Monday, April 21, 2008

Heavenly Bodies & Earthy Souls (4.11.10)

Who, looking at the universe, would be so feeble-minded as not to believe that God is all in all; that he clothes himself with the universe, and at the same time contains it and dwells in it? --Gregory of Nyssa

To say that one believes in the self-evident truth of "intelligent design" is really to say that one believes in intelligence, especially human intelligence. For intelligence is nothing if it cannot know truth, and no random shuffling of Darwinian evolution could result in truth-bearing animals.

Rather, because the cosmos is logoistic, we should never be surprised to find traces of the logos wherever we look, whether in objects or in the subjects to whom they are intelligible. This is the absaridity in the reductionistic desert of orthodorks neo-Darwinism, in that it posits an absolute contingency capable of knowing absolute truth about itself. If it can do that, then it is no longer merely contingent, but participates in a transcendent absoluteness for which it can never account. Obviously there is relative truth in natural selection, but surely not absolute truth.

Instead of "intelligent design," one might just as well say "beautiful design." For example, underneath the temporal flux of the cosmos, we see those beautiful and elegant mathematical structures that seem to abide in a disembodied platonic realm of their own.

Yes, ugliness -- even butt ugliness -- "must needs be," but we can only know it because it is a privation. Only in the postmodern world "has ugliness become something like a norm or principle; in this case, beauty appears as a specialty, even a luxury" (Schuon). But this ugliness is merely an exteriorization of the endarkened souls who produce it, e.g., the aptly named Aliza Shvarts. It requires no talent, since it takes none to produce ugliness and barbarism. It requires the exertion of will to arrest it, and the application of talent to reverse it. To put it another way, some butts are quite beautiful.

It seems that our decline into the postmodern cult of ugliness began at the other end, with the aesthetic movement of "art for art's sake." But this was an aesthetics cut off from its transcendent source. Once that happened, then gravity took care of the rest, and down we went on a wilde ride to the bottom. Idolatry of the beautiful is still idolatry, which is why the modern art museum became a kind of church for irreligious sophisticates. It is also why so much modern art is ultimately "empty," because it has been drained of any transcendent reference. In the absence of transcendence, all art is merely decoration on our prison walls.

Art is obviously a form; but the form must skillfully convey something of the nonformal; it is the real presence of the infinite captured within, or radiating through, the finite. Schuon wrote that "beauty is the mirror of happiness [I would say delight] and truth." Without the element of delight, "there remains only the bare form," and without the element of truth, "there remains only an entirely subjective enjoyment -- a luxury," and we are stuck with a decadent aestheticism instead of aesthetics, which is as intellectualism to the intellect, just a counterfoot to the head.

In this regard, to say that there are no objective standards of aesthetic value is to insist (to paraphrase Schuon) that myopia and blindness are merely different ways of looking instead of "defects of vision." Stupidity is not just another form of intelligence. So why should we call formal ugliness art, especially when it ultimately serves as an accomplice in ushering man's spirit down and away from its source? This is a quintessential form of demonism, of black magic, a "revolt of the darkness." Obviously it doesn't "elevate," since the telovator of the postmodern mind can never ascend from the ground floor to begin with. But curiously, it can nevertheless descend. It can do this because this is where they locate the "real," in matter. This is why their vision is so hellish.

Now, what does this all have to do with the human body? I don't know yet. I guess we're about to find out.

Again, man is said to be the image and likeness of the Creator. It is the Raccoon position that we will therefore find traces of this deiformity in both our subjectivity (e.g., our capacity to know truth, to will the good, and to love beauty), but also in our material form.

This is not a new idea, but an archetypal one that belongs to the religio perennis, or the religion from which religion is derived. As the Orthodox Christian Olivier Clement writes, "There is no culture or religion that has not received and does not express a 'visitation of the Word.'" For "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17).

Quoting from Manly Hall's sometimes kooky, sometimes helpful Secret Teachings of All Ages, he writes that "The oldest, most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body. The Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and Hindus considered philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an indispensable part of ethical and religious training."

In this approach, "the laws, elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution," so that "everything which existed outside of man had its analogue within man." An outgrowth of this was the notion that God is a "Grand Man," while man is a "little god." Thus, "the greater universe was termed the Macrocosm -- the Great World or Body," while man's body, "the individual human universe, was termed the Microcosm." As above, so below. Placed in this context, the idea that "the Word has become flesh" is perfectly comprehensible, even inevitable.

And in fact -- and we will get into this in more detail later -- even the secular scientist believes in this ancient formulation after his own fashion. To cite one obvious example, how is it that human beings are uniquely privileged to have access to the abstract formal system that rules the heavens? In other words, the quantum cosmologist "contains" the cosmos just as surely as it contains him.

But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery: "Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen). "Man, this major world in miniature, is a unified abridgment of all that exists, and the crowning of divine works" (St. Gregory of Palamas). "Man is the microcosm in the strictest sense of the word. He is the summary of all existence" (John Scottus Erigena). "All things in Heaven above, and Earth beneath, meet in the Constitution of each individual" (Peter Sterry).

You will often hear reductionistic Darwinians refute design with reference to certain "ugly" realities in the world, say, the mosquito, or man's windpipe being too close to the esophagus, or Randi Rhodes' voice. And yet, such quibbles actually "praise God," being that there is an implicit recognition or "recollection" of perfection.

But again, the manifestation is not the Principle, otherwise the world would be God. Nevertheless, as Schuon points out, "the world is fundamentally made of beauty, not ugliness.... and [it] could not contain ugliness if it did not contain a priori far more beauty." Likewise, contingency and randomness necessarily exist, but they are ultimately harnessed by a higher ordering principle to achieve newer and deeper syntheses. There is no metabolism without catabolism.

Running out of time. Here's a johnish quote to ponder and a petrified pun to quander:

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit of God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.... Thus, to contemplate the smallest object is to experience the Trinity: the very being of the object takes us back to the Father; the meaning it expresses, its logos, speaks to us of the Logos; its growth to fullness and beauty reveals the Breath, the Life-giver" (Olivier Clement).

And His name & number shall be Immanuelent, which trancelighted, means "Godwithinus." --The Coonifesto (see also Matt 1:23)

To be continued....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The God in Man in God

You often hear vaguely spiritual but essentially anti-religious people say that they kinda sorta believe in God, but not in some bearded old man sitting on a throne in the sky. Therefore, the non-conformist (or coonformist) in me makes me wonder if that isn't probably the best way to think of God, short of apophatic mystical approaches in which the only thing you can know about God is that you cannot know him; or whatever you say must be immediately unsaid in order to not mislead.

While that is "absolutely" true, we nevertheless possess a relative existence, and it seems that God has revealed certain fruitful ways to think about him so that he may be grasped by the mind on this side of manifestation: king, lawgiver, father, judge, comforter, etc.

Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which becomes the source of his self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism; it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like a Bill Maher. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophisticated yahoos.

As such, as Schuon points out, these sophisticates "merely replace one sentimentality with another when laying claim to 'objectivity'"; in fact, their so-called objectivity is "merely a soft and pretentious sentimentality, which is far more illusory than a transparent 'subjectivity.'" The fundamentalist atheists come to mind, e.g., Dawkins, Harris & Hitchens, all lost in a sentimental and childlike "objectivity."

This is a caricature of true objectivity, which, as every Raccoon knows, is a union of complements: it "does not set up an opposition between cold and heat but transcends them both: like emptiness it stands opposed to a false plenitude, whether hot or cold, or like silence to a heavy and blind affirmation" (Schuon). The Raccoon knows the secret that God is equally a bearded man in the sky, and no such thing. He knows this because he himself has a physical form which he transcends.

Christianity is obviously not the only religion that has promulgated the idea that God has assumed human form, e.g., the "avatar principle" in Hinduism. The main point is this idea that the Absolute may take embodied form in the relative, uniquely so in man, who is the "image and likeness" of the Absolute.

Being that we are the image and likeness, we should expect to see traces of this in both our objective (i.e., bodily) and subjective (i.e., mental) states. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that other animals shouldn't share traces of this absoluteness, only in lesser forms, as they are "descended" from man, rather then vice versa.

In other words, in relative, horizontal, and Darwinian terms, we may be "descended" from animals (or ascended, really), but in absolute and vertical terms the reverse is true. An ape is a partial manifestation of man; man is not a "perfect ape," although Keith Olbermann comes close.

As Schuon writes, there are certain lower forms of life, such as cockroaches or snakes, that repel us because they are "like living conscious matter," whereas "the law of matter is precisely unconsciousness." Conversely, monkeys or olbermen are noteworthy for the opposite reason, that "they are like men who have been deprived of the central consciousness that characterizes mankind." They are not "conscious matter," but "consciousness decentralized, dissipated." At the same time, there are other animals that are obvious symbols of transcendence and beauty, the butterfly being my favorite example. In their case, we see the higher prefigured in the lower.

