Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nice Gnosis & Naughty Gnosticism

Gnosis is the perfection of faith. --Clement of Alexandria

Yesterday we discussed Voegelin's concept of political gnosticism, which first "condemns the existing world as broken and alienating, plagued by evil forces preventing a complete and happy restoration of man’s spiritual and material life." This existential diagnosis is followed by the promise of "a mode of deliverance or salvation from the prison of the world for man through a secret gnosis" -- i.e., by the toxic political prescription of a secular priesthood.

Progressives believe that by manipulating people with just the right coercive policies, the state can reconstitute paradise and create a "'kingdom of heaven on earth," for which Voegelin coined the ponderous term, "immanentizing the eschaton." He considered just calling it "uncool," but chose the former because he wanted to be taken seriously be academics who don't understand him. (This is the best book on Voegelin for those who would like an accessible introduction to this important but somewhat forbidding thinker.)

My son -- who turns three in a couple weeks -- already knows all about immamentizing the eschaton. For example, he wants to have bacon or pizza for every meal. Thus, I often have to remind him, "stop immamentizing the eschaton! You can't have bacon around the clock unless you're either a good person or an Islamist in the hereafter."

In Science and the Modern World, "Big Al" Whitehead wrote that "When you are criticizing the philosophy of an epoch, do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it is necessary explicitly to defend. There will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents of all the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose. Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things ever occurred to them."

Being that we all live in "Christendom" -- that is, a culture shaped and animated (in the literal sense of "given life") by Judeo-Christian principles -- I guess it shouldn't be surprising that we share its underlying assumptions about the "brokenness" of man and the world. But where the progressive goes off the rails is in supposing there is some secret political formula that can reverse the fall and restore us to wholeness. Thus, the ubiquitous frenzied moral passion that always animates the left. Leftists are always exaggeratedly pessimistic about the present state of the world, but "optimistic" in a crazed and manic way that steamrules over anyone who would dare delay the immediate implementation of paradise.

From Marx on down, the leftist fallacy follows from turning spiritual Truth on its head (or "inside-out"), so that man's spiritual crisis is seen as a material one (e.g. "robber barons," "global warming," "global cooling," "nuclear power," "income disparity," "corporate greed," etc.) instead of a psycho-spiritual one. This is the "fundamental assumption" which adherents of all the variant progressive systems within our epoch unconsciously presuppose.

For example, the progressive would say that Palestinians aren't evil, they're just poor. Which precisely inverts the truism that they are poor because they are evil (except for the few who are extraordinarily wealthy because they are evil, having been enriched by the largesse of Western progressives who give them money because they think it will stop them from being evil, when it always does the opposite, thus ensuring a constant cash flow from backward progressives).

Just know that these philosophers whose wisdom you so much extol have their heads where we place our feet (Isaac of Acre), and you'll be okay.

So yes, secular progressives do begin with the same cognitive "deep structure" as those who are in touch with reality, but they promptly place their heads up their assumptions and de-spiritualize them, very similar to how the unconscious mind creates a sexual perversion. In order to create a perversion, the unconscious must "see" a truth it wishes to deny, usually revolving around the reality of sexual/generational differences. For example, many homosexual men compulsively attempt to incorporate the father's phallus in a direct instead of symbolic manner. An insecure heterosexual man might attempt the same thing by projecting this homosexual desire into women, thus having a compulsive need to "conquer" them in order to shore up his weak masculinity.

What the.... How did I drift into this topic? I wanted to explore the meaning of genuine gnosis, in coontradistincion to the false kind discussed yesterday.

In this regard, the first thought that pops into my head is, "hmm. I'm a little tired this morning. I wonder what Schuon would say? I can always defer to him and make myself look brilliant by standing in his reflected light." Conveniently, one of his books has a chapter entitled Gnosis is Not Just Anything. With any luck, this will provide all the answers we need, thus freeing me from the responsibility of thinking too hard.

Perfect! Just what I was looking for. The very first sentence reads, "It is a fact that too many authors -- we would almost say: general opinion -- attribute to gnosis what is proper to Gnosticism and to other counterfeits of the sophia perennis, and moreover make no distinction between the latter and the more freakish movements... that saw the light of day in the twentieth century.... [N]ow the fact that an imposture necessarily imitates a good, since otherwise it could not even exist, does not authorize charging this good with all the sins of the imitation."

