Satan's Third Suggestion: Don't Go Changin' on Me, and it Doesn't Matter Anyway
John Milton: Why not? I'm here on the ground with my nose in it since the whole thing began. I've nurtured every sensation man's been inspired to have. I cared about what he wanted and I never judged him. Why? Because I never rejected him. In spite of all his imperfections, I'm a fan of man! I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist. --The Devil's Advocate
The Ten Commandments are also inherently ten criticisms of Man, as they assume he will likely do the opposite in their absence. In other words, he will worship himself, work for a predatory subprime lender to satisfy his boundless greed, lie in court, plunder innocent OB GYNs with the use of bogus science, and cheat on his dying wife. He will be John Edwards, or Satan's Advocate.
Again, being that the prince of this world never "commands," the Ten Satanic Commandments would have to come in the form of flattery. They will essentially sooth man's conscience and tell him that he is just fine the way he is. For that very reason they will forestall cognitive, emotional, and spiritual evolution, since they undermine the end of each, which is to say, wisdom, love, and the One, respectively. They will be more like ten emollients, reassurances, or encouragements that keep man an entitled, self-centered, petulant, and misosophic child forever.
Last week we discussed the first two Satanic blandishments. Today we will revisit number three, and see if it still make sense two years on. If it doesn't, I will edit it in such a way that no one will ever know.
One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage serious people to take religion seriously. I was once a person who didn’t take religion seriously, although even in my antaganostic daze, I probably wouldn’t have objected to being called “spiritual,” since it’s such a bland and neutral description that essentially means anything you want it to. I have observed that most liberals feel this way. They will proudly describe themselves as spiritual, but draw a bright line at religious, as if it is an insult. Which to them it often is.
But this type of gelatinous, unstructured spirituality usually amounts to either solipsism or narcissism, because it is wholly subjective and makes no demands at all on the person. Furthermore, it usually alienates one from the very grace that is the true catalyst for change. In the absence of grace, either acknowledged or unacknowledged, man can do nothing but go around in circles. True, he might be able to expand the size of the circle, or even pretend that it doesn't exist, but he cannot enter the open spiral, being that the latter only exists because of vertical energies that transcend us.
In fact, authentic religions are frameworks for spirituality, in the same way that music theory is a framework for music. You can try to play music without such a frame -- you can be “musical” -- but with rare exceptions, you won’t be able to play much of interest. It will be a pretty vain endeavor. This is why, for example, regardless of what objection you may have to the Catholic church, it has produced more profound spiritual geniuses than the “new age” ever will. Frankly, there’s just no comparison in terms of depth, power and spiritual radiance. The new age can produce a demon such as Deepak Chopra, but it could never produce a Meister Eckhart. And Chopra is a demon precisely because he represents human evolution in the absence of vertical grace. Thus, he is more Nietzschean or even nazian than noetian.
I'm not taking a position for or against, but when you hear debates about whether or not the Ten Commandments should be displayed in schools or courthouses, you will often notice that liberals assume their typical superior tone of mockery and derision toward them -- as if some arbitrary laws thought up thousands of years ago by primitive people have any contemporary, much less universal, applicability. While they will grant that it might be bad under certain circumstances to steal (unless it is by the state) or kill (unless it is in self defense), they especially dismiss injunctions against making graven images (discussed in last week's post) or taking the name of the lord in vain. No one is going to tell a leftist what he can and cannot mock, since knee-jerk adolescent rebellion is at the core of leftism. If they can’t blaspheme, what’s left for them? Just so long as you don't mock their sacred cowpies, Obama being a steaming example.
You will also notice that no one is more literal-minded or “fundamentalist” than the leftist or atheist who rejects religion. That is, they reject only a caricature of religion that they have concocted themselves. Or perhaps, as often happens, they had a bad experience with a dysfunctional version of religion as a child, and are in perpetual revolt against it. While perfectly understandable -- in fact, to a certain extent, I was a victim of this myself -- there is no reason why it should pose a lifelong obstacle to opening oneself to the boundless depths of genuine religion.
We recently discussed how leftism (and remember, when I use that term, I’m generalizing about the deep structure of an entire philosophical attitude or temperament, not this or that particular leftist) represents an upside-down and inside-out version of Judeo-Christian metaphysics, and how it manages to invert each of the commandments. In other words, they are not just against the Ten Commandments, but (whether wittingly or unwittingly) enshrine their opposite.
The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the lord in vain.” There are even many Christians who believe that this means nothing more than refraining from cursing. If so, what’s the point? If that were all it amounted to, then liberals might even be correct in mocking something so seemingly trivial in the overall scheme of things. Why would the Creator of the Cosmos care that liberal blogs use 12 times as much profanity as conservative ones? True, it is a marker of barbarism, stupidity, and adolescent rebellion, but those aren't capital offenses.
First of all, this commandment has something important to say about metaphysical vanity, specifically, vain and fruitless talk about God, of which there is an overabundance. Much religious talk is entirely vain, in that it serves no purpose -- it is mere “pneuma-babble” emanating from the ego, not the spirit. For example, whenever our scientistic jester speaks of "God" -- and therefore reality -- he does so in a way that is devoid of content and therefore entirely vain. As you may eventually learn, there is no point in engaging him, because it only serves the purpose of making his apparitions appear more real to him.
