Remystifying the World and Finding Your Center of Levity
But as we adapt to our baffling new conditions and lose our innocence, the world is increasingly demystified and we become subject to the brutal “reign of quantity” inside the prismhearse of the senses -- or the senses prolonged into mental space, i.e., materialism. Much of spiritual growth involves the reversal of this process, or what I call the remystification of the world. For if you're not amazed, you're just wrong.
As we dissipate outward, we gain a new "center of gravity" and lose the old center of levity. Returning to this eurhythmic center of groovity is the goal of life, or the final coonsummation. To put it another way -- Perry's way, to be precise -- God is always present. It is man who is absent. Which is why we say on our celestial birthday -- which is every day: Come in, open His presence, and report for karmic duty.
As we fall down & out, life at the center is exchanged for life at the periphery; or, we are booted from the spacious interior to the cramped and contracted exterior. Schuon compares it to being trapped below a sheet of ice: “Mistaking the ice that imprisons us for Reality, we do not acknowledge what it excludes and experience no desire for deliverance; we try to compel the ice to be happiness.”
As such, we inhabit an alien world built from the bottom up rather than the top down; or again, the outside in instead of inside out. But since this barren world contains no real or final Truth, it cannot satisfy the exiled soul, which begins its endless quest for greater thrills and excitement to fill the void. No wonder so many would-be humans Rage Against the Machine; the problem is they rage further down and out, where only one last barrier remains: blasphemy and destruction.
The Vital Beings are the ones who do not wish to recover their humanness and who are fully at home in this fallen world. Breaking up through the ice would involve surpassing themselves, the one thing the vital man is loath to do. For he loves -- or lusts after -- the world with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind -- which is precisely to lack heart, soul and mind, or at least to deny their provenance. It is to be “born again from below," and therefore die to the Real.
Father Rose wrote his piece on nihilism in the late fifties, prior to the vast explosion in crime caused by lenient liberal social policies and a forgiving attitude toward evil. His words proved to be quite prescient: “Crime in most previous ages had been a localized phenomenon and had apparent and comprehensible causes in the human passions of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, and the like; never has there been anything more than a faint prefiguration of the crime that has become typical of our own century, crime for which the only name is one the avant-garde today is fond of using in another Nihilist context: ‘absurd.’”
That is an excellent point, for the absurd sadism of so many of our crimes mirrors the absurdity of an art that celebrates ugliness or “authenticity” and an educational system that promulgates the lie that ultimate truth and absolute morality do not exist. When your elites spend several generations creating an absurd world, don’t be surprised if you end up with absurd people and meaningless crimes, because existence itself becomes a sort of crime against Being.
I remember studying film noir back in film school. The professor divided it into several sub-genres that evolved -- or devolved -- over the years, and which seemed to reflect the societal degeneration of which Father Rose speaks. I won’t get into a whole dissertation here, but early film noir such as Double Indemnity depicts a man who is pulled down into circumstances beyond his control due either to bad luck or some identifiable motive such as greed or lust. But in late film noir, the entire world has become corrupt, both the criminals and law enforcement. In fact, every human institution has become corrupt. In such a world, the antihero or outlaw becomes the hero with whom we identify. The corruption extends even into the family, which becomes a breeding ground for psychopaths, as in White Heat (starring James Cagney) or The Godfather. In these films, evil merely fights evil, so we inevitably find ourselves identifying with evil. There is no “good.” There are only bad people and worse ones, i.e., hypocrites.
In the Real world, Spirit is substance, matter is accident. Spirit precedes matter, the latter of which is the final precipitate of God’s involution into time and space. A corresponding world of the senses arises, but this shifting and "centerless" realm is hardly the world of reality. Rather, the uncorrupted intellect-in-the-heart (which is our own true center) knows objective reality as the Spirit, which can only be here and now, where eternity descends into time. Thus, "To transcend time is to live in the moment and to transcend space is to dwell in the center" (Perry).
As mentioned in a previous post, a counter-religious movement gained steam in the 1950’s, led by the “Beats,” by confused psychoanalysts such as N.O. Brown, and by narcissists such as Timothy Leary and Alan Watts. Just as N.O. Brown wrote that repression was the essence of pathology and that we would live in a sort of eden if we would merely express our lower instincts in an unmediated way, the new age teachers created bastardized forms of Zen and Taoism to exalt “spontaneity” and “naturalism” so as to obscure the deeper desire to stay high and sleep with coeds under a veneer of spiritualism. (Rose was actually a student of Watts at the Academy of Asian Arts in San Francisco in 1955, but soon saw through him and moved on to more serious pursuits. I do give Watts credit for that, as he did at least serve as a pointer and pique an interest in the "real thing" in some of his readers.)
The human being has an animal nature which is not by definition beneath him. It only becomes so “when man renounces his humanity and fails to humanize what he shares with the animals” (Schuon). To humanize is to spiritualize, which is to “open the natural to the supernatural whence it proceeds ontologically.” In other words, this hardly represents repression, but a recovery and actualization of our true being. If anything, the uninhibited and shameless vital man represses and denies his humanness, for one can just as easily repress what is higher as what is lower. There is a "vital center" that is located vertically, and is subject to increased "subtilization."
The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas writes of the "erotics of being," which refers to that blissful sensation of expressing oneself deeply -- or from the deepest part of oneself -- and being understood, center to center. Frankly, this is why I blog. You know, textual intercourse.
Just as sexuality, in order to be properly human, must be spiritualized, Schuon agrees that intellectual (i.e., spiritual) knowledge has an ecstatic dimension to it, if for no other reason than it is known with the heart (or mind in the heart, the “location” of the higher mind): “There is a spiritualization of sexuality just as there is, conversely, an animalization of intelligence [what we are calling the vital mind]; in the first case, what can be the occasion of a fall becomes a means of elevation; in the second case, intelligence is dehumanized and gives rise to materialism, even existentialism, hence to ‘thinking’ which is human only in its mode and of which the content is properly subhuman.”
But then, these subhuman philosophies become the justification to fall further into vital animality. Postmodern philosophies use the spirit to deny the spirit, leaving us with a wholly horizontal wasteland of matter and instinct. This intellectual operation is a complete success, even though the patient -- the human qua human -- does not survive it. A new kind of infrahuman is born, forgetful of his fall and “at ease in a world that presents itself as an end in itself, and which exempts man from the effort of transcending himself” -- which is to have shunned and bypassed our reason for being here.
The fall is nearly complete. But not before we drag this whole despiritualized existentialada down with us, which we will do tomorrow in discussing the final stage of the nihilist dialectic: destruction.