Friday, February 29, 2008

Obama and the Lure of the False Vertical: Worshiping a Groovin' Image

Regardless of whether or not you believe human beings are in need of salvation, they inevitably seek it in one form or another. Some of these forms are both "authorized" and therefore operative (i.e., vehicles of grace, the only real means of salvation), while others are sham versions that -- at risk of conjuring a disturbing image -- may send a tingle up Chris Matthews' pasty and dimpled thigh, but leave you back down on the launch pad in some rancid dimension of hell -- which you soon realize when you look to your left and are assaulted by the beastly image of Keith Olbermann.

Now, among the ten commandments there is one in particular that leftists always poke fun at, and that is the injunction against worshiping graven images. Why would the Author of Creation care about that? And what relevance could it possibly have for contemporary people?

The purpose of this commandment is to check the human tendency to worship the relative, the ubiquitous tendency to "bow down and serve" manmade gods, whether secular or religious. Idolatry occurs whenever one holds a value higher than God, or let us say the Absolute, or One.

Thus it is actually possible to turn one’s religion -- or irreligion -- into a false god, and to value it above all else. Certainly in the Muslim Middle East, it would appear that the worship of God has been completely eclipsed by the worship of Islam. But it is also soph-evident that the secular left displaces the need for religion and salvation to the plane of politics -- i.e., they horizontalize the vertical, and imagine that, with enough coercion, manipulation, and thought control, they can recreate paradise on earth.

The archetype of "messiah" does not belong to the horizontal plane -- or the realm of manifestation -- but to the vertical world, i.e., the principial order. Schuon uses the analogy of the colorless essence of white light, which breaks into manifestation in terms of a particular color. Naturally, the archetypal ideas of the celestial realm must be clothed in human thought; to put it another way, we must use forms to inwardly "recollect" what is actually beyond the local form. Schuon expresses the idea of what might be called the "cosmic Christ" as follows:

"The Redemption is an eternal act which cannot be situated either in time or space, and the sacrifice of Christ is a particular manifestation or realization of it on the human plane; men were able to benefit from the Redemption as well before the coming of Jesus Christ as after it, and outside the visible Church as well as within it.

"If Christ had been the only manifestation of the Word, supposing such uniqueness of manifestation be possible, the effect of His birth would have been the instantaneous reduction of the universe to ashes."

The point is, the plane of manifestation could not possibly "contain" the archeytpe of the Messiah in its fulness. It would rip reality to shreds.

Elsewhere Schuon wrote that "Christ is the Heart of the macrocosm, as the Intellect is the Christ of the microcosm." As such, "He is then the Intellect in us as well as the Intellect in the Universe and a fortiori in God; in this sense, it can be said that there is no truth nor wisdom that does not come from Christ, and this is evidently independent of all consideration of time and place. Just as ‘the Light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,' so too the Intellect shines in the darkness of passions and illusions."

Now, where does the latest messiah, Obama, fit into this scheme? Clearly -- often in a shockingly naive and undisguised manner -- Obama draws upon (or, to be precise, his enthusiasts draw upon) the universal hunger for messianic redemption, for a cosmic-historical figure who will shatter the existing corrupt order and make us "whole" again, which is to say, at one with God.

Now the fact that even secularized flatlanders sense the need for a messianic redemption speaks to unconscious awareness of our fallen situation. But naturally, the leftist understands the Fall in an unorthodox -- to say the least -- way. In fact, it would be an interesting exercise to "reverse engineer" their outward passion for the Obamessiah, to try to discern their unconscious understanding of what he is here to accomplish, or "undo." In short, exactly what is Obama's divine mission?

I think Julie is on the right track with a comment from yesterday. Obama

"embodies (at least outwardly) everything that leftists wish they were themselves: he's black, but also white; he's American, but also a 'citizen of the world'; he pushes for everything the leftiest of lefties desires, but somehow he also has social skills and charisma, so he makes it all look cool and appealing (as opposed to a Cindy Sheehan, or Code Pinkos, or Hillary, or any of the nutjobs who tend to flock to protests). He doesn't screech, whine or nag (he leaves that to the wife, I guess); instead, he cajoles and (anti)inspires. He absolves them of the sin of being white. He's like a great big mirror, showing them exactly what they want to see; they see their dream selves in him. Which would be all well and good, if what they fervently desired were not the most deadly, self-destructive governmental policies man has ever conceived -- socialism, multi-culturalism, pacifism, etc."

Therefore, our first guess is that Obama is indeed a messiah, only a messiah of the lower vertical, the projection of faux wholeness -- i.e., the healing of spiritual brokenness -- only in a circular, narcissistic, and ultimately "infertile" way. It is the creation and projection of a just and healing god to compensate for the absence of God. In essence, he is a groovin' image for the spiritually grooveless secular masses.

Reminds me this line by Samuel Johnson, quoted today in Peggy Noonan's tribute to Buckley: "How small of all that human hearts endure / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure."

Obama's finest speeches.... elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. --Ezra Klein

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley: Tribute to a Spiritual Centrist and Vertical Warrior

Speaking of heroes...

Partly because of all the counterfeit heroes, it can be difficult to notice when a genuine hero walks among us. Words like "artist," "superstar," and "legend," are so abused and debased, that they no longer convey any objective meaning. The liberal media tell us that Bill Buckley was a "hero to conservatives" instead of to "mankind." When Noam Chomsky publishes his last and perishes into some post-tenure principality to meet his Marxist maker, he will undoubtedly be lauded as a "hero of the left."

But what exactly is a hero, and how does one gauge his moral worth? As Schuon writes, "virtues sundered from truth do not have the power to raise us above ourselves," and a hero specifically helps to lift or preserve mankind in its most noble sense. Put it this way: intelligence descends from the Truth which it will rediscover, or "recollect," on its virtuous ascent back to the One; or, if you like, to the First Principles of cosmos and man. This ascent -- although it is necessarily marked by many transient descents and other deviations -- is the Hero's Journey, if the the hero and the journey are to have any intrinsic merit.

Hero: "A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and qualities; one that shows great courage; the central figure in an event or period" (Webster's).

An intellectual warrior endowed with superhuman strength and ability? Just consider the scoreboard:

"During his nearly 60 years in the public eye, William F. Buckley Jr. published 55 books (both fiction and nonfiction); dozens of book reviews; at least 56 introductions, prefaces, and forewords to other peoples’ books; more than 225 obituary essays; more than 800 editorials, articles, and remarks in National Review; several hundred articles in periodicals other than National Review; and approximately 5,600 newspaper columns. He gave hundreds of lectures around the world, hosted 1,429 separate Firing Line shows, and may well have composed more letters than any American who has ever lived."

But none of it would be worth the paper it was written on had it not been essentially true, for truth can be the only criterion of its intrinsic value. After all, a single line of the scripture is worth all of the books, lectures, diatribes, paranoid rants, angry polemics, and conspiracy theories of a Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, or other modern idolaters who offer their literary blood to the phantoms of their own imagination.

A man of great courage, the central figure in an event or period:

"William F. Buckley Jr. was arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century. For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure. He changed minds, he changed lives, and he helped to change the direction of American politics."

Divine descent? Oh, no question -- by adoption, anyway. The following exchange took place at the end of his 1970 Playboy interview:

PLAYBOY: Don’t most dogmas, theological as well as ideological, crumble sooner or later?

BUCKLEY: Most, but not all.

PLAYBOY: How can you be so sure?

BUCKLEY: I know that my Redeemer liveth.

Buckley's heroism would have been inconceivable outside his intimate familiarity with the Permanent, the True, and the Permanently True. In the founding statement of National Review, he famously wrote that the movement it championed would stand "athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."

This statement is still misunderstood by our liberal elites who conflate progress and history. In fact, progress is unthinkable in the absence of permanent standards that necessarily transcend, but are embodied within, history. Intellectuals (in the debased sense of those who engage in "intellectualism" as opposed to intellection) gradually came to regard these permanent standards as a source of oppression instead of the key to liberation. But Truth cannot oppress, except for those who are so spiritually enfeebled that they collapse under its obligations.

53 years later, the left continues to reject our founding principles "in favor of radical social experimentation. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic" (Buckley, emphasis mine). True in 1955, true in 2008, and true, period.

For this is a very old story, foreshadowed in the enabling and ennobling document of western civilization: And the serpent said "you shall not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. It's pretty simple: you can either have God or be God, and the left chooses the latter. And just as promised, death comes one way or the other (e.g., the "culture of death"). In God and Man at Yale, Buckley wrote of the left's abiding faith that

"All the society’s ills -- the economic, the social, the ethical -- can be ameliorated by Bigger and Bigger Government. No consideration of private property or individual economic freedom is to deter the government from spending 'up to the point where the marginal loss of satisfaction to those providing the revenue is just equal to the marginal gain in satisfaction derived by those benefiting from the expenditures'; and no doubts are expressed as to whether even the wisest governments know where this point is. The government, it seems, is to weigh numerical losses and gains in satisfaction; and just so long as there is a net gain (an intangible which the government is to interpret), any government policy is justified. Individual rights of the sort that for generations were never supposed to be prey to government action, are cheerily disregarded as unjustifiable impedimenta in the way of purposive and enlightened state policies."

