Bodine once said, "Pi are round. Cornbread are square."

So in order to "think the unthinkable," so to speak, we require "mental forms fitted to serve as vehicles for intellectual intuition and therefore truth," since "poorly posed questions no more attract the light than they are derived from it" (Schuon).

Now, Truth in itself is inexhaustible, and no mental formulation could ever "contain" it. However, there are metaphysical formulations rooted in revelation that can adequately do so, and that is all we need or ask: O Petey, the merciful, the compassionate, but more often severe, please feel free to throw us a bone down here in 4D so that we might catch a glimpse of hyperspace, okay?

Forget Petey, let's ask Schuon. First of all, this blog is essentially about intellection, not thinking. Therefore, when a thinker comes along to try to start an argument, there's not much to say except "woof." And Dupree says "woof" to drive home the idea that human thought is to animal thought as intellection is to thought. It's no use to get into a... a thought fight with a thinker, because you're both going to end up covered in thought, the only difference being that the thinker will enjoy it. Look, I didn't make up the rules here: Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine.

If truth exists, we are obliged to believe it, no? But there is no secular philosophy that can account for truth in a way that isn't ultimately circular, nor can it provide any reason why one should believe it, since rationalism can never legitimately get from the is to the ought. At the very least, as Schuon writes, no philosophy engenders sanctity, except for the false sanctity of the secular politically correct. Which admittedly is a lot of false sanctity, thus demonstrating once again the destruction wrought by leftist religious fanatics in the absence of religion.

In fact, we could probably use a new symbol to describe this phenomenon, (-R) (negative religion), or perhaps (-n), which would refer to all the false mysticism (e.g., environmental mysteria) that permeates leftist thought (and which is so well explained by the philosopher Eric Voegelin... well, maybe not so well by him, since he was pretty obscure. But this book does a good job of translating his ideas into plain english).

One of the major differences between (k) and (n) is that the former is static while the latter is transformative, altering the being of person who internalizes it. This is not to criticize (k), as it obviously has its place, even a vital one. Our Islamic enemies, for example, parasitize our Western (k) in the service of their insane (-n), the latter of which creates a context that prevents the independent acquisition of (k) to begin with. Which is why the Islamic world produces nothing but misery, poverty, and stupidity.

Well, I'd better go get my bloodwork done, since I'm fasting. To be continued. But I do wonder how Islamists can use and covet so much (k) discovered by Jews, such as nuclear physics, just as I wonder how leftists can respect a constitution written by Christian men and embodying so much (n). Then again, one way to reduce the Constitution from (n) to (k) is to appoint elitist, activist judges who know better than the rest of us.

*****

Adam! Where are you?!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Between Thought and Reality

It is as though true ideas took their revenge on on anyone who limits himself to thinking about them. --F. Schuon

Gumshoe alerted us to this piece by the great Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal, in which he takes aim at the popular middle-to-lowbrow atheistic tracts flooding the marketplace. While some are more crude than others, the loathsome Sam Harris is definitely pulling up the bottom. I use the word "loathsome" advisedly, but if Dalrymple has reported his words accurately, then Harris has a mind as coarse and barbaric as any genocidal imam that he criticizes. Which makes sense, in that "extremes meet."

Dalrymple writes that "it is not easy to do justice to the book’s nastiness," and about the most charitable thing he can say about Harris is that he combines "sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruple" with "adolescent shrillness and intolerance" -- which he can always use as a letter of recommendation to the New York Times editorial board.

Dalrymple cites a passage that is "quite possibly the most disgraceful that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist." In that passage, Harris expresses the opinion that “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”

Yes, ho hum, just an ordinary fact: it's ethical to murder people for their religious beliefs.

As I've said before, nothing as ugly as atheism could possibly be true (and I'm not suggesting that all atheists are as deranged as Harris; many are fine people). Even though he's not a believer, Dalrymple says what amounts to the same thing about the relationship between beauty and truth:

"I recently had occasion to compare the writings of the neo-atheists with those of Anglican divines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.... In my own neo-atheist days, I would have scorned these works as pertaining to a nonexistent entity and containing nothing of value. I would have considered the authors deluded men, who probably sought to delude others for reasons that Marx might have enumerated." But in looking into these religious writings, "I found myself moved: much more moved, it goes without saying, than by any of the books of the new atheists."

