Tuesday, November 20, 2007

America and the Transcendental Beat: Let My People Groove

A typically contemptuous European once wrote of American society that "it's half judaized, and the other half is negrified."

I've never actually read Mein Kampf, but I do believe that Hitler was inadvertently correct in this respect. First, we are the only explicitly Judeo-Christian nation on earth (see here for many wonderful examples). Second, as Van der Leun (can't find the link) might have said to Hitler, you just hate us because we've got the groove. And because it's such a drag to be you. But that's a separate issue.... then again, maybe not, since a famous Jew once zonged a positively zimmilar zinger.

Both of these influences have contributed to the uniqueness and the greatness of America. It is sad to me that so many American blacks wish to be called "African American" -- as if America would even be recognizably American without their influence. The other day, someone mentioned to me that he wasn't sure if he liked the genre of "southern rock."

But as a startled Gregg Allman once said in a similar context (and it's not very easy to startle someone with that much opium in their system), the adjective "southern" is wholly redundant, analogous to saying "rock-rock," since rock came out of the American south and could never have come from anyplace else on earth: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, etc., etc. The list is endless.

And of course, it came out of the south because of the proximity of its early practitioners to forms of musical expression wholly invented by American blacks: jazz, blues, gospel, and rhythm and blues. Elvis never thought he was doing anything new. Rather, he was simply attempting to copy some of his musical heroes, most of whom were black (he also had some white musical heroes, such as Dean Martin, which accounts for his later affinity for grooveless schlock).

Now, what do blacks and Jews have in common, culturally? Yes, they are the most persecuted peoples in history. That might come up later. We're not talking about that for the moment. What else?

Well, I can only speak as an outsider, but the Jewish wedding I attended last Saturday night once again reminded me that Jews have their own whacked-out version of the groove, and that it is as earthy and over-the-top as any black gospel performance before an audience of fervent worshipers, or by some R & B combo playing at 2:00AM before a crazed audience on the "chitlin' circuit" in 1962.

Let me put it this way: I am very white. But I probably didn't realize the extent of my whiteness until I married into a Jewish family. Interestingly, being that they are largely secular Jews, they have no idea just how Jewish, which is to say ethnic, which is to say, non-white, they are. But for me, it has been an ongoing culture shock. (By the way, when I say "white," "non-white," and even "black," I assume you realize that I'm not talking about race, much less, "genetics.")

As I was watching the celebrants dancing with insane abandon to the bone-jarring rhythm of hava nagila -- which must have gone on for half an hour -- one thought came to mind: the idea of my parents ever engaging in such a frenetic celebration devoid of cerebration is literally inconceivable. Way, way too white.

But to see the men of all generations holding hands in a circle while kicking and jumping to the pounding beat -- true, they had the grace of a sleep-deprived and disinhibited Jerry Lewis lurching around the set at around hour 23 of the telethon -- but that's not the point. It was the complete absence of self-consciousness combined with the complete and joyous bypassing of the mind and immersion in the senses.

As we touched on yesterday, there has always been a certain life- and body-denying strain in Christianity. While it's not necessarily intrinsic, you have to admit it's there, a sort of distrust, sometimes verging on disgust, toward the human body and toward sensual pleasure in general. I constantly encounter this attitude among saints and mystics that I otherwise revere. In fact, it is also often present in Eastern religions as well -- is if physical pleasure is in the realm of "maya," and is to be shunned and transcended.

It is interesting to me that so many of the early and middle-period jazz greats who weren't black were Jewish: Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Andre Preven, Shelly Manne, Buddy Rich, and many others -- not to mention many of the great songwriters whose music became the basis for jazz improvisation, e.g., the Gershwin brothers, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hart, etc. The greatest jazz label, Blue Note records, was founded in 1939 by a couple of jazz-loving European Jews, Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff, while the greatest R & B and soul label, Atlantic, was co-founded by Jerry Wexler. And I am reminded of the fact that Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David around his neck in honor of the Jewish family that often took care of him as a child, even giving him the money to buy his first trumpet.

America: good constitution, easy to dance to.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get too far into this post, and now it's time for work. I'll just have to leave you with an obscure Petey-ism from the Cosmobliteration section of the book. If it means what I think it means, then you could say that gospel music (and its derivatives) really puts the body back into the body of Christ.

Do the monkey bone, do the shingaling, get your slack back & take a trip, slip, lose your grip, & turn a backover flip and say: not the god of the philosophers, not the god of the scholars!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The World Series of Theological Questions (11.08.10)

... God, freedom, unity. Three things which are one, for you cannot realize freedom and unity unless you realize God... --Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle

Yesterday we discussed the question of whether mankind is degenerating or progressing, which inevitably touches on other issues, including the conflicts between evolution and "creationism," authority vs. personal experience, tradition vs. modernity, science vs. religion, timeless principles vs., er, "personal research," and ultimately time vs. eternity. I argued for a dialectic, or complementarity, between the two poles, which creates a sort of "space" where what Mead calls "dynamic (or evolutionary) religion" may take place.

Another way of saying it is that the One breaks out of eternity into the static two (i.e., duality), but that duality is resolved (and progress occurs) within a dynamic and "transitional" trinity. Thus, history can be seen as a sort of rolling catastrophe in hyperspace, as the many make their winding way back to the One. History is ultimately the straight book that God tries to write with crooked liars.

That made a lot of sense, Bob!

Look at it this way. History either has a direction -- and therefore a purpose -- or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then there's no point to anything, including religion. It would be like an endless baseball season with no World Series. Instead of 162 games, the season would never end, with a new game every day, day in, day out. Eventually, players would stop scratching their crotches and begin scratching their heads and asking, "why are we doing this? Why are we playing all these stupid games?"

So the Gods of Baseball bifurcated the teams into a duality (the American and National leagues) and invented this third thing called a "World Series" in order to create a sense of purpose and finality. When you win the World Series, you have reached the highest peak, the "absolute," the baseball equivalent of enlightenment.

But just like religion, there is apparently more than one Absolute, since there is a new champion each year, and it is not as if the new champion surpasses all the previous ones. The 2007 Red Sox are not better then the 1927 Yankees. Baseballically speaking, both went as high as it is possible to go in this world. Sure, you could argue over which team is better, but that's like arguing whether Shankara or Eckhart was a better hitter.

But in the case of the World Series, deep down some of us realize that it is something we merely invented for the purposes of finality. We simply superimpose it on the individual games, in order to give them a "higher meaning," so to speak. Since there is finality to the season, it creates intensity and drama, very much as does death (the playoffs are exciting because teams are always facing "sudden death"). If you knew you weren't going to die, it would be analogous to an endless baseball season. No, worse than that. Like an endless soccer season. No, worse. An endless soccer game. Just a bunch of people running around in circles.

In a way, if history has no purpose, then it is bound to get worse, i.e., to degenerate. This is for the same reason that the quality of professional baseball would degenerate in the absence of a World Series. No one would bother acquiring a player to improve their team at the trading deadline, since there would be no deadline. Standings wouldn't matter, since there would be no point to them. Wins and losses would be just like Monopoly money, a symbol of nothing.

To the extent that things are getting worse in the world, could it be linked to the widespread belief among our elite that history has no purpose, no direction, no telos? Interestingly, this is where the secular far left and traditionalist far right converge. As an anonymous commenter mentioned yesterday, given his 'druthers, Schuon, the hardcore traditionalist,

"considered a 'totalitarian' [in the traditional religious sense] society preferable to a secular society. Religion, culture, science, art, and soccer, should all be under one heading, if you will. He was obviously opposed to secular totalitarian regimes, like the Nazis or the Soviets, but not religious totalitarian regimes. One can also see this in the leaders he writes positively about -- Charlemagne, Napolean, Franco, and even Lincoln (Lincoln's temporary measures during the Civil War are clearly those of a monarch)."

For Schuon it is always a question of returning to first principles. Naturally, modern leftist liberals will reject this idea out of hand. But for you traditional readers out there who object to my understanding, I wonder how you square this circle, for it seems to me that you have only three choices. You can go along with Schuon that timeless and total truth has already been revealed to us, and that it is only for us to conform to it. Alternatively, you can be a member of what I call the "psychospiritual left" (of which their politics is just a reflection) and maintain that history has no meaning except that which we impose on it (which is no meaning at all).

Or, you can be a neurocosmological Raccoon, and maintain that timeless truth does exist, but that for our purposes it exists in the future, not the past. Primordial man does indeed walk above the clouds on the sacred ground of the cosmic mountain, but not in the past.

Rather, these intimations of paradise are just that -- they are what Bion called memoirs of the future. Being so, they are the vector that guides history and gives it meaning: the arc of salvation, through which you are given the uppertunity of a lifetome to dwell in time but to aim your eros at the heart of eternity. Your days are measured, guided, and given meaning by a sense of growing proximity to this sacred, nonlocal ground. Mine are, anyway. But perhaps I'm just living in my own racocoon.