But don't worry: for the all- wise and loving government, not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from its will, and the very hairs on your head are all numbered! I thought this was just hyperbole until I was audited by the IRS several years ago. Now my advice for those who die / Declare the pennies on your eyes (George Harrison).

At PowerLine the other day, they tossed out a casual aside of great profundity:

"Obama's appeal lies, in part, in his ability to make liberalism seem palatable. Unlike Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, he is generally not shrill or hectoring. He comes across as calm and reasonable. In this, he really does resemble Ronald Reagan."

However, "There are obvious differences between Reagan and Obama." For example, "Reagan was a life-long student of Communism, while Obama is not yet a life-long student of anything. Most important, Reagan was devoted to conservatism, which is essentially true, while Obama is devoted to liberalism, which is essentially false. This means that Obama's policies, no matter how smoothly he may advocate them, will never be as successful as Reagan's."

Exactly. It will always be true that conservatism is essentially true, just as it will always be true that liberalism is essentially false, for the former is rooted in permanent truths about human nature, and if your vision of human nature is faulty, so too will be everything built upon it.

America's memory is short, especially the vertical memory of its founding principles, which tend only to be recalled in crises: "Ronald Reagan came to power at a time when America had been carrying out, for sixteen years, an experiment with liberalism that by 1980 had brought the country to the brink of catastrophe. Americans did not adopt conservative principles because they sounded good on first hearing. They adopted conservative principles because of bitter experience with the alternative" (PowerLine).

It is amazing to think that there was a greater distance in time between the founding of National Review and Reagan's first presidency (25 years) than there has been between then and now (28 years). So today, the benefit of our knowledge of the catastrophic results of liberal governance has not just been "lost" -- which is far too passive a characterization. Rather, it has been crushed, spindled, mutilated, and disappeared. As a result, "A generation of American voters has not experienced the failures of the Great Society, the near-collapse of American cities, double-digit inflation and unemployment, seventy percent tax brackets, or the disaster of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy. In the absence of historical memory, and with a powerful assist from the ever-forgetful press, liberalism is once again emerging as the philosophy that sounds good. The fact that it doesn't work awaits as an unpleasant surprise for a new generation" (PowerLine)

Veracity, charity, and humility, the three fundamental virtues. For the left, truth reduces to power, so veracity is out of the question. Likewise, the true charity (caritas) that can only flow from the awakened human heart is rendered pointless when All Good Things come from the state. And what could be more grandiose than the belief that mankind is perfectible and that the state knows how to achieve it? "Humility" and "left" are mutually exclusive. The proud leftist always confuses empathy with indulgence, rooted in an inability to clearly see both what man is and what he is meant to be.

Buckley was not a man of the right, but a man of the center, which is to say, the vertical in all its infinite ramifications -- a man on intimate terms with the immutable order of cosmic principles, and therefore able to use his intellect to explicate them in an inexhaustible way.

Jacques Maritain famously said that there were never more than three schools of philosophy: The idealists who believe that getting the truth was easy. These are the conventional liberals, whom Bill gently mocked. The nominalists, the Sophists, who deny truth altogether; these are the hard Left, the true enemy he rallied us against. And finally the realists, who accept that the truth is out there but is fiercely difficult to lock down. Bill's most enduring achievement was to identify and shape conservatism as the political expression of philosophical realism in our time. --Richard Vigilante, The Corner

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Three Thousand Years of Unmediated Heroes, from Moses to Sandy Koufax

I dug out, edited, and generally re-thought this post from two and a-half years ago, as it dovetails nicely with yesterday's discussion of heroes, statesmen, and athletes, oh my.

*****

When I was just a gaglad growing up in the mean and mythic streets of Calabasas -- the Last of the Old West -- in suburban Los Angeles, one of my heroes was Sandy Koufax. Even today he retains a sort of rarified, mythological stature in my imagination, much more so than any contemporary athlete ever could. Why is that?

Probably because when I was a kid, only nine Dodger games were televised all year, the nine road games played up in Candlestick Park against the loathsome Berkeley-Castro Street Giants. If I was lucky, I saw Koufax pitch a couple of times a year. This was in 1966, mind you, not 1926, but I still had to rely on the “words eye view” provided by radio broadcasts in order to conceive my image of his truly super-human exploits. And then he unexpectedly retired when I was only ten years old, keeping him frozen in that mythological state forever more. There would be no new images to superimpose on the hypnogogic visions I cOOnjured as a child while laying in bed and falling asleep with the radio under my pillow.

In his book Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, author Thomas de Zengotita argues that we no longer have heroes because of the way mass media has affected our consciousness. That is, in order to be a real hero, you must essentially be unreal. For if you think about various heroes of old, it’s because we know so little about them (or have so few images) that their deeds may be imagined and therefore mythologized. As de Zengotita puts it, “real heroes of the past were represented with a frugality that is almost impossible to credit today.” But that doesn't result in knowing less about them -- or about reality -- but knowing more, in the vertical sense.

*****

By the way, while there is the sort of unreflective moonbattery in the book that one expects to see among the over-educated, it's not the flagrant kind, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that de Zengotita is a doctrinaire moonbat who contributes regularly to Huffingtonpost. The uncensored thoughts he displays there are so trite, shallow, and adolescent, and the writing so plain bad, that it makes me wonder how heavy a hand his editor had in writing the book. In any event, it is ironic that he is a victim of the sort of clichéd mass-media liberal groupthink that he analyzes in the book. It's almost as if he's brain-damaged, or channeling Garrison Keillor or Maureen Dowd.

A recent example of his thinking, what one call (-m), or an inverted version of the proper role of the mythic imagination:

"As an old-fashioned leftie I should be skeptical of a mere symbol, shouldn't I? Well, it depends. Obama is a very special symbol. He transcends the culture wars and identity politics simply in virtue of who he is.

[Andrew] Sullivan... emphasizes the impact of an Obama presidency on a world that now fears and despises us. Just the fact of it. Just the face. Just the name. At a stroke, America secures a new beginning -- in its own eyes as well. Nothing else could do it so decisively. So what if he's inexperienced? He's smart. He's a quick study. He'll listen to Dick Holbrooke and Joe Biden and he'll make those sensible, centrist decisions. He's no radical, he's shown that, Lord knows -- he'll be as deliberate and pragmatic in office as he's been in the campaign.

"It's not the policy, stupid, it's the symbolism. Obama actually embodies what he represents. That means he doesn't just represent change. He is change" [emphases mine].

With professors like this, is it any wonder that college students graduate with less wisdom than they had when they entered college?

*****

A heroic myth, like a dream or fairy tale, is particularly “unsaturated,” leaving considerable space for imaginative engagement with its narrative elements. If Koufax were playing today, the reality of his myth would be effaced by saturated media coverage of his every move, including those extra tight close-ups that intrusively force you to see every follicle in the player's nose, every vein in his eyeballs. de Zengotita cites the example of the New York fire fighters who attained heroic status through our imagining their very real selfless deeds, which, for the most part, no one actually saw. However this bubble burst for de Zengotita when he saw the official NYFD “Calendar of Heroes,” featuring photos of the firefighters stripped to the waist, seductively posing and “vogueing” for the camera. The mythic imagination was foreclosed and replaced by the mediated image. (I guess he hasn't seen the picture of a shirtless Obama frolicking on the beach.)

The central irony, according to de Zengotita, is that “we don’t have heroes because they are too real, representations of them are too rich and detailed. There is no space for our imaginations to occupy, no room for us to supply them with mythic life.” The mass media give us only a flattened realism devoid of reverence, depth, or dignity. Instead of heroes we have stars or celebrities, generally disreputable people such as Britney Spears, Madonna, or Paris Hilton, whose exploits we look at in the same way the ancient Greeks might have thought about their gods, who were actually not at all godlike. Rather, they were just like humans only worse -- more jealous, more envious, more lustful, more vengeful.

Likewise, in our day there has been a collapse of the vertical plane, so that the “higher” has been replaced by the lower writ large. In an age that absolutizes the relative and exalts the lower as "authenticity," it is much more difficult to have real heroes, for a real hero, whatever else he is, is never a relativist. Like George Bush, or Ronald Reagan, or Winston Churchill, they are in the service of an unwavering ideal. But today, unwavering commitment to a higher ideal is not called heroism but fanaticism or fascism, as in the case of President Bush. This inversion of principial truth is demanded by the logic of postmodern cynicism.

*****

Speaking of which, yesterday Dr. Sanity posted an excerpt of a recent interview with Henry Kissinger:

SPIEGEL: Isn’t German and European opposition to a greater military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq also a result of deep distrust of American power?

Kissinger: By this time next year, we will see the beginning of a new administration. We will then discover to what extent the Bush administration was the cause or the alibi for European-American disagreements. Right now, many Europeans hide behind the unpopularity of President Bush. And this administration made several mistakes in the beginning.
[…]
Kissinger: … But I do believe that George W. Bush has correctly understood the global challenge we are facing, the threat of radical Islam, and that he has fought that battle with great fortitude. He will be appreciated for that later.

SPIEGEL: In 50 years, historians will treat his legacy more kindly?

Kissinger: That will happen much earlier.