Too bad for Dalrymple, as he is probably a case of someone being so intelligent, that his intelligence nearly ruined him. Indeed, his hyper-developed rational intelligence -- like the cherubim who guard the way back to Eden -- is probably what keeps him from taking the next leap of faith into actual belief. As much as I respect him, one doubts that he will undertake the task of discovering "what moved" in him while reading those words, nor the source of the Mover. But you never know.

As Hoarhey said in a comment yesterday regarding Mrs. G's experience of being moved in church,

"Not that Christianity isn't also geared to adults, but there is an innocent part which is easy to grasp for kids at an early age. I've also seen teenagers who have been raised in Christian homes who seem innoculated to the pop culture of this society which brings at least a portion of many people's lives to ruin. They just decline the temptations with an easy 'no thanks' and move on.

"Oh to not have to dig out of the wreckage and shed the baggage!" (emphasis mine).

It took me years to dig out of the wreckage of the finest education the secular world has to offer. I don't mean to brag, but for those of you who don't know this, Cal State Northridge, where I obtained my BA in film, is considered the Harvard of the north San Fernando Valley.

Just as the Jesuits said something to the effect of "give me the child and I shall give you the man," the same is equally true of a secular brainwashing -- except that if you give them a man, they'll give you back a boy. And the more intelligent you are, the more likely it is that you will receive this brainwashing at a very high level, and then have to undo it in order to escape that closed circle and once again know reality.

Once internalized, the brainwashing often becomes part of the superego, so that to go against it feels like a betrayal. Even I sometimes say "spiritual" instead of "religious" or "Creator" instead of "God," because I know how the latter saturated words sound to the intelligent non-believers I would like to reach. For similar reasons, I prefer "liberal vs. leftist" rather than "Republican/Democrat" to describe our political space. For example, many nominal Jews are just loyal Democrats, just as many blacks are inexplicably loyal to their contemptuous white leftist masters.

Among other reasons, I am a believer because it is so much more deeply intellectually satisfying (on the psychic level) than any version of materialism, which, in the end, is the only other option, whatever you choose to call it. I mean, the intellect of a Frithjof Schuon so far surpasses that of these atheistic scribblers, that they might as well be a different species. As Dalrymple writes, the neo-atheists essentially "advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14." They are essentially stuck in Piaget's stage of formal operations thought, which is definitely an accomplishment. But it is hardly the end point of man's potential development.

Schuon observed that "One can most certainly prove every truth; but not every proof is accessible to every mind." How true. In fact, the materialist's demand for proof "increases in proportion to ignorance, not in proportion to knowledge," which results in dragging truth down to the depths to which they themselves have fallen. In other words, the more you venture into materialism (which, ontologically speaking, takes you directly away from the Source of Truth, like "the ascending curve of a circle changes imperceptibly to a descending curve"), the less you will be capable of knowing spirit, for there won't be any space left for it to inhabit. There is a kind of bovine concreteness to atheism that is just impenetrable. Faith and prayer are largely about clearing that space.

This reminds me of a playful comment Alan Watts once made about so-called "American materialism." He pointed out that most people we think of as materialistic aren't actually materialistic at all. Rather, they spend their life chasing after abstractions, like the professional athlete who uproots his life in in order to earn 8.3 million dollars in three years instead of 8.0. Personally, I just love matter -- books, records, mountain biking, meditation, playing with my son, etc., etc., very concrete things and activities that I would have much less time for if I were to chase after some abstract dollar figure.

Similarly, as Schuon notes, "Men of a rationalizing disposition are obsessed with 'thoughts'; they see concepts, not 'things,' hence their criticisms of inspired and traditional doctrines." These slaves to mere reason are presumably under the illusion that religious doctrines are of the same order as their cherished thoughts and concepts, but in fact, they "perceive neither the realities to which these doctrines refer nor the unexpressed things that are there taken for granted." This is because "a metaphysical doctrine is the mental incarnation of a universal truth" (emphasis mine). It is not abstract, but obviously quite concrete -- not because it is primitive, but because it is the instantiation of a Real transcendent idea in the material world. It is a God-given support for intellection, not the product of thinking.

Dilys left a a relevant comment yesterday, again in response to Mrs. G's adventures in Catholicism: "Never saw it said better, the end run around the saturation of memes, language, and ideas: 'What I thought I knew about Christianity was a child's view and that there is a vast richness there unknown to me before.'"

