Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Conical Caper About Conservative Progressives and the Reactionary Left

Sorry about the abrupt segue, but I'm just dipping into the arkive, and this was the next post, now edited and fortified with extra gagdaddery.


One nation under God? I don't know if I like that, for it all depends on the meaning of "One." As Coleridge put it, "two very different meanings lurk in the word, one."

In his not-yet-published book, The Pledge of Allegiance & The Star Spangled Banner: A Patriot's Primer on the American Spirit, author John White expresses ideas that are eerily similar to mine. In fact, it's almost as if he read my book or something. While anything is possible, it seems unlikely, since he's my literary agent.

White writes that, like us, the Taliban and the Islamists firmly believe in One Nation Under God. After all they speak of the “nation of Islam,” and are calling for an Islamic theocracy. "What," he asks, "distinguishes the terrorists’ version of nationhood from ours?"

The differences, says White, begin and end with concepts found in the Declaration of Independence, our founding document. There it is affirmed "that God is the source of our liberty, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity," and that "the purpose of government -- which exists legitimately only when it has the consent of the governed -- is to guarantee those blessings are not violated because each individual citizen is sacred and sovereign." In short, "The individual is sovereign because of our spiritual nature; the state may never violate that."

So it doesn't matter whether or not you believe in God, because you benefit from his blessings just the same. All you bitter atheists out there will just have to get over it and resign yourself to living under a theocracy. Except that this "theo" is first situated in, and refracted through, the individual, not the government.

As White expresses it, "America is a theocracy because it is governed by God through the total population of our divinely guided citizenry who are the true heads of state and who are educated in the religio-moral ideals, principles and values of our society." Anyone who denies this truth cannot be a progressive, because "the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule [by] the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary."


The difference between conservative progressives and reactionary leftists is that they worship different gods -- or more precisely, they have entirely incompatible understandings of the meaning of One. There is an antinomy between these two Ones: there is a left One and a right One -- or more precisely, a higher One and a lower one.

In Meditations on the Tarot -- which I assume all Raccoons have read and assimilated by now -- you will recall that the author uses a visual image to conceptualize the problem. Imagine two cones placed base to base, one pointing up, the other down. Thus, similar to Miss Anne Elk's important theory of the brontosaurus, this new object has one point at the top, a much thicker "equator" in the middle, and then another point at the bottom. The image is his, it belongs to him, and he owns it. I'm just borrowing it.

Now, get the image of a brontosaurus out of your mind, and imagine this object as a sort of crystal. At the top is the “white point” where pure light -- which is the synthesis of all colors -- enters. As the light moves down toward the equator it becomes more and more differentiated into the various colors of the spectrum, until they reach their maximum degree of separation and intensity at the equator. Moving further down, the colors begin to merge and blend until, at the bottom point, they once again lose all of their distinction. But here they become black, which represents the blending and confusion of all colors. As such, there is one sort of synthesis or Oneness above (the white point) but an entirely different kind of oneness below (the black point): O vs. ø

The white point is analogous to wisdom, for it represents the underlying unity of all the different types of knowledge available at the equator, where all of the individual colors represent various disciplines and sciences. It is where the light of divine love breaks into the maninfestation and where beauty is the splendor of the true. "All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Spirit" (St. Ambrose).

This image symbolically discloses the central purpose of both this blog and my book, both of which are mine and belong to me. Indeed, this is what I was hoping to coonvey in the book's full title: One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. That is, the synthesis of all our seemingly contradictory truths lies “above,” toward the white light of wisdom, not below, beyond the black point of matter.

If two seemingly contradictory things are true -- say, the Book of Genesis and the theory of evolution -- then their common source of truth must be found above, not below. There is surely a way to resolve the contradiction, but not by finding a compromise between the two at the "equator," much less by simply confusing and blending them together below.

For example, teaching intelligent design as an adjunct or alternative to natural selection is simply adding another color to the equator. Even worse, teaching it as the only truth would take both the Creator and science down to the black point, merging and blending science and theology in an unhealthy way. In fact, this is what is done in the Islamic world. Yes, they have intellectual and spiritual unity there, but it is the bad unity of the black point: One Nation Under God’s Boot Heel, so to speak. The identical thing happens in secular totalitarian states, where diversity is not permitted. What we want is to allow maximum diversity but to synthesize it at higher level, not eliminate it on a lower one: this is the meaning of One Cosmos Under God.

Ironically, the secular left in America regard their fellow religious citizens as an incipient Taliban that wishes to enforce a black-point unity, when the opposite is true.

That is, for the secular left, there is no white point above or black point below. Rather, there is only the equator, where we all live in our beautiful, diverse cultures and subcultures, none better than any other: multiculturalism, moral relativism, no objective or "privileged" truth. And yet, multiculturalism and diversity are enforced from on high, despite the fact that the left supposedly does not recognize the existence of morally superior cultural perspectives. What’s going on, Marvin? You know, we've got to find a way / To bring some lovin' here today.

In reality, the left is enforcing their absolute black point god, but simply denying it. They don't really care what culture you're from, so long as you are committed to diversity itself, and intolerant of any other view. This is nothing less than the unwholly god of the black point flexing its flabby tenured muscle while pretending to be just another beautiful color in the rainbow.

In reality, there is no absolute system at the equator that can synthesize knowledge and explain our existence. There is only diversity and contradiction there, which is as it should be. Otherwise there would be no creation, nothing separate from the Creator. However, it is only the white light above that illuminates and unites everything below. We must maintain an allegiance to the absolute white light that is reflected in all the relative truths at the equator, not to this or that relative or half-truth enforced absolutely by leftist medullards from below. For that is how the beautiful rainbow devolves into a reignbelow.

As the ancient authors put it, there is no knowledge which should not pass into love. There is no knowledge which should not go beyond the mind and reach to the very source of the mind -- the heart -- the "heart" understood in its Indian meaning (which was Pascal's too) as the center of being, the place where God abides. --Dom Henri LeSaux/Swami Abhishiktananda

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Jewish Yoga, or Abrahman Linkin'

I apologize in advaitance if some of what you are about to read isn't exactly kosher. Certainly it has little in common with the beliefs and practices of the secular Jewish family I happened to marry into, which mostly revolve around eating and arguing, and arguing about where to eat. True, they are Jewish, but what they really are is Orthodox Democrats. Yes, I suppose they venerate the Torah, just not as much as the New York Times.

