Friday, March 14, 2008

E Pluribus Nusquam: Pomographic Liberalism and the Parsing of Nothing

Since leftism is the political expression of nihilism, it is appropriate that the vacuous campaign between Obama and Clinton involves ever finer degrees of nullity on the dark road from nowhere to nothing. From American Digest:

Obama: (Just throwing it out there): This should be the campaign.

Hillary: What?

Obama: This. Just arguing. Arguing about nothing.

Hillary (Dismissing): Yeah, right.

Obama: No I'm serious. That sounds like a good idea.

Hillary: Just arguing? What's the campaign about?

Obama: It's about nothing.

Hillary: No real policies?

Obama: No, forget the policies. --The Pitch.

What is the ultimate basis of the "culture war," and by extension, the conflict between conservative classical liberals and illiberal leftists? What is it's deep structure, the "either/or" at its foundation that is the cause of all the diametrically opposed attitudes on the surface?

The culture war is in fact a "war between the states," the existential states of nihilism vs. theism. For while the left would like you to believe that it is simply a battle between right-wing religious zealots and "free thinking" secular liberals, you can conceptualize it in more subtle ways -- for example, a belief in absolute Truth vs. mere opinion, moral absolutes vs. moral relativism, cultural progress vs. multiculturalism, a complex spiritual hierarchy vs. simplistic "flatland" materialism, meaningful existence vs. existential meaninglessness, teleonomic spiritual evolution vs. the mere random shuffling of Darwinian "evolution," etc. But what is so especially annoying about these hardcore nonbelievers is that they want to impose their new atheocractic testavus on the rest of us.

A while back I mentioned the book Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from the Exorcist to Seinfeld, by Thomas Hibbs. He believes that in America, most of the purveyors of popular culture are in fact nihilists of one sort or another (in the sense alluded to above). You might say that nihilism is an unnaturally natural implication of certain strains of our liberal individualism.

That is to say, liberal individualism divorced form any deeper spiritual impulse does indeed tend to degenerate into a debased, antisocial shadow of itself. You might call it pomographic (as in postmodern) vs. classical liberalism, the latter of which has always recognized the need to cultivate a virtuous population, with the understanding that the whole system breaks down if responsibilities aren't at least equally emphasized along with rights. But why are there no "civic responsibilities activists," and why do we call the champions of irresponsibility, impulsivity, narcissism and sloth "civil rights activists"?

Pomographic liberalism is obsessed only with rights, entitlements, and the unearned specialness of the oppressed victocrat. As Hibbs writes, nihilism does not simply usher in an era of chaos and disorder -- rather, it "involves a simplification of human nature, a reduction of its complexity and range, and an abridgment of its aspirations." In short, it reduces hierarchy to a crude spiritual leveling, and replaces the telos of spiritual aspiration with the mundane enforcement of material equality. The nihilistic left is comprised of Nietzsche's pathetic Last Men, who "have a calm indifference to all elevated aspirations." In their puffed up vanity and pseudosophistication, they have lost even the capacity to despise themselves, so they certainly have no reason to aspire spiritually and surpass themselves.

In a piece entitled Literary Hoaxes and the Proletarianization of Culture, Roger Kimball notes that "where Americans once looked up the social scale for their ideals, many now look to the gutter. He quotes Charles Murray, who observed that “one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites... begin to imitate those at the bottom of society”:

“The collapse of old codes leaves a vacuum that must be filled. Within the elites, the replacement has been tenets, broadly accepted by people across the political spectrum, that tell us to treat people equally regardless of gender, race, or sexual preference, to be against poverty and war, and to be for fairness and diversity. These are not bad things to be against and for, respectively, but the new code, which I will call ecumenical niceness, has a crucial flaw. The code of the elites is supposed to set the standard for the society, but ecumenical niceness has a hold only on those people whom the elites are willing to judge -- namely, one another. One of the chief tenets of ecumenical niceness is not to be judgmental about the underclass.

"Within the underclass, the vacuum has been filled by a distinctive, separate code. Call it thug code: Take what you want, respond violently to anyone who antagonizes you, gloat when you win, despise courtesy as weakness, treat women as receptacles, take pride in cheating, deceiving, or exploiting successfully. The world of hip-hop is where the code is openly embraced. But hip-hop is only an expression of the code, not its source. It amounts to the hitherto inarticulate values of underclass males from time immemorial, now made articulate with the collaboration of some of America’s best creative and merchandising talent."

Hibbs notes that the Last Men in our midst are not the courageous rebels of their narcissistic imaginations, but "timid, enervated, self-enclosed, and self-satisfied," conforming with "the dictates of common opinion.'' Fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution, and what has it wrought: spiritually withered New York Times Man, so insular and hermetically creedbound in his views, and yet, like a pinched little sulzberger, so confident of his childish superiority!

These Last Men hate to be reminded that there is something higher or deeper, something transcending their own rootless and self-generated meaninglessness. They are all sheep and no shepherd. And they don't believe in wolves at all. Brawndead leftists with no mametary glands hate the notion that the work -- the manly work, not just the endless party on mom's government teat -- of history is incomplete, that there are real enemies and real heroes -- superior men like General Petraeus who will name and kill the enemy so that the Last Men may sleep soundly in their beds. They believe that there is nothing to be afraid of but the hero!

In a way they are right, for the hero is a painful reminder of their own existential shrinkage. The society of the Last Man "is adept at satisfying nearly all desires for pleasure, but it cannot satiate, indeed it positively frustrates, the will to excel, to prove oneself superior to others" (Hibbs). They are afflicted with spiritual envy, the Satanic Eucharist of secular fundamentalism. Kill the hero is their motto. The victim is the new God, Master of our domain is their creed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Celestial Force and God's Scorched-Birth Policy (3.12.10)

People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him. -- Swami Abhishiktananda

All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose

In Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene makes the claim that "we today are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union." (Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we call O.)

Yes, the Christian message is universal, but it seems an unavoidable conclusion that it possesses an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component. Obviously, this can lead to charges of elitism, but in reality, it seems that the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by cherubim with flaming swords who only allow those with sincere humility and childlike innocence to pass through: amen for a child's job!

And while I would certainly never denigrate the informational, or dogmatic, aspect of Christianity, I guess I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal." (The book on Swami Abhishiktananda is highly recommended; it has Petey's imprimatur, in that it is 90% Coon-friendly, with only the usual heavy-handed attempt by Traditionalists to squeeze everything into the Schuon/Guenonian framework and to polemicize against "evolutionists".)

In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." Evidently, teaching to the converted is different than preaching to the perverted.

Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective covering over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel. In fact, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23).

In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus?

Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric. Aligning oneself with it is perhaps the principle aim of the Christian life.

Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."

Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig." Apparently, no one's vehicle crosses the phoenix line unless it is first repossessed and amortized.

But if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- tilling the ground, planting the seed, nurturing it, and, especially, watching over the field. For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps in.

Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.

This inertia is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable course, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.

Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels with raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation.

Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to "watch and pray." It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.

Watching what?

Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

Hieromonk Damascene eliberates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are opposites. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."

Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Truth: What is it Good For?

Well, I started writing this post, but then Mrs. G. was too sick to care for Future Leader, so childcare responsibilities were unexpectedly thrust upon me before I could finish. Consider it a spontaneous and undisciplined ramble from Bob's Unconscious, not a proper encyclical bearing the authority of Petey .... I finished up with a previous post that seemed to fit in with the general topic (below the asterisks)....

Now, reader Episteme asks, to put it bluntly, what Raccoons get out of these silly verticalistenics and gymgnostics. What's in it for us? What advantage do we gain?: "What exactly are the fruits produced by this capacity of awareness that I, and many others it seems, apparently lack? What great advantages do you have being aware, as you think you are, of Truth? If you really see this whole part of reality that I can't see, what is it that you can do that I can't?"

While not unreasonable questions, they are posed in a tone that betrays a lack of sobriety, sincerity and receptiveness. Nevertheless, for readers who may be just on the other side of the membrane with their nouses pressed against the glass darkly, but who are willing to open their hearts, this is for their benefit. We know ahead of time that Episteme's intellectual pride, at least at this time, fills the space where grace might otherwise flow, and as we know, while nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit requires one.

