Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day & The Remembrance of Things Surpassed (5.25.09)

Memorial Day -- like any holy-day -- is not a remembrance of things past, but of things present; it is a remembrance of things surpassed -- or of the fixed stars that transcend and illuminate our lives below. Specifically, it is an occasion for vertical recollection of a divine archetype that is present now -- can only be present now -- but requires the substance of ritual in order to vividly apprehend and "renew" it. On a holy-day, time "collapses," so we are closer to the archetype and to the celestial realm where it abides; for example, on any given Christmas, one is "closer" to the birth of Christ than someone was on a July day in 500AD.

We remember our heroes because they illuminate the eternal realm of the heroic, a realm that we must treasure and venerate if we are to survive as a culture. Not only is the hero a transcendent archetype, but he is only heroic because he has sacrificed something in defense of another archetype -- truth, liberty, beauty, the good, etc. In the absence of this true formulation, neither the hero nor his sacrifice make any sense at all. This is why to "deconstruct," say, George Washington, is not just an attack on the father of our country, but on fatherhood, heroism, strength, courage, and the realm of transcendent (i.e., the Real) in general.

Last year Will left a lengthy comment that touches on many of the things I wanted to write about this morning:

"So I was thinking, in what way is Memorial Day larger than it is -- as all spiritual ceremonies truly are? Well, as has been pointed out here, it's obvious that Memorial Day is a day for celebrating, honoring, remembering what heroism really means -- courageous self-sacrifice in the name higher ideals, principles, which are, to be sure, *spiritual* ideals and principles. So in one sense, our fallen military heroes are symbolic of this ideal. They are the most vivid, the most tangible representation of this ideal that we have before us. There are others, of course, who likewise are vivid, in-the-flesh symbols of this spiritual ideal: police, firefighters, the occasional citizen who rises to the heroic occasion and is so publicly honored. There is no hero, however, quite as vivid, quite so symbolic of self-sacrificing virtue than the military hero.

"The great wonder of it, of course, is that our fallen heroes are not paintings, statues, images -- they were and are human. They are us. And still they are symbols, ideals in the flesh -- destiny selected them to serve this role. That role is to remind us that we all are potential self-sacrificing heroes, that we all are of divine essence. Somehow, on some level, we must realize this, otherwise we wouldn't have a day for honoring our fallen heroes.

"The other day Bob alluded to the some of the symbolic threads in the Wizard of Oz. I have long seen WoO as a tale of a journey into the Realm of Divine Archetypes wherein we (through Dorothy) see ourselves, and others, in our real, divine essence. In her eyes, her Kansas friends and acquaintances became Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man -- became, in effect, their true selves, all on a heroic quest to reclaim their spiritual birthright. In Kansas, they were just dusty average Joes. In the Higher Realm, they were their real selves, knights, heroes.

"Most of us are Kansans. We do not have a symbolic public role to play. And yet there are countless souls who commit unseen (by the public) acts of tremendous self-sacrifice and heroism, whose deeds will never be acknowledged -- in some cases, not by a single other -- in this world. Our military heroes remind us that such heroism is possible. The secular attempt to 'deconstruct' military heroism is no less than an attempt to sever us from our Oz, our spiritual reality. We need daily remind ourselves that we are on the yellow brick road of our personal heroic quest. And we need to remind ourselves that, though our personal acts of heroism may never be acclaimed in this life, we will, in the fullness of time, be acknowledged as the heroes we imagine ourselves to be."

*****

As a prelude.... I guess it's not a prelude anymore.... But anyway, I am also reminded of a couple of particularly resonant lines in a piece by Vanderleun, Small Flags: "These days we resent, it seems, having [cemeteries] fill at all, clinging to our tiny lives with a passion that passes all understanding; clinging to our large liberty with the belief that all payments on such a loan will be interest-free and deferred for at least 100 years."

Elsewhere he writes, "It is not, of course, that the size of the sacrifice has been reduced. That remains the largest gift one free man may give to the country that sustained him. It is instead the regard of the country for whom the sacrifices were made that has gotten smaller, eroded by the self-love that the secular celebrate above all other values" (emphasis mine).

*****

Vanderleun touches on several themes that could be expanded into entire posts: the desperate clinging to our tiny lives; the earthly passion that passes all understanding since it denies transcendence; the notion that liberty is free; that death in defense of a spiritual ideal is the greatest gift one man can give another; and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it might expand in every other way.

Sacred, sacrament, and sacrifice are all etymologically linked; all are derived from sacer, or to the holy and mysterious. This itself is interesting, for holy, of course, implies wholeness, and wholeness is indeed a portal to mystery, just as "partness" is a perpetual riddle that necessarily shades off into the the absurd. For example, a psychotic person lives in a bizarre world of forcibly disconnected objects and experiences that he cannot synthesize into unity, or wholeness. Often he will superimpose a false unity in the form of paranoid delusions. Paranoia is "a false wholeness," but it is never far from the nameless dread that sponsors it.

A couple of days ago I noted the truism that leftist thought -- even more than being ruled by emotion -- is primarily iconic. Or one might say that the left simply has very passionate feelings about its icons, which they confuse with "thoughts."

You can see this same phenomenon in our recent deust-up with the atheist folks, who are also (ironically, but not really) ruled by overpowering feelings about their own sacred icons. Point out where they are wrong, and they hysterically accuse you of calling them animals and depriving them of the humanity which they deprive themselves. Rational they are not. Or, at the very least, the more sober among them prove the adage that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything with the exception of one's reason, or that there are incredibly intelligent ways to be stupid -- reductionistic and logically self-refuting Darwinism being one of them. Materialism is a gateway ideology to things far lower.

A disturbing number of our fellow citizens not only believe that Islamic terrorists are not engaged in a global war against Western civilization (or "civilization," for short), but that the United States government itself engineered 9-11, or that the war on terror is really being waged to enrich George Bush and his friends. Obviously there can be no heroes in such a world, only scoundrels and dupes. If this were true, then Keith Olbermann would be correct that our men in uniform are really just "hired assassins."

Vanderleun alludes to this, where he writes of how increasing numbers of American asses with Rosie-colored glasses prefer "to take refuge in the unbalanced belief that 9/11 was actually something planned and executed by the American government. Why many of my fellow Americans prefer this 'explanation' is something that I once felt was beyond comprehension. Now I see it is just another comfortable position taken up by those for whom the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular."

Yes, the left is insane, but exactly kind of insanity is this? How have they become so detached from reality?

It has to do with the specific reality from which they have become detached. As another fine example of the shallowness and naivete of atheist thought, one of them writes that

"Millions and millions of people died in Russia and China under communist governments -- and those governments were both secular and atheistic, right? So weren't all of those people killed in the name of atheism and secularism? No. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness."

This looks like a banal statement -- which it unavoidably is -- and yet, it is quite sinister in its implications, and illuminates all of Vanderleun's points mentioned above. First, atheism is petty and unworthy of man, being that it is immensely beneath the scope of his intellect. No one would give his life to defend it, since it is the substance of meaninglessness, precisely. Why sacrifice one's life for the principle that there are no transcendent principles worth dying for?

The least of atheism's baleful effects is that it automatically makes the hero a fool because there is nothing worth defending. The more catastrophic effect is that it leaves the field open to evil-doers who are openly hostile to the transcendent principles that animate our uniquely decent and beautiful civilization. This is why you see an Old Europe that is supine before the barbarians in its midst who wish to destroy it. Socialism has nothing to do with "generosity" or selflessness; rather, it is the quintessence of selfishness, and diminishes a man down to the conviction that his animal needs should be provided for by someone else. The only thing that can rouse his passion is a threat to his entitlements. If only the Islamists were to threaten their 12 weeks of paid vacation, they be taken seriously by socialist EUnuchs.

This is also why, as Venderleun writes, the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular. This is the complete and utter cynicism that results from destroying the reality of the vertical and clinging to one's puny life with a passion that preempts and vanquishes any deep understanding of it.

For just as wholeness, the One, is associated with the peace that passes understanding, the exile from this real human world into the bizarre and fragmented world of the secular left brings not so much the passion that passes understanding, but the passion that cannot comprehend itself because it has no vector or direction beyond its own flat and cramped existence. In fact, nothing can be understood in the absence of that which it is converging upon, which reveals its meaning. To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life.

Of the sacred, Schuon writes that it is in the first place "attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred."

Again, the message is sacred and holy because it is transcendent and relates to knowledge of the whole.

Therefore, the sacred also represents "the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity." (Never again wonder at the profound lack of diginity of the left, for it is intrinsic and inevitable.)

Another way of saying it is that the sacred relates to the world as "the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator."

Which brings us back to Will's riff on the Wizard of Oz. On the one hand, the United States, more than any other nation, is flat and dusty old unassuming Kansas. But at the same time, it is Oz, the vertical and shining Emerald City on a hill. We must never forget either fact, one of them Real, the other merely real. Nor can we forget the very real Kansans who gave their lives to bring us closer to that Reality. In order to honor them, we must never do anything to change this into a country that would be unworthy of their sacrifice -- indeed, one they would scarcely recognize. That's the deal in a vertical democracy in which its fallen heroes, of all people, should have a say. We must be their voice.