Ironically, one of the reasons men of potentially gifted intellect reject religion is that they mistakenly believe there is no place for the intellect in religion, a misapprehension that is most certainly reinforced by popular caricatures of religion that are engendered by none other than religious doofuses themselves. But in reality, the nous (which is the word the early Greek Fathers used for the higher intellect) is the "satellite" of the Logos, the latter of which is the very Reason or intelligence that infuses Being.

A man is constituted of knowledge, will, and sentiment, with one of these three being predominant. As such, it shouldn't be surprising that the spiritual path breaks out into three main branches (or "yogas"), the way of bhakti (love of God), karma (virtuous action), and gnani (knowlede of God). Each of these paths represents a way to counteract the hardening or dissipative forces of the local ego, in that the ego wants to act, love, and know what it wishes, not necessarily what is real or good. But knowing the Truth, loving the Real, and doing the Good all serve in their own way to tame and discipline the ego's wayward tendencies. After all, Good is what you must do, just as Truth is what you must know, on pain of not actually doing or knowing anything useful -- you know, like the tenured, right? Right.

So really, gnosis is simply "the path of the intellect and hence of intellection; the driving force of this path is above all intelligence, and not will and sentiment..." Furthermore, this path "comprises on the one hand 'comprehension,' and on the other 'concentration'; hence doctrine and method" (Schuon). The two obviously go together, as the more we concentrate, the more we understand, and the more we understand, the more we con-centrate ("circle with," or orbit around, the focal Truth).

"Concentration" implies a gathering together of all one's disparate and fragmented parts, so to speak, so that one may know the Truth "axis to axis." Or, as Schuon puts it, "the unicity of the object demands the totality of the subject." Thus, it is insufficient merely to know Truth with the mind; rather, it must ultimately be approached with body-mind-spirit, so that Truth actually "infuses" the will and sentiments and brings them into alignment with the Sovereign Good.

Many are attracted to philosophy whose natures are imperfect and whose souls are maimed and disfigured by their meanness.... And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and make an alliance with her who is rank above them, what sort of ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true wisdom? --Plato

In paradise, you can eat pork products all day while having your body painted by a fairy princess. In San Francisco, they would ban the former while making the latter compulsory.

19 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I like the update to the last graph; it should be noted, however, that being painted by a San Francisco Fairy Princess may actually be an initiation into the first circle of hell (unless, of course, that is your idea of heaven...).

4/09/2008 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And on a completely unrelated note, you SoCal folks may want to consider migrating to a more fiscally hospitable location before the Cult of the Immanent Eschaton (Our Mother of Escapable Warmening diocese) succeeds in sucking even more moola from all that excess income you must surely be making.

4/09/2008 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

True Gnosis is one of those subtle things - it's like, we don't really know what True Gnosis is, and since we know what Gnostic teachings are, they obviously aren't True Gnosis...

But then again, we may be able to say that true Gnosis is the Word; and Gnosticism's problem is that it is trying to use non-incarnate words to attain salvation, whereas the Word was already incarnated thus dealing with every facet and direction to salvation in one star-crossed crater...

The difference perhaps being fundamentally that Gnosticism is the thing you can only ever find by seeking it, whereas Gnosis finds you and asks you to follow. Not that there is anything wrong with seeking, just - you know, holding on versus being carried and all.

4/09/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I don't agree that humankind is fallen. Each person is precisely what and how he is supposed to be.

Human beings who are fully under the influence of the matter/pain world will awake from it to some degree when they die, so that the apparent tragedy of human ugliness is more like a child's drawing to be thrown away, rather than a serious work of art.

4/09/2008 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Then again, maybe the distinction isn't so clear. Dunno where I got that one from.

Slow afternoon here...

4/09/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

"Progressives believe that by manipulating people with just the right coercive policies..."

Check out this "totalitarian-style dorm program for indoctrinating freshmen in the full complement of today’s radical dicta."

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/college-mind-
police-live-to-brainwash-another-day/

VDH on The Academic Morass:

I have a modest prediction—just as the bloggers, talk-radio, and cable news began to make irrelevant the grandees at the New York Times and the likes of Dan Rather at CBS, so too online colleges, web-based data archives, and junior colleges are starting to question the notion that one pays $40-50 thousand a year for university training—and often gets biased professors, part-timers and TAs, and a curriculum imbued with popular culture and politically-driven therapeutic courses. Learning and the university are not any longer synonymous, and the divide is ever widening.