She also refers to the cooncreteness of it all: "For those hovering around these questions, I can mention that many Catholic Churches have opened to the public an Adoration Chapel, usually tiny and quiet premises where the Blessed Sacrament -- according to the doctrine, the Real Presence of Christ -- is exposed to view in a jeweled monstrance. I have found that to be a highly-charged atmosphere rewarding attentiveness, patient waiting, praying for guidance, and asking, face-to-Face as it were, What's the deal here on this stuff? Is it true? Why or why not? The answer, and the palpable authenticity of an answer, may be surprising."

It's all there: "the mental incarnation of a universal truth," "the realities to which these doctrines refer," and "the unexpressed things that are there not taken for granted."

In order to reach the truth it is necessary to awaken in oneself if possible the intellectual faculty, not to strive to "explain" realities one does not "see" with the reason. --F. Schuon.

*Schuon quotes taken from Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts

Monday, October 29, 2007

Unknowing What You Know in Order to Know What You unKnow

Now that I no longer post on weekends, it's a little difficult to get back into the flow on Monday. It seems that on Saturday and Sunday I revert to my pre-blogging self, for whom daily blogging would have been impossible to begin with. I suppose the same thing must have more or less happened to the Colorado Rockies. Under normal circumstances rest is good, but in their case, it broke the spell they had been under for the previous month.

There's a being mode and a doing mode, and this weekend I was trying to get into the being mode in order to accomplish some doing. The doing has to do with coming up with an idea for a sequel to One Cosmos. Obviously I have plenty of ideas, but what I'm looking for is an organizing principle that will harmonize them and bring them all together, and that's not the kind of thing you can try to come up with.

Rather, in my experience, you have to clear a space in your mind in order to allow the Overmind to spontaneously come up with something on its own. It's like pattern recognition, which must be intuited, not imposed. If you try to impose order on your mind, it's not going to have the kind of robust stability that arises spontaneously. No one knows how we can recognize a face -- including the face of God -- but it's certainly not through induction.

It seems that you can't fool the Overmind, any more than you can fool nature. For example, growing a potato takes as long as it takes to grow one. True, you can fiddle around at the margins a bit, but only up to a point. It's a human conceit to think that we think our thoughts anyway. No one knows what a thought is, where they come from, where they go, how they develop, what their boundaries are, how they combine with other thoughts, how they can be "true," or exactly how long it takes to grow a deep one.

But I suppose it's the rule rather than the exception to impose some kind of artificial order, not just on the mind, but on the world. And this problem afflicts intellectuals more than normal people, since the intellectual is much more prone to conflating his abstractions with reality. Plus, intellectuals are often narcissistically invested in their intellect, no different than a physically attractive narcissist might be invested in their looks. If politics is "show business for the unattractive," academia is politics for the downright ugly. The ugliest ideas in the world are openly embraced in academia, ideas fundamentally lacking in wholeness, harmony, and radiance.

Real thought -- the kind of thought a Raccoon cares about -- is much closer to perception than it is to cogitation. It is seen, not deduced. This dovetails with what Mrs. G. was saying yesterday about her experience in church. In order to comprehend religious truths, it is generally necessary to disable what most people call the "mind," which is in reality just a noisy "thought factory." This factory should be closed on Sunday.

Christianity, with its vivid iconography, is able to cut through a lot of "sophisticated" mental knots. In other wordlessness, it is a very visual religion, providing images that can speak directly to the heart -- or to the nonverbal right brain, if you like (which is directly connected to the cardiac center). These images work like seeds planted in the "unconscious" mind (which, of course, isn't "un" conscious at all, any more than soil is unconscious; fertile soil -- which is full of micro-organisms, enzymes, insects, and other beings -- knows exactly what to do with a seed, and vice versa). It is no wonder that Jesus used so many agrarian metaphors. God is not like a building made bricks, but a tree planted in the sky. And your mind is the sky.

Just yesterday I read the following by Schuon, which directly addresses the difference between O and (k), or Reality and our thoughts about it: "Metaphysical knowledge is one thing and its actualization in the mind quite another. All the knowledge (k) the brain can hold is nothing in light of the Truth (O) even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view. Metaphysical knowledge is like a divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it" (emphasis mine).