I guess this would be my favorite version:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

You Can't Judge Me, I'm Culturally Incompetent!

Your regularly scheduled Saturday oldie from two years ago.

*****

I am a sick man.

Wait. That’s the wrong way to put it. I am “a consumer in need of mental health services.” Not that there are mentally unhealthy people. Or, if there are, that we should judge them in any way. They are a vulnerable population, so we must learn about their culture and be sensitive to it.

I still don’t know why they allowed me to become a psychologist.

I’ve been licensed to practice since 1991. In order to finally get your license to steal, there are so many moola hoops you have to jump through -- including three thousand hours of internship time -- that I don’t think I could do it today. The final hoop is the state licensing exam, which includes a written part and an oral part. The written part is a piece of cake, basically a low wall to keep out total retards, er, the cognitively challenged. There is no correlation whatsoever between the ability to pass this exam and the ability to heal the soul. Amazingly, many people do not pass it, while others do so after two or three stabs at it.

Much trickier is the oral exam, because it’s subjective and they can bounce you for any reason. You are examined by a random team of two licensed psychologists, so a lot depends on the luck of the draw. The examiners proceed to read you a little clinical “vignette” and ask you questions about it. What are your thoughts? How would you treat this person? What’s their diagnosis? They then change little details, asking what you’d do in this or that situation. They always want to know what you’d do if the person were homicidal or suicidal or abusing either their children or their elderly parents.

Then they come to the really important part, cultural competence. This is where you are presented with the opportunity to fall over yourself in demonstrating how politically correct you are. It is one of the best examples I know of how the left insinuates itself into virtually every profession, converting political dogma into what is essentially law. For a license is a legal document, and it is therefore “illegal” for me to not toe the leftist line on issues of multiculturalism, cultural relativism, victimology, and political correctness. In short, I must pretend to be a racist in order to "pass" in this bizarro world -- both literally and figuratively.

Normal people don’t think about these things, but leftists are not normal people. As activists, they are always active. You and I may go about our lives earning a living, raising our children, enjoying our hobbies, happily interacting with members of other races and genders, but the activist has no life, so he is actively involved in making your life more difficult. He will not cease his activity until there are no victims left on whose behalf he can be active.

So anyway, just when you think you’ve covered the clinical vignette from every possible angle, out comes the cross-cultural curve ball: what if the patient were African American?

African American! Oh my God! A negro! What would I do? What would I do? They're not like us! They’re a completely different race, I mean, culture. The same rules don’t apply. They don’t think like you or I do. What’s crazy for you might be normal for them. Don’t forget the anger over slavery! And don’t forget that the patient won’t trust you, because you're a person of pallor! No, that’s not paranoia. For them it’s reality. You’re the Man. You’re an authority figure, and they don’t trust authority. (I wonder how this process works for blacks taking the psychology exam. Are they presumed to be “culturally incompetent” to treat people of colorlessness? And are secular psychologists deemed incompetent to treat Christians? Imagine the füror if this were the case.)

And remember, for blacks it’s a stigma to even consult a psychologist to begin with, so be very sensitive to that. And don’t forget, they have a matriarchal culture, so don’t mention the “F-word” (father). They just choose to organize their families differently, so don’t be projecting your own patriarchal values about marriage or the need for a mother and father. And remember, they’re rough on their kids, so don’t call it abuse. Mama don’t play!

So in a supreme act of self-destruction, I said something like, “You know, I don’t think this question really apples to me, because in my theoretical orientation, I look at human development objectively, no different than physical development. Just because some cultures are more obese than others, we wouldn’t therefore say that obesity is normal, would we? (Wrong!) There are certain standards and milestones of psychological maturity that one either achieves or fails to achieve, and that is the definition of pathology.”

I could see by the blank look on their faces that they weren’t buying any of it. I was about to be on the receiving end of the hidden sadism that animates the Compassionate Crowd.

Think, Petey, think!

B-but,” I said. “But I wouldn’t let my theoretical orientation, which, after all, is just a cultural construct, interfere with my appreciating the unique needs of this underprivileged population.” And I proceeded to spew what in my mind was the worst kind of racial stereotyping you could imagine. I might as well have said, “in case they get hungry, I should probably have some watermelon in the waiting room.” It wouldn’t matter. In the topsy-turvy world of the left, the more you deal in grotesque racial stereotypes, the more culturally sensitive you are.

Of course I passed. With flying people-of-colors.

But that’s not the end of the hoops. Oh no. They can’t risk you lapsing into cultural incompetence once you’re licensed. At heart you are an incorrigible racist and homophobe. Steps must be taken. So they have “continuing education” (or re-indoctrination), thirty-six hours every two years, another chance for the activists to activate. One of the reasons why I resent continuing education is that it is one of the few times I must temporarily discontinue my education.

Yesterday was a case in point. I took a mandatory ethics class which, typically, was obsessed with the rights of homosexuals, in particular, those with HIV (not that it's a gay disease!).

Here are some samples from the course:

“HIV/AIDS has its own unique ethical issues. Because HIV can be transmitted through sexual activity and by sharing drug equipment, it evokes significant personal feelings and judgments in the general public, as well as in health and social service providers.”

You shall not judge the victim! Don't be leaping to conclusions about their "drug equipment." It's not like they smoke cigarettes or something. Pregnancy is transmitted by heteronormative sexual activity, and you don't judge an unlucky woman who is punished with a baby, do you?

“The principle of justice assumes impartiality and equality. It means that a clinician will treat all clients equally and give everyone their due portion of services. This principle applies to the individual client as well as on the larger societal level.”

You shall not prefer certain people or cultures over others! Doing so is unjust. And make sure that 13% of your patients are black and 52% are women. After all, that's their "due portion" of your services.

“Individuals have the right to decide how to live their own lives, as long as their actions do not interfere with the welfare of others. This principle respects the unconditional worth of the individual and promotes the concepts of self-governance, self-determination, and self-rule.”

You shall not make any moral judgments! Doing so is immoral. Everyone is unconditionally valuable, except for people who think otherwise. And we must value self-determination and self-rule, except for official victims whose lives are determined and ruled by white male victimizers. They have no free will, and therefore, no moral standards.

“The impact of welfare reform may augment concern about access issues. Adding restrictions to a population that is already disenfranchised will require more creativity, patience, and determination on the part of the clinician who is trying to advocate for a client.”

Your job is not to "treat a patient” but to advocate for a client and achieve social justice through increasing dependence upon the federal government! And you must help your "disenfranchised" client register to vote (Democrat, of course), so that we can undo welfare reform and get them back on the dole, where they belong.

“For some counselors, the knowing transmission of HIV is as serious as hearing their client threaten to kill someone. There are differences, however, between knowingly transmitting HIV and murder. For one, the campaign to stop the transmission of HIV has encouraged people to protect themselves. Therefore, every individual is responsible for safer sex practices, so it is not entirely the responsibility of the person with HIV.”

You are not a victim if someone intentionally gives you HIV. Hey, wait, I don’t get this one... Finally, a real victim! Wrong. You can't be victimized by a homosexual, especially one with AIDS.

“Providers should consider the following questions: How can providers, and society in general, ensure that resources are distributed fairly?"

Why, by becoming Marxists, of course.

"How can such allocations be free of bias and assumptions about certain individuals, cultures, and populations?”

Umm, by having a load of politically correct cultural biases and assumptions about them?

“Cultural issues often are glossed over... For example, a gay, African American client may have difficulty dealing with his homosexuality and as a result may be having anonymous unprotected sex impulsively.”

Hmm... What if having impulsive anonymous unprotected sex is the whole point of his sub-culture? Shouldn't we be sensitive to that?

And my favorite: “Dual relationships should be avoided if possible. A clinician who knows a client via a past sexual encounter should not assume a professional role with that client.”

I looked up the word encounter: a chance meeting; a direct often momentary meeting.

Do not, under any circumstances, be a provider of mental health services to a client with whom you’ve had a chance, momentary meeting without your clothes on.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it. You're probably just an African American who can't admit you're gay.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Meaning of Meaning, or Nihilism and How it Gets that Way

Impossible blogging conditions today. Therefore, another stale bobservation from over two years ago.

*****

Our boneheaded, literal-minded elites typically fail to appreciate the truism that spirituality is of necessity full of paradoxes. God exists, but without human mirrors to reflect him, he disappears. God is both the light and the light by which he is seen. The eye with which we see him is the eye with which he sees us. True gnosis restores our freedom that has been partially or totally squandered, but we are only “set free” by surrendering it. The more one becomes truly human, the more one manifests the divine image and likeness. God is the source and sovereign of the world and yet submits to the world that murders him.