Now, being that God is both transcendent and immanent, every manifested thing is actually "God in disguise." This is not to be confused with pantheism; for example, even a rock is God, but that does not mean that God is a rock. The latter would represent the pantheistic confusion. Everything points in two directions, toward its own form and to something beyond, or to something that "radiates" through it. We see this most vividly in virgin nature, which engenders a kind of spontaneous worship. The radical environmentalist converts this supernaturally naturalistic awe into a pseudo-religion, conflating an effect with its transcendent cause. Yes, the earth is sacred. But how did it get that way?

In subsequent posts we will be discussing the beauty of the human form, through which transcendence radiates with particular metaphysical clarity, since a human being is nothing other than a "lens" where the vertical "collides" with the horizontal in the most intense way. There was probably a time when it was actually easier for human beings to think of this in the objective sense, whereas now it is probably easier for us to think of it in subjective terms.

To cite one obvious example of man's subjective deiformity, our minds are both "infinite" and "absolute," just like the creator. There is no end to the human mind's inexhaustible creativity; but at the same, we are uniquely capable of knowing absolute truth, even if you are just a secular scientist who believes in the absolute truth of certain mathematical equations.

Again, being that our minds share this deiformity, it would be surprising if not impossible to not see traces of this in our physical form, bearing in mind that we are "descended" from the perfect archetype, the Cosmic man, or Adam Kadmon. For example, when we see Michelangelo's Pieta or David, are we not seeing man's formal perfection liberated from marble? Perhaps my standards are low, but I can see perfection in a three-minute pop song.

When we discuss man's deiform nature, we are talking on the one hand about his capacity to know the absolute, on the other his physical beauty, which itself is a kind of embodied truth. Schuon points out that aesthetics is nothing other than "the science of forms," or formal beauty.

But just as beauty is the splendor of the true, truth itself will conform to standards of beauty. This is why a sense of form, rhythm, and proportion all "play an important part of intellective speculation," and can be important criteria of truth. A mathematician never expects to find an ugly equation ordering the cosmos. That we expect to see ugly art come out of our elite universities tells us all we need to know about them. This art, which produces a de-divinized and therefore dehumanized picture of man, can only be produced by an infrahuman being, exiled and alienated from both God and man.

To put it another way, God cannot be a bearded old lesbian performance artist sitting in the faculty lounge (whether female or male).

This also explains the truth and beauty of scripture, for just as some things are too ugly to be true, others are too beautiful not to be.

Here's nice little three-minute pop confection by Brian Wilson, although you really need to hear it on the Big Hi-Fi to get the full effect of the musical production values:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Father Knows Breast, or The Story of Adam & Evolution

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body. --A Yale Woman

Luckily, there are always enough women who respect themselves as women to serve as models for those who do not.... Clearly, a society's attitudes toward women and toward maternity will deeply influence its psychological health and all its other institutional attitudes. --Weston LaBarre, The Human Animal

Let's discuss one of my favorite subjects, the ambiguity surrounding the form and function of a woman's body. Being that you can't be with me here in the liberatoreum, I must attempt to convey my views with mere words, instead of performing a little interpretive dance involving cow entrails and a bucket of blood. As you know, that would eliminate any ambiguity.

The first thought that occurs to me is that leftism is neither scientific nor religious, so that it naturally results in ambiguity -- which is just a fancy word for confusion -- about the form and function of the human body, indeed, about the very purpose of human existence. It is how and why one is reduced to being a "performance artist" to begin with. Suffice it to say, there are no conservative performance artists. For there is no confusion at all on the scientific level, nor is there confusion on the religious; the tricky part is harmonizing these two, which is the very purpose of the latter, esoterically understood, i.e., the conjunctio oppositorum of male and female.

Let's start with some psychoanalytic observations that are sure to bring some very surprised and disappointed google searchers to this site. As I discussed in the Coonifesto, the human being is intrinsically trimorphic, consisting of the three-in-one entity of father-mother-baby. Let's forget for the moment the question of whether these represent archetypal religious categories, and speak purely in terms of evolutionary psychology. The fact is, none of these three -- father, mother, baby -- could have evolved in the absence of the other two. As LaBarre put it, the "functional togetherness of individuals is the essence of human nature; it is openly visible in the very physiques of women, children, and men."

For example, the helpless baby -- whose neoteny and neurological plasticity are the very gateway to humanness -- is only made possible by the full attention of the mother, who is in turn only made possible by the protection of the father. In this regard, both the baby and the father have diverse "claims" on the mother's body. From a psychoanalytic standpoint, you could say that the breast belongs to the baby, while the vagina belongs to the father.

LaBarre explains: "No wild animal has a permanent breast. The female in Homo sapiens possesses such a specialization alone of all the mammals -- with the exception of the domesticated milch animals which are man's own creation long after the fact of his humanity. This anatomical feature in humans, however, is more than a mere 'domesticated' trait and certainly more than a merely cosmetic creation of sexual selection. It is, rather, one of the causes of human domestication itself, in a complex chain of mutually related factors." But the baby is again key, as the greater closeness and intimacy of the mother-infant bond has later profound effects on our desire and ability to bond with the opposite sex and recreate that kind of physical-emotional intimacy.

Let's pause here for a moment, and think about all the weird google searches that are going to end up here. But in a logoistic cosmos, the world is made of language, and the human body is no exception. And what is the message of the human body (restricting ourselves for the moment to science)? It is that the body is not made for oneself, but for the other. I can't remember the psychoanalytic theorist who discusses this, nor does it really matter, but it is a kind of narcissism to presume that one's genitals belong to oneself, so to speak. Rather, penis "belongs" to vagina, and vice versa. The one is obviously unthinkable in the absence of the other; each is a signifier that doesn't refer to itself, but to its complementary opposite, on which it has a "lawful" claim.

I believe that this is the "spirit" of the truth which the Biblical injunction condemning onanism (and homosexuality, for that matter) is really about, for it violates God's belief that it is not good for man to be alone (or with a narcissistic image of himself). As LaBarre explains, one of the "wrong messages" one may internalize from a dysfunctional childhood is that "there is no love to be had in another's body, and his only pleasure resources are in his own body and his own mind; he is not taught by love of the Other, the not-self that lies outside his own organic skin." Thus, the real injunction is against a self-sufficiency that forecloses the space where love and knowledge (not to mention religion) occur. The same thing would apply to alcoholism, or food addiction, or any other activity that encloses us in vice instead of versa.

LaBarre writes that "the permanent human breast and heightened sexuality evidence a persistent and organically rooted inter-individual interest in other persons." In other words, our intrinsic intersubjectivity -- which is what marks us as human -- rests upon a foundation of interobjectivity, of bodily need for the complementary other. In this regard, the importance of father cannot be overemphasized, and more generally, the trimorphic situation that made the emergence of the human being possible. For humanness could never have developed in a diadic, much less monadic, situation. Obviously this is a fruitful area for theological speculation as well, but we will defer that discussion for now.

What LaBarre means is that the female was able to specialize in motherhood only by "luring" the male with year round sexual availability (i.e., the loss of estrus). So you could say that the human female was the "domesticate" of the male; or, you could say that the human female was clever enough to trick the human male into imagining that she was his domesticate. Or, you could say that the helpless baby was cleverest of all, ensuring his own survival by coaxing intersubjectivity and monogamy out of proto-human apes.

But the story obviously didn't end there. As LaBarre explains, once the trimorphic situation was in place, human beings were subjectively "plugged in" to one another in an entirely novel way that allowed us to transcend Darwinian evolution in an upward spiral. "The real evolutionary unit now is not man's mere body; it is 'all - mankind's - brains - together - with - all - the - extrabodily - materials - that - come - under - the - manipulation - of - their - hands."

Here I should point out that the emergence of the human hand was obviously another necessary condition for the emergence of humanness, as its infinite uses emancipated man into the world of abstraction (for example, many evolutionary psychologists believe that human language first began as sign language, which would explain why the language center is in the left brain, as it controls the right hand).

LaBarre notes that "It is a tragedy of our male-centered culture that women do not fully enough know how important they are as women." In this regard, we can see how the sort of contemporary feminism embraced by an Aliza Shvarts is simply a pathological image of the "patriarchy" it presumes to overturn. In reality, it does not advance the cause of women, but undermines the very possibility being one, Shvarts herself being a fine example. She represents a cutting edge that cuts downward:

"... [W]e reward those that discover, as Shvarts has, new and ever more deeply depraved, depths. And don't think this little episode of glorifying multiple spontaneous abortions is the end. I often think 'Surely, we've reached the bottom.' And just as often I am reminded, as I am by the depraved Ms. Shvarts, that there really is no bottom.... I'm predicting, and I won't be wrong, that her 'show' will be attended by throngs and a major gallery in New York will sign her. Few of the people involved will have children. Childless and soulless are the hallmarks of that tribe. Such is the nature of the parasites we've allowed to infest us" (Vanderleun, emphasis mine).

In attacking the very foundation of society, radical feminism drags down men and babies with it, and then wonders why everything is so "ambiguous." Once you determine that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, you are only one step away from the human jungle from which we emerged. Babies don't need mothers, boys don't need to be husbands or fathers, and -- pardon my Greek -- penises might just as well refer to anuses as vaginas.

I had wanted to get into the religious angle of all this, but that will have to await the next post.

