Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cowboys, Puritans, Scary Clowns, Pants-Down Republicans, and the Cosmic Center

On Saturdays, I am reposting things from two years previous, so I'm dipping into June 2006. In looking through that month, it was hard to pick just one, so I may post another tomorrow. As I was re-editing this one, I ended up inserting quite a bit of new material, so no one is excused from reading it.

*****

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Which, when you think about it, is something I try not only to balance, but to harmonize. For how do we harmonize the sacred and the profane, the celestial and the terrestrial, the senses and the soul, the vertical and the horizontal?

Especially now that I am a father, I think about this problem more and more, because the outcome will determine what sort of world my son inherits. I believe it strikes at the heart of our current historical crisis, whether it is the clash between Islam and the West or the equally monumental clash between classical liberals (i.e., "conservatives") and leftists. It is a crisis which human beings will have to resolve before they can make any further collective progress. The outward struggle between Islam and the West (or liberal and left) is just a symptom of the historical stalemate we are in.

A large part of the problem involves the dichotomy between our individualism, which (conservative) liberal Americans cherish, and traditionalism, which embodies so much timeless wisdom about what it means to be a human qua human. Both Islam and the left value the collective over the individual, and impose coercive "solutions" that fundamentally erode our individuality. However, one important caveat is in order; there is also a large segment of the left that is "pro-individual," but it is a decidedly infrahuman individuality that essentially reduces man to his animal impulses.

You could say that there is a fundamental dichotomy in the left between the controlling, sanctimonious, and self-righteous moral scolds, or "puritans" (e.g., Al Gore, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky), and the pseudo-libertarian champions of personal expression (e.g., Hollywood). In fact, in A Conservative History of the American Left, Flynn attributes this to the age-old distinction in the American soul between "cowboys" and "puritans."

Thus, for example, in the 1960s there was a very uneasy alliance between the flaked-out hippie left (i.e., sex, drugs, and rock & roll, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey) and the stern and/or violent ideological left (e.g., the SDS, Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, Black Panthers, etc.). Or, you could say that there is a goofy left and a scary left. In the interim, it seems that the goofy left has all but vanished, so that there are no "lighthearted" ones left. I'm guessing that this is a large part of the appeal of Obama, who appears to be such a "cool guy" on the surface. But look at the scary church of which he is a member!

Over the past 40 years, the left has only been able to come up with humorless, puritanical, "white and up-tight" candidates, e.g., Carter, Dukakis, Gore (Clinton, for all his faults, was no ideologue). And their clowns are all the scary kind, e.g., Sean Penn, Keith Olbermann, Dailykos, etc. So it's no wonder they are flocking to someone who seems to be able to put a happy face on such a dreary ideology. Obama looks less stern and controlling than Hillary, but in reality he is to the left of her.

For what it's worth, I was never really a member of the stern and scary left. Well, maybe briefly. But it's really an issue of character or temperament, and in the end, I really couldn't be anything other than what I am, which is a conservative hippie, or guerilla mystic, or political inactivist. (I remember about 30 years ago, P.J. O'Rourke wrote a seminal essay on this in National Lampoon, proposing a new movement of Pants-Down Republicans. I should look that up...)

I'm a psychologist. I carry a badge. I diagnose individuals. But it is said that a prophet diagnoses mankind. Thus, if you look at the DSM, there are, I don’t know, a couple of hundred different diagnoses. But if you look at the Bible, or the Upanishads, or the Tao Te Ching, there is only one diagnosis, which is that human beings live in falsehood, alienated from the Real. They habitually confuse what is ephemeral and valueless with what is transcendent and of eternal value. With his consciousness either compacted and "frozen" or exteriorized and dissipated, the spiritually untutored man is hypnotized by appearances and wanders from sensation to sensation until falling into the abyss at the end of his daze, wishes to ashes, lust to dust.

Religion, properly understood, is the corrective for certain inevitable metaphysical delusions to which humans are heir. These blunders are inevitable precisely because of our evolved nervous system. Although we are “of” eternity we are “in” time, otherwise we could not be. As a result, we look upon the world through the distorted lens of our own limited subjectivity. With the emergence of science some 350 years ago, we have managed to eliminate much of this subjectivity and stop confusing the external world with our prepersonal wishes and dreams about it (but obviously not completely, e.g. "climate science" and reductionistic Darwinism).