A while back, in response to an essay by Vanderleun on the film United 93, I impulsively typed the cryptic comment, “there are no messages, only messengers capable of understanding them" (you could also say recipients capable of sending them).

This was in reference to an earlier post on American Digest, which provided an excerpt of the New York Times review of United 93. In it, the reviewer confessed that she “didn’t have a clue” what the film was about. To her, the film was devoid of any meaning, high or low. It was just nonsensical. Why would anyone make such a film? What was the point?

Why an apparent leftist should object to a lack of meaning is a bit of a mystery to begin with. But one senses that she was being willfully disingenuous as a way to pre-emptively attack what she felt was an objectionable political agenda of some kind. In other words, she did recognize the meaning, at least unconsciously. She just didn’t like what the meaning meant.

In other words, we aren't talking about a cognitive failure to "connect the dots," but a passive aggressive success at dismantling them. This is one of the left's specialties -- you see it every day -- which is why one marvels at their "intelligent stupidity." The same reviewer would probably have no difficulty appreciating the deep meaning of the new four-hour hagiographical biopic of Che Guevara.

Indeed, the wholly secularized mind cannot in good faith object to nihilism. After all, a nihilist is simply a good faith atheist, humanist or secularist -- someone who has drawn the implications of their impoverished philosophy to their logical endpoint. A nihilist is simply someone with the courage of their lack of convictions (which isn't courage at all, being that it lacks prudence and temperance, among other virtues).

For one person, United 93 is flat, empty, lifeless, devoid of meaning, perhaps a “mistake” that should have never been born to begin with; she might say the same thing about the image of those marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. To another, it is rich beyond the ability to even discuss it in less than sacred terms.

The poster for the film says it was The plane that did not reach its target. But Vanderleun -- who has connected the dots -- notes that, “it reached something unintended and much higher. It became and will remain a legend; an integral part of the tapestry of the American myth from which we all draw what strength remains to us, and, in the future, will surely need to draw upon even more deeply.”

He continues: United 93 shows “how ordinary people... refused at the last to be cowed or frightened and, knowing full well that all was probably up for them, still fought to save their lives or, in the end, thwart the designs that evil had brought on board.... I like to think that the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims with seatbelts fastened as the monsters in the cockpit pushed their evil mission to its appointed end.... to take the controls back from thugs and the cut-throats and the mumbling fanatics of a wretched and burnt-out god."

Ultimately, the film poses a question: “What would you do, an ordinary person in an extraordinary moment when life and death, good and evil, were as clear as the skies over America on September 11? Will you, as so many of our fellow citizens yearn to do these days, stay seated? Or will you stand up?” (Vanderleun).

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a concept he called attacks on linking (perhaps the pithier "deconstruction" was already taken). Bion is a notoriously abstruse thinker, and yet, his ideas are at their core quite simple and exceptionally fruitful. Once you are aware of the concept, you will see how pervasive it is. Certainly it is something the clinician encounters all day long, for it is one of the primary mechanisms involved in most neuroses and any kind of deeper character pathology. It operates at the crossroads where emotional pathologies become cognitive ones, irrespective of one's native intelligence.

Bion had an epistemophilic theory of the mind, in that he thought that our minds not only intrinsically seek truth, but grow as a result of "metabolizing" it. (As usual, I’ll have to give the short version in order to move the argument along to its presently unknown destination.) Various exigencies of childhood can derail or pervert this process, as there are certain emotional truths that are too painful to bear. As such, our truth-seeking mechanism can become compromised at its foundation, so to speak. “None so blind as he who will not see,” and all that.

Meaning involves the bringing together of diverse details into a higher unity. In reality, it is a sort of “vision” that sees through the surface to the inner unity of a mass of data. It is very much analogous to those “magic eye” pictures, which look like a bunch of random markings on the page. But when you relax your eyes, out of nowhere pops a three-dimensional image. The image was “there” all along, but was buried amidst the phenomena. You might say that it was a message awaiting a recipient capable of seeing it, like all of the beauty in the cosmos that was unnoticed before the arrival of man.

Of course, if you are a strict materialist, then you will insist that only the random dots are ultimately real -- they are more "fundamental" than that toward which they point, just as the atoms of which we are composed are more "real" than our bodies or minds. Although the three-dimensional picture might be nice, ultimately it is something we just “made up” or invented. It is foolish -- not to say an act of existential cowardice -- to suggest that the random dots actually mean anything beyond what we project into them (which leaves one wondering how the materialist can know this -- or anything, for that matter -- but we'll leave that to the side.)

To the materialist, the three-dimensional picture results from induction. That is, it is simply a generalization that we arrived at by carefully analyzing the particulars. But to a Platonist -- which all spiritually-minded people are to one degree or another -- the three-dimensional picture is more real than the dots. The dots are actually a declension from this higher dimensional object, which is both the meaning and the truth of the dots. In fact, it is also the being of the dots.

Nevertheless, where is the three-dimensional image, if not in the dots? That is, the materialist will correctly insist that if you remove the dots, the picture will disappear as well. But the dots do exist, and the picture is “in” each one of them. You might say that the dots are the “invisible picture made flesh.” From the perspective of the ignorant dot, it is a proudly independent entity, just going about its business, separate from the other dots. It has no idea that it is actually participating in a higher dimensional image, any more than an individual cell in my body is aware of the fact that it is now participating in a thing called “blogging.”

Again, most knowledge on this side of manifestation is a synthesis of particulars converging on a nonlocal Truth (I don't want to discuss revelation at the moment, which you might say is a "whole truth" sent from the other side). There are some truths that people, for one reason or another, do not wish to know. One way to rid the mind of unwanted truth is to “attack the links” that allow the truth to emerge.

This is exactly what the clueless New York Times reviewer did in watching (but not seeing) United 93. Again, I do not believe she was consciously being disingenuous. In reality, all sorts of vital meanings were no doubt subliminally occurring to her as she watched the film. But these inchoate meanings were beaten down, attacked, and strangled in their crib before they could emerge as a full-blown Truth that she knew but didn't want to know. Knowledge of truth must always precede the Lie -- which is why, for example, all tyrannies pretend to be democracies, or why leftists always pretend to be "for the little guy."

As a matter of fact, this cognitive pathology is a microscopic reflection of envy (which is a psychoanalytic term of art with a slightly different meaning from the common usage; it is a defense mechanism that "spoils" a good it does not possess, in order to eliminate the pain of not having it). It is the worst and most cognitively debilitating form of envy, for it attacks and spoils truth and goodness before the conscious mind even has a chance to entertain them.

Thus, the envious person is condemned to a living death in a mass of meaningless particulars that make no sense. But, as always, the mind will covertly elevate this cursed condition to a courageous virtue: “I’m better than you, because at least I’m courageous enough to realize that the world is random and meaningless.” This kind of envy is really "winged death," or a caricature of Life. Our trolls never stop reminding us of this.

Now, religious truths are mostly of the Magic Eye variety (again, some are given "whole"). This is why the envious person cannot “see” God, or meaning, or Truth. In their transtemporal myopia, they "recoil from the simple and seek refuge in a sophistry that is itself laughably simplistic." As someone once said, to live one’s life in this state is to die of miscellany. They are not even superstitious. Rather, they are substitious, absorbed in the hypnotic mayaplicity of an unmeaningable world.

If God is eternal, how do we encounter him among the things of time? Real faith is the “tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered things.” It is the answer that leads us to the clues. For the materialist studies the world in order to try to understand it. The religionist does that as well, but also understands the world in order to study it. Celestial messages are everywhere. But without gifted messengers, they may go unnoticed. Or worse yet, noticed and preemptively attacked by a promethean intelligence turning on itself and become demonic.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Swimming in the Ocean of Being with the Eternal Life Preserver

While metaphysics is exact, it generally must be expressed in inexact terms in order to convey the depths of its exactitude. As Sells explains, we begin with the "unresolvable dilemma of transcendence." Although it is beyond names, in order to unname it, we must give it a name. As such, we must always be mindful of the fact that this name cannot function as a "container" in the way normal words do. Rather, it is more like a placemarker; it designates a "hole" that we must fill through grace-infused experience, lest we saturate it with a lot of preconceived ideas. To put to put it another way, the word must simultaneously convey presence while at the same time evoking its own absence; this corresponds with the realm of mystery, which is the quintessence of present absence and absent presence.

It is not just God that must be discussed in this manner. The most intense human realities shade off into the ineffable and uncontainable, so that we risk trivializing them if we try to reduce them to some mechanical formula (which, for example, all bad drama and poetry do). Sex, death, and love are all uncontainable, even though we obviously have words for them. But for those of you who have lost a loved one, you no doubt remember how you entered an alternate reality in the presence of death, a reality that was entirely separate from the common use of the word. Among other things, the nature of time changes, and you are in the realm of the sacred. I can remember this quite vividly. It truly cannot be appreciated until you're in it.