I was actually married by a rabbi at a time when I knew next to nothing about Judaism, but the unfamiliarity and novelty of the ceremony made it all the more meaningful for me. I was immediately struck in a completely unexpected way by the wisdom and holiness embodied in the rabbi's words, and ever since then I have always included Judaism in my coonfused and polymonotheistic approach to Spirit. And I have taken the rabbi's words to heart, for I always try to avoid paying retail.

I forget who it was, but someone once said that Judaism is an esoterism masquerading as an exotericism. What they meant is that Judaism begins where the ancient mystery cults ended, with the revelation of the one true God. In the mystery cults of ancient Greece, the experience of the One was only disclosed to dedicated initiates who had demonstrated an ability to receive and assimilate the teaching. But in Judaism, this ultimate One is simply declared from the get-go. Now let's eat!

Nevertheless, it cannot be forgotten that the positing of this (beyond) One is not merely a dogma, but an experience -- an experience vouchsafed to Moses on Sinai, as well as others before and since. In this regard, it is not dissimilar to Vedanta, in that the Upanishads simply record direct encounters with the ultimate Mystery. Religions are organized ways of remembering and celebrating these encounters, but according to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, "entrances to holiness are everywhere. The Possibility of ascent is all the time."

While religions formalize (and properly so) the entrances through which we may slip into these realms of experience, strictly speaking, they are always there. To cite just one obvious example, it is incumbent upon each Jew to personally have the experience of being liberated from enslavement to the death-cult of Egypt in the present moment. Nevertheless, most people require forms in order to enter the formless.

To become aware of these entrances into wholly liberation is to draw closer to the Creator. Allegorically, we enjoyed a continuous oneness with the Creator in Eden. However, this was not unity but oneness, something not really as lofty as unity, for unity requires our separateness from God, but then reconciliation at a higher, more complex and differentiated level, not a lower one of mere undifferentiated blending -- as children are first "blended" with their parents before becoming separate.

This gives human beings a special role in creation, as we become the link, or semipermeable menbrains, between God and creation -- but only if we meet the divine world halfway and are transformed by it herebelow. Again, according to Rabbi Kushner, returning to the source "means to unify the inner world and the outer world" -- that is, to unite the cosmos by actually bringing the upper world into the lower, and vice versa: "The name of God is the Name of the Unity of All Being." (Again, Unity, not oneness.)

In Vedanta there are actually "two" Brahmans, one called Nirguna Brahman, the other Saguna Brahman. Nirguna Brahman refers to the absolute, unqualified, impersonal divine essence itself, whereas Saguna Brahman is God with attributes, including the personal God (ultimately, of course, these are not two different beings).

As a matter of fact, this accords perfectly with kabbalistic Judaism, which posits the Ain Sof, or ultimate, unknowable, limitless and infinite Godhead. There is a God that manifests various aspects of itself here below, but an infinite unknowable Divine that is beyond all limits of name, form, or conceptualizing. For example, Torah may be thought of as the body of the unknowable God -- the bones, structure, blueprint, or DNA. It is a sort of Saguna Brahman, or God with attributes. (And this also accords with Orthodox Christianity, i.e., Gregory Palamas' distinction between God's essence and energies.)

According to Jewish tradition, there was both a written Torah and an oral one transmitted to Moses on Sinai. However, the oral one was partially lost, and had to be reconstructed by the sages on the basis of their study of the written Torah. While one Torah is written with black fire on white fire, the second Torah was written with white letters in the white spaces in between. This invisible Torah is "lit up" through the contemplation of a great sage in dialogue with the written one. As Schuon explains it, this clearly shows a kind of "vertical" gnosis operating on the horizontal continuity of the Torah.

Another legend holds that God gave the Torah during the "daytime," and the mishnah, or interpretation and commentary, at night. This latter can again be understood as a different kind of consciousness that is brought to bear on scripture -- a gnocturnal, dreamlike, or intuitive sort of consciousness that must be entered in order for Torah to disclose its hyperdense meaning to one who wishes to unlock its deeper secrets. While the Torah is literally infinite, beyond, time, space and eternity, mishnah is inexhaustible in a different, "relative" manner, in the sense that contemplation of the infinite Torah yields an endless bounty of wisdom in time. If Torah is the infinite ocean, mishnah is more like an endless river flowing out of it and back into it.

In other words, the sage inhabits the dialectical space between the infinite Torah and its inexhaustible expression of itself in time. Nothing is absolutely fixed, and there is no end to it. Yes, the Torah is Absolute, and yet, it has no particular meaning until a sage enters its world and particularizes it in time and space. This, I believe, is what it means to live in the desert bewilderness. Like Abraham, we are simply told to "go to a land I will show to you." This is that land -- or dimension. On the one hand, it is a world of doubt and uncertainty, and yet, on the other, it is a world of ceaseless truth flowing vertically through the Torah. It is to perpetually wrestle with God, which is the true meaning of Israel. Don't worry if you don't believe. Just keep wrasslin,' and you'll be fine.

The first law of Judaism is that (paraphrasing), "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and and all your strength." This is remarkably similar to what is expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, which essentially takes the Upanishads and outlines its principles in the form of a dialogue between the avatar, Krishna, and a prince, Arjuna. There Krishna describes the various ways to God, that is, the different yogas, which include Bhakti yoga, Raja yoga, Karma yoga and Jnana yoga. Each is suited to a particular personality style, but they all have the purpose of helping us to transcend our own limited egoic framework in order to know God.

Bhakti yoga, for example, is the practice of heartfelt, loving devotion to God, or "loving the lord with all your heart." Jnana yoga is the yoga of intellectual contemplation, essentially identical to "loving the lord with all your soul" or mind. Karma yoga is the yoga of works, or activities in the world. In fact, "loving the lord with all your strength" has been interpreted to mean working "for God" with hands and body, doing something to make the world a better place. For many rank-and-file Jews, their practice is one of Karma yoga ("Tikkun"), while Christianity often emphasizes the Bhakti element -- love of the personal Jesus. But the point is that both Judaism and Christianity are all-purpose religions, and it is easy to discern all of the yogas in each.