The omninameable One has revealed several of his names to mankind, the most universal one undoubtedly being I AM. In fact, there are certain forms of yoga that consist of nothing more than meditating on the mystery of this I AM to which we all have inexplicable access. To do so is to engage in the deepest form of vertical recollection, for this I AM is not located in the field of time. Rather, it eternally radiates through the vertical now to which humans have unique access. To dwell in the primordial I AM -- or so ham in Sanskrit -- is to reconnect with the eternal ground of being. It is anything but vain. Quite the opposite. It is simultaneously fruitful and the very source of fruit.
As I was at pains to point out in the Coonifesto, the principial truths embodied in genuinely revealed religions must be experienced, not merely thought. In other words, they cannot be thought "about" but only thought "in." One doesn't look at them but with and through them.
In fact, this is really not much different than, say, psychology, or any other interior discipline that transcends the senses. You can read all about the criteria for a depression or panic attack in the DSM, but unless you have actually experienced a panic attack, the words don’t really convey the experience. If anything, they might even convince you that you understand it because you have the words for it, but the words are merely pointers or place markers. You really haven't lived -- or perhaps died -- until you've had a good panic attack.
Especially with regard to religion and psychology, words must be analogous to bank notes that one may “cash in” for their actual experiential value. Otherwise you are simply dealing with religious counterfeiters and with spiritual “funny money” that has no value at all. It is entirely vain. When you read Meister Eckhart or Saint John of the Cross, you know that their words are backed by the full faith and credit of the First Bank of Divine Reality. When you read Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins, you know that their words are backed by the full faith and credit of their rampant narcissism. But Gresham's law means that bad spiritual money tends to drive out good, which accounts for their vast personal fortunes. John Edwards too. If you can't tell that every word that comes out of the mouth of this vain man is counterfeit, then you are a lost soul.
Perhaps the worst way of taking the name of the Lord in vain -- and the most spiritually catastrophic for the person who does so -- is to use the name of God as a pretext to commit great evil, as do the Islamists. I’m trying to think of a worse sin, but I can’t at the moment. What the Islamists are doing is beyond evil, for they are committing evil in the name of God, thus undermining the very possibility of the good. Deepak doesn't actually murder anyone, but he does reduce man's most precious birthright into something tawdry, stupid, and evil, so he too will have a lot of 'splainin' to do.
Contrary to popular understanding, these Islamist beasts of depravity are worthy of both divine wrath and our own unyielding righteous anger. True, under most circumstances it is appropriate to “hate the sin and not the sinner.” However, it is entirely legitimate to despise the sinner to the extent that he has not only completely given himself over to sin, but fully identifies with it in an implacable way. Such a person cannot be forgiven, since there is no man left to forgive.
In other words, the Islamo-nazis are not just committing evil, they are willfully identified with evil -- more, they are absolutely committed to violent overthrow of the very possibility of the good. It is our sacred duty to despise these monsters in the proportion to which we love the Good. In no way does this mirror the illegitimate, passionate, and sadistic hatred of the Islamists themselves, for holy anger is dispassionate and does not surpass the boundaries of its cause. Americans do not chop off heads for fun; they only do what is necessary to stop the evil. (Obviously, the disproportionate and intoxicated hatred of the left is not legitimate; they are addicted to hate, to such an extent that they hate what is good, true, and beautiful, even if they don't chop off heads.)
There is one additional aspect of the third commandment that I had wanted to get into, but this has already gone on rather long, and I don't really have timelessness enough to expand upon it. That is the possibility of metaphysical knowledge which is both objectively true and operative, or fruitful, in the psyche. Virtually all postmodern thought is in agreement that objective metaphysical knowledge is not possible -- that it is intrinsically “vain.” Here again we see an exact reversal of the reality, for the religious view is that human beings most definitely have access, through the uncreated intellect, to objective truth. There are eternal truths that man may not only know, but without which man couldn't know anything, and wouldn't be man.
Oh, there are so many, I don’t know where to begin. How about this one: semantics cannot be reduced to syntax. Because it can’t, language is not just a vain epiphenomenon produced by a modified primate brain, including the mathematical language that governs the physical universe, the language of DNA, the language of music, or the language of Shakespeare. Ultimately, it means that meaning is indeed meaningful and not merely a vain existential pursuit. The cosmos is not just a tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying short hours and a nice paycheck. Rather, it is a vehicle of Ultimate Meaning, as it is a lifeline tossed down from above, not an ivory tower of babbling idiots built from below, prick by prick.
More memorable quotes from The Devil's Advocate:
--Who, in their right mind Kevin, could possibly deny the twentieth century was entirely mine?
--Freedom, baby... is never having to say you're sorry.
--I only set the stage. You pull your own strings.
--Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.
--Guilt is like a bag of fuckin' bricks. All ya gotta do is set it down.
--We kill you with kindness, that's our secret.