We begin with one of those metaphysical bobservations that we know is true because it cannot not be true, on pain of eliminating the very possibility of truth. It is this: truth is the adequation of knowledge to being, and this adequation is the sufficient reason for man's intellect. In other words, our intellect was made to know the Absolute, otherwise it makes no sense that we possess it. That is to say, on any Darwinian grounds, it is absurd that monkeys could one day harbor an ability to know truth -- not to mention love and beauty. For where was this truth before the monkeys discovered it, and how did it get there?

Another unavoidable truth is that the existence of truth imposes an obligation on man to know it. Can I prove this? Only to those who already "know" it implicitly -- who bear this eternal truth within their soul (which we all do, only for some people it is buried under so many layers of ice and rock, that it is inaccessible).

Now, the need to know this truth can be more or less pressing, depending upon the architecture of the particular soul. For some -- say, "vital beings" who essentially live a sensory, quasi-animal existence -- they are not aware of this need. But for others, the need is acute, and it forms the motive passion of their lives. To paraphrase Augustine, the soul of man cannot rest until it rests in God. Or as Schuon writes, "metaphysics satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men" (and please bear in mind that Schuon is not using the words "metaphysics" or "intellect" in their modern, debased, and profane sense understood by Episteme). "Metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but it penetrates also our whole being; therefore it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word."

Now, adequation to the Real cannot be achieved by the ego, which is only adequate to a certain narrow band of the reality (both interior and exterior) to which it is an adaptation. Man is a "bicentric" being, in that he has two subjectivities, the local ego and the nonlocal, uncreated intellect. The relative corresponds to the ego, while the Absolute corresponds to the intellect. It is not that the intellect itself is absolute, but that it represents a "mirror" of the absolute within the relative plane. The Great Mystery is that, in the words of Schuon, "the Absolute has made Itself relativity so that the relative may return to the Absolute." Man is an inverted shadow of God, which is why our vocation is to invert the inversion and receive light into the shadowy world of the fallen ego: "Soul, instead of contracting and hardening in its natural selfishness, must open itself to Heaven and to the Divine Influx."

But why? What do we get out of it? Well, one thing we get is the awareness that the cosmos is not a oppressively closed circle but an infinitely open spiral -- that God has not just "opened a gate in the middle of creation," but that this gate is Man himself. Furthermore, "to slip through the human state without being truly Man, that is, to pass God by," is to reject our own soul and our very existence. It is "a waste and a suicide," especially when the brevity of temporal life is contrasted with the depth of eternity.


One of my favorite little books on Jewish mysticism is The Thirteen Petalled Rose, by Adin Steinsaltz. He writes that "The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence.... Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being. What is more, the various worlds interpenetrate and interact in such a way that they can be considered counterparts of one another, each reflecting or projecting itself on the one below or above it."

I like this description because it is exactly analogous to the way the unconscious -- the lower vertical -- operates in psychoanalytic theory. The unconscious is another world that operates along different logical principles, but it is not "someplace else." It is not literally located in space, "below" the ego. Rather, it is right here, right now, interpenetrating everything we think and do. To "see" it, it is merely a matter of shifting your perspective. Like right now, if I open my ears, I hear a bird chirping in the backyard. In the distance is the "hoo hoo" of an owl. There's the very quiet humming of the computer. These things were always there, but it's a matter of paying attention to them.

In another way, it's analogous to these progressive bifocals I just got, which change the focal point depending upon where you point your eyes. Look up, and things that are near become out of focus, but look down, and the distant becomes blurry.

Steinsaltz discusses the differences between the vertical and horizontal, which for me is the essence of any spiritual metaphysics. Again, in speaking of the vertical, of higher and lower, he is not speaking of an actual physical location. Vertically speaking, "to call a world higher signifies that it is more primary, more basic in terms of being close to a primal source of influence; while a lower world would be a secondary world -- in a sense, a copy." Thus, viewed horizontally, we may trace the material cosmos back to a primordial event some 13.7 billion years ago.

But this is only the horizontal explanation. Traditional metaphysics deals with the vertical causation of the cosmos, which is what confuses people. From the vertical standpoint, this world is indeed a copy, as are human beings, of a divine prototype. The "logos" might be thought of as the model of all things, the nexus between the divine mind above and the creation here below. Looked at in this manner, the inexplicable beauty of the world is not somehow the outcome of horizontal cause and effect. Rather beauty is the cause of the cosmos (among other nonlocal causes, such as Love and Truth).

Because of the ubiquitous vertical and horizontal influences, every aspect of human existence is made up of both matter and spirit, of form and essence. While we are fundamentally spiritual, we are unavoidably material, which sets up a host of interesting tensions and conflicts. The fall --or exile, if you like -- is indeed a vertical one, a declension from the divine repose of celestial bliss, down to this world of toil, conflict, uncertainty and ambiguity.

In the past, I have posted on the inner meaning of "angels," which -- now, don't be too literal here -- are nothing more than vertical beings that travel in only two directions: up and down. Have you ever had a brilliant insight that came out of nowhere? That would be the gift of a vertical emissary. The more you reconcile yourself to the process and accept it on its own terms, the more messages you get. What about those lower promptings? Yes, we'll get to those momentarily.

Now that I've lost most of my readers, I'll ask the question: Did you know that you can create an angel, a vertical being? I know I do all the time. According to Steinsaltz, every mitzvah you perform -- every good deed -- is not just a horizontal act in the material world. It also has an effect in the vertical world. As a matter of fact, a holy act creates an angel, a new spiritual reality that will then go on to have its own vertical life and influence.

Let's just consider a banal but highly illustrative example, the first one that came to my mind -- Oscar Schindler. One flawed man nevertheless trying to do the decent thing in a hopeless hell of utter depravity. But how many countless angels did he create, angels that continue to bless the world in demonstrable ways!

Let's jump ahead to the shadow side of this spiritual economy for, as Steinsaltz explains, "just as there are holy angels built into and created by the sacred system, there are also destructive angels, called 'devils' or 'demons', who are the emanations of the connection of man with those aspects of reality which are the opposite of holiness." Thus it would follow that, just as good deeds create beneficent vertical beings, other actions create vertical beings "of another sort, from another level and a different reality." In so far as it is possible to do so, I try to create angels with this blog. I don't know if I am successful, but I do know that I attract demons.

Here again, you can take this literally or you can take it figuratively. But think, for example of just one awesome conjurer of demons, say, Karl Marx, who belched his new anti-revelation from the vertical depths of darkness. Could you even begin to count the number of devils, demons, and other agents of the nether world who are still being created and still making mischief as a result of falling under his sinister spell? You do see them, don't you? They're everywhere! Some things are metaphors, some are not. The term body snatcher is not a metaphor. Petey says that it explains all you need to know about the left.

If you have stayed with me this far, then you will understand that, just as there are evil beings, there are evil worlds. These are simply the "space" inhabited by the evil beings. Wisdom is a space, or "mansion." So too, creativity, love, beauty, peace. You can sense it when you enter one of those mansions. You can also sense it when you are near one of those haunted mansions where the dark ones reside.

The closest I like to get to one of these mansions is, which makes the Islamic darkness visible to us on a daily basis. Can you not feel and sense the utterly dark abyss of that black hole, where light neither enters nor escapes? If not, you may want to contact an exorcist, for something has hijacked your moral vision. There are many such vertical abysses in the world. Bottomless pits of anti-Truth and anti-Beauty.

Enough malevolent wishes and wicked deeds, and pretty soon you have created a closed world, cut off from the divine influence. As Steinsaltz describes it, "the sinner is punished by the closing of the circle, by being brought into contact with the domain of evil he creates.... as long as man chooses evil, he supports and nurtures whole worlds and mansions of evil, all of them drawing upon the same human sickness of the soul.... as the evil flourishes and spreads over the world because of the deeds of men, these destructive angels become increasingly independent existences, making up a whole realm that feeds on and fattens on evil."

Hitler. Stalin. Bin Laden. Yasser Arafat. Kim Jong-il. Ahmadinejad. Detached worlds of pure evil as an end in itself. Who could say it isn't so?