The human female is in every significant respect exuberantly more mammalian than any other mammal. Among mammalian infants, the human infant is as extravagantly infantile as they come. And among male animals, the human male is too without a doubt the best mammal in the business. In these [evolutionary] circumstances, with father come home to stay, it is clearly the inescapable predicament of Homo sapiens to become human. --Weston LaBarre

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Only Humanity Was Harmed in the Making of This Exhibit

I'm not even fully awake yet, and I'm trying to absorb the horror of the following story linked to Drudge. My first thought was that this is a parody, but then, that's always my first thought about the left. But some things just aren't funny. There's nothing funny about the Holocaust, or child abuse, or animal cruelty.

For Senior, Abortion a Medium for Art, Political Discourse:

"Art major Aliza Shvarts '08 wants to make a statement."

Okay, let's stop right there. Why not just make the statement with words? Art should be reserved for disclosing transcendent realities that are beyond the reach of words. For example, great poetry and prose have the mysterious capacity to say what words cannot say, which is why they require skill and vision. To put it another way, if you are merely trying to encode some profane ideology in a work of art, it isn't art, but a tedious form of pedantry and didacticism. It's not art but pornography, the latter being any activity that drains reality of its transcendent dimension.

On to her senior art project, which consists of

"a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself as often as possible while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages.... The project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery.... Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts' self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

"Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said."

It would never occur to the psychologist in me to call this "art." Rather, I would take this as prima facie evidence of a severe mental disorder -- perhaps a borderline personality with psychopathic and psychotic features -- psychopathic because of the evident lack of a rudimentary conscience, psychotic because of the primitive rage directed at the content of her own womb (which is a symbol of her hostile and dismembered psyche). While a conscience remains, it is "torn into bits," so to speak, so that it becomes a meaningless cluster of persecutory demons no longer bearing any relationship to a human moral code. In a way, it becomes a subhuman moral code, with no true center or consistency -- just a kind of sadistic lashing out. It is punishment with no crime. Thus, the infinitely innocent fetus is the ideal repository for an infinite rage.

To put it another way, if the dismembered and projected "bits" of her conscience were ever to again cohere into a recognizably human form, she would likely experience a suicidal depression. As would any decent person upon realizing the unforgivable nature of their transgression. A regrettable abortion is one thing. But this is a different category altogether, a "snuff abortion film." The conversion of shame to narcissistic exhibitionism only makes it more bizarre.

Classical liberalism is founded on a sober recognition of man's dark side. It is not cynical, but realistic. This dark side cannot be eliminated, but it can be sublimated, for example, through the magic of the free market.

But the left denies this dark side, while at the same time covertly elevating it to a kind of God. This is where the atavism and primitivity of the left comes in. When defending some work of creative psychopathy, e.g., "gangster rap," how many times have you heard the responsible party say words to the effect that, "I just want to show how things really are." Again, if this is the case, words will suffice. The purpose of art cannot be to remind us that sewage smells, much less that it actually smells good -- i.e., that it is not shit masquerading as art, but vice versa.

Anyway, on to the "purpose" of Shvarts' project:

"The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body."

Hmmm. Schuon once made a comment to the effect that most modern art that is called "surreal" -- ie., "above" reality -- is actually sub-real, or beneath it. Here is a fine example. In this instance, there was no need to go to the trouble of intentionally making oneself pregnant, knowing full well ahead of time that one was going to repeatedly destroy the lives created. Rather, one could just wonder out loud, "what if I do this?" If you are anything close to a normal woman -- well, if you are normal, the question would never occur to you. But if it did, the self-evident answer -- whether from nature or God -- would preclude the possibility of actually carrying out the "project." For what is there to say in this "conversation" besides "what is wrong with me?"

Yes, a spiritually normal person regards the left with horror. But one of the central projects of the left over the past half century has been -- in the words of one of the last liberal Democrats, Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- to "define deviancy down," so that the perverse, the amoral, the subhuman, all become normative.

Likewise, the central political project of the left has been to use government to create more human dysfunction and dependence, thus creating and encouraging a greater need for government to "rescue" people from their dysfunction and cater to their dependence. It will be very difficult -- if not impossible -- to arrest this civilizational decline. After all, Ms. Shvarts did not come up with her soul pathology unassisted. Rather, her attitudes were nurtured in one of our most esteemed temples of "higher" learning. Fifty years ago she might have been committed. Today she will be granted a Ph.D.

The clueless Shvarts says that she hopes her project "inspires some sort of discourse.... Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.'"

"Inspire some discourse." This is the all-purpose excuse for any subhuman activity that hides behind the word "art." Why not, say, murder some homeless, mentally ill people, in order to inspire discourse on the relationship between mental illness and the lack of a fixed address?

In a chilling statement straight out of the nazi playbook, Shvarts says "she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages." Undoubtedly nazi doctors washed their hands and took other sanitary precautions when performing their medical experiments on Jewish children.

Another student says that he is "intrigued by the creativity and beauty" of the project. I wonder if this same person is intrigued by the beauty of President Bush's project to bring democracy to the Muslim world?

Hey, it's not as if Shvarts has no values. Rather, "I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity.... I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."

As I have written many times, the horror of the left emanates from a combination of ruthless morality cynically detached from any traditional channel. Thus, ideology trumps common decency every time, and thereby becomes deadly.

But at least no animals were harmed in the making of this exhibit. Only humans. And human decency.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ontological Correctness and the Cosmic Descent of the Left

I need to catch up on my work, so I'm reposting one from a couple of years ago, randomly plucked from the Knowa's Arkive (below the asterisks). However, as most of you know by now, the Arkive never works "randomly." Rather, if you approach it with a question or conundrum with a sincere desire for the answer, and then run your blind mouse down the cheesy Arkive and click where you will, there is a good chance that the answer will be given to you by Petey. Even more mysteriously, sometimes Petey will not reveal the answer, even though he obviously could if he wanted to.

So this morning I was thinking about the difference between authoritarian political correctness and the proper authority it mimics and mocks. For there are some thoughts and some speech that no decent person should tolerate or condone -- mainly speech that undermines the very possibility of truth or decency or beauty or liberty or thought itself. Ironically, most of what you learn in a liberal education will be this kind of pathological speech, only hiding behind lofty principles that it can never justify. At the same time, it attacks any attack on it as not only unjustified, but fundamentally illegitimate, through the preemptive strike of "political correctness." This pathological mechanism is such a permanent fixture of leftist thought, that you cannot even imagine the left without it. It is truly their sword and shield, with which they force thought down their crimped and narrow byways and interstellar low ways.

And remember, when I use the word "left," I never mean it in its narrow political sense (any more than I conflate conservative liberalism and "Republicanism"). Rather, leftist politics is the declension of a much vaster cosmic principle known to man from the moment of his psychogenesis. It is spoken of not just in Judeo-Christian revelation, but virtually all the revelations given to man. It is truly part of the religio perennis. Here, let's see if I can find some examples from the Big Book of Spiritual Wisdom, the Ascended Fellow Pages.

1,100 pages. Where to begin. Oh, and by the way -- bear in mind that no secular leftist could believe that any of the perennial wisdom in this book is justifiable on the basis of its self-evident truth, as discerned through intellection. For if you believe in revelation and intellection, you could never in good conscience be a member of the left, for reasons too obvious to delineate here.

Here's a good one by Thomas Traherne (p. 67). It reminds me of what a Harvard education must be like:

"The first light that shined in my Infancy in its primitive and innocent clarity was totally eclipsed.... If you ask me how it was eclipsed? Truly by the customs and manners of men, which like contrary winds blew it out: by an innumerable company of other objects, rude, vulgar, and worthless things, that like so many loads of earth and dung did overwhelm and bury it: by the impetuous torrent of wrong desires in all others whom I saw or knew that carried me away and alienated me from it: by a whole sea of other matters and concealments that covered and drowned it.... by the evil influence of a bad education that did not foster and cherish it.... I was little and reverenced their authority; I was weak and easily guided by their example: ambitious also, and desirous to approve myself unto them. And finding no one syllable in any man's mouth of those things, by degrees they vanished, my thoughts were blotted out; and at last all the celestial, great, and stable treasures to which I was born, as wholly forgotten, as if they had never been."

As I said, there are just too many examples. Shakespeare:

Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

Or Chuang-tse: "While keeping my physical frame I lost sight of my real self. Gazing at muddy water, I lost sight of the clear abyss."

The Meister: "And even as the virtuous man will now and then deprive his outward self of all the powers of the soul while embarking on a high adventure, so bestial man will rob his inner self of all its soul-powers to expend them on his outer man."

Marsilio Ficino: "Lowest and unhappiest must be judged those who have closed their eyes to the rays of the highest good shining everywhere so that they cannot see in that very light, outside of which nothing good is seen... "

Speaking of the intelligibility of the Real vs. the contradictions and absurdities of the ponderable or abstract: "Mysteries of the kingdom of God are less inexpressible than the mysteries of the kingdom of man" (Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin).

Anyway, there are hundreds of different example I could have cited. I think I'll stop now.


Because I Said So.

Do parents still say that? I used to hear that line a lot when I was a kid. It's what my father would generally say when the chasm between his ability to articulate and my ability to comprehend was too great.