So you see, once the hyper-saturated media images of Bush's presidency are out of the way, we will be able to "see" his legacy much more clearly. At the moment, there is too much information that obscures our knowledge, too much knowledge that forecloses wisdom, and too many pictures that disable the imagination.

*****

In fact, most people can't even recognize a hero unless they somehow become a star -- think of Jessica Lynch -- but as soon as that happens, “they cannot compete with the real stars -- who are performers.” So President Bush can’t compete with Martin Sheen, any more than our troops in Iraq can compete with Hollywood images of warfare. It remains to be seen if McCain -- a hero in real life -- will be able to compete with wholly imagined (in the lower sense) heroism of Obama, who, for the willfully hypnotized and seduced, "doesn't just represent change. He is change."

This brings up a crucial point about the role of imagination in understanding reality. In a recent discussion of the “intelligent design” debate with an atheistic reader, he essentially dismissed any non-empirical reality as being analogous to belief in "pink fairies" (which hardly comes as a surprise, as this is precisely what atheists are condemned to believe as a result of their transcendental infirmity, or pneumapathology). Richard Weaver, in his classic Ideas Have Consequences, argued that it is a characteristic of the barbarian, in all times and places, to believe that it is possible to grasp reality -- the "raw stuff of life" -- “barehanded,” without any mediation by the higher imagination. This not only leads to an absence of understanding, but to the destruction of man as such. As a result, we are left with the “ravages of immediacy,” for without imagination, reality is simply a brute fact with nothing to spiritualize it. The world shrinks down to our simplest way -- animal way, really -- of knowing it, and with it, our souls constrict correspondingly.

In this regard, postmodern cynicism is provincialism of the worst sort, as it imagines that it is getting closer to the reality of things, when it is actually getting more and more distant -- like pulverizing a work of art into smaller and smaller parts to try to get at its meaning.

So the question is, what is more “real,” those beautiful heroic images I internalized of Abraham Lincoln when I was in grade school, or postmodern biographies that argue that he was a closet homosexual that didn’t care a fig about black people? The American founders as secular prophets leading the new children of Israel out of a decrepit Europe, or a bunch of selfish elitists (not to mention slaveholders!) looking after their own economic interests? The luminous Jesus presented in the gospels, so full of empty spaces to fill with the divine imagination, or the work of the Jesus seminarians who argue that he was a radical leftist fighting for social justice for the poor, just like Che Guevara? Sandy Koufax heroically refusing to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur, or the eccentric, media-shy recluse?

People generally don't realize that it is possible to substitute facts for truth, to replace the higher reality perceived by the intellect and imagination with the lower reality perceived by the senses. When that happens, we literally become “disoriented,” away from the center and toward the periphery of existence. Today we live in an age in which we are being invaded by vertical barbarians who would ruthlessly strip aside the veils of the imagination to try to get at what’s real, only to find that there is nothing there. Certainly nothing worth living or fighting for. No wonder they're so suspicious and even contemptuous of those who fight, since they know, deep down, that they are far superior to the deluded warriors who risk their lives to enrich Halliburton.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In War, Surrender. In Defeat, Apology. In Peace, Dhimmitude. In Victory... What's That?

In a recent Hillsdale Imprimus, Paul Johnson published a useful little primer on "What Great Statesmen Have to Teach Us." He writes that the foremost lesson is "the ability to see the world clearly, and to draw the right conclusions from what is seen," and then breaks this down into several areas.

Ideas and Beliefs: "The best kind of democratic leader has just a few -- perhaps three or four -- central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances." One immediately sees the problem with Obama and the Clintons, for what do they actually believe in aside from socialized medicine, global warming, and appeasing our enemies? Bill Clinton may have been the most unprincipled president in history, and it is impossible to say what his wife actually believes.

And as for Obama, he doesn't seem to have any discernible philosophy except for the usual ad hoc leftism. I say ad hoc because American style leftism operates in a kind of helter skelter way, from the periphery toward the center. It is always concealing first principles that it never articulates, unlike conservatism, whose principles can be stated quite plainly: limited government, local control, low taxes, free markets, strong military, sovereignty, and judges who don't invent laws.

I suppose the problem is, no viable leftist, even if he privately believes it (Dennis Kucinich notwithstanding), can come out and say that his political philosophy revolves around a large and intrusive federal government, burdensome taxes, a state controlled economy, a weak military, appeasement of our enemies, open borders, and elites in black robes dictating constitutional law.

Johnson writes that he is not impressed "by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral -- between what must be done and what is merely desirable." He cites the example of Margaret Thatcher, who, similar to Ronald Reagan, had only three core "musts": "uphold the rule of law at home and abroad; keep government activities to a minimum, and so taxes low; encourage individuals to do as much as they can, as well as they can."

Willpower: The decisive quality of willpower has to do with the ability to make one's principles a reality. Thus, "a politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing." It is fair to say that most politicians have abundant willpower, but I suppose the question is whether this power derives from mere narcissism -- the will to power -- or from a higher source -- the will to serve. I can't even imagine the stamina, drive, and discipline it must take to campaign for president day after day, month after dreary month. Personally, I'd die of boredom, mustering all that fake emotion and making the same stupid speech to the same slack-jawed crowds. It would be like having to be an actor in a bad play for two years, except that the play lasts 16 hours a day.

This is what is so off-putting about the Clintons. Yes, their will to power is impressive, but what's behind it? What actually drives them? Likewise, what actually motivates Obama? He pretends that it has to do with "unity" and "ending divisiveness," but these are bizarre sentiments coming from one of the most far-left politicians in American life. To the extent that he actually believes his own speeches, it only goes to show how out of touch with reality he is.

Obviously, willpower cuts both ways. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro all seized and maintained power entirely through the force of their personal will. "Mao's overwhelming will, we now know, led to the deaths of 70 million fellow Chinese. The cost of a misdirected will is almost unimaginably high." Thus, "those three or four simple central beliefs behind the will" had better be "right and morally sound."

Once in power, Bill Clinton proved to have willpower, but it was again a kind of scattered and "flighty" will that was easily derailed and distracted, typical of the American left. As such, he required constant polling of the mood of the country in order to sense where to direct his will. His principles -- to the extent that he had any -- were insufficient to motivate his will. This is reminiscent of the narcissistic but charismatic actor who feeds off the applause of the crowd, which gives him a faux sense of being, but who shrivels to nothing when the curtain is drawn.

As such, Johnson says that mere willpower is insufficient. Rather, it "must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to so see the cause through at all costs." Washington during our eight year war for independence, Lincoln in the struggle to preserve the nation, Churchill during the dark days of World War II -- each displayed patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and even obstinacy. President Bush has shown all of these traits with regard to Iraq, and it remains to be seen whether they will pay off. But to openly flaunt their opposites as if they are virtues, as do the Democrat candidates -- impatience, weakness, and irresolution -- will most certainly yield immediate results, in that they will reward the patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and obstinacy of our enemies.

Next is the ability to communicate. "The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity." Interestingly, unlike Lincoln, whose words conveyed remarkable power, Washington was said to have been a rather unskilled speaker. Nevertheless, his physical bearing was such that he was able to communicate more with his personality, demeanor, and physical presence. This reminds me of something Schuon wrote about souls of great spiritual attainment, who are able to embody and reflect the "unmoved mover" within.

If there is one thing that does impress me about Obama, it is this. At least superficially, he seems to be rather unflappable, and I think people respond to this. He is quite natural and at ease. If he's faking it, he's doing an awfully good job of it. In this regard, he is the polar opposite of a Richard Nixon, who never seemed comfortable in his own skin.

But again, the question is, what is at the center of that unmoved mover? I'm not in any way comparing them to Obama, but Stalin and Mao were also preternaturally unflappable as they sent millions to their death. It's almost as of there is a spiritual peace that flows from the divine center, but a counterfeit version that emanates from a center that is "dead," so to speak. You often see this in great athletes. You wonder how they can maintain their poise under incredibly stressful circumstances, until you hear them interviewed after the game and say to yourself, "ahh, that's how. Just be so stupid that you don't have any thoughts that get in the way."

The final virtue that Johnson discusses is magnanimity, or "greatness of soul." This one is difficult to define, but it is what "makes one warm to its possessor." For example, "we not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being." I again can't help thinking that Obama radiates a counterfeit version of this virtue. Obviously, his supporters respond to him just as if he is a great soul.

But this would be difficult to maintain in light a quote by Churchill, that he felt embodied the great statesman: "In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will." Because for Obama, it would read, "In war, surrender. In defeat, apology. In peace, dhimmitude. In victory... what's that?"

Monday, February 25, 2008

Doing Battle with Hope Fiends, Crockheads, and Moonbatshiners (3.21.09)

Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. --Ezra Klein, blogging under the influence

A black man with a white mother became a savior to us. A black man with a white mother could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall.... This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better.... If you look at Barack Obama's audiences and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed. --Calypso Louis

Continuing with our analysis of the Devil Card, Unknown Friend (UF) writes that the excesses of the left are always "owing to an intoxication of the will and imagination which engenders demons." For example, if Marx and Engels had merely behaved as good Jews or Christians and "simply defended the interests of the industrial workers without having let themselves be carried away by their intoxicated imagination," then they wouldn't have been so very destructive. After all, every normal person wants to help the poor and needy, but helping them at the end of a gun, as the left always want us to do, renders any spiritual benefit inoperative for both parties.