The more primitive the culture, the more it lives not in the world but in its subreal dream of the world. Obviously this is the problem we face in the Islamists. They live in a dream, which wouldn’t concern us in the least if we weren’t being asked to play such a vital role in it.

But just because western science tries to eliminate subjectivity, this doesn’t mean that it is objective. Nor can it ever be objective, for in order to do its work it must reduce reality to its lowest level, which is to say matter and quantity.

This is as it should be. In order to function at all, science must deal with a highly abstract and artificial world stripped of its essential qualities. For example, the redness of the apple is not in the apple. It is merely the illusion produced by photons vibrating at a certain frequency. Once you go down that route, then all qualities are reduced to quantities and we necessarily inhabit a bleached out, meaningless cosmos deprived of its most astonishing qualities, qualities which ironically make the scientist possible.

For it is not merely the redness of the apple that is at stake. Rather, it is every quality that is metaphysically real but not quantifiable. Religion deals with this higher level of immutable principles and truths. As I cracked in the Coonifesto, science is the religion of the ultimate object, while religion is the science of the ultimate Subject. Somehow we must harmonize these two “religions,” or face a life violently detached from the most vital parts of ourselves. Or, you could say that we suffer from the serious cardiovascular disease that severs head from heart.

As Perry writes, "Traditional learning is basically qualitative and synthetic, concerned with essences, principles, and realities behind phenomena; its fruits are integration, composition, and unity. Profane academic learning -- whether in the arts or sciences -- is quantitative and analytical by tendency, concerned with appearances, forces, and material properties; its nature is to criticize and decompose; it works by fragmentation." As Schuon points out, "not only does the inferior [man] lack the mentality of the superior, but [he] cannot even conceive of it exactly," due to the smallness, opacity, and fragmentation of the troll soul.

I certainly wouldn't want to live in a traditional society innocent of scientific knowledge. But I also don't want to live in -- or abandon my son to -- a sterile scientismic society estranged from its rich metaphysical foundation. In fact, science must be embedded in a much wider, deeper, and more integral Truth for it to avoid poisoning itself at its own roots. Alfred North Whitehead (c.f., Science and the Modern World) was one of the first philosophers to recognize this problem of forgetting the religious roots of science.

To be a proper human being means to have a cosmic center. Put it this way: "There is in man something which must become conscious of itself; which must become itself, which must be purified and liberated from all that is foreign to itself; which must awaken and expand, and become all because it is all..." (Schuon).

Although this is an objectively true statement, it is not something that could ever be measured or verified by science. Frankly, from a scientific standpoint it is a meaningless statement. Science cannot deal with the problem of consciousness, let alone the problem of how consciousness may find its “center.” But the essence of spiritual work involves locating, “dilating,” and living out of this radiant interior center, instead of living a dispersed, fragmented, endarkened, and exteriorized existence.

If you do not find this center within, then you have wasted the opportunity of a lifetime. That is another statement that is meaningless from a scientific standpoint. But make no mistake: if you do not find this center within, you will blindly search for it without. You will look outside yourself for your center, and if you succeed, then you will have failed, for you will have missed the point of life. You will think you stand upright like a proper vertical man, when you really crawl the earth on your belly, you rebellious snakes, you brood of rebtiles!

With no center, you will also have no organismic continuity, for the center is precisely that which metabolizes experience and synthesizes time and eternity, where the vertical bisects the horizontal (or rather, vice versa). Without a center, we merely wander vainly from experience to experience with nothing to make nonsense of it.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Both Islam and the left value the collective over the individual, and impose "solutions" that fundamentally erode our individuality..."

This is somewhat misleading, and patently false. There are certain aspects of the collective and the individual that the left and right both prefer to strengthen in opposite directions. In terms of money, wealth, health care, and things of the such, the left definitely prefers the collective, But in terms of personality, you can be as shameful as you wish, or pious, as long as you aren't making it obligatory on others in some way. That's where the right comes into to preferring the collective, it has more of an interest in the general morality of society. And in a sense, that is an interest in controlling the individual as well. Honestly, it depends on what you think. But if I had the choice to be who I wanted and be just as rich as the next guy, hell I'd take that over being forced to worship in a way I wasn't raised but be as wealthy or poor as I chose<-- and even then that's not actually much of a choice.