That would be the Old Serpent's vast team of useful idiots. He's got a very deep bench.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And God Said, Keep it Simple, Stupid (3.10.10)

When philosophy uses reason to resolve a doubt, this proves precisely that its starting point is a doubt which it is striving to overcome, whereas... the starting point of a metaphysical formulation is always something intellectually evident or certain, which is communicated, to those able to receive it, by symbolical or dialectical means designed to awaken in them the latent knowledge which they bear unconsciously and 'eternally' within them. --F. Schuon

Our recent guest once again proved the soundness of Schuon's rule of metaphysical formulations and the impossibility of communicating them to those unable to receive them. The Mysteries aren't intended to be vulgarized and dispensed to any yahoo with an open hand and empty head, and they certainly weren't meant to be eagerly groped and pawed over by the grubby fingers of new age barbarians who reduce the most sublime knowledge to its ego (or usually sub-ego) level equivalent.

History is littered with caricatures of spirit. I have in my hand a hideous but typical example, in the form of a catalog I received in the mail a couple of days ago from company called Sounds True. I bring this up not just for valid purposes of mockery and ridicule, but to emphasize that there is actually great spiritual danger in treating these matters so lightly. The Mandala Healing Kit: Spark Your Sacred Geometry (for people who can't spark euclidean geometry). Loveland: Music For Dreaming and Awakening (dreaming or awakening? Make up your mind!). The Advanced Manifestation Program: Upgrade the Way You Think -- And Live (upgrade only works if you start off really stupid). Take Charge of Your Life at The Quantum Level (since you obviously can't deal with reality on this level). Explore Non-Ordinary Reality with the Wisdom Tool of the Shaman (step one: bend over).

The hucksters who propagate this debased nonsense have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic spirituality. They are poseurs, flatterers, con men and unCoonmen pretending to be as dense as their followers so their followers can strive to feel as clever as they are. A real teacher is more likely to drive you away than to make outrageous promises and ask for your money. This is why it is best to work within an established religious framework. Sure, it's less glamorous, like indexing instead of trying to find some exotic or risky way to beat the stock market. Yes, there are some people who can do that, and there are some spiritual practitioners who are able to operate outside the lines. But doing so requires an abundance of caution -- not less discipline, but more. As Bob Dylan sang, to live outside the law, you must be honest. You must know your own limitations, because Reality will eventually bring you to heel.

Ronald Reagan once said words to the effect that "the solutions are simple, but not simplistic." As a matter of fact, simple is hard. Complexity is easy. Most people are very complex, especially the intelligent ones. Their intelligence just gives them more skill at pulling the wool over their own eyes (speaking of, er, complicated people, I read yesterday that Elliot Spitzer obtained a score of 1590 on the SAT and a perfect score on the LSAT, something only achieved previously by Satan himself, the "perfect" lawyer). People are full of unconscious wormholes, psychic envelopes, secret lives, hidden compulsions, ulterior motives, and auto-hypnotic delusions. While they may appear deep, their complexity tends to conceal their essential shallowness. For mysticism is nothing more than the art of living with one's whole being at a deeper level.

Macarius, a fourth century church father, discusses the problem of mind parasites weaving their way into the unconscious in a most vivid and arresting manner: "When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not in hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God?"


Before we can enter the pneumatosphere, we must begin by clearly recognizing the hopelessly fragmented, dispersed (or hardened) and fallen situation in which we find ourselves, and sincerely wish to turn it around. Everything else depends upon this first recognition, for this is the "gap" through which grace enters (interesting point today at American Thinker about how leftists are always looking for a replacement for original sin, most recently, man's Environmental Badness). It is to realize, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to detach from the local ego and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery.

Denys the Areopagite wrote that "the higher we ascend, the more our words are straitened by the fact that what we understand is seen more and more altogether in a unifying and simplifying way." As "reason ascends from the lower to the transcendent, the more it ascends the more it is contracted, and when it has completely ascended it will become completely speechless, and be totally united with the Inexpressible." From lower complexity to higher simplicity. True science - -including spiritual science -- is the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Have you ever met a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, and doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?

Achieving this is actually the preliminary spadework of spiritual practice. You might say that it is both alpha and omega, because it is both cause and outcome. To put it another way, it begins as an efficient cause but eventually becomes a final cause. You begin by pushing, but eventually you will feel yourself pulled. What might be called the "spiritual dynamic" involves a combination of our own ceaseless efforts and the recognition that our unaided efforts will get us nowhere. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "without God's grace we can do nothing; but without our voluntary cooperation God will do nothing."

Here's one for you to ponder. Basil the Great, a fourth century church father, said "A mind which is not dispersed among external things, returns to itself, and from itself ascends to God by an unerring path." Was it not Matthew who wrote, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light"? Yes, if thine "I" be single, many felicitous things follow. Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page.

Just to show you how much overlap there is over the vertical horizon, I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Sri Aurobindo: "What we are now, or rather what we perceive as ourselves and so call, is only an ignorant partial and superficial formulation of our nature. It is not our whole self; it is not even our real self; it is a little representative personality.... There is a secret soul in us that is our true person.... to unveil that soul and that self is one of the most important movements of Yoga."

The lower mind consists mostly of "a complex mass of mental, nervous, and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations." A person fixated at this level "respects what belongs to the domain of mind mostly for its utility for the support, comfort, use, satisfaction and entertainment of his phsyical and sensational existence." He regards the higher as "a superfluous but pleasant luxury of imaginations, feelings and thought-abstractions, not as inner realities...."

But "Mind is a passage, not a culmination": "Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance.... But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma.... It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfillment."

In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare -- for inner vigilance, for watchfulness, for facing oneself, for separating from those things that separate us from spirit, for building the Inner Citadel and abiding in your own personal slackatorium.

One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires or an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit. --Sri Aurobindo

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cosmolinguistic Wordploys (3.06.10)

A science of the finite has need of a wisdom which goes beyond it and controls it, just as the body needs a soul to animate it, and the reason an intellect to illuminate it. --F. Schuon

I definitely could have slept another hour this morning. In any event, we'll do our best with a hypnopompic ramble from Bob's unconscious.

We intuitively and routinely use language in such a way as to imply that the mind is a space. But what kind of space is it? If it is holographic and multidimensional -- which it is -- then we need a language that parallels that fact, or else it will simply mislead, as the mind will appear to take on reified properties of the language used to describe it. It will be like trying to represent a three-dimensional cube on a two-dimensional piece of paper. Something vital will be lost. One thing lost will be the dimension of "depth."

What does it mean to say that something is "deep?" That it partakes of multiple dimensions, even if we are not consciously aware of all of them. Authentic scripture is a kind of language that is deep and resonant. Inexhaustibly so. It can never be fully explicated, since it partakes of the Absolute.

The problem with religious language is not so much the literal/symbolic divide, but the question of whether or not language is being used in a generative or a static way. If it is static -- as so much religious talk is -- then it is not really about religion, but simply about language, about saturated words pointing to each other. It is like a glorified case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is tied up in an entirely closed and circular neural knotwork. It is safely on this side of the ego, or of consensus reality, and therfore part of the problem -- a nice painting on the prison wall, or a fanciful story about life outside the prison gates.

Properly understood, a religion is just like a scientific paradigm, in that it is a "frame of reference" that allows us to “see" religious facts it iluminates. Otherwise this inexhaustible bounty goes unseen. Even in science it is understood that "percept follows concept," i.e, "Never trust a fact without a good theory to support it."

A fact is a relation between two events. We are one of the events. God is the other. Thus, in order to think about God, we must move from epistemology to mystepistemology. For if your ontology is wrong, your epistemology will follow.

When spiritual communication is generative, something magical is taking place, as it somehow serves as the translating function that makes the translinguistic "religious object" present in the form of energies or theolougomena. As such, there is always a performance aspect involved. It is always words + music. To speak religiously -- to use language in such a way that it actually mirrors and partakes of the the domain of spirit -- there is a certain rhythm and a certain felicity of phrasing that must be achieved. Not to merge with the ocean but to use language as a bucket. Language must be unsaturated enough to either "bite" into spirit, or "lure" spirit into it. Yes, grace "blows where it will," but it's always better if you don't use language in such a way that you're fighting against it.

This is my objection ot fundamentalists of any kind. Yes, they are dogmatic, but it is not so much the content of the dogma but the form in which it is presented that is troubling. Language is used in such a way that its life-giving qualities are squeezed dry, so you are given merely the husk of the words, not the kernel. They cannot trans-form, only in-form. They do not draw out, but push their way in.

To speak of spirit, one must have one foot firmly planted in reality. But not both feet. One foot must be equally planted in trans-reality, in the world that is prior to the material. You have to catch it before it quickens and congeals into the illusion of solidity. As I get older -- especially now with a child -- I am more deeply entangled in the world than ever. But at the same time, I am more deeply rooted in the other realm as well.