This is why the relationship between revelation and philosophy is approximately that of organic food to artificial food (while its relationship to new age spirituality is like food to junk food). As someone mentioned in a comment the other day, no matter how hard science tries, it will never be able to invent food more nutritious than that which spontaneously grows from the earth. For one thing, science -- which only knows what it knows, but not what it doesn't -- can only extract abstract quantities (e.g., vitamins) from food, and then try to reproduce them.

But more and more research is demonstrating that there are properties in natural foods that just can't be quantified -- even the colors, e.g. green tea, blueberries, red wine, etc. (As someone once said, why should we trust the government on global climate change if they can't even get the "Food Pyramid" right? Ten or twenty years ago, unrestricted carbohydrates were good for you; now we have a nation of diabetics.)

In any event, what Schuon is saying is that revelation embodies deep metaphysical truths that may be actualized in the mind by "dwelling" within them, so to speak. And these truths will be much deeper than what science or philosophy can come up with. This is not to knock the latter, because (k) is important and certainly has its place. But we are talking about something fundamentally beyond the reach of science, that is, growth -- and salvation -- of the soul.

To cite another example by Schuon, he points out that "A proof is not convincing because it is absolute -- for this could never be -- but because it actualizes something self-evident to the mind" (emphasis mine). In short, proof -- even scientific proof -- is only possible on the basis of prior knowledge. In other words, there is nothing deterministic in this or that proof that compels us to accept it. Rather, our acceptance of this or that proof is an act of judgment that can never be captured by any logical operation (echoes of Gödel again). Once you have accepted a proof, you have left the closed circle of mechanical reason, and are in the realm of faith. Or as Schuon beautifully puts it,

Correlative to every proof is an element eluding the determinism of mere logic and consisting of either an intuition or a grace; now this element is everything. In the intellectual order logical proof is no more than a thoroughly provisional crystalization of intuition, the modes of which are incalculable because of the complexity of the real.

Go ahead, read it again, slowly. I'll wait.

Now surely, based upon this, it is far easier to prove the existence of God than it is to prove the existence, say, of manmade global warming. The latter is expressed with all the trappings of science, but in the end, the science is only accepted if one has already done so -- because it actualizes something self-evident to the mind.

And this, of course, is the secret of our liberal MSMistry of Truth, which only covers things it already knows to be true, for example, that we have lost the war in Iraq, or that lower tax rates cause deficits, or that women are an oppressed minority, or that America is a racist country. I'm sure you can think of dozens of others. I can't because I have to get to work....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Adventures in Exploring a New Faith (by Mrs. G.)

I am hoping to post most Sundays about the experience of investigating a new faith and church (Our Lady of Malibu). Mostly, I'd like to spark a discussion about the topic of finding faith as an adult, raising children in a faith you didn't grow up in, and/or making the commitment to one particular faith in a public way.

I am not speaking for Bob in these posts, but I want to give him credit for having been most instrumental in my finding spiritual guides. He's also helped me understand things I otherwise wouldn't have even known whom to ask -- and in other ways that I could never fully express.

Quick background: I was raised in a secular Jewish home, but even as a young child I was a seeker and wanted to know God. I even went to a variety of different services with neighbors and with my grandparents, and was exposed early on to Reform Judaism and the Episcopalian church, as well as a 70's style of spiritual seeking with looser parameters, but based on Christianity.

Currently, I'm a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. I don't have any problem with that practice for myself, and I've been very faithful to it, for lack of a better term. I'm a true believer, you could say. But once Tristan arrived, I now have him to consider. Magic 8 ball kept saying, "answer hazy, ask again later." I knew The Mother would let me know what to do when the time came, and recently, she did.

Bob suggested a little while ago that a religious education might be worth considering for Tristan. The more I thought about it, the more I felt pulled to bring Tristan to a local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Malibu (OLM), to worship and to go to school. Then I guess the idea really took hold of my soul, and I myself felt drawn to converting to Catholicism.

I went to mass today for the first time at OLM. Tristan and I went with a friend who grew up Catholic and occasionally goes to OLM. Tristan immediately threw a tantrum on the floor of the church, so we were quickly facing Plan B: the Child Care room. Because of damage from the recent Malibu fires, they no longer had a large room with lots of toys. Instead, they had to make do in a very small room with a giant Xerox machine that had probably been somewhere else before the fires. There was a group of well-behaved girls doing crafts at a table when we walked in. The door was propped open and they didn't know where their baby gate was. Hmmmm. I stayed a few minutes to see if Tristan thought of the Xerox machine as a ladder, or if he would try to flirt with the girls instead. When another little boy showed up, I decided to go back to the mass with my friend.