See the difference, liberals want to limit individual identity of assets, conservatives limit individual identity of personality, at which point you'd have to ask 'which matters more?'

5/31/2008 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Good post, Bob! Any time you can discuss the need for being "centered" you do people a great service.

Having read, and re-read Anon's comment, however, I felt, well, a little "scattered." It reminds me that just as the Higher can organize the lower, so the lower can have a dis-organizing effect on the Higher.

Obviously, what one pays attention to, and the company one keeps (or doesn't keep) is important!

5/31/2008 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Anan said,
"See the difference, liberals want to limit individual identity of assets, conservatives limit individual identity of personality, at which point you'd have to ask 'which matters more?'"

So you're basically saying that liberals want to take all your money to divy it up as they wish and that conservatives don't want to live in a world full of freaks?

5/31/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh nice hoarhey, the spiritual man defends the rights to his assets.

Camel through the eye of a needle?

Why so defensive? Sounds like an anger issue, kind'a freakish, sounds like we need a few more conservatives in our government so they can take of freaks like you.

I guess you didn't really get I was trying to be neutral, there are problems with both, which is why it's good not all people think the same. Usually what happens when everybody agrees isn't that everybody is smart and has it figured out, but rather the extreme opposite.

5/31/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

This is somewhat misleading, and patently false.

That's, um. Ok. I'm going to have to correct your English here. This is equivalent to saying, 'It's somewhat pink all over and also thoroughly red all over.'

Like, okay, what?

Is it misleading or false? If it is misleading its true but you could read it falsely. If its false it isn't 'misleading', since it's not 'misleading' you, it really is false.

Go back and start over.

5/31/2008 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"A large part of the problem involves the dichotomy between our individualism, which (conservative) liberal Americans cherish, and traditionalism, which embodies so much timeless wisdom about what it means to be a human qua human. Both Islam and the left value the collective over the individual, and impose coercive "solutions" that fundamentally erode our individuality. However, one important caveat is in order; there is also a large segment of the left that is "pro-individual," but it is a decidedly infrahuman individuality that essentially reduces man to his animal impulses. "

Here, here.

"I certainly wouldn't want to live in a traditional society innocent of scientific knowledge. But I also don't want to live in -- or abandon my son to -- a sterile scientismic society estranged from its rich metaphysical foundation. In fact, science must be embedded in a much wider, deeper, and more integral Truth for it to avoid poisoning itself at its own roots....

To be a proper human being means to have a cosmic center. Put it this way: "There is in man something which must become conscious of itself; which must become itself, which must be purified and liberated from all that is foreign to itself; which must awaken and expand, and become all because it is all..." (Schuon).

Although this is an objectively true statement, it is not something that could ever be measured or verified by science. Frankly, from a scientific standpoint it is a meaningless statement. Science cannot deal with the problem of consciousness, let alone the problem of how consciousness may find its “center.”"

A repeat maybe, but like most things good and true, it doesn't go out of style or get old. Going to see another example of that tonight, Richard III is playing in Shakespeare in the park. Good and True ideas always seem to keep the best of company.

5/31/2008 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

aninnymouse said "I guess you didn't really get I was trying to be neutral, there are problems with both, which is why it's good not all people think the same"

Trying to be neutral, yeah, like insulting someone followed by "just joking"... sorry, but pasting nicety words over the garbage, doesn't hide their obvious meaning and intent. If you're going to be a rude jerk, at least have the courage of your convictions, say what you mean, don't try to hide behind smarmy evasions.

"This is somewhat misleading, and patently false."

'somewhat' and 'patently'... there's a whole post on cloaked evasion and the false politeness that could be mined in that one sentence alone. Similar to how you want to put this forth as describing two different things,

"In terms of money, wealth, health care, and things of the such, the left definitely prefers the collective, But in terms of personality, you can be as shameful as you wish, or pious, as long as you aren't making it obligatory on others in some way."