It reminds me of looking into a placid lake with a tall tree on the other side. On the lake there will be a mirror image of the tree, going in the opposite direction -- one up, one down, one exterior, one interior, meeting at the Crossroads where life must be lived. Similarly, when I look into my son's eyes, it is like gazing into an eternity that extends infinitely in two directions -- into him and into me. Growth is growing in both directions, not one or the other; the soul penetrates God just as God penetrates the soul.

Reality is logos, absolute word and infinite grammar. But language is always communication. It is to someone. It is from someOne. Why spend your life decoding the message but never ask who is speaking?

Sufficient language for talking about God has yet to be perfected. I take that back. The language has been perfected, but few remember how to speak it any longer. We've run out of trancelighters who are able to demonstrate it while speaking it. An evolving logos will evolve the consciousness of the person who contemplates it. That's not quite right, for the logos itself doesn't evolve, but causes evolution upon contact with matter, so to speak. This is why religious doctrine "has an aspect of system and an aspect of indeterminacy," for if it didn't, it would simply be God, and no communication would be possible between the Absolute and his annoying relatives, or between God and man.

How to speak of the Omninameable One? It is not that we can say so little about it, but so much. As Schuon writes, the problem is "not through a lack, but through a superabundance of light." Language does not contain it, but it contains language, absorbing words like a sponge or shedding them like water off a duck's back. It cannot be done without paradox, symbolism, wordplay, myth -- all the tools available to half-awake language-bearing monkeys.

Well, that's it for this morning.

To be able to combine the religious symbolism of Heaven with the astronomical fact of the stellar galaxies in a single consciousness, an intelligence is needed which is more than just rational.... The tragic impasse reached by the modern mind results from the fact that most men are incapable of grasping a priori the compatibility between the symbolic expressions of tradition and the material discoveries established by science.... Man, when he trusts his reason alone, only ends by unleashing the dark and dissolving forces of the irrational --F. Schuon, Stations of Wisdom

Friday, March 07, 2008

Secular Fundamentalists and Other Simple People of Faith (3.09.12)

[R]eligion translates metaphysical or universal truths into dogmatic language. Now, though dogma is not accessible to all men in its intrinsic truth, which can only be directly attained by the Intellect, it is none the less accessible through faith.... [I]ntellectual knowledge... proceeds neither from belief nor from a process of reasoning, [but] goes beyond dogma in the sense that, without ever contradicting the latter, penetrates its "internal dimension," that is, the infinite Truth which dominates all forms. --F. Schuon

As we have discussed in the past, what makes man unique is not just his capacity for knowledge, but his capacity to know so many things that are manifestly false. To call this latter thing "knowledge" is a perversion of the term, for knowledge that isn't true isn't proper knowledge at all. Then what is it? Why are human beings so prone to believe nonsense?

Even for most so-called intellectuals, most of what they know is not necessarily knowledge. Rather, it is plainly "belief." Belief is knowledge once or twice removed, for it means that we are placing our trust in the knowledge of another, or participating in the knowledge of another knower. We don't really know, but somebody does, and we trust them. For example, no one asks if you "know" about global warming; rather, they ask if you "believe" in it. Whether you believe in it depends upon whom you trust. In my case, I have enough common sense not to trust those who claim to know what the weather will be like in 100 years.

So much of what people think they know -- but which they really don't know at all -- comes down to whom they trust. For example, I generally read a few economics books per year, but I could hardly claim to be any kind of expert. And yet, I do have my opinions regarding economics -- even strong opinions. To a certain extent, my opinions rest upon which experts I trust. In my case, I trust a Thomas Sowell but deeply distrust a Paul Krugman. I expect the former to tell me the truth and the latter to lie and distort (there is also the critical matter of the "light" that emanates from the former and the "darkness" that radiates from the latter, but I don't have time to get into that). For example, the left is now claiming that we are in a recession. But since they claimed in 2004 that it was the worst economy since Herbert Hoover, this must be the worst economy in three years, which isn't saying much.

But it's much deeper than that, because one's understanding of economics is always shaped by one's values. For example, I value individualism, low taxes, and a limited government regardless of the economic implications, because I believe these values create better people. On the other and, the leftist values collectivism, big government, and high taxes. I derive my values from religion, whereas the leftist derives his from... from what? From his feelings, I suppose.

Belief cannot establish its own legitimacy, but derives its legitimacy from someone who either knows, thinks he knows, or pretends to know. In this sense, it is superficially similar to faith. However, belief is generally a static thing. It takes the unknown and superimposes the known upon it, thus foreclosing the unknown. Once one believes something, the issue becomes settled, even if in reality it isn't. Again, for those who believe in global warming, the science is "settled." But it's actually the reverse -- that is, the science is settled because they believe in the theory.

Again, this has certain superficial similarities to the religious person, who, for example, has faith that the universe was created. For me, this is a "settled" matter, and no amount of argument could change my opinion. But that is not to say that my opinion is "static." To the contrary, with the exercise of faith -- which is to be distinguished from mere belief -- one's understanding will deepen and deepen.

This is again because belief is foreclosure of the known, whereas faith is a dynamic engagement with the greater unKnown. Faith, properly understood, is not a cognitive structure or grid to be superimposed upon reality. Rather, it is a psychospiritual probe with which to explore transcendent reality -- somewhat like the way a blind person might use a cane to to construct an internal image of the dark space around him (to borrow an analogy from Polanyi).

Furthermore, unlike belief, faith should be convertible to real, i.e., "eternal" knowledge. It is actually a subtle and sophisticated way to gain knowledge that transcends the senses, not a means to provide false but comforting answers and to vanquish curiosity. Scientific knowledge, by definition, is always relative, whereas religious knowledge is the closest human beings can come to knowledge that is "absolute." In fact, religious knowledge partakes of the Absolute; or, to be exact, it is "infused" with the Absolute in holographic way, so that any "part" of revelation mirrors the whole, so to speak.

Thus, many people of faith are actually "people of (implicit) knowledge," whereas many so called intellectuals are actually no more than simple "people of faith." You can really see what little genuine knowledge people have when the discussion revolves around something you do happen to know about, whether it is quantum physics or plumbing repair.

For example, in my case, I happen to possess a lot of theoretical and first hand knowledge of psychology. Most intellectuals who claim to know about psychology don't actually have this kind of first hand knowledge. Rather, they have simply placed their trust in an expert whom they choose to believe. Thus, they have placed the will higher than the intellect; or, at the very last, their intellect is in service of the will. This is not a bad thing, so long as the will is in service to Truth. But most of the really serious problems of mankind -- the real wholesale evil -- is a result of the will in service to falsehood.

I remember having a number of discussions with a world-renowned leftist historian who shall go unnamed. His historical thinking presumed a great deal of psychological knowledge, for how can you claim to study human history without some kind of implicit or explicit theory of human development and motivation? And yet, his psychological ideas were so outdated and unsophisticated as to be laughable. Yes, he had his own psychological "experts" whom he relied upon -- probably some ideas he picked up here and there from leftist lizards in the faculty lounge -- but I knew that his faith in these experts was entirely misplaced. Incidentally, this man also happens to be an atheist who is extremely hostile to religion. But as it pertains to the human psyche, this cynical sophist remains a "simple man of faith."

Ironically, it is just so in any debate between an obligatory atheist, or secular fundamentalist, and a man of genuine faith or gnosis. True, many people of faith simply place their trust in someone who knows -- or claims to know -- and leave it at that. But others do know. They know directly, in the manner of vision or hearing. How then to discuss this knowledge with the obligatory atheist -- that simple and unsophisticated secular man of faith -- who has placed his faith in those who not only do not know but obnoxiously insist that there is nothing to know and no way to know it?

Imagine a medical expert in, say, the mid 19th century. He has all of the latest knowledge on disease. He knows all about the four humors, about the proper placement of leeches, about how germs are spontaneously generated by bad air, etc. Someone comes along and tells this arrogant fellow that germs aren't spontaneously generated. Rather, there are invisible microorganisms covering his hands, living things that he is actually unwittingly transmitting to his patients. Would this doctor not be far closer to the truth if he ceased believing his experts and stopped trusting his self-confirming personal experience?