If this dimension is in the "past," then each day that passes is simply a measure of how far we have fallen from the ideal -- a meaning, to be sure, but an "anti-meaning." Again, what's the point except to wait to die? I have read certain world-denying church fathers who said as much; I believe the Orthodox Father Seraphim Rose said something similar. Basically, conform yourself to Truth and wait for death, since it's only eternity that counts. As Schuon worote,

"One who has received the treasure of spiritual truth and the Divine Name finds himself, so to speak, at a crossroads: for now he must take up a new attitude in relation to the world and to life; he must renounce all worldly ambition and he must not expect anything but death, whatever be his outward activity."

Coonversely, for a member of the psychospiritual left, what's the point except to deny death and lose oneself in the senses? In this view, a Bill Maher or Hugh Hefner are the wisest men on earth.

Now obviously, Christianity has struggled with this dialectic, hence the argument between faith and works. If eternity is all that counts, then faith is all that matters. But if history has a purpose, then works take on much more significance.

And as a matter of fact, this relates to what I was saying yesterday about my experience of the very different spiritual worlds of Judaism and Christianity. At the moment I'm in a bit of a rush, so it's difficult to find the words to precisely describe the difference. But more generally, Judaism is very much focused on this world, not the next. In fact, if I am not mischugen, it is very unkosher to even speculate about the next life, since we are here for a reason, and that reason is more than sufficient to occupy our time and attention. In short, we are here to both enjoy and help repair the creation (tikkun, or as we call it, "ticoon"), so that our works are much more important than our faith. As I have learned from Dennis Prager, a proper Jew doesn't care what you believe, only how you behave. (BTW, this also explains why de-Judaised Judaism immediately devolves into worldly leftism.)

Furthermore, because of its worldly focus, I find that Judaism, among all the major religions, probably has more practical wisdom about how to conduct one's life than any other. The Talmud contains priceless wisdom about male-female relations, about the family, about raising children, about how to deal with others. Also, the "spiritual locus," so to speak, of Judaism is the family (within a community, of course), and even more specifically, children. Jewish life is almost inconceivable in the absence of family and children.

And what do children represent and symbolize? More than anything else in creation, they are a hope-filled arrow shot from the present into a better future.

And we are His children.

We'll meet again. Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by. A Divine child, a god'send, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes. --Petey

Manifestly, the unrestrained use of individual illumination or judgment without either any outer standard or any generally recognizable source of truth is a perilous experiment for our imperfect race.... [T]he whole tendency of development of an individualistic age of mankind [goes] back to the one dominant need of rediscovering the substantial truths of life, thought and action which have been overlaid by the falsehood of conventional standards no longer alive to the truth of the ideas from which their conventions started.... [M]an has to circle back towards the recovery of his deeper self and a new upward line or a new revolving cycle of civilization. --Sri Aurobindo

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's Getting Better All the Time

Either that or worse. I forget which.

I would like to post on a subject that just came up again this morning, but which is actually a perennial problem that I (and perhaps you) have to face time and time again. I'm not sure if I know how to resolve it; perhaps I already have -- to the extent that it can be resolved -- at least in practice if not in principle.

In fact, in a certain sense, both my book and the blog represent an ongoing attempt to resolve this issue, which ultimately comes down to the question of how we are to forge a truly Unified Theory of Everything which accounts equally for both the vertical (subjective, interior) and horizontal (objective, interior) worlds -- i.e, the Whole Existentialada.

The other day I mentioned the idea that the vector of cosmic evolution occurs along a gradient of deepening coherence and meaning, so that in the long run, time reveals the achievement of increasingly comprehensive interior unities (which would also be Whitehead's general idea). The reason I believe this is that it best accounts for the available evidence. In other words, this is more of an empirical than a religious belief. I have no reason to doubt that the cosmos banged into being 13.7 billion years ago, or that life appeared on earth some 3.85 billion years ago, or that recognizable human consciousness began to flower about 50,000 years ago.

But to the extent that this scheme is true, then religious doctrine shouldn't contradict it. Not that religion needs to fit itself into a scientific paradigm; rather, the reverse: the world is the way it is because it reflects timeless metaphysical principles articulated in the perennial religion.

The essential dilemma arose again the other day in the context of discussing my rejection of Schuon's strict traditionalism, or at least two central aspects of it. But in rejecting these two pillars, most if not all of his initiates and followers would say that I have rejected his central doctrine -- which I probably never understood to begin with. It would be analogous to saying that I really love Christianity with the exception of that resurrection business, or that I'm a big fan of Judaism except for the idea that the Torah is divinely inspired.

Now, because I am a Raccoon, and Raccoons are by nature sort of gay and lighthearted -- some would say frivolous -- one might gain the impression that when I disagree with Schuon, I do so lightly -- that I dismiss this or that idea with the impudent wave of a hand. Nothing could be further from the truth -- just as I tremble slightly at my deviations from Aurobindo, or from Tomberg, or from J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, or from anyone else who knows better than I do about these things.

I suppose it goes without saying that I am what I am, but it may not go without saying that I also can't help it. Likewise, Schuon was who he was. The question is, how much of this temperamental isness (or wasness) shapes how we see the world? Furthermore, is it even possible to truly stand outside ourselves and mind someone else's isness? Perhaps doing so is as impossible as trying to imagine what it would be like to be a dog, or a cow, an insect, or Joel Stein (if you're a man). We can't really do it, because we merely project our own consciousness into the other.

In other words, is it possible that my differences with Schuon are temperamental and not doctrinal? He would answer with an unambiguous "no."

Perhaps I should get to the nub of the gist of the essence of the heart of the bottom line of the matter, which is this. Trad-Coon Joseph addressed it in a comment the other day, asking how it was possible for me to reconcile the "metaphysical dreams" of Schuon and Mead -- which ultimately comes down to the question of whether the world is evolving or degenerating. In Schuon's view, the "golden age" was in the past, so that time can hardly reflect "a gradient of deepening coherence and meaning"; rather, the reverse. In a handbag, I might add.

Here's how Schuon would respond to the "idiotic and dishonest circumlocutions" of somebob who suggests that he may have had an irrational nostalgia for a past that never really existed: "Those who look back longingly at some past age because it embodied certain vital values are reproached for adhering to these values because they are found in the past, or because one would like to situate them there 'irreversibly'; one might as well say that the acceptance of an arithmetical proof is the sign, not of the unimpaired functioning of the intelligence, but of a morbid obsession with numbers. If to recognize what is true and just is 'nostalgia for the past,' it is quite clearly a crime or a disgrace not to feel this nostalgia."

Now, before you reject Schuon's gnostalgia out of hand, it does have some explanatory power. Because of my basic optimism, I try not to dwell on it, but the modern world is in many respects a pretty awful place. I'm lucky, because I've been able to forge a little shelter from it, and work at avoiding letting it get its hooks into me. I don't go out much, but last night, for example, I attended a wedding in Los Angeles and was once again struck by just how ugly the place is. Not all of it, of course, but as you drive along the 101, your eyes encounter such jarring ugliness that it's difficult to realize that it was intentionally produced by human minds.

The same can obviously be said of television. Hundreds of stations available at any given time, but comparatively little that isn't vile, stupid, crass, vulgar, corrupting, or generally infrahuman. Schuon's theory has no difficulty accounting for this. It's because time runs in degenerating cycles, and we happen to be in the Kali yuga, the last cycle before the whole thing goes up in flames. I'm the one who must explain how things are getting better when they look so much worse. How, for example, to account for the 20th and most bloody century of all?

Everything seems to be degenerating before our eyes, from the establishment news media, to motion pictures, to literature, to visual art, to education, to male-female relations. I have witnessed this cultural decline during my lifetime, but I attribute it mainly to two factors, 1) man's falleness, and 2) the cultural dominance of the Left, an ideology which essentially glorifies the Fall and undermines its vertical counter-movement. (I guess I have a third explanation as well, that our unprecedented affluence allows more people than ever before the "luxury" of acting out their psychopathlogy.)

In short, I believe that ideas have consequences, and that we are under the dominance of bad ideas which transform well-intentioned people into agents of evil. I do not for a second believe that most leftists are bad people. But I do believe that they are under the influence of a truly satanic -- or, if you prefer, anti-evolutionary -- ideology. That being the case, I believe there is a solution, at least to problem #2. I know this solution exists, since I used to have that problem and now I don't. Therefore, "evolution" is possible, at least on a retail basis.

Furthermore, I think that the only way to create widespread change is to present people with an alternative ideology that is better -- which explains more -- than their present one. Frankly, there is no way Schuon's total system could ever appeal to a mass audience. For one thing, in my opinion, it is a system of complete and total pessimism about the world and its future, and is totally incompatible with intrinsically optimistic "Americanism" -- without which the world cannot be saved.