, when in fact they describe to 'aspects' of the same non-understanding. Typical of leftist thinking (and not a few republicans) you want to treat 'money, wealth, health care' as if they are 'things of the such', objects found here and there, like pebbles, which some people horde, and others demand be shared, rather than reflections of values created and maintained. Similarly, you'll throw out 'personality' as being 'shameful' or 'pious', as if they are different varieties of things found in the cranium, and not descriptions of choices in behavior made, as the fruits of habitual judgments reflecting their grasp of reality, value, truth and falsehood and the strength to do the long-term right because it is right and true as opposed to the immediate pleasure in spite of the immediate and long-term wrong.

Both explicitly reflect an evasion of what is right and true, both seek to fake reality in the material and spiritual sense, and both do so by way of 'the collective'.

"That's where the right comes into to preferring the collective, it has more of an interest in the general morality of society."

There is a difference between seeing people who belong to a group as a reflection of their habits, accomplishments, ideals and particular way of grasping what is right and true, and grouping people by way of their appearances, or particular preferences for disregarding and evading what is right and true. NRA, Classical Liberalism, etc would fall into the first, containing individuals seeing reality and upholding and believing in the rights of individuals, they join together as a group of individuals with the same respect for reality. Individuals first, a collective only in the equivocations of leftist observers.

MECA, NCAA, leftism, communism, wacademia, etc belong in the second. They come together via skin color, class or stylistic preferences for stealing the accomplishments of those others who are willing to deal with reality on its own terms, in order to avoid having to do so themselves, and the leftist hopes to reap the benefits the first group produced. They are parasites... collective parasites.

" And in a sense, that is an interest in controlling the individual as well."

Such a bald equivocation. The Classical Liberal has an interest in punishing the behavior of individuals who violate the rights of other individuals - such as thievery. They recognize that honest, moral people make better neighbors, and seek to promote that behavior. Classical Liberalism is the culmination of realizing that people must be left free to decide their own course, and only those who choose a course that acts against the rights of others, should be controlled, imprisoned or wiped out, as the case may be.

"Honestly, it depends on what you think."

It most assuredly does, but such thinking as the leftists pretends to practice, has nothing to do with honesty, right and wrong, reality, or it would soon cease being leftist.

"But if I had the choice to be who I wanted and be just as rich as the next guy, hell I'd take that over being forced to worship in a way I wasn't raised but be as wealthy or poor as I chose"

I'm sure you would take it, you wouldn't however, earn it. And as today and yesterday's post made very clear, the leftist and the terrorists are those that seek to force people to worship as they will, not the Classical Liberal. Even the most literalist Christian preacher, Baptist or otherwise (excluding the leftist variety of course, Rev's Wright, Pflegher, etc) only exhorts you to choose the right behavior, only the leftist seeks to use the law via the Gov’t to force your 'right' or politically correct behavior.

Unlike the leftist, I have no interest in saying some equivalent of 'just joking' or trying to appear neutral, I'm only interested in right and wrong, and doing my best to see and do what is right. If I'm wrong, I'll be grateful for being corrected. If I'm right, I certainly won't apologize for it, or try to smuggle my words in under the stolen protection of the courtesy of those you seek to insult.

5/31/2008 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Anan,
I was just asking a simple question trying to pare down your wordy nonsensical post, not really looking for your knee-jerk psychological projections.

5/31/2008 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm looking to troll this blogsite, but I'm having trouble determining where the "hot buttons" are, so to speak. Where are the weak points? Gray areas? Anyone want to assist the "enemy" in the name of sparking a fun riot?

Let me put this one forth: How about that Eckart Tolle? If you go by his doctrines, the highly opinionated Bobster is barking up some very wrong trees.

Namely, Bob seems to have a highly defended ego structure, and has negative things to say about a lot of folks. Is this in itself a comment on Bob's own state on unenlightenment?

Eckart and Bob can't both be right. So who's the monk, and who's the monkey?

5/31/2008 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Yawn.

5/31/2008 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"So who's the monk, and who's the monkey?"

The monkey is the one who not only thinks up such a foolish question, but needs others to answer it for him.

Your boring, just go away.

5/31/2008 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous walmart shopper said...

I'd take that over being forced to worship in a way I wasn't raised

Did conservatives pass a law that says you have to go to church? When did that happen?