As expressed by Josef Pieper, "belief has the extraordinary property of endowing the believer with knowledge which would not be available to him by the exercise of his own powers." Furthermore, "being wise with the head of someone else is undoubtedly a smaller thing than possessing knowledge oneself, but it is far to be preferred to the sterile arrogance of one who does not achieve the independence of the knower and simultaneously despises the dependence of the believer."

Since we begin the spiritual path without explicit knowledge, we must inevitably place our faith in the testimony of someone who does (or did) know (or who is perhaps knowledge itself). Ah, but how do we know that this person isn't a mere believer himself? How do we assess their credibility and trustworthiness? By what signs do we judge the false from the true prophet?

Human beings are equipped with means to apprehend exterior reality. But we are also curiously equipped to apprehend the interior reality of persons. It is said that a sophisticated scientist, strictly speaking, does not judge the merits of a scientific theory on the basis of whether it is "true" or "false." Rather, he does so (at least partly) on the basis of its generativity, that is, by how much it explains, how well it ties together various other facts and observations, and the extent to which it gives rise to new, "interesting" problems.

Have you ever known a generative person in whose presence you experience the bracing flow of "life" along your keel? Have you ever been in the presence of a stagnant and lifeless person in whose psychic presence you feel your soul being sucked out of your body?

The spiritually generative lumin being does not merely report reality. Rather, such an individual imparts reality. You might say that they are a door. Or you might say that they are a way. Or perhaps they are even the life.

They know. And we know that they know. And soon enough, we know too. Call it recognosis and ruahcollection.

An esotericism is addrssed precisely to those "that have ears to hear" and for that reason have no need of the explanations and "proofs" which may be desired by those for whom esotericism is not intended.... Christ necessarily spoke from an absolute standpoint, by reason of a certain "subjectivization" of the Absolute.... --F. Schuon

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Audacity of Dreaming and the Power of Losers (3.07.10)

Obama is the candidate who has the audacity of hope. But in order for the exercise of mere hope to become an act of audacity, one must first, for whatever reason, feel unusually hopeless. For example, if one has a cold, one hopes to get better soon. But if one has end stage cancer, then it is pretty audacious to hope to get better.

Which raises the question: is it ever really appropriate to nurture audacious hope, in particular, on the horizontal plane? For to nurture audacious hope would seem to imply the wish for a complete overturning of the order of the world, which is presumably in a hopeless state.

First of all, to hope is "to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment," or "to long for with expectation of fulfillment" (Webster's). It can also mean "someone or something on which hopes are centered," such as Jesus, Obama, or Joe Torre, in the case of Dodger fans.

What about audacity? It has to do with the quality of intrepid boldness, but also "bold or arrogant disregard of normal restraints." Thus, on the one hand, it can imply courage, but on the other, a reckless absence of prudence -- for courage without prudence is no longer a virtue.

Now, "hope" is one of the Christian virtues, which is why it is a sin for a Christian to wallow in hopelessness or despair. The whole point is that the Christian -- and the world -- is hopeless without Christ, whose mission it was to save us from that kind of existential cosmic hopelessnes. Therefore, it seems evident that no true Christian would find Obama's message of "audacious hope" appealing, since no Christian should feel so hopeless that he would essentially cash in his vertical hopes for the horizontal fantasies of a silver-tongued leftist.

If Obama were a proper theologian instead of a freelance messiah, he might have entitled his book The Bodaciousness of Fantasy or perhaps Getting Ahead in Life With Sheer Loser Power.

With regard to the latter, one has only to look at the type of person who attends a left wing rally or demonstration to know that Loser Power is a formidable force in the world. (Zombie does a wonderful job of documenting the awesome Power of Losers; the images are from her site.)

As Dr. Sanity writes today, "There is no doubt that both Clinton and Obama, for all their talk of 'hope' are both heavily invested in misery and failure -- both in their economic philosophy, as well as their desire for immediate (if not sooner) surrender in Iraq.

"You would think that people with real 'hope' would see the progress in Iraq and the turnabout that has occurred in the hearts and minds of the people there. You would think that people hyping 'change' would come up with some ideas and programs that aren't beholden to an ideology that has already failed in country after country, and which has made their economies circle the drain.

"The Democratic party has become a bleak house that only knows how to pander to the pessimism and envy of Americans. Since 2000 when Bush was elected, they have been whining constantly and pointing to doom and gloom omens whenever they could about the economy. Their goal? To create a perception of disaster -- even as the economy chugged along like the little engine that could. No group is happier or more excited over the possibility of a real recession than the Democratic elite, who are practically salivating over the word. Never mind that unemployment remains at historic lows... or that manufacturing has actually grown during the Bush years."

Now, hope, according to theologian Montague Brown, is "the will that what is good might be," as in "thy kingdom come, thy will be done." It is another way of saying "may the vertical radiate into the horizontal," or my we align ourselves with the Sovereign Good. It is contrasted with wishing, which is "the desire that what one wants might be." Theologically, the difference could not be starker.

Brown explains that hope "involves the conviction that, despite appearances to the contrary, truth and goodness will prevail. To hope is to commit ourselves to the betterment of ourselves and the world." We would have no problem at all with the left if they understood hope in this way, and exerted all of their effort -- body, mind, and soul -- at improving themselves (first) and the world (second), instead of transferring power to the state in order to force people to do their will -- which, in the end, means being compelled to do the will of audacious losers.

While hope "looks to the future," it is "rooted in reality as it is. In this sense, hope is realistic." However, it is also idealistic, in that "it envisions the perfection of that reality." Furthermore, we must be willing to work for what we hope. Again, this does not mean transferring this responsibility to a coercive and heavy-handed state.

Wishing, on the other hand, "involves the fancy that... our desire will be satisfied. To wish is to invoke fortune to bring us what we want, even if what we want is not good." Wishing is a product of the lower imagination. It "has no particular bond with reality as it is," nor must one dedicate oneself to making the wish a reality. "We wish for all all sorts of frivolous and unattainable things.... [It] is easy and makes no demands on us to choose truth over fantasy or to choose good over evil" (Brown).

Flat out of time. No time to proofread or spell check. That last image is courtesy American Digest.


Obama's Messiahship is all about delivering self esteem to losers (TW: Walt):

Obama-world "is a world of Hope; of Action; of Change You Can Believe In; of Yes We Can; of Coming Together; of Moving Forward Into the Future, and of other banalities that can mean absolutely anything to anyone. 'I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.' It's all about us and our good feelings of youth and unity. Nothing so difficult as spelling out tough policy choices or arguing about a particular program's merits or ramifications is involved....

"Unification for 'change,' 'hope,' and 'the future' is perfect for Obama's young, esteem-fueled supporters: just as their academic self-esteem was divorced from actual achievement, and their competitive self-esteem was insulated from scorekeeping, Obama-supplied political self-esteem is disconnected from any actual opinions, policies or analyses."

Loser Power!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Conservatives Defend Us From Our Real Enemies, Liberals Defend Us From Our Enemy, Reality (1.21.10)

Continuing with Monday's pedantic post: in the depressive position, the infant gradually integrates experience into a coherent self which is able to distinguish fantasy from reality, interior from exterior, self from not-self. You might think that this is an unproblematic achievement, but you would be quite wrong. We all carry remnants of the paranoid-schizoid position, some much more so than others

In my book I refer to these enduring, or "crystalized" pathological remnants as “mind parasites”; but remember, healthy functioning always involves a sort of fluid dialectic between the two positions, analogous to metabolism and catabolism. Carl Jung in particular emphasized how a psychological "breakdown" can be a prelude to a new level of integration. In fact, it happened in his own life, when experienced what amounted to a psychotic break during World War I (I forget all the details at the moment).

Here, I'll look it up. This might be helpful. In his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote that after his break from Freud in 1913, "a period of inner uncertainty began for me. It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation. I felt totally suspended in mid-air, for I had not yet found my own footing." Interestingly, this coincided with the onset of the war, which was experienced as a sort of psychotic breakdown of the world's order. Jung could not distinguish between his internal experience and the world situation:

"The pressure I had felt in me seemed to be moving outward, as though there were something in the air. The atmosphere actually seemed to me darker than it had been. It was as if the sense of oppression no longer sprang exclusively from a psychic situation, but from concrete reality. This feeling grew more and more intense."

Hmm, this is getting interesting. What happened next? "In October, while I was alone on a journey, I was suddenly seized by an overpowering vision: I saw a monstrous flood covering all of the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps.... I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. This vision lasted about one hour. I was perplexed and nauseated."