I think about this all the time -- where I fit in to the scheme of things, since I don't exactly follow one established religion and reject major parts of my most revered teachers (and I do consider Schuon to be an incomparable spiritual genius), and yet, could never have the hubris to consider myself some sort of independent spiritual authority. To a certain extent, I think of myself as simply conducting original spiritual research. If, say, I were to join the Catholic church, I fear that that would be the end of my "original research," since I would be bound by church doctrine. Furthermore, I'm afraid it would cut me off from other important sources of spiritual information at this point in my journey.

To cite one example, with regard to the spiritual education of Future Leader, it looks like we are settling on Catholicism, after considering Judaism and yoga. The latter was sort of a non-starter, because there's not much that can be conveyed to a child, plus he would be a permanent cultural outsider, cut off from our common "religious language." I couldn't really choose Judaism either, in part because I think you have to grow up with some of their traditions in order to really "get" them. Plus, I would be intrinsically cutting myself off from Christianity, something I could never do, whereas Christianity does not cut itself off from Judaism.

But only in a formal sense. In point of fact, Judaism and Christianity "open up" spiritual worlds that are quite distinct, even though there is overlap. For example, last night's wedding was a Jewish ceremony. Although I wasn't happy about having to fight the traffic to get to downtown Los Angeles (Mrs. G would add, "to say the least"), I found myself extremely moved, as always happens to me in any Jewish ceremony. I closed my eyes as it was going on, and felt the descent of a great spiritual force and presence in the building, no doubt blessing the couple. And I don't know how to describe it, but it is a distinctly "Jewish" force, very different in tone from the "Christian force" that I also feel. So to me, it's a little like having to choose between Bach and Mozart, or in my case, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Both men played the Truth, and Truth cannot surpass itself.

Anyway. I've started to ramble. I'll just have to continue this line of thought later. Hopefully this will stimulate some provocative comments.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One Chaosmos

A haikoon:

not six feet from me
the berserkus is in town
who could blog today?


Friday, November 16, 2007

Last Man or Omega Man?

Unfortunately, this post may have turned out to be a bit of a ramble, which will become more or possibly less clear as you read along. The problem is, we have a house guest, my six year-old nephew. Not only did he wake me up at 4:00 AM, he was soon bored and required my attention. So, just when I needed all of my faculties, including my fully activated cOOnvision, to be able to pull off what I am attempting to do here, I was disabled by fatigue and distraction. If there are typos or slightly incoherent passages, I'll correct them later.

*****

We shall now attempt to transition from Mead's God and Gold to a plane beyond it -- to depart and bewholed whether history is just history (i.e., a purely exterior process) or whether it actually has a purpose and is linked to, and shaped by, something beyond it -- a meaning and a destiny, which amount to the same thing.

Otherwise, I'm afraid there's no denying the fact that the purpose of all the conflict and suffering of the past 5,000 years -- when human beings left prehistory and entered history -- was to be able to shop in peace, which is to say, no real purpose at all. We will have reached the end of history, when the living cosmos has been reduced by reason and contained within science. And "on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small":

There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself. Lo! I show you the Last Man.... They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. "We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink. --Nietzsche

Yo, The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land!

But if history has a meaning and a destiny, it can only be because it has an interior, for there is no meaning in the absence of an interior. And what is meaning? I would suggest (following Polanyi) that meaning reflects a "gradient of deepening coherence" in the cosmos, and that time reflects the achievement of increasingly comprehensive interior unities. Only within the soul of man is this Unity able to achieve its greatest breadth and intensity, encompassing all of creation, both vertical and horizontal.

Interestingly, I just looked up when prehistory ended and history got kookstarted. Wikipedia says it was in Egypt in around 3200 BC; however, in New Guinea, prehistory only ended in 1900. This is an example of what I mean by humanity not having its calendars synchronized, so that "geographical space is developmental time." In other words, human groups -- and now individuals -- are evolving at different rates of speed, which comes back to our conflict with the Islamic world, which still has one foot in premodernity while we already have one in postmodernity.

When the external world does not match your internal world, the result is alienation. Thus, all of us are inevitably alienated to one degree or another, which is another meaning of our so-called "fallenness." The only time man was not alienated was in paradise, but that's partly because paradise was outside time.

In fact, this is one of my central deviations from Schuon, as he obviously felt profoundly alienated by modernity, let alone postmodernity. Thus, he insisted that premodern traditional societies best reflected man's true needs -- that they embodied eternal principles that made man's soul feel "at home," so to speak. I don't buy this for a second, even though I do see his point.

While I certainly don't idealize the postmodern West -- about which there is much to criticize and from which to feel deeply alienated -- there is still no doubt that, if you are so inclined, it offers the average person the greatest opportunity in history for self-willed spiritual development, if only because it provides the time and the space to do so -- i.e., the slack. Don't blame the modern West if you waste your precious slack on video games, the New York Times, and other trivialities. As Dilys put it in a comment the other day,

"In this catastrophic historical moment (like perhaps all others not rotting and static), I think the argument is that liberty and prosperity best create the tear in the collective-illusion fence for humans at all levels" to live in proximity to the sacred, "if one is so disposed. At this point freedom is a necessary, or at least contributory, condition, though never a sufficient one [emphasis mine]. And arguments about misused freedom, 24/7 celebrity culture etc., do not demonstrate that un-free is better.

"Enforced communalism, or the tribal scheme in which resources, time, and prestige are scarce and rationed, offer no such opportunity to the ordinary man, though aristocrats might be better placed. Those arguing for the now-imaginary traditional arrangements I believe imagine themselves stationed among the privileged, not the slaves."

Exactly. If Schuon had publicized his ideas in the traditional cultures he idealizes, he'd be lucky if they didn't burn him at the stake. Imagine telling some medieval cleric your ideas about the "transcendent unity of religions." That wouldn't exactly be compatible with survival, any more than it would be to live in the Muslim world and insist that Judaism is every bit as "absolute" as Islam. Please. Ironically, saying such a thing is only possible in the postmodern world (although perhaps India as well, which has always welcomed religious pluralism).

Now, there are two reasons Schuon could freely publicize his ideas in the postmodern west. First, because people don't take religion seriously, and second, because they take it so very seriously. While he was all too aware of the first, he didn't seem to appreciate the irony of the second, despite his small but devoted following. In other words, because of multiculturalism and moral relativism, many contemporary people regard religion has a hopelessly subjective and unprovable enterprise, so your personal beliefs are of no consequence, so long as you don't hurt anyone or try to force them upon others. But what Schuon missed about modernity -- in particular, within America -- was the deep spiritual hunger that has always animated us.

Sri Aurobindo differed with Schuon with regard to traditional societies, which he called "conventional." The problem is, traditional societies begin with the living impulse of spirit, but eventually contain and suppress the very impulse that gave birth to them. We see this time and again in history. Not only is this what animated the Protestant revolt against Catholicism, but it is what has animated most every sect and schism since. As Rodney Stark wrote in For the Glory of God, people who split off into sects do not do so because they want to have some watered-down version of religion. To the contrary, with the exception of cults (which have an entirely different psychology), they are composed of people who have become dissatisfied with convention and are seeking greater religious intensity.

Of traditional, or what he called "conventional" societies, Aurobindo observed that they tend to "arrange firmly, to formalise, to erect a system... to stereotype religion, to bind education and training to a traditional and unchangeable form, to subject thought to infallible authorities, to cast a stamp of finality on what seems to it the finished life of man." In short, this is precisely what Mead meant by static religion. True, as Aurobindo writes, traditional societies have their "golden age," during which time "the spirit and thought that inspired its forms are confined yet living, not yet altogether walled in, not yet stifled to death and petrified by the growing hardness of the structure in which they are cased." The golden age "is often very beautiful and attractive to the distant point of view," what with its "precise order, symmetry, fine social architecture, the admirable subordination of its parts to a general and noble plan."

But in romanticizing the admirable features of these golden ages, we can be blind to the "folly, ignorance, iniquity, cruelty and oppression of those harsh ages, the suffering and the revolt that simmered below those fine surfaces, the misery and the squalor that was hidden behind the splendid facade." As I expressed it in One Cosmos, it is easy to look at the Great Pyramid of Giza and appreciate its awesome majesty: "Then again, I don't see how we can avoid being disillusioned if we take a moment to empathize with the hundred thousand or more luckless slaves who spent their lives dragging these blocks around, for what noble end? For the purpose of creating a ridiculously oversized crypt to house the carcass of a dead pharoah who also had to have his wives and slaves buried alive with him in order to amuse him in the afterlife."

Now, as I mentioned a few posts back, I believe Mead faltered in his attempt to answer the question, What Does it All Mean?, because the question cannot be answered on the plane he is asking it. Despite his emphasis on the importance of dynamic religiosity to Anglo-American success, in the end he falls into a subtle modernist trap of evaluating religion on utilitarian grounds. In other words, while he is unlike most secular scholars in that he takes religion seriously, he evaluates it in pragmatic terms -- as if the only point of religion is to make us fit to function more effectively in a modern economy. As a respectable secular scholar, he can hardly do otherwise. What's he supposed to do, analyze history in terms of its proximity to the nonlocal eschaton drawing us in its wake? No, of course not. That's the job for a disreputable Raccoon.