I'll probably be better able to explain the nature of the Real to Future Leader. Still, I can already tell that I'm going to sometimes have to bring out the rhetorical hammer, not for my sake, but for his. Although slowly waking to our dream, he's still joyfully fused with paradise, without so much as a fig leaf to cover his naked narcissism -- but I can already clearly see what's up ahead: the willfully disobedient proto-Adam.

We often hear the cliché that truth emerges through the clash of opinions in the "marketplace of ideas." This is the ideal of democracy, of unregulated free speech, of political factions. To a certain intrinsically limited extent this approach is obviously valid, but no amount of argument can establish truths that are evident to the Self, and to treat these in the same way as lower truths is self-defeating, to say the least. It is soulicide.

There is lower truth and higher Truth, discovered truth and revealed Truth, inductive truth and antecedent Truth. In each case, the former is the type of truth that may be fought out and given contours in the marketplace of ideas, while the latter is only apprehended in another way. In that case, slugging it out the way you would a spending bill, a scientific debate, or a legal case would only muddy the water and debase and distance ourselves from the Truth we are seeking.

The sort of Truth generally discussed on this blog does not emerge through contra-versy, that is, "flowing against." Rather, it is only achieved through con-versing, or "flowing with." That is, it is a work of fusion and synthesis that could only be achieved by dwelling in a multitude of disparate and outwardly contradictory particulars and allowing their higher truth to emerge at their own rhythm and pace. This truth cannot be imposed from on high. Nevertheless, once it is revealed, it reveals itself to be from "on high." It is a higher truth that flows from the cosmic "center," not on the same plane as the lower truths it synthesizes.

When I talk about this truth, there is a knee-jerk instinct among trolls to treat it as any other truth available on a lower plane. This reflects the postmodern spirit of "everyone's entitled to their own opinion." Yes, that's true, as far as it goes.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I might have said to my doctor, "Well, that's your opinion. You're entitled to it, but I have my own ideas." I might have then tried to bait him into debating me. "What, just because you have some fancy letters after your name, you think you're better than me? What do you mean by 'disease?' Are you saying that people without diabetes are better than people with it? Why do you hate diabetics? Are diabetics evil? Is that what you think?"

The Gospels are full of instances illuminating this fundamental problem. Most famously, when Jesus is dragged before the religious and civil authorities -- the bearers of official truth -- he responds to the charges against him with silence. He doesn't even try to explain to Pilate. Why bother? "It is as you say. Whatever." In John, he elaborates a bit more: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight," that is to say, argue with the moonbats.

Jesus' kingdom and Jesus' Truth are not on the same plane as any truth Pilate is capable of hearing, much less understanding: "For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."

Pilate famously responds, "What is truth?," ironically emphasizing the point that those who are not themselves of the truth cannot hear or see, and therefore bear, the truth.

There is a counterfeit version of this process known as polemicism. Polemicists come in both their religious and secular varieties. They too proclaim that "I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth." How to tell the difference?

The energy that animates the polemicist is from the serpent. It is always pure horizontality masquerading as verticality. It is full of antagonism, of the pitched battle of controversy rather than the fusion of conversation. Furthermore, being that it is of the serpent, it engages in a two-front battle, against both horizontal and vertical enemies (for horizontal truth must ultimately be derived from the vertical, or it is severed from any rational claim to truth).

The Antichrist is a skillful polemicist. Take, for example, Adolf Hitler. Was he not surrounded by horizontal enemies, but at the same time, waging war on the vertical by trying to replace it with a completely naturalistic substitute? The false prophet is a human beast, equal emphasis on both terms: human + beast. For humanness reduced to its horizontal dimension is mere bestiality. It is actually lower than the noble beasts of nature.

At the same time, if you study the matter closely, I believe you will see that the Antichrist, in whatever form it appears, is intemperate and intoxicated, or angry, excited, manic, and apparently stoned. This is the impression formed if one delves into the world of dailykos or huffingtonpost. Please, try it for yourself. Do you not smell the intoxication? How can you argue with a righteously indignant person stoned out of his mind with intoxicating lies?

Among other things, the fall of man is a hypnotic fall into intoxication and conflict in a confusing zone of illusion, of maya. For the tree of good and evil is the tree of opposites, of mere knowledge, of the clashing of wills, of the strong over the weak. Leftists are always speaking power to Truth when they aren't speaking lies to the powerless to keep them that way.

The Tree of Life is the tree of synthesis, of wisdom, of higher unity, of deeper principles, of the coincidence of opposites. The tree of good and evil is a tree of perpetual doubt and sterility, while the Tree of Life is a tree of calm and quiet certainty that bears sound and nourishing fruit.

I'd stay away from the former tree. Why? Because I said so.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If Wishes Were Horse's Asses, Liberals Would Elect Them

All I want is a good time. The rest is propaganda. --Arthur, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Our soul may never have rest in things that are beneath itself. --Julian of Norwich. So there.

The psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott once wrote an article on the psychodynamics of shoplifting, expressing the idea that it wasn't so much motivated by want or greed, but by hope. That is, in the instant the shoplifter is engaged in his theft, he is temporarily buoyed by the hope that the painful emptiness at the core of his being will be filled. But it never is, so he must repeat the process in a compulsive manner.

More generally, as Boethius wrote, if the mere satisfaction of desire were the cause of happiness, "there is no reason why beasts should not be thought blessed, whose whole intention is bent to supply their corporal wants." By extrapolation, a life of pursuing false hope converts man to an animal.

In any compulsion, there is an existential component of hope; but this is not real hope. Rather, it is merely a defense against hopelessness. Nothing is more deflating than an illusory desire satisfied, because its satisfaction co-arises with hopelessness. In fact, we could say that any compulsion -- and few people are completely free of them -- is simply hopelessness deferred.

Most senior Raccoons will be aware of this dynamic in their own lives, as gaining insight into its absurcularity is one of the keys that frees us from "the world" (the abstract world, not the Real world). As Schuon wrote, "To be 'horizontal' is to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path; to be 'exteriorized,' is to love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values."

So the whole bloody point of Raccoon life is to realize the transcendent in the immanent and the immanent in the transcendent. This hardly excludes desire, but elevates and sanctifies it. Raccoons are bon vivants, bearing in mind the true nature of le bon.

Hey, we know that we live in exile in this vale of shadows and tears, and that to try to pretend otherwise is the most fundamental form of illusion. But the spiritually centered Raccoon is able to hold to a steady course and maintain himself "at the center; he never loses sight of the symbol, the spiritual gift of things, the sign of God, a gratitude that is both ascending and radiating." This he accomplishes "in the midst of inevitable distractions and complex occupations" (Schuon).

We are not embittered but grateful, for gratitude is the best revenge -- in fact, it is a preemptive strike -- against the wily one: "Gratitude is a virtue that allows us, not only to be content with little things -- this is holy childhood -- but also to appreciate or respect little things or big things because they come from God, beginning with the beauty and the gifts of nature; one must be sensitive to the innocence and mystery of the divine works" (Schuon).

As we have discussed on many occasion, the philosophy of leftism rests upon an ontology which inverts the order of the cosmos, elevating existence over and above essence. In so doing, it essentially sanctifies the perversion of man as such, as it instantiates at its very foundation false hope. That is, we all know ahead of time that the fanciful schemes and discredited economic ideas of the left can never "deliver the goods" -- neither the material nor certainly spiritual goods.

Obama tells us that the people are bitter. Of course, when he says this, he is projecting his own existential bitterness and resentment -- and the bitterness and resentment at the heart of every leftist -- into the rest of us. And why are they bitter? Because the government is not paying attention to them.

Oh, if only! As Christopher Chantrill writes today at American Thinker, "When liberals are ready to abolish the income tax then we will know that they are getting serious about privacy." After all, 99% of our real, lived freedom is economic freedom, the multitude of little day-to-day decisions we make about our lives. Being that the federal government demands that we tell them everything about our economic activity, this verges on the totalitarian. Why aren't more people alarmed by this? I suppose they are, but like me, they're just resigned to it. You know, properly hopeless.

In distinguishing between "hope" and "wish," Montague Brown writes of the former that it "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.... My hope looks to the future, but it is rooted in reality as it is."

In contrast, wishing involves the fantasy that "despite appearances to the contrary, our desire will be satisfied. To wish is to invoke fortune to bring us what we want, even when what we want is not good.... My wish has no particular bond with reality as it is, but feeds on fantasy.... Wishing is easy and makes no demands on us either to choose truth over fantasy or to choose good over evil."

Oddly, the illiberal leftist locates his wishful hopes and dreams precisely where the conservative liberal locates his hopelessness, in the state. That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

As Lee Harris writes of the Islamists, they are not motivated by "reality." After all, no matter how bad things get, they will never succeed in imposing on the world a caliphate worse than death. Rather, they are immersed in a fantasy ideology, the whole point of which is to infuse the person who embraces it with a kind of monstrously transcendent false hope.

So, in the long run, how is this any different from the petty shoplifters of the left? Both result in the loss of truth, virtue and beauty, and the liberty to pursue them, i.e., in happiness.