Or perhaps you recall the intensity of the first time you fell in love. All I remember is being plunged into a reality that was well beyond familiar words and concepts. I was definitely in over my head. It is then that you realize, "Oh. This is where all those stupid songs come from." And the ancients were much more wise about sex than we are. The modern people who imagine they are most "sophisticated" about matters of sexuality are usually the most naive. Human sexuality is like a signifier that cannot be signified or contained, but it can be "channelled" upward and inward, which is one of the esoteric purposes of marriage. More on which later. I don't want to get seduced by that mysteress at the moment.

As a perceptive reader pointed out to a sightless troll the other day, one of the purposes of this kind of language is to to set up a seemingly paradoxical or binary opposition that vaults the mind upward toward a nonlocal "third." For example, you will see a number of these in the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections of the Coonifesto, even though these were spontaneous formulations (i.e., "speaking in Tongan") that, for better or worse, I didn't even consciously realize I was spewing, e.g., "empty plenum," "inexhaustible void," "one brahman deathless breathing breathless," "unborn thus undying," "beginning and end of all impossibility," etc. Only later did I realize the extent to which such paradoxical language is a common "adequation" to the Real, which is always just beyond the horizon of articulation.

The purpose of such spontaneous descryptics is to render our normal understanding of speech "inoperative," so as to lure the mind up and out. It is a "creative destruction" of language, very different from the mostly "destructive destruction" of deconstruction. This distinction is hardly "postmodern." Rather, it has always been understood by the most sophisticated theologians, e.g., Philo, Maiomonides, Plotinus, Dionysius, Origen, Shankara, John Scotus Eriugena, and certainly Eckhart, who in my view was perhaps the greatest genius in his startlingly fresh and novel uses of language to properly speak the unspeakable, glish the unglishable, and eff the ineffingbelievable.

Recall that yesterday we spoke of the fundamental opposition within scripture between its inner and outer meanings, or the spirit and letter; another balance it must maintain is between transcendence and immanence, for it is always both. Again, it must simultaneously convey and yet only "suggest" in a provocative manner (here again, the sayings of Jesus are exquisitely constructed in this regard; not surprisingly, the balance he achieves is "perfect").

In fact, this is one of the ways to instantly recognize true from false revelation. For example, if you have ever read one of those incredibly dopey Scientology brochures, they contain the most leaden and almost retarded prose you could imagine. In fact, it is retarded, for just as one can be intellectually or morally retarded, one can be spiritually retarded.

You also see the opposite, that is, the use of pseudo-forms of religious speech toward wholly unholy absecular ends. Someone who is familiar with these techniques recognizes them in an instant in the vacuous rhetoric of Obama. It is clearly religious speech, but in the absence of the religious object (since it is essentially aimed at religious retards, and therefore, proglodytes who most hunger after transcendence without realizing it).

As dangerous as an L. Ron Hubbard is, an Obama is infinitely more so, being that he is so much more skillful than Hubbard at aping religious rhetoric, including its "rhythms." Hubbard essentially engages in religious pornography, leaving nothing to the (higher) imagination; Obama, on the other hand, specifically misapporoprates the higher imagination (after all, he learned this technique from a sociopathic master). There is plenty of "space" in his rhetoric for the irreligiously religious hysteric to "fill in the blanks," which is a formula for infinite mischief. No, I am not invoking Godwin's law, but suffice to say that this is precisely what Hitler did, something I will get more into later.

In other words, Obama is simply recycling the same old lies of the left, except that he is able to skillfully communicate them as if they represent not just novelty or "change," but transcendence, of all things! Anyone with spiritual discernment can see that his rhetoric does not point "up" and beyond itself toward the Real, as his hypnotized cult members imagine. Rather, it ultimately points down and out, something that becomes increasingly obvious as the campaign wears on. I am as sick of him already as I was of Clinton after eight years.

But we're getting sidetracked. What I really wanted to do is to enter the linguistic wayback machine, which also happens to be in the same loquation as the wayup machine. First, an invocation to announce that we are leaving secular time behind and below, and venturing into the nonlocal origins of All, which can only be discerned in the now, since that's when it was first accompliced for the last time; to quote Eckhart, the beginning of all things "also means the end of all things, since the first beginning is because of the last end."

In The Beginning....

This has all happened before; it will all happen again....

Once Upon a Time....

At the beginning of the beginning, even nothing did not exist....

One's upin a timeless, without a second to spore....


Somehow, this story, no matter who tells it, always involves water and oceans. Most obviously,

And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

But how about,

From the Light there came forth a holy Word, which took its stand upon the watery substance. (Hermes)

Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector. (Mundaka Upanishad)

Unfathomable as the sea, wondrously ending only to begin again, informing all creation without being exhausted... (Chuang-tse)

For nor before nor after was the process of God's overflowing over these waters. (Dante)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Now, as Sells mentions with regard to poetry, drama, or most any other form of art, the deeper meaning "risks being trivialized when its meaning is defined and paraphrased discursively" -- like trying to explain the meaning of a joke, which defloats its whole porpoise. As such, scripture is intended to have a punchline, except that it must be a guffah-ha! experience. There is a very fine line between skillful exegesis and simply spoiling the joke of scripture, like a bad straight man.

I'm almost out of time here, so let's just say that O is for ocean, and that the Coonifesto is bracketed by two of them which are actually the same one, since the "oceans" in reality all flow together ("converse") and have no boundaries between them (or a boundary of nothing).

In Cosmogenesis we read of a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea, which is hovering over the waters without a kenosis; while in Cosmobliteration we wade into the same eternal waters from the other side, only this time our winding binding river of light empties to the sea.... Here, by the headwaters of the eternal, the fountain of innocence, the mind shoreless vast and still, absolved and absorbed in what is always the case, face to face in a sacred space. A drop embraced by the sea held within the drop. Inhere in here.

I apologize if I can't be any more precise than that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mystical Languages of Unsaying: A Vocation by the Infinite Sea

"Mystical Languages of Unsaying" -- that's the title of a book that goes into the paradox of attempting to employ language to describe and disclose what transcends it. As I recall, the book seemed promising, but it adopted an entirely academic stance and eventually flamed out into a lot of postmodern jargon, so that it ultimately failed to unsay what can only be unsaid. In other words, it tried to analyze the phenomenon "from below" instead of above, thus defeating the very purpose of this specialized mode of deuscourse.

Suffice it to say that this language cannot be understood in the absence of certain other modes such as faith, sincerity and sanctity. Mystical languages will not yield their secrets to the cynical, the power hungry, the profane, the tenured, or some engineers. To quote Meister Eckhart, "For I say to you in everlasting Truth that if you are unlike this Truth of which we want to speak, you cannot understand me."

Do you see the challenge? In order to know this Truth, you must first become like it; in short, ontology precedes epistemology, or essence precedes existence. O is anterior to (k), or being to knowing. This is why such virtues as purity, serenity, humility, sincerity, and childlikeness (not childishness) must be cultivated lest your knowledge be too contaminated by worldly dross.

Elsewhere Eckhart distinguishes between truths that are worthy of belief (i.e., philosophy and theology), those that are probable (i.e., science), and Truth itself (e.g., Christ). These are all aspects of the one Truth, for all truths converge on the central Truth to which our minds are naturally -- or supernaturally -- attracted.

Science is none other than the reduction of multiplicity to unity, so it eventually shades off into mysticism as it approaches the penumbra of the One. Science grasps truth from the outside in, while mysticism does so from the inside out; the former gropes from the manifestation toward the Principle, while the latter flows from the Principle to the manifestation. The mystic reverses the vector flow that takes the river of existence to the terminal moraine of the senses, and abides at the oceanic center where he eternally waves and laps at all his friends on the shore.

Well I went to the water one day to pray
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
And my soul got happy and I stayed all day
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water


Eckhart also contrasts the "pagan masters who knew only in a natural light" with "the words of the sacred masters who knew in a much higher light," adding that "those who considered the soul's nobility on the basis of their 'natural intelligence' were never able to enter into or know the ground of the soul which is attainable only by unknowing" (McGinn).

Insuffice it to unsay that no machine will ever achieve artificial intelligence, much less artificial unknowing, which is the quintessence of human thought: "Concerning the ground of the soul... the natural light of reason needs the assistance of a higher illumination, which is really a form of not-knowing, or learned ignorance" (McGinn) -- or what Petey calls being lost in the higher bewilderness, for it goes without saying that you cannot be found unless you are first lost. But in the absence of divine assistance this would be a hopeless inquest, for we would truly be up chit creek without a kenosis.

This all goes to the issue of the various layers of scripture, which (obviously) mirror the layers of the soul. This is why it is necessary to know thyself in order to know scripture, and vice versa, for the two are mirrors held against one another, each revealing the bottomless depth of the other. To understand God at all is to fundamentally make oneself deep in any dimension and then ask how this is even possible.