The problem is, as soon as you analyze religion merely in pragmatic terms, you have essentially made it a flatland enterprise ultimately answerable to, and explainable by, horizontal factors. Thus, you have simply taken the long way around to Nietzsche's last man, or worse yet, Joel Stein.

Just as Polanyi concluded some fifty years later, Aurobindo wrote that the "discovery by individual free-thought of universal laws of which the individual is almost a by-product" -- i.e., the reductionistic stance of positivism and scientism -- leads "logically to the suppression of that very individual freedom which made the discovery and the attempt at all possible."

But how do we understand religion in such a way that it is fully compatible with modern science, and yet does not undermine the traditions from which it arose and through which it was nurtured over the millennia?

I'm just about out of gas here, so we'll have to get more deeply into the answer later. But Sri Aurobindo worked out a scheme in which he saw the development of secular science as more or less inevitable and necessary to man's continuing evolution. He called this the "individualistic" age. But beyond that is what he calls the "subjective" age, which easily transcends but includes the earlier stages. Thus, as one poster has repeatedly affirmed, the atheists are not necessarily our adversaries. Rather, they are merely the most vocal advocates of stage four. While we have no need of them here in Coonworld, frankly, we could use a few of these evangelists in the Islamic world. Why don't they go there, where they're actually needed? I think you know the answer. They'd be treated like Schuon.

Here's how Aurobindo described the fifth, "subjective age" of man (yes, he's a tad wordy, a result of his 19th century classical education):

"[T]o find the truth of things and the law of his being in relation to that truth he must go deeper and fathom the subjective secret of himself and things as well as their objective forms and surroundings. This he may attempt to do for a time by the power of the critical and analytic reason which has already carried him so far; but not for very long. For in his study of himself and the world he cannot but come face to face with the soul in himself and the soul in the world and find it to be an entity so profound, so complex, so full of hidden secrets and powers that his intellectual reason betrays itself as an insufficient light and a fumbling seeker: it is successfully analytical only of superficialities and of what lies just behind them.

"The need of a deeper knowledge must then turn him to the discovery of new powers and means within himself. He finds that he can only know himself entirely by becoming actively self-conscious and not merely self-critical, by more and more living in his soul and acting out of it rather than floundering on surfaces, by putting himself into conscious harmony with that which lies behind his superficial mentality and psychology and by enlightening his reason and making dynamic his action through this deeper light and power to which he thus opens. In this process the rationalistic ideal begins to subject itself to the ideal of intuitional knowledge and a deeper self-awareness; the utilitarian standard gives way to the aspiration towards self-consciousness and self-realisation; the rule of living according to the manifest laws of physical Nature is replaced by the effort towards living according to the veiled Law and Will and Power active in the life of the world and in the inner and outer life of humanity" (emphases mine).

It's nap time for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Universal Religion and the Many Worlds Hypothesis

We had several comments at the end of yesterday's thread that segue into what I wanted to next discuss, and which will in turn merge into the subject to follow, Petey willing. As mentioned yesterday, President Bush's foreign policy has actually been well within the mainstream of traditionally idealistic but pragmatic Anglo-American liberalism, i.e., trying to bring democracy and liberty to other parts of the world in order to increase our security. It is all too easy to focus upon what has gone wrong with this policy, because we can see it (indeed, the liberal MSMistry of Truth refuses to show us anything else). But as Mead writes,

"No blunder, no folly, no crime, no sin of commission by American foreign policy since has been as devastating and costly as the silent sins of omission that so marked and marred the first half of the twentieth century." It takes a distinct absence of imagination to be unable to see the consequences of appeasement or inaction in the face of evil.

But because our traditional liberalism has now been so infused with leftist assumptions, we really haven't been able to engage in the sort of all out war that is necessary to crush Islamist evil before transforming the Muslim world. Will mentioned the inherent problem of a limited war against true evil, the latter of which is inherently unlimited. In fact, one of the evil things about human evil is that it knows no bounds of decency or restraint, as the Islamofascists demonstrate day in, day out. Sometimes I think that if the liberal media just reported accurately what these monsters actually do, there would be much more support for the war. As it stands, they shield Americans from the horrors they perpetrate, so the only way to be informed is to consult websites such as LGF on a daily basis.

After all, there is a proper use of propaganda in wartime -- and any other time, really. For some reason, the word has taken on wholly negative connotations, but obviously there is good propaganda and bad propaganda. We couldn't have prevailed in World War II without a great deal of positive propaganda that helped Americans keep the nature of the enemy at the forefront of their minds. Our present enemies are no less evil, but you would never know it from the MSM. If you relied upon them, you would likely think that America in general and George Bush in particular are uniquely evil.

On Labor Day I watched Saving Private Ryan again. In the beginning, there was a scene in which a few Germans wanted to surrender, but the American GIs casually shot them and chuckled about it. Now, it would take a far better -- or possibly worse -- man than I to have not done the exact same thing. After all, these were men who, just moments ago, were creating all the carnage on the beach below, leaving your living and breathing friends to die on the sand and in the water.

Today, because of the insane "moral perfectionism" of the left (which we have been discussing in recent posts), the behavior of these American GIs would have, in the words of Senator Dodd, given Hitler the "moral high ground." After all, Dodd and his ilk insist that the Islamofascists can claim the moral high ground based upon our three instances of waterboarding terrorists, while the New York Times published dozens of front page articles about the hijinks at Abu Ghraib, explicitly arguing that we had morally sunk beneath our enemies.

Again, it is not hyperbole to say that these people are literally morally insane.

But what can we do about it? As I will be discussing in subsequent posts, the problem is that it is a fundamental error to regard everyone in the world as inhabiting the same world. For example, we are all familiar with the scheme of an economic first world (i.e., technologically advanced democracies), second world (this used to refer to the communist bloc, but for our purposes can refer to the top-down, centrally planned world of the authoritarian, illiberal left), third (developing or underdeveloped) world, and a fourth world (peoples basically in a state of nature, with extreme poverty, little education or technology, and perpetual war and instability).

However, there are also at least five very distinct "psychospiritual" worlds that are even more different -- and more real -- than the above worlds.

In fact, one of Mead's implicit arguments is that the economic differences of nations rest upon a template of profound psychological and spiritual differences. And if we fail to take these into account -- which we have more or less done in the Middle East -- then our attempts at economic and political reform will be for naught.

In a way, you might say that the left and right ignore the reality of the different psychospiritual worlds (which I will be discussing in more detail in subsequent posts) in distinctly different ways. As for the illiberal left, they would argue that it is racist to make these distinctions at all, as all cultures are equally beautiful and valuable. For example, they make no moral, spiritual, or psychological distinction between Israel and her primitive and bloodthirsty neighbors. But classically liberal conservatives also err in assuming the universality of our stage -- as if everyone wishes to live in a freedom, tolerance and diversity (in their true sense, not in the twisted anti-versions of the left, which should properly be called license, absence of standards, and lack of discrimination).

Now, we've just about completed our discussion of Mead's God and Gold, the main thesis of which is again that "the key to the predominance of the two countries [England and America] has been the individualistic ideology of the prevailing Anglo-American religion." In other words, the key to our economic and political success has been our values. But these values are not abstract or arbitrary, existing in thin air. Rather, they first must exist in minds capable of entertaining them.

For this reason, we can say -- and this should be a truism -- that America's greatest natural resource is her people, specifically, the psychospiritual software that still drives our economy and undergirds our political system. Without this same software (or something close to it), the system won't work elsewhere.

One of my constant themes is that the modern left is literally analogous to a computer virus that does everything in its power to corrupt the psychospiritual software that has made us so successful and so great. They do this in hundreds of little ways that would be too tedious to chronicle here. We all know the major ones by heart, but you have to be pretty firmly detached from the world they have created -- i.e., anchored in reality -- to see with great clarity how their toxic assumptions have insinuated their way into most everything. I mean, imagine how isolated you'd feel in the absence of talk radio and the internet, where you can still connect with people who inhabit your bright and happy Coonworld.

Instead of "Afro-American Studies," "Middle East Studies," or "Queer Studies" -- which will contribute exactly nothing to your ability to understand higher worlds -- what we are desperately in need of is WASP studies. As Mead writes, "the knowledge of this history needs to become part of the intellectual equipment of everyone, Americans and foreigners alike..." He notes that doing so may not be "universally popular" (an understatement), but that "WASP studies" ought to "return to center stage" for anyone who cares about understanding, reforming, or perpetuating the present (classical) liberal system of global power.