A vagabond mind running hither and thither among the varying and false delights of the world is tired out, not satisfied, by its vain exertion.... So if you would attain to the fulfillment of that which, once grasped, leaves no more to be desired -- what is the necessity of putting the rest to the test? You run along bypaths and you will die long before you attain the object of your desires along this circuitous route. --St. Bernard.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Shall Overcome Liberal Racism

The latest flap about Obama's bigotry is not telling us anything we don't already know about the left, which is that their elites hold the people they supposedly represent in total contempt. They don't believe you are responsible enough to handle your God-given liberty, or that you know how best to spend your money, or that you are decent enough to refrain from racism or sexism. So they are here save all you losers from yourselves. But they can't put it that way, because if they do, you would be repelled by their condescension. So they must always dissemble and wear a mask. But don't worry. It's for your own good.

The odd thing about liberals is that if they were to come out and just say how they really feel -- like, say, a dailykos diarist -- they could never get elected. So liberalism either breeds a kind of duplicitous soul pathology, or else it pre-selects individuals who are already divided against themselves and have no problem leading double lives, so long as they can gain political power. To put it another way, the great problem for Republicans is hypocrisy, that is, publicly embracing principles they are not prepared to defend. The great problem for Democrats is the opposite (hypercrisy?), covertly defending principles they are not prepared to publicly embrace, like surrender, appeasement, high taxes, a large and intrusive federal government, etc.

Often the debate between left and right is between what we actually believe and what they pretend to believe. Again, it has to be that way, because if the leftist takes off his mask and shows how he really feels, he will be too frightening or repulsive to the electorate. For example, Al Gore would now be unelectable, because in the past five years he has removed the mask and shown himself to be a delusional environmental fanatic. Likewise, a Jimmy Carter is an unapologetic anti-Semite and terror-enabler. If you want to know what liberals really think beneath the mask, you generally have to listen to the words of a congressman from a safe district, or to the left-wing media/blogosphere, or to academia.

Most mainstream Democrats are not even aware of this. The average American is just not as politically engaged as most people think. It's not so much that they are easily manipulated. It's just that they go about their lives, and only hear of the big political rumors and fracases in a distorted way, as they bubble up and filter through the MSM.

As George Will once commented, this indifference is actually a positive thing, as it demonstrates just how irrelevant politics is to the average American, which is as it should be. The American government was not intended to be an intrusive entity that constantly drew attention to itself and interfered with our lives, but more of a background phenomenon, a necessary evil. Or, to put it another way, if the majority of Americans ever embrace the leftist myth of political salvation, it is the end of America. That might very well happen, but that's human nature for you. Most humans prefer security over liberty.

Speaking of how liberals actually think, I came across a repulsive (but typical) book that will show you just how deep the disease runs -- and in particular, how the fascist left has not just infiltrated, but dominates, my own debased field of psychology. The book is called Overcoming Our Racism, by a prominent academic psychologist, and I'm guessing that it is used as a textbook in many graduate and undergraduate psychology programs. If you think Obama is a condescending bigot, just listen to how this book starts out:

"Overcoming Our Racism will not be an easy book to read or digest. It is written mainly for White folks, but people of color also may find it helpful." So right away you see that the title is misleading, for it is not about overcoming "our" racism, but your racism, you filthy white folker:

"I know how difficult it must be to entertain the notion that you harbor racist beliefs and need to overcome them.... [But] I implore you to not allow those feelings to interfere with your ultimate aim of overcoming personal racism. In reality, you see, racism is an ugly cancer in the heart of most White Americans. It threatens to tear us apart as a nation, unless you and your fellow White citizens face the issue with honesty and integrity."

But despite his disgusting caricature of White folk, Dr. Sue is not a racist. After all, he's Chinese-American, and as any Tibetan or Taiwanese can tell you, Chinese folk can't be racist or ethnocentric. And as any Chinese or Filipino person can testify, a Japanese person could never be racist either. No, the diverse world of People of Color is a sort of multicultural paradise. If it weren't for White folks, people of color wouldn't be slaughtering each other in Africa, and Muslims wouldn't be butchering and blowing up Jews and other sons of apes and pigs.

So, why are you so defensive? Don't you see that your denial just proves Dr. Sue's point about your racism? Yes, you're a vile racist, but Dr. Sue needs your help. He's extending his hand across the racial divide, meeting you halfway: "People of color need your help. Overcoming racism in our society cannot occur without the help of many well-intentioned White folks, such as you."

Now, this is an interestingly Orwellian way of putting it, since you are not permitted to transcend race. No. If you do that, you are a racist. Rather, you must first identify yourself as White folk. That's who and what you are. It's your essence. You are primarily a member of a group called White folks, so get that through your thick skull.

Note the fascist/totalitarian/authoritarian language: "You must begin to challenge your own racial reality." "You must begin to understand yourself as a racial/cultural being." "You must take action to combat your own personal racism." "You must... be guided by the principles of social justice."

In short, you must be reeducated into being a neo-Marxist automaton. It's for the good of your own soul, if you had one. But we all know that you just cling to that fanciful idea because of your economic bitterness.

As I have mentioned before -- and it is such a truism that I hesitate to bring it up again -- leftism is a religion, except that it is an upside down one that inverts the cosmic order and immamentizes the transcendent. In Dr. Sue's case, he even talks about "enlightenment" and "liberation."

However, it is not the elementary enlightenment of realizing the unity of man, but a multicultural and materialistic perversion of this attitude. As a White person, "Your journey to enlightenment is different than that of persons of color. It is likely to be filled with unpleasant insights about yourself as a racial being and the realization that you share responsibility for the pain and suffering caused to others." Nevertheless, "I hope the promise of liberation will motivate you to read this book."

You are White. Therefore you are unenlightened, unliberated, and bad.

You are also very stupid, since you are eager to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have your children indoctrinated with this racist crap at elite universities:

"[R]acism in the United States must be viewed as a White problem because it is White Euro-Americans who are primarily responsible for the oppression of people of color, and consequently responsible for making changes." "In the United States, it is White-Europeans like you who own the history from which your racial identity is based." "To be White means to be socialized into a world of White supremacy,... to be oblivious to your own biases and prejudices,... to be an oppressor with the power to force your will on persons of color." "To live your day-to-day lives unfettered by guilt, you must deny, diminish, or avoid the full realization that you are responsible for the pain and suffering you have caused racial minorities." The important question "is not whether you engage in or benefit from racial oppression. The more important question is, Once you become aware of your role in the racial oppression of others, what do you do about it?"

So don't wonder where Obama picked up his casual bigotry. He attended that bastion of White privilege, Harvard.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It is Not Good that Man Should Have No Problems

Bob's taking the day off. This is a Sunday morning free-association brought to you by Bob's Unconscious.

Is Life itself soluble? Science obviously solves innumerable little problems, but can it solve the big problem of Life itself?

First of all, life is definitely a problem. While it is surely a "gift," it is a gift that comes with a problem -- somewhat like a child. By its very nature, you can't just enjoy the fun parts and forget about the challenges and difficulties. The main problem of life is how to keep from dying while trying to figure out why it's even worth the bother. Or, it's like trying valiantly to win a complex game at the very same time you are trying to figure out the rules.

Marvelous gift, useless gift, for what purpose were you given us? --Alexander Pushkin

Or, as Bob asked in the book, "Why this living, struggling little sub-universe consisting of mindless circles of lateral mutation? So much variety and yet so little meaningful novelty, the 'mere sport of nature' in a 'vain, unnecessary world,' with all the pointless pageantry and nonexistent morality of a Mike Tyson fight." Bob continues (emphasis mine):

"Before life, there were no problems in the universe -- nothing could go wrong because nothing had to go right. But life's reckless emancipation from matter brought forth a nagging tension, an unresolvable conflict, an inherent incompleteness in the cosmos. In a sense, life was a dis-ease of matter in a literal sense, just as mind is a dis-ease of biology, an alien condition with no backward looking cure (short of death or unconsciousness) that can return it to a state of ease or wholeness. The only way out of this fatal predicament seemed to be forward and inward, in a never-ending balancing act between helpless dependence upon, and open defiance of, matter. Life groped blindly on because that was the only alternative."

Science helps us to go on living. For example, I am very well aware of the fact that Bob is living on borrowed or perhaps stolen time, in that he would have been dead three years ago in the absence of medical developments that have made it so easy for him to control his diabetes. A hundred years ago, someone in our position would have just wasted away in a few months, unable to metabolize sugar. Since adult-onset type 1 diabetes is a completely genetic condition, I'm assuming that this is exactly what happened to many of our distant relatives, if they were lucky enough to live into their 40s. For example, life expectation was only 35 in revolutionary America, and around 47 in 1900. So if we were alive back then, most of us would be dead anyway.

As I said, science is helpless to provide any guidance here. Not only that, but it sows confusion by suggesting that you are wasting your time if you turn to religion to address the problems of Life and Mind. But let's have a look anyway, and see what we can find. At least before Future Leader wakes up, which could be any minute.

According to Genesis, there was a time when life was not problematic. Well, not exactly. The text implies that there was a problem in Eden, and that was man's "aloneness." We shouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that the problem was "loneliness," or even that man had the capacity to be aware of his aloneness. Rather, it seems to have been a problem recognized by God, who said that "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Note that this is the first thing in creation that is said to be "not good"; this is a critical point.)