Moreover, the left always couches their supposed empathy for the downtrodden in fantastically broad and sweeping generalizations of historical "and even cosmic significance, such as the statement that God does not exist, that all religion is is only the 'opium of the people,' [and] that all ideology is only a superstructure on the basis of material interests." It is no different today, with the intoxication that fuels and pervades the Obama campaign:

"What we hear from Obama is the eternal mantra of the socialists; America is broken, millions have no health care, families cannot afford necessities, the rich are evil, we are selfish, we are unhappy, unfulfilled, without hope, desperate, poverty stricken, morally desolate, corrupt and racist. This nihilism is the lifeblood of all the democrat candidates, even 'hope you can believe in' performers like Obama. When Michelle Obama claims she is only newly proud of her country, she does not exaggerate. In her world as in Obama's, they believe we are a mess, a land filled with the ignorant and unenlightened, filled with despair" (Fairchok).

Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic. --Pope Benedict XVI

As UF writes, it is always a "matter of excess -- a going beyond the limits of competence and sober and honest knowledge," which the left never doubts, "having been carried away by the intoxicating impulse of radicalism, i.e. by a fever of the will and imagination to change everything utterly at a single stroke."

It used to be said of alcoholism that that you can't drown your sorrows because they learn how to swim. The odd thing about the left is that the purpose of their intoxication is not to drown their sorrows but to deny their blessings. Because if one looks at the plain facts in a sober and detached way, we cannot help seeing that, as Fairchok writes,

"Our economy bustles along, with inevitable ups and downs, but remains strong. Americans live better than ever before. As a nation, we live in the best of times, a place that the rest of humanity covets. We did this by the sweat of our brows and the energy of our people. We have more education, more luxury, more life options, more of everything good and far less of everything bad, less disease, less poverty and less struggle than ever before. We have prosperity, we have employment, we have technology. Hope is what America is all about; hope that has every expectation of success. Consider the millions that are desperate to get here. Even our poor have cars, appliances and entertainments. Our concern for them is not hunger but obesity. Never before in the history of mankind has this contradiction existed."

And it is the fever dream of sweeping existential change that animates the left no less than the Islamists. As Lee Harris has written, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is obviously not a rational response to the world arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy. And believing the fantasy is an end in itself -- it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality -- like it might actually happen. Therefore, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization. Rather, it was for the Islamists to deepen their fantasy by getting us to play along with it.

Likewise, anyone with a basic familiarity with economics knows that leftist ideas don't just fail, but backfire. They cause all sorts of unintended consequences that the leftist never connects to the original policy -- e.g., how the welfare state eroded the structure of the black family, how racial quotas inevitably harm blacks, how rent control causes housing shortages, or how subsidizing higher education simply drives up the cost. "Progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes..." (Schuon).

Now, UF explains that the virtue of temperence protects us from the intoxicating counter-inspiration of radical fantasies -- including religious fantasies, such as the Inquisition. Remember, there was a time not too long ago when there was no "secular sphere," so that these demonic trends necessarily expressed themselves within the heart of the Church. As such, it is foolish to blame religion for something that is wholly manmade.

UF makes the subtle point that one cannot engender a positive egregore, or collective mind parasite. This is related to the principle that the mind parasite is an effect of "congealed" or "coagulated" psychic energy. As a result, it always "enfolds," whereas the good radiates. The former is an inward, contracting movement, whereas the latter is an expansive, radiant movement. This may sound overly abstract, but we are all familiar with the closed world of the left, whether it is their elite university campuses or the parochial and hidebound pages of the New York Times. If you approach these things with your activated cOOnvision, you can literally experience them as a sort of dense, black hole of inverse radiation.

Now, why did people respond to, say, Ronald Reagan? For the opposite reason -- the intrinsically unlimited radiant positive energy of which he was a mere vehicle. This only became more apparent when placed side by side with Jimmy Carter's withered and constipated presence.

I suppose the novel thing about Obama is that he is selling the same constipation, but with a kind of cheap and meretricious radiation that one must be intoxicated to appreciate. Indeed, as Fairchok writes,

"That is his appeal; he is [ironically] an actor, a performer, a cinematic presence that stirs simple emotions, emotions that have little grounding in truth. His speeches are the inane lyrics to a popular song that endures only because it has a great beat. One must not think to deeply on what Obama says, for it turns to smoke and disappears in the light of day. Ezra Klein is correct, Obama's speeches do not inform, they pander, they propagandize, they harmonize with the mythology of despair and the chimera of entitlement. As his hagiographies proclaim, he represents a new Camelot, but one that does not hold America quite so precious, a Camelot of globalists, moral relativists and communitarians."

Now, how to drive out a demon? Easy. As UF explains, "Light drives out darkness. This simple truth is the practical key to the problem of how to combat demons. A demon perceived, i.e. on whom the light of consciousness is thrown, is already a demon rendered impotent.... A demon rendered impotent is a deflated balloon."

The lords of Falsehood hold, at present, almost complete sway over poor humanity. Not only the lower life-energy, the lower vital being, but also the whole mind of man accepts them. Countless are the ways in which they are worshipped, for they are more subtle in their cunning and seek their ends in variously seductive disguises. The result is that men cling to their falsehood as if it were a treasure, cherishing it more than even the most beautiful things of life. Apprehensive of its safety, they take care to bury it deep down in themselves; but unless they take it out and surrender it to the Divine they will never find true happiness.

Indeed the very act of bringing it out and showing it to the Light would be in itself a momentous conversion and pave the way to the final victory. For the laying bare of each falsehood is in itself a victory -- each acknowledgment of error is the demolition of one of the lords of Darkness.
--The Mother, Conversations on Yoga

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Theology of Obama: The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth (3.28.09)

Yesterday we spoke of how the omnipotent baby creates the parents who gave birth to him. Today we shall discuss how the parents create the demons who rule over them. For it is written (in the Book of Petey): male and female, they created him.

Unknown Friend (UF) writes that a demon "is the result of cooperation of the male principle and the female principle, i.e., the will and the imagination" fueled by "a desire that is perverse or contrary to nature." These interacting principles, then -- will + imagination -- "are the parents of the demon." In turn, the parents (and the principles they embody) "become enslaved by their own creation," specifically, "to a being endowed with desire and imagination, which dominates the forces that engendered it."

As is true of my own book, there is little in Meditations on the Tarot which is explicitly political. However, that only emphasizes the importance of what is there, for one requires very few principles to understand a great deal about politics -- for example, as reader Mushroom put it in a mycelial comment a couple of days ago,

"The Founders said, to the extent possible, let the individual decide. Then let the locality decide, then let the individual states decide. Only in the extreme should the central government become involved.... We are simple people -- not brilliant and elite like the Obamessiah. Hence we ask you to answer a simple question: Suppose someone could stand up today with the power to 'act' and put all of Obama's words into practice. What would that person be called?"

Another way to ask the question would be, "what if the ungoverned fantasies and perverse desires of the group could somehow be embodied in an individual who served as a sort of 'lens' for their collective will?" What would you call such a being? Bear in mind that Führer and Dear Leader are already taken.

In another fungamentally sound comment, Mushroom wrote that "the left may mean well, but they consistently fail to recognize that the law of unintended consequences is more fixed -- if occasionally more subtle -- than the law of gravity. Who was it who said that 'no man's liberty is safe when Congress is in session'? The only way government can effect change is through coercion. Obviously, coercion is in opposition to freedom, but -- as noted in Van's quote from Rousseau -- the obvious is often lost in the feel-good sophistry of the left."

As I said, very simple principles, but with deep and complex ramifications, for, depending upon your fidelity to this or that principle, you won't just create a different form of government, but a different type of human being. In the case of leftist principles, you will put in place a system guaranteed to ensure that Man falls beneath himself, as he will be ruled by his own perverse will and lower imagination in a collectively projected form.

Therefore, if you wish to be left alone to imagine your own life and will it into being (with the assistance of grace, of course), you are an enemy of the leftist hive. As Mushroom explains, "To the left in general, rights are 'gifts' from the government. The Founders wrote the Declaration, the Constitution, and specifically the Bill of Rights, not as instruments granting rights, but as an enshrined recognition of inherent rights. The only conditions under which a government may undertake to violate or usurp those rights are when an individual has, purposely and intentionally, so violated the rights of another (criminally) or of the populace in general, i.e., acts of war, that the offender must be restrained. Even then, the effort to restrain must be isolated to the individual offender and not used as a pretext to usurp the rights of the innocent."

But the left "acquires power by promising to restrain, not criminals or terrorists, but the bogeymen: the fictional rich, the fat cats, the corporations, the racists, the chauvinists, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Insurance. The freedom pushed by the left will ultimately be only the freedom to be one’s worst, to be immoral and unproductive. All the other freedom will have been crushed by a tank with UNITY painted on one side and DIVERSITY painted on the other."

Yes, precisely. The left creates false demons in order to conceal the real one they embody. One either understands this or one doesn't, so I won't belabor the point.

