Cosmopathology and the Descent of the Left (3.15.10)
As we have discussed before, leftism is by definition a perpetual rebellion against these principles -- against the Real. Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often rooted in a psychological one. It amounts to a sort of nihiljerk paranoia toward reality -- a cynical and worldly suspiciousness -- that excludes any real explanations, "since these in their turn fall under the same law of suspicion, which drags everything down and which is the end of truth" (Schuon). Sophisticated secular man proudly avoids falling for anything and thus triumphantly plunges into nothing, the only alternative. Detached from the Real, he either drifts or bolts from it 32 feet per second per second.
Continuing with our discussion of Michael Polanyi, one puzzling thing he noticed -- discussed a few days ago in this post -- was that intellectuals were not only responsible (obviously) for the most destructive ideas and ruthless political movements of the 20th century, but that they embraced them despite the fact that these ideas, if implemented, would spell the end of the intellectual class. That is, they undermine the very liberal ideal of freedom of inquiry guided by the pursuit of truth.
Prosch writes that "It was the intellectuals of [the last] century themselves who played the largest part in destroying those very things that they needed and that were already theirs. Such operative perversity as this must lead one to suspect the operator's mental health, a mind blind to that which it wants and needs." Indeed, a mind which "proceeds on a path toward its own destruction, may surely be suspected of suffering from obsessions that are pushing it to such nonadaptive behavior."
As we shall see, Polanyi's analysis explains why the cognitive and spiritual pathology of political correctness emanates from the left, and could only emanate from the left, despite the fact that it makes a farce of their vaunted ideal of "academic freedom." And it is the very definition of pathology, since it causes great damage to the mind and soul of the person afflicted with it. And once the pathology has taken over whole institutions -- i.e., leftist academia, the MSM -- it becomes a truly dangerous pathogen that systematically infects those who pass through its environment (again, unless they have a very robust spiritual immune system rooted in the Real).
We see the same thing occurring with Islamic fascism, which is not -- as leftists cluelessly, but necessarily, believe -- a result of poverty, but of affluence. It is rooted in the ideas of intellectuals, who then -- just as leftists do in the west -- try to demagogically propagate these ideas to the ignorant masses to explain their misery. The only thing that has kept America (its better half, anyway) immune from this process is its strong foundation in an alternative metaphysic, which we call the Judeo-Christian tradition. Likewise, the reason why continental Europe fell to the viral song of leftism is that it had already gravely weakened its own natural defense mechanism to it.
The book I'm reading on Polanyi has an interesting explanation for this, and it makes a great deal of sense to me. That is, in continental Europe, their political liberation was inseparable from their religious liberation, i.e., from the Catholic church. However, in Protestant England and America, the break from religious tyranny had already been effected, so that political liberation was not conflated with a rebellion against God. Thus, the Founders were able to formulate the ideal of separation of church and state, not for the purpose of ending religion's influence, but strengthening it.
Conversely, in Europe, their separation of the two spheres inevitably led to the destruction of religion and the deification of the state. No properly religious person could ever deify the state, which is why leftism is excluded for the spiritually attuned but just about mandatory for the spiritually blind (objectivists and contemporary libertarians represent insignificant and ultimately self-refuting exceptions to this rule).
Being a scientist, Polanyi noticed a connection between the ideals of logical positivism and the nihilism of the left. Even today, despite the fact that positivism has been thoroughly discredited, it remains a kind of tacit metaphysic for both scientists and for much of the educated public. In other words, there is a widespread assumption that "only scienctific theories [are] capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles [are] essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference." But Polanyi saw that there was a deep relationship between the very possibility of science and certain metaphysical ideals and principles "that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." And just because the ideals which underlie science could not be proved, it hardly meant that they were unworthy of belief.
This tacit acceptance of positivism ramifies in interesting ways. On the one hand, there is the scientific worker bee who supposedly only believes what his experimental data tell him. But this is indeed a cold, dead, airless, and ultimately infrahuman spiritual environment into which the passion for nihilism rushes to fill the void. In this regard, it seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, and therefore filled it with a void -- the nihilistic void of the secular left.
Now it is surely noteworthy that the only organized opposition to liberty comes from intellectuals, who supposedly hold their own liberty -- i.e., "academic freedom" -- to be sacred. How could someone who would instinctively rebel at the idea of centralized "planned culture," embrace the idea of a centralized, planned economy?
As Prosch writes, "much of the dissatisfaction with the present order of the economy came from intellectuals, from people not under these immediate threats and whose professional life would derive little benefit from scrapping the system. Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy." And a planned economy eventually entails a planned culture, something which is quite evident. That is, the more left the country, the more laws must exist to constrain and control the people, exterior laws which displace the interior law written in the heart of man.
Yes, but what are the exact dynamics of this irrational leftist nihilism, and what caused it to reject the liberal foundations of the Christian West?
That's enough for today. Next post.
Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a collectivity.. --F. Schuon