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this is where the real problems begin, for as Pastor Elvis sang, Well a hard headed woman / A soft hearted man / Been the cause of trouble / Ever since the world began. In the next verse, Elvis explains the nature of the problem:

Now Adam told Eve,
Listen here to me,
Don't you let me catch you
Messin' round that apple tree

So now man has a problem. But, appreciating the irony of the situation, Elvis concludes his homily on Genesis by acknowledging that

I got a woman,
A head like a rock.
If she ever went away
I'd cry around the clock.

So we see how life is ultimately a problem we wish to have. After all, only a tiny minority of us choose suicide or celibacy. The game must be worth the candle, whatever that means.

Anyway, since Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and God immediately recognizes that it is "not good" that Man should be alone, this seems to imply that God knows that it was not good for God himself to have been alone, or allOne. Could it be that the polarity between man and woman somehow repeats the polarity of God and man?

Now, first of all, don't necessarily begin with man and woman; rather, let's think about this in more cosmic terms, by using the universal categories of male and female; or active and passive; or yin and yang; or prakriti and purusha; or shiva and shakti. Or, as it is written in the mostserious Book of Petey,

One in agni & ecstasy has given birth to Two: spirit-matter, earth-sky, knower-known, sun-moon, cats & chicks, Chaos Control, Lennon-McCartney, God & Darwin, Adam & Evolution. A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion.

While I'm thinking of it, let's turn to a passage in Heller's Creative Tension. He points out that recent developments in deterministic chaos theory have demonstrated that "there are strong reasons to believe that a certain amount of randomness is indispensable for the emergence and evolution of organized structures.... Randomness is no longer perceived as a competitor of God, but rather as a powerful tool in God's strategy of creating the world." He quotes the physicist Paul Davies, who wrote that,

"God is responsible for ordering the world, not through direct action, but by providing various potentialities which the physical universe is then free to actualize. In this way, God does not compromise the essential openness and indeterminism of the universe, but is nevertheless in a position to encourage a trend toward good. Traces of this subtle and indirect influence may be discerned in the progressive nature of biological evolution, for example, and the tendency for the universe to self-organize into a richer variety of ever more complex forms."

In a similar vein, he quotes A. R. Peacocke: "On this view God acts to create the world through what we call 'chance' operating within the created order, each stage of which constitutes the launching pad for the next."

So the bottom line is that if your life were totally planned, it couldn't be. In other words, the more you attempt to tamp down randomness and chance, the more you are likely to create disorder. To put it another way, there is a higher principle at work, which uses randomness and chaos to break up evolutionary impasses and "lure" the system toward its own destiny, so to speak. We must surrender to this destiny, as each of us, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo, is a "unique problem of God."

Or you could say that "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity," or that twoness resolves the problem of oneness through the discovery and synthesis of eternal threeness, in which Love abides.

Perfect timing. My beautiful problem just woke up. I just hope this post didn't solve anything for you. At least on purpose.

Now, if you haven't got an answer, you'd never have a question
And if you never had a question, then you'd never have a problem
But if you never had a problem, well everyone would be happy
But if everyone was happy, there'd never be a love song
. --Harry Nilsson, Joy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Abstract, the Ponderable, and the Real

This is a quick post. I just wanted to jot down some preluminary ideas before they lose me.

Yesterday I was thinking about what a terrible trap the world of science has created for many of us. Because of the undeniable blessings of science and technology, it's easy to get lost in the alternate reality created by science, and to lose contact with human reality, which is to say, divine reality (i.e., the human world is where the horizontal and vertical worlds intersect).

There is a spiritually totalitarian aspect of science, which can lead man to be trapped in a cold and abstract prison of his own making, and therefore be exiled from the fulsomeness of the living Real. Humans are a "prolongation" of the Real, not reducible to the abstract.

It is terribly naive to say that science (especially modern science) deals with the "real world." It actually begins with the ponderable world -- the everyday world of the senses -- but eventually creates a wholly abstract world that is taken to be more "real" than the ponderable world. (Importantly, it also begins with certain implicit religious assumptions purloined from the Real, such as the idea of an intelligible cosmos that can be comprehended by rational observers, but we won't get into that for now.)

This process of abstraction leads to patent absurdities such as the belief that DNA explains life or that the brain creates consciousness, rather than vice versa. Both the brain and DNA are digital, while the human is analogue. Or, as I put it in the Coonifesto, semantics cannot be reduced to syntax; to put it another way, qualities cannot be reduced to quantities, especially when we are talking about the "divine qualities" of the upper vertical, or the Real -- e.g., Truth, Beauty, Being, Liberty, Consciousness, the Sacred, the Holy, etc. All of these things emanate from the top down, not the bottom up.

For example, we all know that there is a mysterious, subatomic "quantum world" underlying our ponderable world, a vast sea of unbroken energy that supposedly tosses up forms like transient waves from the ocean. It is a world of pure abstraction, and features principles that are literally impossible for us to imagine, since they so violate everything we know to be true about the ponderable world -- i.e., causation, simple location, separate identity, the forward flow of time, etc. None of these common sense categories apply to the abstract quantum world.

First of all, the quantum world is not something we can ever "observe." Indeed, to even use the word "observe" is to project qualities of the ponderable world into the abstract world. You cannot "observe" mathematics, and the quantum world is largely the extension of mathematical models into "further" or "deeper" levels of abstraction.

For example, as we mentioned yesterday, the "Big Bang" is an extrapolation of the meaning of certain mathematical models. It is analogous to "climate change" models, only accurate instead of fanciful.

Even so, despite its accuracy, it nevertheless leads to an absurd world that cannot be imagined by the human mind. No one has ever even seen "the cosmos" (at least in its scientific sense). Rather, it is simply a model, an abstraction. Revelation also provides a model of the cosmos, but in that case, the model is real, not abstract or ponderable (with important exceptions; for example the Real became ponderable so that the ponderable might become Real).

Human observers could only exist in the ponderable world, and could never exist in the quantum world. So we have to picture the Big Bang "as if" it were possible for a human observer to be there. But that is strictly inconceivable.

For one thing, we can only know what is knowable by a human observer, and the most astonishing thing of all is that the Big Bang was pregnant with the human observer who is "watching" his cosmic birth unfold through his own abstractions, and is therefore his own mother, so to speak.

To suggest that this Mystery of Mysteries can be reduced to a mathematical equation is pretty silly -- as if understanding the equation would be equivalent to understanding the mystery of the human state. But to comprehend the equation would only add to the mystery, not detract from it, being that the most incomprehensible thing about the cosmos is its comprehensibility. At least if you try to start at the bottom.

When you think about it, it is actually no different than Genesis. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. "How do you know? You weren't there. Since people weren't created until the sixth day, you can't say what happened before that."

Bill Maher is such an imbecile.

Suffice it so say that revelation deals with the Real world, not the abstract world of science or the ponderable world of everyday existence. (To be perfectly accurate, it also has has to do with the dependence of the ponderable upon the Real, or their intersection; we are not dependent upon physics, but upon the Creator who created physics.)

Or, let us say that there is an upper world of divine archetypes and eternally creative activity; a "middle earth" of ponderable existence; and a lower world of abstraction and impersonal forces. All must exist, although it is a moonumental lunacy to turn the cosmos upside down and take the abstract for the Real or the ponderable, or to regard the abstract as "fundamental" rather than derivative.

Furthermore, there are not actually three worlds. There is only one world, and it is not reducible to the world of quantum physics. Rather, the world of quantum physics is an abstraction or "descent" of the Real world to its furthest reaches. There are other lower worlds -- e.g., the "unconscious" -- which we will discuss in a later post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thinking about Thinking About Religion & Science

That's what I've been doing. Or am about to do, anyway. Say, we don't have a word for "thinking about thinking," do we? Hey, I heard that! Don't be a wise guy. Besides, "masturbation" is already taken.

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been reading Michael Heller's Creative Tension: Essays on Science and Religion. He's a physicist and priest who recently won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities for "his extensive philosophical and scientific probing of 'big questions.' His works have sought to reconcile the 'known scientific world with the unknowable dimensions of God.'" He maintains that

"If we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about the cause of mathematical laws. By doing so we are back in the great blueprint of God’s thinking about the universe; the question on ultimate causality: why is there something rather than nothing? When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes. Science is but a collective effort of the human mind to read the mind of God from question marks out of which we and the world around us seem to be made."

Hmmm.... "The monetary value of the Templeton prize (1.6 million US dollars in 2008) is adjusted so that it exceeds that of the Nobel Prizes. It is the largest single annual financial prize award given to an individual for intellectual merit" outside the game show Jeopardy.

I'm just thinking about all the progress I could make toward research about spiritual realities with 1.4 mil in my pocket. That's a lot of slack. So feel free to nominate me.

I see that Richard Dawkins calls it "a very large sum of money given [...] usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion." It's about time they gave it to a religious person who is prepared to say mean things about sophomoric scientists pretending to be philosophers. So feel free to nominate Cousin Dupree. Besides, he owes me 22 months of back rent.