The last yoga, Raja yoga, is the yoga of meditation, and it too is present in both Christianity and Judaism, although perhaps not emphasized enough. Properly understood, prayer is precisely a way to stand in your heart before God, expecting nothing except for contact and intimacy with the Divine. According to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, prayer "is not only an articulation of certain words, but also a key and a sort of ladder on which a person may reach from level to level" toward the Divine.

At the highest level of receptivity, one may become an instrument of revelation, very similar to one who has recognized the Atman within. In Judaism, each person is believed to contain a divine spark at the center of his being, somewhat like a line of light between part and whole. As Steinsaltz describes it, this part contains the whole, but "the soul's essential wholeness cannot be achieved except through effort, through work with the greater whole." In other words, it must be realized.

In the Torah, God tells Moses that "you shall not see my face and live." Turning this around, it may be interpreted to mean that one must die in order to see God's face. However, this doesn't necessarily mean literal death, but the death of the ego's limited perspective of separation and self-sufficiency. Ultimate reality, or Ain Sof, means "without end," or utter nothingness. To achieve ego death means to enter this Divine Nothingness, which, paradoxically, is complete fulfillment.

In my book, One Cosmos Under God, there is a quote to the effect that sparks of holiness are imprisoned in the stuff of creation, and that these sparks yearn to be reunited with their source. Teshuva is the word for this urge to return to our source. Likewise, in Vedanta, all of our wishes, hopes and desires are really confused substitutes that mask the yearning of the Atman, our personal soul, to reunite with Brahman, the unitary source of all that is.

So when purusha comes teshuva, that's what life is all about.


These are wonderful books if you want to get a handle on Jewish esoterism in a remarkably accessible style. Although thoroughly Jewish, they are also, like Schuon, quite universal:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Combining Western Know-How with Eastern Be-Who

As the two world-historical streams -- the Abrahamic and Brahmanic -- meandered and ramified, they took very different courses before arriving at oddly parallel conclusions. In the West, science pursued the material world down to the atom, eventually passing beyond it to discover an implicate realm of unbroken wholeness flowing beneath our misleading perceptions of duration and solidity. Vedanta proceeded in the opposite direction, tracing the illusory contours of our world-representation down to the explicate self, and then smashing it to discover another vast realm of unbroken wholeness and unity beneath our contingent and transient egos.

In the West, Kant and later Schopenhauer (his biography by Magee is outstanding) took metaphysics as far as the Western dualistic paradigm would allow, to the threshold of the noumenon, the unknowable ultimate reality that lay hidden behind our evolved perceptions (or what we like to call O). Kant maintained that we could only know the phenomenal world, the one revealed by our senses and categories of thought. Whatever lay outside those categories was utterly unknown and unknowable for us.

Schopenhauer went further than Kant, in that he realized that fleeting glimpses of the noumenon could be experienced, for example, in sexual union or in moments of aesthetic exaltation, especially through music. By the way, note that noumenon must be singular, not plural; there can be no "noumena," because that already presumes an egoic standpoint detached from it. In Coonskrit, it would be analogous to suggesting that there could be more than one O, when we all know there can onely be (n)one.

Schopenhauer never imagined that we could actually evolve beyond the neuropsychological walls of the ego and know the noumenon directly. That is, until he discovered the Upanishads, which you might say was the first point of reconnection between our two search parties, the Abrahamic and Brahmanic.

(Although there is, of course, much interesting, perhaps kooky, speculation as to how much Jesus was influenced by Eastern ideas, and why not? First century Palestine was an extraordinary melting pot of religious influences, and we can really have no idea what Luke exactly means by the statement that Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature" (2:52) or how he did it, for what does the Son of God need to learn in order to grow and become wise, and from whom does he learn it? Very early on, Jesus began to be officially "Helenized" at the same time he was de-Judaized, which is perhaps why some of the early fathers who gave Christianity more of a Vedantin twist are still regarded with suspicion, e.g., Denys -- who seems to have been familiar with Eastern ideas -- and his greatest acolyte, John Scottus Eriugena.)

After Schopenhauer had already completed his magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation, he discovered one of the first available copies of the Upanishads to appear in the Western world, a poor Latin translation of a Persian translation of the original Sanskrit. And yet, he immediately recognized that the Vedic seers had come to the identical conclusion about the world that he had -- except that they had found a way to pass beyond it, not through thought, but by somehow transcending thought.

For the rest of his life, Schopenhauer read a few pages of the Upanishads every night before going to sleep. He called it "the most profitable and sublime reading that is possible in the world; it has been the consolation of my life and will be that of my death." It is one of the ironies of Western civilization that its elites -- often for good reason -- rejected Christianity, only to rediscover some of its buried truths in a form more acceptable to them in Eastern religions. Obviously the same thing occurs today among the non-elite, with countless people embracing pseudo-forms of Eastern religion (i.e., "realizationism"), since big-box Christianity continues to bury much of its own mystical and intellectual Light under a bushel of divine salesmanship.

In any event, the problem that developed in India was that, in recognizing the illusory nature of the phenomenal world, they focussed only on escaping it. The only true reality was Brahman, transcendent, immobile, unchanging, beyond this world of illusion and suffering. It is fair to say that this dismissive attitude toward the world hindered economic and political development in India for hundreds of years, for the world is real, just not ultimately real -- or, if you like, it is illusion, but not only illusion.

In the West, we enthusiastically plunged into the external world, and yet, we are in danger of being marooned there in a spiritual wasteland of material abundance and sensory pleasure. Throughout history, human beings have been dreaming of the amenities we take for granted, and yet, it is never enough.

I am anything but a free-market basher, but our material abundance has become spiritually problematic for many -- who are like those bleating last men prophesied by Nietzsche, wallowing in their pitiable comfort. Obviously, most Americans still hunger for spiritual experience, and yet, all too often they don't seem able to make religion "work" for them -- something seems to be missing, some key that would unlock the inner significance of religious belief and practice. If a religion is working, it should lead to real knowledge and real change. It shouldn't just come down to simply accepting this or that doctrine and hoping for the best.