Eckhart did not deny the literal sense of the biblical text, but felt that it was "only the starting point for grasping the inner meaning of what God wants to say to humans" (McGinn) -- which is so much more than words can say! As Eckhart wrote, "I am amazed that scripture is so rich that no one has ever penetrated to the ground of the least word of it," for it contains "an inexhaustible fecundity of truths" (McGinn). In one homily, Eckhart compares it to "a deep sea in which lambs (i.e., humble people) touch bottom, cows (the coarse-grained) swim, and elephants (clever people) plunge in over their heads."

A book is necessarily linear, but surely the Divine effulgence is not ultimately located in time, but "beneath" or "above" it. As such, Eckhart tried to comprehend all things -- including scripture -- "from the divine perspective, the 'now' of eternity in which all words and expressions are one in the eternal Divine Word" (McGinn). This is not a con-fusion, but rather, the reverse; it is the prior fusion from which truth breaks out like sparks from a central fire.

The most basic opposition in scripture -- again, a necessary one -- is that between the inner and outer meaning, or spirit and letter. The former is like an "explosion," while the latter is more like a bullet shot from a gun. But as Eckhart points out, the explosion also explodes upon itself; Eckhart felt that only by "breaking through" to the inner core of scripture could one experience its explosive power spilling out into the creation. One must plunge heartlong into the infinite in order to be shot out a new man, you son of a gun.

Remarkably, Eckhart attempted in his sermons to demonstrate in real timelessness the reality of that which he was speaking; he was not attempting to use language to designate but in a performative sense to actualize the living mystery in his listeners. Again, he is reversing the vector flow of language, and using it not to "point out" but to draw "up and in," so to speak, into the very realm from which his words boil over.

In turn, this parallels the eternal utterance of the Word by the Father in the divine ground beyond being. As such, this mirrors the fiat lux of the first day of creation. "The very act of his preaching" was like "the creation of the word to be heard by others," in such a way that "they too may find the source from whence the word is formed mirrors the 'event character' of... the God-world relation" (Schurman, in McGinn).

In order to accomplish this, Eckhart employed all manner of subtle and sophisticated verbal techniques to bypass the lumitations of language. Remember our analogy from the other day, of trying to capture the three dimensional sphere within the two-dimensional plane -- or the sheer imagineer in a mere engineer. How queer!

Eckhart was always mindful of the same obstacle in using language to disclose the hyperdimensional Subject. If you do not appreciate the boundaries of language, you can't possibly use speech to overcome speech. Thus he used paradox, oxymoron, puns, and a general playfulness that should never be confused with frivolousness for, like Petey, he always speaks with the utmost levitas. For example,

Were it the case that a fly had reason and could rationally seek out the eternal abyss of divine being, from which it came forth, we say that God, insofar as he is God, could not satisfy the fly. Therefore pray God that we may be free of God.

Either that, or pray to be Superfly.

The man of the hour
Has an air of great power
The dudes have envied him for so long
Oooh, Superfly!


I realize that my posts are rather longish and possibly require an unreasonable level of commitment, so I think I'll work at making them a bit more brief. Therefore, I will stop now. To be continued...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Fetal Attraction of the Unborn Self

Some people gripe about my writing style (e.g., the freevangelical pundamentalism & jehovial witticisms), while others silently agree with them. But dash it all, when you're attempting to say what cannot be said, it's not as easy as you think. The same people who complain are likely the ones who object to fundamentalism and literalism, so you can't have it both ways. In any event, it's not something I "intend" to do. Rather, it just takes over when I "surrender" to forces beyond -- or beneath -- me, depending upon how you feel about it.

Meister Eckhart ran into some of the same problems, except in his case, it nearly got him killed. The best introduction to his work is The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing, although The Spiritual Ascent probably uses more passages by Eckhart than any other source.

I feel a great kinship with Eckhart in more ways than none, in part because he had such a sophisticated, post-postmodern understanding of language, even though he wasn't even modern (died c. 1327). He employed language in such a way as to jolt the hearer out of his habitual cognitive grooves, and into another, deeper understanding of what I call the "divine attractor." In other words, as I might have mentioned in the book, the mind may be thought of a hyperdimensional phase space, or a sort of complex subjective landscape that may appear random, but actually conforms to certain invisible patterns.

Basically, phase space refers to a type of "map" used to describe all the possible movements and changes of a dynamic system, say, of traffic patterns or weather systems. In the case of the latter, it is obviously not a linear or deterministic system, and yet, despite countless variables, you could create a map showing that the springtime temperature in my area is always within a phase space between, say, 54 and 95 degrees.

The phase space of a simple system, such as a pendulum -- which can move only in a straight line at varying speed -- would appear as a circular pattern, and any possible location and speed of the pendulum will correspond to a point within this gridded circle. A more complicated system, such as a guided missile -- which can move in any one of three dimensions with varying speed -- will require a phase space of six dimension to map it. Each dimension in phase space corresponds to a degree of freedom within the system.

An attractor refers to an area in phase space that -- as the name implies -- seems to "draw" or lure the system toward it, almost like a nonlocal platonic form. Referring again to the pendulum, without periodic mechanical intervention, it will ultimately wind down to a fixed point at the center of its back-and-forth trajectory, which corresponds to a point at the center of its circular phase space. This is the simplest type of attractor, called a "point attractor."

But as you can well imagine, increasingly complicated systems may require extraordinarily complex phase spaces. Indeed, this is one of the problems with the climate change fraudsters, in that they have no idea how many variables there actually are or exactly how they interact; it's basically a problem of mapping a complex system with phase spaces that are too primitive. Imagine, for example, Aborigines trying to map one of Mozart's piano concertos. The best they could do is beat out a rhythmic phase space, but they would have no means to map its harmonic and melodic complexity, much less how the various tonal colors of the instruments interact and blend.

I didn't intend to venture down this didactic byway, but I suppose it's necessary, so bear with me (by the way, I'm obviously not a mathematician, so if there are any experts out there, feel free to calibrate my definitions). At any rate, modern high-speed computers make it possible to map the phase space of dynamic systems in the midst of chaos, when a system's stable attractor disappears and is replaced by a "strange attractor."

Strange attractors occupy a fractal (i.e., self-similar at any scale) phase space which is both bounded and yet infinite; this seems like a paradox, but it isn't, for both the mind and the cosmos itself are bounded infinitudes. To cite one commonly used example, you would think that a coastline is a finite boundary, but if you were to actually try to draw the coastline in all its detail, you would discover that it was infinite. After all, you would have to map every grain of sand, every water molecule, every subatomic particle, all the antimatter; you get the idea. (This infinitude is an inverse analogy of God's.)

Chaos theorists believe that wherever there is the appearance of chaos, we are seeing a system governed by a strange attractor; once thought to be random, it now appears that these chaotic processes are "constrained" and that their disorder is "channeled," so to speak, through these invisible fractal templates that seem to fill the natural world.

Now, I don't know about the natural world, but I do know that they fill the transnatural world of the human mind. For example, just yesterday I was watching Peter Pan with Future Leader. The first line of the story is: This has all happened before; it will all happen again. This is a tip that we are not dealing with the linear phase space of profane time, but a deeper sort of archetypal time in which events are simultaneously "unique" but nevertheless patterned and constrained by various attractors, both high and low (i.e., celestial and terrestrial, or vertically supraconscious and unconscious).

In fact, if you are familiar with the story, the axial character is not actually Peter but Wendy, who is on the very cusp of childhood and adulthood, two very different phase spaces, the former filled with the archetypal dream logic of her stories of Peter Pan, the latter represented by her "practical," impatient, no-nonsense father. The movie takes place on what is to be Wendy's last night in the nursery, which is none other than the hyperdense imaginal space of childhood.

On that night -- for all journeys into the unconscious take place by night, since the harsh light of day blots out the nocturnal attractors, just as the sun renders the stars invisible. That was an incomplete sentence. In any event, Wendy and her siblings take flight toward "the second star to the right" -- which is located right in the right brain. Here are the lyrics to the song, which may seem saccharine, but are actually quote splenda'd, as they communicate some sweet and low psychospiritual truths about those nocturnal attractors that have always been symbolized by the stars:

The second star to the right / Shines in the night for you / To tell you that the dreams you plan / Really can come true / The second star to the right / Shines with a light that's rare / And if it's Never Land you need / Its light will lead you there / Twinkle, twinkle little star / So I'll know where you are / Gleaming in the skies above / Lead me to the one who loves me / And when you bring him my way / Each time we say "Goodnight" / We'll thank the little star that shines / The second from the right

Now, let's bring this goodnight logic down a couple of buenos noches. I believe the self exists in a type of complex phase space, which includes various attractors that exert their pull and allow us to explore realms of being that are simultaneously familiar and yet alien (similar to the world itself), as they preexist us, even though we need to experience them in order to give them "flesh and bones."