UF discusses these principles as they manifested in 20th century Europe. After all, the first line of the Communist Manifesto is "A specter is haunting Europe -- the specter of communism." Marx didn't say much that was true, but that statement certainly was. "Specter" is an interesting word, for it is etymologically linked to speculum, or mirror, and means "a visible disembodied spirit" or "something that haunts or perturbs the mind." As UF explains, this specter, or mirror of the lower vertical, was

"engendered by the will of the masses, born from despair following the 'industrial revolution' in Europe, nourished by the resentment accumulated amongst the masses through the generations, armed with a dummy intellectuality which is Hegel's dialectic misconstrued -- this specter has grown and continues to make the rounds in Europe, and in other continents... Today already one third of mankind is impelled to bow down before this god and to obey it in everything."

Now, UF makes the subtle point that for the secular leftist, there can be no true gods, only demons "in the sense of creations of the human will and imagination." For example, if you attend an elite university, you will learn that "truth" doesn't really exist, but that those in power -- mostly privileged male people of pallor -- merely construct oppressive texts to legitimize the existing power structure. Underneath it all, it is merely economic interests that determine one's ideological superstructure. In short, human thought is just a thin veneer over a crass power grab.

Which, of course, is true of the left. As always, they are talking about themselves and their strange gods. When the leftist insists that "everyone is racist" (every white person, that is), he is referring to himself. When he rants about "corporate greed," he is disclosing ugly attributes of his own grasping heart. When he laments "the rape of the planet," he is probably someone like Al Gore, who has a carbon footprint the size of my entire readership. I'll worry about climate change when Gore lives in a house the size of the Slackatorium (or Dupree's converted garage) and leaves the earth less polluted than when he found it.

Now, Raccoons of every denominational stripe are intrinsically logoistic beings. We believe in the Cosmic Word that was, is, and will be, and without which nothing makes sense. As UF writes, "there is revelation of divine truth, and the manifestation of the will of human beings." Or, "there is the cult of God, and that of idols made by man." Thus,

"Is it not a diagnosis and prognosis of the whole history of the human race that at the same time that Moses received the revelation of the Word at the summit of the mountain, the people at the foot of the mountain made and worshipped a golden calf?" On the one hand the Word; on the other hand, "ideological superstructures of the human will." In truth, there hasn't been "a single century when the servants of the Word have not had to confront the worshippers of idols," who "have cost humanity more life and suffering than the great epidemics of the Middle Ages."

Now, back to the perverse will and imagination of Male and Female. I direct your attention to this piece at American Thinker, entitled Barack and Michelle Keeping the Faith. The two belong to the Trinity United Church of Christ, which is rooted in the doctrine of "black liberation theology," which, properly speaking, neither liberates nor is theology. Rather, it represents the instantiation of leftist ideology in religious form -- or the perverse attempt to make Christian Truth conform to Marxist "truth." This twisted gospel

"revolves around a single dimension of the Christian faith and necessarily interprets the very nature of 'oppression' as solely material and of this world. In effect, black liberation theology reduces the entire Gospel down to a Marxist people's struggle and hijacks the Christ for political purpose." As one of the movement's founders wrote, "What else can the resurrection mean except that God's victory in Christ is the poor person's victory over poverty?"

Yes as taught by the R e v e r e n d James Cone, "To be sanctified is to be liberated -- that is, politically engaged in the struggle of freedom. When sanctification is defined as a commitment to the historical struggle for political liberation, then it is possible to connect it with socialism and Marxism, the reconstruction of society on the basis of freedom and justice for all" (emphases Shiver's).

In another piece today at American Thinker, Lee Cary observes that "while Barack is the softer, social justice side of black liberation theology [i.e., imagination], Michelle is the harder anti-white-supremacy side [i.e., will]."

Thus, consistent with the lifetime of shame Michelle Obama has felt toward her country, "America can lay no claim whatsoever to any sort of goodness, and will perhaps never be able to do so until we are all residing in one, big, happy Marxist America with the presently 'oppressed' on top and the evil 'oppressors' on the bottom" (Shiver).

Or, to put it another way, the freaks shall inherit the earth.

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed. --Bride of Messiah

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fueling Obamania With the Milk of Infantile Omnipotence

Yesterday we were visited by a super-sophisticated Obama supporter who insists that unless we "work in politics, the media or academia I can assure you I spend far more time and effort being informed than you do." I guess I won't detail the stated reasons for his childish enthusiasm here, but you can read yesterday's thread if you're interested. If he's older than 21, he is indeed a sad case of pneumacognitive arrest.

Speaking of which, I never finished my discussion of how Obamania relates to the Devil Card, did I? Yesterday's callow Obama supporter reflects the truths of that card so perfectly, that this would be the appropriate time to do so.

As we were saying, the essence of the teaching behind the devil card is how (in the words of our Unknown Friend) "beings can forfeit their freedom and become slaves of a monstrous entity which makes them degenerate by rendering them similar to it." Thus, the card ultimately has to do with "the generation of demons and of the power that they have over those who generate them," i.e., how we can and do become enslaved by our own projected mind parasites, both individually and collectively.

Unknown Friend (UF) comes very close to Raccoon terminology when he writes that the world of evil operates "in the manner of bacilli, microbes and viruses of infectious diseases in the domain of biology." While there exist "evils" which function to strengthen us (i.e., "trials"), mind parasites form closed systems that become ends in themselves.

UF cites the example of monstrous "gods" that have been created by various communities down through the ages. He notes that these communities are "infatuated with the thrill of fear," but one could add anger and hatred; in fact, the fear is a result of the infantile projection of anger. The Islamists, for example, hate what they fear because they fear what they hate, in a vicious cycle. Jews and infidels are merely "placeholders" for a wholly intrapsychic process. Likewise, Bush Derangement Syndrome is nothing more than the left's hatred of its own projected fear and fear of its projected hatred.

In this regard, Bion had many subtle things to say about the development of human thought. In fact, it is fair to say that he felt that the entire human catastrophe could be summarized by the perennial problem of "thoughts and what to do with them." Yes, the logical thing is to think them, but that is not what usually happens. The problem is, there are many people for whom "contact with reality presents most difficulty when that reality is their own mental state." For such people, thinking will not be experienced as a liberation, but rather, a restriction.

Most of the cultural craziness in the world has to do with the need to form collective adaptations to problematic thoughts. For example, if I am persecuted by my sexual thoughts, I might come up with the idea of forcing women to live in bags (which is very much like covering the world in leather instead of inventing shoes). If I am persecuted by racist thoughts, I might come up with the idea of racial quotas. If I am preoccupied with the empty space that religion would properly fill, I might become a "climate change" fanatic. If I am preoccupied with my greed, I might "tax the rich." If I am persecuted by thought in general, I might come up with the entire structure of political correctness, in order to prevent the emergence of unwanted meanings. And so on.

Yesterday's Obama supporter depicted this perfectly, in his preference for the language of faux-infinity in order to preserve infantile omnipotence. Reasonable people -- i.e., the "grown ups" -- ask why Obama isn't specific, and this is why. To be specific would be to awaken from the infantile dream -- or to move from the "zero" dimension of infantile omnipotence to the three or four dimensions of the reality principle. The Obamaniacs are especially limited in a way that my generation wasn't, in that at least we had drugs to help fuel the illusion. Apparently, most of the Obamaniacs are producing their euphoria "on the natch," which, in a way, is quite an achievement. After all, the '60s basically started when the drugs kicked in and ended when they wore off.

Again, the brilliance of scripture is how it is a holographic language that can reveal all sorts of perennial truths merely by "rotating" it this way or that. In this regard, Obamania is foreshadowed in Genesis by turning the story upside down and seeing Adam and Eve as the parents of the infantile God.

"In the Beginning" is the infant, which is surely true for all of us. We are born into the limitless space of infantile omnipotence, and only gradually -- and reluctantly -- awaken to the world of limitation and frustration -- i.e., the world of the parents who actually created and rule over us. Under the best of circumstances, this is a shock to the system, and it it is perhaps not surprising that many adult babies pluck a "mask from the ancient gallery" and banish Mother and Father from the garden in order to preserve their godlike omnipotence.

For such a person, their developmental arrest is essentially rooted in the discovery of no-thing at the end of their desire. Say the baby is hungry, or frightened, or angry. The parent who adequately responds to this helps usher him into the real world, converting these into thoughts instead of mere persecutory, ghostly presences. Conversely, excessive frustration contributes to the development of a real absent presence, a kind of "negative space" we are calling the realm of the no-thing. What to do about the no-thing? Usually it is evacuated, and then becomes a sort of persecutory psychic environment, "an object that is immediately hostile and filled with murderous envy towards the quality or function of existence wherever it is to be found." In this way, "the space of the ordinary man" can become suffused "with the objects of mental space."

Oh, it happens. But only all the time.

For the human being, thoughts are not only a problem, but the problem. You might say that tolerating the thought of "no breast" forms the basis of all subsequent thinking. You could also say that the thought of no-breast is specifically the thought that the left cannot tolerate. Therefore, they engage in the project of creating a collective, bountiful, limitless teat known as the State. This benign, omnipotent maternal State is always imbued with fantasy, since the intrusion of reality would spoil the illusion.