In my view, the Judeo-Christian and Esoteric Hindu traditions are the missing parts of one another, at least in form if not in substance. In exploring and conquering the material world, the former extends from the center to the periphery, or from the One to the many. Vedanta proceeds in the other direction, from the periphery back to the center, from the many back to the One. In reality, neither approach is completely valid or invalid. Rather, the Real would be a dynamic synthesis (not mere blending) of the two, a "transcendent position" that unifies the Eastern and Western hemispheres of the global brain, allowing us to live in a third dialectical or "transitional" space between the external world and the mysterious Subject that is the source of both the world and ourSelves.

V. Madhusudan Reddy writes that "Mankind has benefitted broadly by the two central spiritual streams which were complementary to each other. The one that watered the West has been essentially the aspiration for the salvation of the world, the emancipation of humanity [through] the descent of God's grace.... The [stream] that was perfected in the East and especially in India was the liberation of the individual through his ascent into the Divine himself. An exclusive stress on the first results in preoccupation with the material world, whereas the all too exclusive preoccupation with individual liberation leads to complete disregard of the world of humanity. An integration of these two ways, a wider and luminous fusion of their insights, will provide a tangible and enduring basis of spiritual life on the earth."

In the last 6,000 years, human beings have undergone various revolutions. The agrarian revolution involved learning how to grow things, while the industrial revolution involved learning how to make things. The current information revolution involves knowing things. The coming onto-noetic revolution will involve learning how to be something. Or more simply, knowing how to be (which is to say, unKnow and non-do in order to grow into no-thing).

Monday, February 04, 2008

World-Historical Interior Evolution, or Earthlings, Get Over Yourselves!

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's non-post about yoga and Christianity, I dug up this early one about the world-historical significance of the developing Anglo-Hindu alliance. It strikes me as pedantic. But at least it's long. I wouldn't recommend it. I'll just post part one and see if anyone expresses interest.


Under the radar of the MSM, the Bush administration has been working to create a new Anglo-Hindu alliance. It is now the policy, or "Grand Strategy of the United States," to assist India in becoming "a major world power in the 21st century." I consider this a development of potential world-historical significance, which I would define as a point in which vertical energies pour down from above, either to assist mankind in evolving to the next phase or breaking through an evolutionary impasse whereby human beings cannot rise above themselves. My fellow Subgenius readers might think of these as celestial "bursts of slack" that have appeared from time to time, and without which the Conspiracy would be in total control of our lives and destiny.

For example, one world-historical moment is known as the Axial Age, a period of general spiritual awakening between 800 and 200 BC, when all of the initial major revelations of mankind were downloaded: the Old Testament prophets, the Greek mystery schools, the Vedic seers of the Upanishads, Confucius, and Lao Tzu's original Tao te Slack.

If you are Christian, you probably have no difficulty understanding the incarnation of Jesus as a kind of depth charge dropped down into history from on high. The temporal reverberations from that spiritual shaktiwave continue to wash ashore over the present. After all, even if you don't believe in Christ, you are nevertheless the benefactor of his presence, say, in the decisive manner in which he affected the thinking of the American founders.

In Hinduism, an "avatar" refers to an incarnation of the divine. Unlike Christianity, they believe there have been many avatars, and yet, this principle is not really at odds with either Christianity or Judaism. That is, you can think of an avatar as something short of a literal manifestation of the one God; many righteous rabbis and saints would qualify as avatars, not necessarily as a literal descent of the divine, but perhaps as embodiments of an ascent to holiness or to the divine.

Some people are born with a divine mission to accomplish, even if it isn't explicitly spiritual, say, Charlemagne or Alexander. Sri Aurobindo refers to them as vibhutis -- figures who appear on the world-historical stage at precisely the right time and place to either "rescue" mankind or advance it to a new level of moral, political, or aesthetic understanding. These people are often consciously aware of being seized by a transcendent power in order to accomplish a mission. The American founders would obviously be prime examples. Other examples might include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and many others, both detected and undetected by written, "daytime" history (vibhutis often work anonymously, under cover of darkness, so to speak; people become aware of them only on a "need to know" basis).

Evolution requires time and experimentation but also a telos, or meaningful endpoint. If you stand back from world history and view it in the widest possible coontext, you can think of it as a journey out of Africa that began some 60,000 to 75,000 years ago, with various search parties setting out to discover what they could. Diverse cultures and civilizations may be thought if as the embodiments of the discoveries and solutions these groups came up with, some good, some bad, some perfectly awful. Only now are we in a position to call a new meeting to order and compare and contrast what these different groups found in their world-historical journeys. Importantly, this would represent the exact opposite of the U.N., which functions to justify and perpetuate the very worst in mankind.

What I am advocating represents multiculturalism in a positive sense, because it doesn't mean accepting any and all cultural nonsense as beautiful and helpful, as does the left. Rather, our task is to critically examine what various human groups have discovered or developed, and keep the good and throw out the bad. For example, Chinese Maoism? Bad. Chinese Taoism? Good. Chinese food? Even better! The Hindu Upanishads? Sublime. The caste system? Good in principle if allowed to express itself spontaneously, very bad if imposed from the top down. The American constitution? Unsurpassed. American materialism? Troubling, e.g., metaphysical scientism, addiction to fleeting pleasures, etc.

Now, an existential fork in the road took place in mankind's evolutionary journey sometime after the 10th century BC, when both the Torah and Upanishads appeared, signifying a split between what might be called the Abrahamic and Brahmanic traditions.

Since we are wading in it, we are pretty familiar with the path the Biblical stream took, winding its way through Jesus, the late Roman Empire, Western Christendom, the scientific revolution, the American founding, etc. Many if not most readers may not know much about the other stream that began with the Vedas. The reason why this split is so important is because it represented two differing conceptions of ultimate reality, one seeing it as more radically transcendent (the Judeo-Christian stream), the other as immanent in the person (the Vedic stream). (There is actually more than a bit of both in each, but it is a matter of emphasis.)


The word "veda" simply means knowledge. Each of the four Vedas is divided into two parts: work and knowledge. The former deals with myths, hymns, prayers, and instructions for rites and ceremonies -- mantras, incantations, ritual formulas, etc. The second part concerns itself with the highest experiential basis of religious truth. These latter, more metaphysical Vedas are collectively known as the Upanishads (I suppose this is my favorite translation; like the King James Bible, it may not be the most faithful, but it the most beautiful.)