The problem with mind parasites is that they ultimately function as attractors that pull our self into a "false" phase space, one that prevents us from exploring and articulating our own deepest self. Again, we are paradoxically born with a unique self, but we must nevertheless find the circumstances to articulate and live out this interior potential. As Christopher Bollas has written, at birth we are "equipped with a unique idiom of psychic organization that constitutes the core of our self." However, various contingencies in development mean that only parts of this core will be potentiated, which leaves "a substantial part of our self known (profoundly us) and yet unthought."

So where are these "unborns" or "lost boys" before they have been experienced? Again, they exist in a complex topology of various unlived parts of ourselves, like nighttime stars in the constellation of our own being. (You might remember that the "lost boys" of Peter Pan live inside the hangman's tree, or "within" what amounts to the psychic "death" of developmental arrest.)

In fact, Bollas uses the term "psychic genera" for both kinds of attractor, good and bad. As for the bad kind, he observes that early trauma may "nucleate into an increasingly sophisticated internal complex," where later situations that resemble the original trauma are "pulled in," like light into a black hole. I see this all the time in patients who were abused as children and go on to marry a symbolic stand-in for their abuser. They cannot "escape" this early attractor, which keeps "pulling them in."

This post is getting of hand. I had originally intended to show how Eckhart and other spiritual geniuses again use language to vault us out of our habitual phase space, and into the biggest Attractor of them all, the alphOmega. But I suppose this will have to wait until tomorrow. But you can see something similar in genuine creativity, in which the person struggles to apprehend an attractor that is just over the subjective horizon, but not quite yet coalesced into its local meaning: "One would feel this as a kind of familiar force of psychic gravity attracting ideas, questions, and play-work" (Bollas).

In fact, that is precisely how this post ended up being "hijacked." I simply started exploring a certain subjective byway, but was soon enough drawn into these other attractors that pulled me off -- or on -- course, depending on how you feel about it. Anyway, thank you little star. The sun's out and my father is calling.

To be continued.....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cosmic Divorce and the Quest for Missing Unity (5.23.09)

Other compacts are engraved in tables and pillars, but those with wives are inserted in children. --Pythagoras

Our founders, being that they were deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, had no illusions about the desirability of political "unity." To the contrary, they set up the Constitution in such a way that it would be practically impossible to achieve -- or impose, is more like it -- unity, with the separation of political power into competing branches of government. Naturally, this doesn't preclude synthesis, which is another thing entirely.

As it pertains to contemporary politics, you might say that the left is the pro-"static unity" faction, while the right is the pro-"dynamic synthesis" faction (which in turn is why the left shades off into fascism, while conservatism -- not the GOP, mind you -- is the last bastion of American liberalism). This can be seen quite clearly in the lust for "unity" that we are told drives the Obama campaign. I don't know about Obama's handlers -- who I assume are as cynical and calculating as any political hacks -- but with his followers it is a different matter. Being that "the hypnotized never lie," I suppose we should take them at their word that they are not being disingenuous, and that they actually believe the loony things they say. They actually believe the dream.

I don't have time to look it up, but I remember a few years back, a study came out about the damaging psychological consequences of divorce. As a psychologist, I can assure you that almost all psychological research that emanates from academia is not even wrong. Rather, it is thoroughly politicized with leftist assumptions dressed up as conclusions. As a result, there is no free inquiry; rather, certain conclusions are mandated, while others are forbidden, so the whole exercise is mostly an anti-intellectual farce.

But this study made a subtle point about the lasting consequences of divorce. But even more importantly, it comports with common sense. That is, the child who grows up in a broken home will be deprived of the experience of a harmonious synthesis at its deepest level, which derives from the union of male and female. Obviously, marriage is an organic synthesis -- especially as it transforms through time -- not a mechanical union (although it certainly can be; there is no guarantee that someone from an "intact" home will know the type of higher unity we are discussing). The point is that the psyche of the child of divorce can be "fractured" in ways both subtle and enduring.

As we have discussed before, early psychoanalysis focused exclusively on the "content" of the mind, consistent with its roots in the naive mechanistic positivism of the 19th century. All bad philosophies presuppose what they need to explain, and in this regard, psychoanalysts didn't even think about the psychological container, only the content, i.e., "id," "ego," and "superego."

But beginning in about the 1960s there was much more of an appreciation of the priority of the container over the content, especially for more serious forms of mental illness, e.g., what are called "personality disorders," which are enduring forms of maladaptive thought and behavior. These lifelong conditions are to be distinguished from the "neuroses," which are more easily conceptualized in terms of "bad content," so to speak. But even then, if you scratch the surface of most neurotics, you will find issues of "containment" to which the neurosis is a sort of adaptation.

Am I being too jargony? I'm afraid I'm losing readers at this point. In my book, I talk about "mind parasites." When you think about these, the image of a discrete foreign invader no doubt comes to mind. But the deepest mind parasites -- excluding purely genetic and biochemical things like schizophrenia -- are much more analogous to autoimmune disorders, in that they are not so much the content as the context. Just as an autoimmune disorder attacks the body's own tissue, a person with a "bad container," so to speak, attacks his own mental content (not to confuse things, but he can also project the content into other people and attack it that way, as do, for example, the rabid Bush haters).

One of the odd things about human beings is that we do not come into this world with any kind of adequate container. This is a remarkable point, and one that is fraught with consequences, both good and bad. No other animal needs to be "contained." Rather, they are driven by instinct, which you might say defines the "outer limits" of their consciousness. No animal is terrified of infinity. No animal worries about death, or the end of being.

But man, being that he is in the image of the creator, is born into "infinity," so to speak. I shouldn't even say "so to speak," because I am being quite literal. The purpose of containment is ultimately to "translate" infinity into time, which is none other than to think. Which in turn is why real thinking is a "transformation in O," or O-->(k). But there are many counterfeit forms of thinking, and most of them ultimately have to do with various issues of containment. To put it another way, the perfection of mystical union might be thought of as becoming at one with the "container" of all Being.

Let's take an obvious example. As Lee Harris has written, the jihadi doesn't become a jihadi because there is any realistic hope of creating a unified Islamic caliphate worse than death on earth. Rather, the reason he becomes a jihadi is to share in this intoxicating fantasy. To believe it is to be transformed by it, so the real motivation is strictly personal, just projected onto the world-historical stage.

In so many ways, leftism shares this same dynamic, in that it always promises things that by definition it can never deliver. We know this ahead of time. But that's not the point. The point is to believe and to be transformed by the belief. This is why the left is such an odd grab-bag of losers, perverts, crackpots, ideologues, dimwits, and evil geniuses. (This book looks like a promising exploration of these themes; just ordered it.)

Let's take a recent example. Last week a single judge on the California Supreme Court (being that it was a 4-3 decision) decided not only to redefine the accepted meaning of marriage, but to impose this idiosyncratic definition on 35 million others. This is something that even Californians do not want, but it doesn't matter. Unity has been imposed from on high by a single fascist judge. And as is true of all forms of fascist unity, it actually undermines the possibility of real synthesis, being that it attacks the very institution that makes it possible at the deepest level, i.e., the union of male and female.

This kind of leftist judicial pathology presupposes a materialistic paradigm. Atheists talk a good game, but if you could be magically transformed into an actual materialist, you would die of the unremitting horror. To actually be consigned to materialism would instantly drain the world of its spiritual content and context, leaving a sort of barren landscape with no intrinsic meaning whatsoever. It sounds paradoxical, but it would be a kind infinite finitude from which there would be no vertical escape. It would be a kind of living spiritual death which you can scarcely imagine, unless you have attended a major university, for it is the death of the human imagination, and with it, our "spiritualizing" faculty.

Now, Obama is the product of a deadbeat father and a hippy flake of a mother. Is such a person automatically consigned to a leftist hell in search of the Lost Unity? No, of course not. That would be a gross over-simplification. To cite just one example, God's grace is real, and can help deliver one from a fractured state.

D'oh!

What did Obama do? He went and joined a pathological church that repeated the trauma of his childhood, so two wrongs made a Wright! Paranoid, delusional, spiritually fractured, riven by projection, and driven by the chimera of "black unity." Of course he wants Unity, for he wants to clean up after the mess his parents made.

The sacred marriage, consummated in the heart, adumbrates the deepest of all mysteries. For this means both our death and beatific resurrection. The word to "marry" (become one) also means "to die," just as in Greek [it] is to be perfected, to be married, or to die. When "each is both," no relation persists: and if it were not for this beatitude, there would be neither life nor gladness anywhere. --Ananda Coomaraswamy

In alchemy, the true hero, "son of the cosmos" and "savior of the macrocosm" is he who is capable of offering a virgin soul into the embrace of transcendency. --M. Aiane, in The Spiritual Ascent

Marriage between man and woman is not an end in itself but a divinely ordained arrangement for the purposes of receiving the grace that will transform both parties. A dysfunctional marriage is one in which no spiritual transformation takes place -- it is spiritually "stillborn," so to speak, or "infertile" no matter how many children it produces -- like a Kennedy marriage.