Back to Heller. First of all, I can't say that I recommend the book, since he's not the clearest of writers, and at times he assumes a ridiculous level of understanding of modern physics. I can't imagine that anyone other than a professional physicist would understand some parts of the book, but they are likely to be the ones who would reject his arguments a priori anyway, so that doesn't seem like a good marketing strategy. But I suppose with 1.4 million in his saddlebag, he doesn't have to worry about marketing.

Here, I'll just take a sentence at random: "Every commutative algebra can be made noncommutative by suitably perturbing it (with a certain perturbation parameter). In light of the above we can say that, from the mathematical point of view, quantum mechanics is but a noncommutative C*-algebra, with the Planck constant playing the role of deformation parameter."

But you knew that already.

The other thing is, Heller is one of those fellows who hems and haws and hedges and qualifies everything he says, so you want to say, will you get on with it?! I wonder if he has OCD? It's more common than you think, especially among quantum cosmologist-priests. Admittedly, I have the opposite problem, in that I see the vision first, and then worry about the details later, if I worry about them at all, which is why I'd probably be no good at Jeopardy. As such, Heller's book is helpful, as it forces me to contend with the most up to date version of scientific "reality." As Heller points out, this is not necessarily important because one needs to fit one's theology into the grooves of science, but because one is probably already doing that, only with an outmoded version of scientific reality.

In fact, if you pause to think about it, we cannot think about either theology or science in the absence of some prior, usually implicit, conception of the world. I was thinking about this the other day with reference to Schuon. He of course deplored modernism, and felt that man's premodern conception of the world was "normative," so to speak. It is the way humans were "meant" to live. I don't want to put words into his mouth, but it seems to me that he felt that the premodern world was the proper "container" for man's spirit, so to speak, just as, say, an animal has a particular environment proper to it. Remove the animal from its proper habitat, and it will not thrive. For Schuon, the deepest problems of modernity and postmodernity came down to man no longer living in the proper soul-environment.

Believe it or not, I do sympathize with this view, and I grapple with it all the time. As I mentioned yesterday, it is specifically because of Schuon's influence that I have become rather "bi-polar" in this area. After all, it is a very real question: how do we reconcile revelation and modernity, or creation and evolution, or physics and metaphysics? I suppose first of all by not seeing them as antagonisms that must be hastily resolved, but by appreciating their "creative tension."

First of all, this is what humans do anyway, and what they have always done. Schuon takes the premodern worldview as normative, failing to appreciate the irony that this was actually the product of a hard-won evolutionary synthesis. To cite one obvious example, the early Christian fathers were hardly impervious to the influence of contemporary thought. To the contrary, they were intimately familiar with the very finest in pagan thought (e.g., Plato), and thought long and hard about how to reconcile revelation and philosophy. Obviously Aquinas attempted the same synthesis in the 13th century. Viewed in this context, a Teilhard de Chardin was simply "thinking about thinking" in the new background cognitive environment of cosmic evolution and quantum physics. As was I in my book.

There have been, of course, heretical streams of modern and postmodern thought. But when I say "heretical," I mean that they are intrinsically heretical, in that they betray man as such in his function as the Thinking Being. They reduce upright Homo sapiens to a downright Homo sap. In other words, these modern heresies -- such as materialism, atheism, Marxism, behaviorism, scientism, positivism, deconstruction etc. -- all poison Man at the root, and specifically prevent his evolution. And when I use the word "evolution," I mean it in the sense of man "becoming what he is," or actualizing his unique spiritual potential.

So it is not so much that certain strands of thought are wrong because they are modern or postmodern. Rather, they're just wrong, period. On the other hand, many postmodern ideas are obviously correct. For example, I have no idea why materialists still exist, since modern physics utterly obliterated their anachronistic worldview a century ago. No serious thinker can be a materialist, which is why a Christopher Hitchens is obviously a brilliant man in terms of raw candle power, but extraordinarily naive in his background assumptions of how the physical (let alone spiritual) world works. He is not postmodern at all, but operating out of a defunct, 19th century Victorian picture of the world.

In any event, when thinking about the relationship between science and religion, we must bear in mind that a good methodology does not necessarily make for an accurate ontology. In fact, quite the contrary. Science is first and foremost a methodology, a systematic way to "interrogate" nature. It's very much like a true-and-false test, when ontology is an essay exam. But there is no objective way to grade an essay, so an essay is outside the purview of the scientific method.

Interestingly, Heller points out that the "great miracle" of logical discourse about the world, which began in sixth century B.C. Greece, represented a transition from a belief in divine whim to logical necessity. To express the idea of logical necessity within the natural order, they used the term ananke, which literally meant "the various means, from persuasion to torture, by which a criminal was made to confess."

Thus we see the way that an "everyday concept changed its meaning to become a predecessor of such important concepts as laws of nature, determinism, and causality." Had it not been for human torture, we might never have put nature on the scientific rack. Indeed, we'd never have realized that quantum mechanics is but a noncommutative C*-algebra, with the Planck constant playing the role of deformation parameter.

This preramble is already too long, isn't it? Better pick up the thread in the next post.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Second Thoughts About First Causes

It seems to me that there is an intrinsic dynamism in human thought, which is implicit in the idea that O has an eternally "restless" trinitarian interior. If our thought could ever perfectly mirror reality, it would be static instead of dynamic, and no evolution could occur. Thought can ascend higher or plunge deeper without ever reaching its object. But how do we orient it, and know which way is up? Obviously, "thinking" in itself is neither here nor there, as it can lead us closer or further away from its proper object. How do we anchor thought -- or provide it with a compass, so that it may at least know "true north?"

I'm searching for a metaphor.... It is as if life takes place in a watery medium between two solid shores. So long as we are in the water, we must swim. Occasionally we hear rumors of someone who reached the farther shore in this life. In fact, we have also heard of One who left the peace and safety of the father shore to dive into the water to be with us and teach us how to drown.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
--Leonard Cohen, Suzanne

Now, writing the Coonifesto required a great deal of "thought." And yet, there is a point in the book -- perhaps I didn't make it clear enough -- where I acknowledge the futility of ordinary thought to penetrate the reality which we seek. Let's see if I can find it.

There are actually several points, at least one per chapter. Here's one, p. 180: "Swept along by the crosscurrents and undertows of history's insane kaleiderescape, the fatal dis-ease of life only became more acute for human beings. Stumbling and bumbling down the darkness of centuries, our self-awareness only ratcheted up the tension, the dilemma of precarious being floating aimlessly over, but still firmly tied down to, a somehow familiar and yet alien sea with no apparent destination."

You might say that the emergence of science has allowed us to precisely calibrate our fundamentally broken compasses, so that we may navigate the vast Sea of Nothing with ever finer degrees of precision. Today we can get nowhere faster and more efficiently than any previous generation, plus there's so much more to do there when we arrive -- so many distractions, which have the effect of making the shadows of nothing look like something. But this something is merely the substance of nothing.

"As soon as a fragile and anxious loopwhole in biological necessity, the ego, was discovered, there were really only two choices -- with life, stasis is not an option -- either be pulled back into the body or the collective mind, or move forward and explore further upward into this new dimension beyond the boundaries of the senses."

Once again, the two shores. Secular progressives aim for the lower dimensional shore from which the human journey began -- back to matter and to the senses. Thus, the left essentially bifurcates into the hedonists (i.e., sensualists) and the activists (crypto-Marxist materialists and collectivists). The lives of the former are dynamically static, while the lives of the latter are statically active, but either way, both paths lead nowhere fast. For if the transcendent -- which, for our purposes, breaks out into the Good, True, and Beautiful -- is man's true home, then hedonism and materialism must necessarily invert the human journey and pull us back to the dark realm from which the human fleshlight first demerged from matter.

Now, I don't know anything about sailing the lower waters, but I'm guessing that it's no different from any other skill, as O-lucidated by Polanyi. Remember his metaphor of the blind man and the cane? At first, as he probes the world with the cane, he will be aware of physical sensations in the hand. But as he becomes accustomed to it, the cane will eventually become an unconscious extension of the hand. He will no longer even be consciously aware of the physical sensations, but rather, will feel "through" and beyond them, in order to "attend" to what is at the end of the cane. In turn, this will allow him to internalize a "world picture," or three-dimensional space in which to operate.

A moment's reflection will reveal to you that we are all in the position of the blind man. After all, our arms and hands are merely probes in the dark which our brains use to construct a map of the world. Likewise our eyes and ears. It is as if we all live in our own private submarine. We never actually touch water. Rather, we live inside the submarine, where we navigate the waters with our maps and instruments.

As human beings have developed, our maps and instruments have grown increasingly complex and sophisticated, which can give us the illusion that we are "closer" to the water. And yet, we must remember that science always operates from inside the submarine, and that the scientist, qua scientist, never actually touches water.

Art is a different matter. When we dwell in art, it is as if we leave the sub and take a little swim in the sky. Take, for example, music. Music proves that sound has not only an exterior accessible to science, but an interior known only to the soul. In fact, I am reminded of Sam Phillips' shock and awe when he first heard the preternatural sound of Howlin' Wolf's voice. He said to himself, this is where the soul of man never dies.