OLM is very understated compared to what I expected at a Catholic Church. The room where they have mass is bright with an A-frame roof, but it's very simple. There is a window above the altar with a beautiful outdoor statue of Mary. The way it's configured, Mary is surrounded by bougaanvillea and looking down at us past the Christ on the Cross on the wall next to the window.

I let go of the thought of what Tristan might be getting into and let myself be drawn into the service. As soon as the priest read part of the mass from the prayer book my eyes started filling up with tears. When I was first exposed to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, they each suggested to read his work with your heart, not your head. That's not exactly how they said it, but the idea was not to intellectually try to understand and analyze each concept, but to notice how you respond in your heart and soul to what you're reading. I took this approach this morning. Otherwise, I know I would have thought about what is different about Catholic teaching than what I'm used to, or how much trouble it is to get Tristan there, or whether I'll relate to anyone else once I get to know them, or what my secular parents would say if they knew I am planning on converting to Catholicism, and on and on. Blah blah blah.

Later in the service when they did the communion, I again had a very strong emotional response. This time, I had tears running down my face. I'm sure that I had a lot of spiritual feelings bottled up since before Tristan was born. That was the last time I went to any spiritual services. I used to go regularly to the beautiful Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, and Bob and I would occasionally go to the Hollywood Vedanta Temple. But I don't feel that this explains my reaction completely. I am sure I was supposed to be there today and it confirmed to me that I'm on the right path.

Tristan was doing really well in the small child care room, and I am getting pretty good at not worrying about him when he's with other people. He's so outgoing, he doesn't get upset at being apart from me if there are interesting distractions, new toys, or pretty girls to keep his attention. He wanted to come out by the end of mass and I brought him into services toward the end. We sat right near the musicians in case Tristan would like that, and he did. He loved it. He danced and clapped and pointed out all the instruments, but mostly watched in awe. I don't think he's ever seen a live performance of any kind of music.

During one silent part of service when people were receiving communion, I told him that it was quiet now and that people were praying. It was totally quiet, actually, and I was whispering in Tristan's ear to keep him from squirming too much. I whispered, "Thank you, God" as an example of what it means to pray. He immediately repeated in a clear, high little toddler voice, "Thank you, God!" Everybody looked around at us. I am sure when I was younger, I would have been embarrassed. But I felt much more comfortable at my advanced age, and Tristan was so totally innocent of trying to get attention or anything that would have annoyed me as an onlooker, so I just took it for how sweet it actually was.

I won't usually have this much to say at once. But I thought a little bit of explanation was warranted. I especially want to know about your experiences as an adult exploring your spirituality, and anything else you might want to share.

Thanks!

Leslie (Mrs. G)

Around the Cosmos in 100 Words

I notice on Amazon that they have a function that gives you the most common 100 words in the book's text.

Being that I have far more important things to avoid, I tried a little experiment, that is, writing the whole book with just those 100 words. So this is the coondensed version, for Raccoons with insufficient timelessness to read the whole thing.

*****

.... First, God really does exist, real spiritual fact.

Thus, universe, mind, space, time, physics, reason, form, everything possible.

Whole/part. Two exist!

Material world, rather, process system.

Means consciousness must order things. Seems matter may even actually experience itself: Nature-->Life-->Man.

Science. Knowledge. Religion. Meaning.

Years point toward another true thought between human brain, Self existence.

People different culture/state cannot see own problem parasites.

Should understand past history, know reality!

Great kind individual cosmic beings come, take upon body, able simply say truth according divine language.

Sense cosmos! Without words, something beyond book. Evolution end now. Nothing new....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wandering, Wondering, and Blundering into the Mystery

The very word “man” implies “God,” the very word “relative” implies “Absolute.” --F. Schuon

To know what man can be is to know that God is, which in turn leads to an understanding of what to do about the situation, i.e., meditation, prayer, the cultivation of virtue, and wandering about aimlessly but not omlessly in the desert, each of which is a different mode of faith and worship. In this regard, "Faith is like an ‘existential’ intuition of its ‘intellectual’ object" (Schuon), the pre-conception required to give birth to the seed of God.