Soon he was plunged into an "incessant stream of fantasies" that made it difficult to function. "Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them. There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would have inexorably fallen into a neurosis and and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow."

More on Jung's psychotic break in a later post. For our purposes, the point is that he did not defend himself against the unconscious through manic defenses, but fully plunged into it in an ultimately creative and healing way.

Now, a "borderline" individual engages in severe splitting between good and bad, and has difficulty distinguishing between "inside" and "outside." As such, if you disappoint or frustrate them, they can suddenly perceive you as all bad (which they have projected into you), completely forgetting the many positive experiences they have had with you. It is as if these experiences never happened, and the “good you” no longer exists, because it has been banished to some black hole of unconsciousness (this process should not be confused with garden-variety PMS).

Likewise, a narcissistic individual only has use for you so long as you serve as a mirror for their primitive, paranoid-schizoid grandiosity. As soon as you fail to idealize them, they will react with anger or contempt in order to maintain their illusion of greatness. They will flush you from their life like a bad object.

The manic defenses are those defenses that prevent movement from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position, and include contempt, triumph, control and idealization. Basically, you can think of these defenses as coming into play when reality threatens to impinge upon fantasy. In fact, these defenses ultimately consist of attacks on a reality the individual has already dimly perceived but does not wish to consciously entertain.

At the same time, the manic defenses prevent recognition all of the implications of the unconsciously perceived reality, which is obviously a huge impediment to fruitful and generative thought. It explains why the left does not profit from experience, and why they continue proposing irrational and utopian ideas and policies that have already failed and will surely fail again. But only by arresting thought in this way can they keep their audaciously manic hopes alive. (Thomas Sowell calls this the inability to "think beyond stage one," which in practical terms comes down to failing to appreciate the law of unintended consequences.)

In the past we have discussed deMause's concept of the “group fantasy.” In my view, the philosophy of secular leftism is very much rooted in the paranoid-schizoid position, whereas the classical liberalism embodied in the conservative intellectual movement is much more reflective of the depressive position. Here, I hope it should go without saying that I am not primarily referring to individuals, as there are obviously many immature conservatives and mature liberals. Rather, I am specifically discussing the group dynamic.

If I am correct, then we will see in conservatism a much more sober and realistic assessment of mankind. As I have mentioned before, I am of the view that conservatism is as much an inclination, temperament, or “cast of mind” as it is any set doctrine. In fact, the doctrines follow from the temperament -- or, you might say, the depressive position -- rather than vice versa. This would explain why normal people generally become more conservative as they mature and grow wiser, whereas leftism mostly appeals to the young or to the permanently immature of academia and Hollywood.

A while back, I wrote a post which summarized the main tenets of conservatism and liberalism. Let’s review them and see how they line up in terms of the paranoid-schizoid vs. depressive positions. I think they basically speak for themselves.

Russell Kirk summarized the six canons of conservative thought as

1. Belief in a transcendent order; and that most political problems are moral problems resulting from bad values. (To cite an obvious example, if Hispanic or Black Americans adopted Asian American or Mormon values, they would be just as successful.)

2. Appreciation of the ineffable mystery of existence, and with it, opposition to the tedious uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of of most radical systems.

3. An understanding that liberty and equality are contradictory aims; a belief that there are distinctions between men and that classes will emerge naturally and spontaneously in a free society. “If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum.”

4. A belief that property and freedom are intimately linked. “Economic leveling... is not economic progress.”

5. Distrust of radical schemes by liberal intellectuals “who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs” that simply mask the intellectual’s lust for power.

6. Recognition that change and reform are not synonymous, and that “prudent change is the means of social preservation.”

In contrast, contemporary left-liberalism has entirely different assumptions and attacks (manically, in my estimation) the existing social order on the following grounds:

1. “The perfectibility of man”; the belief that education, environment or legislation “can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity towards violence and sin.”

2. Contempt for tradition. “Formal religion is rejected and various ideologies are presented as substitutes.”

3. Political leveling: “Order and privilege are condemned,” accompanied by “an eagerness for centralization and consolidation.”

4. Economic leveling: “The ancient rights of property... are suspect to almost all radicals.”

The first six postulates are true or revolve around truth; the second four are false or rooted in falsehood. But worse than that, the latter are manic defenses against the sobering reality of the former. To put it another way, to believe in the latter four is to never "grow up" in the pneumacosmic sense.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4, 2008: International Transdimensional Raccoon Day

Today we cerebrate on another year in the glorious evolution of our Raccoon heritage.

Witnesses who were present at that little speakeasy in Bismark, North Dakota, swear that when Toots Mondello and Herman Hildebrand founded the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons on March 4, 1907, neither of them were consciously aware of the significance of the date, or much of anything else, for that matter. But March 4th is the only date of the year that is simultaneously a command, a duty, and a rallying cry that encompasses the Coon credo: March Forth into the vertical with noble tails entwined, ye mighty little beasts! Woooooo!

Of course, at first -- and to be honest, ever since -- the yearly cooniversary of our founding was mainly an occasion to hoist a few (and if the stories about brothers Herman and Toots are more than apocryphal, "stagger forth" was perhaps more accurate than "march forth"). This is why tonight at "beer o'clock," all dues-paying adult Raccoons everywhere in the world will raise the spirit of their choice (the "shot glazarus ceremony") and repeat the sacred coontra, Fingers to fingers, thumbs to thumbs, watch out below, here she comes.

Subsequent generations of slightly less libationary Coons came to appreciate the bi-cosmic synchronicity of the date, especially after bylaw, sec. 2 was changed to require a public school diploma for membership. Before that, none of the members had heard of the word "synchronicity."

"Where have we been"? Where are we going"? "Does Gladys look pissed"? These are not just idle questions that Toots posed in the early morning hours of March 5, 1907. Think of how much things have changed in just 100 years. Today he would have mumbled those questions in the back of a squad car instead of a paddy wagon. He would have been fined and given community service instead of being released into the custody of a none-too-pleased Gladys waving that formidable rolling pin. Wasn't that punishment enough? Have we become a crueler society? Or was the greater cruelty being married to Gladys? That was certainly Toots' view.

When we prophylactically reflect upon a century of unadulterated Coonery, we first notice the many things that have changed, including more liberal divorce laws that might have given Toots a chance at coonjugal fulfillment. Perhaps not, for whereas Herman was the more coontemplative "much loved disciple," Toots -- like his latter day servant, Cousin Dupree -- was always the more headstrong, fire-breathing Ovangelist, what with his frequent "celestial fits." Both temperaments were required to accomplish the divine mission, for the "church of Herman" and the "church of Toots" are ultimately one, as we all know.

And since "Raccoon nature" is eternal and unchanging, it is equally striking that the nature of the anti-Coon adversary is also unchanging. For example, the headline of the March 4, 1908 Los Angeles Daily Mirror histrionically warns of false prophets and phony cults, in such a way that it could cause people to indiscriminately lump them together with the benign cult of Raccoons -- the only cult, I might add, that "has no members." Toots always said that if a cult ever formed around him, he would be the first to quit, which he did many times. Thus, to this day, no one can "join" the Transdimensional Order of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons, they can only be kicked out -- which sets us apart from Islam, which everyone is compelled to join and no one is free to leave.

Anyway, the sensational headline from 100 years ago:

Head of Free Love Cult Ruled Like Czar
Only Divorced Men and Single Women Admitted
Affinities Furnished for Cash Consideration

"A revelation of a strange cult -- one more weird and unusual than that of Jacob Bielhart of the 'Spirit Fruit' fame, more insidious than that of the prophet who conducted his 'heaven' with its corp of 'angels' in Englewood, and more ritualistic than the cult of Mazdamen, which flourishes among Chicago sun worshippers -- was made in Judge Walker's court. Lola P. Sadony asked for a divorce from 'Professor' J.A. Sadony, founder and 'chief' of the cult known as the 'Society of Psychological Science,' or the 'Institute of Mental and Athletic Development.' She attacked her husband in a sensational bill.

"The story of the wife was of a 'healer by hands,' who has gathered together a cult of admirers who worship him under the title of 'Chief,' take his orders as imperative, bow down to his 'chief disciples,' and give him money they obtain by toil and sacrifice....