Vedanta represents the esoteric core of Hinduism. Veda-anta actually means "end of the Vedas," and can be taken both literally and metaphorically. That is, the Upanishads not only appear at the end of the Vedas, but also represent the "end" of relative knowledge -- they represent a special kind of knowledge that transcends both ordinary and scriptural knowledge. It is knowledge of the direct experience of ultimate reality.

There are one hundred eight Upanishads, but only ten have come to be known as the principal Upanishads. The literal meaning of Upanishad is something like "sitting near devotedly," but may also be understood as "secret teaching," for this is a kind of oral knowledge that may only be handed down from "one who knows," from a guru who has experienced the ultimate reality to an earnest disciple who seeks it. This is a kind of knowledge that is very much bound up with a radical notion of liberty, for it "destroys the bonds of ignorance and leads to the supreme goal of liberation."

The Upanishads are different than the scripture of the Bible, in that they do not record historical events, revelations, or prophecies, but the direct experiences of the Vedic saints and seers (but sometimes presented in story form, such as a conversation with Death). Their main conclusion -- or "I-witness" testimony -- is that the ultimate reality beyond name and form, or Brahman, the Self of the universe, the eternal I AM, abides deep within each individual, or Atman. Ultimately, Atman and Brahman are One. Well, not exactly. It is perhaps more accurate to say that they are not-two. Importantly, the Atman is not to be confused with our surface ego. Rather, it is the indestructible and changeless Self behind the superficial personality. It is actually located not in the mind but the heart. A Vedantin would consider it the beating heart of the living cosmos.


One of the reasons why the United States represented such an evolutionary advance is that it was the first to consciously embody Judeo-Christian principles. That is, there had been Christian nations, but never before an explicitly Judeo-Christian one. I won't outline the entire argument here, but an excellent book that summarizes the evidence is On Two Wings, by Michael Novak. In total contrast to the crude anti-Semitism of Europe (which continues to this day), the American founders were deeply influenced not just by Christianity but Judaism. For example, John Adams wrote, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation." Thomas Jefferson saw the United States as "God's American Israel," leading human beings out af a decadent Europe to a new way of life.

I believe America and the world are at another evolutionary crossroads, or perhaps even impasse. Yes, the modern children of Israel successfully escaped the decadent world of Europe for the new American frontier. That frontier expanded westward, until there was no frontier left, so it expanded upward into space, downward into the oceans, and "beneath" or "behind" the illusion of solid materiality, into the subatomic world. Where is the new frontier for the American children of Israel?

It is into the only truly infinite frontier -- the inward frontier explored and mapped out by the forgotten little search party with whom we parted ways three thousand years ago: the lost tribe of the Brahmanic peoples. This does not imply a blending of the two traditions, only that our exteriorized western religion must recover its own rich interior dimension, which already exists, but has rarely been emphasized in the institutional forms of Western Christendom.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

This is Not a Post About Vedanta and Christianity

I AM has sent me to you. --Ex 3:14

Before Abraham was, I AM. --John 8:58

NO, this is not a post, but my own attempt to assimilate some ideas I've been working with, a private logiary, if you will. Feel free to read along, but this is mainly an exercise for my own benefit. I don't intend to resume blogging anytime soon, but I do intend to continue thinking and writing in connection with my new project. I guess I've just become used to writing with a bunch of people staring at me. But these won't be polished, plus they may abruptly begin and end. And I probably won't take the time to pedantically explain obscure points that I already understand. Just think of this as a bootleg post that fell into your hands.

Just finished a serious and challenging book called Christianity and the Doctrine of Non-Dualism, by an anonymous French "Monk of the West" (although his identity is known). This is an area that is particularly dear to me, since I find myself equally drawn to Yoga and Christianity. Being that I am unable to choose between the two, perhaps it is my destiny to try to recooncile them.

Of course, that doesn't mean blending them, which would only reconsully both. Rather, it's more like "cross referencing." In so doing, one must proceed very cautiously, because it is possible to use words in a manner they were never intended just to achieve a superficial ecumenism. For example, the idea that Jesus was "just another guru" -- or an instance of the avatar principle (the descent of the divine in human form, or "Godman") -- would be a non-starter, doing violence to both Christianity and Yoga. One has to be willing to consider the idea that avatars exist, but that there is only one begotten son. Likewise, although "ascended masters" have surely passed this way, to restrict Jesus to the category of a mere fleshlight would be to miss the whole point.

In the end, the Monk makes only the claim that Orthodox Christianity and the classic Vedanta of Shankara are not incompatible, as opposed to being identical. For example, Meister Eckhart, according to no less an authority than Vladimir Lossky, expresses "a vision of the unity of being which is not pantheistic monism, but rather a Christian 'non-dualism,' appropriate to the idea of the world created ex nihilo by the all-powerful God of the Bible -- 'He who is.'" In other words, at the very least, Christianity is capacious enough to formulate a doctrine of non-dualism in its own terms.

As usual, I find that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are far more open-minded and accommodating to such an exploration, as many (not all, or course) Protestants are likely to say that "it's all in the book," and that what's not there isn't true. The Monk dismisses such facile arguments, citing, for example, the authority of St Thomas, who taught that "integral doctrine is not circumscribed within the limits of 'what is written,' but that by reason of its excellence, not only is Christ's teaching not totally contained in the written accounts, but cannot be so contained" (emphasis mine).

The Monk refers to the last verse of John, where it is said that there are countless "other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." What a beautiful way to put it, for how could mere words ever contain the Word if the entire cosmos cannot? The very idea should be understood as blasphemy -- of turning scripture into a graven image -- but somehow it's not.

The Monk also cites a declaration from the Secretariat for Non-Christians, who wrote that Christians are to "refrain from a priori rejecting as necessarily and wholly monist and non-Christian, the ideal of identification with the Absolute which dominates Indian spirituality" (i.e., tat tvam asi, or "thou art That," which is to say, Atman and Brahman are not-two).