I'm here in Alabama, the heart of bible country, where if conservatives had some kind of control over individual morality, it would be obvious. But the fact is that they don't. I'm as free to be as much of a hedonist here as anywhere else. The exception, perhaps, are the "blue laws" that prohibit the sale of alcohol after a certain hour on certain days of the week. No doubt these were motivated by some kind of religious moral impulse, but they are nothing more than an occasional inconvenience. And maybe there are some antiquated sodomy laws on the books, but who cares? They apply to few people and are unenforceable.

Meanwhile, the left likes to think of itself as leaving people free to do their own thing, but you know what? I spend 50 or 60 hours a week -- more than half of my waking existance -- working or preparing for work. And it's here that I experience, in a direct and inescapable way, the Left's moral prudery, mainly in the form of taxation and regulation.

This makes the left far more intrusive and controlling than the right. After all, the left likes to enforce its sense of morality over precisely the part of our lives where we spend the majority of our time and energy -- over our work lives, our business lives, over the part of our lives where we make a living for ourselves.

This is why I became a card-carrying Libertarian -- to push back against the moral intrusiveness of the left. I'm now a Republican for basically the same reason. Like Ronald Reagan said, libertarianism is the heart of conservatism.

Bottom line is that people spend much more of their lives being bossed around by the left, not the right.

5/31/2008 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous njcommuter said...

We are threatened from the left by the Left and from the right by the Islamicists and their ilk. And yet they are strikingly similar. I wrote elsewhere just an hour or so ago

"If only we were more pure, if only we made greater sacrifices, if only we had more faith to ignore the mere appearance of reality ..."

The left and the servants of Bin Laden and Co. are pushing and pulling on the same stinking beast. This nicely parallels Chesteron's observation that militarism and pacifism are the obverse and reverse of one coin: that the weak (or meek) must not resist the strong (or cruel).


So ... what strategy do we use when attacked on both flanks? Are we weaker for facing two enemies or stronger for it?

6/01/2008 05:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River's an idiot, if it is patently false then it is misleading in the first place(when is a lie not misleading? when it accidentally leads to a bigger truth, which I'm sort'a pointing out). I only said somewhat misleading because he was shooting for a target and still managed to get close to a different bullseye, but missed a bigger picture because he was making a political attack. But way to question the unimportant stuff. Failure was on the receiving end, obviously because you missed the actual message. Even if I had been wrong on that part, he still didn't get it.

6/01/2008 07:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"After all, the left likes to enforce its sense of morality over precisely the part of our lives where we spend the majority of our time and energy -- over our work lives, our business lives, over the part of our lives where we make a living for ourselves."

Bullshit, the right does equally so, and in opposite ways for opposite goals. Don't turn a blind eye for the sake of politics, what exact benefit does that get you? And to say the left pushes that on you, do you not know what leftists ideas you benefit from?

And I love Bob's attempt at making it seem as though being lighthearted is an illusion Obama gives off because obviously the church you go to affects your personality. "He acts cool but he's not, look at his church." Bullshit, again just justifying what you believe, not because you believe it but because you want to. I wonder into what other areas that spreads.

6/01/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I will admit that he is an awesome businessman, however. In that area, I bow to his superiority."

The reason he is a good businessman is he is more positive towards others than you, all you are capable of is mocking and talking down on. Remember page, I believe 21 of your book, where you dismiss all scholars and specialists as overly-specialized and incapable of seeing the larger picture, thus as if a way of dismissing any arguments against specifics of your ideas that would fall. It was as if you, as one man, were capable of covering all the fields you mentioned to such depths as all the others and come up with a conclusion. It was distasteful, unnecessary, and it seemed as though you were putting up a defensive wall against your ideas through an ad-hominem attack. If you were so right, and true, of what concern would it have been? It just set a tone of how you feel about yourself, and the most brilliant minds I've ever known have hardly had such pride.

6/01/2008 07:31:00 AM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

You talk alot of nothing anonymous. If you don't like what you read here, you're free to leave. It's not as if you are convincing anyone of anything with your weak, nebulous arguements. And you're certainly not bright enough to actually learn anything here.
You begin and end your arguement with vague references to unknown premises with which you already agree and expect others to know what you're talking about. SPELL IT OUT! (if you're capable). We don't live in your addled head, thank God.

6/01/2008 07:43:00 AM  

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