This is why, strictly speaking, there can be no "secular" marriage. Or put it this way: to the extent that your marriage is only a secular affair, I do not see how or why it could transcend the state of essentially being -- as Glen Campbell sang -- "shackled by forgotten words and bonds and the ink stains that have dried upon some line." Anything short of spiritual union involves using the other person in one way or another. It merely creates the conditions for narcissism rather than its transcendence, which is surely one reason why there are so many divorces. Marriage can never do for you what it was never intended to do, which is to make you "happy" or "fulfilled" in the material sense, at least not for long. No mere earthling can do that.
--Petey

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Multi-Dimensional Organ of Human Consciousness (5.19.10)

The supralogical is superior to the logical, the logical to the illogical. --Ananda Coomaraswamy

While I would never base a belief in God on the gaps in our knowledge -- except perhaps as a jumping-in point -- I do know that we are immersed in a universe of irreducible mystery, and that this mystery includes several fundamental conundrums that will never be beaten by science. These mysteries represent limits to our cognition. While we can think about them rationally, we can never arrive at any satisfactory intellectual (in the lower, profane sense) answer as to what they actually are, any more than the hand can grasp itself, for they are the very conditions of our being and knowing.

I guess I'm saying that while I may not know much, at least I know nothing. As Petey never tires of reminding me, I'm just apophatic nobody.

For example, science will never comprehend the mystery of existence -- that is, why there is an ordered something instead of a chaotic nothing. Science simply assumes this a priori order, for without it, science would be impossible. This mystery is so hopelessly insoluble that we generally stop even asking about it after childhood. Science actually provides no sensible answers to this question at all, nor was it intended to. Only esoteric religious metaphysics even begins to touch this dimension, for it is an intellectual form adequate to the majesty and mystery -- not to mention, sanctity -- of the subject.

Another irreducible mystery is life itself. We all act as if we know what it is, but it would be much more accurate to say that we know what lifelessness is, and that life seems to be a bizarre and unexpected violation of this general rule (when it is actually the reverse).

Even more bizarre and problematic is the existence of consciousness. We have this astounding gift of inwardness, and yet, what is it for? Why would the universe evolve into a subjective horizon containing love, beauty, truth, justice, poetry, music....

We can know so much, and yet, we cannot know anything about these fundamental mysteries of existence, life and consciousness -- at least not with reason alone. As the Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace observes, "Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists to even know what exactly is to be measured. Strictly speaking, at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness." Another way of saying it is that, if consciousness did not exist, science would have no trouble explaining the fact.

That is, the only evidence we have of consciousness consists of direct, first person accounts of being conscious. And yet, not everyone is conscious in the same way or of the same things. Although we don’t know what consciousness is, we do know that there are degrees of it. Every psychologist navigates through the use of a developmental model of some kind, in which consciousness unfolds and develops through time. But why? Other animals don’t have degrees of consciousness within their own species, but the gulf between certain humans is as great as the gulf between a dog and Beethoven, or between Petey and Keith Olbermann.

This is such an important point. Yes, one can easily prove the existence of God. But not to you, jackass. Speaking only for myself, when I read, say, Meister Eckhart or Frithjof Schuon, and compare it with reading, say, Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, they are resonating on entirely different planes of consciousness. It is a physical sensation, albeit a subtle one -- and one which it is the purpose of a spiritual practice to identify, develop, and amplify, as with any other "skill." As such, I can well imagine how it would be possible for someone to arrive at the misosophical or sophophobic nul de slack of atheism if they are blunted to the subtle transactions that constantly flow between the planes of consciousness -- or between the Subject and the subject.

In my view consciousness is an organ, just like any other organ in the body -- heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. But those are material organs that exist in three-dimensional space. Consciousness, however, is an immaterial organ that operates in multidimensional space and time. In short, it is the first hyper-dimensional organ of the cosmos.

What is an organ? Two things, mainly. First of all, it is a differentiated structure. In other words, it is not just a blob or an aggregation, but a definable form that has an identifiable structure. A while back, during my nuclear treadmill, I got a good look at my heart. Even with a material organ such as the heart, no one can draw a sharp line and say "this is where the heart ends and the vascular system begins." And yet, the heart is an obvious structure with valves, chambers, arteries, etc.

The second characteristic of an organ is that it has a purpose; it performs a function through cooperative activity. The heart pumps blood. The lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The kidneys filter the blood.

By implication, organs have a third characteristic, that is, pathology. If an organ is defined by a function it is supposed to accomplish, then pathology means failure to accomplish that function.

Although no scientist has ever seen consciousness, it nevertheless has a differentiated structure and a function. Part of its structure is a reflection of the structure of our brains, but not all of it. For example, the brain has an obvious horizontal structure in the form of a left and right brain with very different orientations that, in a healthy individual, will harmonize in a higher dimension, or manifold unity.

Likewise, the brain has a clear vertical structure, in the sense that we have what might be called a reptilian brain, over which there is a mammalian brain, and on top of which is the neocortex: our "human brain."

But this three-dimensional physical structure does not come close to exhausting the structure of consciousness, which is hyper-dimensional, meaning that it exists in a space of more than three (or four) dimensions.

This is a thorny problem, because our normal thinking -- especially scientific thinking, which you might say is "common sense" taken to the extreme -- takes place in three dimensions. We cannot think scientifically or rationally in higher dimensional space. Take, for example, causation. In the three dimensional world, causation is relatively easy to conceptualize: A causes B, B causes, C, C causes D, etc. D cannot cause A, nor can A and D occupy the same space at the same time.

So how does one "think" in higher dimensional space? As a matter of fact, we do it all the time. For example, dreaming is a form of hyper-dimensional thinking freed from the limitations of the outer, three-dimensional world. This is also how we might understand the Wise Crack that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." The genuine poet uses language to express realities that transcend the lower-dimensional world.

Think of it this way: the mystery of the dream is that it is the brain’s attempt to represent in three dimensions a space that actually far exceeds three dimensions -- like trying to represent a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional plane. Imagine, for example, people living on a two dimensional plane -- a sheet of typing paper. They know nothing at all about the three dimensional world.

Now imagine if you could pass your three-dimensional hand through the sheet of paper. What would it look like to the people in 2D? First they would see five separate points grow into circles, as the fingers touch the paper and move through it. But then the five circles would disappear and become one larger circle -- the wrist. Let's say that these people in 2D are very careful scientific observers of empirical phenomena. No matter how much they study the data, they would have no idea that the disparate phenomena are all actually aspects of a higher dimensional object they cannot see.

This is how dream consciousness operates. A dream might be thought of as analogous to that hand passing through the sheet of paper. In dreams, various elements are connected in a hyper-dense manner that violates all notions of linear logic. Time is abolished, in the sense that you can be in two different times in your life, or your adult self can be side by side or "within" your child self (or vice versa). But if you don’t know how to read the dream, you will see merely a linear, if somewhat crazy, narrative. You won’t know how to unpack all of the different dimensions. As a matter of fact, human history is just such a "crazy dream," with a dense network of subterranean connections that will go undetected by the secularized mind.

Just yesterday, I was interpreting one of these crazy secular dreams. For example, Barack Obama is a member of an insane church whose pastor claims that 9-11 was a case of America's "chickens coming home to roost." Hmm, where have we heard that dream before? Ah yes, when Malcolm X said it about the assassination of JFK -- even though JFK was murdered by a man of the left. But now, the relatives of JFK endorse the most far left presidential candidate we have ever had, one whose spiritual mentor no doubt believes that JFK had it coming to him as well (hence his use of the same phrase to describe the 9-11 murders). Yes, it's insane, but that's dream logic for you. Suffice it to say that JFK would not have believed that either his murder or the slaugther of 3000 Americans on 9-11 was his or our fault. He was a waking liberal, not a leftist with sleep crapnea.

As I have labored to point out in the past, religious metaphysics, properly understood, represents objective knowledge of reality. But clearly, in order to understand reality objectively, we cannot limit ourselves to its illusory three or four dimensions. Rather, we must somehow learn to think in a hyper-dimensional manner analogous to the dream.

Authentic scripture must be understood in this manner. There is no language known to man that is more hyper-dimensional and dreamlike than scripture (some parts of scripture much more so than others -- like dreams, scripture waxes and wanes in its dimensional carrying capacity, and it requires a degree of spiritual discernment to appreciate this).

And we might also understand, say, Jesus, in the same way. If we limit ourselves to a naive scientific or "rational" view in trying to understand Jesus, we will simply generate fundamentalist banality or logical absurdity. But if we assume that Jesus is analogous to that multidimensional hand passing through four-dimensional history, now we’re getting somewhere. For where is the “body of Christ?”

I think I saw it pass this way just a moment ago.

The madness that comes of God is superior to the sanity which is of human origin. --Plato

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Where There is No Verticality, the People Perish

First published in May 2006.; as always, I've edited it and added a few things. I tried to select a post from that month that touches on our recent discussions, but it was somewhat difficult to choose just one. Therefore, I may post another tomorrow.