Our first order of business must always be to preserve the principles at home that have made us so strong and successful. But in order to preserve them, we must first know what they are. While we must of course maintain our commitment to liberty and free enterprise, Mead has shown us how "any serious decline in either the creativity of American religious faith or its denominational and theological diversity would make the United States a less dynamic society, sap its energy, reduce its wealth, and impair its ability to carry out the remaining elements of the national strategy." Only if these principles are understood can we fruitfully turn our attention abroad and determine how best to speed evolution along and turn the psychospiritual clocks forward elsewhere.

A key idea is again dynamic religion, which "corresponds to universal history, the expression in politics and culture of the call to transform the world. Static religion corresponds to particular history...." Islam -- at least in its contemporary form -- is one static religion, leftism another, for the latter faith denies the Universal Law and would have us all elevate our particular history to the Absolute, through the toxic doctrines of multiculturalism and moral relativism. In subsequent posts I hope to get more deeply into the meaning of dynamic and therefore universal religion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Perpetual War on History

In yesterday's post we discussed the Abrahamic idea that history is "broken" and needs mending. This has had a huge influence on American and British political attitudes, both left and right, leading to a kind of "crusader" attitude. While this has worked out well for classical liberals, it has been a disaster when filtered through the left, since they embody the fervent energy of the religious crusader without the wisdom and guidance of tradition and revelation.

Michael Polanyi felt that the secular left had succumbed to the two diseases of modernity, which are rooted in two false ideals, 1) detached objectivity as the ideal of knowledge, which eventually leads to the denial of the role of tradition, belief, and faith in the acquisition of all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and 2) a strident hunger for moral perfectionism with regard to social and economic conditions, or Judeo-Christian religious impulses in the absence of religious structure.

You will note that these are contradictory ideals in the first place, being that belief in (1) undermines the basis for any belief in (2), that is, objectively knowable moral imperatives. This is one of the enduring contradictions at the heart of leftism, but as always, they are clueless to the fact. They are always "in your face" with their insane moral demands, even though they have no epistemological or ontological basis for having such demands.

Polanyi's term for this ubiquitous phenomenon was "moral inversion," and it is one of the things that makes the left so annoying. For example, if there is no objective morality and human behavior is simply guided by the lust for power, on what basis can they condemn Israel for merely defending itself from Arab savagery? Likewise, if President Bush is engaging in war merely to somehow advance the interests of his "corporate friends," isn't he doing exactly what their simplistic worldview predicts?

Another case in point is the redefinition of marriage. Suddenly, in the last decade or so, leftists have come up with the crazy idea that "conservatives" have been preventing members of the same sex from getting married, when this is simply the way it has always been. There has never been a culture that sanctioned homosexual marriage, because such a thing is obviously impossible by definition, marriage being the sacred bond between a man and woman.

When normal people respond to the pressure and bullying of the left, the left calls it "oppression" or "homophobia," in classic passive-aggressive fashion. The left wishes to radically experiment with the very foundation of society (which is necessarily rooted in the sacred), but projects this into conservatives, as if they are the ones pushing for change. And the left grounds their crusade in an appeal to an objective morality which cannot exist for them to begin with.

They have done the same thing with President Bush, whose foreign policy has been completely in accord with our long tradition of fighting evil and advancing liberal ideals as a pragmatic way to increase our security. You can certainly disagree with specific implementations of policy or with his administration's handling of the war without vilifying him and inventing all sorts of kooky notions as to why we "really" went into Iraq.

The reason the left does this is again because of their moral inversion. Since they subconsciously see themselves as morally superior, the motives of President Bush must be morally evil, therefore he is worthy of condemnation of the most hysterical and sadistic type from a psychotically detached and corrupt superego. For the left, he is the very embodiment of evil, even though one of the main reasons they hate him is that he believes in the objective existence of evil. Only a moral imbecile would argue that Saddam was not profoundly evil but that President Bush or Dick Cheney are.

And when I say "moral imbecile," I mean that literally -- even as a diagnosis, not as an insult. As Dennis Prager has mentioned, just as one can be mentally or mathematically or musically retarded, it is quite possible to be morally retarded -- to be incapable of soundly reasoning within the realm of morality.

And please, this is not to say that all leftists are moral retards, only that the movement is, which in turn makes it much more difficult to think with moral clarity if you are a leftist constrained by the paradigm of leftism (just as it is much more difficult for a Palestinian to be decent within the context of his indecent culture).

This retardation is responsible for the passionate moral energy that causes the leftist to, say, fight to save the lives of mass murderers, or for the right to kill the unborn, or to be hysterical over the physical environment but care not a bit about the much greater danger of soul pollution -- of maintaining a psycho-spiritual environment fit for humans. In the absence of such an environment, human beings will become sick, probably even physically.

As Mead writes, "The Anglo-American tradition of the war against evil shifts very easily into the idea of a war against history." Again, this idea of setting history aright is hardly new, but "has deep roots in Anglo-American culture. From the time of the Reformation, English popular feeling... identified the national cause with that of true religion -- fighting against evil -- in a simple and straightforward way.... Those who try to thwart this progress are fighting God's will or blocking human nature from its right to fulfill its aspirations and achieve its justly deserved freedom -- and that is the essence of evil."

Virtually every American president has implicitly believed this, that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). This freedom-loving God is the God we're stuck with, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Which suits me just fine.

Now, you can say that Muslim culture is incapable of adopting the liberal values of this freedom-lovin' God, and you may well be right. However, a leftist cannot really believe this, for it would be at odds with his own belief that people are basically the same, that they are guided by reason, and that they all want the same things. I have no problem saying that the average Palestinian prefers murdering Jews to liberty, democracy, and economic development. But a leftist is not permitted to have such a thought, because it is somehow "racist" in his worldview.

It is not the policy, or broad attitude, that has changed. Rather, it is the left that has changed. In other words, the impulse to fight German Nazism or Japanese fascism is the same as the one to fight Islamofascism. It's very simple, really. It generally takes a highly educated mind to fail to see this, someone so imbued with hateful neo-Marxist brainwashing that they are no longer in contact with reality, only with the projection of their own fantasies.

It is critical to understand that leftists are every bit as committed to this idealistic "war on history" as are classical liberals. As Mead writes, the question up to now has revolved around "how best to define and then how best to win the war against history, not whether to fight one at all."

For example, the contemporary left has largely displaced this war to environmental concerns, projecting both sin and potential salvation onto that quixotic crusade -- as if it will have any impact whatsoever on mankind's main problem, which is the existence of human evil. But this is why they subconsciously shift the whole environmental debate to a moral plane. Al Gore will not debate anyone on the merits. Rather, he simply castigates and dismisses them in moral terms, as venal liars on satan's payroll. It's the same war on evil and on history, except that evil is redefined in their upside-down world. And from this follows the wise Talmudic saying that those who are kind to the cruel will always end up being cruel to the kind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time, Revolution, and the Healing of History (3.17.10)

When the inferior man hears talk about the Absolute, he only laughs at it; it would not be the Absolute if he did not laugh at it... the self-evidence of the Absolute is taken for a darkness. --Adapted from Lao Tzu, who obviously saw Bill Maher coming

Our ideological adversaries are not living in reality. Indeed, that is what makes them our adversaries. People who don't live in reality necessarily become frustrated, resentful, and aggressive, especially toward those who do live in reality. They think that by attacking reality and those who live in it, they can somehow transform their unreality into reality, but of course it never works. Reality always has the last word.

Mead writes that everyone in the Anglo-American world, whether secular or religious, is within the Abrahamic tradition, which is one of the things that sets us apart from unsuccessful cultures. Abrahamic religion "holds that history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end." In the Abrahamic tradition, history is "the name for a period in the human story in which certain problems need to be solved. History in this sense is not synonomous with the full term of human existence. History is a period and a process through which humanity solves (or is given a solution to) certain sets of problems before moving on to the next and higher stage in its existence."

Abrahamic ideologies "largely see the human story as consisting of three stages: prehistory, history, and posthistory." Seen in this context, history "is not just the passage of time" -- indeed, Abrahamic peoples are intrinsically "historical" and never really see time in this meaningless way. Rather, history involves "the accomplishment of a task. Something is wrong with the world; the world has been wounded. History is the process by which what is wrong is set right, what is broken mended. History may look chaotic and meaningless, but everything that happens is ultimately part of the healing process..."

Now, the main difference between Abrahamic religion and Abrahamic atheism or materialism is that the latter regards the former as just a stage on the way to the atheist's superior "post human" knowledge and insight, while the religionist would regard the atheist as existing at a sort of right angle to the stream of historical development, paddling around in an irrelevant little self-created eddy. He is like a drop critiquing the ocean and imagining himself superior to it. But the atheist cannot help thinking that existence and history have a purpose, thus the fervent attempts to evangelize their posthuman (in reality infrahuman) faith.

In the words of Schuon, such a person regards his own "extrinsic explanations as essential factors of truth," objectifying what is only subjective and dragging truth "down into the depths into which it has itself fallen." The whole enterprise is absurd, since "one cannot enclose the universe within 'human subjectivity' while at the same time allowing for a point of view beyond this subjectivity..." Man is either a fragment of the Absolute or he is nothing.