"Sadony would go into a trance and tell wives to leave their husbands, and husbands to leave their wives. The women were directed to cleave to the pundit and give him all their earnings.... Sadony had a throne in the attic of the house on Winthrop Avenue, where seances were held [and he] went into trances while reclining on a gilded chair upholstered in red plush....

"Seventy-five dollars a week was considered a fair estimate of the prophet's income. Every time he wanted money he would 'throw a fit' and make his wants known. No more than thirteen, including the high priest, were ever permitted to belong to the queer sect. Witness said they had to give practically all their earnings to Sadony, and didn't have enough to buy clothes. However, clothes were not considered essential at the colony."

Yes, there are some superficial similarities -- the seances in the red plush chair, the mandate to "cleave to Petey," the sale of indulgences, the clothing-optional credo -- but to tar the Merry Cult of Raccoons with the same lurid brush is to... get tar all over us.

But today, of all days, is not one for looking back with bitterness. Rather, it is a day for Marching Forth with.... with unbitterness, which I believe was one of the rejected early mottos -- not because we don't believe it, but because nothing rhymes with "unbitterness." The closest thing was "critterness," which some of our southern brothers favored, but gave the fight song too regional a vernacular. In a compromise, the final version of our marching song became,

In the West and in the East
There’s a mighty little beast
For courage there is no other.
When the chips are all at stake
We are proud to call him brother.
So with our noble tails entwined
And a spirit strong of mind
We'll have hearts that cannot melt.
In the forest, in the trees
On the land or seven seas
We're brothers under the pelt

It was felt that there was no need to specifically commemorate our founding by referencing "marching forth" in the marching song, since, after all, it is a "marching song," and no one marches backwards except for progressives. "March forth." It's what we do -- in word and in deed -- but always with "tails entwined." With or without clothing.

Obviously, in his wildest beer-fueled Coon-vision reveries, Toots could not have foreseen the technological wonders of the present age, in which initiates from all over the world could coongregate in their underwear and entwine their tails in cyberspace. I just checked out my site meter, and it shows me that at this moment (7:03AM) there are Coons (or possibly anti-Coons) in ten different countries besides the U.S., including the UK (Beaglehole?), Germany ("das Kulturcoons"), Canada ("Coonucks"), Australia ("Koongaroos"), Netherlands ("Vikoons"), Korea ("Coonfucians"), Saudi Arabia ("soon to be late Coon") and "Unknown Country (probably just some other place outside the U.S. such as Manhattan or Berkeley).

When you think about it, this is remarkable, since my book has not yet been translated into most of these languages. My publisher has informed me that, in order for that to happen, they want me to first translate it into english. They've always been very supportive like that.

A while back we kicked around the question of whether Paul chose God or was chosen by Him, and I think we all agreed that the latter was the case. Even if he had wanted to, Paul could never have chosen, much less designed and implemented, his mission. Most people who "want" to become prophets or gurus or spiritual teachers are driven by impure motives, since it is always out of one's hands anyway. These gifts are graces from heaven, not self-willed, and God generally chooses unlikely vehicles just to emphasize the centrality of grace (although it is certainly necessary to align our will with the grace, which is where free will does come into play).

It was the same coonundrum with Toots and Herman. Did they "choose" Coonhood? Or were they merely instruments of higher forces? Knowing what we know about the early lives of Toots and Herman, I don't think anyone could make a case for the former. Coon lore euphemistically refers to the "boyish peccadilloes" and "legal entanglements" of their youth, but for one thing, since when is a 35 year-old man a "youth," and since when is a state penitentiary a "reform school?" But let's not nitpick on the one day we should all be enjoying a picnic.

Please, I do not stand here today in judgment of the character of our founders, which speaks for itself, at least since those "lost" documents were discovered through the Freedom of Information Act. No, I think we have to be honest with ourselves, and realize that none of us deserves to be called "Coon" -- although we must never stop trying to earn the title, and we must always pay the $2 monthly dues.

For as Toots whispered in his dying breath before sloughing off the pelt, "Why do you call me Coon? There is no Coon but the Grand High Exhalted Mystic Ruler."

And Petey's term isn't up until sunset on March 4, 2012, when we name our new Exalted Ruler during the grand mystic ceremony of the Nocturnal O-mission.

Words to reflect upon and coontemplate on this sacred day. So March Forth and go vertical, young Coon!

From the hallowed streets of Greenpernt,
To the shores of Sheepshead Bay,
From the Verrazano Narrows,
To Canarsie across the way...
We have come together, one and all,
In fellowship to commune,
And to glorify the Grand Exalted
Brotherhood of Raccoons.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Obamanic Depression is a Frustrating Mess (1.20.10)

Manic depression is touching my soul
I know what I want, but I just don't know
How to go about gettin' it
--Jimi Hendrix

I’m trying to imagine what it must feel like for Horizontal Man to win -- or even hope to win -- an election. I know that for me and other verticaloids of my acquaintance, there is no great joy upon winning an election, usually just relief that we have managed to temporarily pull the cultural plane out of its death spiral.

But for Horizontal Man, politics is his religion, which is the whole problem with his politics. The Obama phenemonon is the quintessential example of this. He is almost wholly the product of displaced vertical wishes and dreams onto the horizontal plane. Obama most certainly realizes this, which is why he is running one of the most cynical and manipulative campaigns in living memory.

One way or another, vertical man is born again “from above.” Therefore, he draws his energies from the vertical center and radiates them to the horizontal periphery. But since Horizontal Man is trapped in the bewilderness of his contingent being (i.e., maya), he unconsciously projects the above into the future, and thereby constructs a faux spiritual life that attempts to draw on the psychic energies by this self-created illusion.

In other words, horizontal man (if he isn't just an honest nihilist or self-consistent hedonist) practices the religion of progressivism, in which belief in a transcendent order is immamentized and "nourishes" the vacuum where his soul should be. In so doing, he receives a kind of existential consolation which may be compared to a form of counterfeit grace, in particular, when he imagines that he is in proximity to this heaven and therefore closer to being “saved” from the existential situation that afflicts all humans. Obviously, the Obamaniacs are feeling very "close" to this heaven, which ratchets up their creepy fervor. (The depth of spiritual hopelessness defended against by this false hope is frightening to consider.)

You can clearly recognize this mechanism of hoped-for horizontal salvation in action. For if reality were actually as awful as what the fantasists of the left have been saying for the past seven years, we would not see this manic exaltation among their rank and foul. Rather, we would see great sobriety and moral seriousness, as they brood on the monumental work of undoing the theo-fascist takeover of America, of saving the planet from immanent demise from the Bush-caused weather changes, of repairing our "permanently damaged" standing in the world. After all, if all it takes to undo these problems is to elect a smiling cipher, then they couldn't have been that serious to begin with.

The great psychoanalyst Melanie Klein divided human psychological development into two main stages, which she termed the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions. (I will try to avoid pedantry at risk of over-simplification.)

For Klein, the primary goal of development was to move from the former to the latter, although in reality, the relationship between the two is more dialectical than linear, similar to the relationship that exists between the conscious and unconscious minds, or between what might be called mental metabolism (building up) and catabolism (breaking down).

In other words, we no longer think of an unconscious mind per se, but a dialectical relationship between the conscious and unconscious. This dialectic can be fruitful and generative, or stultifying and self-defeating, but you can no more rid yourself of unconscious processes than you could speak without the implicit deep structure of grammar.

Human beings are subject to the nuisance of intrusive thoughts long before they are capable of thinking them. The problem for development is to build a robust psychic structure in which one may think thoughts instead of merely being thought by them. Naturally, our earliest psychological reality is almost wholly fantastic, and it is actually the primary job of the parent to prolong this fantasy until the baby becomes capable of discovering and bearing reality. In the absence of unconscious buffers, reality truly would be unbearable -- something like looking straight into the sun, or trying to live on the surface of mars.

This is why you cannot “spoil” an infant. Rather, you must indulge them until they are resilient enough to tolerate the painful and disappointing discovery of reality. Ironically, this can only be achieved if they have a firm foundation of entitlement and generative fantasy -- for example, the fantasy that one’s painful hunger causes a generous and bountiful breast to magically appear out of nowhere. The baby must imagine that this loving breast is his own creation before he makes the disappointing discovery that it actually belongs to mother (let alone a third interloper!), otherwise reality will have to be rejected or even attacked in some form or fashion. We must be provided with, and then gradually disillusioned of, our infantile omnipotence, on pain of trying to hold on to it or resurrect it for the rest of our lives.