****

Below the title of this blog you will see the oxymoronic term, “Evolutionary Traditionalism” [not anymore, as I keep changing them, but "Darwhiggian Evolution" amounts to the same thing]. Some of the people I most revere are traditionalists who see modernity -- let alone postmodernity -- as an unmitigated catastrophe for mankind. Although I consider the spiritual insights of these individuals to be truly priceless, I just can’t go with them that far [at least on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays]. In fact, one of the major aims of my book was to try to vindicate modernity by integrating science and traditional wisdom, and situating religion within a cosmos that has been evolving for 13.7 billion years, ever since the Creator banged it into being in his spare timelessness.

I am optimistic by nature, but sometimes it’s difficult to see how human beings are going to get out of the mess they’re in. I suppose one of the frustrating things about the day and age in which we live is that almost all of the answers, for the first time in history, are present and available, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

For example, we finally understand how wealth is created. Furthermore, we’ve pretty much tamed the boom-or-bust business cycle, so we don’t have the sorts of major economic upheavals we did even 75 years ago. We know how to conquer or control most diseases. There’s more than enough food. We understand the vital importance of early attachment, and how bad parenting leads to adult psychopathology. Higher education is available to everyone, to such an extent that the majority of people in college don’t even belong there. We live longer than ever, and air and water have never been cleaner. All of the greatest art, literature, music, and thought that has ever been produced by mankind is literally at our fingertips.

And yet, none of this is enough for most people. How can something like 70% of the population think we’re "on the wrong track," when they’ve never had it so good? Why, just because gasoline, adjusted for inflation, is almost as expensive as it was in 1981 [or whatever it is]?

True, part of the reason is that most people are completely ahistorical, and seem to have no idea how hard it was for previous generations just to put food on the table. But apparently, this is the default position of mankind. Whatever we have, we feel we are entitled to it, and then we just want more. Not only that, but this default attitude of entitlement can be infinitely aggravated and made worse by envy.

The envious imagination is truly infinite in its demonic capacity to devalue what it has and to then feel entitled to what someone else has (in fact, the latter is a function of the former, a critical point). It is the whole key to the leftist mindset, in that they have completely forgotten (if indeed they ever knew) how wealth is produced, and feel that the only remaining task is to "redistribute" it in an equitable fashion. But if we had assented to leftist envy at any point in the last 300 years, the average person wouldn't enjoy the kind of prosperity and affluence he does today. Likewise, if we give in to the demands of leftists today, we will just make our children and grandchildren that much poorer, for we will put the brakes on the very engine of material progress.

On the one hand it is a conceit to suggest that history has labored for lo these thousands of years to produce our privileged generation. And yet, from a certain point of view, if you think teleologically, it is surely true. For just as your present life is the result of thousands and thousands of little choices you made in the past, the present state of humanity is the result of countless past choices that were all aiming at our present state of affairs. In other words, we are the goal (I am tempted to say "the ones we've been waiting for"). This miraculous way of life that we enjoy in the United States was simply an unattainable dream for past generations. But for us, the dream has come true. The lifestyle of the average American so surpasses the dreams of Marx, that he must be spinning in his fire pit.

And yet, few people seem to appreciate that. Indeed, many people seem to think that we’re in some kind of nightmare, even more so than when we actually were in one (which we have been for virtually all of history, at least by our cushy contemporary standards). I'm not sure I could even live without some of the conveniences of the last 20 years -- for example, blogging and microbreweries -- let alone 200).

You would probably be hard-pressed to find rhetoric from the height of the Great Depression any more bitter and angry than what you can find every day on the dailykos and its constantlyhuffing. In considering the minds of such individuals, one suspects that politics is simply a means for them to externalize a hellish and unhappy internal world. The external world changes and evolves, but mankind’s internal world is comparatively fixed. For such lost souls, politics is simply a symbolic system for them to articulate their existential misery.

This is why it is so difficult for happy people to compete politically. They just don’t have the bitter energy, nor do they live in the illusion that human fulfillment is a product of transient circumstances. I intuitively figured out by my early 20s that my happiness was my responsibility, and that focussing on external circumstances really had little to do with it. For a number of reasons, I was able to realize that my internal happiness had a life -- and death -- of its own, irrespective of external circumstances (excluding, of course, real tragedies and losses, such as the breakup with a girlfriend, the loss of a loved one, or Jack Clark hitting that homerun against the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS).

As a matter of fact, this intuitive attitude of mine coincides with the ultimate basis of spirituality, which is to see beyond the contingent and illusory nature of changing phenomena, to the permanent and unchanging -- to shed what is accidental, contingent, and existential in favor of what is real, substantial and essential. Supposedly, our unchanging center is sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss. Therefore, it was folly to get all excited about this or that tempest of the day, and imagine that anything would change with regard to my own internal world, which, after all, is the real world. It cannot be overemphasized that the external world is largely a projective field in which we merely adapt to our own self-generated emotional climate patterns. Many people have to actually die before they can realize that they had it all, but were simply incapable of treasuring and enjoying it.

When I emphasize the priority of the internal over the external, it should be clear that I do not mean it in the narcissistic manner of the left, i.e., "perception is reality." It is not so much that perception is reality. However, reality is perception, if understood in a vertical sense. For a person below a certain spiritual level, higher realities simply cannot be seen, certainly not with any certitude. More importantly, they cannot be lived. Proofs of God are meaningless to those who are not endowed with understanding, and understanding has height, weight, and depth that varies from person to person. This is where the traditionalists have it exactly right, for a civilization that loses contact with the vertical dimension will be completely rudderless and adrift.

This in turn is my objection to the left, for the left -- which does not see, much less acknowledge, the vertical -- replaces vertical aspirations with purely horizontal ones. This is why you will see that the left habitually exhibits religious fervor but without religion, which is, in the long run, as dangerous and destructive as the Islamists who exhibit psychotic anger, envy and sexual perversion -- the lower vertical -- in the guise of the higher vertical. Both attitudes are toxic to the soul.

I had intended this post to segue into a discussion of the four cardinal virtues. In considering what I wanted to say, it immediately struck me that these virtues are a very simple and straightforward way of talking about vertical reality, which in turn made me realize what has gone wrong with our educational establishment.

It is bad enough that leftist courts have so willfully misunderstood the intentions of the founders with regard to the so-called “separation of church and state,” which has in reality become the pretext for an aggressive assault on the vertical. This willful blindness is just part of a much more widespread attack on the vertical itself, to such an extent that it is unlikely that a child will ever receive any “vertical education” at all, from kindergarten right through graduate school. As such, he will likely become an educated barbarian.

For example, instead of learning about the four cardinal virtues to which we must perpetually aspire if we wish to become (more) human, they will be inculcated with substitute horizontal concepts such as “self esteem” and “tolerance.” These toxic ideas then become the axis around which a corrupted horizontal religiosity forms. Not only will this fail to yield human happiness, but it will even more firmly ensnore the sleeping soul in the bosom of maya, thus accomplishing the very opposite of what a liberal (which is obviously related to the word “liberate”) education is supposed to achieve.

This in itself is remarkable, considered in light of the wisdom of the ancients. The Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, points out that the word for leisure in Greek is skole, and in Latin, scola, both meaning "school." Therefore, leisure, properly understood, is a school, an unhurried realm where some sort of learning takes place. The very possibility of culture rests on a foundation of leisure -- a sphere of activity that is entirely detached from our immediate wants and needs, free from practical or political considerations -- free from the tyranny of the horizontal.

It is only here, in this leisurely space, that we can learn what it is to be a human, and actually become one. For our humanness is not given to us at birth, only our potential for such. This is something that was widely understood until our modern deviation, and this is an example of where I stand firmly on the side of the anti-modern traditionalists. For in truth, traditionalists have always been evolutionary traditionalists, except that they are preoccupied with vertical evolution and spiritually inward mobility, not mere horizontal “progress” and economically upward mobility,

The question is, can we enjoy the sort of incredible horizontal progress that past generations only dreamed of, while at the same time understand that this progress is of no significance unless the leisure and abundance that accompany it make it easier for us to progress in the vertical -- to fulfill our human potential?

For that is the tragedy of the past -- so much timeless wisdom, but no temporal slack for the ordinary individual to be able to appreciate it. Even if one were lucky enough to be literate, one’s relatively brief life was generally spent performing mindless, backbreaking work, punctuated by disease, pain, famine, and loss.

Modern man suffers -- but doesn’t know he suffers -- from the opposite tragedy: an impossibly rich and affluent horizontal world that has largely lost access to the vertical. Thus, he spiritually starves amidst plenty, and forms a complaint department known as “the left” to articulate his chronic existential dissaffection. At the same time, he is blind to the motivations of the Muslim barbarians whom he believes he can “buy off” with horizontal inducements. The Islamists may be crazy, but they’re not stupid. Somewhere inside, they probably even feel sorry for such people, in that they can sense the root cause of their unhappiness.