First of all, you needn't waste any time trying to prove whether God exists, because man is the evidence you seek, if only you would seek and discover the Real Man behind the mask. It is like leaves trying to prove -- or disprove, as the case may be -- the existence of trees by growing more leaves. Once you walk the plank into God's arbor and your wood beleaf, the coonundrum ends and the Great Mystery begins. And it is a "mystery in motion," otherwise known as an adventure -- the only one that really Is and has ever been: the adventure of consciousness. The melody of your life continues to play, only transposed to a higher key.

Now "mystery," like "worship," is a misunderstood word. Just as "worship" -- or what we were calling (w) -- is the cultivation of an (L) and therefore (K) link between God and man -- or O and (¶) -- mystery is not an absence of knowledge, but a pregnant space where a certain kind of knowledge flows. But to distinguish this from profane, horizontal knowledge (k), we call this latter form (n).

As a brief aside, I feel sorry for anyone who is not able to plunge heart first into the adventure of consciousness and abide in the Great Mystery that is. Having lived in both worlds, I would never return to being a sleepwalking clockjockey down in 4D. To be honest, I never really was. Rather, I made a solemn vow way back in high school that I would never join the conspiracy to rob me of my own slack -- a loss which cannot be quantified because timelessness cannot be measured. Suffice it to say that it is of infinite worth to a man who cares about his spiritual development and the fate of his soul.

I think I was probably a born "pneumatic," as Schuon calls it (although Petey might take issue with this). I can't think of any better explanation. There are just certain people for whom it requires little effort to see that the spiritual world is more real than the conspiracy world, and that the game isn't worth the condle in the latter swindle. Schuon writes that "The pneumatic is a man who identifies a priori with his spiritual substance and thus always remains faithful to himself; he is not a mask unaware of his scope, as is the man enclosed in accidentality."

I don't want to romanticize my past, because it hasn't always been easy being, er, different. One of the reasons is that when the typical neurotic person notices -- but doesn't yet gnotice -- that he is different from the Others, he usually blames himself and tries to conform to the group, thus sacrificing his individuality and aborting the adventure of consciousness (since it is only the individual that can take this trip; there is no group rate). It took quite a while to simply let my freak flag fly without feeling self-conscious about it. To be honest, it was probably only after I started blogging that I really "pulled out all the stops," so to speak.

I mean, even in writing the book, you can see that I "pulled back" from where I am now. This is because when I wrote it, I wasn't sure if there were any other Raccoons out there -- you know, freevangelical pundamentalists, vertical theocons, and neotraditional cosmonauts. Therefore, as odd as the book is, I still had to make some concessions to the conspiracy, since I hadn't yet started the coonspiracy. But now, with the blogging, I don't care. I now have a small audience of Raccoons scurrying about in my head, which is what has stimulated my creativity and allowed me to blog every day.

I'm probably going to get sidetracked here, but this is important. The other day I was reading a talk by Joseph Campbell, about how he took the extreme measure of checking out of the conspiracy back in his day, which in turn became the interior touchstone of his life, since it allowed him to contact his true self and then live from his center from that point onward.

It's really a pretty remarkable story, and I imagine that most Raccoons will relate to it, even if they reject some of Campbell's later new age noodling. He attended Princeton in the mid-1920s, and could have easily taken the traditional path to graduate school and then academia. But during a visit to Europe in 1927-28, he came into contact with all the new trends that were going on at the time -- Jung, Joyce, modern art, etc. -- so that when he returned, he had lost all interest in what academia had to offer:

".... So I said to hell with it. I went up into the woods and spent five years reading.... It was from 1929 to 1934, five years. I went up to a little shack in Woodstock, New York, and just dug in. All I did was read, read, read, and take notes. It was during the Great Depression. I didn't have any money...."

Importantly, this wasn't just aimless reading, but what someone else once called the "mystery school of individuation." Perhaps you're familiar with the concept. You find one book that speaks directly to your soul, which tips you to another one that does the same. Pretty soon you're embarked on a wild nous chase, not for any "exterior" purpose, but for the purpose of trying to articulate the idiom of your own soul. The end result -- among other things -- is that 1) you know you have a soul, 2) you are aware that your soul is very specifically yours (i.e., it has its own divine clueprint, so to speak), and 3) you don't want to do anything in life that would interfere with the intrinsic joy of living from your soul.