The paranoid-schizoid position takes place in the first year of life. Naturally there is no clear sense of psychological boundaries at this time, which is why the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott made the famous remark that “there is no such thing as an infant.” Rather, there is primarily a harmonious, mixed-up fusion of mother and baby. The baby’s sense of individual selfhood will only gradually emerge from this primordial matrix.

Klein called this the “paranoid-schizoid position” because it is the source of our most primitive psychological defenses -- i.e., denial, splitting, and projection. These defenses are normative for a baby, but only become problematic to the extent that we fail to evolve into the depressive position. At this early age, we shouldn’t even think of them as defenses, but more as primitive modes of "thinking," i.e., of organizing otherwise chaotic mental experience, almost like primitive neurological "categories" or preconceptions.

For example, splitting early experience into a “good” and “bad” breast is analogous to God’s separation of the primordial waters. It is an attempt to achieve safety by placing a distance between what are in reality different aspects of oneself. Projection obviously works the same way, in that it allows the person to evacuate the "bad" or to place the good outside the self for "safekeeping."

End of part 1.

Back-up @ American Thinker:

"The Obama campaign truly has taken on a cult-like quality. His starry-eyed supporters actually believe that simply electing Barack Obama as president will solve, not just this country's, but the world's most difficult problems -- problems that have been with us since the dawn of history.... Witness his messianic campaign slogan, 'We are the ones we've been waiting for,' which is repeated several times near the end of the video. [A fine example of omnipotent infantile solipsism, BTW.]

"Anyone who spends a few minutes thinking about this, knows that a President Obama never will be able to deliver on this [manic] dream of 'change' and 'hope.' And not just because his actual policy prescriptions reflect standard liberal tax-and-spend collectivism. Under any set of policies, the problems facing this country, let alone the world [AKA "reality"], are not going to go away anytime soon. They are part of the human condition. At best, they can be managed and ameliorated.

"Yet how will Obama and his supporters react when they realize that his achievements as president, whatever they may be, will never match his -- or their -- aspirations? Will they react in a mature manner, or will they lash out in anger against those whom they perceive as standing in the way of 'progress'? Will they make a good faith effort to work with independents and conservatives, or will they vilify their political opponents?... Frustrated idealists are not known for their calmness, rationality, and willingness to compromise."

If Melanie Klein is right, I think we know the answer, for frustrated infants are also not known for their calmness, rationality, and willingness to compromise.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Out Through the In Door (3.05.10)

Beauty is a crystallization of a certain aspect of universal joy; it is a limitlessness expressed by a limit. --F. Schuon

Ever since the scientific revolution, we have tended to divide the world into a public sphere of objective, measurable reality and a private sphere of ephemeral, subjective perceptions. In this view, the external world is considered the fundamental reality, while consciousness is reduced to an epiphenomenon, so that all our perceptions of the world -- its vivid colors, sounds, and textures -- are rendered meaningless, revealing nothing intrinsic to the cosmos. All subjective qualities are reduced to quantities -- for example, our perception of the redness of an apple is reduced to a particular frequency of light, or music is reduced to vibrating air molecules striking against our ear drums.

As I wrote in One Cosmos Under God, "science begins with the one world we experience with our senses (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.'" Only this second, abstract world is considered to disclose valid information about the universe, whereas all of our initial impressions of color, sound, texture, beauty, and meaning supposedly reveal nothing real about the universe, only about our own nervous systems.

But one of the fundamental tenets of esoterism is that the universe not only has a within that is uniquely accessible to humans, but that the very cosmos is the "exteriorization" or crystallization of this same within. In other words, the universe is not simply an exterior made up of discrete parts that are external to one another. Rather, by looking at the parts in a certain way, we may intuit a wholeness in the world that in turn reveals its interior dimension. Parts show us only the exterior of the cosmos, while wholeness lures us toward the Great Within.

I recently wrote to a reader about the experience of mountain biking in the open space around our house. One day I brought along the camera so I could bring back some photos for Mrs. Gagdad, who doesn't bike. Just by virtue of having the camera, I found myself regarding reality in an entirely different, more consciously aesthetic way. It reminded me of the young videographer in the film American Beauty, who would simply record seemingly banal things, such as a paper bag blowing in the wind, which elevated them to a transcendent level just by looking at them in this aesthetic way.

It seems that we originally gain access to the Great Within through the human face. As infants, our whole world is oriented toward the mother's face. Obviously, in looking at a face, we don't first attend to a nose here, an eye there, a mouth there, and then inductively leap to the conclusion that faces exist. Rather, without even knowing it, we attend to the face as a whole, and can instantaneously distinguish one face from another and one expression from another.

In attending to the mother's face, the baby knows that the mother has a living interior, and through her changing expressions, begins to discover his own interior. Severely autistic children, for example, do not see whole "faces," but only a collection of parts, so that they are never fully ushered into the intersubjective Withinness of the cosmos. Instead, they can be left isolated in the bizarre and frightening existence of a living death -- immersed in a sea of things that move and have independent existence, but reveal no intrinsic meaning. Adhering to the strict scientific view -- which regards the "within" as mere subjective "noise" -- one would have to say that people with autism are more in touch with reality than anyone else, which is absurd.

Just as the face allows us to see the within of the person "behind" it, the wholeness of the cosmos invites us to see beyond its surface. (One of the central points of my book is that modern physics reveals the cosmos to be an internally related whole, not just a collection of exterior parts.) Paradoxically, we can know the interior only by focusing on the exterior. Just as the face is the meaning of its features, the meaning of existence can be discovered by dwelling in its features. Poets, for example, have always understood that by indwelling in nature we can intuit what dwells within nature -- we are floating atop a sea of clues that point beyond themselves to a hidden reality, which in turn throws out clues like sparks from a central fire. By attending to things and events in a certain "actively passive" way, we allow them to "speak" to us, and this in turn in-forms us about their nature.

The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term "inscape" to refer to this more intense experience of observing things in such a way that their intrinsic qualities emerge. He believed that by allowing one's attention to be drawn to a bird in flight, a tree, or a landscape, we allow their character to act upon us through a union of the inner and outer worlds. Similarly, Goethe argued that we discover the true nature of things through a contemplative kind of looking he called "seeing with exactitude." By doing this, we can open ourselves to what the cosmos is telling us about itself (and by extension, ourselves).

This being so, we can also see that exploration of the Great Within will yield valid insights about the cosmos. As Schuon writes, certain gifted metaphysical or mystical poets such as Dante are able to express "spiritual realities with the help of the beauty of their souls." In this regard, "it is a matter of endowment far more than of method, for not every man has the gift of sincerely expressing truths that go beyond ordinary humanity." One secret denied the leftist is that the world is as beautiful as the soul's capacity to see it.

This has obvious theological implications. For example, what is scripture but an exterior narrative that tells us of the within of God? Just as it is a mistake to view nature as an object, one makes the same mistake in viewing scripture only as a historical narrative of external events. Rather, those events have a within which is their true teaching. As Meister Eckhart wrote, "If you would have the kernel, you must break the shell."

It can also be argued that the figure of Jesus answers the deepest human longing to "see the face of God," and thereby know his Within most intimately. Again, the whole point of the gospels, if you are a Christian, is that their external narrative reveals the interior God. You cannot dismantle or deconstruct the gospel stories, for this would be like disassembling a human face to try to understand its expression. We see by a sort of interior light when we dwell in faith, for faith is actually foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths -- knowledge of approaching discoveries on the interior plane of things.

As the poet Novalis put it, "The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet." If you are feeling boxed in by the materialistic paradigm of modernity, know that you may escape it any time through any of the infinite inscapes that both surround and abide within us. For being mirrorcles of the Absolute, we may penetrate nature only because it penetrates us in a higher realm of transcendent union.

The sacred mountain, seat of the Gods, is not to be found in space even though it is visible and tangible....

For the man of the golden age to climb a mountain was in truth to approach the Principle; to watch a stream was to see universal Possibility at the same time as the flow of forms.

In our day to climb a mountain -- and there is no longer a mountain that is the "center of the world" -- is to "conquer" its summit; the ascent is no longer a spiritual act but a profanation. Man, in his aspect of human animal, makes himself God. The gates of Heaven, mysteriously present in nature, close before him
. --F. Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts