Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night (11.01.10)

Well, not last night, but yesterday. I'm trying to tear through this wonderful new book by Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, but it's got so much information and so many interpretations that it's a little difficult to assimilate and rewordgitate it in the usual way. These days, most books I read are of the metaphysical/theological/philosophical/mythopoetic variety, which requires an entirely different skill set, or at least approach.

In the case of the latter, you're sort of internalizing the Dreamer, and then trying to see what the world looks like through that particular dreamer's eyes, say, Frithjof Schuon or Sri Aurobindo, two of history's greatest and most expansive cosmic dreamers. The cosmic metaphysical dream colors all the particulars of our experience, and in fact, allows one to notice many particulars that would otherwise elude us, and place them in the context of a greater and more encompassing vision. Obviously, you're not going to get much of this in a typical secular education.

Rather, in the case of most books, you're only getting the dream content, and it's up to you to come up with the dream that will synthesize it and give it meaning. When a book is too long, or poorly edited, or becomes weak or boring as it goes along, it's often because the author insufficiently dreamt the material. But most conventional scholars are not proper dreamers anyway, or else they just interpret the material through the controlling dream of the day, say, secular liberalism or materialistic scientism.

In a secular eduction, whatever else you learn, the worst part of it is that you will have internalized the Secular Dream -- which is actually a nightmare, or at least a dream unworthy of Man and that which (or Who) dreams him. As such, you will have committed spiritual cluelesside without even knowing it. Satan works in mysterious ways, but this isn't one of them. The public education system has been doing his heavy lifting for some 40 years now.

Not sure if I'm making myself clear. Take the miracle of Life, which is to say, Life Itself. You can hardly expect some academic worker-beeologist to place life in its proper dream context (not that we don't need worker bees and other hivenauts). Rather, in order to succeed at science, you often must either be a person who is cut off from, or disinterested in, the depths of his dream life, or simply passively accede to the institutional dream of professional biology, which is that life is but a machine, with no sh-boom at all.

But in the real dream world,

Hey nonny ding dong, alang alang alay
Boom ba-doh, ba-doo ba-doodle-ay

Oh, life could be a dream (sh-boom sh-boom)
If I could take you up in paradise up above (sh-boom sh-boom)
If you would tell me I'm the only one that you love
Life could be a dream, sweetheart
(Hello hello again, sh-boom & hopin' we'll meet again)

Or, in the words of Sri Aurobindo,

Mystic Miracle, daughter of Delight,
Life, thou ecstasy,
Let the radius of thy flight
Be eternity

So at the moment, I'm trying to re-dream this book, or place it in the context of my own dream, since I naturally want my dream to encompass as much of reality as possible. Only the Dreamer can do this -- I mean, obviously machines can't do it. For example, supposing you knew every "historical fact" in existence, and then fed them all into a supercomputer. What do you suppose the computer would come up with? Would it be able to synthesize all the facts into a suitable dream? Of course not. Only a dreamer can historicize, even as history discloses the Dreamer Who Dreams It.

Of particular interest to me is the religious dream that has allowed the Anglo-American world to succeed where all other dreams failed, to such an extent that it is by far the most powerful dream the world has ever known. In fact, at present there are three primary dreams in competition for who will Dream history 1) American classical liberalism (i.e., conservatism), 2) European statist secular leftism (including its American variety), and 3) Islamism. The world is not big enough for all of these dreams, and yet, only one of these dreams is big enough for the world.

Mead's book is divided into five main sections, each of which is fascinating in its own right. But of particular interest to me is the third section, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, which gets into the religious metaphysics -- our metaphysical dream -- which allowed the Anglo-Saxons to come to dominate the world over the past several centuries. Seen in the light of Mead's explanations, the Marxist counter-dream just looks silly -- i.e., that our success is based only upon oppression, or violence, or exploitation, or class warfare. Rather, our success is because our dream is much closer to reality -- or our reality is much closer to the Cosmic Dream and its Author.

For example, Mead gets into a subject I discussed in the Coonifesto, which is that only open systems can evolve, both individually and collectively. In a closed society, adventure is exchanged for security. Everyone knows their place or role and the tyranny of custom and tradition are complete, as in the contemporary Islamic world, or, to a lesser extent, among the ironically named "progressives." Because of their dominance, there is no place less intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- free in America than on a leftist university campus. Likewise, they represent the main organized opposition to that which, more than any other factor, has created so much progress in the world, the free market, compared to which the progressive movement has contributed essentially nil to the betterment of mankind.

As Mead writes, "the journey from East to West is a journey from relatively closed to relatively open society," both historically and geographically. For example, even in contemporary America, the world of the New York Times is the quintessence of a closed, parochial, backward-looking world view, especially as compared to the view here from Raccoon Lookout in Upper Tonga. But further east from New York to Paris, the view gets even more closed and crimped.

Later Mead notes that "History is in large part the record of efforts, more often successful than not, of the advocates of closed society to shut down open societies." For example, what is the contemporary culture war but the effort by leftist elites to strangle debate with political correctness and to enforce their narrow views on the rest of us, through the news media, through Hollywood, through acedemia, by packing the Supreme Court, etc.? Mead writes that "History may be understood as a series of efforts to tame the disruptive intellectual and political forces of an open society and restore the closed society with its stability and reassuringly eternal and absolute qualities."

Now obviously, it isn't just secular leftists who want to shut down progress and create a closed society. In the past, traditional religion has most often been the main adversary of the open society, and therefore progress. A large section of Mead's book is devoted to explaining how we in the Anglo-American world got it just right in terms of religious metaphysics, in such a way that progress not only became possible, but inevitable. But it is always a very tricky balance, and it's not something we should take for granted. Rather, as we shall see, it involves a "trinity," a three part dynamism that Mead calls tradition-revelation-reason. Societies that move too far in one of these directions become dysfunctional, and either cannot endure or cannot evolve.

I'm unfortunately running out of time here, but in a subsequent post, I especially want to get into an idea that I believe will be of particular interest to Raccoons, which is the distinction between what Mead calls static religion and dynamic religion, for this is a key that unlocks many cosmic doors -- perhaps all of them.

VOTE quickly, before the arrival of the Blue Celephalapodians.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Ontological Divide Within the Liberal West (3.16.10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*All quotes taken from Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition

Monday, November 05, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued....

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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any and all comments are welcome!



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Probing the Vertical Unknown of the Expanding Cosmos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cosmopathology and the Descent of the Left (3.15.10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good question!

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

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

That's enough for today. Next post.

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

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pathological Science and the Crisis of Modernity (3.14.10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How Thoughtless of Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Adam! Where are you?!