We can all agree that something is wrong with the world. In the absence of time, we could never set it right, so history is indeed an opportunity to mend what is broken and participate in what Jews call tikkun olam, the "repair" or "perfecting" of the world. In Raccoon parlance we refer to this ultimate Adventure of Consciousness as "Cosmotheosis," or the divinization of the lower world, which can only be accomplished through human beings, since only we have the freedom to do so (i.e., vertical freedom of movement). In other words, we are the "lens" through which the white light of the Absolute deigns to undergo the adventure of color, each of which is a fragment of the pure Light. If we could not suffer pain, falsehood, and color, we could not suffer pleasure, Truth, and Light. This is why human existence is such a guilty pleasure.

Mead writes that secular modernism "is the youngest member of the family of Abraham." With the exception of a personal God, it "faithfully reproduces the most important pieces of the Abrahamic paradigm," and believes that its version of the faith will prevail in the end. Secularists still "adopt the core structure of the Abrahamic idea of history to tell their own stories of the world." (Mead goes into considerably more detail in defense of this thesis, but to a Raccoon it is soph-evident.)

The other "master narrative" of our time is the sudden flowering of human potential of the last several centuries. As Mead writes, "nothing in humanity's past prepared it for change this dramatic in so many fields over such an extended period of time." Because we are a relatively young species and exist within the heart of this ongoing explosion, it is difficult for us to see it.

But don't worry -- Petey sees it just fine. He would disagree with Mead as to when the noospheric explosion (i.e., psychogenesis) commenced, situating it instead about 35-40,000 years ago, when merely genetic proto-humans suddenly and inexplicably began exhibiting distinct signs of humanness, such as the fully realized artistic images on the underground cave walls of Europe. While the explosion continued afterwards, we couldn't see it because it was happening so slowly, just as we can't see the Big Bang happening, even though we're right here in the center of this rapidly expanding cosmos.

What happened with modernity is that we became aware of the exploding noosphere, since time suddenly "sped up," but mainly in the Anglo-American world. With the arrival of free market capitalism, for the first time "history became a real presence in human lives" (Mead). For example, the Muslim world is still stagnating back in that earlier time, so that to them, we are aliens from the future bearing weird and often threatening gifts such as computers, airplanes, and antibiotics. While they eagerly accept most of these gifts -- i.e., bin Laden is never far from his computer or dialysis machine -- they would like to pull the future back into the past, when none of these gifts existed, but still keep the gifts. Thus, they are not just premodern, but pre-ironic.

As for the left, they simply want to pull us all into a weird future which cannot exist except in the form of a projection of fantasy. They are post-ironic.

Mead writes that "Marx is to progressivism what Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism," in that he explicated "the fullest and most systematic expression" of the secular leftist myth that still animates them today, even (or perhaps especially) if only unconsciously. Again, it shares the deep structure of Abrahamic religion, including a romantic "garden of innocence" (i.e., the classless society of early humans), the fall into oppression, exploitation, and class warfare, Marx's revelation of the true laws of history, and the culmination of "the establishment of a higher, final way of life that fully meets human goals and needs," i.e., the triumph of the working class. Thus, Marx didn't so much turn Hegel as Abraham on his head.

But having turned Abraham on his head, leftists also turned Brahman upside down, i.e., the Cosmic Tree. Its roots were now down below, mayared in matter. Having literally transplanted the tree of life into sterile soil, they accomplished a feat of clay, eliminating all the O-lumination in one fallen swoop, subverting That which makes man Man, and embracing the fantasy that they could build a new and improved reality "from the bottom up," absurdly beginning with matter. They could force their vision on a recalcitrant mankind in the same way one can mold matter. But in order to do this most effectively, a large and coercive state was required to do the molding and speed history along toward utopia. Needless to say, there is a big difference between pushing time and being pulled or lured by the eschaton.

Mead writes that "Americans have a hard time realizing this, but they need to." That is, we are faced with the eternal choice of the Glorious Revolution and its descendent, the American Revolution; or the French Revolution, and all its misshapen descendants. Our cosmic duty, as it were, is to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of America's founding seers, as we heal the wounds and wound the heels that history has made.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Adventure of Reality and How to Avoid It

As Mead exhaustively demonstrates in God and Gold, the Anglo-Americans have been by far the most successful people in the history of the planet. You could go so far as to say that they even "invented" success, which is to say, "progress." Before the 17th century or so, the world was essentially static, going nowhere. There was no democracy, no science, no free market, and no freedom of inquiry. The vast majority of people lived their lives as anonymous peasants or slaves performing back-breaking work, and were lucky to live to the age of 40, by which time their worn out bodies would be "old" by our standards. War, famine, and plague were either present or on the horizon. Rates of infant mortality were appalling, so there was little point in emotionally investing in children until it was too late.

That is, we now understand that a deep emotional investment during the first two years of life is the most critical for psychological health later in life. Its absence leaves permanent scars, including depression and emptiness, unregulated anger, shame and envy, paranoia and distrust of the world, and inability to establish emotionally rewarding bonds of love with others. Thus, in my opinion, mankind was in a deep rut, a vicious cycle of dysfunctional cultures producing dysfunctional people, century in, century out. (This is explained in more detail in my book.)

Today we look at, say, the Palestinians, and see a comprehensively depraved and dysfunctional people, unable to evolve out of their deep rut. But they probably wouldn't have been out of place 500 years ago, when most groups were angry, murderous, paranoid, self-defeating, and prone to magical thinking (not to mention, anti-Semitic). The only difference is that they probably would have been much more successful in such a context, given their homicidal ruthlessness.

So when I say that the Anglo-Americans both discovered and created reality, I am being quite literal. And please don't cite all the exceptions to the rule. Of course there are bad Anglo-Americans and good and decent people from other cultures. Of course Anglo-Americans have perpetrated some awful things. But that is not because they are Anglo-Americans. It is because they are fallen human beings. Immorality is the rule in history; it hardly needs explanation. Decency is the exception; thus, people are puzzled by "the problem of evil," when the much deeper coonundrum is the problem of good.

The question is, how did human beings ever escape the enduring rut they had been in for so many centuries? The whole notion of progress didn't exist, because it wasn't something that anyone had personally experienced in their lives. Rather, change was almost always bad, so the natural impulse was to try to prevent or suppress it.

Perhaps I shouldn't say "natural" impulse; or at least we have to admit of a counter-impulse in the direction of novelty and adventure, or else we never could have escaped the rut. Humans are obviously equipped with both impulses, and the idea is to balance them, not exaggerate one or the other. You might even say that we are born with "conservative" and "liberal" impulses, not in the political sense, but in the sense of a dialectic between security and adventure, established knowledge and curiosity, closed stasis and open dynanism, boundaries and drives.

When we speak of the impulse toward curiosity and adventure, consider the original human beings who ventured out of Africa some 50,000 years ago, or whenever it was (the exact date escapes me at the moment, but I do remember that it was on a Tuesday). Originally we were a tiny band of oddballs numbering perhaps 5000 or less. For reasons we can scarcely imagine, these explorers decided to venture out of Africa, and keep venturing -- north, east, and west, then further west until there was no place to go but up and now in. From our vantage point, we can see that, all along, this has been an adventure -- no, the Adventure of Consciousness.

But obviously, there have been roadblocks and obstacles along the way -- personal, collective, cultural, economic, bacterial, viral, genetic, psychological, political, educational, religious, ideological.

Today, for the average person privileged to live in the West, none of these roadblocks exist, with the exception of the personal/psychological. If your life is not an adventure of consciousness, then it's most likely your own damn fault. Or even if it's not, then there is plenty you can do about it. You can change. You can progress. You can grow.

Unless you are still imprisoned in a culture or ideology untouched by Anglo-American ideals. Let's again take the example of the Palestinians. Let's say there is a Palestinian who actually wishes to be good. He would prefer to live in freedom, and he does not wish to murder Jews as the universal solution to all of life's problems. Practically speaking, this is not something he is free to articulate publicly, let alone choose. Palestinian savagery toward Jews is perhaps only exceeded by what they do to their own "collaborators." In a morally twisted culture such as the Palestinians, one is simply not free to be good, which is an awful catch-22 to be in. Those necessarily silent people, whoever they are, certainly deserve our sympathy.

Now, the West has its own version of a dysfunctional ideology that puts up obstacles to personal development and which runs counter to the Adventure of Consciousness: the psycho-spiritual left in all its insidious varieties and permutations. Let's take an example that comes readily to mind, the attempt to shackle black people in a cognitive prison in which they are indoctrinated to believe that their greatest obstacles are not within, but without. In spite of all empirical evidence to the contrary, condescending leftists try to indoctrinate blacks with the notions that they are hated and despised, that personal effort is futile, and that they will get nowhere in life without the assistance of white liberals.

As such, to a leftist, there is no one more hated than a black person who not only proves them wrong, but who has contempt for them in return.

For example, Clarence Thomas, without a doubt one of the greatest and most courageous living Americans.

A recent article by Shelby Steel in National Review calls him "The Freest Black Man in America." Steel's essential argument is that blacks have become so accustomed to living by the kindness of white liberal racists, that it has become a sort of addiction. Of so-called "civil rights leaders" who reinforce the same dependency that segregation imposed, he writes that "In the very bowels of slavery there was never a more egregious form of Uncle Tomism than this determination, even in the midst of freedom, to portray one's own people as nearly helpless victims.... There simply could be no greater threat to civil rights organizations than the themes that most animate Thomas's life: individuality and will." Another way of saying it is that the left erodes individuality by equating the will with futility, so that the adventure of consciousness can never get off the ground

By the way, Steel does not argue that blacks have no reason for having this attitude; rather, he emphasizes that it was a strategy born of centuries of group impotence and intense insecurity. But as a result, this historically meant that group identity became the enemy of individuality: "In its insecurity, the group is naturally threatened by the impulse in some of its members to think for themselves. Individuals like this seem to put the group at risk." Steel writes that it is as if the group is saying, "Your indulgence in individuality jeopardizes the carefully constructed mask we present to the powerful majority. Your individuality collaborates with them. So knock it off. Get in line, or we will shun you to the point of extinction."

Thus, white and black leftists do not, as do the Palestinians, physically lynch such an individual. But they do so psychologically. That is, they engage in gang rape of a person's good name and reputation, as they did and still do with Thomas. And as Dennis Prager has eloquently written, the rape of a name can be as emotionally devastating as the rape of a body, and is every bit as despicably immoral.

Indeed, because of the issue of abortion, Thomas essentially became the "poor black man nailed to the cross by wealthy white women." This was the price he paid for his individuality by virtue of stepping outside their liberal racist stereotype -- for straying off the plantation. He was still free to be an individual and do the right thing. But because of liberal racists, taking advantage of that freedom required much more courage than most of us will likely ever need.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What Does it All Mean? (11.02.10)

We're still discussing Mead's God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. After laying his foundation in the first three sections of the book, he tries to put it all together in the last two sections, and address nothing less than The Meaning of History, the Lessons of History, and The Meaning of it All. It is here where I believe he seriously falters, but this is a necessary consequence of being a secular scholar operating under the extremely constricting assumptions of his essentially materialistic psychoclass.

In other words, although Mead does a fine job in the first two thirds of the book in explicating the importance of religion to the unprecedented success of the Anglo-Americans, in the end, he attempts to "contain" religion within (small-r) reason, thus violating his own theory that the key to our success has been a balancing of the dynamic trinity of reason-revelation-tradition. If you want to be reasonable about it, in reality, reality is beyond all reason, but hardly unreasonable. Hopefully, this will become more clear to you as I explain it to me.

First of all, let's restate the thesis of the book: "the key to the predominance of the two countries [England and America] has been the individualistic ideology of the prevailing Anglo-American religion," which he lays out in the first three sections. The last two sections of the book "engage with what are known as the 'grand narratives' of world history, the frameworks that give the context and background for particular events."

Mead largely rejects the postmodern view that these grand narratives have "collapsed" and that "no single story line can capture the complexity of contemporary life." Rather, "we are not in an age of collapsing grand narratives. We are in an age of competing grand narratives, and in many ways they are becoming more energetic and compelling as they react against one another in a global culture that brings them side to side."

In my opinion, there are three principal, mutually exclusive grand narratives in competition, 1) European style socialism (which subsumes such hideous developments as identity politics, multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, victimology, and the cluelessly ironic rejection of all grand narrative except for its own), 2) Islamism, and 3) Anglo-American classical liberalism.

Thus, we should not be altogether surprised at the de facto alliance between the left and the Islamists, as they share the common enemy of American liberalism and its foundation in Judeo-Christian principles. (People will disagree with me on this, but I do not believe these principles are universal because they are Judeo-Christian, but that the latter represents possibly the most adequate or "full" instantiation of the former.)

Regarding the contemporary alliance of Islam and the left, note that it was a mere two decades ago that Islamists and liberals (i.e., conservatives) were united against what was then seen as the common enemy, the Soviet Union. Set in this context, the casual treason of the New York Times or the reflexive anti-Americanism of leftist academia are expectable, if not excusable. They fear and despise America and what it stands for.

Now, a Raccoon has his own "grand narrative," but it is cosmic -- even metacosmic -- as opposed to global. To be perfectly accurate, he places global events in the larger framework of cosmic evolution, of the 14 billion year drama of cosmogenesis-to-cosmotheosis, aka, the arc of salvation. This is the true Meaning of it All, and the only real way to comprehend both the Meaning and the Lessons of History. Otherwise you are within history, a conditioned subject of your own narrative. Once you see the irony of this, then you can't really believe and be committed to your own little manmade narrative.

To put it another way, the meta-cosmic Raccoon narrative is the only one grand enough to comprehend us, rather than vice versa. In other words, if your grand narrative is rooted in mere reason, it will explain everything but the grand narrator, who is the most important part. How grand can one's narrative be if it doesn't really explain oneself? It becomes a kind of intellectual parlor game, in which one engages in auto-deception, or willing the pall over one's own I. It is analogous to thoroughly analyzing a dream and thereby believing that one has comprehended the Dreamer who dreams both you and the dream.

The main problem with the meta-cosmic Raccoon narrative is that it is incompatible with selling many books. But who cares what my agent thinks?

Mead, who doesn't have that problem, writes that "History as we know it began about three or four thousand years ago when, according to the spotty and incomplete records that survive, a wandering herdsman named Abram heard what he believed to be a call from God."

In our view, History began 13 or 14 billion years ago, when an ordered cosmos uniquely suited to the development of life and mind sprang into existence from "nothing." True, Abram took the mysterious call, but it was from the nonlocal Author of this mysterious cosmos, not just some local tribal deity. Of course, he couldn't have known that at the time, but still, this means that there is a thread that connects the origin of the cosmos to the origin of America, the author of history with the author of the cosmos.

Meads suggests that Muslims are really just fellow "Abrahamists," but is this true? If so, then I don't think the idea is particularly useful. It would be like saying that Hitler and Churchill both descended from apes, so they were really just quarreling brothers. (Before you laugh, this is what an evolutionary psychologist or sociobiologist might very well posit, and they would be correct within the constraints of their own myopic vision. After all, both men were shaped by genes that made them aggressive "alpha males" with a gift of rhetoric and an appetite for dominance.)

Mead notes that the essence of Abrahamic religion revolves around the ideas that "history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end," and that "truth is universal: there is one truth and it is true everywhere and for everyone." Furthermore, Mead understands that most modern science is rooted in "the idea that a single god created the entire universe and endowed human beings with the ability to understand and a mission to shape the world that we live in." A Raccoon obviously has no problem with this metaphysic.

But is it really accurate to suggest that Muslims and secular leftists share this view? Isn't the whole point that they don't share this universal vision of reality? If they did, then Muslims would have no problem with science, and leftists would have no problem with religion (and by extension, reality, since Mead's central insight is that the successful negotiation of reality involves the dynamic synthesis of reason-revelation-tradition).

Let's pause for a moment and discuss what reality must be like if Mead is correct about this dynamic trinity -- which I believe he is.

Tomorrow.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"We Are All Abraham Now" (11.02.10)

Some further thoughts on God and Gold. I'll probably be ready to move on after one more post. Bear in mind that many of the coonclusions drawn are my own. You can probably tell which.

One of Mead's central points is that "the choices between faith and unbelief did not appear as stark to much of the English-speaking world as they did elsewhere." Rather, we have been able to maintain a creative tension between them, which forms the essence of "dynamic religion." The dynamic religion of the Anglo-American world has not just been able to coexist with, but thrive upon, the sort of skepticism that is so corrosive and ultimately fatal to static religion (which ends up being the disease that kills curiosity). In other words, our form of religiosity was well-suited not just to usher in science, but to then assimilate it and give it meaning.

People naturally seek the comfort of a closed system of thought, whether it be religious or "scientific." In the West, we have been able to reconcile the absolute and relative, time and eternity, through the notion of progress, or evolution (understood in its broader, non-Darwinian sense). Mead does a good job of showing how we in the Anglo-American world -- whether secular or religious -- all share this spiritual deep structure of faith in the idea that progress is both possible and good. Thus, we can assimilate and make sense of change, whereas overly tradition-bound cultures see change as the enemy, and therefore reject the notion of progress. They cannot escape the closed circle of tradition and therefore evolve forward.

But at the same time, English society "decided that reason cannot stand alone as the basis for a human society." In fact, "the 'scientific' societies of the Communist world, boasting of their objective grounding in rational and scientific truth... were considerably less flexible than the Western societies they opposed," just as "there was less freedom in France under Robespierre and his Reign of Terror than under the less systematic and less 'rational' revolutionary governments that preceded it."

With respect to change and progress, "the degree to which the individualistic basis of Anglo-American religious experience links the religious life of the individual to a God who reveals Himself in the changes and upheavals of life, rather than in the stabilities and unchanging verities, has had a profound effect and continues to exercise a powerful force on the English-speaking world today."

Virtually all of us in the Anglo-American world are progressives, which is to say whigs, which sets us apart from almost all cultures that have preceded -- and coexist with -- us. This is why a Raccoon believes in darwhiggian evolution. Of course evolution exists, as it is a necessary consequence of the existence of God. The only place evolution cannot occur is "within" (some might argue "beyond") God, or in the ground of the Absolute, which is necessarily outside time and therefore free of change. However, one could argue that evolution is also impossible within the leftist university, since they create a "shadow eternity" that is cut off from reality. But that is obviously a temporary condition.

Progress can only exist in the light of permanence, otherwise it is merely "change." The secular folks who go by the name "progressive" are in fact mere "changeists," since they reject that by which progress can be objectively measured, i.e., God, the Absolute.

Mead notes that Milton was one of the first to recognize this, and to argue that "truth is revealed in a process," so that "knowledge of God [as opposed to God in Himself -- GB] must necessarily change over time." Of Truth, Milton wrote that "if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition," the perfect image of a closed system -- and only an open system is susceptible to evolution.

In the English-speaking world, change was eventually understood "as a permanent, necessary, and even sanctified element of true religion." This is also responsible for our inherent optimism (at least for non-leftists), in that "the ever-recurring belief that the world is about to become a much better place is deeply rooted in Anglo-American culture." Thus, whiny and pessimistic leftists are intrinsically un-American (spritually, not factually).

Here is an interesting idea, which, like it or not, links the most unfun fundamentalist to the newest newageist: in the Anglo-American world, We are all Abraham now. The idea that we must have "a personal relationship with God" has "for more than three centuries been strengthening its hold in American life." That we must all "answer the call" and discover our own identity, vocation, and meaning, testifies "to the power of the Abrahamic archetype in the American mind":

"The Abrahamic believer, convinced that God is leading the way to an unknown future in a new land, is ready to accept not only the personal but also social consequences" of his freedom -- including his economic freedom. Those grounded in static religion naturally have difficulty accepting change, but "for the dynamic believer, change is both a sign of progress and an opportunity to show the growing virtue of faith." Thus, "with an energy that no centralizing power could ever summon or shape, millions of Americans through decades and centuries spontaneously" struggle to improve themselves and progress toward God.

Another provocative idea: "yankee secularism" is just another variation of our archetypal religious puritanism. For example, the radical secularist has simply "translated both the fervor and the certainty of ancestral New England religious convictions into a set of secular political values." And how!

Again, as we were saying the other day, there is no priggish, sanctimonious moral scold of a church lady like a secular one, such as Al Gore or the New York Times idiotorial board. Dailykos is nothing but fire-and-brimstone, snake-handling, religiously secular fundamentalist whack-jobs (see Dr. Sanity's post today for more fine examples). They hardly exude the "amused and easy tolerance" of a good-natured Raccoon, but rather, "the bitter response of a Calvinist divine to the whiff of heresy." On the one hand, America is "filled with radical revolutionaries who think they are religious conservatives." But it is also filled with conservative secular fundamentalists who think they are progressives.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Learning and Relearning the Americoon Way (11.01.10)

Some things I have learned from God and Gold:

Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Anglo-Americans have been on the winning side in every international conflict. And we didn't just win these conflicts, but reorganized the world in our image. Much of the resentment toward us has to do with the fact that in order to survive and flourish in this world, you must adapt your dopey world to the world we both discovered and made, which is to say, "reality" -- and nothing is the source of more resentment than the demands of reality.

Never confuse "Anglo-American" with "European," much less "white," let alone "French." "It is France that has most often attempted to defeat or at least most often contain" the Anglo-Americans. "Whatever we call it, the hatred and fear of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and all of their doings is one of the motors driving the world." It is "one of the key organizing principles that many observers use to make sense of mysterious events," i.e., it is an unconscious paranoid process that animates resentful and envious people who don't really have any ideas, only rebellious anti-ideas.

We see ourselves as fighting for liberty over tyranny; the French see themselves as fighting for "civilization" over barbarism, especially us. As one frog put it, "America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization." Or as an intellectual from one of those useless South American countries put it, "Americans are Englishmen with the good qualities left out and the bad qualities swollen to fill up the vacuum."

Very early on, the Anglo-Americans discovered the dynamics of complex systems, i.e., the "invisible hand." They understood that order emerges from chaos, not just in economics, but in virtually every realm -- politics, the marketplace of ideas, science, relationships, etc. Most cultures -- including half of our own -- still struggle with the idea that most things will improve if only you leave them alone.

Anti-Anglo-Americanism is a constant in world history. It just takes different forms. Thus, the hatred of President Bush, both here and abroad, is nothing new. It's been the same pattern from from Louis XIV to Osama bin Laden to the New York Times.

For at least a couple hundred years, sensible Anglo-Americans have been predicting the End of History -- the end of poverty, war, stupidity, and all the other follies of fallen mankind. We always think world peace is just around the corner, under the assumption that the rest of the world will naturally come to its senses and adopt our liberal values, since they are obviously so successful. George Bush may be the latest victim of this sanguine view of mankind, i.e., giving Muslims the gift of freedom and expecting them to appreciate or make use of it

Heidegger is an even bigger a**hole than I thought: first he sees Hitler and Nazism as "Europe's best and even noblest protection from the twin threats" of Marxism and "Americanism"; then he concludes that the latter "is the hideous final destination on humanity's road away from a meaningful way of life"; and then he finally decides that "the Marxist machine, for all its evil, was less dangerous than the American." And Heidegger's vision "remains central to much European and Latin-American anti-Americanism today...." Truly, you could pick a name at random out of the phone book and obtain more wisdom than from this "great" philosopher.

Ever since England established the first national bank over 300 years, ago, economic illiterates have been howling that national debt would bring economic catastrophe and ruin, but instead, it has always led to more growth. You could publish a Paul Krugman editorial in 1740, and it would be just as timely as today. (Wisdom is not the only human knowledge that is timeless; a corollary is that certain forms of stupidity, or (-k), are timeless as well, something well understood in scripture.)

What Germany is to music and Italy to painting and sculpture, New York and London are to finance.

All Raccoons know this, but it's worth repeating: in reality, only the free market respects the masses, as it efficiently responds to their genuine needs, even if elites have comtempt for them. In traditional or elitist societies it is "the rulers and well-born whose tastes must be studied, prejudices indulged, and caprices made much of." "The power of mass consumption, harnessed by flexible markets to the economic interest of the talented, may be the most revolutionary human discovery since the taming of fire. The changes that have come and will come from this union of the ambitions of the elites with the aspirations of the masses are incalculable."

By the time Marx was dead and writing his books, middle and lower-income families were already enjoying "a higher standard of living in some ways than even the most aristocratic households had enjoyed only a half century before." Thus, his ideas were born obsolete, one reason why leftist academia is such a soul-killing environment.

It is because Anglo-American governments have been so relatively weak that they have been so strong. Like the free market, they must respect the wishes of the people and lean on voluntary cooperation instead of coercion. Thus, big government will necessarily become unpopular, because it no longer need respond to the citizenry and instead must coerce or use force. This is why everyone hates the IRS or recognizes the failures of the education establishment or the problems with social security, but no one can change them. Imagine the permanent nightmare of nationalized healthcare, which constitutes some 17% of our economy.

Again, all Raccoons know this, but societies that overvalue reason and devalue tradition and revelation become dysfunctional and cannot evolve. "Dynamic religion" is the philosopher Bergson's term for "the angel that calls people forward to ever more open societies." Those who have read the Coonifesto will be familiar with my idea that only open religion specifically engages the eschaton, O, luring the open system toward it, both individually and collectively. Mead notes that open religion can take many forms, such as "a feeling of restlessness and unease, a yearning for new experiences, a voice in the head shouting warnings or commands, visions, dreams, or ideas." It is living religion, or O-->(n).

Dead or "static religion" is the historical norm, certainly outside the Judeo-Christian world, but often within it as well. And radical secularism can be as much a static religion as any other. In this regard it is the form -- the deep structure -- not the substance, that counts. Put it this way: whoever you are, you either practice a dead religion or a living one:

"The tragic choice that many self-consciously 'modern' observers see between the black-and-white realism of open modernity and the visionary colors and imagery of closed tradition and myth disappears if Bergson's dynamic religion is taken into account." We cannot do without our great visions that "light up the western sky" and "stir human souls to the depths," driving us to "to pull up our stakes and move on," which is to say evolve, both within and toward O.

Which is why Raccoon philosophy is simply the operative philosophy of reality; it is what we might call "dynamic" or "evolutionary neo-traditionalism."

That's only half the book... we'll get to the second half in the next post.