That's the experience we're all after, right? The absolute conviction that this is where the soul of man never dies. For to touch this realm is to touch the Absolute and eternal, in whatever medium, whether in art (the realm of the Beautiful), virtue (the realm of the Good), or science and theology (the realms of the true and True, respectively, the former being the penumbra of the latter).

Now, you wouldn't know it, but these thoughts were prompted by two books I'm currently reading, Creative Tension, by Michael Heller, and another one that shall go unnamed (file it under integral/new age/evolutionary).

In the case of Heller, he is an unusual man, in that he is both a first rate physicist with a specialty in cosmology, and a Catholic priest and theologian. However, he is refreshingly cautious about how science and theology relate to one another, and this book, although challenging, is proving to be a sort of psycho-spiritual disinfectant, helping me to clarify certain intuitions of mine and make them more explicit.

Beyond that, it is helping me to grapple with the fundamentals of my worldview, which is always healthy. In my mind, there is still this painful dichotomy or tension between the anti-evolutionary worldview of Schuon and the cosmic-evolutionary view, not just of science, but of esteemed pneumanauts such as Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo.

But Heller emphasizes that we must be extremely cautious about prematurely or superficially bridging these worlds, for a variety of reasons, both scientific and theological. To cite just one example, science is always provisional, whereas theology is always about the permanent and atemporal. What we call the "Big Bang" is merely the extrapolation of a certain model used by physicists to understand the physical world. In these models, at a certain point, the "history" of subatomic particles disappears into "nothing." Therefore, some people make the hasty conclusion that this must be the same "nothing" out of which God created the universe.

But this is not only wrong, but it demonstrates a peculiar lack of imagination. The "nothing" of the physicist is merely the area beyond the horizon of his model. There's still "something" there -- it's just that the physicist's model does not permit him to even hazard a guess as to what it might be.

But the Nothing of theology is a much vaster principle, having to do with the emanation of Being from Beyond-Being. This is what I meant the other day when I said that in my book I was not trying to equate the Big Bang with God's eternal creative act, but to use it as a "fable" to retell that timeless story. As I said on p. 2, "Borrowing freely from Christian, Greek, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist and other sources, the creation to which it refers did not happen just 'once upon a time,' but occurs continuously, in the timeless ground anterior to each moment."

"Put it this way: neither the cosmos nor this book have a proper 'beginning,' but both have a center, a center that starts where science ends and must therefore be described in mythological terms. The purpose of myth is to help us re-collect what we have forgotten about our timeless source, our eternal nature, and our ultimate destiny."

In short, my huge mythunderstanding is a little sea shanty to sing between the shores. To be continued....

But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.
--Leonard Cohen

Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, J.W.M. Turner

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nice Gnosis & Naughty Gnosticism

Gnosis is the perfection of faith. --Clement of Alexandria

Yesterday we discussed Voegelin's concept of political gnosticism, which first "condemns the existing world as broken and alienating, plagued by evil forces preventing a complete and happy restoration of man’s spiritual and material life." This existential diagnosis is followed by the promise of "a mode of deliverance or salvation from the prison of the world for man through a secret gnosis" -- i.e., by the toxic political prescription of a secular priesthood.

Progressives believe that by manipulating people with just the right coercive policies, the state can reconstitute paradise and create a "'kingdom of heaven on earth," for which Voegelin coined the ponderous term, "immanentizing the eschaton." He considered just calling it "uncool," but chose the former because he wanted to be taken seriously be academics who don't understand him. (This is the best book on Voegelin for those who would like an accessible introduction to this important but somewhat forbidding thinker.)

My son -- who turns three in a couple weeks -- already knows all about immamentizing the eschaton. For example, he wants to have bacon or pizza for every meal. Thus, I often have to remind him, "stop immamentizing the eschaton! You can't have bacon around the clock unless you're either a good person or an Islamist in the hereafter."

In Science and the Modern World, "Big Al" Whitehead wrote that "When you are criticizing the philosophy of an epoch, do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it is necessary explicitly to defend. There will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents of all the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose. Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things ever occurred to them."

Being that we all live in "Christendom" -- that is, a culture shaped and animated (in the literal sense of "given life") by Judeo-Christian principles -- I guess it shouldn't be surprising that we share its underlying assumptions about the "brokenness" of man and the world. But where the progressive goes off the rails is in supposing there is some secret political formula that can reverse the fall and restore us to wholeness. Thus, the ubiquitous frenzied moral passion that always animates the left. Leftists are always exaggeratedly pessimistic about the present state of the world, but "optimistic" in a crazed and manic way that steamrules over anyone who would dare delay the immediate implementation of paradise.

From Marx on down, the leftist fallacy follows from turning spiritual Truth on its head (or "inside-out"), so that man's spiritual crisis is seen as a material one (e.g. "robber barons," "global warming," "global cooling," "nuclear power," "income disparity," "corporate greed," etc.) instead of a psycho-spiritual one. This is the "fundamental assumption" which adherents of all the variant progressive systems within our epoch unconsciously presuppose.

For example, the progressive would say that Palestinians aren't evil, they're just poor. Which precisely inverts the truism that they are poor because they are evil (except for the few who are extraordinarily wealthy because they are evil, having been enriched by the largesse of Western progressives who give them money because they think it will stop them from being evil, when it always does the opposite, thus ensuring a constant cash flow from backward progressives).

Just know that these philosophers whose wisdom you so much extol have their heads where we place our feet (Isaac of Acre), and you'll be okay.

So yes, secular progressives do begin with the same cognitive "deep structure" as those who are in touch with reality, but they promptly place their heads up their assumptions and de-spiritualize them, very similar to how the unconscious mind creates a sexual perversion. In order to create a perversion, the unconscious must "see" a truth it wishes to deny, usually revolving around the reality of sexual/generational differences. For example, many homosexual men compulsively attempt to incorporate the father's phallus in a direct instead of symbolic manner. An insecure heterosexual man might attempt the same thing by projecting this homosexual desire into women, thus having a compulsive need to "conquer" them in order to shore up his weak masculinity.

What the.... How did I drift into this topic? I wanted to explore the meaning of genuine gnosis, in coontradistincion to the false kind discussed yesterday.

In this regard, the first thought that pops into my head is, "hmm. I'm a little tired this morning. I wonder what Schuon would say? I can always defer to him and make myself look brilliant by standing in his reflected light." Conveniently, one of his books has a chapter entitled Gnosis is Not Just Anything. With any luck, this will provide all the answers we need, thus freeing me from the responsibility of thinking too hard.

Perfect! Just what I was looking for. The very first sentence reads, "It is a fact that too many authors -- we would almost say: general opinion -- attribute to gnosis what is proper to Gnosticism and to other counterfeits of the sophia perennis, and moreover make no distinction between the latter and the more freakish movements... that saw the light of day in the twentieth century.... [N]ow the fact that an imposture necessarily imitates a good, since otherwise it could not even exist, does not authorize charging this good with all the sins of the imitation."

Ironically, one of the reasons men of potentially gifted intellect reject religion is that they mistakenly believe there is no place for the intellect in religion, a misapprehension that is most certainly reinforced by popular caricatures of religion that are engendered by none other than religious doofuses themselves. But in reality, the nous (which is the word the early Greek Fathers used for the higher intellect) is the "satellite" of the Logos, the latter of which is the very Reason or intelligence that infuses Being.

A man is constituted of knowledge, will, and sentiment, with one of these three being predominant. As such, it shouldn't be surprising that the spiritual path breaks out into three main branches (or "yogas"), the way of bhakti (love of God), karma (virtuous action), and gnani (knowlede of God). Each of these paths represents a way to counteract the hardening or dissipative forces of the local ego, in that the ego wants to act, love, and know what it wishes, not necessarily what is real or good. But knowing the Truth, loving the Real, and doing the Good all serve in their own way to tame and discipline the ego's wayward tendencies. After all, Good is what you must do, just as Truth is what you must know, on pain of not actually doing or knowing anything useful -- you know, like the tenured, right? Right.

So really, gnosis is simply "the path of the intellect and hence of intellection; the driving force of this path is above all intelligence, and not will and sentiment..." Furthermore, this path "comprises on the one hand 'comprehension,' and on the other 'concentration'; hence doctrine and method" (Schuon). The two obviously go together, as the more we concentrate, the more we understand, and the more we understand, the more we con-centrate ("circle with," or orbit around, the focal Truth).

"Concentration" implies a gathering together of all one's disparate and fragmented parts, so to speak, so that one may know the Truth "axis to axis." Or, as Schuon puts it, "the unicity of the object demands the totality of the subject." Thus, it is insufficient merely to know Truth with the mind; rather, it must ultimately be approached with body-mind-spirit, so that Truth actually "infuses" the will and sentiments and brings them into alignment with the Sovereign Good.

Many are attracted to philosophy whose natures are imperfect and whose souls are maimed and disfigured by their meanness.... And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and make an alliance with her who is rank above them, what sort of ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true wisdom? --Plato

In paradise, you can eat pork products all day while having your body painted by a fairy princess. In San Francisco, they would ban the former while making the latter compulsory.