As Dennis Prager was saying yesterday, the truly odd thing about leftism is that we already know ahead of time that it won't work, based upon the abundant evidence of other socialist countries. But does that deter left wing fantasists? Not in the least. Obama's campaign is all about kicking adults who notice this out of Eden. Meanwhile, the way back in or out is deterred by adultolescent babies wielding flaming swords or pens. Only by remaining a closed system can the (false) infinite be maintained. The true infinite is located out and up, i.e., in the open spiral of the vertical.

Back to UF. He writes that the demons of the unconscious "become forces independent of the subjective consciousness which engendered them. They are, in other words, magical creations, for magic is the objectification of that which takes its origin in subjective consciousness." They have a semi-autonomous existence, and are analogous to parasitic entities "nourished by the psychic life of [their] parent." Therefore, to keep the parasite "alive," it requires a constant influx of psychic energy. Again, this is what Obamania is all about, as it is fueled by the projected psychic substance of its Obamaniacal co-creators.

Well, I still haven't gotten very far here. To be continued.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama Mama vs. Big Daddy 'Cain

It should come as no surprise that Democrat voters prefer a feminine man to a masculine woman, although both are infinitely preferable to a manly man. It is odd that one of our two major parties has no room for one of the three modes of humanness, manliness (as opposed to mannishness), but it's true. It looks like the coming campaign, underneath it all, will be a contest between male and female energy (as well as child vs. adult).

One of the reasons conservatives have misgivings about McCain is that he does too much business with those crazy Mutha's -- e.g., McCain-Kennedy, McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14 -- whereas Obama has almost no dealings with Father. His voting record in the senate has a 100% pure liberal rating, meaning that he can hardly honestly present himself as the candidate of political family reunification.

This reminds me of the song I'll Always Love My Mama, by the unheralded soul-greats, The Intruders. Sample lyric:

I'll always love my mama
She's my favourite girl
I'll always love my mama
She brought me in this world

A mother's love is so special
It's something that you can't describe
It's the kind of love that stays with you
Until the day you die


Yes, but what about Pop?

We ain't talking 'bout pop
Now pop he was alright
He wasn't a bad thing
Pop was hanging out, you know
I think pop was drinking more wine
Than we used to (laughing)
I know my papa is
Yeah
My papa would hang right along with you, boy
Yeah, stay out all night
Come home, clothes all wrinkled up
And lip floss all over him
Yeah (laughing)


Now, language itself has a male and female aspect. On the one hand, words say what they mean and mean what they say. On the other hand, part of the magic of language derives from never fully saying what it means, in order to leave a space for unconscious engagement. Because it draws from unconscious (and supraconscious) sources, words have an infinite plasticity which can be used or abused, depending upon the case.

Creativity is not usually a result of logic, but of the unconscious mind's spontaneous ability to form all kinds of unpredictable connections, just as in a dream. It is a merger of Male and Female in their most abstract essences. Especially in Jungian psychology, the unconscious has always been conceptualized as feminine, the conscious as masculine. Neither alone has unfettered access to truth, but psychological health and happiness depend upon a harmonious dialectic between them -- a marriage of opposites, as it were.

Likewise, we all know that in a highly charged emotional situation, it is possible to argue falsely by recourse to common-sense logic. Just as emotion can be used to distort logical truth, logic can be used to distort emotional (not to mention spiritual) truth. You see this all the time in male-female relations, in which, say, a woman will make an emotionally charged comment, to which the man responds with mere logic, and they're off to the races. The astute man will discern the deeper content of the emotional communication -- the emotional truth that the woman is trying to convey, usually about their relationship -- and not respond to it in a literal manner. It's like two very different forms of communication, and each must learn the other's language.

Freud famously asked, "what does woman want?" I suppose we could ask, "what do Obama's followers really want?"

With the Obama phenomena, we are obviously witnessing "the power of language," but not at all in its semantic or denotative -- let us say, male -- aspect. Obama does not use language to draw sharp distinctions or to foster thought (which amounts to the same thing), but in order to arrest thought at a more primitive -- I would say, maternal, or "pre-oedipal" -- level. If you actually stop to analyze the (explicit) meaning of his words, you interfere with their real (implicit) meaning, which is to prevent the emergence of explicit meaning. The point is to be shielded from unwanted meaning under a warm maternal blanket of undifferentiated change.

Now normally, change is associated with anxiety and apprehension, so how does Obama encircle that square and remove its sharp corners? By promising that this change will not be in the direction of growth, maturity, or independence, but in the opposite direction: a regression toward the maternal realm of entitlement vs. merit, rights vs. expectations, pleasure principle vs. reality principle, Mother vs. Father, Yes vs. No.

Words are analogous to the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics, in that they reduce the infinite potential of consciousness to particularized meaning. If you are something, you can no longer be anything and everything. So the mantra "Yes we can" is an exercise in pure infantile omnipotence.

In this regard, the campaign is a closed circle of unconscious-to-unconscious communication, a mother-infant dyad from which father is excluded. The campaign is not about anything but itself. Yes we can. But how? No, you can't ask that. The whole point is to remain in the realm of the oceanic can, not to come ashore to the dry land of do. So we could also say that the campaign will come down to a lot of cant about Can vs. Can-do.

Because behind all the can, someone still has to actually do. Government doesn't actually produce anything. Free healthcare is not free. Someone else just pays for it. Cue the Intruders again:

Sometimes I feel so bad
When I think of all the things I used to do
How mama used to clean somebody else's house
Just to buy me a new pair of shoes

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Imagining Reality

We've dabbled a bit in Schuon's understanding of the symbolism of color. What about his arch-nemesis, Sri Aurobindo? What does he say? (Schuon held Sri Aurobindo in the lowest regard, as he wasn't a strict "traditionalist," to such an extent that he could not even bring himself to utter his name when smacking him around. He would just use generic descriptors such as "certain intrinsically heretical deviant modernist pseudo-yogis with deplorable evolutionist pretensions," or suchlike.)

First of all, any real yogi (or Christian saint or mystic, for that matter) will caution you that spiritual experiences, realizations, visions, and powers ("siddhis") are ultimately of no importance, and can often be a distraction. This is partly because at the early stages of practice, there is still a mixture of the lower and the upper vertical (the mental and psychic planes), so to speak. Thus, one should not attach too much significance to specific details "until the consciousness develops more. The opening of the consciousness to the Divine Light and Truth and Presence is always the one important thing in the yoga."

The important point is to to realize that one is not limited by one's "outward surface or waking consciousness," but to develop the latent capacity "for entering into experiences of the inner consciousness of which most people are unaware but which opens by the practice of yoga. By this opening one becomes aware of subtle planes of experience and worlds of existence other than the material." Again, imagination is like the membrane between the higher and lower worlds, just as in science it is the membrane between appearances and reality, so to speak.

For example, modern physics requires a great leap of imagination to see "beyond" or through the deceptive appearances of solid matter. For the physicist, matter is nothing whatsoever like the way it presents itself to our evolved senses. It is, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, a "floating condensation on a swarm of the indefinable." (BTW, Teilhard was Schuon's other evolutionist arch-nemesis, a veritable Catholic Sri Aurobindo, unless Aurobindo is the Hindu Teilhard.)

But does this mean that scientific theories are just human inventions, mere fancy with no anchor in reality? No, not at all. Rather, as described by Polanyi, scientific theories -- no less than authentic spiritual visions -- are analogous to "probes" with which we reach beyond the senses and into the unknown. They are both an irreducible blend of objectivity and subjectivity, without which thinking cannot take place -- neither scientific thinking nor spiritual intellection. One cannot reason in a void, whether one is reasoning about so-called "matter" or about Spirit. In both cases, the subject is merely attempting to penetrate and evolve beyond its own representation.

These, er, epistemological problems are all discussed in the opening chapter of my book. For example, "The laws that undergird the universe are invisible to our evolves senses; rather, they can only be 'seen' with the mind's eye, the eye of reason (and even more improbably, the eye of aesthetic beauty -- many mathematicians will reject a formula out of hand if it lacks 'beauty'). Strangely enough, science begins with the one world we experience with our senses (for where else could it begin?), but quickly saws off that familiar limb by excluding 'everything that can be imagined or conceived, except in abstract mathematical terms,' consequently relegating everything outside mathematical description -- the very world it started with -- to an 'ontological limbo' (W. Smith)."

Yesterday, our new troll, Xi, wisely rejected my magnanimous offer to grace us with a guest-post in which he outlines his meager philosophy, conceding that he did not actually have a philosophy, not even a meager one: "I don't have a 'philosophy' or metaphysical system. All such a system results in is self-referential blathering and confirmation bias" (sic).

No philosophy? Gee, ya' think? At any rate, Xi directly contradicts his disavowal of philosophy when, in the very next sentence -- which, by the way, glows with rudimentary intelligence -- he refers to the mind's curious -- curious to an intellectually curious person, anyway -- ability "to deceive itself and see patterns where none exist [and] to think that such nonsense actually pertains to anything real."

Thus, at the very least, Xi believes that the Real exists and that it is possible for the mind -- whatever that is -- to know it (for knowing falsehood presumes an ability to know truth). But what is the mind and what is the Real, and what is their relationship? Xi, that is your next assignment. You are very close to discovering Shankara's doctrine of maya, only 1200 years late.