YES PLEASE!


"Liberalism—a Strange Thing Indeed"

http://main.pajamasmedia.com/xpress/
victordavishanson/2008/04/07/post_23.php

4/09/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

WHAT XIMEZE SAID!

4/09/2008 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Leftists are always exaggeratedly pessimistic about the present state of the world, but "optimistic" in a crazed and manic way that steamrules over anyone who would dare delay the immediate implementation of paradise. "

Oh ho... really like that.

4/09/2008 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Er, what I meant to say in the first comment was that Gnosticism is sought in the sense of being 'taken', i.e. because they 'have' the correct information they can attain salvation, and in the case of leftist gnosticism it is collective salvation (only, pretty much) the result is in the case of the leftist gnosticism that the only 'gnostics' are the ones 'doing' the salvation, i.e. the priesthood of experts. Everyone else is 'saved by proxy' or rather by losing their individuality.

On the other hand, real Gnosis 'finds you', especially if you are looking for it, but asks that you participate - i.e, follow. But in doing so instead of becoming an egregore or an animal, you become more clearly what you always were; so in this sense Real Gnosis runs counter to everything the leftist Gnosticism represents... Gnosis contains you instead of the other way around.

But like mushroom noted before it's because they reject transcendence that leftist gnostics are forced to 'immanentize the eschaton'.

4/09/2008 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Regarding the banning of pork products, the other day I learned from someone who works in the men's central jail in Los Angeles that they run a "pork-free kitchen" because of Muslims. In short, the ACLU makes sure that everyone must suffer because of the dietary needs of Muslim criminals. You will note that no one ever gave a rat's ass about "kosher criminals."

4/09/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Finished reading Liberal Fascism, by the way, and Bob & co, it's worth reading (not sure if you've leafed the deadtree yet.)

4/09/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

I don't think there are any kosher criminals.

4/09/2008 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Petey, you took the slur right out of my mouth, but were much nicer about it than I'd ever be.

4/09/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"ACLU makes sure that everyone must suffer because of the dietary needs of Muslim criminals. You will note that no one ever gave a rat's ass about "kosher criminals.""

Well... look at it from the point of view of the poor blind collectivist biggots of the ACLU, for whom Individual's don't exist except as representatives of large groups... you've got Group "Kosher" (which you've got to do some serious scrounging around through the jail cells to round any up and you won't get any msm attention for their plight anyway), or Group "iSlammer" which requires NO effort whatsoever to round up thousands, not to mention built in sympathy from the press at a whines notices... who ya gonna rep-resent?

4/09/2008 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For you musical bargain hunters out there, this is a pretty amazing deal -- Sinatra's Capitol albums, 14 CDs and 189 tracks, representing the peak of his artistic achievement.

I don't generally envy the young, although I suppose I do envy the person who gets to hear Songs for Swingin' Lovers or A Swingin' Affair for the first time. This is popular music that will never be surpassed -- which makes it a mystical experience in its own way, being that it "touches the absolute," which is the privilege of the human station.

4/09/2008 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

My son -- who turns three in a couple weeks -- already knows all about immamentizing the eschaton. For example, he wants to have bacon or pizza for every meal.

Happy Birthday, Future Leader! My grandson will be four on April 26. If FL is ever in need of a good hatchet man, I think my grand-spore would be a perfect fit.

the fact that an imposture necessarily imitates a good, since otherwise it could not even exist

Good exists in and of itself. Evil can only come into being in opposition or reaction to good, and as a perversion of it. Cool.

4/09/2008 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"Gnosis is the perfection of faith." -- Clement of Alexandria

I love that. It's a process, a path. Fortunately, there's someone up ahead, showing us the way.

4/09/2008 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Stone Broke
undisconnected
father son and holy ghost
fill the in between

4/09/2008 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"My son -- who turns three in a couple weeks -- already knows all about immamentizing the eschaton. For example, he wants to have bacon or pizza for every meal. Thus, I often have to remind him, "stop immamentizing the eschaton! You can't have bacon around the clock unless you're either a good person or an Islamist in the hereafter."


Or, if you're a pig farmer. :^)

4/10/2008 02:00:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home