That statement by the Secretariat is a fascinating one to ponder. In fact, the Monk goes into considerable detail explaining how Indian mysticism has historically been confused with pantheism or simple monism in order to dismiss it, when it is anything but. To the contrary, there may be no metaphysical doctrine that is more explicit about avoiding the conflation of world and God.

Elsewhere he refers to an encyclical by John Paul II -- what a Man -- who wrote that "the strength of belief on the part of members of non-Christian religions -- this too, the effect of the Spirit of Truth operating beyond the visible frontiers of the visible Mystical Body -- should shame those Christians so often brought to doubt truths revealed by God and announced by the Church."

Once again we see the hubris in believing that the "Spirit of Truth" can somehow be tamed, domesticated, and made to serve man. I would agree with Bion that Truth itself is Messianic, in the sense that it perpetually shatters that which would limit and constrain it. Every time. In fact, the Monk says that a more accurate translation of the Word would actually be the Verb, which testifies to its intrinsically dynamic and active nature. Thus, it would appear that the Verb is not static, but has -- so to speak -- a truine capacity to create, preserve, and destroy (i.e., Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, not perhaps a hypostatic union, but still a "three-in-One" or "Whole in three").

Finally, the Monk again cites St. Thomas, who wrote that "the power of a Divine Person is infinite and cannot itself be limited by any created thing. Hence it may not be said that a Divine Person so assumed one human nature as to be unable to assume another." Naturally this cannot mean that there could be a "plurality of unique sons." But what can it mean then?

In the preface to the book, Alvin Moore describes Christianity at its core as "a bhaktic esoterism," while in common practice it is "an exoteric religion of love," thereby accessible to "a considerable sector or mankind." He goes on to say that since only God can truly know God, to know God is to "become him." Or, if that doesn't sound quite right, our knowledge of God "is God's knowledge of Himself through man as instrument," a formulation that might well have come from the pen of Meister Eckhart.

Now, exactly what is Vedanta? Unlike Christianity, there is no doctrinal unity in Hinduism, but Vedanta is essentially the experiential confirmation of "the mystery of the divine Absolute, the transcendent Self which constitutes the deepest stratum of our being." It is the highest sacred and esoteric wisdom of Hinduism, preserved in the Upanishads, which one might roughly say are to eternity as the Bible is to time.

That is, the Bible is primarily a linear account of the historical dealings of God and man, whereas the Upanishads are mainly timeless accounts of purely vertical encounters between the ancient "Vedic seers" and the Absolute. In turn, the Bhagavad Gita may be thought of as an attempt to "horizontalize" the vertical message of the Upanishads in a mythological form for a more popular audience. This is only superficially analogous to the Bible, because the Bible's theology is derived from the story, so to speak, whereas in the case of the Gita, the story is the instantiation of the theology (although there are purely philosophical/theological parts of the Bible, e.g., Proverbs, and purely metaphysical rants by Krishna, the god-man of the Gita).

I suppose it's no coincidence that my favorite Christian theologians (e.g., Dionysius, Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, John Scottus Eriugena) often sound like vedic seers. For example, I might well have cited Nicholas to support the Cosmogenesis section of my book:

The infinite is incompatible with otherness, for nothing can exist outside of it.... Thus the infinite is at once everything and nothing at all. No name is suitable for it, for every name can have a contrary, and nothing can be contrary to the unnameable infinite. It is not a whole opposed by parts, and it cannot be a part....


Saturday, February 02, 2008

God Help Us From the Selfless Left

Another old post from way back, this time freely edited by Bob's unconscious.


Along the lines we were discussing yesterday, insufficient attention has been paid to the destructive effects of our primitive human groupishness, which is anterior to the developmental and historical emergence of our individualism.

Again, we are born in a neurologically incomplete state, in which we are merged or fused with our primary caretakers. Twoness -- and then Threeness -- will only gradually emerge from this prior condition of Oneness, or the "background object of primary identification" (Grotstein). And although this unusual situation has its dark side, it is also the reason why, underneath our individual existence, we may fall in love, deeply connect with others, and escape from our little egoic I-land.

But please bear in mind that two means of escape are possible, one a big broad, the other a strait and narrow itty biddy: down and back into the seductive but engulfing arms of the Great Mother, or up and out toward the Father -- whose "dark side" or "better half" is none other than the Source Mother, or the Virgin (i.e., Male is being, Female is the eternal womb beyond-being; thus, in keeping with "as above, so below," there is a lower maternal pole that is the inversion of the higher).

Leftists in particular always assume that the world's problems are caused by excessive individualism in the form of aggression, greed, and selfishness, which is why they wish to cure the problem with a heavy-handed, top-down collective, the state, instead of through the timeless-tested method of cultivating virtue by conforming ourselves to our divine archetype, thus becoming (relatively) free of our lower selves in the process, and therefore free.

The leftist approach only ends up perpetuating the disease it purports to cure, since socialism doesn't decrease selfishness but increases it. First of all, it is wholly materialistic, thus robbing man of his reason for being, which is pricelessness itself. Secondly, it replaces self-interest, which is the foundation of a rational spontaneous social order, with selfishness, which is its opposite.

For example, if we end up enacting some version of socialized medicine, I suppose it will economically benefit someone like me, since I have a chronic disease (type 1 diabetes), but only in the short term, and at the expense of diabetics being born today. I'll be dead by the time they have to deal with the catastrophic effects of socialized medicine. Yes, my healthcare is very expensive, but guess what: it's worth it. Just a generation ago, my mother didn't have the tools I have to control my diabetes, so she had a stroke at around 60. If they had had socialized medicine back then, it's unlikely that the drug companies would have made the advances that have made my life so much easier.

As mentioned above, humans are born in a neurologically incomplete state with fluid boundaries. The psychoanalyst Winnicott made the apt observation that "there is no such thing as an infant," at least from the infant's point of view, since the infant is unable to clearly distinguish itself from the mother. (One could also say that the same holds true in the unconscious of the mother, where she psychically "holds" the baby in an ocean of right-brained reverie. Just observe a mother and her infant, and you'll see what I mean, as together they dream the baby's experience.)