But it takes a lot of courage and persistence to do this: "Actually, there were times when I almost thought -- almost thought -- 'Jeez, I wish someone would tell me what I had to do,' that kind of thing. Freedom involves making decisions, and each decision is a destiny decision. It's very difficult to find in the outside world something that matches what the system inside you is yearning for. My feeling now is that I had a perfect life: what I needed came along just when I needed it. What I needed was life without a job for five years. It was fundamental."

Because he was detached from the conspiracy, Campbell was able to take advantage of the more subtle currents that course through the arteries of the Cosmos: "... there's the idea of bumping into experience and people while you're wandering. You really are experiencing life that way. Nothing is routine, nothing is taken for granted. Everything is standing out on its own, because everything is a possibility, everything is a clue, everything is talking to you.... You are in for wonderful moments when you [live] like that -- for example, my putting up my hand in the Carmel library and finding a book that became a destiny book.... That rambling is a chance to sniff things out and somehow get a sense of where you feel you can settle." (This reminds me of the rabbinic saying that God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages.)

I feel sorry for young men and women today who go straight from high school to the university idiot factory and then on to some slackless job, slaving away for the conspiracy. They're missing out on the experience of a lifetime, which is to say, the writing of their own unique lifetome -- which only the individual soul can compose.

I can relate to Campbell's story, because in my case I quit college in my junior year (before they could expel me), and spent the next five or six years wandering, but not idly. Rather, it was a period of intense non-doodling, as if my soul were on fire and I was looking for water. By the time I entered graduate school in 1982, I was an utterly different person than I would have been had I spent all those years in the idiot factory. In short, I never would have become me. Whether it was luck or destiny, I cannot say.

But for the "pneumatic personality" -- which I imagine describes most Raccoons -- "he is born with a state of knowledge which, for other people, would actually be the goal, and not the point of departure; the pneumatic does not 'go forward' towards something 'other than himself'; he stays where he is in order to become fully what he himself is -- namely his archetype -- by ridding himself, one after the other, of veils or outer surfaces, shackles imposed by the ambience or perhaps by heredity. He becomes rid of them by means of ritual supports -- 'sacraments,' one might say -- not forgetting meditation and prayer."

Now back to our irregularly unscheduled program. Schuon agrees that mystery is not an absence of knowledge but the presence of a certain kind of profound knowledge; for it "is the essence of truth which cannot be adequately conveyed through language -- the vehicle of discursive thought -- but which may suddenly be made plain in an illuminating flash through a symbol, such as a key word, a mystic sound, or an image whose suggestive action may be scarcely graspable." Elsewhere he states that "Mystery is as it were the inner infinity of certitude, the latter could never exhaust the former."

Again, it is far from being something vague or fuzzy: "By ‘mystery’ we do not mean something incomprehensible in principle -- unless it be on the purely rational level -- but something which opens on to the Infinite, or which is envisaged in this respect, so that intelligibility becomes limitless and humanly inexhaustible. A mystery is always ‘something of God.’"

Let go into the mystery
Let yourself go

There's a way and a mystic road
You've got to have some faith
To carry on....

You've got to dance and sing
And be alive in the mystery
And be joyous and give thanks
And let yourself go
--Van Morrison, The Mystery

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Irreverence and Other Sacred Cows

Worship. Why worship the Creator?

Webster's tells us that the word comes to us from both Middle English and Middle French, and has to do with worthiness, repute, respect, or reverence paid to a divine being. It is also "an act expressing such reverence." Being that it is about as universal a (pre)conception as there is in the human arsenal, even looked at from a purely anthropological standpoint, there must be something about it that is absolutely intrinsic to being human. Dylan probably nailed it when he sang that you're gonna have to serve somebody, so it might as well be the Absolute.

Atheists imagine they don't worship anything or anyone, but this is pure naivete. If we strip the word "worship" of certain saturated images and ideas, they're just like everyone else. To put it another way, if you don't respect and revere what is absolutely worthy of such, you're just not human. The impulse to worship comes from such a deep unconscious wellspring, that it is naive to imagine that you could somehow bypass it. To the extent that you try, you will simply replace the absolute with the relative, which is idolatry, or rebel against the absolute, which is satanism.