Now, as Aurobindo explains in a letter to a disciple, spiritual visions and experiences can serve as keys "to contact with the other worlds or with the inner worlds and all that is there and these are regions of immense riches which far surpass the physical plane.... One enters into a larger freer self and a larger more plastic world.... These things have not the effect of a mere imagination (as a poet's or artist's, although that can be strong enough) but if fully followed out bring constant growth of the being and the consciousness...."

This very much reminds me of when I first began studying psychoanalysis, as I had some difficulty getting beyond the concrete meaning of some of the words used to describe primitive unconscious phenomena. For example, let's take this sentence by Melanie Klein from her classic paper Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms. I think you will agree that it sounds bizarre:

"I have often expressed my view that object-relations exist from the beginning of life, the first object being the mother's breast which to the child becomes split into a good (gratifying) and bad (frustrating) breast; this splitting results in a severance of love and hate.... From the beginning the destructive impulse is turned against the object and is first expressed in phantasied oral-sadistic attacks on the mother's breast, which soon develop into onslaughts on her body by all sadistic means. The persecutory fears arising from the infant's oral-sadistic impulses to rob the mother's body of its good contents... are of great importance for the development of paranoia and schizophrenia."

Yes, it sounded a bit wacky until I had my first psychotic patient during my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, and Klein's theories not only fit like the proverbial glove, but were like a life raft that kept me from sinking beneath the ocean of this patient's paranoia and delusional attacks on me, Mr. Bad Breast. That is, at times I was the bountiful good breast, but in an instant could turn into the vicious and withholding bad breast, about which she would have dreams and vivid hallucinations of biting and tearing apart, and then being swallowed up in return. In one dream, we had a baby together, at which point she bit off the baby's head and then my head.

Anyway, back to Aurobindo before I run out of time, which I am about to. In another letter, he summarized our present discussion by writing that "Subjective visions can be as real as objective sight -- the only difference is that one is of real things in material space, while others are of real things belonging to other planes down to the subtle physical; even symbolic visions are real in so far as they are symbols of realities.... Visions are unreal only when these are merely imaginative mental formulations, not representing anything that is or was true or is going to be true."

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Cosmos in Living Color (2.01.11)

Not much time this morning, so this is a speed post which I will later belaborate. I was struck yesterday by an interesting comment left by an allnewtous reader, who wrote that

"the three primary colors of light (not pigment) are red, green and blue. Looking at the wavelengths of these colors, red is the longest (lowest frequency), blue is the shortest (highest frequency) and green is intermediate between the two. Now, as you follow the red wavelength to its extreme it approaches a flat line, that is, the horizontal, and as you follow the blue wavelength to its extreme, it approaches a vertical line. The point of intersection (middle ground) is that of the cross (El Christo). Also note that the red and blue spectrum venture beyond the limits of our visual detection, whereas that which lies in between (the green primary color) represents the visual spectrum.

"It is no accident that the primary colors are trinitarian. Following the principle of metaphysical correspondence (as above, so below), the red (horizontal) corresponds to the Spirit (think immanence and timeline, as in 'he has spoken through the prophets') and the blue (vertical) as the Father who is beyond (think transcendent, depths of the ocean, blue skies, deep space, the Father is greater than I). Both of these persons of the Trinity are 'unseen', whereas the Green (think intersection, cross, middle) is the visible person of the trinity, El Christo."

What are the messages we may derive from this correspondence? That "1) God is present with us, even in the horizontal, 2) The metaphysical has its expression in the physical, 3) To use Bob symbolism: Spirit (bidirectional horizontal arrow) and Father (bidirectional vertical arrow) = intersection = where Christ is to be found, and 4) The arithmetical expression of number three above is 1+1+1= 1."

This reminds me of a riff -- if that's not too jazzy a word -- by Schuon in Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts, in which he goes off in a very precise way about the spiritual meaning of the various colors. Most of it struck me as deeply true, and yet, it also left me wondering, 1) how did this guy come up with this stuff, and 2) what kind of cosmos is it, whereby these things can be even remotely true, since the official scientific view is that color is absolutely meaningless? Remember, in the Newtonian view, color is simply an optical illusion produced by energy vibrations.

But what if the existence of color holds certain keys to our understanding of the whole existentialada? Put it this way -- would it really make no difference if we lived in a world in which there were no color, just black and white?

Schuon writes that colors are part of the formal order, and yet, are independent qualities that exist separately from tangible form. As applied to the Spirit, he writes that "affective and combative spiritual positions are 'red'; contemplation and quietude are 'blue'; joy is 'yellow'; pure truth, 'white'; the inexpressible, 'black.'"

In themseleves -- i.e., archetypally -- he says that "red has something of intensity, of violence, blue of depth and goodness. Our gaze is able to move, to lose itself in blue, but not in red, which rises before us like a wall of fire. Yellow partakes at once of intensity and depth, but in a 'light' mode; it has a certain 'transcendence' compared to the two 'heavy' colors; it is like an emergence toward whiteness. When mixed with blue it gives to the contemplativity of this color [green] a quality of 'hope,' of saving joy, a liberation from the enveloping quietude of contemplation."

How does this stack up with anonymous' formulation, that green is the intermediate principle where the height of the transcendent is to be found in the depths of the immanent, thus engendering hope?

Schuon goes on to say that "Red excites, awakens, 'exteriorizes'; blue gathers and 'interiorizes'; yellow rejoices and 'delivers.' Red is aggressive and moves outward; the radiance of blue is deep, welcoming, and leads inward; the radiance of yellow is 'liberating' and spreads in all directions. The combination of inward withdrawal (blue) with joy (yellow) is hope (green); hope is opposed to passion (red) because unlike passion it does not live in the present, but in the future; it is opposed to passion in its two aspects of introspection and joy."

And green is indeed an odd color. It is obviously the color of elemental life, i.e., the mystery of photosynthesis, which converts the pure light of the celestial center into green leaves. Schuon says that green possesses an ambiguity because "it combines two colors that are opposed in two different respects," thus giving it "a character of 'surprise' and 'strangeness.'" No one expects green to appear in a dead cosmos! One could go so far as to say that the sudden emergence of a green planet is about the oddest thing one could imagine after 9.85 billion years of a lifeless cosmos following the big bang. Green is always saying Boo!, but in a good way.

As Schuon explains, green "has two dimensions -- whence its mystery -- whereas its opposite color, red, is simple, indivisible, instantaneous. Green is hope, promise, happy expectation, good news; it has an aspect of gaiety, and mischievousness; it possesses neither the violent action of red nor the inscrutable -- and inwardly unlimited -- contemplativity of blue; nor is it the open, simple, and radiant joy of yellow."

Christ's own passion (red) is resolved in hope (evergreen). I suppose this is why satan is always depicted as red. Red "is the present moment. Green, its opposite, is duration with its two dimensions, past and future, the future being represented by yellow and the past by blue. Seen spatially blue is space and yellow the flashing center, a center that reveals itself and liberates, displaying a new dimension of infinity. It is the sky transpierced by the sun." So I suppose Christ would be green crowned in yellow within an infinite blue background -- or perhaps with yellow light proceeding from the red heart. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Nonsense & Theidiocy

Ascent you a son, amen for a child's job! That's the New Man, we're just putting him on. When you reach a ribald age, you can grasp the wheel of this broken-down trancebardation. The experdition is nonsensuous (a punway round-trip), so prepare for nonsense and theidiocy. --The Coonifesto

Bob's got a pretty tough hide, but I think this super-smart reader, Xi -- the junior college professor of linguistics and analytic philosophy -- is starting to hurt his feelings a bit. For example, he writes that Dear Leader

"doesn't offer propositions which can even be evaluated. They suffer from excessive vagueness and ambiguity, resulting in them being, quite literally, senseless. The only possible method for assessing their truth or falsity is to simply believe, without support, that Bob is correct since there is no way to understand with any precision [and precision is necessary for understanding] what he is or isn't asserting. This isn't a property of my deficient mind, but of the very language he uses."

Of Petey (SBUH), he has the effrontery to write that he deploys a "kind private or semi-private language with its own rules which you make up as you go along. This is absurd and demonstrably false. Your usage of language is governed by the same necessities and realities as everyone else. Your claim of it being a spiritual exercise is a pretty poor cop out, not to mention its contradicted by the fact that you say that you and your 'coons' already 'know' the things you are writing, which implies that you and they do in fact 'know' them; an issue subject to epistemic investigation, even if you want to pretend it isn't.... Even if others don't see through this phony obfuscation, your intellectual bankruptcy is apparent."

Is this possible? First, let us stipulate that Bob's posts are indeed "made-up," since I have personally witnessed him making them up. But is it really true that all of his 900-some-(or all)-odd posts are just vague, ambiguous, absurd, intellectually bankrupt, and literally senseless, on the grounds that this self-confessed fount of (-n) literally doesn't understand them? Or, to put the blakes on this philosophical gas peddler, is it possible for truth to be told so as to be understood and not believed? Or that our comprehension is inferior to Xi's lack thereof?

Clearly, Xi is disclosing embarrassing details of his banal cognitive autobiography, but nothing about Bob. I'm trying to imagine the world of someone who equates "understanding" with analytic precision, but that's not possible, since the faculty of imagination is a priori imprecise -- or, to be precise, "supra-" or "transprecise," as, for example, in the precise formulations of metaphysics as imaginatively embodied in revelation.