What this means is that human beings are fundamentally a group animal; we are "relational," not just in a social sense, but at the core of our own being, where we are always two-in-one or one-in-two, depending upon the way we look at it. In other worlds, before we ever relate to the outside per se, we have an interior relation that Bion described in a couple of very unsaturated ways, either as container (♀) and contained (♂), or as primitive "beta (ß-) elements," or "thoughts without a thinker" that will be given coherence and meaning by what he called "alpha (∂-) function," or the internalized reverie-function of the (m)other. Just think of alpha function as the most primitive form of thinking, without which no proper thinking is possible. (We won't get into Threeness at the moment, for this discussion of Twoness is already a crowd.)

So, we all harbor the unconscious residue of an infantile matrix out of which our individuality only later emerges. In developmental psychology, this process is known as "individuation," and there are many things that can go wrong on the journey from infantile symbiosis to individuation and mature independence (and therefore mature dependence; many leftists replace mature dependence upon family and friends with immature dependence upon government).

One of the things that frequently goes awry in this process is that the drive toward individuation is overcome by the opposite trend, the regressive pull toward fusion and dependence. Becoming independent is fraught with anxiety, and can trigger a host of emotional problems in someone with a history of insecure, traumatic, or ambivalent attachment. My son is pretty confident, but I can still see him waver back and forth between independence and fusion with Mommy. It's as if he takes an ecstatic step toward independence, then notices he's out on a limb by himself, which triggers a bit of separation anxiety. It's much more noticeable when he makes a significant developmental leap, which brings new abilities but leaves his old familiar self back in the dust. It's very much like puberty, only repeated several times between birth and six or seven years of age.

What did Tolstoy say? "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance.”

Likewise, from a child of five to a committed leftist is but a step. But from illiberal leftist to conservative liberal is an appalling distance! No wonder they hate us.

Now, a casual or even formal, black-tie survey of history reveals that human beings are a deeply troubled species. Arthur Koestler observed that we err in placing all of the blame on human greed, selfishness, and assertiveness -- that is, excess individualism. Rather, he pointed out that the amount of crime committed for personal motives is inconsequential compared to that committed by large populations -- that is, groups -- in a completely self-transcendent manner on behalf of religion or ideology, king or country.

The Islamists are a case in point. Suicide bombers obviously do not selfishly kill for personal gain, but selflessly to advance the cause of their group. Yesterday they tricked a couple of mentally disabled women into blowing themselves up and murdering 91 human beings, not for profit but for prophet. (This moonbat doesn't see this latest horror "as a sign of desperation. I see it as a sign of adaptation and a brilliant one at that.")

As Koestler writes, "the historical record confronts us with the paradox that the tragedy of man originates not in an excess of individual self-assertiveness" but in a malfunction of the affiliative, group tendencies of our species. Koestler also had the intuition that this had something to do with an excessive "need to belong" triggered by infantile experience, leading to an unquestioned identification with the group, a suspension of critical thinking about the group's beliefs, and a trance-like submission to a powerful parental substitute.

(You will have noticed that Obama, despite his vacuity, seems to trigger this in his enthusiasts; he is pure Mother, alternatively hypnotic and seductive. Tom Sowell mentioned that he is the youngest candidate with the oldest ideas, but this is because, developmentally, the Mother precedes the Father. Hillary is far more masculine, which is why she has so much more female support. Apparently, women know better than to vote for that pretty but frivolous tart, Obama.)

As Adam Smith knew, individuals may be selfish, but they are also self-interested. This makes them rational, predictable, and comprehensible. On the other hand, no one knows how to deal with the individual who has given over his identity to the group. Such a person does not possess an individual mind, but a group mind which is not critical, rational, or predictable. As such, they may react violently to any kind of threat, not just a physical threat, but any questioning of their worldview. A harmless wimp may be transformed into a beast of depravity by identifying with the powerful group, tribe, clan, party or religion. A Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, relatively harmless kooks, can become monsters if given great power over others.

Leftists routinely accuse the United States of being the most "selfish" and individualistic nation on the planet. Ironically, this may explain why the United States is, by a wide margin, the greatest force for good the world has ever known.

In contrast, countries that have attempted to dissolve individual identity by promoting a regressive merger with the nation/group (and remember, "nation" is etymologically linked with "nativity," the realm of the mother) have been a source of unqualified evil: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, communist China, Castro's Cuba, and now Islamofascism. This actually constitutes a large part of the "war on terror": trying, for example, in Iraq, to bring individuation and psychological maturity to a people who have known only infantile merger with the tribe, faith, or "strong man" (who is always a weak man's impersonation of a strong man). The task is made all the more difficult as a result of the approximately fifty percent of Americans who are merged together in an ovary tower of sheliocentric group fantasy.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Primacy of Illusion and the Co-creation Reality (2.02.10)

A fundamental problem for human beings is that unreality, magic and illusion are actually their "default" state, while reality and disillusion are only learned (if they are acquired at all). This is a subtle argument, so please pay attention. It's one of the keys to the Enigma of Man, who is ultimately responsible for imagining all of reality, so that if his imagination is undeveloped or misused, he will fail in his gnocturnal O-mission and miss the whole point of being here in this dream.

Just remember, we are speaking in great generalities, which is always the case in metaphysics, which involves the most general statements one may make about reality. You may even think of what I am about to say as a "modern fable" about our psychic origins, a fruitful myth of psychogenesis.

Because human beings are born in a neurologically immature, completely helpless state, we are steeped in illusion and fantasy while our brain and nervous system are being assembled. Early experience is "hardwired" in, so that the substrate of the human mind is built on the illusion that we are not really helpless and powerless, but that our painful and frightening needs will be magically alleviated through our wishes and desires. No one is as powerful as an infant, since an infant is omnipotent.

For example, we are cold, lonely and hungry. We cry. Suddenly we are swooped up, carressed, comforted, and spoken to in a soothing manner. Nourishment appears out of nowhere, converting painful stomach contractions into pleasant fullness, while at the same time we are bathed in the radiance of a soft, enveloping, benign universe we will eventually know as "mother." But at this point it doesn't have a name. It just is. It is the psychic ground from which the (m)other will gradually emerge.

Given good-enough parenting, we will gradually become “disillusioned” from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that our feelings are urgently important to other people, that life is fair, that it is possible for all our needs to be magically taken care of -- that it is possible for heaven to exist on earth. Under ideal circumstances, we will first have the edenic experience described above, only to be gradually awakened from it in a non-traumatic way, as the reality principle seeps in little by little. A conservative is born!