Could it be that worship simply has to do with Darwinian survival, as sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists maintain? I doubt it, because so many forms of worship are so utterly non-adaptive and damaging to the survival prospects of both individuals and groups. Take the Aztec, for example. They worshipped a god who required a constant diet of sacrificial victims. Clearly, they were simply worshipping a psychological projection of their own bloodthirsty mind parasites, as do our contemporary Islamist monsters of depravity. In these cases, the "worship function" -- let's just call it (w), to avoid saturation -- is appropriated by psychopathological elements with their own agenda.

As I mentioned in the Coonifesto, mind parasites operate in a manner that exactly parallels their viral or bacterial cousins in the material world, that is, by taking over the machinery of the host and using it to reproduce themselves. Our minds, just like our bodies, have certain "functions" with which the parasite can interfere.

For example, one of the most important functions of the mind is its epistemophilic instinct. If this instinct is not guided by a love of truth, it can easily be commandeered by other factors and thereby go astray. Indeed, human history is littered with knowledge that wasn't really knowledge because it was serving purposes other than truth.

You might think that this is only a problem that afflicted primitive peoples, but you'd be wrong. To cite one obvious example, the reason why leftist universities have become such "bullshit factories" is that the epistemophilic instinct is given free reign to worship anything but truth, for example, diversity. Being that truth exists on a vector that tends toward unity, the worship of diversity institutionalizes the Lie.

In the metaphysics of Vedanta, there is the idea of the three gunas, which are qualities or modes that permeate all of creation. These are sattwa, or the upward tendency; rajas, the expansive or "passional" tendency"; and tamas, the downward or inertial quality. Each human being is a combination of all three, although one tends to dominate. (The gunas have other implications, but we'll ignore those for now.)

As Schuon, explains, this implies three general modes of living; in the case of sattva it is "conformity to the Principle"; in the case of rajas, it is "the expansive affirmation of possibilities, hence 'horizontal' -- or, if one prefers, 'passional' -- existence; while tamas would imply "non-conformity to the Principle," that is, "the illusory movement in the direction of a 'nothingness' that is inexistent, obviously, but that is possible as a negative and subversive point of reference." It is the movement from the cosmic center to the periphery.

You might say that the sattvic person worships the Absolute, while the rajasic person worships the world -- which will be a good or bad thing depending upon the degree of sattvas or tamas (in other words, it is obviously possible to appropriately love the world). The tamasic person, as Schuon suggests, is at best "floating" or "drifting" away from the Absolute. But add a little rajasic passion to the mix, and you have someone who is actively doing so, which is what the psychospiritual left is all about: a passion for godlessness, or religious fervor in the absence of its appropriate object.

This is why the Democrat party doesn't need religion, since it already is one. You will notice how stiff and awkward they sound when trying to mimic real religion (except for the satanically passionate ones, e.g., Sharpton and Jackson). They just don't get it. But this is not to say that they have no (w), which they obviously do. It is just oriented in the wrong direction. Among other sins, they inappropriately love the world (and many of its most unlovable inhabitants, for that matter).

Now, one of the ways Bion revolutionized psychoanalysis was by focussing on the link between two objects, as opposed to the impersonal discharge of an instinct. To greatly oversimplify, Freud would say that love merely rides piggypack on the sex instinct, whereas Bion would say that sex is a link between objects characterized by love, hate, or knowledge, or (L), (H), or (K). For example, for a person with a perversion, the sex instinct has become an (H) or (-L) link between the two objects (who, by the way, are actually subjects, properly speaking; the word "object" is a holdover from the old instinctual model).

You will note that Genesis is very astute in this regard, for it says that Adam knew Eve, which is to emphasize how different humans are from animals when it comes to the sexual instinct. Obviously, animal sex has no (K) link; nor any (L) or (H) link, for that matter. On the other hand, human sex without a (K) or (L) link is not properly human. It is something less, closer to animal sex (but actually lower, since animals are not violating their own nature by engaging in animal sex). Only man can sink beneath himself, and therefore, other animals. The fact that he can be lower than an animal is what separates him from them.

I'm starting to run out of time, but what I would like to suggest is that (w) is a critical link between God and man, or, of you prefer, O and (¶), as I put it in the book. In other words, it is not merely a mode of subservience, but of knowledge and love, and therefore union. To put it another way, to spontaneously worship the Creator is to already confess knowledge of him.

Well, I'd better get to work. To be continued.....

The whole order of relations among the various worlds may be conceived in images of intimate engagement, a kind of sexual contact between one world and another, between one level of being and another. --Adin Steinsaltz, The Thirteen Petalled Rose