In other worlds, and even this one, the most profound truths must be entered into imaginatively -- they are participatory, as in artistic or musical truth. On this, Xi and I will just have to agree to agree, even if he disagrees that he agrees with me, for he is essentially saying that his philosophical fantasy that the brain is a computer is superior to the commonplace bobservation that it is not.

Anyway, another Sunday exercise in spiritual epissedhimoffogy, just to annoy our lone sophisticated reader. Please note how little sense it makes, which you might say is the whole point of writing in such a way that -- to be precise -- we reverse the usual vector flow of (k)-->O to O-->(n).

Hey, sorry about the length.... maybe I'll make it up to you with no post tomorrow, since I have a long day.

*****

On p. 285 of the Coonifesto there is a footnote which reads, “Perhaps I should emphasize that mind parasites are ultimately ephemeral human creations that operate ‘horizontally’ as long as there are human minds to host them. This is in stark contrast to spiritual entities, which operate vertically (from a higher realm than our own) and preexist the human beings that may open themselves to their influence.”

Now, I realize that even among regular readers, there might be a substantial number who will regard the reference to spiritual entities as “kooky talk,” as Kramer put it. However, as an aside, one thing I have discovered is that, if you are going to truly embrace the vertical, you have to go the whole hog. Initially it is a leap of faith, but in reality, it is not that different from, say, attending a movie. In doing so, we go into a dark place, temporarily suspend memory, desire and understanding, and disenable our “wideawake and cutandry” ego, so as to enter another world and submit to the director's vision.

However, have you ever noticed that a great film, in an odd sort of way, seems more real than real? Even though I done graduated from film school, this is something I have never really thought through or articulated before, but it is as if a great film (or any great work of art, really) is surreal, which literally means “super,” “over,” or “above” real.

Put it this way: art is either real, surreal or sub-real. If you are a Horizontal Man, then it goes without saying that it is merely real or possibly sub-real, since transcendence does not exist. And, as a matter of fact, we have plenty of examples of explicitly horizontal “naturalistic” art that came out of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Interestingly, if you have seen these works, you will notice that in their attempt at realism, they actually fall short of reality, which I think emphasizes a truism I have mentioned in the past: if man does not transcend himself, he falls beneath himself. Most contemporary art has now descended to this level. In draining itself of transcendence, it is mere barbarism by another name.

The human being is faced with two, and only two, metaphysical choices between a wholly secular and ultimately horizontal world view or a vertical and ultimately religious one. In the final analysis, despite all of the apparent variety, this is the only philosophical choice before you. On the one side, atheism, materialism, existentialism, rationalism, what have you. And on the other side, any form of transcendental realism. Now, importantly, if you choose the former, then the latter is excluded a priori. In other words, if there is only the horizontal world, then the vertical does not and cannot exist. However, if you choose the latter, it is obviously no problem fitting horizontality into the picture as a necessary consequence of the very nature of the Absolute. I have no beef whatsoever with science, whereas the scientistic mind of a Xi can only stare at religion with uncomprehending bovine eyes and ask, "where's the beef?"

Back to my original point: this is why, depending on the choice you make, you should have the courage of your convictions and go the whole hog in embracing the One or the other. If you are an atheist, go for it! Certainly don’t waste your time being a lukewarm agnostic, for the truth is this: if God is even possible in your metaphysical scheme, then a moment’s reflection will prove to you that God is necessary. In other words, do not be fooled into thinking that we are dealing with degrees of possibility. Rather, God -- just like moral certainty, or absolute truth, or objective beauty -- is either possible or impossible.

Now, whatever your particular religion, it will always draw a distinction between the frontal ego, which largely operates horizontally, and the psychic being (which is Sri Aurobindo’s term for the nous, buddhi, or higher intellect), which operates vertically. The former is by definition "fractured" and alienated from its ground, while the latter is a reflection of the Absolute in the relative, and therefore a diversified unity.

Let us stipulate at the outset that, to the extent that the vertical is real, then it is going to be reflected in us and in everything else. Thus follows God's favorite cliché, “as above, so below.” Looking at the world in this way, everything below is going to have its analogue in the above, and vice versa. Therefore, we start with the Absolute. The Absolute reflects itself in our local world as existence, or being, the most general category we can imagine, since everything partakes of it. We would also say that eternity manifests as time, which is its moving image.

Even more generally, time is not just mere duration, but the transforming mode of being. It has cycles and archetypal qualities, which is why we can even speak of “growth” or “evolution.” In this scheme, evolution is a necessary consequence of the Absolute manifesting in time. Ironically, progressive evolution (as opposed to mere change) is something that cannot be explained (because it is inherently vertical) by any purely horizontal metaphysics, which is why so-called “creationists” -- I mean the literal kind -- are even more materialistic than materialists. It is always a mistake to try to reduce metaphysical truth -- those truths which must be true because of the nature of things -- to your narrow creed. Rather, your task is to understand how these timeless truths are reflected in your creed. God did not give you an intellect only to ignore its most lofty capabilities. Please.

To affirm that man is the mirror and image of the Absolute is to remind ourselves that man is the being who can escape his own limits and participate in the eternal, which we only do all the time. But since we are mirrorcles of the Absolute, while it projects itself from eternity into time, our task is to ascend from time to eternity. In fact, when all is unsaid with non-doing, this is the soul task of the spiritual life. This ascension involves reversing figure and ground, so to speak, both spatially and temporally. In other words, we must turn the world upside-down and inside-out.

This is why it is not just a matter of knowing where to look for God, but how to look. You could go to the top of Mount Sinai, or into the the most secret vestibule of the Vatican, or to the mouth of the Ganges, or into L. Ron Hubbard's huge medicine cabinet, but if you don’t know how to look, you’re just going to see a mountain, a building, a river, or a lot of prescriptions for vicodin. On the other hand, if you know how to ascend the mountain, enter a dark cloud of unknowing, crucify your lower mind, and drink from the sacred river, you might just hit the slackpot.

It is not so much a matter of knowing as perceiving. We begin by transforming our vision and developing a spiritual way of “seeing.” As a matter of fact, this is something we routinely do. For example, when you read the words on a page, you actually make the letters “invisible” by looking through and beyond them to the words they spell. Likewise, the words become equally invisible, because you look through them to the meaning they are pointing at. You could undertake a chemical analysis of the ink with which the words are printed, but that would take you no closer to their meaning. Rather, it would take you far in the opposite direction, completely destroying their meaning. Do you get what I'm saying? Good. You just proved the point. Xi, you missed again.

Since God is transcendent, there is no way to see him by simply looking in a conventional way at material or empirical reality. That’s going to take you far away in the wrong direction, that is, unless you somehow look through and beyond the world in a manner analogous to the way we see through words and letters to their higher meaning. This is again why religious fundamentalists are neither religious nor fundamentalist. Rather, they are materialists, in that they act as if the literal words and events of the Bible are more real than that to which they point.

Also -- equally ironically -- there is no philosophy more abstract than atheism, for it superimposes its sterile and dogmatic abstractions over the mystery of being. No one has more fixed opinions about the unknown than proud Horizontal Man, who is half-correct in believing that some things are “too good to be true.” But he neglects the fact that there are necessarily things that are not good enough to be True, atheism among them. And as we all know, some things are just far too beautiful to be untrue.

Imagine if you were a trained meteorologist. Instead of seeing a cloud as an unambiguous white patch against a blue backdrop, you might begin to see the visible cloud as a mere “ripple” against the background of a much more encompassing meteorological process that is largely invisible to the senses. Similarly, before the days of MRI’s and high speed CT scans, an experienced cardiologist could place a stethoscope against your chest, and simply by listening to the sounds, visualize the nature of the problem.

Imagination, in its positive, active sense, is the membrane that makes contact with the higher world. It is dangerous to try to merely understand religious truths, because it reduces them to the known (k) and undermines their function of bypassing the ego and vaulting us out of our conventional way of knowing. Religious truths cannot be comprehended through dogma or through irreligious skepticism, but only through an imaginative engagement with their world. (To be clear: dogma is critical in that it preserves or memorializes these worlds, but it is still our task to imaginatively engage them.)

In short, you must, through your imagination, raise yourself up to religion, not lower religion down to your ego, or you will merely be worshipping your ego.

As I tried to convey in my book, there is only one story. It is the story of an evolving cosmos awakening to itself and becoming conscious. Who could argue with that? It happened. And it is happyning. First there was matter. Then one fine day, life. Then just a short while back, self-consciousness. And most recently, the recognition of, and identification with, Spirit. Matterlifemindspirit. You can insert an arbitrary line dividing one from the other, but at least recognize that you are the one who is creating the abstract dualism. The underlying Oneness of existence knows no such intrinsic demarcations, neither in space nor in time.

Which is to say that matterlifemindspirit is simply the mirror image of Spiritmindlifematter. As above, so below.

We look at a tree reflected in a lake. In its inverse image, we see that its roots are aloft, its branches and leaves down here below. Looking “up,” we see the trunk rising before us, into the roots that cannot be seen. They are invisible. But this is where nourishment enters the tree and moves down the trunk, where life is carried to the periphery.

May we know the tree by its most excellent fruit!