For a variety of reasons, other children will never experience this blissful paradise, experience it only sporadically and unreliably, or be traumatically banished by the premature impingement of reality. For such individuals, there will always be a painfully nostalgic longing for what they missed, the infantile utopia in which frustration does not exist and desire is instantly converted to satisfaction. A few of these individuals will be lucky enough to obtain lifetime tenure at a major university, but the rest must deal with an unyielding world that does not mirror our unresolved infantile needs.

I think this underlying template of infantile illusion has a lot to do with false beliefs. Not merely false in the sense of “untrue,” because no one can know everything, and it is not possible to get through life without holding some beliefs for which there is no proof or which will later be proven wrong. Plus, healthy fantasy plays a vital role in the ability to imagine and engage with the Real. What I am talking about is not so much false beliefs as what might be called “motivated stupidity.” These are beliefs that are not only untrue, but could not possibly be true, and yet, are embraced just as fervently as any truth. You might call this the realm of "lower vertical fantasy."

In fact, one of the giveaways that we are dealing with motivated stupidity is that the false belief is held onto more fervently than a demonstrably true belief. Someone who thinks something is true is generally more than willing to submit the truth to scrutiny and to allow reality (i.e., the Real, not to be confused merely with the exterior world, the fallacy of scientism) to arbitrate. But when a belief rooted in motivated stupidity is challenged, it raises the psychological hackles of the individual, triggering a cascade of easily observable defense mechanisms: projection, denial, splitting, etc.

I think the problem of motivated stupidity especially afflicts contemporary liberalism. President Bush is not Hitler. He is not, as Cindy Sheehan said, "the biggest terrorist in the world." The war in Iraq is not being waged for the purpose of enriching his "wealthy friends." "Global warming" during the seven years of his administration did not cause hurricaine Katrina (in fact, global temperature has been unchanged since 2001). This has not been the worst economy since Herbert Hoover, another thing that is easily provable, since it is finally undergoing a downturn after what, 24 consecutive quarters of growth? President Bush is not a racist. Unlike liberals, he doesn't hate Condi Rice or Clarence Thomas just because they're black. There are not 200,000 veterans living under bridges that are crumbling on them. Women don't earn "87 cents on the dollar," the middle class isn't shrinking, real income is rising, more jobs are created than lost as a result of global trade, third world poverty is not caused by our wealth, and the environment is getting better, not worse.

True, we are in a crisis, but as always, it is a crisis of stupidity.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it is much more difficult to do battle with a weak mind than a strong one. You understand their assumptions but they don't understand yours, so you inevitably end up on their level. Plus, weak thinkers embrace their false ideas in a manner disquietingly similar to religious groups who predict the second coming, or the arrival of space ships, or the Cubs winning the World Series, but who do not modify their beliefs when the event fails to come about. In fact, it is a well-known observation that a few of the disappointed may depart from such a group, while the majority only become more thoroughly entrenched in their belief system, defending it all the more stridently. No matter what happens, attendance never dwindles at Wrigley Field.

What this obviously means -- obvious to a Raccoon, anyway -- is that the primary purpose of worldly beliefs is not necessarily to comprehend reality. Rather, belief systems are superimposed on a deeper ground of emotional need for comfort, predictability, and meaning. There is a deep emotional need for the world to make sense, even if the explanation actually makes no sense outside its own closed cognitive circle. This is why people throughout history have believed such nonsense. (This also touches on the critical importance of a revealed belief system, but I won't get into that at the moment.)

What sets humans apart from the animals is not just our ability to know reality, but our even more striking ability to not know it -- to create patently erroneous systems of thought that we then inhabit, and which actually compromise our survival prospects or reduce the quality of life (cf. Sick Societies, by Edgerton). No lion ever entertained the idea that it might be healthier to live on grasses rather than flesh. Penguins don’t decide to live near the equator, where it isn’t so cold. Only human beings can hold ideas that are completely illogical and self-defeating, since only human beings are desperately in need of an ideology, or "mental-emotional environment," to organize the external world and their internal experience, irrespective of whether it is actually functional or true.

In fact, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the majority of beliefs human beings have held about the world down through history have been false, usually ridiculously so. For example, just consider medicine. Until the early 20th century, the average visit to a doctor was likely to leave one in worse shape, not better. But useless or harmful treatments helped people cope with their otherwise intolerable anxiety, and were obviously psychologically preferable to the frightening truth: that no one knew why you were sick or how to cure you.

Even today, the majority of Americans, and certainly all liberals, are economically illiterate, much preferring wishes to indisputable facts and principles. As it pertains to Republicans, it's as if they have a chronic condition, whereas for Democrats it's intellectually fatal. Ron Paul is not wrong about everything.

Last night, while watching parts of the Democratic debate, I wasn't just struck by the vacuity of the combatants, but equally importantly, the low intellectual level of the MSM questioners. In all of these debates, nearly all of the questions come framed in wacky leftist assumptions, as if they are just natural to the human condition instead of a perverse aberration. Why doesn't someone ask, "where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is permitted to run healthcare?," or "on what grounds do you think it is permissible for the government to steal people's money at gunpoint in order to fund your collectivist fantasies?"

So there is something about human beings that makes them uniquely susceptible to bad ideas. Therefore, it would appear to be axiomatic that there must be something about bad ideas that is paradoxically adaptive. But adaptive to what? Clearly, they are adaptive to internal reality, to the emotional needs and anxieties of the person who holds them. Leftists don't really want Bush to be Hitler. They need him to be. Desperately. As uncomfortable as it is, it is far preferable to being left alone with their own internal infantile anxieties, with nowhere to project them. The internal world is just as real and enduring as the external. Thus, it will be interesting to see what they do with their hate should a Democrat win the White House.

In fact -- and this should go without saying, but it doesn't -- the internal world is ultimately the source of the external world, since, if we remove the human subject, there is no world at all. Unless we deeply understand the nature of this human subject -- both vertically and horizontally -- including its genesis, its purpose, and its pathologies, we will end up not knowing where we came from, why we're here, or how to get where we are supposed to go; in short, our origins, our present being, and our cosmic destiny.